On 22 September 2011, the IAEA 55th General Conference unanimously endorsed the Action Plan on Nuclear Safety that Ministers in their Declaration at the IAEA's June Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety requested. The plan, criticized by many for not going far enough towards more mandatory measures, outlines a series of voluntary steps aimed at improving reactor safety and emergency preparedness.
IAEA Director General Amano made clear the agency needed more money to turn the plan into reality, but did not give details. "Meeting new and expanding demands for assistance from member states in nuclear safety, as well as in other areas, will require an increase in the agency's resources," he said.
Even before Fukushima added to its workload, experts warned that budget austerity in member states may block funding required by the IAEA to deal with growing demand for atomic energy and the attendant risk of weapons proliferation. The bulk of money for the IAEA, which has more than 2 300 staff, comes from Western member states on a voluntary basis.
The IAEA 'Program and Budget for 2012-2013' was adopted by the General Conference in September. The total proposed budget for 2012 is 341.4 million euro (US$ 451 million) which represents a 2.1% increase, plus a 1.1% price adjustment. This differs from the Director-General’s original proposal to the Board of Governors of a 2.8% increase. Of this regular budget, 39% is allocated to nuclear verification. In addition, voluntary contributions can be made by member states to specific funds such as the Technical Cooperation and Nuclear Security Funds.
The recently-published ‘Programme and budget for 2012-2013’ warns that ‘demands for the Agency’s services are growing at a rate beyond what can realistically be funded through the regular budget’. Therefore, some of the money will need to be delivered to the Agency on an extrabudgetary basis, and in support for specific projects. This is not without risk. The program and budget notes that these ‘are unpredictable, often tied to restrictive conditions and thus involve some risk for the program’.
Reasons mentioned by the IAEA for expanding the budget are:
• An increasing number of States are contemplating the establishment or enhancement of safe nuclear power programmes and look to the Agency for advice and assistance.
• Basic human needs in developing countries regarding health, water and food — areas where nuclear techniques are of proven benefit — increasingly call for Agency support.
• The Agency’s nuclear security activities remain extensively reliant on uncertain extrabudgetary contributions.
• With increases in the number of facilities and nuclear material the Agency’s verification responsibilities continue to grow.
• The interrelationship between complex global issues and the development needs of Member States, to be addressed by the Agency in a coordinated manner, is increasing.
• The Agency’s considerable infrastructure requirements have begun to be addressed, but much remains underfunded. Despite the establishment of a Major Capital Investment mechanism, there is a lack of funding to it that prevents fund accumulation. Meeting capital needs is therefore contingent upon the Agency’s receiving adequate extrabudgetary contributions.
As said, the General Conference of the IAEA agreed on a budgetary increase of no more than 2.1 per cent (plus a 1.1 per cent inflation increase) but the IAEA Secretariat will still have to try to deliver more services—which means that the IAEA has to deal with the challenges of both effectiveness and efficiency.
At a time of economic problems squeezing government finances, some European states have resisted budget hikes for the agency.
Sources: Trust & Verify, July-September 2011 / IAEA 'Programme and budget 2012-2013', at: www.iaea.org/About/Policy/GC/GC55/GC55Documents/English/gc55-5_en.pdf