Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia

ASNO

  Annual Report 1998-99

 

PROGRAM ACTIVITIES

ASNO’s activities in 199899 are described and evaluated in the following sections.

Activities are described in relation to particular tasks, and grouped according to the output to which they relate (see summary of outcomes and outputs).

OUTPUT C

Contribution to the development and effective implementation of international safeguards and non-proliferation regimes, including participation in international expert groups and provision to the IAEA of consultancies, assessments, R&D services and training; and evaluation of the effectiveness of IAEA safeguards and related regimes.

Milestone C1

C1.1 A pro-active and useful contribution made to the development and effective implementation of IAEA safeguards, with national and international safeguards methods evaluated in an expert and thorough manner.

Activities

Australia takes an active part in the development of safeguards, through activities such as:

  • participation in SAGSI (the Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation) and other expert bodies (see below);
  • the Australian Safeguards Assistance Program (ASAP), comprising R&D and consultancy work in support of IAEA safeguards (see Milestone C3);
  • carrying out other consultancy work cost-free to the IAEA (see below);
  • field testing of new safeguards techniques in Australia; and
  • participation in relevant DFAT policy development activities, and support for Australia’s Mission to the IAEA in Vienna and to Missions in other capitals.

SAGSI

SAGSI is a group of experts appointed by the IAEA Director General, in consultation with Governments, to advise him on effectiveness and efficiency in the safeguards system. SAGSI has provided much of the inspiration for the current program to strengthen IAEA safeguards and continues to review developments. Currently SAGSI has 19 members, including ASNO’s Director General, John Carlson, and participation in SAGSI represents a major focus for ASNO. Some of SAGSI’s work during 1998–99 is outlined below.

A key topic for SAGSI is the development of integrated safeguards, that is, the optimal combination of ‘classical’ safeguards and strengthened safeguards measures (integrated safeguards are discussed further under Safeguards Reform). This is seen as a matter of the highest priority. SAGSI has reviewed the IAEA Secretariat’s Work Plan for this work and advised the Secretariat on various aspects of it. SAGSI is also examining specific subjects related to integrated safeguards, including development of safeguards concepts and approaches, safeguards parameters, evaluation methodologies, and quality systems. A major subject is the role of ‘timeliness’ in integrated safeguards. Another is the role of containment and surveillance measures.

Other topics examined by SAGSI during the year include:

  • safeguards implementation and performance issues, including reporting aspects, and information review and evaluation;
  • further developments in safeguards, including wide area environmental sampling, safeguards approaches for spent fuel repositories, and the application of satellite imagery; and
  • possible new verification roles for the IAEA, including nuclear materials released from weapons programs and the proposed FMCT (see further details on FMCT).

Cost-free consultant on verification under a FMCT

Development of verification concepts for the FMCT is a task of high priority for ASNO. The IAEA has decided to refine its previous analyses undertaken in preparation for providing assistance in the negotiation of this Treaty. At the IAEA’s request, ASNO has made available a senior staff member, Dr Bragin, as a part-time cost-free consultant to the IAEA on matters relating to the proposed FMCT. Dr Bragin is assisting the IAEA in assessing the implications of possible alternative approaches to verification.

Plutonium isotopics

An issue which has been of considerable interest to ASNO concerns the safeguards and non-proliferation measures most appropriate for plutonium which has an isotopic composition at or close to ‘weapons-grade’. To date the isotopic composition of plutonium has not been a major issue for safeguards, because most plutonium under safeguards is of a similar composition, that is, ‘reactor-grade’ (see brief discussion of plutonium issues). The IAEA applies similar safeguards measures to all plutonium, regardless of isotopic composition. As a consequence, current practice does not provide for more rigorous safeguards measures to be applied to low burn-up plutonium, which is at or close to the quality used in nuclear weapons, despite the possible proliferation significance of such material.

The situation which arose with the DPRK’s nuclear program highlights the fact that production of separated weapons-grade material should not be accepted as a normal activity in civil nuclear programs. A proscription on the production, that is, separation by reprocessing, of plutonium at or near weapons-grade would be an important confidence-building measure in support of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and could be an important complement to the FMCT. ASNO has been engaged in technical discussions on this subject with the IAEA and counterparts in a number of countries.

Evaluation of safeguards

In evaluating safeguards performance, ASNO draws on a wide range of activities and sources, including:

  • the IAEA’s ‘Safeguards Implementation Report’ (SIR) and other detailed information made available to Australia as a member of the IAEA Board of Governors;
  • appreciation of practical issues derived from the operation of Australia’s Safeguards Assistance Program in support of IAEA safeguards; and
  • exchanges of views and information with IAEA staff, counterpart organisations, and relevant Australian agencies.

ASNO’s assessment of IAEA data for 1998 and other information is that the safeguards system has fulfilled its task of verifying the non-diversion of significant quantities of nuclear material subject to IAEA safeguards (see IAEA Safeguards Statement for 1998). As in previous years, the IAEA experienced a number of technical implementation problems, but none was sufficiently serious to prevent the Agency from reaching satisfactory conclusions from its safeguards activities. A significant problem area related to the performance of surveillance equipment, but the introduction of a new generation of digital cameras is expected to substantially improve reliability.

Other work

ASNO has taken the opportunity at conferences, such as annual meetings of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management and ESARDA, to present and promote Australian ideas on safeguards and non-proliferation development (see Milestone C2). ASNO has established a reputation for presenting innovative and constructive papers.

Performance Assessment

Australia is playing an influential role in international efforts to strengthen the safeguards system.

ASNO was involved with the IAEA directly through high level participation in SAGSI and through participation in other expert meetings and through consultancies and other Support Program tasks. This work has contributed to more effective international safeguards with improved use of new technologies and methods.

ASNO has been an effective advocate for strengthened safeguards through high level participation in international fora such as INMM and ESARDA.

C1.2 Contribution to IAEA technical training courses concerning nuclear material accountancy and control and other safeguard-related topics.

Activities

An important activity for ASNO is the provision of training on national safeguards matters for personnel of regional countries. Since 1985 Australia and Japan have alternated in providing training courses of this kind on behalf of the IAEA, and between them have conducted seven courses (four in Japan and three in Australia). The last regional course was held in Japan in November 1995, the last Australian course was held in May 1994.

At the request of the IAEA, ASNO is now planning to conduct a Regional Training Course on National Safeguards Systems in 2000. This course will be funded by AusAID. It is scheduled for 27 March to 14 April 2000, and about 22 participants will be invited from the East Asian and Southeast Asian and Pacific regions. Detailed planning has been undertaken in close consultation with the IAEA. This course will be particularly important in view of the IAEA’s new requirements flowing from strengthened safeguards and the Additional Protocol.

During 1998–99, Mr Hill of ASNO was a guest lecturer in a safeguards training course conducted by Japan, primarily for participants from Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States (former Soviet Union), and a regional training course in Brazil conducted jointly by CNEN (the Brazilian National Atomic Energy Commission), ABACC (the joint Brazilian/Argentinian regional safeguards authority), and the IAEA.

Performance Assessment

Planning for a regional training course on nuclear safeguards is in hand. ASNO contributed strongly to similar training programs which the IAEA notes have made a significant contribution to improving the technical performance of safeguards authorities in the region.

Milestone C2

Highly effective liaison maintained with the IAEA and other safeguards organisations.

Activities

During the reporting period ASNO was active in maintaining and developing its contacts with the IAEA and counterpart organisations.

Mr Carlson and Mr Hill participated in an IAEA Consultants Meeting on Integrated Safeguards in December 1998. Mr Carlson chaired the principal working group of the meeting. Mr Hill participated in an Experts Meeting on Integrated Safeguards in September 1998, convened to draft the Working Paper for the December Consultants Meeting. He also participated in a further Experts Meeting in April 1999. Dr Bragin presented ASNO papers on FMCT verification at the margins of the CD in Geneva (December 1998) and at the ESARDA Annual Meeting in Seville (May 1999).

In October 1998, Mr Hill visited the headquarters of ABACC in Rio de Janeiro. He gave a presentation on Australian work in support of the development of strengthened safeguards and ASNO’s experiences since entry into force of the Australian Additional Protocol.

In December 1998, Mr Doulgeris participated in an IAEA seminar on safeguards information reporting and processing in Vienna, and presented a paper on ASNO’s experiences in reporting under the Australian Additional Protocol.

Other attendance at IAEA meetings included advising at Board of Governors meetings, participation in SAGSI Working Group and Plenary meetings, and in a seminar on ‘Safeguards: Sources and Applications of Open Source Information’.

Other meetings and conferences in which ASNO officers participated included the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management (INMM) 1998 Annual Meeting where two papers were presented by Mr Carlson.

Various ASNO officers visited the IAEA for discussions with Agency officials, and held discussions on bilateral safeguards, physical protection and related matters with officials and industry in Canada, Euratom, Finland, France, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Performance Assessment

ASNO maintains effective formal and informal links with the IAEA and a wide range of safeguards organisations and regional counterparts. Because of these links ASNO is: abreast of developments and incipient problems in safeguards; effective in disseminating Australian thinking on a variety of safeguards and related issues; well able to resolve issues of safeguards concern; and has been able to ensure that its work program stays relevant to the international non-proliferation agenda.

Milestone C3

A technical R&D program, supporting development and enhancement of IAEA safeguards, managed efficiently.

Activities

The resources available to the IAEA have never been sufficient to allow all necessary safeguards R&D programs to be conducted ‘in-house’. Safeguards is a comparatively young discipline, and R&D, together with other assistance, are needed to generate the equipment and procedures needed if new challenges are to be met in a cost-effective way. Most of this work is done under Support Programs offered by Member States.

Australia’s Support Program, which incorporates consultancy work, analytical work, and work on the development of equipment and procedures in support of IAEA safeguards, is known as the Australian Safeguards Assistance Program (ASAP). The program embraces safeguards projects formally agreed directly with the IAEA, and also participation in other efforts to improve safeguards implementation such as the International Remote Monitoring Project (IRMP), coordinated by the US Department of Energy (USDOE). ASNO will be working in the future to have tasks conducted under IRMP also formally agreed with the IAEA.

Conduct of this program is not only an important tangible expression of Australia’s support for IAEA safeguards, but plays a major role in maintaining ASNO’s technical expertise and appreciation of the practical issues confronting the safeguards system.

In dollar terms, ASAP is very modest compared with similar programs of other countries. Direct expenditure for this financial year was about A$100,000. Fifteen formal Member State Support Programs are currently in operation, with an estimated aggregate budget somewhat in excess of US$20 million, so the Australian program represents about 0.3% of the total expenditure involved. However, it is worth noting that, in common with several other programs, the level of direct funding does not represent the full extent of Australian assistance to the IAEA. Time spent by ASNO staff and the staff of other Commonwealth agencies on specific ASAP projects is not costed against these funds.

There are important conceptual changes under way in safeguards, arising from the implementation of strengthened safeguards and the development of integrated safeguards concepts. Support Program tasks in support of those developments generally require considerable experience in safeguards. For that reason, consultancy work carried out directly by ASNO officers forms quite a significant part of ASAP at present.

ASAP projects are summarised here and described in detail in Annex G

Consultancy tasks: support for the IAEA

  • Evaluation of information on mining and milling of uranium. This task involved a study of the circumstances under which the IAEA might seek access to a uranium mining/milling site and development of appropriate verification activities. On a recent visit to the Ranger mine (see Ranger Mine) IAEA inspectors were clearly drawing on ASNO’s report on this subject.
  • Integrated safeguards: proliferation pathways model. ASNO has pioneered the use of techniques for the detailed analysis of proliferation strategies, identifying elements that would require diversion of safeguarded nuclear material. The results have been welcomed by the IAEA, and have been adopted by US safeguards specialists as a basis for a procedure to evaluate the effectiveness of integrated safeguards proposals.
  • Nuclear technology transfers. This new study examines the mechanisms by which nuclear technology is transferred between States, and will identify indicators of such transfers.
  • Scientific literature study. As part of a small international group of experts, ASNO has commenced a scientific literature study to examine how this source of information might best support IAEA safeguards work.
  • Search Trees. ASNO made a substantial contribution to the development of logical mechanisms (search trees) used to search the Agency’s databases of open-source literature for potentially proliferation-relevant items. The ‘search trees’ have been well received by IAEA users.
  • Study on the application of Integrated Safeguards. ASNO is contributing to a joint task under which six non-nuclear-weapon States are designing integrated safeguards approaches for their own fuel cycles. The effectiveness of these proposed approaches will be evaluated using the US-designed procedure mentioned above (proliferation pathways model). The intention is to derive generic guidance on the design of integrated safeguards schemes from specific real cases.
  • Review of basic safeguards parameters. As an adjunct to other work on integrated safeguards, ASNO prepared a study paper for the IAEA on timeliness goals as part of the Agency’s on-going review of safeguards parameters. This paper was referred to SAGSI.
  • FMCT. An ASNO officer is working as a part-time cost-free consultant helping the IAEA assess the implications of alternative FMCT models.

Unattended verification & monitoring systems and data authentication

  • Development and evaluation of a new remote monitoring system. In collaboration with Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) in the United States, ASNO is designing a remote monitoring system for ANSTO’s HIFAR research reactor. If effective, the system should reduce by some 75% the routine physical inspection activities presently conducted by the IAEA at this site. The equipment will be provided by SNL and it is expected to be in routine use by 2001.
  • Surveillance technology demonstration. ASNO has reached agreement with the Indonesian National Atomic Energy Agency (BATAN) on collaboration to demonstrate Australian-designed surveillance technology in a safeguards application. However, this task has been delayed through lack of funds.
  • Coordination of digital image surveillance implementation. As an enhancement to remote safeguards surveillance, the IAEA is upgrading its systems from analog to digital and deploying about 400 new units at various nuclear sites around the world. Under ASAP, ASNO has provided an Australian consulting engineer to the IAEA, who has written standards for digital surveillance systems and who is coordinating the implementation activities for these digital systems.
  • Data authentication. Unattended safeguards equipment in the field requires authentication to give assurance that data generated by the equipment have not been tampered with. The Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) has evaluated several systems incorporating authentication, and continues to play a leading role by assisting the development of standardised evaluation criteria for such equipment.

Analysis of environmental samples for safeguards purposes

  • Environmental sample analysis. ANSTO has demonstrated that mass spectrometry using a tandem accelerator can analyse environmental samples, such as those taken for safeguards, with extremely high sensitivity. ASNO has contributed part of the funding needed by ANSTO to construct a new accelerator facility (which can analyse for uranium and plutonium) and to perfect its analytical techniques. ANSTO will shortly seek accreditation as an IAEA laboratory which will allow it to analyse environmental samples routinely for the IAEA on a commercial basis.

Collaboration with other countries

ASNO has an active safeguards R&D collaboration program with US research laboratories, under an ASNO/USDOE agreement first concluded in 1992 and renewed in September 1998.

As noted above, ASNO and BATAN have also concluded an agreement covering collaborative safeguards R&D activities.

Performance Assessment

Several projects have been successfully completed under the Australian Safeguards Assistance Program and the results have been used by the IAEA in 1998–99. The IAEA has expressed appreciation for ‘the valuable and vital contribution provided by the Australian Safeguards Assistance Program to the Agency’s safeguards efforts.’

IAEA priorities are influencing the development of future R&D projects.

Collaborative projects have strengthened our relationship with counterparts, particularly in the United States.

 

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