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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN atomic chief reports on agency's role in nuclear safety, sustainable development, combating illness

19 September 2016 – In his address to the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, the agency's Director-General, highlighted work in various areas, including nuclear applications, nuclear safety and security, safeguards and technical cooperation, and modernizing a new pest control facility to tackle vector-brome diseases such as Zika.

Mr. Amano announced that the construction of the new Insect Pest Control Laboratory under the €31-million project known as ReNuAL has now begun. The construction of another facility, the Flexible Modular Laboratory, will commence soon. "A total of 64 Member States made contributions to ReNuAL. I am deeply grateful to all of them," he said.

He also emphasized the importance of securing global supplies of essential radiopharmaceuticals used in medical treatment. He noted that Australia's new ANSTO nuclear medicine production facility and France's Jules Horowitz Reactor, both of which he visited recently, will contribute to increased production of radiopharmaceuticals.

Nuclear Energy

Turning to nuclear energy, the agency head pointed out that 450 nuclear power reactors currently operated in 30 countries and an additional 60 others under construction, which "can assist Member States in meeting their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Climate Change Agreement."

He noted that the Agency continues to assist "newcomers" in establishing the necessary infrastructure for nuclear power, reminding the Board about two important November conferences in Vienna – the International Conference on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management – and updating them on the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century, which will take place in Abu Dhabi from 30 October to 1 November 2017.

Speaking on nuclear safety, Mr. Amano reaffirmed that the Agency would work to strengthen nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety in a more comprehensive manner.

"We will focus more on safety aspects of issues such as extending the operating life of nuclear power plants, decommissioning, the disposal of high level radioactive waste, innovative technologies such as fast reactors and small and medium sized reactors, and the safety of radiation sources used in non-power applications," he noted.

Further, he said efforts would continue towards strengthening IAEA safety standards, offering peer review and advisory services, and supporting education and training, including by improving the Agency's e-learning programmes.

Regarding nuclear security, he encouraged all member States to participate in the IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security: Commitments and Actions, being held in Vienna from 5 to 9 December, which will provide a basis for the Nuclear Security Plan 2018-2021and lauded the entry into force of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material in May as a demonstration of the international community's commitment.

"Helping States to meet their new obligations under the Amendment will be a priority for the Agency in the coming years," he emphasized, adding "I continue to encourage countries that have not yet done so to adhere to the Amendment."

Verification update

Mr. Amano cited his report summarizing the agency's verification and monitoring activities in Iran, saying that the country continues to implement its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and has submitted its declarations under the Additional Protocol.

On other nuclear verification, he appealed to the States Parties of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) who haven't done to so, to bring comprehensive safeguards agreements in force, to conclude additional protocols as soon as possible and to amend or rescind small quantities protocols based on the old standard text.

The IAEA Director General also spoke on country-specific safeguards. He called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea nuclear test earlier this month "deeply troubling and regrettable." Pointing out that it was the second this year and the fifth since 2006, he stated: "It was in clear violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions and in complete disregard of the repeated demands of the international community."

As far as Syrian safeguards, the Agency reasserted the likelihood of the 2011 destruction of a building in Dair Alzour as an undeclared nuclear reactor, but remained unable to provide any assessment concerning the nature or operational status of three other locations.

Due to fundamental, long-standing differences of views among countries of the region, Mr. Amano was powerless to make further progress in verify the application of comprehensive Agency safeguards to Middle East nuclear activities.

Citing the rising use of nuclear technology, he indicated an increased demand for Agency services, saying that Member States "have requested appropriate emphasis on activities related to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals."

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