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Statement of IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano at the 14th Congress of the International Radiation Protection Association

Cape Town

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addressing the 14th Congress of the International Radiation Protection Association. (Photo: R. Murphy/IAEA)

(As prepared for delivery)

Good morning, Madam Minister, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am very pleased to address the 14th Congress of the International Radiation Protection Association.

IRPA is an important partner for the International Atomic Energy Agency and makes a significant contribution to radiation protection throughout the world. I congratulate you on your 50th anniversary.

Nuclear applications offer enormous benefits in very many areas of our lives, including medicine and energy generation, and in many sectors of industry. Every care must be taken to ensure that the use of radioactive materials poses no undue hazard to the public or the environment.

Nuclear safety is primarily the responsibility of individual States.

But accidents involving nuclear technology or materials can be harmful to human health or the environment, and can also undermine public confidence in nuclear science and applications.

Effective international cooperation on safety is vital. The IAEA works with its 168 Member States to ensure that the highest levels of nuclear safety are maintained.

Our role in safety is very broad. IAEA publications, including the Fundamental Safety Principles and IAEA safety standards, have established a strong global framework for safety.

 Our work has evolved over the years from an initial focus on safety at nuclear power plants, to encompass safety at all types of facilities, and in all types of activities in which radiation and radioactive sources are used. These include industrial and research applications, medical diagnosis and treatment, and the transport of radioactive material.

The IAEA plays the central role in the international emergency preparedness and response framework for nuclear and radiological emergencies.

In the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, for example, IAEA experts assisted in areas such as radiological monitoring on land and at sea, food safety, and analysis of the situation at the plant itself.

An important part of our work is providing technical training and expert peer reviews to assess multiple aspects of a country’s nuclear activities.

I am sure that many of you are familiar with our Occupational Radiation Protection Appraisal Service (ORPAS), which helps countries to develop an effective safety infrastructure to protect people who work with radiation.

During one recent ORPAS mission, our multinational expert team visited a country’s national regulator, hospitals that offer radiotherapy, nuclear medicine and radiology, dosimetry service providers, industrial radiography companies and the civil aviation authority.

Our services are comprehensive and I encourage all countries to make full use of them.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We recently marked two grim anniversaries in the nuclear safety area: the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident and the fifth anniversary of Fukushima Daiichi.

Both accidents caused immense suffering to people directly affected and their consequences will be with us for many years to come. But both also led to significant improvements in global nuclear safety.

Chernobyl led to a leap forward in global cooperation on nuclear safety. Countries with nuclear power began sharing information and experience in a way they never had before. Important international legal instruments were adopted, including the Convention on Nuclear Safety.

Since the Fukushima Daiichi accident, considerable improvements have been made in nuclear safety throughout the world.

The key lesson from both accidents for everyone involved in nuclear power – plant operators, governments and regulators – is that safety can never be taken for granted. Complacency must be avoided at all costs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ensuring the safety of everyone involved in activities involving radioactive sources and radiation is central to the work of the IAEA.

We work closely with partners such as IRPA, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, and the International Commission on Radiation Protection.

IRPA is a valuable platform that enables scientists, engineers and regulators to exchange best practices in nuclear safety. IRPA also provides important feedback on the application of IAEA safety standards.

The IAEA greatly appreciates the active cooperation of our partners in helping to ensure that countries apply these standards in their national radiation safety legislation.

In order to prevent the risk of workers being exposed accidentally to radiation in the workplace, all countries need to have stringent safety standards and practices in place.

The IAEA’s Basic Safety Standards and recommendation documents provide guidance to national authorities. They are not legally binding, but they are of great practical value. Implementing them is essential for maintaining public confidence in nuclear technology.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You have a fascinating and extensive programme in the next few days.

I am sure that your work this week will lead to a further improvement in radiation protection throughout the world and generate new ideas from which we can all benefit.

I wish you a very successful Congress and I look forward to learning about the outcome.

Thank you.

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