IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
Agenda Item 8d: Agency safeguards in the context of naval nuclear propulsion under AUKUS
Trilateral statement on behalf of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America
14 September 2022
I have the honour of speaking on behalf of the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia on our effort to determine the optimal pathway for Australia to acquire conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines, while setting the highest possible non-proliferation standards.
We welcome the Director General’s report on AUKUS and his positive remarks at the beginning of this Board meeting. Issuing such a report is his prerogative, consistent with established practice, and the independence of the IAEA in carrying out its technical mandates.
In his report, the Director General reaffirms his satisfaction with AUKUS partners’ level of engagement to date. The Director General also reaffirms the mandate of the IAEA to engage with Member States on safeguards implementation matters, and that he has been authorised by the Board to conclude and implement such agreements. The Board can be reassured that the IAEA and AUKUS partners will be able to develop an approach that is consistent with each of the AUKUS partners’ non-proliferation and safeguards commitments and will enable the IAEA to meet its technical objectives.
We are now one year into our 18-month consultation period with AUKUS partners, and we are pleased with the progress made in our discussions so far. We remain firmly committed to engaging openly and transparently with all IAEA Member States on Australia’s safeguards obligations related to the AUKUS endeavour.
Over the past year, senior officials and technical experts held regular trilateral discussions in our capitals. We have also met with the Director General, the IAEA’s AUKUS taskforce and the IAEA Secretariat in Vienna on multiple occasions and such meetings will continue as we work with the Agency to formulate a safeguards approach that will meet all IAEA technical objectives.
We are working closely with the IAEA to ensure that the precedent set by Australia’s acquisition of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines strengthens the global non-proliferation regime.
To reiterate what we set out at the June Board meeting, Australia’s naval nuclear propulsion activities will occur within the framework of Australia’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) and Additional Protocol, providing the firm legal basis on which the IAEA, through the Director General and the Secretariat, is engaging with Australia and AUKUS partners.
Although no decisions have been taken on the optimal pathway, we fully recognise the importance of providing information and assurances to Member States, where we can. For this reason, we have set out four key elements to our approach:
Firstly, Australia has decided to voluntarily commit not to domestically enrich, reprocess, or fabricate nuclear material in support of its nuclear-powered submarine programme.
Secondly, it is also proposed that Australia would be provided with complete, welded power units - designed so that removal of any nuclear material would be extremely difficult and would render the power unit, and the submarine, inoperable.
Thirdly, we are engaging the IAEA regularly with respect to the development of a suitable verification approach to confirm the non-diversion of nuclear material from Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines.
And, fourthly, Australia will work with the IAEA to continue to implement and deepen additional safeguards measures outside of the nuclear-powered submarine programme to maintain international confidence that there is no undeclared nuclear material or activity in Australia.
Sadly, there have been continued calls by some countries for the Agency to suspend engagement with us until a separate mechanism is established to discuss all aspects of AUKUS cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines.
All Member States have the right to confidential discussions with the IAEA Secretariat, and it is vital that the Secretariat remains the independent, competent, technical authority on the implementation of safeguards arrangements.
We have been, and will continue to be, transparent with Member States on our trilateral consultations with the IAEA. We will continue our engagement with the Agency over the coming months, and anticipate there will be further reports from the Director General in the future upon which we look forward to continuing our discussions.
The AUKUS partners wish to have the Director General’s report on AUKUS made public. We will take your advice as to where in the agenda of this Board is the appropriate place to make this request.
Thank you, Chair.