167 STC 08 E rev 1 - Reducing Global Nuclear Threats: Contribution of Official Nuclear Weapon States
General Rapporteur: Pierre Claude NOLIN (Canada)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
II. NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN P-5 STATES: REDUCTIONS AND MODERNISATION
III. SECURITY OF NUCLEAR MATERIAL
IV. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Reducing global nuclear threats is the single most important challenge the world has faced for the last 60 years. Nuclear bombs are often said to be the only true weapon of mass destruction and the only manmade creation capable of destroying our planet. No nation seems to believe that nuclear weapons are benign, and yet the number of nuclear weapon states has been increasing. A wide variety of international treaties, conventions, agreements, initiatives and co-operation projects have been launched to reduce this threat, and yet the prospect of a nuclear weapons free world is hazy.
2. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most renowned of these efforts. It represents a bargain between the “P-5” nations (five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council) officially authorised to have nuclear weapons, and the rest of the NPT signatories, committed to refraining from developing and transferring these weapons and related materials. In return, non-nuclear weapon states will receive assistance in developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, while P-5 nations are committed, under Article VI of the NPT, to negotiate “in good faith” on measures relating to “general and complete disarmament”.
3. Thus, the goal of reducing global nuclear threats can be roughly divided into two major avenues: nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. The problems that NPT is currently experiencing basically derive from the fact that member states are “factionalised”: some nations tend to focus on non-proliferation, while others emphasise nuclear disarmament.
4. The NATO PA Science and Technology Committee has been discussing nuclear issues in a number of its reports and meetings. Nevertheless, since the Assembly represents the nations of the Euro-Atlantic community, the Committee has tended to pay more attention to the “Western agenda”, i.e. efforts to curb nuclear proliferation, focusing on countries such as Iran and North Korea. Conversely, this report aims to discuss what the P-5 nations can do domestically to reduce global nuclear threats. Their contribution can be two-fold: 1) reducing their nuclear weapons capability; and 2) securing the nuclear weapons material they possess. These two aspects will be discussed in the respective chapters of this report, followed by some conclusions and recommendations by the Rapporteur.
5. The world’s nuclear arsenals have increased rapidly since 1945, both in size and in destructive power, passing from a few primitive fission bombs in the US in 1945 to more than 3,000 bombs in 1955 and several hundreds in the Soviet Union. Ten years later, the total amount of nuclear weapons was estimated at 37,000 (approximately 31,000 in the US and 6,000 in the Soviet Union) reaching 72,000 in the decade 1975-1984 (39,000 in the Soviet Union and 23,000 in the US).1 The decade 1985-1994 - and the intervening collapse of the Soviet Union - marked a turning point in the nuclear race. For the first time since the Second World War, the world’s nuclear arsenal decreased significantly. Nuclear weapons dropped to 15,000 warheads in the US and approximately 27,000 in Russia.2 Unilateral commitments, together with arms control treaties in the ‘90s, reduced considerably the stockpile of operational warheads. According to SIPRI’s (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) estimates, by the year 2007 there were approximately 11,530 operational warheads in the world, 95% of which belonged to Russia and the US.3
6. The global efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear arsenals were summarised at the NPT Review Conference of 2000, where participating states adopted a “13 steps” proposal, urging, among other things, the entry into force, without delay, of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the entry into force and full implementation of START II and START III, and the preservation and strengthening of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Yet, tangible progress on the 13 steps has not been achieved: the CTBT has not yet entered into force, START II and START III have been abandoned and the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002. Finally, all five nuclear powers are modernising their nuclear arsenals.
7. NATO’s official policy, as described in the 1999 Strategic Concept, is that its nuclear forces are no longer, since the Cold War, targeted at a specific threat but serve as a general deterrent.
A. THE UNITED STATES
8. In the beginning of 2007, the US was in possession of almost half of the world’s nuclear weapons. Under the terms of START, the US is to reduce its operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads from 10,000 to 6,000 by 2009. According to the terms of US-Russian Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), the aggregate number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads shall not exceed 1,700-2,200 for each party by the end of 2012. The US authorities are rapidly (and ahead of the initial schedule) reducing their nuclear forces: it is estimated as that of January 2008, the number of US nuclear warheads has decreased to 5,400 (roughly 4 times less than at the end of the Cold War), of which 4,075 would be operational (3,575 strategic and 500 non-strategic warheads)4. Further 15% cuts were announced to take place before 2012, which means the US at that time will possess roughly 4,600 warheads. To meet the requirements of SORT, less than half of them will have to be operational. The US strategic nuclear forces will retain the structure of the classical “triad”: long-range bombers, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
9. Whereas reduction has been a basic tenet of US nuclear policy in the last decades - and much progress has been made in that respect, the former has come hand in hand with a policy of modernisation and upgrading of the remaining nuclear arsenal. Complete and total nuclear disarmament is not envisaged for the near future, and measures have been adopted to make up for the capability loss resulting from nuclear weapons reduction. In 2005, the Bush administration adopted a life-extension programme (LEP) under which 63% of a total of 3,200 W76 warheads5 will be modified to prolong their life until 2021. In March 2007, the US government submitted for consideration the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead Program (RRW) which, if adopted by the Senate, will extend the life of certain types of nuclear weapons and introduce new technology.6 The idea is to mix existing warheads with new ones to increase their efficiency, flexibility and decrease their maintenance cost. The large scale production planned by the US government has not yet begun due to the Senate’s refusal to fund the RRW programme.7 Finally, in September 2007 the US has embarked upon small-scale production of nuclear weapons for the first time since 1992. The goal is to produce ten pits per year in the short run.8
10. In terms of the US nuclear weapons use policy, the 2002 National Security Strategy signalled a revised willingness to accept first-strike principle. The United States operates a policy of deterrence much beyond the “minimum means of reprisal”; the 2005 Doctrine of Joint Nuclear Operations says that “US nuclear forces must be capable of, and be seen to be capable of, destroying those critical war-making and war-stopping assets and capabilities that a potential enemy leadership values most and that it would rely on to achieve its objectives in a post-war world”. The last complete policy review in 2002, however, suggested that the United States’ security concerns have shifted from nuclear to conventional weapons. Donald Rumsfeld has said that “the Nuclear Posture Review puts the Cold War practices related to planning for strategic forces behind us”. Congress has requested a further review of US nuclear policy and posture in the Nuclear Policy Review Act and the Nuclear Posture Review Act, both in 2007.
11. US Senate’s failure to ratify the CTBT was widely regretted by the international community and is often used as evidence of slow progress in the field of nuclear disarmament. Your Rapporteur is convinced that the ratification of the treaty would not harm the US national security interests. Speculations that testing is necessary in order to maintain reliability of existing nuclear arsenals are proved false by authoritative bodies such as the US National Academy of Sciences. Its 2002 report stated that the United States “has the technical capabilities to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of its existing nuclear-weapon stockpile under [a test ban], provided that adequate resources are made available to the Department of Energy’s nuclear-weapon complex and are properly focused on this task”.9 To guarantee the success of the CTBT ratification, both strong presidential leadership and bipartisan support are vital.
12. The nuclear weapons programme of the Soviet Union (USSR) was developed during the Cold War around a nuclear “triad”: intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), Submarine Launcher Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) and strategic bombers. Although the USSR - and later Russia - greatly reduced the number of its nuclear weapons in every leg of the “triad”, it has also adopted upgrading programmes to guarantee sufficient deterrence.
13. Estimates of Russia’s nuclear arsenal vary greatly, and there appears to be no accurate account of its tactical nuclear weapons. It is generally agreed that the USSR reached its nuclear peak in the middle of the 80’s, with a total number of warheads oscillating between 39,000 and 45,000.10 Since that time, and following the collapse of the USSR, Russia has considerably reduced its arsenal of active nuclear weapons. Under the terms of START, Russia has to reduce its warheads to 6,000 and decrease its delivery vehicles to 1,600 by December 2009. In July 2007, Russia had 4,237 nuclear warheads, and 880 delivery vehicles (10,271 warheads and 2,500 delivery vehicles in 1990)11. It is estimated that Russia may also have 3,000 tactical nuclear warheads in service and 8,000 to 10,000 nuclear warheads in reserve.12
14. Russia is a state party to the NPT and the CTBT, and conducted its last nuclear test in 1990.13 Whereas Russia’s missile upgrading programme essentially aims at extending the life of its existing missiles, plans to obtain new ones are currently underway. In February 2007, the Russian Minister of Defence announced plans to procure more than 60 new ICBMs (10 silo-based and 50 road-mobile Topol-M) before 2015. 14 Moscow is also developing a new SLBM, called Bulava, although the tests conducted so far have been unsuccessful.15 On 26 December 2007, the Russian Air Force announced a successful test-flight of a modernised strategic supersonic bomber and announced an annual production programme to add 30 modernised bombers by 2025-3016.
15. Since 1992 Russia has continued to operate a first strike policy. In the words of Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, Deputy Defence Minister, Russia would use force “including on a preventative basis, including the use of nuclear weapons”. Russia views European missile defence programme as undermining its deterrence capability. According to Strategic Missile Command head Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, Russia does not “rule out that… some intercontinental ballistic missiles could be aimed at these Polish and Czech facilities”.
16. Like Russia and the US, France has decreased its nuclear arsenal since the end of the Cold War. It is estimated that France possessed 538 nuclear warheads in the early 90’s.17 In 1996, Jacques Chirac introduced reforms to adapt the country’s nuclear forces to a new post Cold War context, reducing the number of launchers by more than 50% and dismantling French nuclear test facilities in the Pacific. In 1998 France ratified the CTBT.18
17. France intends to maintain its nuclear arsenal at the lowest level required to ensure its own security (“strict sufficiency”),19 and reserves itself the right to resort to nuclear weapons to counter serious threats against its security. In 2006, President Chirac pointed to that possibility: “Leaders of states resorting to terrorist means against us, as those who might consider, one way or the other, weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they risk a firm and adapted response from us. And this response can be of a conventional nature. It can also be of another nature”.20 The same position was expressed by Sarkozy in a speech in 21 March 2008 when he affirmed “all those who would threaten our vital interests would expose themselves to severe retaliation”. 21
18. The July 2008 Defence White Paper of France says that “Nuclear deterrence remains an essential concept of national security”, but also adds that “France has taken initiative in the area of nuclear disarmament and shall continue to do so”. This is roughly equivalent to the British approach and the low level of nuclear stockpiles suggests that “deterrence” means “minimum deterrence” rather than maintaining a “balance of terror” relative to other states’ forces. President Sarkozy has also confirmed that French nuclear weapons are not targeted.
19. Although France, like all nuclear weapon States, is secretive over its nuclear warheads, most commentators speak of its arsenal comprising approx. 350 active nuclear warheads. For the most part (288) they are part of the Force Océanique Stratégique, a fleet with three operational ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) representing about 80% of the total nuclear arsenal. At least one of SSBNs is always on patrol. An additional 50 are land-based aircraft warheads and 10 are carrierbased aircraft warheads.22
20. Although decreasing in numbers, French nuclear weapons are not diminishing in importance. Like the other nuclear powers, France has engaged in modernisation programmes. On 21 March 2008, the French president Sarkozy announced a reduction by a third of the component of the airborne missile, leaving the French nuclear arsenal with a total of approx. 300 nuclear warheads. They will be replaced in 2009 by a new generation of missiles with longer range. 23 France’s newest ballistic missile submarine (Le Terrible) will be equipped with a new generation of ballistic missiles (the M51.1, with an estimated range of 6,000 km) by 2010-2015. Combat aircraft will also start a modernisation process and will be operational around 2010-2011. 24
D. THE UNITED KINGDOM
21. In its Strategic Defence Review of July 1998, UK announced important changes in its nuclear weapons programme. Air-delivered weapons were abandoned, leaving a fleet of four SSBNs as the only nuclear deterrent of the UK (Vanguard-class submarines). It is expected that they will reach the end their service lives around 2020’s. In December 2006, the United Kingdom announced its intention to decrease its 200 active nuclear warheads to slightly less than 160.25 According to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the explosive power of the UK’s nuclear arsenal has been reduced by 75 % since the end of the Cold War.26 Currently, out of four SSBNs, one is always on patrol at all time, but on reduced alert.
22. Despite efforts aimed at reduction, there is neither evidence nor likelihood that the UK will abolish its nuclear arsenal altogether in a foreseeable future.27 As a matter of fact, the UK has already embarked upon a process of modernization of the existing stockpile. In December 2006 the UK government adopted a plan to extend the life of its Trident missiles (with a range of 7,400 km) until 2040. In March 2007 the British Parliament approved a governmental plan to replace four nuclear submarines in order to maintain a “minimum nuclear deterrent capability necessary to provide effective deterrence”. The estimated cost of the new submarines ranges between $28.5 and 38 billion for a new four boat fleet28, and it will take approx. 17 years to fully develop them. Trident renewal is going ahead under current legislation, though it continues to face stiff political opposition.
23. The March 2007 decision provoked a strong parliamentary debate in which 161 MPs voted against the modernisation of Trident missiles; many Labour MPs opposed the vote but the motion passed thanks to support from opposition Conservatives. Liberal Democrats sought a deferral of the decision until after the NPT review conference in 2010. In June 2007 the Scottish parliament voted against Trident renewal; pertinent since HMNB Clyde, the base of Trident submarines, is 25 miles from Glasgow. A group of former Foreign Secretaries, Douglas Hurd, Malcolm Rifkind and David Owen, together with former NATO Secretary general George Robertson have called for nuclear disarmament in tune with the American Kissinger/Schultz/Perry/Nunn initiative. All four Brits were previously supporters of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, and have since changed their minds.
24. Former secretary of state for defence, Des Browne has said that he wants “the UK to be seen as a ‘disarmament laboratory’. By that I mean the UK becoming a role model and testing ground for measures that we and others can take on key aspects of disarmament. In particular, measures needed to determine the requirements for the verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons.” This stops short of complete unilateral disarmament and does not compromise Britain’s nuclear modernisation, but along with Sarkozy’s new stance represents an emerging European consensus on the importance of disarmament as part of the wider non-proliferation agenda.
25. The size of China’s nuclear stockpile has not changed significantly for many years29. A report by The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists puts an estimate of total warheads at 176, though considering that an unknown number may be in storage, the total stockpile may be closer to 240.
26. Whereas the precise number of China’s nuclear warheads remains a matter of conjecture, experts report that China is enhancing its nuclear defense both qualitatively and quantitatively. According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Defense in March 2008 (the most accurate report on China), China is currently deploying ten new solid-fuelled, road-mobile DF-31 and DF-31A ICBMs with a respective range of 7,200 km and 11,200 km to replace the old liquidfuelled CSS-3 and CSS-4 with a respective range of 5 400 km and 13 000 km. The liquidfuelled missiles have to be held in position and fuelled before being launched. In the new solid-fuelled missiles the fuelling process is less time-consuming 30.
27. The report also shows some evidence that China is increasing the number of CSS-5 shorterrange road-mobile missiles for regional use, passing from 40-50 to 60-80. Finally, the report also notes that one new SSBN (JIN-class) will soon become operational31 and that up to five could be deployed by 2010. They will be armed with JL-2 missiles type with an estimated range of 7,200 km32. China is increasing defence spending at a greater rate than its economic growth. The question is whether Chinese modernisation implies a departure from the “minimum deterrent” position towards a more aggressive role. There is no evidence that this is the case based on official Chinese sources and contrary assessments are as yet unpersuasive.
28. China’s 2006 Defence White Paper suggests of its nuclear capability that its “fundamental goal is to deter other countries from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against China”. Information released by China confirms this policy, but the US is sceptical about its no-first-use commitment. Proliferation in South Asia has not drastically altered the Chinese posture, which has been strictly defensive since 1980s, and recent good relations between China and India have minimised the likelihood of a nuclear race in Asia. This may be complicated by the Indo-US nuclear deal, which, critics argue, might free substantial amounts of domestically produced uranium to be channelled into India’s military nuclear programme.
A. NUCLEAR TERRORISM
29. While it is clear that nuclear terrorism is neither inevitable nor impossible, there is no agreement among the experts as to the odds of terrorist groups acquiring or producing a nuclear weapon. Accumulating significant quantities of fissile material is the greatest obstacle for terrorists: even if successfully stolen, most of the fissile material gets intercepted, either on the border or by undercover police officers, disguised as “customers”. A bulk of the smuggled material is proliferation-significant: of 183 cases of illicit trafficking that were registered between 2001 and 2006 in the former Soviet Union, most involved only small quantities of radioactive material, such as contaminated scrap metal, medical radio-isotopes, low-enriched (LEU) or depleted uranium. Only three cases involved weapon-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) and only in gram quantities (it should be noted, however, that in at least one of these three cases the intercepted material represented only a sample of a much larger piece – potentially 2 to 3 kilograms). Furthermore, there is no compelling evidence of the involvement of organised criminal groups: theft and smuggling of radioactive material is often perpetrated by amateurish individuals. 33
30. In addition to this, one should not underestimate the tremendous challenge of converting fissile material into a weapon. The popular claims that instructions on how to produce a nuclear device are available on the Internet vastly oversimplify the matter. The production of such sophisticated devices requires more than just designs and written instructions; one also needs unarticulated “tacit knowledge” acquired through practical research, as well as direct interaction with other scientists. History shows that, even when backed by their governments, top scientists encountered enormous challenges trying to re-create nuclear weapons based on blueprints obtained from external sources. 34
31. Another group of experts is more fearful with regard to nuclear terrorism. Firstly, Osama bin Laden and other leaders of Al-Qaeda and some of its splinter groups have been reported as clearly indicating their interest in nuclear weapons and nuclear material (Osama bin Laden has been quoted as calling the acquisition of nuclear weapons a “religious duty”). According to the former CIA Director George J. Tenet, Al-Qaeda’s leadership is “singularly focused on acquiring WMDs” and “the main threat is the nuclear one.” A poll of security experts, commissioned by Senator Lugar in 2005, puts the probability of a nuclear terrorist attack in the next ten years at approximately 30%.35
32. From a practical point of view, terrorists may seek to produce simplified versions of nuclear devices. In 2002, the US National Research Council warned that “crude HEU weapons could be fabricated without state assistance”,36 provided that sufficient quantities of HEU are available. Besides, assistance from some rogue states to terrorist groups is not implausible. Although opinions on the likelihood of that happening differ: while some argue that these states might be tempted to arm terrorists in order to strike their opponents indirectly, other experts believe that these states would regard their nuclear weapon capability as too small and too precious to share with others; they would also be deterred by the risk of severe retaliation. In addition, an attack using the radiological disperse device (RDD aka “dirty bomb”) does not require in-depth knowledge of nuclear physics. While an RDD attack would not cause significant physical harm, its psychological consequences could be devastating.
33. Secondly, the absence of proliferation-significant cases is not, in itself, proof that illicit trafficking is not taking place: HEU is not very radioactive and is therefore difficult to detect with existing technology. Enforcement agencies in some post-Soviet states, particularly in Central Asia and South Caucasus, are often ineffective in dealing with cases of WMD trafficking due to the lack of funding and training. There is also an evident lack of crossborder information sharing and coordination among these agencies, particularly among the states that have political disputes, such as Russia and Georgia, or Armenia and Azerbaijan. Despite the 2006 Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, intelligence sharing between the US and Russian authorities on illicit trafficking of nuclear materials remains inadequate.37 The frozen conflicts also exacerbate the problem, since the routes of trafficking in small arms, narcotics and WMD-related material tend to coincide. Geographical considerations are also a factor: mountain passes, such as between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, are virtually impossible to safeguard without the appropriate technology, including night-vision equipment, all-terrain vehicles, communication equipment, and helicopters.38
34. While it is true that “we have to be lucky all the time, terrorists only need to be lucky once”, but terrorists are also averse to failure - if a terrorist organisation fails several times, it could loose the support of its members and vanish. Therefore, it does make sense to create and strengthen several layers of defence. Firstly, terrorists need to be denied access to intact nuclear weapons. Despite unconfirmed rumours about “suitcase bombs”, it is generally agreed that existing nuclear weapons are rigorously guarded by state authorities: there are no confirmed cases of theft. However, US Senators Richard Lugar and Sam Nunn, renowned champions of nuclear non-proliferation, have expressed concern that Russia still deploys a number of portable “tactical” nuclear weapons instead of consolidating them in storages with stringent control systems. “Tactical” weapons are virtually no different from “strategic” nuclear bombs when they are divorced from missiles or other delivery systems. There is no international convention in place to account, safeguard and reduce, or eliminate “tactical” nuclear weapons. Russia is believed to have from 8,00010,000 such weapons, and the US about 3,000 (there is no reliable data on French, British and Chinese arsenals).39 A small quantity of US “tactical” nuclear weapons (reportedly, about 150) 40 are based in six European countries.
35. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, terrorists must be prevented from acquiring weapon-grade material, namely plutonium or highly enriched uranium (modern nuclear weapons usually use both plutonium and HEU, but non-state actors would probably opt for a less sophisticated mechanism). Plutonium is less attractive to terrorist organisations: although it takes only a few kilograms to initiate a nuclear chain reaction, plutonium is very difficult to handle due to its high radioactivity. Plutonium-based devices are also much more sophisticated since they are triggered by a complicated arrangement of symmetric explosions to create an effect of implosion. Uranium is much more suitable for transportation due to its very low radioactivity; HEU-based bombs are also easier to produce and use, especially the so-called “gun-type” devices where the chain reaction is triggered by the collision of two chunks of HEU. “Gun-type” devices require roughly twice as much HEU than the ones based on implosion. Thus, terrorists would need at least 40-50kg of weapons-grade (90% enriched) HEU for one nuclear bomb. Theoretically, the chain reaction can be achieved using uranium enriched to a lesser degree, but in this case one would need bigger volumes of uranium. For instance, the Hiroshima bomb, was made of roughly 60kg of 80% enriched uranium.
36. The next line of defence - preventing the smuggling of fissile material – is an extremely difficult technological challenge. Plutonium is much more “visible” to radiation detectors, unless it is heavily shielded, but HEU is virtually impossible to detect. New technologies such as Advanced Spectroscopic Portals, active nuclear detectors, which probe the items with beams of radiation, and the use of X-rays in combination with standard radiation detection, can increase the chances of detecting HEU, or can at least differentiate between fissile material and naturally radioactive materials, such as granite, thus avoiding false alarms (approximately 1,000 false alarms are currently received daily from radiation detectors in the US).41 However, safeguarding fissile material at the source is undoubtedly the most feasible way of preventing nuclear terrorism.
B. SAFEGUARDING FISSILE MATERIAL
1. Global stocks of fissile material
37. Fissile material is abundant across the planet. Global stockpiles of HEU amount to 1,4002,000 metric tons (the exact amount is not known because only the US and UK have disclosed the size of their HEU stockpiles). Almost all of it is possessed by the military. It is believed that Russia and the US retain 600 to 1,200 tons of HEU for their nuclear weapons – enough for 25,000-50,000 warheads. Additionally, the US, Russia and the UK have large spent stockpiles of HEU to power their naval reactors (for example, the US set aside 128 tons of HEU which should be enough to fuel the US nuclear-powered navy and submarines for 40-60 years). Conversely, France moved to naval reactors fuelled by LEU.42
38. HEU is possessed not only by the military, but also by civilian entities in more than 40 countries around the world. It is used as a fuel for research reactors and naval propulsion in the production of medical isotopes and in other applications. Today, about 140 civilian research reactors use HEU, half of them in Russia. Despite the US global initiative to convert these reactors to LEU, 28 countries still operate research reactors that have enough HEU to produce at least one nuclear bomb. HEU also remains in reactors that have stopped operating but are not yet decommissioned. It is believed that worldwide civilian HEU reactor fuel amounts to some 50 tons,43 enough for 2,000 nuclear weapons. These civilian facilities, often located on university campuses and operated by students, are considerably less secure and much more exposed to theft. For example, a few years ago about 2kg of 90% enriched HEU went missing from the I.N. Vekua Physics and Technology Institute in Abkhazia, Georgia. The whereabouts of that material remains unknown to this day. 44 Even in the United States, with its most stringent nuclear safety standards, research reactors are not immune from theft: in 2005, an investigation by ABC News in 26 US university-based research reactors disclosed conditions ranging from sleeping guards to security doors propped open with books. 45
39. Plutonium is an artificial material produced from uranium as a by-product of a nuclear reaction. Plutonium has to be extracted from spent nuclear fuel using rather complicated separation techniques. The separated weapon-grade plutonium can be used either to produce nuclear weapons or, blended with depleted uranium oxides into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel, to power nuclear reactors. Worldwide, the global stockpile of separated plutonium is 500 tons (enough for more than 60,000 warheads) and still growing. In contrast with HEU, a much greater share of plutonium is held by civilian entities – as much as half a result of spent fuel reprocessing policies by a number of countries, including the UK, France and Russia. While the UK has decided to abandon these activities, the US and Japan are reversing their former policies of refraining from spent-fuel reprocessing.46
2. Disposition of stockpiles
40. All five official nuclear-weapon states have declared that they have stopped producing additional weapons-grade fissile material, opening all, or most, of their civilian nuclear facilities for IAEA safeguarding. Other nuclear weapon states, such as India, Pakistan and maybe Israel, are believed to still be producing HEU and weapons-grade plutonium. However, the problem of disposing excess fissile material in these countries is yet to be solved. An economically promising way of reducing HEU stockpiles is blending excess HEU down to LEU, which in turn can be used in civilian electricity generation. LEU produced as a result of the United States assistance programme to Russia, meets roughly half of the fuel needs of the US nuclear industry. By its expiration in 2013, the programme will have blended down some 500 tons of HEU, enough for 20,000 nuclear warheads. The US is also blending down its own excess HEU, having already disposed of nearly 100 tons of HEU and it plans to dispose of an additional 147 tons over the coming decades.
41. As mentioned above, the excess plutonium has to be converted to MOX fuel to be reused in nuclear power plants. Most of the world’s civilian plutonium travels to four sites (two in France, one in the UK and one in Russia) for storage, separation and MOX-fuel fabrication. While these sites themselves are considered safe, the safety of transportation raises some concerns. It is estimated that some 100 shipments containing an average 300kg of plutonium, will take place annually in the next 15 years. Another challenge is that MOX fuel is more difficult to handle due to its radioactivity. It is also rather expensive to produce. The US and Russian agreement to dispose of part of their plutonium stockpile is not comprehensive, targeting only one quarter of Russian stockpiles and one third of that belonging to the US. The construction of a US-Russian MOX plant in Russia was plagued with delays due to the unresolved issue of legal liability protection for US workers and insufficient funding. The opening of the US domestic MOX plant has also been delayed from 2006 to 2016. In addition to MOX fuel, another option for plutonium disposal is to immobilise it, either in a glass or a ceramic form. This is merely an interim storage solution, however. The US plans to have the immobilisation plant up and running by 2013.47
42. The US Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) initiative has peculiar implications for plutonium disposal. By championing the development of new, “proliferation resistant” reprocessing technologies, the initiative might encourage nations to divert some of their excess plutonium to fuelling fast-neutron reactors. Russia is already doing so by constructing a reactor of this type in Beloyarsk. The problem is that fast-neutron reactors generally produce more plutonium than they burn, unless some technological modifications are made. US officials believe that new reprocessing methods such as pyroprocessing, which yields an impure plutonium-based mixture, are proliferation-resistant because the resulting fuel is very radioactive and thus self-protecting. Some experts, however, point out that the product of pyroprocessing would fall short of the IAEA self-protection standard. Moreover, working with this technology would improve knowledge of plutonium chemistry and metallurgy, which could later be used to recover plutonium for weapons.48 Nevertheless, in their recent joint statement, the US Secretary of Energy, Samuel Bodman, and Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency Director, Sergei Kiriyenko, have endorsed the use of plutonium-based fuel at the Beloyarsk plant, as well as at an advanced gas-cooled, high temperature reactor in Seversk, on condition that they will operate in a “burner” mode rather than a breeder mode. 49
43. The utilisation of decommissioned Russian nuclear submarines constitutes another serious proliferation-related and environmental challenge. These submarines still have their spent fuel onboard and are thus particularly attractive to terrorists seeking to acquire "dirty bombs". A number of countries, acting on a bilateral basis or as part of several multinational frameworks, are assisting Russia in this task. Many experts point to the need for better co-ordination of activity between different projects. A particular problem is Andreyeva Bay, Russia's storage facility for radioactive waste, particularly spent nuclear fuel from submarines. The storage facility is in an appalling state and urgently needs modernisation. Large amounts of spent fuel rods are stored in concrete containers, many of which are kept out in the open and unprotected. There is a risk of radioactive leaks. Several nations - Norway in particular - have initiated assistance projects for Andreyeva Bay.
3. Safe storage
44. The cost, technical hurdles, as well as strategic military considerations, imply that the nuclear powers will retain some stocks of fissile material in their storage facilities. The American facilities are considered to be safe,50 but it is believed that the US storage complex needs to be restructured and reduced. The US Department of Energy intends to halve the number of storages, but these nuclear material consolidation efforts are facing some delays. In Russia, the security and safety of nuclear storage facilities needs further improvement. The international community, with the United States as the chief contributor, has established a comprehensive framework of cooperation with Russia and other post-Soviet Republics in an attempt to secure the vast WMD legacy of the Soviet Union. In early 1990, the United States, following the initiative of two American legislators Richard Lugar and Sam Nunn, launched an ambitious set of co-operative threat reduction programmes in the former Soviet Union, which eventually grew into a multinational G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, pledging to raise $20 billion to fund programmes over the period of 2002-2012. Currently, 14 non-G-8 countries are also contributing to The Global Partnership. Additionally, in 2006, the presidents of Russia and the US launched a Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, which promotes closer co-operation among intelligence, counter-terrorism and law enforcement agencies of the countries that joined the Initiative (currently 66 nations) in order to boost the internal capacity of these countries to prevent illegal acquisition, transportation and use of nuclear material.
45. American experts have identified approximately 220 buildings containing weapons-usable material in Russia that need security upgrades. These buildings were supposed to receive security upgrades by the end of 2008, although this deadline will probably have to be extended. The upgrades are of two categories: “rapid” and “comprehensive”. “Rapid upgrade” basically means installing stronger locks, fixing the fences and hiring guards. The “comprehensive upgrade” involves measures such as crash-resistant fences, bombproof buildings, remote cameras, electronic sensors, bar-coded inventory scanners, advanced locks and well-armed and wellmotivated guards. Currently, roughly one third of sites still have not received even the “rapid upgrade”51. (This is not to say that all these sites are necessarily insecure.) In addition, a number of nuclear material sites are not covered by the US-Russia agreement. The US also helped improve security in 25 classified Russian nuclear warhead storages, a task that was reported to be successfully completed in October 2007.52
46. Russia’s actions in Georgia in August 2008 have jeopardised US-Russian co-operation on nuclear issues. The White House announced a US withdrawal from a pending civilian nuclear cooperation pact with Russia which would permit nuclear material and technology transfers between Russian and American nuclear industries as well as joint nuclear research and reprocessing ventures. While other aspects of co-operative threat reduction efforts are still valid, this decision raises concerns that the Nunn-Lugar programme could be scaled down if the USRussian relationship does not improve.
47. France and the UK have a regular dialogue with the United States on nuclear safety matters, but do not appear to need US assistance to upgrade the security of their sites.53
48. China’s record of safeguarding its nuclear material is quite encouraging, but this country is also not immune to illegal uranium mining and smuggling attempts. In 2007, the Chinese law enforcement authorities arrested several members of a gang involved in the mining and smuggling of “yellowcake”. Reportedly, most of the uranium in question remains missing. This case even spurred some discussion in Australia as to whether the country’s uranium supply deal with China was a prudent decision. Nevertheless, China’s nuclear material stocks are not likely to be a source of immediate danger: Beijing seems in control of its nuclear industry, co-operating closely with the US and IAEA.54 As far as the safety of military nuclear assets is concerned, US-Chinese cooperation has been effectively blocked for years and shows no sign of moving forward.55
4. Internationalisation of nuclear fuel cycle
49. Article IV of the NPT explicitly acknowledges the right of its member states to develop peaceful nuclear programmes. However, some elements of the nuclear fuel cycle – uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing – may be used to fabricate weapons-grade material. To prevent this, it has been widely suggested that these sensitive activities be “internationalised”. The first multinational initiatives in this regard, announced in the 1970s, failed to produce tangible results as states felt no urgency to relinquish control of their nuclear fuel cycle activities. The recent developments, however, and particularly the disclosure of Iran’s clandestine nuclear programme, were induced by Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA Director General, to resurrect the idea of Multilateral Nuclear Approaches (MNA). In practical terms, MNA means establishing an international nuclear fuel cycle centre that would conduct the enrichment, fuel fabrication and/or spent fuel reprocessing activities with as little technology transfer to the recipient states as possible. Thus, recipients could enjoy the benefits of nuclear energy by running a nuclear power reactor without needing to develop other elements of the nuclear cycle. IAEA would control such an international centre and would guarantee supplies through international nuclear fuel banks.
50. The first concrete implementation of MNA was the initiative launched by President Putin of Russia in January 2006, establishing a network of international nuclear fuel cycle centres. Following up on this idea, the International Uranium Enrichment Centre (IUEC) was set up in Angarsk, Eastern Siberia. Originally envisioned as an alternative option to enriching uranium for Iran’s nuclear programme, the centre now intends to become an alternative source of enriched uranium for any country that voluntarily decides not to develop national enrichment programmes. The IUEC will operate as a "black box" as participant states would not have access to Russian enrichment technology.56 It could thus contribute significantly to strengthening the non-proliferation regime. Kazakhstan has already joined the project, and several other countries, including Japan, South Korea, Armenia, Ukraine and Mongolia, are also reported to be interested. The project seems to have IAEA's backing.
51. An analogous international centrifuge enrichment centre may be established in South Africa. The French Atomic Energy Commission Chairman, Alain Bugat, announced that France intends to open a new centrifuge enrichment plant which is currently under construction to “international partnerships”. Belgium, Italy and Spain are already involved as international partners in the gaseous diffusion plant at Tricastin, run by the French enrichment company Eurodif.57
52. With regard to the idea of establishing an international nuclear fuel bank, which would compensate for politically motivated supply cut-offs, several proposals were put forward so far: Russia announced its plan to put under IAEA control a reserve of US$300 million worth of LEU, sufficient for two reactor loads. Physically, this fuel would be stored at an enrichment centre in Angarsk. The US billionaire, Warren Buffet, also offered US$50 million for a nuclear fuel bank managed by the IAEA.58 The US also supports the idea: Congress authorised US$50 million for the establishment of such a bank.
53. It has also been widely suggested to establish a rule that spent nuclear fuel, as well as unneeded HEU, is returned to a country of enrichment. The US and Russia have extensive programmes to repatriate this material from foreign research reactors: in 2006, the US Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) assisted Russia in shipping 106kg of HEU back to Russia. GTRI also brought dozens of kilograms of HEU back to the United States from sites in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Canada. However, this represents only a fraction of US-origin HEU that is still abroad. Moreover, some of the high-risk former Soviet sites, including sites in Belarus and Ukraine, have not yet agreed to give up their HEU stockpiles.59 GTRI is criticised for a disproportionate focus on conversion – rather than shutdown – of obsolete reactors. 60
5. The Fissile Materials Cut-Off Treaty
54. Since the signing of the NPT, the continued production of fissile materials has been a matter of great concern for the international community. By its resolution 48/75/L, the UN General Assembly recommended the negotiation of an “internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices”, commonly known as the Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). Shortly thereafter, the Conference on Disarmament appointed a Special Coordinator, Gerald Shannon, to seek the views of member states on the future FMCT. In March 1995, Shannon proposed that an ad hoc committee be established to examine the question of existing stocks and other issues. For their part, all states which participated in the 1995 and 2000 NPT Review Conferences supported the start and early conclusion of FMCT negotiations. Notwithstanding these developments, little progress has been accomplished in this field.
55. Two main critical issues continue to divide the members of the Conference on Disarmament, namely (i) whether the treaty should address existing stockpiles of fissile materials and (ii) whether it should provide for verification mechanisms. The P-5 states are contrary to including within the scope of the treaty activities involving fissile material produced prior to its entry into force61. With regard to verification, in summer 2004, the United States, changed its previous position suggesting that verification will require an inspection regime so extensive and so costly that “many countries will be hesitant to accept it” 62. In May 2006, the U.S. submitted to the Conference on Disarmament a draft treaty without any provision on compliance verification. The US position is not shared by many delegations that are convinced that specific references to verification and existing stockpiles are crucial for such a treaty.
56. In 2007, the Conference on Disarmament tried to relaunch negotiations on the FMCT but no progress has been accomplished. The Conference on Disarmament was not even able to reach an agreement on a work programme63. The conference of 2008 opened on 23 January and is still debating the agenda, which might eventually include negotiations on the FMCT64.
57. There is a range of actions that could be undertaken by the P-5 states implementing their part of the NPT scheme. It has to be noted that these actions should not be regarded as a concession to “non-aligned” countries in order to induce them to comply with non-proliferation provisions. In fact, many experts are not convinced of the existence of a direct correlation between the progress of disarmament and non-proliferation. It is difficult to find even one concrete example of progress of NPT disarmament commitments resulting in a country ceasing to proliferate dangerous material or technology and giving up its nuclear weapons programme. Libya, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa all had different motives for ending their nuclear programmes.
58. Regardless of this observation, your Rapporteur is convinced that progress towards complete nuclear disarmament by P-5 countries needs to be continued and accelerated, not only because it conforms with the fundamental values of democratic societies, but also because the existing nuclear weapon complexes are still too vast for the post-Cold War world and are a source of a threat and insecurity. According to a report by the US Natural Resources Defense Council, published in 2001, a single US submarine with 192 warheads would be capable of killing or injuring some 50 million people.65 Of course, it is naïve and imprudent to call for immediate nuclear disarmament, given the existing uncertainties and obscure nuclear programmes in some countries, but the P-5 nations must seriously reconsider the size and role of their nuclear forces in the context of changing security challenges.
59. Nuclear weapons states are unwilling to give up their capabilities, and any disarmament process must therefore be mutual and offer comprehensive security guarantees to replace the security value of deterrence. The Kissinger initiative in the United States is gaining momentum, but Russia is still unwilling to discuss total disarmament, unless it has improved engagement with the US over outstanding conflicts. French weapons are not directed at specific targets, which aids stability but complicates the disarmament argument, as there is no obvious threat which could be reduced in order to satisfy French concerns. The UK is currently leading the disarmament drive, while China, although its arsenal is modest, has major security worries in the shape of Russia and the US. Missile defence shields might make disarmament more feasible as they lower the stakes, but they may increase the likelihood of a first strike by a power that believes it will be protected from retaliation by its missile defence systems.66
60. The ultimate objective of the nuclear weapons free world must never disappear from the world’s political agenda, even if it looks unrealistic at the moment. In order to achieve this goal, however, two major preconditions must be met:
1) An effective verification mechanism needs to be in place: the existing nuclear weapon states would never agree to disarm unless they are absolutely confident that other countries do not have clandestine nuclear weapons capabilities. The current focus is on verification of delivery systems not warheads and this should be changed. The “break-out” can never be ruled out (we cannot “uninvent” nuclear weapons), but the international community can at least make it less likely by strengthening verification/detection capabilities. The nuclear-free world has to be sustainable. It is actually very difficult to maintain nuclear weapons in secret so effective verification is a highly achievable goal, co-operative intelligence sharing would greatly assist this.
61. Before these conditions can materialise, there is a wide array of interim steps that P-5 nations can take. The following steps would contribute significantly to nuclear safety, while not jeopardising the strategic deterrent capability of these countries:
* Strengthening the international legal framework, including the entry into force of the CTBT, the FMCT, and the extension of START with its verification mechanisms;
62. NATO ought to be involved in discussing nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Your Rapporteur strongly supports the idea of these issues being resurrected on the agenda of the North Atlantic Council. Gradual disarmament is an issue that concerns all Allies, not only the nuclear weapon states, because the US nuclear umbrella is an important part of their security architecture. As a collective security organisation, the Alliance must jointly seek answers to pivotal questions, such as how secure or insecure are we today? To what extent is our security or insecurity attributable to nuclear weapons? How should we proceed with nuclear disarmament in a fashion that increases, rather that decreases, our security?