Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

Vienna, Austria

by IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei

United Nations, New York, USA
2005 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

by IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei

The core of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons can be summed up in two words: "Security" and "Development". While the States Party to this Treaty hold differing priorities and views, I trust that all share these two goals: development for all through advanced technology; and security for all by reducing - and ultimately eliminating - the nuclear threat.

These shared goals were the foundation on which the international community, in 1970, built this landmark Treaty. They agreed to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons. They agreed, while working towards this goal, to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons by additional States. And they agreed to make the peaceful applications of nuclear energy available to all.

Folded together, these agreements - these commitments - are mutually reinforcing. They are as valid today as when they were first made - and even more urgent.

What should be all too evident is that, if we cannot work together, each acknowledging the development priorities and security concerns of the other, then the result of this Conference will be inaction.

Five years ago, I addressed the 2000 NPT Review Conference - hopeful that the new millennium would bring renewed vigour to these commitments. Many of you were here, and many shared this hope. Are we more or less hopeful now?

In five years, the world has changed. Our fears of a deadly nuclear detonation - whatever the cause - have been reawakened.

In part, these fears are driven by new realities. The rise in terrorism. The discovery of clandestine nuclear programmes. The emergence of a nuclear black market.

But these realities have also heightened our awareness of vulnerabilities in the NPT regime. The acquisition by more and more countries of sensitive nuclear know-how and capabilities. The uneven degree of physical protection of nuclear materials from country to country. The limitations in the IAEA´s verification authority - particularly in countries without additional protocols in force. The continuing reliance on nuclear deterrence. The ongoing perception of imbalance between the nuclear haves and have-nots. And the sense of insecurity that persists, unaddressed, in a number of regions, most worryingly in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula.

If we, the global community, accept that the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology are essential to our health, our environment, and our social and economic development, then we owe it to ourselves to ensure that we have a framework in place that can effectively prevent the military applications of this technology from leading to our self-destruction.

The Treaty has served us well for 35 years. But unless we regard it as part of a living, dynamic regime - capable of evolving to match changing realities, it will fade into irrelevance and leave us vulnerable and unprotected.

While our twin goals - security and development - remain the same, our mechanisms for achieving those goals must evolve.

What, then, can we hope for from this Conference?

We should, first of all, re-affirm the goals we established for ourselves in 1970.

We should send a clear-cut message that our commitment to these goals has not changed. We remain committed to ridding the world of nuclear weapons. We have zero tolerance for new States developing nuclear weapons. And we will ensure that all countries have the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Without these commitments, our presence here and our efforts become a meaningless exercise.

Second, we must strengthen the IAEA´s verification authority.

In recent years, the additional protocol to comprehensive safeguards agreements has proven its worth. With better access to information and locations, we get better results. I would welcome an acknowledgement by this Conference that the additional protocol is an integral part of Agency safeguards in every country party to the NPT.

Effective verification consists of four aspects: adequate legal authority; state-of-the-art technology; access to all available information; and sufficient human and financial resources.

Moreover, verification is but one part of the non-proliferation regime. For the regime as a whole to function effectively, we must ensure not only effective verification but also effective export controls, effective physical protection of nuclear material and effective mechanisms for dealing with cases of non-compliance. It is imperative that these components are well integrated.

The whole purpose of verification is to build confidence. In cases where proliferation concerns exist, I will continue to urge States to be open and transparent. Even if such measures go beyond a State´s legal obligations, they pay valuable dividends in restoring the confidence of the international community.

Third, we need better control over proliferation sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle: activities that involve uranium enrichment and plutonium separation. As experience has shown, effective control of nuclear materials is the "choke point" to preventing nuclear weapons development. Without question, improving control over facilities capable of producing weapon-usable material will go a long way towards establishing a better margin of security.

We should be clear: there is no incompatibility between tightening controls over the nuclear fuel cycle and expanding the use of peaceful nuclear technology. In fact, by reducing the risks of proliferation, we could pave the way for more widespread use of peaceful nuclear applications.

I cannot tell you what the optimum fuel cycle control mechanism should look like, but I am convinced it should be different from what we have today. And above all, it must be equitable and effective.

I should note that the recent High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change urged negotiations without delay on an arrangement, under the IAEA Statute, for the Agency to serve as a guarantor of two fuel cycle related services: the supply of fissile material for fuel, and the reprocessing of spent fuel. The assurance of supply - the guaranteed provision of reactor technology and nuclear fuel to users that satisfy agreed non-proliferation requirements - is clearly a prerequisite for any additional controls on the fuel cycle to be accepted.

The High-Level Panel also urged that, while this arrangement is being negotiated, a voluntary time-limited moratorium on new fuel cycle facilities be put in place - a proposal I have also previously made. Such a moratorium would signal the willingness of the international community to address this vulnerability in the regime. It would also provide an opportunity for analysis and dialogue among all parties.

Last year I appointed an international group of experts to examine various approaches for the future management of the fuel cycle. You will have their report. They have made a good start. If requested, I would be pleased to pursue more detailed work on the relevant legal, technical, financial and institutional aspects of the fuel cycle - perhaps beginning with the development of approaches for providing assurance of supply.

Fourth, we must secure and control nuclear material.

Multiple international and regional initiatives are underway to help countries improve their physical protection of nuclear material. The International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism has just been adopted by the General Assembly. Parties to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material are working to amend the Convention to broaden its scope. Efforts have also been initiated to minimize, and eventually eliminate, the use of high enriched uranium in peaceful nuclear applications. This Conference should voice its support for such initiatives.

Fifth, we must show the world that our commitment to nuclear disarmament is firm. As long as some countries place strategic reliance on nuclear weapons as a deterrent, other countries will emulate them. We cannot delude ourselves into thinking otherwise.

In 2000, the nuclear-weapon States agreed to an "unequivocal undertaking" to accomplish the total elimination of nuclear weapons. It is vital that they continue to demonstrate this commitment through concrete action.

Given current realities, I believe it is also essential that disarmament discussions include States not party to the NPT, namely India, Israel and Pakistan. Nuclear disarmament can only succeed if it is universal.

It is not my role to set forth what a disarmament roadmap should look like. But as many have suggested, it is clear that nuclear-weapon States could make further irreversible reductions in their existing arsenals. In addition, confidence in disarmament commitments clearly would be enhanced if nuclear-weapon States were to take concrete action to reduce the strategic role currently given to nuclear weapons.

Sixth, our verification efforts must be backed by an effective mechanism for dealing with non-compliance. In this, both the NPT and the IAEA Statute make clear our reliance on the Security Council.

Whether it is a case of non-compliance or of withdrawal from the NPT, the Council must consider promptly the implications for international peace and security, and take the appropriate measures.

Seventh, and finally, we should use all mechanisms within our reach to address the security concerns of all. Clearly, not every State sees its security as assured under the current NPT regime.

As we have seen, the means to achieving security are often region specific. In some regions, security has been advanced by the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones.

This Conference should encourage the establishment of additional nuclear-weapon-free zones - in parallel with the resolution of longstanding conflicts - in areas such as the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula. The use of security assurances would also help to reduce security concerns. The DPRK is a clear case in point.

In the broader context, these measures to improve security must be accompanied by an unequivocal commitment to the development component. Nuclear science plays a key role in economic and social development.

Nuclear energy generates 16% of the world´s electricity in 30 countries - including seven developing countries - with almost no greenhouse gas emissions. Radiotherapy is widely used to combat cancer. Other nuclear techniques are used to study child malnutrition and fight infectious diseases. Nuclear research produces higher yielding, disease resistant crops for farmers. We cannot abandon the promise that these and other advanced nuclear technologies hold for addressing the needs of the developing world.

The Conference should reaffirm the commitment by all Parties to ensure the assistance and funding necessary to support peaceful nuclear applications in developing countries.

As I mentioned at the outset, it is clear that, as States Party to this Treaty, your priorities and perceptions of security or insecurity differ - and sometimes differ sharply. But the only way to address all of our security concerns is through joint and collective action.

Nuclear-weapon States continue to rely on nuclear weapons, in part because they have as yet developed no alternative to nuclear deterrence. However, we must seek a solution. In order to accelerate the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons, we must channel our creativity and resources towards the development of an alternative system for collective security, in which nuclear deterrence does not figure.

For non-nuclear-weapon States, one of two conditions can exist. In some cases, they have become dependent on their alliances with nuclear-weapon States - under a security umbrella that also rests on nuclear deterrence. In other cases, States feel insecure and unprotected because of the absence of such an alliance or umbrella. Here, too, we must find a solution. We must do our utmost to create a collective security system that is inclusive and equitable.

In an era of globalization and interdependence, security strategies founded merely on the priorities of individual countries or groups of countries can only be a short term solution. As Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently stated: "Collective security today depends on accepting that the threats which each region of the world perceives as the most urgent are in fact equally so for all."

This Review Conference is an important opportunity. We can acknowledge the vulnerabilities of all of us, and focus on the goals which we all share. We can put in place a paradigm of a new collective security system that will achieve these goals and enable us to live in freedom and dignity.

This multilateral dialogue in which we are engaging is much like democracy. It is slow, unwieldy, and at times frustrating — but it is far superior to any other approach, in terms of the prospects of achieving equitable and therefore durable security solutions. In short, it remains the best - if not the only - option.

This opportunity comes only once every 5 years. If we fail to act, the NPT framework may be the same in 2010, but the world certainly will be different. If recent history is any teacher, by 2010, would-be proliferators will continue to innovate, and sensitive nuclear technology will continue to spread. The arsenals of nuclear-weapon States will continue to be modernized. And extremist groups will continue their hunt to acquire and use a nuclear explosive device - or, even worse, succeed.

Obviously, we cannot accomplish everything in one month. But we must set the wheels of change in motion. Humanity deserves no less.

Last update: 17 November 2014