DG-Statement to Sixty-Fourth Regular Session of IAEA General Conference

Mr President,

Let me begin by welcoming the Union of the Comoros as a new Member State of the IAEA. This brings our membership to 172 States.

The 12 months since the last regular session of the GC have been unprecedented in the history of the Agency.

We spent several months in lockdown from March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were able to begin a phased return to the Vienna International Centre in May, but things are still far from normal, as is clear from the special arrangements made for this GC.

We have returned to regular working arrangements here in the building, with remote working still available for staff considered vulnerable. Physical distancing and other measures are in place. Non-essential travel remains suspended and most meetings and training events are taking place online.

In deciding what action is necessary to ensure the safety of staff and of all visitors to the VIC, I am guided by the measures and recommendations of our host country, Austria.

During the lockdown, we continued to implement safeguards throughout the world to prevent any misuse of nuclear material and we launched the largest operation in the Agency’s history to help countries confront the coronavirus.

Thirteen hundred consignments of equipment for virus detection and diagnosis and other supplies have been delivered, or are in transit, to 123 countries.

Fighting the coronavirus will remain our top priority until the pandemic is finally defeated.

COVID-19 will certainly not be the last pandemic which threatens the world. I have therefore proposed a new IAEA Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action projectknown as ZODIAC, to establish a global network of national diagnostic laboratories for the monitoring, surveillance, early detection and control of zoonotic diseases, using nuclear or nuclear-derived techniques.

Member States will have access to equipment, technology packages, expertise, guidance and training. Decision-makers will receive up-to-date, user-friendly information that will enable them to act quickly. We will work closely with partners such as the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations.

I encourage all Member States to fully support this important initiative.

The IAEA assisted 147 countries and territories last year through our technical cooperation programme, 35 of which were least developed countries. The main focus of our work was on health and nutrition, nuclear safety and security, and food and agriculture.

Capacity-building, a core TC activity, continued as much as possible during the lockdown.

As far as safeguards implementation is concerned, we continued to carry out all of our most time-critical in-field verification work, while rescheduling some less urgent activities, such as equipment installation and maintenance. For the first time, we chartered aircraft to enable our inspectors to reach their destinations. I am grateful for the support of Member States that made this possible.

The number of States with safeguards agreements in force stands at 184, 136 of whom have brought additional protocols into force.

The performance of State or regional authorities and State systems of accounting for and control of nuclear materials has a direct impact upon the effectiveness and efficiency of safeguards implementation

I have therefore launched a new initiative, known as COMPASS, to help States further strengthen the effectiveness of their SRA and SSAC. Building on existing capacity development programmes, this initiative will offer additional, tailored assistance to Member States.

I report regularly to the Board of Governors on Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

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 for Iran continue.

Last month, I went to Tehran for discussions with President Rouhani and other senior officials. We reached agreement on the resolution of some safeguards implementation issues raised by the Agency. The Agency subsequently conducted a complementary access, under the Additional Protocol, at one of two locations specified by us. Our inspectors took environmental samples which will be analysed. A complementary access at the second specified location will take place later this month.

I welcome the agreement between the Agency and Iran, which I hope will reinforce cooperation and enhance mutual trust.

The Agency continues to monitor the nuclear programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, using open source information including satellite imagery.

The DPRK’s nuclear activities remain a cause for serious concern. The continuation of the country’s nuclear programme is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable.

I call upon the DPRK to comply fully with its obligations under Security Council resolutions, to cooperate promptly with the Agency in the full and effective implementation of its NPT Safeguards Agreement and to resolve all outstanding issues, especially those that have arisen during the absence of Agency inspectors from the country.

The Agency is intensifying its readiness to play its essential role in verifying the DPRK’s nuclear programme.

The modernisation of the IAEA nuclear applications laboratories at Seibersdorf under the ReNuAL project is one of the most exciting and ambitious projects ever undertaken by the Agency.

In June, we achieved another milestone with the opening of the new Yukiya Amano Laboratories building, named after my distinguished predecessor.

Thanks to the generous support of Member States, four of the eight laboratories now occupy brand new facilities. However, the need to modernise three other laboratories was not addressed under ReNuAL and the Dosimetry Lab still requires further improvements.

I have therefore proposed a final phase comprising the construction of a new building to house the remaining three labs, the refurbishment of the Dosimetry Lab wing of the existing lab building, and the replacement of our ageing greenhouses. These are essential for our work on climate-smart agriculture, resource management and food security.

I again thank all Member States, and especially Germany and South Africa as co-Chairs of the Friends of ReNuAL, for their tireless efforts to mobilise support. I know I can continue to count on all of you.

My first foreign trip as Director General was to the COP 25 climate change conference in Madrid last December. I wanted to send a very clear message—that nuclear power is part of the solution to the climate crisis. I am keen to ensure that the Agency’s voice is heard on the great benefits of nuclear power.

The 442 nuclear power reactors operating in 31 countries today provide approximately 390 gigawatts of installed capacity, supplying over 10% of the world’s electricity and around a third of all low-carbon electricity. There are 53 reactors under construction in 19 countries, which are expected to provide 56 gigawatts of additional capacity.

The latest IAEA annual projections show that nuclear power will continue to play a key role in the world’s low-carbon energy mix, with global nuclear electrical capacity seen nearly doubling by 2050 in our high case scenario. Climate change mitigation remains a key potential driver for maintaining and expanding the use of nuclear power.

I encourage all of you to take part in the 2020 IAEA Scientific Forum, starting tomorrow, which is entitled Nuclear Power and the Clean Energy Transition.

The IAEA LEU Bank in Kazakhstan, a last-resort mechanism intended to give countries confidence that they will be able to meet their future needs for nuclear fuel, is now fully stocked and operational.

The great benefits of nuclear technologies are sustainable only if they are used safely and securely.

IAEA Safety Standards are used voluntarily by almost all countries to protect people and the environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation.

Member States also make extensive use of expert peer review and advisory services provided by the Agency to help them continuously enhance nuclear safety and security. We constantly assess these services to ensure that they meet your needs.

The IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security – known as ICONS 2020 – was held at ministerial level in February, It was a great success, with a record 54 ministers and 141 countries participating.

A Ministerial Declaration reaffirmed support for the central role of the Agency in international cooperation to ensure that nuclear and other radioactive material is properly protected.

As I have said before, I believe that funding for the IAEA’s nuclear security activities needs to be put on a more sustainable footing. Nuclear security is much too important to be dependent on extra-budgetary contributions, as is the case today.

I attach great importance to increasing the proportion of women who work for the Agency. We have made steady progress towards achieving the goal which I set when taking office of reaching gender parity in the Professional and higher categories of the Agency’s staff by 2025.

We adopted Special Measures for the Achievement of Gender Parity in May and can already report a significant increase in the proportion of women appointed to senior positions.

In order to encourage more women throughout the world to study nuclear subjects and pursue careers in this field, I launched the IAEA Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellowship Programme. Women studying for master’s degrees in nuclear science and technology, safety, security or non-proliferation are encouraged to apply by October 11th. Please make talented young women in your country aware of this great opportunity.

I am committed to managing the resources you entrust to us wisely and productively and I am very conscious of the financial constraints in many countries. For the coming budget cycle, my first as Director General, I will work to reach a common understanding with you on what the Agency requires to continue delivering its mandate. I count on all Member States to provide the support we need in order to serve you well.

Finally, I warmly thank Austria, our wonderfully supportive host country, for doing everything possible to facilitate our work.

And I am most grateful to Agency staff for their hard work and commitment, especially in these very challenging times.

Thank you.