The Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office (ASNO) is the federal government’s statutory safeguards agency.
ASNO is notorious for its dishonesty and unprofessionalism. ASNO’s falsehoods include claims that nuclear power does not pose a WMD proliferation risk, that Australia only sells uranium to countries with ‘impeccable’ non-proliferation credentials, and that all of Australia’s uranium is ‘fully accounted for’.
ASNO is also notorious for its secrecy, such as its refusal to publicly release:
- Country-by-country information on the separation and stockpiling of Australian-obligated plutonium.
- ‘Administrative Arrangements’, which are not nearly as innocuous as the name suggests – they contain vital information about the safeguards arrangements required by Australia.
- Information on nuclear accounting discrepancies (Material Unaccounted For) including the volumes of nuclear materials, the countries involved, and the reasons given to explain accounting discrepancies.
- The quantities of Australian-obligated nuclear material (primarily uranium and its by-products) held in each country are confidential and ASNO acquiesces to that situation. (ASNO states: “The actual quantities of AONM held in each country, and accounted for by that country pursuant to the relevant agreement with Australia, are considered by ASNO’s counterparts to be confidential information.”)
- At least some export agreements allow for further secrecy under the rubric of ”state secrets”.
As an example of ASNO’s activities, it misled parliament’s treaties committee in 2008 by claiming that “strict” safeguards would “ensure” peaceful use of Australian uranium in Russia and by conspicuously failing to tell the committee that there had not been a single IAEA safeguards inspection in Russia since 2001. The treaties committee made the modest recommendation that some sort of a safeguards system ought to be in place before uranium exports to Russia were approved, only to have its recommendation rejected.
More information about ASNO:
- Friends of the Earth: www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/oz/u/safeguards
- EnergyScience Coalition, 2007, ‘Who’s Watching the Nuclear Watchdog – A Critique of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office’, Briefing Paper #19, www.energyscience.org.au/factsheets.html or direct download (PDF): www.energyscience.org.au/BP19%20ASNO.pdf
- US cable, 2005, ‘Australian ideas to prevent a third term for IAEA DG El Baradei’, http://wikileaks.org/cable/2005/02/05CANBERRA322.html
- Nuclear watchdog feels the heat over Russia deal, William Birnbauer, The Age, October 5, 2008, http://www.theage.com.au/national/nuclear-watchdog-feels-the-heat-over-russia-deal-20081004-4ty9.html?page=-1
[This webpage last updated March 2012]