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"[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
March 2008
Edition Date: 
Saturday, March 1, 2008
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NEWS ANALYSIS: Chemical Weapons Parlay’s Outcome Uncertain

Oliver Meier

During April 7-18, representatives of 183 states-parties of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) will meet in The Hague for the second time to review the operation of the treaty and to find ways to adapt it for the future. Although there is likely to be broad agreement that the treaty has registered significant accomplishments in its first decade in operation, it is not clear if there is sufficient political will to tackle current diplomatic, technological, and economic challenges. Moreover, the meeting could be affected by tensions between developed and developing countries and between the United States and Iran that have hampered other multilateral talks.

Chemical Weapons Destruction

The biggest unfinished task for the convention’s members is to complete destruction of declared chemical weapons stockpiles. A November 2007 report by the Technical Secretariat of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the body charged with implementing the CWC, points out that, by then, only about one-third of the 70,000 metric tons of chemical weapons stockpiles declared by Albania, India, Libya, Russia, South Korea, and the United States had been destroyed.

The convention requires possessor states to have finished destruction by 2007, but Albania is so far the only country to have eliminated its entire chemical weapons stockpile. The CWC does allow extensions for as long as five years, and all chemical weapon-possessor states have taken advantage of the option to extend their destruction deadlines. (See ACT, January/February 2007. )

The two largest possessor states, Russia and the United States, have been granted the maximum extension, until April 29, 2012. It seems all but certain that they will not be able to meet that deadline. Destruction programs in each country have been affected by delays caused by a variety of political, technical, financial, and legal factors. Construction of major destruction facilities in Russia and the United States in some cases has just started or is still behind schedule.

U.S. Department of Defense officials have said that the United States will not be able to complete destruction of its stocks before 2023. In reaction, Congress in the 2008 defense appropriations bill has called on the Pentagon to speed up destruction and complete that task by Dec. 30, 2017. Achieving this goal would require increased funding for construction of the chemical agent neutralization facilities at the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado and the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky.

States-parties at the review conference will have to decide how to deal with the fact that Russia and the United States are likely to be in noncompliance with their obligations to destroy existing stockpiles before the next regular review conference meets in 2013.

Ambassador Donald A. Mahley, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for threat reduction, export controls, and nego­ti­a­tions, admitted to Arms Control Today Feb. 8 that the issue of chemical weapons destruction is a potential obstacle to a successful review conference. But in an interview, Mahley argued that “it’s too early to try to do something that will formally address that issue at this review conference.”

An Iranian diplomat told Arms Control Today Feb. 18 that Iran would like the review conference to describe any violation of the 2012 deadline “as a clear case of serious noncompliance,” which would automatically trigger treaty procedures for dealing with noncompliance.

The CWC establishes a gradual approach to dealing with noncompliance. In the first instance, policymaking organs will try to resolve the situation together with the concerned state-party. Only if there is serious damage to the object and purpose of the treaty and the noncompliant party does not respond to proposals or deadlines can the states-parties collectively take punitive measures.

Mahley drew a contrast between a “technical violation” caused mainly by unforeseeable technical difficulties on chemical weapons destruction and an act of noncompliance with the object and purpose of the treaty. He warned of the possibility that “states that have a different agenda with the review conference” that is “more accusatory and more disruptive” might use the delays in destruction as a pretext for preventing agreement at the meeting.

Mahley proposed that the review conference “set the groundwork for a work program to be able to find constructive ways to address the 2012 question before we get to 2012” by establishing a working group. Within a two- to three-year time frame, such a group could develop options for states-parties on how to deal with a possible violation of the 2012 deadline and establish a timeline for destruction of any remaining stocks, Mahley suggested.

The idea of postponing a discussion on the 2012 destruction deadline seems to find support in other quarters also. OPCW Director-General Rogelio Pfirter, in a Feb. 14 interview with Arms Control Today, echoed Mahley’s point that the delays in chemical weapons destruction are not the result of a lack of political commitment by Russia and the United States. In the November 2007 report, Pfirter had proposed that states-parties at the review conference “consider the option of calling, at an appropriate date close to 2012,” a special meeting of all states-parties “in order to review the status of destruction and agree on whatever action they might deem necessary.” The Iranian diplomat also conceded that Iran believes “that there is still plenty of time ahead of us” and that “therefore the second review conference should call upon the possessor states, in particular the major possessors, to make all their efforts to ensure to meet the final deadlines.”

Reforming the Verification Regime

The slow pace of destruction also has hindered the OPCW’s ability to verify that states are not producing chemical weapons. Because the OPCW is spending most of its verification resources on monitoring the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles, currently only 20 percent of inspectors’ time is dedicated to industry verification, according to the November 2007 OPCW report.

The review conference likely will debate other reforms of the industry inspections regime, such as altering the balance between systematic and routine inspections of certain facilities and more random inspections of about 5,000 so-called Other Chemical Production Facilities (OCPFs). OPCW officials, some states-parties, and outside experts have expressed concern about the growing number of OCPFs, particularly because about 10-15 percent of these facilities are perceived as especially susceptible to manufacturing chemical weapons, that is, because they apply flexible production technologies that could be easily converted to the production of chemical weapon agents. (See ACT, January/February 2007 .)

Pfirter told Arms Control Today he views OCPFs as a “risk category” and said that the OPCW’s reform efforts have two goals: to increase the percentage of inspections at OCPFs and to ensure that “facilities that are most relevant to the convention” are inspected. In the November 2007 OPCW report, he urged the review conference to address the issue of OCPFs and described its resolution as “overdue.”

Until recently, the allocation of industry inspections was biased toward equal selection of states-parties rather than the potential for misuse of certain types of facilities. In order to change the verification focus to inspect more OCPFs, the OPCW at the beginning of this year began using a revised selection mechanism for industry inspections that has “resulted in a proportional increase in the number of selected plant sites with advanced engineering features and process capabilities,” according to the November 2007 OPCW report. This reformed algorithm, however, does not yet introduce any new criterion aimed at targeting those OCPFs considered most vulnerable to proliferation.

Such a change would require a political decision by states-parties. So far, there has not even been agreement among states-parties on whether declarations should be expanded to include additional information on OCPFs so that the OPCW might be better able to identify the most relevant facilities. There are also disagreements how such information might be factored into a new mechanism for allocating inspections.

Moreover, some developing countries are wary of shifting verification resources toward OCPFs. Because a significant share of chemical manufacturing is moving from traditional locations in North America, western Europe, and Japan to other regions of the world and many modern chemical production facilities are OCPFs, developing countries fear that, under such a plan, their relative share of inspections will increase. Some nonaligned countries also suspect that the discussion is less about their technical capabilities and potential for violating the CWC than it is an indication that developed countries want to paint them as less trustworthy than industrialized states. A Nov. 5, 2007, statement by Cuban Ambassador Oscar de los Reyes Ramos on behalf of Nonaligned Movement countries insisted that the OPCW’s verification regime must “correspond to the hierarchy of risks inherent to the respective category of chemicals,” implying that the current approach, which views OCPFs as less essential, does not need to be fundamentally reformed.

 Mahley indirectly confirmed suspicions that the United States sees the discussion on OCPFs as a way to redirect verification resources and attention toward countries that are perceived as problem states. “We’d also like to see if we can’t get some redirection in some of the efforts of the OPCW more into the idea of where the threat really occurs now and the unscheduled producers in some of the Third World countries,” Mahley stated. He maintained that such a change in focus would be preferable to reinspection of certain facilities in Western countries where past verification efforts have given “a very clear indication that those aren’t a potential proliferation threat for chemical weapons.”

Addressing Nonlethal Incapacitants

On the other hand, Washington would like to avoid scrutiny of its controversial interpretation of treaty exceptions permitting the use of toxic chemicals for “law enforcement, including domestic riot control purposes.”

For example, on Jan. 20, The New York Times reported that the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide in May 2005 had dropped CS (tear) gas from a helicopter in Baghdad to clear an intersection for a convoy. The Department of State has maintained that the use of the riot control agent, which also injured U.S. soldiers, did not violate the CWC because under the circumstances it is “not considered a method of warfare.”

Mahley said of the controversy, “If anything, in the review conference [there] needs to be a relatively brief discussion reminding people of what the convention itself says.”

By contrast and in an apparent attempt to encourage an open exchange on the issue of novel, allegedly “nonlethal” weapons at the review conference, the European Union agreed in June 2007 that it was an “essential issue” for the review conference to reaffirm that the convention’s prohibitions “apply to any toxic chemical,” with a few specific exceptions.

Similarly, the Iranian diplomat also described the issue of nonlethal weapons as a very important one and stated that Iran “would like the conference to pay more attention to it so that it can take clear decision that we prevent the use of such weapons as a method of warfare.”

Concern about the development of so-called chemical incapacitants and nonlethal weapons has grown after a 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis, in which the use of a chemical incapacitant by Russian forces resulted in the deaths of more than 150 hostages and kidnappers. Subsequently, several countries, including the United States, have shown interest in the military application of such incapacitants. Technological advances in biochemistry have also made the development of more capable nonlethal agents more possible (see page 20). (See ACT, September 2007. )

Pfirter told Arms Control Today that there will be a need to address the impact of new nonlethal weapons on the convention in “due course” but argued that “there is not sufficient information” for the review conference to address the issue in depth. Given the divisions among states-parties, it seems uncertain whether expert proposals to launch an independent review of the potential consequence of using chemical incapacitants will gain support at the review conference.

Preventing Chemical Weapons Terrorism

When speaking to Arms Control Today, Pfirter pointed out that “the expectations of the international community are big and the expectations of individual member states are big” that the OPCW should cooperate in anti-terrorism efforts. As a positive example, Pfirter pointed toward ongoing cooperation between the OPCW and the committee implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all states to implement domestic measures to prevent nonstate actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. (See ACT, November 2007. ) He highlighted assistance provided to smaller and developing states to translate CWC obligations into national law. These countries “are guided mainly by their concern about terrorists using chemical weapons on their territory,” Pfirter stated.

Discussions at the review conference are likely to concentrate on measures to target national implementation assistance better, rather than additional steps to strengthen the convention’s role in preventing chemical weapons terrorism. At the November 2007 conference of OPCW states-parties, U.S. Ambassador Eric M. Javits argued that states-parties should focus efforts to improve national implementation on those approximately 20 states “that lack effective implementing measures but have more activities relevant to the convention within their territories.” Mahley, in the interview with Arms Control Today, refused to cite examples of those countries but emphasized that broader national implementation rests on more and better awareness raising, outreach, assistance, and training.

Another U.S.-Iran Fight?

The review conference, likely to be chaired by Saudi Arabia, is expected to adopt a brief political declaration and a longer final document that reviews the operation of the convention in detail, similar to the products of first review conference, in 2003. Achievement of these goals will depend largely on the political climate at the conference and particularly whether there will be another confrontation between Iran and the United States of the type witnessed at many similar meetings recently.

At the first review conference, the United States had provoked angry reactions by asserting that more than a dozen countries possess or are actively pursuing chemical weapons. In 2003 the United States voiced specific concerns about the compliance of Iran and Sudan, which are members of the CWC, as well as nonmembers Libya, North Korea, and Syria. Mahley says that Washington believes that the CWC “has been working reasonably well” but also stated that the administration still upholds the conclusions of a 2005 State Department report on noncompliance, which listed compliance concerns about China, Iran, Russia, and Sudan. Mahley said that the administration is “still debating whether or not the review conference is a forum at which we wish to make [compliance] a major issue.” He cautioned that the United Stated would not ignore noncompliance concerns: “Certainly, we are going to note it.”

An Iranian proposal to set up a “Chemical Weapons Victim’s International Funding & Assistance Network” is another potential subject that could provoke controversy. (See ACT, December 2007. ) Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran during their war in the 1980s.

Mahley rejected the Iranian proposal, which was first made in 2006 and repeated at the 2007 conference of states-parties. “There are other ways to try to address the question [of providing financial assistance to chemical weapons victims] rather than trying to turn that to being a function of a nonproliferation organization,” he said. Mahley argued that humanitarian agencies might be better suited to address the issue of chemical weapons victims assistance.

The Iranian diplomat dismissed this argument and maintained that humanitarian organizations do not deal with victims of weapons of mass destruction. He said that Iran will pursue its proposal and wants to highlight that the CWC’s provisions on assistance and protection against chemical weapons are “meant not only to address immediate humanitarian consequences resulting from the use of chemical weapons but also the long-term effects.”

The scope and content of efforts to support peaceful use of chemistry is another traditional battleground between Western states and nonaligned countries. So far, however, developing countries appear not to have come up with specific demands to strengthen such cooperation, which is currently being discussed as part of a specific OPCW framework.

Technical issues, particularly those related to the operation of the OPCW, also appear to be noncontroversial. Unusual for the head of any international organization, Pfirter is happy with the states-parties continuing to maintain current funding levels. He told Arms Control Today, “I have been the first promoting a zero nominal growth in the budget because I believe that the organization has the financial resources necessary for it to address adequately program demands.”

Weapons Labs Biological Research Raises Concerns

Jeremy Patterson

Two U.S. nuclear weapons labs are opening biological research labs capable of studying more dangerous pathogens, raising concerns about the U.S. ability to meet demands for transparency in line with the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).

On Jan. 25, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory began operating a new Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) research lab. In addition, Los Alamos National Laboratory is scheduled to complete a federally mandated environmental study on a similar lab in August 2008, enabling the lab to begin operations soon thereafter, if the study findings are favorable.

Biosafety level classifications are established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to denote the level of danger associated with handling particular biological pathogens and proper procedures for working with them. The most dangerous agents, such as Ebola, are classified as BSL-4 in part because there is no known cure. A rating of BSL-3 indicates that the lab is equipped to handle infectious agents that may cause serious or fatal illness if inhaled. Agents rated at BSL-2 are not transmissible via inhalation and are often less hazardous in terms of the infections they may cause. For example, anthrax is normally a BSL-2 pathogen but necessitates a BSL-3 environment if it is in pure cultures or is aerosolized because it is then an inhalation threat.

Each national laboratory currently operates BSL-2 labs, and the new facilities mark the first time either laboratory has conducted or will conduct BSL-3 studies on-site.

These labs also will study select agents, which are pathogens that pose a serious threat to public health and safety and may be biological terrorism or biological weapons threats, including anthrax, botulism, brucellosis, plague, Rickettsia, tularemia, and valley fever. Due to the potential national security ramifications, labs conducting research on select agents are required by the CDC to implement physical and personnel security measures in addition to the normal BSL safeguards.

The labs are permitted to do some research on these agents under the BWC. The convention prohibits the development, production, stockpiling, or acquisition of biological agents; but it does allow researchers to work with limited quantities of certain types of dangerous agents solely for “prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purposes.” For example, scientists might use an agent in creating vaccines or defenses against potential biological weapons.

It is difficult for outsiders to determine if a country is engaging in offensive or defensive biological weapons research, putting a premium on transparency and confidence-building measures to reassure the international community that a state is complying with its BWC obligations. Outside groups have raised concerns that locating the new BSL-3 labs in weapons facilities will make it difficult to convince other countries of the peaceful intent of U.S. research. They also worry that constructing these labs in such facilities may be undermining U.S. efforts to limit other countries’ research into biological agents that could potentially be used as biological weapons.

Lynda Seaver, a spokesperson for the Lawrence Livermore lab, sought to assuage such concerns, telling Arms Control Today Feb. 12 that the United States is “a signatory to the Biowarfare Convention and does not conduct bioweapons research.” She also said that “the bulk of the work done at the BSL-3 [lab] will be unclassified.”

However, a spokesperson for the CDC told Arms Control Today Feb. 15 that there are security-related restrictions on sharing select agents research. Considerable physical security measures in place at Lawrence Livermore could further bar transparency.

According to documents filed by the Department of Energy Jan. 25, the BSL-3 lab at Lawrence Livermore is capable of holding rodents and conducting “aerosol challenges” of them using infectious agents or biologically derived toxins. The lab is also equipped to produce small amounts of biological material such as DNA using infectious agents and genetically modified agents.

The labs are part of a major increase in governmental biological defense research since the anthrax attacks of 2001. In the past five years, the National Institutes of Health have spent more than $1 billion constructing new BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs. The Department of Homeland Security is scheduled later this year to complete construction on the $141 million National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) in Frederick, Md., and is planning an additional $500 million animal research facility. Both will have BSL-3 and BSL-4 capabilities.

According to Seaver, the Lawrence Livermore lab will be mainly conducting research under a “work for others” arrangement for the Homeland Security Department as part of the department’s national mission for bioterrorism defense, although Lawrence Livermore is in discussions to conduct research for other agencies in public health areas.

The Homeland Security Department’s NBACC will conduct threat assessment research, a controversial type of biological research in which new types of biological weapons are produced by researchers in order to determine their potential viability and how one might defend against them. Some outside experts say that such research is of tenuous legal standing from the perspective of the BWC.

In 2002, when construction began, each national laboratory argued that the new BSL-3 labs were needed because outside labs are often committed to other projects or are not well equipped for the desired work. The situation has greatly changed since then. A 2007 Government Accountability Office report noted that, since 2001, the number of BSL-4 labs in the United States has increased from five to 15. (See ACT, November 2007. ) The number of BSL-3 labs has undergone a similar expansion; more than 1,350 are registered with the Select Agents Program, and many more are known to exist outside the program.

Research at the labs will be conducted under the oversight of the respective Institutional Biosafety Committees of each national laboratory, which must include at least two members of the public. The labs will be subject to periodic inspections by the CDC to verify compliance with the Select Agents rules. However, the labs will not be under the jurisdiction of any oversight mechanisms designed to ensure or publicize compliance with the BWC or U.S. laws governing its implementation other than internal Homeland Security Department review boards.

A World Free of Nuclear Weapons: An Interview With Nuclear Threat Initiative Co-Chairman Sam Nunn

Interviewed by Daryl G. Kimball and Miles A. Pomper

Sam Nunn has long been a leader in the U.S. national security community. A Democrat from Georgia, Nunn served four terms in the U.S. Senate from 1972 to 1996, including as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He is currently co-chairman and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to reducing the risk of the use and spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

In January 2007 and this past January, Nunn and three other senior U.S. statesmen from both parties—former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz and former Secretary of Defense William Perry—co-authored op-ed articles in The Wall Street Journal calling for the United States to champion the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons and outlining several immediate steps toward achieving this goal. On January 24, Arms Control Today met with the former senator to discuss this initiative and relevant U.S. arms control and nonproliferation policies.[1]

ACT: In essays in The Wall Street Journal in January 2007 and January 2008, you and other prominent Americans called for “a world free of nuclear weapons,” asserting that the current approach to dealing with nuclear dangers is inadequate. How did all of you arrive at this dire conclusion and ambitious solution?

Nunn: I think all of us probably arrived at the conclusion at different times and different ways. We then converged together with that view over a period of several months. In my own case, it was several years of my evolution to [come to] that conclusion.

I believe that the threat has fundamentally changed. We went through the Cold War, where we had a great danger of escalation from conventional [warfare] to tactical nuclear weapons, right up the ladder to strategic nuclear weapons. I was convinced that, at the battlefield front, [NATO’s] military people were going to ask for nuclear release at the very beginning of any conventional war. So I spent a great deal of time in the Senate to try and strengthen conventional forces in Europe so we could raise the nuclear threshold and make it where we would have at least several days, maybe even weeks, to make a decision [to go nuclear].

[More recently,] the work we’ve done with the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)—particularly on the fuel bank,[2] securing and reducing nuclear material stockpiles, trying to convert reactors around the globe from using highly enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium,[3] and advocating a fissile material cutoff[4]—has convinced me that we simply are not going to get the cooperation we need around the globe to take the steps that are essential for our security without having a restoration of the vision that was laid down in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Whether we agree on the interpretation or not, the world perceives that the countries with nuclear weapons made a pledge to step-by-step reduce them, make them less relevant, and eventually get rid of them.[5]

The nuclear fuel bank is aimed at trying to prevent proliferation of uranium-enrichment facilities all over the globe.[6] But when you start talking to people about the fuel bank, you find out pretty quickly that there’s no interest even among our best friends, in setting up another have and have-not regime: those who have and can enrich uranium and those who have not and will not be able to enrich. That is why it’s hard to get traction in terms of sanctions against Iran. It’s hard to get unity on a lot of things and, I think, it will get increasingly difficult.

Therefore, in my view, we’re moving toward a nuclear nightmare with more enrichment, more nuclear materials, and more know-how around the globe and terrorist groups who have made it very clear they are doing everything they can to get these weapons. Thus, I believe the vision and the steps go together. The way I like to express it is that we ought to make nuclear weapons less relevant and less important, prevent nuclear weapons or materials from getting in the hands of dangerous people, and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons as a threat to the world.

ACT: What do you think are the biggest challenges in convincing nuclear-weapon states to pursue this kind of path?

Nunn: People don’t know that the nuclear-weapon states have a hard time thinking about national security without nuclear weapons. They’ve become so relevant. For a time in the early 1990s after the Soviet Union broke up, I thought it was an opportune time to make nuclear weapons a lot less relevant, particularly with the Nunn-Lugar program.[7] But that time passed for a lot of reasons that you can debate. I think that expanding NATO and putting the military first after the collapse of the Soviet Union rather than making an economic expansion with the European Community was a fundamental mistake. It gave the Russians the feeling that they were, as they pretty much are, excluded from European defense and security. Now, the Russians are in the position that we were in when we ordered up thousands of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. They feel that their conventional forces are not strong enough, requiring them to have not only a nuclear deterrent in a very active way, but a heavy reliance on battlefield nuclear weapons and first use. It’s not unusual that the Russians would come to that conclusion. That’s the conclusion we had during the Cold War. I think the nuclear powers have varying reasons [for possessing nuclear weapons], but it all goes to dependency on nuclear weapons psychologically.

With U.S. conventional capabilities now and with the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact, I really think we are in a totally different threat environment. The current threat environment is one where not only is there no need to have a confrontation with the Russians, but there’s every reason for our own security to have cooperation. While the threat environment has changed, the psychology of nuclear weapons for the nuclear powers in most cases has not changed. That would apply to India and Pakistan for obvious reasons. It would apply to Israel and the Middle East. It would apply to China. Everybody is kind of looking at everybody else.

I describe moving toward zero as climbing a mountain, the top of the mountain being zero nuclear weapons. We might not get there in my lifetime, but we need to be heading up the mountain, not down the mountain. We have to head up the mountain together. It’s not going to be a unilateral move. It’s going to have to be moving up the mountain together and hopefully reaching a plateau so that our children and grandchildren can at least get out their binoculars and see the top of the mountain.

ACT: Which steps up the mountain would you say are the most important?

Nunn: I have my own pet rocks. I think working with the Russians on missile defense is enormously important because if that does not happen, we are going to make all these other steps, which involve the Russians, much less likely and much more difficult. On the other hand, working with the Russians on missile defense and early-warning systems could open up the door for a lot of other things.

If I had to say what would do more good than any one single thing in terms of improving American and Russian security, it would be extending warning times. I haven’t been briefed on the U.S. warning time in a long time because it’s classified. But whatever it is, it is minutes.[8] It’s insane for us, 16 years after the Cold War, to think of the Russian president having four or five minutes to make a decision about whether what may be a false warning requires a response before he loses his retaliatory force. It is insane. That’s fundamentally against American security interests. The Russians can make a mistake. Radars and satellites can go wrong. So we ought to ask ourselves why we don’t work with the Russians to give them more warning time. They need to ask themselves why they don’t work with us to give us more warning time.

ACT: What in particular on missile defense would you do? The most recent essay talked about a cooperative approach. When and how do you think the United States and Russia should reach a cooperative approach on missile defense, particularly missile defense in Europe?

Nunn: I was glad to see Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice go to Moscow with proposals. Evidently it took a long time for the bureaucracy to put those proposals in writing, and when they put them in writing, there were certain things left out from the Russian perspective.[9] Still, I think it was a big step forward for them to go over there. George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, and I all strongly recommended that after we met in Russia last July with a group led by [former Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny] Primakov. We came back saying missile defense was very important, so we hope that we had something to do with Gates and Rice going over there. They went, and I think that was very good.

When I say cooperative, I think the two presidents have to make it clear to the people under them that this is strategic, not tactical, and that the militaries are expected to take whatever the obstacles are and work the problems.

The thing is that [the Bush administration] is basically deploying a system that’s not mature against a threat that’s not mature.[10] The Russians don’t agree on the threat. One of the things I mean by cooperation is a joint threat assessment. I proposed that recently to President [George W.] Bush. I proposed a joint intelligence assessment on the threat. It doesn’t have to be just the Iranian threat, but the generic missile threat. That would tell you how much time you’ve got and where differences exist. If you don’t agree on the threat, it’s going to be ultra hard to agree on the response.

Warning time is similar. I proposed to both [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Bush in the last six months what I just basically said to you. I suggested respectfully that they tell their military leaders, “We want more warning time. If it’s ‘x’ now, we want it to be ‘2x.’ You give us the steps. We want you to work out the details.”

What is it that makes Russia think it has to launch quickly? What is it that makes Russia think, in the tactical area, that it needs the option of first use? What is it that makes NATO continue to say it has to have first use? Start working those problems because insecurities are on both sides. Beyond the prestige factor—we’ve made nuclear weapons too important—the underlying factor is insecurity. So we have to work the insecurity problems with the United States and Russia and then in every region of the world if we’re ever going to go up the mountain. We have to work regional insecurity problems. “We” are the United States and other nuclear powers, as well as the regional powers.

ACT: The May 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) commits the United States and Russia to each lower their strategic operational forces to less than 2,200 strategic warheads by 2012, which is when the treaty expires. Should there be a follow-on treaty to SORT, and how low should the numbers go?

Nunn: I would like us to focus on the number of quick-launch weapons. I have felt for a long time that while it is perfectly valid and important to talk about and come down in numbers, it is much more important to make nuclear weapons less relevant in the long run. If we can make them less relevant, then the number will come down very appreciably.

Nuclear weapons can be made less relevant if they are not going to be used in the early stages of a conflict. Some type of physical barriers could be introduced down the line so nobody can launch within a week and their retaliatory response is not threatened. You have to have both. You can’t have nuclear weapons locked up in a pile sitting there waiting for someone to destroy them.

ACT: START I expires at the end of 2009. How mechanically and diplomatically do you think the two sides can pursue the reductions that you are describing? Is it in the context of the SORT and START processes or through unilateral reciprocal initiatives? How do you see future reductions being pursued?

Nunn: All of the above. I do not think it’s either arms control treaties or things beyond arms control treaties. I think it is both.

It would be folly to allow the START verification provisions to expire. I think reconstructing them would be a whole lot harder than having this administration and the Russians agree on [extending] them.

I also think SORT needs to be fulfilled. When it first came up, I called it a “faith-based treaty.” It expires the same day that the limits take effect. I think that is absurd. The next administration has to do something about that. Obviously, this one will not. The next administration will have to tie verification provisions to SORT.[11]

I think the arms control treaty process is important. Obviously, you want to reach agreements. But the dialogue, the conversations, the people getting to know each other, and the realization of the fears and seeing where the fears coincide are important. That is where I differ so much from this administration. Sure it is frustrating and takes a long time.

We have a lot of things that we can do without treaties. Warning time, for instance, I don’t think lends itself to a treaty approach.

I also would like to see [command and control] updated in light of the huge technological changes, particularly the cyber world. I don’t think we have explored anywhere near adequately the danger of command and control being penetrated by people in the cyber world, whether it’s a third country or a very clever hacker. There are horrors out there when you see the stakes involved. That’s why I go back to my big pet rock. If everyone had the posture where they could not shoot for a week, it would be a different world. That would make nuclear weapons less relevant, and the discussion about how many you need takes on a different flavor. That is in no way in opposition to reducing numbers, but it is saying that reducing numbers is not the be all and end all.

ACT: There are still several hundred tactical U.S. weapons in Europe. Would you support their unconditional or immediate withdrawal? Why or why not?

Nunn: What I favor is a U.S.-Russian agreement—NATO would have to be involved—that would basically acknowledge the problems of tactical nuclear weapons: the fact that they are susceptible to terrorist attack; the fact that if they are deployed, there is more difficulty with command and control; and the fact that, in some cases, it is reported that there is pre-release authority, where you would not have to get permission from the leaders of the country. I hope nobody has it. I’m not sure about the Russians. I would talk about all of that.

My first goal would be to have transparency between the United States and Russia: where the weapons are and how many there are through mutual exchange of inventories. If you don’t have a baseline, how do you know what they are missing? That’s the way that I would start with tactical nukes. The [final] goal would be to get rid of all of them.

ACT: Given what you mentioned about Russia’s changing perception of threats after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, do you think Russia is ready for that dialogue now, or are there changes in U.S. and NATO policy that are going to be necessary to open the door to that negotiation about transparency and accountability?

Nunn: At this stage, I have seen no indication that Russia is ready for that conversation.I think you have to be willing to sit down and talk to the Russians about where they fit into the overall European security framework. NATO’s Partnership for Peace[12] was a worthy effort for a few years, but it has run its course in my view. The discussions now by serious people about inviting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO and [deploying] missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland mean that the clock is running. We don’t have that much time to have a serious discussion about Europe. NATO has to ask itself if it is in NATO’s interest for Russia to be virtually the only country in that part of the world that’s not eligible to be in that huge defense alliance. If the answer is “that’s the way we want to go,” we’re doing everything just right. If we want Russia to be excluded and if we want Russia to perceive NATO as a permanent enemy, we’re doing it all just right. I don’t think it is our goal. I also don’t think it is NATO’s goal. I don’t even think it is this administration’s goal. So we have to back up a little bit and say, “Time out. What is the view of the Russian security role?” I think the Russians have to ask themselves that. Most of their responses are simply frustrated responses to what is happening rather than thoughtful and creative ideas about the kind of role that they want to play.

Obviously, Russia is not ready to join NATO. NATO’s not ready. But should there be some kind of overall security framework that the Russians play a big role in and really have a significant voice? If there is not, my view is that we’re going to have a very hard time with this whole nuclear agenda and we’re going to have a very hard time with the security agenda in Europe over the long haul.

In my view, the behavior of an awful lot of people involved in NATO security during and since the 1990s, including the Bill Clinton and Bush administrations, has basically been one of almost deliberate disdain for Russia being important enough to worry about. I have felt all along that that was extremely shortsighted. It was perhaps true in a pure economic sense for quite a while. It is no longer true in energy, no longer true in environment, no longer true in economics, and, in my view, never has been true in terms of national security. Russia’s going to be a player, and to me, the question is whether it’s inside or outside the tent. Right now, it is outside the tent. Maybe that is what the Russians want. Maybe that’s what NATO wants. But I believe it is happening inadvertently without much thought.

ACT: You are well known for your work with Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) to create the Cooperative Threat Reduction program. What are your recommendations for accelerating and maximizing the unfinished work of that program and similar efforts?

Nunn: I see a maturing of the Nunn-Lugar program in the former Soviet Union. There’s a lot left to do, but given Russia’s very impressive economic progress, I think that Russia should step up to the plate much more as a partner. I believe that Russia and the United States should really join together to approach this whole subject on a global basis. I see the Nunn-Lugar concept continuing, but I don’t see the funding continuing to be primarily American. The Group of Eight has already made pledges, and they need to be fulfilled.[13] The Russians also need to step up much more to their own security and beyond their own security. I see Russia necessarily moving from being, in effect, a partner that is supplicant for funds to a truly global partner that deals with these subjects on a global basis with its own experts and its own money.

The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1540, which places the burden on every country to take security steps to prevent catastrophic terrorism by protecting their nuclear arsenals or materials, including radiological [materials]. Most countries have not been able to do much under that mandate. I have proposed that the United States and Russia offer U.S. and Russian experts who have worked together on the Nunn-Lugar program to basically be available under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to help any country in the world that needs help implementing that resolution. Those experts could provide technical assistance, best practices, and other know-how on the ground. The United States and Russia have learned so much working together over the last 15 years that I think it would be a shame not to have that lab-to-lab, military-to-military, scientist-to-scientist expertise available to others. It could grow into a bigger project, but I would start off with a small group of people, and it would need to be under the IAEA. It would have to be voluntary. Nobody could impose that on the world, but it certainly ought to be offered. That is the way I see the Nunn-Lugar program evolving.

ACT: I want to get back to your discussion earlier about the fuel bank, particularly the NTI role. What’s your sense on the notion that there has been movement in Russia in establishing a fuel center? What are the prospects that this will really happen, and what are the obstacles that might prevent its creation? Where do things stand?

Nunn: We are involved in it all the time, but the answer is, I don’t know. I think there’s a good chance that we could get something done. I think the IAEA, at least its leadership, would like to get something done. The problem gets back to the haves and have-nots. There are a lot of countries out there that are determined, no matter what happens, not to get into a regime where some people have and some people have not. I think that whatever’s framed in terms of fuel assurances has to be framed so that countries do not forsake their sovereign right to engage in enrichment at some point down the line. From my point of view, the whole concept of fuel assurances is to help those countries that have decided on their own not to go into enrichment. So there’s a thin line there. Not going into enrichment is an actuality; forsaking your right is a pledge. I do not think we are going to get anything that looks like a pledge.

I think what we can get is a regime that has tiers of assurances for fuel, starting predominantly with the marketplace but with marketplace backups, including the Russian concept of enrichment on its soil under IAEA supervision; the U.S. concept of cross guarantees of supplies; perhaps some of the Japanese, German, and British ideas for a series of tiers; and certainly the final reserve, which we propose is the NTI fuel bank controlled by the IAEA.

All of those things are entirely possible, but right now it is going to take a lot of diplomatic leadership to make it happen. It is going to require some of those countries that don’t have enrichment and don’t want enrichment, but also don’t want to give up that right to enrichment, to step up strongly and endorse this concept. Right now, that is the missing element.

ACT: Given those realities, which countries do you believe will be convinced to take advantage of a fuel bank and decide not to go down the enrichment path? Is a fuel bank really going to convince the hard cases, such as Iran or an Iran of tomorrow?

Nunn: The Russian proposal with Angarsk[14] or some concept like that is the best case in terms of Iran. Of course, Iran has said “no” so far. But my understanding is that they have said “no” and not “hell no.” They may not use profanity.

Some people believe we could simply divide [the world] into good guys and bad guys, and if they are good guys, they [can enrich]. So India and Brazil could go ahead and enrich. I don’t think that works, and I don’t think it has any sustainability. I don’t think we can sit here and divide the world into good and bad. Now, we can take adamant positions against people that we think are extremely dangerous, like the Iranians. But a lot of the countries are going to be in between. They are not going to fit into anything like that. So I think there has to be an international regime. IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei is very dedicated to that. I have a lot of confidence in him, but whether he can pull it off is uncertain given the attitude of so many of these countries which have the determination not to be have-nots with enrichment, as well as with weapons. But I will add that I think it is important to have all enrichment, including U.S. enrichment, under international safeguards. That might not be acceptable here, in Russia, and in a lot of other places, but I think it is going to have to be that way. I don’t think we can simply divide the world up.

ACT: The next president is going to have to deal with a lot of issues, including the war in Iraq. How realistic is it that the next administration and Congress will take up and implement the ambitious agenda that you and your colleagues have outlined? And how do you get the U.S. government to prioritize these issues?

Nunn: It depends on who is elected. Some of the candidates have talked about some of these things in some depth and others, primarily on the Republican side, have not addressed these issues.

In the last presidential election, both Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and President Bush said on national television that nuclear terrorism was the most important challenge we faced. President Bush has said over and over again that keeping the most dangerous weapons out of the most dangerous hands is our top priority. President Putin has said the same thing. It’s the gap between words and deeds that is the frustration because all the words are there.

What is missing is execution. What is missing is presidential focus, both Bush and Putin, on a continuing basis. What is missing is a sense of priorities in our allies, although British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is now speaking out on these subjects. What is missing is an organization in the United States, Russia, and other countries that is held accountable for real execution and performance. Most of the efforts disappear at third and fourth levels of the bureaucracies without people at the top paying a lot of attention. That has to change with the next U.S. administration, whether it’s Republican or Democrat, and hopefully in Russia too.

Click here for the unabridged version of this interview.


 

ENDNOTES

1. George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” The Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007, p. A15; George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, “Toward a Nuclear-Free World,” The Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2008, p. A13. Both essays can be read on the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Web site at www.nti.org/c_press/c3_opeds.html.

2. The general concept of a nuclear fuel bank is to establish a reserve of nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes that can be made available to those states forgoing the development of full national nuclear fuel cycles. For more information on the NTI initiative and other fuel bank proposals, see Oliver Meier, “News Analysis: The Growing Nuclear Fuel Cycle Debate,” Arms Control Today, November 2006, pp. 40-44.

3. Highly enriched uranium can be used to build nuclear weapons. Low-enriched uranium cannot be used for that purpose.

4. A fissile material cutoff entails ceasing the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes. Both these fissile materials have been used in nuclear arms.

5. Article VI of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligates its states-parties to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

6. Uranium-enrichment facilities can be used to produce low-enriched uranium to fuel power reactors and highly enriched uranium to build nuclear weapons.

7. Established by legislation passed in 1991, the U.S. Nunn-Lugar program has funded activities in Russia, other states of the former Soviet Union, and additional countries, such as Albania, to secure and dispose of excess or outlawed biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons and materials, as well as delivery vehicles.

8. An ongoing debate about the actual alert status of U.S. nuclear weapons flared up last fall when New Zealand sponsored a UN resolution calling on nuclear-armed states to remove their nuclear weapons from high alert. Wade Boese, “Nuclear Weapons Alert Status Debated,” Arms Control Today, December 2007, p. 44.

9. The United States maintains it did not renege on its proposals to ease Russian concerns about plans to deploy 10 strategic anti-missile interceptors in Poland and an associated radar in the Czech Republic. Wade Boese, “Europe Anti-Missile Plan Faces Hard Sell,” Arms Control Today, January/February 2008, p. 47.

10. The Bush administration claims that its proposed European-based anti-missile system is to defend against a growing Iranian ballistic missile threat.

11. SORT did not include any verification measures. In his June 2002 letter transmitting the treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification, President George W. Bush stated, “It is important for there to be sufficient openness so that the United States and Russia can each be confident that the other is fulfilling its reductions commitment. The Parties will use the comprehensive verification regime of [START] to provide the foundation for confidence, transparency, and predictability in further strategic offensive reductions.”

12. NATO launched the Partnership for Peace program in 1994 to enable nonmember countries to pursue bilateral cooperation on a variety of military and political issues with the alliance.

13. In a June 2002 summit at Kananaskis, Canada, the Group of Eight members (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) pledged to raise up to $20 billion over 10 years to help secure and eliminate biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons in Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union. Paul F. Walker, “Kananaskis at Five: Assessing the Global Partnership,” Arms Control Today, September 2007, p. 47.

14. Russia plans to establish a multinational uranium-enrichment facility in the Siberian city of Angarsk.

New UN Sanctions on Iran Proposed

Peter Crail

France and the United Kingdom Feb. 21 formally introduced a new draft sanctions resolution on Iran’s nuclear program to the UN Security Council. The draft lays the basis for a third UN sanctions measure against Iran. Tehran has refused to comply with Security Council demands to suspend its enrichment-related work and the construction of its heavy water reactor.

The draft resolution is based largely on a set of sanctions that Germany and the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) agreed to on Jan. 22. In February, the six countries shared a draft sanctions package with the nonpermanent members of the Security Council for commentary.

John Sawers, the United Kingdom’s permanent representative to the United Nations, told reporters Feb. 21, “The text that we’ve circulated today reflects some of the comments we’ve had back from delegations.”

Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, indicated that Moscow would be willing to back the measure. He told reporters Feb. 27, “If Iran in the next few days does not stop the enrichment activities…then yes, Russia…has taken upon itself certain commitments…to support the resolution that has been drafted in the past month.”

Several nonpermanent members of the Security Council had pushed for delaying consideration of an additional sanctions resolution until after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its February report on Iran. Ricardo Alberto Arias, Panama’s permanent representative to the UN, told reporters Feb. 14, “We have to wait for the report of the IAEA because it’s a factor to have to consider in this.” The agency issued the report Feb. 22 (see page 25).

Since the release of the IAEA report, however, Libya has indicated that it would not likely agree to the currently proposed sanctions. Giadalla Ettalhi, Libya’s permanent representative to the UN, told reporters Feb. 25 that “there should be some changes” in the draft resolution and that his country “cannot be supportive of further sanctions.”

Responding to questions regarding the concerns expressed by other council members about the sanctions measures, Department of State deputy spokesperson Tom Casey told reporters Feb. 26, “Nobody seems to think that we can’t address their concerns and overcome the differences.”

The sanctions included in the current draft are already weaker than what the United States originally sought. China and Russia voiced opposition to more stringent measures prior to the initial agreement on a sanctions package in January. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Feb. 13 that the sanctions are “not as strong as the United States would have liked, but they have the effect of reminding Iran that it is isolated from the international community.”

The draft resolution reinforces the current set of sanctions targeted against personnel and entities involved in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and applies additional efforts aimed at curtailing Iran’s access to nuclear equipment and technology. It also expands the list of 50 individuals and entities subject to travel restrictions and assets freezes under the two previous resolutions, as well as the list of dual-use items prohibited for transfer to Iran. (See ACT, April 2007. )

One of the key additional efforts in the draft resolution is a call for states to inspect cargoes carried by the firms Iran Air Cargo and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line if there are reasonable grounds to believe that they may contain prohibited items. South Africa has reportedly expressed opposition to this provision of the draft resolution.

GAO Report Questions U.S. Sanctions Impact

As the United States and its allies continue to seek multilateral sanctions on Iran through the UN, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released in January calls into the question the effectiveness of a variety of U.S. sanctions measures.

At the request of Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), the GAO examined the full range of U.S. sanctions on Iran, including the comprehensive trade and investment restrictions imposed in the 1980s, sanctions on foreign entities engaging in proliferation or terrorism-related activities with Iran, and more recent targeted financial restrictions against Iranian entities involved in proliferation or terrorism-related activities.

The report concludes that the extent of the impact of sanctions on Iran “is difficult to determine” and recommends that the National Security Council and other key agencies carry out periodic assessments of these sanctions. It notes, however, that “Iran’s global trade ties and leading role in energy production make it difficult for the United States to isolate Iran.”

The report recommends periodic assessments of U.S. sanctions. It noted that although U.S. officials have stated that U.S. sanctions have specific impacts on Iran, “agencies have not assessed the overall impact of sanctions.” Administration officials told the GAO that sanctions are just one factor influencing Iran’s behavior and it is not possible to determine the impact various sanctions have on policymaking in Tehran.

A staffer for Shays told Arms Control Today Feb. 13 that the report was requested in order to get an idea of “what was working and what was not.” In response to the report, Shays introduced legislation Jan. 18 that requires relevant U.S. agencies to carry out an annual assessment of sanctions on Iran.

The Department of the Treasury informed the GAO that it does carry out assessments of financial sanctions. In a Dec. 6, 2007, response to the draft report, Stuart Levey, undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, claimed that, as a result of eliciting the support of private financial institutions, “foreign-based branches and subsidiaries of Iran’s state-owned banks are increasingly isolated, threatening their viability.”

For the last several years, the Treasury Department has engaged in a concerted effort to convince other states and foreign financial institutions to apply financial pressure on countries such as Iran. Levey told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee in April 2006 that senior Treasury Department officials have met with their counterparts “in a number of countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East to urge them to ensure that U.S.-designated proliferators are not able to do business in their countries.”

Treasury officials admit, however, that Iran has employed ways to circumvent U.S. financial restrictions on its financial institutions. In a Feb. 8 speech, Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt stated that such circumvention has “allowed actions by Iranian banks to remain undetected as they move funds through the international financial system to pay for the regime’s illicit activities.”

Iranian officials have boasted of their own efforts to evade sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies. Tahmasb Mazaheri, governor of Iran’s central bank, told a London audience Feb. 7, “The central bank assists Iranian private and state-owned banks to do their commitments regardless of the pressure on them.”

Bush Calls for More GNEP, MOX Facility Funds

Miles A. Pomper

President George W. Bush’s fiscal 2009 budget request, unveiled Feb. 4, calls for a significant increase in funding for two controversial administration nuclear efforts: the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) and a new mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel facility at Savannah River, South Carolina. The administration made the request despite the fact that Congress significantly cut funds for both programs last year and key lawmakers continue to express skepticism about the initiatives.

Administration officials have claimed that GNEP, which seeks to develop new nuclear technologies and new international nuclear fuel arrangements, will reduce nuclear waste and decrease the risk that anticipated growth in the use of nuclear energy worldwide could spur nuclear weapons proliferation. Critics assert that the administration’s course would exacerbate the proliferation risks posed by the spread of reprocessing technology, be prohibitively expensive, and fail to ease waste disposal challenges significantly without any certainty that the claimed technologies will ever be developed. Many of these concerns have been echoed by U.S. lawmakers, but the administration has continued to sign up international partners: Senegal joined Feb. 1 and the United Kingdom joined Feb. 26, becoming the 20th and 21st members.

GNEP calls for research on new reprocessing technologies that administration officials say will not yield pure separated plutonium but rather a mixture that includes plutonium and is less applicable to making bombs. GNEP further calls for construction of new advanced burner reactors to make use of the reprocessed fuel. These “fast reactors” would burn plutonium as well as other elements in the spent fuel, rather than the uranium used to fuel today’s power reactors. The administration also claims that using such facilities will reduce the volume of spent nuclear fuel currently stored at nuclear reactors so that the United States will not have to build another permanent repository.

The proposal has drawn criticism in part because facilities that reprocess spent fuel for plutonium-based fuels might also be used to harvest plutonium for nuclear bombs. By establishing such facilities, critics say, the United States might be encouraging other countries to do so as well, perhaps leading to nuclear weapons proliferation. Because of such concerns, the United States had shied away from spent fuel reprocessing for nearly three decades until GNEP was launched in 2006. He also requested $20 million for the development of smaller-scale reactors aimed at developing countries with “smaller and less developed power grids.”

Bush requested $302 million for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative (AFCI), the technology arm of GNEP, for fiscal year 2009, which begins Oct. 1.

In response, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, called GNEP “ill-conceived” and said the proposed budget “raises serious concerns.”

Last year, Bush had requested $395 million for AFCI. But lawmakers cut that request by more than half, allocating only $179 million for the current fiscal year. Congress also chose to limit the program to research, blocking any expenditures for constructing commercial facilities or technology demonstration projects. Congress reached that decision after a National Research Council report concluded that the Department of Energy should return to a “less aggressive research program.” (See ACT, January/February 2008 and December 2007. )

Nonetheless, in Feb. 5 remarks at a nuclear energy industry forum, Assistant Secretary of Energy Dennis Spurgeon gave little indication that the administration had abandoned its plans to move forward quickly with demonstration projects or commercial facilities.

Citing four industry studies commissioned by the Energy Department in September 2007, Spurgeon said that “there are sound economic cases for deployment of near-term recycling [reprocessing] technology, but changes in current waste strategies are needed.”

Spurgeon also suggested that the studies backed a proposal he mooted before Congress in November 2007. That proposal would sidestep annual budget battles with Congress by allowing GNEP to dip into a pool of money that has accumulated from a fee Congress has imposed on nuclear power plant operators to pay for disposing of spent fuel. Last year, Spurgeon said that the U.S. government had accumulated close to $20 billion from this fee, which has yet to be spent because of continued political wrangling over a planned permanent repository for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Waste is currently piling up at nuclear power plants.

In a briefing to Congress explaining the Energy Department’s nuclear energy budget request, Spurgeon suggested the operation of a “new government entity,” a nonprofit corporation that would be responsible for selling recycled fuels and uranium to utilities as well as collecting waste fees. He also indicated that the current $1 per megawatt-hour waste fee on nuclear power might be increased to sustain this new entity.

Spurgeon told the nuclear industry forum that “[a]lthough these actions require significant changes to legislation and regulations, addressing the waste issue is paramount to a successful nuclear renaissance.”

Spurgeon said that Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman planned to move ahead later this year with a decision on a “technology path forward” for GNEP. He said the industry studies propose different technological approaches to reprocessing. Some favor COEX, a process that extracts and precipitates uranium and plutonium (and possibly neptunium) together so that plutonium is never separated on its own. Other industry studies favor a pyroprocessing technology similar to that being studied by South Korea. Critics have said that neither technology would provide sufficient protection against conversion into nuclear weapons. (See ACT, January/February 2008. )

The scale and expense of the proposed reprocessing facilities and fast reactors vary substantially, Spurgeon said. He added that the studies proposed initial operation of the reprocessing facilities to begin between 2018 and 2028 and that prototype fast reactors would be deployed between 2018 and 2025.

Bush also called for spending $487 million for the new Savannah River facility and related efforts. The new facility will mix weapons-grade plutonium with depleted uranium to make new MOX fuel for nuclear reactors. Last year, the administration requested nearly $432 million for the facility and related costs, but lawmakers only appropriated a total of $279 million.

The administration’s budget request also includes $119 million toward efforts to disassemble plutonium pits from weapons so the material can be mixed into MOX fuel. This total includes spending $27 million toward final design efforts for a pit conversion and disassembly facility at Savannah River, $40 million to start construction of a related facility to solidify liquid wastes from that effort, and $52 million (up from $13 million in current spending) to operate a demonstration pit conversion and disassembly facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Under a 2000 agreement, the United States and Russia each agreed to dispose of 34 metric tons of such plutonium but have not yet disposed of any. The Bush administration had pushed construction of the Savannah River facility as its means of meeting that goal, but ground was broken there only a few months ago. Funding for the project has trickled out for years as some lawmakers, particularly in the House of Representatives, have said other strategies should be employed because of the project’s costs, safety concerns, potential proliferation risks, and the failure of Russia to move forward on its end of the deal. (See ACT, April 2007 .)

Lawmakers last year also made clear that a recent administration effort to restructure the 2000 U.S.-Russian agreement in a fashion more to Russia’s liking had done little to ease their belief that Russia was not upholding its end of the bargain. (See ACT, January/February 2008 and December 2007 .) They redirected all of the $208 million in funds that Congress had previously set aside to meet a $400 million U.S. pledge to help Russia meet its commitment under the deal. The administration only asked for $1 million for the Russian effort in its recent budget request.

Cluster Munitions Talks Gain Steam

Miles A. Pomper

A Geneva-based multilateral forum on conventional weapons is showing some small signs of progress in restricting the use of controversial cluster munitions, as a separate international effort, spearheaded by Norway, appears to be gaining steam.

Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse smaller submunitions over broad areas. These grenades or bomblets, sometimes numbering as many as 600 submunitions from a single munition, can fail to detonate immediately yet maim or kill if disturbed later.

British, Russian, and U.S. officials have said that some of these weapons need to be retained because they offer a unique military tool for dealing with dispersed or moving targets. For example, they say the weapons allow one pilot to hit a column of tanks in the open, rather than requiring many planes to undergo such dangerous flights. These countries have argued that the dangers of the weapons can be reduced by not using them in civilian areas and by cleaning them up faster, leaving fewer to affect civilians in a conflict’s aftermath. U.S. officials announced in January that the Pentagon was planning to create a quick reaction force that would have as a primary responsibility handling threats to civilians from unexploded cluster bombs and other explosive remnants of war.

Opponents of these weapons, such as the Red Cross and human rights organizations, say that, in practice, even the most advanced cluster munitions fail frequently and military officials use them without sufficient discrimination. The nongovernmental Cluster Munition Coalition claims that cluster munitions caused the greatest number of civilian casualties during the NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo in 1999 and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The U.S. Department of State said these groups have exaggerated the problem. In a Feb. 15 fact sheet, the department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs said that, “[i]n almost every recent conflict—Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Iraq—the initial estimates regarding the degree of impact caused by cluster munitions have been grossly off the mark.”

Nonetheless, the fact sheet did not take issue with a UN assessment that cluster munitions caused significant casualties in Lebanon during Israel’s summer 2006 conflict with Hezbollah. That assessment concluded that Israel’s use of these weapons had led by December 2007 to 19 civilian deaths and another 170 injuries. UN officials said Israel fired as many as four million submunitions into Lebanon, leaving behind as many as one million submunitions that failed to explode initially.

In an effort to restrict the weapons, the 82 supporters of the Oslo process, launched at a February 2007 meeting in Norway, have formally agreed Feb. 22 to seek to finalize a treaty at a mid-May meeting that would ban the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions that “cause unacceptable harm to civilians.” (See ACT, January/February 2008. )

In a separate effort, 104 states-parties last November in Geneva agreed to consider efforts to augment the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) to lessen the dangers posed by cluster munitions. (See ACT, December 2007. ) In January, a CCW experts group held its first discussions on what form such an adjustment could take. The most substantive outcome of the discussions was a text demarcating where different states stood in defining what constitutes cluster munitions as opposed to other weapons systems. This text will now form the basis of discussion as states seek to agree on a common definition.

A U.S. official said Feb. 12 that it was particularly noteworthy that this effort was led by Russia. Russia, along with China, had led the opposition to drafting a new legally binding protocol to the CCW on cluster munitions.

U.S. officials claim that Russia has shown a new willingness to “talk constructively.” A significant shift in the Russian position would be needed for the United States and the European Union to achieve their newly stated goal of completing a legally binding CCW protocol by November. U.S. officials hope to begin discussions on such a protocol during a one-week session in April, with a final debate taking place in July. Under the U.S. proposal, the July debate would follow the circulation of a proposed text by Ambassador Bent Wigotski of Denmark, who is chairing the cluster munitions discussions.

Getting to that goal will not be easy. China and Russia have resisted as too expensive and technologically demanding a centerpiece of the U.S. effort: trying to limit cluster munitions to those that have submunitions with a failure rate of 1 percent or less. That position has already found its way into U.S. law, as Congress in December 2007 approved a one-year prohibition on the export of cluster munitions with a failure rate of greater than 1 percent. Potential importers must also agree to use the weapons only “against clearly defined military targets” and where no civilians are present.

 China, Russia, and the United States are supporting only the CCW process. But some states, such as the United Kingdom, are also participating in the Oslo process. 

Still, how much support it might attract is unclear. Although nongovernmental organizations and some states, including Norway, championed a total ban during a Feb. 18-22 meeting in Wellington, New Zealand, other states involved in the process, particularly Australia and additional U.S. allies in Asia and Europe, favor lesser restrictions. One European diplomat in Geneva said Feb. 14 that if a total ban were to be approved, major European countries would not support it and “a lot of pressure will disappear on the CCW.”

 The diplomat said that “there is great discontent” that the concerns of these countries “have until now not been reflected in the text of the draft treaty.” In particular, some Europeans fret that “the core group within the Oslo process is continuing to strive toward a total ban, in deviation of the Oslo declaration with its position on ‘unacceptable harm.’”

These countries are particularly concerned that the ability of their militaries to carry out military operations in coordination with the United States could be hampered. That worry was reiterated in a conference call that Joseph Benkert, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for global security affairs, held with online journalists Feb. 11. Benkert said that if Oslo went forward with a total ban, a U.S. ally that signs the Oslo treaty might be seen as violating the treaty if it participated in a joint operation with U.S. forces and the U.S. forces employed cluster munitions. Many U.S. allies raised these concerns at the Wellington conference. To address such concerns in part, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan have said they would like a transitional period before any restrictions take effect.

Bush Issues Directive on Additional Protocol

Peter Crail

President George W. Bush issued an executive order Feb. 4 that called for relevant U.S. departments and agencies to take steps to implement an additional protocol to the U.S. safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The United States signed its additional protocol in 1998 but has yet to complete the process allowing its entry into force.

The 1997 Model Additional Protocol enhances the scope of IAEA safeguards to improve the IAEA’s ability to detect undeclared nuclear activities. The United States, as a nuclear-weapon state under the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, is not required to adopt IAEA safeguards, but does so as a voluntary confidence-building measure.

The Feb. 4 executive order requires that the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Justice, and State; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and other appropriate agencies “issue, amend, or revise, and enforce such regulations, orders, directives, instructions, or procedures as are necessary” to implement the U.S. additional protocol.

In February 2004, Bush called on the Senate to ratify an additional protocol while calling on other countries to do the same. The Senate complied the following month by issuing its consent to ratification. As part of the ratifying legislation, the Senate required the president to certify that appropriate procedures to manage inspectors’ access to facilities are in place due to concerns that inspections may compromise information of “direct national security significance.” During their ratification consideration, some senators wanted to place additional restrictions on the inspection process, but these were rejected out of fear they would cause other countries to place similar restrictions.

The Senate passed the implementing legislation needed to direct U.S. agencies to carry out such procedures about two years later, in November 2006. The executive order fulfilled one of the requirements of this legislation, which called on the president to designate the agencies responsible for implementing the legislation and the protocol.

A former State Department official told Arms Control Today Feb. 15 that, in the interagency process of drafting the regulations for carrying out this legislation, the terms of implementation “grew more and more restrictive,” primarily at the urging of the Defense Department and the National Security Council. The former official explained that these restrictions related to the level and scope of access for inspections, as well as the personnel involved in the decision-making process regarding implementation.

The former official said that the primary concern on the part of the Defense Department related to the potential risk that the inspection process may compromise sensitive national security information. As a nuclear-weapon state, all U.S. defense-related facilities are exempt from safeguards. However, a number of military-related facilities are co-located with civilian facilities. These dual-use facilities were at the core the Defense Department’s concerns and desired restrictions.

The Commerce Department also expressed concerns regarding the cost of the implementation process in light of continual delays and uncertainty that the protocol would ever be concluded. The former State Department official explained that the Commerce Department was reluctant to spend scarce funds on vulnerability assessments and managed-access measures at a time that it was not yet clear that these activities would be needed.

Resolving the terms of these managed-access procedures continues to delay U.S. ratification of its additional protocol. Nonetheless, Washington has sought the widespread adoption of the Model Additional Protocol as an important nonproliferation goal. Susan Burke, then-acting assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee January 2004 that “a key nonproliferation goal of the United States has been to increase non-nuclear-weapon state adherence to the [Model] Additional Protocol.” She added, “Entry into force of the U.S.-IAEA additional protocol would provide a powerful tool in furthering this goal.”

Washington has placed particular emphasis on the need for Iran to implement its additional protocol in order to provide greater transparency regarding its nuclear activities.

 

Bush Budget Revives Cut Warhead

Wade Boese

Lawmakers last year dealt what many thought was a knockout blow to research into a new type of nuclear warhead, but the Bush administration is seeking to raise the program off of the canvas with renewed funding in its fiscal year 2009 budget request.

Submitted Feb. 4 to Congress, the Bush administration’s request for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) totals almost $9.1 billion, including $6.6 billion for maintaining the nuclear weapons complex and the U.S. stockpile of some estimated 5,000 nuclear warheads. (See ACT, January/February 2008. ) The NNSA is the semi-autonomous entity of the Department of Energy that produces, maintains, and dismantles nuclear warheads. The latest budget request would fund the NNSA for the year beginning Oct. 1.

As part of its weapons activities request, which is about $100 million higher than last year’s bid, the NNSA is seeking $40 million in connection with the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. Lawmakers last year refused to fund the NNSA request of nearly $89 million for the program, contending that the United States first needed to conduct a long-term review of its nuclear weapons policies before embarking on a project to develop new types of warheads. (See ACT, January/February 2008. )

Initiated in 2004, the RRW program entails research into a new type of warhead that supposedly would be easier and safer to build and maintain and less susceptible to unauthorized or accidental detonation than existing warheads. NNSA officials claim that it should be possible to manufacture and certify a RRW design as valid without having to conduct a proof test. The United States is currently abiding by a 1992 nuclear test moratorium.

But last year, an independent panel of scientists, JASON, questioned in a study whether the RRW design could be certified without a test and stated that there needed to be more investigation into what might cause the design to fail. JASON further recommended more evaluation of proposed surety mechanisms to reduce the likelihood of unauthorized use. (See ACT, November 2007. )

As part of its latest budget request, the NNSA is seeking $10 million to follow up on the JASON study’s concerns by maturing the RRW design. In addition, the agency is requesting $20 million to establish an “accredited warhead certification plan without nuclear testing.” The NNSA is supposed to report on its findings in a May report to Congress. Another $10 million is being sought to explore surety options for warheads, including possible RRW designs.

Despite the congressional defeat of the RRW program funding last year and the scientific questions surrounding it, Thomas D’Agostino, the head of the NNSA, continues to herald the initiative as essential for his agency’s efforts to transform the nuclear weapons enterprise. The NNSA plan is to create a revamped complex that can produce weapons on an as-needed basis rather than maintaining thousands of warheads in storage for possible emergencies. The agency describes this approach as an “industrial hedge against geopolitical or technical problems.” The RRW concept fits into this vision because it is supposed to be a simplified warhead that is easier to manufacture.

The NNSA also makes the case for the RRW program on the grounds that current practices to preserve and extend the lifetimes of existing weapons may be unsustainable and might diminish confidence in the performance of those warheads over time by introducing gradual changes that may stray from the original design. D’Agostino argued in a Jan. 31 speech, “[W]hile today’s stockpile remains safe, secure, and reliable, the weapons laboratories, the Department of Defense, and I are concerned about our future ability to maintain the stockpile without nuclear testing.” He added that maintaining and certifying the past “finely tuned designs…is becoming increasingly difficult absent nuclear testing and involves increasing risk.”

Key lawmakers last year rebuked the administration as “irresponsible” for suggesting that not going ahead with the RRW program could require a return to nuclear testing to validate existing warheads. In an Aug. 1, 2007, letter to the administration, Reps. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and David Hobson (R-Ohio), the chairman and ranking member of the appropriations subcommittee that takes the lead on nuclear weapons funding, noted that Congress had received no evidence indicating that renewed testing might be necessary to verify existing warhead capabilities. (See ACT, September 2007. )

Although the NNSA is raising questions about the long-term practicality of its life extension programs for existing warheads, it is continuing to ask Congress to fund those efforts. The latest budget request includes $211 million for extending the lives of B61 gravity bombs and W76 warheads for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. An additional $338 million is being sought for maintaining those two types of warheads, as well as six others.

The agency also is seeking almost $199 million to ramp up pit production capabilities for existing warheads. The pit is the core trigger element of nuclear warheads, and Congress repeatedly defeated Bush administration plans to establish a new plant for their production. Under this new plan, the administration will seek to increase the minimal pit production capacity of Technical Area-55 of the Los Alamos National Laboratory to between 50 and 80 pits annually.

On the other end of the spectrum, the NNSA is seeking $64.7 million to dismantle retired warheads, approximately $12 million more than last year’s request. Although actual figures are secret, the agency last year claimed an accelerated rate of dismantlement and contends it aims to continue increasing the dismantlement throughput. The agency’s last projected timeline for finishing all planned warhead dismantlements is 2023.

The agency also is seeking $77.4 million to start shrinking the size of the nuclear weapons complex by eliminating excess buildings. Part of the NNSA vision for a revamped nuclear weapons complex is to consolidate nuclear materials, people, and missions in fewer facilities within its existing group of sites to help reduce security costs.

 

Lawmakers last year dealt what many thought was a knockout blow to research into a new type of nuclear warhead, but the Bush administration is seeking to raise the program off of the canvas with renewed funding in its fiscal year 2009 budget request. (Continue)

IAEA: Iran Work Plan Progress Incomplete

Peter Crail

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei issued a report Feb. 22 on Iran’s nuclear program indicating that the agency has made considerable progress in clarifying some of Iran’s past nuclear activities, but has not been able to resolve all allegations of a previous nuclear-weapons program. These allegations primarily surround a claim by Western intelligence agencies that they possess a laptop and other documentation that once belonged to an Iranian nuclear technician and that contained studies relevant to a nuclear weapons program.

Iran claims that these allegations are fabrications and argues that it is not obligated to address them any further. Meanwhile, the United States and others have recently authorized the IAEA to confront Iran with additional documentation regarding the studies.

The report also notes that Iran has increased its transparency with the agency in the last few months, although the IAEA qualifies this cooperation, stating that it was not provided “in a consistent and complete manner.” Moreover, Iran has not complied with UN Security Council demands to suspend sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities and some council members have stated that failure to meet that requirement will lead to additional sanctions.

Questions Still Outstanding

The agency’s report focuses largely on the progress made under an August 2007 work plan intended to resolve a number of “outstanding questions” surrounding Iran’s past nuclear activities. (See ACT, September 2007. ) Iran resolved some of these questions with the agency prior to the November 2007 report, and IAEA spokesperson Melissa Fleming stated Jan. 13 that Iran agreed in January to complete the work plan within four weeks.

Prior to the February report, the remaining issues were related to Iranian experiments with polonium-210, activities at a uranium mine, uranium contamination at a technical university, procurement efforts for centrifuge components, a document detailing the fashioning of uranium metal, and “alleged studies” on a nuclear-weapons program. Of these issues, the report indicated that only the alleged studies issue remains outstanding. However, the IAEA states that its “overall assessment” still requires an understanding regarding the role of the uranium metal document and the procurement activities of military-related organizations.

The alleged weaponization studies entail a number of efforts that the IAEA characterized as “a possible military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program.” These activities included work on the conversion of uranium dioxide into uranium tetrafluoride, high-explosives testing similar to that of a nuclear-weapon trigger, and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle that might be capable of accommodating a nuclear warhead. Uranium tetraflouride is the precursor to uranium hexafluoride, the feedstock used in centrifuges to enrich uranium to low levels for nuclear power reactors or high levels for nuclear weapons. The IAEA also sought information regarding procurement efforts and individuals related to these studies.

A senior IAEA official indicated Feb. 22 that, although the agency received the documentation regarding the studies in August 2005, it was unable to substantially address the alleged studies with Iran until recently. Moreover, the United States and other countries that provided the IAEA with documentation on the alleged studies did not authorize the agency to confront Iran directly with the original documentation until Feb. 15.

According to the report, Iran has provided written responses to some of the agency’s questions on these alleged studies but has not provided access to individuals associated with them. In its responses, Tehran declared that the allegations related to uranium tetraflouride conversion, high-explosives testing, and a nuclear-weapon-related re-entry vehicle were “baseless and fabricated.” The agency is still in the process of clarifying a number of procurement activities related to the studies, as well as a suspected project on laser uranium enrichment.

In responding to a question from Arms Control Today, a senior agency official admitted Feb. 22 that the time needed to resolve the remaining work plan issues “depends on the Iranians” and the types of responses they provide. The official noted that the agency is trying to understand what Tehran means when it says the allegations are baseless but that it has not made any conclusions as to whether the allegations are fabrications or if Iran’s explanations are plausible.

Iranian officials have argued that Iran has no further obligations to answer questions related to the studies. During a Feb. 22 interview, Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, Iranian envoy to the IAEA, stated that Iran agreed in the negotiation of the work plan to “touch upon” the alleged studies issue “not as an outstanding issue, but as a good gesture.” Now that Tehran has provided its response to the allegations in writing, he added that “officially therefore that issue of alleged studies is over.”

A senior IAEA official stressed Feb. 22 that the agency has a mandate to clarify the alleged studies from the UN Security Council resolutions.

Iran Develops Faster Centrifuge

Meanwhile, Iran has been able to accomplish some technical advances with its uranium-enrichment program, which it claims is solely for peaceful purposes. Iran has developed a more advanced centrifuge adapted from the P-2 centrifuge design received from the nuclear smuggling network led by Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan. This improved design, called the IR-2, is capable of enriching uranium about twice as fast as the P-1 centrifuge, which Iran currently has installed at its commercial facility at Natanz. Due to difficulties with the maraging steel bellows of the P-2 centrifuge, Iran adjusted the design to avoid the need to construct the bellows while maintaining the faster enrichment rate. (See ACT, November 2007. )

Iran has installed a single IR-2 centrifuge as well as a cascade of 10 IR-2 machines at its pilot enrichment plant at Natanz. In January, Iran began feeding uranium hexafluoride into the single IR-2 machine under IAEA monitoring.

Iran has worked on developing and testing this more advanced centrifuge, but it has not increased its current enrichment capacity since the last IAEA report in November 2007. It maintains a single module of about 3,000 centrifuges at its Natanz commercial enrichment facility. According to the report, Iran is preparing other areas of the facility for the installation of additional centrifuges.

Iran also continues to operate its centrifuges at far below their stated capacity. (See ACT, December 2007. ) According to the report, since February 2007, Iran has fed 1,670 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride into the centrifuges at its commercial facility and has produced a total of 75 kilograms of uranium enriched to 3.8 percent of the uranium 235-isotope. That output is less than half the amount that would be produced by efficient operation of P-1 centrifuges.

 

Iran-IAEA Work Plan Issues and Conclusions

The IAEA has held discussions with Iran to resolve a number of outstanding questions regarding the country’s past nuclear activities as part of a work plan agreed to in August 2007.  The agency detailed its progress in a Feb. 22 report.

 


Issue

Iran’s Explanation

IAEA Conclusion

Gchine Mine

 

The IAEA sought to clarify the circumstances surrounding the uranium mining and milling operations at Gchine, including the lack of declared operations between 1993 and 2000, to determine whether Iran used the mine as an independent source of uranium.

Iran explains that the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran always oversaw operations at Gchine and, between 1993 and 1998, preparations for ore processing took place at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center.

The IAEA concluded that this newly provided information is consistent with its findings and the documentation and no longer considers the issue outstanding.

Polonium-210 Experiments

During the 1980s, Iran conducted experiments with polonium-210, which has application in nuclear weapons designs as well as civilian purposes.

Iran maintains that the experiments were conducted by university scientists for civil applications and were not part of broader research and development.

The IAEA declared that the explanations Iran provided were consistent with its findings and no longer considers the issue outstanding.

 

Uranium Contamination

The IAEA detected the presence of highly enriched uranium contamination on equipment at a technical university in Tehran, suggesting that this equipment may have been used in an undeclared enrichment facility.

Iran explained that the equipment was contaminated when used in proximity to centrifuge equipment that was contaminated in Pakistan prior to transfer.

The IAEA concluded that Iran’s explanations and documentation “were not inconsistent with the data currently available to the agency” and no longer considers the issue outstanding.

Procurement Efforts

A former head of the Physics Research Center (PHRC) at Lavisan-Shian procured or sought a range of dual-use equipment that was consistent with a uranium-conversion and -enrichment program. The Lavisan-Shian site is associated with the Iranian Ministry of Defense, and beginning in late 2003, Iran razed the site, raising suspicions that it was covering up undeclared nuclear activities.

Iran asserts that none of the equipment that the former PHRC head obtained or sought was intended for use in a conversion or enrichment program. Tehran provided documentation regarding the non-nuclear use of some of the equipment and indicated that other equipment was not delivered.

 

The IAEA determined that the explanations provided by Iran and the responses of the former head of the PHRC “were not inconsistent with the stated use of the equipment.” It no longer considers the issue outstanding.

 

Uranium Metal Document

Iran obtained a document that describes the procedures for reducing uranium hexafluoride into uranium metal and machining enriched-uranium metal into hemispheres. This process may be used to make the fissile core for nuclear weapons.

Iran maintains that it received the document at the initiative of the A.Q. Khan network.

 

The IAEA is seeking to clarify with Pakistan the circumstances surrounding the provision of the document.

 

Alleged Studies

Western intelligence agencies accuse Iran of engaging in studies regarding the conversion of uranium dioxide into uranium tetrafluoride, high-explosives testing similar to that of a nuclear-weapon trigger, and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle that might be capable of accommodating a nuclear warhead. Iranian officials also carried out procurement activities and projects that could be related to these studies.

Iran claims that the allegations regarding these studies are “baseless and fabricated” and denies the existence or role of some of the personnel named in the documentation. Iran also provided a response indicating that some of the procurement efforts were not related to the studies.

 

The IAEA awaits further responses regarding the procurement activities and projects that could be associated with the studies and intends to share additional documentation regarding the studies with Iran.

 


Senate Still Examining Pre-War Iraq Intel

Peter Crail

Five years after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S.-led coalition forces, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has yet to conclude its investigations into the pre-war intelligence that was cited by the Bush administration as the basis for the decision to take military action against Iraq.

The committee has conducted the investigation in two phases. The first phase, concluded in 2004, centered on a faulty October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) regarding Iraq’s nonconventional weapons programs. (See ACT, September 2004. )

The second phase of the examination has faced repeated delays since it was announced in February 2004. Nonetheless, this phase has examined a variety of issues, including the intelligence community’s use of information provided by the Iraqi National Congress. (See ACT, December 2006. ) Two issues remain outstanding, and congressional sources told Arms Control Today Jan. 30 that the committee hopes to vote on reports regarding them before the summer recess. It is unclear if this can be accomplished.

One of the remaining issues relates to whether pre-war public statements on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and links to terrorism by administration officials were substantiated by intelligence information. As part of this investigation, the committee has asked the administration to share all Presidential Daily Briefs on Iraq during the investigation’s time frame. The administration has refused to honor this request.

The second remaining issue involves the intelligence-related activities conducted by two Pentagon offices: the Office of Special Plans and the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group. Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld established the Office of Special Plans, which was tasked with examining raw intelligence related to Iraq’s WMD programs, within the office of Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy. Feith created the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group after the September 2001 attacks to examine links between terrorist organizations and host countries.

In February 2007, the Pentagon inspector general issued a report stating that Feith’s office produced “alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community.” The report further stated that, although these activities were not illegal or unauthorized, they were “inappropriate.” Congressional sources told Arms Control Today Feb. 15 that former committee chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) used the Pentagon investigation as an excuse to delay the committee’s investigation into Feith’s offices.

Five years after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S.-led coalition forces, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has yet to conclude its investigations into the pre-war intelligence that was cited by the Bush administration as the basis for the decision to take military action against Iraq. (Continue)

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