A Fissile-Material Approach to Furthering the Disarmament and Nonproliferation Objectives of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) establishes a system of controls on the production and use of fissile materials -- most commonly separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU). Since these materials are the key ingredients in nuclear weapons, such controls are critical to halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference and the Thirteen Steps agreed at the 2000 Review Conference included commitments by NPT state-parties to achieve quickly a multilateral Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) that would end production of fissile materials for weapons in all states and extend the international system of control over fissile materials to cover civilian and excess weapon materials in nuclear-weapon states.
The International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) recommends that, to further the disarmament and nonproliferation objectives of the NPT, the 2010 Review Conference should:
1. Reaffirm and strengthen the 1995 and 2000 NPT Review Conference goal of ending the production of fissile materials for weapons.
This includes renewing the call for the UN Conference on Disarmament "to agree on a programme of work which includes the immediate commencement of negotiations on such a treaty with a view to their conclusion within five years."
The Review Conference should call in parallel for an end to further production of fissile materials for weapons by all states pending negotiations on an FMCT, including Israel, North Korea, India, and Pakistan, even though they are not parties to the NPT.
2. Request the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to conduct studies on FMCT verification.
This would help lay the basis for more informed discussions on a verifiable Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.
3. Call for all fissile materials outside nuclear-weapon complexes or declared excess to weapons purposes to never be used for weapons and to be monitored by the IAEA pending disposition.
Drawing a line between weapon and non-weapon stockpiles would close the loophole in the 2000 NPT Review Conference call for "all nuclear-weapon States to place ... fissile material designated by each of them as no longer required for military purposes under IAEA or other relevant international verification." Under this more limited provision nuclear-weapon states can keep non-weapon military stockpiles of fissile material outside of international monitoring.
The United States, for example, has assigned 128 tons of HEU to fuel nuclear-powered submarines and ships. This is sufficient for over 5000 nuclear weapons.
4. Call for nuclear-weapon materials made excess by further nuclear disarmament measures to be placed under IAEA monitoring as quickly as possible.
Fissile material in the thousands of weapons that have been and are to be taken off deployment bilaterally by the US and Russia under the Moscow Treaty and the New START agreement, and unilaterally by UK and France, should be declared excess for weapon purposes and placed under IAEA monitoring pending irreversible disposition. This would demonstrate that the principle of irreversibility is being applied to nuclear arms reduction measures, as called for in the 2000 NPT Review Conference.
5. Call for the FMCT to include extending IAEA safeguards to non-weapons material in the nuclear-weapon states.
The UN Conference on Disarmament should include in the design of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty the objective of extending IAEA safeguards to pre-existing non-weapons materials in the nuclear-weapon states.
6. Call for an end to both civilian and military use of HEU for reactor fuel.
If the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom were to follow France's example and convert their naval-propulsion reactors to low-enriched uranium fuel, an estimated 200 tons of HEU currently in naval reserves--enough to make 8000 nuclear weapons--could be eliminated. The use of highly enriched uranium fuel in civilian research reactors is already being reduced as part of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.
7. Call for an end to plutonium separation for civilian as well as weapon purposes.
Today, about half of all separated plutonium is civilian--but it is still weapon-usable. While the weapons stockpile is slated to shrink, the civilian stockpile of two hundred and fifty tons is still growing because of reprocessing operations in France, Russia, the United Kingdom, India and Japan.
8. Call on nuclear weapon-states to make early national declarations of stockpiles and facilities.
To help lay the basis for nuclear disarmament negotiations and subsequent verification, nuclear weapon states should declare
- stockpiles of fissile materials,
- status of fissile material production facilities,
- plans for the shutdown and decommissioning of production facilities,
- conversion of former production facilities to safeguarded civilian uses.
9. Call on the nuclear-weapon states to preserve production facilities, historic production records and process wastes to enable verification.
Nuclear weapons states should preserve their fissile material production facilities (enrichment plants, production reactors and reprocessing plants) and related waste materials and historic production records in a condition that will facilitate verification of declarations of past production and to work with the IAEA to determine what needs to be preserved and how, and to develop appropriate verification methods.
10. Call for new bilateral, trilateral and multilateral cooperative verification projects.
Nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states should continue their work on cooperative projects that would involve the IAEA for verifying:
- chain-of-custody for warheads and fissile materials,
- dismantlement of warheads and components containing fissile materials, and
- disposition of the recovered highly enriched uranium and plutonium.
For detailed analysis see:
Global Fissile Material Report 2008: Scope and Verification of a Fissile Material (Cutoff) Treaty
Draft Fissile Material (Cutoff) Treaty, September 2009
Global Fissile Material Report 2009: A Path to Nuclear Disarmament