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Varjoranta named to head UN nuclear watchdog

Tero Varjoranta, Director General of the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), has been named the new chief United Nations nuclear inspector. His main job will be overseeing UN action to deter the proliferation of nuclear weapons by early detection of the misuse of nuclear material or technology. Varjoranta says he expects North Korea to be his toughest challenge.

Tero Varjoranta
Tero Varjoranta Image: Stuk

Varjoranta's appointment is to the post of Deputy Director General for Safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The Department's primary role is to deter the proliferation of nuclear weapons by detecting early the misuse of nuclear material or technology, and by providing credible assurances that states are honouring their safeguards obligations.

Tero Varjoranta told Yle on Monday that he intends to profile his new position primarily from a technical perspective.

"I, of course, have a very technical point of departure and a technical background and I want to take this as a technical job. The Director General takes care of diplomatic affairs and I will implement the technical part," Varjoranta explained.

North Korea a challenge

Varjoranta expects that the most demanding case he will be dealing with will be North Korea, which is more difficult to monitor than Iran. There are open issues concerning Syria, as well, according to Varjoranta.

He says that his work at the STUK -- the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority -- has prepared him well for new challenges at the IAEA.

"I've been doing this work for 32 years. STUK has a very good technical reputation and many contacts around the world. In addition, Finland otherwise has a good reputation and a way of doing things, of being objective and independent and drawing conclusions too quickly," points out Tero Varjoranta.

Varjoranta will officially assume his position at the beginning of October.

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