|No 52 Em Português|
Text for Discussion:
Text for Discussion:
Alternative to the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA
Carlos Feu Alvim (*)
The problems of the Additional Protocol
From our point of view The Additional Protocol presents a series of inconveniences for the signatory country since it makes its nuclear activities more vulnerable regarding technology. This vulnerability is reinforced in countries where the nuclear activity is governmental and is not protected by private rights guaranteed by the country’s legislation and respected by the Protocol as well. It also presents risks for the international community because the inevitable increase of the number of people who know details of the installations and of the technologies involved increases the risk of proliferation at the world level and of dissemination of information about the installations and this may increase the probability of terrorist attacks against nuclear installations.
However, one cannot disregard that the system in force before the safeguards strengthening measures had faults because it did not consider some possibility of non-declared activities and the existence of non-declared materials from non-controlled activities in a country signatory of a safeguards agreement. These faults were partially removed by additional measures within the existing legal frame (without the Additional Protocol); there are some gaps left that this Protocol tries to fill concerning non-declared materials and installations. The alternative system proposed here is based on the fact that proliferation inevitably involves highly specific nuclear material and its early detection is the best way to prevent proliferation and identify the existence of an eventual clandestine program.
The proposed system would continue to be centered on nuclear materials, it would avoid intrusive and potentially proliferating inspections and visits as those to centrifuge plants and would offer as a counterpart a commitment of not using direct use materials such as highly enriched uranium and plutonium with isotopic purity. It would also offer a verification system using environmental samples that could trigger progressive access to installations where there are suspicions of activities that are contrary to the commitments made.
The alternative to the present system would start from the following base:
• Acknowledgment that it is necessary to verify the existence in a country of non-declared nuclear material and non-declared installations for its manipulation and use;
• The new alternative strengthened safeguards system, as the one previous to the Protocol, would continue to be centered on nuclear material and would use the environmental detection even as traces;
• The safeguards application would be extended to the complete nuclear fuel cycle as in the Additional Protocol;
• The countries signatory of the new system would made the additional commitment of neither using nor producing nuclear material of direct use in nuclear weapons or with characteristics similar to that material;
• Specifically, the country would make the additional commitment of neither using nor producing highly enriched uranium; a practical limit of 30 or 25% would be fixed in order to facilitate its application and to avoid false alarms. In the reprocessing area there would be the commitment of only reprocessing fuel with a burn up that supplies the material inadequate to be used in nuclear weapons (a minimum Pu240/Pu239 ratio would be established). The occasional use of U233 resulting from thorium irradiation would be made with fuel elements where the natural uranium mixture, before reprocessing, would guarantee the presence of U238 together with the produced U233. The new commitments would be the base for environmental verifications.
• The duration of this commitment could be indefinite or it could be canceled with a minimum notice period to be fixed (for example, 2 years). In this case, as renouncing this additional commitment would make unviable the application of the new system, it would be foreseen the automatic acceptance of the Additional Protocol procedures starting on the data the renounce is made public.
• Any public circulation area could be used for environmental sampling by the inspecting agencies aiming at detecting the presence of prohibited materials. Likewise, any circulating area in the declared installations could be used for that purpose.
• The occasional detection of prohibited material would cause the detailed sampling – with adequate mechanisms to be used as counterproof by independent authorities – in the circulation area of the installation involved. A new evidence of the existence of forbidden material would require explanations from the involved country regarding the material and the concerned activities.
• In the case of Brazil and Argentina, the commitment agreement would be established in addition to the Brazil-Argentina Bilateral Agreement and its fulfillment would be verified by ABACC. In this additional Agreement it would be foreseen the possible verification by the IAEA within the Additional Protocol to the Quadripartite Agreement (as in the original agreement, the bilateral verification would be started independent from the IAEA).
• An alternative to the bilateral commitment would be an agreement open to adherence of other countries renouncing to materials whose isotopic composition (defined by the agreement) could facilitate access to material of direct use in nuclear weapons.
• The information supplied to the inspecting agencies would consider the non-dissemination of information that might increase the risk of the installations’ integrity and the dissemination of sensitive technologies.
Advantages and disadvantages of the proposed solution
The advantage of the proposal is that its adoption would make the countries that have not yet accepted the Additional Protocol change their present defensive attitude to an offensive one against proliferation. In fact the refusal of the present version of the Additional Protocol would be based on the argument that it actually favors the proliferation. As an exchange currency, the countries that adhere to the new system would be offering something substantial since the commitment would make it possible to create a zone free of proliferating nuclear materials in a way that does not exist even in signatory countries.
It is possible that the proposal does not entirely remove the existing pressures regarding the signature of the Protocol in the present form. Another disadvantage is that renouncing it implies giving up some possible nuclear applications. The most evident one is reactors for satellites; it would also make unviable some special research reactor such as those of high flux. However, based on peaceful applications normally considered for the medium term in the countries that eventually would sign it, there would not be considerable harm for future activities and even the naval reactor – including submarines – would be preserved. In effect, even though the nuclear powers use high enrichments in submarines, the Brazilian program planners declare that enrichments below 20% already give acceptable autonomy to the submarine in its foreseen defensive purposes.
(*) The author has alternatively been Assistant Secretary and Secretary of the Brazil-Argentina Agency for Nuclear Materials Account and Control – ABACC since its establishment until 2002.
[i] Are the New Nuclear Safeguards Safe? e&e No 38, http://ecen.com/eee38/ecen_38.htm/
Graphic Edition/Edição Gráfica:
Tuesday, 11 November 2008.