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IAEA Director General's Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors

Vienna, Austria

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

(As prepared for delivery)

Before I begin my remarks, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the Kingdom of Morocco and all those whose lives have been impacted by the terrible earthquake. The IAEA has extended support to you and will deliver assistance as it has done in past such emergencies.

I would like to welcome Cabo Verde as the 177th Member State of the IAEA. It is indicative of Member States’ increasing interest in the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology that can assist them in meeting their development goals.

Mr Chairperson,

In Japan, the IAEA is working to ensure that everyone is properly informed about the discharge into the sea of the ALPS-treated water at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

The Agency is providing continuous live data from Japan on the release of treated water, which Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the Plant’s operator, began last month. Currently the data that is being reported by TEPCO to the IAEA is within the expected levels.

Since the discharge began, our experts have been at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station to ensure the relevant international safety standards continue to be applied.

Our most recent sampling and analysis of the seawater near the power plant shows that tritium levels are below Japan’s operational limit. Our independent monitoring and corroboration activities will continue during the entirety of the discharge, which is expected to take decades. As I have said before, the IAEA was there before, is there during and will be there after these activities.

In July I travelled to Japan to deliver to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida the IAEA’s comprehensive report on the ALPS treated water at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Fukushima. Following my meetings in Tokyo, I met with other stakeholders in the region to listen to their concerns and explain the IAEA’s findings.  The Agency and I will continue to be available for exchanges, clarifications and explanations, as may be necessary.

Mr Chairperson,

When we assembled here one year ago, I reported to you that the IAEA had established an ongoing presence at Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. Over the past year, 10 rotations of IAEA safety and security experts have crossed the front lines.

The IAEA’s presence has been essential in helping to stabilize the situation and in keeping the world informed about Zaporizhzhya NPP. I am particularly proud of the courageous staff who carry out this important task, as well as those at the other Ukraine NPPs and the Chornobyl site.

As of 31 August, 53 missions comprising a total of 116 Agency staff members have been deployed as part of the continued presence at all five nuclear sites in Ukraine.

At Zaporizhzhya NPP staff now are monitoring compliance with the five principles, as I laid out at the United Nations Security Council, for protecting the Plant from a serious accident.

As I have reported in my regular updates, a military presence remains on site and military activities are evident in the vicinity of the plant, causing concern about nuclear safety at the plant.  

In June, I led a team to assess how the damage of the Kakhovka dam impacts Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant’s safety. Significant efforts are being made to ensure enough cooling water for the six units.

You have before you the latest Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards in Ukraine, and I will offer more detail on our work in Ukraine, including on our extended assistance, later in my statement.

Mr Chairperson,

The IAEA’s technical cooperation programme is supporting 149 Member States through almost 1,800 projects, with the main areas of work in 2022 being Food and Agriculture, Health and Nutrition, and Safety.

Contributions to the TC Fund, the main source of funding for the TC programme, are essential to ensure sufficient, assured and predictable resources. The TCF Rate of Attainment, as of 31 August, was 69.7%, representing €65.3 million. This is significantly lower than this time last year when the Rate of Attainment was 91.5%, representing €83.4 million.

I ask that Member States pay their contributions on time and in full so that we can continue this indispensable work and fulfil our mandate.

The important initiatives I have launched over the past years to assist Member States in their priority areas, such as fighting cancer, zoonotic outbreaks and plastic pollution, are bearing fruit.

I am happy to inform you about our new IAEA initiative called Atoms4Food. You will soon receive the details of this initiative, which will support Member States in increasing food production, food safety, agricultural planning and nutrition programming, using nuclear and isotopic techniques. The initiative capitalises on multiple Agency programmes to provide tailor-made comprehensive support to countries and will be delivered through the Agency’s established mechanisms together with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and other relevant partners, as appropriate.

In the fight against cancer, we have received requests from 67 Member States who want to join Rays of Hope to strengthen their capacity to respond to this growing crisis. We are delivering equipment and training in Benin, Chad, Kenya, Malawi, and Niger to increase access to radiotherapy, including cyclotrons, LINACs and imaging equipment. In July, Botswana inaugurated its first public radiotherapy centre with the support of the Agency.

The IAEA’s NUTEC Plastic’s initiative is playing an increasingly important role in the global fight against plastic in the ocean, being featured in the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution, for example. The Agency’s Global Marine Plastics Monitoring Network established under NUTEC Plastics continues to grow and two high-level workshops on the harmonization 

of operational protocols for the collection and analysis of microplastics were held. In Latin America and Asia-Pacific, the initiative has assisted seven countries in implementing radiation recycling technology to convert plastic waste into high-quality products.

Research and development, in partnership with laboratories in Member States, are integral to the Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) project. The new ZODIAC Respiratory Disease Phenotype Repository will use artificial intelligence to analyse big data from research conducted all over the world to help identify emerging diseases. The Coordinated Research Project to enhance laboratory preparedness for detection and control of relevant priority diseases has been started, beginning with a project in Korea for the Asia-Pacific region.

To further our work assisting countries with critical water management issues, the Agency convened the 16th Isotope Hydrology Symposium.  Our new Global Water Analysis Laboratory (GloWAL) network was well received, and it was decided that a global survey of isotope hydrology capacity will be developed through the network’s platform.

This month marks an important milestone for the modernization of our Nuclear Applications laboratories in Seibersdorf as the final element – the greenhouses - moves into the construction phase, shifting our focus fully to implementation and to their use in our programme delivery. I would like to thank the 35 Member States and two international organizations that have provided more than €27 million for this phase. 

In fusion energy, notable progress is being made in research and development. The IAEA has been at the forefront of this important scientific field from the very start, publishing the first edition of the journal Nuclear Fusion more than 60 years ago. In London this October, we will hold the 29th International Fusion Energy Conference and present the first issue of the IAEA World Fusion Outlook. I am confident it will become a global reference for authoritative information and updates of fusion energy.

Nuclear fission continues to play its indispensable role in energy security and the mitigation of carbon emissions. Today, 410 nuclear power reactors operating in 31 countries make up almost 369 gigawatts of installed capacity, providing about a 10 per cent of the world’s total electricity and a quarter of its low-carbon supply.

By engaging all relevant stakeholders towards harmonizing regulatory approaches and standardizing industrial approaches, the IAEA’s Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative (NHSI) supports the timely deployment of safe and secure small modular reactors. As part of these efforts it is developing a series of tools and publications.

In June, one year since NHSI’s first meeting, more than 120 participants convened to take stock of the initiative’s progress and to set priorities for the coming year.

The 2nd International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power 2023: Atoms4NetZero will take place 9-13 October at IAEA headquarters and I encourage you to participate.

Meanwhile, preparations are in progress for December’s 28th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP28, in the United Arab Emirates. The IAEA will again host a nuclear-themed pavilion to engage with the global climate community and we will hold an array of events to apprise them of status, development and potential of the nuclear power at the world’s most important gathering on climate change.

Mr Chairperson,

Preparations for the 67th IAEA General Conference taking place 25-29th of this month are well underway, with 114 GC side events planned by both the Agency and Member States.

On the first day of the GC, I will receive instruments of adherence to treaties for which I, as Director General, am depositary.

This year’s annual Scientific Forum, to be held on day two and three of the GC, is entitled Nuclear Innovations for Net Zero. Experts from around the world will highlight the innovations taking place in advancing nuclear energy’s development and its contribution to avoiding greenhouse gas emissions. I encourage everyone to attend.

Mr Chairperson,

Since the last Board meeting, the Secretariat has had bilateral technical consultations with Australia to exchange views on technical and legal aspects related to the application of Agency safeguards in relation to Australia’s naval nuclear propulsion programme, including the arrangement required under Article 14 of Australia’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. Similar consultations with Brazil are planned during the month of October.

Returning to the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme, you have before you my latest report on Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015). As you are aware, the Agency’s JCPOA-related verification and monitoring has been seriously affected by Iran’s decision in February 2021 to stop implementing altogether its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA. The situation was exacerbated by Iran’s subsequent decision to remove all the Agency’s JCPOA-related surveillance and monitoring equipment.

It has been more than two and a half years since Iran stopped provisionally applying its Additional Protocol and, therefore, since it provided updated declarations, and since the Agency was able to conduct complementary access to sites and other locations in Iran.

You also have before you my report on NPT Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran. I regret that no further progress has been made in implementing the activities set out in the Joint Statement signed in Tehran on 4 March.

Iran also still needs to provide the Agency with technically credible explanations for the presence of uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at Varamin and Turquzabad and inform the Agency of the current location(s) of related nuclear material and/or of contaminated equipment. It also still needs to resolve the discrepancy in the nuclear material balance evaluation relating to the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) and to implement modified Code 3.1.

These outstanding safeguards issues stem from Iran’s obligations under its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and need to be resolved for the Agency to be in a position to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful.

I call upon Iran to work with the Agency in earnest and in a sustained way towards the fulfilment of the commitments contained in the Joint Statement.

The number of States with safeguards agreements in force remains 190 with 141 of these States having brought additional protocols into force. I call upon the remaining four States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons without comprehensive safeguards agreements to bring such agreements into force without delay. I also encourage States that have not yet concluded additional protocols to do so as soon as possible, and I reiterate my call for States with small quantities protocols (SQP) based on the old standard text to amend or rescind them. At present 78 States have an operative SQP based on the revised standard text. Let me assure you that I will continue to use my good offices to strengthen the indispensable legal framework on which the continued peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology rest.

Since my report to the Board and General Conference in September last year we have continued to monitor the DPRK nuclear programme.

The Nuclear Test Site at Punggye-ri remains prepared to support a nuclear test, and we continue to see indications of activity near Adit 3 and in the support area. The conduct of a nuclear test would contravene UN Security Council resolutions and would be a cause for serious concern.

Activities are continuing at the Yongbyon site and the Agency has observed increased construction activity at several locations in the site. The Agency continues to observe indications of the operation of the 5MW(e) reactor and indications of activity at the Radiochemical Laboratory that are consistent with possible waste treatment or maintenance activities. There are also indications of operation of the reported centrifuge enrichment facility and its annex. At the Nuclear Fuel Rod Fabrication Plant, some buildings were renovated and others newly constructed.

Increased levels of activity were observed at, and near, the LWR, including more frequent and longer duration testing of the LWR cooling system, and the construction of additional buildings. However, the Agency did not observe indications of operation of the LWR and cannot estimate when it could become operational.

The continuation of the DPRK’s nuclear programme is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable. I call upon the DPRK to comply fully with its obligations under relevant UN Security Council resolutions, to cooperate promptly with the Agency in the full and effective implementation of its NPT Safeguards Agreement 

and to resolve all outstanding issues, especially those that have arisen during the absence of Agency inspectors from the country. The Agency continues to maintain its enhanced readiness to play its essential role in verifying the DPRK’s nuclear programme.

As far as implementation of safeguards in the Syrian Arab Republic is concerned, no new information has come to the knowledge of the Agency that would affect our assessment on the building destroyed at Dair Alzour, consistent with it being a nuclear reactor that should have been declared to the Agency by Syria pursuant to its NPT Safeguards Agreement. 

Earlier this month I wrote to Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, H.E. Mr Faisal Mekdad, reiterating my willingness to engage with Syria with a view to discussing the unresolved issues.

I am hopeful Syria will seize this opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to cooperate fully and constructively with the Agency on the implementation of Syria’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement.

As my report on the Application of IAEA Safeguards in the Middle East shows, there remain long-standing and fundamental differences of views among countries of the region with regard to the application of comprehensive Agency safeguards to all nuclear activities in the Middle East. It has therefore not been possible to make further progress in fulfilling our mandate from the General Conference in this area. I will continue consultations.

Mr Chairperson,

More than 20 deliveries of nuclear safety and security-related equipment have been made to different organizations in Ukraine since the start of the armed conflict.

Since the last Board of Governors meeting, two new missions travelled to Ukraine, the medical assistance mission in June and the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources (ISAMRAD) one month later.

A new programme of assistance for the Kherson Oblast (ISAMKO) was announced in June. It aims to address the adverse medium- and long-term environmental, social and economic impact of the flooding caused by the destruction of the Kakhovka dam.

The Agency is thankful to those Member States and the European Union who have made valuable cash contributions and donated equipment so far. The currently estimated remaining needs across various components of the assistance programme to Ukraine exceed €43 million. I encourage Member States to provide any support they can to meet them.

You have before you two regular reports: the Report on Nuclear and Radiation Safety and the Nuclear Security Report.

The Report on Nuclear and Radiation Safety provides a detailed update on our recent work in nuclear; radiation; transport and waste safety; emergency preparedness and response; and civil liability for nuclear damage. It includes deliberations related to conventions, peer review missions and capacity building activities.

The Nuclear Security Report 2023 covers our recent activities in nuclear security and highlights notable accomplishments within the framework of the Nuclear Security Plan. In June, the IAEA held the International Conference on Computer Security in the Nuclear World: Security for Safety, outcomes of which will inform future planning and programmatic activities in relation to implementation of information and computer security activities.

In the period July 2022 to July 2023, the Agency published 21 Specific Safety Guides, a record number for the past 20 years. Additionally, 7 draft safety guides were endorsed by the Commission on Safety Standards for publication. The backlog of safety standards awaiting publication has now been cleared after the successful implementation of the Action Plan adopted in April 2021.

Today, the practical application of the IAEA’s safety standards and nuclear security guidance is severely tested by the war in Ukraine, and we are taking stock of what we have learned so far, conducting an internal review and initiating a technical document.

In Seibersdorf, the construction of the IAEA Nuclear Security Training and Demonstration Centre (NSTDC) is completed. This is the first international centre of its type.

The opening ceremony for the Multipurpose building is planned on Tuesday 3 October 2023. I would like to thank the donors who have made this possible and invite you all to attend.

Mr Chairperson,

The Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme (MSCFP) is accepting applications for its fourth and biggest annual cohort. This year, we are offering financial support to 200 successful female candidates pursuing a master’s degree in a nuclear subject.

Since the launch of the MSCFP in 2020, scholarships have been awarded to 360 women from 110 Member States studying in 65 countries. Many of our fellows also go on to accept an IAEA-facilitated internship at IAEA headquarters, our laboratories, Collaborating Centers, private sector companies or other partner organizations.

As a natural follow-on to the MSCFP, I launched the Lise Meitner Programme (LMP) in March. It allows women in the early to middle part of their career to advance their skills by participating in a multiweek visiting-professionals programme.

The first visit took place in the US in June and a second is planned for next month. I encourage Member States to support both these programmes, including by hosting LMP visits.

The overall representation of women in the Professional and higher categories at the IAEA Secretariat reached 43% at the end of August and we achieved gender parity in senior positions. I am pleased with our steady progress and determined to achieve full gender parity by 2025.

Mr Chairman,

In closing, I must tell you that the Agency is facing a serious liquidity challenge due to a delay in receipt of Regular Budget assessed contributions from Member States. The total outstanding balance of overdue assessed contributions amounts to approximately €220 million.

The Agency needs a stable and predictable financial foundation to meet its statutory and legal obligations. The delayed payment of contributions jeopardizes the timely implementation of the Agency’s programmatic activities and could eventually lead to their suspension. I appeal to those Member States with outstanding contributions to settle their overdue payments and I call on all Member States to honour their obligation to pay their assessed contributions in a timely manner.

I assure you of my full commitment to continue to use the resources you entrust to us prudently, efficiently and in order to make the biggest possible positive impact.

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