IAEA Technical Cooperation European Project RER/8/0152009 - 2011
Using Nuclear Techniques for the Characterization and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Artifacts in the European Region.

The large-scale application of nuclear techniques for the preservation of cultural heritage artefacts requires (i) a careful assessment of radiation disinfestation and (ii) substantiation of treatment doses through optimization of post-irradiation effects.

Networking and international cooperation are essential means for promotion and development of cultural heritage radiation treatment, where there are considerable scientific, technical and public relations challenges and a wider critical mass of participating members is beneficial. In the field of radiation and nuclear analytical methods, such cooperation opens up access to advanced facilities that are not always available in each country. Services for the benefit of the countries in the region will be commercially based and established in accordance with accepted procedures. Eventually, synergies will be created that can help to improve the expected results of the project in all parts of the world. The project will take advantage of the achievements of a previous regional technical cooperation project RER/1/006, which involved the formation of an interdisciplinary team of scientists, conservationists, restorers and curators. The benefits of the project come from the precision and reliability of nuclear analytical techniques. Cultural heritage preservation using radiation techniques has specific and indisputable advantages over classical procedures: the treatment is performed in a confined area with no risk for the operators, there are no toxic residues and hence no risks for curators, visitors or the environment, and complex items can be treated in a short time with excellent reliability and low cost. Classical chemical procedures make use of toxic gases such methyl bromide or ethylene oxide that either affect the ozone shell or are carcinogenic. Because any gas is absorbed in organic materials, gas-treated cultural heritage artefacts are likely to contain toxic residues. Irradiation treatment has an accessible cost and is time-saving. Its utilization will help in the management of the cultural heritage budget of every museum, archive, church or private owner. Radiation disinfestation of cultural heritage artefacts is an environmentally friendly technology. No toxic or radioactive residue is present in the treated item. The treatment is performed in irradiation facilities already in industrial use. By replacing the most commonly used gaseous chemicals - ethyl bromide, which destroys the ozone shell, or ethylene oxide, which is toxic, carcinogenic and flammable - the irradiation technique will make an important contribution to environmental protection.


The Agency will provide logistical support for this project through networking and promotion, while the technical aspects will be optimized for the most part through national efforts. The implementation strategy will be based on the following ideas: (i) assuring the best mix of knowledge transfer modalities: workshops, expert missions, scientific visits and fellowships; (ii) encouraging the development of focal points for knowledge transfer and efficient cooperation (treatment procedures, class courses, networking promotion, inter-regional collaboration); (iii) promotion through production and efficient international distribution of scientific results (booklet production and translation in English; permission for free translation into other languages).


Information materials developed under the project (including Audio Visual materials) collecting success stories, and notable examples of application of nuclear techniques for CH will be disseminated to the countries, thus strengthening national and regional network among conservators and nuclear institutes. It will help to increase of awareness and acceptance of nuclear techniques for characterization and preservation of CH artefacts at national and regional level in the future.