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Director General Grossi Outlines IAEA’s Mission and his Vision in Rome Lecture


Speaking at the Accademia Nazionale Dei Lincei, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi outlined the mission, scope and vision of the IAEA. (Photo: E. Pérez Alván/IAEA)

IAEA member countries from all parts of the world are united by two wishes: the wish to live in peace and the wish to benefit from the many life-enhancing applications of nuclear science and technology, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi explained to a virtual audience in Rome today. Speaking at the Accademia Nazionale Dei Lincei, he outlined the mission, scope and vision of the IAEA.

Founded over four hundred years ago, the Accademia is one of the oldest and most prestigious scientific institutions in Europe. Mr Grossi was invited by the Academy to deliver his lecture on Atoms for Peace and Development: Science and Technology for a Better and Safer World, as part of a special series featuring heads of intergovernmental organisations.

The IAEA is often called the nuclear watchdog for the work it does in verifying that states do not develop nuclear weapons. The IAEA, however, also facilitates scientific and technical progress and works to ensure that no community is left behind when it comes to benefiting from the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear technology. In his address, Mr Grossi noted the numerous ways the IAEA supports countries with utilising peaceful applications of nuclear technology towards achieving 9 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Healthy planet

Today, nuclear power plants provide around a third of low-carbon electricity, globally. Mr Grossi highlighted that while some countries, including Italy, decided after the Chornobyl accident, that they no longer wanted to use nuclear energy, others continued to invest in nuclear power and today a new cohort of countries among emerging economies are exploring the possibilities of nuclear energy.

“Countries in Asia and even in the oil-rich Middle East are looking to it to meet their growing energy needs. More than 50 reactors are under construction and 27 countries are actively considering, planning or embarking on a nuclear power programme,” Mr Grossi said. The IAEA helps countries lay the legal, organizational, human and technical foundations that will allow them to meet their nuclear energy ambitions in a safe, secure and efficient way.

“We believe nuclear energy has a place at the table of a decarbonized world in the years to come,” he said, explaining that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) includes a significant role for nuclear energy in most of its scenarios for decarbonizing economies and averting catastrophic and irreversible climate change.

Healthy people

In his concluding remarks, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi listed the range of global challenges that face our world today, assuring his audience of the IAEA’s commitment towards addressing them. (Photo: IAEA)

Beyond the carbon mitigating potential of nuclear energy, nuclear technologies and applications benefit people’s health and the environment. Mr Grossi noted that everyone has family and friends that have been touched by cancer, and that in rich countries radiotherapy and nuclear medicine are important tools in fighting and diagnosing diseases. The IAEA supports work to expand access to lifesaving, diagnosis and treatment in developing countries as well.

Highlighting the pandemic, Mr Grossi talked of the support the IAEA has provided to countries in addressing COVID-19 — in the past year it sent RT-PCR testing kits to 128 countries, enabling the testing of more than 28 million people.

“Through nuclear techniques we can fight pandemics. Working hand-in-hand with our sister organisations, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, the World Health Organization and the Organization for Animal Health, I have established ZODIAC,” Mr Grossi said, talking about the Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) initiative, which uses nuclear and nuclear-related techniques to prevent future pandemics.

Nuclear science offers solutions to the challenges of climate change and pollution that go well beyond decarbonizing electricity production. Mr Grossi spoke of the IAEA’s support to countries in developing drought resistant crops, implementing smart agriculture using isotopic techniques and in determining whether water is safe for drinking.

As another example for the beneficial use of nuclear technology, he cited the IAEA’s NUTEC Plastics, which works to helping tackle plastic pollution through monitoring plastics in the ocean and through irradiation to enhance plastic recycling. Mr Grossi noted the IAEA’s collaboration with Southeast Asian countries to develop the necessary infrastructure for such a recycling facility.

Concluding his lecture, Mr Grossi listed the range of global challenges that face our world today, assuring his audience of the IAEA’s commitment towards addressing them: “Our work is only growing. Today, the world faces truly global challenges. We can all take some comfort that there is an institution, the International Atomic Energy Agency, that is there to help with the use of nuclear techniques in solving them.”

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