States Urged to Back Stronger IAEA Nuclear Safeguards

Ohi nuclear power plant in Japan. Japan is among countries where the IAEA applies strengthened safeguards. (Photo credit: H.F.Meyer/IAEA)

In a speech in Tokyo 9 December, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to "re-think" its position and cooperate fully with Agency inspectors to verify its nuclear programme. He further called upon all States to conclude safeguards agreements with the Agency that enable credible verification of both declared and undeclared nuclear material and activities. The Director General addressed the International Conference on the Wider Adherence to Strengthened IAEA Safeguards, which opened today in Tokyo. The meeting is hosted by the Government of Japan and concludes 10 December.

"Regrettably, the DPRK has so far decided not to cooperate with the efforts to enable it through dialogue and verification to come into compliance with its non-proliferation obligations," the Director General said. "I sincerely hope that the DPRK will re-think its position and avail itself, through constructive interaction with the Agency, of the many goodwill offers extended to it with the aim of pursuing peace and stability in Northeast Asia." Earlier this month, the DPRK rejected a resolution by the IAEA Board of Governors. The resolution urged the DPRK: (1) to provide all relevant information to the Agency concerning the reported uranium enrichment programme and other relevant nuclear fuel cycle facilities; (2) to accept the proposal for dialogue at a senior level to provide clarification on this matter; and (3) to come into full and prompt compliance with its safeguards agreement.

IAEA safeguards are a set of activities by which the Agency verifies that a State is not using its nuclear material to develop or produce nuclear weapons. A critical element of the IAEA's verification work is assessing the correctness and completeness of the State's declarations concerning its nuclear material and facilities. Inspections are implemented under safeguards agreements that States conclude with the IAEA. Most States have comprehensive safeguards agreements with the Agency that are concluded pursuant to their adherence to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). In many States, the IAEA is granted additional inspection authority under a protocol to comprehensive safeguards agreements (called an Additional Protocol). This additional agreement authorizes inspectors to have broader access to information and to locations for the purpose of providing assurances relating to the absence of any possible undeclared nuclear material and activities.

The Tokyo meeting continues efforts by the IAEA and its Member States to promote a greater understanding of the importance of strengthened safeguards for nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear security and peaceful nuclear cooperation. Similar meetings have been organized with the support of Australia, Estonia, France, Japan, Kazakhstan, Peru, South Africa and the United States. So far, only 28 States have actually brought additional protocols into force, which the Director General described as "disconcerting". "Universality of the strengthened safeguards system is key to its credibility and effectiveness;" he said. "It is essential that we find ways to encourage all States to conclude and bring these instruments into force as soon as possible."

Last update: 11 November 2014