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Statement at the IAEA Seminar and Training Course on Depleted Uranium in the Environment

Vienna, Austria

On behalf of Deputy Director General for Technical Co-operation, Mr. Qian Jihui, I would like to join my other colleagues to welcome you to Vienna and to the IAEA Headquarters to attend this seminar. I represent the IAEA's Department of Technical Co-operation and would like to brief shortly about our activities.

The IAEA is probably best known in the wider international community for its work on safety of nuclear installations and verification, which ensures that nuclear materials are used for peaceful purposes. Perhaps less well recognised is the IAEA's long running programme of Technical Co-operation (TC) with developing countries. Yet it is this programme which speaks most directly to the needs of these countries, and which is most relevant to their development priorities. The programme is a modest but successful effort to build capacity and increase self-reliance. It serves as a model for both North-South and South-South co-operation in nuclear science and technology.

The founding statute of the IAEA establishes the organisation's mandate " accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world". To do so, the IAEA shall "...encourage and assist research on, and development and practical application of, atomic energy for peaceful uses throughout the world", "...including the production of electric power". In particular, the IAEA shall give "due consideration for the needs of the under-developed areas of the world". These fundamental considerations form the foundation of the Agency's Technical Co-operation Programme (TC Programme). The TC Programme began in 1958 as a modest effort involving $2 million annual delivery, at a time when few countries boasted nuclear technology infrastructure. Today, truly useful nuclear technology infrastructure exists in all regions of the world. The TC Programme for the current year involves partners in 100 Member States, and it covers goods and services worth $87 million. The source for this funding is solely the voluntary contributions from Member States made directly to the IAEA. The share of each country is determined on the basis of economic factors such as GDP on a consensus basis among all Member States.

The TC Programme comprises projects with individual Member States (national projects), regional projects and interregional projects. The projects have generally three main components: experts, equipment and training (fellowships, scientific visits, training courses), that support the establishment or upgrading of nuclear techniques and facilities. National projects address directly recipient States' highest priorities where nuclear technologies can make a cost-effective contribution to solving specific problems. Many of the regional projects fall within the framework of regional priorities and co-operative agreements to which Member States of the region may choose to be party. The interregional projects cover a range of nuclear applications and supporting activities, which are of common interest to a large number of developing Member States worldwide.

Projects in the TC programme are traditionally grouped into ten programme areas, reflecting the relevant sectors of national economy or infrastructure being supported in the Member States. These are: nuclear power; nuclear fuel cycle; radioactive waste management; food and agriculture; human health (including diagnosis and treatment of diseases common to all countries such as cancer and heart diseases); industry and earth sciences; physical and chemical sciences; radiation protection (radiation and waste safety); safety of nuclear installations; and general support and training. The highest percentage of funds goes to radiation, nuclear and radioactive waste safety and medical applications of radiation. A particularly important area is the provision of support to set up or improve regulatory practices and radiation safety infrastructures as a prerequisite for assistance in activities involving radioactive sources.

Just to give an idea of the scale of our programme I would refer to few numbers. Since 1970, under the Agency's TC Programme, over 40,000 scientists and specialists from developing Member States have been awarded fellowships or scientific visits, and more than 35,000 participants have attended training courses. Almost 54,000 qualified experts have been assigned to assist development in Member States in areas where nuclear technology is involved, and over $450 million of equipment and materials have been delivered. The total disbursements since then are reaching $1 billion dollars this year.

Since we are in a training seminar, it may be of interest to mention that a large portion of the TC Programme is dedicated to education and training in nuclear sciences and technology and is implemented in close co-operation with individual experts and technical institutes in the Member States. For example one of the very active centres within our programme is the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe in Germany where the training part of this week's seminar will be continued for those of you who have been selected for the training course. TC's training programme includes some 20 interregional, over 220 regional and over 60 national training courses organised in all geographical regions annually covering high priority topics where capacity building is required.

In spite of all these efforts, one particular problem that we are facing is a lack of young professionals in many Member States who should in due course replace the personnel at present responsible for the safe operation and/or scientific and technical support of nuclear facilities in areas such as nuclear power, human health, and nuclear applications. This could create an obstacle to socio-economic development in Member States. In addition, the lack of people educated in nuclear sciences will eventually lead to the deterioration of nuclear safety and radiation protection infrastructures.

The Agency cannot offer a universal solution to this problem. The lack of government funding in the nuclear field reflects current economic difficulties in the countries as well as the shift in priorities. However, in cases where there is a lack of trained young professionals in government high-priority areas, especially those potentially affecting safety, the Agency will facilitate longer term education and training at the undergraduate and graduate level. This means there will be more emphasis on specialised training which can easily be accommodated considering present practices in TC programming.

Currently, the Secretariat plans and organises all training courses as part of the overall TC Programme. The integration of all training needs into the TC projects has the advantage of focusing limited resources on specific identified priorities in a well-defined number of Member States. The link to priority regional problems and the regional programme as a whole is more clearly demonstrated, and the internal programming process is simpler and more transparent.

The seminar on DU in the environment and the related training course being opened today is the result of over six months of continuous discussion and collaboration between the Agency and a number of Member States and international organisations. This course would not have been possible without support of the Austrian, German, Italian and Swiss Governments. I would like to express our special thanks to these governments. I would also like to thank the Centre for Advanced Technological and Environmental Training (FTU) of Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe in Germany, which made their training facilities available for the second part of the course. In addition, I must thank those countries and international organisations which have supported this seminar by providing lecturers. Among these I wish to mention Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, United Kingdom, the United States, WHO and UNEP.

Finally, no TC event can be realised without the full backstopping and support of our technical departments. For this event, I wish to express our gratitude to the departments of Nuclear Sciences and Application and Nuclear Safety and in particular to Dr. Peter De Regge, the scientific secretary of the seminar and the training course.

I hope you will find this seminar and your interactions with experts from other countries useful. Thank you all for coming to Vienna. I hope you will have a pleasant stay and a successful seminar.

Last update: 16 Feb 2018


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