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Director General's Statement at Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology: Addressing Current and Emerging Development Challenges

Vienna, Austria

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

(As prepared for delivery)

Good morning, Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am very pleased to welcome you all to this IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology, the first of its kind to be held at ministerial level.

Since the IAEA was established in Vienna in 1957, we have helped to improve the health and prosperity of millions of people by making nuclear science and technology available for generating electricity and fighting cancer, in food and agriculture, in industry and many other areas.

In Vienna, the IAEA is often associated with our work to curb the spread of nuclear weapons. Media coverage focusses on our activities concerning the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea.

When I visit Member States, the emphasis is different. Developing countries are especially interested in how the Agency can help them to grow more food, treat cancer, manage water supplies, protect the oceans and monitor climate change.

However, I find that such awareness is often limited to the nuclear community – the scientists, engineers and doctors working in the field. At national level, 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.

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.

I do everything I can in my work as IAEA Director General to raise awareness. Changing the IAEA’s motto two years ago to add the word “development” – making it Atoms for Peace and Development – was part of this effort.

It is also helpful if governments, and everyone involved in the nuclear field, work to ensure that nuclear techniques obtain recognition as part of the mainstream.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is widely understood that effective cancer control is virtually unthinkable without nuclear imaging techniques and radiotherapy.

It is less well known that items such as car tyres, the microchips and battery in our smartphones, and the electrical cables in our homes are routinely treated with radiation.

Radiation technology helps to prevent food from spoiling. It can be used to monitor pollution, identify buildings in danger of collapse after earthquakes, and reveal cracks in the wings of aircraft. 

Many countries see nuclear power as a secure energy source that can help to mitigate the impact of climate change. In fact, nuclear power generates almost one third of the world’s low-carbon electricity.

Radiation technology can have a significant economic impact. For example, some developing countries now export meat to key world markets because nuclear and isotopic techniques, among others, enable them to demonstrate that their products are free from contaminants.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Enabling developing countries to successfully deploy nuclear applications is core IAEA business. Our technical cooperation programme helps countries to build their capacity to use nuclear technology in a safe, secure and sustainable manner.

The IAEA is unique within the UN system in having eight nuclear applications laboratories – not far from here, in Seibersdorf.  We will inaugurate a new laboratory building in a few minutes’ time.

The modernisation of the laboratories is a once-in-a-half-century project that will significantly increase the assistance we are able to offer our 170 Member States. It will help us to reinforce our message that nuclear technology belongs in the mainstream.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am sure we will all learn of many new and exciting developments in nuclear science at this Conference in the next few days.

I thank you all for sharing your insights and ideas and I wish you a very successful Conference.

Thank you.

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