National and International Issues

Pakistan-IAEA Partnership: Nuclear Technology for Sustainable Development

Nuclear technology with its inherent efficiency is moving headlong in developing smart and sustainable solutions to global environmental and socioeconomic challenges. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), with its mandate of ‘Atoms for Peace and Development’, has a unique portfolio of over 60 years in the employment of nuclear technology for varied sectors of peaceful applications. These applications may vary from health to climate and from agriculture to industrial applications and safety. Pakistan has been a long-term partner and beneficiary of IAEA’s Technical Cooperation (TC) programme which is aimed to assist and coordinate with the member states in the utilization of peaceful nuclear technology for the best probable and efficient solutions.
Pakistan, in cooperation with IAEA, is working systematically to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These SDGs have identified seventeen areas in immediate need of long-term and consistent action and planning against food insecurity, challenges to health, lack of access to quality education, gender inequality, inaccessibility to clean water and sanitation, unavailability of affordable and clean energy, lack of decent work environment and challenges to achieve the economic goals, climate action and dangers to the preservation of marine life. IAEA supports countries through specialized technical and development competencies of nuclear applications to achieve nine specific SDGs. 
During the last six decades, Pakistan has built its capabilities for the peaceful use of nuclear technology and has expanded its usage in the fields of health (specifically cancer care), clean energy, agriculture, industrial applications and environmental protection. The technical cooperation with IAEA is manifested through the work of specialized agencies like research centres, cancer hospitals, power and research reactors, and education and training institutes. Pakistan-TC partnership has remained consistent in formulating real-time research, development solutions and capacity building. Ongoing projects in this partnership include enhancing and strengthening Pakistan’s national capabilities in climate resistant crops, animal productivity, soil management, water and nutrient resources using nuclear related techniques, etc. 
Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) has so far developed 132 crop varieties through the use of state-of-the-art nuclear technology under institutions like Nuclear Institute of Agriculture (NIA), Nuclear Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE) and Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology (NIAB). These institutes are involved in innovative use of nuclear techniques in agricultural production through research in soil fertility, disease resistant and time efficient crop varieties, insect and pest control, chemical pollution, animal health and food preservation. In the face of growing threat of food security, the work of these institutes will pave the way to provide better facilities for the lives and necessities of Pakistan’s population.
In the way of achieving the goal of good health, nuclear medicine is playing an integral role. Specifically, in Pakistan, 19 cancer hospitals have been established by the PAEC across the country, providing substantial support to most advanced treatment and care to its patients. State-of-the-art treatment is provided in these facilities including, SPECT-CT, PET-CT, medical LINAC, IGRT, IMRT, VMAT and cyber-knife. Furthermore, Pakistan’s, IAEA TC programme continues to maintain upgradation and capacity building of its workforce in cancer care, which contributes towards cancer treatment and prevention.
The goal of affordable and clean energy in Pakistan is envisioned through the inclusion of 8800 megawatt (MW) electricity by 2030 through the use of nuclear power. There are currently six operational nuclear power plants in Pakistan, which are contributing towards clean, reliable and sustainable energy, necessary for the continued socioeconomic development of the country. Each one of these power plants is operating under the umbrella of IAEA safeguards, thereby ensuring its safe and sustainable operations. 
Education is the key to acquisition of necessary skills and capabilities for the achievement of any SDG. In addressing the goal of quality education and industry, innovation and infrastructure development, Pakistan has focused its efforts on building strong institutions. IAEA has also focused its efforts on seeking gender parity and increasing the opportunities for women to participate in the nuclear field, leading to the approach of an inclusive workforce. IAEA’s Marie Curie Fellowship Programme aims at inspiring and supporting young women to pursue a career in the field of nuclear science and technology. Pakistan, in support of this initiative, has provided scholarships for female students, enabling them to complete a funded Master’s degree at Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS).
Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science & Technology (PINSTECH), Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS), National Institute of Safety and Security (NISAS), Karachi Institute of Power Engineering (KINPOE), Chashma Nuclear Power Complex (CHASNUPP) and Centre of Nuclear Training (CHASCENT) are established for a long-term and systematic human resource building and expert level education. Furthermore, PIEAS and NISAS are also designated as a part of IAEA collaboration centres for education and training in advanced and innovative nuclear technologies, nuclear security education, training and technical support. Being a part of IAEA collaboration centres network, these institutes contribute to IAEA’s goal of promoting the practical use of nuclear techniques worldwide and help in the implementation of its own programmatic activities. 
Following the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, IAEA has raised international concerns to the potential dangers associated with zoonotic diseases. IAEA has facilitated the member states and in case of Pakistan, it has provided real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machines for time-sensitive detection during the height of its spread. In order to find new solutions to this threat using the nuclear techniques, IAEA’s Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) initiative aims to facilitate early detection and prevention of future zoonotic outbreaks. Pakistan is also striving to contribute to the success of this initiative through its laboratories established at NIAB and NIBGE. 
Pakistan understands the potential value of nuclear technology in the socioeconomic development. Nuclear technology can further make remarkable contribution for the well-being of people and the environment. It has remained cognizant of IAEA’s specialized work, continuing to commit to a long-term partnership for the collective goals of the advancement of peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology, betterment of humanity and their commitment to UN SDGs.

The writer is a PhD scholar at the School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR), Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

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