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Atoms for People, Planet and Prosperity: Scientific Forum Opens

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Prince Albert II of Monaco spoke at the opening session of  the IAEA Scientific Forum entitled Nuclear Technology for the Sustainable Development Goals. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Nuclear science contributes to many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the IAEA supports countries in their developments efforts, said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano at the opening of the 2016 Scientific Forum today.

“When world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals last year, they explicitly recognized – for the first time – that science, technology and innovation are essential for development,” he said. The SDGs are a range of objectives agreed on by the United Nations General Assembly to stimulate action in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet.

“Helping countries to achieve these goals is an IAEA priority. We are uniquely placed to help countries gain access to nuclear science and technology, which have a great deal to offer in industry, energy, health care, agriculture, environmental protection – and many other areas.”

Held over two days during the IAEA General Conference, the Scientific Forum this year is showcasing how nuclear techniques are used to improve human and animal health, address climate change, boost access to energy and protect the planet. Senior officials, leading experts and academics will review the diverse contributions of nuclear technology to sustainable development. They will focus on the nine goals to which nuclear techniques make a direct contribution.

The livestream of the Scientific Forum is available via this link. See a short video and our series of Impact Stories on how the IAEA supports development around the world.

Opening discussion

Countries around the world must redouble their efforts to reach the SDGs by 2030, and science, including nuclear applications, needs to play a key role in this endeavour, said Prince Albert II of Monaco. The SDGs “are the only means of altering humankind’s environmental footprint and, furthermore, of protecting the health of the world’s population.”

Monaco, which hosts the IAEA’s Environmental Laboratories, strongly supports the work of the IAEA, Prince Albert said. “International scientific cooperation among all stakeholders in the promotion of nuclear technology for sustainable development and renewable energy is of critical importance.”

Nuclear science and technology is an important avenue leading to the achievement of sustainable development, said Andrew Wheatley, Jamaica’s Minister of Science, Energy and Technology. “The programmes of the IAEA and its strong focus on atoms for peace of development provide support to countries in the attainment of SDGs.”

Jamaica, home to the only research reactor in the Caribbean, uses nuclear technology in industry, medicine, agriculture, education and research, Mr Wheatley said, highlighting support from the IAEA in crop improvement, irrigation and water management. “While the peaceful application of nuclear technology is not a panacea for development challenges, it is an important tool for countries to use.”

In China, nuclear science has always been closely related to development, emphasized Yiren Wang, Vice Chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority. “It will no doubt contribute more to sustainable development in the future.”

The Chinese nuclear industry has been committed to promoting economic and social development, at the same time meeting electricity demand and improving lives, Mr Wang said. He underlined China’s support to other IAEA Member States, including by hosting over 3,000 scientific visitors at China’s research institutes.

Nuclear technology has a major role to play in cutting carbon emissions, said Said Mouline, Director General of Morocco’s National Agency for the Development of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, who spoke on behalf of the organizers of COP22, the United Nations climate change conference that is scheduled to take place in Marakesh, Morocco in November. “We need to seriously consider how the aims of COP link with nuclear technology,” he said.

Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist and President of the Australian Academy of Sciences and Engineering, talked of the important role nuclear energy must play in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Wind and solar energy can only provide emission-free electricity to meet global needs in conjunction with electricity storage capacity – which is currently not available at a large enough scale, he said.

Despite the growth in the use of renewables to produce energy, the share of coal is still increasing in the global energy mix, he pointed out. While in 2000 coal accounted for 25% of global energy production, its proportion has increased to 29% last year. 

“We need to use low emission electricity to replace fossil fuels and move towards the electric planet,” he said.

Overview of the sessions

The Forum will consist of five sessions, including high-level panel discussions, on the following topics:

Health and Well-being: Global Access to Radiation Medicine

From prevention to palliation, radiation medicine plays an essential role in the diagnosis and management of a wide range of diseases. However, access to radiation medicine with adequate quality assurance is limited in many countries. The session will look at what is needed to help achieve the SDG 3 target of reducing deaths from non-communicable diseases by one third by 2030.

Zero Hunger: Atoms for Food, Agriculture and Nutrition

This session will showcase how nuclear technology is successfully deployed to boost food security and tackle agricultural challenges. From efficiently fighting pests and diseases to improving crop varieties and nutrition and ensuring food safety, nuclear techniques are used to guarantee sufficient food all year round. This session will discuss how nuclear technology can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 target of ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture around the world.

Energy for the Future: The Role of Nuclear Power

Nuclear power is one of the lowest-carbon technologies available to generate electricity and can play a significant role in mitigating climate change. Several countries are taking concrete steps to introduce nuclear power, but its share in the world's energy mix is decreasing and its competitiveness is being challenged. This session will discuss how innovation, technological advances and new economic models can help increase nuclear power's contribution to the areas covered by SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), and SDG 13 (climate action).

Isotopes for the Environment: Managing Our Natural Resources

This session will showcase examples of how nuclear and isotopic techniques can help manage our planet's natural resources and address SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 14 (life below water), and SDG 15 (life on land). It will also look at how data collected using such techniques can play an essential role in establishing adequate environmental policies at national and international levels.

Partnerships for Progress: Transferring Nuclear Science and Technology

Focusing on SDG 17 - forming partnerships for achieving all the SDGs - the last session will examine nuclear technology transfer and sustainability issues related to human resources and financing.

International scientific cooperation among all stakeholders in the promotion of nuclear technology for sustainable development and renewable energy is of critical importance.
Prince Albert II, Monaco

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