Progress at the IAEA

Posted by Glyn T. Davies
October 13, 2011
People Pass the Entrance of the International Atomic Energy Agency

The last few weeks in Vienna have been dramatic, hectic, and productive. We've just completed both the third Board of Governors meeting of the year at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as the agency's annual General Conference. This is the diplomatic double-header where you see what international organizations are all about, and the vital role they play in keeping the world safe. High-level ministers, intrepid negotiators and wise subject matter experts convene here in Vienna, a stone's throw from the Danube river, to hash out the rules of the road on a set of vitally important issues: supporting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, keeping the world's nuclear power plants safe, securing nuclear material from terrorists around the globe, and ensuring that member states are meeting their obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

The head of the United States delegation to the General Conference was Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. A Nobel laureate physicist, Secretary Chu possesses a unique ability to engage on matters of both science and policy with deep knowledge and fluency. During a scientific forum on the role nuclear science plays in combating the mounting threats to the world's supply of clean water, Secretary Chu kept a room full of several hundred delegates at rapt attention -- no small feat, I should note -- while clicking through a powerpoint slideshow weaving together topics ranging from climate change to subatomic particles.

I was particularly glad to see progress on two policy fronts throughout the conference. The first came with the adoption of IAEA Director General Amano's Nuclear Safety Action Plan. Spurred by the incident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan last spring, the IAEA consulted with its 151 Member States to establish a new framework for ensuring the safety of nuclear reactors around the globe. The United States played a big part in developing this plan, and we are certain it will have a great impact on nuclear safety. You can find out more about the IAEA's plan at www.vienna.usmission.gov. The second positive step we saw on the political front was the decision among the Arab group of Member States not to put forward a highly divisive, politicized resolution that would single out Israel while ignoring major regional concerns. We were glad not to have to contend with such a distraction during the important work of the General Conference, and took the move as a heartening sign of possibility for new cooperation among the countries of the Middle East in the future.

There's much more detailed information on U.S. policy related to the General Conference available at the U.S. Mission's website, which I encourage you to visit and explore.

Editor's Note: This entry first appeared on Ambassador Davies' blog.

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