UN nuclear watchdog's work impacting lives worldwide, says agency chief

26 November 2015

The head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today delivered an opening statement at the meeting of its Board of Governors by addressing issues of technical cooperation, nuclear applications, nuclear energy, safety and security, and nuclear verification.

The 648 proposed new technical cooperation projects for the next two years demonstrate the wide scope of the Agency's mandate, and the positive impact of its work on the lives of people around the world, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told the Board in Vienna, Austria.

“Importantly for our work, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders in September, contain explicit recognition of the importance of science and technology for development,” he said.

“The SDGs cover many areas in which the IAEA contributes a great deal,” Mr. Amano continued. “These include energy, food security and nutrition, human health, protection of the oceans and management of water resources, as well as climate change.”

The SDGs are a set of universal development goals, targets and indicators that countries can use to frame their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years. They were adopted by the UN General Assembly in September.

Mr. Amano said Member States may choose to reflect SDG targets in their development plans, which could be reflected in their IAEA country programme frameworks.

The Director General also briefed the Board on the progress of plans to modernize the IAEA's nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf, near Vienna. The Insect Pest Control Laboratory will be the first of two new laboratory buildings scheduled for construction under the Renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories (ReNuAL) project. Modernization of the labs will improve the IAEA's ability to help countries use nuclear science and technology to achieve the SDGs, Mr. Amano said.

Construction of the first laboratory is expected to begin next April. Mr. Amano told the Board that the construction of the second building, the Flexible Modular Laboratory, will begin once the required funding is available.

So far, some 13.9 million euros has been provided or pledged by 20 Member States for the ReNuAL project, he confirmed, thanking them for their support. “However, we still need an additional 6.7 million euros. I again call on all Member States in a position to do so to contribute generously.”

Turning to nuclear energy, Mr. Amano noted that the IAEA will be participating in side events at the United Nations climate change conference, COP21, that begins in Paris next week. The objective of the conference is to reach an agreement on combating global warming.

“Many countries expect nuclear power to play an important role in their energy mix in the coming decades,” Mr. Amano said. “It is one of the lowest emitters of carbon dioxide among energy sources, considering emissions through the entire life cycle.”

On nuclear safety, Mr. Amano noted that his report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident and the final report on the implementation of the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety had been published in September.

“Work is underway to incorporate the output from these major undertakings into the Agency's regular nuclear safety activities,” he said.

In the area of nuclear verification, the IAEA is conducting preparatory activities related to the verification and monitoring of Iran's nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), agreed between Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union in July this year. This includes verification and monitoring of the steps Iran has begun taking towards the implementation of its commitments under the agreement, Mr. Amano underlined.

He noted that the activities set out in the Road-map for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran's nuclear programme for the period up to 15 October were completed on schedule and a wrap-up technical meeting took place on 24 November.

“Next week, I expect to provide my final assessment on all past and present outstanding issues, as set out in my report of November 2011, for action by the Board,” Mr. Amano said.

Meanwhile, an IAEA team of experts today said Russia's Novovoronezh Nuclear Power Plant has improved safety in recent years by, for example, using innovative techniques to reduce its impact on the environment. The team also proposed further improvements such as completing work to bring the plant's various quality arrangements into a single integrated management system.

A press release issued by the Agency indicated that the Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) today concluded a 19-day mission to assess operational safety at Unit 5 of the Novovoronezh NPP in the Russian Federation, one of the plant's three operating reactors.

OSART missions aim to improve operational safety by objectively assessing safety performance using the IAEA's Safety Standards and proposing recommendations for improvement where appropriate.

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