‘All is not right’ as IAEA opens its 52nd General Conference

Генеральный директор МАГАТЭ Мохамед ЕльБарадей на открытии 52й Генеральной Конференции организации.

Publish date: October 1, 2008

Written by: Andrey Ozharovsky

Translated by: Charles Digges

ST. PETERSBURG - The opening of the 52nd General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency began with an address by it’s Director, Dr. Mohammad ElBaradei, that “all is not well” in the world’s largest civilian nuclear watchdog group, and he appealed for more authority, money, and support.

The conference on Monday comprised all 145 member states of the IAEA and will continue until Friday, with the aim of confirming the agency’s programme and budget for the coming year – and to discuss its most pressing problems.

On the conference’s first day, ElBaradei began with a stark and jolting statement: "The problems facing the world in the nuclear arena are plain for all of us to see," he said according the IAEA’s transcript of his statement.

"But I must stand here today and let you know that all is not well with the IAEA."

It has been difficult, as of late, to characterise the IAEA’s activities as successful. More and more states are striving to master nuclear weapons. The number of accidents taking place at nuclear power stations and nuclear fuel cycle installations is rising.

Many are bearing witness to the fact that producing energy by splitting atoms is outmoded technology from the 20th century – and that continuing its use into the 21st century is not, in the very least, honorable.

Moreover, the goal of the IAEA’s creation already seems a little anachronistic.

In its charter, which was ratified in 1956, it says: “The Agency strives to achieve more rapid and wide use of atomic energy for the support of peace, health and well being of the entire world.”

A half a century ago, it may have seemed that the “peaceful atom” would have brought with it peace, prosperity and health. But now it is more than clear that this has not happened.

The proliferation of nuclear technology has brought risks not only to the environment but to the peace and economic development.

The IAEA, nevertheless, survives on the donations of its member countries and continued to represent the interests of the strongest nuclear lobbies. Delegates at the 52 Annual Conference of the IAEA, representing their national nuclear industries, would hardly turn down the role of playing the movers and shakers that continue ot support the outmoded and dangerous nuclear technology.

ElBaradei himself, having begun with his shocking statement on the state of the organisation he controls, came to a very simple conclusion, which requires more money and more power.

"We really have reached a turning point," he said. “The Agency can do much to meet the world’s nuclear challenges, he emphasized – if given the authority, resources, personnel, and technology.”

The nuclear lobby has evidently stumbled on hard times if not even the IAEA is not sure of its own powers.

A full text of ElBaradei’s statements is available here.

Andrei Ozharovsky, a physicist with the Ecodefence group, is a frequent contributor to Bellona Web.