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IAEA Highlights and Achievements in 2018 – a Year in Review


The inauguration of a new nuclear research laboratory building, two anniversary review missions, quarterly reports on the monitoring of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments and a ministerial declaration on further cooperation for realizing the potential of nuclear science were among the highlights of 2018 at the IAEA. This article summarizes some of the key achievements of the year.

To make its content accessible to a wider range of readers, the IAEA launched versions of its web site in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish. Over 400 topic pages and hundreds of publications, news articles, videos, photo essays and press releases are now available – with each site focusing on the regions where the language is spoken.

The IAEA issued its quarterly flagship publications — the Bulletin —  highlighting its work in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. The 2018 editions of IAEA Bulletin can be found here.

Technical cooperation

The IAEA ran more than 1000 technical cooperation projects in 144 countries, bringing expertise and access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes to all corners of the world. You can read about the impact of some of these projects here.

Nuclear science and applications

A highlight of the year was the first ever ministerial-level IAEA conference on nuclear science and technology held in November in Vienna. More than 1000 participants, including 54 ministers from 137 countries and representatives from 15 international organizations, agreed that raising public awareness, enhancing global collaboration and engaging young people are key steps to integrating nuclear technology as a well-established and widely-used tool in national development strategies worldwide. The outcome document of the conference — a ministerial declaration — charted out next steps for action and commitments to further cooperation for realizing the potential of nuclear science.

The conference also served as a forum for furthering cooperation among countries and the IAEA, including two new IAEA Collaborating Centre agreements signed, respectively, by Argentina and Viet Nam, as well as pledges from Germany, Kenya, South Korea, Kuwait, Portugal, Switzerland and the United States totaling over 2.5 million euros to support the ReNuAL+ project on modernizing IAEA laboratories in Seibersdorf. The flags of Brazil, Jordan and Morocco were ceremonially added to the “donor wall” of the IAEA Nuclear Applications Laboratories during 62nd General Conference, highlighting their recent first-time financial contributions to the renovation of the laboratories.

Exhibits at the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology: Addressing Current and Emerging Development Challenges, IAEA, Vienna, Austria, 30 November 2018. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Alongside the Ministerial Conference, the IAEA inaugurated the Flexible Modular Laboratory (FML) building that will be used for scientific work to help countries address food and agricultural challenges. The FML building will house the Animal Production and Health Laboratory, the Food and Environmental Protection Laboratory and the Soil and Water Management and Crop Nutrition Laboratory.

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, Austrian Minister for Europe, Integration, and Foreign Affairs Karin Kneissl and her Royal Highness Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, visited the laboratories in Seibersdorf this year.

In August, over 400 experts agreed that the use of radiation in improving crop varieties offers an effective means of adapting agricultural crops to changing weather conditions, while also increasing yields to feed a growing population, at the International Symposium on Plant Mutation Breeding and Biotechnology.

In December, at the International Symposium on Understanding the Double Burden of Malnutrition for Effective Interventions, experts concluded that long-lasting, sustainable solutions to the problem of malnutrition require better data on nutrition and the impact of actions, an increase in targeted investments and a more integrated approach across governments, businesses, researchers and the public.

Climate change

With climate change as one of the biggest environmental challenges affecting the planet and humanity, the IAEA this year held a two-day Scientific Forum at the 62nd General Conference focusing on the role nuclear science can play in mitigating, monitoring and adapting to climate change. Over two days, presenters from over 20 countries showed that nuclear technology must be part of the solution to climate change, and public awareness of this contribution should be raised. In addition, the IAEA underscored how reliable access to energy in smart and mega cities requires transition to cost-effective, low-carbon ways of electricity generation at a side event held at the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice. Watch this video and read our Bulletin on nuclear technology for climate.

Opening of the 2018 IAEA Scientific Forum "Nuclear Technology for Climate: Mitigation, Monitoring and Adaptation" at the 62nd General Conference, Vienna, Austria, 18 September 2018. (Photo: F. Nassif /IAEA)

Nuclear power and fusion energy

In April, Turkey started construction of its first nuclear power plant Akkuyu. The IAEA had been supporting Turkey in the drafting of its nuclear energy law and the law for civil liability for nuclear damage.

How to attract and train highly qualified professionals in the nuclear field was the  subject of an IAEA conference held in Gyeongju, South Korea in May, where participants discussed challenges and shared best practices in this field.

Over 700 representatives from 39 IAEA Member States and 4 international organizations convened at the 27th IAEA Fusion Energy Conference (FEC 2018) in Ahmedabad, India, to discuss key physics and technology issues as well as innovative concepts related to nuclear fusion as a future source of energy.

Ensuring a sustainable supply of uranium in coming decades was at the heart of discussions at the week-long International Symposium on Uranium Raw Material for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle held at IAEA headquarters in Vienna. Read the IAEA’s latest edition of Uranium 2018: Resources, Production and Demand, also known as the “Red Book”, featuring a comprehensive assessment of uranium supply and demand and projections as of 1 January 2017 to the year 2035, and our Bulletin on this topic.

IAEA LEU Storage Facility. (Photo: Ulba Metallurgical Plant/Kazakhstan)

The IAEA has signed contracts to purchase low enriched uranium (LEU), paving the way towards the establishment of the IAEA LEU Bank in 2019. Owned by the IAEA and operated by Kazakhstan, it will be a physical reserve of up to 90 metric tons of LEU suitable to make fuel for a typical light water reactor, available for eligible countries.

Nuclear safety and security

The IAEA carried out 66 peer review missions requested by Member States to help strengthen nuclear safety and security globally. During such missions, IAEA-led teams of experts compare actual practices with those recommended in the IAEA Safety Standards or the Agency’s Nuclear Security Series. This year, the Agency conducted its 200th Operational Safety Review Team (OSART), hosted by the Almaraz Nuclear Power Plant in Spain. In September, Hungary hosted the IAEA’s  100th Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission. These milestones marked significant achievements on nuclear safety for both the Agency and its Member States. This year, the Agency also marked the 60th anniversary of its first Safety Standard series publication: 'Safe Handling of Radioisotopes'.

Members of the Operational Safety Review Team at the 200th OSART review in Almaraz, Spain. (Photo: M. Klingenboeck/IAEA)

In May, Contracting Parties to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management peer reviewed national reports on work to fulfil the convention obligations and agreed on shared priorities at its 6th Review Meeting. Overarching issues identified by the Contracting Parties included implementing national strategies for spent fuel and radioactive waste management, reviewing the safety implications of the long-term management of spent fuel, linking long-term management and disposal of disused sealed radioactive sources, and remediating legacy sites and facilities.

In October, around 400 experts discussed effective communication with the public in a nuclear or radiological emergency at an IAEA Symposium held in Vienna. During the symposium, the young communicators presented innovative methods and technologies to communicate with the public about nuclear and radiological emergencies.

In December, at the IAEA’s International Conference on the Security of Radioactive Material, discussions involving over 550 participants emphasised the need for cooperation, coordination and communication among stakeholders, nationally and across borders,  to enhance the protection of radioactive material from terrorists.

At a conference devoted to the role of technical and scientific support organizations (TSOs), 220 participants from 54 countries and five international organizations discussed the support TSOs need in order to better strengthen nuclear safety and security.


The IAEA continued to verify and monitor the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In his quarterly reports to the IAEA Board of Governors, Director General Yukiya Amano confirmed that the nuclear commitments undertaken by Iran were being implemented. IAEA inspectors have accessed all the sites and locations which they needed to visit, have taken hundreds of environmental samples and carried out activities supported by state-of-the-art technology, including data collecting and processing systems, he said.

Regarding the nuclear programme of North Korea, officially known as the DPRK, Mr Amano noted to the IAEA Board of Governors in November that the Pyongyang Declaration issued at the inter-Korean Summit meeting on 19 September had made reference to the country’s intention to “continue to take additional measures, such as the permanent dismantlement of the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon.”

At Yongbyon, further activities were observed near the Kuryong River but, without access, the IAEA cannot confirm their nature or purpose, he said. IAEA inspectors were required to leave North Korea in 2009. “The Agency continues to enhance its readiness to play an essential role in verifying the DPRK’s nuclear programme if a political agreement is reached among countries concerned.”

In May, the Agency completed its 41-million-euros Modernization of Safeguards Information Technology project (MOSAIC) launched in 2015. Employing 150 in-house professionals, the project developed more than 20 unique software applications to make Safeguards more effective, efficient and secure.

The focus of the 13th Symposium on International Safeguards in November was on building future safeguards capabilities by identifying innovative technologies and strengthening partnerships within the safeguards community and beyond. Topics of discussion also included engaging youth and promoting greater gender diversity in nuclear safeguards.

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