Verification & the International Atomic Energy Agency

Verification is an important component of arms control and disarmament regimes, providing confidence that attempts to violate agreements will be detected, identified and dealt with in accordance with international law. Some treaties (for example the Biological Weapons Convention) were concluded without multilateral verification arrangements, while others (such as the Chemical Weapons Convention and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)) have established complex verification regimes.  ...

Verification is an important component of arms control and disarmament regimes, providing confidence that attempts to violate agreements will be detected, identified and dealt with in accordance with international law. Some treaties (for example the Biological Weapons Convention) were concluded without multilateral verification arrangements, while others (such as the Chemical Weapons Convention and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)) have established complex verification regimes.  

Though verification debates are often made complicated – especially by those seeking to create obstacles to disarmament – effective verification can be achieved with a mix of multilateral and national technical, political and legal tools.  

•    Monitoring and detection technologies expose activities that might breach a treaty.  The CTBT negotiations, for example, established a worldwide International Monitoring System (IMS) comprising seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound and radiation monitoring stations.
•    If detected, the next step is to identify violations or suspect activities, including the location and actors  – state or non-state – responsible.  Identification may require on-site inspections (OSI), whether regularly instituted or short-notice ‘challenge’ inspections. These may be carried out under the auspices of treaties or UN Security Council resolutions.   
•    The use of national intelligence or ‘national technical means’ (NTM) is one of the most controversial components of verification, as some states have access to more highly developed intelligence capabilities than others, and some view such technologies as unfair, biased or less amenable to accountable decision making.  
•    There is growing interest in ‘societal verification’, which recognises the important role that concerned and observant citizens can play in holding their own governments accountable for complying with international treaties and legal obligations. Societal verification, which is not yet widely incorporated, might encompass requirements on workers, military personnel, corporations and all citizens to report activities that violate international agreements, as well as mechanisms to check reports from informers and protect whistleblowers.
•    International and domestic legal and political mechanisms are required to assess, evaluate and address suspected activities and their implications for the treaty, agreement, regime and international security.
•    Finally, there needs to be a collective and responsible decision-making process to determine penalties, sanctions etc. for dealing with violators, and additional mechanisms for strengthening the regime, where relevant.

Among current verification regimes one of the most important is the fissile materials safeguards system administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as mandated in Article III of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  Through this, the IAEA developed ‘Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements’ (CSA) with non-nuclear states becoming party to the NPT. In the 1990s these were augmented by an Additional Protocol, giving the IAEA greater powers of inspection.

Established in Vienna in 1957, the IAEA defines itself as the "world’s centre of cooperation in the nuclear field", working worldwide "to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies".  Serious concerns have long been raised about the contradictions between the verification needs of the NPT and the limitations of the IAEA’s safeguards mandate, compounded by the IAEA's mission of promoting nuclear energy as ‘atoms for peace’, which predated its NPT verification role.  In covering the IAEA, the Acronym Institute prioritizes work related to non-proliferation and disarmament.
 

20 February 2015

Iran has still not addressed specific issues that could feed suspicions it may have researched an atomic bomb, a U.N. watchdog report showed on Thursday, potentially complicating efforts by six powers to clinch a nuclear deal with Tehran.

Iran and U.S. negotiators will resume talks over...

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One of the greatest boons brought to the world by the end of the Cold War was the agreement been the US and the countries of the former Soviet Union to cooperate in securing the USSR’s vast nuclear arsenal.

Under the 1991 Cooperative Threat Reduction agreement, better known as the...

16 September 2014

Negotiations on limiting Iran's nuclear program resume this week in New York, but a summer of multiplying crises has world capitals distracted as the talks hit a crucial stage.

The high-profile setting for this round of talks between Iran and six world powers has raised expectations,...

9 May 2012

Sitting in room M2 in the Vienna International Centre on Monday listening to cluster 2 statements on non-proliferation, I was struck by how little the positions on safeguards have moved since the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

But despite the sense of déjà vu as delegations from different...

Author(s): Acronym Institute
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The attached briefing is number 9 in an Acronym Institute series originally produced for the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

Drawing on the knowledge and experience of key thinkers, analysts and experts in the field of multilateral arms control and international security, we address some of...

1 August 2009

Thomas Graham, Jr. and David Hafemeister

To achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my Administration will immediately and aggressively pursue US ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to...

1 August 2009

Paul Meyer

There are few objectives in the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament realm as long- standing and as widely supported as the negotiation of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices. As early as 1957, the UN General...

8 November 2013

Question asked by Baroness Deech

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that Iran has recently installed an additional 7,000 centrifuges.

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and...

7 November 2013

Rushanara Ali: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has received any substantive evidence of Iran slowing down its nuclear programme since the discussions on Iran's nuclear future in Geneva in October 2013.

Hugh Robertson: The International...

1 November 2013

Question asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have about the number of nuclear scientists engaged on the Iranian nuclear programme (1) before, and (2) since, the election of President Rouhani.

The Senior Minister of State,...

Author(s): IAEA Director General, Yukiya Amano
30 August 2012

The attached document is IAEA Director general Yukiya Amano's report to the IAEA board "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran" published on 30 August 2012.

Author(s): IAEA Director General
25 May 2012

Full text accessible via attached document

Author(s): IAEA Director General
24 February 2012


Full text accessible via attached document

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