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IAEA Director General Speaks at Brussels Conference, Meets EU and Belgian Officials

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IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano (4th from left) tours the Belgian Nuclear Research Facility SCK-CEN during his official visit to Belgium on 21 March 2018. (Photo: SCK-CEN)

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano highlighted the remarkable and beneficial applications of nuclear science and technology in his keynote address to a European Union (EU) conference entitled ‘Addressing Societal Challenges through Advancing the Medical, Industrial and Research Applications of Nuclear and Radiation Technology’ in Brussels this week.

“Nuclear technology helps countries to produce more food, generate more electricity, treat diseases such as cancer, manage water supplies, protect the seas and oceans and respond to climate change — and much more,” he said.

Mr Amano highlighted the importance of using nuclear technology towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and noted that the EU provides significant financial and technical support to the IAEA. EU support was initially focussed on nuclear verification, safety and security, but in recent years the cooperation has expanded into new areas including agriculture, food safety, environmental monitoring and water resources.

Many IAEA technical cooperation projects are implemented in EU countries, whose main areas of interest in recent years have been nuclear safety, health and nutrition.  IAEA projects in Latvia cover enhancing nuclear and radiation safety and the effectiveness of regulatory infrastructure, for example, while in Slovenia, the IAEA is supporting efforts to improve the safety and quality of radiology services.  Mr Amano noted that Croatia had successfully used the sterile insect technique to fight the Mediterranean fruit fly, while IAEA support had helped Bulgaria to use a nuclear-derived technique against a cattle disease that can cause significant economic losses to farmers.  

Mr Amano thanked EU Member States for their generous support for the modernization of the IAEA’s nuclear application laboratories near Vienna, which is at an advanced stage. These train scientists, support research and perform analytical services for Member States.

The two-day conference on 20-21 March was organised by the EU Commission and opened by Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, and Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

Bilateral meetings

While in Brussels, Mr Amano held discussions with Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Neven Mimica, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.  Discussions covered the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and EU support for IAEA activities. An EU-IAEA Senior Officials Meeting took place  recently in Vienna. Other subjects included EU support to the environmental remediation of former uranium mines in Central Asia, a project supported by the IAEA.

Mr Amano also met Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders and commended Belgium for its strong support for the work of the IAEA.

He held discussions with Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK•CEN President Derrick Gosselin and Director General Eric van Walle. Projects such as research on advanced nuclear techniques and developing sustainable technology using nuclear science were discussed. Mr Amano was briefed on the Centre’s training courses and specialised services in sustainable nuclear energy, monitoring safety and security at nuclear facilities, and medical research projects in cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“The Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) conducts very important and impressive work in the area of nuclear medicine. Cancer is a particular focus of the IAEA’s activities. Improving access to radiotherapy and nuclear medicine is a priority for our Member States, especially for developing countries,” Mr Amano said.

At the BR2 nuclear research reactor, Mr Amano was briefed on the various applications that BR2 supports, including radioisotope production, irradiation and industrial applications. Mr Amano visited the Underground Research Facility (HADES), a laboratory that lies 225 metres below SCK•CEN’s facilities. HADES focuses on scientific research and analysis and conducts feasibility experiments in deep clay as an option for the disposal of long-lived and high-active nuclear waste.

He attended the inauguration of SCK•CEN as an International Centre based on Research Reactors (ICERR), a certification granted by the IAEA last year.  

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