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Ambassador Kennedy: The International Community is Ready to Negotiate a FMCT Now
Conference on Disarmament Plenary: Thematic Debate on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT)
May 31, 2012

Statement by Ambassador Laura Kennedy
United States Permanent Representative To the Conference on Disarmament United Nations

May 31, 2012

(as delivered)

Congratulations on assuming the CD Presidency; we of course look forward to working with you. We thank you and UNIDIR for reprising the history of FMCT and for framing today’s discussion.  Mr. President, the conclusion of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) remains a vital and necessary step for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.  This step has been repeatedly endorsed by the international community, including multiple NPT Review Conferences and as far back as SSODI  in 1978.  An FMCT is essential if we are to work toward a world without nuclear weapons, as President Obama highlighted in his 2009 Prague speech.  Shortly thereafter, this Conference finally reached consensus on CD 1864 to commence FMCT negotiations as part of a balanced program of work.  And yet, sadly, now three years later, the CD is no closer to such negotiations.  All those who share the “priority” goal of nuclear disarmament, should also acknowledge that we cannot achieve that “priority” goal without taking this first step of capping fissile material production for use in nuclear weapons.

Let me outline some of the parameters for an FMCT that we have identified previously in multiple CD Plenary sessions, formal-informals, informal-informals and technical discussions on the margins over the years, including side events.  In this connection, thanks to our colleagues from Germany and the Netherlands for their initiative in organizing a continued focus on some of these elements in complementary technical talks here in Geneva.  We value the contributions of such technical discussions that allow us to do our “homework” on an FMCT.   I can think of no other disarmament measure for which the groundwork has been better prepared.   In fact, we are ready for the “final examination,” i.e. the conduct of negotiations.    There is no technical obstacle to the commencement of negotiations – the obstacle is political in nature.

In such a negotiation, we will need to address the definition(s), scope and verification arrangements for an FMCT.  Allow me to recap U.S. positions on these treaty elements.   In formulating our positions on the substance of the treaty, our shared goal is a non-discriminatory treaty that halts the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons, and is internationally verifiable.

The purpose of an FMCT in our view is to ban the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.   For this reason, we have suggested a definition of fissile material aimed at capturing material that could be used to make such weapons.  It corresponds to the standard IAEA definition of direct use material.    It is important to note that there are legitimate civilian and military uses for fissile material – as would be defined under an FMCT – other than nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The Treaty will need to take such uses into account.

Further, our definition of production captures the processes by which material directly usable in weapons – what the IAEA calls unirradiated direct use material – is created.  The processes that produce materials directly usable in weapons are primarily isotopic separation of uranium – or enrichment – and chemical separation of plutonium from irradiated nuclear material – or reprocessing.  No one is arguing that you can make a weapon directly out of spent nuclear reactor fuel.

Our suggested verification approach would be based on monitoring facilities designed or used to produce fissile material, mainly enrichment and reprocessing facilities, and accounting for any newly produced fissile material.  It is tied directly to the expected basic undertaking of an FMCT and these basic definitions.  Our approach aims at balancing implementation costs with meeting the object and purpose of the Treaty.   This structure for an FMCT is aimed at complementing the NPT: we do not foresee additional verification obligations under an FMCT for a NPT Non-Nuclear Weapon State with a Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement in place and supplemented by an Additional Protocol.

We believe that the verification system of an FMCT ought to be spelled out in the treaty and tied closely to the basic undertakings of the treaty.  An agreed verification protocol or model verification agreement will be essential for a credible FMCT.   The IAEA is best suited and should be responsible for carrying out monitoring and inspections.   Many of the measures needed for FMCT verification have already been developed in the context of IAEA safeguards; we do not advocate re-inventing these tools.  Procedures, such as managed access, will need to be developed for both routine and non-routine inspections.  In all cases, verification procedures would have to take care to protect confidential or sensitive information.  Notwithstanding our view on the role of the IAEA, we are still considering the merits of whether to support a separate FMCT organization with political authority over treaty implementation.

Regarding the scope of an FMCT, the U.S. position is well known:  FMCT obligations, including verification obligations should cover only new production of fissile materials. We believe existing stockpiles should be dealt with separately, through other agreements or voluntary measures.  We have already undertaken many such measures, both unilaterally and with Russia, and are also working with the IAEA on appropriate verification.  Attempting to address stocks multilaterally, and linking them to a cutoff of new production, will only complicate efforts on both aspects of the fissile material problem.  We acknowledge, of course, that the scope of the treaty will be settled in the negotiations, consistent with the Shannon mandate.

Theoretically, one could design a narrower set of FMCT obligations, but this would raise concerns as to whether the objectives of the Treaty would be satisfied.  Failure to constrain or verify production of material that is readily usable in nuclear weapons would create opportunities to circumvent those objectives.  Conversely, one could design a Treaty with broader scope and broader verification requirements, but this would be much more difficult to negotiate and more costly, without any true increase in effectiveness.

Thank you again, Mr. President for allowing us another opportunity to share the broad outlines of our thinking on an FMCT. Of course, as I indicated, there are a multiplicity of issues and details that can only be worked out in an actual negotiation.  As many have observed, our deliberations, no matter how substantive, are not a substitute for negotiations.  The international community is ready and almost universally willing to negotiate an FMCT now.  We regret that this sole standing forum for disarmament negotiations, after more than fifteen years, still has not undertaken this long overdue step.  We will continue to work with our partners on a way forward and explore options for an FMCT.