IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
Statement by Mr Jarrod Powell, Alternate Resident Representative of Australia to the IAEA
Agenda item 3 – Nuclear Technology Review 2019
5 March 2019
Thank you, Chair.
Australia thanks Deputy Directors General Mokhtar and Chudakov for their introductory comments on this agenda item, and the Secretariat for its briefing on 11 February. We welcome the opportunity to comment on the Director General’s report Nuclear Technology Review 2019 (GOV/2019/4).
Australia is proud of the role it plays in promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear technology throughout its region and the world. We acknowledge the enormous contribution, and future potential, of the peaceful applications of nuclear energy to addressing a wide variety of basic socio-economic human development needs worldwide, including in human and animal health, food and agriculture, water resource management, environment, industry, and energy.
Australia congratulates the Secretariat and all participating Member States on the success of last November’s Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology. The Ministerial Conference was highly successful in highlighting these contributions. At the same time, the Ministerial Conference presented an opportunity for the Agency and its Member States to identify challenges and learn from each other’s successes.
In particular, the Ministerial Conference generated many discussions on efforts to improve the participation and representation of women in nuclear science and technology. These conversations, and similar opportunities in the future, will help us in the drive towards achieving gender parity in Agency activities and more widely across the nuclear sector.
As one of the world’s leading suppliers of reactor-produced nuclear medicines, Australia has a great understanding of the importance of nuclear science and technology to improving the health and well-being of people through enabling the early and accurate diagnosis of a broad spectrum of debilitating and life threatening illnesses.
Australia was the first major supplier to produce molybdenum-99 exclusively from low enriched uranium. This isotope is the basis for 80 per cent of diagnostic nuclear medicine procedures. Australia chose to eliminate highly enriched uranium from nuclear medicine production, not because it was convenient, but because it eliminated an unnecessary nuclear proliferation and nuclear security risk. We are very pleased that in recent years other major producers, including the Netherlands and South Africa, have chosen to do likewise. As noted in the Nuclear Technology Review, together, we have eliminated HEU from around 75 per cent of the world’s molybdenum-99 supply chain, proving it both technically and economically feasible.
We urge all Member States in the process of converting their HEU-based methods to stay the course. We discourage Member States establishing or considering new nuclear medicine production capabilities from using HEU-based methods. To do so would unnecessarily introduce new and avoidable risks around nuclear proliferation and security.
Australia continues to support the front end of the fuel cycle as a leading producer of uranium ore. In the year ending 30 June 2018, Australia produced and exported 8,118 tonnes of uranium oxide, making us the world's third-largest producer. With 31 per cent of the world’s proven uranium reserves, we hold more economically recoverable uranium than any other Member State.
Australia has a long history of contributing to fuel cycle and reactor-related research, including through participation in Agency activities, and in other multilateral bodies like the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and the Generation IV International Forum. We encourage the Agency to continue to seek new avenues for mutually beneficial collaboration with such bodies.
At the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, Australia is preparing to employ its indigenous Synroc technology to manage the liquid waste from nuclear medicine production. Construction of the world’s first industrial-scale Synroc waste treatment plant has commenced. When commissioned, the facility will demonstrate the viability of Synroc as a modern, highly versatile waste form, with improved volume reduction and proliferation resistance.
The Nuclear Technology Review notes that more than half of the world’s research reactors are more than 40 years old. This poses challenges for the ongoing reliability of facilities for world-leading research and nuclear medicine production. Australia will continue to share the knowledge accumulated from safely and successfully constructing and operating highly reliable, highly productive research reactors for more than 60 years.
Australia continues to support the Agency’s Technical Cooperation, Nuclear Applications and Nuclear Energy programmes wholeheartedly.
Through effective collaboration we can continue to derive great benefits from the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology. ANSTO, Australia’s nuclear science and technology agency, is an IAEA Collaborating Centre, providing researchers from IAEA Member States with access to state-of-the-art nuclear technologies for research, and assisting with the IAEA’s programs for training, knowledge transfer and outreach.
We also continue to develop novel applications for nuclear science and technology, including synchrotron science. Recent examples of this include the use of the Australian Synchrotron for:
- The development of microbeam radiation therapy techniques that put us on the path towards effective cancer treatments requiring only a single radiotherapy session; and
- Cutting-edge research on new materials that will allow electrical current to flow with near-zero resistance – the application of the theoretical work that won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics.
Australia welcomes the appointment of Deputy Director General Mokhtar to her new position. My delegation considers DDG Mokhtar an excellent selection for this important role, having gotten to know her well, and seen her succeed, in her previous positions within the Agency. She has Australia’s full confidence and support.
With these comments, the Australian delegation takes note of the Nuclear Technology Review 2019 (GOV/2019/4). Thank you.