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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN atomic agency chief lays out plan to deal with nuclear terrorism, trafficking

8 November 2005 In a bid to thwart the smuggling of nuclear materials and the threat of terrorists’ acquiring weapons of mass destruction, the head of the United Nations atomic watchdog agency has laid out a series of “yardsticks”, including multilateral management of potential weapons-grade fuel and Security Council resolve to take action.

“We are approaching a crossroads. After the end of the Cold War, we were hopeful that a new global security regime would emerge – inclusive, equitable, and no longer dependent on nuclear deterrence,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei told the 2005 Carnegie International Non-Proliferation Conference in Washington yesterday.

“Regrettably, we have made little progress towards that goal,” added Mr. ElBaradei, who together with the IAEA shared this years Nobel Peace Prize.

In recent years, four developments have radically altered the security landscape – the emergence of clandestine nuclear supply networks, the spread of nuclear fuel cycle technology, the efforts by more countries to acquire nuclear weapons, and the declared ambition of terrorists to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction, he declared.

In response, he proposed four “yardsticks” against which to gauge recent performance and set future goals.

First, he stressed the need for expanded access, with spot checks, as provided by additional protocols to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), since “in today´s security environment, inspections that only verify what a country has declared are not likely to be judged ‘effective’.”

But only 70 countries have additional protocols in force, and he cited the case of Iran, which concealed its nuclear programme for nearly 20 years, saying that a number of open questions remain.

“The responsibility rests with Iran to provide, if needed, additional transparency measures – beyond the confines of the safeguards agreement and additional protocol – to enable the Agency to resolve these questions, and to provide the required assurance about the peaceful nature of Iran´s nuclear programme,” he added.

In September the IAEA Board of Governors found that Iran’s previous NPT safeguards agreement breaches were within the competence of the Security Council, which can impose sanctions when such issues are referred to it.

The second yardstick concerns sensitive nuclear technology, with a key ‘choke point’ for weapons development being production of weapon-usable nuclear material through uranium enrichment and plutonium separation.

Among measures Mr. ElBaradei proposed is a framework for multilateral management both for enrichment and fuel production and spent fuel reprocessing and waste disposal, to ensure supply of reactor technology and nuclear fuel based on apolitical, objective non-proliferation criteria and at competitive market prices.

The third yardstick concerns the protection of nuclear material. Multiple international and regional initiatives are helping countries to improve the physical protection of such material. “These and other projects are helping to reduce the risks posed by existing nuclear material. But much remains to be done,” he said.

Finally, Mr. ElBaradei stressed the need for credible mechanisms to deal with cases of non-compliance, including Security Council action.

“To be effective, the UN Security Council must be ready at all times to engage, in order to cope with emerging threats to international peace and security,” he said, noting that while referral to the Council has sometimes encouraged compliance, referral of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 1992 and 2003 resulted in little to no action.

But, he added, “the slow progress of nuclear-weapon States towards making good on their commitments to move towards nuclear disarmament – with 27 000 warheads still in existence – is creating an environment of cynicism among the non-nuclear-weapon States.”



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