Center for Strategic Decision Research



Proliferation Risks and Challenges

Dr. Arthur T. Hopkins
Principal Deputy to Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Chemical and Biological Defense Programs


On behalf of Dr. Dale Klein, the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense who oversees the full range of U.S. Department of Defense efforts to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, I am honored to participate in this 23rd International Workshop on Global Security. I am also honored to lead off the panel focused on the emerging risks of nuclear, chemical, and biological proliferation. I will talk about the risks of, and responses to, proliferation—risks that have become well known through recent headlines, such as those referring to Dr. Khan’s admissions, the current situation in Iran, and the increase in the number of nations attempting to acquire nuclear weapons.

As a result of all of these dangers, and the potential threats from those who would do us harm, countering the threats of weapons of mass destruction has become an urgent international priority. As Dr. James Schlesinger, U. S. Secretary of Defense under Presidents Carter and Ford and the first U.S. Secretary of Energy, said at the end of the Cold War, “Terrorism just made a big rise.”

The world has become a much different, much more dangerous place than many people envisioned at the time those words were said. As President Bush has stressed, the threat of a terrorist organization obtaining and employing weapons of mass destruction is real and poses a danger to free nations across the globe. Whether motivated by religious fanaticism, political idealism, or other reasons, the quest for WMD by terrorists is well known. Threats against our national economies, to international trade, and to the environment are now commonplace. Even basic individual freedoms are at risk from those who would terrorize our countrymen in order to achieve their own objectives.

My talk will focus on three imperatives for controlling risks: controlling nuclear proliferation; controlling WMD materials; and developing and sustaining strong international partnerships.


Meeting today’s nuclear proliferation challenges and preventing nuclear proliferation is fundamentally important to international safety and security. It is also a basic precondition for the use of nuclear power in the 21st century. In this environment, two challenges stand out:

1. Terrorist seizure of nuclear materials or nuclear weapons

2. Rogue states seeking nuclear weapons

For its part, Al-Qaeda has made clear its intent to obtain nuclear weapons and materials. Prudent people must assume that Al-Qaeda or any terrorist organization will use weapons and materials they acquire and therefore we must act to prevent these organizations from obtaining them.

Action must also be taken to block rogue states from acquiring nuclear weapons and materials. Iran’s recent actions certainly have raised concerns about the effectiveness of nuclear nonproliferation safeguards. They also highlight the security challenges that must be met as more nations turn to nuclear energy to meet their energy needs.

A lesson from history is instructive. More than 60 years ago, President Eisenhower, in his “Atoms for Peace” address, called on the nations of the world to tap the power of the atom for peaceful purposes. Inspired by this vision, the United States led the way in encouraging the peaceful uses of nuclear energy—training other countries’ scientists and engineers, transferring nuclear technology and materials, and supporting new international institutions and instruments such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to deal with the proliferation risks of peaceful nuclear cooperation.

In the decades that followed, many countries began to explore and exploit those peaceful uses of nuclear energy, from medicine to power generation. However, some countries chose to use their newly found nuclear knowledge to seek and develop nuclear weapons. There was only limited resistance to proliferation of technologies and concepts derived from the nuclear weapons program. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was created to prevent the misuse of peaceful nuclear cooperation, may have provided a cover under which rogue states could move ever closer to developing nuclear weapons while claiming an interest only in nuclear power.

A readiness to stand behind the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency is especially important for the peaceful future uses of nuclear energy around the globe. If a rogue state can use the cover of membership in the NPT with impunity to acquire nuclear understanding to use in nuclear weapons, the confidence needed for global use of nuclear power will be gravely damaged.

The task we now confront, as President Bush has stated, is to find a safe and orderly system through which nuclear power can be used to help meet growing energy demands without adding to proliferation dangers. To implement that vision, the United States has proposed a new Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). This initiative sets out a strategy to increase U.S. and global energy security while reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation.

At the heart of this new strategy is the partnership between nuclear fuel-supplying nations and nuclear energy-using nations. Nations with secure, advanced nuclear capabilities would provide fresh nuclear fuel to and recover used fuel from nations that would agree to employ nuclear energy only for the purpose of generating nuclear power. These user nations would also agree to refrain from developing uranium enrichment and plutonium recycling technologies. The initiative would also work toward developing enhanced nuclear safeguards that could be built in to a new generation of advanced nuclear energy facilities.

The GNEP is one method that, if properly implemented and monitored, could successfully straddle the gap between the growing need for energy and the need to prevent nuclear proliferation. There are also other actions and technologies that could meet today’s proliferation prevention challenges, including a more proliferation-resistant nuclear fuel cycle and transparency and confidence-building measures.


My second imperative for controlling risks is one of the most vital steps in combating the WMD threat and ensuring the physical security, safety, and control of WMD-related materials throughout the world.

The United States’ Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR) is a centerpiece of U.S. efforts to combat the WMD threat. The program’s ability to effect cooperative dismantling of WMD production facilities and stockpiles, increase transparency, and encourage higher standards of conduct represents a most effective and efficient means of proliferation prevention.

Under the CTR Program, the U.S. Department of Defense works with Russia and several other former Soviet states to enhance nuclear, chemical, and biological security. Cooperative efforts are proceeding to

  • Dismantle former Soviet weapons of mass destruction and their associated infrastructure
  • Consolidate and secure weapons of mass destruction and related technology and materials within the former Soviet Union
  • Increase transparency and encourage high standards of conduct
  • Support defense and military cooperation with the objective of preventing proliferation
In parallel with the CTR Program the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration is participating in a number of nuclear security cooperation programs with Russia.

One important part of the CTR Program is helping Russia and other former Soviet Union countries to secure, dismantle, and destroy nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their delivery systems. The results of this work have been dramatic, from the deactivation of many thousands of nuclear warheads to the destruction or elimination of thousands of missiles, silos, bombers, and nuclear submarines. Because of this work, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus are now nuclear weapons free.

The Cooperative Threat Reduction Program also works to bring about chemical weapons destruction in five different ways:

1. We provide the technology to eliminate chemical weapons. In Russia we designed, constructed, and equipped a chemical analytical laboratory to assist with procedures at destruction and storage facilities.

2. We provide physical security for current stockpiles. In Russia we have done this in Planovy and Kizner.

3. We demilitarize old production or research facilities. We have already completed our work at Nukus, Uzbekistan, and Volgograd in Russia and will soon complete work at a third site.

4. We work with international partners to assist Russia in building a large, complex Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility near the town of Shchuch’ye. The U.S. has already contracted $876 million for the effort, the largest of the CTR projects, and will contribute a total of more than $1 billion. We work on this project in partnership with the United Kingdom, Canada, Belgium, Czech Republic, the European Union, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland.

5. We assist Albania with the destruction of discovered chemical agents in a safe, secure, and environmentally responsible manner.

CTR also has biological threat-reduction programs in Uzbekistan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Efforts include security systems for facilities that conduct research with especially dangerous pathogens, research to gain knowledge about endemic diseases, and training for former weapons scientists. The program also includes:

  • Pathogen consolidation efforts that reduce the number of storage locations
  • Bio-security and bio-safety upgrades at existing institutes to prevent terrorists from obtaining pathogens and enhance safety; we are also helping to tear down legacy facilities that are no longer needed
  • New facilities for the storage and diagnosis of human and animal diseases; new facilities, plus equipment and training, allow recipient countries to diagnose, prevent, or contain diseases that could be part of a public health outbreak or a bio-terrorism event
Other cooperative programs with Russia help counter the WMD threat by enhancing the security, safety, and control of Russian nuclear weapons during shipment and while in storage. Working with our Russian counterparts, the United States has provided a wide range of services that include:

  • The design, construction, and equipping of perimeter security systems for nuclear weapons storage sites
  • Support for automated inventory control and management systems
  • Specialized equipment, training, and logistics support to improve guard force capabilities at Russian nuclear weapons storage areas
  • Special rail cars, security systems, and containers to support the Russian Ministry of Defense in shipping nuclear warheads to dismantling locations or to more secure storage sites
  • A state-of-the-art storage facility for securing weapons-grade nuclear material removed from Russian nuclear weapons
In addition, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration participates in many cooperative programs to help enhance the security of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials storage sites in Russia.


Clearly, combating the proliferation of WMD requires international community collaboration, my third imperative.

Under the WMD Proliferation Prevention Initiative, or WMD-PPI, the U. S. Department of Defense is working to address potential vulnerabilities of the borders of former Soviet Union states other than Russia. WMD-PPI complements the CTR Program’s traditional focus, “WMD at Its Source,” with the focus “WMD on the Move.” Currently, the WMD-PPI is working in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan to develop and sustain capabilities to prevent the proliferation of WMD-related materials, components, and technologies across state borders and in Black and Caspian Sea shipping lanes. It is being coordinated with the Department of Energy’s Second Line of Defense Program, which works with other countries to help them equip their border crossings, airports, and seaports with radiation detection devices.

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) is another element of our “defense in depth” against the proliferation of nuclear and other WMD-related materials and delivery means. The goal of this initiative is to enhance and expand our efforts to prevent the flow of WMD, their delivery systems, and related materials on the ground, in the air, and at sea, to and from rogue states and terrorists.

Since the launch of PSI, in Krakow, Poland, the number of countries supporting its activities has grown from 11 to over 60. PSI partners have built a record of success by stopping the transnational shipment of WMD-related materials, prosecuting proliferation networks, and shutting down “front companies” trafficking in WMD and dual-use materials. PSI’s effectiveness is enabled by participant nations agreeing to interdiction principles, giving the program the ability to act as well as to serve as a model for future diplomacy and partnership initiatives. The dramatic October 2003 interdiction of a shipment of uranium enrichment centrifuge parts to Libya under PSI cooperation directly contributed to Libya’s decision to acknowledge and stop its WMD activities.


The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction presents real and growing risks to the interests of free people around the world. Challenges are so vast and so diverse that no single nation can anticipate and deal with all the potential threats alone. Three imperatives—controlling nuclear proliferation, controlling WMD materials, and sustaining strong international partnerships—are fundamentally important to successfully addressing proliferation risks.


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