Nuclear Technology in Agro, Medical Sector

Nuclear Technology in Agro, Medical Sector Nuclear Technology in Agro, Medical Sector

Since inception the applications of civil nuclear technology have been numerous. One well known and widely used is in the production of electricity. However, many other important contributions, including in industry, hydrology, agriculture/food, medicine, art, science, space exploration and cosmology remain less known to the public.

The diverse applications of this type of energy, though controversial in recent years, have become essential to everyday life. They will soon be more crucial and possibly critical, due largely to the scale and scope of studies that increase the possibilities of their use.

Over the years Iran is emerging as an important player in the peaceful application of nuclear technology.


At least 800 million of the world’s seven billion inhabitants are chronically malnourished, and tens of thousands die daily from hunger and hunger-related causes. Radioisotopes and radiation used in food and agriculture are helping to reduce these tragic figures, the World Nuclear Association says.

As well as directly improving food production, agriculture needs to be sustainable over the longer term. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) works with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on programs to improve food sustainability assisted by nuclear and related biotechnologies.

Iranian researchers have successfully applied the technology in genetic modification of three important cultivated crops plus tangerine to increase yield and market appeal, IRNA said in a report last week.

“Modification of certain GMOs, namely barley, wheat, seedless tangerine, as well as two rice varieties, namely ‘Pouya’ and ‘Tabesh’ through gamma-radiation induced mutation is finalized at the Nuclear Research Center for Agriculture and Medicine (NRCAM),” said Dr. Ebrahim Moghiseh, the dean of the center.

He says  research in other genetically modified cultivars such as cotton, soy, rapeseed – also known as ‘oilseed rape’, a bright-yellow oil-rich seed cultivated mainly for vegetable oil in the world, and ornamental plants is in the final stages and the results will be put to practical use within two years.


Many are aware of the wide use of radiation and radioisotopes in medicine particularly for diagnosis (identification) and therapy (treatment) of various medical conditions. In developed countries about one person in fifty uses diagnostic nuclear medicine each year, and the frequency of therapy with radioisotopes is about one tenth of this.

Studies to develop and produce radiovaccine against foot-and-mouth disease are being pursued in Iran and should produce positive results by 2016. Foot-and-mouth disease is a contagious viral disease of cattle and sheep, causing ulceration of the hooves and around the mouth.

“One of the major advantages of this method is absence of chemicals that were used in traditional methods of producing this vaccine to ensure consumers’ safety,” the NRCAM chief said.

He added that production of radiovaccine for white-spot disease – also known as ick, one of the most common and persistent diseases among freshwater fish – is ready to enter its semi-industrial (pilot) phase.

Recently Iran has unveiled its first indigenous tubular centrifuge to expedite production of recombinant medicines, and also animal and human vaccines including the Hepatitis B vaccine.

The tubular centrifuge can be used for high-volume applications in pharmaceutical and food industries.

Iran plans to manufacture a new generation of medical centrifuges in the next six months with a rotating power of 100,000 rounds per minute, he said noting that at present 800,000 patients in Iran use radio-medicines in their treatment.


Application of nuclear technology in production of single-sex populations of salmon and trout is another significant achievement of the civil nuclear industry.

In this type of seective breeding (controlling single-sex groups), a fish gender is selected and modified for accelerated growth to help ensure a larger yield within a shorter period of time. This procedure is important as it helps stabilize the sex ratios from commercial strains.

The technology for breeding single-sex caviar is soon to be shared with the caviar cultivators in cooperation with the Iran Fisheries Organization, according to Moghiseh. Sophisticated technique facilitates the development of the aquaculture industry by lowering costs and increasing quality and yield.


Noting that radiation has had various peaceful applications across the world for 80 years, Moghiseh says use of nuclear technology in agriculture or aquaculture is not harmful to human life in any way.

“All aspects, most importantly the people’s health, are thoroughly taken into account in all our research projects,” he said, adding that the IAEA and FAO conduct routine inspections to ensure food security in the world.

Radiation offers a useful method for crop preservation and control. It leaves no residue, does not change the taste, color, or smell of the food, nor does it make food radioactive. It is accepted and recommended by FAO, WHO (World Health Organization) and the IAEA, consumes less energy than conventional methods and can radically replace or reduce the use of additives and fumigants in foods. Almost 70 countries in the world currently use irradiation in their food industry.