Getting to Zero Update

The debate over Trident was heating up with questions about how the United Kingdom will cover costs during a time of tightening defense budgets. In the United States, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty to the full Senate, but doubts remained as to whether the Senate would approve the treaty before the end of the year. Thirty-six members of the European Leaders Network called on NATO to increase its role in nuclear arms control just as the Alliance was circulating a draft of its new Strategic Concept, which was last revised in 1999.

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BASIC, Bertelsmann Stiftung, International Security Information Service (ISIS) Europe, and NATO Watch will co-host The Shadow NATO Summit II: Civil Society Perspectives on the Lisbon Summit and NATO's New Strategic Concept, November 15–16, 2010, in Brussels. Visit NATO Watch for the full agenda.

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Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons






The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 14-4 in favor of sending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) to the full Senate after a prolonged debate on September 16. One of the outspoken opponents of the treaty, Jim DeMint (Republican – South Carolina), did not participate in the voting procedure. The four members voting against the resolution were Republican Senators Jim Risch (Idaho), James Inhofe (Oklahoma), John Barraso (Wyoming) and Roger Wicker (Mississippi).  Committee Chairman Senator John Kerry (Democrat-Massachusetts) and Ranking Member Senator Richard Lugar (Republican-Indiana) tried to build consensus ahead of the vote. The resolution of Advice and Consent for the treaty, written by Senator Lugar, addresses a number of issues that have been raised by skeptics, including an affirmation that the unilateral declaration of Russia on U.S. missile defense posture “does not impose a legal obligation on the United States,” and requires the President to submit to Congress a plan to deal with potential resource shortfalls associated with the 10-year program for nuclear stockpile "modernization." The Senate might vote on the treaty, which requires 67 votes to pass, after the November 2nd elections.  

Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller expressed her concerns that the United States has been unable to conduct bilateral inspections with Russia for the first time in more than twenty years. President Barack Obama urged the Senate to ratify the treaty in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly on September 23. The State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, announced that it will continue to work on the ratification of the treaty with the United States. New START limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 for each country. The current Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) limits deployed nuclear warheads on both sides to 1,700-2,200, but is not accompanied by a verification agreement. Supporters of the new treaty point out that there has been no verification of Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal since last December, when the START I treaty expired.

Further Reading

NATO and Nuclear Weapons

While NATO has been undergoing its Strategic Concept Review in anticipation of putting forward a new Concept at the Alliance’s Summit in Lisbon on November 19-20, 36 members of the European Leaders Network on Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation submitted a public letter calling on NATO to review its nuclear weapons policies. The signatories of the September 27th letter want the Alliance to take a bigger lead in nuclear arms control and to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in its security posture, with one of the goals including the eventual elimination of the estimated 200 U.S. tactical nuclear bombs that are based in Europe under NATO's nuclear sharing arrangements.


Further Reading

Conference on Disarmament

Pakistan continued to block the negotiation of the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) near the end of September, holding out for a treaty on fissile materials that reduces current stocks, rather than banning only the production of new material. The blockage moved a number of Western delegates to express their frustrations with the CD. Austrian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has been in a "state of inertia" because of a few dissenting states, with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon noting that the consensual rule prevents the body from achieving a breakthrough. Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, criticized the CD as "an example of all that is worst in the United Nations" failing to "engage in substantive work for well over a decade." One of the strongest criticisms came from the United States. Special Assistant to the President on Weapons of Mass Destruction Gary Samore pointed out, "it strikes us as unwarranted for a single country to abuse the consensus principle and thereby frustrate everyone else's desire to resume disarmament efforts." The United States joined nine other countries: Australia, Austria, Norway, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Netherlands, and Uruguay, which are demanding that the CD make progress on an FMCT soon or otherwise they will push to have work on the treaty conducted elsewhere.

Proposals for moving fissile material negotiations out of the CD have included shifting the discussions to the full U.N. General Assembly or containing the negotiations to the smaller number of states that hold nuclear weapons (still including Pakistan). However, Egyptian Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz, in his capacity representing the Non-Aligned Movement, contended that the CD could still be useful and that delegates should not focus as much on one prospective treaty but should also grapple with other nuclear weapons issues and efforts to prevent an arms race in outer space.

Nuclear Weapons-Free Zones

Russia supported the initiative to deem Africa a region free of nuclear weapons. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev submitted two protocols to prohibit nuclear tests in Africa and the use of nuclear weapons against African countries. The Pelindaba Treaty, or the African Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone Treaty, was signed in 1996 and entered into force last year.


Further Reading

Nuclear Weapon States of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

France announced that it will host in Paris this coming spring a meeting of the Permanent Five (P5) members of the U.N. Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) to discuss nuclear arms control. The meeting will come over a year after London hosted the same group to discuss confidence-building, verification and compliance challenges over steps to address nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Further Reading


Documentary on the threat from nuclear weapons
For a list of showings, see:



United States

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Ashton Carter, were indicating that the Pentagon would be looking to scale down some design requirements for the next generation of nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBN(X)s) in an effort to limit costs for a program estimated to reach over $100 billion. In November, a Defense Department board is to decide on design issues for the new submarine that will eventually replace the current Ohio-Class fleet. Issues to be discussed could include how many missiles each vessel should be capable of carrying and the size of the missile launch tubes; however, the latter was seen as less likely to change. Each of the current Ohio-class submarines has 24 launch tubes, which are capable of carrying the Trident 2 D5 strategic ballistic missile – a missile also carried by the UK SSBN fleet. (For more on the UK debate, see the country report for the United Kingdom below.)

The Navy had released to the Defense Department a classified study on Ohio-Class replacement options in May 2009. The House Armed Services Committee has complained that it had not been sufficiently informed of the decision-making process and did not have a chance to engage in reviewing possible alternatives for a design program which is to commence in 2011. Meanwhile, the 2011 defense authorization bill remains a victim of the political polarization in the Senate which may pass the bill in the lame-duck session after the November 2 elections.

On a related note, Global Security Newswire reported on September 30 that the Defense Department was considering the reversible "inactivation" of four launch tubes on each of the SSBNs as one way to meet New START limits – if the treaty enters into force.

The Obama Administration continued a U.S. policy of actively pursuing civilian nuclear energy agreements by commencing negotiations with Vietnam. In a sharp departure from the model treaty that the United States proposed to the non-nuclear weapon states of the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, the proposal for Vietnam is more controversial because it would not to restrict Vietnam's right to enrich uranium on its own soil.

The National Nuclear Security Administration announced that the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas had completed the first dismantlement and inspection of the W84 warhead. The thermonuclear warhead had been built for cruise missiles. The dismantlement marks the beginning of the disassembly process for the W84.


Further Reading

  • United Nations General Assembly First Committee (Summarizes U.S. positions on key arms control work)
    Rose Gottemoeller, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, Remarks by Delegation of the United States of America to the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, October 5, 2010
  • 2010 Resubmission of the U.S.-Russia Nuclear Cooperation Agreement: Further Actions Needed by State and Other Agencies to Improve the Review of the Classified Nuclear Proliferation Assessment
    Government Accountability Office, September 21, 2010


United Kingdom

The decision over whether to provide a 'like-for-like' replacement of the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapon system, a fleet of four Vanguard submarines carrying Trident D5 nuclear ballistic missiles, may be delayed until 2015. Defence Secretary Liam Fox is calling for a full replacement and pulling in funds from beyond the defense budget if necessary, whereas Chancellor George Osborne is insisting that the funds still come entirely from those set aside for defense during a time of demands for austerity. Estimated costs for the replacement program are over 20 billion pounds. Prime Minister David Cameron is under fire from other Conservatives who worry that he is setting in motion a process that will lead to less than full replacement of the Trident nuclear weapon system. The Liberal Democrats, which are the junior partners in the coalition with the Conservative government, have pushed for the ‘value-for-money’ review of the replacement program and are also arguing that considering alternatives should be part of the decision-making process. The replacement program is not up for consideration under the strategic defense and security review.

Prime Minister Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy may discuss during their summit next month in London proposals to conduct joint French-UK nuclear submarine patrols as another possible cost-savings measure.


Further Reading



Russia completed a successful test of the Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile on October 7. The Dmitry Donskoi nuclear submarine in the White Sea fired off the Bulava, which hit its target area on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The Bulava missile has a range of 8,000 kilometers, or about 5,000 miles, and the capacity to carry up to 10 nuclear warheads. The Bulava program has been plagued with a number of testing failures and recently cancelled a test that had been planned for mid-September. Depending on how the program proceeds, additional problems with the Bulava could set back plans to place into operation a fourth generation of Borey-class strategic nuclear submarines. One of the submarines, the Yury Dolgoruky, successfully completed its sea trial at the end of September, with Russia aiming to complete eight of these submarines by 2015.

Further Reading



The IAEA’s latest report on Iran’s nuclear program estimates that the country has accumulated 2,803 kilograms of 3-5% enriched uranium and 22 kilograms of nearly 20% enriched uranium. Iran says that the former is for civilian nuclear energy, with the latter intended for the Tehran Research Reactor, which is an internationally-monitored facility for medical purposes.

However, the IAEA report said that still no progress had been made on outstanding questions about the possible military dimensions associated with the Iranian nuclear program nor had Iran responded with design information for the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant. The IAEA also said that Iran has attempted to block the appointment of specific inspectors so as to interfere with investigations of its nuclear activities - possibly contributing to a weaker implementation of safeguards, which the report repeatedly notes are under differing interpretations between Iran and the IAEA. Tehran has responded by claiming that it has the right to block the nomination of specific inspectors that will visit its sites.

Iran announced another delay in activating its nuclear reactor at Bushehr, which was to come online in September. Speculation about the cause of the delay included the possibility that the Stuxnet worm infiltrated the facility’s computers. An Iranian spokesman confirmed the incident but insisted that the impact of the virus was limited to affecting only personal computers and not the control system. The speculation also pointed to the Israeli military as having been behind the cyber attack. Instead, Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, later came forward to explain that a leak in the pool that holds the fuel rods next to the reactor was the cause of the delay. Iran now hopes to place the rods into the reactor by the end of December.

The European Union, Japan, and South Korea have joined in a growing sanctions regime, led by the United States, following the implementation of a fourth round of U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed last May. The additional sanctions face opposition from countries including China, Russia, India and Turkey. Additional sanctions have reportedly slowed gasoline shipments and financial transactions. Nevertheless, the relationship with Chinese firms in Iran, for example, has raised concerns about the effectiveness of the additional sanctions. Iran criticized the sanctions as illegal  - arguing that they violate Iran’s right to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under the NPT.

Further Reading



An IAEA General Assembly resolution that called on Israel to join the NPT and would have forced Israel to subject all of its nuclear facilities to IAEA inspection was voted down on September 24 in Vienna. The vote was 46 in favor, 51 against with 23 abstentions. However 31 delegates were not in the hall for the vote. Officials from Arab states that sponsored the resolution and from Iran said that they would continue to challenge Israel’s policy of ambiguity over holding a nuclear arsenal. The United States backed Israel’s opposition to the resolution with officials saying that its passage would have harmed prospects for Middle East peace negotiations, but has declared its support for a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East and urged Israel to acknowledge the framework. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano also requested that Israel join the NPT in a statement made weeks before the meeting.

Further Reading



The IAEA published its latest report on Syria on September 6, stating that the country “has not cooperated with the Agency since June 2008 in connection with the unresolved issues related to [the] Dair Alzour site.” IAEA head Yukiya Amano publicly criticized Syria for its failure to disclose the site for inspection and again asked for cooperation from Damascus.

U.S. intelligence alleges that the reactor at Dair Alzour was being constructed with the assistance of North Korea.  The United States has called for the IAEA to conduct a special inspection in Syria. Damascus has refused to permit additional inspections since June 2008 and maintains that the Agency has all necessary information to show that the site was not for nuclear military purposes. The European Union warned that "necessary information concerning the Dair Alzour site is deteriorating or at risk of being lost entirely." Meanwhile, Syria maintains that uranium particles discovered by U.N. inspectors at the site came from munitions used by Israel in its 2007 air strike on the area.

Further Reading

North Korea

The Six-Party Talks still remained in limbo, but North Korean leaders expressed an interest in coming back to the table after their country was able to avoid receiving the direct blame in a U.N. Security Council decision delivered over the summer on the attack of a South Korean corvette, which killed 46 South Korean sailors back in March. South Korea, Japan and the United States had wanted North Korea to admit responsibility for the attack.

Wu Dawei, China’s special envoy, visited Seoul and Pyongyang at the end of August to discuss the resumption of the talks. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited Chinese President Hu Jintao in China and said that North Korea wants to return to the Six Party framework. A week later, the United States sent a delegation to Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing. South Korea also dispatched its top nuclear negotiator to the United States. Against the backdrop of this diplomatic shuttling, the United States announced new sanctions against North Korea, which are intended to freeze the assets of individuals and organizations involved in North Korea's weapons industry in particular and also against those involved in criminal activities.

In the U.N. General Assembly on September 29, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister, Pak Kil-yon, claimed that the nuclear weapons in North Korea are for self-defense, "As long as the U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers sail around the seas of our country, our nuclear deterrence can never be abandoned but should be strengthened further." However, Minister Kim added that North Korea is willing to join "the international efforts for nuclear non-proliferation and safe management of nuclear material on an equal footing with other nuclear weapon states."

Since then, South Korea has said that North Korea’s program has reached an “alarming level” because it suspected that the country now has the ability to make more compact nuclear warheads, even though there has been no proof that North Korea has manufactured a nuclear weapon. North Korea was also restoring its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, according to South Korea's Defense Ministry. The Institute for Science and International Security obtained satellite imagery of the area and independently confirmed that "new construction or excavation activity" appeared to be taking place as of the end of September. Although there was no firm indication that the activity was for the rebuilding of the cooling tower and that the excavation appeared to be too extensive for this purpose, the developments in this area warranted continued monitoring, according to the Institute's analysis.

On September 28, Kim Jung-il appointed his third son, Kim Jon-un, as a four-star general, which indicates a step toward eventual succession. Speculation surrounding Kim’s successor has increased during the past two years because of his health problems.


Further Reading



The Indian Parliament passed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) bill on August 30, thereby holding suppliers of nuclear reactors and raw materials liable in the event of an accident. The liability bill was seen as a key component for seeing through the completion of the internationally controversial U.S.-India nuclear deal, which was approved in the U.S. Congress in 2008. The bill requires that suppliers, manufacturers, and service providers remain liable for accidents that may occur, and requires certain levels of compensation owed to victims. The bill’s requirements were seen as possibly hampering suppliers and the United States suggested that India should ensure its CLND bill be consistent with those in other countries. The issue might be on the agenda when President Obama pays his first official visit to the country in early November.

Further Reading


The China-Pakistan civil nuclear agreement was concluded in July despite opposition from Washington, and the China National Nuclear Corporation is moving ahead with plans to build two additional reactors in Pakistan. The plans had been put on hold in 2003 when China joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group, but the India-U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement led to a revival of the plans.

During the confirmation hearing for Cameron Munter to become the next U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Richard Lugar (Republican, Indiana), expressed his concerns over Abdul Qadeer Khan, father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, who has been accused of proliferating nuclear technology to other countries, including Iran and North Korea. Munter responded that he intends to "raise the question again of our repeated requests to have our people be able to interview Khan."

Pakistan is expected to become the next chair of the IAEA board. The appointment would be controversial because Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons and has refused to join the NPT, and has restricted access to foreign questioning of A.Q. Khan, but there is no formal rule against such an appointment. The position of the chair, currently occupied by Malaysia, rotates every year on a regional basis. The chair facilitates the decision making process within the IAEA but without authority to make unilateral policies.

Further Reading


Missile Defense

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said during a speech in Rome on September 17 that there remained a possibility for NATO allies to invite Russia to participate in a joint missile defense system in Europe. Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on the same day during a U.S. visit and expressed serious disagreements over the expansion of missile defense systems in Europe, and made clear that Moscow still worries that the system will be aimed at Russia despite U.S. insistence that the planned system will deal only with potential threats such as those from the Middle East. However, he also noted Russia’s interest in joining the missile defense plans if their concerns could be addressed. The NATO allies are scheduled to make a decision on moving forward with broader missile defense plans during NATO’s next summit to be held in Lisbon on November 19 and 20. During a NATO-Russia Council ministerial meeting in New York later in September, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on NATO and Russia to cooperate on missile defense, aiming for allies to endorse a plan at the summit with the longer term goal of NATO and Russia eventually working together on missile defense architecture. 

A test of the Airborne Laser, which the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) conducted off of the central Californian coast, failed on September 1. The system was able to track the mock ballistic missile, but was unable to destroy it. The MDA later blamed the failure on a software glitch that caused the laser to move “slightly off center” from its target. The MDA successfully completed a test in February 2010, with that test having been conducted at a shorter range.


Further Reading





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