Agenda Item 4 – Strengthening the Agency’s Activities Related to Nuclear Science, Technology, and Applications: Nuclear Technology Review 2013
IAEA Board of Governors Meeting March 4-8, 2013
I would like to begin by thanking the Secretariat for the work that has gone into preparing the Nuclear Technology Review 2013. The United States places great importance on the IAEA’s continued work in non-power and power applications as a means to benefit the socio-economic development of Member States in a responsible and results based manner. U.S. contributions to the regular budget, the Technical Cooperation Fund, and the Peaceful Uses Initiative underline the value we give to the Agency’s work.
The accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant had a clear impact on public perceptions of the safety of nuclear power. Nevertheless, a significant number of countries are still undertaking or considering adoption of nuclear power or expansion of existing nuclear power programs. This sustained interest in nuclear power reflects: a belief that the technology can be operated safely and securely if well-regulated, increasing global demand for energy, concerns about climate change, continued volatility in the prices of fossil fuels, and the need for long-term security of energy supplies. We wish to congratulate the United Arab Emirates on being the first country in 27 years to start construction of a first nuclear power plant, and we are pleased that U.S. companies are involved in the project.
Almost a year ago, on March 26, 2012, President Obama, speaking at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, called for “a renewed commitment to harnessing the power of the atom, not for war, but for peaceful purposes,” and stressed the importance of nuclear power as a clean energy source that helps reduce the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. In the same speech, President Obama noted that the United States has “restarted our nuclear industry as part of a comprehensive strategy to develop every energy source.” In early 2012, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (the NRC) issued a combined construction and operating license for four new power reactors in the United States, the first time in 30 years new reactors have been licensed for construction in the United States. These are the first such licenses issued under the NRC’s new one-step licensing process. And in September 2012, the NRC issued a license to General Electric-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC to construct and operate a uranium enrichment plant using laser technology in Wilmington, N.C. The NRC has issued 21,800 licenses for medical, academic, industrial, and general uses of nuclear materials this past year. The United States also operates 18 uranium recovery sites, 18 fuel cycle facilities, and 42 research reactors and test reactors. These activities speak to the confidence that the United States has that this technology, with broad applications and benefit for nations, can be operated safely and securely.
The United States strongly believes that the benefits of nuclear technology should be available to all Member States, so long as these States meet all international standards, commitments, and obligations related to safety, security, and nonproliferation. We therefore attach great importance to building the necessary national infrastructure in countries considering nuclear energy, including regulatory infrastructure that would enable them to meet the highest standards of safety, security, and nonproliferation. In particular, we value highly the Agency workshops, publications, and other activities that provide guidance for countries considering new nuclear power programs and we have contributed both expertise and financial resources to them. Much of the Agency’s work on national infrastructure for nuclear power development is funded under the Peaceful Uses Initiative.
The issue of financing of nuclear power has not been addressed in the Nuclear Technology Review since 2010. In this regard, I would like to call attention to the Workshop on Nuclear Energy Financing conducted by the International Framework on Nuclear Energy Cooperation, on May 9 and10, 2012, in London. The 130 participants included representatives of the commercial finance and investment communities, the nuclear industry, the insurance industry, credit rating firms, utilities, nuclear regulators, energy policy agencies, and export credit agencies from a wide range of countries and international stakeholder organizations. They were joined by representatives from countries with well-established nuclear power programs, nuclear exporting countries, and countries considering nuclear power, along with representatives of the IAEA, EURATOM, and the World Bank group. One of the noteworthy outcomes was the consensus of the financial community on the importance of having a strong, independent regulator, which can increase confidence that a project can be developed in compliance with all safety-based requirements and with effective independent oversight that is directly responsible to the public. We believe the Nuclear Technology Review should include a description of this major workshop and its conclusions on an issue of continuing importance for the future of nuclear energy.
While the commercial market is the primary supplier of nuclear fuel services to countries deploying nuclear power, international mechanisms to assure access to low enriched uranium (LEU) for nuclear fuel can play an important role in reassuring states that are considering nuclear power, including developing countries, that their access to reactor fuel would not be disrupted due to conditions unrelated to nonproliferation that cannot be addressed through market mechanisms. We note with approval that during 2012 the Secretariat and Kazakhstan continued their work on the financial, legal, and technical arrangements and site assessments necessary to establish the IAEA LEU fuel bank. We look forward to the Director General’s presentation to the Board of a host state agreement with Kazakhstan for Board consideration, and to his further reports on implementation of this initiative.
In addition to the Nuclear Technology Review’s review of activities related to nuclear power, the document summarizes developments in three important non-power technologies – food safety, cancer therapy, and climate change research. The United States welcomes the update on new technologies to improve food security and safety, in particular the call for increased use of food irradiation, especially e-beam and X-ray irradiation technologies, to improve food availability, affordability, and sustainability in coming years. The IAEA, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization, has over the years significantly enhanced the ability of Member States to produce larger quantities of better and safer food. Last year, the Director General’s focus on food security and the Scientific Forum’s focus on “Food for the Future” further showcased the IAEA’s unique and important contributions in this field.
The Review also calls attention to the increasing use of radiation for sanitary purposes in international trade in foodstuffs. In a closely related area, the United States especially welcomes the significant extra-budgetary contributions from Japan and South Africa to build Member States’ capacities to detect and respond to trans-boundary animal disease. The United States recently pledged additional funding through the IAEA’s Peaceful Uses Initiative to support the establishment and strengthening of veterinary diagnostic laboratories in Africa, and we are interested in developing new partnerships to ensure that the project can be expanded and fully implemented, which would contribute significantly to disease prevention and increased livestock productivity in Africa and other regions.
We also welcome the Review’s focus on new developments in combating cancer with nuclear technologies, in particular the Agency’s extensive efforts, working in conjunction with the World Health Organization, to assist states in developing and implementing comprehensive cancer control programs. Cancer remains the second greatest cause of death worldwide, and innovative responses that utilize the latest in nuclear technologies are needed to confront this deadly disease.
At the same time, the United States appreciates the Nuclear Technology Review’s thorough description of the many nuclear techniques being utilized by the IAEA to assess the implications of climate change on the marine environment. To support this important work, the United States committed additional funding this year for a Coordinated Research Project on “Ocean Acidification and the Economic Impact on Fisheries and Coastal Society.” We especially welcome the establishment of the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center at the IAEA Environmental Laboratories in Monaco, which the United States and several other Member States have supported through the Peaceful Uses Initiative. We encourage others to contribute to this important project, which is aimed at coordinating for the first time international efforts to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the global effects of ocean acidification.
In conclusion, the United States would encourage the IAEA to continue its efforts to highlight its important work promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in international forums, in particular at the upcoming meeting of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee meeting in Geneva. We would also like to encourage other Member States to highlight the Agency’s work on peaceful uses at that meeting and all other appropriate occasions.
Thank you Mr. Chairman