Ukraine crisis takes centre stage at 66th IAEA General Conference

The 66th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) took place in Vienna from 26 to 30 September 2022. The focus was on global nuclear safety and security as well as challenges arising from the Ukrainian crisis.

A central topic of discussion at this year’s IAEA General Conference was the crisis in Ukraine and the safety and security of Ukrainian nuclear facilities. The IAEA member states adopted a statement in this regard as well as paragraphs in the resolutions relevant to nuclear safety and security reprimanding acts of war in civilian nuclear facilities. The Swiss delegation also met with IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi to discuss the issue in depth.

Furthermore, the 173 member states of the IAEA discussed the annual accounts of the IAEA, approved the budget for the upcoming year and adopted resolutions on the most important areas of activity of the IAEA.

Switzerland further organized a Side-Event with the IAEA celebrating the 25 years anniversary of the entry into force of the Joint Convention on Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Management. Former ENSI Director General Hans Wanner is currently President of the 7th Joint Convention Review Cycle. The Side Event was supported by the delegations of Canada and Ghana, as well as remarks by IAEA Director General Rafael M. Grossi and other high-level IAEA senior management..

A valuable exchange of experience in bilateral meetings

“Alongside the official plenary discussions and side events of the conference, we also value the technical exchanges that occur within the context of bilateral meetings on the margins of the conference,” says Marc Kenzelmann, Director General of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate ENSI. During this year’s IAEA General Conference, Switzerland participated in bilateral meetings with the nuclear regulatory authorities of Canada, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the USA. Those present had the opportunity to share their experience concerning deep geological repositories and the long-term operation of nuclear power plants.

Within the context of the Swiss-US meeting, both parties again signed the bilateral agreement on the exchange of technical information and cooperation concerning issues relating to nuclear safety. The USA and Switzerland first signed this agreement on 9 December 1974, with both parties obliged to sign it every five years in order to renew it. From now on, however, the agreement will be renewed automatically unless one of the party’s objects.

Moreover, ENSI and the US regulator, the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission), have benefited from valuable exchanges on regulatory experience, decommissioning and ageing management. The discussion of technical information with the USA is particularly valuable for ENSI because a large proportion of Swiss reactors originate from the USA.