Australia ninth member State
to sign Facility Agreement
A Facility Arrangement was signed on 13 March 2000 by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, Alexander Downer, and the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, Wolfgang Hoffmann. Australia is the ninth member State to have signed such an agreement. Mr. Downer signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) on behalf of Australia on 24 September 1996, the day it was opened for signature, and the instruments of ratification were deposited on 9 July 1998.
The purpose of the Facility Arrangement is to grant the legal authority to the Preparatory Commission to undertake work on Australian territory to establish or upgrade the 21 monitoring facilities (20 stations and one laboratory) that Australia is hosting as part of the International Monitoring System to verify compliance with the CTBT. These facilities span the length and breadth of Australian territory, from the remote Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean to metropolitan Melbourne. Australia is also responsible for three stations in Antarctica. Currently four Australian primary seismological stations, two auxiliary seismological stations and one infrasound station are contributing data to the IDC, including the primary seismological station at Mawson in Antarctica.
The array at Warramunga (near Tennant Creek) - operated by the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University - is a particularly important component of the global monitoring network because it detects more seismic events than any other station on earth. Having been upgraded to meet IMS standards, Warramunga is now the most advanced seismological station in the southern hemisphere and was the first station on which the Preparatory Commission began work. A data authentication system is currently being installed at Warramunga and afterwards the station will be ready for certification. In operation since 1965, the Warramunga station has been contributing its research data on seismic discrimination for over 30 years to international efforts.
As for the Australian hydroacoustic station at Cape Leeuwin, a site survey has been completed to prepare for the installation of a hydrophone station. Hydrophones can pick up acoustic waves from underwater events occurring thousands of kilometres away, on the other side of the world, through the propagation of sound in the deep-water SOFAR channel. At Cape Leeuwin, three hydrophones, or underwater microphones, will be located 115 kilometres offshore at a depth of one kilometre. An underwater cable on the sea floor will connect them to a land facility where the data they generate will be transmitted to the International Data Centre at Vienna. The Commission has recently awarded a contract of about 10 million Australian dollars for the design, construction and installation of the station.
Work on three of the five infrasound array stations for which Australia is responsible is now under way. Infrasound from nuclear explosions propagates over distances of many thousands of kilometres and can be easily detected using ultra-sensitive microbarometers. Nuclear explosions in the atmosphere can therefore be detected and accurately located using a global network of infrasound array stations. The site surveys for the infrasound stations at Warramunga, Narrogin in Western Australia and Hobart in Tasmania have been carried out. Equipment for the new infrasound array station at Warramunga will be installed within the next few weeks and it is expected that this station will be in operation and certified by the end of this year.
The final detective work in the case of a potentially clandestine test is carried out by the network´s radionuclide facilities because they can detect the tell-tale traces of radioactivity through the presence of fission products. During the negotiations, Australia provided valuable expertise in radionuclide technology and is still involved in supervising the implementation of the radionuclide monitoring network. For instance, staff at the radionuclide stations in Melbourne and Perth are cooperating with the Commission in developing software for coordinating the operations and output of the station that might be used at other radionuclide stations in the network A satellite connection has been installed at the Melbourne and Perth stations. The Melbourne station is co-located with the laboratory of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. This laboratory, along with the 15 other laboratories specified in the Treaty, will be assisting the Commission on request to analyse filters from the stations and, if required, samples taken by inspectors in the event of an on-site inspection.