169 Report by Inter-Departmental Committee

Canberra, 1 April 1971


IAEA/NPT Safeguards Safeguards and the Treaty in the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

This report examines the extent to which the recommendations of the IAEA Safeguards Committee relevant to the content of agreements between States and the Agency, required in connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, meet the relevant Australian reservations set down at the time of signing the Treaty. It is not the purpose of the report to assess the much broader issue of whether Australia should proceed to ratification of the Treaty. The focus here is exclusively safeguards. The report has been prepared by an Interdepartmental Committee comprising representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs (Chairman), the Atomic Energy Commission and the Departments of Defence, National Development, the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Treasury.

  1. The general conclusion is that the Safeguards Committees report meets a substantial number of the reservations expressed by Ministers about safeguards provisions for the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The safeguards procedures recommended by the Committee will not, and cannot be expected to, establish unequivocally that parties to the Treaty are observing their commitments and Departments recognized that it would be virtually impossible to secure at this stage the major changes in the Committees report which would make the safeguards system more effective. It is recommended that, without giving full support to the Committees report and while stating the reservations and interpretations on which Australia is proceeding, Australia should agree to the adoption of the report by the IAEA Board of Governors.
  2. Aspects of safeguards canvassed in Cabinet Decisions No. 141 of 18th February, 19701 and No. 165 of 29th April, 19682 (and the related report of the augmented Defence Committee3 which formed the basis for this Decision) are set out below. For convenience each item below has been prefaced by a summary of the points about which Ministers expressed concern. These items are:
    1. Efficacy and acceptability of safeguards
    2. Costs of safeguards
    3. Impact on Australias commercial interests
    4. Industrial espionage
    5. Right to reject inspectors
    6. Definition of nuclear materials
    7. Exclusion of mining
    8. Amendments to IAEA statute
    9. Deposit of excess material
    10. Non-explosive military activities
    11. Regional safeguards

[matter omitted]

(c) Impact on Australias Commercial Interests

  1. Ministers noted that Australia must be concerned in relation to the countries which ratify the Treaty. The Defence Committee had commented that Australia, if a party to the Treaty, could be denied valuable markets unless countries which were already or potentially likely to be large purchasers of source or special fissionable material were prepared to subject the material to safeguards.
  2. At this stage it appears likely that Canada and South Africa will be Australias main competitors in the export of uranium concentrates and nuclear materials from such concentrates. Canada has already ratified the treaty and it remains to be seen whether South Africa will follow suit. If all of the major industrial nations who make up the main markets for uranium concentrates and other nuclear materials ratify or accede to the treaty then Australia can only be disadvantaged vis-a-vis South Africa by reason of having its industry burdened with he costs and inconveniences of safeguards. These costs and inconveniences are less under the recommended NPT procedure than under the existing statute system.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1838, 919/10/5/1 part 2]