An early version of this story appeared here.
Seven years after they started discussions on the issue and two and a half years after they formulated a “clean text,” the members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) agreed in June on revised guidelines for exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing.
At issue were paragraphs 6 and 7 of the NSG guidelines. The old version of paragraph 6 said that suppliers should “exercise restraint” in exports of sensitive technology. The new paragraph 6 essentially retains that language, but specifies a list of criteria to be considered. The new paragraph 7, which deals with “[s]pecial arrangements for export of enrichment facilities, equipment and technology,” adds details on restrictions on sharing such technology.
A June 24 NSG press release issued at the end of the group’s annual plenary meeting in Noordwijk, the
The NSG is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not legally binding.
The main change from the previous guidelines is the addition of the list, known as “objective criteria.” Among other requirements, potential recipients of sensitive technology must be parties to and “in full compliance” with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and they must be adhering to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards requirements.
Focus on Additional Protocol
In a separate section, the text says that suppliers should authorize enrichment and reprocessing exports only if the recipient has brought into force a comprehensive safeguards agreement and an additional protocol or, “pending this, [the recipient] is implementing appropriate safeguards agreements in cooperation with the IAEA, including a regional accounting and control arrangement for nuclear materials, as approved by the IAEA Board of Governors.” In a June 27 interview, a
The language on “a regional accounting and control arrangement” is a clear reference to the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC).
Since the appearance of the November 2008 “clean” draft text, critics have said the group’s concession on this point is a major flaw in the NSG’s approach because the ABACC arrangements do not provide the level of assurance about the countries’ nuclear programs that an additional protocol would.
In a June 30 interview, a Brazilian official said the Quadripartite Agreement among
Compared to comprehensive safeguards agreements, it furnishes “an amount of information and mutual confidence that is superior,” he said. Additional protocols are not a legal requirement under the NPT or the IAEA, and that point has been recognized in all relevant forums, including the NSG, he said.
Brazil’s 2008 National Defense Strategy was “very clear” that the country would not adhere to new safeguards commitments until the nuclear-weapon states made significant progress toward fulfilling their disarmament obligations under Article VI of the NPT, he said.
Asked if the “pending this” language in the new guidelines suggested that the Quadripartite Agreement eventually would be supplemented by an additional protocol, the official said, “We do not see an obligation deriving from this [language].” Citing the NPT and IAEA resolutions, he said it is the “sovereign decision of any country” to conclude an additional protocol.
‘General’ Subjective Criteria
The proposed November 2008 version of the NSG guidelines also included so-called subjective criteria: “[w]hether the recipient has a credible and coherent rationale for pursuing enrichment and reprocessing capability in support of civil nuclear power generation programmes,” “[w]hether the transfer would have a negative impact on the stability and security of the recipient state,” and “[g]eneral conditions of stability and security.”
The new text dispenses with that list. Instead, it invokes other sections of the guidelines that give suppliers broad authority to ensure that their exports do not contribute to proliferation. It also adds language saying that suppliers should “tak[e] into account at their national discretion, any relevant factors as may be applicable.”
The guidelines also contain new language at the beginning of paragraph 7, saying in part, “All States that meet the criteria in paragraph 6 above are eligible for transfers of enrichment facilities, equipment and technology.”
According to the
However, in additional new language at the beginning of paragraph 7, the guidelines say that “[s]uppliers recognize that the application of the Special Arrangements [on enrichment-related exports] below must be consistent with NPT principles, in particular Article IV. Any application by the suppliers of the following Special Arrangements may not abrogate the rights of States meeting the criteria in paragraph 6.”
Article IV of the NPT establishes an “inalienable right” of treaty parties to pursue peaceful nuclear programs.
The section on enrichment-related transfers requires that they be under so-called black box conditions that seek to prevent the technology from being replicated. There is a limited exception to allow cooperation on development of potential new enrichment technologies, but the restrictions would apply once the technology was commercialized.
In September 2008, the NSG made an exception for
Even before the NSG or the
Indian officials and observers often use the term “clean waiver” to suggest that the 2008 NSG decision lifted all the restrictions that previously had been in place on nuclear exports to
The official also noted that the text of the 2008 NSG decision exempts
In a June 30 interview, a European diplomat agreed that, under the guidelines,
According to the NSG press statement, the members also “continued to consider all aspects of the implementation of the 2008 Statement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation with
A confidential May 23 U.S.-drafted “Food for Thought” paper circulated to NSG members offers two options for bringing
At the Noordwijk meeting, the