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The dangerous world of nuclear weapons

Sunday, February 22, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle
Chronicle Sections



President Bush has proposed tightening international safeguards for the production of fissile materials that could be used to make nuclear bombs. The move came after Pakistan’s top nuclear scientist admitted that he sold nuclear weapons expertise, parts and bomb designs to Libya, Iran and North Korea via secretive networks. While Libya and Iran have recently begun to cooperate with the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, Pakistan has said it will not allow inspectors. North Korea resumed plutonium production a year ago, but has said it would freeze that activity in return for U.S. aid and security assurances. Multination talks on North Korea’s weapons program are set to resume Wednesday in Beijing.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) The treaty has been the cornerstone of efforts to block the spread of nuclear weapons. -- A total of 188 countries have signed the treaty, which took effect in 1970. The five declared nuclear countries — the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain — are bound by the treaty not to transfer nuclear weapons or help nonnuclear states obtain them. They also pledged to work toward disarmament. -- The nonnuclear signatories must refrain from developing or acquiring such weapons, but may develp nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, under monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). -- Three countries — North Korea, Iran and Libya — joined the NPT, but have developed nuclear programs with possible weapons implications. North Korea has since quit the NPT. -- Three countries — Israel, India and Pakistan — have not joined the treaty, although India and Pakistan have tested weapons..Here is an overview of countries with suspected or known nuclear weapons programs or actual nuclear weapons. Some of these nations have accepted U.N. rules for inspections; others have not.

LIBYAPopulation: 5.5 millionMilitary dictatorship..Col. Moammar Khadafy's government was isolated for years after the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight. U.S. embargo could be lifted after complete disarmament.NPT: Joined in 1975..NUCLEAR WEAPONS: NOAfter months of secret negotiations, Libya announced in December it would abandon its nascent nuclear program and comply with NPT safeguards, including surprise inspections..NUCLEAR CAPABILITIES: U.S., British and U.N. inspectors began visiting previously undeclared sites last month. The Libyans displayed dozens of centrifuges, machines to develop weapons-grade uranium. The enriched uranium could be used in nuclear power plants and, if further enriched, for weapons. The centrifuges were of the same design as some in Pakistan..DELIVERY SYSTEMS: -- The inspectors also discovered crates of centrifuge parts and designs for building nuclear bombs, which showed an intention to build such weapons. The designs and other material have been secured. -- Libya has a limited and antiquated missile arsenal that includes Scud-Bs bought from the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s. -- In the 1980s and early ’90s, Libya tried unsuccessfully to buy missiles from the Soviet Union and China. -- Its indigenous program to develop the Al Fatah missile was hampered by U. N. sanctions from 1992 to 1999. In 2000, a shipment of Scud components was intercepted en route to Libya.

IRANPopulation: 66 millionIslamic theocracy. A rival with several nations for Middle East dominance. It fought an eight- year war with Iraq in the 1980s.NPT: Joined in 1970. Signed a protocol permitting surprise inspections..NUCLEAR WEAPONS: NO Is not known to have nuclear weapons. Iran admitted last fall that it hid its uranium enrichment program from U.N. inspectors for almost two decades..NUCLEAR CAPABILITIES: -- Nuclear program, begun in the mid-1970s, was suspended by the 1979 revolution. -- In 1984, Iran reportedly began trying to build nuclear weapons with help from Russia and China. -- Satellite photos, released in late 2002, showed two construction projects that experts said were intended to produce enriched uranium and other weapons components. Iran says its program has only peaceful purposes. -- U.N. inspectors discovered evidence of a previously unknown program to enrich uranium..DELIVERY SYSTEMS: -- Iran has short-range missiles and has developed a mediumrange one. After receiving help from North Korea in the 1980s, Iran now manufactures Scuds. It has also received Chinese missiles. -- The Shahab-3 (range 930 miles), an apparent derivative of a North Korean missile, became operational in July. It could reach Israel and Pakistan. Iran may also be developing the Shahab-4 (range 1,250 miles) and could develop a longer-range missile as part of a space launch vehicle program. -- Iran’s missile program has also been helped by Russia and Pakistan.

NORTH KOREAPopulation: 22 millionSocialist dictatorship.A highly secretive state that has isolated itself from the rest of the world for decades.NPT: Joined in 1985, but only submitted to inspections beginning in 1992. In January 2003, it pulled out..NUCLEAR WEAPONS: UNKNOWNNorth Korea may have produced enough plutonium for 3 to 6 nuclear weapons and is producing more plutonium at a reactor it took out of mothballs in 2002. The CIA estimates North Korea has 1 or 2 nuclear bombs..NUCLEAR CAPABILITIES: -- North Korea began producing plutonium for nuclear weapons in the 1970s. In October 2002, the United States said North Korea had admitted to a secret long-running uranium enrichment project. The country has extensive natural uranium deposits. -- Under a 1994 accord with the United States, North Korea agreed to freeze plutonium production in return for two proliferation-resistant nuclear power plants and delivery of fuel oil. -- In December 2002, North Korea expelled IAEA inspectors and subsequently quit the NPT. North Korea is also suspected of running a highly enriched uranium program. Six-party talks, among the U.S., China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas, are set to resume this week..DELIVERY SYSTEM -- North Korea has a highly sophisticated ballistic missile program. It has deployed short-range missiles with ranges of up to 620 miles and has tested one with an 800-mile range. Technology is mostly derived from Soviet Scud designs. -- It has also conducted a partially successful test of an intermediate- range system (Taepo Dong-1). It may be working on a Taepo Dong-2, which if fully developed could deliver a small payload to California. -- North Korea is the world’s leading exporter of ballistic missiles and has sold missiles and components to Egypt, Iran, Libya, Pakistan and Syria.

INDIAPopulation: 1 billionDemocracy.Lingering conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir. The two countries have fought three wars since 1947.NPT: Has not joined..NUCLEAR WEAPONS: YESIs believed to have 30 to 35 nuclear warheads. Nuclear cores are stored separately from other components, but can be assembled within days..NUCLEAR CAPABILITIES: -- Nuclear program began in late 1950s. -- Has produced 500 to 800 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium, enough for 50 to 90 warheads, and a smaller amount of weapons-grade uranium. -- Apart from 14 power reactors and 12 more under construction, India has 2 breeder reactors, 4 uranium enrichment plants, 6 uranium processing facilities and 4 plutonium reprocessing plants..DELIVERY SYSTEM:India began its missile program in 1983. -- It has deployed one ballistic missile — the Prithvi, with a range of 90 miles, capable of carrying nuclear payloads. The Agni-1 (900-mile range) has been tested, but its status is unclear. The Agni-2 (1,250-mile range) also has been tested and may be in production. Agni-3 (3,000-mile range) may also be under development. -- Nuclear-capable aircraft produced in India based on Soviet MiGs and Anglo- French Jaguar aircraft.

PAKISTANPopulation: 147 millionFederal republic under military ruler. Continuing friction with India over Kashmir.NPT: Has not joined and has not ruled out first use of nuclear weapons..NUCLEAR WEAPONS: YESPossesses components and material for 30 to 50 nuclear weapons. Like India, it stores components separately, for quick assembly..NUCLEAR CAPABILITIES: -- Began nuclear program in 1970s. -- Has produced 1,300 pounds to 1,800 pounds of enriched uranium and may possess enough weapons-grade plutonium for another 3 to 5 warheads. -- Has 3 operating power reactors and 4 nuclear weapons research and development complexes, 3 research reactors, 4 uranium enrichment plants and 1 plutonium reprocessing facility..DELIVERY SYSTEM:Pakistan acquired most of its missile capabilities from China andNorth Korea. -- Announced in January 2003 that its army has deployed domestically produced medium-range missiles. This could be the Ghauri-1 (800-mile range) or possibly the Ghauri-2 (1,250-mile range). The Shaheen-2 missile (1,250-mile range) has not been tested. Pakistan has 30 Chinese-supplied M–11 missiles (175-to 190-mile range), but their nuclear capability is uncertain. -- Its aircraft strike force is the U.S.-supplied F-16.

ISRAELPopulation: 6.5 millionDemocracy.Has fought four wars with its Arab neighbors; continuing clashes with Palestinians.NPT: Has not joined and has not acknowledged that it has nuclear weapons..NUCLEAR WEAPONS: YESHas advanced nuclear weapons capability and is thought to possess enough nuclear material for 98 to 172 weapons..NUCLEAR CAPABILITIES: -- Estimated to have produced 240 to 425 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium since Dimona nuclear research reactor started up in 1964. -- Israel produced its first nuclear device — from plutonium separated from spent fuel rods — in late 1966 or 1967. -- Has 5 nuclear weapons complexes, uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing plants, and other advanced processing plants. .DELIVERY SYSTEM:Israel’s missile program began in the 1960s, with French aid. -- The strongest military power in the region, Israel has deployed about 100 short-range and medium-range missiles — the Jericho-1 (300 miles) and the Jericho-2 (900 miles). Both are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. -- Has U.S.-made F-16, and possibly F-15I, fighter-bombers thatcan carry nuclear bombs. -- Also may be developing a nuclear capability for its submarines.

The Rest of the worldIraq’s nuclear weapons program was destroyed during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, or dismantled later by U.N. inspectors. U.S. and British claims that Saddam Hussein had restarted the program have not been proven.Estimated stockpiles of nuclear warheads that are deployed or in storage(x)Pakistan - 30+(x)India - 30+(x)Israel - 100+(x)N. Korea - ?(y)Britain - 200+(y)France - 340+(y)China - 410+(y)Russia - 8,240+(y)U.S. - 10,400+(y)NPT country; (x)Not part of NPT.Sources: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, National Resources Defense Council, Institute for Science and International Security, Jane’s, Federation of American Scientists


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