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.