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IAEA Annual General Conference to Convene Next Week


The IAEA’s 65th General Conference is taking place at the Agency’s headquarters in Vienna, from 20 to 24 September 2021. (Photo: D.Calma/IAEA)

The IAEA’s 65th annual General Conference (GC) will take place next week in Vienna. The meeting, from 20 to 24 September, is expected to draw high level representatives from the IAEA’s 173 Member States.

The IAEA’s efforts in helping the world tackle the COVID-19 pandemic will feature on this year’s agenda: “We continue to receive request for assistance. We are now not only delivering emergency aid, but also sourcing the necessary science and technology assistance to 129 countries to fight these frequently occurring viral outbreaks with nuclear techniques,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told the Agency’s Board of Governors on 13 September.

The GC will provide important guidance to the Agency on topics related to nuclear and radiation safety; activities regarding nuclear security; strengthening the IAEA’s activities in nuclear science, technology and applications, strengthening the Agency’s technical cooperation activities; strengthening the effectiveness and improving the efficiency of IAEA safeguards, the application of IAEA safeguards in the Middle East, and the application of safeguards in DPRK. The GC will also elect new members to the Board of Governors, approve the IAEA’s 2020 annual report and financial statement, its programme and budget for 2022 to 2023 and appoint the Agency’s external auditor.

To comply with the Austrian authorities’ requirements regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of delegates permitted to be present at the Plenary Hall at any one time has been limited. Delegates unable to attend in person will be able to participate in the proceedings in all official languages, virtually.

General Conference sessions in the Plenary Hall, including the statements of officials and delegates, will be livestreamed for the public. The complete list of documents provided to delegates is available here.

Side events

Throughout the General Conference, around 80 side events will be held, some in person and others virtually with a number of virtual events also open to the general public – all highlighting the innovative work underway at the IAEA and in Member States using nuclear techniques.

At one event, IAEA safeguards inspectors will discuss their work and experience in carrying out verification activities in the field and at IAEA headquarters enabling the IAEA to provide assurances that States are not diverting nuclear material from peaceful activities or misusing nuclear technology. In another event, IAEA safeguards analysts will explain how the analysis of environmental samples can pick out traces of nuclear material, e.g. uranium and plutonium, at weights below one trillionth of a gram, and how this tool supports safeguards verification activities and contributes to international peace and security.

With Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) widely regarded as offering significant potential for future nuclear energy generation, the IAEA will use a side event to present its new Agency-wide Platform on SMRs and their Applications, a cross-cutting initiative established to address challenges Member States face regarding the near-term deployment of SMRs. Another event will cover the relevant safeguards considerations required for SMRs and how these can be integrated into their design processes. A third event will highlight the latest IAEA safety-related activities on novel advanced reactors, including SMRs, covering a range of topics from licensing to siting, design, commissioning and operation. 

The finalists of the IAEA’s Net Zero Challenge will present their projects describing how low carbon energy sources could help their countries and regions in achieving the goals of the Paris climate agreement and limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius this century. The wider use of stable isotope techniques will be highlighted in an event detailing how these can help generate data to track the origins of greenhouse gas emissions. There will also be an interactive session in which participants will be challenged to set a country’s electricity generating mix, optimizing for emissions reduction, costs and supply reliability at the same time.

An event will explore how collaboration in nuclear technology has contributed to development in Asia and the Pacific, highlighting successful projects related to nuclear medicine, non-destructive testing and agricultural productivity, as well as the challenges faced in implementing projects during the COVID-19 pandemic. An event titled ‘The Power of Data: an IAEA Approach to enhance Cancer Support - from Prevention to Palliation’ will elaborate on how collaboration in data collection and ensuring high quality and transparent handling and processing of data are key to creating robust, accurate data sets.

Celebrating 15 years of implementing Integrated Nuclear Security Support Plans (INSSPs), an event will feature a panel discussion including IAEA and national officials and representatives from international partners supporting the INSSP programme, to share their experience and reflect on lessons learned to date. Another event will show how nuclear techniques play a prominent role in the characterisation and preservation of cultural heritage objects.

Other side events include sessions highlighting the practical value of digitalization for advancing decommissioning projects, including 3D simulations, visualization, virtual and augmented reality; showcasing new features and resources of DSRSNet, a forum for sharing practical experience, knowledge and international developments in the safe management of Disused Sealed Radioactive Sources; discussing the areas of fission technology that can benefit fusion technology development as the ITER experiment start-date to create plasma approaches; and sharing information about different contract modalities, the IAEA's recruitment process and existing talent outreach tools aimed at finding qualified professionals from across Member States.

There will also be a virtual tour the IAEA Radiation Safety Technical Services Laboratory, which provides monitoring services to 3000 occupationally exposed workers annually for external and internal radiation exposure. The full list of virtual and physical side events is available here.

Scientific Forum on the role of nuclear science in zoonotic outbreaks

A two-day Scientific Forum titled “Preparing for Zoonotic Outbreaks: the Role of Nuclear Science” will be held on 21-22 September. The Forum will focus on the emergence of infectious diseases passed to humans from animals – zoonotic diseases – and will explore the role of nuclear and nuclear-derived techniques in their research, early detection and monitoring.

In five sessions, participants will discuss the pathways through which emerging infections can lead to pandemics, radiation techniques for disease characterization and management, and existing national and international initiatives to help countries better prepare for zoonotic disease threats, such as the IAEA’s Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) initiative, among others. Speakers from countries that have received IAEA support in managing zoonotic diseases will also share their experiences in detecting, identifying and managing Ebola, COVID-19, SARS, Bird Flu and MERS.

The Forum will be held in both physical and virtual format, with all sessions livestreamed. It will feature several high-level speakers from government, industry and international organizations. For the full programme, click here, and join the Scientific Forum online by filling in the registration form.

Follow the IAEA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn for updates throughout the week: #IAEAGC for the General Conference and #Atoms4Health for the Scientific Forum.


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