NPT Day 13: Roundup on Main Committee III on nuclear energy, safety, security and institutional issues

Posted by Meena Singelee, Acronym Junior Associate, with input from Rebecca Johnson

In open sessions during the previous week and Monday morning (10 May), Main Committee III, chaired by Ambassador Takeshi Nakane (Japan),  has been meeting to discuss issues relating to nuclear energy, safety, security and institutional issues. In similar fashion to Main Committees I and II, many of the presentations overlapped and many highlighted the divisions along familiar lines.

Considerable support was expressed for the IAEA’s role in terms of technical cooperation and for providing the Agency with the human, technical and financial resources to carry out its mandate.  Members of the Arab League also expressed their familiar condemnation of transfers of technology and materials and cooperation with Israel.  Non-aligned states (NAM) have continued to stress their “inalienable right” to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, while also raising concerns about proposals viewed as constraining the right of states to withdraw from the NPT, as provided for in article ten (Article X).  This issue, which will be dealt with in more detail in However, the dividing lines are clearly profound especially along the issue of withdrawal and interpretation of Article X.

Please note that most if not all the formal statements are available from Reaching Critical will at http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/legal/npt/revcon2010/statements.html

After the formal statements, Main Committee III undertook some limited “interactive debates”, which are also summarised below.  While the statements were repetitive, the interactions between and among the state parties have been fairly diverse and at times, even carried somewhat heated exchanges.

On Friday, the initial draft report for Committee III was issued and the Group of Non-Aligned states parties (NAM) met to discuss the interim reports.  Discussions are beginning on Monday on the basis of this draft.  Though debates are at times sharp, there is still an aura of cautious optimism in the room so we may yet have hope for some form of consensus from Main Committee III.

Nuclear energy

Parties to the NPT re-emphasised their “inalienable right” to access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, highlighting the increasingly crucial role of nuclear technology in sustainable development, providing electricity, and assisting in health, agriculture and other issues. The need to recognise and further the aims and objectives of the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation programme was also addressed in the sessions

The Statement of the Non-Aligned Movement drew on high expectations of the Review Conference and stressed that one of their priorities for the outcome of the conference would be to ensure that:

–          Nothing in the treaty should be interpreted to affect the inalienable right of all parties to develop, research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in a non-discriminatory manner and in line with Articles I and II

–          The treaty is not reinterpreted in terms of the rights of the parties to access to technical cooperation among themselves or with international organisations

–          Undue restrictions on exports to developing countries of materials, equipment and technology which are for peaceful purposes should not be imposed on parties

–          Transfer or use of nuclear equipment or material for peaceful purposes should not be prohibited due to sensivity but must be subject to full-scope IAEA safeguards

Assurances of nuclear fuel supply and the Multilateralisation of the nuclear fuel cycle was also brought up by several states. The statement by Sweden reiterated the need for multilateral nuclear fuel assurances and the work of the IAEA in this particular area. Sweden also highlighted with conviction that the availability of such assurances could provide a useful mechanism to ensure supply to states where there are unforeseen needs for Low Enriched Uranium, while at the same time, not infringing on the rights of states under the NPT. Sweden argued that two positive outcomes of these assurances could be an enhanced security of supply which would in turn increase the stability and confidence of states initiating peaceful nuclear programmes, and as a non-proliferation and confidence-building measure of the nuclear fuel cycle.

The Statement of South Africa also addressed and promoted international cooperation in peaceful nuclear activities under Article 3 of the NPT, through the exchange of scientific information to develop applications of nuclear energy aimed at promoting socio-economic progress in developing countries.

Iraq said that the establishment of a uranium bank required further study.

For other states, addressing the front and back ends of the nuclear fuel cycle was also an issue which needs to be given due consideration during the next 3 weeks. The Republic of Korea stated that “due consideration should also be given to the back end of the full fuel cycle, including waste management” and looked forward to further discussions on the issue.

New Zealand also raised the issues of “reprocessing, spent fuel and waste management” as real needs that need to be addressed as part of the development of a multilateral nuclear fuel cycle.

While France recognised the sovereign right of states to access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, Ambassador Florence Mangin, in the French statement said that “any state that fails to meet its obligations with regard to non-proliferation and the implementation of IAEA safeguards, or for whom the peaceful purpose of its nuclear activities cannot be verified, should not be entitled to benefit from the provisions of Article IV” and reiterated that states could not “demand civil nuclear cooperation” and at the same time, “renege on its international obligations”.

The United Arab Emirates, which delivered its statement to the Main Committee on Friday highlighted the need to strengthen the confidence of the international committee and to encourage adoption of more projects that rely on peaceful applications. It urged parties to act in a responsible manner and in line with their obligations and in line:

–          The adoption of full transparency in their peaceful nuclear energy programmes

–          With fully abiding by the comprehensive safeguards regime of the IAEA and to cooperate fully with the Agency to allow full verification of the parties’ programmes and nuclear facilities

–          With adopting adequate measures to build trust on these programmes and activities

The UAE also urged states to fully support the Agency in strengthening and developing the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and research and to encourage all types of responsible nuclear research and strengthening cooperation in scientific and technical exchange

Nuclear safety

On nuclear safety, Argentina’s statement drew on the following:

–          Nuclear activities for peaceful use should have internationally accepted standards safety and physical protection

–          Importance of international cooperation to bolster nuclear safety

–          The management of radioactive waste

–          Urging all states who have not yet done so to ratify all relevant conventions in the field

The Philippines also highlighted nuclear safety as one of the key issues that needed to be addressed and said that in order to make significant advances in nuclear safety, international cooperation through the IAEA was necessary.

New Zealand acknowledged “the primary responsibility of individual states for maintaining the safety of nuclear installations within their territories…and the crucial importance of an adequate national, technical, human, and regulatory infrastructure in nuclear, radiation, transport and radioactive waste safety”.

Nuclear security

One commonality that was stressed was the need to prevent nuclear terrorism by locking down nuclear material. Again, many states welcomed President Obama’s nuclear security summit in Washington DC last month. One trend that emerged during the sessions was the statements urging members to sign up to the Amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

Ukraine repeated its decision taken last month to “get rid of all national stocks of high enriched uranium by 2012” with sufficient financial assistance and called on all states who have not yet done so to accede to and implement fully all relevant IAEA conventions.

Norway urged parties to the NPT to sign, ratify and implement the Amended Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and nuclear facilities,the Convention on Nuclear Terrorism, and for the IAEA to play a key role in this context, as well as the transport of nuclear material.

Institutional issues and reform

All states reiterated their commitment to reinforcing the aims and objectives of the IAEA, and to provide it with the adequate human, technical and much-needed financial assistance. States also welcomed the announcement last week by the US Secretary of State for the $50m towards technical cooperation assistance. It was also decided that institutional issues would be discussed in Subsidiary Body 3 in their deliberations.

The Statement of the European Union emphasised that “the European Union will continue to provide its full support to the activities of an effective and efficient IAEA that has the adequate resources to fulfil its mandate… for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, promoting nuclear safety and security, and strengthening effective safeguards to prevent nuclear proliferation”.

Non-nuclear weapons states also highlighted that nuclear weapons states should not push the issue of pressing for the Additional Protocol to become the IAEA norm or for similar pre-conditions to cooperation on peaceful use.

Mexico said that from a legal perspective, the Treaty is not in keeping with most areas of international law since it has not yet transitioned from codification to implementation.

Article X and withdrawal

Non-nuclear weapons states stressed that Article X is at risk of being re-interpreted by the Nuclear Weapons States and that it ultimately remains the sovereign right of states to withdraw from the treaty if membership of the treaty is no longer in the interest of the states.

The Statement of Japan, like most other states, acknowledged to the fullest extent, the sovereign rights of states in relation to Article X but also warned that collective efforts were needed to ensure that violators would not remain at liberty to abuse the provisions. Japan also suggested that “the issue should be considered without revising its Article X” and “would like to address this issue further in the deliberations of the subsidiary body’s sessions”.

Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz, in the Statement of Egypt also drew on the withdrawal issue, stating that Egypt’s concerns were “compounded by attempts to restrict the right of withdrawal from the Treaty, a right guaranteed by Article X of the NPT, as well as international law” while drawing comparison to the failure to perceive non-adherence to the NPT as posing a similar threat to international peace and security.

Colombia also said it would oppose all modifications to Article X provisions and the reinterpretation of texts which could ultimately weaken the NPT regime.

On the withdrawal issue, the US and the EU each stated their intention to deliver an address on withdrawal separately to SB3 when it meets later this week.

Lebanon seemed to apply to Article X considerations the cautionary note that its Arab League colleagues and others applied to the Additional Protocol, saying: “we should be careful not to blur the frontiers between what is legally binding on state parties, what is voluntarily agreed to by them, and what could seem desirable as confidence-building measures”.

Post-statement interactions in Main Committee III

Interactions between and among NPT parties that have taken place in the subsequent three sessions have been in depth and lively, surprisingly so perhaps in view of the topics up for discussion in Committee III.

In the final session held on Friday morning, Iran voiced concerns on procedures relating to the report, due later that day. Iran’s concerns, as expressed in Committee III, related specifically to whether there would be opportunities open to delegations to provide their own views to be reflected in the report and whether the language used in the report would fully reflect the debates taking place that very morning.  The Chair, Ambassador Nakane, clarified that should there be any specific language to be added, then it could be proposed and it is anticipated and expected that the report would fully reflect the proceedings of the Main Committee.

Egypt made clear that for any language to be acceptable to the Delegation, the report of the Main Committee would need to include the following elements:

–          Clarification on multilateral approaches including fuel assurances and the bank end of the nuclear fuel cycle

–          A clear statement that the eligibility to benefit from the fuel bank would require the implementation of the Agency’s full-scope safeguards and a legally-binding agreement not to develop or seek to acquire nuclear materials for military purposes (an element aimed at the states currently outside the NPT regime and which have received transfers from states within the regime)

–          Regional and multilateral arrangements to provide such approaches and assurances

Consensus among all the parties is possible but still some time away. While there seems to be some agreement on particular areas, there still is a wide gap on others. Perhaps top of the list is the need to reaffirm the role of the IAEA in ensuring the peaceful uses of energy through technical cooperation and to provide it with the adequate human, technical and financial resources to meet the increasing workload.

Many  non-nuclear weapons parties are also seeing to reaffirm their inalienable right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and in a non-discriminatory manner. Many of these parties, led by the NAM are also working on ensuring that the Additional Protocol remains a voluntary undertaking rather than a legally binding measure imposed on everyone – a view not shared by parties.

On the issue of the fuel bank and multilateralisation of the nuclear fuel cycle, many states have noted with concern, the disparity between the rules for the non-nuclear parties and those outside the NPT regime. Several states continue to stress, similarly to Egypt, that all states benefiting from the fuel bank should not only be a member of the IAEA but also under full scope safeguards and a signatory to the NPT – again, an area which will require much compromise if it is to be adopted in the outcome document.

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One Comment

  1. postpartisanitalia
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you Rebecca for this informative Blog

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