Australia Completes its Monitoring Stations in the Global Network to Detect Nuclear Tests: “A remarkable achievement -- the result of a 20 year-long effort”

Monday 19 November 2018

A listening post in Antarctica -- the last of 21 Australian monitoring facilities -- has been certified to become part of an active system girdling the planet to detect nuclear weapon tests.

“It is a remarkable achievement by Australia.  All 21 monitoring facilities located on its territories are now complete and sending reliable, high-quality data to our international data centre in Vienna, Austria, for analysis,” Dr Lassina Zerbo, head of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), a UN related body, said.

Australia’s infrasound station “IS03” in Davis Base, Antarctica, is one of nearly 300 certified stations of the CTBT monitoring system, feeling and sniffing the Earth for any signs of a nuclear explosion. The global system will comprise 337 facilities when complete.

“The monitoring stations in Australia cover a large expanse of the Southern hemisphere. They are strategically positioned to contribute significantly to the International Monitoring System (IMS) detection and location capability. All six nuclear tests by North Korea were clearly detected by Australia’s IMS seismic stations,” Zerbo said.

“Australia ranks third among countries hosting the largest number of monitoring facilities.  It covers all four technologies used for nuclear test detection. Some of the stations are located in particularly remote and inaccessible areas of the Earth, such as Antarctica. This has been a 20 year-long joint effort by CTBTO and Australia and is truly an extraordinary achievement,” Zerbo said.

To mark the occasion, Geoscience Australia is hosting an event attended by Zerbo, high-level officials and key national scientists working in nuclear non-proliferation taking place in Canberra on Tuesday 20 November 2018.

An extensive monitoring network
The CTBTO's global monitoring network captures four types of data: vibrations through the ground and in water - seismic and hydroacoustic; sound beyond the range of the human ear and detection of radioactive particles - infrasound and radionuclide.

The network guards against violations of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) banning nuclear explosions by everyone, everywhere: in the atmosphere, underwater and underground.

“Geoscience Australia is proud to support the Australian Government’s commitment to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty,” James Johnson, chief executive officer of Geoscience Australia said.

The global network detects nuclear tests with high reliability. For example, on 3 September 2017, over 100 stations in the network detected and alerted Member States to North Korea’s last announced nuclear test.

Public safety and scientific insights
Currently, the global network collects some 15 gigabytes of data daily, which it sends in real-time to the CTBTO's data analysis centre in Vienna. From there, a daily analysis report is sent to the CTBTO's 184 Member States for their own use and analysis.

“Real-time data from the seismic stations of the Treaty monitoring system are used by the National Earthquake Alerts Centre at Geoscience Australia to detect earthquakes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Johnson said.

“The Treaty monitoring system assists Geoscience Australia in fulfilling its role within the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (operated by Geoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology) to detect potentially tsunami-causing earthquakes in the Indian, Pacific and Southern oceans,” Johnson said.

Other uses of data from the Australian IMS stations include:
  • Detecting and tracking radioactive releases from nuclear and radiological accidents or incidents,
  • Detecting and locating meteorites,
  • Giving an insight into explosive volcanic eruptions, and
  • Tracking the migratory habits and the effects of climate change on marine life.
The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions everywhere, by everyone, and for all times. The CTBTO has established an International Monitoring System to ensure that no nuclear explosion goes undetected. Currently, 296 certified facilities – of a total of 337 when complete – are operating around the world. The data registered by the IMS can also be used for disaster mitigation such as earthquake monitoring, tsunami warning, and the tracking of the levels and dispersal of radioactivity from nuclear accidents.

For interviews with Executive Secretary Zerbo, or further information on the CTBTO contact:

Kirstie Gregorich Hansen
Public Information Officer
(mob Australia) +61 488 356206
(mob Austria) +43 699 1459 6540
[email protected]
T  +43 1 26030 6540