Global Dialogue Discussion Paper: Strengthening the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and Nuclear Facilities Regime
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.
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