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Diplomacy in Action

Cluster 3: Nonproliferation-Responsible Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation

May 10, 2007


Statement by Dr. Christopher Ford, United States Special Representative for Nuclear Nonproliferation
2007 Preparatory Committee for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Vienna, Austria
May 10, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

It is fitting that we, the States Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), are meeting here in Vienna to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The Treaty and the Agency both aim to promote peaceful nuclear cooperation in ways that avoid the spread of nuclear weapons.

The Treaty couches the objective of enabling the fullest possible exchange of the peaceful benefits of nuclear technology within the context of the Treaty’s nonproliferation obligations. The first paragraph of Article IV makes clear that the exercise of each Party’s right to develop and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is in the context of fulfilling its obligations under Articles I and II of the Treaty. Likewise, Article IV’s second paragraph emphasizes that “the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information” is for the peaceful use of nuclear energy; such exchange is therefore clearly related to each Party’s nonproliferation obligations under the Treaty’s first two articles, as well as the safeguards obligation of Article III. There should be no ambiguity: participating in and facilitating the exchange of nuclear technology for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy must be consistent with the Treaty’s nonproliferation obligations.

The Agency’s statute states that its objective is to “seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world,” and to “ensure, so far as it is able, that assistance provided by it or at its request or under its supervision or control is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose.” My country shares that objective.

U.S. Support for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation

U.S. support for the responsible expansion of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy predates both the Treaty and the Agency. President Dwight D. Eisenhower enunciated it in his 1953 “Atoms for Peace” speech when he shared his vision of how nuclear technology, “this greatest of destructive forces can be developed into a great boon, for the benefit of all mankind.” Since 1953, what began with Eisenhower’s vision has become U.S. support for responsible programs worldwide ranging from power generation to scientific research, from medicine to agriculture.

U.S. support for peaceful nuclear cooperation flows through both bilateral and multilateral arrangements. The United States has long been the single largest contributor to the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation (TC) program. As part of our annual voluntary contribution, my government pledged $19.13 million to support the program in Fiscal Year 2006, approximately 25 percent of the program’s target funding. The United States also provided an additional $6.87 million in in-kind and extra-budgetary contributions in 2006. Through the TC program, the United States promotes the application of nuclear technology to such fields as health care and nutrition, water resources, food security, sustainable development, basic science, nuclear safety and security, and more in over 100 IAEA Member States.

Today I would like to highlight U.S. support for responsible peaceful nuclear cooperation through two key new initiatives: (1) assuring access to nuclear fuel; and (2) the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.

Assuring Reliable Access to Nuclear Fuel

In February 2004, President Bush proposed to close a critical loophole in the Treaty that has been exploited by nations like Iran and North Korea, who produce nuclear materials that can be used to build a nuclear weapon under the cover of civilian programs. Because of this, the President called upon leading nuclear suppliers to ensure reliable access to fuel for civil reactors at reasonable cost for those states that do not pursue enrichment and reprocessing (ENR). Creation of an international reliable fuel supply mechanism would help reduce proliferation risks by providing an incentive for states to refrain from the pursuit of these fuel-cycle technologies in exchange for certainty of supply should a disruption occur. Without such an incentive, the spread of these technologies could tempt many more states to develop the capability to produce fissile materials usable in nuclear weapons. This would not serve the interests of international peace and security, and would not be consistent with the animating purpose of the NPT to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. ENR capabilities are not necessary for nations seeking nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Acquiring these capabilities is costly, unnecessary, and diverts scarce national resources from other critical national needs. The consequence of ever more countries developing what would be in effect a “nuclear weapons option” would be profoundly dangerous, in addition to undercutting global efforts to achieve important goals shared by NPT States Party, such as Treaty universality and disarmament.

In June 2006, the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom introduced a “Concept for a Multilateral Mechanism for Reliable Access to Nuclear Fuel,” at the IAEA. The Concept includes and complements a number of initiatives that could be implemented in the near future as a first step to establish a back-up system at the IAEA that states could turn to in the event of supply disruptions. Under this proposal, if a state that had chosen not to pursue ENR experienced commercial fuel supply disruptions for reasons other than noncompliance with nonproliferation obligations, it could approach the IAEA for assistance. The Agency could then seek an alternative supplier. In addition, suppliers working together and with the IAEA could provide for backup arrangements if a particular commercial supplier were unable to meet contractual supply commitments. In this fashion, the internationally-backed system would provide even greater reliability for fuel consumers than is currently available. As a further backup, the proposal calls for the establishment of reserves of enriched uranium for reactor fuel. The IAEA is currently studying this and other proposals and is expected to report its findings next month.

The United States is already taking action. In 2005, the United States announced that it will convert up to 17.4 metric tons of highly-enriched uranium excess to national security needs into low-enriched uranium to be held nationally as a fuel reserve in support of international fuel assurances. At current market prices, 17.4 metric tons of HEU is worth approximately $1 billion. We are, in other words, already taking concrete action to make a robust and reliable fuel supply system a reality. The United States encourages other suppliers to create similar reserves and supports the initiative by the Nuclear Threat Initiative to establish an IAEA-administered fuel bank.

Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP)

A second key U.S. initiative is the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, or GNEP, which was announced in February 2006 as part of President Bush’s Advanced Energy Initiative. GNEP is intended to encourage worldwide expansion of nuclear energy as an economical, carbon-free energy source and promote international peaceful nuclear cooperation, while avoiding the spread of sensitive technologies that could contribute to nuclear weapons proliferation.

GNEP envisages a wide variety of nuclear energy-related innovations. It aims to develop small nuclear power reactors specifically designed for the power grids of developing countries and to cooperate with the IAEA on enhanced nuclear safeguards approaches and technologies. GNEP plans to develop advanced technologies for recycling spent nuclear fuel without separating plutonium as well as advanced reactors that consume transuranic elements from recycled spent fuel. Deployment of such advanced fuel cycle technologies would substantially reduce nuclear waste and simplify its disposition. This in turn will facilitate the establishment of comprehensive, reliable nuclear fuel services, which would include both reliable fuel supply and taking responsibility for the disposition of spent fuel. GNEP planning is well underway among participating countries and while much work remains to be done, we need to prepare for the future now.


In 1953, President Eisenhower noted that, “The United States knows that peaceful power from atomic energy is no dream of the future.” Since 1953, the United States has worked with partners globally to develop the many peaceful benefits of atomic energy to enhance the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people. The task that states committed to nonproliferation face today is to ensure that international cooperation in peaceful power from atomic energy continues in a responsible way.

International peaceful nuclear cooperation depends on strict compliance with nonproliferation norms and principles. Rigorous nonproliferation compliance, state-of-the-art safeguards, and proliferation-resistant technologies create the confidence needed for vibrant nuclear cooperation to bring about a worldwide sharing of the benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. But such confidence can be eroded by noncompliance by states such as Iran and North Korea. Without remedial action, such noncompliance could undermine the system of trust upon which international nuclear cooperation is based. No less important is the challenge of what the IAEA Director General has called the spread of “latent” or “virtual” nuclear weapons programs through the increased availability of fuel-cycle technology. We owe it to ourselves and the future to address these challenges firmly, while embracing new initiatives and new technologies that promise great new advances in mankind’s use of the atom for peaceful purposes in ways consistent with nonproliferation norms.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

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