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Ministers Adopt Declaration at IAEA Conference Underscoring Growing Importance of Nuclear Science and Technology

Vienna, Austria

Opening of the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology: Addressing Current and Emerging Development Challenges at the Agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria. 28 November 2018. (D.Calma/IAEA) 

Nuclear science and technology have the potential to help countries meet a wide variety of socio-economic and human development needs, states a declaration adopted today by over 60 Ministers and other high-level Government representatives during a major International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conference.

The document highlights the contribution peaceful uses of these techniques can make in energy generation, industry, food and agriculture, human health and natural resources management. Recognizing the important role of science, technology and innovation in achieving sustainable development and protecting the environment, the declaration underscores “the growing need and demand for further utilization of nuclear applications worldwide.”

From sterilizing insects that threaten humans and crops to destroying tumours and measuring pollutants in water, the use of nuclear science and technology is widespread. This role, however, is not always recognized: “There is often a lack of awareness of the major contribution nuclear science and technology make to development. As a result, the full potential of peaceful nuclear science and technology is not being realised,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said during the opening of the conference.  “I therefore believe it is time to mainstream the use of peaceful nuclear technology at the highest level. That means raising public awareness about nuclear technology, incorporating it explicitly into national development plans, and stressing its importance to aid agencies and donors.”

The 28-30 November IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology: Addressing Current and Emerging Development Challenges, brings together over 1 000 participants from more than 135 IAEA Member States. High-level delegates, scientists and other experts are discussing innovations that could help countries face a changing climate, growing food insecurity, rapid industrialization and a rise in chronic and infectious diseases.

“The discussions in the next days are about topics that may not first come to mind when speaking about the IAEA, but which are undoubtedly the ones with the most direct impact in the lives of people,” said Epsy Campbell Barr, Vice-President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica in her opening statement as co-chair of the conference. “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.”

Techniques discussed at the three-day conference include, among others, advances in nuclear and radiation medicine, industrial applications, ways to better monitor ocean acidification and techniques to adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change. The conference is also reviewing means to boost education and training in nuclear sciences, with a particular focus on women.

“Nuclear science and technology are not only about energy use,” said Kiyoto Tsuji, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan and co-chair of the conference. “They are also about the improvement of quality of life in a wide range of fields,” he said. 

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