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Opening Remarks at 2015 Scientific Forum

Vienna, Austria
Scientific Forum During 59th Session of IAEA General Conference

(As prepared for delivery)

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to welcome you all to this year’s IAEA Scientific Forum.

This Forum is a well-established tradition at the Agency, devoted to showcasing a specific area of our work and to learning from the practical experience of experts from the Agency and Member States.   

At last year’s Scientific Forum, we examined the challenge of managing radioactive waste. Previously, we looked into the contribution of nuclear technology in cancer control, food safety, water management and the protection of our oceans and environment.

This year, we are considering Atoms in Industry. We will examine the ways in which nuclear techniques are used to help create items which we often take for granted in our daily lives.

I suspect that everyone in this room has a smart phone. These and other electronic products use high-performance rechargeable batteries. The batteries contain a separator membrane designed to give them longer life. Radiation is routinely used to produce this special membrane.

Other items which are treated or tested with radiation during manufacturing include buildings, cables, computers, car parts and medical devices.

Nuclear techniques are used extensively in industry to increase product quality and safety, benefiting both producers and consumers. Radiation tools make industrial production cleaner and more effective.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

During the next two days you will hear many examples of what these behind-the-scenes technologies can do.

I will mention a few.

Gamma radiation kills germs and viruses in medical products such as gloves and syringes. If left untreated, these could have deadly consequences. This technology is used to sterilize up to 40 per cent of all single-use medical devices in the world. Gamma rays can also help to create better vaccines and they are used in over 60 countries to help protect food from contamination.  

Radiation cross-linking makes materials such as tyres and cables more stable, durable and resistant. This technique is applied to up to 90 per cent of the materials used to build cars, airplanes and computers.  It can also help to create new materials, such as hydrogels to treat burns, and substances that make plants grow more quickly.  

The use of electron beams makes it easier to clean up industrial waste water by removing persistent sources of pollution, such as the dyes used in the textile industry.  

This cost-effective technology can also be used to turn the flue gases produced by coal-fired power plants into useful fertilizers. The IAEA is supporting work on this that is being carried out in Poland.

The use of radiotracers is well-established in the petrochemical and mining industries, where they can help to identify the composition of ores and optimise mining processes. Radiotracers can also be used to monitor signs of wear and corrosion in key industrial components, helping to prevent dangerous leaks.

Non-destructive testing is a crucial quality-control tool that makes it possible to look at the inside of materials and test the integrity of components in cars, trains and airplanes, as well as machinery and buildings.

One of the most common tools of non-destructive testing is radiography. The Agency has been helping Nepal to use radiography to test the safety of public buildings, such as schools and hospitals, since the devastating earthquake in April this year.

I invite you to see for yourself how radiography is used for non-destructive testing at a simulated demonstration using a mobile testing van outside in the Plaza tomorrow.   

Promising new developments can be seen in the areas of nanoscale engineering, health, food and agriculture, as well as in the protection and preservation of cultural heritage.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IAEA helps to make nuclear science and technology available to countries pursuing sustainable development goals in human health, agriculture, natural resource management and environmental protection.

This is at the heart of our work. There is great demand for these services.

In addition to the assistance that the Agency provides, our Member States are increasingly working together to share their experiences with each other. Excellent examples of South-South cooperation include Malaysia helping Sudan with non-destructive testing, and Viet Nam transferring radiotracer technology to Angola.

I strongly encourage such initiatives and the Agency is happy to support them.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am grateful to the many experts, both on the podium and in the audience, who have come to share their knowledge with us today and tomorrow.  I am confident that we will all profit from these discussions.

I wish you a successful meeting, and look forward to hearing about the outcome of your discussions.

Thank you.


Last update: 25 Nov 2019

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