Amano highlights 2016 activities for IAEA

08 March 2016

Further enhancing nuclear safety around the world and the verification of Iran's nuclear program will be key activities for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this year, its director general has told the organization's board of governors.

IAEA Board meeting - March 2016 - 460 (D Calma - IAEA)
Amano addresses the IAEA's board of governors (Image: D Calma/IAEA)

In an introductory statement to the board yesterday, Yukiya Amano said there are currently 442 nuclear power reactors in operation around the world and another 66 under construction, two-thirds of which are in Asia. He noted there is continued interest among 'newcomer' countries in introducing nuclear power. "The agency is assisting them in meeting challenges in nuclear infrastructure development," he said.

Amano said the climate change agreement reached at COP21 in Paris late last year will have implications for the work of the IAEA, in particular concerning the use of nuclear power. He said, "The IAEA can assist member states with the pre-2020 actions necessary to meet the goals of the Paris agreement."

Enhancing safety

Referring to the forthcoming anniversaries of the nuclear power accidents at Fukushima Daiichi and Chernobyl, Amano said: "The immense human impact of these events should not be forgotten." He added, "I am confident that the legacy of Fukushima Daiichi will be a sharper focus on nuclear safety everywhere. There is widespread recognition that everything humanly possible must be done to ensure that no such accident ever happens again. This is all the more essential as global use of nuclear power is likely to continue to grow in the coming decades."

Amano said the Nuclear Safety Review 2016 shows that progress continues to be made in enhancing nuclear safety but stressed, "There can be no grounds for complacency about nuclear safety in any country".

He said all countries - especially those with nuclear power programs - are encouraged to become contracting parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety as soon as possible. The convention's peer review process, he said, provides "an excellent forum for sharing experience among regulators and the nuclear industry, from which all parties benefit". There are currently 78 contracting parties to the convention.

"2016 will be an important year for nuclear security," Amano said. The amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material could soon enter into force, more than ten years after it was adopted. "Bringing the amendment into force is the single most important step which the world can take to strengthen nuclear security," he said. Adherence by 11 countries is required for the amendment to come into force. "I hope that this will happen as soon as possible," Amano told the board.

Verification work

Amano said the IAEA has found no indication of the diversion of declared nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities in Iran. Iran's Additional Protocol has been provisionally implemented since 16 January.

"Iran is now invited to participate in the full range of agency activities, including technical meetings, conferences, training courses and workshops," Amano stated.

However, he noted that Iran has to implement its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran and the E3/EU+3 countries "for many years to come, and the agency has to verify, monitor and report on its implementation". Amano said a new Office of Safeguards Verification in Iran had been established within the IAEA's Department of Safeguards on 1 March.

Amano issued a draft budget update for 2017 in January. He said, "It is essential that predictable, regular budget funding is made available for our long-term verification and monitoring work in Iran. As I stated in the update document, we need a clear path for integrating the full amount of €5.2 million ($5.7 million) into the regular budget as soon as possible."

North Korea's nuclear program remains "a major cause for concern", Amano said. "Recent statements by the DPRK are especially worrying," he said. North Korea announced in early January that it had conducted a new nuclear weapon test. "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."

Non-energy technologies

The IAEA responded quickly to the outbreak of the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean, Amano said. "We are providing portable equipment that will allow the rapid detection of the Zika virus in the field, and training our local partners in how to use it."

He added, "The agency is also helping countries in Latin America which seek to deploy the sterile insect technique against the Aedes mosquito that can transmit the Zika virus and other pathogens." The IAEA is to transport a gamma cell irradiator to Brazil to enable it to boost production of sterile male mosquitoes for release in pilot areas.

Amano said the IAEA's laboratories in Seibersdorf near Vienna play a vital role in research and transferring nuclear technology to developing member states. However, he said the laboratories are in urgent need of renovation. "Without full renovation of the laboratories, our capacity to respond to member states' request for assistance, on Zika and in other areas, will be significantly limited."

He noted that some €6.5 million in extrabudgetary funds is still required to fund modernization of the laboratories and called on all member states to contribute to their renovation.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News