A Date to Remember

40 years ago the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) steered the IAEA in a new direction. This is how the IAEA Bulletin covered the signing of the treaty at the time.

In 1964 the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC) in Geneva took up the question and fours years of detailed negotiations culminated on 1 July 1968, in the signing by many nations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), aimed at preventing the increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons and ensuring to non-nuclear-weapon countries access to all peaceful uses of atomic energy. . .

Ever since the end of World War II, various plans have been considered for the global control of nuclear energy. National and regional systems of control have been created to assure that nuclear material destined for peaceful uses is not diverted to military purposes. The first such controls were national safeguards systems developed by the major nuclear States. In some cases safeguards were also applied, through bilateral agreements, when nuclear material or equipment was exported to other countries.

However effective some of these national, bilateral and regional systems may be, they are limited in their credibility for countries outside the system. To inspire confidence in the world community, a complete and truly international system of verification is required. This role was envisaged for the IAEA by its founders. . .

One of the principal statutory objectives of the IAEA is to assure, so far as it is able, that assistance given to promote peaceful uses of atomic energy is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose. The Statute also directs the IAEA to carry out its activities in conformity with policies of the United Nations furthering the establishment of safe-guarded world-wide disarmament and in conformity with any international agreements entered into pursuant to such policies.

The IAEA has, therefore, the statutory competence to carry out the control functions now envisaged for it under the NPT. It was natural, then, that the negotiators of the NPT chose the IAEA as the organ to verify the fulfilment of the Treaty obligations.

The IAEA has had several years of practical experience in building up and administering a safeguards system on an international basis. The countries which will conclude agreements with the IAEA are assured that they will be entering into a system which has been tried and tested and accepted over the years . . .

It is a common belief that “safeguarding” means “inspecting.” While on-the-spot inspections are an important element of the application of safeguards, they are only a part of the system. Also necessary for an effective Safeguards System are design review and materials accounting on the basis of records and reports which are required on the use and location of nuclear material and the operation of facilities containing such material.

There are three ways in which the IAEA assumes the responsibility to apply safeguards in a country:

❖ When a State receives special fissionable and other materials, services, equipment or facilities, through the IAEA.

❖ When the IAEA is requested to safeguard any bilateral or multilateral arrangement.

❖ When a State submits any of its nuclear activities to IAEA safeguards.

With one recent exception, safeguards agreements have so far been confined to specified installations, or materials in given countries. Under the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty each signatory non-nuclear weapon State is required to conclude individually or together with other States, a safeguard agreement with the IAEA covering all their peaceful nuclear activities. Thus there may well be an appreciable extension of the safeguards activities of the IAEA. . .

Thirty-nine safeguards agreements are now in force or have been approved by the Board. Of these, twenty-nine are transfer agreements whereby the administration of bilateral safeguards has been entrusted to the IAEA. The total number of principal nuclear facilities, research and development facilities and other separate accountability areas covered by these agreements is now more that 100. . .

The IAEA is closely following and fostering the exchange of information on development of techniques and devices to improve the credibility and facilitate the execution of safeguards. Several Member States are doing research and development work, and the IAEA itself has concluded research contracts. In order to carry out efficiently the considerable increase in work, the IAEA will take advantage of simplified and mechanized procedures as they are developed. . .

As the countries of the world are assured that nuclear energy will not be diverted to nuclear weapons, the exchange of information, material, equipment and technical aid should increase. According to Article IV of the Treaty, “Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also co-operate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. . .”

As the first objective set forth in the Statute is to “seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to pace, health and prosperity throughout the world,” the IAEA, with its international membership, is well qualified to foster the further development of the peaceful uses of atomic energy. . .

In October 1967, Mr. Jan Neumann, Chairman of the Czechoslovak Atomic Energy Commission, who was President of the Eleventh Session of the General Conference, expressed the IAEA’s readiness to undertake its tasks under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to make such preparations as it might be necessary to discharge the wider responsibilities which would devolve upon it. . .

Until now, the IAEA’s role has been primarily of a scientific and technological nature. The effect of the enforcement of the Treaty will be to give the IAEA responsibilities of considerable political significance.