New Nuclear Suppliers Group Guidelines on Sensitive Nuclear Technology Called
"An Overdue But Important Step" to Strengthen the Nonproliferation System
For Immediate Release: June 27, 2011
Media Contact: Daryl G. Kimball (202-463-8270, x107).
(Washington, D.C.) The director of the independent Arms Control Association praised last week's decision by the 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to tighten its guidelines regarding the transfer of uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing facilities, equipment and technology.
“The NSG has taken an important, if overdue, decision to tighten its rules on the transfer of equipment and technology that can be used to make fissile material for nuclear weapons,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, which has advocated for the consistent application of tougher NSG rules.
The new guidelines, which were approved at the NSG's June 23-24 meeting in the Netherlands, bar the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology to states that have not signed or are not in compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), do not allow comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, and do not allow more extensive monitoring under the terms of the IAEA Additional Protocol.
The decision by the NSG to revise its guidelines on enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) equipment and technology comes after more than seven years of discussion on the subject by the body, which meets only twice a year and operates by consensus.
The NSG’s previous policy on enrichment and reprocessing transfers had simply been that “[s]uppliers should exercise restraint in the transfer of sensitive facilities, technology and material usable for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices” and that any enrichment facility or enrichment technology should not be designed or operate for the production of greater than 20% enriched uranium without the consent of the supplier. Enrichment and reprocessing facilities can be used to produce bomb-grade uranium and plutonium.
The new guidelines build upon the existing rules and clarify that “suppliers should not authorize the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing facilities, and equipment and technology … if the recipient does not meet, at least, all of the following criteria:
- Is a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and is in full compliance with its obligations under the Treaty;
- Has not been identified in a report to the IAEA Secretariat which is under consideration by the IAEA Board of Governors, as being in breach of its obligations to comply with its safeguards agreement, nor continues to be the subject of Board of Governors decisions calling on it to take additional steps to comply with its safeguards obligations or to build confidence in the peaceful nature of its programme ….;
- Is adhering to NSG guidelines and has reported to the Security Council of the United Nations that it is implementing effective export controls as identified by Security Council Resolution 1540; and
- …has brought into force a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, and an Additional Protocol based on the Model Additional Protocol, or pending this, is implementing appropriate safeguards agreements in cooperation with the IAEA Board of Governors.”
Other conditions for ENR transfers include: assurances on non-explosive use, effective safeguards in perpetuity, and retransfer; commitment to international standards of physical protection; commitment to IAEA safety standards and international safety conventions. The new guidelines also allow suppliers of ENR to consider “any relevant factors as may be applicable” to ensure the transfer is used for peaceful purposes only.
The new NSG ENR guidelines also stipulate that for the transfer of an enrichment facility or equipment based on newer technology, suppliers should “[a]void, as far as practicable, the transfer of enabling design and manufacturing technology associated with such items” and seek from recipients an appropriate agreement to accept the transfer “under conditions that do not permit or enable replication of the facilities.”
“The NSG’s new enrichment and reprocessing guidelines make explicit that sensitive ENR technologies should not be sold to states with nuclear weapons programs outside the NPT and that do not have full-scope safeguards,” noted Kimball.
Only three states have never signed the NPT: India, Israel, and Pakistan. Iran, North Korea, and Syria are currently in noncompliance with their IAEA safeguards obligations.
The NSG was formed in 1975 in response to India’s misuse of civilian nuclear assistance for its nuclear weapons program. Its guidelines are voluntary and are designed to reinforce legal prohibitions on the use of peaceful nuclear technology for military purposes.
“The NSG’s new guidelines, while country neutral, fix a key flaw in the 2008 India-specific exemption from most NSG rules and ensure that sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technologies will not be transferred to India and used in its unsafeguarded military nuclear program,” said Kimball.
The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. For more information on the NSG, see ACA's Website. For more information on the India and the NSG, see ACA's blog, ArmsControlNow.org.