The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has a comprehensive system to monitor and verify that nuclear facilities around the world are fulfilling their commitments to nuclear non-proliferation.
Those nuclear facilities have obligations under comprehensive safeguards agreements, which are continuously monitored.
That’s where the IAEA steps in. To safeguard against nuclear weapons proliferation, it has a network of specialised laboratories around the world, including ANSTO’s Centre for Accelerator Science.
Samples collected by IAEA inspectors at nuclear facilities are sent to selected laboratories in the network for assessment and analysis.
Australia is a strong and consistent supporter of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has been a State party since 1973.
ANSTO Scientist Dr Michael Hotchkis said the samples are sent to ANSTO blind, where ANSTO’s Centre for Accelerator Science team conducts rigorous analysis.
“This effort requires highly specialised and dedicated facilities and staff to maintain a capability at the cutting edge of international best analytical practice,” Dr Hotchkis said.
The analysis can be performed on soil, sediment, vegetation, water, or surface swipes collected from equipment within monitored facilities.
“The samples are prepared and analysed in ANSTO’s specialist laboratories to extract radioisotopes, such as plutonium and uranium. An expert team at the IAEA assesses the results,” Dr Hotchkis said.
In partnership with the IAEA, ANSTO is also deeply involved in international efforts to improve analytical practices and detection capabilities for safeguards signatures in the environment.
A new radiation and detection imaging technology CORIS360® developed at ANSTO can be used in monitoring environments to support compliance with non-proliferation.