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Nuclear Technology for Sustainable Development

Bogor Indonesia
Bogor Agricultural University
Yukiya Amano

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

(As prepared for delivery)

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am very pleased to be back in Indonesia and to speak at this distinguished university. This is my third visit to your country since I became IAEA Director General eight years ago.

Bogor Agricultural University has built up a strong reputation for the quality of its teaching and research. I understand the University was established in 1963, which makes you just a little younger than the IAEA. The Agency turned 60 last year.

In the public mind, the IAEA is associated primarily with our work to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons – perhaps also with the assistance we provided after the Fukushima Daiichi accident in 2011.

But, in fact, our work covers almost everything to do with nuclear science and technology.

Nuclear technology plays a much bigger role in our daily lives than most people realise. From the microchips and battery in your smartphone, to the tyres on your car and the electrical cables in your home – items such as these are routinely treated with radiation.

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

And, of course, nuclear technology plays a key role in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other major diseases.

Today, I will give you a brief overview of the IAEA’s work to enable developing countries to use nuclear technology to improve the well-being and prosperity of their people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IAEA motto is Atoms for Peace and Development. The Agency was established in Vienna in 1957 and now has 169 Member States. Transferring nuclear technology to developing countries is core Agency business and one of the most important areas of our work.

The IAEA contributes directly to the achievement of nine of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Nuclear science and technology help countries to reduce poverty and hunger, generate electricity, manage water resources, treat diseases such as cancer and respond to climate change – and much more.

IAEA support is not primarily about handing over equipment. We focus on transferring knowledge and expertise. High-quality technical training helps countries to build their own expertise so they can train future generations of nuclear specialists. 

Indonesia was a founding member of the Agency in 1957 and is an important partner in many areas of our activities. Indonesian Ambassador Djumala is Chairman of our Board of Governors this year.

We have an active technical cooperation programme here, which is based on Indonesia’s needs and priorities, as determined by your country.

The list of areas in which we work together is too long for me to mention everything. But it includes developing new varieties of food crops such as rice, sorghum and soyabeans; child nutrition; air pollution; producing radioisotopes for use in radiotherapy; rehabilitation of flooded farmland, and seafood safety.

Let me give you a few examples.

You may have heard that the city of Bandung won the title of ASEAN Environmentally Sustainable City last year. The city’s use of nuclear techniques to monitor air pollution contributed to that achievement.

The IAEA worked for many years with scientists from your National Nuclear Energy Agency, BATAN, providing equipment and expert advice on the use of two nuclear analytical techniques to measure and analyse pollutants in the air.

As a result of the data obtained, Bandung tightened its regulations on the burning of agricultural and household waste and began educating citizens about the harmful effects of burning their waste.

IAEA specialists also worked with Indonesian counterparts on developing new varieties of soyabeans by using what we call radiation-induced mutation techniques.

By applying radiation to seeds, it is possible to accelerate a mutation process that occurs spontaneously in nature and to develop new varieties of crops faster than through traditional plant breeding methods. Desired characteristics, such as resistance to drought or high yield, can be selected.

As you may know, last year, your Ministry of Agriculture selected a variety of soybeans developed by scientists at BATAN for mass seed production and distribution among farmers. The favourable traits of the new soyabeans include resistance to flood and submergence.

Nuclear techniques are thus making an important contribution to improving food security in Indonesia.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The incidence of non-communicable diseases such as cancer is growing at an alarming rate in many developing countries.

Asia has the highest burden of cancer in the world. Some 55% of global cancer deaths occur in this region and the trend is rising. Sadly, Indonesia is no exception.

The IAEA works to help countries acquire both the equipment, and the medical and technical expertise, they need to treat cancer effectively.

We advised the Government of Indonesia on the development of a national cancer control programme. The goals include expanding the availability of radiotherapy services in all provinces.

We provided training for medical physicists, who are vital members of the radiotherapy team, and helped to establish a teleconference system which allow doctors at hospitals around the country to consult each other on individual cancer cases.

Specialist training – for doctors, medical physicists, radiologists, nurses and researchers – is at the heart of what we do. We have unique e-learning initiatives which enable specialists to receive high-quality training without having to make costly trips abroad.

A follow-up IAEA expert mission, known as an imPACT review, took place in Indonesia last month to advise on any additional measures that might be needed under the national cancer control programme.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Energy is indispensable for development. Huge increases in energy supply will be required in the coming decades to support economic development and lift more than two billion people out of energy poverty.

Nuclear power can help to address the twin challenges of ensuring reliable energy supplies, while curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Today, nuclear power produces 11 percent of the world’s electricity. But when it comes to low-carbon electricity, nuclear generates almost one third of the global total.

Nuclear power plants produce virtually no greenhouse gas emissions or air pollutants during their operation, and very low emissions over their entire life cycle.

The use of nuclear power reduces carbon dioxide emissions by about two gigatonnes per year. That is the equivalent of taking more than 400 million cars off the road – every year.

Frankly, it is difficult to see how the world will be able to meet the challenge of securing sufficient energy, and mitigating the impact of climate change, without making more use of nuclear power.

Thirty countries are already using nuclear power. Around 30 more are considering building their first nuclear power plants, or have started doing so. Most of these possible newcomers are developing nations.

I understand that the Government of Indonesia has been considering introducing nuclear power, but that no final decision has been made.

The IAEA does not try to influence countries’ decisions on whether or not to add nuclear power to their energy mix. But if countries decide to proceed, we provide every assistance so they can use nuclear power safely, securely and sustainably.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Partnerships are at the centre of the IAEA’s approach to assisting developing countries.

For example, we work closely with the World Health Organization on non-communicable diseases, and with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN on improving food security.

Our nuclear applications laboratories in Vienna, which are presently being modernized, collaborate with hundreds of partner laboratories throughout the world, including in the Pacific region. We have close relationships with leading NGOs and with the private sector.

Our most important partners are, of course, our 169 Member States. They determine their national priorities and decide in what areas they wish to benefit from nuclear science and technology.

Our technical cooperation programme makes a real difference to the lives of millions of people in developing countries. In some areas, such as nuclear energy, safety and security, we are the leading international organization. In others, such as human health and food and agriculture, we play a supporting role – but a very effective one.

In all areas of our work, our goal is to achieve concrete results that make a clear difference to the lives of the people we serve.

The IAEA delivers.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have concentrated today on activities of the IAEA relevant to socio-economic development.

As I mentioned earlier, a key additional IAEA function is to verify that States are fully complying with their non-proliferation obligations and to confirm that nuclear material is being used for peaceful purposes. We also help countries, including Indonesia, with nuclear safety and security.

I will be happy to take questions on these, or indeed on any aspect of the work of the IAEA.

Thank you.

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