Partnership for Global Security: Leading the World to a Safer Future
Home Projects Publications Issues Official Documents About RANSAC Nuclear News 4/15/13
Location: Home / Projects & Publications / News
Sitemap Contact
Google www PGS
Nuclear News - 5/11/2009
PGS Nuclear News, May 11, 2009
Compiled By: Luke Wagoner

    1. Russia's Putin Warns Against Arms Race Over N.Korea, Reuters (5/10/2009)
    2. No Need to Talk to South, Says North Korea, Jon Herskovitz and Seo Eun-kyung, The Washington Post (5/9/2009)
    3. US Wants to Revive N Korea Talks, PressTV (5/9/2009)
B.  Pakistan
    1. Petraeus Confident Pakistan Nuclear Arms Secure, AFP (5/10/2009)
    2. Zardari Says Pakistan Isn’t Adding Nuclear Weapons, Molly Peterson and William McQuillen, Bloomberg (5/10/2009)
C.  Iran
    1. Iran to Procure Chinese Defense System, The Media Line (5/10/2009)
    2. Iran: Let Nuclear Disarmament Talks Begin, PressTV (5/9/2009)
D.  India
    1. India-Kazakhstan Nuclear Deal by June, The Hindu (5/11/2009)
E.  Russia-Japan
    1. Putin Eyes Economic Ties, Nuclear Deal with Japan, Yoko Kubota and Oleg Shchedrov, Reuters (5/10/2009)
F.  Nuclear Energy
    1. France, Saudi Arabia Close to Civil Nuclear Pact, AFP (5/11/2009)
    2. Nuclear Weapons and ’Fourth Generation’ Reactors, Jim Green, Green Left (5/9/2009)
G.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. UAE Calls for a Mideast Free of Nuclear Arms, Gulf News (5/9/2009)
    2. Australia Funds Counter-Nuke Terror Effort, UPI (5/8/2009)
H.  Links of Interest
    1. The Trouble With Zero, Philip Taubman, The New York Times (5/9/2009)
    2. Grading Progress on 13 Steps Toward Nuclear Disarmament, Sharon Squassoni, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (5/1/2009)


Russia's Putin Warns Against Arms Race Over N.Korea
(for personal use only)

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for calm over North Korea in an interview published on Sunday and warned of the danger of an arms race developing in Asia after Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket.

Putin, in an interview with Japanese media before a visit to Tokyo, called for a return to six-country talks on North Korea, comprising China, the two Koreas, Japan, Russia and the United States.

"It would be absolutely wrong if we increased the emotional temperature around what is happening today and used this to destabilize the region or to start some sort of arms race. I think this would be a big mistake," Putin said, according to a transcript of the interview supplied by the Russian government.

"We need to take account of the positive things, of what has been achieved as part of the negotiating process in the six-party format," he said in the interview with the Nikkei business daily, Kyodo news agency and public broadcaster NHK.

"Everyone needs to return to them (the six-country talks) without emotion and without anything else that could hinder the resumption of the process," said Putin, who rarely comments on North Korea.

The United Nations Security Council last month condemned North Korea's launch of what the United States and Japan said was a long-range missile but North Korea insisted was a rocket carrying a peaceful satellite.

The Security Council called for tougher enforcement of U.N. financial sanctions and a limited trade embargo against Pyongyang, placing three large North Korean firms on a U.N. blacklist for aiding the country's nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea retaliated by announcing it would boycott the six-party talks and promising to restart a nuclear plant that makes arms-grade plutonium.

Pyongyang, which tested a nuclear device in 2006, also threatened a fresh nuclear test unless the U.N. Security Council apologized for chastising North Korea.

Available at:

Return to Menu

No Need to Talk to South, Says North Korea
Jon Herskovitz and Seo Eun-kyung
The Washington Post
(for personal use only)

Reclusive North Korea, which rattled regional security with a threat to hold a second nuclear test, said on Saturday it would not hold talks with its wealthy South Korean neighbor because it "defiled" Pyongyang's dignity.

The North a day earlier dismissed an overture from the United States for discussions, saying it was useless to talk to the Obama administration because its "hostile policy" left it no choice but to bolster its nuclear deterrent.

The United States sent Stephen Bosworth, its envoy for North Korea, to Asia this week to rein in the secretive communist state after it raised tension with a defiant rocket launch a month ago and then threatened to step up its nuclear weapons program.

"There is no room for talks with the South Korea government group who publicly defiles the name of our republic and denies our entity," the North's KCNA news agency quoted a spokesman with its reunification committee as saying.

Isolated and impoverished North Korea for years has used its military threat to squeeze concessions out of the international community while telling its masses to put the military first and consider self-reliance a virtue.

Analysts said the North, already hit by U.N. sanctions for a missile test in July 2006 and its first nuclear test a few months later, is not worried about further punishment and wants to increase its negotiating leverage with U.S. President Barack Obama through a series of provocations.

North Korea has mostly suspended dialogue with South Korea in anger at the policies of President Lee Myung-bak, who came to office a year ago and ended a free flow of unconditional aid and instead tied handouts to progress Pyongyang makes in ending its nuclear ambitions.

A South Korean official familiar with the North told Reuters on Friday there was increased activity at North Korea's known nuclear test site, suggesting it was gearing up for a new test.

Experts said it could take a few weeks for North Korea to prepare for another test, which they said was inevitable because the first test was only a partial success, indicating possible problems with the North's nuclear weapons design.

Politically, North Korea wants to play out its test preparations, many of which can be seen by U.S. spy satellites, for as long as possible to increase its leverage in nuclear negotiations, which means it may not come for months, if at all.

Available at:

Return to Menu

US Wants to Revive N Korea Talks
(for personal use only)

The US and South Korea stress on the six-party negotiations process as "the heart" of the efforts to solve North Korean nuclear issue, a US official says.

US envoy Stephen Bosworth has agreed in Seoul on Friday that the "United States is prepared to deal with North Korea bilaterally in a way that reinforces the multilateral process," US State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.

Bosworth who was in South Korea on Friday is touring Asian countries to discuss how to deal with the North Korean nuclear program.

According to the US spokesman, Bosworth has no plans to go to North Korea during his Asian trip. "I'm not going to rule anything out. ... I'm not going to rule out that we may have talks at some point with the North. Our purpose is to get the North back to the six-party talks," he said.

He made the remarks as North Korean foreign ministry said Friday that Pyongyang will strengthen its nuclear deterrent to oppose Washington's "continuing hostile policy."

"The DPRK will bolster its nuclear deterrent as it has already clarified," a ministry spokesman said Friday.

The spokesman also accused US President Barack Obama of maintaining the same policies of former Bush administration.

"The study of the policy pursued by the Obama administration for the past 100 days since its emergence made it clear that the US hostile policy toward the DPRK (North Korea) remains unchanged."

The US, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan have been negotiating with Pyongyang for years in an attempt to persuade it to eliminate its nuclear weapons programs in exchange for economic aid and a return to the international community.

The North blew up a water cooling tower at a facility in June 2008 in a dramatic show of its commitment to denuclearization but later the nuclear disarmament talks collapsed after North Korea complained that the US has not kept its promise.

The development comes after Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in April that the reason behind the failure of efforts to halt North Korea's nuclear program has been a lot of mismanaging.

"So we are obviously doing a lot of mismanaging of that front...," he said, according to AFP.

"The only way to resolve these issues is not in flexing muscles and not necessarily in going to the (UN) Security Council, but to try to address the root causes and engage in direct dialogue," he concluded.

Available at:§ionid=351020405

Return to Menu

B.  Pakistan

Petraeus Confident Pakistan Nuclear Arms Secure
(for personal use only)

US regional commander General David Petraeus expressed confidence Sunday that Pakistan's nuclear sites are secure from any attempted seizure by the Taliban.

"We have confidence in their security procedures," the chief of US Central Command said on the "Fox News Sunday" program when asked about Pakistan's nuclear safeguards as the Taliban make deep inroads.

Petraeus welcomed what he described as a new mood of determination by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's government to take on the Taliban, following White House talks between Zardari and President Barack Obama.

Zardari's government and the military recognized the fundamentalist militia pose "a true threat to Pakistan's very existence," the US general said.

There was now a "degree of unanimity that there must be swift and effective action taken against the Taliban in Pakistan," he said, noting a shift of army troops from the border with India to the region under threat from the militia.

Petraeus said there had been no occasion that required US troops to go in hot pursuit of militants over the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan.

"No. And I think we have been unequivocal in saying that this is not about us putting combat boots on the ground (in Pakistan)," he said in a separate interview with CNN.

During his Washington visit, Zardari said the violent Islamic insurgency did not pose a threat to his government's survival and insisted his country's nuclear arsenal was safe.

He received backing on the nuclear question from Obama, but some other top US officials including National Security Advisor General James Jones have expressed concern.

Available at:§ion=international&col

Return to Menu

Zardari Says Pakistan Isn’t Adding Nuclear Weapons
Molly Peterson and William McQuillen
(for personal use only)

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said his country isn’t adding to its nuclear arsenal and doesn’t have to disclose the location of its weapons to the U.S.

Pakistan is “not adding to our stockpile as such,” Zardari said today on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “Why do we need more?”

Asked whether Pakistan would tell U.S. intelligence officials where all its nuclear weapons are located, to allow for a joint strategy to keep them secure, Zardari said Pakistan is a sovereign country.

“Why don’t you do the same with other countries yourself?” Zardari said in the interview taped May 7. “I think this is a sovereignty issue, and we have a right to our own sovereignty.”

President Barack Obama said last month that, while Pakistan’s civilian government is “very fragile,” he is confident that the country’s nuclear arsenal is secure. He also said that Pakistan’s military is taking the threat of internal enemies seriously and recognizes the hazard of nuclear weapons “falling into the wrong hands.”

“We have confidence in their security procedures and elements and believe that the security of those sites is adequate,” General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, said today on “Fox News Sunday.”

Taliban Threat

Obama has tied Pakistan to his strategy for dealing with Afghanistan as militant Islamic Taliban forces and other extremists threaten both nations from bases along their border. As part of an effort to reduce the appeal of extremists to Pakistan’s people, Obama has said he will support legislation increasing nonmilitary aid by $1.5 billion a year.

U.S. aid has not been enough, Zardari said.

“Altogether this aid package is not even one-tenth of what you give AIG,” Zardari said, referring to New York-based American International Group Inc., the insurer bailed out four times by the U.S. government, including an injection of as much as $70 billion in capital, $52.5 billion to buy assets owned or backed by AIG, and a $60 billion credit line. “So let’s face it, we need in fact much more help.”

The House version of the legislation would impose conditions on Pakistan such as proof of “substantial progress” on strengthening democracy and fighting the Taliban before more than half the money is spent.

Aid Conditions

“We’re going to have to figure out a way, though, to verify that what our money is doing is furthering a cause we all believe in,” Bob Corker, a U.S. Senator from Tennessee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “That obviously has been less than the case in the past.”

Zardari said the additional aid shouldn’t come with any conditions.

“I think it’s doubting an ally before you go into action together,” the Pakistani leader said. “We should have a result-oriented relationship, where I should be given a timeline and I’ll give you all a timeline, so we can both give each other timelines and meet the timelines on the positive.”

Obama is pressing Zardari to use more soldiers to fight the Taliban, who have seized Pakistani territory and strengthened their base to attack U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Thousands of Pakistani troops, plus fighter planes and helicopter gunships, have attacked what the army says are about 4,000 Taliban guerrillas in Swat, a mile-high valley northwest of the capital.

Swat Offensive

Pakistani troops intensified their operations in Swat last week after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ordered an “all- out assault” to retake control of the northwestern region. Pakistani forces said yesterday that they killed 55 militants in the region.

Zardari said Pakistan has 135,000 ground troops battling the Taliban in the western part of country.

“We think they’re sufficient,” he said. Zardari said that’s three times as many troops as the U.S. has fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has about 38,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, and Obama has ordered 17,000 more combat personnel and 4,000 trainers to deploy. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has about 58,000 military personnel in Afghanistan, operating alongside U.S. coalition forces.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said the U.S. should have sent the additional troops six years ago.

“It’s a bit late,” he said in a separate “Meet the Press” interview. “But as we all know, it’s never too late for a good thing to do.”

U.S. Air Strikes

Karzai called for an end to U.S. air strikes, saying the civilian casualties are undermining the Afghan people’s support for the war on terrorism.

“The United States must stand on a much higher moral platform in order for us together to win this war,” he said.

James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, said that while the U.S. would make efforts to avoid wounding or killing civilians, it would not take any options off the table.

“I think that we’re going to take a look at trying to make sure that we correct those things we can correct, but certainly to tie the hands of our commanders and say we’re not going to conduct air strikes, it would be imprudent,” Jones said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Available at:

Return to Menu

C.  Iran

Iran to Procure Chinese Defense System
The Media Line
(for personal use only)

Iran will turn to China instead of Russia to acquire an advanced air defense system after relations between Iran and Russia hit rock bottom, the official Iranian news agency PressTV reported.

For years Iran has been trying to purchase the S-300 anti-aircraft missile, which is considered to one of the most advanced systems available on the market and would dramatically increase Iran's air defense capabilities against any attacks on its nuclear installations.

The S-300 surface-to-air missile system, which can track targets and fire at aircraft 75 miles away, features high jamming immunity making it harder to incapacitate the system electronically, and is able to engage up to 100 targets simultaneously.

Teheran will now turn to China for the HongQi-9/FD-2000 system which reportedly combines elements "borrowed" from the Russian S-300 and the American MIM-104 Patriot system, according to the Iranian news agency.

The negotiations between Teheran and Moscow began in 2007, but neither side has ever issued an official confirmation of the deal.

The Russian sale of arms to Iran is a thorn in Moscow's relationship with Washington, which opposes Iran's quest for nuclear weapons and labels it "a sponsor of state terrorism," according the United States State Department.

In addition to American pressure on Russia not to sell weapons to Iran, Israel is also trying to persuade Russia not to export the system.

It is believed that when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meets with US President Barack Obama in Washington on May 18 that Iran's nuclear program will top the agenda.

In April, London's Times reported that Israeli military forces were in the final stages of preparation for launching a "massive aerial raid" on Iranian nuclear facilities "within days of being given the go-ahead by its new government."

The paper cites the acquisition of three AWACs (early warning system) platforms and planned civil defense drills in support of its theory. The Times quoted an unnamed Israeli defense official as saying that Israel's "message to Iran is that the threat is not just words."

However, an airstrike against Iran's nuclear installations will be much tougher than the bombing raid that Israel launched in 1981 to destroys Iraq's nuclear reactor in Osirak, since the Iranian installations are not only further away from Israel but also spread out all over Iran in addition to being heavily fortified.

Available at:

Return to Menu

Iran: Let Nuclear Disarmament Talks Begin
(for personal use only)

Iran has called for an 'immediate' and 'un-preconditioned' start to international nuclear disarmament talks, ahead of a major NPT conference.

The call was made in a Saturday statement issued by the Iranian delegation at the third session of the preparatory committee for the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York.

In the statement the delegation also criticized the 'lack of commitment' shown by nuclear-armed states during the past four years, describing it as a 'dismal' retreat from NPT guidelines.

"We strongly urge the Review Conference to pay immediate attention to concerns that stem from the proliferation of nuclear weapons by atomic-armed states," read the statement.

The statement urged action against nuclear powers that had added a new line of atomic arms to their stockpiles, threatened to launch nuclear attacks against other states, and produced tons of military-grade uranium.

While US President George W. Bush was in office, the Pentagon started a campaign for a return to nuclear testing, based on the idea that the current US nuclear arsenal would not be adequate for the future.

Washington also sought to develop new low-yield nuclear weapons and improved nuclear bunker buster bombs to penetrate hardened targets buried deep underground.

All the while, the US was pressuring Iran to abandon uranium enrichment, which is at low levels and is permitted by the NPT for peaceful purposes.

The US position drew harsh criticism in Iran, where the sentiment was that Washington and other nuclear powers were trying to maintain their domination over the nuclear fuel market for when the world runs out of fossil reverses.

Available at:

Return to Menu

D.  India

India-Kazakhstan Nuclear Deal by June
The Hindu
(for personal use only)

New Delhi: India and Kazakhstan are expected to sign a broad-based civil nuclear agreement by June under which the uranium-rich central Asian country will supply fuel and technology to New Delhi. India has sent a draft of the Inter Governmental Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy to Kazakhstan for its perusal before the two sides ink the pact.

Kazakhstan will be the fourth country after the U.S., Russia and France with whom India will have such a broad-based civil nuclear agreement, since the Nuclear Suppliers Group lifted ban on New Delhi last September to have trade in this field.

“There is progress in preparation of the agreement on nuclear cooperation in peaceful uses. We are finishing up the agreement and will be sending it to Indian side,” Kazakhstan’s Ambassador Kairat Umarov said here. “Final touches are being given [to the text of the agreement] on our side. Soon we will pass it on to the Indian side for consideration.”

Available at:

Return to Menu

E.  Russia-Japan

Putin Eyes Economic Ties, Nuclear Deal with Japan
Yoko Kubota and Oleg Shchedrov
(for personal use only)

Russia and Japan will sign an agreement on the civilian use of nuclear energy during Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's visit to Tokyo this week.

Putin told Japanese media the accord would increase the share of Russian nuclear fuel on the Japanese market to 25 percent from 15 percent.

He is also seeking Japanese investment in about 200 other projects, including automobile, energy, space, communications and steel manufacturing projects, the Nikkei business daily reported after an interview with Putin.

"We intend to sign a host of inter-governmental agreements. And I think representatives of business will come to sign significant contracts," Putin said, according to a transcript of the interview supplied by the Russian government.

"We have observed a rise in Japanese investment into the Russian economy," said Putin, who will meet Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso on Tuesday.

Trade soared while Putin was president from 2000 to 2008, rising to $30 billion last year, as Japanese companies sought access to Russia's consumer market and energy projects.

Russia, which is now facing a recession after a decade-long boom, is seeking Japanese investment to develop its Far Eastern regions.

Big Japanese investors in Russia include carmaker Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), which opened its first plant in Russia in 2007. Putin said Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) was also preparing to open a factory soon.

Russia sent its first cargo of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Japan in March from the Pacific Sakhalin-2 project, which is controlled by Gazprom (GAZP.MM) and includes Japan's Mitsubishi Corp (8058.T) and Mitsui (8031.T).

But ties with Tokyo have traditionally been soured by a dispute over several islands seized by the Soviet Army at the end of World War Two.


The disputed islands -- known in Russia as the Southern Kuriles and in Japan as the Northern Territories -- lie amid rich fishing grounds near Russian oil and gas fields.

Japan wants the islands back and quotes a vague promise by a Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1956. Since then, all Kremlin leaders have said the islands will remain Russian.

"Our stance is to ensure the return of four islands and then seek a peace treaty," Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said. "This stance has remained unchanged."

There seemed little chance of a breakthrough on the dispute, which has prevented the two sides from signing a formal peace treaty ending World War Two.

"In order to resolve such high-level and difficult problems, it is necessary to show patience, attention to each other's interests," Kyodo News Agency quoted Putin as saying.

Neither Japan nor Russia accepts the other's claim of sovereignty over the sparsely populated islands, the closest of which is just 15 km (10 miles) from Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido.

Available at:

Return to Menu

F.  Nuclear Energy

France, Saudi Arabia Close to Civil Nuclear Pact
(for personal use only)

France and Saudi Arabia are close to finalising a civil nuclear cooperation pact which could lead to the sale of French atomic energy technology, French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said on Sunday.

A deal could be completed "soon," Lagarde said after a day of meetings with top Saudi economic and energy officials as well as Saudi King Abdullah.

"The talks have progressed well," she added.

Lagarde gave no details of what would be covered by the agreement, but officials said it could be completed and signed by the end of 2009.

Saudi Arabia, despite sitting on the world's largest oil reserves, is considering nuclear technology to drive its power-hungry desalinisation plants, which supply water to the fast growing population.

Riyadh last year signed a pact with Washington on civil nuclear cooperation, which the United States hopes will open the way for sales of US nuclear technology and equipment to the Saudis.

Lagarde was on a one-day visit to Riyadh to discuss bilateral economic issues and promote France's energy and transport sectors.

She said she held talks with Saudi oil officials on how to stabilise oil prices, which have swung wildly in the past year, and that a working group on the issue could meet soon in Paris.

"We want less volatility, more predictability," Lagarde said on Saturday after arriving in Riyadh.

She added that oil prices, currently around 57 dollars a barrel, would be reasonable at between 70 and 80 dollars a barrel, roughly half of the peak hit in July 2008.

"Most people would agree that anywhere between 70 and 80 dollars would be good," she said.

Available at:

Return to Menu

Nuclear Weapons and ’Fourth Generation’ Reactors
Jim Green
Green Left
(for personal use only)

“Integral fast reactors” and other “fourth generation” nuclear power concepts have been gaining attention, in part because of comments by US climate scientist James Hansen.

“We need hard-headed evaluation of how to get rid of long-lived nuclear waste and minimise dangers of proliferation and nuclear accidents,” Hansen says. “Fourth generation nuclear power seems to have the potential to solve the waste problem and minimise the others.”

Integral fast reactors (IFRs) are reactors proposed to be fuelled with a metallic alloy of uranium and plutonium, with liquid sodium as the coolant.

They’re “fast” because they would use unmoderated neutrons like other plutonium-fuelled fast neutron reactors (e.g. breeders).

They’re “integral” because they would operate together with onsite “pyroprocessing” to separate plutonium and other long-lived radioisotopes and to re-irradiate nuclear waste.

IFRs would breed their own fuel (plutonium), which means there would be less global demand for uranium mining with its attendant problems, and less demand for uranium-enrichment plants.

Another advantage is that the primary fuel source for IFRs would be large, existing, global stockpiles of depleted uranium (used in IFRs as the raw material to produce plutonium).

Pyroprocessing would not separate pure plutonium suitable for direct use in nuclear weapons. Instead it would keep the plutonium mixed with other long-lived radioisotopes so it could not be used directly in weapons.

Recycling of plutonium generates energy and gets rid of the plutonium that could be used for weapons.

These advantages could potentially be achieved with conventional reprocessing and plutonium use in MOX (uranium/plutonium oxide) reactors or fast neutron reactors.

IFR offers one further potential advantage — transmutation of long-lived waste radioisotopes into shorter-lived waste products.

Good on paper, but...

In short, IFRs could produce lots of greenhouse-friendly energy and while they’re at it they can “eat” nuclear waste and fissile materials that might otherwise find their way into nuclear weapons.

Too good to be true? Sadly, yes.

Nuclear engineer Dave Lochbaum writes: “The IFR looks good on paper. So good, in fact, that we should leave it on paper. For it only gets ugly in moving from blueprint to backyard.”

Complete IFR systems don’t exist. Fast neutron reactors exist but experience with them is limited and they have had a troubled history.

The pyroprocessing and waste transmutation technologies intended to operate as part of IFR systems are a long way from being advanced.

But even if the technologies were fully developed and successfully integrated, IFRs would still fail the crucial test — they could too easily be used to produce fissile materials for nuclear weapons.

Weapons risk

As with conventional reactors, IFRs can be used to produce weapon-grade plutonium in the fuel (using a shorter-than-usual irradiation time) or by irradiating a uranium or depleted uranium “blanket” or targets.

Conventional PUREX (Plutonium-Uranium Extraction) reprocessing can be used to separate the plutonium. Another option is to separate reactor-grade plutonium from IFR fuel and to use that in weapons instead of weapon-grade plutonium.

IFR supporters propose using them to draw down global stockpiles of fissile material, whether derived from nuclear research, power or weapons programs.

However, IFRs have no need for outside sources of fissile material beyond their initial fuel load. Whether they are used to irradiate outside sources of fissile material to any significant extent would depend on a combination of commercial, political and military interests.

History shows that non-proliferation targets receive low priority. Conventional reprocessing with the use of separated plutonium as fuel (in breeders or MOX reactors) has the same potential to draw down fissile material stockpiles as IFRs. But they have increased, rather than decreased, proliferation risks.

Very little plutonium has been used as reactor fuel in breeders or MOX reactors, and it is used in reactors that produce more plutonium than they consume.

But the separation of plutonium from spent nuclear fuel continues. Stockpiles of separated “civil” plutonium — which can be used directly in weapons — are increasing by about five tonnes annually. It amounts to more than 270 tonnes, enough for 27,000 nuclear weapons.

IFR advocates demonstrate little or no understanding of the realpolitik imposed by commercial, political and military interests.

These interests have, among other things, unnecessarily created this problem of 270-plus tonnes of separated civil plutonium and failed to take the simplest steps to address the problem.

Such steps would be to either suspend reprocessing or reduce the rate of reprocessing so plutonium stockpiles are drawn down rather than continually increased.

The proposed use of IFRs to irradiate fissile materials produced elsewhere still has a familiar problem. Countries with the greatest interest in weapons production will be the least likely to forfeit fissile material stockpiles and vice versa.

Whatever benefits arise from the potential consumption of outside sources of fissile material must be weighed against the problem that IFRs could themselves be used to produce fissile material for weapons.

No safeguards

Countries intent on keeping nuclear weapons won’t use IFRs to draw down stockpiles of their own fissile material let alone anyone else’s — they will use them to produce plutonium for their own nuclear weapons.

Some IFR supporters propose initially deploying IFR technology in nuclear weapons states and weapons-capable states. But this ignores the fact that every other proposal for selective deployment of dual-use nuclear technology has always been rejected by the countries that would be excluded.

Some IFR advocates downplay the proliferation risks by arguing that fissile material is more easily produced in research reactors.

But producing fissile material for weapons in IFRs would not be difficult. The main challenge would be to get around safeguards.

Proponents of IFR’s acknowledge the need for a rigorous safeguards system to detect and deter using IFRs to produce fissile material for weapons. However, the existing safeguards are inadequate.

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Mohamed El Baradei, has noted that the IAEA’s basic rights of inspection are “fairly limited”, that the safeguards system suffers from “vulnerabilities” and “clearly needs reinforcement”, that efforts to improve the system have been “half-hearted”, and that the safeguards system operates on a “shoestring budget … comparable to that of a local police department”.

IFR advocates imagine that a strong commitment to nuclear non-proliferation will heavily shape the development and deployment of IFR technology.

But in practice it could easily fall prey to the same interests that are responsible for turning attractive theories into the fiasco of ever-growing stockpiles of separated plutonium.

Under the Bush administration in the US, Global Nuclear Energy Partnership proposals for advanced “proliferation-resistant” reprocessing became a plan to expand conventional reprocessing. Advanced reprocessing was relegated to “research and development” plans.

A similar fate could easily befall proposals to run IFRs together with advanced reprocessing.

IFR supporters want to avoid the risks associated with widespread transportation of nuclear and fissile materials by co-locating a pyroprocessing facility with every IFR reactor plant. Yet plant owners would much prefer the cost savings associated with centralised processing.

As one final example, the fissile material needed for the initial IFR fuel loading would ideally come from civil and military stockpiles — but that fissile material requirement could be used to justify the ongoing operation of existing enrichment and reprocessing plants and the construction of new ones.

Other ’fourth generation’ reactors

IFRs and other plutonium-based fast neutron reactor concepts fail the weapons of mass destruction proliferation test. They can too easily be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

So do conventional reactors because they produce plutonium and legitimise the operation of enrichment plants that can produce both low-enriched uranium for reactors and also highly enriched uranium for weapons.

The use of thorium, instead of plutonium, as a nuclear fuel doesn’t solve the weapons proliferation problem. Irradiation of thorium (indirectly) produces uranium-233, a fissile material that can be used in nuclear weapons.

The US has successfully tested weapons using uranium-233 (and France may have too). India’s thorium program must have a nuclear weapons component — as evidenced by India’s refusal to allow IAEA safeguards to apply to its thorium program.

Thorium-fuelled reactors could also be used to irradiate uranium to produce weapons grade plutonium.

Some proponents of nuclear fusion power falsely claim that it would pose no risk of contributing to weapons proliferation.

In fact, there are several risks. These include the use of tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, as a fusion power fuel. This raises the risk of its diversion for use in boosted nuclear weapons, or, more importantly, the use of fusion reactors to irradiate uranium to produce plutonium or to irradiate thorium-232 to produce uranium-233.

Fusion power has yet to generate a single Watt of useful electricity but it has already contributed to proliferation problems.

According to Khidhir Hamza, a senior nuclear scientist involved in Iraq’s weapons program in the 1980s: “Iraq took full advantage of the IAEA’s recommendation in the mid 1980s to start a plasma physics program for ‘peaceful’ fusion research.

“We thought that buying a plasma focus device — would provide an excellent cover for buying and learning about fast electronics technology, which could be used to trigger atomic bombs.”

Available at:

Return to Menu

G.  Nuclear Cooperation

UAE Calls for a Mideast Free of Nuclear Arms
Gulf News
(for personal use only)

New York: The UAE has reiterated its calls on the international community to establish a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

The call was made by Ambassador Ahmad Al Jarman, UAE's permanent representative to the United Nations and Chairman of the Arab Group.

He was speaking before the third session of the preparatory committee for the 2010 review conference of the parties signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

He called on these parties to shoulder their responsibility and do what is necessary to implement the recommendations of the committee, take practical steps that demonstrated their commitment to the NPT.

He also urged the international community to support resolutions adopted by the review conferences.

Available at:

Return to Menu

Australia Funds Counter-Nuke Terror Effort
(for personal use only)

In a move to counter nuclear terrorism in Southeast Asia, Australia announced plans Friday to contribute $250,000 to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade announced the contribution would support the IAEA's Nuclear Security Fund initiative, a program designed to bolster nuclear non-proliferation and security initiatives, the IAEA reported.

Australian officials, who made the announcement Friday at an international seminar on promoting the security and safety of radioactive materials being held in Canberra, Australia, called the contribution a reflection of the government focus on countering nuclear terrorism.

"The IAEA strongly appreciates Australia's contribution to the fund, which is a further example of the close cooperation and support from Australia for the agency's nuclear-security efforts," Anita Nilsson, IAEA Office of Nuclear Security director, said in a statement.

"Member states' support and commitment is crucial to the international effort to prevent, detect and respond to terrorist or other malicious acts with a nuclear dimension."

Available at:

Return to Menu

H.  Links of Interest

The Trouble With Zero
Philip Taubman
The New York Times
(for personal use only)

Return to Menu

Grading Progress on 13 Steps Toward Nuclear Disarmament
Sharon Squassoni
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
(for personal use only)

Return to Menu

DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of Partnership for Global Security. Partnership for Global Security takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.

To be automatically removed from our mailing list, click on the following link: Remove Me From The List

If you have questions/comments/concerns, please reply to

Section Menu:

© 2007 Partnership for Global Security. All rights reserved. Privacy Statement.