Nuclear technology offers unique tools in the quest for sustainable development. Such technology is often the best to gather information and provide solutions that would not otherwise be possible or practical: to diagnose and treat disease, to breed better crops and fight insect pests; to assess new sources of fresh water; and to monitor pollution. While many may only think of energy, nuclear technology has a much larger role to play in human development.

Where it can make a difference, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) provides support to 134 Member States for using this technology to solve the important challenges they face.

Isotopes, stable and radioactive forms of chemical elements, can be used to “label” materials under study. Since both stable and radioactive isotopes can be identified and measured using appropriate equipment, labelling is often used in diagnostic medical tests, in studies of underground sources of water, and to trace pollutants, such as heavy metals and pesticides.

Stable, non-radioactive, isotopes are used in nutritional studies to trace the metabolism of vitamins and trace minerals in supplements.

Other nuclear techniques use radiation which can be focussed into beams and, depending on its intensity, can be used to kill cancer cells, to sterilize tissue grafts for burn victims, to sterilize food against insects or disease causing pathogens, to make insects sterile so they cannot reproduce, to induce desirable genetic changes in crops, or to scan body organs for abnormalities.

Nuclear Technology

Good health, sufficient food and water, and a safe environment are fundamental to our quality of life. Yet in many parts of the world, these basic needs remain beyond the reach of far too many people.

Photo Credits:
PhotoDisc; P. Pavlicek/IAEA;
P. Pavlicek/IAEA; K.Gaggl/IAEA; PhotoDisc.

To learn more about how nuclear science and technology are contributing to sustainable development, visit the IAEA’s WorldAtom website

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