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Interpretation of Nuclear Safeguards Commitments: The Role of Subsequent Agreements and Practice

  • Pierre-Emmanuel Dupont
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter addresses an interpretative issue concerning the scope of safeguards applied by the IAEA under comprehensive safeguards agreements (CSAs) concluded by non-nuclear-weapon States pursuant to the obligation set out in Article III of the NPT. It aims at assessing the way rules for treaty interpretation ought to be applied, and have de facto been applied, in the context of a controversy surrounding the interpretation of para 2 of IAEA document INFCIRC/153 (Corr.), which provides the basis for CSAs, concerning the scope of safeguards under such agreements. The controversial issue is whether this provision is to be read as implying that the IAEA is authorized to verify the absence of ‘undeclared’ nuclear activities in the State subject to safeguards under CSAs, i.e. the ‘completeness’ of the declarations made by the State on the extent of its nuclear activities. I argue that existing rules of interpretation, including an enquiry into subsequent agreement and practice, do not lend unconditional support to the interpretation according to which such provision is to be read as implying that the IAEA under CSAs is entitled to verify the ‘completeness’ of declarations made by States. It appears that a textual approach, together with examination of the context and the object and purpose of CSAs and recourse to the travaux préparatoires gives some weight to the ‘completeness’ argument; and it may be assumed that this embodies a correct interpretation of the disputed provision. But this position is in turn weakened by the consideration of other relevant elements. Indeed, various sources point to the fact that, at the time of entry into force of the NPT and of negotiation of the INFCIRC/153 safeguards system—and at least until the 1990s—there was no shared understanding on the disputed interpretation of para 2 of INFCIRC/153. The various decisions of the IAEA Board of Governors in 1992–1995 often invoked as supporting the ‘completeness’ argument do not in fact embody a common unequivocal endorsement by the Board. As a matter of fact, such disagreements on interpretation have persisted to date, with a few States expressing reservations on the ‘completeness’ argument. The present author has been unable to identify relevant subsequent agreement or subsequent practice that would confirm the ‘completeness’ argument. Therefore, he expresses the view that the confirmation by the IAEA of the ‘completeness’ of declarations of States can only derive, practically if not even legally, from the application of an Additional Protocol.

Keywords

Completeness Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements (CSAs) Correctness; International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) IAEA safeguards Nuclear safeguards commitments Subsequent practice Verification 

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Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Press and the authors 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre of International Law PracticeLondonUK

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