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UK Statement to the 2016 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference

Delivered by Robin Grimes, Chief Scientific Adviser to the FCO, Vienna, 28 September 2016

Robin Grimes delivering the UK Statement to the 60th IAEA General Conference

Mr President, your Excellencies, and distinguished guests,

The United Kingdom associates itself with the statement made by the distinguished representative of Slovakia on behalf of the European Union.

Let me start by thanking the IAEA for organising the 60th annual General Conference and to commend the leadership of Director General Amano and the hard work of the secretariat. The United Kingdom places great value on all of the IAEA’s important work and notes its many achievements this year.

Mr President, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the particular priorities for the UK for the year ahead.

To affirm our continued commitment to civil nuclear energy both in the UK and internationally;

To continue to support efforts to ensure the right conditions exist for nuclear energy and applications to flourish; including through ensuring robust safety, security, emergency preparedness and response regimes and by continuing to support the development and utilisation of nuclear science and its applications; and

To start the next NPT review cycle positively in Vienna and emphasise our continued commitment to strengthen the international non-proliferation architecture, including the safeguards regime.

Civil Nuclear in UK and Internationally

The United Kingdom confirms its continued commitment to civil nuclear energy as a cost effective and secure source of low carbon energy. Following a comprehensive review of the Hinkley Point C project, we have, subject to final agreement, decided to proceed with our first new nuclear power station for a generation. We recognise and continue to support civil nuclear energy as an important part of the energy mix, to secure energy supplies and help meet international obligations to reduce carbon emissions in order to meet climate change ambitions.

As well as supporting our domestic civil nuclear programmes; the UK, with over 60 years of experience, remains ideally positioned and committed, to continue to support opportunities across the entire civil nuclear fuel cycle around the world. The UK continues to work through the IAEA, bilaterally and through other multilateral organisations to promote civil nuclear uses.

Ensuring the Right Conditions Exist for Nuclear Energy and Applications to Flourish

Mr President,

The lessons learned from the Fukushima-Daiichi accident reinforce the need for robust regimes that ensure civil nuclear energy continues to be safe and secure and we are committed to the continued implementation of these regimes.

Nuclear Safety

Nuclear safety remains a top priority for the UK. It is for that reason that the UK welcomed an IAEA Operational Safety Review Team mission to Sizewell B in October 2015 so that the UK could compare the facility’s operational practices with best international practice. OSART Missions provide a valuable opportunity to exchange technical and regulatory experience between experts and their station counterparts to achieve the common goal of excellence in operational safety. We encourage all IAEA Member States to host OSART Missions.

The UK Government made the outcomes of the OSART mission publically available. Openness and transparency are important to ensuring public confidence in our ability to deliver safe civil nuclear energy. The UK also continues to engage across the international nuclear safety arena, including full participation in the Convention on Nuclear Safety processes; to ensure that civil nuclear power plants fully comply with robust domestic and international safety standards.

Emergency Preparedness and Response

The UK has national emergency planning and response arrangements that require government, nuclear industry, the regulator and local authorities, to ensure that emergency planning arrangements, at all levels, are robust and fit for purpose, so that in the event of an emergency the response is integrated between the nuclear site, local areas, and national and international arrangements. We continually review our arrangements in light of international developments and lessons learned.

Nuclear Security

Nuclear security is of the utmost importance to the UK and we place great emphasis on our work to both understand and combat any current threat, as well as new and emerging threats to the sector. We strongly support the central role of the IAEA in the international security architecture and look forward to the IAEA International Conference on Security in December, which I am pleased to announce that the UK will support both financially and with relevant expertise. It is important that the IAEA’s nuclear security activities are adequately resourced. In March this year, the UK made a further contribution to the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund of £7.1 Million and we encourage other IAEA Member States to provide funds and expertise to support the IAEA in the field of nuclear security.

The UK continues to play a significant role in ensuring nuclear security, as demonstrated at the Nuclear Security Summit in March 2016. We made a series of commitments to improve nuclear security, including the largest single movement of Highly Enriched Uranium to the USA, and I am pleased to announce that this process is now underway. The UK also pledged to lead efforts to further strengthen the cyber security of nuclear plants and we hosted the first of two workshops last week to share best practice and look forward to hosting the second in October.

International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) missions remain an important means of sharing nuclear security best practice and the UK is delighted to be hosting the 20th anniversary seminar at Lancaster House, London, in November 2016. UK experts continue to play a leading role in supporting IPPAS missions globally and we are looking forward to the international seminar as an opportunity to celebrate the many achievements of the missions and further disseminate best practice.

The UK also places great importance on and continues to support the strengthening of capabilities to deal with material out of regulatory control. We have worked alongside the IAEA to develop guidance on establishing Nuclear Forensics Libraries. We have also worked closely with the IAEA to strengthen their guidance on disused source disposal and work both bilaterally and multilaterally to strengthen border security and in-country response. We welcome the new International Nuclear Security Advisory Service (INSServ) missions and their expanded scope.

Nuclear Science

The UK recognises that it is important to develop skills relevant to the nuclear sector and to commission state-of-the-art facilities to ensure we have the nuclear capability to deliver our nuclear future. We continue to promote wider nuclear science and applications, and encourage a diverse and sustainable nuclear workforce.

The UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) is at the forefront of our nuclear programmes, providing strategic technical advice to Government and working with Britain’s nuclear sector to drive innovative technologies for the clean-up and decommissioning of the UK’s nuclear legacy, perform vital Post Irradiation Examination to enable safe reactor operations, and undertake research with academics who are addressing advanced nuclear technologies.

The UK Atomic Energy Authority, a world leader in fusion research and development at its Culham site, operates the Joint European Torus (JET) for collective European experiments, contributing to ITER in many specialist areas, and undertaking the UK’s fusion science and technology research centred on the MAST Upgrade tokamak. Deploying expertise developed for JET, the Authority also contributes to fission and other markets with facilities and R&D for irradiated materials, remote handling and tritium. Our national laboratories are also supported by a strong university based nuclear academic community.

We also have the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) who have built up considerable decommissioning expertise and skills as a result of our nuclear legacy and who demonstrate unique solutions to tackling the high hazards at the Sellafield site. The NDA works collaboratively with a number of international counterparts and remains committed to sharing our expertise and advice in this area.
NPT review cycle starting in Vienna and our continued commitment to strengthen the international non-proliferation architecture


Mr President,

An effective safeguards regime is fundamental to the safe growth of the civil nuclear sector. The UK recognises the vital role that the IAEA plays in verifying compliance by states with their safeguards obligations and we support the continuous development of IAEA safeguards to learn from experience and to address new challenges.

We call on all non-nuclear weapon States that have not yet done so to bring into force a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and an Additional Protocol - the current verification standard.

The UK welcomes the progressive development of State-level safeguards approaches, which make greater use of the ability of the IAEA to consider the State as a whole. These approaches are consistent with existing safeguards agreements and provide the optimal approach to safeguards that will strengthen effectiveness and increase efficiency.

Technical Cooperation

The UK also recognises the IAEA’s role in support of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The work of the Agency contributes to non-proliferation efforts and the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. As we look forward to the start of the next NPT review cycle, we know that the work of the IAEA will continue to play a vital role in supporting the goals of the Treaty.

The Technical Cooperation programme of the IAEA provides invaluable support to allow countries to use nuclear techniques in a safe and effective way, including in medical diagnosis and treatment and crop protection. I am pleased to announce that yesterday the UK pledged over €3M to the Technical Cooperation programme.

The UK is encouraged by the Agency’s work, to move to a results-based management approach. We believe that the Technical Cooperation Programme needs to support the right projects, with clear justification, realistic programmes and achievable and sustainable long-term goals delivering real benefits. Projects should run effectively, be properly monitored across the project lifetime and fully evaluated to identify lessons learned, which are applied to future projects. Continuous, iterative, improvements will ensure that the TC Programme remains relevant and well supported.

Iran/ Syria/ DPRK

We commend the Agency’s work on its particularly challenging tasks around Iran, Syria and North Korea. We welcome the DG’s reporting that confirms that Iran is adhering to its nuclear-related commitments as outlined in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, under which the UK is meeting its own obligations as a member of the Joint Commission. While Iran’s full compliance and cooperation with the Agency is required, Member States can assist with continued financial support for the Agency’s monitoring and verification activities.

In light of the Board’s previous conclusion that Syria is in non-compliance with its Safeguards Agreement for failing to declare a nuclear programme at the Dair Alzour site and the three other locations, alleged to be related to this site, we urge Syria to cooperate with the Agency to resolve all outstanding issues including through concluding and implementing an Additional Protocol, as soon as possible.

Continued flagrant violations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of its obligations under successive UN Security Council Resolutions are of grave and growing concern. Its fifth nuclear test on the 9th of September and numerous missile launches threaten regional peace and stability. It remains the only nation to have carried out nuclear weapons tests in the 21st Century. The DPRK must resume compliance with its safeguards agreement and cooperation with the Agency, and must abandon its existing nuclear programme in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.

Sustaining the IAEA

In an era of widespread fiscal restraint, it is important that the IAEA ensures that all of its budgets are carefully managed and delivered efficiently to ensure that priority areas, including nuclear safety, safeguards and security are properly resourced. Improvements should be sought continually to strengthen delivery, professionalism and impact of the Agency’s work. We welcome efforts to improve the diversity of both the secretariat and the civil nuclear workforce worldwide, and call for these efforts to redoubled, especially in the area of gender diversity and for senior appointments.

In summary, Mr President, the United Kingdom supports and values all of the IAEA’s work and would particularly like to highlight all the efforts taken to ensure that civil nuclear remains a safe and secure source of clean energy, and in ensuring that States are complying with their safeguards obligations.

That concludes my remarks and I wish you and the conference every success.

Published 28 September 2016