The RCA Programme has contributed to the significant improvement of the socio-economic well-being and living environment of the residents in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in the fields of strategic priorities for the development of the region. In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the RCA, the IAEA conducted social and economic impact assessments of the RCA Programme in the fields of Agriculture, Human Health and Industry, focusing on the representative nuclear technologies that brought notable achievements to the region over last 20 years. Below are the relevant Success Stories of the RCA Programme with extracts of the IAEA’s reports of the social and economic impact assessment of the RCA Programme.
Ensuring food safety and security has long been the main priority of the Asia-Pacific region. Moreover, population growth and climate change have increased the demand for food and crops that can be adapted to the changing environmental conditions. As a means to enhance the productivity and traits of agricultural products, mutation breeding techniques were introduced and adopted in the region. Mutation breeding in crops involves exposing seeds, cutting or tissue-culture material to radiation, and then planting the seed or cultivating the irradiated material to grow seedlings. Individual plants are then multiplied and examined for new and useful traits. It does not involve gene modification but rather uses a plant’s own genetic resources and mimics the natural process of spontaneous mutation. Through mutation breeding using radiation, plant breeders can enhance the genetic diversity necessary to develop new and improved varieties. RCA projects were implemented to enhance capacity of the Government Parties in mutation breeding technology that contributed to increasing food production and enhancing environmental protection.
The RCA has supported a significant body of primary research and development of crop varieties. 7,316 mutant lines were developed during the past 20 years, among which 254 mutant varieties were certified and officially released. The new mutant varieties span 12 different crops, with rice, wheat and soybean having the highest number of new mutant varieties. These new mutant varieties produce greater crop yield, growing area and quality, contributing to increased food availability, diversity and accessibility as well as increased incomes for farmers. For example, Luyuan 502 is a wheat variety certified to have a grain yield 10.6 per cent higher than the national control variety and more tolerant to drought and diseases. For these reasons, Luyuan 502 became the second-most widely used wheat variety in China, increasing productivity by 4 million tons and generating an additional income of US$ 1.3 million to farmers. The new mutant varieties also contribute to environmental protection by reducing use of agricultural inputs such as pesticide, fertilizer and irrigation, and by increasing soil fertility.# Food Safety And Security # Mutation Breeding Techniques # Genetic Diversity Necessary
Non-communicable diseases, like cancer, have been by far the leading cause of death around the world and the cases are projected to increase as life expectancy improves whereas communicable diseases are better controlled. Radiotherapy is one of the most widely used therapies for cancer treatment, often used in conjunction with other treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. It uses radiation to kill cancer cells or slow down their growth by damaging their DNA. RCA projects were implemented to enhance capacity of the Government Parties in radiotherapy that contributed to training, education and certification of the radiation oncology workforce and establishment of professional networks. These impacts have led to the increases of use of the technology and patients’ access to quality radiotherapy in the region.
The radiotherapy workforce was strengthened by enabling the Government Parties to establish radiooncology departments and societies, and offer educational training programmes. In result, the radiotherapy workforce in the region grew by 232% to 47,000 specialists between 2000 and 2020, of which three-quarters were certified. Patients’ access to quality radiotherapy also improved based on the increase of operational radiotherapy equipment and technology. For instance, Indonesia attributed a 300% increase in radiotherapy equipment and establishment of a teleradiotherapy network to the relevant RCA projects. These improvements were especially effective to Indonesia, the largest archipelago country in the world, showing over 300% growth in cancer patients treated using domestic radiotherapy facilities. As a result of the strengthened radiotherapy workforce and increased access to quality radiotherapy, the life span and quality of life for cancer patients significantly increased in the region. It was estimated that approximately 47,000 health-adjusted life years was gained cumulatively by cancer patients during last 20 years.# Capacity Of The Government Parties In Radiotherapy # Establishment Of A Teleradiotherapy Network
Non-destructive testing techniques are used in industry to evaluate the integrity and properties of material or components without causing damage to the tested object. It can identify cracks or flaws that might not otherwise be visible, which makes it a key tool for quality control, safety and reliability. Even though it is an effective technology that could ensure safety in the operation and maintenance of industrial components as well as increase competitiveness of industrial products, the Government Parties had to depend on the foreign expertise and bear great expenses due to lack of proper techniques and professionals. RCA projects were implemented to enhance capacity of the Government Parties in NDT techniques that contributed to establishing relevant infrastructure, producing certified workforce, and raising awareness of NDT benefits. These impacts have led to the improvement of productivity, quality and lower cost of industries as well as the enhancement of health and safety.
The RCA projects on NDT techniques primarily improved regional capacity and capability in non-destructive testing. They supported the Government Parties to establish infrastructure for producing certified personnel in both advanced and conventional NDT techniques. Between 2000 and 2020, an average of more than 2,800 personnel were certified annually by local NDT Accredited Training Centers. Participation of female personnel gradually increased and they currently take up 10.3% of the total workforce. The scope and scale of NDT demand and use also increased significantly. The projects contributed to increasing the awareness of NDT technology as an effective tool for quality assurance and quality control of industrial components. Currently, NDT has been applied in almost all Government Parties and assisted better controlled manufacturing, ensuring material quality, product integrity and production costs. Positive impacts have been achieved in multiple sectors, leading to wider adoption of NDT technology in fields of power generation, oil and gas, construction, railways and shipping, aerospace and so on. Malaysia is one of the countries that best benefitted from participation in the RCA NDT Programme. With the establishment of national infrastructure and creation of a pool of local professionals, Malaysia has transformed from being dependent on foreign expertise to being self-reliant in NDT. The availability of high-quality NDT services with a competitive price lowered the overall costs of NDT inspections while increasing demand of NDT services improved the employment prospects of personnel with expertise in NDT.# NDT Techniques # Quality Assurance And Quality Control Of Industrial Components # RCANDT
Environment is another strategic priority area of the RCA. The importance of close cooperation of the Government Parties is essential in this field in that environmental impacts are normally not limited to a certain country but spread across borders, affecting wider areas regionally and globally. In particular, the RCA has put long-term cumulative efforts into fighting the major environmental problem of the region, air pollution. Following is the extract of the relevant RCA Success Story.
Air particulate matter is used to describe a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air. Besides some particles that are directly from natural sources such as deserts, oceans and fires, most of the particles are the result of chemical reactions emitted from industries, automobiles and so on. Air particulate matter is transported by the wind and becomes the major cause of air pollution which is the most lethal environmental threat that endangers public health and aggravates climate change. This threat is magnified in the Asia-Pacific region, where the rapid population growth and industrialization elevates the level of the pollution. To combat this problem, the RCA has implemented consecutive projects since 2002 to monitor and analyze the air particulate matter using Nuclear Analytical Techniques.
Nuclear Analytic Techniques, such as the ion beam analysis, X-ray fluorescence analysis and neutron activation analysis, provide information of elemental composition of air particulate matter with high sensitivity and speed. In order to get proper samples of airborne particles, the Government Parties were provided with necessary equipment such as the GENT Stacked Filter Unit, and related techniques through the projects. A series of campaigns were organized at the regional level to collect enough samples and data and the samples were analysed autonomously or with the support of the regional resource units. As a result, the Asia Pacific Aerosol Database (APAD) was established, containing the data of elemental concentrations for over 35,000 air particulate matter samples collected throughout the first 15 years. In addition, the Asia Pacific Source Fingerprint Database (ASFID) was established to provide receptor source fingerprints and source apportionment solutions based on the APAD dataset. Freely accessible through the ANSTO and the IAEA websites, these two world-class databases have worked as an effective means to identify the origin of both local and regional air pollutants, making it possible to track long range transport of the pollutants. Consequently, these datasets are being used by aerosol and health researchers as valuable resources for analyzing and understanding the atmospheric conditions.# Mutation Breeding Techniques # Develop New And Improved Varieties # Cutting Or Tissue-Culture Material