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Arms Control

Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Conference

The first Preparatory Conference (PrepCom) for the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference opened on April 30 in Vienna. The two-week conference was immediately deadlocked when Iran objected to an agenda item that called for full compliance with the NPT. Iran wanted to amend this to read compliance with "all the provisions" of the treaty to ensure that disarmament by nuclear-weapons states (NWS) would be discussed, as well as compliance by non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS) with NPT safeguards against using atomic energy for military purposes. On May 8 a South African compromise proposal was finally accepted that will footnote the phrase to the agenda to specify that "all provisions" of the pact must be fully observed.

After the 2005 NPT Review Conference spent two thirds of its time arguing over the agenda and other procedural issues, this all seems depressingly familiar. This time Iran was isolated and clearly believed that the disputed clause referred to concerns about its nuclear program - not unsurprising given that that several States Parties referred to this in their opening General Statements. However, a large number of governments also called on the NWS to fulfil their Article VI (disarmament) obligations. South African Ambassador Abdul Minty, for example, turned the focus back to NWS when he said Britain's effort to update its Trident submarine deterrent was a step back from the need to "diminish the role of nuclear weapons in security policies". See www.reachingcriticalwill.org for further details of progress at the PrepCom as well as copies of government statements and working papers.

Unfortunately, the Treaty does not have a mechanism equivalent to the International Atomic Energy Agency that would assess compliance with Article VI, and these obligations are not as specific as the non-proliferation obligations. This deficit and attempts to remedy it was part of the focus of a draft BASIC Paper presented at a fringe meeting at the PrepCom on May 3. Organised jointly with VERTIC, and hosted by Ambassador Landman (Netherlands), the seminar discussed approaches to balanced implementation of Articles III and VI of the NPT, with VERTIC focusing on the former and BASIC the latter. The draft paper will be updated (to include a detailed review of each of the NWS' record in relation to the 13 'disarmament steps' agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference) and published as a BASIC Research Report in the near future.

 

Fissile material

On April 12 the Associated Press reported that independent arms control experts from 15 countries, under the auspices of the International Panel on Fissile Materials, are drafting a treaty to ban production of uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons that could rival a US text under consideration by the Conference on Disarmament.

On April 19 the United States and Japan signed off on an action plan which will jointly develop ways to prevent nuclear fuels from proliferating while promoting nuclear power generation across the world.

 

United States

Nuclear disarmament

The April 17 Defense Daily reported that the Air Force expects to start decommissioning 50 Minuteman III nuclear-tipped ICBMs later this year, reducing the size of the nation's land-based strategic deterrent by 10 per cent.

 

Nuclear re-armament

On April 22 the Washington Post reported on congressional skepticism about and opposition to Bush administration's plans to move ahead with a new generation of nuclear warheads. Congressional skepticism was furthered by the April release of the report The United States Nuclear Weapons Program: The Role of the Reliable Replacement Warhead by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. See this for detail and this April 30 Scientific American article. Also see these:

Transcript of April 27 Arms Control Association Briefing on the Future of the US Nuclear Weapons Complex and the Reliable Replacement Warhead
Nuclear Warheads: The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program and the Life Extension Program," Congressional Research Service, April 4, 2007.

 

Cooperative threat reduction

On April 19 the Partnership for Global Security released its analysis of the State Department Fiscal Year 2008 'WMD Threat Reduction' program budget request.

 

Preventing nuclear terrorism

The April 26 Guardian reports on the launch of a massive US program to scan for radioactive material that could be used by terrorists.

 

Commission on US Nuclear Strategic Posture

The Washington Post reported that the House Armed Services subcommittee voted May 2 to establish a year-long, bipartisan commission to reevaluate the US nuclear strategic posture for the post-9/11 world.

 

US-India Nuclear Cooperation

The Hindu reported here, here, here, and here on the latest round of technical negotiations with the United States over the implementation of the July 2005 nuclear agreement.

On April 20 the Washington Post reported that US officials, frustrated by the slow pace of negotiating final agreements with India on President Bush's deal to give it access to civil nuclear technology, have informed the Indian government that they want a major push next month to complete negotiations before the deal unravels from bureaucratic inertia and increased congressional anxiety of India's dealings with Iran.

This April 21 New York Times article reports on the debate in India over whether limitations on their nuclear activities offend the country's sense of sovereignty.

 

Iran

On April 12 IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran is operating only several hundred centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, despite its claims to have activated 3,000. For detail see Michael Levi's piece in The New Republic. In this April 13 article ISN Security Watch investigated the current status of the Iranian nuclear program.

The April 15 New York Times reported on how the Iranian nuclear program is motivating neighboring states to develop their own nuclear power programs.

On April 25 Asia Times reported on the new round of nuclear talks between Iran and the European Union.

Arms Control Wonk reported April 26 on the news that the United States is considering a "cold standby" proposal for Natanz that would allow Iran to retain, but not operate, some number of cascades.

Iran's former nuclear negotiator, Hossein Mousavian, was arrested on April 30 (the same day as Iran objected to the agenda at the NPT PrepCom in Vienna - see above) on espionage charges, as a result of "connections and exchange of information with foreign elements". Mousavian was a member of the Iranian nuclear negotiating team until 2005 and before that served as Iran's ambassador to Germany. He was a close ally of former President Rafsanjani.

 

North Korea

On April 14, as the New York Times reported, the first deadline for North Korea to shut down and seal its main facility for manufacturing nuclear weapons fuel expired, with no apparent move by the North to fulfill its commitments. See also BBC News.

This April 14 Asia Times article looks at the recent back and forth between the US and North Korea over moving forward with the agreement to disable North Korean nuclear facilities.

On April 30 the International Crisis Group released the briefing After the North Korea Nuclear Breakthrough: Compliance or Confrontation?

 

Publications

Abdul Mannan, Preventing Nuclear Terrorism in Pakistan: Sabotage of a Spent Fuel Cask or Commercial Irradiation Source in Transport, The Henry L. Stimson Center, April 2007.

Robert Alvarez, Radioactive Wastes and the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, Institute for Policy Studies, April 2007.

Analysis of House Strategic Forces Subcommittee Markup: FY2008 Defense Authorization, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, May 4, 2007.

Mark Fitzpatrick, Editor, Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, A.Q. Khan and the rise of proliferation networks, Strategic Dossier by The International Institute for Strategic Studies, may 2007.

Estimates of the US Nuclear Weapons Stockpile (2007 and 2012), May 2007

Lawrence Scheinman, Equal Opportunity: Historical Challenges and Future Prospects of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Arms Control Today, May 2007.

Particulate Depleted Uranium Is Cytotoxic and Clastogenic to Human Lung Cells, Chemical Research in Toxicology, Volume 20 Issue 4, April 2007.

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