Statement at Symposium on International Safeguards: Preparing for Future Verification Challenges

Vienna, Austria

by David Waller, IAEA Deputy Director General, Head of the Department of Management

Ogden Nash, writer and humorist, jokingly said: "Progress might have been all right once; but it´s gone on far too long."

Well, not so when it comes to safeguards!

The environment in which the Agency conducts nuclear verification needs and welcomes, indeed it demands, continuous progress. And it´s to that end that this periodic rendezvous - the Symposium on International Safeguards - gathers together those most expert, those most interested, those with the most at stake, when it comes to safeguards.

Our objective at these gatherings — whether participating as a representative of a Member State, academia, industry, an NGO, the Agency´s Secretariat, or from elsewhere in the non-proliferation community - is to take stock of that progress, and to consider ways to build on it - particularly in the light of the challenges ahead. And to thereby enhance the effectiveness of the international safeguards regime.

As you have just heard, this is the eleventh in the series of safeguards symposia.

The first one was held back in 1970; hosted by the Federal Republic of Germany in Karlsruhe. Earlier that year the NPT had entered into force, bringing a vast increase in the scope and extent of Agency safeguards. Against that backdrop, that first symposium sought to review available experience in applying safeguards, discuss results of R&D, and broaden the exchange of information.

That Symposium was well attended and viewed as having been extremely valuable; and, thus, the series we continue this week was born.

So - a warm welcome to all of you; and not only to those here in this room, but also to those in neighbouring conference rooms and on the Internet, to whom these proceedings are being "streamed". Thank you all very much for your participation in this critical endeavour. And, of course, a special thanks to the Agency´s co-sponsors, the INMM and ESARDA. You will be hearing shortly from their Presidents, Scott Vance and Elina Martikka.

The most recent of the previous symposia in this series - the one held in 2006 - provides a good baseline against which we can measure the latest advancement in safeguards - both within the Agency itself, and in the broader world.

Within the Agency, the most fundamental change has been in its senior-most leadership. Yukiya Amano, was, of course, elected Director General last September and took up office nearly a year ago.

As many of you know, his experience in the world of non-proliferation and disarmament diplomacy is long, deep, and impressive. It has included his active participation in all NPT review conferences since 1995, and the chairmanship of the 2007 Preparatory Committee.

I first met him during his tenure as Ambassador and Director-General of the Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Science Department at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, where he was seen as the "go-to guy" on verification and other nuclear issues. He became Japan´s Permanent Representative to the Agency in 2005 and almost immediately was elected Chairman of the Board of Governors. And, he continued to serve here as Japan´s Ambassador until his election last year as Director General.

And, more recently - in fact just two months ago - Herman Nackaerts was appointed Deputy Director General in charge of the Department of Safeguards, succeeding Olli Heinonen. Herman has been in the Safeguards Department since 2006, having joined the Agency after more than two decades in senior positions in the European Commission. Within the Section for Euratom Safeguards he was, at various times, in charge of Strategy and External Relations, Logistics and Information Technologies, and Safeguards Inspections.

By the way, the change in the Agency´s senior leadership goes even further. New Deputy Directors General have recently been appointed to head each of the Agency´s three other technical Departments - those dealing with nuclear energy, nuclear applications, and nuclear safety and security; as well as a new Head of the Department of Technical Cooperation. These - together with several recent or pending Director level appointments - represent the most wide ranging change in senior leadership in the Agency´s history.

We´ve also experienced physical change. We meet today in a building the construction of which had only just begun in 2006. Although the symposium that year was held here at the Vienna International Centre it took place in what we call the Rotunda or C Building, with the plenary sessions in our old Board of Governors´ Room. Well, as you may have seen, that C Building is now largely shrouded in white protective drapes, behind which our landlord, the Austrian Government, is engaged in an intensive process of asbestos removal. It was in conjunction with that undertaking, and the growing shortage of meeting and conference space, that Austria generously provided this new facility - the "M Building".

But physical change these past four years has not been limited to here at headquarters. In a 2007 report, the Agency´s Board of Governors was advised that the Secretariat´s ability to provide independent and timely analysis of safeguards samples was deteriorating and at serious risk. This, the report warned, was due to ageing technical infrastructure and the concern about increasingly obsolete equipment in the Safeguards Analytical Laboratory (SAL) located at our facility in the nearby village of Seibersdorf.

For those not so familiar with SAL, it has two main components: the Nuclear Material Lab, which performs destructive analysis of both nuclear and radioactive environmental samples, and the Clean Lab, which screens and performs analysis on essentially non-radioactive environmental samples.

An overall remediation plan was presented to the Board in 2008. It consisted of two phases. First, was the acquisition of a large geometry secondary ion mass spectrometer, SIMS for short. And, to house it, an extension to the existing Clean Lab - to be built on land provided by the Austrian Government immediately adjacent to the existing facilities. And, second, the construction of a new Nuclear Material Lab, on this new parcel of land.

The overall remediation project was given the unwieldy name Enhancing Capabilities of the Safeguards Analytical Services, leading, of course, to the birth of yet another acronym - ECAS.

The ground breaking ceremony for the extension to the Clean Lab took place at the end of March this year - an event the Director General used to underscore the high priority he assigns to maintaining and enhancing our independent analytical capabilities.

Construction of the Clean Lab extension is now well underway. The mass spectrometer has been procured and the first factory tests successfully completed. Agency staff are undergoing training and the Lab is expected to be fully operational in the first half of next year.

As far as the new Nuclear Material Lab is concerned, award of the contract for detailed design and engineering is on schedule to occur in December. This will support groundbreaking and start of construction in the summer.

Although there is strong support among Member States for ECAS, the project is heavily dependent on voluntary contributions in what is, needless to say, a most challenging economic environment. Thus far, generous contributions have been pledged by the Czech Republic, the European Commission, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Spain and the USA. Considerably more funding will have to be secured but we hope to be able to move ahead on schedule.

In the four years since the 2006 symposium the advancement in related technology has also continued.

In that regard, I often find myself trying to explain the Agency´s safeguards system to those having little familiarity with our work, beyond what´s in the news. I tell them that in the early years safeguards inspectors were a bit like "green eyeshade" accountants, checking to be certain that an inventory of nuclear material that had been provided to us by a country was all present and accounted for. But, as I explain, over the years this has evolved - especially following the "wake-up call" in the early 90´s that came with the discovery of the clandestine weapons programme in Iraq. Since then, our typical inspector has increasingly become less accountant and more forensic investigator.

And, this evolution is, of course, thanks in large part to continuing progress in the relevant technologies - both those related to inspections themselves, and to the evaluation of the information gained from our ever increasing variety of sources. New sophisticated tools can be used to mine data from the Internet, including satellite images. And forensic Googling has become a key part of the safeguards culture. Of course, enhanced capabilities such as these also bring challenges - particularly in terms of processing and securing the enormous increase in the volume of raw data.

The physical presence of inspectors at facilities will always remain crucial. However, these advancements increasingly enable our inspectors to perform here at the VIC more of the work that previously could only be performed at nuclear facilities scattered around the world. And there´s no question that this offers us opportunities for savings in terms of reduced travel costs, and less inspectors´ time spent in transit. And reducing costs is vital, particularly given the severe restrictions on our financial resources - more about that in a moment.

But what about changes in the broader world since 2006?

There has, of course, been a litany of encouraging external developments related to safeguards, and the parallel subject of disarmament.

You´re well aware of these events, but, for the sake of context, let me quickly mention some of the key ones.

In 2008, a Commission of Eminent Persons, (20/20 Commission), under the Chairmanship of former Mexican President Zedillo, laid out what it saw as challenges the Agency would face up to that year, 2020; if not beyond. The report called for strengthened Agency safeguards with "access to additional information, sites and people, along with the money, qualified personnel and technology" that it needed. It also devoted an entire chapter to what it called: Substantive and Rapid Progress in Nuclear Disarmament.

And, by the way, we´re very pleased that one of those 20/20 Commissioners, former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, a highly valued friend of the Agency, is with us and will address the symposium in this opening session.

The following year, 2009, saw the entry into force of two new nuclear weapon free zones - in Africa and Central Asia, bringing an additional 58 countries under the umbrella of such zones, and adding momentum to the consideration of such treaties elsewhere.

That, too, was the year in which a newly elected US President, spoke in Prague of "America´s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons" and called for "more resources and authority [for] ...international inspections". In awarding him its Peace Prize later that year the Norwegian Nobel Committee remarked that "[His] vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations."

Also in December of 2009, the report of the Australian-Japanese Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament was issued. This time, Gareth Evans had served as one of the two co-chairs. His commitment to both the important work of that Commission and, thereafter, to "selling" it around the world was extraordinary. I´ll defer to him to summarize the report.

Then, in April this year leaders of nearly fifty countries - together with Director General Amano and the UN Secretary-General, as special invitees - gathered for the Nuclear Security Summit. These Heads of State and Government reaffirmed the essential role of the Agency and pledged to ensure that it had the resources to do its job properly. Shortly thereafter, back in Prague, was the signing of the Russian and American New START treaty.

And, that was followed in short order by the successful conclusion of the NPT Review Conference, with over sixty actions agreed on across the three pillars of that Treaty - disarmament, verification and technology transfer. There was express reaffirmation of the Agency´s role in verification and the promotion of peaceful uses.

Meanwhile, the number of countries that have Additional Protocols in force has risen to over one hundred. That, of course, greatly strengthens the Agency´s ability not only to detect diversion of declared nuclear material but also to detect the presence of any material or activities that have not been declared.

It´s quite a litany, and, that´s just the highlights.

On a personal note, in the midst of all this - in spring last year - I received a telephone call from former US Secretary of State George Schultz. In recent years, we´ve come to know him - together with Henry Kissinger, former Senator Sam Nunn and former Defense Secretary William Perry - as the "Four Horsemen", for their powerful call for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Schultz said that he was heading to Moscow in a few days to join the other "horsemen" for talks with Russian President Medvedev. He said he´d like to stop in Vienna en route to Moscow. And he asked me to host a luncheon for him - here at the VIC - so that he could have the benefit of engaging with a group of the Ambassadors to the Agency. Schultz interacted with those Ambassadors for two and half hours and his message regarding the elimination of nuclear weapons was strong.

Ladies and gentlemen,

One might assume that all these external calls for strengthening safeguards, and for providing the resources necessary to do so, would translate into ample funding to meet the Agency´s increasing safeguards workload.

Yes, and no.

But, before explaining that ambivalent answer, let me put the issue of funding in perspective by repeating the fact that the annual budget for our safeguards work worldwide - approximately &euto;150 million - is less than the annual budget of the Police Department of city of Vienna.

"Yes" the Agency´s Member States have provided some additional funding over the years. They have consistently recognized the uniqueness and importance of its verification mandate. And, many have noted the "value for money" they get from their annual investment. But, particularly in these times of financial crises, with massive budget cutting exercises underway in many of our Member States, any significant increase for the forseeable future is unlikely. Many Member States will continue to advocate - as they have for much of the past quarter century - a budget policy urging "zero growth" in funding for UN and other international organizations, across the board. The financial area - unfortunately - is one in which "progress" is less apparent.

But, financial constraints only make it all the more necessary to find innovative and constructive solutions to future verification challenges. How do we best prioritize our limited resources so as to provide maximum confidence that nuclear material worldwide is being used exclusively for peaceful purposes?

Your deliberations this week are critically important in helping us address these issues. I thank you, again, for your commitment.

Last update: 27 October 2014