The Many Applications of Nuclear Data

2 June 2014
Data are distinct pieces of information that represent the values of various scientific quantities. Data can be produced from experiments or calculations and are refined through contributions from people around the world. By combining data into organised and formatted files and libraries, accurate and complete descriptions of scientific or technological processes can be made. Producing such data libraries is a major task of the Nuclear Data Section.<br /><br />  (Photo: Eric, Flickr)Through the years, nuclear data have taken on various forms and been stored in various types of media that have gradually evolved and taken on new technological forms. This has made data production and distribution efficient and so enabled a wide group of stakeholders to share in the work of the IAEA. <br /><br />(Photo: Elif Ayiter, Flickr)For the last 50 years, the IAEA Nuclear Data Section (NDS) has been collating, compiling and reviewing nuclear, atomic and molecular data in a collection of databases and publications with the aim of making these data available to a global audience to create an awareness of the wide ranging data available in support of nuclear-related applications.Today, the nuclear, atomic and molecular databases are accessible online through for example the website provided by the IAEA NDS. This site offers access to tens of thousands of data sets that can be used for research, innovation, development and dissemination.NDS has developed interactive software, the LiveChart application that enables users to investigate the properties of nuclides, both stable and radioactive. The information is taken from the Evaluated Nuclear Structure Data File (ENSDF) database maintained by the NSDD network of data centres coordinated by NDS.There is a wide range of uses for atomic, nuclear and molecular data. Accurate nuclear data are used to help build and operate modern nuclear facilities such as this nuclear reactor. These data have been essential to safely and economically achieving the high degree of scientific and technological sophistication required for nuclear facilities and other nuclear applications worldwide.The development and maintenance of nuclear technologies rely on the availability of atomic, molecular and nuclear data as they provide accurate numerical representations of the underlying physical processes.In the field of fission reactor technology, the following specialized areas rely on the availability of accurate atomic and nuclear data: fission reactor design, nuclear fuel cycles, nuclear safety, nuclear safeguards, reactor monitoring, waste disposal and transmutation.Fusion energy, a type of energy from a nuclear reaction, also draws on internationally evaluated and recommended data for atomic, molecular and plasma material interaction processes and for related materials properties. The picture shows the interior of the Tokamak Discharge chamber.<br /><br />  (Photo: FZ-Juelich)Large-scale scientific experiments in fusion energy look to these data for researching and demonstrating the technological and scientific feasibility of fusion energy. This model of the ITER machine shows one such experiment that has the potential to provide new avenues for safely harnessing energy in the world.Safety in nuclear-related work requires accurate and reliable data that are used to properly monitor and manage how nuclear techniques and applications are used. In the area of IAEA nuclear safeguards work, data publications like the NDS handbook of relevant nuclear data provide such supporting data. In addition, a specially customised LiveChart application on the NDS website also provides safeguards data interactively.Medical uses of nuclear techniques for nuclear medicine research and treating diseases also rely on databases, associated documentation and on-going data projects. Links to nuclear data for diagnostic and therapeutic radionuclide production, radiation dosimetry data, electron and photon phase space data are now only a mouse click away.Effective radiotherapy treatments rely on having trained personnel and precisely calibrated machines delivering the right dosage to cancerous cells during treatment. Such delicate procedures are dependent on accurate, reliable nuclear data.Nuclear and atomic data can also play a role in the arts; museums like the Vienna's "Kunsthistorisches" Museum use x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, or XRF, to investigate the chemical composition of national treasures like the Saliera. Such cultural heritage investigations rely on accurate atomic data.Looking to space and beyond, these data can give us insights into astro- and nuclear physics related to the galaxy. They can help us gain an insight into how stars are formed. Accurate data brings us another step closer to understanding what exists beyond the bounds of the earth.<br /><br />© IAEA
Last update: 23 October 2014