Nuclear Data Section (NDS) Through the Years

Published: 2 June 2014

In the early years of the IAEA, the need for accurate, scientific data to support the work of this Agency quickly became apparent. In 1964, on the advice of the International Nuclear Data Scientific Working Group (INDSWG) to the then IAEA Director General, Sigvard Eklund, the Nuclear Data Unit (NDU; later known as the Nuclear Data Section) was formed and has since worked under the guidance of the INDSWG (that later would come to be known as the International Nuclear Data Committee (INDC)). The main objectives of the Nuclear Data Unit, as it was then called, were to collect, compile and review nuclear data particularly those relevant for the worldwide fission reactor programs. It operated under the guidance of the International Nuclear Data Committee (INDC). The picture shows the staff of the Unit circa 1969. The first Agency mainframe computer was purchased to partly support the work of the Nuclear Data Unit. Initially, NDU used very standard equipment such as punch cards, printed outputs, electronic media (magnetic tapes, floppy discs, CD-ROMs, DVDs) and Visual Display Units (VDUs). The new Nuclear Data Unit began organizing international meetings to encourage discussion between nuclear data producers and users in various countries. In 1966 it organized the first <em>International Conference on Nuclear Data for Reactors</em> in Paris, France. An IAEA press release in 1967 announced the growing linkages between computerized neutron data compilation centres in Western Europe, USA, the USSR and the IAEA to enable the information essential for work with nuclear energy and applications, like reactor design and research in theoretical or experimental physics, to be available throughout the world. NDU became the Nuclear Data Section (NDS) in 1970 and has continued with its mission to provide accurate fundamental data to Member States, to act as a Coordination Centre for Networks and as a stimulus for data work around the world. The ways of carrying out this mission have evolved and changed over the years becoming richer and adapted to current technology. In 1970, a commemorative stamp was issued on the occasion of the <em>Second IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Data for Reactors</em> held in Helsinki, Finland, highlighting the growing importance of accurate scientific data for the worldwide community. A major objective of NDS has been to ensure effective collaboration between all data centres. This was started in 1967 when NDU acted as a neutron data centre as part of the Four Centres Network (Brookhaven, Saclay, Obninsk and Vienna) to compile and exchange neutron data in the EXFOR database.<br /><br /> In this picture, Sol Pearlstein (left), Head of the NNCSC, confers with (left to right) J.J. Schmidt, Head of the IAEA Nuclear Data Section in Vienna, Austria, Vasili Manokhin, Head of the Nuclear Data Information Centre in Obninsk, USSR and A. Schofield, ENEA Neutron Data Compilation Centre in Saclay, France. The work of the NDS has had many milestones in terms of new products, services and technology, but what has remained constant is how the main strands of work have continued for decades and gradually evolved. The evolution is best seen in terms of the work implemented and innovative applications. The work of the NDS is important for addressing the challenges data producers can face in conducting data work; developing data involves expensive and demanding procedures, and evaluating, compiling and disseminating such data requires specialised equipment and personnel as well as large amounts of processing time. NDS products have traditionally been considered as "prized" reference materials and are translated into several languages. Sharing and distribution of nuclear data has also evolved dramatically; from traditional literature like books, reports and printed output to electronic files and downloadable data from online databases. As early as 1988, the NDS began using the internet and email to develop and disseminate data. The NDS became one of the first Sections at the IAEA to run an online Agency database and later took the lead in being among the first to launch a webpage.  International meetings and discussions organized by NDS complement the use of new technologies for developing and disseminating data. These events further foster the exchange of information and serve as forums for data producers to share experiences and lessons learned. Robin Forrest, Section Head, Nuclear Data Section, gives a presentation to interested delegates during the 2011 annual <em>IAEA General Conference</em>. In July 2013, the NDS launched the IAEA's first product aimed at mobile devices. Called Isotope Browser, the mobile application gives properties of more than 4 000 nuclides and isomers and can be accessed from all Android devices such as tablets and smartphones. In 2014, the NDS celebrates its 50th anniversary. It will mark the event with a special session at the start of the 30th International Nuclear Data Committee (INDC) meeting on 2 June 2014 at IAEA Headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Shown here are the current staff of the Section.<br /><br />© IAEA