In this issue
- United States
- United Kingdom
- North Korea
- Nuclear terrorism
- Other publications
On March 2 the US Energy Department
announced a contract to develop the nation’s first new hydrogen
bomb in two decades, involving collaboration between three national
weapons laboratories. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in
California appears to have taken the lead position in the project.
See the official press release
here. See New York Times article
here. See this Washington Post
article on opposition to the plan.
The US Defense Department
announced February 22 that it was canceling a massive
conventional test explosion in Nevada that some feared was designed
to emulate a small-yield, “bunker buster” nuclear weapon.
On February 21 the Los Angeles Times
reported on eroding safety conditions at Pantex, the US
Energy Department’s main nuclear weapons factory, in Amarillo,
Texas. See this from the Project on Government Oversight for the
connection to the
Reliable Replacement Warhead program.
Experts assembled by American Association for the Advancement of
Science, the world’s largest scientific organization declined in a
report February 18 to endorse a Bush administration plan for
redesigning all US nuclear weapons, citing a lack of reliable
cost estimates and of proven methods for verifying whether the new
hydrogen bombs will work without test explosions. The new weapons
are expected to be easier to make and harder for terrorists to
detonate, but the cost benefits “are less certain and would only be
established in the long term,” a
panel of nuclear weapons experts said.
On February 14 Foreign Policy in Focus published this analysis of Complex
2030 – the Bush administration plan to design new nuclear weapons
and rebuild the US nuclear weapons complex.
On February 23 the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation
of Energy Budget Request for FY 2008 – Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Highlights. On February 26 the Partnership for Global Security
Analysis of the US Department of Energys Fiscal Year 2008
International Nonproliferation Budget Request.
The Washington Post
reported March 10 that the head of US Strategic Command told
Congress that precision conventional weapons have replaced the need
for nuclear ones in almost all areas, except when a quick
intercontinental strike is required against unexpected or
Weapons: Annual Assessment of the Safety, Performance, and
Reliability of the Nation’s Stockpile, US Government
Accountability Office, February 2, 2007.
On March 14 the House of Commons approved the government’s plans
to begin the process of replacing the Trident nuclear weapons
system. The vote left the Government needing support from the
Conservatives and having to deal with a large backbench rebellion
after being embarrassed by resignations. For an analysis of what
was decided see this BASIC
Note and this article in the
On March 8 the House of Commons Defence Committee published its
report on the Government’s White Paper, The Future of the UK’s
Strategic Nuclear Deterrent. Vol. II, Oral and Written Evidence, is
Report, Oceans of Work, arguing for resources to be diverted
away from nuclear submarine manufacture to a ‘national needs’
program of civil R&D and manufacture, including major
investment in off-shore renewable energy.
Additional background documents, parliamentary statements,
comment and media articles can be found on BASIC’s website at: https://basicint.org/nuclear/beyondtrident/index.htm
Vanity Fair‘s March issue
reports on how “The same neocon ideologues behind the Iraq war
have been using the same tactics – alliances with shady exiles,
dubious intelligence on WMD – to push for the bombing of
The Washington Post
reported February 14 that the Swiss ambassador to Iran informed
US officials in 2003 that an Iranian proposal for comprehensive
talks with the United States had been reviewed and approved by
Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei;
then-President Mohammad Khatami; and then-Foreign Minister Kamal
Kharrazi, according to a copy of the cover letter to the Iranian
document. See also this Total
Wonkerr article, this from IPS News
and this interview
on Democracy Now.
The Los Angeles Times
reported February 25 that according to various IAEA officials
most US intelligence shared with the UN nuclear watchdog agency
has proved inaccurate and none has led to significant discoveries
In this February 19
interview with the Financial Times newspaper IAEA
Director General Mohamed ElBaradei made clear his doubts both about
calls for more sanctions and the international community’s emphasis
on suspending enrichment. He says that it is far more important to
dissuade Iran from pursuing enrichment on an industrial scale.
On February 10 Iran said the IAEA
has installed surveillance cameras at a nuclear facility in Natanz.
Iran’s Nuclear Agency announced that the IAEA can now fully
supervise activities at the plant.
On February 9 the IAEA
froze nearly two dozen of its technical assistance programs to
Iran, a move to comply with UN Security Council sanctions
approved in December. On the same day, in an interview
with Spiegel Online Mohammed El Bareaei said, “If we
continue on the same course, we could see a spiral of escalation.
There is an urgent need for creative diplomacy and leadership.” See
also this Arms Control Wonk
episode of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer focused on the
UN Security Council February 21 passed deadline for Iran to stop
its nuclear activities and the International Atomic Energy Agency
that Iran had instead continued operating its programs. For context
see this WIRED blog entry.
See also this Asia Times article.
On February 12 European negotiators, yielding to pressure from
the United States,
agreed to widen a ban on financial transactions with Iran and
the export of materials and technology that Iran could use to
develop nuclear weapons. For details see this February 13 New
op-ed. The New York Times also
reported the same day that Western political and economic
pressure on Iran over its nuclear program has chilled foreign
investment to the extent that it is now squeezing the country’s
long-fragile energy industry. Some analysts say that if this acute
imbalance between stagnant production and rising demand at home
continues unchecked, Iran will have no oil left over to export
within a decade.
The Associated Press
reported February 8 that Europeans are accusing Americans of
strong-arming them into cracking down on Iran in the latest
transatlantic conflict, a dispute that is straining efforts to
maintain a joint front on Tehran over its refusal to freeze uranium
enrichment. US officials, in turn, complain that Europe is not
pulling its weight because individual nations are placing business
interests above the common goal of keeping Iran from heading down a
path that could lead to nuclear weapons.
Ali Larijani, the Iranian Nuclear Negotiator, delivered these
prepared remarks February 11 at the 43rd Munich Conference on
Los Angeles Times reports on how Israeli officials have begun
an unusually open campaign to muster international political and
economic pressures against Iran. The officials warn that time is
growing short and hint that they will resort to force if those
pressures fail to prevent Iran’s development of an atomic
Avner Cohen, an Israeli researcher at the University of
Maryland, in this Haaretz article, see
certain historical similarity between Iran’s nuclear situation
today and Israel’s nuclear situation in the early 1960s: countries
in the midst of an ambitious national nuclear initiative designed
to create a nuclear option, but which do not yet have a clear idea
of what its nature will be in the future.
Frida Berrigan, Nuclear Hypocrisy and Iran,
March 1, 2007.
Yossi Mekelberg, Israel
and Iran: From War of Words to Words of War?, Royal Institute
of International Affairs, March 2007.
On February 13 the six party talks aimed at ending North Korea’s
nuclear program reached an
agreement under which Pyongyang will receive energy aid in
return for taking the first steps towards dismantling its nuclear
facilities. North Korea agreed to shut down and seal its main
nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, north of the capital Pyongyang,
within 60 days and allow international inspectors to verify the
process. For the initial steps, it will get energy, food and other
aid worth 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil, according to the
agreement. Pyongyang also agreed to provide a complete list of its
nuclear programs and disable all existing nuclear facilities. In
return, it will get aid in corresponding steps worth 950,000 tons
of heavy fuel oil.
For details see North
Korea – Denuclearization Action Plan. The News Hour with
Jim Lehrer had an excellent
segment on the news. US negotiator Chris Hill discussed
the deal on the program on February 15. See also this
OpenDemocracy analysis, this Time magazine piece,
and this Economist article.
A comparison of the 1994 Agreed Framework and the new agreement
with North Korea can be found here.
by YaleGlobal Online points out that North Korea had long
“been ready for a freeze, leading to step-by-step
de-nuclearization, but only as part of a process leading to
security and normalization.” The Washington Post
reported that the deal was reached largely because President
Bush was willing to give US negotiators new flexibility to reach
an agreement. A New York Times
The obvious question to ask is: What took so long?
And even more important: Will President Bush learn from this
belated success? Will he finally allow his diplomats to try
negotiation and even compromise with other bad and undeniably
Mr. Bush could probably have gotten this deal years ago,
except that he decided he didn’t have to talk to anyone he didn’t
like. So long as the White House refused to talk, North Korea
churned out plutonium. And once American negotiators were finally
allowed to mix their sanctions with sanity and seriously negotiate,
they struck a deal.
This February 15 Washington Post
article reports on predictable opposition to the agreement by
US conservatives. Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center
for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s John F Kennedy
School of Government, talked with
National Interest Online about the agreement.
The IAEA plans to send its nuclear inspectors back to North
Korea following the agreement,
said Director General Mohamed ElBaradei during a visit to
Luxembourg – a fact confirmed in this IAEA
US confidence that North Korea was working toward a
production-scale uranium enrichment program has slipped, a senior
US intelligence official
said February 27. When the United States confronted Pyongyang
in 2002 with evidence it believed showed North Korea was pursuing a
large-scale enrichment facility, US officials had “high
confidence” in the assessment, according to Joseph DeTrani, North
Korea mission manager for the national intelligence director. “We
still see elements of that program,” he said during a hearing of
the Senate Armed Services Committee, but described the US belief
now in the “mid-confidence level.” See also this New York
article and commentaries by Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the
Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative at the New America
For a comparable example of distortion of reporting on US
intelligence on Iran see this
Huffington Post blog entry.
How Not to Deal
with North Korea, New York Review of Books, March 1, 2007.
David Albright and Paul Brannan,
The North Korean Plutonium Stock, Institute for Science and
International Security, February 2007.
North Koreas Alleged Large-Scale Enrichment Plant: Yet Another
Questionable Extrapolation Based on Aluminum Tubes, Institute
for Science and International Security, February 23, 2007.
Engagement with North Korea, The Washington Quarterly, Spring
This Chicago Tribune
article reports on a vast supply of radioactive
materials-enough to make hundreds of so-called ‘dirty
bombs’-lying virtually unprotected in former Soviet military bases
and ruined factories.
The March 12 issue of The New Yorker ran this piece
on whether the United States can be made safe from nuclear
The February 25 New York Times Magazine ran this
article on the efforts of former US Sen. Sam Nunn in helping
to found and run the Nuclear Threat Initiative, whose mission is
responding to the threat of ”loose nukes,” or the possibility
that nuclear weapons and materials might be smuggled out of the
former Soviet Union and find their way into malevolent hands.
Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: The Moscow-Washington Alliance,
East West Institute February 7, 2007
25 STEPS TO
PREVENT NUCLEAR TERROR: A GUIDE FOR POLICYMAKERS, The Henry L.
Stimson Center, January 2007.
a Nuclear 9/11, The Washington Quarterly, Spring 2007.
Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and
Agreements, Congressional Research Service, January 29,
Issue – Nuclear Weapons Proliferation: 2016,
Nonproliferation Review, November 2006, Vol. 13, No. 3.
and International Security: Rebuilding an Unraveled Consensus,
Century Foundation conference, Feb. 26, 2007.
Wade Boese, “Slow
Start in 2007 for US-Indian Nuclear Deal,” Arms Control
Today, March 2007.