Nuclear Technologies for the Environment: Protecting atmospheric, terrestrial and marine environments

The IAEA assists Member States to achieve their development priorities while monitoring and protecting the air, earth and oceans.
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The peaceful application of nuclear technology helps countries to understand and manage environmental resources in a sustainable way.
The IAEA’s Marine Environment Laboratories, based in Monaco, use a variety of nuclear techniques to establish a better understanding of marine processes. 
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The information gathered at the labs is used to assess the impact of climate change on environmental sustainability and inform Member States’ efforts to protect the marine environment.
Located in Seibersdorf, Austria, the IAEA’s Terrestrial Environment Laboratory provides developing Member States with low-cost, essential reference materials for calibration.
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This allows Member States to better understand and protect the terrestrial environment by enhancing their ability to track pollution and thereby reduce and prevent environmental degradation.
Poor farming practices and inappropriate land uses have led to land degradation and erosion in many developing countries.
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Nuclear technology can be applied to evaluate soil degradation and soil losses from erosion, and to assess the effectiveness of soil and water conservation strategies.
Through technical cooperation projects the IAEA’s Laboratories provide essential training and fellowships to Member States.
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A project assisting the European region to improve quality assurance for the measurement and monitoring of radioactivity in the environment has trained participants from 25 countries, enhancing their knowledge of sampling, data recording, tools and equipment, international standards and recommended procedures for soil and vegetation sampling.
Isotopes can be used to study groundwater contamination from agricultural pollutants.
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This supports the conservation of natural and agricultural resources for crop production, and environmental sustainability. 
Pesticides are important in producing the food required for the world’s growing population, but can be hazardous and must be applied in an efficient and safe manner.
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The IAEA assists Member States with pesticide residue monitoring, good agricultural practices and capabilities to predict pesticide mobility in soils and leaching.
Through the technical cooperation programme, a laboratory for monitoring pesticide residues and organic pollutants in Lebanon was upgraded.
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Environmental safety has been strengthened through training, expertise and equipment, and the laboratory can now analyse many more samples and use new analytical methods to determine pollutants in the environment.
Pollution not only affects marine life, habitats and human health, but also the livelihoods of people, who rely on fish farming for income.
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Marine environmental studies using nuclear analytical and radiotracer techniques can track the movement of heavy metals and pollutants, thus enhancing the management and protection of marine resources.
Air contamination knows no borders. The IAEA helps Member States to study and identify the main sources of pollution. X-ray and other analytical techniques can characterize and measure airborne particles.
Resource extraction operations such as mining and mineral processing can contaminate soils, and surface and groundwater.
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The IAEA supports decontamination, dismantling, remote handling and the assessment and management of radioactive wastes and remediation of sites, including reuse and redevelopment.
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are toxic chemicals that adversely affect human health and the environment.
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The IAEA is exploring new ways to use electron beam (e-beam) technology to protect the environment and reduce risks to human health. 
Graphics and captions: Hazel Pattison