By Joanne Liou, IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication
While the IAEA may be best known for its work in nuclear non-proliferation, its activities in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology are of crucial importance for development and recovery, particularly in a post-pandemic world. “We have to leave this dark page of the pandemic behind us and stand up again as a global society. The IAEA has something to contribute,” said IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi, in a meeting with participants of the Fifth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament taking place in Vienna.
Grossi welcomed to the IAEA about 60 speakers and heads of delegations from around the world and underscored the Agency’s efforts to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges, from climate change and plastic pollution to cancer care. Members of parliament play a critical role in setting the direction of countries’ policies, Mr. Grossi said. “A lot of what we do is enabled by parliaments, and you, as parliamentarians, help us to improve the lives of those we serve,” he added.
Access to nuclear medicine and radiotherapy
While nuclear medicine has advanced in detecting and curing illnesses, like cancer and cardiovascular disease, access to the latest developments has been limited in low- and middle-income countries. The IAEA helps to fill this gap. “A lot that goes on in the world in nuclear medicine and radiotherapy comes from the IAEA and from our compound of laboratories,” Grossi said. The IAEA maintains eight nuclear applications laboratories near Vienna, which support and implement activities that respond to development needs. IAEA experts deliver training and capacity-building and provide technical and analytical services, such as calibrating radiotherapy units.
Nuclear energy, applications for climate change
When it comes to climate change, nuclear science and technologies are at the forefront of adaptation and mitigation efforts. The IAEA develops standards, provides guidelines and builds capacity for the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear energy and applications. “The IAEA makes sure that those who have chosen to use nuclear energy to power their economies do so in a safe and secure manner,” Grossi said. “We develop the standards that nuclear power plants need to follow to operate in a safe manner.”
Through the deployment of nuclear applications for water management and the development of drought-resistant crops using nuclear techniques, for example, the IAEA also plays a role in supporting food security, Grossi explained. In the face of a changing climate affecting land usage and crop yields, nuclear techniques help to produce more food, while promoting the sustainable use of resources.
The IAEA’s mandate
The mandate of the IAEA is clear: to accelerate the contribution of nuclear energy to peace, health and prosperity. To this end, the IAEA recently launched global efforts to address some of the greatest threats to humankind today, such as NUTEC Plastics to address plastic pollution and ZODIAC to help countries tackle future zoonotic diseases outbreaks.
The IAEA “is working with your countries to make sure that atoms are just for peace and atoms help development,” he said.