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New IAEA Linear Accelerator Facility to Provide Dosimetry Support to Countries Worldwide

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(Video: A. Silva/IAEA)

The IAEA marked the opening of  a new linear accelerator (linac) facility at its laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria today. This facility will significantly increase the IAEA’s capacity to provide dosimetry services and support cancer control worldwide. The new facility will also contribute to strengthened procedures in radiation safety and support research in new codes of practice in radiotherapy.

“The new linear accelerator facility will provide the Dosimetry Laboratory with significant new dosimetry calibration, dose audit, research and training capabilities, representing a major enhancement to the Laboratory’s ability to provide services to Member States,” said Najat Mokhtar, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications, during the opening ceremony.

The opening of the laboratory marks a major milestone in the Renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories (ReNuAL) project, focusing on modernizing the laboratories located in Seibersdorf, near Vienna.

Opening ceremony of the new linear accelerator (linac) facility at the Nuclear Applications Laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

The importance of dosimetry

Close to 50% of cancer patients require radiation treatment. Too much radiation would damage healthy tissue, while too little will not effectively eliminate cancer cells. “Quality assurance in dosimetry is essential and helps ensure accurate radiation doses,” said May Abdel-Wahab, Director of Human Health at the IAEA. The enhanced capabilities will contribute to improving support for the use of linacs in Member States, and will benefit cancer patients globally.

The fully functional linear accelerator (linac) was received under a partnership agreement with Varian Medical Systems Inc. in 2017. The governments of Germany, Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Polish Institute of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology provided a safe bunker to house the facility and necessary equipment for the linac.

The facility will enable new dosimetry training opportunities in Seibersdorf on linac as well as additional areas of research to identify and establish best practices and applications in the use of linacs for radiotherapy. Meeting increasing  requests for dosimetry standards, guidance and audits to ensure that the right dose is delivered to patients, is one of the key goals of IAEA support to radiotherapy services in countries.

The IAEA serves as a hub for the harmonization and consistency of radiation therapy dosimetry worldwide. “We have supported 2300 radiotherapy centres in 135 countries,” Abdel-Wahab said.  Linacs accounted for over 80% of the 653 dosimetry audits provided by the IAEA last year.

Speaking on behalf of the Co-chairs of Friends for ReNuAL, a group of countries supporting the project, Ambassador Gerhard Küntzle of Germany said: “The opening of the linear accelerator facility marks a major milestone for the initiative to renovate the IAEA’s Nuclear Applications Laboratories at Seibersdorf. It provides a concrete example of how contributions to ReNuAL enable the IAEA to help Member States improve people’s lives around the world.”

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