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

The Board of Governors

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi delivers his introductory statement to the Board of Governors, Vienna, Austria, 4 March 2024. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

The situation at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant remains precarious, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told the IAEA Board of Governors this morning.

Opening the regular, quarterly session of the 35-member Board, Mr Grossi discussed a range of global issues, including updates on the IAEA’s work helping countries to monitor, mitigate and adapt to global climate change and other key initiatives.

Nuclear safety and security in Ukraine

In his written statement, Director Grossi described the current challenges facing Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, which he visited again in person last month, and called once more for “maximum restraint”. The Director General will shortly travel to the Russian Federation to hold high-level consultations as part of his ongoing efforts to ensure nuclear safety and security in the region.


Mr Grossi also spoke of the unresolved safeguards issues with the Islamic Republic of Iran, adding that he has “hopes to be able to continue this dialogue here or in Tehran or wherever we can because my reports are very clear in this regard: we are not in the place I would like us to be.

“Problems will not disappear. They will only get worse. So, we need to address this in a serious way.”


The Director General welcomed an invitation he had received from Foreign Minister of the Syrian Arab Republic, Faisal Mekdad, to “visit Damascus to re-establish a meaningful, constructive dialogue and process to facilitate the clarification of remaining issues from the past.” The visit will take place later in March, immediately after a visit to Iraq.

Nuclear Energy Summit

Mr Grossi also drew attention to the upcoming Nuclear Energy Summit, the first of its kind, which will be hosted jointly by the IAEA and the Government of Belgium. “It is going to be an excellent opportunity to discuss the place of nuclear energy in the current energy debates, especially after the watershed final declaration of COP28, which recognized the need to accelerate nuclear energy alongside renewable energies.”

Mr Grossi then emphasized that the IAEA was not only working on the mitigation side of climate change but also on adaptation and on monitoring the effects of global warming.

NUTEC Plastics

In January, the first IAEA scientific research expedition to investigate the scale of microplastic pollution was launched by Mr Grossi and the President of Argentina, Javier Milei. They then travelled to the Antarctic continent together to observe the scientists at work. This expedition is an example of how the IAEA’s NUclear TEChnology for Controlling Plastic Pollution (NUTEC Plastics) can help preserve one of the world’s most delicate marine environments.

“I think it's very important that for the first time we have objective scientific information of the pollution in this pristine environment,” said Mr Grossi.


Mr Grossi and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Director General Qu Dongyu launched a joint IAEA and FAO Atoms4Food initiative last year. The joint initiative aims to increase global food security and tackle growing hunger through the use of nuclear techniques. Mr Grossi said the “first concrete projects” were beginning to take shape as many countries registered their interest.

Rays of Hope

Speaking of the IAEA’s flagship cancer initiative, Rays of Hope, Mr Grossi said: “We are getting more and more requests from countries to participate in this important project.” Last month’s Rays of Hope forum brought together supporters and beneficiaries of the initiative, including Khumbize Chiponda, Malawi’s Minister of Health, who spoke about the positive impact Rays of Hope is having in her country.

ReNuAL2 Underway

Mr Grossi said that many of the IAEA’s initiatives relied on the IAEA’s laboratories in Seibersdorf. He announced that good progress was being made in the final phase of the modernization initiative of  the Nuclear Application Laboratories (ReNuAL2). The Dosimetry Laboratory is close to completion and construction on the new greenhouses is set to begin soon, after the successful mobilization of resources.  

Together For More Women in Nuclear

Concluding his speech, Mr Grossi looked ahead to the IAEA’s Together for More Women in Nuclear event which will take place on 7 and 8 March, to commemorate International Women's Day. The event brings almost 500 fellows and participants from the IAEA’s  Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme and the Lise Meitner Programme to the IAEA’s Vienna headquarters to exchange ideas and strengthen networking and leadership skills.

 “Now, thanks to the programmes we put together and the generosity of all of you Member States, we have a powerful and ever-growing community of women pursuing careers in nuclear physics, nuclear engineering and other specialties,” he said.

Mr Grossi noted the progress made towards gender parity at the IAEA Secretariat.  Under his helm, the number of women in professionals and higher categories has increased from 30 per cent to almost 46 per cent since December 2019. 

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