The New IAEA State Level Safeguards Approach ReportPosted: August 29, 2013
A colleague recently sent me the attached August 12 IAEA Director General’s report to the Board of Governors entitled “The Conceptualization and Development of Safeguards Implementation at the State Level.” Mark Hibbs has written a very good summary here of the development of safeguards strategy by the IAEA, including the new state level approach, which will give readers useful background. The report starts off with a “Background” section in which it makes a case for the legal authority of the IAEA to investigate and assess safeguards agreement compliance by member states. Here’s the gist of it:
Under comprehensive safeguards agreements (CSAs), the Agency has both the right and the obligation to verify the correctness and completeness of States’ declarations so that there is credible assurance of the non-diversion of nuclear material from declared activities and of the absence of undeclared nuclear activities . . . Notwithstanding the above, for many years after the Agency first started implementing safeguards pursuant to CSAs, its safeguards activities were focused primarily on nuclear material and facilities declared by the State concerned . . . Between June 1995 and June 1996, the Secretariat held informal consultations with Member States on the measures to be implemented under complementary legal authority, as well as on a draft model protocol for such complementary legal authority. In June 1996, the Board of Governors acknowledged that such measures would strengthen the Agency’s ability to detect undeclared nuclear material and activities, and decided to establish an open ended committee of the Board of Governors to negotiate a draft model protocol based on the Secretariat’s draft. In May 1997, the Board of Governors approved the Model Additional Protocol and instructed the Director General to use it as the standard for additional protocols (APs) concluded by States with CSAs.
Before proceeding, I just want to reiterate what I’ve said before about this narrative, which is that it just does not make sense. It’s so clearly a strained, revisionist legal argument to show that states like Iran who only have CSA’s in force with the IAEA and not AP’s, nevertheless are subject to the IAEA’s full right to investigate and assess not only the correctness but also the completeness of their declarations, i.e. to verify that there are no undeclared fissile materials in their territory. I mean think about it. What this narrative is saying is that the IAEA has all along had this full authority to investigate and assess correctness and completeness. They just chose not to exercise it for the first, oh, say 30 years or so of the IAEA’s NPT safeguards role. But then Iraq happened and the IAEA decided that it now had to use its full latent authority to detect undeclared fissile materials.
Now, if that were the end of the narrative, it might still make sense. But it doesn’t stop there. After realizing that they have had this legal authority all along, the IAEA did what? They created a new treaty that all member states were supposed to sign, the Additional Protocol, to enable the IAEA to exercise this full authority that it already had. Wait, what?
If they already had the authority, why did they need states to additionally sign on to the Additional Protocol in order for them to exercise it? Notice that the Office of Legal Affairs has tried to use some creative semantics to get around this fairly obvious unpersuasiveness of their narrative. They refer here to the AP as establishing the IAEA’s “complementary legal authority” to investigate and assess both correctness and completeness of the declaration. The word “complementary,” here, is supposed to assure diplomats that the AP didn’t really add anything to the IAEA’s authority, it just complemented (whatever that means) the authority it already had.
This is just ridiculous. If the IAEA already had the authority to investigate and assess both the correctness and completeness of state declarations under the CSA, there would have been no need for the Additional Protocol. You just can’t get around that conclusion.
The true narrative is so much more simple and persuasive. And you can find it in the History of the International Atomic Energy Agency: The First Forty Years, written by David Fischer and published by the IAEA itself, constituting something of an official history of the agency. Here’s how the narrative is presented on Pgs. 296-299:
It will be recalled that in verifying compliance with comprehensive safeguards agreements IAEA inspectors had essentially confined their focus, during routine inspections, to the nuclear material at locations that had been declared by the State (but the agreement required the State to notify all material in peaceful uses). The IAEA’s inspectors would verify the State’s reports on its stocks of nuclear material and changes in those stocks . . . chiefly by access limited to a number of pre-defined strategic points in the plant concerned. The 1971 system was thus largely one of auditing the State’s nuclear material accounts, and it had worked well in regard to locations and nuclear material that had been reported to the IAEA. The IAEA’s experience in Iraq and the DPRK had shown, however, that it was essential that the Agency should go beyond auditing the State’s nuclear accounts. The Agency must be able to assure itself that the State’s declarations were also complete – that the State had reported all its nuclear material. . . In 1995, the Board authorized the Secretariat to put into effect those elements of the ‘Programme 93+2’ that did not require additional legal authority. In May 1997, the Board approved a protocol, to be added to existing comprehensive safeguards agreements, which will provide the legal authority for several safeguards measures that go beyond the existing system, for instance, access by the IAEA to more information about a State’s nuclear activities, more intensive inspections, including access beyond previously agreed ‘strategic points’ in a safeguarded plant, access to any installation within the perimeter of a nuclear site, and access to plants engaged in nuclear related activities such as those manufacturing components of enrichment plants. . . [t]he Board approved the protocol on 15 May 1997.
See? It’s so clear and easy and persuasive. The AP did in fact significantly expand the authority of the IAEA, for those states that signed AP’s, to investigate and assess the completeness of a state’s declaration regarding its nuclear program, and to verify that there are no undeclared nuclear materials within the territory of a state. However, the AP is a voluntary protocol, and not all IAEA member states have adopted it. This poses a problem for the IAEA in applying the full scope of safeguards that it would like to apply to every state. This explains why the sophistry of the IAEA’s lawyers is necessary to try to persuade states that have not signed onto the AP that, notwithstanding this fact, the IAEA has the same authority to investigate and to assess their nuclear program as if they had signed the AP. Again, this is just nonsensical.
I’ve written about this whole issue of the scope of authority of the IAEA to investigate and assess quite extensively before, including here, here, here, and in the BAS Roundtable which I’ll insert in this post as another document, because the BAS has apparently taken the roundtable off their site.
I hope that all this writing has made it clear that the IAEA lawyers are simply incorrect in their recent arguments about the scope of the IAEA’s legal authority under the CSA. Their arguments are a revisionist attempt to increase the authority of the IAEA by fiat of the Director General and Board of Governors. They are trying to convince states, in particular NNWS, that the IAEA has a much more expanded scope of legal authority than it actually is given in the relevant legal documents, in hopes of convincing states to cooperate with the IAEA BOG in whatever intrusive and subjectively defined scheme of investigation and assessment the BOG thinks should be applicable to their individual case.
As I have made clear in my other writing, and as is further clear from the Fischer quote above, the IAEA, particularly under DG Amano, has moved its position regarding its own authority increasingly beyond its actual authority and mandate as provided in NPT Article III and Articles I & II of the CSA.
Looking further into this new state level safeguards approach document, I’m just struck by how it seems to be a proposal for turning the IAEA from being an independent fissile materials monitoring and verification body, as its Statute clearly created it to be, into an FBI-like investigative agency, focused on rooting out any NNWS’s nuclear weapons aspirations, or anything that may even look like nuclear weapons aspirations, and exposing them for the enforcement action of the UN Security Council and through sanctions by powerful states.
Just look at this stuff on page 5 of the report:
In determining how these generic safeguards objectives are to be addressed for a particular State, the Agency first conducts an analysis of all technically plausible paths by which that State could pursue the acquisition of nuclear material for the development of a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device. This process is referred to as ‘acquisition path analysis’. In the course of that analysis, a technical assessment is made of the specific steps a State could potentially undertake (e.g. carrying out undeclared nuclear activities) along each plausible path, taking into consideration the State’s nuclear fuel cycle and related capabilities.24 These paths are prioritised according to an assessment of their safeguards significance. The Agency then establishes technical objectives for each path and prioritises them according to their relative importance in covering that path. Safeguards measures for addressing the technical objectives are then identified.
By way of example, for a State with only a nuclear reactor, a plausible acquisition path would involve the diversion of spent fuel from the reactor and its subsequent processing at an undeclared reprocessing installation to recover plutonium from the spent fuel. One technical objective for this path would be to detect undeclared activities related to reprocessing. Safeguards measures to address this technical objective could include complementary access, the collection of environmental samples at research institutions in the State, and evaluation of information available to the Agency related to the State’s research activities.
I found this passage quite shocking. It seems to essentially reverse any presumption that NNWS members of the IAEA should be free from any suspicion of wrongdoing without evidence to the contrary, and instead adopts a generalized assumptive suspicion that all NNWS members are potentially seeking nuclear weapons, and so should be constantly scrutinized for any sign of illicit behavior. This is quite a paradigm shift.
The state level approach overall seems geared to reduce the attention the IAEA pays to “good states,” i.e. those for whom a broader conclusion has been reached, and instead focus the IAEA’s scrutiny on a list of “suspect states.” The means by which states get added to the “suspect” list would appear to be susceptible to a considerable degree of subjectivity and politicization. But once you’re on the naughty list, the IAEA will essentially assume your wrong intent and then follow up methodically on every possible way in which you might even potentially go about developing a nuclear weapon – even if there is no evidence that you are trying to do so or have ever tried to do so – and monitor those pathways constantly, requiring your complete cooperation with whatever invasive and subjectively determined processes and standards of investigation and assessment the BOG determines to be necessary in your specific case.
Can you imagine any of the NWS/P5 EVER consenting to such discriminatory, intrusive and subjective investigation and assessment standards being applied to them? Neither can I.