Federal Minister for Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans, officially opened the new $8.7 million Environmental Radioactivity Measurement Centre in New South Wales.


The first of its kind in Australia, the centre at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) at Lucas Heights, uses ultra-sensitive equipment to provide data for climate change studies and measure the natural radioactivity of items to ensure they meet import and export conditions.


"These readings will enhance scientists' understanding of the environment - everything from algal blooms to deforestation and the frequency of bushfires," Senator Evans said.


"The ITRAX - Corescanner, a key piece of equipment used to measure environmental samples and the only one of its kind in Australia, will be housed in the new facility and will allow thousands of measurements to be made within a few hours, instead of a few weeks.


"The new facility and equipment will ensure ANSTO scientists can continue their work as world leaders in dating and sorting human-induced environmental change from natural change.


"This research will help us predict future impacts on our environment so we can, in turn, develop more sustainable land and water practices to conserve our environment."


Senator Evans said designers and builders spent months sourcing and analysing materials with the lowest possible levels of natural radiation for the construction of the centre.


"Providing an environment with low background radiation enables the state-of-the-art equipment to detect tiny amounts of radiation that would otherwise be drowned out," Senator Evans said.