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Opening Pandora's Box? Nuclear-Powered Submarines and the. Spread of Nuclear Weapon

  • Atomic Reporters


Aurora Papers 8 was the first detailed study of the implications of a State exercising the provision in the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (INFCIRC/153/Corr.) for non-nuclear-weapon States in connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear weapons (NPT). Paragraph 14 of INFCIRC/153/Corr., The Structure and Content of Agreements Between the Agency and States Required in Connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, provides for the “Non-Application of Safeguards to Nuclear Material to be used in Non-Peaceful Activities”, such as naval nuclear propulsion that is considered as a non-proscribed nuclear activity. This study assessed the 1987 Canadian Defence White Paper’s plan for Canada to acquire a fleet of 10-12 nuclear-powered (conventionally armed) attack submarines and the requirement to exempt their nuclear fuel and naval nuclear reactor from IAEA safeguards. The authors examined the negotiating history of the NPT in the context of the Treaty’s requirement for safeguards only on peaceful nuclear activities and not on all nuclear activities in a non-nuclear-weapon State party. The study then examined the meaning, possible interpretations and potential consequences of Canada invoking paragraph 14 of its NPT safeguards agreement (INFCIRC/164) to exempt its nuclear naval propulsion activities from IAEA safeguards. The Conclusion is that the acquisition of nuclear material free of IAEA safeguards, for use in non-proscribed (non-explosive) military activities, by any NPT-signatory State would inevitably result in the IAEA losing track of the material and consequently would diminish the Agency’s ability to verify a State’s compliance with its safeguards agreement and with the NPT. Thus, a Pandora's Box would be opened, immeasurably increasing the risk of diversion of fissionable material to weapon or unknown uses, weakening IAEA safeguards and diminishing the credibility of the Agency that could serve to undermine the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.
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... 6 The United Kingdom, moreover, feared that an NPT restriction on trade in NPRs would prevent the United States from providing it with technology and HEU fuel for its existing fleet of nuclear submarines. 7 Other countries without such specific needs were simply leery of giving the IAEA more power to inspect their national nuclear programs, particularly if such restrictions would only apply to non-nuclear weapon states. 8 Similarly, the weapon states themselves were not eager to create regulations covering so-called "nonexplosive military uses," which might require IAEA inspections of their naval fuel cycles. ...
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