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In 2018, the 62nd International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference was held in Vienna to discuss key nuclear techniques for non-destructive testing (NDT) of the safe construction of public buildings. The focus of the discussion was on highlighting methods to evaluate the condition of various buildings and structures in areas that had been stricken with earthquakes, such as Nepal, Ecuador, and Mexico.
It was concluded that NDT techniques that utilize radiation provide a reliable method of studying public buildings, bridges, and utility pipelines, enabling them to be constructed to higher levels of safety and durability in the face of natural disasters.
Radiation in Non-Destructive Testing to Increase Public Building Safety
Building collapses can be prevented by using the NDT method of industrial radiography. This technique tests the structural integrity of a public building through the use of radiation in the form of short-wave X-rays, gamma rays, and neutrons. Because different buildings have different absorption characteristics of these wave forms, the collected data can inform engineers on factors that impact on structural integrity.
This helps both to assess damage caused to buildings, which is particularly useful for determining building safety following natural disasters, as well as helping to prevent damage through improving the design and durability of the buildings while they are being built.
Protecting Against Natural Disaster Damage
It is common for buildings to remain standing even when they have been structurally compromised following a natural disaster. It is essential to public safety that reliable methods are adopted that can assess the level of damage caused to a building, without the need to cause any further damage in order to gain this information. Buildings that are not assessed successfully pose the threat of collapsing at a time after the natural disaster has happened, causing harm to those using the building and in the surrounding area.
Nuclear technology is already being put to work in Asia and the Pacific, developing NDT methods to verify the safety of buildings following natural disasters. Japan alone as invested $725,000 in the IAEA initiative to develop such methods.
The IAEA is also working with organizations in Latin America to train them with the same methods, helping them to make cities safe again after a natural disaster. Mexico and Ecuador are countries that recently used NDT equipment to test integrity after significant earthquakes. The new equipment provided to Mexico by the IAEA will be used to provide emergency support to other areas of Latin America.
These NDT techniques are proving to be essential in the prevention and assessment of public building safety in these circumstances. In addition to this, there are other alternative methods of NDT, such as visual inspection, ultrasonic testing, liquid penetrant testing, magnetic particle testing, eddy current testing, and acoustic emission that can be used to help improve construction methods of public buildings and to carry out routine maintenance checks, resulting in a safer and more secure infrastructure.
The Future of NDT in Building Assessment
The 2018 IAEA General Conference helped make a significant step forward in terms of the methods used in NDT to assess public buildings, helping to make them safer, protecting the lives of citizens who use them. Mostly, these techniques will help cities to prevent and assess damage caused by natural disasters. They are already proving to be useful in many global regions struck by disaster.
In the future we can expect to see a more widespread adoption of these methods as equipment is made available to more local governments, as well as the increased adoption of other complimentary NDT techniques alongside radiographic testing.