On 8 October 2015, UNU hosted “Atoms for Peace and Development”, a public Conversation Series event featuring Mr Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Moderated by Sebastian von Einsiedel (Director, UNU Centre for Policy Research), the discussion jumped straight to the headlines of the day on the recent Iran nuclear deal. Mr Amano gave a thorough explanation, making the distinction between the deal involving the IAEA and Iran, which he termed technical, and the agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran, which he labelled political. Mr Amano indicated that the IAEA is not meant to be a political organisation, and that a robust verification procedure is essential for impartiality, stating that “We (the IAEA) do not presuppose a country is cheating, we verify the facts.”
Mr Amano called attention to the recent IAEA report assessing the causes and consequences of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. He emphasised that although the accident was triggered by natural causes, Japan was not sufficiently prepared for a severe nuclear accident due to the widespread assumption in Japan that its nuclear power plants were so safe that an accident of this magnitude was simply unthinkable. He stressed the need for increased robustness of regulatory bodies, and for Japan to take advice from the international community of nuclear experts.
Mr Amano further indicated that while human error would always be a concern, the IAEA was working to make nuclear power as safe as possible. Even in the tragic aftermath of the multiple accidents at Fukushima, he highlighted that important lessons had been learned, which are leading to new regulations and even nuclear facility stress tests in Europe.
When asked about the work of the IAEA in promoting peaceful uses of nuclear science, Mr Amano was quick to point out that nuclear science has benefits to fields other than energy, adding that nuclear technology could help in addressing 13 of the 17 recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals. He enthusiastically explained the uses of nuclear technology in medical diagnosis and imaging, as well as agriculture and water management.
He reminded the audience that while it was not the role of the IAEA to encourage or discourage member states from initiating a nuclear science programme, once a member state had decided they would launch one, the IAEA would make itself available to support them.
During the event’s question-and-answer session the audience engaged with Mr Amano on a number of nuclear safety and security issues ranging from public perceptions of nuclear medicine and radiological therapy, to the implications of the Iran nuclear deal.
Visit the UNU Conversation Series page for more information on the series and upcoming events.