The Role of the IAEA in Promoting Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament

International Workshop on the 2000 Conference of the Strengthened NPT Review Process
UN Regal Plaza Hotel, New York City
November 1, 1999

Piet de Klerk
Office of External Relations and Policy Co-ordination
International Atomic Energy Agency
Vienna, Austria

In this distinguished company I do not have to explain the responsibilities that the IAEA has under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In fact, the Agency’s responsibilities to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons are as old as the organisation itself. The objective in the Statute, in line with the original “Atoms for Peace” concept, is to seek to enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity and at the same time to ensure, within its ability, that its assistance is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose.

Developing and applying safeguards against misuse of nuclear material has always been part of the Agency’s activities. Like the nuclear non-proliferation regime itself, the development of the safeguards system has been an evolutionary process. The first safeguards inspection was carried out in 1962 (in Norway). In the sixties, the basic concepts behind safeguards were developed (INFCIRC/26, adopted in 1961, might still have a familiar ring for some of you) and the number of inspections and types of facilities inspected grew slowly. With the advent of INFCIRC/66/Rev. 2, a more complete, albeit limited, system of safeguards covering nuclear material, equipment and facilities emerged. But the quantum jump came, of course, with the entry into force of the NPT.

Today, the Agency has 223 safeguards agreements in force with 139 States. Nearly all of these States are NPT States. Given the fact that there are 187 NPT States Parties, the implication is that there are over 50 States without an NPT safeguards agreement in force. Some of these agreements have been prepared and agreed, but 37 NPT Parties have no agreement whatsoever.

So, the Agency’s contribution to nuclear non-proliferation is primarily its safeguards system and the 1995 Principles and Objectives recognize the role of the IAEA as the competent authority in this regard. The Principles and Objectives also stress in paragraph 11 that “IAEA safeguards should be regularly assessed and evaluated” and that “decisions adopted by the Board of Governors aimed at further strengthening the effectiveness of IAEA safeguards should be supported and implemented and the IAEA’s capability to detect undeclared nuclear activities should be increased.”

The background of paragraph 11 in the Principles and Objectives was that, while safeguards under the NPT are “comprehensive” in nature, in practice the authority of the Agency under the existing safeguards agreements (INFCIRC/153) is limited. That surfaced in a dramatic way in Iraq in 1991. The IAEA thereupon launched a reassessment called “Programme 93+2”, and that had just produced its first results in 1995 at the time of the Review and Extension Conference.

Existing safeguards agreements focus on nuclear material as declared by the State. Under INFCIRC/153, the State has an obligation to declare all nuclear material in all peaceful nuclear activities to the Agency, and the Agency has the right and obligation to ensure that safeguards are applied to all that material. In other words, the Agency has the right and obligation to ensure that the initial declaration is not only correct, but also complete. But procedures for verifying completeness were never worked out, and certainly the understanding of States, and tacitly acknowledged by the Agency, was always that IAEA should not roam around the country to establish the completeness of the State’s declaration. Once the application of safeguards has started, the Agency follows the declared material and confirms its continued peaceful use. In exceptional circumstances, in particular when the information made available by the State is not adequate for the Agency to fulfil its responsibilities under the Agreement, the Agency has the right to carry out a special inspection, but after consultations and in agreement with the State concerned.

The discovery of a clandestine nuclear programme in Iraq made it clear, that an overhaul of the system was necessary. Under “Programme 93+2”, different aspects of the safeguards system were studied, deficiencies identified and improvements developed. That had to be done carefully, because the rights and obligations of IAEA inspectors in the effective fulfilment of their job remains an issue that touches on sensitive matters like national sovereignty. Fortunately, since the early seventies, acceptance of the notion of intrusive international inspections had grown. This began in the bilateral sphere between the USA and USSR as reflected in the INF and START I agreements. With the subsequent disappearance of the traditional dichotomy of West versus East with its different degrees of openness a whole range of treaties has been negotiated in the meantime in which on-site inspections were an essential feature. On the global level the prime examples are the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (then still under negotiation). On the regional level, one can think of the different nuclear weapon free zones and of treaties like the Open Skies agreement, and the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) which has provisions for intrusive inspections among the parties, both on declared military sites and beyond.

The results of Programme 93+2, which had as its overall aim to strengthen the effectiveness and improve the efficiency of safeguards, have come in two parts, the first as a set of strengthening measures under the existing legal authority of INFCIRC/153, endorsed by the Board of Governors in 1995, the second under complementary authority to be accepted by States under the so-called “Additional Protocol”, for which a model agreement was approved by the IAEA Board of Governors in May 1997. The first set of strengthening measures are aimed at improving the Agency’s capacity to verify declared nuclear activities. The second set, as reflected in the Model Additional Protocol, seeks to improve the Agency’s capability to detect undeclared activities.

The Model Protocol has three important features:

1) it expands the information States have to provide to the Agency

The expanded declaration that States have to provide covers a much broader range of categories of information, beyond just nuclear material and facilities containing nuclear material. For example, all buildings on a particular “site” now have to be declared and identified regardless of their use. As you might remember, that was one of the problems in Iraq that the Agency only had information about some of the buildings on the Tuwaitha site, namely the buildings where the safeguarded nuclear material was located. Other examples of additional information on a State’s nuclear-related activities include information about uranium mines (location, status, production capacity and the annual production for the State as a whole), nuclear fuel-cycle related R&D, nuclear waste facilities, the scale of operations of certain key equipment manufacturing activities (like centrifuge rotor tubes, diffusion barriers or criticality safe tanks and vessels), and exports and imports of specified equipment and non-nuclear material (similar but not identical to the Zangger and NSG lists).

2) it expands the access rights of the Agency and its inspectors

Inspector access rights under INFCIRC/153 are limited. For routine inspections, they are confined to key measuring points in declared facilities. The Additional Protocol gives complementary access rights to the Agency and its inspectors. For example, access is possible to any place on a “site”, or to mines, or to nuclear-related locations where no nuclear material is present, such as locations where the R&D or the manufacturing activities referred to above are performed in order to assure the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. Environmental sampling, either location-specific or wide-area, is permitted. These complementary access activities will be vital to resolving questions regarding the correctness and completeness of the information provided in the State’s expanded declaration, or to resolve an inconsistency relating to that information.

3) it improves and streamlines certain administrative procedures that are crucial for the effective implementation of safeguards, such as the procedures for the designation of inspectors, for providing inspectors with multi-entry visas for at least a year and for the methods for communicating between sites and IAEA Headquarters.

All in all, these measures strengthen the safeguards system considerably. I should add however that the additional rights for the Agency are at the same time balanced by obligations and limitations that were carefully negotiated at the time to protect States’ interests. Complementary access provisions will not be applied in a mechanistic or systematic fashion. For sensitive facilities and locations, managed access by the State will be provided for. The Agency will provide the State with reports on any complementary access activities performed and conclusions drawn as a result. Provision has been made for the protection of proprietary and commercially sensitive information.

Since the adoption of the Model Additional Protocol the Agency’s Board of Governors has approved 45 Additional Protocols: 40 with non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT, 4 with NWS and, last month, one with Cuba, the first with an INFCIRC/66 State not party to the NPT. While that number is likely to increase before the NPT Review Conference, our goal of having all States with nuclear facilities on board before the Conference might not be fully reached. Still, close to 80% of all nuclear installations in the world are in States which have already concluded Additional Protocols. The question now to be addressed is whether the parties to the NPT consider that this is a sufficient critical mass for making a comprehensive safeguards Agreement plus an Additional Protocol the new norm for non-nuclear weapon States under the NPT. The Agency has been careful not to make any assumptions in this regard, because it is a responsibility of the parties.

As to implementation of the strengthening measures, the Agency’s information collection and analysis capability has expanded considerably, environmental sampling is now being used and remote monitoring has been approved as a standard safeguards tool. Implementation of the Additional Protocol has started last year mainly in Australia. Guidelines have been drawn up to assist States in the preparation of their expanded declarations and the Agency is ready to receive these declarations in its computerised Protocol Data Information System.

Of course, as our activities and experience with implementing the Additional Protocol increase, it becomes more and more important to apply an optimal combination of the traditional and the new safeguards measures. The new measures should not be simply form a new layer on top of the old ones. Indeed, as our confidence in the absence of undeclared nuclear activities in a State grows, the more leeway we have to reduce some of the traditional measures. This is however not an easy task. Conceptually it is not easy, because, as I have said, the traditional measures are based on declared installations and the nuclear material accountancy that goes with that. The new measures are geared towards obtaining credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. It is not evident how one should integrate the two. For the next few years, this integration is our highest priority and the first step is to come up with guidelines for drawing conclusions about the absence of undeclared nuclear activities.

Implementing strengthened safeguards is not the only Agency activity to promote nuclear non-proliferation. Within its mandate and Statute, the Agency has provided assistance to States in the negotiation and implementation of nuclear weapon free zones. Since 1995, one more NWFZ (Bangkok) has entered into force, another (Pelindaba) has been concluded, and another (Central Asia) is under negotiation. The Agency’s role here is to ensure that these treaties contain adequate verification provisions which are compatible with and, if possible, enhance the States party’s NPT commitments. The Agency has also been active in promoting international norms for the physical protection and safe transport of nuclear material. In a few weeks the parties to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material will meet to consider the need to revise the Convention. Finally, the Agency, together with other international organizations, has been instrumental in the development of new measures against illicit trafficking in nuclear material and other radioactive sources.

So much for the Agency’s role in promoting nuclear non-proliferation. What about nuclear disarmament? In general, progress towards nuclear disarmament has slowed down. Yes, there is a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, but the recent US Senate’s rejection has been a major setback. Moreover, since the CTBT negotiations the Conference on Disarmament has not made progress at all, on nuclear or other issues. Yes, more than 10,000 nuclear weapons have been retired and dismantled in the US alone and the START-I targets (1600 delivery vehicles, 6000 warheads by 2001) have nearly been reached. But START-II has not been ratified and the further START process is stalled. The picture is compounded by last year’s nuclear tests by India and Pakistan.

For the Agency some opportunities have shown up to apply its verification expertise in new areas. Since 1996, for example, the Agency has been engaged in a joint initiative with the Russian Federation and the United States to consider practical measures for IAEA verification that weapon-origin fissile material designated by these two States as no longer required for military purposes remains in peaceful use. Substantial progress has been made in the past three years in addressing the technical, legal and financial issues associated with this joint initiative. The first priority has been to ascertain that technical solutions exist which would allow the Agency to draw independent and credible conclusions, while ensuring that no classified information could be acquired by the inspectors. Prototype inspection systems have now been developed.

In the longer term, it is possible that the Agency may be called upon to verify other nuclear arms control agreements, such as a ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. UN General Assembly resolution 48/75 of December 1993, inter alia, called upon the IAEA to provide assistance to the CD, if requested, with regard to development of an appropriate verification regime for such a treaty. While the current impasse on the negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva underline the difficult political issues which remain to be resolved, the Agency’s four decades of expertise in the application of safeguards may prove useful in developing the techniques and technologies required to verify a fissile material production ban.

In summary, the IAEA has an important role to play in moving the international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament agenda forward. Its responsibility for the implementation of safeguards pursuant to States’ bilateral and multilateral commitments is well-known and highly appreciated. Its efforts to strengthen its safeguards system, particularly through the adoption of the Model Additional Protocol, have given further credence to its competence and effectiveness. As the Agency moves into other, equally useful areas of nuclear arms verification it will continue to demonstrate its utility as an experienced, effective and necessary multilateral mechanism for the realisation of the world’s nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament aspirations.

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