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IAEA Director General Briefs Board of Governors: Atoms4Food initiative, Ukraine, Iran, COP28 and Nuclear Energy Summit


IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi delivers his introductory statement to the Board of Governors, Vienna, Austria, 22 November 2023. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

In his opening statement to the IAEA’s Board of Governors today, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi spoke of the importance of food security in a world where hunger is on the rise, and in many cases is worsening due to climate change. 

“Over the past three years the number of people who go hungry in the world has increased by almost a fifth,” Mr Grossi said in his statement to the Board, which is meeting at the IAEA’s Vienna headquarters from 22­-24 November. The IAEA and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have joined forces in response to this challenge. Mr Grossi and FAO Director General Qu Dongyu launched Atoms4Food at the World Food Forum last month in Rome. The joint initiative aims to increase global food security and tackle growing hunger through the use of nuclear techniques.

Mr Grossi told the board: “Delegations have been briefed, and we are now moving into the implementation phase … So, we are trying to address the issues ... where they are more urgent.”

Nuclear safety and security in Ukraine

A constant backdrop to the IAEA’s work on food security and climate change is the conflict in Ukraine. Mr Grossi said he counted on the international community to continue their support for the IAEA’s “indispensable” work in helping prevent a nuclear accident with radiological consequences in Ukraine, which he said would add “to the suffering of this war”. The IAEA has had a team of experts and inspectors on site at Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant since the end of August 2022 to assist with nuclear safety and security at the site.


The Director General presented his latest report on verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran. He updated the Board on how cooperation with Iran is progressing, referring to the latest report on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, following the joint statement by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and the IAEA in March. Mr Grossi said it was a “regrettable decision” by Iran to withdraw the designations of several experienced IAEA inspectors. 

“I hope we will do better; we need to move in the clarification of outstanding issues, we need to move into a more positive situation,” he said. “I have started consultations with my Iranian colleagues to try to reverse the very regrettable decision to de-designate a good number of inspectors … And I hope that through respectful dialogue, we are going to be reversing this.” 


Looking ahead to the 28th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Dubai next month, Mr Grossi noted the growing global momentum on nuclear energy. “For the first time in the history of COP, nuclear countries will be able to say ‘yes, we are here, yes nuclear energy is part of the solution for this global climate crisis that we have’.”

The IAEA will showcase initiatives such as Atoms4NetZero and Atoms4Food at COP28 as well as other aspects of its work in helping the world monitor, mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Nuclear Energy Summit

In March next year, leaders from around the world will gather at a Nuclear Energy Summit in Brussels to highlight the role of nuclear energy in addressing the global challenges to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Hosted jointly by the IAEA and Belgium, the Summit will be the highest-level meeting to date exclusively focused on the topic of nuclear energy.

“The Summit will also showcase the IAEA’s Atoms4NetZero initiative, which provides decision makers with comprehensive, data-driven energy scenario modelling that includes the full potential of nuclear power in contributing to net zero emissions,” said Mr Grossi in his statement. “This important initiative can fill a gap in studies used by governments and financial institutions in support of new nuclear power projects.”

2024 will also mark the inaugural meeting of the World Fusion Energy Group. This group will bring together not just fusion scientists and engineers from laboratories and experimental centres, but also policy makers, financiers, regulators and private companies.

ReNuAL project complete

Mr Grossi said that many of the IAEA’s initiatives relied on the IAEA’s laboratories in Seibersdorf. He announced the “very good news” that fundraising was now complete for the renewal of the Nuclear Application Laboratories (ReNuAL) initiative, describing them as “a unique asset” for countries around the world in his statement.  

Mr Grossi thanked the countries who had donated to the ReNuAL initiative for their generosity. To celebrate the achievement and to recognize recent contributions from Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Ireland, and the United States, the IAEA is planning a ReNuAL side event on the margins of the March 2024 Board of Governors meeting.

He thanked Germany and South Africa for acting as co-chairs and facilitating the successful completion of the project.

The IAEA’s Technical Cooperation department was also praised by Mr Grossi, which was the focus of a Technical Assistance and Cooperation Committee (TACC) meeting earlier this week. “Our technical cooperation programme is a major vehicle for the delivery of IAEA development support to Member States, and a core component of ‘Atoms for Peace and Development’,” he said in his statement.

New Nuclear Security Training and Demonstration Centre

In addition to laboratories at Seibersdorf, the IAEA’s new Nuclear Security Training and Demonstration Centre is now fully operational at the site. Since the centre’s inauguration on 3 October, nine training courses and meetings have been held in its premises, attended by about 260 trainees and participants from around the world.

Mr Grossi also presented the board with a draft Additional Protocol for Nauru, describing it as “a very important, indispensable, aspect of the legal framework that supports our activities”.

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