Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Another reason for a toast on Dec. 31

Before leaving town last week, Congress passed a big appropriations bill which President Bush is expected to sign this week.

The appropriations bill provides funding through Sept. 30, 2008. It contains much good news for nuclear arms control and nuclear non-proliferation, due in large part to Reps. Visclosky (D-IN) and Hobson (R-OH), as well as Sen. Dorgan (D-ND), who lead the Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittees.

The FY 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill made significant contributions to the goals of effective nuclear non-proliferation by increasing funding for almost all nuclear non-proliferation programs, while cutting funding for controversial programs that undermine and jeopardize those goals.

Here are the best parts:

-Funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (that proposes to design and develop a new type of nuclear weapon) was zeroed out ($0 for RRW!).

-Funding for nuclear spent fuel reprocessing (which separates out weapons-usable material, or material that can be easily processed to make it nuclear weapon-usable, from nuclear waste) was cut by more than $200 million.

-Funding for many of the important threat reduction programs that secure nuclear weapon-usable material in the former Soviet Union states and other countries, and for nuclear non-proliferation organizations, were increased by $340 million dollars.

-Funding for other nuclear non-proliferation programs were increased by almost $270 million (including non-proliferation and international security program, non-proliferation and verification, research and development program, U.S. contribution to create an international fuel bank, and CTBTO and IAEA funding).

-The bill requires a Nuclear Weapons Strategy for the 21st Century to be done in consultation with federal agencies and independent, non-government organizations.

-The bill requires the President to submit to Congress in 2008 a Comprehensive Nuclear Threat Reduction and Security Plan to secure nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons-usable material by 2012.

For many more details, see the analysis and summary of the appropriations bill I prepared for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Cheers and happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI supports a world free of nuclear weapons

The AP reports that Renato Cardinal Martino presented the Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the celebration of the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2008. On the topic of nuclear weapons, the Holy Father advises:
“At a time when the process of nuclear non-proliferation is at a stand-still, I feel bound to entreat those in authority to resume with greater determination negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons. In renewing this appeal, I know that I am echoing the desire of all those concerned for the future of humanity.”
Click here to read the full message.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Remembering George Kuzmycz

Nukes on a Blog remembers the contribution of the late George Kuzmycz to the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons on the tenth anniversary of his untimely passing.

During the last few years of his life, George led U.S. Department of Energy efforts to secure weapons usable nuclear materials in Ukraine from theft or diversion.

George’s commitment to his native Ukraine and to nonproliferation are memorialized in the ongoing work of the George Kuzmycz Training Center for Physical Protection, Control and Accounting of Nuclear Material (English translation).

George’s life reminds us that the dangers posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation result from human choices and that it is possible, as George did, for each of us to take on more than our share of responsibility for responding to these dangers.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A General, a group of visionary students, the Quakers, and 30 national organizations oppose new nuclear weapons

Lieutenant General Robert Gard (USA-ret.), Nukes on a Blog’s own Leonor Tomero, and the redoubtable researcher Achraf Farraj published an article in Friday’s Daily Californian encouraging University of California students and faculty to question the University’s involvement in the development of the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW):
“The University of California manages Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a facility leading the development of the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead, the first new hydrogen bomb designed by the United States in 20 years. Students and faculty at the University of California have a unique role to play in actively questioning this misguided U.S. nuclear weapons policy and UC’s involvement in its implementation.”
The authors conclude that:
“There are many problems facing the United States today, but the viability of its nuclear deterrent is not one of them. Building new nuclear weapons will not make us safer. It will do nothing to deter terrorists, it will not protect our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and it will not improve our relationships with other countries. It will only undermine efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, extend outdated Cold War-era thinking, shirk our international commitments, waste a lot of money and threaten our long-term security.”
University of California students have already taken up this work, most notably through the formation of the UC Student DOE Laboratory Oversight Committee. Loyal readers will recall a few more ideas about how universities can respond to the danger posed by nuclear weapons. For regular updates on the RRW program and how it related to the University of California, check out the facebook group (at www.facebook.com) "Why is the University of California building a new H bomb?"

Also last week, the Friends Committee on National Legislation organized a letter submitted to Senator Byron Dorgan who chairs the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee urging him to
“delete all funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) from the upcoming omnibus appropriations bill.”
The letter, signed by leaders of thirty national organizations (including the Council for a Livable World and Physicians for Social Responsibility), argued that:
“If Congress approves funding for the Energy Department to proceed with research and possible development of RRW, many in the international community will interpret this as another sign that the U.S. is walking away from its nonproliferation obligations, including Article VI of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The 118 countries of the Non-Aligned Movement have already cited development of RRW as contradictory to nuclear disarmament agreements signed by the United States. RRW will complicate efforts to win international support to bolster the beleaguered NPT system.”
The future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is an issue of great importance to all Americans and the success or failure of the emerging movement for a world free of nuclear weapons bears directly on the long-term viability of human civilization. We applaud these and other attempts by concerned citizens to precipitate a national debate worthy of this deadly serious policy choice.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It’s better in the Bahamas!

Acting Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Bahamas T. Brent Symonette made welcoming remarks yesterday to the openning session of a Workshop on Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) International Cooperation for States from the Caribbean Region hosted in Nassau where he announced that:
“As you are aware The Bahamas, signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty on 4th February, 2005, and I trust that I will be able to deposit the Instrument of Ratification with the Secretary-General of the United Nations before the conclusion of this Work-shop.”
Today the International Herald Tribune reports that Prime Minister Symonette has:
“signed the instrument of ratification and sent it to United Nations headquarters, the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization said.”
This action makes the Bahamas the 141st state to have ratified the CTBT, following the examples of the Dominican Republic in September (loyal readers will recall our specific encouragement to the Bahamas at that time) and Palau in August. These important steps taken in rapid succession show that even small island states – a category of states that have historically born the brunt of nuclear explosive testing – can assert their sovereignty and exercise international leadership toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

The ratification of the Bahamas leaves only the Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago not having signed the CTBT and Colombia and Guatemala not having ratified Treaty among the states parties to the Treaty of Tlatelolco, establishing the Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Barbados, the eyes of the world are now upon you!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanks from Nukes on a Blog

This Thanksgiving, the Nukes on a Blog team is grateful for important steps forward toward effective nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament over the last year, including – but not limited to – the following:

Nonproliferation Progress in the Hard Cases

· The efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency to resolve ongoing concerns related to nuclear activities in Iran. Skilled diplomacy backed up by careful technical verification work is urgently necessary in response to this ongoing crisis.

· The achievement of agreement with North Korea that allowed for the return of International Atomic Energy Inspectors and holds promise for the effectively verified termination of the DPRK's nuclear weapons program.

New Momentum toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons

· The January Wall Street Journal op-ed by George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn encouraging renewed commitment toward the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. This clear statement by confirmed cold warriors provides significant political cover and credibility in the American political arena to the only viable long-term solution to a daunting global challenge.

· The initiative of the Government of the United Kingdom toward more effective verification and wider participation in the nuclear disarmament process articulated by then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Margaret Beckett at the Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference in June. The United Kingdom’s imaginative engagement is an important first step toward multilateralizing the nuclear disarmament process.

· The leadership shown by the Government of Norway in the seven nation initiative for nuclear disarmament and, particularly, in offering to host a conference planned for January 2008 to internationalize discussions begun by the Hoover Institution about how to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons. Norway’s clear assertion of relevance to the challenge of nuclear disarmament is a model for global engagement by all non-nuclear weapon states and nuclear weapon free states.

Greater Sensitivity to Nuclear Nonproliferation in Congress and Higher Education

· The introduction of the Nuclear Policy and Posture Review Act (S. 1914) by Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) offers an important opportunity for national debate about the number, timing and purpose of the Reliable Replacement Warhead and the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

· The Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterrey Institute of International Affairs achieved the endowment of the world’s first professorship in nonproliferation studies. This timely assertion of the importance of nuclear nonproliferation lends support both to efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to the evolution of higher education toward ever greater relevance to contemporary global problems.

Enlarged Commitment to International Legal Rules for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament

· The action by several states to move the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone toward entry-into-force and the 40th anniversary of the signature of the Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in Latin America and the Caribbean demonstrated international confidence in international legal rules: 1) Moldova and Palau ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. While several larger states have not yet ratified the Treaty, the ratifications of even small states build momentum toward entry into force; 2) Gabon and Rwanda signed and ratified the Treaty of Pelindaba establishing the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. Five more ratifications will bring this historic agreement into force; and 3) The Treaty of Tlatelolco establishing the first nuclear weapon free zone in a densely populated area is in force across its area of application following the 40th anniversary of its signature (February 14, 1967). This important milestone demonstrates the enduring viability of nuclear weapon free state status as a means to greater security.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Indian disarmament policy: don’t just do something, sit there!

In anticipation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s upcoming visit to New Delhi, the Hindustan Times reports that Indian Special Envoy and former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran was recently told by German officials:
"We want India to contribute to strengthening international non proliferation system."
The German Government reportedly expressed concern about the impact of the proposed U.S.-India nuclear deal on worldwide efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and has asked India to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and support a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT).

We predict this will not be the last expression of concern from a Nuclear Supplier Group government over the proposed deal and suggest that signing the CTBT and support of an FMCT are just the beginning of what the Government of India must do to demonstrate a credible commitment to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The U.S.-India nuclear deal keeps getting worse for everybody

Last year, Congress passed the Hyde Act, changing thirty-year old U.S. non-proliferation law to make a special exception for India to receive sensitive nuclear technology and material from the United States even though India has repeatedly rejected meaningful nuclear non-proliferation commitments (such as signing the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, or ceasing the production of fissile material for weapons purposes in anticipation, as the five nuclear weapon states parties to the NPT have done). The Hyde Act substantially weakened U.S. non-proliferation law, undermined the NPT, and weakened the global norm against nuclear weapons proliferation.

However, the Hyde Act at least ensured that certain minimal non-proliferation conditions, including providing in section 106 that nuclear trade with India must cease if India conducts a nuclear weapon test. India balked at this condition, making sure that it was not included in the “123 agreement” it negotiated with the United States. Under the 123 agreement, it is unclear what the repercussion of an Indian nuclear test would be and subject to interpretation (which the Indians have been quick to use in their favor), and the requirement to cut off nuclear trade is gone.

Recently, NPR’s Steve Inskeep asked Undersecretary Burns about this blatant concession:

STEVE INSKEEP: Let’s talk about skeptics in the United States. You mentioned that Congress voted in support of this deal, but with a lot of conditions. And I wonder whether the negotiations are meeting those conditions. Here’s one. As I understand it, Congress said they want a deal that states that if India ever conducts another nuclear test, this civilian nuclear cooperation ends. Does your current deal do that?

UNDERSECRETARY NICHOLAS BURNS: Yes it does. We have a clear obligation under the Atomic Energy Act to react if a country like India conducts a nuclear test and the President, and any future President will always have that right under our law.

INSKEEP: Just so that I understand, you’ll have the right you say to end nuclear cooperation. Will the United States be required to end nuclear cooperation if there were another test under the agreement that you’ve negotiated so far?

BURNS: Steve, I believe that under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, the President has the opportunity, the right, that’s how the law is written, and we have protected that right.

INSKEEP: Which means you wouldn’t necessarily end nuclear cooperation and the Indians seem to think that perhaps you wouldn’t.

BURNS: Oh I think it would be up to the American President at the time. But we have been very clear with the Indians that we do not want them to conduct another nuclear test and there is no indication that they have plans to do that any time soon. But protected the right and Congress was absolutely correct in asking us to do this.

INSKEEP: It sounds like you are right at the edge of what you might be able to get through Congress at some point and still you don’t have quite enough to bring Indians on-board.

BURNS: There are a lot of critics of this agreement but there are more people who support it.

Luckily, not in India, where the opposition parties – including the BJP and the Indian Communist party – have delayed the deal threatening to withdraw from Prime Minister Singh’s coalition if Singh goes forward with negotiations for the US-India deal.

However, despite these concessions, less distasteful to the Indian Communists may be a deal with Russia or France or Canada. Russia is already seeking to build four additional reactors at Kudankulam in India.

By making yet additional and dangerous concessions, the Bush Administration has not only further undermined U.S. law and international nuclear non-proliferation efforts, it has even failed to protect opportunities for American business.

Luckily for nuclear non-proliferation, the deal is still delayed in India.

Friday, November 2, 2007

A tough week for GNEP

The National Academy of Sciences released a report this week that dealt a significant blow to the Department of Energy’s current plant for GNEP which Ivan Oelrich of the Federation of American Scientists blogged about here.

In addition, 48 national and local organizations and experts sent a letter this week to Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Pete Domenici (R-NM), who lead the Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittee, urging them to eliminate funding for the program.

The letter stated that:

The DOE’s plan “undermines U.S. nonproliferation policy, would cost taxpayers $100 billion or more, and, as many in the nuclear industry point out, does not solve the nuclear waste problem."

The letter also noted that:

“Although DOE is promoting GNEP internationally on nonproliferation grounds as a way to slow the spread of technologies used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons, the program has had the opposite effect. Since GNEP’s inception, eight countries have notified the International Atomic Energy Agency that they reserve the right to pursue enrichment and reprocessing technologies, including South Africa and Argentina, which are considering reviving their enrichment programs.”

We’re not done with bad news for reprocessing.

The reprocessing facility at Mayak in Russia had a radioactive waste leak. Reprocessing accidents are nothing new -- In fact the reprocessing plant at Sellafield in the United Kingdom has been shut down since 2005 due to a radioactive waste leak from a broken pipe; and after decades of operation, 100 metric tons of stockpiled plutonium, and no solution to the nuclear waste problem, the UK is preparing to decommission its reprocessing plant in 2011.

These set-backs for GNEP come at as the Senate and House prepare to decide on a funding level for GNEP and reprocessing in the FY 2008 Energy & Water Appropriations.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Can universities respond to nuclear dangers?

eGov monitor posts a letter from David Willets, the United Kingdom’s Conservative Shadow Universities Secretary, to John Denham who sits on Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Cabinet as Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities, and Skills concerned about Iranian students studying proliferation-sensitive subjects at British universities. A particularly important observation emerges from among Mr. Denham’s several specific concerns:
“We have a clear obligation to ensure that our own universities, even inadvertently, do not contribute to nuclear proliferation.”
This obligation is particularly relevant as humanity faces an imminent future that George P. Schultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn have called:
“a new nuclear era that will be more precarious, psychologically disorienting, and economically even more costly than was Cold War deterrence.”
These notable authors gathered last week at Stanford University to further explore these new dangers and possible solutions at Stanford University. This work is to be applauded, but as institutions engaged in seeking knowledge and truth, universities can and perhaps must do more to respond to the emerging truth of new global dangers posed by nuclear weapons. The voice of universities may be especially relevant now as the production of nuclear warheads of new designs is reportedly being considered in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia.

It is not immediately obvious what sort of response would be appropriate, but three ideas emerge easily that seem appropriate points of departure for how universities might best respond to this global danger:

First, universities could make a statement of policy supporting compliance with the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and related agreements, particularly including the 1995 Statement of Principles and Objectives for Non-Proliferation and Disarmament which is an integral element of the indefinite extension of the NPT. Not only would such a statement be consistent with the educational mission of these institutions, it would also be consistent with emerging university practices such as Tufts University’s April 24, 1999 commitment to “meet or beat the Kyoto [Protocol] goal of a seven percent reduction below 1990 in our carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2012.”

Second, universities could convene institutional review boards, faculty governance groups, or other deliberative bodies composed of experts from relevant disciplines to consider how the work of their institutions might be prevented from inadvertently contributing to the dangers of nuclear proliferation.

Third, universities could form a network to explore the conditions under which the NPT Article VI obligation to work toward a world free of nuclear weapons could be achieved and how they might contribute to the necessary technical and knowledge basis for meeting these conditions.

The danger nuclear weapons pose to humanity is immediate, global, and complicated, and it may be that much work remains to be done to provide uncover new knowledge and prepare today’s graduates to live with the evolving danger of nuclear weapons. Restricting access to education may prove necessary in some unfortunate cases, but it is certainly not the limit of higher education’s obligation to meet this challenge.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Step away from the plutonium

Los Alamos Reporter staff report that Chairman A.J. Eggenberger of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board sent an October 23, 2007 letter to the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, observing:
"The National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) current plan for sustained manufacturing of plutonium pits, essential to national security, relies on continued operation of the 55-year-old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board believes that continued operation of the CMR facility in its current condition poses significant risks to workers and the public.”
The letter goes on to observe “serious vulnerabilities” at the CMR including “the lack of robust building confinement to prevent a release of radioactivity during an accident” and “the identification of a seismic fault under two wings and the susceptibility of all the wings to structural collapse due to ground motion from a 500-year return period earthquake.”

Loyal readers will recall from July the Los Alamos National Laboratory “celebration” of the production of the first plutonium “pit” certified for use in the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile since 1989 and our curiosity at the time about why new pit production is necessary now. Tuesday’s letter from the Defense Nuclear Safety Board underscores the need for critical thinking about the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and the importance of including potential dangers to human life and health in public consideration of this important policy issue.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Scotland the Brave! (and someday nuclear weapon free?)

Thanks to Martin Butcher for surfacing that BBC News reports that Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has “written representatives of 189 countries signed up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)…asking them to back his bid for Scotland to have observer status at future treaty talks.” In the letter, Salmond requests support for Scotland to have observer status in future NPT Review Conference talks and articulates his government’s opposition to the planned replacement of the British Trident subamarine-launched ballistic missile capability:

"The majority of Scottish people and their elected representatives oppose these deployments."
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon explains:

“It is not about trying to make common cause with any particular country…Given that Trident is based in Scotland, I think it is right that we make sure all of these countries know Scotland's view.”
Deputy First Minister Sturgeon hosted a conference today titled A National Conversation: Scotland's Future Without Nuclear Weapons opposing Trident replacement. At this event she said:

"There are few more important issues in the world than nuclear weapons. And the position of the Scottish Government is clear - we are opposed to the replacement of the Trident system and the deployment of weapons of mass destruction on Scottish soil."

"That position is shared by a majority of MSPs, a majority of Scottish MPs, and a majority of the Scottish public. The fact that defence issues are currently reserved to Westminster does not make such opposition irrelevant - rather it forces all of us to consider how best to convey that strong feeling of opposition to the UK Government."

"There are strong moral arguments against nuclear weapons. But we need to consider the practical implications of having a replacement to the Trident system on Scottish soil. That is the responsible thing to do - and that is what we are doing."

The engagement of the Government of Scotland on the question of the future of nuclear weapons has several important implications. First, it signals Scottish willingness to contribute new energy to the resolution of issues of global concern, offering an important voice to global deliberations regarding prudent and effective movement toward the ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons. Second, it suggests that despite the continuing exaggeration of the political value of nuclear weapons by some states, non-nuclear weapon state status within the NPT can still be used to assert sovereignty. Third, it indicates, as the Mayors for Peace have, that smaller governmental entities may be more sensitive to the nuclear weapon free ambitions of their constituents. Fourth, raises the profile of internal criticism of the United Kingdom’s plans to replace Trident, perhaps openning the door to greater public engagement on this vital issue.

Scotland may have a tough row to hoe with the three NPT depository governments (the United Kingdom, the United States, and Russia) – credentialling representatives for the next Prepartory Committee meeting is likely to prove quite challenging – but the presence of Mr. Salmond, Ms. Sturgeon, or their representative at the 2010 Review Conference would be an important signal to the world.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Okay, who is NOT building a new nuclear weapon?

Russian President Vladimir Putin answered questions today from the Kremlin for over three hours in a live television, radio and internet broadcast of “The Hot Line with the President of Russia.”

AFP reports that:
“Putin told servicemen at the Plesetsk nuclear missile base that Russia would build another nuclear submarine next year and was also planning a "completely new" atomic weapon, about which he did not elaborate.”
Additionally, the AP reports that President Putin said:
"Our plans are not simply considerable, but huge. At the same time they are absolutely realistic…I have no doubts that we will accomplish them."
Putin’s remarks come on the heels of his discussions with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran in the first visit of a Russian leader to Iran since the 1940s, and of the Russian test launch of a Topol intercontinental ballistic missile.

In the context of previous Russian tit-for-tat behavior, such as withdrawal from START II immediately following the effective date of the U.S. abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and the recent announcement that Russian participation in the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty would end on December 12 of this year following U.S. missile defense facility siting decisions in Eastern Europe, this move may create an opportunity to ask the Russians if they would consider terminating the development of this new nuclear weapon of the United States forgoes the planned Reliable Replacement Warhead.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Additional delay on the US-India nuclear deal

Amid encouragement from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush praising the US-India nuclear deal, and also from International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei stating that India should be part of the “nuclear renaissance” and that a nuclear deal would remove restrictions imposed on India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, reports suggest that Prime Minister Singh was expected to call President Bush to announce that India would not press for the US-India deal, at least for now. In so doing, the Singh government seems to be shelving the nuclear deal, at least temporarily, to avoid the withdrawal of the UPA-Communists from the coalition government and early elections.

While India might still go forward eventually with negotiations at the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the International Atomic Energy Agency, it appears that, barring a break-through with the UPA-Communist parties, it looks as though the deal may be on hold in India.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Opposition to Nuclear Terrorism

United Kingdom Member of Parliament from Woodspring and Tory Shadow Secretary of State for Defence Dr. Liam Fox addressed the threat of nuclear terrorism yesterday in a speech at Kings College, London. He makes important points about the dangers of nuclear weapons and materials and echoes Professor Graham Allison’s “three no’s: no loose nukes, no new nascent nukes, and no new nuclear states.”

However, his silence is disappointing on the topic of British leadership in the nuclear disarmament process, particularly including specific steps suggested by outgoing UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Margaret Beckett in a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace International Nonproliferation Conference in June.

Also of interest, Dr. Fox addresses the bargain of the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) directly:
“The time is surely coming for us to revisit the NPT, especially article IV. Unless the international community develops new controls and ownership of both nuclear fuels and spent fuels and unless there are clear economic incentives for countries to accept this new authority, with the major powers willing to effectively police it, then we are asking for trouble.”
One may hope that this envisioned “revisitation” will be one that includes the voices of the international community full of non-nuclear weapon states and nuclear weapon free states who exercise impressive restraint and humility in their defense and security policies by not pursuing nuclear weapons. An imposed change – particularly one that envisions different classes of states with different rights and obligations – would strain an already weakened regime.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Non-Aligned Movement opposes new nuclear weapons, including RRW

Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) at last month’s conference on facilitating the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in Vienna, Malaysian Ambassador Arshad M. Hussain made clear that the NAM views new nuclear weapons, particularly including the so-called “Reliable Replacement Warhead” (RRW) as inconsistent with significant commitments undertaken by the U.S. Government under the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

“In this regard, NAM wishes to emphasize that the development of new types of nuclear weapons is contrary to the guarantee given by the five nuclear weapon States at the time of the conclusion of the CTBT, namely, that the Treaty would prevent the improvement of existing nuclear weapons and the development of new types of nuclear weapons. Pending the entry into force of the Treaty, we call upon States to refrain from any actions contrary to its objectives and purpose. In this context, NAM is seriously concerned by the decision by a nuclear weapon State to reduce the time necessary to resume nuclear testing to 18 months as a setback to the 2000 NPT Review Conference agreements. The lack of progress in the early entry into force of the CTBT also remains a cause for concern. NAM also notes with concern the recent statement by this nuclear weapon State in July 2007 in which it purportedly justified on the need invest in the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) and thus modernizing its nuclear infrastructure as part of its nuclear deterrent force. This nuclear weapon State even argued that delays on RRW would raise the prospect of having to return to underground nuclear testing, which in our view goes against the spirit and letter of the CTBT. NAM is of the view that the development of new types of nuclear weapons, is in contravention not only with the undertakings provided by the nuclear weapon States at the time of the conclusion of the CTBT, but also with the Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
This unambiguous statement should inform domestic discussion of likely international reaction to the RRW and other plans to develop new nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons production capabilities, and indefinitely maintain a nuclear arsenal numbering in the thousands of weapons. Specifically, it may be a preview of difficult discussions ahead at the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Measuring progress on securing nuclear weapon-usable material

In his op-ed Thwarting Terrorists: More to Be Done appearing today’s Washington Post, Dr. Matthew Bunn, Senior Research Associate in the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and also Member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, announces the publication of his annual report Securing the Bomb 2007.

He notes in the op-ed that:

-“While this is a global threat, Russia, Pakistan and research reactors using
fuel made from highly enriched uranium pose the most urgent dangers of nuclear
-“Roughly 140 research reactors fueled by highly enriched uranium exist in dozens of countries -- some of them on university campuses -- and many have only modest security measures in place.”
-While “U.S.-funded security upgrades have been completed for more than half of the Russian buildings with potential bomb material and more than half of Russia's warhead sites…there is still a dangerous gap between the urgency of the threat and the scope and pace of the U.S. and international response. No binding global nuclear security standards are in place. Many nuclear facilities around the world do not have
security measures that could protect against demonstrated terrorist and criminal
-“Only about a quarter of the world's HEU-fueled research
reactors have had all their highly enriched uranium removed, leaving a major gap
to be closed.”

Bunn’s recommendations include:
-"We urgently need a high-priority global campaign to make sure every nuclear
weapon and every significant cache of potential bomb material is locked
-"We need to forge effective global nuclear security standards."
-"We need stronger efforts to get countries to sustain upgraded security for the long
haul, and to help those individuals who work with nuclear materials to understand that corners can never be cut on security."
-"And we need to expand efforts to completely remove nuclear weapons and potential nuclear bomb material from as many facilities worldwide as possible."
-"To get all this done, President Bush should appoint a senior White House official to take full-time responsibility for policing these efforts, overcoming the obstacles to progress, and keeping the issue a priority at the White House."

Friday, September 21, 2007

One step forward, two steps back

Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman announced this week at the International Atomic Energy Agency that the United States would declare another 9 metric tons of plutonium as excess material, “enough to make over 1,000 nuclear weapons.” The material from dismantled nuclear weapons will be removed over “the coming decades” and will be used to make mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel at the controversial MOX facility in Savannah River, South Carolina.

These 9 MT will be added to the 45 MT tons of plutonium that the United States has declared excess material (34 MT of which is already slated for fuel fabrication at the Savannah River Site [SRS]).

While this announcement is a useful step in further reducing the amount of excess plutonium and furthering the objectives of Article VI of the NPT, Secretary Bodman in the same breath touted the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) which has been one of the Bush Administration’s top energy and foreign policy priorities. The GNEP program would resume commercial spent fuel reprocessing in the United States, separating out tens of metric tons of weapons-usable material per year. The United Kingdom for example has a stockpile of over 100 MT of plutonium as a result of thirty years of reprocessing, and France has accumulated about 80 MT.

Reprocessing is not a necessary part of the fuel cycle, and unnecessarily producing weapons-usable material undermines U.S. efforts to convince other states not to engage in plutonium reprocessing. Another proliferation concern is that reprocessing would create additional stockpiles of plutonium or a plutonium mix that might be diverted by terrorists. In fact, due to proliferation risks and costs, the United States has not reprocessed spent fuel from commercial power plants for over thirty years, when President Ford and then President Carter stopped U.S. commercial reprocessing after India diverted reprocessed plutonium for its first nuclear explosive test in 1974.

So far, the Department of Energy will not make the commitment that the material extracted from nuclear waste will not be weapons-usable.

So while we should celebrate the declaration of additional excess plutonium, it is difficult to ignore that at the same time as Secretary Bodman defends U.S. contribution to non-proliferation, he is promoting the expansion of Department of Energy’s GNEP efforts that will lead to a new plutonium economy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Norwegian Leadership toward a Nuclear Weapon Free World

"Nuclear proliferation is not yesterday's news," Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre told an audience organized by the Norwegian Red Cross, "it's a burning question for both today and the future,” Aftenpoften reported today.

The Foreign Minister’s remarks celebrated the 10th anniversary of the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer or Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Treaty. Recalling complex and stalled efforts to regulate landmines, Foreign Minister Støre observed that:

“The Ottawa process turned these dynamics upside down. Instead of a ‘race to the bottom,’ the participants found themselves in a process where they were constantly being challenged by civil society actors – not on the streets, but in conference halls, at roundtables, in the day-to-day negotiations.”

The Foreign Minister discussed landmines, small arms, and cluster munitions, but expanded significantly on the potential to bring more international voices into the nuclear disarmament discussion:

“In the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, Norway is leading a seven-nation initiative to bring states together, on a cross-regional basis, to deal with common challenges. All stakeholders are needed, and in this particular process we have succeeded in mobilising the UK - a nuclear-weapon state - and South Africa - a member of the Non-Aligned Movement.”
Could this effort grow into an “Oslo Process,” broadly engaging global civil society in an effort to promote prudent and verifiable progress toward a world free of nuclear weapons? Many important building blocks of such an effort are already in place or under development, including the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapon Free World, the call for a 2010 World Summit to eliminate nuclear weapons, the Mayors for Peace Program to Promote Solidarity of Cities Toward the Total Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, the Middle Powers Initiative, the New Agenda Coalition, former Senator Sam Nunn’s vision of “The Mountaintop,” and, of course, the stunningly progressive “Hoover Plan” articulated in a January 4, 2007 Wall Street Journal op-ed by George Schultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Jimmy Carter in Defense of Arms Control

In a September 12, 2007 article in the Taipei Times titled, “Nuclear Steps Undermine Peace,” former President Jimmy Carter argues “By abandoning many of the nuclear arms agreements negotiated in the last 50 years, the US has been sending mixed signals to North Korea, Iran and other states with the technical knowledge to create nuclear weapons.”

Senator Roche on the Need for Resilience on the Path to a Nuclear Weapon Free World

This weekend, former Canadian Senator Douglas Roche, OC, who advises the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations on issues related to nuclear disarmament, made a stand out presentation to a conference co-hosted by the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

He encouraged listeners to recover the absolute horror of the subject of the use of nuclear weapons and to awaken to the fact that half of the world’s population lives in a nuclear weapon state and that $12 trillion has been spent on nuclear weapons. He called for new resilience in response to nuclear dangers, observing a paradox of momentum and indifference with regard to these dangers, emphasizing that “by adopting a resilient attitude we can withstand the power politics that force nuclear weapons upon us.” Recalling the Hibakushas’ warning that “no one else should suffer as we did,” he held out hope that an emerging global consciousness would subvert the temptation to rely on threats of indiscriminate mass destruction.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Three Cheers for the Dominican Republic!

The Associated Press reports (and the website of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization [CTBTO] confirms) that the Dominican Republic has ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, becoming the 140th state to have done so. This is particularly great news two weeks ahead of the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT (also called Article XIV Conference, which will take place from 17 to18 September 2007 in Vienna, Austria).

Six months ago, the Committee on Hemispheric Security of the Organization of American States held a special meeting celebrating the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Tlatelolco. The Dominican Republic was represented at this meeting commemorating the establishment of the first nuclear weapon-free zone in a populated region. CTBTO Executive Secretary Tibor Tóth, Randy Rydell of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, President of the Global Security Institute Jonathan Granoff, and Nuclear Age Peace Foundation President David Krieger, and I all spoke to the need for nuclear disarmament progress building on the leadership exhibited by the Tlatelolco signatories. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to emphasize that:

“your governments should sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago have not yet signed and the Bahamas, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala have not yet ratified the Treaty. There is no reason any civilized nation should remain outside the nuclear test ban club. This image depicts the global network of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban’s International Monitoring System, by joining the Treaty, your government contributes to an increasingly respected global norm of nonproliferation and disarmament.”
Coincidence? Almost certainly. But this historic step by the Government of the Dominican Republic to support a legally-binding end to nuclear explosions anywhere underscores the potential in the other nine states mentioned above.

Come on, Bahamas, I know you’ve got it in you!

Accidental Airborne Alert

Michael Hoffman of the Military Times reports that:

“A B-52 bomber mistakenly loaded with five nuclear warheads flew from Minot Air Force Base, N.D, to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., on Aug. 30.”
While Dean Steve Fetter of the University of Maryland observes in Mr. Hoffman’s story that there was no specific risk of detonation or diversion associated with this incident, it does once again underscore the question: why does the U.S. retain so many nuclear weapons?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The very predictable slippery slope of the US-India deal

Reports that Pakistan and China are discussing the prospects for a nuclear deal similar to the one that the Bush administration has negotiated with India comes as no surprise to those familiar with how the global non-proliferation regime works. It further highlights how harmful the US-India nuclear initiative is for nuclear non-proliferation efforts.

Already last fall, only days after the Senate approved changes to U.S. law to allow an exception for India, China expressed its intention to follow suit.

The United States seems to have opened the floodgates with this deal as France, Australia, and now Japan, are also leaping at the opportunity to sell their nuclear goods to India as the United States is pushing for an exception for India in international guidelines.

France signed an agreement with India in February 2006, and Australia recently announced its intent to sell uranium to India, reversing its long-standing policy not to sell uranium to non-NPT countries. Japan is also jumping into the fray as the heads of Japanese nuclear companies Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi are traveling to India this week with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to seek nuclear business opportunities. A senior Japanese official prefaced the trip with the comment, “The US has lost the technological edge for nuclear power plants. The world leaders in this technology now are Japan and France."

With international competition lining up to take advantage of the new rules, it remains uncertain whether U.S. businesses will benefit from this deal either in the nuclear arena or non-nuclear defense technologies.

This agreement is a bad deal for the United States on all fronts, and dangerously undermines international security by jeopardizing non-proliferation rules thirty years in the making.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Obama, Hagel introduce non-proliferation bill

Before leaving town for the Congressional August recess, Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) introduced S.1977, a bill

“to provide for sustained United States leadership in a cooperative global effort to prevent nuclear terrorism, reduce global nuclear arsenals, stop the spread of nuclear weapons and related material and technology, and support the responsible and peaceful use of nuclear technology.”
The bill builds on the recommendations outlined in the January 4, 2007 Wall Street Journal op-ed, A World Free of Nuclear Weapons, by George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn.

It emphasizes that

"securing nuclear weapons and weapons-usable material at their source is the most direct a reliable way to disrupt efforts by terrorist organizations to acquire such material.”
and urges that

“nuclear weapon states should reaffirm their commitment to Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”
The bill authorizes:
-$50 million for an international nuclear fuel bank (same funding level as proposed in the Senate energy & Water Appropriations bill)
-$15 million annually until 2012 for strengthening the inspection capabilities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as recommended by Matthew Bunn and Anthony Wier in Securing the Bomb 2006
-an additional $20 million for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) for FY2008-FY2010
-$15 million for FY 2008 and $10 million for FY 2009 for a nuclear forensics program

It also fulfills an important oversight role by mandating:
-a plan for ensuring that all nuclear weapons and weapons
-usable material at vulnerable sites worldwide are secure by 2012, and annual progress reports
-a report by the National Academy of Sciences on a verification regime for an effective Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty
-two reports on the 2010 NPT Review Conference: one in 2009 detailing objectives, strategy and policies for the Conference and one detailing its outcomes

Lastly, it creates a Commission of 15 Members:
-to provide recommendations on the threat of the spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons technology and nuclear terrorism
-to report on efforts to reduce global nuclear arsenals, the development of new nuclear weapons, the need for nuclear energy, and the contribution of existing multilateral entities

At a time when the United States has walked back from many of its commitments under the NPT, this kind of legislation serves as an important reminder and re-affirmation that successful US leadership and long-term US security depend on maintaining a viable and credible non-proliferation and arms control regime in place, which over time will require substantial, prudent and verifiable progress toward the ultimate objective of a world free of nuclear weapons.

As Congress prepares to finalize the funding levels for non-proliferation and arms control issues (in the Defense Authorization bills and the Energy & Water Appropriations bills), several other important and useful bills have been introduced in the Senate recently.

Among them is S.1914, a bill introduced by Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) with Sens. Collins (R-ME), Durbin (D-IL), Kennedy (D-MA), Feingold (D-WI), Casey (D-PA), that would prevent funding for the design and development of a new generation of nuclear weapons, the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead, until the new Presidential administration completes a nuclear posture and policy review.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Palau Steps Up for Disarmament

Palau is asserting its sovereignty in new ways (perhaps as confidence wanes in the value of their 2003 inclusion in the Bush Administration’s “Coalition of the Willing”).

The Associated Press reports that Palau has ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), bringing the number of states who have ratified the Treaty to 139.

Also of note, Radio New Zealand International reported on August 1, 2007 that Palau was elected as one of 21 Vice-Presidents of the United Nations General Assembly, the smallest country every to hold that post, according to Marianas Variety. Let’s hope that Palau uses this important moment for small state diplomacy to advance the universality of the CTBT.

If Palau campaigns to bring small states into the CTBT at the General Assembly, they will be successful. More small states ratifying the Treaty would mean less political cover for those that remain outside, advancing the cause of early entry-into-force. In this way, Palau could make a historically disproportionate contribution to international security.

Is Disarmament Still "On the Level" at the UN?

In a statement delivered in Hiroshima yesterday on the occasion of the 62nd anniversary of atomic bombing of that city, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared:

“Nuclear proliferation is one of the most pressing problems confronting our world. Tens of thousands of nuclear weapons remain, many of them on “hair-trigger” alert. The emergence of a nuclear black market and attempts by terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons and materials have compounded the nuclear threat. Today, our challenge -- as it was for the founders of the United Nations -- is to make the world safer for succeeding generations. This requires us to continue to work towards a world free of nuclear dangers and, ultimately, of nuclear weapons.”
The Secretary General’s words are laudable, but there is reason to believe the UN’s institutional commitment to disarmament could use added support.

The statement was delivered by Sergio de Queiroz Duarte of Brazil who was appointed last month as the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament “at the Under-Secretary-General level.” The footnote added to Mr. Duarte’s title underlines what it is meant to obscure: that the role of disarmament leadership has apparently been downgraded at the United Nations.
The new situation may still be sinking in at the UN. For example, the webpage of the new Office for Disarmament Affairs bears its new name here and its former, more prominent name of Department for Disarmament Affairs, here. For those of us who recall the integration of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency into the Department of State, the implications are disheartening.

The first Under-Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs, Sri Lankan Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, was appointed in January 1998, riding high from his leadership of the achievement of the indefinite extension of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Of course, that was before:
  • the South Asian tests of May 1998,
  • the defeat of the CTBT in the U.S. Senate,
  • the dissolution of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency,
  • U.S. abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty,
  • the Russian Duma’s rejection of START II,
  • the termination of the 1994 Agreed Framework,
  • North Korea’s exit from the NPT,
  • the invasion of Iraq, and so on.

The change was announced on February 5 of this year, barely a month after Secretary General Ban took office. Noel Stott of the Arms Management Programme at ISS Tshwane in Pretoria observes that the announcement of the change drew:

“opposition from civil society, the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) and countries such as Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Austria and New Zealand.”

Stott concludes that:

“Whether the new office and a High Representative for Disarmament Affairs at the Under-Secretary-General level will have a stronger impact in support of Member States' efforts to address the threats and security challenges confronting the international community will form a core aspect of any future assessment of Ban Ki-moon’s tenure as Secretary-General.”

We agree. The world is watching, Mr. Secretary General. But issues are usually not elevated by diminishing the rank of their advocates. And today’s disarmament agenda is daunting, including:

  • kick-starting the fissile material cut-off negotiations,
  • the challenge of bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty into force,
  • responding to the Russian announcement of withdrawal from the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty,
  • shoring up nuclear safeguards in the context of the U.S.-India nuclear deal,
  • the expiration of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in 2009,
  • the NPT Review Conference in 2010,
  • the expiration of the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty in 2012, and so on.

For his part, former Under-Secretary General Dhanapala was appointed this month to the Board of Dialog Telekom. One may wonder if Mr. Duarte and his successors will receive the same sort of reception from private industry upon leaving UN service “at the Under-Secretary General level.”

Friday, August 3, 2007

Rice Skips, Disarmament Advances at ASEAN Regional Forum

Leon T. Hadar of the CATO Institute observes that Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s decision to “prioritize” Middle East diplomacy over attendance at the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum may tend to marginalize U.S. influence in the region; noting that this is only the second time a U.S. Secretary of State has missed the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting since they began in 1994 (the first time was also Secretary Rice in 2005). But the decision may have an unintended consequence for efforts to promote progress toward a nuclear weapon free world.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte did attend and made a proprosal on nonproliferation to the 27 foreign ministers in attendance. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Chris Hill briefed the press yesterday in Manila, saying of ARF nonproliferation efforts that:
“we believe that this is the type of issue for which the ARF is ideally suited -- and we had a very good tete-a-tete on that issue. There are some technical problems that remain, but I’m confident that we can find a resolution. And I think the ARF can make a contribution in this field.”
Abdul Khalik of the Jakarta Post reports a slightly different version from Manila:
“Indonesia on Thursday blocked a U.S. proposal to stop the spread of nuclear weapons during the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting in Manila because it did not include efforts toward disarmament…the U.S. then changed the wording of the proposal, but the proposal was dropped because Indonesia insisted the issue of disarmament must be included.”
Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda, who blocked the proposal, explained the connection:
"There's a slightly different approach in the sense that to us nuclear non-proliferation should be seen in the full context, not in separation with other elements, namely disarmament and cooperation on nuclear technology. That's why we suggested that perhaps we should add more elements in the area of cooperation if we're going to develop it in the context of ARF."
Nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament are organically linked through the international legal rule of sovereign equality embodied in Article 2(1) of the United Nations Charter. These objectives are also legally linked through the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which embodies the global norm of nuclear nonproliferation and binds it explicitly to progress toward the ultimate goal of nuclear disarmament in Article VI.

The gentle reminder from our friends in Manila serves the longstanding U.S. interest in enduring nonproliferation and disarmament and hopefully regional cooperation toward these entwined objectives will be strengthened by the exchange (and those observing from the United States will take this important feedback into account in planning for our ongoing efforts toward compliance with Article VI of the NPT). One may wonder if Secretary Rice would have been more successful in swaying her peers than her Deputy was, but we’ll never know because, as Benjamin Disraeli observed, "History is made by those who show up."

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Southeast Asia Contributes to Nuclear Disarmament

On Monday, Foreign Ministers at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial in Manila issued a Joint Statement on the Commission for the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ). The Treaty was signed in 1995 by Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Joint Statement pledges the State Parties to work to ensure compliance, work toward accession of the nuclear weapon states, cooperate with international bodies and others, and develop a specific workplan.

This is a great step forward, and a great opportunity to offer some suggestions for steps the Commission might take to broaden and strengthen the contribution SEANWFZ makes to international peace and security:

  • An official acknowledgment of the changing political climate suggesting the possibility of progress toward a world free of nuclear weapons signaled by a January 2007 Wall Street Journal op-ed by George Schultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn and other recent developments.
  • An effort to seek agreement between the Commission and the Organization for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL); this might begin with regular meetings every five years, possibly timed six months ahead of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conferences to give the Zone implementing bodies an opportunity to prepare a report to each Review Conference on their joint work.
  • Explicit collaboration with the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) as a like-minded international organization; this might include support of entry-into-force of the CTBT.
  • Promoting outreach from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to the African Union in support of entry-into-force of the Treaty of Pelindaba (which would establish the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone). This might be as simple as a letter or as robust as a coordinate demarche campaign by all ASEAN States to all African Union states.
    A statement of support for extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and further verified reductions in the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals.
    An inquiry to the British Foreign Ministry regarding how SEANWFZ State Parties might contribute to the British effort to advance the cause of a world free of nuclear weapons announced by outgoing Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Margaret Beckett.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Missed Opportunities in Nuclear Material Security

Several recent reports underscore the need to account for and secure nuclear material as our best chance to reduce the risk of theft or diversion of fissile material, and the resulting risk of nuclear terrorism.

The Government Accounting Office’s recent discovery of lax security procedures for controlling access to nuclear materials in the United States draws attention to a broader problem worldwide, as Doug writes in a letter published in yesterday’s Washington Post:
“The GAO's startling undercover work reminds us that this is exactly what we do need: more effective lists and verification measures to ensure that all nuclear weapons and materials are accounted for. This means we need presidential leadership to tighten domestic regulation of nuclear materials, accelerate cooperative threat reduction and extend START.”

Taking the goal of a nuclear weapon free world seriously, as George P. Schultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn argued in a January Wall Street Journal op-ed, will require effort to carefully verify and protect nuclear materials everywhere.

However, efforts to secure vulnerable fissile materials remain unjustifiably slow and US priorities in this area have been questionable:

*As a Government Accounting Office report documented in March 2007, the Department of Energy has been misleading on the progress it has made in installing security upgrades at sites that have vulnerable fissile material.

*Based on a March 2007 GAO report which concluded that the radiation detection technology proposed by the Department of Homeland Security is much less effective than the administration had claimed and that the cost-benefit analysis does not support the costly procurement and installation of the new monitors, the Washington Post now reports that, the Department of Homeland Security may have misled Congress:
“Congress had allowed the five-year project to move ahead after Homeland Security assured appropriators that the $377,000 machines would detect highly enriched uranium 95 percent of the time… Auditors from the Government Accountability Office later found that the detection rates of machines tested by the department were as low as 17 percent and no higher than about 50 percent.”

The GAO noted (p.12) the concern of one national laboratory scientist about the possibility of false negatives that detectors could
“conceivably misidentify HEU as a benign nuclear or radiological material or not detect it at all, particularly if the HEU is placed side by side with a non-threatening material, such as kitty litter.”

*Even if this radiation detection technology worked 100% of the time, it would not provide 100% protection against nuclear smuggling as smugglers might circumvent major ports and border crossings where this technology would be installed, instead using smaller, less traveled border crossings. As an example, Lawrence Scott Sheets and William J. Broad, in a January report in the International Herald Tribune about the case of a Russian citizen, Oleg Khinsagov, arrested in the Republic of Georgia last year for smuggling and attempting to sell a sample of HEU, warn about the problem of poorly policed border crossings and noted that the smuggler had traveled from Russia to Tbilisi by a high mountain road.

*Another GAO report from January reveals that the Department of Energy has made only limited progress in securing many of the most vulnerable sources of radiological material (that could be used to make a dirty bomb). Despite this limited progress, the funding for international radiological threat reduction program at the Department of Energy has been drastically cut in the past years (cut from $24 million in the FY 2006 budget request to $6 million in the FY 2008 budget request).

These reports reflect a questionable approach of focusing resources and energy on technologies that are not yet ripe deployed at locations that are not truly choke-points against the threat of nuclear or radiological terrorism.

Given limited resources, the danger is that these efforts may distract resources and attention away from proven methods to control nuclear materials at the source where it is produced and used. Verified control at the source represents our best chance to prevent the theft or diversion of nuclear material and this approach should be the focus of our political and financial resources rather than single-minded pursuit of a porous and technically elusive last line of defense at the border.

Monday, July 23, 2007

European Union grant funds African nuclear security, misses NPT opportunity

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports that the European Union (EU) has provided a nearly 7 million Euro grant “to upgrade physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities in the countries, secure vulnerable radioactive sources, and combat illicit trafficking in nuclear and radioactive materials, with much of this funding to go to African states.”

The EU is to be commended for providing this support, the IAEA for its important work to enhance nuclear security globally, and recipient nations for their willingness to collaborate productively with international efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation or misuse of nuclear materials.

But all parties have missed an important opportunity to declare their renewed support for their obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons:

Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.
At least half a dozen recipient states have not ratified the Treaty of Pelindaba and a few have not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Envisioning and working toward a world free of nuclear weapons means that no opportunity should be missed to increase the normative pressure and web of international legal rules that promote nuclear disarmament. Failing to do so reinforces the naïve and artificial separation between nonproliferation and disarmament that threatens the achievement of both.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Securing Africa's moral authority toward a world free of nuclear weapons

African political commentator and poet Mukoma Wa Ngugi surfaces some interesting points in his July 16, 2007 piece on Znet, “Africa and Nuclear Weapons.”

Recalling the anxieties of the Cold War and emphasizing a nuclear dimension in contemporary international politics, Ngugi lauds the Treaty of Pelindaba which establishes the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone:

“Today the question is whether the continent will become the theater of a nuclear dance between two predator nations - a growing and hungry China and the ever expansionist United States. It is therefore a great relief that Africa has arguably the most advanced non-proliferation treaty: the African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty (ANWFZ) also known as the Treaty of Pelindaba which came into effect in 1996. According to the African Union, 22 countries have thus far ratified it.”

22 ratifications is still short of the 28 needed to bring the Treaty into force, twelve years and five days after it was opened for signature in Cairo. The African Union (AU) website now lists 23 ratifications – Gabon apparently slipped their instrument of ratification last Thursday (probably after Ngugi’s piece had already been submitted). Why have the other 20 African states acknowledge by the AU not yet ratified Pelindaba? Ngugi argues that they should:
“The atomic bomb that was dropped on Japan, was ironically enriched with uranium from what was then the Belgium Congo, and today, most nuclear weapons have uranium from an independent African state making us complicit in future atrocities. But by the same token, Africa through the ANWFZ treaty shows it can be a moral leader.”
Africa’s leadership on this issue is important for material as well as moral reasons, as the famous “16 words” from President Bush’s January 28, 2003 State of the Union Address suggest:

“The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

In a globalizing world, effectively verified nonproliferation is an increasingly communal enterprise – lots of people in lots of places matter more and more, which increases the responsibility of people everywhere to think globally and act locally to prevent nuclear proliferation. Ngugi surfaces the importance of this moral obligation for Africa:

“Uranium producing countries such as Namibia have not ratified the ANWFZ. This means that some African countries even though not developing nuclear weapons are aiding other nations, mostly Western, produce them – something the ANWFZ treaty forbids.”
The African states listed by the AU as not yet having ratified the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone are: Angola*, Benin, Burundi*, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad*, Comoros*, Congo*, Djibouti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo*, Egypt*, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana*, Guinea-Bissau*, Liberia*, Malawi*, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia**, Sao Tome & Principe*, Sudan, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia. The states with * after their names have also not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); Somalia has two because it hasn’t even signed the CTBT. According to the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, the CTBTO, six other African states have also not signed the CTBT: the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Mauritius, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.

Perhaps it is time for the African Union, perhaps in partnership with the Organization for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin American and the Caribbean and other relevant regional organizations, to consider a concerted push for Africa-wide adherence to these crucial agreements to secure Africa’s moral authority to play a stronger leadership role toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mr. Bolton had his Chance

As International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors prepared to re-establish international verification of North Korea’s nuclear program last week, Leonor rebutted John Bolton's delicately titled opinion piece "Pyongyang Pussyfooting" in a letter to the editor published in The Wall Street Journal on July 12, 2007:

“Attempting to negotiate in good faith with a country that is hostile to the U.S., as distasteful as this may be to Mr. Bolton, is a process inherent to effective diplomacy; it was used successfully by the Reagan administration with the "Evil Empire" and helped usher an end to the Cold War, and it remains the most effective way to stop Kim Jong Il's nuclear weapons program. Failing to do so will result in significant cost to national security.”

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Prodigal State Party

Yoo Cheong-mo of Yonhap reports that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director Mohammed El Baradei called for North Korea to return to the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) at the Inchon International Airport in Seoul on Wednesday:
“Now is a very crucial time for the IAEA, Korea and the entire world. North Korea has just returned to a verification process. I wish it would lead to North Korea's return to the NPT and complete scrapping of its nuclear weapons program.”
This is an important step toward reigning in the North Korean breakout from the NPT. Some observers have contested the legal force of North Korea’s asserted departure from the NPT on January 10, 2003.

The argument that North Korea’s withdrawal is illegal because it was asserted to have immediate effect is weak. Complex negotiations following the DPRK’s original assertion of its intention to withdraw from the NPT around March 9-11, 1993 (Wit, Poneman, Gallucci, Going Critical, page 25-6) led to interesting disagreement as to whether a state party to the NPT could “suspend” its withdrawal after the three month waiting period specified in Article X of the NPT had run out or, in the alternative, its withdrawal clock was reset if it chose to remain in the Treaty after having announced its intent to withdraw. This disagreement cleverly widened room for diplomacy and sparked discussions about how procedural measures might raise the bar against further NPT defections, but it did not fundamentally change North Korea’s right to withdraw. It only mattered so long as everyone – including the North Koreans – agreed that North Korea remained a state party to the NPT.

Law is important, but legalistic debate cannot reclaim the four-and-a-half years that the North has spent outside the NPT any more than IAEA inspectors can travel back in time to verify compliance during that period. But an unambiguous North Korean return to the NPT would be good for three reasons. First, it would multilateralize North Korea’s commitment to verified nuclear disarmament – even if entered into cynically, this global commitment to all NPT members would demonstrate that even a state that seems to spoil for an adjective (like “rogue” or “outlaw”) must acknowledge the relationship between verified and legally binding nonproliferation and contemporary sovereignty. Second, it would emphasize the resilience of the Treaty. Today, North Korea stands outside the NPT as a model to other states that might choose nuclear weapons proliferation over the rule of law, although no other states have yet followed suit. The DPRK’s return to the NPT would signal that breakout is not sustainable. Third, returning North Korea to the NPT would move this nearly universal Treaty even closer to universality – emphasizing that the historical and strategic circumstances that have left only three other states outside the Treaty should not be immune to creative efforts to bring them into meaningful and effective levels of partnership with NPT states parties for nonproliferation.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Highlights of more plutonium-related news from LANL this week

Highlights of other plutonium news out of Los Alamos this week include:

Julie Ann Grimm of Santa Fe’s The New Mexican reports that a “project to divert Rio Grande surface water for use in the Santa Fe area is designed to handle possible contaminants that drain into the river from Los Alamos National Laboratory, planners said Thursday.”

Andy Lenderman of The New Mexican reports that on June 26, 2007 a LANL employee who works at the lab’s plutonium facility was stopped with 30.5 grams of cocaine in his car, while another 1.3 grams of cocaine and electric scales were seized from his home.

Plutonium Pit Party Points a Path to the Past

On Monday, July 2, Senator Pete Domenici, Representative Heather Wilson and others gathered at Los Alamos National Laboratories to “celebrate” the production of the first plutonium “pit” certified for use in the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile since the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the Rocky Flats facility in Colorado in 1989. Noticeably absent were 1) a clear vision for the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, 2) a sustainable vision for the future of the national laboratories, and 3) the application of the best science and technical expertise to the real problems urgently facing the United States.

At the event, Senator Domenici reportedly said:
“The only thing that would keep [Los Alamos] from being the permanent pit manufacturing center would be if we don't get the physical facilities.”
But bricks and mortar are not the only consideration in scoping the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, as Sam Nunn and other national leaders have argued, an informed and careful national consideration of the future of U.S. nuclear weapon is urgently needed.

But in a nearby event sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility/New Mexico, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and the New Mexico Conference of Churches, concerned citizens questioned whether the celebration might be miscast:

Dr. Mike McCally of Physicians for Social Responsibility said:

“Nuclear weapons development is just not needed... DOE laboratories and Los Alamos in particular are not focused on the urgent needs of the 21st century. Laboratory programs focused on energy, environment, nuclear proliferation, global warming, would be a cause for celebration.”
Former Vice President of Sandia National Laboratories, Robert Peurifoy, who joined by telephone said:
“They don't need to be replaced at this time because they are not broken…I'm not in favor of jumping in and replacing something just to have work.”
Why is Los Alamos building new pits when we have no urgent need for replacements and lots of crucial scientific and technical work urgently needed to support the national interest in areas like port security, nonproliferation verification, energy efficiency, terrorism prevention, and environmental remediation?