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Statement to Sixty-Third Regular Session of IAEA General Conference

Vienna, Austria

IAEA Acting Director General Cornel Feruta. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

(As prepared for delivery)

Madam President,

I welcome all of you to this 63rd IAEA General Conference.

Let me begin by expressing my shock and distress at the sudden death of South African Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Ms Bavelile Hlongwa. On behalf of the IAEA, I offer my sincere condolences to Deputy Minister Hlongwa’s family and to the government and people of South Africa.

Madam President,

The untimely death of Director General Amano in July left us deeply saddened.

We are grateful for his outstanding legacy.  An important part of this legacy is the expanded IAEA motto – Atoms for Peace and Development.

I am very pleased that the General Conference has designated the new Flexible Modular Laboratory The Yukiya Amano Laboratories. This is well-deserved recognition of the key role that DG Amano played in the modernisation of the IAEA nuclear applications laboratories.

The last few months have been a testing time for the Agency.

But with the steadfast support of our 171 Member States, and the dedication of our excellent staff, I believe we have demonstrated strength and resilience in continuing to fulfil our responsibilities.

Madam President,

Atoms for Peace and Development encapsulates the unique dual role of the Agency.

We contribute to international peace and security by verifying that nuclear material remains  in peaceful uses, and we help to improve the well-being and prosperity of the people of the world through the peaceful use of nuclear technology.   

No other international organization offers the range of services related to nuclear science and technology that the IAEA does.

The Agency contributes directly to the achievement of nine of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and indirectly to several more.

We help countries on all continents to generate electricity, produce more food, manage their water supplies, combat deadly infectious diseases affecting humans, plants and animals, and treat cancer – to name just a few of the many valuable uses of nuclear science and technology.

Our safeguards inspectors are on the road every day of the year, keeping track of nuclear material to verify that it is not diverted from peaceful activities.

We serve as the global platform for cooperation in safety and security, helping countries to keep nuclear and radioactive material and technologies safe, and out of the hands of terrorists and other criminals.

 For more than six decades, the Agency has won the trust of Member States through our technical expertise, impartiality and independence.

Despite pressure on our budget in recent years, we have continued to deliver high-quality services. We have seen steady growth in our membership over the decades and a constant increase in demand for our services.

As we look to the future at this time of transition, the focus of all Agency staff will be on continuing to deliver tangible results that make a real difference to the people of the world.

Madam President,

The Agency now implements safeguards for 182 States. The number of facilities, and the quantities of nuclear material, under IAEA safeguards continue to grow. The number of States with additional protocols in force stands at 134. Two countries will sign additional protocols during this session of the General Conference.

In the past year, we have continued to verify and monitor Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and we will continue to do so.

A week ago, I visited Tehran for talks with senior Iranian officials. We discussed our activities under the JCPOA and the implementation of safeguards in Iran. I continue to emphasize the importance of full and timely cooperation by Iran in the implementation of its Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol.

The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. Evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran continue.

Madam President,

It is more than 10 years since IAEA inspectors were required to leave the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Agency continues to monitor the DPRK’s nuclear programme, including through satellite imagery.

The DPRK’s nuclear activities remain a cause for serious concern. The continuation of that programme is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable. 

The Agency remains ready to play an essential role in verifying the DPRK’s nuclear programme if a political agreement is reached among countries concerned.

I call upon the DPRK to comply fully with its obligations under relevant UN Security Council resolutions, to cooperate promptly with the Agency and to resolve all outstanding issues. 

Madam President,

One of the highlights of the year since the last General Conference was our first ever ministerial-level conference on nuclear science and technology in November 2018. Participation exceeded expectations. The Ministerial Declaration recognised the importance of science and technology for development.

The IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme is our key mechanism for helping Member States to make optimal use of peaceful nuclear science and technology.

The main focus of TC spending last year was on health and nutrition, nuclear safety, and food and agriculture. It is important that TC funding be maintained at a level that ensures we can meet growing demand for Agency services. I count on the support of all Member States.

This year, we have provided prompt assistance to Member States in response to crises. In Bangladesh, for example, an emergency mission including experts from the Agency and the World Health Organisation visited the country’s capital Dhaka last month to assess the feasibility of applying the sterile insect technique to control the worst outbreak of dengue fever since 2000.

Cancer remains a key focus of our work. Our 2019 Scientific Forum, which starts tomorrow, will highlight the Agency’s work in this important area in the last decade.

The Agency and the WHO have developed a Roadmap towards a National Cancer Control Programme, which sets out milestones which countries can follow in establishing nuclear medicine, diagnostic imaging and radiotherapy services. This key document will be launched tomorrow at the Scientific Forum and should serve as an indispensable tool for Member States.

The installation of the IAEA’s first Linear Accelerator at our Dosimetry Laboratory in Seibersdorf, near Vienna, this year enables us to provide expanded dosimetry calibration services to Member States.

This was part of the modernisation of the IAEA nuclear applications laboratories, one of the most important projects ever undertaken by the Agency.  

In August, the Insect Pest Control Laboratory was handed over by the contractor and we began a phased transition into operation. The new Flexible Modular Laboratory building, now known as The Yukiya Amano Laboratories, will be ready for use next April.

I wish to stress the importance of involving young people in our work to promote the benefits of nuclear science and technology. Agency initiatives, in collaboration with partners including the International Youth Nuclear Congress, encourage young people to consider careers in the nuclear field.  

Madam President,

The Agency’s latest annual projections show that, despite the declining trend for installed capacity up to 2050, nuclear power will continue to play a key role in the world’s low-carbon energy mix.

The transition to clean energy will be the subject of our International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power next month. The conference will provide a platform for objective discussion of the scientific case for making more use of nuclear power to help combat climate change.

We are in the final phase of making the IAEA LEU Bank in Kazakhstan operational. We expect the first delivery of LEU to the Storage Facility to take place within several weeks, at which point the IAEA LEU Bank will become established.

Madam President,

The great benefits of nuclear technologies are sustainable only if they are used safely and securely.

IAEA Safety Standards are used voluntarily by almost all countries to protect people and the environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation. This year, we completed a revision of the structure of the safety standards to make them stronger and easier to use.

Member States make extensive use of expert peer review and advisory services provided by the Agency to help them continuously enhance nuclear safety and security. We continue to assess these services to ensure that they meet the needs of Member States.

 The next IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security will take place at ministerial level in Vienna next February. I expect the Conference to consolidate the achievements of the Agency in nuclear security in the past decade and help to shape our approach in the coming years.

Madam President,

Increasing the proportion of women on the Agency’s staff, especially at senior levels, remains a priority. For the first time, women represent more than 30% of staff at the Professional level and above.

Finally, Madam President, I thank our very supportive host country, Austria, for doing everything possible to facilitate our work.

I express my thanks to the Board of Governors for the confidence it has placed in me as Acting Director General, and to all Member States for their active support for the Agency. I will continue to do my utmost to justify that confidence.

And I am most grateful to Agency staff for their hard work and commitment.

Last update: 03 Dec 2019

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