Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 01:08 | SYDNEY
Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 01:08 | SYDNEY

This week in proliferation


Sam Roggeveen


16 December 2009 09:53

The Lowy Institute is holding a launch today for the report of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, an Australian-Japanese initiative for which the Lowy Institute was an associated research centre. The Institute will host an expert panel discussion about the issues raised in the report, and you'll be able to listen to that discussion via the website tomorrow.

With that in mind, this seems a good time to catch up on a couple of proliferation stories that deserve more attention.

The first is one I flagged in yesterday's Linkage, concerning an alleged Iranian document obtained by the London Times which shows Iran has been working on nuclear triggering devices. As the Times says, 'the documents are the strongest indicator yet of a continuing nuclear weapons programme in Iran'. It's possible the document is fake, though the fact that, according to The Age, the UN is pursuing the matter with Tehran suggests it is at least not an obvious forgery.

The second story is one I completely missed last month and picked up yesterday via East Asia Forum. It's really quite a revelation: 

In 1982, a Pakistani military C-130 left the western Chinese city of Urumqi with a highly unusual cargo: enough weapons-grade uranium for two atomic bombs, according to accounts written by the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, and provided to The Washington Post...U.S. officials say they have known about the transfer for decades and once privately confronted the Chinese -- who denied it -- but have never raised the issue in public or sought to impose direct sanctions on China for it.

And here's the last paragraph of the story:

Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said that except for the instance described by Khan, "we are not aware of cases where a nuclear weapon state has transferred HEU to a non-nuclear country for military use." McGoldrick also said he is aware of "nothing like it" in the history of nuclear weapons proliferation. But he said nothing has ever been said publicly because "this is diplomacy; you don't do that sort of thing . . . if you want them to change their behavior."