At governing body, UN atomic agency chief spotlights nuclear security, efforts to combat Zika

6 June 2016

Support for countries that are fighting the Zika virus and the verification and monitoring of activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Iran were among the key issues highlighted by Director General Yukiya Amano to the agency’s Board of Governors in Vienna today.

In his opening remarks to the IAEA’s Board of Governors, Mr. Amano provided an overview of the agency’s activities in promoting the peaceful application of nuclear science and technology to help Member States achieve their development goals, as well as in enhancing nuclear safety and security and implementing safeguards.

He highlighted an example of the IAEA’s ability to respond swiftly to crises in Member States, noting that after the major earthquake in Ecuador in April, the agency quickly dispatched four mobile digital X-ray units, as well as mobile generators, emergency diagnostic equipment and personal radiation detectors, to help doctors deal with the aftermath.

Referring to the 2015 Technical Cooperation Report, which will be discussed by the Board, Mr. Amano highlighted the improvement in the implementation rate for technical cooperation projects to close to 85 per cent in 2015.

“During my recent visits to African nations, I saw once again how important the technical cooperation programme is for developing nations,” he said. “I visited hospitals and laboratories and met doctors, engineers and scientists who have benefited greatly from agency training and support.”

Nuclear applications

Mr. Amano also noted that plans to modernize the IAEA’s nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf, near Vienna, were making good progress.

Contributions received from Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia, the United States and 39 African countries have helped to raise most of the 31 million euros needed for the renovation, and the funding gap has narrowed to 1.6 million euros, he said.

“This is one of the most important projects ever undertaken by the Agency,” he said.

On the Zika epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean, Mr. Amano said the IAEA continues to work to help countries fight the virus.

“In April, we trained over 35 participants from 26 countries in using a nuclear-derived technique to quickly and accurately detect the virus,” he said.

A project to help countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to use the most sterile insect technique against the Zika virus, approved by the Board in March, has received funding from France, Japan and the United States, he added.

Nuclear security and nuclear energy

Turning to nuclear security, Mr. Amano noted the importance of the recent entry into force of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

“This is a significant step which will make the world more secure,” he said. “I continue to urge all States to adhere to this important legal instrument. Universal implementation of the amended Convention will help to ensure that nuclear material throughout the world is properly protected against malicious acts.”

On nuclear energy, the Director General noted that 10 nuclear power reactors were connected to the grid this past year, the highest figure for a single year since 1990. There are now 444 power reactors in operation in 30 countries, and another 65 under construction, two thirds of them in Asia, he said.

Turning to Iran, Mr. Amano said his report on Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action summarized the verification and monitoring activities that the IAEA has conducted under relevant UN Security Council and IAEA Board resolutions.

“We are in the early stages of a process which requires constant and careful attention from all stakeholders. All stakeholders have worked to make implementation possible. In the coming months and years, the continuing strong commitment of all parties will be needed to make implementation sustainable,” Mr. Amano said.

He also expressed serious concern about the nuclear programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

“It is deeply regrettable that the DPRK has shown no indication that it is willing to comply with the Security Council resolution adopted in response to its nuclear test earlier this year,” Mr. Amano said.

“I strongly urge the DPRK to implement fully all relevant IAEA and Security Council resolutions. The agency remains ready to contribute to the peaceful resolution of the DPRK nuclear issue by resuming its verification activities once a political agreement is reached among countries concerned,” he added.

The Director-General also announced the launch of year-long celebrations to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the IAEA, which will start at the General Conference in September.


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