Efforts to use nuclear science and technology for human development must include an element on skills development for women and the youth, says Energy Deputy Minister Thembisile Majola.

“Our efforts in utilising nuclear science and technology towards human development will not be successful unless we locate at its core, the inclusion of women, as well as, skills development for the youth,” said the Deputy Minister.

She was addressing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ministerial conference on nuclear science and technology in Vienna on Wednesday.

“Therefore in the planning, monitoring and evaluation of our programmes, it is imperative that we embed appropriate indicators in order to measure progress in this area,” said the Deputy Minister.

Majola thanked the IAEA — which is the world’s central intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical co-operation in the nuclear field — for making it possible for member states to access relevant nuclear techniques and applications to diagnose and treat cancer; control and eradicate Malaria, among others.

“The IAEA is able to provide this support to member states through its Nuclear Applications Laboratories whose cutting-edge research and development carried out at its world-class facilities, and delivered through technical cooperation, enables our scientists and experts to find solutions that assist in addressing challenges which threaten our livelihood.”

The Deputy Minister said over the years, South Africa has made significant investments in developing its nuclear sector for peaceful purposes.

“At the core of this endeavour has been a focus on research and development, with the SAFARI-1 research reactor and iThemba LABS as the lodestars. Today, South Africa is one of the leading global manufacturers of medical isotopes, supplying Moly-99 for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer,” she said.

In addition, these facilities also have the added value of providing cross-disciplinary materials research in a wide variety of fields such as construction, manufacturing, transport, medicine, electronics and energy.

She told the meeting that the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Tshwane is the foremost medical institute on the African continent, in the treatment of cancer.

“We appreciate the support that the IAEA continues to provide in facilitating the training of many experts from the region in our institutions,” she said.