Iraq discusses nuclear energy plans with IAEA

19 March 2024

Iraq's plans for small modular reactors and nuclear medicine, as well as its decommissioning progress, were among topics discussed during a visit by International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi.

Grossi, centre pointing, at Al Tuwaitha (Image: IAEA)

Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani and senior government leaders met Grossi in Baghdad for discussions about the country's plans and the agency's support for "peaceful, safe and secure use of nuclear technology in Iraq".

Grossi said: "The IAEA has committed to support the foundations of what should be an entirely peaceful programme here in Iraq. We are living in a world where there is an intense growing interest in nuclear technology… This time we are going to get it right, in strict adherence to the non-proliferation norms and international conventions, which are indispensable."

Iraq is looking at options such as small modular reactors for energy security and water desalinisation projects and has become a contracting party to the Convention on Nuclear Safety, which seeks to ensure countries operating land-based civil nuclear power maintain a high level of safety by establishing fundamental safety principles.

There was also discussion about collaboration on nuclear medicine, oncology and radiotherapy, with Grossi saying that through its Rays of Hope programme, which aims to boost availability of nuclear medicine-based treatments, the agency would "give more support, more equipment, more training, more capacity" for Iraq to improve cancer outcomes.

Iraq originally joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1969 but, under Saddam Hussein's leadership, was found in 1990 at the time of the first Gulf War, to be clearly in violation of it. In response, the UN Security Council asked the IAEA to remove, destroy or render harmless Iraq's nuclear weapons capability, which it did by 1998. But a variety of the country's nuclear facilities were destroyed by military actions between 1981 and 2003 with facilities also damaged or looted.

During the trip Grossi visited the Al Tuwaitha site which was once at the centre of Iraq's nuclear programme and which is now proposed to become the site of a new low-level radioactive waste repository, designed with IAEA assistance under the European Union's Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation project.

There is currently an IAEA mission to Iraq seeking to help with the development of a national integrated strategy for radioactive waste management, with Grossi saying: "It's crucial that we bring to a successful and satisfactory phase, the work of decommissioning, the work of remediation of the remnants from the past."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News