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

Vienna, Austria

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

(As prepared for delivery)

Madam Chairperson,

Let me begin my first Board statement as Director General by informing you that the Agency is doing everything it can to assist Member States in responding to the outbreak of the coronavirus, which has affected many countries.

Clearly, the IAEA is not a specialized health Agency and has no role in controlling the disease. But we do have expertise and experience that help in detecting outbreaks of certain viral diseases and in diagnosing them.

We have been in constant contact with the World Health Organisation and other key partners to assess the current level of knowledge about COVID-19, identify gaps and work to accelerate and fund priority research.

So far, we have received official requests for support from six countries in Africa, five in the Asia and Pacific region and three in Latin America.

Scientists from countries concerned will be offered training in a nuclear-derived technique known as RT-PCR, which makes it possible to identify the virus accurately within hours. The first training course will take place at our Seibersdorf laboratories in a few weeks’ time. We plan to provide RT-PCR machines and biosafety equipment to ensure safe handling of samples.

Funding received under the Peaceful Uses Initiative will enable us to promptly provide equipment and materials. I encourage all Member States in a position to do so to make additional funding available.

Like everyone else, the Agency is having to cope with the impact of the coronavirus. Needless to say, staff safety is our paramount concern. In order to ensure the safety of IAEA personnel, I am closely monitoring the situation in all affected regions. I have asked DDsG to carefully consider whether staff travel is essential to programme delivery. We have postponed some meetings and are looking at alternatives such as videoconferencing. We are guided by the advice of the United Nations and of the Austrian authorities.

I briefed Member States on Friday on what we are doing in response to this challenge and held a town hall meeting for staff.

The Agency takes pride in its ability to respond quickly to crises, as we did in the recent past with the Ebola, Zika and African Swine Flu viruses. Contributing to international efforts to deal with the coronavirus will remain a priority for me as long as the outbreak persists.

Madam Chairperson,

Tremendous progress has been made in modernizing the Seibersdorf nuclear applications laboratories in the past few years.

The next step involves enhancing the remaining four laboratories in the most cost-effective and sustainable way. We will move forward with construction of a new building for these labs. I will share more information about our current planning in the near future. I am very grateful to countries which have expressed their willingness to provide funding and I am confident that I can count on the continued support of all of you for this extremely important project.

I remind Member States of the importance of making their Technical Cooperation Fund and National Participation Costs payments on time and in full for the 2020-2021 TC cycle. Payment of NPCs is particularly important as we start the new cycle, as projects cannot start without them.  

Regarding the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy, I am pleased to inform you that all the PACT audit recommendations assigned to the Department of Technical Cooperation have been closed.

The IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security – known as ICONS 2020 – last month was a great success, with a record 54 ministers and 141 countries participating.

Ministers agreed a Ministerial Declaration reaffirming their support for the central role of the Agency in international cooperation to ensure that nuclear and other radioactive material is properly protected. I am very grateful to countries which pledged more than US $20 Million to the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund.

In my opening remarks, I expressed the hope that IAEA nuclear security guidance will, in time, enjoy the same status as our Safety Standards. As you know, the Agency’s Safety Standards are not legally binding on Member States, but, in practice, they are widely adopted in national practice.

I also believe that funding for the IAEA’s nuclear security activities needs to be put on a more sustainable footing. Nuclear security is much too important to be dependent on extra-budgetary contributions, as is the case today.

The Nuclear Safety Review 2020 provides an overview of Agency activities and global trends in nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety, as well as in emergency preparedness and response. It also identifies our priorities in these areas for 2020 and beyond.

As you may have noticed, we have made some changes to this report, and to others presented to this Board. These are part of my efforts to  make our regular reports more interesting and informative and ensure that they better reflect the views and judgements of the Agency. I am looking to develop them further next year.

The 8th Review Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety is scheduled to take place in Vienna from 23 March to 3 April, while Contracting Parties to the Joint Convention are due to meet in May.

These are key instruments which deserve our full support. I encourage all countries which have not yet done so to become party to the two Conventions, which have made a significant contribution to strengthening nuclear safety, and the safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste management.

Madam Chairperson,

Many countries are interested in making more use of nuclear technology to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change. They want the IAEA to do more in this field.

Whether or not to use nuclear power is a sovereign decision for each individual country. But it is an indisputable scientific fact that nuclear power has an important role to play in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

My first foreign trip as Director General was to the COP 25 climate change conference in Madrid in December. I sensed that the Agency is now being listened to on the benefits of nuclear technology in a way that was not the case in the past. I intend to ensure that our voice is heard.

We fully respect the differing views on nuclear power held by our Member States. As the leading international institution for everything nuclear, our job is to ensure that the scientific facts are reflected in our analysis and advice to Member States. I have decided that this year’s Scientific Forum in September will focus on the ways in which nuclear energy can contribute to meeting climate change goals.

The Nuclear Technology Review 2020 highlights key global developments related both to nuclear power and to a broad range of nuclear applications.

As of today, there are 442 operational nuclear power reactors in 30 countries. Another 53 reactors are under construction in 19 countries.

We plan to further strengthen cooperation with key partners, including the International Energy Agency, in order to provide a more integrated service to countries which operate, or are considering introducing, nuclear power. I invite you all to join me on Thursday at a talk by IEA Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol entitled Nuclear Power in Global Clean Energy Transitions. It will take place in Conference Room C4 on the seventh floor at 2 pm.

In June, we will hold an International Conference on Nuclear Knowledge Management and Human Resources Development in Moscow.

I thank the United States of America for agreeing to host the next IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century, at ministerial level, in 2021.

I am pleased to report that the IAEA LEU Bank in Kazakhstan is now fully stocked and operational following delivery of the second shipment of low enriched uranium in December.

In line with my approach to delegating managerial responsibilities,  this important project was transferred from my office to the Department of Nuclear Energy on March 1st.

Madam Chairperson,

My report on Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) covers relevant activities of the Agency in that country in the last few months.

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

The Agency has identified a number of questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at three locations that have not been declared by Iran. The Agency sought access to two of the locations. Iran has not provided access to these locations and has not engaged in substantive discussions to clarify the Agency’s       questions.  

This is adversely affecting the Agency’s ability to clarify and resolve these questions and to provide credible assurance of the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran. I call on Iran to cooperate immediately and fully with the Agency, including by providing prompt access to the locations specified by the Agency.

As far as Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is concerned, Iran announced on January 5th that its nuclear programme would no longer be “subject to any restrictions in the operational sphere”.

To date, the Agency has not observed any changes to Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA in connection with this announcement, or in the level of cooperation by Iran in relation to Agency verification and monitoring activities under the JCPOA.

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 in Iran continue.

You have before you for approval a draft comprehensive safeguards agreement, small quantities protocol and additional protocol for Eritrea.

Haiti has amended the small quantities protocol to its comprehensive safeguards agreement.

The number of States with safeguards agreements in force stands at 184, while 136 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 also call on States with small quantities protocols based on the old standard text to amend or rescind them.

The Agency continues to monitor the nuclear programme of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, using open source information and satellite imagery. No significant changes have been observed since our report to the General Conference in August 2019.

We are investing considerable effort in ensuring that we are ready to resume verification of the DPRK’s nuclear programme if a political agreement is reached among countries concerned. If and when such an agreement is achieved, we will be ready to deploy our inspectors from day one. The Agency will have an indispensable role to play.

I call upon the DPRK to comply fully with its obligations under Security Council resolutions, to cooperate promptly with the Agency, and to resolve all outstanding issues, including those that have arisen during the absence of Agency inspectors from the country.

As far as implementation of safeguards in the Syrian Arab Republic is concerned, there have been no new developments since the last report to the Board. I call on Syria to cooperate fully with us in connection with all unresolved issues.

This month, we mark the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The NPT has served the international community very well and the Agency plays a key role in its implementation by delivering tangible results to Member States.

The 2020 NPT Review Conference will take place in New York from 27 April to 22 May. We will organize a number of side events and an interactive exhibition to highlight the Agency’s contributions to the NPT since the last Review Conference in 2015.

Madam Chairperson,

I have been actively following up on the plans I announced when taking office to seek new partnerships and sources of funding to enable us to expand the services we offer to Member States.

For example, I am operationalising the agreement signed last year with the Islamic Development Bank to provide breast and cervical cancer care to women in low- and middle-income countries and seeking additional donors.

Last month, I signed an agreement with UNAIDS to scale up our joint efforts to tackle cervical cancer, particularly among women in developing countries who are living with HIV.

I am reaching out to new partners such as the World Bank on possible collaboration. And I will target the private sector much more, for example on supporting Member States in the use of radiation technology.

As you may recall, my goal is to achieve gender parity in the Professional and higher categories on the Agency’s staff by 2025. That means 50 percent women and 50 percent men.

We plan new measures to attract more women to the Agency, accelerate the appointment of women in Departments which have low representation, and establish accountability and monitoring mechanisms to measure our progress. I will work in partnership with Member States to increase our efforts to reach out to talented women in the nuclear field. 

Achieving gender parity requires action on many fronts and appointing more women to senior positions is only one element. More needs to be done at a more structural level. That is why I am launching an important new initiative, the IAEA Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellowship Programme, to encourage women to study nuclear subjects. Fellows will receive scholarships for graduate degree programmes focussed on nuclear sciences and technologies and non-proliferation studies at an accredited university, as well as internships at the IAEA. I will announce more details at our event marking International Women’s Day, which will take place outside the Board Room, here on C4, at 1.15 today. I invite all of you to join us.  

I am committed to ensuring that all Agency staff uphold the highest standards of conduct and that a strong ethical culture is maintained. The first Report on the Activities of the Ethics Function will be presented to the Programme & Budget Committee in May. Additional controls have been put in place to enhance the Agency’s ability to detect possible conflicts of interest in procurement, and significant efforts have been made to promote a respectful workplace.

I have circulated the Draft Budget Update for 2021. There will be zero real growth in the Regular Budget compared with 2020. Savings and efficiencies total 6.7 million euros and the price adjustment will be 1.6 percent.

I wish to inform the Board of two new appointments in my office. Mr Jacek Bylica is Chief of Cabinet and Ms Mariela Fogante is Special Assistant to the Director General for Management. I will announce further appointments in the course of the year as I complete my senior management team.

Finally, I wish to express my appreciation to Ms Ana Raffo Caiado, Director of the Division for Europe in the Department of Technical Cooperation, who will be leaving us shortly. I thank Ana for her hard work and dedication and wish her every success in the future.

Thank you, Madam Chairperson.

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