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"The Arms Control Association’s work is an important resource to legislators and policymakers when contemplating a new policy direction or decision."

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Press Releases

Congress Approves Syria Sanctions Bill

Karen Yourish

Congress has sent a bill to the White House that requires President George W. Bush to sanction Syria unless the country immediately halts development of ballistic missiles, stops producing biological and chemical weapons, ends its alleged support for terrorism, and withdraws from Lebanon. However, the bill provides the White House with broad authority to waive the penalties in the interest of national security. In acceding to the Senate’s version of the legislation Nov. 20, the House endorsed a more flexible measure that is supported by the Bush administration.

Representative Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the author of the original House bill, said after the 408-8 vote that the bill is “a fair approach to dealing with the threat that Syria poses to the stability of the Middle East and to American interests around the world.” Recognizing the watered-down nature of the measure, however, he urged the president to “strictly enforce this important legislation.”

The Bush administration was initially reluctant to impose sanctions on Syria, fearing it would make Mideast peace efforts more difficult. Administration officials changed their tune after warning Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, without success, that there would be consequences if Syria failed to stop its support for terrorism. (See ACT, November 2003.)

Ever the more cautious chamber, Senate leaders stressed the flexibility inherent in the measure. “The bill, as amended, adds to the tools available to the president to move Syria toward a more responsible course,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said on the floor prior to the Senate’s 89-4 vote on Nov. 11. He said the bill “provides the president with the ability to calibrate U.S. sanctions against Syria in response to positive Syrian behavior when such adjustment is in the national security interest of the United States.”

 

 

 

Congress has sent a bill to the White House that requires President George W. Bush to sanction Syria unless the country immediately halts development...

World Leaders Rethinking Key NPT Provision

Christine Kucia

Stung by the apparent strides of North Korea and Iran toward developing nuclear weapons, U.S. and international policymakers are rethinking Article IV of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). In recent speeches, key officials have proposed changing the provision, which facilitates procurement of nuclear technology and material by non-nuclear weapon-states for peaceful applications if they agree not to build nuclear weapons. The changes would help prevent countries seeking nuclear weapons from gaining access to the materials needed to build a bomb.

“Recent events have made it clear that the nonproliferation regime is under growing stress,” Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told the UN General Assembly Nov. 3. Reiterating an idea he expressed in an October interview with Arms Control Today, ElBaradei suggested that nonproliferation security structures needed to be overhauled. (See ACT, November 2003.) In his UN speech, ElBaradei recommended “limiting the processing of weapon[s]-usable material…in civilian nuclear programs—as well as the production of new material through reprocessing and enrichment—by agreeing to restrict these operations exclusively to facilities under multinational control.” He said controlling the availability of fissile material worldwide is crucial to allowing nuclear power development to proceed while guarding against the spread of nuclear weapons know-how.

ElBaradei’s annual report to the United Nations cites Iran’s breach of its safeguards agreements in developing its nuclear power fuel-cycle. He also expressed hope that North Korea would rejoin the nuclear nonproliferation regime. North Korea announced its withdrawal as a state-party to the NPT after announcing the existence of a uranium-enrichment program and restarting its suspended plutonium program. (See ACT, January/February 2003.) In response, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, which includes representatives of the United States, Japan, South Korea, and the European Union, told North Korea Nov. 21 that it would suspend its nuclear power assistance program, citing Pyongyang’s nonproliferation violations.

Russian atomic energy minister Alexander Rumyantsev and U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham offered similar perspectives of a fragile nonproliferation framework during their presentations to a meeting of the UN First Committee, which focuses on disarmament matters. Rumyantsev emphasized the security of nuclear and radiological materials worldwide. Russia, the United States, and the IAEA have been actively engaged in the retrieval of Soviet- and Russian-supplied highly enriched uranium from research reactors around the world in order to stem the proliferation threat posed by vulnerable stores of the weapons-usable material. Rumyantsev built upon a proposal offered by ElBaradei, suggesting “construction in the long term under IAEA auspices of several large international [spent nuclear fuel] handling centers.” Russia previously has suggested that it could host such centers, but no action has been taken to date.

Abraham called the NPT and IAEA “properly the center of the nuclear nonproliferation regime” but stressed that world leaders must “think about how to ensure that the essential ‘bargain’ between nuclear and non-nuclear states—a bargain central to advancing the underlying principles of Atoms for Peace—can be sustained into the future.”

 

 

 

 

 

Stung by the apparent strides of North Korea and Iran toward developing nuclear weapons, U.S. and international policymakers are rethinking Article IV of the 1968...

Iran Slapped for Clandestine Nuclear Activities

Paul Kerr

Closing a chapter in its months-long investigation of Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors adopted a resolution Nov. 26 condemning Iran’s pursuit of clandestine nuclear activities in violation of its IAEA safeguards agreement. The resolution follows a Nov. 10 report detailing Iran’s actions.

The resolution was finalized after a prolonged debate over the appropriate wording that would be used to condemn Tehran’s behavior. A Department of State official told Arms Control Today Nov. 21 that the United States, along with such countries as Australia and Canada, judged a draft resolution composed by several European countries as too weak in its criticism of Iran. Washington initially wanted the resolution to find Iran in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement, which would have required the board to refer the matter to the UN Security Council. But the U.S. official said that several countries, including Germany, had assured Iran that the issue would be handled solely by the IAEA.

As a result, the United States worked with other board members to craft alternate language to convey that Iran violated its safeguards agreement. The resolution notes with “concern” that Iran has demonstrated a “pattern of concealment resulting in breaches of safeguards obligations.” Furthermore, it includes a “trigger mechanism”—a key U.S. demand—that requires the board to meet immediately to consider all options at its disposal if “any further serious Iranian failures come to light.” Such actions could include referring the matter to the Security Council.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei presented a report that accuses Iran of repeatedly violating its safeguards agreement with the IAEA, but stops short of concluding that these activities constitute evidence of a nuclear weapons program. Safeguards agreements are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to ensure that member states do not divert civilian nuclear programs to military purposes.

ElBaradei told the board Nov. 20 that the IAEA needs additional time before it can conclude that “Iran’s program has been fully declared and is exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

U.S. officials contended that the agency’s report did not go far enough, arguing that its account of Iran’s nuclear activities confirmed Washington’s longheld suspicions that Tehran has a nuclear weapons program. U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Kenneth Brill stated Nov. 21 in Vienna that the report “makes unequivocally clear that Iran chose…to violate its safeguards obligations in full knowledge that its actions and omissions were violations.”

The report also notes that Iran is currently implementing IAEA-requested measures designed to resolve concerns about its nuclear program, and thereby showing “active cooperation and openness.” Specifically, Iran has cooperated with the agency’s investigation and suspended its uranium enrichment activities discovered earlier this year. Those actions follow an October agreement reached between Iran and three European government. That, in turn, came on the heels of a September IAEA resolution that set an Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to cooperate with the agency. Although uranium enrichment is permitted as long as it is operating under IAEA safeguards, the resolution also called on Iran to suspend its enrichment activities as a confidence-building measure. (See ACT, November 2003.)

Additionally, Iran agreed in October to conclude an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement. The Board of Governors has now “accepted Iran’s proposal,” according to a Nov. 21 agency press statement. An additional protocol allows the IAEA to conduct more rigorous inspections in order to check for clandestine nuclear programs. The State Department official said that during the Nov. 20 meeting Iran implied it might not conclude the protocol if it disagreed with the resolution’s content, but later relented.

The Nov. 26 IAEA resolution “re-emphasises the importance of Iran…acting as if the Protocol were in force” until the Iranian parliament approves the protocol.

Still, a November CIA report to Congress expressed concern that more intrusive inspections will not contain Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, contending that “there is a serious risk that Iran could use its enrichment technology in covert activities” even with intrusive IAEA
inspections.

 

The Report

The following excerpt is from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report, Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran, released Nov. 10.

1. The recent disclosures by Iran about its nuclear programme clearly show that, in the past, Iran had concealed many aspects of its nuclear activities, with resultant breaches of its obligation to comply with the provisions of the Safeguards Agreement. Iran’s policy of concealment continued until last month, with co-operation being limited and reactive, and information being slow in coming, changing and contradictory. While most of the breaches identified to date have involved limited quantities of nuclear material, they have dealt with the most sensitive aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, including enrichment and reprocessing. And although the materials would require further processing before being suitable for weapons purposes, the number of failures by Iran to report in a timely manner the material, facilities and activities in question as it is obliged to do pursuant to its Safeguards Agreement has given rise to serious concerns.

2. Following the Board’s adoption of resolution GOV/2003/69, the Government of Iran informed the Director General that it had now adopted a policy of full disclosure and had decided to provide the Agency with a full picture of all of its nuclear activities. Since that time, Iran has shown active co-operation and openness. This is evidenced, in particular, by Iran’s granting to the Agency unrestricted access to all locations the Agency requested to visit; by the provision of information and clarifications in relation to the origin of imported equipment and components; and by making individuals available for interviews. This is a welcome development.

3. The Agency will now undertake all the steps necessary to confirm that the information provided by Iran on its past and present nuclear activities is correct and complete. To date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities referred to above were related to a nuclear weapons programme. However, given Iran’s past pattern of concealment, it will take some time before the Agency is able to conclude that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes. To that end, the Agency must have a particularly robust verification system in place. An Additional Protocol, coupled with a policy of full transparency and openness on the part of Iran, is indispensable for such a system.

4. In that context, Iran has been requested to continue its policy of active co-operation by answering all of the Agency’s questions, and by providing the Agency with access to all locations, information and individuals deemed necessary by the Agency. One issue requiring investigation as a matter of urgency is the source of [highly enriched uranium] and [low-enriched uranium] contamination. The Agency intends to pursue the matter with a number of countries, whose full co-operation is essential to the resolution of this issue.

5. The recent announcement of Iran’s intention to conclude an Additional Protocol, and to act in accordance with the provisions of the Protocol pending its entry into force, is a positive development. The draft Additional Protocol is now being submitted to the Board for its consideration.

6. Iran’s decision to suspend its uranium-enrichment-related and reprocessing activities is also welcome.1 The Agency intends to verify, in the context of the Safeguards Agreement and the Additional Protocol, the implementation by Iran of this decision.

7. The Director General will inform the Board of additional developments for its further consideration at the March 2004 meeting of the Board, or earlier, as appropriate

1. It should be noted that Iran introduced UF6 into the first centrifuge at PFEP on 25 June 2003, and, on 19 August 2003, began testing a small ten-machine cascade. On 31 October 2003, Agency inspectors observed that no UF6 gas was being fed into the centrifuges, although construction and installation work at the site was continuing.

The Resolution
Below is an excerpt from the IAEA’s Nov. 26 resolution

The Board of Governors:

1. Welcomes Iran’s offer of active cooperation and openness and its positive response to the demands of the Board in the resolution adopted by Governors on 12 September 2003 (GOV/2003/69) and underlines that, in proceeding, the Board considers it essential that the declarations that have now been made by Iran amount to the correct, complete and final picture of Iran’s past and present nuclear programme, to be verified by the Agency;

2. Strongly deplores Iran’s past failures and breaches of its obligation to comply with the provisions of its Safeguards Agreement, as reported by the Director General; and urges Iran to adhere strictly to its obligations under its Safeguards Agreement in both letter and spirit;

3. Notes the statement by the Director General that Iran has taken the specific actions deemed essential and urgent and requested of it in paragraph 4 of the Resolution adopted by the Board on 12 September 2003 (GOV/2003/69);

4. Requests the Director General to take all steps necessary to confirm that the information provided by Iran on its past and present nuclear activities is correct and complete as well as to resolve such issues as remain outstanding;

5. Endorses the view of the Director General that, to achieve this, the Agency must have a particularly robust verification system in place: an Additional Protocol, coupled with a policy of full transparency and openness on the part of Iran, is indispensable;

6. Reiterates that the urgent, full and close co-operation with the Agency of all third countries is essential in the clarification of outstanding questions concerning Iran’s nuclear programme;

7. Calls on Iran to undertake and complete the taking of all necessary corrective measures on an urgent basis, to sustain full cooperation with the Agency in implementing Iran’s commitment to full disclosure and unrestricted access, and thus to provide the transparency and openness that are indispensable for the Agency to complete the considerable work necessary to provide and maintain the assurances required by Member States;

8. Decides that, should any further serious Iranian failures come to light, the Board of Governors would meet immediately to consider, in the light of the circumstances and of advice from the Director General, all options at its disposal, in accordance with the IAEA Statute and Iran’s Safeguards Agreement;

9. Notes with satisfaction the decision of Iran to conclude an Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement, and re-emphasises the importance of Iran moving swiftly to ratification and also of Iran acting as if the Protocol were in force in the interim, including by making all declarations required within the required timeframe;

10. Welcomes Iran’s decision voluntarily to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and requests Iran to adhere to it, in a complete and verifiable manner; and also endorses the Director General’s acceptance of Iran’s invitation to verify implementation of that decision and report thereon;

11. Requests the Director General to submit a comprehensive report on the implementation of this resolution by mid- February 2004, for consideration by the March Board of Governors, or to report earlier if appropriate; and

12. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

 

 

 

Closing a chapter in its months-long investigation of Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)...

The IAEA's Report on Iran: An Analysis

Paul Kerr

On Nov. 10, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report charging Iran with violating its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In particular, the IAEA said that Tehran had been conducting experiments with imported nuclear material without informing the agency. The report also revealed that Iran had carried out a variety of clandestine nuclear activities for more than two decades. In doing so, it had deceived the agency on numerous occasions by concealing facilities and providing the IAEA with incomplete and false information. A discussion of the IAEA’s revelations follows.

Uranium Enrichment

Gas-Centrifuge Enrichment

Iran’s gas-centrifuge uranium-enrichment program dates back to 1985 and currently consists of a small pilot facility at Natanz and a larger commercial facility under construction at the same location. Uranium-enrichment facilities can produce fissile material for nuclear weapons, as well as fuel for civilian nuclear power reactors.

Iran had previously claimed its gas-centrifuge program was completely indigenous and had not been used to test nuclear material, but both of these claims were proven false by the IAEA.

The IAEA first visited the Natanz facility in February. Its advanced state of operation led the agency to suspect that Iran had tested the centrifuges with nuclear material without first notifying the agency—a violation of its safeguards agreement. (See ACT, November 2003.) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei reported that IAEA environmental sampling showed that particles of both low-enriched and highly enriched uranium (LEU and HEU) had been present during that time at the Natanz facility, suggesting possible confirmation of the inspectors’ suspicions. Although LEU is used in civilian power plants, HEU can be used to build nuclear weapons. The presence of this material could be evidence that Iran produced weapons-grade uranium at Natanz and has nuclear material that it has not yet declared to the IAEA—each a violation of its safeguards agreement. At the time, however, Iran blamed the material’s presence on contaminated, imported components and continues to do so.

Meanwhile, Iran introduced nuclear material into the Natanz facility’s centrifuges under IAEA safeguards in June, although the IAEA Board of Governors had issued a statement earlier that month encouraging Iran not to do so. Tehran accelerated its tests in August but, in an October deal with European foreign ministers, agreed to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities. At the time, Iran did not say when the suspension would take effect, but the new IAEA report says Iran told the IAEA that it would suspend its enrichment activities effective Nov. 10. (See ACT, November 2003.)

Iran also admitted Oct. 21 to using small amounts of uranium hexafluoride to test centrifuges at the Kalaye Electric Company in Tehran between 1999 and 2002, according to the report. Centrifuges spin uranium hexafluoride gas in cylinders to increase the concentration of the relevant isotopes. Iran had previously acknowledged producing centrifuge components there but denied conducting any tests with nuclear material. Iran dismantled “the test facility at the end of 2002,” according to the report.

Activities at the Kalaye facility have been contentious because Iran had hindered IAEA investigations there and prevented agency inspectors from conducting environmental sampling until August. These samples also detected HEU and LEU particles, a finding Iran also attributes to contaminated components. Tehran maintains it only enriched uranium at Kalaye to a degree that is not suitable for weapons.

Iran continued to obstruct the IAEA’s investigation of the Kalaye facility until recently, according to the report. Tehran initially told agency inspectors that the centrifuges had been destroyed but later admitted to their existence and allowed the IAEA to inspect them Oct. 30-31. The components had been stored elsewhere in Iran, but it is unclear how the agency became aware of this fact.

In the Nov. 24 issue of Time magazine, ElBaradei said that five European and Asian countries supplied Iran with the components and that the agency will discuss the matter with those governments.

In a further misstep, Iran tested the centrifuges with uranium hexafluoride imported in 1991. A June agency report pointed out that Iran not only violated its safeguards agreement by failing to report the imported material but also could not account for some of the material, raising suspicions that Iran had conducted illicit enrichment experiments. At the time, Iran said the material had leaked from its containers.

Laser Enrichment

According to the report, Iran told the IAEA Oct. 21 that it had been pursuing a laser-based uranium-enrichment program since 1991. An August IAEA report stated that Iran had previously acknowledged a research and development program involving lasers, but not an enrichment program.

IAEA inspectors visited a site called Lashkar Ab’ad in August. Although they did not find any activities related to uranium enrichment being conducted there, the agency asked Iran to confirm that there had not been any past “activities related to uranium laser enrichment” at any location in the country and to allow environmental sampling at that location. Iran allowed inspectors to conduct sampling on Oct. 6 and told the IAEA Oct. 21 that it conducted laser-enrichment experiments with undeclared imported uranium metal at a site in Tehran until October 2002.

Iran later told the IAEA during an Oct. 27-Nov. 1 visit that it had established “a pilot plant for laser enrichment” at Lashkar Ab’ad in 2000 and conducted enrichment experiments there between October 2002 and January 2003. Iran dismantled the equipment in May and presented it to IAEA inspectors on Oct. 28, according to the report.

Other Concerns

 

 

Reprocessing

The IAEA found that Iran separated a “small amount” of plutonium from spent fuel produced in a research reactor in Tehran—an action Iran was obligated to report to the IAEA. Reprocessing activities have caused concern because Iran has nearly completed a light-water reactor (LWR) at Bushehr and has announced plans to build a heavy-water reactor, each of which produce plutonium. LWRs are considered more proliferation resistant. Such reprocessing can also produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Uranium Conversion

Iran announced in March that it had completed a facility located near Isfahan for converting uranium oxide into uranium hexafluoride. Iran first told the IAEA that it had completed the facility without having tested it with nuclear material but later admitted to conducting uranium-conversion experiments in the early 1990s. (See ACT, September 2003.) Iran was required to disclose these experiments to the IAEA.

According to the November report, Iran told the IAEA Oct. 9 that it conducted previously undisclosed uranium-conversion experiments with multiple phases of the conversion process between 1981 and 1993. Iran also admitted that it was planning to produce uranium metal for use in its laser-enrichment program. In June, a Department of State official noted that Iran would most likely use uranium metal in nuclear warheads.

The report also states that Iran failed to provide design information about the facilities where the concealed nuclear activities took place, as is required by its safeguards agreement.

 

 

On Nov. 10, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report charging Iran with violating its obligations under...

Orbital Wins Competition for Initial Missile Defense Deployment Booster by Default

Wade Boese

Two recent accidents at a California missile propellant facility have delayed production and testing of a Lockheed Martin Corporation booster being considered for inclusion in the Bush administration’s proposed defense system against long-range ballistic missiles. As a result, the Pentagon announced Nov. 7 that it would rely on a second model, developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation, to power the system’s first 10 missile interceptors.

The booster is one of two key components for the ground-based interceptors in the missile defense system, slated for deployment next fall. The other is the exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV). The booster lifts the EKV into space, where it is supposed to home in on and collide with an enemy warhead.

Six of the Orbital Sciences boosters are now set for deployment in Alaska, and four will be based in California. The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) conducted its first successful flight test of the Orbital Sciences booster Aug. 16. Orbital Sciences conducted a test of a pared-down version last February. Neither test involved an EKV or a target warhead.

Lockheed’s effort was put on hold by two explosions at a Pratt & Whitney plant preparing the solid fuel for its boosters. The accidents, which occurred Aug. 7 and Sept. 12, killed one employee, destroyed one of the containers in which the propellant is mixed, and resulted in the mixing operation being suspended for a major safety evaluation.

Without its specific propellant, the Lockheed booster cannot fly. Although Pratt & Whitney is set to resume production of the propellant in April 2004, this will not occur in time for Lockheed to meet the Pentagon’s current initial deployment schedule.

However, Lockheed does possess a couple of completed booster motors, and MDA has scheduled a flight test of the Lockheed booster for the first half of December. The test, which will not involve an EKV or a target, has been postponed several times.

Lockheed’s booster could be the primary model for a second round of 10 interceptors planned for deployment during 2005. MDA spokesman Rick Lehner said Nov. 17 that MDA will look to “stay with two boosters for a long time.”

The Pentagon’s effort to develop a booster for its ground-based interceptor has been significantly troubled. Early plans called for a prototype booster first to be involved in an intercept test in early 2001. That has yet to happen.

In lieu of a prototype booster, the Pentagon has used a slower, surrogate booster in all eight of its strategic missile defense intercept tests. Two of the system’s three test failures could be traced to the surrogate booster, prompting MDA to suspend intercept testing after a December 2002 failure until at least one of the two prototypes was available. Two intercept tests, using the Orbital Sciences booster, are tentatively scheduled for next year.

 

 

 

 

 

Two recent accidents at a California missile propellant facility have delayed production and testing of a Lockheed Martin Corporation booster being considered...

GAO Calls for Review of Missile Defense Satellite Program

Wade Boese

The General Accounting Office (GAO) recently recommended that the Pentagon review a missile defense satellite system because of lingering problems that could result in major program cost and schedule overruns. The Air Force just restructured the program last year following a critical review of the system.

Initiated in 1996, the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS)-high program has been “burdened by immature technologies, unclear requirements, unstable funding, underestimated software complexity, and other problems,” GAO stated in an Oct. 31 report on the program.

SBIRS-high is intended to replace the Pentagon’s current constellation of Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites. The DSP satellites have been operating for more than 30 years and provide information on worldwide missile launches, among other tasks. The new system is also intended to gather intelligence and provide timely battlefield information to U.S. troops.

Yet, SBIRS-high is far from proving it can handle these missions. GAO noted that testing earlier this year revealed that the first infrared sensor to be deployed as part of the system demonstrated “several deficiencies” in the sensor’s ability to “maintain earth coverage” and to track missiles.

As such problems have emerged, the SBIRS-high price tag has more than doubled. Originally projected to cost $1.8 billion to research and develop, the system is currently budgeted at $4.4 billion.

The system’s development troubles have led to significant delays. The Pentagon initially planned to begin fielding SBIRS-high components between 1999 and 2004, but the first delivery of sensors for two of the system’s satellites has slipped from February 2002 to at least December 2003, while the launch of the first of four other satellites making up the system has been pushed back from 2004 to 2006.

Frustrated by the system’s lack of progress, the Pentagon ordered a review that led to the Air Force restructuring the program in August 2002. Although there have been improvements in oversight of the program, GAO concluded that there are continuing schedule and cost risks that merit the program being reviewed again—an assessment the Pentagon shares.

In May, GAO reported that a complementary satellite system to SBIRS-high, the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (formerly SBIRS-low), was also beset with problems. (See ACT, June 2003.) As originally conceived, SBIRS-high was to provide the early warning of a hostile missile launch, while SBIRS-low was to provide more detailed tracking information on the target cluster to help a missile interceptor distinguish between an enemy warhead and any potential decoys that might be accompanying it. The overhauled and renamed SBIRS-low program is still supposed to help track a missile during its entire flight, but the requirement that it must discriminate between warheads and decoys has been postponed for now, according to the May GAO report.

 

 

 

 

 

The General Accounting Office (GAO) recently recommended that the Pentagon review a missile defense satellite system because of lingering problems that could result in major program cost and schedule overruns.

Congress Authorizes New Weapons Research

Christine Kucia

Congress has given its stamp of approval to Bush administration proposals calling for expanded research on new and modified nuclear warheads capability. But lawmakers stipulated that weapons designers must obtain prior authorization from Congress before proceeding beyond research to the engineering development phase. They also cut funds in spending bills to put the brakes on some of the administration’s plans—further complicating the picture for future research and development possibilities.

To support the revised nuclear posture first announced by President George W. Bush in January 2002, the administration proposed language in the fiscal year 2004 authorization and appropriations bills that would ramp up U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities. Authorization bills set policy guidelines and spending ceilings while appropriations bills endorse specific spending levels for a given fiscal year. Policy guidelines for the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) are set by the defense authorization bill while spending levels are set by the energy and water appropriations bill.

Earlier this year, the administration requested repealing a provision of the fiscal year 1994 National Defense Authorization Act that bans research on nuclear weapons with a yield of five kilotons or less and asked for funding that could be used to begin exploring new low-yield warhead designs. To enhance test readiness, the administration also proposed shortening the time required to prepare for a nuclear test, proposing to increase funding to $24.9 million for facilities and personnel supporting the Nevada Test Site. In addition, the Energy Department requested $15 million for the second year of a three-year study on developing a more effective nuclear earth-penetrating weapon. (See ACT, March 2003.)

The final version of the fiscal year 2004 National Defense Authorization Act, signed by Bush Nov. 24, authorizes NNSA to spend up to $6.4 billion for overall nuclear weapons activities—an increase of about $533 million from last year. Congress approved the repeal of the decade-long prohibition on research leading to production of low-yield nuclear weapons and authorized up to $6 million for the Advanced Concepts Initiative, which may launch work on such warheads. That resolution followed a months-long debate in which Energy Department officials argued that scientists had been barred from advancing their research by the prohibition while proponents of maintaining the research ban suggested that the Bush administration is seeking to develop “usable” nuclear weapons. (See ACT, June 2003.)

The authorization legislation requires that the Energy Department upgrade the country’s nuclear testing facilities and resources so that the United States may resume underground nuclear testing no later than 18 months after the president’s order is issued. Currently, the United States maintains a test-readiness window of 24-36 months, and the administration has raised questions about the integrity of the nuclear stockpile in the absence of testing. (See ACT, December 2002.)

The bill also authorizes up to $15 million to study possible modifications to existing nuclear weapons in order to create a more effective nuclear earth penetrator designed to root out deeply buried targets. Further, it requires the Defense and Energy Departments to produce a report describing how to integrate research and development and other activities both for conventional and nuclear earth-penetrating weapons. The final bill is expected to be signed by Bush shortly.

Congressional appropriators, however, were not as eager to rubber-stamp the administration’s funding proposals. In approving the fiscal year 2004 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act Nov.18, Congress slashed in half funding for the earth penetrator program to $7.5 million. The appropriations bill granted the requested $6 million for the Advanced Concept Initiative but fenced off $4 million of the money to research new weapons designs until Congress receives a report on the revised nuclear stockpile plan in light of the reductions in the existing arsenal outlined in the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty signed by Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in June. (See ACT, June 2003.) The committee also stipulated that the $24.9 million for enhanced testing capability should be used to meet the current 24-month readiness requirement before “pursu[ing] a more aggressive goal of an 18-month readiness posture.”

Despite the unexpected cuts and limitations by congressional appropriators, critics denounced the administration’s initiatives. “This funding will allow the administration to begin the research and development of new nuclear weapons—let there be no doubt,” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a Nov. 10 statement. “Clearly, the nuclear door is being reopened.” Representative David Hobson (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development, echoed these concerns. “I don’t like a lot of this stuff,” he told the Los Angeles Times Nov. 6, adding that he is worried “about sending the wrong message to the rest of the world.”

 


Key Fiscal Year 2004 Nuclear Weapons Program Decisions

PROGRAM
DESCRIPTION
REQUESTED
AUTHORIZED
APPROPRIATED
Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator
Second year of study on enhancing existing nuclear weapons to penetrate hardened/buried targets
$15 million
$15 million
$7.5 million
Advanced Concepts Initiative
Studies on new nuclear weapons concepts, which may include low-yield warheads
$6 million
$6 million; repealed ban on low-yield nuclear weapon research
$6 million, but $4 million withheld pending stockpile report
Enhanced Test
Readiness
Preparation of Nevada Test Site for full-scale nuclear weapons tests
$24.9 million
$24.9 million; shortened readiness period to 18 months
$24.9 million
Modern Pit Facility
Design work on facility to manufacture hundreds of warhead cores each year
$22.8 million
$22.8 million
$10.8 million

TOTAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS ACTIVITIES
REQUESTED
AUTHORIZED
APPROPRIATED
2004 National Nuclear Security Administration Budget
$6.38 billion
$6.43 billion $6.27 billion

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congress has given its stamp of approval to Bush administration proposals calling for expanded research on new and modified nuclear warheads capability.

KEDO Suspends Construction of Nuclear Reactors

Paul Kerr

In the latest move in the ongoing standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Corporation (KEDO) has suspended construction of two light-water nuclear reactors (LWRs) it was charged with providing to Pyongyang under the 1994 Agreed Framework. KEDO’s Executive Board announced Nov. 21 that it would suspend construction of the two reactors for one year beginning Dec. 1. The suspension is in response to Pyongyang’s failure to meet “the conditions necessary for continuing the…project,” according to a statement from KEDO’s Executive Board, which is comprised of the United States, South Korea, Japan, and the European Union. The announcement came as the United States continued to consult with its allies on the terms and timetable for an anticipated second round of six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs.

The decision to suspend the project represents a compromise between the United States and the other board members. The United States had pushed to end the project altogether, but South Korea, which is funding and building the reactors along with Japan, favored a suspension, citing public support, its financial investment, and the need to continue the project if it becomes part of a settlement with North Korea. North Korea has demanded for some time that the reactors be completed as part of a settlement to the nuclear crisis. (See ACT, October 2003.) Japan has been less vocal about the rationale for its decision, but both Seoul and Tokyo have supported greater engagement with North Korea than Washington has.

Whether reactor construction will ever resume is unclear. KEDO said the project’s future “will be assessed and decided by the Executive Board before the expiration of the suspension period,” but the Bush administration believes there is “no future for the project,” Department of State spokesman Adam Ereli said Nov. 5.

KEDO indicated that the organization would continue some of its duties. “The suspension process will require preservation and maintenance both on-site and off-site. KEDO continues to consult with [North Korea] in this process,” according to the statement. The United States has not requested funding for KEDO’s administrative budget for fiscal year 2004.

The United States set up KEDO to implement the reactor project and supply 500,000 metric tons of heavy-fuel oil each year to North Korea as part of the Agreed Framework between the two countries. The Agreed Framework defused a tense standoff following the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) discovery that Pyongyang had been diverting spent fuel from its graphite-moderated nuclear reactors for a plutonium-based nuclear weapons program. It is more difficult to use LWRs to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

In exchange for the reactors and fuel oil, North Korea agreed to freeze its operating five-megawatt nuclear reactor, along with two others under construction and their related facilities. The agreement also provided for the storage and monitoring of the reactors’ spent fuel, as well as its eventual removal. The first reactor was originally scheduled to be completed by 2003, but construction had fallen far behind schedule.

The decision to suspend the reactor project comes just more than a year after KEDO suspended shipments of heavy-fuel oil in reaction to U.S. claims that, during an October meeting with a U.S. delegation, North Korea admitted to having a clandestine uranium-enrichment program. Urnium enrichment can also be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. (See ACT, December 2002.)

Pyongyang responded to the fuel shipments suspension by restarting its plutonium reactor and announcing its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. North Korea has since claimed it has completed reprocessing the spent fuel and implied that it is using it to construct nuclear weapons. It is not known whether either claim is accurate. (See ACT, November 2003.)

North Korea’s initial response to KEDO’s most recent decision was more restrained. Reacting to a Nov. 4 KEDO announcement that the board was considering suspending the project, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman argued Nov. 6 that KEDO should compensate North Korea for the reactors and said North Korea would “never allow” KEDO to remove “all the [reactor project’s] equipment, facilities, materials and technical documents.”

Ereli told reporters Nov. 6 that North Korea is obligated to allow KEDO to remove these items but did not say how the United States would respond to North Korean interference.

Next Round of Talks

Meanwhile, participants in the August six-party talks held in Beijing continued efforts to reach consensus on a date and agenda for another round of talks.

President George W. Bush said in October that the United States is willing to provide a written, multilateral assurance that the United States will not attack North Korea. However, the U.S. proposal is still being developed in consultation with the other participants. A South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman told Agence France Presse Nov. 22 that Washington and Seoul are “discussing detailed wording” of a security proposal, but the discussions are in the “early stages.”

South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan hinted at the agenda for the next round of talks, saying Nov. 18 that it will focus on “North Korea’s abandonment of its nuclear weapons program and a multilateral security guarantee for the North.”

A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman repeated Nov. 16 that Pyongyang is willing to consider Bush’s idea. North Korea had previously demanded a formal nonaggression treaty, claiming it fears a U.S. attack, but softened that demand following Bush’s statement.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman also suggested Nov. 16 that Pyongyang could be flexible in its previous demands that the two sides take “simultaneous actions” to implement any agreement. North Korea has resisted the idea of dismantling its nuclear facilities before the United States takes any actions—a previous U.S. demand—because it fears Washington will pocket any concessions. The United States has also signaled flexibility on this point, but that flexibility appears limited to North Korea’s demand for a security assurance. A State Department official stated Nov. 20 that the United States would not address other North Korean demands until Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear programs.

In addition to a security assurance, Pyongyang has also called on the United States to normalize bilateral diplomatic relations, refrain from hindering North Korea’s “economic cooperation” with other countries, resume the suspended fuel-oil shipments, and increase food aid, as well as complete the reactor project.

 

 

 

 

 

In the latest move in the ongoing standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Corporation (KEDO) has suspended construction...

Bush Sends IAEA Legislation to Hill; Pentagon Objections Overcome

Christine Kucia

More than 18 months since submitting a bilateral agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Senate for approval, the Bush administration has finally completed and delivered the implementing legislation to Congress. Pentagon officials have reportedly raised concerns about IAEA oversight of U.S. nuclear fuel cycle activities, which in turn delayed efforts to secure Senate approval to allow the Additional Protocol’s entry into force.

The Additional Protocol is designed to reinforce and improve the IAEA’s safeguards against the use of “peaceful” nuclear activities for illegal nuclear weapons purposes by non-nuclear-weapon states. U.S. agreement to sign its own version of the Additional Protocol has been a significant factor in securing international support for the enhanced safeguards system. To date, 78 countries have signed additional protocols with the IAEA on the basis of the 1997 Model Protocol.

The U.S. Additional Protocol, signed on June 12, 1998, would provide the IAEA with non-military information on U.S. research, development, enrichment, and reprocessing activities; locations and capacity of fissile material production sites; export and import of nuclear material; and uses of fissile material and waste products. The agreement allows the United States to invoke “managed access” for IAEA inspectors seeking to confirm the information provided by Washington and allows the United States to make “national security exclusions.” Kenneth Brill, U.S. ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna, informed Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei on April 30, 2002, that President George W. Bush would seek the Senate’s consent. Bush transmitted the agreement to the Senate on May 9, 2002.


Administration and congressional sources familiar with the issue said that the Pentagon had raised concerns over the extent of the protocol’s oversight provisions, particularly on-site verification of U.S. facilities housing nuclear weapons-related materials. As a result, the executive branch had difficulty reaching interagency agreement on the implementing legislation that would give the administration authority to inspect private facilities under the protocol.

Consequently, it is unlikely that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will schedule a hearing this year for the protocol. A congressional source frustrated with the protocol’s slow progress told Arms Control Today Nov. 19 that committee members “hope to move the resolution of ratification on the IAEA protocol early next year.”

The Bush administration has said the protocol is crucial to its global nonproliferation efforts. Bush indicated in the letter of transmittal that the protocol’s passage “is in the best interest of the United States.” He emphasized that U.S. leadership in enacting the Additional Protocol will enhance U.S. and global security and “greatly strengthen our ability to promote universal adoption of the Model Protocol, a central goal of my nonproliferation policy.”

The holdup in Senate action is coming at a particularly awkward time. U.S. officials have been pressuring Iran to sign and ratify an additional protocol as part of the U.S. effort to curb what it sees as Tehran’s nuclear-weapon ambitions. Iran’s agreement to strengthen its safeguards is the centerpiece of international efforts to slow down its advanced nuclear programs.

 

 

 

 

 

More than 18 months since submitting a bilateral agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Senate for approval, the Bush...

Congress Backs Bush Request for CTR Programs

Christine Kucia

Backing the Bush administrat-ion’s fiscal year 2004 request, Congress last month authorized $450.8 million for the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program to safeguard and secure weapons of mass destruction and their components in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Related Department of Energy nonproliferation programs also received close to what the administration requested—about $1.3 billion. Congress authorized maximum spending limits for the programs in the defense authorization bill, which establishes policy guidelines for defense-related activities, including those in the Energy Department, that were nearly identical to the amounts approved in the appropriations bills for the Defense and Energy Departments.

To encourage the expansion of the program, Congress included a provision allowing up to $50 million in CTR funds to be used in projects beyond the boundaries of the former Soviet Union. In funding the Energy Department’s nonproliferation programs, Congress also permitted use of some International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation funds in countries outside of the former Soviet Union. With this funding, the Energy Department can help secure materials at risk of theft as part of the Nuclear Radiological Threat Reduction Task Force.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said in a statement Nov. 10 that the legislation, which allows the president to authorize rapid response to an impending threat, will help stem the proliferation of dangerous materials worldwide. “We must pay much more attention to making certain that all weapons and materials of mass destruction are identified, continuously guarded, and systematically destroyed,” Lugar stated.

An earlier attempt by the House of Representatives to cut funds for chemical weapons destruction in Russia was turned back, and the full $200.3 million that President George W. Bush requested for the program was approved. (See ACT, June 2003.) In addition, the Senate agreed to waive for another year legal conditions set out for Russia’s chemical weapons stockpile that in past years had blocked construction of chemical weapons destruction facilities. The congressional requirements for certifying Russia’s compliance with additional criteria governing chemical weapons destruction had blocked U.S. financial assistance to Russia in the past and slowed Russia’s progress in destroying its 40,000-ton chemical weapons stockpile as agreed in the Chemical Weapons Convention. (See ACT, November 2002.)

The defense authorization bill also included some key provisions to regulate the flow of funds to threat reduction projects. Acting on concerns that the program was sinking money into projects that then were abandoned, Congress required that the program obtain necessary local permits for each phase of a project before spending allocated funds and that U.S. managers be present during large construction projects.

Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, praised the oversight measures, telling ACT Nov. 19 that “CTR programs are vital to combating a serious threat to America and our national security.… [T]he new provisions included in this bill should provide the proper oversight to ensure CTR funds are used for their original purpose.”

Lawmakers also demanded that Russia allow access to biological weapons sites receiving CTR funds to verify that scientists are not performing illegal biodefense activities. In March testimony before the House panel, officials from the General Accounting Office had raised concerns that Moscow was impeding U.S. access to the facilities.

For Energy Department nonproliferation programs, Congress authorized spending up to $1.33 billion, just $8 million less than the administration’s request. Meanwhile, appropriators granted $5 million less than the authorizers to those same programs. Nonproliferation funds will support materials control and protection, transparency and verification measures, weapons-usable materials disposition, and programs to assist former Russian weapons scientists as they transition their skills to civilian activities.

 

 

 

 

Backing the Bush administrat-ion’s fiscal year 2004 request, Congress last month authorized $450.8 million for...

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