IAEA BoG – U.S. on IAEA Efforts During the COVID-19 Pandemic

IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Agenda Item 10: IAEA Efforts During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Three Reports by the Director General 2020

U.S. statement as delivered by Alternate Permanent Representative Keith Anderton
Vienna, Austria, June 17, 2020

Thank you, Madam Chair,

The United States praises the Agency for the assistance rendered during the current COVID-19 pandemic and for its draft report by the Director General on Addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the Agency was able to respond quickly with what has become its largest Technical Cooperation project ever because of its expertise in nuclear-derived diagnostic techniques and its worldwide Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory or VETLAB network. The United States was proud to provide $11 million to the Agency’s COVID-19 Technical Cooperation project, which directly helped procure 100 COVID-19 testing kits for 84 beneficiary countries. The Report demonstrates the important role that nuclear-derived technology can play in detecting pathogens and diagnosing diseases and how the IAEA has historically used this technology to address outbreaks of Ebola, Zika, and now COVID-19.The Report further demonstrates how the Agency organized the procurement and distribution of equipment and materials necessary to use this technology and how the Agency continued to provide training, despite restrictions caused by the pandemic.

Since 2010, the United States has provided strong support to the IAEA’s work that contributes to international efforts to prevent, detect and control the outbreak of zoonotic diseases, and we remain ready to continue that support. In that regard, we welcome the Agency’s proposed Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action–or ZODIAC–project. The ZODIAC project aims to integrate approaches to identify, monitor, trace and establish early detection of zoonotic disease pathogens and to participate in global intervention and response to potential outbreaks, thus making this project a strong example of the benefits of peaceful uses of nuclear and nuclear-derived science and technology. We look forward to learning how the IAEA, as the leader in nuclear and nuclear-derived techniques, will effectively coordinate with others—including those that may also use non-nuclear techniques—to optimize effective global surveillance of outbreaks, such as the one through which we are now living. We look forward to more details on costs and proposed funding streams for this important project.

Madam Chair,

The United States welcomes the Director General’s report on the extraordinary measures the Secretariat has taken to fulfill its safeguards obligations in the face of the ongoing pandemic and the resulting restrictions on travel and access. We applaud the courage and professionalism of the Agency’s safeguards staff and the cooperation from states that has been essential for them to carry out their work and that will remain essential for the Agency to draw safeguards conclusions this year. The full impact of this pandemic remains to be seen. We look forward to further reporting, including potential impacts on safeguards operations, resource needs, and any lessons learned for further improving the resiliency of the safeguards system. The United States remains at the ready to assist the Agency and Member States in fulfilling their respective safeguards responsibilities during these challenging times.

On nuclear safety and security, we have been encouraged by the Agency’s agility and adaptability, reacting quickly to maintain and enhance its support to Member States. We commend the Agency for facilitating valuable information exchanges and reviewing the suitability of draft and existing Agency standards and guidance. We similarly appreciate the Incident and Emergency Centre carrying on with its Convention Exercises, demonstrating the resiliency of our response professionals. We encourage all Member States to actively participate in such information exchanges, and to continue implementing all relevant nuclear safety standards and nuclear security guidance.

Finally, all three Reports make clear that the world’s nuclear professionals are maintaining safety, security, and safeguards oversight over our nuclear power plants, isotope production facilities, and other fuel cycle facilities, maintaining access to the many beneficial uses of nuclear technology. We thank everyone, including the Secretariat, for their hard work during these stressful and unprecedented times.

Thank you, Madam Chair.