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Plants in science lab

For more than fifty years, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has limited the number of nuclear-armed states and made the world safer.

But the NPT does more than prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. It also helps countries who are party to the Treaty share the benefits of peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology. This important international cooperation has improved the lives and living conditions for people around the globe. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) not only provides verification that nuclear material is used for peaceful purposes—its “watch dog” role—it is also the global leader in enabling states to further develop peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology, especially for those states that are most in need.

In 2010, the IAEA launched its Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI) with financial and technical assistance from the United States. The PUI’s nuclear science and technology projects improve human health, food and agriculture productivity, natural resource management, and industry and civilian nuclear power infrastructure development.

Experts in Argentina successfully control fruit fly populations with nuclear technology by sterilizing male fruit flies. (© Laura Gil Martínez/IAEA)

Since the inception of the PUI, the United States has contributed more than $132 million, funding projects which have improved millions of lives in IAEA Member States. The PUI supports advancements in nuclear medicine education and training. It promotes nuclear techniques to detect and treat cancer. It offers large-scale water management programs to respond to droughts and wide-spread starvation and malnutrition in Africa. It helps in detecting zoonotic diseases, like Ebola and avian influenza, which can be transmitted from animals to humans. And it traces pollution in ocean waters and promotes global actions against ocean acidification.

Additionally, the PUI supports the IAEA’s efforts to strengthen safe nuclear power infrastructure development in Member States as well as improve the ability of countries to respond to nuclear and radiological emergencies.

LEFT: In Argentina, Scientists use isotope hydrology to study water’s source, route, age and pollution. (© Laura Gil Martínez/IAEA) RIGHT: Students in the Philippines simulate radiology experiments. (© Miklos Gaspar/IAEA)

Over the years, The United States has remained a proud contributor to the Peaceful Uses Initiative. At the NPT’s Tenth Review Conference in January of 2022, the United States will reaffirm our commitment to this initiative and to further develop applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. We will continue to uphold the NPT as the cornerstone of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime that enables nuclear technology to improve the lives of so many through peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

About the Author: Dr. Janet Chen is a Contractor in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, and was an AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Science and Technology Policy Fellow.

U.S. Department of State

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