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Myanmar Uses Nuclear Techniques to Improve Industrial Processes


A researcher at Myanmar's Department of Atomic Energy  is testing equipment to be used for non-destructive testing at the country's oil refinery. (M. Gaspar/IAEA)

Experts are rolling out the use of nuclear technology in industrial testing across Myanmar, following the successful implementation of the technique in the oil and gas sector.

Non-destructive testing (NDT) using nuclear techniques involves the use of ionizing radiation to test the quality of materials and products. It plays a vital role in the production and maintenance of materials and structures, without causing any damage to them or leaving any radioactive residue.

The technique called gamma process tomography used in Myanmar is based on the differential absorption in different materials of gamma rays emitted from a radioactive source. Since 2013, the IAEA has helped the country’s Department of Atomic Energy purchase the necessary equipment and build the expertise of its staff to use the technique. The project was funded through the Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI).  Department experts regularly perform NDT in the Thanlyin oil refinery near Yangon to inspect the quality of pipes as well as of the products flowing in them.

“Nuclear science and technology play a major role in bringing innovation and efficiency to industrial processes,” said Meera Venkatesh, Director of the Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences at the IAEA. “Myanmar provides a great example on how low-income countries, too, can take advantage of this technology.”

Oil pipes, boilers, pressure vessels, buildings, aircraft equipment and ships are among the products whose quality is tested with the technique worldwide, and Myanmar’s Atomic Energy Department is taking steps to spread its use, said Ingyin Phyu, the scientist in charge of the Department’s NDT laboratory. “NDT inspections including those using nuclear applications are crucial in the quality control of various industrial fields in Myanmar,” she said.

Technical staff of Myanmar Railways, Myanmar Shipyards, Yangon Technological University and private companies have recently received training on the use of the technique and have already employed it in a wide range of activities, including on construction sites, in dockyards, on locomotives and at the country’s largest amusement park.

“The use of NDT greatly enhances the shipbuilding and ship repair sector,” said U Myint Zaw, Deputy General Manager and senior NDT inspector at Myanmar Shipyard. “It is essential for the improvement of our industrial processes and products and we use it extensively for quality control.”

In 2017, the IAEA developed a new project to use NDT to support the preparation and recovery of civil infrastructures following natural disasters for countries in Asia and the Pacific region. This project builds on experience gained following the devastating earthquake in Nepal in April 2015 when NDT was used in the aftermath to test the integrity of critical buildings such as hospitals, schools and historical attractions.

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