President Clinton reiterated the importance of negotiating a treaty to freeze the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons in his September 24, 1996 address to the 51st United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). He called upon the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) to take up this challenge immediately. He further noted that the United States, Russia, France and the United Kingdom already have halted production of fissile material for weapons and urged other nations to end the unsafeguarded production of these materials pending completion of the treaty.
President Clinton first called for cutoff negotiations in his 1993 address to the UN, proposing a multilateral agreement to halt production of high-enriched uranium and separated plutonium used in nuclear explosives or outside international safeguards. In December 1993, the UN General Assembly passed a consensus resolution (48/75L) on cutoff, which expressed the conviction that a "nondiscriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices would be a significant contribution to nuclear non-proliferation in all its aspects." The resolution called for the negotiation of such a treaty in the most appropriate international forum and requested the International Atomic Energy Agency to provide assistance in examining verification arrangements.
In March 1995, the CD agreed by consensus to establish an Ad Hoc Committee with a mandate to negotiate a cutoff treaty based on the 1993 UNGA resolution. In May 1995, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference agreed on an action plan in the "Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament" which included the immediate commencement and early conclusion of cutoff negotiations in accordance with the 1995 CD mandate. However, the demand of a few states in the CD to link cutoff negotiations to other nuclear disarmament issues has brought progress there to a standstill.
A cutoff treaty would cap the amount of fissile material available worldwide for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Such a treaty would strengthen international nuclear nonproliferation norms and add a binding international commitment to existing constraints on weapons-usable material. The United States envisions that states would undertake:
- not to assist other states in activities proscribed by the treaty; and
- to accept International Atomic Energy Agency inspections to verify compliance with the treaty.
The United States hopes to begin negotiations on cutoff following the resumption of the CD in January 1997. A cutoff treaty, as a complement to the CTBT's qualitative limits on stockpiles, will place legally binding quantitative limits on nuclear weapon stockpile growth.
The United States stopped producing fissile material for nuclear weapons in 1992. In 1994, the United States and Russia signed a bilateral agreement to halt plutonium production for nuclear weapons. In 1995, Russia and the United Kingdom announced that they had stopped production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons; France announced that it ceased production in February 1996.
March 1992: United States ends reprocessing of plutonium for nuclear weapons (production of high-enriched uranium for weapons ended in 1964).
September 1993: President Clinton proposes a multilateral agreement to halt production of high-enriched uranium and separated plutonium for nuclear explosives or outside international safeguards in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
December 1993: UNGA resolution (48/75L) endorsing cutoff negotiations is adopted by consensus.
January 1994: Conference on Disarmament appoints Ambassador Gerald Shannon (Canada) as special coordinator for cutoff. Ambassador Shannon begins consultations with CD member states on negotiations.
January 1994: Joint statement by Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin promoting earliest possible completion of a cutoff treaty.
October 1994: Joint U.S.-China statement promoting earliest possible completion of a cutoff treaty.
December 1994: UNGA consensus resolution endorsing cutoff negotiations is renewed.
March 1995: CD establishes an Ad Hoc Committee on cutoff with a negotiating mandate.
April-May 1995: NPT Review and Extension Conference, in the Principles and Objectives Document, calls for the immediate commencement and early conclusion of cutoff negotiations in accordance with the 1995 CD mandate. Russia and the UK announce they have ceased production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.
February 1996: France announces it no longer produces fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.
September 1996: President Clinton calls on the CD in his speech to the UNGA to take up the challenge of negotiating a fissile material production cutoff treaty immediately.