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Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.

– George Stephanopolous
Host of ABC's This Week
January 1, 2005
Press Releases

Energy Dept. Reshuffles Nonproliferation Program

Wade Boese


The Department of Energy announced April 14 that it is shifting control of its program aimed at retrieving tons of previously exported, U.S.-origin nuclear fuel that could be used to build nuclear weapons. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said the move would “refocus and strengthen our international campaign to deny terrorists opportunities to seize nuclear materials.”

Abraham reassigned responsibility for the nuclear materials retrieval program from the Energy Department’s environmental management office to its National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Department sources said that the reorganization took place because the environmental management office, which is primarily tasked with cleaning up U.S. nuclear sites, was not viewed as giving the international effort sufficient priority. Following much debate, Energy Department officials settled on moving the program to NNSA after initially placing it with another office.

Established in 1996, the Foreign Research Reactor Spent Nuclear Fuel Acceptance Program is designed to return to the United States nearly 20,000 kilograms of enriched uranium, including roughly 5,000 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) previously exported to 41 countries. The program was launched amid growing concerns that terrorists or “rogue regimes” might buy or steal the material to build weapons.

In the early Cold War years, Washington had required all countries importing U.S. nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes to return it to the United States, but that policy lapsed in 1964.

The Clinton administration intended to limit the program to a 10-year time frame. U.S. officials wanted to pressure other governments to devise their own solutions for dealing with their nuclear waste so the United States did not become everyone’s “garbage can,” according to an Energy Department official interviewed April 23.

In addition, the retrieval program was seen as a necessary complement to another U.S. nonproliferation program to persuade states to convert their research reactors from using HEU fuel, which can be used directly to make nuclear weapons, to less bomb-ready low-enriched uranium fuel. To help convince states to make the switch, the United States needed to provide them with a viable HEU disposal option.

Under the retrieval program, states judged by the World Bank as being economically well-off pay for shipping the nuclear materials back to the United States, while Washington subsidizes the costs for poorer states. The U.S. government charges richer states for the retrieval process because, in part, it alone shoulders the long-term storage expenses.

Since the program’s inception, 1,100 kilograms of HEU have been shipped back to the United States. Depending on the bomb design, this amount could be used to build as many as 30 nuclear weapons.

However, a February 2004 program audit by the Energy Department’s inspector general (IG) reported that current projections indicate that the retrieval program is set to recover only about half of the eligible 5,000 kilograms of HEU by the program’s scheduled end.

A dozen states have declined to participate fully in the program for economic or political reasons. For instance, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands have their own programs either to store or reprocess the material. Yet, the IG audit assessed that at least 56 kilograms of U.S.-origin HEU is currently located in four “sensitive” states not involved in the program. The audit did not identify the four; but Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and South Africa are among current nonparticipants.

Abraham said NNSA’s new responsibilities for the program would include increasing the number of countries participating, expediting shipments, and extending the program’s life. He also called on NNSA to prioritize retrieving materials posing the greatest proliferation threat.

Abraham did not indicate whether the program might broaden its current scope. The IG report found that more than 12,000 kilograms of U.S.-origin HEU, nearly 80 percent of which is in Germany and France, does not currently fall under the rubric of the program. The program’s original mandate applied to enriched uranium shipped to foreign research reactors, but not to fast or special purpose reactors.

President George W. Bush’s Feb. 11 speech urging greater control of weapons-usable materials appeared to influence the reorganization. (See ACT, March 2004.)

Earlier this year, Energy Department officials testified that the retrieval program would be reassigned to the civilian radioactive waste management office. Reportedly, Undersecretary of Energy, Science, and Environment Robert Card, who resigned from his post April 18 for personal reasons, supported this approach. Many program officials, however, favored realignment with NNSA, which also helps Russia retrieve its exported nuclear fuel.

NNSA will ultimately share program duties with the civilian radioactive waste management office. Although a precise division of labor is still in the works, it is generally understood that NNSA will take the lead on policy and the waste management office will transport and store the retrieved nuclear materials.

Corrected online August 29, 2008. See explanation.

 

 

 

 

The Department of Energy announced April 14 that it is shifting control of its program aimed at retrieving tons of previously exported, U.S.-origin nuclear fuel that could be used to build nuclear weapons.

Brazil Denies IAEA Full Access to Enrichment Sites

Dan Koik


The Brazilian government continues to refuse to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to eyeball equipment at its uranium enrichment plant, citing the need to protect its industrial secrets.

IAEA inspectors who have recently visited enrichment facilities at Resende have arrived to find portions of the site and its equipment concealed. Brazilian officials acknowledged that portions of the plant had been hidden, arguing that Brazil was not required to disclose every detail of the process. They said that inspectors would be allowed to conduct tests on uranium entering and leaving the facility as well as on the surrounding area.

Brazil claims that their enrichment equipment is up to 30 percent more efficient than previously possible and that allowing visual inspections of the equipment will allow competitors to steal its trade secrets. Brazil, which has the world’s sixth-largest natural uranium reserve, hopes that a domestic enrichment facility will allow it to save between $10 and $12 million every year on fuel for its own nuclear reactors and, eventually, to export surplus fuel.

Brazil’s actions have annoyed IAEA officials and other diplomats, who say that, although Brazil is not suspected of developing nuclear weapons, its refusal to allow unfettered access sets a bad precedent at a time when the international community is trying to compel Iran and North Korea to accept similar inspections.

The controversy comes after statements by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and former Minister of Science and Technology Roberto Amaral raised doubts about Brazil’s commitment to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). In a speech last year, Amaral said that Brazil needed to maintain scientific research capabilities in all fields, including the knowledge necessary to produce nuclear weapons. Lula quickly distanced himself from the remarks and Amaral was among the first to resign during a reorganization of the government this year. But Lula’s own nonproliferation credentials had been tarnished when he criticized the NPT as a discriminatory treaty during his campaign for the presidency in 2002. (See ACT, November 2003)

Indeed, Brazilian diplomats have echoed Lula’s earlier remarks in the controversy over inspections of the enrichment facilities. They have taken particular umbrage at President George W. Bush’s February proposal that countries which did not already possess such enrichment technology be prevented from acquiring it. (See ACT, February 2003)

A Brazilian diplomat told The Washington Post, “We don’t like treaties that are discriminatory in their intent.” He said that Bush’s proposal was “unacceptable to Brazil, precisely because we see ourselves as so strictly committed to nonproliferation, to disarmament, to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”

In addition to the impasse over inspections, Brazil has refused calls by the IAEA, the United States and others to sign an Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA under the NPT. An additional protocol expand the IAEA’s authority to detect clandestine nuclear programs and increase the number of nuclear-related activities that a signatory must declare to the agency.

The United States has avoided intervening in the dispute, beyond expressing a desire that Brazil should agree to inspections and sign the Additional Protocol. “It’s a very sensitive subject but I believe our government has a terrific amount of confidence in Brazil,” said Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, “We believe they (Brazil) are committed to meeting their international obligations and this is a matter that is best handled by the IAEA in a multilateral way. We do not want to make this a bilateral issue, because quite frankly the U.S. has confidence that Brazil is a responsible actor.”

The United States also said that it would support Brazilian diplomat Sergio Duarte to chair the 2005 NPT review conference, although Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton used the opportunity to call on Brazil to resolve its differences with the IAEA so that “it doesn’t cast a pall over the review conference next year.”

 

 

 

 

The Brazilian government continues to refuse to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to eyeball equipment at its uranium enrichment plant, citing the need to protect its industrial secrets.

New Life for the MX Missile?

Wade Boese


A vestige of the Cold War, the mammoth, 10-warhead MX missile is on schedule to become history next fall just like the superpower conflict that spawned its creation. Yet, Pentagon planners are already contemplating the missile’s possible reincarnation.

Air Force Space Command has deactivated 26 MX intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), also known as “Peacekeepers,” and has 24 more to go, according to spokesperson Michael Kucharek. The last MX missile is supposed to be disassembled by September 2005.

The Bush administration is deactivating the entire MX force as part of its efforts to reduce the number of operationally deployed U.S. strategic nuclear warheads to comply with the terms of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty negotiated with Russia in 2002.

In decommissioning the MX group, the four-stage missile is taken apart in sections, beginning with its payload, and then the sections are shipped to Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah, for storage. The Pentagon plans to maintain the MX missile silos, rather than blow them up, in order to keep them available to house future missiles.

A February 2004 report by a task force of the Defense Science Board, an independent advisory body to the secretary of defense, recommended redeploying MX missiles armed with conventional warheads so as to be able to hit targets around the globe in no more than 30 minutes.

The Air Force Space Command plans to review the proposal as part of a study beginning this month. That effort will examine what systems should be developed to replace hundreds of U.S. Minuteman III ICBMs whose service lives start to expire in 2018. The United States currently deploys 500 Minuteman IIIs armed with 1,200 nuclear warheads.

 

 

 

 

A vestige of the Cold War, the mammoth, 10-warhead MX missile is on schedule to become history next fall just like the superpower conflict that spawned its creation...

U.S., Russia Still SORTing Out Nuclear Reductions

Wade Boese


Nearly two years after concluding a treaty to reduce the size of their deployed strategic nuclear forces by roughly two-thirds, neither the United States nor Russia have finalized plans on how to accomplish that task.

U.S. and Russian government officials met April 8-9 in Geneva to officially update each other for the first time on their implementation of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin signed May 24, 2002. Also known as the Moscow Treaty, the agreement commits the United States and Russia to operationally deploy fewer than 2,200 strategic nuclear warheads apiece by Dec. 31, 2012.

Washington currently deploys nearly 6,000 strategic nuclear warheads, and Moscow fields almost 5,000. These tallies do not account for stored strategic warheads or less powerful weapons known as tactical nuclear warheads that are not covered by SORT. The entire U.S. nuclear arsenal totals roughly 10,000 warheads, while Russia’s is estimated to be nearly double that.

SORT does not spell out how the United States and Russia should reduce their deployed nuclear forces, leaving each to proceed as it sees fit. In fact, the treaty leaves quite a bit of latitude: Warheads removed from deployment under SORT do not have to be destroyed but only stored separately from the missiles, bombers, and submarines used to deliver them. As Secretary of State Colin Powell explained to senators in July 2002 testimony, “The treaty will allow you to have as many warheads as you want.”

Still, the treaty does oblige the two sides to hold biannual meetings of a Bilateral Implementation Commission (BIC) to discuss their reduction activities.

George Look, a Department of State official who represents the United States in talks with Russia on START, headed the U.S. delegation to the first BIC meeting. Andrey Maslov, deputy director of the department for security and disarmament in Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led Russia’s delegation.

A Bush administration official told Arms Control Today on April 15 that the meeting “got off on a good foot” and involved an exchange of “future [reduction] plans to the extent they exist.” The official explained that both governments have “broad outlines” and some near-term benchmarks for lowering their deployed forces, but that exact schedules and specific force plans remain unsettled.

The official described Russian reduction plans and future force structure for 2012 as “less certain” than those of the United States.

Washington intends to cut its deployed forces to between 3,500 and 4,000 strategic warheads by 2007. To reach that interim goal, the Pentagon plans to complete deactivating all 50 10-warhead MX ICBMs (see sidebar) and finish converting four of its 18 Trident submarines from carrying nuclear-armed ballistic missiles to conventional armaments.

U.S. reduction plans beyond this stage are not fixed because the Bush administration has been rethinking how the future U.S. nuclear stockpile—deployed and stored—should be comprised.

As a result, the administration has not sent Congress a stockpile memorandum detailing its nuclear force structure plans, which previous administrations had generally provided on an annual basis.

According to a congressional source, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld finally signed a stockpile plan recommendation for the president on April 19, but its contents remain unknown. The Department of Energy had approved the plan months earlier. The lag between the two departments’ approvals reportedly stemmed from their differences over how large the stored or reserve stockpile should be.

Two years ago, the Pentagon indicated it planned to store up to 2,400 nuclear warheads in a state of readiness, enabling them to be returned to service within weeks, months, or at most three years after being removed from deployment. (See ACT, March 2002.) This so-called responsive force would constitute only part of the U.S. nuclear warhead reserve. It is unclear to what extent this proposal made it into the recently recommended stockpile plan.

How many warheads to keep in storage and what their state of readiness should be are just part of the administration’s deliberations. It is also exploring new types of warheads out of concern that the existing U.S. arsenal is not tailored to deterring terrorists and rogue regimes.

Reflecting this current of thought, a task force of the Defense Science Board, an independent advisory body to the secretary of defense, issued a February 2004 report describing the U.S. nuclear stockpile as “aging” and “of declining relevance.” As a remedy, the report called for a shift toward warheads with lower explosive yields and more penetration capabilities to increase in potential adversaries’ minds the possibility that the United States might use nuclear weapons. Research into such new capabilities is currently underway.

The Defense Science Board report stated, “It is American policy to keep the nuclear threshold high and to pursue non-nuclear attack options wherever possible.” Still, the report added, “future presidents should have strategic strike choices between massive conventional strikes and today’s relative large, high-fallout weapons delivered primarily by ballistic missiles.”

 

 

 

 

Nearly two years after concluding a treaty to reduce the size of their deployed strategic nuclear forces by roughly two-thirds, neither the United States nor Russia have finalized plans on how to accomplish that task.

Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution on Denying Terrorists WMD

Wade Boese


The UN Security Council April 28 unanimously adopted a resolution calling on states to take steps to deny and punish terrorists seeking weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. Despite its seemingly unobjectionable purpose, however, the U.S.-initiated resolution required several months of debate and revisions before winning approval.

In its final form, the legally binding resolution demands that all states adopt and enforce “appropriate, effective” laws and measures, such as export and border controls, to prevent nonstate actors from acquiring biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons, as well as missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles designed to deliver such arms. What constitutes “appropriate” and “effective” is not specified, however, and is left up to each state to determine “in accordance with their national procedures.”

Each state is also ordered to impose controls and safeguards on related materials that could be used to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The resolution further encourages states to work together to block any terrorist attempts to build, buy, steal, or trade dangerous weapons. Although China succeeded in removing the word “interdiction” from the resolution, the concept remains in a more ambiguous phrase calling on states to “take cooperative action to prevent illicit trafficking.” Beijing’s concerns stemmed from its wariness toward the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative, which is a loose coalition of 14 countries committed to intercepting threatening arms shipments at sea, in the air, and on land.

The measure also urges states to provide assistance to those without sufficient expertise or resources to implement the resolution.

James Cunningham, deputy U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, said April 28 that the resolution aims to check terrorists “seeking to exploit weak export control laws and security measures in a variety of countries.”

A U.S. official interviewed April 29 by Arms Control Today further explained that the purpose behind the resolution is to provide governments with the authority and leverage to do “everything within their jurisdiction to stop proliferators.”

Within six months, governments are supposed to submit a report on their intentions or completed actions under the resolution to a special committee charged with reporting on its implementation. Answering to the Security Council, the committee will operate for two years.

President George W. Bush first called for a resolution criminalizing proliferation in a Sept. 23, 2003, address to the UN General Assembly. (See ACT, October 2003.) It took the U.S. government nearly three months to draft its original proposal, another three months to convince the other four permanent members of the Security Council—China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom—to back it, and one last month to win the support of the rest of the 15-member Security Council.

“The negotiation process was not easy,” Germany’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said after the Security Council’s action. Germany held the council’s presidency in April, and U.S. officials wanted to get the resolution passed before the top position rotated in May to Pakistan, the member that expressed the greatest unease with the resolution.

Along with many other states, Germany voiced one of the central criticisms of the initial resolution: its lack of any reference to disarmament. Berlin and other capitals argued that nonproliferation and disarmament go hand in hand and that the surest way of preventing terrorists from getting weapons of mass destruction was for all states to eliminate such arms from their own arsenals.

The resolution now mentions disarmament in its preamble, partially satisfying Germany and other like-minded states. “We would have preferred, however, to see it highlighted in the operative section as well,” Pleuger stated.

Another primary concern of many states was the perception that the U.S. draft resolution initially authorized the use of sanctions and force.

The United Kingdom, the measure’s other leading champion, argued otherwise. “The resolution is not about coercion or enforcement,” assured Adam Thomson, who is the United Kingdom’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, in an April 22 debate on the resolution.

Pleuger attempted to clarify any lingering doubts following the Security Council’s approval. “The resolution does not foresee any unilateral enforcement measures,” he said, adding that any attempt to punish states for not living up to the resolution would require another Security Council decision.

The U.S. official interviewed April 29, however, dismissed the notion that the resolution lacked teeth. Noting that the council adopted the resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which recognizes punitive actions to preserve peace and security, the official stated, “[I]t’s the toughest mandate that the [United Nations] can give.”

Some states expressed concern that the resolution might be used to supplant existing arms control treaties and infringe on their treaty rights, such as the right to possess nuclear materials and facilities for peaceful purposes under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The resolution states, however, that “none of the obligations set forth in this resolution shall be interpreted so as to conflict with or alter the rights and obligations” of states-parties to the NPT or other arms control accords.

Pakistan feared the resolution might be used to pressure it to give up its nuclear arsenal. An early draft of the resolution mentioned the “importance” of all states to “adopt and fully implement” existing arms control agreements. Pakistan is not a member of the NPT, which does not recognize the possession of nuclear weapons by Pakistan, India, or Israel. To mollify Pakistan, the resolution’s exhortation was modified to apply only to current treaty states-parties.

Another amendment made to the resolution to satisfy Pakistan was a clarification that the resolution applies only to the future. Islamabad was clearly motivated by the desire to insulate itself against any attempt by other governments to punish or pressure it to take additional actions related to the exposure earlier this year of a massive international nuclear smuggling ring headed by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb program. (See ACT, March 2004.)

Pakistani Ambassador to the UN Munir Akram indicated April 28 that Pakistan considered the matter closed and that the resolution would not obligate Pakistan to cooperate with any government that felt differently or compel Pakistan to provide greater transparency of its weapons programs. “Pakistan will not accept any demand for access, much less inspections, of our nuclear and strategic assets, materials and facilities,” Akram said.

 

 

 

 

The UN Security Council April 28 unanimously adopted a resolution calling on states to take steps to deny and punish terrorists seeking weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery...

U.S. Accuses Burma of Seeking Weapons Technology

Paul Kerr


U.S. officials are warning that another new concern may be emerging in the clandestine world of proliferation: Burma.

During a March 25 House International Relations Committee hearing, Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Daley testified that the United States has “reason to believe” North Korea has offered surface-to-surface missiles to Burma (called “Myanmar” by the current regime). Daley said Washington has expressed concerns to Rangoon about possible transfers and said the United States would deal with such activity “vigorously and rapidly.” There is no indication, however, that Burma’s attempts have yielded any significant progress and Burmese officials deny accepting such offers.

Responding to questioning from the committee’s chairman, Rep. James Leach (R-Iowa), Daley confirmed that North Korea has provided some military hardware to Burma, but was unable to provide details about what had actually been transferred.

Daley also said that “the Burmese remain interested in acquiring a nuclear research reactor, [but] we believe that news reports of construction activities are not well founded.” Burma’s Deputy Foreign Minister U Khin Maung Win acknowledged in January 2002 that Burma had received “a proposal” from Russia to build a nuclear research reactor. A Burmese embassy official told Arms Control Today April 22 that Burma continues to receive “assistance…from Russia to construct a nuclear research reactor and trainees have been sent to Russia.”

Concerns that Burma is attempting to acquire missile and nuclear technology have surfaced before. In a September 2003 Washington Post op-ed, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) called Burma’s attempts to acquire a nuclear reactor “troubling,” arguing that even a civilian reactor poses “an unnecessary proliferation risk” because terrorists could steal nuclear material from it.

Keith Luse, a senior aide to Lugar on the Foreign Relations Committee, also expressed concern about Rangoon’s possible weapons activities during an April 9 speech at the Heritage Foundation. Asserting that “special attention must be provided to the growing relationship between Burma and North Korea,” Luse argued that the charge that Pyongyang may have transferred both nuclear technology and Scud missiles to Rangoon requires further investigation.

But the Burmese embassy official denied Luse’s charges, saying “there is no truth in statements indicating Myanmar is acquiring assistance in nuclear technology” from North Korea and pointing out that Rangoon does not have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.

According to a Feb. 13 statement from the Myanmar Information Committee web site, Rangoon “has no desire” to develop nuclear weapons, but “has the right to develop nuclear facilities for peaceful purposes.” In his 2002 statement, Win indicated that Burma is pursuing a nuclear research reactor to produce radioisotopes for medical purposes and to “train our young scientists and engineers.” Additionally, a Burmese Atomic Energy Department employee’s presentation to a 2003 conference in Japan states that “nuclear power introduction [is] desirable for [the] long term” and Rangoon “should consider small” 100-400 megawatt reactors, perhaps to be introduced around 2025.

As a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Burma is prohibited from developing nuclear weapons, but is allowed to have civilian nuclear facilities. Daley told the House International Relations Committee in October that Washington wants to be “absolutely certain” that any Burmese nuclear facility “not be directly usable for nuclear weapons and that it would be subject to the full panoply of international atomic energy safeguards.” Burma has a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Such agreements allow the agency to ensure that parties to the NPT do not divert civilian nuclear programs for military purposes. Burma has also signed the Treaty of Bangkok, which established a nuclear-weapons free zone in Southeast Asia when it entered into force in 1997.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has not publicly expressed any concerns about Burma and nuclear or missile-related activities. A November CIA report to Congress regarding weapons proliferation does not mention Burma, and an agency spokesperson interviewed April 12 declined to comment on Daley’s testimony. The CIA report does mention North Korea’s exports of ballistic missiles and related components to other countries—a longstanding U.S. concern.

 

 

 

 

U.S. officials are warning that another new concern may be emerging in the clandestine world of proliferation: Burma...

U.S. Shifts Focus in Iraq WMD Hunt

Paul Kerr


Charles Duelfer, the head advisor to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), provided some new details about the still-fruitless search efforts for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) during a recent Senate hearing but presented little new evidence regarding prohibited Iraqi weapons programs.

Duelfer testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee March 30 during a closed hearing. According to a public version of his testimony, Duelfer said the ISG—the task force charged with coordinating the U.S.-led search for Iraqi WMDs—is continuing to search for weapons, but is also beginning to focus on former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s related “intentions.”

Defending their failure to locate stockpiles of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons more than a year after the United States invaded Iraq, Bush administration officials have continued to insist that Iraq had “programs” to produce prohibited weapons. However, the ISG’s findings to date have produced only evidence of low-level, dual-use biological, chemical, and nuclear research efforts. Additionally, Duelfer’s predecessor, David Kay, told The Boston Globe in February that Iraq did not have the ability to produce weapons on a large scale. (See ACT, November 2003 and March 2004.)

Kay has indicated that Iraq had programs to develop missiles exceeding the 150-kilometer range permitted under relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. However, he presented no evidence Iraq was producing such missiles, apart from noting that Iraq had modified 10 cruise missiles as of the recent invasion whose range may have exceeded that permitted by the UN.

Emphasizing that he was providing the committee a “status report” rather than an assessment of the ISG’s findings, Duelfer provided little new information about Iraq’s weapons efforts. He did reveal that Iraq had “plans” to construct facilities to produce large supplies of some dual-use chemicals. Additionally, the ISG has found “documents” indicating that Iraq was working on a conventional weapons project that included “research applicable for nuclear weapons development,” Duelfer said.

The committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin (Mich.), stated after the hearing that Duelfer’s public statement was misleading because it selectively chose intelligence from a supporting classified report submitted to the committee the same day. Duelfer suggested “that Iraq had an active…WMD program while leaving out information that would lead one to doubt that it did,” Levin said. The charge is reminiscent of one of the most controversial aspects of the invasion: administration officials’ unequivocal prewar statements about the existence of such weapons on the basis of often dubious intelligence.

Duelfer also identified several “challenges” facing the ISG, placing special emphasis on the “extreme reluctance” of relevant Iraqi personnel to cooperate. Consequently, he said, the ISG remains ignorant of several aspects of Iraq’s WMD efforts, including whether Iraq concealed prohibited weapons or was planning to resume production of them in the future. Additionally, the ISG has “yet to identify the most critical people in any programmatic effort” because many have not been located or refuse to cooperate fully.

Duelfer pointed to the postwar destruction of many key documents and the lack of experienced ISG personnel as additional impediments to the ISG’s work. Kay told Congress in January that the destruction of important documents and other evidence would likely render the ISG’s final conclusions ambiguous.

Duelfer did not say how long the ISG’s investigation would take or make any predictions about the prospect for future weapons finds. This stands in contrast to Kay’s January assessment that “85 percent” of Iraq’s prohibited weapons programs “are probably known” and that the ISG’s search is unlikely to turn up any significant stock piles of prohibited weapons.

 

 

 

 

Charles Duelfer, the head advisor to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), provided some new details about the still-fruitless search efforts for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD)...

U.S. Defends New Nuclear Weapons Research

Wade Boese


U.S. research into new nuclear weapons designs will not spur other states to do the same nor impede U.S. nonproliferation efforts, the Bush administration asserted in a March 31 report to Congress. Other world officials suggest otherwise.

The Bush administration sought and won a repeal last year of a decade-old legislative ban on research into low-yield nuclear weapons with explosive power equal to or below five kilotons. (See ACT, December 2003.) Although granting the administration’s request, Congress demanded the administration assess by March 1 of this year how the repeal might affect efforts to halt worldwide nuclear proliferation.

Summing up its findings, the administration reported, “[T]here is no reason to believe that repeal has had or will have any practical impact on the pursuit of nuclear weapons by proliferating states, on the comprehensive diplomatic efforts ongoing to address these threats, or on the possible modernization of nuclear weapons by China or Russia.” The Departments of Defense, Energy, and State jointly submitted the report.

This conclusion contrasts sharply with the view of the United Nations top nuclear official, International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei. In a Feb. 12 piece in The New York Times, ElBaradei wrote, “We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security—and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use.”

Top foreign officials from other states, such as Canada and Sweden, have echoed ElBaradei. Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds lamented March 16, “[W]e see a trend towards an increased emphasis on nuclear weapons as part of security strategies and signs that a new generation of nuclear weapons might be in the making. Such pursuits would undermine the credibility of the nuclear nonproliferation regime and could prompt a new arms race.”

In addition to researching new low-yield weapon designs, the Bush administration is exploring possible modifications to existing nuclear weapons to destroy targets buried deep underground better.

Administration officials justify the development of new nuclear weapons on the grounds that they are responding to changes in threats to U.S. national security. They cite the necessity of convincing terrorists and rogue regimes that the United States would use nuclear weapons if need be. They claim that, in the absence of smaller or modified nuclear weapons, U.S. enemies may nurture a dangerous doubt about the willingness of U.S. policymakers to unleash a nuclear attack, fearing large numbers of civilian casualties or international censure. “Nuclear modernization efforts may well strengthen deterrence by altering an adversary’s perception of what the United States is able to do, or might be prepared to do in a crisis,” the report declared.

Yet, development of newer or smaller nuclear weapons would not translate into an increased willingness to actually use them, according to the report.

During an April 6 appearance in Washington, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov deemed it a “dangerous thing” to advance nuclear weapons as a possible tool to thwart terrorists. The Russian newspaper Izvestia quoted Yuri Baluyevskiy, another leading Russian defense official, in an April 9 article as contending, “If the nuclear weapons which were formerly seen only as a political instrument of deterrence become battlefield weapons, that will be not simply scary but super scary.”

To be sure, Russia could be subject to the same criticism. Russia possesses the largest arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons and concluded a nuclear exercise predicated on countering terrorism in February that the Kremlin touted as its largest in 20 years.

Still, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Feb. 18 that Russia might match U.S. arsenal changes. “As other countries increase the number and quality of their arms and military potential, then Russia will also need to ensure it has new-generation arms and technology,” Putin said.

Nevertheless, the Bush administration insisted in its report that “we believe there is relatively weak coupling between Russian and U.S. nuclear weapons [research and development] efforts.”
Already anticipating how its new nuclear weapons research will be received at a review conference of nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) states-parties next year, the administration set out to blunt the expected condemnation in its report. “Nothing in the NPT…prohibits the United States from carrying out nuclear weapons exploratory research or, for that matter, from developing and fielding new or modified nuclear warheads,” the report asserted. It further dismissed criticisms of U.S. nuclear policy as misguided because the United States has consistently reduced its nuclear arsenal and “[t]he nuclear arms race has, in fact, been halted.”

 

 

 

 

U.S. research into new nuclear weapons designs will not spur other states to do the same nor impede U.S. nonproliferation efforts, the Bush administration asserted in a March 31 report to Congress...

U.S. Punishes 13 Companies for Iran Deals

Wade Boese


A common Bush administration refrain is that foreign companies can either do business with the United States or “rogue regimes,” but not both. The United States underscored that message April 1 by imposing sanctions on 13 foreign companies for trading with Iran, while waiving penalties on six Russian companies which Washington says have mended their ways.

Sanctions were imposed on five companies from China, two from Macedonia, two from Russia, and one each from Belarus, North Korea, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates. The companies were said to have exported items that appear on international arms export control regime lists or that could aid Iran’s production of missiles or chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. Tehran is currently under intense international scrutiny for illegal nuclear activities exposed last year.

A Department of State official told Arms Control Today April 22 that Iran is aggressively seeking imports for all of its covert weapons programs. Because there is no expectation that Iran will stop trying to procure such items, the official said the focus must be on cutting off supply.

The newly sanctioned companies, some of which have been sanctioned previously, are prohibited from doing business with or receiving aid, arms, or other defense goods from the U.S. government for a two-year period.

The action has drawn some reproofs from the targeted countries. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced April 3 that “Russia rejects the very principle of the imposition by one state of sanctions on some structures of other states.”

It is not apparent that any of the sanctioned companies have dealings with the U.S. government, but the Bush administration still views the penalties as valuable—an assessment amply illustrated by the fact that it has imposed proliferation sanctions nearly 80 times. In contrast, the Clinton administration averaged about eight sanctions per year, according to June 2003 congressional testimony by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton.

U.S. officials insist that, even if a company has few ties with Washington, sanctions may shame another government to clamp down on companies under its control or dissuade other companies from doing business with the sanctioned party.

In a March 12 interview with Arms Control Today, Paula DeSutter, the assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, said that sanctions “force countries into less effective acquisition routes.” She cited Libya’s problems with its former chemical weapons program as evidence. “When the equipment came and wasn’t what they needed, they really didn’t have a complaint mechanism,” DeSutter explained.

 

 

 

 

A common Bush administration refrain is that foreign companies can either do business with the United States or “rogue regimes,” but not both. The United States underscored that message April 1 by...

GAO: U.S. May Miss Chemical Destruction Deadline

Michael Mguyen


The General Accounting Office is warning that the United States may once again fail to meet a key milestone for destroying chemical agents. More troubling, GAO noted, are warnings that the United States may miss the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) ultimate 2012 deadline if these problems continue.

The United States originally pledged to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the international body created to carry out the CWC, that it would destroy 45 percent of its stockpile by April 29, 2004. Last September, the United States asked for and received an extension to December 2007. (See ACT, October 2003.) But with the U.S. weapons depots having destroyed only 27 percent of the stockpile, GAO is warning that this new deadline may also slip. Testifying before a House subcommittee on April 1, Raymond Decker, director of defense capabilities and management at GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, cautioned that “the optimism to reach the 45 percent in 2007 is if all the stars line up exactly right.” He listed several unplanned requirements that have delayed operations in the past. To avoid these obstacles, he said that program planners need to be “forward-leaning, forward-thinking, anticipating anything that could derail or stop the schedule, and that has not happened.”

Delays could lead to a domino effect. Already, the earlier extension means that the United States will be unable to fulfill its original intention of destroying its entire stockpile by April 2007. The Department of Defense has indicated it will ask for a five-year extension of that deadline as well. Such a one-time, five-year extension of the final deadline is permitted under CWC rules, although member-states cannot formally submit extension requests until one year before the deadline.

GAO noted several sources for the delays, including continuing operational incidents, environmental permitting, and community opposition. Auditors expressed support for the program’s recent reorganization, despite concern that two of the nine sites with chemical agents and munitions remain under the control of the Defense Department’s Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program. The Army’s Chemical Materials Agency (CMA) maintains responsibility for the other seven.

The GAO report praised the chemical demilitarization programs for their improved coordination with federal and local emergency preparedness agencies but warned that costs related to the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) are likely to rise. Many states and communities near chemical agent and munitions sites have submitted additional CSEPP requests in excess of their approved budgets, forcing the diversion of funds from agent destruction to cover the unfunded requests.

Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities, noted that current estimates predict the last agent will not be destroyed until 2014. Such a timeline “place(s) our obligations and commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty at risk,” Saxton stated. “They are frankly unacceptable. We must find ways, and affordable ways, to accelerate the destruction of the stockpile.”

In his fiscal year 2005 budget request, President George W. Bush proposed $1.37 billion for chemical agent and munitions destruction programs in the Defense Department, a decrease from $1.5 billion appropriated in 2004.

Funding for the chemical demilitarization program has become a controversial issue. Contractors at the two sites operated by ACWA, directed to accelerate agent destruction, have provided cost estimates that exceed the program’s expected budget. This has delayed destruction while the issue is being resolved. Although the accelerated methods proposed would be faster than incineration, a method in use or planned use at five other sites, the Defense Department may scale back or abandon the acceleration effort if there is not sufficient budgetary support. As Michael Parker, CMA director, explained at the same hearing attended by Saxton and Decker, the two sites operated by ACWA “are going to be pressing up very, very hard on 2012, and depending on how the overall budget and the availability of funding to accelerate those sites will determine whether or not we’ll be able to hit that 2012 mark.”

In 1998, the Defense Department estimated that the cumulative cost of the chemical demilitarization program would be $14.6 billion but in 2001 revised that number to be $23.7 billion. GAO now believes the total program cost will be substantially more than $25 billion.

 

 

 

 

The General Accounting Office is warning that the United States may once again fail to meet a key milestone for destroying chemical agents. More troubling, GAO noted, are warnings that...

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