IAEA Appoints NRF-iThemba LABS as newest member of Collaborating Centre Network

IAEA Appoints NRF-iThemba LABS as newest member of Collaborating Centre Network

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), consisting of 173 member-states collaborates with designated Member State Institutions through its Collaborating Centres Network to implement its programmatic activities that focus on research, development and training in the field of nuclear science.

There are currently 55 active Collaborating Centres worldwide, three of which are located on the African continent; and more specifically in Burkina Faso, Egypt and Morocco. These Africa centres contribute respectively to tsetse fly management, cancer control, and radiation and water resource assessment and management. The NRF iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences (NRF-iThemba LABS), a national research facility of the National Research Foundation (NRF), now joins the three other African centres as the IAEA has designated it a new Collaborating Centre to implement selected programmatic activities in the field of accelerator-based scientific research and applications.

NRF- iThemba LABS offers unique capabilities in the field of accelerator-based science and technology on the African continent, and in the Southern Hemisphere, to advance knowledge, transform lives and inspire a nation, through research, training, and expertise. It is envisaged that this designation will strengthen and expand the role played by the NRF in facilitating access to research infrastructure to conduct experiments with particle accelerators and to build human capacity through intentional training interventions on the African continent.

“NRF-iThemba LABS is looking forward to claim its rightful role on the African continent as the CERN of Africa; or rather the CARN,” says Managing Director, Dr Faïҫal Azaïez. “iThemba LABS has shown over many years that it has the competence and expertise to transfer knowledge and technical skills linked to accelerator-based techniques that are applicable to a range of multidisciplinary research activities. These include, amongst others, the use of accelerated particle beams to study and probe the origins and interactions of the material world; to provide a niche neutron facility for metrology and detector hardness testing; incorporating accelerator mass spectrometry in radioactive dating of water, soil and biological samples; the use of ion beam analysis techniques to study material surfaces; the production of radioactive isotopes for medicinal use; and the study of the interaction of radiation with biological systems for the detection and treatment of cancer as well as radiation safety.”

To mark the designation of iThemba LABS as an IAEA Collaborating Centre, a formal signing ceremony has been scheduled for Tuesday, 09 November 2021, after which NRF-iThemba LABS will receive its official designation through the presentation of a plaque. The designation comes at a very opportune time as iThemba LABS is in the process of adding another particle accelerator to its infrastructure inventory. The new accelerator, which is expected to be fully commissioned towards the end of 2022, will signal the birth of the South African Isotope Facility (SAIF).

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