IAEA Bulletin - Atoms for Peace Development

IAEA Bulletin - Atoms for Peace Development
A special edition of the IAEA Bulletin
on peaceful uses of nuclear technology
March 2015 • www.iaea.org/bulletin
safe &
sec ity
A special edition of the IAEA Bulletin
on peaceful uses of nuclear technology
March 2015 • www.iaea.org/bulletin
safe &
sec ity
is produced by the
Office of Public Information
and Communication (OPIC)
International Atomic Energy Agency
PO Box 100, 1400 Vienna, Austria
Phone: (43-1) 2600-21270
Fax: (43-1) 2600-29610
[email protected]
Editor: Miklos Gaspar
Managing Editor: Aabha Dixit
Contributing Editor: Nicole Jawerth
Design & Production: Ritu Kenn
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Views expressed in any signed article appearing in
the IAEA Bulletin do not necessarily represent those
of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the
IAEA accepts no responsibility for them.
Through the IAEA’s assistance, the peaceful uses of
nuclear techniques are put to use in various areas,
including human health, food and agriculture, the
environment, water, energy, nuclear safety and
security, and the preservation of artefacts.
(Design: Ritu Kenn)
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The International Atomic Energy Agency’s mission is to prevent the
spread of nuclear weapons and to help all countries — especially in
the developing world — benefit from the peaceful, safe and secure
use of nuclear science and technology.
Established as an autonomous organization under the United
Nations in 1957, the IAEA is the only organization within the UN
system with expertise in nuclear technologies. The IAEA’s unique
specialist laboratories help transfer knowledge and expertise to
IAEA Member States in areas such as human health, food, water and
the environment.
The IAEA also serves as the global platform for strengthening
nuclear security. The IAEA has established the Nuclear Security
Series of international consensus guidance publications on nuclear
security. The IAEA’s work also focuses on helping to minimize the
risk of nuclear and other radioactive material falling into the hands
of terrorists, or of nuclear facilities being subjected to malicious
The IAEA safety standards provide a system of fundamental
safety principles and reflect an international consensus on what
constitutes a high level of safety for protecting people and the
environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. The
IAEA safety standards have been developed for all types of nuclear
facilities and activities that serve peaceful purposes, as well as for
protective actions to reduce existing radiation risks.
The IAEA also verifies through its inspection system that Member
States comply with their commitments under the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty and other non-proliferation agreements
to use nuclear material and facilities only for peaceful purposes.
The IAEA’s work is multi-faceted and engages a wide variety
of partners at the national, regional and international levels.
IAEA programmes and budgets are set through decisions of its
policymaking bodies — the 35-member Board of Governors and
the General Conference of all Member States.
The IAEA is headquartered at the Vienna International Centre.
Field and liaison offices are located in Geneva, New York, Tokyo
and Toronto. The IAEA operates scientific laboratories in Monaco,
Seibersdorf and Vienna. In addition, the IAEA supports and
provides funding to the Abdus Salam International Centre for
Theoretical Physics, in Trieste, Italy.
Atoms for peace and development:
contributing to global progress through
nuclear science and technology
By Yukiya Amano, Director General, IAEA
illustrate the impact of the IAEA’s work
through 16 examples spanning the wide range
of our activities.
Our mandate has been summarized as Atoms
for Peace. Today, I feel that our mandate
could be better understood as Atoms for
Peace and Development.
You will read of the farmer in Mauritius who
can now grow high-quality cash crops, the
Senegalese cattle herder whose cows are
healthier than ever before, the Guatemalan
health official who can now diagnose
malnutrition and recommend treatment to
children at an early age, and the Romanian
priest who saved the beautiful iconostasis of
his church from being destroyed by insects.
All of these were made possible through the
application of nuclear science and technology
to everyday problems.
ultivating new crop varieties, reducing
soil erosion and helping African
countries respond to Ebola Virus Disease
are just some of the areas in which the IAEA
helps Member States to benefit from nuclear
technology. Assisting countries in the safe
and secure use of nuclear techniques for
development is as important to the IAEA
as its non-proliferation work. For many
developing countries, it is the most important
thing we do.
This is a milestone year for global
development as the international community
takes stock of the progress made towards
achieving the Millennium Development
Goals and finalizing the post-2015
Sustainable Development Goals. World
leaders have called for an ambitious post2015 agenda that provides a long-term plan
to improve people’s lives and to protect the
planet for future generations.
Science and technology are critical for
development. They need to be recognized
as an important enabler of the post-2015
development agenda. Nuclear science and
technology, in particular, have an enormous
contribution to make. The IAEA plays a
unique role in making nuclear science and
technology available to improve the lives of
people everywhere. I have been working hard
to improve recognition of the important role
played by the IAEA in this area.
One of the most gratifying aspects of my
work as IAEA Director General is meeting
people whose lives have been changed for
the better by our work. In this booklet, we
The IAEA also provides support to activities
related to nuclear power programmes. We
assist Member States which are considering
adding nuclear power to their energy mix
so that they can use it efficiently, safely and
securely. Our work in this area is illustrated
by stories on sustainable uranium mining
in Tanzania, nuclear power infrastructure
development in Turkey, the safe handling of
radioactive waste in Morocco, and increased
nuclear security through the conversion of a
research reactor in Kazakhstan.
“Our mandate has been
summarized as Atoms
for Peace. Today, I feel
that our mandate could
be better understood
as Atoms for Peace and
— Yukiya Amano,
Director General, IAEA
Membership of the IAEA continues to
grow and demand for our services in all
areas of nuclear sciences and applications is
increasing steadily. The IAEA Peaceful Uses
Initiative has been an effective mechanism in
raising additional resources for the IAEA to
meet this growing demand. I hope to be able
to continue with this valuable initiative in the
I trust that you will find that this booklet
provides a valuable insight into the very
special work of this unique organization.
Photos: D. Calma/IAEA
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 1
6 Bringing cancer care closer to home: Mauritania
opens first nuclear medicine centre
8 Eating better: Guatemala works to control the
double burden of malnutrition
10 South Africa improves exclusive breastfeeding
monitoring using nuclear technique
12 Ensuring quality while going local:
IAEA helps Cuba produce radiopharmaceuticals
Food & agriculture
14 On stable ground: tackling soil erosion with
nuclear techniques in Viet Nam
16 Eradicating tsetse flies: Senegal nears first
18 Sowing the seeds of change: plant
mutation breeding helps Bangladesh to feed
its growing population
20 Breathing easier: Indonesia works towards
cleaner air
22 Fishing for answers: Sri Lanka proves
radioactivity not an issue in its coastal waters
2 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
24 Bountiful crop with every drop: using drip
irrigation to increase yields and conserve water
26 Out of sight, but in their minds:
Brazil and its neighbours work together to protect
one of the world’s largest groundwater reservoirs
28 Water protection measures and community
involvement increase sustainability of uranium
mining in Tanzania
30 Towards safe and secure use of nuclear energy
in Turkey
Nuclear safety & security
32 Better safe than sorry: increasing safety in
radioactive waste management
34 Making the world more secure, one research
reactor at a time
36 Protecting Romania’s cultural heritage using
nuclear technology
1 Atoms for peace and development: contributing to global
progress through nuclear science and technology
4 Peace and development through the peaceful uses of
nuclear science and technology
38 Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI) — a glimpse into current and
future projects
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 3
Peaceful Nuclear Applications
Peace and development through the
peaceful uses of nuclear science and
The IAEA serves the
international goals
of peace, health and
prosperity by assisting
countries to adopt nuclear
tools for a wide range of
peaceful applications.
uclear science and technology can help
find solutions to many of the problems
people face every day across the globe. When
used safely and securely, nuclear science
and technology are effective supplements
or provide alternatives to conventional
approaches, which makes them an important
part of the international community’s work
for development. In its contribution to global
objectives, the IAEA serves the international
goals of peace, health and prosperity by
assisting countries to adopt nuclear tools for a
wide range of peaceful applications.
Within the context of global trends and
development, IAEA services — some highly
visible on the global stage, others delivered
more discreetly— underpin collective
efforts for the safe, secure and peaceful use
of nuclear science and technology. They
are supported by the IAEA’s specialized
laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria, and in
Monaco, as well as dedicated programmes,
networks and collaborations with partners.
Through the IAEA’s assistance, nuclear
techniques are put to use in various areas,
including human health, food and agriculture,
the environment, water, energy, nuclear safety
and security, and the preservation of artefacts.
Human health
Health is of critical importance to people’s
lives and to achieve sustainable development.
For low-income families, poor health can
reinforce cycles of poverty. To increase
access to health care, the IAEA and its
specialized laboratories support IAEA
Member States, in particular in low and
middle income (LMI) countries, with
assistance in the form of equipment, expert
guidance and training, and knowledge
exchange to aid in the use of nuclear
techniques for diagnosing, treating and
managing cancer, cardiovascular and other
non-communicable diseases. This work also
includes ensuring the safe and secure use and
management of radioactive sources, such as
those used in radiotherapy machines and for
sterilizing medical tools, as well as the safe
and secure production, availability and use of
radiopharmaceuticals — drugs that contain
4 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
radioactive substances — used in nuclear
medicine and radiation therapy.
Good health also relies on proper nutrition
and adequate access to food. Nuclear
techniques can be applied to monitor and
sustainably address malnutrition — from
severe malnourishment to obesity — and
to implement breastfeeding programmes
to improve nutrition and health from the
first days of life. The IAEA helps many
countries with training and the provision of
the equipment necessary to conduct these
nutrition-related projects.
Food and agriculture
A number of countries, particularly those
relying heavily on agriculture for food and
livelihoods, are turning to nuclear techniques
to enhance agricultural productivity and
food security and safety. IAEA projects
and programmes help to provide important
equipment and expert guidance, as well as
technology and training from the IAEA’s
specialized laboratories and partner
organizations like the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
With this support nuclear techniques can
be used by countries safely and properly, in
such areas as, breeding improved crop and
plant varieties, including vitamin or mineralenriched varieties; controlling animal and
plant pests and disease; improving food
safety; enhancing livestock reproduction and
nutrition; and strengthening soil and water
Food and agricultural development are often
affected by adverse environmental conditions.
This can pose serious challenges for many
countries, in particular in LMI countries with
economies that are reliant on agriculture.
With the IAEA’s support, many countries
use nuclear and isotopic tools to research
and address environment-related matters.
They can evaluate the impact of changing
environmental conditions due to natural
or man-made causes, as well as monitor
pollution, its trends and manage its impacts.
Nuclear safety and security
Access to safe water sources is essential to
supporting growing populations, accelerating
economic development and meeting the
demands of changing lifestyles. The quality
of ocean water not only impacts marine life,
but also affects those people who rely on
the sea for their livelihoods. Many countries
have now turned to the IAEA to assist them
in using nuclear and isotopic techniques
to better understand water in order to
sustainably manage and protect them for the
The IAEA’s assistance also facilitates
the safe and secure transport, handling
and use of radioactive materials in fuel
cycle technologies, radioactive sources
for energy production and other radiationrelated purposes. This support also includes
facilitating the proper and sustainable mining
of essential chemical elements for nuclear
energy production, as well as the effective
decommissioning and management of nuclear
facilities, radioactive waste and spent fuel
from cradle to grave.
Nuclear energy
Behind each IAEA project, programme
and service lies a foundation of safety and
security, which is undertaken in line with
international safety and security standards.
The IAEA provides Member States with
the assistance they need when they embark
on using nuclear science and technology,
through review services and facilitating
tailored, dedicated training and emergency
preparedness exercises. Ensuring that these
uses remain peaceful and are properly
managed in order to protect people and the
environment while achieving the full benefits
that these tools offer, are paramount attributes
of the IAEA’s services that are made
available to Member States.
In the face of climate change and increasing
demands for electricity, some countries are
now assessing or planning to include nuclear
power as part of their energy mixes. They
look to the IAEA for support to do so safely,
securely, economically and sustainably. The
IAEA assists these countries to do so in line
with internationally recognized safety and
security standards, best practices and relevant
legal instruments including respective nuclear
non-proliferation obligations.
Behind each IAEA project,
programme and service
lies a foundation of safety
and security.
What is the Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI)?
The IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI),
launched in 2010, has become instrumental
in raising extrabudgetary contributions
which supplement the Technical Cooperation
Fund to support technical cooperation
projects and other unfunded projects of the
IAEA in the areas of peaceful application
of nuclear technology. Additional resources
made available through the PUI have served
to enhance the IAEA’s ability to fulfil its
priorities and statutory responsibilities,
and to meet the needs of Member States.
Extrabudgetary contributions made through
the PUI have been used to support a wide
variety of IAEA activities aimed at promoting
broad development goals in Member States,
such as in the areas of food security, water
resource management, human health, nuclear
power infrastructure development and nuclear
safety, many of which would have remained
unfunded otherwise.
The PUI has also allowed the IAEA to be
more flexible and quicker in responding
to shifting priorities of Member States, as
well as to unexpected needs or unforeseen
emergency events, as demonstrated in the
aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident
as well as the Ebola virus disease outbreak
in western African States. To date, the PUI
has helped raise over €60 million in financial
contributions from 13 Member States and the
European Commission, in support of more
than 170 projects that benefit more than 130
Member States.
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 5
Bringing cancer care closer to home:
Mauritania opens first nuclear
medicine centre
By Omar Yusuf
“After four years,
Mauritania is able to
conduct radiotherapy
and nuclear medicine,
with very sophisticated
materials, and operated
by Mauritanians.”
­—Moustapha Mounah, Director,
National Oncology Centre, Mauritania
he opening of the Islamic Republic of
Mauritania’s first ever nuclear medicine
centre with IAEA support in late 2014
will lead to improved access to modern
diagnostics and treatment, as well as lower
costs. The new facility is part of the country’s
National Oncology Centre, which opened
in 2010, with support from the IAEA. The
centres offer comprehensive services in
diagnosing, treating and managing cancer
and other diseases in Mauritania and the
surrounding region.
our cancer patients to Morocco, Tunisia or
elsewhere. However, now we treat practically
all our patients locally,” said Abdoulaye
Mamadou Wagne, a radiotherapy technician
at the National Oncology Centre.
Nuclear medicine and radiotherapy are two
key areas of medicine that use radiation
and atoms that emit radiation, known as
radionuclides, to diagnose, treat and manage
diseases (see box).
Facing cancer head-on
Cancer kills more than 7.6 million people
every year — more than HIV/AIDS,
tuberculosis and malaria combined. It is
increasingly recognized as a major public
health problem across Africa. The burden
of the disease has worsened as rising
living standards have led to lifestyle and
environmental changes, such as unhealthy
diets, pollution and physical inactivity, that
increase the incidence of cancer.
Workers at Mauritania’s
National Oncology Centre,
established with support
from the IAEA.
(Photo: O. Yusuf/IAEA)
The country has come a long way in cancer
care over just a few years, said Moustapha
Mounah, Director of the National Oncology
Centre. “There were huge challenges ahead
of us. We had no infrastructure, no equipment
and no human resources to treat our patients,”
he said. “Now, after four years, Mauritania
is able to provide radiotherapy and nuclear
medicine services, with very sophisticated
materials, and operated by Mauritanians.”
Local access has made life easier
for patients
“Before working with the IAEA we had no
radiopharmacy technicians, and we sent all
6 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
For many years, Mauritania, one of Africa’s
34 least developed countries, has struggled to
address the financial and human costs related
to cancer. Haematological malignancies
and solid tumours, for example, require
specialized treatments that were not available
at Mauritanian hospitals, requiring patients to
seek treatment abroad. Cancer of the cervix,
breast, prostate, liver and ovary are among
the most common in the country.
Today, the two centres provide radiotherapy
and nuclear medicine services using a linear
particle accelerator and a high dose rate
brachytherapy machine. They also employ
more than 20 medical professionals trained
through IAEA fellowships, training courses
and expert visits.
“We are very enthusiastic about this
relationship [with the IAEA], which has
begun to deliver very positive results
in a very short time,” said President of
Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz,
at the inauguration of the new facility in
December 2014. “In terms of medical
treatment of cancer, we are now in a fairly
comfortable position.”
The National Oncology Centre is now
planning to share the new know-how with
neighbouring countries, so that cancer
diagnosis and care can improve throughout
the Sahel region. “We have plans to ensure
that our centre becomes a reference centre
and a training centre for the region,” Mounah
said. “We are becoming a centre whose work
is comprehensive and which is exceptionally
Supporting transformation through
The IAEA has supported Mauritania since
2004 through its technical cooperation
programme, assisting the government to
transform the country into a nation able
to safely and cost-effectively use nuclear
techniques. The country now uses nuclear
technologies and tools to fight pests
and animal disease, map water tables
underground, as well as monitor and measure
radiation dose levels to protect health care
professionals, the public and the environment
from ionizing radiation. It is also training
engineers and economists to use energy
planning tools and databases related to
nuclear energy.
Although Mauritania still has plenty to do, the
country has made great strides in a few short
years, giving patients access to better care
closer to home that will undoubtedly support
the fight against cancer, President Abdel
Aziz said. “We believe that in the future this
important relationship for our country, and
a model in the subregion, will continue to
evolve. Given these developments, we are
very confident that things will continue to
improve,” he said.
Nuclear medicine and radiotherapy
Cancer that was once considered unmanageable and fatal
can now be diagnosed earlier and treated more effectively
using nuclear techniques, giving patients a fighting chance
and, for many, a significant chance for a cure.
Nuclear medicine uses tiny amounts of radioactive
substances called radioisotopes for the diagnosis and
treatment of some health conditions. Some of the procedures
are performed outside of the body, while others, with the
help of radiopharmaceuticals that contain the radioisotopes,
are absorbed into a patient’s body resulting in a net benefit.
The small amounts of radiation emitted by the radioisotopes
in the radiopharmaceuticals can be tracked by special
cameras that create images of the specific tissues or organs
under investigation. Some diagnostic imaging techniques,
like X-rays, reveal static pictures of different body parts,
while others, like positron emission tomography, can reveal
the dynamics of how the body functions.
Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, uses beams of radiation
or radiation sources to target and kill cancer cells. When
the therapy is applied to a cancerous growth or tumour, it
is reduced in size or, in some cases, disappears altogether.
Radiopharmaceuticals can also be used at higher dose
levels to provide treatment. Careful calibration of these
different therapy techniques help to target cancer cells while
minimizing the radiation exposure to healthy cells.
A gamma camera traces and detects radiopharmaceuticals to
produce diagnostic images. (Photo: E. Estrada Lobato/IAEA)
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 7
Eating better: Guatemala works to
control the double burden of
By Aabha Dixit
“Nuclear science and
technology gave us the
tools to understand
and associate body
composition with
physiological changes,
which can help to prevent
disease later in life.”
­— Manuel Ramirez, Coordinator,
Research Centre for the Prevention of
Chronic Diseases, Institute of Nutrition
of Central America and Panama
(INCAP), Guatemala
A field worker discusses the
benefits of good nutrition at an
urban primary school in
(Photo: CIIPEC)
8 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
ith the help of nuclear techniques,
scientists and health workers in
Guatemala are now able to identify the causes
and consequences of malnutrition in the
country’s children, enabling policymakers
to devise strategies to combat obesity and
The country has one of the highest rates
of chronic malnutrition in the world,
and tackling it is a key priority for the
government, said former Social Development
Minister Lucy Lainfiesta.
“The Guatemalan Government’s proposal for
fighting chronic malnutrition will emphasize
the window of opportunity found in the first
1000 days of life, through interventions that
will ensure that mother and child have what
they need to be well nourished,” she said.
Projects using isotope technology to assess
nutritional status are “beginning to make
a positive and noticeable impact in our
nutrition programmes,” said Manuel Ramirez,
Coordinator of the Research Centre for the
Prevention of Chronic Diseases, from the
Institute of Nutrition of Central America
and Panama (INCAP). “Nuclear science and
technology gave us the tools to understand
and associate body composition with
physiological changes that can lead to disease
later in life.”
Measuring children’s total body water using
isotopic tracers helps to determine their body
composition, and the percentage of fat in
their body, which in turn allows specialists to
prescribe the right diet (see box).
The IAEA’s support has helped Guatemala
and other Member States to have the
necessary information and data to design or
improve their nutrition programmes. These
include increasing the intake of vitamins
and minerals through food fortification
or micronutrient supplementation,
complementing advocacy for healthy eating,
and increased physical activity.
Fewer tortillas, more carrots
Lack of protein and micronutrients in diets,
composed mainly of high carbohydrate
foods, is a major reason for malnutrition in
Guatemala, according to Ramirez. Health
workers have noticed that in rural areas,
children between six months and three years
of age regularly eat corn tortilla softened
with caffeinated drinks. This food is not
beneficial for infants and young children,
who should instead eat healthier locally
produced food like eggs, avocado, bananas,
soft cooked vegetables, beans, rice and
oatmeal. Poor quality diets in infancy can
lead to obesity later in life. With the help
of nuclear techniques, scientists are able
to track the amount of protein absorbed by
the body and make diet recommendations
accordingly, keeping in mind the availability
of ingredients locally, explained Christine
Slater, Acting Head of the Nutrition Section
at the IAEA.
While obesity is the main health challenge
among children in the cities, in rural
areas, the indigenous population mostly
suffers from the opposite problem. Nearly
eight out of ten indigenous children are
stunted, compared to just four out of ten
non-indigenous children, Ramirez said. The
latest research results have clarified that,
contrary to popular belief, the short stature
of indigenous Guatemalans is not due to
genetics. It is caused by inappropriate feeding
practices and poor diet in the early years of
life, he said.
Stunting is a major contributor to poverty,
Ramirez said. Stunted children face learning
difficulties, which prevents them from
earning well later on in life. There is an
urgent need to ensure that diverse nutritious
diets are available and accessible.
While all stunted children need adjustments
to their diets, nuclear techniques can help
determine how their diets should be changed,
Slater said. “There is a growing realization
that measuring the weight and height of
children is not enough,” Slater explained.
“We need to understand body composition in
order to determine healthy growth.”
~5.8–6% Mineral ~5.5–6%
~16–18% Protein ~14–16%
~15–20% Fat ~20–30%
~55–65% Water ~55–65%
Water, protein, fat and mineral matters are the main
components of the body and these can be altered with
age, ethnicity and nutritional status.
Source: www.jawon.com
Children who are obese, stunted or both tend
to lead less healthy lifestyles and suffer more
health problems later in life, Ramirez said.
“These children walk less, have lower oxygen
consumption and poor blood circulation,”
he said.
With the information and data collected under
IAEA projects, a task force endorsed by eight
health ministers from Central America was
established in June 2014 to develop a regional
policy on the prevention and management of
obesity in children and adolescences.
Evaluating food acceptability
of healthy recipes for school
age children.
Using isotopes to measure body composition
Stable isotopes can be used to
measure the amount of water and
nutrients in the body and the amount
of ingested nutrients the person’s
body absorbs. They can also be used
to measure the rate of absorption,
utilization or synthesis of proteins,
fats or carbohydrates. Stable isotopes
are non-radioactive, so there is no
radiation hazard associated with their
Stable isotope labelled compounds
are absorbed and behave in the body
in the same way as their unlabelled
counterparts, but because they
have a different molecular mass,
they are traceable. For example, to
measure the percentage of water and
fat in the body, a person is given
a drink of special water, rich in
deuterium, which is a stable isotope
of hydrogen. Isotopes of an element
have the same number of protons,
but one or more extra neutrons,
giving them a heavier molecular
A few hours after a person drinks
a small, carefully weighed amount
of water with deuterium isotopes
(D2O), the deuterium is evenly
spread through the body water. The
body water can then be sampled
in the form of saliva or urine, and
the amount of deuterium measured.
Because technicians know the
amount of labelled water they
gave the patient and subsequently
measured the amount and proportion
of labelled molecules in the body
water, they can calculate how much
water there is in the body.
From this they can calculate the
amount of lean, or non-fat, tissue
by knowing that water forms 73 per
cent of the lean tissue weight. The
difference between the body weight
and the amount of lean tissue is the
amount of fat. Depending on how
the fat content differs from the norm,
they can prescribe the relevant diet or
advice concerning physical activity.
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 9
South Africa improves exclusive
breastfeeding monitoring using
nuclear technique
By Sasha Henriques
“The programme
had a big impact on
improving exclusive
breastfeeding rates.”
— Anna Coutsoudis,
Professor, Department of Paediatrics
and Child Health, University of
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
abies in South Africa that would once
be at high risk of malnutrition, disease
and even death, now have brighter futures
as nuclear techniques help mothers become
more diligent about exclusive breastfeeding
for the baby’s first six months.
Healthcare practitioners, especially those in
developing countries, have been promoting
this concept in clinics, health centres
and maternity wards in order to prevent
malnutrition, disease and eventually death in
Breastfed children are more resistant
to disease and infection compared to
formula-fed children, points out the World
Health Organization, which recommends that
from birth up to six months of age babies
should drink only breast milk. Research
indicates that breastfed babies are less likely
to develop diabetes, cardiovascular disease
and cancer later in life.
Health officials in South Africa thought their
efforts were successful, because research
— which relied on mothers’ self-reports
of breastfeeding frequency — showed a
significant increase in numbers. However,
the infant mortality rate did not show a
commensurate drop.
In 2013, around 1.1 million babies were born
in South Africa, and 33 babies out of every
1000 live births ended up dying within a year,
according to the country’s official statistics.
Something was not right.
Nuclear lie detector
In 2010, researchers in South Africa, with
funding and support from the IAEA, started
using a nuclear non-radioactive method
called the deuterium dilution technique (see
box) to get accurate figures about how many
babies were being exclusively breastfed,
and when complementary foods were being
introduced into babies’ diets.
The results were distressing and showed
that the mothers’ reports of exclusive
breastfeeding were a large overestimation
compared to the more accurate information
that was obtained by using the deuterium
dilution technique, said Coutsoudis.
Mothers at Cato Manor Clinic
in Durban, South Africa.
(Photo: H. Mulol)
“South Africa has very poor exclusive
breastfeeding rates and improving
breastfeeding practices in order to reverse
the dismal infant mortality rates in our
country has now become an urgent priority,”
said Anna Coutsoudis, Professor in the
Department of Paediatrics and Child Health
at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South
Africa. 10 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
Having IAEA training and support in
acquiring equipment to use this technique
made it possible for Coutsoudis and her team
of health researchers to more accurately
assess the impact of programmes designed
to improve the poor exclusive breastfeeding
rates, which were estimated to be 6 per cent
at three months old and only 1 per cent at
six months old, according to a 2008 study in
KwaZulu-Natal. 33.3%
“In 2012, we instituted a long term mentoring
programme with new mothers who were
simultaneously trained as breastfeeding
counsellors. The deuterium dilution
technique was used to validate reported
breastfeeding practices. We were able to
show that the mentoring and counselling
programme had a big impact on improving
exclusive breastfeeding rates,” said
Coutsoudis. By the end of the programme,
exclusive breastfeeding rates had improved
significantly, to 33.3 per cent at three months
and 13.7 per cent at six months.
The new mentorship and counselling
programme has been so effective that
Coutsoudis said there are mothers resisting
the strong external pressure to introduce
complementary foods too early.
Here are the accounts, as told by Coutsoudis,
of Ms K and Ms C:
“Ms K said, ‘My friends came to visit me at
my house and asked “what porridge are you
feeding your baby as she is so fat and looks
so good’. I replied: ‘I am not giving porridge,
only breast milk.’
“Her friends did not believe her so they
looked in her cupboard to see if she had any
porridge and there was none. She proceeded
to inform them very casually about how all
mothers can produce a lot of milk to feed
Deuterium dilution
The mother drinks water labelled with
deuterium, a stable, non-radioactive
isotope of hydrogen (D2O). The deuterium
mixes with the water in the mother’s body,
including her milk, and enters the baby when
it suckles. The saliva of the mother and baby
then contains deuterium. Over the next two
weeks, scientists regularly collect samples
of saliva and measure the deuterium content.
How much deuterium they find is directly
proportionate to how much breast milk the
baby has ingested.
The technique also shows if the baby has
ingested anything other than human milk over
the test period.
3 months
6 months
Improvement in breastfeeding rates in South
Africa following mentoring and counselling
programme from 2008 to 2012.
Source: Helen Mulol, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
their babies on breast milk only in the first six
months by feeding the baby often – every 2 to
3 hours when they are small.”
“Ms C said she went to the clinic for her
immunization visit and the sister [nurse/
healthcare worker] told her that her baby was
too fat and she should stop breastfeeding,
she told the sister she was only giving the
baby breast milk and you can’t overfeed a
breastfed baby so she was not going to feed
her baby less.”
“A mathematical model is used to determine
how much of the deuterium given to the
mother appears in the baby’s saliva. This
is related to the amount of human milk
consumed by the baby. The mathematical
model also gives an estimate of the amount
of water from sources other than the mother’s
milk, and therefore whether or not the baby is
exclusively breastfed,” said Christine Slater,
Acting Head of the Nutrition Section at the
Baby giving a saliva sample at
Cato Manor Clinic in Durban,
South Africa.
(Photo: H. Mulol)
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 11
Ensuring quality while going local:
IAEA helps Cuba produce
By Nicole Jawerth
“First, it was Cuba
requesting the support
with fellowships and
expert training, but
now we are providing
training to fellows in
radiopharmaceuticals and
generator production.”
— René Leyva Montaña,
Director of Production, CENTIS , Cuba
The newly established facility
for producing Y-90-based
radiopharmaceuticals has good
manufacturing practices
compliant hot cells for
protecting workers and
ensuring the production of
high-quality drugs.
(Photo: CENTIS)
12 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
ancer and cardiovascular disease are
health conditions Cuba will now be able
to more readily diagnose and treat thanks
to its newly built facility for producing key
radiopharmaceuticals. Nuclear medicine
requires a constant and reliable supply of
these radioactive drugs, prepared according
to what the industry calls good manufacturing
practices (GMP), and there have so far been
limitations in getting them to the island
“Through our work with the IAEA, we
now have a dedicated GMP compliant
facility and the expertise to meet most
of our national needs for diagnostic and
therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals for helping
patients,” said René Leyva Montaña,
Director of Production at the Isotope Centre
(CENTIS), Cuba’s centre dedicated to
radiopharmaceutical production.
GMP follow a series of international qualityassurance standards designed to protect
patients from bad quality products. The
standards outline the requirements to ensure
that the pharmaceuticals produced are of a
high quality, safe and effective, and that they
contain the correct potency. “Becoming GMP
compliant is a demanding, but important
process, as a facility must be designed to
ensure quality since the products have to
be prepared already ready for patient use,”
said Joao Osso, Head of the Radioisotope
Products and Radiation Technology Section
at the IAEA.
Cuba’s new facility will produce generatorbased radiopharmaceuticals (see box) with
yttrium-90 (Y-90), a key component in
nuclear medicine to treat liver cancer and
other conditions. Y-90 is produced from
its parent isotope, strontium-90 (Sr-90).
Sr-90 is a radioisotope, which means it is
a radioactive element that decays towards
stability. As it slowly decays, it releases
Y-90, another radioisotope that has a much
shorter decay time. Using special devices
called generators, Y-90 can be ‘milked’ from
the Sr-90 inside the generator. The Y-90 is
then quickly purified and tagged to specific
molecules to be used in nuclear medicine.
“Being able to produce the Y-90 generators
in the country is much more economical and
feasible than buying completed products
abroad, as Y-90 has a short decay time,
which makes it very difficult and costly to
transport,” said Osso, adding that Cuba will
still need to buy raw materials, like the Sr-90,
from suppliers abroad.
The IAEA has supported Cuba in developing
the GMP compliant facility by providing
the technical assistance and training needed
for the development and production of
Y-90, including labelling, quality control,
metrology, safety and security, Osso said.
Cuba has also received IAEA assistance
and funding to buy analytical, radiological
protection and metrology equipment and the
materials required.
At this stage, CENTIS is preparing different
formulations of Y-90 for diagnostic and
therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals that can
soon go to clinical trials and later to patients,
explained Leyva Montaña. The facility is
now waiting for the final licensing approval
before it is ready for full-scale production,
Leyva Montaña added.
Tackling an international supply
In contrast to Y-90 and Sr-90, which are
widely available, technetium-99m (Tc-99m),
another radioisotope of importance to Cuba
and much of the world, is facing international
supply problems due to production issues
with its parent radioisotope, molybdenum-99
“Tc-99m is the ‘workhorse’ of nuclear
medicine. Over 70 per cent of all nuclear
medicine studies carried out all over the
world use this single isotope,” Leyva
Montaña explained. Global supply problems
with Tc-99m began in the late 2000s due
to production stops by two nuclear reactors
responsible for two-thirds of the world’s
supply of Mo-99. The challenges with
these reactors and the limited production
capabilities of other countries impact the
availability of supplies, said Osso. Strict air
transport regulations related to transporting
radioactive material has also created
challenges with moving international supplies
particularly to islands such as Cuba, Leyva
Montaña added.
One of Cuba’s approaches to mitigate supply
challenges has been to collaborate with the
IAEA in finding new suppliers of Mo-99,
as well as to develop its own facilities to
produce the Mo-99/Tc-99m generators,
Leyva Montaña said, adding that the benefits
will trickle down to other islands in the
Caribbean. “The project will have a very
positive impact on Cuba, and will also
prepare Cuba to give the necessary support to
small countries in the region.”
“One of the main problems for Cuba that
may arise from the supply issues is the price
increase of Mo-99. As the prices go up, we
would eventually not have the funds to import
all that is needed, and consequently, patients
would not receive the assistance they need,”
said Leyva Montaña. “Until now, though, the
international supply problems have not had a
significant effect on Cuba, but we expect there
could be an impact so we are working on
solutions now to try to mitigate that.”
Cuba’s role in the region and internationally
has changed since the country began
collaborating with the IAEA, said Leyva
Montaña. “First, it was Cuba requesting the
support with fellowships and expert training,
but now we are providing training to fellows
in radiopharmaceuticals and generators
production, supporting IAEA coordinated
research projects, and facilitating exchanges
and cooperation with several countries
Cuba will soon have good
manufacturing practices
compliant facilities able to
produce Mo-99/Tc-99m
(Photo: CENTIS)
Radiopharmaceuticals are medical drugs that
contain small amounts of radioactive substances
called radioisotopes. Radioisotopes are atoms
that emit radiation. The radioisotopes used
in radiopharmaceuticals can be produced by
irradiating a specific target inside a nuclear
research reactor or in particle accelerators, such
as cyclotrons. Once produced, the radioisotopes
are tagged on to certain molecules based on
biological characteristics, which then result in
Once inside a patient’s body, the different
physical characteristics and biological
properties of radiopharmaceuticals cause
them to interact with or bind to different
proteins or receptors. This in turn means
that the drugs tend to concentrate more in
specific body parts depending on that area’s
biological characteristics. Therefore, using
special cameras, doctors are able to precisely
target areas of the body to examine or treat by
selecting specific types of radiopharmaceuticals.
If the radioisotope emits particulate radiation
the radiopharmaceutical may also be used in
therapeutical applications.
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 13
Food & agriculture
On stable ground: tackling soil erosion
with nuclear techniques in Viet Nam
By Miklos Gaspar
“Now that we know
where precisely erosion
comes from, we can
undertake the proper
mitigation measures.”
— Othman Zainudin,
Sultan Idris University,
Tanjong Malim, Malaysia
ao Thanh Canh never studied physics or
chemistry in school, but he understands
a thing or two about nuclear isotopes. Until
a couple of years ago, much of his fiveacre farm on the hills of central Viet Nam
was gradually sliding away. Thanks to
nuclear techniques used in determining
the exact cause and source of soil erosion,
his land is now stable, and his coffee
plantation profitable. “We were very worried
as uncertainty loomed,” he said. “A few
centimetres of the soil disappeared every year
when we had big hail storms.”
Thanh Canh is not alone. Soil degradation
affects 1.9 billion hectares of land worldwide,
close to two thirds of global soil resources.
Erosion’s vicious cycle
Erosion affects the top — most fertile —
layer of the soil. It also carries away much of
the fertilizer used in agriculture and deposits
it in fresh water, where the fertilizer feeds
algae, which sharply decrease water quality.
“It is a double blow,” said Mohammad
Zaman, a soil scientist at the Joint FAO/IAEA
Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and
Above: Thanks to nuclear
techniques, farmer Dao Thanh
Canh was able to control soil
erosion on his coffee
Top right: The sloping hills of
Viet Nam are particularly
susceptible to soil erosion.
(Photos: P. S. Hai,
Centre for Environmental Research
and Monitoring, Dalat Nuclear Research
14 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
Soil erosion is the main contributor to land
degradation globally, leading to an annual
loss of 75 billion tonnes of fertile soil, with
an economic cost of about US $126 billion
per year. The IAEA, in partnership with the
Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations (FAO), helps scientists and
farmers in measuring and controlling soil
erosion through the use of various nuclear
techniques. These include using fallout
radionuclides, which help to assess soil
erosion rates, and compound specific stable
isotope analysis, which assists in tracing hot
spots of land degradation (see box).
Intensive agriculture, along with
deforestation, is a common cause of erosion,
Zaman explained. Aggressive farming
removes the organic matter that binds the soil
particles together, leaving the area vulnerable
to erosion during heavy storms. Nuclear
techniques help identify erosion hot spots,
enabling follow-up mitigation measures to
focus on areas most at risk. “As a result of
our work, treatment is more targeted, more
effective and as a result cheaper,” Zaman
said. Following the impact of the project in
various Asian countries, the IAEA is now
working to replicate its success in other parts
of the world and is forming a network of
national experts to share best practices and
Measuring erosion to find solutions
In Viet Nam, where three quarters of the
country’s territory is sloping land, erosion
is a major problem. An FAO/IAEA pilot
project in Lam Dong province in Viet Nam
measured soil erosion rates using nuclear
techniques at 27 sites. Adopting appropriate
conservation practices such as intercropping,
creating basins near coffee trees to trap water,
and building terraces, led to a 45 per cent
reduction in soil erosion, said Phan Son Hai,
Director of the Centre for Environmental
Research and Monitoring at the Dalat Nuclear
Research Institute, which has participated in
the project since 2012. Similar results were
achieved throughout the region (see chart).
Son Hai is now assisting colleagues across
the country to introduce nuclear techniques
for erosion monitoring nationwide.
In Malaysia, which is also part of the project,
Othman Zainudin has been monitoring
an area of high erosion in Perlis State, in
the northern part of the country, for over
ten years, and switched to using nuclear
techniques two years ago. “With the new
techniques we can obtain much more detailed
information,” said Zainudin, who teaches
geomorphology at the Sultan Idris Education
University in northern Malaysia. Previously,
his team could only measure sedimentation
rates in lakes, but could not identify the exact
source of the sediments, he explained.
“Now that we know where precisely erosion
comes from, we can undertake proper
mitigation measures,” Zainudin said. Later
this year, in cooperation with the State
Reduction in soil erosion in target areas since 2012
Viet Nam
Agriculture Department, he will organize a
training programme for farmers on techniques
to reduce soil erosion. “We could not have
done such a knowledge transfer programme
before because we did not know the precise
source of erosion,” he said.
Source: IAEA
As for Dao Thanh Canh in Viet Nam, his
income has increased by over 20 per cent,
with tea plants and animal fodder growing
in erosion hot spots among his coffee trees.
He is no longer uncertain about the future
and feels free to spend his extra income, he
said. Much of his extra money is now going
toward schooling for his four children.
“I am determined to offer them the education
I could never get,” he said.
Fallout radionuclides and compound specific
stable isotope analysis
Fallout radionuclides (FRNs) originate
mostly from nuclear weapons testing and
were dispersed over a large area around the
world. They are present in the atmosphere
and are deposited on the soil surface through
FRNs can help to identify changes in soil
redistribution patterns and rates in large
catchment areas and to evaluate the efficiency
of soil conservation measures in controlling
soil erosion. FRNs can be measured non-
destructively and relatively easily using
modern high-resolution gamma spectrometry.
The compound specific stable isotope (CSSI)
technique is used to identify where eroded
soil originated because CSSIs are specific
to different plants. By studying the CSSI
make-up of the eroded soil, scientists can
trace it back to its origins.
Combining both approaches provides a strong
link between the sediment in the catchment
and its source of erosion.
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 15
Food & agriculture
Eradicating tsetse flies: Senegal
nears first victory
By Aabha Dixit
“Now, we can even
sleep out in the open.
This was unthinkable
before because of the
tsetse bites.”
— Loulou Mendy,
farmer, Niayes, Senegal
fter a four-year eradication programme
including nuclear techniques, the Niayes
region of Senegal is now almost free of the
tsetse fly, which used to decimate livestock.
“I have not seen a single tsetse fly for a year
now,” said cattle farmer Oumar Sow. “This is
in contrast to earlier, when they increased in
numbers, especially during the cold season.
The flies were really a nuisance to our
animals and we had to carefully select the
time for milking. Now, there is no problem
with that.”
has suppressed the fly population by 98
per cent in two of the three areas in Niayes
infested with tsetse, while the technique will
be implemented in a third area next year,
said Baba Sall, Project Manager at Senegal’s
Ministry of Livestock and Animal Production.
Eradicating the flies will significantly
improve food security, and contribute to
socio-economic progress, Sall said, adding
that research on 227 farms has indicated that
the income of the rural population in Niayes
will increase by 30 per cent.
Life has become more comfortable not only
for the animals, but also for the farmers,
said Loulou Mendy, a pig farmer in the area.
“Now, we can even sleep out in the open,” he
said. “This was unthinkable before because of
the tsetse bites.”
One of the 38 African countries infested with
the tsetse fly, Senegal has a total infested
area of around 60 000 km2, Sall said. The
operational phase of the campaign against the
tsetse fly started in the Niayes region near the
capital Dakar in 2011. Situated on the West
Atlantic coast, made up of the remnants of
Guinean forests, with the African oil palm
as its main vegetation, Niayes has a coastal
microclimate and ecological conditions that
are favourable to the tsetse fly, Glossina
palpalis gambiensis.
Deployment of a tsetse trap to
monitor the progress of the
eradication campaign in the
Niayes of Senegal.
(Photo: M. Vreysen/Joint FAO/IAEA Division)
The tsetse fly is a bloodsucking insect that
kills more than three million livestock in
sub-Saharan Africa every year, costing the
agriculture industry more than US $4 billion
annually. The tsetse fly transmits parasites
that cause a wasting disease called nagana
in cattle. In some parts of Africa the fly also
causes over 75 000 cases of human ‘sleeping
sickness’, which affects the central nervous
system, and causes disorientation, personality
changes, slurred speech, seizures, difficulty
walking and talking, and ultimately death.
Eradicating reproduction
Senegal has successfully integrated an insect
birth control technique using irradiation
to sterilize male flies, reducing the fly
population over time (see box). The technique
16 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
This region was selected by the Senegalese
Government, as it is particularly suitable for
breeds of cattle that produce more milk and
meat than cattle in other areas. However,
the high incidence of livestock infertility
and weight loss, due to nagana, resulted
in reduced meat and milk production, and
cattle that were too frail to plough the land
or transport produce, which in turn severely
affected crop production, said Marc Vreysen,
Head of the Insect Pest Control Laboratory
at the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear
Techniques in Food and Agriculture.
Previous eradication attempts
Prior eradication campaigns were carried
out in the Niayes region from 1971 to 1981,
leading to a decrease in tsetse flies for a
The project in Senegal started with a
feasibility study initiated in 2006, supported
by the IAEA, the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations,
the International Cooperation Centre of
Agricultural Research for Development
(CIRAD), and the Government of Senegal
through the Senegalese Institute for
Sterilization using nuclear techniques is most
effective under exactly these circumstances:
when the fly population has been reduced
significantly using conventional techniques
but there are still pockets of insects left,
Vreysen explained. “The sterilized male flies
will seek out the virgin females wherever
they are,” he said. “This will lead to complete
elimination of the population in these areas.”
Area 1 Area 2 Area 3
decade, said Sall, but the re-emergence of
this pest in 2003 has had severe repercussions
for livestock and farmers’ livelihoods since.
Research revealed that previous eradication
attempts were unsuccessful because the
campaigns did not manage to reach the entire
tsetse fly population in the area, leaving
residual pockets from which the tsetse
population could recover.
Of the three areas in
Niayes infested with
tsetse flies, sterilization
using the sterile insect
technique suppressed the
tsetse fly population by
98-100% in two areas.
The technique will be
implemented in the third
area next year.
Agricultural Research and the Directorate for
Veterinary Services to assess the possibility
of creating a tsetse-free zone in the Niayes
region. This four-year study found that 28.7
per cent of cattle had devastating health
problems due to the tsetse fly.
The release of sterile male flies began in
2012, after a three-year period of pilot trials,
training, preparation and testing.
Birth control for flies
The sterile insect technique (SIT) is a form
of pest control that uses ionizing radiation to
sterilize male flies that are mass-produced in
special rearing facilities. The sterile males are
released systematically from the ground or by
air in tsetse-infested areas, where they mate with
wild females, which do not produce offspring. As
a result, this technique can eventually eradicate
populations of wild flies. The SIT is among the
most environmentally friendly control tactics
available, and is usually applied as the final
component of an integrated campaign to remove
insect populations.
The Joint FAO/IAEA Division supports about 40
SIT field projects delivered through the IAEA
technical cooperation programme, like the one
in Senegal, in different parts of Africa, Asia,
Europe and Latin America. It has supported the
successful eradication of the tsetse fly from the
island of Unguja, Zanzibar; in Ethiopia it has
reduced the fly population by 90 per cent in parts
of the Southern Rift valley.
Aerial releases of sterile male tsetse flies over the Niayes using a gyrocopter.
(Photo: J. Bouyer/CIRAD)
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 17
Food & agriculture
Sowing the seeds of change: plant
mutation breeding helps Bangladesh
to feed its growing population
By Nicole Jawerth
“Now I can fulfil the needs
of my family; my two
daughters are going to
college. I can now buy
better food and clothes.”
— Mohammad Faridul Islam,
farmer, Ishurdi, Bangladesh
New mutant plant varieties
made using nuclear techniques
have helped farmer
Mohammad Faridul Islam
increase crop yields and
improve his livelihood.
(Photo: I. Khalil/BINA)
18 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
illages in the northern region of
Bangladesh used to struggle with
poverty and hunger during the long months
of the ‘monga’ periods, but they are now
bustling as farmers and workers harvest
new crop varieties developed using nuclear
“‘Monga’ is a Bengali word meaning
‘starvation,’” explained Mirza Mofazzal
Islam, Principal Scientific Officer and
Head of the Biotechnology Division at the
Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture
(BINA). It is used to describe the time
between mid-September and mid-November
and from March to April, when “there is no
work for the farm workers. They suffer; they
are foodless,” said Mofazzal Islam.
Conventional rice crops take approximately
140 to 150 days to ripen, which results in
long gaps between harvests, and increases
the risks of crop damage due to diseases,
hailstorms and drought, explained A. H.
M. Razzaque, BINA’s Director General. A
mutant rice variety produced by BINA with
IAEA support using nuclear techniques (see
box) has higher yields and shorter maturation
periods of 110 to 120 days, allowing 30
to 35 extra days to grow other crops and
With this variety, “farmers are now going
for winter vegetables, pulses and oil seeds,
then going again for another rice crop. So the
whole period is occupied by crops, enhancing
farming activity and increasing cropping
intensity,” Razzaque said. This has increased
the income of farmers, including women,
and it has also contributed to Bangladesh’s
approximately 26 per cent increase in rice
production since 2003, Razzaque noted.
In the north-western part of Bangladesh, a
region not affected by monga, new mutant
varieties have also helped farmers facing
harsh environmental conditions. “The
livelihood of the farmers has changed with
the new [mutant] varieties, especially mung
bean and lentil varieties,” said Mohammad
Faridul Islam, a farmer from the village
Ishurdi. “Now I can fulfil the needs of my
family; my two daughters are going to
college. I can now buy better foods and
clothes. Last year, I also bought farm land to
increase my farm, as well as built my new
house. My family no longer complains about
their needs. They are happy.”
Coastal farmers are facing an entirely
different problem, Razzaque said. More than
one million hectares of land are affected by
saline soil conditions and degradation and
are unfit for cultivation using traditional
crops. There are now two inbred varieties that
are more saline-tolerant, and by replacing
traditional varieties with BINA varieties,
40 to 50 per cent of these fallow lands can
be cultivated, Razzaque explained. “But we
need more saline-tolerant varieties in order
to keep the land cultivated year-round,” he
Preparing for climate change
Climate change is exacerbating the country’s
environmental conditions, causing more
saline water to enter normal soil, untimely
rainfalls that lead to flooding and an
increased number of areas with severe
drought, said Razzaque.
“The government is pushing us to have
good, sustainable mutant varieties to face
the coming climate change issues,” said
Mofazzal Islam. “That is why we are
keenly aware of the importance of nuclear
technology in developing such varieties so
that we are prepared to combat the effects
of the changing climate on agricultural
With the IAEA’s support through training
and fellowships, expert visits, human
resources and laboratory development, and
the provision of equipment since 1971, BINA
has been able to develop new mutant crop
varieties. The Institute has developed over
59 varieties using nuclear technology and 23
varieties of 12 different crop species using
markerassisted and other breeding techniques. With
the many varieties, “we can address farmers’
needs and problems, and now hopefully the
increasing demand,” Mofazzal Islam said.
“Once you fill your stomach, the question
comes to quality,” Razzaque said. The
demands are rising as farmers and the
Government are becoming interested in
different qualities and more nutritious crop
varieties, fortified with zinc and iron, he
said. “We have severe health problems in
Bangladesh with zinc and iron deficiencies,
particularly for lactating mothers and young
kids. If they lack these micronutrients during
pregnancy, after birth, they can suffer from
other diseases and disabled children can be
Total rice production in Bangladesh
26.8 million tonnes
33.8 million tonnes
BINA’s mutant rice varieties contribute to
Bangladesh’s increased rice production
Source: BINA
Looking ahead
BINA aims to continue collaborating with
the IAEA. “We are expanding the horizon
of our activities with the IAEA’s help,” said
Razzaque. Now, in addition to plant mutation
breeding, BINA is also working with the
IAEA on soil and water management, pest
control, and technology transfer to support
farmers in Bangladesh and neighboring
countries, he explained.
“Research is a continuous process. We cannot
stop,” said Razzaque. “Our research strategy
aims to satisfy the farmers with finer quality
and nutritionally-enriched varieties, while
facing the challenges prevailing in the fields
and the climate. We will continue to develop
new varieties and new technologies to fulfil
the demand of the farmers and the demand of
the country as a whole.”
Plant mutation breeding
Plant mutation breeding is the process of
exposing plant seeds, cuttings or a shredded
plant leaf to radiation, such as gamma rays,
and then planting the seed or cultivating
the irradiated material in a sterile rooting
medium, which generates a plantlet. The
individual plants are then multiplied and
examined for their traits. Molecular markerassisted breeding, often referred to as
marker-assisted selection (MAS), is used to
accelerate the selection of plants carrying
genes of interest (desired traits). MAS
involves using molecular markers for the
selection of plants carrying certain genes that
express desired traits. Those exhibiting the
desired traits are further cultivated.
Plant mutation breeding does not involve
gene modification, but rather uses a plant’s
own genetic resources and mimics the natural
process of spontaneous mutation, the motor
of evolution, a process that otherwise takes
hundreds of millions of years. By using
radiation, scientists can significantly shorten
the time it takes to see beneficial variations
to as short as a year. Adequate screening
techniques target certain traits to address key
needs, such as plants tolerant to high salt
levels in soil or resistant to certain pests. This
makes it possible to validate a new variety for
use in record time.
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 19
Breathing easier: Indonesia works
towards cleaner air
By Michael Amdi Madsen
“In the next three to
five years, we’ll be
covering 34 cities, and
accomplish our goal of
monitoring the capitals
of all of Indonesia’s
­— Muhayatun Santoso,
senior researcher, National Nuclear
Energy Agency (BATAN), Indonesia
ndonesians can look forward to breathing
cleaner air following upcoming changes
in regulations introduced as a result of a
study conducted using nuclear analytical
techniques. Lead pollution and other fine
particulate matter in the air is now, for
the first time, being accurately monitored
and is giving Indonesian officials a good
understanding of their air pollution problem
and how to manage it.
“This is a big step for us,” said Muhayatun
Santoso, a senior researcher at Indonesia’s
National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN).
“We are looking to have strengthened
environmental regulations in place before
the country embarks on major energy
development projects.”
Air sampling in Palangka
Raya, Borneo, Indonesia.
(Photo: M. Santoso/BATAN)
This was not always the case. In 2006
Indonesia launched an urban air quality
improvement project, aimed at having
clean and healthy urban air in Indonesia in
2020. The country introduced a monitoring
system that utilized a variety of conventional
techniques, including air quality management
systems in ten cities and passive samplers in
33 provinces.
“Due to limited resources, the air quality
management systems couldn’t operate
effectively in all ten cities — maintaining the
system cost a lot of money,” Santoso said.
“The system itself had limits too, and could
not monitor particulate matter smaller than
2.5 micrometres, meaning it wasn’t detecting
a range of potentially harmful air pollutants.
20 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
We needed to improve the system and try
something different.”
Trying something new
Trying something different meant working
with the IAEA to include nuclear analytical
techniques in the air quality monitoring
project. Neutron activation analysis, X-ray
fluorescence and ion beam analysis can
produce large sets of unique data about
the elemental compositions of airborne
particulate matter — key information in
determining possible sources of air pollution
(see box).
“Lead pollution from human sources is
mainly fine particulate matter — less than
2.5 micrometres — and detecting these
sources can be difficult,” Santoso said. Using
proton induced X-ray emission analysis and
knowledge obtained from the IAEA, the
BATAN research team managed to trace
the cause and source of the lead pollution
in various areas, including in Serpong, near
Jakarta. “We were able to associate a high
percentage of the pollution to a lead battery
recycling centre and production facility,” she
Results from the project have been used to
help law enforcement crackdown on legal and
illegal polluters and educate the public about
the dangers of lead pollution, Santoso said.
Collaborating with local cities, provincial
environment protection agencies and
Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment,
BATAN expanded the extent of the
monitoring beyond Java. “We made a big
step in expanding sampling locations from
one site in Bandung, to 16 cities covering our
biggest islands,” she said.
A promising commitment
The air monitoring results are encouraging
change at the legislative level. Outcomes
from the lead pollution study have brought
revisions to Indonesia’s law on air pollution
control — lowering the threshold of
acceptable lead concentrations in ambient air.
“This contribution has showed a promising
improvement of government commitment,
policy and strategy to combat air pollution on
a national scale,” Santoso said. The project
is on track to expand further, using more
techniques at more sites, she said. “In the
next three to five years, we’ll be covering 34
cities, and accomplish our goal of monitoring
the capitals of all of Indonesia’s provinces.”
Monitoring development
Indonesia is rapidly developing and has
plans to build more than 30 power plants in
Java and Bali, including a 10 000 megawatt
coal plant. These plants will be contributors
to environmental pollution, requiring
further monitoring, Santoso explained. New
analytical characterization studies on coal
feed, its combustion products and their
impact on the environment will need to be
pursued by the air pollution monitoring
project, she said.
Assessing the environmental and
physiological impact of toxic elements
depends on exposure levels, quantities and
chemical specificity. “Making elemental and
chemical state analyses of arsenic, mercury,
cadmium, nickel, chromium and lead — toxic
trace elements associated with coal burning
— is crucial to us, but those elements are
unfortunately below the detection limits of
energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence and
particle-induced X-ray emission, the nuclear
technologies we’ve been using,” she said.
To overcome this limitation, Indonesia
needs access to a synchrotron — a type of
particle accelerator — that can help them
analyse their samples. The IAEA is helping
Indonesia analyse its samples using a
synchrotron made available to the Agency
through a coordinated research project
with partner organizations in Trieste, Italy.
BATAN hopes that this cooperation will
give the air quality monitoring project more
significant information about the speciation
and chemical composition of their air
pollutants, helping them to better evaluate its
environmental impact and assure everyone a
fresh breath of air.
Experts identifying airborne
particulate samples using
nuclear analytical techniques
(Photo: M. Santoso/BATAN)
Air pollution is a regional problem, Gashaw
Gebeyehu Wolde, an IAEA programme
officer explained. “Transboundary pollution
is a serious concern, and by supporting
training and by providing expertise, we help
countries establish sampling mechanisms
that can pinpoint the cause and source of air
pollution,” he said. “It’s important to know
whether pollution comes from a human
source, or whether it is a result of a forest fire
or volcano.” Through its regional programme,
the IAEA assists countries throughout
South East Asia with the development of a
comprehensive regional database for shared
use, and supports them in developing analysis
capabilities locally, and, when necessary,
provides avenues for samples to be analysed
in regional resource centres that have more
sophisticated analysis facilities, like those in
Australia and New Zealand.
Particle-induced X-ray emission
Particle-induced X-ray emission (PIXE) is a
nuclear analytical technique that uses an ion
beam — a beam of charged particles — to
determine information about the elemental
make-up of a sample.
PIXE works by exposing a sample to an ion
beam. The interaction between the beam
and the sample gives off electromagnetic
radiation whose wavelength can be attributed
to specific elements and isotopes. This can
tell a scientist not only what a sample is, but
also its origin.
The use of PIXE is not limited to air pollution
monitoring; since it is a non-destructive
analysis technique — it does not destroy the
sample it is studying — PIXE can be applied
in archaeology and art conservation.
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 21
Fishing for answers: Sri Lanka proves
radioactivity is not an issue in its
coastal waters
By Michael Amdi Madsen
“We were compelled to
monitor the radioactivity
of fish samples.”
— Vajira Waduge,
Director, Life Science Division of
Sri Lanka’s Atomic Energy Boardw
ver one million Sri Lankans rely on
the sea for their income, and about
half of the animal protein intake of the
island’s population comes from fish. The sea
provides the inhabitants of the country with
livelihoods, day-to-day nutrition, or both.
Concerns after the 11 March 2011 Fukushima
Daiichi nuclear power plant accident have
highlighted the importance of monitoring
radioactive substances in the oceans. But
Sri Lanka had neither the equipment nor the
expertise to measure radioactivity levels in its
countries,” says Vajira Waduge, Director
of the Life Science Division of Sri Lanka’s
Atomic Energy Board (AEB).
The IAEA launched a project to help
24 countries in the region to establish
benchmarks for radioactivity levels, natural
as well as artificial, in their coastal waters
(see box).
Waduge and his team detected caesium-137
in samples of imported canned fish, but only
in insignificant levels. Low levels of caesium
have been consistently detected in Sri Lankan
waters and sediment, but only as a result of
nuclear weapon testing fallout from the 1950s
and 1960s. To help get the message across
to the public that their seafood was safe, the
fishing industry, importers, and the AEB
launched an advertising campaign through
awareness programmes, Waduge said.
Getting the tools
Prior to the start of the project, the AEB
had basic gamma spectrometry analysis
capabilities, but it could not carry out any
marine sample analysis, which is necessary
for establishing a database on marine
Through IAEA workshops and training the
AEB established sampling methodologies
and analytical procedures — allowing it
to monitor existing radioactivity levels in
seabed sediments, seawater, sea fish and
Scientists in Sri Lanka pull
samples from the sea to
monitor radioactivity levels.
(Photo: AEB)
22 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
Sri Lankans were particularly concerned
about the quality of the fish they were
eating. “We were compelled to monitor the
radioactivity of fish samples collected from
the local catch, from the imported frozen fish,
and from the canned fish imported from other
Subsequently, the AEB was able to secure
funds from the government to procure new,
more sophisticated equipment — enabling
its staff to pick up very slight traces of
radionuclides and establish benchmark data.
“The instrument has been of great help in
sample analysis because of its high capacity,”
said Waduge. Collaboration with the Marine
Environment Protection Authority has been
one of the key points in the success of the
project in Sri Lanka, he added.
Last December the AEB was also able to
acquire equipment to analyse samples for the
baseline data for strontium-90 — a product
of nuclear fission in nuclear power plants
and in fallout from nuclear weapons testing
— and is looking to the IAEA for assistance
and training to make the best use of the new
equipment, Waduge said.
Sri Lanka was not the only country without
baseline data on marine radioactivity.
Throughout Asia and the Pacific, many
countries lacked the skills, equipment or
the money to regularly measure marine
radioactivity. To meet their needs, the IAEA
set up a project helping 24 countries to
develop marine monitoring capabilities, with
a focus on detecting caesium. “Different
countries have different capabilities to
monitor marine radioactivity,” said Iolanda
Osvath, Head of the IAEA’s Radiometrics
Laboratory. “When we started this project,
there were some small island States where we
had to start from scratch, while in the case of
others we assisted to improve their capacity
or refine their methods.”
The next step
In Sri Lanka the project has convinced
policymakers of the necessity of having
a monitoring programme and has secured
sufficient funds for infrastructure
development. A new laboratory complex,
to be completed by 2016, has dedicated
laboratories for gamma spectrometry, alpha
and beta spectrometry and radiochemistry.
Locations of monitoring
sites around Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka now has an established database
of baseline data on its waters, something it
hopes to maintain and expand upon with the
addition of further data. “The next step is to
extend our sampling plan to deep waters in
the Mannar Basin to establish benchmark
values there,” Waduge said. The collected
benchmark data will be added to the IAEA’s
Marine Information System database and the
Asia-Pacific Marine Radioactivity Database,
so that other countries can easily access it.
What is a benchmark?
Detecting trace amounts of radionuclides
in a sample is difficult and requires very
specialized and sensitive equipment. In order
for radiation monitoring authorities to quickly
know whether detected radiation is of a new
source or not, they need baseline data — a
A benchmark is the foundation data of a
database that assists in future monitoring. If a
new sample contains a radionuclide it can be
compared against the benchmark to see if it is
of new origin.
Most of the ocean has very low levels of
radionuclides — usually from the fallout
of historic nuclear weapons testing. When
radionuclides are detected, being able to
compare them to previously sampled data can
reveal whether the contamination is old or
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 23
Bountiful crop with every drop:
using drip irrigation to increase
yields and conserve water
By Rodolfo Quevenco
“The adoption of drip
irrigation has increased
food crop production
and the revenues of
farmers across the
— Ram Vencatasamy, research
scientist, Mauritian Food and
Agricultural Research and Extension
Institute (FAREI)
auliflower, broccoli, sweet pepper and
many other nutritious vegetables used
to be expensive in Mauritius. The island’s
climate and traditional agricultural practices
were not suitable for cultivating several high
value vegetable crops, while importing them
to the island state was prohibitively costly
due to the long distances involved.
This has all changed over the past few years,
and local farms are now starting to supply the
country’s growing population and burgeoning
tourism industry with fresh, locally grown
Vencatasamy, the research scientist in charge
of the irrigation programme at the Mauritian
Food and Agricultural Research and
Extension Institute (FAREI).
“Drip irrigation is a very good system for us
small-scale farmers,” said Manoj Chumroo, a
farmer from eastern Mauritius, who has been
growing vegetables with his wife on their
1200-acre plot since 1986. “It can really help
increase our yield and income.”
Drip irrigation allows water to be fed to the
plants through a network of pipes or narrow
tubes that deliver water directly to either the
base or the root. The process helps to reduce
water use.
“I doubled my crop yield this season,”
Chumroo said. “And the vegetable
auctioneers have paid good market prices
because of the premium quality of the
cauliflower and chilli.”
As a result, Chumroo has replaced his bicycle
with a motorcycle for his morning drive to
the fields. He has bought an adjacent plot
of land and has taken out a bank loan to
introduce drip irrigation there as well. He has
also completed the construction of his house
and has bought additional furniture. “Once in
a while, I can even take my family to dinner
out in a restaurant,” he said.
Manoj Chumroo has doubled
his yield and is now supplying
local hotels with cauliflower
and other fresh vegetables.
(Photo: R. Vencatasamy/FAREI)
The trick: drip irrigation, which was made
possible with the help of nuclear techniques
that can measure moisture levels in both the
soil and the plants, enabling farmers and
agricultural officers to work out exactly how
much water and nutrients to use and when
(see box).
“The adoption of drip irrigation has increased
food crop production and the revenues
of farmers across the island,” said Ram
24 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
Almost 80 per cent of the total cultivated
area in Mauritius is rain-fed. With limited
financial resources to invest in expensive
sprinkler systems or irrigation dams, farmers
like Chumroo used to carry water in cans,
a process that is both labour-intensive and
wasteful. To make matters worse, said
Vencatasamy, there has been a noticeable
decrease in annual rainfall in Mauritius over
the past 10 years, lowering crop yield and the
productivity of small-scale farmers.
Agriculture already accounts for 70 per cent
of global freshwater use. By 2050, global
water requirements for agriculture are
expected to grow another 50 per cent to meet
demands of a growing population, according
to the Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations (FAO). Improving
water efficiency is crucial for sustainable
“Fertigation”: Water-fertilizer combo
To further optimize crop yields, and
conserve resources, farmers increasingly
apply a technique that provides the plants
with fertilizers mixed with water, a process
known as fertigation. Fertilizer using an
isotope of nitrogen is applied to a small plot
of land through fertigation to determine
the efficiency of fertilizer and water uptake
by the plants and to optimize the amounts
required, explained Lee Kheng Heng, Head
of the Soil and Water Management and Crop
Nutrition Section at the Joint FAO/IAEA
Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food
and Agriculture. The technique can save up
to half of the fertilizer traditionally used to
achieve the same results, she said.
“Scaling back on fertilizer helps to protect
people and the environment against pollution
as there is less chance of residual fertilizer
seeping into the groundwater or polluting
nearby streams and rivers,” Heng said. The
IAEA has made the technique available to
agriculture officers and farmers participating
in 19 drip irrigation projects across Africa.
Results include:
❶ Kenya: Development of a low-cost, smallscale drip irrigation system that generated 2.8
times the yield of field grown tomatoes while
using only 45% of the water traditionally
applied by hand.
Drip irrigation in Kenya.
(Photo: L. Heng/IAEA)
❷ Tanzania: The use of drip irrigation
provided a tea yield four times higher than
that of the rain-fed, non-irrigated tea.
❸ Sudan: Drip irrigation saved irrigation
water by 60% and increased the yield
of onions by 40% compared to surface
irrigation. The system is now adopted by
farmers in many villages north and south of
Kassala in eastern Sudan.
Nitrogen isotopes in soil management
Isotopic and nuclear techniques play an
important and unique role in assessing the status
and movement of water in soil. This is essential
to developing strategies for sustainable water
management in agriculture and for the successful
use of cheaper, more effective irrigation
alternatives like drip irrigation.
Nitrogen fertilizers played a crucial role in
increasing crop productivity to alleviate food
insecurity. However, nitrogen fertilizers are
expensive in many countries. In addition, many
agricultural crops use nitrogen inefficiently —
leaving over 50% of it in the ground.
Fertigation is used to determine where the
fertilizer goes once it is applied to the soil
in order to figure out how efficiently plants
utilize nutrients from fertilizer. Scientists use
fertilizer labelled with the stable nitrogen isotope
nitrogen-15 in a small plot on an experimental
station or on a farmer’s field. The nitrogen-15
isotopes have a different molecular weight
from the rest of the fertilizer mixture, allowing
scientists to follow them as they get into the soil
and the plant. Based on this, they can determine
the amount of fertilizer to use and the best
method for applying it. This ideal recipe is then
transferred to the farmers.
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 25
Out of sight, but in their minds:
Brazil and its neighbours work
together to protect one of the world’s
largest groundwater reservoirs
By Nicole Jawerth
“The aquifer influences
the lives of millions of
people. If it were no longer
available, the impact
would be enormous.”
— Hung Kiang Chang,
Professor, Institute of Geosciences
and Exact Sciences, São Paulo State
University, Brazil
hrouded in mystery, the future of the
largest groundwater reservoir in Latin
America once left scientists, academics and
politicians in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay
and Uruguay concerned about the fate of
their major freshwater resource. Uncovering
clues using nuclear techniques, Brazil and
its neighbours are now well-acquainted with
the Guarani Aquifer and can confidently
expect that, with their new protection and
sustainable use framework, water from the
aquifer will continue to flow for at least
another 200 years.
and fissures dating back to around 200 to 130
million years ago, it is a source of drinking
water, and it supplies industry, agricultural
irrigation and thermal spa tourism for the
“It is an incredible transboundary
groundwater resource that has been around
for hundreds of thousands of years,” said
Chang. “The aquifer influences the lives
of millions of people. If it were no longer
available, the impact would be enormous.”
The aquifer is particularly important for
Brazil, as the country consumes around 90
per cent of the one billion cubic metres of
total water extracted per year, with 14 million
people relying on it, Chang added.
The impact of civilization
Under lush green fertile lands,
the Guarani Aquifer spans over
1.2 million square kilometres
and supplies the region with
fresh water for drinking,
agriculture and tourism.
(Photo: M. R. Caetano-Chang/UNESP)
Using isotope hydrology, a nuclear
technique (see box), the four countries
analysed and assessed the aquifer to
evaluate the age, origin and evolution of the
groundwater, as well as its quality and the
risk of contamination. “The studies were an
important contribution to the project because
they generated an integrated picture of the
whole aquifer, which helped to interpret
many important geological, hydrochemical
and hydrogeological findings,” said Hung
Kiang Chang, Professor at the Institute of
Geosciences and Exact Sciences (IGCE) at
the São Paulo State University.
Hidden under lush green fertile lands,
the aquifer spans over 1.2 million square
kilometres — three times the size of the
Caspian Sea. With stores of over 37 000 cubic
kilometres of fresh water in its sandstone pores
26 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
Though much of the aquifer remains intact,
civilization has taken its toll on the water
reserve. “Nature has blessed the region with
an abundant supply of water, but it is not
enough to endlessly indulge all the needs
of modern society,” said Chang. “Water
consumption is rising and the population is
expanding, and in some areas, uncontrolled
pollution and unregulated water use can pose
a threat,” he explained. “Climate change
will also strongly affect the rainfall and
evapotranspiration in the aquifer recharge
areas,” he noted.
The consequences of overexploitation and
pollution compromise local water supplies
due to poor sanitary conditions, which, in
the medium term, could lead to ecological
imbalance from, for example, bacterial
growths in wells that are improperly regulated
during drilling, said Gerôncio Rocha, who
recently retired as the coordinator of the São
Paulo State Preparation Unit for the Guarani
Aquifer Project.
Until recently, the four countries had lacked
the information they needed to know how
civilization impacts the aquifer and how to
best protect and sustainably use it. Therefore,
they jointly developed the Project for
Environmental Protection and Sustainable
Development of the Guarani Aquifer System,
also known as the Guarani Project.
“The main motivation behind the project
was of a technical nature,” said Rocha. It
raises questions about the aquifer’s water
flows and the amount of renewable water,
how pollution or contamination affects it,
where the areas of recharge and discharge
are, and its age and chemical composition,
Rocha said. In addition to discussions about
unregulated exploitation of the groundwater,
“these and other questions were the basis of
the concerns,” said Rocha.
With support from several international
organizations, including the IAEA, the
project was designed to use scientific and
technical studies to understand the aquifer
and what measures were necessary to
protect and sustainably use it. The countries
developed policies for the aquifer’s protection
and sustainable management that also took
into account institutional, legal, economic
and environmental dimensions.
Dating the water’s age
The Guarani Aquifer Project took place
from 2003 to 2009, and the resulting
Strategic Action Plan was released in 2011.
Though the project led to comprehensive
databases of information about the aquifer,
Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and
Uruguay overlay the Guarani aquifer.
“there is still more work needed to provide
additional information about the aquifer and
its hydrological characteristics,” said Luis
Araguás-Araguás, isotope hydrologist at the
There have since been several follow-up
projects undertaken by the four countries,
among which is an ongoing IAEA follow-up
project with Brazil and Argentina to further
study the aquifer’s age using isotope
hydrology. The project has so far revealed
that the groundwater in the central portions of
the aquifer is up to 800 000 years old.
Historically, water management in the region
has primarily focused on surface water,
despite the significant role of groundwater
sources. “Today, after the project, there is
greater public awareness of the actual and
potential threats to the aquifer,” Rocha said.
“The population’s perception of the aquifer’s
importance is essential for its successful
Isotope hydrology
Water molecules carry unique fingerprints
based on their different proportions of
isotopes, which are chemical elements with
atoms that have the same number of protons,
but a different number of neutrons in the
nucleus. They may be natural or artificial.
Radioisotopes are unstable and are constantly
releasing energy called radioactivity as
they decay to regain stability. Scientists
can measure the period of time it takes for
half of the radioisotopes to decay, known
as its half-life. By knowing the half-life of
a radioisotope and the isotope content in
water or in other substances, scientists can
determine the age of rocks and water that
contain those radioisotopes.
Stable isotopes do not disintegrate and remain
constant throughout the entire period they are
present in water. Scientists use the different
isotope contents in surface and groundwater
to determine various factors and processes,
including sources and history of water, past
and present rainfall conditions, recharge of
aquifers, mixing and interactions of water
bodies, evaporation processes, geothermal
resources, and pollution processes.
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 27
Water protection measures and
community involvement increase
sustainability of uranium mining in
By Miklos Gaspar
“We wanted the Tanzanian
people to benefit and
realised that we did not
have the proper legislation
in place to ensure safe
mining, processing and
transportation. Now we do.”
—Iddi Mkilaha, Director General,
Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission
he stage is set for uranium mining in the
United Republic of Tanzania, following
recent changes to the country’s regulatory
framework that brought it in line with
IAEA recommendations. Environmental
considerations and the involvement of the
local community in monitoring the licencing
process and future operations will contribute
to the sustainability of the project, said
Tanzanian officials and IAEA experts.
Tanzania, which has identified uranium
resources of about 60 000 tonnes, looks to
begin mining in 2016 in order to exploit its
uranium deposits as part of the country’s plans
to increase the contribution of the mining
sector from 3.3% of the gross domestic
product in 2013 to 10% by the end of the
decade. With its gold and diamond reserves
nearing depletion, the country is shifting its
focus to uranium. “Now it is time for the
country to benefit from its uranium deposits,”
said Iddi Mkilaha, Director General of the
Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission.
Following preliminary analysis, the
government has identified half a dozen sites
with good potential for mining and has issued
prospector licenses. Recent feasibility studies
identified one site with early commercial
potential, Mkilaha said, but given the
subsequent fall in uranium prices and the
ongoing negotiations with foreign mining
companies, no mining work has begun so far.
The government has requested IAEA
assistance to bring its relevant legislation
and procedures in line with safety and
environmental standards and to make sure
that good practices are applied ahead of
the commencement of mining operations,
Mkilaha said. “We wanted the Tanzanian
people to benefit and realized that we did not
have the proper legislation in place to ensure
safe mining, processing and transportation.
Now we do,” he said.
The review considered regulatory, health,
safety and environmental aspects, as well
as sustainability in operations. The team
provided several suggestions related to the
regulatory framework, and to ensure that the
mining activities followed IAEA standards
and international good practices, especially
related to health, safety and environmental
issues, explained Harikrishnan Tulsidas, the
nuclear technology specialist at the IAEA
heading the Tanzania project.
Holistic approach
Sampling uranium bearing rocks,
Mkuju river site, Tanzania.
(Photo: H. Tulsidas/IAEA)
28 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
Thanks to the IAEA’s input, the government
took a more holistic approach to the issue of
uranium mining and introduced environmental
regulations, particularly in the area of water
protection, Mkilaha said. “We had not
before realized the importance of monitoring
water streams and groundwater around the
future mining areas,” he said, adding that
in the wake of the IAEA project baseline
O th
measurements took place to establish levels of
different minerals and chemicals in the water.
“We will be able to monitor the activity in
comparison to these values,” he said.
Tanzanian experts and policymakers also
learned about the importance of getting the
buy-in of the local community ahead of
time, Mkilaha said. “We realized that with
community involvement, we could reduce
potential resistance to the project.”
Kazakhstan 36%
Namibia 8%
Technology and the Ministry of Energy and
The review also called for a clear separation
of responsibilities within the government, so
that its role as a regulator is not compromised
through its involvement as a strategic partner.
“There was a possible risk and conflict of
interest in the original set-up,” Tulsidas
said. As a result of the recommendations,
the regulatory function of the Ministry of
Communication, Science and Technology has
been strengthened, with dedicated functional
units responsible for oversight created at both
the Ministry of Communication, Science and
With the price of uranium recovering and
negotiations with investors progressing, the
first mine will likely become operational in
2016 in the Mkuju River area, around 470
kilometres southwest of the capital Dar es
Salaam, Mkilaha said.
The authorities have engaged the local
population through a series of meetings,
including on employment opportunities,
Mkilaha said. The research team conducting
uranium exploration “has already employed
local people, and the community sees
the project as an economic opportunity
in the area,” he said. Following the
recommendations from the IAEA, the
government will, in consultation with the
community leaders, create an environmental
monitoring plan and set up a community
consultation committee, chaired by a local
representative, for ongoing monitoring
of the operations, particularly in terms of
environmental sustainability.
Uranium Production in 2012: 58 816 tonnes of uranium
Source: IAEA
A second life for mining waste
IAEA experts also helped Tanzania devise
plans to extract uranium from tailings,
or mine dumps, left over from gold and
phosphate mining. “This was considered
waste before, but now we will see how
they can be put to potential economic use,”
Tulsidas said.
Hugo Cohen Albertini also contributed to this
Uranium mining
Like other minerals, uranium is typically mined using
open-pit technology when the ore is close to the
surface, and underground mining when it is deeper
down. Underground mining requires a high level of
ventilation to lower the exposure of workers to radon
gas. Radon is produced during the natural decay
process of uranium.
chemicals can be pumped into the ground to dissolve
the uranium in what is called in-situ recovery
operations. By injecting weakly alkaline solutions,
such as those made with baking soda, or alternatively
acidic solutions into the ore through pipes, miners
separate uranium from the ore and pump the resulting
solution back to the surface to recover the uranium.
The ore typically contains from around a few
hundred parts per million to up to 20 per cent
uranium. From conventional mines, ore is transported
to treatment plants or mills where uranium oxides
are separated from the ore. When the geology allows,
Globally, close to 60 000 tonnes of uranium are
produced annually. Kazakhstan, Canada and
Australia are the top three producers and together
account for close to two thirds of world uranium
production (see chart).
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 29
Towards safe and secure use of
nuclear energy in Turkey
By Adem Mutluer
“As it develops its
nuclear power
programme, Turkey is
committed to moving
forward in a safe, secure
and safeguarded way.”
— Emine Birnur Fertekligil,
Turkey’s Representative to the IAEA
The layout of the WWER-1200
pressurized water reactor.
Four similar units are planned
to be built at Akkuyu.
(Image: Gidropress)
uclear power will play a key role in
Turkey’s future energy strategy as the
country moves toward achieving supply
security while also meeting the challenge of
limiting emissions that contribute to climate
Every year demand for electricity in Turkey’s
bustling economy is growing by more than
five per cent, yet the country depends on
imported resources to meet 73 per cent of its
current energy needs. Turkey’s new nuclear
power programme aims to provide at least
10 per cent of the country’s energy by 2023,
according to Turkey’s Ministry of Energy and
Natural Resources.
The energy strategy includes two nuclear
power plants with a total of eight reactor units
to be in operation by 2028, and a third plant
to be under construction by 2023, said Emine
Birnur Fertekligil, Turkey’s Representative
to the IAEA. “The peaceful applications of
nuclear technology are very important, not
only in the energy field but also in other areas
of sustainable development.”
Taking the required steps
Turkey has turned to the IAEA for advice
on and assistance with taking the steps
required for developing a safe nuclear energy
30 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
programme, Fertekligil said. “As it develops
its nuclear power programme, Turkey is
committed to moving forward in a safe,
secure and safeguarded way,” she said.
In 2013, an IAEA Integrated Nuclear
Infrastructure Review (INIR) provided a team
of international experts to help Turkey assess
its readiness for developing a nuclear power
programme. The mission involved 25 Turkish
institutions and provided recommendations
and suggestions, and identified several good
“The 2013 INIR mission provided insightful
recommendations that Turkey used to
develop a national action plan,” said Necati
Yamaç, Head, Department of Nuclear Energy
Project Implementation, Ministry of Energy
and Natural Resources. “Amending or
drafting new laws requires a huge amount
of preparation, and in the case of Turkey,
it has taken around two years. The INIR
mission sparked discussions between various
ministries and helped us identify new
approaches and concepts,” he said.
INIR missions are designed to help IAEA
Member States measure how far they
have progressed towards meeting the
requirements for a safe and secure nuclear
power programme. They review all facets
of a nuclear power programme, from the
establishment of a regulatory body, and other
legal requirements, to the utility operating the
power plant, and the relevant Government
stakeholders involved.
A look in the mirror
One of the benefits of an INIR mission is an
initial self-evaluation the country undertakes
before the mission begins.
Self-evaluation is a useful process because it
involves interactions and discussions among
the organizations involved in infrastructure
development, said Anne Starz, Acting Head
of the Nuclear Infrastructure Development
Section at the IAEA. For Turkey, there were
25 organizations involved, she added.
Natural Gas
al G
Most recently, in addition to the INIR mission,
Turkey’s draft nuclear energy laws have also
been reviewed by the IAEA. Turkey’s nuclear
law addresses safety, security and safeguards.
A separate law for civil liability for nuclear
In 2010, Turkey and the Russian Federation
signed an agreement for the construction
and operation of a nuclear power plant at
the Akkuyu site, and three years later, an
intergovernmental agreement with Japan was
signed to develop a second nuclear power
plant project at the Sinop site on the Black
Turkey’s path to its first nuclear power plant
has four previous plans to introduce nuclear
power in its wake. The first was in the late
1970s, when a site at Akkuyu on the eastern
Mediterranean coast was licensed, and the
last in 2008 when Turkey issued a request
for bids.
The road toward a nuclear power
This process has “helped us realize how big
a role the government still plays even in
a BOO [build-own-operate] project,” said
Yamaç. The BOO approach for developing
a nuclear power programme means the host
country’s plant will be owned entirely by the
investors who provide both financing and the
Turkey’s yearly electricity generation by resources in 2012 and 2030
damage was submitted to the IAEA for review
in August 2014.
Source: Dr. Z Demircan/GDEA, TEIAS
As Turkey goes further down the road toward
a nuclear power programme, it has sought
to learn from other countries. Through
organizing several technical visits to other
countries that are using nuclear energy,
Turkey can gain a better understanding of
as well as solutions for challenges faced in
the area of nuclear technology, said Yamaç.
“Looking at the experience of other countries
is a good way for us to learn,” he said.
Peter Rickwood also contributed to this
Nuclear power plant
A nuclear power plant generates electricity
using heat from a controlled chain of nuclear
reactions — a process whereby a single
nuclear reaction spurs a series of subsequent
nuclear reactions that result in large amounts
of energy being released. The reactions
occur inside the nuclear reactor, which is
a device that is designed to initiate and
control a sustained nuclear chain reaction.
There are many types of nuclear reactors.
Each has different designs and uses different
mechanisms, water or gas, to generate power.
The reactor type to be used in Turkey’s power
plant at the Akkuyu site is a water cooled
water moderated power reactor (WWER).
This reactor type uses heat produced from
the nuclear chain reaction to heat water
circulating through a separate compartment
inside the reactor. Once heated, the reactorheated water is pressurized and then pumped
through hundreds or thousands of tubes
in a steam generator, where the reactorheated water heats an adjacent compartment
containing water. This causes the adjacent
water to boil and produce steam. The reactorheated water returns to its compartment
in the reactor to cycle through the process
again, while the steam is delivered to steampowered turbines that drive electrical
generators connected to an electric grid
designed for electricity distribution. After
passing through the turbine, the steam is
cooled down and converted back to liquid
inside a condenser to be sent through the
process again. The electricity produced
through this process is known as nuclear
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 31
Nuclear safety & security
Better safe than sorry: increasing
safety in radioactive waste
By Miklos Gaspar
“Being able to provide
a safe solution for our
radioactive waste was a
major step for us.”
— Abderrahim Bouih,
Head, Radioactive Waste Collection,
Treatment and Storage Unit, National
Centre for Nuclear Energy, Sciences and
Technology, Morocco
bderrahim Bouih used to be worried about
space. In charge of managing Morocco’s
radioactive waste since 2006, he had long
projected that the country’s sole radioactive
waste facility would fill up by 2019. Thanks
to a new methodology he and his colleagues
learned through an IAEA project, they can
now dismantle smoke detectors, lightning
rods and other waste that contains radioactive
material, safely separating the radioactive
components from the metal, and significantly
reducing the amount of radioactive waste they
need to store.
“We have condensed 60 drums of waste
into just two,” said Bouih, Head of the
Radioactive Waste Collection, Treatment and
Storage Unit at the Moroccan National Centre
for Nuclear Energy, Sciences and Technology.
“This means our site won’t fill up for another
16 years.”
origin, and that appropriate control
mechanisms are in place to trace them
throughout their life cycle, from the
manufacturer to the user and ultimately to
their safe disposal,” said Juan Carlos Lentijo,
the IAEA’s Director of Nuclear Fuel Cycle
and Waste Technology. The most critical
point in the life cycle of radioactive sources
is “when they are not any more of value, but
they become a burden for the user,” he said.
Morocco has thousands of items containing
low level radioactive waste. Bouih and his
colleagues regularly get calls from local
authorities and companies from across the
country to pick up their waste. “Next week
we are going to an old hotel to collect 200
smoke detectors,” he said. Older generation
smoke detectors and lightning rods often
have a small radioactive source as an active
component of the device.
Back to France for processing
Workers placing radioactive
sources into a transport
container ahead of shipment
to France.
(Photo: C. Roughan/IAEA)
From cradle to grave
Radioactive sources are widely used
throughout the world in a broad range of
sectors including industry, construction,
medicine, agriculture and research. Taking
a holistic approach to managing radioactive
sources from ‘cradle to grave’ enhances
safety and security, and enables countries to
overcome limitations to obtain radioactive
sources from suppliers.
“It is vital that radioactive sources are
properly labelled and registered at their
32 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
As another outcome of its work with the
IAEA, Morocco for the first time ever
sent three old radiotherapy machines used
for medical imaging back to France for
processing last year. “Being able to provide
a safe solution for our radioactive waste
was a major step for us,” Bouih said. The
radioactive components used in radiotherapy
machines are generally more hazardous to
human health and the environment, and may
also be more vulnerable to theft or misuse
if they are not managed securely, than the
majority of the more benign sources used
in industrial applications and research.
Morocco, like most other countries without
a nuclear industry, is not appropriately
equipped to manage waste with high levels
of radioactivity. The IAEA arranged, oversaw
and supervised the repatriation process.
Safe storage of radioactive sources
in Montenegro
In Montenegro, another country that
participated in the project, IAEA experts
and local officials dealt with 98 of the
country’s radioactive sources in a joint
exercise last year. This allowed the staff of
the Centre for Ecotoxicological Research
of Montenegro to learn the technique to
disassemble radioactive sources and place
them in safe storage through a process known
as conditioning, said Tamara Djurovic, Head
of the Department for Radiation, Air and
Noise Protection at Montenegro’s Ministry of
Sustainable Development and Tourism.
Most of the radioactive waste Montenegro
needs to deal with comes from military use,
she explained. The country, for instance, has
over 7000 military compasses to dismantle,
she said. These contain radium, and the Centre
is waiting for a final government decision
before beginning the work to condition them.
“Even while waiting for their go-ahead, we
have been able to repackage our sources and
prevent the release of radon,” she said. “The
sources are now safe in stainless steel barrels.”
The country has also approved a new policy
on the safe handling of radioactive materials,
following an IAEA course for policymakers
on the subject. “After the course, we were able
to realign our strategy and policymaking in
managing these sources,” she said.
Harmonizing policies across the
Mediterranean region
Both Morocco and Montenegro are
participating in an interregional project
from 2012 to 2015 to help countries
In Morocco
60 drums
of low level
radioactive waste
now fits into just
2 drums
from the Mediterranean region establish
adequate and permanent control over their
radioactive sources. The project supported a
harmonized approach consistent with IAEA
safety standards and other international best
practices. It aimed to define and establish
coordinated policies and approaches to the
control and movement of radioactive sources
and has also contributed to reinforcing
regulatory and management capabilities.
Furthermore, the project has fostered
cooperation among the countries of the
region to address matters of common concern
regarding the use of the Mediterranean
Sea as a transport channel for radioactive
Adem Mutluer also contributed to this article.
Source conditioning
Conditioning is the first major step in the waste management of
radioactive sources, which are man-made radioactive materials
used in industry, medicine, agriculture and research. It results
in a package suitable for handling, storage, transport or disposal
of the material.
The simplest technique manages the source without removing
it from its original device or shield, by placing the device
holding the source into concrete. This operation can be made
‘irretrievable’ or ‘retrievable’ depending on whether it is for
temporary or final storage.
When a more elaborate technique is used, the source is
removed from its original device and the bare source is
re-encapsulated — possibly together with other sources — in
a new stainless steel capsule designed for this purpose. The
capsule is usually placed in a special waste container.
Verifying the radioactivity level of a capsule containing
conditioned caesium-137 sources. (Photo: J. Balla/IAEA)
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 33
Nuclear safety & security
Making the world more secure,
one research reactor at a time
By Adem Mutluer
“The new core will
have twice the capacity
to produce various
medical, as well as other,
radioisotopes going
— Petr Chakrov,
Acting General Director, Institute of
Nuclear Physics, Alatau, Kazakhstan
uring the night of 29 September 2014,
a heavy transport plane took off from
an air base in Kazakhstan after an operation
to remove fuel and increase the security of a
research reactor.
In its cargo bay sat four massive containers,
provided by the IAEA, that had been filled
with a total of 10.2 kilograms of highly
enriched uranium (HEU), on its way to be
diluted to a safe substance or securely stored
at the flight’s destination in Russia.
1970s, when many of the world’s research
reactors were built, technology using LEU
was not yet available, so in order to perform
experiments HEU fuel was required. As of
next year, less proliferation sensitive LEU
will be used to fuel the light water research
reactor in Alatau near Almaty, the largest city
in Kazakhstan.
Research to continue
“I am very confident that the reactor will
continue with its current work after the
switch,” said Petr Chakrov, Acting General
Director of the Institute of Nuclear Physics,
in Alatau. “Furthermore, we believe that
the new core will have twice the capacity
to produce various medical, as well as
other, radioisotopes going forward,” he said
referring to the part of the reactor containing
the nuclear fuel components where the
nuclear reactions take place.
The Alatau 6 megawatt light water reactor
is used for a number of purposes, including
scientific research, isotope production for
medicine, and testing material for use in
industry. For example, the reactor produces
molybdenum-99, an important medical
radioisotope used in 70% of nuclear medicine
procedures worldwide, and relied on for tens
of millions of medical procedures a year (see
related article, page 12).
The Alatau research
reactor, Kazakhstan
(Photo: P. Chakrov/Institute of
Nuclear Physics)
34 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
The operation represented the latest
achievement in a global programme involving
the IAEA, the Russian Federation and the
United States to assist several countries,
including Kazakhstan, in eliminating the risks
associated with HEU, while still maintaining
the important scientific research conducted at
the reactor. HEU is a security risk, as it is an
ingredient that can be used to create a nuclear
device intended for malicious use. It is not
encouraged to use HEU in a research reactor
as safer low enriched uranium (LEU) can
be used instead (see box). In the 1960s and
Before the implementation of the conversion
to LEU began, scientists at the reactor
performed post-irradiation studies of LEU
fuel to determine the suitability of the reactor
for conversion to LEU. The IAEA provided
the equipment for this research, Chakrov
explained. By analysing specimens irradiated
to different doses of radiation, modelling
the conditions under which the LEU would
be used in the reactor after the conversion,
scientists confirmed that the reactor was
suitable for using LEU in a safe and
manageable way, he said.
“The procurement of this equipment by
the IAEA was absolutely necessary for
the project to take place and to give us the
confidence to move forward,” Chakrov said.
Latvia Bulgaria
Viet Nam
h Re
Peter Rickwood also contributed to this
“Because of the risks HEU poses, more than
2150 kilograms of HEU, supplied by the
former Soviet Union, has been repatriated to
the Russian Federation in 60 shipments from
14 countries under the Tripartite Initiative
between Russia, the United States and the
IAEA, often called the Russian Research
Reactor Fuel Return (RRRFR) Programme
(see chart),” said Sandor Tozser, a nuclear
engineer at the IAEA’s Research Reactor
Section. The IAEA acts as an administrator
and provides technical knowledge and
equipment, he explained. The repatriation of
HEU fuel from the Alatau reactor is part of
this programme.
The containers of fuel on the plane in
September represent one of several batches
of fuel to be repatriated from Alatau. In July
2015, the reactor will be temporarily turned off
to allow for a cooling off period of six months.
During this time, the reactor’s instrumentation
and control system will be replaced in advance
of the switch in fuel. In January 2016, the
reactor will restart, using LEU.
Step-by-step removal
Source: IAEA
The country breakdown of HEU repatriated to Russia under the
Research Reactor Fuel Return Programme as of the end of 2014.
Uranium enrichment
Highly enriched uranium has historically
been used in research reactors for scientific
purposes. Uranium is a naturally occurring
element, and uranium-235 (235U) and
uranium-238 (238U) are isotopes of uranium,
meaning they share the same number of
protons as uranium, but have a different
number of neutrons. When uranium is mined
from the ground, the mass contains only 0.7%
U, the fissionable element, and 99.3%
U, which is stable and does not undergo
nuclear reactions. Enriching uranium means
increasing the percentage of 235U in the mass.
Nuclear power plants in operation around
the world typically use uranium enriched to
between 4% and 7%.
Enriching can be done in several ways,
each using a method called isotope
separation. Isotope separation is the
process of concentrating specific isotopes
of a chemical element by removing other
isotopes. In this case, isotope separation is
used to increase the concentration of 235U in
a mass of uranium. The most common and
effective method for doing this is by using a
centrifuge, a specialized device that puts an
object in rotation around a fixed axis, taking
advantage of the difference in atomic mass
between 238U and 235U. When centrifuges spin,
they separate 235U from 238U, allowing 235U to
be further concentrated, or enriched, for use.
The enrichment process can be done to create
different levels of enriched 235U; however,
it is not an easy process and requires time,
expertise and expense. Uranium enriched to
contain over 20% of 235U is considered HEU.
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 35
Protecting Romania’s cultural
heritage using nuclear technology
By Aabha Dixit
“Radiation doesn’t
damage the precious
artefacts; they don’t
become radioactive, and
it’s swift and effective.”
—Valentin Moise, Director,
IRASM Radiation Processing Centre,
Bucharest, Romania
Gamma radiation was used to
eradicate the insects that were
destroying the iconostasis in
the 19th century Holy Voivode
of Michael and Gabriel Church
in Izvoarele village. Following
the irradiation treatment,
local artisans worked to
restore this precious piece of
art to its full glory.
(Photo: A. Socolov/Horia Hulubei National
Institute of Physics and Nuclear Engineering)
reserving art and cultural heritage is a
shared ambition of the global community.
The past plays an important role in
understanding a people’s way of life, which is
why Father Ioan from an Orthodox church in
the village of Izvoarele on the southern slopes
of the Carpathian mountains in Romania was
desperate to save the revered 19th century
assembly of icons of his parish. Faced with
a dreadful situation when he noticed insects
inside his church, Father Ioan turned for
help to a very unlikely source — radiation
treatment — to prevent any further parasite
Woodworms were nibbling away at the sacred
work of art, known as an iconostasis, in this
old church in the picturesque hamlet of 800
homes, 120 kilometres north of Bucharest.
“It was my responsibility to take action. At
the beginning, I started to inject chemical
solutions in the insect holes. Because the
icons are thick objects, the injection solution
did not penetrate deep to the source of the
worm attack and there was no effect. That
is why I considered a better solution,” said
Father Ioan.
He took the insect-infested iconostasis to
the IRASM Radiation Processing Centre in
Bucharest, where staff welcomed him with
awe. “He heard about us on television. He
arrived alone at our door, with no phone call
in advance,” said Valentin Moise, Director of
the Centre, which is part of the Horia Hulubei
36 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
National Institute of Physics and Nuclear
The traditional approach to eradicate insects,
such as woodworm, is to inject poison
either in the form of a gas or liquid into
each hole created by the insect and seal it
with wax. The poison should reach the area
in which the insect subsists and multiplies;
however, the insects are often not fully
eradicated. Chemical treatment is a long and
expensive process that also exposes people
to hazardous fumes. In comparison, radiation
treatment requires a shorter treatment time,
is inexpensive and completely eliminates the
Romania is among the 18 IAEA Member
States that have received support to enhance
irradiation and analytical techniques in
Europe through IAEA projects. The support
has triggered a significant increase in the
number and types of cultural heritage
artefacts analysed and treated, said Sunil
Sabharwal, a radiation processing specialist
in the IAEA. Procedures ranged from the
disinfection of wooden churches and ancient
books to the characterization of jewellery,
woven cloth and coins. Cooperation in the
characterization and preservation of artefacts
through the use of nuclear science and
technology is an important goal of the IAEA’s
cultural heritage preservation projects,
Sabharwal said.
Relics versus fungi, insects and
To preserve its historical antiquities,
Romanian scientists regularly use gamma
rays to treat artefacts. Stored in a six metre
deep water pool at the IRASM Radiation
Processing Centre in Bucharest, the source
of powerful gamma rays, when activated,
can kill bacteria, insects and fungi (see box).
Gamma radiation works wonders to conserve
artefacts by destroying the “biological
aggressors,” explained Moise.
Radiation is being increasingly used for
preservation. “Protecting our cultural heritage
goes back to 30 years ago when there
were no large scale irradiation facilities in
Romania,” said Moise. “We have through this
technology been able to disinfest a number
of ancient items from 500 year old religious
books infested with fungi to the precious
icons of the Izvoarele Orthodox Church.”
Before the artefacts are irradiated,
investigations are carried out on these
delicate pieces of history that determine
the extent and kind of contamination,
the chemical solutions used in previous
restoration efforts, as well as the exact
radiation dose required, Moise explained.
“One of the biggest problems we have had
was to convince the art world that radiation
will not destroy artefacts as the technology
used is harmless. There is confusion when
they hear the word radiation,” said Moise.
“It doesn’t damage the precious artefacts;
they don’t become radioactive, and it’s swift
and effective.”
Paintings, clothes and musical instruments
have also been successfully treated using
gamma radiation. IRASM experts treated
the entire collection of the Theodor Aman
Museum in Bucharest, which had to be closed
in 2004 due to damp conditions that resulted
in fungi and other biological contamination
of its ancient objects. Following complete
refurbishment, the museum was reopened in
“Many artefacts are made from natural
organic materials. They are at risk of
biodegradation, becoming food for insects
and microorganisms,” said Corneliu Ponta,
Above: A degraded insect
infested wooden iconostasis in
the 20th century Spring of
Healing Church, in Izvoarele
village, was irradiated using
gamma radiation prior to local
art restorers undertaking repair
(Photo: C. Ponta/Horia Hulubei National Institute
of Physics and Nuclear Engineering)
Left: A damaged wooden icon
that belonged to a collection of
33 wooden icons that was sent
for irradiation treatment to
IRASM Radiation Processing
Centre from the Moldova
National Museum Complex.
(Photo: Moldova National Museum Complex)
the former Head of the IRASM Radiation
Processing Centre, who played a key role in
the Centre’s work in using gamma irradiation
to decontaminate the artefacts of the Theodor
Aman Museum.
Gamma radiation protects cultural artefacts
Gamma radiation, also known as gamma
rays, refers to electromagnetic radiation of
an extremely high frequency. It is emitted as
high energy photons, an elementary particle
with wave-like properties.
Gamma rays are a type of ionizing radiation.
At the dose levels used to protect cultural
artefacts, this type of ionizing radiation
inhibits reproduction of microbes at room
temperature without any physical contact and
thus offers a better alternative to conventional
decontamination methods that are based
on heat or chemical treatment. The high
frequency, high energy electromagnetic
waves interact with the critical components of
cells. And at these dose levels, they can alter
the DNA so as to inhibit the reproduction of
The treatment of cultural artefacts by
irradiation technology is similar to that used
in the sterilization of medical devices. The
cultural heritage artefacts are exposed to
gamma radiation from a cobalt-60 source in
the radiation facility.
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 37
Peaceful Uses Initiative
Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI) —
a glimpse into current and future
ith more than 170 projects successfully
supported, benefiting more than 130
Member States, the Peaceful Uses Initiative
(PUI) has been an effective mechanism
for raising additional resources to meet the
needs of Member States. The IAEA hopes to
carry on with this initiative to further expand
the benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear
science and technology in promoting broad
development goals.
Here is a glimpse into some of the major
current and future PUI-supported projects
that need additional financial contributions.
For more information, see:
Integrated and sustainable
management of water resources in
the Sahel region
Duration: 2012 to 2016, with the possibility
of extension
Estimated budget: €5.8 million
Freshwater resources are declining in the
Sahel region, an area stretching across 13
countries, from West Africa to Central and
North Africa. Effective management of the
existing water resources in these countries is
essential to ensuring adequate water supplies
in the region.
Photo: D. Calma/IAEA
38 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
This project aims to assist these Member
States in developing integrated and
sustainable approaches to water resource
management. It provides training for
professionals, procurement of equipment and
laboratory services, and field expert advisory
missions. Supported by the Technical
Cooperation (TC) Fund and extrabudgetary
contributions through the PUI, the project
began in 2012 and has since achieved key
milestones, such as the development of
a preliminary technical report resulting
from the first sampling campaigns and the
enhanced capacities of national institutions
and professionals in using nuclear techniques
for assessing water resources.
For more information, see:
Strengthening Africa’s regional
capacity for the diagnosis of
emerging or re-emerging zoonotic
diseases, including Ebola virus
Duration: 2015 to 2019
Estimated budget: €5.8 million
In the wake of the largest and most complex
outbreak of Ebola virus disease in early
Photo: D. Calma/IAEA
2014 in West Africa, the international
community recognized Africa’s need for
support in developing regional capacities to
manage emerging and re-emerging zoonotic
diseases — diseases that can pass from
animals to humans, and that, without proper
management, can lead to regional and global
This four-year project sets out to strengthen
Africa’s regional capacities with mechanisms
for early detection and strategies for sharing
related diagnostic and epidemiological
information within a regional network. The
project aims to provide training, expert
guidance, and infrastructure development for
the implementation of a monitoring, tracing
and surveillance system, including diagnostic
techniques. But without a significant upgrade
since their establishment in 1962, the
laboratories are no longer able to fulfil their
functions in responding to the growing and
evolving needs of Member States.
This project, known as ReNuAL, commenced
on 1 January 2014 and consists of new
building construction, the modernization of
existing buildings, infrastructure upgrades
and the acquisition of new laboratory
equipment to replace ageing or obsolete
For more information, see:
Strengthening nuclear power
infrastructure development
For more information, see:
Duration: 2011 to 2015, with a possible
follow-up project from 2016 to 2020
Estimated budget: €1.5 million
From the laboratories to the global
community: Renovation of the
Nuclear Applications Laboratories
Approximately 30 countries are now
considering nuclear power as part of their
energy mixes or have already decided to start
a nuclear power programme. As countries
evaluate this option or have already embarked
on developing a nuclear power programme,
they look to the IAEA for guidance and
Duration: 2014 to 2017
Estimated budget: €31 million
For over 50 years, eight nuclear applications
laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria, have
provided specialized training, support in
research and development, and analytical
services to assist Member States in using
nuclear science and technology to address
their national needs and to tackle global
challenges, from animal production and
health to nuclear science and analytical
Photo: D. Calma/IAEA
This project sets out to further strengthen and
develop guidance documents, methodologies
and review services, as well as to create
opportunities for sharing experiences and
lessons learned. The project aims to assist
and guide newcomers countries, particularly
low and middle income (LMI) countries, to
develop safe and sustainable nuclear power
Photo: D. Calma/IAEA
IAEA Bulletin, March 2015 | 39
Peaceful Uses Initiative
infrastructures. This project is funded through
the PUI and, in some cases, complementary
activities are financed through the Technical
Cooperation Fund.
For more information, see:
Cancer control capacity assessment
and evaluation
Duration: Ongoing
Estimated budget for 2015: €450 000
Cancer cases are on a significant rise
globally, with LMI countries often
ill-equipped to effectively manage the burden
of the disease and respond to the needs of
patients. As countries increasingly prioritize
cancer care and control, many are turning to
the IAEA Programme of Action for Cancer
Therapy (PACT) and the Integrated Missions
of PACT (imPACT). The imPACT review
missions assesses a country’s national cancer
control capacities within a comprehensive
approach to cancer control, and provide
recommendations on how to address
identified gaps and further develop their
capabilities to tackle the disease.
PUI funds have supported imPACT missions
to 26 Member States since 2010. The
majority of these have been to LMI countries.
This has helped these countries to, among
others, develop national cancer control
plans and programmes, and pave the way
to establish national cancer care facilities
equipped with diagnostic and treatment
equipment as well as an adequate workforce
of trained specialists. In 2015, there are plans
for imPACT Review missions to six Member
For more information, see:
Photo: ENEC
Photo: P. Pavlicek/IAEA
40 | IAEA Bulletin, March 2015
ISSN 0020-6067
management air pollution control radiopharmaceuticals
preservation radioisotopes sustainable uranium production
plant mutation breeding
water resource management gamma radiatio
crop variety improvement nutrition & health improvement
cultural artefacts protection drip irrigation
air pollution control cancer care
nutrition & health improvement
artefacts protection isotope hydrology
soil management plant mutation breeding
gamma radiation
soil erosion reduction
radioactive waste management groundwater conservation
measuring body composition monitoring radioactivity
tsetse fly eradication radioisotopes plant mutation breeding
isotope hydrology gamma radiation
soil erosion
nutrition & health improvement
reduction cancer care uranium enrichment
artefacts protection nutrition & health improvement
monitoring radioactivity soil management
measuring body composition radioisotopes
nutrition & health improvement
soil management
drip irrigation
cancer diagnosis
uranium enrichment isotope hydrology
nutrition & health improvement plant mutation breeding soil management
tsetse fly eradication preservation gamma radiation
radiopharmaceuticals nuclear medicine nuclear power
plant mutation breeding
groundwater conservation
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