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IAEA Director General Highlights Global Impact of Cooperation with European Union, Calls for Closer Partnership

Grossi - European Parliament

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi addressing Members of the European Parliament on 16 March 2021. (Photo: European Parliament/IAEA)

At the European Parliament this morning, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi emphasized the importance of the European Union as a major partner and supporter of the IAEA, especially in the area of safeguards, security and safety. During his exchange with MEPs, he called for even closer cooperation to address global challenges related to non-proliferation, climate change and sustainable development worldwide. Mr Grossi spoke through video link during a joint hybrid session of the Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE), the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and the Committee for Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) – the first time for an IAEA Director General to speak at the European Parliament.

The IAEA is a vehicle through which the European Union can achieve its Agenda for a Renewed Multilateralism and fulfil its Agenda 2030, Mr Grossi stated. “I believe that your noble objectives of: ‘strengthening global recovery and tackling inequalities;’ of ‘winning the race against climate change and restoring our relationship with nature;’ and of ‘building partnerships and alliances’ will be easier to achieve when you work with, and support, the IAEA,” Mr Grossi stated in the virtual exchange.

Since 2008, the EU has contributed approximately €140 million, including €10.8 million in 2020, in extrabudgetary funds to the IAEA. The contributions have been pivotal in supporting projects in nuclear safety and security, as well as technical cooperation, to ensure all nations benefit from the peaceful uses of nuclear technology.

Mr Grossi highlighted the scope of the Agency’s work and its relevance to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. “Nuclear techniques and technologies help countries protect their crops, protect their health through nuclear medicine all over the world,” he said. Furthermore, “the IAEA is an indispensable player when it comes to fighting, for example, plastic pollution through isotopic tracers.”

In light of the pandemic, the IAEA launched ZODIAC, a major initiative to prevent future outbreaks of diseases that spread from animals to humans. “By using nuclear-derived technologies to detect viruses and antibodies in animals and humans, we will build up the defences of countries at the forefront of these outbreaks,” Mr Grossi stated. “It will be nuclear’s contribution to reducing the chance that the world falls victim again to a devastating pandemic like COVID-19. We see many EU Member States increasing their contributions to our activities in the area of nuclear applications.”

Providing sustainable, low carbon energy

The IAEA Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank in Kazakhstan, completed in 2019, is one example of an international effort to which the EU has been a major contributor, with a donation of almost €25 million. The LEU Bank serves as a mechanism of last resort for Member States in case the supply of LEU to fuel a nuclear power plant is disrupted.

“The biggest positive long-term impact nuclear can make is in providing the safe, stable and sustainable supply of low carbon energy,” Mr Grossi stated. “It is every country’s sovereign right and responsibility to choose its own energy mix, and half of the EU’s Members States have chosen to include nuclear.” Ahead of 2019’s COP25 climate change conference, the European Parliament adopted a resolution stating its belief “that nuclear energy can play a role in meeting climate objectives because it does not emit greenhouse gases, and can also ensure a significant share of electricity production in Europe.”

In response to a question on nuclear energy, Mr Grossi said, “We have a common cause, which is the decarbonization of our economies. […] We believe nuclear energy is one of the actors that can play a compatible role with renewables and other sources of energy [...] that we all need for the wellbeing of our societies and to do it in a way that does no harm to the environment.”

Cooperation for peace

Mr Grossi underlined the IAEA’s role in maintaining world peace. Referring to the Agency’s work in safeguards and the recent agreement with Iran to continue the IAEA’s verification and monitoring activities, Mr Grossi stated that, “across more than six decades, the IAEA has done an exceptional job in helping to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.”

He also spoke of the cooperation of the EU and the IAEA in combatting nuclear terrorism. In December 2020, the EU pledged €11.5 million to the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund (NSF), bringing its overall NSF contribution to €55 million, making it the third largest contributor to the fund after the United States and the United Kingdom. The IAEA’s global nuclear security programme, which provides assistance to countries, upon request, to strengthen their nuclear security regimes and prevent the use of nuclear and radioactive material by criminals, is supported by voluntary contributions.

“We are grateful to Ambassador Grossi who covered a variety of questions and provided clear, precise and transparent answers,” said Nathalie Loiseau, Chairwoman of the Sub-committee on Security and Defence. “Indeed, nuclear is a major topic and, as regards our Sub-committee on Security and Defence, non proliferation is central. We unanimously support the work of IAEA in this regard.”

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