IAEA Board of Governors: Nuclear Technology Review

IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
March 5-9, 2012

Agenda Item 3

U.S. Statement

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to begin by thanking the Secretariat for the work that has gone into preparing the Nuclear Technology Review 2012. The United States places great importance on the positive benefits to be gained from the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including through the promotional activities of the Agency.


Mr. Chairman,


As has been noted, despite the accident at Fukushima, the factors that have contributed to an increased interest in nuclear power have not changed global demand for energy, nor concerns about climate change, energy security and uncertainty about fossil fuel supplies. President Obama made the U.S. view of nuclear power clear when he said, “Those of us who are concerned about climate change, we’ve got to recognize that nuclear power, if it’s safe, can make a significant contribution to the climate change question.  And I’m determined to ensure that it’s safe.”


Even while the U.S. seeks to identify and apply lessons learned from Fukushima, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission relicensed nine U.S. nuclear reactors in 2011. It also granted design certification to the Westinghouse amended AP-1000 design, which includes passive safety features that would cool down the reactor after an accident without the need for electricity or human intervention. And four weeks ago the U.S. NRC issued the first license for new reactor construction in the United States in over 30 years.


Mr. Chairman,


Nuclear power presents unique challenges for countries considering it, and the United States supports their efforts to build the necessary national infrastructure to meet the highest standards of safety, security, and nonproliferation. We highly value the Agency workshops, publications and other activities providing guidance to this end, and have contributed both expertise and financial resources to them.


I would also call attention to the complementary assistance the United States provides through the Partnership for Nuclear Security, the International Safeguards and Engagement Program, the International Nuclear Regulatory Partnership, and the International Framework on Nuclear Energy Cooperation, or IFNEC.


Mr. Chairman,


The commercial market is the primary supplier of nuclear fuel services to countries deploying nuclear power. The United States appreciates the thorough report on the commercial nuclear fuel cycle contained in the NTR. It makes clear that the market for nuclear fuel is well able to meet the demand for many years to come. I also would like to call attention to the work of IFNEC to examine commercially based comprehensive fuel services.


International mechanisms to assure access to low enriched uranium, or LEU, for nuclear fuel also have an important role to play. We note with approval the extended treatment of the assurance of supply issue in the NTR, including reports of the full operation of the LEU reserve at Angarsk, Board approval of a proposal for a Nuclear Fuel Assurance by the United Kingdom, and the Secretariat’s continued work on developing the administrative, financial, legal and technical arrangements required to implement the Board’s decision to establish an IAEA LEU bank. The United States welcomes the progress described in the separate report on Assurance of Supply and the Director General’s report that Kazakhstan has confirmed the site for the LEU bank. We look forward to his further reports on implementation of this initiative and to his bringing a Host State Agreement to the Board for approval.


I would also like to call the attention to the U.S. announcement of the American Assured Fuel Supply that will set aside about 230 tonnes of LEU, down-blended from surplus high enriched uranium from U.S. weapons, to serve as a fuel reserve for countries pursuing a peaceful civilian nuclear program.


The Nuclear Technology Review highlights the wide variety of activities underway worldwide to address the issue of nuclear waste. It is also clear, however, that much remains to be done. I note that the final report of the U.S. Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future includes recommendations covering a broad range of waste-management topics.

Mr. Chairman,


In addition to the NTR’s review of activities related to nuclear power, the document provides a detailed summary of current applications of nuclear techniques and technologies to non-power issues. The document notes that in 2011 the world was declared free of rinderpest. A perennial cause of both hunger and poverty, rinderpest is only the second disease to be successfully eradicated, and the IAEA’s important role in this effort is to be commended. At the same time, we welcome the IAEA’s continued efforts to apply nuclear techniques to detect and treat diseases in animals that cross international borders. This issue is important not only for reasons of food security and economics, but it also has human health implications. While we welcome and fully support the Director General’s focus in 2012 on food security, we also emphasize the continued importance of the other areas described by the NTR, including health, water resource exploration and novel fuel sources.


Mr Chairman,


I want to take particular note of the NTR’s in-depth discussion of the role of nuclear techniques in responding to the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The NTR makes clear that nuclear techniques and expertise, including through the ALMERA network of analytical labs, have been essential in addressing new challenges related to radiation contamination of agricultural land. The IAEA’s efforts have been absolutely critical in ensuring food safety and sustainable agricultural production, as well as providing rapid analytical capabilities to address environmental concerns. My government commends the IAEA’s fast work, particularly through the Departments of Technical Cooperation and Nuclear Applications, in rapidly providing Member States the expertise and tools they need to properly address these issues. The IAEA can be very proud of this work.


The NTR reminds us that the range of issues that nuclear techniques can impact is vast. The United States remains fully committed to ensuring that all states in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations are provided access to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. As we approach the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, the importance of the NPT’s peaceful uses pillar, and of the IAEA’s role in providing those benefits, should be particularly emphasized. We continue to support an approach to the NPT that fully emphasizes the importance of these activities in strengthening the Treaty’s other aspects.


Many countries have stepped forward with extra budgetary funding to support the Agency’s non-power activities. I note that in 2011 Japan, New Zealand, and Australia joined my country in supporting the IAEA’s efforts in environmental monitoring in connection with Fukushima. Last September, South Africa announced that it would provide funds in support of African countries affected by trans-boundary animal diseases through the building and enhancing of capacities for animal disease diagnosis. The United States is also providing support for this important project, which is not yet fully funded. Sweden recently announced support for an important water-related project in Africa, while South Korea has provided key support on the power front. I would like to particularly emphasize the crucial support from the EU and its members states to help countries pursue nuclear power safely and securely. As has been noted elsewhere, this support makes the EU one of the principle contributors to IAEA activities. There are many others who, despite the difficult financial times, continue to support these important activities.



Mr. Chairman,


As you know, in 2010 President Obama committed $50 million in U.S. support for the IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative, which challenged the international community to expand support for IAEA activities to promote peaceful uses by $100 million by 2015. We continue to pursue these goals, having so far spent more than $16 million in U.S. contributions on projects benefiting more than 100 Member States. We place great importance on this support, and we are proud to be in the company of the countries I have mentioned, and the many others like them, who share our goal of expanding support for IAEA programs. The Nuclear Technology Review reminds us of how important the activities enabled by this support are.


Mr. Chairman,


We take note of this report and may submit additional written comments.


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.