Thwarting the Neo-Crazies

On Dec. 18, 2003, Iran signed an Additional Protocol to their Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Although not required to do so until the Iranian Parliament "ratifies" it, Iran volunteered to act "in accordance with the provisions of the Additional Protocol, as a confidence building measure."

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty requires all signatories not already having nuclear weapons to negotiate and conclude a Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, with a view to preventing diversion of "source or special fissionable material" – whether it is being produced, processed, or used in any principal nuclear facility or outside any such facility – from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons.

The IAEA employs periodic on-site inspections and continuous on-site monitoring to verify the correctness of signatories’ reports of “declared” nuclear material and activities.

At the end of the Persian Gulf War, the IAEA discovered that its inspections of “declared” sites were insufficient to detect clandestine nuclear programs at other sites. It turned out that Iraq had a multi-billion dollar broad-based “undeclared” program to enrich uranium that had gone undetected.

So, to increase the IAEA’s capability for detecting such clandestine programs, the international community developed the Model Additional Protocol. This protocol – which enhances the authority of the IAEA-NPT Safeguards regime – is to be used as a “model” for an Additional Protocol, to amend each existing IAEA Safeguards agreement.

The Additional Protocol provides for much easier access and far greater transparency to nuclear programs and nuclear-related activities, enabling the IAEA not only to verify the non-diversion of “declared” nuclear material, but also to provide assurances of the absence of undeclared nuclear material and of any prohibited activities in a state.

In particular, the original safeguards agreement merely required the disclosure of information on new facilities handling safeguarded nuclear materials a few months before the nuclear materials were actually introduced. The Additional Protocol now requires disclosure of that design information as soon as Iranian authorities decide to construct, authorize construction, or modify such a facility. From then on, the IAEA has the continuing right to verify the design and construction information over the facility’s life cycle, including decommissioning.

The Additional Protocol also provides for "voluntary reporting on imports and exports of nuclear material and exports of specified equipment and non-nuclear material."

Last week, the IAEA Board of Governors heard a progress report from Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, whereupon the Board passed a unanimous IAEA Resolution on the implementation of its Safeguards agreement with Iran.

The Board noted "specifically the Director General’s assessment that all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and that such material is not diverted to prohibited activities."

And, while recognizing "the right of states to the development and practical application of atomic energy for peaceful purposes" and recognizing that it was "a voluntary, non-legally-binding, confidence building measure," the Board welcomed "the fact that Iran has decided to continue and extend its suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities."

Needless to say, the IAEA resolution – essentially praising Iran for its unprecedented cooperation – wasn’t praised by the neo-crazies.

In fact, the New York Times reported that the U.S. representative to the IAEA , Jackie Sanders, at a meeting of the Board last week, raised questions about Iranian efforts to obtain equipment “in the nuclear military area” and demanded a specific list of Iran’s purchases “so we can make our own decisions about Iran’s intentions.”

But recall that the Additional Protocol merely provides for "voluntary" reporting of certain imports and exports. Furthermore, it requires the IAEA to take into account "the need to avoid hampering the economic and technological development of Iran" and "to take every precaution to protect commercial, technological, and industrial secrets as well as other confidential information coming to its knowledge."

To that end, the IAEA "shall maintain a stringent regime to ensure effective protection against disclosure of commercial, technological and industrial secrets and other confidential information coming to its knowledge, including such information coming to the Agency’s knowledge in the implementation of this Protocol."

Sanders is apparently demanding that ElBaradei provide her the list of imports Iran has voluntarily provided him in confidence. She wants to overrule the IAEA Board’s "inaction" and take Iran’s alleged nuke program directly to the UN Security Council.

ElBaradei came close to thwarting the neo-crazies’ invasion of Iraq last year. He may well thwart their invasion of Iran next year.

He might as well. Whatever he does, the neo-crazies will see to it he doesn’t get appointed for another term.

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.