The Clinton-Gore attitude towards nukes is a lot like their attitude
towards handguns: Both men believe that the world would be a safe place
if, and only if, the declared nuclear weapons state signatories to the
Nonproliferation Treaty got rid of all of their nukes.
You might have supposed that Bill and Al, who both live in the
District of Columbia, would have noticed that laws banning handgun
ownership by law-abiding citizens have not prevented some of those
law-abiding citizens from being shot by criminals who have somehow
managed to get their hands on a banned handgun. But, no! They still
believe that the way to keep a rogue state — or terrorist group — from
detonating a nuke on the Capitol steps next January is for us to get rid
of all of our nukes.
After eight years of Clinton-Gore flogging their policy towards nukes
to the rest of the world, the Final Declaration of the Sixth Review
Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of
Nuclear Weapons (NPT), held at United Nations headquarters from April 24
through May 19, included an unequivocal commitment by the nuclear
weapons state (U.S., UK, Russia, China, France) to — you guessed it —
Finally, Clinton-Gore and the nuke disarmament crowd have come out of the closet. They are no longer pretending to be faithful stewards of our nuclear weapons stockpile — they’ve been doing their damnedest to get rid of it. Now that they are “outed,” Congress and the American people need to go back and substitute “nuke disarmament” everywhere “nuclear nonproliferation” appeared in past pronouncements by the Clinton-Gore administration.
Fortunately, the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici programs were — from the beginning — always about preventing the nukes of the former Soviet Union from getting loose. They authorized the president to, first of all, assist the Russians et al. in re-establishing command and control over all the Soviet nukes — fissile materials and nuke technologies — and, then, having secured command and control, assist them in safeguarding and physically protecting them. If the Ukrainians wanted to transfer their nukes back to Russia, that was just fine with Nunn-Lugar-Domenici. If the Russians wanted to dismantle and destroy a few thousand of the Soviet nukes, that was just fine with Nunn-Lugar-Domenici.
The Russians couldn’t afford the costs of keeping all those Soviet nukes operational — or the costs of safeguarding and physically protecting them in stockpile. So they unilaterally decided to dismantle tens of thousands of Soviet nukes and to dispose of their stocks of fissile materials as nuclear power reactor fuel. That was just fine with Nunn-Lugar-Domenici too, just so long as the Russians prevented the recovered fissile materials from getting into the hands of rogue states or terrorist groups.
Nunn-Lugar-Domenici was never about U.S. or Russian nuke disarmament — it was always about preventing loose nukes. The Clinton-Gore administration either never understood that or chose to ignore it. Instead, upon taking office, Bill and Al went about getting all the NPT signatories to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to indefinitely extend the NPT and to encourage — via the misuse of the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici carrots — the implementation of Article VI of the NPT treaty, which says:
Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.
The Clinton-Gore double-speak worked. The NPT 2000 Review Conference now being history, Bill and Al have committed us to nuclear disarmament. The NPT 2000 Review Conferees also declared it necessary to establish ASAP within the United Nations “an appropriate subsidiary body with a mandate to deal with nuke disarmament.”
Now, if Clinton-Gore had merely wanted a U.N. subsidiary agency to help implement Nunn-Lugar-Domenici, an agency with a mandate to prevent the proliferation of nukes, that agency — the
Energy Agency — already exists. Originally established within the U.N. in 1957 to provide the benefits of nuclear energy to the world, it was later also assigned the responsibility in 1977 of “policing” the NPT membership. That is, the IAEA verifies through its inspection system that all NPT signatories comply with their NPT commitments. In particular, Article III says:
Each State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to provide: (a) source or special fissionable material, or (b) equipment or material especially designed or prepared for the processing, use or production of special fissionable material, to any non-nuclear-weapon State for peaceful purposes, unless the source or special fissionable material shall be subject to the safeguards required by this Article.
So, the IAEA has a mandate to verify not only that 1) the non-nuke NPT states do not somehow become nuke states, but that 2) the nuke and non-nuke NPT states do not deliberately or inadvertently assist a non-nuke state to become a nuke state.
Those NPT states capable of providing fissile material — and special equipment used for production of such materials (such as gas centrifuges) — formed an informal Nuclear Suppliers Group. Desiring to contribute to an effective nonproliferation regime while also seeking to promote international co-operation in the research, development, and safe use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, the group adopted, in 1992, the following policy:
The transfer of nuclear facilities, equipment, components, material and technology [as referred to in the export trigger list of the
Guidelines for Nuclear Transfers ], should not be authorised to a non-nuclear-weapon State unless that State has brought into force an agreement with the IAEA requiring the application of safeguards on all source and special fissionable material in its current and future peaceful nuclear activities.
At the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, the attendees endorsed the full-scope IAEA safeguards standard (FSS) as a necessary precondition for such transfers. That is, nuclear suppliers were obliged to ensure that the recipient country had an FSS agreement in place before any nuclear transfer could take place.
Full-scope IAEA safeguards agreements require states to establish and maintain a national system for accounting and control of all fissile materials in their current and future activities and to notify the IAEA of exports and imports of such material — allowing the IAEA to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of a state’s nuclear activities.
So far as we know, no rogue state or terrorist group has yet managed to actually steal a true Soviet loose nuke. But if a rogue state or terrorist group wants to make its own nuke, the only real obstacle is stealing — or diverting or making — the necessary fissile material. Recent events in both Iraq and North Korea demonstrate that — even with IAEA inspections — a non-nuke NPT state can take advantage of access to “dual use” — nuke and non-nuke — technologies such as gas centrifuges, to divert and/or make its own fissile material and, thence, become a nuke state.
Now Al Gore, vice chairman of the infamous Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, has gotten the U.S. and the Russians to subject hundreds of tons of fissile materials recovered from dismantling tens of thousands of nukes — as well as many facilities formerly used to produce those fissile materials — to
IAEA FSS inspections.
Since we are the largest contributor to the IAEA budget, this is not going to be cheap. In the case of the Russian plutonium — which is to be converted to nuclear power plant fuel over a period of decades under the U.S.-IAEA-Russia Trilateral Agreement — we will probably have to provide financial and technical assistance to Russia if we expect them to fully implement the IAEA FSS standards.
In 1994, the U.S. and Russia also agreed to purchase 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) over the next 12 years, at a cost of $12 billion. The HEU, recovered from dismantled Russian weapons, is being blended down to low-enriched uranium (LEU) and shipped to the U.S. for eventual use in commercial power reactor fuel.
IAEA FSS “transparency” inspections assure us that the LEU is derived from Russian nukes — and assures the Russians that the LEU is not somehow re-enriched and used in the U.S. weapons program. Inspections are required of the uranium processing facilities of both sides. U.S. monitors are allowed access to the three principal Russian plants involved in the conversion of HEU to LEU.
Then there is the Secret Nuclear Cities Initiative, and the conversion of Russian plutonium production reactors to simple power production, and the establishment of the Plutonium-Uranium Mixed-Oxide fuel cycle.
Apparently, the U.S. will have to bear much of the cost of these Nunn-Lugar-Domenici projects (at least in Russia) and the vehicle for committing us to these myriad projects — the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, which should have then been responsible for coordinating the planning, programming and budgeting process once begun — will not survive in a Bush-Cheney administration.
Fortunately, there already exists, at least in name, a U.S. Interagency Steering Committee for the IAEA, chaired by the U.S. representative to the IAEA — the committee is supposed to control those planning, programming and budgeting responsibilities. Unfortunately, the Clinton-Gore representative to the IAEA died more than three years ago and was never replaced. Maybe Al Gore — in anticipation of being “outed” by the NPT 2000 Review Conference Declaration — had already written off the IAEA and was just waiting until next year to establish within the United Nations “an appropriate subsidiary body with a mandate to deal with nuke disarmament.”
Wonder what he would have called that agency? Wonder who he would have put in charge? Depending on how this election malaise shakes out, we may never know.