Click for next page ( 40


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 39
International Context The management and disposition of plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons will take place within a complex international context that includes the arms reduction and nonproliferation regimes of which this problem is a part; the continuing crisis in the former Soviet Union; worldwide plans for civil nuclear energy, particularly the use of separated plutonium; and existing ap- proaches to safeguards and security for nuclear materials. This context must be understood in considering policy options for excess military plutonium. PLANNED NUCLEAR ARMS REDUCTIONS: HOW MUCH PLUTONIUM AND WHEN? Recent nuclear arms reduction agreements and pledges, if successfully implemented, coupled with national decisions concerning how much plutonium is to be declared "excess" to military needs, will largely set the parameters of how much excess plutonium will require disposition and when it will become available. The Scope of Reductions Under the first and second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START I and START II), the operational U.S. strategic stockpile is slated to decline from just over 12,500 weapons in early 1991 to 3,500 weapons after the turn of the century. The Russian strategic stockpile is to be reduced from more than 10,500 weapons to 3,500 or fewer over the same period. These treaties do not commit either side to dismantle the nuclear weapons to be retired under their provi 39

OCR for page 39
40 INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT signs, though it appears that each nation will unilaterally (or, in the Russian case, in coordination with Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus) choose to dis- mantle a significant fraction of them. Tactical nuclear reductions on a similar scale are now under way, as a re- sult of unilateral pledges made by Presidents Bush, Gorbachev, and Yeltsin, rather than U.S.-Russian (or U.S.-Soviet) agreements. The U.S. government has officially indicated that it possessed roughly 8,000 tactical nuclear war- heads in its operational stockpile as of 1992 and plans to retain only 1,600 of these. The remaining 6,400 warheads are presumably subject to destruction under President Bush's unilateral commitment. The actual number of Russian tactical weapons to be eliminated under Russia's unilateral reduction pledges is difficult to judge; the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has publicly estimated that the figure is between 5,000 and 12,000.2 Thus, on the U.S. side, as many as 15,000 tactical and strategic weapons are likely to be retired within a decade. The amount of fissile material in these weapons is classified. For the purposes of this study, the committee uses 4 kilo- grams of plutonium per weapon as a planning figure.3 This would suggest that the weapons slated for retirement contain some 60 tons of plutonium. The Department of Energy (DOE) has recently stated publicly that "up to approxi- mately 50 metric tons of plutonium will (or may) become available by about 2005 . . . Efor] civilian (unclassified) purposes," from both weapons and other sources.4 ~ In September 1991, President Bush announced that the United States would withdraw all of its ground- and sea-launched tactical nuclear weapons to the United States, and that all of the ground- launched and roughly half the sea-launched weapons would be eliminated. The following month, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announced that all tactical nuclear weapons would be withdrawn to Russia, and that nuclear artillery, ground-launched missile warheads, and nuclear mines would be destroyed. In January 1992, Russian President Yeltsin confirmed and extended Gorbachev's commitments. In addition to destroying all ground-launched tactical warheads, he stated that Russia would destroy half of its tactical air-launched nuclear warheads, one-half of its nuclear warheads for antiaircraft missiles, and one-third of its tactical sea-launched nuclear warheads. Russian officials have since stated that the sea-based, air-delivered, and air defense weapons will be dismantled by 1996, the nuclear mines by 1998, and all other land-based tactical weapons by the year 2000. 2 See Lawrence Gershwin, National Intelligence Officer for Strategic Programs, DOD Appropriations for FY1993, testimony before the House Committee on Appropriations, Part 5, May 6, 1992, p. 499. In addition, Gershwin estimated that as of that date, 2,700 Russian weapons remained to be dismantled from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INd;) Treaty. Public estimates of the total Russian stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons range from 15,000 to 21,000; General Colin Powell put the figure at 17,000 in a Defense Department press conference on September 28, 1991 (transcript, Federal News Service). 3 The minimum quantities of plutonium or highly enriched uranium (HEW) needed to make a weapon are not well defined, as they depend on the design. Actual quantities used in U.S. weapons are classified. ~ Lou Willett, Deputy Director, Office of Weapons and Materials Planning, Defense Programs, U.S. Department of Energy, "Excess Fissile Materials," presented at die Annual Meeting of the American Power Conference, Chicago, Illinois, April 13-15, 1993. The uncertainty implied by the parenthetical "(or may)" reflects continuing debate within the U.S. government over how much of these materials should be kept as military reserves. On December 7, 1993, the Department of Energy announced that 102 tons of plutonium had been produced for the U.S. military stockpile (including 89 tons of weapons-grade material and 13 tons of fuel-grade), of which 33.5 tons was held in various forms at several nuclear weapons complex sites, leaving some 68.5 tons currently in weapons or in disassembled weapons components at the Pantex dismantlement site.

OCR for page 39
INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT 41 As noted, the corresponding Russian total reduction figures are even more uncertain. Adding some 6,500 strategic weapons to be retired under START I and START II to the CIA's figures for tactical weapons would bring the total number of weapons to be retired on the Russian side to between 14,000 and 22,000. Assistant Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter provided a figure in the middle of this range in mid-1993, testifying that Russia plans to dismantle 18,000 weapons.5 Using the same planning figure would suggest that these weapons contain more than 70 tons of plutonium. But if the initial Soviet stockpile was as high as some estimates suggest and Russia does not choose to retain a tactical nuclear force significantly larger than the force the United States plans, the number of weapons to be retired could be substantially higher, amounting to perhaps 30,000 or more.6 As in the U.S. case, some of these weapons or materials may be retained for reserves and stockpile support rather than being considered excess, while some existing stocks of fissile material from other sources may also be excess. In particular, Russian statements suggest that Russia has substantial stocks of highly enriched uranium (HEW) in addition to the materials incorporated in weapons.7 Overall, the Russian government has indicated that it expects to have 50 tons of plutonium and 500 tons of HEU that are excess to its military needs, but these figures may grow. s House Foreign Affairs Committee, September 21,1993 (transcript, Federal News Service). A mid-1992 Russian statement suggests a somewhat higher figure for the number of weapons to be dismantled: Victor Mikhailov, head of the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (1WNATOM), reportedly indicated that the Russian stockpile would decline to 40-50 percent of its mid-1992 level as a result of arms control initiatives through early 1992. Given previous Mikhailov statements concerning the size of that stockpile, this suggests a reduction of 17,000-21,000 warheads, to which must be added several thousand warheads resulting from START II, signed subsequent to Mikhailov's remarks. See discussion in Thomas B. Cochran and Robert S. Norris, RussianlSoviet Nuclear Warhead Production (Washington, D.C.: Natural Resources Defense Council, September 8, 1993), p. 23. 6 Mikhailov has estimated that as of 1986, the Soviet Union possessed some 45,000 nuclear warheads, of which 13,000 have already been dismantled. See Cochran and Noms, op. cit.; and William Broad, "Russian Says Soviet Atom Arsenal Was Larger Than West Estimated," The New York Times, September 26, 1993. Mi~ailov's figures are higher than most U.S. estimates; Secretary of Energy Hazel O Leary has been quoted as saying: "I don't believe those numbers and I think he knows we don't believe those numbers." See Dunbar Lockwood, "Report on Soviet Arsenal Raises Questions, Eyebrows," Arms Control Today, November 1993. Assistant Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter indicated in testimony on September 21, 1993 (House Foreign Affairs Committee, op. cit.) that the current U.S. estimate is that the total Soviet stock is between 25,000 and 35,000 warheads, the high end of which is consistent with ~Idlailov's figures. If ~ailov is correct, and Russia chose to retain an arsenal comparable to the alarmed 5,100-warhead active U.S. arsenal, with minimal reserves, the total reduction from the peak level would amount to some 40,000 weapons. 7 In an interview in the fall of 1993, Mikhailov indicated that the 500 metric tons of HEU involved in the U.S.-Russian HEU deal "represents somewhere around 30 to 40 percent of all reserves that we possess," suggesting a total stockpile of at least 1,250 tons of HEU. Mikhailov has reportedly used similar figures in discussions with U.S. DOE officials. There is considerable uncertainty in the United States concerning whether this figure is accurate; the article based on the interview reports that previous U.S. intelligence estimates were in the range of 800 tons. See Elizabeth Mart n, "A Conversation with Viktor Mikhailov," NUKEM Market Report, October 1993.

OCR for page 39
42 INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT Reduction Schedules The schedule on which these excess materials become available and there- fore require intermediate storage will be determined by the rate at which weap- ons are retired and dismantled. A considerable amount of excess fissile material already exists amounting to tens of tons of plutonium from previously dis- mantled weapons and other sources within each side's weapons complex. For example, more than 5,000 plutonium "pits" plutonium weapons compo- nents from dismantled weapons were already stored at the Pantex plant in Amarillo, Texas, as of late 1993.8 Dismantlement of weapons already retired is continuing on both sides, in the United States at a rate of somewhat less than 2,000 weapons per year, and in Russia at an unknown but reportedly comparable rate. Dismantlement issues are discussed in detail in Chapter 4. On both sides, the planned withdrawals of tactical weapons based abroad are now complete,9 and thousands of weapons are available to be dismantled as fast as the dismantlement facilities can process them. Both sides have also re- tired a significant number of strategic weapons, although the START I and START II treaties are not yet in force. The schedule for further retirements of strategic weapons, however, is more complex (see Figure 2-1~. START I calls for three phases of reductions over seven years (starting from the treaty's entry into force, which now will not occur before early 1994 at best), whereas START II calls for two phases, the first over START's seven- year span and the second to be completed by 2003. If the two sides reduced no faster than legally required by START I and START II, the bulk of the strategic reductions required under these treaties would come just after the turn of the century, to meet START II limits.~ If START I entered into force in early 1994, its second phase of reductions would end in early 1999. By that time, each side would have been required to reduce its forces to 7,950 total "accountable" deployed warheads, of which ~ Und1 1989, when the Rocky Flats plant closed, pits were shipped there to be fashioned into pits for new weapons. Since these shipments were stopped, more than 4,000 weapons have been dismanded. See U.S. Document of Energy, Albuquerque Operations Amarillo Area Office, "Environmental Assessment for Interim Storage of Plutonium Components at Pantex," Predecisional Draft, December 1992, p. 2^2. For specific figures on dismantlement since 1989, see Chapter 4; and U.S. Congress, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, Energy and Water Development Appropriations for 1994, Part 6, p. 1308. 9 By mid-1992, the United States had met its commitment to withdraw ground-launched and sea-launched tactical weapons to the United States. Russia has also apparently succeeded in withdrawing the former Soviet tactical warheads to its territory on schedule: On May 6, 1992, the Russian government officially announced that all tactical nuclear weapons had been removed to Russia from Ukraine, the last non-Russian state in which Hey were deployed, and on February 3, 1993, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported that all former Soviet tactical nuclear weapons from ships and submarines had been withdrawn to Russia. Despite many rumors of "loose nukes," there appears to be no serious basis for questioning these Russian announcements. A Although START II requires that reductions be "sustained throughout the reductions period," there are no annual requirements except in the case of the SS-18. The U.S. State Department's analysis of the accord emphasizes that the term "sustained" does not imply "straight-line" reduction rates, and that this is not a "specific legal obligation to reduce at a given rate." See U.S. Senate, Treaty with the Russian Federation on Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms The STARTII Treaty), Treaty Document 103-1, 1993.

OCR for page 39
INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT 43 14 12 10 en (n 6 8 4 2 o OU.S. .. __ . 1 ~ Cal 1 ~ 1 1 ~ 1 _ l 1 ~ 1 _ 1 ~ - 1 1 ~113 1 1 idle 1 ~ 1 1 1~ 1 ~ 1 ~ 1 ~ 1 ~ . ~ . ~ 1 .1 1 111115 1 - 1 1 111511 1 ~11 1 11111111 1 ~ 1 1~1 1 ~ 1 3~g . ~ ~ . ~ . . ~ . . ~ . ~ 1 ~ 1 . ~ . "a ~ ~ 1 1 - 1 . . 3 ~ ~ 1 _ ~ #I L 1 - 1_ Cl Russia l ~ l ~ ~ _ 31 _ ~ _ _ ~ ~ ~ _ ~ ~ 1 1 _ ~ ~ _ ~ _~ ~ _ _ ~ _ 11 1990 1994 1997 1999 2001 2003 FIGURE 2-1 Forces under START I and II: United States and Russia 6,750 could be carried by ballistic missiles. Since U.S. operational strategic forces are already close to the final levels mandated by START I, and will meet those levels by the end of 1994, this second-phase limit would not require any further reductions in U.S. forces between 1994 and 1999. By contrast, over the same period, Russian deployed strategic forces would be reduced by 20 percent. In early 2001 the force levels of the first phase of START II would super- sede the final force levels of START I, requiring cuts to 4,250 actual warheads on each side. This would be a reduction in just two years of approximately 50 percent in projected U.S. forces and somewhat less on the Russian side (though with more emphasis on missile cutbacks). Moreover, by 2001, all remaining nuclear weapons would be removed from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. In the second and final phase of START II, actual U.S. and Russian war- heads would have to undergo another reduction of approximately 18 percent, to reach the final ceiling of 3,500 warheads. Thus, in the four years from 1999 to 2003, U.S. forces would be reduced by more than 60 percent, and Russian forces by 55 percent. This uneven pace of reductions could be smoothed out if each side continued to carry out reductions sooner than it is legally required to do so. THE CRISIS IN THE FORMER SOVIET UNION The demise of the Soviet Union and the ongoing political and economic crises in the former Soviet states raise substantial risks for arms reduction and nonproliferation.

OCR for page 39
44 INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT A key goal of the denuclearization process is ensuring that the organiza- tions charged with managing nuclear weapons, materials, and technology- including the military, the Ministry of Atomic Energy (MINATOM), and the relevant regulatory agencies-can carry out the responsibilities assigned to them on the schedule envisioned, while preventing leakage of nuclear weapons, materials, and technologies to potential proliferators. This challenge must be met amidst a crisis-prone political transformation and deep economic trauma. The tasks must be accomplished by complex institutions accustomed to operat- ing under a central authority that has been fundamentally weakened, and with central missions and guidelines defined by a Cold War confrontation that has now vanished. In effect, Russia, like the United States, must now run its nu- clear weapons complex in reverse-dismantling thousands of nuclear weapons each year rather than assembling them; disposing of plutonium and HEU rather than producing more; and fostering transparency and trust, rather than main- taining strict secrecy. This fundamental change of mission must be carried out in both countries by institutions operating with obsolete and contaminated fa- cilities and declining budgets, while grappling with new demands for transpar- ency and public accountability, and suffering from a lack of public credibility and acceptance. The current crisis in the former Soviet Union creates a variety of risks with respect to the management and disposition of nuclear weapons and fissile ma- terials. This report categorizes these as dangers of: "breakup," meaning the emergence of multiple nuclear-armed states where previously there was only one; "breakdown," meaning erosion of government control over nuclear weapons and materials within a particular state; and "breakout," meaning repudiation of arms reduction agreements and pledges, and reconstruction of a larger nuclear arsenal. Ideas for reducing these risks related to management of nuclear weapons and fissile materials are discussed in Chapters 4 and 5. The Risks of Breakup If more than one nuclear state emerges from the demise of the Soviet Union, it would almost certainly prevent implementation of START I and II, unraveling the arms reduction regime they represent. It could also deal a devas- tating blow to global nonproliferation efforts and put the results of the 1995 conference to extend the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in doubt. Over the long term, nearby countries might reconsider their nonnuclear commit- ments. If North Korea took the nuclear road at the same time, the entire non- proliferation regime could be called into question. Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia are the only states on whose territory nuclear weapons of the former Soviet Union are still deployed. In the

OCR for page 39
INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT 45 Lisbon Protocol of May 1992 and accompanying letters, the three non-Russian states agreed to eliminate the nuclear weapons on their soil as part of the START I reductions, and to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty as non-nuclear- weapon states "in the shortest possible time," leaving Russia as the sole inheri- tor of the Soviet Union's nuclear weapons. Belarus has acceded to the NPT, and in the fall of 1993, Kazakhstan reiterated its pledge to do so quickly, but Ukraine has not. The U.S. Senate, the Russian Supreme Soviet, and the Kazakh and Belarusan parliaments have approved START I. As noted in Chapter 1, Ukraine poses the greatest risk, as there are a growing number of voices in that country raising questions about the wisdom of eliminating the nuclear weapons now on Ukrainian soil, and in November 1993, the Ukrainian Rada acted to ratify START without accepting the denuclearization commitment of the Lisbon Protocol. Efforts to resolve the issue are continuing, but Ukraine's ulti- mate decision remains in doubt. The Risks of Breakdown The risks of theft of nuclear weapons or fissile materials in the former Soviet Union are serious. The Soviet Union maintained an elaborate system of security and command and control to ensure against any unauthorized seizure or use of nuclear weapons, and the Russian government is trying to maintain this system. Controls over fissile materials were traditionally based primarily on extensive physical security measures, rather than detailed accounting, and this continues to be the basic approach. The overall integrity of these systems is difficult to determine, particularly since their heavy reliance on secrecy limits the information available to the public. For now, the U.S. intelligence community is confident that the nuclear weapons of the former Soviet Union remain under firm central control and se- curity.~2 Fissile materials pose a more difficult question. The intelligence community continues to check out each report of theft, transfer, or sale of nu- clear weapons or fissile materials, but has "not, to this point, detected the sale or transfer of significant nuclear matenal, nor the sale or transfer of the weap- ons themselves."~3 But not all reports have been successfully tracked down. Given the level of social turbulence in Russia, control over weapons and mate- rials could erode over time. Already, there are dozens of reports of events suggesting some erosion of the organizations involved in controlling these materials. These include large-scale military corruption and extensive thefts of conventional weapons, myriad cases of theft of civilian nuclear materials, ~ ~ For a current description, see Bruce Blair, The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1993). |2 See, for example, testimony of Cry Director R. James Woolsey, House Foreign Fairs Committee, July 28, 1993. Weapons outside of Russia are under Russian operational control. Those in Ukraine, however, raise greater concerns. If the dispute with Russia over Ukraine's denuclearization commitments and related issues worsens, Ukraine might attempt to assert physical control over them. ]3 Woolsey, ibid.

OCR for page 39
46 INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT threats by Strategic Rocket Forces personnel to leave their posts because of in- adequate food supplies, protests and threats of strikes at nuclear weapons fa- cilities where personnel have not been paid in months, and military factions apparently operating quasi-independently in various conflicts on Russia's borders. Nuclear weapons and weapons-usable fissile materials are likely to be un- der considerably tighter security than conventional weapons and less strategi- cally significant nuclear materials. But Minister of Atomic Energy Mikhailov has confirmed one theft of HEU and two thefts of low-ennched uranium (LEU). There are some press reports that purport to have confirmation of black market dealers possessing weapons-grade plutonium. Mikhailov and other responsible Russian officials have acknowledged the increasing risks of materials theft cre- ated by the current economic and social turmoil in Russia, and have suggested a variety of means to strengthen procedures to cope with the issue.~4 Guards at ~4 There are many hundreds of reports of various types of theft of nuclear materials, most of them speculative or inaccurate. (For a partial chronology, see William C. Potter, Nuclear Profiles of the Soviet Successor States (Monterey, Calif.: Monterey Institute of International Studies, May 1993), Appendix One.) Only those in which some confirmation is available, preferably from responsible Russian officials, are discussed here. For ~Ichailov's references to material thefts, see Elizabeth Martin, "A Conversation with Viktor Mikhailov," NUKEM Market Report, October 1993. It was not clear from the interview whether the stolen material was recovered. ~Ichailov acknowledged that "many people in Russia live on the edge of poverty and there is a great temptation to steal in these plants," requiring strengthened "procedures for accounting and control of all aspects of the fuel cycle." Similarly, Aleksandr Mokhov, head of MINATOM's Administration for Protection of Information, Nuclear Materials, and Sites, has acknowledged three cases of theft of uranium in the last two years (from facilities at Podolsk, Glazov, and Arzamas-16). Up until 1990, according to Mokhov, only three similar thefts had been recorded, in 1967, 1971, and 1989. Mokhov did not indicate whether the uranium involved in these cases was HEU, LEU, or unenriched material. He indicated that there have been no reported thefts or attempted thefts of plutonium, but acknowledged that "discipline and responsibility among some managers and staff at enterprises, including our specialized services, has deteriorated." See Veronika Romanenkova, "Atomic Energy Official Views Recent Uranium Thefts," ITAR-TASS World Service, February 20, 1993, reprinted in Foreign Broadcast Information Service~entral Eurasia (hereinafter 1?BIS- SOV), Febluary 24, 1993, p. 40. Several months later, militia Lieutenant General V.P. Ignatov, the head of Interpol's Russian bureau, also confirmed three uranium thefts, but said, "I can state with full responsibility that not a single criminal attempt to steal weapons-grade nuclear materials has been registered at any Russian military industrial installation." All thefts uncovered by law enforcement agencies, he indicated, were of materials "that cannot be used to fabricate weapons." Ignatov warned, however, that "criminals are not abandoning their attempts to steal radioactive materials" and suggested that a new international convention be negotiated "to combat nuclear terrorism." See Veniamin Polubinskiy, "Radioactive Business: Myths and Reality," Federatsiya, April 2, 1993, reprinted in FBIS-SOV, April 16, 1993, p. 42. Similarly, Major-General Gennady Yevstafyev, head of the division of the Russian foreign intelligence service dealing with nonproliferation, stated in August 1993 that "no sign has been found of highly enriched uranium, plutonium, and specific nuclear technologies being illegally exported," but he warned that security standards varied considerably at different types of facilities and that problems in this area would soon become "acute." He suggested setting up an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) group to monitor the illegal nuclear trade. See Vladimir Orlov, "Nuclear Analysis by General Yevstafyev of the Russian Intelligence Service," Moscow News, August 27, 1993. ~ldlailov, at roughly the same time as he acknowledged the HEU theft, denied in another interview that any weapons-grade materials had been stolen, saying that reports of such thefts were "somebody's fantasy or a special forgery," designed to "tarnish the nuclear industry and Russia's nuclear complex." Mikhailov was reacting to what was purported to be a police document, reportedly confirmed by the chief investigator in the

OCR for page 39
INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT 47 many facilities are reportedly poorly paid and motivated, and may be suscepti- ble to bribery or threats. Some civilian facilities with enough HEU or plutonium for a bomb, such as research reactors, reportedly have no portal monitors to detect removal of fissile material. Diversions directed by officials within a par- ticular facility could effectively bypass most of the security measures that do exist, and cannot be ruled out. Although Russian officials continue to resist the idea that "insider" theft is a serious possibility, cases of theft of LEU involving as many as eight insiders conspiring together have been officially confirmed.iS Such insider conspiracies pose severe challenges to security systems. The United States (along with some other donors) is planning to provide Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan with limited assistance in improving safe- guards and security for fissile materials, but much more needs to be done (see Chapter 5~. The Risk of Breakout The final risk is the danger that the arms reductions process might be re- versed a prospect often referred to as "breakout"-or that perceptions that this danger remained might limit the scope or benefits of reductions. This risk is integrally linked to the overall structure of the arms reduction regime, a part of the context of the plutonium problem addressed below. THE ARMS REDUCTION REGIME The committee's previous study described its view of the future of nuclear weapons and nuclear arms reductions in details The existing nuclear arms reduction regime is the product of more than 30 years of effort, signifying a recognition by both the United States and the Soviet Union-continued by Russia-that cooperation in limiting military threats serves their security inter- ests better than unbridled competition. Continuing to build on these elements of a cooperative regime will be an important part of U.S. security policy in the case, indicating that materials seized from a group of black market arms dealers in Moscow included "weapon- grade plutonium." (The dealers had indicated to an undercover reporter that the material included "80 percent of uranium and 20 percent of plutonium," a ratio typical of breeder reactor fuel.) See Chris Wallace, "Loose Nukes,~' PrimeTime Live, ABC News, October 14, 1993, transcript. Despite these risks, it appears that MINATOM and the Ministry of Defense are resisting external oversight of security and accounting procedures by GOSATOMNADZOR, the Russian equivalent of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which President Yeltsin has charged with that task. See Mark Hibbs, "Watchdogs Say MINATOM Withholding Material Theft and Diversion Data," NuclearFuel, August 16, 1993; Yevgeniy Solomenko, "Army Smoking Break on Powder Keg," Izvestia, July 21, 1993, reprinted in FBIS-SOV, July 21, 1993; and "Uranium, Plutonium' Pandemonium," The Economist, June 5, 1993. |5 At least eight insiders at the factory are said to have been involved in the widely reported Glazov uranium theft, which apparently involved some 100 kilograms of uranium. For a detailed official cor~rmation of this case, see Veniamin Polubinskiy, "Radioactive Business: Myths and Reality,~' Federatsiya, April 2, 1993, repented inFBIS-SOV, April 16, 1993, p. 42. For a listing of other accounts, see Potter, op. cit. |6 Nation Academy of Sciences, Committee on International Security and Arms Control, The Future of the U.S.-SovietNuclearRelationship (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1991).

OCR for page 39
48 INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT years to come. As the committee argued in its previous study, provided world conditions are favorable and the other nuclear powers can be brought along, substantial reductions beyond the START II levels would further improve security. A substantial factor limiting the likely scope of reductions is the perceived risk of breakout. Unless the warheads to be retired and other excess warhead stocks are dismantled, and the fissile materials they contain controlled, each party to reductions might fear that another party could rapidly abandon the re- ductions regime and reconstitute its arsenal. Despite the uncertain nature of the present Russian political scene, it is difficult to envision a situation in which even an extremely nationalistic future Russian government would choose to repudiate START I and START II once they had entered into force. Moreover, at the levels of highly survivable forces projected for 2003 under START II, even the worst-case breakout scenario on either side would not fundamentally threaten the strategic balance. Recent agreements, however, do little to reduce the theoretical potential for breakout. Under START I and START II, nearly all of the reductions are to be accomplished simply by removing warheads from launchers that will remain deployed or that will be placed in storages Once the nuclear weapons are removed from their delivery vehicles, there is no requirement to eliminate, con- trol, or even account for them. These accords generally also do not require elimination of retired missiles, and they place few limits on reserve stocks of nondeployed missiles or nuclear weapons. Most of START II's large reductions will be achieved by removing war- heads from missiles that will remain in service a process known as "downloading" and by shifting bombers to conventional missions.~9 Thus, in the unlikely event that either side decided to break out of the START II treaty, much of the job could be done simply by: (1) loading warheads back on to downloaded, but still operational, missiles; (2) reorienting bombers from con ]7 The IntermediateRange Nuclear Forces (INS;) Treaty went somewhat further, requiring the physical destruction of the missiles to be retired (rather than only their launchers) and covering not ordy deployed systems but nondeployed systems as well. The goal, in part, was to make the agreement stronger and more complete by eliminating all the limited systems. Even in that case, however, there was no requirement for the dismantlement of any of the retired warheads, a fact that provoked some criticism. ~8 The exception is the "heavy" 10-warhead SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which Russia has agreed to eliminate under START II. All but 90 of the SS-18 silos must also be destroyed, with the remaining 90 modified so that they can launch only much smaller missiles. i9 For example, U.S. C4 and D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), which currently carry 8 warheads, could be downloaded to 4, while remaining equipped with a warhead "bus" capable of carrying 8. In the Russian case, 105 of the SS-l9 ICBMs could be downloaded from 6 warheads to 1, and the SS-N-20 SLBM will probably either tee downloaded from 10 to 6 warheads or be replaced with a new 6-warhead missile. Only in the case of the SS-1 8s are all missiles and "reentry vehicle platforms" (buses) to be destroyed. See U.S. Senate, Treaty Between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, Treaty Documents 102-20 and 102-32. Each side can also remove warheads from a limited number of bombers and "reorient" the planes to conventional status, without any modification. The United States plans to invoke this provision for its entire fleet of almost 100 B-1 aircraft.

OCR for page 39
INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT 49 ventional to nuclear roles; or (3) reactivating retired missiles in storage. (The third step would be more difficult and time-consuming.) By these means, even after START II was fully implemented, Russia might be able to relatively rap- idly increase its force by as much as 100 percent. The United States might be able to increase its force by roughly 130 percent.20 Despite the small likelihood of breakout, the continuing option represented by these delivery vehicles and warheads remains a weakness in the current arms reduction regime. This weakness could become more threatening over time if political conditions deteriorate, and could limit the political prospects for further cuts, or for bringing other nuclear states into the reductions process. Approaches to addressing this problem are discussed in Chapters 4 and 5. TlIE NONPROLIFERATION REGIME The global nonproliferation regime also represents decades of effort in building a more cooperative approach to security. Ultimately, restraining the spread of nuclear weapons is a political issue, which must rest on the convic- tion of states that their security is better served by not acquiring nuclear weap- ons. Technical barriers alone cannot prevent proliferation by a state determined to acquire nuclear weapons; they can only make it more difficult, costly, and time-consuming which in some cases can provide the time needed for politi- cal persuasion to end a nuclear weapons program. As noted in Chapter 1, the primary technical barrier to nuclear weapons capability remaining today is ac- cess to fissile materials. Policies for the management and disposition of existing plutonium must be designed to strengthen this technical barrier, and to help strengthen the agreements and institutions involved in implementing the non- proliferation regime. Fundamentals of the Nonproliferation Regime The foundation of the nonproliferation regime is the nuclear Non-Prolif- eration Treaty, which was signed in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. This treaty, which now has nearly 160 adherents, consists of a fundamental bargain. All of the member nations except the five declared nuclear-weapon states (the United States, Great Britain, France, China, and the former Soviet Union, all of whom are now parties) are prohibited from acquiring nuclear weapons; in re- turn, the nonnuclear states are to have open access to and assistance in nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and the nuclear-weapon states are to work toward disarmament in good faith. The treaty allows any party to acquire and use separated plutonium or HEU for non-weapons purposes, provided, in the case of non-nuclear-weapon states, that it remains under safeguards. 20 This apparent "breakout advantage" for Me United States results from START II's requirement dial Russia destroy its SS-18 missiles.

OCR for page 39
50 INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT The NPT is supplemented by a range of other accords and understandings. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), established in 1957, con- ducts agreed international monitoring of civilian nuclear facilities to ensure that bilateral supplier-recipient commitments and NPT commitments are being honored.21 Various regional arrangements, such as Latin America's Treaty of Tlatelolco and the South Pacific's Treaty of Rarotonga, seek to keep those areas free of nuclear weapons.22 The Nuclear Exporters Committee (Zangger Com- mittee) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Club), established in 1974 and 1975, respectively, provide their membership industrial countries who strongly support the NPT-with forums to discuss policy problems and to coordinate export guidelines for technologies potentially related to nuclear weapons. In recent years, a number of steps have been taken to strengthen the re gime, partly in response to revelations concerning Iraq's extensive clandestine nuclear weapons program, which highlighted some serious weaknesses: Export controls in a number of important countries have been strengthened and the Nuclear Suppliers Group has tightened its export guidelines. The IAEA has moved to establish a capability to receive and respond to in telligence on nuclear developments provided by member states. The IAEA has begun to exercise its existing authority to carry out inspec- tions at undeclared sites. The UN Security Council has identified the spread of weapons of mass de- struction as a threat to international security, giving it the authority to act to counter proliferation. In cases ranging from North Korea to Iraq to Ukraine, the international community has demonstrated new unanimity and coordination in acting to counter the spread of nuclear weapons. Despite these encouraging steps, several critical "threshold" states remain outside the regime (including Israel, India, and Pakistan). Moreover, two states North Korea with its resistance to effective safeguards, and Ukraine with its ambivalence about giving up the nuclear weapons of the former Soviet Union still on its territory pose urgent challenges to the regime. And a few other states may be attempting to pursue nuclear weapons programs, or helping others to do so, while remaining formally within the regime. There are important linkages between the management and disposition of excess nuclear weapons and fissile materials and the future of the nonprolifera tion regime. As described in Chapters 4 and 5, some measures for managing excess military fissile materials in the United States and Russia could set a 2] The European Community's E - ATOM organization Is a similar role, in cooperation with He L\EA, in Western Europe. 22 The Tlatelolco treaty also commits its pames to abide by an LAEA safeguards regime comparable to that in the NPT.

OCR for page 39
INTERNATIONaL CONTEXT 51 standard for application to civilian materials elsewhere, strengthening safe- guards and security for fissile materials worldwide. In addition, as noted in Chapter 1, measures to demonstrate that thousands of nuclear weapons had been dismantled and the resulting fissile materials committed to exclusively nonexplosive purposes could, in concert with recent progress in arms reductions, help build support for an indefinite extension of the NET at the 1995 extension conference, and for measures to strengthen the nonproliferation regime. The Role of the IAEA Efforts to stem the spread of nuclear weapons are critically dependent on the strength and credibility of the systems and organizations given the respon- sibility to carry them out, in particular the IAEA. The IAEA's traditional approach to safeguards focused on verifying de- clared facilities at declared sites. Even though the IAEA has always had statu- tory authority to inspect other sites, support from its key members was not suf- ficient to enable it to do so. The discovery of a vast nuclear weapons program in Iraq, taking place largely at undeclared sites, clearly demonstrated that this approach was insufficient. This accelerated an IAEA reform effort that was already under way. The agency is now taking a variety of steps to strengthen its safeguards, including placing new emphasis on collecting and integrating in- formation from all available sources on the nuclear programs of individual states, and reaffirming its right to conduct special inspections at undeclared sites. This reinvigoration must continue. The IAEA has taken on an expanded role in recent years, and this study recommends new missions, particularly relating to storage and long-term dis- position of fissile materials. These new roles will place new burdens on the agency, and successful implementation is likely to require continuing reform. Most of these missions involve political issues about which the IAEA's diverse membership would need to develop a workable consensus, and this will not come easily in some cases. Sustained diplomatic effort to build support for these new missions will be required. Equally important, to maintain a strengthened safeguards effort, or to par- ticipate in monitoring fissile materials released from nuclear weapons pro- grams, the IAEA will need greater resources. The current IAEA safeguards budget for the entire world is in the neighborhood of $68 million a year an inadequate sum and a trivial one on the scale of security spending by the major powers. Unfortunately, however, the major powers have for many years insisted on keeping the IAEA to an essentially flat budget; only in recent years have they agreed to any increases at all, and these have been small compared to the major new responsibilities the agency has taken on. Although some other agency ac- tivities are funded by voluntary contributions, safeguards are funded by fixed

OCR for page 39
52 INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT assessments, which are set so that the major powers pay most of the bill. These assessments can be changed only by a vote of the Board of Governors. Efforts to substantially increase the budget are subject to the usual politics of international institutions, including disputes over issues such as the status of Israel and South Africa, and the reluctance of some major powers to provide more safeguards funding if the result is more inspections in their own countries.23 The Clinton administration's recent nonproliferation initiative recognizes this problem, pledging to "seek to ensure that the International Atomic Energy Agency has the resources needed to implement its vital safeguards responsibilities."24 Gaining the substantial increases in resources that are needed is likely to re- quire more flexible approaches to both inspection and funding. Some possible approaches are discussed in Chapter 5. CIVILIAN PLUTONIUM PROGRAMS Management and disposition of excess weapons plutonium will take place in a context in which large quantities of separated plutonium are being pro- duced, stored, and used for civilian nuclear fuel as well.~5 Currently, excess stocks of separated civilian plutonium are building up in parallel with the ex- cess stocks of weapons plutonium resulting from weapons dismantlement. The basic elements of the civilian plutonium cycle are reprocessing, to separate plutonium from spent reactor fuel; fuel fabrication, to turn that pluto nium into fresh reactor fuel; and recycling, the use of plutonium in reactors. Recent IAEA estimates indicate that as of late 1992, some 86 tons of plu- tonium separated from civilian spent fuel was in storage worldwide.26 Most of the reprocessing that produced this plutonium was done in plants in Great Britain, France, and Russia. The rate at which plutonium is being produced by reprocessing remains higher than the rate at which it is being used in reactors, resulting in growing excess stocks. The stock of unused plutonium in store is expected to increase to between 110 and 170 tons by the latter part of this dec 23 Traditionally, in order to avoid appearing to discriminate between developed nations and developing states, the LAEA has generally focused its safeguards effort on the locations handling the largest quantities of sensitive materials, rather than focusing special efforts on countries judged to be the greatest proliferation risks. As a result, more than half of the agency's safeguards budget is spent on inspections in Germany, Canada, and Japan. Thus, the major powers believe they are "oversafeguarded" already, and would be reluctant to provide additional funds for even more inspections on their own territory. More flexible approaches to safeguarding that would permit some reallocation of resources are now under discussion. 24 White House Fact Sheet, "Nonproliferation and Export Control Policy," September 27, 1993. The statement also pledged to work "to strengthen the IAEA's ability to detect clandestine nuclear activities." 25 An excellent source of information on civilian-and military plutonium programs is David Albright, Frans Berkhout, and William Walker, World Inventory of Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium 1992 (London: Oxford University Press for SIPRI, 1993). 26 See J.S. Finucane, "Summary: Advisory Group Meeting on Problems Concerning He Accumulation of Separated Plutonium," IDEA, Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Management, September 21, 1993. More than half of this accumulated plutonium belonged to Great Britain and Russia; while other reprocessing countries have decided to use plutonium in light-water reactors to reduce the buildup of excess stocks, neither of these countries has yet taken this route.

OCR for page 39
INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT 53 ade or early in the next century, depending on the scale of reprocessing and plutonium use over the intervening period.27 An infrastructure of existing and planned civilian facilities thus exists to store many tons of plutonium, fabricate it into reactor fuel, and use it in reac- tors. These facilities, however, are already burdened with managing civilian plutonium; using them to handle excess military plutonium would require sub- stantially expanding them or displacing the civilian plutonium in some way (see Chapter 6~. Today's civilian plutonium programs in the advanced industrial countries result from decisions made in the 1970s, when it was believed that energy de- mand would increase much more rapidly than it has, that nuclear power would supply a larger fraction of that energy than it has, and that resources of ura- nium were far more limited than they have since proved to be.28 Thus, it was believed that for a secure energy future, it would be essential to move quite rapidly to a plutonium fuel cycle, in which reactors would turn uranium-238 (U-238, which accounts for more than 99 percent of natural uranium) into plu- tonium, which could be used as a fuel, thereby extending uranium reserves by as much as a factor of 1,000.29 The means to do this was the "breeder" reac- tor so-called because by turning U-238 into plutonium it would produce more fuel than it consumed-combined with reprocessing and reuse of the resulting plutonium. With the slower than expected growth of nuclear power production and the discovery of large new resources of uranium, the economic justification for such a plutonium cycle has receded some decades into the future. Nonetheless, a number of countries are continuing to actively pursue plutonium fuel programs, in order to maintain a role in advanced nuclear technology, to help ensure long- term energy supplies, and to explore the possibility that reprocessing and re- cycling might help ease the difficulties of managing nuclear waste. The inertia of long-standing programs, written into policies, national laws, and binding contracts, is also a major factor in sustaining these plutonium ef- forts. Reprocessing plants whose construction began in the 1970s or 1980s are only now being opened, and plutonium fuel fabrication facilities planned for many years are nearing completion or beginning construction. Similarly, al- though breeder reactors have encountered technical problems in several coun- tries and their commercialization has been greatly delayed, several long-stand- ing breeder reactor development programs continue. Long-planned programs to use plutonium fuel in existing light-water reactors (substituting a plutonium 27 Finucane, ibid. Albright et al. (op. cit.) provide roughly similar estimates. 28 For a useful oversew of these changes, see Leslie Dircks, MA Deputy Director~eneral, "Nuclear Fuel Recycling: The L\EA Perspective," speech, Tokyo, March 25, 1992. 29 A factor of roughly 100 would come from We 100-fold greater abundance of U-238 compared to me U- 235 consumed in most reactors today; an additional factor of roughly 10 might come from the possibility of mining uranium resources Nat it would not be economical to exploit if only the U-235 were going to be used, but might become economical if me U-238 were going to be used as well.

OCR for page 39
54 INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT uranium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for part of the LEU fuel these reactors normally use) are going forward in several countnes. At the same time, proliferation concerns and the currently unfavorable economics of plutonium use have led some nations, notably the United States, to promote postponing or abandoning reprocessing and the plutonium fuel cycle in favor of direct disposal of spent fuel.30 On September 27, 1993, the Clinton administration announced a nonproliferation initiative which makes clear that while the United States will not interfere with reprocessing in Japan and Europe, "the United States does not encourage the civil use of plutonium and, accordingly, does not itself engage in plutonium reprocessing for either nuclear power or nuclear explosive purposes." The initiative called for an exploration of "means to limit the stockpiling of plutonium from civil nuclear programs."3i Nevertheless, the vision of a plutonium fuel cycle remains deeply held by many in Europe, Russia, and Japan. Current plutonium programs involve a complex web of international rela- tionships governing different parts of the fuel cycle. Belgium, for example, needs contracts from France, Switzerland, and Germany to sustain its MOX fabrication plant. Japan, Germany, and other countries depend on France to reprocess their spent fuel, and Britain expects to provide major reprocessing services when its new facility opens. Russia is seeking foreign investment to complete a MOX fabrication plant and a new reprocessing facility. At least two of the major nations involved Germany and Japan are re- thinking aspects of their plutonium programs. But the long-standing invest- ments and commitments at stalce, combined with the international contracts involved, will make major changes in policy difficult. Policy decisions on the disposition of excess weapons-grade plutonium will need to take these condi- tions into account. The civilian plutonium programs of the major countries are described in Appendix B. SAFEGUARDS AND PHYSICAL SECURITY International efforts to reduce the proliferation risks posed by plutonium and enriched uranium rest on two basic concepts: (1) safeguards (both national and international) are designed to detect any diversion of materials and enable a timely response, thereby contributing to the deterrence of such diversions; and (2) security (currently entirely national, rather than international) involves 30 In April 1977 the Carter administration announced its decision "to defer indefinitely We commercial reprocessing and recycling of the plutonium produced in U.S. nuclear power programs" (Presidential Documents-Jimmy Carter, Vol. 13, no. 15, April 18, 1977). An influential analysis that provided part of the technical basis for that decision is Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., Nuclear Power: Issues and Choices, Report of the Nuclear Energy Policy Study Group (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger Publishing Company, 1977). 3] White House Fact Sheet, "Nonproliferation and Export Control Policy," September 27, 1993.

OCR for page 39
INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT 55 measures to prevent any theft of materials, through the use of barriers, guards, and the like.32 Standards for both safeguards and physical security vary widely. In the case of national safeguards, most nations possessing significant quantities of nuclear materials have some form of national system for material control and accounting, to keep track of the quantities, locations, uses, and movement of nuclear materials under their control. The quality of these systems varies dra- matically, however. The non-Russian states of the former Soviet Union, for example, are now facing the need to set up such systems for the first time, in the midst of ongoing economic and political transformations. Similarly, standards of accounting at particular facilities also vary. At bulk plutonium processing facilities, for example, small percentage uncertainties in accounting for large quantities of material have so far made it difficult to meet the standard of "timely detection" of diversion of a "significant quantity" of plutonium (defined by the IAEA as 8 kilograms, although weapons can be made with less).33 Therefore containment and surveillance-efforts to ensure that fissile materials do not leave certain areas, or the facility as a whole, undetected are also an important factor in both national and international safeguards. International safeguards have somewhat different purposes and objectives. While national safeguards are designed primarily to detect theft of material from the control of the state on whose territory the facility operates, interna- tional safeguards are designed to detect diversion by the state itself. Thus, all of the information provided by the facility operator must be treated as potentially suspect and subject to verification. International safeguards work much as a bank audit does: the operator of the facility provides records on the beginning 32 This division of"safeguards" and "security" into two distinct activities follows the IDEA usage. However, in other contexts, the word "safeguards" is sometimes used to include both material control and accounting, and physical security. That, for example, is how the term is used in most official discussions of U.S. national systems for security and material control and accounting. For a useful discussion of many of the issues raised in this section, see Paul Leventhal and Yonah Alexander, eds., Preventing Nuclear Terrorism (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1987). 33 The chief problem in achieving such timely detection is that traditional material accounting techniques involved balancing the input and output from a plant with its current inventory, and for economic reasons, the plant shutdown required to take a full inventory could be done only at relatively long intervals (such as six months or a year). Thus, it could take that long for any missing material to show up on the books; and a very large amount of material would have been processed during the prolonged inventory period, requiring extremely precise accounting to detect diversions as small as a few kilograms. New techniques have been developed to try to address this problem in recent years, however, using instruments to measure process inventories without shutting the plant down, or frequent comparison of the plant input and output to ensure that the amount of material in process is not changing in unexplained ways. Even these techniques, however, do not assure that the criterion of timely detection of diversion of 8 kilograms of plutonium could be met at a large facility through material accounting techniques alone. For discussions, see, for example, William Walker and Frans Berkhout, "Safeguards at Nuclear Bulk Handling Facilities," in J.B. Poole and R. Guthrie, eds., Verification Report 1992 (London: Verification Technology Information Center, 1992); and Marvin Miller, "Are IAEA Safeguards on Plutonium Bulk-Handling Facilities Effective?" Nuclear Control Institute, August 1990. For a summary of the current strengths and weaknesses of the overall safeguards regime, see Lawrence Scheinman, Assuring the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Safeguards System (Washington, D.C.: The Atlantic Council, October 1992).

OCR for page 39
56 INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT and ending inventory for the period in question, and the flows of material in and out, and the inspector independently verifies some of this information, to detect possible falsification of the records. For items that can be counted indi- vidually (such as money in the case of bank audits or fuel rods in the case of safeguards), this approach is highly effective. As noted, however, measurement uncertainties render diversions of bulk materials more difficult to detect- making it very desirable to package and seal material in discrete units wherever possible. The standards for international safeguards also vary widely. Non-nuclear- weapon states who are parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty must open all their nuclear facilities to comprehensive safeguards administered by the IAEA so-called full-scope safeguards. Nations that are not party to the NET, such as India, Pakistan, and Israel, do not face comparable requirements, although as a result of arrangements with nuclear suppliers, some individual facilities in these countries are under safeguards.34 Nuclear-weapon states un- der the NPT (the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China) are not required to open any of their facilities to safeguards, although in "voluntary offer" agreements, they have made some facilities available for inspection. The United States, for example, has offered to permit safeguards at all of its civilian nuclear facilities. In practice, the IAEA does not expend its limited budget on safeguarding U.S. facilities, since there is little risk that a nation that already possesses thousands of nuclear weapons would divert additional nuclear mate- rial from its civilian nuclear fuel cycle. Russia, by contrast, has opened only a handful of facilities to IAEA safeguards, even in principle. British and French civilian facilities are covered under arrangements with EURATOM, and some facilities in those countries are also inspected by the IAEA. Even when all important facilities are under IAEA safeguards, monitoring standards vary from facility to facility. Many types of facilities are only checked annually or once every several months: thus, "timely detection" of a diversion would be difficult to achieve. Table 2-1 shows the types of facilities under IAEA safeguards at the end of 1992. Standards of security for nuclear materials also vary widely. Unlike safe- guards, where the IAEA has been given a major role, the IAEA's member states regard security for nuclear materials often referred to as "physical pro- tection" as a matter of national sovereignty. Thus, although an attempt to set international standards was made in the 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, that convention is quite vague in its require- ments, applies primarily to international transport of materials, and has no provisions for verification or enforcement. Similarly, although the IAEA has published somewhat more detailed guidelines for physical protection of nuclear 34 The members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group have long required safeguards on tile facilities to which Hey export materials. In the spring of 1993, Be Nuclear Suppliers Group agreed to make full-scope safeguards a condition of export of "major nuclear items."

OCR for page 39
INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT 57 TABLE 2-1 Facilities Under Safeguards or Containing Safeguarded Matenals at the End of 1992 Number of Facilities (number of installations) Non-Nuclear- Nuclear WeaponNon-NPl?Weapon Facility CategoryStatesStatesStatesTotal Power reactors151 (182)13 (17)2 (2)166 (201) Research reactors and critical assemblies134 (145)22 (22)2 (2)158 (169) Conversion plants6 (7)3 (3)0 (0)9 (10) Fuel fabrication33 (34)9 (9)1 (1)43 (44) Reprocessing plants5 (5)1 (1)0 (0)6 (6) Ennchment plants5 (5)1 (1)1 (1)7 (7) Separate storage facilities35 (36)6 (6)5 (5)46 (47) Other facilities54 (57)4 (4)0 (0)58 (61) Subtotal423 (471)59 (63)11 (11)493 (545) Other locations290 (468)28 (32)0 (0)318 (500) Nonnuclear installations0 (0)3 (3)0 (0)3 (3) Total713 (939)90 (98)11 (11)814 (1048) . . _ . . NOTE: The first category includes states with IAEA Formation Circular (INFCIRC) 153 agreements, which refers to comprehensive safeguards agreements pursuant to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Treaty of Tlatelolco (excludes locations in Iraq). The second category includes INFCIRC/66/Rev. 2 agreements covering specific facilities in non-NPT states and Taiwan. SOURCE: T.E. Shea and K. Chitumbo, "Safeguarding Sensitive Nuclear Matenals: Reinforced Approaches," IAEA Bulletin, Vol. 35, no. 3, 1993, p. 26. materials, these are purely advisory.35 Neither the IAEA nor any other organi- zation monitors or compiles information on physical security procedures worldwide. 35 See IDEA, Formation Circular (INFCIRC) 274, "The Convention on die Physical Protection of Nuclear Material," May 1980; INFCIRC 225, Revision 2, "The Physical Protection of Nuclear Material," December 1989 (~e IAEA's advisory guidelines); and ~FCIRC 254, "Communications Received from Certain Member States Regarding Guidelines for Be Export of Nuclear Material, Equipment, or Technology," February 1978 (export guidelines including physical protection). Typically, though not always, security for Category I materials~hose containing significant quantities of unirradiated plutonium or HEU would include storing die material in a locked vault, in an area Mat was guarded, and to which access was carefully controlled. All personnel entering or leaving would be searched. The

OCR for page 39
58 INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT Different countries have very different views of the types of likely threat, of the best means to respond to it, and of how much to spend on security. In Rus- sia, major nuclear material facilities are generally under heavy armed guard, but techniques for detailed accounting of the material have received less em- phasis, in part because during the Soviet era, the most likely threat was long seen as an outside attack rather than an insider diversion. In Japan, by contrast, since the government believes that the unity of Japanese society makes outside attack unlikely, the guards at plutonium stores and other nuclear facilities do not carry firearms. But the technologies in place in Japan for safeguards and material accounting are some of the best in the world.36 Unfortunately, as with all human endeavors, the effectiveness of physical security systems is often considerably less in practice than it is on paper. For example, even in the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, probably among the most secure facilities in the world, tests held as recently as the mid-1980s determined that plausible terrorist attacks could succeed in stealing significant quantities of plutonium, or even bomb components. A large-scale effort was then launched to identify weaknesses in the system and make corrections.37 Safeguards and security for plutonium in spent fuel are less stringent than those for separated plutonium and HEU. In general, it is assumed that the in- tense radioactivity of spent fuel, and the size and weight of spent fuel bundles or casks, would reduce the risk of theft to almost zero. Since states with signifi- cant nuclear programs generally have spent fuel on their territories, only states without significant nuclear programs or subnational groups would pose plausi- ble threats to steal spent fuel. Neither the Convention on the Physical Protec- tion of Nuclear Materials nor IAEA recommendations require much more for such materials than placing them within a fenced area to which access is controlled. In most countries, spent fuel is initially stored in water-filled ponds at reac- tor sites. The security applied to this fuel is often simply the same security ap- plied to protect the reactor itself from sabotage.38 At many sites, these ponds are nearing their capacity, and a number of countries are therefore considering guarded area around the vault (known as the "inner area") would be surrounded by a larger area somewhat less carefully controlled, known as the "protected area." Fences or similar barriers would surround both areas, and guards would be in communication with forces that could respond to an attempt to attack the facility. 36 Useful descriptions of physical security philosophies in a number of counties, including Japan, can be found in a special issue of the Journal of Nuclear Materials Management, January 1988. For a description of the Russian approach, see Oleg Bukharin, The Threat of Nuclear Terrorism and the Physical Security of Nuclear Installations and Materials in the Former Soviet Union (Monterey, Calif.: Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Monterey Institute olInternational Studies, Occasional Paper No. 2, August 1992). 37 House of Representatives, Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Adequacy of Safeguards and Security at Department of Energy Nuclear Weapons Production Facilities, March 6, 1986. See also National Research Council, Material Control and Accounting in the Department of Energ;'s Nuclear Fuel Complex (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1989), pp. 29-31. ~ In the United States, for example, the "design basis threat" against which security systems for reactors and spent fuel ponds are designed includes the possibility of an armed attack by a small group of well-h^ained and dedicated individuals, with the cooperation of one insider. Standards in a number of other counuies are reportedly lower. See U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Part 10, Section 73, January 1, 1993.

OCR for page 39
INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT 59 or implementing dry cask storage, sometimes at away-from-reactor sites. The security included in these concepts is often minimal. In the United States, for example, the staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has proposed draft regulations that would require little more than a fence and two unarmed watchmen on duty at any time.39 Similarly, ongoing international discussions of safeguards and security that might be imposed to limit the risk of diversion of spent fuel from underground repositories have not yet reached any conclusion. Feasible technical approaches for low-cost monitoring of such sites are available, such as the use of remotely operated seismic stations to detect drilling operations in the vicinity of the repository. In summary, current standards for safeguards and physical protection for civilian plutonium vary widely, and are considerably less stringent than those applied to nuclear weapons and plutonium in military stocks. Varying and lower standards may be justified in the case of spent fuel for the first decades outside the reactor, when its high radioactivity makes it difficult to steal or di- vert, but they are not justified in the case of separated civilian plutonium or HEU. Discussions of specific measures for improving safeguards and security for nuclear materials, building on the steps that should be taken with excess plutonium from dismantled weapons, can be found in Chapters 4 and 5. 39 See U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "Interim Licensing Criteria for the Evaluation of Physical Protection Plans for Certain Storage of Spent Fuel," Preliminaly Staff Position, October 20, 1992.

OCR for page 39