The University of Western Australia has become the first university in the world to join the United Nations international nuclear verification program, using UWA's advanced ion microprobe technology to help monitor global nuclear safeguards.
A high-level delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) took part in a signing ceremony at the University today.
This followed stringent testing and certification of UWA's IMS 1280 ion microprobe at the University's world-class Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis (CMCA).
The instrument will be used to analyse micron-sized environmental particles collected by IAEA inspectors from nuclear facilities around the world to search for evidence of undeclared uranium enrichment activities.
The primary purpose of testing is to police the UN nuclear non-proliferation treaty and monitor nuclear capabilities by testing for signs of potentially illicit uranium enrichment facilities or weapons development programs.
Material collected for analysis at UWA will be dust-sized particles containing minute amounts of uranium - less than in a bottle of spring water - and not classified as nuclear or radioactive material under international convention. The samples require no special shielding and will be screened for radiation by the IAEA before being sent for testing. UWA will not receive any samples considered to be radioactive.
The Vice-Chancellor of The University of Western Australia, Professor Paul Johnson, said UWA's role in analysing samples for the IAEA demonstrated the University's value to society as a major international centre for scientific knowledge and research.
"It follows Australia's election last week to the UN Security Council, which Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr described as recognition of Australia's role as a ‘good global citizen'," Professor Johnson said.
"The University of Western Australian is committed to serving the local, Australian and global community for the greater good, and helping society create a better future," Professor Johnson said.
"This is made possible through excellence in research by some of the world's brightest minds, world-class infrastructure, strong industry partnerships and international collaborations of the highest order."
The IMS 1280 ion probe is a flagship capability of the Australian Microscopy & Microanalysis Research Facility (AMMRF), and supported also by AuScope and the WA Government.
CMCA Director Winthrop Professor David Sampson said UWA was immensely proud to be contributing to global nuclear security.
"There are fewer than 30 of these state-of-the-art instruments in the world," Professor Sampson said. "UWA's CMCA installation has already established a reputation for exceptional competence at the international level."
UWA is the first university in the world to gain accreditation to the Agency's Network of Analytical Laboratories, which consists of members from six countries, the European Union, and the UN.
Today's signing ceremony at UWA was attended by the Deputy Director General of the IAEA, Mr Herman Nackaerts; the Section Head of the IAEA's Department of Safeguards, Mr John Patten; the Director General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO), Dr Robert Floyd; the ASNO's Safeguards Officer, Mr Ryan Hemsley; and senior Government, industry and University representatives.
Winthrop Professor David Sampson (Director, UWA Centre for (+61 8) 6488 2770
Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis)
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783