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Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.

– George Stephanopolous
Host of ABC's This Week
January 1, 2005
Daniel Horner

OPCW Team Says Mustard Was Used

December 2015

By Daniel Horner

A Syrian rebel tries on a gas mask seized from a Syrian army factory in the northwestern province of Idlib on July 18, 2013. A recent report said it was “likely” that chemical weapons, probably containing chlorine, were used in Idlib between March and May of this year. (Photo credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)An international investigative team has determined with “the utmost confidence” that sulfur mustard was used in northern Syria, according to a Nov. 6 press release by the organization that established the team.

In the release, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said the report by its fact-finding mission, as the OPCW calls it, described an Aug. 21 incident “in which a non-state actor had allegedly used a chemical weapon in the town of Marea,” which is close to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.

Through sample collection and interviews, the team “was able to confirm with the utmost confidence that at least two people were exposed to sulfur mustard and were in the process of recovering from the exposure,” the press release said. The team also concluded that it is “very likely that the effects of sulfur mustard resulted in the death of a baby,” the release said.

There have been several accounts tying the Islamic State group to use of sulfur mustard against opposing forces in Syria and Iraq, but the conclusions of the OPCW appear to be the strongest to date.

As Arms Control Today went to press, the report had not been publicly released, but two Western officials confirmed in interviews the summary description and provided additional detail on the contents of the report.

In a Nov. 13 interview, a U.S. official said the compelling evidence of sulfur mustard in Marea came from biomedical samples from people who had been in the area during an Islamic State attack. As the human body breaks down sulfur mustard that it has absorbed, it produces secondary compounds that provide “unmistakable signs” that can be detected “weeks after” exposure to the chemical agent, he said.

It is not clear how the Islamic State might have obtained the sulfur mustard.

In August, a Defense Department spokesman indirectly indicated and a former Pentagon official explicitly said to Arms Control Today that the likeliest scenario was that the group had produced the sulfur mustard itself rather than getting it from undeclared Syrian stockpiles or sealed chemical weapons bunkers in Iraq from the Saddam Hussein era. (See ACT, September 2015.)

When Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 2013, it declared more than 1,300 metric tons of chemical agents. That material was subsequently destroyed, mostly in facilities outside Syria. Only a small amount, about 20 metric tons, was sulfur mustard agent.

There have been continuing concerns that Syria’s declaration was not complete, and the OPCW is pursuing that issue.

With regard to sulfur mustard, the U.S. official said Syria claimed to have destroyed most of that agent in 2012 and early 2013, before it joined the CWC, but has not provided any documentation to support the claim.

He said there is not a “firm view” within the U.S. government on the relative likelihood of the possible sources of sulfur mustard for the Islamic State.

In a Nov. 16 interview and follow-up e-mail, a UK diplomat also expressed uncertainty about the possible sources while drawing some distinctions among them. “There is no credible evidence that [the Islamic State has] gained possession of sulfur mustard agents from either the Syrian regime or Saddam-era Iraqi legacy stockpiles,” he said in the e-mail. The group’s “persistent occupation of cities such as Mosul, in Northern Iraq, which previously had active academic, scientific and industrial institutions[,] means that we cannot rule out the possibility” that the Islamic State has “access to the expertise, materials and facilities necessary to produce their own, indigenous sulfur mustard capability,” he said.

In addition to the report on the Marea attack, the OPCW fact-finding mission produced reports from two other investigations. One of the teams pursued allegations that toxic chemicals were responsible for the deaths of six people in Syria’s Idlib province between March and May. According to the OPCW press release, the team “concluded that the alleged incidents likely involved the use of one or more toxic chemicals—probably containing the element chlorine—as a weapon.”

The U.S. official said the evidence for this report came from interviews, open-source videos, and munitions fragments rather than biomedical samples.

In the Marea and Idlib cases, the victims of the alleged chemical attacks were in areas controlled by Syrian opposition forces, who are at war with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and with the Islamic State, which also is fighting Assad.

In a statement to a Nov. 23 session of the OPCW Executive Council, U.S. representative Rafael Foley linked the Idlib report to previous findings by the fact-finding mission that chlorine had been used in Syria, commenting that “once again, those interviewed associated the attacks with the presence of helicopters.” The Assad regime is the only party in the Syrian conflict known to have helicopters.

At the same meeting, Russia, a Syrian ally, decried the “unfounded accusations aimed at the Syrian government, which, allegedly, stands behind the chlorine attacks despite the fact that no one has ever established any connection between the infamous helicopters and the appearance of certain objects on the ground.”

The fact-finding mission also produced an interim report based on allegations by the Syrian government that its forces had been attacked with toxic chemicals. The team investigating those allegations “could not confidently determine that a chemical was used as a weapon,” the OPCW press release said.

The U.S. and UK officials said the Marea and Idlib reports would be referred to a new body created by the UN Security Council to determine responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. (See ACT, October 2015.) Assigning responsibility is not part of the mandate for the OPCW investigative teams.

In the Nov. 16 interview, the UK diplomat said the job of the newly created body, known as the “joint investigative mechanism,” is “to point the finger at whoever is responsible” for the attacks. Those parties, “whether state or nonstate,” should be “held to account,” he said.

At a Nov. 13 press briefing, Farhan Haq, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said the body was “fully operational” as of that date.

An investigative team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has determined with “the utmost confidence” that sulfur mustard was used in northern Syria.

Pakistan, U.S. Said to Be Talking on NSG

November 2015

By Daniel Horner

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (left) meets with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on October 22. [Photo credit: Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images]Pakistan and the United States have been holding discussions about Islamabad’s possible admission into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Pakistani actions that would open the door to such a move, according to reports in several media outlets and accounts by a former Pakistani official and other observers contacted by Arms Control Today.

In these descriptions, Pakistan would take certain arms control measures and in return would gain the international legitimacy of membership in the NSG. The group, which currently has 48 members, sets guidelines for nuclear trade so that the exports do not contribute to proliferation. The NSG is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding.

By all accounts, any NSG deal with Pakistan would be substantially different from the one reached with India in 2008. At that time, the NSG agreed to an exception to its rule that banned exports to countries such as India that did not open all their nuclear facilities to international inspections.

Admission to the NSG was not part of that package, but in November 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama endorsed India for NSG membership. (See ACT, December 2010.) The NSG, which operates by consensus, has not agreed to that step.

In conjunction with the 2008 NSG waiver, the U.S. Congress approved a cooperation agreement that allows nuclear trade with India although New Delhi operates nuclear facilities that are not under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

Since the U.S. and NSG exceptions for India were granted, Pakistan has complained of unfair treatment and argued that the suppliers should adopt a so-called criteria-based approach for countries that do not meet the group’s requirement of a fully safeguarded nuclear program. Under this approach, these countries would have to take certain steps to demonstrate they are responsible nuclear states.

Like India, Pakistan uses its unsafeguarded nuclear facilities to produce material for a nuclear weapons program.

In an Oct. 27 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a senior administration official said the United States has “not entered negotiations” on a nuclear cooperation agreement with Pakistan and is not “seeking an exception for Pakistan within the Nuclear Suppliers Group to facilitate civil nuclear exports.”

A few days earlier, after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Oct. 22 meeting with Obama in Washington, Indian media reported similar comments by an unnamed U.S. official. 

One congressional analyst said in an Oct. 27 interview that the senior administration official’s formulation might not preclude an effort to bring Pakistan into the NSG if it were by the criteria-based approach. The official declined to comment on that possibility.

In a report issued in August, Toby Dalton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Michael Krepon of the Stimson Center said, “We agree with Pakistan’s position that membership in the NSG should be criteria-based, but only if the criteria strengthen nonproliferation norms—well beyond those adopted by India to gain the NSG’s stamp of approval in 2008.” For example, they propose that Pakistan limit production and deployment of short-range delivery vehicles and tactical nuclear weapons, “which are unavoidably the least safe and secure weapons in Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.”

If the NSG accepted Pakistan as a member and allowed trade with Islamabad, “companies other than those from China are unlikely to invest in Pakistani nuclear power stations,” Dalton and Krepon said. China currently has an active nuclear trade with Pakistan in spite of the NSG guidelines.

In an Oct. 27 interview, Feroz Khan, a retired Pakistani brigadier general and former director of arms control and disarmament affairs in the Strategic Plans Division of Pakistan’s National Command Authority, said discussions with Pakistan on “nuclear normalization,” including entry into the NSG, have been taking place “for quite some time.” Some of the actions under discussion were similar to the ones described in the Dalton-Krepon report, he said. But Pakistan and the United States have not agreed on “a clear road map,” he said.

The U.S. and Pakistani governments have not officially confirmed the discussions about Pakistani NSG membership, but an Oct. 16 Wall Street Journal story quoted a senior U.S. official as saying, “The idea is to try to change the dynamic, see if helping [the Pakistanis] on the NSG would be a carrot for them to act” to place some restraints on their nuclear weapons program.

The discussions were first reported by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.

Pakistan and the United States reportedly have been holding discussions about Islamabad’s possible admission into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. 

Probe of Chemical Arms Use in Syria Set

By Daniel Horner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Islamic State Chemical Arms Use Alleged

By Daniel Horner and Jefferson Morley

An Iraqi soldier checks for chemical weapons in Tikrit on April 9 after the Iraqi city was recaptured from Islamic State fighters. (John Moore/Getty Images)Increasing reports of chemical weapons use in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State group are prompting concern at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and elsewhere amid conflicting assessments of what the agent in question might have been.

In an Aug. 17 press release, the OPCW cited reports of chemical weapons use by “non-State actors” in Iraq and called the reports “a matter of serious concern.” The OPCW said it had been in contact with the Iraqi government and “would examine any substantive reports it receives including pertinent information that might be shared” by other states-parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

The OPCW statement came several days after unnamed U.S. officials were quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying that Islamic State militants appeared to have used chemical munitions, possibly mustard agent, on Kurdish fighters in Iraq in early August. Other media reports cited German officials as saying there were indications that the militant group had used chlorine weapons.

A number of independent experts have said they doubt that the Islamic State has mustard agent and that the group is more likely to be using chlorine, which is easier to obtain. The group has previously been accused of using chlorine weapons. (See ACT, December 2014.)

Support for the claim of mustard-agent use appeared to come from U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea, the chief of staff of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. name for the military effort against the Islamic State. In an Aug. 21 video teleconference with reporters, he said that a few days after the Aug. 11 mortar attack by Islamic State fighters on Kurdish forces in Iraq, “a presumptive field test” on fragments from some of the mortar rounds “showed the presence of HD, or what is known as sulfur mustard,” according to a Pentagon summary of the press conference. He added that the test is not conclusive and that “a couple of weeks” would be needed “to do the full testing on those fragments,” the summary reported.

But in an Aug. 27 e-mail exchange with Arms Control Today, Maj. Roger Cabiness, a Defense Department spokesman, said he and his colleagues had “seen the most recent reporting and allegations regarding use of chemicals as weapons by elements of [the Islamic State]—in these instances, possibly a blistering agent—in Syria and Iraq” but that he was “not going to comment further on these allegations, nor attempts by some to have them adjudicated publicly.”

When asked how his comments squared with Killea’s, Cabiness said, “While we appreciate Brig. Gen. Killea’s comments in trying to get as clear an understanding as possible for the public regarding the situation on the ground, we are still awaiting further review of the details of these events, and should continue to exercise care in characterizing these details any further.”

Cabiness disputed widespread speculation that if the Islamic State did have chemical agents, they had originated in Syria or Iraq. When Syria joined the CWC in 2013, it declared more than 1,300 metric tons of chemical agents, but U.S. officials and others have expressed concern that the declaration was not complete. Iraq, which joined the CWC in 2009, has two sealed chemical weapons bunkers that are remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime.

In an Aug. 24 interview, Andy Weber, former assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs in the Obama administration, said it was “very unlikely” that the Islamic State would have obtained any chemical agent from the Syrian stockpile. The U.S. government had “very good insight” into the composition of that stockpile, he said.

He said it also was implausible that any Islamic State chemical agents would have come from remnants of Hussein-era stockpiles. The Islamic State has “good chemists,” and the likeliest scenario for the group’s alleged acquisition of chemical weapons is “small-scale production by their own personnel,” he said.

New allegations of chemical weapons use by the Islamic State are coming from a number of sources.

Kazakhstan Approved as Fuel Bank Site

July/August 2015

By Daniel Horner

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors on June 11 voted to approve an agreement with Kazakhstan under which the Central Asian country would host a nuclear fuel bank that the agency is planning to establish, the IAEA announced in a statement after the vote.

The board also approved a transport agreement with Russia for the low-enriched uranium (LEU) that the bank would hold. The bank would be located at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in northeastern Kazakhstan.

The bank will house up to 90 metric tons of LEU, enough material to fuel a light-water reactor with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts electric, according to the IAEA. 

The board authorized the establishment of the bank in December 2010. (See ACT, January/February 2011.) In 2011, Kazakhstan officially offered to host the bank. Since then, Kazakhstan and the agency “have been working on technical details” and negotiating the necessary agreements, the IAEA said in its June 11 release. Kazakhstan will operate the bank, but the IAEA will own and control it, the release said.

In a memo issued in January 2010, the IAEA Secretariat said the bank is “designed to be used rarely.” As in other versions of the fuel bank concept, developed by individual countries, the IAEA fuel bank is intended to be a “last resort” in case of a disruption in the international fuel market. As it has previously, the agency emphasized in the press release that the fuel bank “must not distort the commercial market.”

The initial impetus for the IAEA fuel bank came from the nongovernmental Nuclear Threat Initiative, which in 2006 pledged $50 million for the bank on the condition that other sources provide $100 million. Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Norway, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and the European Union combined to supply the necessary funds. 

The NTI hailed the recent vote by the IAEA board. In a June 11 press release, NTI Co-Chairman Sam Nunn said the bank gives countries an alternative to pursuing uranium-enrichment programs.

The U.S. State Department’s press office said on June 12 that the IAEA fuel bank would support U.S. nonproliferation policies “by reducing incentives for the spread of sensitive technologies to new countries.” The statement commended Kazakhstan for the leadership it showed by offering to host the bank.

Some of the early versions of fuel bank proposals required countries to forgo indigenous enrichment programs in order to be eligible to receive material from a fuel bank, an approach that led to objections from many of the potential developing-country recipients. The IAEA has repeatedly stressed that it is not taking such an approach. The existence of the fuel bank “does not affect the rights of IAEA Member States to develop their own nuclear fuel cycle facilities,” the agency’s press release says.

S. Korea, U.S. Sign Civil Nuclear Pact

July/August 2015

By Daniel Horner

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (left) and U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz sign an agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation in Washington on June 15.(U.S. Department of Energy)South Korea and the United States on June 15 signed an agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation after years of talks that had been bedeviled by the need to square U.S. nonproliferation policy with South Korean aspirations to develop its nuclear fuel cycle and be recognized as an equal nuclear partner.

One bone of contention has been the issue of whether the United States would provide so-called advance consent for South Korean sensitive nuclear activities that fall under the agreement. The pact provides such consent for relatively noncontroversial activities, but not for uranium enrichment or for pyroprocessing, a spent fuel treatment process that South Korea is pursuing and that Washington considers to be a form of reprocessing.

Through an ongoing, joint fuel-cycle study and a high-level bilateral commission that is established by the agreement and two supplementary documents, the new accord “contains pathways” toward a “possible” U.S. decision “to grant advance consent to [South Korea] to enrich or pyroprocess U.S.-obligated nuclear material,” according to the agreement’s Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement (NPAS). The NPAS, which is required under U.S. law, is one of the documents that accompanied the text of the agreement in a package that President Barack Obama sent to Congress on June 16.

Under the 1978 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements must include language saying that the partner country may not undertake activities such as uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing under the agreement unless Washington first consents to those activities.

In the agreements with Japan, Euratom, and India, the United States provided consent for the life of the agreement. Under a proposed agreement that is now before Congress, China would receive similar consent. South Korea was seeking a similar arrangement.

In 2011, South Korea and the United States began a joint study on pyroprocessing, which is due to be completed in 2021. Once the study is finished, the two sides “shall consult with a view to identifying appropriate options for the management and disposition of spent fuel subject to the Agreement and for further development or demonstration of relevant technologies,” according to the new agreement. The consultations are to take place “as promptly as possible so that nuclear energy programs of either Party would not be unduly hampered” and are to be under the auspices of the high-level commission. That body is to be headed by the U.S. deputy secretary of energy and the South Korean vice minister of foreign affairs. 

The agreement lists the criteria that the study is to use in assessing pyroprocessing—technical feasibility, economic viability, and nonproliferation acceptability. The two countries also must agree that the technology “does not significantly increase the risk of proliferation and ensures timely detection and early warning of diversion.”

In addition, the two sides have to agree that pursuing pyroprocessing “avoids the buildup of stocks of group actinides in excess of an amount that is reasonably needed.” The term “actinides” refers to a series of metallic elements in the periodic table, some of which are potentially usable as nuclear explosives.

A former U.S. official who worked on nuclear cooperation agreements said the last provision does not appear in other pacts and reflects the current U.S. policy on limiting the amount of separated plutonium. U.S. officials “don’t want to see another Japan happen,” he said in a July 3 interview, referring to Japan’s accumulation of separated plutonium well in excess of the country’s ability to use the material in its nuclear reactors.

Pyroprocessing differs from conventional reprocessing because the plutonium separated from spent fuel by pyroprocessing remains mixed with other actinides. South Korean officials have argued that this difference makes pyroprocessing more proliferation resistant than traditional reprocessing.

The NPAS notes that the United States treats pyroprocessing as a proliferation-sensitive technology and says that the United States believes that the Nuclear Suppliers Group also should do that.

That document acknowledges that the determination of whether a technology significantly increases the risk of proliferation is “subjective” and says that the proposed agreement gives the secretary of energy the “latitude” to make that determination, as required by the Atomic Energy Act.

The agreement makes clear that the potentially proliferation-sensitive activities can proceed only through mutual consent, but a former congressional staffer expressed concern that U.S. officials ultimately would accede to the South Korean requests. “For years, I’ve watched Americans forget that it’s through mutual consent. Friends are often harder to say no to” than enemies, he said in a June 30 interview.

In a July 2 interview, a congressional analyst said the structure of the agreement is “intended to allow each side to spin it positively.” The United States can say it did not give advance consent to pyroprocessing, and South Korea can say that the pact does not foreclose that possibility “forever,” he said.

He noted that the agreement’s duration is 20 years, with provision for a five-year extension. That time frame would allow the Koreans to revisit the contested issues relatively soon if they are not satisfied with the pace of progress, he said. U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements generally have had terms of at least 30 years, some of which allow for an unlimited number of five-year extensions. The shorter time frame in the new agreement was at the insistence of the South Koreans, the analyst said.

The former U.S. official agreed that the new accord represents a compromise by both sides. He added that the establishment of the high-level commission indicates “how seriously [the United States is] addressing” the South Korean concerns.

The new agreement replaces one that was due to expire last year but was extended for two years. Officials from the two countries initialed the new pact in April. (See ACT, May 2015.)

The June 16 submittal to Congress starts a countdown of 90 days of so-called continuous session. The agreement can enter into force if Congress does not block it during that time. Congress also can vote to add conditions to the agreement.

After years of talks, South Korea and the United States signed an agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation.

No Third Use: An Interview With Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue

July/August 2015

Interviewed by Daniel Horner

Tomihisa Taue was elected mayor of Nagasaki in 2007 and began his third term in April. He is vice president of the international organization Mayors for Peace. Taue spoke by telephone with Arms Control Today from his office on June 15. In the conversation, which was conducted through an interpreter, he spoke about the possibility of a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to Nagasaki, the concept of a Northeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone, and the need for the world to know and remember the facts of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

The interview was transcribed by Nathaniel Sans. It has been edited for clarity.

Buddhist statues lie among the rubble of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, in this photo from the fall of that year. (Photo by Cpl. Lynn P. Walker, Jr. (Marine Corps))ACT: Thank you very much for doing this interview, Mr. Mayor. When you spoke before the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT] Review Conference on May 1, you noted that the average age of the survivors of the atomic bombings of August 6 and August 9, 1945, is 80 years. You said that “we have a responsibility to show these survivors the path to the abolition of nuclear weapons while they are alive to witness it.” As the vice president of Mayors for Peace and the mayor of Nagasaki, what specific steps do you think are necessary in the near term to put the world on the path to the abolition of nuclear weapons?

Taue: During the NPT review conference, we were not able to bridge the gaps between the nuclear-weapon states, who insisted on a step-by-step approach, and the non-nuclear-weapon states, who insisted on a comprehensive approach. We need to continue with the dialogue in order to fill in this gap.

ACT: Are there specific mechanisms that are needed? For example, you have referred in the past to creating a new and continuing conference that would be open to all countries. Is that something that should be pursued?[1]

Taue: Yes, I think that these conferences will be needed. When I visited Washington this May and met with officials of the U.S. government, I made a proposal. For example, we should set up a working group at the UN General Assembly to consider effective measures to fill in the legal gap in order to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.

ACT: And what was the response? How did they receive the proposal?

Taue: I’m not allowed to disclose details of the discussion. However, the U.S. officials said that they would like to make every effort to adopt a final document at the NPT review conference. They were inclined to work something out at the NPT review conference to advance nuclear disarmament. Regrettably, we were not able to reach a final agreement, but they were determined to bring the conference to a successful conclusion.

ACT: At the review conference and since then, do you believe the key states have shown the necessary commitment to the abolition of nuclear weapons and established a path toward that goal?

Taue: By “the key states,” do you mean the nuclear-weapon states?

ACT: Right, the nuclear-weapon states and other states that would be part of the effort to push them, but primarily the nuclear-weapon states.

Taue: When the first proposal for the final document was reported, it was a good one. However, after the second and the third drafts had been submitted, I think the countries went a little backward. As the draft was updated, the contents were degraded. I believe that one of the reasons for this is that the nuclear-weapon states insisted on a step-by-step approach and that, as a result, the final document draft has been degraded. I think that the nuclear-weapon states need to have in mind that we need to speed up nuclear disarmament as a whole. 

ACT: So, the step-by-step approach is not sufficient, in your view?

Taue: I do not believe that the step-by-step approach is insufficient. However, there is a reality that while we were not able to proceed with the step-by-step approach, other states have obtained nuclear weapons. There is also an emerging danger that terrorists might obtain a nuclear weapon. The step-by-step approach and a comprehensive approach do not contradict each other. We can proceed with them in parallel.

ACT: In his address to the NPT review conference, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida invited world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki when they gather in Japan for the Group of Seven summit in 2016. Why would a visit to Japan by President Obama and other world leaders be meaningful to the people of Japan, and how could such a gathering be designed to catalyze action by these leaders on the next steps on nuclear disarmament?

Taue: Foreign Minister Kishida is originally from Hiroshima, so he has a strong passion for his hometown. We have continually appealed for world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki because I believe that when we discuss nuclear weapons issues, it is important to know the facts about what the use of nuclear weapons will bring about. So, with an open mind, we should first know the facts before we go into this discussion. So, I think it is important for the leaders to know what happened under those mushroom clouds.

When I met with the U.S. government officials last month, I also made a request for the president to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The reason for this is that if the U.S. president visits these atomic bomb cities, the other leaders will likely follow. The second reason is that we would like to have President Obama convey a message to the world that Nagasaki should be the last site on earth to suffer from nuclear devastation. I think that this message will be a very strong appeal to the world in continuance with the speech he made in Prague. Third, this will be a productive collaboration by President Obama and the city of Nagasaki toward nuclear abolition, which would be a great honor for us.

ACT: Are there specific steps that Japan and other middle powers, including the other members of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative,[2] can take to spur multilateral progress on nuclear disarmament? What steps can the government of Japan take to accelerate progress toward nuclear disarmament and reduce its own reliance and other states’ reliance on nuclear deterrence?

Taue: The steps that Japan could take are to establish a security policy that does not rely on nuclear deterrence, promote trust building in the region, and establish a Northeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region. To be precise, three states—Japan, South Korea, and North Korea—should establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone, and the neighboring nuclear-weapon states—that is, the United States, Russia, and China—will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons, and they should guarantee this. 

This idea of a comprehensive security arrangement in Northeast Asia is something that the Japanese government could implement. And this March, the Nagasaki University Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition has made a proposal of a concrete, comprehensive approach toward a Northeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone. This has been done with the assistance of Dr. Morton H. Halperin, and I think that their proposal is something that should be considered.[3] 

ACT: So, under this proposal, Japan would no longer rely on the so-called nuclear umbrella of the United States? Is that correct?

Taue: Yes, exactly. We will not be relying on a nuclear umbrella, but spreading a non-nuclear umbrella for the region. 

ACT: In August, the people of Nagasaki and people around the world will mark the 70th anniversary of the bombing that caused some 150,000 casualties in your city. What is the legacy of the bombings in Nagasaki today?

Taue: The atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still suffering from the aftereffects, and this is a negative legacy for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, nuclear weapons were made by humans, and humans can conquer, can abolish nuclear weapons. I would like to make this legacy a positive one, and that is what we are continuing to do.

ACT: In the weeks and months and years that follow the commemorations of the bombings, what should be done to ensure that the experience and lessons of August 1945 are passed on to future generations in Japan and around the world?

Taue: The most important thing is to know the facts, what the use of nuclear weapons will bring about to human beings. To know the facts is important because what we see around the world is that there are still many people who do not know about the atomic bombings. So, I think it is important for the people to know about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

In the United States, there is a widespread belief that the use of nuclear weapons was justified, that it was the right thing to do to use atomic weapons to end the war. Even if that were true, there’s a question if the United States really needed to use the second atomic bomb in Japan. So, I think the people should not be influenced by preconceptions and should first learn the facts. We would like them to think if the use of nuclear weapons to end a war is the right thing to do so that we can prevent the third use of nuclear weapons. The third thing I would like to say is that the appeal made by the atomic bomb survivors is not a message as the victims of the atomic bomb. They are conveying a message as members of the human race. They are trying to send out the message not as victims, but as human beings, on what the use of nuclear weapons will bring about to all human beings.

ACT: Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor. We very much appreciate it. 


ENDNOTES

1. Tomihisa Taue, Speech on behalf of Mayors for Peace, 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference NGO Session, New York, May 1, 2015, http://www.un.org/en/conf/npt/2015/statements/pdf/individual_10.pdf. 

2. In addition to Japan, the members of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative are Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. 

3. Satoshi Hirose et al., “Proposal: A Comprehensive Approach to a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone,” Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Nagasaki University, March 2015, http://www.recna.nagasaki-u.ac.jp/recna/bd/files/Proposal_E.pdf. 

The mayor talks about the idea of a Northeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone and the need for the world to know and remember the facts of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

Previewing the NPT Review: An Interview With U.S. Special Representative Adam Scheinman

Interviewed by Daniel Horner and Daryl G. Kimball

Adam Scheinman took office as President Barack Obama’s special representative for nuclear nonproliferation on September 22, 2014. Over the past 15 years, he has held nonproliferation positions in the Department of State, the White House, and the Department of Energy.

Adam Scheinman (second from right), President Barack Obama’s special representative for nuclear nonproliferation, participates in a conference on South Korea’s Jeju Island on December 4, 2014. (U.S. Department of State)Scheinman spoke with Arms Control Today in his office on March 6. The conversation focused on preparations for the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which begins on April 27 in New York. Scheinman discussed the outlook for the conference and provided some details on the U.S. view of the measures needed to preserve and strengthen the treaty.

The interview was transcribed by Jennifer Ginsburg. It has been edited for clarity.

ACT: Thank you for doing this. It’s the day after the 45th anniversary of the NPT’s entry into force, and very appropriately, we’re speaking to you about the upcoming review conference.

Just to set a little historical context, in the run-up to the 2010 review conference, there were a number of positive events, such as the negotiation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [New START], the UN Security Council summit-level meeting on disarmament, and President Obama’s Prague address on a world free of nuclear weapons, that provided some momentum going into the conference. The conference then produced a detailed consensus action plan[1] to strengthen the treaty. Now, in the run-up to the 2015 review conference, you have been in touch with officials from many of the countries that will be there. How would you characterize the atmosphere among the parties as a whole or in various groups in the run-up to this conference?

Scheinman: I would say that the attitude of most governments is one that’s very supportive of the NPT. It’s clear that support for the treaty is deeply rooted in the international community and among governments, as well as among regional groups. The approach that governments are taking has been serious and constructive. There are clearly many differences among the parties on some of the key issues within the treaty, including nuclear disarmament and some of the regional concerns, but I think we can expect differences in a global treaty of this sort and especially one that includes states with nuclear weapons and those without nuclear weapons.

ACT: And overall, do you think the NPT is in good health?

Scheinman: I think the treaty is in good health. There are certainly tensions within the treaty, but the treaty has lived with these tensions for its full 45 years. It has endured review conferences that have produced agreements and final documents as well as those that haven’t. We’ll certainly work toward an agreement in 2015. That’s the approach we’ll bring to the review conference, and I think others will too. We’ll just have to see how it plays out in New York.

ACT: We’re going to come back to some of the points you raised, but just generally, is there clarity about what states can strengthen and implement in the NPT’s provisions and how they can do that? Do you have specific goals to strengthen the treaty at this point?

Scheinman: Well, yes. We would like to encourage countries to pursue a pathway to nuclear disarmament that is sustainable. All countries wish to see that. There are differences, though, on how fast we can get there and what conditions have to be in place in order to achieve it. Those differences will have to be addressed at the review conference as we work through the debate and toward a final document. We do have in mind a number of steps that preserve but also enhance the action plan that was agreed in 2010, and we’re prepared to deal with all of those issues at the review conference.

ACT: You mentioned coming to an agreement and the final document. As you know, a common measure of the success of the NPT review conferences is whether the parties are able to reach agreement on a final document. Do you think that’s likely this time around, and what, in the view of the United States, would make the conference a “success”?

Scheinman: Well, I wouldn’t want to give odds on whether we’ll have a successful review conference. We do have in place a review conference president, Ambassador Taous Feroukhi from Algeria, who is very active. She’s putting together her team, chairs of the various committees, and possibly subsidiary groups if we have them, and she has consulted widely. That’s an important first step. The question of whether we can achieve a consensus—as I said, we will certainly work toward a consensus final document—will require that countries not pursue extreme agendas or place unrealistic demands on the treaty. If countries come to the conference prepared to pursue compromise and agreement, I believe we will get a final document. If countries are unwilling to bend on positions that are stridently held, then certainly the prospects are dim.

ACT: Do you have a sense—are you expecting people to come in with strident, inflexible positions? Is that the body language that people are showing in your discussions with them? What is your expectation?

Scheinman: I think it’s a little too soon to know whether this conference will or won’t produce a final document. This will be a negotiation. All review conferences, in essence, are a negotiation of the final document. We’ll have a better sense once we’re into the proceedings as to whether a compromise can emerge. At this stage, our approach is to clarify our positions on various NPT issues, both challenges and possible remedies. Other countries and groups are in a similar place. As I noted, our preference would be to achieve a consensus document, but that is not the only measure of success or of broad support for the treaty.

ACT: What are the messages that the United States is bringing to the review conference on the three pillars of the NPT?

Scheinman: We seek to advance implementation across all three pillars of the treaty. These are mutually reinforcing objectives; we don’t see one as more or less important than the other. We don’t accept the argument that progress in one area is an absolute condition for progress in another. These are objectives that should go forward together—nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, and peaceful use of nuclear energy. That is the approach we take. We’ll consider all good ideas that advance each of those pillars and build on the action plan that was agreed in 2010.

It’s worth noting that the action plan that was adopted in 2010 was unprecedented in the NPT review process. We don’t seek to dispense with it five years after it was agreed; we’d like to ensure that it is preserved and that states give serious thought to ways to carry its implementation into the future. This was never intended to be a five-year checklist or that we would start fresh in 2015. We will continue to advance it where there is agreement to do so.

Jaakko Laajava (center), the Finnish diplomat who is the facilitator for the planned conference on ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, speaks on April 29, 2013, in Geneva to a meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. (Jean-Marc Ferré/UN Photo)ACT: Are there specific measures or additional actions that you are seeking support for from the other nuclear-weapon states and from the non-nuclear-weapon states? In the context of the action plan, you had mentioned some things you were planning to do to preserve and enhance the action plan. If you could be a little more specific.

Scheinman: Well, yes. On nuclear disarmament, the president has said we are prepared to go farther in reducing nuclear weapons through negotiations with Russia on another one-third reduction in deployed strategic nuclear weapons. That offer remains on the table, and NPT parties could acknowledge it as a possible next step. The president has also said that we would like to see the now 70-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons be extended forever. We think that’s a reasonable principle for NPT parties to endorse in 2015. The CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] is not in force globally; we think it should continue to have encouragement given its long tie to the NPT’s disarmament goals. Fissile material cutoff treaty [FMCT] negotiations have not seen the light of day; we would like to see the NPT membership give that renewed encouragement.

With respect to nonproliferation, we’d like to ensure that the additional protocol is seen as a global priority and, together with comprehensive safeguards agreements, as a standard for verifying Article III of the NPT, the safeguards requirement. We also think that more than 10 years now after North Korea announced its withdrawal from the NPT, it’s time for NPT parties to agree on steps that could be taken to prevent abuse of the withdrawal provision of the treaty.

We’d like to see the peaceful uses pillar receive the attention it deserves. Too often, it’s a forgotten third leg of the stool. We think that’s a mistake because the majority of states-parties benefit directly from peaceful uses and technical assistance. The peaceful uses initiative was announced in 2010. We’d like to see it continue for another five years; it’s been a very successful tool for expanding peaceful uses in the developing world. There are recent actions that have been taken on nuclear safety and security since 2010 that could be reflected in a final document. So, there’s plenty for NPT states-parties to focus on in terms of new work.

ACT: That’s a good outline of many of the issues that will be discussed, so let’s come back to some of these to go into a little more depth. Over the past several months, a number of serious observers have been warning about the risks for this review conference and for the NPT if there is not faster progress on the Article VI disarmament commitments. A few days ago, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane noted, “[T]he vast majority of non-nuclear weapon States do not view the Action Plan as an open-ended goal.” You said you don’t see it as a series of steps that have to be accomplished in five years, but many other states also come back and say it’s also not an open-ended goal. Kane argued that it’s “incumbent upon the nuclear-weapon States to outline how they propose to reach the final destination” of a world free of nuclear weapons “in the shortest possible time.”[2] So you mentioned that President Obama’s offer for a further one-third reduction in U.S.-Russian strategic arsenals below New START levels is still on the table. Is there any degree of support from the Russian side at this point? Are there any common steps that the United States and Russia might be prepared to commit to in the future with respect to their 2010 action plan commitment to pursue and accelerate steps on nuclear disarmament?

Scheinman: I think there are a couple of points there. One is, “Can one put a time limit, or a schedule, to the elimination of nuclear weapons?” and the answer is “no.” The answer is no because, number one, the conditions to get to zero are extremely demanding; it’s not just a matter of political will of the states that have nuclear weapons. Security conditions have to be in place, and no one can predict with any precision, for example, when Russia will come to the table on negotiations, nor can we predict when the regional conflicts that have given rise to proliferation in other parts of the world will be resolved. It’s just not a reasonable prospect, and that is why the president said that nuclear disarmament is the goal but it’s going to take time, it’s going to take persistence, and we have to pursue it along a trajectory of concrete, achievable steps. We can’t leapfrog to the last step before other steps are in place. That’s just not a practical alternative.

In terms of specifics on U.S. and Russian reductions, I can tell you that our offer remains on the table and that we have said we’re prepared to work with Russia on the full range of strategic stability issues, addressing all of the various concerns that Russia has raised. We hope that Russia will accept the offer. Even better if they accept the offer before the review conference, but I don’t know if they will.

ACT: You mentioned the FMCT and the United States’ disappointment that the negotiations have not begun. That’s of course due in part to the fact that the Conference on Disarmament [CD] has not been able to agree to a work plan for quite some time. Given that situation, is the United States considering or are other states considering exploring new venues for those discussions or negotiations on an FMCT or other ways to move forward? In other words, might we expect some new ideas on how to unblock the FMCT negotiations in the next few weeks at the NPT review conference?

Scheinman: Well, some progress has been made on an FMCT through a UN group of governmental experts, which is holding its final meeting this month and will make its report later this year. We think there have been very good discussions on aspects of an FMCT in that group, and we hope this work continues. That’s a small step, but a useful step nonetheless.

We have made clear our disappointment with the holdup on FMCT negotiations and noted our readiness to support FMCT negotiations that involve the key states. The reality is that all of the key states sit in the Conference on Disarmament, so it’s difficult to conceive of another venue that would not be affected by the same problems that have been preventing FMCT negotiations from starting in the CD. So, it’s not clear that there is a feasible alternative venue that would work. We continue to believe that it would be far better for states to deal with their problems with a treaty in the context of negotiations and not hold up negotiations.

President Barack Obama (left) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in Prague on April 8, 2010. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)ACT: When you say “key states,” do you mean the nine states that have nuclear weapons programs, or would that also include states that have fuel cycle programs but are not weapon states?

Scheinman: I’m referring minimally to states that have nuclear weapons.

ACT: You said that disarmament can’t have a specific timeline and you and others have talked about the step-by-step approach, so can you say what the steps are that are involved in that approach? And do the other nuclear-weapon states agree about those steps? We’re referring specifically to the recent statement at the P5 conference that was issued in February about the step-by-step approach.[3]

Scheinman: I think all five NPT nuclear-weapon states support the principle of a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament. The precise sequencing may reveal some differences, but in general terms, I think we all view it in a similar way, in that there is still work to be done in terms of reductions by the United States and Russia, since these two states hold 90 percent of nuclear weapons in the world. That is why the president has called for a further bilateral reduction, in negotiations with Russia. Following that round of cuts, perhaps at that point we’re at a level where discussions among all five NPT nuclear-weapon states may make sense. But for the time being, we’re at levels that are still too high to consider a P5 negotiation. That’s not a credible next step for today, but is a step down the road.

In terms of multilateral actions, there’s clear agreement on pursuing CTBT entry into force and an FMCT as measures to limit stockpiles in the nuclear arms-possessing states. I would just stop on FMCT to say that often it’s overlooked and seen as an agreement that perhaps would have been valuable 20, 30 years ago. Of course, it’s been on the NPT agenda for the entire life of the NPT. I think it’s a mistake to view it as a throwaway of sorts because it’s inconceivable to my mind that the five nuclear-weapon states would support an arms control negotiation among the five in the absence of a legal cap, a verified cap on fissile material production. And of course, it’s a measure to bring in states outside of the NPT. So, it’s absolutely essential as a next step but unfortunately overlooked.

We’ve also pursued signature and ratification of the protocols to nuclear-weapon-free zones. This is something the administration sought actively since the Prague speech. It’s a means of providing a legal negative security assurance to non-nuclear-weapon states. Non-nuclear-weapon states have said they have a legitimate interest in obtaining such assurances, and we agree that states that abide by their NPT commitments ought to have that assurance. We signed the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone [Treaty] protocol in May, and we’re working actively to be in a position to sign the Southeast Asia zone protocol soon.

ACT: What is the holdup on that? That seemed on the verge of completion for a while.

Scheinman: We negotiated a revised protocol in 2011 and were preparing to sign it at the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] meeting in the summer of 2012 when it became known that some of the P5 states make statements at signing, or in the case of the United States, we make statements at ratification. These are national statements to clarify positions on a treaty or protocol provision. Some could be considered reservations; some are simply interpretive statements that don’t meet the threshold of a reservation. This is standard P5 practice for the zones; every zone treaty protocol the P5 states have signed has been accompanied by such statements. They’re not out of the ordinary, but they surprised the ASEAN states. It’s been very slow work trying to engage and resolve these concerns with the ASEAN states, but we’ve continued to work at it. I was just in Southeast Asia earlier this week to keep the dialogue moving. We are making progress and hope to be in a position to sign at some point soon.

ACT: On the steps the United States needs to take to approve the protocol to the other nuclear-weapon-free zones in Central Asia, a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the South Pacific, Africa, could you just update us briefly on the status of preparations to bring those to the Senate for consideration for advice and consent?

Scheinman: The two that you mentioned, for Africa and the South Pacific, were sent from the White House to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2011, so they’re on the treaty priority list. As for the Central Asia zone, we intend to also submit the package [of documents] to the Senate soon. Of course, if we’re able to sign the Southeast Asia protocol before the review conference, which I don’t currently expect, we’ll try to get that package sent to the Senate as soon as possible. We hope to be in a position to brief staff and members of the new Senate Foreign Relations Committee soon.

ACT: You mentioned the CTBT a couple of times. It’s also a treaty before the Senate for consideration for advice and consent. It’s also been one of the treaties that has been part of the NPT’s history since 1968, 1970. What can you tell us about what the United States, Russia, China, and the other nuclear-armed NPT member states are doing to reinforce the CTBT, to advance entry into force, pending action by the United States, by China, and the other Annex II countries?[4] What might we expect the P5 states to commit to, to encourage at the NPT review conference in this regard?

Scheinman: Well, I think all P5 states are firmly supportive of the CTBT, even if all five have not brought it into force. In every P5 statement to the NPT and in the six P5 conferences we’ve held to date, support for the CTBT is clear; that’s point number one. Number two, we have increased our technical work on CTBT verification-related issues, including in Vienna.[5] P5 experts have been meeting on CTBT-related topics, and we’d like to see that pace of activity pick up. And three, we each have our own domestic responsibility to pursue ratification. In our case, the president of course is clearly committed to supporting the CTBT, but we will not take the treaty to the Senate unless we know we have support from a sufficient number of members. At this stage, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller has been very busy traveling around the country and building the case for U.S. support for CTBT. It’s a treaty that would advance our national security interests and advance global security.

ACT: You talked about the steps everyone supports, but you said there might be some differences among the P5 on sequencing, so can you give us an illustrative example? What’s the kind of difference that exists?

Scheinman: Well, the simple example is the United States is prepared and has been prepared to pursue further nuclear reductions with Russia. Russia is not prepared to pursue such reductions today.

ACT: On the P5 process, the five nuclear-weapon states have had six meetings since 2009. What are the results of this P5 process?

Scheinman: Well, in summary, the process has been very constructive in our view, not in terms of short-term or immediate deliverables necessarily, but in terms of the long-term investments we’re making in a process that supports arms control actions that the five could take together. To this stage, the process has encouraged dialogue on nuclear transparency, verification, and strategic issues. We’ve used the process to brief the United Kingdom, France, and China—the three states that have yet to be involved in nuclear arms control reductions—on New START verification. We’ve briefed each other on various aspects of our nuclear posture, so it’s a dialogue that’s beginning to take form. In terms of tangible outcomes, the process has encouraged greater transparency among the five, including through agreement on a standard reporting framework, which we each used to report to the NPT Preparatory Committee meeting in 2014. We each expect to update our reports at the 2015 review conference.

We will also complete a first edition of a glossary of nuclear terms that will be distributed at the 2015 review conference. This, to many, sounds insignificant. But to our thinking, this is needed to lay the groundwork for eventual P5 talks on nuclear arms control. We hope that subsequent editions of the glossary will look at terms or concepts that are more specific to arms control.

ACT: Will this process continue?

Scheinman: Yes. The P5 statement following the London conference made note that France is prepared to host the seventh conference. We don’t have a date quite yet, but clearly after the review conference.

ACT: But continuing into the foreseeable future?

Scheinman: Yes.

ACT: What are the next steps? What’s on the agenda for the upcoming five years or perhaps even beyond that?

Scheinman: Well, as an immediate step, we would like to see further work done on a nuclear glossary. We would like to see additional technical work on arms control verification; this could mirror the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification that Undersecretary Gottemoeller announced a couple of months ago.[6] That partnership will involve nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states. Similarly, the five could pursue transparency actions with nonweapon states. We plan to host a group of officials from nonweapon states at the Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories at the end of March. And of course, as the P5 group, we plan to use these conferences as a venue to consult and coordinate on key NPT issues, including dealing with some of the regional challenges and priorities for strengthening the NPT.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks at the State Department on August 9, 2013, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)ACT: To talk about some specific issues and areas, the talks on Iran’s nuclear program are ongoing and presumably will be part of the backdrop for the review conference. What impact might they ultimately have, through either success or failure, on the NPT regime?

Scheinman: Well, there are two levels of impact. One is on the review conference itself, and the second, more generally, is on the NPT. In terms of the review conference, it seems fairly straightforward. If there’s a framework deal in hand by late March, with details to be negotiated subsequently by June, then we can expect that the impact on the review conference would be positive. If the talks collapse and we’re into another cycle of escalating tensions, then the impact will be quite negative. I think it would be very difficult to imagine a review conference ending in a consensus final document if the P5+1 talks with Iran[7] collapse in late March.

I certainly can’t get into any details on the discussions with Iran. We’re hopeful the negotiations will produce a successful outcome. In terms of impacts on the nonproliferation regime, we’re of course very concerned about Iran pursuing nuclear weapons because of the potential for much greater proliferation and instability in the Middle East. Should the talks collapse and Iran restart its nuclear program without constraint, then I think the impacts on the nonproliferation regime would be very, very negative over the next two, five, 10 years.

ACT: One aspect of the agreement that the P5+1 and Iran are trying to reach has to do with enhanced monitoring and verification. In November 2013 in the interim agreement, they specifically identified the additional protocol as one of the things that should be a part of any comprehensive agreement related to Iran’s program. Given how long the NPT states-parties have been discussing enhanced monitoring and verification, how would—if there is a P5+1 agreement with Iran, how do you think that might positively reverberate with the effort to universalize the additional protocol and enhance the IAEA’s [International Atomic Energy Agency’s] authority?

Scheinman: Well, again I can’t discuss aspects of the negotiation. As a general point, an agreement with Iran that includes strict verification measures will naturally have a positive influence on nonproliferation efforts.
Support for the additional protocol is not dependent on Iran; that support exists now. We’re up to 124 states now with an additional protocol in force, and the number of states without one that have any significant nuclear activities is increasingly small. I don’t know that a positive resolution of the Iran issue will lead all of the states that have yet to accept the additional protocol to proceed with one. Several of those states reject an additional protocol for political or regional reasons unrelated to Iran or the example set by others.

ACT: You mentioned the additional protocol. In Iran’s case, there would almost certainly be some measures beyond that. Is there a possibility that that would set a standard for nonweapon states with fuel cycle programs or specific ways of monitoring centrifuge programs or something like that?

Scheinman: No. I think this is a negotiation and an approach that’s specific to Iran. We haven’t taken the position that whatever comes out of the talks should be the new standard for nonproliferation or safeguards.

ACT: One of the key commitments of the 2010 NPT Review Conference was to hold a conference in 2012 on ridding the Middle East of nuclear and other nonconventional weapons, but the conference has not taken place. What are the obstacles at this point?

Scheinman: The principal obstacle, at this point, is the difference of view on an agenda for the conference. But I think it’s worthwhile to take a half step back because, since 2010, we have exerted huge diplomatic efforts to bring the regional states together to reach agreement on terms for this conference. We’ve had five regional meetings involving Arab states and Israel. Israel has attended each session and at a high level. Iran has attended one of these sessions. We hope to have a sixth meeting before the review conference or soon after.

The regional consultations have been constructive. Each side has a better appreciation for the views and concerns of the other. There is still a substantive gap, but in terms of how far we’ve come to advance the process and to zero in on differences on an agenda, we’re actually not that far off. But to reach agreement will require that both sides come to the next consultation prepared to draft an agenda that allows each to discuss issues deemed important to the achievement of a zone.

ACT: What are the United States and the other conveners[8] and other involved states doing to broker that compromise? Are you encouraging meetings? Are you presenting your own versions of proposals that would address the countries’ concerns?

Scheinman: We discuss the full set of issues that might be addressed at a conference through the regional consultations and any other diplomatic opportunity we have, whether that’s individually or as a collective group of conveners. The pathway to a conference is agreement of the regional states. They have to bear the responsibility to carry negotiations forward, to seek compromises, and to speak to each other directly. They can’t negotiate through facilitators and conveners. This process will only work if the regional states are engaging directly and take responsibility for reaching an agreement. That’s what we encourage.

ACT: With or without the conference, what agreements, treaties, or initiatives would the United States like to see the states in the region pursue to reduce nuclear-related risks?

Scheinman: Our focus at this stage is on reaching an agreement to hold a conference. The conference itself can start a process that might consider additional actions that states in the region would be prepared to take. It could span across the full range of weapons of mass destruction- or military-related issues. But the first step is the most important step because without it, there’s no prospect for advancing arms control in the region. We think this process can have real value because there has been no forum to discuss regional security issues involving states in the Middle East for almost 20 years since the Arms Control and Regional Security process collapsed in the mid-1990s.

ACT: Shifting to another region, you talked earlier about North Korea and the [NPT] Article X issue. In 2003, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the NPT, applying the provisions of Article X in a way that some countries found questionable. The five nuclear-weapon states, in a statement at their conference in London in February, “expressed the hope” that the review conference would reach agreement on language concerning the “potential abuse of the exercise of the right of withdrawal” under Article X. What is your current assessment of the prospects for such an agreement?

Scheinman: I’m hopeful that if we have a consensus document, it will include recommendations on the issue of withdrawal. There has been, I would say, an emerging view that this is an appropriate issue for NPT parties to address and to take a common position on. There have been working papers in the NPT process by a variety of different groups, including the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative—which includes states that are in the Non-Aligned Movement, as well as those with a more Western orientation—and we see common themes emerging throughout all of these initiatives. The P5 holds a shared view of how NPT states-parties might deal with this issue, and so from a political standpoint, I think the time is right to seek consensus on arrangements that all NPT states-parties can support.

ACT: In the view of the United States, what would such an agreement need to cover? What would it need to include to be meaningful and supportive of the NPT?

Scheinman: As a matter of principle and international law, NPT states-parties should acknowledge that any state that violates the treaty and then withdraws from it should remain accountable for those violations. There’s no get-out-of-jail-free card with respect to the Article X withdrawal provision. We don’t intend to rewrite, amend, or in any way revise the right of states to withdraw from the treaty. It’s a question of what are the appropriate consequences for a state that abuses its withdrawal right, either because, in the case of North Korea, it violated the treaty and then announced that it was departing, or it leaves the treaty and then uses peaceful nuclear supplies to pursue a military program. There are steps that can be taken, whether that involves consultations among NPT states-parties, action by the UN Security Council, verification activities that can be called for by the IAEA Board of Governors, and actions that nuclear suppliers can take to require permanent safeguards or cut off supply for states abusing the withdrawal right.

ACT: Before we go to your final thoughts on issues we didn’t cover, I’d like to ask a broader question about the treaty. This is the 45th anniversary of the entry into force. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons. It’s often said that the NPT has, over the decades, reduced the risk of nuclear weapons, but many of the things we’ve discussed today are discussed every five years. Progress in terms of addressing these issues has been slow and difficult.

Looking at this more broadly, do you think that the mechanisms that currently exist to help adapt and evolve the treaty to meet new challenges are adequate? Can it keep up with the times? Are there some adjustments to the mechanisms by which the states-parties look at the core provisions and look at ways of adjusting other than the current review process? Does that have to be considered in order for the NPT to survive another 45 years?

Scheinman: I would say that, number one, there’s a tendency to define the NPT by a few failures or serious knocks on the regime experienced over the years. I think that’s a mistake. We should instead try to define the treaty by its successes, which are far more impressive than its failures, which are serious and of course have to be addressed for the long-term health of the treaty. But by and large, countries meet their obligations, and the security benefits, the developmental benefits, the peaceful use benefits that accrue to states are many. Most countries understand this; they embrace it, they accept it, and that’s why I think support for the treaty is deeply rooted in the international system.

It is certainly possible to imagine a better NPT, but for me, it would be an American perspective of a better NPT, and it probably wouldn’t square with the perspective of other countries. If we sought to replace the NPT and start a new negotiation, it would never close because of the disagreements on nuclear disarmament and perhaps on approaches to countries that are not in the NPT. The NPT is the best we have; we’ve made good of it, and hopefully we can continue making better of it.

The mechanisms to strengthen the treaty are available, and they are in place. Some are treaty based, some are international organization based, and some are coalition based, like the Proliferation Security Initiative and other initiatives that have emerged over the last 10 years. The question is how we make best use of the mechanisms available. The additional protocol doesn’t need to be revised; it needs to be adhered to. Safeguards should be adhered to globally. The UN Security Council is available to deal with threats to international peace and security.

The Security Council should act when cases come to it. The Conference on Disarmament is available for states to negotiate disarmament measures. Countries should take advantage of that resource as well. Regional treaties exist; they should be fully implemented.

So, I think the mechanisms are in place. But we live in the real world, where politics and the security interests of countries intrude on implementation of global instruments, and as a result, we do our best with what we have. I think we’re doing pretty well.

ACT: Thank you very much.


ENDNOTES


1. For the 64-point action plan, see 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document, Volume I, Part I,” NPT/Conf.2010/50 (Vol. I), 2010, pp. 19-29.

2. Angela Kane, “NATO and the Future of Disarmament” (keynote address, NATO weapons of mass destruction conference, Doha, Qatar, March 2, 2015), p. 4, https://unodaweb.s3.amazonaws.com/wpcontent/uploads/2015/02/nato-qatar-2014.pdf.

3. Office of the Spokesperson, U.S. Department of States, “Joint Statement From the Nuclear-Weapon States at the London P5 Conference,” February 6, 2015, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2015/02/237273.htm. The five countries that the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty recognizes as nuclear-weapon states also are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and therefore are sometimes known as the “P5.”

4. Annex 2 to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty specifies 44 countries whose ratification is required to bring the treaty into force. Eight of those countries have not ratified the treaty: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States.

5. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization is headquartered in Vienna.

6. Rose Gottemoeller, “The Vision of Prague Endures,” (speech, Prague, December 4, 2014), http://www.state.gov/t/us/2014/234675.htm; Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, U.S. Department of State, “An International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification,” December 4, 2014, http://www.state.gov/t/avc/rls/234680.htm.

7. The six-country group negotiating with Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program is known as the P5+1 because its members are China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

8. Under the terms of the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the conveners of the conference are the UK, Russia, the United States, and the UN secretary-general.

NNSA Nonproliferation Budget Gets Boost

March 2015

By Kingston Reif and Daniel Horner

Final dose rate measurements are taken for a shipment of Hungarian highly enriched uranium on November 4, 2013, before it is transported to Russia. (Sandor Tozser / IAEA)After proposing major spending cuts for Energy Department nuclear nonproliferation programs in last year’s budget request, the Obama administration is asking for $1.7 billion for these efforts in its fiscal year 2016 budget request, an increase of $90.7 million, or 5.6 percent, above the fiscal year 2015 appropriation.

In a Feb. 4 telephone interview with two reporters, Anne Harrington, deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation in the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), said the NNSA had been disappointed with last year’s proposed budget and that “there was a commitment that we would not have that happen again this year.” She added, “Not only did we keep that commitment, but we got a small increase.”

The nonproliferation programs are part of the semiautonomous NNSA, which also is responsible for maintaining and modernizing U.S. nuclear warheads. Funding for NNSA activities in that area would rise to $8.9 billion in fiscal year 2016, up $667 million from the fiscal year 2015 appropriation (see page 27).

Realignment Drops GTRI

The budget request reflects a realignment of NNSA nonproliferation efforts. The new budget is divided into the categories of Material Management and Minimization, Global Material Security, Nonproliferation and Arms Control, Nonproliferation Construction, Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation R&D (research and development), and Nuclear Counterterrorism and Incident Response.

Gone are the programs that used to be called the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), International Material Protection and Cooperation (IMPC), and Fissile Materials Disposition. Global Material Security and Material Management and Minimization include different parts of what used to be the GTRI and the IMPC programs. Construction of the mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel facility is now listed under Nonproliferation Construction.

The counterterrorism program used to be housed within NNSA’s weapons program. When these efforts are included in the calculation, total proposed nonproliferation spending for fiscal year 2016 is $1.9 billion.

Global Material Security has the task of improving the security of nuclear materials around the world, securing orphaned or disused radiological sources, and strengthening nuclear smuggling detection and deterrence. The goal of Material Management and Minimization is to reduce global nuclear security threats through disposition of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium, HEU minimization by converting research reactors and medical isotope production facilities to the use of low-enriched uranium (LEU), and removal of excess HEU and separated plutonium.

In a letter to employees of her office last December, Harrington said that two rationales for the realignment were to arrange the office more functionally and establish “synergy among like sub-programs.”

The activities now performed under Global Material Security would receive $427 million in fiscal year 2016, an increase of $2.5 million above the fiscal year 2015 appropriation. Efforts to accelerate the protection of the most harmful radiological sources, which used to be performed under the GTRI program, would receive a $15.9 million boost to $154 million.

Material Management and Minimization programs would receive $312 million, an increase of $38.7 million over the fiscal year 2015 appropriation. Nuclear material removal activities, which also used to be performed under the GTRI program, would get a $45.5 million increase to $114 million to remove HEU from miniature neutron source reactors in Africa and to prepare for future shipments from Europe and Japan.

In the budget request, the administration proposes a significant curtailment of previous plans for nuclear security work inside Russia. The requested funding for activities that used to be housed under the IMPC program, which performed most of the NNSA’s security work in Russia, is $100 million below the level projected in the fiscal year 2015 budget request.

Harrington said that funding previously planned for Russia was repurposed for other nonproliferation activities. It is not clear from the budget documents how much money, if any, the NNSA requested for work inside Russia in fiscal year 2016 (see page 26).

Elsewhere in the NNSA nonproliferation budget, funding for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, which used to be called Nonproliferation and International Security, would rise slightly, from a fiscal year 2015 appropriation of $126 million to $127 million. Spending for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation R&D, which focuses on technologies used in tracking foreign nuclear weapons programs, illicit diversion of nuclear materials, and nuclear detonations, would rise to $419 million from its $393 million fiscal year 2015 appropriation.

Priorities Questioned

Some analysts said the fiscal year 2016 budget request does not go far enough in addressing several key nuclear security issues.

In a Feb. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a source who has followed nuclear threat reduction budgets closely questioned the decision to spend $15 million less than the administration had projected it would spend in fiscal year 2016 on the activities that used to be associated with GTRI, particularly with the last nuclear security summit scheduled to take place next year.

Construction personnel guide a glove box into place at the mixed-oxide fuel fabrication facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina on September 29, 2010. (NNSA)Another analyst, Kenneth Luongo, a former senior adviser on nonproliferation policy to the energy secretary, told Arms Control Today in a Feb. 19 e-mail that, in the wake of “the abrupt and sharp curtailment in US-Russian nuclear security cooperation,” NNSA nonproliferation efforts “can and should be supplemented with new missions.”

Luongo, who is president of the Partnership for Global Security and a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, added that the administration must also create “a new and compelling narrative for [its] nuclear security activities and budgets” and that the job “will have to be done quickly in order to preserve the core of expertise and political relevance of the NNSA nuclear security mission.”

MOX Funding

The administration asks for $345 million for fiscal year 2016 for construction of the MOX fuel plant at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The facility is designed to turn surplus plutonium from the U.S. nuclear weapons program into fuel for power reactors.

Last year, in announcing its request for fiscal year 2015, the Energy Department said it would put the project on “cold standby” as it explored other options for getting rid of the plutonium. (See ACT, April 2014.) The administration requested $196 million for construction, but Congress appropriated much more than that, $345 million, for the current fiscal year.

During a Feb. 2 conference call on the fiscal year 2016 budget request, NNSA officials said the new request reflected the current year’s spending figure. But NNSA Administrator Frank Klotz said $345 million is “not the optimum spend rate if you are serious about delivering in a reasonable, prudent amount of time a construction project.”

Robert Raines, NNSA associate administrator for acquisition and project management, said no element of the construction was being stopped but that the work was being done more slowly than the NNSA had planned in the timetable it was following before it decided to seek alternatives to the project.

In a Feb. 6 interview, a source familiar with the deliberations on the project’s budget said the fiscal year 2016 request was “a really big deal” in light of what the prospects for the plant’s future seemed to be last year. The climate is “much different” this year, he said, and suggested that the appropriation for fiscal year 2016 could be more than the $345 million that the Energy Department is requesting.

But Edwin Lyman, a senior staff scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a Feb. 20 interview that “everyone can see that [the MOX project] is a waste of money but no one can stop it.” Lyman, who recently wrote a report on “the failure of MOX and the promise of its alternatives,” said that, for some lawmakers, it might be difficult to oppose construction of the plant until the Energy Department has published its assessment of the alternatives and recommended a new course.

After proposing major spending cuts for Energy Department nuclear nonproliferation programs in last year’s budget request, the Obama administration is asking for a $90 million increase in its fiscal year 2016 request.

India, U.S. Cite Progress on Nuclear Deal

March 2015

By Daniel Horner

President Barack Obama (left) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold a joint press conference at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on January 25. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)India and the United States in late January reached what President Barack Obama described as a “breakthrough understanding” on two issues that have held up nuclear trade between the two countries under a deal reached under President George W. Bush.

The understandings, announced Jan. 25 during Obama’s visit to India to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, deal with the issues of liability in case of an accident at a foreign-supplied reactor in India and with the tracking of U.S. material exported to India.

The second issue concerns the so-called administrative arrangements that are a standard part of U.S. nuclear cooperation with other countries. Like other nuclear exporters, the United States maintains those arrangements to ensure that the material it sends to other countries for their peaceful nuclear programs does not end up in weapons programs.

The two sides released little specific information on what they had agreed, but interviews with sources from industry, Congress, and elsewhere who had been briefed by administration officials provided a generally consistent picture of the U.S.-Indian understandings.

As the sources described it, the approach endorsed by Modi and Obama would provide much of the information obtained from standard U.S. administrative arrangements, but in a more roundabout way. Under standard arrangements, the U.S. partner assumes most of the burden for the tracking, but in the case of India, the United States would have to do much of the work itself, one source said.

India balked at the standard arrangements because New Delhi considered them costly, intrusive, and unnecessary, the source said.

According to several accounts, India insisted that the United States obtain information on the exported material and its course within India from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which applies safeguards to the nuclear facilities that India has designated as civilian. The IAEA information, however, provides only an aggregate picture of the material in the facilities it safeguards rather than identifying the material on the basis of the country that supplied it.

A second source, a former U.S. official, described his conception of the way the arrangement was likely to work in practice. He said the material the United States would send to India would be in the form of fabricated fuel elements. If India reprocessed the spent fuel coming from that fresh fuel, New Delhi would tell Washington the amount of plutonium that was separated and the amount that it fabricated into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel (so called because it is a mixture of plutonium and uranium oxides), he said. It also would have to report the amount of spent fuel that the reactor had produced, he said.

With that information and knowledge of the characteristics of the fuel and the reactor in which the fuel was irradiated, the U.S. government could make its own calculations of the amount of plutonium contained in the spent fuel, the former official said. From that starting point, the United States could determine how much plutonium was separated and not fabricated into MOX fuel, he said.

The United States is to meet once a year with India to compare figures, the former official said. He said it was not clear to him how the two sides would resolve discrepancies.

Under the 2007 U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement and a follow-on accord from 2010, India has permission to reprocess spent fuel that comes from U.S.-supplied fresh fuel or was irradiated in a U.S.-supplied reactor. (See ACT, May 2010.) But the reprocessing must take place in a facility “dedicated to reprocessing safeguarded nuclear material under IAEA safeguards,” according to the 2007 agreement.

India does not have such a facility and has not begun to build one. Its current reprocessing plants are not under safeguards.

The January announcement is the latest development in a saga that began with a joint July 2005 statement by Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laying out a blueprint for easing U.S. and international nuclear trade restrictions on India, which is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In 2006 Congress passed legislation known as the Hyde Act, opening the door to nuclear trade with India but establishing certain reporting and monitoring requirements to ensure that U.S. nuclear exports were used only for peaceful purposes.

One source who was involved in that debate and was critical of the overall deal said the newly announced arrangements appeared to meet the requirements of the Hyde Act.

The former official said that, from the descriptions he had received, the procedure seemed equivalent to the standard administrative arrangements. It “should give us the information we need to know [although] in an unconventional way,” he said. But he emphasized that the recently announced accord is on an understanding in principle. The two sides need to draft the administrative arrangement, and “it remains to be seen” if they can “find language that is mutually acceptable,” he said.

At a Jan. 26 press briefing, Ben Rhodes, U.S. deputy national security adviser for strategic communications and speechwriting, said, “The Indians certainly came to the table with increased information-sharing and exchanges that met our concerns.”

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and U.S. President George W. Bush arrive for a joint press conference at the White House on July 18, 2005. At the press conference, the two leaders announced a new policy on U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)Congress approved the India agreement in 2008, but U.S. companies have not signed any contracts for significant nuclear exports to India. The questions about U.S. monitoring of exports have been an obstacle, but for the companies—especially General Electric and Westinghouse, which have hopes of selling reactors to India—a larger issue has been their concern that they could be found liable in case of an accident. In most countries with nuclear power plants, the operator, not the supplier, is potentially liable for accidents at nuclear facilities.

To address those concerns, India is proposing to create an insurance pool and to establish that its national law is compatible with the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, under which reactor suppliers cannot be held liable. Several of the sources expressed skepticism that the steps would be sufficient to convince General Electric and Westinghouse to build reactors in India, but these sources emphasized that the companies would have to be the ones to decide.

At the Jan. 26 briefing, Rhodes said the Indian and U.S. governments believe that “they have reached an understanding on these critical issues that have been an impediment to moving forward in the last several years.” But he acknowledged that “it’s ultimately up to U.S. companies to make their own determinations about whether and when to invest in India and to move forward.”

India and the United States reached what President Barack Obama described as a “breakthrough understanding” on two issues that have held up nuclear trade between the two countries.

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