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What You Missed at the 55th General Conference

IAEA General Conference. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

A week ago, a busy 55th General Conference closed at the IAEA, where major issues in nuclear science, nuclear safety and nuclear power were discussed, and successful projects undertaken throughout the year were highlighted.

Keynote Address

This year's Scientific Forum focused on water and the efforts being made by the IAEA and its partners to improve its availability and management. In his keynote address to the Scientific Forum, U.S. Secretary for Energy and Nobel Laureate Steven Chu described how nuclear techniques have proven to be powerful tools that successfully and efficiently help to find, measure, monitor, characterize and manage aquifer and ground water. "Nuclear technologies and techniques can - and must - play an important role in solving the global water challenge. Isotope hydrology can provide critical information about water resources, so we can better manage them," he said. He also described how isotopic analysis can be used to verify the anthropogenic causes of climate change. In closing, Secretary Chu called for "a sustained commitment to scientific research and development to address the great challenges of our time since support from governments is critical to unleashing innovation."

Nuclear Safety

Nuclear safety has been a global concern since the devastating nuclear accident in Japan in March. The IAEA Member States developed a Nuclear Safety Action Plan that the Board of Governors approved and the General Conference endorsed.

A new system which makes it easier for Member States and the Agency to exchange emergency information was launched.

Following the first meeting of the Nuclear Industry Cooperation Forum, its Chair, Garry Young, who is also the Director of Nuclear Business Development at the US nuclear power operator, Entergy, talked to Sasha Henriques from the IAEA Division of Public Information, about how important it is for nuclear power plant operators from around the world to work together to avoid another major nuclear accident like Fukushima Daiichi. (Listen to the interview here.)

Senegal signed the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage during the General Conference. Among other things, the Convention establishes an international fund to increase the amount available to compensate victims of nuclear accidents.

Mauritania deposited the instruments of accession to three international safety Conventions on 19 September 2011: the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident; the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency and the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.

Nuclear Applications

And in nuclear science and applications, the unveiling of plans to introduce mobile learning for medical radiation specialists was welcome news.

Nuclear Energy

As the world reevaluates how to meet today and tomorrow's energy needs, the IAEA projects slower nuclear growth after Fukushima.


In the area of nuclear safeguards, the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC) celebrated 20 years of successful application of nuclear verification.

Water Matters: Making a Difference with Nuclear Techniques

For over 50 years, the IAEA has promoted the use of nuclear techniques to tackle some of the earth's most pressing water challenges. The Agency conducts over 100 projects in around 90 countries that apply nuclear techniques in the fields of water resources assessment, agricultural water management and marine pollution control.

IAEA Helps Parched Santa Elena Find Water

The thirsty residents of Manglaralto on the Santa Elena peninsula on Ecuador's southern central coast have been feeling a gush of relief.

Improving Farming with Nuclear Techniques

Soil erosion, land degradation, the excessive or inappropriate use of fertilisers in agriculture and poor water quality are threats to the environment and hamper development.

No Rain, No Food

Access to sufficient water supplies is essential for successful and sustainable farming. Without water, crops die, farmers lose their income and people go hungry.

Last update: 27 Jul 2017

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