IAEA Technical Cooperation & the NPT?

Si vis pacem para pacem - If you want peace prepare for peace.

by Paulo M. C. Barretto & Ana Marķa Cetto

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This restatement of the old Roman dictum on war formed the basis for the agreement on the world's Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968. It is as valid now as it was then.

The NPT rests on three interlinked pillars: cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy, verified nuclear non-proliferation, and nuclear disarmament. This article looks specifically at the first pillar and its linkage with the second one.

Rights & Obligations

Non-nuclear weapon States are the vast majority of NPT Parties. For them, the Treaty foresees a system of rewards and benefits in return for foregoing any development or possession of nuclear weapons, binding them, as a consequence, to verification of this commitment. The Treaty thus embodies two twin and mutually reinforcing goals: one of promoting the benefits of nuclear energy and the other, of verifying that materials and facilities involved are under control and used only for peaceful purposes.

The right of NPT Parties to have access to information, exchange of equipment and materials is explicitly recognized in Article IV of the Treaty. This Article stipulates that "all Parties of the Treaty undertake to facilitate . and have the right to participate in the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in position to do so shall also cooperate in contributing alone or together with other States or interregional organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.." (Emphasis added).

A successful campaign after the 1995 NPT Review Conference increased the NPT membership from 178 to near universality, and today 189 States are Parties to the Treaty. In the same period the IAEA's membership increased from 127 to 138.

Today all IAEA Member States are participating in the Agency's Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) in varying mixed capacities of donors or recipients. In terms of utilization of nuclear energy and applications, they represent a wide spectrum of interests and needs:

Hence, the majority of Member States receive support in the form of information, know-how, equipment, materials and assistance in general through this multilateral channel. Further, through the Agency's support, Member States are in a position to cooperate and contribute to the development of peaceful applications of nuclear technology.

Is the System Working?

How well are countries complying with their NPT obligations when it comes to peaceful nuclear uses? An examination covering the last decade would show that some transfer of technology has taken place through bilateral channels, although in a limited fashion and scale. Some of these bilateral cooperation activities are, in reality, related to commercial contracts. Apart from the IAEA, multilateral cooperation has been insignificant.

Indeed the IAEA, although not referred to in Article IV of the NPT, plays a major role in planning and implementing multilateral cooperation stipulated in the Treaty. It encourages and assists research, development and application of atomic energy; it provides technical advice, training, materials, services and equipment; fosters exchange of scientific and technical information; develops standards and guidelines for the appropriate utilization of nuclear technology and materials, and builds strategic partnerships to increase the leverage of the limited resources available. At all times, the Agency seeks to support the use of nuclear technology in a way that is safe for humans and the environment. All these activities are related to key statutory functions of the IAEA.

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