Remarks by Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
January 12, 1999
Thank you, Joe (Cirincione, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace). Your words are very kind. And Jessica Matthews (President, CEIP), thank you for your support of this important issue.
One of Andrew Carnegies operating tenets on life was simple: if you enter into a line of work, continue at it. He saw that success could be found through focus and determination, and wrote almost a century ago that, "the great successes of life" -- and he meant all successes, not just monetary ones -- "are made by concentration."
Concentration. Deliberation. Focus. We know that this wise legacy thrives at the Carnegie Endowment, seeking the honorable -- and inestimable -- reward of lasting global peace.
During my tenure in Congress, at the United Nations and, more recently, at the Department of Energy I have benefitted from the experience and insight of many of the people assembled in this room. I have learned from this concentration of experience and talent and vision. It's a honor to address such an important and dedicated group of experts, especially on a subject of such a critical nature.
Its also reassuring to know that the good work of this conference is continuing after the departure of its creator and former director, Sandy Spector. Carnegies loss has been the Department of Energys gain. Its a pleasure to have Sandy on our team.
The start of the new year presents a valuable opportunity for reflection. Its particularly appropriate this year, on the eve of a new millennium, to consider where we are and where we need to go.
President Clinton has frequently stated that no greater threat than the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction confronts us as we enter the next millennium. As a government and a nation, we recognize the risk that these weapons of mass destruction will one day be used rises as these weapons spread. President John F. Kennedy alluded to this desperate prospect when he announced the Limited Test Ban Treaty, warning of a potential time when none could rest, when danger would lurk in every corner of the world.
America bears a unique responsibility in tempering this threat and defusing its dangers. Our nations history, and our unique geo-strategic and economic standing, lead the worlds eye to America as we cross the threshold of the millennium.
We must renew our national commitment to peace. We must redouble our efforts to preserve and strengthen the existing nonproliferation regime, while also pursuing new and innovative approaches to ensure our collective security and prosperity.
Earlier today, the Presidents National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, told you about the Administrations comprehensive arms control and nonproliferation goals. Today, I will focus on my bailiwick: the Department of Energys unique role in our national arms control and nonproliferation goals.
This role is indeed unique -- at the leading edge of our national commitment. From our headquarters on Independence Avenue to the Departments national labs to our dozens of field offices, the Energy Department serves as one of Americas central providers of safety and security against the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
I initially learned of the many ways Energy Department labs contribute to our security during my time in Congress, when I represented the district that is home to the Departments Los Alamos National Laboratory. From our work supporting global arms control agreements and the non-proliferation regime, to our extensive activities in the former Soviet Union, the Energy Department is working to deliver security for our country.
This morning, Sandy Berger described the Administrations commitment to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Let me reiterate Mr. Bergers message: We are determined to obtain ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty this year.
Ratification of the Treaty this year is essential. Without this Treaty, we will lose one of the most important tools available to us for constraining the development of more advanced nuclear weapons, and limiting the spread of nuclear weapons to new states. Failure to ratify also seriously erodes our ability as a nation to lead in nonproliferation matters. Without ratification, we undercut our credibility in persuading India and Pakistan to join us in this important regime.
And without ratification, we are not eligible to join with other nations later this year to discuss ways to facilitate the Treatys entry into force, if necessary. Moreover, it would run counter to the desires of most Americans, who want this Treaty to enter into force. The Senates failure to act this year would reduce -- not increase -- our national security.
In 1995, when President Clinton announced his decision to pursue a true, zero-yield CTBT he stated that U.S. entry into this Treaty would be conditioned upon the conduct of six specific CTBT "safeguards," including a Science Based Stockpile Stewardship program.
This program is necessary to ensure a high level of confidence in the safety and reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons.
At the Department of Energy, we have worked hard to put the Stockpile Stewardship program in place. And we have come a long way since the inception of this program back in 1993. Today, in our laboratories, we use computers that have one thousand times the power of those that we used only six years ago to answer questions about the condition of our weapons.
We have also put in place new processes and equipment at our labs, and will acquire even greater scientific tools over the next five years to help ensure the safety and reliability of our deterrent. In short, the Department of Energy has created a vibrant and robust Stockpile Stewardship Program, and it is working today.
Because this program has enabled us to maintain confidence in our nuclear deterrent, just last month, Secretary Cohen and I were able to sign the third annual certification to the President that the stockpile is safe and reliable, and that nuclear testing is not required at this time. This certification process, which we conduct each year, consists of a rigorous review by our nations best nuclear experts. The process itself allows us to revalidate our confidence in the stockpile and our continued adherence to the Treaty on an annual basis.
I know this program has fueled debate in national security circles. Some who oppose Treaty ratification argue that we cannot guarantee the credibility of our nuclear deterrent without testing. Others argue we should wait for the stewardship program to mature fully before ratification. Still others argue we have too robust a Stockpile Stewardship Program.
In response to these points, let me be perfectly clear: without a credible Stockpile Stewardship Program, we would not have a CTBT. Maintenance of a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent is a cornerstone of our national security strategy. At the Energy Department, we have worked very hard to make this program a reality -- and I am pleased to report that our success to date will enable us to adhere to a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, should the U.S. Senate give its advice and consent to ratification.
Now we must look beyond the Department to the Senate to take the next step in advancing our national security through approval of the CTBT.
Working to free the world of nuclear testing is just one way that Energy Department resources reinforce and advance the global arms control regime. As the guardians of Americas nuclear deterrent, we are also carrying out nuclear reductions of historic proportions, while paving the way for deeper, more secure reductions in cooperation with our Russian partners. We have already dismantled over 11,000 nuclear weapons. And if we meet the Presidents goal of further reductions under the START III framework, we will have reduced our deployed arsenal by 80 percent from its cold war peak.
The goal of strategic arms control thus far has been to limit the systems that delivered nuclear weapons. In this new era, we will pursue a new stage in strategic reductions where warheads themselves will be eliminated.
The Energy Department is at the center of this new mission. At the Presidents direction, we have developed a framework for potential warhead dismantlement monitoring regimes. It has not been easy, but weve made tremendous progress. We look forward to both Russian ratification of START II and a START III agreement that will enable further deep reductions in our nuclear arsenal.
As many of you know, the challenge will not end once these weapons are taken apart. In fact, in achieving our warhead elimination goals we generate the new work of disposing of the excess nuclear material harvested from that process.
It is proverbial wisdom that one shall reap what one has sown -- and we are now facing a daunting harvest. The nuclear investment made by the United States and Russia during the cold war resulted in a massive legacy of nuclear waste and excess materials.
In the United States, we enjoy a robust domestic security system that is the international standard in physical protection. Moreover, we have taken broad steps to provide transparency over our excess nuclear materials and activities and have -- in conjunction with Russia -- developed plans for material disposal.
A far different scenario is unfolding in Russia. There, the historic system of controls over nuclear facilities and materials has weakened and resources are simply not available to maintain it. We have also discovered that Russias system of accounting was not consistent with modern systems of control and accounting.
Today, the Department of Energy and our national laboratories are working at over 50 Russian sites to secure nuclear materials and install modern security and accounting systems. This work is being carried out by the Departments Materials Protection, Control, and Accounting Task Force, in partnership with Russian scientists.
As we meet here today, dozens of men and women are at work in Russia to install basic safeguard systems and standards and procedures that can help provide for the long-term protection of these weapons-usable materials.
Our optimism for this program has been fueled by the extraordinary goodwill and cooperation that has developed between the Department and our Russian counterparts. As a result, we are now cooperating at virtually every single site in Russia that stores or uses plutonium or highly enriched uranium.
Still, we recognize the changing complexity of the problems in Russia. The current economic crisis brings new urgency to our efforts -- particularly during a winter predicted to be the harshest in 40 years. We have moved quickly to address special problems -- such as providing basics like winter clothing and space heaters to guards at facilities. This modest investment will keep our broader security work intact through this volatile period.
And while securing materials in place boosts global security, it is not an end in itself . Excess materials in the United States and Russia present a proliferation problem if these materials are not disposed of. As many of you know, the U.S. is beginning to blend down its surplus HEU for peaceful use in commercial reactor fuel and we are working very hard to facilitate our agreement with Russia for the purchase of 500 metric tons of HEU. And we hope to soon bring to closure the recent issues that have dogged our progress on implementing this important agreement.
Already, this agreement has seen 36 tons of Russian HEU blended down and delivered to America for use as reactor fuel. Think about it: enough nuclear material for over 2500 nuclear weapons has been transferred from one former intractable foe to another. Who among us would have predicted such a thing 20 years ago, or even 10?
Plutonium disposition is a much more complicated issue -- but we continue to make progress. While both countries have identified 50 tons of plutonium as no longer required for weapons, we still have a long road ahead of us before we successfully convert our first ton of weapons plutonium to the "spent-fuel" standard.
I know that many here today have hotly debated the option of disposing plutonium by burning it as MOX fuel. The technical challenges presented by plutonium disposal led us to adopt the "spent fuel" standard, in which surplus plutonium is made as inaccessible and unattractive for retrieval and weapons use as the plutonium remaining in spent fuel from commercial reactors.
But let me clearly state that we remain firmly committed to a policy of no commercial reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel in the U.S. The use of plutonium in reactors does not make economic sense, and the United States remains firm in its commitment to the once-through fuel cycle. We are burning plutonium in reactors to gain the nonproliferation benefits of a joint disposition program with our Russian partners, and I ask for your support as we work to move this program forward.
At the same time, we recognize that Russia does not have the resources to address this problem on their own. We continue to work with the other G-8 countries and others to develop a broad-based and realistic formula to fund the Russian plutonium disposition effort.
Russian Nuclear Complex
Many of my comments today have dealt with our unique and rapidly evolving relationship with the Russian Federation. The United States remains firmly committed to working with Russia as it develops democracy and finds a new place in the community of nations. Our futures remain inexorably linked.
As many of you know, since the end of the cold war the U.S., has been engaged in a major downsizing and restructuring of our nuclear weapons complex. We have produced no new nuclear weapons since 1991, and we have cut our workforce by more than half from our 1990 levels.
Russia, too, must now join in rightsizing its nuclear weapons complex, and we are prepared to work with them in facing this challenge together.
Especially today, as Russia faces perilous economic conditions, it is essential that we take steps to help the scientists and engineers behind the Russian nuclear complex find other ways of supporting themselves. I was with the President in Russia last September, and have seen the difficult conditions that many Russian nuclear workers face each day. As the nuclear complex is reconfigured, tens of thousands of nuclear experts living in or near the nuclear cities are going to be underemployed or unemployed. Ways must be found for these people to channel their energy and expertise into new civil economic opportunities, to remove incentives for these scientists to sell their services to would-be proliferators.
To do just that, the Department has launched the Nuclear Cities Initiative, designed to develop -- in cooperation with private industry -- alternative commercial enterprises in the ten Russian nuclear cities. Last September, I was pleased to sign the Nuclear Cities Agreement with Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Adamov. Under this Initiative, some of the near-term projects we are considering include:
As these cities reorient themselves toward commercial activities, great opportunities for business development will be created. But we are going to need your help. I welcome any ideas or resources you can bring to bear in helping Russia create productive business opportunities in these areas.
Our progress cannot, however, diminish the truth that we face serious challenges in our relationship with Russia. And no challenge is as great as that created by Russian institutes and labs cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran. On this issue, we have grave concerns. The flow of information, technology and equipment to Iranian programs threatens to worsen the situation in the Middle East, undermine critical nonproliferation and export control norms and undercut support for our cooperative programs in Russia.
This morning Sandy Berger announced that the President has again exercised his authority to impose penalties on three Russian organizations engaging in nuclear and missile trade with Iran. These activities go beyond the already troubling Bushehr (BOO-Sheer) reactor project and directly support Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
The President and his cabinet have worked tirelessly to help the Russian government understand our concerns. Our message to them is simple: money made in business dealings with Iran may cost Russia the far greater benefits financial and otherwise associated with U.S. business and assistance.
The Administration has chosen to announce the penalties here because the people in this room enjoy extensive contacts throughout the Russian governmental and nuclear complex. I believe it is important that this message to Russian officials and scientists come through loud and clear: continued contacts and commerce with Iran on nuclear weapon and missile technology is a threat to the United States, to Russia, and to the world. We welcome recent steps by Russia to tighten their export controls but more needs to be done. We extend our hand of cooperation to further improve these controls. Russia would be wise to take it.
In undertaking all these activities the Clinton Administration is driven by one basic assumption. That the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction fundamentally threatens our global system of peace and security, a system built with sweat and labor over five decades. We must continue to do all we can to convince states that acquiring such weapons does not improve their security, but threatens it and that helping others to acquire such weapons does not improve international status, but lowers it.
The thaw of the cold war has revealed many opportunities for the advancement of global peace and prosperity, a goal we all strive to one day find. But this new season reveals as many challenges to this same goal. There is much work to be done. Another proverb that comes to mind when I consider the nuclear legacy that remains before us is "those that sow the wind may reap the whirlwind." We should heed this warning.
It is our job to ensure our harvests are ones of a peaceful bounty. Were he with us today, Andrew Carnegie would demand we do this job well and do it right by the people -- not just of America, but of the world. "The great successes of life are made by concentration," Mr. Carnegie wrote at the beginning of this century. On the issue of global peace, it is a lesson for us, too.