About nuclear science

What is nuclear science?


Nuclear science is the study of the atomic world. In nuclear science, the word 'nuclear' means 'of or relating to or constituting the nucleus of an atom'. Atoms are the fundamental constituents of everything around us, and we ourselves are entirely composed of them.


This means that nuclear science is crucial to understanding our universe, our world and ourselves at the atomic level. Discover more. 

Inside the OPAL Reactor Pool



Natural background radiation


We are all exposed constantly to ionising radiation from a variety of natural and artificial sources. The sun is a major source of 'cosmic radiation'. Skiing at high altitudes and airline flights will increase our exposure to cosmic radiation.


Many buildings also emit ionising radiation simply because the materials that were used to build them (clay bricks, granite, etc) are naturally radioactive.


These are all examples of 'background radiation'. Discover more. 

Nuclear Facts Fresh Water Uncovered in the Outback



Radioactivity and radiation


'Radioactivity' is the energy and mass released by spontaneous changes in the nucleus of an atom. However, 'Radiation' is energy that travels ('radiates') as waves or particles.


Heat, light, sound, microwaves, radar, radio waves, X-rays, alpha and beta particles, and gamma rays are all forms of radiation. Discover more. 

Radioactivity and Radiation Levels being examined by two young scientists



Measuring radiation


Find answers to some commonly asked questions such as: How do we measure radiation? What is the difference between activity and exposure? How is exposure expressed?


What are some of the average levels of medical radiation exposure per treatment? What about average background radiation and occupational radiation exposure? Discover more. 


A researcher measuring radiation from a radiopharm





Radioisotopes are radioactive isotopes of an element. Different isotopes of the same element have the same number of protons in their atomic nuclei but differing numbers of neutrons.


They can also be defined as atoms that contain an unstable combination of neutrons and protons. Discover more. 


Measuring Radioisotopes



Managing radioactive waste


ANSTO places the highest priority on the safe management of its radioactive waste and used fuel. Radioactive waste contains radioactive elements that send out higher levels of radiation than natural background radiation.


Radioactive waste can be classified into three main categories - low, intermediate and high. Discover more. 


Managing radioactive waste is paramount at ANSTO



Working with radiation


Based on international best practice, ANSTO's safety management process includes a system for managing radiological safety. Discover more.


A scientist working with radiation



Reactors and accelerators

Research reactors have the primary purpose of providing a source of neutrons - subatomic particles produced when uranium atoms split.


For a wide range of applications, including the investigation of materials, the irradiation of silicon for industrial uses, and for the production of radioisotopes used in nuclear medicine. Find out more about Research reactors. Discover more. 


OPAL interior shot of the pool



 Other nuclear information


Benefits of Nuclear Science

Managing Radioactive Waste

Hydrogen Molecules  Ionising a world of radiation - image of sunlight 
Benefits of nuclear scienceManaging radioactive wasteGlossary of nuclear termsWhat is radiation?