Quotable quotes about safeguards and proliferation

1. Quotes from former IAEA Director-General Dr Mohamed El Baradei

2. Australia

3. International

1. Quotes from former IAEA Director-General Dr Mohamed El Baradei

“The IAEA’s Illicit Trafficking Database has, in the past decade, recorded more than 650 cases that involve efforts to smuggle such [nuclear and radioactive] materials.” (1)

“Today, out of the 189 countries that are party to the NPT, 118 still do not have additional protocols in force.” (1)

“IAEA verification today operates on an annual budget of about $100 million – a budget comparable to that of a local police department. With these resources, we oversee approximately 900 nuclear facilities in 71 countries. When you consider our growing responsibilities – as well as the need to stay ahead of the game – we are clearly operating on a shoestring budget.” (1)

“… we are only as effective as we are allowed to be.” (1)

“In specific cases of arms control, the Security Council’s efforts have not been very systematic or successful.” (1)

“Under NPT rules, there is nothing illegal about any State having enrichment or reprocessing technology – processes that are basic to the production and recycling of nuclear reactor fuel – even though these operations can also produce the high enriched uranium or separated plutonium that can be used in a nuclear weapon.

An increasing number of countries have sought to master these parts of the “nuclear fuel cycle”, both for economic reasons and, in some cases, as a good insurance policy for a rainy day – a situation that would enable them to develop at least a crude nuclear weapon in a short span of time, should their security outlook change. Whatever the reason, this know-how essentially transforms them into “latent” nuclear-weapon States. That is, regardless of their peaceful intentions, they now have the capability to create weapon-useable nuclear material, which experts consider to be the most difficult step towards manufacture of a nuclear weapon, and can use this capability as a deterrent. In today´s environment, this margin of security is simply not adequate.” (1)

“If a country with a full nuclear fuel cycle decides to break away from its non-proliferation commitments, a nuclear weapon could be only months away.” (2)

“… the Agency’s legal authority to investigate possible parallel weaponisation activity is limited …” (2)

“More countries have sought to master the nuclear fuel cycle, both for economic reasons and, in some cases, as a good insurance policy for a rainy day. Whatever the reason, this know-how essentially transforms them into what might be called a “virtual” or “latent” nuclear-weapon State. Experience has shown that a “choke point” for nuclear weapons development is the acquisition of weapon-useable nuclear material. If a country with a full nuclear fuel cycle decides to break away from its non-proliferation commitments, a nuclear weapon could be only months away. In such cases, we are only as secure as the outbreak of the next major crisis. In today´s environment, this margin of security is simply untenable.” (2)

“If a country with a full nuclear fuel cycle decides to break away from its non-proliferation commitments, a nuclear weapon could be only months away. In such cases, we are only as secure as the outbreak of the next major crisis. In today´s environment, this margin of security is simply untenable.” (3)

“Five years ago, I addressed the 2000 NPT Review Conference – hopeful that the new millennium would bring renewed vigour to these commitments. Many of you were here, and many shared this hope. Are we more or less hopeful now? In five years, the world has changed. Our fears of a deadly nuclear detonation – whatever the cause – have been reawakened. In part, these fears are driven by new realities. The rise in terrorism. The discovery of clandestine nuclear programmes. The emergence of a nuclear black market. But these realities have also heightened our awareness of vulnerabilities in the NPT regime. The acquisition by more and more countries of sensitive nuclear know-how and capabilities. The uneven degree of physical protection of nuclear materials from country to country. The limitations in the IAEA´s verification authority – particularly in countries without additional protocols in force. The continuing reliance on nuclear deterrence. The ongoing perception of imbalance between the nuclear haves and have-nots. And the sense of insecurity that persists, unaddressed, in a number of regions, most worryingly in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula.” (4)

“Earlier this year, four American éminences grises, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, George Shultz and Sam Nunn – representing a wealth of experience in defense and security strategies – declared that reliance on nuclear weapons as a deterrent is becoming “increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective”. They called for urgent international cooperation to move towards a world free from nuclear weapons. The following week, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that they were moving the hands of their famous Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight. “Not since the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” they reported, “has the world faced such perilous choices.” In recent years, it is clear that nuclear threats have become more dangerous and more complex. A new phenomenon of illicit trade in nuclear technology has emerged. Countries have managed to develop clandestine nuclear programmes. Sophisticated extremist groups have shown keen interest in acquiring nuclear weapons. In parallel, nuclear material and nuclear material production have become more difficult to control. Energy security and climate change are driving many countries to revisit the nuclear power option. But with that, there is also an increasing interest in mastering the nuclear fuel cycle to ensure a supply of the necessary nuclear fuel. The concern is that by mastering the fuel cycle, countries move dangerously close to nuclear weapons capability. Add to that the threat of the nuclear weapons that already exist. Roughly 27,000 nuclear warheads remain in the arsenals of nine countries. Strategic reliance on these weapons by these countries and their allies undoubtedly motivates others to emulate them. And of course, plans to replenish and modernize these weapons creates a pervasive sense of cynicism among many non-nuclear-weapon States — who perceive a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.” (5)

“Why, some ask, should the nuclear-weapon States be trusted, but not others – and who is qualified to make that judgment? Why, others ask, is it okay for some to live under a nuclear threat, but not others, who continue to be protected by a ‘nuclear umbrella’?” (5)

(1) Putting teeth in the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime. 2006 Karlsruhe Lecture, Karlsruhe, Germany, 25 March 2006, www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Statements/2006/ebsp2006n004.html

(2) Reflections on nuclear challenges today. Alistair Buchan Lecture, International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, UK, 6 December 2005

(3) Mohamed El Baradei, December 2005, ‘Reflections on Nuclear Challenges Today’, www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Statements/2005/ebsp2005n019.html

(4) Mohamed ElBaradei, 2 May 2005, United Nations, New York, USA. Speech to 2005 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Statements/2005/ebsp2005n006.html

(5) Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe: Where Do We Go From Here? May 24, 2007, www.wagingpeace.org/articles/2007/05/24_ElBaradei_Preventing_Nuclear_Catastrophe.htm


“Nuclear energy is a bad fuel, a dirty fuel, a dangerous fuel. This is not a good industry to encourage, and anyone that has an electricity program, ipso facto ends up with a nuclear weapons capability.”

– Former Prime Minister Paul Keating, October 16, 2006, Herald Sun / AAP.

“Again and again it has been demonstrated here and overseas that when problems over safeguards prove difficult, commercial considerations will come first.”

– Mike Rann, 1982, ‘Uranium: Play It Safe’.

“[T]he Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty disintegrates before our very eyes … the current non-proliferation regime is fundamentally fracturing. The consequences of the collapse of this regime for Australia are acute, including the outbreak of regional nuclear arms races in South Asia, North East Asia and possibly even South East Asia.”

– Kevin Rudd, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade & International Security. Leading, not following. The renewal of Australian middle power diplomacy. Sydney Institute, 19 Sep 2006.

“The nuclear non-proliferation treaty continues to fracture. And there has been little if any progress on nuclear arms reduction – let alone nuclear disarmament.”

– Kevin Rudd, 5 July 2007 – Lowy Institute.

“A world free of nuclear weapons will be much more readily achieved and sustained were nuclear power generation being phased out.”

– Assoc. Prof. Tilman Ruff, ‘Hiroshima and the World: We can imagine and build a world free of nuclear weapons’, Nov 9, 2009, www.hiroshimapeacemedia.jp/mediacenter/article.php?story=20091109140250161_en

“On top of the perennial challenges of global poverty and injustice, the two biggest threats facing human civilisation in the 21st century are climate change and nuclear war. It would be absurd to respond to one by increasing the risks of the other. Yet that is what nuclear power does.”

– Dr Mark Diesendorf, University of NSW, ‘Need energy? Forget nuclear and go natural’, October 14, 2009, www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/need-energy-forget-nuclear-and-go-natural-20091014-gvzo.html

“We were interested in this thing [a planned nuclear power reactor at Jervis Bay] because it could provide electricity to everybody and it could, if you decided later on, it could make an atomic bomb.”

– Former Prime Minister John Gorton reflecting on the plan to build a nuclear power plant at Jervis bay in the late 1960s and early 1970s, quoted in Pilita Clark, ‘PM’s Story: Very much alive… and unfazed’, Sydney Morning Herald, January 1, 1999.

“The nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war. This is the most serious hazard associated with the industry.”

– Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, 1977

“Australia, if it so decided, could embark on a nuclear weapons program… It would take some time, it would be expensive, it would involve significant risks, but we have retained a degree of nuclear expertise that could give us the capability to embark on a basic nuclear weapons program.”

– Andrew O’Neil, former analyst with the Australian Defence Intelligence Organisation

“Almost every action, every piece of research, technological development or industrial activity carried out in the peaceful uses of atomic energy could also be looked upon as a step in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. There is such an overlap in the military and peaceful technologies in these areas that they are virtually one.”

– Sir Phillip Baxter, former head of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, ‘Australian Doubts on the Treaty’, Quadrant, Vol.XII(3), 1968, p.31.

“The potential for proliferation of weapons is real and needs to be reduced and controlled.”

– Simon Clarke, Australian Uranium Association, CarbonEdge, edition 3, July 2009, www.carbonedge.com.au/CarbonEdge3.pdf

“You can guarantee that mining uranium will lead to nuclear waste. You can’t guarantee that uranium mining will not lead to nuclear weapons.”

– Anthony Albanese, – Australian Labor Party’s environmental spokesman, quoted in the New York Times, August 2, 2006 page A9

“Whether or not Aussie uranium goes directly into Chinese warheads — or whether it is used in power stations in lieu of uranium that goes into Chinese warheads — makes little difference. Canberra is about to do a deal with a regime with a record of flouting international conventions.”

– The Taipei Times editorial 21/1/06.

“…States which possess nuclear weapons must, within a reasonable time-frame, take systematic action to eliminate completely all nuclear weapons in a manner which is safe and does not damage the environment.”

– Gareth Evans, ICJ Oral hearings, Oct 30, 1995

“India has an excellent non-proliferation record other than their own nuclear weapons’ programme.”

– Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer, ABC 7.30 Report, Aug 2007


“The spread of nuclear technologies and expertise is generating concerns about the potential emergence of new nuclear weapon states and the acquisition of nuclear materials by terrorist groups.”

– US National Intelligence Council, 2008, “Global Trends 2025 – a Transformed World”, www.dni.gov/nic/NIC_2025_project.html

The US National Intelligence Council also warned of the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and noted that a number of states in the region “are already thinking about developing or acquiring nuclear technology useful for development of nuclear weaponry.”

“[T]he rise in nuclear power worldwide … inevitably increases the risks of proliferation”.

– US State Department, 2008, quoted in www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=9269&page=0

“For eight years in the White House, every weapons-proliferation problem we dealt with was connected to a civilian reactor program. And if we ever got to the point where we wanted to use nuclear reactors to back out a lot of coal … then we’d have to put them in so many places we’d run that proliferation risk right off the reasonability scale.”

– Former US Vice President Al Gore, 2006, www.grist.org/article/roberts2

“Many believe that a responsible approach to sharply reducing global warming pollution would involve a significant increase in the use of nuclear power plants as a substitute for coal-fired generators. While I am not opposed to nuclear power and expect to see some modest increased use of nuclear reactors, I doubt that they will play a significant role in most countries as a new source of electricity. The main reason for my skepticism about nuclear power playing a much larger role in the world’s energy future is not the problem of waste disposal or the danger of reactor operator error, or the vulnerability to terrorist attack. Let’s assume for the moment that all three of these problems can be solved. That still leaves two serious issues that are more difficult constraints. The first is economics; the current generation of reactors is expensive, take a long time to build, and only come in one size – extra large. In a time of great uncertainty over energy prices, utilities must count on great uncertainty in electricity demand – and that uncertainty causes them to strongly prefer smaller incremental additions to their generating capacity that are each less expensive and quicker to build than are large 1000 megawatt light water reactors. Newer, more scalable and affordable reactor designs may eventually become available, but not soon. Secondly, if the world as a whole chose nuclear power as the option of choice to replace coal-fired generating plants, we would face a dramatic increase in the likelihood of nuclear weapons proliferation. During my 8 years in the White House, every nuclear weapons proliferation issue we dealt with was connected to a nuclear reactor program. Today, the dangerous weapons programs in both Iran and North Korea are linked to their civilian reactor programs. Moreover, proposals to separate the ownership of reactors from the ownership of the fuel supply process have met with stiff resistance from developing countries who want reactors. As a result of all these problems, I believe that nuclear reactors will only play a limited role.”

– Al Gore, September 2006, speech at NYU Law School, www.grist.org/article/more-on-gores-speech

“The push to bring back nuclear power as an antidote to global warming is a big problem. If you build more nuclear power plants we have toxic waste at least, bomb-making at worse.”

– Former US President Bill Clinton, 2006, Clinton Global Initiative.

“The development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes and the development of atomic energy for bombs are in much of their course interchangeable and interdependent. … Fear of such surprise violation of pledged word will surely break down any confidence in the pledged word of rival countries developing atomic energy if the treaty obligations and good faith of the nations are the only assurances upon which to rely.”

– Dean Acheson & David Lilienthal, 16 March 1946, A Report on the International Control of Atomic Energy, US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC. This report was the basis of the Baruch Plan for international control of nuclear weapons submitted to the United Nations by the U.S. in 1946.

“There is no prospect of security against atomic warfare in a system of international agreements to outlaw such weapons controlled only by a system which relies on inspection and similar police-like methods. The reasons supporting this conclusion are not merely technical, but primarily the insuperable political, social, and organizational problems involved in enforcing agreements between nations each free to develop atomic energy but only pledged not to use bombs…So long as intrinsically dangerous activities [i.e., production and use of weapons-useable materials such as plutonium and highly-enriched uranium] may be carried out by nations, rivalries are inevitable and fears are engendered that place so great a pressure upon a system of international enforcement by police methods that no degree of ingenuity or technical competence could possibly hope to cope with them.”

– Dean Acheson & David Lilienthal

“We are convinced that if the production of fissionable materials by national governments (or by private organisations under their control) is permitted, systems of inspection cannot be by themselves made “effective safeguards … to protect complying states against the hazards of violations and evasions.”

– Dean Acheson & David Lilienthal

“[R]oughly two-thirds of the energy and effort required to produce HEU goes into enriching natural uranium with 0.711 percent U-235 to fuel grade low-enriched uranium with 3.6 percent U-235, while only about one third goes into further enrichment of that LEU to produce highly enriched uranium with 90 percent U-235.”

– Brice Smith, Insurmountable risks. Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Takoma Park, Maryland, May 2006:127.

“Reprocessing provides the strongest link between commercial nuclear power and proliferation.”

– US Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Nuclear proliferation and safeguards. June 1977:12.

“No system of safeguards that can be devised will of itself provide an effective guarantee against production of atomic weapons by a nation bent on aggression.”

– Harry S Truman, CR Attlee & WL Mackenzie King. Declaration on atomic bomb by President Truman and Prime Ministers Attlee and King. 15 Nov 1945.

“It would be so easy for us to produce nuclear warheads – we have plutonium at nuclear power plants in Japan, enough to make several thousand such warheads.”

– Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the Liberal Party in Japan, Lecture in Fukuoka, April 2002.

“I admit that we have excessive amounts of plutonium, but our purpose is for research.”

– Yuichi Tonozuka. President, Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute, April 2005.

“We are approaching a point at which the erosion of the non-proliferation regime could become irreversible and result in a cascade of proliferation.”

– UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. A more secure world: Our shared responsibility. Report to the Secretary-General. 30 Nov 2004:39

“In fact, the NPT is the weakest of the treaties on WMD in terms of provisions about implementation.”

– Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission. Weapons of Terror. Final Report. WMD Commission, Stockholm, Sweden. 1 June 2006:63.

“It is clear that no international safeguards system can physically prevent diversion or the setting up of an undeclared or clandestine nuclear programme.”

– IAEA, Against the Spread of Nuclear Weapons: IAEA Safeguards in the 1990s, 1993.

“Safeguardability remains a R&D priority. There is no proliferation proof nuclear fuel cycle. The dual use risk of nuclear materials and technology and in civil and military applications cannot be eliminated. The technical expertise of the International Atomic Energy Agency plays a central role in managing this dual use. Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of international safeguards remains a priority for non-proliferation Research and Development (R&D).”

– UK Royal Society, 13 October 2011, Fuel cycle stewardship in a nuclear renaissance


“[S]erious consideration should be given to the possibility of phasing out reprocessing plants altogether. …as an adjunct to any nuclear disarmament treaty, it would be essential to create international institutions to operate and safeguard both enrichment and reprocessing plants (if they cannot be eliminated altogether) and spent fuel storage sites. … Even with stringent and equitable new rules to govern nuclear power, its continued operation and certainly any global expansion will impose serious proliferation risks in the transition to nuclear disarmament. A phase-out of civilian nuclear energy would provide the most effective and enduring constraint on proliferation risks in a nuclear-weapon-free world.”

– International Panel on Fissile Materials, Global Fissile Material Report 2009, www.fissilematerials.org/ipfm/pages_us_en/documents/documents/documents.php

“The fundamental constraint against effectively protecting against nuclear energy use leading to bombs is the near-universal assumption that we can afford only so much protection as will allow full exploitation of nuclear energy. In international affairs, nuclear energy trumps just about everything. Even so-called arms controllers fall over themselves trying to establish their bona fides by supporting nuclear energy development and devising painless proposals that grandfather everything that’s already in place. … It’s time to take a more serious view. Security should come first–not as an afterthought. We should support as much nuclear power as is consistent with international security; not as much security as the spread of nuclear power will allow.”

– Victor Gilinsky, former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ‘A call to resist the nuclear revival’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 27 January 2009, www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/op-eds/call-to-resist-the-nuclear-revival

“As we see it, however, the world is not now safe for a rapid global expansion of nuclear energy. Such an expansion carries with it a high risk of misusing uranium enrichment plants and separated plutonium to create bombs. The use of nuclear devices is still a very dangerous possibility in a world where Russian and U.S. ballistic missiles are on hair trigger and long-standing conflicts between countries and among peoples too often escalate into military actions. As two of our board members have pointed out, ‘Nuclear war is a terrible trade for slowing the pace of climate change.'”

– Editorial – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 14 January 2010


“I do not like this word bomb. It is not a bomb; it is a device which is exploding.”

– Jacques Le Blanc – French Ambassador to New Zealand (describing France’s nuclear tests).

“In conventional war, mistakes cost lives, sometimes thousands of lives. However, if mistakes were to affect decisions relating to the use of nuclear forces, there would be no learning curve. They would result in the destruction of nations.”

– Former US Secretary of Defence, Robert MacNamara, “Apocalypse Soon”, May/June2005.

“A full scale nuclear exchange, lasting less than 60 minutes … could wipe out more than 300 million Americans, Europeans, and Russians, as well as untold numbers elsewhere. And the survivors–as Chairman Khrushchev warned the Communist Chinese, `the survivors would envy the dead.’ For they would inherit a world so devastated by explosions and poison and fire that today we cannot conceive of its horrors.”

– President John F. Kennedy, address to the nation on the Limited Test Ban Treaty, 26 July 1963

“In an all-out nuclear war, more destructive power than in all of World War II would be unleashed every second during the long afternoon it would take for all the missiles and bombs to fall. A World War II every second–more people killed in the first few hours than all the wars of history put together. The survivors, if any, would live in despair amid the poisoned ruins of a civilization that had committed suicide.”

– President Jimmy Carter, Farewell Address to the American People, 14 January 1981

“By far the greatest single danger facing human-kind, in fact all living beings on our planet, is the threat of nuclear destruction…”

– The Dalai Lama.

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

– Albert Einstein

“The splitting of the atom has changed everything save our mode of thinking, and therefore we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. The solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.”

– Albert Einstein

“The discussion of the peaceful applications of nuclear explosives has produced some concrete ideas that surely can be realized and it has also produced some promising possibilities which for the time being we must consider as dreams. First, we shall mention those applications about which we can feel quite sure. They boil down to a single fact: We can make a hole in the earth — if anybody wants to do that.”

– Edward Teller, ‘father’ of the hydrogen bomb, 1963.