Vienna, 1 August 2022
“In this moment of global uncertainty, anxiety, fear and distress, we must come together and recommit to the noble principles enshrined in the NPT: nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament, and to promote cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”
This was the message from IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi at the opening session of the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which he called vital to peace and development.
He pledged that the IAEA would be with them every step of the way.
“We cannot build a more secure world with more nuclear weapons in existing arsenals and if more countries seek to acquire them,” he told heads of state and government, foreign ministers and other delegates from over 180 countries meeting in New York today.
In his ten-minute address, Mr Grossi spoke about global threats to international security, the growing role low-carbon nuclear power is expected to play in meeting the world’s energy and climate needs, the threats to nuclear safety in the war in Ukraine and the use of nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes globally.
The objective of the NPT, a landmark international treaty that came into force in 1970, is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament. Every five years, senior officials from signatories come together to review the operation of the Treaty.
The IAEA plays a significant role in the Treaty’s implementation. Through inspections and other activities, it verifies that States do not divert nuclear facilities and material to military use, and it facilitates the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes in a myriad of areas, including health, food security, and environmental protection.
Referring to non-proliferation and the relationship between governments and the IAEA, Mr Grossi said:
“Those who truly favour effective safeguards, would never use their cooperation as a bargaining chip, or IAEA inspectors as pawns in a political game.”
Mr Grossi urged all countries that had not yet done so to ratify the latest and most up-to-date legal instruments, enabling the IAEA to fully carry out its nuclear verification mission.
“A safeguards regime, reinforced by the additional protocol and the amended small quantities protocol, can give us all the trust and confidence we need that States using nuclear energy for the wellbeing of their people, are not hiding anything.”
He spoke about the status of nuclear verification in Iran:
“If we are to offer credible assurances that Iran’s sizable and growing nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes, Iran must grant IAEA inspectors access commensurate to the size of that programme and provide us complete information.” He added: “The lack of progress in verifying the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme will have consequences on the regional security landscape.”
Growing use of nuclear energy
With the world facing an energy crisis as well as climate crisis, nuclear power – which currently provides about 10% of the world’s electricity, including over a quarter of its low-carbon electricity – is expected to play an increasingly key role.
“Countries are now facing a choice: continue to depend on coal, oil and natural gas to provide that reliability of power generation or turn more decisively to a sustainable energy mix in which nuclear is already playing a valuable round-the-clock role. Among these choices, only the latter choice mitigates global warming and the air pollution that kills 8 million people each year.”
The growing role of nuclear power makes the work of the IAEA in nuclear safety and security ever more important, he added.
“Nuclear is safer than it has ever been. But we are being tested once again. This time by war. War in Ukraine is threatening one of the world’s biggest nuclear power programmes,” Mr Grossi said. He spoke of the IAEA’s seven indispensable pillars of nuclear safety and security, which are being violated, particularly at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, which is under Russian occupation.
“While this war rages on, inaction is unconscionable. If an accident occurs at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, we will not have a natural disaster to blame. We will have only ourselves to answer to,” he added, spelling out the need for an IAEA team of experts and safeguards inspectors to visit the plant.
Nuclear for development
The peaceful use of nuclear technology makes a direct contribution to nine of the 17 United National Sustainable Development Goals, and indirectly supports all the goals.
“It cures diseases; helps feed the hungry; protects the environment, and powers progress without harming the environment,” Mr Grossi said – underlining the role of nuclear technologies for development.
“The IAEA is the vehicle by which we realize the goals of the NPT to spread the benefits of the atom while preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons,” he said. “Much of this indispensable work would be impossible without the NPT.”
In closing, Mr Grossi reminded delegates of the “the extraordinary achievement the NPT represents”.
“The Treaty you are here to Review is vital to peace and development. That is why we must recommit to the NPT and protect it. The IAEA will be with you every step of the way,” he said.
Source – IAEA