Looking Beyond Iran and North Korea for Safeguarding the Foundations of Nuclear Nonproliferation

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The safeguards system established by the International Atomic Energy Agency is failing to detect potential issues of noncompliance because it doesn’t have the legal authority needed to fulfill its mandate and it lacks the necessary cooperation from member states.
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"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (George Santanaya1)

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards are both the principal means of verifying a state’s compliance with international nuclear obligations, as well as detecting the potential transgression of these obligations. In the coming years, the IAEA will be asked to safeguard an increasing number of nuclear facilities, including new types of facilities (such as laser enrichment and pyroprocessing plants, floating nuclear power plants and nuclear propelled submarines) and decommissioned ones. It will need additional funds to procure new types and more effective equipment, and expertise to carry out these additional responsibilities.   

But the real issue does not stem from resource constraints. Even with greater human and financial resources there is nothing more the Agency would have done in fulfilling its verification mandate in Iran and North Korea. 

The real constraint was identified by current IAEA Deputy Director General for Safeguards Herman Nackaerts in a July 2011 speech. “Experience has shown,” he stated, “that proliferation risk is not only associated with the amount of declared nuclear material that a State possesses or the number and type of declared facilities. Indeed, the major proliferation challenges have arisen in States with limited nuclear fuel cycle facilities, and involved previously exempted or undeclared nuclear material.... [The safeguards] system was manifestly failing in its primary objective, namely, to detect activities that did raise potential compliance issues and proliferation concerns – such as those undertaken, for instance, in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Iran.”

There are two main reasons the safeguards system has been “manifestly failing.” First, the Department of Safeguards doesn’t have the legal authority it needs to fulfill its mandate and to provide the assurances the international community is expecting from its verification activities.  Second, the Department lacks the necessary cooperation and transparency from Member States of the IAEA.  Redressing both deficiencies would significantly strengthen the role of IAEA safeguards in preventing further proliferation.

1. George Santayana (1863-1952) was a Spanish American philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist. 

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About the Nuclear Policy Program

The Carnegie Nuclear Policy Program is an internationally acclaimed source of expertise and policy thinking on nuclear industry, nonproliferation, security, and disarmament. Its multinational staff stays at the forefront of nuclear policy issues in the United States, Russia, China, Northeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East.



Source http://carnegieendowment.org/2011/11/03/looking-beyond-iran-and-north-korea-for-safeguarding-foundations-of-nuclear-nonproliferation/8ktn

In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

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