IAEA Physical Protection Meeting Stalls
Wagner, Alex, Arms Control Today
DESPITE HEIGHTENED CONCERN since September 11 over the possibility of a terrorist attack on any of the world's nuclear installations, a four-day International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting in Vienna to expand an international treaty on protecting nuclear material adjourned without agreement December 7.
The 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material obligates its 69 member states to implement specific measures to protect civilian nuclear material during international transport. With U.S. support, the IAEA has been seeking since 1997 to draft an amendment to the convention that would extend the treaty's reach to domestic nuclear protection.
In May, an IAEA group of experts tackled the issue, determining that the agency should draft an amendment that would expand the convention's scope by requiring member states to pass legislation implementing IAEA guidelines on a range of issues, including how nuclear materials are used, stored, and transported and how nuclear materials and facilities can be protected from sabotage. The group recommended the amendment should also address the confidentiality of information on how facilities are protected and member states' responsibilities for implementation.
Attended by 43 delegations and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM), the December meeting sought to draft the amendment, taking into account the expert group's recommendations. According to the IAEA, the conference "achieved a complete and detailed review of the scope of the potential amendments." However, it was unable to conclude a draft amendment. Although a start has been made, there remain "many issues still to be resolved," IAEA spokesman David Kyd said.
It appears that some EURATOM states-including Belgium and, to a lesser degree, France and the United Kingdom-are reluctant to amend the convention, according to an expert familiar with the negotiations. …