IPFM 2008 Annual Report presented at the United Nations

On Friday, 10 October, the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) released its 2008 Global Fissile Material Report and a Companion Volume at the United Nations. The report was presented to the UN General Assembly's First Committee, which is responsible for international peace and security.

The Global Fissile Material Report provides an annual review of worldwide stocks, production, and disposition of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium, the key ingredients in nuclear weapons, and assesses global efforts to secure and eliminate these materials. The control of these materials is crucial to nuclear disarmament, to halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and to ensuring that terrorists do not acquire nuclear weapons.

The special focus of the 2008 Global Fissile Material Report is the challenges of achieving a verifiable Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, a long sought after global ban on the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. A treaty banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons is an essential requirement for constraining nuclear arms races and, in the longer term, achieving nuclear disarmament. The production of these materials is the most difficult step in making nuclear weapons.

In 1993, the UN General Assembly called for the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. These negotiations have not yet begun. There have been major disputes among states over the scope of a possible treaty and whether it can be verified. In 2006, the Bush Administration proposed a draft treaty that marked a break with previous U.S. policy, by omitting any provisions for international verification.

In the 2008 Global Fissile Material Report, the International Panel on Fissile Materials has proposed key elements for a verifiable treaty. In addition to a ban on all future production of fissile material for weapons, the Report makes a case that the treaty should also address pre-existing stocks of fissile material held by nuclear weapons states. In particular, the proposed treaty would ban the use for weapons of fissile material that was once in weapons and has been declared as excess because of reductions in nuclear arsenals, materials that have been declared for use in naval-propulsion or other military reactors, and all fissile materials that are in the civilian sector at the time a state joins the treaty.

The slides of the briefing are available at the IPFM Library.

The Report also provides technical arguments for how a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty could be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The report has chapters discussing verification at production facilities, namely uranium enrichment and plutonium separation (reprocessing) facilities; accounting of weapons materials declared excess for military use but still in classified form and highly enriched uranium reserved for naval reactor fuel; inspections at military nuclear sites to ensure they are not concealing covert production facilities; and, the monitoring of shutdown facilities that formerly produced fissile materials for nuclear weapons. The panel concludes, contrary to current US policy, that the treaty could be effectively verified at reasonable cost.

The 2008 Global Fissile Material Report has a Companion Volume: Banning the Production of Fissile Materials for Nuclear Weapons: Country Perspectives on the Challenges to a Fissile Material (Cutoff) Treaty. This volume provides a country-by-country analysis of the concerns of key states to different aspects of a prospective Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. The report covers 11 countries: China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States, i.e., all the weapon states other than North Korea and three key non-weapon states. It proposes specific policy initiatives and compromises that states could make to break the logjam preventing negotiation on a treaty.