Critical Issues Forum
Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East
Benchmark I – Background
March 7, 2011
Teachers: Amy Koch, Katherine Conover and Jane Thompson
Contributing Students: Kayla Babler, Mark Brady, Alina Campanna,
Hailey Hinze, Vinny Shadrick, Yoiser Mauleon, T. J. Patt
Table of Contents
Nuclear Countries Overview 3
Middle East History 8
Middle East Religious Beliefs and Conflicts 17
Middle East Terrorist Groups 22
Addressing the Threat: IAEA and NPT 25
Nuclear Power Basics 29
Nuclear Power Risks and Benefits 33
Works Cited 37
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In modern times, it seems the countries of this world are far from holding hands in unity
and peace. Displays of wealth and power are what keep a country on top, secure and lively.
Ever since the technology became available in the 1940's, world leaders such as America and
Russia have used nuclear weapons to provide such displays. Now, decades later, nuclear
technology has continued to spread worldwide and has come into the hands of several nations,
though the technology is no longer sheerly for the use of weapons and power but is being used
broadly for the generation of electricity. Recently, several new countries, both stable and
unstable, have become global nuclear powers. If all nuclear country's stockpiles were combined,
there would be over twenty two thousand warheads, many of them available for use without
much notice (“Status of World”). Each country worldwide has varying amounts or projected
numbers of nuclear weapons and power, ranging from none to far too many.
As the first country to develop nuclear power and the only country to use a nuclear
weapon, America has remained a nuclear power in the world today. The United States began
building weapons during World War II, continuing to do so during the Cold War in competition
with Russia. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, relations between the U.S. and Russia
improved, and the amount of weaponry was reduced. However, both countries retained a massive
number of nuclear weapons. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the country
currently has a stockpile of 10,640 nuclear warheads; 6,390 of them are deliverable. The ability
to build such a mass of weapons is enabled by the military budget of $419 billion per year.
America has refined its nuclear arsenal since 1994, retiring four Ohio-class submarines and
updating the rest, as well as reducing the Minutemen III force from 530 to 500 in 1998
(Flaherty), an example of the positive results of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)
which the United States signed in 1970. Replacing the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty,
American President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have decided on a
new treaty to reduce nuclear weapons on each side to 1,550 warheads (“US and Russia”). It is
safe to say that America will remain a nuclear power, as it has been since the very beginning of
nuclear technology, but it is setting a global example for adhering to the NPT.
With similar circumstances as America, Russia is also a world leader in nuclear power.
The first time Russia built and experimented with a nuclear bomb was in 1943 to keep up with
the Americans' growing stockpile throughout the Cold War. The Soviet government made great
investments in the advancement of nuclear technology in the 1950's through the 1960's, resulting
in an extremely large number of weapons. When the Soviet Union fell, the former states of the
USSR, namely Kazakhstan, the Ukraine, and Belarus, returned nuclear missiles to Moscow
(Flaherty). Currently, Russia has 3, 452 deliverable weapons, and about 16,000 stockpiled
(“Nuclear Weapons Stockpile”). Approximately 1,000 war heads are dismantled yearly,
showing the fair amount of effort as well as resources Russia has put into lowering their
stockpile (“Status of World”). Just as it limits the U.S., the START II Treaty, enabled in 2003,
caps the amount of “strategic, deployed warheads” Russia may have at any time to 3,500
(Flaherty). Russia also signed the NPT in 1970. Though Russia has a colossal number of nuclear
warheads, the efforts to shrink the stockpile shows it will become less and less of a nuclear
power, but it will be a great deal of time, if ever, before it is not one of the top nuclear powers.
In Asia, the three most prominent nuclear powers are China, India, and North Korea.
China began developing nuclear weaponry in the 1960's with the assistance of the Soviet Union
and has continued its programs into present day for security as well as a display of power. The
exact number of warheads China possesses currently is unknown, but it is estimated to be
approximately 400. China signed the NPT in 1998 (“Global Nuclear Powers”). According to the
CIA World Factbook, India has approximately 125 nuclear weapons, a considerable number
though less than China. With Canadian aid, India began testing nuclear weaponry in 1974 and
has continued testing throughout the last two decades (“Global Nuclear Powers”). Currently,
Russia has been helping India to build “a civilian nuclear energy programme” as it has
increasingly high energy demands (“Global Nuclear Powers”). It may be noted, however, that
this technology could also translate to further developing a nuclear weapons program. The
current status of North Korea is difficult to report on, especially considering the secretive nature
of the topic of nuclear weaponry. However, North Korean officials have released some
information. They have stated that they first tested a nuclear weapon on October 9, 2006, that
they possess nuclear weapons, and that they are making more (“Global Nuclear Powers”). The
exact number of weapons North Korea possesses is unknown, but the U.S. estimates that Korea
has about ten or fifteen. A red flag to countries around the world, North Korea withdrew from
the NPT in 2002, and refuses to let the International Atomic Energy Agency inspect its buildings
(“Global Nuclear Powers”). This proves North Korea to be serious about expanding its nuclear
power and to be potentially dangerous. As these Asian countries have nuclear weapons and, in
some cases, the ability to easily deploy them, China, India, and North Korea are all nuclear
Political relations as well as other conditions have been and continue to be volatile in the
Middle East. For this reason, the status of any country in this region as a nuclear power draws
attention and a bit of nervousness. The exact number of nuclear warheads in Pakistan is also
unknown. Pakistani officials state that they have conducted five tests since 1998, and it is
possible for them to posses from 10 to 15 weapons, based on the amount of enriched uranium
they have received. In the past few years, Pakistan has been working on developing “dual
technology,” technology which may be used for either civil purposes, or to create weapons
(“Global Nuclear Powers”). Though it does not currently have any nuclear weapons right now,
Iran began a nuclear program in 1974. The Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War caused the
Iraniam program to come to a halt. Mohammad Khatami, the President of Iran, has denied that
the country is pursuing a nuclear program, but suspicions linger (“Iran, Israel, and Nuclear”).
After signing the treaty in 1970, Iran claims that it has stayed true to the rules of the NPT
(“Global Nuclear Powers”). Frequent unrestricted searches by the IAEA have all come up
negative; there is no evidence which shows that it has any weapons currently. Unlike Iran, Israel
is recognized as a major nuclear power. The exact status of Israel, though, is unknown as its
officials refuse to make any sort of declaration. Photographs taken by Mordechai Vanunu in
1986 led experts to believe that Israel had about 100 to 200 nuclear warheads. Considering the
possible output of the know facility, Dimona, experts now estimate that the country could have
achieved 125 to 250 weapons as of 2010 (“Nuclear Weapons Stockpile”). Israel will not sign
the NPT because the country wishes to uphold an “ambiguous nuclear status” (Amini). Despite
its ambiguity, Israel is considered, mostly by its neighbors, to be the biggest nuclear power in the
While focusing on the nuclear powers of the world and what destruction their power
could reap, it can be easily forgotten that not all countries have or even desire a nuclear program.
Several countries, including Germany, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Algeria, and Libya, once had a
program but have since abandoned or stopped it. Sweden and Switzerland both began
researching nuclear power years ago, but never pursued it. (“Global Nuclear Powers”)
Nuclear power is more than the greatest tool of destruction -- it is like a pin an army
general might place on his lapel. Having nuclear weapons is a symbol of military and economic
power, and, in order to stand tall amongst fellow world leaders, a country may wish to acquire
them. However, by following the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that was established in 1970,
countries will begin or continue to lower the amount of warheads they possess. It is hoped that
nuclear power will no longer be viewed dually as a weapon and political power, but solely as the
awful, devastating weapon that it can be or else as a source of energy.
Middle East History
Since civilization started, the Middle East has been a region of conflict, where prosperity
flourished and conquerors have come and gone. Since around the 7th century, Islam has been the
dominate religion, but it is also the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity. In these three
religions, Abraham is an important prophet, and they are called ‘Abrahamic.’ Jews, historically,
were the first of the three to live in the Middle East. But the Romans, after a revolt against their
rule, forcibly exiled the Jews from their homeland, Judea, 2,000 years ago and renamed it
Palestine. This became known as the Diaspora, and Jews spread across Europe and Asia
(Feinberg, History of the Middle East).
In the 600 AD, the prophet Muhammad began spreading the teachings of Islam. He was a
merchant who lived in Mecca, who received divine guidance; he is considered the last prophet.
Islam spread from Spain to India, driven by the sword and wielded by Arabs who had embraced
Muhammad as their prophet. When the Arab nomads set out from Arabia, two powers dominated
the Middle East: the Roman or Byzantine Empire and Persia. These two powers had for several
decades fought each other to a bloody standstill and were too weakened to properly fight the new
threat. The Persians were completely overridden and converted to Islam, while the Byzantines
held out in Asia Minor. Eventually though, they fell to Islam under the Turks, who formed the
Ottoman Empire, which lasted until World War I (Feinberg, History of the Middle East).
There had long been a desire for a state of Israel, but not strong support for it. By the end
of the 1800’s, though, many Jews had migrated to Palestine, then under the control of the
Ottoman Empire. Most Jews who had come or lived there had fled persecution, from inquisitions
to pogroms. In 1896, Theodor Herzl wrote the pamphlet The Jewish State and the next year the
First Zionist Congress met in Basel, Switzerland, to discuss a home for the Jewish people (Shah,
The Middle East Conflict).
During World War I, the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany and Austria-Hungary
against the British, French, and Russians. The British and French backed Arab nationalist revolts
against Ottoman rule and after they won, they divided the Middle East between themselves.
Syria, which included modern Lebanon, became a mandate of France; Palestine, Jordan and
modern Iraq became British. A Jewish state was supported by Britain and the League of
Nations, but Arab nations opposed it. As more Jews immigrated to Palestine, violent anti-Jewish
riots occurred. By 1936, after Hitler had come to power in Germany, about 30% of Palestine’s
population was Jewish, or about 400,000 Jews (Himick, The Roots of Arab-Israeli Rage, Shah,
The Middle East Conflict).
World War II interrupted plans for Palestine to be a shared homeland for Arabs and Jews.
To gain Arab support, Britain limited Jewish immigration and land sales. Radical Zionists
bombed Arab buses and crowds in response. When WW II ended, the full extent of the
Holocaust became known, and a Jewish State received much support, particularly from President
Truman. Brittan gave control of Palestine to the UN, and a partition was made in favor of the
Jews, who geo 57% of the land, with access to rivers, lakes and the sea. Civil war between the
Jews and Arabs began, and soon Zionists controlled the land that the UN said they owned
(Himick, The Roots of Arab-Israeli Rage, Shah, The Middle East Conflict).
The State of Israel proclaimed independence on May 14, 1948, which immediately
followed by attacks by the invading armies of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, Saudi Arabia,
Yemen, and Egypt. By the end of the war, Israel defeated the Arab armies and controlled more
land, about 77% of British Palestine. Jerusalem became the capital of Israel, which under UN
agreement is an international city, angering the Arabs and against US wishes. In 1956, the
Egyptian President Gamal Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, which had been controlled by
Britain and France, and closed the Straits of Tiran, which is Israel’s access to the Red Sea. Israel,
in secret agreement with France and Britain, invaded the Sinai Peninsula. In days, Israel
controlled the Sinai Peninsulas and the Gaza Strip. Pressure from the US forced them to
withdraw (Himick, The Roots of Arab-Israeli Rage, Shah, The Middle East Conflict).
Starting on June 5, 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike against the armies of
Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The war became known as the Six Day War, for it only took six days
for Israel to devastate the Arab armies and gain control of strategic land, like the Golan Heights
from Syria, West Bank from Jordan, and Gaza Strip from Egypt. The war cemented Israel as the
number one military power in the Middle East, but brought much hatred from the Arab world
(Himick, The Roots of Arab-Israeli Rage, Shah, The Middle East Conflict).
In 1973, Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel during Yom Kippur, the
holiest day of the year for Jews. At first, Israeli forces retreated from the Sinai Peninsula and
Golan Heights and several weeks of fighting followed. After an arms shipment from the US,
Israel was able to fight back the attacks and reclaim nearly all held territory. The oil-producing
Arab states respond by beginning an oil embargo against Israel’s supporters, primarily the US.
(Shah, The Middle East Conflict).
In 1978, Israel, Egypt and the US signed the Camp David accords. According to the
peace agreement, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and the US provided billions of
dollars of economic aide to both nations. Many in the Arab world see this as Egypt selling out to
US pressure, but to Israel and the US it was a great achievement (Shah, The Middle East
Since the end of WII, the Shah of Iran had received support from the West, particularly
the US, and was seen by many in the Arab world as a puppet. He supported modernization and
even recognized Israel as a state, but brutally suppressed opposition. Despite a growing
economy, many people still were poor, and the Islamic clergy opposed secularization and
Western culture. In 1977, because of pressure from President Carter, the Shah relaxed his
suppression of opposition and censorship. Demonstrations and revolts followed, and by 1979, the
Shah had left the country and an Islamic Republic was established, lead by Ayatollah Khomeini.
The leaders of the Republic established shaira law, outlawing alcohol, night clubs, and gambling,
and imposing segregation of men and women in public, and forced women to wear a head
covering(The Iranian Revolution).
In 1980, Iraq invaded Iran. Sadam Hussein saw the revolution as a possible inspiration
for revolutionaries in his country and had several claims to Iranian land where Arabs lived and
oil was produced. The leadership in Iran was seen as lacking strong cohesion, but despite initial
gains, by 1982 the Iraqi forces were retreating. The war, though, did not end until 1989, and
became a war of attrition and stalemate. The war saw the use of chemical weapons, and over a
million people were killed. The same year Israel intelligence predicted Iraq could have a nuclear
bomb. In 1985, Iraq launched the “War of the Cities”, where the urban cities of Iran were
indiscriminately attacked with rockets (Iran-Iraq War).
In Israel, attacks by the Palestinian Liberation Army (PLO) from Lebanon lead Israel to
bomb bases in southern Lebanon in 1979. The PLO had long been responsible for shelling
northern Israel and conducting terrorist activities, and in 1982 the Israeli army invaded and
forced the PLO out of Lebanon. The president of Lebanon was assassinated, and many
Palestinians were killed by angry Lebanese, and blame was put on Israel. Israel maintained a
“security zone” three to four miles into Lebanon for 15 years. (Shah, The Middle East Conflict)
Starting in 1987, an intifada, or “shaking off,” was beginning by the Palestinians in
Israel. It had no leader or bases that could be attacked, and it mostly was young boys facing the
Israel military. Many civilians were killed on both sides. (Shah, The Middle East Conflict)
In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, and within hours Kuwait was controlled by Iraq. Iraq cited
overproduction of oil by Kuwait, which devalued Iraqi oil, and support for an armed uprising
against the emirate as the reason for invasion. Iraq also claimed that the country was a part of
Iraq and only separate because of the British. The UN passed economic sanctions on Iraq and set
a deadline for withdrawal, which it did not meet. In 1991, international forces, lead by the US,
responded by invading Kuwait and repelling Iraqi forces. Within 100 hours, the Iraqi army was
overwhelmed. 60,000 to 200,000 Iraqi soldiers died, while only about 200 coalition forces died.
Following the war, Kurds and Shiites launched uprisings against Saddam, but they were quickly
crushed. Saddam was kept in power because it was thought it would destabilize the region if Iraq
was occupied (Saddam’s Iraq).
In 1993, Israel recognized the PLO, and vice versa, in the Oslo Peace Accords. Israel
gave them limited autonomy in exchange for peace, but this agreement was seen as one –sided
and favored the Israelis. In 1994, Palestinian police forces replaced Israeli in the Gaza Strip and
Jericho. In 1994, the Israeli Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish
extremist. Rabin had been a part of the latest peace process, such as the Jordan-Israeli Peace
Treaty, and he was succeeded by Shimon Peres, who promised to continue the peace talk and
agreements. (Shah, The Middle East Conflict)
In 1996, Binyamin Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister of Israel. He allowed new
Jewish settlements around Jerusalem and the West Bank. In 1998, Israel agreed to more
withdrawals but stopped due to internal disagreements. Continuing into 2000, more agreements
were attempted to be made but continued Jewish settlements brought protests from the
Palestinians. The Camp David summit in 2000 was opposed by the leader of the PLO, Yasser
Arafat. Ariel Sharon, former Israeli general and then Prime Minister, visited a Muslim holy site;
know as Temple Mount to Israelis and Haram al Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) to Muslims and he
claimed it as Israeli territory. Sharon had been accused of massacres when he was in the military
and of being against peace processes and his claim angered Palestinians. (Shah, The Middle East
A second, more violent intifada started in 2002 by Sharon’s claim of the Temple Mount.
Suicide bombers committed a string of attacks, beginning on the Jewish holiday of Passover.
Israel responded by reoccupying the West Bank and constructing a security barrier between it
and Israel. The barrier, though seeming to help, drew international criticism because it went deep
into the West Bank. (Shah, The Middle East Conflict).
In 2003, suicide bombings continued, and Israel reoccupied parts of the Gaza Strip and
assassinated Hama’s leaders, who had been behind many of the recent attacks. The US,
European Union, Russia and UN supported a road map peace plan for a two-state solution, and
both sides agreed to it, but conflict continued. In 2004, Israel planned to withdraw from the Gaza
Strip and evacuated all Jewish settlements. (Shah, The Middle East Conflict)
Mahmoud Abbas in 2005 became president of the Palestinian Authority, and he managed
to get Hamas and militant groups to agree to a cease fire, and withdrawal from the Gaza Strip
was complete. In 2006, Ariel Sharon slipped into a coma, and his deputy was elected Prime
Minister and he promised to continue Sharon’s policy. The Hamas, meanwhile, won the majority
of the Palestinian Parliament, and when the cease fire ended, attacks began and Israeli troops
reentered the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Hezbollah militants crossed into Israel from Lebanon and
started a month long war by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers. (Shah, The Middle East Conflict).
Much of the support for militant organizations, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, comes
from the fact that they spend much of their money on social services, such as schools, hospitals,
mosques, and orphanages, while the Palestinian Authority often fails to provide these things.
Many thousands of Palestinians have been displaced by Israel, and joining a terrorist group can
often provide them something to do about it (Shah, The Middle East Conflict).
In Iran, the recent push for nuclear power is not its first. In 1957, the Eisenhower
administration pushed for a stronger Iran and provided it with 13 pounds of low grade enriched
uranium for research purposes. In 1968, Iran signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Over
the next decade, the US provided Iran with nuclear fuel and equipment, including a five-
megawatt reactor, and France and Germany also joined in providing assistance. After the
Islamic Revolution, though, support from the West ceased for fear of Iran making nuclear
weapons (Iran’s Nuclear Program).
The research and investment continued without Western support, but at a slower pace.
Iran turned to China, Russia, Pakistan and North Korea for nuclear technology and assistance. In
1995, Russia signed a contract with Iran to complete two 950 megawatt light water reactors, and
there are plans for a 360 megawatt reactor to be operational by 2016. Despite saying it is not
doing so, many in the West believe Iran will create nuclear weapons and have imposed economic
sanctions. US intelligence says that Iran stopped working towards creating weapons in 2003 but
that it still has the option open. Under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran has the right to
nuclear power for fuel for civilian use (Iran’s Nuclear Program).
Middle East Religious Beliefs and Conflicts
Middle East Terrorist Groups
There is a concern among nations globally with terrorist and extremist groups having in
their possession nuclear weapons of mass destruction. The groups that are thought to have the
weapons have secured these weapons from higher powers in those countries. The terrorist
groups want to use more nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons to cause more casualties in
their attacks. Terrorist groups worldwide are thought to be becoming more capable of getting
and assembling nuclear weapons due to less control on stockpiles and technology in Russia
(Mass Destruction Terrorism). Nuclear weapons are very complicated and hard to produce and
duplicate; therefore, most terrorist groups will stick to using conventional explosives over
nuclear weapons. There are many known terrorist groups around the world that could possess or
develop the WMD.
Al Qaeda is a loose affiliation of groups who claim to be affiliated with its stated
objectives of global jihad. Al Qaeda means The Base; it was founded by Osama bin Laden.
Mujahideen. Al Qaeda has no home base; Al Qaeda has many cells in different countries in
Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Al Qaeda ran military training camps in
Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Al Qaeda objectives are to re-establish an Islamic caliphate;
they want to remove Islamic/ Arab countries current leaderships. They want to remove American
military, as well as economic and cultural influences. Al Qaeda uses terrorist attacks to usually
get what they want. They have done major terrorist attacks; they can carry out two attacks at
once in different countries. In October 2000, bombings of the American ship U.S.S. Cole, off the
coast of Yemen killed 56 people. The September 11, 2001 suicide attacks on World Trade Center
and the Pentagon killed over 3,000 people ("Al Qaeda Network").
The Al-Qaeda terrorist group has made it very clear and obvious that they want to
possess nuclear weapons. The group is calling for a global Jihad, and it is considered a terrorist
group because the members have attacked civilian and military targets in different countries
around the world. Al-Qaeda has actually branched out and has other affiliates, one in North
Africa who engages in the attacks (Mass Destruction Terrorism).
The group Hezbollah, also known as the “Party of God,” is in Lebanon. They associate
with other groups in North and South America, Asia, Europe, and Africa. They are suspected of
being able to get weapons because Iran and Syria support the group and provide it with
substantial organizational training and financial support. The Hezbollah works with other
Palestinian groups. Their main goal is to remove the Israeli presence in South Lebanon
The group Hamas, which is a religious and political organization, was founded in 1987 in
Egypt as a Muslim brotherhood, it is a well known terrorist group. The Hamas are supported by
Iran, Saudi Arabia and wealthy private donors. There are also Islamic charity organizations that
help different groups with financing. The Hamas goal is to establish an Islamic state in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip. “Hamas regards Nationalism as part and parcel of the religious faith.
Nothing is loftier or deeper in Nationalism than waging Jihad against the enemy and confronting
him when he sets foot on the land of the Muslims (Zalman)." In the beginning Hamas was a
non-violent charitable organization; several years later they have developed an army called Izz
Al Din Qassam Brigade, which has been responsible for the suicide bombings in Israel (Zalman).
The Fatah Al Islam is a splinter group in Lebanon created by a former member of the
Palestinian Fatah Intifada group. It is a small terrorist group with only about 200 members.
They have admitted to some attacks on civilians. They are willing to kill any non-Muslims to
reach their goal, which is to spread Islamist ideology among Palestinians in Lebanon and remove
the U.S. from the Middle East (Zalman).
It is not positively confirmed that any of these terrorist groups have nuclear weapons or
the technology to develop them as of yet, but many organizations are working on keeping the
nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands. In the United States, President Obama has held a security
summit in Washington D.C. The goal of that summit aimed to ensure that nuclear weapons and
weapon grade materials are not available to terrorists. They want to focus on denying extremist
groups access to plutonium and highly enriched uranium. As Gary Samore, Obama’s senior
advisor, has said, “If we can lock them (nuclear materials) down, we have essentially solved the
risk of nuclear terrorism.” (LaFranchi). Each individual country has the responsibility to
monitor and work on keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of the extremist and terrorist
groups located in that country. The United States and Russia are working together on an
agreement for each country to dispose of large amounts of plutonium (LaFranchi). The United
States may have to make tradeoffs with some countries who do not agree that nuclear security is
a top priority to get those countries to cooperate with keeping nuclear weapons away from
Addressing the Threat: IAEA and NPT
The IAEA is the world center of cooperation in the nuclear field. It was created in 1957
in response to the deep fears and expectations resulting from the discovery of nuclear energy. In
1961, the IAEA opened its laboratory in Seibersdorf, Austria, creating a channel for cooperative
global nuclear research. The agency works with its member states and multiple partners
worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies. The IAEA secretariat is
headquartered at the Vienna international center in Vienna, Austria. IAEA Secretariat is a team
of 2200 multi-disciplinary professional and support staff from more than 90 countries. The
mission is guided by the interests and needs of Member States, strategic plans and the vision
embodied in the IAEA statute. With more than four decades of verification, inspectors work to
verify that safeguarded nuclear material and activities are not used for military purposes. The
IAEA also helps countries upgrade to nuclear safety and security. The IAEA inspects nuclear
and related facilities under safeguards agreements with more than 145 states around the world.
They also help countries mobilize peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology. The
work contributes to goals of sustainable development in fields of energy, environment, health,
and agriculture, among others, and to cooperation in key areas of nuclear science and
technology. In recent years, the Agency’s work has taken on some urgent added dimensions.
Among them are countermeasures against the threat of nuclear terrorism, the focus of a new
multi-faceted Agency activation plan ("Pillars of Nuclear").
In exchange for their commitment, non-nuclear weapon states gain access to nuclear
materials and technology for peaceful uses of nuclear energy under (IAEA) safeguards. IAEA
safeguards serve as the verification mechanism for the NPT ensuring that NNWS are complying
with their nonproliferation obligations. Full-scope safeguards ensure a timely detection should
nuclear materials be diverted from peaceful purposes; however, they do not verify that a state has
not acquired a nuclear weapon by other means, even though that is one of the prohibitions under
treaty("Pillars of Nuclear").
The Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to
additional states while ensuring fair access to peaceful nuclear technology under international
safeguards. In this treaty there are two categories of parties. One is nuclear weapon states and
the other is non-nuclear weapon states. Nuclear weapon states may retain their nuclear arsenals,
may not transfer nuclear weapons to anyone, may not assist any non-nuclear weapon states
(NNWS) to acquire, manufacture or control nuclear weapons, and commit to pursuing
negotiations in good faith towards ending the nuclear arms race and achieving nuclear
disarmament. The non-nuclear weapon states must not build, acquire, or possess nuclear
weapons, may not research, produce, and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and must
accept safeguards on all of their nuclear activates and materials to verify they are not being used
for nuclear weapons. The NPT forbids the five member states (United States, Russia, United
kingdom, France, and Germany) with nuclear weapons from transferring them to any other state,
forbids member states without nuclear weapons from developing or acquiring them, provides
assurance through the application of the international safeguards that peaceful nuclear energy in
NNWS will not be diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, facilitates
access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy for all NNWS under international safeguards, commits
all member states to pursue good faith negotiations toward ending the nuclear arms race and
achieving nuclear disarmament. The NPT provides incentives and reassurances to states willing
to renounce nuclear weapons ("NPT Tutorial").
The NPT took effect on March 5, 1970, after being opened for signature on July 1, 1968.
The growth of the acceptance of the treaty has been very steady. In 1970, the treaty had 43
original parties, and by November 4, 2002 188 parties had joined. More countries have ratified
the NPT than any other arms control or disbarment agreement in history. In April 2004, India,
Israel, and Pakistan were the only countries that had not signed the treaty. North Korea
announced its withdrawal from the NPT on January 10, 2003 ("NPT Tutorial").
In 2005 the NPT faced unpredicted challenges in its nearly 40-year history, as new
proliferation threats augment long-standing concerns. Following the successful outcome of the
2000 review conference, very little progress was made during the review process for the 2005
conference. The 2005 review conference failed to agree on any substantive issues in its final
document. The states parties have become increasingly unable to cope with differences both in
how they perceive security challenge and on what constitutes full compliance with the treaty
The treaty is strengthened and stabilized every five years. 2010 just happened to be one
of the years it was brought up to date. Member states were “willing and able to compromise on a
complex agenda of issues,” according to Deepti Choubey, Deputy Director , Nuclear Policy
Programs, Carnegie Endowment for the International Peace (Understanding the 2010). Specific
action plans on disarmament, peaceful uses of nuclear energy as well as nonproliferation were
made. “The action plans themselves are a significant achievement,” according to Choubey,
because they are specific and measurable. Also, the 2010 Review called on the Middle East
Sates to meet in 2012 to address earlier NPT resolutions. The U.S., Russia, and the United
Kingdom will cosponsor the meeting and determine a country to host. The significant thing
about this meeting is that Middle East states that do not currently recognize Israel will have to
(Understanding the 2010).
Nuclear Power Basics
Nuclear power is a great source of energy, showing great potential with great results.
The power possibilities are nearly endless with very little recoil on the environment. This
relatively new source of power is the wave of the future, expanding across the modern world.
However the nuclear capabilities also have a downfall. If not maintained vigorously, a meltdown
can be disastrous, as was seen in Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. There is also the threat of
exposing the public to nuclear radiation. There is additional threat of nuclear energy being
turned into a nuclear bomb, nuclear weapons spell catastrophe for whomever they fall upon.
How does nuclear energy work? The whole concept is rather simple, nearly the same
method as most other energies. Water is heated into steam which turns a turbine generator. The
difference is the manner in which the water is heated. The first phrase that should come to mind
is nuclear fission, the action of splitting one atom into two. The atom undergoing nuclear fission
is called Uranium-235. This particular atom makes up about .7 percent of the uranium on earth.
Uranium goes through nuclear fission naturally on its own (Brain & Lamb, 2000). When it is
used in power facilities it goes through forced fission.
In forced fission the uranium is exposed to neutrons passing by. A neutron is absorbed
into the nucleus of the uranium atom making it unstable. The unstable atom breaks apart into two
atoms. Those atoms that are now flying around are hitting other uranium atoms producing a
reoccurring chain effect, each time producing more energy. All of this takes place in a matter of
picoseconds. Each atom being split produces approximately two hundred million electron
volts. There are so many atoms in one pound of
uranium that it could power a nuclear submarine. That single pound replaces one million gallons
of gas. Plutonium-239 is also a suitable substance for nuclear power. The fission in plutonium
is slightly different though. The plutonium is created by taking uranium-238 and adding many
neutrons (How Nuclear Power, 2003).
Heat and gamma radiation are a byproduct of fission. When uranium is split into several
atoms, the total product weighs less than that of the original uranium. Where did that extra
weight go though? It can’t be destroyed because of the law of conservation of mass, which states
mass cannot be created or destroyed. So the weight that is missing is actually pure energy. Albert
Einstein came up with an equation for the conversion of mass to energy, E=mc2 where E is
energy m is mass and c is the speed of light squared. Gamma rays are very dangerous and can
kill living cells. Gamma rays also are the most energetic of all rays, and produce massive
amounts of heat. The heat in a nuclear reaction like this rises above one hundred degrees Celsius
or two hundred twelve degrees Fahrenheit (Brain, 2000).
The structure that produces and contains the nuclear power is called a nuclear power
plant. Nuclear power plants are made from concrete. Concrete is used for the safety of the plant
personnel, the public, and even the environment. The concrete is not only for safety, it is
functional for containing heat and radiation. The general public only sees the outside, though.
There are actually six layers protecting the plant and the public; containment building, drywell,
reactor vessel, fuel bundle, fuel rod, and pellet. The first layer is the last and first line of defense.
It protects the plant from earthquakes and planes if called for. The outer layer is also the final
layer in containing radiation. The second layer is specifically designed to contain radiation of
radio-active steam in case of an accident. Also generally seen on the outside of the plant is the
cooling tower. The cooling tower releases excess steam to prevent overheating (Khemani, 2009).
Within the walls of the plant is containment vessel. The containment vessel is the heart of
the whole operation, containing two chambers. Uranium pellets are placed inside the first
chamber called a reactor vessel along with control rods. The pellets cause the nuclear fission
while the control rods are controlled by worker to keep the heat under control. The whole first
chamber is also filled with water. The water is heated and carried to the second chamber. The
water is also cooling the rods in the chamber. The second chamber is the reactor. Heated water
from the fission is carried from the first chamber to the second through pipes. The pipes carrying
the water are like the veins. The water is run through the reactor heating the water within the
reactor, thus creating steam. After the water has been moved through the reactor it is recycled
back into chamber one. The next step is to pump the steam from the reactor out of the
containment vessel and into the turbine. The steam being pushed through the pipes by high
pressure turns the turbine. The turbine is connected to a generator. The generator converts the
mechanical energy from the turbine into electrical energy. The steam moves on to water to be
cooled, and excess steam is released into the air. The electrical energy is moved out of a power
plant, so it can be sent where it is needed (Sevior et al., 2011).
So there is not much to the whole nuclear power process at all: mostly conversion of
energy from one form to another, small too big. Nuclear power is a very clean and efficient
process. With advancement in the future and more plants being built, countries lower their
dependence on oil. In the long run nuclear power has the potential to save millions and help save
Nuclear Power Risks and Benefits
Nuclear power may very well be the way of tomorrow. Nuclear power is the most cost
efficient means of producing energy. The energy produced in nuclear fission of Uranium-235, is
10 million times the energy obtained by burning same mass of coal. Secondly, it is a very
environmentally clean means of producing energy, since no green house gases are produced and
the wastes are almost all reusable. Third, is its availability, the technology is already here and
ready and the source of nuclear power is abundant. Uranium is pretty evenly scattered around the
world throughout the Earth’s crust with major deposits being uncovered in Canada and Australia,
this form of power is virtually inexhaustible. It is
the safest most reliable option since no deaths
have been recorded in the entire 50 year history of
the U.S. using nuclear power (Rongstad, 2008)..
Also, unlike non-renewable resources, such as
coal and oil and natural gas, nuclear energy
produces a great deal from a small amount of
abundant source material.
However a lot of controversy still exists about the use of nuclear power. This is mostly
because the understanding of nuclear energy fundamentals is a prerequisite for creating nuclear
weapons, and secondly because of the small amount of nuclear waste that it produced.
The spread of nuclear weapons should not be a problem. The developed world of course
doesn’t want nuclear proliferation, so they take measures to guard against it. Some say that these
measures however aren’t enough and that nuclear power plants contribute to the proliferation
problem by increasing the availability of nuclear materials such as used fuel. This used fuel is
not as easy to turn into a weapon as it has been made to seem. Turning the used fuel into
weapons depends entirely upon the very advanced technology necessary for extracting certain
isotopes of plutonium and uranium from the fuel. This technology is carefully watched for by the
nuclear nations. Also to develop a nuclear weapon in this way, a nation would have to hide their
advanced equipment from the most advanced countries in the world with the most powerful
militaries and economies, and the most extensive intelligence networks on the planet. It would be
incredibly difficult to create a weapon without the developed world learning about it. In fact it
might even be easier to try and steal a completed weapon from the military than to try and create
your own (Rongstad, 2008).
People fear another Chernobyl incident, since after a reactor melts down it stays in an
area for many years and that radioactivity also remains. People also fear that the plant could
explode like a bomb. Communities often don’t want to live by power plants because of these
fears despite the inexpensive electricity, employment opportunities, and tax incentives. However,
a Chernobyl type accident could not have happened outside of the Soviet Union. This is because
they used a different type of reactor, that type of reactor was never built or operated here in
America. The U.S. also has too many safety regulations and precautions guarding us from a
nuclear meltdown. Also, it is impossible for a reactor to explode like a nuclear weapon. These
weapons contain very special materials in very particular configurations and neither of which are
present in a nuclear reactor (Webfeild Development, 2011).
Another concern that exists about nuclear power plants is radiation. Radiation can be
spread by winds, is dangerous to humans and animals alike and can contaminate large areas.
However, this should be the least of our concerns. The amount of radiation given off by a power
plant is so small that you would have to live near a nuclear power plant for more than 2,000
years to get the same amount of radiation exposure you get from a single x-ray. Following this is
a chart of sources of radiation that we receive throughout our lives (Webfeild Development,
One last big concern is about what to do with all of the nuclear waste that is being
produced and how to transport it. Used fuel is currently being safely shipped by truck, rail, and
cargo ship. So far thousands of shipments have been transported with no leaks, cracks or thefts.
And as far as the storage of the vast quantities of nuclear waste goes, the used fuel is currently
being safely stored underground, and there actually isn’t that much of it at all. All of the used
nuclear fuel generated in every nuclear power plant in the past 50 years would fill a football field
to a depth of less than 10 yards, and 96 % of this "waste" can be recycled and reused. Also newer
models of nuclear reactors should be capable of producing almost no waste. They should also be
capable of using up some of our existing stockpiles of used fuel, if reprocessing techniques are
supported politically. These newly proposed reactors are developing a large following. This is
because of their planned practicality, safety, and anti-proliferation properties. The fuel in some of
these reactors is never in a form that is easy to turn into a bomb. These reactors may one day end
our fears of nuclear proliferation because there will be no more substantial nuclear material
stockpiles (Benefits of Nuclear Power, 2010).
In conclusion, the development of nuclear power if properly managed and regulated
should not lead to increased proliferation risk. With the political will and backing, nuclear power
can lead to a much safer world, especially if development of advanced reactors and reprocessing
facilities is supported and carefully regulated. Researching into these advanced technologies
deserves our support because they have great potential to better the lives of all humanity. The use
of these technologies for good rather than evil depends on the citizens of the world. We need to
make it clear to the government that we want to live in a safer world with minimal nuclear
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