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16 September 2013 | Vienna, Austria
Fifty-Seventh Regular Session of IAEA General Conference 2013

Statement to Fifty-Seventh Regular Session of IAEA General Conference 2013

by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

Mr. President,

On December 8, it will be 60 years since President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his historic Atoms for Peace speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

He called for the establishment of an international atomic energy agency to put nuclear material to use to "serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind."

Eisenhower's vision became a reality four years later, in 1957, when the IAEA began work here in Vienna. The Agency has worked hard to bring the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology to all parts of the globe and to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

The world has changed enormously in the past 60 years. But the Atoms for Peace mission has lost none of its relevance. The Agency has successfully adapted to changing times and the evolving needs of Member States.

When I took office nearly four years ago, I pledged to pursue the multiple objectives of the IAEA in a balanced manner. My goal has been to ensure that the IAEA is an effective, well managed technical organization, with high ethical standards, that delivers concrete results and makes a real difference to our Member States. It is touching to meet ordinary people - such as farmers, fishermen or cancer patients - whose lives have improved because of the work of the IAEA. This is something we can all take pride in.

I am very grateful for the support which we receive from you, the IAEA Member States. That support has made possible solid achievements in all areas of our work. Let me note some of the highlights of recent years.

We give high priority to assisting developing countries, through our Technical Cooperation programme, in using nuclear technology in areas such as cancer control, food and agriculture, and water management. These issues have been highlighted in our annual Scientific Forums. We have reduced the number of small TC projects and are focussing on larger projects with more impact in countries, or entire regions.

Access to modern science and technology is essential for achieving all of the Millennium Development Goals. By making nuclear technology available, the IAEA makes a unique and lasting contribution to achieving the MDGs.

Our eight nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf, near Vienna, play an essential role in our work. But they have become old and rather dilapidated, so we are now planning to modernize them. We hope to complete the project in 2017 and will be grateful for financial assistance from Member States.

In nuclear verification, the Agency has taken a firm and objective position on major safeguards issues such as those involving the nuclear programmes of Iran, Syria and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. We have upheld the principle that all countries must fully implement their safeguards obligations, as well as other relevant obligations. We have lobbied continuously for more countries to adopt the additional protocol. The number of additional protocols in force has grown steadily and now totals 121.

We built a new Clean Laboratory in Seibersdorf, on schedule and under budget. The new Nuclear Material Laboratory building has been completed and the lab should be operational within 18 months, giving the Agency a modern capability for analysis of nuclear samples. After 11 years of consultations with relevant countries, we convened a Forum on Experience of Possible Relevance to the Creation of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East.

In nuclear energy, we stepped up assistance to so-called newcomers. A group of countries firmly committed to introducing nuclear power has now emerged. In June this year, an important IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century took place in St. Petersburg. One of the key messages was that, for many countries, nuclear power will play an important role in achieving energy security and sustainable development goals.

The Fukushima Daiichi accident in March 2011 was a global wake-up call on nuclear safety. But it was followed by unprecedented efforts to strengthen nuclear safety everywhere. The 2011 General Conference agreed an ambitious Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, which is now being implemented. Member States have explicitly recognized the central role of the IAEA in promoting international cooperation in nuclear safety. A comprehensive IAEA report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident will be finalized in 2014.

Steady progress has been made in strengthening the Agency's activities in nuclear security, in response to the wishes of Member States. In July, we hosted an International Conference on Nuclear Security in Vienna. This was the first such conference at ministerial level, open to all IAEA Member States. Ministers reaffirmed the IAEA's central role in strengthening the global nuclear security framework.

I have taken a close interest in improving the management of the Agency. I have shortened decision-making processes, stressed the importance of management accountability, and further improved the flow of information to Member States. I appointed a Senior Strategy Officer.

Our new method of preparing budget estimates has been welcomed by Member States. We successfully adopted International Public Sector Accounting Standards, known as IPSAS. The External Auditor has released an unqualified opinion on our Financial Statements. Implementation of the Agency-Wide Information System for Programme Support (AIPS) has progressed steadily. When fully operational, AIPS will cut costs and considerably improve the efficiency and transparency of the Agency's operations.

Mr. President,

I will now turn to some of the issues on the agenda of the 57th General Conference.

Nuclear power is the best known peaceful application of nuclear energy. The Agency's latest projections show continued growth in global use of nuclear power in the next 20 years, especially in Asia.

The Agency will continue to accompany users of nuclear power, both new and experienced, at every stage of their journey. We will also work with countries which have decided to phase out nuclear power. In the next few years, a number of new countries may start building their first nuclear power plants. These are among the biggest public sector investments which countries ever engage in. The IAEA has a unique role in assisting governments, operators and regulators in understanding their international obligations and national responsibilities, as well as in adopting international standards and best practices. The promise of ever safer new technologies, especially small and medium-sized reactors, may expand the possibilities for the use of nuclear power. The Agency will facilitate the exchange of experience and information in these areas, as well as in areas such as waste disposal.

A strong safety record will be essential for the future of nuclear power. At the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety last December, the Co-Presidents stressed that "strengthening nuclear safety is a continuous process and that there should be no complacency in safety matters." That message has been well understood. I visit nuclear power plants in many countries and see serious and tangible efforts being made to enhance nuclear safety.

The recent leak of contaminated water at Fukushima Daiichi is a matter of high priority that needs to be addressed urgently. The Agency remains ready to assist Japan and will send a second international peer review mission this autumn to offer further advice.

We continue to work with all of you to implement the Action Plan on Nuclear Safety. I recall that, under the Action Plan, Member States agreed to work towards establishing a global nuclear liability regime covering compensation for nuclear damage. I welcome the recent statement by France and the United States expressing their commitment to work towards a global liability regime, and calling for the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage to be brought into force.

From 2015, activities under the Action Plan could be incorporated into the Agency's regular programme in the respective IAEA Departments. Our long-term goal must be to ensure that an ever more robust nuclear safety culture puts down deep roots throughout the world.

My Nuclear Security Report 2013 has been circulated. The Agency now provides a broad range of services to Member States to help ensure that nuclear and other radioactive material, as well as nuclear facilities, are properly protected.

I again draw your attention to an important item of unfinished business in nuclear security: ratification of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. Eight years after its adoption, the Amendment has still not entered into force. I call upon all States to adhere to the Amendment and I hope that it will enter into force in the near future.

I draw your attention to the Treaty Event which we are holding this week to promote universal adherence to multilateral treaties for which I, as Director General, am depositary. These include the Amendment to the CPPNM.

In the coming years, we will build on the success of the International Conference on Nuclear Security with the aim of ensuring that all Member States share a common understanding of the threat of nuclear terrorism and the measures needed to address it. I hope that all IAEA Member States will routinely make full use of Agency services in nuclear security and treat security as a key aspect of their everyday work, alongside nuclear safety and nuclear safeguards.

Mr. President,

Through the technical cooperation programme, the Agency is providing support to 125 countries or territories. We help them to develop their capacity to use nuclear technology to address development needs. Globally, health and nutrition make up the largest proportion of TC spending, followed by safety and security, and then by food and agriculture. We have been working more closely with other UN specialized agencies, such as the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, in order to achieve more effective implementation. The Agency pays particular attention to training skilled personnel in the use of nuclear technology. We are also making increasing use of cost effective e-learning tools.

Thanks to the Peaceful Uses Initiative, launched in 2010, we are seeing an increase in the resources available for technical cooperation projects. However, the need for assistance is great. I ask all Member States to pay their contributions to the IAEA Technical Cooperation Fund in full and on time.

Our Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) has been recognized by Member States as a flagship Agency programme. Subject to approval of the Agency's Programme and Budget for 2014-2015 by the General Conference, PACT will receive additional staff and funding in the next biennium.

The Agency works closely with the African Union's Pan African Tsetse and Trypanosomosis Eradication Campaign to help reduce the devastating impact of the disease. It is estimated that over 60 million people in 36 African countries are at risk from this deadly sickness, which threatens food security and increases poverty levels. We are providing technical assistance to help create tsetse-free zones in Africa, using the sterile insect technique and other methods.

A major regional technical cooperation project aims to improve water management in the Sahel region of Africa, and to alleviate severe water shortages which have caused a humanitarian crisis. Together with thirteen participating countries, we are working to enhance understanding of five large transboundary aquifers in the Sahel region.

Our plans to modernize the nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf were supported by the General Conference last year. A detailed strategic plan will be presented for your review early next year.

Mr. President,

Turning now to nuclear verification, the nuclear programme of the DPRK remains a matter of serious concern.

We have been unable to carry out verification activities in the DPRK since 2009, so our knowledge of the country's nuclear programme is limited. Nevertheless, the Agency will maintain its readiness to play an essential role in verifying the DPRK's nuclear programme.

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

I report regularly to the Board on safeguards implementation in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. However, Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable us to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. The Agency therefore cannot conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.

I urge Iran to fully implement its Safeguards Agreement and its other obligations and to engage with the Agency to resolve all outstanding issues.

As my report on Application of IAEA Safeguards in the Middle East shows, there remain fundamental differences of views among countries of the region on this issue. It has therefore not been possible to make further progress in fulfilling my mandate from the General Conference in this area. I will continue my consultations.

We are continuing our efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of safeguards implementation, for example by giving consideration to a State as a whole, rather than focusing primarily on declared nuclear material and facilities, as we did in the past. This is known as the State-level approach and is indispensable to discharge our safeguards responsibilities under budget constraints. We continue to consult fully with Member States on this.

I wish to thank Mr Herman Nackaerts, Deputy Director General for Safeguards, who retires soon, for his distinguished service to the Agency.

Looking ahead, the Agency will maintain an impartial and credible nuclear verification regime as a key contribution to international peace and security. I will continue to ask the few non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the NPT which have not concluded comprehensive safeguards agreements to do so without delay. I hope that adherence to the additional protocol will become universal. I also call on States with small quantities protocols that have not yet done so to amend or rescind those protocols.

Mr. President,

The Agency's Programme and Budget for 2014-2015 identifies the main priorities for the Agency during this biennium. These are technical cooperation, nuclear safety and security, and the modernization of the nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf. The statutory function related to nuclear energy remains an Agency priority.

Against a difficult global economic background, the Agency will focus on priority areas as determined by you, the Member States. We remain committed to vigorous efficiency and cost-saving measures. We trust that you will continue to support key Agency activities with extrabudgetary contributions, as required. We will also seek new sources of funding and work to maximize partnerships with other international organizations.

I draw your attention to our annual Scientific Forum, which starts tomorrow. It is entitled The Blue Planet - Nuclear Applications for a Sustainable Marine Environment. I encourage as many of you as possible to participate.

Mr. President,

Looking ahead, I will continue to stay firm against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. I will do my utmost to resolve Iran nuclear issues through constructive dialogue with the new Iranian government.

Science and technology play an increasingly important role in development. The Agency is helping developing countries gain access to the great benefits of nuclear technology through its technical cooperation programme. This forms part of our contribution throughout the Millennium Development Goal process and beyond. The modernisation of the Science and Nuclear Applications Laboratory is the cornerstone for the Agency to maintain its technical capacity.

As nuclear technology continues to be used widely, including for power generation, the highest standard of safety must be ensured by Member States, with the assistance of the IAEA. We will continue to help Japan to overcome the Fukushima Daiichi Accident. It is also important that nuclear and other radioactive materials are properly secured so they cannot be used with malicious intent.

The Agency plays a central role in all of these areas. To do its work effectively, it must be properly resourced and well managed. We will continue to use the resources you entrust to us prudently and effectively, for the maximum benefit of Member States.

I thank you, the Member States, for your support for our work and the confidence which you have placed in me as Director General.

I am very grateful to Austria for being a model host country. And I express my deep appreciation to all Agency staff for their hard work and dedication.

Thank you.