The nuclear option

Publication date
Thursday, 18 Feb 2016

Image credit: ANSTO

Tony Irwin is your go-to guy for nuclear reactors and the nuclear fuel cycle.

Whether you’re an engineer wanting to improve your nuclear safety procedures, or a journalist wanting an expert opinion on the future of nuclear power.

Or a student wanting the only Master qualification in nuclear science in Australia.

Tony Irwin has commissioned and operated nine nuclear reactors, including Australia’s only nuclear reactor, OPAL, at ANSTO’s Lucas Heights site.

He knows about what can go wrong, and how to protect against it, having visited the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant, the sister station of Chernobyl, to help improve their operating procedures.

And he knows what it’s like to see the glow of reactor starting up for the first time.

“It’s always an exciting moment,” he says. “Especially with OPAL, because it’s one of the few new research reactors worldwide, and it was designed to provide neutron beams for research and nuclear medicines for Australia and overseas.

“Most people in Australia will have some nuclear medical investigation at some time in their life and most likely it will come from OPAL.

“So, absolutely, I look upon it with pride.”

Thanks to his industry connections, Mr Irwin is able to share his pride with students from the Master of Science in Nuclear Science.

“The VIP tour of the reactor is one of the course highlights.

“The students are always impressed.”

Mr Irwin notes that it’s a particularly important time for nuclear power in Australia, following the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission.

“For Australia to move towards low emissions, we have to use every technology available to us, and nuclear can be part of that solution.

“Many of our students are from federal government departments, and the program gives them a good appreciation of the nuclear fuel cycle, and information useful for directing policy.”

While he might be the go-to guy for nuclear reactors, Mr Irwin says he leaves the decision-making in the hands of his students.

“I present all the information and say, now you can make your own mind up about whether it should be employed in Australia.”

Start a Master of Science in Nuclear Science today and help determine the role of nuclear in our future.