NPT Roundtable: U.S. Statement

Roundtable Discussion “The NPT Review Conference as Viewed from Vienna”

Susan F. Burk, Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation

I am honored to speak to you today about the NPT Review Conference along with my colleagues Ambassadors Lacanlane, Yel’chenko and Nakane, all of whom have been working hard over the last several months to prepare for the Review Conference.   Mr. Tariq Rauf, a colleague and friend for many years, has also been very engaged in these preparations.   I would like to thank Ambassador Davies in particular for arranging this Roundtable and for agreeing to spend most of the month of May in New York as our representative on Main Committee II.   I look forward to hearing the perspectives of Vienna delegations today.

At the outset, I would like to stress that the United States is not approaching the impending NPT Review Conference in any “business as usual” spirit.  President Obama has put a strengthened NPT at the center of American diplomacy, and as I will note later in my comments, the United States is taking a series of steps to help achieve that goal.  But I use the word “help” here very deliberately.  The U.S. cannot realize the NPT vision on its own — it takes all of us working together, all of us setting aside stale debates and perspectives that have too often led to gridlock.  As a long-time veteran of NPT debates, I firmly believe that now is the moment to rise to the challenge and opportunity placed before us by the Obama Administration’s posture on the NPT.

Toward this end, I have been very busy engaging NPT parties to find out exactly how to do that.  In the past several months I have heard a broad range of views on the NPT and on the upcoming Review Conference.  Since I assumed my present position last year, my colleagues in Washington and I have met with representatives of more than 80 NPT Parties, many of which we met multiple times.  All of the meetings have been valuable in gauging the priorities and concerns of other Parties, and, of course, the meetings have also enabled us to share our Government’s perspectives.  One common view expressed to us that transcends whatever differences may exist among Parties is the firm conviction that the NPT is critical to the maintenance of regional and international peace and security.  This, certainly, is a view that the United States strongly shares.  The Review Conference will be the occasion for all NPT Parties to focus on our common goals and reinvigorate our commitment to the core principles of the Treaty.

The core principles of the NPT are embedded in the Treaty’s three, mutually reinforcing pillars – nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is critically important to two of the three pillars, peaceful uses of nuclear energy and nonproliferation, and I want to begin by commenting on these two pillars.

From the time of President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” address at the United Nations in 1953, the United States has supported international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  The IAEA’s core mission, from its founding in 1957, is to “accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity.”  The United States supports the IAEA in that mission and remains the largest contributor over the history of the Agency to IAEA technical cooperation.  For example, in the last ten years the United States has made more than $190 million in voluntary contributions to the IAEA Technical Cooperation Fund (TCF) to help developing countries gain knowledge and know-how of nuclear techniques in areas such as mother-child nutrition, cancer therapy, and agriculture.  Beyond its contribution to the TCF, over the past decade the United States has contributed more than $25 million to Footnote A and other projects requested by developing countries that were unfunded by the IAEA. We also continue to take an active role in sharing our know-how on peaceful uses of nuclear techniques with scientists from all over the world who come to the U.S. for training.

The NPT addresses international cooperation on peaceful uses in two ways.  First, Article IV acknowledges the right of NPT Parties to “develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes….” and goes on to state that, “[a]ll of the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”  Second, Article IV requires the Parties to exercise that right in conformity with their NPT nonproliferation obligations, thereby reducing the risk that the spread of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes could also be accompanied by the spread of nuclear weapons.  Without a strong nonproliferation commitment, the spread of nuclear technology would be imprudent and pose a threat to international peace and security.  As the Treaty is phrased, however, the two pillars of peaceful uses of nuclear energy and nonproliferation are inextricably linked.

The United States believes that one constructive way of addressing both of these facets of Article IV is through the development of mechanisms to assure nuclear fuel supply, such as international fuel banks.  By offering additional confidence of supply beyond that provided by the market, international fuel banks have the potential to facilitate access to civil nuclear power by eliminating the need for states to invest in costly and complex fuel cycle technologies.

As President Obama said in Prague last year, “we should build a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including an international fuel bank, so that countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risk of proliferation.  That must be the right of every nation that renounces nuclear weapons, especially developing countries embarking on peaceful programs.”  The United States strongly supports the decision of the IAEA Board of Governors at its November 2009 meeting to establish the first international LEU reserve at Angarsk, Russia.  There will now be a guaranteed supplier of low enriched uranium for nuclear fuel available at the request of the IAEA and located in an IAEA-safeguarded facility. We look forward to further engagement with fellow Member States and the Secretariat to establish a complementary IAEA fuel bank.

Nuclear energy as a means of generating electricity has grown over many decades.  There has been even greater expansion in the applications of nuclear energy and radioactive materials in medicine, agriculture, and industry.  Altogether, the advance of nuclear energy for peaceful uses has been singularly beneficial to humankind.

Interest in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy has grown remarkably even since the last NPT Review Conference in 2005.  In the past few years, more than 60 countries have signaled to the IAEA their interest in launching new nuclear power programs in the decades to come.  At least a dozen states are taking concrete steps towards new nuclear energy programs.  The United States is committed to helping “nuclear newcomers” develop the infrastructure needed to build and operate nuclear power plants safely and securely.  We and others have developed rich programs aimed at civil nuclear infrastructure cooperation.  Indeed, there is currently so much activity in this regard that the IAEA has called several meetings to better coordinate and harmonize bilateral and multilateral efforts. Today, the benefits described in Article IV are being exercised to a degree not seen in decades, if ever before.

These benefits, however, carry with them the added burden of responsibility.  Newcomer states increasingly turn to the IAEA for support in training, standards and guidance to secure their facilities against all types of risks, both natural and man-made.  As the IAEA lends its services in support of these newcomer states, it then becomes our responsibility as Member States to ensure the IAEA is sufficiently prepared – and sufficiently financed – to fulfill the tasks we ask it to perform.  The United States believes that institutional strength begins with financial health, and we will continue to press the international community to join us in approving a budget that will allow this Agency to prepare for the future.  Let me stress here that our interest in the institutional strength of the IAEA applies not only to its enabling activities in safety and security, but also to directly promotional activities, such as in the areas of human health and the environment.  Institutional strength is also key to the IAEA’s role in verification.

Through its safeguards mission, the IAEA carries the increasingly heavy burden of assuring the international community that nuclear energy programs are , in fact, solely peaceful.  All NPT non-nuclear weapon states are required to have in force comprehensive safeguards agreements (CSAs) with the IAEA.  Under these agreements, the IAEA is asked to verify that states’ declarations of their nuclear material in peaceful uses are both correct and complete.  We stand with Director General Amano in his appeal to the twenty-two NPT signatory states without a comprehensive safeguards agreement in force to conclude, sign, ratify and implement their CSAs as soon as possible.

To give the IAEA the information and access it needs in order to provide real assurances about the completeness of declarations—that is, that there are no undeclared nuclear activities in a state—the IAEA developed the Additional Protocol to comprehensive safeguards agreements.  The model Additional Protocol gives the IAEA more tools for assuring the absence of undeclared activities.  The Additional Protocol is especially important in cases of demonstrated or suspected noncompliance, but its fundamental value is that it serves as a confidence-building measure for all states that have accepted it, thereby reinforcing the international cooperation in peaceful uses that the NPT is intended to enable.  Thus, the United States believes that all NPT Parties should conclude and bring into force the Additional Protocol and that the Protocol should be considered an essential international standard for IAEA safeguards.  The United States brought its Additional Protocol into force in January 2009 and now is fully implementing the agreement.  Here again, the Director General has set a milestone toward which to strive — reaching 100 APs in force by the time of the Review Conference, from the current count of 95 Member States implementing the Additional Protocol.

With the growing interest we are witnessing in civil nuclear technology, the IAEA’s considerable responsibilities in promoting the safe, secure, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy have grown as well.  The United States believes that the IAEA must be provided with the resources it needs to carry out its mandate.

For our part, the United States provides several kinds of support to IAEA safeguards, beyond its regular assessments.  For example, in the last ten years the United States has provided over $170 million in extra-budgetary contributions to IAEA safeguards in various categories of support.  In 2008, the National Nuclear Security Agency of the Department of Energy launched the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative, one component of which is to help develop the technology, concepts, and expertise necessary to strengthen the IAEA safeguards system.

I noted that the NPT pillars of nonproliferation and peaceful uses are inextricably linked, and President Obama’s support to the IAEA’s safeguards regime should be seen in this light.  Without a robust safeguards system we would face a choice between two bad options: either restraint on international cooperation in the absence of the necessary verification assurances, or accepting a heightened risk of spreading technology that could lead to more nuclear weapons around the world.  That is not the vision President Obama is pursuing.

Instead, and in robust fulfillment of the NPT’s vision, in April of last year Presidents Obama and Medvedev committed their support for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.  We are now in the late stages of negotiating with the Russian Federation a new START agreement, with the effect of a significant reduction in warheads on each side.

Our Government is preparing to seek the consent of the United States Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. In the meantime, the United States is continuing its nuclear testing moratorium, in place since 1992, and we call on other states publicly to declare moratoria of their own.

The United States also is committed to pursuing a verifiable ban on the production of fissile material for use in weapons, an FMCT.  The IAEA will have a key role to play in implementing FMCT verification.  Last year the Conference on Disarmament (CD) agreed on a program of work that included a negotiating mandate for an FMCT, but the CD remains unable to move forward.  The United States is working with others in the CD to move toward FMCT negotiations on the basis agreed last year, and we are returning an Ambassador to Geneva to lead our efforts there.  In the interim, we are continuing our decades-long moratorium on production of fissile material for use in weapons, and we call on others to join us in this moratorium.

The disarmament agenda laid out by President Obama is ambitious.  It is important in its own right, but its goal also is embedded in the NPT.  Strong nonproliferation norms must be upheld to create the environment needed for the nuclear weapon states to carry out their disarmament commitments under Article VI.  At the same time, progress on disarmament reinforces the nonproliferation pillar.  The United States and the other nuclear weapon states bear a special responsibility for pursuing nuclear disarmament, but the non-nuclear weapon states also are responsible under Article VI for working to prevent further proliferation and help create the international conditions for nuclear disarmament efforts to succeed.

When he addressed the United Nations General Assembly last year President Obama announced a “new era of engagement with the world” by the United States.  He spoke, too, of “shared responsibility.”  All states can contribute to reducing worldwide nuclear dangers, and all NPT Parties share equally in the responsibility to strengthen the norms of the Treaty.  The Eighth NPT Review Conference in May provides an opportunity for NPT Parties to take stewardship of our shared responsibilities, to look beyond our differences, and to advance our common goals for the Treaty.  A constructive Review Conference will result in identifying areas of agreement on concrete measures to reinforce the global nuclear nonproliferation regime and in identifying areas where further work is needed to strengthen the regime.

The United States will continue to work with our Treaty partners to revalidate the Treaty’s vital contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security.

Thank you.