Annual Report 2008-2009

Annual Report home |

Table of Contents |

Userguide |

Download versions

1.Director General's Report2. Current Topics3. Overview4. Performance5. Management and Accountability6. Appendices and Glossaries

Your location:

Director General’s Report

The Year in Review

Non-proliferation and Safeguards Developments
Chemical Weapons Convention Developments
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Developments
Other Non-Proliferation Developments
The Year Ahead
20 Years with ASNO
Photo - See caption below for description
Mr Smith chaired the Fourth Ministerial Meeting in support of the CTBT’s entry into force. Photo courtesy of Tom Starkweather
Enlarge image

The Year in Review

Nuclear Non-proliferation and Safeguards Developments

The International Non-Proliferation Environment

The principal challenges for the non-proliferation regime during the year included Iran’s defiance of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions, the continuing lack of information about Syria’s nuclear activities and the detonation of a second nuclear device by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK—or North Korea). More generally, efforts to limit the spread of enrichment and reprocessing capabilities—which could be used in nuclear weapons programs—remain central to addressing international concerns about nuclear proliferation.

Iran continued to expand its uranium enrichment capacity in defiance of resolutions passed by the UNSC that require it to suspend all enrichment activity. As at 30 June 2009 Iran was approaching the point of having stockpiled sufficient low enriched uranium that it could, if the political decision was made to do so, produce enough high enriched uranium for a nuclear explosive device.

In addition, Iran has refused to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to resolve issues relating to possible military dimensions of its nuclear program, failing to provide access to documents, locations or individuals that would help resolve these issues. Instead Iran has insisted that the information on weaponisation studies available to the IAEA is baseless—an assertion that the IAEA does not consider credible. Iran has continued to defy the UNSC obligation to suspend construction of its heavy water research reactor (which, when completed, could be used to produce plutonium suitable for nuclear weapons), and has refused to provide to the IAEA design information and access as required by its safeguards agreement.[1] The IAEA remains unable to provide assurances to the international community that there are no undeclared nuclear activities or materials in Iran.

The Six-Party process for resolving the DPRK nuclear issue collapsed during the reporting period, starting with a halt to the program to disable/dismantle its nuclear facilities and the expulsion of IAEA inspectors, moving to further rounds of ballistic missile testing and culminating in the test of a second nuclear explosive device on 25 May 2009. In response, the UNSC passed resolution UNSCR 1874 imposing further travel, trade and economic related sanctions on the DPRK.

In September 2007, Israel destroyed what was reportedly an undeclared, partially constructed nuclear reactor in a remote region within Syria. IAEA efforts to determine whether the building destroyed was a nuclear reactor are ongoing. During the reporting period the IAEA announced that, at the site concerned and also at Syria’s declared reactor, it had detected particles of anthropogenic natural uranium, i.e. uranium that had been processed. The particles were of a type of uranium not declared by Syria, and were consistent with nuclear fuel. Syria continued to deny that the bombed building was nuclear related and refused to cooperate further with the IAEA’s investigation.

On the general issue of limiting the spread of enrichment and reprocessing capabilities, efforts continued on a number of levels, ranging from combating illicit procurement and the black market in components and special materials, to developing new technologies and institutional arrangements so that countries with nuclear power programs have no legitimate need to pursue proliferation-sensitive stages of the fuel cycle.

Proposals under consideration include: establishment of long-term fuel supply assurances; fuel bank mechanisms; multilateralising sensitive stages of the fuel cycle; and development of proliferation resistant technologies. These proposals are being developed through national initiatives (such as the international uranium enrichment facility at Angarsk, Russia), and in multilateral fora, including the IAEA, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), and the Generation IV International Forum.

In a key speech in Prague on 5 April 2009 US President Obama called for the building of “a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation … so that countries can access peaceful nuclear power without increasing the risks of proliferation.” President Obama committed the United States to a series of practical measures to advance nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, including pursuing US ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). President Obama also announced that the United States would host a Global Nuclear Security Summit to lead multilateral efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear materials, combat nuclear smuggling and disrupt attempts at nuclear terrorism. This Summit is expected to be held in April 2010. Australia looks forward to working constructively with the United States and others to achieve positive outcomes on these matters.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)—of which Australia is a member—continued to discuss ways to strengthen the criteria for transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology (referred to as Sensitive Nuclear Technology or SNT transfers). Debate focused on whether to limit the transfer of SNT to a “black box” basis (i.e. transfers of equipment but no transfers of technology), a provision that is in line with current commercial practice, and on whether the IAEA’s safeguards strengthening additional protocol (AP) should be a condition for the supply of SNT. Australia is a staunch advocate of the AP as a condition of supply for all nuclear transfers and made strong representations on this point. NSG consideration of these issues is ongoing.

International Atomic Energy Agency Safeguards

During the IAEA General Conference in September 2007, the IAEA Director General announced the establishment of a Commission of Eminent Persons, chaired by the former President of Mexico, Dr Ernesto Zedillo, and including former Australian Foreign Minister, Mr Gareth Evans, to look at the Agency’s program up to 2020  and beyond. The Commission reported its findings, which covered the so-called “three pillars” of the Agency’s Statute (promotion of nuclear energy, safety and safeguards), in May 2008. In response to the report of the Commission, IAEA member states have engaged in an open-ended, informal examination of “The Future of the Agency”.

At 30 June 2009, the number of states implementing the AP, which gives the IAEA rights to additional information and increased access, grew to 91 from 88 a year prior. As noted in last year’s report, the number of states with comprehensive safeguards agreements (CSA) and an AP in force now exceed the number of CSA states without an AP. In addition, 42 states had signed APs, or had APs approved by the IAEA Board of Governors (BoG) (for further details see Appendix C).

Of the 62 non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS) with significant nuclear activities that are party to the NPT, 45 had an AP in force, and 11 had signed an AP or had an AP approved by the BoG, that is, collectively over 90% of all such states. In light of this, Australia considers that the combination of an AP and a comprehensive safeguards agreement is now firmly established as part of the IAEA’s safeguards standard. Australia has adopted a policy that requires adherence to the AP as a condition for the supply of uranium.

In implementing the AP, by the end of 2008 the IAEA had made whole-of-state evaluations for 51 states. The IAEA reported in its Safeguards Statement for 2008 (see Appendix E) that it had found no indication of diversion or undeclared nuclear materials or activities in any of these states.

Integrated Safeguards (IS) is the term used to describe the optimum combination of safeguards measures available to the IAEA under a CSA and an AP. Before a state can become eligible for the application of IS the IAEA must be able to draw the so-called “broader conclusion”, that all nuclear material and activities of safeguards significance have been declared (that is, there are no indications of undeclared activities). During 2008, the IAEA reported that the IAEA implemented IS in 25 states (including Australia) for the full year, and a further eight states for part of the year. The IAEA was also able to draw the broader conclusion for the first time in an additional eight states. IS approaches were developed and approved for a further three states.

IAEA Safeguards Agreement with India

The IAEA negotiated a safeguards agreement with India, which was approved by the IAEA Board of Governors by consensus on 1 August 2008. Under the safeguards agreement India agreed to place under IAEA safeguards the majority of its existing civil nuclear facilities and those currently under construction, as well as all future civil nuclear facilities.

In addition, India negotiated an AP to its safeguards agreement, which was approved by the IAEA BoG by consensus on 15 May 2009. The Indian AP is limited to reporting India’s nuclear exports and does not provide for increased IAEA access within India.

Regional Safeguards Development

In April 2009, together with the President of KINAC, the Republic of Korea’s Institute for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Control, Mr Hun-Gyu Lee, I hosted a meeting of regional safeguards practitioners to discuss the establishment of a network of regional safeguards authorities. The discussions, involving representatives of 14 organisations from 11 Asia-Pacific states were successful and agreement was reached to establish the Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network (APSN). The Network will come into effect on 1 October 2009. Working closely with the IAEA, APSN will work to improve the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of safeguards implementation in the region through enhanced cooperation in areas such as training, professional development and the sharing of experiences. I was appointed as the first Chair of the APSN. Further information on APSN can be found under Current Topics.

Regional safeguards and nuclear security outreach remained a key priority for ASNO during the reporting period. Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) to strengthen safeguards and nuclear security cooperation were signed with counterparts in the Republic of Korea (KINAC) and Indonesia (BAPETEN—the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency). A similar MOU with Vietnam is well advanced.

Photo - See caption below for description
Mr John Carlson, Director General of ASNO and Mr Hun-Gyu Lee, President of KINAC (right), after signing an MOU between ASNO and KINAC. Photo courtesy of KINAC
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

ASNO’s outreach focused on providing practical training and assistance to regional counterparts in order to enhance their operational capabilities to fulfil non-proliferation treaty obligations, including under the NPT and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM). The provision of such training also provides an effective means of developing and maintaining safeguards expertise within ASNO. During the reporting period, ASNO provided training in the areas of nuclear safeguards, nuclear security and export controls to over 134 professionals from 9 regional countries. A more detailed discussion of ASNO’s outreach program can be found under “Output 1.4: International Safeguards and Non-Proliferation”.

Bilateral Safeguards Developments

On 18 September 2008, the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) tabled its report on the Australia/Russia nuclear cooperation agreement that was signed on 7 September 2007. As at 30 June 2009, the Government was considering its response to JSCOT’s report. ASNO worked during the year with our Russian counterpart, Rosatom, on a Memorandum of Understanding for nuclear material accounting arrangements that would operate under the nuclear cooperation agreement. This followed a highly productive nuclear material accountancy and reporting workshop that ASNO conducted in Canberra in December 2008 for Russian technical experts.

In November 2008, ASNO hosted safeguards officials from the United States, Canada and Euratom in a meeting to discuss bilateral safeguards arrangements, and in particular to develop a “document of common understandings” with regard to the administration of obligation accounting and transfers of nuclear and non-nuclear material, equipment, components or technology pursuant to bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements.

The current nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States, which entered into force in January 1981, will expire in January 2011. ASNO and US officials have had initial discussions on extension of the agreement.

Also in November, ASNO hosted formal consultations pursuant to the Australia/Euratom nuclear safeguards agreement. Officials conducted initial discussions on extending the current agreement which expires in 2012.

ASNO worked with BHP Billiton Limited (BHBP) to establish an accountancy and control system to ensure application of appropriate safeguards to the extraction of uranium from uranium-bearing copper concentrates that BHPB proposes to export to China. In January 2009, I led a delegation to Beijing to commence negotiations on an amendment to the Australia/China nuclear transfers agreement. The amendment would provide for uranium from copper concentrates exported to China, recovered for use in China’s civil nuclear power program, to be brought under the Australia/China nuclear transfers agreement.

Domestic Safeguards Developments

During the reporting period, the IAEA conducted four design information verification inspections, three routine inspections and a short notice inspection in Australia, and also undertook four complementary accesses in accordance with Australia’s AP. The IAEA confirmed that Australia had met all of its IAEA safeguards requirements. ASNO also conducted 36 domestic safeguards inspections of a number of permit holders, including ANSTO, Silex Systems Limited, uranium mines and other holders of small amounts of nuclear material.

As part of its effort to ensure the professional development of ASNO staff, and as a training exercise for Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the broader Australian Intelligence Community (AIC), ASNO continued its series of seminars on non-proliferation relevant technologies. The seminars were well attended, with the typical seminar having some 40 attendees representing up to ten different Canberra based government agencies.

Nuclear Security

ASNO continued to implement nuclear security requirements at Lucas Heights and at the uranium mines. Noting the increased risk of piracy in the Gulf of Aden, ASNO, in consultation with other government agencies and overseas counterparts, introduced specific risk mitigating measures to cover shipments of Australian uranium though the Gulf that are consistent with the international codes of best practice. ASNO also worked with industry, other agencies and overseas counterparts to establish alternative routes to the Gulf of Aden.

ASNO attended five working group meetings for the development of Revision 5 of the IAEA nuclear security recommendations document, INFCIRC/225, and other associated documents in IAEA’s nuclear security series. These nuclear security series documents will establish updated best practice security guidelines for the use, storage and transport of nuclear and radioactive materials, and associated facilities.

Chemical Weapons Convention Developments

Universality of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is essential to achieving a global chemical weapons ban and verified destruction of all existing chemical weapons (CW) stockpiles. Twelve years after entry-into-force, the CWC continues to progress steadily towards universality, with 188 States Parties as at 30 June 2009. Lebanon, Iraq, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas were the most recent states to ratify or accede to the CWC.

On 26 March 2009, India became the third CW Possessor State to have completed the destruction of its entire declared CW stockpile. By the end of June 2009, 32,819 tonnes, or 46%, of the world's declared stockpile of 71,194 tonnes of chemical weapons agent had been verifiably destroyed.

Out of the four remaining CW Possessor States, Russia and the United States, holders of the largest stockpiles, may not meet the 2012 destruction deadline set under the Convention because of technical, environmental and political reasons. The US Government recently reported to Congress that two of its destruction facilities would not be operational until 2014–17 and 2019–21, respectively. To put this into context, the US$1 billion Russian Destruction Facility in Shchuchye, which commenced operation in May 2009, had taken a decade to construct.

ASNO supported the ongoing efforts of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to fulfil the disarmament and non-proliferation goals of the CWC. In this regard, ASNO has continued to encourage the OPCW to implement effective verification for monitoring the global chemical industry in order to deter the use of chemicals or production equipment for prohibited purposes.

Australia continued to promote the role of the OPCW as a forum for information exchange in addressing the threat of chemical terrorism. ASNO delivered a presentation at the “Asia-Pacific Seminar on Chemical Safety and Security to Counter Terrorism”, held in Canberra from 10–12 June 2009, that focused on how full and effective implementation of the CWC raises barriers to chemical terrorism. The Seminar, jointly hosted by DFAT and the Australian Academy of Science, was attended by 112 participants from Australia and eight regional countries, as well as presenters from the OPCW, the United States, Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.

During the reporting period, ASNO facilitated five routine OPCW inspections of declared industrial chemical facilities in Australia and one routine inspection at Australia’s Schedule 1 facility for protective purposes, located at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation in Melbourne. These inspections demonstrated Australia’s ongoing compliance with its CWC obligations.

ASNO conducted an on-site industry outreach program to more than 50 facilities, including industrial chemical plants, chemical traders, laboratories and research institutions. This outreach program aimed to raise awareness of the CWC, to prepare eligible facilities to receive OPCW inspections and to highlight the importance of adequate chemical safety and security at facilities dealing with toxic chemicals. More details on ASNO’s outreach program can be found on page 79.

At ASNO’s invitation, two representatives from the OPCW’s Technical Secretariat visited NSW, Australia in May 2009 to observe 267 old empty chemical weapon (OCW) munitions, buried at the end of WWII, that had been recently uncovered. A number of Australian government agencies met with the OPCW officials to discuss practical and technical issues for dealing with OCW finds in accordance with CWC obligations.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Developments

At 30 June 2009, 180 states had signed the CTBT and 148 had ratified. Nine of the 44 states which must ratify the Treaty to trigger its entry into force (known as Annex 2 countries) have yet to do so.[2]

During the year, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Stephen Smith MP reiterated the Government’s clear support for efforts to bring the CTBT into force, and to see the completion of its verification system. Mr Smith urged all countries that have yet to ratify the CTBT to do so at the earliest opportunity.

On 24 September 2008, Mr Smith, in the margins of the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, chaired the Fourth Ministerial Meeting in support of CTBT entry into force. Foreign Ministers from a wide range of countries released a joint statement reaffirming the international community’s strong support for the CTBT.

In his April 2009 speech in Prague, mentioned earlier, President Obama indicated his intention to “aggressively pursue” ratification of the CTBT by the US Senate. As one of the remaining Annex 2 countries whose ratification is required for the CTBT to enter into force, this strong signal of support for the Treaty is an important development. Indonesia is another Annex 2 country. Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Dr Hassan Wirajuda, in a statement on 8 June 2009, also indicated his country’s intention to ratify soon.

On 25 May 2009 the DPRK announced that it had conducted a nuclear test. Seismic waves from the test were detected by global nuclear test monitoring infrastructure, including in Australia. Further details are provided under Current Topics.

The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is tasked with establishing the build up of the Treaty’s verification system. At 30 June 2009, just over 80% of International Monitoring System (IMS) facilities were operational, including 17 of the 21 that Australia will host. Preparations were advanced by ASNO during the reporting period to install a further Australian hosted station, at Macquarie Island, in 2010.

During the year, the CTBTO conducted a major test of the Treaty’s on-site inspection mechanism at the former Soviet test site at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan. The exercise successfully demonstrated the deployment of an inspection to search for evidence of a possible nuclear test, but highlighted also the work that remains to be done to develop a fully credible capability to undertake such inspections at short notice. The Kazakhstan exercise put to the test a draft inspection procedures manual being prepared under the chairmanship of Mr Malcolm Coxhead, Head of ASNO’s CTBT Section.

Photo - See caption below for description
Mr Smith chaired the Fourth Ministerial Meeting in support of the CTBT’s entry into force.
Photo courtesy of Tom Starkweather
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

Other Non-Proliferation Developments

International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND)

In June 2008 the Australian and Japanese Prime Ministers announced the establishment of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND). ICNND is an independent body co-chaired by former Australian Foreign Minister Mr Gareth Evans and former Japanese Foreign Minister Ms Yoriko Kawaguchi, with the aim of reinvigorating international efforts on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. The Commission is supported by an Advisory Board, of which I am a member. In this capacity, I have prepared for the Commissioners a series of technical research papers, which are available on the ICNND website at http://www.icnnd.org/research/index.html.

Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty

During the reporting period, agreement was reached at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to proceed with the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT). This Treaty will prohibit the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, thereby constraining the capability to produce greater numbers of nuclear weapons. ASNO produced a non-paper on how verification could work under an FMCT, which has been seen as a positive contribution by countries with which it has been shared in the development of verification concepts under the FMCT.

Disarmament Verification

Verification will be an essential element in nuclear disarmament in order to provide confidence to the international community (comprising both NWS and NNWS) that declared actions have in fact taken place. In conducting disarmament verification measures, care must be exercised so that NWS and NNWS are not in violation of their obligations under Article I and II of the NPT, viz. the exchange of sensitive weapons design information that might assist in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. In November 2008, ASNO hosted a technical workshop with experts from the United Kingdom to explore avenues for future cooperation in developing nuclear disarmament verification models and concepts.

The Year Ahead

The following developments in the international security environment are likely to impact on ASNO’s work during 2009–10:

In addressing the challenges posed by the international security environment, ASNO will continue to provide technical analysis and policy advice to the Government in the areas of non-proliferation and disarmament. ASNO will continue to ensure international treaty and regulatory obligations are met.

Internationally, ASNO will continue to work with the IAEA and other member states on strengthening the safeguards system, including through Australia’s membership of the IAEA Board of Governors, and through the Australian Safeguards Support Program (ASSP), the Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation (SAGSI), and the US-led Next Generation Safeguards Initiative (NGSI). ASNO will also work on strengthening the IAEA’s nuclear security guidelines. Australia looks forward to working closely with the new IAEA Director General, Mr Yukiya Amano of Japan, in these and other areas.

Regionally, ASNO will continue its outreach program to build operational capacity in the areas of safeguards and nuclear security and non-proliferation treaty implementation, including through further development of the Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network, which will commence operation on 1 October 2009.

Bilaterally, ASNO will manage Australia’s network of bilateral safeguards agreements, including the tracking of Australian obligated nuclear material (AONM) around the world. ASNO will support the processes required for the nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia, including the conclusion of a memorandum of understanding incorporating administrative arrangements for implementing the agreement. ASNO will continue to work with China to amend the Australia/China nuclear transfers agreement to cover extraction of uranium from copper concentrates. ASNO will seek authorisation to renew nuclear cooperation agreements with the United States and European Union, as the current agreements will expire in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Domestically, to ensure safeguards and nuclear security requirements are met, ASNO will work with ANSTO and other permit holders, and with industry and relevant regulatory authorities in the establishment of new uranium mines. ASNO will work with uranium producers and shippers, and other national and foreign government agencies, on international shipping routes and arrangements.

ASNO will continue to work with the OPCW and other member states to promote the objectives of the CWC, including through sharing Australia’s CWC implementation experiences with regional counterparts. ASNO will support efforts at the OPCW to address chemical terrorism.

ASNO will work with the OPCW and relevant government agencies in managing finds of old chemical weapon munitions in Australia. ASNO will continue its CWC industry outreach to ensure compliance with domestic legislation and to prepare such facilities to receive OPCW inspections. ASNO will work with other stakeholder agencies to review the efficacy of Australia’s current CWC implementing legislation and regulations.

ASNO will continue to work with the CTBTO to complete the key elements of CTBT verification, the International Monitoring System and on-site inspection capability. ASNO will work with other government agencies to develop a national CTBT data centre (NDC) capability.

ASNO will continue its work to develop verification concepts in support of nuclear disarmament.

ASNO will continue to review its administrative processes, and implementation of a quality management system, to ensure ASNO processes are fully accountable, effective, efficient and meet ASNO’s goals and responsibilities.

20 Years with ASNO

On 28 May 2009 I completed 20 years service with ASNO and its predecessor the Australian Safeguards Office (ASO). When I was first appointed Director of Safeguards in 1989, ASO had an average staffing level of 12.5[3]. Over the 20 years, there has been a modest increase in ASNO’s staffing level, to 15.5. During this period, however, ASNO’s responsibilities have grown substantially and the workload has grown exponentially. The breadth of ASNO’s work today can be seen from the content of this Annual Report.

The increase in ASNO’s work reflects the much more challenging international nuclear environment today, as well as the addition of CWC and CTBT functions. Another major growth area has been in uranium exports and bilateral safeguards agreements.

One of my first tasks in 1989 was to organize the relocation of ASO from Sydney to Canberra —this was successfully completed in 1990. The move was to enable ASO to interact more closely with other government agencies involved in nuclear issues and to contribute more effectively to policy development on non-proliferation issues. Another major task was to develop and obtain funding for a safeguards R&D program to support the IAEA.

An international development with widespread and ongoing implications was the discovery of Iraq’s nuclear weapons program following the first Gulf War, in 1991. One of ASO’s key experts, Mr John Bardsley, assisted in the IAEA’s inspection efforts. It became obvious that a fundamental overhaul of the IAEA safeguards system was required. Although the IAEA’s mandate included detection of undeclared nuclear activities, the safeguards system had developed with a principal focus on declared nuclear material. A major international effort, involving the IAEA and its key supporters, was initiated to strengthen the safeguards system. ASO/ASNO has been actively engaged in these efforts ever since.

Some of ASO’s early efforts on strengthening of safeguards included pioneering work on remote monitoring (which has since become a well established safeguards technique), and hosting IAEA field trials of new safeguards techniques in Australia—including wider access rights for inspectors, unpredictable and short-notice inspections, and environmental monitoring.

Advising on safeguards and non-proliferation issues was becoming an increasingly important part of ASO’s work, following on the revelations on Iraq’s nuclear program and the crisis with the DPRK in 1992 which quickly followed the commencement of IAEA inspections there. ASO’s work included evaluation of the performance of the IAEA safeguards system and how problem areas could be addressed, as well as country-specific analyses.

A major change for ASO came in 1994, when the then Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Gareth Evans arranged for ASO’s transfer from the Primary Industries and Energy portfolio to Foreign Affairs and Trade. This reflected ASO’s expanding involvement in the strengthening of IAEA safeguards and the increasing importance of non-proliferation policy development. ASO acquired new functions as the national authority for the CWC and the CTBT. For some years subsequently ASO was also involved in Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) issues.

On the 25th anniversary of the NPT, in 1995, the NPT Review and Extension Conference was held. The main decision for the conference was whether the NPT would be extended indefinitely, or for a fixed period. Australia worked hard in support of indefinite extension, an outcome of fundamental importance for the future of the non-proliferation regime. ASO was closely involved in this effort. Also in 1995 I presented a key paper on the proposed Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) at the UN Conference on Disarmament Issues in Nagasaki, Japan. ASNO has since established itself as an international leader in verification aspects of the FMCT concept.

In 1996 ASO was involved in the work of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, in particular on verification aspects.

The program to strengthen IAEA safeguards led to the development of the Additional Protocol, providing the IAEA with greater authority to require nuclear-related information and for inspectors to have more extensive access. I led the Australian delegation in the Special Committee of the IAEA Board of Governors that negotiated the model Additional Protocol in 1996–97. Australia became the first state to sign an Additional Protocol, in September 1997, and to ratify the Additional Protocol, in December of that year. Subsequently, a major activity for ASNO has been promotion of the Additional Protocol internationally, including through diplomatic efforts, regional training courses on protocol implementation, and through support for developing the IAEA’s implementation capabilities.

In 1998 ASO was formally re-titled as ASNO, and the position of Director of Safeguards became Director General, ASNO.

In 2001 Australia became the first state to qualify for “integrated safeguards”. This is a combination of safeguards measures under the basic safeguards agreement and the Additional Protocol—qualification for integrated safeguards is based on a conclusion by the IAEA that the state concerned has no undeclared nuclear activities. Also in 2001, the IAEA Director General, Dr ElBaradei, appointed me to chair the IAEA’s Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation (SAGSI), a position I held until the end of 2006. SAGSI has provided much of the energy and vision for the program to strengthen IAEA safeguards. Over this period SAGSI worked on issues including the development of information-driven safeguards and the “state-level approach”, evaluation of safeguards effectiveness, reporting of safeguards performance and outcomes, and a range of technical subjects.

2002 was a momentous year, in which the current major challenges to the non-proliferation regime became evident. The DPRK expelled IAEA inspectors, and evidence emerged of Iran’s secret nuclear program. In 2003 the DPRK announced its withdrawal from the NPT. ASNO has been closely involved in these cases, assessing information as it becomes available, contributing to Australia’s work in the IAEA Board of Governors, developing verification approaches in support of eventual resolution of these cases, and so on.

In 2005 the IAEA Board of Governors found that Iran was in non-compliance with its safeguards agreement, and reported the situation to the Security Council. ASNO has been closely involved in advising on the IAEA’s processes and authority for non-compliance findings, as well as issues of the IAEA’s investigative authority. Iran continues to defy Security Council resolutions calling on it to suspend its uranium enrichment program and certain other nuclear activities. This situation illustrates the practical difficulties for the international community in enforcing treaty compliance. A satisfactory outcome is essential not only for resolving the specific case, and avoiding a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, but more broadly for the credibility of compliance enforcement mechanisms in support of nuclear disarmament.

The DPRK nuclear situation also continues to elude resolution—the situation was exacerbated by the DPRK’s nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. The DPRK’s involvement in proliferation activities elsewhere—including it seems the building of a clandestine reactor in Syria—is also a major concern.

ASNO’s involvement in these cases has included: analysis of lessons learned—how to improve the IAEA’s information-analysis and detection capabilities, as well as more effective use of its authority; contributing to technical analyses of the countries’ capabilities; development of verification approaches that would be required in support of eventual resolution; and contribution to diplomatic efforts to persuade these countries of the benefits of a rules-based approach to international relations (including, in the past, safeguards training for DPRK personnel).

A serious development, going back to the Iraqi nuclear program, but coming to the fore with Iran’s nuclear program, as well as the former Libyan program and developments with Syria, is the operation of a black market in sensitive nuclear technology, components and specialized materials. ASNO has been involved, inter alia, with developing the IAEA’s inspection and information analysis capabilities in this area.

ASNO’s responsibilities include physical protection, or security, for nuclear materials and facilities. ASNO has been a member of the experts groups reviewing the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), and the IAEA’s guidelines on physical protection (document INFCIRC/225). In 2001 the experts group on the CPNMM issued the “Physical Protection Objectives and Fundamental Principles”, which played an important role in leading up to the CPNMM revision, agreed in 2005. Unfortunately the strengthened CPPNM is still well short of the number of ratifications required for entry-into-force—this is likely to be a priority for diplomatic activity as well as technical outreach in the near term. Meanwhile, it is hoped the work of the experts group revising the IAEA’s guidelines will be completed early in 2010. The CPPNM and the IAEA guidelines are likely to be a particular focus of the Global Nuclear Security Summit planned for April 2010. Another area of ASNO involvement was in the establishment of WINS—the World Institute for Nuclear Security—an industry-based NGO established in 2008 to promote peer review, experience-sharing and training in nuclear security.

Australia ratified the CWC in 1994. Following this, a major task for ASNO as Australia’s national authority was outreach and consultations with the Australian chemical industry in preparation for Australia's initial declaration which was submitted within 30 days of the CWC’s entry-into-force in 1997. ASNO has continued to ensure that Australia’s obligations under the CWC are met, including annual submission of declarations on chemical and defence activities and by facilitating 31 inspections to date by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons at declared facilities. ASNO also contributes to the development of OPCW verification issues. ASNO has an active program of domestic industry and regional outreach activities in support of the CWC. ASNO works with other Government stakeholders to ensure adequate controls and reporting on chemical imports and exports, and in providing advice on domestic chemical counter-terrorism issues.

Australia ratified the CTBT in 1998. ASNO’s responsibility as national authority has included establishment of Australia’s share of the 337 International Monitoring System (IMS) facilities, in conjunction with the facility operators—Geoscience Australia, ARPANSA and the Australian National University. Australia is responsible for 21 IMS facilities—20 monitoring stations and a radionuclide laboratory. Some of these existed already, but most have had to be built. Seventeen of Australia’s IMS facilities are now in place. One is to be built on Macquarie Island in 2010, and two of the other three will be in Antarctica. They will be put in place over the coming few years.

ASNO’s expertise is key to our other major contribution to CTBT verification: the development of arrangements for on-site inspection (OSI). While the IMS has shown itself very capable of detecting possible nuclear explosions, on-site investigations may be needed to reach firm conclusions on treaty compliance. Since 2005 ASNO’s Mr Malcolm Coxhead has chaired an international task group conducting this technically and politically complex work. Valuable progress has been made since 2005 to move from a large and unwieldy rolling text to a more concise product, but further issues need to be resolved as the CTBT Organization continues its work to complete the verification system.

Soon after I started in 1989, ASO conducted a regional training course on safeguards, in conjunction with the IAEA. Regional training and outreach has been a continuing priority for ASO/ASNO, in safeguards, nuclear security, and CWC and CTBT implementation. This work has been carried out in cooperation with the IAEA, OPCW and CTBTO, and with counterparts from the United States, Japan, Republic of Korea, and elsewhere. Much of the work has been funded by AusAID. Figures prior to 2000 are not readily to hand, but in the period since 2000, ASNO-run courses have provided training to some 800 professionals from most countries in the region.

An important ASNO initiative, pursued in close collaboration with counterparts in Indonesia, Japan and Republic of Korea, is the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network. This is described elsewhere in this report.

A major area of growth for ASNO has been the operation of the network of bilateral safeguards agreements covering Australia’s uranium exports, and monitoring the flow of Australian Obligated Nuclear Material (AONM) in the global fuel cycle. In 1989 Australia had 10 active bilateral safeguards agreements, and the total quantity of AONM under those agreements was 27,659 tonnes. Today there are 20 active agreements and the total quantity of AONM is approaching 150,000 tonnes. In addition to operation of the agreements, this has involved extensive work with counterparts to ensure common standards and approaches in accounting for obligated nuclear material.

An exciting development has been the establishment of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND). The point of non-proliferation and safeguards is not to maintain the status quo, where the world is divided between nuclear weapon haves and have-nots, in perpetuity, but to contribute to securing nuclear disarmament. ICNND is well-timed—today the major nuclear-weapon states appear genuinely receptive to this challenge. ASNO is engaged through my appointment as a member of the ICNND Advisory Board, and through planning of a number of disarmament verification projects with overseas counterparts.

I will conclude this overview of the last two decades with the following observations. ASNO has made a major contribution to Australia’s outstanding position internationally and regionally as a supporter of the non-proliferation regime and disarmament efforts. This has been achieved despite ASNO’s distance from the major centres of activity on these subjects in the northern hemisphere, and with, by international standards, very few resources. This has been possible because of the expertise, professionalism and dedication of ASNO’s staff. However, some significant departures are imminent. Maintaining and building on ASNO’s expertise will be a challenge in the coming years.

John Carlson
Director General ASNO


[1] After the end of the reporting period, in September 2009, Iran allowed the IAEA access to this reactor, without however committing to implement arrangements on verification of design information which it has unilaterally suspended.

[2] The states whose ratifications are required are: China, DPRK, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States.

[3] Not including a small number of temporary staff

 

Return to top of page