The IAEA as a Safeguards Regime

Kalpana Chittaranjan

When the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 687 (the Gulf War ceasefire resolution) was adopted in an extraordinary and unprecedented situation, the UNSC, for the first time, was in a position to determine the terms of a ceasefire and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) enjoyed new prominence after the beginning of inspection activities under the resolution. This was because the IAEA is the only existing international organization to fulfill part of the inspection activities foreseen in resolution 687. Where chemical and biological weapons are concerned, there is no similar institution with experience in handling materials related to these weapons of mass destruction (WMD), nor is there a multilateral body acquainted with inspecting ballistic missile arsenals. The IAEA gained standing by conducting examinations in a previously unknown uranium enrichment plant in Iraq, which placed the Vienna-based Agency on the front pages of the world press. While, at first sight, the inspections appeared to be helpful in the handling and surveillance of nuclear materials and installations, a closer look into the issue seemed to mark the Iraqi case as the beginning of the end of the Agency in its pre-UNSC resolution 687 form. Before discussing the Agency in its present form, it is helpful to trace the IAEA’s origin, history, and evolution.


Three months after the USA dropped the first two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, US President Harry S. Truman met with the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Canada in November 1945 to discuss post-war security issues and the atomic bomb. The Three-Nation Declaration on Atomic Energy issued in Washington on November 15, 1945, expressed the view that:

  • There can be no monopoly on nuclear weapons or effective defense against them.
  • Nuclear energy can be a source of benefit to humanity.
  • Preventing proliferation and nuclear War and pursuing nuclear energy’s peaceful benefits are vitally important.
  • This is the international community’s responsibility, not just a few nations.

In words that became famous, the trilateral declaration judged, “No system of safeguards that can be devised will, of itself, provide an effective guarantee against the production of atomic weapons bent on aggression.” Though the statement did not elaborate on what additional measures would be necessary, it did note:

We are not convinced that spreading technical information regarding the practical application of atomic energy before it is possible to devise adequate, reciprocal, and enforceable safeguards acceptable to all nations would contribute to a constructive solution to the problem of the atomic bomb. On the contrary, we think it might have the opposite effect.

The United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (UNAEC), which was created by the very first action of the new United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) when it met in January 1946, was to investigate steps concerning the “exchange of atomic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and effective safeguards.”4 The UNGA noted an important concept while establishing the UNAEC-that “the fruits of scientific research should be freely available to all nations” coupled with the pursuit of arms control and disarmament. The latter objective entailed “effective safeguards by way of inspections and other means to protect complying States against the hazards of violations and evasions.” As early as 1946, both the purpose (to “protect complying States”) and the methods (“inspections and other means”) of safeguards were very clearly articulated.5 However, what remained undefined was the more extensive architecture of which safeguard (verification) would be one part.

The USA presented a proposal for this architecture through the Acheson-Lilienthal Report. In the Acheson-Lilienthal Report of 1946 (named after the US Secretary of State and the future first Chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission), President Truman introduced the concept of controlling nuclear energy and fissionable material for peaceful or military purposes. Though the report did not provide for measures to be taken against violators, the goal of the envisaged organization was only to sound a warning signal in the event of danger.

At the inaugural meeting of the UNAEC, the US delegate, Bernard Baruch, put forward a proposal that came to be known as the Baruch Plan. The Plan envisaged the setting up an authority called the International Atomic Energy Control Agency which would be entrusted with managerial control of all atomic energy activities potentially dangerous to world activities. Its duty was also to foster the beneficial uses of nuclear energy. The agency, in particular, was to conduct continuous surveys of supplies of uranium and thorium and bring these materials under its control. It was also to possess the exclusive right to conduct research in atomic explosives and to produce and own fissionable material. All countries were to be granted the freedom of inspection, deemed necessary by the Agency. The Baruch Plan, which was based on the Acheson-Lilienthal Report, differed from the latter in that it stressed the importance of immediate punishment for infringement of the rights of the Agency and maintained that there must be no veto to protect those who violated the agreement by developing or using atomic energy for destructive purposes. The USA later explained that it had in mind the ownership and exclusive operation by the international authority of all facilities to produce uranium-235 and plutonium. Once a system of control and sanctions was operating effectively, production of atomic weapons would cease, existing stocks would be destroyed, and all technical information would be communicated to the authority, which in effect would mean that control would have to come first, followed by atomic disarmament.

The Soviet Union rejected the Baruch Plan because it would interfere with the national sovereignty and internal affairs of states and that the provision denying a permanent member of the Security Council the right of veto was contrary to the UN Charter. In turn, the Soviet Union submitted a draft convention called the Gromyko Plan (after the Soviet delegate who later became Foreign Minister), which reversed the priorities put forward by the USA. The primary differences between the two positions concerned, first, the stage at which atomic weapons were to be prohibited, i.e., whether a convention outlawing these weapons and providing for their destruction should precede or follow the establishment of a control system; and second, the role of the UN Security Council in dealing with possible violations, i.e., whether the rule of veto would be applicable.

Meanwhile, within two years of its establishment, the UNAEC had become moribund, a victim of both the Cold War and the complex legal and political issues it sought to address. The impasse remained for five years until US President Dwight D. Eisenhower made his famous “Atoms for Peace” speech (a consequence of the Baruch Plan) at the UNGA in December 1953. Eisenhower’s speech emphasized the opportunities be realized rather than the danger to be avoided while he dealt with controlling and promoting nuclear energy. He planned to promote disarmament by an indirect approach- building up the peaceful uses of atomic energy. The nuclear powers were to contribute fissionable material for such services to an agency that would help countries obtain the benefits of nuclear energy. In his speech, the proposal for the creation of an atomic energy agency envisioned that “fissionable material would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind…mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine… and provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world.”

Negotiations for an international atomic energy agency were held from June 1954 through October 1956. Early talks were conducted bilaterally between the USA and the Soviet Union. Later, the USA consulted with its allies, but when this action was criticized, it widened the Group to include the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Brazil, and India. A Conference (open to all members of the United Nations) was held to complete negotiations on the Statute or Charter of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The focus of the original discussions in the UNAEC had been international machinery to control nuclear materials and technology to verify the prohibition on nuclear weapons; dissemination of scientific and technical machinery was distinctly a secondary function. Reversing this was the Atoms for Peace proposal which gave dissemination of information and the pursuit of civil applications a higher priority.

A vital aspect of the negotiations for IAEA was the appropriate balance between its two central functions and whether the issue was nuclear disarmament, control of uses, or simply verification of member state undertakings. At first, the Soviet Union and India maintained their previous stance that the objective was nuclear disarmament but argued against intrusive safeguards. The goal for the USA was control of peaceful uses and arms control, and it also supported strong safeguards. However, extensive and invasive rules were unacceptable for several European and developing countries widely pursuing nuclear research. A key to the success of the Statute Conference and the organization it was to create was a resolution of this issue. The relative emphasis on promoting peaceful uses and controlling prohibited services was also central to the status of verification procedures (safeguards) in the system because a system that emphasized promotion would not press on strong and intrusive safeguards to the same degree as a regime in which controlling proliferation had the highest priority.

The ‘Atoms for Peace’ proposal finally led to the IAEA statute being approved on October 26, 1956, at an International Conference held at UN headquarters. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) went into formal operation on July 29, 1957, with the main functions of assisting research, development, and practical application of atomic energy for peaceful purposes; to making provision for relevant materials, services, equipment, and facilities, with due consideration for the underdeveloped areas of the world; to foster the exchange of scientific and technical information and to encourage the discussion and training of experts in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy; to administer safeguards designed to ensure that relevant materials, equipment, and information were not used in such a way as to further any military purpose; and to establish standards of safety for the protection of health and the minimization of danger to life and property.

The Statute of the IAEA identified two objectives for the organization: “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world” and, to “ensure, so far as it is able, that assistance provided by it or at its request or under its supervision or control is not used in such a way as to further any military purposes.” To accomplish this second objective, one function of the Agency is to:

  • Establish and administer safeguards designed to ensure that unique fissionable and other materials, services, equipment, facilities, and information made available by the Agency, or at its request or under its supervision or control, are not used to further any military purposes.
  • To apply safeguards, at the request of the parties, to operations under any bilateral or multilateral arrangement or, at the request of a State, to any of that State’s activities in the field of atomic energy.


In 1961, Ireland introduced a resolution in the General Assembly called for an international agreement banning the transfer or acquisition of nuclear weapons. This proposal, discussed in the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC) for several years, made little progress. While the USA and the Soviet Union agreed that the treaty must prohibit non-nuclear-weapon states (news) from manufacturing or otherwise acquiring nuclear weapons and prohibit nuclear-weapon states (NWS) from providing atomic weapons to non-nuclear weapons states, they argued over the implications of these points for NATO. Other themes were emphasized by many NNWs, like a need for NWS to pursue arms limitations; the application of nuclear explosives technology to peaceful uses-Peaceful Nuclear Explosives (PNEs); access by the non-nuclear weapon states to scientific and technical information and technology relevant to peaceful purposes; and security assurances for non-nuclear weapon states. The US and Soviet co-chairs tabled identical convention drafts in August 1967. The text was first discussed at the ENDC and then at the UNGA, which adopted a resolution commending the reader and encouraging adherence on June 12, 1968. The treaty was signed on July 1, 1968, in London, Washington, and Moscow and entered into force on March 5, 1970. A significant feature of the NPT as an arms control agreement is that it divides all potential parties into groups: states that had manufactured and exploded a nuclear device before July 1, 1967, and those that had not. Nuclear weapon states committed themselves to not assisting “any recipient whatsoever” in acquiring nuclear weapons or control over any nuclear explosive devices. NNWS committed to not ” receiving the transfer… or control over” nuclear weapons or nuclear explosives, and “not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosives devices, and not to seek or receive any assistance” in their manufacture. Each non-nuclear weapon state, to confirm (in part) these obligations:

Undertakes to accept safeguards, as outlined in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency by the statute of [the IAEA] and the Agency’s safeguards system, for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfillment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty to prevent diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful purposes to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

As only non-nuclear weapon states are required to accept safeguards, as the new NPT system was shaped and implemented, these states insisted that inspections were to verify national declarations of nuclear material and not to search the whole country for evidence of violations. A great significance where the IAEA is concerned is that the IAEA does not verify compliance with the NPT but verifies compliance with a safeguards agreement between the State and the IAEA, which the State entered into to fulfill an obligation under the NPT. When the IAEA finds a form of noncompliance (e.g., Iraq), it violates the IAEA safeguards agreement. Whether or not a state has violated its NPT obligations is for the NPT parties and the Security Council to judge.


By the IAEA’s Statute, nuclear safeguards adopted by the Agency before the conclusion of the NPT were to ensure that atomic items obtained by NNWSs, with the help of the IAEA or under its supervision, were not used in such a way as to further any military purpose. However, international control of nuclear material destined for non-explosive military purposes is not required for IAEA safeguards adopted for the NPT. A dangerous loophole has thus been created because enriched uranium used for the propulsion of ships, especially submarines, is often the same as that used in nuclear weapons. Signatories to the NPT should consider returning to the original stated goal of the IAEA.

The NPT has stipulated precise time limits for initiating negotiations for and the entry into force of safeguards agreement between the parties and the IAEA. However, several countries have not yet concluded the required contract and, in many cases, have not even started negotiations. In some instances (North Korea, for example), when the relevant treaty provision had been ignored, suspicions arose that the essential non-proliferation obligations had also been dismissed. 68 NPT signatories had not complied with their obligations under Article III of the NPT to conclude and put into effect full-scope IAEA safeguards.

The design of the NPT safeguards has been made in such a way as to enable the IAEA to detect promptly the diversion of “significant quantities” of nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities to the manufacture of atomic weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or for purposes unknown, as well as to deter diversion by the risk of early detection. Here, “significant quantity” has been defined as the amount of material that a country would need to make its first nuclear explosive device, i.e., 8 kgs of plutonium or 25 kgs of uranium enriched to 20 percent or more in uranium-235, or 8 kgs of uranium-233. These thresholds, which were set years ago, are now deemed to be too high and should be lowered because, as has been pointed out by Jozef Goldblat, with new, more advanced methods of assembling a nuclear explosive device, the amount of highly enriched uranium could be smaller than the threshold indicated above. It could be made into a nuclear device with an explosive yield of many kilotons.

As far as “timely detection” is concerned, the IAEA relates it to the estimated time that would be needed to convert diverted material into components of a nuclear explosive device. The time frame, which would vary according to the nature of the material, has been set as 7-10 days for plutonium or highly-enriched uranium in metallic form (the so-called “direct-use” material); 1-3 months for plutonium in spent reactor fuel; and about one year for natural low-enriched uranium. Goldblatt suggests that the threshold should be lowered in these cases because non-nuclear components of nuclear weapons, many of which are available in international commerce, could be prepared secretly in advance so that the guns would be completed almost immediately once the nuclear component became available. Countries would then become very close to having nuclear weapons capability without being detected by the IAEA.

The NPT safeguards apply only to nuclear materials, unlike the pre-NPT safeguards used for nuclear materials and facilities. Countries could thus build or import facilities and equipment associated with the atomic fabric without informing the IAEA. They must provide design information of the facilities to make subsequent application of safeguards easier. Still, they are obliged to do so shortly before the material subject to safeguards is introduced.

Only the IAEA, and not signatories to the NPT, according to the rules in force, may formally initiate visits to undeclared sites in countries suspected of non-compliance with the non-proliferation commitments. To create such special inspections, the IAEA must first detect suspicious activities. However, it may be unable to do this unless it establishes its intelligence-gathering services or obtains relevant intelligence from national agencies. This information may or may not be provided and, even if it is, maybe deliberately misleading, or it may only be given in exchange for some confidential data possessed by the IAEA.

Amending the NPT could improve the existing non-proliferation mechanisms. The Treaty provides that a majority may adopt amendments, but they require the consent of the nuclear weapon states and those other states that are members of the IAEA Board when they are circulated.


In 1972, the IAEA’s Board of Governors created a special committee of the Board, open to all members of the IAEA and known as the Safeguards Committee, to establish new safeguards procedures tailored explicitly to the NPT, which was in response to the NPT provisions relating to the establishment of a specific safeguards system for its implementation. The Safeguards Committee, over about eight months, produced a model safeguards agreement known as “The Structure and Content of Agreements Between the Agency and States Required in Connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.” The Board of Governors reviewed and approved this document, published as Information Circular INFCIRC/153.24. This establishes a two-tiered safeguards system. While Part I of the document identifies the safeguards agreements’ principal legal and administrative aspects, Part II elaborates on the rights and obligations of the IAEA, the country, and individual facility operators.


The most important of the three decisions taken simultaneously on May 11, 1995, at the Review and Extension Conference, was decided, without a vote, to recognize that a majority of the parties favored the treaty having an indefinite duration. The other two decisions included Strengthening the Review Process for Treaty 27 and Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. The conference subsequently passed a resolution calling for creating a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. However, the meeting was unable to agree on the text of a final declaration, mainly because of disagreement over whether Article VI of the NPT, which obliged NWS to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control’, had been complied by the nuclear weapon states.”

The universal non-proliferation Regime, i.e., the NPT, had, by the end of 1996, 187 signatories. Among the non-signatories to the treaty are the three threshold nuclear countries- India, Israel, and Pakistan. India has not signed the treaty because it considers that it benefits the atomic haves and discriminates against the have-nots.


The Zangger Committee: The Nuclear Exporters Committee, better known as the Zangger Committee after its first Chairman, was established in 1974 as an intergovernmental group to coordinate multilateral export controls on nuclear materials. It laid down the original ‘trigger list’ (which was subsequently revised in 1995 when modifications were made to the list by members of the Committee) of items (equipment or material) that would if exported to a non-nuclear weapon state that was not a party to the NPT, trigger the application of IAEA safeguards.

Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG): The NSG, known as the London Club, was established in 1978. It coordinated multilateral export controls on nuclear materials and agreed to the Guidelines for Nuclear Transfers(London Guidelines revised in 1993). The Guidelines contain a ‘trigger list,’ adopted from the Zangger Committee list, of equipment and material which, as mentioned above, if exported to a non-nuclear weapon state that was not a party to the NPT, would be subject to IAEA safeguards. The Group met informally from March 1991 and again in Warsaw from March 31-April 3, 1992, during which Russia replaced the USSR. The Warsaw meeting produced the Export Regime for Nuclear-related Dual-Use items. In 1995, New Zealand and South Africa joined the NSG, thus bringing its membership to 31 countries. The year also saw the Group’s members revising the annexes to the Guidelines for Transferring Nuclear-related Dual-use Equipment, Material, and Related Technology.


Regional approaches to curb nuclear proliferation have led to applying full-scope IAEA safeguards for treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZs). These are the 1967 Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin American and the Caribbean, also known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco (which entered into force in February 1996, following Cuba’s ratification), the 1985 South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone (Rarotonga) Treaty, the African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty of 1995 (also known as the Treaty of Pelindaba), and the Treaty on the South East Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.


After Iraq President Saddam Hussein’s decision to attack Kuwait on August 2, 1990, a series of Security Council resolutions that called upon Iraq to withdraw immediately and unconditionally were passed with near-unanimity. The UN also imposed several economic sanctions on the country, which were implemented through a naval blockade. At the same time the embargo war was on, intense diplomatic efforts to achieve a peaceful solution were made in parallel with military preparations for a war against Iraq should diplomacy fail. Saudi Arabia’s defenses against an Iraqi attack were bolstered by “Desert Shield.” On November 29, 1990, the UN Security Council Resolution 678 authorized “member states cooperating with Kuwait” to “use all necessary means…to restore international peace and security in the area” unless Iraq withdrew by January 15, 1991. The War (“Desert Storm”) began with a massive nocturnal air attack (16-17 January 1991) and ended in February 1991, after a large-scale ground offensive (starting February 24) forced Iraq’s capitulation.

UNSC Resolution 687 (also known as the ceasefire resolution), which was passed on April 3, 1991, provided for the inspection and removal, destruction or rendering harmless of all weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and of all materials and facilities which can be used for weapons of mass destruction, including the means of delivery most apt for their use. Iraq, which accepted the terms of the resolution, had to submit detailed reports of its inventories in the nuclear, chemical, and biological fields and missiles with a range exceeding 150 km. Furthermore, the Security Council decided that Iraq had to accept inspections to verify the declarations and set a time limit for the destruction, removal, or rendering of the relevant materials. Where nuclear weapons are concerned, the resolution states that:

“Iraq shall unconditionally agree not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons or nuclear-weapons-usable material or any sub-system or component or any research, development, support or manufacturing facilities related to the above.”

To implement this provision, Iraq was obliged to submit a declaration on nuclear weapons, nuclear-weapons-usable material, and related facilities to the United Nations Secretary-General and the Director General of the IAEA. The country also had “to place all of its nuclear-weapons-usable materials under the exclusive control, for custody and removal, “of the IAEA. The resolution did not provide for IAEA control over nuclear weapons that might be discovered in Iraq. The removal of nuclear materials posed legal problems concerning the future ownership of the materials, which could only be clarified by UNSC resolution 707 of August 15, 1991.

Some wording in the Security Council revolved around handling the nuclear materials issue. Before the Gulf War, there would have been an outcry in any international forum for using the term “nuclear-weapons-usable materials.” Such unequivocal wording had not been made by the IAEA or any of the NPT conferences before to maintain that it is possible to distinguish between civilian and military programs. The IAEA safeguards on nuclear activities of NPT signatories only apply to “special fissionable materials and source material.” For the Agency, the term “direct-use material” is employed.

The UN established the Special Commission (UNSCOM) headed by Rolf Ekeus, Sweden’s onetime chief delegate to the Conference on Disarmament, to carry out the inspections on Iraq’s alleged arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. UNSCOM comprises several sub-groups, each in charge of a category of weapons of mass destruction and one on long-term verification planning. Though there is also a sub-group responsible for nuclear weapons, UNSC Resolution 687 explicitly names the IAEA as accountable for implementing this resolution section, thus making it the only international organization, besides the United Nations, directly involved in the process.

While Iraq made its first declaration on its chemical, biological, and missile capabilities on April 18, 1991, in a letter to the secretary-general of the United Nations about its nuclear inventory, the country made a statement on the categories named by the Security Council but did not submit a detailed list. However, a list of nuclear materials and facilities, including quantities and locations, was provided to the head of the IAEA action team (dated April 27, 1991).

Under resolution 687, the first six inspections were carried out between May and September 1991. In general terms, the inspection teams had the following missions:

  1. Verification of Iraqi declarations submitted to the UN.
  2. Inspection of sites designated by UNSCOM, suspected of being enrichment plants, mainly the electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS) facilities.
  3. Inspection of other sites suspected of being EMIS plants and investigations on the scope of the centrifuge program.
  4. We are assessing the industrial capacities of Iraq and further investigations on the centrifuge enrichment efforts.
  5. Verification of the presence of previously sealed inventories.
  6. Analysis of documents relevant to the overall structure of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program.

Plants allegedly used for assembling nuclear weapons or related research and development were also visited and inspected. The IAEA teams made assessments of the capabilities and, to some extent, the probability that the installations were part of a nuclear weapons program at all stages of the inspection process. Additionally, the IAEA developed a long-term plan for future monitoring and verification of Iraq’s compliance with UNSC resolution 687.

The IAEA’s experience in the nuclear field proved helpful in conducting the inspections in Iraq. Still, a significant part of the task assigned to the teams was entirely new to the Agency. The different missions that the IAEA fulfilled under resolution 687 can be summarized under the following six categories:

  1. Inspection activities are similar to regular IAEA inspections, i.e., inventory control and measurement of degrees of enrichment.
  2. Identification of installations for producing nuclear-weapons-usable materials (enrichment and extraction plants), i.e., evaluation of design quality and production capacities.
  3. Assessment of industrial capacities for indigenous construction of enrichment and extraction plants, i.e., inspections in non-nuclear sectors of the industry.
  4. Identification of potential plants for weaponization, i.e., controls on non-nuclear components of weapons construction.
  5. Search for evidence of plans for a nuclear weapons program, i.e., analysis of research and production.
  6. Removal of nuclear-weapons-usable material.

By October 1994, the Baghdad Monitoring and Verification Center (BMVC), which was established in August 1994, was operating in a ‘test mode’ and focusing on its future tasks under the UNSCOM mandate, which included, among other things, monitoring, and coordination with the IAEA, activities relating to nuclear weapons. In March 1995, revised annexes and lists for future tracking and verification of Iraq’s compliance with the relevant parts of section C of Security Council Resolution 687 were presented to the Security Council (UNSC document S/1995/208 dated March 17, 1995) while in July 1995, the Sanctions Committee approved a UNSCOM-IAEA joint proposal for the import and export control mechanism (UNSC document S/1995/864 dated October 11, 1995).

On the issue of nuclear materials, the six-month (covering the period October 11, 1996, to April 1, 1997) report presented by UNSCOM to the Security Council stated, among other things:

  • UNSCOM continued to provide ‘logistical and other operational support for the IAEA, to designate sites for inspection, and to receive and advise on requests from Iraq to move or use any material or equipment related to Iraq’s nuclear weapon program or other nuclear activities. The Commission’s nuclear experts also participate in the atomic aspects of the export/import monitoring mechanism in analyzing the content of notification forms in coordination and cooperation with the IAEA.
  • Multi-disciplinary inspections have been conducted, and additional missions are planned in the coming year. Closer integration between the Commission’s and the IAEA’s systems continues to be implemented.

Timothy McCarthy, an Inspector with UNSCOM, said that the IAEA, on the nuclear front, could have “the complete story” where information was concerned compared to the other weapons of mass destruction, i.e., chemical and biological weapons in Iraq.


In a speech to the parliament, the then President of South Africa, F.W. De Clark, disclosed that the country had developed and produced nuclear weapons in the late 1970s but was dismantled and destroyed before they acceded to the NPT in 1991. He said:

Since it acceded to the NPT, South Africa has strictly adhered to the NPT conditions and maintained a policy of transparency and professional cooperation with the IAEA. This positive approach led South Africa to resume its seat at the IAEA General Conference. Since September 1991, without opposition, after an absence of 12 years.

The process of verifying the completeness of South Africa’s declaration of nuclear materials and facilities has proceeded so successfully that the IAEA was in the position to report to the Board of Governors in September 1992, after a large number of IAEA inspections, that nothing had been found to suggest that South Africa’s inventory of nuclear materials and facilities was not complete, nor was there anything to indicate that the list of facilities and materials submitted for controls were incomplete.

He further went on to add that the number of “nuclear fission devices” that were manufactured and destroyed was six in number, thus making South Africa the only country in the world so far to have eliminated its nuclear weapons capability and placed its nuclear program under IAEA safeguards voluntarily, a move which appears to have been a product of changed security perceptions resulting in large part from the end of the East-West conflict.


Though the country signed the NPT in December 1985, it announced on March 12, 1993, that it would withdraw from the Treaty, as from June 12, 1993, to “defend its supreme interests” as it considered the IAEA request to inspect two suspected nuclear fuel storage sites at the Yongbyon atomic complex to be an encroachment of the sovereignty of the country, an interference in its internal affairs and a hostile act. Earlier, on January 30, 1992, the government signed a nuclear safeguards accord with the IAEA; following this, during the year, the Agency conducted six separate inspections of the North’s nuclear facilities. The trouble started when North Korea refused to give IAEA inspectors access to additional information following the discovery of inconsistencies during routine inspections by the Agency. On June 11, 1993, one day before the withdrawal from the NPT was to become effective, North Korea suspended the decision. However, it continued to be non-compliant with the IAEA’s safeguards obligations throughout the next few months, and it renounced its IAEA membership on June 13, 1994. The USA then started a two-track diplomatic effort. While one track involved trying to persuade the permanent members of the UNSC to impose sanctions on North Korea, the second involved direct, intense negotiations with the country following a mediation visit by former US President Jimmy Carter to Pyongyang. A framework agreement on October 21, 1994, finally resulted from these talks.

The agreement, which is to be implemented in a phased manner according to a precise timetable, will see North Korea halting the operation of its research reactor and all reprocessing facilities and stop construction work on two larger reactors and a reprocessing plant. The USA would immediately supply heavy fuel oil to help North Korea meet its energy demands. An international consortium to aid the civilian nuclear energy sector in North Korea would finance and supply two light water reactors. North Korea would permit ‘special inspections’ requested by the IAEA and implement all measures the Agency deemed necessary to bring the country to full compliance with its obligations.

Writing for Washington Post on March 27, 1997, Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski criticized what they saw as a reinterpretation of the Agreed Framework. They stated, “North Korea still refuses to allow such inspections, and likely by the time the IAEA gets to carry them out (if it does at all), the information will be stale and inconclusive.”


Consequent to the experiences in Iraq, the IAEA has implemented a series of changes in its safeguards system and practice. By the end of 1994, these changes included: the full debriefing of returning inspectors; installation of country desk officers charged with collecting and assessing all available information about a safeguarded country; provision of early design information even before the construction of a nuclear facility began; establishment of a system of universal reporting of transfers of nuclear material, equipment, and technology in which most suppliers participate; and the use of all information, including intelligence data submitted voluntarily by member states, to identify possible undeclared sites to which the Agency could then request access by a ‘special inspection, as had been practiced in North Korea.

To continue improving its safeguards system, the agency conducted a comprehensive review of the technical, legal, and financial implications of various options in the context of its ’93+2′ program, which was the IAEA secretariat’s plan to allow the IAEA to safeguard declared nuclear material more cost-effectively and deal with the possibility of undeclared nuclear activities.

A definition of the program was given by Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) Director John Holum, who described it, “The decision to strengthen safeguards was made in 1993. And ‘Plus 2’ meant it was to be completed in 1995.”

Among other things, the program included the following aspects:

  • Information management is the ability to acquire, review, store, analyze, validate, and retrieve large volumes of information on global nuclear activities.
  • Tamper-proof remote monitoring at nuclear facilities, with real-time transmittal of measurement to IAEA headquarters.
  • Environmental monitoring is the sampling and analysis of probes from water, air, and soil at and near nuclear facilities to detect the release of radionuclides that could signify the existence of undeclared activities.
  • The uses of commercial satellite data.

In March 1995, the IAEA Board of Governors endorsed the program’s general direction. The Board was presented with a two-part document detailing specific proposals to achieve its aims. While Part I consisted of those measures which it was agreed could be implemented through the Agency’s existing legal authority under INFCIR/153 or the IAEA Statutes, Part II comprised of those measures which some states believed could only be implemented if additional legal powers were given to the Agency. At its June 1995 meeting, the Board approved implementing Part I measures, which focused on expanded declarations. These began being implemented in September 1995, and at its December 1995 meeting, discussions began on the Part II measures, which will permit the accumulation of more information and expanded access to nuclear facilities.

The 93+2 Safeguards Committee, which was tasked with writing a protocol to INFCIRC/153 to provide a legal basis for the new safeguard steps the IAEA wanted to implement, resolved the outstanding differences on the protocol during its meeting at Vienna from January 20-31, 1997 and approved the draft model protocol during its meeting from April 2-4, 1997. A special IAEA Board of Governors meeting was to be called later for final approval of the draft.


Today, as the world gears up for the next millennium, the IAEA’s role as a safeguards regime had evolved from its stated goals when it was established forty years ago. The objectives of the Agency, as laid down in its Statute, can be summed up under the two terms of ‘promotion’ and ‘safeguards,’ to which one more time, i.e., ‘safety’ (which does not appear in the Statute), can be added. These three tasks compete for the best position on the IAEA’s scale of objectives. Also, different member states want the Agency to set other priorities. The national atomic energy agency of the ministry responsible for research and development would be assigned the responsibility for Agency affairs by a government stressing the promotional tasks. Presumably, the focus on safety would be reflected by the ministry’s leading role in environmental protection, while a government focussing on non-proliferation and safeguards would probably delegate the responsibility to its foreign office.

The Agency’s agenda priorities are subject to constant change and are heavily affected by events in the field of nuclear energy (e.g., the Chornobyl disaster and the Gulf War). There is an ongoing competition between technical cooperation and safeguards budgets. The industrial countries contributing the most significant share of the Agency’s total budget are not prepared to raise it by more than the inflation rate. Suppose priority is given to cost efficiency rather than effectiveness due to this stalemate on budgetary matters. In that case, the safeguards regime will likely weaken the current system rather than improve it.

As it continues to evolve, the IAEA continues to acquire new tasks. By the end of 1994, the following took place: safeguards agreements were entered into force with the successor states of the former Soviet Union, all of which had some nuclear activities on their territories, and some, such as Ukraine, had a large number of facilities; the Agency co-verifies the commitments of Argentina and Brazil in cooperation with the Argentine-Brazilian Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC), which is their verification organization; South Africa’s various nuclear activities are also safeguarded; the USA had dedicated 7 tonnes of plutonium to safeguards, while inspection of about 10 tonnes of HEU at Oak Ridge Tennessee took place in September 1994. Also, the HEU transferred from Russia to the USA is under IAEA supervision, and one can be sure that more monitoring of the disarmament process can be expected in the future.

On March 23, 1995, members of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) agreed to establish a mandate to negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile material. Western delegations to the Preparatory Commission (PrepCom) of the NPT, meeting on April 17, 1997, made it clear that their priority was to urge that fission negotiations begin immediately based on the Shannon Report and mandate agreed in March 1995. Pending the conclusion of the fission, Canada proposed that the NWS should be urged to commit themselves to ‘forever cease production of fissile material’ for weapons, to reduce their fissile material stockpiles, and place more under IAEA safeguards. It is therefore required that if the IAEA has to have more ‘teeth,’ Part II of the 93+2 Programme, which will permit the accumulation of more information and expanded access to nuclear facilities, be implemented soon.

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