The IAEA can directly contribute to the achievement of 13 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including poverty, hunger, human health, clean water, affordable and clean energy, and climate change, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said in a keynote address in Kuwait today.
Speaking at the Symposium on Nuclear Applications for Sustainable Development in GCC Member States, Mr Amano said: “Our mission is to share the benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology to help countries achieve their development goals.”
“The IAEA has been contributing effectively to sustainable development in areas such as food and agriculture, human health, and water resource and environmental management for decades,” he added.
The IAEA provides support based on countries’ development priorities, Mr Amano said. In Kuwait as well as other Gulf States, the broad range of assistance provided covers the areas of human health, food safety, the environment, developing new varieties of food crops such as barley, and water management.
On the other side of the world, in the Americas, an immediate public health emergency is the Zika virus, a particular threat to women in early pregnancy. “The IAEA is now mobilizing its resources to provide rapid assistance to the countries concerned,” Mr Amano said.
The Agency will provide portable equipment to countries in Latin America that will allow for the rapid detection of the Zika virus in the field. The IAEA will also help train its local partners on how to use the equipment. “The same nuclear-derived technology was made available by the Agency in 2014 to help countries in West Africa respond to the Ebola virus outbreak,” Mr Amano said.
He also referred to a technology developed in the IAEA’s Insect Pest Control Laboratory, the sterile insect technique, which can be used with other pest control techniques to effectively suppress fruit flies, tsetse flies and other significant insect pests. “This involves the use of radiation to sterilize male insects on a mass scale. These are then released into the wild to mate, but no viable offspring are produced and the insect population declines,” Mr Amano said. “Our researchers are now developing the technique for use against mosquitoes, including those that carry Zika.”
Director General Amano highlighted the unique and essential role of the eight IAEA nuclear applications laboratories, which are now undergoing an urgently needed modernisation. These laboratories are more than 50 years old. He encouraged IAEA Member States to provide funding for the 31-million-euro renovation exercise, known as the ReNuAL project, to ensure that the laboratories will be fit-for-purpose and able to respond to emerging challenges facing Member States.
Mr Amano said energy was indispensable for development and many countries believed nuclear power could help them to address the twin challenges of ensuring reliable energy supplies, while curbing greenhouse gas emissions. He noted that the United Arab Emirates, a GCC nation, was building four nuclear power reactors, in close cooperation with the IAEA.
During the Symposium, the IAEA Director General met the Prime Minister of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, and the Director General of the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences, Dr Adnan Shihab-Eldin.