Malta and the IAEA

Malta and the IAEA

Produced By Matthew Attard, Date: Jun 11, 2020

Speaking of Diplomacy in relation to Nuclear Science, what initially springs to mind are perhaps images of Summits between the leaders of Nuclear Powers amidst political tensions, Heads of State signing Disarmament treaties, the Cold War, or a State’s Nuclear arsenal. However, while traditional ‘’Nuclear Diplomacy’’ focused on military matters remains crucial in today’s political scenario, the international community has come to place ever-greater emphasis on the promotion of peaceful use of Nuclear Energy and Nuclear technology. This introduces a new face of Nuclear Science-related Diplomacy and moves the subject away from strictly military issues and towards national development.


As the United Nations’ ‘’Nuclear Watchdog,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conducts verification checks ensuring States’ compliance with international legal (treaty) obligations to use nuclear material and technology only for peaceful purpose and serves to inhibit their use for military purposes. However, the IAEA has both, a political and a technical dimension. Through its Technical Cooperation programme, the IAEA also transfers nuclear technology to Member States, helping them to address key development, helps Member States to identify and meet future energy needs, and assists in improving radiation safety and nuclear security worldwide. Back in 2010, the evolving multifaceted nature of the organization’s operations was highlighted by the late Japanese diplomat and former Director General of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano during the opening plenary session of the 54th IAEA General Conference.  


"I am trying to change the widespread perception of the Agency as simply the world´s ´nuclear watchdog´ because it does not do justice to our extensive activities in other areas, especially in nuclear energy, nuclear applications, and technical cooperation. This year, we are focusing on cancer, which is the subject of the Scientific Forum starting tomorrow"


Malta joined the Technical Cooperation in 1999 and through its strong diplomatic relations with the IAEA, has always ensured that Maltese entities and the general public reap the full benefits. Notably, Malta signed the Country Programme Framework 2018-2023 with the IAEA in 2018, an agreement outlining Malta’s priority areas and a plan for future technical cooperation with the organization.


For this cycle, the proposed national projects will focus on the areas of a Regulatory Framework for Safety and Security, Human Health, Cultural Heritage and, Water and the Environment, and will include the procurement of nuclear technology equipment and various related training opportunities and knowledge transfer activities. Through constant communication with relevant Maltese entities, the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs, through the Non Proliferation and Disarmament Desk, monitors the national projects, identifies potential regional projects for participation, and ensures a smooth working relation between the IAEA and Maltese Counterparts. This is further enhanced through Malta’s participation in the biannual National Liaison Officers’ Conference and the workshop for the National Liaison Officer and new Counterparts.


While the scope and extent of MFEA’s diplomatic work in Nuclear Disarmament might not be widely understood by the general public, its work with the IAEA on nuclear technology is perhaps more easily understood as impacting our everyday lives.

And in fact, the current programme has already brought major benefits to Malta, making notable achievements such as the establishment of the Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Act , the procurement of a Bruker Artax 800 X-ray fluorescence system used for non-destructive analysis of old paintings by the national cultural heritage agency, and A Gamma Camera used to diagnose patients with non-communicable diseases in Malta after radiopharmaceutical administration.

Matthew Attard, Second Secretary, Global Issues​​