In an article in the Wall Street Journal, January 4, George P Shultz (US secretary of state from 1982 to 1989), William J Perry (US secretary of defense from 1994 to 1997), Henry A Kissinger (US secretary of state from 1973 to 1977), and Sam Nunn (former chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee), called on the US government to show leadership in taking the world to the next stage: “to a solid consensus for reversing reliance on nuclear weapons globally as a vital contribution to preventing their proliferation into potentially dangerous hands, and ultimately ending them as a threat to the world.” They suggest a number of concrete stages that would lay the groundwork for a world free of the nuclear threat and conclude that: “Reassertion of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and practical measures toward achieving that goal would be, and would be perceived as, a bold initiative consistent with America’s moral heritage.”
The Voice of America reports that new studies suggest that a small, regional nuclear conflict involving only a few weapons could have staggering global climate consequences, bringing about a 10-year-long cooling devastating to agriculture and society at large. Researchers have reported that small warheads can pack a huge environmental punch if aimed at large population centers.
The December issue of Arms Control Today has an article on the future of the Non Proliferation Treaty.
On December 12 the Project on Government Oversight charged that an accident that occurred as a decades-old nuclear warhead was being dismantled at the government’s Pantex facility near Amarillo, Texas, could have caused the device to detonate.
USA Today reported that in a secret mission in December, US, Russian and German officials secured nearly 600 pounds of abandoned, Soviet-made nuclear material. They moved it from a former East German research lab to a protected site in Russia.
On December 25 USA Today reported that annual incidents of trafficking and mishandling of nuclear and other radioactive material reported to US intelligence officials have more than doubled since the early 1990s, according to the director of domestic nuclear detection at the Department of Homeland Security.
On December 31 Israel signed the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
On November 29 the National Security Administration reported that a recently completed study on plutonium aging conducted by the JASON defense advisory group found that the material remains viable in nuclear weapon pits for a minimum of 85 years, much longer than the current estimate of 45 to 60 years. The finding may impact on plans to move to a new Reliable Replacement Warhead, as part of the argument for the RRW has been that plutonium aging could potentially jeopardize the reliability of current weapons in the future. Find the report here. However, the Washington Post reported that the Nuclear Weapons Council, made up of senior Defense Department and National Nuclear Security Administration officials, said on December 1 that they plan to continue developing a new nuclear weapons program even though the JASON and other recent studies suggest that existing stockpiles are in better condition than had been thought.
In this Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Policy Brief George Perkovich critiques the Bush administration “democratic bomb” strategy, bending nonproliferation rules for friendly democracies and refusing to negotiate directly with “evil” non-democratic regimes such as North Korea and Iran.
On December 5 the Los Angeles Times reported that in response to a secret order from President Bush, the nation’s nuclear weapons laboratories are developing technology to make the weapons virtually impossible to use if they fall into the wrong hands.
There has been a great deal of comment on the white paper released by the British government on December 4, in which it proposes to maintain the current Trident based nuclear deterrent by procuring a new class of submarines (although a final decision will be made by a vote in parliament expected in March this year). See the December 1 BASIC Green Paper and the December 14 BASIC briefing on this. And for all the latest news on the Trident Replacement debate in the UK see the BASIC Website.
Also see the November 27 Independent, December 4 Guardian Comment, December 5 Guardian, December 5 Financial Times, December 7 Federation of American Scientists blog entry, December 7 Economist, December 9 Arms Control Wonk, the December 11 New Statesman and this December 29 OpenDemocracy piece.
Iran continued to advance its nuclear programs in the face of diplomatic efforts to contain them, according to a November 14 report from IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei to the agency’s Board of Governors.
This December 6 Asia Times article argues that US failure to get other powers to agree to a tough UN Security Council resolution on sanctions against Iran benefits Vice President Dick Cheney and other hardliners, who have been anticipating that such a development would help them persuade President George W Bush to begin the political-diplomatic planning for an air attack on Iran.
On December 23 the UN Security Council voted 15 to 0 on Resolution 1737 to impose the first sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, including a ban on acquisition of materials and technology that might be used to build an atomic bomb. The measure demands that Iran halt uranium enrichment and heavy-water projects that the US and its European allies have said may lead to the development of nuclear weapons. It freezes the financial assets of 12 named individuals and 11 groups such as the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. The resolution also requires the IAEA to report on Iran’s compliance within 60 days. “Further appropriate measures” such as economic penalties and severance of diplomatic relations will be required if Iran doesn’t comply.
Here is a transcript of Flynt Leverett’s remarks on December 19 at the New America Foundation in Washington, DC, on US diplomatic options toward Tehran. Leverett is a former CIA analyst and National Security Council official
At his confirmation hearings US Defense Secretary designate Robert Gates said December 4 that he no longer favors military action to stop North Korea from producing more nuclear weapons. Gates said he believes Washington’s current diplomatic strategy of engaging Pyongyang through six party talks is the best course of action.
In early December the New York Times reported that the United States offered a detailed package of economic and energy assistance in exchange for North Korea giving up nuclear weapons and technology. But the offer hinges on North Korea agreeing to begin dismantling some of the equipment it is using to expand its nuclear arsenal, even before returning to negotiations.
The current issue of China Security examines two crucial nuclear weapons issues facing China and the international community. The first three articles are an in-depth analysis of China’s policy choices and strategic considerations regarding a nuclear North Korea. The second set of articles respond to the growing debate on US nuclear primacy and its implications for China and Russia.
On November 30 the Federation of American Scientists and Natural Resources Defense Council published the report Chinese Nuclear Forces and US Nuclear War Planning.
On December 6 the US Congress reached agreement on allowing US shipments of civilian nuclear fuel to India, clearing the way for overturning decades of American anti-proliferation policy. President Bush signed the legislation into law on December 18. See also this December 12 Asia Times article, this in the December 14 Hindu, the December 14 ISN Security Watch and this December 20 Asia Times article.
Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Nuclear Capabilities: Report Summary, December 2006. See also this FAS blog entry.
Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing: US Policy Development, Congressional Research Service, November 29, 2006.
US Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues, Congressional Research Service, October 17, 2006.
Nuclear Warheads: The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program and the Life Extension Program, Congressional Research Service, December 13, 2006.
Nuclear Arms Control: The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, Congressional Research Service, October 12, 2006.
William Langewiesche, How to Get a Nuclear Bomb, Atlantic Monthly, December 2006.
Confronting the Specter of Nuclear Terrorism, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, September 1 2006, Volume 607, No. 1.
Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, “Where the Bombs are, 2006,” November/December 2006, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
US-Russian Collaboration in Combating Radiological Terrorism, Committee on Opportunities for US-Russian Collaboration in Combating Radiological Terrorism, Office for Central Europe and Eurasia, National Research Council, 2006
Complex 2030 PEIA Website provides information about the NEPA Process for the Supplement to the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement-Complex 2030 project.