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Key Issues Nuclear Energy History Statement by Dr. Hans Blix

Statement by Dr. Hans Blix, Director General, to the Fortieth Session of the General Conference of the International Atomic
Energy Agency [Extract]

16 September 1996

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Nuclear test sites

At the request of Member States concerned, the Agency has become engaged in the assessment of the radiological situation at three former nuclear weapons test sites.

An assessment of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site has provided assurance that radiation levels in villages around the site are very low. However, it has also been concluded that lengthy human occupation of the test site itself would lead to unacceptably high radiation doses and the authorities of Kazakstan have been advised to take steps to clean up the site or - more realistically - prevent access to it.

The habitability of the Bikini Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands was assessed, in particular to determine whether the islanders, who had been evacuated from the atoll before the start of nuclear testing, could safely resume living there. The assessment, which was made by an international, scientific advisory group convoked by the Agency, concluded that if some contaminated soil was removed and if the uptake of radioactive caesium by crops were controlled through the use of special fertilizers, the Bikini Atoll could be re-occupied without restriction.

The third study, now underway, is of the test site at Mururoa and Fangataufa in French Polynesia. It is directed by an international advisory committee chaired by Dr. Gail de Planque of the United States. Document GC(40)/INF/4 contains a full description of the status of this study. A final report can be expected by the end of 1997.

As the world is now hopefully putting the era of nuclear weapons testing behind it, I find it appropriate that impartial international assessments are made of whatever radiological hazards may remain from past testing.

Safeguards

The mission of IAEA safeguards to verify that nuclear material, equipment and installations are not used to 'further any military purpose' has been with the IAEA from the outset, but the dimension and direction of the safeguards activities have changed considerably over time. The most dramatic development followed the obligation laid down for States parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and regional nuclear weapon-free-zone treaties to place all their present and future nuclear activities and material under Agency safeguards. Some 177 States have thus legally committed themselves to conclude comprehensive safeguards agreements and 120 States have actually done so. Those States which have not yet fulfilled their obligation are from time to time reminded by the Secretariat of their duty to do so without further delay. At the present juncture we are particularly anxious that all the States parties to the Tlatelolco Treaty - notably some Caribbean States - should enter into safeguards agreements, as otherwise the full entry into force of that Treaty might be delayed. We have every reason to believe that Cuba, which has signed the Treaty, will proceed with ratification. There have already been contacts on the subject of the safeguards agreement.

With regard to two other nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties - the Pelindaba Treaty for Africa and the Bangkok Treaty for South East Asia - the Agency is preparing for verification and other tasks laid upon it. May I further mention that, as requested by the General Conference, I have continued consultations with States in the Middle East regarding the application of IAEA safeguards in that region.

As you are aware, the IAEA is about to take a major step forward in further developing the safeguards system - a step essential to introduce new cost-effective methods and techniques and to provide vitally needed confidence that non-proliferation commitments are fully respected. This development will also help to make the safeguards system an adequate instrument that can be used to verify future nuclear arms control and disarmament measures - a need recently stressed in the report of the Canberra Commission.

At this point let me note that the traditional 'safeguards statement', contained in this and earlier years' Safeguards Implementation Reports (SIR), that it is reasonable to conclude that 'the nuclear material and other items which were declared and placed under safeguards remained in peaceful nuclear activities or were otherwise adequately accounted for', is based chiefly on nuclear accountancy and inspection. Obviously, the more extensive these accountancy and inspection efforts are, the more confident we can be that the absence of evidence of diversion is due to a real absence of diversion. We believe that had Agency inspectors had access - which they did not - to some activities that took place in the declared nuclear centre at Tuwaitha in Iraq, they would have suspected that safeguards obligations were being violated. The case of Iraq also points to the conclusion that if more comprehensive information had been available about the Iraqi nuclear programme, inconsistencies would, in all likelihood, have been discovered and questions would have been prompted.

It is this experience combined with the vital interest of States in reliable safeguards that has led to the development of 'Programme 93+2' and a protocol additional to comprehensive safeguards agreements, designed to give the IAEA Secretariat much more information - notably, more data from the State and more data through observations by inspectors granted wider access. Only if the available information and inspection access is sufficiently broadly based will the absence of evidence of diversion give confidence that non-proliferation commitments have not been breached. The demand of Members that safeguards must give confidence, not only about non-diversion of declared material but also about the absence of non-declared nuclear material and installations, makes this access to more information and greater access for inspectors a high priority.

The requirements which are placed on States under the proposed additional protocol are not insignificant, but States which accepted them on a trial basis did not find them overly onerous. In any case Members will have to weigh their interest in effective verification in other States and their interest in demonstrating convincingly their own compliance with non-proliferation commitments against the burden which they may feel they are assuming by accepting such verification for themselves.

It is clear that all parties to comprehensive safeguards must be treated equally. As a result, States with large nuclear programmes will have to supply more information and allow the visit of inspectors to more sites and locations than will States with small programmes. However, the need for follow up will depend somewhat upon the quality - rather than the quantity - of the supplied information.

It is further clear that States with non-comprehensive safeguards may be able to contribute information of value for the operation of the comprehensive safeguards, e.g. regarding exports and imports. They may also help make the Agency's safeguards operations more effective and less costly by accepting in the operation of the safeguards to which they are subjected some new techniques, like environmental sampling and remote data transmission. They may further help by joining others in dispensing with visa requirements or granting multiple entry visas and accepting streamlined inspector designation procedures. However, the central rationale for strengthening safeguards verification in States with comprehensive safeguards, namely to increase confidence about their compliance with their non-proliferation pledge, is not applicable to the States with non-comprehensive safeguards - as they have made no such pledge. This being the case, it would appear appropriate, in my view, to suggest that these States accept international verification of the steps they are taking, or hopefully will be taking, toward nuclear arms control and disarmament, for instance verification to create confidence that nuclear material released through dismantlement of weapons, is irreversibly transferred to the peaceful sector. This matter was explicitly raised in the Moscow Nuclear Surnniit and I have invited the United States and Russian Ministers present here to discuss with me the possibility of such verification by the IAEA. I should add that, at the invitation of the United States, the Agency has already performed verification of some quantities of such nuclear material.

Iraq

The Agency's ongoing monitoring and verification (OMV) activities in Iraq have, since August 1994, involved more than 600 inspections, the majority of which were conducted without prior notice. No instance of proscribed activities or of the presence of proscribed materials or equipment have been detected.

The Agency's activities in Iraq during the past year have also involved extensive efforts to analyze the vast amount of documentation which was handed over to the IAEA and the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) following the departure from Iraq, in August 1995, of the late Lt. General Kamel Hassan Al Majid. Much work has also been devoted to the follow up of procurement transactions and to assess draft versions of Iraq's re-issued 'Full, Final and Complete Declaration' of its former nuclear weapons programme. A few days ago, Iraq formally transmitted its finalized version of the Declaration to the Agency's Nuclear Monitoring Group in Baghdad. As soon as we receive it in Vienna we shall start the work of verifying its completeness and correctness.

Let me add that LA.EA inspectors remain in Baghdad and continue their ongoing monitoring and verification activities. In the circumstances now prevailing there, activities take place only in areas with reliable radio communications with our Monitoring and Verification Centre in Baghdad. Those of our activities which should take place away from the Baghdad region will be resumed as soon as conditions permit. Transport to and from Baghdad has been severely affected by the recent events and the situation, with respect to the safety of our personnel in Baghdad, is being closely followed by us and the United Nations.

Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)

The Safeguards Implementation Report (SIR) for 1995 states that the IAEA remained unable to verify the initial declaration of nuclear material made by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and that the DPRK was still not in full compliance with its safeguards agreement. This is still the case. A full report on this matter is found in document GC(40)/16.

Most recently, technical discussions between the IAEA and the DPRK took place in late June. These discussions resulted in some progress but the DPRK still did not accept various measures considered important by the Secretariat for verifying the correctness and completeness of the DPRK's initial declaration - in particular measures for the preservation of data and the provision of information about certain facilities. On the positive side, the DPRK did agree to measures to improve Agency communications from the DPRK and to accept the designation of more inspectors. A next round of technical discussions is planned to take place very soon.

Efficiency and Management

I began this statement by stressing the necessity for international organizations to be alert to the changing needs of their Members and I hope I have demonstrated how the IAEA is meeting this requirement. I also stressed the need for continuously improved efficiency in our work. I believe the UEA has achieved a great deal in this regard. Let me give you examples:

Despite the limitations on resources, the Agency's programme has expanded over the years to take on new activities, for example to counteract illegal trafficking in nuclear materials. Resources for such new activities have become available both through the phasing out of some programmes and through efficiency gains. This process continues: the budget for 1997 assumes substantial cuts in overhead costs and provides an increase of some US $10 million in programmatic activity; Systematic evaluation of programme performance is now in routine use as an important tool for increasing efficiency. In addition, the independent external auditors help to identify shortcomings in efficiency and the internal audit and management services, which work to the same objective, are being strengthened.