Opening of the 66th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency

PeopleOther ♦ Published: September 26, 2022; 23:34 ♦ (Vindobona)

The 66th IAEA General Conference is taking place at the Agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria, from 26-30 September. Representatives from the IAEA’s 175 Member States are convening at the conference in Vienna. Under the theme "Global Cooperation in the Nuclear Field," the focus is not only on nuclear security and the role of the IAEA but also on Iran's buildup of highly enriched uranium stockpiles as well as the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the accompanying nuclear threats from Russia.

The IAEA 66th General Conference takes place in the Plenary of M-Building at the IAEA in Vienna, Austria / Picture: © IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency / Dean Calma / Flickr Attribution (CC BY 2.0,

The 66th Annual Meeting of the IAEA General Conference will be held at the Vienna International Centre (VIC) in Vienna, Austria. There, high-ranking officials and representatives of IAEA member states will meet to discuss international cooperation in the field of nuclear security.

A wide range of topics will be discussed by delegates during this week, including the 2021 Annual Report and 2023 budget, strengthening activities related to nuclear science, technology, and applications, strengthening nuclear safety and security activities within the Agency, as well as strengthening and improving Agency safeguards.

In addition, delegates will discuss nuclear safety, security, and safeguards in Ukraine and the Middle East, particularly Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Around 80 side events will be held by the IAEA and its Member States throughout the week, some of which will be live-streamed. From e-learning resources and the modernization of the Seibersdorf laboratories to ongoing initiatives related to health and nuclear energy, the events will highlight the IAEA's work. More can be found here.

Italy’s Ambassador Alessandro Cortese as Conference President

In the plenary session on the first day of the IAEA's 66th General Conference, Mr. Alessandro Cortese of Italy was elected President by acclamation.

Italy’s Ambassador Alessandro Cortese has served since November 2019 as Italy’s Permanent Representative to the international organizations in Vienna.

Opening Speech of IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi stated in his opening statement that the IAEA is addressing some of the biggest challenges facing the world today.

In his talk, Grossi outlined the many benefits of nuclear science and technology, including better preparation for zoonotic disease outbreaks, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating climate change, improving food and water security, treating cancer, and cleaning up the oceans.

Furthermore, Grossi highlighted nuclear energy's role in meeting countries' energy needs and addressing climate change. The IAEA also places a great deal of importance on nuclear safety and security in Ukraine, according to Mr. Grossi.

The full opening speech of Mr. Grossi can be found here.

Nuclear energy is important for the future, especially for the coming energy crisis. However, as the threatened Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine shows, nuclear safety can be very vulnerable. As reported, the IAEA sent a mission to ensure the safety of the nuclear facility.

Austria's Foreign Minister Schallenberg: Nuclear Weapons Offer No Security

Austria's Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg directly attended the opening of the 66th General Conference of the IAEA in Vienna on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

Foreign Minister Schallenberg underlined that nuclear risks have not been as high as they are today for decades. "Russia's actions show an alarming level of irresponsibility and could bring catastrophic consequences for all of us," Schallenberg said. "Nuclear weapons are a sword of Damocles hanging over all of humanity. They offer no security whatsoever. Nuclear weapons are a risk to us all and know no bounds"

Austria's foreign policy is using the existential threat and the current increased risk of the use of nuclear weapons due to Russia's recent threats to proliferate the negotiations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Together with other states, Austria participated in the negotiations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). In June 2022, as reported, the first meeting of States Parties took place under the Austrian chairmanship, at which all States Parties condemned any nuclear threats.

In this context, an ambitious action plan provided for concrete steps ranging from the operationalization of the treaty, victim assistance and the elimination of environmental damage to the institutional framework for nuclear disarmament.

In addition to the attempt at nuclear blackmail, Foreign Minister Schallenberg also condemned the shelling of nuclear reactors or other nuclear facilities, such as in the Russian-occupied nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhya. Therefore, the Foreign Minister expressed his support for the establishment of a security zone around the nuclear power plant and reiterated the importance of the IAEA's work on the ground.

Schallenberg also addressed the JCPOA negotiations and assured that Austria continues to stand behind the nuclear talks as a host, but took the opportunity to call on Iran to "resume cooperation with the IAEA and allow inspections to resume in full."

"The nuclear status quo is not sustainable, we need a paradigm shift. Precisely for this reason, Austria will continue to advocate the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons", Schallenberg concluded.

IAEA Lab Modernization

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi thanked an audience of diplomats and country representatives on the sidelines of the 66th IAEA General Conference for the support their countries are investing in the capabilities of IAEA laboratories.

It was held to celebrate Belgium, Saudi Arabia, and the United States donations to the IAEA's project to renovate and modernize its Seibersdorf laboratory hub in Austria.

Among the attendees were Saudi Energy Minister HRH Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, Belgian Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten, and the Deputy Chief of the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna Louis Bono.

In Seibersdorf, extrabudgetary funding will be used to construct a new building for the Terrestrial Environment Laboratory, the Plant Breeding and Genetics Laboratory, and the Nuclear Science and Instrumentation Laboratory.

In Seibersdorf, the IAEA's eight nuclear applications laboratories have trained thousands of scientists in nuclear techniques that have the potential to benefit the environment, food security, and human health.

To date, the modernization initiative has raised over €20 million from 28 supportive countries. The IAEA wants to raise a further €5.5 million by early 2023 for the construction of new laboratory greenhouses. This will improve support for the Member States in addressing challenges with climate change and food insecurity.

The IAEA has been modernizing the laboratories since 2014 and has already built new facilities, to meet the needs of the increasing number of countries accessing laboratory services.