Sunday, April 11, 2010

Nuclear Scorecard

So far we've had the New START Treaty completed by the negotiators and signed by the presidents of the United States and Russia. It lowers the numbers of nuclear weapons and lists the ways each side can track the other's. To come: ratification by the US Senate and Russian Duma. Treaty, Protocol, and videos of the signing here. The treaty is in three parts: the treaty itself, a protocol (how it is to be implemented) and annexes that give all the implementation details. State Department fact sheets here.

Then there was the Nuclear Posture Review from the United States, its statement of policy on use and maintenance of its nuclear arsenal. No first use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. No new nuclear weapons to be designed and built in the United States. And other things I hope to write about.

This week: The Nuclear Security Summit in Washington (WaPo, Guardian). The focus will be on world's unsecured stocks of weapons-grade nuclear materials. That means, for most countries, research reactors that use highly enriched uranium as their fuel. Many have already been converted to low-enriched uranium fuel. I am wondering if they also will address the plutonium that has been recovered from civilian reactors. A number of countries, including France and Japan, have large stocks, and more exists in the spent fuel stored in the United States. Forty-six countries will attend. There will be some emphasis on how to proceed with international understandings and treaties. More here (pdf).

Coming in May: The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. A conference on progress and problems with the NPT is held every five years. In 1995, the signatories to the NPT agreed to continue the treaty in perpetuity. But there have been problems: non-nuclear-weapon states feel that the nuclear weapon states haven't been doing enough to fulfill their promise to move toward nuclear disarmament. Three nuclear weapon states (India, Israel, and Pakistan) remain outside the treaty and therefore outside the safeguards it provides. North Korea has withdrawn from the treaty and tested a nuclear device. Iran is barely complying with its obligations as a non-nuclear-weapon state. What to do about states that don't comply or withdraw?

All of these events overlap and interact. The New START Treaty decreases the numbers of nuclear weapons, which the two countries party to it will argue is part of their commitment to nuclear disarmament. The NPR's qualified "no first use" policy is a way to provide a disincentive to proliferating nuclear weapons among states that have signed the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states. The additional treaties and agreements that may come out of the Nuclear Security Summit will bolster the International Atomic Energy Agency's ability to police the provisions of the NPT.

Update: The New York Times has a nice wish list for the Nuclear Security Summit.

Crossposted at Obsidian Wings and American Footprints.

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