Since Latin America and the Caribbean is the second most disaster-prone region in the world, the development of new techniques to test infrastructure conditions is essential to public safety. In this context, non-destructive testing (NDT) offers great opportunities to provide reliable data about the wear and tear of materials used in infrastructure.
Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Peru have established natural disaster response centers to evaluate the integrity of civil structures by using NDT techniques, established these centers with assistance from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). With these centers, the states can coordinate to address the effects of natural disasters, particularly in densely-populated urban areas.
Such efforts are becoming increasingly crucial as the region is vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes, floods and hurricanes due to Latin America’s tectonic structure and weather patterns. “Recent earthquakes in the region dramatically highlight the importance of networks that improve coordination of emergency response in the disaster-prone region,” said Gerardo Maghella, associate Industrial Technologist, IAEA.
The centers were established by an IAEA technical cooperation project launched in 2018, which aimed to improve the quality of industrial goods and services as well as enhance the assessment of city structures in the region using nuclear techniques.
In November 2022, the IAEA trained and certified experts in NDT techniques in Buenos Aires in. As a result, nine participants from Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica and Mexico were certified or recertified in advanced methods of digital radiography using gamma and X-rays, which enables them to inspect civil engineering structures using NDT techniques. Furthermore, 24 people from Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela qualified in civil NDT methods, including visual inspection and ultrasonic testing, which uses soundwaves to detect flaws in and thickness of materials.
NDT is a quality control method that uses nuclear technology to examine materials without damaging them, allowing operators to maintain rigorous control and keep safe conditions in the operation of nuclear and other industrial installations.
Latin American experts welcome the development of response centers as well as enhanced training and certifications, which they argue will inspire confidence that international requirements are met and will harmonize response methods in the region. “The network established by IAEA is the cornerstone of the region’s new emergency response capability,” said Mario Barrera, Quality Control Coordinator, Chile’s Nuclear Energy Commission.