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What Is Safeguards Effectiveness?

What Is Safeguards Effectiveness?

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Verification as an Important Component of International Treaties

There are a number of international treaties and agreements in the field of nuclear arms control and non-proliferation. Their viability depends on mutual trust between the parties involved, reinforced by mechanisms for verification. For example, in U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreements, there is mutual verification of each state’s compliance with obligations under agreement. The following factors may contribute to an agreement’s viability: (a) the capability to detect a significant violation of the agreement, (b) the timeliness of such detection, and(c) the response to the violation. In general terms, the viability of such an agreement may rest upon two components: a verification component consisting of detection and reporting of findings, and a “political” component consisting of the parties responding to findings, as appropriate, through enforcement.

There are several international agreements aimed at ensuring that nuclear energy will be used peacefully, the most important of which is the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards system, which was developed beginning in the 1960s, was adopted as the verification mechanism for the NPT. The obligations of the non-nuclear weapon states that are parties to the NPT have been translated from Articles II and III of the NPT to the text of Paragraphs1 and 2 of the comprehensive safeguards agreements (CSA) that these states are required to conclude with the IAEA. The purpose of this system is to verify compliance of the states with their obligations under safeguards agreements. If the IAEA detects non-compliance in a state,the IAEA reports this conclusion to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). If in such a case the state does not cooperate in resolving the non-compliance, enforcement1 measures may be applied by IAEA member states through the authority of the UNSC; enforcement is the prerogative of the international community and the UNSC, not the IAEA Secretariat.

The nuclear non-proliferation regime includes legally binding obligations of states under the NPT and nuclear-weapons-free zone (NWFZ) treaties, as well as numerous states’ initiatives,such as proliferation-resistant nuclear fuel cycles, multilateral export-control arrangements,and international nuclear fuel banks. The effectiveness of the non-proliferation regime may ultimately be measured in terms of the number of states that have acquired nuclear weapons since the establishment of the regime.The effectiveness of the non-proliferation regime depends, first of all, on the viability of the legally binding arrangements, most of all on the viability of the NPT and NWFZ treaties. In practice, it also depends on the ability of the IAEA to detect non-compliance—in other words, on the effectiveness of IAEA verification. Beyond verification, the regime’s effectiveness depends on the international community to appropriately respond to a finding of a state’s non-compliance with its safeguards obligations. This paper addresses the topic of the effectiveness of IAEA verification. The defining and reporting of non-compliance by the IAEA Board of Governors, although very important, is not considered in this paper. The term “safeguards effectiveness” means, for the purpose of this paper, the effectiveness of IAEA verification—that is, the ability of the IAEA to detect non-compliance.

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