Conclusions from the
RUSSIAN-U.S. WORKSHOP ON WARHEAD TRANSPARENCY
hosted by the Federation of American Scientists, Washington D.C., November 9-10, 1998
The purpose of the workshop was to explore the current state of the Russian-U.S. discussion of a possible warhead transparency regime and to identify actions that could facilitate progress. The workshop participants consisted of Russian and American non-governmental experts, and governmental experts participating in a non-official capacity (see list at end). In the view of a core group of non-governmental participants (Bukharin, Bunn, Diakov, Luongo and von Hippel), the meeting identified possible activities in two areas:
A. MAJOR POLICY ISSUES
These are issues for which there is no immediate answer, but which need to be analyzed and resolved before any meaningful warhead dismantlement transparency regime can be completed.
1. THE U.S. UP-LOAD HEDGE AND RUSSIAN AND U.S. TACTICAL NUCLEAR WARHEADS
In 1994, the U.S. made a policy decision to configure its START II forces in a manner that would make possible an increase in the number of U.S. deployed strategic warheads back to roughly twice the treaty-permitted number. (This is known as the "up-load hedge.") This upload capability is of concern to the Russian Government and addressing it appears to be the principal motive for Russian Government's interest in the transparent elimination of warheads. Russia therefore has a strong interest in seeing that the warheads downloaded from strategic missiles under START II and III are eliminated under a dismantlement regime.
The U.S. Government, for its part, is very concerned about the possibility of a large number of remaining Russian tactical nuclear warheads. It would like to have transparency in tactical nuclear-warhead stocks and, if Russia's stock is much larger than that of the U.S., to see substantial reductions.
The Russian Government objects to including tactical nuclear warheads in the START III negotiations and the United States has been reluctant to agree to dismantle its up-load hedge warheads. During the workshop, some American participants suggested that an obvious compromise would include transparent reductions in the U.S. upload hedge in return for transparent reductions in excess Russian tactical nuclear weapons. Russian participants, however, took the view that Russia will be interested in warhead transparency for tactical nuclear weapons only if NATO makes a binding agreement not to deploy nuclear weapons in new member countries and the U.S. withdraws its nuclear weapons from Europe.
2. RECIPROCAL TRANSPARENCY AND FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR RUSSIAN WARHEAD DISMANTLEMENT.
The economic crisis in Russia has raised questions about the maintenance of warhead dismantlement rates. The Russian-U.S. Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) deal is, in part, already helping Russia finance the dismantlement of its excess nuclear warheads, because Russia is able to sell the uranium that is removed from the warheads.
Four options to provide additional funds to facilitate the financing of warhead dismantlement in a context of reciprocal warhead transparency were raised at and after the workshop:
- the U.S. could provide to Russia a partial pre-payment (e.g. 20 percent) of its expected total payment for each year's delivery of blended HEU;
- the U.S. could provide an additional payment at the end of each year if the HEU blend-down rate exceeds that required by the HEU deal;
- Cooperative Threat Reduction [CTR] program funds could be used to modernize and re-tool one of Russia's dismantlement plants to create a facility dedicated solely to the mission of transparently and irreversibly dismantling warheads that are declared excess, either unilaterally or pursuant to an international agreement; and
- CTR or similar funds could be used to pay part of the costs of Russian warhead dismantlement in return for transparency to confirm that this dismantlement is taking place. Transparency would be implemented on a reciprocal basis at U.S. dismantlement facilities as well.
3. RELEVANCE OF ASYMMETRIES IN THE WEAPONS PRODUCTION AND MAINTENANCE COMPLEXES, AND IN SECRECY REQUIREMENTS
In order to fully achieve the security objectives of both sides in pursuing a warhead transparency regime, a number of asymmetries between the two warhead complexes and their contexts must be dealt with. The U.S. is concerned about differences in nuclear-weapons-production capacities, and warhead and weapons-usable material stockpiles. Russia is concerned about differences in financial resources, upload capacities, and about possible security dangers arising from the compromise of secret information about its facilities. Additionally, the development of a transparency regime could be impeded by differences in the sizes of nuclear-weapon-production infrastructures, weapon re-manufacturing rates, and dismantlement operations and schedules. As a first step, each country should list the asymmetries which concern it, along with an explanation of why they are of concern. Then consideration should be given to how to apply transparency measures in a way that can mitigate political and perception problems, minimize operational impacts, and reduce worries about possible breakouts.
B. POSSIBLE FIRST STEPS TOWARD A NEW REGIME
At present there are no formal or informal on-going negotiations between the U.S. and Russia on the issue of a warhead-transparency regime. Virtually all of the work that is occurring is under contracts between the U.S. and Russian nuclear laboratories. Almost all of these contracts focus on technical and conceptual aspects of a possible regime because of the extreme security and classification concerns surrounding the issue. Listed below are some suggestions put forth at the workshop for first steps that could be taken to facilitate the movement toward a comprehensive warhead transparency regime.
1. A TRANSPARENCY AGREEMENT ON PIT-CONVERSION.
Moving directly into the monitoring of warhead dismantlement activities at a warhead assembly/disassembly plant is a highly unlikely first step. However, an early agreement might be possible on reciprocal transparency at the point in the warhead-elimination process where plutonium pits are changed to unclassified shapes. These activities are scheduled to be undertaken by both countries and are likely to occur at the Mayak plant in Russia and at either Savannah River or Pantex sites in the U.S.
At present the U.S., Russia, and IAEA, under the Trilateral Initiative, are negotiating arrangements to monitor that excess weapon material sent to the Mayak storage facility (where re-cast plutonium from Russian pits will be stored) is not returned to weapon programs. The U.S. and Russia are engaged in separate bilateral negotiations on monitoring arrangements. However, these discussions continue to be at an impasse because of differences over how to provide assurance that the plutonium to be stored in the storage facility is of weapons-origin.
The U.S. proposes limited chain of custody arrangements, starting with threshold measurements (plutonium isotopics, mass, symmetry and size) on Russian pits in their canisters before they are converted to unclassified forms. A U.S. offer to implement identical transparency measures on a reciprocal basis at its planned pit-conversion facilities might help resolve this difference and build confidence to support the creation of a broader regime. CTR funds could be used to help ease operational bottlenecks in the Russian pit-conversion process if this proposal were adopted.
2. A DECLARATION OF WARHEADS ELIMINATED AND REMAINING TO BE ELIMINATED UNDER THE 1991 BUSH-GORBACHEV INITIATIVES
In 1991, Presidents Bush and Gorbachev each unilaterally agreed to eliminate certain classes of nuclear weapons. These are still the only warheads both countries have officially agreed to eliminate. As a result, the obstacles to increased transparency could be lowest when dealing with these weapons. Both countries could declare how many of these warheads have been dismantled and how many remain to be disassembled. A follow-on initiative could include declarations of the plutonium pits recovered from these warheads and bilateral monitoring of them, and any plutonium recovered from them.
3. FACILITY-SPECIFIC STUDIES
The U.S. has carried out a detailed study on the costs and impacts of specific approaches to activities related to transparent warhead dismantlement if implemented at specific U.S. facilities. This study includes an analysis of how activities related to transparent warhead dismantlement might be segregated from activities relating to maintenance of the enduring nuclear stockpile -- perhaps even in entirely separate dedicated facilities. Russia should carry out a similar detailed study -- perhaps with support from the lab-lab program.
4. AN EXCHANGE OF DIAGRAMS SHOWING LAYOUTS AND WARHEAD FLOWS THROUGH THE DISMANTLEMENT FACILITIES
The U.S. has proposed an exchange of unclassified tours of the U.S. Pantex plant of and a Russian dismantlement plant in order to familiarize each country with the flow of the dismantlement process in the other country. (Journalists have already been offered such tours of the Pantex plant.) The U.S. has offered to host the first visit at Pantex if the Russian government could reciprocate. However, this idea has not yet been accepted by the Russian government. The benefits of implementing this idea, and the means to do so without compromising secrets on either side, were discussed at some length at the workshop.
A possible first step in this direction put forth at the workshop envisions that each country would unilaterally draw up, on paper, an unclassified description of activities at its dismantlement plants and a schematic diagram of how warheads flow though the dismantlement processes. This could constitute a confidence-building first step toward reciprocal "walk-throughs" and then unclassified demonstrations of warhead transparency measures and procedures at the dismantlement facilities in both countries.
5. ARRANGEMENTS FOR VERIFYING THE SHUT-DOWN OR CONVERTED STATUS OF EXCESS WARHEAD-PRODUCTION CAPACITY, AND NON-PRODUCTION OF NEW WARHEADS
A particular interest of the U.S. will be to gain assurance that shut-down or converted warhead dismantlement plants in Russia are not covertly producing new nuclear warheads. There are also questions about how the re-manufacturing of weapons could be distinguished from new warhead production. A first step should be a lab-lab study on possible transparency measures to address these issues.
6. COOPERATIVE RESEARCH WITH THE RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE AND U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ON POSSIBLE CHAIN-OF CUSTODY ARRANGEMENTS FOR WARHEADS
The Russian Ministry of Defense plays a greater role in the Russian warhead dismantlement process than the Department of Defense does in the U.S. For example, warhead storage at Russian dismantlement sites is under the control of the MoD's 12th Directorate. To date, however, no cooperation under the lab-to-lab program has been initiated with the MOD.
An ideal starting point for this cooperation would be research on a possible transparent chain-of-custody arrangement for warheads as they move from active field deployment to dismantlement. This could involve tagging warheads or their containers at military storage sites or, in some cases, even at deployment sites when the warheads are downloaded from missiles. Such approaches could turn out to be the only reliable means to distinguish strategic from tactical warheads, should the two sides agree on limitations that apply differently to the two types of warheads, as suggested in the Helsinki Summit statement.
This will require cooperation from both the Russian Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense. A possible partner for the U.S. in the development of this dimension of transparency could be the 12th Directorate's Central Technical-Physical Institute in Sergiev Posad (formerly Zagorsk).
7. DECLARATIONS OF TOTAL WARHEAD STOCKS
In September 1994, President Clinton and President Yeltsin agreed to an exchange of data on each country's stockpiles of nuclear warheads, plutonium, and highly-enriched uranium [HEU]. In January 1995 the United States put forward a specific proposal for stockpile declarations by both nations. This proposal was rejected by Russia -- apparently because of the amount of detail proposed in the information exchange. A simpler declaration of aggregate warhead stocks -- perhaps divided into strategic and tactical weapon categories -- could be a more acceptable first step. If the United States declassified its aggregate stockpile information, as it has done for plutonium, then implementation of such an exchange would not require an Agreement for Cooperation under the U.S. Atomic Energy Act.
8. DECLARATIONS OF TOTAL PLUTONIUM AND HEU STOCKS.
The U.S. has already made public its total stockpile of plutonium by isotopic grade and site (with Pantex and all warhead sites lumped into a single warhead/pit "site"), along with the history of U.S. production, acquisition and disposition of separated plutonium. The United States is expected soon to release similar information on its HEU stockpile.
Russia has not released information on either of its fissile-material stockpiles. Russian officials and laboratory experts have indicated that Russia does not currently have funds available to pull together the information in a form comparable to what the United States has released on its plutonium stockpile. A useful step would be to undertake a lab-to-lab contract in which the United States would pay the cost of preparing an inventory of Russia's plutonium stockpiles in return for receiving information at the same level of detail as the United States has already released. If this worked well for plutonium, a similar approach could be taken for Russia's HEU stockpiles once the United States has released its data. These further declarations would support agreements for deep cuts in the warhead stockpiles.
- Anatoli Diakov (Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology)
- Gennady Kruglov (Chelyabinsk-70/Princeton)
- Igor Markov (Chelyabinsk-70/Princeton)
- Petr Romashkin (Staff, Defense Committe, Russian State Duma)
- Vladimir Rybachenkov (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- Oleg Bukharin (Princeton University)
- Matthew Bunn (Harvard University)
- Charles Ferguson (FAS)
- Steve Fetter (University of Maryland/CISAC)
- Ambassador James Goodby
- Joshua Handler (Princeton University)
- Bill Hoehn (RANSAC)
- Ken Luongo (RANSAC)
- Frank von Hippel (Princeton University)
- Andrew Bieniawski (DOE)
- Geoffrey Forden (CBO)
- Robert Gromoll (ACDA)
- T.R.Koncher (DOD/ LLNL)
- Denny Jones (DOS)
- Col. Guy Lunsford (DOD)
- David Mosher (CBO)
- Michael Newman (DOE)
- Michael Olmsted (JCS)
- Kurt Sieman (DOE)
- Michael Stafford (DOS)
© Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at MIPT, 1998
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