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

Vienna, Austria

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi delivers his remarks at the opening of the Board of Governors meeting today at the Agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

(As prepared for delivery)

Before I begin my remarks, I would like to welcome Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Tonga, as the two newest Member States of the IAEA. Their addition brings the IAEA’s number of Member States to 175.   

Mr Chairperson,

One of the most critical issues the world faces today is the safety, security and safeguarding of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities.

The IAEA continues its close collaboration with Ukraine’s authorities, and I continue to keep you and the wider public informed via my regular updates. A detailed report was published 28 April, after my visit to Chornobyl. In addition to my statement today, I will present to the Board an oral report on the safety, security and safeguards implications of the situation in Ukraine under the relevant agenda item occurring later this week.

Following my expert missions to the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant site and Exclusion Zone - to which a technical follow-up mission took place last week - and to the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, we now have a clear and detailed picture of what is required. 

Through our close collaboration with Ukraine’s operators and regulator and my high-level dialogue, including with President Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine has made specific requests for the IAEA to take the lead in providing assistance.

Due to its mandate, experience and network, the IAEA is well-positioned to ensure Ukraine gets what it needs efficiently and quickly. Countries and organisations wanting to assist Ukraine’s nuclear energy sector are already working with and through us.

I therefore have established a comprehensive programme of assistance and shared a detailed list of Ukraine’s needs with Member States via the overall mechanism of the IAEA’s Response and Assistance Network. Our technical support and assistance for safety and security are focused on four areas: remote technical assistance; on-the-ground technical assistance; the delivery of equipment; and the readiness to rapidly deploy assistance if needed.

Our most immediate on-the-ground technical assistance at the Chornobyl NPP site is focused on radiation protection, safety of waste management, and nuclear security.

During last week’s IAEA mission to Ukraine’s Chornobyl NPP and Exclusion Zone, Agency staff from the Department of Safety and Security:

  • Visited the main facilities for the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel to discuss and assess their status with staff there and to identify areas for future support
  • Provided training on the radiation monitoring equipment delivered by the IAEA in April
  • Observed the physical protection arrangements at nuclear, spent fuel, waste and radioactive material facilities located in the same area and identified potential areas of cooperation
  • Provided support on emergency preparedness and response and discussed the additional assistance that could be provided through the IAEA Response and Assistance Network (RANET) mechanism, and
  • Discussed the re-establishment of the automated radiation monitoring system and the forthcoming connection of this system with the IAEA International Radiation Monitoring Information System (IRMIS).

Separately, staff members of the IAEA Department of Safeguards:

  • Verified declared nuclear material and activities at facilities selected by the IAEA, and
  • Checked the functioning of the remote safeguards data transmission from the Chornobyl NPP to IAEA headquarters which was re-established at the end of April after two months of interruption.

Mr Chairperson,

It is vital Ukraine be able to continue to fulfil its safeguards obligations unimpeded. During my first mission to Chornobyl NPP and Exclusion Zone, we were able to restore the transmission of safeguards data from our equipment installed on the site to the Agency Headquarters that had been interrupted during the Russian occupation of the site.

I am working actively to agree, organize and head an IAEA-led International Mission to Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant, the Zaporizhzhya NPP, the biggest in Europe, to carry out essential nuclear safety, security and safeguards work at the site.

I have taken note of the appeal by the Ukrainian government. In it, Ukraine calls on “the IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to redouble their efforts to find ways of liberating the ZNPP from Russian invaders as soon as possible, return it under the full control of Ukraine, restore station`s security and elaborate effective modalities for dispatching to the ZNPP international experts’ mission under the auspices of the IAEA / UN.”

We are developing the modalities to dispatch such a mission; other considerations should not prevent this essential international mission from taking place.

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya NPP site remains under the control of the Russian forces there. I have repeatedly expressed my grave concern at the extremely stressful and challenging working conditions under which Ukrainian management and staff are operating the plant.

One clear line of Ukrainian operational control and responsibility is vital, not only for the safety and security of Zaporizhzhya NPP, but also so that IAEA inspectors are able to continue to fulfil their regular, indispensable verification activities.

The situation at Zaporizhzhya NPP has not only raised serious and pressing humanitarian concerns but is also a clear and present risk to the safety, security and safeguards at the nuclear power plant.

There are indications from Ukraine regarding their concern about interruptions in the supply chain of spare parts to Zaporizhzhya NPP. This means now at least five of the seven indispensable pillars of nuclear safety and security have been compromised at the site.

The Ukrainian regulator has informed us that they have “lost control over” the facility’s nuclear material that is subject to the Safeguards Agreement between Ukraine and the IAEA. In addition, there has been a loss of safeguards data communication from Zaporizhzhya NPP to the IAEA.

Let me reiterate the following: Everyone here shares the same goal: that Ukraine’s nuclear facilities are safe, secure and well safeguarded. The urgent need for us to be there is clear to all. Logistics and other such considerations must not prevent it. We must find a solution to the hurdles preventing progress at Zaporizhzhya NPP. I will not stop pursuing this and I count on your active support.

Mr Chairperson,

The IAEA’s Annual Report for 2021 is before the Board. It is the Board’s report to the General Conference, summarising the Agency’s work to promote peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology, enhance nuclear safety and security, and implement safeguards.

With regard to the Technical Cooperation Report before you, in 2021 the Agency supported 146 countries and territories through the technical cooperation programme, of which 34 were least developed countries. The main focus of our work last year was on Health and Nutrition and Food and Agriculture. Thanks to the contributions of Member States, the Technical Cooperation Fund (TCF) Rate of Attainment reached a high of 95.2%, and total TC resources for 2021 were €110 million, including TCF contributions and extrabudgetary funding.

As the world is on a path to recovery from COVID-19, we are looking ahead. The IAEA’s Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action, or ZODIAC, is already assisting Member States in better preparation for future pandemics and now comprises 149 ZODIAC National Coordinators and 125 ZODIAC National Laboratories. Equipment is on its way to the first batch of 25 of these laboratories and procurement is underway for the next batch of 13 countries. Meanwhile, the recently launched ZODIAC Portal offers educational videos, training materials and recordings of briefings. 

The IAEA is organizing a virtual workshop for the ZODIAC National Coordinators and the ZODIAC National Laboratories to update and familiarize them with the knowledge gaps and potential threats with regards to the recent outbreaks of Monkeypox and Lassa fever. The workshop entitled Monkeypox and Lassa fever Infections in Animal Reservoirs and the Risks for Public Health Transmission will be held tomorrow.

With regards to the growing global cancer crisis, many low and middle-income countries have no, or too little, capacity to address this burden that falls disproportionately on their shoulders. The IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative is assisting such Member States in accessing life-saving nuclear medicine, including radiotherapy. More than 20 countrieshave now registered their interest in joining our six inaugural Rays of Hope country partners with whom we launched the initiative on the side-lines of the Africa Union summit in February. Several countries have expressed a desire to host Anchor Centres, which will serve as regional centres of excellence. We are now working on resource mobilization for Rays of Hope.

The IAEA’s NUTEC Plastics assists Member States in protecting their marine environments from the scourge of plastic pollution. More than 80 Member States are participating in the initiative and more than 20 related national and regional TC projects have been approved by the Board.

Meanwhile, under our assistance to the Andean Community, we launched an interregional technical cooperation project at the symposium on Global Research in the Management of Banana Fusarium Wilt TR4, organized in Quito, Ecuador, in March.

I hope these examples help serve as reminders of how important it is that Member States make their TCF and NPC payments on time and in full.

Much of our work assisting Member States in these areas depends on our laboratories. This year marks the 60th anniversary of our invaluable Seibersdorf laboratories, where we have reached the final stage of modernization. We will be honouring the 8 Member States that announced a generous joint pledge during the March Board meeting which, when added to the pledges of the many other ReNuAL2 supporters, got us past the post for funding of the new laboratories building. I invite you to join me for a side event tomorrow at 13:10 in front of the ReNuAL2 donor display. The event can also be joined online. I hope Member States in a position to do so will consider contributing toward the third ReNuAL2 final funding objective, which is the mobilization - by the time of the General Conference - of an estimated €6 million needed so that we can replace the ageing laboratory greenhouses.

Mr Chairperson,

Turning now to safeguards, you will find in the Safeguards Implementation Report for 2021 that, despite COVID-19, the Agency performed all planned in-field verification activities necessary to enable us to draw safeguards conclusions for all States.  

Turning to the topic of nuclear naval propulsion, first to the subject of AUKUS, under which the United States and the United Kingdom have agreed to assist Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines. Since our meeting in March, two technical meetings were held between the three parties and the Secretariat’s AUKUS team that I established last September.  Further meetings are scheduled over the coming months and I plan to present a report to the September Board. I would like to express my satisfaction with the engagement and transparency shown by the three countries thus far. In this, the Agency will work having its verification and non-proliferation mandate as its guiding principle.

Another important development is that related to Brazil’s formal communication to initiate discussions with the Secretariat on an arrangement for Special Procedures for the use of nuclear material under safeguards in nuclear propulsion and in the operation of submarines and prototypes, as set out in the Quadripartite Safeguards Agreement. Initial discussions on such arrangement were held between Brazil, the Brazilian–Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC) and the Secretariat at the end of May and another meeting is planned before the end of the year. I will keep the Board informed as we progress on this matter. I commend Brazil for its transparent approach and decision to work closely with the Agency on this important project. For the Agency, the non-proliferation aspects and the legal obligations of all concerned are central.

Mr Chairperson,

My report on Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 covers relevant activities of the Agency in the past few months. Up to 23 February 2021, the Agency verified and monitored the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA. However, since that date, these activities have been seriously affected by Iran’s decision to stop the implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA, including the Additional Protocol.

You have received my report entitled NPT Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran. This describes the Agency’s efforts since my last report in clarifying questions related to the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations under its Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, according to the terms of the Joint Statement of 5 March 2022 between Mr Mohammad Eslami, Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, and myself. 

We have completed the steps as set out in the Joint Statement and the report contains my conclusion, as envisioned by the Joint Statement. Iran has not provided explanations that are technically credible in relation to the Agency’s findings at three undeclared locations in Iran. Nor has Iran informed the Agency of the current location, or locations, of the nuclear material and/or of the equipment contaminated with nuclear material, that was moved from Turquzabad in 2018. Unless and until Iran provides technically credible explanations for the presence of uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at Turquzabad, Varamin and ‘Marivan’ and informs the Agency of all current locations of the nuclear material and/or of the contaminated equipment, the Agency cannot confirm the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations under its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. Therefore, the safeguards issues related to these three locations remain outstanding.

As in the past, and in order for the Agency to be in a position to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful, the Agency remains ready to re-engage without delay with Iran to resolve these matters.

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

At the Nuclear Test Site at Punggye-ri we have observed indications that one of the adits has been reopened, possibly in preparation for a nuclear test. The conduct of a nuclear test would contravene UN Security Council resolutions and would be a cause for serious concern.

At the Yongbyon site, activities are continuing. There are ongoing indications consistent with the operation of the 5MW(e) reactor. There are indications of activity at the Radiochemical Laboratory that are consistent with those observed during possible waste treatment or maintenance activities in the past. A roof has been installed on the annex to the reported Centrifuge Enrichment Facility, so the annex is now externally complete. Near the light water reactor (LWR), we have observed that the new building that had been under construction since April 2021 has been completed, and construction has started on two adjacent buildings. At the 50MW(e) reactor, construction of which stopped in 1994, we have observed the dismantling of buildings and the removal of some material, likely for re-use in other construction projects. There are ongoing indications of activities at the Kangson complex and the Pyongsan Mine and Concentration Plant.

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.  In a letter to Syria, dated 16 May 2022, I expressed my preparedness to meet the Syrian authorities to discuss the Agency’s re-engagement. I told Syria that Agency experts would be able to share safeguards-relevant information available to the Agency at the time and to present the technical assessment which led the Agency to its conclusion. I expressed my view that this could help Syria to provide additional information and clarifications that may be relevant in the context of the Agency’s assessment. I am convinced that such a renewed effort would be mutually beneficial.  I hope this invitation is met with the approval of the Syrian government. It is time.

The number of States with safeguards agreements in force has not changed since the last Board. It stands at 186, while 138 of these States have brought additional protocols into force. I call upon those 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. I also reiterate my call for States with small quantities protocols (SQP) based on the old standard text, to amend or rescind them. I am pleased to report that Lithuania has rescinded its non-operational SQP since the last Board and look forward to other States taking this important step as well.

Mr Chairperson,

The safe and secure supply and use of radioactive sources from cradle to grave will be discussed at the International Conference on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources — Accomplishments and Future Endeavours taking place in Vienna from 20–24 June. I wish to encourage the broadest possible participation in the conference

Turning to nuclear security, the Conference of the Parties to the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material as amended was held in Vienna during the final week of March. For the first time the Parties to the CPPNM as amended, convened to review the only legally binding instrument in the area of in the area of physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities. The Conference resulted in a consensus outcome document and a judgement of adequacy of the Convention as amended.

In another first, the Nuclear Security Review is being put forward to the Board. The document provides a timely overview of the Agency’s activities and global trends in nuclear security in 2021. It also presents priorities for 2022 and beyond. The Secretariat appreciates the Member States’ feedback provided to date on its development and welcomes any additional comments.  The Nuclear Security Review, which from 2023 will be put forward to the March Board of Governors, complements but does not replace the Nuclear Security Report, which will be provided, as usual, to the September Board.

Mr Chairperson,

Last month, I travelled to Japan to meet with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Kōichi Hagiuda and other high-ranking officials. The IAEA is reviewing and making transparent to the wider international community Japan’s handling of the ALPS-treated water at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. I commend Prime Minister Kishida’s determination to work with the Agency on this important issue.

In April, the Agency released its first report on a review mission to TEPCO and METI. This mission was the first in a series that will be conducted in the coming months and years. The Task Force noted significant progress and will continue its thorough review, with a second mission planned for the second half of this year.  We will also soon issue a second report, this time on the recent review mission to the regulator NRA on the regulatory process. I will continue to update you on developments.

Around the world today the 441 nuclear power reactors operating in 32 countries provide approximately 390 gigawatts of installed capacity, supplying some 10% of the world’s electricity and more than a quarter of all low-carbon electricity. There are 53 reactors under construction in 17 countries; these are expected to provide almost 55 gigawatts of additional capacity.

With countries’ heightened focus on energy security and climate change, we are seeing renewed interest in nuclear energy. 

Together with our US hosts, we are preparing for the International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century. This important conference will offer a forum for ministers, government officials, industry representatives, policy makers and experts from around the world to discuss the key challenges and opportunities for nuclear power. I encourage all Member States to take part in this unique event, which will be held in Washington, DC, on 26-28 October.

The energy transition will require the development and deployment of new technologies across energy sources, including nuclear. On 23-24 June, the IAEA will host the kick-off meeting of the Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative (NHSI). NHSI will bring together high-level stakeholders, including industry and regulators, in a collaborative effort to harmonize and standardize regulatory and industrial approaches in support of the global deployment of safe and secure advanced reactors, such as SMRs.

Mr Chairperson,

This April, the IAEA held its First International Conference on Nuclear Law: The Global Debate. The five-day conference gathered more than 1,100 participants from 127 Member States and 31 international organizations. The event provided a unique forum for leading global experts from governments, industry, academia and civil society to share experiences and discuss topical issues with a view to developing further the various areas of nuclear law while promoting international expertise in the field. The accompanying book Nuclear Law: The Global Debate is being translated into all the IAEA’s official languages and is available for download free of charge. During the conference, the IAEA signed cooperation agreements with six academic institutions from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America to increase education and professional development opportunities for students and aspiring professionals in the field of nuclear law.

Mr Chairperson,

The Tenth NPT Review Conference will take place from 1-26 August 2022 in New York, and I will be in attendance to address it. In turbulent times like these, reaffirming and recommitting to the fundamental principles enshrined in this key legally binding instrument is absolutely essential.

Turning now to administration and management matters, I am pleased that the Programme and Budget Committee approved the proposed Agency’s Budget Update for 2023, which contains no changes to the Agency’s programme approved last year. Furthermore, the Committee also recommended the transmittal of the Agency’s financial statements to the General Conference. In 2021, the Agency once again received an unqualified audit opinion on the financial statements from the External Auditor.

Regarding the important topic of After Service Health Insurance Liabilities (ASHI), we have taken note of the comments and suggestions made by Member States and appreciate the support expressed with regard to our continuing efforts in finding a solution to this long-outstanding issue. Any proposal will take into consideration the financial constraints of Member States and we will continue to keep Member States informed.

At the request of the Chair of the Open-Ended Working Group on the preparation of the Medium Term Strategy 2024-2029, the Secretariat prepared the draft texts and gave a presentation and provided clarifications at the meetings of the Working Group. We continue to provide all necessary support for the successful conclusion of this work. I thank Ambassador Miguel Camilo Ruíz of Colombia for his hard work and dedication.

I am pleased to announce that last May we reached a new milestone towards our gender parity goal when the overall representation of women in the Professional and higher categories hit 40%. Efforts to attract, recruit and retain women from across all professional fields, and with as wide a geographical representation as possible, will continue so that we are able to reach full parity by 2025.

Gender equality is of course a wider issue within the nuclear field, and we are continuing to do our part in dismantling barriers to entry into the workforce that women face. In mid-July the IAEA’s Marie Skłodowska–Curie Fellowship Programme will enter its third round. For this round we will again increase the number of candidates. This time we are looking to offer financial support to 150 women working towards a Master’s degree in nuclear subjects. This will be the largest cohort yet thanks to a generous €1 million contribution from Japan. I count on you to help us spread the word about this valuable opportunity.

In closing, I would like to thank you for your support at this unprecedented time when the work of the Agency is so critically important, whether in the areas of nuclear safety, security and safeguards, or in widening Member States’ capacities to use nuclear energy, science and technology to improve their people’s lives and livelihoods now and in future generations. 

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