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Director General Amano Commends Latin American Countries for Peaceful Use of Nuclear Technology

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IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addresses ARCAL in an event marking its 35th anniversary. Varadero, Cuba. (Photo: IAEA)

Latin America has made significant progress in using nuclear techniques for development over the last 35 years, and the Regional Cooperation Agreement for the Promotion of Nuclear Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean (ARCAL) has contributed to this achievement, Director General Yukiya Amano said in Varadero, Cuba, today.

“It has been fascinating to observe the steady progress being made by countries of this region in using nuclear science and technology to improve the health and prosperity of their people,” Mr Amano said at an event marking ARCAL’s 35th anniversary. “ARCAL played a key role in this process. Its work has also led to a significant strengthening of what is often called ‘south-south cooperation,’ with more advanced users of nuclear technology sharing their expertise with their neighbours.”

Cuba is taking over the two-year presidency of ARCAL from Mexico today and will focus on further strengthening ties in cooperation in the region, said Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Environment Fidel Santana at the meeting.

“We will continue working towards new goals and strengthening the alliance,” Santana said. “The integration, coordination and training of human resources is an example of what can be done in south-south cooperation. We will enhance the promotion and use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.”

ARCAL was created to promote, foster and coordinate the use of nuclear techniques for peace and development. For the past 35 years, it has worked to make nuclear science and technology available in health care, food and agriculture, industry and other areas.

Key achievements under ARCAL include curbing fruit fly infestation in countries such as Mexico and Guatemala, using the sterile insect technique. In addition, the use of radiation-induced mutation techniques has led to the development of new food varieties such as tomato and quinoa in a number of countries in the region, and scientists have been using isotopic techniques to improve management of precious water resources and monitor marine pollution.

“The Agency cooperates directly with each of your 21 state parties,” Mr Amano said to the ARCAL representatives. “But ARCAL has proven to be an excellent framework for taking a more strategic approach to using nuclear technology to help address common problems across this region of some 580 million people.”

Mr Amano talked about the IAEA’s response to emergencies, such as the nuclear-derived early detection tools and training support provided to help rapidly identify cases of the Zika virus after outbreaks were reported in 26 countries and territories in the region in 2016, or the dispatching of mobile digital X-ray units, as well as mobile generators, emergency diagnostic equipment and personal radiation detectors to help Ecuador after its deadly earthquake in the same year.

In 2018, the IAEA provided equipment to both Ecuador and Mexico so they could use non-destructive testing techniques, including radiography, to determine whether buildings and other structures damaged in earthquakes were in danger of collapse.

In its 35 years, ARCAL has had 163 technical cooperation projects approved, which translate into nearly 40 million USD invested in capacity building and infrastructure for the region. ARCAL has organized nearly 400 training courses, 200 expert missions and trained nearly 16 000 professionals from its state parties.

ARCAL and the IAEA are working together on the basis of the Regional Strategic Profile for Latin America and the Caribbean for 2016 to 2021. They have identified six priority areas: food security, human health, the environment, energy, radiation safety and radiation technologies.

During the event, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Cuba, and Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the country, Consuelo Vidal, also made opening remarks. Earlier today, she met Director General Amano to discuss ways of strengthening joint efforts.

Similar cooperative agreements are in place in Africa, Arab States in Asia and Asia and the Pacific.

ARCAL has proven to be an excellent framework for taking a more strategic approach to using nuclear technology to help address common problems across this region of some 580 million people.
Yukiya Amano, Director General, IAEA

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