IAEA BoG – U.S. on the 2020 Safeguards Implementation Report

In this IAEA photo, safeguards inspectors complete hot cell and glovebox training in Georgia. (IAEA)

IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Agenda Item 6(c): Safeguards Implementation Report for 2020

U.S. statement as delivered by Chargé d’Affaires Louis Bono
Vienna, Austria, June 9, 2021

Madam Chair,

The United States welcomes the Secretariat’s Safeguards Implementation Report for 2020 (SIR). And once again, I would like to thank the Director General, the Deputy Director General, and the entire Safeguards Department. It is impressive that, despite the over 2,000 person-days inspectors had to spend in quarantine, the level of in-field verification effort was only marginally reduced. The United States wishes to express its gratitude to DDG Aparo and each and every safeguards inspector and staff member responsible for this great accomplishment of maintaining international security in the face of great personal risk. We look forward to future reporting on the further resumption of normal safeguards operations.

Madam Chair,

The United States would like to highlight a few important topics covered in the SIR.

• First, we welcome the Agency’s efforts to promote the conclusion of safeguards agreements and Additional Protocols and, in particular, the Director General’s outreach to States to modify or rescind Small Quantities Protocols based on the original text. We take note of the Agency’s concern that it is becoming increasingly challenging to draw a credible safeguards conclusion for States with an original-language SQP. We encourage relevant States that have not yet done so to bring into force a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, and for all States that have not yet done so to bring an Additional Protocol into force and, where applicable, modify or rescind their SQP. The United States stands ready to assist the Secretariat and States, at their request, to facilitate the conclusion and entry into force of these agreements. And our support does not end with entry into force: we continue to support our partners in fully implementing these agreements and building strong State Systems of Accounting for and Control of Nuclear Material.

• Second, we commend the IAEA’s continued focus on developing and improving internal procedures and guidelines for the implementation of safeguards at the State level, consistent with the Director General’s existing authority and previous Board decisions. We welcome the continued development of performance targets and look forward to further information on how they have improved consistency and allow for increased transparency in the performance of the safeguards system. In addition, we are pleased to note that internal peer review was expanded to cover all Annual Implementation Plans approved last year, a step which will further support the Agency’s goals for effective safeguards implementation and improve consistency. We look forward to the development of additional State-level safeguards approaches including for all States with safeguards agreements.

• Third, we applaud the increased transparency on the performance of State and regional authorities and the effectiveness of systems of accounting for and control of nuclear material, a chronic area of difficulty in safeguards implementation. The additional information explains how these shortcomings impose additional burdens on the Secretariat and reduce safeguards efficiency and effectiveness. Additionally, we note the report of access restrictions experienced in three States in 2019 and one in 2020, and welcome the statement that all such access issues have been resolved. We also note that the quality of the operator’s measurement systems in some cases complicates the closing of material balances. We hope the Secretariat will keep the Board apprised as to the status of these issues.

The effectiveness and efficiency of safeguards are critical to ensuring that the Secretariat is able to draw sound and reliable safeguards conclusions. We do not expect that longstanding challenges will be resolved quickly, but we hope the renewed attention, to include with the new COMPASS pilot initiative, will help focus resources and attention, including those of Member States, on efforts to overcome impediments to effective and efficient safeguards implementation.

• Fourth, the United States read the Agency’s update on business continuity and disaster recovery with great interest, especially given the constraints of the past year. The Agency’s wise investments appear to be paying off in enabling the Department of Safeguards to maintain the continuation of critical business processes and the availability of information during the current pandemic.

• Finally, I would like to note that safeguards conclusions are neither static nor automatic, including the broader conclusion. These conclusions are factual statements of the results of the Secretariat’s safeguards efforts and are always subject to revisions. We hope that the Secretariat will be similarly forthright as future circumstances may warrant.

• We welcome that the Agency was once again able to draw the broader conclusion with regard to Libya, and was able to draw it for the first time for El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Nigeria. And while the Agency was no longer able to draw the broader conclusion for Ukraine, this was not due to any fault of Ukraine and raises no proliferation concern. The United States commends Ukraine for its leadership on nuclear nonproliferation. Ukraine’s security and the security of the region are greatly enhanced by Ukraine’s adherence to the NPT.

Madam Chair,

These are just a few of the important issues raised by the SIR, which is critical for keeping the Board and all Member States informed about the performance of the safeguards systems and about other important developments and trends in safeguards implementation. With these observations, we are pleased to take note of this report, and support the recommendation to release both the Safeguards Statement for 2020 and the Background to the Safeguards Statement and Summary.

Thank you.

Additional Statement on Ukraine

Good evening again, Madam Chair,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak again, and I hate to belabor the point. But we are pleased that the IAEA has acted in accordance with its Statute and international law, and expect that it will continue to do so. While the Agency was no longer able to draw the broader conclusion for Ukraine, this was not due to any fault of Ukraine and raises no proliferation concern. We fully respect the necessity for the IAEA to draw independent safeguards conclusions based on the information available and the results of its own verification activities. Although Ukraine has cooperated fully, due to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and the activities of Russian-backed armed groups in eastern Ukraine, Ukraine was unable to provide the information and access the Secretariat needed in order to draw the broader conclusion. We understand that safeguards have been and will continue to be implemented as normal in areas that remain under Ukrainian control. The United States once again commends Ukraine for its leadership on nonproliferation.