Jeffrey LewisFissile Material Cut-Off Treaty Policy

Wade Boese, at the Arms Control Association, was kind enough to send along the State Department press guidance regarding the renewed effort for a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty:

Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty Policy

The United States has completed its policy review on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).

The United States believes that achieving an end to the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons is a desirable goal. As part of our effort to achieve that goal, the U.S. reaffirms our commitment to the negotiation at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. We aim to achieve the objective of an FMCT — a legally binding ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons — as soon as possible.

The United States also reaffirms its moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear explosives, and calls on all states that have not done so to make comparable public pledges.

Our extensive review has concluded that there are serious concurs as to whether an “effectively verifiable” FMCT is realistically achievable. Effective verification of an FMCT would require an inspection regime so extensive that it could compromise key signatories/’ core national security interests and so costly that many countries will be hesitant to accept it. Moreover, we have concluded that, even with extensive verification measures, we will not have high confidence in our ability to monitor compliance with an FMCT. The United States delegation in Geneva will want to discuss these concerns in detail with other CD members.

The United States delegation in Geneva will work to have the CD begin negotiating a legally binding FMCT before the CD finishes its deliberations for this year in September.

The Washington Post, focusing on the Administration/’s opposition to verification provisions, reports that “Administration officials said they made the decision after concluding such a system would cost too much, require overly intrusive inspections and wouldn/’t guarantee compliance with the treaty.

If you want to read more about the fissile material cut-off treaty, particularly verification provisions, I suggest Frans Berkhout, Oleg Bukharin, Harold Feiveson and Marvin Miller, “A Cutoff in the Production of Fissile Material,” International Security 19:3 (Winter, 1994-1995) 167-202 and Steve Fetter, “Nuclear Archaeology: Verifying Declarations of Fissile-Material Production” Science and Global Security 3: 3-4 (1994) 237-259.