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9 June 2014 | Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

Atoms for Peace in 21st Century

by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a special pleasure to visit Stockholm at this time of year. I am very pleased to speak to this distinguished audience about the work of the IAEA.

Sweden was a founding member of the Agency in 1957 and has actively supported our work since then. I am grateful for the steadfast support which I, personally, have received from Ambassador Daag and his predecessor Ambassador Lundborg.

Sweden is an experienced user of nuclear power and a leading advocate of non-proliferation and disarmament.

Sweden also strongly supports the IAEA's technical cooperation programme, the mechanism through which we make nuclear science and technology available to developing countries for peaceful purposes. I will have more to say about that in a moment.

Sweden's innovative approach to the management and disposal of nuclear waste, which includes inviting municipalities to volunteer to host facilities, has attracted a lot of international attention. I will have a chance to see some of your leading-edge facilities for myself tomorrow when I visit Oskarshamn.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The mandate of the IAEA has been summarised as Atoms for Peace. Our role is to help prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and to make nuclear science and technology available for peaceful purposes, especially to developing countries.

Nuclear power is the best known peaceful application of nuclear technology. Despite the Fukushima Daiichi accident three years ago, the use of nuclear power continues to grow throughout the world. The main centre of expansion is in Asia.

The IAEA does not encourage countries to use nuclear power, nor do we try to discourage them. It is up to each sovereign state to make its own decision.

However, many countries believe nuclear power can help them achieve energy security, boost their economic competitiveness and help to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Sweden is one of 30 countries which have opted to include nuclear power in their energy mix. In your case, the share of electricity produced by nuclear power plants is quite substantial at over 40 percent.

The IAEA works closely with existing users, and with countries which plan to build their first reactors, to help them use nuclear power safely and securely.

In recent years, we have been active in helping Japan deal with the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident and further improving global nuclear safety. The goal is to do everything humanly possible to prevent accidents at nuclear facilities, and to minimise the consequences if an accident should occur.

I believe the lasting legacy of the Fukushima Daiichi accident will be a much more intense focus on nuclear safety.

I have seen for myself the considerable efforts being made at nuclear power plants all over the world to improve safety. For example, higher protective walls have been built to guard against floods and tsunamis, and extra backup sources of power and water have been put in place.

Experts from Sweden and dozens of other countries are contributing to an IAEA report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident, which will be finalised at the end of this year.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In recent years, world leaders have also paid increasing attention to the need to ensure that nuclear and other radioactive materials do not fall into the wrong hands.

You can imagine how devastating the consequences would be if a dirty bomb - involving conventional explosives and radioactive material - was detonated in a major city.

The IAEA plays a central role in strengthening nuclear security. We help countries to properly protect nuclear and other radioactive materials, as well as the nuclear facilities in which they are housed.

Our work covers a broad range of activities, from supplying radiation detection equipment for countries to use at ports and airports and providing specialist training, to helping protect major public events against nuclear terrorism.

In March, I attended the third Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, at which leaders from over 50 countries pledged to strengthen international cooperation in nuclear security. The leaders also reconfirmed their strong support for the IAEA's central role.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a scientific and technical organization, the IAEA makes an important contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

We help countries to improve human health, fight cancer and improve nutrition. We help to improve access to electricity. We help to increase food production, manage scarce water resources and monitor environmental pollution. All of these are areas where nuclear techniques have an important role to play.

Unfortunately, our contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals often goes unrecognised. I am doing my best to raise awareness of our role.

I would like to see better recognition of the importance of science and technology, including nuclear related technology, in the global development agenda. The support of countries such as Sweden, with a strong tradition of generous support for developing countries, is extremely important.

I visit around 30 countries every year. Everywhere I go, I see IAEA technical cooperation projects in action. I meet farmers, fishermen and cancer patients whose lives have changed for the better thanks to the work of the IAEA. This is one of the most gratifying aspects of my work.

Let me give you a few examples.

Cancer is reaching epidemic proportions in developing countries, but many lack the resources to deal with it. In fact, several dozen African nations have absolutely no radiotherapy facilities.

The IAEA, together with partners such as the World Health Organization, helps to make radiotherapy and related services available to developing countries. We provide training for medical and technical specialists and help them to gain access to modern technology.

Another example: tsetse flies infest vast areas of Africa. They transmit a parasitic disease which devastates livestock herds and spreads "sleeping sickness" among human beings.

The IAEA deploys what is known as the Sterile Insect Technique, which is essentially a form of contraception for tsetse flies. Male flies are sterilised using radiation. They are then released into affected areas, where they mate with females in the wild. These do not produce offspring.

This technique can eventually eradicate entire populations of tsetse flies, as happened in Zanzibar in 1999.

To take one final example: Sweden has contributed generously to an IAEA project in the Sahel Region of Africa which is helping countries threatened by drought to manage their limited water resources more effectively.

So, as you see, we are much more than the "nuclear watchdog" which the media like to write about.

However, one of the core IAEA functions is, indeed, to verify that countries are not working to acquire nuclear weapons. We do this by implementing safeguards.

Our inspectors are constantly on the road, visiting nuclear facilities all over the world. As well as carrying out on-the-spot inspections, they bring back samples which are analysed at our specialist laboratories near Vienna for possible traces of nuclear material.

The main verification issue on our agenda in recent years has been Iran.

For years, my quarterly reports to our Board of Governors stated that nuclear material declared by Iran was not being diverted from peaceful purposes. But I also stated that Iran was not providing sufficient cooperation to enable the Agency to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran was in peaceful activities.

Late last year, we started to see some movement.

In November, six countries - China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and the United States - agreed on a Joint Plan of Action with Iran.

The Plan is aimed at achieving "a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful."

The countries concerned asked the IAEA to undertake monitoring and verification of voluntary measures to be implemented by Iran, which we are now doing.

Separately, the IAEA agreed on a Framework for Cooperation with Iran under which Iran agreed to implement a series of practical measures.

As I told our Board of Governors last week, Iran has engaged with the Agency substantively, helping us to gain a better understanding of its nuclear programme. Iran has been implementing the agreed measures as planned. I welcome this. We are analysing the information provided by Iran and will provide our assessment in due course, after acquiring a good understanding of the whole picture.

The IAEA-Iran talks and the discussions between Iran and the E3+3 countries are separate, but of course they are related. For our part, the IAEA will continue to work closely with Iran to resolve all outstanding issues related to its nuclear programme.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There has, regrettably, been no movement on another key non-proliferation issue which I am sure is of interest to this audience - North Korea's nuclear programme.

It is just over five years since Agency inspectors were asked to leave North Korea. Nevertheless, the Agency maintains its readiness to play an essential role in verifying North Korea's nuclear programme.

I continue to call upon North Korea to comply fully with its obligations and to cooperate fully with the Agency.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

That concludes my brief overview of the work of the IAEA. I will stop here and will be happy to take your questions.

Thank you.