The word “nuclear” can trigger fear, but it should inspire so much more. Peaceful nuclear technology has been powering people’s lives since the dawn of the nuclear age more than half a century ago.

Nuclear power plants provide reliable electricity in 30 countries, thanks in part to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which set a framework for increasing access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

In the 45 years since the NPT came into force, cooperation on peaceful nuclear energy has grown tremendously. Under Article IV of the treaty, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) helps countries in compliance with their NPT obligations to adopt nuclear tools for a wide range of peaceful applications.

With support from the IAEA, researchers in the Caribbean explore the use of nuclear techniques in addressing coastal issues like pollution. (Dean Calma/IAEA)

That assistance is not limited to generating power. Peaceful nuclear uses help address other modern challenges:

  • Food security: Nuclear technology enhances agricultural productivity. Nuclear science also helps detect animal diseases in Africa and reduces the threat of fruit flies in Latin America.
  • Human health: The IAEA helps nations use nuclear technology to diagnose and treat cancer and other diseases. Nuclear tools aid early detection of Ebola in Africa.
  • Environmental protection: Nuclear technology helps scientists understand and address environmental issues like climate change. It can also help trace pollution in marine waters and combat ocean acidification.

Through the IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative and other efforts, the United States helps countries enjoy the peaceful benefits of nuclear energy. This includes civil nuclear agreements that permit peaceful nuclear cooperation with nearly 50 countries. The United States also works to advance international efforts to guarantee reliable access to nuclear fuel.

Nuclear cooperation wouldn’t be possible without a strong nonproliferation treaty. Representatives of NPT signatory countries will meet in New York from April 27 to May 22 to assess its implementation and discuss how to meet future challenges.

Learn more

Explore the peaceful uses of nuclear science with Amazing Atoms, an app developed by the U.S. Department of State to present the full spectrum of projects underway around the globe to improve people’s lives. You can download Amazing Atoms for free from the iTunes App Store or the Google Play store.