ElBaradei: IAEA Budget Problems Dangerous

By Kerr, Paul | Arms Control Today, July/August 2007 | Go to article overview

ElBaradei: IAEA Budget Problems Dangerous


Kerr, Paul, Arms Control Today


Budget constraints are jeopardizing the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) ability to perform vital parts of its mission, particularly those most closely related to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, Director- General Mohamed ElBaradei has warned in recent months. Meanwhile, a committee established by the IAEA Board of Governors to review the adequacy of agency safeguards has ended its work after having made little progress in its deliberations.

According to a document obtained by Arms Control Today, ElBaradei told the IAEA board June 15 that the proposed agency budget for 2008 "does not by any stretch of the imagination meet our basic, essential requirements," adding that "our ability to carry out our essential functions is being chipped away."

The IAEA performs a wide variety of nuclear-related functions, including promoting safety in nuclear facilities as well as cooperating with countries on matters such as nuclear power and nuclear medicine.

It also performs missions critical to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. For example, the IAEA implements safeguards agreements, which states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) are required to conclude. Such agreements allow the agency to monitor certain declared nuclear activities and facilities to ensure they are used solely for peaceful purposes.

Additionally, the IAEA performs functions designed to prevent the smuggling and theft of nuclear material, such as maintaining a database that tracks illicit trafficking in such material. The agency also provides assistance to states to help them prevent the theft of nuclear material.

Budget in Flux

The IAEA board has not yet agreed on a budget for fiscal year 2008, a situation that ElBaradei described June 11 as "disappointing." The board could decide on a budget at an early July meeting, Agence France-Presse reported June 17, but that has not yet been confirmed.

The board is required to submit the agency's annual budget to the IAEA General Conference, which meets each September. The directorgeneral initially develops the budget with input from IAEA staff and member states.

Based on a UN formula, each member-state contributes a certain amount of funds to the IAEA's "regular budget." The agency's total regular budget for fiscal year 2007 is approximately $211 million. The IAEA also receives voluntary contributions from member states.

The agency's fiscal year 2007 verification budget, which includes the implementation of safeguards, is less than $83 million. The budget for nuclear safety and security, which includes measures to secure nuclear materials, is approximately $17 million.

Starting in the mid-1980s, a group of wealthy countries imposed a "zero real-growth" budget on the IAEA. Beginning in 2003, however, the agency has received modest budget increases.

For fiscal year 2008, ElBaradei submitted a nominally zero realgrowth budget, according to another document obtained by Arms Control Today. However, it contains a separate category of funding for "essential investments." Some governments have asked the IAEA to decrease its 2008 fiscal year budget, the document says.

Size Matters

ElBaradei warned June 15 that continued flat budgets would force the agency to cut back on some of its missions. Similarly, he argued four days earlier that the "dichotomy between increased high priority activities and inadequate funding, if continued, will lead to the failure of critical IAEA functions."

Government officials and outside experts widely acknowledge that the IAEA's workload will increase in the future. According to an April 18 Department of State fact sheet, "requirements for IAEA safeguards and inspections are expected to increase dramatically over time" because more countries are likely to increase their reliance on nuclear power.

At least in the short term, the agency also will need to devote more resources to other functions, such as evaluating information supplied by member-states as more countries conclude additional protocols to their safeguards agreements, according to a 2005 IAEA budget document. …

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