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IAEA Scientific Forum 2016: Atoms for People, Planet and Prosperity


Since the 1930s, various peaceful applications of nuclear technology have helped countries achieve their development priorities. This year's IAEA Scientific Forum - Nuclear Technology for the Sustainable Development Goals – will bring together experts and scientists on 28 and 29 September to showcase how nuclear techniques are used to improve human and animal health, boost prosperity and protect the planet. 

This article summarizes the sessions, which will also be livestreamed on iaea.org. For the full programme, see the Scientific Forum page. Watch our videos on nuclear science for sustainable development.

Opening Session

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano will open the event. After his remarks, political leaders, decision makers and leading scientists will share their views on how nuclear science and technology can help the global community achieve the sustainable development agenda by 2030.

Keynote speakers include:

  • His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco
  • Andrew Wheatley, Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Jamaica
  • Abdeladim Lhafi, High Commissioner for Water and Forests and the Fight against Desertification and Commissioner General of COP 22, Morocco
  • Yiren Wang, Vice Chairman, China Atomic Energy Authority
  • Alan Finkel, Chief Scientist, Australia

Session 1: Health and Well-being: Global Access to Radiation Medicine

Battling non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is one of the major health challenges of our time. NCDs such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases claim 38 million lives per year, accounting for 63 per cent of all deaths worldwide, most of which occur in developing countries. Cardiovascular diseases alone cause 17.3 million deaths per year, a number that is expected to grow to more than 23.6 million by 2030.

Participants in this session will discuss how radiation medicine can contribute to achieving the ambitious target under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to reduce deaths from NCDs by a third by 2030. Discussions will start off with an overview of the key findings from the Lancet Oncology Commission Report on how to expand global access to radiotherapy and give a concrete example from Zimbabwe – a country where only two radiotherapy facilities serve a population of over 13 million. The session will also explore the potential of nuclear medicine for treating cardiovascular diseases, and look at what is needed to increase sustainable access to crucial medical equipment and services.

Session 2: Zero Hunger: Atoms for Food, Agriculture and Nutrition

The United Nations Development Programme reports that over the past 20 years the number of undernourished people has dropped by almost half thanks to rapid economic growth and increased agricultural productivity. However, still a lot needs to be done to achieve zero hunger by 2030. Enhancing food security, improving nutrition and tackling agricultural challenges related to, for example, climate change and harmful pests, are pivotal to ending hunger, eradicating poverty and achieving many of the 17 SDGs. 

The afternoon session will illustrate the numerous ways nuclear techniques can boost food security. We will first hear from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on the challenge of ending hunger by 2030. Following this presentation, four world-renowned experts from three different continents will give concrete examples of how nuclear techniques have made a difference in their countries, for instance by improving rice varieties in Bangladesh and cattle health in Botswana, making food safer in Argentina and enhancing diet quality in Thailand.

Session 3: Energy for the Future: The Role of Nuclear Power

Energy drives economies, creates jobs and boosts prosperity, but its production is also the main contributor to climate change, accounting for around two thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions. Addressing energy poverty and growing energy needs, while mitigating climate change is no easy task.

Nuclear power, one of the lowest-carbon technologies available to generate electricity, can be part of the solution – this will be the theme of the morning debate on the second day of the Forum.  World-renowned experts will discuss how innovation, technology and smart financial models could address common concerns related to nuclear power, such as safety, cost and waste. Panellists will discuss how expanding nuclear energy could contribute to mitigating climate change, ensuring access to clean and affordable energy, and boosting industrial output at the same time.

Session 4: Isotopes for the Environment: Managing our Natural Resources

Protecting our natural resources is a must. Over 3 billion people depend on marine biodiversity for their livelihoods and 2.6 billion depend directly on agriculture.

This session will begin with a presentation about environmental challenges in Fiji – a country of more than 300 islands. We will then hear from an Australian expert on how his country has addressed similar problems with nuclear techniques. Moving from oceans to other water resources, the following presentation will provide an overview of how radiation technology is used to treat industrial wastewater in India. We will then learn how Sudan uses nuclear techniques to determine when and how much water is required for each crop to maximize yields and improve water use efficiency, and how this knowledge has empowered women farmers in eastern Sudan to step out of poverty.

Session 5: Partnerships for Progress: Transferring Nuclear Science and Technology

Building partnerships and capacity, sharing knowledge and transferring science and technology will be crucial in achieving development in a sustainable manner. The speakers in this session will share their experiences and give advice on how to ensure the long-term transfer of the multiple benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology between continents, countries, sectors and organizations.

Interested in finding out more? Join us on 28-29 September 2016 at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna or watch the Forum online!

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