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The Week Ahead: IAEA Hosts General Conference


The IAEA’s 67th General Conference is taking place at the Agency’s headquarters in Vienna, from 25-29 September 2023. (Image: A. Vargas/IAEA)

Representatives from the IAEA’s 177 Member States will convene from 2529 September for the 67th IAEA General Conference at the Agency’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria. 

“From safeguards and non-proliferation, technical cooperation and beyond, we have a very important programme in front of us,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said addressing the IAEA’s Board of Governors last week. He detailed the IAEA’s work in areas from providing independent sampling and monitoring during the Fukushima Daiichi ALPS Water Release, to nuclear safety and security in Ukraine. At the opening of the conference on Monday morning, Mr Grossi will report on the Agency’s work and achievements in the past year. 

Mr Grossi is also set to take his oath of office at the General Conference, having been elected for a second four-year term earlier this year. 

During the week, delegates will discuss a range of topics, from the 2022 Annual Report and the 2024 budget to strengthening activities related to nuclear science, technology and applications, as well as the IAEA’s nuclear safety and security activities and strengthening the effectiveness and improving the efficiency of Agency safeguards. They will also specifically discuss nuclear safety, security and safeguards in Ukraine and safeguards in the Middle East and in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  

General Conference sessions in the Plenary Hall, including the statements of officials and delegates, will be livestreamed for the public. Documents provided to delegates are available here

This year marks the 70th anniversary since President Dwight D Eisenhower delivered his ‘Atoms for Peace’ speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, which inspired the creation of the IAEA. 

Side events and visits 

Throughout the week, the IAEA will host about 50 side events, and its Member States will host more than 60 side events, some of which will be livestreamed and open to the public. The events will highlight different aspects of the IAEA's work, from the IAEA Low Enriched Uranium Bank, which creates an assured supply of nuclear fuel to countries in case of disruptions to the open market to a panel event fostering cooperation between international experts, enabling them to deliver future nuclear technology such as small modular reactors.  

During a side event on Monday, as part of the Atoms4NetZero  initiative, experts will discuss how nuclear power can help mitigate climate change through the use of IAEA energy modelling tools.  

Another event will provide the latest status and future direction of the Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC). The IAEA launched ZODIAC in 2020 to support countries in the early detection, prevention and control of zoonotic diseases, in which diseases pass from animals to humans. 

The IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative, launched in 2022, is already making an impact by widening access to radiotherapy services, medical imaging and nuclear medicine in low- and middle-income countries. There will be a side event giving a status update on this initiative, as well as side events looking at how to tackle childhood cancer and the important role of medical physicists in ensuring quality and safety in modern radiation medicine.  

This year, the IAEA launched the Global Water Analysis Laboratory (GloWAL) Network at the UN 2023 Water Conference, empowering countries to generate their own chemical, biological and isotopic water data. A side event will cover how GloWAL is enabling collaboration and communication amongst laboratories around the world, producing data and information to help countries meet the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation).   

The IAEA celebrates 65 years of publishing its safety standards this year, which are used globally by national regulators. At a side event, a panel discussion will discuss how the standards have evolved over time to protect the public and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.  

Supporting the timely development of advanced nuclear reactors

A side event on Wednesday will highlight the IAEA’s efforts to harmonize regulatory approaches and standardize industry approached through the IAEA's Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative (NHSI), which will support the timely deployment of safe and secure advanced nuclear reactors, such as small modular reactors. 

Other side events include sessions on the important role of medical physicists in diagnostic radiology,  recruitment at the IAEA (virtually open to the public), the Nuclear Technology for Controlling Plastic Pollution (NUTEC Plastics) initiative and more. See the full list of events

There will also be guided visits for delegates and the media to the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre, Radiation Safety Technical Services Laboratory, Isotope Hydrology Laboratory, the IAEA’s Nuclear Applications Laboratories in Seibersdorf and the Safeguards Equipment Laboratories. Advanced registration is required for some tours. See the full list of guided and virtual visits. Self-guided virtual tours of the IAEA’s laboratories are also available on the IAEA website. 

Scientific Forum on Nuclear Innovations for Net Zero

In conjunction with the General Conference, the IAEA will host its annual Scientific Forum from 26–27 September with this year’s theme, Nuclear Innovations for Net Zero. This ties in with the IAEA initiative, Atoms4NetZero, which seeks to help countries to harness the power of nuclear energy in the clean energy transition to net zero. The forum will explore innovative ways of using nuclear power as the reliable backbone of clean, affordable, resilient and more secure energy transitions.  

The Forum, which is divided into five sessions, will explore new innovations in nuclear power, which can help to quickly replace fossil fuel-based energy production with safe and reliable low carbon nuclear power. Speakers will discuss new advanced nuclear reactors for energy production, such as small modular reactors, as well as how fast reactors and thorium reactors can provide novel fuel cycle solutions. Innovation through digitalization, artificial intelligence, robotics and advanced manufacturing, will also be discussed. The Forum will also look at how nuclear power can be used in industrial processes, transport and building heating systems, as well as for electricity.  

Several high-level speakers from government, industry and international organizations will present during the two-day event. Mr Grossi will open the Forum and join a high-level panel during the last session to highlight the importance of knowledge sharing and international cooperation. 

The Forum will be livestreamed here, and the programme is available here

Follow the IAEA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn for updates throughout the week: #IAEAGC for the General Conference and #ScientificForum for the Scientific Forum. The latest photographs from the event are also available here


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