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19 September 2011 | Vienna, Austria
Fifty-Fifth Regular Session of IAEA General Conference 2011

Statement to Fifty-Fifth Regular Session of IAEA General Conference 2011

by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

Mr. President,

Since the last General Conference, the most important single item on the IAEA agenda has been the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. This caused deep public anxiety throughout the world and damaged confidence in nuclear power. I will therefore begin my statement by reporting to you in some detail about the aftermath of the accident and the current situation at the plant.

As you will recall, the accident was caused by an earthquake and tsunami of unprecedented severity, which struck the east of Japan on 11 March. The IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre went into action immediately, working around the clock to advise Japan and to share information with all Member States. A few days after the accident, I went to Japan to meet then-Prime Minister Kan. I offered the full support of the IAEA and stressed that Japan needed to demonstrate the highest transparency in its handling of the accident.

On my return to Vienna, I convened a special meeting of the Board of Governors and dispatched a number of expert teams to Japan to assist in areas such as radiological monitoring and food safety. An IAEA International Fact-Finding Expert Mission subsequently undertook a 10-day mission to Japan and produced a detailed report. In June, I convened an IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in Vienna, which many of you attended. The Conference adopted a Ministerial Declaration aimed at strengthening nuclear safety, emergency preparedness, and radiation protection of people and the environment worldwide. The Ministerial Conference was chaired by the distinguished Permanent Representative of Brazil to the IAEA, Antonio Guerreiro, who skilfully steered the work that led to the adoption of the Ministerial Declaration. I am very grateful to Ambassador Guerreiro for his outstanding contribution.

The June Ministerial Declaration formed the basis of the first ever IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, which was approved by consensus by the Board of Governors last week and is before this General Conference for endorsement. Compared to the arrangements that were in place before the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the Action Plan represents a significant step forward in strengthening nuclear safety. The Agency will set to work immediately to fulfil its responsibilities under the Action Plan and I hope all Member States will do likewise. Progress in its implementation will be reported to the Board of Governors, the 2012 General Conference and bodies such as the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety. We will continue to send technical teams to Japan, as required. The most important thing now is to ensure transparency, build confidence, and meet the high expectations of the public. It is actions, not words, that count. Firm and sustained commitment from all Member States is needed for the full implementation of the Action Plan. New lessons will continue to be learned in the months and years ahead and the Action Plan will be updated accordingly. For our part, we are doing everything we can to prioritize and increase efficiency within our limited resources, but additional financial support for the Agency's nuclear safety activities will be necessary.

Today, the Agency's assessment of the situation at Fukushima Daiichi is that the reactors are essentially stable. The expectation is that the "cold shutdown" of all the reactors will be achieved as planned. The IAEA will continue to provide every possible assistance to Japan. Continuing full transparency on Japan's part will also be important.

In the past year, the Agency has continued to move forward with other major nuclear safety programmes. In collaboration with other joint sponsoring organizations, we finalized our work on the revision of the Basic Safety Standards. The Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources has also been revised.

Nuclear Security

Mr. President,

Nuclear security remains an extremely important issue for all States. Last week, we marked the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. In the wake of those attacks, the Agency significantly expanded its nuclear security programme to help States protect nuclear and other radioactive material and associated facilities against malicious acts.

As the Nuclear Security Report 2011 shows, the number of States participating in our Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB) programme continues to grow. It now stands at 113. In the year to June 2011, 172 incidents were reported to the ITDB. Fourteen involved activities such as unauthorized possession and/or attempts to sell or smuggle nuclear material or radioactive sources. Another 32 incidents involved the theft or loss of nuclear or other radioactive material. Incidents of this nature demonstrate that security weaknesses continue to exist and must be addressed.

I remind you once again that progress towards entry into force of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material remains slow, six years after its adoption. Adherence to the Amendment can significantly reduce the risk of nuclear material falling into the wrong hands. I encourage the parties to the Convention to work towards accelerating the entry into force of the Amendment. I also draw your attention to the Treaty Event which we are holding this week, aimed at promoting universal adherence to, and support for, multilateral treaties for which the IAEA is depositary, including the Amendment to the CPPNM.

Nuclear Energy

Mr. President,

Following the Fukushima Daiichi accident, there was speculation that the expansion in interest in nuclear power seen in recent years could come to an end. However, it is clear that there will, in fact, be continuous and significant growth in the use of nuclear power in the next two decades, although at a slower rate than in our previous projections. We expect the number of operating nuclear reactors in the world to increase by about 90 by 2030, in our low projection, or by around 350, in our high projection, from the current total of 432 reactors. Most of the growth will occur in countries that already have operating nuclear power plants, such as China and India.

In countries which are considering introducing nuclear power, interest remains strong, despite Fukushima Daiichi. Most of these countries are proceeding with plans to add nuclear power to their energy mix, with the Agency's assistance. A few countries have cancelled or revised their plans, while others have taken a "wait and see" approach.

The factors that contributed to increasing interest in nuclear power before the Fukushima Daiichi accident have not changed: these include increasing global demand for energy, as well as concerns about climate change, volatile fossil fuel prices and security of energy supply.

Assurance of Supply

Mr. President,

Progress continues to be made on a number of measures to ensure reliable supplies of nuclear fuel.

In December last year, the Board approved the establishment of an IAEA Low Enriched Uranium bank, to be funded by voluntary contributions from Member States. In July 2011, Kazakhstan submitted a proposal to host the LEU bank and offered two sites for consideration. We are in discussions with the Government of Kazakhstan with a view to finalizing a decision on a site.

In March, the Board approved the request of a number of Member States for a Nuclear Fuel Assurance mechanism which provides assurance of supply of enrichment services and low enriched uranium for use in nuclear power plants.

A Guaranteed LEU Reserve for the use of IAEA Member States, created by the Russian Federation, has been placed in the International Uranium Enrichment Centre in Angarsk and has been available for IAEA Member States since February.

I will now turn to nuclear applications.

Nuclear Applications

In the area of food and agriculture, one major success story deserves special mention: the eradication of the deadly cattle disease rinderpest. Rinderpest is, in fact, the first animal disease ever to be eliminated. This is a momentous achievement which is of enormous economic benefit to many developing countries. The net benefit to Africa alone is estimated at more than one billion US dollars per year. Together with the FAO, the World Organisation for Animal Health, the African Union and other partners, the IAEA played an important part in eliminating this highly contagious viral disease. Our role included making available affordable diagnostic techniques and training veterinary staff. I invite all of you to join me for a Rinderpest Freedom Celebration, which will start at 1 pm tomorrow in the second-floor Foyer of the M Building.

The same technologies used to eliminate rinderpest are now being successfully applied to diagnose and control other transboundary animal diseases. In Mongolia for example, the Agency assisted in the successful control of a devastating outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that threatened the entire livestock population of about 50 million animals.

The IAEA continued to assist Member States in applying the sterile insect technique against major pests which are hampering agricultural trade, and against certain disease-transmitting insects. Several Member States have enjoyed substantial economic benefits as a result of the Agency's work in this field.

Turning to human health, the biennial progress report on our Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy is before you for review. This programme, now in its 6th year, remains among the most successful activities of the Agency and receives extensive support from Member States. Between September 2009 and September 2011, 21.6 million dollars were mobilized to improve cancer control in developing countries. More than 85 Member States have requested one of our key services, so-called imPACT reviews, which assess countries' readiness to develop a long term radiation medicine capacity-building plan as part of a national cancer control programme.

We continue to develop the IAEA Human Health Campus, an e-learning website for health professionals in radiation medicine, which I announced last year. The Campus has become more interactive and will be moving onto a mobile phone platform in the coming months, making it accessible in regions where broadband internet is not available.

The 2011 IAEA Scientific Forum, which starts tomorrow, will focus on nuclear techniques related to water. Ministers from a number of countries will be joined by renowned international experts and other officials to discuss key water issues facing the world today. For over half a century, the IAEA has developed unique expertise in using nuclear techniques to understand and manage water resources. I will say more about this in a moment when I update you on our technical cooperation programme. I hope many of you will join us tomorrow and on Wednesday for the 2011 Scientific Forum.

At the end of this month, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the IAEA Environment Laboratories in Monaco. The Laboratories have made an outstanding contribution to protecting our oceans and seas by developing advanced analytical methods and reference materials for assessing marine radioactivity and pollution.

Technical Cooperation

Mr. President,

The Agency's technical cooperation programme provides essential support to Member States in every region. The programme is very much a shared responsibility between the Agency and the 129 countries and territories receiving support. I value the excellent communication with Member States facilitated by the Department of Technical Cooperation, which helps to ensure a strong, responsive and flexible TC programme.

New resources for the technical cooperation programme as a whole rose to 127.7 million dollars in 2010 from 112.2 million dollars in 2009. Nuclear safety was the largest area of activity overall, followed by human health, and then food and agriculture. About 20 million dollars has so far been received under the Peaceful Uses Initiative, which was launched last year. I am grateful to all countries which have contributed to this important initiative. I also encourage all countries in a position to do so to contribute to the PUI.

Through the TC programme, Member States are addressing national development priorities in fields where nuclear techniques offer advantages over other approaches, or where nuclear techniques can usefully supplement conventional means. For example, TC projects help to combat child malnutrition, support breastfeeding programmes and address child mortality from preventable water-borne diseases.

This week, the United Nations General Assembly is holding a high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases. Our contribution to addressing these illnesses - which according to the United Nations account for 63% of deaths in the world today - is targeted and effective. Not only our human health projects, but also TC projects on better water management or more accurate identification of pollution sources, help countries to address non-communicable diseases including cancer, diabetes and water-borne illnesses.

As this year's Scientific Forum is focussing on water issues, I would like to give you some examples of the important work we are doing in this field.

In Latin America, unique and valuable information on seven coastal aquifers is being obtained through a regional isotope hydrology project. Thanks to this project, Argentina and Uruguay, for example, have identified zones that are appropriate for developing wells, as well as zones where further exploitation should be discontinued.

In El Salvador, the Agency has helped to establish a permanent monitoring system to provide early warnings of Harmful Algal Blooms. If undetected, these can enter the food chain and cause serious - sometimes fatal - illness. El Salvador's fishing communities are benefiting directly from nuclear technologies that provide faster, more accurate warnings of algal blooms, and make it possible to close selected fishing grounds during danger periods.

Nuclear techniques offer a unique way to assess soil moisture for plant water requirements and fertilizer use efficiency. A regional project in Africa, using small-scale irrigation technology and sound criteria for better use of water and fertilizer, has shown that drip irrigation increases crop yields while saving irrigation water by up to 30% compared to traditional methods. There is tremendous interest from smallholder farmers who are eager to adopt the technology.

In Kenya, a drip irrigation project supported by the IAEA has helped the Maasai people to grow more crops for both animal and human consumption. In addition to conserving precious water resources, the project has made it possible for more parents to afford schooling for their children.

Nuclear Verification

Turning to nuclear verification, I am pleased to note that 110 countries now have additional protocols in force. This is very encouraging. The additional protocol is an essential tool for the Agency to be able to provide credible assurance not only that declared nuclear material is not being diverted from peaceful uses, but also that there are no undeclared nuclear material and activities in a country.

I strongly hope that remaining States will conclude additional protocols as soon as possible. I also ask the 15 non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the NPT without safeguards agreements in force to bring such agreements into force without delay, and call on States with small quantities protocols that have not yet done so to amend or rescind those protocols.

Last year, I reported to you on a management restructuring of the Agency's safeguards laboratories and on the start of construction of a new Clean Laboratory Extension. Since then, our efforts to improve the analytical capability and security of the laboratories have made excellent progress. The Clean Laboratory Extension has been operational for several months, having been completed on time and slightly under budget. It greatly improves the Agency's ability to independently analyse environmental samples for safeguards and makes us a leader in particle analysis.

The official opening of the Clean Laboratory Extension took place two weeks ago, in the presence of many Member State representatives. We also held the groundbreaking ceremony for a new Nuclear Material Laboratory, which, when completed in 2014, will provide the Agency with a modern capability for analysis of nuclear samples collected from all points along the nuclear fuel cycle. However, in order to build a new laboratory with minimum core capabilities, we still need to raise a further 22 million Euros, in addition to the generous extrabudgetary contributions already received from several Member States. I call on Member States in a position to do so to provide the additional resources.

I have continued to report regularly to the Board of Governors on implementation of Agency safeguards, including in the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Syrian Arab Republic.

As far as the safeguards issues on the agenda of this General Conference are concerned, my report on the Application of Safeguards in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea provides a historical overview and update on recent developments of direct relevance to the Agency. As you know, the Agency has not been able to implement any safeguards measures in the DPRK since April 2009, so our knowledge of the current status of the country's nuclear programme is limited.

The DPRK's nuclear programme remains a matter of serious concern and recent reports about the construction of a new uranium enrichment facility and a light water reactor in the DPRK are deeply troubling. I again call upon the DPRK to fully comply with its obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions, to come into full compliance with the NPT and to cooperate promptly and fully with the Agency. I wish to stress that the Agency has an essential role to play in verifying the DPRK's nuclear programme.

Application of IAEA Safeguards in the Middle East

Mr. President,

You will recall that, in September 2000, the General Conference tasked the IAEA Director General to make arrangements to convene a forum in which participants from the Middle East and other interested parties could learn from the experience of nuclear-weapon-free zones already established in other regions. Consultations with Member States showed that conditions are favourable for the holding of such a forum, so I have invited all Member States to a forum, here in Vienna, on 21-22 November. I am pleased that the Permanent Representative of Norway, Ambassador Jan Petersen, has accepted my invitation to serve as Chairperson for this important gathering.

Management Issues

Mr. President,

Turning briefly to a number of management issues, I note that the Agency's accounts for 2010 again received an unqualified audit opinion. For 2011, we expect to repeat this achievement, a noteworthy accomplishment in view of the simultaneous implementation in 2011 of the new International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and phase 1 of our new ERP system, known as AIPS. The first IPSAS-compliant financial statements will be presented to Member States in April 2012. I am confident that they will result in enhanced transparency, accountability and improved governance.

The first phase of AIPS - the Agency's Information System for Programme Support - went live in January, covering finance, procurement, asset management and programme management. After the inevitable teething problems, AIPS is fast becoming part of the everyday business life of the Agency. I am grateful for the efforts of all of those involved. Work has already begun on the second phase of AIPS implementation. I encourage Member States to consider contributing extrabudgetary support so that the whole project can be completed on time in 2014.

Considerable time and effort went into preparation of the programme and budget for 2012-2013. This was not business as usual. Securing proper funding for the Agency at a time of growing Member States' demands for our services and tight constraints on Member State finances required careful balance. We have worked hard to identify and eliminate lower priority activities, as well as to improve efficiency. However, a reasonable increase in resources will clearly be needed in the coming years to meet new and expanding demands for assistance from Member States in nuclear safety and in other areas.

The question of the amendment to Article XIV.A of the Statute to permit the introduction of biennial budgeting has been pending for more than ten years. I again appeal to Member States that have not yet done so to accept this amendment, as well as the amendment to Article VI on expanding membership of the Board, as early as possible.

My report on Women in the Secretariat shows that, although we have made considerable progress in recent years, the issue of gender balance among Professionals in the Secretariat remains a challenge. We continue to work with Member States to encourage well qualified female candidates to apply for Professional posts.

Earlier this year, I established a new Director General's Office for Policy (DGOP), which performs functions previously undertaken by the former Office of the Director General and the former Office of External Relations and Policy Coordination (EXPO). A high-level strategic planning function has been added. This has helped to ensure a sharper focus on implementing the policy set by the Board of Governors and the General Conference and on the general management of the Secretariat.

Finally, Mr. President, I would like to note that Mr. David Waller, Deputy Director General for Management, will retire soon after nearly 19 years in this key position. David had already had a distinguished career as Legal Counsel to President Ronald Reagan and Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the US Department of Energy when he came to the Agency in January 1993. Since then, he has served three IAEA Directors General with distinction. I, personally, have greatly valued his loyalty, wisdom and profound institutional memory. I thank David warmly for his exceptional and highly distinguished service and wish him continued good health and success in future.

Mr. President,

I would like to conclude by thanking the Government of Austria once again for being such an exemplary host for the IAEA. President Heinz Fischer and Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger take a keen personal interest in the work of the Agency and this is reflected at all levels of government. I am deeply grateful for the excellent facilities provided by Austria and for the strong support given to us, most recently in refurbishing our laboratories at Seibersdorf.

Thank you, Mr. President.