The NPT and the IAEA’s critical role in steering nuclear towards peaceful uses

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Since the dawn of the nuclear age in the middle of the 20th century, the possibilities for the atom have been two-sided like a coin: one face held the destructive power of nuclear weapons; the other, the limitless potential of peaceful nuclear applications.

Since its entry into force in 1970, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has been the international legal framework by which nations have worked to steer the use of nuclear science and technology towards peace and development, and away from developing nuclear weapons. The NPT is the centrepiece of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. It promotes cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear applications and seeks nuclear disarmament. The IAEA is named several times in past review conferences of the Treaty, including as one of the main vehicles that fosters international cooperation for peaceful nuclear applications (Article IV) and as the organization explicitly entrusted with key nuclear verification responsibilities (Article III).

In January 2022, the NPT, so critical to maintaining world peace over half a century, will be under the spotlight at its Tenth Review Conference. To mark the occasion the IAEA Bulletin delves into ways the Agency’s work is directly relevant to its implementation.

This edition of the Bulletin explores the many benefits of peaceful nuclear applications with examples from Viet Nam and Bangladesh. We highlight how Indonesia champions nuclear South-South collaboration and touch on new IAEA initiatives such as ZODIAC, for addressing zoonotic disease outbreaks, and NUTEC Plastics, for tackling plastic pollution. It examines nuclear safety and security in Moldova, describes the IAEA’s low-enriched uranium bank in Kazakhstan, and shows how we are building capacity for managing nuclear emergencies.

More than 400 IAEA projects have been made possible by funds raised through the Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI), which originated from a proposal made during the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Since then, PUI has raised more than €200 million to help expand IAEA support to Member States in areas such as health care, agriculture, energy development and more.

IAEA safeguards are a fundamental pillar of the nuclear non-proliferation regime under the NPT. The Bulletin also reviews the Agency’s role in nuclear safeguards; profiles its close collaboration with Tajikistan, and explains the importance of COMPASS, our initiative strengthening cooperation with countries; and brings attention to our support in establishing nuclear weapon free zones.

Having up-to-date safeguards agreement in place is important not only for those that use nuclear power, but also for countries with little to no nuclear material, such as those with Small Quantities Protocol (SQP). I call on states with the SQPs based on old standard text to amend or rescind them and encourage all NPT States parties that have not yet done so to conclude an additional protocol (AP).

Source: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)