Vatican's Address to International Atomic Energy Agency

At Conference in Vienna

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VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 25, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address of Monsignor Leo Boccardi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the International Organizations in Vienna, at the 46th session of the General Conference of the International Agency of Atomic Energy, held from Sept. 16-20.



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Mr. President,

It is a great honor for me to congratulate you, on behalf of the Delegation of the Holy See, on your election as President of the forty-sixth General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency. I am convinced that under your able guidance the work of this Conference will be successfully brought to conclusion. My Delegation would like at the same time to express its gratitude to the Director General Mohamed El-Baradei and to the Secretariat for their dedicated service, and to welcome the Delegations of the State of Eritrea, the Kyrgyz Republic, and the Republic of Seychelles as new Members.

Mr. President, distinguished Delegates,

The Delegation of the Holy See has always followed with great interest the initiatives, efforts, and projects undertaken by the Agency that are aimed at the improvement of safety in the use of nuclear energy and technology. We would like to underline especially the importance of the scientific research work, seminars, and symposia on the radiological protection of patients, the monitoring and reduction of occupational exposure to radiation (cf. Symposium held in Geneva in August 2002) and the safe management of radioactive waste. The Agency -- through its programs and expertise -- plays an eminent role in this field and makes a valuable contribution towards creating a global nuclear safety culture.

In order to achieve these objectives, an up-to-date system of training and education has to be established and applied coherently. Much has been done in recent years. But looking at the issue on a worldwide scale, one cannot overlook the fact that there are still possibilities for improvement in regard to the implementation of appropriate safety standards and especially to the education of those who are applying nuclear techniques and penetrating radiation. It is surely very important to replace old technical equipment with modern equipment that provides a higher level of safety, but it seems even more vital for a nuclear safety culture to increase the awareness of potential dangers that go with nuclear technologies. At the same time we must follow attentively the situation in this regard in all Member States in order to prevent or eliminate, if this exists, double standards of protection and quality assurance for industrialized countries on the one hand, and developing ones on the other hand.

The radiological protection of patients and caregivers has been a question of great importance for my Delegation. We do not cease to repeat that it is the human person who is at the center of all scientific research and development. But this fundamental principle does not exclude the problem of protection of the environment and the question of the impact of nuclear technologies on it, especially ionizing radiation.

In this connection, we would like welcome the ongoing discussion, initiated by some Member States of the Agency, carried on by the Agency itself and a group of consultants, on ethical considerations in protecting the environment from the effects of ionizing radiation. We are increasingly aware that preserving our earth, its bio-diversity, is an indispensable part of our efforts to make a more human world for future generations. The generally strict regulations applied for the use and handling of radioactive and fissile material and waste should be fully enforced in order to protect the human family and the environment from potentially harmful radioactive isotopes and ionizing radiation.

One of the greatest concerns relating to the safety and security of nuclear material on an international scale, is the increasing problem of abandoned radioactive sources. In this area the IAEA is fulfilling an indispensable task not only in assisting Member States in creating and strengthening national regulatory infrastructures to ensure that these radioactive sources are appropriately regulated and adequately secured at all times (a "cradle-to-grave" control of radioactive sources) but in aiding those institutions and States which have recently asked for assistance in emergency situations.

Mr. President,

In regard to the technical cooperation activities, we would like to commend the Agency for its significant contributions to many Member States. The assistance granted in the fields of medicine, particularly for cancer treatment, diagnostic radiology, and nuclear medicine, helps numerous people in those regions where modern forms of diagnosis and medical treatment are not yet available on a large scale and where, especially for the rural population, they are scarcely accessible.

The Agency's efforts, in collaboration with other UN organizations, in the area of agriculture, in the fight against diseases and animal pests, in nutritional safety and in isotope applications for exploring water resources and addressing pollution problems in some large cities, have brought positive results and should certainly be continued. Tailored to the real needs of those who request them, they continue to contribute considerably to social and economic development in many parts of the world.

Technical cooperation activities, however, are by no means a one-way-road. Recent experiences with successful projects show that -- in order to be fruitful in the long run -- the participants of such activities are called upon to adapt these projects to their own regions, to develop them further and to hand on their knowledge to their colleagues in neighboring countries where similar problems occur. Thus, this kind of technical cooperation across the borders is able to address fundamental issues with a deep impact on the social, economic, and humanitarian situation of many societies.

Mr. President,

I would like to conclude by wishing the Agency much success in implementing its noble task in our world by putting nuclear technology at the service of sustainable development, peace, and the well-being of the entire human family.

Thank you, Mr. President.

[Original text: English]