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

Vienna, Austria

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi delivering his opening statement to the IAEA Board of Governors. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

(As prepared for delivery)

Madam Chairperson,

Highlights since the last meeting of the Board of Governors included the continued roll-out of COVID-19-related assistance to Member States in the largest operation ever mounted by the IAEA, and last month’s agreement between Iran and the Agency on the resolution of some key safeguards issues.

Following the lockdown, we have returned to regular staffing levels at the VIC, with remote working still available for staff considered vulnerable. Physical distancing and other measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 are in place. All non-essential travel and events have been cancelled until the end of September. We are continuously monitoring the situation and will take appropriate decisions at the right time.

More than 1,260 consignments of equipment for virus detection and diagnosis and other supplies have been delivered, or are in transit, to 123 countries. I am proud of the efforts of IAEA staff, who went the extra mile to make this happen, and grateful for the support of Member States, which made it possible.

As I told the Board in June, fighting the coronavirus will remain our top priority until the pandemic is finally defeated.

More than 7,000 people took part in 15 IAEA webinars in multiple languages, covering aspects of health care and radioisotope and radiopharmaceutical production, with another 8,000 viewing the webinars afterwards. Twenty practical videos were produced on sample collection and handling as well as the use of RT-PCR equipment for virus detection and of personal protective equipment. I was very interested to learn from one of my TC colleagues that we are actually reaching significantly more people with each virtual training course than we would in normal circumstances.

We have conducted surveys among Member States on the impact of COVID-19 on the diagnosis of heart disease and on the work of nuclear medicine departments.

A total of 278 medical and veterinary laboratories have received guidance, support and expert services from the Agency. As far as the veterinary sector is concerned, the VETLAB network of laboratories has been an essential tool.

I encourage Member States to continue to support the IAEA’s efforts on COVID-19.

A proposed Technical Cooperation project on Supporting National and Regional Capacity in Integrated Action for Control of Zoonotic Diseases is before the Board.

The aim of the ZODIAC project, which I announced in June, is to enhance global, regional and national capabilities for surveillance of, and response to, zoonotic diseases through the use of nuclear and nuclear-related techniques. It will be implemented in close cooperation with key partners, including the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Organisation for Animal Health.

I encourage all Member States to fully support this important initiative.

I remind Member States of the importance of making their payments to the Technical Cooperation Fund on time and in full. This will help us to meet your needs and to implement projects effectively. 

Madam Chairperson,

The modernisation of the IAEA nuclear applications laboratories at Seibersdorf under the ReNuAL project is one of the most exciting and ambitious projects ever undertaken by the Agency.

Thanks to the generous support of Member States, four of the eight laboratories now occupy brand new facilities. However, the need to modernise three other laboratories was not addressed under ReNuAL, and the Dosimetry Lab still requires further improvements.

I have therefore proposed a new phase of ReNuAL comprising the construction of a new building to house the remaining three labs, the refurbishment of the Dosimetry Lab wing of the existing lab building, and the replacement of our ageing greenhouses. These are essential for our work on climate-smart agriculture, resource management and food security.

We estimate that this Phase – ReNuAL 2 – will cost approximately 24.8 million euros in new funding. I will continue to consult with you as planning progresses. I again thank all Member States, and especially Germany and South Africa as co-Chairs of the Friends of ReNuAL, for their tireless efforts to mobilise support. I know I can continue to count on all of you. 

Following the catastrophic explosion at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon last month, the Agency took swift action to help respond to the country’s immediate needs. We worked with national authorities to assess the damage to the health sector and the city’s infrastructure. We shipped mobile X-ray units and additional sets of RT-PCR equipment and supplies for the diagnosis of COVID-19. Support is also being provided on radiology and non-destructive testing to determine the safety of damaged buildings. An IAEA assistance mission, with the involvement of RANET teams from Member States, arrived in Lebanon on Saturday and will start work today to provide assistance with radiation surveying, sampling and analysis and to advise on potential radiation hazards.

Our thoughts are with the Government and people of Lebanon at this very sad time. Please be assured that we will continue to stand by you throughout the reconstruction phase. My report to the Board provides detailed information on our contribution.

Madam Chairperson,

My report on Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 covers our activities in the last few months in verifying and monitoring Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. Evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for Iran continue.

You have also received my report entitled NPT Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which describes the Agency’s efforts to clarify questions relating to the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations under its Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol.

Last month, I had discussions in Tehran with President Rouhani and other senior officials aimed at making concrete progress in addressing the Agency’s outstanding questions, and in particular at resolving the issue of access to two locations in Iran.

We reached agreement on the resolution of the safeguards implementation issues raised by the Agency. The Agency subsequently conducted a complementary access, under the Additional Protocol, at one of the two locations specified by us. Our inspectors took environmental samples which will be analysed. A complementary access at the second specified location will take place later this month.

I welcome the agreement between the Agency and Iran, which I hope will reinforce cooperation and enhance mutual trust.

The number of States with safeguards agreements in force has not changed since the last Board. It stands at 184, while 136 of these States have brought additional protocols into force.

I ask States Parties to the NPT without comprehensive safeguards agreements in force to bring such agreements into force without delay. I hope that States which have not yet concluded additional protocols will do so as soon as possible.

I have written to 31 States with small quantities protocols based on the original standard text inviting them to amend or rescind them, in line with the Board decision of September 20, 2005. This is essential to address a weakness in the IAEA safeguards system recognised by the Board 15 years ago. In 2020, the old standard SQP is simply not adequate.

The Agency continues to monitor the nuclear programme of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, using open source information including satellite imagery.

During the reporting period, some nuclear facilities continued to operate while others remained shut down. There were indications consistent with the production of enriched uranium at the reported centrifuge enrichment facility at Yongbyon. It is also likely that the DPRK has continued internal construction activities at the experimental LWR. However, the 5MW(e) nuclear reactor and the Radiochemical Laboratory continued to show no indications of operation.

The DPRK’s nuclear activities remain a cause for serious concern. The continuation of the country’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 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 is intensifying its 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 that it was very likely that the building destroyed at Dair Alzour was a nuclear reactor that should have been declared by Syria.

I urge Syria to cooperate fully with the Agency in connection with all unresolved issues. I am ready to talk to Syria constructively and cooperatively. Let’s engage!

As my report on 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 our consultations.

Madam Chairperson,

Turning now to nuclear energy, the 442 nuclear power reactors operating in 31 countries today provide approximately 390 gigawatts of installed capacity, supplying over 10% of the world’s electricity and around a third of all low-carbon electricity. There are 53 reactors under construction in 19 countries, which are expected to provide 56 gigawatts of additional capacity.

Two newcomer countries that have worked closely with the Agency in developing nuclear power programmes have recently achieved major milestones. The United Arab Emirates connected the first of four planned reactors to the grid. Belarus completed fuel loading in the first of two reactors which it is constructing.

The latest IAEA annual projections show that nuclear power will continue to play a key role in the world’s low-carbon energy mix, with global nuclear electrical capacity seen nearly doubling by 2050 in our high case scenario. Climate change mitigation remains a key potential driver for maintaining and expanding the use of nuclear power.

On Wednesday, we will launch the latest edition of our Climate Change and Nuclear Power publication. I encourage all of you to take part in the 2020 IAEA Scientific Forum next week, which is entitled Nuclear Power and the Clean Energy Transition.

The Agency’s International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles – INPRO – will mark its 20th anniversary with a side event during next week’s General Conference. INPRO has played an important role in supporting Member States in long-term planning and collaboration on innovations in reactors, fuel cycles and institutional approaches to promote the sustainability of nuclear power.

I am pleased to report that applications are now open for the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme to increase the number of women working in the nuclear field. Women studying for master’s degrees in nuclear science and technology, safety, security or non-proliferation are encouraged to apply by October 11th.  I am grateful for the support we have already received from several Member States for this initiative. I encourage other countries to contribute and help close the gender gap in the nuclear field.

In October, we will hold the International Conference on the Management of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material in Industry, our first conference on this important topic. It will consider approaches to the management of naturally occurring radioactive material in wastes and residues from a wide range of industries that are not part of the nuclear fuel cycle.

We recently launched the Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Information System (SRIS), in cooperation with the European Commission and the Nuclear Energy Agency of the OECD. SRIS provides an authoritative overview of national and global spent fuel and radioactive waste inventories as well as relevant laws, regulations, policies and activities.

Madam Chairperson,

My Nuclear and Radiation Safety Report outlines the Agency’s continued efforts to maintain and strengthen nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety, and emergency preparedness and response capabilities, focusing on technical areas and geographical regions where the need for such efforts is greatest.

The International Conference on Radiation Safety: Improving Radiation Protection in Practice will be held as a virtual event from November 9th to 20th.

You have received my report highlighting the achievements of the International Conference on Nuclear Security – ICONS 2020 – which took place in February in Vienna. The Ministerial Declaration provides important input for our next Nuclear Security Plan for the period 2022-2025.

We hope to hold the preparatory committee for the 2021 Review Conference on the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its Amendment in December in person, circumstances permitting.

Madam Chairperson,

As you know, my goal is to continuously seek efficiencies and manage the resources you entrust to us wisely and productively. Early next year, we will start our deliberations on the next budget cycle, my first as Director General. I will be personally engaged in reaching a common understanding with you on what the Agency requires to continue delivering its mandate. Bearing in mind the financial constraints in Member States, as well as the results of the Comprehensive Review of Management of Human Resources, I have started preparing the Draft Programme and Budget 2022-2023. I have asked senior managers to identify sustainable efficiencies in all areas of our work. Ultimately, we will continue to have to ‘do more with less’ and further strengthen the results-based approach in order to maintain high-quality support to Member States.

Following the last meeting in June, I understand that the Board will be ready to make future OIOS annual reports on internal auditing publicly available. I have started consultations with interested delegations on the appropriate procedure for implementing this transparency measure from 2021.

We continue to implement the Special Measures for the Achievement of Gender Parity adopted in May. I am pleased to see steady progress as a result of their application. In July and August, out of 26 fully competitive appointments in the professional and higher categories, 16 of the successful candidates were women. That is 61.5 percent. In addition, the proportion of woman at the D1 level increased from 30% at the end of April to 33.3% at the end of August.

I look forward to welcoming Member States to the General Conference next week. The number of participants has been significantly reduced from recent years to comply with the Austrian authorities’ requirements on COVID-19. We have taken steps to protect the health and safety of all participants.  

Thank you.

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