ARPANSA staff Sandra Sdraulig and Dr Stuart Henderson recently travelled to Antarctica to support ongoing monitoring of radionuclides and ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the environment.

The trip was part of Australia’s involvement in the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans nuclear explosions and testing and includes a monitoring network to detect nuclear activity. 

The CTBT international monitoring system aims to ensure that no nuclear explosion goes undetected. ARPANSA is responsible for a total of nine monitoring stations, including one in Antarctica. 

Sandra and Stuart travelled to Mawson Station in Antarctica to carry out annual maintenance of its CTBT radionuclide monitoring system.

‘CTBT monitoring is active all year and can detect radioactive debris from atmospheric explosions or vented by underground or underwater nuclear explosions’ said Sandra. 

‘The data collected is forwarded by satellite to the International Data Centre in Vienna where it is compiled and released to countries participating in the CTBT.’

‘Antarctica is an important location for CTBT monitoring given the remote location and unique terrain and it was incredible to experience first-hand.’
In addition to radionuclide monitoring, ARPANSA also maintains four ultraviolet (UV) monitoring stations across Antarctica. 

‘The data we collect on UV Index in Antarctica provides a valuable addition to Australia’s UV data’ said Stuart Henderson. 

‘This trip allowed us to perform maintenance on our UV sensors in Antarctica and implement new measures to protect sensors from subzero temperatures.’ 

The UV data collected through ARPANSA’s monitoring network is available in a real-time UV index chart on the ARPANSA website. 

The trip was part of a program led by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) to conduct scientific research and support the conservation of the continent’s unique environment.

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