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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
News Briefs

Russia Completes Last IMS Station


January/February 2024

Russia has completed construction of its 32nd and final seismic station designed to detect nuclear tests banned under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and the facility is now in operation.

The station, located at Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, more than 6,000 kilometers east of Moscow in the Oblast Republic, is part of a unique global monitoring network operated by the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) called the International Monitoring System (IMS). The system was established to verify compliance with the CTBT.

“The 32 stations in the Russian Federation’s now complete IMS segment are crucial components of the global network that helps maintain peace and security by making sure that no nuclear test goes undetected,” CTBTO Executive Secretary Robert Floyd said in a Dec. 14 statement on the organization’s website.

When completed, the IMS will consist of 321 monitoring stations and 16 laboratories hosted by 89 countries around the globe, according to the CTBTO website. About 90 percent of these 337 facilities are already operational, providing a steady flow of real-time data.

Construction of the station at Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk commenced in May 2021, but experienced several delays due to harsh winter conditions, deforestation, and unexpected discoveries of endangered plants. The station was finished in August 2023 and now transmits seismic data to the data center at the CTBTO headquarters in Vienna.

In November 2023, Russia rescinded its ratification of the CTBT. Nevertheless, it remained a signatory to the treaty and expressed its intention to continue adhering to the nuclear testing moratorium and operating IMS stations on its territory. (See ACT, November 2023.)—SHIZUKA KURAMITSU

Russia Completes Last IMS Station

Global Partnership Reaffirms Support for Ukraine


January/February 2024

A multilateral group of countries pledged to continue efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and support efforts in Ukraine to mitigate the threat posed by those weapons.

Participants from 15 of the 30 member states of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction attended the Nov. 9-10 meeting in Nagasaki. The Global Partnership, an initiative of the Group of Seven industrialized countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States), was founded in 2002 to prevent the proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons and related materials.

In a statement opening the meeting, Takei Shunsuke, Japan’s state minister for foreign affairs, said the work of the Global Partnership “has become increasingly important” in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic and “Russia’s aggression in Ukraine,” which “caused concerns over nuclear safety and security” at power plants.

When Japan took over as chair of the Global Partnership for 2023, it identified support for counterproliferation efforts in Ukraine as a key priority.

According to a Nov. 10 press release, the countries “made statements on [their] own initiatives under the Global Partnership and…exchanged their opinions on [counterproliferation] support to Ukraine in light of Russia's aggression.”

Participants also discussed funding for projects under the initiative’s match-making process. The process provides a forum for states with funds and expertise to connect with recipients looking to implement projects that align with the initiative’s mission.

The meeting included technical discussions among members of the four working groups: biosecurity, chemical security, nuclear and radiological security, and counterproliferation.

Italy will chair the Global Partnership in 2024.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Global Partnership Reaffirms Support for Ukraine

Russian Weapons Transfer Said Complete


January/February 2024

Russia completed the transfer of some of its tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus in October, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko disclosed on Dec. 25.

The tactical nuclear warheads were delivered “a long time ago,” Lukashenko said while attending an economic meeting in St. Petersburg, according to Tass, the Russian news agency. “At the beginning of October. Everything is in its place and in good condition.” Russia and Belarus first struck the deal to transfer Russian tactical nuclear weapons in June 2022 and formalized it in May 2023. Belarus said that it finished retrofitting about 10 Russian-made Su-25 fighter jets in service with its air force for the warheads in August 2022 and completed training Belarusian crews for the nuclear mission in April 2023. (See ACT, May 2023.)

The transfer of Russian tactical nuclear weapons began in the June-July time frame, according to the two countries. Lukashenko gave no details about how many weapons were transferred or where exactly they were deployed, The Associated Press reported.

Although Belarus will host the weapons, Russia has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin will retain control over their potential use.—SHANNON BUGOS

Russian Weapons Transfer Said Complete

U.S. Conducts Test Ban Verification Experiment


November 2023

A team led by the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) conducted an experiment using chemical high explosives and radiotracers in an underground tunnel on Oct. 18 to “validate new predictive explosive models” to improve the U.S. ability to detect low-yield nuclear explosions around the world.

In a statement issued shortly after the experiment, Corey Hinderstein, NNSA deputy administrator for defense nonproliferation, said, “These experiments…will help reduce global nuclear threats by improving the detection of underground nuclear explosive tests.”

According to the NNSA, seismic data collected from such experiments are made available to researchers around the globe.

The experiment at the government’s former nuclear test site in Nevada took place as Russia announced that it would withdraw its ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which prohibits nuclear test explosions.

As reported by Interfax, the deputy speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, Konstantin Kosachyov, said on Oct. 20 that there should be an international assessment to determine whether the NNSA’s announced experiment was compliant with the CTBT. “We do not know what exactly the Americans have blown up underground,” he said.

In response to a question about the experiment, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Oct. 20 that if the experiment was an underground explosion using chemical explosives and “if this information is true—it is presently being verified—this does not involve a nuclear weapons testing, and this blast does not contradict either the U.S. moratorium on nuclear tests or the provisions” of the CTBT.

Senior U.S. officials, including NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby, have said that they are open to working with others to develop a regime that would allow reciprocal observation with radiation detection equipment at each other’s subcritical nuclear experiments to allow confirmation that the experiment was consistent with the CTBT. To date, such a dialogue has not begun.—DARYL G. KIMBALL

U.S. Conducts Test Ban Verification Experiment

China Continues Nuclear Buildup


November 2023

China continues to accelerate its military buildup, including expanding its nuclear stockpile beyond previous projections, and is engaging in provocative actions that raise the stakes in the Indo-Pacific region, according to the latest U.S. Defense Department report on China’s military power.

China had more than 500 operational nuclear warheads in May, compared to 400 in 2022, and is expected to have 1,000 or more by 2030, the report said. (See ACT, January/February 2023.)

"Compared to the PLA's [People’s Liberation Army] nuclear modernization efforts a decade ago, current efforts dwarf previous attempts in both scale and complexity," the report said. Regardless, China’s arsenal is dwarfed by those of Russia, which has 4,500 warheads, and the United States, which has roughly 3,800 warheads.

At a press briefing on Oct. 20, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning dismissed the report as “nonfactual and biased” and said the United States calls China a threat to “sustain its military hegemony.” China has “always kept our nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required by national security, and we have no intention to get involved in any nuclear arms race with any country,” she said.

The report revealed that China probably completed construction in 2022 of three new silo fields, consisting of at least 300 new intercontinental ballistic missiles, and has loaded at least some missiles into these silos.

More broadly, the report asserts that the PLA has “adopted more coercive actions in the Indo-Pacific region.” In 2021-2023, the United States “documented over 180 instances of PLA coercive and risky air intercepts against U.S. aircraft in the region, more in the past two years than in the previous decade,” the report said. In the same period, the PLA conducted around 100 instances of coercive and risky operational behavior against U.S. allies and partners in an effort to deter the United States and others from conducting lawful operations in the region.

Despite the tensions, China “largely denied, canceled, and ignored recurring bilateral defense engagements, as well as [Pentagon] requests for military-to-military communication at multiple levels,” the report said.
—CAROL GIACOMO

China Continues Nuclear Buildup

IAEA Inspects Zaporizhzhia for Explosives


September 2023

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team inspected the roofs of several buildings at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and found no evidence of explosives, but is still awaiting access to inspect other parts of the Ukrainian facility.

An International Atomic Energy Agency team found no evidence of explosives on the roofs of several buildings at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which was occupied by Russian forces after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The team is still waiting to inspect other parts of the complex. (Photo by Ercin Erturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in an Aug. 4 statement that inspectors were “finally” granted access to the roofs of two reactor units and the turbine halls on Aug. 3 and will continue to request access to the rooftops of the four other reactor units.

The IAEA sought access to the rooftops after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed in July that Russian troops planted what looked to be explosive devices on the roofs of the reactor units. Zelenskyy also accused Russia of planning to attack the nuclear facility and blame Ukraine. Russia denied reports that it planted explosives on the rooftops.

The IAEA established a permanent presence at the Zaporizhzhia plant last year to support nuclear security and safety operations at the site, which remains occupied by Russia. Its team is also monitoring compliance with the five principles for protecting the facility that Grossi laid out during a UN Security Council meeting in May. Those principles include commitments that “there should be no attack of any kind from or against the plant” and that the facility should not be used as a storage base for heavy weapons. (See ACT, June 2023.)

In his Aug. 4 statement, Grossi underscored that “timely, independent, and objective reporting of facts on the ground” is crucial for the IAEA’s nuclear security and safety efforts and said its team must be granted access to all areas of the facility.

Renat Karchaa, an adviser at Rosatom, the state-run Russian nuclear energy company, said Russia could not provide the IAEA with prompt access to the requested areas because of concerns about Ukrainian provocations. Rosatom has a presence at the facility even though the reactors are still run by Energoatom, the Ukrainian nuclear energy company.KELSEY DAVENPORT

IAEA Inspects Zaporizhzhia for Explosives

Health Experts Urge Nuclear Risk Reduction


September 2023

More than 100 major medical journals from the United States and other countries published a joint editorial calling on medical professionals to alert governments and the public about the growing dangers of nuclear war and urge decisive action toward a nuclear-free world. “Any use of nuclear weapons would be catastrophic for humanity,” states the editorial, published on Aug. 1. It argues that even a so-called limited nuclear war could kill 120 million or more people and that a full-scale nuclear war between Russia and the United States would kill many times that number and potentially cause a “nuclear winter” threatening the survival of humanity. “The prevention of any use of nuclear weapons is therefore an urgent public health priority and fundamental steps must also be taken to address the root cause of the problem—by abolishing nuclear weapons,” the editorial says.

The editorial was signed by the editors of The British Medical Journal, JAMA, The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine, the International Nursing Review, The National Medical Journal of India, and several others. Its publication was timed for the preparatory meeting for the 11th nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference, which ended Aug. 11, and the 78th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, respectively.

“The danger is great and growing,” the editorial concludes. “The nuclear-armed states must eliminate their nuclear arsenals before they eliminate us.”MICHAEL T. KLARE

Health Experts Urge Nuclear Risk Reduction

China Constructs Nuclear Reactor in Pakistan


September 2023

China is constructing a new 1,200-megawatt nuclear reactor for Pakistan in a bilateral deal estimated at $3.5-4.8 billion, according to various news reports. It is Pakistan’s fifth and largest civilian nuclear power project.

Senior Pakistani and Chinese officials attended the televised groundbreaking event at Chasma on July 14. The reactor, Chasma-5, features a third-generation Chinese design known as the Hualong One. China previously supplied Pakistan with four other reactors as part of a long-standing nuclear energy relationship that continues to raise serious concerns about Beijing’s commitment to its nonproliferation obligations.

Since 2004, China has been part of the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which aims to prevent commercial nuclear exports from being used to make nuclear weapons and voluntarily coordinates exports to non-nuclear-weapon states. India, Israel, and Pakistan are not NPT signatories and possess nuclear weapons.

China has engaged in civil nuclear cooperation with Pakistan since 1987, five years before China joined the NPT as a nuclear-weapon state. Beijing has long claimed that its nuclear exports to Islamabad are “grandfathered” under NSG guidelines. (See ACT, April 2011.)—JUPITER KAISHU HUANG

China Constructs Nuclear Reactor in Pakistan  

Russian Jet Strikes U.S. Drone Over Black Sea


April 2023

The United States accused Russia of unprofessional and unsafe behavior after a Russian Su-27 fighter jet struck the propeller of an unarmed U.S. reconnaissance drone, causing U.S. forces to bring down the system in international waters in the Black Sea.

A photo captured from a video shows a U.S. drone being harassed by a Russian Su-27 fighter jet over the Black Sea on March 14. (Photo by U.S. European Command/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)The March 14 incident marked the first time that the two military forces came into direct physical contact since Russia launched its full-scale war on Ukraine in February 2022.

A day later, Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, announced that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu regarding the “unprofessional, dangerous, and reckless behavior” of the Russian air force. Austin “emphasized that the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows,” Ryder said.

The call was the first between Austin and Shoigu since October. U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley also spoke with his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the Associated Press reported.

According to an unclassified video released by the U.S. Defense Department, two Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 Reaper drone. News reports quoted a U.S. Air Force official as saying the Russian jets executed 19 close-in passes before one of the jets collided with the drone’s rear propeller.

Moscow alleged that the U.S. drone had no transponders and violated the airspace zone Moscow had established for its temporary use for the war in Ukraine. The United States warned of unintended escalation.

“[T]he Russian fighters [that] scrambled to identify the intruder did not use on-board weapons and did not come into contact” with the drone, said Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the United States. “The unacceptable actions of the United States military in the close proximity to our borders are cause for concern.”

Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, claimed on March 15 that the incident was “another confirmation” of direct participation of the United States in the war in Ukraine, according to RIA Novosti.

He suggested that Russia was planning to retrieve the remains of the drone. “I don’t know if we can recover them or not, but we will certainly have to do that, and we will deal with it,” Patrushev said on Russian television.—GABRIELA IVELIZ ROSA HERNÁNDEZ

Russian Jet Strikes U.S. Drone Over Black Sea

Turkey, Hungary Ratify Finland’s NATO Bid


April 2023

The Turkish and Hungarian parliaments ratified Finland’s application for NATO membership, clearing the last obstacle to the Nordic country’s bid and expanding the alliance border with Russia.

Turkey, the last holdout, approved Finland’s membership by a unanimous vote of 276 on March 30, three days after the Hungarian Parliament ratified the application by a 182–6 vote. Turkey and Hungary frustrated NATO for months by repeatedly postponing action.

Finland’s ascension to NATO would add one of Western Europe’s most potent wartime militaries to the alliance as well as intelligence and border-surveillance abilities, The New York Times reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said that his government would ratify Finland’s application before the Turkish election on May 14, making way for Finland to join the alliance without Sweden.

“With Finland’s membership, NATO will become stronger,” Erdoğan told a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Ankara on March 17.

Niinistö, addressing Sweden’s NATO bid, said, “I have a feeling that Finnish membership is not complete without Sweden…. I would like to see [at the NATO summit in July] in Vilnius that we will need the alliance of 32 members.”

Last June, U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed Turkey’s decision to agree to a trilateral memorandum with Finland and Sweden, under NATO auspices, that was supposed to pave the way for the Nordic nations to join the alliance. Finland and Sweden affirmed their support for Turkey against threats to its national security and insisted that they should join NATO together. (See ACT, November 2022.)

But on Oct. 6, Erdoğan suggested that Finland and Sweden should join the alliance separately and renewed his threat about blocking Swedish accession. Previously, Turkey had accused Sweden and, to a lesser degree, Finland of aiding groups that Turkey identifies as terrorists, namely the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Turkish separatist group, and an armed group in Syria that Turkey perceives as an extension of the PKK.

Sweden’s NATO bid remained up in the air as members of Hungary’s governing party insisted they will wait for Stockholm to clear up lingering disagreements before they go to a vote. Meanwhile, Erdoğan said talks with Sweden would continue but support for its application would depend on the Nordic country taking “solid steps.”—GABRIELA IVELIZ ROSA HERNÁNDEZ

Turkey, Hungary Ratify Finland’s NATO Bid

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