IAEA Director General’s Statement at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Excerpts)

November 6, 2017

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is always a pleasure for me to speak at the Wilson Center.

I am pleased that you have chosen to devote a two-day conference to the first 60 years of the IAEA and delighted to see so many old friends and colleagues.

The IAEA is proud to celebrate six decades of serving the world.

The Agency has helped to improve the health and prosperity of millions of people by making nuclear science and technology available in health care, food and agriculture, industry and other areas.

We also contributed to international peace and security by verifying that nuclear material stays in peaceful uses.

From the 26 countries which ratified the IAEA Statute in 1957, we have grown to an organisation with 168 Member States that spans the globe. And our membership continues to expand.  

Our mandate is Atoms for Peace and Development. We address highly sensitive issues such as the nuclear programmes of North Korea and Iran. We help developing countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to introduce nuclear power, if they wish to do so. We serve as the global platform for nuclear safety and security. Most importantly, we deliver concrete results.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will now turn to the nuclear verification work of the IAEA.

We implement safeguards in 181 countries, sending inspectors all over the world to check that countries’ activities remain in peaceful purposes. Let me take a moment to explain how this works.

Under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), non-nuclear-weapon States are required to conclude a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA. They must declare all nuclear facilities and other locations where nuclear material and activities exist. The IAEA analyses the declarations and sends inspectors to verify that the declarations are correct. We install cameras, tamper-proof seals and other equipment so that we know what is happening when our inspectors are not physically present. After this initial stage, we continue to monitor the facilities and locations to verify that no misuse of facilities, or diversion of nuclear material from peaceful activities, takes place.  

Since the end of the last century, the IAEA has been strongly encouraging States to conclude an additional protocol, which is a very powerful verification tool. This requires countries to submit very extensive and detailed declarations about their activities related to the nuclear fuel cycle, and to update them at least once a year. The Agency analyses the declarations and, if necessary, seeks clarifications and accesses to specific locations. Countries have an obligation to provide both clarifications and access. Sometimes countries do not realise that certain activities, for example some types of scientific research, are safeguards-relevant, and may need to be declared. Agency staff work closely with their national counterparts to ensure that such activities are declared.

The important thing for us is to gain a full understanding of a country’s nuclear fuel cycle – everything from the mining of uranium, all the way through to the final disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste. This enables us to spot any anomalies, or the possible diversion of nuclear material from peaceful activities. Our interest is in locations with nuclear material, nuclear fuel-cycle related equipment and expertise, or combinations of these elements. Whether or not a particular location is civilian or military is not relevant for the Agency.  And, as I mentioned, if we decide we need access to a site, States must provide it.

The IAEA has a legal obligation to protect confidential information which countries share with us in implementing their safeguards agreements and additional protocols. This is why we do not disclose information about the facilities and locations we inspect. Safeguards are implemented in all countries in the same rigorous, impartial and objective manner, in accordance with these legal agreements, and with standards and practices established over decades.  For States with a comprehensive safeguards agreement, our aim is to provide “credible assurance” that all nuclear material in a country remains in peaceful activities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Having explained the basic features of IAEA safeguards, I will now say a few words about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action concerning Iran’s nuclear programme, which was agreed in 2015.

The IAEA was asked by the UN Security Council to verify and monitor that Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA. The IAEA Board of Governors authorised us to do so.  The IAEA is not a party to the agreement, but we played a key role in bringing it about.

When I spoke to you last year, the JCPOA had been in effect for just a few months. Now, almost two years since Implementation Day, I can state that the nuclear-related commitments made by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented.

Iran is now subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime. It has committed itself to fully implementing its comprehensive safeguards agreement and is provisionally applying the Additional Protocol. It also agreed to additional transparency measures under the JCPOA. Our inspectors have expanded access to locations, and have more information about Iran’s nuclear programme, which is smaller than it was before the agreement came into effect.

A week ago, I visited Tehran and met President Rouhani, Vice President Salehi and Foreign Minister Zarif. I requested them to fully implement Iran’s nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA. They reaffirmed their determination to do so.