Skip to main content Accessibility help

International safeguarding as institutionalized collective behavior

  • Robert Pendley, Lawrence Scheinman and Richard W. Butler


“International safeguards” refer to a set of international agreements establishing control over the production, use, and final disposition of fissionable materials. Before the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) went into effect, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards had been applied to 75 reactors and ten other nuclear facilities under 51 different agreements. The design of the first regime was largely a function of political, strategic, and economic rather than technical considerations. After 1971, safeguards were made an integral part of the NPT, and became obligatory with respect to all peaceful nuclear activities in signatory states. Negotiations on the NPT safeguards regime focused on efforts to minimize the major asymmetrical costs that this implied, and particularly to meet the objections of major nonnuclear weapons states. The focus of controversy centered less on resistance to incursions on sovereignty than on demands for equity in incursion. In these negotiations, technological factors facilitated the construction of a politically acceptable regime.



Hide All

1 Data are from the Project Independence Task Force on Nuclear Energy (Washington, D.C.: Federal Energy Administration, 08 1974).

2 Willrich, Mason, “Worldwide Nuclear Industry”, in Willrich, M. (ed.), International Safeguards and Nuclear Industry (Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1973) p. 54.

3 Ibid., p. 55.

4 This number is meant to be indicative only; obviously the actual number and yield of weapons created from this amount of plutonium (assuming all of it were fabricated into warheads) would depend on a large number of factors, such as the design of the device, the purity of the materials, and others. The point we wish to establish is that the total amount of material that must be somehow protected against diversion or theft will soon be very large.

5 IAEA, INFCIRC/153, paragraph 28.

6 See IAEA, Annual Report of the Board of Governors to the General Conference, July 1, 1971 to June 30,1972, (1972).

7 A brief review of the ENEA (whose official name was changed to NEA- Nuclear Energy Agency in 1972 when Japan joined) can be found in Changing Role for OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency”, OECD Observer, no. 66 (10, 1973), pp. 1926.

8 United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Documents on Disarmament, 1967, pp. 69–83. (Hereafter referred to as Documents on Disarmament).

9 For a discussion of these alternative systems, see Szasz, Paul C., “International Atomic Energy Agency Safeguards”, in Willrich, M. (ed.), International Safeguards and Nuclear Industry, (Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1974), pp. 135–40.

10 US Department of State, International Control of Atomic Energy, Publication no. 2702 (Washington, D.C., 08 9, 1945).

12 Proposals for an International Atomic Development Authority”, Department of State Bulletin, vol. 14, no. 364 (06 23, 1946), pp. 1057–62.

13 Cf. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, Official Records, 06 18, 1946, pp. 23–30.

14 Izvestia, September 25, 1949.

15 Kramish, Arnold, The Peaceful Atom in Foreign Policy (New York: Harper and Row, 1963), p. 62.

16 IAEA, Statute, Article III. B.1.

17 For example, in the discussions of the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Commission (ENDC) in Geneva, references to the application of IAEA safeguards were common. Furthermore, a content analysis of debates at the IAEA's General Conferences indicates that in the first ten years of debates on the subject of safeguards, of the various mentions which could be made of them (e.g., technical details, purpose, limits, etc.) approximately one mention in ten referred to the connection of safeguards with actual or potential arms control and disarmament measures. This verbal identification grew over time; approximately one-half of these references occurred in 1965 and 1966. See Pendley, Robert E., International Safeguards on Nuclear Materials (Evanston, III.: Northwestern University, unpublished Ph.d. dissertation, 1968), pp. 165–72.

18 This was signaled in an Aide Memoire from Gromyko, Andrei to Bohlen, Charles in Moscow on 09 22, 1954.

19 Cabol Lodge announced to the First Committee of the UN, on November 5, 1954 that the United States Government was proceeding in negotiations with the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Belgium, and Portugal.

20 Department of State Bulletin, vol. 33, no. 852 (October 24, 1955) pp. 666–72.

21 Bernard Bechhoefer has provided the model study of these negotiations: see Negotiating and Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency, International Organization, vol. 13, no. 1 (Winter 1959).

22 Szasz, Paul C., “Legal and Administrative Problems Arising from the Implementation of International Atomic Energy Agency Safeguards”, in Weinstein, Jerry (ed.), Progress in Atomic Energy, 4 (Paris: OECD, 1963), p. 120.

23 Szasz, p. 133.

24 Ibid., pp. 133–34.

25 IAEA, Statute, Article 3. A. S.

26 This interpretation is shared by the man who served as the first Inspector General of the IAEA. Reviewing the relative degrees of technological and political inputs into the development of the first system and its later developments, Allan McKnight concludes that “the quantity and quality of technical discussion was in direct proportion to the degree of political consensus”. Regarding the first system, he says “A limited scientific consensus was a necessary accompaniment of the first quest for and achievement in 1956 of a limited political consensus. Thereafter, the pursuit of the scientific consensus lagged in time behind the progress towards a general political consensus”. McKnight, Allan, Atomic Safeguards: A Study in International Verification (New York: UNITAR, 1971), p. 162. As for the subsequent evolution of the system, McKnight concludes that “the level of scientific effort in support of safeguards has been disappointing. The IAEA Scientific Advisory Committee has contributed little to the subject” (Ibid., p. 60). For a retrospective analysis of the Baruch plan which makes essentially the same point, see Wu, Leneice N., “The Baruch Plan: US Diplomacy Enters the Nuclear Age”, Report Prepared for the Sub-Committee on National Security Policy and Scientific Development of the Center on Foreign Affairs. USGPO, 08 1972.

27 See McKnight, Allan, Atomic Safeguards: A Study in International Verification (New York: UKITAR, 1971) pp. 53–5 for a discussion of this first safeguards extension.

28 See Kolkowicz, Roman et al. , The Soviet Union and Arms Control: A Super-Power Dilemma (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1970), pp. 7071.

29 Ibid., p. 77.

30 The general implication of Oyster Creek is raised by Häfele, W., “NPT Safeguards” in SIPRI, Nuclear Proliferation Problems (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1974), pp. 146–47.

31 A discussion and tabulation of Agency voting on safeguards appears in McKnight, Allan, Atomic Safeguards (New York: UNITAR, 1971), pp. 5362. See also Szasz, Paul, The Law and Practices of the International Atomic Energy Agency, (Vienna, IAEA, 1970), where it is noted that INFCIRC/66 “reflected more the improved international consensus in this field (or at least the masking of the earlier East-West polarization) than any great substantive advance”, p. 557.

32 See Szasz, Paul, “International Atomic Energy Safeguards”, in Willrich, Mason, (ed.), International Safeguards and Nuclear Industry (Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1973), pp. 105–06. These restrictions concern the circumscription of locations an Inspector was able to visit.

33 Annual Report of the Board of Governors, July 1, 1970–June 30, 1971, GC(15) /455, p. 47.

34 Szasz, , “International Atomic Energy Safeguards”, p. 82.

35 United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Documents on Disarmament, 1965, p. 348, emphasis added.

36 Kolkowicz, Roman et al. , The Soviet Union and Arms Control: A Superpower Dilemma (Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1970), p. 70.

37 Documents on Disarmament, 1966, p. 173.

38 See, e.g., Documents on Disarmament, 1966, pp. 644, 671.

39 Ibid., 1966, p. 661.

40 Ibid., 1966, p. 642.

41 Ibid., 1966, p. 640.

42 Based on interview data.

43 Documents on Disarmament, 1967, p. 97.

44 Ibid., 1967, p. 63.

45 Kramish, Arnold, “The Watched and the Unwatched: Inspection in the Non-Proliferation Treaty”, Adelphi Papers, no. 36, 06 1967, p. 4.

46 European Community, no. 3, 04, 1968, p. 17.

47 This does not mean non-parties escape any safeguarding, but that the earlier regime applies to them. It is expected that the earlier regime will progressively approximate the IAEA/NPT regime thus closing the gap that now exists between the two systems.

48 An excellent survey of the IAEA/NPT systems may be found in the Bulletin of the International Atomic Energy Agency, vol. 15, no. 1. 1973, pp. 2330.

49 For an analysis of the security and disarmament issues as they were reflected in the ENDC and Conference of Nonnuclear Weapon States debates in September 1968, see Scheinman, Lawrence, “Nuclear Safeguards, The Peaceful Atom and the IAEA”, International Conciliation, no. 579, 03 1969, pp. 1116. See also Final Document of the Conference of Nonnuclear Weapon States, October 1, 1968, Resolution A, Documents on Disarmament, 1968, p. 671.

50 See Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Report from the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, 90th Congress, 2nd Session, Executive Report no. 9 (09 26, 1968), p. 10.

51 A number of resolutions were voted in the Conference of Nonnuclear Weapon States on this subject. See, in particular, Resolutions C and D, Documents on Disarmament, 1968, pp. 674–75.

52 See, e.g., the statements of the representatives of Sweden, India and West Germany on pp. 60, 113, and 152 respectively of Documents on Disarmament, 1968.

53 These events are analyzed in some detail in Scheinman, , “Nuclear Safeguards, the Peaceful Atom and the IAEA”, pp. 48–57.

54 These concerns were the subject of Resolutions H and J of the Final Document of the Conference of Nonnuclear Weapon States, October 1, 1968, Documents on Disarmament, 1968, pp. 678–80 and 681.

55 See statement by the Japanese representative to the First Committee of the General Assembly, May 10, 1968, Documents on Disarmament, 1968, pp. 312–13. See also the statement by the representative of the Netherlands in the same forum on May 6, 1968. Ibid., p. 296.

56 It would be wrong to assert that this relationship prevailed for each and every state involved in the negotiations. Some countries, like the Netherlands, were anxious to consummate the non-proliferation treaty even if some sacrifice of “European” interests had to go uncompensated. In varying degrees, however, most states resorted to log-rolling in providing support to the NPT.

57 Fifty states participated in the committee work with eight playing a major role-the United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, Canada, Sweden and Italy. For a good overview of the system created see Safeguards-Old and New”, in Bulletin of the IAEA, vol. 15, no. 1, 1973, pp. 2330.

58 See Imai, Ryukichi, “Nuclear Safeguards”, Adelphi Papers, no. 86 (03 1972), especially pp. 814, and Appendix 4.

59 Based on interview data.

60 Imai. For a general discussion, see also Häfele, W., “NPT Safeguards”, in Nuclear Proliferation Problems (Stockholm: SIPRI, 1974), pp. 142–57.

61 George, Douglas E. and Lumb, Ralph E., “International Safeguards”, in Willrich, Mason (ed.), Civil Nuclear Power and International Security (New York: Praeger, 1971), pp. 4257.

62 Ibid., p. 52.

63 Interview with member of negotiating team of the United Kingdom; confirmed in an interview with a participant in the United States negotiating team. Kolkowicz, et al. , go even further, noting that “the whole question of nuclear proliferation has increasingly become a matter of second-order importance to the Soviets in light of West Germany's acceptance of the NPT”. (p. 102).

64 Imai. p. 7. (Emphasis added).

65 The equity issues are discussed in Scheinman, Lawrence, “Political Implications of Safe-guards”, in Willrich, Mason (ed.), International Safeguards and Nuclear Industry (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins Press, 1973), ch. 9.

66 INFCIRC/153, paragraphs 4, 5 and 7.

67 INFCIRC/153, paragraphs 4 and 6. The issue of cost was a persistent theme in the negotiation of the document. A formula was crafted that minimized the impact of increased safeguards costs on developing states in the IAEA, the burden thus shifting to wealthier states among whom the advanced nonnuclear weapon states predominate. One participant-analyst has concluded that “the actual level of safeguards activities of the IAEA will not be determined according to technically calculated needs but by the annual budget which is approved by its Board of Governors and supported by its member states. Imai, R., “The Non-Proliferation Treaty: the Japanese Attitude Three Years After Signing”, in Nuclear Proliferation Problems (Stockholm: SIPRI, 1974), p. 254.

68 Documents on Disarmament, 1967, p. 615.

69 See, e.g., Pretsch, J., “Trends of Development in German Nuclear Industry”, statement made at ANS-AIF Joint Meeting, Washington, 11 15, 1968 (mimeographed): “my country … appreciates the announcement made by President Johnson to put all peaceful US activities under IAEA control. … We regard (this) as an essential component of our mutual understanding of the implementation of the NPT”.

70 These characteristics of the system are discussed in Paul C. Szasz, “IAEA Safeguards”, in Willrich, International Safeguards and Nuclear Industry, ch. 4.

71 Interview with one of the principal participants in the negotiation of INFCIRC 153.

Robert Pendley, who holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern University and formerly taught at Rice University, holds a position in the Federal Energy Administration (FEA), Washington, D.C.

Lawrence Scheinman, Professor of Political Science at Cornell University and Director of the Peace Studies Program, is the author of Atonic Energy Policy in France Under the IVth Republic (1965) and “The International Atomic Energy Agency: Emergent Condominium,” in Robert W. Cox and Harold K. Jacobson, editors, Anatomy of Influence: Decision-Making in International Organizations (1973), as well as of numerous articles in scholarly journals.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed