Opinion

The Great Debate

Danger and delay on dirty bombs

When highly radioactive material that can be used in a “dirty bomb” is moved to or from a hospital in New York City, it is done in the dead of night on cordoned streets with high security.

In Mexico two weeks ago, a truck moving a large canister containing radioactive material was hijacked at a gas station — where it had been parked with no security. The cobalt-60 that was stolen from the vehicle and then extracted from its protective lead shield is so potent that it is considered a significant national security threat under U.S. guidelines.

There are now no international mandatory requirements for how to control these dangerous materials — including how they should be transported. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the international nuclear watchdog, has only issued recommendations, in the form of a voluntary Code of Conduct.This disconnect between how nations manage extremely dangerous nuclear materials sought by terrorists creates significant security vulnerabilities. If a dirty bomb is exploded anywhere in the world, it would cross the nuclear terrorism threshold and open the door to further attacks.

An IAEA meeting of 88 nations recently assessed the effectiveness of the Code of Conduct at its 10-year anniversary.  The participants acknowledged that the non-binding status quo is inadequate.

The nations insisted, however, that formalizing the commitments would undermine the voluntary code. So they shelved indefinitely a proposal to make the code legally binding and requiring states adhere to its guidelines.

from The Great Debate UK:

Multinational repositories can address nuclear waste stockpile

--Behnam Taebi is assistant professor of philosophy, focusing on issues of ethics and nuclear power, at Delft University of Technology.--

Across much of the world, nuclear power continues to spawn controversy.  For instance, concern over the Fukushima site continues, and a risky, unprecedented operation has just begun to remove thousands of fuel rods.

Meanwhile, despite the landmark international deal agreed on Sunday that saw parts of Iran’s nuclear programme frozen for six months, some critics wonder whether the deal contains sufficient non-proliferation safeguards.  Iran’s case is particularly relevant because it establishes a precedent for the twenty new countries that are planning to join the ‘nuclear club’ in coming decades.

from The Great Debate UK:

Breaking the disarmament deadlock: challenges for 2010

JohnDuncanJohn Duncan is the UK Ambassador for Multilateral Arms Control and Disarmament. He comments regularly via Twitter and on his own Blog. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Those involved in multilateral arms control and disarmament face a challenging year.

The international community will come together in May at the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York to agree the way forward, twelve months on from President Barack Obama’s landmark speech in Prague about his ambition of a World Free of Nuclear Weapons.

Nuclear power: pros and cons

As part of the Reuters Summit on global climate and alternative energy, Reuters.com asked Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club and Ian Hore-Lacy, director of public communication for the World Nuclear Association to discuss the role of nuclear energy. Here are their responses.

(Carl Pope’s rebuttal was posted at 8:30 a.m. ET on September 10.)

The Obama-Medvedev security summit

medvedevobama

gard-reif– Robert Gard (right), a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former president of both National Defense University and the Monterey Institute of International Studies, is chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, where Kingston Reif (left) is deputy director of nuclear non-proliferation. The views expressed are their own. –

Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev are meeting this week in Moscow for their first full summit. High on their agenda is the landmark 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which will expire on December 5. The expiration of START will mean the loss of the ability to legally limit and verify the two countries’ still enormous numbers of deployed nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

START greatly reduced the dangers posed by U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. Under the Treaty, the United States and Russia drastically reduced their deployed nuclear weapons. The agreement also contained a comprehensive set of verification and monitoring provisions that ensured that each side complied with its obligations.

Iran election opens door to U.S. talks

Paul Taylor– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

A wind of change is blowing through Iran, where hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faces an increasingly tough battle for re-election on Friday.

Whether or not Ahmadinejad fends off reformist Mirhossein Moussavi and two other candidates after a turbulent campaign, Iran is likely to be more open to talks with the United States on a possible “grand bargain” to end 30 years of hostility. Tehran will not give up its nuclear program, whoever wins. But it may be persuaded to stop short of testing or making a bomb.

Iran sanctions and wishful thinking

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate
– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

So what’s so difficult in getting Iran to drop its nuclear program? All it needs is a great American leader who uses sanctions to break the Iranian economy so badly that popular discontent sweeps away the leadership. It is replaced without a shot being fired.

That simplistic solution to one of the most complex problems of the Middle East was part of a keynote speech greeted with thunderous applause by 6,000 delegates to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The speaker: Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2012.

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