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IAEA Helps to Promote the Sustainability and Self-Reliance of Nuclear Institutions in Latin America and Caribbean


Brazil’s Nuclear and Energy Research Institute (IPEN) routinely provides services to users around the country, and throughout the region. For facilities such as IPEN’s nuclear research reactor, for instance, delivering radioisotopes and other services to commercial clients and public sector partners in a more effective and efficient way is key for business continuity.

Following a series of IAEA training courses implemented through the technical cooperation (TC) programme1/, young leaders working in 19 national nuclear institutions (NNIs) in Latin America and the Caribbean are better equipped to strategically plan and reliably promote the nuclear and isotopic services they provide. This will help ensure their institutions’ sustainability as commercial and research service providers.

The work of nuclear scientists and engineers supports public health, manufacturing, food production and much more. And yet, without strategic communication plans, and without a thorough understanding of market demand, the ability of NNIs to sustainability deliver those nuclear applications becomes difficult to ensure.A pilot training course, organized in November 2020, helped the participating NNIs to develop strategic communication and outreach strategies, while a subsequent three-month-long training course, concluding in February 2021, supported business continuity and sustainability planning.

Sustainability through Planning

The most recent course, organized jointly with the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) across 13 sessions and concluding in February 2021, was designed to help young NNI staff to pivot their services to better respond to both private and public sector needs.

“NNIs are known for professionalism and scientific rigor. But it is a dynamic activity that needs to be kept up-to-date. For this reason, we want to promote new or improved strategies to raise awareness, build new and grow existing collaborations with universities, industry and the public sector, and broaden the understanding of these unique institutions as highly desirable partners in science and technology,” said Celina Horak, an IAEA Radiation Processing Specialist and the Technical Officer of the ongoing project.

Once a week, beginning in November 2020, 20 participants from across the region gathered virtually to learn how to prepare personnel development plans, organize financing and budgets and streamline work processes, all with the aim of delivering nuclear services and applications to industrial clients and public sector partners in a more effective and efficient way.

On the basis of thematic areas selected during the inaugural session of the course, participants were asked to team up and develop a case study to demonstrate how they might improve a particular service by developing a detailed business plan on the basis of a thorough SWOT analysis.

“Funding schemes are the main challenge for the sustainability of our operations—we learned that research grants are not enough to sustain facilities such as ours,” explained Ana Maria Duran Quesada, a Lecturer at the University of Costa Rica, whose nuclear services support clinical dosimetry, environmental protection and chemical waste analysis across the country. “A reorganization of nuclear facilities in the universities is needed, in order to integrate applied research and development into our operations, making them more sustainable.”

Sustainability through Promotion

The earlier training course in November 2020 focused on strategic communication, and was co-organized with the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). It was attended by the directors and managers of 12 Latin American nuclear institutions.

The training course was conducted as a virtual webinar series, spanning more than six weeks, from 4 November to 16 December 2020. In place of a traditional technical curriculum, the webinar series focused on how to strengthen communication, outreach and stakeholder relations, among other topic areas.

“During these virtual training events, participants learned from, and interacted with, highly-experienced nuclear industry experts on several aspects of strategic and communications planning, including ways and means of communicating commitment to safety, enhancing public understanding of nuclear issues, pre-crisis planning and stakeholder engagement,” said Sunaree Hamilton, the Manager of IAEA Programs at ANL.

As part of the ongoing technical cooperation project, counterparts are now developing a map of nuclear capacities in Latin America and the Caribbean, identifying the strengths each respective NNI may offer in regards to products and services. Together, the participating countries will devise new strategic business plans for priority services in the region, particularly as they relate to the qualification and licensing of products and services.

1/ RLA0069, ‘Promoting Strategic Management and Innovation at National Nuclear Institutions through Cooperation and Partnership Building - Phase II (ARCAL CLXXII)

Both months-long virtual training courses were organized and held with the support of experts from the Argonne National Laboratory.


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