IAEA Highlights and Achievements in 2021 – Year in Review

In September, the IAEA dedicated its Scientific Forum to studying how nuclear science can further help the world prepare for future zoonotic epidemics. Panelists at the Science Forum recognized the IAEA’s Integrated Zoonoses Action Initiative (ZODIAC) as important and timely for improving preparedness for pandemic response using nuclear and related techniques. The forum further concluded that closer coordination, collaboration and communication towards scientific advancements in the research, early detection and surveillance of zoonotic diseases is essential to prevent or contain the next epidemic or pandemic such as COVID- 19.

The 28th IAEA Fusion Energy Conference (FEC 2020) was organized by the IAEA and hosted by the French Commission for Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy (CEA) and the ITER Organization, presenting the latest advancements in fusion science and technology. It was postponed to May 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and took place virtually, bringing together nearly 4,000 participants from around the world. The week-long conference explored key physics and technology issues as well as innovative concepts directly related to the use of nuclear fusion as a future source of energy. The conference included more than 100 scientific presentations presented by leading researchers and engineers in the field of fusion science and technology development; numerous virtual tours of ITER and other fusion research laboratories; virtual exhibition stands; and various side events on topics such as the history of the FEC series, the role of women in fusion and educational opportunities in fusion.

On September 30, 2021, the IAEA Environment Laboratories in Monaco celebrated their 60th anniversary. These unique research facilities within the United Nations system were created to provide IAEA Member States with the tools and knowledge necessary to understand and meet the pressing challenges of the marine environment. The IAEA has organized a number of on-site and off-site events to commemorate the anniversary.

The IAEA held its first-ever technical meeting on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for nuclear technology and applications in September, showing how AI-based approaches in nuclear science can benefit human health, management water resources and nuclear fusion research. The event launched a global dialogue on the potential of AI for nuclear science and the related implications of its use, including ethics and transparency. At the AI ​​for Good Global Summit 2021, the IAEA also joined the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and 37 other United Nations organizations to work together to identify the applications of AI that accelerate the achievement of the goals of sustainable development of the United Nations.

With a steady increase in the number of donor countries, including developing countries and first-time contributor countries, the final phase of a major refurbishment project for the IAEA nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf, near Vienna, approaching the next step: the start of construction. In September, Mr. Grossi unveiled a new Donor Recognition Exhibition to honor contributors to the Nuclear Applications Laboratory Refurbishment (ReNuAL2) phase of the modernization initiative. ReNuAL2 will deliver a new building that will house three laboratories: the Plant Breeding and Genetics Laboratory, the Nuclear and Instrumentation Sciences Laboratory and the Terrestrial Environment Laboratory, as well as new greenhouses, and complete the modernization of the dosimetry. Construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2022, with an expected completion date by the end of 2023.

This year, the IAEA hosted a series of regional NUTEC Plastic roundtables and discussed nuclear solutions to marine plastic pollution with partners from Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific as well as Europe. and Central Asia. During the meetings, IAEA experts presented NUTEC Plastics, which helps countries integrate nuclear techniques into their strategies to tackle plastic pollution. NUTEC Plastics builds on the IAEA’s efforts to combat plastic pollution through marine monitoring using isotope tracing techniques and recycling using radiation technology. It provides scientific evidence to characterize and assess marine pollution from microplastics, while also demonstrating the use of ionizing radiation in plastic recycling, turning plastic waste into reusable resources.

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