U.S. National Statement to the IAEA General Conference

2013 IAEA General Conference

Remarks as Delivered

Secretary Ernest Moniz

Monday, September 16, 2013


Thank you, Ambassador Mabhongo. Congratulations on your election as President of this Conference.  I also want to thank DG Amano for his outstanding leadership. I will start by reading a message from President Barack Obama:


“I send greetings to all those gathered for the 57th International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference.  The United States supports the important work of the IAEA and is strongly committed to the Agency’s goals of ensuring the safe, secure, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy while steadfastly preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.


In Berlin this June, I reaffirmed America’s commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.  This is a long term goal, but we must remain dedicated to the task.  In the past 4 years, the United States has taken significant, concrete steps toward achieving that goal by reducing the number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.


Today, the United States is working successfully with Russia to implement the New START Treaty, which will result in the lowest levels of deployed nuclear weapons since the 1950s.  But the work is not done.  As I said in Berlin, we can ensure the security of America and our allies while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third below the New START level.  And I will seek to negotiate further reductions in nuclear weapons with Russia.


As we move toward the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, we must ensure that the IAEA has the resources and is able to use all its authorities to verify compliance with safeguards agreements.  Member States must also bolster the IAEA’s work to foster peaceful uses of nuclear energy in a safe and secure manner, consistent with international nonproliferation norms.  I welcome and encourage all Member States to fully support the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, including a call for steps to establish a global nuclear liability regime.


Securing vulnerable nuclear materials to prevent nuclear terrorism remains a global priority.  I am pleased that the IAEA has increased its focus on nuclear security and commend the Agency for hosting its International Conference on Nuclear Security in July of this year.  Next year, the Netherlands will host the third Nuclear Security Summit, and I look forward to continuing this momentum by hosting a fourth Summit in 2016.


Though we face continued challenges, let us take this opportunity to rededicate ourselves to strengthening the IAEA and its vital role in preventing proliferation, addressing noncompliance, and expanding access to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  I wish everyone all the best for a productive and successful General Conference.”


Sixty years ago, President Eisenhower presented his “Atoms for Peace” proposal to the UN General Assembly.  Under his vision, “experts would be mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine, and other peaceful activities [and] a special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world.”


His vision for nuclear power proved to be prophetic.  Today’s global population is 7 billion – more than double the population of 1953 – and the demand for energy is growing rapidly.  But President Eisenhower did not anticipate the arrival of an equally powerful challenge: climate change.


The evidence is overwhelming and the science is clear; climate change is one of the most pressing dangers of our generation.  A changing climate is a threat-multiplier: from causing more severe droughts and fires, to intensifying storms, to breeding new conflicts over displacement and resources; the costs are large in terms of lives lost and economic impact.


As we look collectively at the challenge of working to reduce carbon emissions while facilitating global development, nuclear energy clearly has a role to play.  In that regard, I suggest that we should begin looking beyond the era of “Atoms for Peace” toward a model of “Atoms for Prosperity.”


Mr. President, the representatives in this room have the world’s population as their constituency.  Ensuring that the basic needs of our planet’s residents are met, while working to reduce carbon emissions, is a daunting test both for our compassion and our ability to innovate.  Technical Cooperation is central to this effort.


Some of us are rising to the challenge: I want to thank Director General Amano for his outstanding leadership in the effort to drive resources and attention toward supporting global economic development goals.  And the United States welcomes the partnership of 16 countries that have supported the IAEA’s Peaceful Uses Initiative, or PUI, to benefit more than 120 Member States.


Together, PUI donors – including the United States, which itself has pledged $50 million over five years to the PUI, have helped to alleviate sustained drought in Africa, improve agricultural productivity, ensure food safety, and better manage water resources worldwide.  The United States has also supported the IAEA’s Environmental labs at Monaco to preserve a healthy marine environment – the topic of this year’s Scientific Forum.


We would like to commend the European Union in particular for its recent and generous PUI contribution, but more resources are needed.  We encourage other Member States to fund the PUI so that the IAEA can respond with speed and flexibility to urgent and unanticipated needs in resource-deprived areas of the world.


With its low carbon footprint, nuclear energy can and should remain an important contributor to the global energy mix.  But for nuclear power to remain viable and politically sustainable, Member States and the IAEA must continue to ensure it is used safely and securely for the “arts of peace.”


The burden for improving the safety of nuclear power is ours to share.  The Fukushima disaster made clear that a nuclear accident anywhere has global implications. All stakeholders – from government agencies to the nuclear power industry – must work together to limit the likelihood that such a high-consequence event could occur again, and to ensure that we can respond quickly and effectively to nuclear or radiological emergencies if they happen.


In the United States, we have worked hard to enhance safety across our existing reactor fleet and are constructing new nuclear reactors that incorporate passive safety systems.  U.S. companies are also developing small modular reactor designs, which could be deployed in the next decade.  The U.S. Department of Energy has already finalized an agreement committing over $100M to support the engineering development and licensing of a passively safe Small Modular Reactor and intends to provide additional funding in the near future.  We strongly urge countries that may embark on nuclear programs to consider passively safe reactor designs.


While preventive measures are an urgent priority, unforeseen events require our diligence in ensuring the victims of nuclear damage are compensated promptly and equitably.  As a significant step toward establishing a global nuclear liability regime, the United States and France recently signed a Joint Statement affirming our commitment to promote efforts to achieve a global nuclear liability regime based on treaty relations among France, the United States and other countries that might be affected by a nuclear accident.  The Joint Statement also urges countries to adhere, as appropriately for each country, to the Revised Paris Convention, the Revised Vienna Convention, and the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage – or CSC – with an initial step of bringing the CSC into force.  The United States has ratified the CSC, which is the only existing international nuclear liability instrument that the United States can ratify, and urges all countries to ratify the CSC with a view toward bringing it into effect before the 2014 General Conference.


It is also critical that we be able to draw on the best expertise and technology in times of emergency.  This is why the United States is in the process of registering additional capabilities in the IAEA Response and Assistance Network and becoming an IAEA RANET Capacity Building Center.


Mr. President, the need for collective action extends beyond safety.  The danger of nuclear terrorism remains one of the greatest threats to global security.  The best way to stop individuals who would use nuclear material for malicious and violent acts is to secure and eliminate it.


Since President Obama laid out his nuclear security agenda just over four years ago, we and our international partners have made significant progress toward that end.  We have eliminated the use of HEU at 25 civilian research reactors and isotope production facilities.  We have removed all remaining HEU from 11 countries, and removed or confirmed the disposition of nearly 3,000 kilograms of vulnerable HEU and plutonium.  We also have raised awareness of the dangers of WMD-related knowledge proliferation and the importance of enhancing nuclear security culture.


I would like to congratulate the IAEA on maintaining this unprecedented momentum by convening the inaugural International Conference on Nuclear Security in July.  I had the honor of attending this event, along with representatives from roughly 125 Member States, and to witness firsthand the active and engaged discussions between the policy and technical communities that participated.


The achievements I’ve described demonstrate our shared commitment to ensuring that our worst fears do not come to pass.  But despite this tremendous progress, our work is not done; the attention devoted to nuclear security should be commensurate with the threat we face.


That is why The Netherlands will host the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit, and why President Obama intends to host a fourth Nuclear Security Summit in 2016.  Our continued focus on nuclear security should also be reflected within the IAEA.  This is why the United States supports elevating the Office of Nuclear Security to Division status.


We look forward to continuing our international cooperation, including with the IAEA, to achieve our nuclear security goals.


Mr. President, verifying the peaceful nature of nuclear programs yields profound and tangible benefits.  Safeguards help bring about an international security environment suitable for movement toward nuclear disarmament; they build confidence among neighbors to keep regional peace, and among nuclear suppliers to facilitate trade; and they send up warning flags in countries that would skirt the rules to develop nuclear weapons.


Mr. President, the world has repeatedly called upon Iran to resolve all outstanding issues related to its nuclear program, including by addressing evidence of its possible military dimensions.  Regrettably, Iran continues to violate IAEA Board and UN Security Council resolutions, and continues to take provocative actions that raise legitimate concerns about the nature of its nuclear program, as outlined in the DG’s most recent report to the Board.


North Korea must abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs, and return to the NPT and IAEA safeguards.  The United States remains committed to authentic and credible negotiations on denuclearization, but North Korea must take concrete action to demonstrate a clear commitment and will to denuclearization.


The Assad regime refused for years to cooperate with the Agency to remedy its noncompliance.  We call on Syria to provide IAEA access to all relevant locations, materials, and persons related to the Dair Alzour site, as required by the Board of Governors.


These and other cases demonstrate that the IAEA must have the appropriate tools, access, and resources to detect and deter undeclared nuclear programs.  In that regard, the United States believes that the combination of a comprehensive safeguards agreement (CSA) and an Additional Protocol (AP) is the international standard for safeguards verification.  We call on all States that have not yet done so to bring into force a CSA and an AP as soon as possible.


We also call on all Member States to strengthen their financial and technical support to IAEA safeguards by joining the United States and 20 other Member State Support Programs that already are doing so.  We welcome the Agency’s continued efforts to make the implementation of safeguards more effective and efficient, and welcome the DG’s report on the State Level Concept.


Mr. President, achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons will take sustained commitment through a concrete and practical step-by-step approach.  President Obama reiterated and expanded upon his Prague Agenda in Berlin this past June.  We will work with the international community to ensure that this vision becomes reality.


In the meantime, we will continue to meet our existing obligations.  Let me underscore just a few concrete achievements that demonstrate our commitment.


We have disposed of excess, weapons-origin fissile material by down-blending approximately 140 Metric Tons of HEU.  As a transparency measure, the United States cooperated with the IAEA to allow international monitoring of the downblending of 50 Metric Tons of this material.


And we remain firmly committed to eliminating 34 Metric Tons of weapons-origin plutonium under the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement under IAEA verification.


And finally, this year we will celebrate a monumental accomplishment with our Russian partners:  the final shipment of LEU from the Russian Federation to the United States under the landmark 1993 HEU Purchase Agreement.  The final delivery of material under this Agreement will result in the permanent elimination of 500 Metric Tons of Russian, weapons-origin HEU — roughly the equivalent of 20,000 nuclear weapons.


In conclusion, Mr. President, I began by referring to President Eisenhower’s seminal “Atoms for Peace” speech.  While it is important for us to remember its legacy as we look ahead, we must challenge ourselves to learn hard lessons from events that have occurred since then.


Pursuing humanitarian goals while addressing threats that range from nuclear accidents and proliferation to climate change are as serious as any challenges we have faced in human history.  But recent history teaches us that we can transform adversity into a catalyst for innovation.  The IAEA has a significant role to play, but it will require our support.


We must bolster this important institution with action by dedicating our collective resources to its mission.  We must ensure that all countries that play by the rules can bear the fruit of peaceful nuclear cooperation and that cheating does not go unpunished.  Strengthening the IAEA is worth the effort, so that future generations may live in peace and prosperity where nuclear dangers are a distant memory.


Thank you.