UN nuclear watchdog agency lays out seven speedy steps to curb weapons spread
As parties to the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) prepare to meet this spring to curb the spread of illicit arms, the United Nations atomic watchdog today spotlighted a series of steps for speedy action including a moratorium on new facilities that could produce weapons-grade fuel and a clampdown on smuggling.
“It is clear that recent events have placed the NPT and the regime supporting it under unprecedented stress, exposing some of its inherent limitations and pointing to areas that need to be adjusted,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said.
Over the past two years the IAEA has been particularly busy with undeclared nuclear activities which Iran carried on for nearly two decades, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) withdrawal from NPT, which Mr. ElBaradei has called a dangerous precedent, and the possibility that nuclear weapons could fall into terrorist hands.
The 2005 Review Conference of the 188 States Parties, meeting from 2 to 27 May at UN Headquarters in New York, is seen as a turning point in efforts to hammer out priorities to confront the new threats.
Mr. ElBaradei has proposed seven steps to strengthen the NPT regime and, with it, world security. “Some of the needed fixes can be made in May, but only if governments are ready to act,” he said.
The steps, which would not require amending the Treaty, include a five-year moratorium on building new facilities for uranium enrichment and plutonium separation, materials that can be used for weapons production. “There is no compelling reason for building more of these proliferation-sensitive facilities. The nuclear industry already has more than enough capacity to fuel its power plants and research facilities,” Mr. ElBaradei said.
Other “fixes” are a speed-up of efforts to convert research reactors operating with highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low enriched uranium and to make HEU unnecessary for all peaceful nuclear applications; increased access for IAEA inspectors nuclear sites; swift Security Council action in the case of any country that withdraws from the NPT; speedy action by all countries to prosecute any illicit trading in nuclear materials and technology; accelerated implementation by all five nuclear weapon States of their “unequivocal commitment” to nuclear disarmament; and, in light of the volatility of long-standing tensions that give rise to proliferation in regions like the Middle East and the Korean peninsula, action to resolve existing security deficits and provide security assurances.