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IAEA Director General Thanks Australia and New Zealand for Helping to Make Nuclear Technology Available for Development

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by August 15, 2016 General

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano highlighted the benefits of nuclear science and technology for development during a week-long visit to Australia and New Zealand and thanked both countries for their support for the Agency.

In speeches in Sydney, Canberra and Wellington, Mr Amano said developing countries were increasingly interested in using nuclear technology to help them achieve their development goals.

“Demand for our support in areas such as human health, food and agriculture, industry, electricity generation and countless other areas is constantly growing,” he said at an event in Sydney marking the 10th anniversary of the OPAL research reactor, which is operated by Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO). “We rely on the support of trusted partners such as ANSTO in delivering that assistance.”

Mr Amano commended ANSTO for its work at the OPAL reactor in producing isotopes such as molybdenum-99 (Mo-99). Mo-99 contributes to more than 75 % of diagnostic procedures in nuclear medicine globally, particularly for scans of the heart, bone and brain.

The Director General renewed the designation of ANSTO as an IAEA Collaborating Centre. Through the Collaboration Centres Programme, the IAEA publicly recognizes the work of designated centres in supporting IAEA research, development and training in the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology.

Delivering the 10th John Gee Memorial Lecture at the Australian National University in Canberra, Mr Amano gave a brief overview of the IAEA’s work to improve cancer control in countries which have limited, or no, capacity to offer diagnostics and radiotherapy to cancer patients.

“We have [in the last few decades] invested nearly 300 million euros in cancer and radiotherapy projects throughout the world,” he said in a speech entitled Atoms for Peace in the 21st Century.

“Our Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy – PACT – helps countries to use limited resources efficiently and effectively. Recent Australian financial support has enabled us to help improve palliative care and pain management for cancer patients in a number of Asia-Pacific countries.”

Australia was one of the top 10 donors to the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme in 2015. It has assisted the IAEA in launching projects in new IAEA Member States – the Marshall Islands, Palau, Fiji and Papua New Guinea – in areas such as food security, human health, environmental monitoring and ground water resource management.  

In New Zealand, Mr Amano highlighted other ways in which nuclear science and technology contribute to development.

“Birth control for insects might seem an unlikely place for me to begin my remarks,” he said in a speech at the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs.

“But it is an example of very practical work by the IAEA which is of great importance to farmers who grow fruit and vegetables or raise livestock. It can save countries many millions of dollars per year. It also enables farmers to export their products to markets abroad and improve their living standards and that of their communities.”

Mr Amano was referring to the sterile insect technique, which the Agency makes available to Member States. This involves sterilising male insects such as tsetse flies or fruit flies, which are harmful to livestock and fruit crops, by applying radiation. The sterilised males are then released into the wild. They mate with wild females, but no offspring are produced.

“Over time, the wild population declines and the insect pest is either greatly reduced or completely eliminated,” the Director General added.

The IAEA is working with the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research on using the sterile insect technique against various types of moths. It has also cooperated with the University of Otago on food traceability and authenticity, as well as with the University of Auckland in research on the prevention of chronic diseases.

“These are very diverse projects. What they have in common is that they all involve the use of nuclear or isotopic techniques,” Mr Amano said.

New Zealand has supported the IAEA Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre in Monaco, which uses nuclear and isotopic techniques to study biological processes affected by pollution of the world’s oceans and seas.  

Before visiting Australia and New Zealand, the IAEA Director General met senior officials in Thailand. His tour concluded with a visit to Singapore.

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