2 May 2005 The world’s nations gathered today in New York to begin their review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and heard the head of the United Nations atomic watchdog agency renew his call for a moratorium on new fuel-cycle facilities while international controls are negotiated.
The “choke point” to preventing nuclear weapons development is ensuring effective control over activities involving uranium enrichment and plutonium separation, Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told the opening session of the 2005 Review Conference of the States parties to the NPT.
“Without question, improving control of facilities capable of producing weapons-usable material will go a long way towards establishing a better margin of security.”
Stressing the importance of balancing both development and security interests, Mr. ElBaradei said: “We should be clear: there is no incompatibility between tightening controls over the nuclear fuel cycle and expanding the use of peaceful nuclear technology. In fact, by reducing the risks of proliferation, we could pave the way for more widespread use of peaceful nuclear applications.”
The month-long Review Conference brings delegations together every five years to consider the workings of the landmark agreement, which seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons technology, foster the peaceful use of nuclear energy and further the goal of general and complete disarmament.
Mr. ElBaradei said the core of the accord can be summed up in two words: security and development. And while the custodians of the NPT may hold differing priorities and views, “I trust that all share these two goals: development for all through advanced technology; and security for all by reducing – and ultimately eliminating – the nuclear threat,” he said. “If we cannot work together, each acknowledging the development priorities and security concerns of the other, then the result of this Conference will be inaction.”
While acknowledging that the NPT had served the global community well for 35 years, Mr. ElBaradei said that it must be regarded as a “living, dynamic regime,” capable of evolving and changing to match realities. If not, it risked fading into irrelevance, leaving all nations vulnerable and unprotected.
“While our twin goals – security and development – remain the same, our mechanisms for achieving those goals must evolve,” he said, urging to Conference to remain committed to ridding the world of nuclear weapons, have zero tolerance for new States developing nuclear weapons, and, among other things, ensure that all countries have the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
He also urged the meeting to strengthen the IAEA’s verification authority, noting that in recent years, the additional protocol to comprehensive safeguards agreements has proven its worth. “With better access to information and locations, we get better results,” he said.
“The whole purpose of verification is to build confidence. In cases where proliferation concerns exist, I will continue to urge States to be open and transparent. Even if such measures go beyond a State’s legal obligations, they pay valuable dividends in restoring the confidence of the international community,” he said.