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Nuclear issues


Disarmament treaties

Australia is involved in a number of bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral treaties and arrangements which seek to reduce or eliminate certain categories of nuclear weapons, to prevent the proliferation of such weapons and their delivery vehicles.

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

The NPT entered into force in 1970 and was extended indefinitely in 1995. Australia ratified the treaty in 1973. The NPT has three main pillars: non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. All Parties to the Treaty are committed to preventing the wider dissemination of nuclear weapons beyond the five so-called "nuclear-weapon states" (Russia, US, UK, France and China). All Parties to the Treaty, including the nuclear-weapon states, have an obligation to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures towards nuclear disarmament. The Treaty also affirms the principle that the benefits of peaceful applications of nuclear technology be available for peaceful purposes to all Parties to the Treaty.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is central to the implementation of the NPT commitments on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy through its system of international nuclear safeguards and as a multilateral forum for supporting the peaceful applications of nuclear technology.

Article VIII of the NPT provides that the Treaty be reviewed at five-yearly intervals. The primary objectives of Review Conferences are to assess developments since the previous conference, to address current challenges, and to identify areas for further progress. Australia has been an active and constructive participant in all NPT Review Conferences.

At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, States Parties agreed to a final document that included conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions in the areas of nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, peaceful uses of nuclear energy and the Middle East (see the 64-point 'Action Plan' drawn from the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Final Document).

Despite the absence of an agreed outcome from the 2015 NPT Review Conference, we still have an important and consensus-based roadmap forward in the 2010 NPT Action Plan. Australia remains committed to the NPT as the cornerstone of global peace and security, and works constructively to achieve a successful outcome at the 2020 NPT Review Conference.

NPT Review Conferences and Preparatory Committees – UNODA

Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

Australia was instrumental in pushing for a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests and was a key force behind the drafting of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT) which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996. Australia signed the CTBT on 24 September 1996 and ratified the Treaty on 9 July 1998. While the CTBT has yet to enter into force, many of its elements are provisionally applied through the work of the CTBT Preparatory Commission (PrepCom). This includes the International Monitoring System (IMS). Australia hosts the third largest number of IMS stations, totalling 21.

The CTBT bans all nuclear test explosions: a practical step toward nuclear disarmament and an effective non-proliferation measure which limits the technological development of nuclear weapons. For more than twenty years, the CTBT has underpinned the global norm against nuclear testing and developed a world-class verification system which allows real-time monitoring for nuclear tests across the globe.

The Treaty contains a specific list of countries that must ratify in order for the CTBT to enter into force. Of these 44 countries, listed in Annex II to the Treaty, three (DPRK, India and Pakistan) are yet to sign and five (China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and United States) have signed but are yet to ratify the treaty.

Useful links

South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone (SPNFZ) Treaty

Australia is party to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone (SPNFZ) Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga or SPNFZT) which entered into force on 11 December 1986, becoming the second treaty in the world to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in a populated region (the first being the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (also known as Treaty of Tlatelolco).

Australia implements its obligations under the SPNFZT through the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Act 1986 which, inter alia, prohibits by its States Parties the manufacture, production or acquisition of nuclear explosive devices; prohibits research and development relating to their manufacture or production; prohibits the possession or control over such devices; prohibits the stationing of nuclear explosive devices in their territories; and prohibits the testing of nuclear explosive devices in the region.

Last Updated: 31 January 2019
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