The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today outlined its highlights for 2016, ahead of its 60th anniversary year. These included a report on verification and monitoring in Iran, the entry into force of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), response to the outbreak of the Zika crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the promotion of safe nuclear solutions towards sustainable development worldwide.
The Statute of the IAEA was approved on 23 October 1956 at the headquarters of the United Nations. It came into force on 29 July 1957.
In today's statement, the agency first highlighted IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano's publication in January of the report that marked implementation day of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The report confirmed that Iran had completed the necessary preparatory steps specified in Annex V of the JCPOA, which was agreed in July 2015 between Iran and the E3/EU+3 - China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, the USA and the European Union.
The IAEA's Board of Governors had authorised Amano to implement verification and monitoring of Iran's nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA in August 2015, following a request by the United Nations Security Council.
"Implementation of the JCPOA marked the beginning of a new phase in relations between Iran and the IAEA," the agency said.
To ensure effective and efficient verification and monitoring of Iran's nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA, a new Office of Safeguards Verification in Iran was established and the Online Enrichment Monitor, or OLEM, was installed to verify that Iran keeps its level of uranium enrichment at up to 3.67%, as committed under the JCPOA.
The entry into force of a key nuclear security agreement in May marked an important step in strengthening nuclear security globally, the agency said. The Amendment to the CPPNM makes it legally binding for countries to provide physical protection of nuclear facilities and nuclear material in domestic use, storage and transport, which was not covered in the original Convention, adopted in 1979.
At the end of the year, the IAEA's "leading role as the global platform for strengthening nuclear security" was recognized at the International Conference on Nuclear Security: Commitments and Actions. The conference in December attracted more than 2000 participants from 139 Member States and 29 organizations, including representation from 47 Member States at ministerial level.
The conference highlighted "the collective commitment", the agency said, to improve nuclear security at the national, regional and global levels, as well as "the need to stay watchful about the threats to nuclear security and implement concrete measures to protect against malicious acts involving nuclear or radioactive material".
An intense program of peer-review missions requested by Member States helped strengthen nuclear safety globally, the agency said. Among notable missions were an Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) to Japan, where the team concluded that the regulatory body for nuclear and radiation safety had demonstrated independence and transparency since it was set up in 2012. South Africa hosted its first full-scope IRRS mission, while China - the country with the highest number of power reactors under construction globally - hosted a follow-up IRRS mission.
The adoption of the Leadership and Management for Safety by the IAEA's Board of Governors in June concluded the agency's work to update all seven of its General Safety Requirements publications, which apply to all nuclear facilities and activities. These form an important part of the IAEA's overall series of Safety Standards, which includes more than 100 publications, most of which are for particular technical areas.
The IAEA "acted quickly" to help countries in Latin America and the Caribbean respond to the outbreak of the Zika virus by applying the Sterile Insect Technique, as part of an integrated strategy to control the disease, the agency said.
The assistance has been implemented in coordination with the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization and national health authorities, and integrates all relevant insect management approaches, including site inspections and fumigation.
"By providing portable equipment for the rapid detection of the virus, as well as the necessary training, the IAEA also helped countries apply a nuclear-derived technique to quickly and accurately detect the Zika virus," it said.
The IAEA coordinates international cooperation in nuclear science and promotes the use of nuclear technology for sustainable development. It says it is "uniquely placed" to help countries gain access to nuclear science and technology, which have a great deal to offer in industry, energy, health care, agriculture, environmental protection, among other areas.
The IAEA's direct contribution to most of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals was showcased at the 2016 Scientific Forum in September, "demonstrating how nuclear techniques are used to improve human and animal health, address climate change, boost access to energy and protect the planet", it said.
The connection between global challenges, sustainable development and nuclear technologies was also the focus of an IAEA panel discussion at the 2016 European Development Days in April, marking the first time the agency had held an event at this forum.
Another highlight of 2016 was entry into force of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in November, just prior to the Morocco Climate Change Conference, also known as COP22.
The IAEA coordinated with other UN Agencies a side event highlighting the role of innovation in meeting the target to keep the increase in average global temperatures below 2˚C compared to pre-industrial levels. It also hosted an exhibit on nuclear power and nuclear applications, and provided information on the agency's work related to climate change, highlighting recent publications such as Nuclear Power and the Paris Agreement, Nuclear Power and Sustainable Development and Climate Change and Nuclear Power.
Contributions by IAEA Member States have enabled the IAEA to begin the modernization of its nuclear applications laboratories under the Renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories (ReNuAL) projects. Construction of new IAEA laboratory buildings, now underway and scheduled for completion by 2018, will increase the agency's ability to respond to global challenges in food and agriculture, human health and the environment, among other areas, it said.
The IAEA's conferences and events throughout the year served as a platform for dialogue and continued work in the areas of nuclear science and technology, helping to further expand their peaceful uses. The meetings encompassed important aspects of the IAEA's work related to safety and security, safeguards, non-proliferation, energy, science and research, and development.
To highlight the IAEA's significant contribution to global peace, security and development, the agency commenced its 60th anniversary celebrations during this year's 60th regular session of the General Conference in September.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News