"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
ElBaradei to Leave IAEA in 2009

Manasi Kakatkar

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei recently announced that he would not seek a fourth term of office after his current term ends in November 2009. ElBaradei’s 11-year tenure has been marked by Libya abandoning its nuclear weapons program, efforts to reign in Iran’s and North Korea’s programs, tensions with the Bush administration over Iraq, and the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

The former Egyptian diplomat began his IAEA career in 1984 and served as the agency’s legal adviser and assistant director-general for external relations. He was appointed as the agency’s director-general on Dec. 1, 1997, and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 in recognition of “efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way.”

The IAEA chief has frequently called on nuclear-weapon states to speed up disarmament efforts and sought to win support for multilateral efforts to restrict the growth of uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing capabilities. These capabilities can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants or fissile material for nuclear weapons. To dissuade countries from enriching uranium and assure them of alternative fuel supplies, he proposed a plan with the nongovernmental Nuclear Threat Initiative to establish a reserve fuel bank under IAEA controls.

ElBaradei’s term has not been without controversy. The agency clashed with the Bush administration on several occasions, particularly in the lead-up to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. During that period, ElBaradei rebutted administration claims that Iraq was reviving its nuclear weapons program. Postwar U.S. investigations backed up ElBaradei’s assertions.

More recently, he has been accused by the United States and Israel of being lenient in dealing with Iran, and the United States tried to block his election to a third term in 2005. For his part, ElBaradei has accused the United States and its allies of complicating IAEA investigations in Iran and Syria by not being sufficiently forthcoming with intelligence.

ElBaradei alluded to these clashes in his 2005 speech accepting the Nobel Prize. “We are limited in authority. We have a very modest budget. And we have no armies,” he said. “But armed with the strength of our convictions, we will continue to speak truth to power.”

Potential Successors to ElBaradei

A successor to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei will be appointed by the 35 states on the agency’s Board of Governors next year with the approval of the General Conference, which includes all IAEA member states. States can submit nominations until the end of this year. Thereafter, informal consultations will be conducted with the goal of reaching consensus on a successor. If no consensus is achieved, ElBaradei’s successor will be chosen by a two-thirds majority of the board and then endorsed by the General Conference. The next IAEA director-general is slated to take office in December 2009. Potential candidates named by knowledgeable officials and in press reports include:

 Yukiya Amano (Japan): Amano is Japan’s ambassador to the international organizations in Vienna, including the IAEA. He served as the chairman of the Board of Governors in 2005-2006 and accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the IAEA along with ElBaradei in 2005. The 61-year-old diplomat has been involved in several arms control negotiations, including the 1995 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Extension and Review Conference, talks that led to the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the 2001 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) verification protocol, and Amendment I of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. He has held numerous senior positions in the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Olli Heinonen (Finland): Heinonen is the IAEA’s deputy director-general and heads its department of safeguards. As such, he has led the agency’s investigation of Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities. Prior to joining the IAEA, he worked as a senior research officer at the Technical Research Center of Finland Reactor Laboratory.

Abdul Minty (South Africa): Minty is the deputy director general of South Africa’s Department of Foreign Affairs and its representative to the IAEA Board of Governors since 1995. He is also the chairman of the South African Council for the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Minty was officially announced as a candidate by the South African Department of Foreign Affairs on Sept. 12. South Africa is a founding member of the IAEA and held the designated seat for Africa on the Board of Governors until 1977.

Rogelio Pfirter (Argentina): Pfirter is currently in his second term as director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which implements the Chemical Weapons Convention. In addition to serving as a diplomat representing Argentina, Pfirter was instrumental in drafting legislation permitting Argentina’s adherence to the NPT and its regime for the export of sensitive materials.

Tibor Tóth (Hungary): Tóth is currently executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. Tibor Tóth was the chairman of the Ad Hoc Group to draft measures to strengthen the BWC, including an unsuccessful effort to approve a verification protocol to the treaty. He served on the IAEA Board of Governors from 1997 to 2001. Tóth joined the Hungarian Foreign Ministry in 1977. He was ambassador-at-large for nonproliferation and critical technologies with the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2001-2003.