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IAEA Press Release

Conference - PR 2000/22 (19 September 2000)

Minister of the Russian Federation on Atomic Energy, Evgueny Adamov, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration of the United States, General John Gordon, and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, met in Vienna on 18 September 2000 to review progress on the Trilateral Initiative which was launched in 1996 to develop a new IAEA verification system for weapon-origin material designated as released from defense programs by the United States or the Russian Federation. The removal of weapon-origin fissile material from the defense programmes of the Russian Federation and the United States is in furtherance of the obligations of the two States under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). IAEA verification under this Initiative is intended to promote international confidence that fissile material made subject by either of the two States to Agency verification remains irreversibly removed from nuclear weapon programs.

At the 2000 NPT Review Conference, the consensus final document underlined "the importance of international verification of nuclear material designated by each nuclear-weapon State as no longer required for military purposes", noted that the Conference agreed that the principle of irreversibility should apply to nuclear disarmament, nuclear and other related arms control and reduction measures, and called for "arrangements by all nuclear-weapon States to place, as soon as practicable, fissile material designated by each of them as no longer required for military purposes under IAEA or other relevant verification ". More specifically, the final document calls for "the completion and implementation of the Trilateral Initiative between the United States of America, the Russian Federation and the International Atomic Energy Agency".

Under new verification agreements planned between the IAEA and each of the States, the Russian Federation and the United States intend to submit to IAEA verification weapon-origin fissile material. The United States also intends to submit to IAEA verification other fissile material designated by it as no longer required for defense purposes. An essential requirement of the verification system and the methods to be applied is that they must allow the IAEA to draw credible and independent conclusions to assure that the objectives of verification are met. At the same time, each State must, in keeping with its obligations under Article I of the NPT, assure that the IAEA does not gain access to information relating to the design or manufacture of such weapons.

Substantial progress has been made towards completing a Model Verification Agreement intended to serve as the basis for the bilateral agreements to be concluded between the IAEA and each of the States. The Model Verification Agreement, together with recommendations for financing and cost estimates for IAEA activities which will be required under the new agreements, will be submitted at the appropriate time to the IAEA Board of Governors.

In the technical area, the three parties are collaborating in developing and testing special verification equipment for use with classified forms of plutonium. It will incorporate neutron and gamma ray measurement systems, operating within a system of "information barriers" designed to allow the inspectors to derive sufficient information for the verification to be credible and independent, while preventing access to classified information.

Work is proceeding towards reaching agreement on the verification arrangements to be applied in specific facilities identified by the Russian Federation and the United States where the new agreements would apply. In the Russian Federation, four rounds of discussions were held on the verification methods to be applied at the Mayak Fissile Material Storage Facility, located at Ozersk. In the United States, discussions between US and IAEA experts are well advanced on inspection arrangements applicable to the K-Area Material Storage Facility, located at the Savannah River Site.

Minister Adamov, General Gordon and Director General ElBaradei committed their respective organizations to a work programme for the coming year aimed at the completion of the Model Verification Agreement, the testing of specialized verification and monitoring systems, the development of procedures for inspections, and the adoption of the basic technical measures associated with the verification of fissile material covered by the Initiative. Minister Adamov, General Gordon and the Director General ElBaradei agreed that the Principals would meet again in September 2001 to plan the implementation of this Initiative.