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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
Press Releases

Iran and IAEA Agree on Action Plan; U.S., Europeans Not Satisfied

Paul Kerr


Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reached agreement in early April on an action plan to complete the agency’s investigation of Iran’s nuclear program. As a critical IAEA meeting approaches, however, Tehran’s simultaneous decision to move forward with two nuclear projects seems likely to perpetuate international suspicions that Tehran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability.

After meeting with senior Iranian officials in Tehran April 6, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei reached an “agreement on a joint action plan with a timetable to deal with outstanding issues regarding the verification of Iran’s nuclear program,” according to an IAEA press release. ElBaradei suggested April 6 that the plan “will hopefully pave the way for progress.” Among other steps, the plan calls for Iran to provide the IAEA with information about its centrifuge program by the end of April.

In May, ElBaradei is to present a report on Iran’s progress. The IAEA Board of Governors will consider the results in June during what is widely seen as a crucial meeting.

The agreement marked the latest attempt to put a satisfactory end to a nearly two-year-old investigation into Iran’s effort to acquire a nuclear fuel cycle. Last October, after months of hesitant cooperation, Iran struck a deal with Germany, France, and the United Kingdom in which it promised to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation, sign an additional protocol to its existing safeguards agreement with the IAEA, and suspend uranium-enrichment work. That same month, Iran provided the agency with what was supposed to be a complete declaration of all its nuclear activities.

Both Iran’s declaration and the agency’s investigation provided enough information for the board to adopt a resolution the following month condemning Iran’s pursuit of undeclared nuclear activities in violation of its IAEA safeguards agreement. Such agreements commit states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to provide sufficient transparency in their nuclear activities to assure other member states that they are not diverting civilian nuclear activities to military purposes.

Moreover, a February report from ElBaradei said Iran omitted several nuclear activities from its October declaration. Prodded by this report, the board’s March resolution called on Iran “to resolve all outstanding [nuclear] issues.”

In particular, the resolution called on Iran to answer questions regarding traces of uranium found at two facilities associated with Iran’s gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program; Iran’s experiments with a possible nuclear-weapon trigger; and the scope of Iran’s uranium-enrichment programs. (See ACT, March 2004.)

As part of the April action plan, Iran has agreed to provide the agency with “detailed information regarding aspects of its centrifuge program” by the end of April. Gas centrifuges can be used to produce highly enriched uranium for use in nuclear weapons, as well as low-enriched uranium for use in civilian nuclear reactors. NPT states-parties are permitted to own uranium-enrichment facilities without restraint, but they are only supposed to operate these facilities under a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, which monitors the use of the equipment. The board already condemned Iran in November 2003 for secretly testing centrifuges with nuclear material—a violation of its safeguards agreement.

In a step designed to ease these concerns, Iran agreed in April to further comply with a key provision in its October pledge to the Europeans: suspending its uranium-enrichment activities. Mohammad Saeedi, an official from Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told Reuters April 12 that Iran had stopped making centrifuge components 3 days before, thereby fulfilling a February pledge to the IAEA. ElBaradei’s February report stated that Iran had suspended work on its centrifuge facilities but had continued to assemble some individual centrifuges and manufacture related components.

This month, Iran is also set to provide the IAEA with a fuller declaration of its nuclear-related activities. This declaration will be Tehran’s first under its additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. The protocol requires Iran to declare significantly more nuclear-related activities than it would under its original safeguards agreement and provides the IAEA with more freedom to investigate any questions or inconsistencies. Since agreeing to conclude the protocol as part of its October deal with the Europeans, Iran has signed the agreement and has pledged to act as if it were in force until it is approved by the Majlis, Iran’s parliament. (See ACT, January/February 2004.)

Upcoming Controversy Likely


Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told reporters April 6 that “Iran strongly expects” its outstanding issues with the IAEA to be settled at the June board meeting. However, several recent Iranian actions seem likely to perpetuate controversy over its nuclear programs.

In particular, Iran’s March decision to postpone for about two weeks an IAEA inspection scheduled for that month may impede the board’s ability to render a definitive judgment about Iran’s programs. A Department of State official told Arms Control Today April 20 that the postponement not only led to a two-week delay in agency inspections of civilian nuclear-related sites but also caused a significant delay in inspections of military facilities. As a consequence, the official said, samples taken from these sites may not be ready in time for the June board meeting. IAEA spokesperson Melissa Fleming confirmed the next day that samples “taken during recent inspections might not be available” in time for the report.

Inspecting military sites is important to the IAEA’s investigation because seven of the 13 Iranian “workshops” involved in producing centrifuge components are located on military sites, according to a March 30 agency document. IAEA inspectors visited one military facility in January, agency officials said.

Two other decisions from Tehran also seem certain to raise questions about its nuclear intentions. The State Department official said that Iran announced it will start construction on a heavy-water nuclear reactor in June, terming the decision a “deeply troubling move.” Tehran had previously announced its plans to construct the reactor sometime in 2004 at Arak. (See ACT, December 2003.) U.S. officials fear the reactor might be part of a nuclear weapons program because it is too small to contribute significantly to a civilian energy program but could generate plutonium for reprocessing into fissile material. Iran claims the reactor is for producing isotopes for civilian purposes and that its size is appropriate for that purpose.

Tehran also caused a stir when, according to Agence France Presse, Aghazadeh announced March 28 on state television that Iran would begin “experimental production” in April at its uranium-conversion facility at Isfahan. The facility can convert uranium oxide into uranium hexafluoride—the feedstock for centrifuges. Iran announced the facility’s completion in March 2003.

This is not the first time that the Isfahan facility has been the subject of controversy. The IAEA board said in its November resolution that Iran violated its safeguards agreement by failing to report nuclear experiments at the facility, in much the same way it failed to report similar activity related to its uranium-enrichment program.

An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson told reporters April 5 that Tehran only intends to produce uranium tetrafluoride—an intermediate step for producing uranium hexafluoride—at the facility, which IAEA inspectors visited in March. IAEA officials said that Iran had given prior notice to the agency that it would begin uranium conversion in March, adding that these “conversion activities” do not violate Iran’s October agreement to suspend its enrichment activities.

The State Department official said, however, that Washington believes Iran should be proscribed from conducting any conversion activities related to uranium hexafluoride production, including producing uranium tetrafluoride.

Iran’s European interlocutors also expressed their irritation at Tehran’s decision. On March 31, the British, French, and German governments stated that the “announcement sends the wrong signal about Iranian willingness to implement a suspension of nuclear enrichment-related activities.”

According to Agence France Presse, French President Jacques Chirac emphasized during an April 21 meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi that Tehran should continue to cooperate with the IAEA. A French Foreign Ministry spokesperson stressed April 20 that Iran needs to provide “confidence” that it is complying with its NPT obligations in order to receive cooperation on civilian nuclear power—another component of the October agreement.

U.S. officials have been dismissive of Tehran’s claims of cooperation and have argued that Iran is likely trying to hide aspects of its centrifuge and other nuclear programs, a charge Tehran has repeatedly denied.

“The delay in allowing inspectors into the country, the announcement about Isfahan, I think are further indications that Iran has still not made a strategic determination to surrender its nuclear program,” said Mitchell Reiss, State Department director of policy planning, in an April 9 interview with Arms Control Today. “What we appear to be seeing are tactical maneuvers to do as little as possible to avoid censure.”

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton went so far as to say that “Iran is lying” at an annual meeting of NPT states-parties in New York.

“It is clear that the primary role of Iran’s ‘nuclear power’ program is to serve as a cover and a pretext for the import of nuclear technology and expertise that can be used to support nuclear weapons development,” Bolton said April 27.

Still, the June meeting appears unlikely to produce either Washington’s or Tehran’s preferred outcomes. Although Iran may not get the clean bill of health it desires, the United States may also be unable to provide sufficient proof to convince other countries to find Iran in noncompliance with its obligations under the NPT. Such a finding requires the board to refer the matter to the UN Security Council.

A State Department official argued June 20 that the lack of full sampling results from the military sites will make it more difficult for Washington to push the board to take “the strongest possible response” at the June meeting, adding that U.S. leverage will largely depend on the “tone and substance” of ElBaradei’s report. Washington may encourage the IAEA board to say it “cannot verify” Iran’s suspension of its centrifuge program because of the country’s demonstrated ability to manufacture relevant components at various locations throughout the country, the official said.

Whether Washington will push for the board to find Iran in noncompliance is unclear. The United States not only failed to persuade the board to adopt such a stance in its November resolution, it did not even attempt to do so during the debate over the March resolution.

Corrected online August 29, 2008. See explanation.

 

 

 

 

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reached agreement in early April on an action plan to complete the agency’s investigation of Iran’s nuclear program. As a critical...

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...

Congress Appears in No Rush to Pass Additional Protocol Implementing Legislation

Michael Cowden


The implementing legislation for an additional protocol to the U.S. safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) remains tied up in a Senate committee, but Republicans and Democrats hope to see action taken on the bill before the July 4 recess.

Both, however, acknowledge that the process could take longer than expected.

“This is something that will take some time,” Andy Fisher, spokesperson for Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), told Arms Control Today. “Numerous committees in both houses have an interest in the legislation.”

After failing to detect Iraq’s pre-1991 nuclear weapons program, the IAEA negotiated a new, more invasive inspection regime for countries who agree to participate. Codified in the 1997 model Additional Protocol to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the tougher rules allow IAEA officials to conduct short-notice inspections and require participating states to provide more information to the IAEA about their nuclear material and nuclear weapons-related equipment.

The United States signed such an additional protocol in 1998. But in approving its version in March, the Senate, at the behest of the Bush administration, inserted broad exemptions to protect military as well as commercial nuclear secrets. (See ACT, April 2004.)

“I do not believe that the additional protocol will be a burden for the United States,” said Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a March 31 statement.

Although other signatories to the treaty do not enjoy such exemptions, U.S. participation is seen as an important symbolic step in encouraging other countries, such as Iran, to sign an additional protocol.

A Vienna-based diplomat said that U.S. implementation of an additional protocol would set a good example for countries that have not yet done so. He said it also could help prevent other countries from developing nuclear weapons, citing Libya’s nuclear program as something that could have been stopped by a protocol.

The implementing bill was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December. Although the Senate unanimously endorsed an additional protocol itself on March 31, no vote has been scheduled in that chamber for the implementing legislation, which, unlike a treaty, must be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Implementing legislation describes the nuts-and-bolts process of how the treaty will work under U.S. law and is needed before it can be enforced domestically. The Senate also insisted that such implementing legislation be in place less than six months after the United States chooses to deposit its instrument of ratification to the agreement—the final step needed to become international law. The Bush administration has not yet carried out that step.

Fisher declined to suggest a timeline for Senate action, but staffers from each party predicted the measure will go to the floor in late June or early July.

One staffer said jurisdictional issues are mainly to blame for delays. The implementing legislation was initially referred to the Foreign Relations panel, but many of its provisions, like the ones concerning the issuing of warrants under U.S. law, pertain to issues that are usually handled by the Judiciary Committee.

Implementing legislation has yet to be introduced in the House.

A Democratic congressional staff member suggested that companion legislation would not be introduced in the House until after the Senate approves its version. He suggested, moreover, that the legislation would pass quickly once introduced in the House because, he said, the White House is eager to put additional diplomatic pressure on Iran.

 

 

 

 

The implementing legislation for an additional protocol to the U.S. safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) remains tied up in a Senate committee...

After Long Delay, Energy Department Releases Weapons Advisory Committee Report

Gabrielle Kohlmeier


Succumbing to pressure from nongovernmental groups and members of Congress, the Department of Energy has finally turned over a closely held report by an internal advisory committee that critiques the department’s weapons and nonproliferation activities. Although generally favorable toward the “vision and scope” of the strategic plan of the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the report questions the prioritization of NNSA activities, as well as several Bush administration initiatives, including enhancing test-site readiness and researching advanced nuclear concepts.

The report, finalized March 1, 2002, is composed of two subcommittee reports of an NNSA advisory panel established to review science and technology programs related to the nuclear weapons stockpile and detection of nuclear weapons proliferation. The Defense Programs subcommittee reviewed science and technology in the Stockpile Stewardship Program, while the Nuclear Nonproliferation subcommittee assessed science and technology in the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. The NNSA advisory group was created in 2001 by then-NNSA administrator John Gordon, who wanted the committee to reflect diverse scientific and philosophical viewpoints. Among the 15 members of the panel were subcommittee lead coordinators Jeremiah Sullivan and Raymond Jeanloz; James Schlesinger, who has served as secretary of energy and secretary of defense; and physicist and arms control specialist Sidney Drell. But the group was disbanded in mid-2003 by newly appointed NNSA administrator Linton Brooks. (See ACT, September 2003.) Requests for the committee’s reports from both nongovernmental groups and congressional officials remained unsuccessful until March when Global Security Newswire obtained a copy in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The report offers a positive appraisal of various NNSA programs and operations, pronouncing that “there is a great deal that is progressing well.” It does, however, express concerns over certain operational inefficiencies and several individual programs. Particular criticism was leveled at management of the stockpile life extension program as well as at test readiness and advanced-concepts design initiatives, two areas for which the Bush administration has requested large budget increases the last few years. (See ACT, March 2004.)

The panel warned that NNSA’s stockpile life-extension program, which certifies and assesses the performance, safety, and reliability of aging or refurbished weapons, had modified its procedures in a way that risked introducing uncertainties into the reliability of the weapons.

The report also suggested that NNSA claims that the United States would require at least two to three years to restart nuclear testing are exaggerated. Indeed, the report asserts that the committee had been told that, even without additional preparations, the United States might be able to perform a test in as little as three to six months. The report elaborates that test readiness “cannot be further evaluated without considering specific scenarios.”

The NNSA’s advanced concepts initiative, which includes research on low-yield nuclear warheads and so-called nuclear bunker busters, also elicited concern. (See ACT, March 2003.) The report noted that the purported advanced concepts presented to the committee “did not involve any radical departures from previously considered (or even implemented) systems.” It also complained that “concepts that have been discussed quite forcefully in recent times have yet to be examined in sufficient technical depth to determine that their potential military benefits justify the costs involved.” Congressional budget appropriators expressed similar concerns last November when they cut administration budget requests and attached conditions on the release of funds for research for the current fiscal year. (See ACT, September and December 2003.) In its recommendations for improving efficiency, the NNSA advisory committee urged that all new design concepts be thoroughly reviewed.

The reasons for the protracted disclosure of the report to the public and members of Congress remain unclear. In an interview with Arms Control Today, Jeanloz, the lead coordinator of the stockpile stewardship subcommittee, said the panel had “no intent to find fault or to give a pat on the head, but to make a critical assessment.” Jeanloz speculated that the new NNSA leadership may have just wanted to be doubly sure that the report did not contain sensitive information.

On the other hand, Sullivan, the lead coordinator on the defense nuclear nonproliferation subcommittee, indicated that the failure to release the report was part of NNSA’s general discomfort with an outside advisory board. He told Arms Control Today that “NNSA just didn’t know what to do with an advisory committee. Much of what we wanted to do was to establish that [the Energy Department] had valuable resources and expertise that are important to present and future issues of nonproliferation—nuclear and chemical and biological.” Sullivan underscored the significance of the advisory committee’s termination, averring that “every organization of that size and importance needs an independent review.”

Some members have agreed, deploring the loss of a critical, independent review of NNSA programs. In a letter to Brooks, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) cited the disbanding of the advisory committee as an indication that the Energy Department “is seeking to close itself off from any independent outside expert advice regarding its nuclear weapons programs.” No comparable panel has been established to evaluate NNSA programs since the dissolution of the advisory committee last year.

 

 

 

 

 

Succumbing to pressure from nongovernmental groups and members of Congress, the Department of Energy has finally turned over a closely held report...

GAO: Deployment Looms, But Missile Defense Remains Unproven

Wade Boese


Some Pentagon projects to build missile defense systems are showing progress, but it remains uncertain whether key elements set for deployment this September will work as intended, according to an April 2004 report by the General Accounting Office (GAO).

“System effectiveness will be largely unproven when the initial capability goes on alert at the end of September 2004,” the GAO concluded in its latest critical review of U.S. missile defense programs. The congressional watchdog further charged that lawmakers and other policymakers might not be fully aware of the various defenses’ true capabilities because the programs are always in flux and lack criteria and benchmarks for measuring progress.

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) oversees research and development of U.S. missile defenses. It is currently striving to field the initial elements of some of those systems by this September in accordance with a deployment goal set by President George W. Bush in December 2002.

A long-range ballistic missile launch by North Korea, which has not flight-tested such a missile, is postulated as the near-term threat driving the fall deployment. MDA Director Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish testified to senators April 21, “[W]e have very high odds of engaging and successfully destroying the threats that we think we’re going after right now.”

The GAO did report that construction of the new ground-based interceptor base at Fort Greely, Alaska, remains on track, but it said that the initial deployment would be scaled back during 2004 and 2005.

Current MDA plans comprise deploying up to 20 ground-based interceptors at two sites, putting nine sea-based interceptors aboard three ships, and upgrading two land-based radars and outfitting 10 ships to help track enemy ballistic missiles.

Earlier plans called for up to 20 sea-based interceptors and 15 ships with improved missile-tracking capabilities. The number of deployed ground-based interceptors is also likely to fall short of expectations because of interceptor test and production delays, GAO predicted.

Moreover, GAO questioned whether the interceptors that will be deployed would work as intended. The report pointed out that both the ground- and sea-based interceptors have had problems with their kill vehicles and that subsequent technical fixes have not been verified through flight testing. The kill vehicle is the component designed to seek out and collide with an enemy warhead in space.

More broadly, the interceptors have only been subjected to a modest number of “highly scripted” developmental tests that do not replicate realistic conditions—a limitation that GAO recommended should be remedied by subjecting the systems to more challenging experiments.

The Pentagon has heard such critiques in the past and replied as it has before that real-world testing of missile defenses is only possible after the systems are built and deployed.

Under its new spiral development approach, the Pentagon aims to field weapons systems earlier in their development cycle and improve them incrementally. Such an evolving system is more responsive to new or changing threats and provides some defensive capability sooner rather than later, the Pentagon argues.

Although acknowledging that such flexibility may be useful in helping defenses keep pace with threats, GAO reported it also diminishes program accountability.

GAO called upon MDA to establish future cost, schedule, and performance baselines for its programs, so Congress can exercise better oversight and the armed services can more accurately budget how much a particular defense will cost them to procure and operate.

Current MDA estimates place the cost of missile defense programs at $53 billion between fiscal year 2004 (which began Oct. 1, 2003) and fiscal year 2009, but GAO said the total does not include figures for buying, producing, operating, and maintaining future systems. The sum does include deploying the initial missile defense elements because those activities are categorized as research and development.

One system experiencing significant cost overruns and development delays is the Airborne Laser (ABL), which is a plane armed with a laser to destroy ballistic missiles soon after their launch. Earlier estimates put the system’s development cost at $2.5 billion and projected that the first aircraft might be available as early as 2003, but the program’s budget has doubled and its earliest deployment date has slipped by at least two years. GAO said the program’s difficulty was “substantially underestimated.”

GAO judged two other MDA programs more favorably. It assessed the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to counter short- and medium-range ballistic missiles near the end of their flights as ahead of schedule and below budget and the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS), designed to track ballistic missiles from orbit, as “on track for meeting performance requirements.” GAO cautioned that unforeseen problems could still arise.

Ground-Based Midcourse Missile Defense* Intercept Tests

DATE
RESULT
Oct. 2, 1999 Hit
Jan. 18, 2000 Miss
July 8, 2000 Miss
July 14, 2001 Hit
Dec. 3, 2001 Hit
Mar. 15, 2002 Hit
Oct. 14, 2002 Hit
Dec. 11, 2002 Miss

*Formerly known as National MIssile Defense.

 

 

 

 

Some Pentagon projects to build missile defense systems are showing progress, but it remains uncertain whether key elements set for deployment this September will work as intended...

Law of the Sea Convention Marooned in Senate

Wade Boese


A handful of Republican senators are warning that U.S. accession to the UN Law of the Sea Convention might undermine a U.S.-led initiative to intercept dangerous weapons as well as U.S. sovereignty. Their opposition has helped hold up Senate consideration of the treaty, despite Bush administration and Pentagon support.

With 145 states-parties, the Law of the Sea Convention sets maritime rights and rules for the world’s oceans. The United States warmed to the treaty in 1994 after it was amended to address U.S. concerns about its deep seabed mining provisions that had blocked U.S. signature of the convention when it was first negotiated in 1982.

Despite White House and Pentagon blessings, the treaty has not since been ratified by the United States, in part because of vehement opposition from Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who had been the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until he retired last year. Helms opposed the treaty for a number of reasons, including his long-standing distaste for multilateral organizations.

The pact, however, has long enjoyed the backing of the current chairman and top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.). With his support, the Foreign Relations panel unanimously approved the accord Feb. 25 and sent it to the full Senate for a vote. Other key lawmakers urging passage include Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Va.) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

They want the Senate to act soon because the convention becomes open to amendment this November. “If the United States is not party to the Convention at that time, our ability to protect Convention rights that we fought hard to achieve will be significantly diminished,” Lugar said in a Feb. 25 statement

Some conservative Republicans, such as Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.) and Sen. John Ensign (Nev.), have opposed the convention on the basis that it could hinder the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which is a coalition of 14 states committed to stopping shipments of weapons of mass destruction and missiles in transit. “I am concerned about…being able to board and search ships,” Inhofe said March 23.

Bush administration officials and the Pentagon say such fears are unwarranted. “Far from impeding PSI, joining the convention would actually strengthen the United States’ PSI efforts,” John Turner, assistant secretary of state for oceans and international, environmental, and scientific affairs, said in March 23 testimony.

In an April 7 letter supporting U.S. accession to the convention, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers wrote, “The rules under which U.S. forces have operated for over 40 years to board and search ships or to conduct intelligence activities will not be affected.” He also stated that the convention “ensures the ability of the U.S. Armed Forces to operate freely across the vast expanse of the world’s oceans under the authority of widely recognized and accepted international law.”

Despite its rhetorical support for the treaty, the administration does not appear to be pressing the Senate to act. A senior administration official told Arms Control Today April 21 that “[t]he administration fully supports the Law of the Sea Convention. The issue of timing of Senate action is properly addressed to the Senate leadership.”

Confronted by the conflicts within his own party, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has not scheduled the treaty for review. Frist aides did not respond to inquiries asking why the convention had not been put on the Senate calendar.


 

 

 

 

A handful of Republican senators are warning that U.S. accession to the UN Law of the Sea Convention might undermine a U.S.-led initiative to intercept dangerous weapons as well as U.S. sovereignty...

Searching For Ways to Roll Back Nuclear Proliferation

An interview with State Department Policy Planning Director Mitchell Reiss

Miles A. Pomper

Nearly a decade ago, Mitchell Reiss wrote an acclaimed book, Bridled Ambition, which sought to explain why some countries had chosen to abandon their nuclear weapons programs.

“Just as all cancers are not terminal, nuclear status is not immutable,” Reiss wrote. “With the proper treatment (and a dose of good luck), a serious illness can go into remission. Sometimes it can even be reversed.”

Now a top aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Reiss is trying to turn some of his academic prescriptions, which included “dollar diplomacy,” U.S. leadership, and preservation of the global nonproliferation regime, into diplomatic reality.

Reiss was named the Department of State’s director of policy planning in August, putting him in charge of its in-house think tank. The appointment came just as Powell and other administration officials were grappling with both short- and long-term challenges to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT, which has been endorsed by all but a handful of nations, seeks to block the further spread of nuclear weapons and encourage their elimination.

On Reiss’s “to do” list has been seeking a way to end North Korea’s nuclear program and similar suspected efforts by Iran. He is also looking at longer-term proliferation problems, from technological changes that could make it increasingly difficult to uncover covert weapons programs to a growing market for civilian nuclear reactors in Asia.

In an April 9 interview with Arms Control Today, Reiss offered his views on all of these subjects. Shunning diplomatic boilerplate for verbal jousting, he demonstrated that he has not abandoned his academic roots altogether. He cracked jokes, battled over ideas, and eagerly poked holes in what he viewed as false preconceptions about the Bush administration’s approach to arms control concerns.

“Part of what I want to do in this interview is just start conversations,” Reiss told ACT.

Drawing an analogy to manufacturing and distribution techniques that were pioneered commercially by Japanese manufacturers and are now used worldwide, Reiss said he is concerned that nuclear proliferators could soon follow suit. Such “just-in-time” proliferation he said, would mean that materials for nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons materials would no longer be stockpiled but only brought together when they need to be used.

“The concept works beautifully in the private sector, and there’s no reason why it can’t work for the bad guys,” Reiss said. “But this will create enormous challenges for the [International Atomic Energy Agency], for the Nuclear Suppliers Group [an export control clearinghouse for most of the major countries with civilian nuclear industries], for all the countries of the world, in order to prevent continued nuclear proliferation.”

In particular, Reiss said this strategy might pose particular problems for on-site inspections—a key tool of international nonproliferation regimes.

“I think on-site inspections certainly are important—essential in some cases,” Reiss said. ”Still, there is a concern that you can inspect a place one day and there will be nothing there, and you come back the next week and everything will be there.”

One of Reiss’s few public speeches since assuming his new post tackled the subject of ending North Korea’s nuclear program (See ACT, April 2004.) In his 1995 book, he pointed to a 1994 agreement that the Clinton Administration made to freeze Pyongyang’s proliferation program as an arms control success story, although he warned that it might well unravel.

Today, he contends that the kind of limited agreement struck by the previous administration is no longer useful, arguing that, like Libya, Pyongyang has to make a “strategic determination” to disarm. “I don’t know [if] North Korea will follow Libya’s lead,” Reiss acknowledged, but said that Tripoli’s recent disarmament does provide an appropriate model.

“[North Korean leader] Kim Jong Il faces a choice,” Reiss said. “He can continue to depend on the kindness of strangers, overseeing a devastated economy with an isolated population, or he can join the 21st century. He also has the historic opportunity to do what his father never did, which is to create a stable, peaceful relationship with all his neighbors.”

In making this argument, Reiss draws on his academic research. Officials in the nine countries he surveyed, he said in his book, witnessed the demise of the Soviet Union and “realized that nuclear arsenals and their boundless expansion were unnecessary, even counterproductive, to larger economic and political objectives.”

Reiss also dismissed criticism that the Bush administration’s preference for a multilateral format had needlessly delayed a resolution of the nearly two-year-old crisis. Instead, he said that the six-party talks had succeeded in forging a “united front” among the five other participants in the talks—the United States, South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan—leaving Pyongyang little diplomatic wiggle room.

“There’s utility in forcing them to be a little bit franker, a little bit more open and honest, than they were when they could play one off the other,” Reiss said, adding, “I think they realize that the other five countries are lined up against them because all five are opposed to North Korea having nuclear weapons.”

For a complete transcript of the interview click here

 

 



 

 

 

 

Nearly a decade ago, Mitchell Reiss wrote an acclaimed book, Bridled Ambition, which sought to explain why some countries had chosen to abandon their nuclear weapons programs...

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.

U.S. Nonproliferation Resolution Advances at UN

Wade Boese


A U.S. effort at the United Nations aimed at preventing nonstate actors from acquiring nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons has advanced. After months of talks, Washington March 24 formally submitted the anti-proliferation resolution to the UN Security Council for approval after winning agreement from other major capitals on acceptable wording.

President George W. Bush first proposed the resolution in a Sept. 23, 2003, address to the UN General Assembly. (See ACT, October 2003.) The final language calls on states to “refrain from providing any form of support to non-state actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery.”

If the resolution is passed, governments would be duty bound to strengthen and enforce their domestic laws, export controls, and border controls against the sale, transfer, and theft of weapons of mass destruction and missiles from their territories by nonstate actors. The resolution orders that these measures be “appropriate” and “effective” without spelling out exactly what such terms entail.

A spokesman at the U.S. Mission to the UN told Arms Control Today March 25 that standards had not yet been developed to guide judgments on whether a particular government was living up to the terms of the resolution. Appropriate punishments for any violations also remain to be decided, although the official confirmed that a government not complying with the resolution might be threatened with sanctions or military force.

The resolution encourages states capable of doing so to help others that may lack the “legal and regulatory infrastructure, implementation experience and/or resources” to take action under it.
A Security Council committee would be established for “no more than six months” to monitor implementation of the resolution. Governments would be required to file reports on their activities under the resolution within 90 days of its adoption by the Security Council.

Nine of the 15 Security Council members, including all five permanent members, will need to approve the resolution for it to become binding. The United States had been negotiating with the council’s four other permanent members—China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom—since December to secure their support for the resolution.

Washington reportedly worked the hardest to win over Beijing, although one U.S. official remarked March 25 that, “at one point or another, everybody had objected to something.”
China’s resistance to early drafts of the resolution stemmed from its opposition to the explicit use of “interdiction.” Beijing is concerned about the legality of intercepting ships suspected of carrying deadly arms or related materials.

The United States, which is spearheading a 14-state effort—the Proliferation Security Initiative—to interdict threatening arms shipments around the globe, removed the controversial word. However, the resolution does urge states to “take cooperative action to prevent illicit trafficking.” Ambassador John Negroponte, the U.S. representative to the UN, stated March 24 “There’s nothing in this resolution that precludes the continuation of the Proliferation Security Initiative.”

Negroponte told reporters that the resolution is “not meant to supercede, undercut, or undermine existing disarmament and nonproliferation regimes.” The intent, he explained, is to complement current arms control treaties by extending prohibitions against weapons beyond states.

The 15 Security Council members convened expert groups to begin consideration of the resolution March 25. There is no certainty as to when they will come to a final conclusion, but Negroponte said, “We hope to move this forward as expeditiously as possible.”

 

 

 

 

A U.S. effort at the United Nations aimed at preventing nonstate actors from acquiring nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons has advanced. After months of talks...

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