NPT in Trouble?

Recently, Jackie Sanders, Special Representative of the President for the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons has been asking herself this question – How should "we" deal with noncompliance with the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons?

The problem is; nowhere in the NPT is "noncompliance" defined. The term "noncompliance" doesn’t even appear.

It is a little clearer what constitutes a "violation" of the NPT.

Under Article I we have "undertaken" to not transfer control over our nukes – directly or indirectly – "to any recipient whatsoever." But the NPT is silent about what happens to us if we violate the "undertaking" of Article I and transfer indirect control over our nukes to one of our NATO allies, for example.

Under Article IV, we "undertake" to facilitate "the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy" with Iran, for example. We "shall" also cooperate with Russia, for example, when it attempts to supply nuclear power plants to Iran. But the NPT is silent about what happens to us when we violate Article IV and do everything in our power – as we have done – to prevent Russia supplying those plants to Iran.

However, our repeated violations of Article IV – and perhaps Article I – are not what concerns Sanders. At the 2005 NPT Review Conference next month she wants the Conferees to "insist on a high standard of compliance with Article II." Furthermore, she wants the Conferees to clearly establish "what constitutes a violation of Article II."

Article II

"Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices."

Of course, there is no "standard of compliance" – high or low – for any article in the NPT. But, how much clearer could Article II be about what constitutes a "violation"?

For example, it would be a violation of Article II for Iran to accept nukes from Pakistan. It would also be a violation for Iran to manufacture nukes, with or without the assistance of Pakistan.

But, two years ago, Iran voluntarily signed an Additional Protocol to its existing International Atomic Energy Agency Safeguards Agreement required by Article III. Since then, the IAEA inspectors have gone-anywhere and seen-everything – including Iran’s import and export records – they had some reason for wanting to go-see. They have repeatedly reported to the IAEA Board of Directors that they have found no evidence that Iran has, ever had, or intends to have a nuclear weapons program.

Those IAEA reports are rejected out-of-hand by Sanders and the neo-crazies. Sanders just knows – despite all evidence to the contrary – that Iran has a nuke program.

“It is dangerous and foolish to wait until a non-nuclear-weapon state has finished assembling a nuclear weapon – or until unassailable proof of weaponization work has been disclosed – to cry foul and enforce Article II’s prohibitions. By then it would be too late.

“An international community that cares about nonproliferation must learn to recognize the warning signs. There are activities that can demonstrate a purpose to acquire nuclear weapons, including the pursuit of clandestine programs for reprocessing and enrichment, and which thus make clear an Article II violation.

“In our view, the RevCon should note that the totality of the circumstances surrounding certain nuclear and nuclear-related activities in a non-nuclear-weapon state can provide sufficient information to allow states parties to reach a determination of an Article II violation.”

For Sanders, the "failure to report" "clandestine efforts to acquire fuel cycle facilities" – even if those efforts are not required to be reported – and "the pursuit of enrichment or reprocessing capabilities that are economically unnecessary" are "indicative of a violation of Article II."

But the NPT assigns the IAEA – not Sanders – the responsibility for "verifying the fulfillment of the obligations" assumed by a no-nuke Party to the NPT. And it is the IAEA Statute – not the NPT, itself – that proscribes what actions the IAEA – not Sanders – is to take in the event a violation of Article II is discovered.

According to Sanders – because the IAEA is not-to-be-trusted – the NPT is in trouble, and has to be fixed by the Conferees next month. Or else.

Read more by Gordon Prather

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. — ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.