Australian Embassy and Permanent Mission to the United Nations
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia

67th Regular Session of the IAEA General Conference: AUKUS Right of Reply

67th Regular Session of the IAEA General Conference

Item 24: Transfer of the nuclear materials in the context of AUKUS and its safeguards in all aspects under the NPT

AUKUS Right of Reply on behalf of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, delivered by H.E Ambassador Ian Biggs, Head of Delegation, Governor and Resident Representative of Australia to the IAEA


Thank you, President

I have the honour of speaking on behalf of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


I refer colleagues to the General Conference document 67/23 circulated on 21 September which reiterated our concerns regarding the addition of this political agenda item by one Member State. Australia, the United Kingdom and United States do not support the inclusion of this agenda item. We understand from our extensive consultations that the majority of IAEA Member States are of a similar view. We had not sought to take the floor during this politically motivated and unnecessary agenda item when there is pressing business at hand.

However, the serious nature of the disinformation and mischaracterisations we have just heard requires us to respond. I wish to focus on two particular aspects: the transparency with which we are undertaking engagements with the IAEA; and the legal framework which applies to naval nuclear propulsion technology.


On transparency, we recognise that there are genuine questions amongst Member States regarding naval nuclear propulsion in Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement (CSA) states.  We will continue to engage in good faith with all Member States, consistent with our commitment to openness and transparency. To that end, Australia provided an update on its acquisition of naval nuclear propulsion technology at this Conference during the General Debate, as is appropriate, and as we did last year. We have also provided updates at each Board meeting since the AUKUS partnership was first announced in September 2021, and published two INFCIRCs providing updates to Member States in the past year.


It is important that we deal in facts, not disinformation. As we stated in our General Debate statement, we welcomed the Director General’s reports on Australia’s acquisition of naval nuclear propulsion technology, in September 2022 and June 2023, and for his other statements to the Board of Governors, including in document 2023/Note 44.

Throughout this process, the Director General has been clear that he has the mandate and authority – provided by the Board – to develop an Article 14 arrangement between Australia and the Agency pursuant to Australia’s CSA. Once an Article 14 arrangement is developed the Director General has committed to bringing that arrangement to the Board for ‘appropriate action’. As is standard practice, Australia’s CSA was approved by the Board and the Agency is dutifully implementing it. The suggestion that Australia would seek to bypass the Board as the Article 14 arrangement is developed is false.


We all rely upon and trust in the IAEA to undertake its critical safeguards function with integrity and independence. Under the provisions of Board-approved safeguards agreements, we rely on the Secretariat to develop and implement safeguards approaches across the entire nuclear fuel cycle – bilaterally and in-confidence. And we trust the Secretariat to draw conclusions regarding member states’ compliance with their safeguards obligations.


The AUKUS partners are confident that the Director General has the ability and mandate to develop a robust IAEA safeguards approach for Australia’s naval nuclear propulsion program that will enable the Agency to continue to meet its technical safeguards objectives established for Australia, and the Director General has stated his intent to do so. Australia’s Article 14 arrangement will not remove nuclear material from IAEA oversight.

Throughout the lifecycle of Australia’s program, the Agency will be able to continue to verify and conclude that there has been no diversion of declared nuclear material, no misuse of facilities, and no undeclared nuclear material or activities.


We wish to make clear that, contrary to what some delegations have suggested, we do not seek to impose a template or model Article 14 arrangement. When developing an Article 14 arrangement for Australia or another state, the Agency will need to account for state-specific factors.


Once again I would like to express our regret for needing to intervene at this point, under this politically motivated agenda item. But it is important that we set the record straight.

Thank you, President.