Speech by Ambassador Davies on Verification

Verification Challenges for the Future

Ambassador Glyn T. Davies

Permanent U.S. representative to the IAEA
and the United Nations Office in Vienna

Vienna International Centre, Vienna, Austria

Thank you all for coming today.  And I’d like to thank Laura for her introduction.  The last time I saw Laura was also at a table, of a sort . . . she was decked out as a table at a Halloween party, wearing a huge platform around her neck to make the table top.  That did not stop her from dancing, I would note.  I was dressed as the Mad Hatter, which my wife tells me is befitting of my personality.

I’m grateful to the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management and Marco for inviting me to speak and arranging our luncheon, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to talk with you about challenges that the IAEA faces, particularly verification challenges, and how we think Member States can help the IAEA overcome those challenges.

The United States is committed to ensuring that the International Atomic Energy agency has the necessary resources and support to carry out its mission in all three pillars of its work – safeguards and verification, safety and security, and the promotion of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  “Resources and support” can mean a lot of things – financial contributions, collaboration and cooperation between technical experts, lobbying for agreement among Member States on initiatives that seek to strengthen the safeguards regime, sharing information with the Agency and other Member States on particular issues of concern, and advocacy for legal authorities to fulfill the Agency’s mission.

In order to meet the Agency’s needs, the United States dedicates a lot of time and effort to evaluating how well our shared goals for a strong Agency are being met.  This should come as no surprise given our long track record of support for the IAEA and given President Obama’s Prague agenda.  Although it might be easy to interpret U.S. efforts to support strong IAEA verification as relating mainly to the ongoing issues of concern in Iran, Syria, and the DPRK, that same U.S. support for a strong safeguards regime is central to creating the conditions necessary for bringing to fruition a world free from nuclear weapons.  Such a world would require the strongest possible international verification assurances.

It is in that context that I’d like to talk with you today about challenges that the U.S. sees for the IAEA.  In particular I’d like to talk about safeguards and verification challenges, but I will also touch  briefly on nuclear safety and security, and on promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Safeguards and Verification Challenges

First, safeguards and verification –

Strengthening the international safeguards system is a key element of the U.S. non-proliferation policy agenda.  President Obama called for more resources and authority to strengthen international inspections in his April 2009 Prague speech.  While the Agency is working hard to fulfill its mandate to ensure the effective verification of nuclear materials and activities, there are growing challenges, among them: the global expansion of nuclear activities, the growth in the scope of information available, and the lack of cooperation by states that obscure necessary information and refuse to meet their safeguards obligations.

While we support the continued expansion in the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, that expansion is not without cost.  The global expansion of nuclear activities challenges the Agency’s ability to provide confidence that nuclear material, technologies, and expertise are not being diverted to weapon programs.  The expanding use nuclear power means the Agency must monitor more facilities and nuclear material requiring safeguards verification.  At the same time that the Agency is contending with increased numbers, it must also develop the means to cope with advancing technologies and next generation nuclear facilities.

And as nuclear activities increase, more and more information becomes available to the IAEA, especially as the IAEA is now called upon to provide assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear activities in addition to verifying the non-diversion of declared nuclear material.  The Agency must be able to obtain and assess information from countries’ own declarations, inspection results, open sources including satellite imagery, and other sources.  It is a demanding task to keep up with the growing quantity of data available, and the changing technologies for obtaining that data.  The Agency must ensure that it can effectively evaluate all the information about a country as a whole to reach timely and credible conclusions about that country’s nuclear material and activities.  It is in light of this challenge that I understand much discussion is being generated this week at the Safeguards Symposium in support of the Agency’s effort to transform the safeguards regime into a system that takes full account of all of information, rather than relying on criteria that stem only from a state’s description of its declared stockpile of nuclear material.

It is not just the significant expansion of nuclear programs that challenges the Agency’s verification abilities.  As we all know, countries of concern – that is, countries for which the IAEA has found credible reason to doubt the correctness and completeness of their declarations – still present serious verification challenges to the Agency.  If a Member State does not uphold its commitments to, and cooperate transparently with, the IAEA, Agency verification that its programs are peacefully intended becomes next to impossible, and the only recourse under the safeguards agreement is to report such cases to the UN Security Council.  The IAEA began adopting strengthened measures for safeguards implementation in the 1990s based on lessons learned from Iraq, the DPRK, Libya, and Iran, but significant challenges still remain.  Nowhere is that more evident than with Iran.

Verification Challenge: Iran

At a time when the overwhelming majority of nations is working together to reduce the threats posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation, the biggest current threat to global nuclear security is Iran.  Why is that so?  It is not because the United States is targeting Iran for political purposes, as my esteemed colleague from Iran so often asserts in meetings here in Vienna.  No – Iran is a threat because it is not upholding its commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and refuses to allow the IAEA to verify that its nuclear program is peaceful.  Moreover, Tehran has threatened to wipe out at least one other member of the United Nations.

The lengthening list of Iran’s violations of its obligations under its safeguards agreement and UN Security Council resolutions, its heated, rhetoric, and its refusal to address international concerns, undermine Iran’s claim that there is nothing to worry about with Iran’s nuclear program.  We heard during the opening session of the Symposium some arguments why we should not believe Iran’s intentions include the manufacture of nuclear weapons.  However, as the IAEA — including former Director General ElBaradei – has said on many occasions, it is not the IAEA’s job to judge intentions, but to verify nuclear programs.  Whatever Iran’s intentions, its actions vis-à-vis the IAEA appear to be consistent with hiding a nuclear weapons program.  In fact, Iran’s recent actions imply it has heightened its long-term campaign to undercut the effectiveness of safeguards implementation. Since 2003, the IAEA has reported 30 times on Iran’s failure to comply with its IAEA Safeguards Agreement and, since 2006, it has reported 20 times on Iran’s failure to comply with the UN Security Council requirement to suspend its uranium enrichment- and heavy water-related activities.

In blatant violation of its UN and IAEA obligations, Iran is expanding and escalating some of its most proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities, such as the continued production of near twenty percent enriched uranium.  The Director General noted in September that Iran still refuses to provide the Agency with the information it needs to fully understand the purpose of the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant near Qom and the chronology of its construction. The Director General’s most recent report on Iran also expresses the Agency’s concern with Iran’s latest objection to certain designated IAEA inspectors in Iran, which the Director General reported “hampers the inspection process and thereby detracts from the Agency’s capability to implement effective and efficient safeguards in Iran.” In addition, Iran remains the only state with significant nuclear activities that refuses to acknowledge its legal obligations under the modified Code 3.1 of its Safeguards Agreement, which requires Iran to declare nuclear facilities to the IAEA as soon as it takes a national decision to build them.  This, despite the fact that Iran’s leaders have announced publicly that they have decided to build several additional nuclear fuel cycle facilities, including uranium enrichment plants.

Verification Challenge: Syria

While Iran may present the biggest verification challenge for the safeguards regime, it is not the only one.  The Agency’s efforts to investigate Syria’s nuclear program have been hindered for too long by Syria’s refusal to allow the Agency to conduct its mandated verification role.  The Secretariat’s most recent report on Syria – and its previous seven reports – indicate that the IAEA continues to attempt to verify credible information indicating that Syria, with assistance from the DPRK, was developing a clandestine nuclear program with no evident civilian purpose, the centerpiece of which was a reactor suited for plutonium production and little else.  Syria, however, refuses to cooperate by allowing the IAEA the access its inspectors say they need.

The international community does not yet know the full scope of Syria’s clandestine nuclear activities, and, as the IAEA has reported, any information related to Syria’s clandestine nuclear activities is deteriorating or has been lost entirely due to Syria’s refusal to cooperate. The unwillingness of Syria to allow the IAEA to conclude its investigation about the existence of clandestine nuclear facilities in Syria is part of a growing threat to the credibility of the safeguards regime.

It is URGENT AND ESSENTIAL that Syria provide access without further delay to all requested sites, information, personnel, and material, so the Agency can make progress in its efforts to verify that all nuclear material and activities in Syria are exclusively for peaceful purposes.  Absent clear action by Syria to cooperate fully with the IAEA, we are rapidly approaching a situation where the Board and the Secretariat must consider all available measures and authorities to pursue the verification assurances the international community seeks.

Overcoming Safeguards and Verification Challenges

So, given the host of challenges that the IAEA faces in the realm of safeguards and verification, what can Member States do to make sure that the IAEA can successfully overcome those challenges? How can the Agency contend with ever-increasing nuclear activities and information, and address countries which are less transparent than they should be?

We must enhance the Agency’s ability to detect undeclared nuclear activities.  The Additional Protocol provides the IAEA the tools it needs to establish confidence about the absence of undeclared nuclear activities by providing additional access to people, information, and locations, and for short-notice inspections. 102 states to date have brought an Additional Protocol into force. That demonstrates significant progress, but more work needs to be done to make the Protocol universal.  The Agency must also fully exercise its legal authorities, including special inspections, so that such inspections are understood to be in order in cases where the IAEA finds routine inspections insufficient.

As to strengthening safeguards methodologies, the United States fully supports the Agency’s ongoing efforts, with essential support from Member States, to continue the transition to safeguards implementation that is fully informed by all relevant information available to the Agency.  In a similar vein, we fully support measures to strengthen national systems of accounting and control.

The United States is working to achieve these goals in a number of ways.  The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration launched the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative in 2008 to develop the policies, concepts, technologies, expertise, and international safeguards infrastructure necessary to strengthen and sustain the safeguards system as it evolves to meet new challenges.  As the presentation by Assistant Deputy Administrator Mark Whitney this week described, while this program has a domestic focus, it is also a resource for supporting the international safeguards system directly.  And through the U.S. Support Program to IAEA Safeguards, we provide assistance through the development of technologies and expertise, including on research and development projects the Agency is not suited to pursue and cannot afford.  We are constantly looking to deepen the positive impact of our Support Program for Safeguards and urge other Member States to do the same.

Challenges to Safety and Security

While I have focused today on safeguards and verification challenges, I would be remiss if I did not mention challenges to the other, equally-important pillars: safety and security, and promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The expansion of nuclear power poses not only safeguards and verification challenges, but also challenges the implementation of safety and security measures.  The Agency plays a crucial role in assisting Member States with their national efforts to establish the necessary physical protection and regulatory structures, and to ensure that adequate safety and security measures are in place.  Nuclear power programs demand rigorous nuclear safety, security and regulatory structures for reliable and responsible operation.  Existing facilities require continuous evaluation and improvement, and new facilities need the advice and expertise gained from past experience.

In order to continue to lead efforts to advise states and provide the most current expertise to Member States, the Agency is finalizing its Nuclear Security Series, including the recommendations on the physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities contained in Revision 5 of INFCIRC/225.  The Nuclear Security Series is an important and valuable set of documents.  They create consistent, agreed-upon norms available to all Member States.

In addition to actively supporting the Agency’s drafting and review of the Nuclear Security Series, the U.S. supports the Agency as it strives to provide high-quality training, missions, and upgrades to Member States.  We continue to promote the entry into force of the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.  We support the establishment of more national Nuclear Security Support Centers.  And we continue to coordinate with multilateral and bilateral nuclear security-related initiatives, among them UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

Challenges to Promoting the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy

Finally, on promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy –

To support the pursuit of nuclear power, the IAEA must provide significant assistance to States to help build the necessary infrastructure, institutional capacities, and human resources to administer reliable nuclear power programs.  Finding the funds to support new nuclear energy programs, particularly in developing countries, is a perennial problem.

The United States has recently made a significant effort to energize the promotion of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  At the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, Secretary Clinton announced that the U.S. will make a contribution of $50 million over the next five years for a new Peaceful Uses Initiative.  The U.S. contribution will be applied to IAEA projects supporting nuclear power infrastructure development, food security, water resources management, and human health in a broad selection of countries, including Indonesia, Nigeria, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Thailand, Vietnam, Yemen, Ethiopia, Paraguay, Ghana, and Azerbaijan.  In fact, I will be travelling to Indonesia and Vietnam in a few weeks to visit some Technical Cooperation projects there to witness firsthand how Agency peaceful uses activities are making a difference in people’s lives.

As we move forward in funding projects through the Peaceful Uses Initiative, we hope that other countries will join us in supporting this effort to expand the IAEA’s ability to provide Member States with access to the peaceful applications of nuclear energy.  President Obama has challenged nations to raise an additional $50 million by 2015 for the Peaceful Uses Initiative.  In September the Japanese Ambassador announced that Japan has requested $3.5 million for a contribution to the Peaceful Uses Initiative to be included in the Japanese budget for the next fiscal year.


So, having given you a sketch of some of the challenges we see the IAEA facing, I’d like to circle back for a moment and conclude where I began by telling you why we think it’s important for Member States to support the IAEA as it works to overcome those challenges.

President Obama has made a significant commitment to reducing the threats posed by nuclear weapons.  In April of 2009, in Prague, he made a strong, straightforward statement of principle: “I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

That commitment has intensified U.S. efforts to counter the spread of nuclear weapons and reduce the threat posed by those weapons that still exist.  These efforts include reaffirming the NPT, supporting the creation of an international fuel bank so that countries can access peaceful power, establishing the Peaceful Uses Initiative, trying to engage Iran and address other noncompliance issues, and importantly to our discussion today, ensuring that the International Atomic Energy Agency has the resources, support, and authorities it needs.

We must ensure that the Agency is equipped with the right tools to meet and overcome the ever-increasing challenges it faces.  The expansion of nuclear activities, the development of new technologies, and the behavior of noncompliant Member States add to the perpetual problems of too few resources and a growing desire among Member States for increased access to nuclear technologies.  In this context the importance of the IAEA as an independent verifier and as a clearinghouse for peaceful nuclear technology has grown substantially.  It is in our interest and to our benefit to lend as much support as we can to the Agency as it seeks to surmount the many challenges before it.

Thank you, and I look forward to your questions and comments.