"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement"
July 1, 2020
Arms Control Today

Russia Still Awaiting Formal U.S. Arms Control Proposal

September 2023
By Shannon Bugos

Russia said that it still has not received a formal written arms control proposal from the United States, after U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan offered in June for the two countries to hold nuclear risk reduction and arms control talks without preconditions.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, pictured in March, told reporters in July that Moscow still has not received a formal nuclear arms control proposal from the United States. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)“No, we have not received a written proposal,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters on July 21. He noted that Moscow “was very clearly aware” of Sullivan’s address outlining the Biden administration’s broader arms control strategy and found it lacking. (See ACT, July/August 2023.)

A U.S. national security spokesperson told Reuters on July 26 that the Biden administration “privately” conveyed the proposal to Russia, but declined to elaborate on when the communication took place or what the proposal contained.

The United States “remains open to discussing nuclear risks and the future of arms control with Russia,” the spokesperson stated. “Unfortunately, the Russian side appears not to share this willingness.”

The same day, the U.S. State Department released its annual assessment to Congress on the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The report said the treaty continues to enhance U.S. national security despite a dispute with Russia that has halted treaty activities, such as on-site inspections of nuclear weapons-related facilities and daily notifications on the status and the location of treaty-accountable items. (See ACT, April and July/August 2023.)

“The United States continues to assess that there is not a strategic imbalance between the United States and the Russian Federation that endangers the national security interests of the United States, and to assess that the Russian Federation’s violations of the treaty do not currently threaten the national security interests of the United States,” the report concluded.

The State Department also determined that, as of July 1, Russia “has not engaged in significant activity” above New START’s central limits of 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 700 delivery vehicles.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against using nuclear weapons in the war on Ukraine. “Don’t go there,” Biden said on July 13. “I don’t think there’s any real prospect—you never know, but—of Putin using nuclear weapons,” he continued, noting that other countries such as China have warned Putin as well.

The Financial Times reported on July 5 that, during his March visit to Russia, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Putin against nuclear weapons use. The Kremlin denied the report.

Nonetheless, heightened concerns about Russia employing nuclear weapons against Ukraine persist as Russia purports to transfer tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus. In June, Putin announced that Belarus received the first batch of Russian nuclear warheads. Moscow has declined to disclose how many warheads it plans to send to Minsk.

Russia has said that Putin will retain control over the use of the weapons, but Belarusian President Alexander  Lukashenko claimed on July 6 that “control is carried out perfectly, jointly by Belarusians and Russians.”

“If Russia ever decided to use nuclear weapons, I am sure that it would consult with its closest ally—with us,” he said. In a June address, Lukashenko described the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons as “my firmest initiative,” but assured that “we will never have to use them while they are here.”

U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on June 26 that the United States continues to see “no indication that there’s any intent to use nuclear weapons inside Ukraine.”

Western governments and nuclear experts are debating whether Russia in fact has deployed tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus.

U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency senior officials told CNN on July 21 that they have “no reason to doubt” the deployment. They acknowledged that the weapons, which would be placed in storage rather than forward deployed, are tricky for the intelligence community to track.

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told CNN on July 21 that the United Kingdom has “seen signs of this [transfer] progressing,” adding that Putin “doesn’t always lie.”

But a few weeks prior, Western officials speaking anonymously told CNN that Belarus does not appear to have the proper infrastructure for housing the weapons, an assessment shared by Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda of the Federation of American Scientists.

“Our observations and analyses show no clear observable indicators of construction of the facilities we expect would be needed to support transport and deployment of Russian nuclear weapons into Belarus,” they wrote in a June 30 blog post. “We are underwhelmed by the lack of visual evidence.”

In late June, a one-day mutiny by the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary group heavily involved in the invasion of Ukraine, also sparked worries over the custody and security of Russian nuclear weapons, as the group moved within 100 miles during its march to Moscow of two sites that have stored nuclear weapons.

The head of Ukrainian intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, told Reuters in a July 11 interview that Wagner forces reached the Voronezh-45 facility and planned to acquire small Soviet-era nuclear weapons.

But the U.S. National Security Council said that it could not corroborate the report. Reuters also could not independently verify the claim.

Nuclear experts were skeptical that Wagner aimed to obtain Russian nuclear weapons. Korda said it would be “virtually impossible for a non-state actor” to undermine Russian nuclear security.

In addition, operationalizing the weapons would prove difficult for Wagner, said Olga Oliker of the International Crisis Group. “Russian weapons and facilities are under solid control, and there’s no evidence that Wagner or anyone else is looking to capture them.... Not only would they be tremendously difficult to gain use of, there’s no real logic for doing so. ”

Despite Russian comments, a U.S. spokesperson said the Biden administration privately conveyed an arms control proposal announced in June.  

Lawmakers Seek Overdue Justice for Nuclear Victims

September 2023
By Chris Rostampour

Renewed bipartisan efforts are underway to extend and expand a federal program that offers health care benefits and compensation to some victims of U.S. nuclear weapons production and testing.

Tina Cordova (L) and Laura Greenwood of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium demonstrate to call attention to the legacy of the U.S. nuclear testing program and urge federal medical and other compensation for those still suffering the disastrous effects of those tests. (Photo courtesy of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium)On July 27, a group of lawmakers led by U.S. Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) secured enough votes to advance legislation that would extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) for 19 years and expand its historical and geographical coverage.

The legislation, an amendment to the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed the Senate by a 61-37 vote. It still must be approved by a House-Senate conference committee.

RECA originally passed Congress in 1990 with bipartisan support. It aims to provide compensation for some victims exposed to radiation during U.S. atmospheric nuclear testing and employees of the U.S. uranium mining industry. The program, which expires in 2024, has been revised multiple times, but several impacted communities and individuals suffering lingering health effects have never received recognition or assistance despite a decades-long struggle.

Communities that would be eligible for compensation for the first time include individuals in Missouri who were impacted by nuclear waste from the Manhattan Project and the Downwinders in New Mexico, who were affected by the 1945 Trinity Test. In addition, RECA would be amended to recognize new regions in Arizona, Colorado, Guam, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah among those affected by nuclear testing. Coverage also would be expanded to new categories of employees in the U.S. uranium mining industry, including former workers from 1971 to 1990.

Republicans and Democrats advocating for RECA’s expansion are working to keep the usual party politics of the NDAA process from scuttling the amendment.

Luján highlighted this collaboration on Aug. 9 as President Joe Biden visited Belen, N.M., as part of a tour of the U.S. Southwest.

“Mr. President, we’re fighting with everything that we have with members of the Senate and the House across the country in hopes that we can keep this in the National Defense Authorization Act and make sure that these families are seen and get the help that they deserve,” Luján said.

Biden responded that he is “prepared to help in terms of making sure that those folks are taken care of.”

The following day, Hawley issued a statement saying, “Compensating victims of government-caused nuclear contamination and negligence should not be a partisan issue. It’s about justice.”

According to the Justice Department, RECA since its inception has awarded more than $2.6 billion to more than 54,000 claimants.

For decades, advocates have tried to bring attention to the environmental and humanitarian impacts of U.S. nuclear tests, including 216 atmospheric tests at various sites around the country and in the U.S. territories in the Pacific Ocean.

New scientific research released in June revealed that the fallout from the U.S. atmospheric tests was significantly underestimated. The study, from Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security, documented how 94 nuclear blasts in New Mexico and Nevada spewed radiation across the entire country and reached beyond the U.S. borders to Canada and Mexico.

Renewed bipartisan efforts are underway to expand a federal program offering health care and compensation to victims of U.S. nuclear weapons testing. 

States Urge UN Investigation of Iran Drone Sales

September 2023
By Kelsey Davenport

States urged UN Secretary-General António Guterres to investigate evidence that Iran exported drones to Russia in violation of Security Council restrictions, but action appears unlikely after the UN Secretariat did not act on a similar request last year.

Remains of an Iranian Shahed-136 drone that Ukrainians said Russia used to attack Kyiv on May 12. Fragments of these and other weapons are being studied at the Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise and results are being submitted to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. (Photo by Oleksii Samsonov /Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)In a July 6 statement to the Security Council, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom accused Iran of escalating its violations of Security Council Resolution 2231 by “transferring hundreds” of drones to Russia since August 2022 “in the knowledge that Russia uses them to target Ukrainian cities and critical infrastructure.” The three states “strongly caution Iran against any further deliveries,” the statement said.

Iran is prohibited from exporting certain missiles, drones, and components relevant to building such systems under the resolution, which endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The secretary-general reports biannually on implementation of the resolution. The July 6 council meeting included a briefing on the latest report, dated June 29.

According to that report, Ukraine submitted another letter to the secretary-general in June assessing that components recovered from drone debris are of Iranian origin and that the drones used in attacks against Ukraine were transferred “in a manner inconsistent” with Resolution 2231. The UK also submitted an assessment of two drones recovered by Ukraine. In a May 18 letter to the secretary-general, the UK said the drones were the Iranian Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 systems and transferred to Russia in violation of Resolution 2231.

In two letters to the secretary-general in May and June, Iran rejected the allegations and said the evidence “lacks credibility.” It said the resolution prohibits the transfer of items that could contribute to nuclear weapons delivery systems and that Iran “never manufactured or supplied, nor does it intend to manufacture or supply” such items.

The three European states and Ukraine requested that the secretary-general examine the drone debris. These countries, along with the United States, made a similar request ahead of the prior implementation report, but the UN Secretariat did not follow through.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a July 6 statement that the secretary-general’s failure to accept requests to “review indisputable evidence of these violations” is an “inexplicable lapse.”

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia argued that the secretariat is “not authorized to take such action” and that it can only conduct “voluntary inquiries upon an invitation” from certain states. He said Russia would view any such investigation as “a deliberate provocation.”

Nebenzia called for the secretary-general to keep the reports on Resolution 2231 “well-balanced and objective.”

Although the secretariat did not investigate the evidence of Iranian drone transfers to Russia, it did follow up on a UK seizure of ballistic missile components in the Gulf of Oman in February, according to the June 29 report. The UK said the missile parts are for medium-range systems of Iranian origin. The report said the UN Secretariat is still analyzing information about the seizure but photographs of the systems show similar characteristics to the missiles the Houthis used against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The missile and drone restrictions in Resolution 2231 expire in October unless one of the three European countries reimposes UN sanctions on Iran using a special mechanism in the resolution that cannot be vetoed. Despite Iran’s breaches of the JCPOA, it is unlikely that the Europeans will exercise this option unless Iran transfers ballistic missiles to Russia.

Iran has threatened to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if the UN sanctions are reimposed.


Despite evidence that Iran exported drones to Russia in violation of Security Council restrictions, a probe appears unlikely after the UN Secretariat did not act on a similar request last year.   

North Korea Defends Nuclear Weapons Program at UN

September 2023
By Kelsey Davenport

In a rare appearance at the UN Security Council, North Korea’s ambassador accused the United States of pushing the region to the “brink of nuclear war” and defended his government’s expanding nuclear weapons program as necessary for national security.

North Korea’s UN Ambassador Kim Song made a rare appearance at the UN Security Council in July to defend his government’s expanding nuclear weapons program. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)The July 13 council meeting was convened after North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile a day earlier. It was Pyongyang’s second test of the three-stage Hwasong-18 missile, a solid-fueled system capable of targeting the continental United States.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) described the test as a “strong practical warning” to North Korea’s enemies and called the Hwasong-18 the “core weapon system” of the country’s strategic forces.

Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea from launching ballistic missiles, but the council has failed to respond to Pyongyang’s recent violations. (See ACT, July/August 2023.)

North Korean Ambassador Kim Song said the missile test posed “no threat” to other states. He said Pyongyang’s missile activities are necessary to “safeguard the security of our state” and blamed U.S. military activity for rising regional tensions.

Kim’s statement marks the first time North Korea has addressed the Security Council since 2017.

Jeffrey DeLaurentis, acting deputy U.S. ambassador, told the council that the frequency of North Korea’s missile launches “should not erode our capacity to meaningfully respond to nuclear proliferation.” He called out China and Russia for preventing the council from “speaking with one voice” and said the silence emboldens North Korea to continue violating council resolutions.

But Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun defended Beijing’s approach and told the council that North Korea’s “legitimate security concerns have never been addressed.” The U.S. obsession with sanctions and pressure threaten North Korean security, Zhang said.

He said the United States should “come up with practical plans and take meaningful actions to respond” to North Korean concerns rather than accusing other states of preventing council action.

DeLaurentis expressed hope that North Korea’s participation in the meeting “demonstrates that it is ready to engage in meaningful diplomacy without preconditions” but if it does not, the council should “return to the era when we used our collective voice to address nuclear proliferation.”

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan reiterated the call for engagement in a July 16 interview with Face the Nation, but said that it “would not come as a surprise” if North Korea conducts another nuclear test.

North Korea rebuffed U.S. calls for diplomacy. Kim Yo Jong, deputy director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of North Korea, described the U.S. overtures as “preposterous” in a July 17 statement. She said North Korea will not “barter away its eternal security,” referring to the country’s nuclear weapons, for “variable and reversible” U.S. commitments.

Kim, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said the United States must realize that the “further it strengthens the system of extended deterrence and the more excessively it expands the system of military alliance,” the farther it pushes North Korea from the negotiating table.

The day after Kim’s statement, the United States and South Korea issued a statement on the first meeting of a bilateral Nuclear Consultative Group that South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden announced during Yoon’s visit to Washington in April. (See ACT, May 2023.) The group is intended to provide South Korea with more opportunities to participate in U.S. extended deterrence planning.

The statement noted that Seoul and Washington agreed to establish “workstreams to bolster nuclear deterrence and response capabilities” and discussed how South Korea can provide conventional support for U.S. nuclear operations. The two sides reiterated that any nuclear attack by North Korea will be met with “a swift, overwhelming and decisive response.”

North Korea demonstrated its own advancing capabilities in a July 27 military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice.

The parade did not include any new long-range missile systems, but North Korea displayed a new short-range ballistic missile launcher and two new drone systems.

Chinese and Russian officials, including Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, watched the parade with North Korean leader Kim. Shoigu joined Kim in touring a weapons exhibition in Pyongyang.

Shoigu’s visit came amid new allegations that North Korea is providing arms for Russia’s use in Ukraine. Although North Korea is prohibited from exporting weapons under Security Council resolutions, it continues to sell weapons illicitly.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in an Aug. 7 press briefing that the Biden administration has made clear its concerns “about North Korea seeking to assist Russia in its aggression in Ukraine” and said the United States will “continue to enforce all of our sanctions.”

Kim also conducted talks with the Chinese officials, KCNA reported, and the two sides agreed to strengthen collaboration.

In a rare appearance at the UN Security Council, North Korea’s ambassador accused the United States of pushing the region to the “brink of nuclear war.”  

U.S. Completes Landmark CWC Destruction

September 2023
By Mina Rozei

After decades of effort, the United States completed the destruction of its vast chemical weapons arsenal and marked the final step in eliminating the world’s known chemical weapons stockpiles.

Operators place the last M55 rocket containing GB nerve agent on a conveyor to begin the destruction process at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant on July 7. This was the last munition destroyed in the declared U.S. chemical weapons stockpile. (Photo by U.S. Army)Apart from the four countries that remain nonsignatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)—Egypt, Israel, North Korea, and South Sudan—every nation in the world is now free of its verified chemical weapons arsenals.

Russia and Syria have been accused by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which oversees the CWC, and many countries for holding secret stocks and using them against adversaries in recent years.

The CWC prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, and retention of chemical weapons.

The main goal of the convention, ratified in 1997, is the verification and destruction of all known chemical weapons stockpiles. The United States declared that it possessed nearly 30,000 metric tons of chemical weapons. Russia declared that it had roughly 40,000 metric tons of chemical weapons in its stockpile, the world’s largest.

When the United States ratified the convention in 1997, it was given 10 years to completely and verifiably destroy its chemical weapons arsenal at its nine military sites. After the United States received two five-year extensions from the OPCW, the final destruction deadline was set for Sept. 30, 2023, for the two remaining sites, at Blue Grass, Kentucky, and Pueblo, Colorado. Although there were doubts about whether this date could be met, the process was completed in July, more than two months early.

U.S. officials worried that adversaries such as Iran, Syria, and Russia would point to the delays as evidence of hypocrisy and undermine the U.S. commitment to eliminating chemical weapons. According to Craig Williams, head of the Kentucky Citizens Advisory Commission at the Blue Grass facility, meeting safety and environmental standards was crucial to the process. “The primary challenge was convincing the military to abandon their selected technology, incineration (with no public input), and implementing an acceptable alternative, neutralization,” he said.

The destruction of all known chemical weapons stockpiles was a turning point in arms control more broadly, not just for the CWC regime. But other serious issues remain. Although Russia is a CWC state-party, questions have been raised about its treaty compliance. Russia’s use of chemical weapons in assassinations and its alliance with the Syrian regime highlight cracks in CWC implementation.

OPCW investigative teams determined that Syria used chemical weapons on multiple occasions between 2013 and 2018 in the Syrian civil war and that Islamic State forces also used them. In addition, four countries still have not joined the treaty.

Meanwhile, new challenges face the Blue Grass and Pueblo facilities and the people who work there. According to Irene Kornelly, head of the Citizens Advisory Commission at the Pueblo site, “The closure of the chemical destruction facility is the biggest issue facing the Pueblo community. The goal is to make this property a viable part of the Pueblo community with jobs and a vibrant economy.”

These accomplishments and challenges will be on the agenda when the 28th conference of CWC states-parties convenes in The Hague on Nov. 27-Dec. 1.

The destruction of the last U.S. chemical weapon marked the final step in eliminating the world’s known stockpiles.  

On Korean War Anniversary, Activists Seek Formal Peace

September 2023
By Jupiter Huang

Activists are using this year’s 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice to revive the push for a peace treaty formally ending the 1950-1953 conflict, which continues to fuel tensions among North Korea, South Korea, and the United States.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), left, and Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, address a rally at the U.S. Capitol on July 27 organized by the National Mobilization to End the Korean War. Instead of the existing armistice, they are seeking a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. (Photo by Constance Faulk)Drawing combat veterans, generations of Korean Americans, aid workers, and other activists, the National Mobilization to End the Korean War convened in Washington on July 27-28 to call for sustained diplomatic engagement toward a binding peace agreement on the Korean peninsula and a review of the U.S. travel ban on North Korea. These goals are embodied in H.R. 1369, titled the Peace on the Korean Peninsula Act.

“Our progress is the result of a grassroots, people-powered movement,” said Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, which led a group of 30 international peacemakers in 2015 across the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas. “We are here to say, after decades of failed U.S. policy, the only pathway to resolve the impasse is for the U.S. to sign a peace agreement with North Korea.”

Although the fighting stopped in 1953 when North Korea, China, and the United States reached an armistice, South Korea did not sign it, and no formal peace treaty was concluded.

The effort to revive peace treaty discussions comes amid rising regional tensions. North Korea is advancing its nuclear weapons program and expanding its missile arsenal. It has been testing missiles in record numbers, including the new Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile. In response to a port call by the USS Kentucky at Busan on July 18, the first by a U.S. nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarine in South Korea since 1981, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles.

Meanwhile, the United States and South Korea signed the Washington Declaration on April 26, reaffirming their mutual defense commitments and expanding nuclear consultations. On May 25, they held their largest joint live-fire exercises in five years.

“Conflicts don’t always start in a rational environment, and misunderstandings, misperceptions, [and] misassessments can lead to what would later be deemed ‘irrational behavior,’” retired Lt. Gen. Dan Leaf, former acting head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said in a July 31 interview with Arms Control Today. “We are one bad decision away from a nuclear exchange. But any legitimate pursuit of peace, [which] can be done in concert with maintaining a deterrent posture…could be a game changer.”

The Korean War is technically the longest U.S. overseas conflict. The armistice called for belligerents to reach a formal peace settlement within three months. An estimated 3-4 million people died, most of them civilians. U.S. aerial bombing campaigns leveled most North Korean cities, and more than 36,000 U.S. service members also lost their lives in the fighting.

“That was 1953. This is 2023…. America’s failure to end the war has facilitated relentless military buildup and instability on the peninsula, all bankrolled by U.S. taxpayers,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) told a press conference on July 27. “The continued unresolved war might seem like a technicality, but it is not. The human impact is massive, and the risk of a new conflict breaking out remains high.”

Joy Gebhard, who was born near Pyongyang, was separated from her family during the Korean War and moved to the United States in 1956. At the press conference, she noted the difficulty posed by the 2017 travel ban on U.S. citizens.

“I have given my best to serve my adopted country as a teacher, nurse, business owner, humanitarian, and taxpayer, but have given so little to my own family. I cannot visit my own flesh and blood. I cannot visit the graves of my parents one last time. I cannot even send a letter to say hello,” she said. “I believe that we must end the Korean War so that families can be reunited and we can heal from the wounds of war.”

Activists have revived the push to substitute the existing armistice with a peace treaty, formally ending the conflict.

IAEA Inspects Zaporizhzhia for Explosives

September 2023

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team inspected the roofs of several buildings at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and found no evidence of explosives, but is still awaiting access to inspect other parts of the Ukrainian facility.

An International Atomic Energy Agency team found no evidence of explosives on the roofs of several buildings at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which was occupied by Russian forces after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The team is still waiting to inspect other parts of the complex. (Photo by Ercin Erturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in an Aug. 4 statement that inspectors were “finally” granted access to the roofs of two reactor units and the turbine halls on Aug. 3 and will continue to request access to the rooftops of the four other reactor units.

The IAEA sought access to the rooftops after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed in July that Russian troops planted what looked to be explosive devices on the roofs of the reactor units. Zelenskyy also accused Russia of planning to attack the nuclear facility and blame Ukraine. Russia denied reports that it planted explosives on the rooftops.

The IAEA established a permanent presence at the Zaporizhzhia plant last year to support nuclear security and safety operations at the site, which remains occupied by Russia. Its team is also monitoring compliance with the five principles for protecting the facility that Grossi laid out during a UN Security Council meeting in May. Those principles include commitments that “there should be no attack of any kind from or against the plant” and that the facility should not be used as a storage base for heavy weapons. (See ACT, June 2023.)

In his Aug. 4 statement, Grossi underscored that “timely, independent, and objective reporting of facts on the ground” is crucial for the IAEA’s nuclear security and safety efforts and said its team must be granted access to all areas of the facility.

Renat Karchaa, an adviser at Rosatom, the state-run Russian nuclear energy company, said Russia could not provide the IAEA with prompt access to the requested areas because of concerns about Ukrainian provocations. Rosatom has a presence at the facility even though the reactors are still run by Energoatom, the Ukrainian nuclear energy company.KELSEY DAVENPORT

IAEA Inspects Zaporizhzhia for Explosives

Health Experts Urge Nuclear Risk Reduction

September 2023

More than 100 major medical journals from the United States and other countries published a joint editorial calling on medical professionals to alert governments and the public about the growing dangers of nuclear war and urge decisive action toward a nuclear-free world. “Any use of nuclear weapons would be catastrophic for humanity,” states the editorial, published on Aug. 1. It argues that even a so-called limited nuclear war could kill 120 million or more people and that a full-scale nuclear war between Russia and the United States would kill many times that number and potentially cause a “nuclear winter” threatening the survival of humanity. “The prevention of any use of nuclear weapons is therefore an urgent public health priority and fundamental steps must also be taken to address the root cause of the problem—by abolishing nuclear weapons,” the editorial says.

The editorial was signed by the editors of The British Medical Journal, JAMA, The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine, the International Nursing Review, The National Medical Journal of India, and several others. Its publication was timed for the preparatory meeting for the 11th nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference, which ended Aug. 11, and the 78th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, respectively.

“The danger is great and growing,” the editorial concludes. “The nuclear-armed states must eliminate their nuclear arsenals before they eliminate us.”MICHAEL T. KLARE

Health Experts Urge Nuclear Risk Reduction

China Constructs Nuclear Reactor in Pakistan

September 2023

China is constructing a new 1,200-megawatt nuclear reactor for Pakistan in a bilateral deal estimated at $3.5-4.8 billion, according to various news reports. It is Pakistan’s fifth and largest civilian nuclear power project.

Senior Pakistani and Chinese officials attended the televised groundbreaking event at Chasma on July 14. The reactor, Chasma-5, features a third-generation Chinese design known as the Hualong One. China previously supplied Pakistan with four other reactors as part of a long-standing nuclear energy relationship that continues to raise serious concerns about Beijing’s commitment to its nonproliferation obligations.

Since 2004, China has been part of the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which aims to prevent commercial nuclear exports from being used to make nuclear weapons and voluntarily coordinates exports to non-nuclear-weapon states. India, Israel, and Pakistan are not NPT signatories and possess nuclear weapons.

China has engaged in civil nuclear cooperation with Pakistan since 1987, five years before China joined the NPT as a nuclear-weapon state. Beijing has long claimed that its nuclear exports to Islamabad are “grandfathered” under NSG guidelines. (See ACT, April 2011.)—JUPITER KAISHU HUANG

China Constructs Nuclear Reactor in Pakistan  

New Indian Missile Moves Closer to Deployment

July/August 2023
By Jupiter Kaishu Huang

India completed the first pre-induction night launch of its latest medium-range ballistic missile, the Agni-Prime (Agni-P), from an island off the coast of Odisha on June 7, marking a significant milestone in the development of the missile.

The Indian Defence Ministry considers the Agni-P part of a new generation of ballistic missiles. The launch aimed to validate the “accuracy and reliability of the system,” and “all objectives were successfully demonstrated,” the ministry said in a press release shortly after the flight test.

Observed by senior officials from the Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Strategic Forces Command, the test “has paved the way for the induction of the system into the armed forces” following three prior developmental trials of the missile, the ministry added. The Agni-P, a two-stage, solid-fueled rocket with a range of 1,000 to 2,000 kilometers, can carry nuclear or conventional warheads and features a host of novel technologies first incorporated into India’s newest long-range ballistic missile, the Agni-V.

Notably, the new missile can be stored in a sealed, climate-controlled tube that protects it during transportation. This process enables the warhead to be mated and stored with the missile, significantly reducing the time required for preparation and launch. (See ACT, September 2021.) A test in June 2021 with two decoys also indicates that the DRDO may develop and deploy multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles on the Agni-P.

India’s draft nuclear doctrine calls for the fielding of a credible minimal deterrent, and the government reiterated its commitment in 2020 to a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons. But the development of improved surveillance technology and delivery systems with higher readiness puts that posture
under scrutiny.

“[A]vailable evidence suggests that India may be developing options toward Pakistan that would permit it to engage in hard nuclear counterforce targeting, providing India a limited ability to disarm Pakistan of strategic nuclear weapons,” Christopher Clary and Vipin Narang wrote in a 2019 analysis for International Security.

Given the missile’s range, analysts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies believe the Agni-P primarily counters Pakistan and will replace older, less compact short-range ballistic missiles such as the Agni-I and Agni-II.

But some Indian media outlets laud the Agni-P as the nation’s own “carrier-killer missile” similar to the Chinese Dongfeng-21D missile. A December 2022 article published by the Centre for Air Power Studies, an Indian think tank, asserted that the weapons system fields a maneuverable reentry vehicle that “can hit a mobile target on land or at sea,” a capability that “will give India an edge in the Indian Ocean [r]egion where China is looking to increase its influence.”

The latest test moves the Agni-P closer to deployment amid ongoing Chinese-Indian border disputes and enduring distrust between India and Pakistan.

The first pre-induction night launch of the Agni-Prime missile on June 7 marks a significant development.


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