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

AUKUS Trilateral Non-Paper

AUKUS Trilateral Non-Paper

March 2022 Board of Governors Meeting


Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are committed to undertaking cooperation under AUKUS in a manner that is fully consistent with our respective non-proliferation obligations and reflects our longstanding leadership in the global non-proliferation regime.

On 16 September 2021 we announced the beginning of an 18-month consultation period to determine the optimal pathway for Australia to acquire conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines.  An integral part of those consultations is our pursuit of our shared objectives of setting the highest possible non-proliferation standards, strengthening the integrity of the non-proliferation regime, and maintaining Australia’s impeccable non-proliferation credentials.

We understand and welcome the interest of Board members, and of the wider non-proliferation community in this trilateral effort.  Transparency and open engagement have been central to our approach from the outset, especially in regard to issues of nuclear material, facilities, and activities relevant to the IAEA.  We remain committed to keeping member states and partners informed, and we look forward to the opportunity to update the IAEA Board under Any Other Business at the forthcoming 7-11 March IAEA Board of Governors.

Our engagement with the IAEA is a critical element of our consultations.  That dialogue is ongoing. We have commenced technical consultations on verification-related issues.  These discussions build on the direct engagement we have sought and maintained with the Agency since the announcement of our joint effort.

Verification of the non-diversion of nuclear material in our nuclear propulsion-related cooperation under AUKUS will proceed within the framework of Australia’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol with the IAEA.  This approach will maintain and strengthen the integrity of the nuclear non-proliferation regime.  We look forward to continuing our close engagement and cooperation with the IAEA as our consultations progress.

AUKUS partners have concluded and brought into force on 8 February an agreement for the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information (ENNPIA).  The ENNPIA is narrowly focused on providing for the exchange of naval nuclear propulsion information among the three parties during the 18-month consultation period.  The ENNPIA does not allow for the transfer of nuclear material and equipment.

Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States remain deeply committed to our obligations and commitments under the NPT, the Treaty of Rarotonga, and relevant non-proliferation instruments.  Naval nuclear propulsion is wholly consistent with our obligations and commitments under these instruments.  We completely refute any assertion to the contrary.

Moreover, naval nuclear propulsion is compatible with Australia's safeguards commitments.   Australia’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement – like all such agreements – specifically envisages such activities.  We continue to consult the IAEA Secretariat, as is appropriate and proper, to discuss relevant arrangements – with a determined focus on ensuring that we set the highest standards through an open process of engagement.

Whenever the DG believes there is substance of direct interest and relevance to the Board, it is right and proper for that information to be reported.  We trust and expect that he will do so.  A specific Agenda item on AUKUS would be appropriate in the case of any Board meeting that has received such a report from the Director General.

However, as we made clear in November, the unfounded addition of a standing or a one-off agenda item on AUKUS at the Board of Governors that has not been brought forward by the Director General is unnecessary, inappropriate, and risks undermining the role and authority of the Agency.  We would see such a proposal as one motivated by politics, rather than by a desire to see the Board fulfil its mandate.

Further, we would regard any effort to repeatedly seek to include a one-off agenda item related to AUKUS at successive Board meetings, effectively creating a ‘de-facto’ standing item, as highly disruptive to the important work of the IAEA and an abuse of the Board’s Rules of Procedure for political ends.

It risks undermining the effective operations of the Board and its critical role in international security and development.  It distracts from genuine and pressing issues that demand this Board’s immediate attention.

Should this damaging pattern continue, we would be forced to work within the Rules of Procedure to prevent it.

The role of the Board in the IAEA’s contribution to international security and development is too important to allow its agenda to be diluted and disrupted by blatant politicisation.

As is the case with any issue of legitimate interest to Board Members, we welcome, and will listen carefully to, any statements or questions raised by Board members, at the appropriate juncture, at any Board meeting.