IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei addressed the holes in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and called for international regulation of the nuclear fuel cycle in his July 19 op-ed in the Guardian. The article is a much-needed comprehensive articulation of where the world is going wrong on non-proliferation. Sadly, ElBaradei’s complaints will probably fall on deaf ears.
He says that the five nuclear weapons states undermine the NPT by not taking seriously their obligation to pursue disarmament. Other deficiencies in non-proliferation include lax export controls that don’t effectively safeguard against the shipment of materials suitable for use in nuclear weapons, along with gross underfunding of the IAEA. The international community has been coasting and some states have only been doing the bare minimum to prevent proliferation of non-peaceful nuclear technology.
Rogue states like North Korea and Iran create a new set of problems for the next IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. Amano takes office December 1, 2009 and will inherit the looming threat of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
The jury is still out on whether enthusiasm for non-proliferation will be sufficient to fuel ElBaradei’s pet project: a global low enriched uranium bank. The bank is meant to replace domestic enrichment programs in non-nuclear weapon states in the long-term. The proposal is still a tough sell to developing nations who view such restrictive initiatives as impinging on their sovereign rights under the NPT.
The world is at a critical impasse where nuclear proliferation is concerned, given the recent explosion of countries seeking nuclear power and domestic enrichment programs. Hopefully, renewed U.S.-Russian commitment to nuclear weapons reductions will spur the rest of the international community to take their non-proliferation responsibilities seriously.