"I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them."

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
October 2015
Edition Date: 
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Cover Image: 

Books of Note

October 2015

The New Nuclear Disorder: Challenges to Deterrence and Strategy
Stephen J. Cimbala, Ashgate Publishing Company, 2015, 254 pp.

In this book on nuclear strategy, arms control, and nonproliferation in the 21st century, Stephen J. Cimbala writes that although some observers had forecast that the end of the Cold War would greatly reduce the importance of nuclear weapons, U.S. conventional dominance has prompted potential adversaries to “seek offsets, and one of these offsets is [weapons of mass destruction], including the possession of nuclear weapons.” Cimbala, distinguished professor of political science at Penn State Brandywine, says that, in addition to the threat posed by the potential terrorist acquisition of nonconventional weapons, the United States has been “forced to confront evident nuclear proliferation in North Korea and the possibility of nuclear weapons spread to Iran.” He warns that the potential failure to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and reverse North Korea’s nuclear advances could increase the likelihood that other states in the Middle East and East Asia could join the ranks of nuclear-armed states. Among Cimbala’s observations about nuclear weapons in the 21st century is that policymakers must revisit the challenges associated with terminating a nuclear war in the event deterrence fails. During the Cold War, Cimbala writes, significant attention was devoted to how a nuclear war could end, but given the enormous Soviet and U.S. arsenals, most experts doubted that a nuclear war could be stopped before the mutual destruction of each country had taken place. Cimbala argues that, in the 21st century, the prospect of regional or local nuclear conflicts involving the use of small numbers of nuclear weapons is more likely and these conflicts could spread into a wider war that could involve other nuclear powers not involved in the initial conflict.—KINGSTON REIF

A Higher Form of Killing: Six Weeks in World War I That Forever Changed the Nature of Warfare
Diana Preston, Bloomsbury Press, 2015, 352 pp.

In A Higher Form of Killing, historian Diana Preston examines the six-week period from late April to early June 1915 during which Germany deployed three new tactics in World War I and ushered in the dawn of the “age of weapons of mass destruction.” Preston links the first use of lethal gas by Germany on the battlefield at Ypres, aerial bombardment of the English homeland by German zeppelins, and the practice of unrestricted submarine warfare, exemplified by the sinking of the Lusitania by the German submarine U-20. These developments, Preston argues, made soldiers and civilians vulnerable to injury or death regardless of how far they were from the front. For example, she cites German gas pioneer Fritz Haber’s writing on the psychological effects of gas on soldiers; he claimed that the possibility of gas exposure caused soldiers anxiety at “[e]very change of sensation in the nose and the mouth,” which in turn sapped their morale. Unrestricted submarine warfare prompted anti-German rioting in the United Kingdom and public backlash against what Preston describes as “a new unprincipled form of warfare.” Commenting on the practice of zeppelin bombing, an editorialist for The Guardian wrote that “one of the blackest of many crimes with which Germany has stained herself…is that she has introduced this inevitably haphazard murder into warfare.” Preston’s graphic descriptions of Germany’s introduction of these tactics into warfare aid her convincing case that their use by Germany helped change the character of warfare.—NATHANIEL SANS

Legal Gap or Compliance Gap?

October 2015

Beatrice Fihn’s recent article (“A New Humanitarian Era: Prohibiting the Unacceptable,” July/August 2015) highlights the commitment by the signers of the “Humanitarian Pledge” to “pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.” Put forward by Austria in December 2014, the pledge is now supported by well more than 100 countries. Fihn also states, rightly, that nuclear weapons “fundamentally violate the principles of humanitarian law.”

If the use of nuclear weapons already is unlawful, how should the concept of a “legal gap” be understood? The deficiency should be seen as a compliance gap, the failure to eliminate nuclear weapons in accordance with Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). That article requires the pursuit of negotiations in good faith of “effective measures…relating to nuclear disarmament.”

Paul Dean (“The Role of Negotiation in International Arms Control Law,” September 2015) convincingly develops the obvious but essential point that nuclear-armed states must participate in negotiations of legal instruments if disarmament is to be effective. We made similar arguments in an April 2015 paper of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, “Nuclear Disarmament: The Road Ahead.”

Dean goes astray, however, by contending 45 years after the NPT entered into force that U.S. pursuit of partial measures such as a fissile material cutoff treaty, coupled with systematic opposition to commencement of multilateral negotiations on elimination of nuclear arsenals, suffices to comply with Article VI. The NPT was never intended to be a license for the indefinite possession of nuclear arms by the NPT-acknowledged nuclear-weapon states.

Furthermore, the concept of a legal gap should not be understood as in any way signaling that the use of nuclear weapons is currently legally permissible. Nuclear weapons simply cannot be used in compliance with fundamental principles of international law protecting civilians from the effects of warfare, protecting combatants from unnecessary suffering, and protecting the natural environment. The International Committee of the Red Cross has recently confirmed this analysis. Although, as Dean notes, a 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice did not find the use of nuclear weapons to be categorically illegal, the thrust of the opinion is that nuclear weapons cannot be used in compliance with the above principles. In many circumstances, use of nuclear weapons would constitute a crime against humanity as defined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The nuclear-armed states and their allies have not accepted this legal truth. That is illustrated by Dean’s assertion that whether a use of nuclear weapons is legal would depend on the circumstances and by the Law of War Manual released in June 2015 by the U.S. Department of Defense. While acknowledging that the “law of war governs the use of nuclear weapons,” the manual maintains that because the “United States has not accepted a treaty rule that prohibits the use of nuclear weapons per se,…nuclear weapons are lawful weapons for the United States.” The lack of serious analysis of use of nuclear weapons under existing law places the Defense Department at odds with U.S. courts, from the Supreme Court on down, which have consistently affirmed the reality and enforceability of customary—that is, nontreaty—international law.

A treaty prohibition on use of nuclear weapons in any circumstance would codify the existing illegality of their use. That is the way law generally develops, from common law to statutory law, from custom to treaty. By joining such a treaty, nuclear-armed and nuclear-umbrella states would unequivocally accept the illegality of use. For these reasons, an explicit prohibition of use should be included in the legal measures negotiated to fill the compliance gap. In the meantime, however, supporters of the Humanitarian Pledge should stress that the use of nuclear weapons already is unlawful.

John Burroughs is executive director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, which is the United Nations office of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms. Peter Weiss is co-president of the association. 

Building on the Iran Deal

October 2015

By Daryl G. Kimball

The historic nuclear nonproliferation agreement struck on July 14 between Iran and six world powers is moving forward.

Now the task is to implement the deal and reinforce it. Leading states in and outside the Middle East should build on the deal by jointly exploring additional barriers against further nuclear proliferation in the region and beyond. 

The agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, will severely curtail Iran’s nuclear capabilities for at least 15 years and put in place a multilayered verification and monitoring regime. By blocking Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb, the agreement also helps head off nuclear competition in the unstable Middle East.

The agreement contains innovative but time-limited provisions that go beyond the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and standard International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. These and other measures could be applied indefinitely if pursued on a regional and even global basis by the United States and other leading countries. Among the options are the following:

Expand application of additional protocols. Region-wide adoption of and adherence to additional protocols, which will provide the IAEA with enhanced monitoring and inspection authority in Iran under the agreement, would help to guard against illicit military nuclear activity elsewhere. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria are among the states that have not concluded an additional protocol with the IAEA.

One approach would be to update the law governing U.S. civil nuclear cooperation to require cooperating states to adopt an additional protocol and early-notification procedures. Another would be for the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group to agree not to engage in any civilian nuclear cooperation with a state in the Middle East unless it has taken those steps.

Ban production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium. In the agreement, Iran agreed not to enrich uranium beyond 3.67 percent uranium-235 for a period of at least 15 years. Iran has indicated a willingness to extend that restriction if other countries in the region follow suit. A goal of U.S. policy should be to secure a region-wide commitment to establishing a ceiling of 5 percent U-235 for uranium enrichment.

A related strategy would be to accelerate the phaseout of reactor fuel with an enrichment level greater than 5 percent for any purposes by any country and to provide technical support to convert reactors fueled with highly enriched uranium to low-enriched fuel.

Iran also committed not to separate plutonium from spent fuel in its reactors for at least 15 years. A permanent region-wide ban on reprocessing could also be adopted.

If additional countries chose to pursue enrichment in the Middle East or elsewhere, they should be encouraged to allow the same continuous IAEA monitoring at key nuclear facilities to which Iran is subject under this agreement.

Encourage lifetime fuel-supply and fuel take-back guarantees. To help obviate Iran’s justification for increasing its enrichment capacity beyond the agreement’s limit of 5,060 of its first-generation centrifuges, the IR-1, any country that supplies additional power reactors to Iran could provide fuel supply guarantees for the lifespan of the reactor and agree to take back the spent fuel to deny Iran access to the plutonium in the fuel. Russia already has such an arrangement with Iran. The United States should strongly encourage lifetime fuel-supply arrangements for any country in the region seeking nuclear reactors.

Forgo nuclear weapons-related experiments. In the deal, Iran agreed to a ban on all nuclear weapons-related experiments, even though some ostensibly have civilian applications. By encouraging other states in the region and elsewhere to voluntarily declare or reach a memorandum of understanding with the IAEA that such experiments, if conducted, would constitute a violation of their safeguards agreements, confidence in the NPT would be strengthened.

Encourage region-wide adherence to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Nuclear test explosions enable states to prove new warhead designs, particularly smaller, lighter warheads for delivery on ballistic missiles. The 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all such tests. Currently, three states in the Middle East—Egypt, Iran, and Israel—must ratify the CTBT to facilitate its entry into force. Iran and Israel have signed the treaty, and their current leaders have expressed general support for the treaty.

To reinforce Iran’s commitment to a future without nuclear weapons and increase security in the region, all CTBT states-parties should actively encourage states in the Middle East that have not signed and ratified the CTBT, including Saudi Arabia, to do so and to fully support the CTBT International Monitoring System, as well the development of the on-site inspection capabilities that will be available after the treaty enters into force.

The Iran deal is a major step forward. The United States and other leading governments can strengthen it further by advancing additional nonproliferation initiatives in the years ahead.

The historic nuclear nonproliferation agreement struck on July 14 between Iran and six world powers is moving forward.

More Work to Do: A Pathway for Future Progress on Strengthening Nuclear Security

October 2015

By Jonathan Herbach and Samantha Pitts-Kiefer

On July 31, the United States submitted its instrument of ratification to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), having recently passed the long-gestating necessary implementing legislation.

For the United States, this step marked the culmination of a process dating back to 1998 when a group of experts convened by IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei first broached the idea of amending what remains the only multilateral treaty dealing with the physical protection of nuclear material.1

Two-thirds of the parties to the CPPNM must ratify or accede to the 2005 amendment to bring it into force. The U.S. ratification brings entry into force one step closer, but another 14 states must follow suit before the amendment takes effect.2

This development coincides with the imminent conclusion, at least in its current incarnation, of the nuclear security summit process, for which entry into force of the CPPNM amendment has been a key goal. With the summit process winding down but with much work remaining, it is vital that a process is initiated by which states can continue and expand on the substantial progress that has already been made. To that end, states should make use of the CPPNM Article 16 review conference mechanism, which would be triggered by eventual entry into force of the amendment. Although at first blush this might seem to be an abstruse concept, the review conference mechanism offers a much-needed forum for continuing discussions aimed at preventing nuclear terrorism.


Henry S. Ensher (left), the acting head of the U.S. delegation to the International Atomic Energy Agency, deposits his country’s instrument of ratification of the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material with IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano at agency headquarters in Vienna on July 31. (Photo credit: Dean Calma / IAEA)President Barack Obama initiated the nuclear security summit process in 2009, following his Prague speech, to address what he called “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security” by securing “all vulnerable nuclear material” in four years.3 The process has brought much-needed, high-level political attention to the threat of nuclear terrorism, convening more than 50 heads of government over the course of three summits—Washington in 2010, Seoul in 2012, and The Hague in 2014—to make concrete commitments to strengthen the global nuclear security system, enhance international cooperation, and upgrade domestic nuclear security regimes. In doing so, the summits have elevated nuclear security to the top of the international agenda. Now there is a pressing need to consider how to consolidate the gains already made and to ensure continued progress.

Entry into force of the CPPNM amendment will contribute greatly to the overall strengthening of global nuclear security. As IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said in July, adoption of the amendment “is the single most important step the international community can take to strengthen nuclear security globally” and “would make it harder for terrorists to get their hands on nuclear material or to sabotage a nuclear facility.”4 It will significantly expand on the original treaty, which covers only physical protection of nuclear material used for peaceful purposes during and incidental to international transport.5 The amendment goes further by requiring parties to protect all their nuclear material, whether in domestic use or storage or in domestic or international transport, as well as their nuclear facilities used for peaceful purposes. To guide the establishment and maintenance of the physical protection system, the amendment obligates states to apply, insofar as is reasonable and practicable, a set of fundamental security principles that define the key elements of a state’s nuclear security regime, such as establishing a competent authority and setting up licensing and inspection systems to verify compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.

The impact of the CPPNM amendment will be institutional as well as substantive. The amendment’s entry into force will set in motion a process, pursuant to amended Article 16, requiring a conference of the parties after five years to assess implementation and adequacy of the treaty in light of the then-prevailing situation.6 This Article 16 mechanism, although mandating only one such conference, has the potential to expand into regular meetings of flexible and broad scope if the parties so decide. As such, CPPNM Article 16 offers a mechanism to sustain regular, high-level political attention on nuclear security, thereby allowing states to continue to take stock of implementation of existing commitments, assess contemporary threats, agree to additional steps where necessary, coordinate action, and build international and domestic confidence in the effectiveness of nuclear security.7      

Sustaining High-Level Attention

The work of strengthening the global nuclear security system is not complete and must continue as long as the threat evolves. Major gaps in the system remain. There are no comprehensive international standards or best practices that all states must follow, adherence to applicable international legal instruments is not universal, the current system does not adequately cover the 83 percent of global stocks of weapons-usable nuclear material that are categorized as military material,8 there is still no established way for states to hold each other accountable for security, and more work is needed to reduce and eliminate weapons-usable nuclear materials. In addition, many states still need to strengthen their own legal and regulatory frameworks for securing nuclear materials and facilities, particularly in the face of emerging threats such as cyberattacks.

The nuclear security summit process has led to progress in all of these areas. To ensure that progress continues, several features of the process should be carried forward. First, high-level attention achieved through participation by heads of government has prompted states to take steps to strengthen national and global nuclear security. Many states would not have taken these steps, at least not at such an accelerated rate, in the absence of the summits. Sustained high-level attention promotes the setting of priorities that catalyze actions domestically and in cooperation with other states, and it ensures that nuclear security remains on international and national agendas.

Second, the summit process has helped to hold governments accountable for security commitments and has provided opportunities for building confidence in states’ national nuclear security regimes through information sharing—for instance, on relevant laws and regulations. Third, participation by heads of government has empowered senior officials to coordinate nuclear security initiatives within and across governments and motivated national implementation of commitments at all levels of government. Finally, the summits have facilitated identification of assistance needs and encouraged contributions to international organizations that provide such assistance. These features set the parameters for considering how the CPPNM Article 16 conference mechanism could provide a vehicle for ensuring continued progress.

The Article 16 Mechanism

An integral part of many treaty regimes is a review process to ensure the treaty’s continued viability in light of changing circumstances. This is certainly necessary for nuclear security as states must contend with the evolving threat, the spread of nuclear technology, and advances in security practices. Review conference mechanisms such as Article 16 provide opportunities to bolster a treaty regime in a number of ways—for example, by developing common understandings of key provisions, setting goals to support implementation, and facilitating interaction and coordination among states. This is one reason that review conferences often become regular undertakings.

In its original and amended versions, Article 16 requires only a single conference. A majority of the parties, however, can request the convening of additional conferences at intervals of at least five years.9 As noted above, the benefits of convening such meetings on a regular basis are clear, chief among them being the institutionalization of interstate collaboration to strengthen international nuclear security.

There is sufficient precedent for regularizing these mechanisms. The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) contains similar language on review conferences.10 At each of the early review conferences, the parties to the NPT adopted the practice of requesting the convening of the next conference in five years’ time. At the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, the parties agreed to continue holding such review conferences on a regular basis.11 In a similar fashion, the parties to the CPPNM attending the required conference five years after entry into force of the 2005 amendment could agree to convene these meetings on a continuing basis.

Determining the Scope

According to Article 16, conferences are meant to “to review the implementation of this Convention and its adequacy as concerns the preamble, the whole of the operative part and the annexes in the light of the then prevailing situation.”12 As mentioned above, the 2005 amendment entails a general broadening of the scope of the CPPNM. Consequently, the scope covered by the conference mechanism will broaden as well, allowing states-parties to discuss steps taken to establish, implement, and maintain an appropriate physical protection system for all of their nuclear materials and nuclear facilities used for peaceful purposes, including the application of the fundamental security principles listed in the amendment, and all related issues. Article 16’s incorporation of the treaty preamble into the conference’s scope further provides the opportunity to raise topics for which no specific forum will be available following conclusion of the summit process and enables integration of the recommendations that have been developed to guide the establishment of comprehensive national nuclear security regimes.

Urenco Chief Executive Officer Helmut Engelbrecht (left) gives Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte a declaration from a gathering of nuclear industry leaders on March 25, 2014, during the nuclear security summit in The Hague. (Photo credit: Bart Maat-Pool/Getty Images)In particular, the operative text of the treaty does not address the issue of the security of military material, but the preamble refers to it. This reflects a compromise reached during treaty negotiations between 1977 and 1979. A number of states wished to make the terms of the treaty applicable to military materials, arguing that such materials would be at least as attractive to criminal actors as civilian materials would, but for others this approach was a nonstarter. Therefore, to reach agreement on a treaty text while still explicitly recognizing the importance of securing military materials, the negotiating states included a paragraph to that effect in the preamble text.13 Given that context, the way the preamble was included within the scope of Article 16 conferences as a substantive part of the review of the treaty likely indicates the intention to discuss the protection of military materials.14

The new preamble contained in the 2005 amendment also broadens the possible scope of the review conferences by adding a reference to “internationally formulated physical protection recommendations,” recognizing that they provide “guidance on contemporary means” to secure nuclear materials and facilities. This clearly invokes the IAEA “Nuclear Security Recommendations on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities,” first developed in 1972 and currently in its fifth revision.15 These recommendations have already been the internationally recognized basis for physical protection for about 40 years, with the fifth revision explicitly designed to help states meet their obligations under the CPPNM amendment. The amended preamble takes this a step further and firmly integrates the IAEA recommendations into the treaty framework.

In addition to providing a substantive foundation for interaction among states, the Article 16 mechanism could potentially involve all of the more than 150 states that currently are parties to the treaty. That would increase the number of participants threefold from the number that took part in the summits.

Establishing a Regular Process

The summit process never was intended to continue indefinitely. Heads of government have a long list of priorities other than nuclear security, and the tendency toward “summit fatigue” can lead to waning levels of ambition over time. At the same time, continued, high-level political engagement is required if the benefits of the summit process are to be maintained. Thus, a balance must be struck between the goal of regular, high-level political engagement on the one hand and a realistic timeline for meetings at the head-of-government level on the other.

With the required interval of at least five years, Article 16 establishes a longer timeline than the two-year time frame of the summit process. The five-year interval has benefits and drawbacks. The longer period between conferences alleviates the sense of summit fatigue and provides a more realistic time frame for states to implement commitments and to see substantial progress. This is particularly true in areas in which progress can be slow despite high levels of ambition, such as eliminating weapons-usable nuclear material. Article 16 does not specify the level of government official that would attend Article 16 conferences and therefore provides flexibility as to whether they could be attended by heads of government, ministers, or other senior officials.16 Given the need to preserve the substantial benefits of engagement at the highest levels and because of the lengthy interval between conferences, it is reasonable to expect head-of-government involvement at an agreed point during the conference to make or validate commitments while ministers or other senior officials would represent states for the duration of the conference.

Even with such an arrangement, however, meetings held only every five years could lead to a loss of focus and to delays in necessary action because the sense of urgency to reach tangible outcomes at an accelerated rate would be gone. Annual intersessional meetings could resolve this potential drawback by providing continuity between the main conferences. There is precedent for such supplemental intersessional meetings within treaty frameworks. The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) uses intersessional meetings to provide a more regular forum to discuss implementation of the treaty.17 The BWC intersessional agenda is set by the immediately preceding review conference. Its stated purpose is “to discuss, and promote common understanding and effective action” on specific topics that are selected by the parties.18

The Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management also has made use of the intersessional concept. The purpose of convening an intersessional meeting for this convention was “to continue discussions and apply improvements as well as to enhance the continuity and ongoing dialogue between Review Meetings.”19 In a similar way, although the Article 16 conferences would provide a structured framework for priority setting and accountability, annual intersessional meetings would ensure continuity of the nuclear security mission, motivate continued implementation of security commitments, and allow regular progress checks in the interim. In addition, they would enable governments to react quickly to changes in the threat landscape and identify continuing needs for assistance.

Senior officials could attend intersessional meetings, much as the nuclear security summit “sherpas” do now in their regular preparatory meetings.20 One minister-level meeting between Article 16 conferences, perhaps held on the margins of other ministerial meetings such as those convened by the IAEA or the United Nations, also could ensure that nuclear security remains a high national priority even without the presence of heads of government. Annual meetings of senior officials would also be a means of maintaining a network of relationships among senior officials across governments who might not otherwise interact. Such interaction is vital to continued international coordination and cooperation on nuclear security.

Intersessional meetings also could provide an opportunity for concurrent multisector engagement among different stakeholders on nuclear security by including sessions for nongovernmental experts and industry representatives. The benefits of multisector engagement have been apparent at the side meetings for nongovernmental experts and industry representatives prior to each official nuclear security summit. Expert involvement has often served to push a more ambitious agenda and generated creative ideas that have taken hold in the official process. Industry involvement is vital given that industry is responsible for implementing security on the ground, taking into account commercial and technical realities.

Setting the Agenda

The agenda for Article 16 conferences and intersessional meetings must be clear and robust enough to attract attendance by leaders and senior officials. In particular, there is a need to demonstrate the value of holding such regular meetings to states that may be hesitant to participate in light of their experiences with other, sometimes underachieving treaty review processes.

As described above, the scope of Article 16 is flexible enough to consider a broad array of topics that were addressed by the summit process and that relate to the preamble or operative text of the CPPNM and its amendment.21 Most topics would be discussed in plenary sessions, but considering the large number and diversity of states-parties to the convention in comparison to the number of states participating in the summit process, meetings may need to be configured to allow for discussions among different constellations of states. For instance, topics such as military materials and plutonium management that may be applicable to a smaller number of states could be addressed in smaller working sessions.

Broadly, Article 16 conferences must address the following remaining challenges that the summit process has only begun to address: strengthening security and building international confidence in the security of the 83 percent of global stocks of weapons-usable nuclear materials that are military materials, further developing the concept of international assurances and providing opportunities for confidence building, and tackling the thorny issue of minimizing the risks associated with growing stocks of separated plutonium. That these three areas lack a natural home outside the nuclear security summit process highlights the vital need for a mechanism for sustained, high-level political engagement.

Article 16 meetings also would need to cover several broad areas that were addressed by the summit process but require continued attention: strengthening national legal and regulatory frameworks and implementation of nuclear security; promoting the adoption and implementation of IAEA guidance; encouraging the use of peer reviews; increasing law enforcement cooperation to tackle illicit smuggling and other crimes; developing technical solutions for improving security, such as waste management and cybersecurity; and minimizing and eliminating civilian highly enriched uranium through reactor conversions, down-blending, repatriation, and technology development to transition to low-enriched uranium fuels. Meetings also could provide opportunities to discuss ways to strengthen institutional capacity and governance to meet the needs of the international nuclear security agenda more generally, including efforts to develop international guidance and provide training and assistance.

Process Goals

CPPNM Article 16 conferences and intersessional meetings should have several primary objectives. First, a key goal of Article 16 meetings would be to set international priorities for nuclear security, either reaffirming existing priorities or identifying new priorities as the threat landscape evolves. Intersessional meetings also would allow states to identify critical areas that require urgent action by states and, if necessary, to reset priorities.

A second key objective is to provide accountability for implementation of security commitments made during and after the summit process. Article 14 of the CPPNM lays out a reporting process, requiring states-parties to inform the IAEA, as the convention’s depositary, of laws and regulations that give effect to the convention.22This reporting mechanism has been underutilized so far, but submitting such reports could be made a deliverable in the context of Article 16 conferences, with states providing regular updates. As Article 14 reports are distributed only among the states-parties to the convention, states also could provide public reports on progress, similar to the national progress reports and statements that are part of the summit process, to help build international confidence in the effectiveness of their security. Intersessional meetings would provide additional opportunities to track progress.

A final objective is to encourage states to be more ambitious by making new individual and joint commitments in addition to tracking the progress of existing commitments. Making new commitments ensures that states are engaged in a process of continuous improvement that matches the pace of evolving threats and prevents progress from stagnating.


With the nuclear security summits ending and major challenges remaining, it is vital to establish a mechanism to sustain and expand on the progress made at these biennial events. CPPNM Article 16, which will be triggered when the 2005 amendment to the convention enters into force, provides such a mechanism. Once an Article 16 meeting is set, it will be up to the states-parties to decide what the scope of the discussion will be, at what level they will participate, and whether to regularize the conference mechanism as a forum for sustained interaction on nuclear security.

The summit process strengthened global nuclear security through unprecedented high-level attention and far-reaching commitment. Yet, the job of securing all nuclear materials and related facilities is not done; reverting to the old ways of incremental and ad hoc progress is not an option. Instead, states should use the Article 16 mechanism, based on an expanded and reinvigorated treaty regime in the form of the amended CPPNM, with a renewed sense of purpose to stimulate additional steps toward strengthening global nuclear security.


1.  Trevor Findlay, Nuclear Energy and Global Governance: Ensuring Safety, Security and Non-proliferation (New York: Routledge, 2011), p. 132.

2.  As of September 16, 2015.

3.  Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Barack Obama in Prague As Delivered,” April 5, 2009, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-barack-obama-prague-delivered; Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Communiqué of the Washington Nuclear Security Summit,” April 13, 2010, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/communiqu-washington-nuclear-security-summit.

4.  Rodolfo Quevenco, “United States Ratifies Key Nuclear Security Amendment,” July 31, 2015, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/united-states-ratifies-key-nuclear-security-amendment.

5.  See Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), October 26, 1979, 1456 U.N.T.S. 24631, art. 2, https://treaties.un.org/doc/db/Terrorism/Conv6-english.pdf. Compare this to article 2A of the 2005 amendment to the CPPNM, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), “Nuclear Security – Measures to Protect Against Nuclear Terrorism: Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material,” GOV/INF/2005/10-GC(49)/INF/6, September 6, 2005, https://www.iaea.org/About/Policy/GC/GC49/Documents/gc49inf-6.pdf. In addition to physical protection measures, the CPPNM requires parties to criminalize and establish jurisdiction over certain offenses in their domestic systems. The amendment adds activities related to illicit trafficking and sabotage to the list of offenses that parties must criminalize.

6.  Amended Article 16, in wording identical to that of the original treaty text except for the reference to the entry into force of the amendment, reads:

1. A conference of States Parties shall be convened by the depositary five years after the entry into force of the Amendment adopted on 8 July 2005 to review the implementation of this Convention and its adequacy as concerns the preamble, the whole of the operative part and the annexes in the light of the then prevailing situation.

2. At intervals of not less than five years thereafter, the majority of States Parties may obtain, by submitting a proposal to this effect to the depositary, the convening of further conferences with the same objective.

7.  In the official summit process, five working groups are considering ways to strengthen key international institutions and mechanisms engaged in nuclear security, including treaty regimes. Strengthening the CPPNM falls within the scope of the IAEA working group.

8.  Nuclear Threat Initiative, “Non-Paper: Strengthening the Security of Military Materials,” n.d., https://www.nti.org/media/pdfs/Strengthening_the_Security_of_Military_Nuclear_Materials_1.pdf.

9.  Although states could conceivably decide to call for an Article 16 conference before the amendment enters into force, they have not done so in the 23 years since the first conference. That first and so far only conference was notable for its brevity. States-parties acknowledged the adequacy of and reaffirmed their support for the convention, but did little more. There appears to be little appetite to request another such meeting without the boosting effect of the amendment’s entry into force.

10.  According to Article VIII.3 of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT),

Five years after the entry into force of this Treaty, a conference of Parties to the Treaty shall be held in Geneva, Switzerland, in order to review the operation of this Treaty with a view to assuring that the purposes of the Preamble and the provisions of the Treaty are being realized. At intervals of five years thereafter, a majority of the Parties to the Treaty may obtain, by submitting a proposal to this effect to the Depositary Governments, the convening of further conferences with the same objective of reviewing the operation of the Treaty.

11.  1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the NPT, “Decision 1: Strengthening the Review Process for the Treaty,” NPT/CONF.1995/32 (Part 1), Annex, n.d., http://www.un.org/disarmament/WMD/Nuclear/1995-NPT/pdf/1995-NY-NPTReviewConference-FinalDocumentDecision_I.pdf.

12.  The only difference between the two texts is that the original text mandates that a conference take place five years after entry into force of the convention, whereas the 2005 amendment requires such a conference five years after entry into force of the amendment.

13.  IAEA, “Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material,” Legal Series, No. 12, 1982.

14.  This is not to say that the preamble comprises binding obligations in the way the operative text does. A treaty preamble does not itself establish rights and duties for the parties, but rather sets common aims and is essential to treaty interpretation, among other things.

15.  IAEA, “Nuclear Security Recommendations on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities (INFCIRC/225/Revision 5),” IAEA Nuclear Security Series, No. 13 (January 2011), http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications/PDF/Pub1481_web.pdf.

16.  For example, NPT review conferences are attended by senior officials, with ministers or their equivalent participating as necessary. Heads of government have typically not attended review conferences, but, given the high priority that states have placed on nuclear security through the summit process, involvement at that level should continue.

17.  Reference to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) intersessional process is not intended as a judgment on the utility of that process, which is the subject of substantial disagreement. Its inclusion has to do with the structure more than with the substance, as it demonstrates how states have established a process to sustain interaction in the interval between the main conferences. Substantively, an intersessional process specific to the CPPNM review conference mechanism would need to be defined by the states-parties.

18.  See Seventh Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, “Final Document of the Seventh Review Conference,” BWC/CONF.VII/7, January 13, 2012, http://www.unog.ch/80256EDD006B8954/(httpAssets)/3E2A1AA4CF86184BC1257D960032AA4E/$file/BWC_CONF.VII_07+(E).pdf.

19.  See IAEA, Joint Convention News, No. 3 (November 2012), http://www-ns.iaea.org/downloads/rw/conventions/joint-convention-newsletter-nov2012.pdf.

20.  “Sherpa” is the term given to the government official who heads a country’s delegation in the preparatory phase of summit meetings and is in charge of conducting negotiations on the summit’s agenda topics and on eventual summit outcomes.

21.  One area that would not fall within the scope of Article 16 conferences but has been discussed in the summit process is the security of radioactive sources.

22.  CPPNM, art. 14.

 Jonathan Herbach is a research fellow specializing in nuclear security and arms control law at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Samantha Pitts-Kiefer is senior program officer for scientific and technical affairs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

With the nuclear security summit process winding down but much work remaining, it is vital to initiate a process by which states can continue and expand on the substantial progress that already has been made. 

From ‘Atoms for Peace’ to an IAEA Nuclear Fuel Bank

October 2015

By Tariq Rauf

Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Kazakhstan, and countries contributing funds to the IAEA fuel bank attend a ceremony in Astana establishing the bank on August 27. (Photo credit: Peter Lulle Johansson/Cawa Media)On August 27, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Kazakhstan signed an agreement establishing a fuel bank of low-enriched uranium (LEU).

The ceremony in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, marked a milestone in the progress of an initiative on facilitating access to nuclear energy and strengthening nonproliferation that originated more than a decade ago.

The LEU bank is to be located at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant at Öskemen (formerly Ust Kamenogorsk) in Kazakhstan. It is to be owned and operated by the IAEA as part of the agency’s effort to provide assurances of nuclear fuel supply.

It is important to recall that as far back as December 8, 1953, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower in his famous “Atoms for Peace” speech at the United Nations called on states

to make joint contributions from their stockpiles of normal uranium and fissionable materials to an International Atomic Energy Agency…[that] could be made responsible for the impounding, storage, and protection of the contributed fissionable and other materials. The ingenuity of our scientists will provide special safe conditions under which such a bank of fissionable material…would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind. Experts would be mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine, and other peaceful activities. A special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world.1

A half century later, in 2003, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei called for a new approach to the most sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle—uranium enrichment and plutonium separation—that would assure supplies of nuclear fuel for civilian uses and preserve states’ nuclear fuel-cycle options while minimizing the establishment of additional enrichment and reprocessing capabilities.2 Over the next four years, some 12 different proposals followed, ranging from government assurances to international nuclear fuel-cycle centers to an LEU reserve and an LEU bank.3

Nuclear power has been a key part of the world’s electricity supply for more than 50 years and will continue to be one of the lowest emitters of carbon dioxide among energy sources through the entire life cycle. Like other energy sources, nuclear energy has advantages and drawbacks with regard to its impact on the environment and its social and economic dimensions.

According to the IAEA, global expansion in nuclear power generating capacity is projected to expand.4 Today, 30 countries use nuclear power generation, and this number is likely to increase in the next couple of decades. There are 438 nuclear powers reactors in operation currently, providing about 11 percent of electricity generated globally.

Nuclear fuel for power plants generally consists of uranium enriched to 2 to 4 percent uranium-235. A single uranium fuel pellet the size of a fingertip contains as much energy as 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, 1,780 pounds of coal, or 149 gallons of oil. More than 60 square miles of photovoltaic panels or about 180 square miles of wind turbines would be required to produce as much electricity as by a multiunit nuclear power plant.5

Global uranium-enrichment capacity presently exceeds total annual demand, but with the projected increase in reactors, enrichment capacity will need to increase. Currently, commercial enrichment is carried out in China, France, Russia, and the United States and by Urenco,6 which has plants in Europe and the United States. Small-scale enrichment facilities are operating in Argentina, Brazil, India, Iran, Japan, and Pakistan. Assurance-of-supply mechanisms such as the LEU bank are designed to be a backup to any disruption in commercial supply of LEU for nuclear fuel for existing and new users of nuclear power, thus contributing to confidence in nuclear energy while minimizing potential proliferation risks by avoiding the construction of new enrichment facilities.  

Origins of the LEU Bank

In September 2006, the co-chairmen of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Ted Turner, offered $50 million from NTI adviser Warren Buffett to help create an IAEA-owned and -operated LEU bank on the condition that the IAEA raise $100 million from other sources for that purpose.7 To provide a location, Kazakhstan offered to host the IAEA fuel bank.8 By May 2009, the IAEA had received funds and pledges in excess of $100 million9 from the European Union, Kuwait, Norway, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States, thus meeting the NTI funding criterion.

On December 3, 2010, the IAEA Board of Governors approved the establishment of the LEU bank10based on the following criteria: (1) LEU supply to a nuclear power plant is disrupted; (2) the recipient state is unable to secure LEU from the commercial market, by state-to-state arrangements, or by any other such means; (3) the state has in place a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA and is in compliance with this agreement; and (4) the state has concluded a supply agreement with the IAEA and has paid the full cost to replenish the supplied LEU from the bank. The board and IAEA member states emphasized that the additional options for assurance of supply will supplement the rights that exist under Article IV of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and will not limit states’ nuclear-fuel-cycle choices.

Host state agreement. Negotiations between the IAEA and Kazakhstan on a host state agreement governing the establishment and operation of the LEU bank were unduly protracted and took nearly three-and-a-half years due to the inexperience of the IAEA Secretariat and Kazakhstani authorities, as well as the demands of the IAEA. The agreement was finalized in January 2015, approved by Kazakhstani authorities in May, approved by the IAEA board in June, and signed by representatives of the two parties at the Astana ceremony in August.

The agreement is valid for 10 years and comprises 19 articles. It defines the fuel bank as the physical stock of IAEA LEU located at the IAEA LEU Storage Facility. The LEU will be stored in up to 60 industry-standard cylinders for enriched uranium hexafluoride. Kazakhstan will lease the storage facility to the IAEA for a token charge of one euro annually, and Kazakhstan will cover costs relating to the implementation of safeguards in connection with the bank.

The bank will be the property of and under the jurisdiction and control of the IAEA. The technical staff of the Ulba plant will be able to enter the facility without advance IAEA permission only in the event of an emergency or hazard or threat requiring urgent action. Emergency preparedness and response, as well as safety, security, and safeguards, will be the responsibility of Kazakhstan. For the purpose of applying safeguards, Kazakhstan is to establish an LEU storage facility separate from the facilities at the Ulba plant.

The fuel bank is to be safeguarded at all times against natural and other hazards; unauthorized removal or diversion; damage or destruction, including sabotage; and forcible seizure. All questions concerning civil liability for nuclear damage are to be governed by the Protocol to Amend the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, to which Kazakhstan is a party.

“Flags.” It has always been recognized by the IAEA Secretariat that, for the LEU bank to provide a credible assurance of supply, the nuclear material acquired by the agency should not require the consent of the supplier state for the agency to provide the nuclear material to a member state as long as the arrangements between the IAEA and the recipient state were in accordance with the criteria approved by the board for such transactions. Accordingly, in 2009, ElBaradei stated that the agency would purchase the LEU using its standard procedures for open tender from vendors willing and able to provide LEU or its components—natural uranium, conversion, and enrichment services—free of conditions that conflict with the purpose of the establishment of the fuel bank.11 This meant that the IAEA would be able to supply LEU from the bank to member states without the prior consent of the supplier.

Subsequently, some supplier states suggested that it would be necessary to uphold the obligations attached to nuclear material acquired by the agency and that the IAEA would need to respect the obligations, such as the need by the IAEA to obtain the supplier’s consent when providing the LEU to a member state.

The secretariat objected to this insertion of conditions, known as “flags,” and insisted that the assurance of supply provided by the fuel bank would be implemented by the secretariat solely in accordance with the provisions of the Statute of the IAEA, as well as any relevant stipulations of the board. The secretariat said the IAEA would acquire LEU for the bank without any conditions that conflict with the purpose of the establishment of the IAEA LEU bank—that is, credible assurance of supply.

The secretariat noted that, in the case of the IAEA LEU reserve established at Angarsk, Russia had given the IAEA the authority to transfer Russian-owned LEU from the reserve to recipient states through an IAEA supply agreement covering nonproliferation, safety, and security criteria.12

The model supply agreement between the IAEA and a recipient state, as approved in December 2009 by the board for the LEU bank, includes the following conditions:

•   The recipient state has a comprehensive safeguards agreement in force with the IAEA.

•   The agency has drawn a conclusion on the nondiversion of declared nuclear material for the state in the most recent Safeguards Implementation Report, and there currently are no issues relating to safeguards implementation regarding the state under consideration by the IAEA board.

•   The supplied LEU shall be used by the state exclusively for fuel fabrication for the generation of energy at the power plant experiencing disruption of fuel supply and shall remain at the power plant unless the state and the IAEA have agreed on a different location. 

•   The supplied LEU and any special fissionable material13 produced through its use, including subsequent generations of produced special fissionable material, shall be stored or reprocessed or otherwise altered in form or content by the state only on conditions and in facilities agreed with the IAEA.

•   The supplied LEU shall not be further enriched, retransferred, or re-exported by the state unless agreed with the IAEA.

•   The supplied LEU shall be subject to the conditions necessary for the IAEA to implement its obligations to the state or states from which the LEU originated or in which the LEU was processed.14

•   The supplied LEU shall not be used by the state for the manufacture of any nuclear weapon or any nuclear explosive device, for research on or the development of any nuclear weapon or any nuclear explosive device, or in such a way as to further any military purpose.

•   The safeguards rights and responsibilities of the IAEA provided for in Article XII.A of the Statute of the IAEA, regarding safeguards and noncompliance, are applicable to the supplied LEU and shall be implemented and maintained by the IAEA.

•   Article XII.C of the IAEA Statute, regarding the reporting of noncompliance to the UN Security Council, shall apply with respect to any noncompliance with the provisions of the supply agreement.

•   The applicable IAEA safety standards and measures are to be followed by the state for the transport, handling, storage, and use of the supplied LEU and for the operation of the power plant. 

•   Adequate physical protection measures shall be maintained by the state with respect to the supplied LEU, in accordance with the applicable IAEA fundamentals and recommendations.

•   The recipient state shall take responsibility for all liability for nuclear damage caused by a nuclear incident associated with the use, handling, storage, or transport of the supplied LEU from the time the material leaves the IAEA fuel bank for shipment to the recipient state, and it shall hold the IAEA harmless against any such liability, but in any case covered by an international civil nuclear liability convention, liability for nuclear damage shall be addressed in accordance with the provisions of that convention.15

Thus, the conditions required by the IAEA to be accepted by a member state requesting LEU from the IAEA fuel bank are more stringent and comprehensive than any national export controls and the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. In addition, the agency must buy LEU or its components only from sources that will accept the IAEA flag and will not insist on their own national flag. Furthermore, the LEU or its components acquired for the fuel bank will need to be free of any previous unresolved commercial disputes or other burdens that could in any way impair or affect the purposes of the bank.

Profile of the LEU. The LEU will be stored in standard steel cylinders, which are 30 inches in diameter and have a capacity of about 62 kilograms of uranium enriched to 5 percent. LEU does not deteriorate and can be safely stored for many years. It is a white-gray, waxy solid during storage and transport. It is not nuclear waste, nor is any waste generated by simply storing it. Thus, it has no adverse environmental impact when properly stored in certified cylinders.

With open-source nuclear industry data, the notional or illustrative requirements can be estimated for enrichment levels and quantities of LEU required for reloads for the safe operation of the main types of power reactors currently in operation or under construction in non-nuclear-weapon states (tables 1 and 2).

To provide the IAEA fuel bank with minimal capacity to assure at least one reload for each reactor design currently on the market, the projected 90 metric tons of LEU in the bank notionally could contain the following ratio of quantities of LEU at three different enrichment levels: from 51.3 to 58.5 metric tons with U-235 assay of the highest enrichment level of 4.95 percent, from 26.0 to 37.0 metric tons with U-235 assay of middle enrichment level of 3.20 percent, and from 1.80 to 5.40 metric tons with U-235 assay of low enrichment level of 1.60 percent, for the combined total of about 90 metric tons. Thus, the three enrichment levels and the related quantities of LEU at those enrichments should be able to supply the broadest range of reactors achievable.

The contractual tails assay (fraction)16 of the LEU would be optimized at the time of signing of the purchase contract, taking into account the relevant nuclear industry data.17

LEU procurement and acquisition. The IAEA fuel bank project will involve the procurement, acquisition, and delivery of the LEU, as well as storage cylinders and transport overpacks, costing at least $130 million. This will be the largest single procurement in the agency’s history and its first procurement of significant quantities of enriched uranium.

As the agency’s external auditor cautioned in 2011, this venture poses high risks to the agency. Because of the factors noted above, in particular flags or consent rights, and the IAEA’s status as an international organization, the logical and safe option would appear to be that of buying LEU or its components directly from the governments of member states. This would assure accountability, quality control, and supply of LEU in accordance with the IAEA statute and the decision of the IAEA board on the establishment of the bank. Other potential options could include buying the material from uranium-enrichment companies, nuclear power utilities, or traders and brokers. Options for buying from sources other than member states would pose major risks and uncertainties regarding liens, liability, corruption, and the ability to supply LEU free of flags or consent rights.

In approving the establishment of the bank in December 2010, the board instructed the director-general to “develop a detailed financial and administrative plan for the on-going operation of the LEU bank to ensure its effective management and sustainability.” The board said it would “provide direction on governance and accountability of the LEU bank project.”18

In the technical briefings to member states on the LEU bank, it appears that the secretariat has not given the board detailed financial and administrative plans or provided any detailed information on the agency’s plans for LEU procurement and acquisition. For its part, the board has not exercised the required direction on governance and accountability.

In this regard, the secretariat, the board, and donor states have been delinquent in meeting the requirements for governance and accountability. The secretariat has deflected questions by citing confidentiality considerations of the IAEA procurement policy. The donors have failed to insist on such transparency and governance, even though accountability for tens of millions of taxpayer dollars is at stake. Even a 2013 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office failed to ask the relevant questions and largely missed the issues of project management and proper expenditure of LEU bank funds in accordance with the relevant criteria stipulated by the U.S. government for U.S. funds.19

Given the importance of the IAEA fuel bank and the magnitude of funds involved, the donor states, the EU, and the NTI should call for full disclosure of the complete administrative, financial, and procurement plans related to the bank. As this project is funded solely by extrabudgetary funds rather than monies from the regular IAEA budget, the donors are well within their rights to demand and to receive full and complete information on all aspects of the establishment of the bank.

LEU delivery requirements. A key element in the establishment of the fuel bank is to minimize the risk to the agency of civil and nuclear liability, loss and damage, and transportation-related risks in connection with the handling and transport of the LEU. The agency will not be in a position to cover such liability and risks adequately or to defend itself against claims brought by nonstate parties.

The need to avoid such risks is not unique to the agency. Many utilities and other customers of nuclear material routinely sign contracts for their supplies on the basis of “delivery at point” or “delivered duty paid”—that is, delivery of the nuclear material by the supplier to the buyer’s site, thus consigning all transport and delivery risks to the supplier. This is a well-established practice under International Commercial Terms20 of the International Chamber of Commerce. This is not merely a commercial consideration but an essential requirement inherent to the technical specifications for the fuel bank that the IAEA takes ownership of the LEU only at the Ulba plant, the location of the bank, and the supplier is responsible for LEU handling and transport, including safety and security, from the initial point of supply to the destination, the bank site. During storage of the LEU at the Ulba plant, liability is to be covered by insurance taken out by the IAEA and Kazakhstan.

The recipient state must take ownership at the Ulba plant of any LEU supplied from the bank by the IAEA and would be responsible for onward transport of the LEU and for liability. Under such an arrangement, transport and liability become the responsibility of the recipient state at the handover point at the Ulba plant. The objective is to minimize IAEA liability. Similar logic will be applied to the delivery of LEU to the IAEA by Russia at the seaport of St. Petersburg from the IAEA guaranteed reserve at Angarsk and subsequently from the IAEA to a recipient state.

Transit agreements. As a landlocked country in the steppes of Central Asia, Kazakhstan is dependent on Russia for land transport of its nuclear exports and imports. The rail route to the seaport of St. Petersburg, the nearest port, is several thousand kilometers long. Another rail route, to the Chinese seaport of Shanghai, apparently is under consideration. Transport of nuclear cargoes has to be properly licensed and carried out under internationally recognized safety and liability requirements.

On June 18, the IAEA and Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, signed a transit agreement for the transport of LEU through Russian territory to and from the fuel bank in Kazakhstan. Rosatom will be the executive authority to implement the transit agreement and is obligated to ensure the safe, secure, and timely delivery through Russian territory of IAEA-owned LEU. The LEU cargo would be immune from any form of interference and free of any restrictions and taxation by Russia.

Assurance of Supply

More than a half century after Eisenhower articulated his vision for the IAEA, there finally were concrete steps toward realizing that vision. An IAEA LEU reserve was set up in March 2010 at Angarsk, the United Kingdom’s government-to-government Nuclear Fuel Assurance took effect in March 2011,21 the United States’ American Assured Fuel Supply22 came into force in August 2011, and the IAEA fuel bank in Kazakhstan is expected to be operational in 2017 when it receives its stock of LEU. These achievements together mark the evolution of a new framework for the utilization of nuclear energy that supports the exercise of the “inalienable right” of all states-parties to the NPT to develop and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, as acknowledged in Article IV of the treaty, and strengthens nonproliferation measures with regard to the sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Although a host state agreement and a transit agreement have been concluded for the IAEA fuel bank, major challenges lie ahead. Originally, it was envisaged that the bank would be functional by the end of 2014, but now the expected start date is 2017 or even later. That could mean the effort would span the terms of three directors-general: ElBaradei until 2009; Yukiya Amano, the current director-general, whose term ends in 2017; and Amano’s successor, who will take office in December 2017.

The fuel bank will be an important accomplishment for reliance on nuclear energy and for nonproliferation with respect to enrichment facilities. To avoid squandering this impending victory, however, the IAEA and its member states need to refocus on the original mandate of the IAEA statute and the fuel bank.

The purpose of the bank is to serve as an insurance mechanism to back up the commercial market in nuclear fuel. Its three reloads’ worth of LEU will not distort the market as more than 380 reloads are provided annually by the market. As the project now is well into implementation, the secretariat should exercise extra care in avoiding excessive complication, overstaffing, bureaucratization, poor managerial control, and extended timelines for completion. Donors to the LEU bank need to exercise stricter oversight of cost control, project management, financial accountability, procurement, and oversight and may even consider calling for an audit of the project by an independent team of technical and management experts drawn from nuclear energy ministries, regulators, and industry.

States considering supplying LEU to the IAEA for the bank must not insist on prior consent rights, but should agree to accept the IAEA criteria for governing the supply and use of fuel from the bank. Donations of LEU to the IAEA also could be considered. For example, under the agreement signed in Vienna on July 14 by Iran and six world powers—China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, and the United States—Iran agreed to reduce its existing stock to less than 300 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride enriched up to 3.67 percent U-235 and to sell or down-blend the remaining quantities. Iran could take the high road to further demonstrate its good faith by donating its LEU or selling it at a discounted price to the IAEA for the fuel bank.

Should Iran decide to do so, the IAEA and its member states should accept the offer promptly. The LEU could be stored temporarily at the IAEA LEU reserve at Angarsk until the bank facility at Ulba is operational. That would enable Iran to meet the agreement’s timeline for reducing its stock.

Finally, as discussed above, in the context of an expected rise in demand for enrichment, existing assurance-of-supply mechanisms already contribute to addressing vulnerabilities in the supply of nuclear fuel for nuclear power programs while reducing possible nuclear proliferation risks by obviating the needs for additional new national enrichment capabilities. In a world with perhaps 500 or more nuclear power reactors by 2030, it would be inadvisable to have dozens of countries with enrichment programs. The IAEA LEU bank will further bolster assurance of supply. Thus, states would not need to have a complete nuclear fuel cycle to ensure adequate supplies of fuel for their nuclear power programs. In the end, true security regarding the sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle can come only through the multilateralization of all uranium-enrichment and plutonium-separation facilities, buttressed by a multilateral, verifiable treaty prohibiting the production and stockpiling of weapons-usable nuclear material.       


1.  Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1960), pp. 813-822.

2.  “Curbing Nuclear Proliferation: An Interview With Mohamed ElBaradei,” Arms Control Today, November 2003; Tariq Rauf and Fiona Simpson, “The Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Is It Time for a Multilateral Approach?” Arms Control Today, December 2004.

3.  Tariq Rauf and Zoryana Vovchok, “Fuel for Thought,” IAEA Bulletin, No. 49-2 (March 2008), https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/49204845963.pdf.

4.  International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), “IAEA Sees Global Nuclear Power Capacity Expanding in Decades to Come,” September 8, 2015, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/iaea-sees-global-nuclear-power-capacity-expanding-decades-come.

5.  Nuclear Energy Institute, “FAQ About Nuclear Energy,” n.d., http://www.nei.org/Knowledge-Center/FAQ-About-Nuclear-Energy.

6.  Urenco is jointly owned by the Dutch government, the UK government, and two German utilities.

7.  Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), “NTI Commits $50 Million to Create IAEA Nuclear Fuel Bank,” September 19, 2006, http://www.nti.org/newsroom/news/nti-commits-50-million-iaea-nuclear-fuel-bank/.

8.  IAEA, “Communication Dated 18 May 2009 Received From the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the Agency Enclosing a Position Paper Regarding the Establishment of IAEA Nuclear Fuel Banks,” INFCIRC/753, May 19, 2009; IAEA, “Communication Dated 11 January 2010 Received From the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Agency Enclosing a Position Regarding the Establishment of IAEA Nuclear Fuel Banks,” INFCIRC/782, January 15, 2010.

9.  The European Union contributed 25 million euros; Kuwait, $10 million; Norway, $5 million; the United Arab Emirates, $10 million; and the United States, $49.5 million. See IAEA, “Assurance of Supply: Proposal for the Establishment of an IAEA Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank: Report by the Director General,” GOV/2009/30, May 20, 2009, para. 5 (hereinafter 2009 IAEA assurance of supply proposal).

10.  IAEA, “Assurance of Nuclear Fuel Supply,” GOV/2010/70, December 3, 2010.

11.  2009 IAEA assurance of supply proposal, n. 9.

12.  IAEA, “Request by the Russian Federation Regarding Its Initiative to Establish a Reserve of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) for the Supply of LEU to the IAEA for Its Member States,” GOV/2009/76, November 11, 2009, art. I(2), art. I(8); IAEA, “Assurance of Supply: Establishment of an IAEA Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank for the Supply of LEU to Member States,” GOV/2010/67, November 26, 2010, attachment 1 (articles III and VI of the “Model Agreement” between the member state and the IAEA in order to obtain LEU from the agency) (hereinafter 2010 IAEA assurance of supply establishment document).

13.  Special fissionable material is defined by the IAEA as “plutonium-239, uranium-233, uranium enriched in the isotopes 235 or 233, [or] any material containing one or more of the foregoing.” IAEA, “IAEA Safeguards Glossary, 2001 Edition,” International Nuclear Verification Series, No. 3 (June 2002), p. 30, https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/iaea_safeguards_glossary.pdf.

14.  This does not mean national export control obligations, but rather relevant provisions of the IAEA statute and criteria approved by the board in IAEA document GOV/2010/67. An internal IAEA Secretariat historical note of February 29, 2012, on the IAEA fuel bank said the secretariat would interpret any supplier-state conditions on the provision of LEU to the agency for the fuel bank in accordance with the IAEA statute, meaning that the LEU would be made available to any eligible member state as determined by the director-general in accordance with the agency’s criteria as established by the board in GOV/2010/67.

15.  2010 IAEA assurance of supply establishment document.

16.  The fixing of the tails assay is an economic compromise that balances the unit costs of feed material against the unit costs of separative work. If feed is cheap and separative work is expensive (for example, if the cost of electricity is high), then a relatively high tails assay is advisable. As the price of natural uranium rises and enrichment processes become more energy efficient, the appropriate tails assay should drop to lower values.

17.  See, for example, the publications Ux Weekly, NuclearFuel, and Nuclear Market Review.

18.  2010 IAEA assurance of supply establishment document, para. 17.

19.  U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Nuclear Nonproliferation: IAEA Has Made Progress in Implementing Critical Programs but Continues to Face Challenges,” GAO-13-139, May 2013, http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654714.pdf.

20.  International Commercial Terms consist of a series of predefined commercial terms that are widely used in international commercial transactions or procurement processes. They deal with costs and risks associated with the transportation and delivery of goods. See International Chamber of Commerce, “The Incoterms Rules,” n.d., http://www.iccwbo.org/products-and-services/trade-facilitation/incoterms-2010/the-incoterms-rules/.

21.  The Nuclear Fuel Assurance guarantees supply of nuclear material from the UK to an IAEA member state, provided that the state meets the supply criteria established by the IAEA board. See IAEA, “Assurance of Supply for Nuclear Fuel,” October 31, 2011, https://www.iaea.org/OurWork/ST/NE/NEFW/Assurance-of-Supply/nuclear-fuel-assurance.html

22.  U.S. Department of Energy, “Notice of Availability: American Assured Fuel Supply,” 76 Fed. Reg. 160 (August 18, 2011), p. 51357.

Tariq Rauf is director of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. He was head of verification and security policy coordination at the International Atomic Energy Agency, reporting to the director-general, from 2002 to 2011. He was coordinator for the agency’s activities dealing with its planned fuel bank and other fuel-supply assurances from 2003 to 2012. The views expressed in this article are those of the author.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has just established a fuel bank in Kazakhstan, an important accomplishment in supporting nuclear energy and nonproliferation. 

BOOK REVIEW: Turning the Page on Pax Atomica

October 2015

Reviewed by Randy Rydell

The War That Must Never Be Fought: Dilemmas of Nuclear Deterrence
Edited by George P. Shultz and James E. Goodby Hoover Institution Press, 2015, 530 pp.

On June 14, 1946, U.S. representative Bernard Baruch addressed the UN Atomic Energy Commission and launched his country’s ambitious plan for global nuclear disarmament and international ownership of the nuclear fuel cycle.

The plan was not without its conditions. Actual disarmament would occur only after other steps had been taken, most notably the imposition of intrusive controls over the nuclear programs of every other country and the establishment of the International Atomic Development Authority. In 1961 the U.S. Department of State’s press release accompanying the McCloy-Zorin joint statement on “general and complete disarmament” referred to the attainment of that goal “in a peaceful world,” suggesting that disarmament would occur at the end of a very long road, essentially with the dawning of world peace.1

A new collection of essays, The War That Must Never Be Fought: Dilemmas of Nuclear Deterrence, takes a somewhat more practical approach by outlining specific actions needed to achieve and sustain global nuclear disarmament. Although contemporary in focus, the chapters all illustrate the continuity of the primary challenges faced some 70 years ago in this field. Which must come first—peace and security or disarmament? How can sovereign states respond to enforce a nuclear disarmament commitment if it is violated? Does the “inalienable right” to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, as the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) puts it, extend to the technologies that produced the Little Boy and Fat Man atomic bombs? Is nonproliferation a precondition for disarmament or vice versa?

Taking Disarmament Seriously

Edited by George P. Shultz and James E. Goodby, this book is an exceptional contribution to the literature on nuclear disarmament and arms control. Yet, it is more than that. It also is a valuable addition to the wider political campaign to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

It achieves these goals by inviting contributions from authors of diverse backgrounds, including the military, academia, private research institutes, and many other fields of public service.

The book begins with chapters by Benoît Pelopidas, Goodby, and Steven Pifer that identify the fallacies of nuclear deterrence, including the myth that nuclear weapons are responsible for keeping the “long peace” during the Cold War. Although many self-described realists denigrate disarmament, Pifer offers a defense of the concept as practical, reasonable, and in the interests of the United States and the world community.

The second part of the book delves into specific challenges to disarmament emanating from four regions: Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia. The omission of Latin America and Africa is unfortunate, given their long record of support for global nuclear disarmament and their many regional actions to advance that goal.

With respect to Europe, Isabelle Williams and Steven P. Andreasen explain the situation in NATO. They describe the dualism of NATO’s stubborn reaffirmation of the role of nuclear weapons as the “supreme guarantee” of alliance security and the organization’s recent recognition of the desirability of eliminating such weapons globally. Pavel Podvig offers an enlightened discussion of Russian interests and motives in nuclear arms control and disarmament, and in their jointly written chapter, Katarzyna Kubiak and Oliver Meier draw the reader’s attention to the critically important policy positions taken by Germany and Poland concerning the future of nuclear weapons.

The three chapters on the Middle East appear as a dialectic, with the thesis characterizing Israel as the responsible nuclear-weapon custodian (Shlomo Brom), the antithesis emphasizing the reluctance of Arab states to participate in regional peace talks as long as Israel retains its nuclear arsenal (Karim Haggag), and the synthesis being a proposal for a middle course incorporating regional negotiations on many dimensions relating to peace and to disarmament in particular with many timetables (Peter Jones).

 In the one chapter on South Asia, S. Paul Kapur focuses on prospects for decoupling “deterrence” from nuclear weapons. He outlines how deterrence can persist even if nuclear weapons are excluded from the region.

East Asia justifiably receives significant attention in this book. This includes an informative chapter on China’s nuclear policies by Michael S. Gerson, who draws attention to the “increasingly important—and potentially dangerous—interplay between nuclear and conventional forces in the modern era.” Li Bin’s chapter refreshingly mentions Article VI of the NPT. He explains the lack of progress in U.S.-Chinese nuclear arms control and disarmament as largely due to what he calls the contrasting “security paradigms” of the two countries—that is, their fundamentally different perspectives on defense policy and strategy. Peter Hayes and Chung-in Moon go beyond the familiar, customary assessments that simply describe the tensions between North and South Korea. They offer a concrete fix for such tensions in the form of a broad regional security regime that includes but is not limited to a regional nuclear-weapon-free zone. Nobumasa Akiyama discusses how Japan has sought to reconcile its support for global nuclear disarmament with its embrace of the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

Goodby and Pifer wrap things up with a conclusion setting forth various conditions for the achievement of a world free of nuclear weapons. Their proposal emphasizes the role of the great powers, in particular Russia and the United States, the countries with the largest nuclear arsenals. Goodby and Pifer emphasize the importance of a multidimensional approach, arguing that conventional arms control and nuclear disarmament goals must be pursued together. The two analysts argue that these goals must be pursued at the highest level of government in summit meetings, supported politically in many international forums, and advanced through a “joint enterprise,” a term used in a series of Wall Street Journal op-eds written by Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn, involving a coalition of like-minded states. The authors also offer a draft communiqué and work plan to advance their proposals.

The Joint Enterprise in Practice

An Agni-3 missile moves through New Delhi on January 26, 2009, as part of India’s observance of its Republic Day. The Agni-3 is nuclear capable.  (Photo credit: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)One of the key purposes of this book was to put some flesh on the bones of the joint enterprise proposed in the Wall Street Journal op-eds on nuclear disarmament. The authors deserve credit for taking up this difficult mission and for setting forth some ideas on how to achieve it. The Goodby-Pifer proposal places a strong emphasis on summit meetings between key states with nuclear weapons and their allies. Fair enough; as Pelopides wrote, “engage the expected veto player.”

A popular alternative these days is to build a coalition of like-minded states to advocate a nuclear weapons ban, an approach actively being advanced by many nongovernmental groups. Yet, the great weakness of global nuclear disarmament proposals that involve “coalitions of the willing” minus the nuclear-weapon states is in their inability to establish an irrefutable link between the actions of those coalitions and the necessary achievement of a nuclear-weapon-free world. It is difficult to achieve the norm of global nuclear disarmament without the participation of states possessing such weapons. A universal norm, after all, implies universal application.

Aside from the predictable difficulties of engaging the nuclear-weapon states, proponents of this book’s approach will also need a strategy to ensure that the proposed summits will remain focused on nuclear disarmament and not get sidetracked by endless discussions on nonproliferation and nuclear security issues. Most non-nuclear-weapon states oppose the idea that the commitment in the NPT to undertake negotiations in good faith on nuclear disarmament is conditional at all. They are not interested in discussing progress toward disarmament; they want to see progress in disarmament.

These states certainly oppose expanding nonproliferation commitments in the face of what they see as the failure to fulfill the disarmament side of the NPT bargain. While the nuclear-weapon states and their allies are demanding numerous preconditions for fulfilling their disarmament commitments, the non-nuclear-weapon states have not responded in kind by attaching provisos to their own nonproliferation commitments. The longer that disarmament is deferred, however, the more likely it is that this game of “conditions” will be played in the nonproliferation field. The book’s proposed joint enterprise can most successfully address such challenges by remaining a global enterprise with an equitable balance of obligations among all states.

Therefore, it seems that the road to nuclear disarmament will have to involve some players other than the nuclear-weapon states and their allies. In particular, non-nuclear-weapon states and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have important roles to play, as do national legislatures. How they can all fit within the summit proposal offered in this book is unclear.

A protester against NATO nuclear weapons takes part in a demonstration on September 4, 2014, at the alliance’s summit meeting in Newport, Wales. (Photo credit: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)Non-Nuclear Deterrence

As for the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, its frailties are exceptionally well documented in this book by many authors. Yet, the book’s subtitle, Dilemmas of Nuclear Deterrence, unintentionally diverts attention from another important challenge facing nuclear disarmament, namely, the dilemmas of non-nuclear deterrence.

As the Clinton White House put it in 2000, “Because of [U.S.] conventional military dominance, adversaries are likely to use asymmetric means, such as WMD [weapons of mass destruction], information operations or terrorism.”2 Earlier, Secretary of Defense William Cohen similarly stated that “a paradox of the new strategic environment is that American military superiority actually increases the threat of nuclear, biological, and chemical attack against us by creating incentives for adversaries to challenge us asymmetrically.”3

As these comments suggest, the unconstrained production and improvement of conventional arms can serve as a driver for the proliferation of nuclear and other nonconventional weapons. Thus, the notion that the United States can comfortably rely on expanded and more-capable conventional forces for purposes of deterrence in a nuclear-weapon-free world does not seem to take into account all the possible international responses to this dominant U.S. capability. It is by no means clear that these responses would be fully compatible with global nuclear disarmament.

Beyond Deterrence Alone

In short, deterrence by conventional arms is not necessarily the enabler for global nuclear disarmament that some might wish. More likely, realists in the foreign and defense policy communities will recognize that the global elimination of nonconventional weapons must be accompanied by the regulation and limitation of conventional arms as well as the reduction of military spending.

Furthermore, the realists will have to concede that great progress is needed in establishing mechanisms to advance some fundamental goals of the UN Charter, especially the peaceful resolution of disputes and the ban on threats or use of force. These mechanisms logically would include greater reliance of states on such measures as mediation, adjudication, fact finding, and the “good offices” of globally recognized resources such as the office of the UN secretary-general and regional organizations for international peace and security. Yet, are these institutions prepared to perform that role? This is a work in progress at best, totally dependent on the political will of states to use such resources.

Ironically, WMD disarmament, conventional arms control, the peaceful resolution of disputes, reductions in military expenditures, and strengthening the norm against threats and use of force together comprise the goal of “general and complete disarmament under effective international control,” which is already recognized by all UN member states as their “ultimate goal.”4 Many authors in this volume reach for some form of a “big picture,” but none recalls this particular goal—hence the reader sees Podvig’s “new security framework,” Goodby’s “new global commons,” Brom’s “comprehensive cooperative security regime,” Haggag’s “comprehensive arms control framework,” and Jones’s “inclusive regional security system in the Middle East.” It is not clear what these alternatives offer that are not already intrinsic to the concept of general and complete disarmament, which has been recognized by the General Assembly and enshrined in a dozen multilateral treaties, including the NPT. The key recommendations in this book with respect to nuclear disarmament and, to the extent they are addressed, conventional arms control are fully consistent with general and complete disarmament. What is missing is some recognition of the global support that already exists for this ultimate goal.

Old Challenges, New Openings

Pessimists and optimists will find material in this book to support their views on disarmament. Pessimists will be informed that there is no hope that India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, or NATO will give up its nuclear weapons anytime soon. Reading between the lines, they could also deduce that the absence of nuclear disarmament agencies in the nuclear-weapon states, coupled with the lack of national disarmament legislation, regulations, policies, timetables, and plans, provides some rather compelling grounds to be skeptical about the whole global nuclear disarmament project. To his credit, Gerson addressed this specific challenge in his chapter on China, but the point is valid throughout the nuclear-armed world. Disarmament simply has not been “internalized” in the nuclear-weapon states; until it is, the goal will be all that more elusive.

Catalysts for change, however, should not be underestimated. The determination of NGOs and non-nuclear-weapon states to advance the cause of nuclear disarmament remains strong and is expanding. The rapid growth of the “humanitarian approach” to disarmament is a good case in point, as the vast majority of UN member states have now adopted a joint position in opposition to nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds, a subject already of three major international conferences with more no doubt to come. Although national leadership from within the nuclear-weapon states is indispensable, the willingness of such leaders to launch disarmament initiatives will certainly be shaped by the wider political climate—a climate that includes public opinion and pressure from the diplomatic community. The more persistent and diverse these forces become, the greater will be the incentive for leaders to adopt a more constructive approach to disarmament. Pressure can shape summits.

Material for a Sequel

Without using the term “pax atomica,” this book dissects the doctrine of nuclear deterrence and exposes it for the anachronistic fantasy that it is in the 21st century. It is less strong in identifying the dilemmas of non-nuclear deterrence in a world without nuclear weapons. It does not take very seriously the role of civil society in advancing the global nuclear disarmament agenda and says very little about the international campaign now underway to advance a humanitarian approach to disarmament.

Yet, none of these are critical shortcomings in this excellent book. They are instead guiding lights for a sequel to build on this solid foundation pulled together by Shultz and Goodby, who continue to demonstrate through their actions and principled leadership that nuclear disarmament not only can work better than any alternative response to nuclear weapons threats, but also is the right thing to do.


1.  Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State, “Freedom From War: The United States Program for General and Complete Disarmament in a Peaceful World,” pub. no. 7277, September 1961. The McCloy-Zorin joint statement of September 20, 1961, outlined a U.S.-Soviet agreement on eight principles to serve as a basis for future negotiations on general and complete disarmament. Its authors were diplomats John McCloy of the United States and Valerian Zorin of the Soviet Union. See “McCloy-Zorin Accords,” n.d., http://www.nucleardarkness.org/solutions/mccloyzorinaccordstext/.

2.  Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “A National Security Strategy for a New Century,” January 5, 2000, http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/nss/nss2000.htm.

3.  U.S. Department of Defense, “Proliferation: Threat and Response,” November 1997, http://www.dod.mil/pubs/prolif97/message.html (emphasis in original).

4.  UN General Assembly, “Resolutions and Decisions Adopted by the General Assembly During Its Tenth Special Session, 23 May-30 June 1978,” Supp. No. 4 (A/S-10/4), September 1978, http://www.un.org/disarmament/HomePage/SSOD/A-S-10-4.pdf.

Randy Rydell is an executive adviser to the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation (Mayors for Peace) and a member of the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association. He served from 1998 to 2014 as senior political affairs officer in the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and was a nonproliferation aide to Senator John Glenn (D-Ohio) from 1987 to 1998. He was report director and senior counselor to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, headed by Hans Blix, from 2005 to 2006, when he was also senior fellow at the Arms Control Association. 

Mozambique Declared Free of Landmines

October 2015

By Jefferson Morley

A demining expert from the nongovernmental group Apopo searches for landmines in Tete province in Mozambique on November 20, 2013. (Photo credit: Apopo)Mozambique is “free of all known landmines,” Foreign Minister Oldemiro Júlio Marques Balói announced at a public event in the capital city of Maputo on Sept. 17.

The deadly anti-personnel mines, laid by all sides during a civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1992, made Mozambique into one of the most mined countries in the world. The government estimated recently that as many as 10,900 people had been killed or injured by landmines in the past 40 years.

The Mozambican landmine removal is “an impressive achievement,” said Megan Burke, director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, in a Sept. 17 statement. “It also shows that if the right resources are employed in the right way, the majority of contaminated states can complete mine clearance within the next ten years.”

The first large-scale mine clearance effort in Mozambique was launched by the United Nations in 1993. The Halo Trust, a Scottish nongovernmental organization dedicated to landmine clearance, supported the effort. Halo said it has cleared more than 171,000 landmines from more than 1,100 minefields in Mozambique over the past 22 years, using manual and mechanical demining methods.

Apopo, a Belgian group involved in landmine clearance, said that it had assisted five provinces in the southern African country in eliminating the weapons since 2008. The group said that it had destroyed a total of 13,274 landmines, returning more than 11 million square meters of land to safe and productive use.

Landmine clearance “gives the children of this country a safe and peaceful life,“ said Cindy McCain, chairman of Halo’s U.S. chapter in a video released to commemorate the event.

Mozambique is “free of all known landmines,” Foreign Minister Oldemiro Júlio Marques Balói announced at a public event...

Probe of Chemical Arms Use in Syria Set

By Daniel Horner

The UN Security Council and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the past two months have put in place a “joint investigative mechanism” with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to determine responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

The OPCW has had an ongoing fact-finding mission to probe allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria since the country acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention in October 2013 and has concluded that attacks using chlorine occurred. (See ACT, October 2014.) Under its mandate, the OPCW mission is not responsible for determining who carried out the attacks.

But the OPCW mission reported that “witnesses invariably connected the devices to helicopters flying overhead.” Rebel forces in Syria, which have been fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since early 2011, are not known to have helicopters.

The new investigative unit is to work closely with the OPCW mission and use the mission’s findings as a starting point. According to Security Council Resolution 2235, adopted Aug. 7, the new investigative unit should “identify to the greatest extent feasible individuals, entities, groups, or governments who were perpetrators, organisers, sponsors or otherwise involved in the use of chemicals as weapons, including chlorine or any other toxic chemical” in areas of Syria that were the scene of incidents that the OPCW mission concluded “involved or likely involved the use of chemicals as weapons.”

The resolution calls for reports from the investigative team 90 days after it “commences its full operation” and from then on “as appropriate.” The resolution does not indicate what the end result of the investigation might be. In a Sept. 25 interview, a source familiar with the process of setting up the investigative unit said the mandate of the team was to provide information to the Security Council and that it will be up to the council to decide what to do with the information.

The resolution asked Ban to provide recommendations for the basic structure and arrangements for the investigative team, which he did on Aug. 27. The council was supposed to respond within five days, but took longer, in large part because of concerns raised by Russia, an ally of Syria.

In a letter to the Security Council on Sept. 9, Ban responded to some of the Russian objections. He said the trust fund being established to finance the investigative unit would use voluntary funds for “the material and technical” needs of the team. According to media reports, Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, had suggested that reliance on voluntary contributions might skew the team’s conclusions toward the views of the donor countries.

In the Sept. 25 interview, the source said the effort was expected to require about $5 million to recruit and pay staff for the one year of the unit’s original mandate. That will come initially from unspent monies in a contingency fund of the secretary-general’s office, he said. Costs other than personnel costs, including the team’s potential “field activities,” are expected to cost about $7 million, he said.

In his Aug. 27 letter, Ban said the unit could have a “light footprint” in Syria. The source said the team would carry out on-the-ground probes in Syria only if it “see[s] something that needs to be investigated beyond” what the OPCW mission already has documented.

Ban’s Sept. 9 letter said the team “shall take due care in making its determinations regarding whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that access [to sites of reported incidents on Syrian territory] is justified.” Russia had expressed concern on that point, the source said.

In public comments, Russia argued that the team’s probes should extend to northern Iraq to encompass allegations of chemical weapons used there by the Islamic State group. Ban’s letter did not include any language on that point.

In a Sept. 10 letter, Churkin, in his capacity as Security Council president under the council’s monthly rotation system, replied to Ban, saying the council had authorized the recommendations.

The UN subsequently announced that Virginia Gamba of Argentina, a senior official in the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, will head the investigative unit. Her top deputies will be diplomats Adrian Neritani of Albania and Eberhard Schanze of Germany.

The UN Security Council and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the past two months have put in place a “joint investigative mechanism”...

Congress Fails to Block Iran Deal

October 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol on September 10 following an unsuccessful effort by Senate opponents of a nuclear deal with Iran to end debate and hold a vote on a resolution disapproving the deal. (Photo credit: Saul Loeb/ AFP/Getty Images)Congress last month failed to pass a resolution of disapproval that would have prevented President Barack Obama from implementing a nuclear agreement that the United States and its negotiating partners reached with Iran in July.

Under legislation enacted in May, Congress had 60 days to review the agreement reached between Iran and the six countries known collectively as the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States). During that period, which ended Sept. 17, Congress could have passed a resolution of approval, passed a resolution of disapproval, or taken no action. (See ACT, June 2015.)

A resolution of disapproval passed by the Senate and House of Representatives with enough support to override a presidential veto would have prevented the administration from lifting certain sanctions on Iran as required by the July 14 nuclear deal. If Congress passed a resolution of approval or took no action, implementation of the deal would move forward.

The House took up a resolution of approval, which failed to pass in a vote of 269-162 on Sept. 11. Twenty-five Democrats voted with the Republicans against the resolution.

A resolution of disapproval was introduced in the Senate, but the Sept. 10 vote to end debate and move to vote on the resolution fell short of the 60 required votes. Four Democrats— Ben Cardin (Md.), Joe Manchin (W. Va.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) joined the 54 Republican senators voting in favor of ending debate. Two independents, Angus King (Maine) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.), joined the remaining 40 Democrats voting against ending debate. Similar votes to end debate and move to vote on the resolution of disapproval also failed on Sept. 15 and 17.

Shortly after the Sept. 10 vote, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters that the Senate has spoken with a “clarion voice and declared the historic agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon will stand.”

Obama said in a Sept. 10 statement that the vote is a “victory for diplomacy, for American national security, and for the safety and security of the world.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), however, said on Sept. 10 that opponents would use “every tool at our disposal to stop, slow, and delay this agreement” because it is a “bad deal with decades-long consequences” for U.S. security.

A Senate staffer familiar with the congressional debate over the Iran deal said on Sept. 18 that the Senate is likely to consider legislation that reaffirms and strengthens U.S. military support for partners in the region, especially Israel, and puts additional limits on Iran.

Some of the proposed ideas for legislation could “contradict or stretch the meaning of restrictions” in the nuclear deal, he said. Such provisions could pose a problem for implementation of the agreement because they might condition sanctions relief on Iran taking steps beyond its commitments under the agreement, he added.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Sept. 15 that if Democrats are determined to make a vote on a resolution disapproving the deal impossible, then “at the very least, we should be able to provide some protection to Israel.”

Cardin said he also is working on legislation that would affect implementation of the nuclear deal. In a Sept. 4 op-ed in The Washington Post explaining his reasons for opposing the agreement, Cardin said he would introduce legislation that would include a security package for Israel, require reporting by the administration on how Iran is using funds from sanctions relief under the agreement, and require expedited consideration of additional sanctions if Iran commits an act of terrorism against the United States.

Other than the United States, Iran is the only country involved in the talks that has an internal review process that it must follow before beginning to implement the deal. Iran’s lead negotiator, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, took questions on Sept. 13 from the Majlis, the Iranian parliament, which will eventually vote on the deal. Reactions from members were mixed.

Iran and the P5+1 are to begin taking steps to implement the provisions of the deal after it is formally adopted. (See ACT, September 2015.) “Adoption Day” will be Oct. 18 unless Iran and the P5+1 decide by mutual consent to move the date.

Progress on Weaponization Issues

Yukiya Amano (right), director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Tero Varjoranta, head of the agency’s Department of Safeguards, hold a press briefing on September 21 at IAEA headquarters in Vienna to discuss their recent visit to Iran. (Photo credit: Dean Calma/IAEA)Adoption Day is also contingent on Iranian compliance with the investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into Tehran’s past activities allegedly related to developing a nuclear weapon.

In a July 14 document, Iran and the IAEA laid out a schedule for completing the agency’s investigation. Implementation of that agreement is proceeding on schedule, according to a Sept. 9 press release from the IAEA.

According to the release, Iran turned over documents about its past activities and provided explanations by the Aug. 15 deadline for the activities that had prompted the agency’s concerns. The IAEA had until Sept. 15 to ask follow-up questions based on the evidence turned over by Iran.

In the Sept. 9 release, the agency said it had submitted its additional questions to Iran and was expecting a response from Tehran by Oct. 15. The IAEA aims to complete its report by Dec. 15.

As part of the agency’s agreement with Iran, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano traveled to Iran on Sept. 20 to discuss resolution of the investigation into weaponization activities and verification of the nuclear deal reached between Iran and the P5+1.

During the trip, Amano visited the Parchin military base, where Iran allegedly conducted experiments with explosives relevant to detonation of a nuclear warhead. Amano said in a Sept. 21 statement that he and Deputy Director-General Tero Varjoranta, who heads the Department of Safeguards, visited the site the previous day and entered a building at the site previously observed by satellites and of concern to the agency. Amano said there were “indications of recent renovation work” and that IAEA experts will analyze the information gathered.

Varjoranta reported in a separate Sept. 21 statement that environmental samples taken as part of the agency’s investigation were in Vienna for testing.

The sampling process has been the subject of controversy over the past several months. Although the document outlining the process is confidential, the agency has confirmed that Iran will be involved in the sampling process but under agency surveillance. Critics of the deal characterize the arrangement as allowing Iran to inspect itself, but the agency maintains that the process is technically sound and in line with established IAEA procedures.

Varjoranta said the sampling is conducted under “redundant continuous surveillance” and that more than 40 different member states have participated in “certain verification activities” in “certain circumstances.” The agency is “very cautious to ensure that all these activities never compromise the work” of the IAEA, Varjoranta said.

Congress failed to pass a resolution that would have blocked U.S. implementation of a nuclear agreement that the United States and its negotiating partners reached with Iran in July.

Resolution Calling Out Israel Fails

October 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

Delegates attend the closing session of the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference at IAEA headquarters in Vienna on September 18. The previous day, the conference voted down a resolution critical of Israel’s nuclear program. (Photo credit: Dean Calma/IAEA)The countries of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted down a resolution critical of Israel’s nuclear program on Sept. 17 after the Arab League decided to move forward on the measure despite Israel’s attempts to persuade Egypt not to pursue it.

During the agency’s annual week-long General Conference in Vienna, IAEA member states voted 61-43 against the resolution, with 33 states abstaining. The resolution, submitted by Egypt on behalf of the 18 Arab League states that are IAEA members, called on Israel to put its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards and join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon state.

Israel does not publicly admit to possessing nuclear weapons, but is widely believed to have an arsenal of approximately 80 to 100 warheads. It is an IAEA member and has placed some of its nuclear facilities under agency safeguards.

Prior to the IAEA conference, an Israeli delegation, which included national security adviser Yossi Cohen, traveled to Cairo to meet with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. An Israeli official familiar with the trip said in a Sept. 17 interview that the delegation requested that Egypt drop the resolution or reconsider its approach.

The official said Israel proposed that if Egypt decided to move forward with the resolution regardless, the Arab League could submit the resolution, but not call for a debate and a vote at the conference. Egypt declined to take that approach, the official said.

The official called the defeat of the resolution a “victory for common sense,” but said it was unfortunate that consideration of it “diverted time and attention” from the agency’s core concerns at the conference.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters after the Sept. 17 vote that he had called 30 world leaders to ask them not to vote for the resolution. The United States voted against the resolution.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

In an Aug. 6 letter to IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano, Israel formally objected to the resolution’s consideration at the conference. In the letter, Israel’s permanent representative to the IAEA, Merav Zafary-Odiz, called the resolution “contentious, biased, and fundamentally flawed.” The letter argued that Israel has “never been the subject of an investigation” by the IAEA, whereas Arab League members Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Syria were found to be in “flagrant violation” of their international commitments under the NPT in the past.

The NPT prohibits member countries that do not have nuclear weapons from taking any steps to develop such weapons.

The letter from Zafary-Odiz said that moving forward on the resolution targeting Israel will only “politicize the IAEA and harm its creditability.”

This is the third year in a row that the Arab League unsuccessfully put forward a resolution on Israel’s nuclear program. Last year, the vote was 58-45.

A similar nonbinding resolution passed only once, in 2009. Similar resolutions were voted down in the years prior to the successful 2009 vote. The Arab states did not put the measure on the agenda in 2011 and 2012, saying they hoped that Israel would be more likely to attend a meeting on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East if it did not feel singled out for condemnation in the region.

The Arab states revived the measure in 2013 after the meeting on the WMD-free zone did not take place as planned in December 2012.


Subscribe to RSS - October 2015