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IAEA Chief Grossi Attends UNGA, Engages with Private Sector on Cancer Care and Future of Fusion

IAEA General General Rafael Mariano Grossi being interviewed at the United Nations Headquarters in New York during annual UN General Assembly. (Photo: F. Dahl/IAEA)

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi signed agreements with two health sector companies to help provide cancer care to those who lack it and saw first-hand how fusion energy is generating significant private sector excitement, during a week-long visit to the United States highlighting the pivotal role of nuclear science and technology in tackling pressing global challenges.

Attending the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, Director General Grossi met with prime ministers, foreign ministers, and other senior officials from numerous countries, with much of the discussions focused on the fragile nuclear safety and security situation in Ukraine and Iran’s recent decision to de-designate several experienced IAEA inspectors.

“The IAEA is a technical, scientific, and impartial organization that is working on several sensitive geopolitical issues. My discussions in New York made clear that the IAEA enjoys strong support from the wider international community in carrying out its atoms for peace and development mandate,” he said.

“In particular, countries expressed sincere gratitude for our work to prevent a nuclear accident in Ukraine, where the situation remains precarious. We must continue to do everything in our power to help ensure nuclear safety and security during this already so tragic war,” he added.

The Director General also visited the state of Massachusetts to study technological advances in the development of clean fusion energy, and to speak at two of the world’s top universities – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard, where he addressed its Law School students.

At MIT, located in Cambridge across the river from Boston, he delivered the prestigious annual David J. Rose lecture, named after a renowned professor of nuclear engineering at the university, in front of a full-capacity audience including Professor Rose’s widow, Renate.

Also at MIT, he visited its research reactor and signed an agreement with the MIT Plasma Science Fusion Centre (PSFC) on setting up an IAEA collaboration centre for the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in fusion and plasma science, aimed at fostering research and education.

Joining Forces with the Private Sector

Since Director General Grossi took office nearly four years ago, he has been working to foster closer relations with industry in the different areas of the IAEA’s activities, saying that climate change, environmental pollution, food insecurity and other existential issues require all sectors of society to join forces.

Underlining this approach, his visit to Massachusetts began with a tour of the SPARC fusion energy facility developed by private start-up Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) and PSFC, which they predict will produce 50-100 megawatt (MW) of power thanks to its strong magnetic field.

CFS is among a growing number of companies drawn to the rich potential in the prospect of clean, near limitless fusion power, which is also attracting significant investor interest.

The Director General stressed the importance of the IAEA and governments engaging with the private sector in the development of fusion energy.

“Fusion is approaching the demonstration stage after many years of being considered a utopian, scientific curiosity. These are exciting and dynamic times for those working on this source of energy, which has the potential to help the world combat climate change and meet growing energy demand. The IAEA will cooperate with everybody aiming to make fusion power a reality,” Director General Grossi said.

Next month in London, he will be opening IAEA’s 29th Fusion Energy Conference, where key physics and technology issues as well as innovative concepts for the use of fusion as a future source of energy will be discussed.

Combatting a growing cancer burden around the world – especially in countries in Africa and elsewhere lacking crucial radiotherapy services for their people – is another priority area where the IAEA is also stepping up cooperation with leading companies in the field.

On the side-lines of this year’s UNGA – attended by heads of state and other government leaders – Director General Grossi signed cooperation agreements with Siemens Healthineers and GE HealthCare under the IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative to help build critical cancer capacity where it is needed the most.

“No one can tackle this major health crisis alone. We must amplify our joint efforts to help save lives, including by cooperating with leading medical technology companies. We can’t afford to lose any more time,” he said.

Also in New York, Director General Grossi signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with Japan’s Foreign Minister Kamikawa Yoko outlining the full scope of the Agency’s comprehensive and continuous safety review of the discharge of treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (FDNPS), paving the way for decades of independent monitoring, sampling and analysis at the site and at sea.

In addition, he signed an agreement with the Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Doreen Bogdan-Martin, in the area of AI.

“We have taken several important steps forward this week in accelerating the implementation of the IAEA’s mandate, which is more important than ever. The IAEA is no talking shop, we remain focused on getting things done to address the many global challenges the world is facing,” he said.  

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