Nuclear Disarmament and Nuclear Non-Proliferation: A New Beginning for Canada

Canadian Consultation on Nuclear Weapons and Disarmament
Ottawa, 30 November 2015

Tariq Rauf

On 19th October this year, Canadians took a historic decision in rescuing their democracy and dignity. They charted a way forward that should lead to a restoration of Canada’s place in the world as a leader in promoting global and regional security and well-being in a world to be made free of nuclear weapons in our lifetime along with fewer other artefacts of death and destruction.

After a decade in the doldrums of diplomacy, bizarre interventions in international security fora, squandering of its well-earned reputation as a ‘helpful fixer’ and a ‘middle power’, hopes abound that Canada will arise phoenix-like from the ashes of near irrelevance on the international stage and reclaim its rightful place in the enlightened community of nations that seek a world without nuclear-armed alliances and without any nuclear weapons.

Incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s “sunny ways” approach. He would be wise to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious father, the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, in setting out a “new foreign policy for Canadians” that puts “Canada First”; a Canada above out dated Cold War alliances and along the path to a new “strategy of suffocation” – that suffocates nuclear weapons and doctrines out of existence.

The newly renamed Department of Global Affairs (formerly the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – no Canadian federal department has gone through more name changes, yet accomplished so little in the past decade), in recent years has sunk into mindless Facebook-like “follower” mentality under the defeated government. The department sorely needs revitalization, a new zeitgeist and self-confidence that firmly puts “Canada First” – it no longer should be burdened by the mediocrity and narrow self-serving interests of Washington, Brussels, London and Paris. This is not to advocate a go it alone approach but to stress the need and importance of renewed Canadian leadership based on its unique values of multilateralism, internationalism, multiculturalism, humility, justice and peace…

You can download a PDF with the full speech here.

Goodbye hello

Dear Atomic Reporters readers,

This is goodbye and hello as we switch providers this week to a new host for the Atomic Reporters website. The new site will offer more features and allow us to keep closer contact with you, our readers. You will however, have to sign up anew to keep following us. We think you’ll find the effort worthwhile.

Atomic Reporters was launched in 2013 and we wish to thank those supporters who helped us out of the cradle. We are still a toddler but in our first two years we have held workshops for journalists from the Middle East, in India and in Jordan. They’ve been well received.

We have represented the interests of journalists at a number of events, for diplomats, international emergency response specialists, and in preparation for the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit. We have tried to make the case as forcibly as we can that in the often murky nuclear realm accountability to journalists and by default the public should not be a choice but a necessity.

That a subject of such importance is not better covered does a disservice to the public and condones unnecessary secrecy that stifles informed debate. Atomic Reporters provides independent and reliable knowledge to journalists to help them open doors and raise shutters.

Atomic Reporters in November 2015 was the recipient of a Carnegie grant that will support a workshop for journalists in late February 2016 ahead of the nuclear security summit. We will keep you informed.

Lastly, the following words remain as timely as when they were uttered in 1971 by Murray Gurfein the judge in the Pentagon Papers case in the US. “The security of the Nation is not at the ramparts alone. Security also lies in the value of our free institutions. A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, an ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know.”

Peter Rickwood

Yellowcake—A Primer

Yellowcake, or uranium ore concentrate (UOC), is the first link in the chain representing the nuclear fuel cycle. It also enjoys notoriety and journalists assigned to write about it may face strong headwinds of uncertainty as they try to navigate the story.

In 2002 the claim Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase yellowcake from Niger served as a key justification for the  invasion of Iraq. The document circulated to substantiate the claim was discovered to be the clumsy work of a counterfeiter and yellowcake entered the lexicon of nuclear terms familiar to the public.

Governing Uranium, a project led by the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) offers a bona fide global plateful of yellowcake, its  production,  processing and transport in 15 uranium producing and consuming countries. The study (overview), authored by Cindy Vestergard, covers 85 percent of global production and 70 percent of consumption. Its focus is on security, safeguards, & industry practices that govern natural uranium production and trade – up to the point where yellowcake is converted by a chemical process into uranium hexafluoride UF6.

Among findings is that while the uranium market is global export controls and nuclear security remain local. Journalists assigned to write about  uranium, or the front end of the fuel cycle will find the study illuminating.

“Not Authentic”

The Associated Press on 19/08/15 published a report based upon what it claimed was the near-final draft of an agreement between Iran and the IAEA covering inspections at the Parchin military site. The response to the story ranged from claims it meant the death of the P5+1 Iran deal to other responses that it was hardly a sticking point at all. Tariq Rauf,  former Head, Verification and Security Policy Coordination, IAEA; Director of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and a board member of Atomic Reporters has reviewed and annotated the document and suggests it is not authentic.

Click below to see Tariq’s notes and thoughts on the entire transcript.


AP_with annotations 12 and 13 21Aug pr

Environmental Sampling in Iran

by Tariq Rauf

On 14 July 2015, after more than two years of intensive negotiations, the E3/EU+3* and Iran agreed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on ensuring the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities. On the same day, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran agreed on a work plan called the ‘Road-map for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program’. Under the road map, the IAEA and Iran also concluded separate arrangements to address Parchin and other outstanding issues.

(Source: IAEA)
(Source: IAEA)

The 20.08.15 story, AP Exclusive: UN to let Iran inspect alleged nukework site, by George Jahn, on IAEA monitoring and verification in Iran at Parchin[1] concerns two separate but related issues (1) IAEA environmental sampling and (2) IAEA (managed) access, to sites and locations at the Parchin military-industrial facility.

With regard to environmental sampling, this is not rocket science at the front end, i.e., taking swipes off walls, doors, floors, cracks, equipment, machinery, drains, etc. using small squares of fabric. These swipes are placed in clear plastic bags, much like
the ones at airport security. Each swipe sampling kit has six sterile swipes in a sterile plastic bag. All six swipes are put back in the plastic bag after use, and three or four or more bags worth of swipes are collected at each location. The bags are sealed there and then on-site by IAEA safeguards inspectors[1] and transported to the IAEA Nuclear Material Laboratory (NML)[2] at Seibersdorf (near Vienna).[3] At the NML, the bags are opened in a sterile environment and the swipes are re-bagged and given numeric labels for anonymization. One set of swipes is analyzed by the IAEA at NML and the IAEA Environmental Sample Laboratory (ESL) at Seibersdorf to detect the presence of uranium or plutonium, and two or three sets are sent out to two or three different laboratories randomly selected from the 18 labs of the IAEA Network of Analytical Labs (NWAL) in nine States, with the one of the most advanced being AFTAC (Air Force Technical Applications Centre[4]) in the US.

(Source: IAEA Graphic from the author’s presentation on safeguards.)

The “rocket-science” comes into play at the labs where through very sophisticated analyses using electron microscopes and mass spectrometers nuclear material can be detected at the nano-gram level.[5] There is no way an inspected State confidently can “sanitize” or erase all signs of nuclear material where it has been used at a location.

Under regular IAEA safeguards inspections, Agency inspectors carry out the swiping and collection of samples, as at Bushehr, Esfahan, Natanz, Fordow and elsewhere in Iran. Parchin being a military industrial facility is not subject to regular IAEA safeguards as it is not a “nuclear facility” as defined for purposes of IAEA safeguards. The IAEA, however, can request and obtain access to a facility such as Parchin under “managed access” provisions of Iran’s Additional Protocol (AP) to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA. It would be unusual but by no means technically compromising to have Iranian technicians collect swipe samples at sites and locations at Parchin in the physical presence and direct line of sight of IAEA inspectors, including filming, and using swipe kits and collection bags provided by the IAEA. The Agency inspectors then would seal the bags containing the swipe samples; they could leave behind one sealed bag at the IAEA Office in Iran as a “control” to be used if there is a dispute later about the results. The other three or four bags of swipe samples would be taken by the IAEA to NML/ESL and the analytical procedures described above would come into play. The results from all three or four labs to have analyzed the samples must match to give a positive or a negative finding on the presence and isotopics of uranium and/or plutonium. Given the sensitivity of the Iran nuclear file, it is not unreasonable under the circumstances for Iran to insist on following the sampling taking by its technicians in the presence of Agency inspectors noted above, mainly to guard against the risk of inadvertent contamination from nuclear material traces on the clothing of the inspectors which might have been worn at some other location in another country at a previous inspection. Such contamination while rare is not unknown and has occurred in a few cases elsewhere.

To conclude, the environmental sampling taking carried out at Parchin by Iranian technicians under the direct supervision and control of IAEA inspectors would not necessarily compromise the environmental sampling exercise.  (See the IAEA video on environmental sample analysis at NML/ESL.[6])

Tariq Rauf is a Director on the Board of Atomic Reporters. Currently, he is the Director of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), former Head of Verification and Security Policy Coordination, Office reporting to the Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency.

(Photo: IAEA)
(Photo: IAEA)
(Photo: IAEA)
(Photo: IAEA)

[1] AP Exclusive: UN to let Iran inspect alleged nuke work site, by George Jahn, 19 Aug. 2015:

[1] See IAEA video on “A Nuclear Inspection”:

[2] See, IAEA, The IAEA Safeguards Analytical Laboratories: The Science Essential to Verifying the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Material,

[3] For an IAEA video on “How IAEA inspectors Swipe to Detect Nuclear Materials”,


[5] For a detailed description, see the SIPRI publication: Vitaly Fedchenko (ed.), The New Nuclear Forensics: Analysis of Nuclear Materials for Security Purposes, Oxford University Press, 2015, © SIPRI, especially chapters 3, 5 and 9.

[6] IAEA, “Nuclear Sleuths”:




Nuclear Verification in Iran: Managed Access

By Tariq Rauf

 VIENNA, 8 July 2015: On Tuesday, the dance of the dueling cavaliers continued below the chandeliers and above the cellars that boast 60,000 bottles – one of the largest stocks of Mouton Rothschild, Château Yquem and Pétrus in the world – of the neo-classical Palais Saxe-Coburg (Palais Coburg) in Vienna (Austria, Europe). The principal players, Iran and the United States slogged ahead on finalizing a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on limiting the proliferation potential of Iran’s nuclear programme and the rescinding of Western and United Nations sanctions. China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, Germany and the European Union played both disruptive and supporting roles.

The 7 July deadline was extended to 9 July and the talks continued with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and their teams tried to overcome their remaining differences. These concerned Iran’s determination to reverse UN Security Council sanctions on its non-nuclear military and defence programmes. Apparently, the Western States remain adamantly opposed but China and Russia supported Iran’s position while France wavered. Many of the foreign ministers left Vienna in the late afternoon and are scheduled to return on Friday, 10 July, to wrap up the JCPOA – which will be worked on in the interim by the ‘plumbers’ otherwise referred to as lawyers, nuclear and arms control experts.

Nuclear Verification: Managed Access

In accordance with the key parameters of a JCPOA decided in Lausanne between Iran and the EU/E3+3 on 2 April 2015, Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement and to cooperate with the IAEA to resolve questions regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme. Furthermore, pursuant to the 24 November 2013 joint Plan of Action (JPA) has been providing ‘managed access’ to the IAEA to some of its nuclear facilities. These include the uranium mine and mill at Gchine, the Saghand Uranium Mine, the Ardakan Uranium Production Plant, centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities.

The Additional Protocol to Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA includes provisions for Iran to provide ‘managed access’ upon request by the Agency to prevent the dissemination of proliferation sensitive information, to meet safety or physical protection requirements, or to protect proprietary or commercially sensitive information. In the drafting of the Additional Protocol, the IAEA Board of Governors took into account the arrangements for the investigation of sites of possible undeclared facilities drawing on the elements (including the ‘managed access’ provisions) contained in Part X of the Verification Annex to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

In practice, in order for the IAEA to come up with an “assessment” report on the PMD as indicated by the IAEA Director General, Iran will be required to provide ‘managed access’ to certain military sites such as Parchin to enable the Agency to determine whether or not prohibited nuclear military activities were carried out.

In order to ensure the rights and obligations of both the IAEA and Iran, any ‘managed access’ carried out at military and other sites deemed to be of national security significance by Iran, should be in accordance with mutually agreed procedures and practices.

At present there are no procedures and practices pertaining to ‘managed access’ by the IAEA that have been duly approved by the Agency’s Board of Governors and Member States. As such, the following methodologies could be considered for ‘managed access’ in Iran.

Pre-access briefing and inspection plan 

The purpose and mandate of the ‘managed access’ should be agreed in advance between the Agency and Iran. 

To facilitate development of a plan for ‘managed access’ at a site or location, Iran should provide a safety and logistical briefing to the IAEA inspection team prior to the ‘managed access’. The pre-inspection briefing may indicate to the IAEA inspection team the equipment, documentation, or areas Iran considers sensitive and not related to the purpose of the ‘managed access’ along with a justification. In addition, personnel responsible for the site or location should brief the IAEA inspection team on the physical layout and other relevant characteristics of the site or location. The IAEA inspection team should be provided with a map or sketch drawn to scale showing all structures and significant geographic features at the site relevant to the purpose of the ‘managed access’. 

After the pre-inspection briefing, the IAEA inspection team could prepare, on the basis of the information available to it, an initial inspection plan which specifies the activities to be carried out by the inspection team, including the specific areas of the site to which ‘managed access’ is requested. The inspection plan also should specify whether the inspection team will be divided into sub-groups. The inspection plan shall be made available to the representatives of the inspection site. 

Iran can designate the perimeter entry/exit points to be used for access. The IAEA inspection team and Iran’s escort team could negotiate: the extent of access to any particular place or places within the final and requested perimeters; the particular ‘managed access’ activities, including non-destructive sampling, to be conducted by the IAEA inspection team; the performance of particular supporting activities by Iran; and the provision of particular information by Iran.


To help establish that the inspection site to which the inspection team has been transported corresponds to the inspection site specified by the IAEA, the inspection team should have the right to use commercially available location finding equipment and to have such equipment inspected by Iran to ensure that its characteristics and capabilities are as declared by the IAEA. The IAEA inspection team may verify its location by reference to local landmarks identified from maps and satellite imagery, and Iran should assist the inspection team in this task.

In addition, the IAEA may use equipment from its suite of safeguards technology and equipment.


Only inspectors duly ‘designated’ by Iran could be allowed to go on ‘managed access’. The size of the IAEA inspection team should be kept to a minimum necessary for the proper fulfilment of the inspection mandate.  

Protective Measures

Iran could take measures to protect sensitive installations and prevent disclosure of confidential information and data not related to the nuclear fuel cycle. Such measures may include, inter alia: (a) removal of sensitive documents from office spaces; (b) shrouding of sensitive displays, stores, and equipment; (c) shrouding of sensitive pieces of equipment, such as military, communications, engineering, computer or electronic systems; (d) logging off of computer systems and turning off of data indicating devices; (e) restriction of sample analysis to presence or absence of nuclear material; (f) using random selective access techniques whereby the inspectors are requested to select a given percentage or number of buildings of their choice to inspect; the same principle can apply to the interior and content of sensitive buildings; (g) In exceptional cases, giving only individual inspectors access to certain parts of the inspection site.


The IAEA inspection team would be free to collect environmental samples according to Agency procedures and practices, but Iran would be free to photograph or videotape the taking of environmental samples and provide a copy of the media to the Agency. A duly sealed duplicate bag of environmental samples could be left under IAEA containment and surveillance (C/S) measures at its field office in Iran to be used in the event of any dispute over the findings of the sample analysis.


Iran would be expected to make every reasonable effort to demonstrate to the IAEA inspection team that any object, building, structure, container or vehicle to which the inspection team has not had full access, or which has been protected or shrouded, is not used for purposes related to the possible non-compliance concerns raised in the inspection request. This may be accomplished by means of, inter alia, the partial removal of a shroud or environmental protection cover, at the discretion of Iran, by means of a visual inspection of the interior of an enclosed space from its entrance, or by other methods.

Post-access Activities

Upon completion of the ‘managed access’ procedures at the inspection site, the IAEA inspection team should be taken promptly to a point of site entry/exit.

An inspection report could summarize in a general way the activities conducted by the IAEA inspection team and the factual findings of the inspection team. It could also include an assessment by the inspection team of the degree and nature of access and cooperation granted to the inspectors and the extent to which this enabled them to fulfil the inspection mandate.

Iran should have the right to identify any information and data not related to nuclear fuel cycle activities which should, in its view, due to its confidential character, not be circulated beyond specific experts of the IAEA Iran Task Force and should not be included in the reports of the Director General nor provided in confidential briefings to any IAEA Member State.


In accordance with Iran’s safeguards obligations, Iran is obliged to provide ‘managed access’ to the IAEA at sites and locations requested by the Agency. However, under ‘managed access’ there is scope for negotiations between the Agency and Iran on a case-by-case basis. ‘Managed access’ may be defined as the arrangements made by the inspected State to protect sensitive installations and confidential information not related to the purpose of the access, while still granting limited access to inspectors to conduct verification activities or providing alternative means to demonstrate compliance. As such, Iran would be within its rights to take the following measures: (a) shrouding of sensitive displays, stores, and equipment; (b) restricting the taking of samples to determining the presence or absence of nuclear material relevant to the purpose of the access; (c) managing access to buildings and other structures; and (d) declaring restricted-access sites.

The IAEA would have the right to request ‘managed access’ to any site or location specified by it to carry out location-specific environmental sampling, to conduct safeguards activities necessary to provide credible assurance of the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities, including the resolution of a question relating to the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declaration pursuant to Article 2 of its Additional Protocol or of an inconsistency relating to that information.

In the end, it is in the interest of Iran to facilitate regular safeguards implementation including ‘managed access’ by the IAEA to enable the Agency to provide credible assurance regarding the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.