With the entry into force of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between
The nuclear weapons programs of other countries are major barriers to sustained Russian-U.S. reductions in nuclear weaponry and can encourage further proliferation in the absence of solid signs of commitment to the goals of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). These programs are cited again and again in critical commentary on the feasibility and even desirability of the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. If other states that possess nuclear weapons were to join in a reduction and elimination program, even with small initial steps, the effect on
A Relic of the Cold War
Historically, the involvement of other nuclear-armed states in nuclear reductions negotiations has not been a high priority for the
Four years ago, an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal revolutionized thinking in the
During his first year in office, President Barack Obama accepted the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and the step-by-step method of achieving it. On September 24, 2009, he presided over a summit meeting of the UN Security Council on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament. In Resolution 1887, the council resolved “to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons” and called on parties to the NPT “to undertake to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear arms reductions and disarmament.”
Roles for All States
The Security Council resolution did not exclude other nuclear-armed countries when it called for an undertaking by NPT parties to pursue negotiations relating to nuclear arms reduction and disarmament. No state was excused from the task of helping to create the conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons. The purpose was not to urge
In a 2010 essay published by the
One of the first things that states can do is promote enhanced transparency. The final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference welcomed “efforts towards the development of nuclear disarmament verification capabilities that will be required to provide assurance of compliance with nuclear disarmament agreements for the achievement and maintenance of a nuclear-weapon-free world.” It noted the cooperation between
Transparency is a crucial part of moving toward a nuclear-weapon-free world. The five countries that the NPT recognizes as nuclear-weapon states—
Agreed and Urgent Steps
These kinds of transparency and confidence-building measures might be necessary precursors to other, more concrete advances toward a nuclear-weapon-free world because reductions of weapons stockpiles likely would not be the first step that the owners of smaller nuclear arsenals would take. They would need to build more mutual confidence than currently exists and gain experience in working together. A wide array of cooperative actions is available to nuclear-armed states and to states with advanced civil nuclear programs. Many of these actions could be pursued without delay. They would block further nuclear proliferation, an essential element in the effort to eliminate the nuclear threat.
Entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was one of the “urgent” steps suggested in the Wall Street Journal op-ed. It would be a powerful nonproliferation tool. Adherence by all states to an IAEA additional protocol, a step that would promote international confidence that a country was not pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program, is another practical and realizable step. Several practical steps taken by individual states were identified in the documents emerging from the 47-state
Important early progress could be accomplished by a declaration among countries that have advanced civil or military nuclear programs that “ﬁssile materials removed from nuclear weapons being eliminated and excess to national security requirements will not be used to manufacture nuclear weapons; no newly produced ﬁssile materials will be used in nuclear weapons; and ﬁssile materials from or within civil nuclear programs will not be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.”
This language appears in a declaration issued by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1995. Early agreement on these points by all states with advanced nuclear programs would be a signal that they are determined to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. A coalition of states acting in this fashion would accelerate agreement by
Discussions about a treaty with a similar intent that would be applicable evenhandedly to all countries have been under way in the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, the UN forum for multilateral arms control negotiations, for several years. No serious negotiations have ever occurred, and the prospect for change in that situation is bleak. Nonetheless, these talks should continue. A binding and verifiable treaty should be negotiated, if possible, but the declaration described above would be much more than a stopgap measure. It would have value as a bridge to a vigorous joint enterprise to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Building a Coalition
International cooperation on sensitive nuclear issues should become easier if all nuclear-armed states visibly decided to opt out of nuclear weapons programs and states with advanced civil or military nuclear programs endorsed the CTBT and the declaration to disavow use of fissile material in future production of nuclear weapons. Russian and
Some of the measures are complex and therefore would require some time to negotiate; the relevant countries should start discussions now. Just beginning such talks would be a symbol of their intent and would tend to establish a nonproliferation coalition. These more complex measures include:
Settlement of regional disputes. Global agreements on nuclear weapons will not be sufficient in areas of the world where conflicts between regional powers have been deep-seated and intractable. A resolution of these differences will take a long time and will be multifaceted. One initial action could be regional negotiations on military confidence-building measures such as those that were negotiated as part of the
Multilateralizing uranium-enrichment programs. An international norm that sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle should be subject to multinational ownership, providing opportunities to invest and participate in the management of such facilities while protecting the technology involved, could reduce incentives for states to acquire their own national facilities. All plans for new commercial enrichment facilities should be based on the presumption that the facilities will be owned multinationally and their operations safeguarded by the IAEA. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) should give preference to such facilities when considerations about selling enrichment equipment and technology emerge. Selling enrichment technology is a rare event, but it would become even rarer if the NSG agreed on this approach. Existing commercial facilities or those under construction that are not already owned multinationally should be encouraged to convert to multinational ownership, with their operations safeguarded by the IAEA.
International interim storage sites for spent nuclear fuel. The storage of spent fuel in cooling pools adjacent to the reactors in which the fuel was used is a common practice, in the
The idea of an interim storage facility should be pursued with a greater sense of urgency in light of the dangers shown in the case of Fukushima Daiichi. Moreover, in connection with turning the goal of a world without nuclear weapons into a joint enterprise, an effort to create regional interim-storage facilities deserves a high priority. It would contribute to nonproliferation objectives by providing international safeguards for material that can be turned into weapons. Also, it visibly would strengthen the practice of shared responsibility.
Unilateral or parallel reductions or freezes in nuclear weapons stockpiles. New START provides a treaty basis for reductions in the nuclear arsenals of
Continued work with
At some relatively early point in a joint enterprise to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons, future Russian-U.S. reductions would become part of a multilateral framework. No longer would
At this point, it appears that four key conditions will need to be met during the course of reducing nuclear arsenals:
Procedures for challenge inspections to search for concealed warheads should have been established and satisfactorily exercised. U.S.-Russian agreements following New START are to deal with nondeployed warheads. Methods for monitoring declared nondeployed warheads have been studied for many years. These include the use of chain-of-custody techniques, such as tags and seals and perimeter and portal monitoring. Searching for concealed warheads is a different matter, and procedures akin to those used by the IAEA under its additional protocol or in the CTBT or CWC would come into play. This would require short-notice visits to suspect sites and some kind of managed inspections with agreed types of instrumentation.
As Sidney Drell and Raymond Jeanloz point out, “[I]t is not feasible to sustain a concealed stockpile of effective and reliable nuclear weapons by passive means.” Activities conducted by a state that tried to conceal a viable cache of nuclear weapons would be a tip-off to the likely location of undeclared concealed warheads. Such activities would justify a request for an on-site inspection on short notice. Effective operation for some years of a monitoring system that included short-notice visits on demand would be one condition for proceeding to eliminate all assembled weapons.
Warheads scheduled for elimination should have been dismantled under conditions that would assure that their actual dismantling can be confirmed, with the nuclear components placed in secure and monitored storage, pending ﬁnal disposition. The United States and Russia have discussed the mechanics of doing this at least twice, once bilaterally and later with the participation of the IAEA. Techniques have been proposed that would protect especially sensitive design information while confirming that the nuclear components of a weapon were inside a container queuing up for dismantling. The Nunn-Lugar program, adopted by the U.S. Congress under the leadership of Senators Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Nunn (D-Ga.), provides funding and expertise to promote nonproliferation activities, originally in the states of the former Soviet Union. Under this program, the
Delivery vehicles scheduled for elimination should have been veriﬁably destroyed and procedures should be in place to conﬁrm that dual-use systems—those capable of delivering conventional or nuclear warheads—have not been armed with nuclear warheads. This condition is necessary to assure that countries cannot break out rapidly from an agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons. It is an essential element of the preceding two conditions. Techniques for eliminating delivery vehicles such as bombers and ballistic and cruise missiles have been applied in the original START and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and will be applied in New START.
The complication presented by the use of conventional high-explosive warheads with delivery vehicles typically associated with nuclear weapons has been resolved until now by counting all such delivery vehicles as nuclear armed. That will not be appropriate as nuclear weapons are reduced to zero and a relatively large number of delivery vehicles are equipped with conventional warheads. A procedure wherein all nuclear-capable delivery vehicles are inspected to confirm the absence of nuclear weapons will be required. Previous agreements also have banned nuclear weapons storage sites within specified distances of missile sites. Some variation on this arrangement also will be necessary, as well as new cooperative measures designed to facilitate detection of illicit movement of nuclear warheads.
Compliance mechanisms should have been established to enforce nuclear agreements. Commissions designed to discuss and, if possible, resolve questions that arise in the process of implementing arms reduction treaties have been organized as integral parts of U.S.-Soviet/Russian nuclear reduction agreements; a similar commission is part of New START. Those consultative instruments are essential to the management of treaty compliance and probably would be adopted by other countries that have been engaged in bilateral adversarial relationships. As nuclear weapons reductions become a multilateral enterprise, bilateral or regional oversight of implementation will have to be supplemented by international arrangements by entities such as the IAEA or the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, established in December 1999 and terminated in June 2007, to monitor Iraq’s compliance with UN Security Council resolutions calling for elimination of all Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Creating a strengthened international capacity to enforce treaty compliance will be a daunting challenge, but it is one of the conditions that should have been met before countries get rid of the last of their nuclear weapons. There generally will be ambiguities about specific issues of compliance. For that reason, the basic requirements of a verification system are the capacity to present credible, preferably ironclad, evidence regarding any violations of a treaty. That means that an enforcement organization must have the technical expertise, the international legitimacy, and the freedom of access that will permit it to convincingly tell the public what it has discovered. Armed with that evidence, the UN Security Council, if necessary, can authorize actions under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. If one of the permanent members of the council is involved, other nuclear-weapon states can take actions to reconstitute nuclear arsenals that they had dismantled. This form of nuclear deterrence is likely to be the enforcement mechanism for many, perhaps most, cases of potential violations.
Progress should have been made in addressing and resolving regional disputes that threaten to trigger military actions. One of the merits of making the elimination of nuclear weapons a truly international enterprise is that it shines a spotlight on “frozen conflicts,” disputes that have festered for so long that they have become accepted as inevitable. Such disputes will have to be addressed and at least ameliorated, if not completely resolved, if global progress in the elimination of nuclear weapons is to be anything more than a lovely dream.
The regional disputes in the Near East, South Asia, and
The days when the interests of two superpowers dominated the world’s strategic nuclear agenda are over. The days when the five NPT nuclear-weapon states had a decisive voice in global nuclear weapons issues are fading fast. As Russian and
The level of nuclear forces that
The recognized nuclear-weapon states and the countries possessing advanced civil or military nuclear programs should join together to begin the process necessary to create conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons. These conditions can be identified and discussed even now, and implementing the first steps will provide the necessary real-world experience to fulfill those conditions and achieve the vision of a nuclear-weapon-free world. A number of near- and midterm measures are available and could be implemented in short order. Others are more difficult, but beginning to talk about them as a joint enterprise would be very important symbolically.
James Goodby is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at
4. American Presidency Project, “Joint Statement on the Transparency and Irreversibility of the Process of Reducing Nuclear Weapons,”
5. For a fuller discussion of this concept, see James Goodby and Geoffrey Forden, “Proceedings of MIT’s Workshop on Internationalizing Uranium Enrichment Facilities: Executive Summary,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology, October 20-21, 2008, http://web.mit.edu/stgs/pdfs/SummaryUpdatedMarch2009.pdf. For other papers associated with the workshop, see http://web.mit.edu/stgs/WorkshopOct2008.html.
6. Ellen Tauscher, “Addressing the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Internationalizing Enrichment Services and Solving the Problem of Spent Fuel Storage,”