Rafael Grossi

Director-General

International Atomic Energy Agency

Mar 24, 2021

Ep. 296: Rafael Grossi, International Atomic Energy Agency
00:00 / 01:04
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Bret Kugelmass
So we are here today with Rafael Grossi, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Rafael, welcome to Titans of Nuclear.

Rafael Grossi
Thank you. Thanks for having me. It's good to see you again.

Bret Kugelmass
Yes, absolutely. So, you're in the position that for those outside the nuclear sector may not know is the absolute top authority in the international world of nuclear. But you know, we'd love to always hear where people came from originally. You're Argentinian, correct?

Rafael Grossi
I am. Yes.

Bret Kugelmass
Can you tell us about what your life was like there growing up and how it led you to a world of international diplomacy?

Rafael Grossi
Well, yeah, like you say, and I'm basically a career diplomat, I made it to the top of a career as a diplomat, as ambassador, and joined the diplomatic school. And actually, from the very beginning of my career, as a diplomat, writ large, I started working on non-proliferation issues. To give you an idea, I joined the Foreign Service of my country when Argentina was returning to democracy, after a long, you know, dark period of military rule. And as part of that, the foreign ministry was establishing a unit to deal with disarmament and non-proliferation.

Bret Kugelmass
And how old were you at this point when, when this transition into your country? So this was formative? I mean, this is like, you're at the age where people are deciding, you know, what do I want to do for the rest of my life. And here you have around you, all of these political changes happening in your country.

Rafael Grossi
Yeah, I didn't lose, I didn't lose a minute, I went to university. And then I finished my studies and jumped immediately into the diplomatic school. Some were saying, you're too young, give yourself more time, but I knew what I wanted to do.

Bret Kugelmass
And so was that the same characteristic that you had leading up to that point growing up, where you have the mind where, if you see your eyes on something, you just go for it? You don't hesitate?

Rafael Grossi
Yeah, that has never changed. I always have a plan. I look ahead. And that was, you know, when this happened, I remember, you know, when the class that was about to graduate from diplomatic school, was going to be assigned tasks within the ministry, there was this new unit. And of course, it sounds too techie. You know, everybody wanted to go to the North American department with the hope to go both to the United States or the West Europeans. So if you want to go to Paris, you better work there. This kind of thing. We were all young diplomats. And I said I want to go there. And of course, there were not many candidates, there were only two of us. And, and the great, great thing and I always say this really changed my life, not only as a professional, I would say side of it, is that when I joined my boss there at that time, I thought he was an old guy. But he was still relatively young in the career and he had the incredible idea which has been continued that for whoever wanted to work on these issues would have to have to go to the nuclear facilities and institutions of the country for six months to be trained, to learn. Which was, of course, it sounds obvious, but you have to do it. You know, we diplomats, we immediately want to, you know, put on a nice suit, a hankie, you know, play diplomat. And, of course, there I was at a nuclear power plant, you know, making friends with engineers, people who were looking at, I mean, we didn't know who was the most surprised of the two if then for me, they weren't seeing this young diplomat saying, you know, I'm a diplomat, and what are you doing here? And so, but he was fine. He can imagine, it was fascinating for me to be there. You know, fuel. I mean, as you may know, Argentina has really been developed as a closed fuel cycle. So we have everything, even reprocessing, at that time.

Bret Kugelmass
One of the most advanced nuclear countries in the world. I mean, you guys are the ones that are building medical isotope reactors that go around the world to countries like Australia and the Netherlands.

Rafael Grossi
So I have this opportunity to see research reactors, nuclear power plants, fuel, fabrication facilities. I don't know, hot cells, radioisotope, everything, everything. So quite clearly, that changed my life. Because I fell in love immediately with that. And with the non-proliferation issues. These were the days that were, of course, also at the global level, all the changes were happening with Gorbachev and Reagan. And so for me, I couldn't imagine that anybody else would choose any other topic. That was the topic, non-proliferation was the best.

Bret Kugelmass
And just to break it out for the audience who might not know, non-proliferation, non-proliferation means weapons, stopping weapons, so stopping...

Rafael Grossi
Stopping the spread, stopping the spread of weapons, of course, disarmament is the other side, which is, which is of course, very important. That is another discussion if you want, but for us, it was relevant for us. The non-proliferation part, which goes side by side with another big chapter in my life and in the regions developed, which was all our things with Brazil, because very quickly, we got into this, this dance with Brazil. You have to remember both countries, we're coming from a long period of military rule, both countries with nuclear latency if you want both countries, against the NPT, right? It was another world, it was not unimaginable.

Bret Kugelmass
NPT. That's the non-proliferation treaty.

Rafael Grossi
That's the non-proliferation treaty, and neither Argentina, nor Brazil, were subscribing to it. So basically, there were concerns all over the world about that. But of course, with a return of democracy, common sense came back and the enlightened leadership of both countries decided to move away from that, but that took a lot of effort as you can imagine, we have to imagine how to put these two countries together. And we came up with something which is incredibly original in the form of a binational deal, the binational inspectorate will exist.

Bret Kugelmass
Actually, that's very interesting. So that means Brazil and Argentina are able to kind of look at each other, independent of other organizations that might not have been together.

Rafael Grossi
It's not independent, it's together. Argentina, Brazil, the IAEA and the regional Inspectorate, which is called ABACC or ABACC, Argentine Brazilian Accountability and Control Agency, ABACC. They have a quadripartite agreement. So we, I speak say we, I am no no longer there, I'm IAEA, but Argentina sends inspectors to Brazil, Brazil sends inspectors to Argentina, the IAEA is there, everybody is there. So the whole thing now is being studied, you know, in other regions in Southeast Asia, of course, and in the Middle East, as an example of what one could have as a way to move forward in the non-proliferation world. So although all of this jazz was part of my formative years, as a diplomat, so you can imagine why it was amazing. He was amazing. I was there and when the President, imagine it, look, it's like a movie, when the President of Argentina decided to invite the President of Brazil to visit a secret facility where Argentina was enriching uranium, how about that? Oh my god, that was historic. That was amazing. In the, you know what Patagonia is, apart from being, you know, sports clothes, is a really huge region in the south of Argentina and Chile. And this facility was of course, as in a good movie was in the middle of nowhere

Bret Kugelmass
In the middle of a mountain lair.

Rafael Grossi
In the windy deserts of Patagonia, you had an enrichment facility. So of course, the President, the first President of Argentina's democracy, Raúl Alfonsín, said, look, what is this, an arms race with Brazil? And so he phoned the President of Brazil and said there, there's something you have to see. And we were there, the diplomats working with my friends, Brazilian diplomats, who are now ambassadors, like me, and we are friends, brothers working together. And we decided to organize this visit, I can tell you that when our delegation arrived at the place, even micro nationals were not treating us very nicely. Of course, because there was this culture of secrecy. They were saving the country, and all these things coming from this military rule that we were inheriting. But of course, both countries and the region because many countries in the region moved on institutionally. So that was part of the beginning of my professional career. And of course, after that, what can excite you?

Bret Kugelmass
So after that, you decide to enter into the world stage and decide to bring these. I mean, these are pretty unique skill sets now that you have, but yours an issue around the entire globe. So what was your next, the next step in your journey?

Rafael Grossi
Well, you know, I was posted. I have different postings. My first was in Geneva, where I was dealing, of course, with many issues related to the Conference on Disarmament, where we were dealing with a number of issues related to nuclear weapons, and to non-proliferation, but also to other weapons of mass destruction. My other love, if you want, was chemical weapons. I also worked internationally, in the OPCW, for many years I was the Chief Cabinet there. And I negotiated for my country, of course, the chemical weapons commission, back in the back in the 80s. Then I was in Brussels. And then I worked for the OPCW, which is another important international organization, similar to the IAEA - chemical, chemical weapons. We were doing... That organization is very interesting, because it's also a disarmament organization, we were dealing with the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles in the United States, in the Russian Federation, and in other countries as well. So that was a tremendous experience for me. Then, I returned to my country, and then I started to move much, much closer to the IAEA. Albeit, I had been for the first time here in Vienna, as a young delegate in the 80s. I came back as the chief of cabinet for my predecessor, for DG Amano, I was his first Chief of Staff, and worked for the agency in that position for a few years. And then I went back to my national service as ambassador to the IAEA and then the whole story begins. There's a period where I was working very actively on other things, I was the chair of the Nuclear Suppliers Group for two consecutive periods. And I did you know many things internationally, until I became a candidate for this position and I won the elections and here I am, here you are.

Bret Kugelmass
I mean, it's pretty amazing. You rushed over a lot of that. But yeah, so you would get a lot of first hand experience, though, at the IAEA before you were just elected to the top role.

Rafael Grossi
I mean, yes, I knew the house. Yeah.

Bret Kugelmass
You knew everything. I mean, it's serving as the Chief of Staff, and then the Deputy Director General. I mean, you had so much hands on experience, that there's probably nobody better to have taken this position.

Rafael Grossi
Well, but that's, you know, it was a hard election. You know, the history tells, when you look back into the history of the IAEA that elections here were always very disputed. And you could be perhaps the most qualified, but then you know what an election is.

Bret Kugelmass
It's very political at the end of the day, states that have influence and weigh in.

Rafael Grossi
Exactly, yeah. And even those... Finally, I won, I won, I won nicely. But even those who were not voting for me were saying, Ah, yes, Grossi, you are so good, but I'm not, I'm not voting for you. So anyway, I got the I required, more than two thirds in the end. But it was. Yeah. And the reason I ran for office here is because I knew the house, I knew the potential, I knew what could be done, I knew that we had in this institution, a formidable, formidable instrument for non-proliferation, and many other things that we may discuss. And I just thought that I had a number of ideas that I could put into practice, precisely because I knew I didn't, I didn't need to be trained, or educated.

Bret Kugelmass
You hit the ground running. So tell us a little bit more about what even is the IAEA? I mean, there's thousands of professionals working there from around the world, right?

Rafael Grossi
Wow, you know, this place you've been here and you know it. So, you know, this institution is an amazing place where roughly 3000 professionals from all over the world from all over the world and we have like Janus, the Greek or Roman deity, we have like two faces. We have like two faces. One is this political and strategic face that is the one that makes us known as the nuclear watchdog. Right? We are the inspectors. We are the ones...

Bret Kugelmass
You can actually send people around the world to nuclear facilities around the world with, you know, clipboards and checklists and hey, let's take a look under there and it was this tape, you know, put on top and you know, do we have an accurate accounting of this material and that material.

Rafael Grossi
Indeed, this is exactly why we run an international inspectorate and this inspectorate is the one that goes all over the world to all countries, those having nuclear power plants, and also those who do not because, I mean, wherever there is nuclear activity or nuclear material, we are there. So, so, we do this non-proliferation work. So, we are trying to make sure that apart from those who have nuclear weapons, there are no more and this is of course, a very important part of the mission, for some the only thing that matters, but for many others, no, and there are other things, then we have the all the nuclear safety and today as as as we speak, is the we are commemorating or rather tomorrow we will be commemorating 10 years after, after the Fukushima Daiichi accident, of course, which is remembered all over the world. So we have a lot of work in nuclear safety, which is so important. Nuclear security as well, you remember, and I'm sure some listening or watching this knows, we have all this work on, you remember the summits and and the protection of nuclear material. That is one thing. And then there is there is a very important work on technical cooperation, which, frankly speaking for the majority of the membership of the IAEA is what for developing countries is what matters because we help them in nuclear medicine, we help them in food security, water management, I mean, the array of activities that benefit from here, we do not speak about nuclear energy, but nuclear science and applications. So we are an organization that has a compound, an amazing compound of laboratories in the outskirts of Vienna, a few kilometers away from headquarters, in a lovely place called Seibersdorf. There, we have an amazing array of laboratories, doing all the science for all these projects all over the world. Also, we have our laboratories studying samples coming from hotspots in the world for our safeguards activity. So it is a very unique organization that it's not only pushing paper, or debating ideas, it is doing real work, inspecting countries, helping countries and in very concrete activities that change the lives of the man or the woman in the street.

Bret Kugelmass
Right. It's right. So I think to maybe paraphrase this, it's not just a you know, the inspectorate side okay. There's paperwork involved in there, that's fine. But it's not just a diplomatic paperwork organization. There's also a research component almost like a national lab, in a sense, in terms, to communicate and bring together other national labs, and allow them to exchange freely the information that will advance nuclear science forward.

Rafael Grossi
Indeed, indeed, that that is that is the case in your comparison with the labs is, is very pertinent because we work very closely with most if not all, the National Labs in the United States and similar institutions around the world, which value enormously the possibility and the scope they get by working with us, because these national institutions, sometimes they have their own international cooperation programs, but but by working with us, they have a real global scope. And they can with us hand in hand with us have a bigger reach than doing it nationally, I would suppose.

Bret Kugelmass
So, I mean, you touched upon some of the many functions of the IAEA. But I know that they're even more. I mean, I've been to the buildings and see all the different columns and all the different areas. How do you personally keep track of it all? And then how do you prioritize? And then coming into this position? What were your top priorities? You know, when looking at such a vast and complex organization?

Rafael Grossi
Well, you have to have a 360 degree approach here, because what may matter for one country as the central issue that they want the agency to be looking at, and you can imagine, politically, let's not put names. There are some countries that only care about the IAEA if the IAEA does this, or doesn't do that. But for other countries, it is more on the assistance and cooperation side. And I am everyone's DG, and I have to make sure that every country feels that the IAEA is there for them. Yeah. So what, really the work is as fascinating as comprehensive, as exhausting, because you never stop, you can't stop, there's always something coming, which is tremendously urgent. Let me know, since we are talking, we are having this conversation at a time of a pandemic, which is quite a unique event in our lives, your life, my life, everybody else's. We have been helping a lot on COVID-19. People, perhaps will be surprised. But of course, RT-PCRs are based on nuclear techniques. And we've been, we've been distributing PCRs all over the world. 128 countries have turned to us for help. So we are training them, we are sending the equipment.

Bret Kugelmass
This is a testing tool for COVID.

Rafael Grossi
It's for diagnosis, you know, and, and with an RT-PCR, you can make, you know, twice or even more as much tests, as with traditional techniques, which, of course, given the nature of this, of this virus is essential in attacking it and mitigating it and eventually defeating it. So we were there immediately offering countries this possibility. And you have to think, and this is what is so important when you analyze the work of an international organization, that there are countries, I'm talking about countries where they didn't have a single RT-PCR, which in the United States, you may have 25 in a small health unit of a small, the smallest town of a medium size, state. Yeah, whole countries with 10 million population, not a single. So. So we were there for them. And we still, we are still doing this,

Bret Kugelmass
And this, because I guess there's a few dots that we should connect for our audience. So first, the IAEA is part of the United Nations. It's part of the same organization.

Rafael Grossi
Well we are not within, we are part of the international system, but we are an autonomous international organization.

Bret Kugelmass
But there is a mandate of world good that runs through. And then also you guys have a lot of medical knowledge and medical expertise, because nuclear has a lot of medical crossover as well, whether it's isotopes for imaging, or for you know, tools for cobalt-60 for sterilization of medical equipment. There's just a lot of crossover between medical and nuclear. And so naturally there is expertise in house that you could call upon to help in a world crisis.

Rafael Grossi
We have top notch experts in the area, we have a, you know, a flagship program called PACT, for Programme of Action on Cancer Therapy. And we are helping countries all over the world, we have a big program on human health, where we are working, like you were saying on cardiovascular diseases, as you can imagine, with cardiac imaging, with, you know, myocardial perfusion then with radiotracers. We are working on other neurological pathologies. I mean, their work is simply amazing in so many areas, where we do the calibration and the symmetry for radiotherapy units for all over the world, you know, so they don't burn patients. So many countries don't have these capabilities. And here, we have them, so we do it for free for them. So the service, in terms of health, is really very important. And so you can imagine why I was saying that for some in the I don't know, I don't want to name names, but in some small country, in the center of Africa, to be honest, the Iran issue, or the JCPOA, is not the most important, right.

Bret Kugelmass
At the end of the day, since you serve everyone, you have to balance all of these priorities.

Rafael Grossi
You have to balance all of that, be present for all, be mindful.

Bret Kugelmass
The President in the United States has to be the President of all the states, you're the President of this international organization, you have to be President of the whole world, in that regard.

Rafael Grossi
Well exactly, if you look too much to technical cooperation, those who believe that non proliferation is the reason for being is their raison d'etre, as the French say is the reason for the existence of this, will not like it. So you have to, you know, be as much as you can, be present for all in every department. If you want our organization to reflect that we have a department for nuclear energy, we have a department for technical cooperation, and other department for nuclear applications. You know, if you use the image of a president, I have my ministers and my cabinet or my secretaries dealing with all these issues, and we have to make sure that we deliver at the end of the day.

Bret Kugelmass
Now, before you know, the COVID pandemic started, and you had assumed this position, there was probably a different set of priorities. And hopefully the pandemic will be winding down soon, we have new vaccines. And so hopefully, we can get back to some of our other world priorities as well. Namely, one I can think of, climate change is the other, you know, big issue that we have to deal with here. Can you tell me about where some of those priorities overlap? And what some of your efforts around nuclear energy and climate change have been?

Rafael Grossi
Of course, well, that is that is very important. And I think you yourself have been lecturing about this. So I know how important your own contribution has been on this matter, it is obvious that, you know, the I think the difference I brought as a DG is that I am very vocal on the importance of recognizing that nuclear has a place at the table. I'm not a nuclear lobbyist. But nuclear has a place at the table of energy efficiency. And at the table of climate change. My, you know, my first trip abroad was to the Conference of the Parties of the climate change convention, the cop The so called COPS, the COP 25, in Madrid, against the advice of many around me, who are saying no, don't go there. This is a place where nuclear energy,...

Bret Kugelmass
Why has nuclear energy been historically, you know, excluded from some of these conversations, given, obviously, its contribution to clean energy is so profound, and what can we do to try to change the narrative? I mean, I know you're showing up, which is definitely the first step and it gets crazy other people wouldn't want you to show up. I mean, that's just called being a leader and being brave and making sure that nuclear has a voice, a voice.

Rafael Grossi
So it's a mix, it's a mix of it's a mixed bag of perceptions, prejudices. Also commercial interest, ignorance as well, you know, you have in the pot, you put a little bit of that and the end result is a bad one, of course. So what we say is that we want an enlightened and science based discussion of what are the advantages. And for those who don't want to, as I say, again, we are not our local lobbyists, we are saying nuclear energy is a positive contribution, it is already we know it. And the facts are saying that it is not a simple conviction or an ideology that we are pushing for. So, in terms of what can be done about this, I think the important point here is information, education, and never being afraid of a good debate. I think one has to also be a little bit from the nuclear sector, which has been where I have been working for 40 years, there, there has also been some, you know, moments where the from the nuclear sector there was a bit opaqueness, maybe a tad of arrogance by saying we know better, it's obvious, or to close one oneself up to today's debate. I think it's important whenever, of course, there is a respectful and correct debate to talk to those who, who may have a, you know, a negative view and go down these days, of course, around Fukushima, and we are having lots of discussions. And still today there are people, you know, talking about completely fictitious figures about cancer and things like that. We all know that. There's no proof of any death caused by one by radiation effects in Fukushima, which claimed the lives of 1000s in Japan.

Bret Kugelmass
It's amazing. And on that note, though, don't you think then, because I know another big role of, of your organization is to shepherd newcomer countries through the process of acquiring nuclear energy for the first time, given what we've learned from Fukushima, and that not a single person died in the case of a meltdown, which we thought of as you surely this, you know, this is a horrible catastrophe that must be avoided at all costs, now that we're able to recalibrate the actual risk, see, and of course, it's still horrible. But now they're able to recalibrate the risks. Is it possible that certain countries that have a lot of other problems to deal with, air pollution that kills you, we know, kills millions across the world every year? Is it possible that we can recalibrate our perception of risk with nuclear energy to make it easier for them to acquire nuclear energy faster, such that they can mitigate some of these other more pressing and much larger health issues that they're dealing with today?

Rafael Grossi
I think we are seeing we are, Bret, we're seeing that already. You know, in my position, I talked to lots of policy, decision makers, ministers, and it's amazing, you know, the amount of people, especially ministers, ministers of energy from developing countries that are eager to see the possibility of small and medium sized reactors too because they are looking for solutions. And the solutions are not easy. And at the same time, they know and they are aware of their climate change, emission responsibilities that they have. And to be honest, they're not you don't have 1000 solutions out there. So what one sees is this, it is a trend, there are of course, financial aspects that need to be taken care of. And this depends, you know, in energy, not nuclear energy, but energy in general, there is no one size fits all solution. Each country has a configuration of human resources, technical resources, natural resources, financial resources, that is going to come to play in a different way. So some, this is why sometimes when I listen to some presentations, I'm a bit, you know, surprised by the simplicity of what is being said. There are countries where the opportunities lend themselves to this much easier, there are countries that have access for political reasons are closer to certain vendors. And we see this when you look at the so-called newcomers. In the jargon, as you know, those countries that are coming to nuclear, you will see some that have closer relations with one or the other vendor, and they can arrange themselves in a different way. So I think that each case merits a separate analysis, but what we see is for the benefit of our conversation, which is, of course, more general, what we see is that there is a trend there, which is very interesting, that looks at nuclear energy as a very interesting option for those who haven't. And for those who are dealing with a problem, it is an obvious choice, think China and others, I mean, these countries are doing this because they know that it is the sustainable solution to to economies that are so-called dependent, they have to if they want to do something about it, they need dispatchable energy, they need reliable energy that is going to be there all the time. And what I think it's very important is not to pitch one, as you know, I come from a soccer country, as if it was a team against the other. You know, it's nothing like that. It's really nothing like that. It depends on your capabilities, there are countries where hydro is an obvious choice, there are countries that don't have anything of that, and they will be turning to nuclear more, more easily. And in both cases, the IAEA will be there, you were pointing out to this assistance we gave to two newcomers, which is very important, because we are looking into, you know, each step we have, like a Bible that we call the milestones document.

Bret Kugelmass
We call them phases when we talk about it sometimes

Rafael Grossi
Then the institutions, the political class, learns what is necessary at every step of the way, the importance of an independent, wrong regulator, the importance of having an infrastructure, which is able to support the effort, these kinds of things.

Bret Kugelmass
I mean, you talk about infrastructure, you mean both human resources, as well, as you know, further electrical infrastructure as well, there's almost two sides to that coin, in terms of the things that are necessary to integrate nuclear into a country's energy portfolio.

Rafael Grossi
Indeed, the infrastructure thing is extremely important is one of the things that countries are looking at. But mind you, when you look at new types of nuclear reactors, like the small medium sized, modular and even microreactors, they are also a very efficient solution for those countries having a fragile grid, or problems of long distances, isolated places that need to be, you know, powered in one way or the other. So, I do believe in a very interesting, active, I didn't want to use words like bright, because it sounds too commercial but clearly an active, important, constructive role for nuclear energy in years to come. No doubt about.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, it's amazing. And I remember and I have to thank you for inviting me out to speak at the climates conference that you guys hosted. I mean, this was now it feels like forever ago, but a year, year and a half ago or so. An amazing opportunity. And just to show the leadership that you guys are starting to take now, with respect to climate conversations more broadly. And you have got one coming up as well, right, there's going to be the UN Climate Conference, you want to tell us about what's happening there?

Rafael Grossi
Well, there are a couple of things that I could mention. One is, of course, the global international, the COP 26, which is going to take place in Glasgow, so it's organized by the United Kingdom. And we are working with them. So this is a meeting for nuclear energy, this is the meeting for climate change the convention. And but we are going to be there to engage with that community with the energy and climate change community all over the world, to make sure that the voice of the nuclear sector is heard. And that we can engage, as I will say, in a constructive conversation with all these, as they say, These days, these stakeholders, we all of those who are in one way or another involved, including those who may have very critical views about nuclear energy, why not? So that is one thing and we are preparing ourselves for that. And the other thing is a nuclear specific conference. And I think it's important for you, Bret, to be aware of this because this is going to take place in the United States. As you know, there is a traditional conference on nuclear energy that takes place every four years more or less. There was one in China, one in France, one in Russia. And the last one was was in the United Arab Emirates, and the next edition will be in the United States, in Washington, COVID allowing, end of October, maybe it could be moved to next year, if that is not that this is the big, the big, round the room for everything, nuclear. And what I'm very happy to be working with the Department of Energy and the State Department organizing this, and also with the nuclear industry. The other thing I wanted to mention is this. The IAEA now is working very closely with industry. In the past, there was a little bit of, you know, apprehension, I don't think there needs to be really none. I think that we recognize our respective roles, but it is good for us to be working with them, because we are the norm, the norm setting if you want a global institution, and of course, we want the industry to thrive, and to work and to be comfortable with the norms we are promoting.

Bret Kugelmass
Yes, there's a bit of back, there has to be communication both ways. Because the industry is on the ground, right? They understand what the problems and challenges are. And it might be something small, that, you know, small and easily fixable, but that the industry isn't in a position to correct. So. So they've got these insights. And then you guys in setting the norms need insights. So there has to be this, you know, this communication both ways in order to be able to then make a more productive, move forward.

Rafael Grossi
Well, exactly, I couldn't say it better. But it wasn't happening. It was happening in a very haphazard way without a systematic, and I'm really reaching out to them. talking to them, I've been in contact already by now, in my year, year and two months, in, in the job, I've been talking to almost all the most important CEOs in them. And they are very welcoming they there they are they were surprised because they were not used to the DG of the IAEA reaching out to them saying, Here we are, if you have a problem, let's talk I have also established an excellent contact with with WANO, or the World Association of Nuclear Operators, which is a very discreet technical association, that that's a lot of good, because they are working really without any political attachment or agendas. They are a an apolitical institution that makes the connection among all the operators in the world. And of course, I think we all have to benefit from working together. So I'm trying to reach out to them too. I hope they will see this the new IAEA is working in an open way trying to offer whatever we can put on the table for everyone's benefit at the end of the day.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. You know, it's interesting, you've been in this industry for 40 years, you know, I've only been introduced to nuclear for the last three. But already in these last three years, I feel like I sense some momentum building. I feel like I see there's like this newfound energy almost, to bring solutions forward and to you know, to almost reclaim the idea that nuclear used to have, like, all the way back in the 60s where it's like this magical technology that was that was going to really, you know, increase prosperity, right, I mean, like you know, part of the original mandate of the IAEA and the Atoms for Peace program from the US was to spread technology around the world. And I feel like it's almost coming to fruition. Now. Do you have that same sense that no momentum is building?

Rafael Grossi
We haven't you know, there wasa here I would say the whole a few years ago there was talk about this Nuclear Renaissance. Yeah, some were saying, well, here's nuclear roaring back from this past, where it seemed to be the solution for everything, you know, I tend to try to take a view that has to incorporate everything that has happened, the good and the bad. The fulfilled promises, and the unfulfilled promises as well. Perhaps people were expecting too much nuclear energy. Nuclear energy could not be the magic wand that would solve the world's problems in terms of energy, and perhaps all those who now say, well, it was it was too good on paper and it never happened. I think there is the if the metric is solving the planet's need for energy perhaps is too high a bar. At the same time this is catastrophism for nuclear was equally unjustified and not based in any scientific, of course, if you hate nuclear, and you believe that is the source of all evil, there's nothing really that one can do in terms of a rational conversation. I think that always and perhaps my profession as a diplomat, we diplomats are always looking for the middle line. Compromise. And I think nuclear has a lot to give. Where do you put that? I don't know. Let's work day to day nuclear is there is a reality. That is also something that should be said, some people say, well, it's, it's a solution. But all these problems, and I'm and I remind them that nuclear is already doing all these things. For us, were it not for nuclear, the climate change crisis would be a climate change disaster? Yeah. You don't have it because in many countries, the United States, for example, or in France, or in China, and in India, in many countries, you have nuclear already mitigating pollution.

Bret Kugelmass
And air pollution as well, we can quantify, you know, how many lives nuclear has saved just from you know, offsetting, you know, potential air pollution from coal plants.

Rafael Grossi
Exactly. You're right, by any metric it is that so what we want is as a serious conversation, knowing that nuclear has a lot to put on the table. And ultimately, this is a market economy. And, and in most of the places where nuclear is deployed, and you know, that that will have its own logic. But the issue is there, the solutions are there. And I hope the world would ever, you know, I'm running this institution and the statute that I have to abide by, upon which I swore I was sworn in, says that we have to enlarge the benefits of nuclear energy and technology for the largest number, and this is what we're trying to do, Bret.

Bret Kugelmass
Okay, Rafael Grossi, thank you so much for taking the time today. It has been an amazing conversation, I have to say, when you first got elected, my whole team, we were up and cheering. And so we cheer for you, your leadership and just thank you for everything that you do.

Rafael Grossi
That's very kind, Bret, I enjoyed it. And I hope to see you soon. Thank you very much.

Bret Kugelmass
All right.

Rafael Grossi
Thank you. Bye, bye.

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