Statement by Australia, the UK and the US about AUKUS safeguards under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty


I take the floor on behalf of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to respond to comments made regarding Australia’s acquisition of a naval nuclear propulsion capability. We expressed our position on this agenda item in our Note Verbale, dated May 30, 2024, and I will not repeat it here other than to reiterate that this item has never enjoyed consensus support and is not a standing agenda item. However, we feel compelled – once again – to invoke our Right of Reply to respond to the remarks made today.

In response to a request in March and last November from my distinguished colleague who requested this agenda item, I and my counterparts from the United Kingdom and Australia have, indeed, sat and attentively listened to the remarks made today, just as we have done for two-and-a-half years. Unfortunately, much of what I have heard today, and what I have in fact heard under this item for the last two-and-a-half years, are serious mischaracterizations and misleading assertions from certain countries.

These assertions continue to ignore or misrepresent the information we have provided in good faith, and to disregard the answers which the Director General has already provided in response to the questions asked. We express our deep concern about these mischaracterizations. We, and the large majority of Board members who have spoken in previous meetings on this topic, have expressed confidence in Director General Grossi’s handling and prerogative on this issue. Indeed, we note many member states expressed confidence in the Agency’s engagement with relevant parties on naval nuclear propulsion under Agenda item 6b at this Board. We have been clear that this agenda item is unnecessary.


The People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation have spoken multiple times over the last two days of the need to avoid politicization of the Board, particularly on issues that the Board and the Director General have deemed to be of significant concern such as Iran, the DPRK, and Syria’s failure to meet obligations in their Safeguards Agreements as well as on the nuclear safety, security, and safeguards implications of Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine. It is difficult to understand why these states do not apply their own logic to this issue. Why, when the Director General has expressed his satisfaction and a majority of the Board has expressed no desire for quarterly discussion on one country’s naval nuclear propulsion program, do we continue to have this item added to the agenda?

The Director General has repeatedly stated that the Agency has “the necessary experience to develop the arrangements related to the use of nuclear material for naval nuclear propulsion in accordance with the Statute and relevant safeguards agreements.” The Director General has also made clear that Australia’s Article 14 arrangement will allow the Agency to continue to meet the technical safeguards objectives established for Australia, and that, once developed, it will be transmitted to the Board for appropriate action. Despite these statements, it remains deeply concerning that some states continue to call into question the Director General’s ability to perform the functions vested in him by the Statute, by the relevant safeguards agreements, and by decisions of the Board.

One country has called for referring the matter to the Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation, known as SAGSI. Obviously, we fully support the Director General’s use of SAGSI as he sees fit and on technical matters within its remit. We defer to the Director General to determine whether to seek SAGSI’s input on naval nuclear propulsion, or, for that matter, any other technical issue relating to safeguards implementation. It is not this Board’s responsibility to dictate whether or how the Director General receives input from his own advisory group.


The AUKUS partners have and will continue to engage consistently, openly, and transparently with Member States and the Secretariat on genuine questions. We welcome that the Agency has repeatedly reported its satisfaction with Australia’s engagement.

Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have provided updates on relevant progress at all Board meetings since the initial AUKUS announcement in September 2021, and will do so again at this meeting under Any Other Business. We will continue to keep the Board updated on our engagement, as appropriate. Our three countries – along with the majority of the Board – continue to oppose any proposal for this item to be a standing agenda item or to establish any efforts that undermine and politicize the independent technical mandate of the IAEA. We reject any suggestion that the Agency does not have a mandate to engage bilaterally with Member States on issues relevant to the implementation of their safeguards commitments. We urge colleagues to continue to reject deliberate efforts to challenge the Agency’s independence and integrity. And we welcome the Director General’s commitment to continuing to provide updates to the Board as and when he deems appropriate.

Thank you, Chair.

Published 7 June 2024