The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced today the passing of its director general, Yukiya Amano. His term in office was due to end in late 2021, but Amano, who was 72, had been planning to step down from the post, which he had held for almost ten years, the agency said.Yukiya Amano (Image: IAEA)
Amano became IAEA director general on 1 December 2009. In September 2017 he was appointed to serve a third four-year term and was set to stay until the end of November 2021. Today the IAEA Secretariat issued a statement announcing his passing "with deepest sadness".
The Secretariat shared Amano's most recent reflection, which he had intended to include in his letter to the Board of Governors when announcing his decision to step down: "During the past decade, the Agency delivered concrete results to achieve the objective of 'Atoms for Peace and Development', thanks to the support of Member States and the dedication of Agency staff. I am very proud of our achievements, and grateful to Member States and Agency staff."
A graduate of the Tokyo University Faculty of Law, Amano joined the Japanese Foreign Ministry in April 1972, when he began a series of international postings in Belgium, France, Laos, Switzerland and the USA.
He had extensive experience in disarmament and non-proliferation diplomacy, as well as nuclear energy issues. At the Japanese Foreign Ministry, he was director general for the Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Science Department from 2002 until 2005. He had previously served as a governmental expert on the UN Panel on Missiles and on the UN Expert Group on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education. He contributed to the 1995, 2000 and 2005 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conferences, and he chaired the 2007 Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
Amano served as chair of the IAEA's Board of Governors from September 2005 to September 2006. He was Japan's resident representative to the Agency from 2005 until his election as director general, the duties of which he assumed on 1 December 2009.
He directed the IAEA's response to the March 2011 Fukushima accident in his home country of Japan. In September 2017, he said: "All lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi accident have now been incorporated into all IAEA nuclear safety requirements ensuring they become part of global safety practice."
Amano is also known for amending the IAEA's motto from its original 'Atoms for Peace' to 'Atoms for Peace and Development' which aligns the agency more closely with other UN bodies working on the 17 goals for sustainable development. Under his leadership, the IAEA also stepped up its support to countries looking to introduce nuclear power in their energy mix.
Since January 2016, the IAEA has been verifying and monitoring Iran's implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed in 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the USA). The USA has since withdrawn from the agreement and increasing tensions have seen Iran's Supreme National Security Council issue an order on 8 May to stop some of Iran's measures. Last month, addressing the IAEA Board of Governors, Amano said the JCPOA "represents a significant gain for nuclear verification" and that he hoped "ways can be found to reduce current tensions through dialogue."
In March, Amano told the Board of Governors that the IAEA continues to follow closely international developments on the North Korean nuclear issue. "We hope that these processes will lead to an agreement and to implementation of concrete denuclearisation measures," he said. "The IAEA stands ready to undertake verification and monitoring activities in the DPRK if a political agreement is reached among countries concerned."
Speaking at the opening of the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology: Addressing Current and Emerging Development Challenges in Vienna last November, Amano said: "Developing countries are especially interested in how the Agency can help them to grow more food, treat cancer, manage water supplies, protect the oceans and monitor climate change. However, I find that such awareness is often limited to the nuclear community - the scientists, engineers and doctors working in the field. At national level, there is often a lack of awareness of the major contribution nuclear science and technology make to development. As a result, the full potential of peaceful nuclear science and technology is not being realised."
He added, "I therefore believe it is time to mainstream the use of peaceful nuclear technology at the highest level. That means raising public awareness about nuclear technology, incorporating it explicitly into national development plans, and stressing its importance to aid agencies and donors."
World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising said, "I'm deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Yukiya Amano. He was dedicated to reminding the world of the great benefits of nuclear technologies in energy, health, agriculture and industry. He was welcoming and open in international relations, he contributed greatly to the development of the IAEA. His working relationship with the global nuclear industry was constructive. With his passing the world has lost a true friend committed to working for a better future."