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2 April 2012 | Minsk, Belarus
Institute of Retraining and Professional Development, Belarusian Ministry of Emergency Situations

Statement at Institute of Retraining and Professional Development

by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am delighted to address participants in this training course for first responders to nuclear and radiological emergencies.

Belarus gained considerable experience in responding to nuclear emergencies after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, which had a significant effect on your country. Experts from Belarus have shared the knowledge and expertise acquired through that experience with the IAEA and its Member States. This proved extremely valuable when we had to respond to another nuclear emergency in my home country a year ago. I am referring, of course, to the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

That accident was a reminder to all of us that, when it comes to nuclear safety, we cannot take anything for granted. I visited Fukushima Daiichi several months after the accident and was filled with admiration for the courage and dedication of everyone at the site. Their work to restore normality was undertaken in difficult conditions and at great personal risk.

All of us owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who are willing to undertake the potentially dangerous work of first response after a nuclear or radiological emergency. Your work is vitally important.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you may know, good progress has been made in restoring normality at the Fukushima Daiichi Plant. The Japanese authorities have declared that cold shut down status has been achieved. The IAEA has been doing everything it can to help Japan bring the situation at the site under control and to mitigate the consequences of the accident.

The IAEA's Incident and Emergency Centre, led by my distinguished Belarussian colleague Dr. Elena Buglova, worked around the clock for many months to address this accident. We will continue to assist Japan in tackling the challenging work of decontamination and remediation in the affected areas.

Last September, our Member States endorsed a 12-point IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety. I will not list all 12 elements, but they included agreement that all countries with nuclear power programmes should undertake so-called "stress tests" of their nuclear power plants. The Action Plan also stresses the importance of each country having a genuinely independent nuclear regulator, with adequate human and financial resources. It calls on the IAEA to strengthen its programme of expert peer reviews of the effectiveness of national regulators. I look forward to sending an IAEA Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review mission to Belarus to assist you in the further development of a robust nuclear infrastructure, including the appropriate regulatory framework, as you proceed with the introduction of nuclear power.

Another key element of the IAEA Action Plan concerns strengthening emergency preparedness and response. I am pleased to note that Belarus hosted an IAEA Emergency Preparedness Review mission in 2010, in which international experts gave an independent appraisal of emergency preparedness and response arrangements in your country.

The Agency is working with all Member States to strengthen their emergency preparedness and response mechanisms to ensure that necessary assistance is made available promptly. We are looking into ways of enhancing and making better use of the IAEA Response and Assistance Network, known as RANET, including expanding its rapid response capabilities. Member States are also considering establishing national rapid response teams that could be made available internationally through RANET.

Belarus has, for many years, hosted a Russian-language postgraduate course in radiation safety and the safety of radiation sources, with support from the IAEA. This national course is a good example of the Agency's activities in strengthening capacity-building in emergency preparedness and response. We pay special attention to training of first responders because of their critical role in the first hours after an incident.

I believe that nuclear power plants have already become safer as a result of the measures taken since the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Safety will continue to improve, but we must avoid complacency at all costs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I understand that the Institute of Retraining and Professional Development plays a key role in helping to prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials in Belarus.

Last week, I attended the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul at which heads of state and government from some 50 countries considered ways to strengthen measures to prevent terrorists and other criminals from obtaining material that could be used to make a dirty bomb.

This is a serious threat throughout the world and we must remain very vigilant. The fact that nuclear security is now getting the attention of heads of state and government is very encouraging. The world will undoubtedly be safer as a result.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Several countries in this region are planning to embark on new nuclear energy projects. This confirms our assessment at the IAEA that nuclear energy remains a valid option for many countries as they consider their future energy mix. But we must not forget that public confidence in the safety of nuclear power was badly damaged by the Fukushima Daiichi accident. In using nuclear power, all countries must ensure the highest level of transparency and openness in communicating with all stakeholders. Dialogue and communication will be important between government and local communities, between the IAEA and individual Member States, and among countries themselves, so that nuclear power can be used safely, securely and sustainably.

I would like to conclude by noting that Belarus has been a valued partner for the IAEA for many years. We are working especially closely with you as you move towards building your first nuclear power reactors. You can count on our support at every stage of the process.

I wish you every success with your training here at the Institute of Retraining and Professional Development.

Thank you.