AccAPP’21: The value of accelerators

December 2, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

AccApp'21, the 14th International Topical Meeting on Nuclear Applications of Accelerators, runs through December 4 and is being held as an embedded topical at the 2021 ANS Winter Meeting and Technology Expo in Washington, D.C. The meeting was to be held April 5-9, 2020, at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria—and it was to be known as AccApp’20—but it was postponed because of COVID-19.

AccApp'21 is organized by ANS’s Accelerator Applications Division and cosponsored by Texas A&M University, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, and the IAEA. The meeting’s focus is on the following areas:

  • The production and use of accelerator-produced neutrons, photons, electrons, and other particles for scientific and industrial purposes.
  • The production or destruction of radionuclides significant for energy, medicine, cultural heritage, or other endeavors.
  • Safety and security applications.
  • Medical imaging, diagnostics, and therapeutic treatment.

Opening plenary session


The general chair of AccApp’21, Lin Shao, a nuclear engineering professor at Texas A&M University, opened the meeting on December 1 by reviewing the topics to be covered in its 25 technical sessions and four plenary sessions. Shao noted that the best papers from the meeting would be published in a special issue of the ANS journal Nuclear Science and Engineering. He also thanked the AccApp’21 organizers and technical committee members for their work in putting the meeting together. He then introduced the session’s three presenters: Stuart Henderson, Ferdinand Willeke, and Kristin Hirsch.


Stuart Henderson: Henderson, director of the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) in Newport News, Va., led off the presentations by providing an overview of accelerator technology and its potential for the future. The Jefferson Lab is a DOE Office of Science national laboratory and is home to the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility.

“There are more than 15,000 U.S. researchers who make use of accelerator-based research facilities every year,” Henderson noted. “Scientists, engineers, nuclear physicists, and particle physicists have worked with accelerators and have recognized the incredible impact that accelerators can have on people's lives, on the economy, and on the health and well-being of the nation and the world.”

Henderson added that tens of millions of patients are treated every year with accelerator-based cancer treatment radiotherapy and that more than 50 medical isotopes are routinely produced annually.

In addition, many products are made using the nearly 30,000 industrial accelerators located around the world. “The annual value of all products that make use of accelerator technology has been estimated to be about $400 billion, and about $300 billion of that is in the semiconductor industry and about $100 billion elsewhere in other industrial processes and medicine,” Henderson said.

There is also the potential for using accelerators in new applications for space, industry, medicine, security, and science. “It's a very exciting time for our field,” Henderson concluded. “The technologies that are emerging will open new opportunities to address significant challenges in very important areas.”


Ferdinand Willeke: Willeke is the deputy project director and technical director of project management for Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Electron-Ion Collider (EIC) project.

The project is looking to build the EIC over the next 10 years. It will be a particle accelerator that collides electrons with protons and nuclei to produce snapshots of the particles’ internal structure—like a CT scanner for atoms. The electron beam will reveal the arrangement of the quarks and gluons that make up the protons and neutrons of nuclei.

The EIC design is based on BNL's existing Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, the only polarized proton collider in the world.

Willeke said that the EIC project is now preparing for baseline cost and scheduling and that its design "pushes the collider performance, center of mass energy, and detector capability and acceptance simultaneously, which establishes the project's challenges." Those challenges, he added, have been resolved by strong R&D, competent collaborative design teams that include world experts, and novel design ideas.

"The design was carried out in partnership with JLAB [Jefferson Laboratory] and contributions of top accelerator scientists around the United States," he said. "A large international user community expressed interest in contributing to the collider and the detectors, and it plans to participate in the experimental program."


Kristin Hirsch: Hirsch, director of the NNSA’s Office of Radiological Security, talked about the agency’s work regarding accelerator technology and nuclear security. “We work with domestic and international partners in all 50 states and with more than 100 partner countries worldwide to secure radioactive sources to prevent their use in acts of terrorism,” she said.

Hirsch noted that the NNSA has three main pillars supporting its work: protect radioactive sources used for medical, research, and commercial purposes; remove and dispose of disused radioactive sources; and reduce the global reliance on radioactive sources by promoting the adoption and development of non-radioisotopic alternative technologies.

Hirsch said that the NNSA has pinpointed the radioisotopes that most likely would be used for nefarious purposes: cobalt-60, often used in cancer treatment and research sterilization facilities; americium-241, used in the oil and gas industry; iridium-192, used in radiography for industrial imaging; and cesium-137, used in blood and research irradiators, as well as smaller devices such as calibrators and dosimeters.

Hirsch then discussed alternative technologies, such as using linear accelerators instead of Co-60 for external beam radiotherapy. In addition, she noted that federal funding has been provided to eliminate the use of Cs-137 for blood irradiation in the United States by 2027.

The NNSA, in fact, supports the replacement of devices that use radioactive sources. “Incentives are available to domestic licensees that use cesium-137 for irradiation purposes to replace them with X-ray devices as an alternative,” Hirsch said. “We offer a financial incentive for the purchase of the X-ray device, and we cover 100 percent of the cost to remove and dispose of the cesium device.”

Winter Meeting opening plenary: Click here to read about the opening plenary of the 2021 ANS Winter Meeting and Technology Expo.