Australia's CTBTO Monitoring System Fully Certified

By Cole Falkner 

As of November 19, 2018, Australia’s International Monitoring System(IMS) stations for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) are “operational and certified”. The operability of Australia’s twenty-one systems marks significant progress toward the CTBTO’s mission to establish 337 stations throughout the world that monitor for nuclear tests. Today, nearly 90% of stations are in service and certified against the CTBTO’s standards.  

According to the CTBTO, Australia boasts the third largest quantity of operationally certified IMS stations, following the United States and Russia. The Australian IMS network utilizes 6 different types of stations that cover all four methods and technologies used to detect nuclear explosions, which are: seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, and radionuclide monitoring systems. Australia’s full breadth of IMS technology allows for swift and highly reliable detection of surface-, underground-, atmospheric-, and underwater-nuclear tests.  

Dr. Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the CTBTO said, “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.” Additionally, Australia’s IMS network, “has managed to not merely detect, but diagnose every North Korea test right from their first which was just a fraction of a kiloton,” says John Hallam, a nuclear disarmament campaigner based of out Sydney.

Australian IMS stations were able to pinpoint the timing of North Korea’s nuclear tests, the scope of the explosions, and location of test sites. Australia’s IMS network alone could play a significant role in the verified ending of North Korean nuclear tests.

Separate from detecting nuclear explosions and monitoring dispersal of radioactivity, Australia’s IMS stations—and the global IMS network—offer diverse applications for the data collected. The systems demonstrate reliability in identifying earthquakes, issuing tsunami and volcanic eruption warnings, locating meteorites, and tracking migratory patterns and the effects of climate change on marine life.  

At the 2018 Ninth Ministerial Meeting of the Friends of the CTBT, the Australian Government said “We will continue our efforts to promote scientific cooperation among States in support of the verification regime, to raise awareness of the Treaty among the general public, including youth, and to advocate for it at the highest political levels. We urge all States signatories to support these efforts, in order to bring about the Treaty’s entry into force as soon as possible.” The twenty-year cooperative effort between Australia and the CTBTO illustrates a remarkable achievement toward this goal.

Further Resources:

"Status of Australian IMS Stations,” Australian Government: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 27 August, 2018.

CTBTO Australia Country Profile, CTBTO, 2019.

CTBTO Press Release: "Australia Completes its Monitoring Stations in the Global Network to Detect Nuclear Tests,” CTBTO, November 19, 2018. 

Nuclear Monitoring,” Australian Government: Geoscience Australia. 

Australian statement at Ninth Ministerial Meeting of the Friends of the CTBT,” Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 27, 2018.