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U.S. Energy Secretary Addresses International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference

September 19, 2011 - 4:48pm

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VIENNA, AUSTRIA U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu addressed the International Atomic Energy Agency's General Conference today in Vienna.  Opening with a message from President Barack Obama, Secretary Chu highlighted the importance of safety and security in the nuclear industry in light of the tragic events at Fukushima this year, and outlined the four priorities of President Obama’s nuclear agenda: promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy, strengthening the nuclear proliferation regime, pursuing nuclear disarmament and enhancing nuclear security

The following are excerpts of Secretary Chu’s remarks as prepared for delivery

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF NUCLEAR ENERGY: “Nuclear power will continue to be an important part of our energy mix, both in the United States and around the world.  Its role grows more valuable as we confront a changing climate, increasing energy demand, and a struggling global economy… The United States recently announced the availability of a reserve stockpile of low-enriched uranium for countries pursing peaceful civilian nuclear programs.”

ON LESSONS LEARNED FROM FUKUSHIMA: “…the Fukushima disaster reminds us that nuclear safety and security require continued vigilance.  All nations have a responsibility to learn from Japan’s experience. In the United States, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission Task Force has completed an initial 90-day review of the agency’s regulatory oversight and safety standards, given insights from Fukushima, and provided a set of recommendations to enhance reactor safety.”

ON NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION: “Promoting civil nuclear energy must go hand in hand with strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime by making international safeguards more efficient and more effective.   …And that is why we encourage all sates to bring into force and fully implement comprehensive safeguards agreements along with an Additional Protocol. Only in this way will the IAEA have the authority needed to meet its verification responsibilities.”

ON COOPERATION WITH OUR INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS: “In cooperation with our partners,  we have deployed radiation detection systems to 19 transit sites worldwide, continue to improve security at nuclear facilities, and are working to increase information sharing among police and security services to counter nuclear smuggling.”

ON PROGRESS SINCE THE 2010 NUCLEAR SECURITY SUMMIT: “Since the Summit, the United States has removed approximately 400 kilograms of highly enriched uranium and plutonium – enough material to make over 15 nuclear weapons – from several countries.  We’ve also down-blended 700 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from civil nuclear programs to low enriched uranium, making it unsuitable for use in nuclear weapons.”

Throughout the speech, Secretary Chu emphasized the importance of working together to attain the goals of President Obama’s nuclear agenda. He highlighted the centrality of the IAEA to achieving peaceful uses of the atom while preventing nuclear proliferation and environmental harm.

“Albert Einstein once said, ‘Through the release of atomic energy, our generation has brought into the world the most revolutionary forces since prehistoric man’s discovery of fire,’” Secretary Chu concluded. “Working together, we can help ensure that this revolutionary force is used for peace and prosperity, not death and destruction. And we can build a brighter and more secure future for ourselves and for future generations.”

To read Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu’s speech to the IAEA, click here.

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