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Nuclear science and technology support Viet Nam’s development

Puja Daya

Improved hospital capacities, cleaner rivers and higher yielding crops are just some of the myriad benefits nuclear technology has brought to Viet Nam in recent years.

“The Government of Viet Nam confirms its consistent policy of atomic energy application for peaceful purposes to reap the many benefits of this technology for the country’s socio-economic development,” said Tran Bich Ngoc, Executive Deputy Director General of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Agency.

Since joining the IAEA in 1957, Viet Nam’s cooperation with the IAEA has continuously strengthened. In 2018, the Viet Nam Atomic Energy Institute was designated as an IAEA Collaborating Centre for water and the environment. It applies nuclear and isotopic techniques in integrated watershed and coastal area management for socio-economic development.

For years the Nhue River in Viet Nam suffered from excessive plant and algae growth to the extent that fishing, tourism and irrigation were affected. This threatened the well-being of over 200 000 people. Using stable isotopes, Vietnamese experts supported by the IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) identified excessive fertilizer use on nearby farms as the culprit. Farmers have since changed their fertilizer practices, which has led to reduced run-off and pollution and improved water quality.

Enhancing food security and safety

Pollution is but one worry for Viet Nam’s waterways; the Mekong River is severely affected by drought and increasing salinity. Climate change is exacerbating these problems and threatening food security. Through seed irradiation, Vietnamese scientists have developed new varieties of rice that are drought tolerant and higher yielding, which has benefited over 300 000 farmers.

In 2019, Viet Nam irradiated on average 200 tonnes of fresh export fruits per week to protect produce from pests and retain its nutrients, flavours, textures and colours — a prerequisite for export. With the help of the IAEA and the FAO in using such techniques, experts in Viet Nam are making sure their country does not suffer the financial consequences of import bans.

Improving cancer care

Cancer is a major cause of death and a burden on Viet Nam’s health care system, which, until a few years ago, lacked radiotherapy equipment and a cancer control network. In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that Viet Nam suffered from approximately 165 000 cancer cases and 115 000 cancer-related deaths per year.

Acting on this, in 2019, the country’s Ministry of Health and the World Bank reached out to the IAEA for help. The IAEA offered advice to improve cancer care by establishing radiology and radiation oncology facilities and by providing training for health professionals in the latest treatment technologies.

“A few years ago, members of an IAEA and WHO joint mission helped the Government to increase awareness of and support for cancer control, as well as the capacity of the current system for cancer control,” said Pham Thi Quynh Nga, a WHO Technical Officer. With the help of the IAEA, the World Bank and the WHO, Viet Nam now provides its citizens with a comprehensive range of cancer care services, with 44 radiotherapy facilities across the country.

Controlling the spread of animal and zoonotic diseases

Thanks to quick action by the IAEA, the FAO and Viet Nam’s National Centre for Veterinary Diagnosis (NCVD), the country’s pork industry escaped a devastating wave of African swine fever (ASF) in 2019. Immediately after the news of the ASF outbreak in China, the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture trained veterinary experts in Viet Nam in diagnosing infectious animal diseases. With this knowledge, Vietnamese experts were able to diagnose ASF early and implement measures to protect pig farms.

Alongside ASF, Viet Nam was exposed to lumpy skin disease — a disease which affects cattle, reducing milk production and rendering them unfit for consumption. Through knowledge sharing via the IAEA’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VETLAB) Network, experts at the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre are working with Vietnamese laboratories, researchers and veterinary authorities to better understand and stop the spread of the virus that causes the disease.

The IAEA’s Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) initiative seeks to address zoonotic diseases through collaboration between human and animal health experts. Viet Nam plays an active role in the identification, monitoring, tracing and early detection of zoonotic disease pathogens, and is participating in global interventions and responses to potential outbreaks.

“The many ways in which the IAEA assists Viet Nam — through its programmes, initiatives and projects — supports sustainable development,” said Petra Nabil Salame, Programme Management Officer for Viet Nam at the IAEA. “Nuclear techniques and science are powerful tools for the country, and Viet Nam’s growing commitment to these proven applications will continue to provide benefits.”


Renovating for the future

The Renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories (ReNuAL) project was launched by the IAEA at the request of countries in order to upgrade infrastructure and provide new space and equipment for the IAEA’s eight nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria. As of the end of November 2021, more than 40 countries have made contributions to the construction, modernization and refurbishment of the laboratories. The project is expected to be completed in early 2024, if the remaining €6.7 million needed for the project can be raised by the time of the contract signing in 2022.

ReNuAL 2, the last phase of the project, builds upon previous ReNuAL activities, including the opening of the new Insect Pest Control Laboratory building and the Yukiya Amano Laboratories building, which houses the Animal Production and Health Laboratory, the Food and Environmental Protection Laboratory, and the Soil and Water Management and Crop Nutrition Laboratory. Under ReNuAL 2, a modern building will be constructed to house the Plant Breeding and Genetics Laboratory, the Terrestrial Environment Laboratory and the Nuclear Science and Instrumentation Laboratory. The construction of new and improved greenhouses and the refurbishment of the Dosimetry Laboratory facilities are also taking place.


December, 2021
Vol. 62-4

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