IAEA Director General Dr Mohamed ElBaradei statement to the IAEA Board of Governors, March 2008

IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei
3 March 2008

Statements of the Director General, 3 March 2008, Vienna, Austria IAEA Board of Governors.

Our agenda for this meeting includes topics related to all areas of Agency activity - safety and security, technology and verification.

Nuclear Safety and Security

You have before you the draft Nuclear Safety Review for the Year 2007. In 2007, the 50th anniversary year of the Agency, the safety performance of the nuclear industry, on the whole, remained high. However, it is essential to maintain vigilance, continuously improve safety culture and enhance the international sharing of experience.

Changes in world markets and technology are having an impact on both the nuclear industry and regulators as never before. A key challenge is to properly assess and address the safety implications of these changes. Member States embarking on nuclear power programmes must be active participants in the global nuclear safety regime. They have to meet the challenge of establishing the technical and regulatory infrastructure as well as building a qualified workforce.

Convention on Nuclear Safety
In April, the Agency will host the 4th review meeting of the Contracting Parties of the Convention on Nuclear Safety. As the Convention has matured, it has become an important part of the global nuclear safety regime. The peer review mechanisms provide important opportunities to make sure we are doing everything possible to improve safety and prevent serious accidents. A number of Member States that are considering nuclear power programmes are not yet parties to the Convention. I urge them to join and to participate fully in the global safety regime.

The review meeting in April will have to consider two important challenges - the number of new nuclear power programmes under consideration around the world and how to bring new momentum and focus to the review process. At the request of contracting parties, the Secretariat prepared an Issues and Trends paper for countries to take into account when preparing their national reports.

Emergency Preparedness
Much progress has been made regarding emergency preparedness in recent years. Even so, many Member States still do not have an adequate level of nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness and response capability. Local emergencies involving ionizing radiation continue to occur and the Agency has been assisting Member States in the framework of the Early Notification and Assistance Conventions. However, a major emergency involving ionizing radiation would strain the response systems of most Member States and of the Agency. We need to do more to ensure both are better resourced.

Nuclear Power

The draft Nuclear Technology Review 2008 indicates that rising expectations for nuclear power are starting to translate into increased construction. Expansion and growth prospects remain centred in Asia. In 2007, the Agency´s projections for the future of nuclear power were revised upwards to between 450 and 690 GW(e) of installed nuclear capacity by 2030. The Review also notes major recent consolidations and increased internationalization among the suppliers of nuclear reactor technology. Higher uranium prices helped to prompt new exploration and reassessments and the identified uranium resources reported in this year´s Red Book will be 17% higher than in the last edition.

New reactors were connected to the grid in China, India and Romania. Construction started on seven more, compared to just one to three new starts in each of the last five years. In the USA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued its first three early site permits. It received four licence applications, the first for new plants in nearly 30 years. In the United Kingdom, a policy review concluded that nuclear power had a key role to play in the country´s energy mix and recommended that industry be allowed to build new nuclear plants, subject to normal planning and regulatory requirements.

Alongside the growing interest in the Agency´s energy analysis and planning assistance, which covers all energy options, there is also increased demand for Agency missions to countries interested specifically in starting nuclear power programmes. There have been such missions to seven countries in the last year.

Assurance of Supply
I have been advocating for some time the establishment of a multinational mechanism to assure access for all countries to nuclear fuel and reactor technology, and simultaneously to strengthen the non-proliferation