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Columns - Dissenting Opinion
Written by Ado Paglinawan   
Monday, 16 November 2009 16:44

 

Part Two of Book II: A People Caught in Its Own Dung

By Ado Paglinawan



P erhaps I am going too ahead of my story. With no intention of presuming my readers have been earlier educated in nuclear parlance or confining such sensitive discussion only to rocket scientists, permit me to introduce everyone to basic protocol affecting nuclear security, safety and technology transfers.

 

When we hear nuclear, the first image that flashes in our mind is the cataclysmic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, when nuclear power was first used in the form of destructive and mass-killing atomic bombs that Black humorists refer to as the "fat boys" ostensibly to lower the pain.

 

The technology, however, did not remain with the Americans. The science of bomb-making was simple because all it needed was engineering capability. So the victors of the Second World War, and China much later, quickly developed nuclear weapons. As it was obvious that the power of these weapons to those who have it was enormous, naturally, they did not want others to have it.

 

Editor's Note: To read Part One of Book Two,
 please click on this hyperlink,
 
After the Deluge, Soon the Return of Massive Brownouts?

 

 

B ut nuclear scientists also developed this energy source for peaceful means, for instance, generating electricity. So the nuclear weapons states (NWS) decided that for nuclear energy to generate power, and not make bombs, international protocols were necessary. 

 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was an offshoot of US President Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" address to the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 8, 1953. His ideas helped to shape the agency’s Statute, which 81 nations unanimously approved in October 1956. The three pillars of the Agency's work as outlined by its Statute were nuclear verification and security, safety and technology transfer.

 

But in the years following the Agency's creation, the political and technical climate changed so much that by 1958 it had become politically impracticable for the IAEA to begin work. In the aftermath of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, however, USA and the USSR began seeking common ground in nuclear-arms control.

 

The IAEA opened its Laboratory in Seibersdorf, Austria, in 1961, creating a channel for cooperative global nuclear research. That year the Agency signed a trilateral agreement with Monaco and the Oceanographic Institute headed by Jacques Cousteau for research on the effects of radioactivity in the sea, an action that eventually lead to the creation of the IAEA's Marine Environment Laboratory.

 

As more countries mastered nuclear technology, concern deepened that they would sooner or later acquire nuclear weapons, particularly since two additional nations - France in 1960 and China in 1964 - had "joined the club".

 

The safeguards prescribed in the IAEA's Statute, designed chiefly to cover individual nuclear plants or supplies of fuel, were clearly inadequate to deter proliferation. There was growing support for international, legally binding, commitments and comprehensive safeguards to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons and to work towards their eventual elimination.

 

This found regional expression in 1968, with the approval of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The NPT essentially freezes the number of declared nuclear weapon States at five (USA , Russia , UK , France and China). Other States are required to forswear the nuclear weapons option and to conclude comprehensive safeguards agreements with the IAEA on their nuclear materials.

 

The 1970s showed that the NPT would be accepted by almost all of the key industrial countries and by the vast majority of developing countries. At the same time the prospects for nuclear power improved dramatically. The technology had matured and was commercially available. Subsequently, IAEA's functions became distinctly more important as the oil crisis of 1973 enhanced the attraction of the nuclear energy option.  

 

The pendulum soon swung back. The first surge of worldwide eagerness for nuclear power lasted barely two decades. Following the 1979 Three-Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979, however, the demand for new nuclear power plants fell sharply and it shrank nearly to zero in industrial countries after the 1986 accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine.

 

These two incidents persuaded governments to strengthen the IAEA’s role in enhancing nuclear safety.

 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was an offshoot of US President Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" address to the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 8, 1953. His ideas helped to shape the agency’s Statute, which 81 nations unanimously approved in October 1956. The three pillars of the IAEA's work as outlined by its Statute were nuclear verification and security, safety and technology transfer.

 

 

(In 1988 the IAEA and UN Food and Agricultural Organization joined forces with other agencies to eradicate New World Screwworm - which spreads a deadly livestock disease. The radiation-based technology to eradicate the worm was developed at the Agency's Seibersdorf Laboratory.)

 

In the early 1990s, the end of the Cold War and the consequent improvement in international security virtually eliminated the danger of a global nuclear conflict. Broad adherence to regional treaties underscored the nuclear weapon free status of Latin America, Africa and South East Asia , as well as the South Pacific. The threat of proliferation in some successor States of the former Soviet Union was averted.

 

The controversy surrounding suspicions about Iraq having a clandestine weapon program momentarily sowed doubts in 1991 about the adequacy of IAEA safeguards, but also led to steps to strengthen them, some of which were put to the test when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was discovered violating its NPT safeguards agreement.

 

The Non-Proliferation Treaty was made permanent in 1995 and the year after, the UN General Assembly approved and opened for signature a comprehensive test ban treaty.

 

While military nuclear activities were beyond the IAEA's statutory scope, it was now accepted that the Agency might properly deal with some of the problems bequeathed by the nuclear arms race - verification of the peaceful use or storage of nuclear material from dismantled weapons and surplus military stocks of fissile material, determining the risks posed by the nuclear wastes of nuclear warships dumped in the Arctic, and verifying the safety of former nuclear test sites in Central Asia and the Pacific.

 

In recent years, the Agency's work has taken on some urgent added dimensions. Among them are countermeasures against the threat of nuclear terrorism, the focus of a new multi-faceted Agency action plan.

 

For instance, U.S. President George W. Bush in an address at the National Defense University in Washington D.C. on February 11, 2004, made seven more proposals to make nuclear-power generation less risky. This was in response to the public hype of North Korea's and Iran's inclination to develop nuclear weapons, and the unmasking of massive underground nuclear black market ostensibly masterminded and conducted by the Pakistani metallurgist, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan.

 

What do these proposals entail? Why do they deserve attention now? To answer these questions, allow me to cursorily examine some of these proposals.

 

Nearly half of President Bush's seven nuclear nonproliferation proposals were aimed at restricting what nuclear suppliers can export under the guidelines of the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) - a multilateral nuclear control regime.

 

First, broaden the scope of the Proliferation Security Initiative. This step would supplement the treaty-based non-proliferation regime by expanding the scope of PSI activities to include law enforcement measures and suspend efforts now to sell controlled nuclear goods to countries that export nuclear commodities in defiance of the NSG guidelines.

 

Bush proposed that by 2005, “only states that have signed the Additional Protocol be allowed to import equipment for the civilian nuclear programs."

 

This must have been precipitated by China’s announcement on January 27, 2004, that it intended to become a full-fledged member of the NSG, yet only weeks later, news reports emerged detailing Chinese plans to build for Pakistan, that has nuclear arms, two large power reactors.

 

The Non-Proliferation Treaty was made permanent in 1995 and the year after, the UN General Assembly approved and opened for signature a comprehensive test-ban treaty.

 

T he NSG guidelines outlaw such sales: NSG members are not allowed to sell any such controlled nuclear items to states that do not allow the IAEA to inspect all of their nuclear facilities.

 

Second, urge other states to expand their internal control of proliferation activities. This step would also supplement the treaty-based regime by harnessing the power of national governments to take law enforcement actions against proliferators and strengthen export controls.

 

This called for view with suspicion large civilian nuclear projects, including electric and desalinization plants, big research reactors, and regional fuel cycle centers, if they are not privately financed or approved after an open bidding process against less risky alternatives. This would also restrict fresh reactor fuel exports to nations that fail to renounce enrichment and reprocessing and to ban reprocessing and enrichment exports to states that did not already have "full-scale functioning enrichment and reprocessing plants."

 

As the President noted in his speech, these steps are essential to prevent new states from making nuclear weapons fuel.

 

Third, expand to other countries the Nunn-Lugar program for dismantling weapons in the former Soviet Union through the adoption of a $20 billion funding commitment at the 2002 G-8 Summit.

 

Starting with the U.S., but including Pakistan and India, this also sought to formally get as many declared nuclear weapons states as possible to agree henceforth to not redeploy nuclear weapons onto any other state's soil in peacetime and to make the transfer of nuclear weapons-usable material to other nations illicit if the transfer is made for a purpose other than to dispose of the material or to make it less accessible.

 

Fourth, curtail the sale of enrichment and reprocessing equipment. This step moved to strengthen the treaty-based regime by denying enrichment and reprocessing facilities to countries that do not already possess them. While some may argue that this proposal is inconsistent with Article IV of the Non Proliferation Treaty, Article IV does not require specific types of international cooperation in the field of nuclear energy and research. It implicitly recognizes that alternative forms of cooperation are possible.

 

President Bush proposed that nuclear supplier states not sell fresh fuel to nations that are unwilling to renounce reprocessing or enrichment, and that they should refuse to sell any enrichment or reprocessing technology and equipment to states that do not already possess "full-scale functioning enrichment and reprocessing plants."

 

Who would this rule hit hardest? Iran is a prime example. Nuclear officials in Iran claim that they intend to export reactor fuel from their uranium enrichment and fuel fabrication facilities. If the U.S. is firm about what constitutes "full-scale functioning plants," Brazil and Argentina could also be affected. Brazil is about to launch a commercial enrichment effort at its Resende facility.

 

Fifth, deny the sale of equipment for civilian nuclear programs to countries that fail to observe the IAEA's Additional Protocol on safeguards. The Additional Protocol was being designed to improve the IAEA's ability to detect an illicit nuclear weapons program.

 

The Bush Administration, indirectly by its rhetoric and action about North Korea, Iraq, and Libya, went a long way toward establishing the rule that whenever a violating nation fails properly to declare nuclear facilities to the IAEA, it must dismantle them in order to come back into full compliance with its NPT obligations.

 

Sixth, establish a new special committee under the IAEA Board of Governors for safeguards and verification. This step would strengthen the treaty-based regime by forcing the IAEA to pay more attention to enforcement and less to facilitating international cooperation in peaceful nuclear activities. The relationship between these two IAEA roles has become increasingly unbalanced over the years.

 

This supports the U.N. adoption of a series of country-neutral rules that track the above recommendations to be applied to any nation that the IAEA and the United Nations Security Council cannot clearly find in full compliance with the NPT.

 

And seventh, deny positions on the IAEA Board of Governors to states that are under investigation for illicit nuclear activities. This step would stop "foxes- guarding-the-henhouse" situations that all too frequently arise at the IAEA.

 

This built on the successful precedent of Libya’s nuclear renunciation by getting its neighbors, starting with Algeria, to shut down their largest nuclear facilities. President Bush spotlighted the success he had in getting Libya to renounce its nuclear weapons program. The objective now is figuring out how to establish this precedent as a muscular nonproliferation standard that can be applied on other nations.

 

Baker Spring, a Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy at the Heritage Foundation, said that President Bush was right to turn his attention to strengthening the arms control tool for stemming proliferation. “Arms control serves to shrink the universe of threats to American (and if I may add international) security, which otherwise would have to be addressed through military and defensive measures,” the fellow added.

 

Arms control is indeed a means to the ends of national security, not an end in itself. Safety and technology transfer too are overarching imperatives in engaging nuclear power.

 

Together security, safety and technology transfer thus necessitate maximum transparency and accountability. # # #

E ditor’s Note: To read the various chapters of Book Two, please click on these hyperlinks:


 

The Genesis of a Nuclear Philippines (Part III)

 

Protocols on Nuclear Security, Safety and Technology Transfer (Part II)

 

After the Deluge, Soon the Return of Massive Brownouts? (Part I of Book II)

 

 



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Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 November 2009 19:56
 
Comments (1)
1 Sunday, 22 November 2009 16:32
For Review Purposes Only:

Excerpts from
Feds to Probe Radiation at Power Plant
AP


MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (Nov. 22) --The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sending investigators to the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant after a small amount of radiation was detected there.

About 150 employees were sent home Saturday afternoon after the radiation was detected at the central Pennsylvania plant.

Officials say there is no public health risk.

Exelon Nuclear spokeswoman Beth Archer says investigators are searching for a cause of the release. She says the radiation was quickly contained.

Tests showed the contamination was confined to surfaces inside the building.

The unit has been shut down for refueling and maintenance since Oct. 26. Officials are testing workers for radiation exposure.

A partial meltdown occurred in Three Mile Island's Unit 2 reactor in March 1979.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

2009-11-22 12:01:46

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