Getting to Zero Update

In this issue:

Commitments to disarmament and arms control

Australia has held its first meeting of a new international nuclear non-proliferation body. The International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament aims to ensure the success of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT) conference, promote discussion on the need for disarmament and help to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Its members include former US Secretary of Defense William Perry and Norway’s former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland.

Norway, the United States and the Nuclear Threat Initiative are funding the establishment of the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) with the aim of improving security at nuclear sites worldwide. Between five to ten experts will collect the world’s best security practices for dealing with nuclear facilities and materials in order to share that information with peers.

Russian and US officials will meet in Geneva in mid-November to discuss a follow up arrangement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which will expire at the end of 2009.

Further reading

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Effectively verifiable
David Hafemeister, Arms Control Today, October 2008

Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) update 20
October 2008

Avoiding a perfect storm: Recharting the NPT review process
Jean du Preez, Arms Control Today, October 2008

The fragility of the global nuclear order
Graham Allison and Ernesto Zedillo, Boston Herald, September 30, 2008

The 2008 CTBT ministerial meeting – a message of hope and peace
CTBTO, September 26, 2008

Country reports

United States

The report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Nuclear Deterrence Skills has become public. Inside Defense posted the 148-page document online on October 16. The Task Force made 23 recommendations within the categories of leadership, organization, strategic planning, capabilities, and competencies and concluded that the reduced attention to the nuclear enterprise could harm US deterrence capabilities, which it says remain crucial to US national security.

The Departments of Energy and Defense released a joint report on September 23: National Security and Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century. The Departments advocate a continuing reliance on nuclear deterrence and moving forward with the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. The report is available via the Federation of American Scientists’ website.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced on October 9 that it has approved the final analysis of the Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (SPEIS). The NNSA press release summarized several of these recommendations, including “consolidation of high-security special nuclear material” … from seven sites down to five, and for “Los Alamos National Laboratory to provide consolidated plutonium research, development, and manufacturing capability.”

The US Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Richard Boucher, has emphasized what US officials see as the unique nature of the India-US nuclear agreement. He also said that nuclear cooperation with Pakistan is out of the question because of its history with leaking nuclear weapons information. In response, Pakistan has announced that China will strengthen its relations with Islamabad by helping its counterparts to build two more nuclear power plants.

Further reading

B61 Mod 12 LEP
Jeffrey Lewis, Arms Control Wonk, October 13, 2008

Next US Administration should review US nonproliferation policy
The Stanley Foundation, October 13, 2008

Nuclear Watch New Mexico comments on plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Lab
Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, October 10, 2008

Fact-check this: The real test-ban story (on vice presidential candidate debate)
Martin Fleck, Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World blog, October 3, 2008

Nuclear Policy Paper Embraces Clinton Era “Lead and Hedge” Strategy
Hans Kristensen, FAS Strategic Security blog, September 26, 2008

2008 Presidential Q&A: Democratic nominee Barack Obama (PDF)
Arms Control Today, September 24, 2008

United Kingdom

Following a series of local by-elections, questions regarding the security implications of Scotland’s bid for independence are more prominent than ever. As Britain’s nuclear deterrent is not supported by either the Scottish people or the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish National Party has the intention of declaring itself a non-nuclear weapon state under the NPT and removing the Trident fleet and nuclear warheads from Scottish soil should the country become independent. Such a move would have significant logistical and financial implications for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (EWNI). However, the U.K. Defense Secretary John Hutton has confirmed his commitment to keeping nuclear weapons in Scotland, underlining that defense is not a devolved matter.


On October 1, the US Congress passed the necessary legislation to open up nuclear trade with India. The deal will enable the United States to supply nuclear fuel, technology and reactors to India, a country which has never signed the NPT and has engaged in atomic tests as recently as 1998. Despite improving relations and business prospects, this landmark agreement has been heavily criticized on a number of fronts, most notably for its potential to facilitate the spread of nuclear weapons materials and technology, and its potential to undermine the NPT. New Delhi sees this as a “vindication” for India.

The deal may also be seen in the context of US efforts to build a close relationship with India to balance rising Chinese influence. The substantial pressure put on the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) by the US government in order to verify this agreement suggests that much is at stake, particularly when considering prior US policy toward India during the last three decades.

The agreement has strengthened India’s diplomatic ties and expanded its business prospects. Contracts are already nearing completion on undertakings with France’s Areva group, Russia’s Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corp and the American company General Electric.

India has also asked the UN General Assembly to help establish a consensus on moving toward non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament. India confirmed its commitment by re-introducing three UN resolutions which members of the Committee and then the General Assembly will discuss.

Further reading

Bush signs US-India nuclear pact into law
Tabassum Zakaria and Andy Sullivan, Reuters, October 8, 2008

The US-India nuclear deal
Esther Pan and Jayshree Bajoria, Council on Foreign Relations, October 2, 2008

India open for US $80 billion in nuclear business
Star Online, September 26, 2008


Condoleezza Rice has reaffirmed that the ‘six powers’ leading the opposition against Iran’s nuclear ambitions (Britain, China, North and South Korea, France, Germany and the United States) will persist in adopting a tough stance against Tehran. This commitment follows the recent Security Council resolution, which renewed demands for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program, but contained no additional sanctions. Tehran insists that its nuclear goals are peaceful and constructive.

Early in October, Iran countered suggestions that it might trade its own program of uranium enrichment for explicit guarantees of a supply of nuclear fuel. Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran’s delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), explained Iran’s position, saying, “We are going to continue as long as there is no legally bindingナ instrument for assurance of supply.” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki stated Iran seeks to be self-sufficient in fuel production, and that the assurances of other world powers are insufficiently strong to guarantee the vitality of Iran’s nuclear program, given Iran’s previous experience with them. Specifically, he noted the failure of the United States to honor its nuclear contracts with Iran made prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran has cited the U.S.-India nuclear deal as part of a double standard which has helped to legitimize the nuclear interests of some, while demonizing Iran’s own goals.

On October 14, Iran announced its willingness to move forward with negotiations on its nuclear programs if Western interlocutors will return to the table. Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani announced his country’s willingness to negotiate, provided the “P5+1” states did not demand the same set of “impossible to achieve” conditions. Decrying the United Nations’ incentive-threat tactics as outdated, Larijani claimed Iran had never left the negotiating table.

Several hundred Russian-trained engineers are set to begin working again at the Bushehr nuclear plant, expected to be fully operational sometime before March 2009.

Further reading

NATO doubts the world will stop Iran getting bomb
Crispian Balmer, Reuters UK, October 6, 2008

Iran: Is productive engagement possible?
Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Policy Brief No 65, October 2008

Iran lowers level of participation in IAEA meeting
Associated Press, September 28, 2008

North Korea

The United States withdrew North Korea from its terrorism blacklist on October 11, following an agreement on inspections and verification. North Korea will now be freed from certain sanctions and eligible for World Bank aid and assistance from other multilateral bodies, and will receive oil aid for its energy-strapped economy. North Korea responded to the United States’ action by announcing its recommitment to dismantling its nuclear facilities. A foreign ministry statement welcomed “the U.S.’s decision to honor its commitment to remove us from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.” US and IAEA monitors will be allowed access to Yongbyon and other nuclear facilities, re-install security features, and investigate the supply of nuclear material and technology to other countries. Monitors have re-sealed nuclear equipment and reactivated cameras.

International reactions were mixed. South Korea, keen to establish a normalized relationship with North Korea, welcomed the news. Japan, which considers itself a probable target for North Korea and which has an outstanding dispute over the abduction of its citizens, proved more hostile.

US officials reported on October 17 that North Korea had increased its efforts to decommission a nuclear reactor which it had previously threatened to reactivate. US diplomat Christopher Hill stated that the disablement of North Korea’s nuclear facilities should be completed soon, although ‘logistical and scheduling’ difficulties have prevented further disarmament talks from taking place this month.

Further reading

North Korea to resume disablement after nuclear deal
Jon Herskovitz, Reuters, October 12, 2008

Will Ill Kim Jong-Il derail disarmament?
Leonor Tomero and Adam Ptacin, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, October 6, 2008


Early in October, Syria withdrew its bid for a seat on the board of the IAEA, after it became apparent that there would likely be no consensus on the nomination. Syria had been competing with US-allied Afghanistan for the seat, guaranteed to a Middle East and South Asian (MESA) nation, after Pakistan’s term on the board expired earlier this year. According to the current chair of the MESA section within the IAEA (the Indian delegate), a compromise was reached on the matter after unspecified negotiations took place.

Syria’s bid ran into intense opposition from the United States, which has asserted that Syria attempted to build a secret nuclear facility at Al-Kibar until it was destroyed in an Israeli strike in late 2007 and was under investigation by the IAEA for its covert nuclear activities. Syria has denied accusations, but has also refused to open up three military sites to investigation by the IAEA during the inquiry.

Further reading

Syria drops bid for IAEA governors’ seat
Reuters, October 3, 2008

Missile defense

US plans for missile defense in Europe may have been dealt a blow following regional elections in the Czech Republic on October 18. The leftist Social Democrats have won all 13 regions contested in the country with a campaign which heavily criticized the US missile defense deal. Problems are set to continue for the project as the Social Democrats are likely to regain a majority in the Senate following a runoff vote later this week. Should this be the case, it would significantly limit the chances of the US missile defense bill being approved by the Czech Senate.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that Russian officials would withdraw their objections to the US anti-missile radar in the Czech Republic if Russian observers were permanently allowed to be stationed at the outpost. The Russian-US working group for anti-missile defense issues might meet by the end of October.

On October 14, US President Bush signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which included a series of restrictions and conditions on deploying the proposed missile defense sites in Europe. The Act also orders a study on space-based missile defense. An unnamed defense official told the Washington Times that spaced-based missile defense is necessary for worldwide coverage of US and allied interests. Skeptics have warned that space-based missile defense would be too technologically difficult and expensive.

The Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a US government-funded research organization, has recommended that the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) focus its resources on improving the quality of missile interceptors through research and development and leave their active deployment to the armed forces.

Further reading

New Pentagon report slams Missile Defense Agency
Joe Cirincione and Victoria Samson, The Huffington Post, October 20, 2008

Insider’s projects drained missile defense millions
Eric Lipton, New York Times, October 11, 2008

Missile defense in Poland a frivolous move
Victoria Samson, Center for Defense Information, October 8, 2008

Other publications

With North Korea, Iran talks faltering, Bush is poised to leave behind two nuclear challenges
Thomas Omestad, US News & World Report, October 16, 2008

Nuclear proliferation: Avoiding a pandemic
Barry Blechman, Stimson Center Analysis and Commentary, September 29, 2008

BASIC and Getting to Zero (GTZ)


Seizing the moment: Breakthrough measures to build a new East West consensus on weapons of mass destruction and disarmament

The East-West Institute, in cooperation with BASIC, CNS, and NGOCDPS, the Global Security Institute and other organizations, will host a conference that will include UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Henry Kissinger, Hans Blix and other international experts on October 24 at the United Nations in New York. We hope to broadcast the morning proceedings on the United Nations webcast system and will podcast the recordings after the event.

For more information, visit

Improving nuclear security in 2009 and beyond: Transatlantic options for the new administration

BASIC and Women in International Security (WIIS) will hold a post-election panel discussion on November 6 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. More information will follow soon, and is available from Chris Lindborg in BASIC’s Washington office (clindborg at


Nuclear Iran: India has made its choice, Siddharth Ramana, Getting to Zero Paper, No 10, October 13, 2008.

NATO nuclear sharing: Opportunity for change? Jeff King, Chris Lindborg, Philip Maxon, Getting to Zero Paper, No 9, October 1, 2008.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group Waiver, Siddharth Ramana, BASIC, Getting to Zero Paper, No 8, September 30, 2008.

GTZ blog

US India-Nuclear Cooperation Agreement: What Next?, Philip Maxon, October 8, 2008

Russian resurgence and diplomacy, Paul Ingram, October 6, 2008

Two missed opportunities for GTZ during the Presidential debate, Chris Lindborg, September 29, 2008

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