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How developing countries are helping each other use nuclear technologies

Elodie Broussard

Scientists conducting research during their fellowships hosted in Indonesia. (Photo: BATAN)

Thanks in part to their active collaboration with the IAEA over decades, many developing countries have significantly enhanced their capacities in nuclear technology and have been using these technologies to reach their development goals. Some of these countries are now able to support other developing countries through a framework known as South–South cooperation.

South–South cooperation refers to technical cooperation support between developing countries. It covers many areas of the United Nations development agenda, such as agricultural development, health and climate change, and is of growing importance in addressing global challenges.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is the most complex immediate challenge facing our world and it is undermining hard-won social, economic and environmental gains. In such trying times, the solidarity that underpins South–South cooperation has once again proven vital for developing countries,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on the 2021 International Day for South–South Cooperation. “As the world seeks to ramp up COVID-19 response and recovery and tackle the existential threat of climate change, South–South and triangular cooperation is more essential than ever.”

As part of the IAEA’s contribution to global efforts to achieve sustainable development, in March 2019, on the occasion of the Second High-level United Nations Conference on South–South Cooperation, the IAEA reiterated its commitment to expanding South–South cooperation in the use of peaceful nuclear technologies. Indonesia is one of the countries now actively supporting this approach.

“For over 60 years, Indonesian experts have been working with the IAEA to build their nuclear capacities,” said Jane Gerardo-Abaya, Director of the IAEA’s Division for Asia and the Pacific. “Now, as a developing country with a high level of expertise, Indonesia has become a resource for neighbouring countries and is helping to promote regional self-reliance and strengthen local ownership of nuclear science and technology.”

In February 2018, Indonesia’s Ministry of Research and Technology signed Practical Arrangements with the IAEA to strengthen its support for other countries. Indonesian experts, in part through IAEA technical cooperation projects, have transferred knowledge to and advised experts from several countries in Africa and in Asia and the Pacific. Between 2016 and 2019, 43 scientists from African and Asian countries benefitted from fellowships and training at Indonesian nuclear science institutions, and during the same period, 29 experts from Indonesia contributed to IAEA projects in Africa and in Asia and the Pacific.

Indonesia will play a key role in the IAEA’s new Nuclear Technology for Controlling Plastic Pollution (NUTEC Plastics) initiative. NUTEC Plastics provides a platform for cooperation to combat plastic pollution and leverage the resources, knowledge and networks of participating countries. Indonesia is aiming to reduce its marine litter by 70 per cent in the next four years. With support from NUTEC Plastics, it plans to build a pilot facility that uses irradiation to recycle plastics, and will share its gained expertise with specialists from other countries.

“Indonesia has widely benefitted from the IAEA technical cooperation programme, ranging from human resources capacity building to equipment and facilities development. This programme has enabled Indonesia to advance its capabilities in research, development and the use of nuclear technologies in various fields, such as food and agriculture, health and nutrition, water and environment, and industrial applications,” said Dimas Irawan, Science Attaché at the Indonesian Embassy in Vienna. “With the knowledge and experience gained, we can now support other countries.”

New crop varieties

The IAEA has supported scientists from Indonesia’s National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN) in developing new crop varieties that enable local farmers to increase productivity despite adverse weather and soil conditions. BATAN’s Center for Isotopes and Radiation Application (CIRA) has developed a wide variety of plants using seed irradiation techniques, receiving awards from the IAEA Director General in 2014 and 2021 for its outstanding achievements. In 2017, CIRA became an IAEA Collaborating Centre and an active hub for South–South knowledge transfer.

CIRA has hosted fellowships, scientific visits and training courses on food and agriculture to expand the expertise of scientists from Africa and from Asia and the Pacific. In 2017, Mozambican technicians were hosted at CIRA to conduct trials on new strains of climate-smart cereal crops that could improve yields in Mozambique.

“The training provided me with the skills and knowledge to support the production of promising new varieties of sorghum in Mozambique,” said Nelson Moiana, one of the technicians involved in the training. “Sorghum has a great potential to help farmers increase their income and to stimulate economic growth in rural areas. Its cultivation also contributes to better soil management and sustainable agriculture development.”


In 2018 and 2019, regional training courses on human health took place at the BATAN laboratory and the Dharmais Cancer Center Hospital in Jakarta within the framework of the African Regional Co-operative Agreement for Research, Development and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology — one of the four IAEA regional cooperation agreements that support South–South cooperation. The training courses were attended by medical practitioners from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. These were in addition to other training courses held at the Dharmais Cancer Center Hospital that welcomed fellows in nuclear medicine and diagnostic imaging from Zambia.

Management of radioactive waste

In the field of radioactive waste management, researchers from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Libya, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal and the Palestinian Territories have taken part in several fellowships and scientific visits hosted in Indonesia. This enabled the researchers to learn how to better manage disused sealed radioactive sources originally used in medicine, agriculture, industry and research, that can be a threat to human health and the environment if not properly controlled.

“The Indonesian Government will uphold its commitment to continued cooperation with the IAEA, including sharing expertise and knowledge with other Member States through various cooperation channels,” Irawan said.


December, 2021
Vol. 62-4

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