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  #1  
Old Saturday, March 17, 2012
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Default Nuclear Issue (Important Articles)

Beyond the meltdown

March 17, 2012
Yukiya Amano

Nuclear power has become safer since the devastating accident one year ago at Fukushima, Japan. It will become safer still in the coming years, provided that governments, plant operators, and regulators do not drop their guard.

The accident at Fukushima resulted from an earthquake and tsunami of unprecedented severity. But, as the Japanese authorities have acknowledged, human and organisational failings played an important part, too.

For example, Japan’s nuclear regulatory authority was not sufficiently independent, and oversight of the plant operator, TEPCO, was weak. At the Fukushima site, the backup power supply, essential for maintaining vital safety functions such as cooling the reactors and spent fuel rods, was not properly protected. Training to respond to severe accidents was inadequate. There was a lack of integrated emergency-response capability at the site and nationally.

Human and organisational failings are not unique to Japan. Fukushima was a wake-up call for all countries that use nuclear power. It prompted serious soul-searching and recognition that safety can never be taken for granted anywhere. Key causes of the accident have been identified.

Indeed, governments, regulators, and plant operators around the world have begun learning the right lessons. A robust international nuclear safety action plan is being implemented. As a result, the likelihood of another disaster on the scale of Fukushima has been reduced.

What, exactly, has changed? Perhaps most importantly, the worst-case assumptions for safety planning have been radically revised. At Fukushima, the reactors withstood a magnitude 9.0 earthquake – far more powerful than they were designed to tolerate. But the plant was not designed to withstand the 14-meter-high tsunami waves that swept over its protective sea wall less than an hour later.

In the aftermath of Fukushima, defences against multiple severe natural disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis, are being strengthened at nuclear facilities all over the world. Measures are being taken to improve preparedness for prolonged power outages, protect backup power sources, and ensure the availability of water for cooling even under severe accident conditions.

Global nuclear safety standards are being reviewed. National and international emergency-response capabilities are being upgraded. Plant operators and national regulators are being scrutinised more critically. Countries are opening their plants to more – and more thorough – international safety reviews.

Despite the accident, global use of nuclear power looks set to grow steadily in the next 20 years, although at a slower rate than previously forecast. The reasons for this have not changed: rising demand for energy, alongside concerns about climate change, volatile fossil-fuel prices, and the security of energy supplies. It will be difficult for the world to achieve the twin goals of ensuring sustainable energy supplies and curbing greenhouse gases unless nuclear power remains an important part of the global energy mix.

The International Atomic Energy Agency expects at least 90 additional nuclear-power reactors to join the 437 now in operation globally by 2030. Although some countries abandoned or scaled back their nuclear energy plans after Fukushima, major users of nuclear power, such as China, India, and Russia, are going forward with ambitious expansion plans. Many other countries, mainly in the developing world, are considering introducing nuclear power.

Nuclear safety is of the utmost importance to both established users and newcomers. It matters to countries that have decided to phase out nuclear power, because their plants will continue to operate for decades and will need to be decommissioned, with nuclear waste stored safely. And it matters to countries that are firmly opposed to nuclear power, as many of them have neighbors with nuclear-power plants.

Countries planning new nuclear-power programs must recognize that achieving their goals is a challenging, long-term undertaking. They need to invest considerable time and money in training scientists and engineers, establishing genuinely independent, well-funded regulators, and putting in place the necessary technical infrastructure. Some countries still have shortcomings in this regard.

Nonetheless, contrary to popular perception, nuclear power has a good overall safety record. New reactors being built today incorporate significantly enhanced safety features, both active and passive, compared to the Fukushima generation of reactors. But, in order to regain and maintain public confidence, governments, regulators, and operators must be transparent about the benefits and risks of nuclear power – and honest when things go wrong.

The fact that an accident such as Fukushima was possible in Japan, one of the world’s most advanced industrial countries, is a reminder that, when it comes to nuclear safety, nothing can be taken for granted. Complacency can be deadly. The safety improvements seen in the past 12 months can only be a start. We must not slip back into a “business as usual” approach as Fukushima recedes from memory.
Yukiya Amano is Director General ?of the International Atomic ?Energy Agency

© Project Syndicate
Source: Khaleej Times
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  #2  
Old Monday, March 19, 2012
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End of the nuclear illusion
March 19, 2012
Praful Bidwai

A year after the nuclear catastrophe began at the Fukushima Daiichi station in Japan, the world has a historic chance to put an end to one of the biggest frauds ever played on the global public to promote a patently unsafe, accident-prone, expensive and centralised form of energy generation based upon splitting the uranium atom to produce heat, boil water, and spin a turbine. Candidly, that’s what nuclear power generation is all about.

The lofty promise of boundless material progress and universal prosperity based on cheap, safe and abundant energy through “Atoms for Peace”, held out by US President Dwight D Eisenhower in 1953, was mired in deception and meant to temper the prevalent perception of atomic energy as a malign force following the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Eisenhower was a hawk committed to building up the US nuclear arsenal from under 1,500 to over 20,000 warheads and sought to “compensate” for this by dressing up nuclear energy as a positive force. “Atoms for Peace” camouflaged the huge US military build-up in the 1950s.

The nuclear promise was also based on untested, unrealistic assumptions about atomic electricity being safe and “too cheap even to meter”. The projection sat ill at ease with the subsidies, worth scores of billions, which nuclear received. The US navy transferred reactor designs developed for its nuclear-propelled submarines to General Electric and Westinghouse for free. The US also passed a law to limit the nuclear industry’s accident liability to a ludicrously low level.

Fifty-five years on, the world has lost over $1,000 billion in subsidies, cash losses, abandoned projects and other damage from nuclear power. Decontaminating the Fukushima site alone is estimated to cost $623 billion, not counting the medical treatment costs for the thousands of likely cancers.

All of the world’s 400-odd reactors are capable of undergoing a catastrophic accident similar to Fukushima. They will remain a liability until decommissioned (entombed in concrete) at huge public expense, which is one-third to one-half of what it cost to build them. They will also leave behind nuclear waste, which remains hazardous for thousands of years, and which science has no way of storing safely.

All this for a technology which contributes just two percent of the world’s final energy consumption! Nuclear power has turned out worse than a “Faustian bargain” – a deal with the devil. Even the conservative Economist magazine, which long backed nuclear power, calls it “the dream that failed.”

Nuclear power experienced decline on its home ground because it became too risky and “too costly to hook to a meter”. The US hasn’t ordered a single new reactor since 1973, even before the Three Mile Island meltdown (1979). Western Europe hasn’t completed a new reactor since Chernobyl (1986). As a former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission put it: “The abiding lesson that Three Mile Island taught Wall Street was that a group of NRC-licensed reactor operators, as good as any others, could turn a $2 billion asset into a $1 billion cleanup job in about 90 minutes.”

Nuclear power is now on the run globally. The number of reactors operating worldwide fell from the historic peak of 444 in 2002 to 429 this past March 1. Their share in global electricity supply has shrunk from 17 to 13 percent. And it’s likely to fall further as some 180-plus 30 years-old or older reactors are retired. Just about 60 new ones are planned.

After Fukushima, nobody is going to build nuclear reactors unless they get a big subsidy or high returns guaranteed by the state – or unless they are China, India or Pakistan. China’s rulers don’t have to bother about democracy, public opinion, or safety standards.

Nor are India’s rulers moved by these considerations. They are desperate to deliver on the reactor contracts promised to the US, France and Russia for lobbying for the US-India nuclear deal in the International Atomic Energy Agency. Manmohan Singh has even stooped to maligning Indian anti-nuclear protesters as foreign-funded, as if they had no minds of their own, and as if the government’s own priority wasn’t to hitch India’s energy economy to imported reactors. Pakistan’s nuclear czars are shamefully complacent about nuclear safety.

Nuclear power is bound up with secrecy, deception and opacity, which clash with democracy. It evokes fear and loathing in many countries, and can only be promoted by force. It will increasingly pit governments against their own public, with terrible consequences for civil liberties. A recent BBC-GlobeScan poll shows that 69 percent of the people surveyed in 23 countries oppose building new reactors, including 90 percent in Germany, 84 percent in Japan, 80 percent in Russia and 83 percent in France. This proportion has sharply risen since 2005. Only 22 percent of people in the 12 countries which operate nuclear plants favour building new ones.

Nuclear reactors are intrinsically hazardous high-pressure high-temperature systems, in which a fission chain-reaction is barely checked from getting out of control. But control mechanisms can fail for many reasons, including a short circuit, faulty valve, operator error, fire, loss of auxiliary power, or an earthquake or tsunami.

No technology is 100 percent safe. High-risk technologies demand a meticulous, self-critical and highly alert safety culture which assumes that accidents will happen despite precautions. The world has witnessed five core meltdowns in 15,000 reactor-years (number of reactors multiplied by duration of operations). At this rate, we can expect one core meltdown every eight years in the world’s 400-odd reactors. This is simply unacceptable.

Yet, the nuclear industry behaves as if this couldn’t happen. It has had a collusive relationship with regulators, which has been highlighted in numerous articles on Japan, including one by Yoichi Funabashi, chair of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation: “We Japanese have long prided ourselves on being a society that provides safety and security…[But this] has been matched by our aversion to facing the potential threat of nuclear emergencies…”

He adds: “Any drills for a nuclear emergency were meticulously designed to avoid giving any impression that an accident could possibly progress to the severity of a meltdown…. After all, why stir up unnecessary anxiety when such contingencies simply are unthinkable? But avoidance ultimately translated into unpreparedness.”

Nuclear power is bound up with radiation, which is harmful in all doses, at each step of the nuclear fuel cycle. Nuclear plants routinely expose surrounding populations to harmful radioactive and chemical emissions.

Nuclear power is expensive not just in relation to coal or gas, but increasingly, to renewable sources. New-generation reactor costs have more than doubled. For instance, the European Pressurised Reactor of the crisis-ridden French firm Areva, and earmarked for Jaitapur in India, is now quoting for $6,500-plus per kilowatt, compared to under $2,000 for wind turbines.

Nuclear power cannot be a solution to the climate crisis. Its potential carbon reduction contribution is far too small, it is too slow to deploy, and too expensive. By contrast, renewables have already emerged as a safe, flexible, quickly deployable solution, with a typically lower carbon footprint than nuclear power.

The world needs a new climate-friendly, safe, decentralised energy system with smart grids and high efficiency. Nuclear power can have no place in it and must be abolished.

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai1@yahoo. co.in
-The News
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Old Tuesday, March 20, 2012
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CBMs in South Asia
March 20, 2012
By Jehangir Karamat & Shashi Tyagi

THOUGH India-Pakistan relations are going through a relatively calm phase, things can change quickly. We must therefore take advantage of the present atmosphere to lock in beneficial patterns of behaviour.

One area where we believe that progress can be made is on the question of military confidence-building measures (CBMs). The idea behind CBMs is well-tested; military establishments agree to avoid actions which are threatening to the other side as a means to help avoid unintended conflicts. Of course, CBMs are not a panacea; if people want to have a conflict CBMs will not prevent it. But CBMs do provide a mechanism whereby states which want to avoid a conflict through accident or misperception can develop ways to help do so.

India and Pakistan have developed extensive CBMs over the years. Often, they have been developed in response to specific problems. There is nothing wrong with this. But we believe that it is time to develop a framework of such measures which can help to more systematically address some of the key issues the two sides face.

That is why we have been participating in a series of meetings involving senior, retired officers from both sides, which is reviewing existing CBMs and suggesting new ones. The process is being organised by the University of Ottawa and the Atlantic Council. We have met twice so far, in Dubai and Bangkok.

Over the course of our meetings, we agreed that most existing CBMs are sound and useful, but we noted a tendency for them to fall into disuse over time. Moreover, some existing CBMs have become dated because of new technologies and doctrines.
Thought must be given to ways in which these CBMs can be updated and we have made suggestions to the two governments.

Beyond the existing CBMs, however, there is a pressing need to re-conceptualise the way the two sides approach this topic. In particular, the ad hoc manner in which CBMs have been negotiated to address particular issues must give way to frameworks of CBMs.

The key issue is crisis stability. India and Pakistan have deployed weapons which dramatically reduce the time available for diplomacy in a crisis. Where sober second thought is essential, hair-trigger alerts brought about by lethal weapons close to the borders which can be launched quickly will become the norm in future crises.

Doctrines are evolving in ways which compress the time available for diplomacy and the all-pervasive media reality of South Asia could also push the two sides towards an early resort to force in a future crisis. This is a profoundly dangerous situation. It was therefore agreed at our Bangkok meeting that a useful area for CBMs is the elaboration of a framework for crisis management to provide the two sides with agreed steps that can be taken to prevent a crisis from spinning out of control. There was consensus that an interlocking network of CBMs should be developed which, in the event of a crisis, would:

— Require a political commitment that the two sides’ diplomats and officials come together at the outset of the crisis for discussions on how to resolve it (all too often in South Asia, when a crisis erupts we respond by suspending diplomatic contacts when we should be doing exactly the reverse);

— Require that in times of crisis both sides should take no military actions which could be construed as preparations for an offensive, and adhere to existing CBMs;

— Discussions should begin on new CBMs relevant in these circumstances.

Beyond crisis management, it was agreed by consensus in Bangkok that a CBM should be agreed whereby both sides, including their respective military establishments, should regularly meet to discuss their respective concepts and doctrines with a view to elaborating measures to build confidence in the nuclear and conventional fields.

Also in Bangkok, we discussed intensively the disputes over the Siachen Glacier and the Sir Creek boundary. We will be further discussing these at our next meeting.

Finally, we discussed the question of terror and its impact on stability. Though terror is not a military issue per se, we do believe that intelligence-sharing is a key issue. Some suggested developing a list of terror groups which both sides wish to see stopped leading to the sharing of information on these groups and cooperation on investigations. Other suggestions included:

— Revival of an effective Joint Anti-terror Mechanism at a higher level;

— Hotlines between the interior ministries on terror issues;

— An effort to revive the Saarc mandated Integrated Regional Database on terror;

— Discussions between respective officials on national experiences on such matters as legal frameworks to deal with terror;

— Greater maritime cooperation on terror at sea; and

— Exchanges of views between the immigration, border services and customs authorities.

All of these steps will not end the difficult situation which exists between India and Pakistan. Much larger questions will have to be addressed for that. But these steps, if taken in a good spirit and diligently implemented, have the potential to help transform the atmosphere between the two countries and also to prevent future crises from spinning out of control. In our region, this would be a significant contribution indeed.

Gen Jehangir Karamat (retd) is the former chief of staff of the Pakistan Army and former ambassador of Pakistan to the United States. Air Chief Marshal Shashi Tyagi (retd) is the former chief of staff of the Indian Air Force.

-Dawn
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FMCT – facts and fiction
March 28, 2012
Tariq Osman Hyder

Pakistan has been criticised for its stand on the fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva. It’s time to separate facts from fiction by examining what is being said.

Pakistan has blocked disarmament negotiations in the CD? The FMCT aims at stopping only future production. It remains a non-proliferation measure, not the disarmament fissile material treaty (FMT) addressing existing stockpiles which Pakistan advocates, a step towards nuclear disarmament which the nuclear powers are committed to under the NPT. Pakistan has blocked the FMCT for a couple of years, but between them the USA, UK, France, Russia and India have blocked negotiations for 30 years while they built up their fissile stocks.

Pakistan argues that the other three items on the agenda of the CD, nuclear disarmament, negative security guarantees for non nuclear states and the prevention of an arms race in outer space are ripe for negotiation. The proposed nuclear weapons convention goes much further than the status quo FMCT but the western nuclear powers, their allies and Russia don’t want legal agreements on these core issues or on a FMT.

The US-India deal is consistent with the non-proliferation obligations of America and the nuclear suppliers group (NSG) and has not impacted Pakistan’s security? India admits that without this exception it does not have the uranium reserves or technology to power its ambitious nuclear power programme. The Indian prime minister declared in parliament that no part of India’s strategic programme would be safeguarded.

The deal leaves out of safeguards: eight Indian reactors ideal for weapons grade plutonium (WGPu) production; a large 13 breeders reactor programme to produce more WGPu; and the large power reactors spent fuel stockpile calculated in 2010 by the International Panel of Fissile Materials to contain 6.8 tons of plutonium sufficient for 850 nuclear weapons even if of reactor grade plutonium. Probably some 2.8 tons of this overhang is WGPu. The eight unsafeguarded reactors of 2350 MW using 2400 tons of uranium fuel can annually produce 1200 kg of WGPu enough for 240 nuclear weapons.

Uranium fuel now being supplied from abroad will free up India’s limited reserves for weapons purposes. The Australian ambassador in the USA recently said that if India used uranium imports including from Australia to divert its domestic uranium into weapons that would be very upsetting but would nevertheless not alter the direction of the Australian policy.

Realpolitik considerations to build up India as a strategic partner and commercial objectives motivated the USA/NSG exemption driving a horse and carriage through their NPT obligations. Pakistan which has placed all its power reactors under safeguards and pledged to safeguard any future power reactors has been discriminated against placing both its strategic and energy security under threat.

Pakistan has the fastest growing fissile material production programme? As Pakistan was forced to go nuclear to preserve the strategic balance after India’s explosions, it has the smallest production programme, particularly for plutonium required for a credible minimum deterrent. India has now one dedicated reactor of 100MW thermal and its 2350MW electric of unsafeguarded reactors. That comes to a fissile material production capacity of 7350MW thermal. According to western open sources Pakistan has one small 40MW thermal reactor for just over a decade and it is building two more. It would need to build some 182 more to match India and double that to take into account India’s breeder reactors. That is manifestly not taking place.

Pakistan does not want to match India weapon for weapon but deterrence capability is not static and depends on the threat now accentuated by the US India deal, let alone the Missile Defences systems (ABMs) being supported by the USA, Russia and Israel. Pakistan has always advocated since 1998 in its Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR) th0e interlocking elements of strategic restraint including the non introduction of ABMs, conventional balance and dispute resolution. The international community has ignored the SRR and the fact that the only counter to ABMs is to increase the number of missiles.

Pakistan is isolated in the CD? The group of 21 supports the demand that all four core issues be given equal treatment. China understands Pakistan’s position and India and Israel, who are already taken care of by America and its allies, prefer Pakistan to do the heavy lifting and take the flak.

Pakistan has other unmet needs than maintaining its credible minimum deterrent? Pakistan has a number of issues it has to tackle just like other nuclear powers modernising their programmes. Pakistan’s problems have been accentuated by the occupation of Afghanistan. Terrorism and extremism have increased, the economy bled and Fata and Balochistan destabilised through Afghanistan. Without security Pakistan won’t have the space to develop in any sphere.

On the one side is nuclear armed India with its aggressive cold start doctrine and exponentially increasing strategic and conventional capabilities supported by its western and Russian allies. On the other side are the Nato forces in Afghanistan, including three nuclear powers, who countenance drone strikes in Pakistan; and recently launched an attack on Pakistani troops on the border. Were Pakistan not a nuclear power the situation would be much worse.

What should Pakistan’s negotiating strategy be in the CD? In my opinion, while continuing to press for the commencement of negotiations towards legal instruments on the three other core issues in the CD, it should lay out the following conditions for fissile material negotiations. First of all normalisation of Pakistan’s relations with the NPT on a de facto basis as done for India, NSG exception and membership, and nuclear parity with India to allow access to safeguarded nuclear technology and to remove existing barriers.

Secondly an FMT which must address existing stockpiles as asymmetries at the regional and global levels will be a factor for strategic instability. Thirdly India’s unsafeguarded power reactors, breeder programme and the plutonium overhang from its power reactors be placed under safeguards. Until then Pakistan has no alternative but to keep its powder dry.

The writer is a retired Pakistani diplomat. Email: ambassador.tariqosmanhyder @gmail.com
-The News
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ISRAEL’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM:
AN ANALYSIS OF INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE

Attiq-ur-Rehman

Syed Shahid Hussain Bukhari
∗∗

http://berkeleyjournalofsocialsciences.com/March4.pdf
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Nuclear duplicity?

Asif Ezdi
Monday, April 02, 2012

Gilani’s meeting with Obama was the highlight of the prime minister’s visit to Seoul last week to attend the Second Nuclear Security Summit. The two leaders had had their last and only meeting at the First Nuclear Security Summit hosted by the US president in Washington in April 2010. The fact that Gilani’s meeting with Obama took place at Seoul at all was taken by our government as a “success.” In remarks made to the media before they met, Gilani somewhat obsequiously thanked Obama “for sparing this opportunity to meet me and my delegation in Seoul.” But our prime minister had little of substance to say on the “resetting” of Pakistan-US relations or on issues of nuclear security for which leaders of more than 50 countries had gathered at Seoul.

Obama, on the other hand, used the occasion to deliver a very public message, that the US would not be stopped by any considerations of respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty from doing what it had to do for its national security and its “needs to battle terrorists who have targeted (the US) in the past.” In other words, there could be no assurance that the US would not repeat the kind of raid that killed Osama last May or take other military action on Pakistani soil if there was a “need.”

Obama also called for a “candid dialogue” between the two countries to work through these issues “in a constructive ... and transparent fashion,” and seems to have done some plain talking with Gilani at their talks immediately afterwards. If Pakistan meets the US demands, it will be rewarded with an invitation to the Nato Summit at Chicago next May.

Obama was also quite explicit in his public remarks on the perceived threat of nuclear terrorism from Pakistani soil and on Washington’s determination to take steps to counter the alleged danger. As he put it, because of terrorism that has taken place in Pakistan, the US “can’t afford to have non-state actors, terrorists, get their hands on nuclear weapons that could end up destroying our cities or harming our citizens.” The meaning was quite clear: if Washington felt that Pakistan’s nuclear assets were going to fall into the hands of non-state actors or terrorists, the US would not stand idly by. This is not new policy, but it has not been articulated before so publicly, so clearly and at this level.

But it is doubtful that Gilani understood the significance of these warnings. While the US president was uttering these portentous words, our prime minister kept a half-smile on his face and nodded several times as if to signal agreement, and he did not say anything to refute Obama’s allegations.

Obama’s public message to Gilani must no doubt have been delivered in even plainer language in their private meeting. It is remarkable that Pakistani officials have been completely silent on what the two leaders discussed on the occasion. Even Hina Rabbani Khar, who is usually quite voluble, has been uncharacteristically reticent.

A readout of the Gilani-Obama meeting was given soon afterwards by Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor to Obama. As Rhodes put it, the meeting reflected the importance that the US places on the “need to maintain vigilance against the threat of nuclear terrorism,” a not very oblique way of saying that Washington considers Pakistan as one, if not the main, potential source of that threat.

Pakistan no doubt takes the question of nuclear security very seriously and has taken a number of steps to safeguard its nuclear assets. In doing so, Pakistan has also not hesitated to accept US technical advice and assistance in this field, including in the setting up of intrusion detection systems, designing of tiered defences and training. At the Seoul Summit, Gilani underlined Pakistan’s firm commitment to enhancing nuclear security, in particular through capacity-building and international cooperation.

Much of the concern expressed in the Western world about nuclear security has focussed on the possibility that Islamic terrorists could obtain enough radioactive material to produce a “dirty” bomb. Yet, no Muslim extremist was involved in the only known case of the use of radioactive material to kill: the murder of a Russian dissident in London in 2006 through a dose of highly radioactive Polonium-210, which also contaminated thousands of others.

Some “experts” have raised the fear that Pakistan’s nuclear assets could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists. A 2010 Harvard study, released to coincide with the First Nuclear Security Summit two years ago, made the “finding” that Pakistan’s stockpile “faces a greater threat from Islamic extremists seeking nuclear weapons than any other nuclear stockpile on earth.” The campaign to cast doubts on the security of the Pakistani nuclear deterrent has continued unabated.

Not surprisingly, India has been hard at work trying to heighten these concerns. Shortly before the Seoul Summit, PTI, India’s official news agency, reported that India had “very little confidence” in Pakistan’s ability to secure its nuclear assets. According to its “sources,” an “insider threat” was the prime concern in the Indian establishment.

As for the security of India’s own nuclear material, Indian “sources” were quoted as saying said that it was under “tight security” and “very, very secure.” Neutral experts do not share this view. According to the nuclear security ranking given by the Washington-based research group Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), India – together with North Korea, Pakistan, Iran and Vietnam – was among the five least secure countries. The NTI study said that the Indian government needed to ensure more transparency, more independence for its nuclear regulator and tighter measures to protect nuclear material in transit. As the Associated Press has reported, India’s lax security was displayed in at least two incidents in recent years in which radioactive materials – from a hospital and a university laboratory – were discarded and later ended up in a scrap dealer’s shop.

Shortly before the Seoul Summit, there were press reports hinting that Gilani would be making a strong case at the meeting for giving Pakistan non-discriminatory access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, as well as membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). In a statement before his departure for Seoul, Gilani himself urged the international community to give Pakistan access to civil nuclear technology. Also, buried deep inside the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security is a sentence saying that Pakistan should “seek” a civil nuclear agreement similar to that concluded by the US with India.

In the event, Gilani failed to raise the matter at Seoul apart from a statement urging the international community to give Pakistan access to nuclear technology for peaceful uses on a non-discriminatory basis and declaring that Pakistan qualifies to become a member of the NSG. But as Rhodes disclosed at his press briefing, Gilani did not raise the question in his meeting with Obama. The government has not explained why.

The fact is that Pakistan has enough leverage to back its demand for civil nuclear technology if our “leaders” are really serious. Without Pakistan’s consent negotiations cannot begin in the Conference on Disarmament to ban the production of fissile material, and without Pakistan’s ratification the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty cannot enter into force.

Besides, Pakistan’s role in the American strategy for winding down the war is Afghanistan is indispensable. We can at least insist that our demand for civil nuclear technology should be a top item on our bilateral agenda with Washington.

We should also know that we do not have unlimited time. India expects that its application for membership of NSG will make rapid progress after the US assumes the group’s presidency next July. Once India joins, it will no doubt use its veto to block the opening up of peaceful nuclear technology for Pakistan.

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…3…2…1…closer to the abyss
April 2, 2012
Bikram Vohra

With North Korea still pretty closed out to nuclear inspections and the world only in a position to second-guess exactly how far the nuke programme has advanced there is now a new and palpable concern that the work on the delivery systems has not stopped. In fact, it must come as quite a rude shock to the White House that the North has announced the launch of a new satellite in the course of this month.

This not only brings to a brutal halt the already fragile rapprochement between Washington and Pyongyang in which slim glimmers of hope had lit the path to some sort of understanding that the North would hold back on its nuclear proliferation plans. Those have now been clearly blackened out ironically while Earth hour was being globally acknowledged.

The fear in South Korea is not about 60 minutes of token darkness but a fearful step closer to the abyss of obliteration. Despite the UN Resolutions 1718 and 1874 calling for a suspension of all ballistic related missiles, which includes any rocket capable of carrying a weapons load or even a satellite, this violation cannot sit well with President Barack Obama or the other eight nations who have delivery system capabilities. Not that anyone particularly wants to promise a measure but if North Korea is planning to buck the pressure and continue to push its programme the question that then rises is how ‘long’ is long range ballistic technology and what parts of each hemisphere would under the cosh. There is little solace in the labeling of this launch as it being part of an earth observation satellite, seeing as how the technology for an ICBM system and a satellite are very similar.

The US was quick to grab the straw when it was offered to them by Pyongyang in February that the state would suspend all long range tests and launches in return for food aid, which amounted to about 240,000 tonnes. They hoped that would ease tensions and let South Korea breathe a little more comfortably. But it has been short-lived.

Now what? Either Obama canters into the last months of his first-term in office with the prickly burr under a saddle in that the North isn’t going to be intimidated and intends to be the tenth state on the planet. In the eyes of the West, a totally rogue state in that context. Not one of the good guys. So, if Obama does not blink and accommodate the North in what could be a huge problem down the line for him or his successor because you cannot do much with a fait accompli except be an accomplice, wittingly or otherwise he has to move now and move definitively.

The problem here is that he has very little room to maneuver. The food option seems to have gone down the tube. There is no goodwill to barter with. Paradoxically, even as North Korea battles with its inner political crises and its people face a harsh food shortage, over $850 million have gone into the scheduled launch.

For the world it is cold comfort that the launch coincides with the 100th birth anniversary of the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung. Would it be facetious to say that the event could be celebrated with fireworks but the North’s concept of the pyrotechnic is evidently a lot more sophisticated?

From the White House one hears the rattling of the verbal sabre and the president warns of stricter economic sanctions and a call for a global snub, neither of which are likely to concern the leaders very much. They have heard it all before and it is much of the same rhetoric.

That leaves Obama with only one option which is confrontation and it is not even on the cards yet what with no certainty that the rest of the world will conscript themselves as partners in the venture to keep the world safe. Very clearly, Pyongyang’s leaders, themselves a slightly blurry bunch in that no one quite knows who is pulling the strings under Kim Jong-un, won’t fall apart and the odds favour the launch going on schedule April 14 — unless President Obama can pull a rabbit out of the hat. One more victory for Armageddon!

Bikram Vohra is Editorial Advisor at Khaleej Times. Write to him at bikram@khaleejtimes.com
Source: Khaleej Times
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South Asia and nuclear safety conference
April 9, 2012
By: Momin Iftikhar

The second Nuclear Safety Summit held in Seoul during March 26-27, 2012, is a sequel to the first such conclave held during 2010 in Washington, which was a ground breaking effort to help implement preventive agenda precluding nuclear-related terrorism. The conceptual framework of the Summit sought to raise the issue of nuclear safety and security and place it on the agenda of global leaders by cutting through the red tape created by bureaucracies that generally tend to be out of step with the urgency imposed by the poignancy of the real and present threat.

According to the Princeton, the New Jersey based international panel on fissile materials, at least two million kilograms of weapons grade nuclear material is stockpiled and any pilferage, however small, can prove disastrous. Even lower level radioactive materials used for a host of medical engineering and agricultural application equipment, once placed in wrong hands can be used in crippling acts of terrorism. The objective of this US-led high-level initiative essentially remains establishing a consensus towards the need for enforcing measures for nuclear security and raising awareness to thwart the threat posed by the spectre of nuclear terrorism; particularly, the threat of ‘dirty bombs’ – a crude device which uses small quantities of radioactive material and is rather simple to fabricate. The forum provides a platform for outlining measures and coordinate global efforts with a deadline that all vulnerable fissile material should be locked down within four years.

The Seoul Communiqué issued on March 27 at conclusion of the 2012 Nuclear Safety Summit did broaden the framework, arrived upon two years earlier, for preventing nuclear-related terrorism. It emphasised the importance of multilateral instruments that address nuclear security and urged the governments to enact legislations binding themselves to international conventions on nuclear terrorism and nuclear material protection. While recognising that the security of highly enriched uranium (HEU) remained high in priority, the summit broadened the agenda by incorporating the relatively lower-powered radiological sources into the high risk category. The communiqué highlighted the need to contain low-level radioactive sources, which are widely used in industrial, medical, agricultural and research applications and can be employed for fabricating dirty bombs, support the creation of a nuclear forensic database, develop nuclear security culture, enforce information security and encouraged countries to share more police data on nuclear smuggling etc.

The forum of nuclear security provides Pakistan with a prominent podium to brandish a sterling record on the safety and security of its nuclear material and assets. These are substantive, commendable and laudatory enough to have been acknowledged by the likes of President Barack Obama, who in the aftermath of the Washington Summit in 2010, expressed confidence in Pakistan’s nuclear security in a press conference. The appreciation is well deserved. Pakistan has shown the capability and capacity to develop and maintain an infrastructure for managing its nuclear capability in a responsible and trouble-free manner. This track record shines and speaks for itself in the face of a voluminous propaganda campaign by a very strong anti-Pakistan lobby. By convention, no individual countries are discussed to prevent the nuclear safety forum from becoming a platform for mudslinging, but when leaders from 57 countries, including the US and Russia, congregate under the glare of global spotlight, it is hard to resist the temptation. India, notwithstanding its glaring lapses towards the security of its nuclear material, assets and personnel didn’t miss the opportunity of conducting a baseless propaganda to malign Pakistan. On the eve of the Seoul Conference, the Indian media fired its salvos questioning the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear materials and maliciously indicating to a non-existent “insider threat”, totally overlooking the prominent string of safety blunders that have haunted the Indian nuclear establishment.

The security at Indian nuclear facilities has been breached time and again, which indicated to the culture of relaxed security, bearing the ominous seeds of a nuclear catastrophe. In November 2000, the Indian Police seized 57 pounds of uranium and arrested two persons for illicit trafficking of radioactive material. Lack of security at the Indian nuclear plants was underscored when on November 25, 2009, some rogue elements at Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka, laced the drinking water with tritium, contaminating at least 90 employees. The culprits were never traced despite the presence of CCTV. The death of a nuclear scientist under mysterious circumstances at Kaiga in June 2009 further raised the issue of security of personnel at the Indian nuclear establishment.

Indian nuclear scientists and trading firms were engaged in clandestine activities and were repeatedly caught red handed. On September 29, 2004, the US slapped sanctions on two Indian nuclear scientists, Dr Y.S.R. Prasad and Chaudhary Surendar, for illicitly helping Iran in developing weapons of mass destruction. Both scientists were successive heads of India’s nuclear corporation and experts in the production of plutonium. In September 2002, the UK Intelligence Dossier on Iraq, linked NEC, an Indian Engineering Trading Company, to Iraq’s clandestine programme for developing chlorine-based chemical weapons and propellants for long range missiles. Using front companies, phony custom declarations and false documents, NEC exported 10 consignments of contraband materials that the Saddam regime used to develop chemical warfare capability. The exported items needed special approval before export under the Special Chemical Organisms, Material, Equipment and Technologies Provisions of the 1997-2002 Exim Policy. Inexplicably, the Indian government looked aside as shipments to Iraq, valued at approximately $800,000, which took place between September 1998 and February 2001. The discovery of at least nine very powerful Cobalt-60 radiation sources in a scrap shop in a West Delhi industrial area, which fatally infected five people, truly exposed India as a possible source of radiation emitting material that could be used in a dirty bomb by terrorists.

As the threat of nuclear terrorism raises its profile, the world is getting seized with the issue of its prevention. Watertight security of radiological material remains an important component of the overall paradigm of international nuclear security environment. Ever since declaring its nuclear capability, Pakistan has been quick-footed in articulating a watertight regime for the safety and security of its nuclear establishment and the results are self-evident. It has taken concrete measures to evolve elaborate command and control mechanisms under the National Command Authority, which is in place since February 2000; three years ahead of India. Pakistan’s export control mechanisms are judiciously conceived and have effectively plugged all possibilities of export of sensitive technology to unauthorised seekers. It is time to assert its impeccable safety credentials to claim a greater degree of access to nuclear trade and technology as member of the NSG. The next Nuclear Safety Summit, due in the Netherlands in 2014, should be the forum to forcefully make this justified demand.

The writer is a freelance columnist.
-The Nation
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Realising a world without nukes
April 16, 2012
Helmut Schmidt & Sam Nunn

The two of us have joined a number of our colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic in discussing a threatening development: the accelerating spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear know-how and nuclear material. We now face a very real possibility that the deadliest weapons and materials ever invented could fall in to dangerous hands.

We believe the United States and Germany, NATO and all of Europe, including Russia, have a special leadership role to play in support of global efforts to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, to prevent their spread into dangerous hands, and ultimately to end them as a threat to the world.

We are encouraged by a growing recognition that in order to deal decisively with the nuclear threat and stop nuclear proliferation, nations must embrace ?both the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and the urgent practical steps necessary to overcome the nuclear dangers that we all face.

Over the past few years, statesmen from several European countries have published articles in support of the “vision and steps” as originally set forth by George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn. Governments are also embracing this approach. In September 2009, heads of state met at the UN Security Council and passed a strong resolution in support of this direction.

The United States and Russia concluded a New Start treaty in 2010, and leaders from around the world met in Seoul in March 2012 to continue the work to secure nuclear materials begun at the 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit.

These efforts both inside and outside of governments are important, as the key to achieving these urgent near-term steps and realising the long-term vision is cooperation.

In May, NATO leaders will meet in Chicago, preceded by a meeting of foreign and defence ministers this coming week in Brussels. The urgent question facing the alliance is how NATO can make a positive contribution to nuclear threat reduction in light of these converging developments.

While America bears a special responsibility, nuclear policy must also be addressed within Europe, and NATO allies should strive to move together with a sense of urgency on core nuclear issues.

In this context, we believe the drafting of NATO’s Deterrence and Defence Posture Review tasked at the 2010 Lisbon summit provides an opportunity to set a solid foundation for NATO nuclear policy.

Importantly, it would also provide a basis for a new process of engagement with Russia and other nuclear-weapons-capable states. Negotiations aimed at substantially reducing the number of nuclear weapons must continue, initially between the United States and Russia, in order to encourage and ensure that the other countries possessing such weapons will join this process.

In Chicago, NATO should state that it now believes the fundamental purpose of its nuclear weapons is to deter the use of nuclear weapons by others, and it should plan for further reductions of US tactical nuclear weapons ?in Europe.

The target of completing consolidation to the United States should be within five years, with the timing and pace determined by broad political and security developments between NATO and Russia, including but not limited to Russian tactical nuclear deployments near NATO’s border.

This can be accomplished in ways that ensure that NATO will remain a nuclear alliance for as long as nuclear weapons exist, and that America’s extended nuclear deterrent will continue – but in a form that is safer and more credible. The alternative – maintaining the nuclear status quo in Europe — runs a high cost and unacceptable risk.

Russia retains a large stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons, estimated at about 2,000, and many of these are deployed in Europe. Russia, too, has a vital interest in the security of tactical nuclear weapons — its own and those ?of others.

A dialogue among the United States, NATO and Russia focused on accountability, transparency, reductions and elimination should be a high priority and should not await formal agreements.

Security and stability for the Euro-Atlantic region can only be achieved through cooperation among key states, and it can become an important milestone and powerful example for the world. Cooperation should become the mantra of this century on the way to a nuclear-weapon-free world.A broader NATO-Russia discussion of Euro-Atlantic security is necessary if we are to make political and practical progress on nuclear threat reduction.

Cooperation on missile defence is another long-overdue area where Russia, the United States and NATO can and should be working together rather than building separate and uncoordinated systems.

Failure to develop a cooperative approach to missile defence in Europe would fuel charges of unilateralism and contribute to the risk of returning to the era of confrontation with Russia, leading to a new arms race and new tensions. One approach to framing a new process on European security that should also be endorsed in Chicago is to deepen consultations aimed at arrangements or understandings with Russia on the full range of Euro-Atlantic security issues, including missile defence and conventional and nuclear arms.

Steps to increase warning and decision time for political and military leaders should be central to this dialogue, so that no nation fears a short-warning conventional attack or perceives the need to deter or defend against such an attack with tactical nuclear arms. Progress including action on these issues can be made separately, as long as all issues are being seriously addressed in parallel and within a common framework. Military-to-military discussions mandated by political leaders ?are essential.

The common interests of the United States, Europe and Russia are more aligned today than at any point in modern history. We must seize this historic opportunity and act accordingly.

Helmut Schmidt served as chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. Sam Nunn is a former chairman ?of the US Senate Armed ?Services Committee

© International Herald Tribune
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Global arms spending
April 18, 2012
By Richard Norton-Taylor

GLOBAL spending on weapons now totals more than $1.7tn and Russia has overtaken Britain and France to take third place in the world league table.

While military expenditure fell last year in most western countries, including the US, which is facing serious budget deficits, Russia and China have continued to increase their spending on weapons — by more than nine per cent and six per cent respectively last year, according to figures released by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) recently.

The US remains by far the biggest military spender, with a defence budget of $711bn last year, followed by China, which spent an estimated $143bn on its armed forces in 2011. China has increased its military spending by 170 per cent in real terms since 2002.

Russia spent nearly $72bn on arms last year, overtaking Britain ($62.7bn) and France ($62.5bn) according to Sipri. It notes that Russia is planning further increases, with draft budgets showing a 53 per cent rise in real terms up to 2014.

However, Sipri adds that many analysts are doubtful whether the industry will be able to carry out such ambitious plans after decades of stagnation after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

China’s increased military spending has caused concern among its neighbours and the US, the dominant Pacific power. The recent announcement of a US “pivot” towards Asia is in part the response to such concerns, Sipri says.

It adds: “China’s extensive and growing trade relations with the countries in its neighbourhood have been marred by disputes — eg the border dispute with India, a dispute over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) islands with Japan, and contested maritime borders with several nations in the South China Sea — all of which have led to increased tensions.”

However, the report says talk of an arms race in the region may be premature, as both data and analysis reveal a mixed pattern of trends in military expenditure and arms acquisition, with China far from being the only driving factor.

Two countries where concerns over China do appear to have contributed to increased spending are India and Vietnam.

India has increased military spending by 66 per cent since 2002. While both internal conflicts and the long-running dispute with Pakistan remain key issues, India views China as a rival for regional power.

Vietnam, meanwhile, has increased military spending by 82 per cent since 2003, and has invested heavily in its navy in recent years, partly due to tensions with China in the South China Sea.

In June 2011, Vietnam announced that its military would conduct new exercises in the area. The two countries fought a brief border war in 1979. However, military spending in both India and Vietnam fell in real terms in 2011.

Countries in the Middle East continued to boost their military budgets, and Algeria — concerned about the Arab spring and revolutions in Tunisia and Libya — increased its military spending last year by 40 per cent.
Courtesy: The Guardian, London
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