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Monitoring Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Chemical and Biological Weapons Convention Compliance:
A Summary of Some Problems

Excerpts compiled with additions in [] by Joachim Gruber


George Soros
The Bubble of American Supremacy: Correcting the Misuse of American Power

Public Affairs, Perseus Book Group, New York, 2004
"The most powerful country on earth cannot afford to be consumed by fear. To make war on terrorism the centerpiece of our national strategy is an abdication of our responsibility as the leading nation of the world. The United States is the only country that can take the lead in addressing problems that require collective action: preserving peace, assuring economic progress, protecting the environment, and so on. Fighting terrorism and controlling weapons of mass destruction also fall into this category.

The United States cannot do whatever it wants, but nothing much can be done in the way of international cooperation without the leadership or at least active participation of our nation. The United States has a greater degree of discretion in deciding what shape the world should take than anybody else. Other countries have to respond to U.S. policy, but we can choose the policy to which other states have to respond. This imposes a unique responsibility on the United States: Our nation must concern itself with the well being of the world. We will be the greatest beneficiaries if we do so."

This compilation of statements by some of the leading non-proliferation experts/research institutions tries to elucidate some of the serious monitoring problems. These problems have created an information vacuum that states or terrorist organizations may seize upon to threaten (or bluff with threatening) the use of weapons of mass destruction, as Saddam Hussein chose to do.

I. Nuclear Technology

I. 1 Ephraim Asculai
Verification Revisited: The Nuclear Case

Washington, DC: Institute for Science and International Security Press, 2002
A publication of the Institute for Science and International Security.

I. 2 David Albright1 and Kevin O'Neill2 (eds.)

1 President, 2 Director, Institute for Science and International Security.
"The Challenges of Fissile Material Control"
Institute for Science and International Security Press, 1999.
A unique, across-the-board critique of the ways in which plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU), or "fissile materials," are managed in both civil and military programs.

I. 3 Detection Goal Inadequacy

Book Cover (full report in cache, January 2011)
  • Lawrence Scheinman, The International Atomic Energy Agency And World Nuclear Order, Problems Facing the IAEA
    Safeguards supporters have also criticized the goals, but for different reasons. They contend that detection goals, even when understood, are in some instances unattainable, and their continued use weakens confidence in safeguards generally. The detection goal of one explosive-significant quantity is considered unrealistic because in certain facilities (such as large-scale bulk handling plants) measurement error alone theoretically could exceed the proposed detection goal by an order of magnitude. From this point of view, and even if that theoretical high is not reached, the notion of allocating limited safeguards resources to try to bring diversion detection down to one significant quantity could cause a very severe drain on those resources and still not give absolute assurance over a long period of time that a significant quantity of material has not been diverted without detection, since there will always be some measurement error.

  • Henry D. Sokolski (ed.) Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom, full report (pdf, 355 pages), Strategic Studies Institute - United States Army War College, February 27, 2008 (in cache, February 3, 2011).

    Chapter 1: Henry D. Sokolski "Assessing the IAEA's Abiity to Verify the NPT"
    A Report of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center on the International Atomic Energy Agency's Nuclear Safeguards System

    Currently, the IAEA is unable to provide timely warning of diversions from nuclear fuel- making plants (enrichment, reprocessing, and fuel processing plants utilizing nuclear materials directly useable to make bombs). For some of these plants, the agency loses track of many nuclear weapons-worth of material every year. Meanwhile, the IAEA is unable to prevent the overnight conversion of centrifuge enrichment and plutonium reprocessing plants into nuclear bomb-material factories. As the number of these facilities increases, the ability of the agency to fulfill its material accountancy mission dangerously erodes. The IAEA has yet to concede these points by admitting that although it can monitor these dangerous nuclear activities, it cannot actually do so in a manner that can assure timely detection of a possible military diversion - the key to an inspection procedure being a safeguard against military diversions.

    Chapter 5: Edwin S. Lyman "Can Nuclear Fuel Production in Iran and Elsewhere be Safeguarded Against Diversion?"

    [Significant Quantity]
    [Dr. Marvin] Miller [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in "Are IAEA Safeguards on Bulk-Handling Facilities Effective?", Nuclear Control Institute, Washington, DC, USA, 1990] observed that for large bulk handling facilities, such as the 800 metric ton heavy metal (MTHM)/year Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (RRP) now undergoing startup testing in Japan, it was not possible with the technologies and practices available at the time to detect the diversion of 8 kilograms of plutonium (1 significant quantity, SQ) - about 0.1 percent of the annual plutonium throughput - with a high degree of confidence. This is because the errors in material accountancy measurements at reprocessing plants were typically on the order of 1 percent -that is, a factor of 10 greater than an SQ. If after taking a physical inventory, the value of plutonium measured was less than expected (on the basis of operator records) by an amount on the order of 1 SQ, it would be difficult to state with high confidence that this shortfall, known as "material unaccounted for" or MUF, was due to an actual diversion and not merely measurement error.

    [Accountancy Verification Goal - Expected Accountancy Capability (E)]
    In the past, the IAEA acknowledged that the 1 SQ detection goal could not be met in practice, and instead adopted a relaxed standard known as the "accountancy verification goal" (AVG), which was "based on a realistic assessment of what then-current measurement techniques applied to a given facility could actually detect." The AVG was based on a quantity defined as the "expected accountancy capability," E, which is defined as the "minimum loss of nuclear material which can be expected to be detected by material accountancy," and is given by the formula

    E = 3.29 sigma A,

    in which sigma is the relative uncertainty in measurements of the plant's inputs and outputs, and A is the facility's plutonium throughput in between periodic physical inventories.

    This formula is derived from a requirement that the alarm threshold for diversion be set at a confidence level of 95 percent and a false alarm rate of 5 percent. Miller estimated that for the RRP, based on an input uncertainty of ±1 percent (which was the IAEA's value at the time for the international standard for the expected measurement uncertainty at reprocessing plants), the value of E would be 246 kilograms of plutonium, or more than 30 SQs, if physical inventories were carried out on an annual basis, as was (and is) standard practice. This means that a diversion of plutonium would have to exceed this value before one could conclude with 95 percent certainty that a diversion had occurred, and that the measured shortfall was not due to measurement error.

  • Joachim Gruber, Reactor plutonium bomb: Pu generation in a LWR.
    A Light Water Reactor power economy lacks proliferation resistence.

I. 3 David Kay

Currently (October 2003) Dr. David Kay is a Senior Fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies with a concentration on counterterrorism and homeland security issues. He was the team leader for three IAEA inspections in Iraq.
"Iraqi Inspections: Lessons Learned", Eye on Supply: Feb. 10, 1993, Monterey Institute of International Studies, 1997,
adapted from a transcript of a talk given for the Program of Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies on February 10, 1993.
Excerpts by J. Gruber

I. 4 Graham Allison
Loose nukes: The Eight spoke loudly, and did little

  1. Fewer former Soviet "near-nukes" - lumps of highly enriched uranium and plutonium from which a terrorist could make a nuclear weapon - have been secured in the two years since Sept. 11, 2001, than in the two years before that date.
  2. Only one-fifth of Russia's weapons-usable fissile material has been adequately secured.
  3. Of Russia's fissile material stockpile, 57 percent - enough for more than 20,000 nuclear weapons - has not received the most basic security upgrades.
  4. Hundreds of potential nuclear weapons of highly enriched uranium will remain at risk in developing and transitional countries for the next 10 years.

In 2000, for instance, the United States and Russia signed an agreement to remove the threat of 68 tons of Russian weapons-grade plutonium. In the three years since the agreement, how many tons have been destroyed? Zero. Liability and access disputes continue to hold up the project, and less than half of the $2 billion required to do the job has been pledged.

At the current rate, the global partnership will not secure Russia's loose nukes until 2017. If the material for the terrorist bomb that blows up in Paris or Moscow or New York in 2005 is scheduled to be secured in 2008, voters will look back at the elegant language of multiple G-8 summit meetings and wonder why it was so hard to translate those words into action.

Graham Allison is author of "Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophy".

Book Description - editorial review
"A leading strategist opens our eyes to the greatest terrorist threat of all -and how to prevent it before it's too late:

In this urgent call to action, Graham Allison, one of America's leading experts on nuclear weapons and national security, presents the evidence for two provocative, compelling conclusions.
  1. If policy makers in Washington keep doing what they are currently doing about the threat, a nuclear terrorist attack on America is likely to occur in the next decade. And if one lengthens the time frame, a nuclear strike is inevitable.
  2. The surprising and largely unrecognized good news is that nuclear terrorism is, in fact, preventable.
In these pages, Allison offers an ambitious but feasible blueprint for eliminating the possibility of nuclear terrorist attacks."
(more details about the book).

II. Chemical and Biological Technologies

Jonathan B. Tucker

Senior Researcher, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Washington, D.C. office. In 1998 Dr. Tucker directed the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program (CBWNP), Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Montery, California, USA. (in memoriam, August 3, 2011, in cache)

II. 1 "Monitoring And Verification in a Noncooperative Environment: Lessons From the U.N. Experience in Iraq", Monterey Institute of International Studies, The Nonproliferation Review: Spring-Summer 1996, Volume 3 - Number 3.

  • "Lessons for the Future<
    • Intrusive on-site access is a necessary but not sufficient condition for obtaining evidence of noncompliance.<
    • A multilateral inspection regime can be effective only to the extent that it is coupled with accurate and timely intelligence.
    • Short-notice inspections can increase the likelihood that a violator will make mistakes and leave behind telltale indicators of illicit activity.
    • The combined use of various monitoring tools (e.g. overhead surveillance, monitoring trade flows, visual inspection, and sampling and analysis) can yield valuable synergies.
    • An effective way to investigate clandestine WMD programs is to identify and interrogate key managerial and technical personnel.<
    • Only one agency should be asigned all aspects of an international inspection regime.
    • Effective verification cannot be based on periodic on-site inspections alone, but requires the integration of data from a wide variety of sources to monitor patterns of host-country activity over an extended period of time.

    • In the future, the task of verifying nonproliferation treaties and drawing compliance judgments will grow more difficult as technologies capable of supporting deception and denial efforts become more widely available."
II. 2 Verification Provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention and Their Relevance to the Biological Weapons Convention, an analysis of the applicability of the CWC verification measures to a prospective BWC protocol".
  • "... important differences between chemical and biological weapons limit the applicability of Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) verification measures to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).
    • The fact that certain microbial and toxin agents are highly potent per unit weight means that a militarily significant quantity is measured in kilograms, compared with tons for chemical nerve agents.
    • Moreover, whereas production of a chemical arsenal requires a fairly large industrial plant, a stockpile of biological or toxin agents could be produced to order in a pilot-scale factory over a period of weeks.
For theses reasons, the threshold for militarily significant cheating, or "treaty breakout", is considerably lower for the BWC than for the CWC.
  • Finally, the ambiguities between offensive and defensive research on infectious agents and the lack of well-defined indicators of biological or toxin production make it more difficult to distinguish between "treaty-prohibited" and "treaty-permitted" activities at dual-capable biological facilities. For this reason, assessing intent is as important as physical evidence in determining BWC compliance. Table 3 describes the differences between chemical and biological weapons and shows where these differences complicate BWC compliannce monitoring."
  • Table 3: Technical Differences Between Chemical and Biological Weapons and Implications Thereof for BWC Compliance Monitoring. From "Verification Provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention and Their Relevance to the Biological Weapons Convention, an analysis of the applicability of the CWC verification measures to a prospective BWC protocol" by Jonathan Tucker

    Table 3: Technical Differences Between Chemical and Biological Weapons and ImplicationsThereof for BWC Compliance Monitoring.

    III. Further Reading

    Jacob Blackford, Multilateral Nuclear Export Controls After the A.Q. Khan Network, Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), 9 September 2005 (in cache)
    [T]he major problems identified are
    • weak and inconsistent implementation,
    • the lack of
      1. universality,
      2. legitimacy,
      3. enforcement,
      4. verification of dual-use exports, and
      5. information sharing needed to identify clandestine programs.
    Interim recommendations
    1. All Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) states parties should
      • declare their acceptance and adoption of the Zangger Committee's trigger list as the minimum standard for implementing the export controls required by Article III of the treaty.
      • notify the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the form of an information circular that they will not export certain items³the same items in the trigger list³unless they are under safeguards.
    2. Help states improve implementation
      • The United States, Japan, the European Union, Canada, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has a number of programs to assist the implementation of export controls (e.g. exchanging information on export regulations and the process of deciding whether to grant an export license, and the training of customs officials to spot controlled items).
      • [At the 2004 Prepcom] Germany made a proposal suggested that the IAEA, using experts from member states, could confidentially assess a country's export controls and make recommendations for improvement ... [T]he IAEA's International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) [would] assist states in assessing their physical protection system. The program could be justified to help states implement their obligation to report trigger list transfers under the Additional Protocol. ... Because UNSCR 1540 does not set specific standards for what a state's export control system should look like, a neutral international organization could fill that role.
      • Revise the Additional Protocol to require supplier states to report the export of key dual-use items to the IAEA. (Table 2: How A Revised Additional Protocol Would Address the Problems With Multilateral Nuclear Export Controls )
    3. Nuclear Export Control Treaty
      • IAEA Director General Mohamed el Baradei said in a January 2004 interview with Der Spiegel, –export controls must be dramatically improved and, in contrast to the past, must be carried out within an international framework".
      • A treaty should build on these principles to create a system where all states must report the import and export of nuclear-related items, including key dual-use items, to a neutral international organization ...
      • [The] treaty should give the IAEA the authority to verify that an item is being used according to its stated end use. (Table 3: How a treaty would address problems with multilateral nuclear export controls)

    The Zangger Committee was formed in 1971, soon after the NPT entered into force, by a small group of nuclear supplier states that were party to the NPT. It was origianlly known as the NPT exporters committee, and its self-imposed mandate was to interpret Article III, paragraph 2, of the treaty, specifically to determine what equipment should be controlled. The committee agreed to a "Trigger List" of items whose export would trigger IAEA safeguards, just as would the export of source or special fissionable material.

    The United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1540 (UNSCR 1540) in April 2004, in the wake of the public exposure of the A.Q. Khan network. Though it explicitly focuses on the threat posed by non-state actors, UNSCR 1540 is the first measure to hold all states accountable for their export controls. Because the resolution is explicitly based on Chapter VII of the UN Charter, it implicitly carries the threat of UNSC sanctions or military force in cases of noncompliance.

    • The resolution calls on all states to refrain from any form of support to non-state actors to acquire, develop, manufacture, transport, transfer, or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
    • Operative paragraph 3 requires all states to establish effective border controls and law enforcement to prevent the illicit trafficking of such items and to have "effective national export and transshipment controls over such items."
    • The resolution recognizes the use of national control lists, but does not specify what items should be covered. The resolution could be read to include any item, if it were to be used by a non-state actor to make, use, or transfer a weapon of mass destruction. This lack of specificity leaves an opening for differing interpretations based on circumstances and could make enforcement difficult.

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    Version: January 30, 2013
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