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Australia Committed to Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Science, IAEA Chief Visit


IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi met with Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Penny Wong. The two discussed nuclear non-proliferation challenges and AUKUS. (Photo: K. Laffan/IAEA)

“Australia is a key IAEA partner, and I am satisfied with the country’s expressed commitments to comply with all of its obligations towards nuclear non-proliferation,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said this week during his visit to Australia. With engagements in Adelaide, Canberra and Sydney, Mr Grossi spoke with Australia’s leaders, including the Prime Minister, Defence and Foreign Ministers about nuclear non-proliferation challenges, delivered a lecture at the Australia National University on the future of IAEA safeguards and global security, and visited the facilities of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.

Speaking with Mr Grossi on Wednesday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese highlighted Australia’s unwavering commitment to nuclear non-proliferation in the context of AUKUS. AUKUS is a partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Through AUKUS, Australia seeks to acquire conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarines, which requires special arrangements for nuclear safeguards.

Mr Albanese stressed to the Director General Australia’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation in the context of AUKUS. He also expressed interest in the IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative. Launched in February this year, Rays of Hope seeks to increase cancer care access in low- and middle-income countries by helping to introduce and improve radiation medicine capacities and build the cancer care workforce. Australia is a leader in its region for healthcare and could play a significant role in supporting its neighbours through the initiative.

After a meeting with Foreign Minister Penny Wong on Monday, Mr Grossi described Australia as a strong supporter of the IAEA’s mission. The two discussed AUKUS and nuclear proliferation challenges in Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“The work of the IAEA to contribute to global peace and security has never been more important, or more urgent,” Ms Wong said, vowing that Australia would work to ensure AUKUS sets the highest possible nuclear non-proliferation standards.

Mr Grossi also met with the Governor of South Australia Frances Adamson, the country’s state secretaries, and representatives of the Minerals Council of Australia with whom he had an exchange on Australia's economy, the uranium market, perspectives on small modular reactors, and ways in which nuclear can improve lives.

The work of the IAEA to contribute to global peace and security has never been more important, or more urgent.
Penny Wong, Foreign Minister of Australia

Nuclear challenges and opportunities

On Tuesday, Mr Grossi delivered the annual John Gee Memorial lecture. “We are at a moment – whereby through a strange convergence of geopolitical considerations and global phenomena, like climate change and the appearance or reappearance of pandemics – we are again reminded of the globality of the challenges we have and how we need to work together lest these things lead to a very dark place,” he said, in a speech that covered the future of IAEA safeguards and global security; the IAEA’s work in the areas of nuclear safety and security; the role of nuclear power in avoiding emissions that cause climate change and air pollution; and the life-saving benefits of nuclear science and technology.

On Saturday, Mr Grossi visited the facilities of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) with the Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic. ANSTO is a government agency that uses nuclear science and techniques in areas such as health, the environment and the nuclear fuel cycle, to find solutions to challenges affecting Australians.

The IAEA Director General was shown the multi-purpose Open-pool Australian Lightwater reactor (OPAL) used in activities related to human health and enabling research supporting environmental sustainability and innovative industry; an under construction waste management facility – ANSTO Synroc – for immobilising waste from molybdenum-99 production; and a series of neutron scattering instruments and spectrometers used in studying materials, particle physics, and for reconstructing and imaging objects. Earlier this year, ANSTO’s ‘Dingo’ tomography station made global headlines by studying a fossil to show that a crocodile had eaten a dinosaur some 93 million years ago.

“This fine institution is an important IAEA partner and an excellent example of the way in which nuclear technology can make a remarkable contribution to science and innovation, supporting Australia’s industry, advanced manufacturing, and competitiveness,” Mr Grossi said. He thanked Mr Husic for his support to IAEA initiatives, including Rays of Hope. “Nuclear science is playing a key role in helping solve many of the world’s greatest challenges. Through ANSTO, Australia makes invaluable contributions to global research and sustainable development.”

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