IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano spoke of the benefits of nuclear materials research at a nuclear symposium in St. Petersburg.
"It can help to improve energy security, reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices, mitigate the effects of climate change and make economies more competitive," he said in a Thursday statement.
The IAEA, he said, is is responsible for ensuring nuclear material is used safely and for peaceful purposes.
"It is also important to ensure that nuclear and other radioactive materials do not fall into the hands of terrorists and criminals," he said.
The IAEA in reports this year expressed concern about belligerence associated with North Korea's nuclear weapons program. U.N. nuclear inspectors said there are lingering concerns about the true intent of Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.
Amano said international delegates would meet next week in Vienna to discuss ways to strengthen nuclear security regimes.
The Iranian government hinted this week it was reviewing the prospects for multilateral nuclear negotiations at some point this year. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University this week added they saw evidence of additional work at North Korean nuclear test sites.
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