Nuclear Security- a path to disarmament?

From 28 November until 2 December, Wilbert and I were in Amman for the Arab Institute for Security Studies conference “Laying the Grounds for 2012 – Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Security”.  During the conference, I delivered a presentation in an attempt to build a bridge between discussions on radiological security, nuclear security and disarmament and non-proliferation.  The picture is of Wilbert floating in the Dead Sea- a great way to end an interesting conference.

Thanks to the chair. I would like to thank our kind hosts and the conference organisers- the Arab Instutute for Security Studies and the Partnership for Global Security, as well as the sponsors who brought us together in this lovely city.

Yesterday during the opening session, the Norwegian representative, Peter Olberg, said “nuclear disarmament enhances our efforts for nuclear security both in political and practical terms”. I believe that nuclear security efforts also enhance our efforts for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.

The political commitments made during the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit can be seen as building a bridge between nuclear security and disarmament and nonproliferation.

For example, the announcement by Chile at they and removed all highly enriched uranium from the state added another layer to their already thick nonproliferation commitments. Mexico’s conversion of an HEU research reactor and their elimination, through the IAEA of all HEU is another good example. Both of these actions secure bomb building materials. They reduce opportunities for proliferation. They not only prevent the risk of theft or diversion, but serve as a model for other state actions.

Of course both Chile and Mexico are in good standing with the NPT, both are members of the Latin American Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, but other participants at the Nuclear Security Summit, such as the Ukraine and their declaration to remove all HEU, is a good example other participants should follow.

The conversion of HEU reactors and the verified removal of HEU is a great contributor to nonproliferation and disarmament. Such voluntary measures, once verified by the IAEA, start to develop a globally beneficial norm and begins to address the fissile materials issue- where other fora have failed.

These voluntary agreements, achieved at the nuclear security summit also avoid some of the discriminatory perceptions found at the NPT. The NSS, because of those involved was, perhaps, less discriminatory than NPT. Perhaps.

The NSS brought together almost all of the nuclear armed states and many of those who are nuclear capable in what has been described as a fairly cooperative atmosphere. Perhaps this is because some countries (like Iran and North Korea) were not invited.

However the NSS was described as demonstrating a shift in atmospherics from the have and have-not dichotomy found at the NPT. It also alleviated some of the burdensome discrimination noted by some states in response to UN security Council Resolutions like 1540 and 1887. These atmospherics probably contributed to the NSS outcomes – the work plan and the communique.

However we all know that the NSS was not a total success. It failed to agree upon a baseline of protection for weapons usable nuclear material.

A baseline. How can you build anything, including a global nuclear security architecture, without knowing where the very ground is?

The NSS also failed to even mention the very legitimate concerns about civil plutonium. Hopefully these are two issues that will be resolved by Seoul.

There is another question that must be asked about the NSS is about the participants. Was the invitation list designed out of a need to get agreement? Did it actually establish a NEW discriminatory regime? What was the criteria for participation? What does this mean for this region?

Will the Seoul Summit recommend, for example, that for this region those who participated – Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Jordan should work with those who were not invited, including Iraq, Libya, Syria and Iran to create a regional nuclear security mechanism? Or, Turkey who has raised concerns about US regional interventions in then region and their effect on nuclear security, is Turkey a potential broker? Then again, they might be disqualified because they continue to host U.S. Nuclear weapons on their soil.

Anyway, we have to recognise that while there were indeed good things that came out of the NSS, it was not a global conversation, yet nuclear security is a global issue.

So, what can be done about this?

First, let’s look to Seoul.

I already mentioned that there was no baseline for security agreed in Washington. That should be addressed as a priority and a minimum should be established that protects all plutonium and highly enriched uranium against both insider and outsider threats.

In the 2010 work plan “participating states recognise[d] the importance of nuclear material accountancy in support of nuclear security”. This accountancy should be fed into a secure data repository that would the generate a global baseline accounting of plutonium and highly enriched uranium.

As a step towards this, participating states in Seoul should seize the opportunity to declare their FULL (not just excess) stocks of both civil AND military HEU and plutonium. This transparency measure should build confidence, including among states not present at the meeting.

The majority of States will not be in Seoul, so how can they become part of this global conversation?

One way is by making declarations of their own. Declarations of intent to ratify the International Convention on the Suppression of Nuclear Terrorism, and/or the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials. Political leaders could also publicly call for a provisional implementation of the Amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, even before entry into force. ANY state can call for that, regardless of whether they’re in the guest list for Seoul.

And the there is the Additional Protocol.

During the 2010 NPT Review Conference, a declared European Union priority was “strengthening the effectiveness and comprehensiveness of the nonproliferation regime through making the conclusion of a comprehensive safeguards agreement together with the Additional Protocol the verification standard” {EU statement to Main Committee 2}.

This was agreed as part of the 64 point action plan in Action 28 where “the Conference encourage[d] all State parties which have not yet done so to conclude and to bring into force additional protocols as soon as possible and to implement them provisionally pending their entry into force” {NPT 2010 Final Document}.

While this agreement reinforced the Security Council’s call “upon States to sign, ratify and implement an additional protocol” {OP 15a, UNSCR 1887, 2009} in Resolution 1887, it also reinforces the discriminatory nature of the NPT by requiring the non nuclear weapons states to expand their declarations to the IAEA.

The nuclear weapons states are only subject to voluntary agreements , voluntary safeguards, and then only on ‘peaceful’ nuclear facilities.

The Non Aligned Movement raised this during the Review Conference and requested “that all Nuclear Weapon States and all States not party to the treaty… place all their nuclear facilities under IAEA full scope safeguards… with a view to providing baseline data for future disarmament” {NAM statement to MC2, 2010 NPT}.

Again, there is a call for creating a baseline. You cannot build a nuclear security or disarmament infrastructure without knowing where the ground is- where you start from.

While the NAM did not call on the nuclear weapons states to put all facilities under the Additional Protocol, that would of course be the obvious next step. At some point the nuclear weapons states must increase the number and type of facilities currently covered by the voluntary safeguards and additional protocols currently in place.

The NPT Final Document did note this, but put a bit of a caveat into Action 30 when it “stresse[d] that comprehensive safeguards and additional protocols should be universally applied once the complete elimination of nuclear weapons has been achieved” {NPT Revcon, 2010}.

Providing the IAEA with an overview of global, not just non-nuclear weapon state, nuclear infrastructure would contribute to nuclear safety. It would do this by, for example, including uranium ore that has not yet reached the starting point of safeguards and nuclear wastes that contain enriched uranium or separated plutonium on which safeguards no longer apply.

This would increase the financial burden on the IAEA. To address that, a levy or safety tax should be placed on nuclear power companies. When ,compared with the total life cycle costs of a nuclear reactor, this would be a very small addition to the budget.

The real benefit would be the facilitation of the baseline accounting I mentioned earlier. By universalising the additional protocol, and making it binding on all states, not only those without nuclear arms, some of the discriminatory difference in obligations between have and have nots would be removed.

Some have suggested that issues of nonproliferation and disarmament should be kept separate from discussions of nuclear security, yet there are necessary overlaps between these efforts. If done properly, and applied universally, efforts to increase the safety and security of nuclear materials will have a positive effect on both nonproliferation and disarmament. If the current global divide between nuclear haves and have-nots can be overcome by a focus on the security of materials this will contribute to the security of states, and to our global human security.