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Tuesday, 10 September 1985
Page: 371

(Question No. 256)


Senator Macklin asked the Minister for Resources and Energy, upon notice, on 8 May 1985:

(1) Has the International Atomic Energy Agency been invited by the Soviet Union to inspect its nuclear power station; if so:

(a) can the Soviet Union dictate which of its installations are to the inspected; if so, will the Soviet Union offer only one type of reactor, the Russian pressurised water reactor, for inspection; and

(b) does the Soviet Union also use graphite-moderated reactors which can produce weapons-grade plutonium and did the Soviet Union not offer this reactor type for inspection.

(2) In view of the principle that inspections are not to interfere with national sovereignty, does this indicate that the IAEA is a useless body and that there are, in fact, no adequate safeguards to ensure that countries with nuclear reactors are not re-processing uranium to produce nuclear weapons.


Senator Gareth Evans —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) Yes. The Agreement between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the application of safeguards in the Soviet Union was signed on 21 February 1985.

(a) Nuclear weapon states are under no obligation through their membership of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to accept IAEA safeguards on any or all of their nuclear facilities. Their safeguards agreements with the IAEA are consequently described as `voluntary offer' agreements, the scope of which is determined by the offering nuclear weapon state. The agreement between the Soviet Union and the IAEA specifies that `some of its peaceful nuclear facilities, namely several nuclear power stations and nuclear research reactors' will be placed under IAEA safeguards. Under the agreement the Soviet Union is to provide the IAEA with a list of facilities offered for the application of safeguards and the IAEA is to select facilities for safeguarding from the list. The details of the facilities offered and selected are not known.

(b) The Soviet Union has graphite-moderated reactors, but as indicated above it is not known whether such reactors are included in the voluntary offer.

(2) I am not sure what is meant by the honourable senator's suggestion that IAEA inspections are not to interfere with national sovereignty. When a state enters into a safeguards agreement with the IAEA that state necessarily accepts as legally binding the obligations contained in the agreement. The nature of these obligations depends on whether the particular state is a nuclear weapons state or a non-nuclear weapons state. In the case of a nuclear weapons state, where by definition the acquisition of nuclear weapons is not an issue, the obligations as to submission of nuclear facilities to IAEA inspections are as outlined in (1) (a) above. Non- nuclear weapons states parties to the NPT, which of course constitute the vast majority of states with which the IAEA has safeguards agreements, are obliged to place all of their nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards thereby providing an assurance that any nuclear material within that state is not diverted from peaceful uses.