Sunday, December 10, 2006

South Korea, US, IAEA: Fueling the Nuclear Ambitions of India and Indonesia

Last week was a great one for the nuclear industry. Great nations of the world tried to outdo one another in teasing out contracts for new nukes:

1. South Korea joined Russia and Australia in pledging support for Indonesia's intention to build nuclear reactors (IHT).
2. IAEA chief Mohamed El Baradei announced that the IAEA supports Indonesia's nuclear power ambitions.
3. The US Congress ratified an agreement to sell nuclear materials to India.
4. The UK announced its plans to modernize the country's nuclear weapons.

My arguments against the US-India nuclear pact were first posted back in 2003 as the agreement was anounced live on CNN (here and here). In the wake of the US-India deal, I reported (here) on China's intention to massively assist Pakistan, helping that country build more nuclear reactors. More recently -- with a hint of sarcasm -- I urged my mates in Australia to "go have a burl" at setting up nuclear reactors in neighboring Indonesia (here).

But this week, the "irresponsible government" award goes neither to Australia nor America, but to the British. With the cold war over, is it really neccessary for the United Kingdom to invest $40 billion in "modernizing" its trident nuclear missles? (Sorry, Tony your proposal for modest reduction in force size doesn't cut it.) Blair says the nukes keep Britain safe from terrorists. But as a blogger at TPM observed:
"If an independent British nuclear deterrent is, as Blair says, “an essential part of our insurance against the uncertainties and risks of the future,” why shouldn’t Germany or Japan or Saudi Arabia or Nigeria or Brazil or all the other countries who have decided to forego nuclear weapons not possess a similar insurance capability?"
I don't mean to let the UK off the hook, or the US, Australia, Russia, China, South Korea or Indonesia for that matter. But the guys at the IAEA look like major dolts amidst this frenzy.

Because this week the International Atomic Energy Agency announced its support both for Indonesia's efforts to develop atomic energy, and -- far more inexplicably -- Mohamed El Baradei is already on record supporting the US-India nuclear pact that was ratified on Friday. There comes a point at which the IAEA -- unable or unwilling to stand up for the terms of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) -- simply becomes a rubber-stamp for the ambitions of the nuclear power industry.

The most pressing concern up until this point had been the India-US pact. In Juneat the Strategic Security blog critiqued a Washington Post Op-Ed piece by Mohamed El Barade in which Barade expressed support for the India-US nuclear pact:
What the Administration does not say explicitly but I believe is consistent with their other actions and statements is that they actually welcome a larger Indian nuclear force to help keep China off balance. The Administration says that the Indians would never agree to a cap on their nuclear forces but notice they don’t say that they negotiated hard for that and failed. They never asked because it is not something they want...

ElBaradei’s goals are not the Administration’s goals. I believe the Administration does not see any India/non-proliferation tradeoff because they see a growing Indian nuclear arsenal as a good thing. The only hope for rethinking and restraint now lies with Congress.
Well, too late for that now. pointed to the underlying problem that most impedes efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons:
It is painfully obvious that the world’s nuclear powers, the United States and Russia in particular, have failed to live up to their disarmament obligations under the NPT. The SORT is virtually meaningless. The United States continues to keep thousands of extremely high yield, highly accurate nuclear warhead mounted atop fast-flying ballistic missiles, many of them forward deployed on ballistic missile submarines. The gap between the public rhetoric and the military reality of nuclear weapons grows ever wider. It is possible that we will drift into a world with ever more nuclear powers.
The IAEA ought to be making this case more forcefully. Furthermore, must the IAEA give its seal of approval to the expansion of the nuclear power industry at a time when the main bastions of that industry -- namely the UK, France, the US, and Russia -- are in flagrant violation of the principles of the NPT? Proffering -- as the UK did this week -- pretentious justifications for "modernizing" their own nuclear arsenals certainly violates the spirit of the accord.

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