IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addresses the General Conference. (Photo: D. Calma//IAEA)
“The impact of our work in the daily lives of millions of people around the world is extraordinary,” said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano in his speech to hundreds of delegates during the opening session of the 58th annual IAEA General Conference on 22 September 2014.
“I see the impact of [nuclear science and technology] on the lives of cancer patients, who gain access to better health care because the IAEA helps their countries build capacity in nuclear medicine for diagnosis and radiotherapy,” he said. “I see it in the lives of farmers, who can grow larger crops of basic foods such as rice and barley, even in difficult conditions, thanks to the availability of robust new varieties of plants developed through radiation techniques.”
The IAEA is best known for its role in ensuring that peaceful nuclear technology is not used for military purposes. However, through its Technical Cooperation programme, the Agency helps to support sustainable development through projects dealing with everything from cancer treatment to food safety and water management.
“Unfortunately, these activities are not well known. So, wherever I go, I try to raise awareness of this vitally important area of our work,” said Mr. Amano.
The Director General encouraged Member States to highlight science and technology as key areas for the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.
Turning to nuclear energy, the Director General noted that the Agency was working closely with 33 countries that are considering, planning or starting nuclear power programmes. The latest IAEA projections show continued growth in the use of nuclear power by 2030, although growth is likely to be slower than was expected before the Fukushima Daiichi accident of 2011.
“We are also working with Member States on increasing the use of nuclear power reactors in areas such as seawater desalination, district heating and petrochemical applications,” Mr. Amano said. “This could significantly boost plant efficiency and generate more revenue.”
In response to demand from Member States, the IAEA has been stepping up its efforts to ensure that nuclear and other radioactive material does not fall into the wrong hands.
“The Agency is well placed to continue playing the central role in helping the world to act in unison against the threat of nuclear terrorism,” the Director General said.
“Demand for our services is growing steadily. For example, we provided nuclear security training to nearly 3 000 people in the year to June, an increase of 37 per cent over the previous year. A total of 62 International Physical Protection Advisory Service missions have now been held in 40 countries. The next high-level IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security, which will take place in December 2016, will be an important opportunity to review progress achieved and to map out our work for the future.”
Mr. Amano also updated the General Conference on the latest developments in nuclear verification.
The nuclear programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “remains a matter of serious concern,” he said.
As far as safeguards implementation in Iran was concerned, Iran had implemented a number of practical measures under its Framework for Cooperation with the Agency as planned.
However, two such measures remained to be implemented. “In order to resolve all outstanding issues, it is very important that Iran continues to implement, in a timely manner, all practical measures agreed under the Framework for Cooperation, and that it proposes new measures that we can agree upon for the next step,” the Director General added.
In closing, Mr. Amano said the Agency could continue to face “tough budget constraints” in the coming years due to financial difficulties in many Member States. The Agency was committed to making prudent use of its limited resources while ensuring that it delivers maximum benefit to its Member States. He also reiterated his commitment to encourage highly qualified women to apply for senior positions.
The General Conference, held at the Agency’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria, continues until Friday, 26 September 2014. Discussions will cover all areas of the Agency’s work, including further strengthening the IAEA’s programmes and activities in the areas of nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety; nuclear security; nuclear science, technology and applications; technical co-operation; improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Agency safeguards; and the application of the IAEA safeguards around the world.
— By Sasha Henriques, IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication
(Note to Media: We encourage you to republish these stories and kindly request attribution to the IAEA)