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former IAEA Director-General

News Briefs

Missile Security Airmen Used LSD

Missile Security Airmen Used LSD

U.S. Air Force personnel bought, distributed, and used the hallucinogen LSD and other mind-altering illegal drugs as part of a ring that operated undetected for months on a highly secure missile base in Wyoming, according to Air Force records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Associated Press.

A member of the U.S. Air Force 90th Security Forces Squadron patrols the fence in the weapons storage area at F.E Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., on January 26. The Associated Press reported on a drug ring that operated on the base in 2016. (Photo: Breanna Carter/U.S. Air Force)In a news report May 24, AP said their actions were uncovered only after a “slipup on social media by one airman” enabled investigators to crack the drug ring at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in March 2016. Fourteen airmen were disciplined. Six of them were convicted in courts-martial of LSD use, distribution, or both.

The drug use, which reportedly occurred during off-duty hours, was by service members from the 90th Missile Wing, which operates one-third of the 400 Minuteman III missiles on alert in underground silos scattered across the northern Great Plains. “There are multiple checks to ensure airmen who report for duty are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and are able to execute the mission safely, securely and effectively,” an Air Force spokesman, Lt. Col. Uriah L. Orland, told the news service.

Most of the airmen cited were members of two related security units at F.E. Warren: the 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron and the 90th Security Forces Squadron. Together, they are responsible for the security and defense of the nuclear weapons there, as well as the missile complex.—TERRY ATLAS

Posted: June 1, 2018

OPCW Confirms Novichok Use

OPCW Confirms Novichok Use


The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in an April 12 report confirmed UK conclusions about the chemical agent used in a March Members of the UK military work April 24 in Salisbury, England near the spot where Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia became critically ill several weeks earlier due to exposure to a Russian nerve agent.   (Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)4 attack that left former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in critical condition. The United Kingdom accused Russia of poisoning the Skripals using a rare Russian-developed nerve agent, Novichok. (See ACT, April 2018.)

Russia denied responsibility for the attack and possessing Novichok-class agents, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman characterizing the OPCW report as “a continuation of a crude provocation against the Russian Federation on the part of the UK special services.” UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in an April 12 statement, extolled the independence and rigor of the OPCW analysis, which was conducted at four separate laboratories. “There can be no doubt of what was used, and there remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible,” he said. “Only Russia has the means, motive, and record.”—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: May 1, 2018

UN Disarmament Conference Delayed

UN Disarmament Conference Delayed


A UN high-level conference on nuclear disarmament, originally scheduled for May 14-16, was indefinitely postponed following an April 26 UN General Assembly vote. The postponement reportedly is due to the failure to select a representative to preside over the meetings.

The 2017 UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a high-level conference in 2018 to review progress on negotiations on effective nuclear disarmament measures. All nuclear-weapon states except China voted against the resolution in the General Assembly’s First Committee. Although the United States considers the meeting to be “redundant” and a “waste of resources,” it is still continuing to evaluate whether it will attend the meeting, a State Department official told Arms Control Today in an April 17 email. The conference follows a similar 2013 meeting. That meeting was divided between those, including nuclear-weapon states, that advocated for an incremental approach to disarmament and other countries, including those in the Non-Aligned Movement, which pushed for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: May 1, 2018

North Korea Urged to Sign CTBT

North Korea Urged to Sign CTBT


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s statement announcing the closing of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site has led to calls for Pyongyang to sign and ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, noted in a statement that Kim’s announcement was a positive “long-sought-after” step toward several disarmament commitments and the ratification of the CTBT. Lassina Zerbo, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) executive secretary, called for North Korea to consider signing and ratifying the CTBT, noting that a legally binding treaty is the only way to “solidify the moratorium on nuclear testing.” The CTBTO “stands ready to assist,” he said in an statement April 21, and some experts have proposed having the body engage in confidence-building site visits to Punggye-ri. —SHERVIN TAHERAN

Posted: May 1, 2018

Funds Released for UK Nuclear Subs

Funds Released for UK Nuclear Subs


UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced in Parliament on March 28 an unexpected boost for defense spending: an extra £600 million ($850 million) for the new Dreadnought class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The funds, allocated for fiscal year 2019, will be withdrawn from the £10 billion ($14.2 billion) contingency fund set aside for the Dreadnought program in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review. The use of the contingency funds follows a supplemental £200 million Defence Ministry budget increase announced in February.

UK protesters rallied July 18, 2016, against spending on a new generation of nuclear-armed submarines.  (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)The Dreadnought program will comprise four new submarines designed to replace the United Kingdom’s existing Vanguard-class SSBNs, which are responsible for the country’s nuclear deterrence. Construction on the first submarine began in September 2016. The mainstay of the submarine will be the Common Missile Compartment (CMC), which is designed to support not-yet-developed ballistic missiles that will succeed the Trident D5 nuclear-armed ballistic missile. The CMC will contain 12 missile launch tubes and will house Trident D5s until their replacement in the early 2040s. The first Vanguard-class SSBN will reach the end of its extended service life in 2028, and the first Dreadnought submarine is expected to enter service in the early 2030s. The total cost of the Dreadnought program is estimated at £31 billion ($43.9 billion), and the submarines will have service lives of 30 years.—RYAN FEDASIUK

Posted: May 1, 2018

G-7 Ministers Snub Ban Treaty

G-7 Ministers Snub Ban Treaty


Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations said that they regard the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as “the essential cornerstone” of the nonproliferation regime aG-7 “family photo” taken at a reception at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto April 22. They are (from left): Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Angelino Alfano, and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. (Photo: LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images)nd “a foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament.” Without saying so explicitly, the language reflects their continuing rejection of the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, even as some countries say nuclear-armed countries have not done enough under the treaty’s disarmament obligations. “While recognizing the constraints of the current international security environment, we remain strongly committed to the goal of ultimately achieving a world without nuclear weapons, to be pursued using practical and concrete steps in accordance with the NPT's emphasis on easing tension and strengthening trust among states,” according to the group statement following their April 23 meeting in Toronto.

The G-7 ministers did express support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which the United States signed in 1996 but has not ratified due to Republican opposition, and for “our commitments to promote the International Monitoring System” established through the CTBT to detect underground nuclear tests.—TERRY ATLAS

Posted: May 1, 2018

U.S. Missile Defense Plan Delayed

U.S. Missile Defense Plan Delayed

The planned opening of a key U.S.-built missile interceptor site in Poland by the end of this year is being delayed, a Pentagon official told Congress on March 22. In written testimony for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on missile defense policy, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said that “delays due to an unsatisfactory rate of construction progress at the Aegis Ashore site in Poland will push” the opening of the site from the end of this year to 2020.

The site is part of the third phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), the U.S. contribution to NATO’s missile defense system, and is designed to protect Europe against short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles launched from Iran. Construction on the site in Redzikowo, Poland, began in June 2016. Once completed, it will include a SPY-1 radar and use the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB missile and the more advanced SM-3 Block IIA missile. The site is expected to provide protection for all of Europe against short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Russia has long opposed the planned construction of the Polish site and claims that NATO missile defense plans are aimed at undermining Moscow’s nuclear deterrent.

The first phase of the phased adaptive approach became operational in 2012, comprised of radar units in Turkey, Aegis missile defense destroyers home-ported in Spain, and a command-and-control center in Germany. The second phase, the Aegis Ashore site in Romania, came online in 2016. (See ACT, June 2016.)

Meanwhile, John Rood, U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said at the same hearing that the Pentagon’s broad missile defense review will be completed in “the next couple of months,” but would not commit to a firm date. The review formally began a year ago. (See ACT, May 2017.) Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters in December that the review would be released alongside the Nuclear Posture Review report in February.—RYAN FEDASIUK AND KINGSTON REIF

Posted: April 1, 2018

Israel Confirms Syria Reactor Strike

Israel Confirms Syria Reactor Strike

Israel confirmed it conducted the 2007 bombing of a partially completed reactor in Syria that likely was part of an illicit nuclear weapons program. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on March 21 that Israel “prevented Syria from developing nuclear capability” and that Israeli policy to prevent “enemies from arming themselves with nuclear weapons” remains consistent.

This image provided by the Israeli government in March reportedly shows the suspected Syrian nuclear reactor being bombed in 2007. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)It was generally accepted that Israel was behind the September 2007 airstrike on the al-Kibar facility in Deir al-Zour, but Israel did not publicly acknowledge its role until March 21, when it declassified documents on the attack. Previously, Israeli censors blocked journalists from publishing reports tying the Israeli government to the attack, although foreign media outlets and officials have cited Israel since it occurred in 2007. (See ACT, October 2008.)

It is unclear why the Israeli government decided to acknowledge the attack now, although the timing may be tied to the movement by U.S. President Donald Trump toward abandoning the Iran nuclear accord, as advocated by Israel and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. intelligence community concluded in 2008 that Syria was constructing the reactor with North Korean assistance, possibly for a nuclear weapons program, in violation of its international legal commitments under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Syria did not declare the reactor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which found the country in noncompliance with its safeguards commitments in 2011 after Syria refused to cooperate with the agency’s investigation. (See ACT, July/August 2011.)—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Posted: April 1, 2018

China, France, U.S. Reject UN Disarmament Push

China, France, U.S. Reject UN Disarmament Push

UN Secretary-General António Guterres drew criticism from nuclear powers after saying that he will launch a disarmament initiative. In a Feb. 26 speech to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Guterres asserted that much work remains to fulfill the first resolution of the UN General Assembly in 1946, which encouraged the total elimination of weapons of mass destruction. Further, he said work remains to be done to counter the erosion of the norms against chemical weapons use and nuclear testing. “In the face of this deterioration, the international community must urgently rebuild a common vision on disarmament and arms control,” he asserted.

A U.S. official told Reuters on Feb. 7 that disarmament was only an “aspirational goal” and that the United States does not believe “that it’s time for bold initiatives, particularly in the area of nuclear weapons.” Nuclear disarmament in the near term is unrealistic, Robert Wood, the U.S. ambassador to the CD, said in an address to that body following Guterres’ speech. Chinese and French ambassadors concurred. Alice Guitton, French permanent representative to the CD, said that disarmament must be built on patience, perseverance, and realism. Izumi Nakamitsu, UN high representative for disarmament affairs, has been gathering input from UN member states and civil society organizations on the structure of the initiative before an expected launch in May.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: April 1, 2018

UK Debates Plans for Euratom Exit

UK Debates Plans for Euratom Exit

A vote by the House of Lords set back UK efforts to replace nuclear arrangements provided by a treaty from which London will withdraw as part of Brexit. The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union includes withdrawing from Euratom, a body established by a 1957 treaty to coordinate civil nuclear research and power and conduct safeguards.

The UK will need to reach new bilateral cooperation agreements and revise its nuclear safeguards to replace Euratom measures by March 2019. (See ACT, July/August 2017.) However, the House of Lords on March 20 rejected the government’s plan by a 265-194 vote, with members expressing concern that it did not provide enough assurance that the importation of nuclear materials for civilian applications would not be interrupted.

A Jan. 29 report from a House of Lords subcommittee concluded that failure to replace the Euratom provisions could “result in the UK being unable to import nuclear materials and have severe consequences for the UK's energy security.” The report recommended that the government prioritize reaching a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is necessary for new bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements. The report emphasized the importance of reaching new agreements with Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States to ensure that nuclear supply chains can be maintained.

Members also raised the issue of continued UK participation in research and development projects supported by Euratom and recommended that the government look into ensuring the continued viability of research projects in the UK financed in part by Euratom.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Posted: April 1, 2018

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