ANSTO: a science and industry powerhouse

ANSTO, Australia’s nuclear research agency enjoys an enviable reputation, has hundreds of collaborations with industry and other research agencies and hosts around 16,000 school visitors a year. Even though I thought I knew ANSTO pretty well, I had never visited its main campus until last week. That’s when I realised I only knew the tip of the iceberg of ANSTO’s capabilities and expertise. In fact, as impressive as ANSTO currently is, it is about to take some major leaps forward.

Like many people, I think of Australia’s Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) reactor as new. In fact, this year OPAL celebrates a decade of operation. It has performed beyond all expectations in that decade and remains a state-of-the-art facility. It is a multi-use reactor that achieves a range of nuclear medicine, research, scientific, industrial and production goals. OPAL is the core of its own building, basically producing neutrons for all these varied uses.

ANSTO Health currently delivers over 10,000 patient doses of nuclear medicines within Australia. These are made in a building commissioned in 1958 which will be decommissioned in 2018. A new facility is nearing completion which will enable ANSTO to triple production of Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99). Mo-99 is the base material used in the diagnosis of cancers, heart disease, muscular and skeletal conditions and the new facility will open up a major export opportunity. ANSTO Nuclear Medicine will supply 25-30% of the world’s Mo-99.

Health is not the only business activity at ANSTO. Staff are fond of saying they cover every thing from “A to Z; archaeology to zoology”. In fact, after visiting ANSTO on Tuesday last week, I referred a Melbourne company developing a CRC-P to ANSTO’s Business Development people on Friday. Yesterday, I got this response “I had a call with… ANSTO this morning. What an awesome fit! Their capabilities are incredible”.

The “open for business” attitude at ANSTO was what stood out the most to me. It is not an isolated facility doing its own thing; it’s a really vibrant research community looking to work with scientific and business partners. In fact, a new Business Park is in development for the Lucas Heights site. Like me, you might be surprised when you take another look at ANSTO and the opportunities to collaborate.