IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Agenda Item 2: the Annual Report for 2021
U.S. statement as delivered by by Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate
Vienna, Austria, June 6, 2022
Thank you, Chair.
The United States welcomes the Agency’s draft Annual Report for 2021. We appreciate the efforts of the Secretariat to put forth a draft report that reflects the important work undertaken by the IAEA to provide global benefits to countries through the development and transfer of nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes, enhanced nuclear safety and security, and strengthened nuclear verification in support of nuclear nonproliferation worldwide. In this regard, I would like to highlight briefly a few areas contained in the Report.
Above all, I take this opportunity to commend the Agency for its remarkable efforts since spring of 2020 to carry out its vital mission across the world amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic. Under the leadership of DG Grossi, the Agency immediately responded and adapted to the challenges faced to implement important international nuclear activities and, for that, the Secretariat deserves recognition and high praise. We applaud the leadership and staff of the Agency for their professionalism, dedication, and resilience, and encourage them to continue finding innovative ways to carry out all core functions of the Agency.
On nuclear power infrastructure, the Report describes how the IAEA continued its ability to independently assist Member States and foster international collaboration in developing, deploying, operating, and maintaining new nuclear power technologies such as Small Modular Reactors. The Agency’s integration of nuclear safety, security, and safeguards into these discussions helps to advance the safe, secure, efficient, and reliable long-term implementation and operation of both new and existing technologies. The Report also illustrates how the Agency assists Member States embarking on new nuclear energy programs in planning and building nuclear infrastructure, particularly as the Agency conducted Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review missions in Uganda, Uzbekistan, and Kenya – an important precursor for the introduction of nuclear energy. The United States places great importance on nuclear power as a clean energy option, and we are proudly looking forward to hosting the upcoming Nuclear Power Ministerial in Washington this October and we encourage all States to participate at the ministerial level. Additionally, we were pleased that the Agency was able to approve and release Stakeholder Engagement in Nuclear Programs, the first Nuclear Energy Series Guide-level publication to support national efforts to engage with stakeholders throughout the life cycle of nuclear facilities. We remain committed to supporting these efforts and appreciate DG Grossi’s participation in COP26 to solidify nuclear energy’s role in climate change and the transition to clean and reliable energy.
In the area of nuclear safety, we applaud the Secretariat’s work to strengthen nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety, and emergency preparedness and response. The assistance that the IAEA provides to Member States in these areas is vital to continue strong nuclear safety practices that reduce the likelihood of harmful radioactive doses being released and causing harm to both human life and the environment. We note with great satisfaction the Level 3 Convention Exercise (ConvEx-3) conducted by the IAEA and hosted in the United Arab Emirates in October 2021 to test international arrangements regarding response to a major nuclear emergency. These exercises are critical to prepare the international community’s ability to respond to nuclear emergencies, such as those we all hope to avoid in the case of Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine. Additionally, we continue to strongly encourage Member States to become parties to and fully implement the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, and the Joint Convention, and to make political commitments to implement the Codes of Conduct for the Safety of Research Reactors and the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources and its supplementary guidance.
On nuclear security, the Report reflects the IAEA’s central role in strengthening global nuclear security, as evidenced by last year’s groundbreaking ceremony to establish a Nuclear Security Training and Demonstration Centre at its Seibersdorf laboratories. Having a centralized Center for the IAEA to carry out its critical capacity building and risk reduction efforts directly complements the growing nuclear energy sector. Member States fully recognize that nuclear energy offers great benefits but that it also presents great risks. Those benefits simply cannot be sustained unless we act responsibly to minimize and manage the associated risks. We appreciate the activities highlighted in the Report and welcome the Agency’s intensified efforts in 2021 to assist Parties in preparing for the inaugural Review Conference of the Amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, which also included outreach efforts on universalization that directly resulted in increased ratifications of both the original Convention and its Amendment. We encourage Member States to continue supporting and requesting the Agency’s services to strengthen national nuclear security regimes.
In the area of safeguards, we note that despite the various challenges presented by the pandemic, the IAEA maintained its ability to implement effective verification measures to provide the basis for drawing sound safeguards conclusions. A strong safeguards system that provides credible assurances about non-diversion of nuclear material and the absence of undeclared nuclear activities is absolutely essential to the international nonproliferation regime and to international cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Cooperation between the Agency and Member States is also critical to effective safeguards implementation. In this regard, we hope to see concrete results from the Agency’s latest initiative to provide tailored assistance and services to help strengthen the State authorities responsible for safeguards implementation. The United States will continue to provide strong support for the IAEA’s verification mission.
On non-power nuclear applications, the Report notes the significant progress made regarding the efforts to renovate the Nuclear Applications Laboratories at Seibersdorf, including ReNuAL 2 in the final phase. We are pleased to have been an integral part of enabling the strides that have been made to date, particularly as the Agency was successfully able to complete detailed architectural designs for the required new facilities. The core elements of ReNuAL2 will undoubtedly bolster the Agency’s abilities in the areas of climate-smart agriculture, environmental resource management, and food security. We call on others in a position to do so to continue support for the Agency’s efforts in this area.
On management, we applaud the Agency’s efforts, set forth by Director General Grossi, to achieve gender parity at all levels of the professional and higher staff categories throughout the Agency by 2025. These efforts have not gone unnoticed, particularly as we note the proportional increase in women now occupying an additional 4.3% of the positions across staff categories. That said, it is not just about numbers: it is about creating a culture where women and other underrepresented groups can thrive. The United States remains committed to the Agency having the tools necessary to implement and sustain activities that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in accordance with the Agency’s Gender Equality Policy and Action Plan. Additionally, we acknowledge the Agency’s progress in expanding coordination and cooperation with other international organizations, governments, and nontraditional partners. The hard work in this area has directly contributed to mobilizing resources to support some of the Director General’s priority initiatives. As such, we remain encouraged by the Secretariat’s commitment to strengthen its results-based approach to maximize effectiveness and efficiency as it strives to achieve programmatic results. Finally, we note that the Agency continues to strengthen its information management and IT security by decommissioning legacy systems and technologies and addressing ongoing cyber threats as part of its regular IT operations. The United States stands ready to assist the Agency in these important areas.
With these comments, we join consensus in recommending submission of the draft Annual Report for 2021 for the General Conference’s approval, subject to such corrections as may be necessary.
Thank you, Chair.