In Vienna, in the Donau Insel, the green lung of the city, the Vienna International Center, which hosts the international agency of Atomic Energy (IAEA), in places. To house the Constable of nuclear power in the world, the Austrian architect Johann Straber chose the solid mass. In this huge maze of offices, there is ultimately no coup de Theatre today. The Board of Governors, the Executive Body, will confirm the appointment of Mohamed ElBaradei for a third term in a row of Director by consensus.
While the suspicions weighing on Iranian nuclear program and talks with the North Korea, who says hold the bomb, have not resumed, Americans preferred not to weaken the institution, rallying in extremis to the candidacy of Mohamed ElBaradei, supported by the entire international community. Even the enemies of the atom acknowledged: "Mohamed ElBaradei manages well his shop, he is brave and competent," said Bruno Barillot, Observatory of French nuclear weapons. Qualities necessary to administer this Intergovernmental Agency, with a budget of $ 250 million "barely equivalent to that of the police of the city of New York", says the IAEA to promote the peaceful uses and the safety of nuclear technologies while ensuring that they are not diverted for military purposes.
A contradiction to manage
Audit, security, and technical cooperation are the three pillars of the Agency. What is the puzzle. "Americans are obsessed by the fight against illicit trafficking, the Europeans by security to maintain a favourable context for the development of civil nuclear power, and the countries in development cooperation", said Philippe Thiebaud, Governor for the France to the IAEA and Director of external relations of the Atomic Energy Commission. Promote civil nuclear power and to fight against the military Atom paradoxical, especially when electricity became the alibi to the military, denounce the anti-nuclear. But, as it is no question of denying access to nuclear power, the Agency, with 137 Member States, is condemned to live with this contradiction.
Its 2,500 employees feel with all the more bitter criticism from American hawks that they feel have made great progress since the end of the cold war. Example. After having "covered years of Soviet nuclear system failure", according to AndrÃ© - Claude Lacoste, Director General of the nuclear safety authority (ASN) in France, the IAEA, since the explosion of the Ukrainian Chernobyl reactor, has gradually aligned its standards of security best practices. "As in any international agency, the texts are discussed-line and adopted by consensus, but the things done." "The India is thus to ratify the International Convention on nuclear safety", said the pattern of the ASN.
Detect anomalies on the ground
Side audit, the clap of Thunder has sounded in 1991, when the Agency inspectors were able through the exceptional powers conferred resolution 687 of the UN Security Council, find evidence of the ambitious Iraqi nuclear weapons program. The faults of the system of "safeguards agreements" concluded between the Agency and Member States then appeared at the big day.
The nuclear non-proliferation regime is based on a complex set of international treaties which the centrepiece is the non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Entered into force in 1970, it requires five States possessing nuclear weapons before 1967 United States, Russia, China, France, Great Britain to move towards disarmament and prohibits all other signatories to make or acquire. Submitted to the IAEA checks, States "non-" contract "safeguards agreements" which require them to declare their stocks of nuclear material so that the Agency can verify whether they correspond to existing facilities.
Of course, this system can be circumvented. By not signing the NPT, as the India, Pakistan, and Israel. Or in it by removing, as the Korea of the North in 2003. But also by lying, as did the Iraq, who reported well its official facilities, but developing in parallel a clandestine programme. Indeed, "the entire system was on trust, since the Agency could verify only that declared the country", said Philippe Thiebaud.
"As if a motorist called police to the control when and where it wants", said an antinuclear. Exact but severe judgment: methods of investigation and the accumulation of knowledge within the Agency are such that it was able to detect as early as its first inspection, early 1990s, anomalies in the North Korean program. In addition, after the case of Iraq, the IAEA adopted in 1997 an "Additional Protocol" which strengthens its powers of inspection, expands the access of experts to arrested reactors, research centres or any suspicious plant, and now requires of States more information. "The IAEA is thus passed a purely accounting assessment of fissile material in a critical and qualitative analysis," said Pierre Goldschmidt, Director of the Department of safeguards.
With a budget of 100 million dollars and 630 people, including 330 inspectors, the Department which he heads, heart of the Agency remains a dwarf compared to the intelligence services of the great powers. International officials armed with a solid training of engineers, inspectors do not belong to the universe of James Bond. They are not dropped in the middle of the night for the kilo of uranium hidden in the desert, but officially sent to the country to verify if the transmitted information is complete and correct. Their trade is not less difficult: each of them on average passes more than a hundred days a year on the ground. Surveillance cameras, transmission distance, sophisticated measurement equipment, satellite imagery systems, internal network data via a protected system, they benefit from the innovations developed in Vienna. Including by the Seibersdorf Laboratory, which can detect on a sample of the traces of plutonium or uranium and to find the exact signature. At present, it thus attempts to identify the source of the particles collected in Iran, a priori particles inconsistent with the declared programme.
"A world of black series".
Finally, a new unit was responsible for gathering all the information on illicit trafficking of nuclear equipment and materials, including to decrypt the supply of centrifuges network set up by the Pakistani a. q. Khan. "We are only civil servants, but, with the Khan network, entering a genuine world of black series", says an inspector.
Overall, Pierre Goldschmidt believes that the Agency has never been as effective. His spokesman put highlight the success in combating proliferation, with the renunciations nuclear weapons of the South Africa, the Libya and the former Soviet republics, not to mention the dismantling of the Iraqi program, all for a modest cost. "3-5 Million per year between 1991 and 1998, so that the Iraq Survey Group of Americans spent nearly $ 1 billion to find any weapons of mass destruction", confirms disingenuously a correspondent of the Agency in France.
It is one of the arguments that argue for the IAEA: the low cost of the service rendered. Even Americans agree. First financial contributor, they agreed in 2003 an increase of 20 of the budget of the Department of safeguards, making the Agency the only satellite of the United Nations world to have benefited from an increase in its resources for fifteen years!
Does! Whatever the technical effectiveness of the IAEA, in the future, the fight against proliferation will continue to reflect reports of force between States at a given time, warned Georges Le Guelte, specialist of nuclear proliferation: "in the case of deviance, IAEA has no powers of sanction, it can only transmit reports to the UN Security Council. Moreover, 50 countries signatories to the NPT have not yet concluded safeguards agreement, and a majority have not yet signed the additional protocol. In the Middle East, for example, only the Jordan did.
For Mohamed ElBaradei, the task looks tough. If the international community does not halt the ambitions of the North Korea and the Iran in the field of nuclear weapons, the non-proliferation policy will be laminated. From this point of view, the complete failure of the five-year negotiations on the strengthening of the NPT, in may in New York, augurs nothing good. And, meanwhile, more than 30,000 nuclear warheads, or some 16,000 weapons, are always ready for use.