Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia


  Annual Report 1998-99



SNO’s primary focus is national security - verification and treaty compliance across several regimes addressing weapons of mass destruction - linked to a major facilitation role in regard to industry compliance. The key aspect here is ensuring Australia’s treaty commitments are met. Additionally, ASNO’s activities are central to Government policy on the mining and export of uranium.

ASNO is a unique organisation both for DFAT and the Australian Government. While contributing to DFAT policy making, ASNO pursues policy objectives in its own right in a complex and specialised field. We also work closely on technical issues of common interest with DIO and ONA. In addition to these activities, ASNO exercises important regulatory responsibilities, for example being one of Australia’s two nuclear regulators (The other agency with nuclear regulatory responsibilities is ARPANSA)

As a centre of technical excellence, ASNO has accrued significant professional skills and expertise. Consequently it provides a crucial resource of long-term, stable, professional staff with access to an international network of experts in counterpart organisations.

The IAEA remains at the forefront of international non-proliferation regimes and though events world-wide have placed it under some stress during the 1990s, it continues to be a highly effective organisation. Making its Annual Report at the end of 1998, the IAEA stated: ‘the Secretariat did not find any indication that nuclear material which had been declared and placed under safeguards had been diverted for any military purpose or for purposes unknown’. It did, however, report unfavourably about the safeguards situation in the DPRK (North Korea), where nuclear programs and intentions give cause for continuing concern. See the IAEA’s full safeguards statement.

The non-proliferation environment in the late 1990s is tougher and less certain than existed earlier in the decade. In the mid-1990s, notable successes included: the indefinite (i.e. permanent) extension of the NPT and securing near-universal membership of that Treaty; the entry into force of the CWC; and agreement on a CTBT. Since then we have seen nuclear testing in South Asia and a continuing high level of tension between India and Pakistan, international tensions over Kosovo, the cessation of verification activities by UNSCOM and the IAEA in Iraq and political uncertainty in Russia. Together these and other events have complicated the international non-proliferation climate. Consequently, negotiations on a BWC verification protocol are proving difficult and a stalemate in the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) has stalled progress on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). Arms control and non-proliferation remain a high priority for the Government, all the more so because of these challenges.

International safeguards

Throughout the past year, ASNO continued to make a substantial contribution to the development of strengthened IAEA safeguards and the integration of strengthened safeguards with the established (classical) safeguards system. Australia played a key role in the negotiations leading to the adoption by the IAEA in 1997 of the Model Protocol, which provides the IAEA Secretariat with the authority to implement strengthened safeguards measures. In December 1997, Australia was the first country to bring into effect a Protocol with the IAEA based on this model. ASNO is working closely with the IAEA to develop the procedures and methods required to effectively implement the IAEA’s authority and responsibilities as the Protocol enters general application. ASNO’s approach here is to offer the IAEA a safeguards-friendly environment, together with constructive critique, for the development of new techniques. This work will be important in ensuring the effective implementation of strengthened safeguards elsewhere.

Despite lack of progress on the proposed FMCT in the CD, ASNO is recognised as being in the vanguard of developing sound proposals for an FMCT verification regime. Similarly, ASNO has been actively addressing new safeguards issues, including the development of arrangements to monitor materials of potential proliferation significance. An additional component of ASNO’s core business is support for the IAEA through a safeguards R&D program—part of which involves collaboration with the United States and with Indonesia.

Bilateral safeguards

ASNO is the national agency responsible for ensuring all AONM is accounted for in accordance with bilateral agreements, and that it is used only for peaceful purposes. Thus, ASNO supports ISD in the negotiation and review of safeguards agreements and is responsible for their implementation. This year ASNO and DFAT made substantial progress on several new bilateral nuclear safeguards agreements.

Domestic safeguards

As mentioned above, ASNO has developed and implemented new safeguards arrangements in Australia under the Protocol for strengthened safeguards, including facilitation of IAEA verification activities at the Ranger uranium mine—this is the first time the IAEA (under the Protocol) has visited a uranium mine and the lessons learned will help the IAEA develop its procedures. One major activity for ASNO is monitoring the progress of the Silex project to ensure that, as soon as appropriate, the technology is declared ‘associated technology’ and controlled in accordance with relevant legislative and Treaty requirements. In anticipation of this, ASNO has taken steps to protect the Silex technology against unauthorised access.

CWC (including BWC issues)

ASNO has established good professional relationships with the OPCW and counterpart national authorities. Consequently, we have been able to promote effective and efficient CWC verification arrangements in a number of States Parties. As part of our regional outreach, ASNO (with DSTO) has helped Indonesia to establish its CWC implementation arrangements. ASNO has provided expert support to ISD in the development of an effective BWC verification protocol, including attending the Geneva-based Ad Hoc Group and participated in a delegation to key capitals. ASNO has made a strong contribution, with ISD, to the BWC National Consultative Group (NCG): in particular, it has conducted an industry survey and participated in a trial industry inspection.


Over the past 12 months, ASNO has established itself as the provisional CTBT national authority: it has recruited suitably qualified staff and made solid progress towards establishing the IMS in Australia. ASNO has helped effectively lobby the PTS on funding evaluation, upgrading and installation of the IMS in Australia. It has identified key issues which must be resolved before the full IMS system can be operated here and has made a good start to resolving these matters, which include: inter-agency agreement on privileges and immunities for the PTS; long-term management of the IMS in Australia (primarily at Warramunga); and establishing green field sites for the IMS (Cape Leeuwin) including resolution of land rights issues. 


Return to the ASNO Annual Report Index

This page last modified: Wednesday, 07-Apr-2004 10:54:12 EST

Local Date: Tuesday, 27-Jan-2015 16:48:43 EST