Skip to content
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 1999-2000

The Year in Review


  • All relevant statutory and treaty requirements met:
    • All nuclear material and associated items in Australia accounted for.
    • All Australian Obligated Nuclear Material accounted for.
    • Full compliance with CWC demonstrated.
  • Effective contribution to strengthening international verification regimes

ASNO's principal responsibilities are, to ensure that Australia is in compliance with its international treaty commitments to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and to contribute to the development of strengthened non-proliferation verification regimes. Its primary focus is thus international and national security. ASNO's activities are also central to Government policy regarding the mining and export of uranium.

ASNO is a unique organisation both for DFAT and the Australian Government, working at the interface of policy and technical (science and engineering) knowledge. 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. Additionally, ASNO exercises important 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.

As a centre of technical excellence, ASNO has accrued significant professional skills and expertise (which are hard to find and maintain in Australia). It provides DFAT with a critical source of long term, stable, professional staff with its own international network of specialised knowledge.

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 Australia's position as an effective and constructive participant in the non-proliferation regimes.

The IAEA is charged with preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, while ensuring that the benefits of nuclear technology are available for peaceful purposes. The IAEA is considered by the international community to be a highly effective organisation. During the year steady progress was made in the development of measures and procedures for strengthening the safeguards system. Other areas of significant progress included the development of verification measures for nuclear material released from the US and Russian weapons programs.

The role of the IAEA, and international efforts to promote nuclear restraint and eventual disarmament, were enhanced by a successful NPT Review Conference in April/May 2000. Nevertheless, the nuclear non-proliferation regime faces some challenges, and it is noted that the IAEA, in its annual safeguards statement (see page 84), reported unfavourably once again on the safeguards situation in Iraq and the DPRK. Other setbacks for the non-proliferation regime included the continued failure to secure the necessary ratifications for the CTBT to enter into force, and the continuing delay in the commencement of FMCT negotiations.

During the year the heads of all three international non-proliferation agenciesthe Directors General of the IAEA and the OPCW and the Executive Director of the CTBTO Preparatory Commissionvisited Australia. In addition, the heads of ASNO's counterpart organisations in Indonesia, Japan and the ROK all visited in connection with the regional safeguards training course, mentioned below.

International safeguards

Key ASNO roles are: to develop and promote effective international nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards arrangements; to evaluate the efficacy of these arrangements; and to evaluate nuclear fuel cycle developments and implications for safeguards implementation as a basis for advising Government. A vital component of ASNOs core business is support for the IAEA through a safeguards R&D programpart of which involves collaboration with other countries, in particular longstanding collaboration with the US.

Throughout the year, ASNO made a substantial contribution to the development of strengthened IAEA safeguards and the integration of strengthened safeguards with the established (classical) safeguards system. ASNO is working closely with the IAEA to develop the procedures and methods required to effectively implement the IAEAs authority and responsibilities as the Additional Protocol enters general application, as well as the specific arrangements which will apply in Australia. In the latter context, ASNO offers the IAEA a safeguards-friendly environment, together with constructive critique, to assist in the development and testing of new techniques. This work is important in ensuring the effective implementation of strengthened safeguards elsewhere. On behalf of the IAEA, ASNO planned and managed a regional training course on national safeguards in Sydney and Canberra (MarchApril 2000) which was highly regarded by the Agency. Eleven regional States were represented, including participants from the DPRK.

ASNO is participating in an international review of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), which is considering whether there is a need to strengthen the commitment of States to apply internationally agreed standards of physical protection (security).

Bilateral safeguards

ASNO is responsible for ensuring that all AONM (Australian Obligated Nuclear Material, i.e. exported uranium and nuclear material derived from these exports) is accounted for in accordance with bilateral agreements, and that AONM is used for exclusively peaceful purposes. In this work, ASNO supports DFAT with the negotiation and review of safeguards agreements, and is responsible for the implementation of these agreements. This year ASNO and DFAT made substantial progress on several new bilateral nuclear safeguards agreements. An agreement with the US covering transfer of the Silex laser enrichment technology came into force, and ASNO is now working with US authorities to develop the detailed administrative arrangements required to give effect to this agreement. Also concluded during the year was an agreement with New Zealand covering transfers of uranium for non-nuclear use (as a colouring agent in glass manufacture).

As in previous years, all AONM under Australia's various bilateral agreements was satisfactorily accounted for.

Domestic safeguards

As mentioned above, ASNO has developed and implemented new safeguards arrangements in Australia under the Additional Protocol for strengthened safeguards. The IAEA is continuing to develop its approaches for exercising complementary access, and this year visited the Defence establishment at DSTO Salisbury as well as a range of buildings at Lucas Heights. For the first time, the IAEA provided whole of State assessments in its annual Safeguards Implementation Report (SIR). As the State furthest advanced in the implementation of the Additional Protocol, Australia was one of two States mentioned in this regard (see page 84). The work undertaken by ASNO during and since the IAEA complementary access to the Ranger uranium mine in 1999 has uniquely enabled the IAEA to develop procedures and analysis methodologies for this type of evaluation, and enhanced its strengthened safeguards work.

One major activity for ASNO is monitoring the progress of the Silex project, mentioned above (also on page 24), to ensure that, as soon as appropriate, the technology is declared associated technology and controlled in accordance with relevant legislative and treaty requirements. In anticipation of this, ASNO has already taken steps to effectively protect this technology against unauthorised access. In evaluating the status of the Silex project, ASNO is working closely with US authorities.

ASNO is working closely with ANSTO to ensure that nuclear material accountancy and control at Lucas Heights accords with best international practice, particularly having regard to the requirements of the IAEA under integrated safeguards.

CWC (including BWC issues)

ASNO has maintained an excellent professional relationship with the OPCW and counterpart national authorities, particularly in our region. Consequently, we have been able to promote effective and efficient CWC verification arrangements in a number of States Parties. As part of our regional outreach, ASNO has helped Indonesia and Vietnam to establish their CWC implementation arrangements. ASNO has provided expert support to DFAT in the negotiation of a protocol to strengthen the BWC. ASNO has made a strong contribution to the BWC National Consultative Group (NCG) coordinated by DFAT, specifically in the area of how declaration triggers might be strengthened.

This has been a busy year in which new arrangements under the facility inspection regime, extending it to unscheduled discrete organic chemical (DOC) production sites, have come into force. To prepare industry, ASNO has implemented an extensive industry outreach program. Also, ASNO has facilitated four OPCW inspections across the full range of scheduled facilities. The OPCW has given each site visited a clean bill of health and reported favourably on ASNOs highly professional management of the inspections.

Revised import arrangements affecting certain Scheduled chemicals also came into effect during the year. ASNO has been active in implementing these requirements, including through developing arrangements designed to minimise burdens on industry while ensuring Australias obligations under the CWC are fully met. This work has entailed an extensive industry outreach program, including the publication of explanatory guidelines, and the issue of approximately 30 import permits to date.


Over the past 12 months, ASNO has strengthened its role as the provisional CTBT national authority. ASNO's relationship with the CTBTO Preparatory Commission and its Provisional Technical Secretariat in Vienna has been strengthened and ASNO has made further progress towards establishing the Australian components of the International Monitoring System. In March 2000, during his visit to Australia, Dr Hoffmann, Executive Director of the Preparatory Commission and Mr Downer signed an arrangement to facilitate the establishment and effective operation of IMS stations in Australia. ASNO has identified key issues which must be resolved before the full IMS can be operated here, and has made a good start to resolving these matters, which include: inter-agency issues; long-term management of the IMS in Australia; and establishing green field sites for the IMS (Cape Leeuwin). By drawing on its safeguards and CWC expertise, ASNO has also been able to boost Australia's contribution to the development of verification procedures for the CTBT's On Site Inspection mechanism.

ASNO and OPCW inspectors using a GPS system during an inspection photograph courtesy of Wesfarmers CSBP Ltd

ASNO and OPCW inspectors using a GPS system during an inspection photograph courtesy of Wesfarmers CSBP Ltd


Return to the ASNO Annual Report Index | Outlook:  The Year Ahead

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade