On early Saturday morning (the 22nd of September) the 56th Annual Session of IAEA General Conference in Vienna was concluded. On its last meeting resolutions aimed at strengthening the IAEA's work in the areas of nuclear science and technology, safety, security, safeguards and technical cooperation were adopted. The speakers of the Conference expressed deep concern about the situation in the Middle East region, particularly about the outstanding questions concerning the nuclear programs in Iran and Syria. Even the North Korea's continued provocative actions were criticized. Alongside with the security issues, the enhanced work on nuclear safety following the Fukushima Daiichi accident, as well as the peaceful uses of nuclear technology was highlighted. Among others it was focused on a project which aims to improve water management in the Sahel region in Western Africa. As one of the main sponsors to this project, Sweden together with Japan hosted a big reception during the conference week, at which DG Amano was the guest of honor.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) divides its work into four categories: Nuclear safety, nuclear security, technical cooperation and implementation and verification of safeguards. During the General Conference, four resolutions were adopted aiming at strengthening the work in all these fields.
As a part of the technological cooperation, IAEA is conducting the so called Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI). Within the framework for this initiative, Sweden will throughout 2012 contribute with three million Swedish kronors to a project which aims to improve water management in the Sahel region in Western Africa. In support of this project, Sweden together with Japan, which is also one of the main sponsors, hosted a big reception, at which IAEA's Director General (DG) Amano was the guest of honor. Amano made a short statement, in which he presented the project. In his welcoming words, the Swedish ambassador and Governor to IAEA Nils Daag, especially welcomed the many representatives from the African member states. He was glad that Sweden is able to participate in the PUI, and thereby demonstrate the diversity of the work of the Agency – far too many associate the Agency almost exclusively with the verification of safeguards, he said.
Photos from the reception are to be found on the IAEA:s photo page.
The verification of safeguards is, nevertheless, one of the most important tasks for IAEA. It was therefore an important achievement when the Agency could adopt the resolution aimed at strengthening the effectiveness and improving the efficiency of the safeguards system. The resolution was adopted by roll call vote (89 in favour, 0 against and 16 abstaining), since there was no consensus about the text. Iran, among others, suggested amendments which could not be accepted by all the member states. Compared to last year, when no safeguards resolution at all was adopted, this year's resolution was a considerable success.
The other three resolutions, dealing with the politically less sensitive fields of nuclear safety, nuclear security and technical cooperation, were adopted by acclamation.
In the general debate, where all the member states had the opportunity to speak, the common themes were the enhanced work on nuclear safety following the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the outstanding issues regarding the nuclear programs in Iran, Syria, and North Korea, as well as the peaceful uses of the nuclear technology. DG Amano expressed deep concern about the fruitless negotiations with Iran and urged the country to, without any further delay, fully cooperate with the Agency in solving the outstanding issues, including the possible military dimension of the country's nuclear program. Also Syria and DPKR were urged to fully cooperate with the IAEA.
Issues concerning political security have high priority within the IAEA. However, for the majority of the Agency's member states, it is the peaceful use of nuclear technology that is the most important part the work. This was made clear during the general debate. For developing countries, the IAEA's actions when it comes to eradiation of diseases, pests and cancer and promoting access to fresh water and healthy food are most significant. Appealing to this was Uganda's idea, that the motto of IAEA should be changed from "Atoms for peace" to "Atoms for development".