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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

Program Activities

ASNOs activities in 2000-01 are described and evaluated in the following sections.

Activities are described in relation to particular tasks, and grouped according to the output to which they relate (for summary of outcomes and outputs see page 3).

Output A Operation of National Safeguards System

Operation of Australias national system of accounting for, and control of, nuclear material and items subject to IAEA safeguards, including promotion and regulation, within Australia, of effective measures for the physical protectionof nuclear facilities and material.

Milestone A1

A1.1 The provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Act 1987 administered effectively.

A1.2 The continued adequacy of the Acts provisions reviewed and evaluated.

A1.3 Under the Acts PermitSystem, nuclear items in Australiaincluding those subject to bilateral safeguards agreementscontrolled and accounted for effectively.

A1.4 Locations holding nuclear material and associated items inspected to check compliance with permit conditions.

Activities

Permits and authorities

During the year six new permits or authorities under the Safeguards Act were issued, none were varied, expired or revoked.

Table 3 Status of Safeguards Permits and Authorities in Australia

Permit or Authority to:

Granted

Varied

Expired

Number at End of Period

Total

6

0

0

97

Possess nuclear material

3

0

0

34

Possess associated items

1

0

0

22

Transport nuclear material

1

0

0

23

Transport associated items

0

0

0

0

Communicate information contained in associated technology

1

0

0

18

Laser enrichment R&D

Silex Systems Limited, an Australian company, is developing an innovative method of separating uranium isotopes using laser techniques. In 1996 the company entered into an agreement with the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) to explore the commercial potential of this technology. Experimental work is proceeding to establish if the process is in fact practicable for the separation of uranium isotopes and, if so, whether it could be commercially viable. This work has now reached the stage where it appears the process may be practicable, though this will not be confirmed until 2001-02. However, regardless of the outcome, ASNO in consultation with US authorities has concluded that process details could be useful for others working on enrichment technologies. Consequently, a determination was made on 14 June 2001 that SILEX technology constituted associated technology and associated equipment under the Safeguards Act. United States authorities similarly declared the technology to be Restricted Data on 1 June 2001. If successful, the technology may be commercialised in the United Statesthis aspect is discussed further under Milestone B2 (see page 31).

ASNO is following the progress of this research closely. The Ministergranted a permitto Silex Systems Ltd to possess associated technology and an authority to communicate information on 2 November 2000. The objective is to ensure that nuclear technology remains in exclusively peaceful use and does not contribute to any proliferation activity. The classification as associated technology restricts access to the technology to authorised persons. Under the permit, Silex Systems Ltd has been required to put in place appropriate security measures to protect the technology against unauthorised access. ASNO is also ensuring that all IAEA requirements are met with respect to the reporting category of nuclear-related R&D.

Replacement Research Reactor

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) is progressing on schedule with its project to replace its aging reactor, HIFAR. ASNO carried out some preliminary work with the design team regarding safeguards and security arrangements for this planned facility. In May 2001 Mr Russell Leslie visited the Egyptian ETRR-2 reactor, which is similar to the replacement ANSTO reactor, to examine safeguards and security arrangements there.

Data reported pursuant to the Safeguards Act

As required by sub-section 51(2) of the Safeguards Act, details of nuclear material and associated items of Australian origin, and nuclear material and associated items within Australia, regardless of origin, are set out in Annexes to this Report as follows:

Annex A: Nuclear Material within Australia at 30 June 2001.

Annex B: Associated Items within Australia at 30 June 2001.

Annex C: Australian Obligated Nuclear Material Overseas:

(i) Locations and Quantities of AONMat 31 December 2000.

(ii) Transfers of AONM during 2000.

Some documents relating to the SILEX process were transferred to the United States during the year. These were passed prior to the determination that SILEX technology is associated technology but were treated as sensitive and protected accordingly. A side letter to the Silex Agreement provides for documents transferred prior to entry-into-force of that Agreement, but which are later determined to be associated technology or restricted data, to become subject to the Agreement. No other associated items of Australian origin are located overseas.

ASNO also provides the Australian National Audit Office with an annual statement listing nuclear items held by ANSTO.

Inspections of permitholders

In 2000-01 ASNO carried out 27 domestic inspections of five permit holders. In addition, an ASNO inspector visited a location in New Zealand where Australian uranium is being used for non-nuclear purposes (glass-making) to establish that the requirements of Australias bilateral safeguards agreement covering this material were being met.

ASNOs largest inspection effort was at ANSTOs Lucas Heights siteto be expected since this is Australias only nuclear facility. Since the inspection activity at Lucas Heights is closely linked to the meeting of IAEA requirements, more details are given under Milestone A2 below, on the implementation of IAEA safeguards.

During the year ANSTO completed a major review of it nuclear accounting procedures, in order to better reflect current operating and regulatory requirements. ASNO was closely involved in this work, which was an interim measure pending future introduction of performance-based permits underpinned by an ISO 9000 accredited system at ANSTO. Through inspections and cooperative effort, ASNO continues its work with ANSTO to further improve the nuclear accountancy system at Lucas Heights.

As mentioned above, ASNO worked closely with Silex Systems Limited to ensure the accountancy and control system being developed for the Silex laboratory effectively protects both nuclear material and, more significantly, technology.

During ASNOs inspections of the Australian uranium mines, the operators were very cooperative. They met all ASNO requirements, and demonstrated a willingness to act upon ASNO advice.

Performance Assessment

ASNO found no indication of unauthorised access to or use of nuclear materials or nuclear items in Australia. Inspections of Silex Systems Limited and the uranium mines have confirmed they are satisfactorily complying with permit conditions. ASNO assistance has made an important contribution to ANSTOs upgrading of the safeguards system at Lucas Heights. Administration of the Permit System was carried out in a timely manner, with all Permit changes published in the Commonwealth Gazette as required by the Safeguards Act.

Milestone A2

IAEA safeguards implemented satisfactorily in Australia.

Activities

Australias State System of Accounting for and Control of Nuclear Material (SSAC)is operated by ASNO in accordance with Australias safeguards agreement with the IAEA. ASNO reports to the IAEA on the disposition of nuclear material in Australia and facilitates inspections carried out by the IAEA at Australian facilities.

Reports on the disposition of nuclear material

As part of ASNOs inspection effort, each month an ASNO officer audits the inventory record of nuclear material at the ANSTO site at Lucas Heights (near Sydney), which is the principal location of safeguardable nuclear material in Australia. Inventory changes at Lucas Heightson a monthly basisas well as any changes elsewhere in Australia, are reported by ASNO to the IAEA. Accounting reports are also given to the IAEA by ASNO following Agency inspections described below.

Details of Australian Accounting Reports to the IAEA during the year are at Annex D.

IAEA inspections in Australia

As in other countries where IAEA safeguards are in force, the Agency carries out routine inspections of Australian nuclear facilities. The aim of these inspections is to verify that nuclear material inventories are as declared by the operator and the SSAC. Each inspection deals with what is described as a Material Balance Area (MBA), of which Australia has five (see Table 4).

IAEA inspectors visited Australia on three occasions during 2000-01 to carry out routine inspections and on two other occasions to carry out a short notice inspection and complementary accesses(see Annex D for details).

Table 4 Material Balance Areas in Australia

Location

MBA

Facility

ANSTO

AS-A

HIFARreactor

ANSTO

AS-B

Moata reactor[1]

ANSTO

AS-C

Research and Development Laboratories

ANSTO

AS-D

Vault Storage

Elsewhere

AS-E

Other locations in Australia

As the national safeguards authority, ASNO acts as the intermediary between the IAEA and the facility operator on all safeguards matters. An ASNO officer accompanies IAEA inspectors during inspections in Australia. This officer ensures the inspectors are able to carry out their duties so that Australia meets its obligations and mediates on any issues arising between the IAEA and the facility operator. In particular, ASNO assists in the resolution of any inconsistencies discovered during inspections, thus simplifying the IAEA inspectors task.

A major focus of IAEA inspection activity is the identification and evaluation of material unaccounted for (MUF), that is, the difference between the records maintained by the operator (the ending book inventory) and the physical inventory verified by the IAEA. Since MUF is the difference between two measured quantities, it may be equal to zero, or it may be either a positive or negative value. If MUF is positive it does not necessarily indicate that material has been lost, nor does a negative figure mean that materialhas somehow been created. In many cases MUF can be attributed to unavoidable measurement differences, but where the size of the MUF is outside the range expected from measurement difference further investigation is required.

In 2000-01 there was MUF in three material categories in MBA AS-C (R&D Laboratories). For enriched uranium, the Physical Inventory was greater than the Book Inventory by 2.36 grams of uranium element and 0.06 grams of U-235 isotopethis was within the expected measurement difference. For natural uranium, the Physical Inventory was less than the Book Inventory by 0.34 kilogramthis MUF related to a small container of natural uranium powder which was mislaid. While investigation showed some ways in which this material may have been used, it was not possible to identify from the operators records where the material was or where it had been used. For depleted uranium, the Physical Inventory was less than the Book Inventory by 0.12 kilogramthis difference was under investigation at the time of writing. ANSTO has undertaken to strengthen its accountancy and control system to prevent a recurrence.

The IAEA reports all conclusions drawn from its routine safeguards inspections in Australia, including comments on any MUF, in the statements provided pursuant to Article 91(b) of Australias NPT safeguards agreement (see Annex E for details).

Declaration of Safeguards Inspectors

Under section 57 of the Safeguards Act, the Ministermay declare a person to be an inspector for the purposes of the Act. In practice, only ASNO officers have been so declared. The role of an inspector is to ensure compliance with provisions of the Safeguards Act and to assist IAEA inspectors in the conduct of Agency inspections in Australia. One new national inspector was declared in 2000-01.

The Minister may declare a person designated by the IAEA as an Agency Inspector for the purpose of the Safeguards Act. In practice, all IAEA staff designated to Australia are declared under the Safeguards Actthere were 132 new designations during 2000-01. There are currently 313 IAEA staff declared as Agency Inspectors pursuant to the Act.

Since 1990, the Director of Safeguards has had the right to appoint inspectors and has held powers of declaration under delegation from the Minister.

Performance Assessment

All routine IAEA inspections were concluded satisfactorily.

IAEA statements during 2000-01 confirm that all of Australias IAEA safeguards obligations were discharged satisfactorily, and that relevant records had been maintained in accordance with prescribed practice. ASNOs reporting has satisfied IAEA requirements in full.

The IAEA has never found cause to comment adversely on Australias accounting for and control of nuclear materiala fact reflected in Article 91(b) statements over the years.

Milestone A3

A3.1 Appropriate physical protection measures for nuclear material and associated items in Australia prescribed and reviewed.

A3.2 Sites holding nuclear material and associated items inspected to check that prescribed physical protectionmeasures have been implemented effectively.

Activities

Physical Protection within Australia

ASNO is responsible for prescribing the levels of physical protection, or security, to be applied to nuclear items subject to the Safeguards Act. During the year, inspections were carried out of the physical protection measures applied at ANSTO. Inspections were also carried out of the physical protection measures applied at, and in connection with, the uranium miningoperations in South Australia and the Northern Territory. In addition, regular inspections were made of the arrangements put in place for the protection of sensitive information relating to the SILEX laser enrichmentR&D project.

Performance Assessment

Physical protection requirements prescribed by ASNO are consistent with the most up-to-date international standards.

Through inspections, ASNO determined that all physical protection arrangements at ANSTO, Australian uranium mines and associated operations, and Silex Systems Ltd were satisfactory and effective.

 

[1]. In February 1995 the ANSTO Board decided to cease operation of Moata, and the reactor was defuelled in May 1995.

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