IAEA Board of Governors Meeting: 7-11 March 2016
Statement by HE Mr David Stuart, Resident Representative to the IAEA
Agenda Item 3
Strengthening the Agency’s Activities Related to Nuclear Science, Technology and Applications: Nuclear Technology Review 2016
Thank you, Chair,
The Director General’s report Nuclear Technology Review 2016 (GOV/2016/3) presents Member States with a detailed summary of developments in this important area over the last year.
As pointed out in the Review, nuclear power’s role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – and many other applications of nuclear technology – can directly contribute to our Sustainable Development Goals.
According to the Review: by 2030, global nuclear capacity will grow from about 2% in the lowest growth case scenario and about 70% in the highest case; nuclear power is an important element of the energy mix of 30 Member States; and nuclear power is being considered for inclusion in the energy mix of 30 more States. As highlighted by the Director General yesterday, 41 of the 65 new reactors currently under construction are being built in Asia.
Australia has, for some time, been part of the international fuel cycle as a leading supplier of uranium ore. According to the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency’s 2015 “Nuclear Energy Data” report, Australia produces about 10% of the world total of 56,200 tonnes of Uranium per year.
Australia is also playing a substantial role in development of leading-edge technologies for management of radioactive waste, through construction of a treatment plant for liquid wastes generated from our production of isotopes for nuclear medicines. This plant, which it is planned will commence operation in 2018-19, is based on Australia’s indigenous Synroc technology, which can reduce waste volumes by over 90% compared to other methods such as cementation. It also has the potential to be used in a wide variety of waste management scenarios.
As noted in the 2016 Review, the management of ageing research reactors continues to present challenges in regards to their maintenance, modernisation and refurbishment, as well as to the secure supply of nuclear medicine, particularly molybdenum-99. In 2015, global coordination of research reactor schedules helped to strengthen security of the world’s supply of molybdenum-99. A number of reactors are now due to either undergo extended maintenance shutdowns or stop producing molybdenum-99 altogether. In contrast, Australia’s OPAL reactor is only 10 years old, and last year achieved the milestone of 300 operational days. Furthermore, we are currently planning to substantially increase production from our current processing plant; and are also continuing to construct a new “state-of-the-art” isotope production facility. When this new facility commences operation in 2017, Australia will be in a position to meet a substantial proportion of global demand for molybdenum-99.
Both our current plant and the new plant are fully based on low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel and targets, demonstrating again that this technology is a real, practical and currently-available alternative to highly-enriched uranium (HEU) based production and can help meet global nuclear medicine demand. We encourage all Member States utilising HEU technology for the production of molybdenum-99 to convert to LEU as quickly as possible.
Australia continues its commitment to the use of nuclear techniques in materials, environmental and health research. We do so through a number of significant infrastructure investments and international collaboration.
Australia’s major nuclear research infrastructure and expertise includes: extensive neutron scattering and synchrotron capabilities, new accelerators, and biological and chemical deuteration technologies. Recently, the management of Australia’s nuclear science and technology infrastructure has been restructured to focus more strongly on users. In this context, ANSTO, Australia’s primary nuclear science and technology agency, has been designated as one of 22 IAEA Collaborating Centres. As such ANSTO will provide researchers from IAEA Member States with access to state-of-the-art capabilities; assist the IAEA’s training programmes; and strengthen international knowledge transfer and outreach.
Australia has now completed a significant upgrade to our national Activity Standard Laboratory, allowing greater precision in delivery of radiological doses in medical procedures. This AUD $400 000 upgrade improves Australia’s capacity for accurate measurement of a broader range of radioactive decay chains including those used in nuclear medicine applications.
In environmental science, we continue to use geochemistry stable isotope and other techniques to characterise and assist in the management of scarce water resources (for examples in the Pilbara region of Western Australia); and have sought to transfer this knowledge to other arid countries. Specifically in June 2015, Australia hosted a fellowship for a Nigerian expert, funded under the Peaceful Uses Initiative. This expert learnt how to establish and operate a laboratory to monitor groundwater in his home country, which is vital in the development of effective land and water management policies.
In 2015, in addition to our support for activities funded under the Technical Cooperation Fund, Australia provided financial support towards: IAEA development of Certified Reference Materials for the calibration of measurements of Trace Element and Organic Contaminants in Marine Sediment in the Pacific; an IAEA Regional Training Course on Improving Soil Fertility, Land Productivity and Land Degradation Mitigation; and a Coordinated Research Project on Levels Trends and Radiological Effects in Radionuclides in the Marine Environment. In 2016 we plan to provide extra targeted funding for projects on: radionuclides in the marine environment; and for promoting good practices for palliative care and pain management for cancer patients. Both of these projects will have a focus on our Pacific region.
Regional health security is one of Australia’s priorities under our Health for Development Strategy 2015-2020. Australia supports countries in our region to build strong health systems capable of detecting and responding to emerging health threats, such as Zika. Our principal methods are through our international health diplomacy and development assistance. As an example, Australia is currently seeking to assist Papua New Guinea augment its capabilities in Computed Tomography, Radiation Therapy, Oncology and Medical Physics by offering and/or providing training, equipment and expert missions.
With these comments, the Australian delegation takes note of the Nuclear Technology Review 2016 (GOV/2016/3).
Thank you, Mister Chairman.