ANSTO operates an irradiation facility known as GATRI, which is used to treat items for medical, health, industry, agriculture and research purposes.
The most common source of gamma rays for irradiation is cobalt-60, which is at the heart of ANSTO's Gamma Technology Research Irradiator (GATRI) which provides the Australian community with range of irradiation services that deliver real benefits.
Gamma rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation, similar to X-rays but much more energetic. Gamma irradiation works by creating chemical changes in materials. In living organisms, this can result in damage to cells and in breakdown of DNA. Gamma irradiation is particularly suited to materials which would normally deteriorate under heat treatment.
Items to be irradiated are placed in a concrete room in which the radioactive source is raised out of a water storage pool normally used to shield gamma radiation. Items are irradiated for several minutes or hours depending on the dose required.
ANSTO is able to accurately control the radiation dose as well as temperature, allowing users to perform irradiations under specific conditions, including temperature irradiations down to 78° Celsius. The precision irradiation services, dose measurement and controlled temperature capabilities provided by GATRI are unique in Australia.
Multiple applications and uses
- Irradiation is the best method for destroying any residual bacteria in human bones and tendons that are used for transplants and grafting in surgery. The bones and tendons are processed to ensure they are completely sterile before the transplant takes place so they do not transmit infections.
- Irradiation is also used to sterilise medical products including bandages, cotton tips, eye pads, catheters and medical devices such as knee implants. ANSTO's expertise includes the accurate and reliable measurement of these doses of radiation. Manufacturers must then test those products to assure sterility before use in hospitals.
- Irradiation is an alternative to spraying toxic pesticides. For example, laboratory-reared fruit flies are sterilised in GATRI. When they are released in a target region they mate with flies of the pest population but create no offspring, thus reducing the population. This program is helping to control infestations of the Queensland fruit fly in commercial growing areas in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
- Irradiation of quarantine goods.
- GATRI is an Australian Quarantine Approved Premises facility for irradiating research samples such as soil and sediment samples from overseas, even ice core samples from Antarctica.
- Plant mutation studies; GATRI has been used to produce seedless mandarins, change the colour of flowers and to make commercial crops more resistant to climate extremes.
- Accelerating long term effects upon irradiation of products such as plastics and electronics.