The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Is Obsolete




 
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The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Is Obsolete
 
June 20th, 2008  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Is Obsolete


The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Is Obsolete
Wall Street Journal
June 20, 2008
Pg. 11
By Jane Harman
If claims by Iran that it's building 3,000 more centrifuges to enrich nuclear fuel are true, then the Bush administration and Congress face a more serious challenge than we first thought. Even assuming that Iran intends to use nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes and there are very good reasons to doubt Iran's stated intentions the dangers posed by unsupervised, weapons-grade material in the hands of a regime that has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map" are unacceptable.
The best course would be to persuade Iran to abandon its designs on the bomb and make its nuclear activities completely transparent to international authorities as three United Nations Resolutions have required.
But Iran is not the only problem. Other countries may travel down the same path, waving the banner of peaceful nuclear energy. Some including North Korea already have, and the international system is ill-prepared to prevent wannabes.
Today's legal regime is no match for the wide dissemination of nuclear technology. Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) standards are obsolete, and the growth in the sheer number of nuclear facilities world-wide has made it difficult for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to achieve its mission.
Moreover, the NPT cuts most of the world out of the nuclear weapons club. It grandfathered in states that had nuclear weapons before 1967, and said that only they could keep them. Given the skyrocketing demand for alternatives to oil, we have to expect that more countries will want to develop nuclear energy. We need a system that allows states to pursue nuclear energy but prevents them from developing nuclear weapons under the radar.
According to IAEA Director Mohammed ElBaradei, what's needed is a multinational initiative that ensures uninterrupted supplies of fuel, regardless of market disturbances or disagreements with suppliers. But the next NPT conference is scheduled for 2010. We should not wait two years to consider a new path.
In 1946, American presidential adviser Bernard Baruch called for countries to transfer ownership and control over civil nuclear activities and materials to a new international organization. Seven years later, President Dwight Eisenhower rolled parts of Baruch's plan into the "Atoms for Peace" initiative, which laid the groundwork for the IAEA. These ideas, though they advanced important goals, were never fully implemented, partly because demand for nuclear energy was low and the nuclear club was relatively small.
More recently, the Department of Energy attempted to tackle this issue by creating a Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) a blueprint for an international organization to reprocess spent nuclear fuel. Although 19 countries bought in to GNEP, it has failed to stem the spread of nuclear technology largely because the Bush administration has treated it as a research and development initiative, and because the National Academies of Science concluded that it is dependent on technology that is unproven.
A more promising approach might be to create an international consortium of fuel centers that provide enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear fuel, and end-to-end oversight of nuclear resources. Driven by market demand, private companies could operate facilities with IAEA oversight, and participating states would agree not to engage in independent enriching and reprocessing. Material would be purchased from the international market, thereby creating supply assurance for nations who fear being denied fuel.
This concept is a private-sector version of the International Nuclear Fuel Authority envisioned by Sens. Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh, and could borrow from the low-enriched uranium "emergency" stockpile concept proposed by the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
It differs from piecemeal ideas like Iran's 2006 offer that France create a means for production of enriched uranium in Iran, Russia's notion that all of Iran's enrichment take place on Russian soil, or the Saudi suggestion that Switzerland enrich nuclear material for the Middle East. These ideas would not advance U.S. counterproliferation goals. Instead, a comprehensive international consortium would make nuclear energy available and cost effective for countries while solving the guessing game Iran has played by denying its nuclear weapons ambitions.
Even Al Gore agrees that nuclear energy must be considered as the world reduces reliance on fossil fuels and starts to meet the energy demands of exploding populations. Some argue that the nuclear renaissance is already upon us 23 new permit applications for nuclear reactors have been filed in the past two years in the U.S. alone, and another 150 are planned across the globe.
Iran's unsupervised nuclear program poses an existential threat to Israel and possibly other nations. While we can't take away the knowledge gained through their clandestine program, by "renting" only the amount of fuel necessary for production of peaceful nuclear energy, we may be able to convert these threats posed by Iran and future Irans into a roadmap to nuclear security for the entire world.
Ms. Harman, a Democratic congresswoman from California, is chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment.
 


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