Member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) now owe more than €200m ($214m), according to Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. Addressing the recent Board of Governors’ meeting he warned that unless payments are made, then in a month's time "we will run out of money … I will not be able to pay salaries or for the lights … we will grind to a halt".

Grossi said he had called attention to the urgent finance situation because he found it "contradictory … that we talk about so many important things when I don't know whether I'm going to be able to open the shop in one month". He said that 44% of member states were in arrears "including the major donors". He said what made it even more frustrating was that he had been in touch with the United Nations Secretariat in New York and with other agencies and global institutions and "no one is in a situation like us".

"So we need commitments soon so we can continue doing what we are supposed to be doing," he added. He thanked the US ambassador for allowing "us to use some money in a creative way, to make it for this month … I hope that others can do that as well. But the real thing, the fundamental thing, is that we cannot continue to say that we support this agency when we don't pay for its activity. It's as simple as that".

The director general said that the only time there had been a similar situation for the IAEA was nearly 30 years ago, in 1995, which had triggered discussions and proposals and led to a "very complicated situation … so I really hope that we will be able to avoid any such situation now – as you can imagine, it's very difficult for me to plan ahead when I don't know if I'm going to be able to pay salaries in one month”. He added: “So I count on your support and I count on that when we say that we support the agency we really do."

In January, IAEA issued an update on its previous budget taking into account increases due to high inflation in Austria. For 2023, a total Regular Budget of €422.5m was proposed, which represented an overall increase of €19.4m, or 4.9%, compared with the earlier approved budget. Both the operational Regular Budget (€415.9m – an increase of €19.1m) and the capital Regular Budget (€6.5m – an increase of €0.3m) included the 4.9% price adjustment. This suggests that almost half of the required budget funds have not been forthcoming.

According to the US Congressional Research Service (CRS), the US is the largest contributor to the IAEA, providing an estimated $200m a year in assessed and voluntary contributions. “The share of US contributions is typically about 25% of the regular IAEA budget, as is the case for FY2020, but can fluctuate slightly from year to year, depending on such factors as the total budget and number of members that are assessed,” CRS says. “For comparison, other top contributors and their 2020 assessed rates are approximately Japan (8.2%), Germany (5.9%), France (4.3%), UK (4.4%), China (11.5%), Canada (2.6%), Spain (2%), Brazil (2.8%), and the Russian Federation (2.4%).