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The Blue Planet: Nuclear Applications for a Sustainable Marine Environment

Vienna, Austria
Statement to the 2013 IAEA Scientific Forum by Director General Yukiya Amano.

Thank you, Naga.

Distinguished Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to welcome you to the 2013 IAEA Scientific Forum.

I thank all the panellists at this opening session, as well as His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco, and Ms. Wendy Watson-Wright of UNESCO, for their video messages. My thanks also go to the Austrian-Australian Choir for the beautiful music.

This Scientific Forum is the fourth since I became Director General in 2009. I attach great importance to these events, which are an opportunity to focus on the many ways in which peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology contribute to human well-being.

My preference is for subjects of direct relevance of the lives of people all over the world. In previous years, we focussed on cancer, food and water. This year I decided to showcase nuclear applications for a sustainable marine environment.

I grew up in a village by the sea. My country, Japan, has a long coastline. Seafood is part of our daily diet. My private passion is sailing. So it is not an exaggeration to say that the sea is in my blood.

During my career in the Japanese foreign ministry, I was closely involved in responding to serious incidents of dumping of toxic substances at sea. This introduced me to the grave threat that can be posed to the marine environment by improper use of modern technology.

More recently, when I visited Japan in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, I became aware of how much fishermen in the affected area were suffering because of public fears about eating fish from Japanese waters.

It is clear that healthy seas and oceans matter to all of us. They have been described as the cradle of life. They produce as much as half of the oxygen on the planet. They affect the weather. They provide abundant food. They are important for tourism, transport and trade.

When I was a young man in the mid-1970s, I visited Monaco. I had an opportunity to visit the IAEA's Environment Laboratories. There, I got my first insight into the contribution which nuclear techniques can make to ensuring that the oceans and seas remain healthy.

I thought that running those laboratories would be a dream job.

With the strong support of the Principality of Monaco, the laboratories have gone from strength to strength since then. Today, they not only monitor radionuclides in the marine environment; they also study biological processes to understand how marine organisms react to growing challenges, such as acidification and warming. They use isotopes to track the sources of pollution and its dispersion.

The IAEA trains researchers from developing countries to use nuclear techniques to monitor pressures on the marine environment. It makes available precise and cost-effective tools to help both developed and developing countries to acquire the data needed to adapt strategies that mitigate pressures on the oceans.

A new Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre started work this year as part of the IAEA Environment Laboratories in Monaco. Its goal is to serve as a platform for information sharing and international collaboration in combating ocean acidification.

In dealing with threats to the health of the seas, governments need accurate data. For that, they need skilled researchers who can devise accurate models to help predict future conditions. That way, governments can start implementing the appropriate strategies to protect the seas and oceans.

The IAEA helps to make this possible. We promote a comprehensive approach to the study, monitoring and protection of marine, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems. We support effective global cooperation to address the threats to our oceans.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am grateful to all of you for coming to Vienna to bring your expert knowledge to bear on this vitally important issue.

I am confident that you will have stimulating and productive discussions. I look forward to learning about the outcome of your meeting tomorrow.

Thank you.

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