U.S. Provides Nonproliferation Aid to Myanmar

WASHINGTON – U.S. nuclear specialists last week offered in-person assistance to Myanmar's plan to accept greater international scrutiny of any atomic activities.

Myanmar has been suspected of pursuing a rudimentary effort to develop a nuclear weapon, possibly with support from North Korea. The Southeast Asian state’s leadership has denied those claims and says at present it has even given up hopes of establishing an atomic energy program.

The Obama administration heightened relations with Myanmar after its long-ruling military junta transitioned into a civilian government. The State Department said in September that U.S. concerns on possible secret nuclear work had been “partially allayed” by the end of 2011.

Officials from the National Nuclear Security Administration were in Myanmar’s capital from Jan. 9-11 for a workshop with atomic energy, science and diplomatic officials.

“The purpose of the workshop was to promote awareness of the international safeguards system, including elements and requirements for the implementation of the IAEA Additional Protocol and the modified Small Quantities Protocol,” the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar said in a release issued on Wednesday.

The civilian government in Naypyidaw announced in November it intended to accede to the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Safeguards measures such as on-site inspections are intended to ensure civilian nuclear programs are not turned toward production of nuclear weapons. The protocol gives the U.N. nuclear watchdog greater access to data and facilities relevant to member states’ atomic sectors.

"They basically said we don't have a nuclear program. They are currently implementing a Small Quantities Protocol, which means they don't have any nuclear materials or nuclear facilities," a U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration official said on Wednesday.

The nation would be required to declare such assets under the Additional Protocol. It remains in the "earlier stages" of accession with the protocol, which would have to be signed and then ratified by lawmakers, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

The workshop provided information on safeguards systems and the steps Myanmar would have to take to implement the protocols, including establishing an interagency infrastructure that would encompass a dedicated team able to collect data and engage with the U.N. nuclear agency.

Officials from the State Department and the agency were also in attendance at workshop, according to the embassy.

There was discussion between NNSA and Myanmar Atomic Energy Department officials on “additional opportunities for continued cooperation in the area of safeguards,” the release states. That could include additional discussions and workshops on the safeguards protocols and conducting tabletop planning as well as an exercise for an actual inspection, the official said.

"Our role and function was simply to support the government there as they take their steps to increase their dialogue and transparency with the IAEA, and to put them on the road towards meeting these international obligations," he said.

January 16, 2013

WASHINGTON – U.S. nuclear specialists last week offered in-person assistance to Myanmar's plan to accept greater international scrutiny of any atomic activities.