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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

  State Information Service(SIS)
Ministry of Information (MOI)
  Arab Republic of Egypt

Letter from Cairo

No. 95
May 22-24, 1997.

Nuclear Officials Reject
"Intrusive" Inspection

   Egyptian nuclear scientists and officials have expressed strong objections to a plan by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to introduce a new safeguards system, by which all nuclear-related facilities and industries would be placed under the Agency's supervision. The scheme, they said, would "infringe on the sovereignty of the state and hinder progress in the peaceful applications of nuclear energy."

The objections are centred on "program 93+2" which constitutes around 80 per cent of the plan. Officials have described the program as a "burden on the shoulders of member-states, particularly developing member-states, of the IAEA."

"The intrusive nature of the newly-proposed safeguards system is very demanding and could impinge on the sovereignty of the state and hinder the development of the peaceful applications of nuclear energy," a senior official at the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The obligations imposed by the program fall into three categories. The first precludes new research and development of nuclear activities, the possession, acquisition, manufacture or stationing of nuclear weapons or explosive devices, or the stockpiling of weapons-usable materials. The second category requires the disclosure of all existing nuclear activities, including imports, exports and production. In the third, the IAEA assumes the right to conduct what it calls a "challenging inspection"- the inspection of any site it chooses at any time of the year, without prior permission of the state concerned. Even sites which are not nuclear-related may fall under the Agency's authority.

This means, a nuclear expert warned, that university and research centre programs would be brought under the Agency's control, thereby placing immense financial and administrative burdens on those institutions and violating the secrecy of their projects. According to Abdel-Gawad Emara, a former top official of the Egyptian Nuclear Energy Authority, the program is intended to further the "exclusivity an hegemony which the United States seeks to maintain on nuclear weapons.

"It is meant to prevent any leaking of nuclear technology to other countries, particularly developing countries, and it is very demanding because it includes inspection of specified non-nuclear material and equipment," he added. "In the final analysis, it can be stated that the implementation of 93+2 brings with it a number of political, social and technical constraints."

A spokesman at the IAEA told the Weekly that the program was an extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and was part of the Agency's effort to turn the Middle East into a nuclear weapon-free zone. Another objective is to ensure that the "Iraqi model" is not repeated anywhere else, the spokesman said.

In response, Egyptian nuclear officials cited the existence of the "Israeli model." Israel's refusal to join the NPT and associate itself with the international community's efforts to turn the region into a nuclear weapon-free zone cannot be disregarded when a new safeguards system is being put into effect, stressed one nuclear official.

A source at the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority added: "There is clearly a source of nuclear proliferation in this region which needs to be dealt with in the context of the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime. All the available evidence suggests that the country in question has a clandestine nuclear program that threatens regional and international security. The Agency's proposals for strengthening safeguards should be non-discriminatory, because otherwise they would lead to an imbalance between the obligations of member-states that are party to the NPT and those that are not."

A Foreign Ministry official agreed. "It is clear that the implementation of the program will be primarily directed towards non-nuclear states, which creates a situation of preference and unfair treatment. This could seriously impinge on international efforts for non- proliferation and world peace," said the official, who asked that his name be withheld. He noted that the world community had gone to great pains to uncover the Iraqi nuclear programme and a similar effort should have been made in the case of Israel

The proposed system includes the use of digital video cameras and features the authentication and encryption of the surveillance data. Sophisticated monitoring and control, front-end scene change detection and backup scene and data storage are integral parts of the digital camera. Surveillance images and data are transmitted to the Agency by means of low-cost, ultra-small satellite communications.

According to Emara, some of the technical aspects of the program do not seem to allow the developing countries enough leeway to maintain the technological development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. "The developing countries would once again bear the brunt of the new constraints, without receiving any dividends in terms of technological development," he said. The nuclear-weapon states, which support the programme, should, therefore, set an example by announcing voluntary measures which they would undertake to improve the program's credibility, Emara added.

Egypt, the Atomic Energy Authority official said, still believes that "innovative solutions and additional assurances are needed in order to preserve industrial, defense, commercial and technological secrecy. There is a need to minimize, or prevent, the new system from intruding into non-nuclear related fields."

Some materials in the nuclear fuel cycle are commonly used in non-nuclear industries, such as the energy, petroleum and chemical industries. In addition, dual-use equipment has important applications in non-nuclear industries and research, the official noted.

Courtesy Al-Ahram Weekly

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