June 13, 2012
The United Nations’ nuclear agency is significantly underfunded, a think-tank said on Wednesday, warning the shortfall risked limiting its ability to identify covert atomic activity that might have a military dimension.
The report, issued by a Canadian think-tank, described the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a “veritable bargain for international peace and security,” but said the Vienna-based agency needed to be reformed and better financed.
“The Agency is significantly underfunded, considering its responsibilities and the expectations increasingly being placed on it,” it said, after analysing a body best known for its troubled monitoring of Iran’s atomic activities and for trying to improve reactor safety after the Fukushima disaster.
Trevor Findlay, the report’s author, told Reuters he was worried the funding problem would gradually affect the agency’s ability to hold countries like Iran to account.
It “will not be able to develop its capacity over time for detecting undeclared nuclear activity. That to me is the most dangerous thing,” he said.
“The Agency could just do so much more and a better and smarter job if it had extra money, in almost every single programme,” Findlay, a professor of Canada’s Carleton University and a former Australian disarmament diplomat, added.
The case of Iran - which denies Western accusations it is secretly seeking to develop nuclear weapons -- highlights the challenges the IAEA faces in investigating states that refuse to provide it with the access and cooperation it says it needs.
Like other U.N. bodies, the IAEA’s budget is not growing in real terms and, as a result, it does not possess the latest technology or have adequate staffing for its role, the report said.
“Despite significant improvements to the nuclear safeguards regime, there is substantial room for improvement, especially in detecting undeclared materials, facilities and activities.