Transcription of the Article published in “Correio Braziliense” of 04/19/2004.
Brazil and the Additional Protocol of the Safeguards Agreement
Carlos Feu Alvim(*)
Brazil seems to be next in line concerning the international pressure mechanism for signing the Additional Protocol of the Safeguards Agreement aiming at giving more powers to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its inspections of nuclear activities.
Recently Libya and Iran have agreed to sign the Protocol as a way to reduce suspicions about illegal programs for fabricating nuclear weapons.
Nothing seems to justify the inclusion of Brazil in this list of countries since there are no valid suspicions regarding illicit activities in the nuclear area that could lead to accepting the Protocol without discussion.
The Protocol is a legal instrument for the application by the IAEA of what is called “strengthened safeguards” aiming at avoiding new clandestine programs as those of Iraq (before the first invasion) and North Korea. Fundamentally the Protocol assures that the IAEA will have more information and easier access.
Articles of the New York Times and the Washington Post that have addressed the subject of the Additional Protocol (motive) pinpoint a pretext based on the safeguards that are in force. The pretext is the withdrawal of the panels that cover the centrifuges that are being installed in the state-owned nuclear fuel plant - Indústrias Nucleares Brasileiras (INB) – in Resende.
The story of these panels is really curious. Before the Safeguards Agreement was signed , the IAEA has agreed that the enriching centrifuges should be covered with a panel since in what concerns safeguards the important things are the centrifuge piping and its input and output.
In the general project description it would be applied (Vice-Admiral Othon) the (old) French masculine pissoir concept that revealed the legs and the upper part of the body but covered the essential part.
In the beginning this was the type of panel adopted. But when an IAEA inspector tried to look underneath the panel, the Navy decided to cover not only the essential part but also the whole .
The ABACC (Brazilian – Argentine Agency that coordinates the mutual inspections) initially developed a method for applying nuclear safeguards with these panels since there exists the possibility that they can enclose cylinders where the enriched and impoverished materials would be stored.
The system involves measurements of gamma and neutrons radiation emission and transmission inside the plant and non-announced inspections. The IAEA, Brazilian Argentine and American specialists collaborated in the method elaboration that has been applied for some years in the Navy installations.
Then why the IAEA does not accept that the same procedure should be applied in Resende? From the formal point of view, the IAEA is partly right since its application in a commercial plant was not foreseen.
On the other hand the centrifuges that were sent to Resende would be installed in the Navy Demonstration Plant (USIDE) where the process is already approved. Why would the IAEA made this transfer difficult since it is much more complicated to inspect a military installation than a civil one?
Recently a possible explanation was given to this resistance that would be the real motive of the present pressure: it is the idea that President Bush mentioned in a previous article of the New York Times and in the Washington Post article itself, namely the adoption of a new non-proliferation policy that would limit the access to uranium enrichment of countries that already dominate the nuclear fuel cycle. A criterion for establishing this distinction would be to have or not have a commercial plant.
It is the interest of Brazil to quickly disarm the pretext for international pressures. It would facilitate acceptance of the method in the present step if Brazil would guarantee that it would be limited to the total enrichment capacity already agreed for its application (laboratories, the Navy and USIDE). Certainly there are inventive solutions that could be accepted by the IAEA for the rest of the Resende plant.
In what concerns the Brazilian adhesion to the Additional Protocol – explicit object of the present international pressure – it is now the time to discuss it with society so that we would not be surprised by an abrupt decision. It is not the time either for boasting or submission.
(*) PhD degree in Physics (60 years old), was ABACC’s Secretary for more than 10 years.
1- Information regarding Nuclear Safeguards and the Additional Protocol
One of the responsibilities of the International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA is to guarantee that the nuclear activities of a country are exclusively for pacific ends. For this purpose, the Agency celebrates with the countries (or group of countries) a Nuclear Safeguard Agreement. The countries that celebrate such agreement are, in a general, signatories of another agreement in which they abdicate the use and possession of nuclear weapons.
In most of the countries, this agreement is the NPT. Brazil has always considered this agreement as discriminatory and has preferred, together with Argentina, to sign a bilateral agreement where basically the same commitments were assumed.
Based on this agreement Brazil, Argentina, ABACC and the IAEA have signed in December 1991 a Safeguards Agreement denominated Quadripartite. This same safeguard agreement was used to satisfy the NPT when Argentina and later Brazil have decided to ratify it.
When the clandestine programs of Iraq and North Korea were discovered, in spite of the fact that both countries are NPT signatories and have an IAEA Safeguard Agreement in force, the existing safeguard system was contested.
Under the leadership of the USA the IAEA Assembly decided to adopt measures that were called “safeguards strengthening”. Some measures were immediately adopted because it was understood that the IAEA already had the mandate for them while others would need the acceptance by the countries of an Additional Protocol whose model was approved by the IAEA in 1997. This model should be adapted to each type of agreement. In the case of Brazil and Argentina there exists already a draft of the protocol additional to the Quadripartite agreement. In order to put it into force both parties would have to sign the Protocol only after its ratification by the Congress of both countries and the two agencies boards. The difference between the “strengthened safeguards” and the previous one could be summarized in the following: previously the countries declared their materials (essentially uranium from a certain purity on and plutonium) and its nuclear installations and the IAEA (and ABACC) would carry out the accounting of the declared material in the declared installations. These institutions would see to that no deviations would occur in this accounting. However, the eventual existence of a “second accounting” of materials and independent installations was practically ignored. The new safeguards are also responsible for the possibility of existence of this “second accounting”. Brazil has already accepted the fact that the IAEA needs to be sure that the statements of the countries regarding nuclear materials and activities should be complete. In this sense, some measures of the so called “strengthened safeguards” are already in force.
The Additional Protocol aims at amplifying the information received from the countries and permitting the IAEA a larger access to installations, declared or not. Theoretically , with this Protocol any place in the country could be subject to inspections. However, some places deserve a managed access in order to preserve some technological secrets. One of the more polemic points of this type of safeguards is that the IAEA should be able to supply annually a reliable certification not only about the declared material in a country but also about the inexistence of non declared materials and installations.
Previously there was considerable doubt about the possibility of a country to obtain such type of “negative proof”. With the episode relative to the evidence of inexistence of mass destruction weapons in Iraq, this doubt was strengthened. It became also evident the risk a country can run if it accepts a commitment to prove its innocence.
The Additional Protocol was object of extensive diplomatic discussion where Brazil had a relevant role. Its wording has adopted some of the Brazilian points of view, even when disguised by the “constructive ambiguities” of diplomats.
For countries where the nuclear industry is private there are in the Protocol protection to constitutional rights of the private industries that involve, for example, its technological secrets. In this case, the country commits itself to do all that is reasonable in order to satisfy the IAEA by other means. Brazil would not be protected by this clause because our industry is state-owned and in principle it would have power to order the access.
The Protocol is already in force in 39 countries and has been signed by 47. Of the countries where it is in force, the relevant ones in nuclear terms are Japan and Canada. The European Union countries together with EURATOM have signed the Additional Protocol that will be in force only after all countries ratify it. As a compensation to the application of the new type of safeguards, to the countries where the IAEA could assure that it has not detected indications of non declared activities, integrated safeguards would be applied and with less demand of routine inspections.
Some acronyms and definitions
Nuclear Safeguards are procedures for guaranteeing only the peaceful use of nuclear materials and equipment.
IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency: It is a United Nations organisms with headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
Bilateral Agreement – Agreement for the Exclusive Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy, signed by Brazil and Argentina in 1991 and that created ABACC
ABACC – Brazilian-Argentine Agency for the Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials with headquarters in Rio de Janeiro. Presently it carries out inspections with the IAEA and some inspections by its own initiative.
NPT – Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by which the possession of nuclear weapons would be restricted to the countries that possessed it at the time of the treaty (USA, Russia (successor of the Soviet Union), United Kingdom, France and China)
EURATOM – Organism, prior to the existence of the European Community and Union, responsible for applying regional safeguards in European Union countries. It inspired the creation of ABACC.
 There are also restricted agreements to guarantee that the equipment and materials supplied by another country will not be used for non permitted purposes.
2 - Note on the inspection process adopted by ABACC and the IAEA in the enrichment installations in Brazil with panels that cover the centrifuges:
The existing problem is that even inspecting the piping that go in and come out of the panels it is not eliminated the hypothesis that inside the panels there could exist cylinders that store nuclear material.
The material of this pretense cylinder would emit gamma radiation (that can be shielded with lead) and neutrons (that can be shielded with paraffin or polyethylene). The inspecting Agency has to eliminate the hypothesis of existence of the cylinder. For this purpose, the inspectors at first perform measurements with simple gamma and neutron detectors to eliminate the hypothesis of a cylinder without shielding behind the panels. To detect the possible shielded cylinder (that has respectable dimensions) it was developed a method based on the fact that if the cylinder is shielded it would also stop the neutrons that cross the panel. By putting a neutron source in one side and the detector in the other one, this hypothesis is eliminated. This method has been extensively discussed in world congresses and its formulations had the participation of Brazilian, Argentine, American and IAEA researchers. No serious objection to the method was ever presented.
The problem is that it is excessively difficult and time-consuming. To apply it in an industrial installation would be unviable.
In the figure we see on the left a part of the panel only with the centrifuges that would be practically transparent to neutrons. On the right it is represented a possible cylinder whose own radiation would be contained in the shielding but that would be detected by transmission measurements. The source and the detector are installed by the inspectors in different random places of the panel.
Graphic Edition/Edição Gráfica:
Tuesday, 11 November 2008.