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World leaders gather to address nuclear terrorism, South Asian proliferation

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/12/world/12nuke.html?hp

excerpts:

“Three months ago, American intelligence officials examining satellite photographs of Pakistani nuclear facilities saw the first wisps of steam from the cooling towers of a new nuclear reactor. It was one of three plants being constructed to make fuel for a second generation of nuclear arms.

The message of those photos was clear: While Pakistan struggles to make sure its weapons and nuclear labs are not vulnerable to attack by Al Qaeda, the country is getting ready to greatly expand its production of weapons-grade fuel.

The Pakistanis insist that they have no choice. A nuclear deal that India signed with the United States during the Bush administration ended a long moratorium on providing India with the fuel and technology for desperately needed nuclear power plants.

Now, as critics of the arrangement point out, the agreement frees up older facilities that India can devote to making its own new generation of weapons, escalating one arms race even as President Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia sign accords to shrink arsenals built during the cold war.

Mr. Obama met with the leaders of India and Pakistan on Sunday, a day ahead of a two-day Washington gathering with 47 nations devoted to the question of how to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists. In remarks to reporters about the summit meeting, Mr. Obama called the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon “the single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short-term, medium-term and long-term.”

The summit meeting is the largest gathering of world leaders called by an American president since Franklin D. Roosevelt organized the 1945 meeting in San Francisco that created the United Nations.

…In private, Pakistani officials insist that the new plants are needed because India has the power to mount a lightning invasion with conventional forces.

India, too, is making new weapons-grade plutonium, in plants exempted under the agreement with the Bush administration from inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. (Neither Pakistan nor India has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.)

The Obama administration has endorsed the Bush-era agreement. Last month, the White House took the next step, approving an accord that allows India to build two new reprocessing plants. While that fuel is for civilian use, critics say it frees older plants to make weapons fuel."

by teru kuwayama at 2010-04-12 14:22:24 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

http://thefastertimes.com/india/2010/04/12/nuclear-arms-race-in-south-asia-is-the-us-india-nuclear-pact-really-to-blame/

excerpts:

“The New York Times carries a front-page story today that claims the Obama administration’s nuclear security conference currently taking place in Washington is ignoring a looming nuclear arms race in South Asia. The article says that Pakistan has recently fired up a new nuclear reactor that will be used to process high-grade plutonium for a second generation of nuclear weapons. It says this new weapons-production activity, coming at a time when Pakistan seems increasingly unstable and faces an existential threat from homegrown Islamic extremists such as the Pakistani Taliban, raises the danger that nuclear weapons or material will fall into the hands of terrorists.

…The story also fails to mention that the civil nuclear deal does not guarantee India a supply of uranium in the event it tests another nuclear device (as it did not only in 1974, but in 1998 as well). If that happens, then despite this new nuclear deal, India is likely to face sanctions once again. (Which is why some on both the left and right in India opposed the civil nuclear deal and instead wanted India to try to go it alone on nuclear power; they feel the deal basically gives the U.S. too much leverage over India’s nuclear weapons program, essentially preventing it from testing another device without facing serious economic consequences.) Yes, theoretically, the new reactors which companies from Russia, France, the U.S. and Canada are likely to soon be building in India would free up the older Indian reactors and their fuel for use in the country’s nuclear weapons program. But, given India’s huge power demands, it might just as well need those old reactors to keep feeding the electricity grid too. There is also a fairly limited supply of indigenous uranium in India and any new uranium brought into India, under the terms of a reprocessing agreement that is part of the whole civil nuclear agreement, will not be available for India’s weapons program – so there is probably a limit in how many new warheads India will be able to build simply using its existing fuel stockpiles.

…What the article might have mentioned is that the U.S. could be doing a lot more to persuade India and Pakistan to take measures that might lessen the chance of a nuclear exchange if the two countries do become involved in a conventional military conflict, as they have numerous times in the past. For instance, it would be very useful if they each articulated a clear nuclear defense doctrine. It would also be good if the two nations shared far more information with one another about their nuclear defenses so that signs would not be misinterpreted during a crisis. Getting Islamabad to agree to a “no first use” policy would be a huge step too (although Islamabad would be unlikely to agree to such a measure.)"

by teru kuwayama | 12 Apr 2010 14:04 | Palo Alto, California, United States | | Report spam→

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