Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom   [open pdf - 2MB]

"Ask how effective International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear safeguards are in blocking proliferation, and you are sure to get a set of predictable reactions. Those skeptical of the system will complain that IAEA inspections are too sketchy to ferret out nuclear misbehavior (e.g., North Korea, Iraq, and Iran) and that in the rare cases when such violators are found out (almost always by national intelligence agencies), the IAEA's board of governors is loath to act. IAEA supporters have a rather opposite view. The IAEA, they point out, actually found Pyongyang, Baghdad, and Tehran in non-compliance with their IAEA safeguards agreements and reported this to the United Nations (UN) Security Council. International inspectors, moreover, were the only ones correctly to assess the status of Saddam's strategic weapons programs. The problem is not to be found in Vienna or in the IAEA's inspections system but in Washington's unwillingness to listen. In the future, the United States, they argue, should rely more, not less, on the IAEA to sort out Iran's nuclear activities and to disable North Korea's nuclear weapons complex. These two views could hardly be more opposed. There is at least one point, though, upon which both sides agree: If possible, it would be useful to enhance the IAEA's ability to detect and prevent nuclear diversions. This would not only reduce the current risk of nuclear proliferation, it would make the further expansion of nuclear power much less risky. The question is what is possible? To date, little has been attempted to answer this basic question."

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