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IAEA Highlights and Achievements in 2023 – A Year in Review


From nuclear energy making history at COP28, to new programmes in food security and water resource management, to conducting safeguards in war zones, to driving safety and security around the world — including helping prevent a nuclear accident in Ukraine —  to improving access to nuclear technology, this was an eventful year for the IAEA. 

Seventy years after the “Atoms for Peace” speech inspired the creation of the Agency, in 2023 the IAEA continued to address needs of countries in tackling global challenges using nuclear techniques, including through flagship initiatives, while maintaining vigilant oversight of nuclear facilities. 

Internally, the Agency remained strongly committed to the wellbeing of its employees, with new initiatives launched to drive respect and inclusion, such as increased parental leave and a new nursing room. This commitment to gender equality has helped the IAEA reach unprecedented levels of parity, with 44 per cent of professional positions now held by women.  

In 2023, the Director General also launched the IAEA Lise Meitner Programme. Building upon the success of the IAEA Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme, which provides scholarships in nuclear related master’s studies, the Lise Meitner Programme focuses on women’s professional development in the nuclear field.  

The IAEA continued to actively communicate about nuclear science and technology in 2023. This included hundreds of articles on, numerous videos covering essential nuclear topics, and connecting with a growing digital community across multiple accounts (join this community by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn). 

Alongside its online presence, the Agency's physical impact went far beyond its Vienna headquarters, resonating through its global safeguards activities, training programmes, international conferences, new strategic partnerships and landmark publications, like the IAEA World Fusion Outlook. 

Key IAEA achievements in 2023 included: 

Closing Gaps in Cancer Care

In 2023, the IAEA continued to advance cancer care around the world, through multiple services and activities across departments under the ‘Rays of Hope: Cancer Care for All’ initiative.

Throughout the year, the initiative continued to be a major focus, with five inaugural Rays of Hope Anchor Centres formally established at a side event at the IAEA’s 67th General Conference. The side event also laid the groundwork for support in countries such as Qatar and Mongolia, and marked the first concrete achievements in countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rays of Hope Anchor Centres were established in Africa, Asia, and Europe, building capacities for cancer care within these regions. 

A new strategic partnership was formed with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to scale up global capacities in paediatric cancer care. Alongside this effort, the IAEA conducted ten imPACT Review Missions and facilitated the development of National Cancer Control Plans in multiple countries across Africa, Latin America and Arab States. 

And IAEA research demonstrated the effectiveness of an innovative technique for radiotherapy treatment in head and neck cancer patients, making care more accessible and affordable in low- and middle-income countries. 

Science For Development: Nuclear Science and Applications

Beyond cancer care, the Agency also addressed other major challenges through its key initiatives.  

The Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action initiative, ZODIAC, ramped up its efforts, equipping 39 ZODIAC vet laboratories across the globe. With a network now spanning 128 countries, the initiative introduced a Respiratory Disease Phenotype Repository that will leverage artificial intelligence to help identify emerging zoonotic diseases and prevent potential pandemics.   

In 2023, NUTEC Plastics continued to revamp plastic recycling with nuclear techniques; pilot projects in the Asia Pacific and Latin America regions achieved proof of concept, attracting interest from major private sector companies. The initiative continued to monitor marine microplastic pollution across the globe through its 63-country laboratory network and established a new reference lab in Monaco. 

This fall, the IAEA launched the Atoms4Food initiative, a collaborative effort between IAEA and FAO, targeting global food insecurity, and introduced the Global Network of Water Laboratories (GloWAL) to bolster sustainable water resource management. Leveraging nuclear techniques, these initiatives are fortifying agriculture and facilitating effective management of freshwater resources amidst shifting climate patterns, by offering tailored solutions for countries worldwide. 

Upcoming in 2024: The Agency’s applied research laboratories in Austria and Monaco have been conducting R&D and training young scientists from around the world for over 60 years. With the ReNuAL2 modernisation programme in Seibersdorf set for completion in 2024, the labs will have expanded capabilities to assist countries in addressing modern challenges in food and agriculture, health, and environmental management. 

Achieving Sustainable Development Goals through Technical Cooperation

In 2023, the IAEA continued its robust support to countries through the technical cooperation programme. Driven by Member State demand, the IAEA helped countries strengthen their national legal frameworks, enabling them to benefit from the introduction of nuclear science and technology. 

Strengthening partnerships and networks, particularly through South-South cooperation, remained pivotal for countries’ progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). IAEA Member States reaffirmed their commitments to achieving the SDGs through 13 new Country Programme Frameworks, and several IAEA fact-finding missions were launched to new Member States to map out the future of technical cooperation in these countries. In total, 458 new technical cooperation projects have been approved for 2024-2025 in 148 countries and territories spanning all regions.

Upcoming in 2024: Looking ahead, IAEA is preparing for its Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology. High-level participants will discuss the role of nuclear science in development, including progress in the IAEA’s key flagship initiatives — Rays of Hope, Atoms4Food, NUTEC Plastics and ZODIAC

Spotlight on Nuclear Energy

In 2023, the IAEA organized a range of conferences, symposia and workshops, covering domains like climate change and nuclear innovations for net zero, stakeholder engagement, supply of uranium raw materials, radioactive waste management, decommissioning and floating nuclear power plants. Among other highlights were multiple side events at the 67th General Conference, including on one of the Agency’s flagship initiatives, Atoms4NetZero. At COP28 in Dubai, nuclear energy made history by being included in the conference’s final agreement as one of the low emission technologies to accelerate for decarbonization. The Atoms4Climate pavilion hosted around 30 Agency-wide events on energy, food, oceans and water. 

This year, we have also advanced our support for countries exploring Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) through the IAEA Platform on SMRs and their Applications and the Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative, that has been specifically designed to assist countries in getting SMRs from design and development to the market safely and efficiently. 

The year 2023 marked another important milestone, as the Agency welcomed its largest-ever cohort of 200 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme (MSCFP) recipients from 97 countries, bringing the total to 560. Additionally, the participants of the newly launched Lise Meitner Programme (LMP) visited the USA to engage in diverse nuclear-related activities, touring various nuclear facilities such as power plants, research labs, and computational facilities. 

Other notable events in 2023 were: 

Upcoming in 2024: In March, the IAEA will convene MSCFP students, LMP participants, and industry experts in Vienna to foster networking, leadership development and collaboration. Concurrently, the Agency will host conferences on SMRs, Research Reactors, Nuclear Knowledge Management and Human Resource Development, Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors and the inaugural meeting of the World Fusion Energy Group. 

A particular focus will be the first of its kind Nuclear Energy Summit in Brussels in March, where world leaders will gather to highlight the role of nuclear energy in addressing global challenges. 

Strengthening Nuclear Safety and Security: Milestones and Initiatives

This year saw several key events which underscored the IAEA's commitment to nuclear safety and security.  

The international community was given scientific assurances on the negligible environmental impact of the treated water release from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. In the first independent sampling since the start of treated water discharges at the power plant, the IAEA found tritium levels well below Japan's limits. This effort aligned with IAEA's decade-long commitment to assisting Japan in credible and transparent marine monitoring following  2011's nuclear accident.  

The IAEA carried on with its important work in Ukraine, with multiple in-person continued expert missions to nuclear power plants across the country, including Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, with the goal of lowering the risk of a nuclear accident despite the active conflict situation. 

The Director General led a number of missions in person and promoted key safety principles at the highest international levels. 

Enhancing Global Nuclear Security through Specialized Training  

A major highlight was the inauguration of IAEA Nuclear Security Training and Demonstration Centre on 3 October. Since its opening, the centre has held nine training sessions, engaging about 260 participants.  

This unique facility is designed to address countries’ needs in capacity building. It offers 23 specialized training courses using the state-of-the-art technical infrastructure. Covering aspects like physical protection and detection and response to criminal or intentional unauthorized acts involving nuclear or other radioactive material, the centre fosters expertise and supports global efforts against nuclear terrorism. Additionally, it includes specialized training for countries involved in or planning to join ‘Rays of Hope’, focusing on securing radioactive materials and facilities in cancer care. 

Global Collaboration on Nuclear Safety and Security  

An IAEA conference in Abu Dhabi addressed evolving challenges in the nuclear regulatory field, emphasizing safety amidst rapid technological advances, shifting regulatory landscapes, and emerging threats like climate-related hazards. 

Another significant event, the International Conference on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, Decommissioning, Environmental Protection and Remediation attracted over 600 stakeholders. Collaboration with multiple international and national bodies as well as representatives from institutions and organizations ensured an informative exchange on safety and sustainability of topical areas discussed during this event.  

In addition, the 20th Anniversary of the IAEA’s Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources celebrated ongoing collaborative efforts among 149 countries to ensure the safety and security of radioactive sources throughout their lifecycle. 

Upcoming in 2024: The IAEA is preparing for the International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS 2024) in Vienna. This event will gather global policymakers and experts to discuss policy, technology, capacity building, and cross-cutting topics in nuclear security. ICONS aims to foster collaboration, share best practices, and reinforce the IAEA's pivotal role in global nuclear security efforts. 


Released in June, the Safeguards Statement and Background for 2022 showed that the IAEA conducted almost 3000 in-field verification activities at more than 1300 nuclear facilities and ‘locations outside facilities’ around the world. As a result of this verification effort, the IAEA was able to draw safeguards conclusions for 188 States with safeguards agreements in force. This included Ukraine where, despite the ongoing armed conflict, the IAEA was able to conduct the in-field verification activities necessary to draw a safeguards conclusion on the peaceful use of nuclear material.  

Throughout the year, the IAEA continued to conduct verification and monitoring in Iran in relation to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Issues related to the presence of anthropogenic uranium particles at undeclared locations in Iran remained outstanding at the end of the year, despite the IAEA’s best efforts to engage Iran to resolve them.  

The IAEA also continued its efforts to support States in amending or rescinding their original-text small quantities protocols (SQP), and conclude additional protocols (AP). During the year, Nauru and Sao Tome and Principe amended their respective SQPs, while Bolivia (Plurinational State of) and Sao Tome and Principe brought into force APs with the IAEA. 

In March, the IAEA successfully concluded the pilot phase of COMPASS: the IAEA Comprehensive Capacity-Building Initiative for SSACs and SRAs. The initiative involves the IAEA partnering with States to help them strengthen the effectiveness of their State systems of accounting for and control of nuclear material (SSACs) and the performance of their State or Regional Authorities responsible for safeguards implementation (SRAs). The next implementation cycle for COMPASS will commence in January 2024, with a new group of States set to receive support from the initiative. 

Also in March, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the IAEA established a new Member State Support Programme (MSSP) to aid the IAEA’s nuclear verification mission. This was followed, in September, by the establishment of the Norwegian MSSP. MSSPs extend support to IAEA safeguards in various forms, including through knowledge exchange, collaboratively exploring new safeguards technologies, expert cooperation and financial support. These efforts collectively assist the IAEA in its mission to verify the peaceful use of nuclear material. 


Last update: 03 Jan 2024

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