The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) safeguards system has been a cornerstone of U.S. efforts to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation since the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was adopted in 1970. Safeguards allow IAEA to verify countries' compliance with the NPT. Since the discovery in 1991 of a clandestine nuclear weapons program in Iraq, IAEA has strengthened its safeguards system. In addition to IAEA's strengthened safeguards program, there are other U.S. and international efforts that have helped stem the spread of nuclear materials and technology that could be used for nuclear weapons programs. This testimony is based on GAO's report on IAEA safeguards issued in October 2005 (Nuclear Nonproliferation: IAEA Has Strengthened Its Safeguards and Nuclear Security Programs, but Weaknesses Need to Be Addressed, GAO-06-93 [Washington, D.C.: Oct. 7, 2005]). This testimony is also based on previous GAO work related to the Nuclear Suppliers Group--a group of more than 40 countries that have pledged to limit trade in nuclear materials, equipment, and technology to only countries that are engaged in peaceful nuclear activities--and U.S. assistance to Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union for the destruction, protection, and detection of nuclear material and weapons.
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