IPFM publishes a report on country perspectives on nuclear disarmament

On Friday 14 May, at the 2010 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York, the International Panel on Fissile Materials will launch its new report Reducing and Eliminating Nuclear Weapons: Country Perspectives on the Challenges to Nuclear Disarmament.

The report explores the major policy obstacles standing in the way of the nuclear-armed states deciding to eliminate their weapons. It includes perspectives from thirteen countries: the current nine nuclear-weapon states, and four non-nuclear states (Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Iran). The report is a companion to Global Fissile Material Report 2009: A Path to Nuclear Disarmament, which used the lens of fissile materials policies to examine technical challenges to the achievement of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

The country perspectives presented in the new report cover:

    • The commitment by states to the elimination of nuclear weapons as reflected in their public statements, their plans to modernize their weapon complexes, and their views on the potential uses of nuclear weapons;
    • The linkages to other security issues that they see as standing in the way of progress towards the goal of nuclear weapon elimination;
    • Their views regarding the increased transparency and verification that would be required by nuclear disarmament; and,
    • Their perspectives on control of fissile materials, including a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, which would provide a basis for the process of nuclear disarmament.

The country studies reveal that most nuclear weapon states consider the achievement of nuclear disarmament to lie far beyond any planning horizon and are therefore investing in significant modernization of their nuclear-weapon complexes and delivery systems. This is despite a long history of all of today's nuclear weapon states committing in principle to nuclear disarmament, and the obligation under Article VI of the NPT for the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China, as a matter of international law, to bring to a conclusion negotiations on nuclear disarmament. There are political commitments to disarmament by Israel, India, North Korea and Pakistan.

The report recommends as a possible path forward that the nuclear weapon states agree to start work on a framework convention for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

As the first step towards a framework convention, states could carry out internal studies and develop respective national plans for the elimination of nuclear weapons. This was a step first called for in January 1946 in UN General Assembly Resolution 1.1 at a time when the United States was the only country possessing nuclear weapons. States could agree to submit to the United Nations by an agreed date their respective plans. To give credibility to these plans, current modernization plans will need to be reconsidered and more significant resources committed to developing the technical basis for nuclear disarmament.

To reduce uncertainties about the fulfillment of their disarmament obligations and help establish a basis for verification of national accounts of the amounts of fissile material produced and the number of weapons assembled and dismantled, the report recommends that the nuclear-armed weapon states preserve their nuclear production reactors, and the waste products from their enrichment and reprocessing plants, along with detailed production and dismantlement records for their warheads until international verification can be carried out.

States could begin now to initiate multinational discussions to agree on what must be preserved to enable techniques of nuclear archaeology and launch joint pilot verification projects.

Progress towards nuclear disarmament also requires states to adopt fissile-material policies that support the goal of nuclear disarmament. This includes an end to production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, a phase out of the uses of highly enriched uranium and plutonium in nuclear-reactor fuel and a drastic reduction of existing stocks.