U.S. Statement to the IAEA Board of Governors: Nuclear Science, Technology, and Applications

IAEA Board of Governors Meeting

March 5-9, 2018

Agenda Item 3

Strengthening the Agency’s Activities Related to Nuclear Science, Technology, and Applications

Nuclear Technology Review 2018

U.S. Statement as delivered by U.S. Chargé d’affaires a.i. Nicole Shampaine

 

Good morning, Madam Chair,

The United States remains committed to the peaceful uses and applications of nuclear technology under the highest standards of safety, security, and nonproliferation. Peaceful uses of nuclear technology help address national development needs and can bring a brighter future to everyone. The assurances provided by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Agency’s safeguards regime, as well as the Agency’s guidance documents and support on safety and security, have helped make today’s dynamic exchange of nuclear energy, science, and technology possible.

The Agency’s continued projected growth of nuclear power is not surprising. Many States are considering adoption of nuclear power, or expansion of existing programs, because of the increasing global demand for energy, the need for climate change mitigation, volatile fossil fuel prices, the quest for energy security, and changes in environmental and socio-economic policies. The Agency’s workshops, publications, and other activities provide valuable guidance for all Member States.

While there have been some challenges for nuclear power in the United States, we believe nuclear power continues to have a positive future. On June 29, the President of the United States stated that, “[We] will begin to revive and expand our nuclear energy sector […] which produces clean, renewable, and emissions-free energy. A complete review of U.S. nuclear energy policy will help us find new ways to revitalize this crucial energy resource.” The U.S. Department of Energy has resumed operations at the Transient Reactor Test Facility, enabling the testing of nuclear reactor fuels and materials under extreme conditions. This supports continued research and development in advanced reactor designs and nuclear fuels. The U.S. Department of Energy is also continuing the development of accident tolerant fuels, working to further safely extend the life of our existing reactor fleet, and partnering with the private sector on the development of advanced reactors, including small modular reactors.

Nuclear power continues to be by far the United States’ largest source of emissions-free electricity. In 2016 it produced 19.7% of our electricity and set a capacity factor record of 92.5%. The world’s first two Westinghouse Electric Company AP-1000 reactors are nearing operation at the Sanmen Nuclear Power Station in China. Construction also continues on two additional AP-1000s at the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant in the state of Georgia, with the U.S. Department of Energy issuing a conditional commitment to a new loan guarantee in September 2017. We anticipate that later this year Westinghouse will emerge from bankruptcy with its purchase by Brookfield Asset Management, and will continue selling the AP-1000 reactor design and providing fuel services to its existing and growing customer base. Finally, in a major technical advancement, NuScale last year submitted, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission accepted, the first application by an SMR vendor for Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Design Certification.

As global interest in and use of nuclear technology expands, the United States remains committed to minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in civilian applications. This past year, the United States, working with the IAEA, China, and Ghana, supported the conversion of Ghana’s Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) from HEU to low enriched uranium and irradiated HEU was successfully returned to China. We look forward to working with China, the IAEA and Nigeria to finalize the Project and Supply Agreement submittal to the upcoming June Board meeting. This documentation will allow Nigeria to convert its MNSR and repatriate the HEU to China by the end of this year resulting in the elimination of all HEU from Nigeria. In addition, earlier this year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first U.S.-produced, non-uranium based molybdenum-99. The production of this critical medical isotope without highly enriched uranium reduces global proliferation threats while also contributing to a more reliable supply of this critical medical isotope.

Madam Chair,

The Nuclear Technology Review also highlights the important contributions of peaceful uses of nuclear technology to many non-power fields. The United States views its support for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy as a critical part of its efforts to strengthen the Agency and the global nuclear nonproliferation regime. We look forward to the upcoming Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology, which will give us all the opportunity to explore how innovative applications of nuclear techniques can address sustainable development challenges.

Through the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Fund, Peaceful Uses Initiative, and other extrabudgetary funding mechanisms, the United States continues to provide strong support to high-priority IAEA projects. These include the Renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories in Seibersdorf (ReNuAL), and the Sterile Insect Technique project controlling mosquito populations to combat infectious diseases such as Zika, malaria, and dengue fever.

We are pleased with the progress of the ReNuAL project. We welcomed the 2017 inauguration of the new Insect Pest Control Laboratory and the groundbreaking for the Flexible Modular Laboratory, and we continue to follow closely the Agency’s planning and work towards a successful and efficient conclusion of ReNuAL. We are also pleased with the Agency’s partnership and resource mobilization efforts, which last year resulted in an agreement with Varian Medical Systems for a ten-year loan of a linear accelerator (LINAC) to the Dosimetry Laboratory. The IAEA can now assist Member States in developing LINAC operating expertise, which, where feasible, will enable a transition to alternatives to high activity radioactive sources. Building on this partnership, the U.S. Department of Energy recently made an in-kind contribution for the LINAC’s support services.

Madam Chair,

With these remarks, the United States endorses the Director General’s recommendation that the Board take note of the Nuclear Technology Review 2018.

Thank you Madam Chair.