The safeguard system of the International Atomic Energy Agency - a study of the international politics of atomic control




Butler, Richard William

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This thesis is a study in international politics. Its subject is the system for the control of atomic energy - the safeguards system - established and administered by the Intenational Atomic Engergy Agency (IAEA). I have undertaken a political study of this technical system because the main purpose for which the system was established is a political purpose. The system can be described in many ways. A functional description shows it to be a set of technical and administrative arrangements designed to ensure that the atomic activities to which these arrangements apply are carried out within definite technical limits. A description in terms of its technical objective shows it to be a set of regulations designed to ensure that these same atomic activities do not "further any military purpose". Such descriptions are useful and have been considered wherever appropriate. However, the main concern of this thesis is with the negotiations on the development of this system for the international control of atomic energy. These negotiations reflect both the policy attitudes and diplomatic performance of the powers involved in them and the role it has been agreed the sytem should play in the wider field of nuclear arms control. My study of these negotiations and their origins indicates that the source of the proposal to create an international system for the control of atomic energy was the United States. In terms of the will to promote these arrangements and considering their specific structure, the policy of the United States has been dominant. The first such proposal was the "Baruch Plan", presented to the United States in 1946. Although this Plan was rejected, subsequent developments have indicated that the achievement of a control system has been a central part of United States foreign policy. The IAEA scheme was the next attempt of the United States to achieve its policy objective. The failure of the Baruch Plan was a failure for United States diplomacy. The Plan was grandiose and very restrictive. Above all it did not take account of what the Soviet Union called the "political realities" of the day. Although the Baruch Plan has been consigned to the "mission failed" section of history it retains the virtue of presenting a clear, perhaps embarrassingly clear, description of basic United States objectives. For this reason and because of its connection with subsequent proposals it is considered briefly in this thesis. The proposal to create IAEA also came from the United States. On this occasion the United States registered a victory its policy and diplomacy. Its aim was to create an international authority which would control atomic energy. This was done. The source of its diplomatic success was the fact that this proposal was modest in terms of the control powers proposed and it gave considerable positive emphasis to the development of atomic technology. This involved a real shift in American policy. Outright prohibition on a basis which would not damage the United States' nuclear superiority wsa replaced by a policy of controlled development, also on a basis acceptable to the United States. The precise nature of this success was that the United States demonstrated to the Soviet Union that continued Soviet refusal to participate in the scheme woul damage Soviet interests. For the Soviet Union this involved shifting its policy priorities from a position where it had sought the outright prohibition of nuclear weapons as a first step towards control to a position where a "non-use" of nuclear weapons Declaration was pursued concurrently with its aquiesence in the creation of IAEA. After the creation of the IAEA, the United States pushed ahead with the creation of the Agency's safeguards system. The system finally developed was tied to atomic projects involving the extension of assistance from one country to another. Although unilateral submission to the sytem was deemed acceptable the Agency was given no right to apply its system to member States other than in connection with assistance projects in which it played a part or was asked to play a part. This limitation on the system reflected the negotiations among many powers. Soviet influence was one of the factors producing this limitation but the attitude of several "atomic have-nots" was also relevant. A clever and effective United States response was to include in its bilateral assistance treaties signed with some forty countries a clause providing for the transfer of these agreements to Agency administration of the safeguards relevant to them. This policy has brought under Agency control the great bulk of the projects covered by those agreements. Another important implication of the connection which was established betwee the provision of assistance and safeguards control was that it demonstrated that in the United States' view the proliferation of atomic weapons is the key problem of atomic control and accordingly, in its view, "safeguards" is a non-proliferation concept. Since 1963 the IAEA safeguards system has been developed considerably and applied increasingly. These developents were made possible by a major shift in Soviet policy. Before this time Soviet attitudes towards the safeguards system were negative and critical. After the Moscow Test-Ban Treaty the Soviet Union began to support the extension and application of the safe-guards system. It is now so strongly a supporter of it that its attitude to the existing system is conservative. In direct contrast to the earlier period the Soviet Union now sings the virtues of the system and resists even minor changes to it. It appears the the Soviet Union now sees the system as supporting its interests and indeed the Soviet attitude to the development of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty confirms this. The IAEA safeguards system is not concerned with nuclear weapons. The Agency was itself the product of the United States' "Atoms for Peace" proposal and is concerned only with the peaceful uses of atomic energy. The relevance of the Agency and its system of nuclear weaponss conrol is that it is obliged to ensure "so far as it is able" that the peaceful use with which it is concerned remain peaceful. The key element of the safeguards system is the provision for the negotiation of safeguards agreements between the IAEA and countries to which its safeguards system is going to apply. Politically speaking these agreements and the negotiation of them is the most significant factor the Agency has introduced into the area of nuclear control. The effectiveness of the safeguards developed in these agreements is an indirect function of the degree of nuclear development of the country signing an agreement. They are most effective in less developed countries and vice versa. In all cases however they can never have a greater effect than inhibiting to a smalller or larger degree the subject country's ability to develop nuclear weapons. Finally, the developemnt of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with its provisions for the application of IAEA safeguards to non-nuclear weapon states party to the treaty, has the chief effect of obliging the Agency to enter into negotiations with these states on a new kind of safeguards agreement. Under the treaty the purpose of these agreements is to enable IAEA to verify that these signatories are not manufacturing or otherwise acquiring a nuclear weapon or nuclear explosive device. Although this is a new task for the Agency it has a familiar face on it. The IAEA safeguards system and the Non-Proliferation Treaty taken together look very much like the Baruch Plan. Perhaps it is misleading to look for similarities in different historical periods. The temptation is that of finding order in events. It should be said immediately however that a major change that has occurred since 1946 has been in Soviet policy towards nuclear weapons. Its own weapons development hsa assured this. The growing urgency of the proliferation problem has been a second source source of change. On the side of consistancy however has been the determination of the United States to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. The IAEA safeguards system has been a major instrument of this policy.






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