Third session of the NPT PrepCom: highlights on nuclear security

Posted by Sonia Drobysz (sonia.drobysz) on May 29 2014
VERTIC Blog >> National Implementation Measures
Sonia Drobysz, London
On 9 May, Ambassador Enrique Roman-Morey from Peru concluded the third session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2015 Review Conference (RevCon) of the Parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The two-week event took place at United Nations Headquarters in New York, and as provided for in the final document adopted by the 2000 RevCon, this third PrepCom was to ‘make every effort to produce a consensus report containing recommendations to the Review Conference’, ‘taking into account the deliberations and results of its previous sessions’.
Despite obvious tensions between Ukraine and Russia following the events in Crimea, which triggered concerns within the NPT states parties about nuclear security assurances given by nuclear weapons states to non-nuclear weapons states, the discussions were carried out ‘in a positive spirit which continued to the very end’, the Peruvian chairman noted. The issue was deemed to be ‘present but not disruptive’, as US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller reportedly said.
A procedural report detailing the organisation of the work as well as a provisional agenda for the 2015 Review Conference and the allocation of items to the three main Committees of the Conference was adopted. However, no substantive consensus report based on the draft recommendations to the 2015 NPT RevCon put forward by the chair could be agreed upon. As explained by Ambassador Roman-Morey, ‘given the lack of time to engage in further consultations and negotiations, the Chair decided to convey the recommendations to the Review Conference in the form of a working paper under his own authority’.
Paragraph 8 of the document notes that ‘the 2015 Review Conference should consider measures intended to enhance effective physical protection of all nuclear material and nuclear facilities’. Perhaps not as controversial as disarmament or the Middle East weapons of mass destruction free zone, and yet as important and pressing, the issues of physical protection and nuclear security were discussed at large during the meeting, supporting the idea that they may be considered the ‘fourth pillar’ of the NPT together with disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses. The final document adopted by the 2010 RevCon itself contained several actions aimed at strengthening international efforts in that area, and many states highlighted the work undertaken so far to implement them as well as what remains to be done.

One area of interest was the international legal framework and the implementation of international obligations at the national level to strengthen detection, prevention and response national capabilities for nuclear security.
Actions 42, 45 and 59 of the 2010 final document called for the universalisation of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) as well as of its 2005 Amendment, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT). The CPPNM today has 149 states parties – compared to 142 at the last RevCon – and 75 states have adhered to its Amendment (a significant increase, of 39 states, since 2010). The latter will enter into force 30 days after the date on which two-thirds of the states parties to the CPPNM have deposited an instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval with the IAEA. ICSANT currently has 93 states parties, 26 more than in 2010.
Implementation of non-legally-binding documents such as the IAEA Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, as well as its Supplementary Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources, as urged by the 2010 RevCon in action 43 of the final document, was also raised. In total, 121 states have made a political commitment with regard to the Code of Conduct, and 89 with regard to the Guidance.
Strengthening the implementation of nuclear security at the national level was also discussed, in line with Actions 40 and 41 of the 2010 final document, which encourage all states to maintain the highest possible standards of security and physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities, applying as appropriate, the IAEA recommendations on the physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities.
The language of the chairman’s working paper on all those aspects is welcome. It calls upon states parties that have not yet done so to adhere as soon as possible to the CPPNM and its 2005 Amendment, and ICSANT, as well as to apply as appropriate the recommendations on the physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities contained in IAEA document INFCIRC/225/Revision 5 and in the IAEA Nuclear Security Series publications, and furthermore to implement the revised IAEA Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources and the Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources.
Certain working papers and discussions went further and echoed the more 'groundbreaking gains' made during the third Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), held in the Netherlands on 24-25 March this year and supporting the 2010 action plan. In its working paper addressing ‘Vienna issues’ including nuclear security, the Vienna group of Ten – comprised of Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden – expressly encouraged PrepCom-participating states to ‘effectively follow up the outcomes of the Nuclear Security Summit…in order to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism and to make the global nuclear security architecture as strong and comprehensive as possible.’
The communiqué adopted in The Hague by 58 world leaders recognised ‘the need for a strengthened and comprehensive international nuclear security architecture, consisting of legal instruments, international organisations and initiatives, internationally accepted guidance and good practices.’ In his statement to the PrepCom addressing ‘Cluster 3’ on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, Ambassador Henk-Cor van der Kwast of the Netherlands reminded the NPT states parties of the achievements made in The Hague. He especially mentioned the initiative to strengthen nuclear security implementation launched by his own country together with the US and the Republic of Korea to support implementation of the IAEA recommendations contained in Nuclear Security Series 13, 14 and 15.
Two-thirds of the countries that participated in the NSS (35 countries) committed themselves to this initiative. The Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) – a grouping of Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, Turkey and United Arab Emirates – backed up the initiative in a working paper submitted to the PrepCom. They noted that ‘it would be a considerable step forward if states were to actively apply and implement the IAEA recommendations nationally and declare such intent publicly.’ It explained that it would ‘significantly strengthen nuclear security worldwide and bolster confidence at national and international level’ without altering ‘the character of IAEA guidance into a legally binding instrument’ as ‘states remain fully responsible for the ways and means of the implementation’.
A side-event on the NSS hosted by the Netherlands on the margin of the PrepCom also served as an opportunity to discuss other aspects of the communiqué and the summit relevant to the PrepCom, including efforts aimed at strengthening the international nuclear security architecture. Such efforts are particularly reflected in paragraph 11 of The Hague communiqué, which welcomes ‘efforts aimed at developing model legislation on nuclear security, which could provide states with building blocks to develop comprehensive national legislation in accordance with their own legal systems and internal legal processes’. As raised during the Netherlands side-event, Indonesia's Gift Basket to the NSS, the National Legislation Implementation Kit on Nuclear Security (NLIK) contains such model legislation to implement certain international instruments related to nuclear security.
Other states and organisations explained current concrete efforts undertaken at the national and regional levels to strengthen nuclear security. Russia shared with the PrepCom its memorandum for the 2014 NSS detailing, among other issues, its position and work on the ‘global architecture for nuclear security’. The European Union also submitted a EU working paper and hosted a side-event on its efforts to strengthen nuclear security. Such efforts include the creation of the EU CBRN Centres of Excellence (CoE) that currently involve 44 partner states, as well as implementing organisations, and help beneficiary states to implement coordinated regional strategies for the mitigation of and preparedness against CBRN-related risks. VERTIC is currently contributing to CoE Project 8 on prerequisite to strengthening CRBN national legal frameworks in five South East Asian countries, which involves work on nuclear security legislation.
The international and national legal framework for nuclear security has thus largely been addressed during the NPT review process this year. As incidents in Mexico, Georgia and Nepal have recently shown, however, more needs to be done at the international and national levels to strengthen legal measures to prevent, detect and respond to criminal or intentional unauthorised acts involving or directed at nuclear material, other radioactive material, associated facilities, or associated activities. Hopefully, the NSS and the PrepCom have paved the way for serious discussions and strong language on those issues at the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

Last changed: May 29 2014 at 4:23 PM