From energy to medicine, UN forum discusses innovative uses of nuclear physics

From energy to medicine, UN forum discusses innovative uses of nuclear physics

ElBaradei at the IAEA Conference in Vienna
From meeting burgeoning energy needs through innovative technologies to boosting cancer treatment in developing countries, nuclear physics and the United Nations atomic energy agency have a key role to play on the road to sustainable development, an international scientific forum was told today.

“Even the most conservative estimates predict at least a doubling of energy usage by mid-century,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told the opening session of 8th Scientific Forum being held in Vienna within the framework of the IAEA’s annual General Conference.

“Coupled with concerns related to the risk of climate change and the security of energy supply, this anticipated growth is creating a sense of rising expectations for nuclear power,” he said, stressing the need for innovation ranging from advanced fuel cycles using fissile and fertile materials more efficiently to contributing to “energy currencies” other than electricity, such as hydrogen, desalination and heating.

Noting that lack of energy restricts every aspect of development in developing countries, from increasing food production to improving health care, he again cited the role of innovation, such as regional collaboration to address the issues of upfront capital costs, infrastructure, workforce needs and electrical grid capacity.

Turning to nuclear technology for health care, Mr. ElBaradei noted that fully two-thirds of global radiotherapy equipment, offering curative or palliative benefits for over 50 per cent of cancer patients, serve the 1 billion people living in industrialized countries, while the remaining one third is stretched among the world’s remaining 5.5 billion.

“The Agency´s Programme of Action for Cancer Radiotherapy (PACT) is designed to increase our capacity to assist developing Member States, by mobilizing more resources to address personnel, infrastructure, technology and training needs,” he said.

Stressing that nuclear power must be both “economically viable and unequivocally safe” for nuclear power to have a future, he called for a focused commitment to ensure that lessons learned in one country are effectively and thoroughly communicated to all countries.

“The Scientific Forum is an opportunity to share new ideas, to learn from each other and to forge new collaboration,” he concluded.