Overview of Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons


Zachary Davis

Z Division

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory


The nuclear nonproliferation regime is a combination of domestic laws, international institutions, technical arrangements, and bilateral agreements all of which is held together by skillful diplomacy and a little smoke and mirrors. Our panel is going to evaluate the effectiveness of the technical and legal barriers that have been established to maintain the separation between civil and military applications of nuclear technology. We are going to approach it two ways.


First, we will look at two country case studies. Dr. George Perkovich of the W. Alton Jones Foundation, who is a friend and colleague, will address the cases of India and Iran. As most people here are aware, George is the author of an award winning book, India's Nuclear Bomb, which is widely considered to be the most definitive book on that subject.


Looking back on the history of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, it is useful to ask ourselves: How effective were the instruments that were put in place? How effective were the US nonproliferation laws and policies with respect to India. What was the net effect of the conditions on the supply of nuclear technology that are enshrined in the Atomic Energy Act, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act, and other important legislation that was intended to constrain Indias nuclear weapons program. Did US laws and policies successfully delay and defer New Delhis decision-making regarding its use of civil nuclear technology to build nuclear weapons? Without US restrictions, where would Indias nuclear weapons program be today?


There are some that suggest that US nonproliferation policy merely antagonized India without stopping their nuclear bomb program. Critics point to the sanctions policy that was put in place after the May 1998 tests as proof of the ineffectiveness of U.S. nonproliferation efforts with India, which they argue only impeded efforts to improve relations with a prospective ally and fellow democracy. Nonproliferation, from this perspective, is more trouble than its worth. Some would even acceed to Indias longstanding request for nuclear technology transfers, even though such transfers would require major revisions of U.S. nonproliferation laws and policies to accommodate India.


There are cracks developing in the nonproliferation regimes practices and institutions. In particular, I'm referring to the Nuclear Supplier's Guidelines policy of requiring full scope safeguards as a condition of supply. Russia is disregarding its NSG full scope safeguards commitment so it can sell reactors to India. What are the long-term consequences of such violations of the full scope safeguards standard of international behavior? How will the breakdown of NSG standards effect proliferation elsewhere? These are questions that George will have an opportunity to address in his remarks.


India is a case where we can look backwards to see how civil nuclear technology contributed to their nuclear weapons program. Iran is a case study that requires us to look forward. Will Iran follow Indias example and use its civil nuclear technology infrastructure to develop nuclear weapons? Of course, Iran is different because it is a party to the Non-proliferation Treaty, but then questions arise about the long-term health of the nonproliferation regime and the NPT itself.


Do the cracks in the regime that I referred to make it easier for Russia, and perhaps other countries, to provide sensitive nuclear technology to Iran? And if Iran diverts civil nuclear technology or material to military uses, would the IAEA detect it, and would the members of the NPT take enforcement action? These issues will be addressed by the Honorable Larry Scheinman, who is professor emeritus, renowned scholar, and former assistant director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He will discuss the health of the regime itself. Is the nuclear non-proliferation regime in trouble? Is the regime likely to unravel? Are the legal, multi-lateral, and technical barriers that were put in place to maintain the separation between civil and military nuclear activities wearing thin? If the regime is in decline, how long will it take before it loses credibility: five, ten, or twenty-five years?


Larry Scheinman is the worlds leading scholar on the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA is a unique institution and its international safeguard system is an essential component of the nonproliferation regime. The answers to many of the questions that we will explore on this panel depend on the effectiveness of IAEA safeguards. Will the IAEA meet the challenges posed by non-NPT states India, Israel, and Pakistan, and challenges from within the NPT by treaty members such as North Korea, Iran, and Iraq? And, central to the purpose of the conference, how will the IAEA handle the challenges posed by growing stockpiles of fissile material. Is the IAEA up to the job?


There have been a number of reforms instituted to revitalize the IAEA and make the safeguards system stronger, more robust, more intrusive, more reliable, and more credible.  But questions persist about the so-called 93+2, or strengthened safeguards system. With its meager budget already stretched to the breaking point, how can IAEA safeguards be expected to expand the scope of its coverage to include more fissile material, more facilities, and a wider range of activities?


We've heard mention a couple of times today the nuclear bargain between the nuclear weapon states and the developing countries. The bargain has two parts. First, the non-weapons states are promised access to civil nuclear technology as a part of their pledge not to acquire nuclear weapons. Second, the nuclear weapon states promise to reduce their arsenals and move in the direction of disarmament. But expectations are outpacing results on the nuclear bargain, and these stresses are becoming increasingly evident at the NPT review conferences. We even see signs of countries threatening to quit the treaty. I hope Larry can give us a sense of whether we should take these threats seriously. Is the treaty in trouble?


When I look at the challenges to the regime, I don't feel optimistic. In light of the demands that are being placed on the IAEA, the funding shortfalls, the strains from outside and inside the NPT, the new missions that are being slated for the IAEA such as verifying a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty and verifying the disposal of excess material from US and Russian warheads it is not clear to me how the regime can live up to our expectations. Perhaps most importantly, the political support from the US and other key countries that is necessary to sustain the regime is not evident.


We will conclude our panel with a response to the presentations by Paul Leventhal, who will present his scorecard for the past performance of US nonproliferation laws and policy and assess the challenges ahead for the regime. I am sure we will all go home feeling wiser, if not optimistic.


Let us begin the panel presentations with the cases studies by George Perkovich.