International Atomic Energy Agency acknowledges Australia's nuclear expertise and stewardship

Australia’s significant contribution to security, safety and public health in our region and around the world were showcased today at ANSTO’s Lucas Heights campus, the home of Australia’s nuclear capabilities. 

Today Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic, together with representatives from ANSTO, warmly welcomed the Director General of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, to ANSTO.

Australia is a Member State of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and our home-grown expertise in nuclear science, technology and stewardship has developed over almost 70 years. 

ANSTO is a well-regarded global leader in nuclear research and applications for health, industry and science, supported by the multi-purpose reactor, OPAL, based in Sydney.

Attended by Ambassador for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, Ian Biggs, and Australia’s Permanent Representative to the IAEA, Ambassador Richard Sadleir, today’s high-level meetings were hosted by ANSTO CEO, Shaun Jenkinson, and ANSTO Chair, Dr Annabelle Bennett. The topics covered included:

  • Current operation of Australia’s OPAL nuclear reactor, which a recent Periodic Safety and Security Review showed is one of the most reliable reactors in the world.
  • Nuclear innovation and applications, including ANSTO’s CORIS360®: a portable device which pinpoints the exact location of radiation sources, faster and more accurately than ever before.

This technology delivers improved safety and security in a range of fields, including border monitoring, national security, decommissioning of old reactors, and nuclear safeguards.

  • Progress on Australia’s SyMo facility, where ANSTO Synroc® technology will transform waste generated from nuclear medicine production into a stable wasteform that is disposal ready.

Overseas clients with large nuclear programs are already expressing commercial interest in this technology, and the IAEA has recognised Synroc as an emerging technology option to incorporate in the waste management lifecycle.

  • ANSTO’s leadership in IAEA fora where we advise on the direction of nuclear technology and on peaceful uses of nuclear technology for socio-economic development in Asia-Pacific

ANSTO staff members are the current Chair of the Standing Advisory Group on Nuclear Applications (SAGNA) and will Chair the Regional Cooperative Agreement (RCA) in 2023. ANSTO also Chairs the IAEA International Decommissioning Network and IAEA’s Low-Level Waste Disposal Network.

  • The trilateral security partnership, AUKUS, through which the United States and United Kingdom will work with Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines. 

ANSTO is supporting the Defence Department’s Nuclear-Powered Submarine Taskforce to determine the optimal pathway for delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine capability for Australia.

“In 2023 Australia will celebrate seventy years of safe and practical stewardship of nuclear reactors and associated technologies,” Minister Husic said. 

“Australia is amongst the best at what we do when it comes to nuclear applications that are enabling research and innovation, supporting industry, and delivering health benefits to people in Australia and around the world every day. 

“ANSTO’s capabilities support Australia’s ambitions for advanced manufacturing processes and has contributed proudly both domestically and internationally in the nuclear science sector. 

“Australia welcomes Director General Grossi and looks forward to ANSTO continuing to work with the IAEA, as we build on Australia’s experience and nuclear safety and security record in support of the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines program.” 

ANSTO CEO Shaun Jenkinson joined in welcoming Director General Grossi, who toured ANSTO’s OPAL reactor – one of the most advanced in the world of its class – as well as the Synroc waste treatment facility currently in the fit-out and pre-commissioning phase.

“While many know Lucas Heights as the home of Australia’s only nuclear reactor, they may not be aware of the tremendous value we gain from having access to this technology and expertise,” Mr Jenkinson said.

“This reactor supports our scientific communities and industries to be amongst the best in the world, and it has helped deliver health benefits to Australians for generations. 

“We produce a significant percentage of the world’s nuclear medicine, irradiate much of the world’s silicon (used in technology such as electric cars and fast trains), and are an international centre for the application of neutron scattering techniques enabling wide fields research.

“The Director General expressed deep confidence in Australia, acknowledging the solid foundations established through ANSTO over the past 70 years, which have demonstrated Australia’s mature nuclear capability and stewardship credentials.”

Media contact:

Minister Husic’s office: 02 6277 7645