Global nuclear safety is the focus of the 65th IAEA General Conference

The 65th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is taking place from 20 to 24 September. The focus is on nuclear safety, security and verification as well as the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The IAEA General Conference provides an opportunity to represent Switzerland’s interests in the field of nuclear safety, security and verification. There is also a chance to exchange expertise with our international colleagues,” explains Marc Kenzelmann, ENSI director and member of the Swiss delegation in Vienna.

Another key topic of the conference is the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic at both national and international level, both within the regulatory authorities and also at the nuclear facilities. “In Switzerland, the task of overseeing nuclear facilities was under control at all times during the pandemic. All nuclear facilities continued to comply with the legal requirements and were operated safely,” states Marc Kenzelmann. “And my discussions with international colleagues have shown that this was also the case in most other countries. Nevertheless, it is important to exchange experience and best practice at an international level and allow the lessons from the pandemic to flow into our future work. And this is where the IAEA plays a key role.”

International events under Swiss presidency

In addition to exchanging experience with numerous regulatory authorities from other countries, the Swiss delegation also had a meeting with the new vice-director of the IAEA and head of the department of nuclear safety and security, Lydie Evrard. Amongst other things, discussions touched on the various international events that will take place next year under Swiss presidency. One of these events is the Seventh Review Meeting of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management (Joint Convention) as well as the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM/A).

Switzerland is represented in the two most important IAEA bodies

The two policy-making bodies of the IAEA are the Board of Governors and the General Conference. The Board of Governors (BoG), comprising 35 members, meets five times a year and plays a leading role. Switzerland’s membership of the Board of Governors alternates with other countries of the Western European Group at predefined intervals. Switzerland has again held a seat since September 2020 and will hold it for a total of three years (until 2023). It was last a member of the Board of Governors from 2014 to 2017. The Swiss Federal Office of Energy plays a leading role in international nuclear energy policy as well as in general matters relating to the nuclear issues of the IAEA. As the independent regulatory authority of the Federal Government, ENSI is involved in safety aspects on international committees.

The second policy-making body of the IAEA is the General Conference. Comprising all of the member states, it meets annually. Amongst other things, it advises on the annual report of the IAEA, approves the budget for the following year and adopts resolutions on the most important areas of responsibility of the IAEA.

The IAEA Secretariat, headed since December 2019 by Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, employs more than 2500 staff and implements the programmes and activities approved by the General Conference and the Board of Governors.

Founded in 1957, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an autonomous organisation with special status in the UN system and today has 173 member states. Switzerland is a founding member of the IAEA.