By Allan Mauro V. Marfal
As the 51st Atomic Energy Week (AEW) kicked off on Monday, December 04, 2023, Secretary Renato U. Solidum Jr. of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) sees several opportunities for nuclear science and related studies to help address our concerns on climate change.
“A week ago, we participated in the Conference of Parties (COP) 28 held in Dubai, and the message is clear. Climate change is a problem that we all need to look into. We will be victims of global warming, so we need to act, and nuclear technology would play crucial roles in addressing our concerns on this,” said Sec. Solidum.
He emphasized how nuclear science and research studies provide solutions as an alternative energy source for power, as well as in developing new breeds of agricultural crops resistant to heat or requiring less water, minimizing the impact on our food supply.
“The protection of the environment will also utilize nuclear technology. Although we believe the Philippines is not a major contributor to greenhouse gases, we should look at these pollutants from a health perspective, not only from the climate perspective because we will be affected by pollution, aside from the increased temperature and changes in rainfall patterns all over the country,” added Sec. Solidum.
Meanwhile, apart from its well-established roles in medicine, agriculture, and industry, the science chief said that the renewed campaign towards the inclusion of nuclear power in the energy mix adds a new dimension to the roles of DOST-PNRI. This includes not only mastering a potentially invaluable power source for economic progress but also ensuring safety, security, and responsible use.
“This is the reason why the country’s science department has its full support for the efforts of the Nuclear Energy Program Inter-Agency Committee (NEP-IAC), as well as the establishment of a unified independent regulatory body for ionizing radiation sources through the bill for the Philippine National Nuclear Energy Safety Act pending in Congress,” said Sec. Solidum.
Gearing up the next generation towards a Nuclear Philippines
The 51st AEW is being celebrated at the DOST-PNRI with institutional partners and guests from December 4-7 at the PNRI grounds in Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.
With the theme “Gearing up the next generation towards a Nuclear Philippines,” this year’s celebration becomes even more thrilling with the inaugural Philippine Nuclear Science Olympiad. Open to junior and senior high school students nationwide, the competition offers cash prizes, meals, and certificates to the top five awardees. Additionally, the highest achiever will represent the country in the first-ever International Nuclear Olympiad scheduled for August next year. Notably, this marks the first in-person AEW celebration since the pandemic.
“I also find particularly commendable the AEW’s theme for this year, which is Gearing up the next generation towards a Nuclear Philippines. It is quite timely and consistent with the DOST’s renewed thrust towards reaching out to the youth, inspiring more to take up science-related courses,” said Sec. Solidum.
The four-day celebration also features technical sessions where DOST-PNRI researchers and experts share how their various research studies could offer numerous alternative solutions to several pressing concerns in different sectors and communities.
On the other hand, a Gender and Development (GAD) Forum will also be held on December 07, 2023, where there will be an in-depth discussion on how individuals, irrespective of gender, can thrive in this technically demanding field such as nuclear science. The said forum also explores the social dimensions of nuclear S&T, discussing applications, fostering equitable environments, compliance with the Safe Spaces Act, and cultivating positive dynamics in labs and offices.
Of course, one of the main highlights for the participants will be the guided tours and exhibits to all the service facilities at the DOST-PNRI. These include Isotope Techniques, Radioactive, Atomic Structure and Radioactivity, Nuclear Analytic Techniques, Radiation Protection, Radiation Processing and Radiochemistry, Cytogenetics, Microbiology, Food Irradiation, Wound Dressing, Sterile Insect Techniques, and Irradiation Technologies, among others.
“With a still-stigmatized perception of the word ‘nuclear,’ it is best that we slowly change such notions by educating and fully informing our young generation. In this day and age, when misinformation is easily proliferated by certain individuals who undermine and disregard the impact they can make on our country’s future, it is my hope that through AEW, we will be able to shed light on this crucial and social topic of nuclear science and technology,” said DOST-PNRI Director Carlo A. Arcilla.
Messages of support from the partners
“This week, (AEW) acts as a lighthouse, shedding light on the amazing developments and prospects that come from the field of atomic energy. It explores the many facets of nuclear science and provides insight into how it can be used in the industry, agriculture, medicine, and sustainable energy generation, among other fields,” said Dr. Leila P. Areola, director of Bureau of Learning Delivery of the Department of Education.
For his part, Civil Service Commissioner (CSC) Chair Karlo A. B. Nograles said that people generally respond with awe and fear when they hear the word atomic. He pointed out that it is inspiring to know that energy is harnessed when an atom is divided. On the other hand, it is distressing that the same energy can be used for destructive purposes.
“History has shown that atomic power has greatly contributed to the industrialization of the world and has ushered infinite advancement possibilities. Through the years, the DOST-PNRI has utilized the accordance of atomic energy for the benefit of our people and our country. Many of its exemplary initiatives have had a nationwide impact on public interest, security, and patrimony,” said Chair Nograles.
The annual AEW celebration is one of DOST-PNRI’s platforms for communicating to the public on the latest nuclear and radiation-related innovations. It is also a venue for scientists, industry professionals, educators, students, and the public to get together to understand and appreciate the contribution of nuclear science in various fields and nuclear S&T’s growing role in the country’s larger development policy.
Updates on AEW 2023 can be accessed at http://aew.pnri.dost.gov.ph. Further, the different programs and some of its activities will be simulcast across various PNRI’s social media platforms to reach audiences that are not able to participate in person.
The annual AEW celebration, as mandated under Presidential Proclamation No. 1211 in 1973, aims to generate awareness among the Filipino people about the beneficial uses of nuclear science and technology.
(Photos by Rachel M. Rieza, DOST-STII)