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IAEA BoG – U.S. on the Nuclear Safety Review 2022
March 7, 2022

DCM Bono at IAEA Board of Governors, March 2022
IAEA BoG – U.S. on the Nuclear Safety Review 2022

IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Agenda Item 2: Nuclear and Radiation Safety – Nuclear Safety Review 2022

U.S. statement as delivered by Deputy Chief of Mission Louis L. Bono
Vienna, Austria, March 7, 2022

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The United States would like to thank the Director General and the Secretariat for their preparation of the Nuclear Safety Review 2022. We applaud the IAEA’s 2021 activities, which further strengthened nuclear radiation, transport, and waste safety, and also improved emergency preparedness and response despite the challenges caused by the global pandemic. We look forward to working with Member States and the Secretariat on these important safety matters in 2022 and beyond.

The IAEA’s combining of both old and new ways of conducting business in response to COVID-19 has increased the Agency’s effectiveness in delivering substantive outcomes valued by Member States. We support efforts by the Agency to ensure that lessons learned with respect to the safe operation of nuclear and radiation facilities during a pandemic are retained and included in safety guidance. The United States supports the priorities and activities for 2022 and beyond, as detailed in the Nuclear Safety Review, and looks forward to working with Member States and the Secretariat to build on our prior successes.

In particular, we note the Agency’s prioritization of small modular reactors (SMR), including the application of safety standards for SMR designs. Along with the IAEA, we acknowledge the need for international cooperation on SMR regulation, and we support a holistic approach to incorporating safety, security, and safeguards at the earliest stages of the SMR design process. The United States also supports the agency-wide Platform on Small Modular Reactors and their Applications and notes the importance of balancing safety and promotion of these new technologies.

The United States commends the Incident and Emergency Center for maintaining a strong focus on training and outreach during the pandemic. We appreciate in particular the significant number of webinars presented on relevant topics and the conduct, in a hybrid format, of the successful International Conference on the Development of Preparedness for National and International Emergency Response. It is important for all Member States to be prepared to respond to all emergencies whatever the cause, be they natural, accidental, or as a direct result of an intentional action. The United States, similar to many other Members, believes any threat against a nuclear facility that is part of a purely peaceful program, or against any other civilian infrastructure, is unacceptable.

We recognize the expected joint publication of the International Nuclear Safety Group (INSAG) and the Advisory Group on Nuclear Security (AdSec), and encourage the Secretariat to facilitate a coordination process of the safety and security interface.

The United States strongly supports the Agency’s efforts on the Fukushima Advanced Liquid Process System (ALPS) project. In 2021, the United States contributed $550,000, as well as U.S. technical expertise, to the project. We look forward to continuing to provide support throughout the life of the project, and we appreciate the donations made by many other Member States.

We also encourage the Secretariat to continue its efforts to bring members to consensus on the revised process for the sharing of information related to Member States’ implementation of the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources. The United States supports the 2019 draft of Annex 1 to the 2019 Process for the Sharing of Information as to States’ Implementation of the Code as drafted, and further encourages members to join consensus for approval. The United States will remain fully engaged in this process and looks forward to a successful conclusion.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Richard Meserve, who is retiring from INSAG’s Chairmanship after serving four terms in this role, for his contributions to nuclear safety. He will be missed.

Mr. Chair,

As we discussed this morning, we will have more to say under agenda item 6. However, I must address the potentially dire implications for nuclear safety arising from the Russian Federation’s brazen and irresponsible actions at nuclear and radiological facilities in Ukraine. While we will have more to say under agenda item 6, I would like to say now that Russia’s military operations at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant since February 24 and at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant since March 3 risked creating a nuclear catastrophe. The United States demands that the Russian Federation cease all military operations at and near all nuclear facilities in Ukraine and return unhindered operational control to the Ukrainian authorities; those authorities are the ones most capable of maintaining the safe and secure operation of these facilities. Such aggressive acts display a blatant disregard for basic nuclear safety principles and ignore the very real risk to critical safety systems, including power for backup cooling systems. These attacks could have jeopardized the health and safety of not only power plant staff members and people living nearby, but potentially all of Europe and regions beyond Europe. In short, the Russian Federation’s reckless actions on February 24 at Chornobyl and March 3 at Zaporizhzhya require the strongest condemnation by this body and by all IAEA Member States.

Reiterating the call from this body five days ago, we call on Russia to halt any further use of force that might put at risk additional Ukrainian nuclear facilities and their personnel and interfere with Ukraine’s ability to maintain the safety and security of those installations and surrounding populations. An attack on nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful purposes could have dangerous political, economic, and environmental implications.

For decades, Ukraine has operated its nuclear facilities safely for peaceful purposes. This is critical infrastructure, and it must remain safe and secure. Civil nuclear power infrastructure creates unique risks if targeted for hostile purposes, and it is imperative that nations exercise the utmost precautions not to endanger public safety when engaged in any military action at or near nuclear power facilities. Russia’s military activities have deviated from these basic principles of nuclear safety and unacceptably risk a dangerous series of cascading consequences – not just for the region, but for the health and wellbeing of the global community, now and for our planet’s future.

Finally, Mr. Chair, the United States would be remiss if we did not, at this first intervention, thank the Director General and his team for their tireless efforts to ensure the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine and their ongoing efforts for Iran to resume its JCPOA obligations and for the United States to rejoin the agreement.

Thank you, Mr. Chair