The IAEA outlines 7 areas where AI improves peaceful applications
The mission of the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is to work with its Member States and many partners around the world to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies. Convinced of the capabilities of AI in the nuclear field to help solve some of humanity’s major challenges, he presents in an article seven areas where he is already improving the peaceful application of nuclear technology.
The beginning of the IAEA comes from the “Atoms for Peace” speech, given by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 8, 1953. In it, he proposed the creation of the International Agency for Atomic Energy, which would status was approved by 81 countries in October 1956, and on July 29, 1957, the agency was officially born. As of last March, it has 175 member states, its headquarters are in Vienna, Austria and it has been led since December 2019 by Rafael Mariano Grossi.
The IAEA also has four offices: 2 regional offices located in Toronto (Canada) and Tokyo (Japan) as well as two liaison offices in New York. The Agency operates laboratories specializing in nuclear technology in Vienna and Seibersdorf (Austria) and since 2002, a laboratory in Monaco to study the effects of radioactivity on the marine environment.
In 2005, the IAEA and its Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, received the Nobel Peace Prize ” for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way”. Subsequently, Mr. Mohamed ElBaradei, was honored for his tolerance, his humanity and his freedom in many countries in India, Austria, Italy, Bolivia…)
In addition, the agency has created several special programs, especially in cancer treatment, nuclear safety and security, modern nuclear reactors and the fuel cycle.
AI and human health
In the field of health, the IAEA’s goal is to help Member States establish high-quality health care. The use of nuclear techniques in medicine and nutrition has become one of the most widespread peaceful applications of atomic energy.
The IAEA has been working with the WHO for six decades in the fight against cancer. It also established the “Human Health Programme” to help Member States use nuclear methods to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer and cardiovascular diseases. In the context of prevention, he is particularly interested in nutrition and food quality.
As a peaceful application in the field of health, he mentioned the fight against cancer, and especially its detection. In fact, the IAEA launched the “Beams of Hope” initiative in February aimed at supporting the establishment and expansion of radiotherapy services, particularly in developing member countries that do not have them. It has also just signed a partnership in this context with 11 global cancer companies.
On the other hand, since 2005, it has conducted more than 100 imPACT evaluations to evaluate the capacities and needs of national health systems in the areas of cancer prevention and control. The last one took place in November in Colombia.
Regarding cancer screening, last June it launched a coordinated research project aimed at studying the potential of AI to improve contouring skills in radiotherapy, with a particular focus on increasing the accuracy of the delineation of organs at risk of head and neck cancers.
As the Covid-19 pandemic unfolds, the IAEA launched the Integrated Zoonoses Action (ZODIAC) initiative in June 2020 to help countries prevent outbreaks caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites from animals that may be passed on to people.
AI for food and agriculture
Farmers have to face new problems: environmental degradation, soil, climate change… some start-ups like ITK support farmers in this transition to agro-ecology thanks to the modeling of living matter (plants and animals) to achieve optimum productive conditions.
Together with nuclear technologies, AI can provide solutions to fight hunger and malnutrition, improve environmental sustainability and ensure food safety. The IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) work together to support these goals. Thirty coordinated research projects are carried out in this field, involving more than 400 research establishments and experimental stations in the Member States.
AI, water and the environment
AI can analyze masses of isotopic data (isotopes are atoms with the same number of electrons, and therefore protons remain neutral, but a different number of neutrons). Among these data, we can see those of the GNIP, Global Network for the Measurement of Hydrogen and Oxygen Isotopes in Precipitation (including oxygen-18 and deuterium), created in 1960 by the IAEA and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) , which works in collaboration with many institutions in the Member States.
Analysis of these data allows scientists to better understand climate change and its effects on the environment, especially the availability of fresh water.
AI, nuclear science and fusion research
In the field of nuclear science, AI is used for data analysis, theoretical modeling and simulations, thus boosting basic research and technological innovation.
In particular, it plays an important role in nuclear fusion research, among the work of researchers around the world, especially at the CEA in France, because it has the potential to provide clean and renewable electricity and the physics of plasmas.
Last June, the IAEA called on its interested partners to join a coordinated research project on accelerating fusion R&D using AI, by creating a platform and inter-community network for innovation and partnership.
AI and nuclear power
In the face of climate change, the need to make greater use of low-carbon energy sources has become clear.
Nuclear power is one of the solutions, it is the second source of clean energy in the world. It currently accounts for about 11% of global electricity production and produces almost no greenhouse gases or air pollutants.
AI is widely used in this sector, so ML makes it possible to automate tasks, ensure the reliability of processes and detect anomalies. For their part, AI systems and simulations accelerate creation and optimization processes, reducing maintenance costs.
AI, nuclear security and radiation protection
The IAEA works to promote a strong and sustainable global safety and security framework in Member States, one of its functions is to protect people and the environment against the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.
It put forward the “IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety”, approved by Member Countries in September 2011, to strengthen the global nuclear safety framework, following the accident that occurred in March 2011 at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
AI has the potential to improve nuclear safety in several ways. It can be used to process data from radiation detection systems to refine the detection and identification of nuclear materials and other radioactive materials, to analyze data from physical protection systems to improve the detection of interferences and anomalies that may result from cyber-attacks on nuclear facilities.
In the radiation protection sector, software related to safety standards incorporating AI has the capacity to strengthen the protection of employees undergoing occupational exposure.
As part of the France Relance, the Government launched thecall for projects to support investment and modernization of the nuclear industry and chose the ARDNA project (AI Research on Data for Nuclear Application) at the end of 2021. This project aims to set up an AI-augmented control system and is led by the company Aquila Data Enabler, in collaboration with Andra (National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management) and the startup Spotlight-Earth. This technology can be related to the seismic monitoring of Cigeo disposal structures, the geological disposal project for most of the radioactive waste.
AI and IAEA Safeguards
Through a series of technical measures, called “safeguards”, the IAEA verifies that States comply with their international legal obligations and use nuclear materials and technology only for peaceful purposes. , thus preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
To detect the misuse of nuclear materials or techniques at an early stage, it uses data from satellite imagery, environmental sampling, gamma spectroscopy and video surveillance. It uses ML to identify anomalous points in these large volumes of data, help verify spent fuel, and analyze tracking records. AI also improves the enforcement of safeguards by saving inspectors a lot of repetitive tasks