Using Blockchain Ledgers for Tracking Radioactive Sources and Nuclear Material

Speaker: Dr Edward Obbard, Senior Lecturer, School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, UNSW.

Webinar 5 pm to 6 pm Sydney time, Wednesday 15 July 2020.

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Dr Edward Obbard

Blockchain based information management systems provide an immutable, distributed ledger of inventories and transactions. SLAFKA is a demo blockchain based reporting system, designed by UNSW for the Stimson Centre and the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), that allows holders of nuclear materials to report transactions involving nuclear material to their State and international regulators.

Here, we reflect on this experience of applying blockchain systems for nuclear safeguards, and discuss possible rationale for applications in generic radioactive source tracking and licensing, beyond the safeguards-specific use cases considered until now.

Australian nuclear regulation is characterized by a range of regulators (EPA, ASNO, ARPANSA, TGA), with overlapping and interrelated jurisdictions to regulate radioactive materials. Using a shared, encrypted ledger, combined with specific access permissions for each participant, may be one way to simplify these overlapping structures, while preserving trust, functionality and confidentiality.

About Dr Edward Obbard

Dr Obbard is a nuclear materials engineer in the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, UNSW Sydney. He obtained a PhD in materials science in 2010, at the Chinese Academy of Science Institute of Metal Research and previously studied Mechanical Design, Materials and Manufacture at the University of Nottingham, UK.

He applies fundamental knowledge of materials to industrial problems in nuclear and manufacturing engineering. I have researched manufacture and repair technology in the gas turbine power industry. At the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, I designed, then managed the construction and commissioning of a hot cell facility for nuclear materials research and radioactive materials testing. I also designed, and performed engineering analysis of, nuclear materials testing facilities that are now part of the Open-Pool Australian Light-water (OPAL) Reactor. 

At UNSW, he researches new materials and technology that enhance the safe and sustainable deployment of nuclear energy. This includes my original field of materials science, plus essentially human focused research such as virtual reality tools for remote handling and blockchain (shared ledger) systems for nuclear materials tracking. I teach courses on the UNSW MEng.Sci in nuclear engineering and I contribute to space engineering research.