by Duyeon Kim and Andrew Carpenter
The 55th International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference (GC), comprised of representatives from the Agency’s 151 Member States, will be held on September 19-23, 2011 in Vienna. The General Conference, coupled with the Board of Governors meeting prior to the Conference, shape the direction of the Agency. Many of the items on the provisional agenda, released well in advance of the Conference, are updates of progress on previous resolutions, or items that have been repeatedly been placed on the agenda each year.
- To consider and approve the IAEA’s program, budget, and issues presented by its Board of Governors, Director General or Member States.
- To pass statute amendments, approve the budget, approve application for membership in the IAEA, elect board members, and discuss other administrative tasks outlined in the IAEA statute.
The IAEA plays an international advisory and coordinator role in nuclear safety, security and safeguards (3S) issues by providing assistance, guidelines and recommendations. It cannot create regulations but can make recommendations to Member States.
The General Conference can be an opportune time to raise awareness on potential nuclear threats, provide necessary assistance (technical, educational, expert advice) and encourage Member States to implement nuclear safety, security and safeguards programs.
AGENDA FOR NUCLEAR ISSUES
A wide range of items are currently on the provisional agenda for this year’s GC. Below are those related to nuclear terrorism, security and non-proliferation. While most of the multilateral treaties listed below are dealt with at the United Nations, this week’s IAEA General Conference could facilitate the continued raising of awareness for Member States to join and implement those multilateral accords.
“Nuclear security, including measures to protect against nuclear and radiological terrorism”
Developments under Resolution GC (54)/RES/8 adopted in September 2010 will be discussed, which addresses a range of key nuclear issues under the authority of both the IAEA and the United Nations. The Resolution:
- “Calls on States Parties to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CCPNM) to ratify the 2005 Amendment”The CCPNM signed in 1980, legally binds State Parties to ensure the physical security and protection of nuclear material during international transport, as well as the prevention, detection and punishment of offenses related to nuclear material. There are 145 parties to the Convention and 44 signatories.
The 2005 Amendment extends the Convention to include the physical protection of nuclear material in domestic use. Two-thirds of the 145 States Parties are must ratify the Amendment to bring it into force, and only 49 states have ratified it.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano can and should use the 2011 General Conference to encourage more Member States to ratify the amendment.
- “Encourages Member States to take into account INFCIRC/225/Rev.4 (Corrected)”The IAEA’s Information Circular 225 has been revised for the 5th time and approved in 2011. It is the basic international standard for the physical protection of nuclear material. The IAEA document provides guidance and recommendations for the physical protection of nuclear material against theft during storage, use and transport. The latest revision reflects today’s threats and concerns as well as the need to align with the 2005 amendment to the CCPNM.
INFCIRC 225 Rev. 5 contains provisions relating to the sabotage of nuclear material or facilities. It is a set of guidelines and no signatories or ratification is required since it is not a treaty or a binding resolution.
- “Encourages all Member States to become party to International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT)”For more information, see Factsheet: 66th UN General Assembly. While the UN takes the lead on this Convention, Director General Amano could also use the General Conference to still encourage more Member States to become Party to it.
- “Invites the Secretariat to provide assistance, upon request, in fulfilling Member States obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1540.”Resolution 1540, in effect until April 25, 2021, legally obligates States to prevent non-state actors from using, acquiring or transferring nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their delivery systems. The resolution requires States to establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of such weapons and adopt necessary legislation.
- The findings of the 2011 Nuclear Security Report is also expected to be discussed at the General Conference.
“Strengthening the effectiveness of the safeguard system and the application of the Model Additional Protocol”
The General Conference will evaluate efforts to apply the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, explore methods to further expand adherence to the measures, and review the implementation of Resolution GC(54)/RES/11.
The IAEA Board of Governors approved the Additional Protocol in 1997 that allows Agency inspectors access to declared and undeclared nuclear facilities. However, acceptance of the Additional Protocol by States remains to be a sticking point due to the sensitivities surrounding military facilities.
“Implementation of NPT Safeguards between the IAEA and the Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea)”
The IAEA will explore ways to rebuild the relationship between North Korea and the IAEA with the goal of bringing it back under IAEA safeguards, and a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as stipulated in Resolution GC(54)RES/12.
North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but the General Conference may prod the regime to return to the Treaty and return to compliance. In the wake of North Korea’s disclosure of its pilot uranium enrichment program, Director General Amano may continue to raise the need for IAEA inspectors’ presence in the North. Washington, Seoul and Tokyo are trying to find ways for the IAEA to confirm the uranium enrichment facility.
“Application of IAEA safeguards in the Middle East”
Director General Amano will report to the General Conference on the implementation of ResolutionGC(54)/RES/13 on the application of safeguards in the Middle East. It also calls for the application of safeguards to the Middle East as a necessary first step in building confidence and transparency to implement a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ).
The 1995 Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review and Extension Conference adopted the Middle East Resolution calling all states in the region to join the treaty, place all nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, and work towards a nuclear weapons-free zone.
Israeli Nuclear Capabilities
Arab states were expected to submit the Resolution on Israeli Nuclear Capabilities (INC) at the General Conference that summons Jerusalem to join the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Israel has widely been believed to be the only nuclear weapons power in the Middle Eastern. However, international media have recentlyreported on an expected reconciliatory shift among Arab states against singling out Israel at the General Conference. The restraint is reportedly aimed at providing “more room” for an upcoming IAEA meeting in November on nuclear weapons-free zones and a 2012 conference proposed by Egypt on the creation of such a zone in the Middle East.