Beyond Nuclear has joined with a diverse coalition of arms control, non-proliferation, peace, religious, and other groups in sending a letter urging U.S. Senate Democratic Leaders Harry Reid of Nevada, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Chuck Schumer of New York to schedule floor action for, and win passage of, the New START Treaty with Russia concerning nuclear weapons before it is dismissed and a new Senate sworn in early next year. In addition to Beyond Nuclear, the coalition of signatories includes: Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, American Friends Service Committee, Federation of American Scientists, Hoover Institution, Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Bipartisan Security Group, Global Security Institute, Ambassador Robert Grey (Former US Representative to the Conference on Disarmament), Center for American Progress, Methodists United for Peace with Justice, Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World, National Security Network, British American Security Information Council, Tri-Valley CAREs, Arms Control Association, Truman National Security Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, Citizens for Global Solutions, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Council for a Livable World, Jan Lodal (Former Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense), League of Women Voters of the U.S., Peace Action, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, WAND (Women's Action for New Directions), Americans for Informed Democracy, Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers), Global Green USA, Two Futures Project, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.
Nuclear power was the failed answer to the horrors of the atomic bomb - the so-called "Peaceful Atom." However, the two technologies are inextricably linked. Countries such as India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea clandestinely developed nuclear weapons using the infrastructure, technology and know-how of their "civilian" nuclear programs. Contained expansion of nuclear power across the globe only increases the chances of nuclear weapons development and is counterproductive to disarmament.
A single armed guard was all that protected Libyan weapons-usable highly enriched uranium for a month
AP has reported that leaked U.S. diplomatic memos have revealed that in late 2009, 11.5 pounds of highly enriched uranium (HEU) at a nuclear facility in Libya were guarded by only a single armed guard for about a month. The critical mass for 85% HEU is about 110 pounds, meaning that the Libyan HEU would have provided 10% of the HEU needed for a nuclear weapon. In addition to the inadequate security, the U.S. diplomatic memos fretted about a loading crane that could have been used to steal the casks containing the HEU, and warned that the HEU could leak out of its containers within a few months.
Nuclear-armed North Korea, and heavily conventionally-armed South Korea, have exchanged fire in one of the sharpest escalations of military violence since the end of the Korean War over 50 years ago. This comes just days after it was revealed that North Korea may have a fully operational, advanced uranium enrichment facility, capable -- as with any uranium enrichment facility in any country -- of enriching uranium to weapons-grade. And just days before that, it was revealed that North Korea is building a new atomic reactor, capable -- as with any reactor in any country -- of generating plutonium that can be extracted via reprocessing for weapons use. In fact, North Korea reprocessed irradiated nuclear fuel from a research reactor to extract the plutonium used in its 2006 and 2009 nuclear weapons test explosions, as well as to fabricate the handful of atomic bombs it is assumed to now possess.
David Sanger and William Broad have reported in the New York Times that the Kim Jong Il regime in North Korea may have -- within just the past year -- built a uranium enrichment facility with thousands of cascades that is already operating. This is in addition to the recent revelation that North Korea is also building a new atomic reactor. The reactor could provide additional plutonium for North Korea's atomic weapons arsenal via reprocessing, while the uranium enrichment facility could concentrate Uranium-235 to weapons-grade, and even provide the material needed to fabricate hydrogen bombs -- orders of magnitude more destructive than the dozen or so atomic bombs suspected in North Korea's current nuclear arsenal. As the New York Times mentions, the Abdul Q. Khan nuclear weapons black market likely provided North Korea essential know how and materials needed to master uranium enrichment; however, Khan did not do this alone, but with the full backing of the military and even government of Pakistan, as well as the complicity of multiple U.S. administration's "looking the other way" in order to stay on good terms with Pakistan.
Satellite photos published by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) appear to show that North Korea is building a new atomic reactor. While the North Korean regime may claim the small (25 to 30 megawatt-electric) experimental atomic reactor is for "peaceful" electricity generation, questions are swirling as to whether the enriched uranium needed to fuel the reactor will enable North Korea the ability to master enriching uranium to weapons-grade. Another potential risk is that North Korea could extract plutonium from the new reactor's irradiated nuclear fuel, providing another pathway to -- and plutonium supply for -- atomic weaponry. It was this reprocessing path that North Korea took -- extracting plutonium from irradiated nuclear fuel at a research reactor -- to test fire its first two nuclear weapons, in 2006 and 2009. As with the Iranian and North Korean regimes, any government could divert its nuclear power activities -- via enrichment or reprocessing -- into nuclear weapons development.