Day 9 at NPT: Additional Protocol, safeguards in Committee II

Day 9  (Thursday 13)  Committee II (Safeguards, Additional Protocol)

Posted by Carol Naughton with input from Rebecca Johnson

As the set statements delivered by nations finally ended we actually heard interactive dialogue in Committee II this morning. Given how tired everyone is, it was refreshing and certainly sharpened attention again.  The following report is drawn mostly from contemporaneous notes as there were not many written statements in this session.

The Chair, Ambassador Volodyrmyr Yelchenko, announced that the committee would move to interactive discussion on two topics – Strengthening IAEA Safeguards and the Additional Protocol and Nuclear Security.

IAEA spokesperson Tariq Rauf told the Committee that there were now 100 nations who had now adopted the Additional Protocol to strengthen their safeguards agreements, with Iraq expected to join them soon.  As reported earlier, however, there is still a fundamental division in attitudes between those who regard the Protocol to be necessary to increase confidence in the NPT, and those that view it as “voluntary” or even as an imposition.  After Iran had declared the Additional Protocol to be “voluntary”, Australia responded to say that it was voluntary in the sense that each nation can choose whether or not it decides to adopt it, but once signed it is then legally binding. Replying to a question on procedure, an IAEA representative explained the process of adopting the Protocol and told us that in the last ten years the inspection days per year had dropped from 10,000 to 8,000 but that 50% more nuclear material and facilities were now under IAEA inspection.

The representative of Brazil took time to explain the history and Brazil’s position on the Additional Protocol, arguing that when the IAEA initiated negotiations in the 1990s, it was with the understanding that it was voluntary and that this cannot now be changed. Hence, Brazil respected that it was entirely up to each individual nation whether they wanted to consider the Additional Protocol as the standard for verification or as a condition of supply for nations. In Brazil’s view, when the nuclear weapon states are prepared to give up their nuclear weapons, then – in that context (presumed to be an emerging disarmament regime) – “in a future package, the Additional Protocol or something even stronger might be essential” for there to be confidence in compliance and implementation.

South Africa’s Ambassador Leslie Gumbi  called on nations to avoid getting into issues where there is clear divergence and said there was, “a need to find ways around this and not push down each others throats issues we do not agree on”.

Both Iran and Ukraine raised concerns about confidentiality within the IAEA and leakage of sensitive material to the media. However this was picked up by Australia who felt that the issue of how to deal with IAEA confidentiality was best left to the IAEA Board to deal with.

It is interesting to observe that, outside of Non-Aligned positions, many nations that are pushing for nuclear disarmament are also in favour of universalising – or at least increasing accessions to – the Additional Protocol.  They clearly associate disarmament with a strong safeguards and verification regime.  In other words, a future framework of instruments is needed not only to provide a new international agenda with an action plan for nuclear disarmament, but also an action plan for strengthening necessary verification, safeguards and compliance tools.

In recognizing the difficulties facing the current debate on making the Protocol a key component of the new safeguards standard, Switzerland proposed that the IAEA should initiate an internal debate on enhancing the attractiveness of implementing the Additional Protocol. As an example Switzerland suggests that those nations that have implemented a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) and a Model Additional Protocol should receive concrete and immediate benefits. Such an approach, they argue, would provide the international community with a higher level of confidence and this should lead to decreasing the perceived burden associated with verification.

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