New DOD Panel Report Thinks it’s Calling for Negotiation of a New NPTPosted: January 22, 2014 Filed under: Nuclear 20 Comments
I debated whether or not to even mention this, but it has gotten some attention so I thought I’d address it, at least briefly.
Recently the Defense Science Board, an advisory committee to the US Department of Defense, released a report entitled “Assessment of Nuclear Monitoring and Verification Technologies.” What has people talking is one of the recommendations by the DSB in this report, as a part of its “4-phase approach for expanded cooperation.” The recommendation is for the:
Negotiation of a future Non‐Proliferation Treaty (NPT “X”) to bring in all nuclear weapon and material programs into a cooperative, multi‐lateral regime.
Some people see this recommendation as momentous, in that it is a rare, if not unprecedented, occasion of a highly regarded advisory committee to the US government, recognizing a need for re-negotiation of the NPT.
Having heard some of those thoughts from people, I was eager to read what the report had to say about this new NPT – oh, sorry, “NPT X” (they’re right, that is much cooler). I’ve now read it. And as we say in the South, I can’t make head nor tails of it.
It turns out the only text in the report that specifically relates to this recommendation is the following few paragraphs:
Phase 4. The Evolution from Bi‐lateral to Multilateral Implementation and a Prospective Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT‐x)
Several studies have concluded that it is premature to pursue negotiation of a follow‐on Non-Proliferation Treaty that would impose transparency on States possessing nuclear weapons and NNWS equally and add nuclear weapons disarmament transparency to the treaty. Completion of the three phases presented above, however, could set the stage for overcoming the current difficulties and be the basis for the trust and understanding needed to carry out both the periodic/continual monitoring of nuclear weapons worldwide, and the periodic/continual monitoring of SNM quantities of potential nuclear weapons materials worldwide.
The signatories of nuclear arms control or arms reductions agreements, joined by all of the nuclear weapons ‐ possessing nations, would collectively and mutually negotiate the procedures, frequencies, prohibitions, etc. for carrying out materials and weapons transparency measures/inspections protecting against the spread of nuclear weapons expertise to NNWS. The ideal outcome would be agreement that the results of these inspections would be delivered to the IAEA as part of its routine monitoring and shared with all nations worldwide.
The Task Force believes that progress through Phase 4 will have a positive effect on worldwide arms stability as well as strengthen non‐proliferation efforts. With everyone having a stake in the transparency processes coming into existence and successfully working, it might then be possible to require mandatory compliance for any holdout nations. The culmination of all of these efforts would be the achievement of a Cooperative Universal Transparency regime that would operate to ensure monitoring and verification of all nuclear weapons as well as inventories of SNM—over the whole world.
You know that old song about seeing the world through rose-colored glasses? Well, this DSB report would appear to see the world through transparency colored glasses – which I know is a bit oxymoronic – but then so is the idea of negotiating a replacement NPT just to achieve nuclear weapons stockpile transparency benefits. It’s like the authors don’t really know what’s in the current NPT, and have no appreciation of the incredible complexity of the notion of negotiating a replacement treaty balancing the peaceful and military uses of nuclear energy. To them it’s all about increasing nuclear weapons stockpile transparency – which isn’t even in the current NPT!
To paraphrase Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, “They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.”
That’s why I said in the title of this post that the DSB thinks that they are proposing in this report the negotiation of a new NPT. But in reality, what they are proposing has nothing to do with the NPT, either current or future.
This recommendation in the report, and the accompanying text, are truly bizarre. I honestly can’t understand why they linked what they are talking about – nuclear weapons stockpile transparency – to the NPT. If anyone can explain better than the committee did what they are trying to say, and how it is relevant to the NPT, by all means please chime in in the comments.
I’m among those think it is refreshing to see western government panels recognizing that new thought on an NPT is needed. We may all differ on what that new thought looks like.
Personally, I think a new NPT 2.0 would have to involve massive — transparent — disarmament with concrete goals at time-specific milestones, as suggested in my FP piece:
I would welcome other visions as to what an NPT 2.0 –sorry NPT X, Y or Z — would look like.
What is beyond debate is that the current NPT is comatose and probably a threat to world peace in its misuse. e.g. in the previous ACL post on how its Ch. 7 misuse is carried out by the UNSC.
The DSB has done a service by initiating debate on post-NPT thinking.
Thinking is always good, especially in this field.
My response to the DSB would be:
“You would like more transparency, da? How many bombs is the USG — and Russia — willing to give up for that? What is transparency worth to you? Let’s talk”
There would appear to be some scope for the P5 to work towards verification and transparency protocol(s) that could formally or informally include India and Pakistan, and this would/could presumably involve the IAEA much like the 1996-2002 Trilateral Initiative with Russia & the US. It seems hopeful in the extreme to expect a revision of the NPT that incorporates a much more expansive and intrusive verification and transparency system facilitated by a much broader IAEA mandate without very significant and irreversible cuts in the nuclear armouries of possessor states. Majority resistance to the Additional Protocol in current NPT politics highlights the challenge.
The next step would appear to be developing an acceptable system for monitoring and verifying warhead numbers, retirements and dismantlements amongst the P5 in the first instance.
I agree Nick that it is a fine thing to push for some sort of cooperative transparency framework among nuclear weapons possessing states. And maybe even to have this framework codified into a treaty (good luck getting Israel and North Korea to sign it). But my question is why link this idea to the NPT, which has nothing to do with NW stockpile accounting and transparency? It seems like this idea should be channeled into a sui generis treaty specifically designed for this purpose, with whatever tradeoffs among the nuclear weapons possessing states that would be necessary. It just seems to me that the DSB has invoked the name of the NPT in a place where it doesnt fit or belong at all.
This goes to the PMD where the Western powers want to have its CIA-type agents posing as do-good inspectors roaming through the military facilities of certain countries, but not their own because they’re special don’t you know. “Trust and understanding” is a give-away — it’s anti-Persian language.
off-topic but just wanted to point out that there is an important discussion on Iran/IAEA future steps at:
Short Hibbs: Iran should confess its wrongful weaponization practices and promise to stop.
And Iraq should confess to Yellowcake from Niger. And mobile biological weapons labs.
Would be good if folks weighed in at ACW.
A comment at ACW couldn’t possibly address everything that’s wrong with the Hibbs screed, beginning with his premise that the IAEA is a rational organization. How do we know that Hibbs isn’t a USG sock puppet (or worse) situated in Berlin.
Yes, regardless of whether there is in fact any proof of any such weaponization or not, apparently…
NYTimes on the DSB:
The IAEA has nobody on its staff with expertise on nuclear weapons, for starters.
I think Bob Kelley is on record somewhere saying there are maybe 2 people at the IAEA who are familiar with nuclear weaponization. Two. Maybe.
there are maybe 2 people at the IAEA who are familiar with nuclear weaponization. Two. Maybe.
Maybe, but probably not. Certainly not at the organizational level.
The IAEA has six major departments – management, nuclear sciences and applications, nuclear energy, nuclear safety and security, technical cooperation, and safeguards and verification — here’s two of them.
Mr Daud Mohamad, IAEA Deputy Director General
Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications
Mr Daud holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Universiti Kebangsaan in Malaysia, a Master of Science degree from McMaster University in Canada, and a PhD in High Level Radioactive Waste Management from University of Glasgow/Scottish Universities Research Reactor Centre in the UK
Mr Denis Flory, IAEA Deputy Director General
Department of Nuclear Safety & Security
Mr Flory was born in 1953 and graduated from the Ecole Polytechnique in 1975 and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Techniques Avancées in 1978 in nuclear engineering. He started his career in 1978 with the Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA), where he was employed as a thermal hydraulics engineer for fast neutron reactors.
I think it is ok to not have weapons specialists at the management level but unforgivable to have just 2 weapons people at the IAEA out of >2000 staff.
That’s 0.1% of the IAEA who know nuclear weapons.
Sorry hi-jacking the thread:
Bob Kelley on BBC
Click to access 28_05_13_fo4_iran’snuclearstandoff.pdf
“KELLEY: If you start looking at how many people are involved in
the analysis of weapons, I don’t know how many you’d guess. What do you think, Rob? How
many people do you think are analysing the weapons?
BROOMBY: I don’t know. You’d imagine ten or twenty.
KELLEY: I’d say closer to two. And so you’re getting into a
situation where you have a small group of people who are convincing themselves of things and
they don’t really have the breadth that they need in this regard.
BROOMBY: That’s a major weakness, isn’t it, when it comes to this
kind of business?
KELLEY: Absolutely. But, you see, people hear the term IAEA
inspector and something comes to mind and everyone will get a different picture, because they
don’t really know. Probably 80% of the inspectors are from the third world or at least
developing countries, countries with no nuclear activities whatsoever. Very few of the
inspectors from even the weapons states have a weapons background. So when you talk IAEA
inspectors and you sort the whole place and you find there are two people who come from a
weapons background, doesn’t that colour it a little bit differently? You’ll find some excellent
accountants and some excellent nuclear material analysis people. They’re there. But this isn’t,
weapons is not their strength, and for that reason I think they’re getting very much out of their
BROOMBY: Despite weeks of notice, the IAEA declined to take part
in the programme, but on the specific point raised by Robert Kelley, they issued a statement:
READER IN STUDIO: The Agency is confident that it has enough in-house
expertise and experience, across the full range of relevant skills, for it to carry out effective
from the IAEA website:
The IAEA is not “understaffed” — it is staffed appropriately for the job that is is SUPPOSED to do, which is NOT to act as a investigative agency. The role of the IAEA in the NPT is very limited to that of an accountant of declared nuclear material. They’re “understaffed” in weaponization studies, because nothing in the NPT or the IAEA statutes or Iran’s safeguards agreements, give the IAEA some sort of authority to go around acting as an investigator of weaponization studies — which incidentally would be perfectly legal anyway unless and until they included a “diversion of nuclear material for nonpeaceful uses” which the IAEA has said clearly from Day 1 has never happened in Iran.
You may want to copy that msg over to ACW where I’ve started this discussion — and Hibbs is being rather open in his moderation which is refreshing.
The JPOA actually says:
Clearly, the IAEA is supposed to work under the joint commission on technical verification matters. But Hibbs first mis-states the JPOA and then takes a different tack, giving the IAEA the lead.
And Hibbs refers to a non-existent (and legally impossible) IAEA “mandate”–
Hibbs doesn’t mention the JPOA-mandated joint commission again. He merely drones on and on about the IAEA and its Board of Governors and how they might get “Iran to answer all the allegations raised by the IAEA”.
This is is not responsible journalism on the part of Hibbs, this is merely more US-speak along the lines of the common fallacy in the MSM that the IAEA is a “UN watchdog.” Of course we know that the IAEA while good in its technical expertise is merely a tool of US foreign policy at the top because the IAEA is mostly funded by the US, as confirmed by Wikileaks.
It’s all Hibbs BS and not worth commenting on in its particulars. Hibbs is a USG sock-puppet, in my estimation based on the evidence.