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Statement at News Conference

St. Petersburg, Russia | International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century


Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century provides a timely opportunity to look forward. I am grateful to the Russian Federation for hosting this important Conference here in the beautiful city of St. Petersburg.

The accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan in March 2011 was a wake-up call for everyone involved in nuclear power. However, there have been many very positive developments since then.

The most important positive development is a much stronger global focus on safety. I have visited nuclear power plants in a number of countries in the last two years. Everywhere I go, I see safety being upgraded.

Plant operators are building higher walls to guard against tsunamis. Emergency power generators are being installed. Extra water supplies are being made available to ensure that cooling can be maintained even in an emergency.

I believe the lessons of Fukushima Daiichi are being learned. Nuclear power is now safer throughout the world than it was before the accident. But we must never become complacent. "Safety First" must remain the watchword for everyone involved in nuclear power.

It is clear that many countries plan to have nuclear power as an important part of their energy mix in the coming decades.

Nuclear power is a tried and tested technology. It can help to improve energy security, reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices, mitigate the effects of climate change and make economies more competitive.

As I said in my speech this morning, I believe that the number one challenge is safety. We need to ensure that the most robust levels of nuclear safety are in place at every nuclear power plant in the world.

The concerns which some people have about safety must be taken seriously. Operators, regulators and governments must show a high degree of openness and transparency.

It is up to each country to decide whether or not to use nuclear power. The role of the IAEA is to help countries which choose nuclear power to use it safely, securely and sustainably.

An important part of the IAEA's work is to ensure that the expansion of nuclear power does not lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In future, our inspectors will have many more facilities to keep track of and much more nuclear material to monitor.

I am confident that, with the support of our Member States, the IAEA will rise to the challenge. We will continue to provide assurance that nuclear material held in non-nuclear-weapon States is being used for exclusively peaceful purposes.

It is also important to ensure that nuclear and other radioactive materials do not fall into the hands of terrorists and criminals. Next week, the IAEA will host an International Conference on Nuclear Security at ministerial level in Vienna to consider ways of strengthening the global nuclear security framework.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will stop here and be happy to take your questions.

Thank you.


Last update: 25 Nov 2019

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