Category Archives: Atomic Reporters

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

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”: