Officials from 177 countries gather in Vienna for IAEA talks

International Atomic Energy Agency

Kenya’s envoy to Austria Mary Mugwanja (centre), Nupea CEO Justus Wabuyabo, KNRA chairman Omondi Anyanga (right) and KNRA Director General James Keter (behind) at the opening plenary of the 67th regular session of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Austria on September 25, 2023.

Photo credit: Pool

Representatives from 177 countries are gathering in the Austrian capital, Vienna, to discuss global peace and the role of nuclear energy in addressing security and climate change concerns, among other issues.

The 67th regular session of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) opened on September 25 at the Vienna International Centre with an address by Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi.

Mr Grossi called for unity of purpose in finding solutions to the problems plaguing the world, especially the Global South, saying the aftermath of Covid-19 and the war in Europe required all hands on deck to address.

"None of us imagined ... that we would be facing a pandemic on a global scale that the world has not seen in a century. And as if that were not enough, we now face a war in Europe," he said.

He told the Forum that climate change obliges countries to take long-term responsibility for the well-being of the planet and its people and that bold choices are needed for an affordable, equitable and sustainable energy future that harnesses all viable low-carbon technology options, including nuclear energy.

The agenda of the meeting includes nuclear and radiation safety, deepening technical cooperation among nations in nuclear science, technology, climate change and health.

Kenya's delegation to the Forum is headed by Ambassador Mary Mugwanja and supported by Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA) Justus Wabuyabo, Omondi Anyanga, Chairman of the Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA), and James Keter, Director General of the KNRA.

Kenya's statement will be delivered by Ms Mugwanja according to a schedule to be released. Among many side events, the KNRA will participate in the Forum for Nuclear Regulatory Bodies in Africa (FNRBA), bilateral discussions with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and meetings with the IAEA Director General on Kenya's update on the Rays of Hope Initiative, an idea aimed at assisting countries to build or strengthen their capacity in radiotherapy and medical imaging.

"We look forward to robust engagement with other participants. The issues raised are weighty and Kenya cannot afford to be left behind as other countries and regions move forward," said Mr Anyanga.

Mr Grossi added that while public opinion polls around the world show that the tide is turning in favour of nuclear power, countries need to engage stakeholders openly and proactively in their nuclear programmes.

"Four years ago, nuclear power was struggling to find a place at the table in the major global conversations and events on energy and climate change. Today, nuclear power not only has a seat at the table, but is increasingly recognised as part of the solution," said Mr Grossi.

The Forum heard that nuclear technology is central to the fight against climate change, and the IAEA chief urged countries to step up their efforts to combat global warming. "At the upcoming COP28 meeting in the United Arab Emirates, we expect nuclear energy-producing countries and the IAEA to deliver an important, unified message on the role of nuclear energy in mitigating climate change," said the Director General.