Hailing Asia as the future centre of growth of nuclear power, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano on Monday said that out of the 61 nuclear reactors under construction in the world, 39 are in Asia.

He was talking during the inaugural address of the 21st Annual Conference of Indian Nuclear Society on ‘Impact of Radiation Technology on human health and environment' at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre here.

He said India, China, Japan and Republic of Korea were the countries fuelling the growth of nuclear power in Asia. He also called for equal rights and responsibilities for the developing world towards nuclear power. “Nuclear power should not be limited to the developed countries. It should also be available to the developing countries.”

Emphasising on equal responsibility to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, he said, “They [developing countries] have the same rights as the developed countries to use nuclear power for peaceful purpose and claim responsibility to ensure the highest standard of safety and to protect it from falling in the hands of the terrorists.”

He said the use of nuclear energy was spreading fast and the IAEA expected around 10-25 countries to bring their first nuclear reactors on line by 2020.

He termed India as a hope for many developing countries and appreciated the country's research and development in fast breeder reactors. “India has a global reputation for high calibre of nuclear scientists, technicians and engineers… It has contributed greatly to the peaceful application [of nuclear power] like medicine and food,” Mr. Amano said.

But he also emphasised the need for transparency while coming up with nuclear projects. All the relevant information about projects should be passed on to the people, he said.

Award for Kakodkar and Malhotra

Dr. Anil Kakodkar, former Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission was awarded the Indian Nuclear Society's Homi Bhabha Lifetime Achievement Award for the year 2009, which carried a citation and a cash prize of Rs.2.5 lakh.

Department of Atomic Energy spokesperson and head of its Public Awareness Division Swapnesh Kumar Malhotra received the Indian Nuclear Society's Science Communication Award for 2009, which carried a citation and a cash prize of Rs.1 lakh.

While accepting the award, Dr. Kakodkar expressed faith that nuclear power would play a key role in the coming days. But he also drew attention to the challenges of long-term nuclear waste management.

“From the nuclear waste management perspective, management of spent fuel in an open fuel cycle approach has remained an unresolved issue. In my view, it is unlikely to be resolved unless closed fuel cycle approach in some form or the other is resorted to,” he said.

He said the use of low enriched uranium, thorium fuel cycle considerably reduced the proliferation concerns and still retained the efficiency of the utilisation of uranium. “It can be done with the present day reactor technology and thus can be readily implemented,” he added.

Mr. Amano also released the thematic volumes of the International Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy that had taken place in New Delhi in 2009.

He stressed on peaceful applications of nuclear power in health and agriculture sector and said the IAEA had a strong orientation to improve healthcare through the nuclear technology, especially for cancer cure in the developing countries.