IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
Statement by Mr Jarrod Powell, Alternate Resident Representative of Australia to the IAEA
Agenda item 4 – Nuclear Technology Review 2020
Thank you, Chair.
Australia thanks Deputy Directors General Mokhtar and Chudakov for their introductory comments on this agenda item. We welcome the opportunity to comment on the Director General’s draft Nuclear Technology Review 2020.
Australia is fully committed to its role in the promotion of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology throughout its region and the world. The peaceful applications of nuclear technology aid Member States in addressing basic human development needs worldwide, including in human and animal health, food and agriculture, water resource management, environment, industry, and energy.
Australia welcomes the Agency’s renewed focus on increasing the participation of women and girls in STEM. As the co-chair of the Group of Friends of Women in Nuclear, along with our good friends from Mexico, this is a priority that we have been advocating for some time.
Indeed, Diversity in Nuclear is the theme of the International Youth Nuclear Congress 2020, which Australia is hosting in Sydney this week. At IYNC2020 the next generation of leaders in nuclear research, policy and industry are seeking to promote and enable diversity across the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology. In hosting this congress, we take great pride in facilitating the exchange of experiences and ideas that will ensure future generations continue to benefit from the peaceful applications of nuclear technology.
Australia is one of the world’s leading suppliers of nuclear medicines. We continue to place great importance on minimising the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in the production of nuclear medicines. We were the first major supplier to produce molybdenum-99 exclusively from low enriched uranium, having converted to a process free from highly enriched uranium targets and fuel nearly 15 years ago.
We recognise that some other Member States have also made significant strides in moving away from HEU-based production, however much work remains to be done.
The technology to enable this has been around for some time and is both economically and technically feasible. This is particularly important to remember as the world moves towards the next generation of reactors for the production of nuclear medicine. Integration of this important policy commitment into new and existing production processes will directly improve global nuclear security and non-proliferation.
We have requested a clarification of language in paragraph 186 of the draft Nuclear Technology Review, regarding the description of a new molybdenum-99 production methodology as non‑uranium based. We anticipate that this will be amended in the final version and we thank those involved in making this change.
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 enhance mutually beneficial cooperation and collaboration with such bodies.
At the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, construction of the world’s first industrial scale Synroc waste treatment facility continues. The plant will be used to condition intermediate-level liquid wastes from Australia’s production of nuclear medicines. Industry-leading advancements in automation and robotics will allow the entire plant to be automated from a seamless operating interface. We expect handover of the building to take place later this year, allowing for the commencement of plant commissioning.
Australia recognises the value of targeted radiation therapies to treat cancers while preserving surrounding healthy tissue, and welcomes the information provided on Boron Neutron Capture Therapy. A related therapy, known as Neutron Capture Enhanced Particle Therapy (NCEPT), is currently being developed in Australia, in collaboration with international researchers. Early research has demonstrated its potential as a treatment for hard-to-reach tumours. First in human trials are expected to occur in 2022.
We will not repeat comments we have made on issues such as transportable nuclear power plants under the previous agenda item, but would encourage colleagues to consider the statements in conjunction with each other given the crosscutting nature of the topics discussed.
Australia continues to support the Agency’s Nuclear Applications and Nuclear Energy programmes wholeheartedly. With these comments, we take note of the draft Nuclear Technology Review 2020.