Login/Logout

*
*  

"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel,
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
January/February 2007
Edition Date: 
Monday, January 1, 2007
Cover Image: 

Missile Defense Under Scrutiny

Wade Boese

Top U.S. defense officials were honored recently for activating a rudimentary anti-ballistic missile system last year. But a key lawmaker says more testing is needed to prove the system can work, and a Pentagon advisory task force also has questioned the system’s utility.

Defying criticism from Moscow and many Democrats, President George W. Bush moved resolutely after taking office to abrogate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and order deployment of the system. It currently comprises 14 land-based missile interceptors with up to another 36 on the way, including possibly 10 destined for Europe.

Administration officials claim the interceptors would defend the country against the growing missile capabilities of Iran and North Korea. Despite recent testing, neither country has a missile in service that could strike the United States from their territory.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld oversaw deployment of the U.S. interceptors until Dec. 18, 2006, when Robert Gates was sworn in as his successor. At that Pentagon ceremony, the president applauded Rumsfeld for taking “ballistic missile defense from theory to reality.”

Four days earlier, Rumsfeld had awarded a Defense Distinguished Service Medal to Lieutenant General Henry Obering, the head of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA). The citation hailed Obering for erecting a system that U.S. leaders had “confidence” to put on alert prior to several North Korean missile test launches last July. (See ACT, September 2006.)

Some do not share that faith. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters last November that the Pentagon has “not done the operational testing yet that is convincing that [the system] will work.” Operational testing refers to experiments resembling real attacks.

Levin pressed Gates at his Dec. 5 confirmation hearing on whether he supported operational testing of weapons before their deployment. Gates said he did, but he also noted earlier in the hearing that “my instinct would be that if we have something that has some capability, it’s better than having no capability.”

The existing strategic anti-missile system has scored six intercepts in 11 trials since October 1999, but the tests have not been “operationally” realistic, and only one of the successes followed Bush’s December 2002 deployment order. That hit took place last September and marked the first intercept for an interceptor design matching those stationed in Alaska and California. (See ACT, October 2006.)

MDA intended to conduct another intercept attempt before the end of 2006, but the earliest it will now occur is April. Agency spokesperson Rick Lehner told Arms Control Today Dec. 14 that MDA needed time for Raytheon Corp. to make some software changes to the interceptor’s exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV). This roughly 60-kilogram component rides atop the interceptor’s boosters and is released in space, where it is supposed to hone in on and collide with its target.

Lehner said there has been no decision whether the upcoming test will involve trying to intercept a mock warhead alone or one with decoys, which would demand the EKV discriminate between multiple targets. Some past tests involved decoys, but the last experiment did not. Critics maintain real foes will use decoys and other countermeasures to trump the system.

A task force of an advisory board to the secretary of defense, the Defense Science Board, implied in an unclassified December 2006 report that MDA is not sufficiently addressing the countermeasures problem. Consequently, the group warned, “fielding the current systems in larger numbers will not lead to a robust [defense].”

Lehner disputed this criticism, citing the Multiple Kill Vehicle program. This effort aims to make kill vehicles small enough—about the size of a loaf of bread—so several can be outfitted on an interceptor. The concept is that each kill vehicle would destroy a separate object in a target cluster, mitigating the challenge of singling out an incoming warhead. Current MDA plans call for intercept testing of the miniature kill vehicles to begin in 2012.

Whether MDA can keep this nascent program on schedule is highly uncertain. Even more established missile defense projects are susceptible to delays and setbacks.

Indeed, according to an MDA press release, an “incorrect configuration” forced the agency to abort a Dec. 7 intercept test of its ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system, which is designed to counter shorter-range missiles. The system’s next chance to improve on its record of seven hits in nine attempts, including the December mishap, will come this spring.

ACT 2006 Index

Author Key for ACT Staff

 

CA Christopher Affolter
WB Wade Boese
MD Matt Dupuis
CH Caitlin Harrington
WH
William Huntington

 

PK Paul Kerr
DGK Daryl G. Kimball
CL Carina Linder
SL Sonia Luthra
OM
Oliver Meier

SM Scott Morrissey
MN Michael Nguyen
MAP Miles A. Pomper
MT Miles E. Taylor
JW
Joanna Wintrol

Subjects

Additional Protocol: PK, “IAEA Reports Iran to UN Security Council,” March, p. 27; PK, “Questions Surround Iran’s Nuclear Program,” March, p. 30; PK, “UN Urges Iran to Halt Enrichment,” April, p. 25; WB, PK, DGK, “Reviving Disarmament: An Interview With Hans Blix,” July/Aug., p. 6; PK, “Iran Rejects Security Council Demand,” Sept., p. 31; PK, “News Analysis: IAEA Limits Leave Iran Intel Gaps,” Oct., p. 26; WB, “Senate Vote on U.S.-Indian Deal Delayed,” Oct., p. 46; du Preez, Jean, “Half Full or Half Empty? Realizing the Promise of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” Dec., p. 6; WB, “Senate Passes U.S.-Indian Nuclear Trade Bill,” Dec., p. 27; PK, “ Iran’s Enrichment Efforts Advance,” Dec., p. 32.

Argentina: Goldemberg, José, “Lessons From the Denuclearization of Brazil and Argentina,” April, p. 41.

Australia: PK, “ Australia, China Conclude Nuclear Deal,” May, p. 34; PK, “ Japan, Australia Sanction North Korea,” Oct., p. 45.

Biological Weapons: MN, “States Agree to Pursue Bio Codes of Conduct,” Jan./Feb., p. 38; Ben Ouagrham-Gormley, Sonia, “Plagued by Errors: New Approach Needed to Tackle Proliferation Threats From Anti-Plague System,” March, p. 21; Sims, Nicholas A., “Back to Basics: Steering Constructive Evolution of the BWC,” April, p. 13; MN, “Europeans Seek to Strengthen BWC,” April, p. 40; MD, “Pentagon Details Hussein’s Pre-Invasion Efforts,” May, p. 26; MN, “States Agree on BWC Conference Agenda,” June, p. 40; Isla, Nicholas and Hunger, Iris, “Building Transparency Through Confidence-Building Measures,” July/Aug., p. 19; Zanders, Jean Pascal, “Unmasking a Culture of Death,” July/Aug., p. 50; Findlay, Trevor, “Verification and the BWC: Last Gasp or Signs of Life?” Sept., p. 11; Roffey, Roger, et al., “Critical Guidance: A Code of Conduct for Biodefense Scientists,” Sept., p. 17; Chyba, Christopher F., “Biotechnology and the Challenge to Arms Control,” Oct., p. 11; Borrie, John, “The Limits of Modest Progress; The Rise, Fall, and Return of Efforts to Strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention,” Oct., p. 18; OM, “Bioweapons Treaty Progress Predicted,” Nov., p. 36.

Book Reviews: Moodie, Michael, “A Never-Ending Story,” March, p. 46; Andreasen, Steve, “Treaty and Tragedy,” May, p. 41; Zanders, Jean Pascal, “Unmasking a Culture of Death,” July/Aug., p. 50; Keeny Jr., Spurgeon M., “Fingers on the Nuclear Trigger,” Oct., p. 47; Quinones, Kenneth C., “Back to the Future,” Dec., p. 45.

Brazil: Goldemberg, José, “Lessons From the Denuclearization of Brazil and Argentina,” April, p. 41.

Central Asia: SL, “Central Asian States Renounce Nuclear Weapons,” Oct., p. 42.

Chemical Weapons: MN, “Report Confirms Iraq Used Sarin in 1991,” Jan./Feb., p. 28; MN, “Senate Struggles With Riot Control Agent Policy,” Jan./Feb., p. 34; Moodie, Michael, “A Never-Ending Story,” March, p. 46; MD, “Pentagon Details Hussein’s Pre-Invasion Efforts,” May, p. 26; MN, “Libya Chemical Weapons Destruction Costly,” May, p. 28; JW, “The Global Partnership—A Mixed Record,” May, p. 37; MN, “U.S. Unable to Meet CWC 2012 Deadline,” May, p. 40; PK, “Iraq Strives to Join Chemical Weapons Pact,” July/Aug., p. 31.

China: Jun, Bong-Geun, “North Korean Nuclear Crises: An End in Sight?” Jan./Feb., p. 6.; PK, “ Australia, China Conclude Nuclear Deal,” May, p. 34; WB, PK, DGK, “Reviving Disarmament: An Interview With Hans Blix,” July/Aug., p. 6; PK, “News Analysis: North Korea: Are the Six-Party Nuclear Talks Dead?” Sept., p. 24; PK, “Iran Rejects Security Council Demand,” Sept., p. 31; SL, “Rocca to Push Controversial Draft Treaty,” Sept., p. 44; PK, “North Korean Test Provokes Widespread Condemnation,” Nov., p. 23; WB, “North Korea Interdiction Option Limited,” Nov., p. 32; WB, “Missile Control Regime Focuses on Iran, NK,” Nov., p. 44; WB, “U.S. Maintains Perch Atop Rising Arms Market,” Dec., p. 28.

Cluster Munitions: WB, “Cluster Munitions Under New Scrutiny,” Oct., p. 38; WB, “Cluster Munition, Anti-Vehicle Mine Limits Sought,” Dec., p. 41.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: DGK, “CTBTO Funds Rebound in Bush Budget,” March, p. 38; Andreasen, Steve, “Treaty and Tragedy,” May, p. 41; WB, PK, DGK, “Reviving Disarmament: An Interview With Hans Blix,” July/Aug., p. 6; DGK, “Revive the Test Ban Treaty,” Sept., p. 3; Dunlop, William and Smith, Harold, “Who Did It? Using International Forensics to Detect and Deter Nuclear Terrorism,” Oct., p. 6; du Preez, Jean, “Half Full or Half Empty? Realizing the Promise of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” Dec., p. 6.

Conference on Disarmament: WB, “ U.S. Unveils Draft Fissile Material Treaty,” June, p. 38; SL, “Rocca to Push Controversial Draft Treaty,” Sept., p. 44; Rademaker, Stephen G., “Time Is Running Out,” Dec., p. 13; Meyer, Paul, “Getting Back to Business,” Dec., p. 16; Krepon, Michael, “Means of Rejuvenation,” Dec., p. 18.

Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty: WB, “ Russia, West Clash Over Troop Pullouts,” Jan./Feb., p. 39; WB, “European Conventional Arms Treaty in Limbo,” July/Aug., p. 41.

Conventional Arms Control: SM, “U.S. Lifts Indonesia Arms Embargo,” Jan./Feb., p. 35; WB, “Anti-Vehicle Mines Proposal Falters,” Jan./Feb., p. 37; WB, “Russia, West Clash Over Troop Pullouts,” Jan./Feb., p. 39; CA, “Small Arms Talks Hamstrung,” March, p. 45; Schroeder, Matt and Stohl, Rachel, “Small Arms, Large Problem: The International Threat of Small Arms Proliferation and Misuse,” June, p. 23; WB, “U.S. Bars Future Arms Sales to Venezuela,” June, p. 42; WB, “European Conventional Arms Treaty in Limbo,” July/Aug., p. 41; MT, “UN Small Arms Conference Deadlocks,” Sept., p. 46; WB, “Cluster Munitions Under New Scrutiny,” Oct., p. 38; WB, “Landmine Clearance Deadlines Looming,” Nov., p. 39; DGK, “Anything but Conventional,” Dec., p. 3; WB, “Arms Trade Treaty Effort Endorsed,” Dec., p. 40; WB, “Cluster Munition, Anti-Vehicle Mine Limits Sought,” Dec., p. 41.

Conventional Weapons Transfers: WB, “Taiwan Receives U.S. Warships,” Jan./Feb., p. 31; WB, “U.S. Combat Aircraft Delivered to Pakistan,” Jan./Feb., p. 31; WB, “Latin American Arms Sales Moving Forward,” March, p. 39; Wolland, Jeremy, “Venezuela, Russia Sign Weapons Deal,” Sept., p. 39; WB, “Pakistan, Saudi Arabia Cleared for U.S. Arms Buys,” Sept., p. 42; WB, “Global Arms Exports Continued Upswing in 2005,” Oct., p. 35; WB, “U.S., Pakistan Seal Combat Aircraft Deal,” Nov., p. 33; WB, “U.S. Maintains Perch Atop Rising Arms Market,” Dec., p. 28; PK, “Problems With Iraq, Weapons Persist,” Dec., p. 33.

Defense Spending: WB, “Defense Bills Passed, Nuclear Questions Raised,” Jan./Feb., p. 32; WB, “Missile Defense Spending Soars to New Heights,” March, p. 34; WB, “Pentagon Defends Global-Strike Plan,” May, p. 27; WB, “Lawmakers Mixed on Nuclear Funding,” Sept., p. 40; WB, “Global Strike Plan Bombs in Congress,” Sept., p. 41; CH, “Signed Defense Bills Rebuff Pentagon Plans,” Nov., p. 46.

Disarmament: Goldemberg, José, “Lessons From the Denuclearization of Brazil and Argentina,” April, p. 41; Rydell, Randy, “Going for Baruch: The Nuclear Plan That Refused to Go Away,” June, p. 45; WB, PK, DGK, “Reviving Disarmament: An Interview With Hans Blix,” July/Aug., p. 12; Goodby, James E., “The 1986 Reykjavik Summit,” Sept., p. 49; SL, “Central Asian States Renounce Nuclear Weapons,” Oct., p. 42; du Preez, Jean, “Half Full or Half Empty? Realizing the Promise of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” Dec., p. 6.

European Union: MN, “Europeans Seek to Strengthen BWC,” April, p. 40; OM, “EU Approves Nonproliferation Framework,” June, p. 37; PK, “ Iran, EU Struggle to Start Nuclear Talks,” Oct., p. 24.

Export Controls: Jones, Scott, “Resolution 1540: Universalizing Export Control Standards?” May, p. 18; WB, “UN Extends Committee on Terrorists and Arms,” June, p. 39; WB, “Missile Control Regime Focuses on Iran, NK,” Nov., p. 44.

Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty: DGK, “Another Chance for the Fissile Production Ban,” April, p. 3; WB, MAP, “Reshaping U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy: An Interview With Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph,” June, p. 18; WB, “U.S. Unveils Draft Fissile Material Treaty,” June, p. 38; SL, “Rocca to Push Controversial Draft Treaty,” Sept., p. 44; Rademaker, Stephen G., “Time Is Running Out,” Dec., p. 13; Meyer, Paul, “Getting Back to Business,” Dec., p. 16; Krepon, Michael, “Means of Rejuvenation,” Dec., p. 18.

France: OM, “ Iran and Foreign Enrichment: A Troubled Model,” Jan./Feb., p. 26; OM, “Chirac Outlines Expanded Nuclear Doctrine,” March, p. 43; WH, “ France, Libya Agree to Nuclear Cooperation,” April, p. 31.

G-8 Summit: JW, “The Global Partnership—A Mixed Record,” May, p. 37; MAP, “Bush, Putin to Seek Nuclear Cooperation Pact,” Sept., p. 36; WB, “Anti-Nuclear Terrorism Initiative Launched,” Sept., p. 37; WB, “Anti-Nuclear Terrorism Principles Issued,” Dec., p. 42.

India: DGK, “ India’s Choice, Congress’ Responsibility,” Jan./Feb., p. 3; Mian, Zia and Ramana, M.V., “Wrong Ends, Means, and Needs: Behind the U.S. Nuclear Deal,” Jan./Feb., p. 11; Speier, Richard, “U.S. Space Aid to India: On a ‘Glide Path’ to ICBM Trouble?” March, p. 13; WB, “Nuclear Deal Center Stage for U.S., India,” March, p. 40; WB, “Bush, Singh Advance Nuclear Deal,” April, p. 32; WB, “Congress, NSG Question U.S.-Indian Deal,” April, p. 33; Luongo, Kenneth N. and Williams, Isabelle, “Seizing the Moment: Using the U.S.-Indian Nuclear Deal to Improve Fissile Material Security,” May, p. 12; WB, “Congress Ponders Conditions for U.S.-Indian Deal,” May, p. 23; WB, “U.S.-Indian Nuclear Deal Simmers,” June, p. 44; DGK, “Next Stop: The NSG,” July/Aug., p. 3; WB, “U.S.-Indian Deal Clears Congressional Hurdles,” July/Aug., p. 34; WB, “Nuclear Suppliers Still Split on U.S.-Indian Deal,” July/Aug., p. 44; WB, “Obstacles Remain for U.S.-Indian Deal,” Sept., p. 27; WB, “Senate Vote on U.S.-Indian Deal Delayed,” Oct., p. 46; WB, “Nuclear Suppliers Updated on U.S.-Indian Deal,” Nov., p. 45; WB, “Senate Passes U.S.-Indian Nuclear Trade Bill,” Dec., p. 27.

India-Pakistan Relations: WH, “Indo-Pakistani Talks Advance,” June, p. 43.

Indonesia: SM, “ U.S. Lifts Indonesia Arms Embargo,” Jan./Feb., p. 35.

Intelligence: PK, “Senate Iraq Intel Probe Stalls Again,” Jan./Feb., p. 34; PK, “IAEA Limits Leave Iran Intel Gaps,” Oct., p. 26; PK, “Senate Intel Panel Releases Two Iraq Reports,” Oct., p. 32; MAP, “Congress Approves Iran, NK Measures,” Nov., p. 48; PK, “New Details Emerge on NK Nuclear Program,” Dec., p. 37.

International Atomic Energy Agency: MAP, “ElBaradei, IAEA Accept Nobel Peace Prize,” Jan./Feb., p. 36; PK, “IAEA Reports Iran to UN Security Council,” March, p. 27; PK, “UN Urges Iran to Halt Enrichment,” April, p. 25; CL, “Uzbek Nuclear Material Removed,” May, p. 39; PK, “IAEA Raises New Questions on Iran Program,” June, p. 35; MAP, “Nonproliferation Diplomacy: An Interview With Ambassador Gregory L. Schulte,” July/Aug., p. 23; PK, “IAEA Iran Investigation Makes Little Headway,” July/Aug., p. 30; MAP, “IAEA, Leading Nations Push for Fuel Assurances,” July/Aug., p. 44; PK, “Efforts to Strengthen IAEA Safeguards Advance,” July/Aug., p. 46; PK, “IAEA Limits Leave Iran Intel Gaps,” Oct., p. 26; SL, “IAEA Says Illicit Nuclear Material Trade Down,” Oct., p. 40; OM, “The Growing Nuclear Fuel-Cycle Debate,” Nov., p. 40; PK, “Iran’s Enrichment Efforts Advance,” Dec., p. 32.

Iran: PK, “New Iran Talks Set, but Prospects Gloomy,” Jan./Feb., p. 24; OM, “Iran and Foreign Enrichment: A Troubled Model,” Jan./Feb., p. 26; WB, “U.S. Sanctions Nine Companies for Iran Trade,” Jan./Feb., p. 27; DGK, “Solving the Iranian Nuclear Puzzle,” March, p. 3; Ferguson, Charles D. and Takeyh, Ray, “Making the Right Call: Limiting Iran’s Nuclear Program,” March, p. 6; PK, “IAEA Reports Iran to UN Security Council,” March, p. 27; PK, “Questions Surround Iran’s Nuclear Program,” March, p. 30; PK, “UN Urges Iran to Halt Enrichment,” April, p. 25; PK, “Iran’s Nuclear Efforts, Capabilities Still Murky,” April, p. 27; MD, “U.S. Shifts Policy on Iran,” April, p. 30; DGK, “Iran: Breaking the Cycle of Escalation,” May, p. 3; PK, “Security Council Mulls Response to Iran,” May, p. 29; PK, “Reports Grow That U.S. Plots Strike Against Iran,” May, p. 32; MAP, “House Approves Iran Sanctions Bill,” May, p. 33; DGK, “Completely Nuts,” June, p. 3; PK, “U.S. Offers Iran Direct Talks,” June, p. 30; PK, “Behind Iran’s Diplomatic Behavior,” June, p. 32; PK, “IAEA Raises New Questions on Iran Program,” June, p. 35; PK, “U.S., Allies Await Iran’s Response to Nuclear Offer,” July/Aug., p. 27; PK, “IAEA Iran Investigation Makes Little Headway,” July/Aug., p. 30; MAP, “Senate Backs Bush’s Iran Approach,” July/Aug., p. 35; WB, “U.S. Sanctions Five Companies for Iran Trade,” July/Aug., p. 36; PK, “Iran Rejects Security Council Demand,” Sept., p. 31; MT, “Bush, Congress Wield Proliferation Sanctions,” Sept., p. 43; PK, “Iran, EU Struggle to Start Nuclear Talks,” Oct., p. 24; PK, “IAEA Limits Leave Iran Intel Gaps,” Oct., p. 26; Cirincione, Joseph, “The Clock’s Ticking: Stopping Iran Before It’s Too Late,” Nov., p. 17; PK, “Iran Ignores Deadline; Security Council Split,” Nov., p. 34; PK, “Russia, Iran Sign Deal to Fuel Bushehr Reactor,” Nov., p. 35; WB, “Missile Control Regime Focuses on Iran, NK,” Nov., p. 44; MAP, “Congress Approves Iran, NK Measures,” Nov., p. 48; PK, “Security Council Deadlocks on Iran,” Dec., p. 31; PK, “Iran’s Enrichment Efforts Advance,” Dec., p. 32.

Iraq: MN, “Report Confirms Iraq Used Sarin in 1991,” Jan./Feb., p. 28; PK, “Senate Iraq Intel Probe Stalls Again,” Jan./Feb., p. 34; PK, “Three Years Later, Iraq Investigations Continue,” April, p. 38; MD, “Pentagon Details Hussein’s Pre-Invasion Efforts,” May, p. 26; PK, “Iraq Strives to Join Chemical Weapons Pact,” July/Aug., p. 31; PK, “Senate Intel Panel Releases Two Iraq Reports,” Oct., p. 32; PK, “Problems With Iraq, Weapons Persist,” Dec., p. 33.

Israel: WB, “ Israel Looks to Bolster Arms Capabilities,” Oct., p. 28; WB, “Global Arms Exports Continued Upswing in 2005,” Oct., p. 35; WB, “Cluster Munitions Under New Scrutiny,” Oct., p. 38.

Japan: WB, “ Japan Embracing Missile Defense,” April, p. 36; PK, “ Japan, Australia Sanction North Korea,” Oct., p. 45.

Landmines: WB, “Anti-Vehicle Mines Proposal Falters,” Jan./Feb., p. 37; WB, “Landmine Clearance Deadlines Looming,” Nov., p. 39; WB, “Cluster Munition, Anti-Vehicle Mine Limits Sought,” Dec., p. 41.

Libya: WH, “ France, Libya Agree to Nuclear Cooperation,” April, p. 31; MN, “ Libya Chemical Weapons Destruction Costly,” May, p. 28; WH, “ U.S., Libya to Restore Full Diplomatic Relations,” June, p. 36; MN, “ UK Offers Libya Security Assurances,” Sept., p. 34; MN and Wolland, Jeremy, “HEU Removed From Poland, Libya,” Sept., p. 45.

Looking Back: Burr, William, “The Limits of Limited Nuclear War,” Jan./Feb., p. 41; Goldemberg, José, “Lessons From the Denuclearization of Brazil and Argentina,” April, p. 41; Rydell, Randy, “Going for Baruch: The Nuclear Plan That Refused to Go Away,” June, p. 44; Goodby, James E., “The 1986 Reykjavik Summit,” Sept., p. 49; Thomas, James P., “The Destructive Legacy of Plutonium Reprocessing,” Nov., p. 51.

Missile Defense: WB, “Defense Bills Passed, Nuclear Questions Raised,” Jan./Feb., p. 32; WB, “Missile Defense Goes Stealth,” Jan./Feb., p. 33; WB, “Missile Defense Funding Soars to New Heights,” March, p. 34; WB, “Japan Embracing Missile Defense,” April, p. 36; WB, “Missile Threat: Does It Add Up?” April, p. 37; WB, “U.S. Missile Defense Capability a Mystery,” April, p. 37; WB, “Plans for Missile Defense in Europe Unsettled,” July/Aug., p. 41; PK, WB, “Potential North Korean Missile Test Raises Tension,” July/Aug., p. 47; WB, “Israel Looks to Bolster Arms Capabilities,” Oct., p. 28; WB, “Anti-Missile System Scores Test Hit,” Oct., p. 31; WB, “U.S. Nixes Arms Control in New Space Policy,” Nov., p. 47.

Missile Technology Control Regime: Speier, Richard, “ U.S. Space Aid to India: On a ‘Glide Path’ to ICBM Trouble?” March, p. 13; Jones, Scott, “Resolution 1540: Universalizing Export Control Standards?” May, p. 18; WB, “Missile Control Regime Focuses on Iran, NK,” Nov., p. 44.

Missile Tests: WB, “Missile Threat: Does It Add Up?” April, p. 37; PK, WB, “Potential North Korean Missile Test Raises Tension,” July/Aug., p. 47; PK, “Security Council Condemns NK Missile Tests,” Sept., p. 22.

NATO: WB, “ Russia, West Clash Over Troop Pullouts,” Jan./Feb., p. 39; OM, “An End to U.S. Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe?” July/Aug., p. 37; WB, “Plans for Missile Defense in Europe Unsettled,” July/Aug., p. 41; WB, “European Conventional Arms Treaty in Limbo,” July/Aug., p. 41.

Nobel Peace Prize: MAP, “ElBaradei, IAEA Accept Nobel Peace Prize,” Jan./Feb., p. 36.

Nonproliferation: WB, MAP, “Reshaping U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy: An Interview With Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph,” June, p. 18; OM, “EU Approves Nonproliferation Framework,” June, p. 37; MAP, “Nonproliferation Diplomacy: An Interview With Ambassador Gregory L. Schulte,” July/Aug., p. 23; WB, “Interdiction Initiative Results Obscure,” Sept., p. 47; SL, “IAEA Says Illicit Nuclear Material Trade Down,” Oct., p. 40; du Preez, Jean, “Half Full or Half Empty? Realizing the Promise of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” Dec., p. 6.

North Korea: Jun, Bong-Geun, “North Korean Nuclear Crises: An End in Sight?” Jan./Feb., p. 6; PK, “North Korea Talks Hit Impasse,” Jan./Feb., p. 29; PK, “U.S., NK Meeting Could Aid Six-Party Talks,” March, p. 41; PK, “North Korea, U.S. Talks Inch Forward,” April, p. 34; PK, “U.S. Steps Up North Korea Sanctions,” May, p. 35; PK, WB, “Potential North Korean Missile Test Raises Tension,” July/Aug., p. 47; PK, “U.S, Allies End North Korea Reactor Project,” July/Aug., p. 48; PK, “Security Council Condemns NK Missile Tests,” Sept., p. 22; PK, “North Korea: Are the Six-Party Talks Dead?” Sept., p. 24; PK, “Japan, Australia Sanction North Korea,” Oct., p. 45; DGK, “Number Nine,” Nov., p. 3; Gallucci, Robert and Green, Michael J., “Nuclear Shockwaves: Two Views on Ending North Korea’s Nuclear Program,” Nov., p. 6; Garwin, Richard L. and von Hippel, Frank N., “A Technical Analysis: Deconstructing North Korea’s October 9 Nuclear Test,” Nov., p. 14; Smith, Harold, “Nuclear Forensics and the North Korean Test,” Nov., p. 15; PK, “North Korean Test Provokes Widespread Condemnation,” Nov., p. 23; WB, “North Korea Interdiction Option Limited,” Nov., p. 32; WB, “Missile Control Regime Focuses on Iran, NK,” Nov., p. 44; MAP, “Congress Approves Iran, NK Measures,” Nov., p. 48; PK, “North Korea Sanctions Detailed,” Dec., p. 35; PK, “New Details Emerge on NK Nuclear Program,” Dec., p. 37; Quinones, Kenneth C., “Back to the Future,” Dec., p. 45.

Nuclear Fuel Cycle: WB, “Bush Promotes New Nuclear Plan,” March, p. 36; Rydell, Randy, “Going for Baruch: The Nuclear Plan That Refused to Go Away,” June, p. 45; MAP, “IAEA, Leading Nations Push for Fuel Assurances,” July/Aug., p. 44; MAP, “Vienna Meeting Airs New Nuclear Fuel Proposals,” Oct., p. 36; OM, “The Growing Nuclear Fuel-Cycle Debate,” Nov., p. 40; Thomas, James P., “The Destructive Legacy of Plutonium Reprocessing,” Nov., p. 51.

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: MAP, “Nonproliferation Diplomacy: An Interview With Ambassador Gregory L. Schulte,” July/Aug., p. 23; WB, PK, DGK, “Reviving Disarmament: An Interview With Hans Blix,” July/Aug., p. 6; DGK, “Balancing Nuclear ‘Rights’ and Responsibilities,” Oct., p. 3; du Preez, Jean, “Half Full or Half Empty? Realizing the Promise of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” Dec., p. 6.

Nuclear Suppliers Group: DGK, “ India’s Choice, Congress’ Responsibility,” Jan./Feb., p. 3; WB, “Congress, NSG Question U.S.-Indian Deal,” April, p. 33; DGK, “Next Stop: The NSG,” July/Aug., p. 3; WB, “Nuclear Suppliers Still Split on U.S.-Indian Deal,” July/Aug., p. 44; WB, “Nuclear Suppliers Updated on U.S.-Indian Deal,” Nov., p. 45.

Pakistan: WB, “ U.S. Combat Aircraft Delivered to Pakistan,” Jan./Feb., p. 31; WH, “Indo-Pakistani Talks Advance,” June, p. 43; WB, “ Pakistan, Saudi Arabia Cleared for U.S. Arms Buys,” Sept., p. 42; WB, “ U.S., Pakistan Seal Combat Aircraft Deal,” Nov., p. 33.

Poland: WB, “Plans for Missile Defense in Europe Unsettled,” July/Aug., p. 41; MN and Wolland, Jeremy, “HEU Removed From Poland, Libya,” Sept., p. 45.

Proliferation Security Initiative: WB, “Interdiction Initiative Results Obscure,” Sept., p. 47; WB, “North Korea Interdiction Option Limited,” Nov., p. 32.

Russia: WB, “Russia, West Clash Over Troop Pullouts,” Jan./Feb., p. 39; WB, “Russian Nuclear Ambitions Exceed Reality,” Jan./Feb., p. 40; Ouagrham-Gormley, Sonia Ben, “Plagued by Errors: New Approach Needed to Tackle Proliferation Threats From Anti-Plague System,” March, p. 21; Walker, Paul F., “Nunn-Lugar at 15: No Time to Relax Global Threat Reduction Efforts,” May, p. 6; JW, “The Global Partnership—A Mixed Record,” May, p. 37; CL, “Uzbek Nuclear Material Removed,” May, p. 39; WB, “U.S., Russia Extend Threat Reduction Authority,” July/Aug., p. 42; Diakov, Anatoli and Miasnikov, Eugene, “ReSTART: The Need for a New U.S.-Russian Strategic Arms Agreement,” Sept., p. 6; MAP, “Bush, Putin to Seek Nuclear Cooperation Pact,” Sept., p. 36; WB, “Russia Seeks New Nuclear Accord,” Sept., p. 38; Wolland, Jeremy, “Venezuela, Russia Sign Weapons Deal,” Sept., p. 39; Wolland, Jeremy, “Downblending Program’s Future in Doubt,” Sept., p. 43; Goodby, James E., “The 1986 Reykjavik Summit,” Sept., p. 49; CH, “U.S.-Russian Nuclear Program Expires,” Oct., p. 42; WB, “U.S., Russia Sign Plutonium Accord,” Oct., p. 43; PK, “Russia, Iran Sign Deal to Fuel Bushehr Reactor,” Nov., p. 35; MAP, “Russia Looks to Tighten U.S. Nuclear Ties,” Nov., p. 50; WB, “U.S. Reports on Nuclear Treaty Implementation,” Dec., p. 44.

Sanctions: WB, “U.S. Sanctions Nine Companies for Iran Trade,” Jan./Feb., p. 27; MAP, “House Approves Iran Sanctions Bill,” May, p. 33; PK, “U.S. Steps Up North Korea Sanctions,” May, p. 35; WB, “U.S. Sanctions Five Companies for Iran Trade,” July/Aug., p. 36; MT, “Bush, Congress Wield Proliferation Sanctions,” Sept., p. 43; PK, “Australia, Japan Sanction North Korea,” Oct., p. 45; PK, “North Korea Sanctions Detailed,” Dec., p. 35; PK, “New Details Emerge on NK Nuclear Program,” Dec., p. 37.

Saudi Arabia: WB, “ Pakistan, Saudi Arabia Cleared for U.S. Arms Buys,” Sept., p. 42.

Small Arms: CA, “Small Arms Talks Hamstrung,” March, p. 45; Schroeder, Matt and Stohl, Rachel, “Small Arms, Large Problem: The International Threat of Small Arms Proliferation and Misuse,” June, p. 23; MT, “UN Small Arms Conference Deadlocks,” Sept., p. 46.

Space: Speier, Richard, “ U.S. Space Aid to India: On a ‘Glide Path’ to ICBM Trouble?” March, p. 13; WB, “ U.S. Nixes Arms Control in New Space Policy,” Nov., p. 47.

State Department Reorganization: Rust, Dean, “Reorganization Run Amok: State Department’s WMD Effort Weakened,” June, p. 12; WB, MAP, “Reshaping U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy: An Interview With Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph,” June, p. 18.

Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty: WB, “Russian Nuclear Ambitions Exceed Reality,” Jan./Feb., p. 40; Diakov, Anatoli and Miasnikov, Eugene, “ReSTART: The Need for a New U.S.-Russian Strategic Arms Agreement,” Sept., p. 6; WB, “ Russia Seeks New Nuclear Accord,” Sept., p. 38; WB, “ U.S., Russia Sign Plutonium Accord,” Oct., p. 43; WB, “ U.S. Reports on Nuclear Treaty Implementation,” Dec., p. 44.

Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty: WB, “Russian Nuclear Ambitions Exceed Reality,” Jan./Feb., p. 40; WB, “ Russia Seeks New Nuclear Accord,” Sept., p. 38; WB, “ U.S., Russia Sign Plutonium Accord,” Oct., p. 43.

Strategic Weapons: WB, “Russian Nuclear Ambitions Exceed Reality,” Jan./Feb., p. 40; Burr, William, “The Limits of Limited Nuclear War,” Jan./Feb., p. 41; WB, “Pentagon Seeks Strategic Arms Shifts,” March, p. 38; Johnson, Rebecca, “End of a Nuclear Weapons Era: Can Britain Make History?” April, p. 6; Nelson, Robert W., “If It Ain’t Broke: The Already Reliable U.S. Nuclear Arsenal,” April, p. 36; WB, “Pentagon Defends Global-Strike Plan,” May, p. 27; WB, MAP, “Strategic Decisions: An Interview With STRATCOM Commander General James E. Cartwright,” June, p. 6; MAP, “Congress Challenges Global Strike Plan,” June, p. 41; Andreasen, Steve, “Off Target? The Bush Administration’s Plan to Arm Long-Range Ballistic Missiles With Conventional Warheads,” July/Aug., p. 6; WB “Global Strike Plan Bombs in Congress,” Sept., p. 41; CH, “Signed Defense Bills Rebuff Pentagon Plans,” Nov., p. 46.

Syria: WB, “Missile Threat: Does It Add Up?” April, p. 37; PK, “Three Years Later, Iraq Investigations Continue,” April, p. 38; MT, “Bush, Congress Wield Proliferation Sanctions,” Sept., p. 43; WB, “ Israel Looks to Bolster Arms Capabilities,” Oct., p. 28.

Taiwan: WB, “ Taiwan Receives U.S. Warships,” Jan./Feb., p. 31.

Threat Reduction: Glaser, Alexander and von Hippel, Frank N., “Global Cleanout: Reducing the Threat of HEU-Fueled Nuclear Terrorism,” Jan./Feb., p. 18; WH, “President Gains Permanent CTR Waiver Power,” Jan./Feb., p. 33; WH, “Bush Plans Changes in Threat Programs,” March, p. 37; Walker, Paul F., “Nunn-Lugar at 15: No Time to Relax Global Threat Reduction Efforts,” May, p. 6; MN, “Libya Chemical Weapons Destruction Costly,” May, p. 28; JW, “The Global Partnership—A Mixed Record,” May, p. 37; CL, “Uzbek Nuclear Material Removed,” May, p. 39; WB, “U.S., Russia Extend Threat Reduction Authority,” July/Aug., p. 42; WB, “Lawmakers Mixed on Nuclear Funding,” Sept., p. 40; Wolland, Jeremy, “Downblending Programs’ Future in Doubt,” Sept., p. 43; MN and Wolland, Jeremy, “HEU Removed From Poland, Libya,” Sept., p. 45; CH, “U.S.-Russian Nuclear Program Expires,” Oct., p. 42; WB, “U.S., Russia Sign Plutonium Accord,” Oct., p. 43; CH, “Signed Defense Bills Rebuff Pentagon Plans,” Nov., p. 46.

Ukraine: Walker, Paul F., “Nunn-Lugar at 15: No Time to Relax Global Threat Reduction Efforts,” May, p. 6; Diakov, Anatoli and Miasnikov, Eugene, “ReSTART: The Need for a New U.S.-Russian Strategic Arms Agreement,” Sept., p. 6; WB, “Global Arms Exports Continued Upswing in 2005,” Oct., p. 35.

UN Resolution 1540: Jones, Scott, “Resolution 1540: Universalizing Export Control Standards?” May, p. 18; WB, “UN Extends Committee on Terrorists and Arms,” June, p. 39.

United Kingdom: Johnson, Rebecca, “End of a Nuclear Weapons Era: Can Britain Make History?” April, p. 6; MN, “ UK Offers Libya Security Assurances,” Sept., p. 34; WB, “Arms Trade Treaty Effort Endorsed,” Dec., p. 40.

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy: WB, “Defense Bills Passed, Nuclear Questions Raised,” Jan./Feb., p. 32; WB, “Warhead Initiative Looms Large in NNSA Plans,” March, p. 35; DGK, “Completely Nuts,” June, p. 3; WB, MAP, “Strategic Decisions: An ACT Interview With STRATCOM Commander General James E. Cartwright,” June, p. 6; WB, “U.S. Reports on Nuclear Treaty Implementation,” Dec., p. 44.

U.S. Nuclear Weapons R&D and Testing: WB, “Warhead Initiative Looms Large in NNSA Plans,” March, p. 35; Nelson, Robert W., “If It Ain’t Broke: The Already Reliable U.S. Nuclear Arsenal,” April, p. 36; WB, “Hobson Aims to Rein In Warhead Program,” May, p. 25; WB, “Lawmakers Mixed on Nuclear Funding,” Sept., p. 40.

U.S. Security Policy: WH, “President Gains Permanent CTR Waiver Power,” Jan./Feb., p. 33; WH, “Bush Plans Changes in Threat Programs,” March, p. 37; MD, “U.S. Shifts Policy on Iran,” April, p. 30; PK, “Reports Grow That U.S. Plots Strike Against Iran,” May, p. 32; MAP, “House Approves Iran Sanctions Bill,” May, p. 33; WB, MAP, “Strategic Decisions: An Interview With STRATCOM Commander General James E. Cartwright,” June, p. 6; WB, MAP, “Reshaping U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy: An Interview With Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph,” June, p. 18; MN, “U.S., Libya to Restore Full Diplomatic Relations,” June, p. 36; MAP, “Senate Backs Bush’s Iran Approach,” July/Aug., p. 35; SL, “Pentagon Shifts Arms Control Posts,” Oct., p. 33; MAP, “Congress Approves Iran, NK Measures,” Nov., p. 48.

Uzbekistan: CL, “Uzbek Nuclear Material Removed,” May, p. 39; SL, “Central Asian States Renounce Nuclear Weapons,” Oct., p. 42.

Venezuela: WB, “Latin American Arms Sales Moving Forward,” March, p. 39; WB, “ U.S. Bars Future Arms Sales to Venezuela,” June, p. 42; Wolland, Jeremy, “ Venezuela, Russia Sign Weapons Deal,” Sept., p. 39.

WMD Terrorism: Glaser, Alexander and von Hippel, Frank N., “Global Cleanout: Reducing the Threat of HEU-Fueled Nuclear Terrorism,” Jan./Feb., p. 18; WB, “UN Extends Committee on Terrorists and Arms,” June, p. 39; WB, “Anti-Nuclear Terrorism Initiative Launched,” Sept., p. 37; Dunlop, William and Smith, Harold, “Who Did It? Using International Forensics to Detect and Deter Nuclear Terrorism,” Oct., p. 6; WB, “Anti-Nuclear Terrorism Principles Issued,” Dec., p. 42.

Letter to the Editor: The North Korean Test and the Limits of Nuclear Forensics

Jungmin Kang, Frank N. von Hippel, and Hui Zhang

Harold P. Smith (“Nuclear Forensics and the North Korean Test,” Arms Control Today, November 2006) writes:

Any nuclear explosion creates radioactive noble gases, notably xenon and krypton, that do not combine with other elements in the geologic structure. Therefore, they can more easily leak to the surface and into the atmosphere where they can be detected beyond national boundaries. Because at least two different gases escape, it is possible for radio-chemists to determine if the fissile material was plutonium or uranium, which of course is exactly what happened. (Press reports said the material was plutonium.)

Smith is accurate in writing that the press reported that the material was plutonium, but U.S. officials have not done so publicly. In fact, the office of Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said nothing about the fissile material used when it announced that it had detected “radioactive debris” two days after the test.[1] We have no doubt that the material was plutonium, and we do not claim to be experts on this subject, but we are skeptical about Smith’s statement that measurements of radioactive noble gases alone can determine the fissile material used in the North Korean test, particularly if detected as much as two days after a test.

The dominant fissile isotopes in a plutonium or a highly enriched uranium (HEU) bomb are plutonium-239 and uranium-235, respectively. We therefore limit our discussion to them. When they fission, various products are created, including several radioactive noble gases. Among these, Xenon-131m, Xenon-133, Xenon-133m, and Xenon-135 are often detected from underground tests.[2]

Smith mentions the radioactive krypton isotopes, but we are not aware that they have been detected from underground tests, and it would be particularly hard to do so from the small North Korean test. Most krypton isotopes have very short half-lives; Krypton-85 is the only one produced in fission with a half-life of more than five hours. In fact, it has a very long half-life (11 years), but it has another attribute that makes identification difficult: it is released in large quantities when spent fuel is reprocessed.

Since Krypton-85 has such a long half-life and spent fuel reprocessing has taken place in a number of countries, large quantities of this isotope have accumulated in the atmosphere. It would be difficult to pick out the small amount of Krypton-85 leaking from a small underground test from this large background. We therefore disregard the radioactive kryptons in the remainder of this discussion.

Moreover, since the amount of the xenons that is released by an underground test is very uncertain, any clue to the nature of the fissile material would have to come from looking at isotope ratios. These ratios are different for uranium-235 and plutonium-239 fissions. The table below shows the fission-spectrum yields of the xenon isotopes that have been detected after nuclear tests in Nevada. We show separately the amounts that are produced directly and those produced indirectly through the decay of iodine-131, iodine-133, and iodine-135, which have half-lives of eight days, 0.87 days, and 0.27 days, respectively. As the chart illustrates, most xenons are produced indirectly, and the isotope ratios from indirectly produced xenons do not differ greatly between plutonium and HEU weapons.

Xenon Isotope Yields per Fission

If one were able to analyze the resulting mix within the first few hours [after an explosion], when the directly produced xenons dominate, it would be possible to distinguish between the xenon from plutonium and uranium explosion[s]. If the air samples were taken two days after the test, however, as Negroponte’s office said, such determinations would be far more difficult. That’s because xenon isotopes produced indirectly through iodine decay predominate, and the ratios of these indirectly produced xenon isotopes do not differ greatly between plutonium-239 and uranium-235 fission (See January/February 2007 print edition of Arms Control Today for accompanying information graphic ). Also, the dilution resulting from atmospheric mixing would make it far more difficult to measure these ratios exactly.

An additional complication is that the parent iodine isotopes of the indirectly produced xenon may not be released from the ground with the directly produced xenons in the same proportions as they are produced. Some iodine might, for example, condense in the ground (the melting and boiling points of iodine are 114[oC] and 184 oC, respectively) or be captured in ground water before the gas from the explosion reaches the atmosphere. This would change the xenon isotope ratios downwind.[3]

Our point here is only to question what can be learned from xenon isotopic ratios alone. We do not question that, if fissile material from the North Korean test was released into the atmosphere by a significant failure of containment and detected downwind, much could be learned, including whether or not the North Korean device was based on plutonium or HEU.


Jungmin Kang is a science fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University. Frank N. von Hippel is professor of public and international affairs at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security. Hui Zhang is a research associate in Harvard University’s Managing the Atom Project.


ENDNOTES

1. The complete text of the DNI statement was as follows: “Analysis of air samples collected on Oct. 11 detected radioactive debris confirming that North Korea conducted an underground nuclear explosion in the vicinity of P’unggye on Oct. 9. The explosion yield was less than a kiloton.”

2. Nevada Operations Office, U.S. Department of Energy, “Radiological Effluents Released From U.S. Continental Tests, 1961 through 1992,” DOE/NV-317, Rev. 1, 1996. With regard to the nomenclature of these isotopes, in Xenon-133m, for example, the number 133 designates the atomic number (neutrons plus protons). The suffix m indicates a long-lived (metastable) excited state of the nucleus.

3. Some correction for this effect could be made by measuring the iodine as well as xenon isotopes in the cloud. Martin Kalinowski’s unpublished article, “Characterization of Prompt and Delayed Atmospheric Radioactivity Releases From Underground Nuclear Tests at Nevada as a Function of Release Time,” does not identify evidence for such “fractionation” effects, but they still might be significant at the accuracy with which measurements would have to be made to distinguish between a plutonium and HEU bomb. Hui Zhang plans to carry though a more detailed analysis of this question.


Harold Smith Responds:

The Office of National Intelligence is, as it should be, cryptic in its official public announcements. The press is far less so. On Oct. 14, 2006, Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times reported on the North Korean nuclear test that a “senior intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the results were still preliminary and that final analysis of the data would not be completed for several days.”[1] Three days later, Thom Shanker and David E. Sanger, experienced and respected New York Times reporters, wrote that “American intelligence agencies have concluded that North Korea’s test explosion last week was powered by plutonium that North Korea harvested from its small nuclear reactor, according to officials who have reviewed the results of atmospheric sampling since the blast.”[2] The question is, how did these anonymous officials reach their conclusion, which seems to be based solely on analysis of airborne radioactive debris, the skepticism of Kang, von Hippel, and Zhang notwithstanding?

The answer rests, in all probability, in the degree of accuracy required in the intelligence community (IC) versus that of the scientific community. It must be recognized that intelligence estimates are just what they purport to be, i.e., they are estimates. They are made on incomplete data under conditions quite unlike a laboratory, and most importantly, they have to be made in a timely manner. In this case, the IC could not wait for more data or further analysis; it had to decide within days whether the weapon was fueled by plutonium or uranium.

Based on activity during the past few years, plutonium seems far more likely. Indeed, Kang, von Hippel, and Zhang go to some pains to note that “we have no doubt that the material was plutonium.” But if the fuel were uranium, the government’s understanding of the nuclear capability of North Korea, already meager, would become even darker and more worrisome. Major and possibly counterproductive changes in strategy would be needed. Hence, it is entirely possible that, so long as the radio-chemical data was not inconsistent with a plutonium bomb, the IC felt comfortable in announcing, anonymously through the press, that the fuel was plutonium. Incontrovertible evidence, as Kang, von Hippel, and Zhang seem to want, would be nice, but it cannot be a requirement. It appears that nuclear forensics provided the necessary degree of comfort.


Harold Smith is a distinguished visiting scholar and professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley. He served as assistant to the secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs during the Clinton administration.


ENDNOTES

1. Mark Mazzetti, “Preliminary Samples Hint at North Korean Nuclear Test,” New York Times, October 14, 2006.

2. Thom Shanker and David E. Sanger, “North Korean Fuel Said to Be Plutonium,” New York Times, October 17, 2006.

Editor's Note

Miles A. Pomper

When it comes to agreements governing dangerous weapons and dangerous materials, there is sometimes a significant chasm between the lofty aims of such accords and the often gritty details that are needed to make them truly effective on a day-to-day basis.

The Chemical Weapons Convention has won widespread support since it entered into force nearly 10 years ago. Nearly all of the countries in the world have signed or ratified the treaty, which bans the development, production, stockpiling, transfer, and use of chemical arms. As Jonathan Tucker points out in this month’s cover story, however, several important gaps and limitations in the treaty’s strict verification regime have become apparent. If not corrected, they could frustrate the treaty’s ability to prevent the proliferation of such weapons.

Similarly, since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, countries have adopted new international standards intended to provide stronger protection for nuclear material. So far, however, these standards have been quite general and have lacked effective enforcement. George Bunn argues that the UN Security Council should consider measures to remedy these shortcomings, including a greater role for the International Atomic Energy Agency in monitoring the implementation of the new rules.

In another feature article, Jack Boureston and Jennifer Lacey look at South Africa. That country has struggled to square a commitment to consistency and fairness on nonproliferation and disarmament issues with the reality that rhetoric defending the nuclear prerogatives of all developing countries may aid those, such as Iran, that are breaking global rules. They urge South Africa to strike a careful balance between idealism and realism in order to advance the global nonproliferation and disarmament agenda.

Our news section this month covers the UN Security Council’s approval of a sanctions resolution on Iran, the most recent round of negotiations aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and new studies that cast doubt on the need to overhaul the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

It also features two extended news analyses. One examines how November’s congressional elections will shape U.S. arms control and nonproliferation policy. The other looks at the 2006 Biological Weapons Review Conference, where modest progress came as a pleasant surprise to many countries.

Blair: Retain UK Nuclear Weapons

Wade Boese

British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently unveiled a plan to extend until about midcentury his country’s possession of a slimmed-down nuclear weapons arsenal. British lawmakers will vote as early as March on the initiative.

The United Kingdom deploys about 200 nuclear warheads aboard four Vanguard-class submarines. Launched separately between 1992 and 1998, these submarines will start reaching the end of their service lifetimes in the early 2020s.

Blair ruled out letting the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons capability expire along with the current submarine fleet. Describing British nuclear weapons as the “ultimate insurance,” he said Dec. 4, 2006, that it would be “unwise and dangerous” to give them up under current conditions and uncertainty about the future.

Still, Blair proposed that the active force could be trimmed down to less than 160 warheads and maybe three submarines. The prime minister’s plan also envisions a 20 percent cut in the backup warhead stockpile, the size of which is secret.

Blair’s government estimates that designing and building the first replacement submarine will require 17 years. Hence, a decision to begin such an effort, according to the government, must be made this year to be able to continue in 2024 the current practice of always having one submarine on patrol.

Another decision that Blair says must be made this year is whether to participate in the U.S. life extension program for the submarine-launched Trident D5 ballistic missile. British and U.S. submarines are outfitted with this missile, which is currently calculated to last until around 2020. The life extension program is supposed to prolong the missile’s service 20 more years.

The government detailed its case for extending the existing nuclear posture in a 40-page white paper, “The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent.” This December 2006 report cites the maintenance and modernization of nuclear arsenals by other major powers, the possibility of additional countries joining the nuclear club, and the threat of nuclear terrorism as reasons for preserving British nuclear forces. “We can only deter such threats in [the] future through the continued possession of nuclear weapons,” the report declares.

Blair acknowledged that terrorists most likely would not be dissuaded by the threat of nuclear attack or retaliation, but implied that such considerations could influence regimes that might aid terrorists. The report asserts that “any state that [the British government] can hold responsible for assisting a nuclear attack on our vital interests can expect that this would lead to a proportionate response.” French President Jacques Chirac enunciated a similar policy a year ago. (See ACT, March 2006.)

In general, the report maintains that the use of British nuclear arms would be considered “only in extreme circumstances” of self-defense or of protecting fellow members of the 26-nation NATO alliance. The government will “deliberately maintain ambiguity about precisely when, how and at what scale we would contemplate use of our nuclear deterrent,” the report states.

Keeping with this policy, the report notes that the United Kingdom reserves the option of using nuclear weapons first. China and India are the only two nuclear-armed countries that publicly say they will not do so.

Although the report registers concern about biological and chemical weapons, it stresses the “uniquely terrible threat” that nuclear arms pose and emphasizes that the British nuclear force’s “focus is on preventing nuclear attack.” A British government official told Arms Control Today Dec. 8 that “the reason why we keep a nuclear deterrent” is the possession of nuclear weapons by other states.

South Africa, which announced in 1993 that it had secretly accrued and then disposed of six completed nuclear weapons, criticized Blair’s proposal as “disappointing.” In a Dec. 5 press release, the South African Foreign Ministry argued London missed an “opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the irreversible elimination of its nuclear weapons arsenal, consistent with its nuclear disarmament obligations and commitments.”

Article VI of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) obligates the United Kingdom, as well as China, France, Russia, and the United States, to work toward disarmament. Moreover, the five countries pledged in 2000 at an NPT review conference to “an unequivocal undertaking…to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”

The white paper defends Blair’s proposal as consistent with British commitments. It states, “We believe this is the right balance between our commitment to a world in which there is no place for nuclear weapons and our responsibilities to protect the current and future citizens” of the United Kingdom.

Blair contended that British nuclear disarmament would not be reciprocated by other governments and, therefore, was impractical. “Unfortunately there is no evidence that any major nuclear power would follow such an example,” Blair argued. “And, as for the new, would-be nuclear powers, it really would be naïve to think that they would be influenced by a purely British decision.”

Then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan made a different argument just days before Blair’s comments. Annan said Nov. 28 that the retention of nuclear weapons by some countries might motivate others to acquire such arms. “By clinging to and modernizing their own arsenals…nuclear-weapon states encourage others…to regard nuclear weapons as essential, both to their security and to their status,” he warned.

Such anti-nuclear weapons views used to prevail inside Blair’s ruling Labour Party, which during the 1980s supported unilateral British nuclear disarmament. But the revival of the party’s fortunes in the 1990s and the election of Blair have been attributed in part to Labour dropping its disarmament stand.

Although some Labour lawmakers in the House of Commons have signaled they will break with Blair in the upcoming nuclear vote, the party’s main rival, the Conservative Party, backs Blair’s proposal. Conservative leader David Cameron stated after Blair’s announcement, “This is our only nuclear weapon, it is a minimum deterrent, and we have the right to replace it.”

The government explored replacement options other than new submarines, but these alternatives, including long-range aircraft and land-based silos, were rejected as more vulnerable and expensive. The government projects that procuring up to four new submarines will cost between $29 billion and $39 billion and extending the Trident’s lifetime will total nearly $500 million.

China Updates Nuclear Export Regulations

Paul Kerr

For the first time in almost 10 years, China has updated its export controls on nuclear technology. China’s State Council published the changes Dec. 1, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

According to Xinhua, the regulations, originally issued in 1997, are intended to give the government “more control over the end use” of exported nuclear technology. The revised regulations also provide more explicit guidance for importers and exporters of Chinese nuclear technology.

For example, the regulations give what appears to be new power to China’s customs authorities, which may now request that Chinese exporters obtain proper documentation of their shipments.

The regulations also describe more specific penalties for export control violations. The previous regulations said only that violators would be punished according to the relevant laws.

Furthermore, recipients of Chinese uranium-enrichment technology are now prohibited from using it to produce uranium containing more than 20 percent uranium-235.

Uranium enrichment, which increases the concentration of the fissile isotope uranium-235, can be used to produce both nuclear reactor fuel and fissile material for nuclear weapons. Uranium used as fuel in nuclear power reactors is typically enriched to less than 5 percent uranium-235; enriched uranium used in nuclear weapons typically is about 90 percent uranium-235.

The revised regulations also place new emphasis on preventing nuclear attacks by terrorists, adding, for example, “guarding against nuclear terrorist acts” as a rationale for controlling nuclear technology. Moreover, the regulations contain a new provision that allows Beijing to “suspend” nuclear exports to a recipient “if there is the danger of…nuclear terrorism.”

These changes continue a positive trend. In 1998, Beijing issued regulations governing the export of dual-use nuclear items. In 2004, China joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a voluntary group of states that have agreed to coordinate their export controls governing transfers of civilian nuclear material and technology. (See ACT, June 2004.)

The regulations do not appear to affect China’s 2004 agreement, completed before its accession to the NSG, to supply Pakistan with a nuclear reactor. Although governments are not obliged to follow NSG standards for any contracts completed before joining the group, the deal has been controversial because it is inconsistent with NSG guidelines.

Beijing also has been strengthening other types of export controls. For example, in 2002 it adopted regulations governing the export of missiles and related components, as well as chemical and biological materials and related equipment. (See ACT, January/February 2004.)

U.S. statements acknowledge that Beijing has improved its efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation but also claim that Chinese entities continue to aid certain countries’ nuclear programs.

For example, Paula DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation, told the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in September 2006 that China’s nuclear export control system “appears designed to ensure adequate review for those [nuclear materials and technology] exports that come to the attention” of the relevant authorities. But Washington is concerned about “whether these authorities choose to properly exercise their authority,” she added.

Similarly, a CIA report covering 2004 stated that “ China’s record is strongest with respect to nuclear nonproliferation, as Beijing has largely curtailed government-sanctioned assistance to most countries.”

However, an August 2005 Department of State report indicates that Beijing may be aiding two unnamed countries’ nuclear weapons programs. U.S. intelligence officials have testified as recently as 2004 that Chinese entities have provided such assistance to Iran and Pakistan.

Iran, North Korea Deepen Missile Cooperation

Paul Kerr

North Korea has long been known to be a key supplier of missile technology to Iran. Concern about this cooperation, however, has increased in recent months as both countries have expanded their nuclear and missile programs.

Pyongyang launched a series of ballistic missiles in July 2006 and tested a nuclear device about three months later. (See ACT, November 2006.) For its part, Tehran has continued to develop both ballistic missiles and its uranium-enrichment program. It is not clear whether Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. (See ACT, December 2006.)

Perhaps the most important recent development is Iran’s apparent purchase from North Korea of missiles with a range possibly exceeding that of Tehran’s longest-range deployed ballistic missile, the Shahab-3. The Israeli newspaper Ha`aretz quoted Major General Amos Yadlin, the head of the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Branch, as saying that Tehran had purchased the missiles, some of which had already arrived in Iran. A knowledgeable former Department of State official told Arms Control Today Dec. 19 that the reports are “certainly credible.”

The United States believes that North Korea has been deploying the same missile, which is reportedly based on the Soviet SS-N-6. Washington believes Pyongyang is deploying the missile in a road-mobile mode, although the SS-N-6 was a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

The United States and South Korea estimate that the missile, which North Korea has never tested, could potentially have a range of 2,500-4,000 kilometers, according to press reports. The most advanced version of the SS-N-6 had an estimated range of 3,000 kilometers. Any new missile’s range would vary considerably depending on the size of its payload. (See ACT, September 2004.)

During a Nov. 12 television interview, Major General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps indicated that Iran tested a Shahab-3 capable of traveling 2,000 kilometers. Tehran has previously claimed to possess a missile with such a range.

The United States has repeatedly claimed that Pyongyang has provided assistance to Tehran’s ballistic missile programs. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph told reporters in September 2006 that “ North Korea has been…the principal supplier to Iran of ballistic missile technologies.” The Shahab-3, which has an estimated range of 1,300 kilometers, is based on the North Korean Nodong missile, the National Air and Space Intelligence Center reported in 2006. The report added that Iran has deployed fewer than 20 such missiles.

Safavi acknowledged during a Nov. 6 television interview that Tehran had obtained Scud B and Scud C missiles from “foreign countries like North Korea” during the 1980s.

A CIA report covering 2004 indicates that Iran continued to receive “ballistic missile-related cooperation” from entities in North Korea as well as Russia and China. However, foreign assistance enabled Tehran to “move toward its goal of becoming self-sufficient in the production of ballistic missiles,” the report adds. Safavi claimed that Iran no longer requires foreign assistance for its missile programs.

In addition to material assistance, Pyongyang also has provided Tehran with technical advice for its ballistic missile programs, according to current and former U.S. officials. For example, the former State Department official said that the Shahab-3 was developed with North Korean expertise.

Moreover, at least one Iranian official may have been in North Korea to witness the July missile tests. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill testified during a July 20 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that it is Washington’s “understanding” that such officials were present. However, he told reporters the next day that he had not meant to “confirm” reports about the matter.

Similarly, North Korean officials may have visited Iran to assist with Tehran’s missile programs, a knowledgeable former congressional staff member said in a Dec. 19 e-mail.

U.S. officials suspect that Pyongyang may also have provided missile flight-test data to Tehran, according to both the former State Department official and Michael Green, President George W. Bush’s National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs until December 2005. However, there is no “specific evidence” of such cooperation, the official acknowledged.

Whether North Korea’s assistance to Iran is “the byproduct of individual, short-term, and isolated decisions” or “an element of a more formal agreement between the two nations” is an “open question,” the former congressional staffer said.

No Progress at North Korea Talks

Paul Kerr

After a lapse of more than a year, representatives of six countries met in Beijing Dec. 18-22 in another attempt to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis. Yet, although the United States presented a new proposal to North Korea during one of several bilateral meetings, the session ended without any apparent progress.

A Dec. 22 statement from Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei said that the parties “held useful discussions” on ways to implement a September 2005 joint statement produced at the end of an earlier round of talks. The parties “put forward some initial ideas,” he said, adding that they had “agreed to recess and report to capitals and to reconvene at the earliest opportunity.” No date has been set for another round.

North Korea agreed to attend the meeting less than a month after conducting its first explosive test of a nuclear device Oct. 9. (See ACT, November 2006.) In the run-up to the latest talks, the various parties held numerous preparatory sessions, including two bilateral meetings between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill and his North Korean counterparts.

Speaking to reporters Dec. 22, Hill expressed disappointment at the talks’ outcome, explaining that the United States had wanted to reach an agreement on implementing the joint statement, in which Pyongyang agreed in principle to dismantle its nuclear programs in return for incentives from other participants, which also include Japan, Russia, and South Korea.

Washington had received “indications” prior to the talks that Pyongyang was willing to take some steps to implement the statement, Hill said, but added that the North Korean negotiators lacked the proper diplomatic instructions to do so.

The six parties need to make “tangible progress” relatively soon, he argued, warning that the United States cannot otherwise “sustain political support for this process.”

Issues concerning the Macau-based bank Banco Delta Asia apparently continue to obstruct progress. Hill said Dec. 21 that the North Korean delegation “had strict instructions from their capital that they cannot engage officially” on Pyongyang’s nuclear program until the issue is resolved. The United States expected that discussions of the matter would be confined to a separate discussion with officials from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, he said.

North Korean Vice Minister Kim Gae Gwan appeared to confirm this in a Dec. 22 press conference. According to China’s official Xinhua news agency, he told reporters that, during the talks, the North Korean delegation said it would discuss the nuclear issue after the United States lifts what Pyongyang calls “financial sanctions.”

This position is similar to one that Pyongyang had articulated in a previous session of talks. During the six parties’ meeting in November 2005, the North Korean delegation focused almost exclusively on the Banco Delta Asia matter. The Treasury Department designated the bank as a “money laundering concern” in September 2005.

The United States asserts that Banco Delta Asia provided financial services to North Korean government agencies and front companies engaged in illicit activities such as drug trafficking. Since the U.S. designation, the bank has frozen North Korea’s accounts, and other financial institutions have curtailed their dealings with Pyongyang. (See ACT, September 2006.)

Kim reiterated that North Korea views the sanctions as part of what it terms a U.S. “hostile policy,” which aims to undermine the regime in Pyongyang.

During the six-party talks, a U.S. delegation headed by Daniel Glaser, deputy assistant secretary of the treasury for terrorist financing and financial crimes, held two days of bilateral discussions with North Korean counterparts about the financial issues. Although Glaser told reporters Dec. 19 that the meetings were “businesslike and useful,” no agreements were reached. The two sides “discussed the possibility of meeting next month,” he added, but no further meetings have been scheduled.

Other parties to the talks expressed concern that the issue had impeded progress in resolving the nuclear issue. For example, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a Dec. 16 television interview that the U.S. actions regarding the bank “have obstructed this process.” South Korea’s top nuclear negotiator, Chun Young-woo, expressed similar sentiments, the semi-official Yonhap News Agency reported Dec. 12.

The North Koreans also demanded a light-water nuclear reactor, Hill told reporters Dec. 20, a demand that provoked controversy during past rounds. (See ACT, October 2005.)

A U.S. Proposal

Hill presented a “detailed, concrete proposal” to his North Korean counterparts, Chun confirmed Dec. 20.

Yonhap reported that same day that the United States proposed a multistage denuclearization plan in which North Korea would freeze its operating nuclear reactor, declare its nuclear-related programs, and dismantle its nuclear facilities.

For his part, Kim told reporters that the United States asked Pyongyang to “freeze” its nuclear facilities and allow the freeze to be verified. In addition to North Korea’s Yongbyon reactor, which produces spent fuel that can be “reprocessed” to yield plutonium for a nuclear weapon, the United States argues that North Korea has a uranium-enrichment program, which could potentially produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. The Oct. 9 North Korean nuclear test explosion almost certainly used plutonium. (See ACT, December 2006.)

The U.S. proposal suggested that if North Korea complied with U.S. demands, Washington would provide Pyongyang with a written security guarantee and increase economic assistance to North Korea, Yonhap reported. According to the Associated Press, Chun provided more details about the U.S. proposal during a Dec. 26 television interview, saying that the United States also offered to normalize diplomatic relations with North Korea, remove it from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, and conclude a peace treaty that would formally end the Korean War.

The United States has indicated in the past that it would provide similar inducements; most are contained in the September 2005 joint statement.

That statement says that the six parties would implement the rewards and obligations of any final agreement “in line with the principle of ‘commitment for commitment, action for action.’” Whether and to what extent the U.S. proposal included such a sequence is unclear, although Yonhap reported that the United States offered to provide the security guarantee in exchange for the reactor freeze.

Such sequencing has been a persistent source of disagreement between the two sides.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Major Policy Shifts Unlikely With Democratic Congress

Miles A. Pomper

Democrats take control of Congress this month for the first time in a dozen years, but their ascension is likely to lead to only modest shifts in U.S. arms control and nonproliferation policies, say congressional aides and independent experts.

After all, Republican president George W. Bush will still be at the helm setting the course for the U.S. agenda on these issues. The 2008 election campaign will soon cause many lawmakers to focus more on scoring political points than on piling up legislative or foreign policy victories. Additionally, although lawmakers claim to place high priority on nonproliferation, Congress’s foreign policy agenda is likely to be dominated by the search for a means to stabilize Iraq and extract U.S. forces.

Not to mention that a Republican-led Congress had already stymied some of Bush’s more controversial initiatives, particularly those that would have significantly altered the nature of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal and the nuclear posture inherited from the Cold War. (See ACT, November 2006. ) Democrats will surely push back just as hard and probably a little bit harder, but the outcome will likely be similar.

Indeed, the most dramatic changes in the arms control and nonproliferation arena may have already occurred when November’s election results encouraged the postelection resignations of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations John Bolton.

Rumsfeld championed deployment of the rudimentary Ground-based Missile Defense (GMD) system and the idea of placing interceptors in space. His departure could enhance the ability of Democrats, already skeptical of these systems, to restrict planned missile defense deployments, particularly the idea of creating a test bed for such systems in space.

Bolton, a skeptic of multilateral treaties and organizations, had helped scuttle efforts to move forward on such measures as a 2005 UN effort to craft an action plan on disarmament. (See ACT, October 2005. ) He also called for taking a hard line with Iran and North Korea, two countries known or suspected to be pursuing nuclear weapons. Bush’s choice of a successor to Bolton may say a great deal about whether he will seek to continue these policies or hew to the somewhat more diplomatic approach that Condoleezza Rice has been carving out since she became secretary of state two years ago.

To be sure, some changes will certainly be in store in the way Congress handles these issues as Democrats take charge on Capitol Hill. But given their narrow margin and the fact that many of these issues naturally fall to the executive branch, their scope will likely be fairly limited.

More Aggressive Oversight

House of Representatives and Senate foreign affairs and armed services panels are pledging to take a closer look at the ongoing nuclear crisis with Iran and North Korea, as well as tackle longer-term issues such as the potential for future strategic weapons accords with Russia. They are also aiming to provide a reality check on much-touted administration initiatives aimed at preventing terrorists or “rogue” states from transferring nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and related technology, including requiring the administration to make explicit budget requests for some of these efforts.

One administration proposal that could face tough sledding on Capitol Hill would be an effort to strike a nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia. Lawmakers have grown dissatisfied with Moscow in recent years, with the Kremlin’s continued cooperation with Iran a particular sore point. One aide, noting that it took more than a dozen years for Congress to approve a similar accord with China, asked rhetorically, “Is Russia’s proliferation record so much better than China that they don’t need to be treated similarly?”

More Money and Flexibility for Threat Reduction Activities and Less for Missile Defenses

Democrats have long championed adding funds for programs that dismantle, secure, and destroy nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons arsenals and related materials in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. Democrats want to repeal restrictions that have sometimes blocked program elements, such as some chemical weapons destruction efforts in Russia, from being carried out.

Moreover, increasing funds for such activities was one of the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has pledged to turn the panel’s recommendations into law. The bill also calls for the creation of a White House office to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, particularly to terrorism groups, and the creation of a bipartisan independent commission to offer recommendations on U.S. policy in this area.

One particular program to which Congress will likely add funds is the Global Threat Reduction Initiative. The program seeks to repatriate Russian- and U.S.-origin nuclear fuel from sites abroad, shut down highly enriched uranium-fueled reactors or convert them to the use of low-enriched uranium fuel, and secure radioactive materials worldwide. How much Congress might add is uncertain. Aides said that the administration is already assuming such additions; they have been told that the White House will propose cutting these programs as part of its fiscal year 2008 budget request to prod Congress to restore funding only to current levels.

If real increases in threat reduction programs occur, they are expected to be paid for by cuts in missile defense. Alluding to the mixed testing record of the GMD system last November, new Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters that “it’s a mistake to purchase all of these missiles before we know that they’re going to work.”

Although Levin acknowledged that considerable funding for the GMD system will go forward, congressional aides said they see little prospect of supporting administration plans to create a space-based test bed before Bush leaves office. Other programs are expected to be trimmed slightly.

Less clear is the fate of administration plans to deploy ground-based interceptors in Europe. Last year, Congress hedged its bets by providing funds for site preparation but permitting potential interceptors to be deployed elsewhere. There is little Democratic enthusiasm for funding the effort while a U.S. system remains unproven and howls of protest continue from Russia. Still, news reports indicate that the administration may attempt to undercut congressional opposition by picking a site in Poland before lawmakers have an opportunity to act.

Challenges to New Bush Administration’s Plans for Revamping the Nation’s Nuclear Posture

Recent studies indicating that plutonium pits will last longer than previously expected “have taken a lot of urgency” out of the administration’s proposal to create a new nuclear warhead to replace existing types, said a House committee aide. Likewise, an administration plan to substitute conventional warheads for nuclear ones on Trident submarines is expected to be put on ice, pending the conclusion of a National Academy of Sciences study on the wisdom of the plan.

Fuel-Cycle Decisions on Hold

The previous Congress’s failure to pass legislation funding the Department of Energy for the current fiscal year has put several initiatives of the department’s National Nuclear Security Administration on hold (funding is continuing at previous-year levels under a continuing resolution). These include the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), which aims to develop new nuclear fuel-cycle technologies, including new forms of spent-fuel reprocessing. The administration claims these technologies will help nuclear power play a growing role in meeting U.S. and global energy needs while reducing the danger that civilian nuclear programs might be diverted for nuclear weapons purposes. But some lawmakers have questioned the technical, diplomatic, and financial basis of the GNEP program, and some are concerned about the proliferation risks of promoting reprocessing research.

The failure to pass the Energy Department funding bill also has left unresolved how to meet the U.S. part of a 2000 U.S.-Russian commitment under which each country is to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium. The initial agreement called for the material to be blended down into mixed-oxide fuel for nuclear reactors. But last year, Rep. David Hobson (R-Ohio) successfully argued for having U.S. plutonium rendered unusable for weapons by immobilizing it with glass or ceramic in storage casks, although he failed to convince his Senate counterparts. With the Democratic victory, however, the two major antagonists in this and other disputes concerning the energy and water appropriations bill—Hobson and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) —no longer wield a chairman’s gavel.

Congress Exempts India From Nuclear Trade Rules

Wade Boese

President George W. Bush Dec. 18 signed into law legislation making India eligible for broad U.S. civil nuclear exports for the first time in roughly three decades. But commencement of such trade still hinges on a series of negotiations that India’s leader warned would be “difficult.”

At a White House signing ceremony, Bush hailed the act as “one of the most important steps” toward reviving U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation. U.S. nuclear trade with India essentially ceased after New Delhi’s 1974 test of a nuclear device derived partially from Canadian and U.S. technologies transferred for peaceful purposes.

The measure signed by Bush was a merger and revision of two separate bills passed earlier in 2006 by lawmakers. (See ACT, September 2006 and December 2006.) Senators unanimously approved the compromise legislation a day after the House adopted it Dec. 8 by a 330-59 vote.

The act sets conditions for U.S. nuclear exports to nuclear-armed India. It also includes implementing legislation that clears the way for the United States to complete ratification and bring into force an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Such measures grant the agency greater authority to gather information inside a country on possible illicit nuclear weapons activities. In the case of the nuclear-armed United States, however, the instrument is mostly symbolic.

A concerted Bush administration campaign to persuade lawmakers to eliminate or dilute provisions from the House- or Senate-passed bills that upset the Indian government had mixed results.

Legislators maintained provisions that limit exports of enrichment, reprocessing, and heavy-water technologies to India to special cases. Such exports can be used to make bombs as well as energy, and U.S. policy is to deny their transfer. New Delhi had complained that this restriction singles out and slights India.

U.S. lawmakers also retained provisions for verifying that U.S. exports to India are not diverted to unintended destinations or purposes. India previously criticized the measures as distrustful. In a report accompanying the act, lawmakers argued the requirements “do not intend to impose a more intrusive regime than arrangements” for other U.S. nuclear pacts with foreign countries.

But Congress bowed to some pressure. A clause in the House bill that would have terminated trade if an Indian entity exported items contravening the export control guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or the Missile Technology Control Regime was modified to enable cooperation to continue if the president determines the Indian government was not involved or took corrective action. India is not a member of the two voluntary regimes, but New Delhi pledged to adhere to their export guidelines as part of the July 2005 U.S.-Indian cooperation framework agreed to by Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. (See ACT, September 2005.)

In addition, Congress softened a provision requiring that the U.S. government seek to block nuclear trade by other foreign suppliers to India if Washington ceases cooperation. Instead of explicitly mandating such an action, lawmakers made it a statement of policy.

Congress similarly relaxed a requirement that India actively support U.S. and international efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear program. Senators had made such collaboration a condition for U.S.-Indian nuclear trade, but the final legislation does not. The administration, however, is supposed to report annually to Congress on India’s cooperation. The annual reports also are to include information on Indian nuclear weapons developments.

The act maintains that winning India’s help in keeping Iran’s nuclear program in check is a U.S. policy goal. But Bush noted after signing the act that all of its policy statements would be treated as “advisory.”

The original sponsor of the Iran-related condition, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), blasted Bush’s statement as a sign of the president’s view of Congress “as a nuisance rather than an equal branch of government.” Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who opposed the deal, described Dec. 18 as a “sad day in the history of efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons and materials around the world.”

Bush administration officials, however, lauded the final product. Both Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns hailed the act as “historic.” Burns told White House reporters the day of the signing that the legislation represents the “symbolic centerpiece” of a new U.S. strategic relationship with India.

Indian reactions were less enthusiastic. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reacted harshly, claiming in a Dec. 10 statement that the act “aims at capping, rolling back and eventually eliminating India’s nuclear weapons capability.” It urged Singh to reject the act’s “humiliating” conditions.

Singh took a more positive line Dec. 18, but vaguely stated that there were “extraneous issues” and “areas which continue to be a cause for concern.” The prime minister contended these would need to be discussed before finalization of a 123 agreement, which is the instrument that the U.S. government uses to codify foreign nuclear trade under the 1954 Atomic Energy Act. “Clearly, difficult negotiations lie ahead,” Singh said.

U.S. and Indian negotiators have met twice concerning the 123 agreement, which must be approved by Congress. Although Burns claimed that there “aren’t any major issues left to decide,” negotiators have a half-dozen unresolved matters. India’s vehement opposition to a U.S. termination clause for an Indian nuclear test is the most well-known dispute, but New Delhi is also apparently seeking a blanket right to reprocess U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel.

Still, Burns downplayed the differences. Although acknowledging in New Delhi Dec. 8 that “there is a long process toward the finish line,” Burns also stated that “it is not going to be…as difficult as the last 18 months.” He further said the United States wanted to “accelerate” negotiations in January.

The two sides also will be busy trying to complete other steps to allow for U.S. nuclear exports to begin flowing to India.

Indian negotiators must conclude a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, including approval by the IAEA Board of Governors, to take advantage of enhanced nuclear trade under the deal. Safeguards are measures to ensure that civilian nuclear technologies and materials are not diverted to building bombs. The new U.S. law conditions congressional consideration of the future 123 agreement on India and the agency having a safeguards agreement ready for signature. The safeguards would apply to at least eight additional reactors that India has told the United States it would declare as civilian.

The act further conditions future U.S.-Indian trade on a consensus decision by the 45-member NSG to exempt New Delhi from a 1992 group rule that currently bars most nuclear trade with India because it has never joined the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and does not permit safeguards over its entire nuclear enterprise. Some key members, such as Russia, France, and the United Kingdom, support the U.S. initiative, but many others are undecided or opposed. The regime’s next decision-making meeting will be in April in South Africa.

Ever the optimist, Burns told reporters at the White House that he was “confident” the NSG would act favorably. All told, Burns predicted everything could be finished in as little as six months.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - January/February 2007