The safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have a critical role in increasing and maintaining vigilance for the international community against the potential military usage of the nuclear technology. Based upon the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Article III, the nations with bounding ratifications are to “not divert nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devises,” and general IAEA inspections and safeguards are the ‘inspector’ role to ensure that the NPT measures are carried out. Safeguards of the IAEA are the tools, which the IAEA have, in order to ensure world peace – literally.
Objective of the IAEA safeguards can be summarized to the following:
“Timely detection of significant quantities of fissile nuclear material.” (Significant quantities defined as minimum amount needed for a nuclear explosive device)
“Detection of undeclared nuclear material and activities in a State”
The problem here is that the current safeguard functions of the International Atomic Energy Agency, despite numerous strengthening measures, have failed on numerous occasions. Without any direct introduction to disputable events, failures of detection in ‘timely manner’ or ‘accurate detection’ was unable to be conducted in regions such as the middle east, regions of former Soviet states, Korean Peninsula, and the Indian subcontinent. Current safeguard function of the IAEA is extremely heavily dependent on individual State’s transparency of information and in-field verification process, and stronger and tighter inspection is the issue on the current contention.
Definition of Key Terms:
Strengthening: The word strengthening can be viewed in many different aspects. In this context, however, can be focused in relatively few meanings. One, to reinforce the measures in the current safeguard measures; potentially to reconstruct, rephrase, or add certain measures into the safeguard measures of the IAEA based upon past failures and successes. Two, to strengthen the implementation of the safeguard measures in each respective states via encourages in more invasive means – perhaps even at the implementation of the UN Charter’s Chapter 7 with resolution through the UN Security Council.
Safeguard function of the IAEA: As previously mentioned IAEA safeguard function involves the two key functions (Please view introduction if necessary). Quoting from the former IAEA Direction General, Mohamed ElBaradei, “Inspections by an impartial, credible third party have been a cornerstone of international nuclear arms control agreements for decades. Where the intent exists to develop a clandestine nuclear weapons program, inspections serve effectively as a means of both detection and deterrence.”
Core functions of the safeguards of IAEA involve information gathering, threat assessments, and verification of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In a state level, IAEA works as a third-party observer that receives, confirms, or discards information regards to nuclear technology. IAEA has powers granted by ratification of resolutions and treaties – no more no less.
Major Players and Their Positions:
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: Only member to have withdrawn from the IAEA. It has shown capacity to enrich uranium, and other than its repeated nuclear testing has not only confirmed its intent for nuclear explosives, its missile technology indicates a significant threat to the non-nuclear proliferation.
Islamic Republic of Iran: IAEA and Iran has a long history from the post revolution period when Iranian nuclear programs became active. Iran’s nuclear program was established for the first time in 1953 after the CIA supported coup. Most significantly, the recent discovery of the uranium enrichment facility and the self-declaration of nuclear state have significantly elevated its tension with the international community and IAEA measures. Regarding the issue at hand, Iran will most definitely be against any hard-line stance.
United States of America: US been one of the strongest supporter and funding member of the IAEA member states. Just recently, President Obama has approached the issue with additional 225 million US dollar increase in US share of the IAEA (During his presidential campaign. It was his campaign promise #194.) Phrasing given in the same speech, as well as numerous actions done by the current administration in response to Iran and the DPRK indicates in strong support of the strengthening of IAEA safeguard functions. Bush administration had taken a hard-line stance in regards to aspiring nuclear powers, but Obama has taken softer, more diplomatic solutions to the issue. Regardless, the increase in measures of verification stance firm. So, US would most likely go against a IAEA with actual conflict with the respective governments, but will be for IAEA safeguards expansion to increase vigilance.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irelands: UK is one of the five nuclear-weapon states, and despite its exclusion from NPT with IAEA safeguards, UK has voluntarily opened all fissionable material in facilities or parts within the UK exception to those concerning national security. With regards to actual IAEA safeguard, UK government had certain statements made during the past regards to how the IAEA is too strongly dependent on ‘willingness of nations to cooperate’ showing the rooms for a hard-line stance on the issue. UK has pushed for sanctions on Iran recently, once again to the point, pointing towards the stronger-IAEA-friendly UK.
French Republic: France has recently made statement through the ministry of foreign and European affairs spokesperson to “pursue efforts to shed full light on Iran’s past and present nuclear activities.” France is, like the other P5 nations, nuclear weapon states and notable example of peaceful nuclear power usage around the world. More than 70% of its electricity is powered by nuclear power generation. Regards to issue, it will press for a strengthening measures, perhaps not to the line of hard-line stance due to pressure from the PRC, but certainly to an acceptable length.
Russian Federation: Russia had previously blocked a IAEA resolution against Iran in earlier 2008, but has recently shifted direction following the DPRK and Iranian actions in the past two years. More recently, Russia backed an IAEA draft resolution on Iran’s nuclear program in later last year with more leniency towards hard line stance. Cooperation between Russia and IAEA has been noteworthy, and with the recent Russian administration’s actions it is most likely that the Russia will push for stronger IAEA safeguards.
People’s Republic of China: China has shown unexpected leniency towards recent Iran incident. Through the Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu, China have made a statement in favor of negotiation and peaceful settlement. These evidences point towards the fact that China will be against hostile strengthening of the IAEA safeguards.
Timeline of Key Events:
1957: The IAEA is set up as autonomous body under the United Nations.
1970: NPT is signed by 188 states and comes into force. IAEA is given specific role of defining and inspecting safeguards.
1986: Chernobyl, Ukraine experiences a devastating catastrophe. IAEA investigates and reports on the consequences – IAEA leads on the studies and research.
1994: North Korea withdraws its membership after a dispute over IAEA inspections.
1998: IAEA claims to ‘unable to exercise its right to full and free access” at Iraq
2002: Iraq Action Team resumes work under its new name: Iraq Nuclear Verification Office. On the same year, DPRK has also expelled IAEA inspectors and removed surveillance equipment from its nuclear facilities.
2003: Following IAEA’s report of Iran’s failure to meet NPT requirements, IAEA resolution for Iranian uranium enrichment facility is passed. Iran signs an agreement to allow tougher inspection.
2004: More of Iranian nuclear activities that were maintained secrete were discovered and the IAEA resolution comes short of UN sanctions. IAEA calls for suspension of Iran’s nuclear programs, but Iran initially rejects the proposal – soon to accept towards the end of the year.
2005: IAEA adopts resolution urging Iran to stop its uranium enrichment program, but IAEA once again finds Iran in non-compliance with the NPT.
2006: IAEA votes to report Iran to the UN Security Council, and Iran gave threats to resume its research. Later the same year, DPRK nuclear test threatens the international security.
2007: IAEA determines that Iran is continuing and increasing its nuclear activates. IAEA determines in May that Iran can develop a nuclear warhead within three to eight years, and DPRK again expels IAEA inspectors. Iran allows and disallows IAEA inspectors within 3 months of time with IAEA pushing for peaceful negotiation and US pushing for sanctions.
2008: IAEA determines the Pakistan’s nuclear weapons of danger to potential thefts to Islamic radicals. No measures taken. IAEA once again increases suspicion of secrete nuclear weaponry development, and soon CIA discovers nuclear reactors under construction. DPRK again bans IAEA inspectors.
2009: Additional nuclear test conducted by DPRK, and Iran reveals second uranium enrichment plant. Iran refuses to accept international uranium enrichment offer and IAEA again passes resolution against Iran.
2010: Iran has declared itself to be a nuclear state.
The significance of the timeline lies with the trend. Immediate notable trends are the lateness in IAEA identification of threats and incapacity to resolve the issue. A state violates certain treaties, nothing is done. Perhaps IAEA resolution or perhaps even an UN Security Council resolution ultimately to not achieve its goal. Iran and DPRK, as an example, has developed their nuclear program right under IAEA’s nose. Detection was literally years behind, and even when discovered the corresponding actions were a failure. Strengthening of the safeguard function of the IAEA is critical to solving the issue.
Relevant Treaties and UN Resolutions:
Treaties: Most of them are self-explanatory.
Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the IAEA: Self-explanatory. Sets the boundaries of the IAEA activities. Cornerstone of IAEA’s existence. Potential boundaries of IAEA ‘safeguards functions.’
Convention on Nuclear Safety: Specific resolution targeted for the purposes of monitoring of operations and regulations of nuclear power plants within each respective states. Part of the IAEA ‘safeguards functions.’
Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management: Self-explanatory. Treaty regards to IAEA monitoring of the nuclear waste material. Also part of IAEA ‘safeguard functions.’
Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material: Self-explanatory. Treaty in regards to actual military and security issues of protection on nuclear material. Inspection and threat assessment is part of IAEA ‘safeguard functions.’
Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: Key part of the debate as it is NPT’s article III is the main purpose of IAEA safeguards. Mentioned in both the introduction and the definition of key terms.
Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America, The African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, Agreement between the Republic of Argentina, the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials and the IAEA for the Application of Safeguards, Verification Agreement between the IAEA and the European Atomic Energy Community: All of these are self-explanatory. They regard to nuclear weapons free zone and multilateral agreements regards to nuclear weapons and materials – to be inspected by the IAEA; Part of the “safeguard functions.’
Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water: Self-explanatory. Underline parts of the IAEA ‘safeguard function’ regards to nuclear weapons tests.
UN Security Council Resolutions 1373: UN Security Council resolution concerns with international terrorism and the illegal movement of nuclear materials. The resolution emphasizes the need to enhance coordination of national, regional, and international efforts to strengthen a global response to the spreading nuclear threat. Underlines importance of the third party observer, IAEA, and the ‘safeguard functions’s significance in international peace.
UN Security Council Resolutions 1540: UN Security Council resolution to enforce appropriate effective laws which prohibit non-State actors to manufacture, acquire, possess, develop, transport, transfer or use nuclear weapons, in particular for terrorist purposes. The measures included involve IAEA and some key actions of ‘safeguard functions.’
Previously Attempted Solutions and their Failures:
This will vary upon the viewpoint of the matter. In certain significance, IAEA measures have failed, based on the past development of nuclear threat, therefore all their actions are ‘failures.’ Because the so called ‘strength’ of the IAEA measures is significantly dependent on individual state’s tolerance, it has changed often over time. For instance the Bush administration’s push against the IAEA to strengthen measures against Iran and DPRK has only resulted in more significant failure. In a sense all that has been done failed.