Steps towards a nuclear-weapons-free world

Much progress had been made since the end of the Cold War in reducing nuclear arsenals, strengthening global nuclear security regimes, and building more effective non-proliferation verification mechanisms. All five Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) nuclear weapon states – the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China – have committed to a world free of nuclear weapons through the treaty’s “grand bargain”: disarmament in exchange for non-proliferation. Without the NPT it is likely there would have been many more countries with nuclear weapons today. However, to prepare the conditions for eliminating nuclear weapons altogether, much more needs to be done. Australia has actively been promoting and supporting some key initiatives.

Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI)

The 2010 NPT Review Conference reached consensus on a 64-point action plan which includes most of the steps required to advance the disarmament and non-proliferation objectives encapsulated in the NPT. In July 2010, Australia and Japan jointly established the NDPI with the key objective of promoting the implementation of this action plan. The NPDI is a cross-regional group of 12 countries: Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

The NPDI is a prominent and pragmatic voice in the international community and has been active in promoting practical actions and maintaining pressure on the nuclear weapon states to meet their commitments.

The NPDI's current thematic priorities include:

  • encouraging greater transparency surrounding nuclear disarmament efforts;
  • increasing support for and conclusion of key legal instruments that safeguard and govern nuclear activities; and
  • strengthening the NPT regime.

There have been eight Ministerial meetings of the NPDI.

The Dutch Foreign Minister delivered an opening statement on behalf of the NPDI at the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

Australia was instrumental in pushing for a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests. As a result, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996. Australia signed the CTBT on 24 September 1996 and ratified the Treaty on 9 July 1998.

The CTBT bans all nuclear test explosions: a practical step toward nuclear disarmament and an effective non-proliferation measure which limits the technological development of nuclear weapons.

The Treaty contains a specific list of countries that must ratify in order for the CTBT to enter into force. Of these 44 countries, listed in Annex II to the Treaty, three (DPRK, India and Pakistan) are yet to sign and five (China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and United States) have signed but are yet to ratify the treaty. Australia continues to actively campaign, including through the NPDI, to bring the treaty into effect.

The Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) is Australia's National Authority for implementation of the CTBT and coordinates Australia's contribution to the development of its verification system. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) has developed a world-wide network of monitoring stations which can detect an explosion anywhere, anytime of as small a yield as 1 kiloton. Australia hosts the third largest number of monitoring facilities for the CTBT of any state.

The network of the CTBT's monitoring facilities in the Pacific and Indian Oceans have played an important role in providing seismic data for Tsunami warning purposes.

Germany delivered a statement on behalf of the NPDI on Strengthening the Norm against Nuclear Testing at the 2016 CTBTO Preparatory Commission meeting in Vienna commemorating the 20th anniversary since the Treaty was opened for signature.

Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT)

Australia has been pushing for the Conference on Disarmament to commence negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material (FMCT). Fissile material (highly enriched uranium and plutonium) is the central component to the manufacture of nuclear weapons. We believe an FMCT would be an indispensable step on the way towards a nuclear-free world.

Nuclear Weapon Free Zones (NWFZ)

A number of regions around the world have set up NWFZs. These ban the development, deployment and use of nuclear weapons. Australia is party to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (SPNFZT). Australia strongly supports the creation of NWFZs and believes their establishment, freely arrived at among the States in the region concerned, contribute to the implementation of the NPT. They also serve as a security-enhancing interim step pending the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Australia has implemented its obligations under the SPNFZT through the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Act 1986, which, inter alia, prohibits the manufacture, production or acquisition of nuclear explosive devices; prohibits research and development relating to their manufacture or production; prohibits the possession or control over such devices; prohibits the stationing of nuclear explosive devices in Australia; and prohibits the testing of nuclear explosive devices.

Last Updated: 8 July 2016