The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is continuing to discuss issues such as outreach to nonmembers and whether to admit India to the group, according to a summary statement from the group’s June 26-27 plenary meeting in Buenos Aires.
One topic was how the group could interact with countries that are not members of the NSG but adhere to its guidelines, which deal with exports of nuclear-specific and dual-use goods. The 48-member group “considered various options to assist” these countries “in an effective manner,” the statement said.
The NSG is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding. Nevertheless, members are expected to incorporate the guidelines into their national export control laws.
The summary statement said the group also discussed “the issues of brokering and transit/transshipment and agreed to publish on the NSG website an example of good practices in this regard.” Germany will lead this effort, the statement said.
In a 2012 interview, U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said the group wanted to address cases in which the main proliferation concern might come not from the supplier or the ultimate recipient but from an intermediary. (See ACT, July/August 2012.)
The statement from the recent meeting said the NSG also discussed its relationship with India. In September 2008, the group eased long-standing restrictions on nuclear trade with India by its members. NSG rules generally forbid the sale of nuclear goods such as reactors and fuel to countries that, like India, are not parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
In November 2010, during a visit to India, U.S. President Barack Obama announced his support for Indian entry into the NSG and three other multilateral export control groups. (See ACT, December 2010.) Like the 2008 decision, the idea of admitting India is controversial within the NSG, which makes its decisions by consensus.
A key criterion for NSG membership is that a country is a party to and complying with the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty. India would be the first country that did not meet that criterion.
Shortly before the June NSG meeting began, India announced that it was ratifying an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
For a non-nuclear-weapon state that is a party to the NPT, an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement gives the IAEA expanded rights of access to information and sites so that the agency can determine more authoritatively that the country is not developing nuclear weapons. The NPT nuclear-weapon states also have adopted additional protocols. Those measures are largely symbolic, as the IAEA is not given access to facilities that are part of the countries’ nuclear weapons programs. The Indian additional protocol follows that model and in some ways, imposes narrower requirements than the NPT nuclear-weapon states’ protocols do.
The IAEA approved the Indian additional protocol in 2009. (See ACT, April 2009.)