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– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Iran

IAEA: More Questions on Iran Nuclear Program

Paul Kerr

Shortly before Iran elected a new president, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials reported that Tehran had still not resolved several outstanding issues about its nuclear programs. Iran has, however, continued to adhere to its November promise to suspend its uranium-enrichment program.

After meeting with the IAEA Board of Governors, agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters June 17 that Iran has been “a bit slow” to provide relevant information but expressed hope that some of the issues will be resolved by September.

Since beginning an investigation in 2002, the IAEA has revealed that Tehran conducted a variety of clandestine nuclear activities in violation of its safeguards agreement. Such agreements require states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to allow the agency to monitor their declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure that they are not diverted to military use.

The report came against the backdrop of the presidential race. Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defeated former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in a June 24 runoff election. Rafsanjani was widely viewed as being more willing to compromise on the nuclear issue. Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Mark Regev, stated that “it’s clear now that no… change will take place” in Iran’s nuclear policy, Reuters reported June 25.

Officials from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom had said that they did not expect their ongoing negotiations with Iran to produce results until after the election, but their diplomatic efforts have continued. A European diplomat told Arms Control Today June 24 that the three countries are formulating a specific negotiating proposal. The Europeans in May agreed to provide the proposal to Iran by August after Tehran threatened to break the suspension. (See ACT, June 2005 .)

The new European proposal is expected mostly to contain the same incentives that Europeans have previously offered since negotiations began in December. (See ACT, April 2005.) But it is hoped that the complete proposal will persuade Tehran that “there’s a lot there,” the diplomat said. No new meetings have been announced.

Tehran agreed in November to suspend its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program while the two sides negotiate an agreement that includes “objective guarantees” that Iran’s nuclear program is “exclusively for peaceful purposes,” as well as cooperative arrangements on economic, political, and security matters.

Uranium enrichment increases the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope, producing either low-enriched uranium for civilian nuclear reactor fuel or highly enriched uranium (HEU). If enriched to high enough levels, HEU can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons. Gas centrifuges enrich uranium hexafluoride gas by spinning it at very high speeds. Iran currently has a 164-centrifuge pilot facility and is continuing limited work on a larger commercial facility.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi said June 19 that Iran is “committed to the suspension” but described the coming months as the Europeans’ “last chance.” Iran has previously expressed dissatisfaction with the European incentives.

In return for any incentives, the Europeans want Iran to cease the enrichment program completely, but Tehran has repeatedly said it will not do so. Nevertheless, Iran has suggested some possible compromises. (See ACT, May 2005.)

Sirus Naseri, head delegate to Iran’s talks with the Europeans, told Agence France Presse May 21 that Tehran is considering a Russian offer to enrich Iranian uranium, but the terms of the deal are unclear. Russia has told the United States that it offered to produce enriched uranium from Iranian lightly processed uranium ore, or “yellowcake.” But Iran claims that Russia offered to use Iranian uranium hexafluoride, a Department of State official told Arms Control Today June 10. Iran has a uraniumconversion facility designed to convert yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride. Uranium hexaflouride is perceived as the greater proliferation threat.

Iran has also suggested that it may accept limits on its centrifuge facilities. For example, Iran offered in March to limit its enrichment program to an IAEA-monitored plant containing about 3,000 centrifuges. However, the text of an Iranian proposal reportedly presented at an informal meeting the next month reveals that Tehran ultimately intends to produce and install centrifuges “up to the numbers envisaged” for the commercial facility, which is more than 50,000, according to the IAEA.

Additionally, Iranian officials have informally offered to limit the country’s centrifuge facility to a “few hundred” centrifuges, a State Department official confirmed June 24. The official did not know when they made this offer.

Washington continues to support the negotiations, but U.S. officials have recently begun demanding that Iran dismantle its nuclear fuel facilities, a requirement the Europeans have not publicly articulated. However, European diplomats have privately said that dismantlement of the relevant facilities would logically follow an Iranian decision to halt enrichment.

IAEA Investigation

IAEA Deputy Director Pierre Goldschmidt briefed the agency’s board June 16 about the ongoing investigation. He said that the probe has raised further questions about Iran’s nuclear program and cooperation but he did not reveal any previously unknown nuclear activities.

The IAEA continues to investigate Iran’s efforts to obtain P-1 gas-centrifuge technology. Goldschmidt stated that Iran must resolve some discrepancies in its account of these efforts so that the agency can determine whether Iran has failed to disclose any “enrichment design, technology, or components.” (See ACT, April 2005.)

For example, Iran has told the IAEA that it received offers for centrifuge designs and components from foreign “intermediaries” in 1987 and “around 1994,” Goldschmidt said. Iran claims that only a single, handwritten document exists regarding the 1987 offer and also asserts that no government officials had contact with the intermediaries during the intervening years.

The agency has not identified these “intermediaries” but has previously revealed that Iran received its centrifuge materials from a clandestine supply network run by former Pakistani official Abdul Qadeer Khan.

U.S. Ambassador Jackie Sanders suggested in a statement to the board that another undisclosed entity in Iran may have received these components to conduct enrichment work.

The IAEA has also found additional inconsistencies in Tehran’s account of two shipments of centrifuge components and designs it received during the mid-1990s. According to Goldschmidt, both the first shipment and related meetings with the intermediary occurred earlier than Iran had initially claimed. The agency is continuing to investigate the matter.

The IAEA has also been investigating Iran’s work on a more advanced P-2 centrifuge, but Tehran has not provided any new information about that program, Goldschmidt stated. The agency is concerned that Iran has conducted undisclosed work on that program.

However, the IAEA could make progress on its investigation of enriched uranium particles found in Iranian facilities. According to Goldschmidt, Pakistan provided the agency with “a number of centrifuge components” in late May. Environmental sampling of these components, which will take about two months to complete, could help the IAEA determine the particles’ origin, he said.

Iran has admitted to producing uranium with very low proportions of uranium-235, but IAEA inspectors have found particles enriched to much higher levels. ElBaradei has previously reported that the IAEA’s evidence “on balance” supports Iran’s claim that the particles came from imported centrifuge components. IAEA inspectors have also taken samples from several locations in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.

Other Concerns

The IAEA has determined that Iran provided inaccurate information to the agency concerning the dates of its plutonium-separation experiments. Iran first said that it completed this work in 1993 but has now admitted continuing experiments until 1998. The agency is still investigating the matter.

Separating plutonium from spent nuclear reactor fuel is another method of obtaining fissile material.

Goldschmidt also expressed concern about “complex arrangements” concerning Iran’s Gchine uranium mine. Specifically, the agency is investigating why Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization suspended work on the mine between 1994 until 2000 to work on a “much less promising” deposit of uranium ore at another location. Sanders asserted that Iran “went to great lengths to conceal” the mine until the IAEA asked about it in 2004.

Both the State Department official and a European diplomat said that Iran’s military or an affiliated organization may have begun working at the mine in an effort to obtain an independent uranium source. The European diplomat cautioned, however, that “politics” may explain Iran’s selection of the other site.

ElBaradei said that Iran has allowed agency inspectors access to nuclear facilities and materials covered by Tehran’s IAEA safeguards agreement and additional protocol. Iran has signed but not ratified an additional protocol, which augments the IAEA’s authority to uncover secret nuclear activities.

But the agency has had greater problems attempting to conduct further inspections at two sites where Iran is suspected of having performed either nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons-related work. Although agency inspectors have previously visited those sites, Iran has not allowed them to visit one for several months and the other for about a year. Arrangements for visiting the site are still under discussion, ElBaradei told the board. Naseri indicated that Iran may allow the IAEA access to the sites, Agence France Presse reported June 15.

Because these sites are not safeguarded, the IAEA has limited authority to visit them without evidence that Tehran is conducting nuclear activities there.

Missile Engine Tested

Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said May 31 that Iran had successfully tested a solid-fuel missile engine for its medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile, Agence France Presse reported. He did not say when the test was conducted.

Shamkhani explained that the new engine would increase the missile’s accuracy and allow for long-term storage of fueled missiles. Most liquid fuels must be placed in a missile shortly before it is to be launched. Solid-fuel missiles are also more mobile and can be deployed more quickly.

Uzi Rubin, a former top Israeli missile defense official, speculated that Iran may be attempting to add another stage to the Shahab-3 in order to increase its range, Jane’s Defense Weekly reported June 8.

The United States has long expressed concern about Iran’s ballistic missile program. U.S. intelligence estimates the range of the Shahab-3, which is Iran’s most advanced, flight-proven missile, to be 1,300 kilometers. But Rafsanjani claimed last October that Iran has a missile with a 2,000-kilometer range. It is unclear whether this 2,000-kilometer range missile is an improved Shahab-3 or a new missile.

 

EU-Iran Talks Ease Suspense on Suspension

Paul Kerr

Following a tense few weeks, Hassan Rowhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, and the foreign ministers from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom agreed May 25 to continue negotiations regarding Tehran’s gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. Significantly, Iran appears to have agreed to back off earlier threats to resume work on the program.

Additionally, the European ministers agreed to make “detailed proposals” to Iran by August, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters.

Although several Iranian officials had warned that Tehran would end negotiations if dissatisfied with the one-day meeting’s outcome, Rowhani expressed optimism after the meeting, telling reporters that the two sides can now likely reach agreement “in a reasonably short time.” The May 25 agreement still awaits Iran’s formal approval.

Tehran agreed in November to suspend its enrichment program while the two sides negotiate a “mutually acceptable agreement,” which includes “objective guarantees” that Iran’s nuclear program is “exclusively for peaceful purposes” as well as cooperative arrangements on economic, political, and security matters. (See ACT, December 2004.)

Iran’s European interlocutors want complete cessation of the program, but Tehran continues to resist the idea. Uranium enrichment can produce fuel for civilian nuclear reactors as well as fissile material for nuclear weapons.

The Europeans suggested the meeting after Iran in late April began threatening to resume work at its uranium-conversion facility. Such facilities can convert lightly processed uranium ore into feedstock for centrifuges. The November suspension agreement includes “all tests or production at any uranium conversion installation.”

 

 

Daryl Kimball Discussing Iran and North Korea on News Hour

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On May 2, 2005, Daryl Kimball appeared on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS for a segment called "Nuclear Tensions" and discussed the nuclear challenges created by Iran and North Korea.

Nuclear Tensions

To see the segment or read a transcript, click here.

Description: 

On May 2, 2005, Daryl Kimball appeared on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS.

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News Analysis: Iranian Negotiators' Veiled Flexibility

Paul Kerr

In seeking to persuade Iran to cease completely its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have offered a combination of incentives and disincentives. So far, Iran has proven to be a tough negotiating partner, publicly insisting that it will pursue enrichment and threatening to end the negotiations if the Europeans demand a permanent cessation. Yet, Iranian officials’ actions and rhetoric aimed at domestic audiences suggest that Tehran may be more responsive to such a carrot-and-stick approach than their public statements suggest.

For more than 18 months, the Europeans and Iran have been seeking an agreement that would ease concerns that Tehran intends to develop nuclear weapons, as well as prevent the issue from being referred to the UN Security Council. Reaching a mutually acceptable agreement will require overcoming several obstacles. Most basically, European governments say that Iran should agree to end its program, while Tehran insists that it has the right to such activities under nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) provisions that support the peaceful pursuit of nuclear energy.

Hassan Rowhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told reporters April 20 that Iran would end the negotiations if they “do not lead to a resolution in the next couple of months.”

Yet, in recent months and with little fanfare, Iran has tentatively taken a few steps toward the European position, suggesting that, although it still has the right to uranium enrichment, it will accept limitations on the size and scale of its program.

Uranium enrichment can produce both fuel for nuclear reactors and fissile material for nuclear weapons. Iran claims that its program is peaceful, but the Europeans are concerned that Iran may be pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program. At the Europeans’ request, Iran has suspended the program for the duration of the talks.

In November, the two sides set out a framework for future talks in which they agreed to conclude a “mutually acceptable agreement” that includes “objective guarantees” that Iran’s nuclear program is “exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

Reaching an agreement on the details of such guarantees has been contentious. A working group has met to discuss the matter several times since beginning work last December. Two similar groups are discussing other technical, economic, and security issues. A steering committee met to review the progress of the working groups for the first time in March but achieved no breakthroughs. (See ACT, April 2005.)

The nuclear working group met April 19, but there was little movement on the proposals. It is widely believed that the talks are unlikely to make significant progress before Iranian presidential elections scheduled for June 17.

Yet, evidence of Iran’s willingness to compromise can also be found in some Iranian officials’ statements intended for domestic consumption, as well as Tehran’s position on “objective guarantees.”

Carrots and Sticks
The NPT permits states-parties to possess uranium-enrichment facilities for civilian purposes as long as they are under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. However, Iran’s European interlocutors want Tehran to cease its enrichment program completely, arguing that agency safeguards are insufficient to provide confidence that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons.

Safeguards agreements allow the IAEA to monitor NPT states-parties’ declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure that they are not diverted to military use.

The Europeans’ strategy, therefore, includes both positive and negative incentives for Iran to go beyond its safeguards requirements. The former include cooperation on a variety of security and economic matters, such as a trade agreement with the EU and cooperation on such issues as terrorism and drug trafficking.

As for negative incentives, the Europeans have stated that they will push the IAEA Board of Governors to refer Iran to the UN Security Council if Tehran restarts its enrichment program, stops participating in the negotiations, or ceases cooperation with the IAEA’s ongoing investigation of Iran’s nuclear activities.

The IAEA statute requires the board to notify the Security Council if a state-party to the NPT is found in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement. The Security Council may then take action against the offending state. The IAEA has already found several Iranian safeguards violations, but the United States has repeatedly failed in past attempts to persuade the board to support a Security Council referral, with European and other governments insisting that negotiations first be given a chance to succeed.

Iranian officials’ statements suggest that Tehran has been influenced by the incentives.

For example, Sirus Naseri, head Iranian delegate to the talks, made the case for Iran’s continued participation in the negotiations during a March appearance on Iranian television. Asked whether there are conditions under which Tehran will end the negotiations, Naseri argued that establishing such a “red-line” is “neither rational nor in the interests of the country.…If we give up [the talks], the country will sustain long-term fundamental damage.”

Rowhani defended Iran’s participation in the talks on similar grounds during a February appearance before university students. Observing that Iran’s “economic ties are linked to our political relations and international regulations,” Rowhani argued that Iran’s international economic relations are linked to the resolution of concerns regarding its nuclear program.

He also explained that Tehran’s decision to cooperate with the IAEA and the Europeans was necessary in order to disprove “American claims” that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran’s cooperation “can be an important factor in preventing America’s likely actions against Iran,” he added.

Additionally, Rowhani suggested that Iran’s cooperation is an effort to avoid an IAEA referral. “Right from the beginning, our aim was to prevent Iran’s [IAEA] dossier being [sic] referred” to the Security Council, he said, adding that Tehran cannot count on countries such as Russia and China to veto any council measures to penalize Iran.

Objective Guarantees
Although Iran has taken a hard line against cessation, it has suggested alternative ways to provide the Europeans with “objective guarantees.”

Iranian diplomats said at the March steering committee meeting that Tehran is willing to limit its enrichment program to an IAEA-monitored plant containing about 3,000 centrifuges—a facility considerably smaller than the plant Tehran first planned, which would have had more than 50,000 centrifuges. Iran currently has a pilot 164-centrifuge facility.

Tehran also proposed to allow “intrusive IAEA access” to some nuclear facilities, as well as ratify its additional protocol to its safeguards agreement. Tehran has signed such a protocol, which augments the agency’s authority to detect clandestine nuclear activities, and has agreed to abide by its provisions until Iran’s parliament ratifies the agreement.

Rowhani told the Financial Times April 18 that Tehran’s suggestions showed a willingness to compromise, given that Iran believes “implementation” of its additional protocol to be a sufficient guarantee of its peaceful intent. At least one Iranian diplomat had articulated this position in the past, but without explicitly offering to limit enrichment capabilities. Iran is “flexible” regarding its proposals, Rowhani said, adding that he was “cautiously optimistic” that the two sides could reach an agreement.

Additionally, current and former Iranian officials have suggested that other factors will prevent Iran from pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program, although the extent to which these suggestions represent official Iranian policy is unclear.

For example, Iran’s former chief delegate to the IAEA Ali Akbar Salehi, told Iranian television in February that if Tehran developed nuclear weapons it would need to test them, but could not do so without being detected. Computer-simulated nuclear tests would be of no value because Iran could not be confident that the data was valid, he added. Iran is a signatory to the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which has yet to enter into force.

U.S. Offer Fails to End EU-Iran Impasse

Paul Kerr

Despite a U.S. offer in March designed to strengthen their hand, three European nations have been unable to produce any major breakthroughs in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Still, both sides have agreed to continue talks, and Iran has pledged to continue the suspension of its controversial uranium-enrichment program for the duration of the negotiations.

In a March 10 letter to Javier Solana, EU high representative for Common Foreign Security Policy, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom acknowledged that the negotiations are not progressing “as fast as we would wish.” The major sticking point is defining “objective guarantees that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.” Both sides agreed in November to negotiate a long-term agreement that includes such guarantees. (See ACT, December 2004.)

The three European countries want Tehran to cease completely its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. Uranium enrichment can produce both fuel for nuclear reactors and fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Iranian officials have stated numerous times that Iran will not give up this program, arguing instead that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring can provide the necessary assurances. (See ACT, March 2005.)

Although Tehran has previously threatened to break off the negotiations, the Europeans said in a March 23 joint statement that the talks would continue. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hamidreza Asefi told reporters the next day that the talks were a “step forward and constructive.”

The Europeans’ statement followed the first meeting of a higher-level steering committee set up to review the progress of three working groups, which have met several times since beginning work in December 2004. (See ACT, January/February 2005.) The groups had been tasked with developing proposals for mutual cooperation on nuclear and non-nuclear technical projects, as well as political and security issues.

The March 23 joint statement reported that the groups have made “progress on a number of interim measures,” but did not elaborate. According to the foreign ministers’ letter, the Europeans have offered to assist Iran on various aspects of “technical preparation” for its negotiations to accede to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The two sides have already found “some common ground” in discussions about terrorism and drug trafficking, the letter added.

At least two additional meetings have been scheduled. The working group concerned with nuclear issues is to meet during the week of April 11, followed by another steering committee meeting at the end of the month, according to a Department of State official and a European diplomat familiar with the talks.

U.S. Policy Shifts
Meanwhile, in an effort to bridge tactical differences between the United States and the Europeans, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated March 11 that Washington “will drop its objection to Iran’s application to the [WTO] and will consider, on a case by case basis, the licensing of spare parts for Iranian civilian aircraft, in particular from the EU to Iran.”

Although the United States still refuses to participate in the talks, Rice’s statement signaled a modest U.S. policy shift. National security adviser Stephen Hadley told CNN March 13 that the policy change was an effort to bolster the negotiations, adding that these particular incentives were chosen at the Europeans’ request. The Bush administration had previously stated its cautious support for the negotiations but had not offered any incentives to Iran.

U.S. support for Iran’s WTO negotiations is especially important to the Europeans, who promised in November to “actively support the opening of Iranian accession negotiations at the WTO,” which the United States has blocked numerous times. U.S. export licenses are also needed for European firms to be able to sell certain spare aircraft parts, a senior administration official told reporters March 11.

The administration had been mulling a U.S. incentives proposal since President George W. Bush returned from a February trip to Europe, where he held related discussions with various European leaders. Rice’s announcement came in response to the Europeans’ March 10 letter, according to the senior administration official, who implied that the Europeans have toughened their position on Iran in response to U.S. persuasion.

In particular, the official cited the Europeans’ commitment in their letter to push the IAEA Board of Governors to refer Iran to the UN Security Council if Tehran does not continue with the negotiations and cooperate with the IAEA’s ongoing investigation of Iran’s past and current nuclear activities. The letter just reiterates European policy, but it is the most explicit public written statement about the Security Council referral option that the Europeans have offered to date. (See ACT, November 2004.)

Under the IAEA’s statute, the board is required to notify the Security Council if a state-party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) is found in noncompliance with its safeguards agreements. Those agreements allow the agency to monitor NPT states-parties’ declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure that they are not diverted to military use. The council may then take action against the offending state. The IAEA has already found several Iranian safeguards violations, but the United States has repeatedly failed in past attempts to persuade the IAEA board to support a Security Council referral. Tehran has signed an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement and agreed to abide by its provisions until ratified by Iran’s parliament. Such protocols augment the agency’s authority to detect clandestine nuclear activities.

The Bush administration has repeatedly said that Iran should end its enrichment program. Yet, State Department spokesperson Adam Ereli would not say during a March 18 press briefing whether the United States would now support a European deal that did not end Iran’s enrichment efforts. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan also refused to answer a similar question earlier in the month.

Continued Disagreement on Nuclear Facilities
Still, the recent U.S. offer has not yet visibly influenced the negotiations. Hossein Moussavian, secretary of the Foreign Policy Committee of the Supreme National Security Council in Iran, dismissed the U.S. incentives as insignificant in a March 13 BBC interview. Other Iranian officials have stated that economic incentives will not induce them to end their enrichment program.

Article IV of the NPT permits non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to possess uranium-enrichment facilities for civilian purposes under IAEA safeguards. The crux of the two sides’ disagreement is the extent to which Iranian “objective guarantees” of its peaceful nuclear intentions should exceed IAEA safeguards requirements.

Iranian diplomats presented “certain ideas” at the steering committee meeting about such guarantees, according to its European interlocutors’ joint statement. The State Department official and European diplomat said Iran informally proposed to limit its enrichment program to an IAEA-monitored plant containing about 3,000 centrifuges. Iran has a pilot 164-centrifuge facility and has said it wants to build a more-than 50,000-centrifuge commercial facility.

Tehran would also ratify its additional protocol and would allow “intrusive IAEA access” to other facilities, although the Iranians apparently provided no details about the latter.

The State Department official said that Iran’s proposed plant would still cause concern because it could provide Iranian personnel with expertise they could use in a secret centrifuge facility. Washington, the official added, believes Iran has yet to master key steps of the enrichment process, such as producing feedstock for the centrifuges and operating them for sustained periods of time.

Hadley, however, acknowledged March 13 that U.S. intelligence about Iran’s nuclear programs is limited.

The Europeans have also offered to support Iran’s “acquisition” of a light-water nuclear research reactor to replace the heavy-water version Tehran is currently constructing. Both the Europeans and the United States are concerned that Iran may use the latter to produce plutonium for weapons. Light-water reactors are more proliferation resistant. Iran has signaled that it may allow a team of European experts to visit Iran to discuss construction of the light-water reactor but has not agreed to replace the heavy-water reactor, the European diplomat said.

The Iranian “ideas” were not formal proposals and may well not represent Iran’s final negotiating position. A senior Iranian negotiator told the Islamic Students News Agency March 6 that “there could be diverse solutions to this problem.”

Iran, Russia Reach Nuclear Agreement

Paul Kerr

The conclusion of an agreement in which Russia will supply Iran with nuclear fuel for a 1,000-megawatt light-water nuclear power reactor marks the latest step in a decade-long controversy.

Russian Federal Agency for Atomic Energy Director Alexander Rumyantsev announced Feb. 27 that Tehran and Moscow had finally signed off on a deal to supply fuel for the reactor near the southern Iranian city of Bushehr for a period of 10 years. Although the United States has long opposed the reactor project, the Bush administration did not publicly criticize the agreement.

In 1995, Russia agreed to finish the reactor project, which is widely reported to be worth about $800 million. The original German contractor abandoned the project following Iran’s 1979 revolution.

A final deal was delayed several times as the two sides negotiated a provision that requires Iran to return the spent reactor fuel to Russia. The arrangement was designed to reduce the risk that Iran will separate plutonium from the spent fuel. Separated plutonium can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons. (See ACT, October 2003.)

Iran does not have a known facility for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel to obtain plutonium, although Tehran has conducted related experiments.

Details
Although the full fresh-fuel delivery schedule has not been made public, Rumyantsev said that the first shipment will occur “some six months” before the reactor begins operation in late 2006. In a March 21 interview with Arms Control Today, a Russian government nuclear expert estimated that the spent fuel will not go back to Russia until 2011 at the earliest. The returned fuel will then be stored at a facility in the Russian city of Zheleznogorsk (formerly Krasnoyarsk-26).

There is some question, however, as to how long the spent fuel will need to remain in cooling ponds located in Iran before being sent to Russia. The Russian official’s estimate assumes that the fuel needs two years to cool. However, other Russian officials have told their U.S. counterparts that the fuel must stay in Iran between three and five years, a Department of State official told Arms Control Today March 21.

Both Russian and Iranian officials said the governments remain engaged in discussions about the possibility that Moscow might build additional reactors for Tehran.

Light-water nuclear reactors are considered more proliferation-resistant than other types of reactors. But the United States had wanted Russia to abandon the Bushehr project altogether, arguing that Moscow’s assistance would allow Iran to acquire expertise and dual-use technology that could aid it in developing a nuclear weapons program.

Undersecretary of State for International Security and Arms Control John Bolton told the House International Relations Committee in June 2003 that Iran could build “over 80 nuclear weapons” if it had access to sufficient fuel, operated the reactor for five to six years, and chose to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). This estimate assumes that Iran possesses a reprocessing facility.

The project was a point of contention during a May 2002 meeting between President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. But U.S. officials said two months later that Washington would not publicly object to the reactor if Moscow took steps, such as requiring the spent fuel’s return, to mitigate the project’s proliferation risks, the State Department official said. Indeed, neither Bush nor Putin mentioned the issue during a joint press conference following a Feb. 24 bilateral meeting.

Russia contends that the reactor will not pose a proliferation risk because it will operate under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

IAEA safeguards agreements require states-parties to the NPT to allow the agency to monitor their declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure that they are not diverted to military use. Iran also signed an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement in 2003. That protocol augments the agency’s authority to detect clandestine nuclear activities. Tehran has agreed to abide by its provisions until Iran’s parliament ratifies the agreement.

Washington Reacts
Speaking to reporters Feb. 28, State Department spokesperson Adam Ereli would not say whether Washington approves of the deal. But he characterized it as representing a “convergence…of views between the United States and Russia about the problem posed by Iran’s nuclear program.”

The Bush administration has repeatedly asked Russia to help pressure Iran to end the latter’s uranium-enrichment program, which Washington says is a cover for a nuclear weapons program. Despite the recent fuel-supply deal, Tehran has said that it will continue to develop its own nuclear fuel cycle facilities.

The IAEA discovered in 2003 that Iran had an extensive, clandestine uranium-enrichment program. Tehran has suspended this program for the duration of negotiations with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The two sides are attempting to reach a long-term agreement that is to include “objective guarantees that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

Uranium enrichment increases the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope to produce either low-enriched uranium (LEU) for civilian nuclear reactor fuel or highly enriched uranium (HEU). If enriched to high enough levels, HEU can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons. The Bushehr reactor uses LEU.

A senior administration official told reporters in February that Russia has “made it clear” that it will not complete the reactor until “the Iranians have met all their international obligations.” Additionally, the State Department official suggested that Russia might use the fuel agreement as leverage to persuade Iran to cooperate with the Europeans.

Russia’s enthusiasm for such tactics is difficult to gauge. Putin displayed little alarm over Iran’s nuclear programs last month, stating that “Iran does not intend to produce nuclear arms.” Moreover, Moscow may not view Iran’s compliance with its European interlocutors’ demands as an “international obligation” because Iran is not legally obligated to suspend or dismantle its uranium-enrichment program.

Nevertheless, Foreign Minster Sergey Lavrov explicitly stated March 1 that Iran should maintain its suspension, and Putin told reporters March 18 that Russia supports the Europeans’ negotiations.

The Bush administration previously said Moscow should condition the fuel supply agreement on Tehran’s conclusion of its additional protocol. Moscow hinted at such conditions, but the extent to which it linked the two issues is unclear.

After Iran: Back to the Basics on "Peaceful" Nuclear Energy

By Henry Sokolski

If states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) want to prevent countries such as Iran from using the treaty as a legal cover to acquire all they need to come within days of having nuclear weapons, they will have to return to what the NPT originally meant by “peaceful” nuclear energy.

Under Article IV of the treaty, NPT member states are assured access to the benefits of civilian nuclear energy. Read properly, Article IV recommends eschewing dangerous nuclear projects that cannot compete economically with less risky alternatives. It also means shunning, as much as possible, nuclear activities that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cannot yet truly safeguard, that is, provide timely warning of diversions of sufficient nuclear material to make a bomb. These activities include enric hing uranium, reprocessing plutonium, and fabricating fuels derived from highly enriched uranium (HEU) or plutonium.

In the next few years, both at the upcoming NPT Review Conference and in other fora, states should consider a number of international moratoria to restrict these activities. It would be useful to hold off expanding states’ net capacity to separate plutonium, enrich uranium, or fabricate fuels that use nuclear weapons-usable materials as well as to re-examine what the IAEA requires to meet its own safeguards criteria. Given the economic and security interests at stake, securing agreement to any of these proposals will not be easy. Yet, the alternative to not trying is far worse: a world crowded with nuclear-ready states mutually suspicious of one another and primed for war.

Original Intent
Iran’s claim that it has a “peaceful” right to acquire all it needs to come within days of having a bomb should remind us of what the NPT was meant to prevent. As the diplomat who first proposed the treaty, Irish Foreign Minister Frank Aiken, explained in 1959, “a world of nuclear-ready states would resemble a town full of armed residents pointing guns at each other’s heads. At some point, mutual suspicion and the advantage of firing first would give way to mayhem.”[1]

The NPT was supposed to prevent this. In 1965, the UN General Assembly resolved that the NPT was to be “void of loop-holes which might permit nuclear or non-nuclear power to proliferate, directly or indirectly, nuclear weapons in any form.” As a result, the treaty’s negotiators rejected proposals by Mexico and Spain to make the nuclear-weapon states’ sharing of “the entire technology of reactors and fuels,” including the means to produce nuclear weapons usable materials, a “duty” under the NPT.[2]

The treaty’s negotiators understood that, although nations should be free to develop peaceful nuclear energy under the NPT, whether or not a particular activity met this criterion depended upon a number of factors.[3] First, could the activity in question be safeguarded, as the NPT required, to prevent it from being diverted “from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons”? Could the NPT’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, monitor it in a manner that could reliably detect the loss or theft of enough nuclear material to make a bomb before this material could actually be fabricated into an explosive?

Meeting this timely detection criteria, which the IAEA has adopted to define its safeguard procedures, is not a given and is not yet possible at nuclear facilities that handle or can quickly produce large amounts of nuclear weapons-usable fuel. Such industrial units include plutonium-separation plants, uranium-enrichment facilities, and factories that fabricate HEU- and plutonium-based fuels.

Still Beyond Safeguards
Why are inspections at such plants insufficient to safeguard against such diversions? Consider Japan’s recent experience: In January 2003, Japanese officials admitted that their pilot plutonium reprocessing plant at Tokai-mura “lost” 206 kilograms of weapons-usable plutonium (roughly 40 crude bombs worth) over the previous 15 years. The Japanese had not diverted the material; they simply were at loss as to where this material might have gone. One popular theory is that the material was “stuck in the pipes”; another theory is that it was dissolved in chemical solution. These reported losses were in addition to the 70 kilograms of plutonium Japan previously conceded remained unaccounted for at a plutonium-based fuel fabrication plant it was operating. The British, meanwhile, have experienced similar losses at their plutonium reprocessing plant at Sellafield. There, 19 kilograms of separated plutonium went missing in 2003, and another 30 kilograms of separated plutonium were unaccounted for in 2004.[4]

All of these plants operated under the watchful eye of the IAEA.[5] This highlights two major safeguards deficiencies. First, with the unaccounted amounts of weapons-usable plutonium each year being many times what is needed to make a bomb, there is no way to be sure this material might not have already been diverted. Second, any nation operating such plants could at any time take any of the nuclear material they had produced (both accounted for and unaccounted for) and convert it into bombs well before any inspector or outside authority could intercede to block the diversion.

With commercial uranium-enrichment facilities and HEU fuel fabrication plants, which process tons of enriched uranium annually, equally hair-raising material loss scenarios are possible.[6] For example, IAEA inspectors still cannot independently verify the production capacity of any given centrifuge-enrichment plant. As such, an enrichment plant operator could lowball his facility’s capacity to IAEA inspectors and, between IAEA inspection visits, covertly produce and divert enriched uranium for military purposes without being detected. Moreover, such diversions could take place without IAEA inspectors necessarily being tipped off.[7]

Then, as with plutonium bulk-handling facilities, there is the problem of how quickly a non-nuclear-weapon state could break out of its NPT obligations and make bombs with these plants. All of the facilities mentioned process materials that could be converted into bombs in weeks or less, well before any outside authority could intervene even if the diversion was detected.

With these activities, unless there is a compelling economic need to proceed, there are obvious security imperatives for holding back. Clearly falling into this category are the reprocessing of plutonium, the fabrication of plutonium- and HEU-based fuels, and HEU production. All of these nuclear activities generate or handle nuclear weapons-usable materials, are not essential to having civilian nuclear power, and in most cases are sure-fire money losers.

In contrast, lightly enriching natural uranium to contain 3 percent to 5 percent uranium-235 is required to fuel the world’s light-water reactors.[8] What is unnecessary, however, is to expand the current surplus of enrichment capacity, which is more than able to supply world demand for at least the next 10-15 years. Given that it takes no more than five years to build substantial, additional enrichment capacity, the time for any nation to build or invest in creating more net capacity is still at least five to 10 years away.[9] That is why both President George W. Bush and IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei have proposed restricting the construction of new enrichment plants.[10]

Certainly, there is no economic justification for nuclear novices such as Iran to enrich uranium. Tehran has only one nuclear power station that requires lightly enriched uranium fuel, and Russia has promised to supply Iran with all the enriched uranium it needs for the entire lifetime of the reactor.[11] Separate from the matter of Iran’s trustworthiness—even after two years of intensive investigations, the IAEA has not yet been able to say whether Tehran is or is not in the bomb-making business—Tehran’s operation of an enrichment plant is neither safeguardable nor economically defensible. As such, this undertaking should be regarded as being neither peaceful nor protected under Article IV of the NPT.

Measures for the NPT Review Conference—and Beyond
Again, if Iran has a legal right to acquire such unnecessary, unsafeguardable nuclear facilities, what would keep Tehran’s neighbors from following suit and becoming nuclear weapons ready as well? Indeed, what would prevent the world against which ElBaradei has repeatedly warned from emerging, one with 20 or more states only weeks from a bomb, all primed to believe their nuclear capabilities might keep them safe? We know where the military build-up and mutual suspicions of 1914 led: World Wars I and II and more than 100 million dead. Do we want a world with nuclear weapons-ready contestants stretching not just from Russia to the United States, but from Algeria to Japan?

If we wish to avoid the worst, we should back the NPT’s original presumption in Article IV against the unnecessary spread of unsafeguardable nuclear activities and materials. During and after the NPT Review Conference, states should consider proposals to put the original view of Article IV into play for nuclear-supplier and nuclear-recipient states alike and, to the extent possible, for nonmembers of the NPT as well. This will be both new and difficult.[12] If we want an NPT that restrains rather than enables proliferators, however, one or more of the following minimal steps should be taken sooner rather than later.

An indefinite moratorium on expanding plutonium, HEU, and MOX production
A good first step would be to institute an indefinite moratorium on the expansion of states’ existing capacity to produce separated plutonium, HEU, or plutonium-based reactor fuels for civilian purposes. This moratorium should stand in place until methods can be devised to provide appropriate timely detection and warning of diversions from existing plants.

As Bush and ElBaradei noted in their proposals to restrict construction of new plutonium reprocessing facilities, making separated plutonium is unnecessary for the peaceful production of nuclear energy. This also applies to HEU use in civilian reactors. Bush proposed a freeze on any construction of reprocessing and enrichment facilities in countries that do not yet have “full-scale” operational plants already on line. ElBaradei proposed a universal freeze but one that would only last for five years.

There are several reasons, beyond fairness and credibility, for modifying their proposals to apply indefinitely against the expansion of plutonium, HEU, or mixed oxide (MOX) production anywhere. First, reactor fuels using recycled plutonium cannot begin to compete with less expensive, fresh low-enriched uranium fuel. Second, research reactors that once required nuclear weapons-useable HEU can be converted to use less dangerous low- enriched uranium. That is why the Department of Energy is trumpeting its Global Threat Reduction Initiative and its recent agreement with Russia to repatriate HEU used in U.S.- and Russian-origin research reactors and to convert these reactors to use low-enriched uranium. It is also why the United States and Germany no longer reprocess plutonium, why the United Kingdom has announced its decision to end its recycling efforts within the next five years, and why there is no immediate prospect of Russia expanding its recycling activities.

As for the planned expansions of commercial plutonium recycling activities, there are only two projects that would be affected by this freeze. The first is Japan’s controversial plans to open a large, commercial-scale reprocessing plant at Rokkasho-mura, which has been opposed on ecological, safety, and economic grounds by local residents and Japanese reactor utility officials. With existing IAEA safeguards methods, this facility will be difficult to monitor. Once this plant goes online, perhaps as much as 250 kilograms of weapons-useable plutonium might get “lost in the pipes” annually—enough for 50 crude bombs.

The second project is a U.S. government scheme to convert 34 tons of surplus weapons plutonium (now in the form of metal) into ceramic powder and mix it with uranium to make MOX fuel. The MOX fuel is to be burned in U.S. civilian reactors with the hopes of making it too radioactive to be easily stolen. To support this effort, the Energy Department is using billions of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars to have a French nuclear firm construct a MOX fuel-fabrication plant in South Carolina. Eventually, the plan is to have the Russians do the same.

Besides being clearly uneconomical, this program is a bomb-material-monitoring nightmare. First, it is relatively easy to convert fresh MOX fuel into bombs. Each 100 kilograms of MOX contains one crude bomb’s worth of plutonium. That is why the IAEA lists MOX as being “direct use” nuclear material (i.e., material able to bring its owners nearly as close to a bomb as if they had separated plutonium or HEU). The program plans to take about 20 years to dispose of 68 tons of the plutonium the United States and Russia have declared to be in surplus, and this is only a fraction of what Russia and the United States have on hand. Throughout this period, the challenges of detecting nuclear theft or loss will actually be higher than it would be if the plutonium remained safely stored. In contrast, freezing this project, which is already behind schedule, would spare further immediate spending, provide a better opportunity to address safeguards challenges, and allow more time to research and develop sounder alternatives such as immobilization.

A five-year, renewable moratorium on expanding net enrichment capacity
Another useful step would be for countries to agree on a five-year, renewable international moratorium on the expansion of any state’s net enrichment production capacity. This freeze should stay in place until the economic imperative to lift it can be demonstrated by the investment of private capital to provide full funding for any expansion without government guarantees, subsidies, or specific relaxation of existing safety regulations.

As ElBaradei has said, the world currently enjoys a surplus of enrichment capacity. Even by conservative estimates, existing international enrichment capacity will be able to supply demand for at least the next decade or more. This is why ElBaradei proposed a five-year moratorium on the construction of any additional enrichment plants and Bush recommended banning countries that currently lack such facilities from ever enriching. Given that some states want to upgrade their existing gaseous diffusion enrichment plants with more modern centrifuge facilities, however, neither of these proposals is gaining much support. A moratorium on expanding net enrichment capacity could help get around this issue. It would allow states to modernize the enrichment facilities they have but would keep them from expanding their overall capacity to enrich.

What enrichment expansion efforts would be affected? The first would be the Brazilian government’s controversial enrichment project at Resende. The IAEA is still weighing whether or not to approve the method Brazil proposes for the agency to safeguard the facility. In any case, expansion of Brazil’s uranium-enrichment production capacity is on a relatively slow track. Even by the most optimistic estimates, the Resende plant is not expected to be able to supply Brazil’s two working reactors fully anytime before 2014.[13] Given the future costs of completing the plant as compared to continuing to buy foreign fuel services, keeping this project frozen would actually save Brazil money.

The second effort that would be affected would be Japan’s planned expansion of its enrichment capacity by nearly 50 percent. This government-backed undertaking has already slipped several years, partly because of the ready availability of affordable foreign sources of enriched uranium. China, meanwhile, has built several new plants but also has shut down two less efficient gaseous diffusion plants. Finally, France and Canada are in various stages of planning to construct enrichment plants. None of these plans, however, threatens any immediate increase in these nations’ net enrichment capacity.

Finally, two U.S. projects would be affected. The United States Enrichment Corp. (USEC) wants to build a large, centrifuge enrichment plant in Ohio that could be operating by the end of the decade. The company took over what were previously U.S. government-owned gaseous diffusion enrichment plants. USEC seeks to upgrade its existing services, which already supply fresh low-enriched reactor fuel to 100-odd U.S. nuclear power reactors. Because the new centrifuge project is projected to cost the company more than $1 billion, however, stockholders want more information before making the dive. To get this, the company is pushing to build a pilot demonstration plant. The only serious competition to USEC is URENCO, a Dutch-based firm that is trying to muscle into the U.S. market with plans to build a centrifuge enrichment plant in New Mexico. Both the UNRENCO and the USEC projects require U.S. licenses, which have not yet been granted.[14]

Clearly, a renewable moratorium is feasible. Its successful implementation would require a majority of the key suppliers of enriched uranium to participate. Also, any such moratorium would have to allow for the possible expansion of uranium-enrichment capacity in five or more years if such growth could be funded with private investment without government subsidies or guarantees or a relaxation of safety regulations. A related issue would be the rate at which Russia and the United States agreed to blend down surplus HEU for use in civilian reactors, as well as the amount. The higher the rate and amount, the lower the demand would be for near-term, enrichment capacity expansion.[15]

An indefinite freeze on transfers of nuclear weapons-useable materials
One could also complement the proposed moratoriums with an indefinite freeze on international transfers of HEU or separated plutonium. Such transfers would be banned unless the transfer’s purpose was to dispose of the material or to make it less accessible for weapons. Implementing such a freeze would be particularly important given Iran’s publicly expressed interest in sharing the fruits of their “peaceful” nuclear energy programs with others. It also is relevant given Pakistan’s illicit commerce in such commodities and the need to strengthen the authority of states to interdict trade in strategic weapons-related goods generally. Again, the peaceful use of nuclear energy does not require these nuclear weapons-useable fuels.

Reassessment of IAEA safeguards
Almost all of the IAEA’s current criteria for how much material is required to make a bomb and how long it takes to convert key direct use and special nuclear materials (e.g., lightly enriched uranium, HEU, MOX, separated plutonium) into nuclear weapons were set more than 30 years ago. At the time, the IAEA said 8 kilograms of plutonium was required to make a bomb. Yet, with the release of previously classified information, we now know that even the United States’ first bomb required no more than 6 kilograms and that a Hiroshima-yield weapon could be made with as little as 2-4 kilograms, depending on the sophistication of the bomb design.[16]

Similarly, lightly enriched uranium and spent reactor fuel were not considered to be major proliferation concerns 30 years ago. It was assumed it would take at least a year to convert fresh fuels into bomb-usable fuel and up to three months for spent fuel. As a result, the IAEA decided to inspect fresh and spent reactor fuel only once every 90 days. The experience of Pakistan’s Abdul Qadeer Khan and of Libya, however, appears to show that a country can develop covert enrichment or reprocessing facilities without necessarily being detected. In addition, Iraq’s and Libya’s bomb programs demonstrate that states can develop or acquire a working nuclear weapons design well before they produce any nuclear fuel. Finally, only recently has the weapons utility of power reactor fuel been fully documented or credible scenarios for the diversion of safeguarded spent and fresh reactor fuel been spelled out.[17]

These developments make the risks previously associated with spent and fresh reactor fuel much greater. Consider: If a country had a working bomb design and was able to make nuclear fuel covertly, its operation of a safeguarded light-water power reactor would give it access to tons of fresh and spent reactor fuel that it could seize or covertly divert to make a large number of bombs in a matter of weeks.

The fixes for these worries include installing near real-time, secure, wide-area surveillance cameras and placing full-time inspectors at each reactor site. These measures, however, cost money that would require the IAEA to change how it funds its safeguards operations. To highlight the need for these and other needed reforms, a reassessment of the agency’s safeguards system should be instituted.

Encouraging non-nuclear alternatives
All of the previous steps assume that states must expand their use of nuclear energy. This might or might not be true. To help find out, it would be useful for the United States and other like-minded states to encourage countries to weigh the economic benefits of nuclear power and non-nuclear alternatives. Under this effort, all states would be encouraged openly to compete nuclear programs against alternatives that might produce similar benefits for less.

A good place to start for the United States would be to implement existing law. Under Title V of the U.S. Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978, the United States is “to cooperate with other nations, international institutions, and private organizations in establishing programs to assist in the development of non-nuclear energy resources…and shall seek to cooperate with and aid developing countries in meeting their energy needs through the development of such resources.” As a part of this effort, the United States, in cooperation with other organizations and states, is also supposed to evaluate the “energy alternatives of developing countries, facilitate international trade in energy commodities,” and complete “country-specific energy assessments.”

Although the president is required by law to report to Congress annually on the progress and funding of this Department of State-coordinated initiative of the Energy Department and the Agency of International Development, to date no report has been filed. Congress should find out why and demand that the law be upheld.[18]

Encouraging states that are planning large nuclear projects to compete them against less risky alternatives is most readily done in the energy field where the international practice of open bidding is already established. Even large research and desalinization reactors projects though can be competed against alternatives that might afford the same benefits (small research reactors, access to foreign research reactors, importation of research isotopes, non-nuclear desalinization systems, etc.). States may well object that they should not be subject to such requirements, citing their sovereign rights, but most nations have already ceded such ground on more significant economic matters to international organizations such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.[19]

More proposals, of course, could be suggested. These, however, are indicative of what is required. In each case, the NPT Review Conference could evaluate the merits of instituting or, if they were adopted, of extending each of these undertakings every five years. This would give the conference useful operational issues with which to grapple. More important, adopting one or more of these proposals would go a long way to making Article IV and peaceful nuclear power meaningful (i.e., to achieving the NPT’s ultimate purpose). The alternative is to wait not only for more Irans, but the clear undoing of the NPT.

ENDNOTES

1. See “Statement by the Irish Foreign Minister, November 13, 1959,” Documents on Disarmament 1945-1959, vol. 2 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), 1960), pp. 1520-1526.

2. For a different view, see UN General Assembly Resolution 2028 (XX) (Nov. 19, 1965), reprinted in U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), Documents on Disarmament 1965 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1966), pp. 532-534; “Statement of the Representative of Mexico to the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Conference,” ENDC/PV.331, September 17, 1967, reprinted in ACDA, Documents on Disarmament 1967 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1968), pp. 397-398; “Spanish Memorandum to the ENDC Co-Chairman,” ENDC/PV.361, February 8, 1968, in ACDA, Documents on Disarmament 1968, pp. 39-40.

3. See Eldon V. C. Greenberg, Plutonium and the NPT (Washington, DC: Nuclear Control Institute (NCI), 1993), which is based on a more detailed analysis on the NPT done for the ACDA. See Albert Wohlstetter et al., Towards a New Consensus on Nuclear Technology, ACDA Report no. PH-78-04-8323-13, July 6, 1979.

4. See Sudip Kar-Gupta, “Plutonium ‘Missing’ From Site,” Reuters, February 17, 2005; Angela Jameson, “Sellafield ‘Lost’ Plutonium,” Times Online, February 17, 2005.

5. See Bayan Rahman, “Japan ‘Loses’ 206 Kg of Plutonium,” Financial Times, January 28, 2003; NCI, “Enormous ‘Plutonium Gap’ at Japan’s Tokai Plant Highlights Proliferation Risks of Reprocessing,” January 28, 2003; NCI, “Astounding ‘Discrepancy’ of 70 Kilograms of Plutonium Warrants Shutdown of Troubled Nuclear Fuel Plant in Japan,” May 9, 1994 (press release).

6. In the case of at least one U.S. HEU fuel fabrication plant operating during the l960s in Apollo, Pennsylvania, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission reported that the amount of material unaccounted for was approximately 100 kilograms. Several former senior U.S. officials suspect this material was diverted to Israel’s nuclear weapons program. See Seymour M. Hersh, The Samson Option (New York: Vintage, 1993), pp. 241-257.

7. On these points, see Paul Leventhal, “Safeguards Shortcomings—A Critique,” (Washington, DC: NCI, September 12, 1994); Marvin Miller, “Are IAEA Safeguards in Plutonium Bulk-Handling Facilities Effective?” (Washington, DC: NCI, August 1990); Brian G. Chow and Kenneth A. Solomon, Limiting the Spread of Weapons-Usable Fissile Materials (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1993), pp. 1-4; and Marvin Miller, “The Gas Centrifuge and Nuclear Proliferation,” in A Fresh Examination of the Proliferation Dangers of Light Water Reactors (Washington, DC: The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, October 22, 2004), p. 38.

8. Enrichment is the process of increasing the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope, which fissions far more readily than the more common uranium-238 isotope. Natural uranium is only 0.7 percent uranium-235.

9. On these points, see the supply/demand projections in International Atomic Energy Commission, Multilateral Approaches to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle, INFCIR/640, February 22, 2005, p. 51; and Jean-Jacques Gautrot, “The Harmonious Market for Uranium Enrichment Services,” Presentation at the World Nuclear Association Annual Symposium, London, September 4-6, 2002, London, available at http://www.world-nulcear.org.

10. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by the President on Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation,” Washington, DC, February 11, 2004; and Miles Pomper and Paul Kerr, “Tackling the Nuclear Dilemma: An Interview With IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei,” Arms Control Today, March 2005. In the interview, ElBaradei discusses the moratorium in the context of a plan to provide non-nuclear-weapons states with secure supplies of nuclear fuel.

11. In the end, Iran insisted that Russia only supply it with the first 10 years worth of reactor fuel for its reactor at Bushehr and that Iran would supply its own fuel after that. See Paul Kerr, “Iran, Russia Reach Nuclear Agreement,” Arms Control Today, April 2005.

12 . For a projection of the sort of support such measures are likely to encounter, see Louis Charbonneau, “Iran Finds Allies Against UN Plan: Diplomats,” Reuters, February 22, 2005.

13. See CNN, “Brazil’s Commitment to Nonproliferation Under Suspicion,” April 16, 2004; Ricardo Balthazar, “Navy Sees Full Nuclear Inspections Would Hurt Access to Foreign Suppliers,” Sao Paulo Valor, April 6, 2004; and Daniel Koik, “Brazil Prepares to Enrich Uranium for Reactors,” Arms Control Today, November 2003.

14. See Annys Shin, “USEC Looks for New Leadership,” The Washington Post, December 20, 2004, p. E3.

15. See Uranium Information Center, “Military Warheads as a Source of Nuclear Fuel,” November 2004, available at http://www.uic.com.

16. See Thomas Cochran, “The Problem of Nuclear Energy Proliferation,” in Energy and National Security in the 21st Century ed. Patrick L. Clawson (Washington, DC: Institute for National Strategic Studies, October 1995), pp. 96-99.

17. See Harmon W. Hubbard, “Plutonium from Light Water Reactors as Nuclear Weapons Material,” April 2003, available at http://www.npec-web.org; Andrew Leask, Russell Leslie, and John Carlson, “Safeguards as a Design Criteria: Guidance for Regulators,” September 10, 2004, pp. 4-7, available at http://www.asno.dfat.gov.au; Miller, “The Gas Centrifuge”; and Marvin Miller, “The Feasibility of Clandestine Reprocessing of LWR Spent Fuel,” in A Fresh Examination of the Proliferation Dangers of Light Water Reactors (Washington, DC: The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, October 22, 2004).

18. See “United States Assistance to Developing Countries: Policy,” Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978 (P.L. 95-242), Sections 501 and 503.

19. Given the 30-year lifetime of most reactors, nuclear power proponents will undoubtedly emphasize, along with proponents of other, more expensive clean energy alternatives, long-term concerns such as energy security and global warming to help justify investment. The persuasiveness of these arguments, like those of any long-term or distant concern, however, must be weighed against the availability of cheaper ways to address the immediate desire for relatively clean energy and whether or not one has a reasonable amount of time available to buy or develop more expensive alternatives if these cheaper, “dirtier” energy sources should dry up or become intolerably expensive through regulation. As with all investment, spending delayed is money saved. Any sound market energy analysis would clearly factor in such considerations.


Henry Sokolski is executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit educational organization. He is also co-editor with Patrick Clawson of Getting Ready for a Nuclear Ready Iran (forthcoming).

IAEA Criticizes Iran Cooperation

Paul Kerr

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Deputy Director-General Pierre Goldschmidt told the agency’s Board of Governors March 1 that Iran has failed to cooperate fully with the IAEA investigation of Tehran’s nuclear programs. Specifically, he said, Iran has failed to provide adequate information about its uranium-enrichment program to the agency and has also lagged in providing IAEA inspectors access to some facilities suspected of playing a role in nuclear weapons research. Iran has, however, continued to observe its November pledge to suspend its enrichment program.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters the next day that Iran should increase its “transparency” by providing the agency with all relevant information.

This board meeting marked the first time since March 2003 that ElBaradei did not present a written report about the IAEA’s investigation, which began in 2002. That probe has revealed that Tehran conducted a variety of clandestine nuclear activities in violation of its IAEA safeguards agreement. (See ACT, December 2004.) No new evidence of secret Iranian nuclear programs has emerged recently, although Goldschmidt did present new evidence regarding Iran’s already known uranium-enrichment program.

Safeguards agreements require states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to allow the agency to monitor their declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure that they are not diverted to military use. Although Iran has given IAEA inspectors access to its safeguarded facilities, as well as some others, the IAEA has limited authority to visit other sites without evidence that the government is conducting nuclear activities there.

Uranium Enrichment
Goldschmidt told the board that the IAEA has obtained new information regarding Iran’s P-1 gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program, including new details about Iran’s initial acquisition of centrifuge technology.

Uranium enrichment increases the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope, producing either low-enriched uranium for civilian nuclear reactor fuel or highly enriched uranium (HEU). If enriched to high enough levels, HEU can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons. Gas centrifuges enrich uranium hexafluoride gas by spinning it at very high speeds.

Goldschmidt stated that Iran provided the agency with a document Jan. 12 purportedly describing a 1987 offer from a “foreign intermediary” that apparently included a disassembled centrifuge, as well as drawings and specifications for centrifuges and an enrichment facility.

According to the document, the intermediary also offered to supply Iran with equipment to produce uranium metal. Although some nuclear power reactors use this material as fuel, Iran has no such reactors. U.S. officials have expressed concern that Iran intends to produce uranium metal for fissile material or other nuclear weapons purposes.

Iran currently possesses a uranium-conversion facility designed to convert lightly processed uranium ore into several different uranium compounds, including uranium hexafluoride and uranium metal. According to the IAEA, Iran initially entered into discussions in 1991 with a “foreign supplier” to construct such a facility but decided six years later to build the facility itself after the supplier pulled out. It is not clear if this supplier is the intermediary who participated in the 1987 meeting.

Iran has told the agency that it received only some of the material described in the offer, Goldschmidt said, but he did not specify further. The IAEA previously reported that Iran received centrifuge drawings and components in 1987 but did not mention an offer of uranium metal production equipment.

Goldschmidt also did not identify the “foreign intermediary” mentioned in the document, and a Department of State official familiar with the issue told Arms Control Today March 15 that the IAEA is not yet certain who participated in the meeting. The agency has previously indicated that Iran received its centrifuge materials through a “clandestine supply network” run by former Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan.

The State Department official said that the United States believes Iran has not yet “come clean” with all the details of the 1987 meeting, some of which Washington believes would constitute important new revelations. In a March 2 statement to the IAEA board, U.S. Ambassador Jackie Sanders cited press reports indicating that the 1987 offer may have been “explicitly intended as the first of many ‘phases’ in future cooperation between Iran and that intermediary.”

Goldschmidt also described another possible Iranian connection to the Khan network. According to Iranian officials, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization learned in 1994 that an “intermediary” had offered to deliver 500 sets of P-1 centrifuge components and related designs to an Iranian company unaffiliated with the organization. Goldschmidt did not identify this intermediary.

Iran has acknowledged receiving the components and designs in two shipments during the mid-1990s, although Iranian documents provided to the IAEA in January 2005 give slightly different dates for the shipments within the same time period.

The IAEA has also been investigating Iran’s work on a more advanced P-2 centrifuge, but Tehran has not provided the agency with any new information about that program, Goldschmidt stated.

The agency is also continuing to investigate the sources of enriched uranium particles found in Iranian facilities. Iran has admitted to enriching uranium to very low proportions of uranium-235, but IAEA inspectors have found particles enriched to much higher levels. ElBaradei reported last November that the IAEA’s evidence so far “tends, on balance, to support” Iran’s claim that the particles came from imported centrifuge components. Other possible explanations include still-undisclosed Iranian nuclear experiments, as well as concealment of imported or domestically produced nuclear material.

IAEA inspectors have taken environmental samples at several locations in Pakistan in an effort to determine the uranium’s origin. Additionally, Goldschmidt told the board that the agency has reached an agreement with that country on the “modalities for sampling a number of old centrifuge components.” However, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Islamabad has not yet decided on the matter, Reuters reported March 25.

Goldschmidt also stated that the IAEA is to analyze environmental samples collected by inspectors in January 2005 from “locations” in a country where, according to Tehran, centrifuge components were stored en route to Iran. The State Department official confirmed a March 13 Agence France Presse report identifying the country in question as the United Arab Emirates, which was also a transit point for the Khan network’s shipments of centrifuge components to Libya. (See ACT, March 2004.) A 2004 British intelligence report stated that Dubai was the hub of Khan’s network since at least 2000.

Other Concerns
Goldschmidt further noted that Iran is continuing work on a heavy-water nuclear reactor, despite the IAEA board’s previous request that Tehran “reconsider” the project. (See ACT, July/August 2004.) The State Department official confirmed press reports that satellite imagery shows that Iran has begun pouring the reactor’s foundation.

Speaking to the board, Sanders dismissed Iran’s claim that the reactor is to produce radioisotopes for civilian purposes, implying that Iran actually wants the reactor to produce plutonium. The State Department official bolstered this argument by pointing out that Iran can produce the relevant radioisotopes in its Tehran research reactor, which is not even operating at full capacity.

Separating plutonium from irradiated reactor fuel is another method of obtaining fissile material. Goldschmidt said the IAEA is also continuing its efforts to determine the dates of Iran’s plutonium-separation experiments, which may have been conducted more recently than Tehran has claimed.

Additionally, Goldschmidt discussed IAEA inspectors’ visits to two sites in Iran where the country may have conducted clandestine nuclear-related activities.

He said Iran has not cooperated with the IAEA’s investigation of a physics research center that was operating at a site called Lavizan-Shian between 1989 and 1998. According to Goldschmidt, the agency wants more information concerning the center’s possible efforts “to acquire dual-use material and equipment that could be useful in uranium-enrichment and conversion activities.” Iran provided the agency with some relevant information in October but has apparently not cooperated further.

The site has previously attracted suspicion because of reports that Iran had razed buildings there in what may have been an attempt to conceal evidence of nuclear activities. ElBaradei reported last November that IAEA environmental samples taken at the site contained “no evidence of nuclear material.”

In addition, he said, following months of requests, IAEA inspectors visited the Parchin military complex in mid-January. Goldschmidt told the board that the inspectors “saw no relevant dual-use equipment or materials” but noted that their visit was limited in scope. The IAEA had identified four areas of interest but was only allowed to visit one, he said, adding that the IAEA is analyzing environmental samples taken during the visit. (See ACT, October 2004.)

Iran denied the IAEA's request for an additional visit in a Feb. 27 note to the agency.

Suspension
Tehran has continued to abide by its November agreement to suspend its uranium-enrichment program for the duration of negotiations with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The two sides are attempting to reach a long-term agreement that is to include “objective guarantees that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

Addressing Iranian actions apparently designed to test the suspension agreement’s boundaries, Goldschmidt told the board that IAEA inspectors observed during December and January visits that Iran was conducting “quality control” work on centrifuge components that are not under IAEA seal. Iran told the agency in February that it had temporarily stopped this work pending discussions with its European interlocutors.

Goldschmidt also reported that Iran has begun constructing underground tunnels for storing nuclear materials near its uranium-conversion facility. Tehran notified the IAEA about the project, which Iran says began in September 2004, two days before agency inspectors visited the site Dec. 15. According to its safeguards agreement, Iran should have notified the IAEA earlier about the project, Goldschmidt said.

The State Department official described this violation as “minor” and added that Washington is not concerned about Iran conducting clandestine nuclear activities in the tunnels because the site is subject to IAEA monitoring. The project does, however, call into question Iran’s commitment to its suspension agreement, the official said.

Addressing another issue that had caused concern, Goldschmidt said that Iran has finished cleaning valves that had been removed from its pilot centrifuge facility located at Natanz. The valves are now in storage and monitored by the IAEA, he added.

Europeans: Iran Honoring Agreement

Paul Kerr

In a Feb. 28 presentation to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei indicated that no new evidence of illicit Iranian nuclear activities has surfaced. Meanwhile, Iran is adhering to its November agreement to suspend its uranium-enrichment program during ongoing negotiations with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The two sides are attempting to resolve concerns about Tehran’s nuclear program, but no agreement has yet been reached.

This diplomacy took place against a backdrop of public disagreement between Europe and the United States regarding the proper U.S. role in the ongoing talks. Press reports have fueled speculation that Washington is preparing for military action against Iran, but during meetings in Europe with his counterparts, President George W. Bush emphasized that his administration is seeking a diplomatic solution. Days after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Bush, Russia signed a long-delayed deal to provide Iran with nuclear fuel.

IAEA Meeting
ElBaradei’s presentation to the IAEA board differed from previous meetings. Since the agency launched an investigation of Iran’s clandestine nuclear programs in the fall of 2002, ElBaradei has regularly presented written reports that either revealed or confirmed significant components of Tehran’s efforts.

This time, ElBaradei was not asked to submit a written report and did not do so, offering only an oral briefing. His last written report in November contained no evidence of prohibited Iranian nuclear activities but listed several unresolved issues requiring further investigation. (See ACT, December 2004.)

ElBaradei told the board that the IAEA’s investigation has made “progress” but he provided no new details. Tehran has continued to provide agency inspectors access to its nuclear-related facilities, ElBaradei said, adding that agency inspectors also visited Iran’s Parchin military complex.

The agency’s mid-January visit was its first after months of requesting access. (See ACT, January/February 2005.) U.S. officials believe the complex might have facilities that could be used to test conventional high explosives for use in an implosion-type nuclear weapon.

Reiterating a previous complaint, ElBaradei stated that Iran has been less cooperative in providing the agency with relevant information, adding that Tehran should do so “in full detail and in a prompt manner.”

U.S. officials continue to insist that Iran is attempting to build nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program.

But ElBaradei complained in a Feb. 4 Arms Control Today interview that the IAEA has received little new information from national governments about Iran’s nuclear program, adding that such information is necessary for determining whether Iran has secret nuclear-related facilities. Tehran is “likely to have a bomb in two or three years” if it is operating such covert facilities, ElBaradei told Der Spiegel Feb. 21.

U.S. officials offered a longer time frame. According to Defense Intelligence Agency Director Admiral Lowell Jacoby’s Feb. 16 statement to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Iran will likely be able to produce nuclear weapons early next decade “unless constrained by a nuclear nonproliferation agreement.”

Suspension Holds
A European diplomat told Arms Control Today Feb. 24 that Iran has continued to honor a November pledge to suspend its nuclear fuel efforts even though Tehran tested the Europeans by “picking at the edges” of the agreement.

Iran and the three European countries agreed in November to negotiate a long-term agreement, which is to include “objective guarantees that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.” Iran agreed to an IAEA-monitored suspension of its gas centrifuge-based, uranium-enrichment program for the talks’ duration.

The European governments, as well as the United States, are concerned that Iran intends to produce highly enriched uranium, which can serve as fissile material for nuclear weapons.

According to the European diplomat, Iran raised eyebrows when it began cleaning pipes at its Natanz centrifuge facility, but the Europeans believe this activity was part of the process of shutting down the facility and within the bounds of the suspension agreement. Iran had also conducted “quality control” work on centrifuges but has since stopped, the diplomat said.

Tehran was also late in notifying the IAEA about a project to construct tunnels at Iran’s uranium-conversion facility, the same diplomat added. Such facilities convert uranium oxide into other uranium compounds, some of which can serve as feedstock for centrifuges. The tunnels are designed to hold nuclear material.

Although the United States still wants the board to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for possible action, Iran’s European interlocutors have said that they will not support a referral as long as the suspension holds. (See ACT, December 2004.) The United States has supported such a referral since the agency reported that Iran had failed to disclose its clandestine nuclear programs to the IAEA.

Talks Continue; Fuel Agreement Signed
European diplomats familiar with the negotiations told Arms Control Today Feb. 24 that the talks have produced no diplomatic breakthroughs but they argued that Iran’s continuation of the suspension is “significant” and that the discussions are facilitating in-depth discussions.

Three working groups are tasked with developing proposals for mutual cooperation on nuclear and non-nuclear technical projects, as well as political and security issues. The groups have held a series of meetings since beginning work in December 2004. A steering committee set up to review the groups’ progress is to meet in March, but no date has yet been set, diplomatic sources said.

The parties’ negotiating positions appear unchanged. The European governments want a permanent end to Tehran’s nuclear fuel efforts, but Iran has repeatedly insisted that the suspension is “temporary.” Foreign Minster Kamal Kharrazi underscored this point Feb. 23, asserting that Tehran is “determined to continue enrichment,” Agence France Presse reported.

Hossein Moussavian, secretary of the Foreign Policy Committee of the Supreme National Security Council in Iran, was more cautious in a Feb. 2 interview with the Financial Times. Asked if Iran would ever dismantle its nuclear fuel facilities, he said only that Iran has the “right to thoroughly enjoy peaceful nuclear technology.”

Moussavian also provided some details about the “objective guarantees” Iran is willing to provide to prove its peaceful intentions. The measures he listed, however, such as Tehran’s cooperation with the IAEA’s investigation and adherence to an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement, simply reflect current Iranian policy. Moussavian did not say if Iran’s position is negotiable.

IAEA safeguards agreements require states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to allow the agency to monitor their declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure that they are not diverted to military use. Additional protocols to these agreements augment the agency’s authority to detect clandestine nuclear activities. Tehran has signed an additional protocol and has agreed to abide by its provisions until Iran’s parliament ratifies the agreement.

Despite some earlier indications of Iranian dissatisfaction, the talks seem likely to continue. Hassan Rowhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, appeared optimistic that Iran will continue to participate after the steering committee meeting, Reuters reported Feb. 25.

Meanwhile, Russia and Iran signed a long-delayed nuclear fuel supply agreement Feb. 27. According to the official Itar-Tass news agency, Russian Federal Agency for Atomic Energy Director Alexander Rumyantsev said Moscow is to supply fresh fuel for the light-water nuclear reactor it is constructing near the Iranian city of Bushehr, as well as take back the spent nuclear fuel. (See ACT, January/February 2003.) Spent fuel is considered a proliferation risk because it contains plutonium, another form of fissile material. Bushehr is to begin operation in late 2006, Rumyantsev said.

U.S. Policy
European officials have called for greater U.S. involvement in the diplomatic process in order to make it more effective. Bush and other U.S. officials have lately emphasized support for the talks while refraining from public skepticism. However, the administration has so far refused to negotiate with Iran or make other conciliatory gestures.

French President Jacques Chirac told reporters Feb. 22 in Brussels that the United States should consider two incentives for Iran: dropping objections to Iran’s World Trade Organization accession negotiations, as well as Tehran’s wish to buy civil aircraft engines.

Iran’s position regarding greater U.S. involvement is unclear. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hamidreza Asefi stated Feb. 24 that Tehran does not want Washington’s involvement in the talks. But another government spokesperson suggested Feb. 28 that Iran might welcome an unspecified U.S. role outside the talks, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Perhaps signaling a change in administration policy, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley suggested during a Feb. 23 press briefing that Bush may consider supporting incentives to Iran.

Nevertheless, U.S. officials have indicated that Washington would not accept a deal with Tehran that ignored other concerns, such as Iran’s poor human rights record and support for terrorism.

Press reports about the possibility of U.S. military action against Tehran have generated repeated questions about the administration’s commitment to diplomacy. Bush told an audience in Brussels Feb. 22 that talk of U.S. military action against Iran is “simply ridiculous” but added that “all options are still on the table.” However, Bush asserted the next day that “diplomacy is just beginning,” adding that “Iran is not Iraq.”

Still, Washington’s policy regarding the current Iranian regime is unclear. Although Department of State spokesperson Adam Ereli told reporters Feb. 3 that “we do not have a policy of regime change towards Iran,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been more ambiguous, refusing to answer direct questions about the matter on several occasions.

U.S. Imposes Iran-Related Sanctions

Wade Boese

On Dec. 1, the United States sanctioned four Chinese entities and one North Korean company for allegedly shipping exports to Iran that could contribute to Tehran’s suspected development of unconventional weapons.

Levied under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, the penalties will bar the sanctioned entities from receiving U.S. government contracts, aid, and arms sales until Nov. 24, 2006. Although entities sanctioned by Washington rarely do business with the U.S. government, U.S. policymakers hope their punishment brands the accused in the eyes of the world as entities to be shunned.

Three of the entities are repeat offenders. Most notoriously, North Korea’s Changgwang Sinyong Corp. has been sanctioned nine times over the past four years. However, two of the Chinese companies, Liaoning Jiayi Metals and Minerals Company, Ltd. and Shanghai Triple International, Ltd., had not been previously penalized by the Bush administration, which has now lowered the sanctions boom more than 100 times. The Clinton administration imposed 70 proliferation sanctions over eight years.

As it normally does, Beijing objected to the U.S. sanctions. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhang Qiyue asserted Dec. 2 that China abides by its nonproliferation commitments and has its own laws to punish entities guilty of any wrongdoing. “We hope the U.S. can bear in mind our international cooperation on nonproliferation and other fields and not resort to arbitrary sanctions on Chinese companies,” Zhang said.

Although China is generally recognized as making progress over the past decade in tightening its export controls and reforming its proliferation behavior, many countries, including the United States, still see room for improvement. For instance, China’s spotty record on controlling missile proliferation sank its recent effort to join the Missile Technology Control Regime, whose 34 members pledge to restrict their missile exports. (See ACT, November 2004.)

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