Non-destructive testing capabilities provide niche for Malaysia

Technicians inspect a PETRONAS pipe using NDT methods in order to test the quality of the pipeline.
Technicians inspect a PETRONAS pipe using NDT methods in order to test the quality of the pipeline. | A. Nassir Ibrahim/Madani NDT Training Centre
Competition in Malaysia's manufacturing sector has been stiffened by industrial testing using nuclear technology.

Malaysia has made an export niche for itself in Southeast Asia using non-destructive testing (NDT) with nuclear devices -- and offering that testing to manufacturers in neighboring countries.

“The fact that we can get NDT services of a good quality level at a very reasonable price allows us to spend more money on inspection, and thus improve our competitiveness as well as the level of safety of our plant,” Zamaludin Ali, senior engineer at oil company Petronas, said.

In the past, Petronas and other Malaysian companies had to secure services from foreign NDT providers or local companies that had hired operators with certification from other countries. NDT capabilities in Malaysia have shown "it is possible to build an internationally recognized testing system from scratch," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Industrial Technologist Patrick Brisset said.

Nuclear NDT uses ionizing radiation to test the quality of finished products, including oil pipes, boilers, pressure vessels, aircraft equipment and ships.

The IAEA has played a major part in helping Malaysia establish accredited training agencies and a certification system, and to promote NDT technologies such as radiographic testing. Presently, more than 50 Malaysian companies employ more than 2,000 technicians who are certified to perform NDT testing.

Abdul Nassir Ibrahim, a junior official with Malaysian Nuclear Energy at the time, began looking into NDT in the 1980s after he attended a series of IAEA training courses on the subject. He eventually helped set up the National NDT Certification Board, and retired from that board in 2014. Presently, Ibrahim is the manager of the Madani NDT Training Centre near Kuala Lumpur.

"Seeing the advances and success in Malaysia, we regularly call upon Malaysian experts to help the IAEA to set up training and certification centres in other countries,” Ibrahim said.

Industry types than can benefit from NDT include power plants, shipyards and aviation, as the cost of local inspections can be one-fifth the cost of having the job performed by an overseas company. 

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