Myanmar Vows to Upgrade IAEA Safeguards

Article excerpt

myanmar will take steps to give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) greater access to the country's nuclear facilities, the office of myanmar President Thein Sein said in a statement Nov. 19, the day of President Barack Obama's arrival in the Southeast Asian country.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, will sign an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement and will "give effect to the modified standardized text of the Small Quantities Protocol," the statement said. The move could put to rest lingering suspicions that myanmar's military junta had pursued a nuclear weapons program with assistance from North Korea and could open the door to further rapprochement with the international community.

An additional protocol expands the IAEA's ability to check for clandestine nuclear facilities by providing the agency with authority to visit any facility, declared or undeclared, to investigate questions about or inconsistencies in a state's nuclear declarations. It also requires states to provide an "expanded declaration." The IAEA Board of Governors still must approve myanmar's additional protocol.

Myanmar has a comprehensive safeguards agreement in force with the IAEA, but it also has adopted a small quantities protocol, which holds in abeyance much of the agency's inspection authority as long as a state's nuclear material holdings do not exceed certain thresholds. (See ACT, July 2010.) In September 2005, the IAEA Board of Governors approved modifications to such protocols to correct what the board believed was "a weakness of the safeguards system. …