(2) IAEA Safeguards Applied t o the NPT NNWS
A) Conclusion of IAEA Safeguards Agreements
Under Article III-1 of the NPT, “[e]ach Nonnuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes to accept safeguards as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Agency’s safeguards system, for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfillment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” The basic structure and content of the safeguards agreement are specified in the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA), known as INFCIRC/153, which each state negotiates with the IAEA and then signs and ratifies. As of September 2021, eight NPT NNWS (including Palestine) have yet to conclude CSAs with the IAEA.46
In accordance with the strengthened safeguards system in place since 1997, an NPT NNWS or any other state may also conclude with the IAEA an Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement, based on a model document known as INFCIRC/540. As of September 2021, 132 NPT NNWS have ratified Additional Protocols. Iran started provisional implementation of the Additional Protocol in January 2016, but terminated its application in February 2021.
A state’s faithful implementation of the Additional Protocol, along with the CSA, allows the IAEA Secretariat to draw a socalled “broader conclusion” that “all nuclear material in the State has remained in peaceful activities.” This conclusion states that the Agency finds no indication of diversion of declared nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities, misuse of the facilities for purposes other than those for which it was declared, or the presence of any undeclared nuclear material or activities in that country. (At the end of 2020, such a conclusion was drawn for 72 countries.47) Subsequently, the IAEA implements so-called “integrated safeguards,” a term defined as the “optimized combination of all safeguards measures available to the Agency under [CSAs] and [Additional Protocols], to maximize effectiveness and efficiency within available resources.” As of the end of 2020, 66 NNWS have applied integrated safeguards.48
The current status of the signature and ratification of the CSAs and the Additional Protocols and the implementation of integrated safeguards by the NPT NNWS studied in this project is presented in the Table 2-1. In addition to the IAEA safeguards, EU countries accept safeguards conducted by EURATOM, and Argentina and Brazil conduct mutual inspections under the bilateral Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC).
In the resolution “Strengthening the Effectiveness and Improving the Efficiency of Agency Safeguards” adopted in September 2021, the IAEA General Conference called on all States with unmodified Small Quantity Protocols (SQPs) to either rescind or amend them, and mentioned that the amended SQPs for 69 countries have entered into force as of September 2021.49 Meanwhile, among the countries that have expressed their intentions to introduce nuclear energy, Saudi Arabia has not yet accepted an amended SQP.50
The issue of implementing IAEA safeguards on nuclear fuel for nuclear submarines was a focus of attention in 2021. In September, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States concluded a new security partnership, named AUKUS, and as one of its initiatives, they agreed to work together to introduce nuclear-powered submarines to the Australian Navy.
When NNWS introduce nuclear-powered submarines, the question of how IAEA safeguards are implemented for their nuclear fuel become an issue to be resolved (see Column 5). IAEA Director- General Grossi said that he had been informed by Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States of an 18- month trilateral effort between these three countries “to identify the optimal pathway to support Australia’s acquisition of a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability for the Royal Australian Navy.” He was also informed by the three countries that a critical objective of this cooperation would be to maintain “the strength of both the nuclear non-proliferation regime and Australia’s exemplary nonproliferation credentials” and that they would be “engaging with the IAEA throughout the coming months.”51
China, Russia, and some other countries have expressed criticism and concern about this issue. Russia, for example, stated the following at the UNGA:
While not directly prohibited by the Treaty, the construction of nuclear submarines by a non-nuclear-weapon State party to the NPT could set a very negative precedent for the implementation of IAEA safeguards. This partnership is also questionable in the context of Australia’s participation in the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (the Treaty of Rarotonga). Clarifying reservations made by nuclear-weapon States when signing or ratifying protocols to nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties seem to be justified.52
In a letter dated October 29 to the IAEA, since “[t]he naval nuclear propulsion reactors and their associated nuclear material to be transferred by the US and the UK to Australia cannot be effectively safeguarded under the current IAEA safeguards system,” China proposed to establish a Special Committee open to all IAEA member States and submit a report with recommendations. It also argued that “[p]ending the adoption of the above-mentioned report, the US, the UK and Australia should not commence their cooperation on the nuclear-powered submarines.”53 In November, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson criticized the three countries, saying: “Under the current safeguards mechanism, the IAEA is unable to effectively monitor the nuclear power reactors and weapons-grade nuclear materials that the US and the UK are planning to provide to Australia, so as to ensure that relevant nuclear materials and technologies will not be used to develop nuclear weapons. Therefore, this move by the US, the UK and Australia will pose a major risk of nuclear proliferation, clearly violate the objectives and purpose of the NPT and seriously impact the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.”54
Brazil has aimed to become the first NNWS to possess a nuclear submarine. However, the extent to which Brazil and the IAEA have consulted about IAEA safeguards for Brazil’s nuclear fuel for submarines remains unclear.55 Iran also announced a plan to build a nuclear submarine in 2012, which was reportedly underway in 2020 although details of its development are not clear.
B) Compliance with IAEA Safeguards Agreements
According to the “Safeguards Statement for 2020” published in 2021, as of the end of 2020, of the 131 countries to which both CSAs and the Additional Protocols are applied (including Iran applying the Additional Protocol provisionally in 2020), the IAEA concluded that all nuclear materials remained in peaceful activities for 72 countries. For the remaining 59 countries, evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for each of these states remained ongoing, and the IAEA concluded only that declared nuclear material remained in peaceful activities. For 44 countries with a CSA but with no Additional Protocol in force, the Agency concluded only that declared nuclear material remained in peaceful activities.56
The global pandemic of COVID-19 has imposed significant difficulties in the implementation of IAEA safeguards. However, according to the IAEA Director-General report, “despite the numerous challenges posed by travel restrictions and other health and safety measures, through greater effort and at somewhat higher financial cost, the Agency has continued to implement safeguards effectively during the COVID- 19 pandemic.” During the above period, the IAEA conducted 2,249 inspections, 708 DIVs, and 201 complementary accesses. Furthermore, “the Agency has concluded contracts for the provision of aircraft charter services to transport inspectors and technical staff to and from States, drawing on €4.15 [million] of extrabudgetary support, €1.78 [million] of which was earmarked specifically in relation to inspectors and technical staff travel to [Iran].” In addition, verification activities in Canada and Japan, where the IAEA regional offices are located, were less difficult than other countries, and 264 inspections, 69 DIVs and 21 complementary access were conducted by these regional offices during that period.57
North Korea has refused to accept IAEA monitoring since 2002. In the “Application of Safeguards in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” in September 2021, the IAEA Director- General reported: “the Agency has continued to monitor developments in the DPRK’s nuclear programme and to evaluate all safeguards relevant information available to it, including open source information and satellite imagery. The Agency has not had access to the Yongbyon site or to other locations in the DPRK. Without such access, the Agency cannot confirm either the operational status or the configuration/design features of the facilities or locations as described in this section, or the nature and purpose of the activities conducted therein.”58 The IAEA also reported on the state of play of North Korea’s nuclear-related facilities via analysis of public information and satellite images, for instance:
➢ There were indications that the radiochemistry laboratory operated for five months between mid-February and early July 2021. This period is the time required to reprocess the fuel for the 5 MWe experimental reactor;
➢ Since early July 2021, there have been indications that the 5 MWe reactor is considered to be operating;
➢ For the centrifuge enrichment facility in Yongbyon, there were indications for a period of time that it was not operating; and
➢ There were indications of ongoing activity at the Kangseon complex.
The IAEA stated, “Once a political agreement has been reached among the countries concerned, the Agency is ready to return promptly to the DPRK, if requested to do so by the DPRK and subject to approval by the Board of Governors. … [And] the Agency has continued to maintain its enhanced readiness to return to the DPRK and has undertaken, inter alia, the following activities:”59
➢ Continued and further refined its safeguards relevant open source information collection and analysis of the DPRK’s nuclear program;
➢ Continued to collect and analyze a wide range of high-resolution commercial satellite imagery, both optical and radar, to monitor the DPRK’s nuclear program;
➢ Maintained equipment and supplies necessary to ensure that the Agency is prepared to promptly initiate verification and monitoring activities in the DPRK;
➢ Held training workshops to prepare Agency inspectors to conduct verification and monitoring activities in the DPRK and to update them on recent developments in the DPRK relevant to the nuclear program; and
➢ Continued to document the Agency’s knowledge of the DPRK’s nuclear program.
Verification and monitoring
Iran’s parliament enacted a domestic law in December 2020, stipulating that the provisional implementation of the Additional Protocol to the IAEA Safeguards Agreement would be suspended unless obstacles to Iran’s oil sales were removed and banking relations were normalized by February 2021.60 In accordance with this legislation, Iran informed the IAEA on February 15 that Iran would “stop the implementation of voluntary transparency measures as envisaged in the JCPOA, as of February 23, 2021,” as follows:61
➢ Provisions of the Additional Protocol to the CSA;
➢ Modified Code 3.1 of the subsidiary arrangements to Iran’s Safeguards Agreement;62
➢ Use of modern technologies and long term presence of IAEA;
➢ Transparency measures related to uranium ore concentrate (UOC);
➢ Transparency measures related to enrichment;
➢ Access pursuant to provisions of the JCPOA;
➢ Monitoring and verification of the implementation of the voluntary measures; and
➢ Transparency measures related to centrifuge component manufacturing
In response, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi met with Director General of the Atomic Energy Office of Iran (AEOI) Salehi on February 21, and announced in a joint statement that they had reached the following agreement on:63
➢ Continuing to implement fully and without limitation Iran’s CSA with the IAEA as before;
➢ Holding a temporary bilateral technical understanding, compatible with Iran’s law, whereby the IAEA will continue with its necessary verification and monitoring activities for up to three months; and
➢ Keeping the technical understanding under regular review to ensure it continues to achieve its purposes.
While the details of the technical understandings are undisclosed, the agreement included that during an interim period of up to three months, Iran would voluntarily store surveillance data from cameras installed by the IAEA to verify the facility, which is within the scope of implementation of the Additional Protocol, and would provide the data to the IAEA if sanctions are lifted by the United States. IAEA Director-General Grossi said that there would be no reduction in the number of inspectors, and that not all snap inspections would be banned while Iranian officials said the agreement would mean that the inspectors would only have 70% of the access they used to have.64
On May 24, three months after the February agreement, Iran agreed to accept a one-month extension of minimum inspections of its nuclear facilities by the IAEA. This enabled the IAEA to continue its inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities through video surveillance. However, Director-General Grossi stressed that this was “an interim measure” and that the IAEA was still unable to conduct full inspections under the Additional Protocol.65 On June 27, after a month-long extension, Iranian Parliament Speaker Garibagh said that the agreement with the IAEA had “expired,” and that none of the items recorded by the surveillance cameras installed at nuclear facilities would be handed to the IAEA.66
In the meantime, the IAEA “for the first time released estimates of Iran’s stockpile rather than precise figures” in its report at the end of May 2021 “[s]ince 23 February 2021, the Agency has not had access to the data from its on-line enrichment monitors and electronic seals, or had access to the measurement recordings registered by its installed measurement devices.”67
In addition, the IAEA expressed concerns in its report in September that “the Agency’s verification and monitoring activities in relation to the JCPOA have been seriously undermined as a result of Iran’s decision to stop the implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA, including the Additional Protocol.”68 Regarding surveillance cameras installed at a centrifuge parts manufacturing plant in Karaj (which were allegedly damaged by sabotage at the plant in June 2021), the IAEA reported the following:
On 4 September 2021, the Agency was provided with access to four of the surveillance cameras which had previously been installed in the centrifuge component manufacturing workshop at the TESA Karaj complex. The Agency observed that one of the cameras had been destroyed, one of the cameras had been severely damaged and the other two cameras appeared intact. The data storage media were recovered from three of the cameras and placed under Agency seal without further examination. However, the data storage medium and the recording unit from the destroyed camera were not present among the remnants of that camera shown to the Agency. In a letter to Iran, dated 6 September 2021, the Agency requested Iran to locate the storage medium and the recording unit, and to provide additional information as to the reasons for their absence. Until the Agency is able to access the storage media from the other three cameras, which have been placed under Agency seal, it will not be in a position to determine whether the data from the storage media is recoverable…
As of the date of this report, the Agency has not received information from Iran as to the status of the remainder of its monitoring and surveillance equipment in Iran pertinent to the technical understanding. Indeed, Iran has failed to engage with the Agency at all on this matter for a number of months. Iran’s failure to continue implementing the agreement of 24 May 2021 is preventing the Agency from servicing the equipment and replacing the storage media. This is seriously compromising the Agency’s technical capability to maintain continuity of knowledge, which is necessary for the Agency to resume its verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments in the future.69
On this issue, Iran and the IAEA agreed on September 12 to cooperate in continuing to record data from surveillance cameras at nuclear facilities. According to their joint statement, “IAEA’s inspectors are permitted to service the identified equipment and replace their storage media which will be kept under the joint IAEA and AEOI seals in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The way and the timing are agreed by the two sides.”70
Despite the above-mentioned agreement, the IAEA pointed out that Iran refused to allow inspectors to enter the manufacturing plant of centrifuge components used for uranium enrichment, and to maintain surveillance and monitoring equipment and exchange recording media. In response, Iran stated in a letter to the IAEA, “Iran rejects the Agency’s assertion that the reference to ‘identified equipment’ in the ‘Joint Statement’ includes the four cameras which are damaged as a result of the terrorist attacks.” Iran also argued: “[T]he TESA Karaj Complex is under security investigations and judicial proceedings, so the cameras could not be replaced.”71
The IAEA Director-General’s report in November reported on the failure to reinstall surveillance cameras that had been destroyed and removed from a centrifuge component manufacturing plant in Karaj. At the IAEA Board of Governors meeting that month, Director- General Grossi criticized Iran’s response, stating:
In the absence of regular Agency access to its surveillance and monitoring equipment at all facilities and locations in Iran in relation to the JCPOA, the Agency considers the temporary agreement I reached with Iran in February 2021 facilitated the maintenance of continuity of knowledge. However, the repeated prolongation of the agreement, which has now been in place for around nine months, is becoming a significant challenge to the Agency’s ability to restore this continuity of knowledge.
In addition, contrary to the agreement reached between the Agency and Iran on 12 September 2021, the lack of access to the Karaj workshop has meant that the restoration of surveillance and monitoring at all of Iran’s facilities and locations in relation to the JCPOA could not be completed. This is seriously affecting the Agency’s ability to restore continuity of knowledge at the workshop, which has been widely recognised as essential in relation to a return to the JCPOA.72
Director-General Grossi also stated: “I am also concerned by the incidences of Agency inspectors being subjected to excessively invasive physical searches by security officials at nuclear facilities in Iran. I reiterate the call upon Iran to take immediate steps to remedy the situation, and to implement security procedures at nuclear facilities in a manner consistent with internationally accepted security practices and Iran’s legal obligations in relation to privileges and immunities of the Agency and its inspectors.”73
In December, Iran and the IAEA agreed to: continue to work on remaining outstanding safeguards issues with the aim of resolving them; and reinstall cameras to replace those removed from the workshop at Karaj and perform other related technical activities before the end of December 2021 on a date agreed between the Agency and Iran.74
However, the IAEA is not able to view the video from the surveillance cameras until the JCPOA is revived.
Alleged undeclared activities
In a report dated February 23, 2021, the IAEA Director-General summarized the Agency’s assessment of the presence of undeclared nuclear material and activities to the IAEA at four sites that may have been associated with Iran’s 1989-2003 clandestine and systematic nuclear program (AMAD Plan). At one of the sites, environmental sampling revealed artificially produced natural uranium particles indicating that uranium conversion may have taken place, as well as low-enriched uranium (LEU) containing U-236 and depleted uranium with a slightly lower proportion of U-235 than natural uranium. At the other two sites, analysis of environmental sampling indicated the presence of artificially produced uranium particles. In addition, the IAEA assessed that the remaining site was not worthy of complimentary access because it had been extensively cleared and traces had been removed.75
The IAEA in its report in May criticized Iran as follows: “After many months, Iran has not provided the necessary explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles at any of the three locations where the Agency has conducted complementary accesses.” It also stated, “The lack of progress in clarifying the Agency’s questions concerning the correctness and completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations seriously affects the ability of the Agency to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.”76 The IAEA Director- General’s report in November also reported that these issues remained unresolved.77
As for Syria, the IAEA assessed that the facility at Dair Alzour, which was destroyed by an Israeli air raid in September 2007, was very likely a clandestinely constructed, undeclared nuclear reactor. While the IAEA repeatedly called on Syria to cooperate fully with the Agency so as to resolve the outstanding issues, Syria has not responded to that request.78
In the meantime, the IAEA reported that inspections were carried out at the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor facility near Damascus and a location outside facilities in Damascus in 2020; and that it found no indication of diversion of declared nuclear material from peaceful activities.79
46 IAEA, “Status List: Conclusion of Safeguards Agreements, Additional Protocols and Small Quantities Protocols,” September 15, 2021, https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/20/01/sg-agreements-compre hensive-status.pdf. In 2021, the CSAs for Eritrea and Micronesia entered into force. All of these eight countries possess a small amount of nuclear material or do not conduct activities for peaceful use of nuclear energy.
47 El Salvador, Libya, Nicaragua and Nigeria were newly drawn, while Ukraine was not done in 2020.
48 IAEA, “Safeguards Statement for 2020,” 2021. The broader conclusion was drawn for El Salvador, Jordan, Libya, Nicaragua, Nigeria and Turkey, but the integrated safeguards were not applied.
49 GC(65)/RES/12, September 2021.
50 Among states that have announced an intention to introduce nuclear energy, Saudi Arabia has yet to accept an amended SQP. Before importing nuclear fuel for its first research reactor, which is nearing completion, it will need to forgo the SQP and conclude subsidiary arrangements under its safeguards agreement with the IAEA to set up inspections and ensure all nuclear materials and activities are properly safeguarded. In addition, under the current SQP concluded by Saudi Arabia, the IAEA cannot conduct design information verification of designed and constructed nuclear reactors, which it does under the supplementary arrangements of the CSAs. The IAEA has continued to discuss the issue with Saudi Arabia but the year 2021 ended without progress on amending the country’s safeguards agreement.
51 IAEA, “IAEA on Trilateral Effort of Australia, United Kingdom, and United States on Nuclear Naval Propulsion,” September 16, 2021, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/iaea-on-trilateral-effort-of-australia-united-kingdom-and-united-states-on-nuclear-naval-propulsion.
52 “Statement by Russia,” General Debate, UNGA, October 6, 2021.
53 INFCIRC/965, November 1, 2021.
54 “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference,” November 22, 2021, https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2511_665403/202111/t20211122_10451520.html.
55 Leonardo Bandarra, “Brazilian Nuclear Policy under Bolsonaro: No Nuclear Weapons, But a Nuclear Submarine,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 12, 2019, https://thebulletin.org/2019/04/brazilian-nuclear-policy-under-bolsonaro/.
56 IAEA, “Safeguards Statement for 2020.”
57 GOV/INF/2021/34-GC(65)/INF/8, August 26, 2021.
58 GOV/2021/40-GC(65)/22, September 2021.
60 “Strategic Action Plan to Lift Sanctions and Protect Iranian Nations’ Interests,” December 2, 2020, https://www.niacouncil.org/publications/iranian-parliament-bill-on-nuclear-program-full-text-in-engli sh/?locale=en.
61 GOV/INF/2021/13, February 16, 2021.
62 The IAEA argues that this measure is based on comprehensive safeguards, not the JCPOA.
63 “Joint statement by the Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Head of the AEOI and the Director General of the IAEA,” February 21, 2021, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/ joint-statement-by-the-vice-president-of-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-and-head-of-the-aeoi-and-the-direc tor-general-of-the-iaea.
64 Patrick Wintour, “IAEA and Iran Strike Three-Month Deal over Nuclear Inspections,” Guardian, February 21, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/21/iran-pushes-ahead-plan-cut-un-nuclear-inspections.
65 Philipp Jenne and Jon Gambrell, “Iran Agrees to Extend Deal on Cameras at Its Nuclear Sites,” AP, May 24, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/united-nations-middle-east-iran-europe-iran-nuclear-a9a1ff0 cdc170b38cad13e0d85681af9.
66 Kareem Fahim and Karen DeYoung, “Hardening Stances by Iran and U.S. Complicate Negotiations to Revive Nuclear Deal,” Washington Post, June 27, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_ east/iran-biden-nuclear-deal/2021/06/27/08507cf2-d750-11eb-8c87-ad6f27918c78_story.html.
67 GOV/2021/28, May 31, 2021.
68 GOV/2021/39, September 9, 2021.
70 “Joint Statement by the Vice-President and the Head of Atomic Energy Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” September 12, 2021, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/joint-statement-by-the-vice-president-and-the-he ad-of-atomic-energy-organization-of-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-and-the-director-general-of-the-international-atomic-energy-agency.
71 INFCIRC/964, November 1, 2021.
72 “IAEA Director General’s Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors,” IAEA, November 24, 2021, https://www.iaea.org/iaea-director-generals-introductory-statement-to-the-board-of-governors-24-november-2021.
74 “IAEA and Iran Reach Agreement on Replacing Surveillance Cameras at Karaj Facility,” IAEA, December 15, 2021, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/iaea-and-iran-reach-agreement-on-replacing-surveillance-cameras-at-karaj-facility.
75 GOV/2021/15, February 23, 2021.
76 GOV/2021/29, May 31, 2021.
77 GOV/2021/52, November 17, 2021.
78 IAEA, “Safeguards Statement for 2020.”