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WMD Terrorism

Dutch to Host ‘14 Nuclear Security Summit

Kelsey Davenport and Daniel Horner

The Netherlands has agreed to host a nuclear security summit in 2014, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a Jan. 31 press release.

The invitation to hold the third such meeting was extended to the Dutch by the United States and South Korea. Washington was the site of the first nuclear security summit, in April 2010; Seoul is scheduled to host the second one March 26-27.

According to the Dutch press release, the Netherlands viewed the request to host the summit as “a sign of trust” and cited the prevention of nuclear and radiological terrorism as a “top priority” for the country. South Korea will transfer the chairmanship to the Netherlands at the Seoul summit, the release said.

The 2014 nuclear security summit could be the last, a prospect raised in comments last October by Gary Samore, the White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) terrorism. (See ACT, November 2011.) In comments Feb. 16 at a nuclear policy conference in Arlington, Va., Laura Holgate, the National Security Council’s senior director for WMD terrorism and threat reduction, said countries will “take stock” of where they are in 2014. Samore and Holgate are the top officials representing the United States at preparatory meetings for the Seoul summit.

In his April 2009 speech in Prague, President Barack Obama announced a four-year effort to “secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world.” The participants in the 2010 summit endorsed that goal.

Holgate said the benefits of “leader engagement”—bringing heads of states and government together to focus on nuclear security—would have to be weighed against the possibility of “leader fatigue.”

New Countries

Fifty-three countries are expected to attend the Seoul summit, the summit secretariat said in a Feb. 23 press release, an increase of six from the roster at the Washington summit. The new countries are Azerbaijan, Denmark, Gabon, Hungary, Lithuania, and Romania, the release said.

Representatives from Denmark and Lithuania joined sherpas, or lead government negotiators, from the 47 Washington participants for a preparatory meeting on the Seoul summit in New Delhi, according to a Jan. 17 statement by Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai at the end of the two-day meeting.

The four international organizations that will attend the summit— the European Union, the International Atomic Energy Agency, INTERPOL, and the United Nations—also sent representatives to New Delhi.

In his statement, Mathai touched on several topics that were discussed and considered for inclusion in the summit communiqué. These topics include two areas, security of radiological sources and “strengthening the synergy” between nuclear safety and security, that are expected to receive greater attention in Seoul than they did at the Washington summit. The communiqué also is expected to contain measures on managing and minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU), combating illicit trafficking, and promoting information security, transport security, and international cooperation.

The sherpas will meet one final time in Seoul prior to the summit to finalize the communiqué.

NTI Index

Meanwhile, the nongovernmental Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) called attention to the positive impact of the nuclear security summit process on fissile material security, saying in a January report that the summits “facilitated a growing awareness and understanding” of the potential threat posed by nuclear materials.

The focus of the report is the NTI’s Nuclear Materials Security Index, which the group prepared in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit. The index analyzes and assesses conditions for nuclear material security in 176 countries.

The index assessed 32 countries possessing more than one kilogram of HEU or separated plutonium across five categories: quantities of nuclear materials and sites, security and control measures, adherence to global norms, domestic commitments and capacity, and societal factors. An additional 144 countries were evaluated on adherence to global norms, societal factors, and domestic commitments and capacity.

Although the report ranks countries by their scores in each category, the NTI said in a Jan. 27 statement that regardless of ranking, “all countries must do more” and that one of the main goals of the index was to facilitate discussion on nuclear material security priorities.

The report includes recommendations on actions that countries can take to strengthen nuclear material security. It describes the Seoul summit as a potential opportunity for creating a global system for “tracking, protecting, and managing” nuclear materials. This process would begin by establishing a global consensus on priorities, tracking actions taken by countries, and building international confidence through the promotion of increased transparency.

In a Jan. 11 press conference launching the index, former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), the co-chairman and chief executive officer of the NTI, said he hoped the index would help “shape discussions” at the Seoul summit and serve as a guide for individual countries and the international community to “set up priorities beyond the summit.”

Nunn and NTI Senior Director for Nuclear and Bio-Security Deepti Choubey said there eventually should be a global standard for nuclear material security. With such a standard in place, “we’d be able to do a far better job of holding states accountable, and we’d also be able to track progress,” Choubey said. The index provides a “framework” to think about the issue, she said.

The Netherlands has agreed to host a nuclear security summit in 2014, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a Jan. 31 press release.

OPCW Prepares for More Libya Inspections

Daniel Horner

Updated on December 5, 2011

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is preparing to send inspectors to two previously undeclared sites in Libya, the organization said in a Nov. 4 press release.

The announcement came in the days after statements by Ian Martin, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s special representative in Libya, and a subsequent press conference by officials of the new Libyan government announcing the existence of the sites, whose locations were not disclosed.

According to the Nov. 4 release, Libyan authorities on Nov. 1 “advised the OPCW that further stocks of what are believed to be chemical weapons had been found.” In his Nov. 28 opening statement to the week-long annual conference in The Hague of parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü said his organization had received the “formal declaration by the Libyan authorities” updating the cataloguing of its chemical stockpiles that Libya had submitted when it joined the CWC in 2004.

The OPCW’s acknowledgment of the new Libyan sites came in a press release that dealt mainly with the return of the organization’s inspectors to the Ruwagha depot in the southeastern Libyan desert. That depot is the site of Libya’s remaining declared stockpile of sulfur mustard, a chemical warfare agent that is stored in liquid form.

Libya had begun destroying its sulfur mustard stocks in October 2010 and was moving ahead with that work until a heating component of the neutralization unit malfunctioned in February. The unrest in Libya that began around the same time prevented resumption of the work, in part because a UN embargo imposed on the country blocked delivery of the needed replacement part. (See ACT, October 2011.) The OPCW inspectors had been recalled from the idled facility.

In the press release, the OPCW said its recent inspection had “confirmed that the full stockpile of undestroyed sulfur mustard and precursors remains in place.” In addition, the release said, the inspectors “took further measures to ensure the integrity of the stockpiles until destruction operations can resume under OPCW verification.”

The months since the beginning of the uprising against the regime of Moammar Gaddafi have seen numerous and sometimes conflicting reports on new discoveries of chemical weapons or their components.

According to a Nov. 20 report in The Washington Post, U.S. officials suspect that Iran provided the Gaddafi government with artillery shells used for chemical weapons. An Iranian official called the allegation “fabricated,” the Post said.

Separately, the OPCW Executive Council, meeting in a special session Nov. 23-24, “reached a decision on the matter of the 2012 final deadline for completing destruction of all existing chemical weapons,” the OPCW said Nov. 25. The CWC sets a final deadline of April 29, 2012, for possessors of chemical weapons to destroy their stockpiles. Russia and the United States, which account for the vast majority of the world’s stockpiles, have acknowledged that they will not meet the deadline.

For the past two years, CWC parties have been discussing how to handle that situation. Diplomats have said that all parties except Iran have agreed to language drafted by Peter Goosen, the council’s South African chairman. (See ACT, October 2011.) In Nov. 24 remarks to the council meeting, Robert Mikulak, the U.S. ambassador to the OPCW, appeared to confirm that characterization, saying the council’s draft decision document is one “that every delegation except Iran indicated that it could support.”

According to the OPCW statement, the council decision “was taken by vote,” while the parties “highlighted their desire to continue upholding the OPCW’s tradition of reaching decisions by consensus.”

The council decision now goes to the conference of CWC members. In a Nov. 25 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a source familiar with the council’s discussions said, “[T]his draft decision was taken by vote by the Council but it is up to the Conference to decide to adopt it and how.”

In his Nov. 28 statement to the conference, Üzümcü called the council decision “constructive and forward-looking.” In a statement the same day, Iranian OPCW ambassador Kazem Gharib Abadi called the U.S. failure to meet the 2012 deadline “a clear-cut case of non-compliance.”

Üzümcü also announced in his statement that Libya had told the OPCW it would not be able to meet the deadline.

UPDATE: CWC States Reach Decision on 2012 Deadline

Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) voted overwhelmingly on Dec. 1 to approve a document reaffirming the importance of the treaty’s April 2012 deadline for destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles without declaring countries that failed to meet the deadline to be violating the terms of the pact.

Under the CWC, possessors of chemical weapons must eliminate their stockpiles by April 29, 2012, which marks the 15th anniversary of the treaty’s entry into force. However, Russia and the United States, whose chemical stockpiles are by far the world’s largest, have acknowledged they will not be able to meet the deadline. Libya recently said it also will not meet the deadline.

The document notes statements by the three countries of their “unequivocal commitment” to their treaty obligations and “tak[es] note that the inability to fully meet the final extended deadline” is “due to reasons that are unrelated to the commitment of these States Parties to the[ir] General Obligations” under the CWC.

In comments last May on the Russian and U.S. stockpiles, Ahmet Üzümcü, the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), cited the “massive” size of those stocks and said that “[t]he efforts and resources required for their elimination in conditions of safety and environmental sensitivity were no less daunting, and perhaps underestimated at the time when the convention was drafted.” The OPCW is the international body that implements the CWC.

The Dec. 1 decision document says that if the possessor states do in fact fail to meet the deadline, they should complete the destruction “in the shortest time possible.” According to the document, each state should “submit a detailed plan” that “specif[ies] the planned completion date by which the destruction of its remaining chemical weapons is to be completed.” The document also spells out reporting and monitoring requirements for the ongoing destruction work.

The vote, which came during the week-long annual meeting of CWC parties in The Hague, was 101-1. Iran was the “no” vote. For months, there has been near unanimity on the approach represented by the document, with only Iran opposing it. (See ACT, October 2011.) In the days before the vote, Iran and the United States engaged in a sharp rhetorical exchange over the 2012 deadline.

Decisions on the CWC generally have been made by consensus, but there have been a few previous exceptions.—DANIEL HORNER

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is preparing to send inspectors to two previously undeclared sites in Libya, the organization said in a Nov. 4 press release.

End of Nuclear Security Summits Mulled

Kelsey Davenport

The nuclear security summit process could end in 2014, a top adviser to President Barack Obama indicated last month.

In remarks at an Oct. 7 press briefing at the United Nations, Gary Samore noted that the first nuclear security summit, held in Washington in April 2010, endorsed the plan “to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years,” which Obama had announced a year earlier in a speech in Prague. “We do not intend to create a permanent institution with the nuclear security summit,” said Samore, the White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) terrorism.

He said he expected 2014 to be the “end point” of the four-year period.
“[A]t that point, it makes most sense for the nuclear security challenge to be transmitted to the broader international community and to the institutions that encompass all of the countries in the world,” he said, citing the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Samore added that although 2014 seemed the “logical” end point, it would be up to the leaders to decide if that was the “appropriate moment” to end the summit process.

Samore is the U.S. sherpa, or lead government negotiator, for next year’s summit, which is to be held March 26-27 in Seoul. In an Oct. 25 e-mail to Arms Control Today, he said that “it made sense to have at least one more summit” after the one in 2012 and, in particular, to have one in 2014 to mark the end of the four-year period.

Speaking at the Oct. 7 press conference, Hahn Choong-hee, the Korean sous-sherpa, or deputy government negotiator, also said the nuclear security process will be transferred to “existing international organizations and initiatives,” but said it was “too early and too premature to say that we are going to finish at a particular time.” He called for a third summit in 2014 to check the progress on the four-year goal of securing all nuclear materials.

Samore said at the briefing that he hoped the summits “will have provided a stimulus for countries to take actions to deal with the global challenge of nuclear security.” Although only 47 countries are participating in the nuclear security summit process, Samore said limiting the number of participants was a practical matter and that “we made sure to make clear that nuclear security is a global challenge that involves all countries.”

Samore expressed confidence in the ability of the UN and the IAEA to continue nuclear security work after the summit process ends, citing their involvement in the Washington and Seoul summits.

The UN, the IAEA, and the European Union participated in the 2010 summit and have attended the preparatory meetings for the 2012 summit. Interpol was added to the list of international organizations invited to 2012 summit. At the Oct. 7 briefing, UN High Representative for Disarmament Sergio de Queiroz Duarte said that strengthening nuclear security remained high on the UN’s international security agenda.

At the Washington summit, 29 countries made more than 50 specific commitments to strengthen nuclear security and help meet the four-year goal. The commitments were based on the consensus communiqué and work plan of the summit, which laid out principles of nuclear security and provided details on how those principles would be implemented.

Laura Holgate, senior director for WMD terrorism and threat reduction at the U.S. National Security Council, said at the press briefing that the countries have made “significant progress” toward fulfilling the principles of the work plan. As the 2012 summit draws closer, Holgate said she expected to see further progress toward meeting the commitments made in Washington and “new pledges of action” to prevent nuclear terrorism and illicit trafficking.

Although the commitments were voluntary and nonbinding, Obama said in an April 14, 2010, statement that the participating countries agreed at the Washington summit that it is a “fundamental responsibility” to secure nuclear materials and facilities effectively.

The UN press briefing took place two days after the conclusion of a preparatory meeting for the 2012 Seoul summit. Sherpas from the 47 countries met in Helsinki Oct. 4-5 to continue working on the Seoul Communiqué, a document drafted by South Korea that will guide the 2012 summit.

In his statement at the briefing, South Korean Ambassador to the UN Kim Sook provided some details on the communiqué, which is in the drafting stage. He said the sherpas at the Helsinki meeting adopted five guiding principles for the communiqué.

One principle cited by Kim is that nuclear security will remain the focus of the Seoul summit. Hahn said that although in the synergy between nuclear safety and security would be discussed in Seoul, safety would remain a secondary issue. The damage to Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant from an earthquake and tsunami last March sparked a debate among leaders over how much emphasis the summit should place on nuclear safety.

The other four principles that Kim listed were that the summit will build on the work of the 2010 summit, national commitments will remain voluntary, no new regime for nuclear security will be created, and the communiqué will “respect” Obama’s vision for securing all nuclear materials in four years.

Hahn said the agenda from the 2010 summit would be broadened to include security of sensitive information and radioactive sources. Although North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons will not be an explicit agenda item, the summit will provide an opportunity to emphasize the need for peace and security on the Korean peninsula, Hahn said.

The sherpas are scheduled to meet again in New Delhi next February to continue discussing the contents of the communiqué and the summit agenda.

The nuclear security summit process could end in 2014, a top adviser to President Barack Obama indicated last month.

UN Examines U.S. WMD Controls

Peter Crail

A UN nonproliferation body carried out its first formal in-country visit last month, examining the steps that the United States has taken to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Diplomats said that, in addition to giving the panel overseeing the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 a better understanding of U.S. efforts to implement the resolution, the visit could serve as an example for other countries to follow.

The council adopted Resolution 1540 in 2004 to address the potential proliferation of unconventional weapons, related materials, and delivery systems to terrorist groups and smugglers. The resolution requires all states to adopt and enforce a series of national laws criminalizing the possession of unconventional weapons; setting standards to secure materials, facilities, and technologies used to make them; and establishing export controls to prevent their spread. A committee made up of the council’s 15 members also was established to oversee implementation of the measure.

To assess implementation, the committee and its eight experts traditionally have relied on national implementation reports that states have been required to submit and on public records of national laws and arrangements with international nonproliferation agencies. A 2009 UN review of Resolution 1540’s implementation suggested that country visits by the committee could enhance such information gathering and “delve deeper into understanding the challenges” of adopting the wide array of national laws and procedures the resolution requires.

The council endorsed the prospect of country visits in April when it adopted Resolution 1977, which extended the committee’s mandate for 10 years.

During the Sept. 12-16 visit to Washington, committee experts and representatives held meetings with and toured facilities belonging to a variety of government agencies, including the departments of Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security. During a Sept. 15 press briefing, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Programs Simon Limage said that the visit was intended to “demonstrate the whole-of-government approach to the problem of proliferation.”

Limage noted four types of WMD-control efforts that the United States wished to highlight for the 1540 Committee: accountability, physical protection, border control enforcement, and export controls.

Committee representatives and U.S. officials stressed, however, that the visit was not an inspection akin to those carried out by international agencies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, although the panel is to prepare a report on the visit.

Ruvarna Naidoo, acting spokeswoman for the chair of the 1540 Committee, said in a Sept. 14 interview that one of the purposes of the visit is to spur additional governments to host similar visits, providing greater understanding of how the governments tackle the issue of WMD proliferation. She also said that given the committee’s role in matching states needing implementation assistance with countries and organizations that provide such assistance, additional dialogue in the form of country visits can help countries put in place more-effective WMD controls.

A UN nonproliferation body carried out its first formal in-country visit last month, examining the steps that the United States has taken to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The Low Politics of Nonproliferation

Reviewed by Zia Mian

Fallout: The True Story of the CIA’s Secret War on Nuclear Trafficking
By Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz
Free Press, 2011, 289 pp.

For most of the past 60 years, almost the only people who featured in books about how countries acquired nuclear weapons were politicians, generals, scientists, and strategists. These were powerful men who already were public figures, if not household names, in their own countries and often around the world. Nuclear history has been the stories of such men, of enormous struggles, great passions, and the fate of nations, reflecting how the bomb was introduced to the world by the United States.

The August 6, 1945, White House press release announcing the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima declared that the bomb was “a new and revolutionary increase in destruction” made possible by “a harnessing of the basic power of the universe.” The United States had been able to build the bomb because it “had available the large number of scientists of distinction in the many needed areas of knowledge…[and] the tremendous industrial and financial resources necessary for the project.” To drive the point home, the White House revealed that “employment during peak construction numbered 125,000” and observed, “We have spent two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history.”

The press release established the story line for how people and governments came to think about nuclear weapons and what was involved in building them. Describing the Manhattan Project, the White House declared that

the greatest marvel is not the size of the enterprise, its secrecy, nor its cost, but the achievement of scientific brains in putting together infinitely complex pieces of knowledge held by many men in different fields of science into a workable plan. And hardly less marvelous has been the capacity of industry to design, and of labor to operate, the machines and methods to do things never done before.… Both science and industry worked under the direction of the United States Army, which achieved a unique success in managing so diverse a problem.… It is doubtful if such another combination could be got together in the world. What has been done is the greatest achievement of organized science in history.

Ever since the Manhattan Project, would-be bomb builders have believed that if they could repeat the feat, some of this greatness would rub off on them.

The past five years have seen a wealth of books that tell a new and different story about the spread of nuclear weapons over the past 40 years. Notable among these recent books, some of which have been reviewed in these pages, are Shopping for Bombs by Gordon Corera, Deception by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, America and the Islamic Bomb by David Armstrong and Joseph Trento, The Nuclear Jihadist by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins, and Peddling Peril by David Albright. The newest addition to this literature is Fallout: The True Story of the CIA’s Secret War on Nuclear Trafficking by the wife-and-husband team of Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz. It is a sequel to their earlier work.

In all these books, the focus is the trade in nuclear technology, particularly the network established by Abdul Qadeer Khan, a Pakistani metallurgist who trained and worked in Europe in the early 1970s before returning to lead Pakistan’s uranium-enrichment program. Khan set up a procurement network that provided crucial technology to Pakistan’s enrichment program and enabled the country to produce highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. The Khan network later sold this technology to at least three other countries. The key players are small-time businesspeople and bureaucrats, engineers and technicians, intelligence analysts and spies, customs officials, police officers, and magistrates. No scientific breakthroughs take place, motives are often venal, self-interest rules, and ambitions are petty. Enterprises are small, and not very secret. The amounts of money involved are surprisingly small. The new narrative is all about how the bomb has become increasingly ordinary.

Spy Story and Cautionary Tale

Fallout describes itself as “part spy story, part cautionary tale.” The book is certainly organized like a modern spy movie. Its three sections, engagingly titled “The Setup,” “The Cover-up,” and “The Endgame,” are divided into 22 short, brisk chapters that jump from city to city. Much of it reads like a movie screenplay. It begins, for instance, in JeninsSwitzerland, on June 21, 2003, with a CIA team breaking into a house belonging to a member of the Khan network. There are details of how the break-in team of five men and one woman, all with special skills, was assembled, how the lock was picked, the house methodically searched, and computer files hacked, revealing files on the design of a nuclear weapon. The leader is a suitably dramatic “driven and obsessive” agent dubbed “Mad Dog,” who recruited Friedrich, Urs, and Marco Tinner to serve as CIA informers from inside the Khan network.

The larger story of the Khan network and how it was exposed has been told often enough. Fallout offers a new level of human detail. The Tinner family is at the heart of the story. In 1999, Urs Tinner is described as “a plain-looking man with no distinguishing features [who] had barely finished high school [and] seemed incapable of holding a job.” Divorced, denied access to his children, with a second marriage on the rocks, without friends, and in debt, Urs Tinner was holding three jobs to make ends meet, including as a cook and a bartender, when his father Friedrich offered him a job working for Khan in Dubai. Soon afterward, Mad Dog began to pay Urs Tinner “small amounts of cash—five hundred dollars here, a thousand dollars there” to spy for the CIA.

Friedrich Tinner, a friend and supplier of Khan since the early 1970s, and Urs’ brother, Marco, who also worked for Khan, joined the CIA payroll in December 2002. The whole family, in effect, switched sides. Collins and Frantz note that, for all three, “the total payment…didn’t amount to much more than…a few hundred thousand dollars at the most.” The money bought details of purchases and sales of equipment, shipping invoices, engineering plans for at least three different kinds of centrifuges and for an entire enrichment plant, and technical blueprints of two nuclear weapons designs. The Tinners eventually were able to get more money out of the CIA by selling the agency two second-generation (P-2) centrifuges—for half a million dollars. All told, the CIA may have paid out perhaps several million dollars. It is all a far cry from the vast sums that most imagine must somehow be involved when nuclear weapons are for sale.

The larger “cautionary tale” part of Fallout is how, having penetrated the Khan network, the CIA lied to and misled the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the network’s activities, frustrated a Swiss government investigation and criminal prosecution of key members of the network, and extorted the Swiss to destroy crucial evidence (a copy of which, however, remained with the CIA). The book argues that the driver of this “political battle and power struggle” by U.S. officials against the Swiss government and the IAEA was the institutional culture and organizational interest of the CIA.

CIA Prevails

Collins and Frantz suggest that, in the internal policy debates against the Department of State and other arms control advocates about dealing with the Khan network, starting in the mid-1970s, “the CIA and its backers always argued that they needed more information, more evidence, more time.” This was because as long as the focus was on spying, the CIA was always in charge: “From [CIA] case officers…to senior officials providing daily intelligence briefings to the president of the United States, intelligence was the source of power that kept them in the game.”

For Collins and Frantz, the role and power of the CIA in the Washington process ensured that “the intelligence imperative was driving U.S. policy.” As a result, for four decades “protecting the chess pieces in the game of espionage outranked punishing Khan and his associates.”

The key part of Fallout is how the CIA sought to protect its operatives and its sources in the Khan network─the Tinner family, who lived in Switzerland—from a Swiss investigation. It describes how, to squash a police inquiry into the Tinners, the CIA used U.S. officials including U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland Pamela Willeford, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and possibly even former President George H.W. Bush to pressure the Swiss government.

Despite the efforts of Swiss export control officials, police officers, magistrates, and parliamentarians, the Swiss government followed U.S. demands and destroyed thousands of files the police had collected from the Tinners, amounting to 1.9 tons of paper and 1.3 terabytes of data on computer hard disks, CDs, and DVDs. Over a period of two days, almost all the paper files were shredded and incinerated, the hard drives and disks drilled and crushed. Kurt Senn, the head of national security for the Swiss police, the officer who had been in charge of the investigation into the Tinners, observed, “I thought I lived in a democracy.… This Switzerland is a banana republic now.” As a result, key members of the Khan network escaped prosecution or were released after short periods in prison.

How did the CIA get away with this? Collins and Frantz explain it by noting that a succession of U.S. leaders “traded strict standards against nuclear proliferation for other goals, starting with the Carter administration’s determination to ignore Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions in order to maintain the country’s assistance against the Soviets in Afghanistan in late 1979.” This is true enough, but one need not start the clock with Jimmy Carter. After all, as David Albright has pointed out in Peddling Peril, Israel and South Africa, both U.S. allies, were shopping on the nuclear black market before Pakistan even got started. Israel, Albright notes, “rivaled Pakistan in the extent of its nuclear smuggling.”

Like all the other recent books on the Khan network and proliferation, Collins and Frantz call for “a thorough review of the nation’s priorities in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.” The United States, they say, should make fighting proliferation its “highest priority.” Like the other authors on the subject, however, they do not suggest what would be involved in such a shift of policy priorities. It is difficult to see how such a shift can take place absent a much larger change in how the United States thinks about its own nuclear weapons. It is well understood, except perhaps by some in Washington, that until the United States gets serious about eliminating its own nuclear weapons, the incentives driving other states to keep or acquire their own weapons cannot be addressed properly.

There is no evidence that U.S. policymakers are rethinking their basic attitudes toward nuclear weapons. The hope raised by President Barack Obama in Prague two years ago already has faded from policy memory. In 2009, Obama suggested that the goal of a world without nuclear weapons “will not be reached quickly—perhaps not in my lifetime.” In 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared, “[O]ur goal [is] of a world someday, in some century, free of nuclear weapons.”

Washington’s real policy priorities are codified in budgets, and the news there is grim. The Obama administration has announced its support for a massive program of modernization of nuclear warheads, their research and development and production complex, and delivery systems. Over the next decade alone, $88 billion is to be spent on upgrading warheads and new weapons facilities, and $125 billion on a next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile, a new cruise missile, and a long-range nuclear bomber. Other nuclear-weapon states will follow. Unless it is stopped soon, this wave of nuclear weapons modernization will ensure that nuclear weapons and with them the problem of proliferation are here to stay for many more decades.



Zia Mian directs the Project on Peace and Security in South Asia at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.

Zia Mian reviews Fallout, Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz’s account of how the CIA recruited the Tinner family as agents inside the Abdul Qadeer Khan network. In addition to adding detail to previous accounts of the Khan network, the book shows how the CIA sought to protect its dominant position in internal U.S. policy debates on Khan’s nuclear smuggling operation and shielded the Tinners from criminal prosecution.

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.

        Making the Nuclear Security Summit Matter: An Agenda for Action

        Kenneth N. Luongo

        The April nuclear security summit that President Barack Obama will host in Washington will be an unprecedented event. More than 40 heads of state from the developed and developing world will gather to discuss the need to prevent nuclear terrorism and secure all vulnerable nuclear materials in four years. This four-year pledge—a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s nuclear security policy—must be achieved.

        To realize this goal, however, it will be essential that the summit’s agreements break new ground and that the commitments be rapidly, effectively, and sustainably implemented.  Most of the rules of the road for nuclear security were written during the Cold War. They are outdated and desperately need to be supplemented with new initiatives. The nuclear summit is the place to root these new standards and initiatives so they can survive and grow. Only commitments made at the top level of government are likely to endure the bureaucratic and technocratic policy grinder that has kept bold new ideas from being adopted up to this point. Allowing the nuclear summit to become an opportunity just to endorse and modestly strengthen the status quo would be extremely disappointing and potentially very dangerous.

        To avoid the possibility that the summit could be long on hype and short on action, the event should be viewed as a three-phase process, with objectives clearly defined for each stage. The lead-up to the summit should be used to generate new international commitments to secure nuclear and radiological materials worldwide and to increase the capacity of national governments and international institutions to address these challenges. The summit itself, which will take place April 12-13, should culminate in the approval of specific, time-bound goals and actions by the represented governments. The postsummit period should include regular technical meetings to discuss implementation of the commitments and additional steps that should be taken as circumstances evolve. In addition, there should be an agreement on a schedule of regular public reporting on the progress toward the commitments as well as regular political level follow-up among the summit attendees and with other countries to make the process more inclusive.

        The Summit’s Scope

        In his April 5 Prague speech, Obama outlined his arms control and nuclear nonproliferation objectives. At the top of the list was his assessment that terrorists are “determined to buy, build, or steal” a nuclear weapon. To prevent this danger of nuclear terrorism, the president outlined the following major policy goals:

        •  Lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons materials at vulnerable sites within four years.

        •  Convene a nuclear security summit hosted by the United States within a year.

        •  Set new standards and pursue new partnerships to lock down sensitive nuclear materials.

        •  Turn ad hoc efforts, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, into international institutions.

        •  Build on efforts to break up black markets, detect and intercept materials in transit, and use financial tools to disrupt dangerous trade.[1]

        Obama’s concern with nuclear terrorism is consistent with a number of recent statements by current and former government officials[2] and major blue-ribbon commission reports that have been published. The 2004 “9/11 Commission Report” stated that “[p]reventing the proliferation of these weapons [of mass destruction (WMD)] warrants a maximum effort.”[3] The 2005 “9/11 Public Discourse Project: Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations” gave a grade of D to the implementation of that recommendation. It further stated that the president should “dramatically accelerate the timetable for securing all nuclear weapons-usable materials around the world and request the necessary resources to complete this task.” It said Congress should “provide the resources needed.”[4] The 2008 “WMD Report Card: Evaluating U.S. Policies to Prevent Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Terrorism Since 2005” gave a C to the prevention of WMD terrorism and called for prioritized funding and the abandonment of a “patchwork” approach to the challenge.[5] The 2008 “World At Risk: The Report of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism” advocated that the United States work to gain international agreement on “specific, stringent standards” for securing nuclear materials.[6] In May 2009, the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States warned that nuclear terrorism is a “very serious threat.”[7]

        U.S. concerns about the dangers posed by nuclear terrorism are not widely shared in some quarters of the globe, especially in the developing world. Many governments view nuclear disarmament as a more important topic and have concerns about protecting their peaceful uses of nuclear technology.[8] Also, some parts of the global community are allergic to “made in America” policy prescriptions. The Obama administration is trying to overcome this resistance by reaching out to the summit partners and being sensitive to their concerns, but this balancing act is difficult. It could lead to a lowest-common-denominator result for the summit, which would be unwelcome.

        Already, there are concerns that the summit will focus only on existing mechanisms and not endorse any new initiatives, although a work plan may be approved for the implementation of the commitments that are made. Another set of concerns springs from the specific substance of the summit and the potential perception of it. Because of its focus on the need to secure vulnerable nuclear materials, the summit can and perhaps will be seen as sending the message that some countries are not adequately protecting their sensitive nuclear assets, leaving them potentially vulnerable to terrorists. This uncomfortable reality is at odds with the grandeur of top-level international summitry.

        Yet, the growing global stockpile of nuclear and radiological materials and the increasing boldness of terrorists are changing the international requirements for nuclear security.[9] What have not yet changed are the international obligations that respond to these evolving circumstances. For example, fissile material stockpiles are the sovereign possession of every country that holds them, and each of these countries has the national obligation to protect them to the highest level. If a country is facing difficulty in meeting international or domestic nuclear security standards, however, it should be obligated to seek and accept international assistance. The lack of a set of requirements to which every nation must adhere makes judging the consistency and adequacy of some countries’ nuclear security difficult. Also, because of the sensitivity of the materials, key countries often resist cooperating with foreign countries and organizations on nuclear security issues. The summit almost certainly will not identify specific countries and specific problems; that forum is not the appropriate place to call out these details publicly. Nevertheless, the security challenges around the globe are well known, and these vulnerabilities need to be resolved rather than papered over.

        In addition, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will likely have a role at the summit. The IAEA, which is the central international repository of knowledge and assistance for nuclear material security, has deep international legitimacy. A country does not need to be a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to seek IAEA assistance. For example, India and Pakistan, both NPT nonparties, have worked closely with the IAEA on nuclear safeguards.

        A number of international conventions have been created to ensure the protection of nuclear materials. For example, the 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material is a legally binding agreement to protect civilian nuclear materials in transit. It was amended in 2005 to require states to protect their nuclear materials even when not in transit. The amendment also requires states to protect facilities and expands measures to prevent and respond to nuclear smuggling. The amendment can enter into force when two-thirds of the states-parties have ratified it, but to date, only 32 of 142 countries have approved it.[10] Generating commitments from all summit-attending governments to accept this amendment is likely to be one important goal of the summit organizers.

        Many NPT parties have not brought into force an IAEA additional protocol, which allows for more intrusive nuclear inspections.[11] Getting a commitment from all summit participants to sign and ratify an additional protocol is expected to be another important summit objective.

        Supplementing these efforts are ad hoc initiatives, such as the U.S.-created Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program. The CTR program has been operating since 1992 specifically to work with Russia and former Soviet states, although in recent years Congress has incrementally granted greater authority to many of the programs to work in other nations and regions. The program’s multilateral corollary is the Group of Eight (G-8) Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, created in 2002. The Global Partnership has contributors that number well beyond the G-8 countries, but the effort is still focused primarily on Russia, although in 2008 the G-8 agreed to expand the geographical scope. The summit may include reference to the need to continue the Global Partnership beyond its current expiration date of 2012 and may also endorse expanding the implementation on a more global basis.

        In October 2006, Russia and the United States created the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. The Global Initiative is a nonbinding forum for sharing nonproliferation expertise and information and for preventing nuclear terrorism. In three years, this initiative has grown from 13 to 76 member countries. The summit could seek to institutionalize and further expand this group.[12]

        Several UN Security Council resolutions, including Resolutions 1373 and 1540, passed in 2001 and 2004, respectively, are aimed at preventing WMD terrorism and are binding on members under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Most recently, Security Council Resolution 1887 outlined a broad range of nuclear security and nonproliferation requirements and objectives. Resolution 1540 is particularly important because it calls on countries to take action on improving WMD security and then report on their actions. To address the difficulties that some countries are having in meeting these obligations, Resolution 1887 called for consideration of a voluntary Resolution 1540 implementation fund. In addition to expressing support for compliance with these resolutions, the summit attendees could make the initial contributions to the proposed implementation fund.

        The currently contemplated summit communiqué will highlight most, if not all, of these conventions, agreements, and mechanisms, in addition to some of the Obama administration’s other policies, such as minimizing the civil use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and improving the global nuclear security culture.

        Although all of these goals are important and worthwhile, a strategy that focuses primarily on gaining compliance with existing agreements and mechanisms could result in a confirmation of the inadequate status quo. Despite the recommendation of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament that the summit should “focus on the effective implementation of existing agreed measures rather than the development of new ones,”[13] that outcome would waste a singular opportunity to galvanize global attention to a looming danger, bridge the international threat perception gap, and put in place new commitments and initiatives that would drastically improve global nuclear security.

        New Initiatives for the Summit

        The lead-up to the summit is critical for weaving together the strands of old and new policies that can be durable and effective in meeting 21st century nuclear security goals. Motivating the international community to effectively face an amorphous but potentially devastating transnational danger, such as the one arising from inadequately protected nuclear materials, presents unique challenges, in part because of the differing perspectives of countries on the priority of the problem. Entrenched domestic political and economic interests are another factor. The domestic and international political agendas of key countries are already influencing the goals of the summit. There must be an international consensus on the dangers from nuclear terrorism and inadequate nuclear security, even if opinions differ on the solutions. Achieving consensus on the threat, at a minimum, is one of the Obama administration’s key objectives for the summit.

        Despite a desire by the Obama administration not to link the NPT too closely to the objectives of the summit, it will be in the minds of many leaders, not least because of the NPT review conference a month after the summit. Although the NPT is an essential and important foundation for nonproliferation efforts around the world, it is increasingly inadequate to address modern challenges. The treaty has broad international legitimacy, which is critical, and is tied to the IAEA, an institution on which many countries rely heavily for support and information on best nuclear security practices.

        Neither, however, was designed to deal with nuclear terrorism. Terrorist organizations have proven that they can operate globally, plan quietly, and inflict devastating damage, and al Qaeda has stated that obtaining nuclear weapons is a priority goal. The United Kingdom, however, in its “Road to 2010” report calls on “international partners to work…to establish nuclear security as a new fourth pillar” of the NPT bargain.[14] U.S. officials, while not formally endorsing the UK’s fourth pillar concept, have made clear that they intend to draw more attention to the importance of nuclear material security in the NPT context.[15]

        Establishing global fissile material security as a top-level international objective will require an international consensus that goes beyond current mechanisms and embraces new policy initiatives to achieve this objective. Establishing the legitimacy of these new initiatives will be a critical challenge. The following are ideas that could have resonance within the international community and that should be considered as new initiatives for agreement at the summit and negotiated in advance of it.

        Agree on a fissile material security framework. There is no international framework agreement on fissile material security and, as a result, no organizing force to drive the agenda. One important objective that should be under consideration for the summit is the creation of a framework agreement that identifies the threats to humankind from vulnerable fissile materials, especially the threats posed by terrorists, and lists actions required to mitigate them. A framework agreement would allow the subject to be acknowledged at a very high political level as a global priority and then require the adherents to take specific steps to achieve the agreement’s objectives. It will be essential that any new framework look beyond the obligations and capacities of governments to include the civil society and private sectors as partners in this process.

        While chairing the UN Security Council Summit on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Nuclear Disarmament in September, Obama pointed to one path for establishing this framework and its legitimacy. The council unanimously approved Resolution 1887, which creates a framework of commitments and objectives for global nonproliferation.

        Alternatively, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which entered into force in 1992, is another example. This convention established the protection of the climate system as a long-term objective. Subsequent actions guided by the convention have been aimed at mitigating the impact of climate change on the global environment. The convention could be a model for a fissile material security framework agreement. It would allow for agreement on the threats, goals, and challenges and then require periodic international meetings on specific implementation steps. These meetings could focus on review of implementation progress, discussion of the evolving threat, and policy modifications and additions. Such a continuing dialogue would provide pressure and incentive for countries to act and demonstrate their commitment.

        The framework could include a number of items and usefully package them so that its norms are unified, clear, and cohesive. For example, the framework could recognize all the relevant existing conventions, agreements, and Security Council resolutions, including conventions on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism and of terrorist financing and bombings.[16] It could underscore the legitimacy of the ad hoc nuclear security mechanisms such as the CTR program, the Global Partnership, the Proliferation Security Initiative, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and others. It could identify a minimum standard for nuclear and radiological material security based on IAEA standards, while encouraging implementation of the highest possible security standards through an intensive, global best-practices engagement process. In addition, it could encourage public-private partnerships in support of nuclear security and recognize the important role that the civil society sector plays in this area.

        Strengthen the IAEA. The IAEA has an important role in global nuclear security, but its safeguards activities are underfunded, it does not have enough technical staff, and it is ill prepared to fulfill increased demands in the future. Tinkering with the IAEA so that it has a stronger nuclear security role is a delicate business, in part because there will be pressure to match any increase in the board-approved safeguards budget with increases in the budget for technical cooperation and other projects. The IAEA can accept voluntary contributions, however, in addition to the assessed contributions for this budget. For example, the United States makes a voluntary contribution each year. Those funds can be earmarked for specific security purposes without being subject to the regular board approval process. Therefore, in the lead-up to the summit, several actions should be taken:

        •  The developed countries attending the summit should commit to increase their voluntary IAEA contributions for four years and earmark the funds for nuclear security. The goal would be to match the current IAEA nuclear security budget of about $150 million per year.[17]

        •  All countries participating in the summit should agree to train a specific number of additional nuclear security specialists for assignment at the IAEA so they can fill the slots that the additional voluntary contributions would create.

        •  The summit countries should pledge funding for regional and bilateral nuclear security meetings as complements to broader IAEA-strengthening efforts.

        Create a global nuclear material security road map. The summit countries need to commit to the creation of a road map for securing vulnerable nuclear materials. The road map should be based on measurable benchmarks of vulnerability and proven security upgrades. The document does not necessarily have to be public, but it should be a consensus document that identifies the priority locations, ranked highest to lowest, and the financial and technical resources to correct problems as quickly as possible. The road map should be supplemented with a plan for international scientific cooperation to prevent nuclear theft and terrorism.

        Consolidate and eliminate global HEU and plutonium stockpiles. The global growth of HEU and plutonium stockpiles is one reason that concern about potential nuclear terrorism is growing. The summit countries should agree to implement two steps to mitigate this danger. First, they should agree to minimize the number of locations at which the materials are stored. That goal could be accomplished through consolidation and, in the case of HEU, by down-blending it for storage or for use as reactor fuel. Second, the countries should agree to extend international monitoring over all civilian stockpiles and, in nuclear-weapon states, over declared excess military fissile material as well.

        Minimize and then eliminate the use of HEU. HEU is the fissile material most vulnerable to exploitation by terrorists; in particular, its use in civil applications heightens this danger. A number of countries, however, oppose phasing out the use of HEU. Some of them point to their medical isotope production, some to nuclear research experiments, and some to the need for fuel for naval propulsion. Nonetheless, Resolution 1887 calls on states to “minimize to the greatest extent that is technically and economically possible” the use of HEU.[18] That language leaves a wide margin for the material’s continued use.

        Technological advances are producing fuels that can replace HEU even in the most difficult cases. Therefore, the international community should come to an agreement on a timetable for a phaseout and ultimate ban on the civil use of HEU. This objective is probably too controversial for agreement at the summit, but if that proves to be the case, further technical and political discussions on this subject should be endorsed by the summit communiqué.

        Create regional nuclear training centers. Russia and the United States, in the course of their collaboration on nuclear security improvement, have created several regional nuclear training centers in Russia. These centers have become hubs of expertise and training for nuclear facilities in need of security improvements. This concept should be expanded, with the establishment of regional training centers in other key areas around the globe. The new centers would cultivate a local security culture, improve efficiency by consolidating training courses rather than repeating training to multiple audiences, and provide ready access to information on best practices among partners. At the summit, the United States should offer to fund the establishment of these centers. Eventually, they could be supplemented or fully supported by Global Partnership countries and the IAEA. Ultimately, these centers could expand their mission to include regional nuclear monitoring that could supplement IAEA activities.

        Secure all radiological sources in metropolitan hospitals. Radiological sources, which are in use in every major metropolitan hospital in the world, pose a danger if they fall into the wrong hands. The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has completed a pilot project with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to make the hospital’s radiological sources more secure and to initiate cooperation with the local authorities.[19] The summit attendees should build on this important success and commit to take similar actions in their countries. In the United States, approximately 500 major metropolitan hospital buildings use radiological sources. At a cost of roughly $250,000 per building, the total cost of completing projects at all of them would be about $125 million.

        Postsummit Implementation

        Whatever the results of the summit in April, several actions will be necessary in its aftermath. The first is to create a process for tracking the implementation of the commitments made in the summit communiqué. One important component of that document must be creation of a regularized technical dialogue among the specialists from the communiqué signatories. This process could be semiannual or allow for ad hoc bilateral and multilateral meetings. It should include private sector and civil society representatives when appropriate, and it must ensure that the summit agenda remains dynamic and evolving.

        Second, the summit countries should agree to issue an annual report on their implementation progress. The report could include the steps each has taken to meet the summit’s commitments and provide information on the technical meetings and plans for the upcoming year. The document should be public. Transparency in this process is important before the summit, at the summit, and in follow-up activities.

        Third, the summit attendees must commit to reaching out beyond their ranks to other countries to draw them into the dialogue on how to make serious progress on nuclear material security. Some criticism of the summit is likely because it does not include all nuclear countries, but an event that inclusive would be unwieldy and substantively diluted. The governments attending the summit could use the event as a starting point to initiate and continue regional security dialogues with countries not included in the April group.

        Finally, the official summit attendees must ensure that the civil society and private sectors are fully engaged in the summit agenda. In the United States, more than 40 organizations and experts formed a Fissile Materials Working Group within weeks of Obama’s Prague speech. They sent him a letter identifying five priorities for achieving his four-year pledge and are in the process of planning their own international nuclear summit for April 12, just before the official event, to help the press and the public better understand why this agenda is so essential.[20] Their postsummit plan is to hold meetings to evaluate and measure progress over the next several years.

        The Consequences of Failure

        In his first year in office, Obama has taken three important steps to improve nuclear material security around the globe. Last April, he made a political commitment to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide in four years. He then highlighted the importance of this and other nonproliferation issues for the world community at the United Nations in September. Finally, he invited over 40 heads of state to Washington to participate in a first-ever nuclear security summit this April.  But these political objectives must result in concrete action and that will take considerable and sustained political, diplomatic, and technical engagement. Because the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials is extremely ambitious it could face significant opposition from some of the summit attendees and other countries. Energy demands resulting in an increase in nuclear power and materials, the economic and political empowerment of the developing countries that makes them less willing to be swayed by Western concerns, and the damage done to U.S. credibility from exaggerating the WMD danger in Iraq are all contributing to the difficulty of the task. These factors will further complicate the task of building international consensus to support tougher nuclear security standards, secure vulnerable nuclear materials, and prevent nuclear terrorism.

        Despite these forces of inertia, however, the nuclear summit and in particular the activities that occur before and after, cannot be conducted as business as usual. Obtaining commitments—including some that exceed agreements in place today—to advance this agenda significantly, locking down those commitments at the heads-of-state level at the summit, and vigorously following though with rapid implementation are the necessary steps to make the summit matter. Otherwise the summit could suffer from a lack of ambition and turn into a lost opportunity to drive the more aggressive global action required to bolster global nuclear security.



        Kenneth N. Luongo is president of the Partnership for Global Security and was a senior adviser on nonproliferation policy to Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary. He is a member of the Arms Control Association’s board of directors.


        1. “Arms Control Today 2008 Presidential Q&A: President-elect Barack Obama,” Arms Control Today, December 2008, www.armscontrol.org/2008election; Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Barack Obama,” April 5, 2009, www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-By-President-Barack-Obama-In-Prague-As-Delivered; Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Barack Obama to the United Nations General Assembly,” September 23, 2009, www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-to-the-United-Nations-General-Assembly.

        2. George Tenet, Testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, February 24, 2004, www.intelligence.senate.gov/040224/tenet.pdf; Robert Gates, Statement at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C., October 28, 2008, www.carnegieendowment.org/files/1028_transcrip_gates_checked.pdf; J. Michael McConnell, Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, February 27, 2008, www.fas.org/irp/congress/2008_hr/022708mcconnell.pdf.

        3. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, “The 9/11 Commission Report,” July 22, 2004, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/index.htm.

        4. 9/11 Public Discourse Project, “Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations,” December 5, 2005, www.9-11pdp.org/press/2005-12-05_report.pdf.

        5. Partnership for a Secure America, “WMD Report Card: Evaluating U.S. Policies to Prevent Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Terrorism Since 2005,” August 25, 2008, www.psaonline.org/downloads/ReportCard%208-25-08.pdf.

        6. Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, “World at Risk,” December 2008, www.preventwmd.gov/report.

        7. Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, “America’s Strategic Posture: The Final Report of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States,” May 6, 2009, www.usip.org/strategic-posture-commission/view-the-report.

        8. At the 2005 NPT Review Conference, the South African representative, Abdul Minty, delivered a statement saying, “There is growing concern that while demands are being made for non-nuclear-weapon States to agree to new measures in the name of non-proliferation, concrete actions towards disarmament are neglected. South Africa wishes to reiterate that it cannot support unwarranted restrictions on the NPT’s guaranteed access to such nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes by States that are fully compliant with their obligations under the NPT.” Abdul Minty, Statement by the Republic of South Africa during the general debate of the 2005 Review Conference of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, May 3, 2005, www.un.org/events/npt2005/statements/npt03southafrica.pdf.

        9. For one example, see “Pakistan: Terrorist Attack Kills Six Soldiers in Rawalpindi,” Telegraph (London), October 10, 2009, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/6291516/Pakistan-terrorist-attack-kills-six-soldiers-in-Rawalpindi.html.

        10. Only 12 of the 43 countries invited to the summit have ratified the 2005 amendment. The United States has not ratified the amendment.

        11. Of the 43 countries invited to the summit, 36 have signed an additional protocol. It has entered into force in 29 of those countries. An additional protocol is in force in the United States.

        12. Of the 43 countries invited to the summit, 31 are currently partners in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

        13. International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, “Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers,” December 2009, www.icnnd.org/reference/reports/ent/synopsis.html.

        14. Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, “The Road to 2010: Addressing the Nuclear Question in the Twenty First Century,” July 2009. The three established “pillars” of the NPT nuclear bargain are preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, promoting disarmament, and facilitating the peaceful uses of atomic energy.

        15. See the August 12 speech by Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation Susan Burk to the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (http://geneva.usmission.gov/2009/08/12/ambassador-burk); see also Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s October 21 speech to the U.S. Institute of Peace (www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/10/130806.htm).

        16. International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, April 13, 2005, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetailsIII.aspx?&src=IND&mtdsg_no=XVIII-15&chapter=18&Temp=mtdsg3&lang=en; International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, December 15, 1997, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=XVIII-9&chapter=18&lang=en; International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, December 9, 1999, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=XVIII-11&chapter=18&lang=en.

        17. The IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund is almost entirely dependent on voluntary and in-kind contributions from member states while its safety and safeguards programs are largely funded through the IAEA regular budget and supplemented with voluntary contributions. IAEA, “Nuclear Security Fund (NSF),”n.d., www-ns.iaea.org/security/nsf.htm; IAEA, “Nuclear Security Fund Received Key Financial Support,” March 27, 2009, www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/News/2009/nuclsecfund.html. Approximately 25 percent of the IAEA’s annual budget is provided by the United States through the Department of State. In fiscal year 2008, the United States provided $94 million of the IAEA’s $390 million total regular budget and another $51.8 million in voluntary contributions. Additionally, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) assists the IAEA by providing financial and in-kind contributions totaling $53.3 million plus two full-time nonproliferation experts detailed to the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna in fiscal year 2008. NNSA, “NNSA Contributions to the IAEA,” April 2009, www.nnsa.energy.gov/news/2326.htm.

        18. UN Security Council, Resolution 1887, S/RES/1887, September 24, 2009, www.un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_resolutions09.htm

        19. NNSA Public Affairs, “NNSA, University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Police Raise the Bar for Radiological Security,” March 27, 2009, www.nnsa.energy.gov/news/2301.htm.

        20. For information on the Fissile Materials Working Group and its activities, see www.fmwg.org.


        The April nuclear security summit that President Barack Obama will host in Washington will be an unprecedented event. More than 40 heads of state from the developed and developing world will gather to discuss the need to prevent nuclear terrorism and secure all vulnerable nuclear materials in four years. This four-year pledge—a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s nuclear security policy—must be achieved.

        Joseph Cirincione on The Colbert Report



        Joseph Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund, a major ACA funder, appeared on the news-parody show The Colbert Report in November 2009. He attempted to convince Stephen to take nuclear terrorism seriously.

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        Joseph Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund, a major ACA funder, appeared on the news-parody show The Colbert Report in November 2009. He attempted to convince Stephen to take nuclear terrorism seriously.

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        WMD Commission Issues Findings

        Daniel Arnaudo

        On Dec. 3, a congressionally mandated commission released a report offering 15 recommendations to help the U.S. government improve its ability to prevent and respond to threats of biological and nuclear terrorism. Drawing even more attention and criticism than the recommendations, however, was the commission's prediction that terrorists were likely to carry out an attack with biological or nuclear weapons somewhere in the world within the next five years.

        The nine-member Commission on the Prevention of the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism, chaired by former Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.), devoted considerable attention to biological weapons issues, particularly the security of facilities said to be involved in research of vaccines and other defenses against biological weapons. Funding for such research has grown substantially since the September 2001 terrorist attacks and has raised concerns that the United States is not adhering to its commitments under the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). (See ACT, October 2004.)

        One recommendation of the commission is to improve the security culture at biological labs in the United States and overseas. The report calls for a review of biosecurity at labs nationwide, federal registration for all labs with a biosafety level (BSL) of 3 or 4, and increased funding for bioforensics research to identify biological agents and such characteristics as their age and place of origin.

        High-containment (BSL-3) and maximum-containment (BSL-4) labs are designed for the safe handling of pathogens with the highest levels of lethality and contagiousness. All BSL-4 labs are currently required to register with the U.S. government, but only those BSL-3 labs that work with pathogens or toxins designated as select agents, or that conduct recombinant DNA research with federal funding, are required to do so. An unknown number of BSL-3 labs, ranging from tens to hundreds, do not fall into either category.

        The registration of all BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs would be coordinated by a federal agency designated by the president and would contribute to a database of high-security facilities that would help the government assess the "aggregate risks" associated with the expansion of biological research. This agency could also help develop a strategy for securing dangerous pathogens better and creating mandatory security standards for all labs to follow in the future.

        Internationally, the commission recommends that the Departments of State and Health and Human Services press the international community to convene a conference to create global biological security standards.

        Although the commission condones the Bush administration's 2001 decision to pull out of the negotiations on the BWC extended verification protocol (see ACT, September 2001), it recommends that the next administration reaffirm the importance of the BWC and work toward achieving universal adherence as a means of promoting better international biosecurity. One hundred and sixty-one states are party to the BWC, and 14 have signed but not ratified it.

        A second focus of the report is combating nuclear terrorism. It recommends that the Obama administration conduct a comprehensive review of the recently completed U.S.-Indian nuclear energy cooperation agreement's effect on programs in the region. (See ACT, October 2008.) The report also calls for greater attention to be paid to Pakistan, calling it "the geographic crossroads for terrorism and weapons of mass destruction" (WMD).

        Ensuring the continued viability of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) is another major concern of the report. It calls on the United States to strengthen the international nonproliferation regime by supporting and funding an international nuclear fuel bank (see page 43), imposing stricter penalties for nations that violate or withdraw from the NPT, and increasing the inspection capacity of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

        The report supports the negotiation of a treaty to end the production of fissile materials such as plutonium and highly enriched uranium for use in weapons, saying that alternative approaches to a proposed fissile material cutoff treaty should be explored. It suggests that the five NPT nuclear-weapon states jointly declare a halt to their own production of materials for weapons. Four of the five have indicated officially that they are no longer producing fissile material for weapons purposes; China has indicated so unofficially.

        Other recommendations touch on the involvement of the U.S. public with these issues and the ability of the federal government to coordinate with state and local governments and offer citizens information on threats and preparedness.

        To improve public understanding, the commission calls on the government to release more information on how to respond to a WMD attack, including descriptions of specific actions that citizens can take in the event of an attack. It similarly asks for better explanations of the meaning of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) color-coded threat levels and what individual citizens should do in response. The commission found that the system has resulted in a "highly simplistic representation of the nation's risk" thus far.

        The report emphasizes the need to reform the system of congressional oversight for national and homeland security, noting that DHS has 16 committees overseeing it in the House and 14 in the Senate. It calls for the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees to become the sole oversight bodies. It also calls on the foreign relations, intelligence, and armed services committees to cooperate and share information better on WMD and terrorism threats, partly by expanding the number of fellowships and positions for personnel with relevant expertise from the nongovernmental sector.

        In the executive branch, the commission recommends that the Homeland Security Council be folded into the National Security Council. The report suggests that much duplication of work and confusion could be avoided with a merger but that the homeland security advisor could continue to exist as the president's principal adviser coordinating the domestic agencies responsible for disaster preparedness and response. According to a Jan. 9 report in The Washington Post, President-elect Barack Obama has already instructed his designated chief adviser on counterterrorism, John Brennan, to personally investigate whether the two should be merged.

        The controversial prediction on WMD use comes in the first line of the report's executive summary, which notes that "it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013." This prediction was immediately picked up by the world media and criticized by one of the commission's members, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center Executive Director Henry Sokolski, who also produced an "additional view" questioning the report's focus on the likelihood of an attack from terrorists. Sokolski contends that the commission should have taken more time to focus on threats emanating from the export of U.S. nuclear energy technology to countries that cannot fully secure their nuclear facilities.

        In a Jan. 7 interview with Arms Control Today, Sokolski noted that the 2013 prediction was dependant on a government estimate that suggested that an attack could consist of a "single letter bomb that might kill one or several people" or an "extremely unlikely" nuclear attack or would not occur at all. Graham said at a Dec. 11 discussion at the Center for National Policy that the report notes that although the anthrax letter attacks of 2001 killed five people, they also cost the government and the economy billions of dollars in the panic and investigation that followed.

        The prediction has other critics, including Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Terrorism Risk Assessment, who said Dec. 2 that "[i]t's time to retire the fear card. We need to educate and inform the American people, not terrify them with alarming details about possible threats to the homeland."

        This page was corrected on January 23, 2009. The original paragraph describing the registration of labs incorrectly implied that no BSL-3 labs are required to register with the U.S. government. At present, some BSL-3 labs are required to register if they (1) work with pathogens or toxins designated as select agents, or (2) conduct recombinant DNA research with federal funding. An unknown number of BSL-3 labs do not fall into either category, and the commission recommends that they also be registered.

        On Dec. 3, a congressionally mandated commission released a report offering 15 recommendations to help the U.S. government improve its ability to prevent and respond to threats of biological and nuclear terrorism. Drawing even more attention and criticism than the recommendations, however, was the commission's prediction that terrorists were likely to carry out an attack with biological or nuclear weapons somewhere in the world within the next five years. (Continue)

        ElBaradei Warns of Nuclear Trafficking Threat

        Meredith Lugo and Peter Crail

        In an Oct. 27 statement to the UN General Assembly, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei warned that the potential that terrorists could acquire nuclear and radiological material “remains a grave threat.” He noted that incidents involving the theft or loss of such material “is disturbingly high.”

        In sufficient quantities, radioactive material can be used as part of a radiological dispersal device, or “dirty bomb,” spreading radioactive material over a targeted area. Highly enriched uranium and plutonium pose an even greater risk as, with the necessary expertise, these can be used to form the explosive core of a nuclear weapon.

        ElBaradei’s Oct. 27 statement echoed a similar warning he issued to the agency’s Board of Governors Sept. 22, when he indicated that 243 incidents of illicit trafficking and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear or radiological material had been reported to the agency between July 2007 and June 2008, some of which may have occurred prior to that time period. Twenty-one incidents involved the theft or loss of material which was not recovered.

        Since 1993, the IAEA has maintained a database of reported incidents of unauthorized activity involving nuclear or radiological material, including illegal trade and unintentional breaches of nuclear security, as well as thwarted and unsuccessful acts of trafficking or other criminal activity. The agency issued the most recent report of the Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB) Sept. 26, which records a total of 1,340 reported incidents from 1993 to 2007. This figure represents an increase of 260 from last year’s 1,080 total confirmed incidents. It is unclear if this large number indicates a growth in incidents in 2007 or is the product of delayed reporting and improved detection mechanisms by participating countries.

        Currently, 100 states participate in the ITDB program. Kuwait, Madagascar, Moldova, and Uganda have joined the ITDB since 2006.

        Changing its practice from previous ITDB reports, the IAEA did not release the exact numbers of specific types of incidents this year. An IAEA representative indicated to Arms Control Today Oct. 20 that member states preferred that more specific annual numbers not be released. The agency did, however, provide graphs indicating an approximate number of specific types of reported incidents.

        One of the most serious types of cases involves the unauthorized possession of nuclear or radiological material “and related criminal activity,” which the agency declares “could be a shortcut to nuclear proliferation and to nuclear or radiological terrorism.” The Sept. 26 report indicates that there were approximately 13 reported incidents in 2007, the lowest reported rate since 2001.

        The report also demonstrated a significant shift in the number of incidents of theft or loss of nuclear or radioactive material between 2006 and 2007. Although states reported less than 20 such incidents in 2007, more than 100 were reported in 2006. (See ACT, Oct. 2007.) The agency explained in the Sept. 26 report that this decrease was due to a change in the way in which one state reported its incidents for 2006, rather than the actual number of cases. That state reverted to its original reporting practices in 2007. The IAEA also noted that some of the decline may be due to delayed reporting rather than an actual decrease in incident occurrence. The materials involved in 75 percent of theft and loss incidents since 2004 have never been recovered.

        The number of incidents of uncategorized unauthorized activity, such as unauthorized disposal of materials or material recovery with no evidence of criminal behavior, has increased steadily since 1993. The 2007 rate is the highest yet, at more than 100 reported incidents. The IAEA states that these numbers “show weakness of regulatory systems” but not an indication of criminal activity or illicit trafficking.

        Since its inception, the ITDB has recorded 18 incidents involving weapons-grade nuclear material. The last confirmed incidents occurred in 2005. The report noted that most incidents involved “very small quantities” of highly enriched uranium or plutonium.

        The information submitted by member states is part of an ongoing analysis by the IAEA to substantiate incidents of unauthorized activity, assess threats, and identify patterns and weaknesses in detection abilities and practices. According to the September IAEA report, the information from the ITDB is shared with member states to “enhance nuclear security through preventing and combating unauthorized activities.”

        While the IAEA also maintains programs to assist states in improving nuclear security, ElBaradei noted Sept. 22 that “funding for nuclear security remains a cause for concern,” adding that the agency depends entirely on extra-budgetary contributions for such work.

        In an Oct. 27 statement to the UN General Assembly, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei warned that the potential that terrorists could acquire nuclear and radiological material “remains a grave threat.” He noted that incidents involving the theft or loss of such material “is disturbingly high.” (Continue)


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