IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano made an official visit to Viet Nam from 7 to 11 January 2014.
The main focus of the visit was Viet Nam's preparations to launch a national nuclear power programme in the coming years. Viet Nam is one of the most advanced countries planning to add nuclear power to their national energy mix. The Director General met senior officials involved in the programme and also visited the proposed site for the first nuclear power reactor in Ninh Thuan.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng told the Director General that nuclear technology had a significant role to play in sustainable development. He said Viet Nam had embarked on a nuclear power programme to address its energy needs and was continuing to use nuclear applications in the areas of health and agriculture. Viet Nam attached great importance to ensuring maximum safety and security for its nuclear programme.
The Director General said he was impressed by the strong commitment he had seen at all levels to ensure that Viet Nam's nuclear power programme would be conducted to the highest safety standards. The IAEA would remain a reliable partner for Viet Nam in helping to ensure that its nuclear power programme was safe, secure and sustainable, and in nuclear applications. He encouraged Viet Nam to continue its work to establish a robust, independent nuclear regulator, and to ensure effective cooperation among all stakeholders in this important, complex project.
During his stay in Viet Nam, Director General Amano had meetings with the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and the Minister of Science and Technology. He also held discussions with senior officials of Viet Nam's Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety and Control, the Viet Nam Atomic Energy Agency and Viet Nam Electricity.
The Director General visited the Centre for Nuclear Medicine and Oncology at Bach Mai Hospital, where he was briefed on Viet Nam's work to strengthen its national cancer diagnosis and treatment facilities. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Vietnam, with around 130 000 new cancer cases recorded each year. Due to a lack of equipment and trained personnel, only around a tenth of patients who need radiotherapy actually receive it.
Viet Nam is a model demonstration site for the Agency's Programme of Action For Cancer Therapy (PACT). The Director General saw some of the radiotherapy equipment provided through Agency programmes and met some of the 20 health professionals from Viet Nam who have received training through the IAEA on aspects of cancer control.
The Director General visited Cambodia from 11 to 13 January 2014.
Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen welcomed the Director General's visit as a further step in the country's cooperation with the IAEA, which is highly valued by Cambodia. He noted the important role which nuclear science and technology play in human health and agricultural and industrial applications in Cambodia.
The Director General welcomed Cambodia's focus on nuclear safety and security and said the Agency would continue to work with the country to develop its capacity to use nuclear applications as effectively as possible for socio-economic development.
One of the highlights of the Director General's visit was his participation, with Cambodian Minister for Health, Dr. Mam Bunheng, in a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the National Cancer Center at Calmette Hospital, Phnom Penh, on 13 January 2014.
The Minister and hospital staff briefed the Director General on the increasing problem that cancer causes for health services in Cambodia, in particular for women, with cervical and breast cancers the most common diseases. With a population of 14.7 million, Cambodia has over 14 000 new cases of cancer each year and only one operational radiotherapy centre, so there is an urgent need for additional treatment facilities. With the present limited facilities, only 500 patients per year can receive radiotherapy treatment.
The Director General met doctors and nurses who will staff the new National Cancer Centre, some of whom have been trained through the IAEA's Technical Cooperation programme.
The IAEA has assisted in developing the concept for the new Cancer Centre and supported national efforts to finance the project.
The Government of Laos extended a warm welcome to the IAEA Director General during his visit to Vientiane on 15 to 16 January 2014. Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong emphasized the already strong collaboration that has developed in the short time since Laos joined the Agency in 2011. The Agency is working with Laos to help it in developing its capacities in areas such as addressing cancer and other health issues, as well as agriculture and food quality, the nuclear regulatory framework and nuclear safety and security. Director General Amano said the IAEA would continue to support Laos in the peaceful use of nuclear technology.
At the Department of Radiology at Mittaparb Hospital, Director General Amano was able to see first-hand the need for Laos to develop its cancer treatment facilities.
The Director General paid a brief visit to Thailand on 17 January 2014, meeting senior officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Energy, the Office of Atoms for Peace and the Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology. Discussions focussed on cooperation between the Agency and Thailand, including the assistance of the IAEA Environmental Laboratories in Monaco in training staff for a national marine laboratory in Thailand. Officials also shared with the Director General their ideas on how to strengthen cooperation between the Agency and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.