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Newly Appointed Director General: IAEA's Work Fundamental to Concerns of World

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The Second Special Session of the General Conference is taking place at the Agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on 2 December 2019. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

The IAEA’s work has a direct impact on  fundamental issues of war, peace, health, energy, food and water, Rafael Mariano Grossi told a Special Session of the Agency’s General Conference following his appointment as IAEA Director General.

Mr Grossi, a senior Argentinian diplomat with a career spanning several decades in nuclear non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, will take office on 3 December. Read his CV here.

Following his statement, Member State representatives  joined Conference President Martha Delgado Peralta, Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in congratulating Mr Grossi on his appointment as the sixth Director General of the IAEA.

An "indispensable" organization

“The Agency is a formidable institution that deals with issues of war and peace, of human health, of energy, food and water –  fundamental concerns of all human beings,” Mr Grossi said after taking the oath of office. “It is truly a great honour to serve as IAEA Director General.”

By verifying that nuclear material is not being diverted from peaceful purposes and supporting countries in the use of nuclear science and technology to improve living standards and boost economic growth, the IAEA impacts the lives of millions, he said.

“The world is safer because of the dedication and vigilance of our inspectors,” Mr Grossi said, speaking of the IAEA’s nuclear safeguards verification mandate. “The fact that the Agency is known to stick to the facts has immense value and gives us unique credibility. Countries recognize this. Not everyone always likes what we report. But the Agency cannot be accused of being politically biased or of lacking objectivity.”

Turning to the Agency’s work to make nuclear technology available for peaceful purposes, he stated: “We touch the lives of millions of people by improving access to nuclear medicine and radiotherapy, enabling farmers to grow more food, supporting the management of scarce water resources, and in countless other areas.”

Clean energy to combat climate change

When it comes to responding to climate change and the need to secure adequate supplies of energy in the future, Mr Grossi said that nuclear energy is not part of the problem but can be part of the solution for countries wishing to use it. Noting that the United Nations Climate Change Conference is opening today in Madrid, Mr Grossi stressed the vital contribution that nuclear power can make in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

Nuclear power provides about 10% of the world’s electricity and contributes one third of all low-carbon electricity.

“When considering the future of nuclear power, we must acknowledge that there is substantial public concern about whether nuclear power is safe,” he stated. “Everyone remembers Chernobyl and Fukushima. The fact that nuclear power actually has an excellent overall safety record is not widely understood.” Science-based analysis of its risks and benefits compared to those of other energy sources should facilitate a better understanding of nuclear power’s potential and address public concern about its safety.

Guarding against nuclear terrorism

Mr Grossi said that nuclear material is a magnet of attraction for those who want to use it for malevolent purposes.

Noting that nuclear safety and security are national responsibilities, he stated: “It is vital that we remain ahead of the curve in guarding against nuclear terrorism. The Agency already brings together senior government officials and technical experts from around the world to consider the best ways to do this. I intend to build on the great political impetus seen in nuclear security in recent years, expand our support to all Agency Member States and work to transform our nuclear security guidance into mainstreamed norms.”

New sources of funding

Fundamental to the future will be seeking new and innovative sources of funding for the IAEA’s work, Mr Grossi said, including partnerships with other international organisations, regional organisations, banks and major international companies.

“Our technical cooperation programme has made a huge contribution over the decades. But the needs of developing countries are great and they expect us to do much more,” he stated. “It is unrealistic to expect a significant increase in our budget in the coming years, so we must find new sources of funding.”

Reaching gender parity

Mr Grossi welcomed the fact that women now account for 30 percent of senior positions in the Agency but said his goal was full gender parity.

“To me, gender parity means 50 percent women and 50 percent men – and that is the goal I set for myself. It will be challenging, but it is not impossible.” The IAEA should be able to succeed, where other organizations already have, and make use of all of the world's talent, not only half of it, he added.

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