Nonproliferation Review July 2009

Volume 16 • Number 2


View this issue’s note from the Editor


View this issue’s contributor bios


Philipp C. Bleek • Bruno Tertrais • Ward Wilson • Edward A. Corcoran • Mark Hibbs


The NPT: Assessing the Past, Building the Future
Lewis A. Dunn

Show/Hide Abstract
This article assesses the successes and failures of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) since its creation in 1968 by developing and applying a set of ”metrics” to each of the NPT’s substantive articles as well as to its withdrawal provisions. In light of this analysis, the article also puts forward some specific proposals for strengthening the NPT and its implementation, with a view to the debate and decisions at the upcoming 2010 NPT Review Conference. A concluding section turns explicitly to the 2010 NPT Review Conference and proposes pursuit of agreement on three NPT Action Plans: one for nonproliferation, one for peaceful uses, and one for nuclear disarmament. Combining vision and practicable steps, these Action Plans would set out a roadmap for action between the 2010 and the 2015 NPT Review Conferences. They could provide a foundation for substantive exchanges—in this case, on progress toward their implementation—during the preparations for the 2015 conference.

The Health of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime: Returning to a Multidimensional Evaluation
Jeffrey Fields and Jason S. Enia

Show/Hide Abstract
How do we assess the health of international regimes? Many analysts have insisted recently that the nuclear nonproliferation regime is in urgent need of repair or that it should even be discarded because of its supposed ineffectiveness. However, it is essential that statements about the regime being in crisis be scrutinized for veracity and utility. While the spread of nuclear weapons poses an undeniable and serious threat to international security, a mistaken crisis mentality with respect to the regime could lead to rash attempts to alter it in unnecessary or ineffective ways or, at worst, to discard it completely. This paper returns to a theoretical framework that differentiates regimes, across both issue areas and time, to provide a more specified evaluation of regime health. By disaggregating the nuclear nonproliferation regime and assessing the individual and interactive health of multiple dimensions, a number of dimension-specific, regime-strengthening policy recommendations emerge.

Chinese Nuclear Posture and Force Modernization
Jeffrey G. Lewis

Show/Hide Abstract
Claims that China is the only nuclear power currently expanding its arsenal fail to take into account the technical, historical, and bureaucratic realities that shaped China’s nuclear posture and drive its ongoing modernization. China’s strategic modernization is largely a process of deploying new delivery systems, not designing new nuclear warheads; the majority of its new missiles are conventionally armed. Today, China maintains the smallest operationally deployed nuclear force of any of the legally recognized nuclear weapon states, operates under a no-first-use pledge, and keeps its warheads off alert. The modernization of China’s delivery systems is the culmination of a decades-long plan to acquire the same capabilities deployed by the other nuclear powers. U.S. concerns about this modernization focus too much on deterring a deliberate Chinese attack and ignore the risk that modernized U.S. and Chinese forces could interact in unexpected ways during a crisis, creating uncontrollable escalatory pressures. To manage this risk, Washington should assure Chinese leaders that it does not seek to deny China’s deterrent, in exchange for some understanding that China will not seek numerical parity with U.S. nuclear forces.

The Evolution of Cooperative Threat Reduction: Progress, Problems, and Issues for the Future
Sharon K. Weiner

Show/Hide Abstract
Since its beginning in 1991, Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) has grown to include a host of programs aimed at securing former Soviet weapons of mass destruction, weapons-relevant materials, and expertise. Multiple U.S. and Russian agencies are involved, and some programs have expanded beyond the former Soviet Union. CTR has demonstrated considerable success, but much work remains. Moreover, it is likely that the CTR agenda will be re-evaluated and refocused owing to reviews by the Obama administration, increasingly strained relations with Russia, and the global economic crisis. Any such analysis, however, should proceed from a clear understanding of both CTR’s performance to date as well as lessons learned from this experience. This article provides a start by summarizing progress toward CTR’s main goals, outlining the scope of remaining tasks, and looking at persistent problems in both the United States and Russia. In particular, CTR’s future progress depends upon forging a new U.S. domestic consensus on the national security benefits of CTR, encouraging Russia to become a true partner in CTR activities, and improving interagency leadership and coordination. In turn, these improvements can help resolve emerging questions about the cooperative nonproliferation agenda as it expands beyond the former Soviet Union.

The Prohibition of Cluster Munitions: Setting International Precedents for Defining Inhumanity
Brian Rappert and Richard Moyes

Show/Hide Abstract
By the end of 2008, ninety-five states had signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions; imposes significant obligations for the clearance of unexploded cluster munition remnants; and elaborates novel requirements for so-called victim assistance. This article examines this agreement and the process that lead up to it in terms of the precedents it sets for future arguments about weapon technologies and the regulation of armed conflict. Particularly noteworthy was the process for determining what counts as a ”cluster munition” under the convention. The definition structure transformed the argument from considerations of what types should be prohibited to demanding justifications for what should be allowed. In other words, rather than the burden of proof resting with those seeking a ban, the presumption became that exclusions from prohibition had to be argued in by proponents of specific submunition-based weapons. This approach contrasts with the manner in which the burden of proof regarding cluster munitions has been handled in international humanitarian law.


Calling for Action: The Next Generation Safeguards Initiative
Adam M. Scheinman

Show/Hide Abstract
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards are under more stress today than at any time in their history. Compliance concerns, a shortage of resources and technology, and growing responsibilities threaten to undermine the effectiveness and credibility of this vital and fundamental pillar of the nonproliferation regime. To address this challenge, the United States recently launched the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative. The goal of this initiative is to ensure the IAEA makes the fullest possible use of its existing authority to prevent the diversion of safeguarded material and to investigate suspicious activities. The initiative will advance state-of-the-art technology, foster the development of a new generation of safeguards experts, and promote technology collaborations and safeguards-conscious infrastructure in states using or pursuing nuclear power. Although it has a domestic focus, the initiative’s intent is to catalyze a much broader commitment to international safeguards in partnership with other governments and the IAEA.

Reliable Energy Supply and Nonproliferation
Leonard Weiss

Show/Hide Abstract
The phenomenon of global warming has led to a revival of the prospects for increased nuclear energy production worldwide, yet such increased production carries with it the increased risk of proliferation. To mitigate this risk, various multinational arrangements have been proposed to provide reliable supply of nuclear fuel while at the same time discouraging the construction of national plants for nuclear enrichment and reprocessing. This article provides a brief history of some of these proposals and concludes that the likelihood of success for such schemes as effective tools for nonproliferation is not high at this time. A proposal from the World Council on Renewable Energy to expand the understanding of supplier obligations under Article IV of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to include the development of non-nuclear energy technologies for NPT parties in good standing is potentially a much better nonproliferation tool. Such an approach tracks the ideas contained in Title V of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978, which has recently received revived congressional interest.

Medical Isotope Production: Can Enriched Molybdenum-98 Replace Enriched Uranium?
Mushtaq Ahmad

Show/Hide Abstract
Nearly 95 percent of the world demand for molybdenum-99 (Mo-99)—perhaps the world’s most important medical isotope—is met by just four manufacturers, all of whom use highly enriched uranium (HEU) targets in their isotope production programs. Research and development on the use of low-enriched uranium targets and gel generators to produce Mo-99 began in the 1980s; some success has been achieved, but Mo-99 is still mainly produced by irradiating HEU targets in a reactor. Fission-produced Mo-99 has a high specific activity, but activation methods provide low specific activity Mo-99, which is unsuitable for the generators routinely used in most of the world’s medical centers. This article evaluates the use of enriched Mo-98 to produce Mo-99 by activation methods; the use of medium specific activity Mo-99 for the preparation of alumina-based generators is also discussed. This article concludes that if support is provided for the production of enriched Mo-98, it may replace to a significant extent the use of HEU and LEU for the production of Mo-99.


The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and Its Proliferation, by Thomas C. Reed and Danny B. Stillman
Reviewed by Robert S. Norris, Jeremy Bernstein & Peter D. Zimmerman

Show/Hide Abstract
Thomas Reed and Danny Stillman have written an ambitious but deeply flawed book that surveys how nuclear knowledge spread over the past seventy years, ostensibly leaving the world at the beginning of the twenty-first century in great peril. They tell a sprawling story filled with what might be some extraordinary insights into the way in which nuclear weapons spread from the United States to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, they make so many incorrect statements on easily fact-checked subjects that it is hard to have confidence that they have not made mistakes elsewhere where it really matters.Nuclear Express is an unreliable, often wrong, history of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Its principal claims are not substantiated, and the isolationist biases of its authors, particularly with regard to China, color every section. The credibility of its authors is badly damaged by the lengthy but unsubstantiated treatment of the hypothetical spy, Perseus, whom they claim gave information to the Soviet Union during the Manhattan Project and who they say passed the crucial secret of hydrogen bombs to the Soviets in the 1950s.

Designing Denuclearization: An Interpretive Encyclopedia, by Bruce D. Larkin; and Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: A Debate, by George Perkovich and James M. Acton, eds.
Reviewed by Ward Wilson

Show/Hide Abstract
Achieving a nuclear-free world will require a broad and thoughtful discussion of the many issues—both political and technical—posed by such a radical change. George Perkovich and James Acton’sAbolishing Nuclear Weapons is a valuable volume that presents the landscape of the technical problems in careful detail. It has already become a standard against which other serious efforts to chart a path toward a world without nuclear weapons will be measured. InDesigning Denuclearization, Bruce Larkin has written a thoroughly sourced, tightly reasoned work that surveys the entirety of the political landscape connected with nuclear abolition. It deserves a place on the bookshelf of any serious scholar of this issue.


Statements of fact and opinion expressed in The Nonproliferation Review are the responsibility of the authors alone and do not imply the endorsement of the editors, the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, or the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
The Nonproliferation Review ISSN 1073-6700
Copyright © 2009 by Monterey Institute of International Studies