By Dmitry Vysotsky
Industry: nuclear research could help the UAE shape its own tomorrow
The Barakah nuclear power plant, expected to come online in 2018, will make the UAE the first country in the Arab World to harness nuclear energy. The timing couldn’t be more auspicious, especially as the country works towards sustainable energy and advancements in science and innovation. The foray into nuclear energy can allow it to explore applications beyond power generation. From desalination to nuclear medicine, peaceful nuclear applications contribute to virtually every field.
A major step in that direction could a centre for nuclear science and technology (CNST). From Russia to Bolivia, these centres help bring cutting-edge science to real-life applications, providing opportunities for countries new to nuclear technology.
The potential of research centres and reactors is attested to by the fact that, for over half a century, they have played a major part in driving innovations in science, technology and education in more than 50 countries around the world. At present, there are 243 operational research reactors in the world.
Each country develops its own purposes for advancing towards CNSTs. In their most basic sense, CNSTs employ research laboratories dedicated to nuclear medicine, engineering facilities, training centres, administrative units, even libraries and hotels. A typical CNST can employ up to 500 people, depending on the number of laboratories that it includes and can house departments dedicated to leading academic research in solid-state physics, radiobiology, and nuclear medicine.
Breakthrough advancements have been witnessed with nuclear medicine centres that facilitate research and treat some of the world’s most widespread and challenging diseases, including cancer and endocrine and cardiovascular conditions with innovative technologies such as neutron-capture therapy. CNSTs can also incorporate multipurpose irradiation centres that can be used to develop solutions in disinfestation and food product sterilization, extending their storage lifetime and preserving their quality for longer periods.
Additional fields that can be explored at CNSTs include modifying materials such as solar battery film, which would find abundant application in the UAE. Importantly, CNSTs are not focused on science for science’s sake, but aim to find practical applications for breakthrough research that can be monetized in the observable future.