States Prepare for NPT Meetings

July/August 2023
By Jupiter Kaishu Huang

During a moment of heightened nuclear danger, states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) are gearing up for the first of three preparatory committee meetings ahead of the 2026 NPT Review Conference.

Preparatory committees engage in procedural work; “consider principles, objectives, and ways” to promote the full implementation of the NPT; and forward recommendations to the review conference.

This year’s meetings will be held July 31-Aug. 11 in Vienna. Jarmo Viinanen, the Finnish ambassador for arms control, has been appointed the preparatory committee’s chair-designate.

The last NPT review conference, in 2022, marked the second consecutive meeting to fail at reaching an outcome document. (See ACT, September 2022; June 2015.) Russia broke the consensus in the final hours of the conference by demanding changes to several paragraphs of negotiated language. Among Russia’s objections was a statement stressing that control of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant should return to Ukraine.

The recent destruction of the Kakhovka Dam has further increased anxiety over a nuclear accident in Ukraine. The dam’s collapse has led to a severe drop in the water levels of the Kakhovka reservoir, which supplies water to the Zaporizhzhia plant’s cooling pond. Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, stated on June 8 that there was no immediate danger but “the general nuclear safety and security situation remains very precarious.”

Despite the lack of an agreed outcome, the 2022 review conference did establish a working group on strengthening the review process. (See ACT, October 2022.) It will convene on July 24-28 in Vienna, immediately preceding the preparatory committee.

States-parties at the working group will discuss adjustments to the review cycle, such as an increase in interactivity in debate, greater agenda flexibility, a change in the length of committee meetings, and a shift to a more regional approach.

“The failure of several review conferences…to reach a consensus has been primarily the result of major differences among the states-parties rather than the fault of the structure and operation of the review process,” Gaukhar Mukhatzhar and Thomas Markram, senior experts at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-proliferation, wrote in May 2023. “However, states-parties have also acknowledged that the preparatory cycle could be made more effective.”