IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
Agenda Item 15: Any other business
10 June 2022
I have the honour of speaking on behalf of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States in our effort to determine the optimal pathway for Australia to acquire conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines.
We remain firmly committed to engaging openly and transparently with all IAEA Member States on Australia’s safeguards obligations related to its acquisition of a naval nuclear propulsion capability.
The AUKUS endeavour will continue to be undertaken in a manner that is fully consistent with our respective non-proliferation obligations and reflective of our longstanding leadership in, and respect for, the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.
In a joint statement on April 6, 2022, our leaders reiterated that they are fully committed to establishing a robust approach to sharing naval nuclear propulsion technology in a way that strengthens the integrity of the regime.
Since our last update to the Board in March 2022, we have furthered our consultations on determining a robust approach to sharing naval nuclear propulsion technology in a way that maintains and reinforces the non-proliferation regime. Senior officials and technical experts have held regular trilateral discussions in our capitals. We have also met with the Director General and the IAEA Secretariat in Vienna.
We are now at the halfway point of our 18-month consultation period, and we are pleased with the progress made in our early discussions.
And we can confirm that Australia’s naval nuclear propulsion activities, including verification of the non-diversion of nuclear material from Australia’s naval nuclear propulsion program, will occur within the framework of Australia’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) and its Additional Protocol (AP).
Additionally, Australia has decided to voluntarily commit not to domestically enrich or reprocess nuclear material in support of its nuclear-powered submarine program.
We welcome, and highlight, the Director General’s positive remarks at the beginning of this Board meeting, where he expressed his “satisfaction with the engagement and transparency shown by the three countries thus far.”
There is a firm legal basis for the IAEA, through the Director General and the Secretariat, to engage Australia, with the support of AUKUS partners, on these issues. Both the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Australia’s CSA with the IAEA permit naval nuclear propulsion activities – as do other CSAs between other States and the IAEA.
Ongoing open engagement is central to our approach. The global nuclear non-proliferation regime relies on such engagement taking place. Consultations with the IAEA and between and among partners will continue.
We will continue to be guided by our shared objectives of setting the highest possible non-proliferation standards, strengthening the integrity of the non-proliferation regime, and maintaining Australia’s exemplary non-proliferation credentials.
We welcome the Director General’s pending report on these issues, which he indicated in his written statement will be submitted to the September Board. Issuing such a report is his prerogative, consistent with established practice and the technical independence of the IAEA.
When the Director General submits such a report, we would welcome the Secretariat also requesting an agenda item under which this Board can discuss that report at that meeting, should the Director General see an agenda item then as appropriate. We will in all cases continue to inform the Board of significant developments related to naval nuclear propulsion cooperation under AUKUS under Any Other Business at future meetings of this Board.
Thank you, Chair.