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  Timeline of the Nuclear Age 1990s  1999

  1999  

CIA Director George Tenet announces that North Korea has the missile capability to strike Alaska and Hawaii.

At the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, delegates from Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Norway propose a panel to discuss (but not negotiate) steps leading toward global nuclear disarmament.

The sixth U.S. subcritical nuclear weapons test, called "Clarinet," is conducted at the Nevada Test Site.

India and Pakistan sign a number of agreements designed to reduce the tensions between the two countries that increased after nuclear tests were conducted in May, 1998. Agreements include advance warning of ballistic missile tests, and a pledge to reduce the risks of accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons.

In response to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, the Chairman of Russiaís General Staff Anatoly Kvashin says that Moscow no longer rules out launching a preemptive nuclear strike against a potential enemy. The Boston Globe quotes him as saying, "If it comes to a matter of whether Russia will exist or not, then everything the military has, including nuclear weapons, should be used."

The U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency merges into the State Department.

India successfully test-fires an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), the Agni II (Fire), from a rail platform located at a new test site on Wheeler Island in the Bay of Bengal. Agni II is believed to be the mainstay of India's nuclear delivery system.

The Third Preparatory Conference for the 2000 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference is held at the UN in New York and concludes without progress.

Following the Indian Agni II launch on April 11, Pakistan responds with the launch of its Ghauri II medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM). The missile is fired from the Tilla Firing Range at Malute in Jhelum District, 40 miles east of Islamabad. The name "Ghauri" is highly symbolic, referring to a Muslim historical figure who defeated a Hindu ruler in the 12th century.

Pakistan conducts its second test of a nuclear-capable missile by successfully test-firing its Shaheen (Eagle) short-range ballistic missile (SRBM). The test is conducted at the Sonmiani naval base, about 30 miles (50 km) from the southern port city of Karachi on the Arabian Sea coast.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) releases the Strategic Concept, which outlines its nuclear weapons policy. Despite the end of the Cold War and subsequent changes in international security, NATO announces its continued reliance on nuclear weapons. As part of the Euro-Atlantic relationship, nuclear weapons will be deployed in Europe indefinitely.

At its 50th anniversary summit in Washington, D.C., NATO discusses its new identity as an "alliance of interests," which requires the adaptation of its military infrastructure to new challenges such as the proliferation of nuclear and ballistic missile technology.

Russia signs a decree providing for future development and deployment of tactical nuclear weapons.

A leak of radioactive heavy water containing tritium spills into a lake in India from the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station at Kota, a northern desert state. The accident was belatedly reported in December 1999 and blamed on a mechanical error. This is the third admitted incident in India involving a release of radiation; the other two occurred in 1979 in a Tarapur reactor and in 1993 at a Narora plant explosion.

Non-Governmental organizations (NGOs) meet in The Hague, the Netherlands, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first International Peace Conference held in The Hague. The Conference issues a Hague Agenda for Peace.

At White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) and a contractor team led by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space test the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system designed to defend against attacking theater ballistic missiles. The THAAD missile intercepts and destroys a target missile simulating a Scud Short-Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM). The military claims its first successful THAAD intercept in seven attempts.

The U.S. and Russia conclude an agreement in Washington, which extends, for seven years, programs to reduce the threat posed by nuclear, biological, chemical, and other weapons of mass destruction.

India seizes the Ku Wol San, a North Korean vessel believed to carry missile production blueprints, drawings, and instruction manuals, in addition to a sizable shipment of missile components and production materials bound for Pakistan.

An upgraded Patriot Anti-Cruise Missile (PACM) intercepts an MQM-107 drone, simulating a cruise missile flying at low altitude, at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The military considers the test a success and calls it a historical first. The new missile is part of the Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2), an updated version of the Patriot Theater Missile Defense (TMD) system.

Capt. Alexei Konkov, a Russian military officer who works at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, a Russian space complex in Kazakhstan, tries to smuggle a small amount of nuclear fuel into Uzbekistan. At the time of his detention by customs officers, Konkov carries a round lead plated tin container emitting more than fifty times the natural radiation levels.

President Bill Clinton signs the National Missile Defense act. 

Pakistan reportedly tests the engine for a new IRBM called the Ghauri III. According to an Urdu-language report in Islamabadís Ausaf newspaper on June 24, 1999, the Ghauri III has a range of 1,674-2,170 miles (2,700-3,500 km).

The Tokyo Forum for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament releases report, "Facing Nuclear Dangers: An Action Plan for the 21st Century."

The first of three Dolphin-class submarines for Israel's Navy arrive in Israel. According to defense experts, the submarine could be outfitted to give Israel a second-strike nuclear capability.

China test-fires its Dongfeng-31 (DF-31) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) within Chinese territory. The missile is reportedly launched from the Wuzhai Missile & Space Center in northern central China, about 250 miles southwest of Beijing, to a remote interior area, possibly near the Lop Nor nuclear test site in Xinjiang province, in northwestern China. The DF-31 is a three-stage, solid fuel, road mobile missile system with a range of approximately 5,000 miles (8,000 km). It can hold a nuclear warhead weighing up to 1,500 pounds. Its deployment is expected to begin within three years. The U.S. Army, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), and a contractor team led by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space test the U.S. Armyís Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system (a TMD system) at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The systemís second interception of a target missile in less than two months is called a success.

An officially constituted advisory panel to the Indian National Security Council releases a draft nuclear doctrine, according to which nuclear weapons would be delivered by aircraft, submarines, and mobile land-based ballistic missiles.

The Cassini probe, a plutonium-powered U.S. spacecraft, engages in a "slingshot maneuver," returning into Earth's orbit to increase its velocity on its way to Saturn.

In an important assessment of the ballistic missile threat to the United States, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency projects that "during the next 15 years the United States most likely will face ICBM [intercontinental-range ballistic missile] threats from Russia, China, and North Korea, probably from Iran, and possibly from Iraq."

U.S. President Bill Clinton agrees to the first major easing of economic sanctions against North Korea since the Korean War's end in 1953.

U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev sign a formal agreement establishing the Joint Center for Y2K Strategic Stability to be located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, designed to detect false missile attack alarms caused by the year 2000 (Y2K) computer bug.

Negotiations with U.S. diplomats result in the announcement by North Korea that it will cease its missile testing program. North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles, Taepo Dong II, with an estimated-range of 3,700 to 5,000 miles, could carry nuclear, chemical, or biological warheads as far as Japan, Hawaii, or Alaska. The U.S. promises in turn to lift its trade embargo against North Korea.

The U.S. conducts its seventh subcritical nuclear weapons test, with the code-name "Oboe," underground at the Nevada Test Site, 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Radiation leaks from a JCO Ltd. uranium-processing (MOX) plant in Tokaimura, 70 miles northeast of Tokyo. Radiation measures at 10,000 times above normal near the leak site. Three workers are hospitalized, and two are in critical condition. A worker put 35 pounds instead of 5.2 pounds of uranium nitrate solution into a tank, ignoring control limits. The uranium, which went critical, was imported from France in the form of UF6 fluoride gas. Workers say they saw a blue light and then became ill. Neutrons will pass through almost all substances, causing ionization all the way--for instance making table salt radioactive. Thousands of nearby residents are evacuated and 667 people are exposed to dangerous levels of radiation as outside monitors register levels of 15,000 times higher than usual. India successfully test-fires its multi-target surface-to-air missile Akash at Chandipur-on-Sea in Balasore, Orissa. The Akash SAM, which has a range of 25 km, compares to the U.S. Patriot missile.

Russia and China introduce a UN Resolution demanding strict compliance with the ABM Treaty.

A missile sent from the U.S. Army Kwajalein Missile Range in the Marshall Islands is unsuccessful in intercepting a Minuteman 3 missile launched at Vandenberg Air Force base in California. The test is a National Missile Defense (NMD) component of the Ballistic Missile Defense plan.

India test-fires again its medium range surface-to-air missile, Akash, from the interim test range at Chandipur-on-Sea, about 15 km from Balasore.

The Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is held in Vienna. Its purpose is to consider and decide on measures, consistent with international law, to facilitate the early entry of the CTBT into force. Under Article XIV paragraph 2 of the treaty, if the CTBT has not entered into force three years after the anniversary of its opening for signature, the Depositary shall convene such a Conference at the request of a majority of States that have already deposited their instruments of ratification.

United States Senate fails to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Opposition was led by Republican Senator Jon Kyl

The U.S. Senate rejects the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), drawing widespread international condemnation. There were 51 senators who were against it, while 48 senators voted for the ratification.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi reaffirms Japanís commitment to not possess, produce, or introduce nuclear weapons, after dismissing vice-defence minister Shingo Nishimura, who advocated a rethinking of Japanís nuclear weapons policy in the Japanese-language magazine Weekly Playboy. In a landmark ruling, Sheriff Margaret Gimblett throws out a case against three women accused of causing damage to the Faslane Trident base. Gimbett rules that the Trident 2 was illegal under International Law, United Kingdom Law, and Scottish Law. She says: "The three [Angie Zelter, Ulla Roder, and Ellen Moxley] took the view that if Trident is illegal, given the horrendous nature of nuclear weapons, they had the obligation in terms of international law to do whatever little they could to stop the deployment and use of nuclear weapons in situations which could be construed as a threat." The Scottish Parliament will debate the legal and constitutional implications of Gimblettís ruling.

The U.S. Defense Department declassifies documents according to which the U.S. deployed nuclear weapons in twenty-seven different global locations, including eighteen countries and U.S. controlled territories, during the Cold War. Among other places, the U.S. stored nuclear weapons secretly in Japan. Nuclear weapons were stored on Chichi Jima and on Iwo Jima, two Pacific islands that the United States tried to avoid giving back to Japan. President Eisenhower approved extensive nuclear deployments in the Pacific, totaling to about 1,600 weapons on Japan, Okinawa, Guam, the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan. Although Japanís non-nuclear policy of not possessing, not producing, and not introducing nuclear weapons had been in effect since 1959, nuclear weapons were indeed stored in Japan until 1965. Claims of Japanís nuclear-free status by Japanese leaders were technically if not wholly truthful since the bombs stored on Japanís main island lacked plutonium and/or uranium cores; meanwhile, complete warheads and whole bombs were kept on U.S. Navy ships offshore of Sasebo and Yokosuka.

Activists walk onto the property of Alliant Techsystems, Inc. in suburban Minnetonka, Minnesota to protest the manufacture of depleted uranium-238 (DU) weapons. Alliant Techsystems assembled 15 million rounds of PGU-14, a "depleted uranium penetrator" for the U.S. A-10 Warthog planes used in Iraq in 1991 and during NATO Kosovo operations in 1999. Depleted uranium is made from uranium hexafluoride, a non-fissionable byproduct of the uranium enrichment process used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons and reactor fuel. When it smashes a target, the DU bullet burns into a fine mist of toxic and radioactive uranium oxide, which can drift 25 miles and can lodge in the lungs and liver, to cause cancer, birth defects, and immune dysfunction. The United States and Russia open a U.S. funded nuclear security center to train Russian officers to guard atomic weapons storage sites and use high-tech detection equipment. An Arrow II missile successfully strikes a target missile over the Mediterranean and is officially declared capable of intercepting and destroying incoming ballistic missiles. The joint U.S.-Israeli Arrow II program is the only anti-ballistic-missile defense system under active development with the capacity to demolish warheads high in the stratosphere.

Breaking a six-year moratorium, Russia test-fires one of its short-range anti-missile rockets. The test comes amid mounting U.S.-Russian differences over the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which Washington wants changed to allow deployment of a new missile defense system. A U.S. federal appeals court allows nearly 2,000 people to revive lawsuits over health problems that they blame on the 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant.

The Pentagon announces it will sell fourteen of the latest Patriot air defense systems to South Korea, including air-defense missiles, radars, fire control stations, electrical generators, trucks, trailers, maintenance equipment, and other supplies.The U.S. conducts its 8th Subcritical Nuclear Weapons Test, code-named "Oboe 2." The test is conducted underground at the Nevada Test Site, 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Russiaís Foreign Ministry threatens to scrap talks on nuclear arms reduction if the United States does not uphold the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

An authoritative source associated with Indiaís Defense Research and Development Organization indicates that the development of Indiaís 5,000 km range intercontinental ballistic missile, code-named Surya, is at an advanced stage.

After protests from Mohawk Indians and some Canadian mayors, the U.S. Department of Energy decides not to ship as much as 33 tons of plutonium from old nuclear weapons to Canada for use in commercial reactors to produce electricity.

President Boris Yeltsin signs a bill approving the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a global nuclear test ban, and sends it to the Duma, the lower house of parliament, for ratification. Russia test-fires two nuclear-capable ballistic missiles from a submarine in the Barents Sea in the Arctic north. During a training flight, a British Tornado fighter plane crashes into the North Sea, a half-mile off-shore from a Scottish nuclear power plant. In their official report, British officials put the distance at one mile, which is the statutory distance military aircraft have to maintain from nuclear power plants. The CIA declassifies new documents showing that the Soviet Union had the capability to strike all U.S. missile silos with two warheads, each near the end of the Cold War, but was wary of escalating the arms race for economic reasons.

Four Plowshares activists, among them the longtime peace activist, Philip Berrigan, 77, cut a fence on a U.S. Air National Guard base, pour blood, hang a rosary, drape a banner, and hammer on A-10 Warthog fighter jets to the extent of $88,622 in damages. The group protests the use of anti-tank bullets containing depleted uranium (DU). Such bullets were used extensively by Warthog aircraft in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and last year in Kosovo. The DU bullets pollute ground and air with radioactive particulates that can cause birth defects and other devastating health and environmental effects. The judge would not allow defense witnesses to testify about the hazards of depleted uranium. Andreas Toupadakis, an environmental scientist employed at the National Ignition Facility of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory near San Francisco, resigns his well-paid permanent position for reasons of conscience. Toupadakis opposed working in the Stockpile Stewardship Program, which according to the Department of Energy, is to maintain the reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. After reviewing the nine year, $18 million Hanford Thyroid Disease Study,  the U.S. National Academy of Sciences declares its conclusions to be in error. The study conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (CDC) had found no thyroid harm from Hanfordís radioiodine releases. A U.S. Department of Energy report to the U.S. Congress finds that there are 14,890 pages of declassified U.S. government documents containing nuclear weapons secrets that should not have been declassified and placed in the National Archives. The information included test results and weapons utilization information such as yields, deployment, and storage locations.

Taiwan military reports confirm that China is building a new type of nuclear submarine slated to be put into service in the year 2005 and capable of carrying a smaller underwater variant of Chinaís new DF-31 international ballistic missile, called the Julang II, with a range of about 7,400 miles (11,935 km).

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) approves a plan to produce tritium for nuclear weapons from a commercial nuclear reactor, which breaches a long-standing wall in the U.S. between civilian and military nuclear power.

Reviewing the U.S. nuclear stockpile, a U.S. Congressional panel chaired by John S. Foster, former head of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and a former senior U.S. Defense Department official, makes the provocative recommendation that the Department of Energy design new warheads. The panel members included former U.S. Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and Harold Agnew, a former Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory director. The Foster panel suggests that work start immediately to design a plant to replace the Rocky Flats, Colorado facility, which closed in 1989 and is in the process of a remediation cleanup.

The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) begins work on two light-water reactors in North Korea, attributing the late work to tensions over North Korea's missile program.

A U.S.-led consortium signs a $4.6 billion contract to build two nuclear reactors in Kumho, in northeastern North Korea. The deal rewards North Korea for keeping its promise to freeze and eventually dismantle its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Hisachi Ouchi, a MOX plant worker who was severely injured in the nuclear accident at the JCO Co. Tokaimura plant in September, 1999, dies from radiation exposure of 17,000 times the maximum annual permissible amount.

Boris Yeltsin resigns as President of the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin assumes the presidency of Russia. Putin promises to push for ratification of the START II nuclear arms reduction treaty as well as for long-stalled economic reforms.

Aleksandr Nikitin is acquitted of the charges brought against him. Nikitin, an environmentalist and retired Soviet Navy officer, had been charged with espionage and disclosure of state secrets, for revealing dangerous storage practices of nuclear waste by the Russian Navy that abandoned nuclear submarines in a shipyard near Russiaís border with Norway. Nitkin was co-author of "Bellona Report on the Russian Northern Fleet- Sources," a publication that was declared illegal literature in Russia. [See Related Sites upper right column for the report]