Getting to Zero Update

In this issue

 

United States

New generation of nuclear
weapons

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.

 

Budget requests

On February 23 the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation
published Department
of Energy Budget Request for FY 2008 – Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Highlights
. On February 26 the Partnership for Global Security
released its
Analysis of the US Department of Energys Fiscal Year 2008
International Nonproliferation Budget Request
.

 

Prompt Global Strike

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
fast-moving threats.

 

Further reading

Nuclear
Weapons: Annual Assessment of the Safety, Performance, and
Reliability of the Nation’s Stockpile
, US Government
Accountability Office, February 2, 2007.

 

United Kingdom

New generation of nuclear
weapons

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
Sunday Herald

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

here
.

 

Further reading

BASIC Green
Paper on Trident replacement

BASIC Briefing on the timing of
the decision

BASIC briefing
on non-proliferation implications

BASIC Briefing
on opportunity costs

BASIC Research
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

 

Iran

Neocon’s push the military
option

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
Iran.”

 

Iran’s 2003 offer of talks

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.

 

IAEA Inspections

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
inside Iran.

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
article
.

 

Sanctions

This
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
(IAEA) report
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
York Times

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 Larinjani speech

Ali Larijani, the Iranian Nuclear Negotiator, delivered these
prepared remarks
February 11 at the 43rd Munich Conference on
Security Policy.

 

Israeli pressure on Iran

The
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
weapon.

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.

 

Further reading


Contain and Engage: A New Strategy for Resolving the Nuclear Crisis
with Iran
.

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.

 

North Korea

Denuclearization plan agreed

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.

This analysis
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
editorial
asked:

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
dangerous governments?

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.

 

Return of IAEA inspectors

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
announcement
.

 

US intelligence on North Korea’s
nuclear program reassessed

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
Times

article
and commentaries by Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the
Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative at the New America
Foundation, here
and
here
.

For a comparable example of distortion of reporting on US
intelligence on Iran see this
Huffington Post blog entry
.

 

Further reading

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.

David Albright,
North Koreas Alleged Large-Scale Enrichment Plant: Yet Another
Questionable Extrapolation Based on Aluminum Tubes
, Institute
for Science and International Security, February 23, 2007.

Enhancing US
Engagement with North Korea
, The Washington Quarterly, Spring
2007.

 

Nuclear terrorism

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
terrorism.

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.

 

Further reading


Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: The Moscow-Washington Alliance
,
East West Institute February 7, 2007

The
CBRN System: Assessing the threat of terrorist use of chemical,
biological, radiological and nuclear weapons in the UK
, Chatham
House, February 2007

25 STEPS TO
PREVENT NUCLEAR TERROR: A GUIDE FOR POLICYMAKERS
, The Henry L.
Stimson Center, January 2007.

Deterring
a Nuclear 9/11
, The Washington Quarterly, Spring 2007.

 

Other publications

Arms
Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and
Agreements
, Congressional Research Service, January 29,
2007.

Special
Issue – Nuclear Weapons Proliferation: 2016
,
Nonproliferation Review, November 2006, Vol. 13, No. 3.

An
Alleged “Nuclear Device” in Western Kazakhstan Is a Non-nuclear
Installation
.

Weapons Threats
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.

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