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Case study 2: Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty monitoring network

ARPANSA is responsible for Australia’s radionuclide monitoring obligations under the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans nuclear explosions and testing. These obligations include being a part of a global monitoring network, the International Monitoring System (IMS), to detect nuclear activity. As part of this monitoring network, ARPANSA is (as at 30 June 2020) responsible for nine radionuclide monitoring stations, two co-located noble gas stations and one radionuclide laboratory.

The 2019–2020 reporting period saw a number of developments within ARPANSA’s CTBT operations.

Pacific Island stations

From August 2019, ARPANSA took on the operation and maintenance of two additional radionuclide stations in the Pacific, one in Fiji and one in Kiribati.

ARPANSA now provides oversight of these facilities, including training of local operators. The daily operations of the Fiji station are handled by the local weather service located inside the Nadi airport while the Kiribati station is maintained by a local business operator. Generator power and corrosion caused by the ocean complicate the operations and maintenance of the Kiribati station. ARPANSA intends to upgrade the existing infrastructure and equipment at both stations and ARPANSA staff have been working closely with the local operators, including an initial visit in July 2019.

Antarctic trip

In November 2019, two ARPANSA staff members made their way to Mawson research station, Antarctica, to conduct maintenance on our Antarctica radionuclide station. Just getting to Antarctica for the three-week expedition involved a two-week boat trip from Hobart to Davis station, Antarctica, followed by a four-hour flight from Davis to Mawson station once weather allowed. Antarctica is an important location for CTBT monitoring given its unique and remote location; however, this offers its own challenges in terms of access and logistics. The trip is an example of ARPANSA’s collaboration with other Federal agencies and divisions to support scientific research and health protection measures. The team met with local operators of the station–the Australian Antarctic Division’s communication technician, and station leader who support the daily operation of ARPANSA’s radionuclide and ultraviolet monitoring stations across the Antarctic.

Darwin upgrade

During October, ARPANSA upgraded our radionuclide and noble gas stations located in Darwin, Northern Territory. This involved constructing both a new radionuclide and noble gas station within the Darwin Bureau of Meteorology building. The move allows the local operators easier access to equipment. The new laboratories also gave ARPANSA an opportunity to upgrade the systems to newer technologies.

More information about CTBT operations and radionuclide testing can be found on the ARPANSA website: https://www.arpansa.gov.au/about-us/what-we-do/international-collaboration/ctbt