Nuclear energy and nuclear proliferation programs are potentially inter-twinned, which is a point to be taken into account when analysing the development of civil nuclear energy, both domestically and as foreign investment.
International agreements ensure that the adhering countries fulfil their obligations and do not abuse civil nuclear programs for the production of nuclear weapons. Uranium enrichment is the process currently most focussed on in this respect by recent news and recent technological and commercial developments. But also the so-called reactor-based pathway, with extraction of plutonium from spent nuclear fuel by reprocessing remains in the spotlight of inspectors.
Two of the main and complementary pillars on which the prevention of such diversion relies, are Strategic Export Control and International Safeguards. Strategic export control is a key barrier against nuclear proliferation. In many countries including the EU it is set by a legal framework, envisaging implementation, enforcement and prosecution. The goods that can exported only with authorisations are those identified by the international export control regimes; primarily the Nuclear Suppliers Group in the case of nuclear items. It is complemented by nuclear safeguards measures, and especially in the past few years, by the IAEA State Level concept, which looks at the overall country’s potential, including its industrial structure to derive conclusions on the absence of undeclared activities.
However, the strict control of goods and knowledge is a moving target, since technological developments, globalisation and the intensifying exchange of information via the worldwide web offer increasing opportunities to proliferators to acquire sensitive items and competences, and create bigger challenges to enforcement, calling for new responses. Research and development programmes must be directed towards supporting the adaptation of current proliferation containment systems to these new challenges.
The proposed paper will address the nature of strategic trade controls challenges, describe a few emerging threats and stress the key role of exporters’ awareness and compliance in this respect.