Getting to Zero Update

In this issue:

United States

Submarine procurement

Global Security Newswire reported
that advisers to US Strategic Command are slated to report in
a closed-door meeting in November, their recommendations for what
could become the Navy’s next nuclear weapons-carrying submarine.
The Command, which is responsible for the nation’s nuclear force
operations, has assigned its “Strategic Advisory Group” to develop
a list of capabilities desired for a boat that might ultimately
replace the service’s Ohio-class submarines and the Trident D-5
nuclear-armed ballistic missiles they carry.

 

Nuclear B-52 incident

This September 13 article
in the Bulletin Online notes, in regard to the August 20 incident
where a US B-52 bomber flew with six cruise missiles carrying
nuclear warheads that:

The US military, correctly judging that
nuclear missions don’t give them clout anymore, are trying
to come up with different
ways to give their nuclear systems some kind of “useful” conventional
capability. With no political decision to cut the nuclear weapons
forthcoming, they remain in place, sometimes dangerously side-by-side
with conventional weapons, hidden from public scrutiny, and increasingly
neglected.

For the best detailed report on this thus far see this Washington
Post article.
AmsControlWonk
noted
that the W80 warhead on the missiles did not have fire-resistant
pits (FRP). See also this September 21 OpenDemocracy article.

 

Reliable Replacement Warhead

This op-ed
in the September 16 Baltimore Sun by Bennett Ramberg, who
served in the State Department’s Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs
during the administration of George H. W. Bush, details why the
Reliable Replacement Warhead is a bad idea. See also The
Ridiculously Redundant Warhead
in Science Progress and this
FAS
blog entry
.

On Sep. 27 the US National Nuclear Security Administration said
that the US Energy Department had certified a nuclear warhead
rebuilt with the first replacement plutonium “pit” for entry into
the US nuclear weapons stockpile. The W88 nuclear warhead employs
the replacement plutonium core – the trigger for the nuclear weapon
– and a replacement gas transfer system.

 

Nuclear cooperation with India

For details on the US-India nuclear cooperation agreement see
this September 11 Hindustan Times article,
September 20 Reuters article,
October 5 Washington Post article,
and October 9 article in The Hindu.

 

Warheads dismantled under SORT

The Associated Press reported
October 1 that US government officials claim the United States
is dismantling unneeded nuclear warheads at a faster pace than forecast
as it substantially reduces its atomic arsenal under terms of an
arms control treaty with Russia. The Bush administration announced
that it has taken apart three times as many reserve warheads in
the just-completed budget year than it had projected and expects
the rapid pace of dismantling to continue.

 

Assassination with radioactive poisons

The Associated Press reported
October 9 that early in the Cold War, the US Army explored the
potential for using radioactive poisons to assassinate “important
individuals” such as military or civilian leaders, according to
newly declassified documents.

 

Prompt Global Strike

The October 10 Global Security Newswire reports
that a US Defense Department proposal to field a non-nuclear version
of the Trident submarine-launched missile as early as next year
has hit roadblocks in all four key congressional committees, forcing
the Pentagon to focus increasingly on alternatives. See the June
2006 BASIC study on this issue here.

 

Proliferation studies

Inside the Pentagon reported
September 20 that the International Security Advisory Board, an
advisory panel to the US State Department, is preparing two reports
on the threat of international nuclear proliferation. Among the
issues expected to be addressed in the studies are the implications
of expanded use of nuclear power on the nonproliferation regime,
the existing nonproliferation program for this sector, and new or
revamped proposals to address the threat; and conditions that could
promote nuclear proliferation; the functionality of treaties, diplomacy
and other existing measures in preventing proliferation; and new
initiatives for preventing additional nations from developing atomic
weapons.

 

Further reading

.

Cooperative Threat Reduction

On September 26 Harvard’s Project
on Managing the Atom
and the Nuclear
Threat Initiative
published their annual report on security
of nuclear weapons and materials around the world. The good news
in “Securing
the Bomb 2007
” is that much progress has been made toward upgrading
security for nuclear stockpiles. The bad news is that the essential
ingredients of nuclear weapons exist in hundreds of buildings in
more than 40 countries, and terrorists are actively trying to get
a nuclear bomb or the materials to make one.

An
Assessment of the Extent of Projected Global Famine Resulting From
Limited, Regional Nuclear War

 

Black Market

On September 11, the South African government said
parts of a global nuclear smuggling ring initiated by A.Q. Khan
may remain active and nations must do more to crack down on the
network. The plea followed the conviction by a South African court
of a German engineer for his part in the network run by Khan.

More than 250 incidents involving unauthorized possession and related
criminal activities, theft or loss of nuclear or other radioactive
materials, and unauthorized disposal were reported
to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Illicit
Trafficking Database
(ITDB) last year, of which 150 occurred
last year and the rest mainly in 2005.

Global cooperation between law enforcement agencies and a coordinated
nuclear detection network is needed if the world hopes to prevent
terrorists from acquiring WMD material, according to a report
released in September by the National Defense University. Such global
coordination should be organized through an existing international
institution, take authority from U.N. Security Council Resolution
1540 and involve the expertise of both Interpol and the IAEA, according
to experts working with the university’s Center for Technology and
National Security Policy.

 

Iran

On September 10, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei called
on the UN Security Council to take a “timeout” from sanctions and
for Iran to pause its uranium enrichment to avert a crisis over
the country’s nuclear program. “A double timeout of all enrichment-related
activities and of sanctions could provide a breathing space for
negotiations to be resumed,” ElBaradei told the IAEA’s 35-member
board of governors in Vienna. “The earlier we move from confrontation
and distrust to dialogue and confidence- building, the better for
Iran and the international community.”

On September 17 John Abizaid, the retired Army general who headed
the US Central Command for nearly four years said
every effort should be made to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear
weapons, but, failing that, the world could live with a nuclear-armed
government in Tehran. He said he was confident that if Iran should
gain nuclear arms, the United States could deter it from using them.

On September 27 the New America Foundation held an event, Countering
a Nuclear-Armed Iran: Can We Change the Current Trajectory?
,
with Gary Samore vice president, director of studies, at the Council
on Foreign Relations. To watch the video or listen to the audio
click here.

Further reading

.

North Korea & Syria

Was Syria working with North Korea to receive nuclear technology?
See this discussion: A
Syria-North Korea Nuclear Relationship?
and this article in the New York Times.

At the beginning of October a joint six-nation statement released
by China confirmed that North Korea had endorsed an agreement to
dismantle all of its nuclear facilities by the end of the year.
Read the coverage in the New York Times here.
The agreement sets out a timetable for North Korea to disclose all
its nuclear programs and disable all facilities in return for 950,000
metric tons of fuel oil or its equivalent in economic aid. The United
States has provided more than US$2 million for UN nuclear monitoring
in North Korea, the US ambassador, Gregory Schulte, told
a meeting of the IAEA in Vienna on September 11.

 

United Kingdom

Britain has stockpiled enough plutonium to replicate the nuclear bomb attacks on Japan in 1945 thousands of times over, the Royal
Society said
September 21. The Society said the amount of separated plutonium,
most of which is the by-product of reprocessed spent fuel from nuclear
power stations, has almost doubled in the last 10 years to more
than 100 tons and that the government lacked any coherent strategy
for either its long-term use or disposal. See also this September
21 Guardian article.
See also: Strategy
options for the UK’s separated Plutonium
, The Royal Society,
September 2007.

 

Global Nuclear Energy Partnership

On September 16, sixteen nations signed
the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, a US-initiated pact, to
help meet soaring world energy demand over coming decades by
developing
nuclear technology less prone to diversion into atomic bomb-making.
Eleven nations joined five nuclear fuel-producing powers –
the
United States, Russia, China, France and Japan – in a GNEP statement
of principles at a ministerial ceremony in Vienna.

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