Towards an innovation economy

Saturday, 21 September 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Mr. President, Director General, distinguished delegates, at the outset, let me congratulate you, Mr. President, on your election to this high office. My delegation has no doubt that under your able and inspiring stewardship this important session would be able to achieve a successful outcome. I wish to assure you, Mr. President, of the unstinted support and cooperation of my delegation in your tasks ahead. Our sincere appreciation goes as well to your predecessor, Ambassador Carlos Barros Oreiro of Uruguay for his dedication and hard work. Mr. President, my delegation is happy that the membership of IAEA is expanding steadily each year. Today we welcome into our fold Brunei Darussalam and The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. They are among the members of the Commonwealth, who will be warmly received in Sri Lanka as my country hosts the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo in November 2013. It is our firm conviction that Brunei Darussalam and The Bahamas will undoubtedly work towards strengthening the Agency and contribute to the success of its work. Mr. President, we have before us, the IAEA Annual Report 2012 which takes us past the different milestones the Agency has travelled in delivering on its multi-faceted mandate. The statement made by Director General Yukio Amano earlier today has highlighted some of the key aspects of this report and updated the delegations on the recent developments in all areas of its mandate. This report, combined with several other documents on thematic issues, provides a detailed account of the Agency’s work on safeguards, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, scientific and civil applications, nuclear safety and security as well as technical cooperation. We commend the Agency for its continued proactive role at all levels, consistent with its statutory mandate “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world”. Sri Lanka Mr. President, the Government of Sri Lanka is fully conscious that, to keep pace with new and emerging trends in the nuclear field, and to better respond to future challenges, the role of technology and research should be strengthened and their capacity and contribution improved. It is in this context that the Ten Year Horizon Development Program representing the vision of the President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa becomes particularly relevant. Developing nuclear science and technology, including nuclear applications, for national advancement is clearly a component of our program to deliver on that vision. The objective is to promote and harness civil nuclear applications, to be an integral part of our trajectory towards an innovation economy. In this respect, it is important to emphasise that no program can be practically realised without sustained support from our partners, in particular, IAEA. For a program to be successful, it is logical that it would require an enabling framework including in the legal sphere. We are pleased that Sri Lanka has benefited considerably from IAEA assistance in this area. In the past several months, the Office for Legal Affairs of IAEA has facilitated our efforts in revising the basic nuclear law, as well as in enhancing the capacity for analysis of radioactivity and for nuclear medicine applications. The framework of nuclear law, which is currently under revision, would cater to the needs of today while envisioning and responding to the challenges of the future. It is underpinned by a coherent national nuclear policy. The Atomic Energy Authority Board and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Commission will be part of this new arrangement, reflecting the emerging international standard concerning nuclear use and application. Nuclear power and nuclear security Mr. President, this year has been particularly successful for IAEA and its Member States. The two high level conferences on nuclear power and on nuclear security held respectively in St. Petersberg and Vienna have not just yielded consensual pragmatic outcomes, but also have helped to strengthen the practical framework, through enhanced cohesion, clarity and convergence, for addressing new and emerging challenges in these two important arenas. They provide the pathways to synergising action at different levels. Nuclear security is a growing concern and a challenge that we cannot afford to desist from preparing adequately for. We appreciate in this regard the premium being placed on national capacity building in the Nuclear Security Report 2013. Nuclear Security Plan 2014-2017 is a welcome step in this direction. Its emphasis on increasing Member States’ involvement in IAEA activities through the establishment and reinforcement of collaborative networks and mechanisms is note-worthy. As Sri Lanka now firms up arrangements for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the Agency’s contribution to one of the most important phases of the preparatory process, namely ensuring nuclear security, working with, and training of, local scientists, technical staff and security personnel is highly appreciated. Mr. President, as with concern over nuclear security, the demand for nuclear energy too is on increase. The high projection is for 94% growth by 2030, making nuclear power a significant component in the national energy mix of many countries. It is inconceivable, however, to discuss nuclear energy without necessarily adverting to nuclear safety and safeguard measures. Nuclear safety and nuclear safeguards and the exploration and use of nuclear energy, in fact, go together. These are not just essential for the safety of the facility, materials and processes, but in particular for the health of all human and other beings on earth, the environment and the geological systems. It is important therefore that countries, not yet party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratify or accede to that treaty and accept the comprehensive safeguard arrangements of IAEA. Mr. President, while the peaceful application of atom still remained a potent force for progress, the Fukushima-Daiichi incident clearly underlined its downside. Nuclear safety and the attendant issues of emergency preparedness, emergency response and impact mitigation are among the important lessons we have learnt, post-Fukushima. We appreciate the Government of Japan for its announcement of a basic policy for addressing the latest challenge of contaminated water leakage, and for showing resolve, matched by action, to respond to new challenges, using its high technological capabilities, and as recommended by the IAEA Peer Review Mission. The State level concept on which the Director General has presented a report to this session is worth exploring further. We would welcome a continuing discussion on this important topic since it approaches a State as a whole, rather than focusing primarily on declared nuclear materials and facilities. Capacity building and regulatory procedures Mr. President, fully cognisant of the importance of nuclear safety and safeguards, the Government is in the process of achieving the much-needed capacity building in Human Resource Development and in the use of IAEA energy planning tools for the national needs. Sri Lanka is closely studying the new and emerging trends and developments in this important arena. Further, with Sri Lanka’s baseline data survey on maritime safety completing, we are now proceeding to strengthen radiological emergency preparedness. A non-nuclear state with no nuclear facilities, Sri Lanka has put in place regulatory procedures that are no doubt of high standards. Yet our national efforts at improving and upgrading continue. It is evident that as the Government of Sri Lanka places increased emphasis on civil nuclear cooperation, under the concept of Atoms for Peace or Peaceful Uses Initiative. The country has in place the procedures required to assure the civil and peaceful nature of nuclear applications. There is currently a great potential for the use of civil nuclear applications, with Sri Lanka developing fast in all sectors. Mr. President, convinced of the continuing validity and importance of the principle of peaceful exploration and use of nuclear energy, Sri Lanka has taken a number of initiatives voluntarily, and in cooperation with other States, in this area. Our continued, effective contribution to the Peaceful Uses Initiative manifests Sri Lanka’s clear, unflinching commitment to ensuring global peace and security. The Program of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), Use of Isotope Hydrology for Water Resources Management and Approaches to Supporting Infrastructure Development for Nuclear Power are among many instances, or means of peaceful use of nuclear energy. These are highly beneficial for countries like Sri Lanka as the demand for civil and peaceful nuclear applications continues to increase. As Sri Lanka is experiencing a high incident rate in cancer, early diagnosis, control and treatment of cancer has become an important social requirement. With the progress already made in the implementation of the previous Impact Missions, we now seek IAEA-PACT assistance in the coming year for this purpose. IAEA assistance is also imperative to strengthen our national capabilities in the use of nuclear technology for peaceful applications. Sri Lanka appreciates assistance from its international partners, encompassing the peaceful use of nuclear technology. Technical cooperation Mr. President, I should take this opportunity to thank the Director General as well as the Deputy Director General for technical cooperation and his staff for the constant support they have extended to Sri Lanka over the years. The provision of expensive diagnostic medical equipment under cost-sharing basis, to Sri Lanka is a case in point. Progress continues in other areas of activity, supported by the technical cooperation program, including the establishment and operationalisation of various national centres and facilities such as the Multipurpose Gamma Irradiation Facility and National Centre for Non-Destructive Testing. We are pleased that technical assistance will be forthcoming for the setting up of a National Centre for Nuclear Agriculture and a National Centre for Prevention of Marine Environmental Pollution under the next biennium program commencing from 2014. The Gamma Irradiation Facility is nearing completion. I would like to cordially invite the Director General of IAEA for its opennng due by the end of this year. I believe that these as well as other activities proposed, which range from radioactive waste disposal facility, study on sedimentation in Colombo Port, to investigation of Chronic Kidney Disease, will be covered by the Country Program Framework (CPF) for 2014-2017, which is currently being negotiated. Mr. President, with the return of peace to Sri Lanka and its economic growth accelerating, the country has become a preferred hub for various international and regional activities of beneficial nature. In the past 12 months alone, the Atomic Energy Authority of Sri Lanka has hosted five IAEA international events. While contributing to the development of knowledge and skills of international participants, Sri Lankan scientists also have benefited from the exposure and the interactions that these events provided. Two more activities are forthcoming before the end of this year, but our willingness and ability to host more in the future remains more pronounced. Before concluding, Mr. President, let me convey a word of appreciation and a request. My delegation welcomes the progress made in the professional staffing of IAEA in recent times. It is important that the Agency should consist of a professional cadre drawn from all Member States in an equitable manner, at all times. Currently less represented, Sri Lankan scientists and management professionals deserve more places in the Agency. I thank you, Mr. President.