This afternoon, a committee of the National Research Council, a research arm of the National Academy of Science, issued a report that is extremely critical of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, or GNEP, an administration plan to restart separating plutonium from used commercial nuclear reactor fuel, something the United States has not done for three decades. I have argued that the goals of GNEP, while scientifically possible and perhaps someday economically justifiable, are decades premature. I am relieved to discover that the committee report comes to essentially the same conclusion.
A recent article, “Achieving Nuclear Balance”, in Nonproliferation Review, by Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, Chairwoman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, includes a sobering summary of the dangerous nuclear policies of the Bush administration, including its desire for new nuclear weapons and an expansion of the roles of nuclear weapons. Congresswoman Tauscher has been an important voice of reason in the nuclear debate and one of the primary forces behind efforts to force a fundamental review of the missions of nuclear weapons, to ask what nuclear weapons are for.
Nevertheless, her arguments in support of exploring the Reliable Replacement Warhead are mistaken and based on deeply rooted but ultimately unsupported assumptions. Her essay highlights the critical importance of carefully defining terms and avoiding being fooled by our own euphemisms.
Last week, Congressman Ed Markey (D-Mass) visited FAS to talk about the India-US deal. Markey, who strongly supports closer ties with India, opposes the nuclear deal because it undermines the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). A transcript and video of his comments are on the FAS website.
What I found most interesting about his talk was a graphic showing the growth in U.S.-Indian trade over the past few decades. (Our chart is not a reproduction of the chart used my Mr. Markey but created from the same data.) It goes up…and up and up. It has gone up even during politically difficult times, for example, after the 1974 Indian nuclear test. The Congressman’s point is that, when people argue for the nuclear deal because it will allow a blossoming of trade between the two countries, they miss the point entirely. Trade with India has been growing for years, it continues to grow now, and it will grow in the future whether we have a nuclear deal or not. So the trade benefit is simply not there. But the harm done to the NPT definitely remains.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the FAS, the Department of Homeland Security has released a December 2005 report to Congress on the status of DHS’s efforts to counter the threat from man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) to commercial airliners.
The report, which Congress required as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, sheds new light on several key DHS counter-MANPADS efforts, including airport vulnerability assessments, contingency plans for MANPADS attacks, and intelligence sharing and law enforcement training. These efforts are part of a multi-faceted U.S. campaign to deprive terrorists of access to these weapons and mitigate the threat from missiles that are already in terrorist arsenals.