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"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
January/February 2010
Edition Date: 
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Cover Image: 

Making the Nuclear Security Summit Matter: An Agenda for Action

Kenneth N. Luongo

The April nuclear security summit that President Barack Obama will host in Washington will be an unprecedented event. More than 40 heads of state from the developed and developing world will gather to discuss the need to prevent nuclear terrorism and secure all vulnerable nuclear materials in four years. This four-year pledge—a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s nuclear security policy—must be achieved.

To realize this goal, however, it will be essential that the summit’s agreements break new ground and that the commitments be rapidly, effectively, and sustainably implemented.  Most of the rules of the road for nuclear security were written during the Cold War. They are outdated and desperately need to be supplemented with new initiatives. The nuclear summit is the place to root these new standards and initiatives so they can survive and grow. Only commitments made at the top level of government are likely to endure the bureaucratic and technocratic policy grinder that has kept bold new ideas from being adopted up to this point. Allowing the nuclear summit to become an opportunity just to endorse and modestly strengthen the status quo would be extremely disappointing and potentially very dangerous.

To avoid the possibility that the summit could be long on hype and short on action, the event should be viewed as a three-phase process, with objectives clearly defined for each stage. The lead-up to the summit should be used to generate new international commitments to secure nuclear and radiological materials worldwide and to increase the capacity of national governments and international institutions to address these challenges. The summit itself, which will take place April 12-13, should culminate in the approval of specific, time-bound goals and actions by the represented governments. The postsummit period should include regular technical meetings to discuss implementation of the commitments and additional steps that should be taken as circumstances evolve. In addition, there should be an agreement on a schedule of regular public reporting on the progress toward the commitments as well as regular political level follow-up among the summit attendees and with other countries to make the process more inclusive.

The Summit’s Scope

In his April 5 Prague speech, Obama outlined his arms control and nuclear nonproliferation objectives. At the top of the list was his assessment that terrorists are “determined to buy, build, or steal” a nuclear weapon. To prevent this danger of nuclear terrorism, the president outlined the following major policy goals:

•  Lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons materials at vulnerable sites within four years.

•  Convene a nuclear security summit hosted by the United States within a year.

•  Set new standards and pursue new partnerships to lock down sensitive nuclear materials.

•  Turn ad hoc efforts, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, into international institutions.

•  Build on efforts to break up black markets, detect and intercept materials in transit, and use financial tools to disrupt dangerous trade.[1]

Obama’s concern with nuclear terrorism is consistent with a number of recent statements by current and former government officials[2] and major blue-ribbon commission reports that have been published. The 2004 “9/11 Commission Report” stated that “[p]reventing the proliferation of these weapons [of mass destruction (WMD)] warrants a maximum effort.”[3] The 2005 “9/11 Public Discourse Project: Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations” gave a grade of D to the implementation of that recommendation. It further stated that the president should “dramatically accelerate the timetable for securing all nuclear weapons-usable materials around the world and request the necessary resources to complete this task.” It said Congress should “provide the resources needed.”[4] The 2008 “WMD Report Card: Evaluating U.S. Policies to Prevent Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Terrorism Since 2005” gave a C to the prevention of WMD terrorism and called for prioritized funding and the abandonment of a “patchwork” approach to the challenge.[5] The 2008 “World At Risk: The Report of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism” advocated that the United States work to gain international agreement on “specific, stringent standards” for securing nuclear materials.[6] In May 2009, the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States warned that nuclear terrorism is a “very serious threat.”[7]

U.S. concerns about the dangers posed by nuclear terrorism are not widely shared in some quarters of the globe, especially in the developing world. Many governments view nuclear disarmament as a more important topic and have concerns about protecting their peaceful uses of nuclear technology.[8] Also, some parts of the global community are allergic to “made in America” policy prescriptions. The Obama administration is trying to overcome this resistance by reaching out to the summit partners and being sensitive to their concerns, but this balancing act is difficult. It could lead to a lowest-common-denominator result for the summit, which would be unwelcome.

Already, there are concerns that the summit will focus only on existing mechanisms and not endorse any new initiatives, although a work plan may be approved for the implementation of the commitments that are made. Another set of concerns springs from the specific substance of the summit and the potential perception of it. Because of its focus on the need to secure vulnerable nuclear materials, the summit can and perhaps will be seen as sending the message that some countries are not adequately protecting their sensitive nuclear assets, leaving them potentially vulnerable to terrorists. This uncomfortable reality is at odds with the grandeur of top-level international summitry.

Yet, the growing global stockpile of nuclear and radiological materials and the increasing boldness of terrorists are changing the international requirements for nuclear security.[9] What have not yet changed are the international obligations that respond to these evolving circumstances. For example, fissile material stockpiles are the sovereign possession of every country that holds them, and each of these countries has the national obligation to protect them to the highest level. If a country is facing difficulty in meeting international or domestic nuclear security standards, however, it should be obligated to seek and accept international assistance. The lack of a set of requirements to which every nation must adhere makes judging the consistency and adequacy of some countries’ nuclear security difficult. Also, because of the sensitivity of the materials, key countries often resist cooperating with foreign countries and organizations on nuclear security issues. The summit almost certainly will not identify specific countries and specific problems; that forum is not the appropriate place to call out these details publicly. Nevertheless, the security challenges around the globe are well known, and these vulnerabilities need to be resolved rather than papered over.

In addition, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will likely have a role at the summit. The IAEA, which is the central international repository of knowledge and assistance for nuclear material security, has deep international legitimacy. A country does not need to be a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to seek IAEA assistance. For example, India and Pakistan, both NPT nonparties, have worked closely with the IAEA on nuclear safeguards.

A number of international conventions have been created to ensure the protection of nuclear materials. For example, the 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material is a legally binding agreement to protect civilian nuclear materials in transit. It was amended in 2005 to require states to protect their nuclear materials even when not in transit. The amendment also requires states to protect facilities and expands measures to prevent and respond to nuclear smuggling. The amendment can enter into force when two-thirds of the states-parties have ratified it, but to date, only 32 of 142 countries have approved it.[10] Generating commitments from all summit-attending governments to accept this amendment is likely to be one important goal of the summit organizers.

Many NPT parties have not brought into force an IAEA additional protocol, which allows for more intrusive nuclear inspections.[11] Getting a commitment from all summit participants to sign and ratify an additional protocol is expected to be another important summit objective.

Supplementing these efforts are ad hoc initiatives, such as the U.S.-created Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program. The CTR program has been operating since 1992 specifically to work with Russia and former Soviet states, although in recent years Congress has incrementally granted greater authority to many of the programs to work in other nations and regions. The program’s multilateral corollary is the Group of Eight (G-8) Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, created in 2002. The Global Partnership has contributors that number well beyond the G-8 countries, but the effort is still focused primarily on Russia, although in 2008 the G-8 agreed to expand the geographical scope. The summit may include reference to the need to continue the Global Partnership beyond its current expiration date of 2012 and may also endorse expanding the implementation on a more global basis.

In October 2006, Russia and the United States created the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. The Global Initiative is a nonbinding forum for sharing nonproliferation expertise and information and for preventing nuclear terrorism. In three years, this initiative has grown from 13 to 76 member countries. The summit could seek to institutionalize and further expand this group.[12]

Several UN Security Council resolutions, including Resolutions 1373 and 1540, passed in 2001 and 2004, respectively, are aimed at preventing WMD terrorism and are binding on members under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Most recently, Security Council Resolution 1887 outlined a broad range of nuclear security and nonproliferation requirements and objectives. Resolution 1540 is particularly important because it calls on countries to take action on improving WMD security and then report on their actions. To address the difficulties that some countries are having in meeting these obligations, Resolution 1887 called for consideration of a voluntary Resolution 1540 implementation fund. In addition to expressing support for compliance with these resolutions, the summit attendees could make the initial contributions to the proposed implementation fund.

The currently contemplated summit communiqué will highlight most, if not all, of these conventions, agreements, and mechanisms, in addition to some of the Obama administration’s other policies, such as minimizing the civil use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and improving the global nuclear security culture.

Although all of these goals are important and worthwhile, a strategy that focuses primarily on gaining compliance with existing agreements and mechanisms could result in a confirmation of the inadequate status quo. Despite the recommendation of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament that the summit should “focus on the effective implementation of existing agreed measures rather than the development of new ones,”[13] that outcome would waste a singular opportunity to galvanize global attention to a looming danger, bridge the international threat perception gap, and put in place new commitments and initiatives that would drastically improve global nuclear security.

New Initiatives for the Summit

The lead-up to the summit is critical for weaving together the strands of old and new policies that can be durable and effective in meeting 21st century nuclear security goals. Motivating the international community to effectively face an amorphous but potentially devastating transnational danger, such as the one arising from inadequately protected nuclear materials, presents unique challenges, in part because of the differing perspectives of countries on the priority of the problem. Entrenched domestic political and economic interests are another factor. The domestic and international political agendas of key countries are already influencing the goals of the summit. There must be an international consensus on the dangers from nuclear terrorism and inadequate nuclear security, even if opinions differ on the solutions. Achieving consensus on the threat, at a minimum, is one of the Obama administration’s key objectives for the summit.

Despite a desire by the Obama administration not to link the NPT too closely to the objectives of the summit, it will be in the minds of many leaders, not least because of the NPT review conference a month after the summit. Although the NPT is an essential and important foundation for nonproliferation efforts around the world, it is increasingly inadequate to address modern challenges. The treaty has broad international legitimacy, which is critical, and is tied to the IAEA, an institution on which many countries rely heavily for support and information on best nuclear security practices.

Neither, however, was designed to deal with nuclear terrorism. Terrorist organizations have proven that they can operate globally, plan quietly, and inflict devastating damage, and al Qaeda has stated that obtaining nuclear weapons is a priority goal. The United Kingdom, however, in its “Road to 2010” report calls on “international partners to work…to establish nuclear security as a new fourth pillar” of the NPT bargain.[14] U.S. officials, while not formally endorsing the UK’s fourth pillar concept, have made clear that they intend to draw more attention to the importance of nuclear material security in the NPT context.[15]

Establishing global fissile material security as a top-level international objective will require an international consensus that goes beyond current mechanisms and embraces new policy initiatives to achieve this objective. Establishing the legitimacy of these new initiatives will be a critical challenge. The following are ideas that could have resonance within the international community and that should be considered as new initiatives for agreement at the summit and negotiated in advance of it.

Agree on a fissile material security framework. There is no international framework agreement on fissile material security and, as a result, no organizing force to drive the agenda. One important objective that should be under consideration for the summit is the creation of a framework agreement that identifies the threats to humankind from vulnerable fissile materials, especially the threats posed by terrorists, and lists actions required to mitigate them. A framework agreement would allow the subject to be acknowledged at a very high political level as a global priority and then require the adherents to take specific steps to achieve the agreement’s objectives. It will be essential that any new framework look beyond the obligations and capacities of governments to include the civil society and private sectors as partners in this process.

While chairing the UN Security Council Summit on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Nuclear Disarmament in September, Obama pointed to one path for establishing this framework and its legitimacy. The council unanimously approved Resolution 1887, which creates a framework of commitments and objectives for global nonproliferation.

Alternatively, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which entered into force in 1992, is another example. This convention established the protection of the climate system as a long-term objective. Subsequent actions guided by the convention have been aimed at mitigating the impact of climate change on the global environment. The convention could be a model for a fissile material security framework agreement. It would allow for agreement on the threats, goals, and challenges and then require periodic international meetings on specific implementation steps. These meetings could focus on review of implementation progress, discussion of the evolving threat, and policy modifications and additions. Such a continuing dialogue would provide pressure and incentive for countries to act and demonstrate their commitment.

The framework could include a number of items and usefully package them so that its norms are unified, clear, and cohesive. For example, the framework could recognize all the relevant existing conventions, agreements, and Security Council resolutions, including conventions on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism and of terrorist financing and bombings.[16] It could underscore the legitimacy of the ad hoc nuclear security mechanisms such as the CTR program, the Global Partnership, the Proliferation Security Initiative, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and others. It could identify a minimum standard for nuclear and radiological material security based on IAEA standards, while encouraging implementation of the highest possible security standards through an intensive, global best-practices engagement process. In addition, it could encourage public-private partnerships in support of nuclear security and recognize the important role that the civil society sector plays in this area.

Strengthen the IAEA. The IAEA has an important role in global nuclear security, but its safeguards activities are underfunded, it does not have enough technical staff, and it is ill prepared to fulfill increased demands in the future. Tinkering with the IAEA so that it has a stronger nuclear security role is a delicate business, in part because there will be pressure to match any increase in the board-approved safeguards budget with increases in the budget for technical cooperation and other projects. The IAEA can accept voluntary contributions, however, in addition to the assessed contributions for this budget. For example, the United States makes a voluntary contribution each year. Those funds can be earmarked for specific security purposes without being subject to the regular board approval process. Therefore, in the lead-up to the summit, several actions should be taken:

•  The developed countries attending the summit should commit to increase their voluntary IAEA contributions for four years and earmark the funds for nuclear security. The goal would be to match the current IAEA nuclear security budget of about $150 million per year.[17]

•  All countries participating in the summit should agree to train a specific number of additional nuclear security specialists for assignment at the IAEA so they can fill the slots that the additional voluntary contributions would create.

•  The summit countries should pledge funding for regional and bilateral nuclear security meetings as complements to broader IAEA-strengthening efforts.

Create a global nuclear material security road map. The summit countries need to commit to the creation of a road map for securing vulnerable nuclear materials. The road map should be based on measurable benchmarks of vulnerability and proven security upgrades. The document does not necessarily have to be public, but it should be a consensus document that identifies the priority locations, ranked highest to lowest, and the financial and technical resources to correct problems as quickly as possible. The road map should be supplemented with a plan for international scientific cooperation to prevent nuclear theft and terrorism.

Consolidate and eliminate global HEU and plutonium stockpiles. The global growth of HEU and plutonium stockpiles is one reason that concern about potential nuclear terrorism is growing. The summit countries should agree to implement two steps to mitigate this danger. First, they should agree to minimize the number of locations at which the materials are stored. That goal could be accomplished through consolidation and, in the case of HEU, by down-blending it for storage or for use as reactor fuel. Second, the countries should agree to extend international monitoring over all civilian stockpiles and, in nuclear-weapon states, over declared excess military fissile material as well.

Minimize and then eliminate the use of HEU. HEU is the fissile material most vulnerable to exploitation by terrorists; in particular, its use in civil applications heightens this danger. A number of countries, however, oppose phasing out the use of HEU. Some of them point to their medical isotope production, some to nuclear research experiments, and some to the need for fuel for naval propulsion. Nonetheless, Resolution 1887 calls on states to “minimize to the greatest extent that is technically and economically possible” the use of HEU.[18] That language leaves a wide margin for the material’s continued use.

Technological advances are producing fuels that can replace HEU even in the most difficult cases. Therefore, the international community should come to an agreement on a timetable for a phaseout and ultimate ban on the civil use of HEU. This objective is probably too controversial for agreement at the summit, but if that proves to be the case, further technical and political discussions on this subject should be endorsed by the summit communiqué.

Create regional nuclear training centers. Russia and the United States, in the course of their collaboration on nuclear security improvement, have created several regional nuclear training centers in Russia. These centers have become hubs of expertise and training for nuclear facilities in need of security improvements. This concept should be expanded, with the establishment of regional training centers in other key areas around the globe. The new centers would cultivate a local security culture, improve efficiency by consolidating training courses rather than repeating training to multiple audiences, and provide ready access to information on best practices among partners. At the summit, the United States should offer to fund the establishment of these centers. Eventually, they could be supplemented or fully supported by Global Partnership countries and the IAEA. Ultimately, these centers could expand their mission to include regional nuclear monitoring that could supplement IAEA activities.

Secure all radiological sources in metropolitan hospitals. Radiological sources, which are in use in every major metropolitan hospital in the world, pose a danger if they fall into the wrong hands. The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has completed a pilot project with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to make the hospital’s radiological sources more secure and to initiate cooperation with the local authorities.[19] The summit attendees should build on this important success and commit to take similar actions in their countries. In the United States, approximately 500 major metropolitan hospital buildings use radiological sources. At a cost of roughly $250,000 per building, the total cost of completing projects at all of them would be about $125 million.

Postsummit Implementation

Whatever the results of the summit in April, several actions will be necessary in its aftermath. The first is to create a process for tracking the implementation of the commitments made in the summit communiqué. One important component of that document must be creation of a regularized technical dialogue among the specialists from the communiqué signatories. This process could be semiannual or allow for ad hoc bilateral and multilateral meetings. It should include private sector and civil society representatives when appropriate, and it must ensure that the summit agenda remains dynamic and evolving.

Second, the summit countries should agree to issue an annual report on their implementation progress. The report could include the steps each has taken to meet the summit’s commitments and provide information on the technical meetings and plans for the upcoming year. The document should be public. Transparency in this process is important before the summit, at the summit, and in follow-up activities.

Third, the summit attendees must commit to reaching out beyond their ranks to other countries to draw them into the dialogue on how to make serious progress on nuclear material security. Some criticism of the summit is likely because it does not include all nuclear countries, but an event that inclusive would be unwieldy and substantively diluted. The governments attending the summit could use the event as a starting point to initiate and continue regional security dialogues with countries not included in the April group.

Finally, the official summit attendees must ensure that the civil society and private sectors are fully engaged in the summit agenda. In the United States, more than 40 organizations and experts formed a Fissile Materials Working Group within weeks of Obama’s Prague speech. They sent him a letter identifying five priorities for achieving his four-year pledge and are in the process of planning their own international nuclear summit for April 12, just before the official event, to help the press and the public better understand why this agenda is so essential.[20] Their postsummit plan is to hold meetings to evaluate and measure progress over the next several years.

The Consequences of Failure

In his first year in office, Obama has taken three important steps to improve nuclear material security around the globe. Last April, he made a political commitment to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide in four years. He then highlighted the importance of this and other nonproliferation issues for the world community at the United Nations in September. Finally, he invited over 40 heads of state to Washington to participate in a first-ever nuclear security summit this April.  But these political objectives must result in concrete action and that will take considerable and sustained political, diplomatic, and technical engagement. Because the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials is extremely ambitious it could face significant opposition from some of the summit attendees and other countries. Energy demands resulting in an increase in nuclear power and materials, the economic and political empowerment of the developing countries that makes them less willing to be swayed by Western concerns, and the damage done to U.S. credibility from exaggerating the WMD danger in Iraq are all contributing to the difficulty of the task. These factors will further complicate the task of building international consensus to support tougher nuclear security standards, secure vulnerable nuclear materials, and prevent nuclear terrorism.

Despite these forces of inertia, however, the nuclear summit and in particular the activities that occur before and after, cannot be conducted as business as usual. Obtaining commitments—including some that exceed agreements in place today—to advance this agenda significantly, locking down those commitments at the heads-of-state level at the summit, and vigorously following though with rapid implementation are the necessary steps to make the summit matter. Otherwise the summit could suffer from a lack of ambition and turn into a lost opportunity to drive the more aggressive global action required to bolster global nuclear security.

 


 

Kenneth N. Luongo is president of the Partnership for Global Security and was a senior adviser on nonproliferation policy to Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary. He is a member of the Arms Control Association’s board of directors.


ENDNOTES

1. “Arms Control Today 2008 Presidential Q&A: President-elect Barack Obama,” Arms Control Today, December 2008, www.armscontrol.org/2008election; Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Barack Obama,” April 5, 2009, www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-By-President-Barack-Obama-In-Prague-As-Delivered; Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Barack Obama to the United Nations General Assembly,” September 23, 2009, www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-to-the-United-Nations-General-Assembly.

2. George Tenet, Testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, February 24, 2004, www.intelligence.senate.gov/040224/tenet.pdf; Robert Gates, Statement at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C., October 28, 2008, www.carnegieendowment.org/files/1028_transcrip_gates_checked.pdf; J. Michael McConnell, Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, February 27, 2008, www.fas.org/irp/congress/2008_hr/022708mcconnell.pdf.

3. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, “The 9/11 Commission Report,” July 22, 2004, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/index.htm.

4. 9/11 Public Discourse Project, “Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations,” December 5, 2005, www.9-11pdp.org/press/2005-12-05_report.pdf.

5. Partnership for a Secure America, “WMD Report Card: Evaluating U.S. Policies to Prevent Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Terrorism Since 2005,” August 25, 2008, www.psaonline.org/downloads/ReportCard%208-25-08.pdf.

6. Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, “World at Risk,” December 2008, www.preventwmd.gov/report.

7. Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, “America’s Strategic Posture: The Final Report of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States,” May 6, 2009, www.usip.org/strategic-posture-commission/view-the-report.

8. At the 2005 NPT Review Conference, the South African representative, Abdul Minty, delivered a statement saying, “There is growing concern that while demands are being made for non-nuclear-weapon States to agree to new measures in the name of non-proliferation, concrete actions towards disarmament are neglected. South Africa wishes to reiterate that it cannot support unwarranted restrictions on the NPT’s guaranteed access to such nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes by States that are fully compliant with their obligations under the NPT.” Abdul Minty, Statement by the Republic of South Africa during the general debate of the 2005 Review Conference of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, May 3, 2005, www.un.org/events/npt2005/statements/npt03southafrica.pdf.

9. For one example, see “Pakistan: Terrorist Attack Kills Six Soldiers in Rawalpindi,” Telegraph (London), October 10, 2009, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/6291516/Pakistan-terrorist-attack-kills-six-soldiers-in-Rawalpindi.html.

10. Only 12 of the 43 countries invited to the summit have ratified the 2005 amendment. The United States has not ratified the amendment.

11. Of the 43 countries invited to the summit, 36 have signed an additional protocol. It has entered into force in 29 of those countries. An additional protocol is in force in the United States.

12. Of the 43 countries invited to the summit, 31 are currently partners in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

13. International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, “Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers,” December 2009, www.icnnd.org/reference/reports/ent/synopsis.html.

14. Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, “The Road to 2010: Addressing the Nuclear Question in the Twenty First Century,” July 2009. The three established “pillars” of the NPT nuclear bargain are preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, promoting disarmament, and facilitating the peaceful uses of atomic energy.

15. See the August 12 speech by Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation Susan Burk to the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (http://geneva.usmission.gov/2009/08/12/ambassador-burk); see also Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s October 21 speech to the U.S. Institute of Peace (www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/10/130806.htm).

16. International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, April 13, 2005, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetailsIII.aspx?&src=IND&mtdsg_no=XVIII-15&chapter=18&Temp=mtdsg3&lang=en; International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, December 15, 1997, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=XVIII-9&chapter=18&lang=en; International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, December 9, 1999, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=XVIII-11&chapter=18&lang=en.

17. The IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund is almost entirely dependent on voluntary and in-kind contributions from member states while its safety and safeguards programs are largely funded through the IAEA regular budget and supplemented with voluntary contributions. IAEA, “Nuclear Security Fund (NSF),”n.d., www-ns.iaea.org/security/nsf.htm; IAEA, “Nuclear Security Fund Received Key Financial Support,” March 27, 2009, www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/News/2009/nuclsecfund.html. Approximately 25 percent of the IAEA’s annual budget is provided by the United States through the Department of State. In fiscal year 2008, the United States provided $94 million of the IAEA’s $390 million total regular budget and another $51.8 million in voluntary contributions. Additionally, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) assists the IAEA by providing financial and in-kind contributions totaling $53.3 million plus two full-time nonproliferation experts detailed to the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna in fiscal year 2008. NNSA, “NNSA Contributions to the IAEA,” April 2009, www.nnsa.energy.gov/news/2326.htm.

18. UN Security Council, Resolution 1887, S/RES/1887, September 24, 2009, www.un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_resolutions09.htm

19. NNSA Public Affairs, “NNSA, University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Police Raise the Bar for Radiological Security,” March 27, 2009, www.nnsa.energy.gov/news/2301.htm.

20. For information on the Fissile Materials Working Group and its activities, see www.fmwg.org.

 

The April nuclear security summit that President Barack Obama will host in Washington will be an unprecedented event. More than 40 heads of state from the developed and developing world will gather to discuss the need to prevent nuclear terrorism and secure all vulnerable nuclear materials in four years. This four-year pledge—a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s nuclear security policy—must be achieved.

Safeguards Noncompliance: A Challenge for the IAEA and the UN Security Council

Pierre Goldschmidt

Compliance with safeguards obligations is a fundamental part of a country’s participation in the global nuclear nonproliferation regime. The issue of compliance was central to the contentious discussions at the 2005 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference and is likely to play a similar role at the 2010 conference.

The main objective of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as set out in its statute, is to promote “the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world” while ensuring that nuclear material, equipment, facilities, and information are not used for any military purpose.[1] The IAEA carries out the latter part of this mandate by establishing and implementing safeguards.

In fulfilling its nonproliferation mandate, the most important task of the IAEA is the prompt detection and reporting of unauthorized nuclear work in any non-nuclear-weapon state that is a party to the NPT. This unauthorized work may involve the diversion of nuclear material from declared facilities as well as undeclared nuclear material and activities.

IAEA inspections are designed to ensure that countries are complying with their commitments under their safeguards agreements. The UN Security Council indicated the importance of noncompliance by addressing it in the first operative paragraph of Resolution 1887, which the council adopted on September 24, 2009, during the United Nations’ summit on nonproliferation and disarmament.[2]

Nevertheless, the international community must go beyond that resolution by adopting a refined and strengthened approach toward cases of safeguards noncompliance, which, as discussed below, has several elements. One element is how the IAEA Department of Safeguards should distinguish between cases of noncompliance that should be reported to the IAEA Board of Governors as “non-compliance” in accordance with Article XII.C of the IAEA statute and cases that constitute only technical or legal compliance failures and therefore need be reported only in the annual Safeguards Implementation Report, if at all.[3] The board, when it finds that the agency is unable to resolve a case of noncompliance promptly, should not hesitate to request additional verification rights from the UN Security Council. The latter, in turn, should take steps to improve the likelihood of prompt and effective action when confronted with persistent cases of noncompliance or with withdrawal from the NPT.

The Safeguards Department’s Role

In examining IAEA responsibilities, it is necessary to distinguish between the respective roles of the secretariat and the board. The IAEA Secretariat is the technical arm of the agency in charge of detecting any technical or legal noncompliance with the safeguards agreements concluded between the IAEA and a state. The secretariat is expected to perform this task in the most objective and nondiscriminatory way possible, without the influence of any political considerations.

The fact that there is no official definition of what constitutes noncompliance should not be used as an excuse by the secretariat for not reporting promptly, fully, and factually any significant or intentional failure or breach of safeguards undertakings, including those of agreed “subsidiary arrangements.”[4]

In judging whether a failure is intentional, the Department of Safeguards should, inter alia, take into account whether any state organization, including the state system of accounting for and control of nuclear material, knew of undeclared nuclear material (whatever its quantity), facilities, or activities that should have been declared to the IAEA.

Denying access to a declared or suspected facility or location, as well as not allowing inspectors to take environmental samples as requested by the IAEA, is by definition intentional. If such a denial is prolonged, for example, more than a few days unless for legitimate safety reasons, it must be promptly reported by the Department of Safeguards to the director-general as a matter of concern. If the Department of Safeguards has the legal authority under the safeguards agreement to require such access, then the denial constitutes noncompliance.

Experience has taught that denial of prompt access to locations or refusal to take environmental samples has often been an indication of undeclared activities. This has been the case in Iran, North Korea, South Korea, and possibly Syria.

Denial of access to relevant persons and documents should also be taken seriously and reported explicitly either in the Safeguards Implementation Report or in a report to the board if the denial prevents the agency from promptly resolving questions or inconsistencies, particularly if it is not the first time that access has been denied or if it takes place in conjunction with other failures or breaches of safeguards obligations.

Evidence of intentional concealment measures or the “obstruction of the activities of IAEA inspectors, interference with the operation of safeguards equipment, or prevention of the IAEA from carrying out its verification activities”[5] should be reported as noncompliance. Nuclear material that should have been declared and placed under safeguards but intentionally has not been also warrants a finding of noncompliance.

To warrant a report of noncompliance to the board, it is not necessary for the Department of Safeguards to demonstrate that the “intention” of not declaring nuclear material or activities was part of a nuclear weapons program; it is enough that the purpose was unknown.[6]

The Department of Safeguards should adopt as a guideline the position stated by Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei in November 2002: “I believe that while differing circumstances may necessitate asymmetric responses, in the case of non-compliance with non-proliferation obligations, for the credibility of the regime, the approach in all cases should be one and the same: zero tolerance.”[7] In accordance with that principle, the secretariat should have qualified the failures and breaches committed by South Korea and Egypt[8] as cases of noncompliance.[9]

By reporting in November 2003 that Iran was “in breach of its obligation to comply with the provisions of the Safeguards Agreements” instead of using the word “noncompliance,” the term that the IAEA statute uses, ElBaradei deliberately left to the board the sole responsibility for making a formal finding of noncompliance. This ambiguous language may have played a role in politicizing what should have remained the purely technical and factual work of the secretariat.[10]

The assessment of Libya’s violations of its safeguards agreement reported to the board in February 2004 is even more unhelpful. Although, in addition to the reported violations, Libya admitted that it had received documentation related to nuclear weapons design and fabrication and more or less explicitly acknowledged that it had a nuclear weapons program, ElBaradei did not use the term “noncompliance.” This set a bad precedent and amounted to a contradiction of his 2002 statement cited above. Fortunately, the board found Libya in noncompliance and requested the director-general to “report the matter to the Security Council for information purposes only, while commending [Libya] for the actions it has taken to date, and has agreed to take, to remedy the non-compliance.”[11] The Security Council held a meeting on April 22, 2004, to consider the matter and, via its president, welcomed Libya’s active cooperation with the IAEA and its decision to abandon its weapons of mass destruction programs.

Finding a state in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement is not the only reason for the IAEA to submit reports to the Security Council. If, in the course of their duties, Department of Safeguards inspectors encounter “questions that are within the competence of the Security Council as the organ bearing the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security,” the IAEA statute suggests that these questions should be reported to the board and then by the board to the Security Council.[12] In addition,

Paragraph 19 of the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement gives the Board the power to find a state in noncompliance if “the Agency is not able to verify that there has been no diversion of nuclear material.” In other words, a finding of noncompliance by the board does not require the Department of Safeguards to verify that there has been a diversion. Noncooperation by a state, thus preventing the Agency from verifying that no diversion has taken place can be sufficient grounds for noncompliance.[13]

One nonproliferation official recently said that when it comes to unanswered questions, obstruction, or access denials, the same significance should be ascribed “to the inability of the Agency to conclude absence of undeclared activities as to a finding of non-compliance.”[14] According to the official, “[T]he experience accumulated over the last 20 years clearly indicates that a ‘smoke screen’ usually is as telling and dangerous as a ‘smoking gun.’”[15]

In summary, the IAEA statute requires the director-general to transmit to the board all noncompliance reports made by the Department of Safeguards. Unlike the board, the secretariat is expected to act as a technical and totally apolitical body in order to maintain its reputation of objectivity and impartiality.

It will be one of the main tasks of the new director-general, Yukiya Amano, to restore member states’ confidence that the IAEA Secretariat will promptly, fully, and factually report on safeguards noncompliance in accordance with the agency’s statute.

Handling Noncompliance Reports

The IAEA board, which is a political body, must decide whether the safeguards breaches and failures reported by the secretariat, whether or not the term “noncompliance” has been used, constitute noncompliance under the statute and, if so, when they must be reported to the UN Security Council. The statute does not specify the criteria that the board should use to arrive at a finding. Given the difference in roles, the criteria presumably will not necessarily be the same as those used by the secretariat in determining whether technical or legal noncompliance must be reported to the board.

The goal here is not to focus the debate on whether the board should have found South Korea and Egypt in noncompliance in 2004 and 2005, respectively, and thereafter reported the cases to the Security Council for information purposes only. In the case of South Korea, which had ratified an additional protocol and subsequently fully cooperated with the IAEA, there was no need for Security Council action. Thanks to South Korea’s cooperation, the agency was able to conclude in 2007 that the country did not have any undeclared nuclear material or activities and that all nuclear material remained in peaceful activities.

In the case of Egypt, the IAEA did not find any indication that the reported failures and breaches were part of concealment efforts or a deception strategy. As in the case of South Korea, there was no indication in Egypt of any military involvement in or connection with nuclear-related activities. Because Egypt does not have an additional protocol in force, however, the IAEA is not in a position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear material and activities in the state as a whole. Also, as reported in the 2008 Safeguards Implementation Report, the IAEA has so far been unable to identify the source of the highly enriched uranium and low-enriched uranium particles found in environmental samples taken at the Nuclear Research Center of Inshas. The fact that there are still open questions about Egypt’s nuclear activities almost five years after the failures and breaches were first reported to the board should be a cause of concern. Progress on these issues should be reported to the board separately from the Safeguards Implementation Report.

These long-standing open questions help demonstrate why the board should have at least adopted resolutions expressing its concern, as ElBaradei did in his reports, about the failures and breaches discovered in South Korea and Egypt, even if the board found it unnecessary to make a finding of noncompliance under the statute.

In the case of Iran, the IAEA board adopted in September 2003 a resolution calling on that country to “suspend all further uranium enrichment-related activities, including the further introduction of nuclear material into [the] Natanz [enrichment plant]…pending provision by the Director General of the assurances required by Member States, and pending satisfactory application of the provisions of the additional protocol.”[16] The resolution also called on Iran to grant “unrestricted access, including environmental sampling, for the Agency to whatever locations the Agency deems necessary for the purposes of verification of the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations.”[17]

In the spring of 2004, it already had become apparent that Iran was not abiding by the September 2003 resolution. In a resolution adopted on June 18, 2004, the board acknowledged “the statement by the Director General on 14 June that it is essential for the integrity and credibility of the inspection process to bring these issues to a close within the next few months.”[18] Apparently, the international community subsequently lost sight of the importance of this time factor. Once a significant or deliberate breach of safeguards agreements has been identified or if a state obstructs or delays verification activities, as is presently the case also in Syria, action by the board and possibly by the UN Security Council becomes urgent.[19]

In its September 18, 2004, resolution, the board noted “with serious concern that…Iran has not heeded repeated calls from the Board to suspend, as a confidence building measure, all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.”[20] It was clear by then that the IAEA needed legally binding verification rights extending beyond those provided under the Model Additional Protocol. Only the UN Security Council, by adopting a resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which addresses threats to international peace and security, is in a position to provide those legal rights to the IAEA Secretariat; its board cannot.

It was only after Iran’s August 2005 breach of its November 2004 expanded commitment to suspend the conversion of uranium concentrates to uranium hexafluoride that the board found Iran to have been noncompliant. The vote on the September 24, 2005, resolution was 22-1, with 12 abstentions.

One good thing about the September 2005 resolution is that the board found “that Iran’s many failures and breaches of its obligation to comply with its NPT Safeguards Agreement, as detailed in [the November 10, 2003 report to the board] constitute non compliance in the context of Article XII.C” of the statute.[21] By confirming that the findings reported in November 2003 constituted noncompliance, the board mitigated the unhelpful precedent it had set at that time by refraining from a noncompliance finding. However, by the time the board, on February 4, 2006, finally decided to report the noncompliance to the Security Council,[22] and 10 months later the council adopted a resolution that legally required Iran to suspend its enrichment-related activities,[23] it was too late to stop Iran from disregarding these directives.

The Security Council’s Role

Under the statute, a country that the IAEA board finds to be in noncompliance must be referred to the Security Council. The board is not obliged to make this report immediately if it wishes to give the noncompliant state sufficient time to implement the necessary corrective actions. If the noncompliant state fully and proactively cooperates with the agency, the board will refer the case to the council for information purposes only, while likely praising the state for its constructive attitude, as it did in the case of Libya. If the noncompliant state uses delaying and deceptive tactics and does not provide prompt access to locations, equipment, documents, and relevant persons, the agency may temporarily need from the UN Security Council legally binding expanded verification rights.

As exemplified by the cases of Iran and North Korea, one of the greatest difficulties in deterring states from violating their nonproliferation undertakings and from ignoring legally binding Security Council resolutions is their hope that, for geopolitical or economic reasons, at least one of the five veto-wielding members of the council will oppose the adoption of effective sanctions.

To guarantee a timely council reaction in cases of noncompliance with safeguards agreements and to increase the likelihood of negative consequences for a state that does not comply with council and IAEA resolutions, the council should adopt a generic—that is, not state-specific—resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.[24] To give the IAEA the verification tools it needs in case a noncompliant state does not adequately cooperate with the agency to resolve pending issues, the resolution should provide that, “upon request by the agency,” the Security Council would automatically adopt a specific resolution under Chapter 7 requiring that the state grant the IAEA extended access rights, as set out in a “temporary complementary protocol.”[25] These rights would be terminated as soon as the IAEA Secretariat and board have drawn the conclusion that the country has no undeclared nuclear material or activities and that its declarations to the IAEA are correct and complete.

Under the multistage process foreseen in this generic resolution, if the IAEA director-general were unable to report within 60 days of the adoption of the state-specific resolution that the noncompliant state was fully implementing the temporary complementary protocol, the Security Council would adopt a second specific resolution requiring the state to suspend immediately all enrichment- and reprocessing-related activities.

If the noncompliant state further refused to implement the relevant Security Council resolutions fully, the Security Council would adopt a third Chapter 7 resolution calling on all states to suspend military cooperation, including the supply of equipment, with the noncompliant state as long as it remained in noncompliance with council and IAEA resolutions. A priori council agreement that all military cooperation with that state would be suspended in these circumstances should constitute a strong disincentive for states to defy legally binding council resolutions, but would in no way affect the well-being of ordinary citizens.

Had such a generic resolution existed before 2002, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (the EU-3) would not have negotiated the October 2003 deal in Tehran. Under that deal, Iran agreed “voluntarily to suspend all enrichment activities as defined by the IAEA”[26] while the September 2003 board resolution had called on Iran to suspend all further enrichment-related activities, a term that is much broader in scope. In exchange for this limited and nonbinding pledge to the EU-3, Iran received the tacit commitment of the three countries not to support an IAEA resolution referring Iran’s noncompliance to the Security Council. By failing to find Iran in noncompliance in November 2003, the IAEA board created a damaging precedent with far-reaching consequences that are still felt today.

Withdrawing From the NPT

Another particularly threatening case for international peace and security is the withdrawal from the NPT of a non-nuclear-weapon state that has been found by the IAEA to be in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement. As has been stressed on many occasions, the great benefit that the NPT brings to the international community would be dangerously eroded if countries violating their safeguards agreements or the NPT felt free to withdraw from the treaty, develop nuclear weapons, and enjoy the fruits of their violation with impunity.

To address this issue, the Security Council should adopt under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter another generic and legally binding resolution, stating that a country’s withdrawal from the NPT (an undisputed right under the treaty’s Article X.1) after being found by the IAEA to be in noncompliance with its safeguards undertakings constitutes a threat to international peace and security, under Article 39 of the UN Charter.[27] This generic resolution should also provide that, under these circumstances, all materials and equipment made available to such a state or resulting from the assistance provided to it under a comprehensive safeguards agreement would have to be sealed by the IAEA and, as soon as technically possible, removed from that state under IAEA supervision and remain under agency safeguards. If the state still refused to comply, then any military cooperation between that state and other UN member states would be suspended.

Another important preventive measure would be for the IAEA board to urge all states with enrichment or reprocessing facilities to conclude “back-up” safeguards agreements that would not terminate in case of NPT withdrawal.[28]

Conclusion

IAEA safeguards play a key role in the international community’s attempts to ensure that nuclear energy is used in non-nuclear-weapon states exclusively for peaceful purposes. By deterring states from seeking nuclear weapons, safeguards play a major role in preventing proliferation. Yet, deterrence can be effective only if states believe that noncompliance has a strong chance of being detected and if its detection has consequences.

President Barack Obama noted both elements in his 2009 Prague speech: “We need more resources and authority to strengthen international inspections. We need real and immediate consequences for countries caught breaking the rules or trying to leave the treaty without cause.”[29]

The IAEA should not be complacent toward states violating their nonproliferation undertakings. That said, the weakest link in the nonproliferation regime today is not the performance of the IAEA Department of Safeguards but that of the international community in responding to noncompliance. The burden here falls largely on the IAEA board and the UN Security Council.

The adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1887, which emphasizes that noncompliance with nonproliferation obligations must be brought to the attention of the Security Council, is a significant but insufficient step in the right direction. It is a call for states to strengthen the NPT and to comply fully with all their obligations, to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to adopt stricter national controls for the export of sensitive nuclear fuel-cycle technologies, and more. However, states are not obliged to follow the recommendations contained in the resolution.

Therefore, states should discuss and agree on legally binding generic procedures for responding to noncompliance. Because members of the Security Council would not know which states might be involved in the future, such discussions should be easier and less acrimonious than they would be during the heat of a crisis. An agreement on a set of standard responses to be applied evenhandedly to any state found in noncompliance, regardless of its allies, would significantly enhance the credibility of the nonproliferation regime.

Finally, considering the precedent that North Korea set in 2003, it is necessary to plan for the possibility of another state withdrawing from the NPT. The most critical step would be for the Security Council to adopt a resolution, under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, deciding that the withdrawal of a noncompliant state from the NPT would be considered a threat to international peace and security.

If adopted, the concrete measures recommended in this article would make a real difference in protecting against nuclear proliferation; but all countries, not only the five permanent members of the Security Council, will first need to acknowledge that these measures should be adopted now in order to mitigate the consequences of the next potential proliferation crisis. Protecting against that dangerous prospect is in everyone’s best security interest.


Pierre Goldschmidt is a nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency as head of the Department of Safeguards. He wishes to acknowledge the valuable exchange of views with Ambassador Peter Jenkins during the preparation of this article and the constructive comments on previous drafts by James Acton and Nima Gerami.


ENDNOTES

1. International Atomic Energy Agency, “Statute of the IAEA,” www.iaea.org/About/statute_text.html (hereinafter IAEA Statute).

2. UN Security Council, Resolution 1887, S/RES/1887, September 24, 2009. See www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2009/sc9746.doc.htm.

3. The Safeguards Implementation Report, submitted every year to the board, provides a description and analysis of the agency’s safeguards operations during the previous year, including a summary of the problems encountered and the secretariat’s findings and conclusions.

4. Article 39 of comprehensive safeguards agreements provides that “the Agency and the State shall make Subsidiary Arrangements which shall specify in detail…how the procedures laid down in the Agreement are to be applied.”

5. IAEA, “IAEA Safeguards Glossary, 2001 Edition,” p. 14, para. 2.3.(d), www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/nvs-3-cd/PDF/NVS3_prn.pdf.

6. IAEA, “The Structure and Content of Agreements Between the Agency and States Required in Connection With the Treaty On the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” INFCIRC/153 (corrected), June 1972, para. 28, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/Others/infcirc153.pdf.

7. IAEA, “Reinforcing the World´s Regime Against Nuclear Weapons,” November 14, 2002, www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/News/2002/11-13-903199.shtml.

8. IAEA, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Republic of Korea: Report by the Director General,” GOV/2004/84, November 11, 2004, para. 38, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2004/gov2004-84.pdf; IAEA, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Arab Republic of Egypt: Report by the Director General,” GOV/2005/9, February 14, 2005, para. 22, www.carnegieendowment.org/static/npp/reports/gov2005-9.pdf.

9. See Pierre Goldschmidt, “Exposing Nuclear Noncompliance,” Survival, Vol. 51, No. 1 (February-March 2009), pp. 143-163, www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=22734&prog=zgp&proj=znpp.

10. IAEA, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Report by the Director General,” GOV/2005/75, November 10, 2003, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2003/gov2003-75.pdf. Another factor was that the report on Iran stated that, “[t]o date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities referred to above were related to a nuclear weapons programme.” This formulation set the bar too high for the agency by suggesting that evidence of a nuclear weapons program was required for a finding of noncompliance.

11. IAEA, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,” GOV/2004/ 18, March 10, 2004, para. 4, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2004/gov2004-18.pdf (emphasis added).

12. IAEA Statute, art. III.B.4. These questions would cover areas such as nuclear weaponization-related activities.

13. James Acton, e-mail communication with author, October 23, 2009.

14. Nonproliferation official, e-mail communication with author, November 28, 2009.

15. Ibid.

16. IAEA, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” GOV/2003/69, September 12, 2003, para. 3, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2003/gov2003-69.pdf.

17. Ibid., para. 4(ii).

18. IAEA, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” GOV/2004/49, June 18, 2004, para. l, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2004/gov2004-49.pdf.

19. As John Carlson recently wrote,

A judgment on noncompliance cannot wait until the state has succeeded in acquiring nuclear weapons. If the standard of proof is set too high, the IAEA is bound to fail in its responsibility to provide the international community with timely warning. To prove the existence of a nuclear weapons program is unrealistic. A state having a nuclear weapon or nuclear weapons components or conducting weaponization experiments with nuclear material is unlikely to be caught red-handed. More likely, a state facing obvious exposure would deny inspectors access to the location concerned, preferring to argue whether lack of cooperation constitutes noncompliance, maintaining some ambiguity about its actions. When the board determines that a state has intentionally not declared nuclear material, it must initially presume that the material was not intended for peaceful purposes. The smoking gun is the failure to declare nuclear material.

John Carlson, “Defining Noncompliance: NPT Safeguards Agreements,” Arms Control Today, May 2009, pp. 22-27, www.armscontrol.org/act/2009_5/Carlson.

20. IAEA, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” GOV/2004/79, September 18, 2004, para. d, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2004/gov2004-79.pdf.

21. IAEA, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” GOV/2005/79, September 24, 2005, para. 1, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2005/gov2005-77.pdf.

22. Cuba, Syria, and Venezuela voted against the resolution, and five states (Algeria, Belarus, Libya, Indonesia, and South Africa) abstained.

23. UN Security Council, Resolution 1737, S/RES/1737, December 23, 2006.

24. Pierre Goldschmidt, “Concrete Steps to Improve the Nonproliferation Regime,” Carnegie Papers, No. 100 (April 2009), www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=22943&prog=zgp&proj=znpp. Annex I provides a potential model for such a resolution.

25. Ibid., pp. 27-43.

26. Statement by the Iranian Government and visiting EU Foreign Ministers, October 21, 2003. www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/IaeaIran/statement_iran21102003.shtml

27. See generally Goldschmidt, “Concrete Steps to Improve the Nonproliferation Regime.” See Annex II for the proposed model resolution.

28. A Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (INFCIRC/153 corrected) remains in force only for so long as the state remains party to the NPT, whereas under an INFCIRC/66-type agreement, all nuclear material supplied or produced under that agreement would remain under safeguards, even if the state withdraws from the NPT, until such time as the IAEA has determined that such material is no longer subject to safeguards.

29. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Barack Obama,” April 5, 2009, www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-By-President-Barack-Obama-In-Prague-As-Delivered.

 

Compliance with safeguards obligations is a fundamental part of a country’s participation in the global nuclear nonproliferation regime. The issue of compliance was central to the contentious discussions at the 2005 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference and is likely to play a similar role at the 2010 conference.

Seeking Biosecurity Without Verification: The New U.S. Strategy on Biothreats

Jonathan B. Tucker

During a December 9 speech to the annual meeting of states-parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) in Geneva, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher declared, “The Obama administration will not seek to revive negotiations on a verification protocol to the Convention. We have carefully reviewed previous efforts to develop a verification protocol and have determined that a legally binding protocol would not achieve meaningful verification or greater security.”[1]

In effect, President Barack Obama has decided not to reverse the 2001 decision by the Bush administration to reject a draft BWC compliance protocol that had been developed over six years of multilateral negotiations from 1995 to 2001. The protocol would have created a legally binding inspection regime for the BWC, which still lacks formal verification measures.

Although a few arms control advocates had hoped for a different outcome, the Obama administration’s decision did not come as a major surprise. It had already been foreshadowed by the December 2008 report of the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, chaired by former Senators Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.), which concluded that “the U.S. decision in 2001 to withdraw from the BWC Protocol negotiations was fundamentally sound and that the next administration should reject any efforts to restart them.”[2]

In lieu of a decision to return to the negotiating table, the Obama administration released a 23-page “National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats,” which was distributed to the delegations in Geneva. This strategy seeks to reinforce the objectives of the BWC through a variety of indirect measures, including efforts to enhance the security of laboratories that work with dangerous pathogens and to improve global disease surveillance— the ability to detect and rapidly contain outbreaks of infectious disease, whether they are natural, accidental, or deliberate in origin.

The release of the national strategy document made clear that, in addition to the ambitious nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament agenda laid out in President Obama’s Prague speech of April 5, 2009, the White House is seriously concerned about biological threats. Indeed, Tauscher’s speech included the rather hyperbolic statement that “a major biological weapons attack on one of the world’s major cities could cause as much death and economic and psychological damage as a nuclear attack.”[3] On a personal note, she recalled that as a member of Congress during the fall of 2001, when letters contaminated with anthrax bacterial spores were mailed to Senators Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), she had experienced firsthand the pervasive fear and uncertainty caused by even a small-scale bioterrorist incident.

The decision by the Obama administration not to revive the protocol negotiations and to develop an alternative set of measures for addressing biological threats is the latest development in the long history of efforts to bolster the BWC. This article reviews the background of the decision, assesses the main elements of the new national strategy, and provides some suggestions for the way forward.

Historical Background

The BWC, which was opened for signature in 1972 and entered into force in 1975, bans the development, production, stockpiling, and transfer of biological and toxin warfare agents, as well as delivery systems specifically designed for their dispersal. At present, the convention has 163 states-parties and 13 signatories; 19 countries have neither signed nor ratified it. Although the BWC serves as the cornerstone of international efforts to prevent biological weapons proliferation and terrorism, it is widely considered a weak instrument. When the treaty was negotiated in the early 1970s, at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States had strong reservations about intrusive on-site inspections. As a result, the BWC was concluded and brought into force without formal verification or enforcement measures. Allegations of noncompliance can be pursued only through bilateral or multilateral consultations under Article 5 of the convention, or by a request that the UN Security Council initiate an investigation under Article 6.[4]

Almost as soon as the ink was dry on the BWC, the Soviet Union exploited the treaty’s lack of teeth by launching a major expansion of its clandestine biological warfare program. The United States suspected this activity was taking place, particularly after a suspicious outbreak of anthrax in Sverdlovsk in 1979, but as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Moscow was in a position to veto an investigation under Article 6. The inability of the BWC to prevent or pursue serious violations by the Soviet Union and later by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq gave rise to increased international pressures to strengthen the convention. At the third review conference of the BWC in 1991, several countries tried to launch a formal negotiation to bolster the treaty with a legally binding verification regime, but they failed to achieve consensus. The George H. W. Bush administration argued that verification was not possible with any degree of confidence because of the dual-use nature of biotechnological materials and equipment, which makes it easy to divert legitimate facilities such as vaccine plants to illicit production. As a compromise, the United States agreed to the creation of an ad hoc group of scientific experts from member states, charged with preparing a technical report on the feasibility of potential verification measures. This exercise, known as VEREX, produced rather inconclusive results but enabled proponents to keep the verification issue alive while awaiting a change in U.S. policy.

The election of Bill Clinton in 1992 led to a shift in the U.S. approach to the BWC. Although the Clinton administration shared the concerns of its predecessor about the verifiability of the BWC, it judged that a regime that did not meet the standard of effective verification could still help to deter violations and promote compliance by increasing the transparency of dual-use biological activities. In September 1994, at a special conference in Geneva ostensibly called to consider the VEREX report, BWC states-parties hammered out a negotiating mandate for a “legally binding instrument,” or compliance protocol, to augment the convention. In addition, the conference established a new negotiating forum called the Ad Hoc Group, open to all BWC members.

As Kenneth D. Ward, who served as deputy head of the U.S. delegation to the Ad Hoc Group, has observed, the mandate for the protocol negotiations “underscored the divergent, if not antithetical, negotiating objectives of the participating states.”[5] The mandate had four elements, of which the first two—“measures to promote compliance” and “confidence-building and transparency measures”—addressed the arms control goals of the Western Group, which included the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and Japan. But the second two elements of the mandate were highly problematic. As its price for supporting the protocol negotiation, Russia insisted that key terms in the BWC be defined narrowly in an apparent effort to limit the prohibitions of the convention and thereby create “safe harbors” for illicit biological weapons activities. In addition, China, India, Iran, and Pakistan demanded that the protocol end all national export controls on materials and equipment related to biological weapons, on the grounds that such controls “discriminated” against developing countries.

Beyond the serious flaws in the negotiating mandate, the Ad Hoc Group struggled with the intractable nature of the biological weapons problem. Unlike chemical weapons, which must be produced and delivered in large quantities to have a significant military effect, the efficient dispersal of a few kilograms of a biological agent, such as the dried spores of the anthrax bacterium, over a troop concentration or a major city could sicken or kill many thousands of people. The limited quantities of biological agent required for a devastating attack could be produced with small-scale equipment, occupying perhaps only a single room, and nearly all such equipment is dual-use and available throughout the world. Advances in fermentation technology have also eliminated the need to stockpile biowarfare agents. Instead, a legitimate production facility, such as a vaccine plant, could be commandeered to grow seed cultures into militarily significant quantities of agent within a period of weeks. Given these technical realities, the detection of illicit biological weapons activities poses daunting challenges for any conceivable monitoring regime.

Faced with such challenges, U.S. government agencies split into two opposing camps. The first camp sought to emulate the extensive verification system in the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which had been concluded a few years earlier. The European Union (EU) also embraced this approach and called for a highly ambitious set of measures, including the mandatory declaration of a wide array of dual-use biological facilities, random on-site visits to check the accuracy of the declarations, a strong mechanism for challenge investigations to pursue undeclared sites suspected of violations, and a large technical secretariat to implement these measures. The second camp within the U.S. government viewed the CWC as an inappropriate model because of the unique characteristics of biological weapons. These agencies sought a modest protocol that included limited declarations, a strong mechanism for challenge investigations, and a relatively small implementing organization. The Pentagon, in particular, opposed opening up sensitive biodefense research facilities to routine international inspection. Another obstacle was the failure of the Clinton administration to engage effectively with the U.S. pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, which feared that on-site visits would compromise valuable trade secrets.

The struggle between the two contending approaches to the BWC protocol lasted from 1995 until 2000, when the United States agreed to support a broader declaration package that included large-scale producers of biological products, along with random visits to declared facilities to increase transparency. However, even these concessions failed to produce a workable compromise with the EU, which continued to push for the pure CWC model and was supported in this effort by like-minded elements within the U.S. government. Ward contends that internal dissension prevented Washington from playing a leadership role in the protocol negotiations, while the divisions within the Western Group “precluded any forceful, collective attempt to counter the efforts of those countries determined to use the BWC protocol to undermine the convention.”[6]

In March 2001, Ad Hoc Group Chairman Tibor Tóth introduced a proposed compromise text of the BWC protocol that was designed to bridge the remaining differences and launch the endgame of the negotiation. Although this tactic had worked effectively in the past for the CWC and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the response from states participating in the Ad Hoc Group was decidedly negative. At the next negotiating session, China, Russia, and other countries refused to accept the chairman’s compromise text unless their demands were met. Thus, the only way to reach consensus was for the United States and other Western Group countries to accept elements in the BWC protocol that would seriously undermine the central prohibitions of the convention itself. U.S. experts were divided on the merits of the protocol even without concessions to China, Russia, and others.[7]

In view of this situation, on July 25, 2001, the recently installed administration of President George W. Bush, which had inherited the draft protocol from its predecessor, rejected the chairman’s text and abruptly withdrew from the Ad Hoc Group, triggering the breakdown of the talks. Although the administration was widely criticized for this action, Ward contends that the flawed negotiating mandate had doomed the BWC protocol to failure. “Blaming the United States as the proximate cause for the collapse of the negotiations,” he concludes, “provided a convenient scapegoat for many… to conceal their own culpability for the impasse.”[8]

A year and a half after the failure to conclude the compliance protocol, BWC member states agreed in December 2002 to launch an “intersessional work program” of annual meetings of experts and states-parties prior to the next scheduled review conference in 2006. At the insistence of the United States, the work program focused narrowly on topics related to BWC national implementation and the prevention of bioterrorism, including penal legislation, the security of pathogen collections, investigations of alleged use of biological weapons, infectious-disease surveillance, and scientific codes of conduct. The annual meetings were limited to exchanges of information, with no effort to identify “best practices” or to develop agreed guidelines for BWC implementation.[9]

Despite its modest objectives, the intersessional work program proved useful in a number of ways. It kept the attention of the international community focused on practical measures to implement and strengthen the BWC, gradually healed the bruised feelings caused by the Bush administration’s undiplomatic rejection of the draft protocol, and engaged a variety of civil society organizations in the BWC process, including national academies of science and the International Committee of the Red Cross. In recognition of these achievements, the 2006 BWC review conference renewed the intersessional work program for another four years, until the next review conference in 2011. Even so, many of the topics of the annual meetings are being discussed for the second time, and it is increasingly clear that the process is reaching the end of its useful life and will have to be replaced by a new and more ambitious approach.

Although the Ad Hoc Group has been inactive since August 2001, it continues to exist legally, as does its negotiating mandate. In late 2007, India, Iran, Pakistan, and Russia called for resuming the BWC protocol negotiations, but any effort to revive the talks would almost certainly require a return to the flawed mandate. These concerns, combined with the technical difficulty of distinguishing between legitimate and illicit biological activities, led the Obama administration to conclude that the costs of reviving the protocol outweighed the benefits.

A Multifaceted Approach

As an alternative to a formal BWC verification regime, the Obama administration has proposed a new national strategy to counter a broad array of biological threats, natural as well as deliberate. Interagency policy development was coordinated over a period of several months by members of the National Security Council staff, who held a series of consultative meetings with U.S. government officials as well as with outside scientists, academics, and nongovernmental organizations. Setting out broad principles, the strategy document does not delineate agency roles and missions or ask Congress for the additional resources needed to carry out the proposed activities. Indeed, the document states that “[t]he implementation of this Strategy, specific actions to be taken by Federal entities, and their specific measures of performance and effectiveness will be directed separately.”[10]

The national strategy is designed to counter both state-run biological warfare programs and efforts by terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda to acquire biological weapons. For the United States, bioterrorism is arguably a greater concern because dramatic advances in the life sciences could increase the ability of small groups and individuals to cause significant harm. In the not-too-distant future, for example, sophisticated terrorists might exploit gene-synthesis technology to recreate deadly viruses in the laboratory, thereby circumventing the strict controls on access to “select agents” of bioterrorism concern.[11] To guard against the misuse of the life sciences for hostile purposes, the national strategy sets out seven objectives, the first letters of which spell out the word PROTECT: (1) Promote global health security, (2) Reinforce norms of safe and responsible conduct, (3) Obtain timely and accurate insight on current and emerging risks, (4) Take reasonable steps to reduce the potential for exploitation, (5) Expand the U.S. capability to prevent, attribute, and apprehend, (6) Communicate effectively with all stakeholders, and (7) Transform the international dialogue on biological threats.[12]

Whereas the Bush administration’s biosecurity policies focused on mitigating the consequences of a biological attack through a major investment in threat-assessment research, early-detection systems such as BioWatch, the development of medical countermeasures under Project BioShield, and other domestic preparedness measures, the Obama strategy places a far greater emphasis on prevention. A major thrust involves strengthening global infectious-disease surveillance by increasing the capacity of countries to detect outbreaks and rapidly contain them close to the source, thereby reducing their public health impact. According to the strategy document, this capability is “among the most effective ways to deter a deliberate attack and to minimize the consequences should an attack occur.”[13]

In another notable departure from past policy, the Obama strategy addresses the full spectrum of biological risks, extending from natural outbreaks of infectious disease, through laboratory accidents, to intentional state or terrorist use of biological weapons. This effort to integrate public health concerns into national security planning represents a paradigm shift from the 1990s, when natural and deliberate outbreaks were addressed in separate forums. Indeed, the World Health Organization (WHO) focused narrowly on the public health consequences of bioterrorism and shied away from the security dimensions for fear of becoming politically tainted.

Underlining the Obama administration’s holistic approach to biological threats, Tauscher announced that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will establish the first WHO collaborating center devoted to assisting developing countries to implement the 2005 revision of the International Health Regulations (IHR). These strengthened rules require all WHO member states to acquire by 2012 the capability to detect, report, and respond to outbreaks of infectious disease on their territories that have the potential to spread across international borders. The U.S. government plans to hold a two-day meeting in May 2010, under the auspices of the BWC intersessional process, at which countries can share information on offers of assistance for IHR implementation. A follow-on meeting in August will build on these discussions by examining new technologies and approaches to building core national capacities for disease surveillance.

Other elements of the Obama administration’s strategy to manage biological risks include securing collections of dangerous pathogens and toxins in partner countries and regions, establishing and reinforcing norms against the misuse of the life sciences for harmful purposes, and restricting access to “dual-use information of concern” derived from legitimate biomedical research. According to Tauscher, the strategy “strikes a balance between supporting scientific progress and curbing and stopping the potential for abuse.”[14] On November 27, for example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published in the Federal Register a set of draft biosecurity guidelines for the gene-synthesis industry. These voluntary guidelines for screening customers and DNA sequence orders are designed to prevent states or terrorist groups from ordering genetic material coding for dangerous pathogens and toxins over the Internet. At the same time, the guidelines avoid imposing burdensome regulations that could impede legitimate scientific research or handicap U.S. gene-synthesis companies vis-à-vis their foreign competitors.[15]

Although none of the individual elements in the Obama administration’s strategy are new, taken together they provide a comprehensive and coherent approach to countering biological threats.

Strengthening the BWC

The portion of the U.S. strategy document devoted to “revitalizing” the BWC notes that the convention is “the central international forum dedicated to mitigating risks posed by the development and use of biological weapons.”[16] In her speech in Geneva, Tauscher noted the critical importance for building confidence in BWC compliance of increasing the transparency of biodefense activities, which have expanded dramatically in recent years and could potentially serve as a cover for illicit biological weapons development. Nevertheless, the only tangible steps toward greater U.S. transparency mentioned in the speech were pledges to invite the 2010 chairman of the BWC intersessional meetings to visit the National Interagency Biodefense Campus at Fort Detrick in Maryland and to “work toward” posting future U.S. confidence-building-measure (CBM) declarations of data relevant to BWC compliance on a publicly accessible Web site, while encouraging other member states to follow suit.[17] These token gestures are unlikely to satisfy international pressures for greater transparency of the massive U.S. biodefense program, which has spent roughly $50 billion since 2001. So far, the Obama administration has not taken steps to cut back the bloated biodefense research enterprise, which poses serious security risks of its own, including possible insider threats.[18] Indeed, the FBI now believes that the perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, which triggered the spending boom, was a U.S. government microbiologist working at Fort Detrick in the Army’s premier biodefense laboratory.

The administration’s approach to addressing allegations of noncompliance with the BWC also seems inadequate. According to the most recent Department of State arms control compliance report, published in 2005, four BWC member states—China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia—have violated their treaty commitments. Tauscher’s speech called for “pursuing compliance diplomacy to address concerns.” It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of this measure, which is normally carried out through confidential diplomatic channels. However, the experience with the U.S.-British-Russian Trilateral Agreement of 1992, under which Washington and London failed to persuade Moscow to come clean about the Soviet biological weapons program, is not encouraging.[19]

Another shortcoming of the Obama strategy document is that it does not directly address the “institutional deficit” of the BWC. Whereas the CWC has a highly effective implementing body in the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the BWC lacks even a small professional secretariat. Although the 2006 review conference established an Implementation Support Unit consisting of three people at the UN Office in Geneva, this entity has limited capacity and a temporary mandate that must be renewed by member states at the next BWC review conference in 2011. The Graham-Talent commission recommended that the United States “support an appropriate increase in the size and stature of the…Implementation Support Unit...so that it can function as an effective facilitator and coordinator for an expanded set of BWC activities and initiatives.”[20] It is unclear, however, if the Obama administration will follow this advice and seek to expand the role of the unit.

With respect to the intersessional process, Tauscher called for the development of a “reinvigorated, comprehensive work program” for the five-year period following the 2011 review conference, including “a rigorous, comprehensive program of cooperation, information exchange, and coordination.”[21] Topics that she suggested might be addressed during the next cycle of annual meetings include revising the CBM data-declaration forms to improve their effectiveness and working to achieve universal adherence to the BWC, which, with 163 states-parties, lags far behind the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (189 parties) and the CWC (188 parties). Tauscher also proposed making the BWC “the premier forum for discussion of the full range of biological threats—including bioterrorism—and mutually agreeable steps states can take for risk management.”[22] For example, she announced that the FBI and the CDC have developed best practices for the conduct of joint criminal and epidemiological investigations of suspected biological incidents, to be presented at the BWC experts meeting in August 2010. The United States also plans to hold a workshop after the experts meeting at which interested countries can share information on biological risk-management training, standards, and needs.

Overall, the specific measures in the Obama strategy that are designed to address BWC compliance concerns—voluntary measures to increase transparency, revised forms for CBM data exchanges, bilateral compliance diplomacy, and a revamped intersessional work program—appear too weak to make much of a difference. Bolder, more meaningful transparency measures are clearly needed.

A Way Forward

To its credit, the Obama administration’s new strategy recognizes the threat posed by biological weapons in the hands of state and nonstate actors and lays out a comprehensive and cooperative approach for countering the full spectrum of biological risks. Yet despite the existence of the strategy document, it remains to be seen if the administration will give the biological weapons threat the priority it deserves and whether, in a budget-constrained environment, Congress will allocate sufficient funds for the measures needed to implement the strategy effectively. Such measures would include a global pathogen surveillance bill and assistance to developing countries for IHR implementation.

Having paid lip service to the biological threat, will the Obama administration now take concrete action or will it resume the exclusive focus on the nuclear weapons agenda that characterized its first year in office? How will the White House choose to balance the greater likelihood of biological terrorism against the greater devastation of nuclear terrorism?

A key step forward would be a “Prague II” speech by the president that underlines the salience of the biological weapons threat and the recognition that major outbreaks of infectious disease, whether natural or deliberate, endanger U.S. and international security. Such a speech would also reinforce the strategy document by setting out a concrete set of policy initiatives, while making clear that the administration is willing to allocate appropriate political and budgetary resources to the development of effective preventive measures.

With respect to strengthening the BWC, the Obama administration’s reluctance to return to the protocol is understandable, given that the flawed negotiating mandate still exists and the spread of dual-use biotechnological capabilities around the globe has exacerbated the difficulty of distinguishing illicit from legitimate biological activities. Nevertheless, the recognition that traditional verification is unrealistic in the biological weapons context is not an excuse for inaction. To move beyond the legacy of the failed protocol, the administration must think seriously about building confidence in BWC compliance through meaningful transparency measures.

The goal of U.S. policy toward the BWC should be to persuade the other states-parties to abandon the existing negotiating mandate and start over with a clean slate. Because of the technical differences between biological and chemical weapons, the CWC verification system, which focuses primarily on routine inspections of declared dual-use industry facilities, is clearly an inappropriate model for the BWC. In contrast, a transparency regime that includes “consultative visits” under Article 5 to biological facilities of concern, initiated at the request of a BWC member state, could play a significant role in deterring violations and building confidence in compliance. Such a mechanism would have to be carefully designed to avoid the pitfalls encountered with challenge inspections under the CWC. By requiring that a country requesting a challenge inspection provide evidence of an outright treaty violation by another member state, the CWC negotiators set the political bar too high, with the result that this key verification mechanism has never been used in the dozen years since the treaty entered into force.

In addition to devising a BWC transparency regime that includes a procedure for conducting site visits under Article 5 to address compliance concerns, it would be desirable for the member states to strengthen the existing mechanism under which the UN Secretary-General can launch field investigations of the alleged use of biological weapons and suspicious outbreaks of disease.[23] Another possible area for international cooperation would involve increasing the capability of BWC member states to investigate incidents of bioterrorism by employing the new discipline of microbial forensics. Recent advances in this field, spurred by the FBI’s seven-year investigation of the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, have led to the development of highly sensitive and specific assays that can determine the genetic, chemical, and physical properties of a pathogen or toxin agent used in a biological attack and assist in the process of attribution, or identifying those responsible.[24] Under the auspices of the BWC, member states might collaborate in developing strain collections and sharing microbial forensic techniques so that in the event of a bioterrorist incident, it is possible to trace the agent back to the source and, ideally, finger the perpetrators. In addition, because sampling and analysis would play a key role in any UN field investigation of alleged biological weapons use, the United States should make some of its expertise in microbial forensics available to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs.[25]

The BWC’s preamble declares that the states-parties “are determined… to exclude completely the possibility of bacteriological (biological) agents and toxins being used as weapons, [and] convinced that such use would be repugnant to the conscience of mankind and that no effort should be spared to minimize this risk.” Although the new strategy to counter biological threats is an important first step, it remains to be seen if the Obama administration and the Congress are prepared to follow through by taking the concrete actions needed to achieve biosecurity without verification.


Jonathan B. Tucker is a senior fellow specializing in biological and chemical weapons at the JamesMartinCenter for Nonproliferation Studies of the Monterey Institute of International Studies and the author of Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox (2001). He is a member of the Arms Control Association’s board of directors. In 2008, he served on the professional staff of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.


ENDNOTES

1. Ellen O. Tauscher, Address to the annual meeting of the states parties to the Biological Weapons Convention, Geneva, December 9, 2009, p. 4 (hereafter Tauscher BWC address), www.state.gov/t/us/133335.htm.

2. Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, “World at Risk,” December 2008, p. 41, www.preventwmd.gov/report/.

3. Tauscher BWC address, p. 1.

4. Article 5 provides that member states “undertake to consult one another and to cooperate in solving any problems which may arise in relation to the objective of, or in the application of the provisions of, the Convention. Consultation and cooperation pursuant to this article may also be undertaken through appropriate international procedures within the framework of the United Nations and in accordance with its Charter.” Article 6 provides that “any State Party to this Convention which finds that any other State Party is acting in breach of obligations deriving from the provisions of the Convention may lodge a complaint with the Security Council of the United Nations. Such a complaint should include all possible evidence confirming its validity, as well as a request for its consideration by the Security Council. . . . The Security Council shall inform the States Parties to the Convention of the results of the investigation.”

5. Kenneth D. Ward, “The BWC Protocol: Mandate for Failure,” Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Summer 2004), pp. 183-199.

6. Ibid., p. 195.

7. See the analyses in Arms Control Today, May 2001, pp. 14-27, www.armscontrol.org/epublish/1/v31n4.

8. Ward, “The BWC Protocol,” p. 198.

9. Jonathan B. Tucker, “The BWC New Process: A Preliminary Assessment,” Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 2004), pp. 26-39.

10. National Security Council (NSC), National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats, November 2009, p. 5, www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/National_Strategy_for_Countering_BioThreats.pdf.

11. Jonathan B. Tucker and Raymond A. Zilinskas, “The Promise and Perils of Synthetic Biology,” The New Atlantis, No. 12 (Spring 2006), pp. 25-45, www.thenewatlantis.com/archive/12/tuckerzilinskas.htm.

12. NSC, National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats, p. 4.

13. Ibid., p. 6.

14. Tauscher BWC address, p. 2.

15. Office of the Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services, “Screening Framework Guidance for Synthetic Double-Stranded DNA Providers,” Federal Register, Vol. 74, No. 227 (November 27, 2009), pp. 62319-62327.

16. NSC, National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats, p. 19.

17. Tauscher BWC address, p. 5.

18. Jonathan B. Tucker, “Biological Threat Assessment: Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?” Arms Control Today, October 2004, pp. 13-19, www.armscontrol.org/act/2004_10/Tucker.asp.

19. David C. Kelly, “The Trilateral Agreement: Lessons for Biological Weapons Verification,” in Trevor Findlay and Oliver Meier, eds., Verification Yearbook 2002 (London: Verification Research, Training and Information Centre, 2002), pp. 93-109, www.vertic.org/assets/VY02_Kelly.pdf.

20. Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, “World at Risk,” p. 42.

21. Tauscher BWC address, p. 4.

22. Ibid., p. 6.

23. Jonathan B. Tucker, “Multilateral Approaches to the Investigation and Attribution of Biological Weapons Use,” in Anne L. Clunan, Peter R. Lavoy, and Susan B. Martin, eds., Terrorism, War, or Disease?: Unraveling the Use of Biological Weapons (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008), pp. 269-292.

24. Martin Enserink, “Full-Genome Sequencing Paved the Way from Spores to a Suspect,” Science, August 15, 2008, pp. 898-899.

25. Jonathan B. Tucker and Gregory D. Koblentz, “The Four Faces of Microbial Forensics,” Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, Vol. 7, No. 4 (December 2009), pp. 389-397.

 

During a December 9 speech to the annual meeting of states-parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) in Geneva, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher declared, “The Obama administration will not seek to revive negotiations on a verification protocol to the Convention. We have carefully reviewed previous efforts to develop a verification protocol and have determined that a legally binding protocol would not achieve meaningful verification or greater security.”

In effect, President Barack Obama has decided not to reverse the 2001 decision by the Bush administration to reject a draft BWC compliance protocol that had been developed over six years of multilateral negotiations from 1995 to 2001. The protocol would have created a legally binding inspection regime for the BWC, which still lacks formal verification measures.

CORRECTIONS

CORRECTIONS

• The September 2009 ACT news article “UK Revokes Arms Export Licenses to Israel” and follow-up December 2009 Conventional Arming and Disarming article failed to note that the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports was replaced on December 8, 2008, by the EU Common Position (2008/944/CFSP) defining rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment.

• In the print edition of the December 2009 ACT, the Focus column misstated the date of the July 6 statement on START by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Obama’s Big Nuclear Test

Daryl G. Kimball

President Barack Obama’s campaign to confront global nuclear weapons threats started with a bang. In April in Prague, Obama reiterated the U.S. commitment to “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” beginning with renewed U.S. leadership to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons and permanently outlaw nuclear testing.

Since then, Obama has achieved important progress and shifted the terms of debate. U.S. and Russian negotiators have nearly finalized a new verifiable strategic arms reduction treaty, and Obama won UN Security Council support for Resolution 1887, which outlines a comprehensive plan to advance nonproliferation and disarmament objectives and safeguard vulnerable nuclear materials.

Now, the hard part begins. Within the next few months, the administration must finish and win Senate approval of the new START, secure international support for measures to strengthen the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at the May review conference, and begin to persuade undecided Senate Republicans that the time has finally come to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

To succeed, the president and his cabinet must devote far more energy to these goals and ensure that his administration’s top-to-bottom Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), due by March 1, fully supports his Prague agenda. To do so, Obama needs to implement transformational rather than incremental changes in U.S. nuclear weapons policy in at least four key areas.

First, the NPR should recognize that maintaining a large nuclear arsenal dedicated to performing a wide range of missions is unnecessary and contrary to U.S. security interests. Incredibly, even after two post-Cold War NPRs, the United States still deploys more than 2,200 strategic nuclear warheads mainly to counter a Russian nuclear attack and, if necessary, defend U.S. forces or allies against conventional attack or to counter chemical and biological threats.

Given the U.S. conventional military edge and the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons, no plausible circumstance requires or could justify the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat, and they are useless in deterring or responding to nuclear terrorism. Accordingly, the new NPR should narrow the role of nuclear weapons to a core deterrence mission: maintaining a sufficient, survivable nuclear force for the sole purpose of deterring the use of nuclear weapons by another country against the United States or its allies.

Second, a core nuclear deterrence posture would allow the United States to reduce its nuclear inventory drastically, to no more than a few hundred deployed strategic warheads on a smaller triad of delivery systems within the next few years. To help engage Russia in talks to reduce its arsenal of tactical nuclear warheads, the NPR should also open the way to a joint U.S.-NATO decision to withdraw the militarily obsolete stockpile of an estimated 200 U.S. tactical bombs from Europe.

Third, the NPR should eliminate the requirement and plans for rapid launch in response to a nuclear attack. As Obama noted during the campaign, “[K]eeping nuclear weapons ready to launch on a moment’s notice is a dangerous relic of the Cold War. Such policies increase the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation.” As president, he now has a chance to order changes to operational procedures that give the commander-in-chief far more time to consider his response to a nuclear attack or provocation and work with Russia to adopt a similar posture.

Finally, Obama’s NPR should clarify that so long as nuclear weapons exist, the United States can maintain a reliable and effective arsenal without resuming testing or building new warheads. The U.S. nuclear arsenal has been and can continue to be refurbished through non-nuclear tests and evaluations and, as necessary, the remanufacture of warhead components to previous design specifications.

Department of Energy studies completed in 2006 indicate that weapons plutonium is not affected by aging for more than 85 years, removing any need for new-design replacement warheads for reliability. The JASON independent technical review panel concluded in September that the “lifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence.”

Rather than build new plutonium and uranium facilities that increase U.S. bomb production capacity, the administration’s new stockpile management plan should refocus the nuclear weapons laboratories on core stockpile surveillance and maintenance tasks and guard against unnecessary alterations to existing warheads that could undermine reliability. Consistent with Obama’s January 2009 pledge “not to authorize new nuclear weapons,” the NPR should clarify that it is U.S. policy not to develop new-design warheads or modify existing warheads to create new military capabilities.

Obama’s NPR is a crucial test of his commitment to reducing nuclear dangers. If it fails to significantly reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security strategy, the global effort to stem the proliferation of nuclear weapons and prevent their use will falter.

President Barack Obama’s campaign to confront global nuclear weapons threats started with a bang. In April in Prague, Obama reiterated the U.S. commitment to “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” beginning with renewed U.S. leadership to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons and permanently outlaw nuclear testing. (Continue)

ACT 2009 Index

ACT 2009 Index

Author Key
For ACT Staff:

VC: Volha Charnysh

CH: Cole Harvey

EL: Eben Lindsey

JP: Jeremy Patterson

JA: Jeff Abramson

TZC: Tom Z. Collina

AH: Anna Hood

ML: Meredith Lugo

MAP: Miles A. Pomper

DA: Dan Arnaudo

PC: Peter Crail

DH: Daniel Horner

KM: Kirsten McNeil

GT: Greg Thielmann

WB: Wade Boese

EE: Emma Ensign

MK: Manasi Kakatkar

OM: Oliver Meier

RW: Rachel Weise

LC: Luke Champlin

AF: Andrew Fisher

DGK: Daryl G. Kimball

SM: Scott Miller

Additional Protocol: PC, “U.S. Ratifies Additional Protocol,” Jan./Feb., p. 36; PC, “IAEA Approves India Additional Protocol,” April, p. 39.

Biological Weapons: OM, “BWC States Address Safety, Security Measures,” Jan./Feb., p. 29; Tucker, Jonathan, “The Smallpox Destruction Debate: Could a Grand Bargain Settle the Issue?,” March, p. 6; Tucker, Jonathan, “Current Status of Smallpox Research,” March, p. 8; Tucker, Jonathan, “The Checkered History of Smallpox Research at Vector,” March, p. 11.

Book Reviews: Holum, John, “Pursuing a Nuclear Weapons-Free World,” April, p. 49 (review of George P. Shultz et al, eds., Reykjavik Revisted: Steps Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons); Ward, Barclay, “Facing the Reality of the Bomb,” June, p. 44 (review of Michael Krepon, Better Safe Than Sorry: The Ironies of Living with the Bomb); Boyer, Paul, “Burnishing Reagan’s Disarmament Credentials,” Sept., p. 53 (review of Martin Anderson and Annelise Anderson, Reagan’s Secret War: The Untold Story of His Fight to Save the World From Nuclear Disaster); DeGroot, Gerard, “Dismissing Doomsday,” Nov., p. 49 (review of John Mueller, Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism From Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda).

Chemical Weapons: OM, “States Approve OPCW Budget, Not Report,” Jan./Feb., p. 28; DA, “CW Destruction Site Begins Operation,” April, p. 36; RW, “Russia, U.S. Lag on Chemical Arms Deadline,” Jul./Aug., p. 28; OM, “Race is On for New Head of OPCW,” Sept., p. 31; OM & DH, “OPCW Chooses New Director-General,” Nov., p. 33.

China: Twomey, Christopher P., “Chinese-U.S. Strategic Affairs: Dangerous Dynamism,” Jan./Feb., p. 17; PC, “Chinese Report Discusses Nuclear Planning,” March, p. 50; Dunn, Lewis A., “Reshaping Strategic Relationships: Expanding the Arms Control Toolbox,” May, p. 15; Zhang, Hui, “Ending North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions: The Need for Stronger Chinese Action,” Jul./Aug., p. 21; LC, “China, Russia Agree on Launch Notification,” Nov., p. 32; PC, “China Says N. Korea Wants Better Relations,” Nov., p. 47.

Cluster Munitions: JA, ”Countries Sign Cluster Munitions Convention,” Jan./Feb., p. 25; JA, “U.S. Limits Clusters; Global Efforts Ongoing,” April, p. 47; JA, “CCW Extends Work on Clusters Protocol,” May, p. 31; JA, “Work on Cluster Munitions Extended Again,” Dec., p. 45; AF, “Countries Ban Investment In Cluster Munitions,” Dec., p. 46.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: DGK, “The Logic of the Test Ban Treaty,” May, p. 3; ML & DH, “Obama Shifts U.S. Stance on CTBTO Funding,” June, p. 38; DGK, “Toward a Nuclear Freeze in South Asia, Jul./Aug., p. 3; Toth, Tibor, “Building Up the Regime for Verifying the CTBT,” Sept., p. 6; ML, “Clinton Makes Case for CTBT at Conference,” Oct., p. 23; DH, “Indian Scientist Triggers Debate on Testing,” Oct., p. 38; DGK, “Why the U.S. Doesn’t Need Nuclear Testing,” Nov., p. 3.

Conference on Disarmament: Ford, Christopher A., “Five Plus Three: How to Have a Meaningful and Helpful Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty,” March, p. 24; CH, “CD Breaks Deadlock on Work Plan,” June, p. 42; Meyer, Paul, “Breakthrough and Breakdown at the Conference on Disarmament: Assessing the Prospects for an FM(C)T,” Sept., p. 19.

Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty: CH, “Russia Vetoes UN Mission in Georgia,” Jul./Aug., p. 43; Zellner, Wolfgang, “Can This Treaty Be Saved?:Breaking the Stalemate on Conventional Forces in Europe,” Sept., p. 12.

Conventional Arms Control: JA & DH, “Toward a Legally Binding Arms Trade Treaty: An Interview with British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Bill Rammell,” June, p. 23.

Conventional Weapons Transfers: JA, “U.S. Arms Notifications Spike in 2008,” March, p. 38; JA & DH, “Toward a Legally Binding Arms Trade Treaty: An Interview with British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Bill Rammell,” June, p. 23; JA, “UN Conventional Arms Register Falters,” Sept., p. 32; AF, “U.S. Expands Lead in Shrinking Arms Market,” Oct., p. 32; JA, “U.S. Supports Arms Trade Treaty Process,” Nov., p. 34; JA, “Arms Exports Fell in 2008, UN Data Say,” Nov., p. 36.

Defense Spending: SM, “Obama Cuts RRW Program,” April, p. 45; CH, “GAO Criticizes Missile Defense Programs,” April, p. 46; CH, “Gates Reorienting Missile Defense Programs,” May, p. 43; DH, “Obama Budget Seeks Rise in Tritium Capacity,” June, p. 39; CH, “Missile Defense Programs in Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010 Budgets,” June, p. 40; EE, “Veto Threat Spurs F-22 Cuts,” Sept., p. 47.

Disarmament: MK & MAP, “Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Formed,” Jan./Feb., p. 42; CH, “Disarmament Efforts Get New Impetus,” March, p. 53; MAP & PC, “Getting to Zero: An Interview With International Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Commission Co-Chair Gareth Evans,” April, p. 6; Andreasen, Steve, “A Joint Enterprise: Diplomacy to Achieve a World Without Nuclear Weapons,” April, p. 14; Rydell, Randy, “The Future of Nuclear Arms: A World United and Divided  by Zero,” April, p. 21; CH, “United Kingdom Promotes Disarmament,” April, p. 35; Dunn, Lewis A., “Reshaping Strategic Relationships: Expanding the Arms Control Toolbox,” May, p. 15; CH, “Obama Calls for Nuclear Weapons-Free World,” May, p. 29; CH, “African NWFZ Treaty Enters Into Force,” Sept., p. 26; CH, “Nuclear Arms Resolution Passed at UN Summit,” Oct., p. 22.

European Union: JA, “EU Issues Space Code of Conduct,” Jan./Feb., p. 30; MAP, “EU Pledges Funds for IAEA Fuel Bank,” Jan./Feb., p. 43; OM, “EU Nonproliferation Chief Sketches Transatlantic Agenda,” April, p. 30.

Export Controls: EE, “GAO Finds Gap in U.S. Export Controls,” Jul./Aug., p. 35; DH, “G-8 Tightens Nuclear Export Rules,” Sept., p. 33; JA, “Export Control Review Launched,” Sept., p. 49; RW, “UK Revokes Arms Export Licenses to Israel,” Sept., p. 51.

G-8 Summit: DH, “G-8 Tightens Nuclear Export Rules,” Sept., p. 33.

In Memoriam: Magraw, Katherine, “Herbert York (1921-2009),” June, p. 48; Paine, Christopher, “Edward M. Kennedy (1932-2009),” Oct., p. 53.

India: Davis, Zachary, “Stepping Back from the Brink: Avoiding a Nuclear March of Folly in South Asia,” Jan./Feb., p. 21; PC, “Russia, India Ink Nuke Cooperation Deal,” Jan./Feb., p. 40; PC, “IAEA Approves India Additional Protocol,” April, p. 39; DGK, “Toward a Nuclear Freeze in South Asia, Jul./Aug., p. 3; PC & EL, “India Launches First Nuclear Submarine,” Sept., p. 41; JA & DH, “India, U.S. Agree on Defense Trade Monitoring,” Sept., p. 42; DH, “Indian Scientist Triggers Debate on Testing,” Oct., p. 38.

International Atomic Energy Agency: MAP, “EU Pledges Funds for IAEA Fuel Bank,” Jan./Feb., p. 43; PC, “Iran Still Rebuffs IAEA Requests,” March, p. 41; Carlson, John, “Defining Noncompliance: NPT Safeguards Agreements,” May, p. 22; PC, “Five Candidates Vie for Top IAEA Post,” May, p. 30; SM, “GAO Details Nuclear Aid to Terrorism Sponsors,” May, p. 43; PC, “IAEA Budget Gets Modest Boost,” Sept., p. 34.

Iran: PC, “Iran Still Rebuffs IAEA Requests,” March, p. 41; PC, “Iran Makes First Successful Space Launch,” March, p. 42; PC, “Obama Seeks Russian Cooperation on Iran,” April, p. 41; PC, “World Powers Invite Iran to Nuclear Talks,” May, p. 41; PC, “Progress Seen in Iranian Missile Test,” June, p. 31; PC, “Congress Weighs Iran Sanctions, Diplomacy,” June, p. 32; PC, “U.S. Still Committed to Engaging Iran,” Jul./Aug., p. 40; PC, “Iran Grants Reactor Access to IAEA,” Sept., p. 29; PC, “Secret Iranian Enrichment Facility Revealed,” Oct., p. 40; PC, “Iranian Response to LEU Fuel Deal Unclear,” Nov., p. 39; Albright, David and Shire, Jacqueline, “Iran’s Growing Weapons Capability and Its Impact on Negotiations,” Dec., p. 6; Walsh, Jim, Pickering, Thomas, and Luers, William, “Iran and the Problem of Tactical Myopia,” Dec., p. 15; Kittre, Orde F., “Using Stronger Sanctions to Increase Negotiating Leverage with Iran,” Dec., p. 18; PC, “IAEA Rebukes Iran Over Secret Facility,” Dec., p. 40.

Israel: RW, “UK Revokes Arms Export Licenses to Israel,” Sept., p. 51.

Japan: Takubo, Masa, “The Role of Nuclear Weapons: Japan, the U.S., and ‘Sole Purpose’,” Nov., p. 14.

Landmines: JA, “Landmine Ban Deadlines Extended,” Jan./Feb., p. 31.

Looking Back: Ifft, Edward, “The Threshold Test Ban Treaty,” March, p. 55; Lanouette, William, “Civilian Control of Nuclear Weapons,” May, p. 45; GT, “The National Missile Defense Act of 1999,” Jul./Aug., p. 45; Scoblic, J. Peter, “Robert McNamara’s Logical Legacy,” Sept., p. 58; DGK, “Learning from the 1999 Vote on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty,” Oct., p. 46.

Missile Defense: WB, “Test Hit, Diplomatic Flop for U.S. Missile Defense,” Jan./Feb., p. 34; CH, “GAO Criticizes Missile Defense Programs,” April, p. 46; CH, “Gates Reorienting Missile Defense Programs,” May, p. 43; CH, “Missile Defense Programs in Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010 Budgets,” June, p. 40; EL, “MDA Tests Laser Amid Budget Cutbacks,” Jul./Aug., p. 36; CH, “Obama Shifts Gears on Missile Defense,” Oct., p. 19; Gormley, Dennis M., “Winning on Ballistic Missiles but Losing on Cruise: The Missile Proliferation Battle,” Dec., p. 22.

Missile Tests: PC, “North Korea Seen Preparing for Missile Launch,” March, p. 49; PC, “N. Korea Launches Rocket, Renounces Talks,” May, p. 37; PC, “Progress Seen in Iranian Missile Test,” June, p. 31; Zhang, Hui, “Ending North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions: The Need for Stronger Chinese Action,” Jul./Aug., p. 21; PC, “South Korea Attempts First Space Launch,” Sept., p. 37; LC, “Russia Defends Struggling Missile Program,” Oct., p. 45; Gormley, Dennis M., “Winning on Ballistic Missiles but Losing on Cruise: The Missile Proliferation Battle,” Dec., p. 22.

NATO: OM, “NATO, Arms Control and Nonproliferation: An Alliance Divided,” April, p. 29; OM, “Steinmeier Calls for U.S. to Withdraw Nukes,” May, p. 34; OM, “German Nuclear Stance Stirs Debate,” Dec., p. 30.

Nonproliferation: Fitzpatrick, Mark, “Drawing a Bright Red Line: Forestalling Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East,” Jan./Feb., p. 10; PC, “Compliance Report Delays Continue,” Jan./Feb., p. 36; DGK, “Learning from the A.Q. Kahn Affair,” March, p. 3; MAP, “U.S., UAE Sign Nuclear Cooperation Pact,” March, p. 44; Andreasen, Steve, “A Joint Enterprise: Diplomacy to Achieve a World Without Nuclear Weapons,” April, p. 14; Rydell, Randy, “The Future of Nuclear Arms: A World United and Divided  by Zero,” April, p. 21; OM, “EU Nonproliferation Chief Sketches Transatlantic Agenda,” April, p. 30; PC, “Obama Seeks Russian Cooperation on Iran,” April, p. 41; DGK, “The Logic of the Test Ban Treaty,” May, p. 3; Luongo, Kenneth, “Loose Nukes in New Neighborhoods: The Next Generation of Proliferation Prevention,” May, p. 6; CH, “Obama Calls for Nuclear Weapons-Free World,” May, p. 29; SM, “GAO Details Nuclear Aid to Terrorism Sponsors,” May, p. 43; Johnson, Rebecca, “Enhanced Prospects for 2010: An Analysis of the Third PrepCom and the Outlook for the 2010 NPT Review Conference,” June, p. 16; DH, “U.S., UAE Sign New Nuclear Cooperation Pact,” June, p. 34; CH & DH, “Nonproliferation Budget Sees Some Hikes,” June, p. 37; PC, “U.S. Still Committed to Engaging Iran,” Jul./Aug., p. 40; DH, “Nuclear Security Summit Planned for March,” Sept., p. 36; DH, “Process for Nuclear Pacts Flawed, GAO Says,” Sept., p. 49; DGK, “All Together Now,” Oct., p. 3; Kelleher, Catherine M. and Warren, Scott L., “Getting to Zero Starts Here: Tactical Nuclear Weapons,” Oct., p. 6; CH, “Nuclear Arms Resolution Passed at UN Summit,” Oct., p. 22; PC, “Secret Iranian Enrichment Facility Revealed,” Oct., p. 40; DH & TZC, “Pressing a Broad Agenda for Combating Nuclear Dangers: An Interview with Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher,” Nov., p. 6; CH & DH, “Congress Funds Nonproliferation Work,” Nov., p. 44; Albright, David and Shire, Jacqueline, “Iran’s Growing Weapons Capability and Its Impact on Negotiations,” Dec., p. 6; PC, “IAEA Rebukes Iran Over Secret Facility,” Dec., p. 40.

North Korea: Wit, Joel S., “Dealing with North Korea: ‘Diplomatic Warfare Ahead’,” Jan./Feb., p. 14; PC, “Six-Party Talks Stall Over Sampling,” Jan./Feb., p. 38; PC, “Bosworth Named Special Representative for NK,” March, p. 47; PC, “North Korea Seen Preparing for Missile Launch,” March, p. 49; PC, “U.S., Allies Warn Against NK Space Launch,” April, p. 38; DGK, “Testing the World’s Patience,” June, p. 3; PC, “N. Korea Launches Rocket, Renounces Talks,” May, p. 37; PC, “N. Korean Nuclear Test Prompts Global Rebuke,” June, p. 27; Zhang, Hui, “Ending North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions: The Need for Stronger Chinese Action,” Jul./Aug., p. 21; PC, “UN Tightens North Korea Sanctions,” Jul./Aug., p. 31; PC, “UN Adds to North Korea Sanctions List,” Sept., p. 39; PC, “North Korea, U.S. Seen Preparing for Talks,” Oct., p. 35; PC, “China Says N. Korea Wants Better Relations,” Nov., p. 47; PC, “U.S. to Send Senior Envoy to Pyongyang,” Dec., p. 48.

Nuclear Black Markets: DGK, “Learning from the A.Q. Kahn Affair,” March, p. 3; PC, “Abdul Qadeer Khan Freed From House Arrest,” March, p. 51; Mowatt-Larssen, Rolf, “Nuclear Security in Pakistan: Reducing the Risks of Nuclear Terrorism,” Jul./Aug., p. 6; Khan, Feroz Hassan, “Nuclear Security in Pakistan: Separating Myth from Reality,” Jul./Aug., p. 12.

Nuclear Cooperation Agreements: PC, “Russia, India Ink Nuke Cooperation Deal,” Jan./Feb., p. 40; MAP, “U.S., UAE Sign Nuclear Cooperation Pact,” March, p. 44; DH, “Presidents Back U.S.-Russian Civil Nuclear Pact,” May, p. 36; DH, “Part of GNEP Officially Cancelled,” May, p. 42; DH, “U.S., UAE Sign New Nuclear Cooperation Pact,” June, p. 34; DH, “Process for Nuclear Pacts Flawed, GAO Says,” Sept., p. 49; DH, “UAE-U.S. Nuclear Pact Gets Green Light,” Nov., p. 46.

Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Meerburg, Arend and Von Hippel, Frank N., “Complete Cutoff: Designing a Comprehensive Fissile Material Treaty,” March, p. 16; Meerburg, Arend and Von Hippel, Frank N., “Key Countries and a Fissile Material (Cutoff) Treaty,” March, p. 22; Ford, Christopher A., “Five Plus Three: How to Have a Meaningful and Helpful Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty,” March, p. 24; MAP, “Ukraine Set to Join Enrichment Facility,” March, p. 53: MAP, “IAEA Fuel Bank Advances,” April, p. 47; DH, “Part of GNEP Officially Cancelled,” May, p. 42; DH, “S. Korean Pyroprocessing Awaits U.S. Decision,” Jul./Aug., p. 33; DH & OM, “Talks on Fuel Bank Stalled at IAEA,” Oct., p. 24.

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: Carlson, John, “Defining Noncompliance: NPT Safeguards Agreements,” May, p. 22; Johnson, Rebecca, “Enhanced Prospects for 2010: An Analysis of the Third PrepCom and the Outlook for the 2010 NPT Review Conference,” June, p. 16; CH, “Nuclear Arms Resolution Passed at UN Summit,” Oct., p. 22.

Nuclear Suppliers Group: PC, “Russia, India Ink Nuke Cooperation Deal,” Jan./Feb., p. 40; DH, “Accord on New Rules Eludes Nuclear Suppliers,” Jul./Aug., p. 29; DH, “G-8 Tightens Nuclear Export Rules,” Sept., p. 33.

Pakistan: Davis, Zachary, “Stepping Back from the Brink: Avoiding a Nuclear March of Folly in South Asia,” Jan./Feb., p. 21; DGK, “Learning from the A.Q. Kahn Affair,” March, p. 3; PC, “Abdul Qadeer Khan Freed From House Arrest,” March, p. 51; PC, “Pakistani Nuclear Stocks Safe, Officials Say,” June, p. 29; DGK, “Toward a Nuclear Freeze in South Asia,” Jul./Aug., p. 3; Mowatt-Larssen, Rolf, “Nuclear Security in Pakistan: Reducing the Risks of Nuclear Terrorism,” Jul./Aug., p. 6; Khan, Feroz Hassan, “Nuclear Security in Pakistan: Separating Myth from Reality,” Jul./Aug., p. 12.

Russia: Steinbruner, John, “Engagement with Russia: Managing Risks, Repairing Rifts,” Jan./Feb., p. 6; PC, “Russia, India Ink Nuke Cooperation Deal,” Jan./Feb., p. 40; DGK, “Pressing the Nuclear Reset Button,” April, p. 3; PC, “Obama Seeks Russian Cooperation on Iran,” April, p. 41; Dunn, Lewis A., “Reshaping Strategic Relationships: Expanding the Arms Control Toolbox,” May, p. 15; DH, “Presidents Back U.S.-Russian Civil Nuclear Pact,” May, p. 36; CH, “U.S., Russia Continue Talks on START,” June, p. 41; TZC, “Administration Pushes to Finish ‘New START’,” Sept., p. 43; Kelleher, Catherine M. and Warren, Scott L., “Getting to Zero Starts Here: Tactical Nuclear Weapons,” Oct., p. 6; LC, “Russia Defends Struggling Missile Program,” Oct., p. 45; LC, “China, Russia Agree on Launch Notification,” Nov., p. 32; TZC, “U.S., Russia Poised for Arsenal Cuts,” Dec., p. 35; LC & VC, “Russia Plans Changes to Military Doctrine,” Dec., p. 36.

Sanctions: DA, “Bush Imposes Final Proliferation Sanctions,” March, p. 36; PC, “Congress Weighs Iran Sanctions, Diplomacy,” June, p. 32; PC, “UN Tightens North Korea Sanctions,” Jul./Aug., p. 31; PC, “UN Adds to North Korea Sanctions List,” Sept., p. 39; Walsh, Jim, Pickering, Thomas, and Luers, William, “Iran and the Problem of Tactical Myopia,” Dec., p. 15; Kittre, Orde F., “Using Stronger Sanctions to Increase Negotiating Leverage with Iran,” Dec., p. 18.

Small Arms: JA, “Afghan Small Arms Records Incomplete,” March, p. 46; EE, “Arms Collection Begins in Southern Sudan,” Sept., p. 27.

South Korea: DH, “S. Korean Pyroprocessing Awaits U.S. Decision,” Jul./Aug., p. 33; PC, “South Korea Attempts First Space Launch,” Sept., p. 37.

Space: JA, “EU Issues Space Code of Conduct,” Jan./Feb., p. 30; PC, “Iran Makes First Successful Space Launch,” March, p. 42; PC, “U.S., Allies Warn Against NK Space Launch,” April, p. 38; PC, “South Korea Attempts First Space Launch,” Sept., p. 37; Samson, Victoria, “Making a Mark in Space: An Analysis of Obama’s Options for a New U.S. Space Policy,” Oct., p. 13.

Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty: CH, “Disarmament Efforts Get New Impetus,” March, p. 53; DGK, “Pressing the Nuclear Reset Button,” April, p. 3; CH, “Russia, U.S. Seek START Successor by Year End,” April, p. 27; CH, “U.S., Russia Agree on Path for New Arms Cuts,” May, p. 33; CH, “U.S., Russia Continue Talks on START,” June, p. 41; TZC, “Administration Pushes to Finish ‘New START’,” Sept., p. 43; TZC, “Pentagon Defends Planned Arms Cuts,” Sept., p. 46; TZC, “START Deadline Looms; Endgame Begins,” Nov., p. 29; DGK, “A New START,” Dec., p. 3; TZC, “U.S., Russia Poised for Arsenal Cuts,” Dec., p. 35.

Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty: TZC, “U.S., Russia Poised for Arsenal Cuts,” Dec., p. 35.

Syria: PC, “IAEA: Syrian Reactor Explanation Suspect,” March, p. 45; PC, “IAEA Finds Uranium at Second Syrian Site,” Jul./Aug., p. 39; PC & AH, “IAEA’s Syria Probe Remains Stalled,” Oct., p. 43; PC, “IAEA Disputes Syrian Uranium Claims,” Dec., p. 43.

Threat Reduction: Luongo, Kenneth, “Loose Nukes in New Neighborhoods: The Next Generation of Proliferation Prevention,” May, p. 6; CH & DH, “Nonproliferation Budget Sees Some Hikes,” June, p. 37.

United Kingdom: CH, “Disarmament Efforts Get New Impetus,” March, p. 53; CH, “United Kingdom Promotes Disarmament,” April, p. 35; RW, “UK Revokes Arms Export Licenses to Israel,” Sept., p. 51.

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy: DGK, “Reassessing the Role of Nuclear Weapons,” Jan./Feb., p. 3; CH, “Obama Sets New Course on Arms Control,” March, p. 35; SM, “Nuclear Management Change Recommended,” March, p. 37; OM, “Steinmeier Calls for U.S. to Withdraw Nukes,” May, p. 34; Kristensen, Hans M. and Oelrich, Ivan, “Lots of Hedging, Little Leading: An Analysis of the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission Report,” June, p. 6; DH, “Obama Budget Seeks Rise in Tritium Capacity,” June, p. 39; DGK, “Change U.S. Nuclear Policy? Yes, We Can,” Sept., p. 3; RW, “Air Force Creates New Global Strike Command,” Sept., p. 48; Takubo, Masa, “The Role of Nuclear Weapons: Japan, the U.S., and ‘Sole Purpose’,” Nov., p. 14; TZC & DH, “Officials Air Views on Key Stockpile Issue,” Nov., p. 42; CH & DH, “Congress Funds Nonproliferation Work,” Nov., p. 44; TZC, “Scientists See Stockpile Lasting for Decades,” Dec., p. 38.

U.S. Nuclear Weapons R&D and Testing: SM, “NNSA Completes B61 Refurbishment,” March, p. 40; SM, “Nuclear Refurbishment Problems Reported,” April, p. 45; SM, “National Ignition Facility Completed,” May, p. 44.

U.S. Security Policy: KM, “Report Predicts Future Global Arms Trends,” Jan./Feb., p. 31; DA, “WMD Commission Issues Findings,” Jan./Feb., p. 33; CH, “Obama Sets New Course on Arms Control,” March, p. 35; EL, “Obama Arms Control Team Fills Out,” Jul./Aug., p. 37; DH & TZC, “Pressing a Broad Agenda for Combating Nuclear Dangers: An Interview with Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher,” Nov., p. 6; Elliott, David, “Weighing the Case for a Convention to Limit Cyberwarfare,” Nov., p. 21; OM, “German Nuclear Stance Stirs Debate,” Dec., p. 30; CH, “U.S. Takes New Stance on Some Issues at UN,” Dec., p. 44.

WMD Terrorism: DA, “WMD Commission Issues Findings,” Jan./Feb., p. 33.

 

News Briefs

W. African Pact on Small Arms Enters Into Force

Andrew Fisher

Signaling further progress on controlling the transfer of small arms and light weapons in Africa, the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced Nov. 20 the entry into force of the Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials, three years after it was opened for signature in 2006.

In a statement at the ECOWAS Council of Ministers meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, ECOWAS Commission President Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas said the convention “provides for a ban of arms transfer by member states, with possibility of exemption for legitimate defense and security needs, law enforcement and participation in peace support operations” and prohibits “without exception, arms transfer to non-state actors without the approval of the importing country.”

The ban came into force following the Sept. 29 ratification by Benin, which joined Burkina Faso, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo as a party to the treaty. The other members of ECOWAS are Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau. Under the terms of the 2006 treaty, it enters into force on the date of deposit of the ninth instrument of ratification.

The convention replaces a 1998 political commitment to a moratorium on the import and export of small arms.


New CTBT Station Draws Iranian Rebuke

Meri Lugo

Calling the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) a “security and espionage treaty,” an Iranian official said in early December “it is clear” that the purpose of a recently constructed seismic monitoring station in Turkmenistan is “to monitor Iran.”

Abolfazl Zohrehvand, an adviser to Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, made the comments to Iranian state news outlet IRNA; they were reported by the Associated Press Dec. 9.

The seismic station, which operates continuously, was recently completed near Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, a few kilometers from the Iranian border. As part of the International Monitoring System (IMS), it is one of 337 planned monitoring stations around the world designed to verify the CTBT by detecting nuclear tests. More than 250 stations  have already been built and certified and are actively transmitting data, according to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which is responsible for building the monitoring network.

The Ashgabat station is now undergoing testing and is expected to be certified in 2010.

In a Jan. 4 e-mail to Arms Control Today, CTBTO spokesperson Annika Thunborg said Iran “is a very active member of the CTBTO and participates in all its meetings.” All CTBTO member states “have equal rights when it comes to receiving all information registered by the [IMS],” she said.

The construction and establishment of the Ashgabat facility did not differ from those of any other IMS station, Thunborg added. The type and location of the station “were decided already in the treaty negotiations in the mid 1990s in which Iran partook,” she said.

Currently, Iran has three IMS stations within its borders—one certified and two in the testing stages.


Defense Trade Treaties Remain in Committee

Jeff Abramson

Although the current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed more optimism than his predecessor about moving forward on two defense trade cooperation treaties, the pacts remained stalled in the committee after a Dec. 10 hearing. The 2007 treaties with Australia and the United Kingdom provide a framework for licensing exemptions for preapproved defense projects and firms; proponents argue that the accords will help speed development and deployment of counterterrorism and other technology.

But, at a May 2008 hearing on the treaties, then-Chairman Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and ranking member Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) asked for greater detail on how the treaties would be implemented. Some of the questioning focused on changes that might be needed in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. (See ACT, November 2008.)

Since then, the Department of State submitted draft regulations, which Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) noted as progress in his opening remarks at the December hearing. Kerry said he intends “to move forward in drafting and passing a resolution of advice and consent to ratification.”

Lugar raised numerous questions about the schedule for completing the draft regulations, how the treaty would be enforced, and congressional involvement in monitoring arms trade and implementation of the treaty. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro and Associate Deputy Attorney General James A. Baker said they would try to have additional written answers and revised regulations by mid-January.


Poland, U.S. Sign Agreement for Missile Site

Volha Charnysh

Poland and the United States signed an agreement Dec. 11 to station some 100 U.S. soldiers on Polish territory to install and operate a set of short- and medium-range missile interceptors. According to the U.S. Department of State, the status of forces agreement (SOFA) “will facilitate a range of mutually agreed activities including joint training and exercises, deployments of U.S. military personnel, and prospective Ballistic Missile Defense deployments.”

The signing of a SOFA is a prerequisite for stationing U.S. troops abroad. According to a Dec. 11 report by RIA Novosti, the first troop rotation is expected to arrive in Poland by the end of March 2010 and will service Patriot missiles.

The December agreement strengthens the national security of Poland, Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich said. The Polish news agency PAP quoted Klich as saying that the agreement would enable the United States to meet its commitments under the Declaration on Strategic Cooperation, which was signed Aug. 20, 2008. The declaration allowed parts of a U.S. missile defense system to be stationed in Poland.

The SOFA comes three months after the Bush-era missile defense system plan in Poland and the CzechRepublic was modified. (See ACT, October 2009.) Under the new plan, the United States would deploy a mobile, land-based version of the Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) in central Europe and ship-based SM-3s in the North and Mediterranean seas. The troops to be stationed in Poland under the SOFA are a part of that plan.


Two More Countries Ratify Cluster Convention

Jeff Abramson

Belgium and New Zealand deposited their instruments of ratification to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in December, becoming the 25th and 26th states to do so, while Cameroon became the 104th signatory state. The treaty was opened for signature in December 2008 and will enter into force six months after the 30th state ratifies it. The pact bans the use of nearly all cluster munitions and obligates states to destroy stockpiles, conduct clearance efforts, and take steps to help victims. (See ACT, December 2008.)

 

 

Short updates on a range of topics.

Pakistani Nuclear Weapons Now Under PM

Eric Auner

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari turned over formal control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in November amid continuing political upheaval and doubts about the future of his presidency.

Zardari’s decision to give up the chairmanship of the National Command Authority (NCA) “was not taken in isolation or under any pressure, rather [it was] meant to decentralize the powers” of the president, Press Secretary to the President Taimur Azmat Osman said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press of Pakistan, a government-run news agency. The text of the Nov. 27 ordinance implementing the decision was not available at press time.

Many analysts in the region and in the United States say the transfer will not have a significant effect on the practical control of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal. In an op-ed published in Pakistan’s Daily Times, journalist Ahmed Rashid wrote that changes to the NCA would not affect the army’s control over the country’s nuclear weapons because “[c]ivilians have never controlled Pakistan’s nuclear program.” Smruti S. Pattanaik, a research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, wrote on the institute’s Web site, “An elected President (and now the Prime Minister) chairing the NCA gives him notional control over nuclear weapons and thus creates a sense of civilian ownership.… Such a change of guard from President to Prime Minister does not portend any major shift in civilian control over the Army.”

Michael Krepon, co-founder of the HenryL.StimsonCenter in Washington, wrote on the center’s Web site that it is unclear whether “changes in the NCA and public releases of information about them [are] helpful or harmful to nuclear stabilization on the subcontinent.”

In 2000, Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf created the NCA to oversee Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and formulate nuclear policy. The precise function and role of the NCA were clarified in the 2007 National Command Authority Ordinance. According to that ordinance, the NCA is intended to exercise “complete command and control over research, development, production and use of nuclear and space technologies…and to provide for the safety and security of all personnel, facilities, information, installations or organisations” relating to the nuclear and space programs.

According to Krepon, Musharraf’s creation of the NCA gave Pakistan “a stable, institutional structure for Pakistan’s nuclear decision making.” Zardari replaced Musharraf as president in 2008, inheriting many of the broad powers that Musharraf had claimed for himself as president.

In the 2007 NCA ordinance, the president is named as NCA chairman and the prime minister is named as vice chairman.

The transfer of nuclear authority occurred the day before the expiration of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a 2007 ordinance that had granted Zardari immunity from prosecution. The expiration of the NRO, which was declared void “ab initio,” meaning that the ordinance was not legal in the first place, by the Pakistani Supreme Court Dec. 16, has caused a political firestorm in Pakistan. The NRO had protected many important Pakistani political figures from prosecution on charges ranging from corruption to murder. Although Zardari is still immune from prosecution as president, there have been calls for him to resign. According to the Indian newspaper The Hindu, former Prime Minister and current opposition leader Nawaz Sharif has called for all NRO beneficiaries to resign, although he did not mention Zardari by name.

The NCA chairmanship is just one of the powers that Zardari has given away as part of what many observers see as a bid to maintain his troubled presidency. However, according to Rashid, “There is enormous political speculation as to whether that will satisfy the army or only embolden it to press further for Zardari’s resignation.”

In a Dec. 9 New York Times op-ed, Zardari framed the change in the context of “mov[ing] forcefully to re-establish the traditional powers of the presidency as defined in the parliamentary model on which our Constitution is based.” He said the change in nuclear leadership is “not a sign of weakness, but rather a demonstration of the vitality of Pakistani democracy.”

 

 

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari turned over formal control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in November amid continuing political upheaval and doubts about the future of his presidency.

Zardari’s decision to give up the chairmanship of the National Command Authority (NCA) “was not taken in isolation or under any pressure, rather [it was] meant to decentralize the powers” of the president, Press Secretary to the President Taimur Azmat Osman said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press of Pakistan, a government-run news agency. The text of the Nov. 27 ordinance implementing the decision was not available at press time.

Indian-U.S. Nuclear Trade Still Faces Hurdles

Daniel Horner

More than a year after the Indian-U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement entered into force, multiple obstacles remain before U.S. companies can receive licenses for nuclear exports to India, documents and interviews indicate.

The countries have not yet agreed on a pact on Indian reprocessing of U.S.-origin material or worked out the arrangements for nuclear technology transfers from the United States to India. Nor has the Indian parliament approved nuclear liability legislation. Those issues have been publicly aired for months. (See ACT, October 2009.)

Another issue relates to a provision in a 2008 U.S. law dealing with the nuclear facilities that India opens to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) cannot issue licenses for nuclear trade with India until India meets the requirements of that provision. In a Jan. 8 e-mail to Arms Control Today, the Department of State said it had not yet determined that India met the requirements.

Placing some of its reactors under IAEA safeguards was a key part of a deal between India and the United States to ease U.S. and international nuclear trade restrictions on India, which is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and conducted nuclear test explosions in 1974 and 1998.

In separate actions in 2008, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which has more than 40 member countries, and the U.S. Congress lifted restrictions that had been in place for three decades on nuclear trade with India. (See ACT, October 2008).

Currently, the only Indian reactors under safeguards are those that were or are being built with foreign assistance: two units apiece at Tarapur, Rajasthan, and Kudankulam.

As part of the nuclear deal, originally announced in a joint statement during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the United States in July 2005 and further elaborated in later statements, India was to place under safeguards 14 of the 22 power reactors that were in operation or under construction. That meant declaring eight reactors in addition to the six that were already under safeguards.

In a document submitted to parliament on May 11, 2006, the Indian government listed 14 reactors, in chronological order of when they would be “offered for safeguards.” The first six on the list are the ones already under safeguards.

The document is known as the “separation plan” because one of India’s commitments under the deal with the United States was to separate its military reactors from civilian ones and place the latter under safeguards. In addition to the reactors, the document lists a number of fuel cycle facilities to be placed under safeguards. The list includes six “upstream facilities,” which are facilities, such as fuel fabrication plants, that are part of the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle.

In submittals to the IAEA last October, India listed eight reactors—the six already under safeguards, plus two more units at Rajasthan—and the six upstream facilities. A Nov. 12 IAEA document summarizes the submittals.

Under the 2008 law, which approved the Indian-U.S. cooperation agreement that the Bush administration had negotiated, the NRC cannot issue the necessary licenses until India has given the IAEA a list of facilities that is “not materially inconsistent with” the separation plan.

In the Jan. 8 e-mail, the State Department said that “the NRC cannot currently issue licenses related to the US-India [nuclear cooperation] agreement. The matter is still pending.” The agreement entered into force in December 2008.

An Indian official said his government would offer facilities for safeguards in accordance with the separation plan and India’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA. The separation plans says India will declare the 14 reactors by 2014.

The question of the criteria for issuance of NRC licenses is a matter for the U.S. government and Congress to decide, the official said in a Jan. 12 interview.

Other Obstacles

India has said there will be no contracts with U.S. companies until the two countries have concluded the reprocessing agreement. Last November, there was a wave of expectation in some quarters that the agreement would be signed during Singh’s visit to the United States that month. Right after the visit, Indian officials publicly said they expected a signing in another week or two.

In a Jan. 6 interview, a former U.S. official said the differences between the two sides were down to “two or three items” and were “nothing fundamental.” It is a question of “finding formulations that both sides’ lawyers can live with” rather than “big philosophical questions,” he said.

The discussions over the technology transfers relate to the “nuclear export accountability program” laid out in the 2006 U.S. law known as the Hyde Act, which opened the door to U.S. nuclear trade with India but set a number of nonproliferation conditions. The provision on technology transfers requires more detailed reporting on them than U.S. law generally requires. (See ACT, September 2009.)

Although not mandated by U.S. law, nuclear liability legislation is important to U.S. companies that are in the running to build Indian reactors, the biggest potential prize in the Indian nuclear market. Such legislation would cap the companies’ liability if an accident occurred at one of their plants. The former U.S. official said the liability legislation could be introduced in the Indian parliament in the next two or three months.

At this point, none of the various obstacles are holding up business, he said. Although some accounts have suggested that contracts are imminent, he said he “wouldn’t take that at face value.”

 

 

More than a year after the Indian-U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement entered into force, multiple obstacles remain before U.S. companies can receive licenses for nuclear exports to India, documents and interviews indicate.

The countries have not yet agreed on a pact on Indian reprocessing of U.S.-origin material or worked out the arrangements for nuclear technology transfers from the United States to India. Nor has the Indian parliament approved nuclear liability legislation. Those issues have been publicly aired for months.

U.S. Envoy Holds Talks in North Korea

Peter Crail

The Obama administration held its first senior-level meetings with North Korean officials Dec. 8-10 in an attempt to restart multilateral denuclearization talks Pyongyang abandoned in April.

The U.S. interagency delegation was led by Stephen Bosworth, the special representative for North Korea policy, who described the talks during a Dec. 16 press briefing as “quite positive.” He added, however, that it was not yet clear when and how the multilateral talks would be restarted. Bosworth met with North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju and nuclear envoy Kim Gye Gwan.

Following a UN Security Council rebuke of North Korea’s April 5 rocket launch, Pyongyang renounced the six-party talks in which it had participated intermittently with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States since 2003. (See ACT, May 2009.) North Korea declared at that time that it would “never participate in such talks” again but appeared to back away from that position last summer. (See ACT, October 2009.)

According to Bosworth, North Korea indicated that it would like to resume the six-party talks and “agreed on the essential nature” of a September 2005 joint statement by the six countries. In the statement, North Korea committed to abandoning its nuclear weapons programs in return for a normalization of relations and economic aid. Bosworth noted that Beijing, as the chair of the multilateral talks, would lead further consultations to restart them. “I would expect that this process will move forward,” he said. No further talks between Washington and Pyongyang are currently scheduled.

While in Pyongyang, Bosworth delivered a letter from President Barack Obama to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Dec. 16 that the letter sought to convince Kim to “come back to the table and ultimately live up to” his country’s disarmament agreements.

Bosworth’s visit came just days before law enforcement authorities in Thailand seized about 35 tons of smuggled arms aboard a North Korean plane. Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn told reporters Dec. 14 the cargo was bound for “a destination in the Middle East.”

Reportedly acting on a tip from the United States, Thai authorities inspected the plane Dec. 12 after it made an unscheduled landing in Bangkok. The authorities said the weapons included rocket-propelled grenades, surface-to-air rockets, and other heavy weapons. Panitan said that Thailand detained the crew of five, who were charged with the possession of heavy weapons and false cargo manifests. Police spokesman Pongsapat Pongcharoen told reporters Dec. 14 that the crew said they believed they were transporting oil drilling equipment.

North Korea has been subject to an extensive arms embargo since June, when the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1874 in response to that country’s May nuclear test. (See ACT, July/August 2009.) The resolution calls on states to inspect suspect North Korean transports and seize and destroy goods that violate the UN sanctions, including major military armaments and materials that could be used to produce missiles or nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. North Korea relies on such sales to obtain foreign currency.

The seizure was the second one under the resolution’s authority to be made public since passage of the resolution, following a similar interception of a North Korean arms shipment by the United Arab Emirates last August. (See ACT, September 2009.) India inspected a suspicious North Korean vessel in its territorial waters in August, but it was not found to be carrying contraband. The Thai interdiction was the first reported incident involving air cargo.

The arms seizure does not appear likely to influence discussions with North Korea. When asked about the incident, Bosworth said the issue will be handled by a UN committee overseeing the sanctions on North Korea, but that it shows how the sanctions are effective and important. He also said that, in his meetings with officials in Seoul, Beijing, Tokyo, and Moscow, the other six-party talks participants expressed strong support for continuing the sanctions on North Korea.

Following meetings in Seoul Dec. 17, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin told reporters that “the sanctions against North Korea must be fulfilled” until North Korea has halted its nuclear program.

 

 

The Obama administration held its first senior-level meetings with North Korean officials Dec. 8-10 in an attempt to restart multilateral denuclearization talks Pyongyang abandoned in April.

The U.S. interagency delegation was led by Stephen Bosworth, the special representative for North Korea policy, who described the talks during a Dec. 16 press briefing as “quite positive.” He added, however, that it was not yet clear when and how the multilateral talks would be restarted. Bosworth met with North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju and nuclear envoy Kim Gye Gwan.

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