Nuclear techniques save Brazil millions in dredging costs

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report on Tuesday that details how Brazil's ports have been able to save dredging costs through the utilization of radiotracers.

The tracers allow officials to determine the sedimentary makeup of movements that impact the ability of ships to move through the country's major port system.

“In the studies performed in the 70s at Sepetiba Bay, Rio de Janeiro State, for the construction of Ilha da Madeira harbor, we have probably ‘economized’ over 100,000 kilometers of dredging travel distance,” Jefferson Bandeira, senior researcher at the Environment Department of the National Nuclear Energy Commission of Brazil, said.

For ports to be able to accommodate larger cargo ships, dredging -- or removing excess mud and other material from the bottoms of shipping lanes -- is often required. The information obtained from the studies and the radio tracers allows port authorities to make efficiency-based decisions on where sediment and other material needs to be removed, and where it can be left alone.

“In the same way as a heart surgeon can investigate major blood vessels or a radiologist can track organic functions of the human metabolism by using medical tracers, radiotracers allow us to assess the hydrodynamic behavior and main pathways of sediment movement in coastal areas,” Bandeira said.

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International Atomic Energy Agency

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