< urlset xmlns="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap/0.84"> < url> < loc>http://www.proliferationpress.blogspot.com/ < lastmod>2006-11-29 < changefreq>hourly < priority>0.8

Proliferation Press

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Proliferation Press Investigates the Uranium Industry Expansion: More Cancer for the Navajo Nation?

As shocking as it sounds, increase global demand for nuclear reactors (whether to produce power, weapons-grade materials, or both) is shorting up demand for uranium. The result: the revitalization of a once anemic nuclear energy industry.

As Reuters reports, the uranium's spot (cash) price is up 27% since last year. Australia seems to be heaping most of the increased demand: with Uranex NL (an Australian mining company) providing China most sought-after nuclear raw materials. The world of commerce transforms world global security calculus once again!

But there are winners closer at home as well. The Toronto Star points out that a Canadian company will soon be re-opening mines in Colorado. Uranium Corp. will jump-start production at the Colorado Plateau-- which closed in the 1980s owing to weak demand. This also will apparently stretch into Utah as well.

Kathy Helms gives the best description (in the Gallop Independent), and adds another wrinkle into the recent uranium expansion:

The uranium rush is on. The question is, how long will the Navajo Nation's ban on uranium mining last when developers are coming at the Nation from all directions?

International Uranium Corp. announced this week that it is reopening its U.S. uranium/vanadium mines beginning immediately, and will stockpile the ore at its White Mesa mill in Bluff, Utah.

IUC holds conventional mining properties in the Four Corners area, located in three distinct mining districts: the Colorado Plateau, the Henry Mountains and the Arizona Strip. IUC intends to begin mining activities immediately at the Pandora, Topaz, Sunday and St. Jude mines on the Colorado Plateau, followed by two additional mines in 2007.

In searching out for the rationale behind the Navajo Nation's ban on uranium mining, I ran across this on-line forum (brought to us by Democracy Now!) with Navajo President Joe Shirley, Earl Tully of Dine Care (a Navajo environmental organization), and radio correspondent Amy Goodman.

Key highlights of the discussion:

Joe Shirly:

-"...it [uranium mining] has killed many of my medicine people, and because of that, there are some of the ceremonies that they used to know that we don't know anymore. It has killed a lot of elderly. It has killed a lot of young..."

Earl Tully:

-"One of the things here is that I think in many cases race is not the issue, but income. It is -- you know, again I will go back to the average E.P.A. penalties and clean-up by race is very, very different. The people of colors are highly impacted in a sense that they do not receive adequate just compensation as in white communities."
-"As far as the RECA [Radiation Exposure Compensation Act] is concerned, you know, before the amendment was made, $100,000 was considered the adequate, I guess, compensation for a particular person who had filed. And $100,000, you take the average cost of 30% for a lawyer. So the family would only get $70,000. And when you spread that around it's not going to go too far. And I think one of the areas of RECA is to boost that up to $150,000. "

From an article
written in 'In Motion Magazine', the Bureau of Navajo Affairs now lists 2,450 Native Americans eligible for Federal funds owing to uranium poisoning. This doesn't include 412 victims who died before funds were made available.

Clearly there are costs to the expanding nuclear industry: whether on the level of global security, or small-scale-- but extremely tragic-- health threats. Such a wide array of issues keeps the nuclear issue not only one of business profits, but inter-governmental conflict: with local, state, federal and even extra-federal US entities all vying to see their viewpoint win out.

The one aspect, most pressing in my view, is whether or not mining methods have been developed that significantly lessen or eliminate threats to workers or near-by inhabitants. This part of the story has been one I've had trouble tracking down-- but I'll hopefully report to you soon on it.

But regardless of the fullness of this particular story, its clear that the faucets of the nuclear issue, whether pertaining to health risks, weaponization concerns, or American race relations, are as numerous as they are contentious. And the future promises only their simultaneous sharpening and proliferation.

Proliferation Press News Bulletin: Non-Proliferation Experts send Joint Letter to Congress

Below is the text of a letter of proliferation experts, from various non-profit agencies, outlining the case against the US-India Nuclear Deal. It is one of the best (and concise) summaries of what is considered wrong about the N-deal. Furthermore, the names and occupations of its authors are nice markers of organizations involved in non-proliferation policy (for any people who may be looking for internships/jobs or further information).

For the original pdf file or the accompanying appendixes (which are not post here), go to this site.

For any interested proliferation junkies or loyal readers, this letter will be a good foil against a Tellis publication arguing against critics of the nuclear deal (read it here) that I will be reviewing early next week.

June 20, 2006

Dear Member of Congress:

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 5 finally received an answer from the State Department to the Committee's question: Does the proposed US-India nuclear deal violate the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)? The question arises because the Article I of the NPT prohibits members "in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any nonnuclear weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or othernuclear explosive devices." The NPT defines a non-nuclear weapons state to be any country that did not explode a nuclear device before 1967. This clearly includes India, a state even the Administration has refused to recognize as a weapons state under the NPT. How would U.S. nuclear aid violate the NPT?

Foreign nuclear fuel supplies would free up India's limited domestic nuclear fuel making capacity to produce highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons. By the Indian government's own admission, its military and civil nuclear programs are "inextricably" linked, so if we assist one we assist the other. Since the proposed deal also accepts the legitimacy of India's nuclear weapons program, it would effectively encourage India to continue in that direction. The State Department response predictably claims that the proposed nuclear cooperation arrangement with India would not constitute an NPT violation. But to reach this conclusion the department construes the meaning of the NPT so narrowly as to render it meaningless.

The State Department also ignores the reality that partial safeguards in a state with a secret nuclear weapons program are more symbol than substance. India may not have to comply with the NPT, but the United States, as a signatory to the NPT, has a solemn responsibility not only to discourage proliferation by others, but to refrain from assisting other states' nuclear weapons program in any way. The current proposal would breach this central provision of the treaty.

The administration has tried to downplay these points by emphasizing the strategic advantages of partnership with India. Administration officials contend that failure to accede to India on the nuclear issues would threaten the whole arrangement. Yet, India's Foreign Secretary recently acknowledged that the deal may not get by the Congress and this would not affect closer ties with the United States. The main point is that our strategic interest dictates that we should not discard our nonproliferation policy and our Treaty obligations. To do so would only enfeeble our case against NPT violators.

Thomas Cochran, Director of the Natural Resource Defense Council Nuclear Program Victor Gilinsky, energy consultant, former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner
John Holum, former Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs
Daryl Kimball, executive director, Arms Control Association
Christopher Paine, senior analyst, Nuclear Program, Natural Resource Defense Council
George Perkovich, Director of the Nonproliferation Program, The Carnegie Endowment Henry S. Rowen, Senior Fellow, The Hoover Institution; Member, President Bush’s Iraqi WMD Commission, former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, President of the RAND Corporation
Lawrence Scheinman, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, former Assistant Directorfor Nonproliferationn, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
Henry Sokolski, executive director, The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center,
former Deputy for Nonproliferation Policy in the Department of Defense
Leonard Weiss, advisor, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, former staff director,U.S. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee*

Any inquiries regarding this letter should be directed to The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, 703-271-9852, npec@npec-web.org

Monday, June 26, 2006

Gordon Brown reaffirms Britain's "Independent Nuclear Deterrent"

It was a small section of Brown's June 22 Madison House speech to Britain's business and industrial leaders, but a significant one sandwiched between a long and tedious proclamation of Labour economic policies from the Prime Minister-to-be:

"And I mean not just stability by securing low inflation but stability in our industrial relations, stability through a stable and competitive tax regime, and stability through a predictable and light touch regulatory environment...the same strength of national purpose we will demonstrate in protecting our security in this Parliament and the long-term - strong in defence in fighting terrorism, upholding NATO, supporting our armed forces at home and abroad, and retaining our independent nuclear deterrent.

In an insecure world we must and will always have the strength to take all necessary long term decisions for stability and security..."

Not a very shocking statement, but one clearly designed to send the message that Labour will replenish the British nuclear deterrent. Such a policy is significant since 1) Britain is a depositary nuclear power-- making all its nuclear decisions significant-- and 2) it reflects the uneasy truth of today's nuclear status. While the total nuclear arsenals are down, nations of all stripes (be they non-nuclear states, minor nuclear states or major nuclear states) are re-priming their deterrents. Such a development in Britain-- considered an example of Kantian, soft-power nation-state-- makes Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (pledging that all member-states will work towards the abolition of nuclear arms) ring hallow.

But the decision follows both political and technical timing. As Martin Walker points out, today's world does not find America nor American allies exceedingly loved (a dull point, but one that I suspect refers to the proliferation of nuclear arms to Iran and North Korea). Furthermore, Britain's nuclear's deterrent is based on Trident submarine missiles that need replacement by 2024. This technological feature is forcing a political decision on Britain's deterrent posture within the next four years. Instead of renouncing an active nuclear deterrent-- moving closer to the nuclear postures Germany and Japan-- Brown's call for a revamped nuclear deterrent expresses political consensus within Britain: with both major political parties in favor of continuing the nation's nuclear deterrent. Labour stood as the lone political force that could dismantle the British nuclear deterrent. Barring a major political shift (a Liberal Democrat in 10 Downing Street), Britain will continue to possess active nuclear deterrent.

Walker views the debate as one between misplaced priorities: with Brown quickly curtailing any hopes by Labour's 'green fringe' to dismantle the British deterrent,

"The would-be disarmers, like Hans Blix and Annan, would be delighted if one of the original five nuclear powers, such as Britain, agreed to give them up. Gordon Brown's wholly gratuitous defense of Britain's nukes should be seen as a pre-emptive strike against them, and against the Greenpeace plan "to spend the $40 billion from the Trident replacement budget like tackling climate change and developing secure alternatives to Middle East oil."

The fact is that Brown, who controls the government purse strings, has virtually doubled the sums for the Atomic Weaponry Establishment at Aldermaston, Britain's nuke factory, over the past two years, from just under $500 million a year to almost $900 million. A new Orion laser system, designed to recreate the temperatures inside the sun or a nuclear explosion, has been built. Hundreds of new nuclear scientists are being hired. Under Blair or Brown, the British are staying in the nuclear business, whether their left wing likes it or not."

While Walker approves of such a decision and considers the economic costs clearly manageable, other do not. Letters to the Times show the fear of a continued and enhanced nuclear deterrent: 1) poorly spent funds, 2) fodder for terrorists, 3) under-cutting counter-proliferation activities and 4) failing to provide 'real' security to Britain. Of these concerns, the last two demand the most attention. But even if these concerns do not outweigh Britain's security needs in favor of nuclear weapons, their purposeful omission from Walker's piece is notable.

While Brown's decision is not surprising (pushing Labour to the 'right' on Security but maintaining social domestic policies is ideal Labour political positioning), Britain's decision-- along with the American decision to revamp its nuclear deterrent, the India-US nuclear deal, and other international developments-- brings into focus a profound failure of the non-proliferation movement. To this day, nations still consider nuclear deterrent essential for security and international prestige. Until this changes (through the actions of nuclear weapon states, following the South African example), there is little hope in deterring new nuclear aspirants.

Britain's decision goes against this dual goal, and highlights (again) the still prominent status of nuclear weapons within international system.

There is also a domestic politics angle to this story: with the announcement of new power plants seen as a critical issue within Scotland's May parliamentary elections. Scotland's current government stands against a new generation of power reactors, seeking instead to favor other, renewable sources (and the industries that support them) for Scotland power needs. Labour, instead, seeks to increase the nuclear aspect to the UK's power portfolio. It seems that Labour is trying to position itself away from 'green' positions, and stake-out a hard-nosed middle ground when it comes to both today's power-needs and security needs. The critical question in this debate is whether or not current nuclear-waste procedures are statisfactory to voters.

What will be interesting-- and I will be sure to track down soon-- is the response from other nations (particularly from non-nuclear weapon states like Germany and Japan (who can easily produce a nuclear deterrent), not to mention Iran and North Korea. Furthermore, how will Britain actually replenish their deterrent? Will there be American help? Will we see an expansion-- both horizontally and vertically-- of the British nuclear deterrent? [To get a better idea of the answer to this question I will also put up links and a brief description of Britain's current nuclear deterrent.]

All these questions assume that opposition within the ranks of Labour do not break this current 'nuclear concensus' among Britain's political establishment. Such an outcome seems unlikely: here I follow the political logic (while certainly not the political ideology) of Fraser Nelson. But the reaction of Britain's 'post-materialist' interest-groups is important, if only to find out where this issue ranks within the mind of the progressive, British voter.

The US-India Nuclear Deal: Reactions to the Congressional Debate

Three of today's articles go a long way in showing the the global impact the proposed US-India Nuclear Deal. But first some condensed background.

Last summer President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a strategic partnership: of which a cornerstone proposal for nuclear technology sharing has become the focus of debate within Congress.

India, a non-member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has been offered by the Bush White House nuclear technology. To some this flies in the face of US obligations to the treaty: as one of the depository powers, America has pledged not to aid in the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Now, technically the nuclear technology (fuel mainly and parts for plants) are not weapons-- fulfilling another part of the NPT which pledges to share peaceful nuclear technology with non-nuclear member-states. But there are three problems: 1) India is getting preferential treatment over actual members of the NPT and 2) the technology the US is offering holds dual-use (can be used for both 'peaceful' and 'nonpeaceful' uses) possibilities and 3) no inspection procedure to avoid abuse by the Indian side. In fact, half of India's nuclear facilities will not be inspected at all (by the IAEA) under the current proposal.

These problems make many opponents of the deal fear that it will tip off an Asian arms-race, one which Pakistan, China and Japan may all fall into: increasing instability in the region.

Proponents consider the deal accepting 'nuclear' realities. While India is not a member of the NPT, it has nuclear weapons and is considered a responsible nation. To continue to isolate India from the world-system ignores a serious proliferation problem and only adds instability. Furthermore, for Americans this deal holds the hope of making India a US-allied counter-weight to growing Chinese power.

Right now these arguments are being head on Capitol Hill, where it seems likely the treaty will pass but with what amendments is yet to be seen.

The Boston Globe has a very good article that assesses the plan and better yet offers a constructive way towards resolving tensions within the bill. Instead of making the traditional calls for India to become a member of both the NPT and Nuclear Test-Ban treaty, the paper calls for incentives: linking the actual nuclear goods to good behavior. Such an approach seems to cut a nice middle ground: but it still doesn't resolve the main concern of opponents. What happens to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the NPT when a nuclear-recognized nation gets all the positivies without the same obligations as the vast majority of states. The solution also does not guarantee that India won't still violate the incentive system, but by that point have the technological know-how and materials to need not further assistance.

From the other end, this The Indian Express article does a good job of showing the extreme disregard of these concerns by many Indians. Instead of focusing on the deal's potenial impact on the global non-proliferation regime, it bemoans the non-binding language that may be inserted into it (dealing with 'tangental' items like Iran and Nonproliferation treaties). The article makes clear the Indian viewpoint of the N-deal: it signifies their status as a great power. Furthermore, the article shows how deal-proponents flip the logic of opponents: arguing that because India was never a part of the NPT, has been a responsible nuclear-weapons nation for 8 years, stands as a relatively stable democractic state, and is developing into one of the world's most powerful states it unfair that they be held to standards not designed for them (like the Test Ban Treaty or NPT). Like the naval treaties of the Interwar years, this is about national pride and the need for the international system to adjust to the new structural realities of the post-Cold War system.

But aside from the Congressional debate and its interesting description in the Indian Press, the most important note that both articles make is the next step (assuming the Treaty passes Congress): approval from the Nuclear Suppliers Group. This group must approve all nuclear transfers and runs by consensus. Will all participating nations-- particularly China and Russia-- agree to a deal that advances US strategic interests without something in return? (China is already building reactors in Pakistan.) But even more important than the deals that will have to be cut internationally, is the central question of security: will this deal, and its indirect effects, add or diminish security among both superpowers and competing regional powers, India and Pakistan in particular?