U.S. on the Nuclear Technology Review at the IAEA BoG, Agenda Item 3

Statement under Agenda Item 3: Nuclear Technology Review

As delivered by Ambassador Jackie Wolcott at the IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
Vienna, March 5, 2019

Thank you, Madam Chair.

The United States appreciates the Secretariat’s efforts in preparing the Nuclear Technology Review (NTR) 2019, as contained in GOV/2019/4. NTR 2019 provides useful information on the status of nuclear technology in areas such as power and research reactors, accelerator applications, human health, food safety and security, and soil and livestock management. It also provides useful examples of how the IAEA advances the peaceful uses of that technology.

We wish to take this opportunity to welcome the new Deputy Director General for Nuclear Applications, Najat Mokhtar, who will help lead the IAEA’s future successes in many of these areas. Also, we wish to thank the Secretariat and the Japanese and Costa Rican co-chairs for their superb efforts on the 2018 Nuclear Science and Technology Ministerial Conference. We commend the ministerial declaration for expressing strong support for the sharing of nuclear technology.

Madam Chair, the United States notes favorably that a significant number of countries are considering nuclear power as an energy option. We reaffirm our commitment to supporting our own domestic nuclear power program as a vital energy resource, to promoting technological and commercial advances in nuclear power, and to assisting those countries that are seeking to embark on or expand a nuclear power program.

In the United States, nuclear power continues to be, by far, our largest source of emission-free electricity. In 2018, the U.S. nuclear power reactor fleet produced approximately 20% of our country’s electricity, while maintaining a high capacity factor of over 92%, and even more during the summer and winter months when demand was particularly high. Construction continues on the two Westinghouse Electric AP-1000s at the Vogtle site in the U.S. state of Georgia, while the world’s first four AP-1000s are now in commercial operation in China. The U.S. Congress has appropriated initial funding for a new versatile fast test reactor at Idaho National Laboratory, and the U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE, has selected General Electric Hitachi’s Prism reactor technology to support the program, which was officially launched this last Thursday February 28th. Last May, DOE, along with Canadian and Japanese counterparts, also announced the launch of the “Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy (NICE) Future” Initiative. NICE Future aims to ensure that nuclear energy receives appropriate representation in high-level discussions about clean energy. Last April, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, announced that NuScale’s application for NRC Design Certification had passed Phase 1 of the Safety Review. NuScale is the first small modular reactor (SMR) vendor to pass this phase. The NRC has also accepted applications from three nuclear power plants to extend their operational lifetimes to 80 years. Finally, DOE just recently announced that it plans to invest $115 million over the next three years to reopen a uranium enrichment demonstration project to produce high-assay low-enriched uranium as a fuel source for advanced nuclear reactors. By ensuring a supply of high-assay LEU for the future, as well as its significant other activities, the U.S. continues to demonstrate its leadership in global efforts to minimize civilian use of highly enriched uranium.

Madam Chair, the United States is pleased to provide considerable monetary support for diverse areas of cooperation summarized in NTR 2019. For example, through the Peaceful Uses Initiative since 2010, we have contributed approximately $29 million for nuclear power infrastructure development; $14 million for food safety and security, agricultural productivity, and animal health; $13 million for human health; and $4 million for water resource management. We welcome further IAEA research into and application of alternative technologies in fields ranging from human health to food and agriculture, including improving quality assurance and calibration in cancer treatment.

The United States has provided an additional $17 million in voluntary contributions for the renovation of the Agency’s Nuclear Applications Laboratories. The new and renovated labs will help Member States develop and maintain critical capacities to respond to their citizens’ needs in many areas addressed in NTR 2019. We note the need to raise €1.25 million in the coming months to complete the Flexible Modular Laboratory, and call on those Member States in a position to do so to consider announcing a pledge toward the ReNuAL project. We have also coordinated to ensure that the Dosimetry Lab at Seibersdorf will be equipped with a medical linear accelerator, or LINAC, on a 10-year loan from Varian Medical Systems. This LINAC will help Member States learn to apply accelerator technology to meet radiotherapy needs more safely and effectively than cobalt-based alternatives. Installation of the linear accelerator began last month and we look forward to its full commissioning in the near future.

Madam Chair, NTR 2019 illustrates what it is possible to achieve when the international community cooperates with the assurance that nuclear technology and materials will be safely, securely, and freely shared within a framework that protects against diversion, loss, accident, and theft. By promoting high standards of nuclear safety and security and rigorous and effective nonproliferation measures, the United States will continue to promote the fullest possible exchange of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes as called for in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In support of this goal, we encourage all Member States to mobilize resources from nontraditional donors and partners to support peaceful nuclear uses.

With these comments, we join consensus in taking note of the Nuclear Technology Review 2019. Thank you, Madam Chair.