UNITED NATIONS – U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei urged the world's nations Monday to adopt a broad new plan for the use of atomic energy to address mounting concerns about the further spread of sensitive technology.
He said a new approach is essential because rising global demand for energy has made atomic power a more attractive option and proliferation threats remain a serious challenge, including North Korea's recent test, Iran's uranium enrichment program, and nuclear trafficking.
ElBaradei reiterated his call for the urgent resumption of talks with all concerned parties to the North Korea standoff, and he expressed hope that Iran and key European nations and others can ultimately engage in "long overdue" negotiations that resolve questions about Tehran's nuclear program and address its security concerns.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, which ElBaradei heads, continues "to be unable to confirm the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, which is a matter of concern," he said.
More than 50 years after President Dwight D. Eisenhower called for atomic energy to be used for peaceful purposes, ElBaradei said, "the time has come to think of a new framework for the use of nuclear energy."
"The increase in global energy demand is driving a potential expansion in the use of nuclear energy," he told the U.N. General Assembly in his annual report. "And concern is mounting regarding the proliferation risks created by the further spread of sensitive nuclear technology, such as uranium and spent fuel reprocessing."
Nuclear power is increasingly seen as an attractive energy supply, especially in poorer nations, he said, noting that 16 of the 28 reactors under construction are in developing countries.
ElBaradei said the new framework must account "for both the lessons we have learned and the current reality."
It should include "innovative nuclear technology that is inherently safe, proliferation resistant and more economical," he said.
In the past two years, he said, the IAEA has been working on a new global approach that would assure the supply of fuel for nuclear power reactors but limit future enrichment and reprocessing, which can be used to make weapons, to multilateral operations involving a number of countries, he said.
ElBaradei said the new framework should require all countries to adopt comprehensive safeguards and adhere to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty's additional protocol that allows unannounced inspections. It should also include rapid progress toward nuclear disarmament, "a robust international security regime, and an effective and universal nuclear safety regime," he said.
Iran's deputy U.N. Ambassador Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi criticized the "dangerous trend" where countries outside the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty face no pressure to join and acquire large stockpiles of nuclear weapons. He singled out Israel, accusing it of leading "a masquerade of lies and deception against Iran's peaceful nuclear program."
Iran, a member of the NPT and the latest victim of weapons of mass destruction during the Iran- Iraq war, wants all nuclear weapons eliminated, but in the interim the international community should take "all necessary steps to ensure universality of the nonproliferation regime," he told the General Assembly.
At the same time, Danesh-Yazdi said Iran has a right under the NPT to nuclear technology and is ready to resume negotiations with the six key powers that proposed a package of incentives to assure them of the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program. But he made no mention of suspending uranium enrichment — a key demand of Britain, France, Germany, the U.S., Russia and China for resuming negotiations.
ElBaradei said that in the past year, the IAEA conducted a nuclear security training course for 88 countries.
But he stressed that the number of illicit trafficking incidents — more than 100 per year for the past three years — "demonstrates a persistent problem with trafficking, thefts, losses and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear or radioactive material."
"The number of incidents involving detection of materials at borders has increased substantially in recent years," ElBaradei said. "This is clearly due, in part, to the increased deployment by states of detection and monitoring equipment."
He added that 93 states participate in the IAEA's Illicit Trafficking Database.