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Director General Grossi Meets Pope Francis and Senior Italian Officials in Rome


In a two-day visit to Rome, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi had a private audience with Pope Francis. (Photo: Vatican Media)

An instrument of peace, an accelerator of human health and development, a force of integral ecology, and a voice of harmony in troubled times. These were the words Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi used to describe the IAEA in a private audience with Pope Francis in Rome this morning. Meeting with the Pope, who is the head of state of the Holy See, an IAEA Member State, Mr Grossi highlighted peaceful uses of nuclear technology and the benefits they bring, and the two discussed nuclear non-proliferation’s role towards creating a safer and more peaceful world.

“The IAEA, from its own mission and work shares with the Roman Catholic Church a preoccupation and commitment for the welfare and betterment of our global society,” said Mr Grossi in what he described as deeply moving and unforgettable exchange with the Pope. 

The meeting took place on the first day of his two-day trip to Rome, where he is meeting both with Vatican and Italian officials.

The Roman Catholic Church, which Pope Francis heads, boasts over 1.3 billion members globally – the largest denomination in Christianity.

In the past, Pope Francis has in a number of messages and documents expressed the Church’s position for a world free of nuclear weapons. He has called for the full implementation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and has recognized that nuclear energy gives humanity enormous power and possibilities.

Pope Francis and IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi discussed nuclear non-proliferation’s role towards creating a safer and more peaceful world. (Photo: Vatican Media)

In his meeting with Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Mr Grossi further discussed non-proliferation and the importance of nuclear security for world peace. Pope Francis has been outspoken voice on climate change and environmental issues, and the Cardinal and Mr Grossi spoke about the IAEA’s role in tackling these challenges. Mr Grossi emphasized nuclear power’s role in mitigating the release of greenhouse gases and decarbonise economies.

Italy, a close IAEA partner

In the afternoon, Mr Grossi met with Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi Di Maio. Mr Grossi thanked the Italian Government for the support it has provided to the IAEA over the last few years, which has included hosting training courses, financially contributing to the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme, participating in IAEA activities related to small modular reactors (SMRs) and fast reactors, decommissioning nuclear facilities, radioactive waste management, nuclear security education and contributions to IAEA publications.

“Italy is a close partner of the IAEA whose invaluable support and collaboration helps the Agency fulfil its mandate. We hope to continue our relationship and expand it into new areas, such as stopping the emergence of future pandemics,” Mr Grossi said. Last month, Mr Grossi met the President of the Italian Parliament Roberto Fico and discussed the IAEA’s work in nuclear verification and monitoring as well as ZODIAC — an IAEA initiative to help countries prevent pandemics caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses that originate in animals and can be transmitted to humans.

This year Italy will host the G20 Summit in October, which will focus on public health, population, planet and prosperity, and will co-host with the United Kingdom the United Nations climate change conference, COP26. As part of COP26, the pre-COP Summit and Youth4Climate event will be held in Milan. Mr Grossi and Mr Di Maio discussed how the IAEA could be further involved in these activities and support global efforts towards a sustainable, low-carbon future. They also touched on the progress of decommissioning nuclear sites in Italy.

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi met with Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi Di Maio and discussed decommissioning nuclear power plants in the country as well as the IAEA’s support to COP26. (Photo: E. Pérez Alván/IAEA)

Today, up to 8 per cent of Italy’s energy consumption is met by imported nuclear energy, but up to 1990 the country operated four nuclear power reactors. Mr Grossi met with Emanuele Fontani, the Chief Executive Officer of Sogin, Italy’s state-owned company responsible for the decommissioning of Italian nuclear plants and for the management of radioactive waste, which was the main topic of their discussions.

Tomorrow, further strengthening the IAEA’s relationship with the Italian Nuclear Security and Radio Protection Authority (ISIN), Mr Grossi will meet with that authority’s Director, Maurizio Pernice, to further discuss the IAEA close support to ISIN in the decommissioning Italy’s former power plant sites.

Also on 15 June, Mr Grossi will give a virtual lecture to the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. Entitled Atoms for Peace and Development: Science and Technology for a Better and Safer World, you can watch the lecture live at 16:00 Rome time.

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