UWA to help uncover nuclear weapons programs

The University of WA will play a key role in detecting rogue countries developing nuclear weapons under an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency signed yesterday.

The university is the only institution in the Southern Hemisphere with new technology capable of detecting uranium in a speck of dust as small as one millionth of a metre, which could suggest a country is performing illicit uranium enrichment or developing nuclear weapons.

UWA is one of only seven organisations in the world commissioned to conduct such testing for the IAEA as part of its program to ensure countries are adhering to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The samples are collected by the IAEA in countries such as Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Syria.

Director of the UWA's Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis, Winthrop Professor David Sampson, said the samples would contain minute amounts of uranium that were not classified as nuclear or radioactive material under international convention and would not pose a danger to West Australians.

"It forms part of the evidence that the IAEA assembles to ensure [countries] are complying with the Treaty," Professor Sampson said.

"We're absolutely over the moon to be able to perform this role. This is really a part of Australia being a good global citizen."

The agreement follows Australia's appointment last week as a temporary member of the Security Council and the federal government's recent decision to allow uranium to be sold to India, which is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The story UWA to help uncover nuclear weapons programs first appeared on WA Today.

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