Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Archive for January, 2010

GAO Reviews Security of DOE Controlled Nuclear Materials

Posted by K.E. White on January 30, 2010

Some fun facts:

  • The Department of Energy(D.O.E.) possesses and secures its own nuclear materials.
  • The D.O.E. sites storing these holding these materials are protected by private contractors.
  • A separate agreement governs each nuclear site

Such a decentralized system–on its face–doesn’t seem best at cutting costs or ensuring effective security. But we should all read the GAO report first.

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A Positive Take on the Evans-Kawaguchi Nuclear Threat Report

Posted by K.E. White on January 16, 2010

Last month “Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers”—a joint Australian-Japanese project—was released. While much reaction has been critical, Haaretz correspondent Amir Oren writes this positive editorial:

It is no longer possible to dismiss as negligible the possibility that a fanatical organization will get nuclear arms, materials or know-how from one of its patrons, take advantage of a gap in security and carry out a mass suicide attack. This could happen on a plane, a ship anchored in an American port with a missile launched from the sea, or a truck racing in from Mexico to the American side of the border in California or Arizona. It could also happen if an American who has converted to Islam or is the son of immigrants (like Maj. Hasan) does what Timothy McVeigh did with different motives when he blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, but this with a nuclear weapon.

To deal with nuclear terror it will be necessary to deal with states that sponsor it. To do so, it will be necessary to update the proliferation regime worldwide. Israel will also have to be included in this. Though this is an apocalyptic vision, there is scope for immediate action.

In April Obama will host an international nuclear security summit. It is not clear who will represent Israel there. If the representative is at the very highest level, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also chairs the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, and not the commission’s director general, he will have to defend Israel’s position and not merely recycle the demands concerning Iran.

In May, shortly after Obama’s summit, a committee will meet – as it does every five years – to review the state of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime. Israel is not a signatory to this treaty and is therefore not subject to the regime, but there is significance for Israel in the conjunction of the nuclear meetings and what happens in advance of them.

Last month the report “Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers” was published by the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. Heading the commission were former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans and former Japanese foreign minister Yoriko Kawaguchi. Also on the committee were 13 statesman and experts, among them former American defense secretary William Perry, retired German chief of staff General Klaus Naumann (a good friend of Israel who served as head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Military Committee) and Turki Al Faisal, who headed Saudi intelligence for a quarter of a century. This group of people is privy to many secrets and have access to all the latest information…
The report treats it as fact that Israel is a country in possession of nuclear weapons outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty with an estimated 60 to 200 weapons, some of which are positioned. It mentions a very common assumption that Israel has ceased to produce fissile material but will not explicitly relinquish this route before there is a significant improvement in its security environment. The report recommends applying pressure on Israel – as well as India and Pakistan – to do so.

Evans, Kawaguchi and their partners are aiming at a practical solution. They write: “Recognizing the reality that the three nuclear-armed states now outside the NPT – India, Pakistan and Israel – are not likely to become members any time soon, every effort should be made to achieve their participation in parallel instruments and arrangements which apply equivalent non-proliferation and disarmament obligations.”

The most creative idea in the report is this establishment of a parallel structure, the meaning of which is recognition of the atom’s settlement blocs – a next-generation NPT…

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Britain’s Nuclear Future—And Nuclear Payment to Australia’s Aboriginals

Posted by K.E. White on January 15, 2010

With the Iraq War fallout, Britain has been forced to reassess its military posture. The Financial Times offers an aged—but still—fantastic panel discussion on Britain’s military future.

For this blog, David Davis’ contribution on Britain’s nuclear arsenal merits particular note:

In January, Field Marshal Lord Bramall, former chief of the defence staff, General Lord Ramsbotham and General Sir Hugh Beach described it as “virtually irrelevant” and argued for the funds behind it to be used to provide the army “with what they need to meet the commitments actually laid upon them”.

I do not agree with this argument. It seems to me perverse that we have a nuclear deterrent when we face one or two hostile nuclear powers, both with stable (albeit unpleasant) governments, but abandon it when we have a proliferation of relatively unstable nuclear antagonists.

But that does not mean we should squander money on an upgrade. The reason we decommissioned the cheaper air-dropped WE177 nuclear bombs in the 1990s and kept Trident was because the Trident system was designed to survive an all-out Soviet attack with sufficient power to retaliate. That threat is much reduced, and the bigger threat is of one or two probably inaccurate nuclear weapons from a rogue state…

Is Davis right? Are nuclear weapons useful tools to deter or punish terrorist actions? Or does preventing nuclear terrorism require nuclear-armed nations to reduce or disarm their stockpiles?

Note that the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council also represent the only five legally recognized nuclear-armed states under the NPT. Would one of the P-5 disarming, however small their arsenal may be, help reinforce international norms against proliferation?

Whatever the answers, by avoiding it Davis fails to prove the worth of a U.K. nuclear deterrent.

P.S. Britain and Australia have completed decontaminating and returning aboriginal lands used for 1950s nuclear tests.

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News Note: Sole Survivor of Both Atomic Blasts Dies

Posted by K.E. White on January 7, 2010

Tsutomu Yamaguchi—the Beckettian survivor of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings—passed away Monday at the age of 93. The Guardian offers this report.

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