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"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement
July 1, 2020
Daniel Horner

Coordinator, Host Set for Mideast Meeting

Daniel Horner

The organizers of a planned 2012 conference on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East have chosen a Finnish diplomat as the coordinator and Finland as the host country, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in an Oct. 14 press statement.

The long-awaited announcement, which named Jaakko Laajava, Finland’s undersecretary of state for foreign and security policy, as the coordinator, is the first major decision on the conference since the parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) agreed during their 2010 review conference to hold the meeting. (See ACT, June 2010.)

Under the terms of the review conference’s final document, the conveners of the 2012 meeting are the secretary-general and the three countries that had co-sponsored a 1995 resolution calling for a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone—Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Ban’s Oct. 14 announcement was a joint statement by him and those three countries.

In statements at the United Nations that day, the announcement was welcomed by several countries, including Qatar on behalf of the Arab Group. According to the 2010 NPT Review Conference final document, the decisions on the host country and coordinator are to be made “in consultation with the States of the region.”

In an Oct. 24 interview, a U.S. official called the decision “a big landmark on the road to 2012” and said it showed that the countries involved could work together to reach agreement. Egyptian Ambassador to the United Nations Maged Abdelaziz, in an Oct. 27 interview, also welcomed the decision.

In July, Canada, Finland, and the Netherlands were announced as candidates to host the conference. Interviews in August with diplomats involved in preparing for the meeting strongly indicated that Finland was the front-runner. (See ACT, September 2011.) However, the final decision apparently was more complicated.

Package Deal

The three co-sponsors pushed for the two elements to be linked, that is, for the coordinator to be from the host country. In the interview, the U.S. official said it was important to have this arrangement because the coordinator will have to work very closely with officials from the host country. Having a coordinator from a different country could lead to inefficient “separate tracks,” he said.

The Arab Group had insisted, as one of its conditions, that the coordinator be someone of at least the ministerial level. The group ultimately accepted Laajava after “thorough consultations” with Ban and the three co-sponsors, Abdelaziz said. One factor influencing the countries in the group was that they did not want to delay the process, which needs to be “rapidly moving,” he said.

The U.S. official also said that, after multiple meetings on the issue, the participants were determined to reach agreement on the coordinator and host because they “didn’t want to lose all the momentum [they] had gained.” On the question of Laajava’s diplomatic stature, he said that “though not everyone knows who he is, he can get the job done” and is a better choice than someone who would make “a splashy headline but wouldn’t be able to deliver.” Abdelaziz also said Laajava was a “good candidate” with “the right qualifications.”

Even with a key issue now settled, Abdelaziz and the U.S. official were cautious about predicting when the conference would take place. Abdelaziz said the timing is “an open question” because of the amount of preparation still required. At such conferences, the participants typically work out 75 to 80 percent of the final document beforehand, he said. It would be a mistake to hold the conference too early and risk having “fighting at the conference,” he said.

The U.S. official also emphasized the importance of having the conference “done right.” He suggested that a reasonable guess would be that it would be held in the second half of 2012.

Upcoming Forum

A potential indicator of the prospects for the conference, the U.S. official said, is an International Atomic Energy Agency forum, scheduled for Nov. 21-22, to discuss the experiences of existing nuclear-weapon-free zones and how they “could be relevant to the Middle East,” as the agency’s Sept. 2 announcement put it.

Emphasizing that the forum had no “direct link” to the 2012 meeting, the U.S. official said it was an opportunity to discuss many of the issues that will figure prominently there without “infus[ing] the forum with all the politics” of next year’s event. The forum has the potential to show that the countries involved in the issue can have “a constructive dialogue” or, alternatively, that they have “a long way to go,” he said.

Abdelaziz said another important element for the 2012 event is increased involvement by nongovernmental organizations. He noted that the section of the 2010 NPT Review Conference final document dealing with the Middle East meeting encourages involvement by these groups.

The organizers of a planned 2012 conference on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East have chosen a Finnish diplomat as the coordinator and Finland as the host country, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in an Oct. 14 press statement.

CWC Parties Wrestle With 2012 Deadline

Daniel Horner

With a treaty-imposed deadline for destruction of all chemical weapons stockpiles less than seven months away, diplomats are scrambling to avoid a crisis over the officially acknowledged fact that Russia and the United States, the holders of the world’s largest stockpiles of those weapons, will not eliminate them by that date.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) sets April 29, 2012, as the final deadline for destroying those weapons. For years, experts have viewed that deadline as unrealistic for a variety of reasons.

Last year, Russia acknowledged that it would not meet the deadline, estimating that the effort would stretch to the end of 2015. (See ACT, July/August 2010.) The United States announced in 2006 that it would not meet the 2012 deadline and has set 2021 as its target date.

In May 24 comments to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Ahmet Üzümcü, the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said, “Although the convention does not permit any further extensions in the destruction deadlines, the imminent default needs to be viewed dispassionately and objectively.” The OPCW is the international body that implements the CWC.

Üzümcü cited the “massive” size of the stockpiles, adding that “[t]he efforts and resources required for their elimination in conditions of safety and environmental sensitivity were no less daunting, and perhaps underestimated at the time when the convention was drafted.” The CWC was opened for signature in 1993; it entered into force in 1997.

In his Geneva comments, Üzümcü said he was “confident” that the CWC parties “will seek a balanced way forward that preserves both the credibility and the integrity of the convention.”

Differing Perspectives

The issue figured prominently at the most recent meeting of the OPCW Executive Council.

Kazem Gharib Abadi, Iran’s ambassador the OPCW, said in his July 12 opening statement that failure to meet the destruction deadline “will be viewed as noncompliance.” Citing Article XII of the treaty, he said such a “breach” should be “brought to the attention” of the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly, and the annual conference of CWC parties.

Robert Mikulak, the U.S. ambassador to the OPCW, said his country has an “unwavering” commitment to completing the destruction of its stockpile and would be about 90 percent of the way to that goal by the April deadline.

In a Sept. 23 interview, a third OPCW ambassador said that if the parties do not find a way to accommodate the missed deadline, “the risk of endangering the system will be huge.” It is crucial to avoid “politicization” of the issue, which will become much more intense, with “finger pointing” and accusations, if the deadline arrives without a solution, he said.

He said delegations are working with Peter Goosen, the South African chairman of the Executive Council, to craft language that would resolve the issue. The draft text will not impose sanctions for failing to meet the deadline, he said, adding that sanctions would be “counterproductive.”

In a Sept. 22 interview, Paul Walker, director of security and sustainability at Global Green USA, also said the proposed text would not use terms such as “violation” or “noncompliance.” The draft text has not been made public.

According to the OPCW ambassador, the text would require confidence-building measures based, as he put it, on a “reinforced framework of verification and reporting”; a regular review of progress until all the weapons are destroyed; and a reaffirmation of countries’ obligation under the CWC. Several delegations also are pressing for the possessor states to issue a new timeline, he said.

Transparency Stressed

In his July statement, Mikulak listed several transparency measures the United States is taking, including inviting council members to visit U.S. destruction facilities every other year. Walker underlined the need for Russia and the United States to take additional steps to reassure their fellow CWC parties that both countries “are doing all they can to abolish their [chemical weapons] stockpiles in a safe and timely manner.” In particular, he proposed annual high-level OPCW visits to chemical stockpiles and demilitarization facilities and to national capitals to meet with “all stakeholders—federal, state, and local.”

The draft text has attracted “almost a general consensus,” the OPCW ambassador said in the Sept. 23 interview. Whether the issue is resolved before the deadline depends on two factors, he said. One is whether “the delegation that is currently opposing the text”—a clear reference to Iran—is “interested in the content of the decision”; if so, “there is room for negotiation,” he said. On the other hand, if the country is seeking confrontation and trying to embarrass the United States, the parties will have to decide whether they want to accept a situation in which one party blocks a decision, he said.

By tradition, the OPCW operates by consensus, but it is not legally required to do so, the ambassador noted. When the organization broke from that tradition almost a decade ago over the ouster of Director-General José Bustani, it was “traumatic,” he said.

Walker said he thought Iran would be “quite isolated” if it sought to penalize Russia and the United States, as those two countries “have been working in very good faith.” In any case, he said, the issue is “a tempest in a teapot”; there is nothing the parties can do about the failure to meet the deadline, “which was arbitrary to begin with,” he said.

The OPCW ambassador, however, said that because of the chances for increased politicization and resulting damage to the regime, the timing of the decision is “almost as important as the content.”

The next Executive Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 4-7 in The Hague. After that, the parties are to hold their annual conference Nov. 28-Dec. 2. Although the conference generally takes its cue from the council, the conference could come to a decision without council action, the ambassador said. Also, the council could convene an extraordinary meeting between its October session and the parties’ conference, he said.

With a treaty-imposed deadline for destruction of all chemical weapons stockpiles less than seven months away, diplomats are scrambling to avoid a crisis over the officially acknowledged fact that Russia and the United States, the holders of the world’s largest stockpiles of those weapons, will not eliminate them by that date.

IAEA to Discuss Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones

Daniel Horner

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced on Sept. 2 that it would host a forum Nov. 21-22 to discuss the experiences of existing nuclear-weapon-free zones and how they “could be relevant to the Middle East.”

The forum would take place a year and a half after the parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) pledged at their 2010 review conference to hold a meeting in 2012 on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East. (See ACT, June 2010.) In a statement during the Sept. 19-23 IAEA General Conference in Vienna, New Zealand said it saw the November forum as “an important building block” in working toward a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone.

Current and former officials from the Middle East and elsewhere have said the forum could be important as an informal precursor to the planned 2012 conference. However, the Sept. 2 announcement does not explicitly mention that conference. The IAEA event is officially called the Forum on Experience of Possible Relevance to the Creation of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced on Sept. 2 that it would host a forum Nov. 21-22 to discuss the experiences of existing nuclear-weapon-free zones and how they “could be relevant to the Middle East.”

The NSG in a Time of Change: An Interview With NSG Chairman Piet de Klerk

Piet de Klerk became the chairman of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in June and will hold that position until next June. In August, he became the Dutch ambassador to Jordan. Before that, he was deputy permanent representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations.

De Klerk spoke with Arms Control Today on September 2 by telephone from his office in Amman. In his first interview since assuming the chairmanship of the NSG, he spoke about the group’s June meeting in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. At that meeting, the group agreed, after many years of debate, to revise its rules on exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. Other key topics discussed at the meeting were a proposed reactor sale from China to Pakistan and the process under which India could join the NSG. In the interview, de Klerk also laid out ideas for possible changes to the group, such as increasing transparency while maintaining an appropriate level of confidentiality.

The interview was transcribed by Xiaodon Liang. It has been edited for clarity.

ACT: Mr. Ambassador, congratulations on your chairmanship, and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. We’re glad to have this opportunity to talk to you about both the meeting in Noordwijk last June and your plans for the coming year as chairman of the NSG.

De Klerk: My pleasure.

ACT: First, could you briefly give your perspective on the role that the NSG serves in the global nonproliferation architecture today, some 35 years after it was established in the wake of India’s 1974 nuclear test explosion? What changes has the NSG made to remain relevant?

De Klerk: I think the role of the NSG is essentially the same as in the period that it was established. The context in which it was established was the Indian explosion and quite a number of intended nuclear deals that had to do with reprocessing and enrichment capabilities, and those did not always have clear commercial purposes. The suppliers, the original suppliers, came together and agreed to some form of restraint in the export of these sensitive technologies. And I think the main purpose of the NSG now is still close coordination among nuclear exporting countries, especially with a view to the export of sensitive nuclear technologies, so that you limit the spread of nuclear weapons capabilities, without hampering the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. While the nuclear landscape is very different from 35 years ago, I think the essential task of the NSG is still the same.

ACT: I’m thinking of historical events, the [Abdul Qadeer] Khan network and things like that. Have they caused some changes or reorientation in the group?

De Klerk: Yes. The NSG in more practical terms has traveled a long way. When the original export control list, the trigger list, was put together, it mentioned, for example, only plants as such for reprocessing or enrichment.[1] Over the years, in light of the number of developments like the one you mentioned, the trigger list and the dual-use list that was established in the early [19]90s have been made much more specific: What goods and materials are we looking for? In that sense, the export control regime has become much better, much improved.

ACT: At its most recent plenary meeting, on June 23-24, the NSG reached agreement on revisions of paragraphs 6 and 7 of the group’s guidelines, the paragraphs that cover transfers of equipment and technology for uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing [ENR].[2] The new guidelines ban ENR exports to states that have not signed or are not in compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT], do not allow comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] safeguards, or do not allow more extensive monitoring under the terms of an additional protocol, among other criteria. The old guidelines already called on suppliers to “exercise restraint,” and very few such ENR transfers were taking place. Why were the revisions necessary, and what practical effect will they have?

De Klerk: As you say, there was always the provision that, when it comes to sensitive nuclear technologies, suppliers should “exercise restraint.” Now, suppliers were a bit uneasy, because “restraint” was not a very clearly defined term, and in practice many interpreted it as a ban. [There was a] desire to say much more precisely what we mean by “restraint” so that you can, in cases where there are legitimate needs for enrichment or reprocessing plants, have rules for when to export and when not. After a couple of years, we reached agreement in Noordwijk. I’m very glad that we managed that; it happened on my watch, in Noordwijk, but the heavy lifting was done by my predecessor Jennifer Macmillan [of New Zealand] and the chair of our consultative group Rich Goorevich [of the United States]. If you ask what practical effect it will have, I don’t think it will have much immediate effect. But it will certainly have a stimulating effect on prospective buyers to become party to the additional protocol. It may also stimulate more multinational cooperation. More generally, if countries want to go that route, they now have a series of conditions that they need to satisfy, both in the nonproliferation area as well as with regard to safety and security. So it creates clarity for such countries.

ACT: The NSG has been discussing that revision since 2004. What adjustments to the final language were necessary to produce NSG-wide agreement?

De Klerk: Well, I can’t be too specific about it. I think it’s not wise for me to go into who said what at meetings, but clearly that part on how to formulate the additional protocol as a condition for supply was one of the issues that remained on the table toward the end. I think we found very good language that says “thou shall have” an additional protocol, or pending that, you should be party to a regional accounting and control system. Those two things leave the door ajar for a few countries and only for a limited period of time. So essentially, I think we have formulated that the additional protocol is the norm when it comes to the export of sensitive facilities and equipment and technology.

ACT: I actually wanted to focus on that question of the additional protocol because, as you said, the new guidelines make an additional protocol a condition of supply but make an exception for regional arrangements such as the one Argentina and Brazil have with ABACC [Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials]. Does that set a precedent for other regional arrangements that might not provide the same level of assurance as an additional protocol?

De Klerk: There is, as you said, one such regional accounting and control arrangement that qualifies, and I don’t think the text opens the door for more.

ACT: In other words, you don’t think there will be future similar arrangements, like the Argentine-Brazilian one?

De Klerk: That is what I think is formulated here.

ACT: You mentioned in your earlier responses that language, “pending [the adoption of an additional protocol].”  Do you have indications from the countries involved, the key countries—that is, Argentina and Brazil—that they see it the same way, that they are considering making some sort of movement toward the additional protocol? As you probably know, the Brazilian comments since then and before then have indicated that they do not see it as a requirement, that the additional protocol is strictly a voluntary commitment, it is not required by the NPT, and so on. Do you have some indication that there actually is some discussion on that issue and some movement in that direction by the key countries?

De Klerk: I think, for a number of countries, they look at the additional protocol and additional safeguards obligations very much through the prism of the dichotomy between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states. I cannot speak for the countries concerned. I’ve read certain statements since, but I have no comments, and I think this “pending” formulation is a fair solution to this issue that we had.

ACT: Since the new NSG ENR guidelines were announced, there has been considerable discussion, particularly in the Indian press right after the meeting, about the newly adopted criteria and how they do or do not affect the NSG’s 2008 India-specific exemption from some NSG guidelines. Some U.S. and European officials have said the new ENR guidelines do apply to India and that the 2008 NSG decision on India exempted India from the requirement for comprehensive safeguards but not NSG policies on ENR transfers. As the current NSG chairman, what is your view?

De Klerk: I indeed also read quite a lot of articles in the Indian press in the wake of the Noordwijk meeting, but as you just said, these discussions on ENR started already well before 2008. The text of the Indian exception at the time said you get your exception for full-scope safeguards provided that you satisfy all other guidelines. In particular, [the text] also explicitly mentioned paragraphs 6 and 7. Being party to the NPT was always a condition; it cannot have been a surprise to the Indians that this was the outcome. I am under the impression that that was made clear at the time to the Indians.

ACT: It was made clear at the time of the 2008 exception?

De Klerk: Yes, that’s right. There has never been any other proposal on the table than that being party to the NPT is one of the conditions.

ACT: At the Noordwijk meeting, the NSG member states reportedly discussed the recent U.S. “thought paper” on the subject of a process for Indian membership in the NSG. What views and concerns were expressed at the Noordwijk meeting on that issue?

De Klerk: This is another example where I will not be very specific because saying who said what at what point in time, I think, is not appropriate for the chairman. But clearly we made a start, not even discussing an Indian membership as such, but a preliminary exchange of views on what such a discussion would entail. You can basically look at it from two angles: One is that you say India is India, India is important, and India has a good export control record, so that it would score rather high on many of the factors that we take into account when we discuss membership. Or, you can say, “Wait a minute; it doesn’t score high on all the factors that we take into account, because it is not a party to the NPT or something equivalent.” So these are the two ways of looking at it, and we discussed that. Many rather fundamental points were made because it’s clear if you discuss such membership, you move into a new paradigm, so to speak. At present, all participating governments are NPT members, and India would not come in—if it ever would come in—in all likelihood as an NPT member.

ACT: Given that India already has pledged to follow the NSG’s voluntary export control guidelines, how will the NSG’s core mission be advanced by adding India as a member? Would Indian membership complicate the NSG’s ability to revisit the India-specific exemption if India were to break any of the nonproliferation pledges it has made in the context of that decision?

De Klerk: As a group of nuclear exporters, you want to have clout. You want to be a bloc that has influence on what the rules of the road are, and if you bring countries, important countries, and potential exporters like India on board, it would be good for the clout that the group has. On the other hand, as I said before, in some ways India is a different animal in our zoo, and that would complicate the discussions in the group. So there are pros and cons, and every participating government needs to draw its own conclusion there. But as there is no request for membership, we didn’t have any operational discussion on India’s membership. There was a preliminary exchange and not even in [the] plenary [session].

ACT: Do you think this is an issue that will be resolved anytime soon, perhaps during the Dutch chairmanship?

De Klerk: I think it is more likely that it will take more time. I look at this as a matter of a couple of years.

ACT: China is proposing to sell two additional nuclear power reactors to Pakistan although, under the NSG guidelines, Pakistan is not eligible to receive nuclear exports from NSG members because it is not an NPT party and does not open all its nuclear facilities to IAEA inspections. China has been asked to provide more information on the proposed deal. Did it provide any new information to the rest of the NSG at the Noordwijk meeting?

De Klerk: It provided some more specificity, yes; and without going into detail, it now said specifically that, in its view, in China’s view, these exports are part of the agreement that China had with Pakistan before [China] became a member of the NSG. The “grandfather” argument was now made explicitly.

ACT: My recollection from talking to people about it was that when China entered, there was a discussion and a fairly specific agreement as to these facilities, [saying that certain facilities] are grandfathered: there’s a list and things on this list were grandfathered; nothing beyond this list would be grandfathered; and these reactors were not on the list.[3] Is that not the case? What was the context of the discussion about the grandfathering?

De Klerk: I have no comments on whether there is, or who has seen, such a list. I haven’t.

ACT: If China and Pakistan go ahead with the deal, what are the NSG’s options?

De Klerk: We didn’t discuss options. I’m not in a position to speculate on that.

ACT: On its face, the deal would not comply with the NSG guidelines, but because the NSG is a voluntary group, there is a limit to what it can do to affect decisions of its individual members. If the deal were to go forward, how would the NSG respond, and what could it do to salvage something from it or to prevent such deals from taking place in the future?

De Klerk: The words “not comply” are yours; I haven’t said that in any way. Clearly, when a state that has ongoing nuclear cooperation agreements wants to become a member, you end up with sometimes murky situations. But if your question is whether there are lessons to be learned from this situation for the future, I think the lesson is that the more clarity you can get on what is ongoing at the time a country becomes a member, the better, because that would prevent the sort of situation we are in now with regard to China and Pakistan.

ACT: So it was an issue of clarity of what was ongoing at the time?

De Klerk: I think so, yes.

ACT: At the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in March, one of your colleagues [Henk Cor van der Kwast] listed some items on your agenda for your chairmanship.[4] One of them was outreach to nonmembers, possibly with “different types of outreach to different countries,” as he put it. Can you say what that would involve?

De Klerk: Clearly, to clarify the purpose and the structure and the history of the NSG to others and to try to convince other countries to adopt similar export policies is of great importance to us. That’s why we have this outreach program. Indeed, I was there too in March at Carnegie, and I heard my colleague mention what we had in mind. We are working on an outreach paper to be adopted by the full NSG somewhere in the coming year. There are a number of countries that we want to talk to on a regular basis. What our paper intends is to make a number of categories of states that would be good countries to talk to for different reasons—as potential suppliers, as transit countries, what have you. That’s one step. The other step is that it might be good to do outreach also to other categories of industry and maybe other organizations, civil society. Those are our plans; we’re working on that. As such, a paper has not been agreed upon, and I can’t be very specific yet on what our future outreach policy will be.

ACT: You also mentioned outreach to organizations in civil society. Could you say a little bit more about that?

De Klerk: I don’t think I should go into any detail because this might be controversial. It’s the Netherlands’ view at this point that doing outreach more broadly is useful to dispel misunderstandings, to clarify what we are, what we are not. How broad that circle will be in the future, different states will probably have different views, so I don’t know where we will draw a line in the sand in the future.

ACT: This ties into one of the other issues that your colleague mentioned, which was the effort to increase the transparency of the NSG process. Do you have specific ideas about how to adjust the group’s current policy of keeping its deliberations strictly confidential and to try to provide more information and in a more timely way about NSG discussions and decisions?

De Klerk: It’s clear there is a tension between transparency on the one hand and confidentiality on the other. We have formulated a number of guidelines about communication and stronger relationships with different stakeholders, be it media, be it civil society. This interview is part of that thinking. But how far you can go in discussing sensitive issues like the Chinese supplies and whether India should become a member remains to be seen. You can’t be too specific about debates that are still under way and are not finished yet. Within those boundaries, we will try to improve our transparency. Even before our chairmanship started, in the run-up, we organized, together with the Carnegie Endowment, a few meetings, one open for think tanks and academics in Brussels where we had some fundamental debate on key issues surrounding the NSG. I, for one, thought it was a very stimulating debate. If we could have more of such interactions, that would be good, in our view. We have not-yet-very-specific plans of doing something similar in the spring, but we need to formulate that more precisely before I can say anything about that.

ACT: You mean [interactions between] civil society on one side and governments who are part of the NSG on the other?

De Klerk: Right. Some osmosis from the inside to the outside and vice versa would be good. It might be of value for the group.

ACT: Is this at this point strictly a Dutch proposal, or is it something you’ve already discussed more broadly within the NSG and so on?

De Klerk: What has been discussed within the NSG in the last couple of years is a transparency policy. We have a number of guidelines that speak to transparency. What is still largely a Dutch matter is how we will implement that during the rest of our chairmanship.

ACT: You also mentioned media. Is there consideration of being more forthcoming? For example, the statements after the NSG meetings—sometimes there is no public statement at all and when there is, it tends to be very general. Is there some discussion of perhaps having a little more detail in the statements or making the chairman available to the press or something like that after NSG meetings or at other times? Certainly, you’re doing that now. But is that a more general approach for the future?

De Klerk: Perhaps. We all agree that transparency is something positive, but at the same time, there are all sorts of limitations that one or more participating governments don’t want to be too specific on this issue or that. While the chair can encourage [others] to make our public statements longer and more specific, how such future sessions will turn out I can’t predict.

ACT: Updating the NSG’s lists of controlled exports is another item that has been mentioned as a priority for the coming year. Why might that be necessary, and how do you plan to pursue this effort?

De Klerk: While you can say nuclear technology is a rather stable, mature technology, in some of the more specific areas, technology is changing, and it’s a constant struggle to formulate your control lists in such a way that you cover all the relevant equipment and all the relevant facilities. So what is under way is a thorough, comprehensive look at the different technology areas, which is an exercise also under Dutch chairmanship, by the way, but it’s separate from the annual chairmanship. It’s an exercise that will probably take a few years, but we have started that. The first results have been put on the table, but it’s still a work in progress.

ACT: Just to give us some context, how often does the NSG do this sort of revision? It’s been around for, as we said, about three decades. How often do you do these guidelines, and how long does it take to do each one?

De Klerk: There’s not really a regularity in these revisions. When you come to the conclusion that the formulations that we have in the control lists on the particular technology are deficient, then there is an impetus to close potential loopholes. Perhaps you can say that, on average, there are revisions every five years. But what is important is that the review that is going on now pertains both to the trigger list and the dual-use list and that it’s more comprehensive than we’ve had in quite a long time.

ACT: Is there anything else you would like to say about the developments at Noordwijk, your plans for the coming year, or anything else dealing with the NSG?

De Klerk: The main thing I would like to say is, coming back to the beginning of our conversation, that in an age of electronic traffic and the Internet, export control is a greater challenge than ever, given that we are witnessing what many call a nuclear renaissance. Whether that term is a bit too grandiose or not, it’s true that especially in Asia you see quite a take-off of nuclear energy. If you see Chinese plans for 200,000 megawatts by 2030; if you see India, 60,000 megawatts; South Korea, 43,000 megawatts—it’s an era of new expansion.

I think the NSG is as relevant as ever. The fact that our chairmanship has quite a number of areas where changes are under way, more than there have been in quite a number of years, I think that’s a reflection of the new phase that we’re entering. Clearly, when the danger is the spread of nuclear weapons, then it’s clear we have a challenge that we all should take very seriously. It’s clear that you will need to have tight export controls if you want to give nuclear power a chance without any concurrent spread of nuclear weapons capabilities.

ACT: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this.

De Klerk: My pleasure.

 

ENDNOTES

 

1. The NSG maintains two lists that are the basis for its guidelines. The first, often known as the “trigger list,” includes materials and technology designed specifically for nuclear use. The second covers dual-use goods, which are non-nuclear items with legitimate civilian applications that can also be used to develop weapons.

 

2. For the complete text of the revision and the rest of the guidelines, see International Atomic Energy Agency, “Communication Received From the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands Regarding Certain Member States’ Guidelines for the Export of Nuclear Material, Equipment and Technology,” INFCIRC/254/Rev.10/Part 1, July 26, 2011, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/2011/infcirc254r10p1.pdf. See also Daniel Horner, “NSG Revises Rules on Sensitive Exports,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2011.

 

3. See Daniel Horner, “China, Pakistan Set Reactor Deal,” Arms Control Today, June 2010.

 

4. Henk Cor van der Kwast, remarks at “The Future of the Nuclear Suppliers Group,” Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, Washington, DC, March 29, 2011, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/The_Future_of_the_Nuclear_Suppliers_Group.pdf.

Piet de Klerk became the chairman of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in June and will hold that position until next June. In August, he became the Dutch ambassador to Jordan...

U.S., Saudi Arabia Mull Nuclear Talks

Daniel Horner

The United States has offered to send a team of officials to Saudi Arabia to “discuss elements” of an agreement for nuclear cooperation and “the process by which it would be negotiated,” a Department of State official said in an Aug. 22 interview.

The schedule for the proposed meeting and any follow-up has not been determined, the official said.

Under the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, nuclear cooperation agreements are a prerequisite for U.S. nuclear trade.

A key issue in any future Saudi-U.S. nuclear talks is expected to be the Persian Gulf state’s willingness to accept constraints on its ability to enrich uranium or separate plutonium from spent fuel.

In a May 2008 memorandum of understanding on nuclear energy cooperation with the United States, Saudi Arabia “stated its intent to rely on international markets for nuclear fuel and to not pursue sensitive nuclear technologies,” according to a State Department press statement at the time. Earlier this year, however, The Guardian quoted a senior Saudi official as saying, “We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don’t.”

The United States has offered to send a team of officials to Saudi Arabia to “discuss elements” of an agreement for nuclear cooperation and “the process by which it would be negotiated,” a Department of State official said in an Aug. 22 interview.

Run-Up to Mideast Meeting Shows Fissures

Daniel Horner

Efforts to decide on the facilitator and host country for a planned 2012 conference on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East are hampered by disagreements not only over the individual person and country for those roles, but also over fundamental points of the process for making the choices, interviews with participants in the ­process indicate.

Nevertheless, some of the interviewees, who represent key countries in the talks, said it still was possible that the decisions could be made before the end of the year and that the conference could take place as scheduled in 2012.

The commitment to hold the 2012 conference was a critical piece of the negotiations that produced the final document of the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. (See ACT, June 2010.) In that document, the parties reaffirmed their commitment to “a full implementation” of the resolution on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East that, in turn, was central to the agreement at the 1995 review conference to make the NPT permanent.

Several states in the Middle East have declined to join the NPT, the Biological Weapons Convention, or the Chemical Weapons Convention or are believed to have weapons of mass destruction or be pursuing WMD capabilities.

There has been little visible progress on the 2012 meeting since the May 2010 NPT conference. Many participants in the process had hoped that a July 6–7 seminar in Brussels, attended by government officials and representatives of nongovernmental organizations, would spur action toward a decision on the host and facilitator. Although the seminar did conclude with an announcement of three candidate countries to host the 2012 conference, some of the current and former officials interviewed—many of whom attended the closed-door seminar—said they had hoped for more.

According to the officials, Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov announced that the three candidates were Canada, Finland, and the Netherlands. Ulyanov was speaking on behalf of his country, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the three countries that co-sponsored the 1995 resolution and that, along with the UN secretary-general, are the designated conveners of the 2012 conference.

In an Aug. 5 interview, a U.S. Department of State official said the announcement had not been planned before the meeting, but that the three countries had decided to make one to counter a widespread impression that they were not working vigorously to make the 2012 conference happen. The official also said that “just because it’s not in public doesn’t mean a lot hasn’t been going on.”

However, a European diplomat said in an Aug. 18 interview that Ulyanov’s announcement “made everything worse” because it showed how little had been accomplished in the year since the NPT review conference.

Several of the officials questioned the viability of two of the candidates. In an Aug. 19 interview, Egyptian Ambassador to the United Nations Maged Abdelaziz, who attended the Brussels meeting, said the United States had proposed Canada as a host during the 2010 NPT conference, but Arab countries did not support that choice. He said the Arab countries also had reservations about the Netherlands, in part because it is a member of NATO (as is Canada) and in part because of its views and the views of the proposed Dutch facilitator on the Middle East and on the proposed conference. Abdelaziz indicated that Finland was more acceptable although he said the proposed Finnish facilitator did not have the political rank that the position would require.

He also said Austria, which at one point was under consideration, would be ­acceptable to the Arab Group.

The European diplomat offered a similar assessment of the prospects for Canada, Finland, and the Netherlands.

An official from a Persian Gulf state also said there has been “no objection so far to Finland’s offer” and that Canada does not have “strong credibility on this issue” because of its ongoing position on Israel’s nuclear program in UN forums. However, in an Aug. 17 interview, he argued that the venue is less important than the facilitator.  According to the State Department official, the three co-sponsors believe that the facilitator should come from the host country because the facilitator would have the “diplomatic resources [of the host country] to tap into.”

Referring to the decisions on the host and facilitator, the Gulf state official said, “I don’t think there is a condition that they should be linked.” As he and Abdelaziz noted, the 2010 NPT Review Conference final document lists the decisions as two separate steps. There is “nothing in the review document that says this is a package,” Abdelaziz said.

“We want a shift of direction,” with priority placed on the naming of a facilitator, he said. The facilitator must meet certain criteria established by the Arab Group and conveyed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the co-sponsors, he said. The person must not be from one of the five NPT nuclear-weapon states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), an Arab country, Iran, or Israel; must be at least at a “ministerial level”; and must be acceptable to everyone, particularly Iran and Israel, he said.

NPT Issues

Some of the officials stressed the importance for the NPT regime of progress on the Middle Eastern WMD-free zone. Because of the lack of progress since 1995 on the issue, the countries of the region felt “betrayed,” the Gulf state official said. For that reason, he said, some countries from the region and the Nonaligned Movement did not want to tighten the terms for withdrawal from the NPT, a topic that was discussed at some length at the 2010 review conference.

The next review conference is to take place in 2015, with three annual preparatory meetings, starting next May.

The European diplomat said it would be a problem “for formal reasons” if the process still was seen as stalled at the time of the 2012 preparatory meeting. Otherwise, the meeting will be ­“hijacked,” he said.

If the host and facilitator are named in September or October, the conference conceivably could be held in March or April; but that is “rather unlikely,” he said. However, he said, if the arrangements for the Mideast conference were put in place before the May NPT preparatory meeting, it “would not be easy to complain.” In comments similar to those of several other participants and observers, he said, “The Arab Spring does not help speed the process.”

The Gulf state official laid out a similar timetable, saying he “can’t imagine” the conference taking place before May or June. If there is no agreement roughly by November on the host and facilitator, then that timetable probably would be impossible, he said. Asked if holding the conference in 2012 was feasible, he said that although “many things [are] happening,” the “objective [of holding the conference next year] should not be undermined.”

The conference should take place in 2012, but participants “should be realistic” about what to expect, the Gulf state official said. The 2012 meeting should not “be the end” of the effort, he said.

Overall, failing to convene the conference is “more risky than having it” because abandoning plans to hold it “would kill prospects for [the Middle Eastern WMD-free zone] from the beginning,” with potentially severe implications for the NPT regime, he said.

The link to the NPT raises a different set of issues for Israel, which is not a party to the NPT and was not directly involved in the negotiations leading to the 1995 and 2010 NPT conference final documents. Nevertheless, in an Aug. 18 interview, a former Israeli official said he would not “reject…out of hand” the idea that it would be beneficial for Israel to attend the conference.

However, the former official said, the terms of reference would have to be “drafted in the spirit and letter” of the statements by President Barack Obama and national security adviser Gen. James Jones immediately after the NPT review conference. Otherwise, it will be difficult for Israel, which is “suspicious to begin with, to consider attending the [2012] conference,” the former official said.

In his May 28, 2010, statement on the NPT review conference and the WMD-free zone, Obama said, “The United States has long supported such a zone, although our view is that a comprehensive and durable peace in the region and full compliance by all regional states with their arms control and nonproliferation obligations are essential precursors for its establishment.” Jones, in his statement the same day, provided some additional detail on the zone and the conference, saying in part that “[t]he United States will insist that this be a conference for discussion aimed at an exchange of views on a broad agenda, to include regional security issues, verification and compliance, and all categories of weapons of mass destruction and systems for their delivery.”

The 2010 NPT conference final document specifies that the 2012 conference “shall take as its terms of reference the 1995 Resolution [on the Middle East].”

U.S. Attitude

In some statements this year, U.S. officials have suggested that the Arab Spring could push the meeting beyond 2012. In an April 7 interview with Arms Control Today, White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism Gary Samore said that since the 2010 NPT conference, “there have been some extraordinarily dramatic changes in the region; and whether or not we can still make that 2012 meeting is, I think, much less clear. We have to continue to make an effort.” Samore was scheduled to address the Brussels meeting but canceled, citing a last-minute scheduling conflict.

The former Israeli official said his impression is that the White House “has other issues to deal with” and sees this one as “a pain in the neck.” If the United States had felt “a stronger interest or concern,” it would have pushed “in a more persuasive manner” for an agreement on the host and facilitator, he said. The European diplomat said the United States and the other co-sponsors could have been much more active than they were at the Brussels seminar.

In the Aug. 5 interview, the State Department official disputed the idea that his government was not committed to the meeting or the 2012 timetable. “We think this can happen and should happen in 2012…. [E]verything we are doing is based on the assumption” that it will take place on that schedule, he said. If the countries of the region wanted to push back the meeting date, the United States would not stand in their way, but the date “won’t slip to 2013 based on anything we’re doing or not doing,” he said.

He said he expected an announcement of the host and facilitator in “the next month or two.”

Abdelaziz said in the Aug. 19 interview that “things [were] starting to move more” after the Brussels meeting. Egypt and other Arab League countries have met since then with Ban, who remains in close consultation with the co-sponsors, he said.

The Arab countries are “working hard to have this conference,” he said. They do not “want to corner anybody substantively or procedurally,” but “we don’t want to be cornered,” he said.

The countries preparing for a planned 2012 conference on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East are facing disagreements on several key points.

NSG Revises Rules on Sensitive Exports

An early version of this story appeared here.

Daniel Horner

Seven years after they started discussions on the issue and two and a half years after they formulated a “clean text,” the members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) agreed in June on revised guidelines for exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing.

At issue were paragraphs 6 and 7 of the NSG guidelines. The old version of paragraph 6 said that suppliers should “exercise restraint” in exports of sensitive technology. The new paragraph 6 essentially retains that language, but specifies a list of criteria to be considered. The new paragraph 7, which deals with “[s]pecial arrangements for export of enrichment facilities, equipment and technology,” adds details on restrictions on sharing such technology.

A June 24 NSG press release issued at the end of the group’s annual plenary meeting in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, said only that the group had “agreed to strengthen its guidelines on the transfer of sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technologies.” The NSG did not release the text of the new guidelines, but a copy was obtained by Arms Control Today.

The NSG is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not legally binding.

The main change from the previous guidelines is the addition of the list, known as “objective criteria.” Among other requirements, potential recipients of sensitive technology must be parties to and “in full compliance” with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and they must be adhering to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards requirements.

Focus on Additional Protocol

In a separate section, the text says that suppliers should authorize enrichment and reprocessing exports only if the recipient has brought into force a comprehensive safeguards agreement and an additional protocol or, “pending this, [the recipient] is implementing appropriate safeguards agreements in cooperation with the IAEA, including a regional accounting and control arrangement for nuclear materials, as approved by the IAEA Board of Governors.” In a June 27 interview, a U.S. official said one significant aspect of the new guidelines is the reference to an additional protocol as a condition of supply.

The language on “a regional accounting and control arrangement” is a clear reference to the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC). Argentina and Brazil have not signed an additional protocol, which would give IAEA inspectors greater latitude to carry out their inspections in those countries, including the right to inspect any undeclared facilities. The NSG language would make Argentina and Brazil eligible to receive sensitive exports without having an additional protocol in force.

Since the appearance of the November 2008 “clean” draft text, critics have said the group’s concession on this point is a major flaw in the NSG’s approach because the ABACC arrangements do not provide the level of assurance about the countries’ nuclear programs that an additional protocol would.

In a June 30 interview, a Brazilian official said the Quadripartite Agreement among Argentina, Brazil, ABACC, and the IAEA furnishes a “more than sufficient guarantee” of the peaceful nature of the two countries’ nuclear programs. It “add[s] value” to INFCIRC/153, the standard safeguards agreement that the IAEA signs with NPT non-nuclear-weapon states, in part because it provides for the application of safeguards by ABACC as well as the IAEA, he said.

Compared to comprehensive safeguards agreements, it furnishes “an amount of information and mutual confidence that is superior,” he said. Additional protocols are not a legal requirement under the NPT or the IAEA, and that point has been recognized in all relevant forums, including the NSG, he said.

Brazil’s 2008 National Defense Strategy was “very clear” that the country would not adhere to new safeguards commitments until the nuclear-weapon states made significant progress toward fulfilling their disarmament obligations under Article VI of the NPT, he said.

Asked if the “pending this” language in the new guidelines suggested that the Quadripartite Agreement eventually would be supplemented by an additional protocol, the official said, “We do not see an obligation deriving from this [language].” Citing the NPT and IAEA resolutions, he said it is the “sovereign decision of any country” to conclude an additional protocol.

The U.S. official said the language “was a way of saying that the NSG would continue to review the situation with respect to the status of adherence to the additional protocol.”

‘General’ Subjective Criteria

The proposed November 2008 version of the NSG guidelines also included so-called subjective criteria: “[w]hether the recipient has a credible and coherent rationale for pursuing enrichment and reprocessing capability in support of civil nuclear power generation programmes,” “[w]hether the transfer would have a negative impact on the stability and security of the recipient state,” and “[g]eneral conditions of stability and security.”

The new text dispenses with that list. Instead, it invokes other sections of the guidelines that give suppliers broad authority to ensure that their exports do not contribute to proliferation. It also adds language saying that suppliers should “tak[e] into account at their national discretion, any relevant factors as may be applicable.”

The U.S. official said the section retains the concept of subjective criteria, but “has been written in a much more general manner.”

The guidelines also contain new language at the beginning of paragraph 7, saying in part, “All States that meet the criteria in paragraph 6 above are eligible for transfers of enrichment facilities, equipment and technology.”

According to the U.S. official, being “eligible” to receive enrichment and reprocessing exports does not equate to a “right” to receive them. A key point of the new guidelines is that “the suppliers as a group were concerned with more than a specific list,” he said.

However, in additional new language at the beginning of paragraph 7, the guidelines say that “[s]uppliers recognize that the application of the Special Arrangements [on enrichment-related exports] below must be consistent with NPT principles, in particular Article IV. Any application by the suppliers of the following Special Arrangements may not abrogate the rights of States meeting the criteria in paragraph 6.”

Article IV of the NPT establishes an “inalienable right” of treaty parties to pursue peaceful nuclear programs.

The section on enrichment-related transfers requires that they be under so-called black box conditions that seek to prevent the technology from being replicated. There is a limited exception to allow cooperation on development of potential new enrichment technologies, but the restrictions would apply once the technology was commercialized.

As the U.S. official noted, black-box requirements are now a global industry standard and are being applied to two enrichment plants in the United States. He said “enshrin[ing]” industry practice in the NSG guidelines is “a very useful thing to do.”

Effect on India

In September 2008, the NSG made an exception for India from the group’s general requirement for so-called full-scope safeguards, the requirement that recipients of exports open all their nuclear facilities to IAEA inspection. In the run-up to the announcement on the revised guidelines on enrichment and reprocessing, a key question was whether India would be exempted from the new restrictions as well.

Even before the NSG or the United States announced the agreement on the new guidelines, the U.S. Department of State’s press office issued a statement saying that the Obama administration “fully supports” the “clean” NSG exception for India and “speedy implementation” of the U.S.-Indian civil nuclear cooperation agreement, which Congress approved in 2008. “Nothing about the new Enrichment and Reprocessing (ENR) transfer restrictions agreed to by NSG members should be construed as detracting from the unique impact and importance of the U.S.-India agreement or our commitment to full civil nuclear cooperation,” the statement said.

Indian officials and observers often use the term “clean waiver” to suggest that the 2008 NSG decision lifted all the restrictions that previously had been in place on nuclear exports to India. However, the June 23 State Department press release said, “Efforts in the NSG to strengthen controls on the transfers of ENR are consistent with long-standing U.S. policy that pre-dates the Civil Nuclear Agreement and have been reaffirmed on an annual basis by the [Group of Eight industrialized countries] for years.”

The U.S. official said that NSG members had begun discussing a list of criteria for enrichment- and reprocessing-related exports in 2004 and, by the end of the year, had agreed that NPT membership should be a criterion. The plans for U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation were announced in July 2005. (See ACT, September 2005.)

The official also noted that the text of the 2008 NSG decision exempts India only from the section of the NSG guidelines dealing with the requirement for full-scope safeguards and specifically says that “transfers of sensitive exports remain subject to paragraphs 6 and 7.”

In a June 30 interview, a European diplomat agreed that, under the guidelines, India could not receive enrichment and reprocessing technology. India’s Ministry of External Affairs and its embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment.

Indian Membership

According to the NSG press statement, the members also “continued to consider all aspects of the implementation of the 2008 Statement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India and discussed the NSG relationship with India.” Last November, President Barack Obama announced his support for Indian membership in the NSG and three other export control regimes. (See ACT, December 2010.)

India would be the first member of the NSG that is not a party to the NPT. A key criterion for membership in the group is that the country is a party to and complying with the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty.

A confidential May 23 U.S.-drafted “Food for Thought” paper circulated to NSG members offers two options for bringing India into the group. One would be to revise the admission criteria “in a manner that would accurately describe India’s situation.” The other would be to “recognize” that the criteria, known as “Factors to Be Considered,” are not “mandatory criteria” and that a candidate for membership does not necessarily have to meet all of them.

At the Noordwijk meeting, the United States “did not ask anybody to take a decision,” the U.S. official said. There was “a good, solid discussion” with expressions of “views on both sides,” he said. According to the official, some delegates were “very concerned about the NPT issue.”

The United States invited additional comments, with a deadline of Sept. 1, he said. That would allow time to prepare for follow-up discussions on the sidelines of the IAEA general conference later that month and at the meeting of the NSG’s consultative group in October or November, he said.

 

Seven years after they started discussions on the issue and two and a half years after they formulated a “clean text,” the members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) last week agreed on revised guidelines for exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing.

Russia Endorses Plutonium Disposition Pact

Daniel Horner

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed into law three key documents on U.S.-Russian plutonium disposition, including a protocol that was one of the high-profile results of last year’s nuclear security summit in Washington.

Medvedev’s endorsement, announced June 7, followed action by the two chambers of Russia’s parliament in May, Russian media reported.

The original accord, which was signed in 2000, commits each side to the disposition of at least 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium taken from its defense program. The protocol allows Russia to use fast-neutron reactors for that effort. (See ACT, May 2010.) Medvedev’s June action covered those two documents and a 2006 protocol containing legal liability provisions for U.S.-Russian cooperation on the disposition program.

Since the signing of the protocol at the April 2010 summit, the two sides have been negotiating a document setting out milestones for progress in the Russian work that U.S. funds would support. (See ACT, March 2011.)

In a June 22 interview, a U.S. official said the question is how to “energize” those talks and that the formal Russian approvals might help do that.

He said there had been “good progress” on negotiating the agreement’s verification measures, which are to be carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In a letter to the agency last August, the two governments said they wanted to finish that work by the end of 2011.

 

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed into law three key documents on U.S.-Russian plutonium disposition, including a protocol that was one of the high-profile results of last year’s nuclear security summit in Washington.

NSG Revises Rules on Sensitive Exports

Body: 

The following is an early version of a story that appears in the July/August issue of Arms Control Today.

Originally posted June 27, 2011

Updated  July 5, 2011

Seven years after they started discussions on the issue and two and a half years after they formulated a “clean text,” the members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) agreed in June on revised guidelines for exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing.

At issue were paragraphs 6 and 7 of the NSG guidelines. The old version of paragraph 6 said that suppliers should “exercise restraint” in exports of sensitive technology. The new paragraph 6 essentially retains that language, but specifies a list of criteria to be considered. The new paragraph 7, which deals with “[s]pecial arrangements for export of enrichment facilities, equipment and technology,” adds details on restrictions on sharing such technology.

A June 24 NSG press release issued at the end of the group’s annual plenary meeting in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, said only that the group had “agreed to strengthen its guidelines on the transfer of sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technologies.” The NSG did not release the text of the new guidelines, but a copy was obtained by Arms Control Today.

The NSG is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not legally binding.

The main change from the previous guidelines is the addition of the list, known as “objective criteria.” Among other requirements, potential recipients of sensitive technology must be parties to and “in full compliance” with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and they must be adhering to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards requirements.

Focus on Additional Protocol

In a separate section, the text says that suppliers should authorize enrichment and reprocessing exports only if the recipient has brought into force a comprehensive safeguards agreement and an additional protocol or, “pending this, [the recipient] is implementing appropriate safeguards agreements in cooperation with the IAEA, including a regional accounting and control arrangement for nuclear materials, as approved by the IAEA Board of Governors.” In a June 27 interview, a U.S. official said one significant aspect of the new guidelines is the reference to an additional protocol as a condition of supply.

The language on “a regional accounting and control arrangement” is a clear reference to the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC). Argentina and Brazil have not signed an additional protocol, which would give IAEA inspectors greater latitude to carry out their inspections in those countries, including the right to inspect any undeclared facilities. The NSG language would make Argentina and Brazil eligible to receive sensitive exports without having an additional protocol in force.

Since the appearance of the November 2008 “clean” draft text, critics have said the group’s concession on this point is a major flaw in the NSG’s approach because the ABACC arrangements do not provide the level of assurance about the countries’ nuclear programs that an additional protocol would.

In a June 30 interview, a Brazilian official said the Quadripartite Agreement among Argentina, Brazil, ABACC, and the IAEA furnishes a “more than sufficient guarantee” of the peaceful nature of the two countries’ nuclear programs. It “add[s] value” to INFCIRC/153, the standard safeguards agreement that the IAEA signs with NPT non-nuclear-weapon states, in part because it provides for the application of safeguards by ABACC as well as the IAEA, he said.

Compared to comprehensive safeguards agreements, it furnishes “an amount of information and mutual confidence that is superior,” he said. Additional protocols are not a legal requirement under the NPT or the IAEA, and that point has been recognized in all relevant forums, including the NSG, he said.

Brazil’s 2008 National Defense Strategy was “very clear” that the country would not adhere to new safeguards commitments until the nuclear-weapon states made significant progress toward fulfilling their disarmament obligations under Article VI of the NPT, he said.

Asked if the “pending this” language in the new guidelines suggested that the Quadripartite Agreement eventually would be supplemented by an additional protocol, the official said, “We do not see an obligation deriving from this [language].” Citing the NPT and IAEA resolutions, he said it is the “sovereign decision of any country” to conclude an additional protocol.

The U.S. official said the language “was a way of saying that the NSG would continue to review the situation with respect to the status of adherence to the additional protocol.”

‘General’ Subjective Criteria

The proposed November 2008 version of the NSG guidelines also included so-called subjective criteria: “[w]hether the recipient has a credible and coherent rationale for pursuing enrichment and reprocessing capability in support of civil nuclear power generation programmes,” “[w]hether the transfer would have a negative impact on the stability and security of the recipient state,” and “[g]eneral conditions of stability and security.”

The new text dispenses with that list. Instead, it invokes other sections of the guidelines that give suppliers broad authority to ensure that their exports do not contribute to proliferation. It also adds language saying that suppliers should “tak[e] into account at their national discretion, any relevant factors as may be applicable.”

The U.S. official said the section retains the concept of subjective criteria, but “has been written in a much more general manner.”

The guidelines also contain new language at the beginning of paragraph 7, saying in part, “All States that meet the criteria in paragraph 6 above are eligible for transfers of enrichment facilities, equipment and technology.”

According to the U.S. official, being “eligible” to receive enrichment and reprocessing exports does not equate to a “right” to receive them. A key point of the new guidelines is that “the suppliers as a group were concerned with more than a specific list,” he said.

However, in additional new language at the beginning of paragraph 7, the guidelines say that “[s]uppliers recognize that the application of the Special Arrangements [on enrichment-related exports] below must be consistent with NPT principles, in particular Article IV. Any application by the suppliers of the following Special Arrangements may not abrogate the rights of States meeting the criteria in paragraph 6.”

Article IV of the NPT establishes an “inalienable right” of treaty parties to pursue peaceful nuclear programs.

The section on enrichment-related transfers requires that they be under so-called black box conditions that seek to prevent the technology from being replicated. There is a limited exception to allow cooperation on development of potential new enrichment technologies, but the restrictions would apply once the technology was commercialized.

As the U.S. official noted, black-box requirements are now a global industry standard and are being applied to two enrichment plants in the United States. He said “enshrin[ing]” industry practice in the NSG guidelines is “a very useful thing to do.”

Effect on India

In September 2008, the NSG made an exception for India from the group’s general requirement for so-called full-scope safeguards, the requirement that recipients of exports open all their nuclear facilities to IAEA inspection. In the run-up to the announcement on the revised guidelines on enrichment and reprocessing, a key question was whether India would be exempted from the new restrictions as well.

Even before the NSG or the United States announced the agreement on the new guidelines, the U.S. Department of State’s press office issued a statement saying that the Obama administration “fully supports” the “clean” NSG exception for India and “speedy implementation” of the U.S.-Indian civil nuclear cooperation agreement, which Congress approved in 2008. “Nothing about the new Enrichment and Reprocessing (ENR) transfer restrictions agreed to by NSG members should be construed as detracting from the unique impact and importance of the U.S.-India agreement or our commitment to full civil nuclear cooperation,” the statement said.

Indian officials and observers often use the term “clean waiver” to suggest that the 2008 NSG decision lifted all the restrictions that previously had been in place on nuclear exports to India. However, the June 23 State Department press release said, “Efforts in the NSG to strengthen controls on the transfers of ENR are consistent with long-standing U.S. policy that pre-dates the Civil Nuclear Agreement and have been reaffirmed on an annual basis by the [Group of Eight industrialized countries] for years.”

The U.S. official said that NSG members had begun discussing a list of criteria for enrichment- and reprocessing-related exports in 2004 and, by the end of the year, had agreed that NPT membership should be a criterion. The plans for U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation were announced in July 2005. (See ACT, September 2005.)

The official also noted that the text of the 2008 NSG decision exempts India only from the section of the NSG guidelines dealing with the requirement for full-scope safeguards and specifically says that “transfers of sensitive exports remain subject to paragraphs 6 and 7.”

In a June 30 interview, a European diplomat agreed that, under the guidelines, India could not receive enrichment and reprocessing technology. India’s Ministry of External Affairs and its embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment.

Indian Membership

According to the NSG press statement, the members also “continued to consider all aspects of the implementation of the 2008 Statement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India and discussed the NSG relationship with India.” Last November, President Barack Obama announced his support for Indian membership in the NSG and three other export control regimes. (See ACT, December 2010.)

India would be the first member of the NSG that is not a party to the NPT. A key criterion for membership in the group is that the country is a party to and complying with the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty.

A confidential May 23 U.S.-drafted “Food for Thought” paper circulated to NSG members offers two options for bringing India into the group. One would be to revise the admission criteria “in a manner that would accurately describe India’s situation.” The other would be to “recognize” that the criteria, known as “Factors to Be Considered,” are not “mandatory criteria” and that a candidate for membership does not necessarily have to meet all of them.

At the Noordwijk meeting, the United States “did not ask anybody to take a decision,” the U.S. official said. There was “a good, solid discussion” with expressions of “views on both sides,” he said. According to the official, some delegates were “very concerned about the NPT issue.”

The United States invited additional comments, with a deadline of Sept. 1, he said. That would allow time to prepare for follow-up discussions on the sidelines of the IAEA general conference later that month and at the meeting of the NSG’s consultative group in October or November, he said. —DANIEL HORNER

 

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Seven years after they started discussions on the issue and two and a half years after they formulated a “clean text,” the members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) last week agreed on revised guidelines for exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing.

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Common Ground on the BWC: An Interview With U.S. Special Representative Laura Kennedy

Interviewed by Daniel Horner and Jonathan B. Tucker[1]

Laura Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, was named last December to serve also as U.S. special representative on issues relating to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). In that position, her principal focus is the treaty’s review conference later this year. Her previous diplomatic postings include a broad range of arms control assignments.

Arms Control Today spoke with Kennedy by telephone May 12. She described the U.S. approach to the BWC and the upcoming review conference, which is scheduled to take place December 5-22. The interview covered many of the topics that are expected to be central to the review conference, including verification, peaceful cooperation, and the BWC’s intersessional process.

The interview was transcribed by Xiaodon Liang. It has been edited for clarity and length.

ACT: Could you bring us up to date on where things stand after the April BWC preparatory committee meeting and tell us what the results of that meeting indicate about the outlook for the December review conference?

Kennedy: I’d be delighted. We finished the PrepCom on April 14. It went extremely well—so well, in fact, that we finished a day early, which in my experience happens very, very rarely. Now this was a procedural meeting, but on the other hand, I’ve certainly been at procedural meetings that were pretty unproductive and nasty, and this went extremely well. It was efficient. As I mentioned, we even finished early, so that is a very good sign. We were also very impressed with the president-designate of the review conference, a colleague of mine incidentally here [in Geneva], Ambassador [Paul] van den IJssel, who was, as one would expect from a chairman, impartial, and, we are delighted to see, effective. It was a very constructive tone, I thought, throughout the discussions.

That is not to say that there were not differences of view; there certainly were and are. But I found that the delegations there were focused on finding solutions and avoiding polemical speeches. That’s a good thing. So I think that judging by this and other signs, the outlook for the review conference is a positive one. We, and I mean the U.S. here, certainly see it as a real opportunity to strengthen implementation of the BWC, reinforce its importance and relevance for this next century. Although people properly look at areas of disagreement, there’s also a huge amount of common ground in the international community.

ACT: There has been quite a lot of discussion about what threats the BWC should be trying to address. You and other U.S. officials have been quite clear in saying that the focus should include subnational threats as well as national programs and that it should also cover areas, such as the surveillance of natural epidemic diseases, that go beyond “security” as it’s normally defined. Can you describe the relative importance of these threats and how the BWC can help to address them? Do other countries generally subscribe to the U.S. approach?

Kennedy: I think the issues that you’ve identified indeed are ones that were identified by my boss, Undersecretary [of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen] Tauscher, who came out to Geneva for the annual meeting [of states-parties] in [December] 2009 when she unveiled the U.S. national strategy. She made just those points, that you need to work on this complex of issues.

First of all, we believe that you need to increase confidence that countries are complying with their obligations and effectively implementing the convention. As you know, the U.S. government does not think that a verification protocol would achieve that objective. That, however, doesn’t mean we think that the objective is not important or that there’s nothing to be done. Very much to the contrary.

Second, the threat of bioterrorism—we think it’s real. We think it’s important to deal with this problem in order to achieve the aim of the BWC: a world free from the threat of biological weapons. We would be the first to say that this is a complex problem, that the knowledge and materials that could be misused are widely and, of course, appropriately used for important scientific and health purposes. Therefore, we think that you have to take a very nuanced approach, including not only security measures, but outreach to industry, to academia and individual scientists, for example.

That brings me to a third area that’s sometimes called health security, which we believe requires sustained attention because the range of possible threats is so broad, and the potential consequences so dire, the international community needs to be prepared to recognize a disease outbreak and respond to it quickly and effectively, whether or not it’s recognized as a deliberate attack. So we’ve got to work together to strengthen disease surveillance and detection capabilities around the world, as well as national and international preparedness, coordination, and response capabilities.

You asked if some of these views were widely shared. I would say that’s one of the good-news stories about the BWC, in that the capabilities that I just described are also needed for many other reasons beyond the security area: natural disease outbreaks or disease caused by accident[al releases of pathogens from research laboratories]. Certainly, all nations have a shared concern for disease and the need to prevent and deal with it. There’s increasingly a shared recognition that when you enhance capabilities to deal with, say, a bioweapons threat, you’re also getting benefits across the board in the health area. As we all know, germs know no borders, so this is something that genuinely unites the international community.

ACT: Can we expect to see some effort on [global health security] at the review conference, some language in the final document reflecting that?

Kennedy: That’s certainly our aim.

ACT: One of the tasks for the review conference is to renew the mandate for the Implementation Support Unit [ISU], the small Geneva-based staff for the BWC. How would you evaluate the ISU’s work so far?

Kennedy: I think I can speak for more than just our own view in the U.S., which is that we think the ISU has done an extremely impressive job over the last five years. I would bet with great confidence that there will be agreement to continue the ISU. I would say there’s also a lot of support for modestly expanding the ISU, although in these difficult budgetary times around the world, I think some governments might find even a tiny increase very difficult, and nobody is going to just write a check. Everyone will want to sort out priorities and come to a consensus on what should be the work plan, what sort of new mandate, what sort of tasks we would set for the next five years for the ISU. Then, presumably, we will make resource decisions based on that review. People aren’t going to say, “Let’s just expand.”

ACT: What is the U.S. position on whether the ISU should be made permanent?

Kennedy: Frankly, I’m not sure we have a set view on that. I think generally it’s been looked at in five-year increments. I think that’s a pretty sensible position myself, and I would suspect that most nations think that this every-five-years review actually makes sense. We certainly would be open to any proposals to make it permanent; but again, let me just go back to the previous point that resources, staffing, and so on should be tied to a consensus on what their tasks should be.

ACT: Another issue is the intersessional process and in what form it will be continued. Currently, the intersessional process is a forum for meeting and discussion between review conferences but not for decision-making. You have said that the process should have greater flexibility and authority. Could you give us some details on what you have in mind?

Kennedy: Sure. I think, as I hope some of my earlier comments made clear, that the intersessional process has been a huge success. When I talked about how the BWC has provided this forum to bring together various actors in the international community, I mean that the intersessional process has been a real winner in this regard. I think this is an issue that is absolutely ripe for a thorough discussion and new steps. It has raised awareness, we’ve exchanged experiences in this forum, and it’s certainly prompted lots of actions at the national level.

If, in the intersessional process, you come up with really useful stuff, like a set of best practices, or guidelines, procedures, in any number of areas, why wouldn’t you want to endorse them in that year, rather than waiting until the next review conference years down the road? Why not have the states-parties give themselves the freedom, the mandate, the opportunity to take decisions to do things that are useful and appropriate?

ACT: In 2001 the United States withdrew from talks on a BWC verification protocol, and the talks subsequently collapsed. You said this past December that a “verification regime is no more feasible than it was in 2001, and perhaps even less so, given the evolution of technology and industry.” However, some countries, including close U.S. allies, do not share this view. Is the United States pursuing some compromise or alternative approach that could bridge the differences on this issue?

Kennedy: You mentioned the previous efforts to negotiate a verification protocol, and you’re certainly right that we abandoned that effort earlier. We went back and did a top-to-bottom review in the new administration and came to the same basic conclusion, that we did not think that a verification protocol was doable for the reasons I spoke to before. But that’s not to say that confidence in compliance is not vitally important to promote by enhanced transparency and compliance diplomacy. There are indeed things that we can do in this general area. There’s a lot of work, for example, going on with respect to possible changes in the confidence-building measures [CBMs].[2] Let me speak to that just briefly.

I think there are three different strands to that discussion. First of all, how do you expand participation? Last year, we had a record number of countries that submitted their CBMs, which are politically binding although not legally binding. But despite the fact that we hit a new high, it’s still less than half the membership.[3]

Two, how do you make the questions more precise so that when you collect all this data, it’s consistent and more usable? Number three, are we asking the right questions, are there new types of information we need to be seeking? Conversely, some of the information we’ve been collecting may be no longer relevant because, for example, it may be available from other sources. These are important questions, and I think there’s a lot of willingness to tackle them. We might not be able to come to agreement at the review conference itself, but at a minimum, I would think we would be able to establish a follow-on process to address these issues.

Another aspect of what we can do to answer these concerns is to find the middle ground, given the differences of view on a verification protocol. Initiatives for increased transparency are important. I think they could meaningfully contribute to additional confidence among the states-parties. We’re looking at ways we can promote and demonstrate transparency, particularly with regard to biological defense programs. We’re looking at various aspects of this general area to increase transparency and confidence in BWC compliance.

ACT: Another area of debate has been peaceful cooperation under Article X of the BWC. What is the likelihood of developing an approach that satisfies the United States and other members of the Australia Group[4] that are concerned about loosening restrictions on transfers of dual-use biotechnology equipment and materials, while also addressing the concerns of countries such as Cuba, Iran, and Pakistan that want to see a freer flow of trade among BWC member states to facilitate the peaceful uses of biotechnology?

Kennedy: Excellent question, [which addresses] a balance that is always struck in complex issues like this. But in general, let me say that I am indeed optimistic that there is a constructive way ahead on this issue. Let me just mention a couple of reasons.

I talked earlier about a cross-regional approach, a greater willingness to work on an international community basis. Instead of the haves versus the have-nots, which in many cases has typified the dialogue in the past, I find increasingly that what we generally refer to as the developed countries have embraced capacity-building assistance. It’s important for the recipient nations, and it’s important for the donor countries, for their respective national-security interests. We also find that, in the biosciences, the distinction between developing and developed countries is simply breaking down. There’s a lot of what we used to call Third World countries that are doing extremely sophisticated science. There’s lots of South-South cooperation. It’s not just relationships being redefined between donors and recipients, but also between partners and collaborators.

There’s a huge amount of cooperation going on in the life sciences, and just because it may not have been identified or have a “BWC Article X” sticker on it doesn’t mean that it’s not happening. We think that you can defuse the debate because we are as enthusiastic about Article X as, say, a recipient country. We want to stay away from ideological debates because that could be a recipe for deadlock, and I think people recognize that.

There’s been talk about an Article X mechanism. We’re open to that. We just need to work out what would be meant by that, [and if it is] something everybody can live with.

You mentioned the Australia Group; countries have their own national [export control] regimes or multilateral regimes like the Australia Group. Those are important nonproliferation export control regimes, which we believe in. We think they are absolutely compatible with good assistance programs, which are in our interests as much as the recipient countries’.

ACT: So you’re getting positive reactions from countries that, in the past, have expressed concerns about this area, and you anticipate that [the issue of peaceful cooperation] will be resolved amicably and won’t hold up consensus at the meeting?

Kennedy: I don’t want to be too Pollyannaish. I don’t mean to say that there are not real differences of opinion, but I think we can find common ground; we can deal with these issues. At this point, I’m not seeing anything that is a deal-breaker. I think there’s more of an interest in finding that common ground and working around areas that divide us.

ACT: Could we circle back to one compliance and transparency question? What further measures is the United States prepared to take to reassure other countries that the U.S. biodefense program complies strictly with the BWC’s prohibitions on offensive development?

Kennedy: I want to underline for your readers the fact that the U.S. took the lead in terms of making its annual submission of confidence-building measure data public. Last year, we took this initiative; and for the second year, we did so again. That is one enhanced confidence-building measure, and we’re seeing other countries do that as well.

In terms of transparency, visits and exchanges could be part of the package of transparency measures we’re looking at. I won’t go any further now except to say that these are some of the transparency initiatives we’re looking at on a national basis.

ACT: What are the United States and other countries doing to increase the membership of the BWC and ultimately bring about universal adherence? What are the additional steps to achieve universality that should be adopted at the review conference?

Kennedy: That’s a vitally important issue. We only have 164 countries that have joined the BWC. The good news is that this represents the majority of the international community. The bad news is that there is still a good chunk of countries that haven’t joined. In most cases, it’s not that there is an ideological or political objection to the BWC—by no means. It appears to me to be basically a question of competing priorities. There are countries that say, “Well, we’ve never had biological weapons, we never plan to have biological weapons, [and] we’ve never felt threatened by biological weapons. So joining the BWC may be the right thing to do, but it’s just not a priority.” Some countries have signed and simply have not gotten around to ratifying.

We all know that legislatures get busy, legislative calendars get filled up. But we think it’s vitally important to persuade those countries that haven’t signed to accede to the BWC; if they’ve already signed, to do the final work on getting it ratified. We want them to be on the right side of history, to make sure that there are no BWC loopholes or safe havens anywhere.

There are ways to assist countries to join and also to help them in fulfilling the provisions of the convention, which we are doing and will do. We just had a meeting here in Geneva, together with the [BWC review conference] president, with a number of countries that have not yet joined the convention. We want partners in this endeavor around the globe.

We’re delighted that, in different regions, various countries have taken the lead [on achieving universal adherence to the BWC]. I think of Kenya in Africa, the Philippines and Indonesia in Southeast Asia, just as a few examples. The EU is very active. We are eager to partner with regional partners. We will use every tool at our disposal to focus on the importance of this issue. For example, when President Obama was just in Brazil, the communiqué that was signed with the Brazilian president included a specific reference to the BWC review conference. The G-8 put out a very solid statement on the BWC this year.

I think it’s really important to tailor it to the specific country. What are your issues? How can we help? Raise it in capitals, in Washington, in the host country capital, in Geneva, in New York. Partner with as many other countries as possible. Do it on a regional basis; if there’s a regional group, ask them to put it on their agenda. There are lots of different things that we can do, and we’re doing them.

ACT: Just to wrap this all up, given all the difficult issues we’ve been discussing, what’s a reasonable best-case scenario for the outcome of the conference? What would you look for it to produce?

Kennedy: I would like to see an increase in universality, not just in terms of the number of countries joining the BWC, but new ways to enhance, make easier, and make more relevant participation in the regime for those that are already in—maybe reach agreement on some sort of mechanism or way, for example, to better incorporate science and technology [into the review process]. What are ways to stay ahead of that scientific curve? Agree on a solid review on CBMs: what are ways we can make them more accessible and update them? On the ISU, conduct a thorough review of their work, what else they should do, and then make sure that they are appropriately resourced for the agreed mandate. Openness and transparency: as I mentioned before, we want to promote this. If necessary, we’re prepared to lead unilaterally, but we would hope that this would spark a trend toward greater national transparency across the board. The intersessional process: continue to enhance that vital forum, bring in more industry and academia. Reinforce the synergy among a broad community of diplomats, scientists, law enforcement officers, public health officials. That is vitally important.

ACT: Thank you very much. We really appreciate your taking the time and going into such detail on the answers.

Kennedy: Thank you again.


ENDNOTES

1. Jonathan B. Tucker is a member of the board of directors of the Arms Control Association.

2. Pursuant to understandings reached at the BWC review conferences in 1986 and 1991, BWC member states are politically bound to submit annual confidence-building measure data declarations covering a variety of topics relevant to compliance with the convention, including unusual outbreaks of infectious disease, maximum-containment laboratories, facilities that produce human vaccines, and national biodefense programs, facilities, and activities.

3. In 2010, 72 of the 163 BWC states-parties submitted confidence-building measure data declarations.

4. The Australia Group is an informal multinational forum of 40 countries plus the European Commission. In an effort to impede proliferation, the group’s members harmonize their national export controls on materials and equipment relevant to the production of chemical and biological weapons.

 

Interviewed by Daniel Horner and Jonathan B. Tucker

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