State Parties Fail to Achieve Consensus at The NPT Review Conference
August 26, 2022
After four weeks of negotiations, State-Parties failed to achieve consensus at the NPT Review Conference (RevCon). On Thursday night, President Designate Gustavo Zlauvinen released a final version of the conference document. During the last plenary session, Russia objected to the final document over paragraph 34. In its statement regarding the final outcome document, Russia claimed that many delegations had objections to the text and accused other states of politicizing the RevCon. “If there is a wish to find some common ground, we are willing to work on this further. But if delegations do not wish to do this then there can be no consensus,” the head delegate of the Russian Federation said. The next NPT RevCon will take place in 2026.
Click here to read the final version of the conference document. Also, check out ACA’s statement on the NPT Review Conference Outcome: NPT Review Outcome Highlights Deficit in Disarmament Diplomacy, Divisions Between Nuclear Rivals
States Attempt to Bridge Differences
August 25, 2022
As previously discussed, the goal of the NPT RevCon is to produce a consensus document that reviews past implementation and set out recommendations and follow-up steps to advance the lofty objectives of the landmark treaty.
Following the plenary session on Monday, a group of some two dozen State-Parties held informal discussions at the Finnish Mission in New York to try to iron-out differences on key issues. After a series of these small group negotiations late into the early hours of the morning Thursday, President-Designate Gustavo Zlauvinen released a revised version of a possible final document on the morning of Aug. 25.
Amb. Zlauvinen has received feedback from delegations this afternoon and several State-parties must consult with their capitals today on any final adjustments and whether the document is an acceptable outcome. Friday's session should reveal where the conference document is headed and it is expected that NGOs will be allowed to attend the final plenary meeting and report on developments in more detail.
Click here to read the revised draft of the final document.
State Parties Still Appear Far from Agreement on Key Issues
August 23, 2022
State Parties are just days away from the end of the 10th NPT Review Conference but after another passionate round of exchanges on Monday, August 22, most observers find it difficult to see how they can agree by consensus on a final outcome document.
During the last Review Conference in 2015, State-Parties failed to adopt a consensus document due to disagreements over language on advancing the goal of a Middle East Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction. At this review conference, there are multiple disputes relating to each of the three “pillars” of the treaty.
As part of the RevCon procedures, State-Parties established subsidiary groups about specific issues. Subsidiary Body 2 focused on matters surrounding the 1995 Middle East resolution and non-proliferation issues in the Korean peninsula. Subsidiary Body II released its draft report on August 21.
The next day, State-Parties discussed the report and failed to reach a consensus over both the Subsidiary Body 2 report and the Main Committee II report. Despite this, both reports will be merged to be further discussed by State-Parties. Divisions remain on the wording regarding the Middle East Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the language condemning North Korea’s nuclear tests.
“The wording on this report represents the weakest text on the Middle East NWFZ that we have ever seen,” the spokesman for the Iranian delegation said on August 22. Meanwhile, Egypt despite some reservations declared that it would accept the current draft as a consensus. The U.S., France, Jordan, and China said that the Subsidiary Body 2 text was a good basis for agreement. One of the paragraphs in the Subsidiary Body 2 report reads: “The Conference reaffirms the importance of the establishment of nuclear weapon-free zones where they do not exist, including in the Middle East.”
Japan, Sweden, and the U.S. also noted that the language on North Korea should be stronger, and Russia noted that the text would need work when it came to addressing North Korea. The Swedish delegation specifically pointed out that there was no call for North Korea to join the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
In addition, divisions between Russia and other state parties over the wording and content of Main Committee II’s draft report on the situation around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant persist and appear to be very difficult to overcome. Ukraine, the United States, and European nations are pushing for an explicit reference to Russia as the catalyst for the dangerous situation around the Zaporizhzhia NPP and a call for Russian forces to leave the NPP.
On August 22, the U.S. delegation questioned the value of a consensus outcome if it meant erasing the language that called for the restoration of the control of Zaporizhzhia NPP to the Ukrainian authorities. Russia, in turn, said it found the language about the issue contained in the draft unacceptable.
“Consensus is not something we see in this document,” the Russian delegate said on August 22 but noted that there were matters that were negotiable and others were non-negotiable.
By the close of the day on Monday the 22nd of August, none of the three Main Committees dealing with the three pillars of the NPT were able to reach consensus. Each of the draft documents was submitted to the president of the conference as working papers by their respective chairs.
Meanwhile, in Main Committee I, which deals with disarmament matters, a large group of 145 nonnuclear weapon states expressed grave concern about the consequences of nuclear weapon use through a statement issued on May 22 and delivered by Costa Rica’s head of delegation Amb. Maritza Chan.
“The catastrophic effects of a nuclear weapon detonation, whether by accident, miscalculation or design, cannot be adequately addressed. All efforts must be exerted to eliminate the threat of these weapons of mass destruction,” the statement declared.
Reflecting frustrations about the absence of specific commitments and deadlines for action on disarmament in the current draft document on disarmament, Austrian Ambassador Alexander Kmentt wrote in an August 22 Tweet that: “What’s currently at the table at #NPTRevCon does not live up to these clearly expressed concerns of non-nuclear States. Maintenance of the status quo is not good enough in light of the nuclear risks all humanity faces.”
On Monday night, Review Conference President Gustavo Zlauvinen issued a consolidated and revised text consisting of 195 paragraphs and sub-paragraphs over 34 pages. States Parties will continue to work through informal plenaries and bilateral/group consultations in the pursuit of an agreement by Friday.
In response to the persistent and deep differences on display at the start of the final week, some delegations pleaded for pragmatism and compromise.
“Today, we have the opportunity today to let the world know that despite our difference, we can come together with the goal of making the world a safer place,” said the lead Representative of the Japanese delegation on August 22 .“We cannot give up on achieving a world without nuclear weapons,” he declared.
Click here to read the consolidated and revised text issued Aug. 22 by President Designate Gustavo Zlauvinen.
Points of Contention Persist at The RevCon
August 18, 2022
As we enter the end of week 3 of the NPT RevCon, State-Parties are attempting to make due on their obligations to advance the landmark treaty’s goals. All main committees have released a copy of their draft reports. From these documents, we can see what may emerge as the final outcome of the RevCon, and what may lead to disagreement and division. At this stage, a meaningful consensus document reviewing past implementation and outlining future commitments is far from assured.
Main Committee I on Nuclear Disarmament
As previously noted, the discussion about disarmament has been characterized by a familiar dynamic. Nuclear Weapon (NWS) States have declared that they are doing enough to fulfill their Article VI commitments and insist that the security environment is not conducive to disarmament while mainly Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) believe that nuclear weapons are contributing to a dangerous security environment and that NWS are not making progress towards their article VI commitments. So far, both Subsidiary Body 1 and Main Committee 1 have released their draft reports and revised versions of them.
As pointed out by ICAN, both of these reports list positive recommendations for disarmament. The most concrete recommendation in the Subsidiary Body 1 draft is that the US and Russia commit to negotiating a follow-up agreement to New START before its expiration in 2026. Meanwhile, the Committee 1 draft affirms the importance of a follow-up to the agreement.
Last week’s blog post discussed how the Russian Federation officially halted New START inspections and alleged that U.S. visa and travel restrictions precluded Russian aircraft from flying their inspectors to American territory for reciprocal inspections.
On August 16, the State Department declared that the “U.S. sanctions and restrictive measures imposed as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine are fully compatible with the New START Treaty” and that they did not prohibit Russian inspectors from conducting Treaty inspections in the U.S. The U.S. side also noted that they would continue to engage Russia on the topic of inspections through diplomatic channels.
Another notable recommendation in the Subsidiary Body 1 report is the inclusion of intercessional reports by State Parties about how they have fulfilled their obligations and commitments under Treaty information on measures and initiatives in the context of risk reduction. Concurrently, the Main Committee 1 Draft revision states that “the Conference recognizes the importance for all States Parties to report regularly on their implementation of obligations and commitments under the Treaty. The Conference recalls the need for the nuclear-weapon States to continue efforts to agree on a standard reporting form and appropriate reporting intervals.”
Beyond New START and the idea of a possible implementation of a standard reporting mechanism at an appropriate interval on disarmament, there are no concrete timelines to implement the broad recommendations in the drafts of both Subsidiary Body 1 and Main Committee 1. Overall, states have begun to call for the merging of both of these drafts and the production of a single document.
Yet, this may not be as easy as it seems. On August 17, the Delegation of Mexico delivered a statement on behalf of the Treaty on the Prohibition of nuclear weapons (TPNW) State-Parties and its signatories. The TPNW is the first legally binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons entered into force on January 2021. To this day, no NWS has joined the TPNW. NWS and states under the nuclear umbrella have extensively criticized the TPNW and alleged that it is not complimentary to the NPT. TPNW supporters maintain that the TPNW is the next step to stigmatizing nuclear weapons.
“We regret and are deeply concerned that despite the terrible risks, and despite their legal obligations and political commitments to disarm, none of the nuclear-armed states and their allies under the nuclear umbrella are taking any serious steps to reduce their reliance on nuclear weapons,” Ambassador Manuel Gomez Robledo of Mexico stated. “In these circumstances, the TPNW is needed more than ever. We will move forward with its implementation, with the aim of further stigmatizing and de-legitimizing nuclear weapons and steadily building a robust global peremptory norm against them,” he continued.”
To this statement, the U.S. delegation objected to the assertion that the TPNW establishes a prohibition of nuclear weapons under international law and reiterated that the TPNW binds only State-Parties who have joined the TPNW. The U.S. delegation also rejected the notion that there was a lack of progress from NWS when it came to their Article VI obligations. Thus, the road towards a consensus document is one of hardship.
Main Committee II on Non-Proliferation and III on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy
Main Committee 2 and 3 have recently produced their own draft reports. Nonetheless, the Russian occupation of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Powerplant (NPP) in the discussions of both of these committees has emerged as a point of contention.
In a previous entry of this blog, we noted how State-Parties both debated about the developments surrounding the shelling around the Zaporizhzhia NPP and expressed concerns over a possible nuclear powerplant disaster. We also reported that all parties declared at the UN Security Council meeting that the IAEA needed to complete a visit to the Zaporizhzhia NPP. Since then, The Washington Post reported on the tremendous amount of stress that Ukrainian workers face within the facilities.
The Main Committee 2 draft report calls for the restoration of control to the competent Ukrainian authorities of the Zaporizhzhia NPP to ensure its safety. Simultaneously, the Main Committee 3 draft report “encourages States parties to support the IAEA Director General’s efforts to improve the safety and security of Ukrainian nuclear facilities and materials.” This will continue to remain a point of contention in the RevCon as Russia has neither shown nor voiced any intentions of ending its occupation of the NPP and continues to accuse Ukraine and the West of shelling the NPP.
Russia has also declared its disinterest in establishing a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia NPP as suggested by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “We note with regret that the UN Secretariat is unable to give a sound assessment of the situation. We hear claims, i.e. from the Secretary-General, that ‘the NPP may be subjected to an attack or become a base for launching attacks’, we also hear calls to “demilitarize” the ZNPP. Russia does not use civilian infrastructure, to say anything of nuclear facilities, for military purposes. This is the tactic of Ukrainian armed forces who set up combat positions in the vicinity of civilian objects and use civilians as a human shield,” the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, Vassily Nebenzia said at the UNSC briefing on the subject on August 11.
Undoubtedly, the developments surrounding the Zaporizhzhia NPP are worrying, and risk nuclear disaster. Nonetheless, Russia’s position on statements about the Zaporizhzhia NPP is driven by Russia’s attempt to legitimize its occupation of Ukraine, and shift blame for the dangers facing the power plant, and its reluctance to endorse a possible demilitarized zone around the NPP likely center on its desire to cement control of the Zaporizhzhia NPP.
“Those who propose a withdrawal of Russian troops should realize that in such case, this facility would be left unprotected and prone to be used by Kyiv and nationalist groups for most heinous provocations,” Representative of the Russian Federation, Vassily Nebenzia declared. Apart from this, there are few details about what a DMZ would exactly entail, yet it seems unlikely that the NPT Review Conference will serve as the forum to resolve the issue.
Main Committee III Highlight: Gender Parity
Another noteworthy proposal on the Main Committee III Draft and the Subsidiary Body 3 drafts includes calls to strengthen efforts to improve gender parity and to promote an inclusive workforce in the areas of peaceful uses of nuclear energy through sponsorship programs.
Analysis of Interest
News of Interest
Week Three Arrives; State-Parties Discuss Regional Nonproliferation Challenges
August 16, 2022
NPT Review Conferences are marathons of meetings, dueling statements, and discreet diplomacy. As the third week of the 10th NPT Review Conference begins, we are beginning to see some of the outlines of what might emerge at the finish line on August 26.
The goal for States-Parties is to produce a meaningful, consensus document that reviews implementation and compliance and establishes updated commitments, recommendations, and follow-up steps for actions to advance the goals and objectives of the treaty in the future.
Up to this point, Main Committee 2 discussions on non-proliferation have mainly focused on regional issues of concern for all State-Parties that are probably outside the realm of what this particular NPT RevCon can help to influence or decide.
Not surprisingly states’ positions on these issues do not appear to be as divided as they are on issues under Main Committee 1 – on disarmament— which may prove to be the most challenging set of issues around which to develop consensus by the end of the month-long conference.
This update briefly summarizes the discussions on regional nonproliferation challenges. Our next edition will analyze the first drafts of the key documents related to the disarmament pillar of the NPT: the Draft Report of Subsidiary Body 1 on “Nuclear Disarmament and Security Assurances” and the Draft Report of Main Committee I.
WMD Free Zone in the Middle East
As Tomisha Bino writes in her article in the July 2022 issue of Arms Control Today, the establishment of a WMD Free zone in the Middle East has been one of the most contentious issues at past NPT ReCons, but may not be the make-or-break issue at the 2022 conference.
Historically, the group of Arab states has called for the implementation of the 1995 “Resolution of the Middle East” and has conditioned their support for a final consensus document on concrete steps they believe would help advance the initiative. Over the past weeks, numerous Arab states have noted that the adoption of a resolution of a WMD Free Zone in the Middle East was crucial to the indefinite extension of the NPT as noted by Reaching Critical Will’s latest NPT News In Review.
A wide range of states underscored the importance of the initiative without spelling out in detail how to move it forward. Indonesia, delivered a statement on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) stressing that “the Group once again expresses its longstanding strong support for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, […] which is an integral and essential part of the package of decisions reached without a vote that enabled the indefinite extension of the Treaty in 1995.” The UK and Russia reiterated their general support for an WMDFZ in the Middle East.
Due to the disagreements on how to advance the Middle East WMDFZ at the 2015 NPT Review Conference, the United States blocked consensus on the final conference document. (For a U.S. perspective on the episode, see: “Learning from the 2015 NPT Review Conference,” by Thomas Countryman, in Arms Control Today, May 2020 )
As Tomisha Bino notes in her article, in the wake of the 2015 RevCon, “the Arab Group in 2018 tabled a proposal at the UN General Assembly First Committee on convening a conference on establishing a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone. The group acted a few months after the United States submitted a working paper to the 2018 NPT preparatory committee arguing that the NPT review cycles were not an appropriate forum for the zone issue.”
Since then, two such meetings have been held. (See: “Work Continues on Middle Eastern WMD-Free Zone,” in Arms Control Today, January/February 2022.) The UN-convened meetings on the Middle East Zone have been welcomed by the Arab group as a step in the right direction and apparently have reduced some of the friction that has erupted over the issue in the past.
“We appreciate the outcomes of these two sessions. We call on Israel, as well as the United States, which is a co-sponsor of the 1995 resolution, to join the process and participate in these sessions. We hope that the states of the region will, in the foreseeable future, be able to reach an agreement on the establishment of a WMD-free zone. For our part, we will provide all possible assistance,” voiced the Russian Delegation.
Whether the Middle East WMD Free Zone issue once again emerges as a sticking point (or not) will become more apparent as states respond to draft language on the issue in the coming days.
For more information and analysis, see:
A Minor Ruckus Over AUKUS
China has expressed deep concern about the nonproliferation implications of the initiative announced in September 2021 by Australia, the U.S., and the U.K. for sharing advanced nuclear submarine propulsion technology with Australia numerous times in Main Committee 2 discussions, with sharp questions being raised by China and Indonesia and Malaysia.
If the multi-year AUKUS sub initiative ever comes to fruition, Australia could become the first non-nuclear-weapon state to field a nuclear-powered submarine. The three nations have emphasized that Australia will not acquire nuclear weapons and that they will uphold their commitment to global nonproliferation standards.
However, the decision by the United States and the UK to seek to equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines has heightened proliferation concerns because the U.S. and UK submarines are powered by onboard reactors fueled with highly enriched uranium (HEU) and because it creates unique challenges for maintaining IAEA safeguards.
An article in the December 2021 issue of Arms Control Today, “The Australia-UK-U.S. Submarine Deal: Submarines and Safeguards,” by Laura Rockwood, who served at the IAEA as the Section Head for Non-Proliferation and Policy Making in the Office of Legal Affairs, describes some of the complex IAEA safeguards considerations.
Rockwood writes that “The NPT does not prohibit the use of nuclear material for certain non-explosive military uses, such as nuclear naval propulsion. To accommodate that possibility, the comprehensive safeguards agreement includes a provision that allows a state to request the withdrawal of nuclear material from safeguards for use in such a nonprohibited activity. Prior to doing so, the state must conclude a separate, specific arrangement with the IAEA.”
Discussions between Australia, its U.S. and UK partners, and the IAEA on the issue have commenced.
The arrangement also would also appear to contradict long-running efforts to minimize the use of highly-enriched uranium. In a Sept. 21, 2021 letter to the editor published in The New York Times, Rose Gottemoeller, former U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, criticized the proposal to share HEU-fueled submarines with Australia. The proposal, she wrote, “has blown apart 60 years of U.S. policy” designed to minimize HEU use. “Such uranium makes nuclear bombs, and we never wanted it in the hands of nonnuclear-weapon states, no matter how squeaky clean,” she said.
“This cooperation is unprecedented and is a textbook level example of nuclear expansion,” the Chinese delegate said on August 8. China noted that the IAEA Board of Governors has discussed this issue three times and that the AUKUS submarine initiative poses a new challenge for the IAEA safeguards system, and consequently, China said that the IAEA should establish a special committee on the subject.
In response to China’s criticisms and questions raised by Indonesia, the United States, the U.K., and Australia published a working paper on the issue.
Last week, a U.S. official said Washington would reject any proposal to create a special committee or “to address the concerns raised about the spread of highly enriched uranium and nuclear naval propulsion systems in relation to AUKUS” and accused China of politicizing the issue. (See Reaching Critical Will’s NPT News In Review for further details.)
The Restoration of Mutual Compliance with the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal
Since the start of the RevCon on August 1, many states have expressed support for the renewal of the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) at the RevCon as leaders in Tehran and in Washington continue to review the final text of a plan for the two sides to return to compliance with the agreement.
The crisis over the JCPOA has loomed over the NPT regime ever since the 2018 decision of the administration of Donald Trump to exit the deal and reimpose nuclear-related sanctions on Iran and Iran’s decision to gradually exceed the nuclear limits set by the deal and to decrease cooperation with IAEA oversight of its sensitive nuclear facilities.
“Keeping and preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which could get derailed must be brought on track. The JCPOA corresponds to our collective main goal: providing the international community with necessary assurances on the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program. Like many regions around the world, the Middle East is in a state of flux,” according to the statement of the delegation of Kazakhstan on August 8. States like Hungary, New Zealand, Finland, and Slovenia have also called out Iran for being non-compliant with its safeguard agreements with the IAEA and urged the U.S. and Iran to return to compliance.
However, is clear that the national statements delivered at the NPT RevCon on the issue will not be the decisive factor that helps advance progress on the issue. Rather final decisions on a plan to restore the deal rely primarily on the decisions of leaders in Iran and the United States on the draft text that has been negotiated over the past several months.
For more on what’s at stake with the JCPOA, see the June 11 ACA Issue Brief, “The Last Chance to Restore Compliance with the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal,” by Kelsey Davenport, ACA’s Director for Nonproliferation Policy.
The issue of North Korea and its nuclear arsenal has taken a back seat at the 10th NPT RevCon with many states at the 10th NPT Review Conference affirming that they support the denuclearization and peace on the Korean peninsula and expressing deep concern about North Korea’s ongoing efforts to produce fissile material, its ballistic missile program, and the possibility it may resume nuclear testing.
North Korea announced in 2003 that it would withdraw from the NPT in 2013, but that decision has not been recognized by NPT States-Parties as valid. Nonetheless, the regime in Pyongyang has advanced its fissile material production capacity, conducted six nuclear test explosions, and conducted numerous ballistic missile launches, and now possesses a small arsenal estimated to consist of several dozen deliverable nuclear weapons. Talks between Pyongyang and Washington to try to address these and other issues have been stalled since a failed 2018 summit in Hanoi between U.S. and North Korean leaders.
Thailand and Slovenia called for North Korea, which may soon conduct its seventh nuclear test blast, to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Meanwhile, China accused the United States of not engaging with North Korea constructively to achieve the denuclearization of the peninsula. “The U.S. only kept the "dialogue" in words and did not respond to the DPRK in earnest reasonable concern,” reads a statement by the Chinese Delegation a few days ago.
In the final analysis, the North Korean nuclear program poses a major threat to the future of the NPT system, but unfortunately, the prospects for realizing progress on denuclearization on the Korean peninsula are not likely going to get a significant boost from the NPT RevCon.
The Week Ahead
Debate and discussion on the draft outcome documents will continue this week and revised drafts will likely be issued later in the week.
The schedule for NPT RevCon meetings for the coming days is available online here. The schedules for NGO side events are here and the schedules for state-sponsored side events are here.
News Reporting on the 10th Review Conference
NPT-Related Analysis of Interest
NPT State Parties Debate How to Avert Nuclear Power Plant Disaster
August 12, 2022
Once again, issues relating to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine spilled over and into Main Committee 3 discussions at the RevCon. During the past week, Russia and Ukraine have continued to exchange accusations over the shelling at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP).
On August 8 and 9, Ukraine informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that bombardments had damaged the plant’s external power supply system, and, caused damage to the dry spent fuel storage facility. The preliminary assessment of the IAEA indicates that “there is no immediate threat to nuclear safety” although the developments surrounding Europe’s nuclear power plant are alarming. The shelling at the Zaporizhzhia NPP creates a risk of a nuclear disaster in an active combat zone.
In his opening address to the RevCon, Director of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, mentioned that the use of nuclear energy was safe, but that war was “testing this” and laid out 7 pillars for nuclear energy safety as he expressed concern over the situation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP. “In its March 3rd resolution, the IAEA’s Board of Governors expresses grave concern that the Russian Federation’s aggression was impeding the IAEA from fully and safely conducting safeguards verification activities at Ukrainian nuclear facilities in accordance with the NPT, Ukraine’s safeguards agreement, and the Statute,” said Grossi.
During Main Committee 3 discussions, Ukraine and numerous other countries at the RevCon raised concerns about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP. “We reiterate our call on the international community to close the sky over the nuclear power plants of Ukraine and to provide air defense systems. This would contribute to the protection of all Ukraine’s NPPs, as well as the further release of the ZNPP and its return to the control of Ukraine,” reads a Statement of the Ukrainian Delegation on August 9.
As a sign of support for Ukraine, Western states also maintained that the solution to the situation of the Zaporizhzhia NPP was that Russia immediately left the NPP facilities. “We urge the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw its military and other personnel from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant so that the Ukrainian authorities can resume their sovereign responsibilities and that the legitimate operating staff can conduct their duties without outside pressure and interference,” said the EU delegation.
So far, these calls have only resulted in Russia attempting to legitimize its occupation of the Zaporizhzhia NPP as it accused Ukraine of attacking the NPP. “On 5–7 August, Ukraine committed several criminal acts in the form of artillery and rocket attacks on the Zaporizhzhia NPP. As a result, a fire broke out on the territory of the plant, and the high-voltage power line and pipelines were damaged, which could lead to a large-scale disaster. This left more than 10 thousand people without electricity and water supply,” reads a statement from the Russian representation at the UN on August 8.
Meanwhile, states like Cuba and Iran simply expressed concern about threats and attacks on nuclear facilities, and Cuba also emphasized the need to negotiate comprehensive instruments to prohibit attacks or threats to nuclear facilities which may be an area for potential agreement between State-Parties.
Security Council Debate
Earlier this week, Russia then called for a UN Security Council Meeting to discuss its allegations about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP.
At the opening of the August 11 UNSC meeting just down the hallway from the ongoing NPT meetings, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed grave concern about the unfolding situation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP and called for the cessation of all military activities in the vicinity of the powerplant and surrounding its facilities. “Instead, urgent agreement is needed at a technical level on a safe perimeter of demilitarization to ensure the safety of the area,” stated Guterres.
Guterres was not the only high-ranking figure who expressed grave concern. During his briefing to the UN Security Council, Director of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi noted that all of the pillars he had listed in his address to the RevCon “have been compromised if not entirely violated at one point or another during this crisis,” as he asked both sides to cooperate and stressed that the IAEA mission must be allowed to conduct its mission in the Zaporizhzhia NPP.
In response, Russia claimed that it supported nuclear safety and that it adhered to all of the principles in favor of nuclear security. The Russian delegation stated that Russia and the IAEA had agreed to a full schedule for an agency mission to the Zaporizhzhia NPP, but the UN department of safety and security failed to give the mission a green light and the trip was canceled. The Russian delegation also added that it hoped an UN-supported mission would be able to visit by the end of August but conditioned the visit to “the end of Ukrainian shelling.”
“We strongly reject the attempts by Russia to escape responsibility for the delay by blaming Ukraine, by blaming the United Nations Secretary-General, by blaming the UN Secretariat,” expressed the Ukrainian delegation while it accused Russia of staging the bombardment surrounding the Zaporizhzhia NPP although it supported the IAEA mission visit.
During the UNSC meeting, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins called for Russia to leave the Zaporizhzhia NPP, yet she also reiterated U.S. support for Ukraine’s proposal to create a demilitarized zone surrounding the NPP. The U.S. also affirmed its support for the IAEA mission.
While State-Parties disagreed on culpability, all agreed that the IAEA must conduct a visit to the Zaporizhzhia NPP for the sake of nuclear security.
For more details on the August 11 UN Security Council Meeting, see: "In quotes: UN Security Council discusses Zaporizhzhia" by World Nuclear News.
For more on the risks to nuclear reactors in wartime and options to bolster norms against attacking them, see: “The Danger of Nuclear Reactors in War,” via Project Syndicate, Aug 5, 2022, by Bennett Ramberg, a former foreign affairs officer in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, who is the author of Nuclear Power Plants as Weapons for the Enemy (University of California Press, 1985).
Main Committee 1 Finds Itself in a Predictable Predicament
August 9, 2022
Last week, Main Committee held discussions about recommendations for nuclear disarmament. However, it came as little surprise that State-Parties, find themselves divided about whether progress on disarmament requires better relations between nuclear-armed states or disarmament helps to reduce tensions and facilitate risk reduction.
On one hand, nuclear weapon states (NWS) put emphasis on creating a security environment conducive to nuclear disarmament as they acknowledged the importance of the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. “The instability and insecurity of today’s security environment naturally affect our ability to advance disarmament efforts,” said U.S. Ambassador Adam Scheinman on August 4 as he recognized the responsibility that the U.S. holds in regards to leading disarmament efforts.
The Russian delegation echoed the sentiment in their statement the same day. “The international security situation is such that the consolidated efforts of the ‘NPT community to create a favorable global climate for the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons and to make this process consistent and sustainable are now particularly needed to make progress toward this goal,” according to the deputy head of the delegation of the Russian Federation.
Meanwhile, non-nuclear weapon states believe that nuclear weapons create a dangerous security environment, and progress on disarmament helps to improve international peace and stability, and security.
Non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS) such as Costa Rica, Mexico, Malaysia, and Brazil criticized the nuclear weapon states' approach and called for further action and accountability on nuclear disarmament. “For one, benchmarks and deadlines, so far fiercely resisted. We are also distant from having a common reporting system enabling the membership to compare over time and among NWS progress in the inter-sessional period. Reluctance to deepen and to widen the dialogue on accountability within the NPT stands in the way of making it effectively co-owned by NWS and NNWS,” stated the representative of Brazil.
Nuclear Sharing Concerns
Earlier in the General Debate, Germany exercised its “Right of Reply” in response to the accusations by a States Party that the presence of U.S. sub-strategic nuclear weapons (and on the territory of four other NATO member states) violates the NPT. “The fundamental purpose of NATO’s nuclear capability is and has always been to preserve peace, prevent coercion, and deter aggression… NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements, which include U.S. nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe and Dual-Capable Aircraft provided by a number of European Allies, continue to be, fully consistent and compliant with the NPT,” declared German Ambassador Thomas Göbel.
Regardless of Germany’s declaration, several State-Parties brought up the issue of U.S. “nuclear sharing,” the practice of non-nuclear weapon states hosting nuclear weapons that belong to a nuclear weapon state. China declared that it was opposed to the proliferation of “nuclear sharing” and alleged that it had negative consequences for the security environment. While nuclear sharing was an arrangement during the first negotiations of the NPT, some states like China argued that it was necessary for states to consider the new international security situation.
Malaysia also voiced similar concerns. “We question the commitment of Non-Nuclear Weapon States that call for nuclear disarmament while living under the protection of nuclear weapons under extended deterrence and assurance guarantees provided by the Nuclear Weapon States,” stated the Representative of Malaysia.
Another issue that emerged during the Main Committee I debate was the possibility of a Russia-Belarus “nuclear sharing” arrangement. Delegations such as Poland and the European Union expressed concern about the change in Belarus’ non-nuclear status. As he criticized Russia’s nuclear posture and its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the Representative of Poland stated that “Belarus’ renouncements of its nuclear-free status, following the amendment of the constitution, and other signals and declarations regarding the possibility of hosting Russian nuclear weapons on Belarussian territory add further complexity to this negative picture.”
Civil Society Speaks Up for Arms Control and Disarmament
Late on Friday afternoon, August 5 (day 5) of the NPT Review Conference, several representatives from the 151 registered NGOs at the conference shared their ideas with State-Parties in a series of 20 short, five-minute presentations to a half-empty General Assembly hall. Though several major delegations, including the United States, were present, some civil society organizations noted there was a “glaring absence of state delegations” in the room.
The first set of presentations focused on the experiences of the Hibakusha, the A and H-bomb survivors from Japan. Masako Wada of Nagasaki, who was one year old when the United States dropped the “Fat Man” plutonium bomb on 77 years ago today, delivered a statement on behalf of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb survivors in which she called for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
“What has the world done in the 52 years since the NPT entered into force?” Wada asked. “Non-nuclear weapon states and Hibakusha were frustrated by the nuclear weapon states’ neglect of their obligation to implement the NPT. The nuclear-armed states and their allies should recognize the fact that, due to their insincerity and arrogance, the entire human race is on the brink of nuclear war,” she declared.
Two young Ukrainian voices, Yelyzaveta Khodorovska together with Valeriia Hesse, delivered a powerful statement on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish nuclear weapons (ICAN).
“An NPT nuclear-weapon state threatens to use its nuclear arsenal not only against a sovereign NPT non-nuclear-weapon state but against anyone who dares to intervene in the conflict to help protect innocent lives. Nuclear weapons are killing people in Ukraine even when they are not used because Russia is utilizing nuclear deterrence as a shield to protect its atrocities. This is unacceptable. As parties to the NPT, it is your job to condemn this and all nuclear threats,” said Khodorovska.
“Why am I here? I am Liza, I am 18 years old, I am Ukrainian, and I do hope for the safe future of my country and the world. The future with less fear. The future with no nuclear war. The future with no nuclear weapons,” she concluded.
ACA Executive Director, Daryl Kimball, and ICAN Advocacy Coordinator, Alicia Sanders Zakre also co-delivered a statement endorsed by their groups and 35 other nongovernmental organizations about the necessity of a meaningful action plan on the VI on the NPT.
“Clearly, the nuclear arms reduction process envisioned by the NPT regime is currently not working. The deficit in disarmament diplomacy and the growing nuclear danger means that this is no ordinary NPT Review Conference,” they warned.
“[H]istory will judge the success or failure of this pivotal NPT meeting as to whether or not delegations can reach an agreement on a meaningful and updated disarmament action plan, and whether your governments make good on that plan in the months and years that follow.”
The full statement is online here.
The full set of NGO presentations and governmental statements are available on Reaching Critical Will’s comprehensive NPT RevCon web page: https://reachingcriticalwill.org/disarmament-fora/npt/2022/statements
New START Inspection Problems Emerge
On August 8, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it won’t support the resumption of inspections of its nuclear arsenal under the New START nuclear arms treaty because of travel restrictions imposed in March by the United States after Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine. The inspections have been suspended since early 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
To date, both sides have been observing its limits and have expressed support for its implementation.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the United States wanted to have a team of inspectors resume on-site monitoring, but Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced in a statement Monday that the American inspections couldn’t resume at this time because U.S. travel and visa restrictions precluded Russian aircraft from flying Russian inspectors to American territory for reciprocal inspections.
The Foreign Ministry said the situation creates “unilateral advantages for the United States and effectively deprives the Russian Federation of the right to carry out inspections on American soil.”
Just last week, President Biden said in a statement ahead of Review Conference that he was “ready to expeditiously negotiate a new arms control framework” that would replace the New START before it expires in early 2026. “But” he added, “negotiation requires a willing partner operating in good faith.”
Main Committee II and Committee III
On August 8, Committee II on non-proliferation and Committee III on the uses of nuclear technology began their work. Committee I will reconvene on August 9.
Nagasaki Day Remembered
Ceremonies were held earlier today to mark the 77th anniversary of the United States atomic bomb attack on the city of Nagasaki, which killed and wounded hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting men, women, and children in a horrible blast of fire and radiation, followed by deadly fallout. See: "Nagasaki Mayor Warns Of 'Crisis' On Atom Bomb Anniversary," By AFP - Agence France Presse, August 8, 2022
Key Themes Emerge: Sparks Fly During the Tenth Review Conference
August 4, 2022
In the first days of general debate at the 10th NPT Review Conference, delegates representing states-parties affirmed the value of the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime with a sense of urgency driven by growing concern about the nuclear danger. "Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during his opening address to the Review Conference.
The Ghost of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine and Nuclear Threats
Numerous states took the time to condemn Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and its nuclear saber-rattling or at least expressed concern about the nuclear dimensions of the war during their opening statements.
"The Russian leadership openly threatens the world with its ability to use nuclear weapons, backed by clear calls to do so by Russian media, "said Mykola Tochitskyi, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. Tochitskyi also noted that "for the first time in history, civil nuclear facilities have been turned into military targets and springboards for the Russian army in breach of the NPT provisions on the peaceful use of nuclear energy,” during the first day of the conference. "The world witnesses how nuclear terrorism sponsored by the nuclear weapons state [Russia], is arising in reality,” stated the Ukrainian delegation.
Interestingly, Sergey Ryabkov, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, was scheduled to deliver Russia’s opening statement on the first day of the conference. Nonetheless, the Russian statement was delivered by Igor Vishnevetskii, Deputy Head of the Russian Delegation at the RevCon on the second day although they were slated to speak on the third day according to the UN General Debate Program.
Vishnevertskii first relayed President Vladimir Putin’s message to the RevCon in which Putin claimed that Russia consistently adheres to the letter and spirit of the Treaty and reiterated that nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought. In his statement, Vishnevetskii alleged that "Russia, which is forced to defend its legitimate right to its core security interests, has been subjected to a hybrid military campaign fraught with a slide into a direct armed conflict between nuclear powers.”
Multiple states also expressed worry about the state of Russian-occupied nuclear power facilities in Ukraine. On August 3, Russia exercised its "Right of Reply” and denied all allegations regarding the use of the Zaporizhzhia power plant as a springboard for military operations and alleged that Ukraine was targeting the Zaporizhzhia power plant using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in an attempt to legitimize its occupation. Ukraine replied to the allegations by reiterating the UN-approved resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and retorted that the Zaporizhzhia power plant did not need the protection of the Russian military. "Russian forces should end their temporary occupation,” said a representative of the Ukrainian Delegation to the Conference.
"Responsible” and "Irresponsible” Nuclear Threats?
In their opening statements, representatives from the United States, the UK, and France, along with their NATO allies, condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats against any state that might interfere in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and deemed them as "irresponsible nuclear threats” as an attempt to distinguish between the nuclear practices of the five NPT nuclear weapon states.
"We recognize our special charge to be responsible custodians of nuclear weapons and to work persistently to achieve conditions that would allow for their potential elimination,” reads a July 29 working paper for the RevCon from France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. "We reject irresponsible rhetoric concerning potential nuclear use intended for military coercion, intimidation, or blackmail. We recall that nuclear weapons – for as long as they continue to exist – should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression and prevent war,” the paper asserts.
In contrast, in their comments about Russia’s nuclear threat rhetoric, several other NPT states-parties, such as Ireland and Austria, echoed the more categorical condemnation of nuclear threats in the June 23 consensus political statement issued at the conclusion of the first meeting of states parties of TPNW. That statement asserts that "…any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is a violation of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations.” The statement further condemned "unequivocally any and all nuclear threats, whether they be explicit or implicit and irrespective of the circumstances.”
The Russian Delegation sought to "address some of the allegations” against Russia by utilizing its Right of Reply in August 2. "We would also like to strongly reject the utterly unfounded, detached from reality, and unacceptable speculations that Russia allegedly threatens to use nuclear weapons, particularly in Ukraine. We do not rule out the possibility that this is done on purpose in order to fuel anti-Russian hysteria,” said Alexander Trofimov, a Russian representative at the RevCon.
Trofimov went on to justify Putin’s nuclear rhetoric by arguing that ".. any military confrontation between nuclear rivals must be prevented since it is fraught with the risk of escalation to the nuclear level. This is the essence of Russia's warnings about the potential consequences of direct aggression by NATO countries against our country in the context of the Ukrainian crisis ….”
How the states parties will, or will not, agree on how to condemn some or all threats of nuclear weapons use is not yet clear, and may determine whether the meeting rises to the moment of growing nuclear risk, or not.
Click here to read more about ACA’s Nuclear Disarmament Monitor’s extensive coverage of Russia’s nuclear threats.
A Call for the Nuclear Weapon States to Make Due on their Article VI Obligations
At the beginning of the RevCon, President Joe Biden released a statement expressing his willingness to "expeditiously a new arms control framework to replace New START” and called on Russia to negotiate in good faith and "demonstrate that it is willing to resume nuclear arms control with the United States.” The move echoes President Biden’s remarks in a letter to the ACA on June 2. In his letter, President Biden stated that the United States must continue to engage with Russia on issues related to strategic stability "perhaps more than any other time since the Cold War.”
While this announcement was welcomed by several non-nuclear weapon states, many of them sought far greater commitments from states who possess nuclear weapons to reduce their stockpiles. For instance, the delegation for Azerbaijan, who spoke on the behalf of the Non-Aligned State Parties to the NPT, stressed that nuclear disarmament is of the highest priority and that the existence of nuclear weapons posed a threat to humanity. Even states that condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in their statements pointed out the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. "After all, if the most powerful militaries in the world need nuclear weapons to feel safe, why shouldn’t everyone have them too [although that is not an argument that New Zealand can subscribe to]?” questioned the Hon Phil Twyford from New Zealand during the General Debate as he argued that more nuclear weapons would not make the world a safer place.
Even states under the NATO nuclear umbrella such as Turkey and Hungary called upon nuclear weapon states to make due on their article VI obligations. Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s Foreign Minister stated that the NPT must be respected by all countries and that the use of nuclear weapons must be avoided and called on the nuclear weapon states to resume dialogue on incremental nuclear disarmament. "Nobody should play their geopolitical games to our [Central Europe, Ukraine’s neighborhood] detriment,” said Szijjártó. The Turkish delegation noted that Turkey is committed to pursuing "systematic, progressive, verifiable and irreversible nuclear disarmament, in accordance with Article VI of the NPT” before calling on all states who possess nuclear weapons "to take further practical steps in this direction.”
By the end of the General Debate, the NATO representative, an observer at the NPT RevCon, voiced its consistent support for efforts dedicated to strategic risk reduction agreements in line with the provisions of the NPT and declared that the Allies were doing their part in regards to their Treaty obligations. The delegation also reiterated its opposition to the TPNW. "The primary purpose of NATO’s nuclear capability has been to preserve peace, prevent coercion, and deter aggression,” said the NATO representative.
Following the conclusion of the General Debate, state delegations will move to discuss specific issues in their respective committees.
10th Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty RevCon Finally Begins
August 1, 2022
Note: this is the first of several twice-weekly posts through August on key developments at the NPT meeting from our team on the ground in New York and Washington: research associate Gabriela Rosa Hernandez, with support from executive director Daryl Kimball.
Today, state parties to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will finally convene for the pandemic delayed Review Conference for the treaty, which is a cornerstone of the effort to maintain international peace and security. The conference will begin with a general debate, including high-level speeches by world leaders—such as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida—before the meeting turns to a review of thematic issues later in the week into the second week. NGOs will formally address the governmental delegates Friday, Aug. 5.
Several ministers and world leaders have issued statements ahead of the start of the conference. U.S. President Joseph Biden issued a statement this morning in which he declared: "Even at the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were able to work together to uphold our shared responsibility to ensure strategic stability. Today, my Administration is ready to expeditiously negotiate a new arms control framework to replace New START when it expires in 2026. But negotiation requires a willing partner operating in good faith."
The review conference caps a five-year cycle of meetings in which states-parties review compliance with the NPT and seek agreement on steps to advance the treaty’s main goals: preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons and sensitive nuclear technology and halting and reversing the nuclear arms race and advancing nuclear disarmament. According to the report of the 2019 preparatory committee for the 10th review conference, the 2022 meeting will address three blocs of issues including nuclear disarmament and security issues, regional issues, and "the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and improving the effectiveness of the treaty.
The month-long conference will meet in the context of several negative developments:
In other words, this is no ordinary NPT Review Conference. It is probably the most consequential since state parties agreed to the indefinite extension of the NPT at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference.
"We’ll either have an NPT-based system for reducing nuclear risks or we’ll have no treaty-based system at all. There is, as I say, no in between or other treaty we can turn to or possibly negotiate today that would replace the NPT with the same broad participation,” said Ambassador Adam M. Scheinman, the U.S. Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation in a special online briefing July 26.
In January 2021 in an interview with Arms Control Today, President Designate of the 10th Review Conference, Gustavo Zlauvinen, noted that the success of the review conference depends in part on whether the states-parties can agree on steps to make progress on all three pillars, particularly on their NPT Article VI obligations.
"The NPT has managed to overcome all those challenges in the past. I hope and I really believe that the NPT and its members are going to overcome the current challenges,” Zlauvinen said.
Side Events and Additional Resources
Many official and nonofficial side events are scheduled through the course of the month and are listed on the official conference side-events calendar and from our colleagues at Reaching Critical Will. Some events will be in-person only while some will also be webcast.
ACA experts will be participating in several side events:
News Reporting on the 10th Review Conference
Statements of Interest
July 29, 2022
ACA’s team will be at UN headquarters in New York monitoring the 10th nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference and engaging with key delegations to work together for a productive outcome. Our team will publish updates on developments in this space twice weekly.
Our chief message is that in the face of the growing danger of nuclear war, this is a critical opportunity for the treaty’s 191 states-parties to reinforce the norms against nuclear weapons, strongly condemn any threat of nuclear weapons use, and intensify the pressure for action to fulfill the treaty’s Article VI provision "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”