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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)

Mr Chairperson,

We have taken a step in the right direction with regards to the dangerous and fragile situation around Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. Last week, I outlined to the United Nations Security Council the IAEA’s 5 principles to help ensure nuclear safety and security at Zaporizhzhya NPP and they received very clear expressions of support. I wish to recognize the role of the Swiss Presidency of the Security Council and the personal involvement of Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis.

The 5 principles are:

  1. There should be no attack of any kind from or against the plant, in particular targeting the reactors, spent fuel storage, other critical infrastructure, or personnel;
  2. Zaporizhzhya NPP should not be used as storage or a base for heavy weapons (i.e. multiple rocket launchers, artillery systems and munitions, and tanks) or military personnel that could be used for an attack from the plant;
  3. Off-site power to the plant should not be put at risk. To that effect, all efforts should be made to ensure that off-site power remains available and secure at all times;
  4. All structures, systems and components essential to the safe and secure operation of Zaporizhzhya NPP should be protected from attacks or acts of sabotage;
  5. No action should be taken that undermines these principles.

These concrete principles follow intensive consultations with the leadership of Ukraine, as well as of Russia. I have respectfully and solemnly asked both sides to observe these five principles. They are to no one’s detriment and to everyone’s benefit and I ask you, as the IAEA’s Board of Governors, to support them.

From immediately, the IAEA experts onsite, namely the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya (IZAMZ), will report to me, in my capacity as Director General, on the observance of these principles, and I will report publicly on any violations of them.

These principles are necessary because the risk at Zaporizhzhya NPP has risen in the past months due to increased military action. The plant’s offsite power has been knocked out seven times since the start of the conflict, underscoring the urgent need to protect this vital electricity supply.

A nuclear accident or incident does not discriminate between the national affiliation of people; it would simply spread misery in a place where there is already far too much. 

Agency teams of experts remain present not only at Zaporizhzhya NPP, but at all Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, and are monitoring and reporting daily about the developments on nuclear safety and security. So far 81 experts in 37 missions have rotated at the five sites.

In the past months they have observed military activity increasing in the entire region. The three operating nuclear power plants in Ukraine have had to decrease their power as a direct result of military activity and all sites have dealt with supply chain and spare parts challenges.

Since the start of the conflict, €5 million worth of nuclear safety and security equipment has been delivered to Ukraine. We are putting together a comprehensive programme of healthcare assistance, including through equipment and psychological support for all Ukrainian operating personnel at nuclear power plants. We are close to securing the funds necessary for our expert missions in 2023 thanks to the generous support of Member States.

Mr Chairperson,

The IAEA’s Annual Report for 2022 is before the Board. It is the Board’s report to the General Conference, highlighting the Agency’s work to promote peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology, enhance nuclear safety and security, and implement safeguards.

You will find in the Technical Cooperation Report before the Board that in 2022 the Agency supported 149 countries and territories through the technical cooperation programme, of which 35 were least developed countries. The main focus of our work last year was on food and agriculture, health and nutrition, and 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 2022 were €130 million, including TCF contributions and extrabudgetary funding. I encourage all Member States to pay their TCF contributions in full and on time.

In 2022, Agency work gradually returned to normal with the abatement of the pandemic, with the implementation rate increasing to 84.4%. We supported 1,436 fellowships and scientific visits, delivered 159 regional and interregional training courses and enabled the participation of more than 3,000 people in training courses.

The IAEA is bringing knowledge and technology for cancer care to those countries that need it most. Some 22 senior nuclear professionals from 15 African Member States received training on leadership in nuclear medicine, and a new orthovoltage radiotherapy machine was delivered to Namibia. Brachytherapy units were provided to Madagascar and Mongolia. Diagnostic radiotherapy services were improved in Hungary, and in June, Jamaica opened its first public nuclear medicine centre. Regional support was provided for radiopharmaceutical production in Africa, and for tissue irradiation in Latin America. 

Meanwhile, we conducted ImPACT Reviews in Colombia, Lao PDR, the Syrian Arab Republic and Uzbekistan, while 10 Member States received assistance in planning their National Cancer Control Programmes. The Rays of Hope flagship cancer initiative is gaining momentum. For example, I and the Minister of Health of Indonesia just signed a Letter of Intent for further cooperation.

The initiative continues to provide assistance to our inaugural countries in Africa. Since the Rays of Hope initiative was launched last year, it has raised approximately €37 million, but there are still funding gaps that need to be filled. More than 60 Rays of Hope Member States have identified additional estimated priority needs of €36 million. On Wednesday, I will hold a briefing to assist Member States considering pledges during 67th General Conference.

The Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) initiative assists Member States in detecting and preparing for zoonotic disease outbreaks. It comprises 127 ZODIAC National Laboratories and more than 150 ZODIAC National Coordinators. Through ZODIAC, institutions in the Asia region are developing techniques for environmental sampling, for example in water, sewage and air, to identify and characterize zoonotic pathogens.

The Agency’s Global Marine Plastics Monitoring Network established under NUTEC Plastics now has 26 labs, with a further 42 labs interested in joining. Two regional training courses, one in Colombia in March and one in Thailand in April, focused on harmonized sampling protocols for the collection and analysis of microplastics. A technical meeting was held in Monaco with the Argentine Antarctic Institute with the goal of strengthening analytical capacities to monitor and study microplastics in Antarctica. On this topic, we signed two separate Memoranda of Understanding, one with Argentina and the second with Cuba, setting out a framework for scientific cooperation under NUTEC Plastics on the control of plastic pollution in Antarctica and the Caribbean, including the organization of expert missions and education and training activities that build capacity to collect and analyse data on the identification and distribution of microplastics.

Meanwhile, the initiative is supporting Member States in regions including, Africa, Asia and the Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean in accelerating their transition to a circular plastic economy, including by using radiation technology in plastic recycling. 

In 2022, the IAEA provided countries with assistance to address several emergencies, including Tonga after the eruption of an under-sea volcano, Haiti following an earthquake, and Mexico following an outbreak of Lumpy skin disease. Currently, support is being provided following an earthquake that hit Türkiye and Syria in February, and one that affected Ecuador in March.

Our work in all these areas would not be possible without our laboratories.

I am grateful to the 12 Member States who announced a generous joint contribution of €5.5 million during the March Board meeting, allowing us to initiate a procurement process for the construction of new laboratory greenhouses - the last major ReNuAL2 cost element. The modernization of the greenhouses will enhance our ability to support Member States in priority areas such as mutation breeding. For example, it is in such greenhouses that our scientists will study the Sorghum and Arabidopsis seeds that have returned from their time at the International Space Station.

Renovation works are also happening at the Isotope Hydrology Laboratory here at the Vienna International Centre. Currently on track to be completed by the end of October 2023, the renovations will significantly enhance the support the laboratory can provide to Member States in analytical services and as training facilities. This includes serving the members of the Global Water Analysis Laboratories (GloWAL) Network I launched at the UN Water Conference in March. I thank the USA and Switzerland for the seed funding they have made available to establish the network.

I would be delighted if you could join me for a ReNuAL2 side event to acknowledge first-time and non-traditional donors. We will be meeting tomorrow at 13:00 in front of the donor display in the A building.

The Agency’s marine environment, terrestrial environment and isotope hydrology laboratories continue to support the corroboration of source and environmental monitoring in the framework of IAEA’s Review of the application of the International Safety Standards in relation to the ALPS-treated water discharge from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, planned by TEPCO. The report of the first interlaboratory comparison exercise was issued last month; two more reports will be issued in the coming days, and preparations for further exercises are underway.

The comprehensive report of the IAEA Task Force on ALPS-treated water in being prepared. It will include all the findings and conclusions from the past two years’ work, and it will cover all relevant technical topics.

Mr Chairperson,

The Safeguards Implementation Report for 2022 states that, although the restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic eased significantly, the Agency needed to continue to be agile in planning and conducting safeguards activities in unforeseen circumstances. Once again, we were able to draw safeguards conclusions for all States.  

Regarding AUKUS, I recognise that among this Board and Member States this matter is of considerable interest, and, for some, concern. As I said at the time of the initial announcement back in September 2021, the Agency will work with the relevant parties on this complex technical matter. Let me be clear, the Agency will be guided by its sole beacon: the safeguards and non-proliferation mission. That mission, which should never be overlooked, will be carried out in accordance with both the Agency’s statutory mandate and the relevant safeguards agreements, which should always be respected.

You have before you the report Naval Nuclear Propulsion: Australia and the report Naval Nuclear Propulsion: Brazil. The reports provide updates on technical consultations between the Agency and the States concerned.

As I have informed the Board previously, the use of nuclear material in naval nuclear propulsion is foreseen by the legal framework and requires arrangements under these countries’ respective safeguards agreements and the development of appropriate Agency safeguards approaches. Hence, the Secretariat has engaged in consultations with the States concerned to consider the possible implications on the application of Agency safeguards. Such arrangements must be in strict conformity with the existing legal framework and, once they are finalized, will be transmitted to the Board of Governors for appropriate action. This process will take some time and the Agency will undertake it with its technical, impartial and objective approach.  

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 has not been able to perform JCPOA verification and monitoring activities in relation to the production and inventory of centrifuges, rotors and bellows, heavy water and uranium ore concentrate for two and one quarter years, including the period after June 2022 when no surveillance and monitoring equipment related to JCPOA was installed and operating.

The report indicates that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has risen by over a quarter in three months. This includes its stockpile of uranium enriched up to 20% U-235, which is approaching half a ton, and its stockpile of high enriched uranium – enriched up to 60% U-235 – which is well over 100 kg.

You will find information regarding how we are implementing the NPT Safeguards Agreement in Iran, as well as implementation of the Joint Statement of 4 March, in my latest report on the NPT Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is also before you.

In that report you will see that the process of implementation of the Joint Statement has started and some progress has been made, but not as much as I had hoped. For example, in early May the Agency installed surveillance cameras at workshops at one location where centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows are manufactured. In addition, in order to monitor the enrichment level of the HEU being produced by Iran at declared facilities, the Agency has for the first time installed an enrichment monitoring device at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant as well as at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant in Natanz. This will help us detect more rapidly any variations in enrichment levels at these facilities.

But this is a fraction of what we envisaged and what needs to happen now is a sustained and uninterrupted process that leads to all the commitments contained in the Joint Statement being fulfilled without further delay.

Iran has provided a possible explanation for the presence of depleted uranium in one part of the location known as Marivan. I note that our assessment for the location still stands and I reiterate that the remaining outstanding safeguards issues stem from Iran’s obligations under the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement between Iran and the Agency and still need to be resolved for the Agency to be in a position to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful.

You will recall that I have made it a priority to strengthen the indispensable legal framework on which the continued peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology rest. Since the last regular Board meeting, Sao Tome and Principe has brought into force a comprehensive safeguards agreement in connection with the NPT with a Small Quantities Protocol (SQP) based on the revised SQP text and an additional protocol. The number of States with safeguards agreements in force now stands at 190 and 141 of these States have brought additional protocols in 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. With the new development I just summarized, 78 States now have an operative SQP based on the revised standard text

Since my statement to the Board in March 2023, the IAEA has continued to monitor the DPRK’s 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 reopening of the nuclear test site is deeply troubling. The conduct of a nuclear test would contravene UN Security Council resolutions and would be a cause for serious concern.

Since March 2023, the Agency has seen indications of ongoing operation of nuclear facilities, and a significant increase in construction work, at the Yongbyon site.

The continuation of the DPRK’s nuclear programme is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable. 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. 

Mr Chairperson,

Last month, I made my first official trip to China.

I signed an agreement with China's National Nuclear Safety Administration to establish the Nuclear and Radiation Safety Center in Beijing. The centre will be a place for Member States to cooperate and share knowledge on fundamental topics such as ensuring radiation safety, transporting nuclear waste and promoting capacity-building. This visit was of fundamental importance as we enhance our bilateral work in the context of China’s fast-growing civil nuclear programme.

In nuclear safety and security, our peer review missions continue, as does our work in ensuring the nexus between those two vital areas is carefully considered. To that end, the Advisory Group on Nuclear Security (AdSec) and the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (INSAG) published A Systems View of Nuclear Security and Nuclear Safety: Identifying Interfaces and Building Synergies.

This month, the International Conference on Computer Security in the Nuclear World takes place. Considering our increasing reliance on digital technologies, the conference offers an opportune global forum to discuss how to secure them from attack.

Today, 410 nuclear power reactors operating in 31 countries make up approximately 368.6 gigawatts of installed capacity, providing about a 10 per cent of the world’s total electricity and a quarter of its low-carbon supply.

With interest in Small Modular Reactors increasing worldwide, we continue supporting Member States in their safe and effective development and deployment. The Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative (NHSI) is making progress. On 27 June, one year since NHSI’s official launch, a plenary will take place where representatives of the initiative’s regulatory and industrial tracks will come together to take stock and provide further impetus to this key effort.

This year’s annual Scientific Forum, held on the margins of the 67th IAEA General Conference, is entitled: Nuclear Innovations for Net Zero and will explore innovations across the nuclear sector. I look forward to welcoming you and urge Member States to participate at the highest possible level. 

Mr Chairperson,

I am determined to reduce the gender imbalance in the nuclear sector, in our work assisting Member States, and among staff at the Secretariate.

The first cohort of women professionals under the new IAEA Lise Meitner Programme are currently in the United States of America, taking part in the technical visits to several nuclear facilities and in on‑site lectures and discussions. Through this targeted professional development, the Lise Meitner programme seeks to retain women in the nuclear field and help them to advance their careers. The Lise Meitner Programme is a natural follow-up to the IAEA’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme, which is in its third year and will have 560 Fellows by the end of 2023. A special briefing on both programmes will be held on 12 June at 15:00.

The Agency strongly encourages the expansion of women’s participation 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 NLOs, meeting and training course participants, fellows and scientific visitors, and counterparts. Average participation by women as fellows, scientific visitors, in training course and in meetings has increased from 34% in 2018 to 41% in 2022. We would like to see this trend continue and gain momentum. In total, just under 7,000 women participated in these ways in the IAEA technical cooperation programme in 2022.

At the Secretariat, the overall representation of women in the Professional and higher categories reached 42% and the percentage of women in senior positions increased to 47% percent by the end of the first quarter of this year. I am pleased with our progress and determined to achieve full gender parity by 2025.

You have before you the Programme and Budget for the coming biennium. It was a matter of great satisfaction that the Programme and Budget Committee recommended its approval. I congratulate the Ambassadors of Belgium and Egypt for their outstanding leadership in coordinating the negotiation. The early endorsement of the Programme and Budget represents a strong vote of confidence in the work of the Agency.

In closing, let me assure you that our work continues at pace and that we are doing everything possible to maximise our positive impact through diligence and innovation.

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