U.S. Priorities for the NPT and Moving Forward

Marcie B. Ries
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
High Level Workshop Against Nuclear Tests--From Here to 2015: Meeting the Targets of the NPT Action Plan
New York City
September 1, 2011

Date: 09/01/2011 Description: Deputy Assistant Secretary Marcie B. Ries delivers remarks at High Level Workshop Against Nuclear Tests in New York. - State Dept Image

Good Afternoon. I would like to begin by thanking the EastWest Institute for their invitation and for their continued dedicated efforts to help forge collective action from the international community towards a safer and better world. I’d also like to thank the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan for inviting me to speak at this High Level Workshop. It is an honor to be here and we have much to discuss regarding our priorities in moving forward, including our efforts to advance the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference Action Plan.

I know Ambassador Susan Burk, U.S. Special Representative for Nuclear Nonproliferation, spoke very aptly at this event last year about the 2010 NPT Final Document and U.S. priorities for the NPT. I will update you on these priorities and U.S. actions taken to advance them, but before I do, let me take say a few words about the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

2010 NPT Review Conference

As Ambassador Burk noted last year, the 2010 NPT Review Conference succeeded because the vast majority of the Treaty Parties understood that the Review Conference was an opportunity to strengthen the NPT and the global nonproliferation regime at a time of great challenge to both. Most Parties worked diligently and in good faith throughout the Conference to find common ground. There was widespread agreement that a balanced, forward-looking agenda covering all three of the NPT’s supporting pillars -- nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy -- would reinvigorate both the Treaty and the nuclear nonproliferation regime of which it is the cornerstone.

The Action Plan adopted at the Conference reflects the understanding that efforts to strengthen the Treaty must be balanced among its pillars, as well as the need for “mutual responsibility” in its implementation, which is critical to the continued viability of the NPT regime. The real test of the RevCon’s success will be how seriously all the Parties take the agreement they reached and how well they implement the commitments they made at the RevCon.

I would like to go into some detail on actions in which we have been engaged involving all three of the NPT pillars, although I will dwell in more detail on disarmament, the area for which I have responsibility. Much has been accomplished since the RevCon.

New START Treaty Implementation

As you all know, the New START Treaty entered into force on February 5th of this year. Implementation of the Treaty is so far going well. It continues to be a bright spot in the U.S.-Russian relationship. So far, the process of Treaty implementation has been very pragmatic, professional, and positive – a continuation of the positive working relationship we established during the negotiations in Geneva. We are constantly in communication with our Russian colleagues and the implementation process has been precise and efficient.

This Treaty responsibly limits the number of strategic nuclear weapons and launchers that the United States and Russia may deploy. When the Treaty is fully implemented, it will result in the lowest number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the United States and the Russian Federation since the 1950s, the first full decade of the nuclear age.

The United States and Russia have exchanged data, held exhibitions, and notified each other on the status of our strategic forces. In fact, we have exchanged more than 1,000 notifications since February. We also have begun conducting on-site inspections. To date, the United States has conducted eight on-site inspections in Russia and Russia has conducted seven in the United States since the period for New START Treaty inspections began on April 6.

The access and information derived from this Treaty provide important predictability and stability in the U.S.-Russian nuclear relationship. Without this access and information, the risks of miscalculations, misunderstandings, and mistrust would be greater.

Next Steps in U.S.-Russian Reductions

The United States is committed to continuing a step-by-step process, as outlined by President Obama in Prague in 2009, to reduce the overall number of nuclear weapons, including the pursuit of a future agreement with Russia for broad reductions in all categories of nuclear weapons – strategic, non-strategic, deployed and non-deployed.

We would also like to increase transparency on a reciprocal basis with Russia. We are in the process of thinking through how this and other such transparency measures might be implemented. We will consult with our NATO allies and invite Russia to join with us to develop an initiative, including examination of potential reciprocal actions that could be taken in parallel by the United States and Russia.

We have a lot of very complicated issues to consider, so the more creative and innovative ideas we have to work with, the better off we will be. For that reason, we are grateful to the community of experts, both government and nongovernment, American, Russian, and international, who are contributing to our work.

While the United States and Russia have more steps to pursue bilaterally, it is also time to continue, with greater intensity, a multilateral dialogue among the P5. In late June at a conference in Paris, the P5 discussed transparency, verification, and confidence-building measures. The conference, a follow-on to the first such meeting held in London in 2009, was another constructive step in the process of nuclear-weapons states’ engagement on disarmament and related issues, and demonstrated the P5’s commitment to the implementation of the Action Plan that was adopted by consensus at the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

All the P5 states recognized the fundamental importance of transparency in building mutual understanding and confidence. We exchanged information on nuclear doctrine and capabilities and discussed possible voluntary transparency and confidence-building measures. To this end, we approved the creation of a working group on Nuclear Definitions and Terminology. We will also hold technical consultations on verification issues later this year in London. In order to ensure that these conferences evolve into a regular process of P5 dialogue, we agreed to hold a third conference in the context of the 2012 NPT Preparatory Committee to continue our discussions.

The United States is proud to be at the leading edge of transparency efforts – publically declaring our nuclear stockpile numbers; participating in voluntary and treaty-based inspections measures; and working with other nations on military to military, scientific and lab exchanges, and site visits.

We hope that all countries will join in the common effort to increase transparency and build mutual confidence. Confidence-building, at its very core, is a shared effort.

Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty

The United States is committed to pursuing U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and to its entry into force at the earliest possible date. Entry into force of the CTBT is an essential step toward the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. While the United States abides by the core prohibition of the CTBT through our nuclear testing moratorium promulgated in 1992, the principal benefit of the Treaty -- that of constraining all states from testing -- still eludes us.

We have begun a deliberate and methodical process of engaging the U.S. Senate and the American public on the importance of the CTBT. Entry into force of the CTBT is an essential step toward the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, a vision articulated by the President when he spoke in Prague in 2009. Our recent experience working with the U.S. Senate to gain ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – New START – with the Russian Federation has prepared us for what is expected to be an equally thorough and robust debate over the CTBT. We do not expect it will be easy or happen quickly, but we will work hard to make it happen.

The Administration commissioned a number of reports, including an updated National Intelligence Estimate and an independent National Academy of Sciences report to assess the ability of the United States to monitor compliance with the Treaty and the ability of the United States to maintain, in the absence of nuclear explosive testing, a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal so long as these weapons exist. A public version of the Academy’s report is expected to be released soon. These authoritative reports, together with others, will give the U.S. Senate a wealth of information to assist them in making a determination on the merits of ratification of the CTBT.

Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty

A Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty continues to be a top priority for the United States and a large majority of other countries. Negotiating an FMCT would be a major international achievement for nonproliferation and for disarmament. So it is disappointing that the Conference on Disarmament has been unable to achieve consensus to commence negotiations. Because of this continuing stalemate the P5 agreed to renew their efforts to promote such negotiations prior to the upcoming UNGA. Acting on that commitment, the P5 met this week in Geneva, to take stock of developments regarding the Conference on Disarmament (CD). They discussed how to achieve at the earliest possible date in the CD their shared goal of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons purposes. They expressed their determination to this end. In that context, they look forward to meeting again, with other relevant parties, during the United Nations General Assembly First Committee. We are hopeful that the P5, working with other relevant partners, will be able to chart a productive path forward.

Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement

On a similar front, just last month, Secretary of State Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov brought the U.S.-Russian Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement and its 2006 and 2010 Protocols into force. The amended Agreement commits each country to dispose of -- under strict non-proliferation conditions -- no less than 34 metric tons of excess weapon-grade plutonium, which represents enough material for about 17,000 nuclear weapons in total. Disposition of the plutonium is scheduled to begin in 2018 following construction of the necessary facilities. The two countries and the IAEA are making progress on appropriate IAEA verification measures for each country’s disposition program.

Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones

Nuclear weapon-free zones are a high priority for the United States. At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, Secretary Clinton announced that the Administration would submit the protocols to the Africa and the South Pacific nuclear weapon-free zones to the U.S. Senate for advice and consent to ratification. This was done on May 2 of this year. As Secretary Clinton also committed last May, the United States is consulting with the parties to nuclear weapon-free zone treaties in Central and Southeast Asia in an effort to reach agreement that would allow us to sign the protocols to those treaties.

Middle East WMD Free Zone

A related issue is the proposal for a zone free of weapons-of-mass-destruction in the Middle East. For months we have been meeting regularly with the other co-sponsors of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East and the UN to determine the best way to fulfill our responsibilities as laid out in the plan on the Middle East endorsed by the NPT RevCon in a way that will best ensure a successful conference. We are fully committed to this effort. However, the success of the conference and similar efforts cannot be imposed from outside. It will depend on the willingness of the regional states to help build an atmosphere conducive to constructive dialogue on all relevant issues.


President Obama stated in Prague that, “We need real and immediate consequences for countries caught breaking the rules or trying to leave the treaty without cause.” The 2010 NPT RevCon Action Plan underscores the importance of resolving all cases of non-compliance with safeguards obligations. Our collective efforts in the UN Security Council regarding the nuclear challenges posed by Iran, Syria, and North Korea are designed with these goals in mind, and we look forward to continued cooperation with the international community in seeking to resolve these situations.

The United States, other Member States, and the IAEA Secretariat are actively considering ways to strengthen the IAEA safeguards system, and the United States remains committed to ensuring the Agency has the resources and political support it needs to make effective use of its existing authorities. A comprehensive U.S. review of potential options for strengthening safeguards produced several recommendations, including improving the IAEA’s abilities to investigate potential and actual undeclared nuclear activities, ensuring that the IAEA has reliable funding to meet its evolving safeguards mandates, and expanding adherence by all relevant states to NPT safeguards agreements and the Additional Protocol.

Since the NPT RevCon, nine countries have put Additional Protocols into force. As of August 22, 2011, 110 states have Additional Protocols in force and another 25 states have signed them, but have not yet completed their ratification process. We are committed to universalizing these important safeguards instruments. To this end, we are working with our partners to engage countries without them to address concerns they have with bringing them into force and to provide assistance in implementation where necessary.

While the 2010 Final Document did not include consensus on the issue of abuse of the NPT’s withdrawal provision (Article X), it did note that many NPT Parties “underscore that under international law a withdrawing party is still responsible for violations of the NPT.” We will continue to pursue measures to dissuade such abuse with other NPT Parties.

Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy

The third pillar of the NPT is the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The United States continues its active effort to fulfill its commitments under the Treaty’s Article IV to international peaceful nuclear cooperation with states that abide by their nonproliferation obligations. At the RevCon, Secretary Clinton announced a Peaceful Uses Initiative to raise $100 million over five years in new funding for IAEA activities in peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including projects related to human health (especially cancer), water management, food security, and nuclear power infrastructure development. In support of this new campaign, the United States has pledged $50 million and is seeking funding from other countries to match that amount before the next Review Conference in 2015; Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand have already stepped forward to join us in this effort with contributions of their own. Our own contributions have funded more than $10 million in specific projects in these areas since the RevCon, benefitting more than 80 IAEA Member States.

It is important that we ensure that the worldwide expansion of nuclear power not be accompanied by an increased threat of nuclear proliferation. That could result if more countries seek to acquire their own sensitive fuel-cycle facilities, in particular enrichment or reprocessing plants. Since the 2010 RevCon, the IAEA Board of Governors has approved, without a single negative vote, two new measures to assure IAEA members of an adequate supply of fuel for peaceful nuclear power plants -- a low enriched uranium reserve to be established under IAEA auspices at a location to be determined and the United Kingdom’s proposal for nuclear fuel assurances.


Challenges and threats to the NPT must be effectively addressed so that progress in one area is not undermined or negated by actions in another area. Countries with nuclear weapons will be reluctant to disarm when they perceive risks that additional states might acquire such weapons, one of the reasons nonproliferation compliance is so important. Conversely, the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons by some states can erode the willingness of non-nuclear weapon states to maintain or strengthen their commitments to forgo them. In sum, we cannot succeed in disarmament without continued progress in nonproliferation, and vice versa. We must all commit to work together to carry out and strengthen the goals and objectives of the NPT.

We have come a long way in the last two years and our hard fought achievements should inspire us all to accomplish even more. Although the challenges ahead are great, and we have a much longer road yet to travel, we’re confident that by working together we can make further progress as we seek to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. The stakes and the benefits to all states are enormous, and all states must do their part to make the NPT’s objectives a reality. Let us take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to work together to achieve these objectives and to ensure the future success of the NPT.

Thank you. I welcome our discussion and your questions.