IAEA marks 60 years of technical cooperation

31 May 2017

The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) Technical Cooperation program has made "a valuable contribution to development", the agency's director-general Yukiya Amano yesterday told a conference to mark the program's 60th anniversary.

All IAEA member states are eligible for support, although in practice technical cooperation activities tend to focus on the needs and priorities of less developed countries. The Technical Cooperation program provides support in the following areas: health and nutrition, food and agriculture, water and the environment, energy planning and nuclear power, industrial applications and radiation technology, safety, and nuclear knowledge development and management. Support is delivered through fellowships and scientific visits, training courses, workshops and seminars, expert assistance, and the provision of equipment and materials.

Speaking at the opening of the three-day International Conference on the IAEA Technical Cooperation Program: Sixty Years and Beyond in Vienna, Amano said science and technology are critical for development.

"Transferring nuclear technology to developing countries is core IAEA business and one of the most important areas of our work," he said. "The IAEA Technical Cooperation program is central to delivery of our Atoms for Peace and Development mandate. It has improved the health and prosperity of millions of people."

Amano said the IAEA has been striving to make nuclear technology available in areas where it has unique value or has added value. The program now helps countries achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in energy, food and agriculture, industry and water management, as well as in health.

"We have helped to save countless lives in developing countries by improving access to nuclear medicine and radiotherapy for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other major diseases. Nuclear techniques made available by the Agency are being used to manage water resources, reduce soil erosion, develop new varieties of rice and wheat that grow in difficult conditions, eradicate insect pests such as tsetse fly, and monitor pollution in the sea," Amano said.

Central to the IAEA's approach is the belief that developing countries should determine their own priorities.

"They decide in what areas they wish to benefit from nuclear science and technology. We then do our best to provide the support they seek," Amano said, adding that the IAEA focuses transferring knowledge and expertise by providing high-quality technical training that enables developing countries to then build their own expertise.

The IAEA Statute entered into force in July 1957 and the first IAEA fellowships were awarded the following year. More than 48,000 scientists and engineers have since held fellowships and scientific visitor positions through the Technical Cooperation program.

"Many of these scientists and engineers went on to play a key role in building capacity in nuclear science in their countries," Amano noted.

The IAEA Technical Cooperation program is a shared responsibility of all member states, he said. It is made possible by the "sustained commitment of all" to the Technical Cooperation Fund, and supplemented by further contributions by donor countries. In 2016, the program delivered support to 146 countries and territories.

Amano noted that energy is "indispensable for development". He said many countries believe nuclear power can help them address "the twin challenges of ensuring reliable energy supplies, while curbing greenhouse gas emissions". In addition, it can help alleviate concerns about volatile fuel prices and security of supply.

The IAEA does not try to influence countries' decisions on whether or not to include nuclear energy in their energy mix. However, should they decide to do so, the IAEA is there to provide assistance and information "so they can use nuclear power safely, securely and sustainably".

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News