Ambassador Susan F. Burk
Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation
International Seminar on Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation
Rio de Janeiro
October 29, 2009


Before I begin my remarks I would like to thank the Brazilian Center for International Relations (CEBRI) and Nonproliferation for Global Security (NPS) for hosting this event and for inviting me to speak to you this afternoon about the future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). I am grateful to the organizers not just for selecting such a beautiful setting for this conference, but for also calling attention to Latin America’s important role in shaping the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Latin America was at the forefront of international efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation when it concluded the Treaty of Tlatelolco in 1967 – one year before the NPT. The United States has been a party to Tlatelolco’s two Protocols for over 30 years and appreciates the contribution Latin America has made in providing a model for nuclear weapon free zones in other regions.

It is important that this conference is here in Brazil. Brazil possesses nuclear technology. It has chosen to steer away from developing nuclear weapons and instead head towards increasing the peaceful use of nuclear energy to help meet the growing demands of the world’s tenth largest economy. Since acceding to the NPT in 1998, Brazil has seen its international influence grow, a product of its economic and democratic development, not its ability to threaten its neighbors. We want this, not North Korea, to be the model for the future and are proud of our partnership with Brazil. President Obama’s speech gives us a clear goal of developing clean, peaceful nuclear power while eliminating nuclear weapons, and we will need to work with countries such as Brazil to make this a reality.

In keeping with the future-oriented theme of the conference, I would like to focus on the contribution the 2010 Review Conference can make to our collective efforts to reinvigorate and strengthen the NPT and broader nonproliferation regime. I also note the potential it has to provide valuable momentum to our nonproliferation and disarmament efforts in Vienna at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in Geneva at the Conference on Disarmament (CD), and in New York at the United Nations (UN).

The Present Picture

As we have heard here, the NPT and the broader regime have been under great stress in recent years, and their vulnerabilities have been on display for the world to see. We know what these stresses and vulnerabilities are: growing availability of sensitive nuclear technology, as demonstrated by the activities of the network led by A.Q. Khan; the ability of North Korea to withdraw from the NPT with relative impunity; the failure to bring either North Korea or Iran into compliance with the NPT; and the limitations of international safeguards which failed, most recently, to identify the construction of a covert nuclear reactor in Syria.

These stresses are playing out at the same time that we are beginning to have a serious discussion on two subjects of critical importance to NPT parties: First, the path toward a world without nuclear weapons, and second, the expansion of the responsible use of nuclear power in response to growing concerns about climate change and energy security. Progress in both areas requires the reliable foundation of a robust and stable international nonproliferation regime. Herein lies the fundamental relationship between the three pillars of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

While the regime has been tested, it remains the cornerstone for creating a world without nuclear weapons. If we want to see this vision realized we must redouble our efforts to ensure an enduring and robust regime. Strengthening the regime is an objective the United States has embraced as one of its highest priorities. Both the challenges to the regime, and the opportunities to address them, have never been greater. It is clear that we are all here because we share a common vision of the possibilities and opportunities for the future.

A Vision for the Future

Let me offer some thoughts on the path to securing a successful outcome at the NPT Review Conference next May: The 2010 Review Conference will be successful if the parties (1) approach it as a serious opportunity to strengthen the Treaty and revalidate its indispensable contribution to regional and global stability and security, and (2) look beyond their differences to find those areas where agreement on concrete measures to shore up the global regime can be reached now, and on areas where further work and deliberation are needed, both to realize agreed steps and to broaden future areas of agreement.

To ensure that States Parties approach the Review Conference as a serious opportunity to strengthen and revalidate the Treaty, and overall regime, the United States is prepared to lead by example. We will demonstrate concrete progress towards the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and we will continue to emphasize the critical importance of a stable, reliable international nonproliferation regime to further disarmament success.

The nuclear danger is one we must all confront together, whether the risk of conflict between nuclear-armed states, the spread of nuclear weapons to regions of conflict around the world, or the risk that terrorists might acquire weapons-usable materials. As President Obama said in his April Prague speech, the United States seeks the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons and, toward this end, is working to strengthen the NPT as the basis for international cooperation on nonproliferation. Only by recognizing our common interests and acting to meet our shared responsibilities to reduce nuclear dangers can we achieve this goal together.

The 2010 Review Conference is the most immediate opportunity to renew and reinvigorate that basic bargain by focusing in a balanced manner on all three pillars of the Treaty – nonproliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy – the elements of the basic bargain President Obama mentioned.

These three pillars are integrally related and interdependent. Without nonproliferation, it would be too risky to expand nuclear energy worldwide, and prospects for nuclear disarmament would be stunted. Without disarmament, international support for nonproliferation would be insufficient to ensure the regime can meet the challenges I have described. And without safe and reliable access to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, a key benefit of the basic bargain would not be realized.

Our efforts to renew the nuclear bargain require us to reinvigoratethe disarmament pillar of the NPT. In support of our commitment to a world without nuclear weapons, the President has said that the United States will reduce both the numbers of nuclear weapons and their role in our national security strategy. We urge others to do the same.

The United States and Russia are currently engaged in an active negotiation in Geneva to conclude a follow-on agreement to START. Achievement of a legally binding and effectively verifiable agreement will set the stage for further cuts and eventually a disarmament process that includes all nuclear weapon states.

The cessation of all nuclear weapon test explosions constitutes another meaningful step toward nuclear disarmament, and has long been a goal of NPT parties. The President has committed to “immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).” Once ratification is achieved, the Obama Administration will work hard with others to ensure that the other requirements for CTBT’s entry into force are met at the earliest possible time. In the interim, we have reaffirmed our decades-long unilateral moratorium on testing, and continue to call on other governments publicly to declare national moratoria of their own.

The United States has committed to seek a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons purposes – a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) – another longstanding international objective. The United States looks forward to working with its partners in the Conference in Disarmament to conclude this important agreement. Pending that result, we have reaffirmed our decades-long unilateral moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and encourage others to do the same.

So the stage is set for important progress on disarmament and arms control. The political will is there.

The goal of the nonproliferation pillar of the NPT is to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons. The 2010 Review Conference is an important opportunity to strengthen the implementation of the nonproliferation elements of the Treaty.

An overwhelming majority of the nearly 190 states that have joined are abiding by their Treaty obligations. However, international peace and security is undermined, and Parties’ confidence in the NPT and measures to strengthen it are eroded by those few Parties that are not in compliance.

Stemming proliferation requires that the international community work together to discourage such violations. As President Obama said in Prague, “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” We are currently working on ways to make the costs of violating the treaty outweigh any perceived benefits, and to address noncompliance with meaningful consequences. The Review Conference is an opportunity to make progress on these issues.

States should realize that the perceived benefits of acquiring nuclear weapons are often illusory. When one state acquires nuclear weapons, its neighbors may feel the need to do likewise, leading the entire region down the path of insecurity. Latin America provides a shining example of the opposite path, of a group of nations achieving greater mutual security by forswearing nuclear weapons ambitions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the primary tool for verifying compliance and detecting noncompliance with the NPT’s nonproliferation obligations, and the United States is committed to making sure the IAEA has the resources that it needs to accomplish this vital mission. Our support for the IAEA is critical in fulfilling our end of the bargain by enabling others to benefit from peaceful applications of nuclear energy, while ensuring these recipients also uphold their end of the bargain by putting these peaceful activities under safeguards.

Parties must work together to strengthen the Agency’s safeguards system. Over the years, the Agency’s membership has adopted additional measures to enhance its ability to verify states’ compliance with safeguards obligations in response to events that have exposed weaknesses in the system. The IAEA needs to use all the tools at its disposal, both to investigate clandestine programs and to strengthen assurances that states nuclear programs are entirely peaceful.

One of those tools, in states that adhere to it, is the Additional Protocol. The United States ratified its own Additional Protocol earlier this year and will continue to encourage its adoption by all states. IAEA Director General ElBaradei provided a compelling argument for pursuing universal adherence to the Additional Protocol when he said, last June, “Without an Additional Protocol, we can only talk about declared nuclear material. We have learned since 1991 in Iraq, that if any country tries to divert nuclear material, they don’t divert from declared material, they divert through a clandestine programme."

The third pillar of the NPT calls for international cooperation in pursuing the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. For many years, nations have used nuclear energy for peaceful purposes: in energy, agriculture, medicine, mining, manufacturing, and other industries. Nuclear science is vitally important to the continued social and economic development of many countries. This pillar is more important today than ever, especially in light of an increasing interest in nuclear power as a response to international concerns about climate change, energy security, and sustainable development.

President Obama has called for a new framework for civil nuclear energy cooperation, so that countries seeking nuclear power can access it more easily and cost effectively without the need for their own fuel production capabilities. The United States is supporting an international fuel bank and working with international partners to explore cradle-to-grave fuel services as the basis for providing reliable and affordable access to nuclear energy without increasing proliferation risks.

To help states overcome the many obstacles they face in pursuing such programs, the IAEA has put in place a new program to help states build the infrastructure necessary for nuclear power development. These efforts will help realize the right of every nation that renounces nuclear weapons – especially developing countries – to peaceful nuclear energy programs. The NPT Review Conference can validate these goals and recognize the need for further discussion and cooperation.

Reciprocal Responsibilities

I have described a number of initiatives and other steps that the NPT Review Conference will have before it next May; steps that can set us on a path toward greater international security and allow us to meet the genuine economic and social needs of countries embarking on or expanding their civil nuclear programs. Their success is predicated on the assumption that all states – those that possess nuclear weapons and those that have foresworn them – have a responsibility to advance our collective security. The 2010 Review Conference is an opportunity to demonstrate this shared responsibility.

The United States and other Nuclear Weapon States bear a special responsibility under Article VI of the NPT to pursue nuclear disarmament. President Obama has described his agenda for meeting this responsibility, and we will pursue it with resolve.

Non-Nuclear Weapon States bear no less responsibility to work constructively and actively to prevent further proliferation and to help create the conditions for nuclear disarmament, and to ensure safe, secure uses of nuclear energy. The responsibility does not end with their decision to forego their own nuclear weapon capability and to accept IAEA safeguards to verify their commitments. It must continue through the participation of those non-nuclear states in rigorous, collective efforts to impede other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons. This is not a favor to the nuclear weapons states, but a collective responsibility of the international community as a whole, whose security and well-being is dramatically affected by whether more and more states acquire nuclear weapons. Through such efforts all states can help create the conditions necessary to achieve the nuclear free world that we seek.


Let me briefly return to the second point I mentioned in paving the way for success next May. I offered my view that the NPT Review Conference will be successful if States Parties look beyond their differences to find those areas where agreement on concrete measures to shore up the global regime can be reached now, and on areas where further work and deliberation is needed so that agreement might be possible in the future.

Since being confirmed in June, I have met with more than 50 different governments and counting, to explore and identify opportunities for engagement. While national positions and priorities vary from government to government, what is a constant is the shared commitment to the future of the NPT and a desire to work collectively to advance the cause of nonproliferation, disarmament and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The time is right to make progress in all three pillars of the NPT, and the political will is there. We have the opportunity to create real and sustained momentum to reinvigorate separate but related efforts in Geneva, Vienna, New York and elsewhere.

The time is right and the 2010 Review Conference is the opportunity to reaffirm and reinforce this indispensible treaty. We look forward to working with our NPT partners to do just that. Thank you.