This is an excerpt from a discussion paper prepared for the seventh meeting of the Global Dialogue, entitled "Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and Nuclear Facilities Regime: A Path Forward." To read the full paper, click the link below.
The Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) process brought high-level political attention to the threat of nuclear terrorism, leading to tangible actions that strengthened global nuclear security. With the end of the NSS process in early 2016 and many nuclear security challenges remaining, the nuclear expert and government communities have debated how to sustain momentum and progress without a follow-on process. Several experts argued that the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM), the only international treaty that specifically obligates signatories to protect nuclear materials, could provide a much needed forum for dialogue on nuclear security following the NSS process if states parties invoked Article 16, which allows a majority of states parties to call for review conferences at periods of at least five years. Beyond the initial review conference that was required five years after entry into force of the CPPNM, Article 16 has never been invoked. At the 2016 NSS, states appeared to agree and committed to calling for regular CPPNM review conferences in the IAEA Action Plan. More importantly, immediately after the 2016 NSS, the Amendment to the CPPNM entered into force, triggering Article 16 of the amended treaty—known as the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and Nuclear Facilities (CPP)—, which requires the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to convene a review conference five years after the CPP’s entry into force, that is, in 2021.
The CPP significantly enhances the international legal framework for nuclear security by expanding the scope of physical protection requirements and providing a direct linkage to IAEA nuclear security guidance through incorporation of the IAEA’s nuclear security Fundamental Principles. The CPP’s entry into force also requires states parties to submit reports under Article 14 informing the IAEA of its laws and regulations giving effect to the treaty, which can build confidence in states’ nuclear security. (States parties were required to do so under the original CPPNM, but the scope of the reports will need to expand to reflect the expanded scope of the convention.) The CPP can play an increasingly important role in efforts to strengthen the international nuclear security architecture through its review conferences if parties agree to convene them regularly. The years prior to the 2021 CPP review conference provide an opportunity for states parties to establish a regular review conference process that will sustain attention on nuclear security and promote continued progress. This paper identifies key issues that states parties should consider and proposes ways to design the review conference, drawing lessons from other review conference processes as well as the successes of the NSS process.