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18.06.2008 Technology

African Scientists Use Nuclear Tech To Improve Industries

By Daily Graphic
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Nuclear science experts from 13 African countries have converged on Accra to discuss how nuclear technology can improve industries such as oil refining and mining.

Over the course of two separate meetings, the experts will present examples of how radio-isotope technology has improved efficiency and prevented problems in certain industries.

Radio-isotopes, or radioactive isotopes, release energy in the form of radiation. Radiation can penetrate solid objects and they can then be detected and tracked.
 

The meetings are jointly organised by the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) and the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC).

The National Nuclear Research Institute and the African Regional Co-operative Agreement for Research, Development and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA) are also involved in organising the event.

In the case of industry, a small pellet of radio-isotope, sealed in a capsule, can be attached to an object, such as a piece of industrial equipment. A detector is then placed on the other side of the object being scanned.

In the same way that X-rays show a break in a bone, radio-isotopes can reveal flaws or leaks in equipment, measure the rate at which liquid is flowing or indicate how effectively a process is working.

Opening the conference, Dr Rexford Osei of the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports explained that the aim of the conference was to present current research related to radio-isotope technology.

He also noted that it was an opportunity for regional scientists to share their knowledge and experiences.

He said the main industries set to benefit from radio-isotope technology were petro-chemical and mineral processing, explaining that those industries would benefit because the technology was a cost-effective method of solving problems.

Unlike other diagnostic methods, he noted, radio-isotope technology made it possible to test equipment without shutting it down, which saved time and money.

He added that test results could be produced quickly on site, saving additional time and ensuring that any problems were addressed immediately.

Speaking to the Daily Graphic, the Director-General of GAEC, Professor E. H. K. Akaho, emphasised that the technology could be used to prevent serious problems, such as fires, at oil refining facilities or explosions caused by gas leaks.

He also indicated that the recent discovery of oil in Ghana signalled future applications for radio-isotope technology.

Nonetheless, he recognised that using nuclear technology posed certain risks related to safety and security.

Countries, including Algeria, The Sudan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, submitted abstracts to the conference, highlighting regional successes in the use of radio-isotope technology.

Story by Leah Marchuk

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