Nuclear Transparency and Registers of Nuclear Weapons and Fissile Materials

Müller, Harald


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Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: HSFK-Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
Schriftenreihe: PRIF reports
Bandnummer: 97
ISBN: 978-3-942532-13-6
Sprache: Deutsch
Erstellungsjahr: 2010
Publikationsdatum: 23.10.2011
Originalveröffentlichung: (2010)
SWD-Schlagwörter: Atomare Abrüstung , Kernwaffen , Kontrolle
DDC-Sachgruppe: Politik
BK - Basisklassifikation: 89.87 (Waffen, Kampfmittel)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

International disarmament and non-proliferation activities have received new impetus from President Obama’s promise to open up the pathway to a world free of nuclear weapons. The signing of a new disarmament treaty between the U.S. and Russia on strategic nuclear weapons is on the agenda, and negotiations on a more sweeping reduction of arsenals are to follow. The Geneva Conference on Disarmament is to work out a ban on production of weapons-grade fissile material (Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, FMCT). Obama would like to start the ratification process for the test ban as soon as the imminent disarmament treaty with Moscow has been signed and ratified in each country. However, the immediately pending projects should not distort perception of the strategic necessity of disarmament: Disarmament is a long-term process that lasts for decades. The most important prerequisite for continuously achieving progress in the disarmament process is increasing trust among participants. The disarmament strategy must emphasize systematically building up this trust. This requirement makes transparency an indispensable part of any successful disarmament process. Without transparency the participating parties will never be able to develop the trust to take bolder steps towards disarmament. Other states will not believe that participants in the disarmament process will really keep their promises. Measures to increase transparency are thus on the one hand a component and an indicator of progress in the disarmament process, and on the other a prerequisite for the non-nuclear states believing in the willingness of the nuclear states to disarm and therefore not developing the motivation to develop nuclear options themselves. Despite its value, transparency encounters opposition. Some of this derives from special interests of the nuclear complexes and their employees, and is thus capable of being overcome with sufficient political will on the part of political leaders. It has to be taken seriously, but is, in the final analysis, of secondary significance. The situation is different with the second kind of hurdle, genuine fears for national security. These include the reluctance of nations with small nuclear arsenals to reveal details of their weapons inventories, because that could increase their vulnerability and limit their second strike capability. There are also justified concerns that certain information could contribute to wider distribution of nuclear weapons or even make it easier for non-state actors to gain access to fissile material or functioning nuclear weapons. Sooner or later, registers of nuclear weapons and fissile material will be required in the disarmament process. These types of data collections help to dispel the suspicion that some partners could conceal important inventories. If those possessing nuclear weapons reveal their initial inventories of weapons and fissile material and regularly reveal any changes in these stocks, trust in the integrity of the reduction process develops. We are talking here of an ongoing procedure lasting decades, in which, step by step, more and more information about materials, technology, weapons, personnel, plants, practices, etc. of the nuclear weapons complexes in participating countries come to light through the voluntary cooperation of those possessing nuclear weapons. Mutual trust can only exist when one day the partners declare “zero holdings” of nuclear weapons. A huge effort is required in order to perfect with the help of the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA) the methods of “nuclear archaeology”, i.e., reconstructing earlier production of fissile material and warheads. Setting up a register of nuclear weapons has as its goal the systematical recording of relevant data. The more comprehensive and detailed a register, the better it would be able to support the final steps towards a world free of nuclear weapons. It is just as clear, however, that such a perfect register is not capable of being introduced at present. For any such attempt would founder on the security fears already mentioned. For this reason it is advisable to follow the path to a register a single step at a time: start with what is possible today and advance to the degree that trust grows and some of the concerns that motivate resistance to transparency fade away: At this point advanced forms of the register can follow. The negotiating forum that is involved in the construction of the register should be big enough to convince the non-nuclear states that the nuclear weapons states are working in earnest towards a common goal. At the same time, it has to be compact enough to permit goal directed negotiations and to avoid the dangerous distribution of sensitive data. Of the available alternatives, the Geneva Disarmament Conference seems to offer the most advantages. It is representative, because it brings together nuclear weapons and nonnuclear weapons states, but the instrument of the “friends of the chairperson” makes possible meetings of smaller negotiating committees in which those possessing nuclear weapons can meet separately in order to discuss confidential details. If the negotiating forum were divided in this way into a technical working group of nuclear weapons possessors and a plenary group, to which the working group would report on its results and which would have to decide on the overall design of the register, this would solve the problem of the undesired wider distribution of sensitive information. The special security concerns of the smaller nuclear weapons possessors can be taken account of by dividing the obligation to make information public into phases and initially limiting it to storing data on initial stocks in a coded form in a “data safe”. This data would only be made public in a later disarmament phase. A step by step process is sensible because existing resistance must be overcome and this is only possible in “reasonable portions”. At the same time, goal-directed establishment and increase in transparency is indispensable because otherwise the disarmament process would come to a halt after a short time because of lack of trust. An appropriate starting point would be negotiations on the FMCT, whose system of verification would have to be regarded strategically as a substantial step in the direction of transparency and promoting trust. The concept of an independent nuclear weapon register could be aired at the Nuclear Security Summit which will be held in April 2010. The German Federal Government introduced the idea of a nuclear weapons register in 1994, when international conditions were not yet ready for it. In the perspective of a world free of nuclear weapons, an arena for creative disarmament ideas has developed in which the register concept too ought to find a place. Germany’s Federal Government ought to make it a priority issue.

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