Sunday, October 31, 2010

Most Dangerous Day of Your Life

Art4Health Exhibition A portrait of women and children displayed at the Art4Health Exhibition at the Vienna International Centre. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

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Pop-art paintings filled the 1970s-era rotunda at the Vienna International Centre for two weeks in September. These bright, vibrant portraits of women and children in the Art4Health exhibit are shifting perspectives on a disturbing public health issue,?high death rates among mothers and young child in the developing world.

Every 30 Seconds

A child dies of severe acute malnutrition every thirty seconds. Up to one million malnourished children die every year,?largely unnoticed. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 20 million children under the age of 5 suffer from severe acute malnutrition. They face a considerably higher risk of dying than their well-nourished peers.

Art as Advocacy

The Art4Health is a travelling exhibit,?owned by the WHO´s Department of Reproductive Health and Research,?is currently hosted by the IAEA in Vienna. Art4Health was launched in 2006 as an innovative advocacy project, using art to increase awareness and promote action to improve reproductive health, especially for women and children.

Global Strategy

Improved health for women and children?is now a global priority, highlighted by the launch of the WHO´s Global Strategy for Women´s and Children´s Health?during the UN´s Millennium Development Goals Summit on 22 September. It is a coordinated, international campaign to save the lives of millions of women and children. Governments, private business, international organizations, NGOs, health professionals and academics are called upon to achieve the Millennium Goals´ targets to reduce young children´s and women´s mortality rates by two-thirds within the next 5 years.??Improved nutrition is widely recognized as an essential prerequisite in the achievement of at least 4 of the 8?Millennium Development Goals.

Newborns at Risk

Lena Davidsson, IAEA Nutrition expert in the Division of Human Health, brought the exhibit to the IAEA´s headquarters. "Your first day of life is the most dangerous day of your life.? All newborn children?are at far greater risk of dying on that day, than on any other day thereafter," she explains. In resource-poor regions, the odds are stacked against newborn children. They are often under-weight and weaker then?babies born in developed countries. They struggle to?start breastfeeding, fight off infections?and to maintain their body temperature. It is a?sad fact that?many?newborn infants?literally die of exposure. This is "clearly unacceptable," says Davidsson.

Taking Action

"If mothers, and as a result their babies, are well-nourished?and have access to basic health care," Davidsson explains, "their survival rates rise dramatically." The Art4Health exhibit challenges the stereotype of women?in the developing world as victims, rather presenting them as "confident, strong personalities that have seized responsibility for their health and their children´s well-being, working in partnership with health workers to?improve the situation," Davidsson notes.

Healthy at Home

Until recently, effective treatment for the worst forms of malnutrition, severe acute malnutrition, could only be found in hospitals and clinics. Often, care facilities are too far away from the sick children, or they lack the trained personnel and resources to be able to offer the needed care. Recent?data suggests that many malnourished children can be treated in their home communities with ready-to-use therapeutic?foods?or other nutrient-dense foods. The IAEA is pursuing research with its partners at the WHO, UNICEF, and the International Malnutrition Task Force to help improve?the dietary?management for treating these severely malnourished children.

Nuclear Solutions

At the IAEA, a nuclear technique utilizing stable, or non-radioactive, isotopes is used as a powerful tool to??evaluate growth in a more detailed way, i.e. to monitor fat and muscle mass in?children?recovering from severe acute malnutrition. This?technique?is currently being used in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Jamaica, Pakistan and Sudan to monitor nutrition interventions? as part of an IAEA Coordinated Research Project. This precise, yet affordable, technology offers?the possibility to better understand the "quality of growth." Currently, there is virtually no information available on this vitally important?aspect of growth, which is essential in predicting therapeutic outcomes.


Millennium Development Goals

The eight Millennium Development Goals form an agenda agreed by all the world´s countries and leading development institutions. The goals are to be met by 2015. They include:

Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;Achieve universal primary education;Promote gender equality and empower women;Reduce child mortality;Improve maternal health;Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases;Ensure environmental sustainability;Develop a global partnership for development; andInternational Malnutrition Task Force

International Malnutrition Task Force

The International Malnutrition Task Force was instituted by the International Union of Nutritional Sciences in 2005. The Task Force has two goals: to raise global understanding of malnutrition´s role in causing as many deaths as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and thus focus health policies and allocate resources to reverse this trend, as well as to train health workers and develop the means to prevent and treat malnutrition.

See Story Resources for more information.

-- By Peter Kaiser and Sasha Henriques, IAEA Division of Public Information

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Nuclear Fusion Basics

Yury Sokolov, Deputy Director General of the IAEA (left), and Kaname Ikeda, Director General of the ITER Organization (right). Signing of a Cooperation Agreement between the IAEA and ITER Organization. In the photo, Yury Sokolov, Deputy Director General of the IAEA (left), and Kaname Ikeda, Director General of the ITER Organization (right). (22nd IAEA Fusion Energy Conference, Geneva, Switzerland, 13 October 2008).

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Fusion, a form of nuclear energy generated when light-weight atoms fuse, is the process at work in every star's core, releasing an enormous amount of energy. Researchers have been trying to harness fusion and reproduce it on earth in a controlled manner. If they succeed, they will provide the world a safe, sustainable, environmentally responsible and abundant source of energy.

For decades, the scientific community has been pursuing nuclear fusion, yet now research has reached a critical stage, as scientists are building an experimental reactor that one day may demonstrate that fusion can be used commercially to create electrical power.

What is Fusion?
For more than 50 years, energy has been generated in nuclear power plants through fission, a process in which heavy elements such as uranium are bombarded by neutrons releasing heat in the process.

Nuclear fusion, on the other hand, is based on the opposite principle. In fusion reactors, light atomic nuclei are compressed under intense pressure and heat to form heavier ones and release energy in the process. The process must be optimized to generate more energy than it consumes. With a sufficiently large and sustainable energy 'profit', fusion could be utilized to generate electricity commercially.

The main fuels used in nuclear fusion are deuterium and tritium, both heavy isotopes of hydrogen. Deuterium constitutes a tiny fraction of natural hydrogen, only 0,0153%, and can be extracted inexpensively from seawater. Tritium can be made from lithium, which is also abundant in nature.

The amount of deuterium present in one litre of water can in theory produce as much energy as the combustion of 300 litres of oil. This means that there is enough deuterium in the oceans to meet human energy needs for millions of years.

Ways to Fusion
Building a fusion power plant that can withstand the immense temperature and pressures this process produces is one of the century's greatest engineering challenges. The fuel, made up of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium, must be heated to about 100 million degrees centigrade. At that hotter-than-the-sun temperature, a fully ionized gas-plasma is formed. The plasma will then be ignited to create fusion. At present, scientists are pursuing two methods for achieving nuclear fusion: inertial and magnetic confinement.

In inertial confinement systems, ion beams or laser beams are used to compress a pea-sized deuterium-tritium fuel pellet to extremely high densities. When a critical point is reached, the pellet is ignited through shock wave heating.

Fusion power plants using this technique would ignite fuel pellets several times per second. The resulting heat is then used to generate steam that powers electricity-generating turbines.

In magnetic confinement systems, electromagnets are used to contain the plasma fuel. One of the most promising options, the tokamak device, contains the plasma in a doughnut-shaped chamber. A powerful electric current is induced in the plasma, resulting in an increase in temperature. The plasma is also heated by auxiliary systems such as microwaves, radiowaves or accelerated particles. In the process, temperatures of several hundred million degrees centigrade are achieved.

Benefits for Mankind
The potential advantages of nuclear fusion energy are manifold, as it represents a long-term, sustainable, economic and safe energy source for electricity generation.

Fuel is inexpensive and abundant in nature, while the amount of long-lived radioactive waste and greenhouse gases produced through fusion are minimal.

While research on nuclear fusion continues, many spin-offs relating to plasma physics and fusion technology are already benefiting society. These include improvements in materials research, such as ceramic, metals and coatings, and industrial processes such as welding and waste removal.

By Giovanni Verlini, IAEA Division of Public Information.

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Nor Any Drop To Drink?

Water Samples of water from the Nubian aquifer were offered for tasting during the IAEA´s 54th General Conference. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

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Of all the water on Earth, less than 3% is fresh water. Life is impossible without a regular supply of freshwater. But, that freshwater supply is shrinking due to rising consumption rates driven by an ever-increasing population, fast-paced industrialization, pollution and climate change.

If we do not manage our freshwater resource more effectively, up to 7 billion people may be confronted with water scarcity by mid-century.

The IAEA develops nuclear techniques that accurately assess water quality and quantity, measurements that are indispensable when managing meager water resources. But how nuclear science does fit into water resource management?

The Water Resources Program at the IAEA uses a powerful tool, isotope hydrology, that aids in coping with water scarcity. IAEA scientists are convinced that if we understand how to manage water efficiently, there will be sufficient renewable and non-renewable water sources for meet global needs.

Gathering at a briefing held during the IAEA´s 54th General Conference on 23 September, IAEA Deputy Director General Werner Burkart focused on the IAEA´s role in sustainable water resources management. He emphasized that "Water is life. Access to fresh water is a human right, yet every year 2 million people die due to the lack of clean, drinking water."

The event also included senior officials concerned about the growing challenge of water resource management, including presentations from U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davis, Dr. Srikumar Banerjee, Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission of India, Fortunato de la Pena, Undersecretary of the Department of Science and Technology of the Philippines, and Willi Struckmeier, the President of the International Association of Hydrogeologists were speakers at the event.

Samples of water from the Nubian aquifer, which was captured in this underground reservoir over a million years ago, were offered for tasting. Pradeep Agarwal, IAEA water expert, informed the gathering that the Nubian aquifer sample´s age had been confirmed at one million years by using isotope hydrology techniques.

Isotope techniques can determine the origin, age and renewal rate of groundwater, and whether it is at risk of salt water intrusions or contamination. It also permits the rapid and reliable mapping of non-renewable groundwater resources, the majority of which are transboundary aquifers, such as the Nubian aquifer shared by Libya, Chad, Egypt, and Sudan. These maps are vital in ensuring the resources equitable use.

The event, while highlighting the crucial role of IAEA in channelling nuclear technologies to manage water resources, also drew attention to the fact that there is need for a coordinated effort to find sustainable solutions to ensure the supply of freshwater.

See Story Resources for more information.

-- By Misha Kidambi, IAEA Division of Public Information

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SIMS Workstation, a UHV Surface Analysis System, for thin film depth profiling

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420 Europa Boulevard
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The Hiden SIMS Workstation is a stand-alone, general purpose, UHV SIMS/SNMS analysis system based around the MAXIM analyser.

The instrument is both powerful and easy to use with a self-tuning secondary ion column and software controlled ion guns. A normally incident video camera enables accurate sample navigation and a low energy electron flood provides trouble free analysis of insulators. The instrument is available with a choice of ion guns and sample holders enabling customers to specify the tool most suited to their application.

The use of standard UHV components throughout ensures that the
system can be easily upgraded and reconfigured, ideal for research applications as well as providing a future-proof investment. A soft tent bakeout system with integrated heater ensures UHV performance and, where required, the stand-alone pumping trolley may be mounted “through the wall” for clean room installation.

PIC Mass Spectrometers for UHV TPD and fast event gas analysis - HAL 3F/PIC Oct 27, 2010TPD Workstation for UHV Thermal Desorption Studies Oct 27, 2010Hiden Ion Milling Probe – End Point Detector (for Magnetic Thin Films) Oct 27, 2010Atmospheric Gas Analysis System - QGA Oct 27, 2010Realtime gas analyser for multi-species gas & vapour analysis - Hiden HPR-20 QIC Oct 27, 2010Multi Stream Gas/Vapour Analyser - QIC Biostream Oct 27, 2010Microreactor with intergrated Mass Spec for Catalysis Studies - CATLAB-PCS Oct 27, 2010MIMS for analysis of gases, vapours and VOC's iin liquids - HPR 40 Oct 27, 2010ESPion, an Advanced Langmuir Probe for Plasma Diagnostics Oct 27, 2010

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PIC Mass Spectrometers for UHV TPD and fast event gas analysis - HAL 3F/PIC

Hiden Analytical Limited
420 Europa Boulevard
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 1925 445 225
Fax: +44 (0) 1925 416 518

The quadrupole analyser is a precision assembled triple mass filter with unique, independently driven RF only secondary filter stages preceding and following the primary mass filter.

Hiden PIC mass spectrometers for high precision scientific, process applications & UHV TPD.

-Low profile ion source. Desorbing surfaces may be positioned to within 8mm of the ion source
-Fast data acquisition
-Ion source control for soft ionisation
-Gating input for pulsed gas studies with down to 100 nsec gating resolution
-Wide dynamic range. 7 decade continuous log scale
-Automatic mass scale alignment
-Data export facility to ASCII format and to all Windows™ devices for printing/plotting

-UHV Temperature Programmed Desorption
-Surface Science, Single Crystal Studies
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-Flash Desorption Analysis
-High Performance RGA
-Desorption/Outgassing studies/Bakeout cycles
-Chamber/Process gas Contaminants

For further information visit our website.

SIMS Workstation, a UHV Surface Analysis System, for thin film depth profiling Oct 27, 2010TPD Workstation for UHV Thermal Desorption Studies Oct 27, 2010Hiden Ion Milling Probe – End Point Detector (for Magnetic Thin Films) Oct 27, 2010Atmospheric Gas Analysis System - QGA Oct 27, 2010Realtime gas analyser for multi-species gas & vapour analysis - Hiden HPR-20 QIC Oct 27, 2010Multi Stream Gas/Vapour Analyser - QIC Biostream Oct 27, 2010Microreactor with intergrated Mass Spec for Catalysis Studies - CATLAB-PCS Oct 27, 2010MIMS for analysis of gases, vapours and VOC's iin liquids - HPR 40 Oct 27, 2010ESPion, an Advanced Langmuir Probe for Plasma Diagnostics Oct 27, 2010

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Earth-sized planets may be more common than we thought

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Oct 28, 2010

Almost one in four stars like the Sun could harbour an Earth-mass planet, according to US researchers. Their finding questions conventional models of planetary formation, which suggest that it is rare to find low-mass planets close to their parent stars, implying that solar systems like ours could be more common than we thought. The result also suggests that NASA's Kepler mission, currently hunting for Earth-like planets, could discover more than 250 "plausibly terrestrial worlds".

The population of known alien worlds, a total of almost 500 discovered since the mid-1990s, is currently skewed towards the more easily detectable Jupiter-mass planets that orbit close to their host stars. It is only recent advances in technology that have allowed the search for planets with similar masses to the Earth. Yet existing models of solar-system formation predict a "planetary desert" close to the star: a lack of planets with 1–30 times the mass of Earth and an orbital period of less than 50 days. Now, a team of astronomers, including Geoff Marcy at the University of California at Berkeley, is challenging this received wisdom.

"This is the first time anyone has measured the fraction of stars that have smaller planets," Marcy, often credited as the most prolific planet hunter of all time, told His team used data from the Keck telescope in Hawaii relating to 166 stars between 0.54 and 1.28 solar masses, all within 80 light-years of Earth. Doppler shifts in the starlight, the result of the star wobbling under the gravitational influence of an orbiting exo-planet, revealed a total of 33 planets around 22 of the stars.

Marcy's team also made an attempt to account for any planets that might have been missed due to limitations in the sensitivity of their equipment. "We asked what would be the maximum planet mass that could hide in our data. If there were a more massive planet than that we would have seen it," Marcy explained. This statistical sampling analysis enabled them to infer the "missed" planets that sit alongside the confirmed planets.

This information, from both the confirmed and inferred cases, was used to model the likelihood of close-by planets as a function of a planet's mass. It turned out that a power law was the best fit to the data, one that implied that the smaller the mass of the planet, the more likely it was to exist. This suggests the "planetary desert" is far from the desolate wasteland previously envisioned. "Our observations don't agree with theoretical predictions. We now know that the universe has more Earth-mass planets than Jupiter-mass planets," said Marcy. His power law predicts the chances of a Sun-like star having a one Earth-mass planet to be 23% – almost one in four. The findings are published in Science.

However, the research was limited, by current technology, to only modelling planets orbiting at less than one quarter of the Sun–Earth distance. So Marcy's finding could still be promising in the hunt for Earth's "twin": a one Earth-mass planet orbiting at an Earth–Sun distance. "Current models suggest most planets form far away from their stars; you should find more planets at longer orbital periods," Coel Hellier, an exo-planet researcher at Keele University, told "This research predicts a 23% chance of finding short period Earth-mass planets, so there should be even more further out; perhaps then nearly all solar-type stars have an Earth-mass planet," he added.

However, just because a planet has near Earth-mass, doesn't necessarily mean it is Earth-like. "Planets with a few Earth masses may be qualitatively different from one Earth-mass planets. They might be much larger, more like mini-Neptunes, with a lot more water and a lot less rock," Marcy warned.

But early results from NASA's Kepler space telescope, which measures a planet's radius rather than its mass, are promising. "Many of Kepler's planet candidates appear to have small radii, which is consistent with our research; they could be Earth-like after all," said Marcy. The team predicts that Kepler could find 120–260 "plausibly terrestrial worlds". "We are starting to see suspicious signs that Earths are out there in large numbers," he added.

Meanwhile, a pair of researchers based in the US and Switzerland has begun to study a contender Earth in more detail. Kevin Heng at ETH Zurich and Steven Vogt at the University of California have simulated atmospheric circulation on Gliese 581g, a "super Earth" discovered in 2009. Publishing their findings in a paper submitted to the arXiv preprint server, the researchers argue that the specific locations for habitability depend on whether the planet is tidally locked and how fast radiative cooling occurs on a global scale.

Colin Stuart is a science writer and astronomer based in London

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Premier Nuclear Policy-Making Conference Closes

GC54 Ends Delegates at the IAEA 54th General Conference (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

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The IAEA's 54th General Conference of Member States concluded on 24 September 2010, in Vienna. Over 1 300 delegates from the IAEA´s 151 Member States attended the annual policy-making meeting.

On Friday, the General Conference adopted resolutions to guide the Agency´s work in the coming year:

The full texts of adopted resolutions and the Presidential statement will be posted in due course on the IAEA website.

The 2010 Scientific Forum gathered internationally renowned cancer experts in an intensive, moderated two-day discussion. Dignitaries, senior officials, doctors and cancer control advocates examined the issue of combating cancer in developing countries, calling for a concerted, long-term global response to stop the cancer epidemic.

Several notable anniversaries were celebrated during the General Conference: the 25th anniversary of the Regional Agreement of Technical Cooperation for the Promotion of Nuclear Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, as well as its applications for development (ARCAL), and the 10th anniversary of the International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO).

See Story Resources for more information.

-- By Peter Kaiser, IAEA Division of Public Information

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Neutron star is most massive yet

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Oct 30, 2010

Using a technique that exploits general relativity, astronomers in the US and the Netherlands have identified a neutron star that has a mass nearly twice that of the Sun. The object is the most massive neutron star ever determined with reliable precision, and its existence, say the researchers, rules out much of the exotic matter hypothesized to occur inside these ultra-dense burnt out stars.

Neutron stars form when stars exhaust all of their nuclear fuel and implode under their own weight. The immense gravity forces protons and electrons together, leaving a ball made up largely of neutrons that has a density up to ten times that of atomic nuclei. Theorists have proposed that the huge pressure inside such an object could lead to a number of different forms of exotic matter. One of these is a material known as a Bose–Einstein condensate, in which particles act together as a single quantum entity. Alternatively, the neutrons might split to form a "soup" of free quarks and create what is known as a "quark star".

One way to discriminate between these different hypotheses is to look for the existence of very massive neutron stars. Exotic particles would repel each other less than neutrons do, and so would provide less resistance against gravitational collapse. This means that the mass value at which an exotic neutron star implodes to form a black hole would be lower than that of a conventional neutron star. In other words, an object of this composition could not exist above a certain mass.

Astronomers have previously identified neutron stars that might weigh as much as 2 solar masses, which is significantly greater than the 1.4–1.5 solar masses considered typical of neutron stars. However, such mass measurements have been imprecise. The new work, carried out by Paul Demorest of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Virginia and colleagues, takes advantage of an effect of general relativity known as the Shapiro delay, which is the delay experienced by a radio signal as it passes through the gravitational potential of a massive object.

The idea is to measure very precisely the arrival time of radio waves from a spinning neutron star known as a pulsar, which is in orbit around a centre of gravity shared by a companion star. The pulsar emits bursts of radio waves separated by a very well defined interval – generally a few thousandths of a second – and this interval will be delayed very slightly as the companion star passes between it and the Earth, owing to the companion star's gravitational field. The exact shape of the curve that describes how this delay varies throughout the cycle of the binary system reveals the inclination of the orbital plane compared to the Earth's line of sight, while the magnitude of the delay tells us the mass of the companion star. Combining these data with measurements of the orbital period and the pulsar line-of-sight speed yields a value for the pulsar mass.

Demorest and co-workers point out that this approach is a very "clean" way of measuring the pulsar mass because, unlike alternative methods, it relies on a single type of data. But the Shapiro delay is a very weak effect. The researchers were able to optimize their measurements by using a binary system, known as J1614-2230, in which the orbital plane is almost exactly edge-on as seen from the Earth and in which the companion star is comparatively massive – both characteristics that increase the magnitude of the delay. They observed the system over the course of one complete nine-day orbit in March this year using an instrument known as GUPPI on the NRAO's Green Bank radio telescope. From these observations they calculated the pulsar to have a mass of 1.97 solar masses, with error bars of ±0.04 solar masses (Nature 467 1081).

This figure is significantly higher than the previous record for precisely measured neutron star mass – 1.67±0.01 solar masses. And it is, say the researchers, high enough to rule out a wide range of models positing the existence of exotic matter inside neutron stars. Feryal Ozel of the University of Arizona, lead author of a companion paper to be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, says that among the exotic particles to get the chop are hyperons, kaon condensates and free quarks. She says that if quarks are to exist in the core of neutron stars then they must strongly interact with one another, as they do inside normal matter, in order to withstand the star's huge gravitational field.

Frits Paerels of Columbia University in New York, who was not involved with the work, agrees. "This measurement really does not appear to leave a lot of wiggle room for models of neutron stars that involve exotic condensates," he says. "It also starts to close in on the models based on quark matter. Indeed, it comes very close to ruling out quark stars."

Edwin Cartlidge is a science writer based in Rome

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India, Sri Lanka in PACT Against Cancer

PACT India donated a teletherapy unit for cancer treatment to Sri Lanka through the IAEA´s Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT). (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

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India donated today a teletherapy unit for cancer treatment to Sri Lanka through the IAEA´s Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT). The donation of the Bhabhatron II machine is in support of the PACT initiative to implement a comprehensive cancer control programme in the south Asian country, one of three PACT Model Demonstration Site (PMDS) in the Asia and the Pacific region.

At a ceremony for the signing of the tripartite agreement held during the 54th IAEA General Conference, Werner Burkart, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications, described the donation a "triumph of hope and collaborative effort to control cancer in developing countries, though it is only one step in a very long road lying ahead."

He also praised the governments of India and Sri Lanka for the initiative.

"India´s initiative is making radiotherapy more accessible, saving lives and lessening suffering," he said.

"Sri Lanka, on the other hand, is making cancer a priority. The country, as PMDS, is a model for cancer control programme implementation in developing countries."

Dr. Srikumar Banerjee, Chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, praised PACT for its role as vehicle for channeling resources.

"PACT has a major impact on cancer treatment in the developing world," he said.

Dr. Wimaladharma Abeyewickreme, Chairman of Sri Lanka´s Atomic Energy Authority, expressed his gratitude to the Indian Government and to PACT, reaffirming his country´s commitment to the PMDS initiative.

"I am pleased to be here to receive this donation on behalf of my country, and I very much appreciate the effort made by all," he commented.

Dr. Rajendra Achyut Badwe, Director of Mumbay´s Tata Memorial Centre, India´s national comprehensive cancer centre, spoke of the efforts to bring adequate cancer care to patients in developing countries.

"We strive to see that uniform cancer care is offered throughout India and to neighbouring countries," he said.

We strive to see that no patient feels hopeless.

Today´s donation of a Bhabhatron II unit follows the April 2010 donation by India of a similar machine to Vietnam also delivered through PACT.

"There is a gap that can only be filled by low-cost machines," he said.

This year´s Scientific Forum held during the 54th IAEA General Conference was dedicated to cancer in developing countries.


Created by the IAEA in 2004 in response to the developing world´s growing cancer crisis, PACT seeks to raise cancer awareness, assess needs, develop demonstration projects and attract donors.

PACT promoted the development of the WHO/IAEA Joint Programme for Cancer Control and also aims to work with leading cancer organizations to develop partnerships to support the countries in their fight against cancer and raise funds for cancer control where they are most needed.

See Story Resources for more information.

-- By Iulia Iliut and Giovanni Verlini, IAEA Division of Public Information

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'Best evidence yet' for dark matter comes from Milky Way centre

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Oct 29, 2010

Energetic radiation pulsing from the belly of the Milky Way is the clearest signal yet of dark matter. That is according to a pair of astrophysicists in the US who reach this conclusion after scrutinising the public data collected by NASA's orbiting Fermi Observatory. "I certainly think it's the best evidence we've seen so far," says Dan Hooper, one half of the team, based at the University of Chicago.

It is a huge claim because for over 70 years astrophysicists have debated the existence of dark matter, which is thought to make up 80% of the universe's mass, yet they have failed to gather any definitive evidence, either direct or indirect, for its existence. But with several hints for dark matter published in recent years – all received with scrutiny by the wider astrophysics community – the US pair will have a hard time convincing others that their signal is what they think it is.

Hooper and his colleague Lisa Goodenough of New York University have analysed the spectra of gamma rays coming from the centre of our galaxy, as collected by the Large Area Telescope onboard the Fermi observatory. Although dark matter does not couple to light, it should annihilate with itself to produce gamma rays, and the amount of annihilation should increase rapidly towards the galactic centre as dark-matter density increases.

Last year Hooper and Goodenough compared the Fermi spectra of gamma rays with a simple computer model of dark matter, and suggested that an excess of gamma rays coming from the galactic centre might be evidence of dark-matter annihilation. At that time other researchers weren't convinced because there were other possible origins for the signal, such as high-energy photons striking interstellar gas. In their latest analysis, however, Hooper and Goodenough have tried to allay these concerns using a far more complex methodology that looks at specific components making up the background of gamma rays.

The US pair break down the gamma-ray background into three parts: a narrow emission from the galaxy's disc; an emission from known point sources; and a spherical or "bulge" emission around the galactic centre. According to their model, no matter what parameters one chooses for dark matter, there should always be a threshold within the bulge emission where dark-matter annihilation begins to outshine other gamma-ray sources. This is because – unlike other sources – emission from dark-matter annihilation follows a square law, so that doubling the density increases the annihilation four-fold.

Hooper and Goodenough examined the Fermi spectra at many regions inside the gamma-ray bulge, and found the data always matched the model's prediction of normal emission – except right at the galactic centre. Here, in a narrow region spanning less than one-quarter of a degree, the emission was far stronger than the model predicted, and had a more lopsided spectrum. Those characteristics, the US pair claims, point to a dark-matter particle – a weakly interacting massive particle, or WIMP – in a mass range of 7.3–9.2 GeV.

This light mass is partly what lends the analysis credence. For years physicists working on the DAMA experiment in Italy claim to have found WIMPs colliding with sodium-iodide nuclei, while those working on the CoGeNT collaboration in the US have tentatively revealed similar WIMP signals coming from germanium detectors – and many believe the only way to reconcile these signals is to assume a WIMP with a mass around 8 GeV.

"Until I had seen this latest paper from Hooper and Goodenough, I was kind of thinking with the light WIMP scenario – nah," says Alex Murphy, a particle astrophysicist who works on the ZEPLIN-III dark-matter experiment in the UK. "But now I've seen it, I'm starting to think – hmm, maybe. Perhaps now we should be looking at other ways to confirm or disprove this proposal."

Murphy voices scepticism about the strength of the claim, however, because he is not convinced Hooper and Goodenough understand the idiosyncrasies of the Fermi instrumentation sufficiently well. Although the Fermi team has published its own preprint revealing an excess of gamma rays near the galactic centre, it has so far stopped short of interpreting this as dark matter.

Ronaldo Bellazzini, the principal investigator on Fermi's Italian team, warns that Hooper and Goodenough's analysis of the galactic centre could still be prone to misinterpretation. "Unfortunately, this region, and whatever [Fermi] observes along the line of sight to it, is rich with astrophysical sources that can mimic signals similar to dark-matter annihilation, like pulsars and supernovae remnants" he says.

Meanwhile, Michael Kuhlen, a dark-matter theorist at the University of California at Berkeley, believes there is "probably a good reason" why the Fermi collaboration has held back from making conclusions on the gamma-ray excess. "They're certainly aware of it, but probably just haven't been able to convince themselves that they fully understand the instrument's behaviour, or the backgrounds, or the kinds of possible astrophysical sources that could produce the signal," he says.

But Kulen adds: "Really they're just trying to stir the pot, and get people to seriously consider the possibility that Fermi may have already detected a dark-matter annihilation signal. This is a good thing."

A preprint of the paper is available at arXiv: 1010.2752.

Jon Cartwright is a freelance journalist based in Bristol, UK

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Training and Smart Decision Making Key In Considering New Technology

Experts Experts in the audience and on the panel shared thoughts and experiences during the Scientific Forum on the third day of the 54th IAEA General Conference. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

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"New doesn´t necessarily mean Better" was one of the dominant messages during the Scientific Forum at the 54th IAEA General Conference, where cancer experts discussed Emerging Technologies, Challenges and Opportunities: Role of Imaging in Breast Cancer.

Gunilla Svane, Associate Professor in the Mammography Section of the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden, said medical practitioners should ensure that new technology - like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) for instance - will save more lives and be a better diagnostic tool than their current, cheaper technology - such as mammography and ultrasound.

Niloy Datta, Senior Consultant and Co-ordinator in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre in India, proposed that developing countries would benefit greatly from employing the Three Tier Tele-Networking System for Comprehensive Radiotherapy Care which is used in India.

The system involves first creating new radiotherapy facilities with basic teletherapy units. These primary radiotherapy centres would be responsible for early detection and preventive oncology in various communities.

Existing radiotherapy centres would then need to be augmented by secondary radiotherapy centres that provide teletherapy, brachytherapy, as well as simulator and treatment planning.

And thirdly, a centre with advanced treatment facilities, teaching, training and research should be identified. This tertiary radiotherapy centre with state of the art equipment would deal with only the most complex cases that have been referred from the lower level centres.

Another key point stressed by experts on the panel and in the audience was that staff should be well trained to handle any new technology. This need for training is often ignored in many facilities around the world.


Equity in global health care, especially in cancer has been a matter of great concern for all national and international agencies. The burden of cancer care could assume mammoth proportions by the year 2020. And of the estimated 10 million deaths due to cancer, 75% would occur in developing countries.

Presently less than 25% of the patients in developing countries have access to radiation therapy, which could cure 50% of cancers, if used alone or in combination with other methods.

See Story Resource for more information.

-- By Sasha Henriques, IAEA Division of Public Information

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Uranium Mine Productions to Meet Growth Needs

Uranium Roundtable discussion with industry, government and regulator experts from various countries. (Photo: K. Nikolic/IAEA)

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Sufficient uranium resources have been identified to meet demand in even high case growth scenarios, explained Jan Slezak, Uranium Resource Specialist at the IAEA´s Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Materials Section, during a roundtable discussion with industry, government and regulator experts from various countries held at the margins of the 54th IAEA General Conference on 22 September.

"Uranium mine production is planned to increase in a number of countries, including Russia, Niger, Namibia, Australia, Canada and Kazakhstan, to meet the needs of an expected increase," he said.

However, several challenges remain despite strong market conditions. These include high production costs, a thin supply chain, aging facilities and workforce, shortage of new and experienced staff for the expansion as well as geopolitical issues.

Mr. Slezak was presenting the results of the latest edition of the Red Book, a biennial publication covering costs of production, current global base and distribution of global uranium resources.

Participants to the meeting pointed out that information sharing and networking between industry and regulators is one of the most important aspects needed to confront the issue of the global shortage of expertise in the field of uranium mining.

The roundtable discussion was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Australia. At the meeting, representatives of the Australia Uranium Association encouraged the IAEA to provide regulatory frameworks guidance to the uranium industry.


Uranium 2009, Resources, Production and Demand, otherwise known as the Red Book, is jointly produced by the IAEA and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

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-- By Sarah Poe and Giovanni Verlini, IAEA Division of Public Information

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Suzanne Mubarak, Egypt’s First Lady, Talks about Fighting Cancer in Africa

Suzanne Mubarak Suzanne Mubarak, Egypt´s First Lady, draws attention to important issues such as cancer control. (Photo: IAEA)

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Cancer is on the increase globally. The disease now kills nearly eight million people a year - more than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined - with around 75 percent of these deaths occurring in developing countries.

These low- and middle income countries are worst hit by the cancer crisis. They face many more new cases each year, yet have little or no means to prevent and diagnose the disease, or, adequately treat the sick.

For over 40 years, the IAEA has been assisting developing countries introduce and improve cancer diagnosis and treatment by helping build and strengthen radiation medicine programmes.

Cancer is on the increase in Egypt and Mrs. Mubarak supports many national initiatives to fight the disease and her country supports programmes to help other countries on the African continent combat cancer.

She speaks to the IAEA´s Louise Potterton.

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-- By Louise Potterton, IAEA Division of Public Information

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Molecular magnets stand in line

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Oct 29, 2010

Researchers in Europe have succeeded in creating molecular magnets capable of adopting a preferred orientation on a gold surface. The result is an important advance for the burgeoning field of spintronics – in which electronic devices exploit the spin of an electron as well as its charge. Such devices are of great interest because they could be smaller and more energy efficient than conventional electronic circuits.

Single-molecule magnets are paramagnetic materials that can switch their magnetization between two states, from "spin up" to "spin down", for example. At low temperatures, the magnetic state of the molecule persists even in the absence of a magnetic field. This memory effect could be exploited to make high-density information storage devices for computing applications.

Last year Roberta Sessoli of the University of Florence and colleagues in Modena and Paris showed that clusters of four iron atoms (Fe4) incorporated into the structure of a complex molecule could retain their magnetic memory when chemically attached to a gold surface. Now, the same team has gone a step further in its work by chemically tailoring these Fe4 molecules to orient themselves in a preferred way on the gold. The magnetism of the molecules was studied using synchrotron light.

The new result allowed the researchers to observe resonant quantum tunnelling of the magnetization in single-molecule magnets on a surface for the first time. Quantum tunnelling, a process whereby quantum particles can penetrate energy barriers normally insurmountable to classical objects, is a rather fragile phenomenon. It can easily be destroyed by external effects – for example, through the connections needed to connect the magnets electronically within practical devices.

"The fact that we observed quantum tunnelling in molecular magnets tethered to a gold surface demonstrates that molecule–surface interactions are not detrimental to such a delicate aspect of magnetism," says Sessoli.

The researchers joined the four coplanar iron ions by adding two new connecting molecules, or "ligands", derived from a trialcohol that has just the right geometry to bind the ions at opposite ends of the iron plane. Such an arrangement means that the iron molecule is highly stable.

"The trialcohol has an aliphatic chain terminated with a sulphur-containing group, which represents a key ingredient in our approach," explained Sessoli. "In fact, we exploited the pronounced affinity of sulphur atoms towards gold to chemically anchor the molecular magnets on the gold surface."

The team then found that the way the molecular magnets orient themselves onto the gold surface could be controlled by changing the length and flexibility of the alkyl chain. For instance, when the chain length is reduced from nine to five carbon atoms, molecules are forced to bind to the surface via a single "alligator clip" and thus adopt a preferential alignment as opposed to a random one. When the molecules are aligned, they show wider magnetic hysteresis loops and a better memory effect, with clear quantum tunnelling signatures.

"Our work proves that a multidisciplinary approach, combining synthetic chemistry, experimental physics and theoretical modelling, is needed to advance nanoscience," added Sessoli. "Although applications for this technology won't be seen in the near future because of the low working temperatures of single-molecule magnets, this kind of fundamental investigation paves the way for future spin-based technologies."

The work is described in a paper in this week's Nature.

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A Fusion Facilitator

Yury Sokolov Yury Sokolov, Deputy Director General of the IAEA

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How does the IAEA currently support fusion research?

The IAEA?s financial and human resource investment in fusion research is vanishingly small in comparison with the sums and staffing that countries involved in fusion around the world dedicate to that effort. Nonetheless, nuclear fusion has been an important focus of the IAEA?s activities from the inception of international fusion activities, which began 52 years ago at the so-called ?Second Geneva Conference?, a UN conference on the peaceful use of atomic energy. In addition, since October, 1960, the IAEA has been publishing the journal Nuclear Fusion, which is now published online to deliver information to the fusion community as swiftly as possible.

Our contribution also includes hosting a unique consultative body, comprising outstanding fusion scientists from different countries, the International Fusion Research Council, which advises the IAEA Director General on all questions related to fusion and plasma physics research. This Council is the forum where national and international activities are coordinated, such as organizing the 23rd IAEA Fusion Energy Conference, being held from 11 ? 15 October in Daejeon, the Republic of Korea.

It has always been obvious that the IAEA could not command the funds needed to promote the use of nuclear power by building demonstration or power reactors. The Agency?s role is to encourage the exchange of scientific and technical information on research in nuclear technology, provide advice, promote training, evaluate nuclear projects and carry out feasibility studies.

Even without direct involvement in projects, the IAEA can play a very important role. ITER, the international organization building an experimental fusion reactor, is a good example of how the Agency plays a key role as a mediator on many crucial occasions during ITER?s evolution from an idea to an international agreement and through its maturity and autonomy as an independent organization. The IAEA assisted in consolidating the international fusion community, focusing its plasma physics research on the problems of the ITER design, making this research more results-oriented and very effectively encouraging worldwide investment in fusion. ITER is a hugely visible example of how large international projects can be organized and how the IAEA can position itself in such projects.

In addition, the IAEA offers a forum for medium and small-scale projects within the framework of its ?Coordinated Research Projects?. And quite often, it is the smallest projects that can influence fusion research significantly.

Looking ahead, the IAEA can help the international fusion community take the next steps, in the same manner as it facilitated ITER?s development. We will, for instance, gather the best human resources for future work, coordinate fusion and fission studies of technological issues relevant to both programmes, assist and collaborate in the education and training of future generations of young scientists and engineers, produce joint publications and organize scientific conferences.

An enormous investment is necessary to achieve fusion even on a test basis. Given all of the problems the world faces, is fusion worth the investment?

An investment in fusion is not wasted money. I think that the industrial spin-offs from fusion technology such as using plasma to harden material surfaces, for welding and cutting materials, to advance vacuum technologies, to develop materials capable of withstanding high energy fluxes, and to develop industrial technology for superconductor production, to name a few, have all yielded a return on all investments. It is possible to indicate an enormous number of examples when cutting edge scientific research boosts innovative applications.

ITER is the fusion community?s main path forward at the moment. The experimental reactor will be capable of producing a self-sustaining fusion reaction and demonstrating the integrated operation of the technologies essential for a fusion power plant, including handling the plasma energy flow in the divertor, testing the tritium breeding modules and steady state plasma control. Its operation is an important stage in nuclear fusion research. ITER will drive the next stage in the peaceful use of nuclear fusion energy: a demonstration power plant based on magnetic confinement. As a part of a broad strategy to achieve the goal of producing electricity using fusion energy, it was agreed to initiate activities for the development of an economical demonstration of fusion through development of a ?DEMOnstration Power Plant? or DEMO reactor.

It is clear that additional approaches need also to be explored to find the optimal solution to the problem of bringing the Sun?s power to Earth. Alternative magnetic concepts and inertial fusion concepts are under investigation such as National Ignition Facility (NIF), the Laser Megajoule Project (LMJ), the FIREX (I and II) and Hiper project.

Fusion promises to offer a source of limitless, clean energy. What are the major challenges to be overcome in achieving commercially viable energy production using fusion?

There is no debate that fusion has the potential to produce a significant amount of energy for thousands of years. The challenge is how to make the process practical, economical, reliable and sustainable. All current fusion research is aiming to achieve that goal. And by achieving it, we will not only have energy, we will gain new structural materials, superconductors, reliable robots, new methods and tools for control and analysis, and so on.

And as a joke, let me say that we have to overcome the challenges created by impatient expectations and untimely disappointment.

When do you expect to see the first test reactor (ITER) in operation?.

The ITER schedule assumes that its first plasma will be produced in 2019.

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Culture Shift Needed to Achieve Patient Radiation Safety

Regulators Panellists answer questions during the Senior Regulators Meeting held during the IAEA´s 54th General Conference.

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Medical diagnosis and treatment exposes patients to more radiation than ever before; and accidents are by no means limited to developing countries. According to the World Health Organisation, at least 3,000 patients have been affected by radiotherapy incidents and accidents in the last 30 years.

Radiation accidents involving medical uses of radiation have accounted for more acute radiation deaths than any other source, including Chernobyl.

Senior nuclear regulators from around the world met during the fourth day of the IAEA´s 54th General Conference to discuss the pressing issue of medical exposure to radiation and its regulation.

Regulators agreed that in order to solve the problem, not only does there need to be more intensive training for regulators, doctors and technicians dealing with these powerful machines, but there also needs to be consistent application of the IAEA Basic Safety Standards.

Online training is already available on the IAEA website and regional training courses are also organized by technical support organizations.

The regulators said these training opportunities should be developed further and professional organizations should also play an active role and further promote safety culture.

Eliana Amaral, Director of the IAEA Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety said safety would be greatly enhanced if a global incident reporting system could be implemented where doctors and technicians share the circumstances of their mistakes with others in the profession, facilitating learning on a larger scale.

Participants also stated the importance of only ordering procedures involving radiation when they are absolutely necessary.

They also discussed the problem of abandoned radioactive sources from medical applications, noting that they can be controlled if a country has a strong regulatory authority.

See Story Resource for more information.

-- By Sasha Henriques, IAEA Division of Public Information

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Nuclear Fusion Prize Winners

Award winners Left-hand photo: John E Rice (centre), MIT, the Winner of the 2010 Nuclear Fusion journal Award receives the award certificate and trophy from the Chair of the Board of Editors of Nuclear Fusion, Mitsuru Kikuchi (left), Japan Atomic Energy Agency and Werner Burkart (right), Deputy Director General, IAEA

Right-hand photo: Steven Sabbagh, Columbia University / PPPL (centre), the Winner of the 2009 Nuclear Fusion journal Award receives the award certificate and trophy from the Chair of the Board of Editors of Nuclear Fusion, Mitsuru Kikuchi (left), Japan Atomic Energy Agency and Werner Burkart (right), Deputy Director General, IAEA

The Nuclear Fusion Prize Nuclear Fusion journal website Say It!

During the 2010 Fusion Energy Conference, held in Daejeon, Republic of Korea, the Nuclear Fusion Prize was presented to the 2009 and 2010 winners on 11 October 2010.

The Prize Winner for 2009 winner is Steve Sabbagh from the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Columbia University, New York. He received the award as the lead author of a landmark paper which reports record parameters of beta in a large spherical torus plasma and presents a thorough investigation of the physics of Resistive Wall Mode (RWM) instability. The paper makes a significant contribution to the critical topic of RWM stabilization.

The recipient of the 2010 award is John Rice, Principal Research Scientist, on the Alcator Project at MIT?s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, Cambridge, as the lead author of a seminal paper that analyzes results across a range of machines in order to develop a universal scaling that can be used to predict intrinsic rotation. The timeliness of this paper is the anticipated applicability of this scaling to ITER.

Background The Nuclear Fusion Prize is awarded annually to recognise outstanding work published in the journal.

Each year, a shortlist of ten papers is nominated for the Nuclear Fusion prize. These are papers of the highest scientific standard, published in the journal volume from two years previous to the award year. Nominations are based on citation record and recommendation by the Board of Editors. The Board then votes by secret ballot to determine which of these papers has made the largest scientific impact.

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Most recently we have been developing new business with the our X-ray detection and data acquisition modules and with the LINX linear X-ray system.

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Electron Tubes offers a remotely controlled, multi-channel, photomultiplier power supply system. HVSys provides individual channel control and monitoring of the high voltage power supply, using only 3 wires. HV is generated on the base of the photomultiplier, avoiding the inconvenience and problems associated with high voltage distribution. You need a +12V supply with sufficient current capability for the number of channels chosen; the supply current required is less than 25 mA per channel.

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Honest Nuclear Broker

Experts IAEA experts met with Member States representatives to illustrate the services available to countries interested in nuclear power. (Photo: G. Verlini/IAEA)

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With 65 countries expressing an interest in launching a nuclear power programme, the need for an "honest nuclear broker" that provides them with impartial advise is higher than ever. The IAEA can fulfil that role.

As the world´s leading international centre of nuclear cooperation promoting the safe, secure and sustainable development of nuclear power, the IAEA can offer impartial, non-commercial advice to countries with little or no experience in nuclear power.

At a briefing held during the 54th IAEA General Conference, IAEA experts met with Member States representatives to illustrate the services available to countries interested in nuclear power, including the newly-launched Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Group (INIG).

The Group, which brings together and coordinates technical services from different IAEA Departments, offers newcomer countries a comprehensive approach to nuclear power development.

"INIG builds on and strengthens mechanisms already in place within the IAEA," explained Anne Starz, who heads the IAEA´s Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Group.

As part of its array of services offered to countries, the IAEA also runs workshops and fora for nuclear newcomers.

"Our aim is to help Member States´ become intelligent nuclear customers," said Starz.

During the briefing, representatives from both technology holder and receiver countries described how international cooperation is helping meet the world´s rising demand for nuclear power.

See Story Resources for more information.

-- By Giovanni Verlini, IAEA Division of Public Information

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Numbers For a Better World

The IAEA?s contribution to worldwide stats may be small, but is invaluable to the nuclear community.

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When it comes to economic and social development, knowledge is power. Understanding past and current trends provides indispensible information that can be used to make decisions that will profoundly affect future generations.

Comprehending the value of accurate numerical data, the IAEA joined other international organisations based at the Vienna International Centre in Austria to recognise the first ever World Statistics Day on 13 October.

?Statistics are often considered cold and impersonal, but if you gather the right information and apply the knowledge you gain in the right way, statistics can save lives,? said Jong Kyun Park, Director of the IAEA?s Division of Nuclear Power.

The IAEA?s contribution to worldwide stats may be small, but is invaluable to the nuclear community.

Its Power Reactor Information System (PRIS) is the largest collection of global statistical information on nuclear operating experience and can be used to systematically assess performance by looking at outage causes. PRIS contains two kinds of data: general and design information on power reactors, and data on operating experience with nuclear power plants.

Also, the IAEA?s Planning and Economic Studies Section (PESS) maintains information references of energy and economic data for all Member States, plus nuclear power projections through 2030.

As the expert UN agency on nuclear energy, the IAEA conducts research and provides input for international negotiations on climate change and sustainable development.

A project on Indicators for Sustainable Energy Development is also in progress.

See Story Resources for more information.

-- By Sasha Henriques, IAEA Division of Public Information

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Board of Governors Elects New Chair

Board of Governors Newly elected Chair, Mr. Ansar Parvez of Pakistan (centre), addresses the Board of Governors for the first time in his new role. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

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The IAEA Board of Governors has elected the Governor for Pakistan, Mr. Ansar Parvez, as its Chairman for 2010-2011 (one year mandate) at a meeting held today in Vienna.

Mr. Parvez is also serving as the Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission.

The Ambassadors and Resident Representatives of Denmark and Ukraine were also elected as Vice-Chairmen. They are Mr. John Hartmann Bernhard, Governor for Denmark, and Ms. Olena Mykolaichuk, Governor for Ukraine.

Eleven countries were elected last week to serve on the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors for the two-year period 2010-2012. The action was taken by Member States meeting at the IAEA General Conference in Vienna. The newly elected Board members are Belgium, the Czech Republic, Chile, Ecuador, Italy, Jordan, Niger, Portugal, Singapore, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.

Other Member States represented on the IAEA Board during 2010-2011 are Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Peru, Russian Federation, South Africa, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Venezuela.

See Story Resources for more information.

-- By Sasha Henriques, IAEA Division of Public Information

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Guiding Hands in Nuclear Regulation

Senior Regulators The IAEA supports nuclear newcomer countries in their efforts to launch safe, secure and sustainable nuclear power programmes. (Photo: M. Kidambi/IAEA)

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Nothing can replace experience, the old saying goes, and the IAEA is working to ensure that experience and knowledge in nuclear regulation is shared among States. Through the recently-launched Regulatory Cooperation Forum, the IAEA supports nuclear newcomer countries in their efforts to launch safe, secure and sustainable nuclear power programmes.

While the Forum is Member-driven, the IAEA has the role of facilitating and promoting coordination and collaboration among regulators, so that States can learn from the breadth of international experience available.

"The kinds of requests we receive from newcomers are extremely demanding," said Denis Flory, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of Department of Nuclear Safety and Security.

"Naturally, as IAEA we have an array of services available to Member States, but real life experience is irreplaceable. Many States know where they are now and where they would like to be. However, this is not an easy path," explained Flory.

"The best way to get through this evolution is through the guidance of those who have already gone the way."

Members of the Forum met today in Vienna under the IAEA´s aegis to discuss strategies and plans for the coming months. Coordination and information sharing is seen as a crucial tool to address the needs of nuclear newcomers and guarantee effective regulations are in place across the world´s nuclear sector.


Representatives from State regulatory bodies that met at the 2009 IAEA Conference on Effective Nuclear Regulatory Systems held in Cape Town, South Africa, agreed to establish a Forum to provide effective coordination and collaboration among requesting Member States and those asked to provide regulatory support.

The Regulatory Cooperation Forum held its inception meeting on 21 June 2010.

See Story Resources for more information.

-- By Giovanni Verlini, IAEA Division of Public Information

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From Dream to Reality

DDG Brukart Werner Burkart ? IAEA Deputy Director General

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How has the IAEA supported fusion research?

DDG Burkart: The vision of fusion for peaceful purposes has always been to recreate the energy of the Sun on Earth. The IAEA has supported this idea from its founding in 1957. Even during the Cold War, the IAEA was able to facilitate cooperation across the Iron Curtain and to provide a forum to exchange scientific research. Today, we continue to support research networks, training and education, also through the International Centre for Theoretical Physics and coordinated research projects. I am proud to say that the IAEA played a significant role in facilitating a remarkable achievement, the establishment of an international organization, ITER, whose aim is to develop fusion energy for peaceful uses. ITER is also the Latin word for ?journey? or ?way? to underscore the organization?s path-finding mission. It is important to stress that the first concrete has been poured at Cadarache, France, which marks the official start of the fusion reactor?s construction.

Why is ITER a focus of the Agency's support and what does ITER hope to achieve?

DDG Burkart: ITER is the first large-scale, international effort to use fusion energy to produce electricity. It will test the technologies needed to sustain a fusion reaction. This, of course, is a huge undertaking with enormous financial implications to be shared by its partners. It is our mandate to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies, support Member States in their capacity building, and provide training and education for the experts working in the nuclear field.

Fusion research depends on exchange and dialogue. How does the IAEA support that communication?

DDG Burkart: As an important contribution to the field, the IAEA publishes ?Nuclear Fusion?, the leading monthly journal, covering all significant aspects of fusion research. This year, we celebrate its 50th anniversary. The Journal also recognises excellence by means of an annual prize awarded to the authors of papers judged to have made the greatest impact. The award is typically presented during the biennial Fusion Energy Conference, which is taking place this week in Daejeon, The Republic of Korea.

Let me say a few words about the IAEA?s Fusion Conference. It is the premier event in the field. It provides an unparalleled forum for the exchange of first-class research in plasma physics and fusion energy by bringing together leading scientists from around the world.

With more than 1, 200 participants, this year?s Conference is the largest Fusion Energy Conference ever organized by the IAEA. I am very happy to have witnessed how the Conference has grown in both its size and the standing it enjoys worldwide. The previous Conference in Geneva celebrated 50 years of fusion, and since then remarkable progress has been made, including the establishment of ITER.

After over fifty years of fusion research support, are you not a bit worried that fusion will always remain science fiction?

DDG Burkart: Fusion energy as the source of electricity in our daily lives may be decades away, but progress made in the last decade has been substantial. Similar to the Internet which also came out of military research, fusion has been tested for military purposes more than 50 years ago. Making fusion work for ?Atoms for Peace? is a much more noble cause. Finally, there are also other benefits of fusion research, for example in material sciences for high temperature resistant structures with many important nuclear and non-nuclear applications.

To conclude, I would say that for the world at large, fusion energy may seem like a distant dream but for the group of dedicated fusion scientists, each step?from exchanging research to the establishing ITER?brings the dream that much closer to reality. In other words, doesn?t every significant step forward in the development of humankind start with a dream?

-- DDG Burkart was interviewed on 6 October 2010 by Sasa Gorisek, IAEA Nuclear Applications, and, Peter Kaiser, IAEA Public Information

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Experts Meet for Largest Ever IAEA Fusion Conference

iter The ITER Tokamak will be nearly 30 metres tall, and weigh 23 000 tons. The Tokamak is a doughnut-shaped vessel surrounded by coils that produce an intense magnetic field ? in which the conditions needed for fusion are created and maintained.

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More than 1000 scientific experts met for the six-day, IAEA Fusion Energy Conference, held in Daejeon, the Republic of Korea from 11-16 October 2010. Hosted by Korea's National Fusion Research Institute, this meeting was the largest gathering the IAEA has organized on the means to use fusion as a source of energy since the Conference series began in 1961.

As the search for greener forms of electricity production intensifies, the rising attendance and the scope of the research presented at the Conference are indicative of the scientific community's growing attention to pursuing peaceful nuclear fusion. During the Conference, scientists provided 460 poster presentations, delivered over 80 lectures, in addition to more than 20 overview presentations, as well as an additional 7 overview posters, displaying the outcome of the work done by larger groups, often over a period of many years. The Youth Conference on Fusion Energy was held prior to the Conference and was attended by about 100 young researchers. This new Conference was organized by the National Fusion Research Institute in cooperation with the IAEA.

"For the world at large, fusion energy remains a distant dream but the large group of distinguished scientists gathering in Deajeon recently made important headway to move the dream closer to reality," said Werner Burkart, Head of the IAEA's Nuclear Sciences and Applications Department, who opened the Conference on behalf of IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.

The next Fusion Energy Conference will be held in San Diego, USA from 8 to 13 October 2012.

See Story Resources for more information.

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A Better Banana

Bananas Pierre Lagoda, Head of Plant Breeding and Genetics at the Agency, gives mutant banana plants to delegates attending the IAEA´s 54th General Conference. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

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Nearly 7?billion people live on our planet today and populations continue to grow. Some of us enjoy better nutrition, longer lives and more robust health than our grandparents did a century ago. At the same time, the UN forecasts an increase of mal- or undernourished people, especially in the developing world. More and better food is essential to combat and overcome malnutrition and hunger. Larger and more stable food supplies will need to be developed for food-deficient areas.

Food aid is a vital, yet short-term solution. Long-term projects need to increase crop productivity. Yet, how can we make plants more productive?

In 1928, Lewis Stadler studied the effect of radiation on plant development. He experimented with genetic mutation in crops that occurred either spontaneously, or were induced by exposure to X-rays and ultra-violet radiation. His work represented a milestone in the modernization of plant breeding. Following his example, plant breeders working in the FAO/IAEA joint programme are developing better crops to help IAEA and FAO Member States to improve their food supplies. More than 3 000 officially released varieties from 170 different plant species are now being cultivated and consumed - a significant contribution towards achieving global sustainable food security. In the past two years, the FAO/IAEA joint effort supports crop improvement programs in 95 Member States.

One of these crops is the banana. In the developing world, bananas are an important source of nutrition and a staple in many diets. This food staple is threatened by many factors. A preeminent concern is producing greater yields with less soil, water, money and toil.

In 1997, Dr. Mohamed Ahmed Ali at the Tissue Culture Laboratory, Agricultural Research Corporation, Sudan, began working on a new banana variety with the help of the IAEA. He eventually produced the Al Beely banana. The new "mutant" banana offers considerably improved yield, requires less pesticides, thus cutting farmers´ costs, increasing their incomes and delivering a larger, more stable food supply.

How was it done? First, in the case of the banana, leaf cellules are irradiated for a short time. The miniscule radiation dose, in passing through the seed before completely dissipating, causes a mutation in the banana´s genetic material. The plants that grow from these irradiated cells in the test tube are called "mutants". The plant itself harbours no radiation, nor any signs of exposure. The plant breeders screen all the resulting bananas in the new crop, looking for useful new characteristics. Al Beely, for instance, achieves much higher yields than the comparable local varieties of bananas under cultivation.

An arduous, decade-long research campaign preceded this success. It may never have literally borne fruit without IAEA-sponsored technology: Bananas are sterile; there is no seed in the fruit. Without sex, there is no way to improve the variety through traditional breeding. The breeder would have to search far and wide to find and test better candidates. In cooperation with the IAEA, scientists can acquire the tools to induce beneficial mutations and produce hardy plants. And through "twinning", the desirable traits are reproduced in subsequent generations. The offspring bananas are as healthy and tasty as any other banana.

Lagoda praises Al-Beely as a robust and environmentally-friendly mutant that was created using proven, 80 year-old proven technology. It is also cost- efficient in cultivation, perfect for sustainable, industrial crop production in the developing world.

The term "mutant" sounds grim, but Lagoda explains: "Nature would have produced this mutation at some point. As an example, it took Mother Nature 100  million years to produce the 140 000 known varieties of rice. Today, 1?billion people are starving. Can you wait 100?million years for nature to produce a better-yielding banana? No, we can´t..."

Rather than introducing sequences of a foreign genetic code, a technique applied in genetic engineering, inducing mutations through irradiation simply accelerates the natural, evolutionary process making it much more likely that a breeder will in the course of his lifetime find the one-of-a-kind individual that will "father" new generations of improved crops. This technique is effective in improving taste, yield and resistance to diseases and tolerance to worsening global climatic conditions. With this peaceful application of nuclear science, the IAEA, together with its partner FAO, is helping reduce world hunger and improve food security.

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-- By Alessia Durczok, IAEA Division of Public Information

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Battling the Bottleneck

Mo-99 Experts discuss measures for multilateral cooperation to ensure sustainable, reliable and secure Mo-99 supply to patients worldwide (Photo: K. Nikolic/IAEA)

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Doctors around the world administer a radioisotope called technetium-99m (Tc-99m) approximately 30 million times a year, or about once every second. This radioisotope helps doctors determine how well blood flows in the heart, track the spread of cancer in bones, or monitor brain activity in real time. In general, this radioisotope allows physicians to detect and diagnose illness earlier and with greater precision than any other available technique.

Technetium-99m is derived from Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), which is produced in nuclear reactors used for research. Mo-99´s radioactive half-life is about 66 hours. To satisfy worldwide demand for these potentially life-saving diagnostic services, fresh Mo-99 must be delivered regularly to hospitals, week after week, to ensure a constant supply of the even shorter-lived Tc-99m.

However, since late 2007, global Mo-99 supplies have been severely disrupted by recurring operational problems at a handful of ageing research reactor and processing facilities. These few facilities meet the bulk of the worldwide demand.

During the IAEA´s General Conference on 22 September, key players in the field convened to discuss the current supply status of this critically important medical isotope.

A group of high-level delegates, chaired by the Brazilian Ambassador, H.E. Antonio José Vallim Guerreiro, included the president of the Comissão Nacional de Energia Nuclear in Brazil, Mr. Odair Gonçalves; Ron Cameron of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development/Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD/NEA); and Parrish Staples from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Other panellists presented from Chile, Egypt, Germany, Kazakhstan, Poland and South Africa. Additionally, Ulrich Schwela and Paul Gray from the International Steering Committee on Denial of Shipments of Radioactive Material also presented transport related challenges faced by the Mo-99 supply market.

In early 2009, the OECD/NEA organized a High-level Group on the Security of Supply of Medical Radioisotopes (HLG-MR). The IAEA has participated as an observer and supported HLG-MR efforts since the group´s inception. Detailed outcomes of unified, multilateral effort were presented by meeting participants including the commencement of Mo-99 production activities at research reactors in Poland and the Czech Republic. Ron Cameron cautioned that although production at two, previously inoperative research reactors in Canada and the Netherlands has resumed, the supply crisis has been merely delayed because identified market, policy and technology challenges remain unresolved.

Other, multilateral activities related to the global Mo-99 market focus on the transition of Mo-99 production away from the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU), a crucial step toward nuclear security because HEU can also be used for producing nuclear weapons.

Parrish Staples detailed recent successes and ongoing goals of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), commenced by the United States in 2004. The IAEA, with financial support from Norway and the United States, has been supporting GTRI.

Presentations from Chile, Egypt, and Kazakhstan also provided examples of IAEA-supported activities aimed at producing small amounts of Mo-99 without using HEU. The experts noted the transition away from HEU as a critical step to ensure sustained, long-term Mo-99 supplies and that this objective can be achieved without significantly increasing the costs of production.

Participants recognized that further, coordinated efforts are required to advance global efforts to eliminate the civilian use of HEU within the context of the ongoing threat of a sustained Mo-99 supply crisis.

In summary, the group acknowledged the complexity of the current Mo-99 supply chain; recognized the diversity of relevant stakeholders and stakeholder interests; and reaffirmed the need for ongoing, multilateral cooperation to ensure sustainable, reliable and secure Mo-99 supply to patients worldwide.

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-- By Misha Kidambi, IAEA Division of Public Information

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Developing a Nuclear Workforce

NPI Professor Peddicord (left) and Mr. Sokolov sign the agreement. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

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Safe and sustainable nuclear power plant operation is one of the many areas that depend upon sustained nuclear knowledge management. The IAEA´s Nuclear Knowledge Management programs help Member States strengthen their nuclear education and training programmes. As a part of that on-going effort, the IAEA signed a "practical arrangement" with the Nuclear Power Institute (NPI), based at Texas A&M University, USA, on 24 September.

The arrangement was signed at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna on 24 September by IAEA Deputy Director General for Nuclear Energy Yury Sokolov and Professor Kenneth L. Peddicord, NPI Director. Sokolov said he was "pleased to have a formal arrangement in place with a leading institution for promoting nuclear knowledge." NPI develops internationally-recognized nuclear engineering programmes and undertakes outreach and support to encourage young people to pursue careers in nuclear science and technology.

Texas A&M appreciated the opportunity to work with the IAEA, Peddicord said, in this joint enterprise to promote nuclear knowledge management. The University creates nuclear education curricula for students ranging from elementary school to post-graduate studies.

Under the arrangement, the IAEA and NPI will co-operate to promote nuclear knowledge management in the IAEA´s Member States by transferring knowledge, developing and delivering educational material that will fit the needs of countries considering introducing nuclear power, support IAEA nuclear education and outreach missions, and help transfer material to the IAEA Member States´ educational institutions.

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-- By Misha Kidambi, IAEA Division of Public Information

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Nuclear Prevention Is Better Than the Cure

Dialogue The IAEA is in a unique position to facilitate dialogue and the sharing of experience among operators from across the world. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

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Countries embarking on a nuclear programme or activity should consider the decommissioning of a nuclear facility and remediation of the environment even before laying the first stone. This was the message emerging from an expert meeting on decommissioning and environmental remediation held today at the 54th IAEA General Conference.

With hundreds of aging and out-of-use nuclear facilities undergoing decommissioning and contaminated sites to be remediated throughout the world, the importance of dealing with the so called "legacy issues" and ensuring that those building new facilities can avoid a repeat of previous mistakes is a priority for the nuclear community.

The IAEA is in a unique position to facilitate dialogue and the sharing of experience among operators and regulators from across the world.

"We want people to share what they have learned with each other and especially with those tackling these problems for the first time," said Tero Varjoranta, the IAEA´s Director of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology.

Networking is an important aspect of bringing remediation and decommissioning considerations forward as it can provide a unique opportunity for the sharing and exchange of information and experience from a global perspective. Comparing information and experiences often lead to finding the most efficient answer to an issue.

The IAEA´s Environmental Management and Remediation Network (ENVIRONET) and International Decommissioning Network (IDN) have already been successful in engaging several hundred professionals in more than 70 Member State organizations in this exchange of experience and know-how, complementing other IAEA efforts to actively support several decommissioning and environmental remediation programmes in Member States.

"Through its technical cooperation programmes, the IAEA supports decommissioning projects in a number of countries," indicated Ana María Cetto, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Technical Cooperation.

Given the widespread nature of the issue, Member States representatives to the 54th IAEA General Conference are currently considering an international action plan for decommissioning and remediation in which the IAEA networks could play a key role.

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-- By Giovanni Verlini, IAEA Division of Public Information

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Facilitating Fusion Research

giant solar flare Caption: An artist's depiction of a giant solar flare on the red dwarf star EV Lacertae. Fusion is the process that powers the stars. Credit: Casey Reed/NASA

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IAEA has always played an important role in facilitating safe and environmentally responsible nuclear energy sources.

A year after the IAEA was founded, it supported the first fusion conference in 1958. Later, in 1972 the International Fusion Research Council (IFRC) was created to provide the IAEA Director General expert advice to help steer the Agency?s controlled nuclear fusion programme and to promote international cooperation in this field.

Commercial fusion reactors are yet a theoretical possiblity. To help overcome the challenges presented in demonstrating the technological and commercial feasibility of generating electricity using fusion power, the IAEA has been collaborating with the international fusion community, and in particular with researchers at the ITER organization. ITER's partners and experts are building the world?s first international demonstration reactor for fusion power in Cadarache, France.

The IAEA has been closely involved with ITER since its inception in 1985. At that time, during the US/USSR Summit, held in Geneva in November 1985, USSR General Secretary Gorbachev proposed to U.S. President Reagan an international project aimed at developing fusion energy for peaceful purposes. This agreement lead to the establishment of the ITER project and an international agreement. The initial signatories were the former Soviet Union, the USA, the European Union and Japan. In 2003, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea joined the partnership, followed by India in 2005. Together, these seven nations represent over half of the world's population. Eleven years after the Gorbachev-Reagan summit, the ITER International Fusion Energy Organization for the Joint Implementation of the ITER Project was established in November 2006. The IAEA's Director General is the Agreement's depositary.

In October 2008, ITER and the IAEA signed a cooperative agreement to exchange research information on the study and potential application of fusion energy, participate in each other?s meetings and organise joint scientific conferences. The agreement also includes plans for cooperation on training, publications, plasma physics and modelling, and fusion safety and security. In addition to cooperating with ITER, the IAEA's fusion programme focuses on increasing international cooperation and support for science and technology for fusion power.

Knowledge management and dissemination in fusion research are also strategic priorities for the IAEA. For instance, the Agency has published the monthly scientific journal Nuclear Fusion for half a century. Nuclear Fusion and related publications, the World Survey of Activities in Controlled Fusion Research, the International Bulletin on Atomic and Molecular Data for Fusion and the Atomic and Plasma-Material Interaction Data for Fusion are considered journals of record and are distributed to hundreds of institutions and researchers among Agency Member States.

The Agency also maintains nuclear data libraries, such as the Fusion Evaluated Nuclear Data Library, atomic and molecular data, and plasma-material interaction data that are relevant to fusion research. The data can be accessed via Internet on IAEA?s Nuclear Data Information System (NDIS, and the Atomic and Molecular Data Information System (AMDIS,

For over fifty years, the IAEA has drawn together the world's leading fusion researchers to help find ways to utilize fusion's potential for delivering clean, sustainable and abundant energy by the biennial Fusion Energy Conference. The 2010 conference takes place in Daejeon, the Republic of Korea. It assembles more physicists than ever before. The six-day conference began on 11 October and is hosted by Korea?s National Fusion Research Institute.

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