"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
Nuclear Nonproliferation

Addressing Verification in the Nuclear Ban Treaty

June 2017 

By Zia Mian, Tamara Patton, and Alexander Glaser

The UN General Assembly last December called for negotiations this year to produce a "legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination." The nuclear ban treaty talks will have to engage the issue of confirming compliance by the parties with the specific prohibitions established by such a treaty and, in addition, can establish guiding principles for the process of eliminating nuclear weapons and maintaining the resulting nuclear-weapon-free world.

Delegates at the UN conference to negotiate a nuclear weapons prohibition treaty hold opening-day talks at the United Nations in New York on March 27. (Photo credit: Tamara Patton)During the first round of treaty negotiations in March leading to the draft text presented in May, there appeared to be broad agreement among states on most of the core prohibitions but debate over a few others.1 States by and large seemed to agree on the treaty including, as basic obligations, a ban on the development, production, possession, transfer, use, and threat of use of nuclear weapons and on the provision of assistance, encouragement, and inducement for these activities. There were differences among states over whether the treaty should include measures on the elimination of existing nuclear-weapon-stockpiles or whether such measures should await later negotiations with the nine states having nuclear weapons today, who at some time may decide to join the ban treaty.2

There also were differences among states on how to treat verification. The ban treaty talks and the larger disarmament process they seek to put in place will need to consider how to assure compliance with their commitments for three classes of states: (1) established non-nuclear-weapon states that join the treaty, (2) transitional nuclear-weapon states that commit to eliminate their weapon stockpiles when joining the treaty, and (3) legacy nuclear-weapon states with latent capabilities after having joined the treaty.

As part of establishing a perspective on verification, the ban treaty process will need to make some broad choices about the eventual arrangements for a nuclear-weapon-free world, recognizing that there are many possible such end states and that some of these will be more resilient than others. This presents an opportunity to establish forward-looking guidelines on ensuring the greatest possible transparency, accountability, and irreversibility in the process for achieving and maintaining the elimination of nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) can play an important part in shaping and implementing the verification process. By its statute, the IAEA is charged to further "the establishment of safeguarded worldwide disarmament…in conformity with any international agreements entered into pursuant to such policies."3

Building on the NPT

Many of the key prohibitions envisaged for the ban treaty already are captured by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Under Article II of the NPT, each non-nuclear-weapon state undertakes "not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices."4 Under Article III.1, each non-nuclear-weapon state is bound to accept safeguards through IAEA monitoring and inspections "as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the [IAEA]…for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfilment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty."

There are 172 non-nuclear-weapon states with comprehensive safeguards agreements with the agency, and 124 states have in place additional protocols that require more extensive reporting by states of their nuclear activities and permit the IAEA increased rights of access to information and sites.5 Of the 130 states-participants in the negotiations, only seven do not have comprehensive IAEA safeguards agreements in force, and all but one of these have agreed to do so. This means that almost all of these 130 states already have in place verification structures that could provide assurance these states are in compliance with many of the expected core ban treaty provisions (table 1).

Further, among the 130 states seeking to agree on the ban treaty, 94 states are also members of nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties. Each of these treaties includes an obligation, separate from that in the NPT, to conclude a safeguards agreement with the IAEA. This language varies between the zone treaties and became more precise and demanding with the most recent agreement (the 2006 Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty) requiring states to conclude with the IAEA a comprehensive safeguards agreement and an additional protocol to that agreement.6 Most nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties also have provisions, in case of compliance concerns, for special inspections that can be conducted at the request of states-parties by the IAEA or the zone’s implementation body.

This opens the way for the ban treaty to put in place a multilateral arrangement that adopts IAEA safeguards as part of its verification regime, as a parallel obligation to that of the NPT and nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties, including provisions for special inspections. As is already the case for states that are parties to the NPT and a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty, one safeguards agreement with the IAEA is sufficient to satisfy multiple obligations. It also can ease concerns that a state may seek to demonstrate its commitment to nuclear disarmament by joining the ban treaty but use this as an excuse to leave the NPT and thereby end up outside a verification regime.

A U.S. delegation led by State Department official Sung Kim crosses the military demarcation line between North and South Korea May 10, 2008, carrying boxes of North Korean documents. North Korea had declared its separated plutonium inventory and provided 18,000 pages of records on the operation of its production reactor and reprocessing facility to permit verification in response to a U.S. proposal for “full access to records.” (Photo credit: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)The ban treaty could adopt a simple verification obligation using language similar to that in the nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties, while recognizing that some verification obligations already exist and more stringent verification may be necessary as nuclear-weapon states transition to join the treaty. For example, the treaty could require parties to maintain the nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation obligations they had in force as of January 1, 2017, and to accept as soon as possible the most stringent such measures available and to accept all future safeguards, monitoring, and verification obligations as agreed by the ban treaty conference of parties. This would create a stable, common verification baseline as of the start of the negotiations and a mechanism for the agreed evolution and improvement of the verification regime over time.

The final documents of the 2000 and 2010 NPT review conferences and the draft final document of the 2015 review conference each offered the same guidance on the issue of future verification in non-nuclear-weapon states and in nuclear-weapon states in the context of their nuclear disarmament: "The Conference…stresses that comprehensive safeguards and additional protocols should be universally applied once the complete elimination of nuclear weapons has been achieved."7 This guidance could be adopted by the ban treaty process.

Weapons Elimination

Because the goal of the ban treaty is to strengthen the legal and normative basis for a process leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons, an important concern will be establishing guidelines for dealing with nuclear-weapon states committing to eliminate their weapons stockpiles through the ban treaty process. The UN resolution establishing the negotiating conference highlighted that, along with the ban treaty, "additional measures, both practical and legally binding, for the irreversible, verifiable and transparent destruction of nuclear weapons would be needed in order to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons."8

Rather than trying to set up specific, detailed measures to eliminate nuclear weapons, the ban treaty could simply specify that any nuclear-weapon state seeking to join the treaty must do so through an arrangement agreed with the conference of parties to the treaty. This would allow the issue to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, reflecting the particular history, circumstances, and capabilities of the state seeking to accede to the treaty. This flexibility may be necessary given the diversity in the arsenals and programs of the nine states possessing nuclear weapons today.

In principle, any nuclear-weapon state wishing to join the ban treaty could sign the treaty, declare its weapons holdings, and accept international monitoring of the process of taking its weapons off deployment, disabling them, and placing them in secure storage pending their verified elimination as part of an agreed, time-bound plan. This is the model used in the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which requires that states declare their chemical weapons and "provide access to chemical weapons...for the purpose of systematic verification" along with a "general plan for destruction", stipulating that "such destruction shall begin not later than two years after this Convention enters into force for it and shall finish not later than 10 years after entry into force of this Convention."9 Following the CWC example, this plan could include destruction of delivery systems specially designed or certified by the state for nuclear weapons missions.

A state could choose to dismantle its nuclear weapons before joining the treaty and then offer up for verification its non-nuclear-weapon status, as was the case with South Africa’s accession to the NPT. This approach, however, would make the eventual verification process more difficult and time consuming and leave greater uncertainty.

In 1989, South Africa decided to terminate its nuclear weapons program. The highly enriched uranium (HEU) cores of its six existing weapons and for a seventh planned weapon were melted down, other key weapons components were destroyed or damaged so they could be not reused, and documents on weapons design and manufacturing were destroyed. In 1991, South Africa joined the NPT and signed a safeguards agreement with the IAEA. After South Africa in March 1993 revealed its nuclear weapons program, the IAEA inspections had to expand to include confirmation that the nuclear weapons, components, and related manufacturing equipment had been destroyed and that nuclear weapons laboratory and engineering facilities had been decommissioned or converted to peaceful purposes and the former weapons material accounted for.

This IAEA assessment included suggestions to South Africa about other components and information that could be destroyed and what destruction should involve.10 The IAEA recommended that "destruction" of nuclear components should be such that the "critical dimensions of destroyed components would no longer be measurable or reproducible, that the intended function would no longer be recognisable or that a destroyed item could not be reconstituted faster or more economically than it could be redesigned or rebuilt."11

In September 1993, the IAEA reported that it had "found no indication to suggest that there remain any sensitive components of the nuclear weapons programme which have not been either rendered useless or converted to commercial non-nuclear applications or peaceful nuclear usage."12 The lead IAEA inspectors concluded that

[t]he IAEA’s assessment of the complete-ness of South Africa’s inventory of nuclear facilities and materials and its assessment of the status of the former nuclear weapons programme - as in all cases where a large nuclear programme comes under safeguards - is not free from uncertainty.

In the case of South Africa, the results of extensive inspection and assessment, and the transparency and openness shown, have led to the conclusion that there were no indications to suggest that the initial inventory is incomplete or that the nuclear weapon programme was not completely terminated and dismantled.13

Only in 2010, nineteen years after South Africa’s initial report, was the IAEA able to include the country in its list of states where it could conclude "all nuclear material remained in peaceful activities."14 Olli Heinonen, a former head of the IAEA Department of Safeguards, in a study of the South African case concluded that "it is clear that the process of verification after the fact of dismantlement having taken place meant time added to the clock for the IAEA in terms of providing assurances."15

In verifying the elimination of existing nuclear weapons programs, the ban treaty process will need to address existing nuclear arsenals, which range from about 7,000 weapons each in the United States and Russia to the fissile material equivalent of perhaps 10 weapons in North Korea.16 It also will need to tackle the associated infrastructure, which for the United States and Russia produced tens of thousands of nuclear weapons over the past 70 years.17 As a first step, the process will require monitoring up to about 100 sites believed to hold nuclear weapons today (figure 1). This task could be made simpler if nuclear-weapon states were to begin a transparent monitored process of consolidating their nuclear weapons complexes to fewer sites that were configured to be accessible to international inspectors and accounting for past weapons-related activities.18

It is reasonable to assume that a South African-style verification of warhead dismantlement and accounting of fissile material production would be a much more difficult task, may take several decades to complete, and may be fraught with large uncertainties. It would be much more manageable if verification was agreed in advance and nuclear warhead dismantlement and destruction and material disposition actually observed to ensure the process met agreed standards.

In anticipation and support of these future verification efforts, both nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states ought to pursue with a greater sense of urgency joint efforts to develop and demonstrate inspection systems for verified warhead storage and dismantlement. Equally important, nuclear-weapon states ought to begin now to document warhead assembly, refurbishment, and dismantlement activities and movements of warheads and warhead components through the weapons complex in ways that international inspectors will find credible at a later time. This includes generating and preserving appropriate records for all relevant transactions. Modern cryptographic techniques, such as blockchaining, could help demonstrate the authenticity of these records in the future.19 Although these records would not necessarily be made public now, they would help establish the provenance of treaty-accountable items and drastically simplify the verification challenges of nuclear disarmament.

Legacy Capabilities

As part of its verification of the disarmament of South Africa, the IAEA agreed with that government "to consult on future strategies for maintaining assurance that the nuclear weapons capability would not be regenerated."20 Accordingly, the IAEA took up the government’s invitation to provide the IAEA with "full access to any location or facility associated with" the former nuclear weapons program and to "grant access, on a case--by-case basis, to other locations or facilities that the IAEA may specifically wish to visit."21

The problem of legacy capabilities will be more significant for the nine current nuclear-weapon states. It will be most acute in the case of the United States and Russia, which have had the largest and most complex weapons programs by far. The scale of the challenge was captured in a 1997 National Academy of Sciences report, which assessed that

[i]f all nuclear warheads were eliminated, the current nuclear weapon states, and probably a dozen or more other countries, could in a national emergency produce a dozen simple fission weapons in as little as a few months, even if no effort had been made to maintain this capability. On the other hand, the production of a hundred lightweight thermonuclear bombs or warheads equipped with modern safety and security devices might take several years, even if special efforts had been made to maintain the capability to produce such weapons.22

The timescale and the size of reconstituted nuclear forces identified by this report depends fundamentally on the access to nuclear weapons-usable fissile material, i.e., plutonium and HEU. Therefore, the ban treaty process must consider adding, either as an immediate obligation or as a goal of the treaty process, a prohibition on the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons-usable materials for any purpose. For the existing stockpiles of fissile materials—about 1,350 tons of HEU and 510 tons of separated plutonium—the treaty could make recommendations for a framework to deal with the disposition and elimination of these materials and, for the interim period, envision their international custody (figure 2).23

Any state wishing to build or reconstitute a simple nuclear arsenal would need first to produce tens to hundreds of kilograms of plutonium or HEU, which would increase the scale of the reconstitution, its complexity, and the time required, which together increase the risk of early detection. If the elimination of nuclear weapons was accompanied by a phaseout of nuclear power, reconstitution would be made even more difficult, and its verification would be made even easier.24

Weapons-Related Research

Along with access to fissile material, research and development efforts leading to a weapons capability will be a key challenge for a legacy nuclear-weapon state seeking to reconstitute a nuclear arsenal, as it is for a would-be nuclear proliferant state today. Because the ban treaty is expected to prohibit the development of nuclear weapons, the linked issue of prohibiting weapons-related research may also be important. Notably, there is an explicit constraint on such activities for states in the African nuclear-weapon-free zone.25

The NPT and the IAEA safeguards system have grappled with this question recently in the case of Iran. The IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program identified research and testing activities and management structures judged to have been "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device."26 Among other things, these activities included specific kinds of computer modeling, the development of detonators, systems for triggering high explosives, hydrodynamic experiments, and neutron initiation.

The 2017 Carnegie Endowment report "Toward a Nuclear Firewall" identified a similar set of "activities, materials, and equipment that should be inhibited because they are purely or strongly associated with nuclear weapons programs."27 The critical weapons-related activities to be prohibited included

  • milling of plutonium or uranium shells, spheres, or hemispheres;
  • neutron generators;
  • tritium technology;
  • hydrodynamic codes and experiments;
  • preparations for a nuclear test explosion, including devices using inert materials;
  • modification of a delivery vehicle to carry a nuclear warhead;
  • development of a re-entry vehicle; and
  • weaponization.

The report noted that states where there is evidence of all these R&D activities should be subject to greater monitoring than states where there are few signs. It also identified the importance of "contextual factors," such as secrecy regarding such activities, military involvement, and the absence of activities that one would expect if these activities were part of a civilian program and of states being part of international agreements, in making such a judgment. The overall framework was characterized as an assessment of a state’s nuclear activities in terms of "compatibility, cohesion, and consistency" with a peaceful or military purpose. The report concluded that, "as a general principle, activities that alone and/or in combination elicit warning that nuclear weapons are being pursued should not appear in states that have completed a nuclear disarmament process."28 The ban treaty could give guidance that all nuclear R&D activities should be able to demonstrate they meet such criteria for a peaceful purpose.

Technological and Societal Verification

The UN open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament negotiations in its 2015 report to the General Assembly helped lay the basis for the ban treaty talks and suggested some verification measures that could be part of such a treaty process, such as routine and challenge inspections, as well as measures for the use of on-site sensors, satellite photography, radionuclide sampling, and other remote sensors. The measures also include information sharing with other organizations, and citizen reporting and establishment of an international monitoring system, which includes making information available through a registry.29

Former Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu flashes the V-for-victory sign as he leaves prison April 21, 2004, after an 18-year sentence for revealing details of Israel’s secret nuclear-weapons program. In 2005, he told Israel’s Channel 2 television that he had acted after becoming alarmed by the danger posed by Israel’s nuclear weapons program. Under a policy of “strategic ambiguity,” Israel neither confirms nor denies having the region’s only nuclear weapons. (Photo credit: Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images)Some of these measures go beyond what is part of the current IAEA safeguards system. The IAEA, however, already complements its on-site monitoring equipment and inspections with open-source information and satellite imagery as part of an "all source" approach.30 Further technology advances in the areas of commercial satellite imagery, sensor networks, and information sharing can be harnessed to verify the ban treaty and nuclear weapons elimination and sustain a nuclear weapons-free world.

Large constellations of small satellites, some of which are already being deployed, aim to provide daily coverage of the entire planet. This qualitatively new capability could be combined with the large archives of existing satellite imagery to provide a "time machine" showing what has been happening at a particular site once it has been identified as a possible site of concern. More frequent imagery, combined with improvements in machine learning techniques, could also offer improved abilities to identify such sites. New means for tracking and authenticating warheads and unattended and remote-sensor networks at weapons storage sites are possible that could lay the basis for an international monitoring system to support the disarmament process. The ban treaty could include a commitment to continue developing specific measures to strengthen the verification of elimination and a nuclear weapons-free world, similar to the process envisioned in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.31

It has long been recognized that any system of nuclear verification would gain from access to information that could be provided by scientists and technicians inside nuclear programs, as well as by ordinary citizens, with regard to possible violations of a treaty.32 This would be especially important for exposing R&D activities that might be part of building or maintaining a nuclear weapons capability. Government and corporate scientists and technicians who blow the whistle and civil society groups have a long history of publicly reporting violations of national laws and international agreements. Many have paid a high price for exposing governmental or corporate secrets.

There is a limited history of individuals exposing nuclear weapons activities. The most famous example is Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli technician jailed for 18 years for revealing details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program in 1986. At trial, Vanunu defended his actions as necessary to force Israel to acknowledge its secret weapons program and open it for inspection so that Israel could disarm.33 Among Vanunu’s defenders was the late Nobel laureate Joseph Rotblat, a Manhattan Project physicist who became a founder of the Pugwash movement of scientists against nuclear weapons. Rotblat advocated that the "right and the civic duty of the citizen" to report improper nuclear activities should be embedded in any nuclear disarmament treaty. His 1993 proposal called for this right and duty to "become part of the national codes of law in the countries party to the treaty…[and be] explicitly expressed in a specific clause of that treaty."34 The ban treaty should include such a Rotblat clause.


The inclusion of verification elements in the ban treaty is feasible and important. Most of the proposed core prohibitions are already covered in existing legal structures and associated verification mechanisms. In addition, the treaty’s verification framework will be valuable in the process leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons and may be easier to manage in key regards than arms control treaties that set numerical limits on nuclear weapons.

The ban treaty could require parties to maintain the safeguards obligations they already have in force and establish the goal of convergence in transparency through all states accepting a comprehensive safeguards agreement and an additional protocol as a verification baseline. It also could provide guidelines for the process for nuclear weapons elimination, including the need for verified declarations, warhead disabling, and monitored warhead storage pending warhead and facility dismantlement on an agreed schedule and with agreed criteria. The goal can be specified as making the disarmament process and outcome as transparent, accountable, and irreversible as possible. To facilitate future verification, nuclear-weapon states ought to begin now to document warhead assembly, refurbishment, and dismantlement activities.

The ban treaty process could consider, as an immediate obligation or as a goal of the treaty process, a prohibition on the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons-usable fissile material for any purpose. Finally, a treaty commitment to developing and accepting new verification technologies and requiring laws in states imposing obligations on all citizens to report possible prohibited activities and protecting those who do so can play an important role in verifying the ban treaty and nuclear weapons elimination and sustaining a nuclear weapons-free world.


1.   For statements from the first round of negotiations on March 27-31, 2017, see http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/disarmament-fora/nuclear-weapon-ban/statements; https://www.un.org/disarmament/ptnw/statements.html. The draft treaty is at http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/nuclear-weapon-ban/documents/CRP1.pdf.

2.   For a brief summary of the positions expressed in the first round of ban treaty discussions regarding key obligations, see Allison Pytlak, News in Brief, Nuclear Ban Daily, March 30, 2017, pp. 10-13, http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/nuclear-weapon-ban/reports/NBD1.4.pdf.

3.   For an online version of the text of the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), see IAEA, Statute of the IAEA, https://www.iaea.org/about/statute (art. 3.B(1)).

4.   William C. Foster, the U.S. negotiator to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that, under NPT Article II, the construction of an experimental or prototype nuclear explosive device would be covered by the term ‘manufacture’ as would be the production of components which could only have relevance to a nuclear explosive device. Statement by ACDA Director Foster to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Nonproliferation Treaty, July 10, 1968, Documents on Disarmament 1968, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, no. 52 (September 1969), pp. 498-504, http://unoda-web.s3-accelerate.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/assets/publications/documents_on_disarmament/1968/DoD_1968.pdf.

5.   For a list of states with IAEA safeguards and additional protocols, see IAEA, Status List: Conclusion of Safeguards Agreements, Additional Protocols, and Small Quantities Protocols, October 7, 2016, https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/16/10/sg_agreements_comprehensive_status_list.pdf. See also IAEA, The Structure and Content of Agreements Between the Agency and States Required in Connection With the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, INFCIRC/153 (Corrected), June 1972; IAEA, Model Additional Protocol to the Agreement(s) Between State(s) and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards, INFCIRC/540, September 1997.

6.   For an online version of the text of the Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty, see UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia (CANWFZ), http://disarmament.un.org/treaties/t/canwfz/text.

7.   2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Final Document, NPT/CONF.2000/28 (Parts I and II), 2000, p. 4. See 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Final Document, NPT/CONF.2010/50 (Vol. I), 2010, p. 25. For a repetition of this language, see 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Draft Final Document, NPT/CONF.2015/R.3, May 21, 2015, p. 4.

8.   UN General Assembly, Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations, A/RES/71/258, January 11, 2017.

9.   For an online version of the text of the Chemical Weapons Convention, see Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, n.d., https://www.opcw.org/fileadmin/OPCW/CWC/CWC_en.pdf.

10.   The IAEA recommended among other things destruction of photographs and drawings which could reveal significant dimensions or the design of the nuclear material core and any components that would simplify engineering design or reveal dimensions of other sensitive components. IAEA General Conference, The Denuclearization of Africa (GC(XXXVI)/RES/577): Report by the Director General, GC(XXXVII)/1075, September 9, 1993, attach. 1, pp. 8-9.

11.   Ibid., p. 9.

12.   Ibid., p. 11.

13.   Adolf von Baeckmann, Garry Dillon, and Demetrius Perricos, Nuclear Verification in South Africa, IAEA Bulletin, No. 1 (1995), pp. 42-48.

14.   Olli Heinonen, Verifying the Dismantlement of South Africa’s Nuclear Weapons Program, in Nuclear Weapons Materials Gone Missing: What Does History Teach? ed. Henry D. Sokolski, November 2014, p. 174, https://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pdffiles/PUB1238.pdf.

15.   Ibid.

16.   Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, Status of World Nuclear Forces, n.d., https://fas.org/issues/nuclear-weapons/status-world-nuclear-forces (accessed March 1, 2017).

17.   Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, Global Nuclear Weapons Inventories, 1945-2013, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 69, No. 5 (2013): 75-81.

18.   International Panel on Fissile Material (IPFM), Global Fissile Material Report 2013: Increasing Transparency of Nuclear Warhead and Fissile Material Stocks as a Step Toward Disarmament, October 2013, http://ipfmlibrary.org/gfmr13.pdf.

19.   Dominic Frisby, In Proof We Trust, AEON, April 2016, https://aeon.co/essays/how-blockchain-will-revolutionise-far-more-than-money; Joon Ian Wong, Even the U.S. Military Is Looking at Blockchain Technology—To Secure Nuclear Weapons, Quartz, October 2016, https://qz.com/801640/darpa-blockchain-a-blockchain-from-guardtime-is-being-verified-by-galois-under-a-government-contract.

20.   IAEA General Conference, Denuclearization of Africa (GC(XXXVI)/RES/577), p. 4.

21.   Ibid., p. 12.

22.   Committee on International Security and Arms Control, National Academy of Sciences, The Future of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1997), p. 97.

23.   The idea of international plutonium storage was extensively discussed in the 1970s and 1980s, in particular as part of the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation. More recently, it has been proposed as a confidence-building measure for Japan’s growing stockpile of separated plutonium. Fred McGoldrick, IAEA Custody of Japanese Plutonium Stocks: Strengthening Confidence and Transparency, Arms Control Today, September 2014.

24.   Harold Feiveson et al., Unmaking the Bomb: A Fissile Material Approach to Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014), pp. 173-183.

25.   Article 3(a) of the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty includes an undertaking [n]ot to conduct research on, develop, manufacture, stockpile or otherwise acquire, possess or have control over any nuclear explosive device by any means anywhere. For an online version of the text of the Treaty of Pelindaba, see UNODA, Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty in Central Asia (CANWFZ),  http://disarmament.un.org/treaties/t/pelindaba/text.

26.   IAEA Board of Governors, Final Assessment on Past and Present Outstanding Issues Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Programme, GOV/2015/68, December 2, 2015, p. 2.

27.   Toby Dalton et al., Toward a Nuclear Firewall: Bridging the NPT’s Three Pillars, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 2017, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/CP_301_Dalton_et_al_Firewall_Final_Web.pdf.

28.   Ibid.

29.   UN General Assembly, Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations: Note by the Secretary-General, A/71/371, September 1, 2016 (containing the report of the UN open-ended working group taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, p. 24).

30.   Matthew Ferguson and Claude Norman, All-Source Information Acquisition and Analysis in the IAEA Department of Safeguards, IAEA-CN-184/048, n.d.,  https://www.iaea.org/safeguards/symposium/2010/Documents/PapersRepository/048.pdf.

31.   For an online version of the text of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, see https://www.ctbto.org/fileadmin/content/treaty/treaty_text.pdf (art. 4.a.11).

32.   IPFM, Global Fissile Material Report 2009: A Path to Nuclear Disarmament, October 2009, pp. 114-123, http://fissilematerials.org/library/gfmr09.pdf.

33.   Deborah Sontag, Israel Eases Secrecy Over Nuclear Whistle-Blower’s Trial, The New York Times, November 25, 1999.

34.   Joseph Rotblat, Societal Verification, in A Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, eds. Joseph Rotblat, Jack Steinberger, and Bhalchandra Udgaonkar (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993), pp. 103-118.

Addressing Verification in the Nuclear Ban Treaty

REMARKS: A “Realistic and Practical” Route to a World Free of Nuclear Weapons

June 2017

By Fumio Kishida

First of all, I would like to pay tribute to the efforts by the hibakushas and the communities affected by the atomic bombings, who have been calling for a world free of nuclear weapons. I would also like to pay respect to the efforts by the civil societies all over the world that promote discussions of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.

Fumio Kishida (Photo credit: Rick Bajornas/UN Photo)The recognition of the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons underpins all approaches toward a world free of such weapons. Meanwhile, North Korea’s nuclear and missile development has now reached a new level and is posing a real threat to the region and beyond. This is a challenge to the international nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime centered on the [nuclear] Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Efforts toward a world free of nuclear weapons should be carried out in a realistic manner, while taking into account the security environment. With the clear recognition of the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons and the objective assessment of the severe international security environment, I am convinced that only the promotion of cooperation between nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states will lead to a world free of nuclear weapons.

At this moment, the schism on approaches toward a world free of nuclear weapons has become salient among nuclear-weapon states, between nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states, and even among non-nuclear-weapon states. In light of this, I would like to put forward three points as a way to bridge nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states and to rebuild confidence and trust among them.

The first is to further build confidence through enhancing transparency. This includes reliable detection of nuclear testing by enhancing the International Monitoring System under the Compre­hensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This also includes the reporting of nuclear forces by nuclear-weapon states and of possessed fissile materials that could be used for nuclear weapons.

The second is to improve the security environment in order to reduce the incen­tive to possess nuclear weapons. On the North Korean issues, Japan will lead the diplomatic efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula as well.

The third is to raise awareness of the reality of the use of nuclear weapons and the risk of proliferation. I am confident that if many people in the world, including political leaders and youth from both nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states, learn the reality of the atomic bombings and accurately understand the nuclear risks, that will build a common foundation for making a nuclear-free world.

As we rebuild confidence and trust and strive to build an internationally reliable verification system, we will move forward toward the early entry into force of the CTBT and early commencement of negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty. Those instruments will limit both qualitative and quantitative improvement of nuclear forces, and we will steadily decrease the number of nuclear weapons while striving to build an internationally reliable verification system. In this way, when we reach a so-called minimization point, at which the number of nuclear weapons is decreased to a very low level, we will introduce a legal framework aimed at achieving and maintaining a world free of nuclear weapons, and then we will reach this goal.

This is the pathway toward a world free of nuclear weapons, which Japan genuinely believes in. I am convinced that this approach provides the realistic and practical shortcut toward a world free of nuclear weapons, instead of pressing for a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons at this point in a manner that deepens the gap between nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states. The NPT is our common ground, which forms a basis for this approach as well as an important means by which we can promote nuclear disarmament.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Fumio Kishida is the minister for foreign affairs of Japan. This is adapted from his May 2 remarks in Vienna at the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference.

REMARKS: A “Realistic and Practical” Route to a World Free of Nuclear Weapons

Toward a Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons

June 2017
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

Nearly five decades ago, the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) established the requirement that states-parties pursue “effective measures” to end the nuclear arms race and to achieve nuclear disarmament.

The United States and Russia have reduced their Cold War stockpiles and verifiably banned nuclear explosive testing. But some 15,000 weapons remain, additional nuclear-armed states have emerged, and the risk of nuclear weapons use is rising.

Key NPT disarmament commitments made in 2010 are unfulfilled. The future of key nuclear arms control treaties, including the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, are in doubt. The 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has not formally entered into force. Global fissile material stocks remain very substantial. Worse still, the world’s nine nuclear-armed states are replacing, upgrading, or in some cases expanding their arsenals.

In response, non-nuclear-weapon states have justifiably argued that the grave risks posed by nuclear weapons demand more urgent action. Last fall at the United Nations, 123 states voted to launch negotiations on a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.

The conclusion of such a treaty is now within sight. From June 15 to July 7, representatives from some 130 states and civil society groups will try to finalize a draft treaty text issued May 22 by the president of the negotiating conference, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica.

The draft preamble correctly notes that “further effective measures” will be necessary to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons and that the “use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law in armed conflict.” The draft also recognizes the central role of the NPT, the CTBT, and nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties for achieving disarmament.

At its core, the new treaty would prohibit states-parties from using, testing, developing, producing, manufacturing, or otherwise acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, transferring, or receiving control over nuclear weapons. It would also require each state to prohibit and prevent the stationing, installation, or deployment of nuclear weapons on their territory (but does not prohibit “transit”). These latter provisions would affect the five NATO states that still host U.S. nuclear weapons.

The text provides a solid basis for a final agreement, although, like any first draft, it will under go refinements. As negotiators make adjustments, they should ensure the treaty allows for the establishment of effective means for disarmament verification on a case-by-case basis, including special anytime, anywhere access by the International Atomic Energy Agency as may be required to verify that a nuclear-armed state has completely eliminated its arsenal and related facilities and inventory of materials. Negotiators also should make clear that the prohibition on nuclear explosive testing in the new convention does not detract from or offer an alternative to states’ obligations under the CTBT, including its nuclear test explosion monitoring and inspections regime.

The nuclear-weapon states have dismissed the initiative as irrelevant and said it may undermine support for the NPT. In reality, efforts to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons are fundamentally consistent with NPT objectives and the common pursuit of a world without nuclear weapons.

It is also a healthy challenge to nuclear deterrence orthodoxy, which incorrectly and dangerously assumes that military postures threatening large-scale use of nuclear weapons are sustainable and will not fail. It is a reminder that, for a majority of the world’s states, these weapons of mass destruction are a security liability, not an asset.

The emerging treaty has the potential to further delegitimize nuclear weapons as instruments of national power and to strengthen the legal and political norms against their possession and use. At a time when the nuclear danger is growing, these contributions are especially useful.

Although the emerging prohibition convention can help encourage further action on disarmament, additional and difficult work lies ahead. Prohibition treaty supporters, skeptics, and opponents must find new and creative ways to come together to strengthen the NPT regime, in part by advancing new and effective disarmament measures, while easing the growing tensions between nuclear-armed states that make progress difficult and increase the danger of nuclear use.

Leaders from the nuclear-armed states who say nuclear disarmament can be achieved only in a progressive, step-by-step fashion must be willing and able to walk the talk. Such measures include securing the ratifications needed to bring the CTBT into force; reviving the moribund U.S.-Russian arms control dialogue; bringing China, India, and Pakistan further into the nuclear risk reduction and disarmament process; avoiding the introduction of new and destabilizing strategic weapons systems and technologies; concluding legally binding negative nuclear security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon states; and conducting smart and sustained diplomacy to halt and reverse North Korea’s dangerous nuclear pursuits.

The coming nuclear weapons prohibition treaty is not an all-in-one solution, but it promises to be a historic and valuable leap forward.

The monthly “Focus” editorials from Arms Control Today are available for reprint on a non-exclusive basis
with permission from the Arms Control Association and link to the original publication online.


The coming nuclear weapons prohibition treaty is not an all-in-one solution, but it promises to be a historic and valuable leap forward.

Old Disputes Cloud NPT Review

June 2017

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

As a review cycle began for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), old divisions quickly re-emerged that will challenge efforts to reach a successful outcome at the 2020 review conference of states-parties to the NPT.

Diplomats at the initial UN meeting to prepare for the review conference voiced support for a number of disarmament and nonproliferation initiatives, but stumbled on familiar obstacles, namely the pace of disarmament and how to advance the initiative for a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East.

Izumi Nakamitsu, UN undersecretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs, addresses the NPT preparatory committee meeting in Vienna, as Ambassador Henk Cor van der Kwast of the Netherlands, the committee chairman, looks on. (Photo caption: Agata Wozniak/ UNIS Vienna)The 2020 review conference assumes additional importance following the failure of the 2015 review conference to produce a consensus document and the growing frustration of the non-nuclear-weapon states at the lack of action by nuclear powers, particularly the United States and Russia, to deliver on their legally binding disarmament obligations under the 1968 treaty. A second consecutive failure would risk weakening the global nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime, including efforts to block nuclear weapons activities by Iran and North Korea.

The May 2-12 preparatory committee meeting, chaired by Henk Cor van der Kwast of the Netherlands, is the first of three conferences leading up to the 2020 review conference. “At the start of a review cycle, one is almost under an obligation to be positive—to see the glass, at least, as half-full,” Dell Higgie, New Zealand’s ambassador for disarmament, told the meeting May 2, while adding, “To suggest that optimism should be the order of the day is not, however, to minimize the challenges we face.”

The next preparatory committee meeting will take place in Geneva in 2018 and will be chaired by Adam Bugajski, Poland’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The review conference likely will be chaired by Rafael Grossi, Argentina’s ambassador to Austria and to international organizations in Vienna.

The preparatory committee discussions covered the three pillars of the NPT: nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and nuclear energy. On many issues, there was general agreement.

Many states expressed support for convening a panel of experts on a fissile material cutoff treaty; continuing implementation of the nuclear deal involving Iran; IAEA safeguards, including comprehensive safeguard agreements and the IAEA Model Additional Protocol; the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy under Article IV of the treaty; and the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was specifically endorsed in a joint appeal by Japan, Kazakhstan, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.

The preparatory committee also was united in condemning North Korea’s continued nuclear weapons and missile testing. “Such brazen disregard for international norms and binding obligations is unprecedented in the history of the NPT,” said South Korean Ambassador Kim In-chul on May 8.

The U.S. priority was to show international resolve against North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, Robert Wood, U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, said at an April 28 news conference. Sixty-two states condemned North Korea’s actions in a statement submitted May 10 by France and South Korea. The declaration, however, did not deter North Korea from conducting another launch test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile on May 14.

The pace of disarmament and how to establish a WMD-free zone in the Middle East—the two issues that have obstructed past NPT review cycles—continued to elicit disagreement in the 2017 preparatory commission. Many non-nuclear-weapon states consider that the nuclear disarmament pace is too slow, alleging that nuclear-weapon states have failed to fulfill obligations under Article VI of the NPT to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament.” Nuclear-weapon states contend that they have made progress on disarmament in the past decades and advocate a “step-by-step” approach of pursuing practical disarmament initiatives dependent on the security environment.

Ban Treaty

The tensions on this issue are playing out in UN negotiations, involving about 130 countries, which aim to complete a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons by July 7 (see "Ban Talks Advance With Treaty Draft", this issue). The nuclear-weapon countries and most U.S. defense treaty allies are boycotting the negotiations.

The division on the ban treaty was particularly apparent during the critiques of the chairman’s summary on the final day of the conference. Strong supporters of the ban treaty, such as Ireland and South Africa, regretted that the issue did not feature more prominently, while the United Kingdom explained that it could not support the summary due to its reference to the nuclear ban.

U.S. Ambassador Robert A. Wood, U.S. permanent represen­tative to the Conference on Disarmament, presents the U.S. statement May 2 at the NPT preparatory committee meeting in Vienna. (Photo caption: U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna)Russia also rejected the ban negotiations. “The conceptual framework of the negotiation process, which in effect ignores the strategic context and addresses the elimination of nuclear weapons in isolation from existing realities, is unacceptable for us,” Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov said in a May 5 statement.

States were split on how to advance a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, which has been a sticking point among NPT states-parties since the 1995 review and extension conference, when they adopted a resolution calling for practical steps to adopt such a zone. At the 2010 review conference, NPT states-parties put forward five steps in the final document to achieve the WMD-free zone, including the convening of a conference in 2012 on the issue. Unable to reach agreement on an agenda for that conference, the conveners, which included Russia, the UK, and the United States, announced in November 2012 that the meeting, originally scheduled for December, would be postponed. (See ACT, December 2012.)

Disagreement over the WMD-free zone stymied the 2015 review conference. States-parties failed to pass a final consensus document because Canada, the UK, and the United States rejected text proposed by Egypt, which was reflected in the final document, calling for new deadlines to reach agreement on an agenda for advancing the Middle Eastern WMD-free zone. (See ACT, June 2015.) Egypt’s push to include this text in the final document caused a rift among Arab League members, many of whom disagreed with Egypt’s proposal.

The splintering of the Arab League continued into the 2017 preparatory committee, at which the Arab League did not present a unified statement. Egypt, Iran, and a group of 12 Arab League members, including Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, each offered separate working papers on advancing the WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Egypt’s working paper expresses concern over the lack of implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East and demands that the next review cycle call on Israel to join the NPT.

In its working paper, the group of 12 Arab League states, not including Egypt, also recommended that Israel join the NPT, but emphasized that a conference on the WMD-free zone should take place under the auspices of the three depositories of the treaty: Russia, the UK, and the United States. Russia also criticized the lack of progress toward a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and submitted its own working paper to advance the convening of a conference before the 2020 review conference on the issue.

‘Misguided Attempts’

The United States stated that the conditions necessary for a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone do not currently exist, adding that “misguided attempts to coerce an outcome, or to hold the NPT review process hostage, indicate a misunderstanding of the function and purpose of weapons-free zones.”

In a new development in the NPT review cycles, there were calls from many states for more gender equality in disarmament forums. Ireland submitted a working paper on the subject, and the European Union stated that “promotion of gender equality, gender consciousness and empowerment of women remains a key priority for the EU, including in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation.” Australia, in a May 10 statement, pointed out that there were too few female delegates at the preparatory committee. 

Old Disputes Cloud NPT Review

Ban Talks Advance With Treaty Draft

Updated June 13 to clarify Article 4 provisions for nuclear-weapon states that will have disarmed before the treaty’s entry into force for those states.

June 2017

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

The first draft of a landmark treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, released May 22, set the stage for pivotal efforts to conclude a treaty document by the July 7 deadline established by the UN General Assembly.

The draft by Elayne Whyte Gómez, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva and president of the negotiating conference on the ban treaty, reflects the areas of broad agreement during the first round of negotiations in March at the United Nations in New York. It leaves out several controversial proposals that states will likely debate when talks resume June 15.

A computer displays the symbol of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) at the UN Conference to negotiate a nuclear weapons prohibition treaty in New York March 31. (Photo credit: Manuel Elias/UN Photo)The envisioned treaty reflects an historic effort to shift international norms against the acquisition, possession, and potential use of nuclear weapons. The international effort is pressed by non-nuclear-weapons states and rejected by nuclear-armed countries that see the ban as impractical and potentially destabilizing if it undermines nuclear deterrence.

The initiative is driven by growing recognition of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, the rising risk of accidental or intentional nuclear use, and the frustration of many non-nuclear-weapon states at the slow pace of nuclear disarmament. The pace of disarmament was a critical point of contention at the May 2-12 meeting of preparatory committee for the 2020 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, where many states alleged that nuclear-weapons states have failed to fulfill their NPT Article VI obligation to pursue negotiations in good faith towards complete disarmament.

Following the recommendation of the last of three open-ended working groups on disarmament, the UN General Assembly First Committee on disarmament voted in October 2016 to begin negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons (see ACT, November 2016). During the last week of March, about 130 non-nuclear-weapon states engaged in the first round of negotiations (see ACT, May 2017).

In March, states agreed on many of the prohibitions in the draft, including on the acquisition, possession, stockpiling, use and transfer of nuclear weapons, as well as on assistance with any prohibited activities. The prohibition on testing was the most controversial element included in the draft text, in part because of debate over whether it might inadvertently undermine the existing Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Other contested prohibitions—on the threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as on transit and financing—were left out pending further negotiations.

The text does not call for states-parties to adopt the stricter verification requirements embodied in the Inter-national Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol which some states, such as Sweden and Switzerland, advocated for in March.

The draft treaty outlines verification provisions for states that will have disarmed before the treaty’s entry into force for those states.

Verification of disarmament by any former nuclear-weapons state that does so before the treaty’s entry into force for it will be determined by an agreement between the state and the IAEA. This clause only pertains to states that possessed nuclear weapons after 2001, thereby exempting several post-Soviet states, including Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which dismantled their arsenals before that date.

In a so called non-paper, Whyte Gomez identifies a path for accession of nuclear weapons states to the treaty following the model of South Africa’s accession to the NPT; nuclear weapons states could dismantle their nuclear arsenals and then sign the treaty, accepting verification provisions under the treaty.

Ban treaty advocates hailed the draft as a clear and strong basis for a nuclear-weapons prohibition but treaty skeptics raised questions about the text’s uncertain relationship to existing nonproliferation treaties. In an effort to dispel concerns that the new treaty will contradict the NPT, the draft text declares that the ban treaty will not influence the “rights and obligations” of states under the NPT.

However, some experts claim the NPT allows for temporary and limited nuclear possession, and thus a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would inherently infringe upon the NPT rights of nuclear-weapons states. Ban advocates counter that the NPT does not allow for the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons and therefore the two treaties are compatible.

Some are concerned that the prohibition of testing of nuclear weapons in the draft text does not include a reference to the CTBT’s International Monitoring System (IMS), a global network of sensors which detect nuclear explosions. Duplicating language from the CTBT, which bans nuclear testing, without referencing the IMS could undermine that treaty, they argue.

Concerns and criticisms will be aired when negotiators take up the draft text in the second round of negotiations. According to a timetable circulated in late March, the first two days will be dedicated to a general discussion of the draft. During the following week, states will examine the text thematically, with separate negotiating sessions devoted to the preamble, positive obligations, core prohibitions, implementation and institutional arrangements and universality and final provisions. Additional time is reserved for consultations. On June 23, states will determine the organization of the remainder of the negotiations.

The United States, along with most NATO allies, and other nuclear-weapons states are expected to continue to boycott the proceedings.

“Almost all the nuclear armed states put pressure on smaller countries to not participate, to not attend, and there will be even more pressure when the time for signing the treaty comes,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, in a May 16 interview with Arms Control Today. “I think that is going to continue. It’s not going to get easier for us. But I don’t think it’s going to get easier for them to ignore the treaty either. It’s moving forward whether or not they like it.”


Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: Key Elements


The preamble references the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use, the suffering of victims of nuclear use and testing, international and humanitarian law, the UN Charter, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Article 1: Core Prohibitions

Article 1 prohibits acquisition, possession, stockpiling, use, transfer, testing, stationing, installment, and deployment of nuclear weapons and assistance with prohibited activities. The draft text does not include prohibitions on threat of use, transit, and financing of nuclear weapons, but states will debate whether to include them during the final round of negotiations.

Article 3 and Annex: Safeguards

Article 3 and the annex state that safeguards should be the same as required in connection with the NPT. States are not required to ratify an additional protocol to their safeguards agreement.

Article 4: Verification

Article 4 pertains to states-parties that had nuclear weapons after 2001 but will have eliminated them before the prohibition treaty enters into force for those states. These states must conclude an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify the elimination of their arsenals. This clause does not cover Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, the former Soviet states that eliminated their arsenals before 2001.

Article 5: Other Disarmament Provisions

Article 5 suggests that other effective measures relating to nuclear disarm­ament that are not covered by Article 4 be considered in future meetings of states-parties or review conferences.

Article 6: Victim Assistance

Article 6 asserts that states-parties “in a position to do so” should provide assistance to individual victims of nuclear testing or use on their territory and that states that were victims of nuclear use or testing by other states should also receive assistance. Environmental remediation is included.

Article 9: Meeting of States-Parties

The first meeting of states-parties will take place within one year of entry into force and biennially thereafter.

Article 16: Entry Into Force

The ban treaty will enter into force 90 days after ratification by the 40th state.

Article 17: Reservations

No reservations to articles are allowed.

Article 18: Withdrawal

The treaty is of “unlimited duration,” but withdrawal is permitted and would take effect three months after the notice is received.

Article 19: Relationship to NPT

Article 19 states that the prohibition treaty does not impact the “rights and obligations” of states-parties to the NPT.

Nonpaper: Accession of Nuclear-Weapon States to the Treaty

The nonpaper submitted by Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez, who authored the draft treaty, presents a model for nuclear-weapon states to accede to the treaty: disarm first and then sign the treaty, referenced during the first round of negotiations as “South Africa-plus” because it is modeled after South Africa’s accession to the NPT. 

Ban Talks Advance With Treaty Draft


Congress Limits Warhead Dismantlement

June 2017

By Kingston Reif

Long opposed to the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons risk reduction agenda, the Republican-controlled Congress voted in May to prevent the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) from implementing the former administration’s proposal to accelerate the rate of dismantlement of retired nuclear warheads.

Congress approved $56 million for nuclear warhead dismantlement and disposition activities, a reduction of $13 million, or 19 percent, from the Obama administration’s proposal of $69 million in its final budget request. The funding provision is part of the fiscal year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill, which President Donald Trump signed into law on May 5. Fiscal year 2017 started on Oct. 1, 2016, and runs until Sept. 30.

When a warhead is retired and removed from the U.S. nuclear stockpile, the NNSA, a semiautonomous agency of the Energy Department, takes the weapon apart to ensure that it can never be used again. The transition from retirement to disassembly can take years and involves a number of steps and facilities.

In a January speech in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden stated that the Obama administration dismantled 2,226 warheads during its eight years in office. Biden also said that the queue of warheads awaiting dismantlement stood at 2,800 warheads as of September 2016.

The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2017 budget request included funds to begin accelerating the rate of dismantlement by 20 percent pursuant to an announcement made by Secretary of State John Kerry in April 2015 at the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference in New York to further demonstrate the administration’s commitment to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.

But a number of Republican members of Congress strongly opposed the proposal, calling it unilateral disarmament.

The fiscal year 2017 national defense authorization act signed by President Barack Obama last December sets an annual limit of $56 million for NNSA dismantlement expenditures in fiscal years 2017 to 2021 and prohibits spending beyond that amount unless a number of stringent conditions can be met. (See ACT, January/February 2017.)

Although the House and Senate appropriations committees last year approved the Obama administration’s request to accelerate the dismantlement rate, the final funding level in the omnibus bill follows the direction in the defense authorization bill.

The omnibus bill also includes a policy provision prohibiting the use of fiscal year 2016 funds “to reduce or to prepare to reduce” the number of deployed and nondeployed U.S. strategic nuclear delivery systems below the levels the Pentagon has said it will retain as it adjusts its forces to meet the requirements of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by the treaty’s implementation deadline of 2018.

The Obama administration last year considered reducing the size of the deployed arsenal below New START levels, but ultimately decided not to do so. (See ACT, January/February 2017.)

Defense Spending Increased

The omnibus appropriations bill is a nearly $1.2 trillion conglomeration of 12 appropriations bills that had to be passed to keep the government operating. For the first seven months of the fiscal year, Congress passed a series of continuing resolutions that extended funding for most discretionary governmental programs at the previous year’s levels, although several programs, including nuclear weapons programs, received fresh funding at the fiscal year 2017 request level.

The bill includes $14.8 billion of the extra $30 billion in spending requested by the Trump administration in March. The administration requested the funds as a supplement to the Obama administration’s original budget submission.

Congress included the additional funds in the Defense Department’s overseas contingency operations account, which is nominally used to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Syria but in fact also funds other defense programs, as the account is not limited by the 2011 Budget Control Act. That act places limits on discretionary spending, including military spending.

The Trump administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2018, released on May 23, includes a total of $603 billion for national defense, which includes the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons programs. This is an increase of $54 billion above the budget cap in effect for fiscal year 2018 and $19 billion, or 3 percent, above the projected spending level for fiscal year 2018 contained in the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2017 request.

Nuclear Modernization

The omnibus bill largely supports the Obama administration’s proposed funding increases for programs to sustain and to rebuild nuclear-armed missiles, submarines, and bombers and their associated nuclear warheads and supporting infrastructure. (See ACT, March 2016.)

The bill includes the requested amounts of $1.9 billion for the Navy’s Ohio-class submarine replacement program, an increase of $360 million above the fiscal year 2016 appropriation; $114 million for the Air Force’s effort to develop a replacement for the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system, an increase of almost $39 million over 2016; and $96 million for a new fleet of nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs), almost six times as much as Congress appropriated last year.

The bill funds the nuclear-capable B-21 “Raider” bomber program at $1.3 billion, a small reduction of $20 million below the budget request level. The bill also includes a provision calling on the Defense Department’s inspector general to review the secrecy of the program.

The Air Force has refused to release the value of the contract awarded to Northrop Grumman Corp. in October 2015 to develop the B-21 and the estimated total cost of the bomber program, citing classification concerns.

The bill also provides $9.3 billion for nuclear weapons activities conducted by the NNSA, an increase of $399 million, or 4.5 percent, above the fiscal year 2016 appropriation. The appropriation for weapons activities includes $223 million to begin refurbishing the existing ALCM warhead and $616 million for the B61 nuclear gravity bomb life extension program.

GMD System Gets Boost

The omnibus bill provides $968 million in research and development funding for the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system designed to protect the United States against a limited ICBM attack from North Korea or Iran, an increase of $106 million above the budget request level of $862 million. The increase restores funding to the level the Obama administration planned to request for fiscal year 2017 in its fiscal year 2016 budget submission.

The GMD system consists of interceptor sites in Alaska and California supported by radars and sensors around the globe and in space.

Overall, the bill provides approximately $8.2 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, an increase of $700 million above the Obama administration request.

MOX Construction Continues

Congress provided the NNSA with $335 million to continue construction of the mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication plant at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, rejecting the Obama administration’s proposal to end the project. (See ACT, March 2016.)

The MOX fuel program is designed to turn surplus plutonium from the U.S. nuclear weapons program into fuel for power reactors.

The U.S. effort to dispose of its plutonium via the MOX fuel path has suffered from large cost increases and schedule delays that put the project in jeopardy, prompting the Obama administration to propose ending the program and instead pursue an alternative approach. The alternative “dilute and dispose” process would down-blend the plutonium with an inert material for direct disposal in a repository. That approach can be implemented decades sooner at a much lower cost and with fewer risks, according to the Energy Department. (See ACT, June 2015.)

Despite the Energy Department’s efforts to terminate the MOX fuel project, Congress, led by the delegation from South Carolina, has refused to abandon it. Nonetheless, the bill provides $15 million, the same as the budget request and an increase of $10 million over the fiscal year 2016 level, to complete design activities for the dilute-and-dispose alternative.

Overall, the bill includes $1.9 billion for NNSA fissile material security and nonproliferation efforts, an increase of $75 million above the budget request and a decrease of $57 million from the current level.

Congress Limits Warhead Dismantlement

U.S. Waives Sanctions Under Iran Deal

A supporter of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who backed the nuclear deal with world powers, celebrates in Tehran after he won the presidential election on May 20. (Photo credit: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)The Trump administration renewed sanctions waivers on Iran, meeting requirements under the July 2015 nuclear deal between the United States and its negotiating partners and Iran. The May 17 waivers are the first by President Donald Trump to maintain U.S. compliance with the agreement he has repeatedly denounced. Most sanctions waivers must be renewed every 120 days, and President Barack Obama issued waivers shortly before leaving office in January. If Iran continues to comply, these sanctions could be lifted statutorily by 2023. The waivers follow a certification by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in April that Iran is abiding by its commitments under the deal. The certification to Congress is required by U.S. law.

In the press release announcing the waivers, the State Department said that the Treasury Department was sanctioning additional Iranian entities and a Chinese network for suppling items applicable to ballistic missile development to Iran, which is “inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231.” The resolution, passed in July 2015, endorsed the nuclear deal and lifted some UN sanctions, but called on Iran to refrain from testing ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads. Iran has continued to test ballistic missiles, arguing that the systems are not designed for nuclear warheads.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

U.S. Waives Sanctions Under Iran Deal

Sanctions Waivers Show U.S. Support for Iran Nuclear Deal

The Trump administration's decision to issue sanctions waivers today, as required by the nuclear deal with Iran, is a welcome and necessary step to ensure that the United States meets its commitments under the agreement. Given that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson certified to Congress in April that Iran is complying with its commitments under the deal, it is only logical for Washington to continue to waive sanctions. As the Trump administration continues its Iran policy review, it is critical to remember that implementing the nuclear deal blocks Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons and puts in...

New Leadership, Opportunities on the Korean Peninsula

The election of Mr. Moon Jae-in as South Korea’s next president could lead to an important and helpful shift in the international community’s approach to halting and reversing North Korea’s increasingly dangerous nuclear and missile programs. If Moon stays true to the policies outlined in his campaign , South Korea’s approach to North Korea will likely shift from “pressure only” to “pressure with pragmatic engagement.” This could improve the chances for lowering of tensions with North Korea and the resumption of talks designed to verifiably halt and then, later, reverse North Korea’s nuclear...

U.S. Support for the CTBTO Enhances U.S. and Global Security



Volume 9, Issue 2, May 2017

At a time when it is more important than ever to reinforce the global norm against nuclear test explosions and to maintain global capabilities to detect nuclear weapons testing by other countries, the Donald Trump administration is proposing severe budget cutbacks at the State Department, including U.S. contributions to key international organizations.
According to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget outline released by the Trump administration in February, his administration “seeks to reduce or end direct funding for international organizations whose missions do not substantially advance U.S. foreign policy interests, are duplicative, or are not well-managed.” No further detail or explanation was provided.
The Trump administration is expected to release its full budget request the week of May 22.
These funding cuts could include a reduction in the U.S. contribution for the intergovernmental organization responsible for the global nuclear test monitoring system designed to detect and deter clandestine nuclear explosions, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).
Such funding cuts would run counter to the value placed on this contribution by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who joined with his G7 foreign ministerial counterparts to extoll the value of the CTBTO in their April 11 joint communique on nonproliferation and disarmament. They said in part:

We believe that all States should maintain all existing voluntary moratoria on nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosion, and those States that have not instituted such moratoria should do so.
The verification regime being established by the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, in particular the International Monitoring System and International Data Centre, has proven its effectiveness by providing substantive and reliable data on the nuclear tests conducted by North Korea. We strongly encourage all interested States to complete the IMS as a matter of priority.

The statement also recalls UN Security Council Resolution 2310 (passed September 23, 2016) —which calls on all states to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), refrain from nuclear testing, and provide support for the CTBTO. The resolution also notes the contribution of the CTBT to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.

Past U.S. Support and Results

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other diplomats vote to adopt the resolution in support of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty during a UN Security Council meeting September 23. (Photo credit: Astrid Riecken/CTBTO) The final omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2017 fully funds the Obama administration’s final budget request of $32 million for the U.S. contribution to the CTBT International Monitoring System (IMS) and CTBTO. This is in line with the United States’ longstanding support for the CTBT, which was formally established in 1997.
The CTBTO was established with the support of the United States and the other 182 signatories of the CTBT to build, operate, and maintain a robust IMS and International Data Center to detect and deter nuclear weapon test explosions, which are banned by the treaty.
Today the IMS is more than 90% complete and is collecting and analyzing information on a continuous 24/7 basis for the purpose of detecting and deterring clandestine nuclear test explosions and to provide the technical basis for international responses to noncompliance.
The CTBTO provides additional nuclear test detection capabilities beyond U.S. national means of intelligence and is a neutral source of information that can mobilize international action against any state that violates the global norm against nuclear testing.
The total annual budget of the CTBTO was about  $128 million for 2016. The United States provides 22.47% of the CTBTO’s funding. Over the years, the United States has also made voluntary, in-kind contributions including for the operation and maintenance costs of all IMS facilities in the United States and support to the software development for the International Data Center, which analyzes the global monitoring data for nuclear testing activity. These in-kind contributions are valued at more than $5 million USD in 2015 and $9 million in 2016.
Although United States signed the CTBT in 1996 and has not conducted a nuclear test explosion in 25 years, the United States is one of eight remaining states that must ratify the treaty in order to allow for its formal entry into force.

The Illogic of the Treaty’s Critics

Unfortunately, a small but influential group of Republican lawmakers are seeking to cut U.S. funding for the CTBTO and undermine international support for the CTBT and the global nuclear test moratorium.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) introduced legislation on Feb.7 to “restrict” funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).
The Cotton and Wilson bill  purports not to restrict U.S. funding specifically for the IMS, but in practice any significant reduction in U.S. technical and financial support for the CTBTO would:

  • adversely impact the organization’s ability to operate and maintain existing nuclear test monitoring stations. This is due to the fact that a wide range of organization’s personnel and assets directly or indirectly support the IMS. This includes staff time and technical support for the International Data Centre in Vienna, which processes information provided by IMS operations; and
  • prompt other states to restrict their funding for the CTBTO or possibly withhold data from CTBTO monitoring stations that are based in their territory, thus undermining the capabilities of the system to detect and deter clandestine nuclear testing.

The bill also seeks to undermine the U.S. obligation—as a signatory to the CTBT—not to conduct nuclear test explosions. It calls on Congress to declare that the September 2016 UN Security Council resolution does not “obligate…nor does it impose an obligation on the United States to refrain from actions that would run counter to the object and purpose” of the CTBT, which President Bill Clinton signed in 1996.
Contrary to what the Cotton/Wilson bill implies, Resolution 2310 (which was endorsed by 42 states including Israel) does not impose any new obligations on the United States. Rather, UNSC 2310:

  • encourages states to “provide the support required” to the CTBTO and the IMS, and urges states to refrain from nuclear testing and urges those states that have not ratified to do so; and
  • also takes note of the September 15 joint statement by the five permanent Security Council members that formally “recognized” that a nuclear explosion would “defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT.” 

So long as the United States remains a signatory of the CTBT, it is legally obliged not to take actions that would defeat its object and purpose. In other words, like all other 183 signatories, it shall not conduct a nuclear test explosion.
However, if Congress were to adopt the Cotton-Wilson bill asserting that the United States is not required to respect our obligations as a CTBT signatory not to test, it would signal to other states that that the United States is seeking to back out of its commitment to a global and verifiable nuclear test ban and is considering the resumption of nuclear weapons testing.
That’s not a smart move. With North Korea threatening to conduct a sixth nuclear test explosion, it is essential that the United States reinforce, not undermine, the global nuclear testing taboo
Backing off our historically strong commitment to ending nuclear testing at this time could trigger a dangerous chain reaction by other nuclear-armed states and would run afoul of key U.S. allies who strongly oppose nuclear testing and who support the CTBT. Continuing to fund the U.S. contribution to detect and deter nuclear weapons testing enhances national and international security.

—DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director


According to the FY2018 budget outline, the Trump administration will seek funding cuts in the U.S. contribution for the CTBTO, the intergovernmental organization responsible for the global nuclear test monitoring system designed to detect and deter clandestine nuclear explosions.

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