IAEA Board of Governors
Statement by Dr Kath Smith, Alternate Resident Representative to the IAEA
Agenda Item 6: Strengthening the Agency’s activities related to nuclear science, technology and applications
11 September 2018
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 ten 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 looks forward to the “Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology: Addressing New and Emerging Development Challenges”, in Vienna from 28-30 November 2018. We are very supportive of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, fully support the conference and are honoured that the CEO of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, ANSTO, has been invited to play an active role.
Australia is continuing to lead the world in the low-enriched uranium (LEU) based production of nuclear medicine. I am pleased to report that “hot” commissioning of our new ANSTO Nuclear Medicine (ANM) facility is now underway. When commissioning is complete, Australia will be able to supply approximately 25% of world demand 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. Australia’s 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 has commenced. 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, Australians experts have participated in approximately 40 meetings and consultancies, and Australia has hosted 14 fellowships and scientific visits.
Through a Memorandum of Understanding with the Sri Lankan President Taskforce for the Prevention of Chronic Kidney Disease, ANSTO is bringing together Australian and Sri Lankan researchers to investigate the epidemiology of CKDu (Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Aetiology). 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. This collaboration makes ANSTO’s world-class nuclear scientific infrastructure available to Sri Lankan, Australian and other global researchers to study and combat this disease.
Under the Peaceful Uses Initiative, we provided funding to support an Interregional Training Course on Utilising Isotopic Techniques to Estimate Nutrient Use Efficiency in Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and African regions.
In the past 12 months, Australia hosted five IAEA nuclear applications-related meetings and we are already committed to hosting another four in the coming year.
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 and ReNuAL+ projects, shows good progress and a welcome focus on resource mobilisation, including from non-traditional donors. This project is important in modernising the Agency’s capability in major areas of its technical competency. The full funding of the ReNuAL project was achieved in September 2016, and we are encouraged to see the progress that has been made towards the full funding of ReNuAl+.
Australia is an active member of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF). While Australia does not utilise nuclear power, we have specialised expertise and infrastructure in Australia for the analysis of materials in high-stress environments that 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. In this context, Australia has entered into agreements to contribute to research on molten salt reactors and very high temperature reactors. We will also host a GIF policy group meeting in 2020.
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.