ARPANSA Radionuclide Station nearing completion
An International Monitoring System (IMS) is being constructed to monitor compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
The IMS is being constructed to monitor compliance with the treaty. By analysing, integrating and comparing data from the IMS, the time, location and nature of a possible nuclear event can be determined. The network consists of 321 monitoring facilities and 16 radionuclide laboratories that monitor the earth for evidence of nuclear explosions in all environments. These monitoring facilities use a variety of methods to detect evidence of nuclear testing. Seismic, hydro acoustic and infrasound stations are employed to monitor the underground, underwater and atmosphere environments, respectively. The fourth technology detects radiation from atmospheric sampling.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) is responsible for carrying out Australia's radionuclide monitoring obligations to the CTBT, and also responsible for the installation, implementation and operation of 7 stations within Australia and its Territories. Australia hosts all 4 technologies totalling 21 facilities within Australia and its Territories.
Mawson is a Primary Seismic Station with two seismic monitors in the CosRay vault detecting earth vibrations. Davis is an Infrasound Station and Macquarie Island is a Radionuclide Station. Mawson is soon to become a Radionuclide Station.
In early March 2012, four orange modified shipping containers were landed at Mawson from the Aurora Australis. By the 31st March only one container had been installed on the concrete footings. In early April all four containers had been assembled and work began converting them into a 5-room Radionuclide Station. With the commissioning of the station nearing completion (once commissioned all entries to the station will have to be monitored) an opportunity existed for everyone at Mawson to be part of a tour of the facilities in order to see the process and to appreciate the work of the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and carpentry trades and the work of the communication technicians in bringing this facility to this final stage of completion.
Mawson’s radionuclide station has 5 rooms in the facility: pump room, sampler room, detector room, office and ambient storage. The station will be able to detect radioactive debris from atmospheric explosions or vented by underground or underwater nuclear explosions. The presence of specific radionuclides provides unambiguous evidence of a nuclear explosion. The stations will be capable of measuring for the presence of the relevant noble gases. The process of the monitoring station is collecting particulate matter from the air onto a piece of filter material in a high volume air sampler for 24 hours. The filter paper is then compressed into a disc and placed in a chamber for 24 hours to allow natural radionuclides to decay. Finally the sample is placed on a gamma detector for 24 hours to be analysed. A computer monitors the workflow and collects the data. The data is forwarded by satellite to the International Data Centre in Vienna where it is compiled and released to countries participating in the treaty.
Once commissioned, the Mawson communication technicians will have one hour work per day, every day, in the facility.