Presentation to the Fissile Material Information Workshop

Geneva, 25-26 January 1999

Piet de Klerk


Office of External Relations and Policy Coordination

International Atomic Energy Agency


While many aspects of a treaty prohibiting the production of fissile material for nuclear explosive purposes remains yet to be determined, it is possible to envisage the kinds of activities which would be applicable in verifying such a treaty. In this regard, the experience of the Agency in applying safeguards on nuclear materials and facilities over the past 40 years is of relevance. I will briefly review the evolution of Agency safeguards and the types of generic verification activities which have been developed to respond to safeguards requirements.

I will not be enunciating the Agency's policy regarding a future fissile material production ban, because we do not have one. The subject matter is close to our heart, and if the CD would want our assistance in the negotiations, we would give that request a high priority. But at this point in time, we take the view that the best contribution that we can make is to share with you our experience in verifying nuclear material and nuclear facilities as relevant input for the efforts of the negotiators here in Geneva in the coming months.

The IAEA's safeguards system is grounded in the provisions of its Statute. The IAEA was originally conceived to be a sort of broker for controlled nuclear assistance and trade. Safeguards arrangements to be performed by the Agency were viewed under Article II of the Statute to "ensure, as far as it is able, that assistance provided by or through it, is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose."

Article III authorises the IAEA to apply safeguards to any bilateral or multilateral arrangement at the request of the parties, or to any of the nuclear activities of a State at that State's request. Following the CD's successful negotiation of the Non-proliferation Treaty, for example, the Agency was asked, and accepted, to verify compliance with the provisions of the NPT, and subsequently developed the model comprehensive safeguards agreement, INFCIRC/153. Article XII of the Statute sets out the fundamental features of the Agency safeguards system.

The Agency's Statute formulates our safeguards responsibilities in terms of source and special fissionable material, two categories that are lumped together in our comprehensive safeguards agreements as "nuclear material". Let me explain the relationship with fissile material.

For the purposes of safeguards, the important terms on this slide are `nuclear material', `source material' and `special fissionable material'. Safeguards agreements identify `nuclear material' as "any source or special fissionable material as defined by Article XX of the Statute". `Source material' is defined in the Statute as "uranium containing the mixture of isotopes occurring in nature, uranium depleted in the isotope 235, thorium, (or) any of the foregoing in the form of metal, alloy, compound or concentrate". Basically, this means uranium or thorium which has been refined, milled or concentrated from ore, but which has not yet been enriched or irradiated.

The term `fissile material' is thus not actually found in safeguards terminology. In physics terms, `fissile' material fissions when struck by either fast or slow neutrons with any amount of kinetic energy. `Fissionable' material fissions only when struck by fast neutrons having an appreciable kinetic energy. `Fissile' material is therefore `fissionable', but only some `fissionable' material is `fissile'.

`Special fissionable material' is a sub-set of `fissionable' material. For safeguards purposes, it is defined in the Statute as "plutonium-239, uranium-233, uranium enriched in the isotopes 235 or 233 or any material containing one or more of the foregoing."

I should note, too, that the definitions of nuclear material in the Agency's Statute also provide for the inclusion of any other materials which the Board of Governors shall from time to time determine are relevant.

Evolution of Safeguards Agreements

The original drafters of the Statute anticipated the requirement of Agency safeguards as a consequence of bilateral or multilateral arrangements. In the early days, however, safeguards were applied almost exclusively at the insistence of suppliers who wanted the assurance that nuclear-related trade was not used for military purposes. IAEA safeguards were also applied in lieu of bilateral safeguards arrangements concluded before the development of the system of international safeguards under IAEA auspices.

The first safeguards document, INFCIRC/26, was worked out by interested governments and the Secretariat in 1959 and 1960. It contained the principles and procedures for the application of safeguards to small reactors.

This document was extended to large reactors in 1964, and a completely revised safeguards document, INFCIRC/66, was then approved by the Board of Governors in 1965. INFCIRC/66 was further expanded in 1966 to include reprocessing plants, and again in 1968 to include conversion and fuel fabrication facilities. Enrichment facilities were not addressed since none were in operation or planned in any non-nuclear weapon State at the time. Such an approach was developed in the late seventies/early eighties.

As you know, the CD's predecessor, the Eighteen Nations Disarmament Committee, negotiated the text of the NPT between 1965 and 1968. Shortly after entry into force of the Treaty in 1970, the Board of Governors established a safeguards committee to advise it on the contents of safeguards agreements to be concluded between non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT and the Agency. Participation in the committee was open to all Member States of the Agency. The committee developed a document entitled "The Structure and Content of Agreements between the Agency and States Required in Connection with the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons" which was approved in 1972 and became the model comprehensive safeguards agreement we know as INFCIRC/153.

INFCIRC/153 has also served as the model for (a) safeguards agreements concluded pursuant to commitments under the four nuclear weapon free zone treaties currently in force, (b) unilateral non-NPT comprehensive agreements and (c) multilateral arrangements such as the quadripartite safeguards agreement concluded with ABACC, Argentina and Brazil.

Finally, nuclear weapon States recognized under the NPT have also concluded safeguards agreements with the IAEA. The coverage of these agreements extend to civil nuclear facilities designated by those States. These Voluntary Offer Agreements (VOA) are divided into two main categories - agreements with nuclear weapon States members of the European Union and agreements with other nuclear weapon States. These agreements are all modelled on INFCIRC/153 and use the same basic safeguards techniques and approaches.

Contents of Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements

As INFCIRC/153-type comprehensive safeguards agreements would seem to be of particular relevance for a fissile material production ban verification regime, let me briefly discuss some aspects of INFCIRC/153 prior to describing more precisely the verification activities of the Agency in administering such agreements.

The basic goal of all safeguards agreements are identical - to verify that States party are not using safeguarded items for proscribed purposes. Each agreement provides for Agency review of design information, reporting and record-keeping by the State, inspection activities carried out by the IAEA including rights of access and notifications of inspections, and provisions related to the exemption and termination of safeguards. At this level of generality, some or all of these goals and provisions might also apply to a fissile material production ban.

The specific terms of present IAEA types of safeguards agreements do vary. While INFCIRC/66 is meant to serve as a general guideline, INFCIRC/153 is a standardized model. Hence INFCIRC/66-type agreements vary to a greater degree than do agreements concluded pursuant to INFCIRC/66. Voluntary Offer Agreements closely resemble INFCIRC/153-type agreements, while allowing for substantive variations reflecting the more limited scope of such agreements.

Agreements with non-nuclear weapon States pursuant to INFCIRC/153 cover all source and special fissionable material in all peaceful nuclear activities of the State. Therefore, no detailed inventory of other items subject to the agreement is required, as in the case of INFCIRC/66-type agreements.

INFCIRC/153-type agreements prohibit the diversion of nuclear material from peaceful activities to nuclear explosive purposes. There is provision in 153 for non-explosive military applications of nuclear material, which is not permitted by INFCIRC/66-type agreements. This Article 14 provision has, however, never been invoked. There are also provisions for the exemption or termination of safeguards on nuclear material in certain cases.

Safeguards agreements with the Agency require States party to submit information on the design of facilities where safeguards are applied, and provide for Agency access to review the design information. These agreements contemplate a three-tier approach to inspections, consisting of ad hoc inspections carried out prior to entry into force of detailed arrangements for routine inspections, routine inspections and special inspections.

Access during routine inspections under INFCIRC/153-type agreements are limited to inspections of strategic points identified in the Subsidiary Arrangements to each agreement. This limitation does not, however, apply to ad hoc inspections or special inspections.

With regard to dispute resolution, the Agency's safeguards agreements are treaties subject to the principles of international law rather than the rules of domestic law. The IAEA is not eligible to be a party to an action before the International Court of Justice. For this reason, all safeguards agreements contain a provision for submitting disputes concerning the interpretation and application of these agreements to binding arbitration. I should note that no recourse to binding arbitration has been made to date in the course of implementing safeguards.

Compliance and enforcement is probably an area of particular interest to you in the context of a fissile material treaty. Because a safeguards agreement is a treaty, responsibility for the fulfilment of the obligations of the agreement rests with the State party. States are responsible for ensuring inspectors are allowed to conduct properly-allowed inspections in an unimpeded manner. Should any doubts arise about a State's commitment to its obligations under the agreement, the Agency has the right and the duty to try and resolve these doubts with the State concerned. If such doubts cannot be resolved to the Agency's satisfaction, the Director General may report to the Board of Governors.

For a report under a INFCIRC/153-type agreement, actions considered "essential and urgent" by the Board are required to be implemented by the State without delay. Under the Statute of the Agency, the failure of a State to take corrective action within a reasonable time could result in curtailment or suspension of assistance provided by the Agency, the recall of material or equipment provided, or the suspension of rights and privileges of Agency membership. Non-compliance may also be reported to the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. Since the inception of safeguards, non-compliance has been reported to the Security Council on three occasions (Romania, Iraq, DPRK).

Strengthened Safeguards

NPT obligations have been violated in the past decade and as a result the Agency's safeguards system has been and is being strengthened. In June 1993, the Board of Governors requested the Secretariat to submit concrete proposals for measures to strengthen the safeguards system and improve its cost effectiveness. This became the "Programme 93+2". Between 1993 and 1995 (the year of the NPT extension), the Secretariat identified a comprehensive set of strengthening and efficiency measures divided into two parts:


Part 1 measures are being implemented since 1995. As to Part 2, the Secretariat developed a draft model protocol between 1993 and 1996 for that complementary authority. The Model Protocol Additional to Agreements between States and the IAEA, INFCIRC/540, was approved by the Board of Governors in 1997. To date, actual Additional Protocols have been approved for 38 countries, most have been signed, and 5 are in force. Our Director General's goal is to conclude Additional Protocols with all Member States by the 2000 NPT Review Conference.

The new measures outlined in the Model Additional Protocol are of three types:

(a) information-related

(b) access-related, and

(c) those related to administrative arrangements

I will describe these in more detail later.

IAEA Infrastructure

How is this all translated into the verification activities performed by the Agency? Let me discuss briefly the implementation of the Agency's safeguards programme.

In 1960, the Department of Safeguards had one director with a total staff of 7. Today, the Department has 6 interdependent divisions and 2 sections reporting to the Deputy Director General for Safeguards. The total complement of the Department is 560 staff positions. Three of the divisions are operations divisions, 3 are support divisions. The 2 sections handle programme and resource issues and effectiveness evaluation.

The IAEA has an existing inspectorate of 222 inspectors, each of which has a minimum four-year university education in physics, chemistry or relevant engineering disciplines, plus 8 years experience in the operation of nuclear facilities. All inspectors receive regular training in Agency safeguards methods and procedures, and are accustomed to spending on the order of 100 days per year in the field.

The Agency is currently operating over 100 different types of safeguards-related equipment and technologies from very simple items, such as portable environmental sampling kits, to sophisticated robotic analysis equipment used at our Safeguards Analytical Laboratory (SAL) in Seibersdorf, Austria and the associated Network of Analytical Laboratories (NWAL) situated around the world.

Currently, there are 221 safeguards agreements in force with 138 parties. These include 123 comprehensive safeguards agreements. For 1999, the Agency anticipates carrying out some 2500 inspections at over 900 facilities and other locations world-wide which contain nuclear material subject to Agency safeguards. This is expected to translate into some 11,200 person-days of effort.

The expenditure from the Safeguards Regular Budget for 1999 is projected to be US$80,812,000. In addition, other voluntary contributions and extra-budgetary funds of $US21,519,000 will contribute to addressing equipment and instrument shortages and replacement, and implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 687 on Iraq.


Application of Safeguards Agreements

The technical objective of traditional IAEA safeguards is stated explicitly in paragraph 28 of INFCIRC/153 - "the timely detection of diversion of significant quantities of nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities to the manufacture of nuclear weapons or of other nuclear explosive devices." This objective has been further supplemented and enhanced by the measures of the Model Additional Protocol aimed at improving the Agency's capacity to detect undeclared nuclear material and activities.

Conceptually, IAEA verification can be regarded as the testing of diversion hypotheses. What are the routes that country X might follow to make nuclear weapons? How can we be sure that country X did not actually travel that route? Analysis of such hypotheses is an important means for designing and organizing effective and credible verification activities. A wide range of potential diversion strategies and possible concealment methods have to be considered in connection with all types of nuclear material and facilities. The diversion analysis includes a consideration of the characteristics of a nuclear facility, the type and location of material, and possible diversion paths, production rates and concealment methods. Various safeguards approaches are then designed to ensure verification activities which are capable of leading, with a high probability, to the timely detection of anomalies at declared facilities or indications of clandestine production.

What does `timely detection of significant quantities' mean? IAEA inspections can detect a diversion of nuclear material in a timely manner if the time interval between inspections is shorter than the so called `conversion time', that is, the time it would take to process the material into the metallic components of a nuclear explosive. For example, for fresh nuclear fuel containing highly-enriched uranium, plutonium or mixed oxides of plutonium and uranium, the time interval is about one month.

A significant quantity of nuclear material is the approximate quantity that a State might need for a nuclear explosive device. While this is not defined in INFCIRC/153, in actual practice these quantities are, for example, 8 kg for plutonium and 25 kg for uranium-235.

Several methods are used by the Agency for the effective verification of these safeguards criteria. The backbone of traditional safeguards is nuclear material accountancy, supported by containment and surveillance measures and inspection capabilities.

Nuclear material accountancy relies on the principle of the conservation of matter. Any changes in the inventory of material present in a Material Balance Area defined by the agreement must be equal to the net production or loss of such material within the area plus the inward flow of such material from the outside, minus the flow out of the area. Measurements are made at certain strategic points. The facility operator maintains a book inventory based on the initial physical inventory, adding increases and deducting decreases. A Physical Inventory Verification by Agency inspectors is then conducted on-site to evaluate the material balance in the facility for the period in comparison to the operator's records.

Analysis of nuclear material samples taken at the facility by the Agency is a vital part of the verification process. Some analyses can be carried out during IAEA inspections without physically affecting the item under examination. Other samples have to be measured by more "destructive" techniques at the Agency's Seibersdorf Laboratory.

Containment and surveillance features are widely used in many facilities to complement and support nuclear material accountancy. The purpose of these measures is to provide information on movements of nuclear material or on the integrity of equipment. They cover periods when inspectors are absent from the facilities or physically unable to verify activities. Containment measures take advantage of the existing structural features of a facility to establish the physical integrity necessary to prevent undetected access to or movement of nuclear material, or interference with equipment or sensors. Surveillance refers to both human and instrumental observation aimed at detecting the movement of nuclear material or interference with containment measures.

The detection of any anomaly relating to accountancy or containment or surveillance measures does not necessarily indicate that material has been diverted. The ultimate resolution of such anomalies is provided through systematic efforts to understand their cause, and to determine whether or not a diversion is suspected. It is possible for the Agency to conclude that it is "not able to confirm" diversion.

I referred to inspections earlier. Visits and initial inspections pursuant to safeguards agreements are made to verify the facility design information submitted by the state. Ad hoc inspections are made to verify the initial report or changes in the situation since the initial report was made, and to verify the nuclear material involved in international transfers. Routine inspections verify that the information contained in periodic reports submitted by the State is consistent with the accounting and operating records of the facility operator. Special inspections are made in addition to routine inspections to verify information presented in special reports or to collect additional information when the Agency considers the information provided by the State is inadequate.

In addition to these "traditional" safeguards activities, the Part 1 measures adopted pursuant to Programme 93+2 included the possibility of:

(a) environmental sampling

(b) no-notice inspections at the strategic points of all safeguarded nuclear facilities

(c) the Agency's right of access to the records of activities carried out before a safeguards agreement entered into force, and

(d) use of advanced technologies that can operate unattended to transmit information to IAEA headquarters.

The Model Additional Protocol

Having described the traditional IAEA safeguards concepts and practices, I would like to add a few words about the Additional Protocol, because in a number of ways, it is a significant departure from traditional INFCIRC/153 safeguards approaches. The Board of Governors set the stage by demanding that the implementation of comprehensive safeguards agreements "should be designed to provide verification by the Agency of the correctness and completeness of States' declarations, so that there is credible assurance of the non-diversion of nuclear material from declared activities, and of the absence of undeclared nuclear activities." Note here (a) the emphasis on `undeclared', one of the lessons learned from the Iraq experience, (b) the term `nuclear activities' instead of `nuclear material', and (c) the fact that the system should be designed to give credible assurance about the absence of such activities, absence, that is, in a particular State.

Against this background, the Additional Protocol contains provisions for:





In summary, the IAEA safeguards system has demonstrated, through its constant evolution over the years, a flexibility capable of responding to the verification demands of its Member States. It is capable of verifying that declared nuclear material, facilities, equipment and non-nuclear material are not used to further military ambitions. The Agency is moreover in the process of further strengthening its capacity to detect undeclared activities. This includes obviously the undeclared production of fissile material.

The effectiveness of any arms control and disarmament agreement is a function of the political commitments of the States party and the technical modalities of the verification arrangements. Many of the issues associated with the verification of a fissile material production ban will obviously be the subject of detailed study and negotiation in the CD. For its part, the Agency stands ready to contribute to the successful conclusion of a treaty by providing whatever assistance the CD may request of it in this regard.