Yukiya Amano
Yukiya Amano. Source: IAEA

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director general and nuclear watchdog Yukiya Amano has died.

Amano had been preparing to leave his position in March, ahead of the end of his third four-year term, which ran until November 30, 2021.

In a media statement, the Secretariat of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) shared Amano’s most recent reflection, which he intended to include in his letter to the Board of Governors announcing his decision to step down.

Amano wrote, “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.”

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The 72-year-old Japanese diplomat had held the position of IAEA director general since 2009, taking over from Mohamed ElBaradei and steering the UN agency through a period of intense diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear programme while seeking in vain to return to North Korea, Reuters reported.

Supporter of nuclear energy

In 2016, Amano headed an IAEA delegation to South Africa and gave a public address on ‘Atoms for peace in the 21st century’, stating that: “The smart use of nuclear science and technology has much to contribute to solving many of the major problems facing our planet today”.

Yukiya Amano addressing a conference in 2015.

He said the IAEA promotes international cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear science and technology. “The impact of our work to make nuclear science and technology available to generate electricity, improve human and animal health and increase food production is significant.”

Read the full speech here.

Replacement for Yukiya Amano

The Agency’s statement did not lay out a timeframe for naming a successor, though the race to succeed him had been taking shape since last week when it became clear he would step down early, reported Reuters.

“The Secretariat is in communication with board members,” an IAEA spokesperson said in an emailed statement when asked about the process for choosing a successor.

Mary Alice Hayward, Deputy Director General and head of the department of management, is now the acting Director General, he added.

Argentina’s ambassador to the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, is a potential to succeed Amano, and diplomats say the agency’s chief coordinator Cornel Feruta of Romania, effectively Amano’s chief of staff, is likely to run.

While each candidate will have their own management style, it is widely expected that there will be no major change in the agency’s handling of its most high-profile issues, including Iran and a potential return to North Korea, which expelled IAEA inspectors in 2009.

Source: Reuters. Edited: ESI Africa