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IAEA Director General's Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors

Vienna, Austria

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Gross. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

(As prepared for delivery)

Madam Chairperson,

Having returned yesterday from constructive discussions in Tehran, I am ready to update you on the safeguards situation in Iran. We have been able, once again, to strengthen the IAEA’s indispensable verification work for the benefit of all. I will elaborate in a few moments. But first, I would like to acknowledge the important work the Agency is doing in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to plague much of the world. We are now not only delivering emergency aid to those who request it, but also sourcing the science and technology required to end the cycle of devastation caused by these frequently occurring viral outbreaks.

In the short time since our last meeting, the Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action, or ZODIAC, has advanced to the procurement stage. So far, we are addressing the needs of 25 designated National Laboratories in Africa; the Americas; Asia and the Pacific; and Europe through the acquisition of serology, molecular diagnostic or genomic sequencing packages.

Under ZODIAC, we have held more than 50 meetings with our Member States, our sister organizations, and ongoing global initiatives dedicated to enhancing global preparedness to control zoonotic diseases. As a result, we have reviewed the ZODIAC Project Document which you can find on GOVATOM. It reflects these discussions, identifies efficiencies and finetunes the project accordingly.

I am encouraged by the overwhelming response of Member States participating in ZODIAC. As of today, 143 countries have nominated a national coordinator, 36 in Europe; 41 in Africa; 33 in Asia-Pacific; and 27 in the Americas. Some 114 Member States have nominated a ZODIAC National Laboratory, 37 in Africa; 36 in Europe; 21 in Asia- Pacific; and 20 in the Americas.

Meanwhile, our global COVID-19 emergency response efforts continue, with more laboratories receiving RT-PCR kits. To date, 296 laboratories in 128 countries have benefited in this way. I encourage those in a position to do so to make further contributions towards sustaining this important assistance project.

Combatting zoonotic diseases will be the main theme of this year’s Scientific Forum, Preparing for Zoonotic Outbreaks: the Role of Nuclear Science. I look forward to being joined by my fellow Directors General of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

I hope that you will be able to find the time to attend and I would like to assure you the Secretariat is working with our host government in carefully preparing for the arrival of delegates for both the Forum and the General Conference. We are following both the guidance of Austrian authorities and of our own medical services as we endeavour to host as normal an event as possible.

The process of the gradual return of staff to the VIC and the Seibersdorf Laboratories was completed by the end of June following the loosened lockdown restrictions announced by the Austrian Government in May.

Madam Chairperson,

I shall return to the issue of Agency assistance to Member States later in these remarks, but first I would like to update you on our safeguards work, particularly the situation in Iran and the DPRK. My report on Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 covers relevant activities of the Agency in the past few months.

Up to 23 February 2021, the Agency verified and monitored the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA. However, since that date, these activities have been seriously undermined as a result of Iran’s decision to stop the implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA, including the Additional Protocol.

In the report, I reiterated that Iran’s failure to respond to the Agency’s requests for access to its monitoring equipment was seriously compromising the Agency’s technical capability to maintain continuity of knowledge, which is necessary for the Agency to resume its verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments in the future. The Agency’s confidence that it could maintain continuity of knowledge had been declining over time and had recently significantly further declined. This confidence could continue to decline unless the situation were immediately rectified by Iran.

You have also received my report entitled NPT Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which describes the Agency’s efforts to clarify questions relating to the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations under its Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol since my last report.

The presence of multiple uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at three locations in Iran not declared to the Agency, as well as the presence of isotopically altered particles at one of these locations, is a clear indication that nuclear material and/or equipment contaminated by nuclear material has been present at these locations.

Iran has still not provided the necessary explanations for the presence of the nuclear material particles at any of three locations where the Agency has conducted complementary accesses. Nor has Iran answered the Agency’s questions with regard to another undeclared location or clarified the current location of natural uranium in the form of a metal disc.

I remain deeply concerned that nuclear material has been present at undeclared locations in Iran and that the current locations of this nuclear material are not known to the Agency. And I am increasingly concerned that, even after some two years, the safeguards issues outlined above in relation to the four locations in Iran not declared to the Agency, remain unresolved.

I reiterate the requirement for Iran to clarify and resolve these issues without further delay by providing information, documentation and answers to the Agency’s questions. The lack of progress in clarifying the Agency’s questions concerning the correctness and completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations seriously affects the ability of the Agency to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.

I also call upon Iran to fulfil all of its legal obligations under the Subsidiary Arrangements to its Safeguards Agreement and fully implement modified Code 3.1.

Related to the matters in both of these reports, I indicated that I was available to travel to Iran to meet members of the new administration to discuss these matters with a view to resolving them without delay. I hope that through a direct, cooperative and productive dialogue with the new Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran these urgent matters can be addressed.

Yesterday, I issued another report entitled Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 On that day I met the Vice-President of Iran and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, H.E. Mohammad Eslami, in Tehran and we issued a Joint Statement. That Joint Statement provided, inter alia, that Agency inspectors will service Agency monitoring and surveillance equipment and replace the storage media, which will be kept in Iran under seals of the Agency and the AEOI. The way this is to be carried out and the timing have been agreed between us.

The Joint Statement also refers to a meeting that I will have with Vice-President Eslami on the sidelines of the forthcoming IAEA General Conference and my visit to Tehran in the near future to hold high-level consultations with senior Iranian officials with the aim of enhancing cooperation between Iran and the Agency in different fields, and to discuss current issues of mutual interest.

I will continue to report as appropriate.

Since the last Board, a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with a Small Quantities Protocol has entered into force for Federated States of Micronesia. The number of States with safeguards agreements in force stands at 186, while 137 of these States have brought additional protocols into force.

I call upon those States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons without Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements in force to bring such agreements into force without delay. I also call on States that have not yet concluded Additional Protocols to do so as soon as possible.

I am pleased to report that Belize and Brunei Darussalam have amended the Small Quantities Protocol to their Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements. Malta has rescinded the Small Quantities Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. The United Arab Emirates has rescinded the non-operational Small Quantities Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. I congratulate them and call on all remaining States with SQPs based on the old standard text to amend or rescind them.

The Agency continues to monitor the nuclear programme of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, using opensource information including satellite imagery.

During the reporting period, there were indications of the operation of the Radiochemical Laboratory from mid-February to early July 2021. This period of operation is consistent with previous reprocessing campaigns of irradiated fuel discharged from the 5MW(e) reactor announced by the DPRK. Since early July 2021, there have been indications consistent with the operation of the 5MW(e) reactor. In my report, I stated that while regular vehicular movements were observed, there were indications, for a period of time, that the Yongbyon reported centrifuge enrichment facility was not in operation. Since my report was released, we have seen that the DPRK appears to have removed the cooling units from the Yongbyon centrifuge enrichment facility.

There were indications of ongoing activities at the Kangson complex. There were also indications that the DPRK has continued internal construction activities at the Light Water Reactor under construction.

The DPRK’s nuclear activities continue to be a cause for serious concern. Furthermore, the new indications of the operation of the 5MW(e) reactor and the Radiochemical Laboratory are deeply troubling. The continuation of the DPRK’s nuclear programme is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable.

I call upon the DPRK to comply fully with its obligations under relevant UN Security Council resolutions, to cooperate promptly with the Agency in the full and effective implementation of its NPT Safeguards Agreement and to resolve all outstanding issues, especially those that have arisen during the absence of Agency inspectors from the country.

The Agency continues to maintain its enhanced readiness to play its essential role in verifying the DPRK’s nuclear programme.

As far as implementation of safeguards in the Syrian Arab Republic is concerned, no new information has come to the knowledge of the Agency that would affect our assessment that it was very likely the building destroyed at Dair Alzour was a nuclear reactor that should have been declared by Syria. That assessment was made ten years ago!

I continue to urge Syria to cooperate fully with the Agency in connection with all unresolved issues.

As my report on Application of IAEA Safeguards in the Middle East shows, there remain long-standing and fundamental differences of views among countries of the region with regard to the application of comprehensive Agency safeguards to all nuclear activities in the Middle East. It has therefore not been possible to make further progress in fulfilling our mandate from the General Conference in this area. I will continue our consultations.

Madam Chairperson,

Turning now to NUclear TEChnology for Controlling Plastic Pollution (NUTEC Plastics), the Agency recently organized round tables for the regions of Asia and the Pacific; North, Central, South America and the Caribbean; and Africa to discuss the role nuclear technology can play in addressing global plastic pollution. Among others, several ministers and high-level policy makers attended these round tables and showed a high level of interest. A European roundtable will be held next month. NUTEC Plastics presents Member States with a menu of assistance options, including plastic recycling and monitoring plastic’s impact on marine environments.  I thank Japan and the United States for the pledges they announced during the round tables. This financial support will help initiate activities to assist Member States in capacity building; in promoting activities to establish pilot plant(s) for plastic waste recycling; and in enhancing their marine microplastics monitoring capabilities.

NUTEC Plastics is now listed and recognized by the G20, based on its contribution to the “Third Report on the G20 Implementation Framework for actions on Marine Plastic Litter”, which was cited in a joint communiqué adopted by the G20 Environment Ministers in Naples in July.

NUTEC Plastics and much of the Agency’s work assisting Member States with oceanic challenges benefits from our Environment Laboratories in Monaco. I would like to inform you that this vital part of the IAEA is commemorating its 60th anniversary this year. 

Here in Austria, the Agency’s nuclear applications laboratories at Seibersdorf are in the second phase of modernisation under the ReNuAL2 project. I am grateful to Member States that have generously contributed so far. Since the June Board, the Agency has received an additional €1 million in funding. I urge Member States in a position to do so, to urgently contribute towards the remaining €7.9 million needed to complete ReNuAL 2 as planned by the end of 2023.

Madam Chairperson,

The IAEA through its technical cooperation programme has proven to be flexible, allowing it to respond to Member States’ evolving and unforeseen needs. In addition to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, several IAEA Member States have been affected by natural and manmade disasters over the past year. Following requests for support, the IAEA has taken swift action to deploy emergency assistance in response to situations that included flooding, a volcanic eruption, hurricanes, and chemical and biological contamination. A report describing this assistance is in front of the Board.

In response to Haiti’s request for assistance following the earthquake of 14 August 2021, the IAEA is procuring four portable X-ray systems to provide diagnostic radiology in the field, as well as assistance to ensure the equipment is used safely and effectively.

I have also received a request presented by the Andean Community, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, to help with their fight against Fusarium RT4, which causes disease in bananas, one of the region’s top ten food products. I have contacted relevant authorities and am taking steps to provide necessary assistance in the short, medium and long term.

The Agency continues its support to Member States on many fronts, including by assisting them in the use of radiation medicine to fight cancer. Since the June Board, Nepal has received an imPACT Review and such reviews have been initiated for Syria, Uruguay, and Uzbekistan. The Agency has increased its assistance to Member States developing national cancer plans, with 9 of them currently receiving this kind of support.

I thank Member States for their pledges in this area. These followed a round table discussion during which the Agency outlined and quantified the great need for its services as Member States battle growing numbers of cancer cases.

The Technical Cooperation programme is currently supporting 1,475 active projects. The main areas of support are Health and Nutrition; Food and Agriculture; and Nuclear Knowledge Development and Management.

Contributions to the TC Fund, the main source of funding for the TC programme, is essential to ensure sufficient, assured and predictable resources. The current Rate of Attainment on contributions to the TC Fund is 88%, representing €78.8 million. I ask that Member States pay their contributions on time and in full so that we can continue this indispensable work and fulfil our mandate.

The Technical Cooperation programme for the coming cycle is under finalisation. The proposed programme will be available for your consideration next month.

Madam Chairperson,

My report on Nuclear and Radiation Safety provides an update on our recent work in nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety, emergency preparedness and response, and civil liability.

I would like to turn your attention to the report Communicating on Nuclear Events Including Those With Little or No Impact on Nuclear or Radiation Safety that Raise Public or Media Interest.  Whenever the public and media perceive an event as a public health and safety hazard - even if it is of insignificant nuclear or radiological safety concern - the Secretariat and Member States should quickly provide information that addresses the issue. A technical briefing on this issue was given on 30 August 2021. I trust Member States will work with the Agency so that collectively we can enhance the operation of our existing voluntary arrangements.  

Regarding the draft revision of the Formalized Process for Sharing Information as to States’ Implementation of the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, I understand that further time is required to present a fully consensual document for endorsement at the Board of Governors.

The Nuclear Security Report 2021 highlights significant accomplishments in our work to help Member States to establish effective nuclear security regimes.

The Nuclear Security Plan 2022-2025 corresponds to the priorities of the Member States and is the result of a substantial degree of discussion and consultation with them. I understand the document has achieved consensus and I thank all who were engaged in the consultation process.

The IAEA Nuclear Security Training and Demonstration Centre at Seibersdorf will help strengthen countries’ abilities to tackle nuclear terrorism in areas such as the illegal trafficking of nuclear material and the physical protection of facilities and major public events. In July we marked the start of construction of the Centre with a ground-breaking ceremony, beginning the countdown to operations in 2023. The Centre, and the multi-purpose building that will house it, have so far received more than €11.3 million in extra-budgetary funding. I would like to thank the donors for their generous contributions.

Madam Chairperson,

Human activity is changing the earth’s climate in unprecedented and irreversible ways. This is the latest conclusion drawn by scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The findings tell us the world must shift to low-carbon energy sources faster and at greater scale than it has done so far. Nuclear is and will be part of the solution. This is a message I will convey to leaders meeting at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 26, in Glasgow later this year.

As of today, the 443 nuclear power reactors operating in 32 countries provide approximately 393 gigawatts of installed capacity, supplying some 10% of the world’s electricity and more than a quarter of all low-carbon electricity. There are 51 reactors under construction in 19 countries, which are expected to provide almost 54 gigawatts of additional capacity.

In June, the Agency conducting a follow-up Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review mission to Kenya, which concluded that the country had made progress in implementing recommendations of an earlier Phase 1 mission. We continue to plan for a Phase 1 mission to Uganda later this year, health conditions permitting.

My quadrennial report on International Status and Prospects for Nuclear Power 2021 describes significant national and international developments that have occurred over the past four years regarding the role played by nuclear power in mitigating climate change and achieving sustainable development.

On 27 August, the Agency handed over to Japan the findings of the fifth International Peer Review of Japan’s Mid-and-Long-Term Roadmap towards Decommissioning of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. This mission was conducted mainly through web meetings and complemented by a site visit by some members of the review team. In the decade since the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the Japanese organizations managing the site have taken it from an emergency situation to an industrial decommissioning operation. They are now prepared to tackle the next challenges of the project.

In my Statement at the previous meeting of the Board in June 2021, I informed you of the assistance that will be provided by the IAEA to the Government of Japan on the disposition of the treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi. I am pleased to report that the Terms of Reference have been agreed, the full group of designated and internationally recognized experts from Member States have been appointed, and the Deputy Director General for Nuclear Safety and Security travelled to Japan last week for the initial meeting, which I believe was very productive. As I said last time, this assistance will be provided before, during and after the discharge of the ALPS treated water.

Madam Chairperson,

In July, we opened the application process for the 2021 cycle of the IAEA Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme. The deadline for applications is 30 September. I am grateful for your continued assistance in securing the future of this important initiative, by offering financial support and by spreading the word to potential candidates.

I am happy to announce the second group of IAEA fellows will increase from 100 to 110. We will keep expanding so that more women can thrive in the nuclear sector.

The report on staffing of the Agency’s Secretariat (GOV/2021/37) and on Women in the Secretariat (GOV/2021/38) present information on the measures taken to implement relevant resolutions and provide statistical data on the Professional staffing situation at the Secretariat. Through the combined efforts of the Secretariat and Member States, we will continue to attract staff from developing countries and from those Member States that are unrepresented or under-represented. The Secretariat will also strengthen its network of recruitment channels and internal capacity to identify, attract and build talent pools; and will continue conducting recruitment missions to Member States. While doing this, we continue our work towards achieving gender parity. Significant progress has been made since the last report. The Secretariat now has the most balanced representation of genders to date. Overall, women make up 35% of Professional and higher categories and well over that share at the most senior grade levels. The efforts must and will continue.

Referring to the topic of sovereign equality of all IAEA Member States, which was addressed in some statements made in the June Board, and that is also proposed to be considered at the upcoming 65th regular session of the General Conference, I note that Article IV C. of the Statute provides that the “Agency is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members”. I recall that in the context of discussions on the Amendment of Article VI of the Statute, this principle of sovereign equality of Member States requires each Member State be eligible for election to the Board, and that it is for the Board and the General Conference to act on the premise that each Member State belongs to some area. I therefore welcome the deliberations on this important topic.

Madam Chairperson,

As we bid him farewell, I would like to thank Tristan Bauswein for his professionalism and for the remarkable energy he brought to his work, which most recently saw him wear two hats, that of acting Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Management, and that of Director of the Division of Budget and Finance.

Tristan, I appreciate your dedication and support. You helped ensure that the Agency has continued delivering on its mandate despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Chief Financial Officer and Director of the Budget & Finance Division, you built a level of trust in the financial management of the Organization that I believe will serve it well for years to come. We will miss your intelligence and your good humour, and we wish you all the best in your next adventure.

Finally, I look forward to welcoming Member States to the General Conference next week and hope to see many of you there.

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