April 9th, 2008 13:34 EST
Nuclear weapons in India will increase risk of terrorism
Washington, DC " As U.S. and Indian officials continue to press for the US-India nuclear trade deal, the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation cautioned against the increased risk that terrorists might gain access to nuclear weapons materials in India as a result of the deal.
Responding to a question by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI), during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on Nuclear Terrorism last week, about whether India has rejected offers of nuclear security cooperation, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Director of the Office of Intelligence and Counter Intelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy, stated that the decisions that states make, in a world where there`s an increased dependence on nuclear power and proliferation of nuclear weapons, all will exacerbate the tendencies in the future -- the ability of a terrorist group at some point in time to reach that threshold they may have a mushroom cloud. " He added, So my comment would be that certainly India is in the sphere of concern, as any country that has nuclear power and nuclear weapons. "
Leonor Tomero, Director of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation noted that This is a real problem, one that the Administration should take seriously, and one that is actually worse than the Administration is letting on. It is not just that India is a country with nuclear weapons and nuclear power.
She explained that Unbelievably, the Administration has made concessions to India pursuant to the deal that will enable India to significantly expand its capability to both produce nuclear weapons and stockpile nuclear weapons-usable material by extracting plutonium from US-origin nuclear fuel " this is a whole new level of increased weapons and material production. "
Moreover, if this nuclear trade deal goes through, it will be much harder to convince other countries to abide by stricter non-proliferation rules and to discourage their acquisition of sensitive fuel cycle technology and expertise that could be used for developing nuclear power but also for making nuclear weapons, " Tomero added.
Currently, only France, the United Kingdom and Japan engage in commercial reprocessing to extract plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. Under the 123 US-India agreement for cooperation, the Administration authorizes India to reprocess US-origin spent fuel. India in the past used U.S. and Canadian-supplied technology and material, that had been provided for peaceful purposes, to make the plutonium that India used for its 1974 nuclear weapon tests.
Civilian reprocessing in the United Kingdom has resulted in 100 metric tons of plutonium stockpiled at its reprocessing facility. In 2007, the Royal Society, the independent scientific academy in the United Kingdom, stated that the plutonium separated during the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel at the Sellafield site posed an unacceptable safety and security risk given the growing proliferation and terrorist risks.
At the April 2, 2008 Senate hearing, Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Charles Allen, who also testified, told Members of the Senate Committee We learned that al-Qaeda wants a weapon to use, not a weapon to sustain and build a stockpile" and that We do not know what a terrorist plot might look like. There is, however, a choke point in a terrorist effort to develop a nuclear capability. It is impossible to build a nuclear weapon without fissile material. "
At a time when there are warnings that Al Qaeda is seeking to acquire and use a nuclear weapon, stopping the spread of the number of nuclear weapons and bomb-grade material should be our number one priority. In this administration`s last months, the priority seems to be setting the stage for pouring oil on the fire when it comes to the U.S.-India nuclear deal ", said Tomero.
The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation is a leading advocate for prudent measures to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
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