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Friday, 5 May 1989
Page: 1950

(Question No. 561)


Senator Sanders asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, upon notice, on 30 August 1988:

(1) Do statements in the 1986 Safeguards Implementation Report (SIR) of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that camera surveillance failed at 82 out of 147 nuclear facilities, that `existing photographic systems . . . are fast becoming obsolete' and that the `change-over from photographic to video equipment . . . is not likely to increase the effectiveness of surveillance' show that surveillance is not, and will not become, an effective element of the IAEA safeguards regime.

(2) Given that the SIR found that the accountancy verification goal at facilities other than reactors `was set at between 1.6 and 5.8 SQ [significant quantities] in 6 cases relating to plutonium', does this mean that one SQ of plutonium, enough to make at least one nuclear bomb, could have been diverted from those 6 facilities without detection in the event of a failure of containment or surveillance.

(3) Do other verification problems reported in the SIR, namely: (a) 17 failures of physical inventory verification at `major' facilities other than reactors; (b) the IAEA's inability to verify some previously unverified inventories; (c) the incomplete verification of direct-use material outside reactor cores; (d) an inadequate number of inspectors in 6 states; (e) long delays in the computer entry of data from complicated inspections; (f) delays in analysing inspection samples; (g) delays by states in presenting accounting reports and notifying the IAEA of nuclear material transfers; (h) the inability to verify the flow of nuclear materials; and (i) the need to assess the unreported production of plutonium, show that the theft or diversion of significant quantities of nuclear material from Nuclear Proliferation Treaty non-nuclear weapon states could have occurred in 1986 without being detected by the IAEA particularly in the event of a combination of safeguards failures at one facility.

(4) Given the conclusion in the SIR that it `is usually more difficult to attain the inspection goal fully at facilities where large amounts of material are difficult to verify than at smaller facilities', will an expansion of the nuclear industry, particularly the projected expansion of reprocessing facilities for recycling plutonium in mixed-oxide fuels, lead to increased opportunities for the undetected theft or diversion of weapons-usable plutonium and uranium.

(5) Can the enrichment plant in a nuclear weapons state for which verification activities were incomplete in 1986 (described in paragraph 97 of the SIR) be identified as the Capenhurst enrichment plant in the United Kingdom, by cross-referring tabular information in the SIR; if not, which enrichment plant is being referred to; if so, does this mean that verification activities were incomplete with respect to the 126 tonnes of Australian origin uranium enriched at Capenhurst in 1986.

(6) Is Canada the country described in example 1, paragraph 99 of the SIR for which verification activities were incomplete in 1986; if not, which country is being referred to; if so, were inspection goals not attained with respect to some or all of the 99 tonnes of Australian uranium converted to uranium hexafluoride in Canada in 1986.

(7) Is Italy the country described in example 2, paragraph 99 of the SIR for which verification activities were incomplete in 1986; if not, which country is being referred to; if so, does this mean that inspection goals were not attained with respect to Australian origin nuclear material (AONM) received by Italy before or during 1986 through Euratom retransfers or swap procedures.

(8) Were the other 2 countries for which verification activities were incomplete in 1986 (as listed in Table 8 in the SIR) amongst the following 3 countries: Japan, Spain and West Germany; if not, which 2 countries are being referred to; if so, does this mean that IAEA inspection goals were not attained with respect to AONM in Japan and/or West Germany in 1986.


Senator Cook —The Minister for Primary Industries and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) No. The statement that the existing surveillance systems were becoming obsolete was a reference to the fact that the make of camera being used was going out of production. The statement that the replacement video equipment was not likely to increase the effectiveness of surveillance meant just that: the new equipment would not increase effectiveness but neither would it decrease effectiveness. The new equipment was being introduced mainly because the existing cameras were going out of production. The full quote from the 1986 SIR is that `surveillance failed to provide conclusive results' at 82 out of 147 installations where surveillance equipment was used. This does not refer to mechanical failures, but is in fact an acknowledgement of the effect of recent changes in nuclear fuel cycle technology on established safeguards procedures. The Agency is currently providing for additional measures which will be applicable in the event of inconclusive surveillance. At present, even without these additional measures, inconclusive surveillance does not mean diversion would go undetected as surveillance is complemented by other safeguards techniques and information.

(2) No. The accountancy verification goal (AVG) for a particular facility is established having regard to the IAEA's timeliness criteria, ie diversion of the AVG should be detectable within a predetermined time interval depending on the type of material concerned. An AVG of greater than 1 SQ does not imply that nuclear material balance accountancy is not capable of detecting a diversion of less than the AVG. Further, although the AVG is set independently of other safeguards measures, such as containment, surveillance and inspection, these measures are used to complement accountancy measures. It is highly improbable that both containment and surveillance would ``fail'', as suggested in this question, but in any event the safeguards strategy for the facility concerned is designed to ensure any such failure would be detected so that appropriate action can be taken within the IAEA's timeliness criteria.

(3) No. The IAEA stated in the 1986 SIR that it was satisfied that as a result of the totality of its inspection activities in 1986 it was reasonable to conclude that nuclear material under Agency safeguards in 1986 remained in peaceful uses or was otherwise adequately accounted for. The attainment of Agency inspection goals is based on a complex set of criteria, all of which must be satisfied before the Agency deems a goal to have been attained. The partial or non-attainment of inspection goals does not mean that safeguards have failed.

Depending on the type of facility being safeguarded between 10 and 20 inspection activities are performed. These involve physical verification of nuclear material inventory, interrogation of surveillance devices, checking of containment measures, and collection and analysis of data and physical samples. Some of these are mutually supportive.

By the Agency's technical definition the successful completion of all inspection activities constitutes goal attainment. However, if one or more activities is not completed, a substantial amount of information relevant to drawing conclusions of non-diversion is still available from an inspection. For example, inspectors may not have completed an action in one material balance area (MBA) in a facility-the goal is not achieved, but the remaining information for that MBA and for the MBAs where the goals were achieved is sufficient to support a conclusion of no diversion. The Agency also has available to it other site-specific information gathered by inspectors as well as a detailed knowledge of all fuel cycle activities in all States covered by NPT safeguards.

The Agency acknowledges that difficulties in the implementation of safeguards do arise. Such difficulties are reported in the SIR and enhance the Report's effectiveness as a tool of critical self-analysis for both the Agency and for member States. The action plan in the SIR provides for progress reports to be made in subsequent SIRs.

(4) No. Safeguards are designed to detect and, through the threat of detection, to deter diversion of safeguarded nuclear material. Their purpose is not to deter theft. This is a function of physical protection and is the responsibility of States, not the IAEA. The IAEA, with the assistance of appropriate member States, is currently developing the necessary safeguards approaches which take account of the expansion of the nuclear industry, particularly in the case of projected large scale reprocessing facilities.

(5), (6), (7) and (8) The IAEA avoids references to individual States in the SIR because some member States see the confidentiality provisions of IAEA safeguards agreements as precluding this. Attempts to identify countries from the SIR can be no more than speculation.