The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
March 2011
Edition Date: 
Thursday, March 3, 2011
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Unrest Complicates 2012 Middle East Meeting

Anne Penketh

The upheavals sweeping across the Middle East have cast a long shadow over diplomatic negotiations aimed at organizing a conference on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in that region, according to officials involved in the process.

“We are absolutely committed” to the conference, said President Barack Obama’s WMD coordinator, Gary Samore, in a Feb. 16 telephone interview. “But there’s a lot of uncertainty because of the unrest in the Middle East.” In other interviews in recent weeks, officials from other countries also voiced some concern about the possible impact of the turmoil that has engulfed several of the core states that would be expected to attend the conference. The forum, to be attended by “all states” of the region, is supposed to be convened next year under a consensus decision by the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. (See ACT, June 2010).

The Egyptian revolution that exploded in January came at a critical phase in the preparations for holding the unprecedented regional conference, which would be notable for bringing Israel and Iran to the table for discussions on security and disarmament issues. Israel is the region’s sole presumed nuclear-weapon state, but remains outside the NPT, while Iran’s uranium-enrichment program, which continues in defiance of the UN Security Council, has raised suspicions about Iranian intentions. “To guarantee success, Israelis and Iranians must be there,” said Mohamed Shaker, the president of the 1985 NPT Review Conference in a Jan. 31 interview in Cairo.

Until now, there has been no obvious progress toward convening the 2012 forum. No facilitator has been appointed, and there is no agreement on which states should attend or on a date and venue for the conference, let alone on the agenda. Yet, diplomats and officials taking the lead in the organizational process—from Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the UN secretary-general’s office—remain committed to implementing the review conference decision on holding the 2012 conference. They say consultations are now under way in earnest. An EU seminar is scheduled to be held this summer as part of the preparations for the conference mandated by the 189 states-parties at the review conference, according to EU diplomats.

Samore said the co-sponsors hope to reach agreement “before the summer” with the regional players on a host government for the event and on a facilitator, who may come from the same country.

But he cautioned that there is no guarantee that the conference will be held. “We have to try to make it happen,” he said. Referring to the Middle East turmoil, he added, “We don’t know what effect it will have on foreign policy, and governments may be distracted.”

Signs of Impatience

In the region, there are signs of impatience with the conveners. Arab diplomats said they had hoped that the Arab League summit in Baghdad at the end of March would be able to endorse the choice of facilitator, with a view to holding the conference itself before May 2012. “This is a major concern for us, that nothing has moved. There’s no facilitator and no site for the conference,” said Maged Abdelaziz, Egypt’s UN ambassador, who led the diplomatic push on the WMD-free zone at the NPT review conference last May. Establishing such a zone has been a primary goal of Egyptian diplomacy for decades. At the 1995 NPT review conference, the Arab Group successfully pushed for the adoption of a resolution on establishing a WMD-free zone in return for agreeing to the indefinite extension of the NPT.

Shaker, who is now the chairman of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, said it would be a shame if the Nile revolution affected the 2012 process. “Even with Egypt in chaos, we cannot lose sight of this issue which is so important for peace in the Middle East,” he said, speaking in his office on the seventh day of the 18-day Egyptian uprising.

There has been uncertainty about the Israeli government’s intentions regarding the 2012 conference. In the past, Israel has joined the other states in the UN General Assembly in officially endorsing the concept of a WMD-free zone as an ultimate goal. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily reacted to the review conference final document, which reaffirmed the importance of Israel joining the NPT and placing “all its nuclear facilities” under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. Netanyahu warned that Israel would not attend. The Israeli government statement responding to the conference outcome said, “The real problem with WMDs in the Middle East does not relate to Israel but to those countries that have signed the NPT and brazenly violated it: Iraq under Saddam, Libya, Syria and Iran.”

Since then, Israel has begun to show signs of a greater willingness to engage, although officials still refrain from expressing open support for the conference. Israeli and U.S. officials also have made it clear that Israel cannot be expected to attend if the forum is used as an opportunity for “Israel bashing” by the Arab states and Iran.

Israel is examining [the conference]; we’re talking to the Americans,” Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said in a Feb. 8 interview on the sidelines of the annual Herzliya security conference near Tel Aviv. Meridor is the minister for intelligence and atomic energy in the Israeli cabinet. He also conducted a two-year strategic study on Israel’s policy of nuclear opacity, a policy that Israeli officials continue to believe has served the country well. Under a 1969 agreement between Prime Minister Golda Meir and U.S. President Richard Nixon, Israel has pursued a nuclear “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that continues with U.S. support to this day. Meanwhile, public discussion of Israel’s presumed nuclear weapons arsenal remains generally taboo. An off-the-record workshop at the Herzliya conference, entitled “Going to Zero? Global and Regional Nuclear and WMD Disarmament Initiatives,” paid only scant attention to the 2012 conference.

Inside and outside government circles in Israel, there is a range of opinion about the conference from conditional support to downright skepticism. One source said that “the only people interested in this are the Washington think tanks.”

Expressing a view held by some Israeli analysts, Emily Landau, senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said she would support a conference agenda reviving regional security talks such as those put in place by the 1991 Madrid conference, known as ACRS (arms control and regional security). From 1992 until its collapse in 1996, the multilateral working group, which included 14 Middle Eastern parties, focused on confidence-building measures and regional security issues. But Landau stressed that the 2012 conference “can only work with strong U.S. leadership.”

The final document from last year’s NPT review conference endorsed a series of “practical steps,” providing for the 2012 conference “on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.” It called on the UN secretary-general and the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia—the co-sponsor states of the 1995 resolution—to consult with the region on specific preparatory steps.

However, the language of the review conference document was sufficiently ambiguous to allow for different interpretations, or “misinterpretations,” as one diplomat put it. There seems to be general agreement that 2012 would not be a “negotiating” conference but a forum for “discussions” and that criteria for the facilitator as established subsequently by the Arab Group should be respected. The facilitator should have a profile of former foreign minister or more senior status to give him or her diplomatic clout, must be acceptable to Israel and Iran, and be neutral. He or she should not be from an Arab state or Israel, nor from one of the five countries—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—recognized by the NPT as nuclear-weapon states.

Differing Visions

But there remains a fundamental gap between the Arab Group’s vision, which sees the conference as an opportunity to pressure Israel to give up its undeclared nuclear arsenal, and that of the United States and other co-sponsors, which want to isolate Iran and will insist on full NPT compliance. For the Arab states, the conference would finally address their long-standing grievance about what they call the double standards of the United States, which shields Israel.

Samore predicted “one battle after another,” beginning with the discussions on a facilitator and host government and continuing with the agenda, as the conveners pursue their consultations. The agenda is expected to address regional adherence to treaties including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), as well as delivery systems.

“We see it as a give-and-take process,” said Abdelaziz. “At the same time that Israel will join the NPT, we will join the BWC and CWC,” he said. “It’s a parallel process requiring progress on all three fronts.” Neither Egypt—the first Middle Eastern country to acquire chemical weapons—nor Syria has signed or ratified the CWC. Both countries have signed but not ratified the BWC.

Obama defined his agenda priorities last July at a White House meeting with Netanyahu. “The United States will insist that such a conference will be for discussion aimed at an exchange of views on a broad agenda, to include regional security issues, verification and compliance, and all categories of weapons of mass destruction and systems for their delivery,” said a White House summary of their meeting.

Behind the discussions on convening the conference lie the politics driving Middle East hegemony and regional rivalries, which lay behind the collapse of ACRS in 1996 and will be the key factors when states consider their role in the 2012 conference. Will the next Egyptian government continue to champion the WMD-free zone? Will Iran, which was the first to call for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East in 1974, continue to see an interest in attending in the light of its own progress in uranium enrichment, which it insists is for peaceful purposes? Will Israel see the benefits of a security dialogue with its hostile neighbors or throw up roadblocks by citing concerns about conventional weapons and the peace process?

“It’s a good opportunity for Israel to start getting rid of its nuclear weapons, and for Iran not to get nuclear weapons, and for the Arabs to join the chemical and biological conventions,” Abdelaziz said.

Arab diplomats warn that, in the case of failure, prospects for the next NPT review conference, in 2015—and indeed for the treaty’s future in general—would be bleak.

Anne Penketh is Washington program director of the British American Security Information Council. She recently returned from a two-week trip to the Middle East where she discussed prospects for the 2012 conference with officials and nongovernmental representatives.


The recent uprisings in the Middle East have clouded the picture for a planned 2012 conference on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, officials from key countries said.

The Past and Future of the CCW

François Rivasseau

Adopted by consensus on October 10, 1980, by a UN conference in Geneva, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) tries to reduce human suffering by establishing a normative framework that seeks to control, limit, and prohibit the use of specific materials of warfare. The CCW constitutes an attempt to reconcile humanitarian requirements and military needs. For that reason, the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is regarded as the “guardian” of international humanitarian law, has always played an important role in the implementation and review of the convention.

In 2001 the focus of the convention was extended to internal conflicts. As with many disarmament and arms control treaties of the second half of the last century, such as the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; the Biological Weapons Convention; the Chemical Weapons Convention; the Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention; and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, also known as the Oslo Convention, the CCW establishes a regime marked by quinquennial review conferences. This regime has provided room for establishing under the convention itself five different protocols, on detectable fragments, mines and booby traps,[1] use of incendiary weapons, blinding laser weapons, and explosive remnants of war (ERW).

The next review conference, the fourth one, will take place in November. It is therefore appropriate to review the history and current workings of the CCW as a first step in updating the thinking about the usefulness of the convention and considering ways and means to ensure the success of the upcoming conference.

The 2006 Review Conference

The last CCW review conference, in 2006, ended in a relatively satisfactory way with a consensus on a modest result of substance. This result was not predetermined. Indeed, during George W. Bush’s presidency, there were extremely few review conferences of disarmament bodies that did end with some substantial results.

The flexibility of the participants in this CCW review conference and a focus on nondivisive issues such as adopting Protocol V on ERW, universalizing the treaty and its protocols, and strengthening compliance mechanisms helped avoid a negative outcome, the impact of which would have been very unfortunate for the future development of humanitarian law.

By its specific approach (a regulatory logic seeking a balance between military requirements and humanitarian needs) and its modus operandi (consensus, flexibility, and the parties’ option not to join the protocols that prove to be too difficult to swallow), the CCW offers a unique forum for dialogue and negotiation and serves as the main laboratory for the development of humanitarian international law.

Another advantage, which also could be a handicap, is that most of the important countries in the field of disarmament and humanitarian international law are parties to the CCW. That is not the case in some other important conventions such as Oslo and OttawaChinaIndiaIsraelPakistanRussia, and the United States are not parties to either of those two. Among the members of the Conference on Disarmament, the negotiating body mandated by the United Nations, only very few members, including Egypt, Iran, North Korea, and Syria, are not CCW parties. It is an advantage to have the major players negotiating together, in the sense that the decisions made in a CCW framework immediately enjoy quasi-universal adherence and authority. Yet, it also may be a handicap because the norms established in this context will be, by design, less ambitious than humanitarian norms agreed among countries that are more like-minded.

OsloOttawa, and the CCW

The CCW is one of two international processes addressing cluster munitions. The other, known as the Osloprocess, sprang from the 2006 CCW Review Conference, where some countries were frustrated with the pace of efforts to restrict cluster munitions. A series of meetings, starting with one in Oslo in 2007, led to the conclusion of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008.

In the past, many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have opposed the two ways of achieving a norm, often criticizing the CCW process for being unable to push forward norms that would be advanced enough to satisfy the requirements of modern humanitarian law and for being hijacked by some countries that, for national security reasons, do not want to renounce some of their weapons. They have praised ad hoc processes, such as the Oslo effort, for being the source of better humanitarian law as well as setting up a framework more independent of UN power relationships, friendlier to NGOs, and more apt to attract financial sponsorship.

History, although short, already has demonstrated that it would be a mistake to oppose either the CCW process or ad hoc processes such as those of Ottawa and Oslo. The relationship is not competitive, but complementary. The two types of processes are indispensable to each other. Neither the Ottawa nor the Oslo convention possibly could have seen the light of day without the patient preparatory work conducted within the CCW regime on landmines, ERW, and cluster munitions. The CCW process operates as the matrix, the only one, from which various humanitarian norms emerge. In the best possible scenario, it will give birth to a new protocol, as was the case during the last review conference with the interesting Protocol V on ERW. If the CCW norm appears to be insufficiently ambitious, it may be supplemented by a more ambitious convention built on the negotiations conducted in the laboratory of ideas that the CCW framework provides. Under this approach, which is the one that the Ottawa and Oslo conventions followed, UN money and staff are provided. In the cases of both the Ottawa andOslo conventions, as well as in the CCW framework, NGOs play a role that goes well beyond their typical advocacy functions.

In the real world, this complementarity implies that, in political terms, the two exercises cannot be conducted at the same time. Historically, efforts in the CCW always have preceded the others.

Sometimes, a case is made for a protocol that is less demanding than the Oslo Convention and that could be completed in a CCW framework. Those fearing such a development argue that a more recent and less demanding norm would weaken the existing Oslo Convention. This argument is more the expression of a moral aspiration than a realistic view. The common logic that underpins the OttawaOslo, and CCW regimes is precisely the fact that these regimes grow, at least transitionally, in a nonuniversal framework. Not a single international court will recognize that the Ottawa and Oslo conventions constitute humanitarian international jus cogens (an internationally accepted norm that does not allow derogation); today, they are only prefiguring it. Furthermore, as long as the most important producers, sellers, and users of weapons such as cluster munitions remain outside the highest humanitarian norm, the existence of a less demanding but more broadly respected norm will have merit, if only for the people who will avoid becoming victims thanks to those efforts.

In certain cases, the international community should recognize and accept that there is no room for a new norm for the time being. That is the case when countries with strong defense constraints do not want a new norm and, on the opposite side of the board, when affected countries are not numerous or affected enough to give the required impetus to establish a norm derived from the CCW but independent of it. This clearly was the situation with mines other than anti-personnel mines (MOTAPM), a slightly broader concept than anti-vehicle landmines. Work done in the CCW context made the issue of a ban or restrictions on MOTAPM ripe for a new protocol, but strong opposition and the relatively small number of affected countries prevented the effort from coming to fruition.

The solution in that case has been to try to capture the voluntary commitment of a significant number of countries to accept new constraints regarding their own MOTAPM. The 2006 CCW Review Conference took note of this commitment, which, although weak, has some value. In other words, each situation should be assessed to determine the appropriate solution. In some cases, that will mean recognizing that the issue, although deserving to be periodically reviewed, should be left at rest. There is no wisdom in remaining at a permanent impasse.

One also should not overplay the arguments about the need to maximize political pressure on states that are reluctant to sign the highest norm and about the risk of giving them an escape route by agreeing to a less rigorous norm. In the golden 1990s, in the aftermath of the end of the Cold War, such reasoning had some value, but now countries with strong defense constraints may make the clear choice of paying a certain price in terms of public opinion rather than increasing their own insecurity as they perceive it. That is particularly true if the norm has been developed without them. Once a government has made the decision that it will not adhere to a new norm on these grounds, the prospects for changing its mind probably will be slim.

To sum up, the 2006 review conference teaches us a simple lesson: goodwill, common sense, and modesty are never wasted. They produce results, although not enough. It is typical of humanitarian law, where progress is often slow, painstaking, and incomplete.

The Upcoming Review Conference

During the last several years, there have been two main subjects in the meetings that are part of the CCW review process: a protocol on cluster munitions and universalization of the treaty.

Cluster munitions. Negotiations on the cluster munitions protocol are continuing, and lessons drawn from the last review conference indicate that there would be real merit in achieving what would be a sixth protocol, provided the negotiations are completed quickly. Because of their humanitarian nature, negotiations in the CCW context should not follow the pattern of more classical disarmament treaty negotiations, whose lack of progress paralyzes entire forums. If there is not a consensus, it may be the result of objections coming from militarily constrained countries or the most zealous partisans of the Oslo Convention.

The main problem lies within the first category of objections. The militarily constrained states should remember that allowing a sixth protocol to be approved does not mean that they are obliged to sign, ratify, and implement it. One of the greatest advantages of the CCW in this regard is its mandated adherence to only two protocols, not six. One sometimes hears the argument that accepting a sixth protocol without signing it would damage the image of the state concerned. This is not a strong argument. States that are not willing to accept a cluster munitions protocol always will feel pressure from public opinion, but the pressure will result first and foremost from the existence of a more ambitious norm, the Oslo Convention, which is much more visible.

For the same reason, the fears of the Oslo Convention’s most zealous advocates should not constitute an obstacle. Indeed, the CCW is much less visible than the Oslo and Ottawa conventions.

If success nevertheless remains elusive, leaving the issue at rest, perhaps the MOTAPM precedent could be applied. That would mean widening the range of international commitments, although they might be voluntary on cluster munitions, and reviewing the issue regularly. This approach could provide an outcome that is not too frustrating. The worst approach would be to continue “digging the hole” because, at a certain point, being too obstinate would damage the whole regime.

Universality. The other main issue has been universalization, and it should be considered a serious one. Even if the major players are there, only 101 states are parties to the CCW, and the numbers for adherents to the protocols are even worse. The review conference should agree to a “new plan” to promote universality of the CCW and its protocols, a plan more ambitious and far reaching than the one agreed five years ago. Also, there should be a new effort to attract sponsors of such a plan, under the mechanism set up in 2006.

The purpose of review conferences, however, is not only to try to complete efforts that have begun years ago. They offer the CCW the opportunity to be the scout of the international community in the field of international humanitarian law. In this context, the results of the 2006 review conference suggest two additional axes of efforts.

The first is to identify new issues. With the progress of technology and the mutation of the forms of conflict, new weapons are appearing. Others are used in new ways that make them relevant to the CCW community.

It would be an interesting challenge to try to set up an expert mechanism that would be tasked as appropriate to reflect on identifying new areas of concern and the rationale for these concerns. This would serve as a kind of early-warning system, helping the CCW community to avoid involving itself in efforts that would not be supported by a strong enough humanitarian justification.

In recent years, some issues that could be considered as ripe for consideration by the CCW community have been mentioned. These include phosphorus weapons or depleted-uranium weapons. Do these subjects, from scientific and humanitarian points of view, really deserve the effort? The evidence is not convincing, at least not yet, thus the need for better assessments.

Conversely, it should be interesting to study new restrictions or prohibitions on weapons that are only in the testing phase. After all, as the CCW’s early story shows, it is always easier to establish norms related to weapons that are in the development and testing phase rather than weapons that are of traditional use in the doctrines and practices of large armies.

The second axis is to pursue the “Geneva initiative.” In a period where the huge majority of conflicts are conflicts within one state rather than between two states and of an asymmetric nature, this initiative, concerning the extension of CCW norms to nonstate actors, is of particular relevance. It was launched by a group of Geneva-based NGOs that propose to nonstate actors to commit themselves to international humanitarian norms, such as the CCW and the Ottawa and Oslo conventions. Because of the contacts that the groups have to establish with nonstate actors that are often considered to be terrorist or criminal organizations, this approach has been criticized by some, despite the very significant results it has achieved. It deserves to be encouraged, supported, and recognized.


Although and perhaps because the CCW is not very well known, its regime constitutes an important and unique tool in the development of humanitarian law. Until now, it has been successful enough to attract interest and goodwill so that the three first review conferences ended with a consensus on procedures and substance. This spirit should be preserved in November during the fourth review conference under all circumstances.

François Rivasseau, the deputy chief of mission of the French embassy in Washington, was chairperson of the 2006 review conference on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. From 2000 to 2003, he was France’s ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, and from 2003 to 2006, he was spokesperson for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The views expressed in this article are those of the author.


1. A 1996 amendment strengthened this protocol.

Although, or perhaps because, it is not well known, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons represents an important and unique tool in the development of humanitarian law. The treaty’s upcoming review conference provides an opportunity to assess and increase its effectiveness.

Time for Leadership: South Korea and Nuclear Nonproliferation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mixed Nonproliferation Record

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enrichment and Reprocessing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seoul’s Nonproliferation Role

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Seoul’s Nuclear Energy Outlook

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

China’s Potential to Contribute to Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament

Li Bin

During the Cold War, China stayed away from most multilateral nuclear institutions and forums while exercising self-restraint with regard to its nuclear force. After it launched its reform and openness policy in 1978, China began to join existing international regimes on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear security and to develop new regimes with other countries when its economy was integrated into the world system.

Now, China is fully involved in almost all international institutions on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear security. On nuclear disarmament, its declared policy is still that “[t]he two countries possessing the largest nuclear arsenals [i.e., Russia and the United States] bear special and primary responsibility for nuclear disarmament,”[1] although China in fact has been engaged with other nuclear-weapon states on nuclear disarmament issues.[2] It is time for China to take the next step and work with the other nuclear-weapon states to develop a formal negotiating forum in which they can discuss concrete steps toward disarmament.

China is reluctant to get formally involved in multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament among the five nuclear-weapon states,[3] but this does not suggest that Beijing wants to build a big nuclear arsenal. It has resources and technology to build up quickly if it chose to do so.

China chooses to keep a small, off-alert nuclear force because it believes that this best serves its security interests. The reluctance to get involved in multilateral nuclear disarmament comes mainly from its inexperience in disarmament diplomacy rather than deliberate calculation. China has a unique nuclear philosophy, and the benefits of the philosophy are not yet recognized and appreciated in a discourse in which the West has been dominant. China fully understands the roles of the nuclear taboo against the use of nuclear weapons and does not consider nuclear weapons to have a military use. (The next section will discuss China’s nuclear philosophy in more detail.) The differing nuclear philosophies obstruct communication between Chinese security experts and their counterparts in other nuclear-weapon states.

An additional difficulty is that the United States is developing missile defense systems that may undermineChina’s nuclear retaliatory capability. It is difficult for China to figure out how many nuclear weapons it may need when it faces growing missile defense capabilities in the world. An easy response for China is to leave the option of buildup open if there is not a serious dialogue between China and the United States on missile defense.

The difficulties may be converted into opportunities for China and other countries. If the five nuclear-weapon states successfully create a multilateral negotiating forum on nuclear disarmament, they will have a much better chance to understand each other’s nuclear philosophies. Otherwise it would be very difficult to change the current situation, in which the basic assumptions about the roles of nuclear weapons are very different in each country. Through serious exchanges at a multilateral forum, China’s self-imposed constraints on its nuclear policy may be recognized better by other nuclear-weapon states and therefore spur those states to adopt similar or reciprocal constraints. Some people in other nuclear-weapon states may use China’s absence from the list of countries carrying out strategic nuclear reductions to argue that their own states should not cut their nuclear arsenals further on the grounds that their nuclear dominance would be challenged by China. A disarmament forum among the five nuclear-weapon states could give China a good channel to clarify such concerns. At the forum, China could also address its own concern over missile defense and other issues as Russia does in its strategic reduction negotiations with the United States.

It is time for all five nuclear-weapon states to consider building such a formal forum to discuss further nuclear reductions. China could contribute to the success of the forum by offering both philosophical wisdom on reducing the roles of nuclear weapons and concrete commitments on the small number and low readiness of its nuclear weapons.

The Roles of Nuclear Weapons

The central role of China’s nuclear weapons is countering nuclear coercion, while in other nuclear-weapon states the weapons’ main role is nuclear deterrence. (Nuclear coercion is the sending of threatening nuclear signals to other countries to force them to yield.) Ever since China began to develop its nuclear weapons capability in the mid-1950s, Chinese leaders have acknowledged the roles of the nuclear taboo against nuclear weapons use.China’s no-first-use policy is based on an understanding that first use of nuclear weapons is not a choice in the real world. Nuclear coercion is a much more realistic threat than nuclear attack. In other nuclear-weapon states, nuclear attacks are regarded as primary nuclear threats and the states’ nuclear weapons are claimed to deter nuclear attacks and some other threats. To deter a nuclear attack successfully, a country must create intolerable damage in the attacker in a retaliatory nuclear strike. A certain number of nuclear weapons may be needed to absorb a pre-emptive nuclear strike and therefore ensure that at least a minimum number of retaliatory nuclear weapons can survive the strike. Nuclear weapons ready for launch have a higher chance to be used in retaliation, so high nuclear readiness is considered to be useful for nuclear deterrence although it brings a high risk of a nuclear accident.

To counter nuclear coercion, a country may need to demonstrate that it has a retaliatory nuclear capability, but its nuclear force does not have to be large or constantly on alert. China’s self-imposed constraints in its nuclear weapons policy are rooted in this unique nuclear philosophy that nuclear attack is not a choice of a national government in the real world due to the roles of the nuclear taboo.[4] If it joins a multilateral negotiating forum on nuclear disarmament, China can make its own contributions to deeper nuclear reductions by promoting the philosophy of nuclear taboo.

There are some new difficulties in conducting nuclear reductions beyond the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The United States believes that tactical nuclear reductions should be considered in the future because Russia has a much larger tactical nuclear arsenal while Russia wants future nuclear reductions to include nuclear warheads in storage because they allow the United States to double the size of its operational strategic nuclear force in a short time. The technical concerns of the two countries are fundamentally different. This contrasts with past U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions, which have been symmetrical. The asymmetrical concerns in the United States and Russia may be a problem for the two countries as they explore ways to reach a new consensus on nuclear reductions. Some new momentum is needed to promote asymmetrical and reciprocal nuclear reductions: the United States cuts its nuclear warheads in storage while Russia cuts its tactical nuclear arsenal.

The willingness of the United States and Russia to cut their nuclear arsenals depends on how they view the roles of nuclear weapons. Some people in the two countries may want their nuclear weapons to serve many different purposes, for example, to deter non-nuclear attacks, to limit the damage of a nuclear attack, or to symbolize the leadership of their countries. These expectations are obstacles for deeper nuclear cuts in the United States andRussia. If the two countries eventually agree that the sole purpose of their nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attacks, they are likely to be willing to cut their nuclear arsenals significantly. At a multilateral negotiating forum on nuclear disarmament, China will have much more influence on the United States and Russia to encourage them to agree that this is the sole purpose of nuclear weapons.

It is an opportune time to include the topic of no-first-use in multilateral discussions among the five nuclear-weapon states, as the United States expressed its willingness in its Nuclear Posture Review to establish conditions under which the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack[5] and the United Kingdom recently made a new “clean” negative security assurance to all non-nuclear-weapon states that are parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.[6] If all nuclear-weapon states agree that the sole purpose of their nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack, they will not need more nuclear weapons than those required for minimum nuclear deterrence, usually estimated as several hundred strategic nuclear weapons for each country. The United States is likely to feel much less reluctant to reduce its nuclear arsenal down to the level required for minimum deterrence while Russia probably will feel that maintaining a big tactical nuclear arsenal is unnecessary. When theUnited States and Russia cut their nuclear arsenals, the other three nuclear-weapon states should have no reason to go beyond the minimum deterrence level. At the minimum deterrence level, nuclear-weapon states can have confidence that any nuclear attack against them and their allies would be deterred as their retaliatory strike can inflict minimum but intolerable damage on the attacker.

The notion of a nuclear taboo also can encourage countries to cut their nuclear arsenals further. If countries assumed that the threats of nuclear attack against them were serious, they would have to maintain minimal nuclear arsenals to deter such threats by ensuring destruction in retaliatory strikes. It would be difficult to go below the level of several hundred nuclear warheads. However, if they have some confidence that other countries are unlikely to launch nuclear attacks, they can significantly lower the number of nuclear weapons in their arsenals. In the real world, it is an extremely difficult decision for governments to launch nuclear attacks on others even if they do not face destructive nuclear retaliation. The nuclear taboo could replace nuclear deterrence in the role of a brake on launching a nuclear attack. Nuclear deterrence may not be as necessary as stated in the declaratory policies of many governments.

Although there are different declaratory policies on the use of nuclear weapons, most security experts involved in various nuclear dialogues among nuclear states acknowledge the roles of the nuclear taboo. There are two common understandings on the nuclear taboo in these dialogues: No matter what the declaratory policies of their governments are, most participants strongly believe that the nuclear taboo is in effect for their governments, and most participants have some confidence that the nuclear taboo also is in effect for other nuclear-weapon states. The difference among these states is that some experts do not want the nuclear strategies of their countries to be based on the assumption that the nuclear taboo will work and some do. At a multilateral forum on nuclear disarmament, China could provoke international discussions on the nuclear taboo and help develop an epistemic community that fully acknowledges the taboo. Such a common understanding will be a key factor in reducing the roles of nuclear weapons and in leading to a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Small Numbers and Low Readiness

If the five nuclear-weapon states develop a formal negotiating forum on nuclear disarmament, the first important topic would probably be how the United States and Russia further reduce their nuclear weapons while China,France, and the United Kingdom support the reductions by making their own commitments to refrain from building up. China needs to adopt some concrete provisions binding its nuclear force. Politically and technically, it is not a problem for China to make binding commitments as it has been exercising self-restraint in connection with its nuclear weapons. The difficulty is that China is still inexperienced in translating its self-constraints into reciprocal international arrangements. The exchanges among the five nuclear-weapon states at a formal forum may stimulate Chinese security experts to explore possible reciprocal and technical arrangements on nuclear disarmament.

China could make two major, concrete commitments at a multilateral disarmament forum. These commitments correspond to the two lines in U.S. and Russian nuclear reductions.

The first line is reducing the number of strategic nuclear weapons deployed. In their strategic arms control negotiations, the United States and the Soviet Union developed a set of counting rules to calculate how many strategic nuclear weapons each had. The rules have evolved slightly over the past several decades. In New START, the numbers of strategic weapons are regarded as those of “accountable” nuclear warheads, that is, warheads subject to the treaty’s counting rules, on operationally deployed strategic delivery systems. The actual numbers of deployed warheads may be larger than those of accountable nuclear warheads because several warheads contained in a single delivery vehicle may be counted as one to simplify the verification arrangements. More importantly, the United States and Russia could upload nuclear warheads to their strategic delivery systems to expand the sizes of their strategic forces quickly if they choose to do so. This does not suggest that the strategic reductions in the United States and Russia are meaningless. The reductions in the last several decades significantly reduced nuclear tensions between the two countries and the associated risks of accidents by reducing the numbers of nuclear warheads ready to be launched.

According to START counting rules, China has nearly zero nuclear weapons because its strategic delivery systems do not carry nuclear warheads except in very rare cases in which individual warheads are uploaded for technical assessments.[7] Nuclear warheads are kept separately in storage. China can upload these warheads to its delivery systems but chooses not to do so in peacetime. China’s nuclear warheads in storage would not be counted as nuclear weapons if START counting rules applied to China. When the United States and Russia consider further reducing their deployed strategic weapons by continuing along the lines of New START, China could support the reductions by making a commitment to keep its nuclear weapons off alert. Such reciprocal arrangements should be good for all parties. For the United States and Russia, their cuts from 1,550 deployed warheads—the level stipulated under New START—to hundreds would receive a reciprocal limitation of nearly zero deployed warheads for China. For China, it would encourage deep U.S. and Russian nuclear reductions by committing to a constraint that China already is observing.

The United States and Russia may consider another approach to nuclear reductions. They could reduce the total numbers of their nuclear warheads, that is, they could include in their count the warheads in storage as well as the ones that are deployed. In addition to carrying out strategic nuclear reductions under their bilateral agreements, the United States and Russia have been dismantling their nuclear warheads on a voluntary basis. They could bring the voluntary reductions in total numbers into the multilateral disarmament forum. These reductions are very important as they reduce the potential for a quick rebuilding of nuclear arsenals.

China can encourage this kind of reduction by limiting its potential to catch up with the United States and Russia in total numbers. Because China has a very small stockpile of fissile materials for weapons, some limitations on its fissile material stockpile are useful to demonstrate its commitment to refrain from a buildup. China could make progressive commitments at different stages when the United States and Russia cut the total numbers of their nuclear weapons from thousands to hundreds or lower.

China could begin with a promise to give active support to the negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT). As follow-up steps, China could declare a moratorium on military fissile material production, join an FMCT once it has been concluded, declare the size of its military fissile material stockpile, and eventually join the reductions in total numbers of nuclear weapons. These commitments would be worthwhile for China if they could encourage the United States and Russia to negotiate reductions in the total numbers of their nuclear weapons, a long-standing request by China. The commitments should be feasible for China as it has “delinked” the negotiations on an FMCT from those on arms control in space.

China has some experience in multilateral arms control diplomacy from its active participation in the negotiation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Its support for the treaty is still useful to show its commitment to limiting its nuclear arsenal. Neither China nor United States has ratified the CTBT. China does not have a problem with the content of the treaty. This is evidenced by the fact that China actively joined all preparatory activities of the CTBT after the treaty was concluded in 1996 while the Bush administration avoided any linkage to some events it did not like, for example, those dealing with on-site inspections.

China’s reluctance to ratify the treaty comes from its inexperience in multilateral arms control. When the United States ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, it made some reservations relating to the arrangements for on-site inspections, but the convention does not allow reservations relating to verification procedures if they are incompatible with the treaty’s object and purpose. China does not know what will happen when the United Statesratifies the CTBT. A safe approach is to wait and ratify the CTBT after the United States does. China should continue its full support of the treaty no matter the status of CTBT ratification in the United States.

If China joins a multilateral nuclear disarmament forum, it would gain more experience and confidence in arms control diplomacy. In turn, this will encourage China to take more active steps toward CTBT ratification and show its constraint on nuclear development.

">U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear reductions, which were symmetrical in the past, may become asymmetrical. IfChinaFrance, and the United Kingdom get involved, they will bring additional asymmetrical factors into the process. It is reasonable to recognize the asymmetry, and it is useful to develop asymmetrical and reciprocal arrangements in the multilateral nuclear reductions. The self-constraints mentioned above make it feasible forChina to accept two kinds of asymmetrical and reciprocal arrangements: a commitment to low readiness of Chinese nuclear weapons, which can encourage START-like nuclear reductions; and some limitations on China’s military fissile material stockpile, which can support reductions in total numbers.


At a multilateral forum among the five nuclear-weapon states, China could gain new opportunities to address its own security concerns associated with nuclear disarmament. Those concerns include the factors that may change nuclear calculations in the world—for example, missile defense. Constructive dialogues and negotiations at the multilateral forum will be useful for China to maintain a safe and friendly environment for its economic and social development.

A formal negotiating forum among the five nuclear-weapon states on nuclear disarmament could bring new momentum to future nuclear reductions. In the last two decades, China has joined or jointly built almost all the international regimes on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear security. China also could work with the other nuclear-weapon states to develop a negotiating forum on nuclear disarmament. Based on its existing self-constraints, China could contribute to the philosophical and concrete dimensions of future nuclear reductions. With regard to the philosophical dimension, China could promote the notion of the nuclear taboo and therefore help reduce the expected roles of nuclear weapons in the world. This will be useful in creating an environment conducive to a nuclear-weapon-free world. On the concrete level, China could commit to keeping its nuclear weapons off alert and to limiting its military fissile material stockpile. This would be an example of an asymmetrical and reciprocal arrangement to encourage deeper U.S. and Russian reductions in nuclear weapons both in operational deployment and in storage.

The conference of the five nuclear-weapon states on September 3-4, 2009, in London on confidence-building measures toward nuclear disarmament is a good beginning in this direction. The five countries could develop a formal negotiating forum on nuclear disarmament based on the experience of this conference and possible follow-on conferences.

Li Bin is a professor in Tsinghua University’s Department of International Relations. He directs the Arms Control Program in the department.


1. Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, “China’s National Defense in 2008,” January 2009, p. 75, www.gov.cn/english/official/2009-01/20/content_1210227.htm.

 2. For example, on September 3-4, 2009, ChinaFranceRussia, the United Kingdom, and the United Stateshad a conference in London discussing confidence-building measures toward nuclear disarmament issues. SeeUnited Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “P5 Statement on Disarmament and Non-proliferation Issues,” September 4, 2009, www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=News&id=20804873.

3. Under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the five countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states are China,FranceRussia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

4. On China’s nuclear philosophy and policy applications, see Li Bin, “Understanding China’s Nuclear Strategy,” World Economics and Politics, No. 9 (2006), pp. 16-22 (in Chinese).

5. U.S. Department of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review Report,” April 2010, p. 16, www.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report.pdf.

6. “Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review,” Cm 7948, October 2010, p. 37, www.direct.gov.uk/prod_consum_dg/groups/dg_digitalassets/@dg/@en/documents/digitalasset/dg_191634.pdf.  The United States has made a similar but somewhat more hedged statement. U.S. Department of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review Report,” p. 15.

7. Li Bin, “Tracking Chinese Strategic Mobile Missiles,” Science and Global Security, Vol. 15, No. 1 (2007), pp. 1-30.

China should work with the other nuclear-weapon states to develop a negotiating forum in which they can discuss concrete steps toward disarmament. Such a forum would give China new opportunities to address its own security concerns associated with nuclear disarmament.

Steps Toward a Deal on Enhanced Safeguards for Iran’s Nuclear Program

Charles D. Ferguson

During more than eight years of a political tug-of-war over Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and its allies have yet to reach agreement with Tehran. Iranian leaders repeatedly have demanded recognition of their country’s “right” to enrich uranium and pursue peaceful nuclear energy.

The United States has insisted that Iran suspend enrichment activities as well as construction of a heavy-water research reactor until Iran addresses concerns about the intended nature of these activities and gives the international community confidence that Tehran will not make nuclear weapons.

Numerous proposals from each side have failed to break this impasse. Recently, however, the increasing effects of multilateral sanctions on Iran’s economy and nuclear program have given rise to some hope from the United States for a negotiated settlement.

The route to a negotiated agreement is highly uncertain because the two sides have ideal outcomes that appear diametrically opposed. Ideally, the United States would want Iran to cease uranium enrichment because even a relatively small enrichment plant would provide Tehran with a latent capability to make weapons-usable uranium. This technology is dual use in that an enrichment plant can be used to make low-enriched uranium (LEU) for nuclear fuel or highly enriched uranium (HEU) for nuclear bombs. (The dividing line between LEU and HEU is uranium enriched to 20 percent in the fissile isotope uranium-235. The higher the enrichment of U-235, the more useful the material is for nuclear weapons.) If there were no enrichment plants in Iran, the United States would have an easier verification task than if it had to monitor a permitted, known enrichment capacity to ensure that it was not being used as cover for clandestine enrichment plants. In contrast, Tehran’s ideal situation is to continue improving its enrichment capacity so that it conceivably could make several bombs’ worth of HEU annually if its leaders chose to do so.

Reaching agreement for Iran to stop enriching uranium, however, appears politically impossible for the foreseeable future. Despite the increasing pressure of sanctions, Iranian leaders have demonstrated during the theocracy’s 32 years of existence that they will cling tightly to instruments of power that they believe are vital to their state’s security.[1] A top instrument of power is the nuclear program. Concomitantly, this program has become a highly nationalistic issue. Thus, the Iranian leadership most likely would do everything in its power to maintain this program. Faced with this political reality, the United States, its partners, and Iran need to be prepared to understand the options for enhanced safeguards that would provide the necessary international confidence for continued uranium enrichment in Iran.

Decision Factors

Several enhanced safeguards options are conceivable, but few additional measures are likely acceptable to all states.[2] The decision factors are political acceptability, technical feasibility and effectiveness, and resource constraints.

Political acceptability. Iranian leaders have been acutely sensitive about fairness. They have resisted adopting safeguards measures beyond what other states have applied. The United States faces political constraints as well. The Obama administration would not want to appear weak, especially in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election.

Moreover, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) faces political constraints in that its leadership has to remain politically neutral while balancing the demands from developing and more technologically advanced states. The developing states usually want more technical assistance from the IAEA for their peaceful nuclear programs, and they want less-intrusive monitoring of these programs. In comparison, states with greater political power and monetary resources typically do not need much if any technical assistance from the IAEA. Several of these states, such as the United States, however, favor greater efforts to ensure that peaceful nuclear programs remain such.

Technical feasibility and effectiveness. Physical constraints impede the capability to detect clandestine enrichment plants. Enrichment plants that use the centrifuge technique emit few if any strong signs, such as uranium leakage, heat emissions, and electronic signals, to indicate that enrichment is occurring.[3] Modern centrifuge enrichment plants emit very little uranium hexafluoride, the gas used in the enrichment process. (The gas is “enriched” by separating U-235 hexafluoride from U-238 hexafluoride and thus increasing the U-235 concentration.) Detection of leakage from the previous stage of the nuclear fuel cycle—the uranium-conversion plant that makes uranium hexafluoride—may be possible, although high-efficiency particulate filters could significantly reduce this leakage.

The energy consumption of a centrifuge enrichment plant is small. Thus, the heat emissions, as shown by infrared radiation, are not easily distinguishable from non-nuclear industrial facilities. Electronic signals might be more detectable. The electrical systems in a centrifuge plant would affect the electrical signals carried by the power lines coming into a plant. In particular, the operation of the spinning centrifuges would impose voltage and frequency distortions—a sort of electronic “fingerprint”—on the power lines. To see this fingerprint, however, the inspectors would need access to these lines, and appropriate electronic filters could reduce or eliminate these signals.[4] Satellite images might reveal buildings that house enrichment facilities, but without human intelligence, confirmation cannot be definitive. In sum, off-site detection of centrifuge enrichment is extremely challenging.

Resource constraints. Because of the physical challenges of remote detection, on-site access remains one of the most essential requirements for effective safeguards. Yet, the IAEA faces substantial resource constraints. It does not have the money or human resources to apply all conceivable safeguards options. The disparity between the amount of nuclear material and facilities under safeguards and the money budgeted to the IAEA Department of Safeguards has been growing. During the past three decades, the quantity of material has expanded about sixfold, and the number of facilities has roughly tripled while the budget has approximately doubled.[5] Unless IAEA member states provide more financial and human resources, the agency will remain substantially constrained in its ability to apply more rigorous safeguards in more states.

Before examining options for additional safeguards in Iran, it is worthwhile reviewing the major contentious issues that remain.

Disputes With the IAEA

Since 2003, the IAEA has inspected Iran’s declared nuclear materials and facilities about every three months.[6] Also, the IAEA has called repeatedly for Iran to answer outstanding questions about past, present, and planned nuclear activities and possible military dimensions of its nuclear program. One of the major points of contention is the issue of giving the IAEA access to information in a timely manner. For example, the IAEA has not obtained access to detailed design information on Production Hall B at the fuel enrichment plant near Natanz.

Nonetheless, Tehran previously had indicated a willingness to being more forthcoming. On February 9, 2003, the IAEA obtained Iran’s agreement to provide early notification of design information once Iran decides to construct a nuclear facility. This provision is part of the modified Code 3.1 for the subsidiary arrangement to Iran’s 1974 comprehensive safeguards agreement. Under a comprehensive safeguards agreement, the IAEA has the obligation to ensure that a state’s declaration of its nuclear material and peaceful nuclear activities is correct and complete.

In December 2003, Iran also had agreed to implement voluntarily an additional protocol to its comprehensive safeguards agreement. Such a protocol, if fully implemented, would allow IAEA inspectors to make a determination of whether Iran has any undeclared nuclear materials or facilities. On February 6, 2006, however, two days after the IAEA Board of Governors referred Iran’s nuclear file to the UN Security Council, Iran suspended implementation of its additional protocol. In 2007 it decided to suspend implementation of the modified Code 3.1. Since then,Iran has adhered to the less rigorous interpretation of the 1974 safeguards agreement.

The revelation of a clandestine enrichment plant has raised further concern that Iran may have a nuclear weapons program. In September 2009, the leaders of FranceGermany, and the United States revealed that their governments had evidence that Iran was building such a plant near Qom. That revelation forced Iran to inform the IAEA that month about the Fordow Enrichment Plant. At that time, Iran stated that the Fordow plant was designed for the production of 5 percent enriched uranium and would contain about 3,000 centrifuges. Almost exactly a year later, however, Iran told the IAEA that it had revised its plans so that the Fordow facility would include research and development on advanced centrifuges as well as produce 5 percent enriched uranium with the older-generation centrifuges. The IAEA has asked Iran to clarify its intentions and provide a detailed design for this facility. Iran has objected to the legal basis for the IAEA request for access to design development information and to the companies that are designing the Fordow plant.

Since the plant was revealed, Iran has announced that it wants another 10 enrichment facilities, but it has not given the IAEA the requested information about the proposed sites and design details of these facilities. Such information would help the IAEA greatly in determining where best to place monitoring equipment in safeguarded facilities before they are built. Once a facility has been built, it can be very difficult to obtain access to parts of the facility that are considered proprietary. Facility operators are exceedingly wary of revealing industrial secrets to competitors. By agreeing on where to place monitoring devices ahead of actual construction, the IAEA and the operators have greater opportunity to find a balance between optimizing safeguards and minimizing the likelihood of revealing sensitive information.

The impasse over access also has impeded the IAEA’s ability to assess Iran’s work on heavy-water production. In particular, Iran has not provided access to the production plant at Arak. The Security Council has called on Iran to suspend work at this facility. According to the IAEA’s November 2010 report, satellite imagery indicates that this work is continuing. The IAEA also has used satellite imagery to monitor uranium-mining and -milling activities inIran. Under the 1974 safeguards agreement, Iran would not have to give the IAEA access to the uranium mines and mills.

Proliferation Pathways

A non-nuclear-weapon state has three proliferation pathways that it could try to exploit:

1. Operation of a clandestine nuclear weapons program that would as much as possible be parallel to and separate from a declared, safeguarded nuclear program.

2. Diversion of weapons-usable material and technologies, such as centrifuges, from a declared, safeguarded program into a weapons program.

3. Withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and the IAEA safeguards system and then use of the acquired nuclear technologies to make fissile material for nuclear weapons.

The first pathway is the most worrisome because, under the current safeguards approach, the IAEA has access that is limited only to declared facilities and thus is constrained in its ability to determine if there are any undeclared facilities, materials, or activities. One of the first major steps that Iran can and should take is to ratify an additional protocol to its comprehensive safeguards agreement. The inspections for the protocol’s implementation would require an assessment of whether Iran has nuclear materials and facilities that it has not declared. The Model Additional Protocol expands safeguards to cover all activities in the nuclear fuel cycle depicted in figure 1 (see print edition). In comparison, Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement includes enrichment, fuel fabrication, reactors, spent fuel storage, reprocessing, and the output of a uranium-conversion facility but does not include mining, milling, waste disposal, and the input to a conversion facility.

In addition, the Model Additional Protocol offers complementary access to sites and facilities where inspectors need to resolve unanswered questions and concerns. This access does not mean that the inspectors can barge into a site or facility immediately. Under the managed-access provision, they can request access within two hours to a facility at a site that they are presently inspecting and within 24 hours to a site at which they are not presently conducting inspections. Because inspections under the Model Additional Protocol are more resource intensive and burdensome to the state than inspections under a comprehensive safeguards agreement, the IAEA offers integrated safeguards for those states in which the agency has resolved outstanding concerns and has determined that there are no undeclared nuclear materials and facilities. The integrated safeguards system reduces the overall frequency of inspections and instead provides assurances through unannounced random inspections and complementary access. In sum, the revised safeguards system under the Model Additional Protocol expands the emphasis from verifying nuclear materials at individual facilities to evaluating the state as a whole.

Measures to supplement the Model Additional Protocol would provide needed confidence that Iran is committed to a peaceful nuclear program. Iran could apply such an “additional protocol-plus” system of safeguards until outstanding concerns are addressed and confidence that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful has been restored. If these concerns are fully resolved, Iran then could apply an additional protocol and eventually an integrated safeguards system to reduce the burdens of safeguards. Under an additional protocol-plus system, inspectors would want especially to determine whether Iran has any clandestine nuclear materials and facilities. Methods to uncover these materials and facilities include satellite monitoring, wide-area environmental sampling (WAES), and human intelligence.

Regarding satellite monitoring, the IAEA in recent years has established a satellite-imagery laboratory. The IAEA has acquired high-resolution commercial images obtained by 16 satellites operated by 11 imagery providers in eight states.[7] In the past few years, the IAEA has purchased and analyzed several hundred images.

WAES monitors the air to search for the presence of radioactive materials that could indicate clandestine nuclear activities, such as hidden enrichment and reprocessing plants.[8] Although WAES is permitted under the Model Additional Protocol as long as the Board of Governors has approved its use, its approval depends on a demonstration of the effectiveness of this method and consultations between the IAEA and the state. Because there is no precedent for applying WAES under a state’s additional protocol, this measure effectively would be considered a supplement to additional protocols that states have already implemented.

To detect secret enrichment plants, WAES would need to discriminate between enriched uranium and natural uranium. WAES can do so by measuring the ratio of U-235 and U-238. If the measured ratio were greater than 0.72 divided by 99.28, the concentrations respectively of U-235 and U-238 in natural uranium, then there would be possible evidence of clandestine enrichment. The WAES monitoring station also would look for the presence of fluorine that is chemically combined with the uranium. Uranium hexafluoride would indicate the presence of uranium-conversion and -enrichment plants. The evidence would not necessarily be a smoking gun because, in a state with a declared enrichment plant, the inspectors would have to establish that the detected enriched uranium did not leak from that plant. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, modern enrichment plants usually leak very little uranium in the form of uranium hexafluoride.

Consequently, significantly increasing the likelihood of detecting enriched uranium in a relatively large country such as Iran would require at least a few tens of thousands of WAES monitoring stations, assuming a detection range of about 10 kilometers from each station. A much more modestly scaled network with 400 stations for a detection range of about 100 kilometers would have an estimated annual cost of just less than $17 million.[9] The high cost and the low likelihood of detection raise substantial barriers to the use of this technique in Iran. In contrast to enrichment plants, reprocessing plants are likely to be easier to detect because of the relatively large and distinctive releases of krypton-85, a radioactive gas that does not occur naturally. Nevertheless, a state may try to hide reprocessing by spending money on installing filtering systems.

Arguably, the most effective means for finding evidence on clandestine facilities is by using human intelligence. Although human intelligence often has the connotation of spying, the sense here is to provide IAEA inspectors with access to scientists and engineers who have worked on the peaceful nuclear program. The inspectors then would have permission to ask questions of these personnel. During such investigations, some of these technical people may provide evidence of a clandestine program advertently or inadvertently. Whistleblowers likely would need protection against retribution. The United States should offer to facilitate protection, such as safe haven in a country other than Iran. Based on Iran’s rebuffs of several IAEA requests in recent years to question personnel,Tehran most likely would resist providing this extra measure.

For the second pathway, diverting material and technologies from a safeguarded program into a weapons program, enhanced safeguards would provide better means to detect or substantially raise the likelihood of detecting the diversion of nuclear materials and technologies from declared facilities. Using the authority provided by Iran’s 1974 comprehensive safeguards agreement, the IAEA has done an effective job of verifying that Iranhas not diverted declared material. The safeguards methods briefly outlined here would go beyond Iran’s interpretation of its current safeguards agreement or even an additional protocol. Conceivable methods include applying physical containment and material accountancy at uranium mines and mills, measuring the mass of uranium ore concentrate entering conversion plants versus the amount of uranium hexafluoride leaving these plants, improving measurements of nuclear material at enrichment plants, and verifying the production of centrifuges.

Physical containment at mines and mills would involve placing fences around these facilities. The fencing would employ detectors that would sound alarms if someone breached the fence or used unauthorized access points. Portal monitors would check on traffic to and from the facilities. This method would be considered very invasive, and there is no precedent for it under the Model Additional Protocol, which requires a state to submit estimated annual information on its uranium mining and milling. Yet, neither the Model Additional Protocol nor states’ additional protocols have required the more burdensome step of providing detailed material accountancy at these facilities.

After uranium is milled, it is in the form of uranium ore concentrate. Measuring the amounts of this material entering a uranium-conversion facility could enhance safeguards. By measuring the amount of uranium in the ore entering the plant and the amount of uranium in uranium hexafluoride leaving the plant, the uranium mass balance measurement is taken. Any discrepancy in the uranium mass balance close to or certainly larger than the amount of uranium needed for a nuclear weapon—25 kilograms of U-235, according to the IAEA—would be cause for concern.

Additional safeguards on enrichment plants can involve a number of different activities and techniques, but the most important concept is to provide timely warning of a diversion of enough nuclear material for making a weapon. For enrichment plants, the IAEA typically has had a goal of 12 months to detect a diversion of this quantity of fissile material. Although the agency has been visiting the Iranian enrichment facility at Natanz on a much more frequent basis, it has performed the physical inventory verification annually. To achieve greater accuracy in detecting a diversion, the IAEA could increase the frequency of measuring material to quarterly or monthly.

To reduce the uncertainty in the measurement error further, the IAEA could increase the use of destructive analysis, which is a set of scientific techniques that destroy or alter a sample in order to determine the characteristics of the larger amount of material. Because of the larger expense of destructive analysis, however, this could significantly increase the cost of inspections. Additionally, the IAEA could make independent measurements on all items of nuclear material. Although the IAEA has the legal right to do this, it typically does not. To reduce costs, it usually performs verification procedures on a randomly selected subset of items.

Verifying production of centrifuges could enhance safeguards significantly. A major concern is that Iran could be manufacturing excess centrifuges at declared production facilities or manufacturing centrifuges at undeclared facilities. Either way, greater access to production facilities would increase the likelihood of deterring diversion of centrifuges. The IAEA is not permitted to have access to these facilities under comprehensive safeguards, but the Model Additional Protocol does require a state to give the IAEA a “description of the scale of operations for each location” involved with fuel cycle activities, including production of centrifuges.[10] However, providing detailed information on manufacturing of centrifuges would require a special agreement between Iran and the IAEA because the Model Additional Protocol does not authorize the agency to inspect the production of centrifuge components. Ideally, the IAEA should have the ability to tag and count centrifuges, ensuring that they are installed only in declared facilities.

The third pathway, withdrawal from the NPT, is the least likely as long as Iran derives benefits from staying within the treaty. Of course, once Iran signals its intention to leave the NPT, there will be little or no doubt that the country’s leadership intends to embark on nuclear weapons production. Article X of the NPT allows a state to cite its supreme national interests and depart the treaty after three months. Because comprehensive safeguards agreements under IAEA Information Circular 153 are linked to the NPT, a withdrawal from the NPT would stop application of these safeguards.

To ensure continued safeguards, one approach would be to require states that are withdrawing from the NPT and are in noncompliance with their comprehensive safeguards agreements to adhere to facility-specific safeguards, which are defined in IAEA Information Circular 66. Because this type of safeguards does not depend on adherence to the NPT, such safeguards would remain in perpetuity. The Security Council would have to pass a resolution to require application of continued facility-specific safeguards. It also could pass a generic resolution, not tied to a particular case, requiring a special inspection to investigate the possible misuse of nuclear materials and technologies that a state in noncompliance acquired when it was an NPT member.[11] Because Security Council states would likely prefer to address safeguards noncompliance on a case-by-case basis, it would be difficult to obtain passage of such a resolution. Similarly, the IAEA Board of Governors has been reluctant to exercise its authority under its own statute to call for special inspections in any state.

Of the roughly dozen options considered here, very few meet the criteria of political acceptability, technical effectiveness, and feasibility given IAEA resource constraints. Political acceptability depends both on Iran’s willingness to agree to an additional safeguards measure and on the ability of the United States and its partners to obtain agreements among many states with power on the Security Council and the Board of Governors. Technical effectiveness, as the analysis above indicates, hinges on whether the option provides significant enhanced capability to the safeguards system. Resource constraints affect the IAEA’s choices in what additional measures it can afford to apply to Iran or any other state under safeguards. Table 1 shows these options and an assessment based on the criteria.

As the table illustrates, few good options receive high marks under the three criteria. Therefore, the best course of action is, first, to reach agreement to apply an additional protocol in Iran. This step has the precedent of dozens of other states having ratified an additional protocol to their safeguards agreements and of Iran’s previous willingness to implement an additional protocol voluntarily. It also provides significantly enhanced safeguards capabilities and fits within IAEA resource constraints.

In their discussions with Iran, policymakers and negotiators should give priority to obtaining agreement on application of measurements of the mass balance of uranium entering and exiting conversion plants and on improvements in tracking flows and measuring the mass balance of uranium at enrichment plants. These two options have the advantage of likely obtaining political acceptance, providing significant technical effectiveness, and requiring only somewhat more resources for the IAEA. If the United States and its allies can reach agreement with Iran on application of more safeguards options, they should focus on those, such as verifying production of centrifuges, that would provide significantly improved effectiveness.

Making a Deal

Although Iran would likely resist the more intrusive measures discussed above, a deal could propose these measures as temporary, to be lifted once Iran has provided the necessary confidence about the peaceful intent of its nuclear program. The nuclear issue is one of several contentious issues between Iran and the United States. There is no easy route to a negotiated solution, and it is not possible to predict the likely path. What follows is an assessment of some possible ways to reach an agreement.

The general concept is to connect Iran and other states in an interdependent relationship so that if one side reneges on the deal, the other side has leverage to make the violator suffer. The parties to the agreement need to form a “correlation of fortunes” to create a non-zero-sum game.[12] Such a game does not guarantee a win-win situation. The sides could fall into lose-lose scenarios, but the key point is that each side needs to see that its enlightened self-interest is to preserve the deal.

The deal would have to play to the interests of multiple states. Specifically, it would have to underscore Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy and would have to address the concern of the United States and its allies about Iran’s stockpiling of enriched uranium. In particular, Washington and its allies could become clients of Tehran. The clients would buy enriched uranium at a competitive price from Iran in exchange for Tehran’s acceptance of more-rigorous safeguards on its nuclear program.[13] The enriched uranium would be shipped out of Iran frequently enough so that not more than one bomb’s worth of uranium would be present in Iran. This deal would extend substantially beyond the Tehran research reactor deal of late 2009 in which the United States and its allies offered to provide fuel for the reactor in exchange for Iran shipping out an equivalent amount of LEU. In the larger deal,Iran would gain more money from the United States and be able to take satisfaction in having “the Great Satan” as a client.

An even grander deal is conceivable. It would include access to fossil fuel energy supplies in addition to provision of nuclear fuel. Many states are interested in getting access to Iran’s natural gas. A natural gas pipeline from Iranto Turkey would provide needed alternative gas supplies to Turkey. The pipeline could be connected to other states in Europe. This would provide further energy benefits and help reduce some of Europe’s dependence on Russian gas supplies. Russia likely would not object to this deal because Russian gas experts understand that the European Union’s demand for gas is growing and that the Iranian gas supplies, while plentiful, would not substantially displace Russian supplies. Iran still would have leverage over Turkey and EU states because it could threaten to shut off gas if these and other states renege on providing nuclear fuel for Iran’s nuclear power plants.[14] Russia already has a special deal with Iran to provide nuclear fuel for the first 10 years to the Bushehr power plant. Moscow has a continued interest in supplying nuclear fuel to Iran in order to burnish its nonproliferation credentials and to undermine Tehran’s stated rationale for expanding its enrichment capacity significantly.

Additionally, the United States and other countries can and should take further actions to improve the political acceptability of enhanced safeguards in Iran. The United States should redouble efforts within the Board of Governors and the Nuclear Suppliers Group to make the Model Additional Protocol the universal standard for nuclear commerce. Brazil, in particular, would have to be convinced to implement an additional protocol. If Irantries to hide behind the fact that Brazil has not implemented an additional protocol, the United States can argue that at least Brazil has joined with Argentina and the IAEA to form a bilateral inspection system, known as ABACC, to provide greater confidence about the peaceful intent of its nuclear program. More importantly, Washingtonneeds to remind Tehran that Japan, a leading non-nuclear-weapon state with the complete fuel cycle, was one of the first states to implement an additional protocol. As a further step to show that the United States is making extra efforts, it should place enhanced safeguards on enrichment plants inside the United States and work to make such behavior a standard for all enrichment plants, whether based in nuclear-weapon states or non-nuclear-weapon states.

None of these deals or offers will work unless both sides are willing to build trust and accept that there will be risk. Trust is essential because safeguards work best when the inspected state is fully cooperative with the inspectors. Yet, the lack of trust runs deep between Iran and the United States, dating back at least as far as the American- and British-orchestrated coup that ousted Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh in 1953. It will take considerable effort from both sides to bridge the mistrust that exists in many areas. Concerning the nuclear issue, the challenge for the United States is to accept Iran’s nuclear program under adequate safeguards. This acceptance will help recognize Iran as a significant political power in the region. For its part, Iran needs to recognize that its enlightened self-interest is to open its nuclear program to provide assurances that its intentions are peaceful. By doing so, Tehran will help elevate its position as a leader.

Charles D. Ferguson is president of the Federation of American Scientists and author of Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know (forthcoming 2011). Trained as a physicist and nuclear engineer, he has worked on nuclear nonproliferation issues at the U.S. Department of State, the Monterey Institute of International Studies’ Center for Nonproliferation Studies, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He thanks the Ploughshares Fund for its support of the research for and writing of this article.

Table 1: Feasibility of Enhanced Safeguards Options

The table below lists various options for enhanced safeguards in Iran and evaluates their feasibility on the basis of certain key criteria.


Political acceptability to all parties

Technical effectiveness

Fit within IAEA’s resource constraints

Additional Protocol


Would provide significantly improved capability


Satellite monitoring

Iran cannot stop its use

Would provide improved capability as long as supplemented with additional information

Yes, but currently limited up to a few hundred images annually

Wide area environmental sampling

Not likely because of limited technical effectiveness

Would likely not provide substantially more capability given Iran’s landmass

Would require significantly more resources

Interviews with Iranian nuclear personnel


Would likely provide significantly improved capability


Physical containment of mines and mills


Would likely not provide significantly improved capability

Would require some more resources

Material accountancy at mines and mills


Would likely not provide significantly improved capability

Would require some more resources

Measuring the mass balance at uranium conversion plants to compare the mass of uranium going into and out of the plants

Likely to obtain especially if Iran would agree to an additional protocol because this measure would not go significantly beyond such a protocol

Would likely provide significantly more capability

Would require some more resources

Improved measurements at enrichment plants

Likely to obtain if it can go not too far beyond an additional protocol and as long as proprietary information is protected

Would likely provide significantly more capability

Would require some more resources

Verifying production of centrifuges

Unlikely to obtain because of likely Iranian perception of intrusiveness on its proprietary information

Would provide significantly more capability

Would require some more resources

Facility-specific safeguards

Very unlikely to obtain agreement

Would likely provide significantly more capability


Special inspections

Very difficult to pass UN Security Council resolution or obtain Board of Governors agreement

Would provide significantly more capability

Would require more resources


1. Suzanne Maloney, “Sanctioning Iran: If Only It Were So Simple,” The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 1 (January 2010), pp. 131-147, www.twq.com/10january/docs/10jan_Maloney.pdf.

2. For two useful references on enhanced safeguards and verification options, see Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress, “Nuclear Safeguards and the International Atomic Energy Agency,” OTA-ISS-615, June 1995, www.princeton.edu/~ota/disk1/1995/9530/9530.PDF; James Action with Joanna Little, “The Use of Voluntary Safeguards to Build Trust in States’ Nuclear Programmes: The Case of Iran,” VERTIC Research Report, No. 8 (May 2007.)

3. Alexander Glaser, “Detectability of Uranium Enrichment” (presentation to iGSE, New York, May 10, 2010). The iGSE is the Independent Group of Scientific Experts on the detection of clandestine nuclear-weapons-usable materials production.

4. R. Scott Kemp, “Detection of Clandestine Enrichment and Reprocessing” (presentation to the AAAS Center on Science, Technology and Security Policy, Washington, DC, May 12, 2009).

5. For two in-depth, independent assessments of the IAEA’s resource constraints and challenges, see Henry Sokolski, ed., Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2008); Commission of Eminent Persons on the Future of the Agency, “Reinforcing the Global Nuclear Order for Peace and Prosperity: The Role of the IAEA to 2020 and Beyond,” May 2008.

6. See IAEA Board of Governors, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Report by the Director General,” GOV/2010/62, November 23, 2010.

7. Diane M. Fischer, “The Role of the Nuclear Watchdog: Monitoring Nuclear Safeguards” (presentation from Division of Information Management, Department of Safeguards, IAEA, 2010).

8. Iisa Riekkinen et al., “Analytical Methods for Wide Area Environmental Sampling (WAES) for Air Filters,” STUK-YTO-TR 184, June 2002, www.stuk.fi/julkaisut/tr/stuk-yto-tr184.pdf.

9. Garry Dillon, “Wide Area Environmental Sampling in Iran,” in Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom, ed. Henry Sokolski (CarlislePA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2008).

10. IAEA, “Model Protocol Additional to the Agreement(s) Between State(s) and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards,” INFCIRC/540 (corrected), art. 2.a (i).

11. Pierre Goldschmidt, “The Urgent Need to Strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime,” Policy Outlook, January 2006, www.carnegieendowment.org/files/PO25.Goldschmidt.Final2.pdf.

12. Robert Wright, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny (New York: Vintage, 2001).

13. Charles D. Ferguson, “A New Approach to Iran’s Nukes,” Christian Science Monitor, September 8, 2008.

14. Ivan Safranchuk, an independent analyst based in Moscow, suggested how to establish a linkage between Iran’s receipt of nuclear fuel and the client states’ receipt of natural gas supplies. Ivan Safranchuk, communication with author, February 11, 2011.

Because Iran is not likely to give up its existing uranium-enrichment capability, the United States and its allies should redouble efforts to enhance nuclear monitoring inside Iran. It is important to choose wisely among the options, which vary widely in cost, technical effectiveness, and political feasibility.


UK Calls for International Cyber Conference

Timothy Farnsworth

British Foreign Secretary William Hague last month called on the international community to come together this year and begin discussing norms for state behavior in cyberspace.

In Feb. 4 remarks at the Munich Security Conference, Hague said cyberspace “has opened up new channels for hostile governments to probe our defences and attempt to steal our confidential information or intellectual property” and “has promoted fears of future ‘cyber war.’” He said it was time for a “collective response” to cyberthreats and offered to host an international conference this year.

In a Feb. 11 interview, James Lewis, the director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it is unlikely the international community will be able to come together before 2012, when the United Nations is expected to begin discussing norms associated with state behavior in cyberspace.

On the same day as Hague’s remarks, the EastWest Institute released a proposal for governing cyberconflict. The report lays out five recommendations that it says are “immediately actionable” and “would be effective in preserving key humanitarian principles of the Laws of War.” The recommendations included determining what the protected entities are, determining if cyberweapons fall under current international law, and establishing a clear definition of cyberwar.

Policy experts have given mixed reviews to the recommendations in the proposal. Lewis said defining protected and nonprotected entities and creating a dialogue are good starts but some of the recommendations will face political obstacles, such as differing definitions of cyberthreats among states. According to Lewis, such differences make it unlikely that the international community will agree to a convention in the near feature. “It is more likely that like-minded states will come together sooner to lay out rules of cyber activity,” he said.


British Foreign Secretary William Hague last month called on the international community to come together this year and begin discussing norms for state behavior in cyberspace.

P5 to Meet in Paris on Nuclear Transparency

Tom Z. Collina

China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States plan to meet in Paris to discuss nuclear transparency issues and ways to verify additional arms reductions, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller said Feb. 16 at a nuclear policy conference in Arlington, Va. Gottemoeller’s comments added some detail to an earlier announcement by France that it would host “the first follow-up meeting of the 2010 NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] Review Conference with the 5 nuclear powers recognized by the NPT.” The five nuclear-weapon states also are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, known as the P5.

The agenda for the meeting, which could take place in June, is currently under negotiation, but would be similar to that of a previous meeting, held Sept. 3-4, 2009, in London, called the “P5 Conference on Confidence Building Measures Towards Nuclear Disarmament,” Gottemoeller said. According to a P5 statement issued after the September event, the group discussed issues relating to “confidence-building, verification and compliance challenges.” Gottemoeller said French officials are interested in having a nongovernmental event alongside the Paris meeting, providing an opportunity for a “public-private dialogue to take place.


China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States plan to meet in Paris to discuss nuclear transparency issues and ways to verify additional arms reductions, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller said Feb. 16 at a nuclear policy conference in Arlington, Va. Gottemoeller’s comments added some detail to an earlier announcement by France that it would host “the first follow-up meeting of the 2010 NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] Review Conference with the 5 nuclear powers recognized by the NPT.” The five nuclear-weapon states also are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, known as the P5.

U.S. Seeks Funds for Test Ban Monitoring

Daryl G. Kimball

The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2012 budget request includes $33 million for the U.S. contribution for the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization’s (CTBTO) ongoing work to build, operate, and maintain the International Monitoring System. To date, 264 of the system’s total 337 monitoring stations have been built and are certified. Previous U.S. government reports have noted that several of the stations provide monitoring capabilities in sensitive regions not fully covered by U.S. national technical means of intelligence. The annual budget for the CTBTO is approximately $110 million, and the current annual U.S. assessment is approximately $25 million. The $33 million request for fiscal year 2012 matches the administration’s fiscal year 2011 request. However, in the continuing resolution for federal funding, which covers the first five months of the current fiscal year, Congress approved funding for the CTBTO at an annual rate of $30 million. By March 4, Congress must pass a bill funding the remaining seven months of the fiscal year or approve another stopgap funding measure.

The administration’s latest budget request for the U.S. contribution to the CTBTO exceeds the current-year assessment in order to address shortfalls in past years in Washington’s contributions to the monitoring system. According to the Department of State, the United States is nearly $13 million in arrears because of outstanding amounts due for 2010. An administration source said the United States “is committed to fully paying its share of Preparatory Commission activities in full and on time.” The administration also is seeking an additional $7.5 million for fiscal year 2012 to fund specific projects “to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the [Comprehensive Test Ban] Treaty’s verification regime.”


The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2012 budget request includes $33 million for the U.S. contribution for the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization’s (CTBTO) ongoing work to build, operate, and maintain the International Monitoring System. To date, 264 of the system’s total 337 monitoring stations have been built and are certified. Previous U.S. government reports have noted that several of the stations provide monitoring capabilities in sensitive regions not fully covered by U.S. national technical means of intelligence. The annual budget for the CTBTO is approximately $110 million, and the current annual U.S. assessment is approximately $25 million. The $33 million request for fiscal year 2012 matches the administration’s fiscal year 2011 request. However, in the continuing resolution for federal funding, which covers the first five months of the current fiscal year, Congress approved funding for the CTBTO at an annual rate of $30 million. By March 4, Congress must pass a bill funding the remaining seven months of the fiscal year or approve another stopgap funding measure.

NATO Posture Review Takes Shape

Oliver Meier

Discussions among NATO member states and staff on the format and content of a “deterrence and defense posture review” are making slow progress, diplomats and officials involved in the process said last month. It is expected that an informal meeting of defense ministers March 10-11 in Brussels will finalize the terms of reference for that review, which was agreed at the November 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, the sources said. (See ACT, December 2010.)

According to these sources, it seems likely that the mandate of the posture review will be broad, covering the balance between nuclear and conventional forces as well as missile defense elements in NATO’s defense posture. The proposal by some member states, advanced ahead of the adoption of a new Strategic Concept at the Lisbon summit, to conduct a narrow review, focusing on NATO’s nuclear posture only, appears to be off the table. (See ACT, October 2010.)

NATO’s posture review could be conducted in two phases, the sources said. A consultative phase, lasting several months, would provide an opportunity for member states to brainstorm on the alliance’s future deterrence posture. Drafting of a possible report, to be adopted at the spring 2012 NATO summit in the United States, would begin after the June 8-9 NATO ministerial meetings. According to officials, the deterrence review is likely to be conducted by the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s principal political body, and might be accompanied by a public diplomacy effort, including seminars that involve nongovernmental experts.

Discussions of the format and purpose of a new arms control committee, whose creation was agreed at the Lisbon summit, have turned out to be even more controversial, the sources said. Some, including France, favor a review that is limited in time and scope and is tied to the posture review. Others, including Germany, prefer a broad, ongoing, stand-alone review. According to the sources, there is also disagreement as to whether an arms control committee would be chaired by a NATO official, a member-state representative, or both. These disagreements might prevent a March agreement on the terms of reference for the arms control committee, the sources said.


Discussions among NATO member states and staff on the format and content of a “deterrence and defense posture review” are making slow progress, diplomats and officials involved in the process said last month. It is expected that an informal meeting of defense ministers March 10-11 in Brussels will finalize the terms of reference for that review, which was agreed at the November 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, the sources said.

Ending Pakistan's Nuclear Addiction

Daryl G. Kimball

The people of Pakistan face multiple hardships: catastrophic flooding, a Taliban-affiliated insurgency, political assassinations, and chronic poverty. Yet, the country’s powerful military establishment has directed much of the nation’s wealth and perhaps even international nuclear technical assistance to building a nuclear arsenal that does nothing to address these urgent threats.

Pakistan already has enough nuclear material to build at least 100 bombs—more than enough nuclear firepower to deter an attack from its neighbor and rival, India, which itself possesses enough separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) for about 140 bombs.

Nevertheless, Pakistan’s leaders insist they must produce even more fissile material—HEU and plutonium—to keep pace with India. Fresh reports indicate Pakistan now is building a fourth unsafeguarded production reactor at Khushab.

The continued and uncontrolled expansion of these nuclear arsenals raises the risk that a border skirmish between Islamabad and New Delhi could go nuclear. Also, Pakistan’s weapons and nuclear material stockpiles are a prime target for terrorists. Its nuclear technology could once again be sold on the black market by insiders, just as A.Q. Khan did for years.

The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is now focused on turning back the Taliban and al Qaeda, but the United States no longer can afford to postpone serious efforts to break Pakistan’s nuclear addiction and encourage Pakistan, India, and China to exercise greater nuclear restraint.

To do so, stopping the production of fissile material for weapons and pursuing the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) once again must be top U.S. priorities. In 1998 the United States supported a UN Security Council resolution condemning India’s and Pakistan’s tit-for-tat nuclear explosions and calling on the two countries to sign the CTBT and halt fissile production for weapons.

At the time, the two states might have agreed to a production cutoff and signed the CTBT. But other commercial and strategic priorities, including the 2008 civil nuclear trade exemption for India and the U.S.-led offensive against the Taliban, have pushed nonproliferation opportunities to the margins.

In 2009, President Barack Obama pledged to “lead a global effort” to negotiate a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) at the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament (CD). Given that France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have all declared a halt to fissile material production for weapons, and China is believed to have halted production, a global fissile production halt would have its greatest impact on India, Pakistan, and possibly China.

Unfortunately, Pakistan continues to block the start of the negotiation, citing India’s greater fissile production potential from the plutonium in the spent fuel of its unsafeguarded power reactors, which could provide enough material for several hundred more bombs.

On Feb. 28, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made another strong pitch at the CD directed at Pakistan to allow work finally to begin on the FMCT. Until it does, U.S. and other diplomats are urging informal technical talks. Such efforts are laudable but insufficient. India and the major nuclear suppliers—France, Russia, and the United States—must do more to help break the cycle. India can and should declare that it will not increase its rate of fissile production and will put additional nonmilitary reactors under safeguards. Such a move could increase Indian security by pressuring Pakistan and China to make similar pledges.

Even if FMCT talks begin soon, it will be many years before a treaty is completed and it enters into force. By that time, India and Pakistan will have accumulated still more bomb material.

Bolder action is in order. In particular, the five original nuclear-weapon states should seek an agreement by all states with facilities not subject to safeguards voluntarily to suspend fissile material production and place stocks in excess of military requirements under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection.

Encouraging China and Israel to participate would be key. For Israel, which does not need more fissile material and has an aging reactor at Dimona, the moratorium would make a virtue out of necessity and improve its nonproliferation record. China should support the initiative because it could lead India to slow the growth of its military fissile material stockpile.

To increase leverage further, the Obama administration and Congress should press for an investigation of the IAEA technical support programs in Pakistan, which undoubtedly have aided its bomb production program. For two decades, Pakistan has received million of dollars of IAEA help for operational upgrades and control systems for its safeguarded reactors at the same time it was building and operating reactors of the same design outside safeguards for its military program.

Taken together, these steps could persuade Pakistan to drop its opposition to negotiations to halt the further production of nuclear bomb material and help slow the expensive and dangerous South Asian arms race.

The people of Pakistan face multiple hardships: catastrophic flooding, a Taliban-affiliated insurgency, political assassinations, and chronic poverty. Yet, the country’s powerful military establishment has directed much of the nation’s wealth and perhaps even international nuclear technical assistance to building a nuclear arsenal that does nothing to address these urgent threats.


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