Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation
Canada’s policy on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament is based on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and reinforced by related initiatives. Canada seeks to prevent States from acquiring nuclear weapons, decreasing the number of nuclear weapons worldwide, and eventually irreversibly eliminating them.
Canada strongly advocates for non-proliferation and a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament. This approach involves having all states join the NPT, bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force and negotiating a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).
Canada works closely with like-minded States to promote nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, including with:
- the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
- the G7 Non-Proliferation Directors Group
- the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative
- the Stockholm Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament
Canada is also taking steps to prevent States and Non-State Actors from acquiring nuclear weapons and related materials, technology, and knowledge, both through Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program and through implementing commitments arising from the Nuclear Security Summit process.
On this page
- Nuclear non-proliferation treaty
- The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty
- Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty
- Peaceful uses of nuclear energy
- Nuclear cooperation agreements
- Nuclear and radiological security
- Verifying nuclear disarmament
- Related links
Nuclear non-proliferation treaty
The government of Canada remains deeply committed to the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which remains the only legally binding global treaty promoting nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
The NPT has 190 members; India, Israel, Pakistan, and South Sudan have not joined, and North Korea announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2002.
At its core, the NPT outlines a three-part bargain: States not possessing nuclear weapons commit not to acquire them; the five “Nuclear-Weapons States” (United States, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, France, and China) agree to pursue good-faith negotiations aimed at nuclear disarmament; and all NPT States Parties undertake to facilitate international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, fully in line with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
Every 5 years, NPT States Parties meet to hold a Review Conference, allowing them to review the treaty’s implementation and work to strengthen it.
During the 2000 Review Conference, the NPT States agreed to “13 practical steps” to achieve nuclear disarmament goals (including the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the negotiation of the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT), and the “unequivocal undertaking by the Nuclear-Weapons States to eliminate their weapons stockpiles). At the 2010 Review Conference, NPT States agreed to the 2010 Review Conference, NPT States agreed to the 64-item Action Plan on nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty
Canada strongly supports the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Its entry into force is a key component of the step-by-step approach to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
The CTBT prohibits all nuclear explosions, including nuclear weapon tests. By banning such tests, the CTBT helps prevent States from developing nuclear weapons or improving them.
The CTBT is not yet in force, and will only come into force once all 44 countries listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty ratify it. A special conference has been held every 2 years since 1999, where States that have ratified the CTBT may consider measures to accelerate entry into force.
Along with Japan, Australia, and the Netherlands, Canada has co-hosted a Ministerial-level “Friends of the CTBT” meeting every 2 years since 2002, to further encourage countries to ratify and bring the treaty into force.
Canada ratified the CTBT on December 3, 1998 when Parliament passed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Implementation Act. The Act created the CTBT National Authority to implement the Treaty in Canada.
Institutional support for the CTBT
In preparation for entry into force, the CTBT is being provisionally implemented by the Preparatory Commission (PrepCom) for the CTBT Organization (CTBTO). This organization is associated with the UN and is based in Vienna. The CTBTO works to develop the treaty’s verification system.
Verification of the CTBT is being done with an extensive system developed to monitor compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It has 3 main parts:
- the 337 monitoring stations and laboratories located around the world, forming the International Monitoring System (IMS)
- the International Data Centre, which collects and distributes the data from the IMS
- the on-site inspection regime, which will allow the CTBTO to visit suspected nuclear test sites on a State Party’s territory
Canada strongly supports verification efforts by the CTBTO. Sixteen IMS stations and laboratories are located in Canada. These stations can help detect nuclear explosions in the atmosphere, underground, or underwater.
Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty
Canada’s nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament priority is the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT). Such a treaty would halt the production of the material that gives nuclear weapons their explosive power, and thus eventually halt the production of nuclear weapons. An FMCT is a part of Canada’s step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament.
Canada has been a leader in the international community on the effort to commence negotiations of an FMCT. In 1995, Canada’s then-Ambassador for Disarmament, Gerald Shannon, brokered the first real agreement on a mandate to negotiate an FMCT. Although the Shannon Mandate was used to launch an Ad-Hoc Committee to negotiate an FMCT in 1998, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) has been unable to adopt a program of work allowing FMCT negotiations to begin in earnest. The CD’s stalemate is due to the abuse of its consensus rule, under which any state can block work under any pretext.
As a result of this lack of progress, the UN General Assembly passed a Canadian-led resolution in 2012 that created an FMCT Group of Government Experts (GGE), which made recommendations on possible aspects of an FMCT. The GGE met from 2014 to 2015 under Canadian chairpersonship, and its consensus report contains the most recent and relevant thinking on the substance of a future treaty. In Conference, the UN General Assembly passed another Canadian resolution, co-sponsored by Germany and the Netherlands, creating a 25-member High-Level FMCT Expert Preparatory Group to build on the work of the GGE and to make recommendations on substantive elements of a treaty, in advance of its negotiation.
Participation in the GGE and the Preparatory Group was geographically diverse and inclusive. All five Nuclear-Weapons States as recognized by the NPT, India, and 19 Non-Nuclear Weapons States participated. The Preparatory Group’s work was linked to the broader UN General Assembly through two open-ended informal consultative meetings which were held in New York in March 2017 and February 2018. This unique mechanism helped to engage the broader UN membership in the work of the Preparatory Group.
At its final meeting in June 2018, the Preparatory Group succeeded in negotiating a robust consensus report recommending elements of a future treaty. Canada continues to support the commencement of formal negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a treaty that will help end the nuclear arms races worldwide.
- Consultations on the most appropriate arrangement to negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices
- Treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices (PDF version)
Peaceful uses of nuclear energy
Canada promotes cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology consistent with its obligations under the NPT and other international agreements. This is done through collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Canada’s bilateral Nuclear Cooperation Agreements.
The peaceful uses of nuclear energy also contribute to Canada’s commitment towards the Sustainable Development Goals including in areas such as energy, human health, food production, water management and environmental protection.
Nuclear cooperation agreements
Canada’s nuclear non-proliferation policy establishes the conditions under which Canada is prepared to undertake nuclear cooperation with selected partner countries. Any country wishing to enter into nuclear cooperation with Canada must conclude a legally-binding Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA) that includes:
- assurances that Canadian nuclear exports will be used only for peaceful purposes
- the application of IAEA safeguards and provisions for the implementation of bilateral safeguards in the event that IAEA safeguards no longer apply
- Canadian control over retransfers to third parties of Canadian nuclear items subject to the NCA
- controls over the reprocessing of any Canadian spent nuclear fuel
- limitation on enrichment of Canadian nuclear material to less than 20%
- requirements for physical protection measures.
The provisions of NCAs apply to items directly or indirectly exported from Canada. They also apply to non-Canadian equipment or nuclear material used in conjunction with Canadian nuclear items and to equipment manufactured on the basis of technology provided by Canada.
The status of Canada’s NCAs and the texts of the NCAs that are in force can be found under the “Bilateral” section of the Canada Treaty Information Database.
Nuclear and radiological security
Since the early 1990s, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has received voluntary reporting from its member states confirming 3,870 incidents involving nuclear or radiological materials as of April 2021. This includes 623 incidents of theft and over 300 incidents of trafficking or malicious use. Canada’s goal is to reduce the likelihood of nuclear weapons and materials falling into the wrong hands.
The consequences of a single act of nuclear or radiological terrorism would have catastrophic humanitarian, political, environmental and economic consequences on a global scale. Canada is committed to continuing shared efforts to enhance security of radiological and nuclear materials, given remaining gaps in global capabilities to prevent the trafficking of radiological and nuclear materials.
Canada continues to strongly support international efforts to enhance the security of nuclear and other radioactive materials in order to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism both domestically and abroad. For instance, Canada has provided over $68 million in voluntary contributions to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund since 2003. This allows IAEA Member States to access assistance to strengthen nuclear security. Canada also works closely with international partners on universalizing and implementing key international nuclear security instruments aimed at preventing nuclear terrorism, such as:
- the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT)
- the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CCPNM) and its 2005 Amendment (CPPNM/A)
Canada actively participates in other policy initiatives such as the Nuclear Security Contact Group (NSCG), which implements Nuclear Security Summit commitments in the international nuclear security architecture, and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, which focuses on real operational-level cooperation among partners.
Nuclear Security Summit process
Canada strongly supported the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) process between 2010 and 2016. The NSS process made an important and lasting contribution in addressing the urgent and immediate threat to global security posed by nuclear terrorism. The summits provided a unique opportunity for Canada and leaders from 52 countries, to focus on making commitments to prevent nuclear terrorism by strengthening international nuclear security. There were 4 Summits held in:
Through our Weapons Threat Reduction Program, Canada made significant commitments in the NSS process. At the 2016 NSS, $42 million was committed for nuclear security projects overseas, including:
- combating illicit trafficking
- improving physical protection of nuclear facilities
- promoting safe management and disposal of radioactive sources
- improving transportation security
- supporting international organizations and initiatives such as the GICNT, INTERPOL, and the IAEA
Implementation of Canada’s commitments from previous summits are captured in Canada’s National Progress Report. Canada’s National Statement outlines the commitments made at the 2016 Summit.
Canada also signed up to a number of additional commitments that aim to further strengthen nuclear security. These include issues such as cyber security, mitigating threats posed by insider personnel, nuclear forensics, certified training, among other topics. The majority of these have been shared in the context of the International Atomic Energy Agency as information circulars to allow for more states to support them.
Strengthening nuclear and radiological security
The Weapons Threat Reduction Program (WTRP) supports programming initiatives to enhance international nuclear and radiological security, as well as to prevent the trafficking of nuclear and radiological materials.
Canada’s main activities as part of this program are:
- prevention of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials
- radiological source security including secure transportation
- physical protection measure at facilities housing nuclear and radiological material
- support for verification and compliance activities to reinforce broader non-proliferation and disarmament issues
- enhancing States’ nuclear security regimes (incl. legal frameworks, cyber/computer security, nuclear forensics, training and certification of NS personnel)
- Since 2003, we have provided over $68M in voluntary contributions to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Nuclear Security Fund, which provides assistance to requesting States to strengthen their nuclear security.
- We have undertaken a suite of projects to support international efforts to counter the threat posed by the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs, including capacity building to help countries implement UN sanctions.
- Global Affairs Canada has contributed $17M to support IAEA monitoring and verification of Iran’s compliance with nuclear commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
- Global Affairs Canada has programmed over $77M to strengthen global capabilities to prevent, detect and respond to the illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radiological materials in various countries.
Verifying nuclear disarmament
A central component to any nuclear disarmament effort is verification.
Canada’s primary engagement on nuclear disarmament verification is focused on our contributions to the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV) and the 2022-2023 UN Group of Governmental Experts on Nuclear Disarmament Verification (NDV-GGE).
In December 2014, the United States government and the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) think tank launched the IPNDV, which focusses on developing key verification techniques. Participating states include all G7 states and many Non-Nuclear-Weapons States.
Experts from Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories participate in the meetings of the Partnership’s three working groups, as well as the annual IPNDV Plenary.
In addition to technical and policy expertise, Canada has provided financial support to the Partnership. Since 2017, Canada has provided $1.4 million dollars through GAC’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program to support IPNDV activities, including hosting international meetings, conducting exercises and launching an online portal for experts.
Further to the IPNDV, in 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on nuclear disarmament verification. The work of the GGE concluded in 2019 with the adoption of a consensus report to advance nuclear disarmament verification. In November 2019, Canada co-sponsored a United Nations resolution to establish a subsequent GGE and successfully presented its candidacy to participate. The first formal meeting of this group is scheduled for February 2022.
- Nuclear disarmament verification resolution 71/67 (2016) (PDF version)
- Nuclear disarmament verification resolution 74/50 (2019) (PDF version)
- 2022 Statement of the G7 Non-Proliferation Directors Group
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