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 is accounted for properly.

Performance Assessment

International Obligations

IAEA measurement of uranium in target plates used for radiopharmaceutical production using an HM–5 detector (Credit: ANSTO).

IAEA measurement of uranium in target plates used for radiopharmaceutical production using an HM–5 detector (Credit: ANSTO).

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, facilities and activities, as required by Australia's safeguards agreements with the IAEA.

For each material balance area (summarised in Table 4), ASNO provided reports to the IAEA as required by the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. Report statistics are summarised in Tables 5 and 6.

The high number of reports in Table 5 attributed to ‘other locations' primarily relates to small holdings of uranium and thorium compounds at universities and research institutions.

Table 4: Material Balance Areas (MBAs) in Australia for IAEA safeguards purposes
Location Material balance area (MBA) Name of facility or location outside facility (as designated in australia's subsidiary arrangements with the IAEA)
Lucas Heights AS-A HIFAR (Note: de-fuelled in 2007)
Lucas Heights AS-C Research and development laboratories
Lucas Heights AS-D Vault storage
Elsewhere AS-E Other locations in Australia (e.g. universities, industrial radiography companies, hospitals)
Elsewhere ASE1 Other locations in Australia (e.g. universities, industrial radiography companies, hospitals)
Lucas Heights AS-F OPAL reactor
Lucas Heights AS-H Synroc waste immobilisation plant
CSIRO (various sites) AS-I CSIRO
Table 5: Number of line entries in inventory and inventory change reports submitted by ASNO to the IAEA for each MBA
Location/facility MBA 2017–18 2018–19 2019–20
HIFAR (de-fuelled 2007) AS-A 0 0 0
ANSTO research laboratories AS-C 958 997 494
ANSTO vault storage AS-D 359 336 280
Other locations AS-E
2737 2405 2315
OPAL reactor AS-F 701 3431 122
Total 4755 4081 3211
Table 6: Number of line entries (by report type) submitted by ASNO to the IAEA across all MBAs
Type of data 2017–18 2018–19 2019–20
Inventory Change Report (monthly) 2151 1449 605
Physical Inventory Listing (annual) 2341 2422 2447
Material Balance Report (annual) 263 210 159

Table 7 is a summary of total quantities of nuclear material by category in Australia. A small quantity (2.7 kg) of 235U in high enriched uranium is retained in Australia and used for a variety of purposes primarily due to the utility of the particular chemical, physical and isotopic characteristics. Typical uses of this material 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; development of detection technologies and chemistry work. The quantity comprises several items in various locations around Australia such as ANSTO and some universities.

ASNO inspector with IAEA inspectors during complementary access inspection in February 2020 (Credit: ANSTO).

ASNO inspector with IAEA inspectors during complementary access inspection in February 2020 (Credit: ANSTO).

Table 7: Nuclear Material in Australia at 30 June 2020
Category Quantity Intended end-use
Source Material
Uranium Ore Concentrates (UOC) 1125 tonnes Export for energy use pursuant to bilateral agreements
3.5 tonnes Storage
Natural Uranium (other than UOC) 4,491 kg Research, storage
Depleted Uranium 28,029 kg Research, shielding
Thorium Ore Residues 59 tonnes Storage/disposal
Thorium (other than Thorium Ore Residues) 1,933 kg Research, industry
Special Fissionable Material
235U – low enriched 165,593 grams2 Research, radioisotope production, storage
235U – high enriched 2,746 grams Research, storage
233U 3.8 grams Research
Plutonium (other than 238Pu) 1,203 grams Research, neutron sources

As well as requiring reporting on nuclear material inventory and transactions, the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement also requires reporting on design and operational attributes (relevant to safeguards) of nuclear facilities. This information is provided to the IAEA in Design Information Questionnaires (DIQs) for each facility MBA, and in the case of MBAs for locations outside facilities (LOFs), in LOF information questionnaires.

The Safeguards Act requires permits for possession of associated material, associated equipment and associated technology (collectively termed associated items). Permits for associated items ensure Australia can maintain regulatory controls on technology, equipment and material with potential proliferation risks, can report on design attributes for DIQs, and meet other reporting obligations under various nuclear cooperation agreements. Table 8 lists the inventory of associated items in Australia.

Table 8: Associated Items3 in Australia at 30 June 2020
Category Quantity Intended end-use
Associated Material
Deuterium and heavy water 20.9 tonnes Research, reactors
Nuclear grade graphite 83.4 tonnes R&D and storage
Associated Equipment
HIFAR4 1 Reactor
HIFAR coarse control arms (unused) 5 Reactor components
HIFAR coarse control arms (used) 14 Reactor components
HIFAR safety rods 3 Reactor components
HIFAR safety rods 3 Reactor components
HIFAR fuel charging and discharging machines 2 Reactor components
OPAL reactor5 1 Reactor
OPAL control rods 14 Reactor components
OPAL control rod drives 6 Reactor components
Nuclear-grade zirconium tubes <50 kgs R&D and storage

Reporting Obligations under the Australia– IAEA Additional Protocol

The Additional Protocol (AP) gives the IAEA greater access to information and locations related to nuclear fuel cycle activities, thereby allowing the IAEA to provide greater assurances not only that all declared nuclear material is accounted for, also that states do not have any undeclared nuclear material or activities. Australia was the first country to sign and ratify an AP with the IAEA, which came into force for Australia on 12 December 1997.

ASNO prepares and provides annual declarations under a range of AP categories, as well as quarterly declarations on relevant exports. Table 9 lists the number of entries made under each category. An important aspect of the AP is reporting to the IAEA on nuclear fuel cycle related research and development activities. ASNO ensured that all IAEA requirements were met during the reporting period with respect to nuclear research and development.

IAEA inspector examining TN81 cask containing HIFAR radioactive waste during Complementary Access at ANSTO in June 2020 (Credit: ANSTO).

IAEA inspector examining TN81 cask containing HIFAR radioactive waste during Complementary Access at ANSTO in June 2020 (Credit: ANSTO).

Table 9: Number of Entries Made under the Additional Protocol
Type of Declaration under Article 2.a and 2.b of the Additional Protocol 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19 2019–20
2.a.i Government funded, authorised or controlled nuclear fuel cycle-related research and development activities not involving nuclear material 3 8 10 13 16
2.a.ii OPAL operational schedules 1 2 1 1 1
2.a.iii General description of each building on each site, e.g. ANSTO, universities 156 289 274 273 267
2.a.iv Manufacturing or construction of specified nuclear related equipment 2 2 2 0 1
2.a.v Location, operational status and production capacity of uranium or thorium mines or concentration plants 4 4 66 6 6
2.a.vi Information on source material that is not of a composition or purity that requires full IAEA safeguards requirements. 8 7 7 7 7
2.a.vii Information on nuclear material exempted from Safeguards 4 4 4 4 4
2.a.viii Information related to the further processing of intermediate or high-level waste containing plutonium 2 2 2 2 2
2.a.ix Exports or imports of nuclear-related equipment listed in Annex II of the Additional Protocol - - - - -
2.a.x General 10-year plans related to nuclear fuel cycle activities 3 4 4 57 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 2 - - - -

Safeguards Developments in Australia

The IAEA implements safeguards in Australia in accordance with the provisions in a range of legal instruments: the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement; Additional Protocol; Subsidiary Arrangements; and facility attachments for each material balance area (MBA). Australia's MBAs are described in Table 4. The overarching framework the IAEA uses to prioritise and optimise various in-field verification and headquarters (i.e. at the IAEA) analysis activities under these instruments is the State-level Approach for Australia, which was updated in 2016.

In Australia, the IAEA and ASNO apply most of their respective safeguards efforts to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), particularly safeguards aspects of the ANSTO Nuclear Medicine (ANM) project. At full operation, ANM has the capacity to supply a significant proportion (up to 25 per cent) of the world's requirements for molybdenum–99 (Mo–99), the parent product of the world's most widely used nuclear medicine, technetium–99m. During the reporting period the IAEA conducted hot cell environmental sampling at the ANM plant.

All entities holding a permit to possess nuclear material (PN) are required to conduct an annual physical inventory taking (a stocktake of nuclear material held). ASNO adjusted procedures for the physical inventory taking at small permit holders (largely comprising radiographers, universities, laboratories, and state regulators) for 2020 to allow flexibility for COVID-impacted industries who could not readily conduct inventory-taking during June 2020. All permit holders completed their annual physical inventory takings between March and July 2020.

ASNO continues to engage with the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources' (DISER) process to establish a facility for Australia's radioactive waste. During the reporting period, ASNO provided advice to DISER and ANSTO on IAEA safeguards requirements that may influence aspects of the engineering designs for the facility.

Table 10: Status of Permits and Authorities under the Safeguards Act as at 30 June 2020
Permit or authority Current total Granted Varied Revoked Expired
Possess nuclear material 111 3 8 2 0
Possess associated items 10 0 1 0 0
Transport nuclear material 19 0 4 0 0
Transport associated items 0 0 0 0 0
Establish a facility 1 0 0 0 1
Decommission a facility 1 0 0 0 0
Communicate information contained in associated technology 7 0 1 0 0
Total 149 3 14 2 1

Permits and Authorities System

ASNO continued to operate Australia's state system of accounting for and control of nuclear material (SSAC) in accordance with Australia's Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA and national legislation. Australia's SSAC is implemented through permits issued under the Safeguards Act. Notice of all permit changes were published in the Australia Government Gazette as required by subsection 20(1) of the Safeguards Act. A summary of all permits granted, varied, revoked and expired is in Table 10.

Table 11: Main classes of Permits and Authorities
Class Code Class Description Number of Instruments Issued
R1 Radiographers holding less than 500 kg of depleted uranium shielding 39
R2 Radiographers holding between 500–5000 kg of depleted uranium shielding 7
L1 Using and storing less than 10 kg source material and less than 1 g special fissional material 29
L2 Using and storing less than 500 kg source material and less than 5 g special fissional material 18
L3 Using and storing less than 5000 kg source material and less than 10 g special fissional material 2
U1 Production of UOC at concentration plants 4
U2 Transport UOC from mine to Australian port 8
U3 Transport UOC from Australian port to overseas destination 7
U4 Handling of UOC at ports and by stevedores 4
U5 Transport and export of UOC from mine gate to overseas destination 1
U6 Analysis of UOC samples 4
U7 Establish a UOC concentration plant 0
U8 Decommission a UOC concentration plant 0
T1 Transport of nuclear material by road, sea or air 3
T2 Transport of nuclear material by air 1
P1 Patent attorney services for patents potentially containing associated technology 5
P2 Storage and archiving of associated technology 1
S Special series covering larger holders of nuclear material and associated items 4

All but three permits issued under the Safeguards Act have now transitioned to the re-designed model8. A summary of these re-designed permits, sorted by class, is listed in Table 11.

Essential for the operation of the permit system is a fit-for-purpose database for managing permits and preparing routine reports on nuclear material inventory and transactions to the IAEA. ASNO continued to work with the database development team (under DFAT's Information Management Division) on the development of ASNO's NUMBAT database.

IAEA Inspections

During the reporting period the IAEA conducted inspections in accordance with standard arrangements under Australia's Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and the Additional Protocol. During the reporting period, all IAEA inspections were conducted at ANSTO's Lucas Heights site. The IAEA conducted its annual, scheduled physical inventory verification inspection in June 2020, and short notice random inspections in October 2019 and February 2020. Details on all inspections are provided in Table 12, and the IAEA's findings from these inspections (where available at the time of publishing this Annual Report) are listed in Appendix B.

ASNO officers facilitated access for the IAEA inspectors in accordance with conditions under respective permits issued under the Safeguards Act and accompanied the inspectors during all of their activities.

ASNO and ANSTO have been working closely with the IAEA toward using an active well coincidence counter (AWCC) that measures the uranium content in solid waste from molybdenum–99 (Mo–99) radiopharmaceutical production by counting multiple neutrons in coincidence produced by fission induced by a small, built-in neutron source. A successful hot commissioning test of the detector was completed at ANSTO in February 2019 and safety approvals for enduring use of the detector was finalised in time for the June 2020 PIV. The first use of the AWCC detector for a formal verification inspection is planned for August 2020 (see findings for material balance area AS-C in Appendix B).

Table 12: IAEA Safeguards Inspections 2019–20
Date Facility Material balance area9 Type10
8–10 October 2019 ANSTO AS-F Short Notice Random Inspection
AS-F and AS-C Complementary Access (4.a.i)
AS-C Technical visit
3–4 February 2020 ANSTO AS-F Short Notice Random Inspection
AS-C Complementary Access (4.a.i)
1–12 June 2020 ANSTO AS-F Design Information Verification & Physical Inventory Verification
AS-D Design Information Verification & Physical Inventory Verification
AS-C Design Information Verification including Hot Cell Environmental Sampling & Physical Inventory Verification
AS-C Complementary Access (4.a.i)
AS-C Technical visit

Overall, the IAEA has maintained the broader conclusion for Australia that ‘all nuclear material remained in peaceful activities' (see Appendix B).

ASNO Inspections

During 2019–20, ASNO accompanied the IAEA on all of the inspections listed above. ASNO attended these inspections to ensure Australia's obligations are met in a timely and efficient manner, and to ensure the inspections are conducted effectively.

The IAEA holds inspections to help it draw its conclusions on the correctness and completeness of Australia's nuclear accounting reports and safeguards declarations. ASNO inspectors are able also to use these opportunities to observe the inspected organisation's performance against their domestic permit conditions. This proves an efficient mechanism for ASNO's stakeholder outreach on regulatory requirements.

In addition to the IAEA inspections, ASNO continued to assist CSIRO with characterising legacy items of nuclear material and adding them to the inventory records. Some safeguards aspects were also included in some of the security inspections conducted by ASNO.

Inventory balances

ASNO performed the annual material balance evaluation of the nuclear inventory accounts for each MBA with minor differences between book and physical inventory. These inventory differences were reported to the IAEA in conjunction with inventory change reports and physical inventory listings.

Details are provided in Table 13. These were due to re-measurement of batches by permit holders with small holdings of nuclear material (e.g. universities, radiography companies, research institutes).

Table 13: Inventory Differences Recorded during 2019–20
Material Balance Area Difference between book and physical inventory Comment
Other locations
–11.35 kg depleted uranium Due to one batch of industrial radiography shielding equipment, which was re-measured and found to be heavier than previous thought, and due to re-measurements of other batches.
0.03 kg natural uranium
0.05 kg thorium
CSIRO (MBA AS-I) 2.29 kg natural uranium Re-measurement of batches as part of CSIRO's campaign to characterise legacy inventory in storage, including removal of duplicate records.
9.08 kg thorium

ANSTO inspection – IAEA inspector using ICVD Cerenkov Device and Stephan Bayer (ASNO) (Credit: ANSTO).

ANSTO inspection – IAEA inspector using ICVD Cerenkov Device and Stephan Bayer (ASNO) (Credit: ANSTO).

1 The reduction in the number of line entries for the OPAL reactor primarily resulted from a change to the structure of ASNO's reports to the IAEA on the movements of target plates for the production of the radiopharmaceutical, molybdenum-99 and changes to batch naming conventions.

2 The quantity of 235U in low enriched uranium in Australia increased between 30 June 2019 and 30 June 2020 primarily due to the import of fresh fuel assemblies for the OPAL reactor.

3 Not including associated technology.

4 The ANSTO Board decided to cease operation of HIFAR in January 2007. The reactor was de-fuelled in May 2007. It is awaiting decommissioning.

5 Includes, inter alia, the reactor reflector vessel and core grid.

6 This value includes one entry for each of Australia's four uranium mines, one entry for the production of all mines, and one entry with the total production of all concentration plants at all mines.

7 The additional entry for 10-year plans relates to the Australian Government project to site, design and build a national radioactive waste management facility.

8 Templates are available at: Template Permits and Compliance Codes, ASNO, DFAT.

9 See explanation of each material balance area in Table 4.

10 Details on different types of inspections are outlined in Appendix B.