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"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."
– Lord Des Browne,
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
May 2011
Edition Date: 
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
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Iran Says It Needs More 20%-Enriched Fuel

Iran says that it will continue to produce 20 percent-enriched uranium for reactors it intends to build, a move likely to complicate international efforts to address Tehran’s nuclear program.

 

Peter Crail

Iran will need to increase its production of 20 percent-enriched uranium, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Director Fereydoun Abbasi said April 11, a move that may further complicate international diplomatic efforts addressing Iran’s nuclear program.

He told the Iranian Students News Agency that Iran will build four or five reactors for research and medical isotope production in the coming years and that the reactors will use 20 percent-enriched uranium fuel. “We will increase the volume of the 20 percent enrichment based on the country’s needs,” he said.

The five permanent UN Security Council members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Germany—the P5+1—have stressed that any negotiated confidence-building measure on Iran’s nuclear program must include a halt to Iran’s production of 20 percent-enriched uranium. (See ACT, March 2011.)

After the breakdown of initial talks in the fall of 2009 between the P5+1 and Iran to provide Iran with fuel for its Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), Iran began increasing the enrichment level of a portion of its uranium from 4 percent to about 20 percent in February 2010, claiming that it would use the material to fuel the reactor. (See ACT, March 2010.) The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report this February stating that Iran produced a total of about 44 kilograms of 20 percent-enriched uranium by the middle of that month.

Most nuclear power reactors operate on uranium enriched to about 4 percent of the fissile isotope uranium-235, but many research reactors, including the TRR, operate on fuel enriched to about 20 percent. Uranium enriched to 20 percent can be used to shorten the time frame to produce weapons-grade uranium, which is generally enriched to about 90 percent or higher.

Since Iran began producing uranium enriched to about 20 percent last year, Iranian officials have issued conflicting statements about whether the country would continue the process if it received fuel from abroad, claiming on some occasions that 20 percent enrichment would stop if Iran received fuel and at other times that it would continue anyway. (See ACT, June 2010.) The Iranian parliament passed legislation last July supporting the continued production of 20 percent-enriched uranium.

Despite Iran’s stated intention to use the 20 percent-enriched uranium to produce fuel for the TRR, its ability to do so has come under question. Former IAEA safeguards chief Olli Heinonen said last November that Iran would still need one to two years to manufacture fuel for the TRR safely.

Centrifuge Manufacturing Site

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) April 9 as stating that an industrial complex called Taba, about 80 miles west of Tehran, was one of several sites involved in manufacturing centrifuges for Iran’s uranium-enrichment program. Salehi’s statement was in response to a claim two days earlier by the dissident group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which announced at a Washington press conference April 7 that Iran had used the Taba site to produce parts for about 100,000 centrifuges.

The NCRI is an arm of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, which the United States designates as a foreign terrorist organization. Although Iran has confirmed the centrifuge manufacturing activities at the Taba site, the NCRI’s claim about the number of centrifuge components produced there is inconsistent with IAEA and expert estimates that Iran has produced components for 10,000 to 12,000 machines.

The IAEA has sought access to Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing sites since February 2006, when Iran stopped providing the agency with expanded access under an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA. Without that protocol, the IAEA does not have the legal authority to inspect Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing plants. IRNA quoted Iran’s IAEA envoy, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, as saying April 12, “Iran has no obligation to allow inspectors to inspect this factory,” referring to the Taba site.

Salehi also announced April 9 that Russia is reloading the fuel for Iran’s first nuclear power plant at Bushehr after it was abruptly unloaded in February due to damage to a reactor cooling pump. He said the plant would go critical early this month.

 

Mine, Cluster Bomb Use Reported in Libya

There is evidence that the Libyan government has deployed both cluster munitions and landmines during recent clashes with rebels and that rebel groups have used landmines in the conflict despite pledges not to do so.

Xiaodon Liang and Farrah Zughni

Libyan pro-government forces fired mortar shells carrying cluster munitions over Misrata on the night of April 14, according to nongovernmental organizations.

Coming shortly after the Thai government was accused of using cluster munitions in early February, the Libyan case marks the second reported use of those weapons since the Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force last August. (See ACT, September 2010.) Libya and Thailand are not parties to the treaty.

Combatants aligned with Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi fired mortar rounds, “each of which carries and distributes 21 submunitions designed both to kill people and to penetrate light armor,” on civilian-occupied areas of Misrata, according to an April 15 article in The New York Times. The nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch, which also reported the incident, found evidence of at least three separate cluster munition strikes and interviewed locals who claimed to have witnessed government use of submunitions prior to April 14.

The Obama administration did not comment on the incident until an April 21 press conference in Washington. At the event, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, “Colonel Gaddafi’s troops continue their vicious attacks, including the siege of Misrata. There are even reports that Gaddafi forces may have used cluster bombs against their own people. In the face of this inhumanity, the international community remains united in our resolve.”

In an April 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a Department of State spokesman said the United States “will be working to verify” the reports that the Gaddafi regime used cluster munitions and landmines.

The Libyan government has denied using any cluster munitions. “We challenge them to prove it,” Musa Ibrahim, a Libyan government spokesman, told The Telegraph on April 17 when asked about the accusations. “To use these [cluster] bombs, you know, the evidence will remain for days and weeks. And we know the international community is coming en masse on our country soon. So we can’t do this.”

Human Rights Watch said it has confirmed that pro-regime fighters laid dozens of landmines, both anti-vehicle and anti-personnel, outside the Libyan city of Ajdabiya on March 30. The organization said it also observed plastic anti-vehicle mines left in Benghazi during government forces’ retreat from the city on March 19. Plastic mines are particularly difficult to remove after a conflict as they cannot be identified by metal detectors.

Anti-personnel landmines are prohibited under the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, the most comprehensive international agreement pertaining to landmines. Libya has not signed that treaty.

Rebels Accused of Landmine Use

As Libyan territory has fallen to rebel groups, so have some of the regime’s weapons caches, including landmine stockpiles. Although the amount of such weapons in government or rebel hands is unknown, Human Rights Watch reported that a UN demining expert found 12 warehouses containing tens of thousands of anti-vehicle mines at a single rebel-held military arms depot in Benghazi.

In a March 30 press release, Human Rights Watch reported that Gen. Khalifa Hufter, the commander of rebel forces in eastern Libya, had pledged March 25 that anti-regime forces would not deploy landmines during the conflict. Over the years, several nonstate armed groups have signed agreements or made unilateral declarations promising that they will not manufacture, deploy, or store anti-personnel landmines.

However, an April 19 BBC article reported that the news outlet had filmed rebels placing what were identified as PRB-M3 anti-tank mines near Ajdabiya just days before.

Although anti-vehicle mines are not prohibited by the Mine Ban Treaty, some human rights advocates worry that rebels will rig the PRB-M3 with a more sensitive fuse. When used with such a fuse, “the PRB-M3 meets the definition of an antipersonnel mine under the international Mine Ban Treaty,” said Human Rights Watch special adviser Fred Abrahams in an April 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

China Proposes Steps to N. Korea Talks

China has proposed a three-step process to revive multilateral negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The United States and South Korea, however, say that North Korea must meet certain conditions before talks can restart.

 

Peter Crail

China last month proposed a three-step process to revive multilateral talks addressing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Chinese Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei outlined the proposed process to reporters in Beijing April 18, following a meeting with North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan, who also serves as Pyongyang’s nuclear envoy. Wu said the process would begin with discussions on the nuclear issue between North and South Korea, followed by similar discussions between North Korea and the United States, which would lead to the resumption of the so-called six-party talks.

The talks have been held intermittently since 2003 to address North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. China serves as the chair for the talks, which also involve Japan, the two Koreas, Russia, and the United States. Pyongyang backed out of the negotiations in April 2009 in response to the UN Security Council’s censure of its rocket launch earlier that month.

North Korea rebuffed a South Korean proposal this January to hold bilateral denuclearization talks prior to resuming multilateral negotiations. Diplomatic sources said in April that North Korea preferred to discuss the nuclear issue with the United States.

The new Chinese proposal is a slight variation on a three-step process Beijing proposed in late 2009 that would have begun with talks between the United States and North Korea and followed with preliminary discussions among the six parties leading to the formal resumption of the multilateral talks. The countries were unable to agree on that formula, particularly after the sinking of a South Korean patrol ship in March 2010, which an international investigation determined was caused by a North Korean torpedo. Last November, North Korea also shelled the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing two South Korean soldiers and two civilians.

South Korea has demanded that North Korea apologize for the two attacks prior to reviving the six-party talks, a step the North has refused to take. Working-level military talks in February between the two countries broke down over the issue of the two attacks, with the North Korean delegation walking out during the second day of the meeting. (See ACT, March 2011.)

The United States has backed South Korea’s position, with Department of State spokesman Mark Toner telling reporters April 18 that “a successful rapprochement between North and South Korea is an essential first step before we can consider getting involved diplomatically again or even talk about six-party talks.”

South Korea and the United States also have maintained that North Korea must take steps to demonstrate its commitment to making progress on denuclearization.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates provided the first public indication of what such steps may entail during a Jan. 11 press briefing in Beijing when he called on North Korea to adopt a moratorium on further nuclear and missile tests. The UN Security Council has required that North Korea halt such testing since 2006.

In addition, U.S. national security adviser Tom Donilon told a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace audience March 29, “Those [denuclearization] steps must include monitored suspension of their newly declared uranium-enrichment program.”

Last November, North Korea revealed that it had built a uranium-enrichment plant it said was intended to provide fuel for a light-water nuclear power reactor it would construct. (See ACT, December 2010.) The United States and its allies have long expressed concern that North Korea was working to develop a uranium-enrichment capability in secret, allowing Pyongyang to make weapons from highly enriched uranium as well as plutonium.

North Korea denied pursuing an enrichment capability for years, admitting such work publicly for the first time in 2009 after it left the six-party talks.

Although Seoul and Washington have maintained that North Korea must take steps toward North-South rapprochement and denuclearization prior to the formal resumption of six-party talks, the two countries also have suggested that bilateral discussions could happen before such steps are taken. The Korea Times quoted South Korean Unification Minister Hyun In-taek April 18 as stating, “I’m not saying those things are necessarily preconditions for North-South dialogue, but without them it would be very difficult to produce results.”

The last formal negotiations on the nuclear issue between North and South Korea, which took place in January 2009, were aimed at the removal of about 12,000 fresh nuclear fuel rods from North Korea. If used to operate North Korea’s five-megawatt nuclear reactor, the rods could yield enough plutonium for several additional nuclear weapons if North Korea reprocessed the spent fuel.

Diplomatic sources said at that time that North Korea asked for an exorbitant amount of energy assistance in return, making the talks inconclusive.

Former U.S Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson said at a Dec. 21 press briefing in Beijing that North Korean officials told him during his visit to Pyongyang earlier that month that the country would be willing to discuss the removal of the fresh fuel.

Richardson is one of several former U.S. diplomats that have held unofficial meetings with North Korean officials in recent months to discuss the nuclear issue informally. Former President Jimmy Carter also traveled to North Korea at the end of April in an effort to restart negotiations and discuss humanitarian issues in the country.

Efforts to resume negotiations with North Korea come amid warnings that the country might take steps to enhance its nuclear and missile capabilities if talks do not resume. The Korea Times reported April 19 that National Intelligence Service Director Won Sei-hoon told a parliamentary intelligence panel that North Korea is seeking dialogue now, but may carry out nuclear or missile tests or other military provocations if no progress is made. Parliamentary member Hwang Jin-ha, who attended the closed session, told reporters the same day that Won said there was only “a slim possibility” of a nuclear test in the near future, although North Korea could conduct one “at any time.”

Gates said in January that Pyongyang’s continuing development of nuclear weapons and missile capabilities “is becoming a direct threat to the United States,” adding, “We consider this a situation of real concern, and we think there is some urgency to proceeding down the track of negotiations and engagement.”

 

Congress Boosts Nonproliferation Funding

Congress’ final spending bill for fiscal year 2011 provides a 9 percent increase for Department of Energy programs designed to secure and dispose of nuclear materials around the world.

 

Robert Golan-Vilella

After months of haggling, Congress has passed a bill to fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, increasing spending for nuclear nonproliferation programs in the Department of Energy by more than 9 percent from their previous levels.

The bill, passed by both houses of Congress April 14 and signed into law the following day, provides $2.32 billion for defense nuclear nonproliferation activities in the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). That figure represents an increase of about $200 million from the fiscal year 2010 appropriation, but falls considerably short of the $2.69 billion that President Barack Obama requested last year for fiscal year 2011. (See ACT, March 2010.) The nonproliferation programs are designed to detect, secure, and dispose of nuclear and radiological materials around the world.

The spending bill does not dictate how the money will be divided within the programs that make up the nuclear nonproliferation account, and neither the White House nor the NNSA has given any indication of how they will distribute it. According to a statement by the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, the increase was intended “to continue efforts to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within 4 years.” This four-year goal is a major component of Obama’s nuclear agenda; he first announced it during his landmark April 2009 speech in Prague. (See ACT, May 2009.)

When fiscal year 2010 ended on Sept. 30, Congress had not passed fiscal year 2011 appropriations bills for most government agencies. For the next six months, Congress funded the government through a series of short-term continuing resolutions, which kept most federal government programs at their fiscal year 2010 levels.

Upon assuming the majority in early 2011, House Republicans put forward their proposal for the rest of fiscal year 2011, H.R. 1, which passed the House in February but failed in the Senate. That bill would have put funding for the NNSA nonproliferation account at $2.09 billion, slightly below fiscal year 2010 levels.

In its final agreement, Congress also fully funded Obama’s request to increase spending for the Department of Defense’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program by more than 20 percent, from $424 million to $523 million. The CTR program’s mission is to secure and eliminate weapons of mass destruction and their related materials, with a particular focus on the states of the former Soviet Union.

The NNSA’s weapons activities account, whose programs are responsible for maintaining the U.S. nuclear stockpile, will see little change in its funding under the new legislation. Congress allocated $6.99 billion for the weapons budget, just 0.2 percent lower than the level set in the previous continuing resolutions.

The weapons budget was one of the few to receive an increase in the series of continuing resolutions passed since last October. It grew from $6.39 billion to $7.01 billion, a nearly 10 percent rise that fully met Obama’s request. Leaders of both parties agreed to this exception in the context of the consideration of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty; Senate Republicans had insisted that the treaty be accompanied by a robust plan for nuclear modernization. (See ACT, October 2010.)

In H.R. 1, House Republicans had proposed to reduce this number to $6.7 billion.

 

House Panel Revises U.S. Nuclear Export Law

A House committee has approved a bill that would create new nonproliferation requirements for U.S. nuclear trade partners. A key goal of the bill is to discourage new uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing programs.

 

Daniel Horner

The House Foreign Affairs Committee last month approved a bill that would change the law governing U.S. agreements for civil nuclear cooperation by adding to the nonproliferation requirements that U.S. nuclear partners must meet.

At its April 14 session, the panel voted 34-0 to send the bill, H.R. 1280, to the House floor. As Arms Control Today went to press, no schedule had been set for a floor vote.

A Senate aide said in an April 26 interview that he “certainly” expected the Senate to produce a companion bill. “Multiple drafts” are circulating, but the Senate probably will not start moving legislation until the House has acted, he said.

The House bill had been introduced April 1 by committee chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) with several other senior members of the panel as co-sponsors. One of those was Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the ranking member, who also introduced his own bill, H.R. 1320, which overlapped with Ros-Lehtinen’s in many respects but contained some key differences. The legislation approved by the committee was “an amendment in the nature of a substitute,” which adapted the original Ros-Lehtinen bill to include some key elements of Berman’s.

Under U.S. law—section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act—the United States must negotiate nuclear cooperation agreements with other countries before engaging in nuclear trade with them. The law lists nine nonproliferation conditions that normally are required in U.S. agreements, including comprehensive international safeguards, adequate physical security, and the U.S. right of “prior consent” to uranium enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing of U.S.-origin nuclear material by the recipient country.

Ros-Lehtinen’s and Berman’s original bills included a provision tying eligibility for U.S. nuclear cooperation to a country’s commitment that it would not begin pursuing a domestic enrichment or reprocessing program. The committee-approved bill adopts that approach.

The bill also would change the circumstances under which cooperation agreements could enter into force without a congressional vote. Under current law, most nuclear cooperation agreements can enter into force after 90 days of so-called continuous session unless Congress enacts legislation blocking the pact. Agreements that meet the nine nonproliferation criteria can come into force this way. Those that do not meet all those conditions require a vote of approval in both chambers of Congress. The only cooperation agreement to come into force by the second route was the one with India, which Congress approved in 2008. (See ACT, October 2008.)

The House legislation retains that basic structure. However, by adding the restriction on enrichment and reprocessing, along with a number of other new conditions, it requires countries to do more to be eligible for “fast-track” approval, as Berman called it.

The two-track approach was in Berman’s bill; Ros-Lehtinen’s original bill would have required an affirmative approval vote for cooperation agreements with all countries. Among the other requirements is that each cooperating country has joined an array of international agreements, “has signed, ratified, and is fully implementing” an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, “has established and is fully implementing an effective export control system,” and “is closely cooperating with the United States to prevent state sponsors of terrorism from acquiring or developing nuclear, biological, chemical weapons” or “destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons, including ballistic missiles.”

In her statement at the April 14 session, Ros-Lehtinen said Congress should “act now to put these new protections in place, so that cooperation between the U.S. and other countries to promote peaceful nuclear activities can grow without fear that it will be used to undermine our national security and that of the world as a whole.”

In a statement issued later that day, the Nuclear Energy Institute, which represents the nuclear industry in Washington, called on the House to reject the bill. The institute argued that the main effect of expanding the list of U.S. requirements would be to drive potential U.S. nuclear partners into the arms of other suppliers and therefore reduce the United States’ global influence on nuclear nonproliferation and safety. “It is clear that if the United States makes renunciation of enrichment and reprocessing rights a prerequisite for trade, the outcome will be few, if any, new Section 123 agreements,” the statement said.

It warned that the bill “threatens thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars in exports by U.S. companies.”

In comments to reporters after an April 26 appearance at a Washington think tank, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman said actions that would have the effect of taking the United States “out of the market” would be “unhelpful” to U.S. nonproliferation objectives. He said the administration was “taking a very methodical look” at the House legislation.

Setting a Standard

Part of the impetus for the legislation came from the U.S. nuclear agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and a debate over whether it is possible or advisable to replicate key provisions of that agreement in other U.S. nuclear accords. In that pact, which was concluded in 2009, the UAE commits itself to refrain from pursuing enrichment or reprocessing. (See ACT, June 2009.) Pursuing such programs would be grounds for the United States to halt nuclear cooperation with the UAE, an unprecedented provision in U.S. cooperation agreements.

A Department of State spokesman last year referred to the UAE agreement as the “gold standard,” but the Obama administration has been divided over the question of how to apply the UAE model to other countries. (See ACT, October 2010.) One particular piece of that question is whether to apply it to countries outside the Middle East.

One country affected by the debate is Vietnam. In March 29 remarks at the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, Richard Stratford, the director of the State Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy, Safety and Security, said the United States has signed a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam and has “given them a text of a 123 [agreement].” However, he said, “that discussion is on hold for the moment because…there is an issue as to whether we should require the gold standard in all future” 123 agreements.

With regard to another much-discussed potential 123 agreement, Stratford took issue with press accounts saying that Jordan would not agree to the same terms that the UAE did. “I wouldn’t count on that,” he said. Stratford said the two sides were “very, very close to an agreement that both of us like.” He noted that, with the current turmoil in the Middle East, the Jordanian government “had other issues on its mind.” However, he said, if the Jordanians “are prepared to engage at some point in the future, I think we will come to conclusion, and I think that the Congress will like the result. But let’s see what happens.”

Accounts of the negotiations vary on what the specific terms of the deal might be, but the general idea seems to be that Jordan would not pursue enrichment or reprocessing for some specified period of time and that the two sides would revisit the issue at the end of that period.

In an April 19 interview, a House aide who follows nonproliferation issues closely said the cooperation agreement with Jordan would not have to use “the actual words” of the UAE agreement as long as the effect is the same. “There are many paths to enlightenment,” he said.

One result of the House legislation may be that the administration presses harder for strong nonproliferation conditions in ongoing talks, the staffer said.

Multiple Suppliers

In an April 22 interview, a nuclear industry source said a Jordanian decision to accept U.S. conditions similar to those in the UAE agreement might have limited significance because Jordan has indicated it is not seriously considering the United States as a nuclear supplier. If the United States is not the supplier, it does not have the authority to demand the return of nuclear goods exported to Jordan if the country reverses its decision, the source said.

For many countries, the source said, signing a cooperation agreement with the United States nowadays is “for cachet or convenience, but not for commerce.” During the 1970s, the time of the last major revision of U.S. nuclear export law, the United States held a much more dominant place among suppliers, the source said. With the current diversity of suppliers, the unilateral restrictions of the House legislation represent “a very misconceived approach,” the source said.

The legislation requires a “report on comparability of nonproliferation conditions by foreign nuclear suppliers,” but does not specify action that Congress should take in response to the report. The “implied purpose” of the report is to exert some pressure on non-U.S. suppliers to upgrade their nonproliferation requirements to be more consistent with the ones the bill would establish, the Democratic staffer said.

In his statement at the April 14 committee session, Berman urged the Obama administration “to use all its influence to convince the other nuclear supplier states to adopt the same nonproliferation and security conditions in their agreements that we observe in ours, especially when those same suppliers are seeking nuclear business in the United States.”

 

Missile Defense Test a ‘Success’: Pentagon

The missile interceptor system that the Obama administration plans to deploy in Europe succeeded in a key test by using remote tracking data to intercept an intermediate-range missile.

Tom Z. Collina

In the most ambitious test to date of the Obama administration’s planned missile interceptor system for Europe, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced last month that it had conducted a “successful” intercept test of the Phased Adaptive Approach system. The trial essentially clears the way for the first phase of the system to be deployed this year, pending selection of a host country for the forward-based radar in southeastern Europe.

The test, which used the Aegis ship-based defense system and Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IA missile, was the first in which an intermediate-range missile was the target, as well as first to rely on remote tracking data, the MDA said in an April 15 press release. Previous tests of the system had primarily used the ship-based radar to track the target. In this test, the target missile was tracked by a radar based hundreds of miles away. The use of a forward-based radar to track a target greatly increases the area that can be defended by an Aegis ship, the MDA said.

According to the MDA, the test involved an intermediate-range (3,000–5,500 kilometers) target missile launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 3,700 kilometers southwest of Hawaii, which was tracked by an AN/TPY-2 X-band mobile radar on Wake Island. The radar sent target missile trajectory information to the command, control, battle management, and communications system, which transmitted remote target data to the Aegis destroyer USS O’Kane, located west of Hawaii.

The destroyer’s on-board AN/SPY-1 radar eventually detected the target missile and sent tracking information to the SM-3 IA interceptor, which was launched approximately 11 minutes after the target, the MDA said. The SM-3 maneuvered to a designated point in space and released its kinetic “hit-to-kill” warhead, which destroyed the target missile, the MDA said.

The first phase of the European system will involve Aegis-capable ships in the Mediterranean Sea armed with SM-3 IA interceptors to be guided by an AN/TPY-2 radar based in southeastern Europe. The first ship, the USS Monterey, was deployed in March (see ACT, April 2011), but the host country for the radar—initially planned to be Turkey—has not been announced. Turkish officials are concerned that the radar could complicate their relationship with Iran, which is the presumed target of the European systems. “In any political process, when we are weighing up options, we certainly take account of our relationship with Iran,” Turkish Ambassador to Iran Umit Yardim said, according to the April 26 Tehran Times.

After host-country details are worked out, the radar itself could be on-site in a matter of weeks, according to a U.S. Senate staffer.

With the success of the April 15 test, those details are likely to determine whether the European system’s first phase can be completed this year as planned. Subsequent phases, involving additional deployment sites and more-advanced interceptors and sensors, are planned for 2015, 2018, and 2020.

Concerns About Testing

This aggressive deployment schedule raises concerns that the system will not be adequately tested, according to April 13 Senate testimony by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The 2015 phase, for example, calls for land-based interceptors, called Aegis Ashore, to be deployed in Romania and is dependent on next-generation versions of Aegis systems and the new SM-3 IB interceptor, all of which are currently under development. According to the GAO, the MDA plans to make production decisions for the Aegis Ashore interceptors to be deployed in Romania before conducting ground and flight tests. The GAO concluded that the MDA’s plans amount to “a highly concurrent effort with significant cost, schedule and performance risk.”

A Senate Democratic staffer countered that the SM-3 IB is essentially the same missile as the IA; the main difference is the new kill vehicle, a nonexplosive guided warhead. Although the new kill vehicle has been having problems with keeping out moisture (a challenge for sea-based systems), they should be resolved before 2015, the staffer said. Moreover, the Aegis Ashore components are essentially the same as those now on Aegis ships, which the Navy knows how to build and deploy, he said. The SM-3 IB is scheduled to have its first intercept test late this summer, and the MDA is building a test version of Aegis Ashore in Hawaii.

The GAO said it has similar concerns with the MDA’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, based in California and Alaska and intended to counter a limited North Korean or Iranian missile attack against the United States. The GAO testified that, in the MDA’s rush to meet President George W. Bush’s directive to field an initial national missile defense capability by 2004, assets were built and deployed before developmental testing was complete. As a result, GMD intercept tests conducted to date already have led “to major hardware or software changes to the interceptors—not all of which have been verified through flight testing,” the GAO said. As an example, the GAO cited a new version of the interceptor’s exoatmospheric kill vehicle, or EKV, called the Capability Enhancement II, which already has been delivered and fielded even though the last two GMD flight tests, which were the only ones to use this new EKV, failed to intercept their targets.

Deliveries of the new EKV, made by Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems, were halted after the kill vehicle failed to hit its mark in a Dec. 15 flight test, MDA spokesman Rick Lehner said April 5. Future deliveries depend on the results of a “failure review,” Lehner said, and the MDA is likely weeks or months away from releasing a final report. The December test failure followed a failed intercept in January 2010 that was blamed on the EKV and sensors. The next test is planned for late 2012.

In all, the GMD system has been successful in only eight of 15 intercept attempts since 1999, the MDA says. MDA Director Patrick O’Reilly testified to the House Armed Services Committee March 31 that he considers the 30 deployed GMD interceptors essentially to be prototypes.

Seeking to distance itself from the Bush administration’s controversial development strategy that led to GMD deployment before testing was complete, the Obama administration has stated that new capabilities “must undergo testing that enables assessment under realistic operational conditions” before they are deployed, according to the April 13 Senate Armed Services Committee testimony of Brad Roberts, the Defense Department’s deputy assistant secretary for missile defense policy. This commitment, said Roberts, “reflected our assessment that it is no longer necessary to pursue a high-risk acquisition strategy that simultaneously develops and deploys new systems.” Nevertheless, J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational testing, testified April 13 that the current test program was “success-oriented”—meaning it does not allow time for repeat tests in case of failure—and that “the ability to conduct comprehensive quantitative assessments” of U.S. ballistic missile defense system capability “remains a number of years away.”

Missile defense skeptics argue that the MDA should adhere to the principle of “fly before you buy” and that MDA should test both the U.S.-based and European systems against more realistic threats. They say that the United States has to expect that adversaries, such as Iran and North Korea, will respond to U.S. missile defenses by adding countermeasures—which are simple means, such as balloon decoys—to defeat the interceptors. They note that the U.S. intelligence community concluded a decade ago that any country capable of fielding long-range ballistic missiles can develop effective countermeasures. Both the U.S. and European systems are designed to intercept targets in space, where countermeasures can be particularly effective at fooling the defense.

The April 15 test of the phased approach did not include countermeasures, and the MDA has given no indication if such tests will take place.

 

CTBT Monitors Assist in Fukushima Aftermath

 

In the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the monitoring system linked to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has tracked and projected the spread of radioactive particles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

 

Robert Golan-Vilella

The monitoring system associated with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has tracked the spread of radioactive particles from Japan’s damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and used models to predict their future paths, the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) said in a recent series of statements.

The system’s seismic and hydroacoustic components also helped provide emergency warnings in the minutes immediately after an earthquake occurred off the coast of Japan March 11, the CTBTO said. The earthquake caused a tsunami that devastated the Fukushima reactor complex and the surrounding area.

Radioactive particles released from the damaged reactors and spent fuel storage pools have scattered across the world. The materials were detected the next day at the Takasaki radionuclide monitoring station in Japan, 250 kilometers from the plant, according to an April 13 statement by the CTBTO. The particles spread throughout the Northern Hemisphere over the next 15 days, and on April 13, they were detected in the Southern Hemisphere, the CTBTO reported.

The radionuclide monitoring stations that detected the Fukushima fallout are part of the International Monitoring System, a global network of facilities that, when completed, will consist of 337 stations designed to help detect nuclear weapons test explosions. There are four types of monitoring stations: radionuclide stations, which detect radioactive particles emitted from nuclear reactions into the atmosphere; seismic stations, which can detect tremors produced by explosions underground; infrasound stations, which monitor low-frequency atmospheric waves that are produced by nuclear test blasts; and hydroacoustic stations, which measure sound waves in the oceans.

According to the CTBTO, the levels of ionizing radioactivity detected outside Japan are “far below levels that could cause harm to humans and the environment” and are comparable to natural background radiation.

The CTBTO’s monitoring system and InternationalDataCenter in Vienna also have been used to forecast the spread of the radioactivity from the Fukushima reactors. The CTBTO’s atmospheric transport modeling tool uses meteorological data to calculate the travel path of a given radionuclide. In the case of a suspected nuclear explosion, the agency would use “back tracking” modeling to try to determine where the material originated. Following the Fukushima disaster, it used “forward” modeling to predict where the radioactive particles would go. The CTBTO’s statement said that its models were “95% correct as the radionuclides reached the stations mostly within hours of the time predicted.”

The CTBTO operates the global monitoring system in preparation for the test ban treaty’s entry into force. Nearly 80 percent of the system’s planned monitoring facilities are currently operational; another 13 percent are either being tested or under construction.

Two of the system’s other elements—the seismic and hydroacoustic stations—also played a role in the initial moments after the earthquake. According to a March 11 CTBTO press release, more than 20 seismic and hydroacoustic stations sent data in real time to tsunami warning centers in the region. The press release said that this information contributed to the warning centers’ ability to issue rapid alerts, as the CTBTO’s monitoring data arrives as much as three minutes faster than data from other sources.

CTBTO member states first decided to allow data from the monitoring system to be used for “disaster mitigation purposes” following the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. In August 2008, the CTBTO and Japan signed a bilateral agreement that officially authorized Japan to use CTBTO data to issue warnings in the event of a tsunami, as it did after the March 11 earthquake.

 

UN Bolsters WMD Nonproliferation Body

 

The UN Security Council unanimously agreed to a 10-year extension for the committee created by Resolution 1540 to oversee an international effort to prevent terrorists and other nonstate actors from acquiring unconventional weapons.

 

Peter Crail

The UN Security Council unanimously agreed April 20 to a 10-year extension for a committee that oversees an international effort to prevent terrorists and other nonstate actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The council established the committee in 2004 under Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all countries to adopt and enforce a series of national laws criminalizing the possession of unconventional weapons; securing materials, facilities, and technologies used to make them; and adopting export controls to prevent their spread. (See ACT, May 2004.)

The committee is a subbody of the council. It comprises the 15 council members and is assisted by a panel of eight experts.

The 10-year mandate contained in Resolution 1977 departs from the council’s more limited extensions of the body for two years in 2006 and three years in 2008. Diplomats familiar with the process said the extension was a compromise between council members seeking an indefinite extension of the body, including the United States, and those preferring an extension closer to another three years.

In his final formal briefing to the council as chair of the 1540 Committee Nov. 15, Mexican Permanent Representative to the United Nations Claude Heller suggested a 10-year extension in order to improve long-term planning.

The role of the committee in overseeing compliance was also a matter of debate within the council. Thomas Wuchte, the Department of State’s senior adviser and special coordinator for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, said in an April 28 e-mail to Arms Control Today that some countries “wanted to be sure the committee did not become a tool for enforcing compliance or naming and shaming states that still lack the capacity to fully implement [Resolution] 1540 domestically.”

He added that Washington views the committee “as a facilitator rather than enforcer.”

Noting the committee’s role in facilitating assistance, Indian Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Manjeev Singh Puri said in remarks to the council following the April 20 vote that the extension was carried out “with a view to help plan assistance and cooperation programs for states requesting such assistance from the 1540 Committee on a long-term and predictable basis.”

An April 20 White House statement called the continuation of the committee’s work “an important element of the United States’ nonproliferation objectives” and highlighted a March 31 White House announcement that Washington intended to contribute $3 million to a UN-administered fund to support the committee’s efforts to assist states in implementing Resolution 1540’s requirements.

Wuchte said the contribution would be used to “help set up and properly resource the process for coordinating assistance, rather than directly fund assistance programs themselves.” The fund is administered jointly by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and the 1540 Committee, although the United States provides guidance for the use of its contributions.

Resolution 1977 encourages states to provide such contributions or to make available free training and expertise to facilitate the committee’s efforts to help states adopt and enforce nonproliferation laws.

Even with the show of support for the committee’s goals by the unanimous adoption of Resolution 1977, some countries were still cautious about its focus on proliferation in the absence of a similar consideration of WMD disarmament. After voting in favor of the resolution, Brazilian Permanent Representative to the UN Luiza Ribeiro Viotti told the council that “restricting our efforts only to fighting proliferation represents a limited perspective.” She called for states that possess unconventional weapons to take “concrete actions” toward disarmament.

Brazil issued a similar call to strike a balance between nonproliferation and disarmament in 2004 when it voted in favor of Resolution 1540, along with several other developing countries.

When Resolution 1540 was passed, many states also expressed strong reservations about the council’s ability to require that countries adopt specific types of national legislation, an authority first exercised three years earlier under Resolution 1373. Approved weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, that resolution requires all states to adopt national counterterrorism laws and was used as a model for Resolution 1540’s nonproliferation mandate.

However, such concerns about the council’s role have “subsided significantly” since 2004, as countries have grown more aware of the resolution’s aims and requirements, a Western diplomat said in an April 4 interview. Wuchte agreed with this assessment, saying, “[P]erhaps the most positive aspect of the negotiations on resolution 1977 was the absence of challenges to the legitimacy of [Resolution] 1540.”

“I think it is fair to say that the 1540 Committee has achieved general recognition as an important component of the global nonproliferation architecture,” he said.

In addition to extending the mandate of the 1540 Committee, Resolution 1977 provides extensive guidance for the committee’s work. The resolution focuses particularly on the committee’s efforts to facilitate the provision of resources, training, and other forms of assistance to countries that face difficulties in establishing laws and enforcement mechanisms to prevent WMD proliferation.

In light of this function, O’Neil Hamilton, who serves as the coordinator on Resolution 1540 for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said in an April 20 interview that the committee plays a particularly important role “as a support structure, especially for the global South,” referring to developing countries.

“Without the appropriate spotlight and needed structural support by the international system [in the form of the 1540 Committee], member states with capacity challenges will not be able to move beyond a minimal level of implementation despite their desire to undertake their obligations,” he added.

Resolution 1977 urged the committee to strengthen efforts to ensure that states seeking assistance in developing their national controls over WMD-related goods were matched with states willing to provide expertise and resources. It also requested that the committee compile a list of “effective practices” for such controls, which may be used as guidance for countries in adopting the required national laws.

The council stressed the need for greater cooperation between the committee and international and regional organizations on Resolution 1540’s implementation. Specifically, it called for such organizations to appoint a coordinator or point of contact.

CARICOM, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Central American Integration System have previously made such appointments, and other regional bodies have been considering doing the same.

The council tasked the committee with reviewing its operations in five years, as well as prior to the end of its mandate in April 2021.

 

Pakistan Tests Short-Range Missile

The Pakistani military claimed on April 19 to have successfully tested a 60 kilometer-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile, a move that might indicate Islamabad’s intention to develop low-yield nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield.

Peter Crail

The Pakistani military claimed on April 19 to have successfully tested a 60 kilometer-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile, a move that might indicate Islamabad’s intention to develop low-yield nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield.

The missile, called the Hatf 9, “could carry nuclear warheads of appropriate yields with high accuracy,” the Pakistani military said in a press statement. The statement added, “This quick response system addresses the need to deter evolving threats.”

Pakistan and its nuclear-armed rival, India, have continued to produce fissile material to increase their nuclear weapons stockpiles, and both countries persist in developing and testing ballistic missiles and other delivery systems.

Because of India’s conventional military superiority, however, Pakistan is believed to be seeking both a degree of nuclear parity and a means to neutralize India’s nonnuclear capabilities.

Islamabad is currently constructing additional nuclear reactors similar to those it already uses to produce plutonium for weapons. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program traditionally has focused on highly enriched uranium (HEU) as the nuclear explosive material. However, plutonium is better suited than HEU to producing the type of compact nuclear weapons intended for use in war-fighting.

 

India Rejects U.S. Firms for Fighter Deal

The Indian government has eliminated U.S. aerospace companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin from an estimated $10 billion tender competition for a medium multirole combat aircraft despite strong U.S. government support for the proposals.

Xiaodon Liang

The Indian government has eliminated U.S. aerospace companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin from an estimated $10 billion tender competition for a medium multirole combat aircraft despite strong U.S. government support for the proposals.

In an April 28 statement, the U.S. embassy in New Delhi said it had learned the previous day that the Indian government had not selected either of the two U.S. bids for the final stage of the procurement process. The original field of six aircraft now has been narrowed to two: the French Dassault Rafale and the multinational Eurofighter consortium’s Typhoon.

Boeing offered the Indian air force the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, while Lockheed Martin offered the F-16IN Super Viper. Indian officials also have eliminated bids by Saab of Sweden and RSK MiG of Russia. The tender calls for the delivery of 18 completed aircraft and the joint production in India of another 108, at a total initial cost of roughly $10 billion. Follow-on spare parts sales and maintenance costs could increase that figure over the lifespan of the aircraft.

In the U.S. embassy statement, Ambassador Timothy Roemer said that despite being “deeply disappointed,” the United States looked forward “to continuing to grow and develop our defense partnership with India.”

The U.S. government has backed the efforts of arms manufacturers to expand their business with India, in part by working with the Indian government to reach agreement on end-use monitoring arrangements in 2009 to clear the way for the export of advanced U.S. equipment. (See ACT, September 2009.) Speaking in Baltimore Oct. 13, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake said 27,000 U.S. jobs would be generated by the success of either U.S. bid. While in India in November, President Barack Obama said that a strong defense trade relationship would benefit both countries. (See ACT, December 2010.)

 

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