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Austria : Engaging Asian Youth in Nuclear Science

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    Nuclear science and technology play an important role in addressing issues in low-carbon energy demand, human health, food security and environmental pollution, and contribute to socioeconomic development around the world. The IAEA works to foster greater interest in these technologies among youth, including in Asia and the Pacific. Student and teacher winners from a Virtual NST Education Competition visited the IAEA in Austria in May 2022 to present their projects and learn hands on about the many uses of nuclear technology.

    Winners were selected based on a video contest in which they demonstrated how nuclear science and technology can help meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The winning teachers were chosen from video submissions discussing innovative science teaching methods. The winning 11 students and 5 teachers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Oman and the Philippines spent five days at the IAEA. Here, laboratory technician Antonio Capote-Cuellar explains to the group how he and the IAEAs Radiation Safety Technical Services monitor radiation in activities under IAEA control or supervision.

    In a workshop with the Director of the IAEAs Office of Public Information, Sophie Boutaud de la Combe, the students were asked to reflect and build on their experience from the video contest and identify what they, their schools, the IAEA and others can do to increase global knowledge and understanding of nuclear science and technology.

    Students were briefed on the work of the IAEAs Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC). Established in 2005, the IEC is the global coordination focal point for international nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness and response assistance. The Centre played a critical role in the IAEAs response to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Pictured, IEC Outreach Officer Nayana Jayarajan explains to visitors the responsibilities of the IAEA during a radiological emergency and how the IEC is involved.

    Students met and spoke with IAEA staff members about working at the IAEA, their backgrounds, career paths and prospects. Pictured, a student has a question for Javier Romero, a Programme Management Officer for Asia and the Pacific in the IAEAs Department of Technical Cooperation. The Department is responsible for formulating and delivering the IAEAs development mandate, and through its programme cooperates with countries in the use of nuclear science and technology towards tangible socioeconomic impact.

    Section Head for Asia and the Pacific in the IAEAs Department of Technical Cooperation, Marina Binti Mishar is explaining NUTEC Plastics, an IAEA initiative to help countries use nuclear techniques to characterize and assess marine microplastic pollution, and to use ionizing radiation in plastic recycling. Indonesia and the Philippines are front runners in the initiative, working closely with the IAEA to address plastic pollution.

    Water is naturally tagged with isotopic fingerprints, that can be used to determine the source, age, movement and interactions of water above and below ground. Here Lorenzo Copia, Head of the Isotope Hydrology Laboratory, explains how the IAEA promotes and transfers know-how on the use of isotope hydrology as an effective tool for water resources assessment and sustainable water management.

    In the field and in laboratory settings, IAEA experts study ratios of isotopes in water. They use tracers such as the naturally occurring radioisotopes of hydrogen (tritium), carbon (carbon-14) and noble gases (helium-3, helium-4 and krypton-81) to help experts around the world map, assess and manage surface and groundwater resources.

    The group visited the IAEAs Nuclear Sciences and Applications Laboratories in Seibersdorf, 30 kilometres south of Vienna. The laboratories are unique within the United Nations system and focus on food and agriculture, human health, environmental monitoring and assessment, as well as the use of nuclear analytical instrumentation.

    In this picture, Seibersdorf-based food safety specialist Simon Kelly explains to the visitors how the IAEA works with countries to improve their laboratory and regulatory capacities in tracing the origins and verifying the authenticity of food using stable isotope measurements and complementary fingerprinting and profiling techniques.

    The students also learned how the IAEA supports countries in suppressing insect pest populations through the sterile insect techniquea nuclear technique that relies on the release of sterilized male insects. Sterilization is achieved through irradiation. The IAEAs laboratories focus on pests that have a negative economic or human health impact, such as fruit flies, mosquitoes and tse tse flies.

    In this students hand is a Mediterranean fruit fly larva. Insect pest control experts rear such larvae till they pupate, at which point they are sorted by sex and the males are sterilized. Sterilized males are released en masse in fruit fly affected areas where they compete with wild males for females. The result is a lower fertilization rate of the fruit fly population and a reduced population over time after several mass releases. After a week of learning about the IAEA and its work, the students participated in a roundtable discussion on their experience and plans to share what they had learned during the study tour with their schools and communities.

    Director for Asia and the Pacific in the IAEAs Department of Technical Cooperation, Jane Gerardo-Abaya encouraged the students to soar like eagles and pursue their interests in nuclear science and technology. The IAEA has numerous programmes to support young people develop careers in nuclear science, including the IAEA Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme for women in their Masters degrees, internships at the IAEA, and the Junior Professional Officer Programme for young professionals of select nationalities.


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