Month: March 2012

2012 Nuclear Security Summit: What it was and wasn’t

2012 Nuclear Security Summit: What it was and wasn’t

This week, world leaders descended on Seoul, South Korea, for the second global Nuclear Security Summit — a project that started with President Obama’s call to secure all vulnerable nuclear material in four years (by the end of 2013). Unfortunately, most of these world leaders did not storm the gates of the summit ready to fight for that deadline. Many walked into a meeting already overshadowed by various domestic agendas and geopolitics, putting a damper on the real purpose of the gathering.

H5N1: Bungling dual-use governance

H5N1: Bungling dual-use governance

Recent months have seen an increasingly confusing debate about new research on the adaptability and transmissibility of avian influenza A/H5N1, which was undertaken by groups in the Netherlands and the United States. Both studies were funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), and research results were sent for publication to Science and Nature, respectively.

Nuclear security begins at home

Nuclear security begins at home

Everyone seems to be talking about Iran these days. Foreign affairs watchers, policy makers, and Middle East experts are all speculating about when Iran will get a nuclear bomb, about what the United States should do to stop Iran, about what the United States should and should not tolerate from Iran, and about how neighboring countries will act if Iran does succeed in making a nuclear weapon. These issues have been disputed for more than 30 years — and regularly covered in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Open secret

Open secret

At the peak of the Cold War, more than 7,000 and as many as 24 different types of tactical — or nonstrategic — nuclear weapons were deployed by the United States through the NATO framework in Europe. The role of the weapons was to buttress deterrence of a Soviet military strike by countering the perception that, after the Warsaw Pact, NATO conventional forces were inferior to Soviet conventional forces.

Seoul purpose

Seoul purpose

In April 2010, representatives from 47 countries and three international organizations gathered in Washington, DC, for the first Nuclear Security Summit, an international effort created to strengthen fissile material security measures and prevent nuclear terrorism. Leaders endorsed the summit’s objective of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years and signed consensus communiqué and work plan documents focused on compliance with today’s nuclear material security regime.

When less is not more

When less is not more

Since the dawn of the nuclear age, a defining feature of US nuclear strategy has been the quest for credible ways to strengthen deterrence — including the ability to actually win a nuclear war, which of course would reduce constraints imposed on US foreign policy by the spread of nuclear weapons.

Civil society rising

Civil society rising

Tens of thousands filled the square as the echoes of the speaker at the podium boomed through huge speakers. Some came in anger, others in grief, but all agreed: It was time for a change.  Many carried banners, others carried drums; some had taken their children out of school to attend.  No, this wasn’t Tahrir Square; it was Tokyo, Japan, on a chilly Monday last fall.

3/11 and 9/11: Codes for tragedy

3/11 and 9/11: Codes for tragedy

For most Americans, 3/11 has no particular significance. (Hint: it’s not that rock band from Omaha.) Some Europeans associate it with the Madrid train bombings of March 11, 2004. But, in Japan, 3/11 is universally recognized as shorthand for the events of March 11, 2011, when a huge offshore earthquake triggered a tsunami that devastated the country’s northeastern coast and swamped emergency cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

Fearful of a nuclear Iran? The real WMD nightmare is Syria

Fearful of a nuclear Iran? The real WMD nightmare is Syria

As possible military action against Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program looms large in the public arena, far more international concern should be directed toward Syria and its weapons of mass destruction. When the Syrian uprising began more than a year ago, few predicted the regime of President Bashar al-Assad would ever teeter toward collapse. Now, though, the demise of Damascus’s current leadership appears inevitable, and Syria’s revolution will likely be an unpredictable, protracted, and grim affair.

North Korea: Small step forward, many more to go

North Korea: Small step forward, many more to go

For the first time in years, there is some welcome news out of North Korea: Washington and Pyongyang have finally struck a deal. North Korea agreed, for the time being, to issue a moratorium on uranium enrichment as well as nuclear and missile tests, which would help relieve tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang vowed to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors into its Yongbyon nuclear facilities to verify the anticipated uranium enrichment freeze.