IAEA working with Australia on safeguards for nuclear subs: Grossi

04 July 2022

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is already working with Australia on the "complex" issue of ensuring nuclear safeguards in relation to its proposed acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines under the trilateral AUKUS partnership, the organisation's Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said today.

Grossi and Wong in Australia today (Image: @rafaelmgrossi)

Speaking to ABC news after meeting with Foreign Minister Penny Wong on the first day of his visit to Australia, Grossi said Australia is a non-nuclear weapon state with firm non-proliferation commitments, but safeguarding nuclear material used for naval propulsion is complex because IAEA inspectors are unable to check such material for long periods of time when a vessel is at sea. Verification of the presence of the safeguarded material must be reconciled with the confidentiality of military operations.

"So this is quite complex," Grossi said, adding that the IAEA is working with Australia to achieve the necessary safeguards. "There is a period of 18 months which was given by the three partners - the United States, United Kingdom and Australia - to define how the project is going to be implemented but, already now we have started this interaction, this joint work of technical levels legal levels so that we can reconcile both things," he said.
The AUKUS security partnership was announced in September 2021 by Scott Morrison, Australia's president at that time, alongside US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Under the partnership, Australia is to acquire up to eight nuclear submarines which Morrison said the Australian government intended to build in Adelaide, South Australia.

Prior to Grossi's visit, Wong said Australia's commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is "unwavering" and promised "open and transparent" engagement with the IAEA on nuclear safeguards. "Mr Grossi and I will also discuss the challenging international security environment," she said.

Grossi is also to visit the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation to engage with Australian leaders in nuclear science and innovation during his visit.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News