"[Arms Control Today is] Absolutely essential reading for the upcoming Congressional budget debate on the 2018 #NPR and its specific recommendations ... well-informed, insightful, balanced, and filled with common sense."

– Frank Klotz
former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
Nuclear Suppliers Group

G-8 Extends WMD Initiative

Peter Crail

Leaders from the Group of Eight (G-8) major world economies agreed during a two-day annual summit in Deauville, France, to extend a 10-year effort aimed at reducing threats from nonconventional weapons.

The eight countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) launched the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction at the group’s 2002 summit in Kananaskis, Canada. They pledged $20 billion over 10 years to fund projects safeguarding and destroying nonconventional weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union.

In a May 27 declaration from Deauville, the G-8 leaders welcomed “the concrete achievements and measurable results” of the Global Partnership and agreed to extend the initiative for an unspecified period beyond its 2012 expiration. Rather than pledging a given amount of funding for additional threat reduction projects as in 2002, the declaration said that participants in the partnership “will decide on funding of such projects on a national, joint, or multilateral basis.”

In a May 31 interview, Bonnie Jenkins, the Department of State coordinator for threat reduction programs, said the G-8 partners will focus on determining funding and specific projects over the next year, adding that the benefit of agreeing on an extension a year early is that there is time to agree on the details. The G-8 also said it would expand membership beyond the 23 countries that currently participate in the partnership. Jenkins said new partners would likely include participants in last year’s nuclear security summit and other countries already involved in funding similar initiatives.

The G-8 first took up the prospect of extending the partnership during the annual summit last year in Muskoka, Canada, but G-8 diplomats said last month that the eight countries could not reach agreement on extension at that time due to opposition from Germany. The diplomats said that Germany’s concerns about extending the initiative were related both to financial considerations stemming from the global recession and to uncertainties about new types of projects in which it would be more difficult to determine whether funds were being used effectively.

Global Partnership projects initially were carried out in Russia and Ukraine and focused on destroying chemical weapons, dismantling nuclear submarines, disposing of nuclear weapons-usable material, and employing scientists who had worked on nonconventional weapons. The G-8 agreed in 2008 to expand the initiative’s activities worldwide and has increasingly engaged in threat reduction efforts beyond the four priority areas. (See ACT, September 2008.)

Highlighting some of the changes in the nature of Global Partnership efforts since 2002, a State Department official told Arms Control Today last October that “now we’re in a new CTR [Cooperative Threat Reduction] environment that’s not as clear-cut as before,” adding that “we need time to figure out where the threats are, what the priorities are, and what to fund first.” The official said that the new CTR environment involved not only the expansion of activities outside the former Soviet Union, but also new efforts such as biosecurity, radiological security, and export controls.

The May 27 declaration said that the G-8 remained “committed to completing priority projects in Russia.”

The State Department official noted that although Germany did not agree last year to extend the Global Partnership, it was still engaged in funding a variety of other nonproliferation initiatives, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Nuclear Security Fund.

The May 27 declaration also reiterated the G-8’s commitment, first made in 2009, to adopt criteria being considered by the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for the transfer of technologies related to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing, both of which can be used to produce material for nuclear weapons. All G-8 members also participate in the NSG, which is meeting this month in the Netherlands.

In 2009 the G-8 agreed to implement for one year the proposed criteria for sensitive exports, pending a decision by the NSG regarding the adoption of such rules. It renewed that commitment in 2010. The NSG has not yet completed its negotiations on the criteria, which were proposed in November 2008.

In a likely reference to a proposal last year that India be allowed to join the NSG and other multilateral export control regimes (see ACT, December 2010), the G-8 said that it would “consider the enlargement of the suppliers’ groups to responsible stakeholders in a manner consistent with the groups’ procedures and objectives.”

A key criterion for membership in the NSG is that the country is a party to and complying with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty. A decision to allow India to join would mark the first exception to that policy.The NSG was formed largely in response to India’s 1974 nuclear test. Until 2008, India was not eligible to receive exports from NSG members because it is a non-NPT state and does not open all its nuclear facilities to international inspections. But in response to a U.S.-led initiative, the group agreed to lift that requirement for India in return for certain nonproliferation “commitments and actions.” (See ACT, October 2008.)


The Group of Eight major economies agreed to extend a 2002 initiative aimed at securing and eliminating nonconventional weapons and materials. The decision comes a year before the original mandate for the effort was set to expire.

India Nuclear Deal: Dumb and Dumber

By Daryl G. Kimball One of the chief proponents of the disastrous 2008 civil nuclear trade exemption for India, Ashley Tellis, is apparently a bit sour about this week's announcement from the Indian government that it will pursue the purchase of the European Eurofighter and French Rafale aircraft rather than U.S. made F-18 (Boeing) or F-16 (Lockheed Martin) as part of its drive to build up its conventional military capabilities. The Hindu reports today: Questioning whether these aircraft represented the best value for the IAF and the best investments for India overall, Mr. Tellis said to The...

Chinese-Pakistani Reactor Deal Moves Ahead

Daniel Horner

A planned civilian nuclear deal between China and Pakistan moved a step closer to completion, as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors on March 8 approved safeguards agreements for the two power reactors that would be involved.

The units would be built at Pakistan’s Chashma site, which already houses two Chinese-built power reactors.

The deal is controversial because the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which China joined in 2004, allow members to export nuclear goods such as reactors and fuel only to countries that accept IAEA safeguards on all their nuclear facilities. Pakistan does not apply these so-called full-scope safeguards.

When China joined the NSG, it had already built a power reactor at the Chashma site. It claimed at the time that, under the NSG’s “grandfather” provisions, it was entitled to build a second reactor, on the grounds that the second project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. According to several accounts, the NSG agreed that the second reactor would be allowable under the grandfather provision but that subsequent power reactor sales would not.

The 46-member NSG is not a formal organization; its export guidelines are nonbinding.

Reiterating the position the United States has held since mid-2010 (see ACT, June 2010), Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake told reporters in Beijing March 18, “We expect China to abide by the commitments that it made when it joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2004, and in particular we think the construction of new nuclear reactors such as the Chasma 3 and 4 would be inconsistent with those commitments,” according to a Department of State transcript.

“We’ve been very clear in the Nuclear Suppliers Group context about that position, but we’ve also been very clear on the need to support Pakistan’s energy development,” Blake said. “[T]here’s a lot that can be done in non-nuclear areas that help do that,” he said.

In a March 23 e-mail to Arms Control Today, another State Department official drew a distinction between the IAEA and the NSG in the context of the deal. The United States supported approval of the safeguards pact because such agreements “play the key role of providing greater assurance and transparency that civilian activities are not diverted to other purposes,” the official said. “We believe the Nuclear Suppliers Group is the appropriate venue to discuss concerns about this transfer, not the IAEA,” the official said.

Waiting for Information

According to the official, the United States has “asked China to present the scope and details of its intended nuclear cooperation with Pakistan to the NSG,” but “China has yet to provide such details.”

The NSG discussed the matter last year during its plenary meeting in New Zealand. (See ACT, July/August 2010.) In recent interviews, diplomats said it is not on the agenda for this year’s plenary meeting, which is scheduled for June in the Netherlands, but could be discussed there.

Some observers have said the United States needs to raise the issue in venues other than the NSG. State Department officials declined to say whether Washington has done so.

In a March 14 interview, a European diplomat said many countries are “uneasy” about the situation, as they do not believe the planned reactor is covered by the grandfathering agreement. As the diplomat noted, China could request an exemption from NSG guidelines to allow nuclear trade with a country that does not accept full-scope safeguards. In response to a U.S.-led initiative, the NSG granted such an exemption in 2008 for sales to India. (See ACT, October 2008.)

“We would be very interested in the Chinese arguments,” the diplomat said, adding that Beijing probably will not request an exemption.

“We are really struggling with this issue,” the diplomat said.

In a March 29 interview, a State Department official said, “Everything [the Chinese] have said would indicate that [the deal] is going forward.”

Extracting Benefits

Some current and former diplomats have begun thinking about how to salvage from the deal “an outcome that would be kind of positive,” as the European diplomat put it. For example, the diplomat said, the NSG could press for a Chinese commitment that was “more explicit” than the one in 2004 in stating that Beijing would not conduct additional trade that fell outside the NSG guidelines.

In March 29 remarks at a nuclear policy conference in Washington, John Carlson, the former director-general of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, said NSG members could try to convince China to insist on high standards of safety and physical protection for the reactors. Appearing on the same panel, Henk Cor van der Kwast, head of the Non-Proliferation, Disarmament, Arms Control and Export Control Policy Division in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said, “We don’t know how this question will go.” If the sale does take place, one possibility is a Chinese declaration making certain commitments, along the lines of the one that India made as part of the process of obtaining the exemption in 2008, he said. In a brief interview after the panel, van der Kwast said he was not suggesting that he thought China would seek an exemption for the sale to Pakistan.

The third panelist, Richard Goorevich, a senior policy adviser in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, commented, “When it comes to building nuclear reactors, it’s really not a done deal until it’s actually done.”

After the panel, he said he was not referring to a particular current obstacle. Reactor construction is a “laborious, complicated thing” and could be stalled by issues such as financing or, in Pakistan’s specific case, rebuilding from last year’s devastating floods, he said.

In his panel comments, he also said that, in the NSG, there is an “aspect of transparency with regards to each other’s nuclear cooperation,” and that is what would be discussed with China if the deal went ahead.



A planned civilian nuclear deal between China and Pakistan is moving to completion although it has prompted concerns within the Nuclear Suppliers Group.


Letter to the Editor: Additional Protocols as a Condition of Nuclear Supply

John Carlson

Fred McGoldrick (“The Road Ahead for Export Controls,” January/February 2011) notes that an important outstanding item for the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is to reach agreement on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) additional protocol as a condition of new nuclear supply. The additional protocol strengthens the IAEA’s ability to detect undeclared nuclear material and activities by requiring states to provide further information and access for safeguards inspectors. In 1997 the IAEA Board of Governors asked each non-nuclear-weapon state that is a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to conclude an additional protocol. This is an obvious and necessary step to strengthen the nonproliferation regime.

One reason the NSG has struggled to reach agreement is that two members, Brazil and Argentina, have not signed additional protocols. To date, Brazil has refused to do so, and in view of their joint safeguards arrangements, Argentina feels it cannot move without Brazil. The NSG has developed compromise language that appears to meet the Argentina-Brazil situation. Now, however, it seems South Africa is the chief obstacle. This is surprising, considering South Africa was one of the early states to conclude an additional protocol in 2002.

As of December 20, 2010, 135 states—two-thirds of the NPT parties—had signed an additional protocol. This included just less than 90 percent of non-nuclear-weapon states with significant nuclear activities; 74 percent of such states had their protocol in force. So the additional protocol is now well established by international practice as part of the IAEA safeguards system. But the ongoing refusal of states such as Brazil, Egypt, Syria, and Venezuela to sign an additional protocol, as well as Iran’s “suspension” of its protocol, reflects some serious issues: (1) a polarization of attitudes toward safeguards, particularly worrying because it could imply a wavering of support for nonproliferation; (2) the view of some that conclusion of an additional protocol is optional; and (3) the unwillingness to date of major suppliers to require an additional protocol as a matter of national policy.

McGoldrick mentions the Nonaligned Movement’s opposition at the 2010 NPT Review Conference to a consensus statement that having an additional protocol in place is the NPT safeguards standard. This is an example of issue 1. The IAEA has emphasized that, without an additional protocol, it is unable to provide credible assurance of the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. It seems many nonaligned countries have lost sight of the importance of safeguards as a technical verification mechanism that benefits not the West or the “North,” but every state. Safeguards are an essential tool to resolve suspicions, to help states demonstrate to neighbors and the international community that they are meeting their treaty commitments. Opponents of the additional protocol are compromising their own national interest, which is to have a safeguards system that is more, not less, effective. Refusal to accept the most effective form of safeguards erodes the vital confidence-building role of safeguards.

Issue 2 involves arguments too complex to analyze fully here. Suffice it to say, under the NPT, non-nuclear-weapon states have committed to accept safeguards on all their nuclear material; that means they should have no undeclared nuclear material. But absent an additional protocol, the IAEA is unable to provide credible assurance that a state has met this commitment. To argue that the additional protocol is “optional” ignores the point that the protocol is needed to discharge the verification mandate the IAEA has been given by the NPT.

States supporting nonproliferation should be doing all they can to persuade the holdouts to conclude an additional protocol without further delay. This is particularly the case for nuclear suppliers, who have some leverage. The major suppliers are members of the Group of Eight (G-8), whose summits for several years have endorsed the additional protocol as a condition of supply. Yet, a number of G-8 members are considering nuclear supply contracts with states that have no additional protocol and even make a point of refusing it. McGoldrick comments that convincing the few holdouts on the additional protocol condition may require high-level intervention by the major nuclear suppliers. High-level intervention is needed not only within the NSG, but directly with every state that asserts less-effective safeguards are good enough. Maybe a campaign at the heads-of-government level should be considered, similar to the nuclear security summit process that was so successful last year.

John Carlson was director-general of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office until October 2010. He represented Australia in the Model Additional Protocol negotiations and chaired the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation from 2001 to 2006. He now advises the Nuclear Threat Initiative and others on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament issues.


Time for Leadership: South Korea and Nuclear Nonproliferation

Chen Kane, Stephanie C. Lieggi, and Miles A. Pomper

South Korea recently has emerged as a significant nuclear exporter. In December 2009, a South Korean-led consortium won a $20 billion deal to export four nuclear reactors to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).[1] South Korea has been in the running for other nuclear reactor deals as well, including with Lithuania and Turkey, and may find itself with the opportunity to operate Jordan’s planned power reactors. Buoyed by these achievements,Seoul is aiming to capture 20 percent of the world market for nuclear reactors by 2030.[2]

All of a sudden, the countries that have long dominated nuclear sales—CanadaFranceJapanRussia, and theUnited States—have had to reckon with a serious new competitor.

Seoul’s growth as a nuclear exporter is not simply a tale for the business pages. How it carries out its new role matters because nuclear power is like no other industry; its chief materials and technologies can be used to make the world’s deadliest weapons. The United States and countries in the region—China, Japan, and North Korea in particular—follow events in South Korea carefully and try to shape its nuclear development. Moreover, nuclear technology is of specific concern when it is sold to volatile regions such as the Middle East—South Korea’s key export market.

Additional nonproliferation-related concerns, particularly in Washington, come from South Korea’s efforts to develop pyroprocessing, a spent fuel treatment process that Seoul believes it needs in order to manage the increasing amount of nuclear waste coming from its reactors. South Korean officials assure the international community that pyroprocessing is not the same as traditional reprocessing and entails few proliferation risks. Many outside experts and policymakers, however, are concerned that the process would be difficult to safeguard and could allow diversion of sensitive nuclear materials.

In the past, South Korea has been a sometimes-reluctant follower and occasional violator of international nuclear nonproliferation norms and rules. More recently, Seoul has taken steps to upgrade its nonproliferation credentials and comply with relevant nonproliferation obligations. Still, if South Korea is to meet its goals as a nuclear exporter and successfully conclude a new nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States, it will have to become a leader, rather than a follower, of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Mixed Nonproliferation Record

In 1968, South Korea signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), but concerns about its security environment in the 1970s led Seoul to consider a military nuclear option. In the early 1970s, South Korean President Park Chung-hee made the acquisition of a reprocessing capability to separate plutonium for nuclear weapons a top priority. After the United States threatened to withdraw its security guarantees if Seoul did not halt its weapons development plans, South Korea ratified the NPT in 1975 and adopted an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement.[3]

The announcement by President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s that the United States intended to withdraw all ground troops from the Korean peninsula revived Park’s interest in a nuclear weapons option. Seoul renewed its efforts to acquire a reprocessing capability from France, an effort thwarted by Carter’s personal intervention and his nearly simultaneous decision not to withdraw U.S. forces from the peninsula.[4]

Soon after the Cold War ended, Seoul and Pyongyang in 1992 signed the “Joint Declaration of South and North Korea on the Denuclearization of the KoreanPeninsula,” whereby both Koreas agreed not to “possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities.”[5] The two sides also declared they “would not test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons.” It is widely agreed that North Korea’s nuclear activities during the past decade, particularly its enrichment and reprocessing programs and nuclear tests, have been in clear violation of the 1992 agreement. Despite this, South Korea has never abandoned the joint declaration officially and has called on Pyongyang to abide by the pact, despite occasional suggestions in South Korean elite circles that Seoul should renounce the agreement.

South Korea’s additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement entered into force in February 2004.[6] The additional protocol provides IAEA inspectors greater access to a country’s nuclear facilities, materials, and records, particularly undeclared facilities. When South Korea submitted its initial declaration, however, it disclosed to the IAEA a series of previously undeclared laboratory-scale experiments conducted by scientists at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI).

The resulting IAEA investigations revealed that South Korean scientists had engaged in experiments related to uranium enrichment and conversion and plutonium separation.[7] Although the experiments produced very small quantities of nuclear material and did not appear to have been part of an organized nuclear weapons effort, the activities involved technical skills that would be applicable in a weapons program. IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei determined that the undeclared use of nuclear material in the experiments constituted a matter of serious concern.[8] According to the IAEA, South Korea informed the agency that the “experiments were performed without the knowledge or authorization of the government” and were “conducted solely to satisfy the scientific interest of the scientists involved.”[9] In May 2008, the IAEA concluded that it “considers all past undeclared activities involving uranium enrichment…conversion, and plutonium separation experiments as resolved.”[10]

Since then, Seoul has implemented several institutional reforms and educational programs aimed at strengthening its oversight of the activities taking place in its nuclear research facilities.[11] These past activities, however, have made it even more difficult for South Korea to gain support for acquiring dual-use technologies, such as those for uranium enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing, which could be used to produce nuclear weapons as well as nuclear energy.

Enrichment and Reprocessing

As South Korea has emerged as a nuclear exporter (see sidebar), its officials privately have voiced increasing interest in acquiring enrichment and reprocessing technology, in part to be able to provide potential customers with the full range of services for fueling their reactors and disposing of the spent fuel as many of its competitors already do.[12] South Korea’s civil nuclear objectives currently include attaining full self-sufficiency, which appears to include some increased capacity with regard to the nuclear fuel cycle.[13]

To be sure, South Korea’s interest in pyroprocessing primarily results from the country’s failure to solve its domestic spent-fuel management crisis. South Korea is far from alone in its failure to find a permanent site at which to dispose of its spent fuel, but the failure to win domestic political support for additional interim storage sites has led to an imminent crisis. Only a few years from now, South Korean scientists predict, the spent fuel pools at South Korea’s nuclear plants will begin to reach capacity.[14] South Korea has explored pyroprocessing as a potential long-term technical solution to this problem, although officials acknowledge that other measures such as interim storage would be needed for some time.[15]

Pyroprocessing treats spent fuel to remove its extremely radioactive but relatively short-lived beta-emitter constituents, such as strontium, cesium, and iodine, and leaves behind unused uranium and the extremely long-lived transuranic alpha-emitters plutonium, americium, and neptunium. South Korea plans to irradiate these latter materials in yet-to-be-designed fast-burner reactors, ultimately reducing the overall quantity of waste requiring permanent disposal. Some in South Korea, particularly those in the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology and in KAERI, which is part of the ministry, see this as particularly advantageous because South Korea’s high population density makes it difficult to find sufficient space for a single, large, permanent underground repository for nuclear waste.

Although other elements within the South Korean government may not be convinced of the wisdom of this approach, Seoul has reached a consensus that the option of moving forward with this technology should be preserved in negotiations with the United States on a new bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement. The old agreement, set to expire in 2014, prevents South Korea from carrying out any “alteration in form and content,” such as traditional reprocessing, pyroprocessing, or enrichment, of U.S.-origin fuel without Washington’s permission. Seoul is hoping to relax some of Washington’s long-standing restrictions on the processing of spent fuel. The U.S. government has yet to give its blessing because it is worried that the process or its output could be too easily altered to produce a less benign product, that it will be too difficult to implement safeguards aimed to prevent such changes, and that any relaxation of U.S. rules would harm Washington’s broader global and regional nonproliferation efforts.

In particular, U.S. officials are concerned about how South Korean pyroprocessing would affect the 1992 denuclearization pact. Many in Washington fear that if South Korea were to break with the agreement openly by constructing its own reprocessing facilities, that action might provide a pretext for North Korea to claim its behavior was no more illegitimate than that of its southern neighbor. In addition, China and Japan see the denuclearization agreement as a cornerstone of the six-party talks, and U.S. officials will not want to provoke a rupture with Beijingor Tokyo.

South Korean officials seek to sidestep this problem by differentiating pyroprocessing from standard reprocessing, claiming, contrary to the opinion of many U.S. experts, including U.S government officials and those at U.S. national laboratories, that pyroprocessing is substantially more proliferation resistant.[16] Traditional reprocessing uses liquid solvents and ultimately separates pure plutonium, a weapons-usable material. Pyroprocessing leaves the plutonium mixed with other transuranic elements, such as americium and neptunium.

The United States and South Korea recently agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding to conduct a 10-year joint feasibility study on ways of handling spent nuclear fuel, including pyroprocessing. The study will be conducted in parallel with negotiations on the other issues related to the nuclear cooperation agreement. If the sides are not able to reach an understanding on pyroprocessing by 2014, when the current cooperation agreement expires, the two sides will have to agree whether and how to address the issue of pyroprocessing in the agreement.[17]

South Korean officials have talked privately and with increasing frequency of the need to build their own facilities to enrich uranium. To date, South Korea has relied on importing enriched uranium from Europe and the United Statesand then fabricating the fuel domestically. Yet, South Korea’s domestic market alone, which currently includes 21 nuclear power reactors (see sidebar), has approached the point at which it could make economic sense for South Korea to enrich the fuel itself. As that market grows and new overseas sales opportunities beckon, the lure of building enrichment facilities is likely to grow. This interest comes as the United States, in its bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements and in international venues such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the IAEA, continues to try to limit the spread of enrichment facilities.

Seoul’s Nonproliferation Role

Given Seoul’s mixed nonproliferation record and the 1992 denuclearization agreement that disallows enrichment or reprocessing technology on the Korean peninsula, the United States and key regional states such as Japan and China are concerned about South Korea launching programs that involve such technologies. They fret that because of South Korea’s other capabilities, such as in missile technology, the possession of such technologies could bring the country within a few months of being able to build a nuclear weapon. They also worry that South Korea’s action might make it even more difficult to convince North Korea to return to the terms of the 1992 denuclearization agreement. South Korean officials counter that the United States and China long have had this concern aboutJapan’s extensive reprocessing program as well, but that the United States has granted Japan permission to reprocess U.S.-origin fuel. In contrast to South Korea, however, Japan developed its reprocessing program before U.S. views on reprocessing changed in the mid-1970s following India’s test of a “peaceful nuclear explosive,” which used plutonium from reprocessed spent fuel. Also, Tokyo did not agree to restrictions such as those included in the Korean denuclearization agreement and has no known violations of its IAEA safeguards agreement.

South Korea’s rise as a nuclear exporter has made its policies on these issues not only a regional but also a global concern. Nevertheless, Seoul has hesitated to take a leading role in global nonproliferation efforts. Notably, it has been quiet about efforts by some NSG members, particularly the United States, to increase restrictions on the trade of enrichment and reprocessing technology.[18] Moreover, unlike Japan (explicitly) and the United States (de facto), South Korea has not made adoption of an IAEA additional protocol a condition for supplying nuclear technology. JordanTurkey, and the UAE had agreed to abide by this protocol long before negotiating withSouth Korea, but other potential South Korean customers have not. South Korean officials have said they will support this requirement if the NSG endorses it, but not beforehand.[19]

Also, Seoul has been slow to cooperate with recent international efforts aimed against Iran’s nuclear program. This hesitation is based on economic interests: Tehran is an important trading partner for Seoul, and South Korea gets about 10 percent of its oil from Iran.[20] In September 2010, under U.S. pressure, South Korea announced new national sanctions on Iran. These measures included placing 102 Iranian firms and 24 people on a list “banning financial transactions without central bank approval,” more thoroughly inspecting cargo from Iran, and curbing South Korean investment in Iranian oil and gas enterprises.[21] South Korea also temporarily closed the Seoul branch of Bank Mellat, which is the Iranian bank’s only office in East Asia.[22] This bank is reported to have been involved with about 70 percent of all South Korean-Iranian transactions.[23] The Seoul branch also was suspected of being used to transfer payments for Iranian-North Korean weapons transactions.[24] Washington had been pressuring Seoul to close the Bank Mellat branch permanently, but the branch was reopened in December 2010, signifying that Seoul is still concerned about alienating a major trading partner. That same month, a South Korean company, DK Tech Corp., signed a $750 million agreement with Iran to develop two phases of the giant South Pars natural gas field. The deal was signed six months after another South Korean company withdrew from the project due to “mounting pressures of some [W]estern powers” related to the sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program.[25]

Despite its reluctance to impose sanctions on IranSeoul recently has taken some very public strides toward playing a greater leadership role in global nonproliferation efforts. After hesitating for many years, Seoul agreed in 2009 to join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). The apprehension of earlier South Korean governments about the PSI was largely based on concerns that North Korea would see South Korean participation as a hostile move. The election of the more conservative Lee Myung-bak and the second North Korean nuclear test, in 2009, resulted in Seoul’s decision to become an active participant in the U.S.-led initiative. In fact, in November 2010,South Korea became the 21st member of the PSI Operational Experts Group, the guiding policymaking and operational body for the initiative.[26]

Additionally, at the April 2010 nuclear security summit in Washington—a gathering of global leaders intended to carry out President Barack Obama’s goal of securing all vulnerable materials, particularly highly enriched uranium and plutonium, from terrorists in four years—Seoul offered to host the next such summit in 2012.[27] In June 2010, South Korea agreed to host the next plenary meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.[28] Since May 2007, Seoul has been an active member of that initiative, which focuses on law enforcement intelligence gathering to strengthen global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism.[29]

Officials tout the value of South Korea’s experience as a country that developed a strong nuclear energy program without developing nuclear weapons as a model for nuclear novices in the developing world. Already the South Korean government has several programs aimed at exporting this model to other countries. KAERI provides training to new nuclear states in how to operate and manage nuclear technology, while other entities within the Korean nuclear establishment, such as the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Company, provide training for foreigners as well as Korean workers in safety, operation, and management aspects of nuclear facilities. At the nuclear security summit, South Korea pledged to build a nuclear security training facility that will serve as a simulation center.


South Korea should be congratulated for its recent nonproliferation initiatives, which show a welcome recognition that its new role as a global nuclear exporter comes with new global responsibilities for preventing nuclear weapons proliferation. However, if South Korea is serious about its goal of becoming one of the world’s top nuclear exporters, it also will have to become more serious about nonproliferation. In particular, it will have to change from being, at best, a follower of international nonproliferation norms to a leader in forging new ones. That will mean that Seoul will have to be willing at times to sacrifice potential business or take on strong domestic political constituencies, whether protesters or industry, in order to advance global nonproliferation goals by imposing sanctions on nonproliferation rogues, forgoing pyroprocessing, taking a more active role in supporting NSG efforts to restrict the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies, or requiring that potential customers have concluded an additional protocol to their IAEA safeguards agreements.

South Korea’s hosting of the 2012 nuclear security summit and its difficulties in dealing with spent fuel offer two particular opportunities to exercise leadership. If Seoul agrees to a cautious agenda for the 2012 meeting, it will be sacrificing a chance to make its own mark. South Korean officials should consider proposing a bold initiative of some type, such as seeking to conclude an agreement to phase out highly enriched uranium (HEU) in the civilian sector. At a time when U.S. funding for this effort faces cuts, South Korea should provide funding to help bring this about and urge other countries whose economies are faring reasonably well to follow suit.

Although South Korea’s research reactors now rely only on low-enriched uranium, which is not suitable for nuclear weapons, research reactors in other countries still use enough HEU every year to make as many as 30 nuclear weapons.[30] Because reprocessing raises nonproliferation concerns, Seoul should consider multilateral alternatives to its national effort to pyroprocess spent fuel. Such an effort would allow South Korea to address its spent fuel problems without undermining U.S. and global efforts to minimize the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies.[31]

Seoul could take the lead in establishing a new regional forum for more consistently and openly discussing possible options for dealing with regional spent-fuel stockpiles. Numerous emerging Asian economies, such asIndonesia and Vietnam, are contemplating nuclear power development, and many regional players are facing similar spent-fuel challenges. Although some of these states’ nuclear authorities are proposing similar solutions, there is little regional discussion or coordination of such issues. Sharing of best practices and lessons learned would be beneficial.

South Korea’s rise as a nuclear exporter is good news for the country’s nuclear industry and workers. Should Seoulembrace more nonproliferation responsibilities, it will be good news for South Korean and global security as well.

Seoul’s Nuclear Energy Outlook

Today, South Korea boasts the world’s fifth-largest nuclear reactor fleet. The country utilizes 21 nuclear power reactors providing 40 percent of the nation’s electricity supply. According to its 2008 National Energy Basic Plan, South Korea plans to increase the share of nuclear energy in its domestic electricity generation to 59 percent by 2030 by building roughly 14 more nuclear reactors.[1] The South Korean government set this goal in part to combat rising carbon emissions; South Korea posted the world’s largest increase in greenhouse gas emissions per capita during the last two decades.[2]

South Korea has been playing a growing role in the international nuclear market. Under a contract with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UAE will pay $20.4 billion for construction of four 1,400-megawatt reactors by 2020. Following the UAE deal, South Korea announced its objective to export 80 nuclear reactors by 2030.[3] It has been targeting contracts in India, Indonesia, Lithuania, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, and others.[4] South Korea wants to expand in the long term into bigger markets such as China and United States, and Korean firms involved in export, such as Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Company, are looking to export expertise to Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.[5]

Although South Korea’s plans are extensive, a number of factors may slow its export growth. For instance, South Korean nuclear consortia are at a disadvantage in comparison to established exporters from other countries in financing projects. Although it did loan the UAE $10 billion to construct its nuclear reactors,[6] South Korea has tended to avoid riskier deals that require the exporter to front the costs of constructing the reactor and to recover the investment from the long-term sale of electricity from the reactors. This limitation already had led South Korea to pull out of a reactor deal with Jordan, and it appears to be harming its current bid to construct reactors in Turkey.[7] —CHEN KANE, STEPHANIE C. LIEGGI, and MILES A. POMPER


1. Ministry of Knowledge Economy [South Korea], “National Energy Basic Plan, 2008,” August 28, 2008.

2. Kevin A. Baumert et al., Navigating the Numbers: Greenhouse Gas Data and International Climate Policy (WashingtonDC: World Resources Institute, 2005), http://pdf.wri.org/navigating_numbers.pdf; Moon Hee-chang, statement at KAERI, Daejeon, July 21, 2010.

3. Cho Chung-un, “Korea Aims to Be No. 3 in Nuclear Power Sector,” Korea Herald, January 14, 2010, www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20100114000059.

4. “South Korea Seeks to Boost Reactor Exports,” World Nuclear News, January 13, 2010, www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-South_Korea_seeks_to_boost_reactor_exports-1301104.html; Lee Eun-joo, “For Nuke Plants, Korea Now Targets Lithuania,” Korea JoongAng Daily, November 18, 2010, http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2928547.

5. “Korea Needs Foreign Nuclear Partners,” Korea JoongAng Daily, June 24, 2010, http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2922226; “KHNP Foremost in Nuclear Plant Operation,” Korea Herald, March 25, 2010, www.koreaherald.com/specialreport/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20100325000840.

6. Seoul’s loan has generated controversy in South Korea because of its belated revelation and what some saw as its overly generous terms. See Lee Soon-hyuk, “S. Korea Found to Loan $10B for UAE Power Plant,” The Hankyoreh, February 1, 2011, http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/461703.html.

7. For more analysis on the issue of financing of South Korea’s nuclear exports, see “Keys to Winning Nuclear Bids,” Korea JoongAng Daily, December 28, 2010, http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2930167.


The authors are staff members of the JamesMartinCenter for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. This article draws from their paper “Going Global: Issues Facing South Korea as an Emerging Nuclear Exporter” for the Korea Economic Institute.


1. In March 2010, South Korea signed a second reactor-supply agreement—a $130 million contract to construct a nuclear research reactor at the Jordan University of Science and Technology. The reactor is to be constructed by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and the South Korean industrial conglomerate Daewoo. The five-megawatt reactor, upgradable to 10 megawatts, is a smaller version of KAERI’s HANARO research reactor.South Korea agreed to finance most of the project, with Seoul initially providing a $70 million soft loan. Some countries, such as Argentina, that export research reactors, however, do not export the far more lucrative power reactors.

2. “South Korea Seeks to Boost Reactor Exports,” World Nuclear News, January 13, 2010, www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-South_Korea_seeks_to_boost_reactor_exports-1301104.html/.

3. Fred McGoldrick, “The Peaceful Nuclear Program of the Republic of Korea and Global Nonproliferation Considerations” (paper prepared for “CEIP-KAERI-IPC Joint Seminar on ROK-U.S. Nuclear Cooperation in the 21st Century,” WashingtonDC, July 14, 2008).

4. Ibid.; Kim Seung-young, “Security, Nationalism, and the Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons and Missiles: South Korean Case, 1970–82,” Diplomacy and Statecraft, Vol. 12, No. 4 (December 2001); “Official Hints South Korea Might Build Atom Bomb,” New York Times, June 30, 1977.

5. “Joint Declaration of South and North Korea on the Denuclearization of the KoreanPeninsula,” www.nti.org/e_research/official_docs/inventory/pdfs/aptkoreanuc.pdf.

6. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), “Protocol Additional to the Agreement of 31 October 1975 Between the Government of the Republic of Korea and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards in Connection With the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” INFCIRC/236/Add.1, June 18, 2004, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/2004/infcirc236a1.pdf.

7. Daniel A. Pinkston, “South Korea’s Nuclear Experiments,” CNS Research Story, November 9, 2004, http://cns.miis.edu/stories/041109.htm; IAEA, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Republic of Korea,” GOV/2004/84, November 11, 2004, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2004/gov2004-84.pdf; IAEA, “Safeguards Implementation Report for 2007,” GOV/2008/14, May 7, 2008.

8. IAEA, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Republic of Korea.”

9. Ibid.

10. IAEA, “Safeguards Implementation Report for 2007.”

11. Wan Ki Yoon, “Enhanced Transparency and Its Harmonization With Safeguards” (paper presented at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency International Forum, June 25, 2008), www.jaea.go.jp/04/np/activity/2008-06-24/2008-06-24-3-4.pdf.

12. One South Korean official said that South Korea’s inability to enrich and reprocess would likely be a barrier to export growth. See Kim Ji-hyun, “Seoul Considering Options to Improve Nuke Efficiency,” Korea Herald, March 30, 2010, http://biz.heraldm.com/common/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20090708000058. In the case of such other exporters as France and Russia, the ability to offer these services has been seen as a benefit. France supplies enriched uranium and nuclear fuel for reactors and provides reprocessing services although it sends back high-level waste, shorn of plutonium, to its customers. In some cases, such as its deal for the Bushehr reactor in Iran,Russia provides nuclear fuel or enriched uranium, takes back the spent fuel, and does not return high-level waste to the customer.

13. Choi Kyung-hwan, “Korea’s Strategy to Become Nuclear Exporter,” Korea Herald, February 23, 2010, http://blog.daum.net/ihanpeace/2193.

14. Spent fuel from South Korea’s four CANDU reactors is now in interim dry cask storage at a reactor site in Wolsong, but this facility will be full by 2017. Additional construction of any interim spent-fuel storage facilities at Wolsong is effectively prohibited by the special law established on March 31, 2005 (law no. 7444), which prohibits any construction of spent fuel-related facilities in the same region as the low- and intermediate-level radioactive-waste disposal facility. Such a facility is now under construction near the Wolsong reactors in Gyeongju. For the text of the law in Korean, see http://likms.assembly.go.kr/law/jsp/Law.jsp?WORK_TYPE=LAW_BON&LAW_ID=A1885&PROM_NO=09885&PROM_DT=20091230&HanChk=Y.

15. South Korean officials believe that many of these interim storage facilities could be located at the pyroprocessing facility, thus obviating some of the need for more politically contentious separate facilities or transshipments to other reactor sites.

16. Several recent reports from the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and national laboratories indicate that U.S. government experts do not see a substantial difference in proliferation resistance between pyroprocessing and traditional reprocessing. Office of Nonproliferation and International Security, NNSA, “Nonproliferation Impact Assessment for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership – Draft,” December 2008, http://brc.gov/library/docs/GNEP_NPIA.pdf ; Robert A. Bari et al., “Proliferation Risk Reduction Study of Alternative Spent Fuel Processing,” BNL-90264-2009-CP, July 2009, http://brc.gov/pdfFiles/January2011_Meetings/Jan6-7mtg/Tom%20Clements%20Brookhaven%20on%20reprocessing%20risks%202009.pdf; Charles G. Bathke et al., “An Assessment of the Attractiveness of Material Associated With a MOX Fuel Cycle From a Safeguards Perspective,” LA-UR-09-03637, July 2009, http://permalink.lanl.gov/object/tr?what=info:lanl-repo/lareport/LA-UR-09-03637. Some in the U.S. government assert that a recent Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) analysis provides a response to South Korean attempts to assert a legal distinction between pyroprocessing and traditional reprocessing. NRC, “Update on Reprocessing Regulatory Framework - Summary of Gap Analysis,” SECY-09-0082, May 28, 2009, www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/commission/secys/2009/secy2009-0082/2009-0082scy.pdf. For comments by U.S. Department of Energy official Carter “Buzz” Savage on whether pyroprocessing is a form of reprocessing, see Kyle Fishman, “IAEA South Korean Concerns Resolved,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2008; Daniel Horner, “S. Korean Pyroprocessing Awaits U.S. Decision,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2009.

17. Hwang Doo-hyong, “S. Korea, U.S. Agree to Begin Joint Study of Pyroprocessing Spent Nuke Fuel,” Yonhap News Agency, October 26, 2010, http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2010/10/26/46/0301000000AEN20101026004200315F.HTML.

18. Daniel Horner, “Accord on New Rules Eludes Nuclear Suppliers,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2009.

19. Mark Hibbs, “Nuclear Suppliers Group and the IAEA Additional Protocol,” Nuclear Energy Brief, August 18, 2010, http://carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=41393.

20. Chico Harlan, “Iran Sanctions Challenge South Korea to Balance Interests,” Washington Post, August 20, 2010.

21. Bomi Lim and Eunkyung Seo, “South Korea to Ban New Oil, Gas Investments in Iran on Nuclear Program,” Bloomberg, September 8, 2010, www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-09-08/south-korea-to-ban-new-oil-gas-investments-in-iran-on-nuclear-program.html; Donald Kirk, “South Korea Sanctions Iran – Under U.S. Pressure,” Christian Science Monitor, September 8, 2010.

22. Evan Ramstad, “South Korea to Close Iranian Bank Branch,” Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2010.

23. Kirk, “South Korea Sanctions Iran – Under U.S. Pressure.”

24. “N. Korean Arms Payments ‘Passed Through Seoul,’” Chosun Ilbo, January 18, 2011, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2011/01/18/2011011800520.html.

25. Benoit Faucon, “South Korea’s DK Tech Signs Deal for Iran Gas Field – Filing,” Wall Street Journal, December 17, 2010; “Iran, S Korea sign $750mn Gas Deal,” Press TV, December 9, 2010.

26. “Nation Joins Leadership of US-led PSI-OEG,” KBS World, November 1, 2010, http://world.kbs.co.kr/english/news/news_Po_detail.htm?No=76829.

27. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Communiqué of the Washington Nuclear Security Summit,” April 13, 2010, www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/communiqu-washington-nuclear-security-summit.

28. Office of the Spokesman, U.S. Department of State, “Joint Co-Chair Statement Regarding the 2010 Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism Plenary Meeting,” June 29, 2010, www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2010/06/143754.htm.

29. See “The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism,” www.state.gov/t/isn/c18406.htm; Choe Kwan-kyoo, “ROK’s Contribution to Global Nuclear Nonproliferation,” Nautilus Institute, January 28, 2010, http://www.nautilus.org/projects/civil-society-verification/korea.

30. Globally, research reactors require 750 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) per year. That quantity of HEU could be used to create approximately 30 nuclear weapons, using the IAEA definition of the minimum amount of HEU needed to produce a weapon (25 kilograms). See Ole Reistad and Styrkaar Hustveit, “HEU Fuel Cycle Inventories and Progress on Global Minimization,” The Nonproliferation Review, July 2008, p. 265; “IAEA Safeguards Glossary 2001 Edition,” International Nuclear Verification Series, No. 3, www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/nvs-3-cd/PDF/NVS3_scr.pdf.

31. For more details on these alternatives, see Miles Pomper et al., “Nuclear Power and Spent Fuel in East Asia: Balancing Energy, Politics and Nonproliferation,” Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, June 2010, www.japanfocus.org/-Ferenc-Dalnoki_Veress/3376. Among the alternatives this article proposes are a spent fuel repository or interim storage outside East Asia, traditional PUREX reprocessing in France or Russia, or a multinational pyroprocessing center outside or within the region.


South Korea, which has been a sometimes-reluctant follower and occasional violator of international nuclear nonproliferation norms, is a rising nuclear exporter. Although it has taken some positive nonproliferation steps lately, it must do more as it assumes its new commercial role.

The Road Ahead for Export Controls: Challenges for the Nuclear Suppliers Group

Fred McGoldrick

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has a vital role to play in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. Each of its 46 members applies common guidelines to control exports of nuclear materials, equipment, and technology; the guidelines also cover items and know-how that are dual use.[1] The guidelines are essential to ensuring that civil nuclear trade is not diverted to nuclear weapons or terrorist use and that nuclear suppliers do not compete in the international market by minimizing nonproliferation controls.

In recent years, several developments have threatened the effectiveness and relevance of this multilateral arrangement. Nonmembers such as Pakistan and North Korea have transferred nuclear technology to countries aspiring to acquire nuclear weapons. An increasing number of non-NSG countries now have the capability to manufacture and export equipment and technology that can be useful to the nuclear weapons programs of proliferant states. Some NSG members—China, Russia, and the United States—have undermined the important nonproliferation norm of comprehensive safeguards, i.e., that non-nuclear-weapon states should benefit from peaceful nuclear cooperation only if they place all their nuclear activities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. In addition, the NSG decision-making process has become clogged as members have been unable to agree on new criteria for transferring sensitive nuclear technology. They also have not reached agreement on requiring recipient states to adhere to an additional protocol to their IAEA safeguards agreements—a necessary tool to uncover illegal, clandestine nuclear activities. Decision-making is likely to be even more challenging if India becomes an NSG member as the United States and other NSG members are proposing.

The Past

Such challenges and disagreements are not new. Indeed, the NSG was founded in reaction to several shocks to the nonproliferation regime in the mid-1970s. In May 1974, India, a state that had refused to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), exploited ambiguous language in agreements with Canada and the United States to use items from those suppliers to manufacture and test its first nuclear device.[2] Major suppliers were on the verge of transferring sensitive nuclear technologies, notably technologies related to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing, to unstable areas of the world where the intended recipients had not made effective nonproliferation commitments or were trying to enhance their nuclear weapons capability. In the mid-1970s, France was proposing to provide reprocessing plants to Pakistan, South Korea, and Taiwan. West Germany concluded a contract to provide sensitive nuclear technology to Brazil. In addition, France, which was not an NPT party at the time, was supplying Spain, another NPT nonparty, with a nuclear power reactor without requiring IAEA safeguards. These events raised serious doubts about the adequacy of the NPT and the effectiveness of nuclear export controls applied by individual nuclear suppliers.

In response, seven major nuclear suppliers met in London in 1974 with the objective of establishing a common set of guidelines on nuclear exports, closing loopholes in nuclear export controls, and avoiding the use of weak nonproliferation conditions as a means of competing in the international nuclear market. Subsequently eight new members joined the original participants, and all 15 members agreed on guidelines that were published in 1978.[3] Although NSG members did not agree to a moratorium on transferring enrichment and reprocessing technology or requiring comprehensive safeguards as a condition of supply, they did adopt guidelines that obliged recipients to provide assurances of peaceful, nonexplosive use; accept appropriate IAEA inspections and conditions on retransfers to third countries; and implement international standards of physical protection. The guidelines also included special restraints on transferring sensitive nuclear technologies. The NSG thus went beyond the minimal export requirements of the NPT, which obliges parties only to require IAEA safeguards on exports of nuclear materials and equipment. To meet that requirement, some NPT parties in 1974 established the Zangger Committee to identify specified nuclear equipment and materials, the export of which would require application of IAEA safeguards.

The original NSG guidelines closed some loopholes in the nonproliferation regime, but disparities remained in the export policies of NSG members. A few, such as Canada and the United States, required comprehensive safeguards as a condition of supply, but most members did not. As a result, NPT nonparties such as Argentina and Brazil played one supplier against the other by giving lucrative contracts to the suppliers that did not require comprehensive safeguards. In addition, most NSG member states did not control dual-use exports. This lacuna enabled nuclear aspirants such as Iraq and Pakistan to obtain important items from European and other industrial states for their nuclear weapons programs. Thus, although the establishment of the NSG in the 1970s strengthened the nonproliferation regime in important ways, its guidelines were far from effective in halting the nuclear weapons programs of proliferators.

NSG members experienced an epiphany in 1991 and 1992 when IAEA inspections revealed that Iraq had obtained large quantities of materials, equipment, and technology for its nuclear weapons program from firms in Western countries. This scandal led the NSG to adopt new guidelines in 1992 to control exports of dual-use items and to require comprehensive safeguards as a condition of new nuclear supply. In subsequent years, the NSG took additional steps to strengthen export controls, including establishing a guideline that suppliers should satisfy themselves that their nuclear transfers do not contribute to proliferation of nuclear explosives or to acts of nuclear terrorism; a catchall control to govern transfers of items that are not on export control lists when such items “are or may be intended, in their entirety or in part, for use in connection with a ‘nuclear explosive activity’”; consultations among members of the group in the event a recipient state violates its nonproliferation commitments; and backup or fallback safeguards if the IAEA is not applying safeguards in a recipient country. Further, the NSG updated its control lists and increased its membership from a few advanced nuclear states to a more geographically and politically diversified group of 46 countries.

Current Challenges

Today the NSG faces new challenges. The group has three major items on its agenda: China’s proposed export of nuclear reactors to Pakistan; the adoption of new restraints on the transfers of enrichment and reprocessing; and making adoption of an additional protocol by recipient states a condition for nuclear exports.

Proposed Chinese exports to Pakistan. Recent decisions by certain NSG states have undermined the international standard for comprehensive safeguards as a condition of supply. In 2008, for its own strategic and commercial reasons, the United States persuaded the NSG to exempt India from the comprehensive safeguards standard. Yet, the U.S. action was not the first assault on this important nonproliferation norm, nor the most egregious. When the NSG adopted the guideline on comprehensive safeguards in 1992, it allowed for two exceptions that have proved to be significant loopholes. First, the requirement applies only to subsequent nuclear cooperation and does not cover supply commitments that existed at the time; this provision is known as the “grandfather clause.” Second, the guidelines permit nuclear exports to states without comprehensive safeguards in exceptional cases when such exports are “deemed essential for the safe operation of existing facilities and if safeguards are applied to those facilities.”

Russia has exploited both these loopholes to justify nuclear sales to India. Moscow justified its nuclear exports to India in the late 1990s by claiming that they were grandfathered by the Russian-Indian agreement of 1988. However, that agreement was a general legal framework for cooperation and contained no commitments to supply. The United States and other NSG members raised questions about this cooperation to no avail. In 2001, Russia exported low-enriched uranium to India for fueling the Tarapur reactors, citing the safety exception. The United States and others regarded this export as a violation of Russia’s commitment to the comprehensive safeguards guideline. Russia signed another reactor deal with India in 2007 and delivered nuclear fuel to India even before the NSG in 2008 exempted India from its comprehensive safeguards requirement.

China now is citing the grandfather clause as justification for its planned assistance to Pakistan’s civil nuclear reactors. In a formal “declaration of existing projects” made at the time it joined the NSG in 2004, Beijing informed the NSG of its 1991 cooperation agreement with Pakistan under which it had supplied a 300-megawatt reactor at Chashma and had just undertaken to supply an additional 325-megawatt reactor at the same location. The Chinese claimed that the supply of these reactors did not constitute a “new” supply commitment and therefore was grandfathered under the NSG comprehensive safeguards guideline. This was a dubious claim at the time because the 1991 Chinese-Pakistani pact was a general framework agreement and reportedly did not contain an actual commitment to supply reactors at Chashma. In any event, Beijing’s 2004 explanations to the NSG did not mention grandfathering any more reactors under the 1991 agreement. Thus, the proposed supply of additional nuclear plants at the Chashma site would not be covered by the 1991 agreement, would not be grandfathered under the NSG guidelines, and clearly would violate the commitments China made when joining the NSG in 2004—a position that the United States has adopted.

Although hailed at the time as a significant accomplishment, the NSG’s adoption in the early 1990s of the comprehensive safeguards requirement as a condition of supply has proved subsequently to be a somewhat hollow triumph. NPT parties have good reason to complain because the actions of NSG members have made a mockery of Article IV of the NPT by giving non-NPT parties India and Pakistan the same benefits as NPT parties but without the accompanying obligations.[4] Russia and the United States have undermined the norm that only states with comprehensive nonproliferation commitments should benefit from international nuclear cooperation. Now, China’s plan to supply Pakistan with three new reactors threatens to render that norm meaningless.

Unfortunately, if China persists in citing the grandfather clause as justification for these reactors, there may be little that the NSG members can do. Calls for expelling China from the NSG unless it cancels the deal with Pakistan are ill advised.[5] The NSG is a voluntary multinational arrangement and has no mechanism for resolving disputes about differing interpretations of the guidelines or for sanctioning or expelling members who violate its guidelines. Those are the facts; they are not going to change. Moreover, it took China decades to decide to become a full member of the global nonproliferation regime, and even if it were possible, expelling Beijing from the NSG would serve no useful purpose. Nevertheless, China’s flouting of its NSG commitments threatens the integrity of this multinational arrangement and the NSG’s ability to ensure that member states implement their export control obligations honestly and effectively. NSG members should unanimously press China to seek an NSG exemption for its proposed reactor sales to Pakistan. Given Pakistan’s appalling nonproliferation record, the NSG should reject such a request. Also, the United States needs to reject Pakistani pressures for such an exemption and for a U.S.-Pakistani civil nuclear deal along the same lines as the U.S.-Indian nuclear pact. The United States will gain nothing from a deal with a country that has done such damage to the nonproliferation regime. Fortunately, Washington has been able to resist such temptation so far.

Enrichment and reprocessing transfers. Another challenge facing NSG members is to reach agreement on new criteria on transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology. In his speech on February 11, 2004, President George W. Bush proposed that NSG members refuse to sell such technology to any state that does not already possess full-scale, functioning enrichment and reprocessing plants. Bush’s 2004 proposal was made in reaction to the clandestine supply operations of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani scientist, who had sold enrichment technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. However, the Bush proposal did not really address such illegal and clandestine supply networks. Rather, it was directed at the NSG, which already had a guideline on exercising restraint in transferring such technologies. No NSG members have transferred enrichment or technology since the 1970s to states that did not already possess such plants.[6] Moreover, with the exception of South Korea’s interest in reprocessing and enrichment, no state that does not have such technology already is actively seeking it. Bush’s proposal thus had little relevance to the problem of clandestine trade in enrichment and reprocessing technology by non-NSG states. Yet, by trying to formalize and make more specific a moratorium that NSG members had followed in practice for several decades, it exposed sharp commercial and ideological differences about what it means to “exercise restraint”—the current language in the NSG guidelines—in transferring these technologies. Some NSG states saw the Bush administration’s proposal as threatening their economic options, while others saw it as an attempt to widen the divide between the nuclear-weapon states and the non-nuclear-weapon states that would jeopardize the latter’s rights under Article IV of the NPT.

Thus, the U.S. proposal was not relevant to the problem of clandestine transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology by non-NSG members, was not directed at halting any anticipated NSG transfers of such technology, and provoked a sharp debate within and beyond the NSG about rights to peaceful nuclear technology.

Nevertheless, after four years of spirited debate and only after the United States showed some willingness to compromise on its original proposals, the NSG succeeded in producing a draft document called the “clean text” in November 2008. According to this draft, NSG members would not authorize transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology unless the intended recipient met certain “objective” criteria. Among other things, the recipient would have to be party to the NPT and in full compliance with the treaty, which would make India ineligible; have a comprehensive safeguards agreement and an additional protocol in effect; be in compliance with its safeguards commitments; implement effective export controls as required by UN Security Council Resolution 1540;[7] have an agreement with the supplier state that includes assurances regarding nonexplosive use and effective safeguards in perpetuity; apply standards of physical protection based on current international guidelines; and adhere to international safety standards.

The clean text also contains a controversial “black box” criterion that would require recipients to accept transfers of enrichment equipment and technology under conditions that do not permit or enable replication of the enrichment facilities. In addition, the clean text provides that NSG members “should exercise vigilance in ensuring that enrichment and reprocessing facilities are intended for peaceful purposes.” As part of that vigilance in making export decisions, the members should consider so-called subjective factors such as whether the recipient has a “credible and coherent rationale” for pursuing an enrichment or reprocessing capability in support of civil nuclear programs, “[w]hether the transfer would have a negative impact on the stability and security of the recipient state,” and “[g]eneral conditions of stability and security.”

Most NSG members are prepared to go along with the clean text, which includes a compromise formula on the black-box criterion. A few members strongly oppose the subjective criteria that suppliers would have to take into account in transferring enrichment and reprocessing technology to recipient countries, particularly the idea that a supplier would have to consider whether the transfer of such technology would have a negative impact on the stability and security of the recipient state and general conditions of stability and security. Others take the position that the only condition of supply for the transfer of sensitive technology should be adherence to the NPT.

Getting the ball over the goal line is still a worthwhile objective, but it may not be the most important or urgent one. The Group of Eight (G-8) agreed at its July 2009 meeting to continue to abide by the clean text for the coming year and renewed that pledge in 2010. This means that the main enrichment technology holders—France, Russia, and the United States and the members of the URENCO consortium (Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom)—will apply the criteria contained in the clean text for transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology until the G-8 holds its 2011 meeting.[8] It is unclear how long the G-8 will continue to abide by the clean text if the impasse in the NSG continues. Thus, some resolution of this issue among NSG members may be necessary to fashion a stable and common approach to enrichment and reprocessing transfers. This may require high-level intervention by the major nuclear powers. In the final analysis, however, the precise wording of the guidelines is less important than the continuation by each member of the 30-year practice of exercising responsibility in transferring sensitive technology. Finally, it is appropriate to ask whether the new NSG guideline that emphasizes restraint and denial will be the most effective way of discouraging the spread of these technologies. NSG-supported fuel assurance proposals or offers by NSG technology holders for multinational participation in those countries’ enrichment plants, under black-box conditions, as the Russians have done, may offer better prospects for encouraging states not to build their own facilities. If one or more suppliers could muster the political will to offer “cradle-to-grave” fuel supply services, i.e., to provide a customer with fresh fuel and accept responsibility for managing the resulting spent fuel, that is likely to be a far more successful and less contentious way to discourage new nuclear states from acquiring these technologies.

Additional protocol. A more important and more pressing issue on the NSG agenda is reaching agreement on a new guideline on making a recipient’s adherence to an additional protocol a condition of new nuclear supply. Supporters of this new guideline suffered a setback at the 2010 NPT Review Conference in May when the members of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) opposed a consensus statement that the 1997 Model Additional Protocol should be the IAEA safeguards standard. The NSG could help to improve the IAEA safeguards system significantly by adopting a new guideline requiring recipient states to ratify and put into effect an additional protocol as a condition of new nuclear commitments. That step not only should help spur universal adoption of the protocol, but also should improve the effectiveness of the IAEA safeguards system significantly by giving the agency critical, additional authorities to detect clandestine nuclear activities. It is understandable why proposals to restrain transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology might touch some raw political and economic nerves, but the requirement for an additional protocol as a condition of nuclear supply benefits all states and should not be controversial. Convincing the few holdouts may require high-level intervention by the major nuclear suppliers.

Issues for the Future

Beyond these agenda items, the NSG faces challenges both within and without.

National export controls. Each NSG member needs to ensure its own export control house is in order. Nuclear proliferants such as Iran continue to employ ingenious techniques such as false end-use statements, dummy companies, and exploitation of other countries’ weak export controls on dual-use goods to procure nuclear-related equipment and technology in support of their efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. To thwart such efforts, members of the NSG will have to devote sufficient resources to their own export control, law enforcement, and customs organizations; establish tough criminal penalties for violations of export control laws; and give law enforcement officials the authority to investigate and prosecute illegal procurement. NSG states will need to improve intelligence collection and sharing among themselves and with nonmembers on important export cases and clandestine procurement attempts. The member states should be willing to provide information to the IAEA on exports of dual-use goods, procurement practices of nuclear-weapon aspirants, and denials of exports in order to help the agency obtain a complete assessment of a country’s program or resolve safeguards inconsistencies.

Decision-making. The NSG membership has evolved from a narrow collection of Western industrialized countries to a much more diverse group. Decisions in the NSG are made by consensus. This will not change. A broad-based membership with divergent interests will likely make it more difficult to forge decisions on needed upgrades to export standards. This may require high-level intervention by the major nuclear powers to forge needed decisions on such matters as the requirement for an additional protocol. That also means picking priorities for expending political capital.

Control lists. As it has done periodically in the past, the NSG is presently engaged in a process of clarifying and reviewing the nuclear and dual-use items on its control lists in order to keep abreast of technical developments. The NSG should engage in this kind of an exercise on a regular basis.

Image problem. The NSG has an image problem. Some nonmembers continue to regard the NSG as a cartel of supplier states that is trying to deny them their right to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Recent U.S. efforts to restrict the export of enrichment and reprocessing states to those already possessing such facilities have only exacerbated this problem. The NSG has made efforts in the past to combat this image by various outreach activities and transparency measures. The group needs to continue to rebut charges of discrimination and denial of rights and to work to make its guidelines an accepted international norm for nuclear export controls.

Proposed membership for India. The United States, France, and Germany have recently indicated their intention to support Indian membership in the NSG. This step is clearly designed to give further recognition to India’s nuclear status, but it is questionable whether New Delhi’s membership in the NSG would strengthen the international nonproliferation regime. For one thing, India already adheres to the NSG guidelines as a nonmember; admitting India as a member therefore would not strengthen international export controls. Although adding another leading member of the NAM to the NSG would enhance the legitimacy of the suppliers group, it would complicate the NSG’s decision-making on issues such as strengthening NSG guidelines. Among other things, India’s accession to the NSG would make agreement impossible on the clean text because that document proposes to bar transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology to non-NPT parties. It will be important for the NSG members to retain the ban on enrichment and reprocessing technologies to non-NPT states before they agree to admit India to the group.

Nonmember suppliers. Many states outside the NSG have the capability to provide significant assistance to nuclear weapons programs but do not have the legal or regulatory regimes, the resources, or, in some cases, the will to implement effective nuclear export controls. The NSG should find ways to persuade nonmembers either to join the NSG or abide by its guidelines, as India and Israel have done. Some NSG nonmembers may find the Zangger Committee more palatable than the NSG; NPT parties, particularly developing countries, may find this group less exclusivist than the NSG. The NSG also should make a more active and coordinated effort to assist nonmembers to meet the obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1540. The NSG has had outreach programs to urge nonmembers to put in place effective legislation and regulations for their nuclear and dual-use exports. Individual NSG states have offered assistance to nonmembers in establishing and implementing such controls. However, these efforts do not appear to be well coordinated. The NSG should play a more active role in the efforts of the committee that has been charged by the UN Security Council with helping countries meet their export control obligations under Resolution 1540.

Some suppliers outside the NSG also threaten the effectiveness of international controls. Beginning in the 1990s and continuing into the present decade, NSG nonmember Pakistan aided Iran, Libya, and North Korea with enrichment technology and nuclear weapons designs. More recently, North Korea appears to have provided a plutonium-production reactor to Syria, and there have been controversial reports about North Korean assistance to possible nuclear weapons efforts by Myanmar (Burma). Unfortunately, the NSG can do little as a multilateral institution to prevent the irresponsible supply policies of nonmembers such as Pakistan or North Korea from undermining the effectiveness of international nuclear export controls and of the nonproliferation regime. This type of behavior has to be addressed through such means as vigorous diplomacy; sanctions; interdiction measures, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative; or perhaps, in extremis, pre-emptive military actions.


The NSG has taken steps over the years to bolster its effectiveness, albeit not always in a timely fashion. It did not stop Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan, or South Africa from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability or sensitive nuclear technology; these countries were successful in clandestinely obtaining from NSG members many items that contributed to their nuclear weapons programs. However, it is fair to conclude that NSG controls increased the costs and risks of the procurement efforts of these states and delayed their weapons programs. The group has given progressively more specific definition to the nuclear and dual-use equipment and related technology on its control lists and increased the number of controlled items significantly. Each member state has strengthened its national export control system. In addition, the NSG has established an international norm for national export control systems. As a result of these various improvements, the NSG now is much better equipped to block the procurement efforts of proliferant states. The group’s abandonment of the comprehensive safeguards norm has been a clear setback, but it does not need to be fatal, nor does it render the NSG irrelevant. Continued agreement among the group’s members on common rules of the game remains essential to prevent the major nuclear suppliers from competing in the international marketplace by minimizing the nonproliferation conditions on their nuclear exports. However, to maintain the role of the NSG as an effective multilateral barrier to proliferation, its members need to press forward to reach agreement on requiring an additional protocol, to strengthen their own national export control systems, and to help nonmembers to implement effective export control systems.

Fred McGoldrick is a consultant in nonproliferation and international nuclear cooperation. He served for 30 years in the U.S. government in a variety of positions, including director of the Office of Nonproliferation and Export Policy in the Department of State.


1. The term “dual use” refers to the transfer of certain equipment, materials, software, and related technology that could make a major contribution to a “nuclear explosive activity,” an “unsafeguarded nuclear fuel-cycle activity,” or acts of nuclear terrorism.

2. In 1974, India used plutonium produced in a research reactor supplied by Canada that used heavy water from the United States to detonate what New Delhi called a peaceful nuclear device. India had given Canada and the United States assurances that such equipment and material would be used only for peaceful purposes. Canada and the United States regarded this assurance as prohibiting the use of nuclear explosive devices. The Indian government took the position that there is a difference between a nuclear weapon and a so-called peaceful nuclear explosive.

3. IAEA, “Communication Received From Certain Member States Regarding Guidelines for the Export of Nuclear Material, Equipment or Technology,” INFCIRC/254, February 1978, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/Others/infcirc254.shtml. For the current version of the guidelines, see IAEA, “Communication Received From the Permanent Mission of Brazil Regarding Certain Member States’ Guidelines for the Export of Nuclear Material, Equipment and Technology,” INFCIRC/254/Rev.9/Part 1, November 7, 2007, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/2007/infcirc254r9p1.pdf.

4. NPT Article IV states:

1. Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this Treaty.

2. All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also cooperate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world.

5. For an example of a call to expel China, see Selig Harrison, “U.S. Fuels Dangerous Deal in Pakistan,” The Boston Globe, June 29, 2010.

6. In the mid-1990s, Russia planned to provide some enrichment assistance to Iran, but this effort was thwarted by U.S. intervention.

7. The resolution addresses items relating to weapons of mass destruction, calling on all states to put in place “appropriate effective measures to account for and secure” such items in production, use, storage, or transport and to “maintain appropriate effective physical protection measures” of these items.

8. Of the six enrichment technology holders, all except the Netherlands are members of the G-8.


India Seen Unlikely to Join NSG Soon

Daniel Horner

In spite of a U.S. pledge of support for Indian membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), New Delhi is not likely to enter the group anytime soon, sources said last month.

President Barack Obama made the commitment of support in a Nov. 8 joint statement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during Obama’s visit to India.

Part of the reason for the long timeline for Indian entry is that the NSG, which now has 46 members, makes decisions by consensus, the sources said. But they also cited the multistage process that would be required before India was eligible, as well as the commitment by the United States and other NSG countries to reach agreement on a long-standing issue—the revision of the group’s export guidelines on transfers of certain nuclear technology—before they took up the question of Indian membership.

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.

Until two years ago, India was not eligible to receive exports from NSG members because it is a non-NPT state and does not open all its nuclear facilities to international inspections. But in response to a U.S.-led initiative, the group agreed to lift that requirement for India in return for certain nonproliferation “commitments and actions.” (See ACT, October 2008.) The United States created a similar exception from its nuclear export law. U.S. officials emphasized that the decision was only for India.

In a Nov. 29 interview, a Department of State official said the United States does not see the new initiative as a “repeat” of the 2008 decision. Rather than creating a unique exception for India, the initiative signals an effort to begin discussions on “evolving” the membership criteria of the NSG and other export control regimes so that non-NPT countries can become eligible, she said.

Israel and Pakistan also have never been NPT parties and maintain unsafeguarded nuclear programs.

According to the joint statement, the United States “intends to support” Indian membership in those regimes “in a phased manner, and to consult with regime members to encourage the evolution of regime membership criteria, consistent with maintaining the core principles of these regimes, as the Government of India takes steps towards the full adoption of the regimes’ export control requirements to reflect its prospective membership, with both processes moving forward together.”

That would mean that the NSG would have to agree on the revised membership criteria and then determine whether India met those criteria, the State Department official said.

Before the easing of the NSG export restrictions in 2008, India stated its unilateral adherence to the group’s guidelines. The official declined to comment on whether India’s export controls currently meet NSG guidelines, but said that, as an NSG adherent, India is expected to “keep current” with the guidelines as they change.

Critics have said that because India already has made a commitment to meet the NSG’s export standards, which are nonbinding, the new initiative requires nothing from New Delhi in return for the benefits of NSG membership, chiefly, recognition as a responsible nuclear state and the ability to have a say in the group’s decisions.

The official countered that there is a benefit to the nonproliferation regime in having India participate in the discussion and the exchanges of information that take place within the NSG. Membership may give India “more of a stake” in the regime, she said.

One Initiative at a Time

Two officials from NSG member countries said the group is not planning to take up the question of Indian membership until the NSG works out a revision of guidelines on exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. The NSG has been wrestling with that issue since 2004.

In a Nov. 22 interview, a U.S. official said that the U.S. priority in the NSG is “100 percent” on revamping the guidelines on sensitive nuclear exports. The United States is not “contemplating discussion at this time” on Indian membership, he said.

The U.S. government is hoping the NSG will reach consensus on the guidelines revision this year, he said.

The NSG’s Consultative Group met in Vienna Nov. 10-11, but “we are where we were before the meeting” on guidelines for sensitive exports, the official said.

A European diplomat said in a Nov. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today that “the Chair [New Zealand] is working away on this with the countries most concerned, but it appears likely at present that this issue will have to come back to Plenary.” The change in the guidelines would have to take place at a plenary meeting, which the NSG typically holds once a year. The next plenary is scheduled for June in the Dutch town of Noordwijk. Changing the guidelines before then would require a special plenary to be convened.

In late 2008, the NSG produced a “clean text” and appeared to be close to reaching agreement (see ACT, December 2008), but efforts have stalled since then. In recent months, several observers have cited Turkey as the principal obstacle.

The U.S. official said there have been changes made in the text “to accommodate a number of concerns, not just Turkey[’s].”

In October, Gary Samore, the White House arms control coordinator, indicated that the United States would consider dropping the six-year-old effort to revise the guidelines if it did not bear fruit soon. (See ACT, November 2010.) But in the interview, the U.S. official said Samore’s comments were not inconsistent with the ongoing U.S. effort. Samore’s point was that “our patience isn’t going to last forever,” he said.

Cynical Interpretation

Some observers, noting the hurdles to Indian membership and the time frame that would be required, have questioned whether the United States actually intends to pursue the effort vigorously. They suggested that the Obama administration might have made the announcement to give a near-term boost to U.S.-Indian relations.

One House staffer, who called the initiative “terrible” for nonproliferation, said Nov. 16 that he is “hoping it was pure cynicism,” that is, that the administration was promising something that it “know[s] would never happen.”

The State Department official said, “People will believe what they want to believe,” but emphasized, “I certainly see this as doable.”


In spite of a U.S. pledge of support for Indian membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), New Delhi is not likely to enter the group anytime soon, sources said last month.

Keeping Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Peaceful: What Must the Obama Administration and Congress Do?



December 2, 2010, 2:30pm to 4:00pm

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
Root Room
1779 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Click here to register

Recent revelations regarding North Korea’s uranium enrichment program underscores the danger that the proliferation of such technologies may allow still more nations to use peaceful nuclear programs to  create a weapons option. This raises some pressing questions:

  • How will President Obama’s proposal to bring India, a non-NPT member, into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) affect nuclear export control efforts?
  • Should the United States require states to foreswear pursuing uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing as a condition of future nuclear cooperation agreements?
  • Should Congress call upon nuclear supplier states to adopt nonproliferation policies that are as stringent as those exercised by the United States?
  • What should the U.S. response be to China’s bid to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan, a non-NPT member, in violation of NSG rules?

On Thursday December 2, please join the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center and the Arms Control Association for a panel discussion on these questions and related topics with: Executive-Director of the Arms Control Association Daryl G. Kimball; Minority staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thomas Moore; Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center Henry Sokolski; and Staff Director for the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Don MacDonald.

To register click here

If you have difficulty registering please contact Matt Sugrue
[email protected]



Recent revelations regarding North Korea’s uranium enrichment and reactor program have increased concerns that more nations may develop peaceful nuclear programs as a way to develop a nuclear weapons option. Please join NPEC and the Arms Control Associations on December 2, 2010 for a panel discussion.

U.S. Official Mulls Ending NSG Rule Revamp

Daniel Horner

If the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) does not agree soon on new guidelines for selling sensitive nuclear technology, there would be a good argument for dropping the effort, a senior Obama administration official said Oct. 18.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Gary Samore, the White House arms control coordinator, said, “I think that if we are not able to reach agreement, my guess is that we should probably decide that this is an effort that was just not going to be successful.”

The NSG’s Consultative Group is scheduled to meet Nov. 10-11 in Vienna. The NSG has been working since 2004 to revise its guidelines on exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. According to the public statement issued at the end of its plenary meeting this June in Christchurch, New Zealand, the group “agreed to continue considering ways to further strengthen guidelines dealing with the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies.”

The current guidelines say that suppliers should “exercise restraint” in making such transfers. As Samore described it, that criterion “was interpreted by everybody as ‘don’t sell it.’” In a February 2004 speech, President George W. Bush said the NSG “should refuse to sell enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technologies to any state that does not already possess full-scale, functioning enrichment and reprocessing plants.”

Other NSG members, led by France, favored an approach based on adopting a list of specific criteria that countries would have to meet to be eligible for such exports. The NSG, which currently has 46 members, has not been able to agree on the criteria although the differences are now “down to a couple of words here and phrases there,” Samore said.

Asked about the time frame for making decision to break off the talks, he said, “If we make progress in this next meeting, then we might want to stay at it a little bit longer.” But if the discussion “really looks like it’s stalemated,” he said, “I’m a big believer in not wasting effort on things that are not going to be successful.” If the countries cannot reach agreement on a new set of detailed criteria, “then I frankly think we should just set the effort aside,” he said.

In late 2008, the NSG produced a “clean text” and appeared to be close to reaching agreement. (See ACT, December 2008.) When it failed to do so, the members of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized countries agreed at their 2009 summit meeting to adopt the 2008 NSG text as a national policy for a year. The G-8 extended that policy for another year at its meeting this June. All the members of the G-8—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—also belong to the NSG.

In an October 27 interview, a European diplomat said G-8 adoption of the new guidelines “could be a temporary alternative” to the NSG but not a “100 percent alternative” because the G-8’s membership is so much smaller.

China-Pakistan Deal

Another issue that NSG members are likely to discuss at the Vienna meeting, sources said, is the proposed sale of two Chinese reactors to Pakistan for its Chashma site. China provided little information on that issue at the Christchurch meeting. (See ACT, July/August 2010.)

Since that meeting, China has officially confirmed its plan to sell the reactors. At her Sept. 21 press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, “The Chashma Project III & IV mentioned in recent media reports are carried out according to the cooperative agreement in nuclear power signed by China and Pakistan in 2003,” according to a transcript posted on the ministry’s English-language Web site.

She added, “China has already notified the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] of relevant information and asked for its safeguard and supervision.”

NSG guidelines, which are nonbinding, do not allow the export of nuclear goods such as reactors and fuel to countries that do not accept IAEA safeguards on all their nuclear facilities. Pakistan does not have these so-called full-scope safeguards.

When China joined the NSG in 2004, it had already built a power reactor at the Chashma site. It claimed at the time that, under NSG “grandfather” provisions, it was entitled to build a second one, on the grounds that the second project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. (The first reactor is operating; the second is in the final stages of construction.)

According to several accounts, the NSG agreed in 2004 that the second reactor would be allowable under the grandfather provision but that subsequent power reactor sales would not.

In the weeks before the Christchurch meeting, the U.S. government said the sale of reactors beyond Chashma-1 and -2 would be “inconsistent with NSG guidelines and China’s commitments to the NSG.” (See ACT, June 2010.)

The European diplomat said her government “tend[s] to think in a similar direction” but wanted to get more information on the “ins and outs of the deal,” including the Chinese explanation.

Media reports last month quoted Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, as saying the United States had asked Pakistan for more information on the deal.


If the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) does not agree soon on new guidelines for selling sensitive nuclear technology, there would be a good argument for dropping the effort, a senior Obama administration official said Oct. 18.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Gary Samore, the White House arms control coordinator, said, “I think that if we are not able to reach agreement, my guess is that we should probably decide that this is an effort that was just not going to be successful.”


Perkovich: Movement on Indian Nuclear Liability Issue Likely

By Eric Auner There is continuing uncertainty surrounding India's nuclear liability bill , and the extent to which it will discourage foreign, privately-owned suppliers from participating in the country's civil nuclear sector. As the bill is currently written, nuclear suppliers (in addition to the operator of a nuclear facility) may be liable in the case of an accident. This is inconsistent with international standards, such as the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), which channel liability exclusively to the operator (in this case the government-owned Nuclear...


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