The G8 leaders meeting in Sea Island have adopted an action plan to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which is designed to strengthen control over the export of nuclear materials.
In late February, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei called on the leaders of industrialised countries to tighten non-proliferation measures without infringing on national sovereignties. He suggested beginning with changes in the export system of nuclear materials. It was a daring move for a man who is responsible for the international non-proliferation regime, as it showed that he viewed it as insufficiently reliable.
The non-proliferation regime is based on a gentleman's agreement that is not binding and does not involve many countries with growing industrial capabilities. Moreover, even some of its signatories cannot control the export operations of their companies that are not affiliated with the state.
In point of fact, ElBaradei has called on the great powers to take urgent measures to tighten this excessively "soft" regime. The immediate result was the pledge of the G8 leaders to freeze the transfer of the relevant technologies and uranium enrichment and processing equipment for 12 months while they draft a more substantial agreement, which is to be signed at the next G8 summit in Britain in 2005.
Any agreement on WMD non-proliferation should have an effective verification mechanism, of which the institution of IAEA permanent inspections is an invaluable element. At the same time, the relative availability of nuclear weapons technologies today and broad application of nuclear power engineering in the world call for expanding the inspectors' powers.
Lately the international community has given them broader rights in individual countries, such as Iran and Libya. Now the process may become more sweeping, as the G8 leaders have spoken in favour of reforming the IAEA, including by creating a special verification committee responsible for inspections.