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Interview

Mr. Mabuti Jacob Radebe

I wish South Africa and Korea to continue cooperating for a bright future in nuclear energy.

Q. Would you introduce yourself?

I'm a scientist working for the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa). Necsa is a public company equivalent to the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI). I'm from the Radiation Science department. We perform research related to various types of radiation, and my interest is neutron radiography and tomography.

Q. Would you tell me about the purpose of your visit?

It's a scientific visit and also a part of my fellowship program. This is a two-week long visit, and tomorrow is the last day of my trip. My visit is funded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). I'm involved in the IAEA's international project called the standardization of neutron imaging. This project is about establishing standards in evaluation of the results produced by neutron imaging instruments. The neutron imaging technique has diverse applications, and we need standards to ensure that those instruments produce consistent and reliable results for industrial partners. It's also my Ph.D. project.

Q. It sounds the project is an important step for the neutron imaging technique but not quite simple.

Yes, indeed. This is an international project involving many people, and it's expected to take a long time to complete it. I visited Switzerland before I came to Korea. I've seen some progress with the project so far, but the results also need to be agreed by the board, so we still have several steps left to finish the project.

Q. Then how far do you think you are with the project?

I would say about 40 percent is done, and hopefully I want to finish it by June in 2013.

Q. As you mentioned, neutron imaging is clearly an advanced and useful technique. Would you explain it more specifically?

By using this technique, we can see internal properties of objects without physically affecting them. That's why we call it a non-destructive test method. It's easy to understand if you think about X-ray. When X-ray goes through your body, it can pass your flesh but cannot pass your bone. So, in the picture produced by the detector, you can see your bone in black. The same principle is applied to neutron imaging except that neutron is faster and can go through thicker objects. There are two types of neutron imaging, 2-D and 3-D. Radiography is a 2-D technique. The disadvantage of this technique is that we can't see every spot of the object because it's two dimensional. But with tomography, which is a 3-D imaging method, we can take the 360-degree image of the object.

Q. What's the applications of the neutron imaging technique?

There is a wide range of applications. We use neutron imaging to detect water in fuel cells. This was impossible with X-ray, because we can't see water by X-ray. But, neutron can detect water with precision, and that's why the technique is a great tool to measure the efficiency of fuel cells. It also can be used in excavation. Previously, there was no way to locate fossils or ancient artifacts in the ground, but now we can easily find out where they are by using this imaging technique. Likewise, we can use it in geology. By testing earth samples of several regions, we can find out which is the one abundant in minerals and decide where to mine. Neutron imaging can also be used in the aerospace industry, because neutron can detect corrosion and cracks of airplanes. I can tell you hundreds more.

Q. Wow, it's amazing that a single technique has such diverse applications. For your two-week visit, what's your impression of Korea?

It's my first visit to Korea, and I've enjoyed staying here. What I like about Korean people is that they seem to think highly of self-sufficiency and put value on their own tradition and culture, which I think we South Africans have in common. We also value our own culture, so in that sense, Koreans and South Africans are similar. And I was surprised at so many side dishes for a meal. Oh, and there was a floor, which was quite warm.

Q. It's called ondol system. It's a unique one in Korea.

It was so warm that I wanted to lie down on the floor. One thing I didn't quite like was weather, because it became very cold for the last couple of days. Haha!

Q. Could you tell me more about your country? What's the status of nuclear energy in South Africa?

Our nuclear energy history began in 1970s. South Africa is the only country in Africa that uses nuclear energy. Currently we have two reactors, which generate electricity. Our government commitment to the future of nuclear energy is strong, so we'll see much progress in the future.

Q. It's my last question. What do you see in the future for the cooperation between Korea and South Africa?

Personally I think the future is bright. Two governments signed an atomic energy cooperation treaty. It's important that the cooperation is promised at the government level. I wish both countries to continue cooperating actively with each other for a promising future in nuclear energy.

<27-12-2011 >
 


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