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"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
Nuclear Suppliers Group

NSG Still Mulling Indian Membership

Daniel Horner

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) continued discussions on admitting India to the group, but apparently remained divided on the issue during its annual plenary meeting last month in Seattle.

In a statement released June 22, the last day of the meeting, the 46-member group said only that it “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.” That wording was identical to what the group said on the subject in last year’s statement.

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

In September 2008, the group eased long-standing restrictions on nuclear trade with India by its members. NSG rules generally forbid the sale of nuclear goods such as reactors and fuel to countries that, like India, are not parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

In November 2010, during a visit to India, President Barack Obama announced his support for Indian entry into the NSG and three other multilateral export control groups. At the NSG’s 2011 plenary meeting, the United States submitted a “Food for Thought” paper on options for bringing India into the group.

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

In a June 27 interview, U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman, the new NSG chairman, said members had expressed “a variety of the views” on the issue of Indian membership. As Poneman noted, the NSG makes decisions by consensus. He characterized the discussion as one of “food-for-thought ideas.”

Asked about India’s lack of NPT membership, which some countries have indicated would be a stumbling block, Poneman said that there are “numerous ways [the Indians] can attest their commitment to nonproliferation norms” and that “the full panoply of [Indian] commitments is being looked at.” Among India’s commitments is its declaration that it is adhering to the NSG export guidelines.

Pressing China on Reactor Deal

On another ongoing issue for the NSG, Poneman said the United States and other countries were continuing to seek information from China about its plans to sell two reactors to Pakistan, which is not an NPT party.

When China joined the NSG in 2004, it had already built a power reactor at Pakistan’s Chashma site. It claimed at the time that, under the NSG’s “grandfather” provisions, it was entitled to build a second one, on the grounds that the second project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. By most accounts, China told the NSG members that its agreement with Pakistan covered those two units but that it would not supply Pakistan with any reactors beyond those. China reportedly now is arguing that the proposed additional reactors also are grandfathered.

When word of the planned sale of the so-called Chashma-3 and -4 reactors emerged two years ago, a U.S. official said, “Without an exception granted by the NSG by consensus, Chinese construction of additional nuclear power plants in Pakistan beyond what was grandfathered in 2004 would be inconsistent with NSG guidelines and China’s commitments to the NSG.” (See ACT, June 2010.)

In the interview, Poneman said the United States is “not the only government that has this set of concerns.” The U.S. government “has been very clear” about its concerns and has “repeatedly asked” China for more details, he said. The Chinese have replied, but the United States would like more detail, he said. “We’ve been pressing for answers, and we’re still pressing,” Poneman said.

Lists Being Updated

In its statement at the Seattle meeting, the NSG “emphasized the importance of keeping its lists up to date with technological developments and took stock of the ongoing fundamental review process” through which it keeps its export control lists current. Poneman said the highest U.S. priority for the upcoming year was to complete the review. Some changes to the list were approved at the meeting, and more are coming, he said.

According to the statement, NSG members also “discussed brokering and transit and agreed to consider these matters further.” In the case of some exports, the main proliferation concern may come not from the supplier or the ultimate recipient but from an intermediary, Poneman said. The group wants to be sure “not to turn a blind eye if that’s a vulnerability” and will take up that issue “in a way not done until now,” he said.

In an interview last September, Poneman’s predecessor, Piet de Klerk of the Netherlands, discussed the possibility of creating “stronger relationships with different [NSG] stakeholders, be it media, be it civil society.” Poneman said that, at the Seattle meeting, de Klerk provided a briefing on those ideas, which got an “overall positive response.” The group will “continue consultations” on transparency issues, he said. It makes sense “to open the aperture,” and the group will look for opportunities to do that, he said.

The NSG chairmanship rotates annually among the member countries. A country kicks off its chairmanship year by hosting the plenary meeting.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) continued discussions on admitting India to the group, but apparently remained divided on the issue during its annual plenary meeting last month in Seattle.

Obama on Track With Call for Deeper Nuclear Reductions

President Obama greets attendes after delivering remarks during a visit to Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul on March 26, 2012. (Image Source: LA Times) By Daryl G. Kimball On Monday President Barack Obama delivered a major address on his nuclear security agenda at Hankuk University in Seoul as he and other leaders gather for the second international Nuclear Security Summit. The bulk of his remarks focused on the progress made to secure nuclear weapons usable materials, but he also provided a status report on his broader nuclear risk reduction agenda three years after his stirring...

Fukushima One Year Later

By Daryl G. Kimball Today, the people of Japan and people the world over pause to remember the nearly 20,000 people killed and unaccounted for as a result of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster. An aerial view of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power, two weeks after the tsunami struck Japan. Japan is also still reeling from the man-made nuclear reactor meltdown calamity at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi complex, which will exact an enormous human, environmental, and economic price for decades to come. And, of course, we are still learning about the causes of Fukushima disaster, how a...

Australia Allows Uranium Sales to India

Daniel Horner

The Australian Labor Party on Dec. 4 endorsed a proposal by its leader, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, to end a ban on uranium sales to India. The 206-185 vote to lift the long-standing ban came at a party conference in Sydney.

For decades, India could not purchase uranium or most other nuclear goods from members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) because New Delhi is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and does not accept full-scope safeguards, which means that it does not open all its nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, in 2008 the NSG, which includes Australia, voted to make an exception from its general rule and allow exports to India. (See ACT, October 2008.)

At a Nov. 15 press conference previewing the Labor meeting, Gillard said that, in light of the NSG decision, “for us to refuse to budge is all pain with no gain.” Australia is a leading exporter of uranium.

Critics of the Labor decision argue that selling uranium would violate Australia’s obligations under the Treaty of Rarotonga, which establishes a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the South Pacific. Article 4 of the treaty says that nuclear exports by treaty parties must be “subject to the safeguards required by Article III.1 of the NPT.”

The NPT article does not use the term “full-scope safeguards,” but in 1996, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, a member of the Liberal Party, told Parliament that the article requires such safeguards. He was responding to questions about potential Australian uranium sales to Taiwan.

In the wake of the Labor vote, former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, also a Liberal, said Gillard was “dead wrong” to lift the ban, in part because of the Rarotonga treaty language. Writing in the Dec. 12 Sydney Morning Herald, he said that “selling uranium to India would breach our international obligations.”

In a Dec. 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a spokeswoman for Gillard said, “Any agreement to transfer uranium to India would comply with our international legal obligations.”

Gillard, in a Nov. 15 piece in the Herald, said, “We must, of course, expect of India the same standards we do of all countries for uranium export—strict adherence to International Atomic Energy Agency arrangements and strong bilateral undertakings and transparency measures that will provide assurances our uranium will be used only for peaceful purposes.”

The Australian Labor Party on Dec. 4 endorsed a proposal by its leader, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, to end a ban on uranium sales to India. The 206-185 vote to lift the long-standing ban came at a party conference in Sydney.

P5 Struggles to Unblock FMCT Talks

Tom Z. Collina

Fulfilling a commitment made at the United Nations in July, the world’s five recognized nuclear-weapon states met in Geneva on Aug. 30 to discuss ways to break the logjam at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on a proposed treaty to ban the production of fissile materials for weapons. However, the states, known as the P5 because they also are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, did not agree to pursue negotiations outside the CD, where Pakistan remains opposed to treaty talks.

The P5 position to keep the fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) talks in the CD means that because of the forum’s consensus rule for decision-making, Pakistan’s concerns eventually will have to be addressed if the CD is going to make progress. Negotiations on an FMCT have been held up for years by Islamabad, which is blocking the needed consensus. (See ACT, September 2011.) As one CD representative put it in a recent interview, “Pakistan needs more time to produce more material, and they are happy to wait.”

Zamir Akram, the Pakistani ambassador to the CD, said in an Aug. 30 interview that Islamabad has a “growing window of vulnerability” in relation to India on fissile material stockpiles and that the window “needs to be closed.” According to Akram, the 2008 U.S.-Indian nuclear deal changed the strategic dynamics in South Asia by allowing New Delhi to divert its domestic fissile material production to weapons. (See ACT, July/August 2011.)

Akram said that Pakistan is open to dialogue and wants a “level playing field.” One way to achieve that, he said, is by giving Pakistan a Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver like the one India received in 2008, exempting it from the group’s general policy of requiring that recipients of member states’ nuclear exports place all their nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. (See ACT, October 2008.)

Another approach, Akram said, is to address New Delhi’s fissile material stockpiles in FMCT negotiations. The P5 members are opposed to reducing existing stocks through FMCT talks, however, saying they support the so-called Shannon mandate, which would leave that issue to be resolved during the negotiations.

Pakistan wants clarity and cannot accept “ambiguity” in the talks, Akram said. He has said that Pakistan is “ready to stand in splendid isolation” at the CD.

It is not clear how much support exists in the NSG for a Pakistani waiver. Pakistan also is reportedly seeking a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to Islamabad later this year. An earlier trip had been planned, but U.S.-Pakistani relations took a dive after al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in a covert raid by the U.S. military in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2.

Among the five nuclear-weapon states, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States all have publicly renounced fissile material production for weapons. China is believed to have stopped such production.

India, Israel, and Pakistan, the three countries that never have joined the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), are the only states other than the P5 not legally prohibited from producing fissile materials (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) for nuclear weapons. Only India and Pakistan are believed to be currently producing such materials.

After their meeting, the P5 issued a joint statement supporting the negotiation of an FMCT “at the earliest possible date in the CD” and declaring that it would meet again “with other relevant parties” during the UN General Assembly First Committee’s session in October.

In recent interviews, representatives in Geneva said the statement’s phrase “in the CD” was a concession by the United States, which wants to pursue treaty negotiations outside the 65-nation body to avoid Pakistan’s veto. The Obama administration has said repeatedly over the last year that if the CD could not start negotiations, then “other options” would need to be considered. China and Russia, on the other hand, want the talks to stay in the CD and do not support other venues, in which the consensus rule might not apply.

The P5 did agree to discuss strategy for moving the talks forward in the CD. Such discussions may also include “other relevant parties” such as India, Israel, and Pakistan, which could be asked to join, according to officials.

Other countries, such as Canada and Mexico, are seeking to start FMCT negotiations in the UN General Assembly, according to the Geneva representatives. These delegations say that the rule of consensus in the CD is outdated and needs to be changed. If there is no consensus, they say, the issue should be brought to the UN where nations can take a vote. Canada, along with others, said in a Sept. 21 statement that it would introduce a resolution along these lines at the UN General Assembly in October.

Fulfilling a commitment made at the United Nations in July, the world’s five recognized nuclear-weapon states met in Geneva on Aug. 30 to discuss ways to break the logjam at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on a proposed treaty to ban the production of fissile materials for weapons. However, the states, known as the P5 because they also are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, did not agree to pursue negotiations outside the CD, where Pakistan remains opposed to treaty talks.

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.

New Nuclear Suppliers Rules a Net Plus

Daryl G. Kimball

After years of discussion, the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has agreed on a clearer, tougher set of guidelines designed to prevent the spread of uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing equipment and technology. The action should help guard against the further proliferation of sensitive equipment and technology that can be used to make fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Although country neutral, the new NSG rules fix one of the holes created by the NSG’s ill-conceived 2008 decision to exempt India from most NSG trading restrictions and should ensure that sensitive enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technologies will not be transferred to India and used in its unsafeguarded military nuclear program.

The new guidelines, which were approved at the NSG's June 23-24 meeting in the Netherlands, bar enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology 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, and do not allow more extensive monitoring under the terms of an additional protocol, among other criteria.

Only three states have not signed the NPT: India, Israel, and Pakistan. Iran, North Korea, and Syria are currently in noncompliance with their IAEA safeguards obligations. Dozens of states have not yet approved an additional protocol, including Algeria, Egypt, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia, whose ambassador to Washington recently threatened that his country would build nuclear weapons if Iran does.

The NSG was formed in 1975 in response to India’s misuse of civilian nuclear assistance for its nuclear weapons program. Its guidelines are voluntary and designed to reinforce legal prohibitions in the NPT and elsewhere on the use of peaceful nuclear technology for military purposes.

The NSG’s policy is a commonsense precaution: Enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology cannot be safeguarded against misuse for military purposes, and all NSG states are under a legal obligation not to assist other countries, directly or indirectly, in the production of nuclear weapons. Unlike the five original nuclear-armed states, India continues to produce nuclear bomb material and refuses to transform its nuclear test moratorium into a legally binding pledge by signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Not surprisingly, Indian politicians are complaining that the NSG’s latest decision detracts from the so-called clean waiver from NSG rules that the Bush administration rammed through the group in 2008.

U.S. officials have responded like candidates eager not to offend campaign contributors. U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer insisted June 30 that “the White House and the Obama administration strongly and vehemently support the clean waiver for India.”

In reality, the 2008 exemption for India was not clean and unconditional. The United States and other nuclear suppliers did not then and do not now intend to provide India with enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology, but rather electricity production reactors and fuel. India remains in a special category, outside the nonproliferation mainstream.

The 2008 NSG decision specifically did not apply to enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology transfers. The decision also notes that the exemption will be reconsidered and probably revoked if India conducts another nuclear explosive test or if it breaks any of its other nonproliferation pledges. In addition, the 2008 U.S. legislation that allows reactor and fuel sales to India includes a similar condition, which was strongly supported by then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), that makes it clear that the United States has the right to terminate all nuclear trade with India if New Delhi’s leaders resume nuclear explosive testing.

If the NSG allows India to become a member, as the Obama administration is now proposing, the group’s ability to hold India accountable would be severely undermined, compounding the damage created by the India-specific exemption. Furthermore, given that India already has made a commitment to meet NSG export guidelines, it is not clear whether or how Indian membership would strengthen the NSG.

The Indian nuclear deal has prompted Israel and Pakistan to lobby for similar exemptions, so far unsuccessfully. Pakistan has accelerated its efforts to increase its capacity to produce plutonium for weapons and has blocked negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty. China has announced it will sell Pakistan two additional nuclear power plants in violation of NSG rules.

Before considering membership options for India, NSG members should actively encourage India to curtail the production of fissile material, sign the CTBT, and freeze further development of long-range ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear weapons.

The 2008 India exemption was a strategic blunder that has complicated relations with India and damaged the nonproliferation effort. The NSG’s new policy on sensitive enrichment and reprocessing items is an important adjustment, but the effort to curtail proliferation and slow down nuclear weapons competition in Asia requires more principled and effective leadership from Washington, New Delhi, and other capitals.

After years of discussion, the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has agreed on a clearer, tougher set of guidelines designed to prevent the spread of uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing equipment and technology. The action should help guard against the further proliferation of sensitive equipment and technology that can be used to make fissile material for nuclear weapons.

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

 

Description: 

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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ACA Applauds New Guidelines on Sensitive Nuclear Technology

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New Nuclear Suppliers Group Guidelines on Sensitive Nuclear Technology Called
"An Overdue But Important Step" to Strengthen the Nonproliferation System


For Immediate Release: June 27, 2011

Media Contact: Daryl G. Kimball (202-463-8270, x107).

(Washington, D.C.) The director of the independent Arms Control Association praised last week's decision by the 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to tighten its guidelines regarding the transfer of uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing facilities, equipment and technology.

“The NSG has taken an important, if overdue, decision to tighten its rules on the transfer of  equipment and technology that can be used to make fissile material for nuclear weapons,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, which has advocated for the consistent application of tougher NSG rules.

The new guidelines, which were approved at the NSG's June 23-24 meeting in the Netherlands, bar the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology 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, and do not allow more extensive monitoring under the terms of the IAEA Additional Protocol.

The decision by the NSG to revise its guidelines on enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) equipment and technology comes after more than seven years of discussion on the subject by the body, which meets only twice a year and operates by consensus.

The NSG’s previous policy on enrichment and reprocessing transfers had simply been that “[s]uppliers should exercise restraint in the transfer of sensitive facilities, technology and material usable for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices” and that any enrichment facility or enrichment technology should not be designed or operate for the production of greater than 20% enriched uranium without the consent of the supplier. Enrichment and reprocessing facilities can be used to produce bomb-grade uranium and plutonium.

The new guidelines build upon the existing rules and clarify that “suppliers should not authorize the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing facilities, and equipment and technology … if the recipient does not meet, at least, all of the following criteria:

- Is a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and is in full compliance with its obligations under the Treaty;

- Has not been identified in a report to the IAEA Secretariat which is under consideration by the IAEA Board of Governors, as being in breach of its obligations to comply with its safeguards agreement, nor continues to be the subject of Board of Governors decisions calling on it to take additional steps to comply with its safeguards obligations or to build confidence in the peaceful nature of its programme ….;

- Is adhering to NSG guidelines and has reported to the Security Council of the United Nations that it is implementing effective export controls as identified by Security Council Resolution 1540; and

- …has brought into force a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, and an Additional Protocol based on the Model Additional Protocol, or pending this, is implementing appropriate safeguards agreements in cooperation with the IAEA Board of Governors.”

Other conditions for ENR transfers include: assurances on non-explosive use, effective safeguards in perpetuity, and retransfer; commitment to international standards of physical protection; commitment to IAEA safety standards and international safety conventions. The new guidelines also allow suppliers of ENR to consider “any relevant factors as may be applicable” to ensure the transfer is used for peaceful purposes only.

The new NSG ENR guidelines also stipulate that for the transfer of an enrichment facility or equipment based on newer technology, suppliers should “[a]void, as far as practicable, the transfer of enabling design and manufacturing technology associated with such items” and seek from recipients an appropriate agreement to accept the transfer “under conditions that do not permit or enable replication of the facilities.”

“The NSG’s new enrichment and reprocessing guidelines make explicit that sensitive ENR technologies should not be sold to states with nuclear weapons programs outside the NPT and that do not have full-scope safeguards,” noted Kimball.

Only three states have never signed the NPT: India, Israel, and Pakistan. Iran, North Korea, and Syria are currently in noncompliance with their IAEA safeguards obligations.

The NSG was formed in 1975 in response to India’s misuse of civilian nuclear assistance for its nuclear weapons program. Its guidelines are voluntary and are designed to reinforce legal prohibitions on the use of peaceful nuclear technology for military purposes.

“The NSG’s new guidelines, while country neutral, fix a key flaw in the 2008 India-specific exemption from most NSG rules and ensure that sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technologies will not be transferred to India and used in its unsafeguarded military nuclear program,” said Kimball.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. For more information on the NSG, see ACA's Website. For more information on the India and the NSG, see ACA's blog, ArmsControlNow.org.

Description: 

(Washington, D.C.) The director of the independent Arms Control Association praised last week's decision by the 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to tighten its guidelines regarding the transfer of uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing facilities, equipment and technology.

Indian Membership in the NSG? A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Not Come

By Daryl G. Kimball Global efforts to prevent the spread of the world's most deadly weapons depend on universal compliance with rules that constrain the sale of nuclear technology. Too often, however, powerful states try to make exceptions from these rules, or simply ignore them, in order to help powerful commercial nuclear interests score profits or to curry favor with key allies, or both. The latest example is the Obama administration's proposal to create a process for India to join the 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)–the nuclear technology control organization established in 1975...

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