Yukiya Amano, Director General of U.N. Nuclear Watchdog, Passes Away At 72

Yukiya Amano, Japanese diplomat and Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has died aged 72. The sad news was shared by the IAEA in a statement released on Monday: “The Secretariat of the International Atomic Energy Agency regrets to inform with deepest sadness of the passing away of Director General Yukiya Amano.”

The Director General died on July 18, but his family requested the IAEA to delay the announcement of his death until after the funeral had taken place on Monday. The announcement came on the day Amano planned to step down from his position due to an illness that left him noticeably weakened. A reporter for NPR said, “there had been rumors that Amano was in ill health for weeks prior to his death.” Additionally, the IAEA has previously announced that “he had undergone an unspecified medical procedure.” However, no information was given regarding the cause of death.

Al Jazeera reports that “Amano joined the Japanese Foreign Ministry in ’72 and was posted to jobs in Belgium, France, Laos, Switzerland, and the U.S.” after graduating the Tokyo University Faculty of Law. Amano had been Chief of the U.N. agency since 2009 and was integral to negotiations leading up to the Iran nuclear deal. His passing deals a heavy blow to the nuclear watchdog organization as Iran exceeds the uranium enrichment levels previously set in the 2015 accord.

His time as diplomat and Chief saw Amano contribute in multiple Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review conferences, as well as Chair the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 conference. As a result of his significant contributions, many important figures expressed condolences upon hearing of Amano’s death.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi commended Amano’s “skillful and professional performance…[that] resulted in complete closure” of the nuclear deal. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that he “always admired his wisdom and foresight—his ability to make informed decisions in the most difficult circumstances.” Jackie Wolcott, the U.S. ambassador to the international organizations in Vienna said that “all nuclear non-proliferation advocates have lost a great friend, and the United Nations family has lost an exceptional public servant.” Federica Mogherini, the E.U.’s Foreign Policy Chief, tweeted her condolences, calling Amano “a man of extraordinary dedication and professionalism, always at the service of the global community in the most impartial way.”

The IAEA currently has Mary Alice Hayward, Head of the Department of Management, as the Acting Director General. According to Reuters, Argentina’s Ambassador to the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, is running to succeed Amano and Cornel Feruta, the agency’s Chief Coordinator, is also likely to run. Others, too, could enter the race. Amano’s contributions to maintaining international nuclear peace will hopefully be continued with the same drive by his successor.

Filling the vacancy left by Yukiya Amano’s death will be very difficult. His legacy as a dedicated, hard-working professional who was integral in treaty conferences and in helping manage the 2015 Iran nuclear accord will not be forgotten.