USP and IAEA discuss Nuclear Science and Technology Project
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Mr Oscar Acuna, Head of Technical Cooperation Division at IAEA highlights a point during the discussion.
A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) led by Mr Oscar Acuna, Head of Technical Cooperation Division at IAEA visited The University of the South Pacific (USP) on 7 April 2017.
Present to meet the team was Professor Richard Coll, USP’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Learning, Teaching and Student Services, Mr Jaindra Karan, Director, Development, Marketing, Communications and Alumni (DMCA), Associate Professor Anjeela Jokhan, Dean of Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE), Professor Arvind Patel, Acting Dean, Faculty of Business and Economics, Dr Helene Jacot des Combes, Senior Lecturer at Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD), Mr Ian Thomson Fellow at the School of Education, and Ms Pritika Bijay, Regional Programme Coordinator at DMCA.
The team from IAEA is in Fiji to discuss a proposed project, which is on Application of Nuclear Science and Technology in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Professor Coll welcomed them and gave an overview of the University highlighting that it is one of the two regional universities in the world.
He talked about the course modes offered to the students, saying that, “the University sees itself as the pioneer of distance and flexible learning which has enhanced learning and teaching throughout”.
Professor Coll informed them about the University’s proposed Public Health anchor project for the new USP Campus in Honiara, Solomon Islands which will become operational in the second half of 2019.
Mr Acuna informed the USP team that IAEA has a technical cooperation programme which promotes the use of nuclear techniques for development programmes in member states, mainly in the areas of human health, food and agriculture, environment and social applications (scientific and technological development and research, dissemination of knowledge and e-learning projects).
“We see USP as a very important partner of the IAEA for the dissemination of knowledge and capacity building,” Mr Acuna said.
He added that SIDS gave a very unique situation in terms of population and location.
“In order to conduct training and capacity building, we can provide those training materials and modules to USP and you can disseminate. We can provide the expertise and get you familiarised with our technologies and how those applications can help the member states,” Mr Acuna mentioned.
IAEA is also engaging with the University of West Indies and Mr Acuna said that they would rely on the two regional universities for the dissemination of knowledge.
IAEA is hoping to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in the future to formalise some of the cooperation and support. Both IAEA and USP have a common goal of serving member states in the region.
“We promote scientific and technological knowledge, you need education, so we are hoping that we can collaborate in future,” Mr Acuna said.
Some of the areas where IAEA is focusing on in the Pacific region include education in food and agriculture, short term training programmes, provision of scholarships for long term education, for instance, Masters and PhD.
Associate Professor Jokhan inquired about the facilities in Pacific countries to accommodate nuclear science and safety measures for its use. Mr Acuna explained that work is being carried out at the national level in Palau, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Fiji, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tonga, and Samoa, apart from regional work.
The team from USP and IAEA after the meeting.
These national projects will look into building capacities, hospitals and labs, introduce radio-therapy and local medicine programmes. Countries like PNG already have regulations on the use of nuclear technologies, and IAEA is in the process of doing the same for other member states.
Before the facilities are in place, there needs to be a legal framework to govern the construction and use of such infrastructure.
Associate Professor Jokhan suggested that USP facilitate the training programmes run by other institutions by using the University’s infrastructure. She added that training programmes of similar sort has been previously done and proved quite successful.
Mr Jaindra Karan informed the IAEA delegates that USP has ISO standard labs for food which, with assistance from IAEA, can assist with food product testing for both imports and exports.
In terms of sustainability issues regarding the project, Dr Jacot Des Combes noted that it would be better to have pure distinction in each aspect of the project; stabilised isotopes and radioactive ones.
This, she said, is to determine which ones could be easily adapted in the Pacific because it is vulnerable to natural disasters and it is, therefore, important for people to know where the facilities are, and how to work on protecting it should a natural disaster hit.
IAEA will compile a work plan on the type of technology and isotopes that will be used and this information could be shared with the relevant sections in USP. The technical aspects of this are still being worked on by IAEA.
There was general consensus that given that IAEA will need to conduct training on this area with their member countries, that USP could assist IAEA in conducting the relevant training, especially in Pacific countries.
Professor Patel questioned the possibility of working with commercial partners and Mr Acuna informed that IAEA is starting to partner with commercial entities, with the recent one being Public-Private Partnerships (PPP). IAEA’s work, he added, is capital-intensive.
The delegates from IAEA are looking forward to more comments from a number of technical personnel at USP which would enable them to strengthen their project for the SIDS to provide maximum benefit. The University could also work on a bilateral basis with IAEA in the future.
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