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

Performance

Output 1.1: National Safeguards System

Operation of Australia's national system of accounting for, and control of, nuclear material, items and facilities.

Performance Measures

  • Australia's obligations are met under Australia's safeguards agreement with the IAEA
  • Australia's system of safeguards permits and authorities is administered in a timely and effective manner
  • Australian uranium at mines and in transit accounted for properly

Performance Assessment

International Obligations

Reporting obligations under the Australia–IAEA comprehensive safeguards agreement

ASNO met all of Australia's obligations during the reporting period for the submission of declarations and notifications on nuclear materials and facilities as required by Australia's safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

ASNO reported changes to Australia's nuclear material inventory to the IAEA on a monthly basis. These reports are summarised in Tables 2 and 3 below. ASNO audited and reported on the inventory at the Lucas Heights site of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) – the principal location in Australia of nuclear material subject to IAEA safeguards – as well as permit holders around Australia with small quantities of nuclear material. The high number of reports in Tables 2 and 3 attributed to 'other locations' relates primarily to holdings of uranium and thorium-based chemical salts, mainly held by universities, and depleted uranium shielding held by industrial radiographers.

Table 2: ASNO reports (line entries) to the IAEA, 2007–13, by facility

Facility
2007–08
2008–09
2009–10
2010–11
2011–12
2012–13
ANSTO research laboratories
550
588
607
989
1 291
1 040
HIFAR (defuelled 2007)
27
117
8
0
0
3
ANSTO vault storage
18
27
22
26
126
337
Moata (defuelled 1995)
11
10
8
0
0
3
OPAL reactor
60
106
196
381
496
338
Silex laboratories
68
4
13
0
0
3
Other locations
3 024
3 286
2 948
2 940
2 879
3 310
TOTAL
3 758
4 138
3 802
4 336
4 792
5 034

ANSTO and ASNO staff with IAEA inspectors at the HIFAR facility at ANSTO during the 2013 physical inventory verification inspection (Image: ANSTO)

ANSTO and ASNO staff with IAEA inspectors at the HIFAR facility at ANSTO during the 2013 physical inventory verification inspection (Image: ANSTO)

Table 3: ASNO reports (line entries) to the IAEA, 2007–13, by data type

Type of Data
2007–08
2008–09
2009–10
2010–11
2011–12
2012–13
Inventory Change Report
488
589
459
838
1 084
1 015
Physical Inventory Listing
1 476
1 550
1 584
1 541
1 551
1 694
Material Balance Report
152
152
136
132
143
187
Concise Note
1 642
1 847
1 623
1 825
2 014
2 138
TOTAL
3 758
4 138
3 802
4 336
4 792
5 034

Table 4 is a summary of total quantities of nuclear material by nuclear material category in Australia. Notable changes from the previous year's totals include an increase of around 3.7 tonnes of depleted uranium due to the import of several transport containers for radioactive sources.

For the first time in an Annual Report, ASNO has provided for the category of 235U a breakdown by low enrichment and high enrichment levels. This is an additional transparency measure ASNO has introduced in support of the important goals of the series of Nuclear Security Summits. Australia's inventory of high-enriched uranium has decreased considerably since the 1990s due to several important sovereign decisions and actions Australia has taken to lead by example in reducing nuclear security and proliferation risks. These include: transforming the HIFAR reactor to accept low-enriched fuel; shipping spent HIFAR fuel to the US and France; designing the OPAL reactor to operate on low enriched fuel; and, designing the molybdenum-99 radiopharmaceutical production plant to use low-enriched uranium targets.

The small quantity (approximately 2.7 kg) of high-enriched uranium that remains in various locations around Australia, such as ANSTO and some universities, is retained and used for a variety of purposes that utilise the particular characteristics of high-enriched uranium. The uses include: research and development related to nuclear non-proliferation activities; validating the commercial application of ANSTO's Synroc waste immobilisation technology; nuclear forensics for identifying illicit nuclear materials; mass spectrometry; and nuclear materials chemistry work.

Table 4: Nuclear Material in Australia at 30 June 2013

Category
Quantity
Intended End-use
Source Material
Uranium Ore Concentrates (UOC)
1 666 tonnes
Export for energy use pursuant to bilateral agreements
6 tonnes
Storage
Natural Uranium (other than UOC)
4 502 kg
Research and shielding
Depleted Uranium
19 492 kg
Research and shielding
Thorium Ore Residues
59 tonnes
Storage/disposal
Thorium (other than Thorium Ore Residues)
1 952 kg
Research, industry
Special Fissionable Material
235U – low enriched
169 309 grams
Research, radioisotope production, storage
235U – high enriched
2 741 grams
Research, storage
233U
4 grams
Research
Plutonium (other than 238Pu)
1 226 grams
Research, neutron sources
Nuclear Research and Development

ASNO ensured that all IAEA requirements were met during the reporting period with respect to formal reporting of nuclear research and development in Australia, and ensured that any associated technology remained in exclusively peaceful use and did not contribute to any proliferation activity.

Table 5: Associated Items in Australia at 30 June 2013

Category
Quantity
Intended End-use
Associated Material
Deuterium and heavy water
28.7 tonnes
Research, reactors
Nuclear grade graphite
83.4 tonnes
HIFAR, Moata and storage
Associated Equipment
HIFAR18
1
Reactor
HIFAR coarse control arms (unused)
5
Reactor components
HIFAR safety rods
3
Reactor components
HIFAR fuel charging and discharging machines
2
Reactor components
OPAL reactor19
1
Reactor
OPAL control rods
13
Reactor components
OPAL control rod drives
6
Reactor components
Silex equipment
-
Enrichment R&D
Reporting obligations under the Australia-IAEA Additional Protocol

Australia was the first country to bring into force the IAEA's Additional Protocol on strengthened safeguards in 1997. ASNO prepares and provides declarations under a range of categories under the Additional Protocol on an annual basis (due 15 May each year), as well as quarterly declarations on relevant exports. Table 6 lists the number of declarations Australia has made under each category.

Table 6: Number of declarations made under the Additional Protocol

Type of Declaration under Article 2.a and 2.b of the Additional Protocol
2007–08
2008–09
2009–10
2010–11
2011–12
2012–13
2.a.i – Government funded, authorised or controlled nuclear fuel cycle-related research and development activities not involving nuclear material
-
-
1
-
1
2
2.a.ii – OPAL operational schedules
-
-
1
1
1
1
2.a.iii – General description of each building on each site, e.g. ANSTO, universities
150
146
178
160
158
189
2.a.iv – manufacturing or construction of specified nuclear related equipment
-
-
-
-
1
-
2.a.v – Location, operational status and production capacity of uranium or thorium mines or concentration plants
4
4
4
4
4
4
2.a.vi – Information on source material that is not of a composition or purity that requires full IAEA safeguards requirements
5
5
5
5
6
6
2.a.vii – Information on nuclear material exempted from safeguards
15
8
7
-
-
-
2.a.viii – Information related to the further processing of intermediate or high-level waste containing plutonium
-
-
-
-
-
-
2.a.ix – Exports or imports of nuclear-related equipment listed in Annex II of the Additional Protocol
-
1
3
-
-
-
2.a.x – General 10 year plans related to nuclear fuel cycle activities
2
1
2
2
3
5
2.b.i – Nuclear fuel cycle-related research and development activities not involving nuclear material and not funded, authorised or controlled by the Government
-
-
1
1
1
1
Safeguards implications of ANSTO's nuclear infrastructure projects

In September 2012, the Australian Government announced two major infrastructure projects at ANSTO, an export-scale plant for producing molybdenum-99 to secure Australia's supply of this important radiopharmaceutical and increase capacity to meet a significant proportion of the world's needs, and a collocated Synroc20 waste plant for immobilising waste from past, current and future manufacture of nuclear medicines. Additionally, in April 2012 ANSTO announced it would apply for a licence to construct an interim storage facility for Australian intermediate level radioactive waste generated by several decades of nuclear medicine production and scientific research. These three infrastructure projects, the molybdenum-99 production plant, Synroc plant and interim storage facility have implications with respect to providing the IAEA with safeguards-relevant design information and structuring safeguards material balance areas at ANSTO. In the reporting period, ASNO began discussions with the IAEA on appropriate safeguards arrangements, and expect to have this completed in the
2013–14 period.

an artist's impression of the proposed Synroc treatment facility at ANSTO. The bottom picture is the proposed ANSTO Nuclear Medicine building (Images: ANSTO)

an artist's impression of the proposed Synroc treatment facility at ANSTO. The bottom picture is the proposed ANSTO Nuclear Medicine building (Images: ANSTO)

Top picture shows an artist's impression of the proposed Synroc treatment facility at ANSTO. The bottom picture is the proposed ANSTO Nuclear Medicine building (Images: ANSTO)

Permits and Authorities System

ASNO continued to operate Australia's State System of Accounting for and Control of Nuclear Material in accordance with Australia's safeguards agreement with the IAEA and national legislation. Administration of this system was carried out in a timely manner.

Table 7: Status of Safeguards Permits and Authorities at 30 June 2013

Permit or Authority
Current Total
Granted
Varied
Revoked
Expired
Possess nuclear material
101
8
12
1
1
Possess associated items
14
0
12
0
1
Transport nuclear material
21
2
3
0
1
Transport associated items
0
0
0
0
0
Establish a facility
1
1
0
0
0
Decommission a facility
2
0
0
0
0
Communicate information contained in associated technology
10
0
10
0
1
TOTAL
149
11
37
1
4

Notice of all permit changes was published in the Commonwealth Gazette as required by subsection 20(1) of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Act 1987. Ten permits were granted to organisations that possess or transport nuclear material and one permit was granted to establish a facility. This was for a pilot plant for conducting uranium mineral processing test work. One permit was revoked where the permit holder no longer held nuclear material or associated items. In the past year, 37 permits were varied as a result of changes to organisational details and approved locations.

ASNO Inspections

During the reporting period, ASNO carried out four domestic inspections to ensure that requirements of permits and authorities were being met. From these inspections, ASNO found no indication of unauthorised access to, or use of, nuclear materials or nuclear items. The number of inspections ASNO conducted was considerably lower than in previous years due to the effort required in support of a range of other policy and regulatory activities. Given the small number of inspections, this Annual Report does not include graphs of the spread of inspection effort across different regulatory entities.

IAEA Inspections

ASNO ensured that all of Australia's obligations with respect to IAEA inspections were met. During the reporting period, the IAEA conducted one physical inventory verification inspection and one routine nuclear material inventory verification inspection. The IAEA exercised its complementary access rights in accordance with the Additional Protocol on one occasion, at the Ranger uranium mine. Details are provided in Table 8.

Table 8: IAEA Safeguards Inspections and Complementary Accesses 2012–13

Date
Facility
Material
balance area
Type
3 July 2012
OPAL Reactor

AS-F

Short Notice Inventory
Verification Inspection
 
ANSTO research laboratories
AS-C
Complementary Access
4 July 2012
SSL Laboratories
AS-G
Complementary Access
6 July 2012
Ranger Uranium Mine
AS-E
Complementary Access
20 May 2013
OPAL Reactor
AS-F
Routine Inventory Verification Inspection
Design Information Verification Inspection
21–22 May 2013
ANSTO – Research and Development
AS-C
Routine Inventory Verification Inspection
Design Information Verification Inspection
23 May 2013
HIFAR Reactor
AS-A
Design Information Verification Inspection
 
Moata Reactor
AS-B
Design Information Verification Inspection
23 May 2013
SSL Laboratories
AS-G
Design Information Verification Inspection

During the physical inventory verification inspection at ANSTO, in May 2013, the IAEA also conducted design information verification inspections at the SSL Laboratories (Silex) and of the building that contained the Moata research reactor before it was dismantled. The purpose of these design information verification inspections was to verify that these two facilities are decommissioned for the purposes of safeguards. The IAEA's decision on the facility status of Silex and Moata is expected during the 2013–14 period. Should the IAEA determine that Silex and Moata are decommissioned, the material balance areas AS-G (Silex) and AS-B (Moata) will no longer exist but the IAEA will still retain access rights to the relevant buildings by virtue of these being on the ANSTO site.

The IAEA reports the outcomes of safeguards inspections and complementary access in Australia in statements under Article 91(b) of Australia's Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA and Article 10(c) of the Additional Protocol (see Appendix D).

During the reporting period, some small inventory differences were reported to the IAEA. These were primarily due to re-measurements of batches at various locations outside of ANSTO (e.g. universities). For the inventory difference in other locations listed below, 0.05 kilograms in depleted uranium and 0.01 kilograms in natural uranium resulted from a few small jars of chemical reagents not being identified during a permit holder's physical inventory taking at the end of the reporting period. There were no inventory differences at Lucas Heights facilities. Details are provided at Table 9.

Table 9: Inventory Differences Recorded during 2012–13

Material Balance Area
Difference between
Book and Physical Inventory
Comment
HIFAR (defuelled)
MOATA Reactor (defuelled)
ANSTO research laboratories
ANSTO vault storage
OPAL reactor
Silex laboratories
Nil
Book inventory equalled the physical inventory
Other locations
-3.41 kg Natural uranium
Primarily rounding, re-measurement and correcting double-counted batches.
-1.85 kg Depleted uranium
-2.06 kg Thorium
-0.04 g Enriched uranium
ANAO Audit

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) commenced an audit in late 2012 of the management by ASNO of arrangements to meet Australia's obligations under the comprehensive safeguards agreement and Additional Protocol with the IAEA. ASNO worked closely with ANAO in late 2012 and early 2013 on compiling information and responding to questions for the audit. The ANAO's final report is expected to be tabled in Parliament in late 2013.

ASNO officer, Dr Stephan Bayer, addresses the Regional Workshop on the Amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, Beijing, April 2013

ASNO officer, Dr Stephan Bayer, addresses the Regional Workshop on the Amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, Beijing, April 2013


19 Includes, inter alia, the reactor reflector vessel and core grid

20 Synroc is an Australian innovation to lock up high-level nuclear waste. It can reduce the volume of nuclear by-products by 99 per cent compared to other methods used internationally such as cementation.