Day 2 – 13 May 2014

By Ina Sattlegger

Overview

Introduction

Visit to the UN

“From Lapdog to Watchdog” – IAEA

An Excursion to the world of (ionizing) radiation – UNSCEAR

The Potential of Big Data: A Little Numbers Game – CTBTO

Visit to the Andromeda Tower

“We never talked about the bombs” – VCDNP

Bibliography, links and further reading:

 

Introduction

The issue of nuclear security seems to have lost its sense of urgency. The omnipresent threat of total extinction which was once an essential part of the daily lives of hundreds of millions is virtually gone. Nevertheless, it is as pressing as ever.

To understand the vast field of nuclear security and its relevance for the 21st century, generating a basic knowledge about the core principles of this regime is essential. Luckily, there is hardly any better town to do so than Vienna. A variety of institutions have assembled around the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and form a tightly interwoven network dealing with global and regional nuclear security issues.

Thus, the second day of the programme was dedicated to visit and receive briefings by international organizations and a UN commission followed by a visit to the Vienna Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) and ended with a lecture on Japan’s role within the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), its nuclear energy policy and the IAEA.

 

Visit to the UN

“From Lapdog to Watchdog” – IAEA
Briefing by Mrs. Jill Cooley, Director of the Division of Concepts and Planning in the IAEA’s Department of Safeguards

Safeguards agreements, which are supervised by the IAEA and complement the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), facilitate efforts to monitor and verify the peaceful use of nuclear power. IAEA safeguards manifest the only tool to adequately verify the non-compliance of states with the NPT and the peaceful use of nuclear energy internationally.

Generally, this task is performed on the basis of state reports of declared nuclear materials and activities as authorized under so-called Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements (CSAs). Additional inspections concerning all “peaceful activities”, including non-declared materials, activities and facilities were made possible through the Additional Protocol (AP). Furthermore, all Nuclear-Weapons States (NWS) signed Voluntary Offer Agreements (VOA) with the agency allowing it to monitor their nuclear activities. Emphasis should be put on “voluntary” as these agreements are not prescribed for NWS by the NPT. There are also item-specific safeguards agreements as well as global, regional and bilateral agreements like the Quadripartite Agreement which contribute to the international safeguards regime one way or another.

To verify a state’s compliance, the IAEA Department of Safeguards relies on exogenous information in order to create a holistic overview, including inspections, remote monitoring, environmental sampling, use of satellite imagery, trade analysis, complementary access, open source and third party information.

Many of those techniques were only introduced in the post-1991 era when Iraq’s illicit pursuit of nuclear weapons under its CSA was exposed and suffered a massive blow to the credibility and reputation of the agency’s efficacy. The IAEA, back then in direct competition with the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), was feared to sink into insignificance due to a major lack in rights. Thus, in an effort to better constrain NPT member states’ abilities to illicitly pursue nuclear weapons, the IAEA drafted the Model Additional Protocol in 1993 which was adopted in 1997. Until today, it remains a deliberate step by each NPT member state to grant the IAEA additional rights.

While the IAEA primarily safeguards uranium and plutonium based nuclear fuel cycles, the wording of the NPT actually mandates the IAEA to become operational in any kind of nuclear fuel cycle where fissionable materials are used. Against the backdrop of the suspected diversion of nuclear materials for military purposes, in some cases the IAEA depends on satellite imagery which can be very expensive and is primarily provided by national security agencies. The combination of APs with electronic means of data collection and processing , remote monitoring and trade analysis somewhat reanimated the safeguards regime and subsequently the IAEA.

Our group awaiting the next briefing at the UN in Vienna

IMG_8242

© by Franz Josef Danner

 

An Excursion into the world of (ionizing) radiation – UNSCEAR
Briefing by Mr. Malcolm Crick,UNSCEAR Secretary

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) was founded 1955, one year after the United States’ Castle Bravo tests in the Bikini Atoll. Although part of the UN, it is a purely scientific institution, focusing on the generation and distribution of information. Its reports concerning the sources, effects and risks of ionizing radiation serve as the technical underpinning for action plans and political decisions in organizations such as the IAEA, the International Labor Organization (ILO) or the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and are subsequently implemented by their member states. The Committee consists of 27 scientists chosen by 27 specific countries including the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council (P5), India and Pakistan.

Its work constitutes a cornerstone regarding the foundation of the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) of 1963, the UN Conference on the Human Environment of 1972 or the handling of accidents like Fukushima and Chernobyl.

Scientific findings of the Committee highlight that there is a strong dissonance between the perceived and the actual dangers and sources of ionizing radiation. One can say that natural radiation makes up about 80 percent of the average annual dose of human radiation exposure of around 2,4 millisieverts (mSv). The roughly remaining 20 percent origin from medical causes (treatment excluded). The amount of ionizing radiation the average human being is and was exposed to by nuclear tests, nuclear accidents or the nuclear industry is arguably low. The fear of radiation is thus in an unbalanced relation with psychological consequences or tertiary deaths as regards nuclear accidents like Chernobyl 1986 and Fukushima 2011.. The average dose of radiation absorbed by Fukushima victims amounts to 10 mSv, which is as much as a single Computer Tomography (CT).

Nevertheless, natural and medical sources of radiation by far do not get as much attention as “manmade” sources. They are simply not an issue of political concern.

 

The Potential of Big Data: A Little Numbers Game – CTBTO
Briefing by Mr. Jean du Preez, Chief of External Relations and International Cooperation at the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Preparatory Commission

Over 2000 nuclear tests were conducted in the past 70 years. During the Cold-War, they played a fundamental part of the geopolitical, bipolar struggle for super-power. Testing was perceived as a big show-off, a presentation of military power, primarily between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Timeline of nuclear tests between 1944 and 1998

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLCF7vPanrY

The so-called “arms race” peaked in 1961 with the detonation of the Soviet “Tsar Bomba”, a 50 Megaton (Mt) hydrogen bomb with over 3000 times the explosive power of Hiroshima. It is noteworthy that the initial design of the bomb had an explosive yield of around 100 Mt, but due to concerns about its impact, such as subsequent fallout, a limited version of the bomb was tested.

The tense situation almost escalated during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the policy of “mutual assured destruction” was implemented and constituted a serious threat to the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the entire globe. This and other incidents lead to the PTBT of 1963, which banned atmospheric nuclear testing as well as testing under water and in space.

Today, there are still around 17.300 active nuclear war heads and many thousands more in non-operative state. In more recent years, the number of nuclear tests has decreased drastically and the spread of nuclear weapons both horizontally (number of nuclear weapons possessing states) and vertically (quantity of nuclear weapons) has been halted or slowed down. It can be argued that this is due to a strong non-proliferation regime.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is an essential part of this regime. Its aim is to ban any kind of nuclear testing in any form performed by any actor worldwide. Founded in 1996, it currently has 183 signatories, 116 of which have ratified the treaty. Legally, the organization does not exist yet, which is why the so-called CTBTO Preparatory Commission or CTBTO Prep Com is mandated to fulfill its mission. It will cease to exist upon the entry into force of the CTBT. But (and this is quite a big but), as long as the treaty is not enforced, as long as the United States, India, North Korea, Pakistan, China, Egypt, Iran and Israel are missing, the Prep Com can only act as a means of verification. The road towards a final ban of all sorts of nuclear testing for all states is currently halted and will need a lot of sensitive, diplomatic consultation.

The verification network of over 300 data collecting facilities – whether these are seismic, hydro-acoustic, radionuclide or infrasound-based – maps any kind of testing which is very, very difficult to circumvent.

Its current potential is due to big data, which is constantly collected and analyzed. Once this data is processed, it empowers the international community to better shed light on the nuclear activities of “perpetrators” like North Korea in 2006, 2009 and 2013. Information-gathering and analysis strengthens the global non-proliferation regime by providing a transparent picture and allowing the international community to “name and shame” actors which do not abide by important non-proliferation norms.

Moreover, the data collected all over the world by the CTBTO Prep Com facilities has proven to be surprisingly versatile. Information about earthquakes and possible tsunamis, radiation or meteoroids can be collected, combined and distributed quicker than ever and thus helps to save lives against the backdrop of immanent natural disasters.

 

Visit to the Andromeda Tower

“We never talked about the bombs” – VCDNP
Briefing by Mrs. Elena Sokova, Executive Director and Mr. Nikolai Sokov, Senior Fellow at the VCDNP

Nuclear weapons have become somewhat unfashionable. Their total number has been drastically reduced, not only since the end of the Cold War. Extremely costly maintenance and limited practical utility in light of mutual assured destruction are only two in a long list of desensitizing reasons to uphold a voluminous nuclear arsenal. Nevertheless, giving up on nuclear weapons has proven extremely difficult. How is it still doable?

The VCDNP, an international non-governmental organization and platform based in Vienna, promotes international peace and security and focuses particularly on disarmament and non-proliferation. Its work can be categorized in three pillars, namely research and analysis, result oriented discussion and education and training. Nikolai Sokov, Senior Fellow at the VCDNP and former member of the Soviet negotiation team of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) I and START II, briefed us on nuclear arms reductions between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russian Federation.

Throughout the 40+ years of bilateral negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russian Federation, the focus was primarily put on identifying and agreeing on a maximum number of nuclear arms and later on the number of missiles and delivery systems that were to be reduced. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks/Treaty (SALT) I and SALT II focused on preventing first strike capable nuclear weapons. Casually speaking, the START I and II addressed the maximum number of warheads and the current New START is mainly concerned with the number of deployed warheads.

According to Mr Sokov, it is very important to distinguish between different disarmament related measures and elaborate on the nuances that exist today. Terminologically, there is “arms control”, i.e. the amount of control and reduction needed to prevent an arms race”. Optimization” refers to the reduction of nuclear weapons to the extent where stability is not undermined but spending is cut. “Disarmament” signifies reduction towards elimination of missiles and warheads. These concepts have been used synonymously, causing a lot of confusion over the course of past bilateral negotiations and agreements.

The actual reduction of nuclear bombs has never really been given appropriate attention however. Also, the general fear of nuclear weapons has dropped substantially and so has the interest to ban them. Nevertheless, as Mr. Sokov pointed out, there has to be a final talk about reducing the amount of bombs in order to achieve effective disarmament and take the process to the next level.

However, the political obstacles blocking the way to new agreements are big, just to mention the tactical nuclear weapons stored by NATO in Europe which constitute a red flag to the Russian Federation. Thus, the general trend points towards a continuation of the “START Track”. The New START will remain in force until 2021. This means six years to decide in which direction to go and how to proceed about nuclear disarmament.

IMG_8237

© by Franz Josef Danner

 

Bibliography, links and further reading:

 

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