United Nations Headquarters,
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Opened for signature: 1 July 1968
Entered into force: 5 March 1970
Duration: Indefinite (extended in 1995)
Depositaries: Russia, UK, and US
States Parties: 191
The NPT is a multilateral treaty aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons including three elements: (1) non-proliferation, (2) disarmament, and (3) peaceful use of nuclear energy. These elements constitute a “grand bargain” between the five nuclear weapon states and the non-nuclear weapon states.
1. States without nuclear weapons will not acquire them;
2. States with nuclear weapons will pursue disarmament;
3. All states can access nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, under safeguards.
Nuclear & Non-Nuclear Weapon States
(Article IX): The Treaty defines nuclear weapon states (NWS) as those that had manufactured and detonated a nuclear explosive device prior to 1 January 1967. All the other states are therefore considered non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS). The five nuclear weapon states are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
(Articles I, II, III): Nuclear weapon states are not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons and not to assist, encourage, or induce any NNWS to manufacture or otherwise acquire them. Non-nuclear weapons states are not to receive nuclear weapons from any transferor, and are not to manufacture or acquire them. NNWS must accept the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on all nuclear materials on their territories or under their control.
(Articles VI): All Parties must pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.
(Article IV): The Treaty does not affect the right of state parties to develop, produce, and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, provided such activities are in conformity with Articles I and II. All state parties undertake to facilitate, and have a right to participate, in the exchange of equipment, materials, and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
(Article V): on peaceful nuclear explosions is interpreted in light of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Article VII enshrines the right of any group of states to conclude regional treaties to assure the absence of nuclear weapons in their respective territories (nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties). The remaining articles are procedural.
The NPT was accompanied by United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 255 (19 June 1968) on security assurances to NPT NNWS. On 11 April 1995, the five NWS issued harmonized negative security assurances for NNWS parties to the NPT through UNSCR 984.
Verification and Compliance
The IAEA verifies NNWS compliance with commitments under the NPT not to acquire nuclear weapons. Article III requires NNWS to conclude agreements with the IAEA to safeguard all nuclear materials in all peaceful nuclear activities. Negotiation of such an agreement should begin immediately after the NNWS’ accession to the NPT and enter into force within 18 months. In case of non-compliance with IAEA safeguards, the IAEA Board of Governors (BOG) calls upon the state to remedy the situation and reports the non-compliance to the UN Security Council (UNSC) and UN General Assembly (UNGA). The BOG may also impose specific penalties, such as curtailment or suspension of assistance, return of materials, or suspension of privileges and rights. The UNSC may impose sanctions and approve other measures. The IAEA BOG has found six states in non-compliance with their safeguards agreements: Iraq, Romania, North Korea, Libya, Iran, and Syria. There are no verification provisions for nuclear disarmament commitments under the NPT.
In accordance with Article VIII, States parties convene every five years to review the implementation of the Treaty and, since 1995, to set a forward-looking agenda. At the 1995 Review and Extension Conference, States parties decided to "strengthen" the review process and to convene 10-day Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings in each of the three years preceding a Review Conference (RevCon). If necessary, a fourth PrepCom may convene in the year of the Conference.
Review Conferences (RevCon) & Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) Meetings
2018 PrepCom for the 2020 RevCon: The second PrepCom for the 2020 RevCon assembled at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland, from 23 April to 4 May. Ambassador Adam Bugajski (Poland) served as chair. A factual summary was issued as a working paper by the chair.
The 2018 PrepCom was marked by a more contentious atmosphere than the 2017 PrepCom. Many NNWS expressed concern that NWS saw the indefinite extension of the NPT as allowing for “the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons,” while NWS emphasized that the current international security climate prevents the immediate destruction of nuclear weapons. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) appears minimally in the factual summary. States parties to the TPNW expressed the view that the TPNW complemented the NPT, while States opposed expressed the concern that the TPNW created an “alternative and contrary standard to the NPT” that would not contribute to disarmament.
2017 PrepCom for the 2020 RevCon: The First PrepCom for the 2020 RevCon assembled at the Vienna International Centre from 2 May to 12 May. Ambassador Henk Cor van der Kwast (Netherlands) served as Chair. A factual summary was issued as a working paper, which outlined the topics of discussion and concern, rather than issuing a consensus document.
The ongoing nuclear ban treaty was not discussed, despite the fact that this PrepCom session convened between the two ban treaty sessions in March and July. This has led to speculation that the relative tranquility of the discussions reflected a careful policy of avoidance, so as not to detract from dialogue regarding the NPT. Many states also voiced serious concern over North Korea's continued ballistic missile activities and the relative passivity of the international community in achieving a resolution.
2015 Review Conference: The ninth RevCon convened at the United Nations HQ in New York from 27 April to 22 May. The President-designate of the RevCon is Ambassador Taous Feroukhi (Algeria).
The following served as committee officers: Ambassador Enrique Roman-Morey (Peru) chaired Main Committee I, Ambassador Cristian Istrate (Romania) chaired Main Committee II, Ambassador David Stuart (Austria) chaired Main Committee III, and Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim (Iraq) chaired the Credentials Committee.
The Conference established three Subsidiary Bodies under the Main Committee, with Subsidiary Body 1 chaired by Ambassador Benno Laggner (Switzerland), Subsidiary Body 2 chaired by Ambassador Juan Ignacio Morro Villacián (Spain), and Subsidiary Body 3 chaired by Ambassador Kairat Abdrakhmanov (Kazakhstan). The outcome of their work was included in the report of their respective Main Committee.
After a week of general debate, States Parties started work on substantive matters during the second week after the committees and subsidiary bodies began their discussions. The greatest concerns were the issue of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East to set up a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ).
In Main Committee I and its Subsidiary Body 1, Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) and Non-nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) could not agree on the issue of nuclear disarmament and the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. NWS strongly opposed any specific timelines and did not accept the seriousness of humanitarian impact.
In Main Committee II, States Parties discussed issues of nonproliferation, safeguards, nuclear security, and NWFZ. In its Subsidiary Body 2, States Parties discussed the Middle East issue. During several informal plenary sessions, the Chair of Main Committee II tried to get agreement on his draft report but failed. States Parties were unable to overcome disagreements on the Middle East NWFZ issue.
On May 22, President Feroukhi released a Draft Final Document containing both procedural and substantive elements. Despite intensive discussions over the last four weeks, States Parties did not reach consensus on a final document. Differences pertaining to the Middle East, nuclear disarmament, and safeguards impede consensus.
2014 PrepCom for the 2015 RevCon: The Third PrepCom for the 2015 RevCon convened at the United Nations HQ in New York from 28 April to 9 May. Ambassador Enrique Roman-Morey (Peru) served as Chair. The agenda for the RevCon was adopted quickly, however, because the assembled States Parties were unable to achieve consensus on substantive recommendations to the RevCon, the Chair of the committee issued his report containing recommendations in the form of a working paper.
2013 PrepCom for the 2015 RevCon: The Second PrepCom for the 2015 RevCon convened at the United Nations in Geneva from 22 April to 3 May. Ambassador Cornel Feruta (Romania) served as Chair. He submitted a factual summary as a working paper, outlining topics discussed and views expressed.
On the first day of the conference, Ambassador Abdul Samad Minty (South Africa) gave a statement on behalf of 80 members on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons (HINW), emphasizing the indiscriminate, unacceptable harm caused by such weapons and the costs to socio-economic development, the environment, and future generations.
On 29 April, as cluster two discussions began, Egypt withdrew from the PrepCom to protest the lack of progress toward convening a conference on a MEWMDFZ. The States Parties of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Arab League also expressed dissatisfaction with the language in the Chair’s summary related to the Middle East, which they felt did not accurately reflect their priorities.
2012 PrepCom for the 2015 RevCon: The First PrepCom for the 2015 RevCon convened at the Vienna International Centre from 30 April to 11 May. Ambassador Peter Woolcott (Australia) served as Chair. The PrepCom adopted a provisional agenda and program of work. Woolcott submitted a factual summary of the substantive deliberations as a working paper.
Led in particular by Switzerland and Norway, 16 states issued the first joint statement on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament.
2010 Review Conference: The eighth RevCon convened at the United Nations HQ in New York from 3 to 28 May. Ambassador Libran Cabactulan (Philippines) served as President.
The following served as committee officers: Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku (Zimbabwe) chaired Main Committee I, Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko (Ukraine) chaired Main Committee II, Ambassador Takeshi Nakane (Japan) chaired Main Committee III, Ambassador Andrzej Towpik (Poland) chaired the Drafting Committee, and Ambassador Abulkalam Momen (Bangladesh) chaired the Credentials Committee.
The Conference established three Subsidiary Bodies under the Main Committees, with Subsidiary Body 1 chaired by Ambassador Alexander Marschik (Austria), Subsidiary Body 2 chaired by Ambassador Alison Kelly (Ireland), and Subsidiary Body 3 chaired by Ambassador Jose Luis Cancela (Uruguay). Each Subsidiary Body held more than four open-ended meetings. The outcome of their work was included in the report of their respective Main Committees.
A list of procedural items gained consensus early, allowing States Parties to start work on substantive matters during the second week when the committees and subsidiary bodies began their discussions. The draft reports of the main committees and subsidiary bodies made a clear distinction between the review sections and the forward-looking action plans.
President Cabactulan also conducted informal consultation with a Focus Group that included representatives from the United States, Russia, China, France, United Kingdom, Brazil, Cuba, Egypt, Germany, Iran, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Spain, South Africa, and other states. At these informal meetings, the most contentious issues were debated in order to narrow differences and build consensus. Ambassador Steffen Kongstad (Norway) served as a facilitator.
Three days before the RevCon concluded, President Cabactulan released a draft of the Final Document based on the substantive elements prepared by the chairs of the main committees and their subsidiary bodies. Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) believed that the disarmament sections of the draft were too ambitious, while the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was unwilling to accept the components related the universalization of Additional Protocol. There was also disagreement over language concerning implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East.
Based on the feedback received from the committees, subsidiary bodies, appointed facilitators, and the Focus Group, President Cabactulan released a revised Final Document text at the end of the penultimate day of the RevCon. No further revisions of the document were made prior to the RevCon conclusion. The Final Document is divided into a review and forward-looking section. The RevCon took note of the Review section, which was described in the footnote as the President’s responsibility, reflecting, to the best of his knowledge, what transpired with regard to matters of review. This section contains some of the issues that did not gain consensus but were often supported by the majority of states, such as specific timelines for nuclear disarmament.
The section of the Final Document titled “Conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions,” which includes 64 specific items, was adopted by consensus. It is divided into four broad sections dealing with nuclear disarmament, nuclear nonproliferation, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and the Middle East.
2009 PrepCom for the 2010 RevCon: The Third PrepCom for the 2010 RevCon convened at the United Nations HQ in New York from 4 to 15 May. Ambassador Boniface G. Chidyausiku (Zimbabwe) served as Chair. The final report of the Preparatory Committee was issued to the 2010 Con prior to its opening. Chidyausiku decided his draft recommendations would not be conveyed to the RevCon as a working paper, breaking with tradition of recent PrepComs.
2008 PrepCom for the 2010 RevCon: The Second PrepCom for the 2010 RevCon convened at the United Nations in Geneva from 28 April to 9 May. Ambassador Yelchenko (Ukraine) served as Chair. Yelchenko submitted a factual summary of the substantive deliberations as a working paper.
2007 PrepCom for the 2010 Rev Con: The First PrepCom for the 2010 RevCon convened in Vienna from 30 April to 11 May. Ambassador Yukiya Amano (Japan) served as Chair. The PrepCom adopted an agenda after several days of debate. Amano submitted a summary of the substantive discussion as a working paper.
2005 Review Conference: The seventh RevCon convened in at the United Nations HQ in New York from 2 to 27 May. 153 States Parties attended the conference. Ambassador Sergio de Queiroz Duarte (Brazil) served as President.
The following individuals served as committee officers: Ambassador Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat (Indonesia) chaired Main Committee I, Ambasador László Molnár (Hungary) chaired Main Committee II, Ambassador Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier (Sweden) chaired Main Committee III, Ambassador Doru Romulus Costea (Romania) chaired the Drafting Committee, and Ambassador Philip Richard O. Owade (Kenya) chaired the Credentials Committee.
Following opening statements, including from 17 NGOs, the delegations spent considerable time discussing the procedural issues for the Conference to adopt an agenda. On Friday of the first week, one NNWS blocked the President’s draft agenda and statement of understanding because the statement did not include the intention of the Conference to “take into account” the “outcomes” of previous conferences. This objection has its roots in the refusal of one NWS to accept reference to the outcome of the 2000 Review Conference, which included the “13 Practical Steps towards nuclear disarmament,” a refusal which appeared to have the tacit support of some other NWS.
On 11 May, the 10th day of the Conference, the delegations were able to adopt an agenda via an unconventional tactic to satisfy previous objections by key NAM members. In paragraph 16 of the agenda, which specifies the Conference’s review of the operation of the Treaty, an asterisk was added linking both a presidential statement and a NAM statement to this review. According to the presidential statement, “It is understood that the review will be conducted in light of the decisions and the resolution of previous Conferences, and allow for discussion of any issue raised by States Parties.” Furthermore, the NAM statement expresses the understanding that, “The agenda establishes a framework for conducting the review of the operation of the Treaty…the decisions and resolutions of previous Conferences, in particular the 1995 Review and Extension Conference and the decision of the 2000 Review Conference….” (Note: At the end of the Conference, additional debate ensued over the agenda and the linkage made by this asterisk. The linkage to the presidential statement remained; however, the linkage to the NAM statement did not appear in the draft final document.)
In spite of the adoption of the agenda on 11 May, discussion of procedural issues continued to prevent the substantive issues of the Treaty from being addressed. States Parties disagreed as to what issues would be discussed in the main committees and which were to be addressed in subsidiary bodies. There was particular disagreement over a subsidiary body on negative security assurances as the NAM insisted on a separate subsidiary to discuss this topic while one NWS objected giving the issue such a focus. Therefore, while the debate over the deliberative bodies continued, the President arranged time for the delegations to present their accumulating working papers during plenary sessions. These sessions were then used to present proposals until an agreement was made on 18 May regarding the time which would be allocated to the main committees and subsidiary bodies. Three subsidiary bodies were eventually established to address nuclear disarmament and security assurances, regional issues and the Middle East, and Treaty withdrawals. It was also decided that Main Committee I would address disarmament and nonproliferation education and Main Committee II would address proposals to strengthen the review process.
While the Conference did not agree on any language drafted in the Main Committees, substantive discussion did commence in the little time that remained. Each of the main committees and their subsidiary bodies considered text prepared by their chairs:
The Review Conference concluded with a presentation of the procedural reports by the main and drafting committee chairs, and closing remarks by several delegations. Each delegation expressed some degree of disappointment in the Conference’s failure to adopt an agreed final document, and most suggested that the issue of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament continue either within the NPT or in other fora. One Western Group state in particular issued stern rebuke of the failure of the States Parties to pursue solutions to the core challenges facing the Treaty, stating that, “We have let the pursuit of short-term, parochial interests override the collective long-term interest in sustaining this Treaty’s authority and integrity.” The last statement of the Conference was issued by a NAM state which used the opportunity to harshly critique the policies United States over the last five years. Following this speech, Conference President Duarte closed the Conference by thanking the delegations, the Conference officers, and the Secretariat.
2004 PrepCom for the 2005 RevCon: The Third PrepCom for the 2005 RevCon convened at the United Nations HQ in New York from 27 April to 7 May. Ambassador Sudjadnan Parnohadinigrat (Indonesia) served as Chair. Parnohadinigrat submitted a summary of the substantive discussions as a working paper.
2003 PrepCom for the 2005 RevCon: The Second PrepCom for the 2005 NPT RevCon convened at the United Nations in Geneva from 28 April to 9 May. Ambassador László Molnár (Hungary) served as Chair. The Chairman prepared a factual summary of the Committee’s consideration of the issues, which was contained in Annex II of the 2003 PrepCom report.
2002 PrepCom for 2005 RevCon: The First PrepCom for the 2005 Rev Con convened from 8 to 19 April at the United Nations HQ in New York. Ambassador Henrik Salander (Sweden) served as Chair. Salander produced a factual summary of the Committee’s consideration of the issues, which was contained in Annex II of the 2002 PrepCom report.
2000 Review Conference: The sixth RevCon convened at United Nations HQ in New York from 24 April to 19 May. Abdallah Baali (Algeria) served as President. 157 States Parties participated and one non-State party, Cuba, attended as an observer. Palestine also participated as an observer.
The following individuals served as committee officers: Ambassador Camilo Reyes (Colombia) chaired Main Committee I; Ambassador Adam Kobieracki (Poland) chaired Main Committee II, Ambassador Markku Reimaa (Finland) chaired Main Committee III; Ambassador André Erdös (Hungary) chaired the Drafting Committee; Ambassador Makmur Widodo (Indonesia) chaired the Credentials Committee.
The 2000 Review Conference held 16 plenary meetings together with several sessions of informal consultations. On 19 May, the Conference adopted a Final Document by consensus. Included in the document are thirteen practical steps for systematic and progressive efforts to implement Article VI. States Parties also agreed on measures to improve the effectiveness of the strengthened review process.
1999 PrepCom for the 2000 RevCon: The Third PrepCom for the 2000 RevCon convened at the United Nations HQ in New York from 10 to 21 May. Ambassador Camilo Reyes-Rodriguez (Columbia) served as Chair. 119 States Parties attended the PrepCom. Israel and Cuba attended as observers.
1998 PrepCom for the 2000 RevCon: The Second PrepCom for the 2000 RevCon convened at the United Nations in Geneva from 27 April to 8 May. Ambassador Eugeniusz Wyzner (Poland) served as Chair. The session was attended by 97 countries, two observers (Brazil and Israel), and 76 NGOs.
1997 PrepCom for the 200 RevCon: The First PrepCom for the 2000 NPT RevCon convened at the United Nations HQ in New York from 7 to 18 April. Ambassador Pasi Patokallio (Finland) served as Chair. 149 States Parties attended. Brazil, Cuba, Israel, and Pakistan participated as observers. Patokallio produced a factual summary of the Committee’s consideration of the issues, which was contained in Annex II of the PrepCom report.
The 1995 Review and Extension Conference (NPTREC): The Review and Extension Conference convened at United Nations HQ from 17 April to 12 May, with 175 of the then 179 States Parties taking part. Ten States not parties attended as observers, as did 195 NGOs. Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala (Sri Lanka) served as President.
The following individuals served as committee officers: Ambassador Isaac Ayewah (Nigeria) chaired Main Committee I; Ambassador André Erdös (Hungary) chaired Main Committee II; Ambassador Jaap Ramaker (Netherlands) chaired Main Committee III; Ambassador Tadeusz Strulak (Poland) chaired the Drafting Committee; Ambassador Andelfo Garcia (Colombia) chaired the Credentials Committee.
The 1995 NPTREC held 19 plenary meetings together with several sessions of informal “President’s Consultations.” On 11 May, the Conference adopted without a vote a package of three decisions, comprising Decision 1 on “Strengthening the Review Process for the Treaty”; Decision 2 on “Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament”; and Decision 3 on “Extension of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.” The Conference decided thereby “that, as a majority exists among States party to the Treaty for its indefinite extension, in accordance with Article X, Paragraph 2, the Treaty shall continue in force indefinitely.” The NPTREC also adopted draft resolution on the Middle East, as orally amended, without a vote, as Resolution 1, sponsored by the three NPT depositary States.
Decision 1 on a strengthened review process for the Treaty (largely based on Canadian and South African suggestions) specified that:
- Review Conferences should continue to be held every five years and that the next such conference should be held in the year 2000;
- beginning in 1997, the PrepCom should meet for 10 working days, in each of the three years prior to the Review Conference, and if necessary, a fourth PrepCom may be held in the year of the Review Conference;
- the purpose of the PrepCom would be to consider principles, objectives, and ways in order to promote the full implementation of the Treaty, as well as its universality, including those identified in Decision 2, and to make recommendations thereon to the Review Conference, as well as making procedural preparations;
- the present structure of the three Main Committees should continue and the question of overlap of issues being discussed in more than one Committee should be resolved in the General Committee;
- subsidiary bodies could be established within the respective Main Committees; and
- Review Conferences should look forward as well as back, identify areas for further progress in the strengthened implementation of the Treaty.
Decision 2 on principles and objectives for nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament covered seven substantive areas to promote the full realization and effective implementation of the Treaty that included inter alia:
- furthering universal adherence to the Treaty;
- promoting nuclear nonproliferation without hampering the peaceful uses of nuclear energy;
- pursuing nuclear disarmament, in particular a “programme of action” on: (i) completion by the CD of a universal and internationally and effectively verifiable CTBT no later than 1996, and pending the entry into force of a CTBT the NWS should exercise utmost restraint; (ii) immediate commencement and early conclusion of a non-discriminatory and universally applicable FMCT; and (iii) determined pursuit by the NWS of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons, and by all states of general and complete disarmament;|
- endorsing the establishment of internationally recognized NWFZs, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at, as enhancing global and regional security, especially in regions of conflict such as in the Middle East;
- noting the security assurances under UNSC Res. 984, and calling for an internationally and legally binding instrument on such assurances;
- requiring full-scope safeguards and internationally legally binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices as a necessary precondition for new supply arrangements for nuclear materials and technology; and
- promoting peaceful uses of nuclear energy in conformity with Articles I, II, and III of the NPT, and promoting transparency in nuclear- related export controls.
On the basis of a draft resolution on indefinite extension co-sponsored by Canada and 103 other cosponsors, as well as Decisions 1 and 2, the NPTREC in Decision 3 agreed without a vote that “as a majority exists among States party to the Treaty for its indefinite extension, in accordance with Article X, Paragraph the Treaty shall continue in force indefinitely.”
In the Resolution on the Middle East, cosponsored by the three NPT depositary States to secure the concurrence of the Arab States Parties to indefinite extension, the Conference inter alia:
- endorsed the Middle East peace process and recognized its contribution to a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons as well as other weapons of mass destruction;
- noted with concern the continued existence in the Middle East of unsafeguarded nuclear facilities and called upon all States with unsafeguarded facilities to place them under full-scope IAEA safeguards;
- called upon all States of the Middle East that have not yet done so to accede to the Treaty as soon as possible and to place their nuclear facilities under full-scope IAEA safeguards;
- called upon all States in the Middle East to take practical steps in appropriate forums aimed at making progress towards, inter alia, the establishment of an effectively verifiable Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, and their delivery systems, and to refrain from taking any measures that preclude the achievement of this objective; and
- called upon all States Parties to the NPT, and in particular the NWS, to extend their cooperation and to exert their utmost efforts with a view to ensuring the early establishment by regional parties of a Middle East zone free of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.
The NPT is a treaty aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons through the three pillars of non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful use of nuclear energy.