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Director General Grossi Opens Board Meeting with Updates on Ukraine, Iran, Naval Nuclear Propulsion and IAEA’s Impact

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi

Rafael Mariano Grossi, IAEA Director General, delivers his opening statement at the 1672nd Board of Governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

In his opening statement to the IAEA’s Board of Governors, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said, “We took a step in the right direction” with regards to the situation around Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in Ukraine. Last week, the Director General briefed the United Nations Security Council and received support for the five basic principles he established to prevent a nuclear accident at ZNPP, which includes that there should be no attack of any kind from or against the plant.

The five basic principles aim to prevent and avoid a nuclear accident with serious radiological consequences, he told the 35-member Board. “We hope to continue our work towards the full stabilization of the situation there.” Mr Grossi’s full statement is available here.

“Diplomatic and technical engagement will continue with all sides, and we hope to count on your full support in doing that,” he said.

The IAEA has been monitoring the situation and assisting Ukraine since the conflict began in February 2022. There have been 12 expert missions to Ukraine, of which Mr Grossi led seven of them, including two to ZNPP. In addition to ZNPP, IAEA experts maintain an ongoing presence at Ukraine’s other nuclear power plants – Khmelnitsky, Rivne and South Ukraine – and the Chornobyl site.

Verification and monitoring in Iran

The Director General presented his latest report on verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran has not implemented its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), since February 2021. The report indicates that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has risen by over a quarter in three months, Mr Grossi stated.

He reminded the Board that earlier this year in March, the IAEA and Iran agreed to proceed with further appropriate monitoring and verification measures. “Some progress has been made but not at the level, pace and sustained rhythm that I would expect,” Mr Grossi said. “The inventory of enriched uranium is growing at a very fast pace, and the activities are also growing. So, the presence of the IAEA should be commensurate with that.”

Naval nuclear propulsion

Mr Grossi also discussed technical consultations in the context of naval nuclear propulsion and presented two reports – one on Brazil and one on Australia.

“We, at the IAEA, take these highly complex technical matters with utmost seriousness, and we have engaged in consultations with all sides involved in these projects because we need to provide technically credible answers to this situation,” Mr Grossi said, highlighting the neutral and technical objective of the IAEA. “This is only the beginning of what is going to be admittedly a long process.”

Mr Grossi previously informed the Board that the use of nuclear material in naval nuclear propulsion was foreseen by the legal framework and requires arrangements under countries’ respective safeguards agreements and the development of appropriate Agency safeguards approaches.

IAEA impact

In 2022, the Agency supported 149 countries and territories through its technical cooperation programme. The main areas of focus last year were food and agriculture, health and nutrition, and safety and security.

Furthermore, IAEA initiatives are maximizing the contribution of nuclear science and technology to the achievement of sustainable development goals that help improve the health and prosperity of millions of people. “We should never forget that hundreds of millions deserve to live better,” Mr Grossi said. Projects like Rays of Hope, Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) and NUTEC Plastics require States’ support and are also an essential, indispensable part of the IAEA’s work, he added.

The IAEA partners with countries and the private sector to implement such initiatives: Rays of Hope helps low- and middle-income countries establish and improve access to radiation-based medical technologies; ZODIAC supports countries’ efforts to address diseases that spread from animals to humans – known as zoonotic diseases; and NUTEC Plastics integrates nuclear and isotopic techniques to address plastic pollution.

The IAEA Board is meeting this week in Vienna. Among the topics Mr Grossi highlighted in his opening speech, the Board’s agenda also includes the 2022 Annual Report, strengthening the Agency’s technical cooperation activities, nuclear verification and the Safeguards Implementation Report.

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