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IAEA Director General Briefs Board of Governors on Ukraine, Iran, Atoms4Food, Rays of Hope and More


Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi delivering his opening statement to the IAEA Board of Governors. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

In his opening statement to the IAEA’s Board of Governors today, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi spoke of how the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) came under direct attack in April for the first time in one and a half years, describing the “precarious and very fragile situation” at the plant.  

“These attacks violated the first of the five concrete principles for protecting the Zaporizhzhya NPP that I laid out to the Board for the first time one year ago,” said Mr Grossi in his statement to the Board, which is meeting at the IAEA’s Vienna headquarters from 3-6 June. 

Mr Grossi explained he would be meeting with the Minister of Energy of Ukraine this week. He had met with Alexey Likhachev, head of Russian state nuclear company Rosatom, in Kaliningrad on May 28, to discuss factors the IAEA believes remain a challenge for nuclear safety. Although all six reactor units have been in cold shutdown since April, enhancing the overall safety of the facility, the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ) has not received access to some areas of significance at the site, and has not been able to have open discussions with all relevant staff. 

The Director General presented his latest report on verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran, once more expressing his deepest condolences following the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and other delegation members. 

I was in Tehran and Isfahan in early May, discussing very concrete initiatives in the area of verification and monitoring with late Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and others in the government,” he said.  

“I want to tell you that our work has continued. I had the pleasure to have a good conversation with acting minister Ali Bagheri Kani just a few hours ago. And the spirit is to continue our work as discussed in Tehran and Isfahan, which is of course extremely important.” 

Mr Grossi also spoke of how the “nuclear non-proliferation regime requires our constant efforts and determination to make sure that legitimate nuclear activities are carried out in a peaceful manner.” 

He added: “In this spirit, I met President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on 19 March and agreed a new engagement between the Syrian Arab Republic and the Agency.  As a result of those consultations, the IAEA, in coordination with the Syrian government, will undertake a process of clarification of the pending issues related to past activities in Syria that require further inquiry in order to exclude any proliferation concern.” 

The Board will also be kept updated on the IAEA’s technical consultations on naval propulsion with Australia and with Brazil, Mr Grossi said. 

Mr Grossi then drew the attention of the Board to the Annual Report for 2023, as well as the 2023 report of the IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme. He highlighted the progress being achieved in the implementation of the flagship initiatives of the IAEA, such as NUTEC Plastics, which aims to reduce and mitigate the impact of plastic pollution and Atoms4Food, developed in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to tackle global food insecurity.  

Last week, the IAEA hosted an International Symposium on Food Safety and Control and this year’s annual Scientific Forum, to be held on the margins of the 68th Regular Session of the IAEA General Conference, is entitled Atoms4Food: Better Agriculture for Better Life.  

“We are trying to deliver assistance on food security, in in many countries,” said Mr Grossi. In his written statement he elaborated: "We are stepping up our assistance to Member States through seven precise services that use nuclear technology, science and their applications to boost food security and tackle the growing hunger and malnutrition crisis." 

More than 40 countries in Africa have already requested assistance under the IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative, which aims to widen access to cancer care in countries with little or no access to treatments such as radiotherapy. Mr Grossi travelled to Nigeria last month to assist Nigeria and other African nations in enhancing their ability to bring cancer care to everyone who needs it. 

The Director General updated the board on how preparations for the IAEA’s Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science, Technology and Applications and the Technical Cooperation Programme in November 2024 are progressing.  

Highlighting the impact that nuclear technology and science is having around the world, Mr Grossi spoke of the first Nuclear Energy Summit, jointly organized in March with the IAEA and the Government of Belgium. The IAEA has also begun a first-of-its-kind collaboration with the G20, under the Brazilian presidency.  

“I think it is very important to see how all these political platforms in the world are looking to nuclear with a focus and very concrete interest. And, of course, the work, of the IAEA is indispensable in that regard,” said Mr Grossi.  

Mr Grossi drew the attention of the Board to the World Fusion Energy Group, due to be held in the coming months with support from the government of Italy, which currently holds the G7 presidency. He also spoke of the upcoming International Conference on Nuclear Knowledge Management and Human Resources Development  and the International Conference on Small Modular Reactors and their Applications later this year. 

Last month, the International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS) – Shaping the Future, was held in Vienna. Mr Grossi concluded his statement by thanking the ICONS Co-Presidents from Australia and Kazakhstan for their leadership. “The ministerial-level event assessed current priorities, prepared for new challenges, and engaged in scenario-based policy discussions,” he said in his statement. 

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