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International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference

September 29, 2008 - 3:43pm

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Remarks as Prepared for Secretary Bodman

Thank you, Mr. President.  Congratulations on your selection as President of this, the 52nd General Conference.  And I again extend my thanks and appreciation to Dr. El Baradei for his leadership as the IAEA's Director General.

Mr. President, for a half century the IAEA has led the international effort to make nuclear power safe for the world.  Though we have made significant progress in that regard, a great deal of work yet remains.

The IAEA is critical to the global effort to enhance energy security.  In a world where fossil fuels alone cannot meet the projected growth in energy demand, where energy production and consumption must be balanced as never before against environmental concerns, nuclear power is a major part of our energy future.

Therefore we must continue our efforts, forthrightly, in a spirit of cooperation - if for no other reason than that the alternatives simply are not acceptable.

Before I continue, please allow me to share this message from President George W. Bush.

PRESIDENTIAL MESSAGE TO THE GENERAL CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY

I send greetings to those gathered for the 52nd Annual General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency and congratulate the IAEA on its long and distinguished record of accomplishments, both in helping bring nuclear technology to improve lives around the world and in seeking to ensure that nuclear energy is not diverted from peaceful use.

Earlier this year, a Commission of Eminent Persons led by former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo produced a comprehensive report on the future of the Agency.

This Commission underscored the need for the international community to work together to strengthen safeguards against nuclear proliferation, to promote nuclear safety and security, and to promote the contribution of nuclear energy to peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world.

We support these goals.

Member states must also do their part.  The United States will act to make the advantages of emission-free nuclear energy and technology available to a wide range of states, particularly developing countries, consistent with nonproliferation, safety, and security principles.

We are prepared to provide assistance in the peaceful development of nuclear energy, by facilitating access to nuclear reactors and assisting with the necessary financing; helping countries build nuclear energy infrastructures that conform to the highest standards for safety, security, and nonproliferation; developing solutions for managing spent fuel and waste; and bolstering the international fuel services market to ensure reliable access to nuclear fuel.

The United States also will work to ensure that the IAEA has the technical and political tools necessary to meet its safeguards responsibilities to ensure that expansion of the benefits of nuclear energy does not contribute to nuclear proliferation.

Please accept my best wishes for a successful conference.

MESSAGE ENDS

President Bush is a strong proponent of nuclear energy and the chief driver behind a number of initiatives I'd like to report on today.

Mr. President, in the United States' view only a considerable increase in the use of commercial nuclear power will enable the world's largest economies to meet the 50 percent increase in energy demand the International Energy Agency projects to occur by the year 2030 and the carbon reduction goals agreed to at the most recent G8 Summit.

The power of the atom should be available to every nation committed to its peaceful use that accepts the highest standards of safety, security, and nonproliferation.

Together, we must address three critical challenges to nuclear power's peaceful expansion: cost, waste and proliferation.  And we must address them in quick order, ahead of the growing expressions of interest in nuclear power from so many parts of the world.

We must make the development of a global commercial nuclear infrastructure a priority and we must assist in arranging financing for these capital intensive projects.

In the United States we have been revitalizing our nuclear industry through loan guarantees, risk insurance and by streamlining the permitting process.  A little more than a year ago there were no applications for new nuclear plant construction pending at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  Now there are 15 combined license applications on file, with nine on the docket.

We are also addressing the waste issue by filing a license application for the long-term waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain.

The world needs a nuclear liability regime based on the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. Such a convention will widen opportunities for commercial nuclear trade, make a broader range of technologies available to nations seeking to introduce nuclear power and protect our citizens and nuclear industries.

The United States ratified the CSC this spring and I urge other countries to do so promptly.

Tomorrow I will travel to Paris for a ministerial-level meeting of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership  or GNEP.  When I was here last year, GNEP had 16 partners.  It now has 21 -- and I expect there will be more after the meeting.

GNEP is our best pathway toward making commercial nuclear power widely available, on a global scale.

GNEP's members are committed to the promotion of nuclear energy as a clean source of power in a way that reduces proliferation risks and nuclear waste burdens.

If you share the GNEP Statement of Principles' vision and values I ask you to support this effort to establish a new framework for the commercial use of nuclear power, accelerating and enlarging peaceful nuclear uses, while ensuring such uses do not further any military purpose.

Our goals are ambitious but they can be met.

The technologies we need have been identified, at least conceptually.  And we envision cooperation to support this effort, including assured supply of nuclear fuel, a mechanism for which is under discussion here.

We believe such assurances, based on the market and back-up fuel reserves, provide a viable alternative to the spread of sensitive technologies.

In that regard I am pleased to report that the United States will donate $50 million toward the establishment of an International Nuclear Fuel Bank under IAEA auspices.  And we welcome the $10 million contribution by the United Arab Emirates and Norway's earlier commitment.

We've made a good start; we must finish the work.

I urge all of you, here and now, to join in contributing so that the IAEA Board of Governors may establish the international fuel bank by the end of this year.

Finally, we must continue to enhance international safeguards.

The U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration is doing so through our Next Generation Safeguards Initiative, whose inaugural meeting I was pleased to attend just two weeks ago.

This is part of our effort to plan ahead and stay ahead by fielding new technologies for nuclear reactors and fuel cycle plants, training the next generation of experts and advancing international cooperation.   It is helping us reassess the existing system of international safeguards with an eye toward making it more effective and relevant to current and future challenges.

We come to this knowing that not all nations will play by the rules even though a vast majority insists they be respected.  We must have the means to assure ourselves that peaceful nuclear programs do not mask military ambitions.

Unless international safeguards are strengthened to promote confidence and security, we risk losing this opportunity to allow for the commercial use of nuclear power on a global scale and make it more difficult to produce an energy secure future in line with our concerns about the global environment.

The Additional Protocol is central to this effort and must be in force universally if its purpose is to be achieved.

For our part, the United States hopes to deposit its instrument of ratification by the end of the year, and I urge others who have yet to do so to join us.

Mr. President, the opportunity has presented itself to us. We are poised on the edge of a promising new future where the peaceful, clean use of commercial nuclear energy will power the world's developed and developing economies, raising living standards and further reducing and strictly controlling nuclear materials sought by proliferators and terrorists.

Still, we must continue to pay attention to nuclear power's military aspects.  Thanks to President Bush's leadership, the United States has achieved historic reductions in our strategic nuclear forces.

Four years ago the President directed the reduction of the total U.S. nuclear stockpile by 50 percent in addition to the warhead reductions agreed to in the 2002 Moscow Treaty.

Well, I am pleased to tell you we've accomplished that objective five years sooner than planned, and we will have a further 15 percent reduction by 2012.  As a result the United States' nuclear stockpile is, today, roughly the size it was when President Eisenhower was in office.

There are positive developments all around us.

Today, more safeguards agreements are in force and more nuclear material and borders are secure against illicit trafficking than ever before.  And the international consensus against proliferation and terrorism has never been stronger.

There are some who believe that the fabric of the nonproliferation regime is coming apart. 

We disagree.

Through our actions and shared efforts, solid progress has been made to reduce dangers and Non-Proliferation Treaty system is stronger as a result. By any objective measure, we are safer from nuclear terrorism than we were ten years ago.  Nuclear weapons material security work in Russia under the Bratislava initiative is nearly complete.

We've purchased over 300 metric tons of Russian weapons grade highly enriched uranium for down-blending.   We have converted 51 reactors in 31 countries to low enriched uranium, enabling us to secure two tons of weapons-usable material.  And we're working to dispose of 34 metric tons each of U.S. and Russian weapons grade plutonium.

From the establishment of GNEP to Libya's decision to end its nuclear development program, from the U.S.-Russian Bratislava Initiative that has secured hundreds of tons of nuclear materials and weapons in the former Soviet Union, to the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, we are moving toward the future envisioned when this organization was founded half a century ago.

But there is still much work to do.

If we continue to act with decisiveness today, when the world has its best opportunity ever to restructure the international fuel cycle in ways that fortify nonproliferation, we can prevent the emergence of new, nuclear weapons states and realize the economic and environmental benefits of nuclear energy on a truly global scale.

This is a bold agenda, developed out of necessity.  We can and must bring the nuclear renaissance we all know is in motion to a global level that will bring with it a new era of worldwide prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen of the IAEA, I thank you.

Location: Vienna, Austria

Media contact(s): Bethany Shively, (202) 586-4940

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