NPT treaty

What is NPT?

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a landmark international treaty whose main efforts are aimed at means to curb nuclear destructive effects while being able to harness its potential for peaceful uses. The NPT was conceptualized to prohibit the spread of nuclear weapons, application of knowledge of technology and to promote international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The final aim is to achieve total nuclear disarmament. The treaty came into force in 1970 and it has been the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime. Today, 189 States are its signatories, including the five nuclear-weapon States.

It consists of series of international multilateral treaties in the direction of disarmament. It includes Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) of 1963 which aimed to prevent atmospheric, space and underwater nuclear testing. The Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT) of 1974 which subjected nuclear testing in the underground to not more than 150 kilotons yield. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) under the auspice of the UN is the latest step to bring about a complete ban of the nuclear test but scholars are of the view that it is highly unlikely to come into force anytime soon. The treaty is reviewed every 5 years in conferences known as the Review Conference of the Parties to the treaty of non-proliferation.

History of Nuclear Proliferation

Since the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US, there has been a series of efforts to prevent another nuclear disaster. Early attempts were made but had seen little success. In 1946 initial efforts were made to create an international system which would enable all States to have access to nuclear technology under proper safeguards. This came in the form of the U.S.-sponsored Baruch Plan which constantly sought to outlaw nuclear weapons and internationalize the use of nuclear energy. However, it failed and was eventually terminated in 1949 when serious conflict and major political disagreements rose among the major powers and by 1952, three states had nuclear weapons.

The 1950s and 1960s saw U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower’s Atoms for the Peace initiative. He presented a proposal ‘Atoms for Peace’ at the eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly and proposed the international community to establish an international organization to monitor the dissemination of nuclear weapons technology and disallowing the further spread of nuclear technological knowledge to other non-nuclear states. Eisenhower’s directive was also aimed at the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the development of IAEA safeguards, and the expansion of the peaceful use of nuclear energy. However, two more countries tested nuclear devices by 1964, and this heightened the concern that the spread of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes could not be seen separately from the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The establishment of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was charged with the dual responsibility of promotion and control of nuclear technology.

History of Nuclear Proliferation

In 1961, Ireland sponsored a United Nations General Assembly approved a Resolution directing all states to conclude an agreement that would ban all further procurement and transfer of nuclear weapons. In 1965, the Geneva disarmament conference considered a draft of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The conference in 1968, completed the negotiation and from July 1, 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was opened for signature. The NPT entered into force on March 5, 1970, with 43 Parties.

Significance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The NPT Stands To

  1. Forbid the five nuclear states from transferring nuclear weapons and the technical know how to any other state
  2. Forbid member states without nuclear weapons from developing nuclear weapons or acquiring them through any means
  3. Sought to provide guaranteed through the application of international safeguards that procurement of peaceful nuclear energy in non-nuclear weapons state will not be redirected to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive technology
  4. Assist non-nuclear weapons to state to acquire access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy under international safeguards
  5. Commit all member states to pursue good faith negotiations toward ending the nuclear arms race and achieving nuclear disarmament.

The NPT is an essential legal and political method which is used in the prevention of any proliferation of nuclear weapons. Without the NPT, it would have been possible for several other countries to acquire nuclear weapons. If not for the NPT safeguards necessities, observation and monitoring of nuclear materials in non-nuclear weapon states would have been considerably posed a major problem.

Under the NPT, nuclear weapons states gave assurance to not transfer nuclear weapons to the other non-nuclear state or assist in any effort producing nuclear weapons. Although the weapons states are permitted to retain their nuclear weapons, they also are committed to the written agreement to have full cooperation in negotiations on nuclear disarmament and on ending the nuclear race.

The NPT makes a division of the countries into Nuclear Weapons States (UK, China, US, France and Russia) and Non-Nuclear Weapons state and directed a course of rules to be followed by the member states according to the division.

The non-nuclear weapons state is required to:

  1. Not build, acquire, or possess nuclear weapons or technology;
  2. Research, produce, and use nuclear energy, if need be, for peaceful purposes only; and
  3. Accept international safeguards (audits and intrusive on-site monitoring) on all of their nuclear activities and materials to verify that they are not being used for nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, the nuclear weapons states are:

  1. Allowed to retain their nuclear arsenals;
  2. Not allowed to transfer nuclear weapons to any non-nuclear states;
  3. Left on their decision to assist any non-nuclear weapon states in acquiring, manufacturing or control of nuclear weapons; and
  4. Commit to pursuing negotiations in good faith towards ending the nuclear arms race and achieving nuclear disarmament.

The NPT regime seeks to provides incentives and assurances to those states which are willing to give up nuclear weapons. In exchange for the commitment to renounce development of nuclear weapons, non-nuclear weapon states could gain access to nuclear materials and technical aid for peaceful uses of atomic energy under the supervision of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

IAEA safeguards are responsible for acting as a verification mechanism for the NPT ensuring that non-nuclear states are complying with their policy. Non-nuclear states are required to undergo an agreement with the IAEA to follow their full-scope safeguard policy. Safeguards including accounting and auditing procedures, as well as on-site inspections are to be applied all nuclear materials in non-nuclear states. Full-scope safeguards area unit designed to make sure timely detection ought to nuclear materials be amused from peaceful purposes; but, they are doing not verify that a state has not non-heritable a WMD by different suggests that albeit that's one in all the prohibitions underneath the pact. Over the course of its existence, the IAEA has greatly expanded the scope of the materials and facilities and reinforced safeguards techniques. In 1992, when it was discovered that the Republic of Iraq had violated its safeguards commitment under the NPT and the IAEA, the IAEA Board of Governors stressed its authority to conduct "special inspections" of suspected undeclared sites in non-nuclear weapon states.

The Three Pillars of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The essential ideas of NPT rest on three pillars:

  1. Nonproliferation;
  2. Peaceful uses; and
  3. Total disarmament

Non-Proliferation. Nuclear weapons state pledge to prevent the transfer of nuclear weapons or any other explosives to any state or encourage in any way in their endeavor to acquire technical knowledge, under Article I of NPT. The non-nuclear states, under article II of NPT also pledge not to access or exercise control over nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices and not to look for or receive assistance in the production of nuclear devices. And under Article III of NPT, the non-nuclear states also pledge to accept the IAEA safeguards and allow verifications under their supervision. The grave challenge the NPT is facing today is noncompliance of the Treaty's core nonproliferation obligations by parties covertly seeking to develop nuclear weapons. The biggest example is North Korea’s nuclear weapons development. Another country, Iran is also continuing in its program to enrich uranium despite the UN Security Council disapproving it.

Peaceful uses. Article IV of NPT acknowledges the right of all member states to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only. This also entails that the states should also work in order to bring about international cooperation in compliance with the NPT obligations. Article V also encourages such cooperation.

Disarmament: all member states under Article VI of NPT have a legal obligation to undertake and pursue good-faith negotiations on effective measures relating to elimination of the nuclear arms race, to nuclear disarmament, and finally to general and total disarmament. Furthermore, the nuclear weapon states agreed at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference to facilitate a "systematic and progressive efforts to deduct nuclear weapons globally" as part of the treaty to extend the treaty.

These three pillars are interrelated and are in constant state of mutual reinforcement. A compelling NPT regime whose member states comply with their obligations provides an important justification for progress on disarmament and makes it certain for bigger cooperation on the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy.

Benefits and Successes of The Non-Proliferation Treaty

The only notable benefit of the NPT is that it acts as an overarching body to enhance international peace and security. It is also known to be the only internationally binding agreement that provides a global barrier to spread and transfer or nuclear weapons. In addition, it provides for an international consensus that further spread of nuclear weapons would weaken all states’ security concerns. Another feature is that the NPT encourages any groups of countries to conclude treaties to ensure the total elimination of nuclear weapons in their respective territories. As a result, five nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties have been concluded till now.

The NPT which also includes, the IAEA safeguard system is the cornerstone of the global nonproliferation regime. Article III of the treaty requires the application of IAEA safeguards while exporting nuclear energy sources to non-nuclear weapon states. In this regard, the Zangger Committee and the Nuclear Suppliers Group are the two main agencies which are committed to developing export controls so as to prevent the deviation of nuclear and nuclear-related exports from peaceful purposes to weaponization.

Over the years, since the establishment of the treaty, there has been tremendous growth is the peaceful use of nuclear energy. There is the application of nuclear energy in food security, medicine, disease prevention, water resources, and environmental management which technically improve the lives of people around the world every day. Today, nuclear power reactors in 30 countries supply up to 15% of the world’s electricity, a figure which is expected to grow as over 50 power reactors were under construction by the end of 2009.

Also, there has been significant progress in nuclear disarmament after the entry of NPT into the international scenario. The US-USSR nuclear arms race of the Cold War period ended decades ago and there is nuclear peace in the world. There is treatise banning chemical and biological weapons.

Challenges Faced in Non-Proliferation Treaty

One of the few key challenges is the noncompliance with the nonproliferation obligations by few parties of non-nuclear weapon states. In 2003, North Korea announced its intention to withdraw from the NPT after years of not complying with the nonproliferation obligations. However, in September 2005, North Korea in a joint sitting of six parties, committed to eliminating all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and to return to the NPT and to comply with norms of IAEA safeguards. But North Korea has not honored its commitments and is currently facing two UN sanctions by the Security Council Resolutions for its announced nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. Additionally, there have been directives by the US CIA in 2005 that North Korea had been assisting Libya by providing Uranium Hexafluoride.

It is also reported that Iran has been conducting clandestine nuclear activities which include enrichment of uranium. The IAEA in 2005 found Iran not complying with the objectives enshrined in Article XII.C. of the Agency’s Statute. Since then, the UN Security Council has passed five resolutions whereby three of them are legally binding which direct Iran to suspend all its nuclear energy enriching activities and imposed sanctions on Iran for its noncompliance.

After the 1990-1991 Iraq-Kuwait war, it was discovered that Iraq was not in compliance with the IAEA safeguards. Following this discovery, it was concluded that the then existing IAEA safeguards agreements were insufficient and ineffective to ensure the existence of undeclared nuclear programs. The IAEA Board of Governors in 1997 responded by formulating a model known as the Additional Protocol requires the member states to disclose all nuclear-related activities and provide information on all nuclear sites.

The IAEA safeguards regime is also additionally facing challenges of a growing imbalance between its work and its resources. As demands for peaceful uses of energy have grown, so have the materials and facilities under the IAEA safeguards. However, as the Agency’s responsibilities have increased, its resources have not been enhanced in proportion.

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