The last year has seen many different challenges and issues with regard to nuclear energy, on economic, environmental, security and global levels. Non-proliferation has also been high on the agenda, as ever, with events in and around the Korean Peninsula keeping all sides, as well as the IAEA, concerned to see concord and progress. As well as these, the IAEA elected a new Director General in 2009.
January 2009 saw an additional protocol to the nuclear safeguards agreement between the IAEA and the US. This means that all of the five nuclear-weapon states that are signatories to the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons treaty have now fulfilled their undertaking on the issue. The agreement with the US came into force on January 6. Also in January, experts from 40 countries met to examine issues concerning radiation safety and the possible effects on animal and plant life. They met to discuss matters pertaining to general safety as well as environmental protection. January also saw the publication of the third report in a series produced by the IAEA concerning the performance of Japan’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the wake of the earthquake that struck Niigata and Nagano prefectures in July 2006. The report happily confirmed the safe operation of the plant following the sad and unfortunate events of 2006.
Early February saw IAEA Marine Environment scientists join experts from 26 countries in calling for urgent action to curtail the rapidly-rising levels of acidity in the world’s oceans. The need for such urgent action was described by scientists in Monaco as ‘the challenge of the century’, and that the issue was exacerbated by Man’s dependence on fossil fuels. The chemistry behind such changes in the oceans’ acidity levels are said to be ‘irrefutable’, and are so severe that the impact on marine organisms is unavoidable, thus underscoring the need for imminent action.
The end of February also saw the IAEA’s Director General, Mohamed ElBarade, circulate his most recent report into Nuclear safeguards in Iran, as well as safeguard recommendations for Syria. These reports and discussions were discussed further at a meeting in early March in Vienna, where, focusing primarily upon matters of safety and non-proliferation, it was widely concluded that more work must be done in order to ensure safety. The Director General also noted that Iran had not suspended enrichment activity, nor had it implemented the additional protocol.
The end of April saw welcome news with regards to the encouraging progress of an IEAE-supported project aiming to manage issues relating to pollution in the Caribbean using nuclear analytic techniques.
The month of May saw an international conference on environmental remediation in Kazhakstan. The conference primarily addressed issues relating to safety and safety regulations.
In June, the IAEA Division of Nuclear Applications in Food and Agriculture participated in a study that revealed the genome of the cow-the first such genetic mapping of a mammalian livestock ever completed. The study took six years in total, and involved more than 300 researchers from 25 countries.
In August, member States of Non-Proliferation received the latest report on nuclear safeguards in Iran and Syria. During this month, powerful radioactive sources were taken out of Lebanon, with the sources now being safely stored in Russia.
September 8 saw the latest annual projections for the future of nuclear power, with both high and low projections for 2030 being higher than in 2008.
October saw a meeting of members in Vienna, to discuss supplying nuclear fuel for an Iranian research reactor. Discussions were also had regarding IAEA access to inspect a newly disclosed uranium enrichment facility under construction in the Iranian holy city of Qom.
In December, a week-long conference was held in Kyoto in order to highlight the role of fast reactors in meeting global needs for cleaner and more efficient sources of energy.
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