Yukiya Amano, the IAEA's New Nuclear Watchdog

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Ronald Zak / AP

International Atomic Energy Agency director general designate Yukiya Amano at the IAEA general conference in Vienna, Sept. 14

After 12 years, International Atomic Energy Agency director general Mohamed ElBaradei is stepping down Nov. 30. Taking his place will be Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano, who was elected in July to become the fifth leader in the organization's history. Amano, who has served the IAEA since the 1990s, has experience in disarmament, nonproliferation and nuclear-energy policy. As tensions with nations such as Iran and North Korea have come to a head in recent months, Amano has said that he will stick to the IAEA's mandate of inspections to prevent proliferation. He is supportive of U.S. President Barack Obama's position on Iran and has praised him for fostering diplomacy with the country. But he has also said that he doesn't plan to be as outspoken as his predecessor: the outgoing ElBaradei famously clashed with the Bush Administration over its claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Fast Facts:
• Born in 1947 in Japan's Kanagawa prefecture. Graduated from the faculty of law at the University of Tokyo in 1972. Joined Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs after completing his degree.

• Studied at the University of Besançon and at the University of Nice in France from 1973 to 1975, where he became fluent in French.

• Has held increasingly senior positions in Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, notably as director of the Science Division, director of the Nuclear Energy Division and deputy director general for arms control and scientific affairs.

• Took part in the arms-control talks that produced the 1995 extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

• Has specialized in multilateral disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation negotiations over 36 years in Japan's foreign service, with postings in Washington, Brussels, Geneva and Vientiane.

• Was successful in securing an agreement to shut down Chernobyl Unit No. 3 — the final part of the plant to be shut down after several accidents — as chairman of the G-7 Nuclear Safety Group in 2000.

• Served as chairman of the IAEA's policymaking governing body from 2005 to 2006 when the agency and its then director, ElBaradei, were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2005. Amano accepted the prize on behalf of the agency. He will be the first IAEA director general from the Asia-Pacific region.

Quotes By:
"We need to carefully maintain a channel of dialogue. Iran is an important country. You must deal with it with respect and dignity."
— Amano in a February interview praising President Obama's willingness to sit down with Iranian officials (Reuters, Feb. 11, 2009)

"The IAEA's basic function is not political negotiation but implementing already agreed safeguards. Remarks by the director have political implications which, if made without properly assessing these implications, can be very dangerous."
— Indicating that he will maintain a less politically involved profile than his predecessor (Reuters, Feb. 11, 2009)

"[I am] resolute in opposing the spread of nuclear arms because I am from a country that experienced Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
— BBC (July 2, 2009)

Quotes About:
"He's a nonproliferation and disarmament guy, and he believes in it. He has been around in trying to keep the inspections in Iran going, and I expect him to continue very much in that line. He will not want to create a situation in which military action is the only alternative."
— David A. Kay, a former IAEA official and a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies (New York Times, July 2, 2009)

"I think he will reduce the politicization of the IAEA. That alone will bring back things into equilibrium."
— John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under the Bush Administration (Associated Press, July 2, 2009)