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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)

Mr Chairperson,

The IAEA continues to monitor, assess, and communicate the impact of the war in Ukraine on the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities.

The situation at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant remains precarious. All Seven Pillars of Nuclear Safety and Security have been fully or partially compromised. In early April, the Zaporizhzhya NPP suffered direct attacks for the first time in almost one and a half years. These attacks violated the first of the five concrete principles for protecting the Zaporizhzhya NPP that I laid out to the Board for the first time one year ago. The attacks and the frequent disconnection of the off-site power lines due to military activity are creating a grave situation, which I described to the United Nations Security Council on 25 April, in my seventh such briefing of the body.

Issues related to staffing, routine inspection and maintenance of the safety structures, systems, and components; reliability of supply chains as well as on-site emergency arrangements continue to be challenging and to present risks to the nuclear safety and security of the plant. On 28 May, I travelled to Kaliningrad and raised with Alexey Likhachev, head of Russian state nuclear company Rosatom, factors the IAEA believes remain a challenge for nuclear safety.

Since April, all six reactor units are in cold shutdown. This had been recommended by the Agency for some time, as it enhances the overall safety of the facility.The IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ) does not receive access to some areas of significance to nuclear safety and security of the Zaporizhzhya NPP site, and to have open discussions with all relevant staff. This challenges the Agency in making impartial and steadfast assessments of the situation against the Seven Pillars and limits our ability to continuously provide a clear confirmation that the five concrete principles are being kept.

Elsewhere across Ukraine, the IAEA maintained its continued presence at Ukraine’s four other nuclear power plants. IAEA teams continue to report compromised supply chains for spare parts and high levels of stress among the plants’ staff.

Since the last meeting of the Board, all rotations of Agency staff at all nuclear sites in Ukraine were conducted as planned and without delays. A total of 24 missions comprising 45 Agency staff members were deployed.

Since the start of the war, 47 deliveries of equipment worth more than €9.4 million have reached 18 organizations in Ukraine.

The Agency continued delivery of its medical assistance programme as well as its work to define Ukraine’s needs arising from the flooding in the Kherson Oblast. In addition, we prepared a proposal for the first phase of the Agency’s support on safety and security of radioactive sources in Ukraine.

The report on Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards in Ukraine is before the Board.

The Agency is grateful to the 30 donor States and the European Union for their extrabudgetary contributions supporting all of our Ukraine-related activities. We would welcome further support and collaboration to raise the requisite amount of financial support needed to continue delivery of the comprehensive assistance programme.

Mr Chairperson,

The Annual Report for 2023 is before the Board. This redesigned Board Report to the General Conference highlights the Agency’s work promoting peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology, enhancing nuclear safety and security, and implementing safeguards. It is available in all the Agency’s official languages.

The Technical Cooperation Report before you shows that in 2023 the Agency supported 150 countries and territories, of which 35 were Least Developed Countries. In 2023, the main areas of the Technical Cooperation (TC) programme were Food and Agriculture, followed by Health and Nutrition, and then Safety and Security.  Thanks to the contributions of Member States, the Technical Cooperation Fund (TCF) Rate of Attainment reached a high of 97.5%, and total TC resources for 2023 were €127.3 million, including TCF contributions and extrabudgetary funding. The implementation rate rose to 85.5%. We supported more than 1,800 fellowships and scientific visits and delivered almost 200 training courses in which almost 4,000 people participated.

The Technical Cooperation Programme for 2024-2025 is now underway. It comprises 458 new projects, including 10 that are interregional.

Much of the Agency’s work is now part of our key initiatives.  

Rays of Hope is delivering life-saving nuclear medicine to low and middle-income countries, with resource mobilization having reached €65.8 million since the initiative was launched in 2022. Last month I travelled to Abuja, determined to assist Nigeria and other African nations in enhancing their ability to bring cancer care to everyone who needs it. To that end, I met high-level officials and participated in a cancer seminar organised by the first ladies of the African nations of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Anchor Centres are central to Rays of Hope and we are making much progress in this area. For the first time, an Anchor Centre - the Ege University Faculty of Medicine, in Türkiye – hosted a workshop on paediatric radiotherapy services. This week several new cancer institutes are signing up to become Rays of Hope Anchor Centres, adding Slovenia, Argentina and South Africa to our growing list of Anchor Centres located around the world.

Atoms4Food was launched by the IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in October 2023. It steps up our assistance to Member States through seven precise services that use nuclear technology, science and their applications to boost food security and tackle the growing hunger and malnutrition crisis. We have been working, jointly with FAO, on the road map for its implementation.  

This year’s annual Scientific Forum, to be held on the margins of the 68th Regular Session of the IAEA General Conference, is entitled: Atoms4Food: Better Agriculture for Better Life. It will explore the innovation and impact of this lifesaving and life-affirming area of our work.  I look forward to welcoming you and urge Member States to participate at the highest possible level. 

Last month, we held the International Symposium on Food Safety and Control where representatives of Member States from all the regions, and from international financial institutions, emphasized the need to strengthen global food safety by leveraging strategic partnerships.

We also continue to support animal and human health through Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC). So far, 150 Member States have appointed a ZODIAC National Coordinator, and 128 Member States have designated a ZODIAC National Laboratory. Last year, 39 such laboratories were furnished with equipment for serology and molecular diagnostics.

Meanwhile, more than 80 countries are participating in our Nutec Plastics initiative, in both marine monitoring using isotopic tracing techniques and in the quest towards a circular plastic economy using radiation technology.

From 8-12 July, a meeting, Advancing the Global Monitoring of Marine Plastic Pollution under the IAEA NUTEC Plastics Initiative, will be held to strengthen the strategic, technical, and financial support of this flagship initiative.

We have also launched a new Coordinated Research Project entitled ‘Optimization of nuclear techniques to assess microplastic contamination trends in the coastal zone’, involving 17 Member States, from all regions.

The First Coordination Meeting of the Global Water Analysis Laboratory (GloWAL) Network will take place in Vienna from 18 to 20 June. The GloWAL Network assists Member States in generating the comparable data crucial to the better management of their water resources, the evaluation of water quality, and to water scarcity planning activities.

The IAEA continues to assist Member States in responding to emergencies arising from natural disasters, the outbreak of diseases, and accidents.

Following a marine oil spill in March 2024, the IAEA, through its Marine Environment Laboratories provided expert support to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to develop its capacity in using nuclear- and isotopic techniques to assess and monitor the impact of the oil in coastal marine ecosystems.

Preparations for the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science, Technology and Applications and the Technical Cooperation Programme in November 2024 are progressing. I thank the permanent representatives of Ghana and Finland for their efforts towards a successful conference. I look forward to Member States’ participation at the highest level.

Much of our work would be impossible without the Agency’s unique laboratories. Having celebrated the completion of major fundraising for ReNuAL2, the modernization of the Agency’s Nuclear Applications laboratories in Seibersdorf is on course to conclude by the end of 2024, ready for operation in 2025.

Mr Chairperson,

The Safeguards Implementation Report for 2023 shows that safeguards were applied for 189 States with safeguards agreements in force with the Agency. The Secretariat’s findings and conclusions for 2023 are reported for each type of safeguards agreement based on an evaluation of all safeguards relevant information available to the Agency.

With regards to developments in naval nuclear propulsion in relation to Australia and Brazil, the Secretariat continues to engage relevant parties. I will provide updated reports whenever significant developments warrant it.

Ahead of the September Board meeting, I plan to issue a report on Progress made in the development and implementation of State-level safeguards approaches in the context of the State-level concept.

Regarding 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). You will note that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium continues to increase, including that enriched up to 60%.  The Agency has lost continuity of knowledge in relation to the production and inventory of centrifuges, rotors and bellows, heavy water and uranium ore concentrate. It has been more than three years since Iran stopped provisionally applying its Additional Protocol and therefore it is also over three years since the Agency was able to conduct complementary access in Iran.

You also have before you my report on the NPT Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran. There has been no progress in resolving the outstanding safeguards issues. Iran has not provided the Agency with technically credible explanations for the presence of uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at Varamin and Turquzabad or informed the Agency of the current location(s) of the nuclear material and/or of contaminated equipment.

Iran still is not implementing modified Code 3.1, having stated it had suspended such implementation. 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. Further public statements made in Iran regarding its technical capabilities to produce nuclear weapons and possible changes to Iran’s nuclear doctrine only increase my concerns about the correctness and completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations.

In early May, I travelled to Tehran and met with Minister of Foreign Affairs, H. E. the late Mr. Hossein Amir-Abdollahian; and Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), H. E. Mr. Mohammad Eslami. I shared with them some concrete proposals to reinvigorate the implementation of the Joint Statement of 4 March 2023.

I deeply regret that Iran has yet to reverse its decision to withdraw the designations for several experienced Agency inspectors. Nevertheless, I welcome Iran’s agreement that the Joint Statement continues to provide a framework for cooperation with the Agency and for addressing the outstanding issues and call upon Iran to implement the Joint Statement through serious engagement with the Agency’s concrete proposals.

I reiterate to the new government of the Islamic Republic of Iran my call for, and disposition to continue with, the high-level dialogue and ensuing technical exchanges commenced as a result of the meetings with the late Foreign Minister and the current acting Foreign Minister HE Mr Ali Bagheri Kani on 6 and 7 May in Tehran and Esfahan. During subsequent communication with Minister Kani, we agreed to pursue further efforts as discussed in Tehran in early May.

Mr Chairperson,

I have made it a priority to strengthen the legal framework on which the continued peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology rest. Since the last Board meeting in March, Fiji has amended its original Small Quantities Protocol (SQP). The number of States with safeguards agreements in force remains 190, and 142 of these States now have brought additional protocols in force. I call upon the remaining four State 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 SQPs based on the original standard text to amend or rescind them. With the new development I mentioned, 81 States now have an operative SQP based on the revised standard text and 19 States have yet to amend or rescind their SQPs.

Since my report to the Board and General Conference in August 2023 we have continued to monitor the nuclear programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. As I noted in my Statement on Recent Developments in the DPRK’s Nuclear Programme on 21 December 2023, the Agency observed the discharge of warm water from the cooling system of the Light Water Reactor (LWR) at Yongbyon. Since my Statement, the Agency has observed intermittent cooling water discharge consistent with the operation of the LWR. Other activities continue at the Yongbyon site. There have been ongoing indications of the operation of the 5MW(e) reactor, and also indications of the ongoing operation of the reported centrifuge enrichment facility and its annex. In late-February 2024, work commenced on the construction of an annex to the main building in the Kangson Complex, significantly expanding the available floorspace.  The annex is now externally complete. The Kangson Complex shares infrastructure characteristics with the reported centrifuge enrichment facility at Yongbyon. There are no indications of change at the Nuclear Test Site at Punggye-ri, which remains occupied and prepared to support a new nuclear test, the conduct of which would contravene UN Security Council resolutions and would be a cause for serious concern.

The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear programme, including the construction and operation of the LWR, 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.

The nuclear non-proliferation regime requires our constant efforts and determination to make sure that legitimate nuclear activities are carried out in a peaceful manner. In this spirit, I met President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on 19 March and agreed a new engagement between the Syrian Arab Republic and the Agency.  As a result of those consultations, the IAEA, in coordination with the Syrian government, will undertake a process of clarification of the pending issues related to past activities in Syria that require further inquiry in order to exclude any proliferation concern. I will keep the Board updated of this important process.

Mr Chairperson,

At the most recent UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, which took place late last year, the world agreed that nuclear power needed to be part of the transition to net zero carbon emissions. In addition to that, more than 20 countries pledged to triple capacity. But a consensus that the world needs more nuclear energy does not automatically translate into building more capacity.

On 21 March, the IAEA and the government of Belgium brought together world leaders at the first-ever Nuclear Energy Summit. Leaders from more than 30 countries and the European Union emphasized the importance of using nuclear power to achieve energy security and climate goals, while driving sustainable development and prosperity. Increased financing, workforce development and more proactive support to nuclear newcomer countries were identified as key to long-term success.

In April, we began a first-of-its-kind collaboration with the G20, under the Brazilian presidency. We participated in the Energy Transitions Working Group and produced two reports for the Group:  Nuclear Energy for Net Zero: Accelerating Investment in the Clean Energy Transitions and From Knowledge to Action: IAEA Toolkit for Sustainable Energy Planning. A third report, the 2024 edition of Climate Change and Nuclear Power, which will focus on financing nuclear investments, will be presented at the margins of the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Energy and the Clean Energy Ministerial.  

Today, 416 nuclear power reactors operating in 31 countries make up more than 374 gigawatts of installed capacity, providing almost 10 per cent of the world’s total electricity and a quarter of its low-carbon supply. Another 59 reactors totalling almost 62 gigawatts are under construction in 15 countries, three of which are newcomers.

The safe, secure, and sustainable management of spent fuel from nuclear power reactors is key to the future of nuclear energy. Next week, experts and stakeholders from around the world will gather here for our International Conference on the Management of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors: Meeting the Moment. They will look at all facets of this multifaceted issue and the importance of taking an integrated view of the nuclear fuel cycle.

From 1 to 5 July, we will focus on another topic vital to nuclear power’s future. The International Conference on Nuclear Knowledge Management and Human Resources Development will review global developments related to nuclear knowledge management and the training of the future workforce. We must meet these challenges so that nuclear power capacity can be scaled and countries are able to meet their climate, economic and energy security goals. I hope to see many of you at these conferences.

Later in the year, the International Conference on Small Modular Reactors and their Applications will bring together a wide set of stakeholders to discuss the progress, opportunities and challenges in accelerating the development and deployment of SMRs. It will be an opportunity to provide an update of the IAEA’s Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative (NHSI) for which we have developed initial proposals for Phase II.  Among the many potential uses of SMRs is commercial marine propulsion.  Last month, I traveled to London where I visited Lloyds Register to discuss the growing interest of the shipping industry to use nuclear propulsion to cut its carbon emissions, which account for 3% of the global total. 

IAEA’s World Fusion Energy Group will be held in the coming months, with support from the Group of Seven and its current president, Italy. This global meeting of fusion energy stakeholders comes at a key moment in the development of fusion energy and amid the growing interest of Member States in its potential to provide large amounts of low carbon energy. On the occasion, the IAEA will publish its second World Fusion Outlook, an overview of the current state and direction of the fusion field, and the Fusion Key Elements, a vocabulary of terms that lays the foundation of common understanding essential to the global deployment of fusion energy.

Mr Chairperson,

Nuclear safety and security are vital enablers of the life-saving and life-affirming uses of nuclear science and technology.  Since we met in March, the International Conference on Enhancing the Operational Safety of Nuclear Power Plants was held in in Beijing. Participants from 40 Member States exchanged, benchmarked, and promoted good practices and experience on enhancing safety during commissioning, start-up and long-term operation of nuclear power plants.

Last month, the International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS) – Shaping the Future, was held in Vienna, with Australia and Kazakhstan as its co-presidents. The ministerial-level event assessed current priorities, prepared for new challenges, and engaged in scenario-based policy discussions. During the week, Jordan’s National Centre for Nuclear and Radiological Security was designated as an IAEA Collaborating Centre for Nuclear Security Detection and Response Capacity Building.

This week, the Meeting of the Representatives of Competent Authorities identified under the Early Notification and Assistance Conventions will convene to strengthen national, regional and international infrastructures and State Parties’ capacities to address newly emerging and complex situations that challenge the response to nuclear and radiological emergencies.

The Agency continues to maintain its presence at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (FDNPS), monitoring and assessing the discharges of the ALPS-treated water. The Task Force set up by the IAEA has confirmed that the discharge is progressing in accordance with the Implementation Plan approved by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). Expert independent analysis of the six batches released so far have confirmed the tritium concentration in each batch of ALPS-treated water released to date is far below Japan’s operational limit.

So far, the IAEA’s new Nuclear Security Training and Demonstration Centre has held 36 events with about 650 participants.

The IAEA Denial of Shipment Working Group (DoS WG) convened for the third time in April 2024 to address the underlying reasons for delays in and denials of the shipment of radioactive material, as well as to explore potential remedies. There will be an open-ended meeting of legal and technical experts to discuss the draft Code of Conduct on the Facilitation of Safe and Secure Transport of Radioactive Material prepared by the DoS WG, from 15 to 18 July.

The first meeting of the eighth term of the Commission on Safety Standards (CSS) took place last month under the new Chair, Marc Kenzelmann, Director General of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI). It focused on the preparation of the long-term structure and plan for IAEA Safety Standards.

Mr Chairperson,

The Agency strongly encourages the wider participation of women in the TC programme, and gender must be carefully considered during the development of technical cooperation project designs. Member States are encouraged to nominate female National Liaison Officers, meeting and training course participants, fellows and scientific visitors, and counterparts. Average female participation as fellows, scientific visitors, training course and meeting participants has increased from 37% in 2018 to 40% in 2023, and this is a trend which we would like to see grow.

The Agency has been making significant efforts to support a large enough, diverse enough and capable enough nuclear workforce for the future. In March, more than 400 students, alumnae and participants of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme (MSCFP) and Lise Meitner Programme (LMP) gathered at the Agency to exchange their experiences, discuss their careers and plan their futures.

The MSCFP is entering its fifth cycle and the next application round will open in mid-July. I would like to thank Member States and organizations that have supported the MSCFP and ask those who can, to offer financial or in-kind support. We need not only to ensure the programme’s sustainability, but also to close the immediate funding gap it is facing.

In March and April, 12 experts from 11 countries took part in the latest Lise Meitner Programme initiative aimed at enhancing the careers of women in the nuclear field. Technical visits and discussions were organised across the Republic of Korea, which currently has 26 operating nuclear power reactors. 

Within the Secretariat, the overall representation of women in the Professional and higher categories is now 47% and we continue making progress towards full parity.

I am pleased that the Programme and Budget Committee recommended for approval the proposed Agency’s Budget Update for 2025, which contains no changes to the Agency’s programme approved last year. Furthermore, the Committee also recommended the transmission of the Agency’s financial statements to the General Conference. In 2023, the Agency once again received an unqualified audit opinion on the financial statements from the External Auditor. Regarding the important topics of After Service Health Insurance Liabilities (ASHI) and the Working Capital Fund (WCF), we have taken note of the comments and suggestions made by Member States and appreciate the support expressed of our continuing efforts in finding a solution to these outstanding issues.

I thank those who have already paid their assessed contributions for 2024 and encourage others to do so in a timely manner so that we do not get into a liquidity situation similar to the one we faced in the third quarter of last year.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Member States for their continued support of the IAEA’s indispensable work. Amid rising international tension, the IAEA is a crucially important vehicle for advancing sustainable development and international peace and security. 

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