IAEA Board of Governors: 12 September 2017
Statement by Dr Kath Smith, Alternate Resident Representative to the IAEA
Agenda Item 5: Strengthening the Agency’s activities related to nuclear science, technology and applications
Thank you, Chair.
Australia welcomes the Director General’s report on Strengthening the Agency’s Activities Related to Nuclear Science, Technology and Applications. The report and its seven Annexes cover a wide range of beneficial uses of nuclear science and technology, which contribute to economic development, human health and environmental protection. We recognise the important relationship between the Agency’s work in the field of Nuclear Applications and its work under the Technical Cooperation Programme, and note the significant benefits delivered to Member States by both categories of activity.
Australia is continuing to lead the world in the low-enriched uranium (LEU) based production of nuclear medicine. I am pleased to report that construction of our new ANSTO Nuclear Medicine (ANM) facility is now complete and that commissioning is expected to commence shortly. When the facility comes on line later in the year, this facility will enable Australia to supply up to 25% of world needs for molybdenum-99, the isotope used in 80% of nuclear medicine procedures for the diagnosis of conditions such as cancer, heart disease and neurological disorders. This production will continue to be based entirely on LEU, demonstrating that such technology is reliable, technically and economically viable, and available right now.
As ANM comes on line, Australia will utilise its indigenous Synroc technology to manage the liquid waste from nuclear medicine production. Construction of a Synroc plant to treat waste from ANM will start next year. When complete, the facility will demonstrate on an industrial scale the viability of Synroc as a modern, versatile waste form with improved volume reduction, safety and proliferation resistance.
Australia supports the IAEA’s nuclear applications activities in a number of ways.
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) is an IAEA Collaborating Centre in the field of Multi-analytical techniques for materials research, environmental studies and industrial applications. ANSTO is home to:
- landmark infrastructure including neutron scattering beam instruments, a synchrotron, various accelerators, and materials fabrication and testing facilities; and
- a wide range of related expertise in nuclear fuel cycle and reactor materials, nuclear-based environmental techniques, radiopharmaceutical production and radiation effects in living matter.
ANSTO also has a range of User programs through which IAEA and other researchers and collaborators from across Australia and around the world can gain access to its equipment and expertise.
Australia regularly makes a variety of in kind and extra-budgetary contributions to the IAEA’s activities related to nuclear science technology and applications. So far this year, Australian experts have participated in approximately 40 meetings and consultancies, and Australia has hosted 22 fellowships and scientific visits (we hosted a total of 26 in 2016).
A significant collaboration between ANSTO and the Sri Lankan Presidential Taskforce for Prevention of Chronic Kidney Disease to investigate the epidemiology of CKDu (Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Aetiology) was instigated in May 2017. This disease is a substantial challenge in Sri Lanka and other countries around the world, adversely affecting over 100,000 people and being linked to 5,000 deaths every year. Through this collaboration, ANSTO will collaborate with and make our world-class nuclear scientific infrastructure available to Sri Lankan, Australian and other global researchers to study and combat this disease.
In this reporting period, under the Peaceful Uses Initiative, we provided funding to support the participation of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific in an Interregional Meeting on Aligning the IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme with the Development Goals of SIDS (2-4 November 2016). We also supported a Coordinated Research Project on “Levels, Trends and Radiological Effects of Radionuclides in the Marine Environment”, that will provide a greater understanding of marine characteristics and both radioactive and chemical pollutants in Asia-Pacific and globally, which will in turn help areas such as seafood management and marine environment protection practices for participating countries; and an RCA project on Strengthening the Effectiveness and Extent of Medical Physics Education and Training.
In the past 12 months, Australia hosted five IAEA nuclear applications-related meetings. Specifically, we hosted
- An Interregional Meeting on Partnerships and Resource Mobilisation for the Interregional Meeting Addressing Small Islands Developing States (SIDS), attended by representatives of SIDS in the Caribbean and the Pacific regions, at which the design for the first dedicated interregional technical cooperation project for SIDS was finalised (13-17 March 2017);
- An RCA Project Coordination Meeting on Enhancing Regional Capabilities for Marine Radioactivity Monitoring and Assessment of the Potential Impact of Radioactive Releases from Nuclear Facilities in Asia-Pacific Marine Ecosystems, which established a thorough knowledge and understanding of the existing capabilities, gaps and needs in the participating countries in the area of marine radioactivity monitoring and assessment (20-24 March 2017);
- An Interregional Workshop on Decommissioning Planning and Cost Estimation for Decommissioning ( 27-31 March 2017);
- An RCA Regional Training Course on the Use of Isotopic Techniques for Groundwater Dating (14-18 August 2017); and
- the 13th Coordination meeting for the ALMERA (the Analytical Laboratories for the Measurement of Environmental Radioactivity) Network (26-28 October 2016).
In the next reporting period we are already committed to hosting a Regional Training Course on Practical Introduction to Nuclear Forensics (16-20 October 2017); the Final Coordination Meeting and Workshop on Application of SPECT, SPECT/CT and PET/CT on Clinical Paediatric Nuclear Medicine (ICNMP) (13-17 November, 2017); Final Progress Review and Coordination Meeting on the RCA RAS/1/020 project on Building Capacities in Advanced Non-Destructive Evaluation Technologies in the Asia and Pacific region, from 20 to 24 November 2017; and a Workshop on Safety Reassessment of Research Reactors in Light of Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Daiichi Accident (4-7 December 2017).
Australia acknowledges the productive and ongoing relationship between the IAEA and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (the FAO). We appreciate their joint work to ameliorate the human health and socioeconomic impacts of insect-borne diseases such as malaria, trypanosomiasis and dengue fever. Australia endorses the use of nuclear science and technology to increase food safety and security and agricultural practices. We note in particular the positive effect of incorporating Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) operations in area-wide integrated pest management campaigns.
The report before the Board on the status of the Renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories at Seibersdorf, the so called ReNuAL project, shows welcome progress. This project is important in modernising the Agency’s capability in major areas of its technical competency. We note that the full funding of the ReNuAL projects was achieved in September 2016 and that more than 6 Million Euros have been pledged for ReNuAL+ since June 2016. Australia provided a substantial contribution to the ReNuAL project and encourages other Member States in a position to do so to contribute to ReNuAL+.
This week in Paris, Australia will deposit its treaty-level instrument of accession to the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) Framework Agreement, thereby finalising our membership in this group. While Australia does not utilise nuclear power, however, we have specialised expertise and infrastructure in Australia in the analysis of materials in high-stress environments that we believe can contribute to the goals of developing the next generation of nuclear reactor designs that are safer, more efficient and with high levels of proliferation resistance. We look forward to being an active member of GIF in the years to come.
Australia notes that around the world there are many projects to construct, deploy and sell small and medium-sized nuclear reactors and transportable nuclear power plants. Consequently we are very supportive of the Agency’s previous, current and proposed future work related these reactor types.
With these comments, the Australian delegation takes note of the Director General’s report on Strengthening the Agency’s Activities Related to Nuclear Science, Technology and Applications, and endorses the Board’s submission of the report to the General Conference.
Thank you Chair.