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

Vienna, Austria

Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Colleagues,

The nuclear landscape is constantly evolving. Global interest in nuclear power generation is increasing. We can expect growing international nuclear cooperation between States - with an expansion of trade in nuclear and related equipment, items and materials.

At the same time, many Member States are expecting more from the Agency and its Safeguards Department. For example, new roles for the Agency are being discussed in the field of disarmament, and our safeguards activities are now increasing rapidly in India. Moreover, a number of important issues fill the agenda of Agency Board meetings: we have outstanding issues to resolve with Iran and Syria, and the DPRK ceased all cooperation with the Agency last year.

All this will significantly affect the Agency´s safeguards system in the years ahead: offering both challenges and opportunities to the Agency and its Member States.

Our main, overall challenge, however, remains: - To further enhance our capability to detect early any possible undeclared nuclear material and activities in a State. So, how can technology, science and innovation help us meet these challenges: to help us remain a leader in verification and safeguards - to keep one step ahead of those who want to defeat the system?

Clearly, we need to address the proliferation risks that originate from the wider use of sensitive nuclear technology - particularly by enhancing the detection of the misuse of enrichment and reprocessing technologies. We can do this, partly, by improving, and making better use of, technological innovation.

The likely emergence of new types of nuclear reactors, along with complex and large scale facilities, will require the Agency to develop dedicated safeguards approaches, techniques and equipment well in advance, so that safeguards can be built into the original design of the facility. Here, it will be important that the Agency works with States and facility providers, as well as operators, to design and operate "safeguards friendly" nuclear installations in ways that facilitate efficient and effective verification.

The task of establishing and maintaining a pool of cutting-edge technical instrumentation for verification is a challenging one. We continue to strive for improvements in the reliability, precision, versatility, as well as the standardization, of equipment. Instruments need to be sufficiently robust to work in the field, and be user-friendly for inspectors. The same is true for containment and surveillance technologies.

Having state-of-the-art verification technology has also become an important requirement for the detection of clandestine nuclear activities. Here, we do need to strengthen our capabilities - especially with regard to satellite imagery, information analysis, and environmental sampling. The increasing number of special or environmental samples we are taking, in turn, requires us to improve our laboratory capabilities, as well as to expand the network of analytical laboratories operating in a number of Member States.

Some of the necessary improvements are already underway through implementation of the ECAS project - mentioned by David earlier. This involves the enhancement of our analytical services - through the modernization of the Nuclear Material Laboratory at Seibersdorf and extending the Clean Laboratory - which is part of the Environmental Sample Laboratory.

The need for the Agency - independently - to assess the composition and characteristics of nuclear materials, or other materials that are relevant to safeguards, will become a focus of future technological development. In this respect we would benefit from access to enhanced analytical and forensic techniques. These would enable us, for instance: - to date the age of nuclear material, to determine the origin of nuclear material or to look for traces of undeclared activities - indeed, to answer any number of safeguards-relevant questions with which our inspectors may be confronted. In this respect, the Agency would also benefit from access to the forensic databases of Member States.

Nothing can substitute for the presence of inspectors on the ground. And indeed on-site access is the main "added value" this organization can provide. Nevertheless, the availability of remotely-acquired information can be extremely useful to make our work more effective and efficient. In this respect, we will soon be benefitting from our next generation surveillance system: designed to provide a modern and secure environment that will allow us to easily record and store authenticated and tamperproof surveillance data, and to transmit them to Agency headquarters here in Vienna.

Clearly - today - the processing, analysis and evaluation of safeguards-relevant information back at Headquarters has become an essential part of the Agency´s safeguards regime. This includes the identification of indirect, as well as direct, indicators. Here, I am thinking of trade patterns, procurement, and R&D activities carried out by a State of concern. The identification of such indicators enables us to build up a more complete picture of a State´s nuclear activities, and to do so more quickly and efficiently.

To help us acquire, process, analyse and disseminate all this information we will be gradually implementing a new system of "integrated analysis". We have established the foundation of this approach through our "information system reengineering project" - or IRP. We are also pursuing mobile communication systems that will enable us to achieve near real-time information exchange between inspectors in the field and analysts at HQ.

And as we implement these improvements, we need to exercise constant vigilance to ensure the protection of sensitive information - by strengthening our information security procedures, infrastructure and policy.

Let me turn now to how we see the Agency´s conceptual approach evolving.

It is true to say that prevailing safeguards concepts and approaches were largely developed some twenty or more years ago and are still very much prescriptive and criteria driven. It is clear to us within the Agency, and has been for some time, that we need to further develop our conceptual approach to safeguards implementation: an approach that makes better use of all information available to the Agency in defining State-specific approaches and associated verification activities. In that respect, we have been helped by the different strengthening measures agreed upon in the 1990s and the approval of the Model Additional Protocol in 1997, which has enabled us to gain access to a much wider range of information and locations.

Our challenge today is to apply safeguards more effectively and more efficiently - at a time of rising demand on our services and a static Agency regular budget. In other words, we need to further optimize the use of our resources by avoiding unnecessary effort and focusing instead on that which is most important.

But - at the same time - we must not compromise our ability to draw independent and soundly-based safeguards conclusions: we must continue to apply safeguards in a fair and non-discriminatory manner to all States.

That is why we need to move further away from an approach that is narrow, prescriptive, criteria-driven, and focused at the facility level - to one that is more objectives-driven, customized, and focused at the State level. This makes sense because we need to be guided by objectives rather than procedures: concerned with outcomes rather than process.

The Agency´s implementation of safeguards for any given State, therefore, needs to be flexible, and driven by all the safeguards-relevant information available to us about that particular State: information that we derive from obligatory State declarations and other reports, from the Agency´s own verification activities, and from all relevant sources.

It is upon an evaluation of all this information that we plan and implement our verification activities and ultimately draw our safeguards conclusions for each State.

This "State evaluation process" is a dynamic, robust and iterative process. The evaluation results are then used as the basis for planning subsequent safeguards activities. The results of those activities, in turn, are themselves assessed and any follow-up actions identified - for example, whether additional information is required or further verification activities need to be conducted. So, if the information and evaluation change, so does our safeguards´ approach in that particular State. Thus, safeguards implementation at the State level is "information driven".

Let me be clear here as to what we are not proposing. We are not proposing to implement a different safeguards system, or to discriminate against certain States or categories of States. All States will remain subject to the same rules and overall objectives as before: subject to the agreements they have signed with the Agency.

There are also implications of this new approach for the Agency. We will need to revise some of our business processes and responsibilities, as well as make changes to the organization itself. In addition, the skill sets within the Department of Safeguards and of the inspectors themselves need to be enhanced. Instead of just being accountants, our staff also need to be investigators and analysts: professionals who are curious, with broad experience; who are persistent but diplomatic; who exercise sound professional judgment; and who can report their findings in a clear and impartial way. In addition, the Agency as a whole needs to adopt a truly "One-House" approach, whereby synergies between departments are fully exploited.

Let me turn briefly to our legal authority.

In order to provide credible assurances to the international community, it is clear that we require adequate legal authority to conduct our verification work effectively.

Here, we are not necessarily seeking new powers. Rather, we need to ensure that we are making full use of the legal authority already available to us. Are we, for example, making full use of the authority granted to us under comprehensive safeguards agreements - especially in those States where an additional protocol is not in force? This is an area we would like to explore further.

We also need to encourage more States to sign up to - and bring into force - an additional protocol, especially those with significant nuclear activities. And we need more States with small quantities protocols to amend or rescind them in line with the Board of Governors´ decision of 2005.

In recent years, a number of developments have tested the nuclear non-proliferation regime - such as the DPRK´s nuclear tests, the ongoing concerns over Iran´s nuclear programme, issues raised by non-Parties to the NPT, and the growing influence of non-state actors. All this has put a strain on the NPT which, in turn, puts pressure on the Treaty´s executive verification body - namely, the IAEA.

I look forward to hearing what Gareth Evans has to say on the wider issues of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and possible roles that the Agency might play.

All these developments highlight the evolving nature of the Agency´s operating environment and the importance of adapting to change and continually improving both the effectiveness and the efficiency of the safeguards system.

There are other factors to consider too.

    • For instance, as we move forward, our staff training will need to reflect the evolution in institutional culture required by our new conceptual approach.


    • To continue to attract staff of high calibre we will have to compete with industry and national administrations over a small and potentially shrinking pool of qualified nuclear professionals.


  • And - understandably, in this time of financial hardship - we are also faced with the prospect of an Agency budget that is not increasing commensurately to meet the global challenges faced by the Agency.

So - Ladies and Gentlemen - Yes: the challenges are numerous and substantial. But I believe the Agency has the right vision, the proper conceptual approach and the motivated staff necessary to tackle those challenges, overcome them, and move forward as a modern, effective and efficient organisation serving global security.

But in order to do so, we need the help of all of you.

We need Member States to fully meet their safeguards obligations and facilitate the Agency´s work by providing timely, correct and complete information, and by demonstrating transparency. In particular, I would like to call on all Member States to ensure that their State System of Accounting and Control has the necessary legal authority to do its job properly and that it is fully cognisant of all nuclear and other relevant activities in the country. Indeed, we need to find ways to enhance our cooperation with SSACs and RSACs, and to better utilize the safeguards expertise and capabilities that reside within our Member States.

We need the assistance of the scientific and technical community to provide us with the requisite technologies to keep us at the cutting edge of information collection, analysis, equipment, and verification capabilities. The continued assistance of Member State Support Programmes will remain vital in helping us to stay at the cutting edge of verification technologies.

We welcome and fully support the numerous initiatives launched by Member States - such as the US´s Next Generation Safeguards Initiative - aimed at promoting the strengthening of nuclear safeguards worldwide, and the support provided by Member States to build our new laboratories in Seibersdorf, and last but not least, the tremendous support provided through the different Member States Support Programmes.

And we also need the help of think-tanks, NGOs and academia to provide critical analysis of our activities and to help us build wider international support for the work of this Agency and its contribution to non-proliferation.

I have every expectation that this symposium will prove to be a success. I appreciate your participation, and the various expertise and ideas that you bring to the table. As well as the political and financial support we receive from Member States, we need your practical and intellectual support.

By bringing together the leading experts in the field from across the world, this safeguards symposium aims to provide an opportunity for stakeholders - jointly - to explore possible solutions to the various current and future challenges that confront us, and thereby to support the Agency´s verification mission.

Today, I have made clear our determination to accelerate the Agency´s move towards a Safeguards system that is fully driven by the use of all the safeguards-relevant information available to us.

By not implementing safeguards in a one-size-fits-all approach: But, instead, by being responsive to change - and flexible in our approach, we can ensure the more efficient implementation of more effective safeguards. In this way, the Agency, with your support, can continue to play a vital role within the nuclear non-proliferation regime in the years ahead.

Thank you very much.

Last update: 16 Feb 2018


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