Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Another Blow to the Nonproliferation Regime

The IAEA has reported the Egypt has been conducting research and experimentation aimed towards producing nuclear weapons dating back as far as twenty years and continuing up until a couple years ago.

The article in the Globe and Mail reports:

Vienna — The UN atomic watchdog has found evidence of secret nuclear experiments in Egypt that could be used in weapons programs, diplomats said Tuesday.

The diplomats told the Associated Press that most of the work was carried out in the 1980s and 1990s but said the watchdog – the International Atomic Energy Agency – is also looking at evidence that suggests some were as recent as a year ago.

Specifically said one of the diplomats, the Egyptians “tried to produce various components of uranium” without declaring it to the IAEA, as they were bound to under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

Among the products were several kilograms of uranium metal and of uranium tetrafluoride – a precursor to uranium hexafluoride gas, said the diplomat, who demanded anonymity.

Uranium metal can be processed into plutonium, while uranium hexafluoride can be enriched into weapons grade uranium – both for use in the core of nuclear warheads.

The diplomat said the Vienna-based agency has not drawn a conclusion on the scope and purpose of the experiments.

Well, its pretty clear when a country is conducting peaceful nuclear research and pursuing measures to enrich uranium to weapons grade. Egypt has just been caught, even if the IAEA is (cough cough) to polite to say so.

Anyway, when a country can cheat under the NPT for many years like this, it does not send a reassuring message to anyone who thinks the NPT is the frontline in preventing nuclear proliferation.

If we cannot verify compliance with any degree of certainty on the NPT, what chance does the CWC or a beefed up BWC (down the road) have in making a measurable contribution to nonproliferation?