(May 7, 2004) The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Dr Mohamed El Baradei, has said he sees "no case" for reforming the organisation he leads, in particular over its inherent conflict of interest between both promoting and regulating the world-wide nuclear industry.
(609.5606) FOE Europe - The IAEA Director General was questioned by FOEE during his recent visit to the European Parliament in Brussels, in which he also discussed future scenarios for nuclear power with MEPs and lobbyists.
Introducing his speech, said he was "pleased to be returning to the development of civil nuclear power, having spent the last two years preoccupied with Iraq and proliferation issues," before embarking on a fairly predictable tour of nuclear topics.
But in the questioning that followed, Dr El Baradei said he "did not accept" that promotion and safety regulation were in conflict with each other, and that both these aims should continue to be central to what IAEA does.
As a UN organisation, the IAEA reports to the General Assembly. But it is its Statute, first adopted by member states in 1956, that primarily guides its operations.
Article 2 states that the organisation's main objectives are to "accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world" and, "to ensure … that assistance provided by it… is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose."
In fulfilling Article 2, the IAEA is more well known for the second objective, namely its work on nuclear non-proliferation, which has been undertaken most recently in countries like Iraq, Iran, and Libya.
But IAEA promotion of the nuclear is clear from, for example, "promoting innovation through our International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles" highlighted by Dr El Baradei during his speech. It is also clear from the general tone of the many public statements produced by the IAEA that it has no doubt nuclear power ought to remain part of global energy supply.
Friends of the Earth is calling for all such institutional conflicts of interest to be stopped, and for the clear separation and independence of regulatory functions from that of nuclear promotion. After 50 years of sustained and often flawed support from national and international public bodies, the nuclear industry ought to be able to defend its interests on its own.
References: IAEA, www.iaea.org