Home » General » IAEA Director General's Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors

(As prepared for delivery)

Madam Chairperson,

I will begin by welcoming Saint Lucia as a new Member State of the Agency. This brings our membership to 171 States.

Nuclear Safety and Security

Madam Chairperson,

The Nuclear Safety Review 2019 presents priorities for 2019 and beyond. It indicates how we plan to further strengthen our work in nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety, and emergency preparedness and response.

The draft Specific Safety Requirements publication Site Evaluation for Nuclear Installations establishes revised requirements to be applied to identify external hazards that could affect the safety of nuclear installations.

I am pleased to announce that the next IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security, which will be held at ministerial level in February 2020, will be co-chaired by Panama and Romania. The open-ended working group, also co-chaired by the two countries, will start work soon to prepare the Ministerial Declaration. I thank Member States for their keen interest in this Conference and I encourage all countries to participate at ministerial level.

In January, we held briefings for Member States on Integrated Nuclear Security Support Plans and on the implementation of the Nuclear Security Plan 2018-2021. In the coming months, we will continue to engage with Member States on nuclear security matters.

In December, we hosted the International Conference on the Security of Radioactive Material: The Way Forward for Prevention and Detection, which underlined the need for international coordination to ensure that radioactive material remains secure. It attracted strong participation.

Nuclear Energy

Madam Chairperson,

The Nuclear Technology Review 2019 highlights key global developments related to nuclear power and a broad range of applications.

As of today, there are 453 operational nuclear power reactors in 30 countries, providing some 400 Gigawatts of electricity. Another 55 reactors are under construction in 18 countries, four of which are newcomers to nuclear power.

Preparations for the Agency’s first International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power in October are well underway. The latest special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, entitled Global Warming of 1.5º C, underlines the need to substantially expand the contribution of nuclear power to climate change mitigation.

The Agency supported the conversion of Nigeria’s research reactor from high enriched uranium to low enriched uranium fuel. With the removal of the HEU fuel in December to China, all 11 operational research reactors in Africa are now running on LEU.

On radioactive waste management, we have launched a new four-year Coordinated Research Project to develop a standardized framework for the borehole disposal of disused sealed radioactive sources and small amounts of low and intermediate level waste.

For the International Conference on the Management of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors 2019, to be held in June in Vienna, the Agency is inviting students, graduates and young professionals to submit papers on aspects of spent fuel management. Five winners will be invited to participate in the conference.

I thank the two countries which have formally notified us of their willingness to host our next Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in 2021.

Assurance of Supply

Regarding the IAEA LEU Bank in Kazakhstan, the Agency is implementing the two LEU supply contracts. Our aim continues to be to have the LEU delivered to the IAEA Storage Facility this year.

Nuclear Applications

Madam Chairperson, 

As far as the modernisation of our nuclear applications laboratories at Seibersdorf is concerned, seven Member States have announced pledges totalling more than 2.5 million Euros to complete the fitting out of the new facilities. I thank all of them. I hope that other countries in a position to do so will enable us to close the remaining 1.25 million Euro gap in the first half of this year.   

The IAEA/WHO dosimetry audit service for radiotherapy facilities celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It has made a great contribution to improving treatment quality and patient safety. In the 1970s, only around 50% of participating hospitals delivered radiation doses within the acceptance limit of 5%. Today, 98 to 99% of audit results are acceptable.

Last month, we began installation of the Linear Accelerator in the new bunker at the Dosimetry Lab. We look forward to beginning operations in the coming months, significantly expanding the services we offer to Member States.

The Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture has gained considerable experience in diagnosing and helping to control outbreaks of animal and zoonotic diseases such as avian flu and Ebola. In January this year, it took only four days for our experts to help Mongolia’s National Central Veterinary Laboratory to diagnose and confirm an outbreak of African Swine Fever.  This made possible the rapid implementation of control measures in the country.

I thank the Principality of Monaco for investing in a substantial renovation of the Radioecology Laboratory.  This has increased research space and will help us to make further advances on key issues such as ocean acidification, mercury, and marine microplastics.

Cancer Control

Last month, I issued a report entitled Agency-Wide Support to Cancer Control. It outlines a new approach that includes the streamlining of the work of the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), one of the key divisions that conduct our cancer control activities. I believe a unified, one-house approach, led by my Office, will enable us to be more effective in delivering concrete assistance to Member States.

The Scientific Forum in September will take stock of the Agency’s achievements in cancer control in the past decade and review our cooperation with key international partners in improving access to radiotherapy and nuclear medicine.

Technical Cooperation

Madam Chairperson,

The technical cooperation programme is the key mechanism for the delivery of IAEA services to Member States. In 2018, the programme achieved a high implementation rate of 85.7%, thanks to the commitment of all TC stakeholders and to the Agency’s continued efforts to increase the number of staff implementing TC projects.

Allow me to briefly mention some interesting recent projects.

In Zimbabwe, a new variety of cowpea has enabled farmers to increase yields by up to 20%. The new variety, developed with the support of the Joint Division, is more tolerant of drought and more resistant to insect pests.

Public brachytherapy services for the treatment of gynaecological tumours were re-established in Guatemala with the assistance of the Agency. In Tanzania, we supported the launch of radiotherapy treatment at Bugando Medical Centre in Mwanza. This will serve a population of around 13 million people, easing pressure on the country’s only other radiotherapy facility at Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Dar Es Salaam.

I thank Member States for their commitment to the TC programme, demonstrated by the high rate of attainment. I remind you all of the importance of contributing, on time and in full, to the Technical Cooperation Fund, and ensuring the prompt payment of National Participation Costs to allow the timely initiation of projects. I am pleased to note that 129 Member States paid their TCF contribution, either partially or in full, in 2018, and that 92 States have made TCF pledges for this year.

Verification and Monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Madam Chairperson,

My report on Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) covers relevant activities of the Agency in that country in the last few months.

Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It is essential that Iran continues to fully implement those commitments.

The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. Evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran continue.

In implementing verification activities in Iran, the Agency analyses all safeguards-relevant information, which normally takes time, and takes action when appropriate. The Agency undertakes analysis and takes action in an impartial, independent and objective manner, within the existing safeguards framework and in line with established safeguards practice.

Nuclear Verification

Conclusion of Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols

Since my last report, a comprehensive safeguards agreement, a small quantities protocol and an additional protocol have entered into force for Liberia. Malaysia has rescinded its small quantities protocol. Papua New Guinea has amended its small quantities protocol. In addition, France amended its small quantities protocol to the safeguards agreement between France, EURATOM and the Agency under the Treaty of Tlatelolco.

The number of States with safeguards agreements in force now stands at 183, while 134 States have brought additional protocols into force.

I ask States Parties to the NPT without comprehensive safeguards agreements in force to bring such agreements into force without delay. I hope that States which have not yet concluded additional protocols will do so as soon as possible. I also call on States with small quantities protocols based on the old standard text to amend or rescind them.

Application of Safeguards in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

The Agency has continued to monitor the DPRK’s nuclear programme, using open source information and satellite imagery. The situation at Yongbyon as of the end of February was as follows:

The Agency has not observed any indications of the operation of the 5MW(e) reactor since early December 2018. At the Radiochemical Laboratory, we have not observed any indications of reprocessing activities. At the Light Water Reactor, the Agency saw indications of ongoing construction work. We also continued to observe indications of the ongoing use of the reported centrifuge enrichment facility.

However, without access, the Agency cannot confirm the nature and purpose of these activities. 

The IAEA continues to closely follow international developments on the DPRK nuclear issue. We hope that these processes will lead to an agreement and to implementation of concrete denuclearization measures.

The IAEA stands ready to undertake verification and monitoring activities in the DPRK if a political agreement is reached among countries concerned.

I again call upon the DPRK to comply fully with its obligations under relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and of the IAEA Board, to cooperate promptly with the Agency and to resolve all outstanding issues.

Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic

As far as implementation of safeguards in the Syrian Arab Republic is concerned, there have been no new developments since my last report to the Board. I renew my call to Syria to cooperate fully with us in connection with all unresolved issues.

Management Issues

Madam Chairperson,

I will now turn to a number of management issues.

The Draft Programme and Budget 2020–2021 was provided to Member States at the end of January. I remain very conscious of the financial constraints in many countries and we have made further efforts to seek cost savings and efficiencies, including in travel. Nevertheless, growing demand from Member States for Agency services means that a modest increase in our Budget is necessary. In addition, the price adjustment is expected to be high. As a result, I have proposed a real budget increase of one percent.  

The Agency has a statutory requirement to finance safeguards implementation through the regular budget, so a decrease in the regular  budget – such as the 1.3 percent cut we are implementing this year – particularly impacts our safeguards activities. Demand for safeguards activities, which the Agency is legally required to undertake, has been growing much more rapidly than the regular budget in recent years. While I will continue to work hard to ensure that the resources you entrust to us are used effectively, I appeal to Member States to support us by agreeing a modest real budget increase so we can fulfil our legal obligations and maintain the high standards of service which you expect.

Madam Chairperson,

I remain committed to promoting the highest ethical standards at the Agency. We have recently strengthened our framework to address harassment and expanded staff training on this issue.

Increasing the proportion of women on the Agency’s staff, especially at senior levels, remains a priority for me. For the first time, women represent more than 30% of staff at P level and above, and 33% at DDG level. I will continue my efforts to increase women’s representation and I aim to achieve gender parity among DDsG by 2021.

On Wednesday this week, we will mark International Women’s Day with an event highlighting Inspiring Stories of Women in the Nuclear Field, hosted by Deputy Director General Mary Alice Hayward. I encourage all of you to join us.

Finally, Madam Chairperson, I wish to thank two senior staff members who have recently left the Agency: Ms Nellie Enwerem Bromson, Director, Division of Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy, and Ms Meera Venkatesh, Director, Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences. I wish them both every success in the future.

Thank you, Madam Chairperson.

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