As delivered by Ambassador Bonnie Denise Jenkins, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Vienna, Austria, March 28, 2022
Dear Co-Presidents and Distinguished Delegations,
Today, events going on less than 500 kilometers from where we sit remind us of the urgency of our commitment to nuclear security. Russia’s unprovoked, unlawful, and ongoing invasion further into Ukraine poses a clear challenge to the rules-based international order we all rely upon for peace and security.
Russia’s brazen and irresponsible actions at nuclear facilities in Ukraine are the foremost nuclear safety and security issue of our time. Russia’s invasion and seizure of nuclear facilities in Ukraine prevents Ukraine from carrying out its obligations under the amended Convention.
Russia has at times said it is acting under the transparently false pretext of stopping Ukraine from making a dirty bomb or a nuclear weapon. This pretext ignores the IAEA’s unequivocal statement that Ukraine has fully implemented its safeguards obligations and that the Agency has not found any indication of a proliferation concern in Ukraine.
We call on Russia to immediately change course and withdraw all its forces. We support Ukraine’s call for a ceasefire and respect for its sovereignty.
We further remain ready to support IAEA Director General Grossi’s efforts to apply seven pillars of nuclear safety and security at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities in a way that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The United States prioritizes full implementation of its obligations under the amended Convention and applies the Fundamental Principles set forth in Article 2A of the amended Convention.
The United States has fulfilled its obligations in accordance with Article 14, and we commend Parties that have also done so. We call on all countries who have not yet done so to take this critical step.
We are here today because we recognize that all states benefit from strong global nuclear security, because an act of nuclear terrorism anywhere will have grave consequences for all.
We applaud efforts to strengthen nuclear security, including through capacity building at national and regional centers of excellence, commitments by more than 30 countries to implement IAEA guidance and recommendations on nuclear security, support for the Nuclear Security Fund, and critical efforts to eliminate and minimize stocks of excess civilian highly enriched uranium and plutonium, among other actions.
I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight certain recent and upcoming actions of the United States:
• We are requesting the IAEA host our second International Physical Protection Advisory Service (or IPPAS) mission. IPPAS missions are important tools for ensuring the adequacy of national nuclear security regimes and for building public confidence and in the effectiveness of our nuclear security. We encourage all Parties to take advantage of this valuable resource.
• In 2021, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Staff completed inspections under the U.S. Nuclear Power Plant Cyber Security Programs to verify that facilities had fully implemented their cyber security requirements. Starting this year, each plant will be inspected every two years to ensure continued compliance.
• Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy and the IAEA removed excess plutonium from the IAEA’s Nuclear Material Laboratory as part of our broader, decades-long campaign to permanently dispose of excess civilian highly enriched uranium and plutonium around the world. To date we have worked with partners around the world to eliminate nearly 7,270 kilograms of weapons-useable nuclear material and encourage all States to join to this effort.
• As the United States works towards the permanent disposition of plutonium designated surplus to national defense needs, we are in consultation with the IAEA so that material currently under IAEA safeguards remains so throughout the disposition process. Those safeguards approaches, once in place, will enable the IAEA to verify the disposition of 40 metric tons of plutonium designated surplus.
• The United States has contributed nearly $245 million to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund (NSF) since its inception, to include over $22.5 million in 2021. These resources help the IAEA in its central coordinator role to carry out critical international activities to strengthen nuclear security globally. We call on all Member States in a position to do so to contribute to this Fund.
Many of the achievements we discuss this week would not have happened without the IAEA and other international organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
In this regard, we remain deeply disappointed that the People’s Republic of China challenged, and in one case, prevented altogether interested NGOs from participating in this conference for reasons having nothing to do with the urgent challenges we face in nuclear security. NGOs contribute expertise and innovative programs to advance nuclear security, and we strongly support their participation.
We recognize, and the amended Convention notes, that nuclear security encompasses more than just gates and guards physically protecting material. Computer based systems used for physical protection should also be protected against compromise consistent with the threat assessment. Threats to critical infrastructure, including nuclear facilities, from cyberattacks are cause for serious concern in the United States. To this end the U.S. government has worked closely with nuclear industry to implement robust cybersecurity policies, procedures, and practices.
With that said, the United States believes its current laws and regulations adequately address changes to the prevailing situation. We have determined that the amended Convention is adequate.
Even so, just as it is essential for each state to continually review its nuclear security regime, it is also important to continue our dialogue and review of the global nuclear security regime.
We therefore believe it is essential to hold a subsequent review conference no later than six years from today. We welcome those that have already submitted their requests in accordance with Article 16.2, and urge all others do so this week.
Fellow delegates, our mission here this week is critical and relevant.
The United States is committed to a substantive and successful Review Conference and looks forward to working with all Parties and everyone gathered here this week in that effort.