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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office

Annual Report 2000-2001

The Year in Review

Key results for ASNO:

  • All statutory and treaty requirements met in respect of nuclear safeguards, the CWC (Chemical Weapons Convention), and accounting for Australian obligated nuclear material. 

  • The most advanced form of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, integrated safeguards, introduced in Australia (a world first).

  • Effective contribution to strengthening international verification regimes:
    • Ongoing work on safeguards development

    • Successful regional outreach on CWC implementation

    • Three Australian monitoring stations certified as part of the CTBT (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty) International Monitoring System.

ASNOs primary focus is international action against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical and biological), in particular, verification mechanisms to underpin treaty commitments. ASNOs work therefore is very much involved with national and international security. ASNOs responsibilities include ensuring that Australia is in compliance with related treaty commitments, and contributing to the development and strengthening of non-proliferation verification regimes. ASNOs activities are also central to Government policies regarding the miningand export of uranium.

Working as it does at the policy/technical and policy/regulatory interfaces, ASNO is a unique organisation both for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and for the Australian Government. ASNO makes a major contribution to DFAT policy making, and at the same time pursues policy objectives in its own right in a complex and specialised area of international relations. ASNO exercises regulatory responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Act 1987 and the Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Act 1994. Drawing on its sound base of technical expertise, ASNO also makes a significant contribution to Australian Intelligence Community assessments.

ASNO is a centre of technical excellence that has accrued significant professional skills and expertise (of a kind which are hard to find and maintain in Australia). Despite the disadvantages of a small skills base, and its distance from major international centres of political and industrial activity in relevant fields, ASNO has built a high reputation amongst counterparts worldwide, and is a major contributor to Australias position as an effective and constructive participant in the non-proliferation regimes. Within this context, ASNO provides DFAT with a vital source of professional expertise.

During the year steady progress was made in developing the concepts, methods and skills required by the IAEA for implementing strengthened safeguards, and integrated safeguardswere introduced for the first time, in Australia. At the end of the reporting period, strengthened safeguards had been brought into effect in 20 states, and also in Taiwan, China. Although the rate of ratificationsis slower than one would wish, work is proceeding in a large number of states on the necessary legislation and administrative arrangementsa further 37 states had signed, but not yet ratified, Additional Protocols accepting strengthened safeguardsso strengthened safeguards can now be seen as representing the safeguards norm.

Outside the area of IAEA safeguards, developments have been less positive. A major disappointment is the potential breakdown in negotiations on the protocol designed to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), a text painstakingly developed in a multilateral Ad Hoc Group over the last several years. At the time of writing this Report, it is unclear exactly how this work may be salvaged in a way that can still strengthen the BWC and afford states the solid security benefits they seek. Other disappointments include the failure to secure the necessary ratificationsfor the CTBT (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty) to enter into force, and the continuing delay in the commencement of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

International safeguards

The IAEAsafeguards system is undergoing considerable change, aimed particularly at strengthening assurance against undeclared nuclear activities. ASNO's key roles in this area are: to develop, contribute to and promote effective international nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards arrangements; and to evaluate the effectiveness of these arrangements as a basis for advising Government. ASNO's work also includes evaluation of nuclear fuel cycle developments and their implications for non-proliferation and safeguards implementation.

ASNO continues to make a substantial contribution to the development of strengthened IAEA safeguards, and the integration of strengthened safeguardswith the established (classical) safeguards system. A major component involves working with the IAEA in the development of safeguards measures for field-testing and application in Australiathe IAEA is able to gain experience here, in a safeguards-friendly environment, before proceeding with more widespread application. ASNO has been working with the IAEA on strengthened safeguards measures for some years, and in 2001 this culminated in Australia becoming the first country to qualify for implementation of integrated safeguards. ASNO's efforts also included a major contribution to the work of SAGSI (the Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation, a group of international experts advising the IAEA Director General), and a Support Program providing assistance to the IAEA in areas such as safeguards R&D.

Other activities by ASNO during the year included the commencement of an outreach program assisting regional countries in preparing for the Additional Protocol, and preparation for a safeguards trainingcourse intended particularly to assist the DPRK (Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea) in developing its national safeguards system.

Notwithstanding difficulties in the Conference on Disarmament, achievement of an FMCT continues to be a high priority for Australia. The FMCT will complement the CTBTtogether they would place a quantitative cap on the nuclear material available for weapons and a qualitative cap on nuclear weapon development. ASNO has established itself internationally as a leader in the development of proposals for verification under an FMCT regime. During the year ASNO participated in a number of workshops on this subject.

Continuing from the previous year, ASNO was closely involved in the international review of the Convention on the Physical Protectionof Nuclear Material (CPPNM). This review considered whether there was a need to revise the Convention such that internationally agreed standards of physical protection for nuclear material in international transport would be applied equally to domestic use, storage and transport. Although consensus was not reached on the need to revise the Conventionseveral states remain to be convincedthe review group recommended to the IAEA Director General, Dr ElBaradei, that he convene a technical and legal experts group to draft a well-defined amendment. ASNO understands that Dr ElBaradei intends to take up this recommendation.

Bilateral safeguards

During 2000-01 Australia exported 9,722 tonnes of uranium, earning over $497 million. Australia was the worlds second largest uranium producer. This quantity of uranium was sufficient to fuel over 40 power reactors, thereby enabling the countries concerned to avoid carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to around 90% of Australias total carbon dioxide emissions (from all sources). These exports represented an increase of 11% in the total quantity of Australian Obligated Nuclear Material (AONM) in Australias network of safeguards agreements.

Figure 2 Mr Downer and Argentine Foreign Minister Mr Giavarini initialling the Australia/Argentina nuclear cooperation agreement.

ASNO is responsible for ensuring that all AONM is accounted for in accordance with Australia's safeguards agreements, and that it is used for exclusively peaceful purposes. In this work, ASNO supports DFAT in the negotiation and review of safeguards agreements and is responsible for the implementation of the agreements. This year ASNO and DFAT made substantial progress on four new safeguards agreements: with Argentina, the Czech Republic and Hungary, and with the United States covering uranium supply to Taiwan.[1] In February ASNOs Assistant Secretary, Mr Andrew Leask, led an ASNO-DFAT negotiating team to Buenos Aires where the final text for a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement was settled. Mr Downer initialled this agreement during his visit to Argentina later that month (see Media Release page 90).

As in previous years, ASNO established that all AONM under Australias bilateral agreements was satisfactorily accounted for.

Domestic safeguards

Australia was the first country to bring into effect an Additional Protocol accepting the application of strengthened safeguardsmeasures (10 December 1997). Subsequently Australia has undergone over three years of strengthened safeguards and review, enabling the IAEA to conclude there are no indications of undeclared nuclear activities in Australia. As mentioned earlier, Australia has become the first to qualify for the introduction of integrated safeguards, under which the assurance reached on the absence of undeclared nuclear activities leads to a reduction in the intensity of routine safeguards inspections.

Under the new arrangements, there has been a reduction in the number of routine inspections at ANSTOs Lucas Heights facilities, combined with the introduction of unannounced inspections (in practice involving three hours warning). In addition the IAEA will continue to conduct complementary access at Lucas Heights and other locations. This integrated safeguards regime is expected to result in significant savings in inspection effort, as well as providing more effective safeguards (e.g. through the unpredictability of unannounced inspections). Australia's experience is being watched with interest by other countries as they prepare for their own introduction of integrated safeguards. Implementation of integrated safeguards is very much an iterative process, with refinements expected in the light of experience, and ASNO will be working closely to assist the IAEA in this regard.

As reported last year, Australias agreement with the United States covering transfer of SILEXlaser uranium enrichment technology came into force in early 2000. Since then, ASNO has developed the Administrative Arrangements required to give effect to this agreement and security documentation to ensure that proliferation-sensitive information is suitably protected. ASNO and the US Department of Energy have formally determined that SILEX should be protected as a proliferation-sensitive technology, and have agreed to a Classification Guide setting out the classification of each element of the project.

Chemical Weapons Convention (including Biological Weapons Convention Issues)

ASNO has maintained an excellent professional relationship with the OPCW(Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international organisation responsible for the implementation of the CWC) and with counterpart national authorities, particularly in our region. ASNO continues to assist Vietnam with its CWC implementation arrangements. In January 2001, ASNO organised and provided the keynote speaker in a CWC Workshop in Hanoi, which was attended by around 50 participants from a range of government ministries, industry and academia.

Together with the OPCW, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI), and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), ASNO and DFAT co-hosted a CWC Regional Workshop in Melbourne from 30 April to 4 May 2001. The Workshop brought together participants from 13 South East Asia and South Pacific Island Countries with the primary objectives of raising awareness of the CWC and fostering international cooperation in the peaceful uses of chemistry in the region. The Workshop was attended by representatives from government, academia and industry and resulted in requests from participants for both CWC implementation assistance on a bilateral basis and similar workshops in the future, as a means of strengthening regional CWC networks.

ASNO has continued to work closely with industry, especially facilities producing unscheduled discrete organic chemicals (DOC), through a program of on-site visits. Through this outreach, ASNO has sought to raise awareness of the CWC and concomitant legislative obligations, and to prepare these sites for routine compliance inspections by the OPCW. ASNO has also visited a number of traders in CWC Scheduled chemicals to explain the import and export licensing arrangements operating under the CustomsAct 1901.

The OPCW did not conduct any inspections in Australia in the reporting period.

On an inter-agency basis, ASNO continued planning for a challenge inspection in Australia, although the likelihood of such an event is small. To this end, an ASNO officer participated as an inspector in a practice Challenge Inspection exercise in the United Kingdom in June.

This year ASNO has provided support to DFAT in the negotiation of a protocol to strengthen the BWC. It has participated in the BWC National Consultative Group (NCG) and inter-departmental committees coordinated by DFAT.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

Although the CTBThas yet to enter into force, the Treaty requires that its verification systemthe International Monitoring System (IMS)is to be capable of meeting the requirements of the Treaty upon entry-into-force. Accordingly, states that have signed the Treaty (161 as at 30 June 2001) are funding this preparatory work.

Over the past 12 months, ASNO has strengthened its role as the provisional CTBT national authority. It has enhanced its relationship with the CTBT Organisation (CTBTO) Preparatory Commission and its Provisional Technical Secretariat (PTS) in Vienna. During the year three Australian monitoring stations were certified by the PTS as part of the IMS, including a primary seismological station in Warramunga, Northern Territory, and two radionuclide stations located in Melbourne and Perth. At the time of writing, Australia has the greatest number of certified IMS stations of any country. The hydrophone array associated with the Cape Leeuwin hydroacoustic station was installed in March 2001. Following resolution of land tenure issues, ASNO expects that this station will be completed soon, with certification by the PTS expected in 2001-02. ASNO has made a major contribution to the development of verification procedures for the CTBTs On-site Inspection mechanism.


[1]. These Agreements were tabled in Parliament outside the period covered by this Report, in August 2001.

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