The Global Nuclear Revival and U.S. Nonproliferation Policy
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Browse All Figures Return to Figure. Previous Figure Next Figure. Email or Customer ID. Forgot password? Old Password. In September , ten thousand drums of uranium yellowcake were discovered in a Libyan warehouse, virtually unguarded , although a UN official claimed the material was only "slightly" radioactive and did not pose an immediate threat. The Obama administration brought additional attention to this issue, pledging to secure all vulnerable nuclear weapons materials by and convening a high-level global nuclear security summits in and The summit yielded tangible results, with Ukraine announcing that it would get rid of all its Soviet-era highly enriched uranium, and five other countries stating intentions to convert their research reactors to run on low-enriched uranium, which is less dangerous.
The next global nuclear security summit is planned for and will take place in the Netherlands. A related concern, ranging from pioneering nuclear powers like the United States to more recent powers like Pakistan, is the security of nuclear arsenals, specifically regarding safeguarding warheads from accidents, theft, or unauthorized use. The security of Pakistan's arsenal is a serious concern, especially for the United States.
Reports have emerged that nuclear warheads are often transported on normal roads with little to no protection. While Pakistan has always countered that its arsenal is secure, some U. Similarly, there have been repeated safety issues related to the U. In and , two nuclear safety incidents prompted Secretary of Defense Roberts Gates to institute high-level leadership shifts within the U.
In November a damaged component of an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile prompted a partial evacuation and emergency response at a U. Air Force base in North Dakota. It would later come to light that security weaknesses had been discovered at the facility two years previously. These incidents demonstrate that ensuring the safety and security of nuclear arsenal remains a serious and important issue—even for countries with decades of experience with nuclear weapons.
Oversight of civilian nuclear programs and dual-use technologies: Inadequate monitoring and verification mechanisms. Some analysts note that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty NPT , which guarantees states' rights to develop civilian nuclear technology, enables a peaceful path to proliferation through fuel cycle activities.
Many of the processes used to produce civilian nuclear power can be converted to military ends.
As noted, the International Atomic Energy Agency does not have the capacity to adequately monitor every nuclear site. Iran has almost certainly used its civilian program as a cover for illicit weapons activities. The challenge of monitoring and verifying NPT safeguards will likely only increase as more countries look to nuclear power to offset volatile energy prices and reduce reliance on carbon-based fuels.
In particular, several Middle Eastern countries that currently lack robust civilian nuclear programs have increasingly looked to diversify their economies through nuclear power. Other than safety risks commonly linked with the development of civilian nuclear programs, other countries may also fear that such programs will be used in the future to develop nuclear weapons. The latter concern is most commonly discussed in reference to Iran potentially developing nuclear weapons—regardless of that country's repeated assertions that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes—and how such a development could affect regional security dynamics in the Middle East.
The five recognized nuclear weapon states have committed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty NPT to pursue in good faith nuclear disarmament and a treaty on general and complete disarmament. The NPT does not specify an end-date for achieving disarmament. Although almost everyone believes that complete disarmament or even nuclear disarmament remains a distant goal, the record of NWS on pursuing nuclear disarmament is mixed. At the NPT Review Conference, in return for agreement from the nonnuclear weapon states to extend the treaty indefinitely, the United States and other nuclear powers reaffirmed their commitment to nuclear disarmament.
But despite major cuts in the numbers of U. This perceived failure to make progress toward disarmament has been one factor in the unwillingness of many UN members to support sanctions against Iran for NPT violations, which many developing countries see as a justifiable—even admirable—response to the hypocrisy of the nuclear weapon states.
In , the U. There are also reports that, due to heightened fiscal pressure, the Obama administration is considering deep cuts to the U. However, specific estimates for the cuts vary, and it is unclear if reducing the U. The United States deserves both praise and criticism for its recent policies on nonproliferation. On one hand, since the Cold War, the United States has been at the forefront of efforts to secure nuclear material and facilities worldwide, spending more than any other country through programs such as Cooperative Threat Reduction and the Proliferation Security Initiative.
However, efforts to reduce and reverse the spread of nuclear weapons technology took up only a small part of the resources devoted to nuclear weapons and defense under the Bush administration. According to an independent analysis , the entire U. After September 11, the Bush administration led the world in creating international normative and legal frameworks to address the threat of nuclear proliferation by nonstate actors, supporting the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution and the Nuclear Terrorism Convention which the United States signed but has not ratified.
On the other hand, the administration did not support efforts to broaden constraints on states' nuclear weapons programs, refusing, for example, to accept verification measures as part of any treaty banning the production of fissile material, and failing to push for Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty CTBT ratification. President Bush did call for, and achieved, a 65 percent reduction in U. But the Bush administration's position on missile defense among other issues hampered bilateral negotiations with Russia and contributed to the failure to extend the seminal U.
It entered into force in February By contrast, President Obama laid out his vision for a new nonproliferation strategy in Prague in April , where he reaffirmed "America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. The April Nuclear Posture Review identifies nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation as urgent threats, necessitating a U. Despite President Obama's shift in tone from the Bush administration, several nonproliferation issues continue to spark debate in the United States.
No : The U.
International Nuclear Non-Proliferation News, Spring 2011
Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense. First, pursuing cuts to the nuclear arsenal, possibly to as few as three hundred warheads, risks damaging perceptions of the viability of the U. Furthermore, the United States needs a robust nuclear arsenal to counter threats from states like North Korea and Iran, who regularly flout international accords and norms. For example, despite North Korea's February compromise with the United States to accept a moratorium on the testing of long-range missiles and nuclear weapon in exchange for food aid, it broke the accord just two months later after attempted to test what it claimed was a satellite, but more likely was a long-range missile.
It followed this effort with a successful launch of a satellite in December According to a recent International Atomic Energy Agency report , it is increasingly apparent that Iran's nuclear program is not peaceful in nature, and that Tehran may be moving closer to developing a nuclear weapon. The United States also needs to be mindful of threats from great power countries like Russia and China.
In addition, reports have emerged that China's nuclear arsenal is substantially larger than originally projected and growing. Yes : Moving forward with the nuclear weapons strategy put forth in the Obama administration's Sustaining U. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense document to "maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent" would strengthen national security and make U.
Substantial reductions to the number of nuclear weapons in the U. Additionally, a large stockpile of nuclear weapons is ill-suited to addressing current threats the United States faces from other countries. International sanctions targeting Iran's nuclear program, for example, have escalated , increasing pressure on the Iranian regime to change course.
Moreover, even if Iran did develop a nuclear weapon capability, some believe it is extremely unlikely the regime would ever use nuclear weapons due to an assured counterattack from the United States or Israel. North Korea, which resumed multilateral negotiations over its nuclear program and recently agreed to a moratorium on nuclear weapons tests, is estimated to possess only a dozen weapons.
Moreover, despite fears of a new Cold War between the United States and China, nuclear weapons appear increasingly exogenous to Sino-U. Some experts have also pointed out that the size of the U. Should the international community move toward universal nuclear disarmament? The essay argued that relying on nuclear weapons for deterrence purposes was "becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective. Because calls for disarmament had previously been viewed as the purview of the Democratic party, the piece's high-profile authorship helped shift the debate within U.
President Obama has endorsed this perspective by calling for a world free of nuclear weapons. In addition, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has called global nuclear disarmament a "concrete possibility. Many who support universal global nuclear disarmament posit that a legally binding convention on nuclear weapons is the best means of achieving universal nuclear disarmament. One prominent pro-disarmament nongovernmental organization suggests that such a binding global convention could be practically implemented by all nuclear capable states by No : Opponents of nuclear disarmament argue that it would actually encourage would-be proliferators like Iran, which would have far more to gain and less to lose by acquiring nuclear weapons.
Many experts, including the authors of the Wall Street Journal piece, also believe that the U. Critics of a convention on nuclear weapons also raise concerns of the political feasibility of reaching an agreement on such a contentious issue. Specifically, the UN organ that would be entrusted with drafting such a covenant, the UN Conference on Disarmament, operates by consensus and has historically faced serious internal divisions. Another common critique is that an international convention banning nuclear weapons would require an intrusive verification regime , which many states might be unwilling to accept.
Furthermore, such a covenant could have the unintended effect of nuclear blackmail by a rogue state that covertly develops nuclear weapons. North Korea's decision to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty demonstrates the risks that the international community could by agreeing to such a convention. Senate in , but did not push for ratification while in office.
Proponents point out that Washington already observes a de facto moratorium on testing, and that new technology and initiatives such as the Stockpile Stewardship Program mean that the United States can retain its nuclear capabilities without testing. They add that monitoring technology would deter cheating by detecting any secret testing on a scale large enough to ensure that weapons are reliable. Supporters of the CTBT also note that President Clinton pledged to ratify the treaty in , and that doing so might encourage other states, such as India and China, to do the same.
President Obama has stated his support for the treaty and his intent to seek Senate ratification, putting Vice President Biden in charge of this effort. No : Critics argue that the CTBT would limit the United States' ability to maintain functional weapons for defensive and deterrence purposes, and could eventually lead to what has been referred to as involuntary disarmament. Opponents [PDF] also believe that the treaty would be impossible to monitor or enforce and that cheaters could use secret tests to advance their nuclear programs, possibly putting the United States at a disadvantage.
Finally, they argue that only a strong U. Yes : Supporters say missile defense will protect the United States against nuclear-armed, adversarial states such as North Korea and, in particular Iran, where deterrence may not work because the the rationality of highlevel leaders is in doubt.
Supporters of missile defense believe that the program will overcome most of the technological hurdles it now faces, and some note that even if the system isn't perfect, the difficulty of overcoming the defense will be enough to deter enemies. They are also likely to point to the successful deployment of a missile defense radar system in Turkey in as well as the successful use of Iron Dome missile defense in Israel during the Gaza-Israel clashes in March No : Opponents argue that policymakers should reallocate the considerable resources absorbed by the missile defense system to more imminent, and arguably more plausible, dangers such as terrorists smuggling improvised nuclear devices into the United States in cargo containers.
A great technological leap is required, they note, to move from building a nuclear bomb as North Korea appears to have done, and as Iran may be close to doing and designing a reliable warhead that can be loaded onto a missile. Opponents also argue that, because the United States would be able to identify the geographical origin of an incoming missile within seconds from launch, the near certainty of a devastating U.
Some of these critics also dislike the sense of invulnerability that such a system would lend to the United States, which, they worry, could lead Washington to take increasingly unilateral policies in a variety of areas, potentially alienating friends and antagonizing others. During the presidential campaign, then candidate Barack Obama promised to "responsibly deploy missile defenses that would protect us and our allies," but "only when the system works.
Scope of the Challenge
Nonetheless, Russia has suggested it will target the missile defense systems in Europe unless it receives guarantees from the United States and NATO that the system will not threaten Russia's strategic interests. Should the United States introduce new weapon components into its nuclear arsenal? Yes : The National Nuclear Security Administration , the agency in charge of nuclear weapons within the Department of Energy, has recommended updating the U. Although Congress decided not to fund the originally proposed Reliable Replacement Warhead RRW Program, advocates of the idea, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, have argued that current methods of maintaining the nuclear stockpile will work only in the short term and that ensuring a strong nuclear deterrent is a fundamental U.
Introduction: The Clear and Present Danger of Nuclear Proliferation Risks
They note that, should the United States one day no longer be able to reproduce the materials and devices it used during the Cold War, it may find itself having to choose between letting its arsenal fade into irrelevance or resume weapons testing. No : Opponents say that there are no technical reasons to doubt the soundness of the current stockpile maintenance system. They point to the Stockpile Stewardship Program and the Warhead Life Extension Program as evidence that confidence in the safety, security, and reliability of the U.
Opponents also worry that the RRW may undermine the nonproliferation consensus, either because other states will believe that it adds capability to U. They believe that RRW may be prohibitively expensive, and that the current system ensures an adequate, long-term nuclear deterrent. Should the international community do more to engage states like North Korea and Iran?
Yes : While states such as Iran and North Korea admittedly present a challenge to the international community—whether in terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or threats to regional stability—experts contend engagement should trump confrontation. Although international sanctions targeting Iran's nuclear program have recently expanded amid increasing calls for preemptive military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, Tehran remains resolute. With that said, talks are slated to begin once again in February after recent delays.
Similarly, despite prolonged sanctions and international isolation, North Korea has retained its nuclear arsenal. On the other hand, proponents of engagement argue [PDF] that negotiations have yielded concrete results by checking both countries' nuclear ambitions. Overall, supporters of engagement argue that more coercive approaches would not only preclude the United States and international community from reaching any compromise from such states, but would also unhinge regional stability and facilitate nuclear proliferation.
They also argue that advocates of more hard-line strategies exaggerate the risks of nuclear proliferation by states such as Iran and North Korea, as well as underrate the value of deterrence and the mutually assured destruction to ensure stability and prevent the use of nuclear weapons. No : Rather than squander efforts on engagement, the international community should take a harder line on intransigent states such as North Korea and Iran to halt nuclear proliferation. Time and time again, diplomatic negotiations—whether in the form of the Six Party Talks with North Korea or multilateral negotiations with Iran —have yielded little in terms of substantive results.
Review – Nuclear Energy and Global Governance
North Korea, for instance, has continued to conduct nuclear tests and repeatedly threatened to attack South Korea, a critical U. Iran also appears to be moving closer to achieving nuclear weapons capability, and is openly enriching uranium up to 20 percent. Either of these countries could also attempt to export technical expertise abroad, risking proliferation of sensitive missile and nuclear technology to states such as Syria or Myanmar.
In general, those who favor coercive approaches argue that negotiations are little more than delaying tactics rather than genuine attempts to reach an agreement. Additionally, both North Korea and Iran can count on the support of powerful allies on the UN Security Council —Russia or China—and thus have little incentive to change course. Specifically, the United States and others should prioritize measures including suspending foreign aid in terms of North Korea , expanding economic sanctions, launching covert espionage missions, and, as a last resort, targeted military action.
Should the United States provide Pakistan aid to improve the security of its nuclear arsenal? Yes : As Pakistan is a U. Exemplifying the importance of helping Pakistan in this area, U. Additionally, the United States, as a long standing nuclear power committed to nuclear security, is uniquely equipped to provide nuclear security related assistance to Pakistan.
No : Although the United States has a critical national security interest in ensuring the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, providing the Pakistani government with aid will do little to accomplish this goal. First, Pakistan has repeatedly denied claims that its nuclear arsenal is insecure ; it also recently announced training of an elite team comprising eight thousand members to guard the nuclear arsenal. Even if security gaps do exist in Pakistan, it is not clear that additional U. There is also the risk that certain actors within Pakistan's government could divert U. Similarly, aid designated for Pakistan's nuclear arsenal might actually increase suspicions in the Pakistani military that U.
More broadly, providing aid to Pakistan to secure its nuclear arsenal could be interpreted by some members of the international community as a "reward" to Pakistan for developing nuclear weapons—and inadvertently encourage the proliferation of nuclear weapons elsewhere. In return for limited and reversible sanctions relief, Iran agreed to halt its nuclear program for a period of six months.
Though the agreement does not provide a long-term solution to concerns about Iranian nuclear aspirations, it lays the groundwork for further negotiations. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's latest yearbook has suggested that all five recognized nuclear states are either deploying new nuclear weapons or delivery systems for nuclear systems or plan to do so.
The report contends that these states "appear determined to retain their nuclear arsenals indefinitely. The Egyptian foreign minister for international organizations explained that the delegation's walkout from the talks stemmed from Egypt's frustration at a lack of progress toward a nuclear-free zone encompassing the Middle East. The creation of such a zone was not on the agenda for the current round of global nuclear talks. During his visit to China, Secretary of State John Kerry said that China had agreed to help North Korea demobilize its nuclear arsenal by peaceful means.
It is hoped that China, as North Korea's primary trading partner and financier, has the leverage to mitigate the increasingly aggressive rhetoric from Pyongyang that has increased fears of military operations on the peninsula. North Korea conducted a controversial nuclear test on Monday, February 11, the country's third since North Korean officials claimed the country has successfully miniaturized its nuclear technology, a crucial step in developing long-range missile capabilities, but details of the test remain murky.
The United States announced that Washington would push for stricter sanctions in the wake of the most recent test, which has been condemned by South Korea and Russia, among others. Even China, North Korea's closest ally for decades, strongly criticized the test—Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi announced that China was "strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed" to North Korea's most recent provocation. Its subsequent threats against the United States and South Korea, combined with its scrapping of a Korean War armistice, have led to widespread condemnation from the United Nations, European Union, and other states.
Over twenty years, Russia converted five hundred metric tons of HEU enough bomb-grade uranium for 20, warheads into low-enriched uranium LEU that the United States purchased. Recent trends have brought the nuclear nonproliferation regime to a moment of grave crisis. The regime is under siege from both rogue states and nonstate actors, and its core bargain between the nuclear haves and have-nots continues to erode. Bolstering international restraints on the world's deadliest weapons will require the United States and its international partners to adopt realistic, concrete steps to strengthen and close gaps in existing treaty regimes, institutions, and partnerships.