Friday, June 29, 2007

World Worries About Nuclear Weapons

While a recent 47-nation survey conducted by the Pew Research Center is garnering a lot of attention for highlighting growing environmental concerns and international opposition to maintaining U.S. forces in Iraq, less attention is being focused on the results demonstrating global concern over nuclear nonproliferation. The poll asked respondents to rank five choices, including the spread of nuclear weapons, as being the greatest (or second greatest) danger in the world today. In a separate series of questions they also asked respondents if they were concerned over Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Here is what they found. (Click on the images for a full view.)

Spread of Nuclear Weapons

While losing ground to surging environmental concerns, fear over the spread of nuclear weapons remains high around the world. People in Japan are most concerned over the spread of nuclear weapons, while nuclear proliferation is a growing concern in the Middle East, with Israel, Lebanon, and Turkey all in the top four. In nearly every Middle Eastern country surveyed, the spread of nuclear weapons or religious and ethnic hatred are either the first or second most frequently mentioned threat facing the world. The proportion who name nuclear proliferation as a top global danger has increased in Jordan (by 21 percentage points), Turkey (11 points), and Lebanon (8 points) in the past five years.

Countries most worried about nuclear proliferation are more likely to turn to the United States and, to a lesser degree, the United Nations, to deal with the issue. The Japanese worry the most about the spread of nuclear weapons, and nearly half of the Japanese who view this as a major threat say the U.S. should take responsibility for dealing with the problem, while significantly less say the U.N. This is characteristic of responses by concerned publics in many other nations, though the Lebanese and Jordanians who worry about nuclear proliferation say the U.N., and not the U.S., should take responsibility for dealing with the problem.

Iran Acquiring Nuclear Weapons

There also is broad opposition to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Citizens all around the world voice substantial concern about the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. Majorities in 32 of the 37 countries that were asked about Iran’s nuclear program oppose Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

Opposition is very strong in North America, Latin America, and Europe, as well as in Japan, South Korea, and Israel, and there is also considerable resistance to Iran’s weapons program in some predominantly Muslim countries in Asia and the Middle East. In fact, Palestinians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis are the only publics that favor Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Nearly six-in-ten in the Palestinian territories and Pakistan and more than half in Bangladesh say they would favor Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

Publics across the world, including those in Iran’s backyard, are concerned that a nuclear-armed Iran would represent a threat to their countries. While Israelis are among the most worried, majorities or pluralities in all North American, Latin American, and European countries also see Iran’s nuclear weapons program as a potential threat. Among the publics of predominantly Muslim countries in Asia and the Middle East, the Kuwaitis, the Lebanese, and the Turks are the most concerned about Iran’s nuclear program. Only in Pakistan and the Palestinian territories do majorities say Iran’s nuclear weapons would not be much of threat.

Jerry Grossman: World Needs a "No First Strike" Commitment for Nuclear Weapons

In a provocative op-ed, President Emeritus of the Center, Jerome Grossman, argues that “Since the dawn of the nuclear age, each of the nine nuclear powers — the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — has threatened to use nuclear weapons. This threat, which is intended to terrorize other states, must stop.”

These threatening remarks, Grossman contends, “could lead to nuclear war by accident, inadvertence, or error, with the most tragic consequences for all humanity. Most importantly, nuclear threats encourage the spread of nuclear weapons to countries seeking to protect themselves in a dangerous world dominated by nuclear aggressors.”

Grossman instead proposes that the nuclear weapons states, led by the U.S., commit to a "No First Strike" policy for their nuclear weapons, which should likewise be de-alerted from hair-trigger alert status.

Sounds reasonable to me.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Margaret Beckett: Vision and Action Needed for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons

British Foreign Secretary “We need both vision - a scenario for a world free of nuclear weapons - and action - progressive steps to reduce warhead numbers and to limit the role of nuclear weapons in security policy.Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference.

A powerful point that stuck out in my mind when listening to Beckett speak on Monday is equally lucid on paper:

History has shown us how bold vision can lead to bold action. Would William Wilberforce, for example, have achieved half as much if he had set out to "regulate" or "reduce" the slave trade rather than abolish it? I doubt it. So too with nuclear weapons. Believing that the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons is possible can act as a spur for action on disarmament. Believing, at whatever level, that it is not, is the surest path to inaction.

Beckett argues that there are three essential steps towards a world free of nuclear weapons:

1) Further reductions in warhead numbers, particularly in the world's biggest arsenals,
2) Pressing on with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and with the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, and
3) Looking again at how we manage global transparency and global verification - constructing a framework that will give people the confidence to make deeper cuts in their arsenals and, one day, to give up their nuclear capability for good.

Beckett concludes:

Mine is a generation that has always lived under the shadow of the bomb. But there is a danger in familiarity with something so terrible. If we allow our efforts on disarmament to slacken, if we allow ourselves to take the non-proliferation consensus for granted, the nuclear shadow that hangs over us all will lengthen and it will deepen. It may, one day, blot out the light for good. We cannot allow that to happen.

I only hope that Beckett’s replacement, former Environment Minister David Miliband, will show the same zeal towards abolition of nuclear weapons that she has so eloquently championed.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Senate Approves Markup on Energy and Water Appropriations

The Senate approved its markup of the FY2008 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill today. Overall the bill is good, but not great for the non-proliferation agenda, as it leaves a lot of work to be done for arms control advocates as we move into the next stages of the budget process.


The Senate Energy and Water bill provides a total of $32.27 billion, which is $1.8 billion over President Bush’s request and $2 billion over funding for FY2007. As I mentioned earlier, Bush has threatened to veto the energy bill unless spending is lowered significantly. The House version of the bill also came out of its Appropriations Committee at about $1.1 billion over the president’s request.

Between President Bush’s veto threat and calls from the political right within the committees for increased fiscal responsibility, we can expect a lot of cuts across the board in the Joint Conference Committee once the House and Senate finalize their appropriations numbers.


$6.49 billion is allotted for weapons activities, which is $22 million less than the budget request, but $231 million over current levels. This is much more than the $5.879 billion for weapons activities currently allotted by the House.

Here are some current House Appropriations and the Senate Appropriations numbers side by side, followed by a bit of analysis on each line:



Total Nuclear Weapons

$5.88 bil.

$6.49 bil.

Reliable Replacement Warhead


$66 mil.

Plutonium Pit Manufacturing

$150 mil.

$256.3 mil.

Consolidated Plutonium Center




$1.809 bil.

$1.87 bil.


Perhaps the biggest disappointment for non-proliferation advocates is the Senate committee’s decision to provide funds for the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons through a program called the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW). While $22.7 million was cut from the program, the Senate decided to maintain $66 million for “stage 2a” activities (stage 2a means the funding can only be used for research and design, but not for the actual production of new nuclear weapons, yet).

While a cut is good, it is not enough. The remaining $66 million for RRW is a lot more money than the ZERO dollars allotted by the House. According to the Committee Report that accompanied the House’s version of the bill, it zeroed out funds for RRW because:

… it is premature to continue design activities for a new nuclear warhead until a revised U.S. nuclear weapons strategy is developed that describes the long term nuclear stockpile requirements and demonstrates how a new nuclear warhead is necessary to address specific U.S. national security requirements and nuclear nonproliferation requirements.

In other words, the House decided that it will no longer throw money blindly toward misguided nuclear programs until there is a serious debate about the U.S. nuclear posture and the role of nuclear weapons in the 21st century.

At this point it is likely that RRW funding will stay at $66 million in the Senate, ZERO for the House, and there will be a fight in the Joint Conference Committee to come up with a final number. While the high Senate number makes it less likely, the ultimate funding for RRW may yet end up at zero if the looming presidential veto threat creates pressure to cut spending across all government programs.


The Senate allotted $256.4 million for plutonium pit manufacturing, 171% of the funding provided by the House. The Los Alamos National Laboratories are throwing a party to celebrate the first plutonium pit certified for the nuclear stockpile since the prior plutonium pit facility at Rocky Flats in Colorado was closed in 1989 -- this and the dangers associated with pit production are discussed in an excellent article you can find at Nukes on a Blog.


Good news came as the Senate chose to completely zero out funding to build a Consolidated Plutonium Center. All four committees, the Senate and House Authorization and the Senate and House Appropriation Committees, have zeroed funding for the new “bomplex”, indicating a strong resistance to the administration’s vision of building a new nuclear weapons complex under the so-called Complex 2030 Program.


The Senate markup offers $1.87 billion for nonproliferation activities, which is $200 million more than the presidential request and $54 million over current year levels. It is also about $69 million more than offered by the House

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

1000 and Counting

It took one month to do it, but Nukes of Hazard just received its 1000th unique visit! (Clicking refresh doesn’t increase the totals – I know, I’ve tried). This on the heels of a real person at the Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference mentioning to me today that they regularly read the blog, so I know we’re in the big time.

In unrelated news, we received some pretty gratifying praise from a reader yesterday:

Just want to thank Kyle and Jeff for making Nukes of Hazard such a critical resource. I check out everything: NTI, Carnegie Center, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Arms Control Today, not to mention other blogs like Arms Control Wonk and Total Wonkerr. But I always come to Nukes of Hazard first to get the most important issues summed up. If you want to use my testimonial in your cable TV commercials, feel free.

And I’m pretty sure my mom didn’t write that, so it’s doubly flattering.

A big thank you for your readership and feedback and for continuing to read Nukes of Hazard!

Monday, June 25, 2007

CTBT - Why Banning All Nuclear Tests is the Right Thing to Do

Today, two prominent conservatives placed ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) — an important treaty signed by 177 countries that would ban the testing of nuclear weapons absolutely — on a list of top 18 threats to western civilization, along with nuclear terrorism and weapons proliferation in rogue states.

Wes Vernon’s alarmist article from Renew America offers a synopsis of former Senator Rick Santorum’s (R-PA) research at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and places the CTBT on a list of 18 threats that are part of a “gathering storm”. On this list of 18 threats to western civilization,

* Twelve threats had to do with terrorism and the rise of radical Islam. Of these, one threat was mainstream Islam: “It is vital to grasp that traditional and even mainstream Islamic teaching promotes violence.”

* Five threats had to do with the actions of other states considered enemies of the United States. He specifically cites Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, and Nicaragua, and Cuba.

* One threat had to do with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The first 17 threats all had to do with terrorism and foreign states. While some are paranoid at best, others are very real—Santorum includes the truly grave threats of nuclear terrorism and rogue states’ desires to possess nuclear weapons.

However, ratification of the CTBT belongs on the list no more than the threat of an invasion from Mars. Here is the text from the article:

[Santorum said] “Fifteen years have elapsed since the last U.S. underground nuclear test.....This is all the more astounding since, during this period, uncertainty has steadily grown about the actual condition of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. [The U.S. Energy Department's Inspector General sees] growing problems associated with the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons without nuclear testing..." (Frank Gaffney writing in the Washington Times)

[Vernon’s response] Why then is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin (D-Minn.) [sic] reportedly maneuvering behind the scenes to resuscitate the previously defeated Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) for consideration again on the floor the U.S. Senate? The treaty would tie our hands and make it virtually impossible to resume underground nuclear testing.

Vernon and Santorum have their facts wrong.

The United States conducted more than 1,000 nuclear tests – 1,054 by official count. We have tested more than any other nation. We know more about nuclear weapons than any other nation on earth. After all, we invented them. A program called Stockpile Stewardship has been in place for many years and kept our nuclear weapons stockpile in tiptop shape – and our nation’s leaders during the Bush administration has so certified year after year.

Vernon and Santorum are very wrong to say that ratification of the CTBT is on par with terrorists and rogue state nuclear proliferation. The truth is exactly the opposite: failure to ratify the CTBT is a very dangerous move for the United States and will act as encouragement for other nations to conduct nuclear tests, including Russia and China.

There are many reasons the CTBT is an important treaty for U.S. national security:

* Banning nuclear testing through a binding international treaty is a necessary measure to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime. The United States along with 188 other countries agreed to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons in the world by signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968. Ratifying the CTBT is a positive and necessary step to demonstrate U.S. commitment to this goal.

* A global test ban hinders (although does not prevent) non-nuclear weapons states from building nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons states from building newer, more powerful weapons.

* Ratification of the CTBT was a key promise that the five nuclear weapons states made to the rest of the world in exchange for the indefinite extension of the NPT at the 1995 NPT Review Conference.

* Santorum argues that “uncertainty has steadily grown about the actual condition of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.” If Santorum had done his homework, he would have learned that an independent review of a Department of Energy study on the lifetime of plutonium pits (the core of nuclear weapons) found that the lifetimes of most warheads are at least 85 years, almost twice that of the DOE’s original estimate of 45 years. This means that there is no urgency to test nuclear weapons since the current stockpile has at least another 40 years of reliability to it.

At a time when the greatest threats facing America are nuclear terrorism and nuclear armed rogue states—as Vernon and Santorum aptly pointed out themselves—the U.S. should be doing everything in its powers to limit access to nuclear weapons and nuclear materials in the world. Ratifying the CTBT is an important part of the process that will reduce the role of nuclear weapons, and thereby make the world a safer place for our children and our grandchildren.

Lt. Gen. Robert Gard: Euro-BMD bad for U.S.

The Center’s Senior Military Fellow, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, recently wrote a tremendous op-ed in which he calls the Bush administration’s decision to build a national missile defense complex in Europe “premature, misguided, wasteful of billions of dollars and damaging to U.S. relationships with our European allies and Russia.”

Gard begins...

National missile defense, now called the Ground-Based Midcourse Missile Defense System, or GMD, is being developed to protect the United States against a limited attack from warheads launched on long-range ballistic missiles by so-called rogue states. The intent is to destroy incoming weapons during their flight in space, called the "midcourse" phase of their trajectory.

Yet GMD is still in its developmental phase, by no means ready for deployment. It has not demonstrated the capability under realistic conditions to destroy a target in space, and operational testing of the system is not yet even scheduled. Knowledgeable defense scientists believe the system will never be able to defeat countermeasures that any nation capable of fielding complex intercontinental ballistic missiles will be able to employ with ease.

Click here to read the complete article in which Gard runs down a litany of problems associated with the Bush administration’s initiative to expand missile defense to Europe.

National Security Legislative Wrap-up, June 18-22 2007

Last week, the House completed -- except for earmarks to be dealt with later -- both the Fiscal Year 2008 Energy and Water Appropriations and the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bills. This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee will take up its version of the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. While the Defense Authorization Bill is likely to be considered after the 4th of July recess, it is possible the Senate may take up Iraq amendments related to this bill at the end of this week.



On June 20, the House completed action on all but the earmarks portion of the bill. While doing so, it rejected 121 - 312 a Udall (D-NM) amendment to transfer $192 million to the Los Alamos National Laboratory for nuclear weapons work.


On June 21, the House adopted the bill by a vote of 241 – 178. The House adopted 365 - 69 a Shays (D-CT) amendment to provide $1 million to reconstitute the Iraq Study Group and approved by voice vote a Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) amendment to bar funding for the U.N. Human Rights Council. It rejected 205 – 219 an amendment by Rep. Wolf (R-VA) to increase funding for Iraq reconstruction aid by $158 million, 137 - 287 a Fox (R-NC) amendment to cut $203 million from the U.S. contribution to international organizations and 203 – 214 a McGovern (D-MA) amendment to eliminate funds for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly the School of the Americas) located at Fort Benning, Georgia.


The full Senate is scheduled to consider the bill in July, but the timetable is up in the air.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Report: U.S. Should Reduce Nukes and Normalize Relations with Iran and North Korea

The U.S. should reduce its nuclear arsenal, normalize relations with Iran and North Korea, and accept that these countries may become nuclear-weapons powers, according to a recent report prepared by defense analyst Charles Peña of the Independent Institute.

Peña argues that U.S. nonproliferation efforts should be refocused on keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists, while accepting the undesirable fact that countries such as Iran and North Korea may become nuclear weapons powers.

Two somewhat questionable assumptions underlie this position: first, that “such regimes would not automatically give away a nuclear weapon to terrorists and that, in fact, there are significant disincentives to them doing so” and second, that “even hostile countries likely share a common concern over nuclear safety and security, which provides an opportunity for cooperative efforts patterned after the Nunn-Lugar cooperative threat reduction program.”

A Washington Times article, however, strangely describes the report’s conclusion as “The only deterrent for some countries from being next on ‘Washington's hit list’ is to have nuclear weapons themselves.” The article instead focuses on the point that current U.S. nonproliferation policies should be changed from preventing them from gaining this material to figuring out what to do about it once they have acquired such weapons.

But then again, this is the same newspaper that recently published Frank Gaffney Jr.’s car crash of an op-ed lambasting an impressive spectrum of Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty supporters, so it’s not entirely surprising that the article shifts the emphasis from the U.S. reducing its nuclear arsenal and engaging Iran and North Korea to the more debatable portions of Peña’s argument.

Check out the report and make up your own mind about its conclusions.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

New YouTube video on Republican candidates’ nuclear threats

Council for a Livable World released a YouTube video mash-up this week highlighting statements made by several Republican presidential candidates threatening the use of nuclear weapons against Iran. Check it out.

The link for the video mash-up is

For other notable moments, go to Kyle’s earlier posts on the June 5 Republican debate and his other post on the June 3 Democratic debate.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Intel community, Sens. Lugar and Biden back elements of START I

The U.S. intelligence community appears to be less than thrilled with the Bush administration’s plan to replace the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with a less formal agreement that contains weaker verification mechanisms. A recent article by McClatchy Newspapers indicates that disagreements between the intelligence community and the Bush administration are holding up talks with Russia on a subsequent agreement.

The Bush administration views START I as an outdated relic of the Cold War that unduly hamstrings the U.S.’s ability to respond to new threats and charges that strict verification is now unnecessary. The intelligence community, on the other hand, views the treaty -- or at least its on-site and other verification mechanisms -- as a valuable way of peering into Russia’s nuclear arsenal at a time when its resources are otherwise stretched thin.

As I described earlier, START I barred its signatories (initially the U.S. and the USSR, but subsequently Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan) from deploying more than 6,000 “countable” nuclear warheads atop a total of 1,600 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers. It also established an elaborate scheme of inspections, data sharing, advance missile test notifications and satellite surveillance. The treaty is set to run out at the end of 2009 unless the governments agree to extend or amend it.

Although the U.S. and Russia are well-below the limitations agreed upon in START I, the treaty also provided the foundation for monitoring compliance with the subsequently negotiated (and otherwise toothless) Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (aka the Moscow Treaty). Significantly, if START I is not extended or replaced, both countries will lose one of the most reliable ways of making sure that both countries have in fact reduced the number of operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads (on ICBMs, SLBMs, heavy bombers, or otherwise) to 1,700-2,200 by the end of 2012. This is especially notable as SORT doesn’t require the destruction of the warheads, meaning they could instead be removed from service and stored in reserve stockpiles where the warheads could quickly redeployed at a later time.

Judging from his opening statement at yesterday’s hearing on U.S.-Russian relations, the intelligence community has an ally in Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN):

[T]he United States and Russia must extend the START I treaty’s verification and transparency elements, which will expire in 2009; and they should work to add verification measures to the Moscow Treaty. Unfortunately, some bureaucrats on both sides are balking at such efforts in favor of less formal language that is not legally binding. I am concerned that transparency and verification will suffer if legally-binding regimes are permitted to dissolve. The predictability and confidence provided by treaty verification reduces the chances of misinterpretation, miscalculation, and error.

Sen. Lugar correctly concludes the point by saying, “The current Russian-American relationship is complicated enough without introducing more elements of uncertainty into the nuclear relationship.”

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) used even stronger language: ''I think it would be the single greatest negative legacy this administration could leave if it leaves us in a situation where there is no future architecture to follow on to START.”

Bold statement.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

House Energy and Water update, amendment on moving pit disassembly plant

The House approved most parts of the 2008 appropriations for energy and water development (H.R. 2641), which Jeff and I have talked about here and here.

This is mostly good news for the non-proliferation agenda. While final passage of the House version of the bill is not expected until later in the summer due to some unsettled discussions unrelated to non-proliferation, Democrats and Republicans have come together to oppose the Bush administration’s lack of a coherent strategy (sound familiar?) for the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Here are some funding recaps:

* Funding to build a new generation of nuclear weapons (the Reliable Replacement Warhead Program, or RRW) has been eliminated. The administration initially asked for $88.8 million.

* Overall nuclear weapons budget was reduced by $632 million, to $5.9 billion.

* Non-proliferation spending programs were increased by $491 million, or 75 percent to a total of $1.7 million.

Although the bill is yet not finalized, these numbers are not expected to change in the House version until the joint-conference where a final version of the bill will be hashed out between the Senate and the House. As I have stated previously, my guess is that the House version will stay low (now true), the Senate version will remain high (currently appropriated at $195 million across multiple accounts), and a middle ground will be found in the joint-conference.

There was one important amendment to the bill relating to nuclear weapons that passed: Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) proposed an amendment (H.Amdt. 329) that blocks moving a pit disassembly plant from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to the Pantex weapons facility in Texas. The amendment was approved by voice vote.

Members of Congress had initially decided to keep both the Pit Disassembly plant and storage facilities at one site (the Pantex facility) for “obvious security reasons”:

Co-locating the Pit Disassembly facility with the pit storage facilities at the Pantex Plant provides an obvious security improvement and program efficiency element to the PDCF proposal. The Committee finds the Department initial decision to site the Pit Disassembly facility at the Savannah River Site (SRS) not appropriate in light of the post 9/11 security environment. The Committee finds the security vulnerabilities inherent in transporting intact nuclear weapon pits from the storage location at the Pantex Plant to a disassembly operation 1,200 miles across the country too significant and costly to justify constructing the facility at SRS. (House Energy and Water Appropriations Bill Report, House Report 110-185, June 11, 1007)

A plutonium pit is a metal sphere containing plutonium-239 that acts as a “trigger” for a nuclear weapon when compressed by surrounding explosives – as the plutonium is compressed it starts a fission reaction (see images below). Pit disassembly is the last step in weapons dismantlement, and Pantex is the only facility in the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) complex currently authorized to conduct pit assembly and disassembly.

Plutonium Pit Cross Section

A plutonium pit is located near the tip of modern warheads

Overall, $173 million is appropriated for pit disassembly, including $91 million for the new Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility Project at the Savannah River Site. Rep. John Spratt (D-SC), a friend of Tauscher, likely favors relocating the pit production facility to his constituent state of South Carolina.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Missile Defense: laugh when you play the game, cry when you hear the facts

If you are not already skeptical of the Bush administration's plans to build a third missile defense site in Eastern Europe (the first two are in Alaska and California), testing the system yourself may just change your mind:

** Test the Missile Defense yourself, click to play! **

I must admit, actually pulling the trigger makes missile defense much more fun than the sobering facts behind the system:

* Despite more than 50 years of research and well over $100 billion of investment, the U.S. missile defense system still remains an "experimental" program, and is being deployed even as tests of the system continue to fail or remain far from real world conditions.

* The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects the average spending for the missile defense system will be $13 billion per year between 2006 and 2024. It is the largest single program in the Defense budget.

* Countermeasures, such as decoys, are the "Achilles heel" of missile defense: U.S. interceptors cannot discern between incoming missiles and their decoys. Even if the U.S. manages to get its missile interceptors to shoot straight, other states can neutralize U.S. missile defense effectiveness by improving their offensive missile decoy capabilities.

* The Bush administration promised that pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 would not lead to a new arms race, but recent statements from Russian President Putin suggest otherwise: Putin said that Russia had successfully tested ICBMs that could defeat any missile defense system, and that Russia would retarget nuclear missiles at Europe if new U.S. missile defense systems are deployed in Eastern Europe.

For more information, check out two stellar blogs by Doug Shaw and Jeffrey Lewis.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Nuclear Forensics: Special Material Unit

Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) recently wrote an interesting op-ed in the Wall Street Journal regarding the need to increase U.S. nuclear forensics capabilities. To pare down his piece, he argues:

The U.S. has long deterred a nuclear attack by states, by clearly and credibly threatening devastating retaliation. Now is the time for a new type of deterrence: We must make clear in advance that we will hold accountable any country that contributes to a terrorist nuclear attack, whether by directly aiding would-be nuclear terrorists or willfully neglecting its responsibility to secure the nuclear weapons or weapons-usable nuclear material within its borders. Deterrence cannot rest on words alone. It must be backed up by capabilities. …

Any country today that aids a would-be nuclear terrorist, through action or neglect, has to be concerned about getting caught. But we can and must do more to improve our ability in this area, and to make our ability to trace the source of a nuclear explosion widely known. We need more nuclear forensics research, more scientists to analyze nuclear samples, and an assured ability -- using our own aircraft or those of cooperating states -- to quickly collect nuclear debris from the site of any attack, in this country or around the world. …

This new form of deterrence must add to, not replace, other efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism. We must devote far more dollars and people to working with Russia and other countries to secure and reduce stockpiles of nuclear weapons and materials and to remove nuclear weapons-usable materials from as many sites as possible. The president must make this effort his or her personal priority. Deterrence based on strong nuclear forensics is a critical tool to help prevent nuclear terrorism. To prevent a nuclear 9/11, we must use every tool we have.

Some critics point out, however, that a heavy reliance on nuclear forensics could potentially provide an incentive for a third party to use stolen material to instigate a mistaken retaliatory attack between two other parties. They also note that most of the special nuclear material in the world is in the hands of the U.S. and its allies, Russia, or China, against whom the U.S. is unlikely to retaliate.

Others still point out that while nuclear forensics could help determine some very basic information about bomb design and possibly the age of fissile material used (thereby helping to eliminate what the bomb wasn't), it’s questionable whether or not that information would be enough to determine the unique “fingerprint” of the nuclear weapon and provide a link to the terrorists that detonated it. But without being able to reliably and credibly determine those “fingerprints,” deterrence through threatened retaliation goes out the window.

As Robert Nelson, Senior Scientist of the Union of Concerned Scientists rightfully notes, the strategy of attempting to ascertain the culprit using nuclear forensics “is similar to trying to detect fissile material hidden in one of the 11 million cargo containers entering US ports every year: it's a good idea to try, but [it] gives a false sense of security because it is unlikely to ever be very effective. The only realistic strategy is to secure the material at the source.”

Monday, June 18, 2007

Missing the Point: India’s Proposed Ban on ICBMs Won’t Fix US-India Deal

*Special guest post from Max Postman, intern-extraordinaire at the Center

The International Herald-Tribune is reporting that, according to “unidentified government officials,” India has made a unilateral decision not to develop missiles with a range over 5,000 km in order to “reassure the U.S. of India's peaceful intentions.” Over the last year India has acceded to a seemingly impressive list of nonproliferation measures—the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, and now the unilateral missile ban—all of which are entirely peripheral to the fundamental problem with U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation.

The proposed U.S.-India deal would destabilize the non-proliferation regime by violating the norm, codified in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), that civil nuclear assistance is a reward that states get in exchange for relinquishing their right to develop nuclear weapons. The damage will be even more acute if the current sticking points on the deal, reprocessing rights and fuel supply guarantees in the event of a nuclear test, are settled in India’s favor. Stopping India’s prospective development of an ICBM, like the physical protection of its nuclear materials, is peripheral to the real proliferation issues posed by this deal and must not be understood as the sort of concession that should be traded for reprocessing rights.

Capping India’s nuclear reach at 5,000 km will not protect the NPT regime from the aftershocks of this agreement: The violation of an international norm does not require a three-stage boost process to reach decision-makers in Brasilia, Seoul, and Tehran. Nor would India’s nuclear arsenal be any less dangerous under a voluntary ICBM ban, as the mission of India’s nuclear forces is decidedly continental. This map illustrates that even with a nuclear strike capability as short as 2,000 km India can strike Pakistan, most of China, and Iran. If India refrains from developing missiles with ranges greater than 5,000 km it will relinquish the ability to target American and West European capitals, a capacity that will be irrelevant throughout the foreseeable future.

To empower the nuclear-armed and China-counterbalancing India and prevent its weapons from ever targeting American cities in a single stroke of the pen might strike some as quite a clever move. However, given the inextricability of civil space launch and intercontinental ballistic missile technology, any declaration by India that they are not developing ICBM capabilities will be strictly semantic. As India’s civil space program progresses, the state will inevitably and simultaneously develop an ICBM capability based on the same technology. As Richard Speier, a former Arms Control and Disarmament Agency official and one of the architects of the Missile Technology Control Regime warned:

In keeping with India’s practice of describing nuclear and missile programs as civilian until their military character could not be denied, India originally claimed that the [Indian ballistic missile] Agni was a “technology demonstrator”…The United States should not believe that it is possible to separate India’s “civilian” space launch program—the incubator of its long-range missiles—from India’s military program.

Barring the cessation of India’s space launch program or the creation of a verifiable partition between its civil and military aeronautics complexes, this declaration constitutes a limitation on weapons terminology, not technology. Moreover, even if India could be prevented from developing ICBMs, the US-India nuclear deal would be made no less damaging to global non-proliferation norms, nor would the capping of missile ranges at 5,000 km limit India’s nuclear capabilities in any meaningful way. If India’s self-imposed ICBM ban does turn out to be official policy, it is essential that this move be understood for what it is: lipstick on a proliferation pig.

National Security Legislative Wrap-up, June 11-15 2007

Delay is not just a disgraced former House Member from Texas; it is also what has happened to several national security bills. This past week, appropriations bills were held up in the House due to Republican vs. Democratic disagreements over handling of earmarks. With that dispute resolved, the full House is scheduled to consider the Fiscal Year 2008 Energy and Water Appropriations bill and the State, Foreign Operations bill this week. While the Senate had been expected to consider the Defense Authorization bill in late June, because of the Lazarus-like resurrection of the immigration bill, the Defense bill is likely off until after the 4th of July recess.



On June 6, the full Appropriations Committee approved the Subcommittee's bill with no change. The bill is expected to go to the floor of the House of Representatives the week of June 18.


On June 12, the bill was approved by the full Appropriations Committee. It is not clear when the bill will be considered by the full House.


The full Senate is scheduled to consider the bill in July, but the timetable is up in the air.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

House Appropriations Bill Delayed, Bush Threatens Veto

Word from the Hill is that the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which includes nonproliferation and nuclear programs, may not go to the House floor until after the Independence Day recess, or at the earliest next week. The House was previously expected to take action on the bill this week. Info on the Energy and Water Subcommittee markup and House Appropriations Committee markup is here, here, and here.

The Bush administration released a Statement of Administration Policy today with regards to H.R. 2641, the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill. According to the letter, Bush would veto the bill as it stands:

H.R. 2641 exceeds the President’s requests for programs funded in this bill by $1.1 billion... [If H.R. 2641 were presented to the President, he would veto the bill. (emphasis in original statement)

As it stands, the bill cuts funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program and reduces Weapons Activities by approximately $600 million from the President’s request. The veto threat is not related to these actions, although the President expressed disappointment that his push to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons is opposed by Congress:

The Administration understands the need to work with the Committee on a plan for transforming the nuclear weapons stockpile and complex that is aimed at assuring bipartisan support. However, the Administration strongly opposes the Committee’s decision to eliminate funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW). Congress has consistently supported this vital effort to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile. Failure to continue the program will contribute to increasing concern about weapon performance/reliability and may in turn require the maintenance of a larger size stockpile than was contemplated with RRWs.

For Bush to say Congress has “consistently supported this vital effort to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile” is a bit of a stretch. While the RRW program has received funding the past three years from a Republican dominated Congress, the funding has been limited to research activities with Congress repeatedly expressing strong hesitation to move into the production phase for new nuclear weapons. Both the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee and House Appropriations Committee have zeroed out funding for RRW in the past month, sending the President a clear signal that Congress is not ready to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons. More analysis on current RRW funding here.

Overall, Congress has been at odds with the administration about the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security. The administration’s push to develop new tactical delivery systems through the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (“bunker buster”) program was rebuked two years in a row by Congress, and has now been dropped from the President’s budget request completely. This was a clear indication that Congress is nervous about the administration's view on the utility of nuclear weapons.

The letter also said:

The Administration strongly opposes the reduction for Weapons Activities of approximately $600 million from the President’s request. At the lower funding level, activities and programs critical to transform the nuclear weapons complex and allow it to become more cost-effective and responsive to rapidly changing requirements will be severely curtailed.

Feeling like Congress may be undercutting the administration? Then consider this: on average, the administration is putting more money into our nuclear arsenal today (about $6 billion in 2007) than went in during the Cold War. It would like to increase that spending to $7.4 billion by 2012.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

SIPRI: Nuclear Weapons To Continue Past 2050

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its annual report on military forces around the globe on Monday, which included some alarming information and analysis on nuclear arms control and non-proliferation.

Among their findings, the Swedish organization reports that

At the beginning of 2007, the five nuclear weapon states recognized under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the USA—possessed a total of more than 26 000 nuclear warheads, including deployed weapons, spares and those in both active and inactive storage. All of these states, with the exception of the UK, had significant nuclear weapon modernization programmes under way. …

Today, there are roughly 1700 tonnes of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and 500 tonnes of separated plutonium in the world, sufficient to produce over 100 000 nuclear weapons. Access to these fissile materials is the main technical barrier determining whether a state can acquire nuclear weapons. Russia and the USA possess more than 90 per cent of the fissile materials produced for weapons, but half of the separated plutonium has been produced for civilian purposes. While the five NPT-recognized nuclear weapon states have all stopped producing fissile materials for weapons, India, Pakistan and perhaps Israel and North Korea continue to do so.

“The decisions taken by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council will keep nuclear weapons in their arsenals beyond 2050,” says Ian Anthony, head of SIPRI’s Nonproliferation and Export Control Project.

I am reminded of Albert Einstein’s famous remark: You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.

For what should be done, make sure to read the article, “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” by the unlikely foursome of George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn if you haven’t already done so.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Senate Committee Boosts R&D of New Nukes, No Production

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) released its markup of the Defense Authorization Bill yesterday. I spent the morning pouring over the nonproliferation related-language of the bill and found the numbers for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) to be disappointing.

The SASC allotted just over $195 million for the RRW program. This is a big difference from the House Appropriations Committee, which, as Jeff reported earlier, put the brakes on RRW by eliminating all funding for the program.

The Senate did thankfully include a provision that these funds can only be used for “2A activities,” meaning that the funds are only for research and design and cannot move into the production stage.

Adding nearly $200 million more than doubles the combined spending on RRW programs since FY'05, and is a dangerous and slippery proliferation slope: while funding may be limited to 2A activities now, scientists will want to build their new designs and then they are going to want to test their new toys.

A quick funding history of RRW shows the mercury rising…

FY’05: $9 million
FY'06: $25 million
FY'07: $52 million
FY'08: bill in progress, with Senate markup of $195 million

RRW legislation will next hit the House floor this week where it will be considered as part of the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. On the Senate side, we can expect to see the Senate Armed Services Bill next at the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. My guess is that the House will keep funding low, the Senate will keep funding high, and a middle ground will be hashed out in the joint committee.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Yes, Charlotte, Our Nuclear Weapons Still Are On Hair-Trigger Status

An interesting story by NPR last week reported that while the U.S. recently announced it has increased the rate at which it is dismantling its nuclear warheads, the actual number of weapons dismantled and other figures involving the nuclear arsenal remain secret.

The NRDC estimates that as of January this year the U.S. stockpile contained nearly 10,000 nuclear warheads, including 5,736 active/operational warheads and 4,226 inactive/responsive warheads held in reserve or awaiting dismantlement.

Significantly, however, fifteen years after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. and Russia still have approximately 4,000 nuclear warheads on hair-trigger alert that could be launched within minutes. These warheads alone have the combined destructive power nearly 100,000 times that of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

For contrast, China has since de-alerted its nuclear forces and Britain and France now maintain far lower levels of alert. While their alert status is unknown, India, Pakistan and Israel are believed to be near hair-trigger status.

Enter Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA-29).

Schiff sent out a Dear Colleague letter last week asking his fellow Members to sign on to his not-yet-submitted “Reduce the Risk of Accidental Nuclear Launch Act.” According to the Letter,

The Reduce the Risk of Accidental Nuclear Launch Act would call on the President to pursue a bilateral agreement with Russia to remove both nations' nuclear weapons from hair-trigger alert. It would call on military and defense experts from our two countries to outline steps that can be taken to eliminate any perceived threat that is used to provide continuing justification for the self-defeating and dangerous practice of deploying nuclear weapons on such status. And finally, it would require a Presidential report on any impediments to achieving this goal and the steps being taken to overcome these challenges.

Just over seven years ago, in order to make his plan for an expansive national missile defense system more palatable, candidate-turn-president George W. Bush proposed removing “as many weapons as possible from high-alert, hair-trigger status" and inviting the Russians to do the same.

Now that President Bush has recklessly sped ahead with the missile defense system, it’s high time for him to initiate a dialogue with Russia to remove both countries’ nuclear arsenals from hair-trigger alert. While clearly not exclusively enough to ameliorate the current standoff, the move would go a long ways in improving the frosty relations between the U.S. and Russia. Representative Schiff’s proposed legislation is a major step in the right direction.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Barack Obama quotes on Nuclear Weapons and Nonproliferation

The most recent issue of Foreign Affairs had articles by both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney laying out their foreign policy perspectives. I was planning to read these articles and provide nonproliferation quote highlights, but our friend Terri Lodge over at Arms Control Advocacy Collaborative beat me to it for the Obama article. She sent me the following quotes outlining Obama's nonproliferation plans, as well as issues with Iran and North Korea:

America must lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons and material at vulnerable sites within four years... This will require the active
cooperation of Russia... We must also work with Russia to update and scale back our dangerously outdated Cold War nuclear postures and de-emphasize the role of nuclear weapons. America must not rush to produce a new generation of nuclear warheads. And we should take advantage of recent technological advances to build bipartisan consensus behind ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty... I will work to
negotiate a verifiable global ban on the production of new nuclear weapons material.

[W]e should not hesitate to talk directly to Iran.

[W]e must develop a strong international coalition to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and eliminate North Korea's nuclear weapons program... I will not take the military option off the table.
Personally, I was hoping for more details. Unfortunately, important nuclear weapons issues are likely going to continue to be crowded out by the Iraq debate through November 2008.

Friday, June 8, 2007

National Security Legislative Wrap-up, June 4-8 2007

The full House is expected to consider the Fiscal Year 2008 Energy and Water Appropriations bill next week and the State, Foreign Operations bill the week after that. The Senate is not expected to consider the Defense Authorization bill for three more weeks, but the Senate's schedule is always uncertain.



On June 6, the full Appropriations Committee approved the Subcommittee's bill with no change. The bill is expected to go to the floor of the House of Representatives on June 13.


On June 5, the House State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee marked-up or wrote its version of the Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations. At $34.2 billion, the level of funding is 2 percent less than the level requested by President Bush but 10 percent more than Fiscal Year 2007. The bill eliminates all $391 million requested for Iraq assistance and cut the Millennium Challenge Corporation from $3 billion to $1.8 billion. It funds the $1 billion plus request for Afghanistan assistance and provides $2.7 billion for economic assistance, $4.5 billion for military assistance overseas and $4.2 billion for the HIV/AIDS initiative.

The bill is then expected to be considered by the full Appropriations Committee on June 5 and the full House on June 20.


The full Senate is scheduled to consider the bill in late June.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

House Appropriations Committee Puts Brakes on New Nukes

In another major victory, the full House Appropriations Committee yesterday ran with the baton handed to them two weeks ago by the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee and cut all funding for a new generation of nuclear weapons (the Reliable Replacement Warhead, or RRW) and a new plant to build plutonium pits for nuclear bombs.

(As I reported earlier, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee eliminated all $88.8 million of proposed funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead and all $24.9 million for a new plant to build plutonium pits.)

In all, the nuclear weapons activities budget was cut by $630 million from the president's request. The cuts were made on a bipartisan basis, with no amendments and without dissent.

A big tip of the hat goes to Chairman Pete Visclosky (D-IN) and Ranking Member David Hobson (R-OH), who, when discussing RRW, said that “we are still in a Cold War complex mode.”

Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM) also had some harsh words, saying that the national labs should get out of the weapons business and into the alternative energy and science business but that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) keeps getting in the way.

The Energy and Water Appropriations bill is scheduled to go to the House floor on June 13.

The House Appropriations Committee also included massive increases to DoE nuclear nonproliferation programs, including…

* $219 million for nonproliferation and verification R&D
* $20 million for nonproliferation and international security
* $460 million for international nuclear material protection and cooperation
* $10 million for elimination of weapons-grade plutonium production program
* $131.6 million for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI)
* $100 million towards an international nuclear fuel bank

…for a total increase of $940.7 million in selected DoE nuclear nonproliferation programs.

Underscoring their significance, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) promptly issued a press release saying that he was “stunned by the drastic funding cuts recommended for the national laboratories in New Mexico,” referring to the cuts as “stunningly punitive in its treatment of Los Alamos.”

The Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee is expected to markup or write its FY2008 appropriations bill during the last week of June.

Notable non-nonproliferation quotes from the Republican debate on June 5 - Nuclear table piece

A couple days ago we highlighted the salient nonproliferation quotes from the June 3 Democratic debates in New Hampshire, here. There was nothing exceptional.

The Republican debate from June 5 was a bit spicier: Wolf Blitzer directly asked the candidates: "If it came down to a preemptive U.S. strike against Iran’s nuclear facility, if necessary would you authorize as president the use of tactical nuclear weapons?"

This is a notable difference from the Democratic debates, where Wolf asked the candidates if they would attack Iran, but never specified whether such an attack would use nuclear or conventional weaponry. Here is what the Republican's had to say:

Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA):

I would authorize the use of tactical nuclear weapons if there was no other way to preempt those particular centrifuges. When the Osirak reactor that was hit `86, when the six F-18s came over the horizon and knocked that out, they didn’t need anything but conventional weapons. Probably it’s going to take a little more than that. I don’t think it’s going to take tactical nukes.
Making a comparison between the 1980 Osirak strike in Iraq and taking out Iran's nuclear infrastructure today is a long stretch: the Osirak reactor was a single open target, while Iran's nuclear sites today are dispersed throughout the country, often buried, and often located in populated areas. The use of nuclear weapons against Iran would have incredibly harmful ramifications in that it would endanger civilian populations, without guaranteeing any significant impact against Iran's nuclear progress.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R):
Part of the premise of talking to Iran has to be that they have to know very clearly that it is unacceptable to the United States that they have nuclear power. I think it could be done with conventional weapons, but you can’t rule out anything and you shouldn’t take any option off the table.
Former Governor Jim Gilmore (R-VA):
With respect to Iran, the policy I would follow would be dual. Number one, we need to work with our European allies in order to put in appropriate sanctions. We need to communicate directly with the Iranians that we are going to offer them an opportunity to work with us. But we’re also going to say that having a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. They need to understand it. And all options are on the table by the United States in that instance.
Ultimately these three candidates pretty much gave the party line: we could mess you up with conventional weapons, but if you really piss us off we may just pull out the big guns. With regards to the potential of Giuliani, Gilmore, or Hunter ever actually using nukes, it is doubtful; they all say they want to keep nukes on the table, but much like a decorative table piece: while it looks good and is nice to talk about, nobody is ever actually going to bite into that plastic fruit.

There was a moment to relax toward the end when Congressman Paul was asked, "what’s the most pressing moral issue in the United States right now?"
I think it is the acceptance just recently that we now promote preemptive war. I do not believe that’s part of the American tradition. We in the past have always declared war in the defense of our liberties or go to aid somebody, but now we have accepted the principle of preemptive war. We have rejected the just- war theory of Christianity. And now, tonight, we hear that we’re not even willing to remove from the table a preemptive nuclear strike against a country that has done no harm to us directly and is no threat to our national security.