The IAEA has continued to monitor activities around North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Centre, but cannot confirm the nature and purpose of the activities because it does not have access on the ground, Director General Yukiya Amano told the IAEA’s Board of Governors today.
IAEA inspectors were required to leave North Korea in 2009. Since then, the Agency has monitored the country’s nuclear programme using open-source information and satellite imagery.
Mr Amano said the IAEA continued to closely follow international developments on the North Korea nuclear issue. “We hope that these processes will lead to an agreement and to implementation of concrete denuclearization measures,” he said. “The IAEA stands ready to undertake verification and monitoring activities in the DPRK if a political agreement is reached among countries concerned.”
In his statement to a regular meeting of the 35-nation Board, Mr Amano also presented a broad overview of developments in all areas of IAEA activities.
As far as the Agency’s verification and monitoring work in Iran is concerned, Mr Amano said Iran was implementing its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an agreement reached between a number of countries and Iran in 2015. “It is essential that Iran continues to fully implement those commitments,” he added.
Mr Amano said the IAEA continued to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. “Evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran continue.”
Nuclear safety and security
He drew the Board’s attention to the 2019 Nuclear Safety Review, which identifies priorities for this year and beyond. The document covers plans to further strengthen the IAEA’s work in nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety as well as emergency preparedness and response.
Mr Amano announced that the next IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security, to be held at ministerial level in February 2020, will be co-chaired by Panama and Romania. He encouraged countries to participate at the ministerial level.
Mr Amano said preparations were well underway for the Agency’s first International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power,which will take place in October this year. The latest special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, entitled Global Warming of 1.5º C, underlines the need to substantially expand the contribution of nuclear power to climate change mitigation, he added.
On radioactive waste management, he informed the Board about a new four-year IAEA coordinated research project to develop a standardized framework for the borehole disposal of disused sealed radioactive sources and small amounts of low and intermediate levels waste.
Mr Amano provided an update on the modernisaton of the IAEA nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf, near Vienna. The laboratories, which are unique in the UN system, assist the Agency’s 171 Member States in using nuclear techniques in areas including food and agriculture, human health and environmental monitoring, as well as in the use of nuclear analytical instrumentation.
Seven Member States have recently announced pledges totalling more than 2.5 million euros to complete the fitting out of the new facilities. Mr Amano said another 1.25 million euros were still needed to fill the funding gap and asked countries in a position to contribute to do so.
He noted that the dosimetry audit service, which the IAEA offers together with the World Health Organization to help ensure that cancer patients around the world receive the correct radiation dose, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
“It has made a great contribution to improving treatment quality and patient safety,” Mr Amano said. “In the 1970s, only around 50% of participating hospitals delivered radiation doses within the acceptance limit of 5%. Today, 98 to 99% of audit results are acceptable.”
He informed the Board that this year’s IAEA Scientific Forum in September will focus on the Agency’s achievements in cancer control in the last 10 years and review cooperation with key international partners in improving access to radiotherapy and nuclear medicine.
Mr Amano highlighted the work done by the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture in diagnosing and helping to control outbreaks of animal and zoonotic diseases such as avian flu and Ebola. “In January this year, it took only four days for our experts to help Mongolia’s National Central Veterinary Laboratory to diagnose and confirm an outbreak of African Swine Fever,” he said. This made possible the rapid implementation of control measures in Mongolia.
Mr Amano singled out a number of successful IAEA technical cooperation projects, such as the development of a new cowpea variety in Zimbabwe,which is more tolerant to drought and more resistant to insect pests. The cowpea is a type of legume grown in many African countries. The new variety has enabled farmers to increase crop yields by up to 20%