Highlights of 2012

Published: 27 December 2012

As we bid farewell to the year 2012, here is a recap of the stories and images that punctuated the last twelve months, as they relate to developments in the IAEA's work to promote the peaceful applications of nuclear technology for mankind's benefit. (Text: Rodolfo Quevenco; Cover Photo: Kresimir Nikolic; Other Photos, unless otherwise credited: Dean Calma) In January, an IAEA expert mission completed a review of the safety assessment process used at Japan's nuclear power plants. The picture shows team leader James Lyons (center) and IAEA safety specialist David Graves (right) discussing safety measures at the Ohi Nuclear Power Plant. The Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi is the venue for the first IAEA School of Nuclear Management in the Gulf region, which took place from 8-19 January 2012 in the United Arab Emirates. The School is part of continuing efforts by the IAEA to address the knowledge management challenges in the nuclear industry of many countries. (Photo: Khalifa University). In February, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and OFID Director General, Suleiman J. Al-Herbish, signed an agreement to advance cancer control in Vietnam - particularly to combat women's cancers - through projects led by IAEA's Programme of Action in Cancer Therapy (PACT). An event highlighting and honouring the achievements of women in the field of nuclear science was held at the IAEA's Vienna headquarters on 8 March 2012 to commemorate International Women's Day. All over the world, more and more women today are taking on key leadership roles in developing the national nuclear agenda. In partnership with the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the International Seismic Safety Centre (ISSC) at the IAEA is developing a real-time tsunami forecasting system that would utilize state-of-the-art modeling software to predict wave height and the speed with which the waves are moving across the ocean. The ISSC is a global focal point in strengthening safety against external hazards for nuclear installations world-wide. At a special ceremony held at IAEA headquarters, members of the international community in Vienna, Austria, joined with Japan mark the first anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, which occurred on 11 March 2011. Here, attendees observe a minute of silence at the start of the ceremony. World leaders attending the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, issued a joint communiqué renewing their commitment to work towards strengthening nuclear security, reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism and preventing unauthorized acquisition of nuclear materials. They also noted the IAEA's essential role in facilitating international cooperation and supporting the efforts of countries to fulfill their nuclear security responsibilities. An IAEA International Expert Meeting on the Fukushima Accident proposes safety improvements for nuclear power plants. Mr. Denis Flory, IAEA Deputy Director General for the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security (centre), is shown here addressing participants at the meeting, which was held at the IAEA on 23 March 2012. Mr. Alexander Bychkov, Deputy Director General for the Department of Nuclear Energy (second to the right), also addressed the expert meeting. A multi-year project to modernize the Agency's safeguards analytical capabilities celebrated a milestone when new spectrometry equipment of unparalleled precision was put in service in May. Donated by Germany, the equipment will help the safeguards laboratory meet the verification challenges of the next thirty years and beyond. (Photo: K. Gaggl/IAEA) The opening session of the 4th Review Meeting of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management held at the IAEA on 14 May 2012. This process allows Parties to review and discuss in detail safety measures taken to implement the Joint Convention, taking into account current events and developments in the field. In June 2012, the IAEA initiated a regional long-term project - with thirteen participating countries - that aims to enhance these countries' knowledge and understanding of the five large transboundary aquifers that they are sharing in the Sahel region. (Photo: R. Quevenco/IAEA) As the world's attention turned to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (dubbed 'Rio+20'), the IAEA published a brochure highlighting ways in which the Agency contributes to the development goals being addressed at this global conference, namely, in oceans, food, water and energy. In response to the international scientific community's call for more coordinated research and action on ocean acidification, the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre at the Environment Laboratories of the IAEA in Monaco was opened in the summer. The Centre is supported by several IAEA Member States, and is being established under the IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative project. During his visit to the ITER headquarters in France in early July, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano went on a tour of the construction site, including the poloidal field coils winding facility, the tokamak pit and the anti-seismic pads. ITER is an international project to design and build an experimental fusion reactor based on the 'tokamak' concept. A week-long international symposium on Managing Soils for Food Security and Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation opened in Vienna, 23-27 July 2012, highlighting the benefits of using nuclear techniques for farm and land management. Here, delegates peruse an exhibit held on the sidelines of the symposium. The IAEA Nuclear Information System (INIS) launched a mobile version of its web site to reach a growing number of audience accessing nuclear information on mobile devices like smart phones and tablets. INIS is operated by the IAEA in collaboration with over 150 Members States. It hosts one of the world's largest collections of published information on the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology. In a related development, the Agency's flagship publication, IAEA Bulletin, also launched an 'app' for mobile devices. (Photo: R. Quevenco/IAEA) After a week of intense discussions in Vienna, Austria, more than 600 participants from 64 Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS), covered a range of nuclear safety-related topics including severe accident management and recovery, reactor design, emergency preparedness, emergency response and post-accident management, as well as international cooperation. On 23 August 2012, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano toured the underground rock characterization facility (ONKALO), a nuclear waste repository, during his official visit to Posiva Oy, Olkiluoto, Finland. The group photo was taken in the underground characterization facility, ONKALO, in the demonstration tunnel one, at about 420 meters depth. (Photo: H. Suomi/Posiva) The United Arab Emirates is the first country to start the construction of its first nuclear power plant in 27 years, since construction was started on China's first plant in 1985. (Photo: ENEC) The IAEA's five-day General Conference opened on 17 September 2012 with about 3 000 participants from Member States, international organisations, as well as NGOs and the media, and with a record number of side events including a Scientific Forum on 'Food for the Future: Meeting Challenges with Nuclear Applications'. In opening the Scientific Forum on 'Food for the Future: Meeting Challenges with Nuclear Applications', Director General Yukiya Amano stressed the IAEA's unique position to make nuclear technology available to developing countries; helping them to grow more food; fight animal and plant pests and diseases; and ensure the safety of food products. Here, Director General Amano is shown holding a mandarin orange harvested from a Dalmatian orchard. The IAEA is helping Croatian farmers in the Neretva valley suppress the med fly population using the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), which reduces pesticide use, resulting in healthier fruit. The IAEA's projections for nuclear power generating capacity in 2012 show a steady rise in the number of nuclear power plants in the world in the next 20 years. The March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident raised fundamental questions about the future of nuclear energy throughout the world, yet it is clear that nuclear energy will remain an important option for many countries. The IAEA Nuclear Applications Laboratories in Seibersdorf celebrate over 50 years of helping countries gain access to nuclear technologies for development. To mark this milestone, the IAEA held a commemorative event at its headquarters on 29 Novermber to highlight achievements and draw attention to future plans to modernize the laboratories. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and the Governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Mr. Yuhei Sato, signs a Memorandum of Cooperation at the margins of the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, which was held at Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, on 15 December 2012. The Conference gave voice to calls for continuous improvement and vigilance to further strengthen nuclear safety worldwide. (Photo: Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs)