Nuclear matters

Nuclear matters

The blue glow caused by radiation produced in the Opal Research reactor at Lucas Heights.
The blue glow caused by radiation produced in the Opal research
reactor at Lucas Heights.
Photo courtesy ANSTO.

Sponsored by ANSTO (The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation)ANSTO (The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation)

A new highly interactive exhibition exploring the complex world of nuclear science, medicine and nuclear power.

On display in the Museum’s Experimentations gallery where different areas of science are explained, Nuclear matters aims to provide a greater public understanding of what nuclear science is and how it plays a big part in our everyday lives.

Nuclear matters reveals how many things in everyday life, including ourselves, are slightly radioactive. Fundamental questions as what is radiation and how is it produced are answered. The exhibition also examines the many applications of nuclear technology from medical diagnosis and the treatment of cancer, to determining the structures of materials to generating power. Also displayed are materials used to shield workers from radiation, means of dealing with nuclear waste and a nuclear suit.

A feature of the exhibition is nine imaginative and daring interactives, allowing visitors to have fun whilst learning about various aspects of nuclear science. One interactive allows the user to control a small but steady nuclear fusion reaction with the touch of a button! Another allows a person to pedal a stationary bike to generate electrical energy and compare their efforts to coal and gas-fired, nuclear and renewable power sources.


The exhibition is divided into five areas: 1. Nuclear basics; 2. Nuclear in our lives; 3. Nuclear sciences; 4. Nuclear power generation; and 5. Nuclear perspectives. Some of the highlights include an interactive which explores how scientists study ice cores from Antarctica to learn about climate change. The role that radiopharmaceuticals play in medicine is explained with a real medical scanner and dummy patient, revealing how these nuclear technologies can produce images of the body’s insides.

Nuclear matters not only looks at science and technology, but changes in social attitudes over the last century. Early 20th century support for radioactive products to today’s divided views on all things nuclear, including the politics, big economics and planet sustainability, are explored.

Medical scanner
Medical scanners using nuclear
technology play a critical role in
producing images of injuries and
diseases in the body. Medical scanner
gift of GE Healthcare