Amano talks to the board

08 June 2010

Israel's nuclear activity is to be on the agenda for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as it struggles with Syria and Iran and works to help more countries benefit from peaceful nuclear energy.


The director general of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, described his work so far to the agency's Board of Governors yesterday. He said he had been gratified by recognition of the IAEA's role in several international meetings on nuclear power and security.


Amano, June 2010 (Dean Calma/IAEA)
Yukiya Amano, moments before addressing the IAEA Board of
Governors (Image: Dean Calma/IAEA)

Some 58 countries around the world are currently engaged in technical cooperation projects under IAEA auspices, Amano said, giving an idea of the number of countries keen to employ nuclear energy. Thirty-one nations currently use nuclear power and are presumably involved in some way with technical cooperation, giving a total of perhaps 27 countries wanting to gain access to nuclear power's benefits. The IAEA's budget for facilitating this has swelled by $20.7 million since 2008 to reach $112.2 million per year.


However, the largest single part of the IAEA's work concerns human health, particularly for the expansion of cancer treatment, with a geographic focus on Africa.


"The clear reality is that the agency is becoming more and more important," said Amano, with the inevitable consequence being a need for more resources. The director general acknowledged tough financial times around the world and said he wanted "to find a good balance between needs and capacity to contribute." He was happy that the extension to the Siebersdorf laboratory is fully funded and underway, and that he had received a pledge of $100 million now and $50 million over the next five years from the USA for the Peaceful Uses Initiative.


The Middle East


In the high-profile role of the IAEA as the world's arbiter of peaceful nuclear energy Amano still faces challenges, a new one being to press Israel to sign the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and bring in full-scope safeguards. He is required to do this by decision of the IAEA general conference last year as well as the NPT Review Conference last month. Signing the NPT would mean Israel having to give up any nuclear weapons it may have and would therefore be rather unpopular. Amano has written to the governments of IAEA member states for their views before going forward.


Despite some cooperation and new documents from Syria, Amano still categorised it as 'not cooperating' after the destruction by Israeli warplanes of a suspected reactor at Dair Alzour in 2007. The IAEA has not been able to make progress in resolving the origin of anthropogenic uranium found on the site of the demolished reactor. On this Amano directed slight criticism to Israel, saying "It would also be helpful if Israel shared with the agency any relevant information which it may possess in this regard."


The most pressing issue in the non-proliferation arena as well as the Middle East is of course the Iranian nuclear program. Amano welcomed Iran's move with Brazil and Turkey on a new arrangement for a fuel-swap to enable a research recator to keep operating. Papers on this are now with the potential fuel suppliers, France, Russia and the USA.


In the meantime, Iran is enriching uranium to 20% at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz and soon to connect a new cascade of centrifuge units for that effort. Its compliance with Security Council resolutions and cooperation with the IAEA is still unsatisfactory.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News