Fri, 04 Aug 2023 - 09:16

Visit to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation

My recent visit to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) facility at Lucas Heights in Sydney was highly informative.

Touring the state-of-the-art facilities and meeting various scientists and engineers broadened my perspective and understanding of the organisation’s purpose and work.

Formed in 1987, ANSTO has significant experience in nuclear science and technology and is one of Australia’s largest public research organisations.

Thanks to its groundbreaking work, Australia has longstanding nuclear expertise and is considered a world leader in nuclear research.

A highlight of the visit was seeing firsthand the Open Pool Australian Lightwater multi-purpose reactor. The reactor plays a vital role by functioning as a ‘neutron factory’, producing radioisotopes for cancer detection and treatment, and neutron beams for fundamental materials research.

ANSTO does a significant amount of work in applying nuclear medicine used to treat patients. About 75 to 80 per cent of nuclear medicine isotopes used in Australia come from ANSTO. Through partnerships with nuclear medicine professionals, some 700,000 patient procedures happen each year.

Australia will have an even greater focus on the nuclear sector in coming years, under the AUKUS agreement. This global alliance will bolster research efforts and support the development of a domestic capability to operate nuclear powered submarines.

A clear outcome from AUKUS will be to encourage more people to pursue careers in nuclear science. It will catalyse further industry engagement and incentivise universities to offer more nuclear focused courses.

My visit helped me better appreciate the vital importance for Australia of having a significant stock of people with subject matter expertise in nuclear research and nuclear facility operations.

ANSTO has helped build Australia’s reputation as a nuclear steward. Nuclear research must continue to be at the centre of our country’s science agenda; in turn that will equip our nation to achieve a range of nuclear medicine, scientific, research, industrial and production goals.