Nuclear security agreement to enter into force

08 April 2016

A key security agreement, once described by IAEA director general Yukiya Amano as the single most important step to strengthen nuclear security, is set to become legally binding after Nicaragua became the 102nd state to adhere to the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM).

Hernán Estrada Román, Nicaragua's representative to the IAEA, deposits Nicaragua's instrument of acceptance of the amendment with Yukiya Amano at the IAEA headquarters.(Image: D Calma/IAEA)

The amendment to the 1987 CPPNM was first adopted by states in 2005, but it has taken over a decade for it to secure the adherence of the two-thirds of those states needed for it to become legally binding. States adhere to the amendment when they submit their instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). There are currently 152 Parties to the convention, and with Nicaragua's submission of its Instrument of Acceptance today, that threshold has been reached. This means that the amendment will enter into force in 30 days' time, on 8 May.

The 1987 CPPNM covers the physical protection of nuclear materials used for peaceful purposes during international transport. The amendment broadens its scope to cover the protection of nuclear facilities or nuclear material in domestic use, storage and transport and makes it legally binding for states to establish, implement and maintain an appropriate physical protection regime applicable to nuclear material and nuclear facilities under their jurisdiction. It provides for the criminalization of new and extended specified acts, and requires countries to put in place measures to protect nuclear material and nuclear facilities against sabotage.

The amendment expands the existing offences identified in the CPPNM, including the theft and robbery of nuclear material, and establishes new ones, such as the smuggling of nuclear material and the actual or threatened sabotage of nuclear facilities. Some of those offences have also been expanded to include substantial damage to the environment.

The amendment also provides for expanded cooperation and information sharing between states regarding rapid measures to locate and recover stolen or smuggled nuclear material, to mitigate any radiological consequences of sabotage and to prevent and combat related offences.

Yukiya Amano said in a statement that the entry into force of the amendment will help reduce the risk of a terrorist attack involving nuclear material. "This is an important day for efforts to strengthen nuclear security around the world," he said. "Universal implementation of the amended Convention will help to ensure that nuclear material throughout the world is properly protected against malicious acts by terrorists," he added. Earlier this year, Amano told the IAEA's board of governors that bringing the amendment into force would be "the single most important step which the world can take to strengthen nuclear security."

Although the responsibility for implementing the amendment will rest with individual states, the IAEA will provide legislative and technical assistance to its members, including help with the drafting of national implementing legislation and establishing, implementing, and maintaining a physical protection regime.

The IAEA Director General will convene a conference of the parties five years after the amendment's entry into force to review its implementation and its adequacy.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News