UPDATES

Getting to Zero Update

In this issue

 

United States

Nuclear Doctrine

On July 20, 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates joined with the Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to submit to Congress a three-page statement on US national security and nuclear weapons, entitled "Maintaining Deterrence in the 21st Century." Among other things the White House wants Congress to fund US nuclear missile updates to dissuade possible attacks from countries such as Iran and North Korea. Military affairs analyst William Arkin notes that in the statement "there is the sense that the US is trying too hard to justify a policy that perhaps it realizes is becoming obsolete."

 

Nuclear Safety

In early September it was first reported by Military Times that a US B-52 bomber mistakenly loaded with six nuclear warheads flew from Minot Air Force Base, ND, to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., on Aug. 30, resulting in an Air Force-wide investigation.

The B-52 was loaded with Advanced Cruise Missiles (ACMs), part of a Defense Department effort to decommission 400 of the ACMs. But the nuclear warheads should have been removed at Minot before being transported to Barksdale, the officers said. The missiles were mounted onto the pylons of the bomber's wings. ACMs carry a W80-1 warhead with a yield of 5 to 150 kilotons and are specifically designed for delivery by B-52 strategic bombers.

This was a major breach of nuclear weapons transportation procedures as the Air Force banned the transport of nuclear weapons mounted under the wings of aircraft in 1968 after 27 nuclear-armed Air Force aircraft crashed between 1950 and 1968. The Washington Examiner reported September 7 that Defense Secretary Robert Gates initially wanted to release more information about the incident but was talked out of it by Air Force officers.

 

Further reading

See CNN, the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Global Security Newswire, and the Federation of American Scientists Strategic Security blog.

Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate of S. 1138, Nuclear Safeguards and Supply Act of 2007, July 20, 2007.

 

Nuclear Test Ban

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library released declassified recordings of President Kennedy discussing the debate over a nuclear test ban in 1963. See the Library news release here.

 

Nuclear deal with India

On July 20 the United States and India finalized an implementing agreement for their landmark civilian nuclear deal after extensive talks in Washington. The nuclear cooperation agreement between the United States and India has been the subject of much debate over various issues. One of them was India's insistence on a US guarantee that India will receive fuel supplies for the lifetime of reactors. See more here, here, here and here. Commentary from the Economist Intelligence Unit is here and here and from Yale Global Online here. Analysis from the Arms Control Association is here. See here for commentary from the Federation of American Scientists Strategic Security blog. The Global Security Newswire reports on criticism from US lawmakers here.

Another controversy is that Australia appears set to lift a ban on uranium sales to India, with senior ministers expected to overturn a policy of selling only to signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. See more here and here.

 

Further reading

The perils of non-proliferation amnesia

The nuclear deal: the larger picture

Indo-US Nuclear Deal: A Curtain Raiser -III

 

United Kingdom

The Herald reported September 4 that British scientists are secretly working on the design of a revamped nuclear warhead at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire. The alleged design for a new nuclear warhead is reported to be similar to the US Reliable Replacement Warhead program. Dubbed the 'High Surety Warhead', the weapon under construction is expected to have fewer degradable components and an extended lifespan. The new warheads are intended to be dependable enough to eliminate the need for underground tests, which would be in violation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

 

Iran

On August 30 the IAEA issued a report on Iranian cooperation with international inspectors. A framework agreement (which formed part of the IAEA report) between Iran and the IAEA to clear up outstanding ambiguities over Iran's nuclear program was met with suspicion in Washington and some European capitals. Mohamed ElBaradei said that it could represent the last chance for Iran to engage in transparency. The IAEA report urges Iran to ratify and implement the Additional Protocol, and said:

Confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme requires that the Agency be able to provide assurances not only regarding declared nuclear material, but, equally important, regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, through the implementation of the Additional Protocol.

In response Iranian spokesperson Hosseini said that Iran would not accept the Additional Protocol until Iran's file was returned from the UN Security Council.

Two days after the release of the IAEA report President Ahmadinejad claimed that Iran is running more than 3,000 centrifuges used to enrich uranium The claim appeared at odds with the IAEA report, which puts the number much lower - at close to 2,000. For details see ArmsControlWonk. A critique of the IAEA report by the Institute for Science and International Security is here.

Over the summer Western powers delayed until September efforts to toughen UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program in hopes of improved cooperation with UN inspectors.

The Washington Post reported July 26 that US presidential candidates agree Iran should not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons but their prescriptions for preventing such an outcome are vague.

On July 25 a Russian subcontractor said the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran cannot be completed by the fall of 2007 as suggested by Iranian authorities and will only be commissioned a year later.

On July 23 British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that tougher sanctions are likely against Iran over its contested nuclear program while also declining to rule out the possibility of future military action against the country.

 

Further Reading:

Coping with Iran: Confrontation, Containment, or Engagement? A Conference Report, RAND Conference Report, 2007.

Transcript of "Living with a Nuclear Iran and North Korea?" Independent Institute, June 21, 2007.

Ephraim Kam, A Nuclear Iran: What Does it Mean, and What Can be Done, Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv University, Memorandum 88, February 2007.

 

North Korea

On July 18, the IAEA confirmed that North Korea has shut down its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, along with four related nuclear facilities: a plutonium separation facility; a nuclear fuel fabrication plant; and two larger, incomplete nuclear reactors. The shutdown has, for now, ended North Korea's production of plutonium, which had been ongoing since 2003. North Korea's nuclear envoy demanded that his country be given power-generating reactors as a reward for eventually dismantling its atomic weapons program.

US envoy Chris Hill detailed progress on implementing the agreement on the July 23 Jim Lehrer Newshour. On September 2 he said North Korea had agreed to disable its main nuclear fuel production plant by the end of the year and to account to international monitors for all of its nuclear programs, including what American intelligence agencies say they believe was a second, secret program purchased from Pakistan.

 

Further reading

Scott Snyder, Responses to North Korea's Nuclear Test: Capitulation or Collective Action, The Washington Quarterly 30, No. 4 (2007): 19-32.

Transcript of "Living with a Nuclear Iran and North Korea?" Independent Institute, June 21, 2007.

 

Nuclear Terrorism

The July 23 issue of Newsweek magazine reported on how the US Government Accountability Office ran a sting to procure enough radioactive material to build and dirty bomb and how legally easy it was to find suppliers.

 

Further reading

A Risk and Economic Analysis of Dirty Bomb Attacks on the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Risk Analysis, Vol. 27, No. 3, 2007

William C. Bell and Cham E. Dallas, "Vulnerability of Populations and the Urban Health Care Systems to Nuclear Weapon AttackExamples From Four American Cities," International Journal of Health Geographics, 2007, 6:5.

Ashton B. Carter, Michael M. May, and William J. Perry. "The Day After: Action Following a Nuclear Blast in a US City." The Washington Quarterly 30, No. 4 (2007): 19-32.

 

Arms Control

The Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and The Norwegian Defence Command and Staff College will host the seminar Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century: Old Players, New Game - New Players, Old Game from 6 to 7 December in Oslo, Norway. This seminar focuses on the nuclear-weapon threat posed by state and non-state actors.

The September 2 Sunday Times ran excerpts from a newly published book detailing both the export activities of Abdul Qadeer "A Q" Khan and the procurement of nuclear technology by Pakistan.

 

Further reading

Detailed background on the history and status of the nuclear test ban debate is available in Nuclear Weapons: Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, updated July 12, 2007.

Adrian Levy and, Catherine Scott-Clark, Deception: Pakistan, the United States and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons, Walker & Company, October 16, 2007.

Jessica Tuchman Mathews, Reinvigorate Nuclear Nonproliferation, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Issue #6, Fall 2007.

Jimmy Carter, Undermining peace, Guardian Comment Is Free, September 9, 2007.

Non-State Actors and Nonproliferation: The NGO Role in Implementing UNSCR 1540, Henry L Stimson Center, August 6, 2007.

Cynthia Kelly, The Manhattan Project: The Birth of the Atomic Bomb in the Words of Its Creators, Eyewitnesses and Historians, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, September 17, 2007.

The audio recording of the Nonproliferation Review Luncheon Briefing held on July 24th, 2007 is now available, along with these two articles from the July issue, "Japan Tests the Nuclear Taboo" and "US Strategic War Planning After 9/11".

 

Controls on the Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Global Security Newswire reported August 8 that US lawmakers are planning to consider six bills that address an international nuclear fuel bank proposal that experts say could be a useful tool to stem the spread of uranium enrichment technology.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations announced July 28 that Southeast Asian countries will set up a safety watchdog to ensure that nuclear power plants in the region are not used to produce weapons or aid terrorists and other criminal groups.

 

Further reading

Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom, A Report of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center On the International Atomic Energy Agency's Nuclear Safeguards System.

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