Nuclear Weapons

Beyond Nuclear advocates for the elimination of all nuclear weapons and argues that removing them can only make us safer, not more vulnerable. The expansion of commercial nuclear power across the globe only increases the chance that more nuclear weapons will be built and is counterproductive to disarmament. We also cover nuclear weapons issues on our international site, Beyond Nuclear International.



Large-scale, advanced uranium enrichment facility revealed in North Korea

Photo of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.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 appear to reveal that North Korea is building new atomic reactor

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.




START ratification in jeopardy in Senate

Minority Whip, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is attempting to block ratification of the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) after an agreement on the treaty was signed by the President Obama and Dimitry Medvedev in April.  Kyl claims there is not enough time during the current lame duck session of Congress, but skeptics point out that delaying the vote until the new Senate is seated gives the Republicans six more seats than currently which could boost Kyl's real agenda to garner billions more for nuclear weapons production as a "quid pro quo" for START ratification. Is Kyl playing politics? Or even jeopardizing national security as many experts in the field have stated, according to a document from the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation? The fact that START ratification is a top priority for the Obama administration - which is continuing to push for a vote despite Kyl's opposition - is considered another strong motivation for Republicans to block or dilute the effort.  According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Obama administration has already cow-towed to some of Kyl's demands, revising its 10-year budget for nuclear weapons with an increase in spending of "$4.1 billion over the next 5 years, over and above the more than $80 billion that the Obama administration already pledged for nuclear weapons (not including delivery vehicles) over the next ten years." START would shrink the U.S. and Russian arsenals of strategic warheads, and revive on-the-ground inspections that ceased when a previous treaty expired nearly a year ago.


US would be safer without nuclear weapons

Dr. Lawrence Wittner, Professor of History emeritus at the State University of New York/Albany, argues that the U.S. would be much better off today without nuclear weapons. Writing in the Huntington News, Wittner states: "They fail to deter war (which has raged on ceaselessly among nuclear and non-nuclear nations since World War II), they are enormously costly, and—thanks to the nuclear arms race that followed the U.S. nuclear weapons breakthrough of 1945—Americans, for the first time in their history, face the prospect of total annihilation. In addition, the U.S. government has vast superiority over all other countries when it comes to conventional war. " Read the full article.


Cesium-137 from atomic tests still in Japanese waters

Levels of the radioactive substance cesium-137, which fell into the sea due to Cold War-era atmospheric nuclear tests, have remained constant in waters near Japan for the past 10 years, study results showed Wednesday, reports the Kyodo News. Despite a decrease at the rate of cesium-137's half-life, or about 30 years, levels have remained constant due to the inflow of the substance on the oceanic current from the south. An analysis by the research team has shown that the substance went up to the stratosphere in nuclear explosions and fell in the largest quantities over the Pacific side of the Japanese archipelago and the East Coast of the U.S. after being carried by the jet stream and other high-altitude currents.