Dateline: 2003

This is the weekly electronic information service of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility

Editor: Tobias Damjanov, e-mail: 
WNII is archived at: http://inesglobal.org/archive.htm    
INES homepages: http://inesglobal.org       http://www.inesglobal.com/
INES International Office   
INES Chair: Prof. Armin Tenner    [Please note that the first "1" in q18 is the number one, while the last "l" is an "L"]

CONTENTS of WNII No. 27/2003


Abolition 2000 homepage: http://www.abolition2000.org  Grassroots News: http://www.napf.org/abolition2000/news/ 

Selected news from the Abolition 2000 Network

Global Council of Abolition 2000 on the North Korean nuclear issue

In late August, the Global Council of Abolition 2000 sent an open letter to President George W. Bush and to the leaders of North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and Australia urging them to abandon plans for a military solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis and to work toward the elimination of nuclear weapons in accordance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations.

The letter has been signed by 433 organizations and individuals from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Russia, Eastern Europe, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Scandinavia, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Nepal, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Latin America, Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, including the Mayor of Hiroshima’s Mayors for Peace (Japan), the International Network of Scientists and Engineers Against Proliferation-INESAP (U.S.), World Disarmament Campaign (U.K.), United for Peace and Justice (U.S.), Public Citizen (U.S.), Abolition 2000 (U.S.), Canadian Peace Alliance (Canada), Center for Russian Environmental Policy (Russia), Indian Institute for Peace, Disarmament, and Environment (India), and many more.

The letter strongly urges the U.S. government to desist from threatening a military action in North Korea and encourages the addressed countries to reach a peaceful solution "that promotes the well-being and security of all parties […], and that contributes to the elimination of tensions in the Korean Peninsula.” The letter declares that threats to use force or sanctions will cause North Korea " not only to retain and to augment its nuclear arsenal, but may induce it to actually contemplate its use.”

The only way to solve the problem in North Korea, continues the letter, is for the U.S. and other nuclear states to set a good example and comply with their own nuclear disarmament commitments under Article VI of the NPT. Instead, the possession of nuclear weapons by the U.S. and its proposed plans to research and develop new nuclear arms are an invitation to North Korea and other states to build up their nuclear arsenals. It is essential, the letter says, "not only that the DPRK [Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea] uphold and not withdraw from the NPT, but that the U.S. abide by its NPT obligations." In short, the U.S. cannot ask North Korea to comply with the NPT when it plans to develop new nuclear weapons that violate its own NPT obligations "to accomplish the total and unequivocal elimination of its own vast nuclear arsenal."


Citizens Inspection Working Group set up

At a meeting during the recent NPT PrepCom, a 'Citizens Inspection Working Group' (CIWG) was set up. It aims to support Citizens groups who inspect sites where WMD are being researched, produced, tested or deployed. CIWG will assist Citizens Inspectors to report their findings. This working group is part of Abolition 2000. Co-conveners of CIWG are the Los Alamos Study Group (USA) and For Mother Earth (Belgium). CIWG plans to submit a first report on Citizens Inspections during the NGO presentations at the 2004 NPTPrepCom in New York.

People interested to participate in CIWG activities can do the following:

Contacts and resources


Nuclear Abolition events at the 2004 World Social Forum

Some members of the Abolition 2000 coalition have been planning to hold anti-nuclear events at the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India, January 2004. They have already submitted a vague proposal that has been accepted (available from the WNII Editor as an rtf-formatted email attachment). However, they would very much like to have input and ideas from the rest of you around the world. Co-sponsorship of this event is highly welcome.

Please contact Rhianna Tyson, Project Associate, Reaching Critical Will:  <> 

On the CTBT conference at Vienna, 3-5 September 2003

The following extracts are based on a very informative note provided by WNII reader Prof. Thomas Schönfeld*, Chairperson of the Vienna-based NGO Committee on Peace, the Forum of representatives of international NGOs accredited at United Nations Vienna. *<> 

At the "Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty", held at Vienna, Austria, from 3 through 5 September, NGOs had the opportunity to present a Joint Statement which expressed the critical view of 113 NGOs, including INESAP, with regard to the CTBT (an abbreviated version, including the list of endorsers, is available from the WNII Editor as an rtf-formatted email attachment).

The Conference itself adopted by consensus the document "Final Declaration and Measures to Promote the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty". This document can be found in full on the web site of the CTBT Organization Preparatory Commission:  http://www.ctbto.org 

At a meeting of NGO Representatives possibilities for further activities of NGOs to support the entry into force of the CTBT were discussed. It was suggested that the NGO Committees on Disarmament in New York and Geneva and the NGO Committee on Peace, Vienna, should stay in contact to evolve proposals for coordinated activities. Your suggestions in this regard would be most welcome.

Escalation in India's nuclear military doctrine? (Source: The Hindu, and The Asia Times, 4 Sept 03)

In early September, the first meeting of the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) has decided to develop India's weapons programme further. This will take the country another step down the dangerous path of acquiring and assembling weapons of mass destruction that will bring greater insecurity, not peace, to South Asia. There are many disquieting features of this meeting of the NCA, which was set up in January 2003 as the supreme decision-making body for the development, management and authorised use of nuclear weapons. First, the formulation of clear principles and rules for the management of a nuclear arms programme is necessary to contain the likelihood of unauthorised use of these weapons. The creation of a body like the NCA, which is to lay down such rules, does not guarantee that fail-safe procedures will be in place; but the absence of such procedures certainly increases the risk of nuclear brinkmanship going out of control. Yet it took the Government almost five years after the Pokhran-II tests in May 1998 to establish the NCA and it has taken another eight months for the NCA to hold its first meeting. Such a casual attitude towards the establishment and working of the NCA does not provide public comfort that there are adequate safeguards in place for the management of India's nuclear arms.

Secondly, the NCA meeting has revealed that there continue to be many major gaps in the systems for control of India's nuclear weapons. An appropriate "command-and-control" system that specifies the rules for operation and has the necessary technology for management of these weapons is an essential element of a nuclear weapons programme. An "indication-and-warning" system is also necessary to provide correct intelligence and information during a period of military tension. Neither system is in place in India. This raises the possibility of a breakdown during a crisis in the lines of management of the arsenal, with unimaginable consequences for the country.

Thirdly, the NCA has decided to expand India's delivery system for carrying nuclear bombs. If reports in a section of the media are correct, the Government has decided to induct a leased nuclear-powered submarine, is considering acquisition of new long-range bombers, and is accelerating development of the Agni medium-range missiles. All of them will be part of India's nuclear triad force. The direction that the delivery system programme is taking is not surprising; the composition of the triad was suggested in the draft nuclear doctrine formulated in 1999. But the confirmation of the shape of the nuclear triad opens the door to an extremely expensive and possibly open-ended weapons programme that the country can ill afford to carry out.

As of now, India has the nuclear-capable 2,000-2,500-kilometer-range Agni-II ballistic missile and two versions of the short-range (150-250km) Prithvi missile, both of which can be fitted with nuclear weapons. It is also in the process of serially producing and inducting a new Pakistan-specific missile, the Agni-I, with a range of 700-800km.INES e-mail addresses and homepages are available upon request from:  

North Korea Says Has Processed Bomb-Adaptable Fuel Rods

North Korea has said for the first time it has processed spent fuel rods that could be used to make nuclear bombs but will not export its atomic capabilities, China's Xinhua news agency reported on 2 October, according to the news agency Reuters.

The remarks by Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su-hon would mark a major step in reclusive North Korea's nuclear program since the rods can provide plutonium to make fissile material and had been sealed under a 1994 agreement with the United States.

North Korea had already "processed 8,000 fuel rods" and had "changed the purpose of these fuel rods," Xinhua quoted Choe as saying, although he gave no details as to the new purpose.

"Since the United States has threatened the DPRK with nuclear weapons to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack against the DPRK, we have no choice but to be in possession of the nuclear deterrence," Choe said, "That's why we have taken up all measures to maintain and strengthen that nuclear deterrence."

US subcritical test planned for next year (Source: US newspapers, 23/24/25 August 03)

Scientists at the Nevada Test Site are planning for a 2004 subcritical nuclear experiment, which will be conducted in a manner similar to full-scale nuclear weapons tests on hold since 1992. The so-called subcritical experiment, dubbed Unicorn, will be detonated in a hole in the east-central part of the Nevada Test Site, about 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas, according to a statement from the administration's Nevada Site Office in North Las Vegas. Unicorn will be the nation's 20th such experiment since the program began. The most recent subcritical experiment, Rocco, was conducted Sept. 26, 2002.

Subcritical experiments involve small amounts of nuclear materials and are designed to stop short of triggering nuclear chain reactions. They allow scientists to study how materials, such as plutonium, blow apart when detonated with high explosives.

The subcritical program was launched in 1997 as a way to maintain the skills of U.S. nuclear weapons scientists and allow them to check how the stockpile ages in the absence of full-scale nuclear weapons tests.

Middle East

Saudis consider nuclear bomb

Saudi Arabia, in response to the current upheaval in the Middle East, has embarked on a strategic review that includes acquiring nuclear weapons, according to the British daily "The Guardian" on 18 September.

This new threat of proliferation in one of the most dangerous regions of the world comes on top of a crisis over Iran's alleged nuclear programme. A strategy paper being considered at the highest levels in Riyadh sets out three options:

1) To acquire a nuclear capability as a deterrent;

2) To maintain or enter into an alliance with an existing nuclear power that would offer protection;

3) To try to reach a regional agreement on having a nuclear-free Middle East.

Until now, the assumption in Washington was that Saudi Arabia was content to remain under the US nuclear umbrella. But the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US has steadily worsened since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington: 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudi.

It is not known whether Saudi Arabia has taken a decision on any of the three options. But the fact that it is prepared to contemplate the nuclear option is a worrying development.

Saudi Arabia does not regard Iran, a past adversary with which Riyadh has restored relations, as a direct threat. But it is unnerved by the possibility of Iran and Israel having nuclear weapons. Riyadh is also worried about a string of apparent leaks in American papers from the US administration critical of Saudi Arabia.

David Albright, director of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington thinktank, said he doubted whether the Saudis would try to build a nuclear bomb, preferring instead to try to buy a nuclear warhead. They would be the first of the world's eight or nine nuclear powers to have bought rather than built the bomb.

In 1988, Saudi bought from China intermediate-range missiles capable of reaching any part of the Middle East with a nuclear warhead. Four years ago, Saudi Arabia sent a defence team to Pakistan to tour its secret nuclear facilities and to be briefed by Abdul Qader Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb.

A UN official said: "There's obviously a lot of restlessness in the Middle East. Regional insecurity tends to produce a quest for a nuclear umbrella. The Saudis have the money and could provide it to Pakistan."

An immediate statement published by the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia said: "Reports that Saudi Arabia is considering acquiring nuclear weapons are baseless and totally false. Saudi Arabia has long advocated for a Middle East that is free of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and there is no basis to change current policies."

Arab News, on 20 September, called the Guardian article a "Fantasy Report", saying "the story is ludicrous", and was "old-fashioned disinformation and propaganda".

Arab States Call on Israel to Sign Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (Source: GRACE mailing, 18 Sept 03)

On 16 September, a group of 15 Arab League states proposed a resolution calling on 'Israel, the only state in the Middle East region that is not party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons NPT], to accede to it without delay'. Egypt proposed a second resolution a day later, calling for all states in the Middle East to abide by NPT and IAEA safeguards to ensure that the region is a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ). Gideon Frank, Israel's Atomic Energy Commission chief, said that while his country is willing to accept that guarantees to make the region a NWFZ could 'eventually' be part of a Middle East peace deal, there is no basis for condemning Israel as it 'has neither threatened any of its neighbours, nor has it acted in defiance of any of its international commitments'.

New Aussie nuke claim? (Source: Australia Sunday Herald, 21 Sep 03)

Australian scientists working for Silex Systems Ltd, which leases space at the Commonwealth Government's Lucas Heights reactor near Sydney, are developing techniques to enrich uranium with lasers, reportedly as to find cheaper ways of enriching uranium - possibly a significant step on the road to making nuclear weapons.

The revelation came as the Federal Government considers tough new "Vanunu-style" laws to gag nuclear whistleblowers.

Laser technology enriches uranium cheaper than standard techniques, providing fuel for nuclear reactors and, as a by-product, plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Richard Broinowski, a former ambassador to South Korea and Mexico, and author of a new book, Fact or Fission - the truth about Australia's nuclear ambitions, said he was suspicious of the secrecy surrounding the classified Silex technology. The laser technology could be used for civil or military purposes, he said.

"There is an ongoing need for technology that we can use, if necessary, in nuclear weapons-making, though they'd never say it," he said. "There are people in the Australian Government who would like to have the option of developing our technology to the stage where we could produce weapons if we needed to. I'm sure of that."

Silex has dismissed claims linking its research to a future weapons program, as did Dr George Collins, acting head of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, which manages the reactor. Dr Collins said there was "a strong ethos here that we do not work on nuclear weapons and we actively support non-proliferation."

Weapons of mass destruction: Some new sources