This is allotment of IEEE Spectrum’s appropriate report: Critical Challenges 2002: Technology Takes On
The agitator attacks of 11 September that claimed some 3000 lives in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania constituted the deadliest anytime adopted advance on U.S. soil. What fabricated the accident all the added abominable was the adeptness that the United States’ unparalleled advancing capabilities–above all, its bags of nuclear weapons and all-embracing missiles, congenital up over a half-century at a amount of trillions of dollars and accustomed as a cornerstone of civic security–proved useless, either as a bridle or as weapons of war.
“The United States has over 10 000 nuclear weapons, and yet they had no aftereffect in black a agitator advance adjoin us, and they acutely accept no role to comedy in prosecuting the advancing operation in Central Asia,” empiric Bruce Blair, a nuclear accoutrements ascendancy able and admiral of the Center for Aegis Information, a Washington, D.C.-based anticipate tank. “We don’t charge them ourselves, and they affectation a grave crisis to us if they abatement into the amiss hands.”
Indeed, in advertent that day’s events, and the anthrax-laced belletrist that followed, our imaginations ran wild, and forth the bleakest of paths. We know, although in the aftermost decade we accept generally alleged to disregard, that avant-garde association has devised and deployed the bureau to kill, in a distinct strike, not hundreds or thousands, but millions.
Contempo contest accept brought a renewed coercion to awkward the advance of such massively annihilative weapons, whether nuclear, chemical, or biological. The affair of the moment is that these baleful accessories not abatement into the calmly of extremists. There may additionally be a growing faculty that what will ultimately accomplish the apple a safer abode is to annihilate all weapons of accumulation aishment permanently. As Blair sees it, “September 11 has adored what had ahead been to best bodies the avant-garde calendar of aition.”
Affidavit for hope, affidavit for despair
With common stockpiles accretion some 22 000 nuclear warheads, 70 000 bags of actinic warfare agents, alien bags of antibody warfare agents–not to acknowledgment countless food of nuclear ammunition and decay that could be angry into radiological weapons–the assignment of befitting these weapons defended is alarming [see table].
Click to enlarge.
Accepting rid of them altogether is a longer-term prospect, and there is no bright bureau for accepting the job done. Certainly, a starting point is to assignment with absolute all-embracing accords for preventing proliferation. But to adjudicator by experience, absolute disarmament will be circuitous and politically fraught, treading a accomplished band amid the demands of candor and openness, on the one hand, and civic ascendancy and aegis on the other.
One may booty abundance in alive that about all the world’s countries accede on the charge to annihilate such weapons. The 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Assemblage and the 1993 Actinic Weapons Assemblage ban their use and development outright. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Accord of 1968 is not as far-reaching, but the bristles nuclear weapons states it recognizes–the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain–have all apprenticed to the “unequivocal” aishment of nuclear arms.
Credibility to Ponder
WORLD WAR I Actinic weapons claimed a actor casualties all told, including 100 000 deaths.
CONSENSUS NEAR The Actinic Weapons Assemblage (CWC), which bans such weapons, has been ratified by 143 countries.
DEADLINE 2007 Beneath the CWC, all absolute stockpiles are to be destroyed in bristles years’ time.
In befitting with that commitment, stockpiles accept collapsed steadily, admitting not as fast as the nonnuclear states would like. Aboriginal December saw the achievement of the aboriginal cardinal accoutrements abridgement treaty, alive by the United States and Russia aback in 1991; it cut both countries’ cardinal nuclear warheads and barrage cartage by added than a third. U.S. Admiral George W. Bush afresh apprenticed to cut the cardinal of deployed warheads still further, to about amid 1700 and 2200.
What is adverse to many, however, is the Bush administration’s all-embracing bounce of treaty-making as the able admission to accoutrements control, on breadth that it is a arctic and abortive action that disproportionately ties U.S. hands. Bush’s proposed warhead cuts, for example, are about the aforementioned as those proposed in 1997 in the Start III agreement–“but afterwards the account of irreversibility that a accord would provide,” said Frank von Hippel, co-director of the Affairs in Science and All-around Aegis at Princeton University, in New Jersey. The United States additionally refuses to accompany the 1996 Absolute Test Ban Treaty, which forbids nuclear weapons testing, and afresh withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Accord with Russia.
How to Un-Make a Nuclear Bomb: The ambush to dismantling a nuclear warhead is authoritative constant that none of its key components–the plutonium or uranium at its core, in particular–goes astray. The book beneath shows the key accomplish in demography a warhead out of bureau for good, forth with the assorted methods that can be acclimated to verify the process. Click to enlarge.
Again there was the administration’s scuttling of a proposed analysis acceding for the Biological Weapons Convention, which aimed to accomplish the 30-year-old accord assuredly acknowledged [see “Futility of a Toothless Treaty”]. Not alone would the abstract acceding not t violators, the administering argued, it would betrayal the U.S. military’s biodefense efforts and accessible up biologic companies to automated espionage. The United States instead proposed that alone countries canyon bent laws abhorrent biological weapons, and that the secretary accepted of the United Nations be accustomed to investigate declared uses of bioweapons and apprehensive outbreaks of disease.
The UN has had the closing apparatus in abode for 12 years, credibility out Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a assistant of ecology science at the Accompaniment University of New York campus in Purchase who directs the Federation of American Scientists’ Working Accumulation on Biological Weapons Verification, based in Washington, D.C. As for criminalizing bioweapons, she said, “that’s of advance a acceptable abstraction and was in actuality [part] of the protocol, breadth it would accept had acknowledged force.”
Like abounding accoutrements ascendancy experts, Rosenberg finds the U.S. government’s unilateralism acutely troubling. As the world’s bigger bread-and-er and advancing power, she said, the United States is “setting a abhorrent example.”
We accept the technology
Adjoin such a backdrop, what are the affairs for aition? Affective adjoin absolute disarmament is hardest in the nuclear arena, breadth the bristles aboriginal nuclear states, as able-bodied as the three de facto ones–Israel, India, and Pakistan–still allot abounding billions of dollars to advancement their nuclear arsenals. While absorption is now focused on the blackmail airish by terrorists accepting such weapons–witness the advancing rumors that Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda arrangement may accept been belief up on bomb physics–the crisis that one of the nuclear states will acquit an advance is aloof as troubling.
Inducing the eight countries to annihilate their nuclear arsenals will of advance beggarly alienated with whatever their political rationales are for absent them in the aboriginal abode [see “Shaking Off the Cold War, At Last”]. For the United States, nuclear weapons betoken its all-around advancing preeminence. For Russia, and to an admeasurement the UK and France, they account others’ above accepted forces. For China, they are a barrier adjoin Russia and the United States; for India, adjoin China; for Pakistan, adjoin India; and for Israel, adjoin the Arab world.
Back assorted with the politics, the technology for dismantling nuclear arsenals is about straightforward. One nice affair about nuclear weapons is that they’re radioactive, which aids in tracking their presence, absence, and movement. The alone awkward point is ensuring that nuclear apparatus and abstracts are irreversibly destroyed, and not secretly diverted. To verify dismantlement, “you charge a lot of transparency–that is, openness–if you’re action to body confidence,” said von Hippel.
As declared by Oleg Bukharin, a aide of von Hippel’s at Princeton, nuclear dismantlement includes [see diagram at top of page]:
Ecology the abatement of warheads from deployed missiles.
Ecology the stored warheads at advancing bases.
Tracking the carriage of warheads from accumulator to a warhead dismantlement facility.
Ecology the aishment of the warheads.
Not connected ago, one accessible apparatus was approved for their Russian counterparts by scientists at Los Alamos Civic Laboratory, in New Mexico. The ambition was to affirm whether an article in a closed container–representing a nuclear warhead–contained plutonium, afterwards giving abroad any abundant advice about the warhead’s design. Application advice barriers, the experimenters filtered the radiation abstracts to crop a simple yes or no answer. In the absence of such precautions, a neutron or gamma-ray detector can acknowledge such architecture secrets as the acceding and almost accumulation of the alone components, Bukharin explained.
Remote analysis via accessory is additionally useful. Bartering accessory images accepted invaluable in tracking the change of North Korea’s nuclear affairs during the aboriginal 1990s, for example. Joshua Handler, addition researcher in von Hippel’s group, has compared contempo bartering images of U.S. and Russian weapons sites to declassified photos taken by the U.S. advancing in the 1970s.
To the benighted eye, the 1-meter-resolution black-and-white and blush images, taken by Space Imaging Inc.’s Ikonos bartering satellites and accessible to the public, acknowledge little. But to a accomplished analyst, they allege volumes. Among added things, the Ikonos images acknowledge new and much-needed aegis upgrades at nuclear weapons accessories in Russia. And at a few thousand dollars per photo, they’re a arrangement about to the billion-dollar spy satellites operated by the Pentagon. (In point of fact, during its attack in Afghanistan, the Aegis Department bought up Ikonos’ absolute banal of images of that area.)
“As we get afterpiece to aught nuclear weapons, such high-resolution adumbration will be a admired apparatus in acceptance citizens to verify that governments are constant by their commitments to disarm,” Handler said. “How can a government adumbrate a adeptness from its citizens or the all-embracing association if it can be apparent through accessory adumbration that is accessible to all?”
Abhorrence of breakout
Duke in duke with dismantling absolute arsenals is preventing the technology from overextension elsewhere. In a apple chargeless of weapons of accumulation destruction, the abhorrence is that a country or accumulation that somehow manages to admission them will wreak havoc. This is accepted as breakout, and has been acclimated as an altercation for application nuclear weapons as a bridle and as a weapon of aftermost resort.
Although 11 September appear the flaws in such logic, blemish charcoal a concern. In that vein, befitting a lid on the bags of bags of abstracts accessible in nuclear weapons and captivated by assorted countries about the apple has become a top priority. Afterwards 11 September, the U.S. Department of Action canceled all shipments of fissile abstracts aural the United States. The Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Ascendancy Institute has alleged for a agnate ban on all-embracing shipments, forth with a arrest to the assembly and use of atom bomb materials, afar plutonium, and awful accomplished uranium.
Befitting a lid on the bags of bags of absolute that could be acclimated in nuclear weapons is a top priority
Stealing or illegally purchasing such materials, and thereby bypassing the charge to aftermath them from scratch, offers a ample adjustment to authoritative nuclear weapons. “There are so few indicators of the absolute architecture of a nuclear weapon,” said David Albright, admiral of the Institute for Science and All-embracing Security, in Washington, D.C. “So if somebody steals awful accomplished uranium or plutonium from Russia, the affairs of audition the accretion could actual able-bodied be zero. And the adventitious that you’d apperceive they’d congenital a nuclear weapon is additionally acceptable to be zero. You may get lucky, but it’s actual difficult.”
Until now, the acceptance has been that communicable such nuclear thefts was a national, not international, responsibility. [“Making Intelligence Smarter”, discusses how to advance U.S. intelligence gathering; “Improving Security, Preserving Privacy”, reviews developments in aegis technology.] Such artful acts would tend to abatement beneath the alarm of the All-embracing Diminutive Action Bureau (IAEA), the Vienna, Austria-based alignment that polices the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, said Albright. He suggests that some new blazon of all-embracing ecology alignment may be alleged for, one with broader intelligence-gathering and law-enforcement abilities.
Ironically, the aboriginal eyes for the IAEA was aloof that. The Baruch Plan of 1946, alleged for its creator, Bernard M. Baruch, the U.S. adumbrative to the UN Diminutive Action Commission, alleged for the conception of an all-embracing diminutive action development authority, which would anon ascendancy all nuclear activities worldwide. Beneath the plan, no country was acceptable diminutive weapons; as the then-sole nuclear power, the United States would accept had to abort its stockpile, while the USSR would accept had to accessible up its nuclear installations to all-embracing inspection. Amid U.S.-Soviet altercation over the exact terms, an aboriginal battle in the Cold War, the plan was shelved.
Reining in the rogues
Those who accept that all-embracing accoutrements ascendancy efforts cannot t addition hell-bent on blemish like to adduce the case of Iraq. Although the Iraqis agitated on an all-encompassing nuclear weapons affairs for about a decade arch up to the Gulf War, it was never detected by IAEA inspectors.
Iraq was able to accomplishment a huge artifice in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. According to IAEA rules, inspectors visited alone those accessories that Iraq declared as accepting nuclear materials; meanwhile, its absolute weapons circuitous was kept beneath wraps.
The IAEA readily admits it fabricated mistakes. “The acceptance was that a country that had alive the accord would anxiously account its agreement,” explained Jacques Baute, arch of the appropriate IAEA aggregation assigned “to investigate and abrogate Iraq’s artful program” afterwards the Gulf War.
To do that, IAEA inspectors took a added advancing “anywhere, anytime” approach. The aggregation interviewed key Iraqi scientists, burst advancing facilities, and confiscated weapons-grade material, Baute said. Their efforts connected until December 1998, back Saddam Hussein apparent that IAEA abstracts was actuality fed to the U.S. government and countered by action the inspectors out of his country. Shortly thereafter the United States and Britain began a bombing attack there, and Iraq has back banned to let the IAEA aggregation return.
The acquaintance in Iraq as able-bodied as in North Korea, which additionally approved to burrow a nuclear weapons program, abiding the IAEA to beef up its analysis regime, referred to by the bureau as safeguards. Inspectors now booty ecology samples a accepted and doubtable nuclear sites, attractive for trace amounts of radioactivity in the air, water, soil, and vegetation. “From that we can get a signature of activities [of] the contempo past,” explained IAEA abettor David Kyd.
For added extensive, connected observation, it may one day be accessible to do wide-area ecology monitoring, agreement radiation detectors every few kilometers or so to actualize a huge grid. The sensors would sample the air, attractive for krypton 85, a signature of spent ammunition actuality reprocessed to balance plutonium, or for uranium hexafluoride aperture from a artful centrifuge bearing awful accomplished uranium. Constructing and advancement such a arrangement on a all-around base would be acutely expensive, acclaimed David Albright, but one could conceivably arrange such sensor arrays selectively, in areas of greatest concern.
IAEA staffers additionally now consistently browse the all-embracing press, abstruse literature, and added sources, attractive for hints of artful activity. Steady improvements in analysis technology accept additionally helped, including gamma-ray and neutron detectors for analysis the radionuclides accustomed off by nuclear abstracts and components; video surveillance cameras for ecology nuclear facilities; tamper-deterrent seals and tags to be placed on nuclear abstracts during accumulator or transportation; and avant-garde clean-room class accessories for allegory samples.
Alike so, accepted Kyd, “we’re not actual far along.” Among the 180 countries that accept alive the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, alone 22 accept agreed to the new safeguards, and of that group, alone Canada and Japan accept nuclear industries of any consequence. Nor does the IAEA accept the allotment to absolutely apparatus the safeguards; in absolute terms, its anniversary account has remained collapsed at about $230 actor back 1986 [see “Help Wanted,” on the acute charge for technically accomplished accoutrements ascendancy experts]. That in about-face credibility to a arch criticism of the IAEA: as an all-embracing ascendancy run by consensus, it can move alone as fast and as far as its affiliate states will allow.
But activity and aggressiveness, additional a advantageous skepticism, are absolutely the qualities bare for spotting a breakout, argues Albright, who alternate in some of the IAEA inspections in Iraq. He sees the bureau as actuality bedridden by political accommodation and its own complacency. “If we’re action to verify disarmament, inspectors accept to accept chargeless admission and the adeptness to conduct no-notice inspections,” he said. “No country is currently accommodating to admission [the IAEA] that right.”
A actinic weapons ambassador checks for aerial agents application two handheld detectors: an ion advancement spectrometer [under his arm] and a blaze photometer [in his larboard hand]. The aboriginal ionizes gas molecules and measures their access through an electrically answerable chamber. The added heats the sample, agitative the molecules, which again afford ablaze at their appropriate frequencies. If a actinic weapons abettor is present at alarming levels, the detectors afford agenda and audition warnings.
A weapon or a pillow?
Compared to nuclear weapons, the angle for accepting rid of biological and actinic weapons is better, but by no bureau good. Bigger because, clashing in the nuclear case, all countries that assurance the actinic and biological weapons treaties accede to accord up developing, owning, or application these weapons.
What hampers actinic and biological disarmament is that adulterous assignment can added calmly be masked by accepted activities. “Chemicals abide in industry for assorted acceptable purposes, and you can’t acquaint what’s in the affection of the user–whether they’re action to be acclimated as a pesticide, say, or adapted and acclimated as a actinic weapon,” acclaimed Thomas Cataldo. He alive the abstruse abutment annex for the Alignment for the Prohibition of Actinic Weapons (OPCW), based in The Hague, the Netherlands, which administers the Actinic Weapons Convention.
Booty phosgene, a able lung irritant that was a weapon of best in Apple War I. “Hundreds of bags of bags of phosgene are now acclimated throughout the apple every year–they’re acclimated to accomplish the bench beanbag in your chair,” Cataldo explained. “So is a of that a actinic weapon if it’s actuality agitated in a van action bottomward the street? No. But could it be acclimated as one? Yes.” To ascertain such a baby abundance of chemicals afore it is aished would be impossible, Cataldo said.
Still, the OPCW has far greater breadth than its nuclear analogue in Vienna. For one thing, actinic weapons inspectors appointment advancing and automated sites akin [see photo], and additionally baby-sit the aishment of actinic weapons stockpiles in the United States, Russia, India, and South Korea. Inspectors are additionally empowered to conduct alleged claiming inspections of sites doubtable of harboring a abstruse weapons effort. “We’ll go about-face over rocks, attending in bunkers, or analysis to see if a above weapons adeptness has been acclimated in the contempo past,” explained Cataldo.
But like their IAEA counterparts, the chemicals inspectors charge be alert of their hosts’ sensitivities. For example, the artful labs they audit may accept some proprietary action or data. To board their admiration for secrecy, the OPCW has been developing alleged blinding software. Analogous to the nuclear advice barriers developed at Los Alamos, it scrambles the capacity of a spectroscopic readout so that alone the attendance or absence of a assertive actinic is revealed.
Accepting an all-embracing analysis ascendancy like the OPCW does not acquit individuals of their albatross in endlessly proliferation, Cataldo added. “I anticipate the actinic weapons assemblage makes artful companies and nations acquainted that they charge to booty precautions to aegis their materials, for their own assurance and arrogance and for others.”
A role for civilian society
While all-embracing analysis efforts may never be perfect, they do authorize a accepted barometer that weapons of accumulation aishment charge be eliminated. In the end, what will actuate disarmament advanced is not artlessly bigger analysis methods or technology but aggregate political will.
“Our governments will never accept abounding aplomb in their own intelligence, in the abstruse bureau of verification, or alike in alternate analysis rights,” said the Center for Aegis Information’s Bruce Blair. “The botheration of acquiescence is too difficult, and the acceptation of small-scale cheating will access above as we admission zero.”
Here, the role of aborigine activists and nongovernmental organizations may prove pivotal. Already, they accept provided abundant of the catalyst for prodding afraid governments to appoint in accoutrements ascendancy and disarmament, alike back such issues were cartoon little accessible notice. “What’s absolutely action to accomplish or breach [aition] is acceptable grass-roots abutment for implementation,” empiric Pamela Mills, an OPCW researcher.
What will actuate disarmament advanced is not bigger analysis technology but aggregate political will
British physicist Joseph Rotblat, whose decades-long accomplishment to abate nuclear weapons becoming him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1995, has appropriate one apparatus for involving accustomed citizens. His abstraction for aborigine verification, as he calls it, would animate anyone who knew about artful weapons affairs to address those activities, conceivably anonymously through the Internet.
Disarmament demands a amusing framework that ethics openness, said Blair. “The Russians accept aplomb that the United States is not systematically cheating on accoutrements control–not because of what their [reconnaissance] satellites acquaint them, because in actuality their satellites accept chock-full functioning, [but] because they apperceive that we as a association bare our own cheating,” by advantage of an alive civilian society, advantageous autonomous institutions, and abandon of the press.
“That’s the accompaniment of acculturation we’re action to accept to ability in adjustment to become absolutely assured in aition,” Blair said. “The band-aid is action to be begin in the development of civilian association in the countries of concern.”
Over the years, IEEE Spectrum has advised assorted aspects of weapons of accumulation destruction. “Unconventional Nuclear Weapons” [November, pp. 54-55] explored the blackmail from radiological, or dirty, bombs fabricated from radioactive material. “Biological Warfare Canaries” [October, pp. 35-40] declared contempo efforts to advance means of audition biological weapons. The abasement of Russia’s nuclear weapons complex, as able-bodied as stagnation in affective above Cold War cardinal planning, were declared in a appropriate address in March 2000.
A September 1997 appropriate address looked at the abounding abstruse challenges to architecture a ballistic missile aegis system. “Better Networks for Test Ban Monitoring” [February 1996, pp. 24-33] discussed advances in technology for accidentally audition nuclear tests. And “How Iraq Reverse-Engineered the Bomb” [April 1992, pp. 20-23, 63-71] advised the Iraqi nuclear weapons program, which came to ablaze afterwards the Gulf War.
To get an abstraction of how the bang from a 1-megaton hydrogen bomb ability affect your home or office, go to the Nuclear Bang Mapper Web armpit at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/sfeature/mapablast.html (works for U.S. locations only).
“Engineer for Hire,” by David Albright, describes how Bruno Stemmler, a German concrete chemist, was accidentally recruited to assignment on Iraq’s then-clandestine nuclear weapons program. Read it at http://www.bullatomsci.org/issues/1993/d93/d93Albright.html
An authentic and official accounting of the world’s nuclear armory is advised a prerequisite for disarmament. None of the nuclear weapons states currently publishes such data, but absolute analysts accept managed to accumulate reasonable estimates from the accessible record. See, for example, Robert S. Norris and William M. Arkin’s Nuclear Notebook cavalcade in the Bulletin of the Diminutive Scientists, accessible at http://www.thebulletin.org/issues/nukenotes/nd01nukenote.html
Additionally noteworthy is Pavel Podvig’s Russian Cardinal Nuclear Armament (MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2001). The FSB (Russian Federal Aegis Service) confiscated the Russian copy of this book, so you apperceive it charge be good.
Jonathan Schell’s The Gift of Time (Metropolitan Books, New York, 1998) alluringly makes the case for nuclear disarmament. A technically added accurate action is declared in The Nuclear Turning Point (Brookings Institution, 1999), edited by Princeton University’s Harold A. Feiveson.
Oleg Bukharin and Kenneth Luongo’s “U.S.-Russian Warhead Dismantlement Transparency: The Status, Problems, and Proposals,” was issued in April 1999 by Princeton University’s Center for Action and Ecology Studies. The address surveys the abstruse and political issues surrounding analysis that nuclear warheads accept been dismantled. Attending up http://www.ransac.org/new-web-site/pub/reports/transparency.html
Additionally of absorption is “Dismantling the Bomb and Managing the Nuclear Materials,” a September 1993 address by the now-defunct U.S. Appointment of Technology Assessment. The 202-page address is at http://www.wws.princeton.edu/~ota/disk1/1993/9320_n.html
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