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

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Daniel Horner

U.S. Hikes Aid for Russian Chemical Destruction

Daniel Horner

The U.S. government has agreed to continue “technical assistance support” for work at Russia’s Shchuch’ye chemical weapons destruction plant until the munitions stockpile there “is completely destroyed,” a Department of State spokesman said in a June 30 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

The commitment is significant because it marks a departure from a Bush administration policy that had set a firm ceiling, at just more than $1 billion, for total U.S. expenditures on Russian chemical weapons destruction, Paul Walker, director of security and sustainability at Global Green USA, said in a July 29 interview. U.S. expenditures reached that limit in fiscal year 2009, Walker said. He emphasized, however, that the early U.S. commitment to Russia was to build a “turn-key chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuch’ye,” with no funding ceiling established.

In his e-mail, the State Department spokesman said the support “is projected to cost $35 million over 3 years.”  The job is not expected to last more than three years because U.S. technical support “has actually accelerated the chemical weapons destruction rate” at Shchuch’ye and because the United States is passing on “lessons learned” to the Russian operators, a Department of Defense spokesman said in an Aug. 31 e-mail.

Walker, a former congressional staffer, said the commitment probably would require little if any newly appropriated funds from Congress. That is partly because the Defense Department’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, which provides the aid for Russian chemical weapons destruction, has some “savings” as a result of favorable dollar-ruble exchange rates in recent years and partly because the pending fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill contains language providing authority to make certain kinds of transfers within the CTR program, he said.

Asked to comment on that point, the Defense Department spokesman said, “The funds will come from a mix of current and future CTR funds.”

Russian Request

In the June 30 e-mail, the State Department spokesman said the funding commitment was “[i]n response to a recent Russian request.”

A Russian official said in a June 25 e-mail that, in the spring, Russia had “distributed among G8 [Group of Eight] partners new proposals for additional projects” at Shchuch’ye and Kizner, with a total value of $300 million. The U.S. commitment is the only formal response Russia has received, the official said in an Aug. 27 e-mail. The other G-8 members are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom. In 2002 the group established the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, a 10-year, $20 billion effort focused primarily on Russia and other former Soviet states.

The Shchuch’ye facility houses an arsenal of the nerve agents sarin, soman, and VX in artillery shells and missile warheads. The artillery shells are considered a particular risk because they are “man portable,” that is, small and light enough to be carried off the site. Shchuch’ye began initial operations in March 2009, but construction has not been completed on the facility, especially a second main destruction building.

The size and composition of the chemical weapons arsenal at Kizner is similar to the one at Shchuch’ye—5,700 metric tons of nerve agents at Kizner versus 5,400 tons at Shchuch’ye in some 2 million man-portable munitions at each site. Construction at Kizner has not been completed. According to the State Department spokesman, “No [U.S.] decisions for technical support at the Kizner chemical destruction facility have been made at this time.”

Under the Chemical Weapons Convention, Russia was supposed to complete its chemical weapons destruction by April 29, 2012. But in June, it told the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that it now estimates the task will take until 2015. (See ACT, July/August 2010.)

The United States also has said it will not meet the 2012 deadline. The U.S. and Russian stockpiles are the world’s largest.

At an Aug. 30 meeting with reporters in Washington, Ahmet Üzümcü, who became OPCW director-general in July, said part of the reason for the Russian delay was economic, including “commitments made by other states or organizations in terms of financial aid, which didn’t materialize in a timely manner.”

He said he was not intervening with the Global Partnership countries to press for funding for the Russian effort. However, he said he believes there is “a consensus that we should get rid of the stockpile as soon as possible” and, on that basis, he was appealing “to the international community” to provide support “within their means.”


The U.S. government has agreed to continue “technical assistance support” for work at Russia’s Shchuch’ye chemical weapons destruction plant until the munitions stockpile there “is completely destroyed,” a Department of State spokesman said in a June 30 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

NSG Makes Little Headway at Meeting

Daniel Horner

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) last month concluded its annual plenary meeting with little apparent progress on two high-profile issues, the potential sale of two reactors from China to Pakistan and the adoption of more-stringent rules for sensitive nuclear exports.

The Chinese-Pakistani deal was not on the formal agenda for the meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand, but sources from participating governments said the matter was discussed.

The group’s June 25 public statement at the end of the meeting does not specifically mention the discussions, but it says that the NSG “took note of briefings on developments concerning non-NSG states. It agreed on the value of ongoing consultation and transparency.”

The planned Chinese sale is an issue for the NSG because the group’s guidelines do not allow the sale of nuclear goods such as reactors and fuel to countries that do not accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on all their nuclear facilities. Pakistan does not have these so-called full-scope safeguards.

When China joined the NSG in 2004, it had already built a power reactor at Pakistan’s Chashma site. It claimed at the time that, under the NSG’s “grandfather” provisions, it was entitled to build a second reactor, on the grounds that the second project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. According to several accounts, the group agreed that the second reactor would be allowable under the grandfather provision but that subsequent power reactor sales would not.

In the weeks before the June 21-25 Christchurch meeting, the U.S. government said the sale of reactors beyond Chashma-1 and -2 would be “inconsistent with NSG guidelines and China’s commitments to the NSG.” (See ACT, June 2010.)

In its public statements, China has responded to questions about the deal in general terms. At a June 24 press conference, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said, “China and Pakistan, following the principle of equality and mutual benefit, have been cooperating on nuclear energy for civilian use. Our cooperation is consistent with the two countries’ respective international obligations, entirely for peaceful purpose[s] and subject to IAEA safeguard[s] and supervision.”

It it not clear what additional information China provided at the Christchurch meeting. According to a European diplomat, the discussion was “not confrontational.”

Clarification Sought

In a June 30 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a U.S. Department of State official said, “We are still waiting for more information from China to clarify China’s intended cooperation with Pakistan, in light of China’s NSG commitments.”

According to the official, “The United States has reiterated concern that the transfer of new reactors at Chasma appears to extend beyond cooperation that was ‘grandfathered’ when China was approved for membership in the NSG. If not covered by the grandfather clause, such cooperation would require a specific exception approved by consensus of the NSG.”

In 2008 the NSG, led by the United States, granted an exemption making India eligible to receive nuclear exports from NSG members. Like Pakistan, India does not have full-scope safeguards.

The NSG, which currently has 46 members, operates by consensus. It is not a formal organization, and its export guidelines are nonbinding. Before the 2008 NSG exemption, Russia made and carried out deals with India for reactors and fuel, justifying them on the basis of interpretations of the NSG guidelines that other members considered overly expansive.

Enrichment and Reprocessing

A long-standing issue for the NSG has been its effort to adopt a more rigorous standard for exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. Since 2004, the group has been discussing a new, so-called criteria-based set of guidelines for enrichment and reprocessing transfers, under which recipients of these proliferation-sensitive exports would have to meet a list of preset requirements. The list drafted by the group includes adherence to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, full-scope safeguards, and an additional protocol, which gives the IAEA enhanced inspection authority. However, the NSG members have not been able to overcome certain states’ objections to the proposal. Current NSG guidelines simply call for members to exercise “restraint” with respect to enrichment and reprocessing exports.

At the end of 2008, the suppliers appeared to be close to an agreement (see ACT, December 2008), but since then they have not been able to reach consensus. According to the Christchurch public statement, “Participating Governments agreed to continue considering ways to further strengthen guidelines dealing with the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies.”

In a June 27 e-mail to Arms Control Today, the European diplomat said that “while progress was made there was no consensus” on the matter. Before the meeting, observers said the main objections were coming from South Africa and Turkey. The diplomat declined to identify the sources of the objections at the meeting but said, “The delegations which have had difficulties in the past continue to have problems.”

Meanwhile, at their June 25-26 meeting in Muskoka, Canada, the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized countries extended their policy to adopt on a national basis the proposed NSG guidelines on enrichment and reprocessing transfers. The leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States said in their summit communiqué, “We reiterate our commitment as found in paragraph 8 of the L’Aquila Statement on Non-Proliferation.”

Paragraph 8 of the L’Aquila statement, issued at the July 2009 G-8 summit in Italy, said the eight countries would implement as “national policy” for a year the draft NSG guidelines on enrichment and reprocessing and urged the NSG “to accelerate its work and swiftly reach consensus this year to allow for global implementation of a strengthened mechanism on transfers of enrichment and reprocessing facilities, equipment, and technology.”


The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) last month concluded its annual plenary meeting with little apparent progress on two high-profile issues, the potential sale of two reactors from China to Pakistan and the adoption of more-stringent rules for sensitive nuclear exports.

Russia Revises Chemical Arms Deadline

Daniel Horner

Russia has said that it will not meet the Chemical Weapons Convention’s April 2012 deadline for destroying its stockpile of chemical weapons, the head of the convention’s implementing body said June 29.

Rogelio Pfirter, director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said in remarks to the OPCW Executive Council that, during “informal consultations” the previous day, Russian delegates had said they estimated that their country would complete the destruction by 2015.

Experts have long said Russia was unlikely to meet the convention’s April 29, 2012, deadline (see ACT, July/August 2009), and recent Russian press reports have indicated the deadline would slip. However, Pfirter’s statement was the first official confirmation of the revised schedule.

Russia did not release a public explanation for the changed date. A diplomat at the Russian embassy in Washington said in an e-mail to Arms Control Today, “My government will make all necessary steps in order to achieve the earliest destruction of all Russian CW [chemical weapons]. Our priorities for this process are the highest standards for safety in CW destruction for human life and health as well as for the environment.”

In a June 29 interview, Paul Walker, director of security and sustainability at Global Green USA, said the decision shows that Russia is “clearly putting safety and cautiousness ahead of speed and deadlines.” Pfirter also cited the need to give priority to safety and environmental concerns.

Walker praised the move as “a very positive step forward” for Russia, the OPCW, and others who are “planning for the ultimate verified abolition of chemical weapons globally.”

Russia and the United States hold the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical weapons. The United States had previously announced that it would not meet the 2012 deadline and has set 2021 as the target date.

In his remarks, Pfirter said the deadline slippage did not call into question the Russian and U.S. commitment to “the key goal of achieving the total and irreversible destruction of their declared stockpiles.” The two countries “have consistently shown their resolve to abide by their commitments under the Convention, and I for one have no doubt that they will continue to stay on track,” he said.

Walker said the completion date is “difficult to predict” for a variety of reasons, such as funding uncertainties, the need to obtain environmental permits, the limited availability of some technologies, and the possibility of accidents. For those reasons, the Russian and U.S. completion dates could move forward or backward from the current estimates, he said.


Russia has said that it will not meet the Chemical Weapons Convention’s April 2012 deadline for destroying its stockpile of chemical weapons, the head of the convention’s implementing body said June 29.

U.S.-Russian Civil Nuclear Pact Resubmitted

Daniel Horner

President Barack Obama on May 10 transmitted to Congress an agreement for civilian nuclear cooperation with Russia, reviving questions on Capitol Hill over Russian nuclear and missile-related assistance to Iran.

A top administration official said Russia had stopped providing such aid, but congressional staffers from both chambers and both parties questioned that assessment.

In May 2008, President George W. Bush submitted the cooperation agreement to Congress. He effectively withdrew it in September of that year, citing Russia’s military clash with Georgia the previous month. However, there also had been questions on Capitol Hill about the status of Russian assistance that could help Tehran develop a nuclear weapons capability or boost its missile development efforts.

Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in May 2008 to examine the executive branch’s process for preparing the Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement (NPAS) for the U.S.-Russian agreement. Under U.S. law, the NPAS is one of the documents the president must send to Congress along with a nuclear cooperation agreement. Such pacts are known as 123 agreements, after a section of the Atomic Energy Act.

Citing the “history of [Russia’s] support for Iran’s nuclear, missile, and advanced conventional weapons programs,” Dingell and Stupak asked the GAO to determine “whether all relevant information from classified and unclassified sources was considered and fairly assessed” and “whether the NPAS conclusions are fully supported and whether there is contradictory information that was omitted which could invalidate, modify, or impair the conclusions for recommendation to approve the 123 agreement.” They asked the GAO to examine both the unclassified NPAS and its classified annex.

The GAO report, which was released in July 2009, found flaws with the NPAS process. It did not address the specific questions on Russian assistance to Iran; those issues were addressed in classified oral briefings to congressional staff, sources said at the time. (See ACT, September 2009.)

In a statement last month responding to Obama’s submittal of the agreement, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, said it was “a mistake” to send the accord to Congress “at this time.” Russia should first commit itself to strong UN sanctions against Iran, he said. The United Nations is developing a resolution imposing a new round of sanctions on Tehran (see page 25).

Citing the GAO report, Sherman said, “Russia’s ongoing nuclear relationship with Iran also needs critical examination…. At a minimum, we need to be assured that no Russian assistance is being provided to the most sensitive aspects of Iran’s nuclear development.”

At a May 11 Center for Media and Security luncheon with reporters, Senior White House Coordinator for WMD Counterterrorism and Arms Control Gary Samore said, “As long as I’ve been in this job, there’s been no concern about Russian entities providing nuclear assistance to Iran, outside of Bushehr.”

Bushehr is the nuclear power plant that Russia built in southwestern Iran; its much-delayed start-up is now projected to take place later this year. Current UN sanctions, which ban most nuclear aid to Iran, make an exception for Bushehr.

In an interview last month, an official at the Russian embassy in Washington said Bushehr is “[t]he only project we have with [the] Iranians in [the] nuclear field.”

At the luncheon, Samore said, “Not to my knowledge has there been any assistance to the parts of the Iranian program that we’re worried about from a weapons standpoint. I think that was true of the Bush administration, but it has not been true as long as I’ve been in my job.” Samore took office in early 2009.

Factual Basis Questioned

A Republican Senate aide questioned Samore’s statement, saying in a May 28 interview that the claim of no Russian assistance is “very aggressive and probably not supportable based on facts.” He said that “it’s true there was a particular problem,” that U.S. officials discussed it with their Russian counterparts, and that “there have been claims the problem was completely resolved.” However, he said, “Based on everything I know, it’s hard to say nothing is going on in the last year and a half.” He declined to say what the “particular problem” was, citing classification restrictions.

Supporters and opponents have portrayed the resubmittal of the 123 agreement as part of the Obama administration’s effort to improve—“reset,” in the administration’s terminology—U.S. relations with Russia. The Senate aide said he supports the effort to improve relations with Russia but that it should not make officials “stop looking at ambiguous information.”

In a May 25 interview, a Sherman aide said that in light of the deficiencies that the GAO found in the process for the 2008 NPAS, “Congress needs to carefully examine the [new] NPAS’ clean bill of health for Russia with respect to Iran.”

With regard to missiles, the Senate aide and other congressional staffers following the issue cited the most recent version of the annual U.S. intelligence report to Congress on weapons of mass destruction and advanced conventional munitions. That version, which covers 2009, said, “Assistance from entities in China and North Korea, as well as assistance from Russian entities at least in the past, has helped Iran move toward self-sufficiency in the production of ballistic missiles.”

A 2007 U.S. intelligence assessment that the Senate aide also cited said,

We assess that individual Russian entities continue to provide assistance to Iran’s ballistic missile programs. We judge that Russian-entity assistance, along with assistance from entities in China and North Korea, has helped Iran move toward self-sufficiency in the production of ballistic missiles. The Russian Government has taken steps to improve controls on ballistic-missile technology, and its record of enforcement—though still mixed—has improved over the last decade.

The Senate aide said, “The statement ‘at least in the past’ [in the recent assessment] appears to suggest several possibilities regarding Russian assistance.”

Another congressional aide made a similar point, saying the difference could be that “things are really changing,” the intelligence community is having “collection issues,” or the new language is an indication of “the politics of reset.”

In response to a question about Russian missile assistance to Iran, Samore said at the May 11 luncheon that it was “a huge issue” during the Clinton administration. (Samore served in that administration.) Since then, he said, “I think the Russians have done a very good job, both at the end of the Clinton administration and then throughout the Bush administration, in cracking down on what I now think was unauthorized activities…. I think that has really been cleaned up.”

Asked if there was any current Russian assistance to Iran’s chemical or biological weapons or missile programs, Samore replied, “Not that I know of.”

In the message to Congress accompanying the 123 agreement, Obama said that “the level and scope of U.S.-Russia cooperation on Iran are sufficient to justify resubmitting” the agreement. “The Russian government has indicated its support for a new United Nations Security Council Resolution on Iran and has begun to engage on specific resolution elements with P5 members in New York,” he said. The five permanent members of the Security Council, known as the P5, are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Obama also cited a list of U.S.-Russian arms control and nonproliferation agreements over the past year. Overall, he said, “these events demonstrate significant progress in the U.S.-Russia nuclear nonproliferation relationship.”

Congressional Review

Under the Atomic Energy Act, a 123 agreement such as the one with Russia can enter into force after 90 days of continuous session from the date of its submittal unless Congress passes a joint resolution of disapproval. Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) introduced such a resolution May 20. Congress has never disapproved a 123 agreement, but in a few cases has added nonproliferation conditions.

If the current Congress ends before the 90 days have elapsed, the agreement would have to be reintroduced in the next Congress. Some observers said the 90-day clock was a factor in the administration’s decision to submit the agreement when it did.

Fortenberry and Markey also offered an amendment to the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill, but the House Rules Committee did not allow the amendment. The Fortenberry-Markey provision would have blocked the entry into force of the 123 agreement until the president certified that Russia had “verifiably suspended all assistance to the nuclear program of Iran and all transfers of advanced conventional weapons and missiles to Iran” and had committed to maintaining the suspension.

Russia has completed all the necessary procedures to bring the 123 agreement into force and is awaiting U.S. action, the Russian embassy official said.


President Barack Obama on May 10 transmitted to Congress an agreement for civilian nuclear cooperation with Russia, reviving questions on Capitol Hill over Russian nuclear and missile-related assistance to Iran.

India, U.S. Agree on Terms for Reprocessing

Daniel Horner

India and the United States in late March concluded negotiations on an agreement for the reprocessing of U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel, removing one of the key remaining barriers to nuclear trade between the two countries.

The two countries issued similar statements March 29, with both characterizing the accord as “an important step” toward implementing their nuclear cooperation agreement, which was signed in July 2007 and entered into force in December 2008. Other hurdles, related to technology transfers and liability limits for companies building nuclear plants in India, still remain.

However, “of all the things that were left, [the reprocessing agreement is] the thing [the Indians] really wanted,” Ted Jones, director of policy advocacy for the U.S.-India Business Council, said in an April 7 interview.

The agreement covers spent fuel that comes from U.S.-supplied fresh fuel or was irradiated in a U.S.-supplied reactor. Such spent fuel is described as “U.S.-origin” or “U.S.-obligated.”

The March agreement is the latest step in a process that began with a joint July 2005 statement by President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laying out an approach to easing U.S. and international trade restrictions on India, which is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and conducted nuclear test explosions in 1974 and 1998. In return for its renewed access to the world nuclear market, India agreed to place some of its power reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. In separate actions in 2008, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which has more than 40 member countries, and the U.S. Congress approved the plan. (See ACT, October 2008.)

The 2007 U.S.-Indian pact, known as a 123 agreement, after the section of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act that requires the United States to negotiate such agreements before doing nuclear business with another country, partially deferred the question of reprocessing by providing for a separate set of talks that would establish the arrangements under which India could reprocess U.S.-obligated spent fuel.

Unlike most U.S. nuclear trading partners, India will not have to seek U.S. consent each time it wants to reprocess U.S.-obligated spent fuel. Instead, it has obtained a broad consent covering the 40-year duration of the 123 agreement.

According to accounts during the negotiations on the 123 agreement, India insisted on such a provision as an indication of its status as an advanced nuclear state. The section of the agreement that covers reprocessing begins by referring to “a commitment to full civil nuclear cooperation” that the two countries have with “other states with advanced nuclear technology.”

Under the 123 agreement, a prerequisite to the long-term consent is that India “establish a new national reprocessing facility dedicated to reprocessing safeguarded nuclear material under IAEA safeguards” and that the parties agree on “arrangements and procedures”—the document on which the two sides recently agreed.

According to sources who were following the negotiations on the reprocessing agreement, a major issue was whether India could have more than one such facility. The agreement says it can, stipulating that the reprocessing “may take place in India at two new national reprocessing facilities.” Sources said the Indians wanted that provision because the two sites designated for U.S. reactors are on opposite sides of the country, at the Mithi Virdi site in Gujarat and the Kovada site in Andhra Pradesh. They argued that having two sites would remove the need to transport spent fuel and plutonium across the country because each U.S. reactor complex would have a reprocessing facility to deal with the spent fuel generated at that site.

In an April 7 interview, a congressional source said that “there is an argument to be made for” allowing two facilities. However, he said, it should be noted that the 123 agreement had to be “redefined” because it refers to “a” reprocessing facility.

Fred McGoldrick, a former Department of State official responsible for negotiating 123 agreements, said the shift from one to two facilities was not a major issue in itself. “The big deal is giving them [long-term] consent in the first place,” he said April 6. The United States is giving a non-NPT country an advantage that Washington has not given to most NPT countries, he said.

He noted that the 123 agreements with Japan and the European Union are the only other ones that allow a country to reprocess spent fuel on its own territory; Switzerland has long-term U.S. consent to bring back plutonium from France and the United Kingdom, where Switzerland sent its spent fuel for reprocessing.

Japan, Switzerland, and the 27 members of the EU are parties to the NPT.

Suspension Conditions

Another contentious issue, the sources said, was the terms for suspending reprocessing. According to the March agreement, the “sole grounds” for seeking suspension are “exceptional circumstances limited to” a determination by either party that “continuance of reprocessing of U.S.-obligated material at the Facility would result in a serious threat to the Party’s national security” and a determination that “suspension is an unavoidable measure.”

The parties must “give special consideration to the importance for India of uninterrupted operation of nuclear reactors that provide nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and potential loss to the Indian economy and impact on energy security caused by a suspension,” the agreement says. If there is a suspension and it lasts more than six months, “both Parties shall enter into consultations on compensation for the adverse impact on the Indian economy due to disruption in electricity generation and loss on account of disruption of contractual obligations,” the pact says.

McGoldrick noted the provision requires consultations but does not compel a particular result from the consultations. In particular, it “does not create a U.S. obligation to compensate India,” he said.

The reprocessing agreement does not clearly spell out how its termination provisions relate to those in the 123 agreement. The two sets of termination provisions are “conflicting” and “deliberately made so,” the congressional source said. “Highly informed intelligent people give different opinions,” he said.

However, another observer pointed to a provision of the reprocessing agreement that says, “[I]n the case of any conflict between these Arrangements and Procedures and the Agreement for Cooperation, the terms of the Agreement for Cooperation shall prevail.” Also, he said, some of the questions may be more theoretical than practical. For example, the reprocessing agreement does not specifically say whether it could remain in force if the 123 agreement were suspended. However, the 123 agreement recognizes the right of the country suspending the agreement in response to a violation by the other to require the violator to return any material or other items that had been transferred. By exercising that right under the 123 agreement’s suspension provisions, the United States could halt Indian reprocessing of U.S.-obligated spent fuel, the observer said.

McGoldrick said that although the reprocessing agreement’s suspension criteria are framed narrowly, they leave the United States with some “wiggle room.” For example, he said, if India conducted a nuclear test explosion, the United States could suspend the consent for reprocessing on the grounds that the test raised questions about the intent of the reprocessing.

Under the Atomic Energy Act, conducting a nuclear test is grounds for terminating nuclear cooperation.

Supply of Sensitive Technology

It is not clear where India would acquire reprocessing equipment and technology if it sought foreign assistance for the reprocessing plant. A 2006 U.S. law known as the Hyde Act, which opened the door to nuclear trade with India but also applied certain nonproliferation conditions, generally bans U.S. exports of reprocessing and other sensitive technology to India. Last year, the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized countries agreed to tighten its export rules and urged the NSG to break a long-standing stalemate on the issue. (See ACT, September 2009.) The new rules would spell out specific criteria that non-nuclear-weapon states would have to meet to be eligible for sensitive exports related to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. One of the criteria is that a recipient of such exports must be an NPT party.

France and Russia, which have active reprocessing industries and are in an intense competition with each other and U.S. companies for nuclear business in India, are members of the G-8 and the NSG.

The March reprocessing agreement is considered a “subsequent arrangement” under the U.S. Atomic Energy Act. Under that law, Congress has 15 days of so-called continuous session to review the arrangement, after which time it goes into effect unless Congress has passed a law blocking it. In the case of India, under a provision in the 2008 law approving the 123 agreement, the review period is 30 days. A U.S. official said in an April 27 e-mail that the departments of State and Energy were preparing the documents that need to be submitted to Congress to start the 30-day clock.

Other Obstacles

Still pending between India and the United States is an agreement to meet the requirements of the Hyde Act’s “nuclear export accountability program,” which requires detailed reporting on U.S. nuclear technology exports to India. Jones said India did not have a “model” for its private sector to provide the kinds of assurances that are required, but that the government is preparing regulations to do that.

Meanwhile, India’s ruling coalition in March postponed parliamentary consideration of a bill that would set limits on the liability of companies building nuclear plants in India. Liability protection is particularly important to U.S. companies, which, unlike their French and Russian competitors, are privately owned.

Jones said addressing Indian concerns about liability was likely to be more difficult than finding agreement on the technology-transfer question. Both those issues must be resolved before U.S. companies can complete reactor sales, but once the reprocessing agreement goes into effect, U.S. firms can sell fuel in India, he said.

India had made the reprocessing agreement a prerequisite for any U.S. sales.


India and the United States in late March concluded negotiations on an agreement for the reprocessing of U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel, removing one of the key remaining barriers to nuclear trade between the two countries.

Russia, U.S. Sign Plutonium Disposition Pact

Daniel Horner

Russia and the United States last month signed an agreement clearing the way for Russia to turn dozens of tons of weapons-grade plutonium into reactor fuel.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signed the accord in Washington April 13, during the nuclear security summit convened by President Barack Obama.

The new agreement is a protocol to a 2000 pact, known as the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA), that commits each side to the disposition of at least 34 metric tons of surplus weapons plutonium. The combined 68 metric tons of plutonium is “enough material for approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons,” the Department of State said in a document released in conjunction with the signing.

Under the earlier version of the plan, Russia would have turned the plutonium into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel—so called because it is a mix of plutonium and uranium oxides—for use in Russian light-water reactors (LWRs). That effort stalled over programmatic, financial, and legal differences.

A main issue, as the State Department document put it, was that “the Russian program set forth in 2000 proved incompatible with Russia’s nuclear energy strategy and was, thus, not financially viable.”

U.S. officials and others have long said that Russia never fully supported the plan for LWR disposition, preferring instead to use fast-neutron reactors. Russia and the United States eventually began renegotiating that aspect of the agreement and in November 2007 issued a joint statement outlining a plan for use of fast-neutron reactors by Russia. They said they planned to negotiate a protocol to change the PMDA accordingly. (See ACT, December 2007.)

The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2011 budget request, which was released Feb. 1, said the two sides had “completed negotiations” on the protocol and expected to sign the new document “in early 2010.” (See ACT, March 2010.)

The administration requested $113 million for fissile material disposition in Russia. In an April 21 interview, a U.S. official said “Congress made clear” that it wanted the protocol signed before it approved the funding request.

The switch to fast-neutron reactors has drawn criticism from some nonproliferation specialists because such reactors, unlike LWRs, can produce more plutonium than they consume. The protocol includes “certain nonproliferation conditions,” as the State Department described them, that are designed to minimize the potential nonproliferation drawbacks of using fast-neutron reactors.

Another significant change from the original PMDA is that the protocol caps total U.S. funding for the effort at the $400 million amount that the United States previously pledged. As the protocol notes, the funding is subject to U.S. congressional appropriations decisions.

In his remarks at the signing ceremony, Lavrov said the Russian government would spend about $2.5 billion on the effort.

Under the original plan, the United States had spearheaded a multinational effort to fund the Russian disposition effort. According to the protocol, Russia and the United States will “seek other donor funding that would be used to reduce Russian outlays,” but implementation of the program “will not be dependent” on contributions beyond the U.S. pledge.

Spending, Nonproliferation Rules

The protocol specifies that “up to $300 million” of the $400 million can be spent on “development and construction activities.” That money can be spent “beginning as early as 2010 and continuing thereafter,” the document says. “Not less than $100 million” is to be spent after disposition actually begins; expenditures are to be “based on a fixed rate per metric ton” of disposition, according to the protocol.

That funding is intended to serve as an “incentive,” the U.S. official said. The two sides have not yet determined the payment rate, he said.

Under the protocol, the $300 million sum can be used for a wide variety of activities, including those “associated with the development, construction, and modification of facilities for fabricating MOX fuel and long-term storage of spent plutonium fuel” and “development of a system for monitoring and inspections.”

The funding also can be used for certain types of work on the two fast-neutron reactors in which Russia would irradiate the MOX fuel—the BN-600, which is currently operating at the Beloyarsk site, and the larger BN-800, which is under construction at the same site. The protocol specifies that none of the U.S. funding shall be used for the construction of the BN-800, but the money can be used for “BN-800 core design.”

U.S. negotiators made clear to their Russian counterparts that the U.S. government was “not in a position of helping [the Russians] build their own reactors,” but it would help them redesign the BN-800 core so that it has a breeding ratio of less than one, the U.S. official said.

A breeding ratio of less than one means that the reactor is operating as a plutonium “burner,” consuming more plutonium than it produces, rather than as a breeder.

The protocol continues the restriction from the original PMDA that spent fuel containing the weapons plutonium cannot be reprocessed until after the disposition mission is completed. However, unlike the original PMDA, the protocol does provide for some reprocessing of other materials that may be irradiated in reactors used for disposition.

It says that “uranium assemblies that have been irradiated in the BN-600” can be reprocessed “if this does not result in the accumulation of new separated weapon-grade plutonium by itself or in combination with other materials.” The U.S. official said the provision was important to the Russians. The BN-600 will be operating with a partial MOX core, with only about one-quarter to one-third of the assemblies being MOX and the rest being uranium assemblies, he said. The Russians want to continue their current practice of reprocessing the uranium assemblies, he said, although the goal is to extract uranium rather than plutonium. The plutonium in this case is merely “an unfortunate byproduct,” the official said.

Under another new provision, “up to thirty (30) percent of the assemblies with fuel containing plutonium prior to irradiation that have been irradiated in the BN-800” can be reprocessed if the reprocessing is “for purposes of implementing research and development programs for technologies for closing the nuclear fuel cycle” in Russia and the United States. However, the protocol specifies that the exception applies only if “such assemblies do not contain disposition plutonium and such reprocessing does not result in the accumulation of new separated weapon-grade plutonium by itself or in combination with other materials.”

The U.S. official emphasized that it was not clear how vigorously Russia would pursue that option. The 30 percent figure is an “upper limit for sure,” he said.

Reduced Disposition Rate

Under the protocol, each side “shall take all reasonable steps” to be able “to achieve a disposition rate of no less than 1.3 metric tons per year of disposition plutonium within as short a time as possible.” That figure represents a drop from the target disposition rate of 2 metric tons per year in the 2000 PMDA. The rate had to be reduced because the combined disposition capacity of the BN-600 and BN-800 is lower than that of the several LWRs that were to be used under the earlier agreement, the U.S. official said.

In the U.S. disposition program, the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have had difficulty securing agreements with U.S. utilities to take the MOX fuel that is to be fabricated at a plant now being built by an NNSA contractor at the Energy Department’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina. However, that was not a factor in the reduced goal for the disposition rate, the official said.

An NNSA press release at the time of the November 2007 preliminary agreement said the Russian reactors could dispose of “approximately 1.5 metric tons of Russian weapon plutonium per year.” That figure, the U.S. official said, was the “very best ballpark guesstimate,” and the new, slightly lower figure represents “technical refinements.”

The protocol adds that if ongoing work on a different kind of reactor, a gas-cooled high-temperature reactor, is successful, there could be “additional possibilities for increasing the disposition rate in the Russian Federation in 2019-2021.” Russia and the United States are cooperating on the development of that reactor.

According to the protocol, disposition in the BN-600 and the BN-800 “is targeted to begin in 2018.” The 2007 NNSA press release had said disposition in the BN-600 would begin in the “2012 timeframe” and in the BN-800 “soon thereafter.”

The U.S. official said the protocol uses the 2018 date “for symmetry reasons” because that is when U.S. reactors are supposed to start irradiating MOX fuel made from U.S. weapons plutonium, but an earlier start for the Russians is “not precluded.”

Once disposition starts, it probably will take 20 to 25 years to handle the 34 metric tons, the U.S. official said.

Verification Issues

With regard to monitoring and inspections, the protocol says that Russia and the United States “shall begin consultations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at an early date and undertake all other necessary steps to conclude appropriate agreements with the IAEA to allow it to implement verification measures with respect to each Party’s disposition program.”

In the April 21 interview, the U.S. official said those consultations had not yet started. He said he expected they would begin in “the May-June time frame,” adding that there had been “major progress” on monitoring and inspections during a March 12 meeting of the co-chairmen of the PMDA’s Joint Consultative Commission. According to the State Department’s April 13 document, the co-chairmen at that meeting “approved a number of key elements clarifying how monitoring and inspections will be developed and carried out.”

The U.S. official said he would expect those verification provisions to be “nailed down” before the United States expended new monies, but not necessarily before the protocol’s entry into force.

The target date for completing the verification provisions is “as early as possible next year” while entry into force is expected later this year, he said. The agreement will come into force when the two sides exchange diplomatic notes after each side has completed its “national procedures,” the protocol says.

Because it is an executive agreement, the protocol does not require congressional approval, although the administration must provide a formal notification to Congress, the U.S. official said. The Russians, however, have to submit the protocol to the Duma, he said.


Russia and the United States last month signed an agreement clearing the way for Russia to turn dozens of tons of weapons-grade plutonium into reactor fuel.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signed the accord in Washington April 13, during the nuclear security summit convened by President Barack Obama.

Nuclear Summit Set to Host World Leaders

Daniel Horner

Almost immediately after signing a strategic arms treaty this month, President Barack Obama will have to focus his attention on another part of his nuclear policy agenda: securing vulnerable nuclear materials around the world.

Obama is preparing to host the leaders of about 40 countries in Washington April 12-13. The signing of New START is set for April 8 in Prague, where Obama delivered a wide-ranging speech on nuclear policy last April.

In that speech, Obama announced an “international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years” and “a Global Summit on Nuclear Security that the United States will host within the next year.” (See ACT, May 2009.)

The countries on the invitation list for the security summit include Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam, a U.S. official said March 29.

The list of 45 countries apparently includes some relatively recent additions; earlier reports, confirmed by the administration, had put the number at 43. (See ACT, January/February 2010.)

The U.S. official declined to say whether specific countries would be attending. The United States is “waiting for definitive replies” from some invitees, he said. Because the invitation came from Obama, there is an expectation that countries will send their top officials, he added.

The United States also has invited three international organizations—the European Union, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the United Nations—he said.

The summit participants are expected to issue a communiqué pledging to bolster efforts to make nuclear materials secure. In a March 22 interview, Roger Howsley, executive director of the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) in Vienna, said it would be very useful if the communiqué contained language endorsing the sharing of best practices by the nuclear industry and others.

WINS, which was launched in September 2008, aims to help secure nuclear and radioactive materials to make them inaccessible to terrorists. The members range from nuclear industry giants such as the French company Areva to members of guard forces and police that guard nuclear facilities, Howsley said.

In the nuclear industry, cooperation on safety is generally much better than on security, which is seen as being “a good deal more sensitive,” Howsley said. Attitudes toward security have to shift somewhat from “need to know” to “need to share,” he said. He emphasized that he was not referring to specific details on obtaining access to particular facilities, but rather to organizational approaches to issues such as management oversight and corporate governance.

After the nuclear summit, on April 14, there is scheduled to be a session on the nuclear industry’s role in nuclear materials security. The session is being organized by the Nuclear Energy Institute, the Washington-based industry association for the nuclear industry.

Questions of Funding

The Obama administration is pursuing the goal of securing nuclear materials in a number of ways. A major element is the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which is overseen by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a separately organized agency within the Department of Energy. Under the administration’s fiscal year 2011 budget request, funding for the GTRI would rise to $559 million; Congress appropriated $334 million for fiscal year 2010. (See ACT, March 2010.)

Some nongovernmental experts have said funding at the level the administration requested for fiscal year 2011 and the following years would not allow the programs to move at a fast enough pace to meet Obama’s four-year goal. However, congressional appropriators have expressed a different concern, wondering if the Energy Department would be able to manage such large funding increases.

At a March 4 hearing of the House Appropriations energy and water development subcommittee, Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), who chaired the hearing, said that “[s]ignificant portions” of the funding for the NNSA nonproliferation programs “depend on finalizing agreements with other nations, something that is notoriously difficult to firmly nail down in time.” Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), the panel’s ranking member, also questioned the increase.

In a hearing at the Senate’s counterpart subcommittee six days later, Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), the ranking member, raised similar issues, with Bennett citing “a history of large unobligated balances,” that is, funds that Congress appropriated but the department did not spend in a given fiscal year.

At the March 10 hearing, NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino said that, over the last two years, his agency had “successfully executed large funding increases in several nonproliferation programs” while reducing the percentage of unspent funds.

In the past year, the NNSA has significantly reduced the staff vacancy rate, he said. He also cited the use of contract mechanisms that he said were well suited to GTRI work. “We are looking to commit all of the money for the [fiscal year 2011] work that we’ve requested in the budget, and we believe we can do it,” he said.

In addition to the proposed increase in existing programs, such as the GTRI, the administration’s budget request includes at least one new element for securing nuclear materials and preventing nuclear terrorism. In the section of the request dealing with international programs administered by the Department of State, the administration asks for $3 million to support implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires countries to establish effective national controls to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.


Almost immediately after signing a strategic arms treaty this month, President Barack Obama will have to focus his attention on another part of his nuclear policy agenda: securing vulnerable nuclear materials around the world.

Obama is preparing to host the leaders of about 40 countries in Washington April 12-13. The signing of New START is set for April 8 in Prague, where Obama delivered a wide-ranging speech on nuclear policy last April.

NNSA Nonproliferation Funding Poised to Rise

Daniel Horner

Funding for nonproliferation work in the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) would rise by about 25 percent under the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2011 request, with a large part of the increase going to efforts in Russia and the United States to turn surplus weapons plutonium into reactor fuel.

Another NNSA effort that would receive a hefty increase is the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which aims to secure vulnerable nuclear and radiological material around the world.

The budget request, released Feb. 1, would raise spending in the NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation category to $2.69 billion. Congress appropriated $2.14 billion for that category in fiscal year 2010. Of that $550 million increase, the Fissile Materials Disposition portion of that category accounts for $329 million, rising from $702 million to just more than $1.0 billion. Spending under the U.S. Surplus Fissile Materials Disposition category would rise from $701 million to $918 million; for Russian materials disposition, it would jump from $1 million to $113 million.

The United States previously had spearheaded a multinational effort to support a program under which Russia would build a plant to fabricate mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel—so called because it is a mix of plutonium and uranium oxides—out of surplus weapons plutonium. The MOX fuel then would have been used in Russian light-water reactors (LWRs). That effort stalled over financial, policy, and legal disputes, and Congress has not been providing new funding.

Meanwhile, Russia and the United States have been negotiating the terms of a different plan. That plan would be based on the use of fast-neutron reactors, which are capable of producing more plutonium than they consume, rather than LWRs. U.S. officials have said that one advantage of shifting to that approach is that, because it conforms more closely to Russia’s domestic energy plans, Moscow would be willing to pursue that route with less outside funding than it demanded for the LWR approach.

In November 2007, the two sides issued a statement saying they had reached agreement on the outlines of a revised plan. (See ACT, December 2007.) A key part of the agreement was that the Russian fast reactors would dispose of the weapons plutonium without creating new stocks of separated weapons-grade plutonium.

To put the plan in place, the two sides needed to negotiate and sign a protocol to amend a 2000 pact known as the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA). That process apparently still is not complete.

According to the Energy Department’s detailed budget justification document, the Russian and U.S. governments “have completed negotiations” on the protocol. The document said the protocol is “expected” to be signed “in early 2010.”

In Feb. 22 interview, a U.S. official said the Bush administration “put some steam” behind the negotiation effort but was not able to complete it. The Obama administration “re-energized” the effort when it took office and “made known at various levels that this was something we wanted to get done,” he said.

In the late fall of last year, the two sides reached a point at which they both said “the substantive issues are now closed,” the official said. He said they are now working on “conforming the language,” that is, making sure that the English and Russian versions say exactly the same thing.

The specific details of the monitoring and inspection arrangements, such as their “frequency and intensity,” will be in a separate document that has not yet been completed, he said.

As part of the new U.S.-Russian plan, the United States is to provide a total of $400 million for the Russian effort. The fiscal year 2011 budget request would provide $100 million of that amount. In a Feb. 26 e-mail to Arms Control Today, NNSA spokesman Damien LaVera said, “We expect to request additional funds in future budgets based on the pace of plutonium disposition in Russia.” Both countries are planning to start disposition in 2018, but “either country may begin sooner if it chooses,” he said. According to current estimates, the disposition campaign is expected to take about 30 years in each country, he said.

The U.S. official said the United States expects to spend about $300 million of the $400 million in the development and construction years, in areas such as fuel development before the MOX fuel is loaded into Russian reactors, with the remainder being spread over the “period of confirmed disposition.”

The U.S. plutonium disposition effort is centered on the construction of a MOX fuel fabrication plant at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The 2011 funding request for construction of the plant itself would dip slightly from fiscal year 2010, from $504 million to $476 million, because of “the completion of many long-lead equipment procurements and facility design activities,” according to the budget document. However, funding increases for supporting facilities and activities more than make up for that decline.

Part of the increase comes in the request for the Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility, which was funded in a different part of the NNSA budget in fiscal year 2010. However, the facility, which would disassemble surplus nuclear weapons pits and convert their plutonium metal into an oxide form that can be fabricated into MOX fuel, also would receive a boost in funding from the fiscal year 2010 level.

GTRI Ascending

In another high-profile effort, the budget for the GTRI would rise from $334 million to $559 million.

That effort is at the heart of President Barack Obama’s pledge in his speech last April in Prague to “secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.” However, the administration’s budget request last year showed a decline in GTRI funding. In defending that budget on Capitol Hill, NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino said it did not fully represent Obama’s four-year plan because budget preparation for fiscal year 2010 already was well under way when Obama took office and spelled out his goals to the NNSA. (See ACT, June 2009.)

One GTRI component that would receive a significant boost, from $94.2 million in fiscal year 2010 to $145.2 million in fiscal year 2011, is the effort to return Russian-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel to Russia from non-Russian research reactors. That effort had received $123.1 million in fiscal year 2009.

Removal of international radiological material would be funded at $45.0 million, an increase from the fiscal year 2010 level of $8.3 million and the fiscal year 2009 level of $21.7 million.

The sharpest GTRI increase would be for the effort to remove “gap nuclear material,” so called because it deals with nuclear material not covered by GTRI efforts focusing on Russian- and U.S.-origin nuclear material. Work on removing the gap material would be funded at $108.0 million for fiscal year 2011; it received $9.1 million in fiscal year 2010 and $5.0 million in fiscal year 2009.

In his Feb. 26 e-mail, LaVera said the increase is “to remove additional HEU and plutonium in FY2011 and to prepare for additional shipments” in fiscal year 2012. The increase reflects an approach that “takes work that had been planned in future years and redirects resources to complete it earlier than planned,” he said.

According to the budget document, the GTRI would get a further funding boost in fiscal 2012 and each of the following three years, receiving $600 million, $660 million, $987 million, and $1.1 billion.

CTR Increase

In the Department of Defense, funding for the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program would rise by nearly $100 million, from $424 million in fiscal year 2010 to $523 million.

Much of the increase would go to a new effort called Global Nuclear Lockdown, for which the administration is requesting $74.5 million. According to a Defense Department budget document, the program would support Obama’s four-year Prague commitment in part by establishing regional Centers of Excellence for Nuclear Security in countries to be determined by the CTR program. That part of the effort would receive $30 million. The centers’ purpose would be “to assess equipment and manpower, provide material and security training, and demonstrate enhanced security procedures and processes,” the document says.



Funding for nonproliferation work in the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) would rise by about 25 percent under the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2011 request, with a large part of the increase going to efforts in Russia and the United States to turn surplus weapons plutonium into reactor fuel.

Another NNSA effort that would receive a hefty increase is the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which aims to secure vulnerable nuclear and radiological material around the world.

Obama Budget Highlights Stockpile Work

Daniel Horner and Tom Z. Collina

The Obama administration is requesting $7.0 billion for fiscal year 2011 to maintain the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, a rise of almost 10 percent from the $6.4 billion Congress appropriated for the effort for fiscal year 2010.

Administration officials say the increase is necessary to make up for insufficient funding over the past decade. In a Feb. 18 speech at the NationalDefenseUniversity in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden said that, under the administration’s plan, funding would increase by $5 billion over the next five years.

Biden and other officials have also linked the increase to efforts to secure Senate support for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, on the grounds that the increased funding will help maintain the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear arsenal without conducting test explosions.

The boost in the fiscal year 2011 request, which was released Feb. 1, covers several categories of activities that are part of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) budget. The NNSA, which is a separately organized agency within the Department of Energy, also manages nuclear nonproliferation and naval reactor programs.

Among the weapons activities, the Directed Stockpile Work category would receive $393 million of the fiscal year 2011 increase, bringing its funding to $1.9 billion. According to Energy Department budget documents, that work includes “maintenance, surveillance, evaluation, refurbishment, reliability assessment, weapon dismantlement and disposal, research, development, and certification activities.”

Much of the increase would go to the Stockpile Systems work category, whose funding would rise from $358 million to $649 million. Programs covered by the increase include those for the W76 warhead, which is used on the Trident D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missile; the W78 and W87 warheads, for the Minuteman III ICBM; the W80 warhead, used in cruise missiles; and the B83, an aircraft-delivered gravity bomb.

The largest increase would go to the B61 aircraft-delivered gravity bomb, whose funding would jump from $92.0 million to $317.1 million. Of that amount, $251.6 million, compared to $32.5 million for fiscal year 2010, would be for a “life extension study of the nuclear and non-nuclear components scope, including implementation of enhanced surety, extended service life, and modification consolidation” for the B61 Phase 6.2/6.2A, according to the Energy Department’s detailed budget justification document. The document says that one result of the study will be to “provide options and a path forward”  for Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories to work on developing “detailed designs to extend the life of the nuclear explosive package, which may include an extension of the B61 nuclear primary’s life (reusing the existing B61 nuclear pit), potential implementation of multipoint safety, and reuse or remanufacture of the canned subassembly (CSA) and for a complete life extension of the B61 -3, -4, -7, and -10, if directed by the Nuclear Weapons Council.”

According to the budget document, the NNSA plans continuing increases in the coming years for the B61, to $338 million in fiscal year 2012 and to $394 million, $438 million, and $512 million in subsequent years.

The NNSA also projects a sharply increasing funding profile for the W78, which received $48.3 million in fiscal year 2010. For fiscal year 2011, the request is $85.9 million, which includes $26.0 million for a life extension study. In the following years, the W78 would receive $105 million, $156 million, $347 million, and $345 million.

Work on the W88, a warhead used on the Trident D-5, would be funded at a lower level than in fiscal year 2010. The funding would drop from $51.9 million to $45.7 million, reflecting the “current production and surveillance schedule” for the warhead, the budget document said.

During a Feb. 1 conference call with reporters, NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino said the options being considered for the stockpile do not include the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, an earlier effort to design and develop a new warhead. The Bush administration supported the effort, but Congress canceled it. “RRW is dead; it’s over,” D’Agostino said.

Infrastructure Upgrades

Administration officials also have highlighted planned improvements in the infrastructure of the nuclear weapons complex. The general category covering such work, Readiness in Technical Base and Facilities, would receive $1.8 billion in fiscal year 2011, an increase of only 0.3 percent from fiscal year 2010. But specific construction projects would see sharper increases.

The Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) Project at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee would receive $115 million for design and construction-related work in fiscal year 2011; the project has $94 million for fiscal year 2010. Funding would dip slightly in fiscal year 2012, to $105 million, then rise sharply over the next three years, to $190 million in 2013, $270 million in 2014, and $320 million in 2015, the document says. The UPF would support production and surveillance of highly enriched uranium components.

The budget also contains significant increases for work related to future production of plutonium pits. Funding for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Facility Replacement (CMRR) at Los Alamos would climb from $97 million to $225 million and would receive about $300 million a year for the next four years, according to the budget document. The CMRR would conduct research and development and provide other analytical support for pit surveillance and production, according to the budget document.

A related effort at Los Alamos, known as plutonium sustainment, would see a funding hike from $142 million in fiscal year 2010 to $190 million in fiscal year 2011. The increase would be focused on restoring the capability of the Plutonium Facility-4 to build up to 10 plutonium pits per year, according to the budget document. Plutonium sustainment, however, is part of Directed Stockpile Work, rather than Readiness in Technical Base and Facilities.

The budget document does not give a specific funding figure for the PF-4. In a Feb. 26 e-mail to Arms Control Today, NNSA spokesman Damien LaVera said it is difficult to provide a specific budget number because “work performed there is funded by several programs and significant operating and facilities funding is provided by Readiness in the Technical Base and Facilities.”

During the Feb. 1 conference call, D’Agostino said the NNSA wants to have the capacity to produce 50 to 80 pits per year. LaVera said in his e-mail that if the United States “conducts any weapon refurbishment efforts that require new pits, that rate will be necessary to support the integrated refurbishment schedule of returning, disassembling and rebuilding the weapons.” He emphasized that the fiscal year 2011 budget request “does not reflect a decision to increase pit production in FY 2011.” Rather, he said, the request supports President Barack Obama’s “commitment to ensuring a modern, sustainable nuclear security enterprise that can maintain the safety, security and effectiveness of our nuclear deterrent, especially as we move to a smaller stockpile.”

Dismantlement Funding Declines

One effort that would receive a funding cut in fiscal year 2011 is the work category titled Weapons Dismantlement and Disposition, whose funding would drop from $96.1 million to $58.0 million. The decline “reflects a reduction in weapons and Component/Canned Subassembly (CSA) dismantlements, associated component disposition, and some weapon specific support for the recycling, recovery, and storage of nuclear material that is a by-product of weapons dismantlement,” according to the budget document. The fall-off also “reflects a return to baseline funding after a one-time Congressional increase in FY 2010,” the document said. The effort received $52.7 million in fiscal year 2009.

During the conference call, Brig. Gen. Garrett Harencak, NNSA principal deputy assistant administrator for military application, drew a distinction between the funding level and the number of warheads dismantled. The NNSA is “on track to meet [its] dismantlement commitments,” he said. Citing classification restrictions, D’Agostino and Harencak declined to give figures either for the commitments or the numbers of actual dismantlements. In his e-mail, LaVera said the NNSA remains committed to dismantling all currently retired weapons by 2022.

Part of recent NNSA spending has been on developing new processes and technologies for dismantlement, Harencak said. The NNSA should now be able to “reap the benefits” of that spending by accelerating the pace of dismantlement while saving money.

LaVera said that the Y-12 site has developed new infrared separation techniques that will improve dismantlement operations there. Also, he said, the B53 dismantlement program at the Pantex Plant in Texas “will use new tooling developed by state-of-the-art computer-assisted design models.”

During the conference call, D’Agostino said the B53 is very large and difficult to take apart. “You don’t attack these things with a screwdriver and a crescent wrench,” he said.



The Obama administration is requesting $7.0 billion for fiscal year 2011 to maintain the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, a rise of almost 10 percent from the $6.4 billion Congress appropriated for the effort for fiscal year 2010.

Administration officials say the increase is necessary to make up for insufficient funding over the past decade. In a Feb. 18 speech at the NationalDefenseUniversity in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden said that, under the administration’s plan, funding would increase by $5 billion over the next five years.

Taking Stock of the NPT: An Interview With U.S. Special Representative Susan Burk

Interviewed by Peter Crail, Daniel Horner, and Daryl G. Kimball

Susan Burk has served as special representative of the president for nuclear nonproliferation since June 8, 2009. In that position, she plays a lead role in U.S. government preparations for the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which is scheduled to take place May 3-28 at the United Nations. Burk previously served as deputy coordinator for homeland security in the Department of State’s Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. She also has served as acting assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation and in other nonproliferation posts at the State Department and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

Arms Control Today spoke with Burk in her State Department office January 19. She outlined her views on recent progress in strengthening the NPT regime and on the challenges that the treaty parties will have to confront at the review conference.

The interview was transcribed by Caitlin Taber. It has been edited for clarity.

The interview is part of an Arms Control Today article series, which began in the January/February 2010 issue, on topics related to the NPT and the upcoming review conference.

ACT: In April of last year, President Barack Obama said efforts to contain nuclear weapons dangers “are centered in a global nuclear non-proliferation regime,” and he pledged to strengthen the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty “as a basis for cooperation.” How does the United States hope to use the 2010 NPT Review Conference in May to strengthen the goals of the treaty?

Burk: I think in the first instance, what we are looking at is a review conference that will revalidate the importance of the treaty for international and regional security and stability. That would be the first goal—what some officials have been calling a renewal and a reinvigoration of the NPT. That is the large strategic goal. We also think the review conference can address measures under all three pillars of the treaty that would strengthen the treaty and improve its implementation. The first would be the disarmament pillar. Obviously, the president has laid out an ambitious disarmament program, steps that he is committed to take. On the nonproliferation pillar, the United States is looking at issues of compliance, safeguards, support for the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] in all aspects—financial, human, political support. With regard to the third pillar, we are addressing the challenging issues, the interesting issues, that have now arisen with the new focus on nuclear power in response to the global consensus on climate change. There are a number of important actions to be taken up under all three pillars of the treaty, and the review conference is the place to address those issues.

ACT: How important is a final conference document outlining specific benchmarks and goals to a successful NPT review conference and future efforts to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation system?

Burk: If you look historically, tremendous importance has been attached to production of a consensus final document. But if you also look at the history, we see that that’s an elusive goal. I would have to say personally it would be very positive if we could agree on a statement, a forward-looking statement, and we are prepared to work very hard with our NPT partners to see what we can do on that. But we think we ought to be striving for quality, not quantity. Perhaps if we go for something brief and concise but specific, we might be able to be successful. But success can be defined in other ways as well.

ACT: I hope we’ll get into more detail on how we define that. How would you describe the political climate leading into this year’s review conference? Is it more conducive to reaching agreement on the treaty’s three pillars that you just mentioned than in 2005, and if so, why?

Burk: Well, I wasn’t involved in 2005, so I don’t want to do too much speculation. I think we’re facing a number of the same problems and concerns and stresses, if you will, on the system that we faced in 2005.[1] That includes North Korea’s withdrawal from the treaty and Iran’s program. So those are constants, but there is definitely an improved atmosphere. From all accounts from my colleagues who’ve told me about the preparatory meetings leading up to this, it is definitely a different atmosphere, very positive, in large part due to the United States’ embrace of multilateral diplomacy in a very significant way, and also because of the disarmament proposals that the United States and President Obama have put forward. So I think we’re in a good position.

ACT: In April, President Obama pledged that the United States “will take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons,” beginning with steps “to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy” and by pursuing a new, verifiable START with Russia. Could you please explain for us the case that the United States will present at the upcoming review conference regarding its record over the past year in connection with the implementation of its Article 6 disarmament commitment?[2]

Burk: I think the case that we’re going to make is the case that I’ve been making over the six months that I’ve been on the job and the case that other administration officials have been making. The president made clear that the United States has a special responsibility for the nuclear disarmament provisions of the NPT and accepts that responsibility and to that end has committed to negotiate with Russia a new START agreement, to pursue CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] ratification, and to participate in negotiations in Geneva on a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty [FMCT], and he has talked about reducing the role of nuclear weapons. How that will be translated after the Nuclear Posture Review is still to be determined, but I think we will make the case that we are committed to a number of the major initiatives that have been on the agenda. The U.S. president is determined to achieve them.

ACT: Is the case dependent on having START negotiations completed or the treaty ratified? To what extent is it dependent on the status of START at that point?

Burk: I have been making this point very clearly, and I would have to say that my foreign interlocutors, who are very sophisticated, understand how our political system works. They understand that treaties require the advice and consent of the Senate, and that is not something that the United States can promise will be done by any certain date. That’s very well appreciated, so I don’t think the status of that agreement—whether or not it is ratified—will have any impact. The commitment of the United States and the credibility of the president making those commitments are very important. That’s what we have now, and that’s what’s working for us.

ACT: At the conference last September on facilitating the entry into force of the CTBT, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged to “work in the months ahead both to seek the advice and consent of the United States Senate to ratify the treaty, and to secure ratification by others so that the treaty can enter into force.”

What does the administration intend to do in the months prior to the review conference to demonstrate its commitment to achieving these goals?

Burk: The president has not set any timeline for achievement of ratification. This goes back to the point I just made—that ratification is a Senate prerogative and we can’t prejudge that. Later this spring, we’re going to see publication of both the National Academy of Sciences update to their 2002 report on the key technical issues and a National Intelligence Estimate. I think those are the two developments that we can see coming between now and May.

ACT: What is the United States doing to pursue ratification by the other Annex 2 states?[3]

Burk: I’m not the right person to ask that question. I’m completely focused on preparing for the review conference, and I’m not involved in other negotiations. This is a full-time job.

ACT: UN Security Council Resolution 1887 recalls the five declared nuclear-weapon states’ April 1995 security assurances against the use of nuclear weapons to the non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to the NPT.[4] In the context of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, the five declared their “unequivocal commitment” to the elimination of nuclear weapons. Are the five nuclear-weapon states considering similar statements prior to the upcoming conference?

Burk: The United States and the other NPT nuclear-weapon states are engaging in consultations as we traditionally do in connection with the review conference, and we’re looking at where there might be areas of agreement that would be reflected in some sort of a statement. But we don’t have that yet.

ACT: But it is something that is under consideration?

Burk: Under consideration. It’s become sort of routine to do this, so we are engaging in consultations. So we’ll see how that goes.

ACT: And likely to be on the issue of negative security assurances or something more broadly focused?

Burk: On security assurances, we still have the long-standing negative security assurance that every U.S. administration has reiterated.[5] That’s our position right now, and I can’t predict changes at this point. But it’s a good assurance, it’s a solid assurance, and that’s what we have at the moment.

ACT: Since the last review conference, the IAEA Board of Governors has found one NPT party, Iran, to be in noncompliance with its safeguards obligations. The handling of that country’s situation was a major point of contention at the 2005 review conference.

In the view of the United States, how should the upcoming review conference address the importance of compliance, and can it agree on a set of “real and immediate consequences” for noncompliance?

Burk: This is one of those issues that is a carryover from 2005. What’s important to remember is that, with very few exceptions, all the other NPT parties are in compliance with their obligations under the treaty. What we have been discussing with our partners as we engage in diplomatic outreach is the importance of full compliance with the treaty to maintaining the integrity of the treaty and the corrosive effect that noncompliance has on the treaty itself and on the understandings that other countries have had. We expect that this will be discussed in May. It has to be discussed—full compliance, full support for safeguards, and all those other measures. Exactly how it will be discussed is up in the air at the moment. There are different views on how to handle the issue. But I don’t think there is any disagreement among parties—certainly not in my consultations—that full compliance is absolutely essential.

ACT: But part of the issue here is that because a final document or any agreement there requires consensus, and one or more parties may be not complying, then how do you achieve a consensus when one of the people who would have to agree is one of the countries who would be directly affected by that?

Burk: Well it depends on what you’re saying in the document. If your goal is to censure countries, I think we all can understand that if one of the countries that you are censuring is in the room and has the ability to block consensus, we can predict how that will turn out. But there are other ways to deal with the issues of compliance and noncompliance and strengthen safeguards. It’s not clear; there are discussions going around right now on how to deal with these issues. We are all very aware of the fact that it is difficult to move forward on proposals that target specific countries if they are able to block a consensus. We’ll have to see whether the desire to have consensus—what kind of power such a veto right affords.

ACT: You said Iran is not in compliance, with a few other exceptions. Can you say what other countries you consider not to be in compliance with their NPT obligations right now?

Burk: What I have in mind when I make that comment is North Korea, which announced it was withdrawing from the treaty, after violating it. So that remains an outstanding issue on the NPT docket.

ACT: What about Syria?

Burk: Syria, to the best of my knowledge, is still under consideration at the IAEA. I don’t know how that will play, but I don’t think there’s been a final report on Syria in Vienna.

ACT: You mention, in the context of noncompliance, strengthening safeguards. Resolution 1887 has called on all countries to adopt an additional protocol and also to make an additional protocol a condition for nuclear supply.[6] What are the prospects of adding some sort of an agreement at the review conference on the proposals?

Burk: There are lots of different views on the [Model] Additional Protocol, so I don’t want to speculate about what the review conference may or may not agree specifically on it. But it has become an important point for us to raise in consultations because we have ratified the Additional Protocol now and we do believe that it should become the new verification standard. But the more important point is the fact that [Mohamed ElBaradei,] the former director-general of the IAEA, before he retired, made a very strong statement, which I quote frequently, that without the Additional Protocol the IAEA has no capability to verify undeclared facilities. Our experience over the past years and discovery of clandestine nuclear facilities led to the negotiation of the Additional Protocol. We learn from our mistakes. It is very clear that we need to look forward on the Additional Protocol. There are well over 100 countries that have had additional protocols accepted by the IAEA and 90-some countries that have brought it into force. This is a critical mass of states that have adopted the Additional Protocol. We will continue to discuss with our partners how we can make it universal, invoking the words of the IAEA leadership on what they need in order to do their job, and we expect that there will be a strong statement of support for the Additional Protocol at the review conference in May.

ACT: In 2008 the Nuclear Suppliers Group [NSG] agreed to allow civil nuclear trade with India even though it doesn’t allow comprehensive IAEA safeguards covering all of its nuclear facilities. Has the exemption for India complicated efforts to achieve universalization for the Additional Protocol?

Burk: I can’t say that that, in and of itself, has complicated efforts to achieve universal adherence to the additional protocol.

ACT: Has the issue of the U.S.-Indian deal and the broader India deal with the NSG factored in discussions? Has that been raised by countries in discussing obligations they need to assume and responsibility under the NPT?

Burk: Yes. It gets raised frequently in NPT discussions, and our response is that it was seen as a way to bring India closer to the nonproliferation norm, to an agreement that would in the end bring more of their facilities under safeguards. That was the motivation. But it does come up frequently in discussions.

ACT: Moving on a bit to the issue of Article 4,[7] the Obama administration has backed proposals for international arrangements, including a so-called fuel bank, intended to give non-nuclear-weapon states an incentive not to pursue enrichment or reprocessing technologies.[8] But as you’ve seen, there have been many countries who haven’t exactly embraced this concept. How would the United States like the upcoming review conference to address Article 4 issues?

Burk: Well, addressing Article 4 issues is a broad area, and I think the fuel banks really relate to the resurgence of interest in nuclear power. But let me just make a comment about the nonpower applications. We are very mindful of not forgetting these applications in nuclear energy because, with few exceptions, NPT parties, especially in the developing world, have benefited from access to the peaceful use of nuclear energy in nonpower forms, such as medicine, agriculture, industry, universities with small reactors, and that sort of thing. In many ways, we have gotten so comfortable with this technology that we now more or less take it for granted, and we forget that it really is derived from the Atoms for Peace program of the 1950s and is made possible by the NPT.

On the power aspect of it, there is an energetic debate going on [at the IAEA] in Vienna right now on fuel banks and other multilateral fuel assurances. As I read the reports of the debates and the statements, I’ve described it as a glass half full, not a glass half empty. It is clearly a debate that is generating a lot of interest and raising a lot of issues—technical, commercial, legal, political—that need to be worked through. But our thinking is that the review conference is not the place to solve those problems. It’s not going to answer the questions and come up with the right answer on multilateral fuel banks and fuel assurances. But it is a legitimate topic of discussion because it really goes to the heart of Article 4, particularly if we’re moving in the direction of increased use of nuclear power. But the review conference could encourage the discussions in Vienna to continue because it’s important to have the right experts addressing these hard questions and urge the IAEA to continue to address them. So, we think that would be a good outcome. The review conference could usefully give a boost to these discussions and encourage that they continue, without prejudice to how they would come out.

ACT: Can we just turn that around a bit? Because, as you say it might not be the purview of the review conference to decide something that is being discussed in Vienna, but it’s the whole issue that the divisions among countries on the fuel banks might be seen as showing the different views of how the Article 4 obligations should play out, the balance between the inalienable right versus the need to be in conformity with Articles 1 and 2. Doesn’t that divided vote at the Board of Governors indicate a very different perception among different countries about what exactly Article 4 requires, whether the dissemination of enrichment actually constitutes a proliferation risk or not, and basic, fundamental questions for Article 4 like that?

Burk: It does, and I think if you look at the review conference, this is a legitimate discussion to have in the Main Committee on peaceful uses of nuclear energy. We can debate this issue. We have to sort through some of the political debates and the more practical technical debates. At the moment, we have got a mix of both. So I can’t prejudge the discussion, but I think you framed it correctly. That is an issue we can expect to spend time on in New York. But again, I don’t think that the review conference is necessarily going to agree on a solution to the problem. I think the IAEA is where this debate needs to continue because it has the right technical experts. Perhaps the review conference could agree on some principles under the “peaceful uses” heading, but I can’t predict what the outcome would be. We will get into this discussion of inalienable rights because that is clearly the point that has struck a nerve. Hopefully, there will be an opportunity to explain where the multilateral nuclear assurance proposals stand now and their advantages. The whole goal here is to try and find a way to make nuclear power—if that is the course a country wants to pursue—affordable, safe, and secure without contributing to proliferation. I think, in the end, we can get through some of these discussions and get to that point.

ACT: You mentioned earlier that North Korea was an outstanding issue, that they declared they had withdrawn from the treaty. Since that declaration, NPT states-parties have been trying to find a way to deal with the potential for additional withdrawals. How would the United States like the review conference to address that question?

Burk: First, it is important to state up front, because there is frequently a misunderstanding, that the United States is not seeking any changes to the withdrawal provision of the NPT.[9] We believe that states should have the right to withdraw and to decide what conditions require them to take such a significant step. But what we have been looking at is the issue of potential abuse of the withdrawal clause. When I first came on board, I was reading about what had been done in 2005. Articles have been written by folks outside of government on this issue, and NPT parties, including the United States, have tabled papers at past PrepComs [Preparatory Committee meetings] on this issue. The concerns seem to be, in the first instance, a situation where a country violates the treaty and then withdraws as a way to escape the violations. I have not encountered anyone in my contacts who believes that a state should not be held accountable for those violations even if it decides to withdraw. So our effort has been to try to identify some specific points or specific measures that the NPT parties might agree that they would be prepared to take, one, in the event a state announced it was withdrawing, to determine whether or not it was in violation, and two, if it were, to remedy that violation. I think the North Korea case is the one that most people are familiar with.

ACT: That discussion has been going on for some time. Do you believe that the states-parties at this conference are close to an agreement as to what the collective response should be?

Burk: At this moment?

ACT: Is this a particular goal of the United States at this conference at this time?

Burk: It is one of our goals. We would like to see the conference address this issue and ideally agree on some steps. But at this moment in time, are we close to agreement on that? No. We are still talking about it and expanding the circle of countries that we are sharing specific ideas with.

ACT: Even if you manage to find agreement on all those issues at the review conference, another outstanding issue that many observers believe might need to be addressed, if there is going to be an overall agreement, is the 1995 resolution on the Middle East, which calls for the establishment of a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone and for all states in the region to join the NPT. At last year’s Preparatory Committee, key states, including Egypt, had issued specific ideas for advancing the goals of the resolution. What is the possibility at the review conference for getting agreement on either those proposals or other ideas for advancing progress on the resolution?

Burk: I’m not into predicting possibilities for agreement at this point on things. What’s important is that we are making very clear that we support fully the goals and objectives of the 1995 resolution. To the extent there was any question about that in the past, we are trying to set that straight: We support it. We support the achievement of a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. I can’t speak to specific proposals on this. We are very aware of the proposals that are out there and understand the importance of this issue to this review conference.

ACT: But if I could just follow up: The 1995 resolution was widely supported. Since then, it has been widely supported. Yet there has been, by all measures, very little progress toward that goal, and one of the key points of friction at the last review conference was the apparent lack of progress on this goal. What ideas is the United States prepared to support to help advance that goal even in modest ways? If there is not a possibility of agreement at this review conference on this subject, how likely is it that the conference as a whole might agree to a set of benchmarks and standards to strengthen all three pillars of the regime?

Burk: It is important to remember that the situation on the ground in 1995 was very different than the situation on the ground in 2010. In 1995 there was one country [in the Middle East] outside the treaty. In 2010 I need not elaborate on the additional complicating factors that have developed. So all of these developments in that region on the nonproliferation front have just added new complicating factors into any solution. That said, I think there is a good-faith effort to see if there is a way forward on this issue. It will require the goodwill, creativity, and constructive energy of more than one country. We will hope for the best, but I don’t want to predict what the outcome would be. In terms of progress on the three pillars, again, I don’t want to speculate. There is an awful lot to be gained at this review conference on all three pillars. I think we have to see where we are in May on the three pillars and on the Middle East resolution and on what there is broad, near consensus.

ACT: A month before the review conference, the United States is going to be hosting a summit on nuclear security here in Washington. How might the review conference itself advance some of the goals of that summit in terms of dealing with the threat of nuclear terrorism and securing weapons-usable nuclear material?

Burk: That is a good question. I get asked all the time about this because the proximity of the two meetings leads to a lot of confusion about their relationship, and I am at pains to tell people that they are different events. One is an NPT forum; the other is not an NPT forum. The security summit is dealing with a very narrow slice of the problem, focusing on nuclear terrorism. At this point, it will be up to the participants in the security summit that are NPT parties­, including the United States, to decide what out of that might be exportable to the review conference. I just can’t prejudge. I’m not involved directly in the preparations for the security summit. The issue could be relevant to NPT discussions, but I think we really need to leave it up to the parties to decide what to carry forward on that. That is what I have been saying when asked, and I think it’s the best way to handle this issue.

ACT: During the Preparatory Committee meeting last year, in President Obama’s personal message to the meeting, he said that the treaty needs to be strengthened and deal with nuclear weapons threats and the threat of nuclear terrorism. Is there something that the review conference can do to deal with the terrorism issue?

Burk: We haven’t been focusing on the terrorism piece, per se. We’re really focusing on the broad issue of securing and safeguarding materials, including encouraging all states to have comprehensive safeguard agreements or small quantities protocols,[10] which not all have, and to adhere to the Additional Protocol. Sort of “Nonproliferation 101” if you will—first principles. If you can secure nuclear materials against theft or diversion, that would make a big contribution. Again, we have the nuclear security summit, but it is not a meeting of NPT parties. We’ll see what comes out of that. I have been reading articles about this and listening to people talking about the relationship between safety, security, and safeguards. To my mind, it is all part of the same thing.

ACT: You said it is part of Nonproliferation 101. The NPT specifically refers to things such as safeguards and so on, but I don’t think there are specific textual references to things having to do with nuclear security and those kinds of obligations. Yet there are countries­—I’m thinking of the United Kingdom’s “Road to 2010”—where they talk about how this needs to be the fourth pillar of the NPT. So how is that going to be worked in? How will that be integrated into a discussion that is specifically focused on this treaty?

Burk: Regarding the idea of a fourth pillar—what we have to be careful of is that we don’t convey the impression that we are trying to create new obligations under the NPT. If you look at strengthening the IAEA across the board—not just safeguards, but in terms of all of its programs—that then gives you additional capacity to deal with these security issues. But I do think that the threat of loose or vulnerable material is something that NPT parties could take up. Again, there is growing international interest in pursuing nuclear power and other kinds of nuclear technologies. The international community will have to be very mindful of how to do that in a safe and secure way and not contribute to proliferation.

ACT: As I’m sure you are well aware, after the review conference is over, the gavel comes down, there is still quite a bit of work to do to strengthen the disarmament and nonproliferation regime. What does the United States intend to do in the months and years ahead to try and work toward the goal?

Burk: I would say your question goes directly to a point that I have been making in my meetings with other treaty parties, which is that the NPT review conference is a very important event in the life of the treaty, a critical event, but it is not an end in and of itself. The goal here is to renew and reinvigorate the treaty and agree on some specific steps that the international community is prepared to take in all three pillars to move forward. But very importantly, a constructive, positive review conference will give important momentum to our efforts in Vienna at the IAEA, in Geneva at the CD [Conference on Disarmament], in New York at the UN, to deal with all the issues, because that is where the work will continue to be carried out. This includes negotiations on the FMCT at the CD and dealing with issues of noncompliance at the UN, strengthening safeguards at the IAEA. So we think that the review conference can give a real boost to these efforts. You will see the United States continue to support, aggressively support, progress in all three treaty pillars, consistent with the president’s agenda.

ACT: Are there any thoughts at this point, in January of course, about, aside from you, who else might be representing the United States at this once-every-five-years review conference?

Burk: No, we don’t have a decision on that. I expect to be up there for the month as a working head of delegation, but beyond that, we don’t have any decision at this point. I would say that it is very clear that, at the highest levels, there is a keen appreciation of the importance of the NPT. I think the president has made that clear in statement after statement. The secretary of state, the undersecretary for arms control and international security have also done so. We’re working on an issue that we know is the very highest priority and on which we have the highest-level support for our efforts. That is a very gratifying thing.

ACT: Thank you very much.




1. See Wade Boese, “Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Meeting Sputters,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2005.

2. Article 6 states, “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” For the full text of the treaty, see www.state.gov/www/global/arms/treaties/npt1.html.

3. Under the treaty’s Annex 2, 44 specified countries must ratify the treaty to bring it into force. Nine of those countries—China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States—have not ratified the treaty.

4. The five countries that the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty recognizes as nuclear-weapon states are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Statements pledging not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states are often known as negative security assurances. Paragraph 9 of UN Security Council Resolution 1887 refers to such assurances. For the text of Resolution 1887 and background information on it, see www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2009/sc9746.doc.htm. See also Cole Harvey, “Nuclear Arms Resolution Passed at UN Summit,” Arms Control Today, October 2009.

5. For a historical summary of U.S. security assurances, see Arms Control Association, Fact Sheet, “U.S. ‘Negative Security Assurances’ At A Glance”.

6. The 1997 Model Additional Protocol provides the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with greater authority to verify all nuclear activities within a state, increasing the chances of detecting undeclared nuclear activities. Each country negotiates an individual additional protocol to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA based upon the 1997 Model Additional Protocol.

7. Article 4 says, in part, that “[n]othing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.”

8. For an account of recent IAEA action in this area, see Daniel Horner, “IAEA Board Approves Russian Fuel Bank Plan,” Arms Control Today, January/February 2010.

9. Article 10 of the treaty states, “Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.”

10. Countries that are not pursuing significant nuclear activities can negotiate a small quantities protocol with the IAEA. Such a protocol suspends some of the requirements of IAEA comprehensive safeguards agreements as long as the country maintains only limited nuclear activities. The protocol’s requirements were strengthened in September 2005, and paragraph 15(a) of UN Security Council Resolution 1887 calls on all NPT non-nuclear-weapon states to adopt comprehensive IAEA safeguards or a modified version of the small quantities protocol. See Paul Kerr, “IAEA Board Closes Safeguards Loophole,” Arms Control Today, November 2005.


Interviewed by Peter Crail, Daniel Horner, and Daryl G. Kimball


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