Nuclear Safety:

International Atomic Energy Agency's Nuclear Technical Assistance for Cuba

RCED-97-72: Published: Mar 24, 1997. Publicly Released: Mar 24, 1997.

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Pursuant to congressional requests, GAO provided information on the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) nuclear technical assistance to Cuba, focusing on: (1) the dollar value and type of all nuclear technical assistance projects IAEA provided for Cuba; (2) the sources of funding for all nuclear technical assistance projects IAEA provided for Cuba; and (3) IAEA's nuclear technical assistance projects for the Cuban nuclear power reactors and U.S. officials' views on this assistance.

GAO noted that: (1) IAEA spent about $12 million on nuclear technical assistance projects for Cuba from 1963 through 1996; (2) about three-fourths of the assistance Cuba received through these projects consisted of equipment; (3) IAEA's assistance for Cuba was given primarily in the areas of general atomic energy development and in the application of isotopes and radiation in agriculture; (4) IAEA recently approved an additional $1.7 million for nuclear technical assistance projects for Cuba for 1997 through 1999; (5) IAEA spent about $2.8 million on training for Cuban nationals and research contracts for Cuba that were not part of specific assistance projects; (6) most of IAEA's nuclear technical assistance projects for Cuba were funded through the agency's technical cooperation fund; (7) in 1996, the United States contributed over $16 million, about 30 percent, of the $53 million in the fund; (8) from 1981 through 1993, the United States was required, under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, to withhold a share of its voluntary contribution to the fund because the fund provided assistance for Cuba, Libya, Iran, and the Palestine Liberation Organization; (9) in 1994, the act was amended to exempt IAEA from the withholding requirement; (10) although the United States was no longer required to withhold the portion of its voluntary contribution that would have gone to proscribed entities, State Department officials continued to withhold funds in 1994 and 1995 but did not withhold any of the United States' voluntary contribution to IAEA's technical cooperation fund for 1996; (11) from 1981 through 1995, the United States withheld a total of about $2 million that otherwise would have gone for assistance for Cuba; (12) of the total value of all nuclear technical assistance projects that IAEA has provided for Cuba, about $680,000 was approved for nuclear safety assistance for Cuba's nuclear power reactors from 1991 through 1998, of which about $313,000 has been spent; (13) IAEA is assisting Cuba in developing the ability to conduct a safety assessment of the nuclear power reactors and in preserving the reactors while construction is suspended; (14) IAEA is also implementing a training program for personnel involved in the operational safety and maintenance of all nuclear installations in Cuba; and (15) State Department and U.S. Mission officials in Vienna, Austria, told GAO that they did not object to IAEA's providing nuclear safety assistance to Cuba's reactors because the United States generally supports nuclear safety assistance for IAEA member states that will promote the establishment of a safety culture and quality assurance programs.

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