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Nuclear safety, Iran and DPR Korea among pressing issues for UN atomic watchdog

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.
IAEA/Dean Calma
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.

Nuclear safety, Iran and DPR Korea among pressing issues for UN atomic watchdog

The United Nations atomic energy chief today highlighted some of the most pressing issues on the agenda of his agency, ranging from nuclear safety to verification of the activities of Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that progress continues to be made in implementation of the Agency’s Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, which was endorsed in the aftermath of the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in 2011.

“The Nuclear Safety Review 2014 shows that the operational safety of the world’s nuclear power plants remains high,” he told the meeting in Vienna of the IAEA Board of Governors, adding that significant progress has been made in strengthening nuclear safety in key areas such as assessments of safety vulnerabilities and strengthening the Agency’s peer review services.

“Long-term operation of nuclear power plants is an important issue for many countries,” he stated. “Many of the world’s nuclear power reactors have been in operation for 30 or 40 years or more. Managing these reactors safely in the long term poses challenges which need to be carefully assessed and managed.”

Turning to specific countries, Mr. Amano said the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement.

“However, the Agency is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”

He noted that Iran implemented, within the agreed three-month period, the six initial practical measures contained in the Annex to the Framework for Cooperation between Iran and the Agency.

“We are analysing the information provided by Iran and have requested some additional clarifications,” said Mr. Amano.

“The measures implemented by Iran, and the further commitments it has undertaken, represent a positive step forward, but much remains to be done to resolve all outstanding issues.”

Iran’s nuclear programme – which its officials have stated is for peaceful purposes, but some other countries contend is driven by military ambitions – has been a matter of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that the country had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

On DPRK, the Director General noted that it will be five years next month since IAEA inspectors were asked to leave the DPRK. Nevertheless, the Agency maintains its readiness to play an essential role in verifying the country’s nuclear programme.

He called on Pyongyang to comply fully with its obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate promptly with the Agency, and to resolve all outstanding issues.

At its week-long meeting, the Board is expected to discuss a range of issues, including strengthening the Agency’s activities in nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety, as well as its activities related to nuclear science, technology and applications.