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– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Fissile Material

G-8 Extends WMD Initiative

Peter Crail

Leaders from the Group of Eight (G-8) major world economies agreed during a two-day annual summit in Deauville, France, to extend a 10-year effort aimed at reducing threats from nonconventional weapons.

The eight countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) launched the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction at the group’s 2002 summit in Kananaskis, Canada. They pledged $20 billion over 10 years to fund projects safeguarding and destroying nonconventional weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union.

In a May 27 declaration from Deauville, the G-8 leaders welcomed “the concrete achievements and measurable results” of the Global Partnership and agreed to extend the initiative for an unspecified period beyond its 2012 expiration. Rather than pledging a given amount of funding for additional threat reduction projects as in 2002, the declaration said that participants in the partnership “will decide on funding of such projects on a national, joint, or multilateral basis.”

In a May 31 interview, Bonnie Jenkins, the Department of State coordinator for threat reduction programs, said the G-8 partners will focus on determining funding and specific projects over the next year, adding that the benefit of agreeing on an extension a year early is that there is time to agree on the details. The G-8 also said it would expand membership beyond the 23 countries that currently participate in the partnership. Jenkins said new partners would likely include participants in last year’s nuclear security summit and other countries already involved in funding similar initiatives.

The G-8 first took up the prospect of extending the partnership during the annual summit last year in Muskoka, Canada, but G-8 diplomats said last month that the eight countries could not reach agreement on extension at that time due to opposition from Germany. The diplomats said that Germany’s concerns about extending the initiative were related both to financial considerations stemming from the global recession and to uncertainties about new types of projects in which it would be more difficult to determine whether funds were being used effectively.

Global Partnership projects initially were carried out in Russia and Ukraine and focused on destroying chemical weapons, dismantling nuclear submarines, disposing of nuclear weapons-usable material, and employing scientists who had worked on nonconventional weapons. The G-8 agreed in 2008 to expand the initiative’s activities worldwide and has increasingly engaged in threat reduction efforts beyond the four priority areas. (See ACT, September 2008.)

Highlighting some of the changes in the nature of Global Partnership efforts since 2002, a State Department official told Arms Control Today last October that “now we’re in a new CTR [Cooperative Threat Reduction] environment that’s not as clear-cut as before,” adding that “we need time to figure out where the threats are, what the priorities are, and what to fund first.” The official said that the new CTR environment involved not only the expansion of activities outside the former Soviet Union, but also new efforts such as biosecurity, radiological security, and export controls.

The May 27 declaration said that the G-8 remained “committed to completing priority projects in Russia.”

The State Department official noted that although Germany did not agree last year to extend the Global Partnership, it was still engaged in funding a variety of other nonproliferation initiatives, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Nuclear Security Fund.

The May 27 declaration also reiterated the G-8’s commitment, first made in 2009, to adopt criteria being considered by the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for the transfer of technologies related to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing, both of which can be used to produce material for nuclear weapons. All G-8 members also participate in the NSG, which is meeting this month in the Netherlands.

In 2009 the G-8 agreed to implement for one year the proposed criteria for sensitive exports, pending a decision by the NSG regarding the adoption of such rules. It renewed that commitment in 2010. The NSG has not yet completed its negotiations on the criteria, which were proposed in November 2008.

In a likely reference to a proposal last year that India be allowed to join the NSG and other multilateral export control regimes (see ACT, December 2010), the G-8 said that it would “consider the enlargement of the suppliers’ groups to responsible stakeholders in a manner consistent with the groups’ procedures and objectives.”

A key criterion for membership in the NSG is that the country is a party to and complying with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty. A decision to allow India to join would mark the first exception to that policy.The NSG was formed largely in response to India’s 1974 nuclear test. Until 2008, India was not eligible to receive exports from NSG members because it is a non-NPT state and does not open all its nuclear facilities to international inspections. But in response to a U.S.-led initiative, the group agreed to lift that requirement for India in return for certain nonproliferation “commitments and actions.” (See ACT, October 2008.)


The Group of Eight major economies agreed to extend a 2002 initiative aimed at securing and eliminating nonconventional weapons and materials. The decision comes a year before the original mandate for the effort was set to expire.

The ‘Pursuit of a Win-Win Situation’ at the Conference on Disarmament: Questions and Answers With Wang Qun

Wang Qun is Chinese ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary for disarmament affairs and permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), a position he has held since 2007. He was president of the CD from March 21 to May 29, 2011. He agreed to answer written questions from Arms Control Today on the CD’s current stalemate, which is preventing progress on the negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) and on other disarmament issues.

ACT: In your March 17 address to the CD, you said, “In my view, [the] CD’s deadlock is attributable first and foremost to political factors. The CD’s work is like a barometer of the evolving international security situation.” From China’s perspective, what are the political and security factors that are leading some states to block the implementation of formal talks on a verifiable FMCT and other elements of the CD work plan?

Wang: The CD deadlock is indeed attributable primarily to political and security factors. This is presumably self-evident as the relevant countries already have been most forthcoming and explicit, on the record, as to what difficulties they see in embarking on a process of negotiating an FMCT at the CD. However, it should be noted that different countries sought or have sought, at different points over the past 12 years, to block the CD negotiation of an FMCT out of various political or security considerations.

Countries may differ in terms of their size or position; their security concerns could, nevertheless, equally be relevant at the CD and subsequently bear on its work. This is a fact of life before us, and such concerns should be duly addressed.

ACT: Some countries have suggested that the consensus rule should not be applied to procedural matters at the CD and should instead be restricted to substantive work in order to prevent a single state from using procedure to prevent the start of negotiations. What is China’s position on this matter? From your position as CD president, are there any other procedural adjustments that can help make the CD a more efficient and effective part of the UN disarmament machinery?

Wang: From China's perspective, what needs to be sorted out in the first place is whether the current CD deadlock stems from the machinery per se. Although it is true that some dislike the CD because they find its consensus rule detestable, others like the CD precisely for this reason. If the CD is a body with inherent flaws, then why, within the same mechanism and under the same rules of procedure, was it able to negotiate and conclude treaties such as the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Chemical Weapons Convention, and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty? This question merits our reflection.

As CD president, I am open to any suggestions and stand to be guided by member states as to whether or how procedural adjustments should be made so as to help make the CD a more efficient and effective part of the UN disarmament machinery. That, I believe, is not only the right of member states, but also provided for in explicit terms in the existing Rules of Procedure of the Conference on Disarmament.

ACT: What steps is your government taking to persuade Pakistan to allow the CD to begin the long process of negotiations on the fissile material production issue? What steps could other countries undertake to address Pakistan’s stated concerns about an FMCT?

Wang: Beijing believes that a negotiated FMCT at the CD is in everyone’s interests and wishes to see those negotiations commence as soon as possible. We thus have been doing our very best to make the case to all relevant interlocutors, including Pakistan. For an FMCT to be meaningful, it is essential that all countries with the capability of producing fissile materials be on board.

Pakistan has its concerns about an FMCT, but exerting pressure on Pakistan at every turn, for fear of Islamabad’s blocking of the CD, is undesirable if not counterproductive. To make it worse, such fears may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What is desirable is to give equal weight to the legitimate security concerns of various countries in pursuit of a win-win situation based on security for all. In the meantime, the dialogue between the countries concerned is also crucial if the issues related to the CD deadlock are to be put behind us.

ACT: In your view, how can the current CD impasse be broken, so that the CD can commence its negotiation of an FMCT? Is there any specific formula to that end?

Wang: As the current CD deadlock is primarily attributable to political factors, the solution lies in political will and political wisdom, coupled with the right perception and working methods. In this context, we should work to detect and identify any evolving consensus even in the embryonic stages, especially by proceeding from the actual effects, with an FMCT as the objective.

The CD is now bogged down in a debate about how to define or characterize, in the context of the CD’s program of work, its ongoing exercise, i.e., “negotiation“ or “discussion“ of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. In the meantime, we should not fail to recognize the following basic common understanding, i.e., no delegation has hitherto sought to dispute the early commencement, on the basis of the CD’s balanced and comprehensive program of work, of its substantive work, which naturally covers the subject of the above treaty on the basis of the Shannon mandate (CD/1299 of March 24, 1995). Moreover, there has been, in fact, constructive and serious work at the CD, inter alia, on such a treaty, especially since the beginning of this year.

Although some may see the above common understanding as insignificant, it should not be belittled. On the other hand, the current CD debate on “negotiation“ versus “discussion,” no matter how significant, should not be unduly emphasized, especially with the caveat that the CD exercise is not linguistic in nature. Further, it is axiomatic that, if a treaty is reached, the process leading up to its conclusion can only be negotiation whereas, even if no one seeks to dispute embarking on a “negotiating process,” there could be considerable skepticism about whether it may produce something to that effect as long as a treaty remains elusive.

So, what do we want, “negotiation” or an FMCT? This question merits our serious reflection, on the basis of the 2009 program of work (CD/1864 of May 29, 2009), if an FMCT is really the aim.

ACT: The CD has long been considered to be the sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament. Given the availability of other forums for discussing disarmament issues, how can the CD maintain its distinct role if it cannot begin substantive talks on issues of interest to many countries, including a fissile material cutoff, weapons in space, and negative nuclear security assurances? If the CD remains deadlocked, are there other ways and other forums through which progress on these matters might be achieved? Some countries have initiated informal expert-level discussions on an FMCT to discuss issues such as definitions and verification. How does China view these discussions, and what role does China play in them?

Wang: The CD is a good body. While it is true that it has not concluded any new treaties since 1998, its achievements or failures should nevertheless be viewed from a historical perspective.

Certain countries are, to my knowledge, thinking of setting up a “new kitchen” so as to move FMCT negotiations out of the CD. If the purpose of such a move is to reach a negotiated FMCT, we should be clear, if not clearer, about what the objective of the prospective treaty is in the first place. What is the relevance of such a treaty reached outside the CD in the absence of the participation of key countries with the capability of producing fissile materials, and how, under such circumstances, do we achieve the objective of nonproliferation of nuclear materials?

Although it presumably is not difficult at all for the FMCT negotiations to be moved out of the CD, it is nevertheless difficult for any new or alternative mechanism to replace the role and have the same effect as the CD, a nonexclusive disarmament and nonproliferation body with members from all regions and groups, both developed and developing. It includes, in particular, the five NPT nuclear-weapon states and other countries with nuclear weapons or certain nuclear capabilities. This, I believe, merits our careful reflection.

As for the “informal expert-level discussions on an FMCT” you referred to, I think such discussions per se are useful, though they would be truly meaningful only if channeled into the CD process on the treaty with the participation of all relevant countries.

Beijing, for its part, would like to see “a good treaty” through “good negotiation” at the CD. By “good negotiation,” we mean open and transparent intergovernmental negotiation conducted on the basis of the rules of procedure of the CD and with the participation of all countries with the capability of producing fissile materials. By “a good treaty,” we mean an FMCT that brings on board all relevant countries.

ACT: China repeatedly has expressed its support for an FMCT as an important nonproliferation instrument. China also is widely believed to have halted fissile material production for weapons, yet it is the only country among the five NPT nuclear-weapon states that has not formally declared a halt to fissile material production for weapons. Can you clarify whether China is producing fissile material for weapons purposes? If not, under what circumstances would China consider joining France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States in declaring that it has halted such production?

Wang: You’re right to look at this issue in the context of Beijing’s support for an FMCT as an important nonproliferation instrument. Beijing, for its part, has many misgivings about the notion of a “moratorium on fissile material production for weapons.” The rationales behind this are, firstly, that it will very much undercut international efforts to activate the FMCT negotiation process at the CD, and secondly, that it is neither legally binding nor verifiable. Moreover, it is not clear which fissile material is supposed to be subject to the moratorium. So, I do think that an FMCT at the CD is what international efforts should be focused on.


Wang Qun is Chinese ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary for disarmament affairs and permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), a position he has held since 2007. He was president of the CD from March 21 to May 29, 2011. He agreed to answer written questions from Arms Control Today on the CD’s current stalemate, which is preventing progress on the negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) and on other disarmament issues.

A World Without Nuclear Weapons Is a Joint Enterprise

James Goodby

With the entry into force of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between Russia and the United States, the time has come to widen the conversations about eliminating nuclear weapons to include other nuclear-armed states and states with advanced civil nuclear programs. Their support for creating the necessary conditions for achieving a world without nuclear weapons is essential in practice as well as in principle.

Russia and the United States have urgent unfinished business: reductions in the number of nuclear weapons beyond those scheduled in New START, including warheads associated with short-range delivery systems. Yet, talks limited to Russia and the United States alone cannot succeed in creating conditions conducive to achieving a world without nuclear weapons. The U.S. Senate, in its resolution of ratification for New START, “calls upon the other nuclear weapon states to give careful and early consideration to corresponding reductions of their own nuclear arsenals.” That is good advice.

The nuclear weapons programs of other countries are major barriers to sustained Russian-U.S. reductions in nuclear weap­onry and can encourage further proliferation in the absence of solid signs of commitment to the goals of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). These programs are cited again and again in critical commentary on the feasibility and even desirability of the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. If other states that possess nuclear weapons were to join in a reduction and elimination program, even with small initial steps, the effect on Russia and the United States would be catalytic. It would energize their efforts to move toward deep reductions and ultimately the elimination of nuclear weapons. It also would help with nonproliferation efforts around the world.

A Relic of the Cold War

Historically, the involvement of other nuclear-armed states in nuclear reductions negotiations has not been a high priority for the United States. The focus has been on U.S. negotiations with Russia because those two countries account for about 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. The involvement of other states has been seen as an obstacle in an already complex, bilateral U.S.-Russian negotiation. Furthermore, expanding the roster of countries in the negotiations has been seen as complicating U.S. relations with its allies, France and the United Kingdom. These arguments are now relics of Cold War circumstances.

Four years ago, an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal revolutionized thinking in the United States and elsewhere about the future of nuclear weapons. George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn wrote that “reassertion of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and practical measures toward achieving that goal would be, and would be perceived as, a bold initiative consistent with America’s moral heritage.”[1] They warned that the world is at a tipping point in its capacity to avoid nuclear catastrophe. The article identified several “agreed and urgent steps” that should be taken to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. Even before listing those steps, the authors called “first and foremost” for “intensive work with leaders of the countries in possession of nuclear weapons to turn the goal of a world without nuclear weapons into a joint enterprise.”

During his first year in office, President Barack Obama accepted the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and the step-by-step method of achieving it. On September 24, 2009, he presided over a summit meeting of the UN Security Council on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament. In Resolution 1887, the council resolved “to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons” and called on parties to the NPT “to undertake to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear arms reductions and disarmament.”

The United States and Russia acted together to comply with that mandate. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed New START on April 8, 2010. On December 22, 2010, the Senate gave its assent to ratification of the treaty. The Russian legislature followed suit on January 26, 2011. On February 5, 2011, New START entered into force with the exchange of instruments of ratification between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Roles for All States

The Security Council resolution did not exclude other nuclear-armed countries when it called for an undertaking by NPT parties to pursue negotiations relating to nuclear arms reduction and disarmament. No state was excused from the task of helping to create the conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons. The purpose was not to urge Russia and the United States to reduce their nuclear arsenals while other states looked on. In fact, the resolution called “for further progress on all aspects of disarmament to enhance global security.”

In a 2010 essay published by the AmericanAcademy of Arts and Sciences, Scott Sagan quite correctly pointed out that all parties to the NPT have a “shared responsibility” for disarmament and nonproliferation. Indeed, the treaty’s Article VI states that “[e]ach of the Parties to the Treaty”—not just the nuclear-weapon states—“undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”[2]

One of the first things that states can do is promote enhanced transparency. The final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference welcomed “efforts towards the development of nuclear disarmament verification capabilities that will be required to provide assurance of compliance with nuclear disarmament agreements for the achievement and maintenance of a nuclear-weapon-free world.” It noted the cooperation between Norway, a non-nuclear-weapon state, and the United Kingdom on establishing a system for verifying the dismantlement of nuclear warheads.

Transparency is a crucial part of moving toward a nuclear-weapon-free world. The five countries that the NPT recognizes as nuclear-weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—held a meeting addressing that issue in London in 2009 and are expected to meet again in Paris later this year. Transparency, however, is a global requirement. Exchanges of data on nuclear programs and on holdings of fissile materials by all countries could be conducted on a regional basis, or they could be managed through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on a global basis. If the nuclear-armed states entered into an agreement not to use fissile material to build more nuclear weapons, an exchange of data would be an essential part of the verification process. Furthermore, Sidney Drell and Christopher Stubbs have suggested that the Open Skies Treaty has provided a successful framework for addressing verification challenges and that its membership should be expanded and its suite of sensors modernized. This could be an important feature of transparency programs related to production of fissile material.[3]

Agreed and Urgent Steps

These kinds of transparency and confidence-building measures might be necessary precursors to other, more concrete advances toward a nuclear-weapon-free world because reductions of weapons stockpiles likely would not be the first step that the owners of smaller nuclear arsenals would take. They would need to build more mutual confidence than currently exists and gain experience in working together. A wide array of cooperative actions is available to nuclear-armed states and to states with advanced civil nuclear programs. Many of these actions could be pursued without delay. They would block further nuclear proliferation, an essential element in the effort to eliminate the nuclear threat.

Entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was one of the “urgent” steps suggested in the Wall Street Journal op-ed. It would be a powerful nonproliferation tool. Adherence by all states to an IAEA additional protocol, a step that would promote international confidence that a country was not pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program, is another practical and realizable step. Several practical steps taken by individual states were identified in the documents emerging from the 47-state Washington nuclear security summit in April 2010. The work plan that emerged from the summit committed the countries to support the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, UN Security Council Resolution 1540, and several IAEA initiatives. The experience of working together to tighten controls over nuclear materials is in itself a confidence-building measure.

Important early progress could be accomplished by a declaration among countries that have advanced civil or military nuclear programs that “fissile materials removed from nuclear weapons being eliminated and excess to national security require­ments will not be used to manufacture nuclear weapons; no newly pro­duced fissile materials will be used in nuclear weapons; and fissile mater­ials from or within civil nuclear programs will not be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.”

This language appears in a declaration issued by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1995.[4] Early agree­ment on these points by all states with advanced nuclear programs would be a signal that they are determined to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. A coalition of states acting in this fashion would accelerate agreement by Russia and the United States on deeper cuts in their nuclear arsenals.

Discussions about a treaty with a similar intent that would be applicable evenhandedly to all countries have been under way in the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, the UN forum for multilateral arms control negotiations, for several years. No serious negotiations have ever occurred, and the prospect for change in that situation is bleak. Nonetheless, these talks should continue. A binding and verifiable treaty should be negotiated, if possible, but the declaration described above would be much more than a stopgap measure. It would have value as a bridge to a vigorous joint enterprise to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Building a Coalition

International cooperation on sensitive nuclear issues should become easier if all nuclear-armed states visibly decided to opt out of nuclear weapons programs and states with advanced civil or military nuclear programs endorsed the CTBT and the declaration to disavow use of fissile material in future production of nuclear weapons. Russian and U.S. leadership will be required in measures such as these, but regional initiatives obviously must come from states in those regions. The other permanent members of the UN Security Council—China, France, and the United Kingdom—will have to assume leadership roles in a nonproliferation coalition if the global enterprise is to become a reality. However, this work should not be limited to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Some of the measures are complex and therefore would require some time to negotiate; the relevant countries should start discussions now. Just beginning such talks would be a symbol of their intent and would tend to establish a nonproliferation coalition. These more complex measures include:

Settlement of regional disputes. Global agreements on nuclear weapons will not be sufficient in areas of the world where conflicts between regional powers have been deep-seated and intractable. A resolution of these differences will take a long time and will be multifaceted. One initial action could be regional negotiations on military confidence-building measures such as those that were negotiated as part of the Helsinki process in Europe. Restraints on conventional military operations could be negotiated, followed by protocols affecting weapons of mass destruction to augment existing global agreements, such as the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). These might entail “adversarial” inspections between rival states. Israel has supported the concept of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. This procedure is probably the best way to deal with such weapons in that region; reliance only on global agreements is not likely to be sufficient. A final stage in this progression from regional first steps would be agreements not to permit nuclear weapons, built locally or elsewhere, within the borders of a treaty-defined region. In such cases, rules regarding permissible nuclear activities might be applied, consistent with rules worked out in broader international negotiations.

Multilateralizing uranium-enrichment programs.[5] An international norm that sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle should be subject to multinational ownership, providing opportunities to invest and participate in the management of such facilities while protecting the technology involved, could reduce incentives for states to acquire their own national facilities. All plans for new commercial enrichment facilities should be based on the presumption that the facilities will be owned multinationally and their operations safeguarded by the IAEA. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) should give preference to such facilities when considerations about selling enrichment equipment and technology emerge. Selling enrichment technology is a rare event, but it would become even rarer if the NSG agreed on this approach. Existing commercial facilities or those under construction that are not already owned multinationally should be encouraged to convert to multinational ownership, with their operations safeguarded by the IAEA.

International interim storage sites for spent nuclear fuel. The storage of spent fuel in cooling pools adjacent to the reactors in which the fuel was used is a common practice, in the United States and elsewhere. Events following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan showed the hazards that are inherent in this practice. Developing and funding a program for storing spent fuel in dry casks is a necessity. The back end of the nuclear fuel cycle has attracted considerable attention in the United States, partly because the Obama administration set aside plans to send U.S. utilities’ spent fuel to the YuccaMountain repository in Nevada. “Cradle-to-grave” fuel services that would provide for leasing and take-back arrangements currently are seen as an attractive option in Washington although the United States has been reluctant to serve as a site for returned spent fuel. Regional, interim spent-fuel centers make a great deal of sense. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher, in a presentation at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution in January 2010, discussed the idea, pointing out that spent fuel could be stored at reactor sites while it was cooling and then be moved to an international interim-storage facility to await a decision on ultimate disposition.[6] (As the recent Japanese experience shows, at-reactor storage must be carefully planned; the location of reactors and associated spent-fuel cooling ponds is a critical issue.)

The idea of an interim storage facility should be pursued with a greater sense of urgency in light of the dangers shown in the case of Fukushima Daiichi. Moreover, in connection with turning the goal of a world without nuclear weapons into a joint enterprise, an effort to create regional interim-storage facilities deserves a high priority. It would contribute to nonproliferation objectives by providing international safeguards for material that can be turned into weapons. Also, it visibly would strengthen the practice of shared responsibility.

Unilateral or parallel reductions or freezes in nuclear weapons stockpiles. New START provides a treaty basis for reductions in the nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States. France and the United Kingdom have unilaterally reduced their nuclear weapons stockpiles. A freeze at present levels on the part of China, India, and Pakistan would be a welcome contribution by those countries to the joint enterprise. In contrast, a buildup of nuclear weapons by those states would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the United States and Russia to move beyond New START. A good beginning in providing reassurance on this score would be the suggestion above for a joint statement regarding nonuse of fissile material for weapons modeled after the 1995 Clinton-Yeltsin declaration.

Continued work with Iran to block that country’s development of a nuclear weapons capability and with North Korea to freeze and then roll back its nuclear weapons program will be essential. In fact, a failure to accomplish that level of cooperation with new or nascent nuclear-weapon states almost certainly will doom the whole nonproliferation project.

Required Conditions

At some relatively early point in a joint enterprise to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons, future Russian-U.S. reductions would become part of a multilateral framework. No longer would Russia and the United States proceed with nuclear reductions in the absence of some kind of limits on the nuclear forces of other countries. This is not the place to discuss the many models of multilateral nuclear arms reductions. Such models are not valid predictors of actual reductions, but they do provide a framework for examining key security issues that countries will face as they approach and enter the end state, i.e., no assembled nuclear weapons. Among the issues that the nuclear-armed states and the countries with advanced civilian nuclear programs could usefully discuss at an early date is the conditions that should be met before nuclear weapons are completely eliminated. This exercise should help them realize that the goal is a difficult one to reach, but by no means is it a fantasy. It should help to validate the goal and strengthen the commitment to proceed, step by step, to a world without nuclear weapons, and it should help them design the kinds of practical safeguards they would want to have in any program intended to eliminate nuclear weapons.

At this point, it appears that four key conditions will need to be met during the course of reducing nuclear arsenals:

Procedures for challenge inspections to search for concealed warheads should have been established and satisfactorily exercised. U.S.-Russian agreements following New START are to deal with nondeployed warheads. Methods for monitoring declared nondeployed warheads have been studied for many years. These include the use of chain-of-custody techniques, such as tags and seals and perimeter and portal monitoring. Searching for concealed warheads is a different matter, and procedures akin to those used by the IAEA under its additional protocol or in the CTBT or CWC would come into play. This would require short-notice visits to suspect sites and some kind of managed inspections with agreed types of instrumentation.

As Sidney Drell and Raymond Jeanloz point out, “[I]t is not feasible to sustain a concealed stockpile of effective and reliable nuclear weapons by passive means.”[7] Activities conducted by a state that tried to conceal a viable cache of nuclear weapons would be a tip-off to the likely location of undeclared concealed warheads. Such activities would justify a request for an on-site inspection on short notice. Effective operation for some years of a monitoring system that included short-notice visits on demand would be one condition for proceeding to eliminate all assembled weapons.

Warheads scheduled for elimination should have been dismantled under conditions that would assure that their actual dismantling can be confirmed, with the nuclear components placed in secure and monitored storage, pending final disposition. The United States and Russia have discussed the mechanics of doing this at least twice, once bilaterally and later with the participation of the IAEA.[8] Techniques have been proposed that would protect especially sensitive design information while confirming that the nuclear components of a weapon were inside a container queuing up for dismantling. The Nunn-Lugar program, adopted by the U.S. Congress under the leadership of Senators Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Nunn (D-Ga.), provides funding and expertise to promote nonproliferation activities, originally in the states of the former Soviet Union. Under this program, the United States supported Russia in the construction of storage facilities for dismantled warheads. The irreversibility of dismantling would be assured by U.S. and Russian inspectors at storage sites in each country. IAEA involvement also might be useful. Methods that have been developed by the United States and Russia might not be directly transferred in every detail to other states. In each country that has started the process of eliminating nuclear weapons, however, arrangements very similar to the U.S.-Russian ones should have been put in place before agreement to complete the elimination process.

Delivery vehicles scheduled for elimination should have been verifiably destroyed and procedures should be in place to confirm that dual-use systems—those capable of delivering conventional or nuclear warheads—have not been armed with nuclear warheads. This condition is necessary to assure that countries cannot break out rapidly from an agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons. It is an essential element of the preceding two conditions. Techniques for eliminating delivery vehicles such as bombers and ballistic and cruise missiles have been applied in the original START and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and will be applied in New START.

The complication presented by the use of conventional high-explosive warheads with delivery vehicles typically associated with nuclear weapons has been resolved until now by counting all such delivery vehicles as nuclear armed. That will not be appropriate as nuclear weapons are reduced to zero and a relatively large number of delivery vehicles are equipped with conventional warheads. A procedure wherein all nuclear-capable delivery vehicles are inspected to confirm the absence of nuclear weapons will be required. Previous agreements also have banned nuclear weapons storage sites within specified distances of missile sites. Some variation on this arrangement also will be necessary, as well as new cooperative measures designed to facilitate detection of illicit movement of nuclear warheads.

Compliance mechanisms should have been established to enforce nuclear agreements. Commissions designed to discuss and, if possible, resolve questions that arise in the process of implementing arms reduction treaties have been organized as integral parts of U.S.-Soviet/Russian nuclear reduction agreements; a similar commission is part of New START. Those consultative instruments are essential to the management of treaty compliance and probably would be adopted by other countries that have been engaged in bilateral adversarial relationships. As nuclear weapons reductions become a multilateral enterprise, bilateral or regional oversight of implementation will have to be supplemented by international arrangements by entities such as the IAEA or the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, established in December 1999 and terminated in June 2007, to monitor Iraq’s compliance with UN Security Council resolutions calling for elimination of all Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Creating a strengthened international capacity to enforce treaty compliance will be a daunting challenge, but it is one of the conditions that should have been met before countries get rid of the last of their nuclear weapons. There generally will be ambiguities about specific issues of compliance. For that reason, the basic requirements of a verification system are the capacity to present credible, preferably ironclad, evidence regarding any violations of a treaty. That means that an enforcement organization must have the technical expertise, the international legitimacy, and the freedom of access that will permit it to convincingly tell the public what it has discovered. Armed with that evidence, the UN Security Council, if necessary, can authorize actions under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. If one of the permanent members of the council is involved, other nuclear-weapon states can take actions to reconstitute nuclear arsenals that they had dismantled. This form of nuclear deterrence is likely to be the enforcement mechanism for many, perhaps most, cases of potential violations.

Progress should have been made in addressing and resolving regional disputes that threaten to trigger military actions. One of the merits of making the elimination of nuclear weapons a truly international enterprise is that it shines a spotlight on “frozen conflicts,” disputes that have festered for so long that they have become accepted as inevitable. Such disputes will have to be addressed and at least ameliorated, if not completely resolved, if global progress in the elimination of nuclear weapons is to be anything more than a lovely dream. Russia and the United States are very unlikely to consider reducing their stocks of nuclear weapons to the 500 level, one of the targets often cited, while Pakistan continues to build nuclear warheads as has been alleged recently. Other countries that might be contemplating increasing their inventories should consider the impact on the global holdings of nuclear weapons and the potential for accelerated proliferation of national nuclear weapons programs. If a resolution of nuclear issues in Iran and North Korea cannot be found, the world certainly will tip toward the expectation, almost certainly a correct one, that the NPT no longer will be a serious factor in international relations.

The regional disputes in the Near East, South Asia, and Northeast Asia have profound implications for any effort to save and extend the nonproliferation regime that has been in place since the 1970s. The news on those fronts is not so bad. Recently, India and Pakistan tentatively agreed to renew talks. The vague outlines of a possible settlement in the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia more broadly have been discernible for many years. Recent democratic revolutions in the Near East have unsettled that region, but they point toward a focus on internal reform rather than external adventures.

Summing Up

The days when the interests of two superpowers dominated the world’s strategic nuclear agenda are over. The days when the five NPT nuclear-weapon states had a decisive voice in global nuclear weapons issues are fading fast. As Russian and U.S. nuclear forces are reduced, other countries’ nuclear arsenals will loom larger in security calculations. Regional conflicts also generate their own sets of impulses that affect nuclear decisions. The political dynamics of Asia and Europe are different today than during the Cold War. Eliminating the threat posed by nuclear weapons requires that many states actively participate in negotiations to reduce all nuclear weapons pro­grams anywhere in the world.

The level of nuclear forces that Moscow and Washington may try to reach in the next phase could be achieved without the participation of other nuclear-armed states. Russia and the United States still will have by far the greatest numbers of nuclear weapons in their arsenals even after additional reductions. In practice, however, unless there is a widely and, preferably, universally shared commitment to progressively eliminate all nuclear weapons, the momentum necessary to sustain further Russian-U.S. negoti­ations will be lost.

The recognized nuclear-weapon states and the countries possessing advanced civil or military nuclear programs should join together to begin the process necessary to create conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons. These conditions can be identified and discussed even now, and implementing the first steps will provide the necessary real-world experience to fulfill those conditions and achieve the vision of a nuclear-weapon-free world. A number of near- and midterm measures are available and could be implemented in short order. Others are more difficult, but beginning to talk about them as a joint enterprise would be very important symbolically.

James Goodby is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at StanfordUniversity and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He was involved in the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the negotiation of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, military transparency measures in Europe, and cooperative threat reduction. He is the author or editor of several books on international security. This article draws from his chapter in SIPRI Yearbook 2010: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security.


1. See George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” The Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007, p. A15.

2. Scott D. Sagan, “Shared Responsibilities for Nuclear Disarmament,” Daedalus, Vol. 138, No. 4 (Fall 2009), pp. 157-168.

3. Sidney Drell and Christopher Stubbs, “Realizing the Potential of Open Skies” (unpublished) (copy on file with the author).

4. American Presidency Project, “Joint Statement on the Transparency and Irreversibility of the Process of Reducing Nuclear Weapons,” Moscow, May 10, 1995, www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=51341.

5. For a fuller discussion of this concept, see James Goodby and Geoffrey Forden, “Proceedings of MIT’s Workshop on Internationalizing Uranium Enrichment Facilities: Executive Summary,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology, October 20-21, 2008, http://web.mit.edu/stgs/pdfs/SummaryUpdatedMarch2009.pdf. For other papers associated with the workshop, see http://web.mit.edu/stgs/WorkshopOct2008.html.

6. Ellen Tauscher, “Addressing the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Internationalizing Enrichment Services and Solving the Problem of Spent Fuel Storage,” Stanford, CA, January 19, 2010, www.state.gov/t/us/136426.htm.

7. Sidney Drell and Raymond Jeanloz, “Nuclear Deterrence After Zero,” in Deterrence: Its Past and Future, ed. George Shultz, Sidney Drell, and James Goodby (Stanford, CA: Hoover Press, 2011), ch. 3.

8. For a discussion of the former, see Harold Feiveson, ed., The Nuclear Turning Point (Washington, DC: Brookings Press, 1999).


Conversations about eliminating nuclear weapons should be expanded to include countries beyond Russia and the United States. Talks limited to those two states cannot create the conditions that would lead to a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Pursuing the Prague Agenda: An Interview With White House Coordinator Gary Samore

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

Gary Samore is White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction terrorism. Before joining the Obama administration in 2009, he was vice president for studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. During the Clinton administration, he served as special assistant to the president and senior director for nonproliferation and export controls.

Arms Control Today spoke with Samore in his office April 7. Among the topics covered in the interview were the current impasse in talks with Iran on its nuclear program, the modernization and expansion of nuclear weapons programs in Asia, and the U.S. approach to talks with Russia on missile defense and tactical nuclear weapons.

The interview was transcribed by Xiaodon Liang. It has been edited for clarity.

ACT: It has now been two years since President Barack Obama’s April 2009 Prague speech, in which he outlined his vision for addressing the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. A central part of that vision was the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [New START] with Russia, which entered into force earlier this year.

But New START still leaves both sides with very substantial numbers of nuclear weapons. The president has declared his intention to seek further bilateral nuclear reductions involving deployed and nondeployed, strategic and tactical warheads, and national security adviser Tom Donilon recently said, “We are ready to begin discussions soon with Russia on transparency and confidence-building measures that could provide the basis for creative verification measures in the next round.”

What factors will help determine how much further each side is prepared to trim its remaining arsenals? What types of verification, transparency, and confidence-building measures would help provide the basis for further reductions?

Samore: Well, let me speak on the U.S. side because I can’t really talk about how the Russians make their decisions—but I can speculate. As far as we’re concerned, we’ll need to do a strategic review of what our force requirements are and then, based on that, the president will have options available for additional reductions. That review is ongoing. It’s likely to take quite a bit of time because we’ve reached the level in our forces where further reductions will raise questions about whether we retain the triad or whether we go to a system that only is a dyad. Those are important considerations. Reductions below the level that we have now are going to require some more fundamental questions about force structure.

Once we have that review in place, then we’ll be able to actually start a real negotiation with the Russians in terms of providing them with a position. On the verification and the transparency piece, we believe that the next treaty or the next agreement should include nondeployed systems, which have never been monitored or limited under arms control agreements. We believe that tactical nuclear weapons should be included in the overall ceiling. One approach to take, which is our inclination at this point, is to have a single ceiling that would include both deployed and nondeployed, strategic and nonstrategic [weapons]. And then, both sides, given the different force structures we have, would have some freedom to mix under that total ceiling. But in order to make that kind of an approach work, you would have to have inspections that we’ve never had before, and that would include inspections of nuclear weapons storage facilities.

I think you would need to have some kind of a mechanism to account for nuclear weapons that are destroyed because we have a huge backlog of nuclear weapons that are waiting to be destroyed, and the Russians will want to know how to account for those because, in theory, they could be reused. So, to me, the next treaty or agreement is going to require a very different set of verification and transparency measures, and up to now, both sides have been reluctant to agree. Frankly, the Russians are much more cautious than we are when it comes to verification, so we’re going to have to overcome serious hurdles if we’re going to get down into an agreement that gets at the nondeployed forces.

ACT: Is it accurate to say the rationale for the majority of U.S. nuclear forces is Russia’s nuclear force?

Samore: If you look at the NPR [2010 “Nuclear Posture Review Report”], you’ll see the rationale for our nuclear force structure.

ACT: Does the administration foresee further U.S. nuclear reductions if Russia’s deployed nuclear force shrinks below the 1,550-warhead level allowed by New START?

Samore: As the NPR says, at this point it makes sense for there to be some parity between U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, so we don’t rule out taking steps on our own. In the absence of a formal agreement or treaty, there may be parallel steps that both sides could take or even unilateral steps that the U.S. could take. But those are not—decisions haven’t been made yet. Right now we have the New START treaty to implement, which gives us seven years to [come] down to the levels that are identified there. Whether we do things in addition to that or that would supersede that, that would depend very much on the discussions that we have with the Russians.

ACT: During the 2008 campaign, then-Senator Obama said, “Keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch on a moment’s notice...increases the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation” and pledged to “address this dangerous situation.”

The NPR report calls for the evaluation of options that could increase the president’s decision-making time regarding the use of nuclear weapons in times of crisis. News reports suggest new presidential guidance will be formulated that may address this matter.

What specific steps are under consideration that could reduce the potential risks of accident or miscalculation due to so-called prompt launch posture?

Samore: You’ll notice that in Tom Donilon’s [March 29] speech [at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace], when he talks about the strategic review, he mentions that alert postures will be one of the factors that will be addressed in that review. We’re expecting that options will be presented to the president that will look at the implications of changing the alert status and postures and what impact that would have on force size and structure.

ACT: Russian leaders continue to express concern about the more advanced U.S. missile interceptors planned for the later phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach.

Could you update us on the status of the ongoing U.S.-Russian talks on missile defense cooperation and describe the types of missile defense cooperation that these discussions might produce? For example, would it focus on joint early-warning data sharing, an agreement not to target defensive systems against the other side’s strategic offensive systems, or something else?

Samore: We’ve had very senior-level discussions recently with the Russians on missile defense cooperation including Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates’ discussions when he was in Moscow. President Obama and [Russian] President [Dmitry] Medvedev have discussed the issue in their regular phone conversations. We’re certainly engaging with the Russians at a very senior level to try to find ways to cooperate on missile defense in a way that provides assurance to them, because our missile defense system really isn’t intended to threaten their nuclear deterrent, as well as improving our capacity and their capacity to defend against emerging threats from countries like Iran.

Certainly one of the areas we’re looking at is sharing data in terms of early warning. Again that’s something that Tom Donilon mentioned in his speech as an area where we think it would actually serve both sides if we could work together and where the Russians have something to bring to the table because they have radar capacity that would be useful for us in terms of defense of Europe and the United States. So that’s certainly one aspect of cooperation that we’re discussing.

ACT: When do you hope to see some kind of agreement concluded?

Samore: I would be rash to predict when an agreement will be concluded. But it’s something that Presidents Obama and Medvedev have identified as the top strategic priority right now, because we think that’s an area where there’s room for progress.

ACT: The administration has expressed interest in engaging Russia in talks on tactical nuclear weapons. National security adviser Donilon recently has suggested that “increas[ing] transparency on a reciprocal basis concerning the numbers, locations, and types of nonstrategic forces in Europe” could be a useful starting point. Could you give us more details about what you have in mind?

Samore: I think we have to recognize that there’s a disparity between the U.S. and Russia when it comes to tactical nuclear weapons in terms of numbers and in terms of mission. From the Russian standpoint, they have many more tactical nuclear weapons, and they claim they believe they need them to counter NATO’s conventional superiority. So one way to begin to get into a process that will lead to reductions on a reciprocal basis is to have a better understanding of both sides’ numbers, doctrine, storage facilities, and so forth, and that’s something we would be prepared to exchange with the Russians on a confidential basis. Whether the Russians are willing to go down that road, I can’t tell you; but what we have in mind is at least starting with an exchange of information as a way to try to get a better understanding of each side’s position and hopefully that would lead—as I said, we think tactical nuclear weapons could be included in the next overall agreement. But another approach would be to take parallel actions in advance of there being a new treaty or agreement, something else that Tom Donilon mentioned in his speech.

ACT: Regarding the remaining U.S. tactical nuclear stockpile in Europe, which is part of the ongoing NATO deterrence review, are the remaining forward-deployed tactical nuclear weapons in Europe necessary for the defense of the alliance?

Samore: The primary mission or the primary value of tactical nuclear weapons is symbolic and political because whatever military mission they serve could of course also be accomplished through the use of systems that are not tactical systems based in Europe.

ACT: Under what circumstances might NATO consider their consolidation or withdrawal?

Samore: What Tom Donilon talked about in his speech is [steps taken] on a reciprocal basis with Russian actions. That is a principle that all the NATO allies have agreed on. If Russia took reciprocal actions, we would be prepared to take actions. But there’s no agreement in NATO to take unilateral actions as concerns U.S. tactical nuclear weapons.

ACT: A general question relating to all of these issues on the U.S.-Russian agenda: How would you characterize the nature of the conversations at this point? These are taking place at the cabinet level, and these are discussions. At what point do you expect that there might be more formal work occurring on any one of these or all of these issues?

Samore: If you’re talking about a formal arms control negotiation, neither side is ready to do that. We’re not prepared to do that yet because we haven’t completed our internal reviews, so we wouldn’t know what position to take. The Russians have indicated publicly that they’re not prepared to consider additional reductions until their concerns about missile defense and weapons in space and a number of other things have been addressed. At this point, I don’t anticipate we would begin formal arms control negotiations anytime soon. That’s why we’re emphasizing the need to have discussions about things like verification, transparency, and so forth; that’s a precursor to having a formal arms control negotiation.

ACT: In the Prague speech, the president pledged to pursue U.S. ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT]. Mr. Donilon recently reaffirmed that the administration will engage with senators on that treaty.

How does the CTBT contribute to U.S. nonproliferation efforts, and do you expect ratification would lead the handful of other states that have not yet done so to reconsider the treaty?

Samore: I think the best argument we can make for the CTBT is that it serves U.S. national security interests by giving us one tool to help constrain the nuclear buildup in Asia. I do believe that if the U.S. ratified the CTBT, it’s likely that China, India, and Pakistan would all ratify the CTBT and that would create a legal and political barrier to a resumption of nuclear testing. I think the risk of a resumption of nuclear testing is greatest in Asia. Obviously, North Korea could test at any time, but among Pakistan, India, and China, those are the countries that are building up their forces, modernizing their forces, and where testing might make sense in terms of those programs. So, to the extent that we can put in place the CTBT and to the extent that that will constrain options in Asia, it will help to tamp down the one part of the world where there is a nuclear buildup taking place.

ACT: On Iran, the United States, particularly with its P5+1 partners,[1] was pursuing a dual-track strategy. We saw from the [January 21-22] meeting in Istanbul, there were no real gains, no progress made on outstanding issues. U.S. officials have said since then that the door is still open but that they’re also looking at tightening the implementation of existing sanctions. How would you characterize the P5+1 diplomatic strategy and options going forward?

Samore: You described it very well. The P5+1 and [EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy] Lady [Catherine] Ashton have said that the door is open to a resumption [of talks]. I’ve seen no indication that the Iranians are interested and no indication that they’re prepared to come to the table with any serious intent, so we’re very much focusing on the pressure track of the dual-track strategy. We’ve continued to take actions, and you will see in coming weeks and months that, with our allies, we’ll continue to try to increase pressure on Iran in order to persuade its government that the best way to avoid those pressures is to come to the bargaining table and be serious about trying to come up with a diplomatic solution. But at this particular moment, there’s no active diplomacy.

ACT: As you are well aware, Iran has asserted that progress with the P5+1 depends on other states recognizing what it claims is its right to enrich uranium.

Secretary [of State Hillary Rodham] Clinton recently told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Iran could possibly enrich uranium at some point in the future under very strict conditions and “having responded to the international community’s concerns and irreversibly shut down its nuclear weapons program.” Can you give us some sense of what those strict conditions might be and how the United States intends to ensure that Iran takes those necessary steps?

Samore: I think the key to Iran resuming its full nuclear—peaceful nuclear—activities is to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions that require them to suspend all enrichment- and [spent fuel] reprocessing-related activities and to fully cooperate with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] to address concerns about their past and present nuclear activities, especially in the area of weaponization. So, the first step, if Iran wants to restore confidence and if Iran wants to lift sanctions, is to comply with the Security Council resolutions. What Secretary Clinton said has made explicit what has always been implicit in our policy, going back to the Bush administration, that if Iran were to satisfy the UN Security Council that its nuclear intentions were peaceful, then we would have no objection to Iran engaging in the full suite of peaceful nuclear activities. Up to this point, Iran has not been able to persuade anybody, frankly, that its nuclear intentions are peaceful. That’s why the Security Council continues to demand full suspension as the initial step they can take.

ACT: Turning to North Korea, recently Mr. Donilon said that, in order for the six-party talks [involving China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States] to resume, “North Korea first needs to engage with the South and address issues surrounding its military provocation and then take significant and irreversible steps toward the goal of denuclearization. Those steps must include monitored suspension of their newly declared uranium-enrichment program.”

What steps can the United States and its partners in the region take to achieve these objectives, and what risk is there, in the meantime, that North Korea might continue to build on its nuclear and missile capabilities?

Samore: Very much like the case of Iran, we have applied pressures to North Korea, both in the form of UN Security Council resolutions and in actions we and our allies, especially South Korea and Japan, have taken to try to persuade North Korea to take the steps we consider necessary to resume a diplomatic process. I think we’ve begun to see the North Koreans, at least right now, looking for a way to resume the six-party talks. We’ll continue to do that, and as Tom Donilon said, for us it’s very important that we not go back to the old way of doing business where the North Koreans get benefits in return for just talking. What we want to see are concrete actions. As Tom said, getting the North Koreans to suspend their enrichment program is an important step.

ACT: On the fissile material cutoff treaty [FMCT], U.S. officials, including yourself, Clinton, and Donilon, have said that “our patience is not infinite” and that if the stalemate continues in the CD [Conference on Disarmament], the United States would seek other options. What is the United States doing now to break the deadlock in the CD? In the absence of agreement on a work program, what “other options” are you considering to halt the further production of nuclear bomb material?

Samore: We’re continuing in the CD as we have since President Obama’s Prague speech to argue that we’re prepared to begin negotiations on a verifiable FMCT. In fact, all countries at the CD agreed to such a work plan. Unfortunately, Pakistan continues to block a consensus on carrying out that work plan, and at this point, it appears unlikely to me that the CD will be able to come up with a compromise to begin FMCT negotiations. We’re going to start consulting. We will start consulting and have started to consult with allies and partners on whether there’s an alternative venue for the Conference on Disarmament. There are a couple of different ideas out there in play and we’re open-minded. The important thing for us is to get the negotiation started. So, we’re talking to the key countries, including countries that would be directly affected by an FMCT, as well as the technology holders.

It seems to me that is a group that we would want as much as possible to be included in such a process. Recognizing that the Pakistanis are probably not going to be willing to participate, but nonetheless if the CD is not going to be able to get started in terms of negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty, it’s important that we find some other way to do that, even if it means bypassing the CD, because these negotiations are not going to be quick and easy. There are a lot of pretty fundamental disagreements or differences of point of view, for example, whether existing stocks should be included and how the verification would be carried out. This is going to be a very lengthy, difficult, complicated negotiation, and the longer we wait to get started, the longer it will be before a treaty can actually be achieved.

ACT: You say such consultations should involve “technology holders.” By “technology holders,” do you mean those countries that have enrichment and reprocessing technology?

Samore: Yes. It would be good to include the Japanese, the Germans, Brazil, South Africa—countries that have developed enrichment and reprocessing for peaceful purposes. It seems to me they have something to bring to the negotiations, and to the extent that any verification regime would have some elements that would be in addition to the existing IAEA safeguards, it would directly affect countries that have [enrichment and reprocessing] facilities that are already under safeguards.

ACT: In the meantime, Pakistan and India are the two countries, North Korea aside, that are believed to be continuing fissile material production for weapons. What steps can the United States and the international community pursue prior to a negotiation on an FMCT to address the risks posed by the continued accumulation of fissile material in South Asia?

Samore: I think it’s very unlikely that either India or Pakistan is prepared at this moment to stop its nuclear buildup. Both countries, for their own reasons, just like China for its own reasons, seem intent on further developing their capabilities. In the near term, I don’t think there is any sort of [regional] arms control arrangement, whether it’s by one of those countries or by two or three of them, that could deal with this buildup. That’s why we think the FMCT and the CTBT provide international instruments for trying to get at that concern. Certainly in the case of South Asia, it’s very important, I think, to minimize as much as possible incidents that could lead to military tension and conflict between India and Pakistan because, in my view, the risk of a conflict escalating to a nuclear war is probably higher in South Asia than in anywhere else in the world. We’ve obviously worked very hard to encourage India and Pakistan to resume their composite dialogue, worked very hard to try to convince the Pakistani government to take action against groups in their country that might be carrying out terrorist actions against India. So to me, the focus in the near term has to be on confidence building to reduce the risk of war. In the long term, to the extent that we can get these international instruments in place, like the CTBT and the FMCT, that’s a way to constrain the nuclear buildup.

ACT: There have been reports in recent months suggesting that Pakistan’s fissile material production rate has been accelerating. Is this the case? Has India also increased its rate of fissile material production since the approval [by the United States and the Nuclear Suppliers Group of a policy of resuming nuclear exports to India] in 2008?

Samore: I probably can’t talk to that specifically. All I can do is repeat that there is a nuclear buildup under way in Asia: India, Pakistan, and China all are modernizing and expanding their nuclear forces. We need to figure out a way to, A, manage and, B, try to constrain that as much as we can. The best approach we’ve been able to come up with is one that emphasizes these multilateral international arms control instruments because I don’t see any purely regional approach that will be effective, and I don’t see any approach where any of those three countries would, on their own, decide to stop.

ACT: In an October 2010 presentation, you cited Pakistan as the issue that keeps you up at night. With regard to nuclear proliferation and material security, do you still have those concerns?

Samore: The Pakistani government takes the nuclear security threat very seriously, and they’ve put a lot of resources into trying to make sure that their nuclear facilities and materials and weapons are well secured. There’s no lack of recognition that this is a very important issue, and there’s no lack of incentive on the part of the Pakistani government to maintain control. What I worry about is that, in the context of broader tensions and problems within Pakistani society and polity—and that’s obviously taking place as we look at the sectarian violence and tensions between the government and the military and so forth—I worry that, in that broader context, even the best nuclear security measures might break down. You’re dealing with a country that is under tremendous stress internally and externally, and that’s what makes me worry. They have good programs in place; the question is whether those good programs work in the context where these broader tensions and conflicts are present.

ACT: On the nuclear security summit, we’re about a year away from the second summit to be held in Seoul. What are the United States and South Korea hoping to accomplish at the summit next year? What are the biggest challenges that have to be addressed in order to meet the four-year goal that has been set out?

Samore: I think we’re on track to have a very successful summit. We’ve already been able to secure, remove, [and] eliminate very large quantities of fissile material, and we’ve still got a year to go. So, I think we’ll have an additional track record of success.

We’ve also made a very concerted effort to set up the centers of excellence and training, which is very effective because nuclear security is more than just the material. It also requires, and it is in many ways more important, that the people responsible for securing the material do their job properly. Since the [2010] Washington summit, we’ve signed agreements with a number of countries to either establish or work together in these nuclear security centers, including China, India, Japan, South Korea, and so forth. I think there may be some additional ones that would be announced in Seoul.

Lastly, and this is the one area where I think we have the greatest challenge, how do we translate the work that the summit participants do into the broader international community? I think there is a very good working relationship among the 47 or so countries, and we’ve all agreed on a work plan and will be able to come to Seoul and show that we’ve made very significant progress to carry out the steps in the work plan. But we need a mechanism for including the 150 or so countries that are not actually at the summit, and that means finding a greater role for the UN. I think Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is very interested in being active in this area. I think it means using other international organizations, like the IAEA, and strengthening their nuclear security assistance program.

The summit will show that there has been substantial progress among the countries that participated in the Washington meeting in terms of carrying out the work plan. The challenge for us is to find some way to include those countries that are not actually physically present at the summit because, as a practical matter, we can’t include everybody, and that’s something we’re working on.

ACT: The part about the president’s four-year goal—can you address that? Where do things stand? What are the challenges in order to complete that particular goal of the president?

Samore: We, of course, still have a ways to go before we’ve reached our four-year mark. I think there will be cases where we don’t have access [to] or even knowledge of nuclear material, for example, nuclear material in North Korea. We don’t have a cooperative relationship with the North Koreans, so we won’t be able to say from our own knowledge that that nuclear material has been secured. I think it probably has been, but I have no way to make that judgment. In some cases, we can have direct access, work directly with countries on-site, either to secure, remove, or eliminate nuclear material. In other cases, we won’t have direct access. That’s why we’re trying to work through these indirect mechanisms, like centers of excellence, where we think we can help countries to establish a good security culture and training and equipment and so forth, and then strengthen the international elements, whether it’s the UN or the IAEA or the different conventions. At the end of the four-year period, I can’t tell you exactly where we’ll be, but the Seoul summit is sort of coming up on the halfway mark, and we’ve already been able to show very substantial progress.

ACT: At the NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] review conference last year, there was an agreement to hold a conference on a Middle East weapons of mass destruction-free zone. What does the United States hope to achieve through the 2012 conference? Are you looking for states in the region to take certain interim steps that would contribute to the realization of such a zone? Given the nature of the nuclear debate in the region, to what extent will the meeting focus initially on chemical and biological weapons?

Samore: Our view is that it’s important that the meeting, if it takes place in 2012, focus on the broader range of nuclear, chemical, biological, and ballistic missile [issues]. When we agreed to organize this meeting at the NPT review conference, 2012 seemed like a pretty reasonable timeline for getting something organized. Obviously, since then there have been some extraordinarily dramatic changes in the region; and whether or not we can still make that 2012 meeting is, I think, much less clear. We have to continue to make an effort.

What we would like to do is identify a number of host countries and then see if we could get some, if not consensus, at least strong support from among the countries in the region for a host. That would be an important first step in terms of making the conference more real. But given the disagreements in the region on these issues and given the turmoil and uncertainty in the region, this whole thing is going to be a very challenging enterprise.

ACT: The P5 states[2] plan to meet in Paris later this year to discuss nuclear transparency issues and possible ways to verify additional nuclear arms reductions. What do you hope to achieve at this meeting, and do you expect similar meetings to follow?

Samore: We hope there will be similar meetings. There isn’t any basis on which the five recognized nuclear-weapon states can engage in formal arms control negotiations. There’s no political basis on which you can have a five-way nuclear arms agreement because of the disparity between the U.S. and Russia on one hand and the U.K., France, and China on the other. In place of, or in advance of, there being any kind of formal multilateral arms control process, we’re trying at least to develop some areas of understanding on verification and transparency because if the U.S. and Russia continue to reduce [their nuclear arsenals] in the long term, it would create conditions where, in theory, you could have an arms control negotiation among the five, among states that possess nuclear weapons. If you were to have such a negotiation, there would have to be some kind of verification and transparency arrangement. So these discussions, I think, are useful in that sense, recognizing that the conditions for having formal arms control negotiations among the five just don’t exist.

ACT: Just remind us about the genesis of these meetings. There was an earlier meeting in London...

Samore: It was the British that started the idea, and we were very comfortable with that. Now the French have picked up [on it], and I would hope in the future, although this hasn’t been agreed, you would see similar meetings hosted by the other countries. But we have to recognize that the other countries are very wary of being brought into an arms control process at a time when, from their standpoint, the U.S. and Russia have 10 times more nuclear weapons than they do. I don’t think any country of the five is prepared to agree to any kind of a treaty or agreement that would lock them into a position of having less weapons.

ACT: Has a date been firmly set for the meeting?

Samore: I don’t believe so; you would have to ask the French. I’m not sure there has been complete agreement on there even being a meeting. I think that’s still under discussion. We’re very comfortable with it, and we would hope that all of the others would agree to it as well.

ACT: Is there anything we should have asked that we didn’t? Anything you want to say that we haven’t touched on in our questions up to this point?

Samore: The one thing I would say is that I really do think that President Obama’s approach to this range of issues is that there has to be an integrated approach, and the Prague speech was very deliberately designed so that there were four interlocking elements, and I think we’ve made very good progress on each of those. But to me, the challenge of Iran and North Korea continues to be an area that if we don’t get right, will unravel everything else we’re trying to do. I really do think that unless we’re able to check the programs in North Korea and Iran, there’s a very high likelihood that it will eventually lead to further proliferation. I’m not saying it’s going to happen right away, but if that happens, if we see additional nuclear powers emerge in East Asia and the Middle East, then that completely undermines everything else that we’re trying to do. So, I hope that people appreciate how important it is that we work together to convince Iran and North Korea to comply with their obligations. Otherwise, everything else that we’re doing in the other areas, I think, will probably come to naught.

ACT: That’s a wide-ranging and complex set of challenges. Thanks for giving us an overview on all of these things two years after the Prague speech.

Samore: Sure.


1. P5+1 refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—plus Germany.

2. The P5 also are the five countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states under the NPT.


The White House’s top arms control and nonproliferation official discusses the prospects for future U.S.-Russian agreements on nuclear weapons and missile defense, the administration’s strategy for addressing Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs, the nuclear buildup in Asia, and more.


The Nuclear Stockpile's Steward: Arms Control Today Interviews NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino



For Immediate Release: March 25, 2011
Media Contacts: Tom Z. Collina, Research Director (202-463-8270, x104); Daniel Horner, Editor, Arms Control Today (202-463-8270, x108).

(Washington, D.C.) As the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) seeks to support President Barack Obama's goals of ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and preventing nuclear terrorism, Arms Control Today, the journal of the Arms Control Association, has conducted an exclusive interview with NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino. The interview, which will appear in the April issue of the magazine, is now available to journalists and ACT subscribers.

In the interview, D'Agostino highlighted his agency's plans for maintaining the U.S. nuclear stockpile and controlling nuclear materials worldwide. Asked whether there is any technical reason for the United States to resume nuclear explosive testing in the foreseeable future, D'Agostino said: "No. In my opinion, we have a safe and secure and reliable stockpile.... There's no need to conduct underground [nuclear] testing." He noted that the U.S. government conducts an annual review that includes input from multiple sources, including nuclear weapons laboratory directors.

"The United States has a plan to extend the life of the existing stockpile" without testing, D'Agostino said. "[T]he Nuclear Posture Review very clearly directs our laboratory directors to study the full range of options to make sure that we get the benefit of their technical knowledge and capability.... [T]he laboratory directors have endorsed this as an acceptable approach to move forward with taking care of the stockpile out into the future," he said.

As part of its life-extension efforts, the NNSA is considering a currently unused diagnostic tool, called "scaled experiments," which would explosively test a scaled-down hollow sphere or shell of plutonium.Because the material would not reach criticality, the experiments would not violate the CTBT. The United States has not conducted scaled experiments "in a long time," D'Agostino said. He said, "Before we decide to pursue a path of additional scaled experiments, we want to make sure we understand the benefit that it provides versus the costs, the financial costs, associated with doing that. It's going to take us a few years to get to that point because this is the heart of the matter, frankly."

D'Agostino said his agency is on track to fulfill Obama's 2009 commitment to secure the world's vulnerable nuclear material within four years. "[T]he plan that we have right now completes this effort in December of 2013.... We've identified a scope of work to get this four-year material secured," he said.

On the issue of operating with fiscal year 2011 funding that is below the president's request for nonproliferation work, he said: "There likely will be some minor impacts associated with, 'Well, we'll have to move this shipment back a few months.' Our plan was to front load that Global Threat Reduction Initiative work to get it under way robustly in 2011 so that as schedules change, we don't lose track and we can still hit our December 2013 target. Our plan is still to do that. We're down at the FY10 levels, but we can reallocate resources.... [W]e're managing just fine, but things get harder as the year goes on."    

D'Agostino also talked about the NNSA's work on disposition of surplus plutonium from the U.S. nuclear weapons program. The effort centers on building a plant at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to turn the plutonium into mixed-oxide (a mixture of uranium oxide and plutonium oxide) fuel for commercial reactors. D'Agostino said the NNSA is in discussions with two utilities, Energy Northwest and the Tennessee Valley Authority, about supplying them with the fuel for use in their reactors.


Members and subscribers who have a digital account click here. If not, click here to establish your account.
Journalists who are not ACT subscribers and would like the text of the full interview may contact Tom Z. Collina.


(Washington, D.C.) As the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) seeks to support President Barack Obama's goals of ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and preventing nuclear terrorism, Arms Control Today, the journal of the Arms Control Association, has conducted an exclusive interview with NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino. The interview, which will appear in the April issue of the magazine, is now available to journalists and ACT subscribers.

Country Resources:

Pakistan’s Nuclear Buildup Vexes FMCT Talks

Peter Crail

Pakistan declared in January that it had strengthened its opposition to negotiating a treaty banning the production of fissile material as it prepared to bolster its nuclear arsenal.

Islamabad’s position threatens to prolong a 14-year stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the United Nations’ arms control negotiating body, which operates on a consensus basis. Pakistan has been the only country blocking the start of negotiations on a so-called fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) at the CD for more than two years, leading some of the body’s 65 member states to search for ways around the Pakistani roadblock, including holding negotiations outside the CD.

Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the CD, reiterated in a Jan. 25 statement that Pakistan opposes opening negotiations on an FMCT in the CD because of a 2008 agreement by the world’s key nuclear technology suppliers to lift long-standing restrictions on nuclear trade with India. (See ACT, October 2008.) This action, he said, “will further accentuate the asymmetry in fissile materials stockpiles in the region, to the detriment of Pakistan’s security interests.”

Pakistan and other critics of the move by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which now has 46 members, have argued that, because India now has access to the international nuclear market, it can purchase foreign uranium for its nuclear power reactors and therefore keep its limited domestic uranium reserves for its military program, potentially allowing it to field a larger nuclear arsenal.

Islamabad has maintained that a fissile material ban must cover existing stocks of fissile material instead of simply halting future production, a position backed by several other CD members, primarily from the developing world. Most nuclear weapons possessors, including India, insist on a production cutoff that does not address current stockpiles.

Akram added that Pakistan’s opposition was further hardened by a U.S. call for India’s eventual admission to the NSG, a move he characterized as an “irresponsible undertaking” that “shall further destabilize security in South Asia.” (See ACT, December 2010.) According to Akram, because such admission would allow India to enhance its own nuclear arsenal, “Pakistan will be forced to take measures to ensure the credibility of its deterrence.”

Pakistan has sought to counter India’s conventional and nuclear weapons capabilities by expanding its nuclear arsenal and moving from larger highly enriched uranium-based weapons to more compact plutonium-based warheads.

Those efforts reportedly include the construction of two additional plutonium-producing nuclear reactors at Pakistan’s Khushab nuclear complex. Pakistan already has two such reactors at the site, producing an estimated combined total of 22 kilograms of plutonium each year, enough for up to four nuclear weapons. Islamabad began constructing a third reactor in 2006 and, according to satellite imagery analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, started work on a fourth in recent months.

After steadily increasing its nuclear weapons stockpile over a number of years, Pakistan is estimated to have up to 110 warheads, all of which are believed to be maintained in central storage, rather than deployed with their delivery systems. Responding to recent reports of Pakistan’s nuclear buildup, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters Feb. 1, “Pakistan is mindful of the need to avoid an arms race with India,” noting Islamabad’s policy of maintaining a “credible minimum deterrent” against its South Asian rival. It is not clear, however, what such a credible minimum deterrent entails.

Seeking a Path Around Pakistan

During the opening of the CD’s 2011 session, the body’s president, Ambassador Marius Grinius of Canada, said there was no agreement on a program of work for the CD, effectively preventing it from beginning substantive negotiations. The CD last adopted a program of work in 2009 after nearly a decade of disagreement, but Pakistan broke the consensus soon after over the FMCT, preventing negotiations from commencing.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held a high-level meeting last September to help “revitalize” the stalled CD, but diplomats said last fall that the session only retraced existing divisions. (See ACT, December 2010.) Several states expressed frustration with the CD stalemate during that meeting and raised the option of pursuing FMCT negotiations outside the CD if progress was not made in 2011. Pakistan, China, and a number of developing countries opposed such a prospect.

In their opening remarks to the 2011 session of the CD, many delegations, including those from the European Union, Japan, Mexico, and the United States, reiterated the potential for an alternative negotiating process on an FMCT. Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, told the body Jan. 27 that “the longer the CD languishes, the louder and more persistent such calls will become.” She stressed in a press briefing later that day, however, that it is the “absolute first priority” of the United States to seek negotiations inside the CD. She declined to speculate on other options.

Although delegations would not say how much time the CD should be given to resolve the current impasse, Mexico’s ambassador to the CD, Juan José Camacho, proposed in a Jan. 25 statement that members establish a deadline for the CD to adopt a program of work.

Stressing the importance of preserving the function of the CD as the sole multilateral negotiating body for arms control, Ban warned in Jan. 26 remarks to the body, “We must not risk pushing states to resort to alternative arrangements outside the Conference on Disarmament.” He expressed support for starting an informal process on an FMCT in the CD prior to beginning negotiations in order to build trust among members.

The United States indicated that if there was no agreement to start FMCT negotiations, it would back a dual track of formal and informal FMCT talks. “We strongly support the idea of robust plenary discussion on broad FMCT issues, reinforced by expert-level technical discussions on specific FMCT topics,” Gottemoeller said.

Throughout February, CD members held plenary discussions on an FMCT, as well as other issues on the body’s agenda. In addition, Australia and Japan co-hosted a first round of expert-level talks in mid-February focused on the subject of defining key aspects of a treaty, including what would be considered fissile material and what constitutes production of that material. Diplomats from CD members said in February that a second round of experts’ talks on verification is expected this month.

Although several states supported the Australian-Japanese initiative, China and Pakistan said in remarks to the CD Feb. 17 that they did not attend the session. Chinese CD ambassador Wang Qun told the body that conclusions drawn from such informal discussions did not have standing in the CD. Akram raised concerns that such informal talks could undermine the role of the CD as the sole negotiating body for such issues.

In spite of Islamabad’s opposition, “Pakistan has not taken any action to date to seek to block either the plenary discussions or the expert-level talks,” a State Department official said in a Feb. 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today. The official added that although Pakistan could “create some problems on the plenary discussions,” it would not be able to prevent the expert-level talks, which are being hosted on a national basis although they still are linked to the CD.

Diplomats from states supporting the experts’ talks told Arms Control Today that even if the talks are being held on an informal basis, delegations initially opposing them may realize after some time that their interests are served better by participating in them, rather than being left out. They also stressed that such discussions are important for addressing complex technical issues before negotiations begin and could lay the groundwork for eventual negotiations in the meantime.


Pakistan has stiffened its opposition to talks on a fissile material cutoff treaty in the UN Conference on Disarmament, prompting some countries to start looking for new ways to make progress on the pact.

NNSA Nonproliferation Spending Slated to Rise

Robert Golan-Vilella and Daniel Horner

President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget request would increase funding for nonproliferation programs in the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) by roughly 20 percent over current spending levels, but represents a modest decrease from the administration’s request for the same programs a year ago.

Under the proposed budget, released Feb. 14, two of the largest increases would go to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and the Fissile Materials Disposition program. The former is designed to reduce and secure vulnerable nuclear materials at civilian sites around the world; the latter focuses principally on disposition of surplus weapons-grade fissile materials in the United States. The portion of the request related to disposition activities in Russia dropped significantly from the fiscal year 2011 request.

Because Congress did not approve fiscal year 2011 funding for most U.S. government agencies before last Sept. 30, the end of fiscal year 2010, the federal government is now operating under a continuing resolution (CR), which will fund the government through March. With very few exceptions, the CR funds government programs at the level of their fiscal year 2010 congressional appropriations. Obama’s budget request for fiscal year 2011 had called for significant increases for a number of programs designed to improve nuclear security around the world. (See ACT, March 2010.)

The NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation category, which includes both the GTRI and the materials disposition program, would see its spending go from $2.13 billion to $2.55 billion. That represents an increase of 20 percent from current spending levels, but a decrease of 5.1 percent from Obama’s fiscal year 2011 request of $2.69 billion. Funding for the GTRI would follow the same pattern: after receiving $334 million in fiscal year 2010, Obama proposed to increase that to $508 million for fiscal year 2012—a 52 percent rise, but less than the $559 million that he requested last year.

The GTRI is one of the principal contributing programs to the Obama administration’s goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide within four years. (See ACT, May 2009.) From the program’s inception through September 2010, the GTRI removed a cumulative total of 2,852 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium and shut down or converted 72 HEU research reactors, according to the NNSA’s detailed “budget justification” document.

In a Feb. 14 press statement, the NNSA said that Obama’s budget request “provides the resources required to implement the President’s commitment to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.” The request’s future-year projections call for the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation category to receive a total of $14.2 billion over the next five years, with the annual appropriation rising gradually each year to reach just over $3 billion in fiscal year 2016. Funding for the GTRI in that year would be $740 million under the administration’s projection.

One of the GTRI’s high-profile activities is its ongoing effort to remove fresh HEU from Belarus and Ukraine. These two former Soviet countries have said they will be rid of the material by the time of the nuclear security summit planned for 2012 in Seoul. (See ACT, January/February 2011.) During a Feb. 14 conference call with reporters, NNSA officials said they were confident that the budget request provides sufficient funding to meet that schedule.

Following a Feb. 15 meeting of the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission, the Department of State’s press office said Ukraine had reiterated its commitment to meet that timetable and that the United States “reconfirmed its commitment to provide necessary technical and financial assistance valued at approximately $50 million by the time of the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit as part of this effort.”

In a Feb. 15 e-mail to Arms Control Today following up on the conference call, NNSA spokesman Damien LaVera said that “all HEU material has now been removed” from 19 countries (Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Greece, Latvia, Libya, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey). He added that the NNSA is working with 16 other countries (Argentina, Austria, Belarus, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam) “to remove the last of their material.”

Fissile Material Disposition

As with the GTRI and the broader Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account, the proposed budget for fissile materials disposition is significantly higher than its fiscal year 2010 appropriation, but slightly lower than Obama’s fiscal year 2011 request. From $702 million in fiscal year 2010, funding for the disposition program is slated to rise to $890 million in fiscal year 2012; the request for fiscal year 2011 was $1.03 billion.

The bulk of the program is devoted to carrying out a bilateral agreement between the United States and Russia that commits each side to dispose of at least 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium. The agreement originally was signed in 2000, but the effort stalled over financial, policy, and legal disputes. During the April 2010 nuclear security summit in Washington, the two sides signed a protocol that amended and updated the accord. (See ACT, May 2010.) According to a State Department statement at the time of the protocol’s signing, the combined 68 metric tons of plutonium represents enough material to make approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons.

Under the terms of the protocol, Washington and Moscow aim to begin disposition—loading reactors with fuel made with the surplus weapons plutonium—in 2018. The United States currently is constructing three facilities at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The first is a Mixed-Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility, which will fabricate plutonium oxide into MOX fuel for use in domestic reactors; the other two facilities will perform supporting roles. Savannah River is scheduled to begin producing MOX fuel in October 2016, the NNSA’s budget document said.

The administration is requesting $579 million for construction work on the three facilities for fiscal year 2012, with $385 million going to the MOX fuel-fabrication plant.

According to the NNSA budget document, that project “has had continued difficulty identifying suppliers and subcontractors with the ability and experience to fabricate and install equipment to the requirements of [the] Nuclear Quality Assurance (NQA)-1 standard for nuclear work.” This shortage “has in turn resulted in a lack of competition for the work and higher than expected bids as the inexperienced suppliers are uncertain how much effort is required to meet NQA-1 requirements,” the document said. In some cases, Shaw AREVA MOX Services, the main contractor that the Energy Department has hired to build the facility, has done some of the work itself rather than assigning it to subcontractors, the NNSA said. Another hurdle is that the contractor “is also experiencing significantly greater than expected turnover of experienced personnel due to the expansion of the U.S. commercial nuclear industry,” the NNSA said, adding that “finding experienced replacements has become difficult and expensive.”

The Obama administration’s future-year projections call for roughly $1 billion to be spent on the disposition program in each of the four years following fiscal year 2012. Approximately 48 percent of that money is scheduled to go toward constructing the new facilities.

In anticipation of last year’s signing of the disposition protocol with Russia, the fiscal year 2011 request for work on Russian disposition rose to $113 million (the fiscal year 2010 appropriation had been $1 million), but the fiscal year 2012 request is only $10.2 million. According to the NNSA budget document, the sharp drop “reflects the decision to wait until the United States and Russia have agreed on detailed milestones” for progress in the work that U.S. funds would support. During the Feb. 14 conference call, Anne Harrington, the NNSA deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation, said the agency is “not going to request [money for that work] from Congress until we know we actually have something to apply it against.”

In a Feb. 18 interview, a U.S. official said the United States had given Russia a document proposing a draft set of milestones for Russia’s consideration, but had not yet received a response. The Russian response is taking “longer than the U.S. would have hoped,” but there appears to be “no damage to Russia’s program from the delay,” he said. It “seems clear” that Russia does not see a “programmatic need” to move more rapidly, he said. “People, over time, have realized that this is not a program that’s going to rush itself forward,” he commented.

CTR to Rise, Focus on Biothreats

At the Department of Defense, funding for the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program is slated to increase by approximately 20 percent from current spending levels, from $424 million to $508 million. Obama’s request last year called for $523 million to be spent. The CTR program is designed to secure and eliminate weapons of mass destruction and their related materials, particularly in the states of the former Soviet Union.

Within the CTR account, the lion’s share of the proposed increase would go to the Cooperative Biological Engagement program. Formerly known as Biological Threat Reduction, this program works to prevent dangerous pathogens from being used against the United States or its allies by state or nonstate actors, the CTR’s detailed budget document said. Under the 2012 budget request, this program’s funding would rise 53 percent, from $169 million in fiscal year 2010 to $260 million. At this level, the biological engagement program would consume just over half the CTR budget.

The other major programs in the CTR account would see their funding stay generally consistent with current levels, although some would decrease significantly compared to Obama’s fiscal year 2011 request. Most notable in this category is the Global Nuclear Security program, which “renames and consolidates all activities related to nuclear warhead and weapons-grade nuclear material security within selected countries,” according to the CTR’s budget document. Last year, Obama requested a 39 percent increase for this category, from $119 million in fiscal year 2010 to $164 million in fiscal year 2011. This year’s request would eliminate this proposed increase, calling for $121 million to be spent.


For the coming fiscal year, the Obama administration is seeking more funding for nonproliferation efforts, especially those focusing on fissile materials disposition and on securing vulnerable nuclear material around the world.

Steps Toward a Deal on Enhanced Safeguards for Iran’s Nuclear Program

Charles D. Ferguson

During more than eight years of a political tug-of-war over Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and its allies have yet to reach agreement with Tehran. Iranian leaders repeatedly have demanded recognition of their country’s “right” to enrich uranium and pursue peaceful nuclear energy.

The United States has insisted that Iran suspend enrichment activities as well as construction of a heavy-water research reactor until Iran addresses concerns about the intended nature of these activities and gives the international community confidence that Tehran will not make nuclear weapons.

Numerous proposals from each side have failed to break this impasse. Recently, however, the increasing effects of multilateral sanctions on Iran’s economy and nuclear program have given rise to some hope from the United States for a negotiated settlement.

The route to a negotiated agreement is highly uncertain because the two sides have ideal outcomes that appear diametrically opposed. Ideally, the United States would want Iran to cease uranium enrichment because even a relatively small enrichment plant would provide Tehran with a latent capability to make weapons-usable uranium. This technology is dual use in that an enrichment plant can be used to make low-enriched uranium (LEU) for nuclear fuel or highly enriched uranium (HEU) for nuclear bombs. (The dividing line between LEU and HEU is uranium enriched to 20 percent in the fissile isotope uranium-235. The higher the enrichment of U-235, the more useful the material is for nuclear weapons.) If there were no enrichment plants in Iran, the United States would have an easier verification task than if it had to monitor a permitted, known enrichment capacity to ensure that it was not being used as cover for clandestine enrichment plants. In contrast, Tehran’s ideal situation is to continue improving its enrichment capacity so that it conceivably could make several bombs’ worth of HEU annually if its leaders chose to do so.

Reaching agreement for Iran to stop enriching uranium, however, appears politically impossible for the foreseeable future. Despite the increasing pressure of sanctions, Iranian leaders have demonstrated during the theocracy’s 32 years of existence that they will cling tightly to instruments of power that they believe are vital to their state’s security.[1] A top instrument of power is the nuclear program. Concomitantly, this program has become a highly nationalistic issue. Thus, the Iranian leadership most likely would do everything in its power to maintain this program. Faced with this political reality, the United States, its partners, and Iran need to be prepared to understand the options for enhanced safeguards that would provide the necessary international confidence for continued uranium enrichment in Iran.

Decision Factors

Several enhanced safeguards options are conceivable, but few additional measures are likely acceptable to all states.[2] The decision factors are political acceptability, technical feasibility and effectiveness, and resource constraints.

Political acceptability. Iranian leaders have been acutely sensitive about fairness. They have resisted adopting safeguards measures beyond what other states have applied. The United States faces political constraints as well. The Obama administration would not want to appear weak, especially in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election.

Moreover, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) faces political constraints in that its leadership has to remain politically neutral while balancing the demands from developing and more technologically advanced states. The developing states usually want more technical assistance from the IAEA for their peaceful nuclear programs, and they want less-intrusive monitoring of these programs. In comparison, states with greater political power and monetary resources typically do not need much if any technical assistance from the IAEA. Several of these states, such as the United States, however, favor greater efforts to ensure that peaceful nuclear programs remain such.

Technical feasibility and effectiveness. Physical constraints impede the capability to detect clandestine enrichment plants. Enrichment plants that use the centrifuge technique emit few if any strong signs, such as uranium leakage, heat emissions, and electronic signals, to indicate that enrichment is occurring.[3] Modern centrifuge enrichment plants emit very little uranium hexafluoride, the gas used in the enrichment process. (The gas is “enriched” by separating U-235 hexafluoride from U-238 hexafluoride and thus increasing the U-235 concentration.) Detection of leakage from the previous stage of the nuclear fuel cycle—the uranium-conversion plant that makes uranium hexafluoride—may be possible, although high-efficiency particulate filters could significantly reduce this leakage.

The energy consumption of a centrifuge enrichment plant is small. Thus, the heat emissions, as shown by infrared radiation, are not easily distinguishable from non-nuclear industrial facilities. Electronic signals might be more detectable. The electrical systems in a centrifuge plant would affect the electrical signals carried by the power lines coming into a plant. In particular, the operation of the spinning centrifuges would impose voltage and frequency distortions—a sort of electronic “fingerprint”—on the power lines. To see this fingerprint, however, the inspectors would need access to these lines, and appropriate electronic filters could reduce or eliminate these signals.[4] Satellite images might reveal buildings that house enrichment facilities, but without human intelligence, confirmation cannot be definitive. In sum, off-site detection of centrifuge enrichment is extremely challenging.

Resource constraints. Because of the physical challenges of remote detection, on-site access remains one of the most essential requirements for effective safeguards. Yet, the IAEA faces substantial resource constraints. It does not have the money or human resources to apply all conceivable safeguards options. The disparity between the amount of nuclear material and facilities under safeguards and the money budgeted to the IAEA Department of Safeguards has been growing. During the past three decades, the quantity of material has expanded about sixfold, and the number of facilities has roughly tripled while the budget has approximately doubled.[5] Unless IAEA member states provide more financial and human resources, the agency will remain substantially constrained in its ability to apply more rigorous safeguards in more states.

Before examining options for additional safeguards in Iran, it is worthwhile reviewing the major contentious issues that remain.

Disputes With the IAEA

Since 2003, the IAEA has inspected Iran’s declared nuclear materials and facilities about every three months.[6] Also, the IAEA has called repeatedly for Iran to answer outstanding questions about past, present, and planned nuclear activities and possible military dimensions of its nuclear program. One of the major points of contention is the issue of giving the IAEA access to information in a timely manner. For example, the IAEA has not obtained access to detailed design information on Production Hall B at the fuel enrichment plant near Natanz.

Nonetheless, Tehran previously had indicated a willingness to being more forthcoming. On February 9, 2003, the IAEA obtained Iran’s agreement to provide early notification of design information once Iran decides to construct a nuclear facility. This provision is part of the modified Code 3.1 for the subsidiary arrangement to Iran’s 1974 comprehensive safeguards agreement. Under a comprehensive safeguards agreement, the IAEA has the obligation to ensure that a state’s declaration of its nuclear material and peaceful nuclear activities is correct and complete.

In December 2003, Iran also had agreed to implement voluntarily an additional protocol to its comprehensive safeguards agreement. Such a protocol, if fully implemented, would allow IAEA inspectors to make a determination of whether Iran has any undeclared nuclear materials or facilities. On February 6, 2006, however, two days after the IAEA Board of Governors referred Iran’s nuclear file to the UN Security Council, Iran suspended implementation of its additional protocol. In 2007 it decided to suspend implementation of the modified Code 3.1. Since then,Iran has adhered to the less rigorous interpretation of the 1974 safeguards agreement.

The revelation of a clandestine enrichment plant has raised further concern that Iran may have a nuclear weapons program. In September 2009, the leaders of FranceGermany, and the United States revealed that their governments had evidence that Iran was building such a plant near Qom. That revelation forced Iran to inform the IAEA that month about the Fordow Enrichment Plant. At that time, Iran stated that the Fordow plant was designed for the production of 5 percent enriched uranium and would contain about 3,000 centrifuges. Almost exactly a year later, however, Iran told the IAEA that it had revised its plans so that the Fordow facility would include research and development on advanced centrifuges as well as produce 5 percent enriched uranium with the older-generation centrifuges. The IAEA has asked Iran to clarify its intentions and provide a detailed design for this facility. Iran has objected to the legal basis for the IAEA request for access to design development information and to the companies that are designing the Fordow plant.

Since the plant was revealed, Iran has announced that it wants another 10 enrichment facilities, but it has not given the IAEA the requested information about the proposed sites and design details of these facilities. Such information would help the IAEA greatly in determining where best to place monitoring equipment in safeguarded facilities before they are built. Once a facility has been built, it can be very difficult to obtain access to parts of the facility that are considered proprietary. Facility operators are exceedingly wary of revealing industrial secrets to competitors. By agreeing on where to place monitoring devices ahead of actual construction, the IAEA and the operators have greater opportunity to find a balance between optimizing safeguards and minimizing the likelihood of revealing sensitive information.

The impasse over access also has impeded the IAEA’s ability to assess Iran’s work on heavy-water production. In particular, Iran has not provided access to the production plant at Arak. The Security Council has called on Iran to suspend work at this facility. According to the IAEA’s November 2010 report, satellite imagery indicates that this work is continuing. The IAEA also has used satellite imagery to monitor uranium-mining and -milling activities inIran. Under the 1974 safeguards agreement, Iran would not have to give the IAEA access to the uranium mines and mills.

Proliferation Pathways

A non-nuclear-weapon state has three proliferation pathways that it could try to exploit:

1. Operation of a clandestine nuclear weapons program that would as much as possible be parallel to and separate from a declared, safeguarded nuclear program.

2. Diversion of weapons-usable material and technologies, such as centrifuges, from a declared, safeguarded program into a weapons program.

3. Withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and the IAEA safeguards system and then use of the acquired nuclear technologies to make fissile material for nuclear weapons.

The first pathway is the most worrisome because, under the current safeguards approach, the IAEA has access that is limited only to declared facilities and thus is constrained in its ability to determine if there are any undeclared facilities, materials, or activities. One of the first major steps that Iran can and should take is to ratify an additional protocol to its comprehensive safeguards agreement. The inspections for the protocol’s implementation would require an assessment of whether Iran has nuclear materials and facilities that it has not declared. The Model Additional Protocol expands safeguards to cover all activities in the nuclear fuel cycle depicted in figure 1 (see print edition). In comparison, Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement includes enrichment, fuel fabrication, reactors, spent fuel storage, reprocessing, and the output of a uranium-conversion facility but does not include mining, milling, waste disposal, and the input to a conversion facility.

In addition, the Model Additional Protocol offers complementary access to sites and facilities where inspectors need to resolve unanswered questions and concerns. This access does not mean that the inspectors can barge into a site or facility immediately. Under the managed-access provision, they can request access within two hours to a facility at a site that they are presently inspecting and within 24 hours to a site at which they are not presently conducting inspections. Because inspections under the Model Additional Protocol are more resource intensive and burdensome to the state than inspections under a comprehensive safeguards agreement, the IAEA offers integrated safeguards for those states in which the agency has resolved outstanding concerns and has determined that there are no undeclared nuclear materials and facilities. The integrated safeguards system reduces the overall frequency of inspections and instead provides assurances through unannounced random inspections and complementary access. In sum, the revised safeguards system under the Model Additional Protocol expands the emphasis from verifying nuclear materials at individual facilities to evaluating the state as a whole.

Measures to supplement the Model Additional Protocol would provide needed confidence that Iran is committed to a peaceful nuclear program. Iran could apply such an “additional protocol-plus” system of safeguards until outstanding concerns are addressed and confidence that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful has been restored. If these concerns are fully resolved, Iran then could apply an additional protocol and eventually an integrated safeguards system to reduce the burdens of safeguards. Under an additional protocol-plus system, inspectors would want especially to determine whether Iran has any clandestine nuclear materials and facilities. Methods to uncover these materials and facilities include satellite monitoring, wide-area environmental sampling (WAES), and human intelligence.

Regarding satellite monitoring, the IAEA in recent years has established a satellite-imagery laboratory. The IAEA has acquired high-resolution commercial images obtained by 16 satellites operated by 11 imagery providers in eight states.[7] In the past few years, the IAEA has purchased and analyzed several hundred images.

WAES monitors the air to search for the presence of radioactive materials that could indicate clandestine nuclear activities, such as hidden enrichment and reprocessing plants.[8] Although WAES is permitted under the Model Additional Protocol as long as the Board of Governors has approved its use, its approval depends on a demonstration of the effectiveness of this method and consultations between the IAEA and the state. Because there is no precedent for applying WAES under a state’s additional protocol, this measure effectively would be considered a supplement to additional protocols that states have already implemented.

To detect secret enrichment plants, WAES would need to discriminate between enriched uranium and natural uranium. WAES can do so by measuring the ratio of U-235 and U-238. If the measured ratio were greater than 0.72 divided by 99.28, the concentrations respectively of U-235 and U-238 in natural uranium, then there would be possible evidence of clandestine enrichment. The WAES monitoring station also would look for the presence of fluorine that is chemically combined with the uranium. Uranium hexafluoride would indicate the presence of uranium-conversion and -enrichment plants. The evidence would not necessarily be a smoking gun because, in a state with a declared enrichment plant, the inspectors would have to establish that the detected enriched uranium did not leak from that plant. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, modern enrichment plants usually leak very little uranium in the form of uranium hexafluoride.

Consequently, significantly increasing the likelihood of detecting enriched uranium in a relatively large country such as Iran would require at least a few tens of thousands of WAES monitoring stations, assuming a detection range of about 10 kilometers from each station. A much more modestly scaled network with 400 stations for a detection range of about 100 kilometers would have an estimated annual cost of just less than $17 million.[9] The high cost and the low likelihood of detection raise substantial barriers to the use of this technique in Iran. In contrast to enrichment plants, reprocessing plants are likely to be easier to detect because of the relatively large and distinctive releases of krypton-85, a radioactive gas that does not occur naturally. Nevertheless, a state may try to hide reprocessing by spending money on installing filtering systems.

Arguably, the most effective means for finding evidence on clandestine facilities is by using human intelligence. Although human intelligence often has the connotation of spying, the sense here is to provide IAEA inspectors with access to scientists and engineers who have worked on the peaceful nuclear program. The inspectors then would have permission to ask questions of these personnel. During such investigations, some of these technical people may provide evidence of a clandestine program advertently or inadvertently. Whistleblowers likely would need protection against retribution. The United States should offer to facilitate protection, such as safe haven in a country other than Iran. Based on Iran’s rebuffs of several IAEA requests in recent years to question personnel,Tehran most likely would resist providing this extra measure.

For the second pathway, diverting material and technologies from a safeguarded program into a weapons program, enhanced safeguards would provide better means to detect or substantially raise the likelihood of detecting the diversion of nuclear materials and technologies from declared facilities. Using the authority provided by Iran’s 1974 comprehensive safeguards agreement, the IAEA has done an effective job of verifying that Iranhas not diverted declared material. The safeguards methods briefly outlined here would go beyond Iran’s interpretation of its current safeguards agreement or even an additional protocol. Conceivable methods include applying physical containment and material accountancy at uranium mines and mills, measuring the mass of uranium ore concentrate entering conversion plants versus the amount of uranium hexafluoride leaving these plants, improving measurements of nuclear material at enrichment plants, and verifying the production of centrifuges.

Physical containment at mines and mills would involve placing fences around these facilities. The fencing would employ detectors that would sound alarms if someone breached the fence or used unauthorized access points. Portal monitors would check on traffic to and from the facilities. This method would be considered very invasive, and there is no precedent for it under the Model Additional Protocol, which requires a state to submit estimated annual information on its uranium mining and milling. Yet, neither the Model Additional Protocol nor states’ additional protocols have required the more burdensome step of providing detailed material accountancy at these facilities.

After uranium is milled, it is in the form of uranium ore concentrate. Measuring the amounts of this material entering a uranium-conversion facility could enhance safeguards. By measuring the amount of uranium in the ore entering the plant and the amount of uranium in uranium hexafluoride leaving the plant, the uranium mass balance measurement is taken. Any discrepancy in the uranium mass balance close to or certainly larger than the amount of uranium needed for a nuclear weapon—25 kilograms of U-235, according to the IAEA—would be cause for concern.

Additional safeguards on enrichment plants can involve a number of different activities and techniques, but the most important concept is to provide timely warning of a diversion of enough nuclear material for making a weapon. For enrichment plants, the IAEA typically has had a goal of 12 months to detect a diversion of this quantity of fissile material. Although the agency has been visiting the Iranian enrichment facility at Natanz on a much more frequent basis, it has performed the physical inventory verification annually. To achieve greater accuracy in detecting a diversion, the IAEA could increase the frequency of measuring material to quarterly or monthly.

To reduce the uncertainty in the measurement error further, the IAEA could increase the use of destructive analysis, which is a set of scientific techniques that destroy or alter a sample in order to determine the characteristics of the larger amount of material. Because of the larger expense of destructive analysis, however, this could significantly increase the cost of inspections. Additionally, the IAEA could make independent measurements on all items of nuclear material. Although the IAEA has the legal right to do this, it typically does not. To reduce costs, it usually performs verification procedures on a randomly selected subset of items.

Verifying production of centrifuges could enhance safeguards significantly. A major concern is that Iran could be manufacturing excess centrifuges at declared production facilities or manufacturing centrifuges at undeclared facilities. Either way, greater access to production facilities would increase the likelihood of deterring diversion of centrifuges. The IAEA is not permitted to have access to these facilities under comprehensive safeguards, but the Model Additional Protocol does require a state to give the IAEA a “description of the scale of operations for each location” involved with fuel cycle activities, including production of centrifuges.[10] However, providing detailed information on manufacturing of centrifuges would require a special agreement between Iran and the IAEA because the Model Additional Protocol does not authorize the agency to inspect the production of centrifuge components. Ideally, the IAEA should have the ability to tag and count centrifuges, ensuring that they are installed only in declared facilities.

The third pathway, withdrawal from the NPT, is the least likely as long as Iran derives benefits from staying within the treaty. Of course, once Iran signals its intention to leave the NPT, there will be little or no doubt that the country’s leadership intends to embark on nuclear weapons production. Article X of the NPT allows a state to cite its supreme national interests and depart the treaty after three months. Because comprehensive safeguards agreements under IAEA Information Circular 153 are linked to the NPT, a withdrawal from the NPT would stop application of these safeguards.

To ensure continued safeguards, one approach would be to require states that are withdrawing from the NPT and are in noncompliance with their comprehensive safeguards agreements to adhere to facility-specific safeguards, which are defined in IAEA Information Circular 66. Because this type of safeguards does not depend on adherence to the NPT, such safeguards would remain in perpetuity. The Security Council would have to pass a resolution to require application of continued facility-specific safeguards. It also could pass a generic resolution, not tied to a particular case, requiring a special inspection to investigate the possible misuse of nuclear materials and technologies that a state in noncompliance acquired when it was an NPT member.[11] Because Security Council states would likely prefer to address safeguards noncompliance on a case-by-case basis, it would be difficult to obtain passage of such a resolution. Similarly, the IAEA Board of Governors has been reluctant to exercise its authority under its own statute to call for special inspections in any state.

Of the roughly dozen options considered here, very few meet the criteria of political acceptability, technical effectiveness, and feasibility given IAEA resource constraints. Political acceptability depends both on Iran’s willingness to agree to an additional safeguards measure and on the ability of the United States and its partners to obtain agreements among many states with power on the Security Council and the Board of Governors. Technical effectiveness, as the analysis above indicates, hinges on whether the option provides significant enhanced capability to the safeguards system. Resource constraints affect the IAEA’s choices in what additional measures it can afford to apply to Iran or any other state under safeguards. Table 1 shows these options and an assessment based on the criteria.

As the table illustrates, few good options receive high marks under the three criteria. Therefore, the best course of action is, first, to reach agreement to apply an additional protocol in Iran. This step has the precedent of dozens of other states having ratified an additional protocol to their safeguards agreements and of Iran’s previous willingness to implement an additional protocol voluntarily. It also provides significantly enhanced safeguards capabilities and fits within IAEA resource constraints.

In their discussions with Iran, policymakers and negotiators should give priority to obtaining agreement on application of measurements of the mass balance of uranium entering and exiting conversion plants and on improvements in tracking flows and measuring the mass balance of uranium at enrichment plants. These two options have the advantage of likely obtaining political acceptance, providing significant technical effectiveness, and requiring only somewhat more resources for the IAEA. If the United States and its allies can reach agreement with Iran on application of more safeguards options, they should focus on those, such as verifying production of centrifuges, that would provide significantly improved effectiveness.

Making a Deal

Although Iran would likely resist the more intrusive measures discussed above, a deal could propose these measures as temporary, to be lifted once Iran has provided the necessary confidence about the peaceful intent of its nuclear program. The nuclear issue is one of several contentious issues between Iran and the United States. There is no easy route to a negotiated solution, and it is not possible to predict the likely path. What follows is an assessment of some possible ways to reach an agreement.

The general concept is to connect Iran and other states in an interdependent relationship so that if one side reneges on the deal, the other side has leverage to make the violator suffer. The parties to the agreement need to form a “correlation of fortunes” to create a non-zero-sum game.[12] Such a game does not guarantee a win-win situation. The sides could fall into lose-lose scenarios, but the key point is that each side needs to see that its enlightened self-interest is to preserve the deal.

The deal would have to play to the interests of multiple states. Specifically, it would have to underscore Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy and would have to address the concern of the United States and its allies about Iran’s stockpiling of enriched uranium. In particular, Washington and its allies could become clients of Tehran. The clients would buy enriched uranium at a competitive price from Iran in exchange for Tehran’s acceptance of more-rigorous safeguards on its nuclear program.[13] The enriched uranium would be shipped out of Iran frequently enough so that not more than one bomb’s worth of uranium would be present in Iran. This deal would extend substantially beyond the Tehran research reactor deal of late 2009 in which the United States and its allies offered to provide fuel for the reactor in exchange for Iran shipping out an equivalent amount of LEU. In the larger deal,Iran would gain more money from the United States and be able to take satisfaction in having “the Great Satan” as a client.

An even grander deal is conceivable. It would include access to fossil fuel energy supplies in addition to provision of nuclear fuel. Many states are interested in getting access to Iran’s natural gas. A natural gas pipeline from Iranto Turkey would provide needed alternative gas supplies to Turkey. The pipeline could be connected to other states in Europe. This would provide further energy benefits and help reduce some of Europe’s dependence on Russian gas supplies. Russia likely would not object to this deal because Russian gas experts understand that the European Union’s demand for gas is growing and that the Iranian gas supplies, while plentiful, would not substantially displace Russian supplies. Iran still would have leverage over Turkey and EU states because it could threaten to shut off gas if these and other states renege on providing nuclear fuel for Iran’s nuclear power plants.[14] Russia already has a special deal with Iran to provide nuclear fuel for the first 10 years to the Bushehr power plant. Moscow has a continued interest in supplying nuclear fuel to Iran in order to burnish its nonproliferation credentials and to undermine Tehran’s stated rationale for expanding its enrichment capacity significantly.

Additionally, the United States and other countries can and should take further actions to improve the political acceptability of enhanced safeguards in Iran. The United States should redouble efforts within the Board of Governors and the Nuclear Suppliers Group to make the Model Additional Protocol the universal standard for nuclear commerce. Brazil, in particular, would have to be convinced to implement an additional protocol. If Irantries to hide behind the fact that Brazil has not implemented an additional protocol, the United States can argue that at least Brazil has joined with Argentina and the IAEA to form a bilateral inspection system, known as ABACC, to provide greater confidence about the peaceful intent of its nuclear program. More importantly, Washingtonneeds to remind Tehran that Japan, a leading non-nuclear-weapon state with the complete fuel cycle, was one of the first states to implement an additional protocol. As a further step to show that the United States is making extra efforts, it should place enhanced safeguards on enrichment plants inside the United States and work to make such behavior a standard for all enrichment plants, whether based in nuclear-weapon states or non-nuclear-weapon states.

None of these deals or offers will work unless both sides are willing to build trust and accept that there will be risk. Trust is essential because safeguards work best when the inspected state is fully cooperative with the inspectors. Yet, the lack of trust runs deep between Iran and the United States, dating back at least as far as the American- and British-orchestrated coup that ousted Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh in 1953. It will take considerable effort from both sides to bridge the mistrust that exists in many areas. Concerning the nuclear issue, the challenge for the United States is to accept Iran’s nuclear program under adequate safeguards. This acceptance will help recognize Iran as a significant political power in the region. For its part, Iran needs to recognize that its enlightened self-interest is to open its nuclear program to provide assurances that its intentions are peaceful. By doing so, Tehran will help elevate its position as a leader.

Charles D. Ferguson is president of the Federation of American Scientists and author of Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know (forthcoming 2011). Trained as a physicist and nuclear engineer, he has worked on nuclear nonproliferation issues at the U.S. Department of State, the Monterey Institute of International Studies’ Center for Nonproliferation Studies, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He thanks the Ploughshares Fund for its support of the research for and writing of this article.

Table 1: Feasibility of Enhanced Safeguards Options

The table below lists various options for enhanced safeguards in Iran and evaluates their feasibility on the basis of certain key criteria.


Political acceptability to all parties

Technical effectiveness

Fit within IAEA’s resource constraints

Additional Protocol


Would provide significantly improved capability


Satellite monitoring

Iran cannot stop its use

Would provide improved capability as long as supplemented with additional information

Yes, but currently limited up to a few hundred images annually

Wide area environmental sampling

Not likely because of limited technical effectiveness

Would likely not provide substantially more capability given Iran’s landmass

Would require significantly more resources

Interviews with Iranian nuclear personnel


Would likely provide significantly improved capability


Physical containment of mines and mills


Would likely not provide significantly improved capability

Would require some more resources

Material accountancy at mines and mills


Would likely not provide significantly improved capability

Would require some more resources

Measuring the mass balance at uranium conversion plants to compare the mass of uranium going into and out of the plants

Likely to obtain especially if Iran would agree to an additional protocol because this measure would not go significantly beyond such a protocol

Would likely provide significantly more capability

Would require some more resources

Improved measurements at enrichment plants

Likely to obtain if it can go not too far beyond an additional protocol and as long as proprietary information is protected

Would likely provide significantly more capability

Would require some more resources

Verifying production of centrifuges

Unlikely to obtain because of likely Iranian perception of intrusiveness on its proprietary information

Would provide significantly more capability

Would require some more resources

Facility-specific safeguards

Very unlikely to obtain agreement

Would likely provide significantly more capability


Special inspections

Very difficult to pass UN Security Council resolution or obtain Board of Governors agreement

Would provide significantly more capability

Would require more resources


1. Suzanne Maloney, “Sanctioning Iran: If Only It Were So Simple,” The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 1 (January 2010), pp. 131-147, www.twq.com/10january/docs/10jan_Maloney.pdf.

2. For two useful references on enhanced safeguards and verification options, see Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress, “Nuclear Safeguards and the International Atomic Energy Agency,” OTA-ISS-615, June 1995, www.princeton.edu/~ota/disk1/1995/9530/9530.PDF; James Action with Joanna Little, “The Use of Voluntary Safeguards to Build Trust in States’ Nuclear Programmes: The Case of Iran,” VERTIC Research Report, No. 8 (May 2007.)

3. Alexander Glaser, “Detectability of Uranium Enrichment” (presentation to iGSE, New York, May 10, 2010). The iGSE is the Independent Group of Scientific Experts on the detection of clandestine nuclear-weapons-usable materials production.

4. R. Scott Kemp, “Detection of Clandestine Enrichment and Reprocessing” (presentation to the AAAS Center on Science, Technology and Security Policy, Washington, DC, May 12, 2009).

5. For two in-depth, independent assessments of the IAEA’s resource constraints and challenges, see Henry Sokolski, ed., Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2008); Commission of Eminent Persons on the Future of the Agency, “Reinforcing the Global Nuclear Order for Peace and Prosperity: The Role of the IAEA to 2020 and Beyond,” May 2008.

6. See IAEA Board of Governors, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Report by the Director General,” GOV/2010/62, November 23, 2010.

7. Diane M. Fischer, “The Role of the Nuclear Watchdog: Monitoring Nuclear Safeguards” (presentation from Division of Information Management, Department of Safeguards, IAEA, 2010).

8. Iisa Riekkinen et al., “Analytical Methods for Wide Area Environmental Sampling (WAES) for Air Filters,” STUK-YTO-TR 184, June 2002, www.stuk.fi/julkaisut/tr/stuk-yto-tr184.pdf.

9. Garry Dillon, “Wide Area Environmental Sampling in Iran,” in Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom, ed. Henry Sokolski (CarlislePA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2008).

10. IAEA, “Model Protocol Additional to the Agreement(s) Between State(s) and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards,” INFCIRC/540 (corrected), art. 2.a (i).

11. Pierre Goldschmidt, “The Urgent Need to Strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime,” Policy Outlook, January 2006, www.carnegieendowment.org/files/PO25.Goldschmidt.Final2.pdf.

12. Robert Wright, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny (New York: Vintage, 2001).

13. Charles D. Ferguson, “A New Approach to Iran’s Nukes,” Christian Science Monitor, September 8, 2008.

14. Ivan Safranchuk, an independent analyst based in Moscow, suggested how to establish a linkage between Iran’s receipt of nuclear fuel and the client states’ receipt of natural gas supplies. Ivan Safranchuk, communication with author, February 11, 2011.

Because Iran is not likely to give up its existing uranium-enrichment capability, the United States and its allies should redouble efforts to enhance nuclear monitoring inside Iran. It is important to choose wisely among the options, which vary widely in cost, technical effectiveness, and political feasibility.


Don’t Skimp on Funding to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism



Volume 2, Issue 3, March 2, 2011

There is an overwhelming, bipartisan consensus among America’s leaders that nuclear terrorism is one of the most dangerous threats facing the United States and the world today. Unfortunately, the new leadership of the House of Representatives has lumped federal programs designed to prevent this danger in with the rest of its targets for budget cuts, proposing to slash their funding by over 20 percent.  This is a big mistake, and the Senate and the White House should work aggressively to ensure that these cuts are not turned into law.

Leaders of both parties and the military agree on the magnitude of this issue. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said, “Every senior leader, when you’re asked what keeps you awake at night, it’s the thought of a terrorist ending up with a weapon of mass destruction, especially nuclear.” President Barack Obama has called the prospect of nuclear terrorism “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security.” And according to former President George W. Bush, “The biggest threat facing this country is weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist network.”

In testimony last month, General James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, stated that “the time when only a few states had access to the most dangerous technologies is well past… Some terror groups remain interested in acquiring CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear] materials and threaten to use them. Poorly secured stocks of CBRN provide potential source material for terror attacks.”

In its final report, the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism warned that al-Qaeda is “actively intent on conducting a nuclear attack against the United States” and that it has been seeking nuclear weapons-usable material ever since the 1990s. “It is therefore imperative,” the commission argued, “that authorities secure nuclear weapons and materials at their source.”

According to the International Panel on Fissile Materials, the global stockpile of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in 2010 was roughly 1,475 tons, or enough to make more than 60,000 nuclear weapons. Likewise, the panel estimates the global stockpile of separated plutonium to be about 485 tons. The quality of security over these materials is uneven, varying widely across countries and regions. The sheer quantity of materials explains why a concerted effort is required to make nuclear security a major international priority.

Nuclear Security and the Budget

The United States has a number of active programs aimed at securing dangerous nuclear materials around the world. In its initial request for fiscal year (FY) 2011, the Obama administration asked for significant increases for these programs. These increases were designed to help achieve the president’s goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide within four years.

However, Congress has yet to approve a final budget for FY 2011. Instead, before adjourning at the end of 2010, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) which is currently funding all government agencies (with a few exceptions) at FY 2010 levels. The current CR will expire on March 4. An additional two-week CR intended to give the two parties more time to reach an agreement has passed the House and looks to be headed for imminent passage in the Senate, but it will not solve the larger issue.

On February 19, the House of Representatives voted 235-189 along party lines to pass a CR through the rest of FY 2011, which ends on September 30. The House’s bill would cut spending by over $60 billion, slashing programs across a wide range of government agencies. Most notably, the nuclear nonproliferation account in the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) would lose a full 22.4 percent from Obama’s FY 2011 request, going from $2.687 billion to $2.085 billion.

U.S. Programs Are Doing Vital Work to Secure Nuclear Materials

The U.S. government has already taken a number of important steps to improve nuclear material security around the world. The NNSA’s nuclear nonproliferation programs have been particularly active in this effort, working to remove fissile materials from countries, conduct security upgrades at nuclear facilities, convert reactors to use low enriched uranium (LEU) instead of highly enriched uranium (HEU), and more. In recent years, the NNSA has:

  • Removed a cumulative total of 2,852 kilograms of HEU and plutonium, and shut down or converted 72 research reactors from using HEU fuel to LEU fuel.
    • Secured more than 10 tons of HEU and three tons of plutonium in Kazakhstan in November 2010 – enough material to make 775 nuclear weapons.
      • Completed security upgrades at 73 nuclear warhead sites and 34 nuclear material sites in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

        According to a spokesman, the NNSA has helped to complete the removal of “all HEU material” from a total of 19 countries, including Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Greece, Latvia, Libya, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey.

        Furthermore, the NNSA says it is “working with 16 additional countries to remove the last of their material,” including Argentina, Austria, Belarus, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

        This extensive plan of action demonstrates how shortsighted it would be for Congress to fail to meet President Obama’s proposed increase for NNSA nonproliferation spending for the remainder of FY 2011. We are fortunate that a sizable number of countries have pledged to give up their stockpiles of fissile materials. We must not find ourselves in a position where we are unable to follow through in helping to complete the removals simply due to a lack of resources.

        Nonproliferation Spending is Security Spending

        Much of the broader discussion about this year’s budget has focused on the division between security and non-security related spending. Generally speaking, Congress’ approach has been to keep defense and security-related cuts to a minimum, while focusing most of its reductions on domestic “non-discretionary” spending. Whatever one thinks of the wisdom of this method, it is clear that the proposed cuts to the NNSA’s nonproliferation budget are out of step with this approach. Simply put, programs designed to prevent nuclear terrorism by securing nuclear materials around the world directly contribute to America’s national security. The fact that these programs are located within the Department of Energy rather than the Department of Defense does not change that reality.

        If the House’s proposed CR becomes law, and President Obama’s request is not met, the United States will run the risk of having to pay much more to respond to an attack later than we would pay now to prevent the attack in the first place. Such short-term thinking would truly be penny-wise and pound-foolish.


        --ROB GOLAN-VILELLA, ACA Scoville Fellow


        Volume 2, Issue 3

        There is an overwhelming, bipartisan consensus among America’s leaders that nuclear terrorism is one of the most dangerous threats facing the United States and the world today. Unfortunately, the new leadership of the House of Representatives has lumped federal programs designed to prevent this danger in with the rest of its targets for budget cuts, proposing to slash their funding by over 20 percent.  This is a big mistake, and the Senate and the White House should work aggressively to ensure that these cuts are not turned into law.

        Ending Pakistan's Nuclear Addiction

        Daryl G. Kimball

        The people of Pakistan face multiple hardships: catastrophic flooding, a Taliban-affiliated insurgency, political assassinations, and chronic poverty. Yet, the country’s powerful military establishment has directed much of the nation’s wealth and perhaps even international nuclear technical assistance to building a nuclear arsenal that does nothing to address these urgent threats.

        Pakistan already has enough nuclear material to build at least 100 bombs—more than enough nuclear firepower to deter an attack from its neighbor and rival, India, which itself possesses enough separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) for about 140 bombs.

        Nevertheless, Pakistan’s leaders insist they must produce even more fissile material—HEU and plutonium—to keep pace with India. Fresh reports indicate Pakistan now is building a fourth unsafeguarded production reactor at Khushab.

        The continued and uncontrolled expansion of these nuclear arsenals raises the risk that a border skirmish between Islamabad and New Delhi could go nuclear. Also, Pakistan’s weapons and nuclear material stockpiles are a prime target for terrorists. Its nuclear technology could once again be sold on the black market by insiders, just as A.Q. Khan did for years.

        The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is now focused on turning back the Taliban and al Qaeda, but the United States no longer can afford to postpone serious efforts to break Pakistan’s nuclear addiction and encourage Pakistan, India, and China to exercise greater nuclear restraint.

        To do so, stopping the production of fissile material for weapons and pursuing the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) once again must be top U.S. priorities. In 1998 the United States supported a UN Security Council resolution condemning India’s and Pakistan’s tit-for-tat nuclear explosions and calling on the two countries to sign the CTBT and halt fissile production for weapons.

        At the time, the two states might have agreed to a production cutoff and signed the CTBT. But other commercial and strategic priorities, including the 2008 civil nuclear trade exemption for India and the U.S.-led offensive against the Taliban, have pushed nonproliferation opportunities to the margins.

        In 2009, President Barack Obama pledged to “lead a global effort” to negotiate a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) at the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament (CD). Given that France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have all declared a halt to fissile material production for weapons, and China is believed to have halted production, a global fissile production halt would have its greatest impact on India, Pakistan, and possibly China.

        Unfortunately, Pakistan continues to block the start of the negotiation, citing India’s greater fissile production potential from the plutonium in the spent fuel of its unsafeguarded power reactors, which could provide enough material for several hundred more bombs.

        On Feb. 28, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made another strong pitch at the CD directed at Pakistan to allow work finally to begin on the FMCT. Until it does, U.S. and other diplomats are urging informal technical talks. Such efforts are laudable but insufficient. India and the major nuclear suppliers—France, Russia, and the United States—must do more to help break the cycle. India can and should declare that it will not increase its rate of fissile production and will put additional nonmilitary reactors under safeguards. Such a move could increase Indian security by pressuring Pakistan and China to make similar pledges.

        Even if FMCT talks begin soon, it will be many years before a treaty is completed and it enters into force. By that time, India and Pakistan will have accumulated still more bomb material.

        Bolder action is in order. In particular, the five original nuclear-weapon states should seek an agreement by all states with facilities not subject to safeguards voluntarily to suspend fissile material production and place stocks in excess of military requirements under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection.

        Encouraging China and Israel to participate would be key. For Israel, which does not need more fissile material and has an aging reactor at Dimona, the moratorium would make a virtue out of necessity and improve its nonproliferation record. China should support the initiative because it could lead India to slow the growth of its military fissile material stockpile.

        To increase leverage further, the Obama administration and Congress should press for an investigation of the IAEA technical support programs in Pakistan, which undoubtedly have aided its bomb production program. For two decades, Pakistan has received million of dollars of IAEA help for operational upgrades and control systems for its safeguarded reactors at the same time it was building and operating reactors of the same design outside safeguards for its military program.

        Taken together, these steps could persuade Pakistan to drop its opposition to negotiations to halt the further production of nuclear bomb material and help slow the expensive and dangerous South Asian arms race.

        The people of Pakistan face multiple hardships: catastrophic flooding, a Taliban-affiliated insurgency, political assassinations, and chronic poverty. Yet, the country’s powerful military establishment has directed much of the nation’s wealth and perhaps even international nuclear technical assistance to building a nuclear arsenal that does nothing to address these urgent threats.


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