By Matthew Rice
Russian President Vladimir Putin amended a 1992 presidential decree on nuclear export controls May 7, setting conditions for the export of nuclear technology to countries that have not committed their nuclear programs to full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
As a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a body founded in 1975 to set guidelines for the export of nuclear technology, Russia agreed in 1992 not to export nuclear technology to countries that had not agreed to full-scope IAEA safeguards, which monitor civilian nuclear programs to prevent diversion of nuclear material for military purposes. The NSG made two exceptions to this prohibition: members could fulfill contracts made prior to 1992 and could provide certain safety-related assistance to facilities under IAEA safeguards.
Press reports misidentified the move as a step away from Russia's NSG commitment, probably due to Russian interest in selling several power reactors to India, which, along with Cuba, Israel, and Pakistan, has not subjected all of its facilities to full-scope IAEA safeguards. The May 7 decree codifies Russia's 1992 commitment, limiting exports to countries without full-scope safeguards in place to supplies "exclusively for the safe operation of nuclear facilities on [the] territory of the importing country" and requiring that "guarantees of the International Atomic Energy Agency are applied to the aforesaid facilities." A State Department official said, "After seeing this new decree, we consulted quickly with senior officials in Moscow. They informed us that this new decree was implementing the 1992 changes to the Nuclear Suppliers [Group] Guidelines. The decree does appear to be a translation into Russian of the guidelines as revised at that time."
Mikhail Ryzhov, head of the department of international and foreign economic relations department at the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy, said May 29 that the decree would have little impact on Russian nuclear exports. "The supplement deals with a very narrow part of the nuclear sector and very selectively at that. Therefore, there will be no substantial contribution to nuclear export."
It is unclear why the decision to amend the decree was made now, eight years after the change to NSG Guidelines.