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Argentinean Takes the Helm in Nuclear Proliferation Controls

By: Contributor - Jan 23, 2014, 11:30 am

EspañolEvery year, new countries begin using nuclear energy — one of the most intriguing yet controversial sources of energy. As the world strives to find further sources of sustainable energy, Argentina now finds itself at the center of this quest. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a coalition that seeks to impede nuclear weapons proliferation, recently elected Argentinean Rafael Mariano Grossi as their next president.

The NSG, founded in 1975, holds 48 member countries with nuclear export capacity, and their main tactic is the implementation guidelines pertaining to nuclear energy exports.

Grossi, a former ambassador in Austria, will take charge for the 2014-2015 period, meaning Argentina will be a leader in the nuclear energy production realm. Official sources said Grossi’s inauguration will formally take place in Buenos Aires later this year.

Irma Argüello, global director for NSG, said “the new Argentinean leadership will face not only challenges related to the expected transfers — in the context of more countries starting to use nuclear energy — but important structural ones. Some of them relate to the legitimate right these countries have . . . of belonging to this nuclear elite.”

According to Argüello’s analysis, these challenges include the possibility of India becoming a member, which the United States currently supports. If that is the case, India would become part of NSG without signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty (TNP). Similarly, the controversial issue of China cooperating with Pakistan in the nuclear arena is also ongoing.

There is no doubt these are relevant arguments, and Argentina will have something to say about them. The South American country has a long history with nuclear energy, and will now be at the forefront of new developments in Latin America.

Ever since 1990, Argentina has been modernizing its nuclear agenda. More recently, since 2003 the country has developed plans which include: the finalization of the Atucha II nuclear plant, the construction of a fourth nuclear plant, and the corresponding increase in local production. Congressmen have also been discussing plans for the new Argentinean Nuclear Plan since 2009. If it were to become law, it would solidify the industry’s advances seen so far, as well as placing attention its plans for the future in Argentina.

Grossi already has an impressive international resume. He was chief of staff at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where he later became deputy director general. He has been stationed in Austria for the past year, acting as Argentina’s permanent representative for international organizations in Vienna. He is also a staff member for the graduate course in international security, disarmament, and non-proliferation at the NPS Global Foundation.

Juan Battaleme, an international analyst and professor at NPS Global and Universidad Argentina de la Empresa, thinks that Grossi’s designation means two things: “On the one hand it shows how Argentina has gained confidence in nuclear matters. As an active participant in weapons control regimes and nuclear technology, it has supported the big powers while defending its own national interest: keeping a cutting edge civil nuclear program. Second, it is a sample of the expertise and knowledge our country has on nuclear matters, and on this sensitive topic we are recognized for our leadership, and ability to not only lead but to sit with great powers.”

Of the challenges Argentina will face, Battaleme says, the most daunting will be to “further deepen and improve existing controls in the field of dual technologies. To face what is called the third nuclear age, we have to take into account that countries such as North Korea or Iran might develop either nuclear facilities from existing technologies, or plants with lower quality standards than exist today.”

Translated by Melisa Slep.