Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Wade Boese, "US Joins Others Seeking Nuclear Export Criteria," Arms Control Today, May 08.

The United States recently gave up its campaign to convince other nuclear suppliers to prohibit certain sensitive nuclear exports. It has now joined an alternative effort to adopt criteria to strictly limit such transactions, although Canada and a few other countries have objected to some aspects of the initiative.

A week after the Feb. 4, 2004, revelation of the Abdul Qadeer Khan nuclear black-market network, President George W. Bush proposed several initiatives to curb the spread of nuclear material and technology. (See ACT, March 2004.) One of those proposals urged suppliers not to transfer uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies to states without existing facilities for those purposes. Both capabilities can be used to produce nuclear fuel as well as nuclear weapons, but Bush argued that “enrichment and reprocessing are not necessary for nations seeking to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

Although not all of them are currently operating, enrichment and/or reprocessing facilities exist in 15 countries: Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Of those states, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands have not developed nuclear weapons or are not under suspicion of covertly pursuing such arms.


Canada, as well as South Africa reportedly to a lesser extent, have objected to the black box approach, arguing that it conflicts with an NPT provision allowing countries to acquire and develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Both countries have significant uranium deposits and are eyeing the option of trying to profit more from developing the capacity to enrich the uranium for sale as nuclear fuel rather than simply exporting uranium.

...Canada’s well-known opposition to the US black box approach casts doubt on whether it will again support extending the moratorium [by the G8 on enrichment and reprocessing technology transfer.]

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