New York Times




To the Editor:

Re “Restraints Fray and Risks Grow as Nuclear Club Gains Members” (front page, Oct. 15): Former Senator Sam Nunn, in assessing the spread of the bomb, is wrong when he declares, “We are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe.”

The sad truth, based on the many failures of the Eisenhower program Atoms for Peace, is that cooperation is catastrophe. An expert panel warned President Harry S. Truman that peaceful atomic cooperation offered “no prospect of security against atomic warfare,” but President Dwight D. Eisenhower proceeded anyway.

Underpinning Atoms for Peace is the flawed notion that nuclear cooperation among countries can proceed on the assumption that “safeguards” imposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency will ensure that weapons-usable nuclear technology and fissile materials will be used for civilian applications exclusively. The epitaph of our civilization may be, “folly from the start, fatal at the end.”

To avoid that epitaph, we don’t need more “cooperation” and surely not international nuclear fuel centers that spread technical know-how as well as fuel. What’s needed is a new toughness toward those who do proliferate, or who want to.

Rewarding India for building and testing weapons with plutonium from its Atoms for Peace reactor, slapping token sanctions on North Korea and talking endlessly with Iran are the latest examples of precisely the wrong way to go.

Paul Leventhal
Washington, Oct. 16, 2006
The writer is founding president of the Nuclear Control Institute.