164 Statement by Baxter to IAEA Safeguards Committee

Vienna, 12 June 1970

Summary of Principles

May I associate the Australian Delegation with the expressions of good will made by earlier speakers.

  1. Australia has made it quite clear, from its intervention in the General Assembly on the Nuclear Treaty, and on other occasions, through the document it provided for this committee, that it desires to see an effective, economical and acceptable treaty.
  2. In noting the very significant number of states possessing some nuclear capability, or the potential to develop such capability, which have not signed, or if they have signed have not ratified the treaty, Australia feels that, among the no doubt many reasons for withholding their support, concern about the safeguards system which might be adopted, must occupy a prominent place.
  3. Australia is one of those nations.

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  1. I have said we wish to see a treaty which is effective, economical and acceptable. These factors are not unrelated, indeed they are so closely related as to make their separate discussion difficult.
  2. We believe the objective of the treaty is to prevent-so far as the matters within the compass of the treaty can-a nuclear war. In the sense of non-proliferation, it is to prevent the emergence of another nuclear power, which would obviously increase, in some proportion, the existing dangers of nuclear war.
  3. The Treaty provides protection against proliferation, firstly by the undertakings given in Article I, which are not subject to verification, and secondly by the undertakings of nonweapon powers in Article III, part of which only are subject to verification, as laid down in Article III. The parts which are subject to verification are the undertakings not to divert fissionable material, from peaceful uses to the production of explosive devices. The possible diversion of fissionable materials from non-explosive military uses, which uses are completely permissible, to nuclear explosives, is banned by the undertaking given in Article II, but it is not subject to verification.

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  1. In safeguarding for Article III of the treaty we are concerned with one area of risk only, namely the risk of fissionable material being diverted to nuclear explosives, from such material in the peaceful operations of non-weapon powers. This is a worthwhile objective, but the protection it affords to the world should be related to the other risks of proliferation with which we in the Agency, are not in any way involved. Some of these risks are:
    1. That diversion will take place from the stockpiles of weapon states, either by deliberate breach of undertakings in Article I, or by theft or carelessness contrary to the intentions of the weapon power concerned. The highly concentrated material in these stocks would be the first target of any organization trying to acquire a few black market bombs. I saw it stated the other day that there are seven thousand critical masses in military hands in Europe. Whatever may be one's confidence in the incorruptibility and care of the military, based on their historical performance, this is one risk which must be taken into account.
    2. The second risk is that diversion may take place from fissionable material in military non-explosive uses in non-weapon states. All that I have just said about weapon states applies here, except that at present the amount of material at risk is less, though it will increase in the future to substantial proportions.
    3. The third risk is diversion from peaceful uses in weapon states. Although it has been suggested in certain cases that the Agency should safeguard the material we believe the Agency should weigh very carefully the arguments against doing this. Weapon powers obviously will do their best to safeguard these materials, and will I imagine do it as thoroughly as anyone can, but the fact that large amounts of fissionable material are involved constitutes another contribution to the overall risk.
    4. The fourth risk is that a non-weapon power can and generally will under the treaty, acquire with the growth of its nuclear power industry substantial amounts of special fissionable material in concentrated form. Such countries will always be able under Article X of the treaty to withdraw from their obligations, and three months later make nuclear weapons.
  2. I do not list these risks with the idea of belittling the importance of the task entrusted to the Agency, but to suggest that the target for the effectiveness of the Agency's scheme should be related to the other real risks about which the Agency may do nothing.
  3. There is little point, in dealing with a leaky dam in stopping one small hole in a very complete and impressive way, if a number of much larger holes are left unattended.
  4. It is therefore necessary I believe for this Committee to consider the important question of 'Acceptable Risk'. No system is 100% perfect, and to go for say 90% to 95% may cost ten times what is involved in reaching 90%.
  5. I suggest for discussion that our concept of acceptable risk should admit that occasionally somewhere, someone will produce a nuclear explosive device using material diverted from the areas with which we are concerned. They may detonate it and it will be very unpleasant for those involved, but it will not have produced a new weapon power; nor will it start a nuclear war, unless the powers which have weapons are bent upon it. It will create a situation with which the world will then have to deal, but it will not be a major catastrophe.

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  1. It is therefore reasonable to start by considering those materials from which nuclear explosive devices may readily be made.
  2. These materials are firstly uranium 235 above some concentration of X%, where X is a figure to be determined by international agreement; secondly uranium 233 of a concentration above Y%, where Y is a figure to be determined, and where in each case the remaining material is substantially uranium 238; thirdly plutonium 239, other than plutonium contained in unprocessed irradiated convertor reactor fuel elements. To these must be added any of those fissionable materials in any concentration where the other constituent is different chemically, making a simple separation possible. Materials of this sort, in the nuclear power industry are produced in:
    1. Isotope separation plants
    2. Chemical processing plants
    It is here we believe that safeguards should start.

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  1. The picture this leads to is as follows:
    1. Uranium mines and concentration plants
      No safeguarding required on natural uranium, production or movement within the country.
    2. Fuel manufacturing plants (uranium fuel)
      No safeguarding required provided no uranium of >X% fissionable content is being processed.
    3. Fuel manufacturing plants (highly enriched uranium)
      To be safeguarded.
    4. Isotope enrichment plants (diffusion or centrifuge)
      Two cases can exist here. An enrichment plant could be set up to produce low enrichment <X% fissionable uranium. Depending upon its design, it could be impossible to produce high enrichment material, and in such a case safeguarding might not be necessary. Regular visits to insure the plant had not been altered would be required. For plants capable of producing high enrichment, >X% fissionable uranium, safeguarding would be required. A plant of the second kind, might operate to produce as well low enrichment material. This, after checking, could be released from safeguarding as it left the plant, en route to a fuel fabrication plant.
    5. Converter power stations (uranium fuelled)
      These stations operating on natural or low enrichment fuel would not require safeguarding.
    6. Fast reactor power stations
      Safeguarding of certain types of fuel and possibly the whole system will be required. Details can only be worked out when the accepted pattern of fast reactors is determined. These devices are still experimental and the final designs and methods of operation are not yet available.
    7. Research and development reactors (various types)
      Each will require consideration as a special case to which the general principles can be applied.
    8. Chemical processing plants
      These plants are generally going to recover concentrated plutonium, and in a few cases highly enriched uranium. They will need to be safeguarded.
    9. Plutonium storages
      In many cases recovered plutonium will be stored before reuse, and considerable stocks may be held. These will be safeguarded.
    10. Fuel manufacturing plants (plutonium fuel)
      These plants, incorporating plutonium into fuel elements containing fertile or other materials will need to be safeguarded as the separation of these materials is a comparatively simple process.
    11. Converter power stations using plutonium recycle
      Fuel supplies to these plants will need safeguarding up to the point where they have been inserted in the reactor. Fuel will be held in a bonded store and its insertion in the reactor checked or observed on an agreed schedule. The remainder of the plant's operations will not require safeguarding.
    12. We see no objection to the normal commercial operating records of the plants which are not safeguarded being available for examination by the Agency from time to time, should the Agency think the circumstances warranted it.
  2. Consideration of this list may give the impression that a large part of the industry will be under safeguards and that little cost will have been saved. This is not so. There will be a large number of uranium mines and concentration plants, and of nuclear power stations and these are not safeguarded, while the number of safeguarded isotope and chemical separation plants will be quite small, in many countries one of each. Even in a large nuclear industry there will only be a few installations where continuous safeguarding will be required. As the industry grows and more power stations are constructed, the number of safeguarded areas will change only slowly, the units will become larger with bigger throughput, but the safeguarding task will be much the same.
  3. It is believed that the principle of safeguarding only those installations where material is produced which can readily be made into explosive devices can achieve the objectives of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty.

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  1. I have already referred to the problem of industrial espionage. This is important and will become much more important in the future as the non-weapon states become major innovators in nuclear technology. The proposed design reviews, and subsequent access by inspectors to operating equipment are likely to be unacceptable, where new and commercially secret operations are being conducted. The development of the centrifuge would be a good example.
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  2. It is assumed by Australia that safeguards under the treaty will be applied on the basis of declarations by non-nuclear weapon states party to the treaty, of nuclear materials in peaceful uses which require safeguarding and which are in their possession at the time when those states conclude a safeguards agreement with the Agency. It is also assumed that the inventory of these items would be amended from time to time by subsequent declarations on the part of the state concerned, in relation to any changes in the quantities or types of materials or facilities, after the conclusion of the mutual agreement. We take the view therefore, that the Agency and safeguards inspectors will not have the right to traverse the territory of states party to the treaty or to have access to any materials, facilities, places and persons not involved in the inventory. This would mean that inspectors would not have the right, for example, to surveillance of defence installations.

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  1. A very important point of the Committee's work will relate to the question of agreements with groups of states. The idea of safeguarding within regional groups is attractive in many ways. We would therefore like to see the Committee give early attention to its possible agreement with Euratom. Principles established here could have far reaching consequences, and perhaps lead to other regional arrangements of great benefit to the task.
  2. Australia looks forward to contributing to the work of the Committee and in helping to bring its deliberations to a successful conclusion.

Thank you Chairman.

[NAA: A1838, 719/10/6 part 10]