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 2000-2001

Integrated Safeguards in Australia

Background

The IAEAsafeguards system is being strengthened through the introduction of new safeguards measures, some of whiche.g. complementary accessare based on conclusion by the state of an Additional Protocol, supplementing its basic safeguards agreement. Australia was the first state to sign an Additional Protocol, on 23 September 1997, and was also the first to ratify the Protocol, which entered into force on 10 December 1997. Australias initial set of formal Protocol Declarations was submitted to the IAEA on 26 March 1998 (Australia had previously prepared draft declarations as part of the assistance given to the Agency in the development of strengthened safeguards methodologies).

Following the introduction of strengthened safeguards in Australia, in 1998, the IAEA undertook a comprehensive program of complementary accessand environmental sampling at ANSTO's Lucas Heights facilities to confirm the details of Australia's declarations and to establish a baseline for reference in future environmental sampling activities. In fact, environmental sampling had been commenced prior to the conclusion of the Protocol, as part of Australia's cooperative effort in assisting the Agency in the development of strengthened safeguards techniques, and pursuant to the IAEA Board of Governors decision in 1995 on the deployment of environmental sampling and other strengthened safeguards measures to the extent possible under existing safeguards agreements.

As at 30 June 2001 the IAEA had carried twelve complementary accesses in Australia: nine times at Lucas Heights, once at a location belonging to the Defence Science and Technology Organisation in South Australia, and once at the Ranger uranium mine. One of the complementary accesses at Lucas Heights was carried out on a managed access basis, the first time the Agency had used the managed access provisions of the Additional Protocol anywhere.

The IAEA has determined that the introduction of integrated safeguards (see preceding article) can be considered if there are positive results from the implementation of both classical and strengthened safeguards activities. Progress to integrated safeguards is thus a two-stage process, the first stage being to meet the requirements of strengthened safeguards. Since Australias Additional Protocol was the first to enter into effect, Australia had gone through three complete annual cycles of strengthened safeguards verification and evaluation (i.e. 1998, 1999 and 2000). Thus Australia was the first candidate for the introduction of integrated safeguards. Following a year of detailed discussion between ASNO and the IAEA, integrated safeguards were introduced in Australia at the beginning of 2001.

Implementation of integrated safeguards

Under classical safeguards the IAEAs inspection activity for Australia was determined primarily by Australias holdings of research reactor fuel. Australia has large holdings of spent HEU (high enriched uranium) fuelthough these holdings are being steadily reduced through transfers to the US and France. The Agencys classical safeguards criteria require this spent fuel to be inspected four times a year. Following the introduction of strengthened safeguards, this pattern of four inspections a year was maintained, with the addition of complementary accesses, which in most cases have been undertaken at the Lucas Heights site.

Under the integrated safeguards regime now being applied, the timeliness period for spent fuel has been changed from three months to 12 months, eliminating quarterly inspections. The four inspections each year have been replaced by an annual Physical Inventory Verification (PIV), and an average of one unannounced inspection. The term average is important―to maintain deterrence, once an unannounced inspection has taken place, there will always be the possibility of a further unannounced inspection in the same year.

The objectives of unannounced inspections include, to verify the fresh and spent fuel inventory and if possible the core fuel, and to confirm facility design information, the declared operation of the reactor, and the absence of undeclared activities. Where possible, fuel transfers will be verified during the PIV or unannounced inspection(s), but the IAEA has indicated that if necessary additional inspections may be undertaken for this purpose.

In addition to the inspections outlined above, there are five or six complementary accesses each year, mainly at the Lucas Heights site, but also encompassing uranium mines and locations other than facilities. In most circumstances it is expected that complementary accesses would be carried out when inspectors are in Australia for routine inspections.

The overall savings in inspection effort are expected to be about 45%, though this depends on whether additional inspections are required to verify fuel transfers―an area where ASNO believes remote monitoring techniques could be very useful.

A noteworthy feature of the integrated safeguards regime is the use of unannounced inspections―i.e. inspections whose timing is unpredictable to the State or the facility operator. These are not unique to either strengthened or integrated safeguards―standard safeguards agreements provide for a proportion of routine inspections to be unannounced. However, the value of unannounced inspections has been particularly recognised in the context of integrated safeguards.

Unannounced inspections do not necessarily mean immediate access. A distinction is made between the initiation of the inspection―arrival of inspectors at the facility―and the time in which the inspectors require access to the area to be inspected. There should be a balance between the objectives of the inspectiontaking account of the time required to conceal the scenario the inspection is addressingand practical considerations.

In Australia's case, the IAEA has agreed to provide three hours notice of required access pursuant to an unannounced inspection. Notice would normally be given at 7.00 am of an inspection to commence at 10.00 am that day. This is consistent with the travelling time required for national inspectors to reach Lucas Heights from ASNO's office in Canberra (a distance of 275 km), and reflects the Agencys judgment that any undeclared activity at the Lucas Heights site could not be concealed within that time. If for any reason ASNO inspectors are delayed in reaching the site, the inspection can commence in any event after three hours.

Conclusions

The integrated safeguards regime combines increased effectiveness and appreciable savings in inspection effort. However, strengthened and integrated safeguards place new requirements on nuclear operators and national safeguards authorities. In particular, for unannounced inspections to work efficiently the operators accountancy records must be maintained on a real-time or near-real-time basis (what is referred to as NRTAnear-real-time accountancy). Effectively the IAEA has moved some of the verification workload to the state system. Instead of the IAEA verifying nuclear material holdings at regular intervals, the state system needs to ensure that accurate NRTA records are maintained. The IAEA then carries out unpredictable inspections at short notice to verify these accounts are accurate and up-to-date. ASNO is working closely with ANSTOto help it reach the necessary standard.

Since Australias Additional Protocol was the first to enter into effect, it has been in a pioneering role assisting the IAEA to develop the procedures and methods for strengthened and integrated safeguards. Australia has hosted the IAEAs first complementary accesses, the first exercise of managed access under the Protocol, the first complementary access to a uranium mine and now the first integrated safeguards regime.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade