NRF-iThemba LABS advances training and development

NRF-iThemba LABS advances training and development

The iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences (NRF-iThemba LABS) is counting the days before it hosts its first workshop as an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Collaborating Centre. This workshop is organised to train member states of the IAEA in operating and maintaining particle accelerators which is a unique expertise of NRF-iThemba LABS in the country and across the continent –

Entitled “The Training Workshop on the Operation and Maintenance of Electrostatic Accelerators and Associated Instrumentation”, it will run from 05 to 09 December 2022 at the Tandem & AMS (TAMS) Laboratory at NRF-iThemba LABS’s facility in Johannesburg.

A total of 12 participants have been selected by the IAEA to attend the workshop. They are from Algeria, Ghana, Egypt, Nigeria, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, and Argentina, some of the IAEA’s 175 member states. The participants will largely be young accelerator operators, engineers and scientists working at accelerator facilities. The workshop is intended to widen their specific knowledge and skills in the accelerator topics through lectures and hands-on activities.

“We are looking forward to interacting with our colleagues from Africa, Middle East, Asia and South America”, says Dr Morgan Madhuku, the head of TAMS Laboratory of NRF-iThemba LABS.

In its call for applications to attend the workshop, IAEA stated that it aimed to reach out to member states running small and medium size accelerator facilities with a wide spectrum of technical expertise. Said an IAEA spokesperson, “Many such facilities are facing difficulties in training new and improving the knowledge and skills of more senior accelerator technicians, engineers and scientists. The need for training in accelerator technologies is evident and the IAEA is responding to such needs using the unique expertise of NRF-iThemba LABS in the field.”

NRF-iThemba LABS will host the international workshop just over a year after it was designated an IAEA Collaborating Centre. This designation was conferred during a virtual signing ceremony on 09 November 2021. Signatories included the Deputy Director General for Nuclear Science and Applications at the IAEA, Ms Najat Mokhtar, and the Managing Director of NRF-iThemba LABS, Dr Faïҫal Azaïez. The event was attended by representatives from the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE).

There are currently 55 active Collaborating Centres worldwide, four of which are located on the African continent in Burkina Faso, Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa. NRF-iThemba LABS is, however, the first and only Collaborating Centre dedicated to accelerator-based science.

Commenting on the IAEA’s decision to award the opportunity to NRF-iThemba LABS to host the workshop, Azaïez says: “This recognition and partnership with the IAEA, is not only seen as an expression of confidence by the International Research Community, but it also positions the NRF to support research infrastructure in smaller facilities in countries such as Egypt, Ghana, Algeria and Nigeria.”

NRF-iThemba LABS is the largest facility of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and is currently home to four cyclotrons (SPC1, SPC2, SSC and an 11-MeV) and two linear accelerators (3-MV Tandetron and a 6-MV Tandem). The flagship project of NRF-iThemba LABS, the South African Isotope Facility (SAIF) with its 70-MeV cyclotron, is only a few months from completion and commissioning. SAIF will be dedicated to the production of radiopharmaceuticals and the advancement of research related to targeted Alpha therapy (TAT) and theranostics. The linear accelerators of NRF-iThemba LABS are dedicated to materials research using Ion-Beam Analysis and multidisciplinary research utilising radioactive dating using the Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (AMS).

NRF-iThemba LABS recently showcased its commitment to become the hub for research, training and expertise in accelerator-based science on the African continent when it hosted the 28th International Nuclear Physics Conference (INPC) at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in September.

“There is a need to maintain our momentum as we advance knowledge and competence in accelerator-based science and technology on the African continent,” adds Azaïez. 

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