National security research


Key contact:

Programme Leader, National Security Research 



ANSTO utilises its unique nuclear capabilities and facilities to deliver innovative research outcomes and specialised advice that enhance Australia's national security. ANSTO's National Security Research (NSR) group leads, and contributes to, collaborative research activities with national and international partners in the areas of nuclear forensics, border security and non-proliferation.

By engaging closely with key stakeholders, the research is targeted to the immediate and longer term needs of end users.


Recent research with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in nuclear forensics has investigated the effects of ionising radiation on traditional forms of evidence, such as finger prints and hair fibres found in radiological crime scenes.


Forensic validation of such techniques in the presence of ionising radiation will contribute to the successful prosecution of criminal cases involving radiological or nuclear terrorism.


The NSR group is also undertakes non national security related activities including maintaining the national standard for the Becquerel (the unit of measure for radioactivity) and detector development for medical applications. The maintenance and dissemination of the Becquerel is a vital service that assists nuclear medicine departments in the correct administration of radiopharmaceuticals.



Transport and border security

In the area of border security, the NSR team has led Australian trials of cargo screening technologies.


This includes the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) trial of radiation portal monitors used to detect illicit or inadvertent movements of nuclear or radioactive materials.


It has also led a trial of X-ray imaging systems used for explosives detection with the Office of Transport Security (OTS) and ACBPS. Information obtained from such trials directly contributes to the decisions on future national investment in screening technologies for deployment at Australia's border points of entry.


The NSR team has recently developed two new technologies that seek to improve the detection performance and minimise the operational impacts of existing transport security cargo screening systems.


One of these technologies is X-ray test pieces specially designed to ensure the maximum operating effectiveness of X-ray screening systems used to scan maritime cargo containers.


Another is the Anomaly Detection Algorithms that reduce the prohibitively high rates of false alarms in radiation portal monitors caused by the presence of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMs) found in many legitimately traded goods.



Strategic focus

Enhancing Australia's capacity to measure and interpret signatures related to the nuclear fuel cycle is an important way that the NSR team contributes to non-proliferation. Working together with other national agencies, new methodologies to detect and interpret nuclear signatures are under development. With stated intentions by many global economies to commence, or expand, nuclear power programs, greater technological support to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) may be required.


The release of The National Security Science and Innovation Strategy in November 2009 by the Commonwealth Government will continue to see ANSTO deliver research outcomes that enhance Australia's national security.