NPT RevCon ends with a consensus Final Document

by Alicia Godsberg

The NPT Review Conference ended last Friday with the adoption by consensus of a Final Document that includes both a review of commitments and a forward looking action plan for nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and the promotion of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  In the early part of last week it was unclear if consensus would be reached, as states entered last-minute negotiations over contentious issues.  While the consensus document represents a real achievement and is a relief after the failure of the last Review Conference in 2005 to produce a similar document, much of the language in the action plan has been watered down from previous versions and documents, leaving the world to wait until the next review in 2015 to see how far these initial steps will take the global community toward fulfilling the Treaty’s goals. Continue reading

FAS side events at the RevCon

by Alicia Godsberg

Yesterday FAS premiered our documentary Paths To Zero at the NPT RevCon.  The screening was a great success and there was a very engaging conversation afterward between the audience and Ivan Oelrich, who was there to promote the film.  As a result of some suggestions, we are hoping to translate the narration to different languages so the film can be used as an educational tool around the world.  You can see Paths To Zero by following this link – we will also be putting up the individual chapters soon.

This morning I spoke at a side event at the NPT RevCon entitled “Law Versus Doctrine: Assessing US and Russian Nuclear Postures.”  I was asked to give FAS’s perspective on the New START, NPR, and new Russian military doctrine.  Several people asked me for my remarks, so I’m posting them below the jump.   Continue reading

2010 RevCon begins

by Alicia Godsberg

Today marked the opening of the 8th Review Conference to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations.  The general debate began today and will continue through Thursday, with an NGO presentation to the delegates this Friday to end the week.  Today’s plenary provided a few revelations from the U.S. and Indonesia that could impact the rest of the RevCon and the nuclear  nonproliferation and disarmament regime in general… Continue reading

FAS and the 2010 NPT Review Conference

by: Alicia Godsberg

The 2010 Review Conference of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (or NPT RevCon) will be taking place at the United Nations in New York from 3-28 May.  You can follow the events of the RevCon here on the SSP blog, which will be updated every other day.  This Sunday FAS will be participating in an International Day of Action with a table at the civil society-organized peace and disarmament festival – if you are in New York please come visit us under the tent (see link for more info).  Our new NPT RevCon page is up and running as well for more RevCon information.  A full length report and issue brief on FAS’s recommendations for the U.S. delegation to the RevCon, as well as a podcast on the NPT and Conference, are all online and available now.  Stay tuned for more!

Documentary “Paths to Zero” Premiering at the NPT RevCon

by: Alicia Godsberg

On Tuesday May 11 FAS will be premiering our documentary, “Paths to Zero,” at the United Nations during the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT RevCon).  The screening will be part of FAS’s official UN Office of Disarmament Affairs side event for the RevCon, which will be held from 10 am – 12 pm in Conference Room A of the North Building.  To attend, you must be registered for the RevCon, but after the Conference FAS will be screening Paths to Zero in Washington, DC and we will be uploading the video to our website.

The world’s combined stockpile of nuclear weapons remains at a high and frightening level – over 24,000 – despite being two decades past the end of the Cold War. In the documentary film Paths to Zero, Federation of American Scientists Vice President Dr. Ivan Oelrich explains the history of how the nuclear-armed world got to this point, and how we can begin to move down a global path to zero nuclear weapons.

CTBT ratification and fact-twisting arguments

By: Alicia Godsberg

On Friday, February 5 the EastWest Institute (EWI) held a seminar at their office in New York to discuss its recently released report on the CTBT, entitled, “The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: New Technology, New Prospects?” Speaking at the event for the pro-CTBT ratification camp was Ambassador Robert T. Grey, Jr. (Director, Bipartisan Security Group and U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament from 1998-2001) and against was Stephen Rademaker (Senior Council, BGR Government Affairs and Assistant Secretary of State from 2002-2006). The seminar also hosted many representatives of the NGO disarmament community as well as several diplomats from UN missions, including from Iran, Egypt, and South Korea.

Mr. Rademaker articulated familiar reasons for opposing U.S. ratification of the CTBT: it won’t ensure entry into force of the Treaty; the Treaty is unverifiable; the U.S. may need to test in the event the nuclear weapon stockpile becomes unreliable; there is no agreed definition of a “zero yield” nuclear test; and Russia (and possibly China) does not conform to the U.S. definition of absolutely zero yield, enabling them to benefit from such tests while the U.S. adheres to a stricter standard and (presumably) falls behind in knowledge. The fact that each of these assertions has been proven untrue does not stop these talking points from surfacing at every turn.   Continue reading

Change at the United Nations

by: Alicia Godsberg

The First Committee of this year’s 64th United Nations General Assembly (GA) just wrapped up a month of meetings.  The GA breaks up its work into six main committees, and the First Committee deals with disarmament and international security issues.  During the month-long meetings, member states give general statements, debate on such issues as nuclear and conventional weapons, and submit draft resolutions that are then voted on at the end of the session.  Comparing the statements and positions of the U.S. on certain votes from one year to the next can help gauge how an administration relates to the broader international community and multilateralism in general.  Similarly, comparing how other member states talk about the U.S. and its policies can give insight into how likely states may be to support a given administration’s international priorities. Continue reading

CTBT Article XIV Conference

by: Alicia Godsberg

This past Thursday and Friday marked the 6th bi-annual Article XIV Conference, the Conference on Facilitating the Entry Into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).  This year’s conference was held at the United Nations in New York and was met with a measure of cautious optimism – most states voiced their appreciation of President Obama’s pledge to work toward US ratification of the CTBT, while many states recognized the challenges of obtaining all the necessary ratifications for entry into force of the Treaty and mentioned the challenges to the nonproliferation regime stemming from the lack of the Treaty’s entry into force (despite former commitments to do so) and from the DPRK’s 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.

Entry into force of the CTBT has been on the international agenda for thirteen years. Because the US, China, UK, France, and Russian Federation have all imposed a voluntary moratorium on national nuclear testing, many question the need for entry into force of the CTBT.  Although the Treaty would bring few new tangible benefits, the political impact of entry into force would be tremendous.  As explained below, the vast majority of sates see entry into force of the CTBT as somewhat of a litmus test for the future viability of the nonproliferation regime. Continue reading

Thought for the day, courtesy of Fogbank

by Alicia Godsberg

Yesterday’s Washington Post had another article[1] in the ongoing saga of W76 warhead refurbishment Life Extension Program (LEP) and Fogbank – a material that, according to open sources, is an intermediary material between the primary and secondary of a nuclear weapon that is “crucial” to the weapon reaching its designed yield.[2]  The problem for the W76 LEP: the original Fogbank manufacturing facility was closed years ago, at least partly because the material is extremely hazardous.  In addition, due to a lack of record keeping from the original manufacturing process (and the retirement of many knowledgeable scientists involved in that process), the labs found themselves not knowing how to re-manufacture Fogbank or a suitable replacement material for the W76 in a timely manner. The labs tried a three-prong approach to fixing this problem: building a new Fogbank production facility; manufacturing limited quantities at an interim location; and producing a suitable alternative made from less hazardous materials that would not need to undergo nuclear testing.[3]  What we have now is a new $50 million dollar facility at Y-12 to produce Fogbank in either some new form or its older, more hazardous form.[4] 

 That is the brief background – here is the thought of the day, courtesy of many conversations with Ivan Oelrich: there is no longer any justification for retaining complex, extremely high-yield two-stage thermonuclear nuclear weapons in a post-Cold War world.  Our nuclear deterrent would be sufficient with more simple-to-make HEU weapons, even gun-type weapons, the design of which was so scientifically fool-proof that it didn’t need testing before it was dropped on Hiroshima 64 years ago almost to the day.   Continue reading

The Big Picture – what is really at stake with the START follow-on Treaty

by Alicia Godsberg

There is cause for cautious optimism after Presidents Obama and Medvedev signed their START follow-on Joint Understanding in Moscow last Monday – the goal of completing a legally binding bilateral nuclear disarmament agreement with verification measures is preferable to letting START expire without an agreement or without one that keeps some sort of verification protocol.  The Joint Understanding leaves some familiar questions open, such as the lack of definition of a “strategic offensive weapon” and what to do about the thousands of nuclear warheads in reserve or awaiting dismantlement.  But so far few analysts on either side of the nuclear debate have been talking about the big picture, what for the vast majority of the world (and therefore our own national security) is really at stake here – the viability of the nonproliferation regime itself. Continue reading