IAEA and EU Senior Officials Discuss Nuclear Safety and Security in Ukraine and Further Areas of Cooperation
Joanne Liou, IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication
Senior officials of the IAEA and the European Union (EU) highlighted joint achievements and reaffirmed their cooperation on a range of nuclear activities, during the eighth EU-IAEA Senior Officials Meeting in Vienna on Tuesday. “This is a strategic meeting, a discussion about how our important relationship can maintain relevance in these challenging times,” noted Jacek Bylica, Chief of Cabinet at the IAEA who chaired the meeting from the IAEA side.
Nuclear safety and security in Ukraine topped the agenda of the annual meeting, which was postponed since 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
EU Special Envoy for Non-proliferation and Disarmament, Marjolijn van Deelen, conveyed the EU’s “grave concern over the growing nuclear safety and security risks in Ukraine, as a result of Russia’s military aggression and indiscriminate attacks on several nuclear sites,” and reaffirmed the EU’s full support for the initiative of IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi to ensure the safety and security of all nuclear facilities in Ukraine. “The EU remains categorically committed to defending multilateralism, especially at this time when its foundations are being questioned,” she said. “The EU’s support for the implementation of the IAEA’s mandate remains strong.”
In the fight against climate change, nuclear power has a role to play in mitigation and energy security. “Climate change involves a complete shift of mindset, a complete change in our economy, and it involves a completely different way of producing energy. We need to accelerate our transition, and we need to decrease our global dependency from hydrocarbons,” Massimo Garribba, Deputy Director General of the European Commission’s Energy Directorate-General who chaired the meeting from the EU side.
The IAEA and EU officials discussed the opportunities for collaboration in support of the development and deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs). The IAEA Platform on SMRs, launched last year, is a one-stop-shop for all aspects of SMR development, deployment and oversight, and the European SMR Partnership aims to support the deployment of SMRs in the EU at the beginning of the next decade.
Nuclear safety, security and safeguards
The IAEA expressed its appreciation for the long-term financial and political support that the EU has been providing for the implementation of its nuclear security mandate. Van Deelen expressed interest in exploring ways to deepen the existing cooperation.
During the General Conference in September 2021, the IAEA and the EU extended the 2013 Nuclear Safety Cooperation agreement that has supported the IAEA in delivering projects that have contributed to improving global nuclear safety. Both parties stated that they are in the final stages of revising the agreement to reflect new areas of cooperation, and it is expected to be signed on the margins of the General Conference this year.
The EU continues to support the IAEA's peer review services, particularly the Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) and Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS). The recent IRRS mission in Portugal was a milestone, EU officials noted: all EU members have now received an initial IRRS peer review mission. EU representatives also noted and welcomed the IAEA’s initiative to develop an annual Nuclear Security Review to provide an overview of global trends and related priorities for the Agency.
Both the IAEA and EU, as coordinator, attach great importance to the developments related to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and officials reiterated the EU’s continued support of the IAEA efforts to verify and monitor Iran’s nuclear-related commitments.
Flagship IAEA initiatives
Participants also discussed the IAEA’s recent initiatives in nuclear applications. “We are reminding the world that nuclear is more than nuclear power, for example, nuclear medicine,” Bylica said. Director General Grossi launched the Rays of Hope initiative in February 2021, in coordination with the World Health Organization, to support countries in improving access to diagnosis and treatment of cancer using radiation medicine. This also opens opportunities for collaboration with Euratom in the context of its SAMIRA initiative looking at reinforcing Europe’s security of supply in medical radioisotopes and improved safety and quality of medical applications using ionizing radiation.
The IAEA also highlighted the Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) initiative, in which EU countries have designated ZODIAC National Coordinators and ZODIAC National Laboratories. ZODIAC provides a systematic and integrated approach to strengthen the preparedness and capabilities of countries to respond to the threats of zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19. NUclear TEChnology for Controlling Plastic Pollution (NUTEC Plastics) is another IAEA initiative that builds on the Agency’s efforts to address plastic pollution through recycling using radiation technology and marine monitoring using isotopic tracing techniques. In October 2021, the Agency hosted a regional NUTEC roundtable for Europe and Central Asia.
As an example of successful and flexible collaboration on women’s empowerment, the IAEA Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme was highlighted. The efficient use of the EU contribution, the largest to date to this programme, has supported students in nuclear-related areas, supporting gender equality and encouraging more women to enter the nuclear field.
The next Senior Officials Meeting will be hosted by the EU in 2023.