| Danial Norjidi |
NUCLEAR technology can offer Brunei and other countries a number of benefits when used safely, particularly in agriculture for accelerated crop development as well as in medicine for cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Yukiya Amano, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said this during an interview yesterday in between visits to various government agencies.
Asked for his thoughts on the viability of nuclear power for a country like Brunei, he said countries must decide for themselves whether or not to use it. “It is up to Brunei or Singapore to decide whether or not to use nuclear power. It is a separate decision with which we do not interfere.
“Our role is that if a country does decide to use nuclear power we help them so that they can use it safely, securely and sustainably,” he continued. “Safety is very important, and following the Fukushima Daiichi accident, everyone agrees that safety must come first. The IAEA has a very strong function to support and help countries enhance their safety. Ultimately, the decision is down to the countries themselves.”
There are a number of reasons for countries to go for nuclear power, said Amano. “One is climate change. Nuclear power does not emit climate change gases. It is like hydro power and windmills.
“Another reason is that many countries are developing very rapidly, and they need more energy,” he explained. “As a country becomes more developed, the portion of electricity increases. This is the trend. So countries like China, South Korea and India, which are making very impressive economic developments, need more electricity.”
The IAEA is based in Austria, and works for the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear science and technology. Widely known as the world’s “Atoms for Peace” organisation within the United Nations, the IAEA was set up in 1957 as the world’s centre for cooperation in the nuclear field.
“When properly used, nuclear technology is very useful for the welfare of the ordinary people,” he said. “Nuclear technology means better healthcare, a cleaner environment, better food security and better water management. All of these are related to development and human welfare.”
Amano yesterday visited a number of government agencies and institutions, including the Brunei Cancer Centre and Brunei Agricultural Research Centre.
Touching on the subject of agriculture, he said, “Everyone needs food and rice is one of the main crops grown here. By using nuclear techniques, we can develop a new variety of rice.
“It is not genetic engineering. In the natural environment, plants mutate. By using nuclear techniques we can accelerate it and with this acceleration, we can find useful garden varieties more quickly,” he continued. “Some rice plants give more crops. Some withstand drought or high humidity. Every country has to deal with climate change, so we need to develop new varieties that can better withstand severe climates.”
On whether his organisation will be partnering with Bruneian agencies on this, he said, “This is a future possibility, and we are ready to work with your authority to develop the technology.”
He also commended the Brunei Cancer Centre, saying: “It’s very nice, but it’s necessary to work with the international community, especially us, so we have discussed how we can cooperate with each other in a concrete manner.
“We have invited a mission to Vienna. We will discuss it and we can send a mission to your country to review the programme.”
Cancer, he said, is an area where nuclear technology can play a very important role.
“By using nuclear imaging technology, you can see inside the body, and you can see if there is cancer in the brain, in the lung, and so on. This is called nuclear medicine for diagnosis. By using nuclear technology we can much better diagnose cancer.
“Next is therapy. You can do chemotherapy, but radiotherapy is also a very important part where you are applying radiation very precisely to a tumour to kill it,” he said. “It depends on the type of cancer and type of development. Specialists need to examine very carefully which therapy is the best.
“Nuclear technology is very useful, very effective, but must be used safely. We can help on both sides, on how to use the technology and how to ensure safety. It will be your own responsibility, but international organisations can help you.”