UK statement to the 2014 International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Robin Grimes, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office delivered the UK statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference, Vienna, Austria

IAEA General Conference plenary room

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Mr President, Excellencies, distinguished guests,

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

Let me first congratulate you on your election as the President of this Conference and to compliment the Secretariat on providing, once again, a first class service to Member States.

Outlook for Nuclear Energy

Mr President

The United Kingdom commends the leadership of the Director General, Mr Amano, and the work of the Secretariat. The demands upon the Agency to fulfil its role in the future development of nuclear energy are increasingly complex and intense. The UK has a high regard for the way in which the Agency is responding.

We remain committed to safe nuclear power, as part of a secure, low-carbon energy mix. Last October, the Government and EDF Group reached agreement on the key terms of a proposed early Contract for Difference for a new EPR nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. This agreement is currently being considered by the European Commission. We are confident that we have addressed all the material concerns raised by the Directorate General Competition as part of their State aid investigation and are hopeful of a decision within this Commission. This should pave the way for the construction of the first new nuclear power station built in the UK in a generation.

FCO Chief Scientific Advisor Robin Grimes delivering the 2014 IAEA General Conference statement

The regulatory framework in the UK has recently been improved through changes to the status of the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). It is now an independent statutory body with effect from 1 April this year. The ONR brings together the functions of civil nuclear safety, security, safeguards implementation, radioactive materials transport and health and safety on nuclear sites, and provides a model for an independent, effective, open and transparent regulator.

One of ONR’s current tasks is to undertake a generic design assessment of a reactor design that would be new to the UK – the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor that Hitachi has proposed for their sites at Wylfa and Oldbury. Such a process enables a full and comprehensive pre-approval of potential reactor designs before site specific authorisations are applied for, with benefits to costs, timeframes, and risks. We have also reached agreement with Westinghouse Ltd to recommence our assessment of the AP1000 reactor design.

Nuclear safety

Clearly, nuclear safety must remain our top priority. Recent events have shown us that a nuclear accident anywhere in the world has the potential to affect us all. The impact can either be radiological or on public confidence in nuclear as an energy source. The UK is pleased to note that an IAEA Operational Safety Review Team mission will be held at Sizewell B nuclear power station in 2015.

With regard to the accident at Fukushima, there has been much activity at the International, European and National levels to ensure that the lessons are learned and safety is, where it is proportionate to do so, enhanced. The UK has eagerly contributed in these efforts, including the strengthening of the Convention on Nuclear Safety processes. The UK will continue with the aim of continuous improvements to nuclear safety – a common goal that benefits us all. We are making publicly available details of how the UK continues to work towards addressing the findings of the EU stress test exercise and our own reviews of the UK’s safety arrangements. The UK has provided the IAEA Secretariat with a report on our progress with implementation of the IAEA Action Plan for enhancing nuclear safety. We urge States that have not yet done so to provide such progress reports. Openness and transparency are key to ensuring the public remains confident in our ability to deliver safe nuclear power and to learning from one another and working towards our common goal. We have much to learn from each other on the issues surrounding public communication.

Emergency Planning

The UK has also implemented a new national emergency planning and response programme, with government continuing to work closely with: the nuclear industry, the regulator and local authorities, to ensure that emergency planning arrangements at all levels are robust and fit for purpose.

We have strengthened international cooperation on nuclear emergency planning. For example, working closely with our French colleagues we delivered a joint UK-France Emergency Planning and Response framework to further strengthen practical cooperation between our countries.

Nuclear Security

Turning to nuclear security, the UK continues to attach great importance to understanding and countering the threat posed by those who seek to acquire and use nuclear and other radioactive material, or information, for terrorist and other malicious purposes. I am therefore pleased to note that the UK Government has already, this year, made an extrabudgetary contribution of £3.4 million pounds to the Nuclear Security Fund, making the UK the second largest Member State Contributor to the Fund. We are considering making a further contribution within the next few months.

The UK seeks to contribute fully to a range of international discussions on nuclear security. To this end the Prime Minister attended the Nuclear Security Summit in the Hague in March 2014.

We continue to call upon States to adhere to the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and welcome planned Agency activities aimed at promoting its early entry into force. In June 2013, the UK deposited with the IAEA an updated report outlining the UK laws and regulations which give effect to the Convention and its 2005 Amendment. We would encourage all Parties to the Amendment that have not deposited a report with the IAEA to do so.

We believe that peer reviews by international experts play a key role in nuclear security. We have invited the IAEA to send another Mission from the International Physical Protection Advisory Service to the UK in 2016 to review security arrangements, following on from the successful Mission to the UK in 2011.

Nuclear forensics has attracted increasing attention internationally over the past year. It is a valuable tool in identifying the origin of nuclear and other radioactive material which is found out of regulatory control – so called “orphan” material. In January 2014, the UK, as an active member of the Global Initiative to Counter Nuclear Terrorism, hosted a nuclear forensics workshop entitled “Blue Beagle”.  This event brought together the scientific, law enforcement and policy communities to work on nuclear forensics. We congratulate the IAEA in organising with others in July 2014 the International Conference on Advances in Nuclear Forensics.

We recognise the increases in efficiency and effectiveness that digital technologies can provide to the nuclear industry. But we are also acutely aware of the risks inherent with computerised systems including from malicious actors.  We welcome and support the work of the IAEA and the wider international community to develop common guidance on cyber protection, and we call upon states to act upon the risks inherent with digital technologies.

The UK also looks forward to the Agency’s continuing implementation of its Nuclear Security Plan. We have continued to promote international cooperation in a very practical way – bringing together Partnership members with project ideas and those with resources and expertise to encourage collaboration. Further partnerships could be achieved if States with an IAEA Integrated Nuclear Security Support Plan, requiring assistance, would authorise the release of relevant parts of their Plan.

Turning to domestic matters, the ONR has moved the regulation of civil nuclear security towards a more goal setting, outcome-based approach, with far greater responsibility on dutyholders to propose and justify security arrangements that meet ONR’s defined security objectives. In addition, the ONR is focusing on enhanced security assurance underpinned by robust security performance indicators.


The IAEA plays an essential role in verifying States’ compliance with their safeguards obligations.  We call on all those non-nuclear weapon States that have not yet done so to bring into force a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and an Additional Protocol and, where relevant, to amend their Small Quantities Protocol.  The CSA plus AP represents the current verification standard.

It is, however, essential for IAEA safeguards to develop continuously, both to address new challenges and to learn from experience gained. The UK joins the clear majority in strongly supporting the State-Level Concept, which makes greater use of the existing ability of the IAEA to consider the State as a whole. We welcome the Supplementary Document presented to the Board of Governors last week, which made it clear that the SLC is consistent with existing safeguards agreements and, where applicable, additional protocols. There are no new obligations on States to provide greater access or additional information. The SLC is a robust, objective, “common sense” optimal approach to safeguards that will strengthen effectiveness and increase efficiency.

Maintaining non-proliferation

Mr Chairman, addressing nuclear safety, security, and safeguards is fundamental to the safe growth of nuclear energy in future. We are strongly committed to the Action Plan agreed at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. One issue that underpins many of these actions is the commitment to cooperate with other States Parties or international organisations in the further development of nuclear energy. We continue to promote formal and informal cooperation agreements with others on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and, by exploring bilateral cooperation opportunities, we can establish a strategic framework for collaboration in many areas relating to civil nuclear energy to the mutual benefit of both parties.

Technical Cooperation

The UK is committed to supporting the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation (TC) Programme, and is a keen advocate of Results-Based Management (RBM). We continue to encourage the IAEA, to ensure RBM, ‘sustainable’ outcomes, accountability, transparency and synergies in the TC Programme.

Nuclear Research

A key component of our commitment to further enhance the safety, security and efficiency of nuclear energy is targeted research. Over the last 5 years we have seen a ten-fold increase in research funding with a continued emphasis on excellence. While the UK has always believed an outward facing research programme is crucial, we have strengthened our international cooperation. Our collaboration with India, for example, involves over 150 researchers. The results of this work are available in the open literature. More recently, Japan’s Ministry for Education, Culture, Sports and Technology (MEXT) and the UK’s Engineering and Physical Science Research Council have established a research collaborative programme with the first projects starting this November. Our new collaborations are also extended to many other partner countries, and these will continue to grow. It is through the challenge of research excellence that we will attract the best and brightest, our future technical and policy leaders.


Resolving issues around Iran’s nuclear programme remains one of the UK’s top priorities.  Talks this year have been productive. The E3+3 and Iran agreed to extend the Joint Plan of Action until 24 November. We believe that a comprehensive agreement is possble.  But it will be challenging. There is broad consensus on the framework for the agreement and the elements to be included. However, differences remain on key details. Whilst the IAEA track is separate from the E3+3/Iran talks, there are linkages. It will not be possible to reach a Comprehensive Agreement unless Iran demonstrates that it is fully cooperating with the IAEA and making genuine progress towards resolving all PMD issues.

It is now nearly three years since the Agency first highlighted its concerns about the possible military dimensions to the Iranian programme. The Director General’s latest report describes limited cooperation from Iran on PMD, but progress is not being made fast enough. Iran must make rapid and substantive progress on all outstanding PMD topics (including by ensuring the Agency has regular access to the right individuals, and providing requested access to information and sites.) We also call on Iran to schedule technical meetings at which the right experts can address these topics with the Agency, and to agree further PMD topics for discussion. 26. We also urge Iran to implement relevant UN Security Council and IAEA Board of Governors Resolutions, to implement the modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements to its Safeguards Agreement and to bring into force its Additional Protocol.


Full cooperation by member states with the Agency is essential to supporting the important safeguards work that the IAEA undertakes. This is why, three years since the Board of Governors resolution on Syria’s non-compliance with their IAEA Safeguards agreement, we continue to urge Syria to give the IAEA full disclosure and the cooperation that it has promised.


Finally Mr President, the UK continues to be deeply concerned by the DPRK’s continued lack of co-operation with the IAEA. This is particularly in light of DPRK’s most recent nuclear test in February 2013 in violation of the UN Security Council Resolutions, and recent observations of activity at the Yongbyon site consistent with the reactor’s operation.  We call on the DPRK to resume co-operation with the Agency, comply immediately with all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, and refrain from any further provocative actions.  The UK continues to view the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula as vital for peace and stability in the region and beyond.

Mr President, that concludes my remarks and I wish you and the conference every success.