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– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Fissile Material

Samore Suggests 2016 Security Summit

Daniel Horner

President Barack Obama should consider holding a nuclear security summit in 2016 rather than ending the ongoing series of summits next year, Gary Samore, Obama’s former chief adviser on arms control, said Feb. 22.

Following up on a proposal that Obama made in his April 2009 speech in Prague, the Obama administration hosted the first nuclear security summit a year later in Washington. The second summit was in Seoul last year. Officials from the United States and several other countries have suggested that next year’s meeting, which is to be held in The Hague, could be the last.

In his remarks at a nuclear policy conference in Arlington, Va., Samore, who until earlier this year was White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction terrorism, said “there’s a stronger argument to be made” for holding a 2016 summit in Washington instead of ending the process in 2014.

The additional summit would “create a stronger basis for transferring nuclear security issues from a summit level to more-inclusive venues,” such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations, and would give those institutions time to make sure they can handle their new roles effectively, said Samore, whose duties in the administration included overseeing U.S. preparations for the Washington and Seoul summits.

Citing a high-level nuclear security meeting that the IAEA is planning to hold this July (see ACT, December 2012), Samore said, “I’d like to see how effective and productive that [meeting] is before I decided that it would make sense” for the IAEA to take on major responsibilities in nuclear security.

Officials from the 53 countries that have participated in the summits hold a “range of views” as to whether the series of meetings should continue after next year’s, Samore said. Some of the countries that oppose the idea “have been suspicious from the beginning about the nuclear security summit process,” he said.

Other countries are likely to follow Obama’s lead on the issue, said Samore, who now is executive director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. Obama needs to determine whether hosting another summit is worth the energy it would require, he said.

President Barack Obama should consider holding a nuclear security summit in 2016 rather than ending the ongoing series of summits next year, Gary Samore, Obama’s former chief adviser on arms control, said Feb. 22.

Myanmar Vows to Upgrade IAEA Safeguards

Daryl G. Kimball

Myanmar will take steps to give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) greater access to the country’s nuclear facilities, the office of Myanmar President Thein Sein said in a statement Nov. 19, the day of President Barack Obama’s arrival in the Southeast Asian country.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, will sign an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement and will “give effect to the modified standardized text of the Small Quantities Protocol,” the statement said. The move could put to rest lingering suspicions that Myanmar’s military junta had pursued a nuclear weapons program with assistance from North Korea and could open the door to further rapprochement with the international community.

An additional protocol expands the IAEA’s ability to check for clandestine nuclear facilities by providing the agency with authority to visit any facility, declared or undeclared, to investigate questions about or inconsistencies in a state’s nuclear declarations. It also requires states to provide an “expanded declaration.” The IAEA Board of Governors still must approve Myanmar’s additional protocol.

Myanmar has a comprehensive safeguards agreement in force with the IAEA, but it also has adopted a small quantities protocol, which holds in abeyance much of the agency’s inspection authority as long as a state’s nuclear material holdings do not exceed certain thresholds. (See ACT, July 2010.) In September 2005, the IAEA Board of Governors approved modifications to such protocols to correct what the board believed was “a weakness of the safeguards system.” Myanmar now has pledged to recognize the modified version.

The announcement on the two protocols comes after democratic reforms in Myanmar and significant pressure from Washington to address a range of human rights and governance issues. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in December 2011 that improved U.S. relations with Myanmar would be possible only “if the entire government respects the international consensus against the spread of nuclear weapons.”

A State Department report released in August says U.S. concerns expressed in last year’s report regarding Myanmar’s “interest in pursuing a nuclear program, including the possibility of cooperation with North Korea, were partially allayed.” (See ACT, October 2012.)

The Myanmar announcement on the additional protocol follows the Oct. 23 approval by the government of Iraq of an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. That country’s secret pursuit of nuclear weapons in the late 1980s was the principal impetus for creating the Model Additional Protocol in 1997.

As of Oct. 24, 139 countries had signed an additional protocol, and 119 had brought it into force, according to an IAEA tally.

Myanmar will take steps to give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) greater access to the country’s nuclear facilities, the office of Myanmar President Thein Sein said in a statement Nov. 19, the day of President Barack Obama’s arrival in the Southeast Asian country.

Post-2014 Nuclear Security Mulled

Daniel Horner and Kelsey Davenport

Nuclear security summits held in 2010 and this year have achieved a great deal by focusing world leaders’ attention on the issue of securing nuclear materials, but there are ways to preserve much of that focus once the series of summits ends, a senior U.S. nuclear policy official said last month.

Speaking Nov. 5 in Arlington, Va., Laura Holgate, senior director for weapons of mass destruction terrorism and threat reduction at the National Security Council, said a main U.S. goal is to “leave behind a strengthened web of treaties, institutions, norms, and practices that will reliably secure nuclear materials.” She emphasized the roles of international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and of national regulatory bodies.

The first nuclear security summit, which sprang from a commitment President Barack Obama made in his April 2009 Prague speech on nuclear weapons policy, took place in Washington in April 2010. The second one was in Seoul last March.

Officials from the United States and other countries have made it clear that the biennial summits will not continue indefinitely and have raised the possibility that the next summit, scheduled for 2014 in the Netherlands, will be the last. (See ACT, November 2011.)

In comments earlier this year on the question of how long the summits would continue, Holgate said the benefits of “leader engagement” would have to be weighed against the possibility of “leader fatigue.”

In her Nov. 5 remarks, Holgate said one of the main U.S. goals for the summits has been “the personal engagement of leaders on an issue where they owe their citizens their highest commitment.” In describing the Seoul summit, she said the leaders were “focused, on-point, and highlighting tangible progress over platitudes and generalities.”

Asked how to maintain high-level attention to nuclear security after the summits end, Holgate said one step is to “raise the capability and the profile and the durability” of existing institutions.

She pointed to a conference that the IAEA is planning to hold in Vienna, where the agency is based, next July 1-5 on nuclear security. Holgate said there is talk of holding the meeting every three years and having one day of the week-long event include ministerial-level participants. “We’ll certainly use our voice in Vienna to promote that,” she said.

According to the IAEA’s meeting announcement, one purpose of the conference will be to help the agency prepare its next Nuclear Security Plan, which would cover the years 2014-2017. The target audience includes “senior government officials” and other “high[-]level participants from all of the areas and agencies involved in making policy for and managing nuclear security,” the announcement said.

In a Nov. 14 interview, a Vienna-based diplomat said planning for the July meeting is in the relatively early stages and that issues such as the exact level of the participation are “still to be determined.”

Stronger IAEA Role

Andrew Semmel, a deputy assistant secretary of state for nuclear nonproliferation under President George W. Bush, said in a Nov. 19 interview that the IAEA could play a major role in establishing a global framework for nuclear security. He said the 2014 summit could “set into motion” a process toward agreement on such a framework, which would set security standards, outline monitoring mechanisms, and provide states with the assistance needed to implement the framework’s provisions.

Semmel, now an independent consultant whose clients include the IAEA, said the agency is the “logical mechanism” to implement this framework agreement, which he said should lead to a legally binding treaty.

U.S. officials have said they do not think the effort to strengthen nuclear security around the world requires additional legal instruments.

Semmel, who also was a panelist at the Nov. 5 meeting, acknowledged in the interview that getting the “buy-in” from states for moving toward binding standards would be difficult, and he identified steps short of a treaty that could be taken at the 2014 summit to strengthen the IAEA. Specifically, he said that the IAEA needs “more authority and resources.”

The nuclear security system would be enhanced if the IAEA had a mandate for peer reviews that required states to fix any reported deficiencies, he said. The lack of such a mandate is the “single biggest obstacle” impeding the IAEA’s ability to strengthen nuclear security, he said. Under the current system, states request various services, including peer reviews or assistance from the IAEA, but are not obligated to follow through on the agency’s recommendations.

Semmel also said that the 2014 summit should encourage states to budget more resources “without earmarks” for the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund, which is mostly funded by voluntary contributions.

The idea of shifting responsibility for nuclear security from the summit process to the IAEA also has drawn support from other quarters. In a Nov. 16 interview, an official from an Arab country that participated in the Washington and Seoul meetings expressed concern that continuing the summit process would lead to the development of nuclear security standards that impede “access to nuclear technology.” The process should be handed over to the IAEA after the 2014 summit because the agency has “more universal representation,” he said.

The Vienna-based diplomat said that although there has been “some discussion” of giving the IAEA major responsibility for sustaining global efforts on nuclear security, the agency is “a long way from any formal decisions” on that topic.

The Arab official said his country would like to see a greater emphasis at the 2014 summit on securing high-intensity radiological sources. Too narrow a focus on fissile material makes the summit “less relevant” to many participating states, he said. Radiological source security was added to the agenda for the 2012 summit, but participating officials have said it did not receive much attention in Seoul.

Other Institutions

In addition to the IAEA, Holgate cited the United Nations and Interpol, through its Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Unit, as other organizations that could help maintain a global focus on nuclear security. Those three organizations, as well as the European Union, sent representatives to the Seoul summit. Holgate also highlighted the role of “informal institutions” such as the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction.

Another key part of keeping nuclear security as a high priority is the work of national regulatory agencies, she said. Holgate pointed to a planned Dec. 4-6 conference in Rockville, Md., on nuclear security for regulators from around the world, as part of the U.S. effort to raise the profile of that aspect of the issue. She noted that John Brennan, Obama’s chief aide on homeland security and counterterrorism, is scheduled to be one of the keynote speakers.

Brennan’s participation is “intended to signal the level of seriousness” that the United States is putting into an event that otherwise could be seen as “kind of a parochial, trade-level, or lower-level engagement,” she said. IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano also is scheduled to deliver a keynote address to the conference.

“If we can find another country to host a second and a third and a fourth of those regulatory conferences, I think that will contribute strongly to the implementation and durability of security around the world,” Holgate said.

Nuclear security summits held in 2010 and this year have achieved a great deal by focusing world leaders’ attention on the issue of securing nuclear materials, but there are ways to preserve much of that focus once the series of summits ends, a senior U.S. nuclear policy official said last month.

Time Is Now to Act on Treaties to Guard Against Nuclear Terrorism

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Volume 3, Issue 15, December 3, 2012

As the 112th Congress enters its final days, one of its critical priorities should be approving implementing legislation for two treaties that help raise the barriers against nuclear terrorism.

For more than a decade, U.S. defense and security leaders have warned that nuclear terrorism poses a severe threat to American security. The 9/11 Commission report stated, "The greatest danger of another catastrophic attack in the United States will materialize if the world's most dangerous terrorists acquire the world's most dangerous weapons."

During the 2004 presidential debates, the two candidates agreed that "the biggest threat facing the country is weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist network." At the Cooperative Threat Reduction symposium in Washington, D.C., December 3, President Obama reiterated that "nuclear terrorism remains one of the greatest threats to global security."

The task now is for the United States and other key countries to implement the action steps necessary to get the job done.

At the first 2010 nuclear security summit in Washington, the Obama administration announced the acceleration of U.S. efforts to complete ratification procedures for the two treaties. It urged other countries to do the same.

Congress needs to act on the treaty legislation before it so that U.S. law will align with the norms Washington has been seeking to internationalize. The treaties, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, and the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials, are common sense measures that enhance the world's ability to prevent incidents of nuclear terrorism and punish those responsible.

The amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials will add standards of protection for the storage and use of nuclear materials and strengthen existing measures for materials in transport, but the United States and other countries have to ratify the amendment before it can enter into force.

The International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism creates an important legal framework to investigate, prosecute and extradite those who commit terrorist acts with dirty bombs, nuclear material or against nuclear facilities. Such a framework is necessary for effective international action against nuclear terrorists.

As Andy Semmel, a senior State Department official under George W. Bush, recently noted that these treaties "would strengthen the ability of the United States and, ultimately, the international community, to fight the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism and help prevent nuclear proliferation."

By approving these measures, the United States will set a positive example that can influence the actions taken by other nations and help achieve the ambitious goals that the United States endorsed at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit in March 2012. One of these goals is entry into force of the amendment for the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials by 2014.

After strong backing for the treaties from the president and his predecessor, the House of Representatives finally passed compromise implementing legislation earlier this year with broad bipartisan support. House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Michigan) urged prompt passage of their bill in a November 14 letter to the Senate leadership. They explained in the letter that they had "worked together closely, in consultation with the Departments of Justice and State, to carefully craft bipartisan legislation to finally achieve implementation of the critical treaties."

However, rather than facilitating swift Senate action on the treaties, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) slowed the process in the Judiciary Committee by seeking amendments on issues his Republican colleagues in the House had already set aside.

The Grassley amendments are peripheral to the requirements for effective action against nuclear terrorism at home and potentially counter-productive for spurring other states to adopt necessary measures. His insistence on imposing the death sentence in terrorism cases is especially ill-advised considering opposition from most of the world's democracies and ironic from a senator whose own state eliminated capital punishment from its laws in 1965.

Without fast-track treatment by the Senate of the bipartisan bill from the House, there will be no action on the treaties in the current Congress and possibly none in the next. And U.S. inaction will have a negative impact on progress against nuclear terrorism by other countries. As terrorist groups ramp up their attempts to acquire nuclear material, failure to expeditiously support international measures to cope with this threat is irresponsible.

Members of the current Congress confront an enormous challenge in quickly overcoming the rancor of the election campaign to attend to the nation's business over the few weeks remaining in the current session. Passing the bipartisan legislation from the House on the nuclear terrorism treaties would be an excellent start.--GREG THIELMANN

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

Description: 

As the 112th Congress enters its final days, one of its critical priorities should be approving implementing legislation for two treaties that help raise the barriers against nuclear terrorism.

Strains Seen in Japan’s Plutonium Policy

Daniel Horner

Japan’s recently proposed energy strategy is not clear on how to address fundamental policy questions on the country’s approach to spent nuclear fuel, reprocessing, and plutonium use, a Japanese official and a U.S. nuclear expert said in interviews last month.

On Sept. 14, the Japanese government issued an energy strategy document that contemplates the phase-out of nuclear power by about 2040. A cabinet decision five days later made clear that the strategy document did not constitute a binding policy decision, and the strategy could be scrapped entirely if the current Japanese government falls from power in the upcoming elections, which are expected to take place by next summer.

The new energy strategy is part of Japan’s response to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors on March 11, 2011.

For decades, a central part of Japan’s nuclear plans has been what energy and nonproliferation specialists call “closing the fuel cycle.” That involves reprocessing the spent fuel from power reactors to separate plutonium that is then used in making fresh fuel for reactors.

The strategy document says “it is necessary…to tackle squarely” the question of what to do with spent fuel, but does not make specific commitments in that regard. It commits Japan to “continu[ing] its present nuclear fuel cycle policy,” although it adds a few caveats.

“We have not decided anything important” with regard to the plutonium program, the Japanese official said in an Oct. 25 interview. In fact, he said, the policy contains some “contradictory” elements.

For example, the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, where Japan plans to reprocess spent fuel from its power plants, has been authorized to operate beyond the year 2050, but the strategy does not explain how reprocessing will continue if the nuclear power plants that would consume the plutonium separated at Rokkasho have been shut down, he said.

The Rokkasho plant has faced many problems and has not begun commercial operation; the current estimate for its startup is October 2013. Japan has shipped much of its spent fuel to France and the United Kingdom for reprocessing. Of the approximately 44 metric tons of separated plutonium that Japan owns, about nine metric tons are in Japan, with the remaining 35 metric tons roughly evenly split between the two European reprocessors, according to the most recent figures released by Japan.

International Sensitivities

In an Oct. 19 interview, Charles Ferguson, president of the Federation of American Scientists, said Japanese officials are “acutely aware” of the potential concerns in Asia and elsewhere raised by the plutonium surplus. There have been “numerous discussions” with the U.S. government on the issue, said Ferguson, who is co-chairman of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation’s U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group.

Japanese media have reported that, at a meeting in September, U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman encouraged Japanese officials to minimize the amount of plutonium they stockpiled.

In an Oct. 17 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a Poneman aide declined to comment on “the specifics of diplomatic discussions.” With regard to the U.S. policy on reprocessing and plutonium use, she said it is up to the Japanese government to make the decision and “the United States is eager to help in any way Japan finds useful as it explores its future approach to nuclear power.” The United States has proposed that the two countries discuss “the non-proliferation and security aspects of the new nuclear energy policy,” she said.

Domestic Commitments

Ferguson and the Japanese official stressed that the domestic politics of Japan’s fuel cycle are complicated and likely to play a major role in whatever decision the country ultimately makes in that area.

As the two men described it, one of the inducements to the residents of Aomori to agree to host the Rokkasho plant was that it would not become a long-term repository for spent fuel and radioactive waste. Yet, the official said, nuclear operators in Japan also made a commitment to the localities hosting nuclear power plants that they would not have to store spent fuel on-site indefinitely and could transfer it eventually to a reprocessing plant such as the Rokkasho facility. That combination of commitments does not give policymakers much latitude on fuel cycle policy, regardless of what decisions they make with regard to nuclear power, he said.

In addition to plutonium, reprocessing produces so-called high-level waste, which also requires a repository. A key question for Japanese fuel-cycle policy is where the country will decide to locate this facility, Ferguson said.

In part because of the uncertainties about the size of the Japanese reactor fleet in the coming years, it is unclear how rapidly the separated plutonium could be consumed. Ferguson and the official said one option being discussed is to develop fast-neutron reactors, which are capable of “breeding” more plutonium than they consume but also can be used to “burn” plutonium more efficiently than light-water reactors can.

Japan’s recently proposed energy strategy is seen by some as unclear on how to address fundamental policy questions on the country’s approach to spent nuclear fuel, reprocessing, and plutonium use.

Pakistani Security Called Adequate

Kelsey Davenport and Marcus Taylor

Pakistan’s security is adequate to deal with the recent attacks on its military installations, including a Sept. 5 threat to the Dera Ghazi Khan nuclear complex, according to former Pakistani and U.S. officials.

Naeem Salik, former director of arms control and disarmament for Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority, told Arms Control Today in a Sept. 16 e-mail that Pakistan’s nuclear facilities are “very well protected” and security arrangements at sites such as the Dera Ghazi Khan complex are “adequate” to deal with threats such as the one last month. He said that nuclear weapons are not stored at that complex or Minhas air base, which was attacked on Aug. 16. (See ACT, September 2012.)

According to The Express Tribune, a Pakistani newspaper, the threat to the Dera Ghazi Khan complex was discovered when Pakistani intelligence services intercepted a Sept. 5 phone call between two suspected members of the Pakistani branch of the Taliban, known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban. Pakistani newspapers quoted a military officer as characterizing the plans for this attack as the “first-ever serious security threat” to the Dera Ghazi Khan military facilities.

According to Salik, the Dera Ghazi Khan complex includes facilities for uranium mining and processing and for the fabrication of fuel elements for civilian power plants, but contains “no fissile materials or weapons related facilities.”

Pakistani newspapers reported that suicide bombers were planning to gain access to the complex using three or four vehicles. The government responded by deploying forces from the Pakistani army and the local Punjab police. No actual attack on the facility was reported. If such an attack had occurred, it would have caused “more of an embarrassment than any real damage,” given the nature of the nuclear facilities and the remote location of the complex, Salik said.

In a Sept. 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Christopher Clary, who worked on South Asia issues in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said the record of such incidents over the past two years “does not suggest any dramatic worsening in Pakistan’s stability.” He said that Pakistan’s “remarkable ability to muddle through” is “often missed by outsiders.”

Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center and director of its South Asia program, agreed that Pakistani security forces have been “up to the task” of defending against both of the “primary patterns of attack”: attacking “soft targets, like buses, near military installations” and entering “sensitive sites.” In a Sept. 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Krepon said the security forces must take into account the possibilities of “more attacks, and attacks by larger numbers.”

The Obama administration also voiced its confidence in Pakistan’s ability to secure its nuclear arsenal after the attack on Minhas air base. In an Aug. 16 press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States and Pakistan have been discussing nuclear security issues “for quite a long, long time” and that Washington has “confidence” that Islamabad is “well aware” of the threats to its nuclear weapons and has “secured its nuclear arsenal accordingly.”

Clary said that concerns over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, however, are “understandable and appropriate” because it is difficult for nuclear weapons security in any state to “function perfectly all the time.” Such concerns are even more acute in the case of Pakistan, where the militant and terrorist threat makes the situation “more dangerous” than in any of the other countries that possess nuclear weapons, he said.

At an Aug. 14 press briefing, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that if terrorism is not controlled in Pakistan, the country’s nuclear weapons could be at risk.

Clary expressed greater concern over Pakistan’s decision to pursue battlefield nuclear weapons and the country’s “rapid production” of fissile material. He said that the battlefield weapons are the “most worrisome” and if deployed during a conflict would increase risks in several ways.

During a war, they are more likely to be used, he said. Also, he said, “in the event of a war or a crisis, they are more likely to be assembled, mated, and dispersed, increasing the risk of accidents, unauthorized use, or loss of control.”

Pakistan’s security is adequate to deal with the recent attacks on its military installations, including a Sept. 5 threat to the Dera Ghazi Khan nuclear complex, according to former Pakistani and U.S. officials.

Op-Ed: U.S. should cut nuclear stockpile

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By Daryl G. Kimball and Dr. Ira Helfand

The following piece was originally published at Newsday on March 29, 2012.

This week at an international nuclear security summit in South Korea, President Barack Obama's private request to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for "space" on his proposal for cooperation on missile defense was overheard from a live microphone and grabbed the headlines.

The president's public remarks on the nuclear threat, however, were far more noteworthy. "The massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War is poorly suited to today's threats, including nuclear terrorism," he told those in attendance. He announced that the administration is reviewing U.S. nuclear strategy and declared that we can "already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need."

Now, Obama should put his words into action by discarding outdated nuclear war planning assumptions and opening the way toward deeper reductions in obsolete Cold War arsenals.

Changes are in order. The current size of both the U.S. and Russian arsenals -- and the fleet missiles, submarines, and bombers that carry them -- far exceeds what is necessary to deter nuclear attack. Both sides can and should go much lower.

Even under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the United States and Russia can each deploy 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons on as many as 700 missiles and bombers until 2021 or beyond. Thousands of additional warheads are in reserve. Unless they adjust their thinking, both countries will spend hundreds of billions of dollars to modernize and maintain similar nuclear force levels for decades to come.

Obama shouldn't settle for marginal adjustments. Given that no other country deploys more than 300 nuclear weapons -- China possesses just 40 to 50 warheads on intercontinental-range missiles -- he should implement a significant reduction of the U.S. nuclear stockpile to just a few hundred deployed warheads.

During the Cold War, the United States and Russia amassed huge stockpiles to "prevail" in a protracted nuclear war. But such a conflict is extremely unlikely today -- and the size of the nuclear force required to deter an attack is also far smaller. Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong might have been willing to sacrifice tens of millions of their countrymen in a nuclear exchange, but Vladimir Putin andHu Jintao are not.

Speaking of the United States and the Soviet Union in his 1984 State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan said, "The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?"

Until we eliminate nuclear weapons altogether, the United States can deter a nuclear attack with a smaller, but still lethal force of 500 or fewer strategic warheads.

A reliable and credible U.S. nuclear deterrent doesn't require immediate retaliation capabilities, but only the assurance that U.S. nuclear forces would survive a nuclear attack. As Obama correctly said in 2008, this requirement for prompt launch is "a dangerous relic of the Cold War. Such policies increase the risk of catastrophic accidents." He should eliminate the prompt launch requirement, which requires U.S. strategic nuclear forces to be prepared to retaliate in response to a nuclear attack immediately.

By discarding outdated nuclear thinking, the president can open the way for lower U.S.-Russian force levels, either through a new treaty or reciprocal and parallel cuts. The reductions would also enhance prospects for nuclear reductions involving other nuclear-armed states. And that would bring the ultimate goal -- the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons -- closer to reality.

 

Dr. Ira Helfand is the North American vice president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the organization that recieved the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. Daryl G. Kimball is executive director of the independent Arms Control Association in Washington.

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This week at an international nuclear security summit in South Korea, President Barack Obama's private request to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for "space" on his proposal for cooperation on missile defense was overheard from a live microphone and grabbed the headlines.

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Obama on Track With Call for Deeper Nuclear Reductions

President Obama greets attendes after delivering remarks during a visit to Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul on March 26, 2012. (Image Source: LA Times) By Daryl G. Kimball On Monday President Barack Obama delivered a major address on his nuclear security agenda at Hankuk University in Seoul as he and other leaders gather for the second international Nuclear Security Summit. The bulk of his remarks focused on the progress made to secure nuclear weapons usable materials, but he also provided a status report on his broader nuclear risk reduction agenda three years after his stirring...

Letter to the Editor: Pakistan’s Conditions for an FMCT

Zamir Akram’s comments in his interview with Arms Control Today (“The South Asian Nuclear Balance: An Interview With Pakistani Ambassador to the CD Zamir Akram,” December 2011) signal a potentially important shift in Pakistan’s position on allowing negotiations leading to a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT).

For many years, Pakistan has prevented the consensus decision required to start these talks at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, citing its concerns that the mandate for the FMCT talks did not explicitly address asymmetries in existing stockpiles of fissile materials and emphasizing that India had a larger stockpile than Pakistan. In 2008, Pakistan added to its list of objections the decision by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to exempt India from NSG restrictions on the sale of nuclear technology and material to countries outside the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Pakistan also had argued that instead of focusing just on an FMCT, the CD needed to take up other long-standing important issues such as treaties on negative security assurances, prevention of an arms race in outer space, and nuclear disarmament obligations under Article VI of the NPT.

In the interview, Akram made clear that the NSG waiver is now the most important issue preventing Pakistan from letting FMCT talks begin. Asked directly “if Pakistan had an NSG waiver like India, Pakistan would be willing to enter negotiations on an FMCT?” Akram said, simply, “Yes.” If this indeed is now the sole condition for Pakistan to stop obstructing FMCT negotiations, Islamabad has put a very high price on its cooperation. The negotiations are then likely to remain stalled for quite some time.

On the other hand, the interview does not suggest that an NSG waiver for Pakistan will be a sufficient inducement for Pakistan to limit or end its fissile material production during FMCT talks. Akram said, “In the time that we can, we need to enhance our own capabilities so that we have sufficient fissile material for what we would then feel is a credible second-strike capability, or credible deterrence capability.” This could mean Pakistan will seek to slow down any FMCT talks to give itself as much time as possible to build its fissile materials stocks and might not even sign an FMCT whenever it is agreed.

Pakistan’s new position of setting an NSG waiver as the price for letting FMCT talks begin may have unintended consequences. Until now, Pakistan has enjoyed the quiet support of a number of countries that also believed that an FMCT needs to include provisions on accounting for and reducing fissile material stocks and wanted the CD to take up discussions on negative security assurances, preventing an arms race in outer space, and nuclear disarmament. After declaring that its opposition to FMCT negotiations would melt away if it is given an NSG waiver, Pakistan may lose the broad support it has enjoyed until now and may find itself completely isolated in the CD.

 

A. H. Nayyar is a visiting professor of physics at the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan and a member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials.

Zamir Akram’s comments in his interview with Arms Control Today (“The South Asian Nuclear Balance: An Interview With Pakistani Ambassador to the CD Zamir Akram,” December 2011) signal a potentially important shift in Pakistan’s position on allowing negotiations leading to a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT).

P5 Struggles to Unblock FMCT Talks

Tom Z. Collina

Fulfilling a commitment made at the United Nations in July, the world’s five recognized nuclear-weapon states met in Geneva on Aug. 30 to discuss ways to break the logjam at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on a proposed treaty to ban the production of fissile materials for weapons. However, the states, known as the P5 because they also are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, did not agree to pursue negotiations outside the CD, where Pakistan remains opposed to treaty talks.

The P5 position to keep the fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) talks in the CD means that because of the forum’s consensus rule for decision-making, Pakistan’s concerns eventually will have to be addressed if the CD is going to make progress. Negotiations on an FMCT have been held up for years by Islamabad, which is blocking the needed consensus. (See ACT, September 2011.) As one CD representative put it in a recent interview, “Pakistan needs more time to produce more material, and they are happy to wait.”

Zamir Akram, the Pakistani ambassador to the CD, said in an Aug. 30 interview that Islamabad has a “growing window of vulnerability” in relation to India on fissile material stockpiles and that the window “needs to be closed.” According to Akram, the 2008 U.S.-Indian nuclear deal changed the strategic dynamics in South Asia by allowing New Delhi to divert its domestic fissile material production to weapons. (See ACT, July/August 2011.)

Akram said that Pakistan is open to dialogue and wants a “level playing field.” One way to achieve that, he said, is by giving Pakistan a Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver like the one India received in 2008, exempting it from the group’s general policy of requiring that recipients of member states’ nuclear exports place all their nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. (See ACT, October 2008.)

Another approach, Akram said, is to address New Delhi’s fissile material stockpiles in FMCT negotiations. The P5 members are opposed to reducing existing stocks through FMCT talks, however, saying they support the so-called Shannon mandate, which would leave that issue to be resolved during the negotiations.

Pakistan wants clarity and cannot accept “ambiguity” in the talks, Akram said. He has said that Pakistan is “ready to stand in splendid isolation” at the CD.

It is not clear how much support exists in the NSG for a Pakistani waiver. Pakistan also is reportedly seeking a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to Islamabad later this year. An earlier trip had been planned, but U.S.-Pakistani relations took a dive after al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in a covert raid by the U.S. military in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2.

Among the five nuclear-weapon states, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States all have publicly renounced fissile material production for weapons. China is believed to have stopped such production.

India, Israel, and Pakistan, the three countries that never have joined the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), are the only states other than the P5 not legally prohibited from producing fissile materials (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) for nuclear weapons. Only India and Pakistan are believed to be currently producing such materials.

After their meeting, the P5 issued a joint statement supporting the negotiation of an FMCT “at the earliest possible date in the CD” and declaring that it would meet again “with other relevant parties” during the UN General Assembly First Committee’s session in October.

In recent interviews, representatives in Geneva said the statement’s phrase “in the CD” was a concession by the United States, which wants to pursue treaty negotiations outside the 65-nation body to avoid Pakistan’s veto. The Obama administration has said repeatedly over the last year that if the CD could not start negotiations, then “other options” would need to be considered. China and Russia, on the other hand, want the talks to stay in the CD and do not support other venues, in which the consensus rule might not apply.

The P5 did agree to discuss strategy for moving the talks forward in the CD. Such discussions may also include “other relevant parties” such as India, Israel, and Pakistan, which could be asked to join, according to officials.

Other countries, such as Canada and Mexico, are seeking to start FMCT negotiations in the UN General Assembly, according to the Geneva representatives. These delegations say that the rule of consensus in the CD is outdated and needs to be changed. If there is no consensus, they say, the issue should be brought to the UN where nations can take a vote. Canada, along with others, said in a Sept. 21 statement that it would introduce a resolution along these lines at the UN General Assembly in October.

Fulfilling a commitment made at the United Nations in July, the world’s five recognized nuclear-weapon states met in Geneva on Aug. 30 to discuss ways to break the logjam at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on a proposed treaty to ban the production of fissile materials for weapons. However, the states, known as the P5 because they also are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, did not agree to pursue negotiations outside the CD, where Pakistan remains opposed to treaty talks.

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