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IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology Begins


(Video: K. Laffan, M. Klingenböck/IAEA)

The importance of nuclear science and technology in addressing development challenges is the focus of an IAEA Ministerial Conference that started in Vienna today. Ministers, policy makers, scientists, technical experts and entrepreneurs will, over three days, discuss the contribution of nuclear science, technology and applications to sustainable development.

“I believe it is time to mainstream the use of peaceful nuclear technology at the highest level,” said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano in his opening statement. “That means raising public awareness about nuclear technology, incorporating it explicitly into national development plans, and stressing its importance to aid agencies and donors.” 

Through its technical cooperation programme, the IAEA has worked for more than six decades to help developing countries to successfully deploy nuclear applications.

This is the first conference of its kind held at ministerial level. During its ministerial segment, ministers will share their national experiences and consider high-impact innovations that can be integrated into national strategies for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A scientific and technical segment will bring together experts for high-level panel discussions.

“I am pleased to see, in this room, people coming from all corners of the world, committed to science and knowledge for the development of their people,” said Epsy Campbell Barr, Vice-President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, in her opening speech as co-chair. Highlighting the link between nuclear technology and the environment, she said Costa Rica values the use of nuclear applications to combat the impact of climate change.

Co-chair Kiyoto Tsuji, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, announced that Japan had decided to allocate EUR 1.2 million through the IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative to address urgent needs, such as infectious diseases prevention, cancer treatment, and agricultural productivity. “I believe [this Conference] will lead to further broadening of the benefits of nuclear science, technology and their application, and that is our mission,” Tsuji said.

“Modern technologies embody great potential for value addition, enhanced productivity, increased efficiency, connectivity, and green growth,” said Li Yong, Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). “We need to expand our cooperation to address future challenges and to remain ahead of the game. The science of today will become the technology of tomorrow.”

Deputy Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), María Elena Semedo, spoke about the importance of food security, which, she said, is at the heart of the 2030 Development Agenda. She gave examples of the outcomes achieved thanks to the FAO-IAEA strategic partnership in nuclear techniques in food and agriculture.

A nuclear science melting pot

During the opening session, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, a UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate, gave a keynote address touching upon the IAEA’s support in the areas of ocean health and water resource management.

“We need to be extremely careful with the one and only planet we have at our disposal,” she said. “Whether it be in the ocean or on shore, high up in the atmosphere or deep down in the soil ─ nuclear technology employed by the IAEA laboratories can help us in understanding environmental processes and in developing strategies for a sustainable development.”

Thomas Reiter, Interagency Coordinator at the European Space Agency, ESA, and a former astronaut, provided a glimpse into human and robotic spaceflight and highlighted the benefits which space exploration had brought, such as satellite imagery and communications. He gave  an overview of the science that ESA and its international partners are doing on board  the International Space Station and what their plans are for the exploration of the moon, Mars and Mercury. Watch this video to learn more about the link between nuclear energy and space exploration.

IAEA laboratories

During the opening ceremony, Director General Amano inagurated a new IAEA Flexible Modular Laboratory building, a significant milestone in a five-year effort to renovate the Agency’s nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf, near Vienna. The project aims to modernize the IAEA Laboratories that will serve Member States for next several decades.

“The modernization [of the laboratories] is a once-in-a-half-century project that will significantly improve the services we can offer our 170 Member States,” Mr Amano said. “It will also help us to build recognition that peaceful nuclear technology belongs in the mainstream.”

The conference has three main themes: Improving Quality of Life, Addressing Climate Change Challenges, and Nuclear Science and Technology Applications: Sustaining, Enabling and Empowering. Member States will issue a Ministerial Declaration today with a message to the world that nuclear science and technology have a huge potential to improve lives.


Whether it be in the ocean or on shore, high up in the atmosphere or deep down in the soil ─ nuclear technology employed by the IAEA laboratories can help us in understanding environmental processes and in developing strategies for a sustainable development
Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden

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