The NPT is the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime. It is remarkable for its near universality. The only states not to have joined the NPT are India, Israel, Pakistan and the newly independent South Sudan.
The NPT entered into force in 1970 and was extended indefinitely in 1995. Australia ratified the treaty in 1973.
The NPT has three main pillars: non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. All Parties to the Treaty are committed to preventing the wider dissemination of nuclear weapons beyond the five so-called “nuclear-weapon states” (Russia, US, UK, France and China). All Parties to the Treaty, including the nuclear-weapon states, have an obligation to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament. The Treaty also affirms the principle that the benefits of peaceful applications of nuclear technology be available for peaceful purposes to all Parties to the Treaty.
The International Atomic Energy Agency is central to the implementation of the NPT commitments on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy through its system of international nuclear safeguards and as a multilateral forum for supporting the peaceful applications of nuclear technology
Article VIII of the NPT provides that the Treaty be reviewed at five-yearly intervals. The primary objectives of Review Conferences are to assess developments since the previous conference, to address current challenges, and to identify areas for further progress. Australia has been an active and constructive participant in all NPT Review Conferences.
At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, States Parties agreed to a final document that included conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions in the areas of nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, peaceful uses of nuclear energy and the Middle East (see the 64-point ‘Action Plan’ drawn from the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Final Document).
The 2015 NPT Review Conference was held in New York on 27 April – 22 May. Over four weeks Australia worked to achieve a forward-looking outcome on disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Ultimately, however, consensus could not be achieved on advancing the process to hold a conference on the Middle East as a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and as a result the Review Conference could not adopt an outcomes document. Australia believes that the Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone process must be inclusive and based on consensus – and we made this clear at the Review Conference.
Despite the absence of an agreed outcome from the 2015 NPT Review Conference, we still have an important and consensus-based roadmap forward which is the 2010 NPT Action Plan. Australia remains committed to the NPT as the cornerstone of global peace and security, and to pursuing practical, realistic measures for nuclear disarmament including the prompt and full implementation of the 2010 NPT Action Plan (see Australia’s opening statement at the plenary of the 2015 NPT Review Conference).