Exemption certain engineering or nuclear-related courses of study

Dutch institutions of higher education provide knowledge that could be used by countries to produce nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Delivery systems are means of conveying nuclear weapons, such as missiles. Under UN rules, countries have an obligation to prevent this knowledge from falling into the hands of North Korea. All individuals who wish to work in these fields (for example master’s students and researchers) must therefore apply for special permission. This policy has been in force since 2 November 2013.

Which subject areas does the exemption apply to?

The North Korea Sanctions Order 2017 defines the subject areas which require special permission. Currently, they are:

  • physics of nuclear reactors (Delft University of Technology);
  • specialised knowledge about the design and operation of the reactor hall of the HOR research reactor (Delft University of Technology);
  • experimental and theoretical research in hypersonic aerodynamics (Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Delft University of Technology);
  • guidance, navigation and control systems, software and simulations (Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Delft University of Technology);
  • re-entry technology (Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Delft University of Technology);
  • student project DARE – Stratos (Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Delft University of Technology).

Who is required to request special permission?

As of 2 November 2013 special permission is required for all students and researchers who:

  • want to enrol in a course of study in one of the above-mentioned subject areas for the first time. This applies to students who are taking classes in one or more of these subjects as well as those embarking on a full master’s course;
  • want to do research in one of the above-mentioned subject areas.

Special permission is not required for students and researchers who:

  • in the 2012-2013 academic year were already enrolled in a course of study for which prior permission is now required;
  • already received the necessary permission before 2 November 2013 on the basis of the Iran Sanctions Order 2012.

Applying for permission

You must apply for permission from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). It is only necessary to apply for permission once. Applications should be sent to the following address:

Ministerie van OCW
T.a.v. ‘OCW-loket Kennisembargo’
Postbus 16375
2500 BJ Den Haag

Please use the application form available for this purpose. It explains how the application procedure works and what documents you will need to supply. In evaluating the applications, the government will assess the risk that the knowledge received could contribute to the North Korean nuclear programmes or delivery systems.

A decision can take up to 13 weeks, but most applicants are notified within 3 weeks.

On the basis of the application OCW may decide that a follow-up investigation is warranted. This may include an interview at the embassy or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague or inquiries by the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD).

Why is exemption from the knowledge embargo necessary?

The requirement that special permission must be obtained to study certain subject areas stems from a decision by the United Nations Security Council (resolution 1874). The UN prohibits countries from supplying certain knowledge to North Korea, either directly or indirectly, namely: knowledge that could be used by this country in its nuclear programme or in delivery systems.

Why is this policy no longer aimed at Iran?

The 'knowledge embargo' against Iran was abolished in July 2015. This was decided under the terms of UN Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) of 20 July 2015, which endorses the agreement of 14 July 2015 between Iran and the E3+3. This change of policy applies since 16 January 2016. On this day the first set of sanctions were lifted. Countries are no longer obliged to prevent information about nuclear programmes and delivery systems from being supplied to Iran, either directly or indirectly.