Supporting Australia’s foreign policy through the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology

Paterson  Dr Adi Paterson, CEO Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) is best known as the home of Australia’s only nuclear research reactor, OPAL.  Through OPAL and other landmark infrastructure, ANSTO conducts cutting-edge research in fields as diverse as human health, environmental and climate change science, materials analysis, and industrial applications.  We directly support Australian health outcomes by producing over 10,000 doses of nuclear medicine each week for the diagnosis of conditions such as cancer, heart disease and neurological disorders.

What is less known is that ANSTO uses its expertise in nuclear science and technology to directly support Australia’s foreign policy objectives. A good example of this is our engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Australia holds a permanent position on the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors, which gives Australia a strong voice on important IAEA issues such as safeguards verification in Iran and the safety of nuclear facilities.  Australia holds this position because we are the most advanced country in nuclear science and technology in South East Asia and the Pacific.  We demonstrate these credentials by actively contributing to the IAEA’s technical work.

Australia works with regional partners as part of the IAEA TCP to develop expertise in nuclear science and technology. Image: ANSTO

While the IAEA is known as the “international nuclear watchdog” for its safeguards and safety work, it may come as a surprise that one of its largest and most important programs is devoted to socio-economic development.

Closely aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) allows Member States to share expertise in nuclear science and technology. The TCP’s work includes developing capacity in the production of nuclear medicine for diagnosis and treatment of disease, radiotracer analysis for study of water basins, and breeding of more durable and higher yielding crops. This helps to directly improve human health, agriculture, water management and environmental protection outcomes in the region.

ANSTO provides Australian technical expertise to the IAEC TCP.  We regularly host scientists from developing countries to help build their expertise and skills.  Our technical experts travel the region to deliver training courses and conduct infrastructure and capacity assessments and implement improvements in developing countries.

The IAEA TCP delivers tangible outcomes for participants including this work to monitor pollutants in fish stocks in Indonesia. Image: ANSTO

We are pleased to be working across Government to contribute to the forthcoming Foreign Policy White Paper to emphasise the importance of sharing Australia’s technical expertise in nuclear science and technology to increase health and prosperity in our region.

Adi Paterson is the CEO of ANSTO.  Since March 2009 he has had oversight and responsibility for ANSTO’s multi-facetted portfolio of activities.  ANSTO operates the multi-purpose Open Pool Australian Light-water (OPAL) reactor which provides science and irradiation services to Australian and overseas users. Since 2013 ANSTO has operated the Australian Synchrotron.  Dr Paterson has experience in key policy areas including science and innovation, energy and the nuclear fuel cycle of relevance to ANSTO’s advisory role. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Engineers Australia (EA), and the Royal Society of New South Wales.  In 2012 he was recognised by the Sydney Division of EA as the 2012 Professional Engineer of the Year. Dr Paterson holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a PhD in Engineering from the University of Cape Town.  


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