The Journal Editorial Report | March 18, 2005 | PBS
March 18, 2005
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, left, looks up, as NATO
Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer addresses the media at NATO
headquarters in Brussels, February 7, 2005. Solana defended the bloc's
negotiations with Iran, insisting diplomacy is the best way to prevent the
spread of nuclear weapons. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
Q: How tenable are the restrictions President Bush and IAEA Director General El Baradei have proposed on enrichment and reprocessing because these activities bring nations too close to bomb making?
A:Both have so far encountered considerable political resistance. Mr. Bush in February of 2003 proposed that reprocessing and enrichment be banned for any nation that did not already have "full-scale" plants already in operation. This effectively permitted, or "grandfathered", existing and future enrichment and reprocessing activities in the U.S., Brazil, Japan, Argentina, Europe, Russia, China, India, Israel, South Africa, Pakistan , only banning the enrichment activity of Iran. Even so, Japan was privately was upset with the proposal as was Canada, who have an interest in possibly building enrichment plants of their own. Iran and many other less developed countries objected to Mr. Bush's proposal as denying them their "right" to nuclear technology.
U.S. President George W. Bush meets with European Union leaders at EU
headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 22, 2005. In their first
post-Iraq war summit, the group debated how to curb Iran's nuclear
ambitions. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Mr. El Baradei's proposal is slightly different. His is a five-year moratorium on the construction of any new enrichment or reprocessing plants anywhere. The European Union has voiced support for this measure. The U.S., Australia, Iran, Canada, Japan, and most of the less developed world, however, have complained that this proposal goes too far and may preclude ever allowing new enrichment or reprocessing activities in the future. Also, even nations that do not want to expand their existing capacity to enrich have a desire to modernize their older, inefficient plants to new centrifuge technology.
One approach to address these concerns that my center, the Nonprolifeation Policy Education Center, has promoted and that has garnered some attention within the U.S. government and the IAEA, is to propose a five-year, renewable moratorium on any nation's expansion of their existing net capacity to enrich or reprocess. Such a moratorium would allow states to modernize their enrichment plants so long as any new capacity they brought on line was matched by their dismantlement of an equal amount of older existing enrichment capacity. As a part of this proposal, no new additional net capacity would be built unless it was fully financed with private funds and was free of any government guarantees or subsidies. Meeting this free market requirement would be the best way to ensure that expansion of these activities would only occur if it were clearly for peaceful purposes.