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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 19, October 1997

IAEA General Conference

41st General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Vienna, 29 September-3 October 1997

Summary of Conference

'IAEA General Conference Concludes in Vienna: States Adopt Resolutions on Global Nuclear Cooperation,' IAEA Press Release, PR 97/28, 3 October


"Governmental delegates from more than 100 States have taken steps to further strengthen global nuclear cooperation through programmes and activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Meeting in Vienna at the IAEA General Conference, which concludes today, States adopted resolutions on a range of topics. They included resolutions related to Agency programmes in nuclear safeguards, nuclear and radiation safety, and technical cooperation for sustainable development.

During the week, the Conference approved the appointment of Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt as the Agency's next Director General, effective 1 December 1997, and conferred the honorary title of Director General Emeritus on the outgoing IAEA Director General, Dr. Hans Blix of Sweden, for his sixteen years of distinguished leadership.

Additionally, a number of States signed new conventions that were opened for signature at the General Conference to underpin the global safety framework for nuclear energy, and a Model Protocol that incorporates new safeguards measures to strengthen the IAEA's capability to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of States' nuclear programmes.

Highlights of adopted resolutions follow. ...

Strengthening the IAEA's Safeguards System

The General Conference emphasized the importance of further strengthening the Agency's international safeguards system, expressing the conviction that IAEA safeguards can promote greater confidence among States and thus contribute to strengthening their collective security. It supported decisions of the IAEA Board of Governors to increase the Agency's capability to detect undeclared nuclear activities. The Conference requested all States having IAEA safeguards agreements to accept additional measures provided for in the Model Protocol that was adopted by the IAEA Board in May 1997, and to sign additional protocols promptly. (Up to 3 October, six States had signed a Protocol additional to their safeguards agreements.) Also the Conference supported the negotiation of additional protocols or other legally binding agreements with nuclear-weapon States incorporating those measures provided for in the Model Protocol that each nuclear-weapon State has identified as capable of contributing to the non-proliferation and efficiency aims of the Protocol.

Strengthening IAEA Technical Co-operation Activities

The Conference requested the Director General to pursue with Member States efforts to strengthen the Agency's technical co-operation activities. It stressed the need for effective programmes aimed at improving the scientific and technological capabilities of developing countries in peaceful applications of nuclear energy - including both the applications of nuclear methods and techniques and the production of electricity. It emphasized that these programmes should contribute to achieving sustainable development in developing countries.

Nuclear Inspections in Iraq

The Conference commended the Director General and the Agency's Action Team for their strenuous efforts to implement Security Council resolutions 687, 707, 715, and 1051, and requested them to continue their efforts to fulfill their mandate. It called upon Iraq to cooperate fully with the Action Team in meeting its requests for information and in achieving the complete and long-term implementation of the relevant resolutions. It stressed Iraq's obligation to hand over to the Action Team without further delay currently undisclosed nuclear-weapon-related equipment, material and information and to allow the Action Team immediate, unconditional and unrestricted rights of access, in accordance with Security Resolution 707.

Safeguards in the DPRK

The Conference expressed its concern over the DPRK's continuing non-compliance with its IAEA safeguards agreement, and called upon the DPRK to comply fully with it. It urged the DPRK to take all steps the Agency may deem necessary to preserve all information relevant to verifying the accuracy and completeness of the DPRK's initial report on the inventory of nuclear material subject to safeguards until the DPRK comes into full compliance with the agreement. The Conference commended the Agency for its efforts to monitor the freeze of specified facilities in the DPRK as requested by the United Nations Security Council.

Safeguards in the Middle East

The Conference requested the Agency's Director General to continue consultations with the States in the Middle East to facilitate the early application of full-scope IAEA safeguards to all nuclear activities in the region as relevant to the preparation of model agreements, as a necessary step towards the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) in the region.

Illicit Trafficking in Nuclear Materials

The Conference welcomed the Agency's activities in the fields of prevention, response, training and information exchange in support of efforts against illicit trafficking, and supported continuing work over the coming year in accordance with relevant conclusions of its Board of Governors. The Conference further welcomed the confirmation by participants in the Denver Summit of June 1997 of their commitment to implement the programme for preventing and combating illicit trafficking in nuclear material agreed at the Moscow Nuclear Summit in April 1996.

Nuclear, Radiation, and Waste Safety

The Conference adopted several resolutions to strengthen international cooperation in this field. One resolution, on the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, appealed to all States to sign and subsequently ratify, accept, or approve it, so that it may enter into force as soon as possible. (Up to 3 October, twenty-one States had signed the Joint Convention [Editor's note: see subsequent IAEA Press Release, below].)

A second resolution, on the International Initiative for the Chernobyl Sarcophagus, noted steps that have been taken by a number of countries and organizations to transform the sarcophagus to an environmentally safer condition over the long term (the sarcophagus is the shelter enclosing the remains of the reactor destroyed in the 1986 Chernobyl accident). The Conference encouraged all States to participate in and support the International Pledging Conference on the Chernobyl Sarcophagus to be held in New York in November 1997.

A third resolution, on the safety of transport of radioactive materials, requested the IAEA to prepare for its Board of Governors a report on legally binding and non-binding international instruments and regulations concerning the safe transport of radioactive materials and their implementation.

A fourth resolution, on the Convention on Nuclear Safety, stressed the Agency's role as a driving force in nuclear safety through its programmes, and appealed to all States to sign and accede to the Convention. ...

IAEA Budget for 1998 and Target for Technical Co-operation Fund

The budget resolution approved expenditures in 1998 of about US $221.4 million. The Conference further approved the target amount of US $71.5 million for voluntary contributions to the Agency's Technical Co-operation Fund in 1998. ..."

Statement by Outgoing Director-General

'Director General addresses General Conference,' IAEA Press Release, PR 97/24, 29 September


"Safeguards and Verification

Dr. Blix urged countries to maintain the momentum that has been gained from the adoption by the Board of Governors in June 1997 of new safeguards measures (Model Additional Protocol) that will strengthen the safeguards system and improve its cost efficiency. He expressed appreciation that a number of countries already had signed or were close to signing the Protocol.

Regarding the Agency's verification activities in Iraq under terms of UN Security Council resolutions, he said that the emphasis is shifting to ongoing monitoring and verification that should allow the IAEA to strike the alarm if a renewal of the nuclear programme were to be undertaken. Concerning the implementation of safeguards in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Director General said that the measure of cooperation which the Agency receives from the DPRK has not increased since last year, and that the correctness and completeness of the initial inventory of plutonium declared by the DPRK cannot be verified. He pointed out that at the same time the Agency is verifying a freeze of the DPRK nuclear programme at the request of the Security Council and periodically reports to it on the matter.

Regarding verification related to areas of disarmament, Dr. Blix reported on recent developments involving the United States, Russia, and the IAEA (Trilateral Initiative) for possible Agency verification of nuclear material transferred from the defense to the peaceful sector. He also expressed hope that talks would soon be reactivated on the proposal for a so-called 'cut-off' agreement to stop all production of fissile material for weapons purposes. He said that many questions need to be answered about the modalities of such verification and how it would be financed, and suggested it was timely for thought to be devoted to a special nuclear disarmament verification fund based on long-term voluntary contributions. ...

Nuclear Safety

The Director General particularly highlighted recently adopted conventions, which he said 'are further results of the readiness which States have felt after Chernobyl to seek internationally binding rules and procedures to demonstrate commitment to, and to promote, universal safety standards.' He said that States must be encouraged to adhere to these conventions and to fully participate in the peer reviews and other procedures for their implementation. 'Although maintenance of radiation protection and nuclear safety remains the responsibility of States, an international legal infrastructure of basic legal rules and standards aimed at ensuring adequate safety in all nuclear activities has emerged through the IAEA,' he said. Illicit nuclear trafficking. In highlighting aspects of the Agency's programme in this field, Dr. Blix said that efforts are focused on activities to supplement the action of governments and to coordinate a variety of measures to assist them in areas such as training, physical protection of nuclear material, and the exchange of information about confirmed incidents. As part of activities, he noted the suggestion that some of the relevant international instruments, notably the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, should be updated. ..."

Statement by Director-General Designate

'General Conference approves appointment of Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei as IAEA Director-General,' IAEA Press Release, PR 97/25, 29 September


"The Director General-designate of the IAEA, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt, today outlined challenging tasks shaping the Agency's future and called for a broad consensus on the three pillars of sustainable development, nuclear safety and nuclear verification. The appointment of Dr. ElBaradei as the IAEA's next Director General was approved today by the Agency's General Conference, which is meeting in Vienna this week. He will succeed Dr. Hans Blix of Sweden, who is retiring after sixteen years in office, and on whom the General Conference today conferred the title of Director General Emeritus. The change of leadership takes effect 1 December 1997.

'For international organizations to enjoy the confidence and support of their members, they have to be responsive to their needs, show concrete achievements, conduct their activities in a cost-effective manner and respect a process of equitable representation, transparency, and open dialogue,' Dr. ElBaradei said in his statement to the General Conference. 'The IAEA is an organization for the promotion of peace and sustainable development through international cooperation to utilize nuclear energy safely, while curbing nuclear weapons' proliferation and hopefully one day verifying their elimination. The Agency can be justly proud of its record, to which Dr. Blix, to whom I pay special tribute, has contributed in such an outstanding manner during his tenure. He steered the Agency through turbulent times with deftness and vision.'

Dr. ElBaradei outlined three sets of challenging and complex tasks ahead for the Agency and its Member States. The first concerns assistance to countries interested in using peaceful applications of nuclear technology in safe and productive ways to satisfy requirements for energy, food, health, and water, among other basic needs, in line with their priorities for economic and social development. The second concerns building on progress over the past decade by consolidating the global regime for nuclear and radiation safety as a comprehensive and coherent set of well-accepted standards. The transformation of many of the safety norms into conventions and 'hard law' is a welcome development, he said, that should continue with emphasis on adherence. The third set of tasks concerns the verification of States' undertakings not to develop nuclear weapons, which he called 'vital to international security'. Under the strengthened safeguards system that States have adopted, he said that 'the Agency must be able to provide additional assurances about an inspected State's nuclear activities, as this will undoubtedly become of critical importance as we move towards nuclear disarmament'. He said it is now 'pivotal' that the Protocol incorporating the new safeguards measures gain universal support among States.

Some 'fundamental requirements' are needed for meeting the challenges effectively, he said. They include a broad consensus on, and sustained commitment to, the three pillars defined above; a focused programme and clearly defined priorities; and adequate resources, both human and financial. 'The IAEA cannot have a monopoly on all things nuclear,' he said. 'We need to review the programme to ensure that it is organized around our core competencies and what the Agency is best suited to do.' He said that the criteria governments should use in judging whether to commit additional resources to the Agency is 'whether they, its shareholders, stand to get a good return on their investment, both in the short and long term.' If they regard the IAEA as a successful instrument for promoting international peace, enhancing nuclear safety, and positively contributing to the process of economic and social development, he said, then investment in the Agency was surely a wise decision. ..."

Statement by UN Secretary-General

'Secretary-General salutes IAEA for achievements, in message to General Conference marking fortieth anniversary,' United Nations Press Release, SG/SM/6341, 30 September

Editor's note: the statement by the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, was delivered on 29 September by Pino Arlacci, Director-General of the UN Office in Vienna.


"I am pleased to send greetings to the forty-first regular session of the General Conference of the IAEA. This session is important for a number of reasons. First, we are marking the IAEA's fortieth anniversary. Over the years its role has become valuable in international efforts aimed at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and ensuring the safe and peaceful use of nuclear technology for sustainable development. I salute the IAEA for its many achievements.

This session will also mark a change of guard at the helm of the IAEA. I wish to pay tribute to Dr. Hans Blix for his 16 years of outstanding leadership and service in the cause of peace and development. He leaves behind a great legacy. ...

This session will address a long and complex agenda. You will continue coping with the Chernobyl disaster and promoting nuclear safety - efforts which received a boost last year with the entry into force of the Convention on Nuclear Safety. You will be trying to devise effective measures against illicit trafficking in nuclear materials by criminal elements, who prey on the openness of borders and the transnational movements of goods, finance, information and people that characterize our age.

I am pleased that so many countries have signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and initiated steps towards its ratification. This is a landmark agreement. The Provisional Technical Secretariat of the Preparatory Commission for the CTBT Organization has now been established, at the Vienna International Centre, and is making steady progress towards becoming fully operational.

IAEA safeguards under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons are an integral part of the international regime for non-proliferation and play an indispensable role in ensuring implementation of the Treaty. I, therefore, welcome the adoption, in May of this year, of the model Protocol Additional to Existing Safeguards Agreements between States and the IAEA, which is designed to strengthen the effectiveness and improve the efficiency of the IAEA safeguards system.

I am also pleased to note the successful conclusion of two important diplomatic conferences this month in Vienna. The first led to the adoption of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Waste Management. The second adopted two instruments in the field of nuclear liability. All three are being opened for signature at this General Conference. They greatly enhance our efforts to establish an international legal regime in the nuclear field. I would also like to express appreciation for the IAEA's efforts in implementing resolutions of the Security Council relating to Iraq and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. This work is just one manifestation of the long tradition of close ties between our two organizations.

That peace and development are two sides of the same coin is broadly recognized today. The technical cooperation activities of the IAEA to promote the peaceful uses of atomic energy are a direct contribution to development, helping countries in the critical areas of water, health, nutrition, medicine and food production. ...

The tasks ahead are numerous, complicated and urgent. I look forward to working with the IAEA in our joint efforts towards international peace, security and development. ..."

Statement by US Energy Secretary

'Peña Doubles Amount of US Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium Available for International Inspection; Signs Two Conventions to Improve Nuclear Safety,' US Department of Energy Press Release,' R-97-098, 29 September

Full text

"In a speech before the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 41st Annual Conference in Vienna, Austria, US Secretary of Energy Federico Peña today announced that the United States is doubling the amount of US plutonium and highly enriched uranium available for international inspection. In addition, he announced new initiatives to accelerate progress on international nonproliferation agreements. He also urged increased cooperation to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism and called on all nations to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. As the leader of the US delegation to the conference, Secretary Peña signed a convention on spent fuel and nuclear waste management and a convention on nuclear liability that will lead to improved safety at nuclear reactors throughout the world.

'Our mission is to make sure that all nuclear material is safe and secure. That means ensuring that weapons-usable material doesn't fall into the wrong hands and improving the safety of reactors around the world,' Peña said. 'The work we've done today helps us in both these areas.'

Peña announced that the United States will make an additional 52 tons of plutonium and highly enriched uranium available for IAEA inspection, beyond the 38 tons already available. He called on other nuclear weapons states to follow his lead. All of this material had been previously removed from military use. The announcement means that the United States is more than doubling the amount of defense-related nuclear material available for international inspection.

To accelerate progress on international nonproliferation agreements, Peña said the United States will soon conduct an experimental application of all measures included in the IAEA's newly strengthened safeguards system (the so-called 93+2 program). The experiment will take place at the Argonne National Laboratory site in Idaho and will provide a model for US compliance with the safeguards.

Secretary Peña also announced that the IAEA will inspect the dilution of excess US highly enriched uranium. 'This will be the first time the agency has verified the transformation of fissile material from a nuclear weapons state's military sector to civilian uses,' Peña said. 'I hope that other nations will follow suit.'

Secretary Peña signed the IAEA Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, making the United States the first signatory. The convention provides important liability protection to American companies interested in nuclear reactor construction, safety upgrades and repairs in other countries. Peña also signed the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, which requires signatories to manage spent fuel and radioactive waste according to agreed upon international standards. It encourages compliance with these standards through peer reviews and other incentives. Neither of these conventions require changes to US law.

Secretary Peña held bilateral talks with his counterparts from Russia, South Korea, and Japan. In each of these meetings, Peña urged prompt ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, expanded safeguards for nuclear material and increased efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism. Secretary Peña and Russian Minister Mikhailov signed a Joint Statement of the Activities of International Nuclear Safety Centers that will support enhanced communication and cooperation between scientists and initiation of seven joint activities to improve the safety of Russian-designed nuclear reactors."

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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