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Highlights of the 67th IAEA General Conference: Toward a Safe and Reliable Nuclear Future

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM, October 5, 2023 / -- The 67th regular session of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference took place from September 25th to September 29th at the Vienna International Centre.

IAEA’s Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi kicked off the conference with a powerful address as he welcomed two new member states, Gambia and Cabo Verde. With their addition, the IAEA now boasts a membership of 177 states. Director General Grossi expressed his gratitude, stating “I feel humbled and privileged to lead an institution with a unique mandate that allows us – everyone in this building today – to play a role in tackling these challenges.”

One of the key challenges on the IAEA’s agenda is the growing global cancer crisis. Director Grossi shed light on the launch of “Rays of Hope,” a groundbreaking initiative in partnership with African heads of state and the World Health Organization (WHO). He mentioned that a remarkable 67 member states have already expressed their intention to join this initiative, which aims to strengthen capacities in the fight against cancer.

Director General Grossi also addressed the ongoing challenge of COVID-19. He emphasized the IAEA's commitment to global health security and the importance of nuclear techniques in areas like diagnostics and sterilization, which were instrumental during the pandemic.

In addition to health crises, he highlighted another looming global threat: climate change. He underscored the IAEA's long-term responsibility in ensuring the well-being of our planet and its inhabitants. He stated, "The nuclear field, with the IAEA at its center, takes its long-term responsibility very seriously." This commitment extends to areas such as safe waste disposal, integrating decommissioning into new nuclear power plants, and building a culture of nuclear safety and security worldwide.

Grossi also stressed the safety of nuclear energy, stating, "Nuclear energy is safer than it has ever been, and it is safer than almost any other source of energy." The IAEA, in its 65th year, continues to use its safety standards, statutory mandate, scientific knowledge, and global reach to protect the environment from the consequences of nuclear accidents.

In multiple Twitter posts, Director General Grossi provided a comprehensive overview of the agency's successes and new initiatives initiated during the 67th summit in Vienna, in coordination with various countries. He highlighted its efforts in fostering bilateral cooperation with specific countries and emphasized the crucial need for independent monitoring of the water release from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Station (FDNPS). Notably, 13 countries, including Germany, Italy, Australia, and Malaysia, commended both the IAEA's monitoring system and Japan's transparency in information disclosure.

Grossi also advocated for the involvement of all relevant parties, including China and Japan. The summit garnered significant global attention and sparked lively discussions on social media, with a particular focus on the ongoing concerns regarding Iran's nuclear program. While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia expressed intensified ambitions towards the expansion of its nascent nuclear program (especially considering the regional context), it has stood in favor of tougher checks of its nuclear activity by the U.N. atomic watchdog.

This summit occurs at a pivotal moment when the IAEA is striving to both promote the expansion of nuclear energy and address the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In the days leading up to the summit, the international community eagerly anticipates the next steps in coordinating efforts to advance nuclear power and energy solutions worldwide.

Rosemarie Panagakou
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