Two ministerial conferences, over 50 review missions and several new partnerships to advance the use of nuclear techniques for sustainable development were among the highlights of 2017 at the IAEA. This article summarizes some of the key achievements of the year.
IAEA 60th anniversary year
The 60th anniversary year of the IAEA, which began at the General Conference in 2016, continued this year. A highlight of the anniversary year was the International Conference in May, marking the 60th anniversary of the IAEA technical cooperation programme. It brought together decision makers and technical experts from IAEA Member States as well as representatives of other multilateral entities from across the United Nations system . The conference highlighted the role of the IAEA Technical Cooperation programme in helping Member States achieve their national development strategies or plans, and to outline its potential contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals. It also strengthened partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders and examined innovative approaches for the way forward for the TC programme.
At the IAEA’s 61st General Conference in September, measures to strengthen international cooperation in nuclear safety and security and to further nuclear science and technology in both nuclear power and non-power nuclear applications were the focus of the key resolutions adopted.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, who was re-appointed for another four-year term, highlighted in his opening statement the IAEA’s commitment to responding promptly to Member State needs with high-quality programmes and concrete results.
During the General Conference the IAEA unveiled a donor wall, recognizing the many donors — including 31 Member States — who have made over €37 million in voluntary contributions to the modernization of the Agency’s nuclear science laboratories in Seibserdorf, Austria. The Insect Pest Control Laboratory, with over 1700 square meters of laboratory space, was inaugurated on 25 September. It will help countries use a nuclear technique to combat insect pests that spread disease and damage crops, such as mosquitoes and fruit flies.
The IAEA will be able to complete construction of a second new laboratory facility — the Flexible Modular Laboratory — thanks to contributions from Member States. It will house a Food and Environmental Protection Laboratory, a Soil and Water Management and Crop Nutrition Laboratory and an Animal Production and Health Laboratory.
The rest of this article highlights key achievements in the various work areas of the IAEA.
- A new linear accelerator, or linac, will be provided next year under a partnership agreement with Varian Medical Systems signed in September. The new machine will significantly enhance the assistance the IAEA can provide to hospitals around the world on the safe and effective use of radiotherapy. Work is also under way on the construction of a linear accelerator facility for the Dosimetry Laboratory, which will assist Member States in providing safe and effective radiotherapy for cancer patients.
- A number of new agreements will improve access to training in various fields in radiology and nuclear medicine for professionals from developing countries. These include agreements with the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), the European Society of Radiology (ESR), the European Association of Nuclear Medicine (EANM), the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (ASNC) and the U.S.-based Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI).
- The use of nuclear science and technology for human health was the focus at this year’s Scientific Forum in September. Over two days, several high-level speakers, including King Letsie III of Lesotho, ministers from Cameroon and Russia and over 40 dignitaries and experts discussed the role of nuclear techniques in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases, especially the major killers of our time: non-communicable diseases. Watch this video to learn more about the role of nuclear techniques in medicine.
- The IAEA, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), provided assistance to the Dominican Republic to eradicate a major agricultural pest, the Mediterranean fruit fly, using the Sterile Insect Technique. As a result, the Caribbean country officially declared in July that it is free of the insect, two years after an outbreak led to considerable damage to its agricultural industry. In addition, Burkina Faso inaugurated the largest insect rearing facility in West Africa, built with the support of the IAEA and the FAO, to apply the technique to suppress the tsetse fly, an insect harmful to both humans and animals.
- In the Sahel region, a four-year IAEA effort to help 13 countries use isotopic techniques to assess groundwater origin and quality in five shared aquifers and basins, providing the first broad overview of the region’s groundwater supplies, resulted in five reports published. See scientists at work in the field in this photo essay.
- A new and improved soybean variety, developed using nuclear techniques, was selected for multiplication and countrywide use by agriculture authorities in Indonesia.
- With climate change as one of the biggest environmental challenges affecting the planet and humanity, the IAEA this year led a series of side events at the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23) from 6-17 November in Bonn, Germany, detailing how it uses nuclear science and technology within an integrated approach of monitoring, mitigation and adaptation to combat climate change. These events covered energy policy within the broader sustainable development challenge; how nuclear innovation can help achieve climate goals, and IAEA support to countries to help ensure a resilient ocean for future generations. Watch our COP23 special editionand the IAEA’s multifaceted approach on climate change.
- Around 700 participants from 68 IAEA Member States and five international organizations came together in October to discuss the role of nuclear power in meeting future energy demand, in contributing to sustainable development and in mitigating climate change at the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century in Abu Dhabi.
- The same month nuclear energy experts gathered at an IAEA Conference on Nuclear Power Plant Life Management to discuss ways of safely and cost-effectively operating nuclear power plants beyond their design lifetime. In addition, around 700 nuclear engineers, scientists and decision-makers to discuss fast reactors and related fuel cycles, which hold the promise of providing clean and sustainable energy for thousands of years, in Yekaterinburg, Russia, in June.
- An IAEA project focused on ensuring the availability of fuel for nuclear power plants reached a key milestone in August this year, with the inauguration in Kazakhstan of a facility where low-enriched uranium (LEU) will be stored (LEU Bank).
Nuclear safety and security
- A 36-hour emergency exercise was held in June to test the global emergency response to a simulated accident at a nuclear power plant. The exercise was the largest held to date and involved 83 Member States and 10 other international organizations.
- The IAEA carried out around 50 peer review missions requested by Member States to help strengthen nuclear safety and security globally. During such missions, IAEA-led teams of experts compare actual practices with those recommended in the IAEA safety standards or the Agency’s Nuclear Security Series. The first two Integrated Review Services for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) missions were hosted by Italy and Poland.
- In April, delegates at the Seventh Review Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS) identified key areas for continued improvement and IAEA work on nuclear safety, including the need to enhance nuclear safety culture, to maintain effective legal frameworks and to enforce safety precautions within the supply chain. The Agency this year completed its revision of Safety Requirements to take into account lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi accident with the issuing of Safety of Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities.
- In December, the almost 550 participants in the International Conference on Radiation Protection in Medicine concluded that more training, more awareness and more effective implementation of regulation is needed to better protect patients and health professionals from undue radiation exposure related to medical procedures.
- The IAEA continued to verify and monitor the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In his quarterly reports to the IAEA Board of Governors, Mr Amano confirmed that the nuclear commitments undertaken by Iran were being implemented. IAEA inspectors have continued to inspect facilities in Iran, have taken hundreds of environmental samples, and carried out activities supported by state-of-the-art technology, including data collecting and processing systems.
- The IAEA continued to closely follow developments in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) nuclear programme, which Mr Amano has highlighted this year as a matter of “grave concern”. Following a nuclear test conducted by the DPRK on September 3rd in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, Mr Amano renewed his call upon the DPRK to fully comply with its obligations under all relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and the IAEA.