As part of its week-long programme “Breakthrough Technologies for a Sustainable Future” organised recently at the ongoing EXPO 2020 in Dubai, the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom hosted an event titled “Public demand for nuclear energy: how nuclear technologies improve our lives” that focused on public acceptance of nuclear energy.
During the session, which was moderated by Rosatom Middle East and North Africa CEO Alexander Voronkov, distinguished speakers from all over the world talked about global communication approaches for raising awareness about nuclear technologies, as well as the challenges that need to be overcome.
The World Nuclear Association Director General, Sama Bilbao-y-Leon, kicked off the discussion saying that access to reliable and clean electricity provided by nuclear energy plays an important role in strengthening public health both directly and indirectly.
“It (access to clean electricity) goes beyond medical facilities; it includes protecting children’s lives, providing safe drinking water and food security,” Bilbao-y-Leon said.
According to Rosatom’s Voronkov, transparency and open dialogue are the beacons of effective communication in the nuclear sector. “They ensure that correct information about sensitive topics is delivered and that common myths and stereotypes about nuclear energy are debunked. Moreover, they help win public trust”, Voronkov said.
Jeffrey Donovan, a Communication, Outreach and Stakeholder Involvement Officer at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), talked about a new guide published by the IAEA which provides theoretical and practical advice on how to effectively engage stakeholders on nuclear topics.
International Youth Nuclear Association Vice President, Cristian Vega, made a presentation describing the main challenges of the 21st century and elaborated on the role international organizations can play in improving people’s lives with the help of nuclear energy.
Rosatom Central and South Africa CEO Ryan Collyer noted that one of Rosatom’s key goals is to motivate young people to educate themselves, their peers and their elders on the benefits of nuclear technologies, as well as to come up with solutions to help their communities and countries.
“Rosatom strongly believes that young people need to play a vital role in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and more specifically in the fight against climate change. We put a great deal of resources into supporting youth to foster their talents and share their views and ideas”, Collyer said.
Rosatom organizes an annual video competition called Atoms Empowering Africa, where young people from the age of 18 can share their videos and talk about how nuclear energy can benefit their lives and society at large.
In this connection, African Young Generation in Nuclear (AYGN) President, Gaopalelwe Santswere, said: “Video competition is a creative way to show that nuclear technology can provide innovative solutions to global challenges and create ways to benefit people’s quality of life on our continent.”
A Rosatom release on the event said that it also facilitated communication with many young nuclear specialists such as Princess Mthombeni, an award-winning international communication specialist, as well as a lifelong nuclear technology advocate and founder of Africa4Nuclear. Underlining the importance of engaging audiences across social media platforms to help spread messages about the benefits of nuclear technology, Mthombeni also described how her media event – Stand up for Nuclear – helped encourage other countries like Nigeria and Kenya to join the nuclear debate.
Throughout Rosatom Week at the Dubai Expo, international experts shared many real-life examples to illustrate how nuclear technology can improve quality of life and bring lasting benefits to society.
One of the most inspiring examples is The Rhisotope Project, an initiative involving South Africa’s WITS University, top global nuclear scientists, South African rhino owners and the world’s best wildlife veterinarians, aimed at significantly reducing rhino poaching. The purpose of the project is to create a lasting and effective means of lowering the number of rhinos being poached for their horns by injecting these with radioactive isotopes,
“The plight of the African rhino is a very serious one and the problem has been there for a long time. Sadly, we have now reached the point when there are only about 16,000 rhinos left in South Africa and that is the largest population in the world”, Rosatom Central and South Africa CEO Ryan Collyer said
“For me, and for many others, this is a realisation that we are at this crucial point and we clearly haven’t done enough. This is really how the idea of The Rhisotope Project came to be. Basically, we are trying to save a magical and endangered species. If you look at a rhinoceros, it really is a real-life unicorn”, he added.
The final address at the event was by Heather Hoff, one of the co-founders of Mothers for Nuclear. She had started Mothers for Nuclear as a way to share the stories of women and begin a dialogue with others who want to protect nature for future generations.