Top UN official outlines steps towards global elimination of nuclear weapons

Top UN official outlines steps towards global elimination of nuclear weapons

Director General Mohamed ElBaradei
The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency today called for the development of a new global security system in which nuclear weapons are obsolete.

“The solution, in my view, lies in creating an environment in which nuclear weapons are universally banned, morally abhorred, and their futility unmasked,” Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told an international conference in Luxembourg on the prevention of nuclear catastrophe.

He noted that, of late, nuclear threats have become more dangerous, pronounced and immediate given the emergence of the illicit trade in nuclear technology, the development of clandestine programmes and the desire by extremist groups to obtain such weapons.

Simultaneously, climate change and the desire for energy security are propelling many non-nuclear nations to consider nuclear power. However, nuclear material production is a dual-use technology that elevates the possibility of more countries becoming nuclear powers.

In addition to these hazards, Mr. ElBaradei pointed out the risks posed by existing nuclear arsenals as non-nuclear countries are moved to emulate other nations with nuclear capability. “And of course, plans to replenish and modernize these weapons creates a pervasive sense of cynicism among many non-nuclear-weapon States – who perceive a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude,” he said.

The solution to this spiralling problem lies in the implementation and development of a new worldwide security system where nuclear weapons play no role, he asserted.

To achieve this, the Director General outlined four steps towards bolstering the movement towards eliminating the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Firstly, existing stockpiles must be secured and controls over the transfer and production of nuclear material must be tightened, he asserted. All information regarding the export of such materials and the technology involved should be reported to the IAEA.

Secondly, he called for the IAEA’s authority and capability to verify the nuclear programmes of nations to be strengthened. At present, the agency is “forced to make do on a shoestring budget,” and thus is lagging behind in the state-of-the-art technology necessary to perform its function.

Additionally, approaches to dealing with the spread of nuclear weapons must be made more effective, Mr. ElBaradei said, referring to the IAEA’s reliance on the Security Council to enforce non-proliferation obligations through such measures as dialogue and sanctions. However, he explained, “judging by our record in recent years, these measures – rather than being applied in a systematic manner to deal effectively with proliferation issues – are employed haphazardly, and too often with political overtones.”

Lastly, disarmament must be taken more seriously, he stated. As nuclear weapon-possessing countries continue to expand and update their arsenals, non-nuclear nations are questioning why it is “OK for some to live under a nuclear threat, but not others.”

“What the weapon States consistently fail to take into account is the impact of their actions,” Mr. ElBaradei stressed. “Whether they choose to continue their reliance on nuclear weapons, as the centrepiece of their security strategy, or to abandon that reliance, their choice will undoubtedly influence the actions of others.”

Yesterday, he submitted his latest report regarding Iran’s nuclear programme to the Security Council.

The report, entitled “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” covers the period since Mr. ElBaradei’s previous report of 22 February.

It was also circulated to the agency’s 35-member Board of Governors, which will consider the report at its next series of meetings in Vienna starting on 11 June.