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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 27, June 1998

Progress on Protocols:
The IAEA's Strengthened Safeguards Programme
By Suzanna van Moyland

Introduction

On 11 June, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors approved Additional Protocols for tighter nuclear safeguards in relation to 15 more non-nuclear-weapon States (NNWS) - Canada, European Union (EU) NNWS, and Ghana. Seven NNWS have already signed theirs. At the same time, Additional Protocols for three nuclear-weapon States (NWS) - France, the UK and the US - were also approved. These developments mark firm progress by States to implement the IAEA Programme to Strengthen the Effectiveness and Improve the Efficiency of Safeguards. Part I of this Programme, which deepens existing safeguards, is already being implemented. Part II broadens safeguards beyond declared nuclear materials and locations (the importance of which was highlighted with the discovery of Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapon programme) to cover the whole fuel cycle, from mining to waste and to include nuclear-related research and development (R&D), and equipment and non-nuclear material.

The model Protocol to broaden the IAEA's safeguards mandate was approved, after negotiation, in May 1997 (see Disarmament Diplomacy, Nos. 11 (December 1996) and 16 (June 1997)). Jordan's Additional Protocol was agreed at the March Board and NNWS Armenia, Australia, Georgia, Lithuania, Philippines, Poland and Uruguay, have already concluded and signed Additional Protocols in line with the model. Australia's has entered into force, and Armenia's and Georgia's are being provisionally applied. Many of the Additional Protocols considered by the June Board differ, however, from the agreed model Protocol (INFCIRC/540) for two reasons. First, as the Programme was designed to enhance verification of horizontal proliferation among States that have committed not to have nuclear weapons, measures adopted by NWS are voluntary. Second, EU States are members of the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM), thereby making any agreements on safeguards tripartite between EURATOM, the State/s and the IAEA.

EU Non-Nuclear-Weapon States

The 13 EU States, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, together with EURATOM and the IAEA, have a single, tripartite Additional Protocol to be added to their original safeguards agreement (INFCIRC/193). Consultations and negotiations had been conducted between the IAEA, EURATOM and members of the EU between December 1997 and May 1998.

Established in 1957 at the same time as the European Economic Community, EURATOM created a common market in relation to nuclear energy, including common ownership of special fissile material, and initiated a regional civil nuclear material safeguards system. The recent negotiating positions regarding responsibility and safeguarding in the EU reflected this, many EU countries being comfortable with EURATOM continuing and extending its responsibility for their international safeguards obligations. However, Austria, Denmark, Finland and Sweden (newer EU members), and France and the UK, were unhappy to see EURATOM assume responsibilities beyond its mandate of EU nuclear material. Reasons for this position include: the wish not to compromise the authority of the IAEA; the desire in those States to use national nuclear energy and regulatory bodies; and broader concerns about precedents relating to subsidiarity - whether responsibility lies with the State or with the European Communities. Ireland's position was flexible.

The approved Additional Protocol concluded for EU NNWS "on the basis of the Model Protocol" defines where the responsibilities for the new undertakings lie. EURATOM has responsibility for submitting the more detailed information required in the Additional Protocol on nuclear materials (ore, source or special fissionable materials). EURATOM inspectors or representatives also have the right to accompany IAEA inspectors where nuclear material is involved. Provision to the IAEA of broader fuel cycle-related information where no nuclear material is declared to be located - notably manufacture of and trade in specified equipment and materials, and research and development (R&D) - is the responsibility of States.

A third, extra Annex has been attached to the EU NNWS Protocol. In a positive development, information will be provided to the IAEA on intra-community transfers or trade regarding, firstly, source material, which will be reported upon by EURATOM and, secondly, on specified equipment and non-nuclear materials, which will be the responsibility of States. The last paragraph reflects differing views within the EU outlined above: subsidiarity; and the breadth of EURATOM's role in relation to the Strengthened Safeguards Programme. Those EU NNWS that wish may 'entrust' EURATOM to implement 'certain provisions'. Because EURATOM's mandate relates to nuclear materials and because NPT commitments are made by individual States, legal responsibility for steps beyond nuclear materials remains with the State even if they choose to delegate to EURATOM. To facilitate communication about this complex relationship, the Liaison Committee for EU-IAEA relations will be extended to allow for participation by State representatives.

The Nuclear-Weapon States: France, the UK and the US

France, the UK and the US all adopt measures broadly consistent with their commitments under Article 1 of the NPT for strengthened safeguards to help prevent horizontal proliferation and also to make safeguards more efficient. France and the UK, therefore, will largely provide additional information and access specified in the model Protocol only where it relates to NNWS's fuel cycles and activities. As with EU NNWS, trade outside the EU is covered in the main body of the Protocol, while intra-community movements and activities are covered in Annex III. As EU countries, both already have EURATOM safeguards on non-military nuclear materials. Because France and the UK retain nuclear weapon research and production facilities outside safeguards, for instance, both of their Protocols leave out the NNWS model Protocol provision that information and access be provided anywhere on a site of a nuclear facility (because military and civil nuclear facilities may be co-located). EU NNWS have pointed out that the safeguards burdens are unfair. Although EU NWS might respond that that much R&D will be under broader safeguards because nuclear energy fuel cycle links and activities with NNWS are substantial, nonetheless nuclear energy R&D and manufacture conducted by EU NWS for purely domestic purposes may remain outside safeguards.

Some provisions agreed by France and the UK go beyond the model Additional Protocol. Both commit, for instance, to providing information and access for R&D where co-operation exists with a NNWS whether this involves nuclear material or not. This bridges a gap between their original safeguards agreement and the Protocol and may mean - because of the way complementary Protocol information is to be reported to the IAEA - that the information is more detailed than for NNWS. For the UK this was a concession beyond that which it originally committed at the May 1997 Board meeting. France has also made a commitment which goes beyond that of the model Protocol for NNWS in that it will provide information not just on the scale of operations in relation to Annex I nuclear-related activities but also on exports and imports. While most of the Annex I activities are also included in Annex II (which is the Nuclear Suppliers Group List that triggers safeguards) two items are not: the manufacture of flasks for transporting or storing irradiated fuel; and hot cells.

The US, in contrast to the 'bottom up' approach taken by France and the UK in defining their Protocol measures, has taken a 'top down' approach which is more broad-brush, reflecting the fact that the US does not have the political pressures of the EU regarding the issue of fairness and has less extensive existing IAEA safeguards on civil nuclear energy. The Protocol is therefore the same as that of NNWS, except that Article 1 provides that any instances where application would result in IAEA access or information relating to 'direct national security significance' will be excluded. It is therefore hard to analyse how broad or deep the safeguards will be in practice. In a further clause, the US Protocol underlines the rights of the US to managed access within a national security context, although the model Protocol itself, and therefore the US's Protocol too, provides such rights under one of the latter articles anyway.

Conclusion

For EU countries, Canada and the US, the Protocols will enter into force only after they have been ratified. The UK, for example, is however undertaking voluntary application of some of the Protocol measures. That so many States with significant nuclear industries have negotiated Additional Protocols sets the stage for others to sign up. Indeed, Protocol negotiations with the IAEA are underway for Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Croatia, Equador, Holy See, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland and Uzbekistan. If, as is feasible, all NNWS have negotiated Additional Protocols by the 2000 NPT Review Conference, they will be in a strong position - having implemented measures to demonstrate their non-proliferation commitments - to push for NWS to fulfil their side of the bargain in relation to disarmament. NWS could, in the meantime, utilise IAEA strengthened safeguards as a spring-board to increase nuclear transparency.

Suzanna van Moyland is Arms Control and Disarmament Researcher at the Verification Technology Information Centre (VERTIC) in London.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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