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International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference

September 17, 2007 - 2:41pm


Remarks As Prepared for Delivery by Secretary Bodman

Thank you Mr. President.  Let me congratulate you on your selection as President of this 51st General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency.  I also wish to thank Dr. ElBaradei for his leadership as Director General.  I am very pleased to be here participating in the opening session of this General Conference.

It has already been an eventful week here in Vienna.  Yesterday I was privileged to host a ministerial meeting on the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.  This momentous event marked the tripling in size of this partnership with agreement by 16 partners on the GNEP Statement of Principles, which establishes the partnership's goals and path for implementation.

I'm also here to announce significant new reductions in our current stocks of weapons-grade plutonium.  I will elaborate more on these important milestones later, but first please allow me to read a welcoming message from President George W. Bush.

"I send greetings to those gathered for the 51st General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Every nation has a responsibility to the cause of peace, and we must continue to work together to ensure that countries that uphold their nonproliferation obligations can access peaceful nuclear energy; while preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In order to keep critical resources from terrorist networks and proliferant states, we must implement the best methods to safely and securely store, transport, and dispose of nuclear material, and the IAEA has a key role to play in these efforts.  The United States will continue working with our international partners to reduce nuclear proliferation and the threat of terrorism by advancing global security.

To address the growing need for energy in developing countries, President Vladimir Putin and I announced the Declaration on Nuclear Energy and Nonproliferation this past July.  This joint effort complements the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership announced last year and reflects our common goal to make nuclear energy available for peaceful purposes to states that meet their nonproliferation obligations and commitments to the international community.

Our nations look forward to offering viable alternatives to developing the sensitive technologies of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Fifty years ago, the IAEA was established to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and oversee peaceful nuclear energy around the world.  Today, this important agency continues to confront the threat of international nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation.  As you celebrate five decades of service, I applaud the IAEA for your global leadership and commitment to building a more secure and prosperous world.  Best wishes for a successful conference."

As President Bush makes clear, we face great challenges, but also great opportunities.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the need for clean energy and security goals that are closely linked and that transcend national boundaries and interests.

Modern civilization and the economic well being of nations require the availability of adequate, reliable supplies of energy supplies needed to light, cool, and heat cities and homes, run factories, and expand the global economy.  As populations and commercial output increase, energy consumption will only continue to grow.  In just 25 years, global energy consumption is expected to rise by over 50 percent, with 70 percent of that growth coming from the world's emerging economies.

Yet much of the developing world faces a deficit of energy and low per capita energy consumption.  Half the world's citizens are still without access to reliable or modern forms of power.  The consequences are all too well known: economic insecurity, poor living standards, and stunted development.

Swift and decisive action is needed to meet energy demand in ways that slow the growth of greenhouse gases and pollution and at the same time enable economic growth.  Our common strategy must include measures that encourage efficiency, conservation, innovation and greater use of renewable and alternative clean sources of energy.

Although there is abundant energy in sun and wind, they are intermittent sources.  At present, nuclear power is the only mature technology that can supply large amounts of emissions-free base load power to help us meet the expected growth in energy demand.  Yet that same nuclear power used in a weapon brings with it the potential for massive destruction.

New, cooperative efforts on the use and control of nuclear power are needed to grow this resource if it is to help meet energy demand and address security concerns.  Such efforts must reaffirm commitments to extend peaceful applications of nuclear energy to confront proliferation where it occurs and to strengthen international nonproliferation arrangements and controls on nuclear technologies and materials.

These elements underlie the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, or GNEP.  As I mentioned earlier, Ministers from China, France, Japan, and Russia joined me yesterday in hosting a GNEP ministerial meeting.  Through GNEP, we envision a world in which nuclear power is a leading source of energy and available to more states worldwide.  GNEP partners are committed to promoting nuclear energy as a clean source of power, reducing proliferation risks, and addressing nuclear waste burdens.

We also envision approaches to the fuel cycle that offer significant nonproliferation advantages by ending the production of separated plutonium, drawing down inventories of plutonium and spent fuel, and assuring reliable fuel services, while extracting greater energy value.  We invite other states that share this vision to join us in adopting these principles and moving forward to expand the civil use of nuclear power.

No single state can deal effectively on its own with the challenges of energy, proliferation, and waste that face the world.  Energy markets are global, as are the consequences of our energy choices.  Enduring solutions will require common approaches, shared aims, cooperation, and consistent effort.

As we move forward, reinforcing actions are needed to realize a serious expansion of nuclear power and uphold nonproliferation.  Let me suggest several:

First, we must make progress on reliable fuel service arrangements that provide cost and nonproliferation benefits.  In this regard, we welcome the proposals of a number of IAEA member states and the efforts of the IAEA Secretariat to organize alternative supply arrangements and reserves of nuclear fuel.

I hope, by the next General Conference, the IAEA is able to make significant progress toward implementing these arrangements.  I am also pleased to report that this year the United States will start down-blending 17 metric tons of highly enriched uranium to commercial fuel for use in such a reserve.

A further step is the call by the United States and Russia for all supplier states to assist countries in arranging for the supply of nuclear reactors, training, and financing, as provided in the Presidents' Joint Declaration.  This initiative will reinforce the principles of GNEP and related initiatives and encourage states' legitimate interests to share in the peaceful benefits of nuclear energy.

For these states, GNEP partners agreed yesterday to place a major focus on infrastructure development.  The IAEA role in this area is vital and, in our view, should be augmented.  For this reason, the United States will invest $1 million for training, assistance, and related projects that advance infrastructure milestones identified by the IAEA for the safe and secure development of nuclear power.

We recognize that not every nation aspires to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and that some have pursued military programs under the cover of civilian ones.  To prevent illicit programs like those in Iran and North Korea we must all continue to insist on full transparency and compliance with resolutions of the UN Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors.

As a responsible community, we must be willing to impose real penalties on countries that evade their obligations.  There can be no partial solutions that reward noncompliance or the illicit use of nuclear technology.

Second, we must ensure security for weapons-usable uranium and plutonium and for nuclear plants.  In cooperation with the Russian Federation, security upgrades under the Bratislava Initiative for fissile materials should be completed by the end of next year.  This achievement is a direct result of U.S.-Russian partnership to reduce nuclear threats.

Cooperation to eliminate excess fissile material stocks also will continue.  Together, the United States and Russia have committed to remove or eliminate roughly 870 metric tons of highly enriched uranium from defense use, and 68 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium.  This is enough material to make more than 42,000 nuclear weapons.

The United States continues to draw down its nuclear weapons stocks, consistent with our nonproliferation commitments and national security requirements.  In fact, by 2012 the stockpile will be half of the 2001 level - the lowest level since the 1950s.  We have also nearly doubled the rate at which retired nuclear weapons are dismantled.  As a result of these efforts, I am pleased to announce today that the United States will remove an additional nine metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium from our defense stocks.

This material, sufficient for well over 1,000 weapons, is to be processed for use as fuel in U.S. commercial nuclear reactors - so that it can never again be used in weapons.

Third, IAEA safeguards must be robust and capable of addressing proliferation threats.  Full confidence in IAEA safeguards is essential for nuclear power to grow safely and securely.  To this end, the U.S. Department of Energy will launch this year a Next Generation Safeguards Program.  Through this program, we seek to ensure that modern technology, the best scientific expertise, and adequate resources are available to keep pace with expanding IAEA responsibilities.

Fourth, national controls and regulations for the safe and secure use of nuclear power must be in place for any nation using or aspiring to use nuclear power.  A nuclear or radiological incident whether as an act of terror, or human or mechanical error, or a failure of safeguards could erode public confidence and cripple the future of nuclear energy.

For this reason, we seek universal adherence to, and full compliance with, international nonproliferation requirements.  We must steadily work to improve nonproliferation mechanisms and practices.

And where mechanisms are available to build national capacity such as the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, the Proliferation Security Initiative, UN Security Council Resolution 1540, nuclear emergency conventions, and the IAEA's nuclear security and safety programs we encourage participation, leveraging of resources, and coordination of assistance.

Finally, to facilitate nuclear trade and promote fair competition, we should agree to put in place an international nuclear liability regime.  I am pleased to report that the United States is working to complete the steps needed to deposit its instrument of ratification to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation.  I urge other member states to join us in ratifying this instrument and working to bring it into effect by next year's General Conference.

In closing, when the United States looks to the future, we see a world with new arrangements that provide for more nuclear energy and reduced risk.  With vision, political will and cooperation, the prerequisites for the safe and secure expansion of nuclear energy in the 21st century can be established and sustained.  Working with member states and the IAEA, we believe that result is not only possible, but essential.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

Location: Vienna, Austria

Media contact(s): Megan Barnett, (202) 586-4940