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G-8 Nonproliferation Effort to Shift Focus

October 4, 2008

By Bunnell, Stephen

At a July 8 summit in Hokkaido, Japan, the heads of government of the Group of Eight (G-8), a forum of the largest economies worldwide, continued discussions on expanding their current nonproliferation partnership from a focus on the former Soviet Union to a more global approach. They also took note of the program’s achievements to date in the former Soviet Union as well as remaining projects there. In a statement released after the summit, the leaders acknowledged the evolution of the Global Partnership against the Proliferation of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. The partnership was established in 2002 at a summit in Kananaskis, Canada, to coordinate and expand international efforts to safeguard or destroy much of the Soviet legacy of nuclear, chemical, radiological, and biological arms and related materials and convert relevant institutions to peaceful endeavors. Countries at the 2002 summit pledged to provide up to $20 billion for such efforts over 10 years, with half of the money coming from the United States.

The report contains few details of the G-8′s plan to expand its geographic scope, but instead simply states that “the partners will work together constructively and practically to identify specific focuses of the expanded GP [Global Partnership]. The discussions on the issue will be conducted on a project based fashion and function- wise, inter alia, nuclear and radiological issues, chemical issues and biological issues.”

In the past, some G-8 countries have demonstrated interest in expanding the multibillion-dollar program into Middle Eastern nations such as Iraq and Libya, while outside experts have suggested that India, North Korea, and Pakistan might benefit from similar efforts. (See ACT, June 2004.) Experts say that the focus in those countries is likely to be less oriented to securing materials, as it has been in the former Soviet Union, and more on legal and other measures to assure proper governance of any dangerous or dual-use material. Other participants and observers were more skeptical, partly because they fear a dilution of assistance efforts. Russia in particular was opposed.

Now, however, the United Kingdom has proposed a “model agreement” for new partners of an expanded Global Partnership, to serve as a foundation for implementing new projects, as well as a means of engaging other partners in order to coordinate priorities.

The statement claims that substantial progress has been made in the destruction of Russia’s vast chemical weapons stockpile-at nearly 40,000 declared tons, the largest worldwide. In particular, it cites the chemical weapons destruction facilities in the Russian cities of Gorny and Kambarka, which were constructed with substantial assistance from foreign countries. The statement also references the continuing construction of five more chemical weapons facilities: Shchuch’ye, Maradykovsky, and Leonidovka, which are to be completed in 2008, and Kizner and Pochep, which will be completed in 2009. The Maradykovsky facility has already begun destroying its stockpile of chemical weapons. All of these have likewise received considerable foreign aid. Even so, as of July 2008, only the Gorny facility has completed its chemical weapons destruction. As of the beginning of this year, Russia had destroyed one-quarter of its chemical weapons stockpile. The Chemical Weapons Convention requires Russia to complete the destruction of its chemical arsenal by 2012, but there is considerable skepticism that Russia will meet this deadline.

The statement also reports that progress has been made in the dismantlement of Russian nuclear submarines, including the construction of storage facilities for reactor compartments of naval ships, spent nuclear fuel, and radioactive waste; the refitting of a nuclear waste incinerator at the Zvezdochka shipyard; and the withdrawal of spent fuel from the former Gremikha naval base. These efforts have also received significant funding and technological assistance from foreign governments.

The parties pledged to improve the effectiveness and coordination of other current programs. These include the Framework Agreement on a Multilateral Nuclear Environment Program in the Russian Federation, which provides a basis for the implementation of various environmental rehabilitation programs; the International Science and Technology Center in Russia and the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine, which fund research projects for former weapons scientists; and multiple initiatives to improve the physical protection of nuclear materials.

The report sets benchmarks for projects in Russia through 2012. Besides the completion of the five chemical weapons destruction facilities, they include deadlines for dismantling all decommissioned submarines by 2010, as well as for the construction of facilities to store compartments and spent nuclear fuel, radioactive waste management, and the development of related infrastructure. Finally, the report calls for the safe and secure removal of spent nuclear fuel at Andreeva Bay, its eventual transportation to a temporary storage facility at Mayak in the southern Urals, and the construction of a long-term storage facility for such fuel at Razboynik Bay in the Russian Far East.

The benchmarks are intended to coordinate efforts on these projects by establishing a common calendar for completion, as well as to accelerate the implementation of these projects. -STEPHEN BUNNELL

Copyright Arms Control Association Sep 2008

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