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April 2024

IAEA Collaborating Centre in Malaysia Supports Sustainable Agriculture and Industrial Development in Southeast Asia

Najat Mokhtar (IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications), Ikram Mohd Ibrahim (Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Malaysia to the Republic of Austria), Rosli Darmawan (Malaysian Nuclear Agency Director General) and Noraishah Pungut (Department of Atomic Energy Director General), Vienna, 27 September 2023. (Photo: D. Buerstedde/IAEA) 

Malaysia has long been a regional leader in using nuclear applications to advance sustainable development both nationally and throughout Southeast Asia. Building on decades of cooperation, the IAEA has extended the designation of the Malaysia Nuclear Agency (MNA) as an IAEA Collaborating Centre in three research areas: plant breeding, non-destructive testing and radiation processing of polymers.

“Malaysia has taken great strides in applying nuclear technologies for development since the 1970s. Today, the MNA is widely recognised as a regional provider of expertise and capacity building in each of the three areas of the Collaborating Centre’s work,” said IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications Najat Mokhtar at a signing ceremony held at IAEA headquarters on 27 September 2023 in the margins of the 67th General Conference.

“Malaysia is strongly committed to promoting peaceful applications of nuclear technology through the National Nuclear Technology Policy 2030, which was recently launched by the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation. The redesignation of Malaysian Nuclear Agency as an IAEA Collaborating Centre marks a significant milestone in our nation’s journey towards harnessing advancements in nuclear technology,” said Malaysia Nuclear Agency Director General Rosli Darmawan.

Plant breeding using nuclear techniques to speed up the natural selection process is a significant element in Malaysia’s efforts to enhance the sustainability of its food and agriculture sector. This process, known as mutation breeding, produces stronger, more nutritious and higher-yielding crops. One successful example is the development of a new rice variety with improved ability to withstand both drought and flooding. The MNA’s gamma greenhouse, a large-scale irradiation facility, allows researchers to expose plants to low-dose radiation over longer periods of time, offering enhanced possibilities to improve crops through natural selection. The Collaborating Centre will make extensive use of the gamma greenhouse facility, including by providing services to plant breeders across Southeast Asia.

Non-destructive testing (NDT), which is used to evaluate the properties of a material, component, structure or system for characteristic differences or welding defects and discontinuities without causing damage to the original part, has contributed to the competitiveness of Malaysia’s manufacturing sector. For example, radiography is used to find cracks in welded joints in industrial piping. Malaysia has established a niche in Southeast Asia, offering non-destructive testing services to manufacturers in neighbouring countries. Several decades ago, the IAEA played an important role in establishing an accredited NDT training and certification scheme within the MNA. Today, the IAEA and the MNA are jointly pursuing research and training in advanced and novel non-destructive testing, making use of artificial intelligence, and developing prototypes of instruments and software. They are also working together to expand capacity building and training in the region.

Radiation processing of polymers has produced numerous new materials with desirable characteristics for the manufacture of medical devices, cables and other products, as well as biodegradable plastics. The IAEA’s collaboration with the MNA focuses on strengthening the development of environmentally friendly polymers, including various forms of plastic and rubber in many common consumer products. Special attention will be given to recycling polymers and producing bio-composites, a blend of natural and synthetic materials. The MNA has played a major role in spreading this know-how throughout the region, increasing the availability and use of these products and helping to reduce plastic waste. MNA’s expertise in radiation-based plastic recycling will also be put to good use in the IAEA’s NUTEC Plastics Initiative, which aims to help reduce global plastic pollution by upgrading plastic recycling processes using nuclear techniques. Malaysia has recently been designated as a pilot country for this flagship IAEA initiative.

“The IAEA’s partnership with the MNA in the Collaborating Centre will continue to be a driver of innovation for sustainable development in Malaysia and beyond,” Mokhtar said. QR Code

Published Date: November 14, 2023

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