National Statement to IAEA General Conference

Dr. Steven Chu

United States Secretary of Energy
Vienna, Austria

Thank you, Ambassador Enkhsaikhan.  Congratulations on your election as President of this Conference.

I extend my thanks and appreciation to Director General Mr. Yukiya Amano for his exemplary leadership in his first year.  I especially welcome the Director General’s initiative to help fight cancer in developing countries.

I am honored to represent the United States today, and I want to share a message from President Barack Obama:

“I send warm greetings to all those gathered for the 54th International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference.

“The United States stands with the IAEA and its members in the effort both to harness the potential of nuclear energy for peace and development, and to contain the dangers it poses for our collective security.  These are inseparable challenges, reflected in the dual role played by this Agency as both a promoter of peaceful nuclear uses and an instrument for verification and security.

“We seek a future in which nuclear energy is made available to all nations that comply with nonproliferation norms and rules, and we also recognize the international nonproliferation system has not always worked as we would hope.  For this reason, the United States has called for added resources and authorities for the IAEA, penalties against those who violate their nonproliferation obligations, and new international mechanisms that ensure the safe, secure, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

“No nation has a monopoly on nuclear power, and no nation alone can manage its inherent risks.  This is a challenge we face together.  Working cooperatively through international institutions and with a shared sense of commitment and obligation, we can succeed in building a safer future, one in which the barriers to proliferation are high and the obstacles to nuclear energy are low.  The United States will continue to do its part, having this year convened the first Nuclear Security Summit which highlighted the risk of nuclear security at a head of state level, revised our nuclear posture, and reached agreement with Russia on a new nuclear arms accord.  We are also developing measures that would ensure safe and secure access to the benefits of the peaceful atom.  Among these is an IAEA fuel bank, designed to support countries’ access to peaceful nuclear energy by underpinning the international nuclear fuel market.  This concept, which has its roots in the vision of Bernard Baruch, was proposed in 2006 and has been extensively analyzed and debated.  The time to act is now, and we will work pragmatically toward a decision this year.

“These are important first steps, but much more remains to be done if we are to prevent nuclear weapons from spreading or falling into the hands of terrorists.  While we may not agree on every priority or remedy, it is essential we be defined not by our differences, but by the interests we hold in common.  We can start here, at this General Conference, by taking action to strengthen the consensus against proliferation and encourage the fullest possible exchange of peaceful nuclear technology.

“I hope you will join with my delegation in committing to these goals, and I wish you all the best for a successful conference.”

As President Obama indicated, the IAEA sits at the nexus of two great challenges: helping a rapidly developing world unlock the promise of low-carbon electricity and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons as we work to realize the peace and security of a world without them.

Today, I want to expand on President Obama’s vision in four areas: promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy, strengthening nonproliferation and international safeguards, advancing disarmament, and keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists.

Promoting the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy

First, the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

In his April 2009 speech in Prague, President Obama called for building “a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including an international fuel bank, so that countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation. That must be the right of every nation that renounces nuclear weapons, especially developing countries embarking on peaceful programs. And no approach will succeed if it’s based on the denial of rights to nations that play by the rules.”

A strong and efficient market for nuclear fuel is vital to securing carbon-free energy on a global basis. The United States continues to support expanded and reliable access to fuel supplies – working through the commercial marketplace – for peaceful nuclear programs. Providing assurances for nuclear fuel allows countries to have more confidence in the international fuel markets. Specifically, an assurance of the availability of fuel through IAEA mechanisms will empower governments to exercise their Article IV rights to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.  A number of initiatives have already been undertaken and we applaud the positive decision the IAEA has reached on the fuel bank at Angarsk.  The United States has down-blended 17.4 metric tons of highly enriched uranium into low enriched uranium to be held in reserve to support a fuel assurance mechanism.

We have also contributed $50 million to the IAEA to support an international fuel bank administered by the Agency.  Taken together with pledges from the Nuclear Threat Initiative and other Member States, $150 million has been pledged for this purpose.  This offer has been extended several times and presents Member States with an excellent opportunity to realize one of the founding objectives of the IAEA.  But these resources will be at risk if we do not reach a decision soon.

It is now time to move beyond general discussion and debate of fuel bank principles.  The United States, therefore, intends to work with other Member States to develop a common approach and seek adoption of a resolution approving an IAEA-administered fuel bank at the December Board of Governors meeting.

At home, the United States has secured loan guarantees for new nuclear power and fuel facility construction, established a Blue Ribbon Commission to develop recommendations for the long-term management and disposition of used fuel and high-level waste, and committed to a robust, science-based nuclear research and development effort.

Internationally, we are expanding our bilateral and multilateral technical cooperation and expanding our outreach to states pursuing nuclear power for the first time.

In June the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Steering Group met in Accra, Ghana and agreed unanimously on a new name – the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation — and a new Statement of Mission that will provide a broader scope and engender wider international participation.  Working closely with the IAEA, the International Framework will provide advice on infrastructure development for nations expanding and developing nuclear power programs, as well as help to create international mechanisms to assure reliable access to nuclear fuel services.

As part of the U.S. commitment to support the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Secretary of State Clinton announced a new Peaceful Uses Initiative in May at the NPT Review Conference.  This initiative will raise $100 million to expand support for new and underfunded IAEA projects in developing countries.  These projects will immediately advance medical technology for human health, food security, and water resource management, as well as infrastructure for the safe and secure use of nuclear power.

Strengthening Nonproliferation and International Safeguards

The second area I want to discuss is strengthening nonproliferation safeguards to increase the security of nuclear material around the world.

As noted at the 8th NPT Review Conference, the IAEA safeguards system is facing a growing imbalance between workload and resources.  New facilities require safeguards and technologies require updating, yet the IAEA safeguards budget has remained relatively static.  The United States supports a significant increase in the IAEA’s Regular Budget.

At the U.S. Department of Energy we have also undertaken a major effort called the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative to identify technology gaps and solutions, train new experts, and develop new concepts and approaches to improve international safeguards.

Further, the IAEA has stated that it needs the measures of the Additional Protocol to assure compliance with a safeguards agreement.  Therefore, I urge all countries that have not yet done so to conclude an Additional Protocol with the Agency without delay.

For countries that do not adhere to their safeguards commitments there must be real and timely consequences.  We support the IAEA in its efforts to resolve outstanding concerns related to the nuclear programs in Iran and Syria and we encourage the Agency to make full use of existing authorities. North Korea also continues to present a challenge to nonproliferation efforts and needs to comply with international obligations.

The U.S. hopes all states will focus on meeting their essential international nuclear verification obligations, rather than criticize the IAEA’s effort to effectively implement its legal mandate under Agency safeguard agreements.

As outlined in the Director General’s report earlier this month, Iran refuses to cooperate fully with the IAEA and defy IAEA Board of Governors and U.N. Security Council resolutions. Iran’s intransigence represents a challenge to the rules that all countries must adhere to.  In recognition of this, the U.N. Security Council in June adopted Resolution 1929, the strongest and most comprehensive set of sanctions to date to address Iranian non-compliance.

While we continue to acknowledge Iran’s right to pursue peaceful civilian nuclear power and remain committed to pursue a diplomatic solution, Iran must do what it has thus far failed to do – meet its obligations and ensure the rest of the world of the peaceful nature of its intentions.  Otherwise, it is clear that there is a broad and growing international consensus that will hold Iran accountable if it continues its defiance.

The U.S. has already taken action. The Obama Administration has levied sanctions against those trading with Iran, including the European-Iranian Trade Bank, effectively preventing the bank from operating in the US financial system. We also applaud Canada, Australia, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates for taking similar steps to prevent foreign capital from funding enrichment efforts.  We will continue to pressure the Iranian government to fulfill its international commitments.

Progress on Disarmament

The third area I’d like to discuss is the progress we have made on disarmament.

In his April 2009 speech in Prague, President Obama declared that the United States will “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”  The United States is reducing the role and numbers of our nuclear weapons, extending a security assurance towards nations that are in compliance with the NPT and their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.

This April, the United States and Russia signed a landmark New START Treaty that reduces our deployed nuclear warheads by one-third and our strategic delivery vehicles by one-half, while establishing a comprehensive monitoring regime and a pathway to further reductions in the future.  We are working now to assure its ratification.

We are also continuing to pursue ratification and entry-into-force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.  And we are seeking to negotiate a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons.

Also in cooperation with Russia, we have requested that the IAEA verify the disposition of enough weapon-grade plutonium for approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons.  Our goal is to complete preparation of the necessary verification agreement for consideration by the IAEA Board of Governors before the end of 2011.

Nuclear Security

Finally, we must work together to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.  President Obama has called for securing all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.

The United States is working with the IAEA, international institutions, and countries around the world to secure vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials.  We have accelerated HEU removal efforts and successfully removed all HEU from 18 countries.

We have also worked with international partners to convert research reactors and isotope production facilities from HEU to LEU fuel and targets.  To ensure the production of medical isotopes does not create new dangers, it is important that all new or expanded long-term Mo-99 production be undertaken without HEU.   The United States is developing medical isotope production processes that do not require the use of HEU.

In April, 47 world leaders plus representatives from the IAEA, the European Union and the United Nations met in Washington for an unprecedented Nuclear Security Summit.

The attendees pledged to pursue the highest levels of nuclear security, and affirmed that “strong nuclear security measures are the most effective means to prevent terrorists, criminals, or other unauthorized actors from acquiring nuclear materials.”  Participants also reaffirmed the essential role of the IAEA.

Although it is ultimately the responsibility of each country to improve its own security, material accounting, and physical protection measures, we welcome IAEA activities in support of national efforts.  We are particularly pleased with the IAEA’s work to facilitate the Member State revision of IAEA guidance on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Facilities. This critical document will assist countries in implementing physical protection measures over nuclear material at facilities and in transport.

The United States welcomes the announcement by the Republic of Korea that it will host the second Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul in 2012.  And I call on all IAEA Member States to work to achieve universal adherence to the amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism by next year’s General Conference.


The actions we have taken together in the last year are making significant progress toward a world that is safer, more secure, and more prosperous.  But there will always be more to do.

Nuclear power will play a growing role in meeting the world’s energy needs, and nuclear dangers will remain.  And the IAEA will only increase in importance in the years to come.  We must make sure our systems and our safeguards are up to the task of ensuring nuclear power is both peaceful and plentiful.

That is our charge today, and in the years and decades to come.  I pledge to you that the United States will always be a responsible and reliable partner, and I wish you all a successful General Conference.