Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office: Annual Report 2012-13

The Year Ahead

The following developments in the international security environment are likely to impact on ASNO's work during 2013–14:

  • continued interest in developing and promoting understanding at all stages of nuclear development in the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere
  • the work program and further development of the Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network
  • conducting regional outreach on safeguards capacity building and awareness raising, including work on uranium mining and transport regulations in newcomer uranium mining countries
  • the Director-General of the IAEA's report to the Board of Governors on the state-level concept and negotiating appropriate references to this in the Safeguards Resolution at the General Conference in September 2013
  • positive steps Myanmar is taking to prepare for an Additional Protocol and modified Small Quantities Protocol, and also continued interest in promoting the benefits to Myanmar of ratifying the CWC
  • Iran's nuclear program and the IAEA's continuing efforts to resolve questions about possible military dimensions
  • international efforts to strengthen nuclear security including through the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague
  • ongoing efforts to commence negotiations of a fissile material cut-off treaty, including the proposal for the UN Secretary General to establish a Group of Governmental Experts to conduct work in 2014 and 2015 on recommendations on aspects of a treaty
  • the United Nations-led investigation into chemical weapons use in Syria, and the risk of further chemical weapons use or the possibility of their spread to extremist groups as the conflict continues
  • implementation by the OPCW of recommendations arising from the 3rd Review Conference of the CWC, held in April 2013.

In addressing the challenges posed by the international security environment, ASNO will continue to provide specialist analysis and policy advice to the Australian Government in the areas of non-proliferation and disarmament. ASNO will continue to ensure Australia's 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, the Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation, and other international safeguards fora.

Regionally, ASNO will continue its outreach program to build operational capability in the areas of safeguards and nuclear security and non-proliferation treaty implementation (such as the CTBT and CWC), including through further development of the Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network.

Domestically, ASNO will work with ANSTO and other permit holders to ensure safeguards and nuclear security requirements are met. In addition, ASNO will work with industry and relevant regulatory authorities in the establishment of new uranium mines, especially in Western Australia. Related to this, the IAEA is considering changes to how it safeguards uranium production which may require detailed consultations and planning between ASNO, IAEA and uranium producers. ANSTO's new infrastructure projects to establish an export-scale plant for producing the radiopharmaceutical molybdenum-99, a Synroc waste immobilisation plant and an interim storage facility for Australian intermediate level radioactive waste, will have safeguards and security requirements that will need to be planned and managed.

When ANAO completes its report on the management of ASNO arrangements to meet Australia's obligations under its comprehensive safeguards agreement and Additional Protocol, ASNO will respond to its recommendations in the 2013–14 Annual Report.

ASNO will continue to work with the DFAT Information Management and Technology Division through 2013–14 to develop, finalise for release and maintain the critically important upgrades of the nuclear and chemical databases used for administering Australia's compliance with its comprehensive safeguards agreement, the Additional Protocol, nuclear cooperation agreements and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Australia will host its first International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) mission in November 2013 to review nuclear security practices at ANSTO.

ASNO will continue to manage Australia's network of bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements, including the detailed scrutiny of the transfer and use of Australian Obligated Nuclear Material (AONM) around the world. ASNO will also continue to work with others in DFAT as well as other departments and agencies to develop a framework for the supply of Australian uranium to India, in particular on the development of a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement.

ASNO will support Australia's efforts to collaborate closely with the OPCW and other States Parties to promote the objectives of the CWC, including by sharing Australia's experience implementing the CWC with regional counterparts.

ASNO will continue to work with the CTBT Organization and other Australian agencies to establish the key elements of CTBT verification: the IMS; the International Data Centre (IDC); on-site inspection (OSI) and NDC capabilities. ASNO coordinates whole-of-government efforts to establish and maintain Australia's IMS stations and NDC, and has an active and leading role in the Commission's work on OSI.

Efforts to get negotiations on an FMCT underway will likely remain high on the international agenda in 2013–14. Most interested countries have said that they prefer the CD as the venue for FMCT negotiation, but there is strong support to at least begin work on aspects of a treaty through a mechanism outside the CD, such as the abovementioned Group of Governmental Experts. ASNO will continue to support Australia's work in this area as opportunities arise, focusing in particular on how an FMCT can be effectively verified.

ASNO will continue to build Australia's engagement in technical issues related to the verified dismantlement of nuclear weapons as international developments allow.

Dr Robert Floyd
Director General ASNO