WASHINGTON, Sept 10—The international community’s inability to respond quickly and effectively to safeguards violations is the principal weakness of the nonproliferation regime today. At the upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May 2010, member states should address this problem by recognizing that safeguards non-compliance constitutes a violation of the NPT, according to a new policy outlook by James Acton.

There is currently confusion on whether safeguards non-compliance is an NPT violation. Recognizing that it is will force the Security Council to take safeguard violations more seriously, regardless of the country involved.

Treating safeguards non-compliance as an NPT violation will:

  • bolster the deterrence value of safeguards;
  • restore confidence in the NPT by ensuring all states are treated equally, regardless of their friends;
  • call appropriate attention to serious violations often dismissed as minor reporting failures;
  • provide a promising area for success at the 2010 NPT conference because it places no additional burden on states that are already playing by the rules.

Acton concludes:

“Developing a successful strategy for responding to non-compliance will require a long-term, ongoing process. The key is to develop country-neutral rules. Non-compliance with safeguards is a real and pressing problem. It threatens the long-term sustainability of the nonproliferation regime and is, therefore, a crucial topic for the 2010 NPT Review Conference to address.”



  • James Acton is an associate in the Nonproliferation Program at the Carnegie Endowment specializing in nonproliferation and disarmament. A physicist by training, Acton’s research focuses on the interface of technical and political issues, with special attention to the civilian nuclear industry, IAEA safeguards, and practical solutions to strengthening the nonproliferation regime.
  • The Carnegie Nonproliferation Program is an internationally recognized source of knowledge and policy thinking on efforts to curb the spread and use of nuclear weapons. Carnegie’s analysis consistently stays at the forefront of proliferation developments and nonproliferation policy debates.
  • Carnegie Proliferation News provides synopses of top news stories related to preventing the spread and use of nuclear weapons every Tuesday and Thursday as well as periodic issue briefs on the top news making issues.