The CSS Blog Network

The Nuclear Power Predicament

Nuclear power plant in Sweden, courtesy of Vattenfall/flickr

This week the ISN looks at the causes and consequences of a global nuclear renaissance. We ask whether nuclear power is a false prophet for a planet imperiled by climate change and assess the difficulty of reigning in those that seek to turn energy into weapons.

The Special Report includes the following content:

  • An Analysis by Trevor Findlay and Justin Alger on the promise of nuclear energy in the fight against climate change.
  • A Podcast interview with Dr Oliver Thränert on the need to control the risk of nuclear energy being used for military purposes.
  • Security Watch articles on nuclear cooperation between Japan and India, Sino-Pakistani nuclear ties, the Iranian impasse and many more.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including an Elcano Royal Institute of International and Strategic Studies study on nuclear weapons in the 2010s and a Congressional Research Service paper on US nuclear cooperation with India.
  • Primary Resources, like the Joint Declaration by Iran, Turkey and Brazil on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
  • Links to relevant websites, including a TEDTalk on the importance on nuclear energy.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the Russian Federal Nuclear Center (RFNC-VNIIEF) and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA).

Israel and the Bomb

Israeli President Shimon Peres

Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr

After years of speculation, journalists from the UK paper the Guardian and US historian Sasha Polakow-Suransky disclosed information that could prove what many had been suspecting for years: Israel has the bomb.

Polakow-Suransky came across a bundle of classified documents when conducting research in South Africa. These papers were handed over by the current South African ANC government but date back to the times of the Apartheid regime in 1975. The documents include a memo, meeting minutes, as well as an agreement between South Africa and Israel for the transfer of nuclear weapons to the Apartheid regime signed by Shimon Peres – the current president of Israel and then minister of defense.

If the authenticity of the documents is verified, this would be the first time the world has written proof about Israel being a nuclear power and the implications thereof are not yet sorted out.

What will happen to the current multilateral negations on nuclear non-proliferation and the specific case of Iran? Just in this month, Iran agreed to abandon its nuclear enrichment research program and to cooperate with Turkey. How will the Iranians now perceive the new development and the factual existence of a hostile nuclear power in the region? Moreover, how is Israel going to position itself once it can no longer deny to be in possession of nuclear weapons?

President Peres immediately denied any involvement of Israel and himself in negotiations on the exchange of nuclear weapons with the South African Apartheid regime. Nonetheless, Israeli government officials tried to block the South African government from handing out the respective documents to Mr. Polakow-Suransky, giving rise to the question why the Israelis care about these papers in the first place.

For further reading:
The Guardian Article on “Israel’s Nuclear Weapons: Time to Come Clean”
Israel-South Africa Agreement
Letter from Shimon Peres from November 11, 1974
Declassified memo from South African General RF Armstrong
Minutes of third ISSA meeting from June 30, 1975
Minutes of further ISSA meeting

ISN Weekly Theme: Iran – Reckless or Rational?

Detail of a carpet depicting Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khāmene’i, photo: youngrobv/flickr

The Islamic Republic’s recent political provocations against the West have left observers wondering: Is such behavior the result of careful calculation or messianic madness?

  • An Analysis by Philip McCrum about Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s fragile hold on power five years after his contested election win.
  • A Podcast interview with Dr John Mueller on the Iranian nuclear threat – or lack thereof.
  • Security Watch articles on Iran’s struggling Jewish community, the nuclear question and much more.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including recent US Congressional Research Service analyses on US foreign policy toward a nuclear hungry Iran.
  • Primary Resources, including last week’s joint declaration By Iran, Turkey and Brazil on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as the ArmsControlWonk blog published by Dr Jeffrey Lewis of the New America Foundation.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.

Change in US Nuclear Policy?

CSS Analysis no 74: "Obama's Nuclear Policy: Limited Change"

CSS Analysis no 74: “Obama’s Nuclear Policy: Limited Change”

One year after Obama’s Prague speech, has the announced change in nuclear policy actually taken place?

In a newly published policy brief, CSS senior researcher Daniel Möckli assesses the practical results achieved by the Obama administration so far.

On the plus side, he argues, Obama has succeeded in reintroducing nuclear disarmament to the international agenda. But domestic factors, alliance policy, and strategic considerations limit the scope for major turns in US policy.

According to Möckli, neither a sustainable reinforcement of the non-proliferation regime nor substantial progress in multilateral arms control are in the offing.

The publication can be downloaded here.

China’s Nuke Storage Site Revealed

Chinese soldiers in Beijing / Photo: Luther Bailey, flickr

When it comes to the stockpiles of the world’s nuclear-armed states, China is among the most secretive of them all. This is what made the 12 March publication of a report on China’s Nuclear Warhead Storage and Handling System by Mark Stokes, executive director of the Washington-based Project 2049 Institute, an Asia-focused think-tank – all the more remarkable. Through “authoritative sources, correlation of reliable data, and analysis,” Stokes identifies not only where China keeps its nuclear weapons, but how (and how well) they are protected from accident and attack.

Stokes writes that the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Military Commission “maintains strict control over China’s operational nuclear warheads through a centralized storage and handling system managed by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Second Artillery.” In peacetime, warheads are managed through a system that is “separate and distinct” from PLA Second Artillery missile bases as well as apart from China’s system for keeping tabs on its civilian-use fissile materials. In addition, he says, the Second Artillery appears to control and manage nuclear warheads that could be used by the PLA’s air force and navy.

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