bailing out

Nuclear proliferation

Nuclear proliferation is a term now used to describe the spread of nuclear weapons, fissile material, and weapons-applicable nuclear technology and information, to nations which are not recognized as "nuclear weapon States" by the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, also known as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or NPT. Proliferation has been opposed by many nations with and without nuclear weapons, the governments of which fear that more countries with nuclear weapons may increase the possibility of nuclear warfare (up to and including the so-called "countervalue" targeting of civilians with nuclear weapons), de-stabilize international or regional relations, or infringe upon the national sovereignty of states.

Three nations, none of which signed or ratified the NPT, have acquired, or are presumed to have acquired, nuclear weapons: India, Pakistan and Israel. Critics of the NPT and nuclear weapon States cite this when they charge that the NPT-system is discriminatory.

History of Nuclear Proliferation

Earnest international efforts to promote nuclear non-proliferation began soon after World War II, when the Truman Administration proposed the Baruch Plan of 1946, named after Bernard Baruch, America's first representative to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. The Baruch Plan, which drew heavily from the Acheson-Lilienthal Report of 1946, proposed the verifiable dismantlement and destruction of the U.S. nuclear arsenal (which, at that time, was the only nuclear arsenal in the world) after all governments had cooperated successfully to accomplish two things: (1) the establishment of an "international atomic development authority," which would actually own and control all military-applicable nuclear materials and activities, and (2) the creation of a system of automatic sanctions, which not even the U.N. Security Council could veto, and which would proportionately punish states attempting to acquire the capability to make nuclear weapons or fissile material.

Although the Baruch Plan enjoyed wide international support, it failed to emerge from the UNAEC because the Soviet Union planned to veto it in the Security Council. Still, it remained official American policy until 1953, when President Eisenhower made his "Atoms for Peace" proposal before the U.N. General Assembly. Eisenhower's proposal led eventually to the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1957. Under the "Atoms for Peace" program thousands of scientists from around the world were educated in nuclear science and then dispatched them home, where many later pursued secret weapons programs in their home country.

Efforts to conclude an international agreement to limit the spread of nuclear weapons did not begin until the early 1960s, after four nations (i.e., the U.S., Soviet Union, Britain and France) had acquired nuclear weapons (see List of countries with nuclear weapons for more information). Although these efforts stalled in the early 1960s, they renewed once again in 1964, after the People's Republic of China detonated a nuclear weapon and became the fifth nation to have acquired nuclear weapons. In 1968, governments represented at the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC) finished negotiations on the text of the NPT. In June 1968, the U.N. General Assembly endorsed the NPT with General Assembly Resolution 2373 (XXII), and in July 1968, the NPT opened for signature in Washington, DC, London and Moscow. The NPT entered into force in March 1970.

Since the mid-1970s, the primary focus of nonproliferation efforts has been to maintain, and even increase, international control over the fissile material and specialized technologies necessary to build such devices because these are the most difficult and expensive parts of a nuclear weapons program. The main materials whose generation and distribution is controlled are highly enriched uranium and plutonium. Other than the acquisition of these special materials, the scientific and technical means for weapons construction to develop rudimentary, but working, nuclear explosive devices are considered to be within the reach of industrialized nations.

Since its founding by the United Nations in 1957, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has promoted two, sometimes contradictory, missions: on the one hand, the Agency seeks to promote and spread internationally the use of civilian nuclear energy; on the other hand, it seeks to prevent, or at least detect, the diversion of civilian nuclear energy to nuclear weapons, nuclear explosive devices or purposes unknown. The IAEA now operates a safeguards system as specified under Article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968, which aims to ensure that civil stocks of uranium, plutonium, as well as facilities and technologies associated with these nuclear materials, are used only for peaceful purposes and do not contribute in any way to proliferation or nuclear weapons programs.

Dual use technology

Dual use technology refers to the possibility of military use of civilian nuclear power technology. The enriched uranium used in most nuclear reactors is not concentrated enough to build a bomb. Most nuclear reactors run on 4% enriched uranium; Little Boy used 80% enriched uranium; while lower enrichment levels could be used, the minimum bomb size would rapidly become unfeasibly large as the level was decreased. However, the same plants and technology used to enrich uranium for power generation can be used to make the highly enriched uranium needed to build a bomb.

In addition, the plutonium produced in power reactors, if separated from spent fuel through chemical reprocessing (much less technically challenging than isotopic separation), can be used for a bomb. While the plutonium resulting from normal reactor fueling cycles is less than ideal for weapons use because of the concentration of Pu-240, a usable weapon can be produced from it. If the reactor is operated on very short fueling cycles, bomb-grade plutonium can be produced. However, such operation would be virtually impossible to camouflage in many reactor designs, as the frequent shutdowns for refueling would be obvious, for instance in satellite photographs.

Fast breeder reactors require reprocessing, generate more plutonium than they consume (and much than non-breeders), and can produce better than weapons-grade plutonium. New technology for breeder reactors, like SSTAR, may lessen the risk of nuclear proliferation by providing sealed reactors with a limited self-contained fuel supply that could be remotely shut down in case of tampering.

International cooperation

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

At present, 189 countries are States Parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, more commonly known as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or NPT. These include the five Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) recognized by the NPT: the People's Republic of China, France, Russian Federation, the UK, and the USA.

Notable non-signatories to the NPT are Israel, Pakistan, and India (the latter two have since tested nuclear weapons, while Israel is considered by most to be an unacknowledged nuclear weapons state). North Korea was once a signatory but withdrew in January 2003. The legality of North Korea's withdrawal is debatable but as of October 9, 2006, North Korea clearly possesses the capability to make a nuclear explosive device.

International Atomic Energy Agency

The IAEA was set up by unanimous resolution of the United Nations in 1957 to help nations develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Allied to this role is the administration of safeguards arrangements to provide assurance to the international community that individual countries are honoring their commitments under the treaty.

The IAEA regularly inspects civil nuclear facilities to verify the accuracy of documentation supplied to it. The agency checks inventories, and samples and analyzes materials. Safeguards are designed to deter diversion of nuclear material by increasing the risk of early detection. They are complemented by controls on the export of sensitive technology from countries such as UK and USA through voluntary bodies such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The main concern of the IAEA is that uranium not be enriched beyond what is necessary for commercial civil plants, and that plutonium which is produced by nuclear reactors not be refined into a form that would be suitable for bomb production.

Scope of safeguards

Traditional safeguards are arrangements to account for and control the use of nuclear materials. This verification is a key element in the international system which ensures that uranium in particular is used only for peaceful purposes.

Parties to the NPT agree to accept technical safeguard measures applied by the IAEA. These require that operators of nuclear facilities maintain and declare detailed accounting records of all movements and transactions involving nuclear material. Over 550 facilities and several hundred other locations are subject to regular inspection, and their records and the nuclear material being audited. Inspections by the IAEA are complemented by other measures such as surveillance cameras and instrumentation.

The inspections act as an alert system providing a warning of the possible diversion of nuclear material from peaceful activities. The system relies on;

  1. Material Accountancy - tracking all inward and outward transfers and the flow of materials in any nuclear facility. This includes sampling and analysis of nuclear material, on-site inspections, and review and verification of operating records.
  2. Physical Security - restricting access to nuclear materials at the site.
  3. Containment and Surveillance - use of seals, automatic cameras and other instruments to detect unreported movement or tampering with nuclear materials, as well as spot checks on-site.

All NPT non-weapons states must accept these full-scope safeguards. In the five weapons states plus the non-NPT states (India, Pakistan and Israel), facility-specific safeguards apply. IAEA inspectors regularly visit these facilities to verify completeness and accuracy of records.

The terms of the NPT cannot be enforced by the IAEA itself, nor can nations be forced to sign the treaty. In reality, as shown in Iraq and North Korea, safeguards can be backed up by diplomatic, political and economic measures.

While traditional safeguards easily verified the correctness of formal declarations by suspect states, in the 1990s attention turned to what might not have been declared. While accepting safeguards at declared facilities, Iraq had set up elaborate equipment elsewhere in an attempt to enrich uranium to weapons grade. North Korea attempted to use research reactors (not commercial electricity-generating reactors) and a reprocessing plant to produce some weapons-grade plutonium.

The weakness of the NPT regime lay in the fact that no obvious diversion of material was involved. The uranium used as fuel probably came from indigenous sources, and the nuclear facilities were built by the countries themselves without being declared or placed under safeguards. Iraq, as an NPT party, was obliged to declare all facilities but did not do so. Nevertheless, the activities were detected and brought under control using international diplomacy. In Iraq, a military defeat assisted this process.

In North Korea, the activities concerned took place before the conclusion of its NPT safeguards agreement. With North Korea, the promised provision of commercial power reactors appeared to resolve the situation for a time, but it later withdrew from the NPT and declared it had nuclear weapons.

Additional Protocol

In 1993 a program was initiated to strengthen and extend the classical safeguards system, and a model protocol was agreed by the IAEA Board of Governors 1997. The measures boosted the IAEA's ability to detect undeclared nuclear activities, including those with no connection to the civil fuel cycle.

Innovations were of two kinds. Some could be implemented on the basis of IAEA's existing legal authority through safeguards agreements and inspections. Others required further legal authority to be conferred through an Additional Protocol. This must be agreed by each non-weapons state with IAEA, as a supplement to any existing comprehensive safeguards agreement. Weapons states have agreed to accept the principles of the model additional protocol.

Key elements of the model Additional Protocol:

  • The IAEA is to be given considerably more information on nuclear and nuclear-related activities, including R & D, production of uranium and thorium (regardless of whether it is traded), and nuclear-related imports and exports.
  • IAEA inspectors will have greater rights of access. This will include any suspect location, it can be at short notice (e.g., two hours), and the IAEA can deploy environmental sampling and remote monitoring techniques to detect illicit activities.
  • States must streamline administrative procedures so that IAEA inspectors get automatic visa renewal and can communicate more readily with IAEA headquarters.
  • Further evolution of safeguards is towards evaluation of each state, taking account of its particular situation and the kind of nuclear materials it has. This will involve greater judgement on the part of IAEA and the development of effective methodologies which reassure NPT States.

As of 9 October 2008, 88 countries have brought Additional Protocols into force. The IAEA is also applying the measures of the Additional Protocol in Taiwan, China.

Limitations of Safeguards

The greatest risk from nuclear weapons proliferation comes from countries which have not joined the NPT and which have significant unsafeguarded nuclear activities; India, Pakistan, and Israel fall within this category. While safeguards apply to some of their activities, others remain beyond scrutiny.

A further concern is that countries may develop various sensitive nuclear fuel cycle facilities and research reactors under full safeguards and then subsequently opt out of the NPT. Bilateral agreements, such as insisted upon by Australia and Canada for sale of uranium, address this by including fallback provisions, but many countries are outside the scope of these agreements. If a nuclear-capable country does leave the NPT, it is likely to be reported by the IAEA to the UN Security Council, just as if it were in breach of its safeguards agreement. Trade sanctions would then be likely.

IAEA safeguards, together with bilateral safeguards applied under the NPT can, and do, ensure that uranium supplied by countries such as Australia and Canada does not contribute to nuclear weapons proliferation. In fact, the worldwide application of those safeguards and the substantial world trade in uranium for nuclear electricity make the proliferation of nuclear weapons much less likely.

The Additional Protocol, once it is widely in force, will provide credible assurance that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in the states concerned. This will be a major step forward in preventing nuclear proliferation.

Other IAEA developments

The Zangger Committee communicated its guidelines, essentially a set of export rules, to the IAEA in 1978. These were to ensure that transfers of nuclear material or equipment would not be diverted to unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycle or nuclear explosive activities, and formal government assurances to this effect were required from recipients. The Guidelines also recognised the need for physical protection measures in the transfer of sensitive facilities, technology and weapons-usable materials, and strengthened retransfer provisions. The group began with seven members -- the USA, the former USSR, the UK, France, Germany, Canada and Japan -- but now includes 35 countries.

According to Kenneth D. Bergeron's Tritium on Ice: The Dangerous New Alliance of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Power, tritium is not classified as a 'special nuclear material' but rather as a 'by-product'. It is seen as an important litmus test on the seriousness of the United State's intention to nuclear disarm. This radioactive super-heavy hydrogen isotope is used to boost the efficiency of fissile materials in nuclear weapons. The United States resumed tritium production in 2003 for the first time in 15 years. This could indicate that there is a potential nuclear arm stockpile replacement since the isotope naturally decays.

In May 1995, NPT parties reaffirmed their commitment to a Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty to prohibit the production of any further fissile material for weapons. This aims to complement the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty of 1996 and to codify commitments made by USA, UK, France and Russia to cease production of weapons material, as well as putting a similar ban on China. This treaty will also put more pressure on Israel, India and Pakistan to agree to international verification.

On August 9, 2005 Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa forbidding the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons. The full text of the fatwa was released in an official statement at the meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. As of February 2006 Iran formally announced that uranium enrichment within their borders has continued. Iran claims it is for peaceful purposes but the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the United States claim the purpose is for nuclear weapons research and construction.

Unsanctioned nuclear activity

Iraq

Up to the late 1980s it was generally assumed that any undeclared nuclear activities would have to be based on the diversion of nuclear material from safeguards. States acknowledged the possibility of nuclear activities entirely separate from those covered by safeguards, but it was assumed they would be detected by national intelligence activities. There was no particular effort by IAEA to attempt to detect them.

Iraq had been making efforts to secure a nuclear potential since the 1960s. In the late 1970s a specialised plant, Osiraq, was constructed near Baghdad. The plant was attacked during the Iran–Iraq War and was destroyed by Israeli bombers in June 1981.

Not until the 1990 NPT Review Conference did some states raise the possibility of making more use of (for example) provisions for "special inspections" in existing NPT Safeguards Agreements. Special inspections can be undertaken at locations other than those where safeguards routinely apply, if there is reason to believe there may be undeclared material or activities.

After inspections in Iraq following the UN Gulf War cease-fire resolution showed the extent of Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapons program, it became clear that the IAEA would have to broaden the scope of its activities. Iraq was an NPT Party, and had thus agreed to place all its nuclear material under IAEA safeguards. But the inspections revealed that it had been pursuing an extensive clandestine uranium enrichment programme, as well as a nuclear weapons design programme.

The main thrust of Iraq's uranium enrichment program was the development of technology for electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS) of indigenous uranium. This uses the same principles as a mass spectrometer (albeit on a much larger scale). Ions of uranium-238 and uranium-235 are separated because they describe arcs of different radii when they move through a magnetic field. This process was used in the Manhattan Project to make the highly enriched uranium used in the Hiroshima bomb, but was abandoned soon afterwards.

The Iraqis did the basic research work at their nuclear research establishment at Tuwaitha, near Baghdad, and were building two full-scale facilities at Tarmiya and Ash Sharqat, north of Baghdad. However, when the war broke out, only a few separators had been installed at Tarmiya, and none at Ash Sharqat.

The Iraqis were also very interested in centrifuge enrichment, and had been able to acquire some components including some carbon-fibre rotors, which they were at an early stage of testing.

They were clearly in violation of their NPT and safeguards obligations, and the IAEA Board of Governors ruled to that effect. The UN Security Council then ordered the IAEA to remove, destroy or render harmless Iraq's nuclear weapons capability. This was done by mid 1998, but Iraq then ceased all cooperation with the UN, so the IAEA withdrew from this work.

The revelations from Iraq provided the impetus for a very far-reaching reconsideration of what safeguards are intended to achieve.

See also: Iraq and weapons of mass destruction

North Korea

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) acceded to the NPT in 1985 as a condition for the supply of a nuclear power station by the USSR. However, it delayed concluding its NPT Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, a process which should take only 18 months, until April 1992.

During that period, it brought into operation a small gas-cooled, graphite-moderated, natural-uranium (metal) fuelled "Experimental Power Reactor" of about 25 MWt (5 MWe), based on the UK Magnox design. While this was a well-suited design to start a wholly indigenous nuclear reactor development, it also exhibited all the features of a small plutonium production reactor for weapons purposes. North Korea also made substantial progress in the construction of two larger reactors designed on the same principles, a prototype of about 200 MWt (50 MWe), and a full-scale version of about 800 MWt (200 MWe). They made only slow progress; construction halted on both in 1994 and has not resumed. Both reactors have degraded considerably since that time and would take significant efforts to refurbish.

In addition it completed and commissioned a reprocessing plant that makes the Magnox spent nuclear fuel safe, recovering uranium and plutonium. That plutonium, if the fuel was only irradiated to a very low burn-up, would have been in a form very suitable for weapons. Although all these facilities at Yongbyon were to be under safeguards, there was always the risk that at some stage, the DPRK would withdraw from the NPT and use the plutonium for weapons.

One of the first steps in applying NPT safeguards is for the IAEA to verify the initial stocks of uranium and plutonium to ensure that all the nuclear material in the country have been declared for safeguards purposes. While undertaking this work in 1992, IAEA inspectors found discrepancies which indicated that the reprocessing plant had been used more often than the DPRK had declared, which suggested that the DPRK could have weapons-grade plutonium which it had not declared to the IAEA. Information passed to the IAEA by a Member State (as required by the IAEA) supported that suggestion by indicating that the DPRK had two undeclared waste or other storage sites.

In February 1993 the IAEA called on the DPRK to allow special inspections of the two sites so that the initial stocks of nuclear material could be verified. The DPRK refused, and on 12 March announced its intention to withdraw from the NPT (three months' notice is required). In April 1993 the IAEA Board concluded that the DPRK was in non-compliance with its safeguards obligations and reported the matter to the UN Security Council. In June 1993 the DPRK announced that it had "suspended" its withdrawal from the NPT, but subsequently claimed a "special status" with respect to its safeguards obligations. This was rejected by IAEA.

Once the DPRK's non-compliance had been reported to the UN Security Council, the essential part of the IAEA's mission had been completed. Inspections in the DPRK continued, although inspectors were increasingly hampered in what they were permitted to do by the DPRK's claim of a "special status". However, some 8,000 corroding fuel rods associated with the experimental reactor have remained under close surveillance.

Following bilateral negotiations between DPRK and the USA, and the conclusion of the Agreed Framework in October 1994, the IAEA has been given additional responsibilities. The agreement requires a freeze on the operation and construction of the DPRK's plutonium production reactors and their related facilities, and the IAEA is responsible for monitoring the freeze until the facilities are eventually dismantled. The DPRK remains uncooperative with the IAEA verification work and has yet to comply with its safeguards agreement.

While Iraq was defeated in a war, allowing the UN the opportunity to seek out and destroy its nuclear weapons programme as part of the cease-fire conditions, the DPRK was not defeated, nor was it vulnerable to other measures, such as trade sanctions. It can scarcely afford to import anything, and sanctions on vital commodities, such as oil, would either be ineffective, or risk provoking war.

Ultimately, the DPRK was persuaded to stop what appeared to be its nuclear weapons programme in exchange, under the agreed framework, for about US$5 billion in energy-related assistance. This included two 1000 MWe light water nuclear power reactors based on an advanced US System-80 design.

In January 2003 the DPRK withdrew from the NPT. In response a series of discussions between the DPRK, USA, and the PRC, a series of six-party talks (the parties being the DPRK, ROK, PRC, Japan, USA and Russia) were held in Beijing; the first beginning in April 2004 concerning North Korea's weapons program.

On January 10 2005 North Korea declared that it was in the possession of nuclear weapons. At the end of 2005 the DPRK has halted all six-party talks concerning its nuclear programme for 13 months due to the US freezing its international financial assets such as those in a bank in Macau.

On October 9 2006 North Korea announced that it has performed its first-ever nuclear weapon test. On December 18 2006, the six-party talks finally resumed.

See also: North Korea and weapons of mass destruction and Six-party talks

South Africa

In 1991, South Africa acceded to the NPT, concluded a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA, and submitted a report on its nuclear material subject to safeguards. At the time, the state had a nuclear power programme producing nearly 10% of the country's electricity, whereas Iraq and North Korea only had research reactors.

The IAEA's initial verification task was complicated by South Africa's announcement that between 1979 and 1989 it built and then dismantled a number of nuclear weapons. South Africa asked the IAEA to verify the conclusion of its weapons programme. In 1995 the IAEA declared that it was satisfied all materials were accounted for and the weapons programme had been terminated and dismantled.

South Africa has signed the NPT, and now holds the distinction of being the only known state to have indigenously produced nuclear weapons, and then verifiably dismantled them.

United States-NATO nuclear weapons sharing

The United States provides about 180 tactical B61 nuclear bombs for use by Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey under a NATO nuclear weapons sharing agreement. Some states believe this violates Articles I and II of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, where the U.S. has committed:
"... not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly...".
The U.S. insists its forces control the weapons and that no transfer of the nuclear bombs or control over them is intended "unless and until a decision were made to go to war, at which the [NPT] treaty would no longer be controlling", so there is no breach of the NPT. However the pilots and other staff of the "non-nuclear" NATO countries practice handling and delivering the U.S. nuclear bombs.

United States cooperation on nuclear weapons with the United Kingdom

The US has given the UK considerable assistance with nuclear weapon design and construction since the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement. In 1974 a CIA proliferation assessment noted that "In many cases [Britain's sensitive technology in nuclear and missile fields] is based on technology received from the US and could not legitimately be passed on without US permission."

The U.S. President authorised the transfer of "nuclear weapon parts" to the UK between at least the years 1975 to 1996. The UK National Audit Office noted that most of the UK Trident warhead development and production expenditure was incurred in the U.S. who would supply "certain warhead-related components". Some of the fissile materials for the UK Trident warhead were purchased from the U.S. Declassified U.S. Department of Energy documents indicate the UK Trident warhead system was involved in non-nuclear design activities alongside the U.S. W76 nuclear warhead fitted in some U.S. Navy Trident missiles, leading the Federation of American Scientists to speculate that the UK warhead may share design information from the W76.

Under the Mutual Defence Agreement 5.37 tonnes of UK produced plutonium was sent to the U.S. in return for 6.7 kg of tritium and 7.5 tonnes of highly enriched uranium over the period 1960-1979. A further 0.47 tonne of plutonium was swapped between the UK and U.S. for reasons that remain classified. Some of the UK produced plutonium was used in 1962 by the U.S. for a nuclear weapon test of reactor-grade plutonium .

The United States has supplied nuclear weapon delivery systems to support the UK nuclear forces since before the signing of the NPT. The renewal of this agreement is due to take place through the second decade of the 21st century.

Non-signatory States

India, Pakistan and Israel have been "threshold" countries in terms of the international non-proliferation regime. They possess or are quickly capable of assembling one or more nuclear weapons. They have remained outside the 1970 NPT. They are thus largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant or materials, except for safety-related devices for a few safeguarded facilities.

In May 1998 India and Pakistan each exploded several nuclear devices underground. This heightened concerns regarding an arms race between them, with Pakistan involving the People's Republic of China, an acknowledged nuclear weapons state. Both countries are opposed to the NPT as it stands, and India has consistently attacked the Treaty since its inception in 1970 labeling it as a lopsided treaty in favor of the nuclear powers.

Relations between the two countries are tense and hostile, and the risks of nuclear conflict between them have long been considered quite high. Kashmir is a prime cause of bilateral tension, its sovereignty being in dispute since 1948. There is persistent low level military conflict due to Pakistan backing an insurgency there and the disputed status of Kashmir.

Both engaged in a conventional arms race in the 1980s, including sophisticated technology and equipment capable of delivering nuclear weapons. In the 1990s the arms race quickened. In 1994 India reversed a four-year trend of reduced allocations for defence, and despite its much smaller economy, Pakistan was expected to push its own expenditures yet higher. Both have lost their patrons: India, the former USSR, and Pakistan, the United States.

But it is the growth and modernization of China's nuclear arsenal and its assistance with Pakistan's nuclear power programme and, reportedly, with missile technology, which exacerbate Indian concerns. In particular, Pakistan is aided by China's People's Liberation Army, which operates somewhat autonomously within that country as an exporter of military material.

India

Nuclear power for civil use is well established in India. Its civil nuclear strategy has been directed towards complete independence in the nuclear fuel cycle, necessary because of its outspoken rejection of the NPT. This self-sufficiency extends from uranium exploration and mining through fuel fabrication, heavy water production, reactor design and construction, to reprocessing and waste management. It has a small fast breeder reactor and is planning a much larger one. It is also developing technology to utilise its abundant resources of thorium as a nuclear fuel.

India has 14 small nuclear power reactors in commercial operation, two larger ones under construction, and ten more planned. The 14 operating ones (2548 MWe total) comprise:

  • two 150 MWe BWRs from USA, which started up in 1969, now use locally-enriched uranium and are under safeguards,
  • two small Canadian PHWRs (1972 & 1980), also under safeguards, and
  • ten local PHWRs based on Canadian designs, two of 150 and eight 200 MWe.
  • two new 540 MWe and two 700 MWe plants are tarapore (known as TAPP :Tarapore Atomic Power Project)

The two under construction and two of the planned ones are 450 MWe versions of these 200 MWe domestic products. Construction has been seriously delayed by financial and technical problems. In 2001 a final agreement was signed with Russia for the country's first large nuclear power plant, comprising two VVER-1000 reactors, under a Russian-financed US$3 billion contract. The first unit is due to be commissioned in 2007. A further two Russian units are under consideration for the site.

Nuclear power supplied 3.1% of India's electricity in 2000 and this is expected to reach 10% by 2005. Its industry is largely without IAEA safeguards, though a few plants (see above) are under facility-specific safeguards. As a result India's nuclear power programme proceeds largely without fuel or technological assistance from other countries.

Its weapons material appears to come from a Canadian-designed 40MW "research" reactor which started up in 1960, well before the NPT, and a 100MW indigenous unit in operation since 1985. Both use local uranium, as India does not import any nuclear fuel. It is estimated that India may have built up enough weapons-grade plutonium for a hundred nuclear warheads.

It is widely believed that the nuclear programs of India and Pakistan used CANDU reactors to produce fissionable materials for their weapons; however, this is not accurate. Both Canada (by supplying the 40 MW research reactor) and the United States (by supplying 21 tons of heavy water) supplied India with the technology necessary to create a nuclear weapons program, dubbed CIRUS (Canada-India Reactor, United States). Canada sold India the reactor on the condition that the reactor and any by-products would be "employed for peaceful purposes only." Similarly, the U.S. sold New Delhi heavy water for use in the reactor "only... in connection with research into and the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes" India, in violation of these agreements, used the Canadian-supplied reactor and American-supplied heavy water to produce plutonium for their first nuclear explosion, Smiling Buddha. The Indian government controversially justified this, however, by claiming that Smiling Buddha was a "peaceful nuclear explosion."

The country has at least three other research reactors including the tiny one which is exploring the use of thorium as a nuclear fuel, by breeding fissile U-233. In addition, an advanced heavy-water thorium cycle is under development.

India exploded a nuclear device in 1974, the so-called Smiling Buddha test, which it has consistently claimed was for peaceful purposes. Others saw it as a response to China's nuclear weapons capability. It was then universally perceived, notwithstanding official denials, to possess, or to be able to quickly assemble, nuclear weapons. In 1997 it deployed its own medium-range missile and is now developing a long-range missile capable of reaching targets in China's industrial heartland.

In 1995 the USA quietly intervened to head off a proposed nuclear test. However, in 1998 there were five more tests in Operation Shakti. These were unambiguously military, including one claimed to be of a sophisticated thermonuclear device, and their declared purpose was "to help in the design of nuclear weapons of different yields and different delivery systems".

Indian security policies are driven by:

  • its determination to be recognized as a dominant power in the region
  • its increasing concern with China's expanding nuclear weapons and missile delivery programmes
  • its concern with Pakistan's capability to deliver nuclear weapons deep into India

It perceives nuclear weapons as a cost-effective political counter to China's nuclear and conventional weaponry, and the effects of its nuclear weapons policy in provoking Pakistan is, by some accounts, considered incidental. India has had an unhappy relationship with China. After an uneasy ceasefire ended the 1962 war, relations between the two nations were frozen until 1998. Since then a degree of high-level contact has been established and a few elementary confidence-building measures put in place. China still occupies some territory which it captured during the aforementioned war, claimed by India, and India still occupies some territory claimed by China. Its nuclear weapon and missile support for Pakistan is a major bone of contention.

Recently, American President George W. Bush met with India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss India's involvement with nuclear weapons. The two countries agreed that the United States would give nuclear power assistance to India. India would also be allowed to produce more nuclear weapons.

Pakistan

Pakistan is believed to have produced the material for its weapons from an indigenous enrichment program.

In Pakistan, nuclear power supplies only 1.7% of the country's electricity. It has one small (125 MWe) Canadian PHWR nuclear power reactor from 1971 which is under international safeguards, and a 300 MWe PWR supplied by China under safeguards, which started up in May 2000. A third one, a Chinese PWR, is planned. Enriched fuel for the PWRs will be imported from China.

It also has a 9 MW research reactor of 1965 vintage, and there are persistent reports of another "multipurpose" reactor, a 50 MW PHWR near Khushab, which is presumed to have potential for producing weapons plutonium.

Pakistan's concentration is on weapons technology, particularly the production of highly enriched uranium suitable for nuclear weapons, utilising indigenous uranium. It has at least one small centrifuge enrichment plant. In 1990 the US Administration cut off aid because it was unable to certify that Pakistan was not pursuing a policy of manufacturing nuclear weapons. This was relaxed late in 2001. In 1996 USA froze export loans to China because it was allegedly supplying centrifuge enrichment technology to Pakistan. Indian opinion is in no doubt about Pakistan's nuclear weapons capability.

Pakistan has made it clear since early 1996 that it had done the basic development work, and that if India staged a nuclear test, Pakistan would immediately start assembling its own nuclear explosive device. It is assumed to now have enough highly-enriched uranium for up to forty nuclear warheads.

In April 1998 Pakistan test fired a long-range missile capable of reaching Madras in southern India, pushing home the point by naming it after a 12th century Muslim conqueror. This development removed India's main military advantage over Pakistan. Pakistan's security concerns derive from India's possession of a nuclear weapons capability.

In May 1998 Pakistan announced that they had conducted six underground tests in the Chagai Hills, five on the 28th and one on the 30th of that month. Seismic events consistent with these claims were recorded.

Pakistan-North Korea Nuclear Proliferation and Missile Cooperation

Pakistan and North Korea's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons have had some similarities. Both countries first attempted the plutonium route to acquire such weapons and, when this was thwarted, turned towards uranium enrichment.
Pakistan
In the 1970s, Pakistan first focused on the plutonium route. They expected to obtain the fissile material from a reprocessing plant provided by France. This plan failed due to U.S. intervention. Pakistan, not wanting to give up, redoubled its efforts to obtain uranium enrichment technology. The main efforts towards this direction were done under Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan. Dr. Khan had earlier worked with Fysisch Dynamisch Onderzoekslaboratorium (FDO). FDO was a subsidiary of the Dutch firm VMF-Stork based in Amsterdam. From 1972 to 1975 Dr. Khan had access to classified data used to enrich ordinary uranium to weapons grade concentrations. FDO was working on the development of ultra high-speed centrifuges for URENCO.

In 1974 while he was on secondment for 16 days as a translator to the URENCO plant in Almelo, he obtained photographs and documents of the plant. Dr. Khan returned to Pakistan in 1976 and initiated the Uranium enrichment program on the basis of the technology he had stolen from his previous employer. Dr. Khan relied on nuclear technology supplied by American, Canadian, Swiss, German, Dutch, British, Japanese and Russian companies. Dr. Khan said of the assistance he got from the Japanese, "Next month the Japanese would come here and all the work would be done under their supervision." After the British Government stopped the British subsidiary of the American Emerson Electric Co from shipping the nuclear technology to Pakistan, Dr. Khan describes his frustration with a supplier from Germany as "That man from the German team was unethical. When he did not get the order from us, he wrote a letter to a Labour Party member and questions were asked in [British] Parliament."

His efforts made Dr. Khan into a national hero. In 1981, as a tribute, the president of Pakistan, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, renamed the enrichment plant the A. Q. Khan Research Laboratories.

In 2003, IAEA unearthed a nuclear black market with close ties to Pakistan. It was widely believed to have direct involvement of the government of Pakistan. This claim could not be verified due to the refusal of the government of Pakistan to allow IAEA to interview the alleged head of the nuclear black market, who happened to be no other than Dr. Khan. Dr. Khan later confessed to his crimes on national television, bailing out the government by taking full responsibility. He confessed to nuclear proliferation from Pakistan to Iran and North Korea. He was immediately given presidential immunity. Exact nature of the involvement at the governmental level is still unclear, but the manner in which the government acted cast doubt on the sincerity of Pakistan.

North Korea
North Korea joined the NPT in 1985 and had subsequently signed a safeguards agreement with the IAEA. However it was believed that North Korea was diverting plutonium extracted from the fuel of its reactor at Yongbyon, for use in nuclear weapons. The subsequent confrontation with IAEA on the issue of inspections and suspected violations, resulted in North Korea threatening to withdraw from the NPT in 1993. This led to negotiations with the US resulting in the Agreed Framework of 1994, which provided for IAEA safeguards being applied to its reactors and spent fuel rods. These spent fuel rods were sealed in canisters by US to prevent North Korea from extracting plutonium from them. North Korea had to therefore freeze its plutonium programme.

During this period Pakistan-North Korea cooperation in missile technology transfer was being established. A high level Pakistani military delegation visited North Korea in August-September 1992, reportedly to discuss the supply Scud missile technology to Pakistan. In 1993, PM Benazir Bhutto traveled to China and North Korea. The visits are believed to be related to the subsequent acquisition of Ghauri (North Korean No-dong) missiles by Pakistan. During the period 1992-1994, A.Q. Khan was reported to have visited North Korea thirteen times. The missile cooperation program with North Korea was under Dr. A. Q. Khan's Kahuta Research Laboratories. At this time China was under US pressure not to supply the M series of missiles to Pakistan. This forced the latter (possibly with Chinese connivance) to approach North Korea for missile transfers. Reports indicate that North Korea was willing to supply missile sub-systems including rocket motors, inertial guidance systems, control and testing equipment of Scud SSMs for US$ 50 million.

It is not clear what North Korea got in return. Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. in Jane's Defence Weekly (27 November 2002) reports that Western analysts had begun to question what North Korea received in payment for the missiles; many suspected it was nuclear technology and components. Khan's KRL was in charge of both Pakistan's uranium enrichment program and also of the missile program with North Korea. It is therefore likely during this period that cooperation in nuclear technology between Pakistan and North Korea was initiated. Western intelligence agencies began to notice exchange of personnel, technology and components between KRL and entities of the North Korean 2nd Economic Committee (responsible for weapons production).

A New York Times report on October 18, 2002 quoted US intelligence officials having stated that Pakistan was a major supplier of critical equipment to North Korea. The report added that equipment such as gas centrifuges appeared to have been "part of a barter deal" in which North Korea supplied Pakistan with missiles. Separate reports indicate (Washington Times, November 22, 2002) that U.S. intelligence had as early as 1999 picked up signs that North Korea was continuing to develop nuclear arms. Other reports also indicate that North Korea had been working covertly to develop an enrichment capability for nuclear weapons for at least five years and had used technology obtained from Pakistan (Washington Times, October 18, 2002).

Nuclear arms control in the region
The public stance of the two states on non-proliferation differs markedly. Pakistan appears to have dominated a continuing propaganda debate.

Pakistan has initiated a series of regional security proposals. It has repeatedly proposed a nuclear free zone in South Asia and has proclaimed its willingness to engage in nuclear disarmament and to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty if India would do so. It has endorsed a United States proposal for a regional five power conference to consider non-proliferation in South Asia.

India has taken the view that solutions to regional security issues should be found at the international rather than the regional level, since its chief concern is with China. It therefore rejects Pakistan's proposals.

Instead, the 'Gandhi Plan', put forward in 1988, proposed the revision of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it regards as inherently discriminatory in favor of the nuclear-weapon States, and a timetable for complete nuclear weapons disarmament. It endorsed early proposals for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and for an international convention to ban the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes, known as the 'cut-off' convention.

The United States for some years, especially under the Clinton administration, pursued a variety of initiatives to persuade India and Pakistan to abandon their nuclear weapons programs and to accept comprehensive international safeguards on all their nuclear activities. To this end, the Clinton administration proposed a conference of the five nuclear-weapon states, Japan, Germany, India and Pakistan.

India refused this and similar previous proposals, and countered with demands that other potential weapons states, such as Iran and North Korea, should be invited, and that regional limitations would only be acceptable if they were accepted equally by China. The USA would not accept the participation of Iran and North Korea and these initiatives have lapsed.

Another, more recent approach, centers on 'capping' the production of fissile material for weapons purposes, which would hopefully be followed by 'roll back'. To this end, India and the United States jointly sponsored a UN General Assembly resolution in 1993 calling for negotiations for a 'cut-off' convention. Should India and Pakistan join such a convention, they would have to agree to halt the production of fissile materials for weapons and to accept international verification on their relevant nuclear facilities (enrichment and reprocessing plants). It appears that India is now prepared to join negotiations regarding such a Cut-off Treaty, under the UN Conference on Disarmament.

Bilateral confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan to reduce the prospects of confrontation have been limited. In 1990 each side ratified a treaty not to attack the other's nuclear installations, and at the end of 1991 they provided one another with a list showing the location of all their nuclear plants, even though the respective lists were regarded as not being wholly accurate. Early in 1994 India proposed a bilateral agreement for a 'no first use' of nuclear weapons and an extension of the 'no attack' treaty to cover civilian and industrial targets as well as nuclear installations.

Having promoted the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty since 1954, India dropped its support in 1995 and in 1996 attempted to block the Treaty. Following the 1998 tests the question has been reopened and both Pakistan and India have indicated their intention to sign the CTBT. Indian ratification may be conditional upon the five weapons states agreeing to specific reductions in nuclear arsenals. The UN Conference on Disarmament has also called upon both countries "to accede without delay to the Non-Proliferation Treaty", presumably as non-weapons states.

Israel

Israel is also thought to possess an arsenal of potentially up to several hundred nuclear warheads and associated delivery systems, but this has never been openly confirmed or denied.

An Israeli nuclear installation is located about ten kilometers to the south of Dimona, the Negev Nuclear Research Center. Its construction commenced in 1958, with French assistance. The official reason given by the Israeli and French governments was to build a nuclear reactor to power a "desalination plant", in order to "green the Negev". The purpose of the Dimona plant is widely assumed to be the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, and the majority of defense experts have concluded that it does in fact do that. However, the Israeli government refuses to confirm or deny this publicly, a policy it refers to as "ambiguity".

Norway sold 20 tonnes of heavy water needed for the reactor to Israel in 1959 and 1960 in a secret deal. There were no "safeguards" required in this deal to prevent usage of the heavy water for non-peaceful purposes. The British newspaper Daily Express accused Israel of working on a bomb in 1960. When the United States intelligence community discovered the purpose of the Dimona plant in the early 1960s, it demanded that Israel agree to international inspections. Israel agreed, but on a condition that US, rather than IAEA, inspectors were used, and that Israel would receive advanced notice of all inspections.

Some claim that because Israel knew the schedule of the inspectors' visits, it was able to hide the alleged purpose of the site from the inspectors by installing temporary false walls and other devices before each inspection. The inspectors eventually informed the U.S. government that their inspections were useless due to Israeli restrictions on what areas of the facility they could inspect. In 1969, the United States terminated the inspections.

In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at the Dimona plant, revealed to the media some evidence of Israel's nuclear program. Israeli agents arrested him from Italy, drugged him and transported him to Israel, and an Israeli court then tried him in secret on charges of treason and espionage , and sentenced him to eighteen years imprisonment. He was freed on April 21st, 2004, but was severely limited by the Israeli government. He was arrested again on November 11, 2004, though formal charges were not immediately filed.

Comments on photographs taken by Mordechai Vanunu inside the Negev Nuclear Research Center have been made by prominent scientists. British nuclear weapons scientist Frank Barnaby, who questioned Vanunu over several days, estimated Israel had enough plutonium for about 150 weapons. Ted Taylor, a bomb designer employed by the the United States of America has confirmed the several hundred warhead estimate based on Vanunu's photographs.

See also: Israel and weapons of mass destruction

Arguments in Favor of Proliferation

There has been much debate in the academic study of International Security as to the advisability of proliferation. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Gen. Pierre Marie Gallois of France, an adviser to Charles DeGaulle, argued in books like The Balance of Terror: Strategy for the Nuclear Age (1961) that mere possession of a nuclear arsenal, what the French called the force de frappe, was enough to ensure deterrence, and thus concluded that the spread of nuclear weapons could increase international stability.

Some very prominent neo-realist scholars, such as Kenneth Waltz, Emeritus Professor of Political Science at UC Berkeley and Adjunct Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University, and John Mearsheimer, R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, continue to argue along the lines of Gallois (though these scholars rarely acknowledge their intellectual debt to Gallois and his contemporaries). Specifically, these scholars advocate some forms of nuclear proliferation, arguing that it will decrease the likelihood of war, especially in troubled regions of the world. Aside from the majority opinion which opposes proliferation in any form, there are two schools of thought on the matter. Those, like Mearsheimer, who favor selective proliferation, and those such as Waltz, who advocate a laissez-faire attitude to programs like North Korea's.

Total Proliferation

In embryo, Waltz argues that the logic of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) should work in all security environments, regardless of historical tensions or recent hostility. He sees the Cold War as the ultimate proof of MAD logic -- the only occasion when enmity between two Great Powers did not result in military conflict. This was, he argues, because nuclear weapons promote caution in decision-makers. Neither Washington nor Moscow would risk nuclear Armageddon to advance territorial or power goals, hence a peaceful stalemate ensued (Waltz and Sagan (2003), p. 24). Waltz believes there to be no reason why this effect would not occur in all circumstances.

Selective Proliferation

John Mearsheimer would not support Waltz's optimism in the majority of potential instances; however, he has argued for nuclear proliferation as policy in certain places, such as post-Cold War Europe. In two famous articles, Professor Mearsheimer opines that Europe is bound to return to its pre-Cold War environment of regular conflagration and suspicion at some point in the future. He advocates arming both Germany and the Ukraine with nuclear weaponry in order to achieve a balance of power between these states in the east and France/Britain in the west. If this does not occur, he is certain that war will eventually break out on the European continent (Mearsheimer (1990), pp. 5-56 and (1993), pp. 50-66).

Another separate argument against Waltz's open proliferation and in favor of Mearsheimer's selective distribution is the possibility of nuclear terrorism. Some countries included in the aforementioned laissez-faire distribution could predispose the transfer of nuclear materials or a bomb falling into the hands of groups not affiliated with any governments. Such countries would not have the political will or ability to safeguard attempts at devices being transferred to a third party. Not being deterred by self-annihilation, terrorism groups could push forth their own nuclear agendas or be used as shadow fronts to carry out the attack plans by mentioned unstable governments.

Arguments Against Both Positions

There are numerous arguments to be found against both of these positions. For Mearsheimer specifically, most argue that Europe's economy is too intertwined for war to ever be a possibility again. They point to the further integration and expansion of Europe in recent years as proof that Mearsheimer's predictions are fatally flawed.

As for Waltz, the general opinion is that most states are not in a position to safely guard against nuclear use, that he under-estimates the long-standing antipathy in many regions, and that weak states will be unable to prevent - or will actively provide for - the disastrous possibility of nuclear terrorism. Waltz has dealt with all of these objections at some point in his work; though to many, he has not adequately responded (Betts (2000)).

The Learning Channel documentary Doomsday: "On The Brink" illustrated 40 years of U.S. and Soviet nuclear weapons accidents. Even the 1995 Norwegian rocket incident demonstrated a potential scenario in which Russian democratization and military downsizing at the end of the Cold War did not eliminate the danger of accidental nuclear war through command and control errors. After asking: might a future Russian ruler or renegade Russian general be tempted to use nuclear weapons to make foreign policy? the documentary writers revealed a greater danger of Russian security over its nuclear stocks, but especially the ultimate danger of human nature to want the ultimate weapon of mass destruction to exercise political and military power. Future world leaders might not understand how close the Soviets, Russians, and Americans were to doomsday, how easy it all seemed because apocalypse was avoided for a mere 40 years between rivals, politicians not terrorists, who loved their children and did not want to die, against 30,000 years of human prehistory. History and military experts agree that proliferation can be slowed, but never stopped (technology cannot be uninvented).

See also

References

External links and references

  • Official website of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA): http://www.iaea.org/

Organizations

Articles, Books and Other Media

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