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Monday, January 10, 2005

IAEA: Keep up the good work

Sunday's Globe had a good story about how the IAEA is a much better international institution than it used to be. More specifically, it is a much stronger non-proliferation agency.

After the IAEA failed to keep tabs on Iraq back in the late 1980s, largely because the institution used to inspect only facilities declared by its state members, the agency's treaty was supplemented with some Additional Protocols "that provides (sic) for tougher snap inspections not limited to declared nuclear facilities."

Moreover, the IAEA's personnel are now better equipped to perform their job:
Additionally, the agency's safeguards department, which runs inspections, began to employ more sophisticated inspection measures and more active investigative and detection techniques to try to uncover undeclared nuclear activities.

"Our inspectors were bean counters before with no obligation or authority to look beyond the beans," the senior Western diplomat in Vienna said. "Now countries need to account for every gram of nuclear material and for their plans into the future. The information is voluminous."
Former UN weapons inspector David Albright provides some on-the-record praise:
"The IAEA is changing the way it does business and it is creating shock waves," said David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector who heads the Institute for Science and International Security, a think tank in Washington. "It is making it harder for countries to hide even small efforts."
The story overviews recent nuclear developments in North and South Korea, Libya, Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan and Iran.

IAEA officials also have some ideas about improving the agency's work:
IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei, for example, has repeatedly called to have the nuclear fuel cycle placed under international control to prevent further proliferation.

On Friday, ElBaradei called on countries to freeze building facilities for uranium enrichment for five years. "We have enough capacity in the world for enrichment or reprocessing," he said in remarks published by the Japanese daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun.
This is all pretty important since even the Bush administration relies upon the IAEA to keep tabs on "axle of evil" (this is my new favorite phrase) members Iran and North Korea.

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