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former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Nuclear Suppliers Group

Nuclear Suppliers Consider Indian Bid

June 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

Ahead of this month’s meeting of the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Seoul, U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have launched a high-level push to secure consensus for India’s membership in the body over the objections of several member states, including China.

Obama first expressed support for Indian membership in the NSG in a November 2010 joint statement with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Since then, the NSG has discussed whether and how to revise its membership criteria with the view toward determining whether India meets the revised criteria.

Within the past year, Modi and other Indian officials have met with the leaders of NSG member states, including Ireland and New Zealand, that originally opposed an India-specific exemption to NSG nuclear trade rules in order to make the case for India’s membership bid. 

India would be the first member of the NSG that is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). A key criterion for membership in the group is that the country is a party to and complying with the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty. The NSG was established in 1975 in response to India’s 1974 nuclear weapon test, which was fueled with plutonium produced by a Canadian-supplied reactor in violation of peaceful nuclear use assurances.

In September 2008, following a high-level diplomatic push by the George W. Bush administration, the NSG agreed to make an India-specific exemption to its requirement that recipient states must subject all their nuclear facilities to international inspections in order to prevent the diversion of peaceful nuclear material or technology for weapons purposes. The NSG waiver for India was granted in return for several Indian nonproliferation “commitments and actions,” including maintaining its nuclear test moratorium, supporting negotiations to halt fissile material production for weapons, and developing a plan to separate its civilian and nuclear sectors. (See ACT, October 2008.

Obama administration officials have argued that Indian membership in the NSG would give India more of a stake in the nonproliferation regime. But critics, including Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who spoke out against the proposal during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on May 24, counter that India still does not meet the NSG’s membership criteria and that the administration is not pressing for further nonproliferation commitments from New Delhi in return for the benefits of NSG membership. 

On May 13, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokes-person Lu Kang made public Beijing’s view that “NPT membership” is a necessary qualification for membership. 

“Not only India, but also many other non-NPT members have voiced their aspirations to join the NSG. Many NSG members, China included, think that this matter shall be fully discussed and then decided based on consensus among all NSG members in accordance with the rules of procedure of the NSG,” Kang said. 

In response to the Indian bid for NSG membership, Pakistan’s foreign secretary, Aizaz Chaudhry, told a senior U.S. official on May 17 that his country has the “credentials” to join the NSG. On May 20, Pakistan’s ambassador in Vienna sent a letter to the chair of the NSG to formally apply for NSG membership.

If the NSG cannot reach consensus at its June meeting, sources suggest the matter may be taken up at a follow-on meeting in September.

Ahead of this month’s meeting of the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Seoul, U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have launched...

S. Korea, U.S. Sign Civil Nuclear Pact

July/August 2015

By Daniel Horner

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (left) and U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz sign an agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation in Washington on June 15.(U.S. Department of Energy)South Korea and the United States on June 15 signed an agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation after years of talks that had been bedeviled by the need to square U.S. nonproliferation policy with South Korean aspirations to develop its nuclear fuel cycle and be recognized as an equal nuclear partner.

One bone of contention has been the issue of whether the United States would provide so-called advance consent for South Korean sensitive nuclear activities that fall under the agreement. The pact provides such consent for relatively noncontroversial activities, but not for uranium enrichment or for pyroprocessing, a spent fuel treatment process that South Korea is pursuing and that Washington considers to be a form of reprocessing.

Through an ongoing, joint fuel-cycle study and a high-level bilateral commission that is established by the agreement and two supplementary documents, the new accord “contains pathways” toward a “possible” U.S. decision “to grant advance consent to [South Korea] to enrich or pyroprocess U.S.-obligated nuclear material,” according to the agreement’s Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement (NPAS). The NPAS, which is required under U.S. law, is one of the documents that accompanied the text of the agreement in a package that President Barack Obama sent to Congress on June 16.

Under the 1978 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements must include language saying that the partner country may not undertake activities such as uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing under the agreement unless Washington first consents to those activities.

In the agreements with Japan, Euratom, and India, the United States provided consent for the life of the agreement. Under a proposed agreement that is now before Congress, China would receive similar consent. South Korea was seeking a similar arrangement.

In 2011, South Korea and the United States began a joint study on pyroprocessing, which is due to be completed in 2021. Once the study is finished, the two sides “shall consult with a view to identifying appropriate options for the management and disposition of spent fuel subject to the Agreement and for further development or demonstration of relevant technologies,” according to the new agreement. The consultations are to take place “as promptly as possible so that nuclear energy programs of either Party would not be unduly hampered” and are to be under the auspices of the high-level commission. That body is to be headed by the U.S. deputy secretary of energy and the South Korean vice minister of foreign affairs. 

The agreement lists the criteria that the study is to use in assessing pyroprocessing—technical feasibility, economic viability, and nonproliferation acceptability. The two countries also must agree that the technology “does not significantly increase the risk of proliferation and ensures timely detection and early warning of diversion.”

In addition, the two sides have to agree that pursuing pyroprocessing “avoids the buildup of stocks of group actinides in excess of an amount that is reasonably needed.” The term “actinides” refers to a series of metallic elements in the periodic table, some of which are potentially usable as nuclear explosives.

A former U.S. official who worked on nuclear cooperation agreements said the last provision does not appear in other pacts and reflects the current U.S. policy on limiting the amount of separated plutonium. U.S. officials “don’t want to see another Japan happen,” he said in a July 3 interview, referring to Japan’s accumulation of separated plutonium well in excess of the country’s ability to use the material in its nuclear reactors.

Pyroprocessing differs from conventional reprocessing because the plutonium separated from spent fuel by pyroprocessing remains mixed with other actinides. South Korean officials have argued that this difference makes pyroprocessing more proliferation resistant than traditional reprocessing.

The NPAS notes that the United States treats pyroprocessing as a proliferation-sensitive technology and says that the United States believes that the Nuclear Suppliers Group also should do that.

That document acknowledges that the determination of whether a technology significantly increases the risk of proliferation is “subjective” and says that the proposed agreement gives the secretary of energy the “latitude” to make that determination, as required by the Atomic Energy Act.

The agreement makes clear that the potentially proliferation-sensitive activities can proceed only through mutual consent, but a former congressional staffer expressed concern that U.S. officials ultimately would accede to the South Korean requests. “For years, I’ve watched Americans forget that it’s through mutual consent. Friends are often harder to say no to” than enemies, he said in a June 30 interview.

In a July 2 interview, a congressional analyst said the structure of the agreement is “intended to allow each side to spin it positively.” The United States can say it did not give advance consent to pyroprocessing, and South Korea can say that the pact does not foreclose that possibility “forever,” he said.

He noted that the agreement’s duration is 20 years, with provision for a five-year extension. That time frame would allow the Koreans to revisit the contested issues relatively soon if they are not satisfied with the pace of progress, he said. U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements generally have had terms of at least 30 years, some of which allow for an unlimited number of five-year extensions. The shorter time frame in the new agreement was at the insistence of the South Koreans, the analyst said.

The former U.S. official agreed that the new accord represents a compromise by both sides. He added that the establishment of the high-level commission indicates “how seriously [the United States is] addressing” the South Korean concerns.

The new agreement replaces one that was due to expire last year but was extended for two years. Officials from the two countries initialed the new pact in April. (See ACT, May 2015.)

The June 16 submittal to Congress starts a countdown of 90 days of so-called continuous session. The agreement can enter into force if Congress does not block it during that time. Congress also can vote to add conditions to the agreement.

After years of talks, South Korea and the United States signed an agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation.

The Nuclear Security Summit: Progress Report on Joint Statements

March 2015

A year out from the final Nuclear Security Summit, a report from the Arms Control Association (ACA) and the Partnership for Global Security (PGS) concludes that multilateral collaborative efforts targeting key areas are improving global nuclear material security. However, narrowly focused commitments at the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) will only result in incremental improvements, not a sufficiently cohesive global nuclear security system and lasting legacy for the summit process.

Download this report.

Australia, India Sign Uranium Deal

By Kelsey Davenport

Australia and India signed a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement in New Delhi last month that will allow India to purchase uranium from Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the deal Sept. 5 during Abbott’s visit to India. Modi hailed the agreement as a “historical milestone” in the relationship between the two countries. 

A description of the agreement released by Modi’s office said the agreement will “promote cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy” and that Australia will provide “long-term reliable supplies of uranium” to India. The text of the agreement has not been released.

Abbott said India has an “impeccable” nonproliferation record and that Australia had received commitments from New Delhi that the uranium supplied to India would be used for civilian purposes and not the development of nuclear weapons. 

Australia and India began negotiations on the agreement more than two years ago, after Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard proposed lifting the country’s ban on uranium sales to India in 2011. Australia’s Labor Party voted in favor of the proposal in December 2011. (See ACT, January/February 2012.) 

Australia, one of the world’s largest producers of uranium ore, is a party to the Treaty of Rarotonga, which established a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the South Pacific. Under the treaty, parties are obligated to ensure that nuclear technology and materials are exported only to countries “subject to the safeguards required by Article III.1” of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

India is not a party to the NPT, but negotiated a limited safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2008. This means that the IAEA has access to some but not all of India’s nuclear facilities. 

India’s safeguards agreement helped pave the way for an exemption from the rules of the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008 to allow the group’s member states, including Australia, to export uranium and other nuclear goods to India. The rules of the voluntary regime generally prohibit nuclear exports to countries that are outside the NPT. 

In July of this year, India ratified an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement, which Australia said was a precondition for any agreement. 

The additional protocol, which India negotiated with the IAEA in 2009, is a voluntary measure that does not include many of the key provisions included in the IAEA Model Additional Protocol. It does not give the IAEA the authority to inspect undeclared facilities or require India to report on all of its nuclear fuel-cycle research and development. (See ACT, April 2009.) Australia’s Liberal Party opposed lifting the ban on sales to India in 2011 in part because India’s additional protocol does not meet the standards of full-scope safeguards required under the Treaty of Rarotonga.

In addition to mining its own uranium ore, India imports natural uranium from Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Namibia. 

India also is negotiating a nuclear cooperation with Japan. While visiting Japan last month, Modi said on Sept. 1 that he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed negotiators to “work expeditiously to conclude” a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. Modi said the negotiators had made “significant progress” over the past few months. 

India and Japan began negotiating the agreement in 2010. The talks were interrupted by the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011, but resumed in May 2013. 

As part of any agreement, Japan has said it wants India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and pledge not to reprocess spent nuclear fuel produced using technology or materials obtained from Tokyo. Reprocessing produces plutonium, which can be used in nuclear weapons.

India will be able to purchase uranium from Australia under a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement that the two countries signed last month.

The Week Ahead March 17-20: P5+1/Iran Talks; Nuclear Security Knowledge Summit; Ukraine Crisis & New START

The following are some of the key arms control dates and developments to watch in the coming week. For more news and analysis on these and other weapons-related security issues, consider subscribing to ACA's monthly journal Arms Control Today, which is available in print/digital and digital-only editions. - the Editors at Arms Control Today March 16: Crimea Referendum & New START Tensions are rising in Ukraine as Russian military forces have been deployed to the eastern boarder of Ukraine and a referendum on secession of Crimea is scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 16. Should the...

Week Ahead March 3-9: IAEA mtg; Pentagon Budget; Nuclear Security; Ukraine & the NPT

As the crisis in Ukraine continues to dominate global attention and the news headlines, several other arms control developments of significance in the coming week. For more news and analysis on these and other weapons-related security issues, consider subscribing to ACA's monthly journal Arms Control Today, which is available in print/digital and digital-only editions. The March issue of ACT will be available online later this week to all subscribers. - the Editors at Arms Control Today Week of March 3: IAEA Board of Governors Convenes The 35-member International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)...

Who Will Be the 2013 Arms Control Person of the Year? Vote Now.

Okay folks. It is that time of the year. The sun is low in the northern hemisphere; holiday-driven shopping is in full swing; Congress has finally left Washington DC at peace; you are drinking more eggnog than you should; NORAD is working to put a shine on its image by tracking Santa (while still looking out for Russian nuclear-armed ICBMs); the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded; holiday cards are arriving; and ... the Arms Control Association's Arms Control Person of the Year balloting is open ! Every year since 2007, ACA's staff has nominated several individuals and institutions that best...

The Week Ahead Nov. 18-22: Iran talks resume; Lugar honored; Syria CW Challenges

This bulletin highlights significant events in the world of arms control in the coming week, as compiled by staff and friends of the Arms Control Association. (Send your suggestions for events to be covered here. ) - the Editors at Arms Control Today Iran Talks to Resume in Geneva Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, and Germany) resume in Geneva on Nov. 20. The two sides appear to be very close to a "first phase" agreement that would pause Iran's nuclear progress and address the most urgent activities of proliferation concern in...

NSG Revises List, Continues India Debate

Daniel Horner

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has completed a revision of its list of controlled exports, the group announced in Prague on June 14 at the end of its annual plenary meeting.

At the meeting, representatives of the 48 member states continued to wrestle with the question of whether to admit India as a member, according to people familiar with the discussions. President Barack Obama proposed that step during a visit to India in November 2010. (See ACT, December 2010.)

The revision of the list, which covers nuclear-specific and dual-use goods, took three years to complete, the June 14 statement said.

The lists “are not static” and must keep up with “the main security challenges, advances in technology, [and] market trends,” said Veronika Kuchyňová Šmigolová, head of the Czech permanent mission to international organizations in Vienna and the chair of the NSG for the coming year, in a June 25 e-mail to Arms Control Today. After last year’s meeting in Seattle, U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman, the 2012-2013 NSG chairman, said completing the review was his highest priority. (See ACT, July/August 2012.)

The country that chairs the NSG starts its term by hosting the plenary meeting. The group is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding, but members are expected to incorporate the guidelines into their national export control laws.

The June 14 statement said that the meeting participants discussed the role of the private sector in preventing proliferation and how NSG members could interact with companies that export nuclear goods.

In her e-mail, Kuchyňová highlighted the importance of companies’ internal compliance programs to ensure that the firms “do not inadvertently violate national laws and thereby subject themselves to sanctions and reputational damage.” Interaction with the private sector is “an important focus of our outreach,” she said.

Another target of her outreach efforts will be “non-NSG supplier states, including India, Pakistan and Israel,” she said. Those three countries never have joined the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and maintain unsafeguarded nuclear programs.

In September 2008, in a move led by the United States, the NSG eased long-standing restrictions on nuclear trade with India by the group’s members. NSG rules generally forbid the sale of nuclear goods, such as reactors and fuel, to non-NPT countries.

With those restrictions lifted, Indian membership in the NSG is the “next logical step,” Ashley Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said in a June 21 interview. While in the U.S. government, Tellis was a principal architect of the U.S. policy shift toward India that led to the 2008 NSG decision and a similar change in U.S. law.

Like the 2008 decision, the idea of admitting India is controversial within the NSG, which makes its decisions by consensus. The issue of Indian membership “raises some very difficult questions and needs to be discussed further,” a western European diplomat said in a June 26 interview. Tellis and the diplomat each listed France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States among the strong supporters of Indian membership and China as a leading opponent.

A key criterion for NSG membership is that a country is a party to and complying with the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty. India would be the first country that did not meet that criterion.

A British discussion paper on Indian membership argues that the NSG process for accepting new members “offer[s] the flexibility” to allow India to join. In the paper, which was obtained by Arms Control Today, the United Kingdom said it “believes that the NSG is best served by the inclusion and membership of India” because New Delhi has “an important civil nuclear industry” and “continues to uphold the international non-proliferation architecture.”

Tellis said that, with the 2008 decision, “the debate about principle is over.” The countries that were uneasy about admitting a non-NPT state with a nuclear weapons program “conceded” on the principle at that time, he said. “At the end of the day, they’ll make the same judgment they did in 2008,” he predicted.

The western European diplomat said his country is approaching the issue “with an open mind” but wants “a serious discussion” that “com[es] to grips with the implications” of the decision, for example, what it would mean for the implementation of NSG guidelines.

He said it might be possible to find a formulation that is not “damaging” to the NPT regime but “brings India closer.” India could “take a couple of steps toward the NPT community,” he said. One example would be signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, an “extremely high-value symbolic step” that would have little immediate practical effect on India, in part because the treaty has not entered into force and will not do so until India and seven other key countries have ratified it, he said. Also, he said, there already are other legal and political constraints on India’s ability to conduct a nuclear test.

The June 14 statement did not provide any information on the India discussions, repeating the language used in 2011 and last year. Kuchyňová also declined to provide details.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group completed a revision of its list of controlled exports and continued its internal debate on admitting India as a member.

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at 45

President Lyndon Johnson looking on as Secretary of State Dean Rusk prepares to sign the NPT, 1 July 1968.(Source: Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.) By Daryl G. Kimball Forty-five years ago today, the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and dozens of other countries signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at ceremonies in Washington, Moscow, and London. In his remarks at the July 1, 1968 signing ceremony , U.S. President Lyndon Johnson called it "... a very reassuring and hopeful moment in the relations among nations. We hope and expect that virtually all the...


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