Nuclear Safety and Security

Physical protection of nuclear material

The international community has established standards for the physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities.  Australia is a party to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and its 2005 amendment.  In addition to specifying a control and protection regime for nuclear material in international transport, the CPPNM was amended in 2005 to extend its application to domestic use, storage and transport.  The amended CPPNM will take effect once it has been ratified by two-thirds of the States Parties to the Convention.

All of Australia’s bilateral safeguards agreements include a requirement that internationally agreed standards of physical security will be applied to nuclear material in the country concerned.

Australia is also a signatory to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (‘the Nuclear Terrorism Convention’), which it ratified on 16 March 2012.  The Nuclear Terrorism Convention is aimed at strengthening the international legal framework to combat nuclear terrorism.

The first Nuclear Security Summit was convened by the United States in Washington in April 2010 at the Head of State level with the aim of strengthening the many existing multilateral, cooperative institutions and structures aimed at securing nuclear materials and preventing nuclear terrorism.  Subsequent meetings in Seoul in April 2012 and The Hague in March 2014 reaffirmed the Summit’s commitment to Nuclear Security and set out specific action in key areas.  The next Nuclear Security Summit will be held in the United States in 2016.

The communiqué from the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit.

The communiqué from the Hague Nuclear Security Summit.

Nuclear power - safety

Australia became a party to the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS) in March 1997. The CNS aims to enhance nuclear safety worldwide, and triennial review meetings of parties are convened in order to discuss national reports by States Parties on their implementation of the Convention.

Emergency preparedness/response

The Convention on Nuclear Safety imposes certain obligations with regard to transboundary emergency planning, focusing on practical aspects of emergency preparedness.

The Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident (the Early Notification Convention) and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency (the Assistance Convention) cover situations in which an accident involving activities or facilities in one State have resulted or may result in a transboundary release that could be of radiological safety significance for other States. Australia is party to both conventions.

Transport of radioactive material

In addition to the framework of export controls and physical protection standards discussed above, international rules also exist relating to both the legality of the transport of radioactive material, and the technical standards which must apply to such transport. IAEA Transport Regulations also provide a framework for international best practice in this area, and are incorporated into relevant Australian legislation and international instruments, including the Convention on International Civil Aviation and the Safety of Life at Sea Convention.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) includes some specific rules governing the transport of radioactive material. Provided that those rules and the general UNCLOS provisions are complied with, States are entitled to transport radioactive material under general principles of freedom of navigation.

The 2001 Waigani Convention (Convention to Ban the Importation into Forum Island Countries of Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes and to Control the Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within the South Pacific Region) prohibits the importation of all radioactive wastes into Pacific Island Developing Parties. Australia is party to the Waigani Convention.

A number of other international instruments also address the transport of nuclear material, including the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation. Since the 1960s a set of international instruments constituting a nuclear shipment liability regime have also developed.

Australia and Nuclear Shipments

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) sends all the spent fuel from its research reactor at Lucas Heights, Sydney, overseas for reprocessing, conditioning or long-term storage. The IAEA advises there has never been an accident during the transport of nuclear fuel that has resulted in any release of radioactivity. The ANSTO website details the arrangements under which its overseas shipments are managed.

Last Updated: 29 June 2015