Opportunities for Nuclear Non-Proliferation in 2010

January 1, 2010

The New Year provides opportunities for the U.S. Senate to ratify one or more treaties in order to support the international bi-partisan movement for a nuclear weapons free world. The Constitution requires the Senate to ratify treaties by a two-thirds majority, or 67 votes.

Every five years the United Nations holds a conference to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which begins this year on May 3 in New York City. The U.S. ratified the Treaty in 1970 and many are urging the U.S. to comply with its provisions to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.

The Obama Administration and Russia are continuing their work on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expired on December 5, 2009. The new Treaty will continue to reduce the number of nuclear warheads each country possesses and could be submitted for Senate ratification within the next few months.

This work is informed by the recent study by the JASONs, a group of independent nuclear weapons technical consultants. The study concluded that the U.S. arsenal can be maintained indefinitely through existing maintenance programs, without nuclear testing or pursuing new warhead designs.

The Senate may also debate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It was negotiated in the 1990s and recognizes that ceasing all nuclear weapons test explosions "constitutes an effective measure of nuclear disarmament and non proliferation." www.ctbto.org/fileadmin/content/treaty/treaty_text.pdf

In a contentious process in October 1999, the Senate voted against ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The directors of the national laboratories at Sandia, Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories provided testimony in which they raised doubts about whether the technology existed to verify compliance with the treaty. A decade later the verification technologies have improved as demonstrated by detections of the North Korean test in May.

Nevertheless, CCNS has raised the issue about whether the laboratory directors should be allowed to testify before congress because of their conflicts of interest. In all cases, the current directors are not only the directors of the laboratories, but also presidents of the private corporations that manage and operate the facilities.

For example, Michael Anastasio is both the director of LANL and the president of the private corporation that manages and operates LANL, called the Los Alamos National Security, a limited liability corporation. Recently the corporate managers were awarded a $72 million performance management fee for 2009.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, stated, "The directors of the laboratories which also serve the role of presidents of the private corporations which manage the laboratories have a conflict of interest. At LANL, the majority of the $2.2 billion budget goes toward nuclear weapons and a majority of the performance fee awarded resulted from that work. As we move towards a nuclear weapons free world, it is essential that we have a clean playing field."

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