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  Timeline of the Nuclear Age 2000s  2001


A majority of NATO countries turn down requests from several allies for a temporary ban on Depleted Uranium (DU) munitions in the NATO arsenal.

The Associate Press (AP) reports that recently declassified US government documents show that the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations were alarmed by the rapid developments of Chinaís nuclear program in the early 1960ís and considered bombing targets and killing experts as well as supplying India with nuclear weapons. Pentagon officials began to express concern with Chinaís nuclear program as early as 1961, when the CIA estimated that China could have the bomb as early as 1963. In 1963, intelligence reports concluded that China had made significant progress and it became a prominent issue for the Kennedy Administration. Kennedyís Joint Chiefs of Staff prepared a document that examined options to prevent the development of Chinaís nuclear program. The options included blockading China and infiltrating and sabotaging the program; air attacks on Chinese nuclear facilities; supporting a Taiwanese invasion of China; and launching a tactical nuclear attack."

NATO medical chiefs meet in Brussels to discuss potential risks of Depleted Uranium (DU) munitions to health and the environment. International concern about the use of DU munitions erupted in early January after the announcement that at least seven Italian soldiers, and soldiers from several other countries died from leukemia or contracted illnesses linked to radiation exposure. DU munitions are primarily used by the U.S. and British armies. The U.S. used the munitions in the bombings of Iraq during the Gulf War. U.S. jets also fired some 31,000 rounds of DU ammunition during NATOís 1999 bombing in Kosovo. NATO also recently admitted to using DU for a short period in Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war there. Controversy over the use of the weapons emerged after the announcement that the munitions used in the Kosovo War may have contained plutonium, which is even more deadly than uranium.

India successfully test-fires its Agni intermediate-range ballistic missile. The test is the second of the upgraded version of the Agni missile, which has a 1,250 mile range. The test-fire prompts immediate concern from Pakistan, Japan, and the UK. Pakistanís Foreign Ministry states, "Indiaís test-firing today of its Agni II missile is part of its ambitious nuclear and missile program, which poses a direct threat to Pakistanís security and has been a matter of concern for the international community."

Sylvia Boyes and Keith Wright are cleared of the charge: "conspiracy to cause criminal damage" to one of Britainís Trident submarines. The two anti-nuclear activists, both members of Trident Ploughshares, admitted that they plotted to damage the HMS Vengeance, but they denied their actions constituted criminal charges, arguing that they were justifiable because nuclear weapons are immoral and illegal under international law. The HMS Vengeance is equipped to carry approximately one quarter of the UKís nuclear arsenal, and the protesters aimed to disarm the submarine in November 1999. The verdict was delivered by a Manchester jury and follows a string of acquittals in the UK of sabotage against military equipment. Anti-nuclear activists see such acquittals as highly significant in terms of setting a precedent for UK citizens to hold the government accountable to its obligations for nuclear disarmament.

The U.S. Navy completes what it considers a "successful" test-fire of a missile designed to track and intercept incoming missiles. The test, conducted in Barking Sands, Kauai, was not intended to hit a target, but rather to test the computerized tracking aboard the USS Lake Erie and assess the stability and control of the missiles. The USS Lake Erie, stationed at Pearl Harbor, has been relieved of all its other missions in order to serve as the test launch ship for the theater-wide missile defense program. The Navy has scheduled nine tests of the system, all of which will be conducted at the Pacific Missile Range on Kauai. Companion shorter-range missiles are being tested at White Sands, New Mexico, but are scheduled to be moved to Kauai in about two years.

Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev presents Russia's plans to build its own ballistic missile system to NATO Secretary-General George Robertson. The proposed Russian system would be based on using existing theater-range weapons that can destroy ballistic missiles in their "boost-phase." This differs from the U.S. plans to intercept incoming ballistic missiles in space. According to NATO officials, the Russian system under consideration would likely fall within the limits of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The ABM Treaty only permits the construction of anti-missile systems that would destroy incoming ballistic missiles with a limited range (3,500 km). The Russian proposal was welcomed by U.S. and NATO allies since they perceived it to signify Russiaís acknowledgment of the existence of missile proliferation threats. Despite increased international attention about the use of depleted uranium in munitions, the UK test-fires depleted uranium shells at a range off the coast of Scotland for the first time since the munitions were linked to a possible risk of cancer. The UK insists, along with the U.S. and some other NATO allies, that there is no proof the munitions pose any health risks. The UK Ministry of Defense justifies the use of depleted uranium shells as the only ammunition the British forces have for penetrating modern heavy armor effectively.

North Korea threatens to discard a moratorium on long-range missile tests. North Korea agreed in September 1999 to suspend missile tests for the duration of negotiations with the U.S. about North Korea's missile program, and in exchange, the U.S. agreed to ease sanctions and provide assistance to North Korea's nuclear energy program. The threats to disregard the missile test moratorium come after the Bush Administration announced it would take a "hard-line" policy with Pyongyang. A spokesman for the North Korean foreign ministry states, "The new US foreign and security team is making a fuss by saying it will take a hard-line stance on us. But this is an attempt to reverse the past course of conciliatory and cooperative relations between us and the United States, and break our will with force.We promised not to test-fire long-range missiles during the duration of talks on the missile issue, but we cannot do so indefinitely."

A German intelligence report claims that Iraq will have nuclear weapons capability within three years and will be able to fire a missile as far as Europe by 2005. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was visiting the Middle East when the German reports were released, reiterates to neighboring countries the need for continued UN sanctions on Iraq. Powell states, "We have to make sure that we do everything we can to contain him, constrain him, to get inspectors back in under the terms of the UN resolutions."

In an attempt to win approval for U.S. plans to deploy its controversial National Missile Defense (NMD) system, President Bush calls for a review to assess how deeply the U.S. nuclear arsenal can be reduced. Bush has stated that the U.S. can unilaterally reduce the number of offensive nuclear weapons in its arsenal.

A.Q. Khan is forced into early retirement in Pakistan as allegations increase about his involvement in nuclear materials proliferation. 

The New Zealand Herald reports that the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) admits that the rock of Mururoa Atoll is threatened with collapse because of sustained nuclear testing. Between 1966 and 1996, France exploded 178 nuclear bombs on Mururoa and Fangataufa Atolls. Of these, 137 were below ground explosions and 41 were atmospheric. An official spokesman for the CEA states: "We are observing an acceleration of the natural, seaward progression of certain perimeter areas in the northeastern zone, as well as compression at the surface. There has definitely been a weakening of the atoll rock that has been amplified by the nuclear tests." The atoll has been dotted with seismic sensors, linked to Paris by satellite, to give early warning of a major collapse.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the start of operations at the Air Born Laser (ABL) test facility in Sunnyvale, California, Air Force Col. Ellen Pawlikowski, the ABL System Program Director, states, "The Airborne Laser (ABL) is for real, and we are proceeding toward a shoot-down demonstration for late 2003." The high-energy laser is designed to locate and track missiles in their boost phase and then accurately point and fire the laser to destroy the missiles over adversary territory.

In a marked shift on missile defense policy, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder states, "With regard to the planned National Missile Defense (NMD), it would be necessary first of all to discuss specific needs. What threat scenarios are seen and how should we respond to them--with a purely national defense system or with a system that also includes Europe and does not exclude Russia? Only then a decision should be made on building the system and how to build it." Until recently, Germany and France had been the most outspoken critics among allies of the U.S. plans. However, now the German Chancellor proposes that Germany should take part in the technology and funding of an alliance missile defense system. France continues to oppose NMD as a destabilizing venture in military technology. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine has promoted the idea of Russia, China and Europe collectively urging the U.S. to halt its NMD plans.

President George W. Bush questions the truthfulness of North Korean officials in keeping in line with bilateral agreements. Reacting to the change in tone of the new administration, North Korea cancels ministerial-level talks with South Korea.

Russia announces that it would not immediately abandon the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty if the U.S. begins deploying a national missile defense shield, which Russia opposes. According to Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, head of the Russian Defense Ministryís International Cooperation Department, "Russia will not precipitate the collapse of the ABM. We will consult with European and other states and try to stop the process even after the United States clearly begins to deploy the system."

Minatom, Russiaís atomic energy agency, announces that it will build a floating nuclear power plant in Severodvink, a military port on Russiaís northern border. The country has repeatedly expressed a desire to build a floating nuclear plant in order to supply power to its northern and eastern regions where weather conditions make it difficult to construct land plants. Opponents of the sea-based nuclear power plant argue that while building such plants is feasible, there is concern over Russiaís ability to build and operate them safely. Russia currently has ten nuclear plants that produce approximately 12 percent of the nationís energy supply.

Pentagon officials announce that the Bush Administration let a deadline pass without notifying Congress of any intent to begin constructing a radar on Shemy Island, Alaska. According to the officials, in order to begin building, contracts would need to be in place by mid-April, and Congress required notification by March 16. No notification is made because there has not yet been a decision to proceed with construction. To proceed with construction of the radar site would mark the beginning of the proposed National Missile Defense system, and Pentagon officials said that the Bush administration is still examining its options.

In an interview with the London Sunday Telegraph, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld calls Russia "an active proliferator," sparking an uproar in Moscow. Rumsfeld accuses Russia of transferring sensitive technology to countries that the U.S. has branded "states of concern" such as North Korea, Iran, and Iraq.

Pakistan announces that it has evolved a three-point "nuclear doctrine." Reportedly, the doctrine includes a moratorium on further tests, a commitment by the country to keep its nuclear program to a "middle level," and a ban on the export of weapons or technology.

Former U.S. Senator Howard Baker, co-chair of a U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) Task Force, testifies in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that Russiaís nuclear weapons storage facilities are in poor shape and proposes that the U.S. help secure the facilities for its own security. Baker remarks, "It really boggles my mind that thousands of nuclear weapons are poorly stored and the world isnít in a state of hysteria." The DoE Task Force reports that U.S. budget levels for non-proliferation programs are inadequate and proposes funding up to $3 billion a year for the next ten years to secure nuclear weapons and materials in Russia.

Anti-nuclear protesters chain themselves to rail tracks forcing a train carrying nuclear waste to retreat near the end of its journey in northern Germany. The train, which was traveling from the French nuclear reprocessing plant at La Hague, was forced to retreat to Dahlenburg for refueling and maintenance because of the protesters who had attached themselves to the rail tracks. Recently, France has mounted pressure on Germany to reduce a backlog of German waste at the La Hague reprocessing plant. In response, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder lifted a ban on nuclear waste transports imposed in 1998 on safety grounds, and two transports are expected per year. The transports are part of a deal made with the electricity industry in 2000 to phase out Germanyís nineteen nuclear power plant reactors by 2025.

Russia announces that it is committed to nuclear cooperation with India and is working to overcome international hurdles to further supply nuclear reactors to India. Russia offers to supply four more nuclear reactors for the Koodankulam power station in addition to the two already negotiated several years ago. However, Russia, a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), is restricted from supplying the additional reactors as India refuses to place all of its nuclear programs under the "full-scope" safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In early 2001, Russia submitted a detailed report for the construction of two 1,000 kilowatt reactors at Koodankulam, which is expected to be signed later this year.

The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) reveals that radioactive waste from a nuclear research plant in Norway has been wrongly fed into a townís sewage system for nine years. As a result, some of the radioactive waste has ended up as farm fertilizer. The NRPA states that waste water was incorrectly linked in 1991 to a sewage system in Halden when it should have been pumped directly into the sea. The "plumbing" mistake was not rectified until 1999. Officials deny that there has been any risk to human health, but ecologists are demanding radiation tests for local farmers.

A Pentagon panel headed by Air Force General James McCarthy (Ret.) issues a report recommending that the Bush administration expand its missile defense plans to include sea- and space-based weapons. Although an aggressive missile defense plan will carry the risk of unforeseen costs and technical failures, the advisory panel recommends that the administration "accept program risk to facilitate early development." The panel also urges a "robust sea-based boost phase system" and the development of systems with ability to destroy enemy missiles at three stages of flight. Rear Admiral Craig Quigley stresses that the recommendations of the panel are not final, but rather part of an overall study examining the "different aspects of national security transformation." Russia announces continued nuclear cooperation with India even though India is not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and does not adhere to comprehensive safeguards standards.

Puerto Rico files a suit against the U.S. Navy, attempting to halt military exercises citing that shelling the island is a health risk to 9,000 residents of Vieques. The suit seeks to force Navy compliance with a new law that would block ship-to-shore shelling by setting a maximum noise level of 190 decibels, a level exceeded during the Navyís exercises in Vieques.

Phil Goff, Foreign and Trade Minister of New Zealand, urges the U.S. to halt its national missile defense plans. While visiting Moscow and talking with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Goff states, "While New Zealand understands the stated American wish to protect itself from nuclear attack from a rogue state, we believe the best security against any nuclear attack is to fulfill the objectives of the Non-Proliferation Treaty." Goff also states that New Zealand would support any measure to reduce nuclear arsenals, and he hopes that "missile defense would not provide a barrier to progress in all areas of nuclear disarmament."

The Pakistan government announces that, due to financial constraints, it will cut 25 percent of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commissionís (PAEC) budget. According to Finance Ministry officials, ten percent of the cuts will come from the classified budget used for the countryís nuclear and missile research program. The remaining 15 percent will affect the PAECís open general budget.

After clearing away about a hundred protesters blocking the road, Germany begins transporting its first nuclear waste shipment in three years to the UK. The shipment, originating in southern Germany, will be sent to the Sellafield reprocessing plant in northwest England by rail. Germany has no nuclear reprocessing facilities of its own. The nuclear waste transports are part of a deal that the German government made with the nuclear industry in 2000 to phase out Germanyís nineteen nuclear reactors by 2025.

After a U.S. federal judge ruled on April 26 that the U.S. Navy could proceed with military exercises on Vieques, Navy officials confirm that exercises involving 500-pound bombs have resumed. The Department of Defense announces that it will "continue to examine alternative approaches to training that would permit it to reduce the need for Vieques to the absolute minimum necessary beyond May 2003."

U.S. President George W. Bush outlines U.S. missile defense plans in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. He calls for "a new framework that allows us [the U.S.] to build missile defense to counter the different threats of todayís world." Bush states the U.S. must "move beyond the constraints of the 30-year-old ABM Treaty," a treaty that he believes, "enshrines the past." Bush states he is also prepared to move quickly to unilaterally reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal to a "credible deterrent with the lowest possible number of nuclear weapons consistent with our national security needs, including our obligations to our allies." However, Bush emphasizes that nuclear weapons continue to play a vital role in the security of the U.S. and its allies. According to Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has identified available technologies and near-term options that will allow the U.S. to deploy an initial capability against limited threats, in some cases based on established technologies involving land- and sea-based technologies to intercept missiles in mid-course or missiles after re-entering the atmosphere. Bush also claims that his administration recognizes the "substantial advantages of intercepting missiles early in flight, especially in the boost phase. The preliminary work has produced some promising options for advanced sensors and interceptors that may provide this capability."

Senior ranking Democrats respond with criticism to U.S. President Bushís speech on May 1. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-Delaware) states, "To abandon the ABM with the hope to get that [missile defense] capacity somewhere down the line would damage the security interests of the United States." Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) states, "Many in the administration . . . argue that deploying an ineffective defense can still be an effective system simply because it would cause uncertainty in the minds of our adversaries. That position is based on the flawed assumption that a president would be willing to gamble our nationís security on a bluff, and that no adversary would be willing or able to call such a bluff. Instead of increasing our security, pursuing a strategy that cannot achieve its goal could leave our nation less secure and our world less stable." In response to Bushís speech on  May 1, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan states that U.S. plans for missile defenses will inevitably impact global security and strategic stability. The statement welcomes the willingness of the Bush Administration to consult with other members of the international community. The statement for the Secretary-General continues, "there is a need to consolidate and build upon existing disarmament and non-proliferation agreements, specifically to prevent a new arms race and to maintain the non-weaponized status of outer space." It appeals to all States to "engage in negotiations towards legally binding disarmament agreements that are both verifiable and irreversible."

The HMS Tireless, a British nuclear submarine that has been docked in Gibraltar for nearly a year, leaves the harbor accompanied by Royal Navy patrol vessels. The submarine was docked in Gibraltar for repairs after a crack was found in a cooling pipe near the shipís nuclear reactor. Although the British government insisted that the presence of the submarine did not pose a risk to the population or the environment, the government still removed the remaining twelve submarines in the fleet to check for similar design faults.

A Japanese foreign ministry official states that regional or theater missile defense (TMD) is vital for Japanís defense policy. Japan first began to explore the idea of a joint TMD system with the U.S. after North Korea test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan in 1998. The joint U.S.-Japanese development of a TMD system has sparked concern in China, because the system could be extended over Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province. China has repeatedly warned against strengthened military ties between the U.S. and Japan, because it fears that the ties could be aimed at protecting Taiwan in the event of Chinese military action.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reports that the mining of colombo tantalite, known as coltan, in eastern Congo is driving lowland gorillas to extinction and destroying national parks. Coltan is used in mobile phones, micro-chips, and nuclear reactors. According to a WWF statement, "The coltan mining activities in Kahuzi-Biega National Park and Okapi Wildlife Reserve are quickly driving the eastern lowland gorillas to the precipice of extinction." Kahuzi-Biega is home to 110 to 130 of the eastern lowland gorilla, one of three sub-species of gorilla, all of which are threatened. The population has nearly been halved from 250 in 1996. Additionally, the Okapi reserve, named after a relative of the giraffe, is the only protected area in the world for the animal, which is also threatened with extinction.

Russia loses contact with four military satellites for part of the day after a fire ravaged a ground relay station southwest of Moscow. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, a short circuit triggered the fire in the complex located underground. The fire demonstrates rising concern about failures in Russia's aging early-warning satellite system, which provides assurances against false nuclear launch alerts.

In a letter written to UN Secretary-General Koffi Annan, Iraqís Ambassador to the UN Mohammed Aldouri, states that his country initially conceived the idea of a radiological bomb in 1987 at a time when Iraq was engaged in a war with Iran. The bomb was intended to cause slow death through radiation sickness, but Iraq never successfully developed the device. Radiological weapons differ from nuclear weapons in that they rely on conventional explosives to diffuse radioactive material into the air, causing death or sickness through radiation poisoning. Aldouri states in his letter, "Iraqi specialists explored the technical and practical aspects of this idea, and they ascertained it was not feasible."

The Russian Duma fully ratifies a treaty to turn plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons into fuel for use in civilian nuclear reactors. However, the government states that without international funding from the U.S. and Western partners, the program will not become a reality. In June 2000, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an agreement to convert 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium into civilian reactor fuel over the next twenty-five years. Minatom, Russiaís Atomic Energy Agency, reported in April 2000 that the U.S. and Western partners have only offered $600 million of the $2 billion needed to build plutonium salvaging plants.

During an official visit by Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, Pakistanís military ruler Pervez Musharraf criticizes U.S. ballistic missile defense plans. Musharraf states, "We are against any action that re-initiates a nuclear and missile race." Pakistanís criticism of the U.S. national missile defense scheme immediately follows Indiaís announcement during a visit by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage on May 11 that it supports U.S. missile defense plans.

The UK Ministry of Defense admits that it exposed British, Australian, and New Zealand servicemen to radiation in tests during the 1950s and 1960s. A spokesperson for the Ministry denies that the soldiers were used as guinea pigs, stating that each man gave his consent to participate. The experiments tested the effectiveness of protective clothing during radiation experiments. According to the Ministry of Defense, officers were ordered to walk, run, and crawl through contaminated nuclear test sites at Monte Bello Island and Maralinga to determine what types of clothing would give best protection against radioactive contamination. Both the Australian and New Zealand governments are demanding a full inquiry into the experiments and have announced that they will examine links between illnesses suffered by servicemen and exposure to radiation.

U.S. President George W. Bush reveals a new energy plan for the country. The White House National Energy Policy Development Group worked for three months under Vice President Dick Cheney to compile 105 recommendations. Among other controversial recommendations, the plan contains proposals to boost nuclear energy supplies. Proposals include: reviving technology that would allow spent fuel from nuclear reactors to be reused, a project that was abandoned in the 1970s, because it was considered a nuclear proliferation threat; pursuing a permanent nuclear waste repository, despite ongoing controversy over the current site proposed at Yucca Mountain in Nevada; reauthorizing the Price Anderson Act, which dramatically limits nuclear industry liability in case of an accident; and streamlining regulatory approval to expedite re-licensing of reactors and licensing of new reactors.

 Although previously thought to be used for the first time during the Gulf War, the Australian government confirms that more than eight tons of depleted uranium was blasted into the air during nuclear tests at Maralinga in the 1950s. The government is preparing a study of those who may have been affected, including soldiers and Aboriginal and civilian populations in the area at the time of testing. The findings of the study will determine eligibility for compensation under military or safety stipulations. An Australian royal commission first discovered the use of depleted uranium in atomic tests at Maralinga about fourteen years ago, but the government failed to take any action at the time.

Democratic Senator Richard Durbin (Illinois) tells reporters that many in Congress question President Bushís missile defense plans. According to Durbin, "Many of us question its reliability. Many of us view it as a Maginot Line.and many of us wonder if the cost of international security is worth the price."

Unable to reach an agreement on the future of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, a NATO ministerial meeting in Budapest, Hungary drops all references to the treaty in the final communique of the meeting. Although NATO commits to intensifying discussions on security challenges of the 21st century, the U.S. fails to convince Europeans that the Alliance faces a common missile threat. While the Alliance agrees that the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and the means of their delivery pose risks to international and regional security, NATOís principle non-proliferation goal is to prevent proliferation from occurring or to reverse proliferation through diplomatic means, should it occur. The exclusion of addressing a "common threat" from rogue nations in the final communique signifies U.S. difficulty in convincing its allies of the need for a missile shield.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov denies that the U.S. was seeking a trade-off with Russia to amend the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in exchange for missile sales. Reports surfaced on May 28 that the U.S. plans offer Russia military aid, joint anti-missile exercises, and possible arms purchases to pacify Russiaís objections to the U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system. Ivanov states that the two issues are completely separate and that "the appearance of this well-known speculation of a proposal from the American side does not change our position on strategic stability, in particular the ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] treaty."

After reports appear in British newspapers that some 6,000 stillborn babies and dead infants were sent to the UK and U.S. from hospitals in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, South America, the UK, and the U.S. between the 1950s and 1970s without the permission of parents for use in nuclear experiments, the Australian government launches an investigation into the claims. According to the reports, the U.S. Department of Energy used the bodies and some body parts for tests to monitor radioactivity levels of the element Strotium 90 in humans. University of Chicago physician Willard Libby started "Project Sunshine" in 1955, appealing for bodies, preferably stillborn or newly-born babies, to test the impact of an atomic bomb fallout. Libby later received a Nobel Prize for his research in carbon dating. The Observer, a British newspaper, states that British scientists also conducted tests on babies sent from Hong Kong, and the research did not end until the 1970s. A government spokesman for Hong Kong announces that his country will investigate further. (source: Reuters )

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences releases a report stating that after four decades of study, deep underground burial is the only scientifically credible, long-term solution for safely isolating radioactive waste without having to rely on active management. The Academy initiated the study entitled, "Disposition of High-Level Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel: The Continuing Societal and Technical Challenges," after discovering that many countries were experiencing difficulties and delays in plans for geological disposal of nuclear waste.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the nationís leading energy companies formally sign an agreement to shut down the countryís nineteen civilian nuclear power reactors. The agreement limits nuclear plants to an average of thirty-two years of operation. The power plants will be phased out over the next two decades with the most modern plants likely closing around 2021. The Cabinet and the Parliament still must approve the agreement. Nuclear power currently provides about one third of Germanyís energy supply.

The Bush administration lifts sanctions imposed on India after it conducted nuclear weapons tests in May 1998. By lifting the sanctions imposed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the Bush administration seeks to expand military and economic ties to the worldís most populous democracy. The U.S. action also acknowledges that India does not intend to give up its nuclear arsenal.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell announces that the U.S. will abandon the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty when the government decides that the curbs on missile defense are blocking U.S. technology. Powell states, "If there is no ABM Treaty tomorrow, there is no nation thatís going to run out and start making nuclear weapons. We are going to move forward with missile defense." Powell also states that the U.S. cannot allow the constraints of the treaty to bind American technology.

The Russian Foreign Ministry reports a nuclear explosion on June 21 caused four deaths and three injuries. A previous report stated that there was only one death and seven injured. The explosion, which was reportedly self-generated, occurred in the calcium reprocessing area of the Tchepetski factory in Glazov, Russia. The factory specializes in manufacturing zirconium alloys and enriched uranium.

The Sunday Times (UK) reports that around 45,000 people, mainly Soviet soldiers, were deliberately exposed in 1954 to radiation from a bomb twice as powerful as the one dropped on Hiroshima just nine years before. At 9:33 a.m. on September 14, 1954, a Soviet Tu-4 bomber dropped a 40,000-ton atomic weapon from 25,000 feet. The bomb exploded 1,200 feet above the Totskoye testing range near the provincial town of Orenburg. Thousands are believed to have died in the immediate aftermath and in the years following. The pilot flying the Tu-4 bomber developed leukemia and his co-pilot developed bone cancer. Marshal Georgi Zhukov, Stalinís most senior World War II Commander, safely witnessed the blast from an underground nuclear bunker. Moments after the blast, Zhukov ordered 600 tanks, 600 armored personnel carriers and 320 planes to move forward to the epicenter in order to stage a mock battle. The experiment was designed to test the performance of military hardware and soldiers in the event of a nuclear war.

Newsweek magazine reports that U.S. President George W. Bush was stunned when he learned of the extent of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. According to the report, Bush stated, "I had no idea we had so many weapons. What do we need them for?"

According to the London-based Al Hayat newspaper, Israel successfully tests a secret launch of the Jericho II medium-range ballistic missile. The test takes place at the Palmahim missile range located south of Tel Aviv. The sources claim that the solid-fuel rocket is capable of hitting every Arab capitol in the region. Officials from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the Defense Ministry refuse to comment on the report of the launch.

Russia test-fires a 26-year-old ballistic missile, signaling to the U.S. that the weapon could regain life as a "hydra-headed" or MIRVed countermeasure if the U.S. proceeds with plans for a national missile defense (NMD). The Stiletto missile, built between the mid-1970s and 80s, can carry a payload of more than four tons. An official in the Russian Rocket Forces states that the Stiletto could be re-equipped to carry as many as six warheads.

The Honolulu Star Bulletin reports that STARS, a dormant missile program that was initiated in Kauai in the 1990s, has resurfaced without public announcement of the revived program. Because of controversy raised by environmentalists and native Hawaiians, only four Strategic Target missiles, also called STARS missiles, were ever fired. However, with growing Pentagon persistence to develop hit-to-kill technology, the STARS program has been revived. Only five copies of the STARS environmental assessment, published on April 11, were sent to Hawaii, three of which went to public libraries. Librarians stated that no one has read the assessment. One copy was sent to the Navyís Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, but the public affairs officer said she has not seen it. The fifth copy was sent to the National Marine Fisheries Service. No copies were sent to the Hawaii office of Environmental Quality Control, which publishes a monthly newsletter listing all environmental assessments and impact statements statewide that are open for public comment. The STARS program falls under the management of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. A copy of the North Pacific Targets Program Environmental Assessment can be accessed online at http://www.huntsville.edaw.com/northpacific/

The U.S. State Department announces that North Korea is developing long-range missiles. 

North Korea threatens that it will reconsider a missile test moratorium if Washington doesn't resume contacts aimed at normalizing relations. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin repeats an offer to the U.S. to reduce Russiaís nuclear arsenal from 6,000 warheads to 1,500, provided there is a controlled process of elimination and that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty remains intact. Putin reiterates the offer while meeting with French President Jacque Chirac. The two leaders issue a joint statement on international strategic issues. The statement notes that destruction of the ABM Treaty could lead to a new arms race, and also that an international conference on nuclear proliferation would be useful.

A serious accident at the Chapelcross nuclear reactor in Annan, Scotland sends twenty-four radioactive fuel rods crashing to the floor, nearly causing the deaths of plant workers and the release of a radioactive cloud, which would have contaminated the entire region. The accident occurs when engineers are routinely removing irradiated uranium fuel rods by remote control from reactor three. After trying to attach a cylinder containing twenty-four rods to a crane, the cylinder came loose and fell two-and-a-half feet onto the shaft door.

The Advanced Patriot or PAC-3, a theater missile defense system, fails an intercept test at the White Sands Missile Test Range in New Mexico. The test is the first failure after seven previous controlled test flights. The Army is testing and developing the PAC-3 system for deployment in 2001 and is planning to conduct at least seven more tests of the system.

Reports leak from the U.S. Air Force concluding that a 7,600 pound nuclear weapon, dropped off the coast of Georgia in 1958, should be left undisturbed beneath the ocean floor and remain categorized as irretrievably lost. Among the reportís findings: the bomb is 8 to 40 feet deep and buried beneath 5 to 15 feet of mud and sand, a distance which the Air Force considers "safely clear" of boats; if left undisturbed, the largest risk is heavy metal contamination, but that would not be harmful to drinking water; explosives inside the bomb should not spontaneously ignite, but if it did explode, shock waves would not exceed 1,000 feet; and weapon recovery would be hazardous to personnel.

Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduces a Bill into Congress to establish a U.S. Department of Peace. The Bill, H.R. 2459, is a far-seeing piece of legislation that would dramatically change the U.S. governmentís approach to peace and war. The Department of Peace would have a cabinet level Secretary of Peace, and would be concerned with both international and domestic aspects of peace.

Edward McCallum, the former Chief Security Officer at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant, testifies to a U.S. federal judge that the plant had serious security problems five years ago, and the U.S. government barred investigators from looking into complaints for a month. McCallum, now an anti-terrorism official in the Defense Department, said that plant workers who complained about security problems faced retaliation from the federal government if they exposed security risks. 

Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) states, "It is not whether we will deploy missile defense, but how and when. I hope we can have bi-partisan support."

The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) conducts the fourth national missile defense (NMD) intercept flight test. Pentagon officials claim that the test is both a success and a failure. According to preliminary Pentagon findings, the X-band radar did help the "kill vehicle" find its target in the test, but the system froze after the interception, because it was inundated with data from debris created by the collision. Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, a spokesperson for the BMDO, said the problem was not major and could be rectified by rewriting the software. He contended that overall, the test proved that the X-band radar works. However, after reports from media surfaced, Pentagon officials also admitted that they had equipped the target missile with an electronic beaming device in order to direct the kill vehicle to it. Critics argued that the failure was more significant than the Pentagon admitted, and it demonstrated that the X-band radar could be easily confounded by tiny scraps of metal or chaff on an incoming ballistic missile.

In a move described by environmentalists as a "nightmare," British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) unveils plans to build an above-ground nuclear waste dump the size of a football stadium in the heart of Snowdonia National Park in the UK. The building is expected to cost nearly $75 million U.S. dollars and will store reactor parts from the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station, which was decommissioned in 1993. Current laws in the UK prohibit the construction of nuclear power plants in national parks. However, Trawsfynydd was authorized before the creation of Snowdonia National Park. BNFL says that is has no alternative plans to building the storage facility as the UK has no central nuclear waste dump.

A 47-year-old nuclear power plant worker and his girlfriend are detained in Germany for smuggling plutonium and contaminated wash towels out of a nuclear reprocessing facility in Karlsruhe. According to German police reports, the man was not aware that a bottle he smuggled out of the plant earlier this year contained plutonium. He said he smuggled the items out in order to show how slack security checks at the plant are.

The Yucca Mountains are approved for nuclear waste disposal in the United States.

Australia and Argentina sign a nuclear waste treaty paving the way for Australian nuclear waste to be shipped and processed in the South American country. An Argentine firm, INVEP SE, was also recently contracted by the Australian government to replace an aging research reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney. Australia currently sends spent nuclear fuel to France for reprocessing, but under the new treaty, Argentina will take the spent nuclear fuel if France is unable to do so. The treaty also will allow cooperation in nuclear research between Australia and Argentina.

In an effort to keep plutonium shipments from entering South Carolina, the state governor, Jim Hodges, orders troopers and other safety workers to be trained to block shipments expected to begin in October. The Department of Energy (DoE) plans to ship 2,000 drums of plutonium from Colorado to the Savannah River Site. Mr. Hodges is refusing to allow the shipments into his state until the DoE agrees to a legally enforceable long-term plan for removing the material.

Paul Robinson, President and Laboratories Director of Sandia National Laboratories, states, "The creation of nuclear weapons may yet prove to be a blessing to mankind, rather than a curse. Their overwhelming destructive force has proved to be a sobering force that can compel all sides to ícome to their sensesí before the world again experiences such losses as both world wars produced."

The Bush administration gives Russia an unofficial deadline of November to agree to modifications in the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, or the U.S. will unilaterally withdraw from the accord. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and Disarmament John Bolton states in an interview on Russian Radio that the U.S. plans to resolve its strategy for withdrawal from the treaty before Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with President Bush this fall.

President George W. Bush announces to elementary school children in Crawford, Texas that "We [the U.S.] will withdraw from the ABM Treaty on our timetable at a time convenient to America."

President George W. Bush appoints General Richard Myers, an expert in hi-tech computer and space warfare, as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Myers is a former head of the U.S. Space Command. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Myers will play a central role in U.S. national security policy planning. His appointment to the position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Americaís top military officer, reflects the resolve of the Bush administration to develop and deploy a missile defense system and to weaponize outer space.

The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) admits for the first time some details of seven politically sensitive accidents involving British nuclear weapons. However, the MoD admits that it is only releasing partial information, drawing attention to an institution shrouded in secrecy and cover-up. According to the MoD, a full description of these incidents cannot be released to protect the "operational security" of the weapons. The MoD insists that the accidents did not endanger public safety since none of the weapons were damaged or leaked radioactive material.

A coalition of eight environmental and public health organizations file a suit against the U.S. federal government seeking to block President George W. Bushís plans for a National Missile Defense system. The coalition hopes to halt the Pentagonís plans for construction of missile test sites and launch sites in Alaska by ordering a new environmental health impact study. The lawsuit claims that the Department of Defense failed to complete an environmental impact statement for construction of a missile launch test site at Fort Greely, Alaska.

Greenlandís home rule welcomes an upgrade of the U.S. radar station on the Arctic island as part of the U.S. missile defense plans under the provision that the plans do not have an offensive purpose. In the softening of its position in regard to the upgrade, the home rule urged the U.S. to compromise with Russia and China on its strategy and not to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Greenland is considered a territory of the Danish government, which is responsible for its foreign, security, and defense policy. Current U.S. missile defense plans will require extended use of the U.S. Thule air base located in the northwestern part of Greenland. Built in the 1950s, the base is part of a chain of radar facilities that extends from Alaska to the UK and plays a crucial role in U.S. missile defense plans.

Terrorists high-jack four U.S. jetliners and crash two into the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City, one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and one crashes in Pennsylvania.

Delegates from 132 nations attending an annual International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conference in Vienna, Austria call for tightened security. They also note the need to make sure nuclear materials are kept out of the hands of terrorists. Most nuclear power plants were built during the 1960s and 1970s and were designed to withstand only accidental impacts from smaller aircraft widely used at the time. A U.S. official states that a direct hit of a nuclear plant by a modern-day jumbo jet traveling at high speed "could result in a Chernobyl situation." According to the IAEA, if an airliner hit a nuclear power plant, the reactor would not explode, but the strike could destroy the plantís cooling systems, causing the nuclear fuel storage tanks to overheat and produce a steam explosion that would release lethal radioactivity into the atmosphere.

Both nuclear fuel reprocessing plants at Sellafield in Cumbria, UK are shut down due to high level nuclear waste reaching unacceptable levels. The UK Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), a government regulator, has been critical of British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) for failure to deal with heat producing waste, the most dangerous material stored at the plant. Despite attempts to reduce the amount of liquid waste, the plant has broken down repeatedly and been out of operation for most of this year.

"Oboe 8," the last in the "Oboe" series of subcritical nuclear tests is detonated at the Nevada Test Site, eighty miles north of Las Vegas, NV. The "Oboe" subcritical tests were prepared by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, California and detonated some 1,000 feet underground in a specially made reusable chamber. Although subcritical nuclear tests are not considered full nuclear tests, because they do not achieve a self-sustained chain reaction, the tests do involve high explosives blown up with fissile material (usually plutonium). Sophisticated equipment records data from the test that is later fed into computers.

The UK Atomic Energy Authority admits that thigh bones were removed from the bodies of dead babies for testing, without parentsí consent, from 3,400 children between 1954 and 1970. The bones were collected from hospitals throughout the UK to allow scientists to establish what effect the fallout from nuclear tests being carried out around the world was having on health. Doctors feared that the radioactive fallout from nuclear tests was contaminating milk and could be building up to dangerous levels in childrenís bones. After incineration, the bones were analyzed for the presence of the radioactive isotope strontium-90, a chemical that works in the same way as calcium. Member of Parliament Hilton Dawson (Lancaster) is calling for a full inquiry into reports that the Lancaster Royal Infirmary was involved in the research project between 1955 and 1971.

David Lappa, a former nuclear engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), who was harassed for refusing to cover up nuclear safety violations, settles his whistleblower lawsuit against the lab for $250,000. Lappa worked at LLNL for twenty years and continued to raise safety concerns to his managers and federal authorities about serious and repeated violations of plutonium safe-handling requirements at the facilities. Lappa claimed that he was forced to resign after harassment became intolerable.

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) releases a report stating that the ten U.S. nuclear weapons research and production facilities are vulnerable to a terrorist attack and have failed about half of recent security drills. In exercises designed to test security, U.S. Army and Navy teams successfully penetrated nuclear facilities and obtained nuclear materials. U.S. government security regulations require that nuclear facilities defend themselves against the theft of nuclear materials by terrorists or through sabotage. Nine of the ten weapons facilities are within 100 miles of cities with more than 75,000 people. Eight of the ten weapons facilities contain a total of 33.5 metric tons of plutonium. It only takes a few pounds of plutonium to create a nuclear bomb.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approves the site suitability study to build an underground dump for radioactive spent fuel from nuclear power plants at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) submitted the site suitability study to the NRC. The Bush administration must now submit the plan to Congress for approval. If approved, Yucca Mountain would become the recipient of thousands of tons of radioactive waste for an estimated 10,000 years.

Charles Curtis, former Deputy Energy Secretary in the Clinton administration and President of the Nuclear Threat Initiative states that missing Russian suitcase bombs are still a concern. He states, "We believe we have a full accounting of all of Russiaís strategic weapons, but when it comes to tactical weapons--the suitcase variety--we do not know, and Iím not sure they do, either." In May 1997, then Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed revealed to U.S. Congressmen visiting Moscow that Russia once had between 80 and 100 suitcase-size, one kiloton atomic demolition weapons. He said that the KGB ordered the weapons to be built in the 1970s, and he also told the Congressmen that the weapons were missing. The Russian government at first denied the existence of such weapons, later saying that if the weapons were built, they were accounted for.

Leading Russian scientists specializing in the field of strategic security release a report entitled, "The lowering of the level of combat readiness of the nuclear forces of Russia and the United States." The report found that the possibility of launching an accidental nuclear war could only be effectively reduced by taking nuclear weapons off their high level of continuous combat readiness. Key points of the report will be discussed at the Russian Academy of Sciences in the near future.

Ireland takes legal action against the British government for giving the go-ahead to open a Mixed Oxide (MOX) nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield on the Cumbrian Coast of Ireland. Ireland claims that the plant will violate international laws on sea pollution. Officials also express concern that they received no information about a safety review of the site, especially in light of the September 11 events. Irish Ministers demand that the British Government voluntarily suspend the authorization of the MOX plant by November 9, or they will ask the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to order an immediate suspension of the authorization of the plant until it can be reviewed by an arbitration panel.

Representative Steven Buyer (R-Indiana) calls on the Bush administration to deploy mini nuclear weapons against Osama bin Laden. Buyer calls for the use of tactical nuclear devices on caves in Afghanistan where bin Laden and other members of the Al Qaeda network are reportedly hiding. In a television interview, Buyer says he doesnít just want to kill bin Laden and his cohorts but also send a message to the rest of the world that the U.S. is willing to use nuclear weapons on the battlefield. He states, "I just want the [Bush] administration to know that I think the United States needs to send a message to the world that we are prepared to do that."

The Ukraine destroys its last nuclear missile silo, fulfilling its pledge to give up the nuclear arsenal it inherited after the dissolution of the USSR. Under the U.S.-Ukrainian Cooperative Threat Reduction, the silo is blown up at a military range in the southern Mykolaiv region near Pervomaisk. The land underneath the silo will now be cleaned up and converted to agricultural use.

Weapons experts testify to attendees of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conference in Vienna, Austria that terrorists could use a nuclear device. Speakers at the conference suggest that western countries, in particular the U.S., should accelerate efforts to protect nuclear materials that could, if they havenít already, fall into the hands of terrorists. Mohamed El Baradei, IAEA Director General, states that in the wake of the September 11 events, the IAEA has expanded its concerns about nuclear materials getting into clandestine weapons programs, not only in states that sponsor terrorism, but also into the hands of extremist groups. ElBaradei called for international unity to create universal minimum security standards for nuclear plants and materials. Currently, standards are largely left to individual countries. The IAEA is requesting $30 million to $50 million to step up safety work in securing nuclear materials globally.

The U.S. seeks for a procedural decision at the UN to keep the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) off the agenda of the UN General Assembly. The U.S. loses the vote by 140 to 1. The U.S. also votes against a resolution introduced by Japan on nuclear disarmament, which stresses the importance of taking practical steps to implement Article VI of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including the early entry into force of the CTBT.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf orders an emergency redeployment of the countryís nuclear arsenal to at least six secret new locations. Pakistanís nuclear arsenal is moved for fear of theft or strikes against the countryís nuclear facilities, and also to remove its nuclear arsenal from bases that might be used by the United States.

Delegates from 118 countries attend the UN Conference to Advance the Entry Into Force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Japanese Ambassador Nobuyasu Abe calls the treaty "a practical and concrete measure for realizing a nuclear-weapon-free world." The U.S., who has not ratified the treaty, boycotts the conference.

President George W. Bush signs into law a bill that provides $804 million for non-proliferation efforts for the U.S. Fiscal Year 2002 budget, approximately $70 million less than was allocated in the Fiscal Year 2001.

At the beginning of a three day U.S.-Russian summit, President George W. Bush pledges to reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal to between 1,700 and 2,200 strategic nuclear weapons over a period of ten years. Russian President Vladimir Putin says that he will "respond in kind." The Bush pledge leaves out tactical nuclear weapons and those maintained in a hedge stockpile. Bushís unilateral pledge is not binding on future U.S. presidents and is therefore reversible. It also does come down to even the level of 1,500 strategic warheads President Putin had previously and repeatedly offered.

Representative Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) introduces legislation requiring the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to have supplies of potassium iodide within 200 miles of each of the 103 operating nuclear power plants in the United States. If passed, the bill would also require the NRC to stock potassium iodide at individual homes and public facilities within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant. Potassium iodide has been shown to protect the bodyís thyroid gland from diseases related to radiation exposure and must be taken within several hours after exposure to be effective. In addition, Markey is urging U.S. lawmakers to pass measures that would increase security at nuclear power plants in the wake of the September 11 events.

The Izhora Factory, the only Russian factory capable of making a complete nuclear reactor, ships its first reactor body to Iran. The reactor has been under construction for three years. In 1995, Russia signed a contract with Iran to build the first reactor at Iranís Bushehr power plant. It is expected to be completed in 2003 at an estimated cost of USD $800 million.

Mohammed Malik and Diaa Mohsen plead guilty to U.S. federal charges of attempting to illegally export $32 million in missiles, military weaponry, and other arms. The defendants were arrested last June after inspecting a Stinger missile and silencer-equipped M-16 at a warehouse in West Palm Beach, Florida. The prosecution has yet to announce the intended buyers, but Mohsenís attorney stated that negotiations were being carried out with undisclosed Egyptians.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Spaced Based Infrared System, a key component of the controversial National Missile Defense (NMD) system, is over cost and well behind schedule. Also known as the SBIRS High, the radar system is intended to detect whether an attack has been launched against the United States. Lockheed Martinís space systemís unit based in Sunnyvale, California is developing the system. Northrop Grumman also plays a major role in the design of the $2.6 billion program. According to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), the problems with the SBIRS High program will not delay the deployment of the NMD system.

The UK Ministry of Defense publishes details about the transport of nuclear weapons and plutonium throughout the country on the Ministry of Defense website intended to assist police, fire brigades, and city councils in drafting emergency plans in case of an accident. The Ministry of Defense receives criticism for the report entitled "Defence Nuclear Materials Transport Contingency Arrangements," because opponents argue that the report could offer potential terrorists a guide to the rail lines, roads, and airports used for nuclear materials. The report details security for nuclear convoys. It also lists UK military nuclear reactor factories and test sites and for the first time where "special nuclear materials" such as weapons-grade uranium and plutonium would travel. In addition, the publication reveals that a warhead is unstable if heated. According to the report, "If weapon is jetting (flames under pressure) explosion may be imminent, debris may be scattered within 600 meter radius."

As a precaution against suicide attacks, France increases the number of surface-to-air missiles near La Hague, Europeís largest nuclear waste reprocessing plant. In October, the French Defense Ministry announced that radar systems capable of detecting low-flying planes and surface-to-air missiles had been positioned at La Hague as well as at Il Longue, a military base for nuclear submarines off the Brittany coast in northwest France. A top regional official states that the measure was purely precautionary in light of the events of September 11 in the United States.

Power line failures force the last operating reactor at Chernobyl to be shut down. The reactor is due to be shut down permanently on December 15, and Energy Sector officials state that there would be no point in turning it back on before that date. The reactor was providing about 5 percent of the Ukraineís electricity demands and was closed because Western states have pledged to fund other sources of power.

The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) urges the Bush administration to indefinitely postpone a decision on creating a permanent nuclear waste storage site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada because of serious questions regarding if it could ever be built as it is currently conceived. A new GAO report states that it will take until January 2006 to complete the detailed research, cost estimates, and resolutions to outstanding issues before the administration could responsibly designate the site. According to the report, "[The] DoE is not ready to make a site recommendation because it does not yet have all the technical information needed for a recommendation and a subsequent license application." Furthermore, the report also warns that officials may be showing plans to lawmakers and Nevada residents that "may not describe the facilities that the DoE would actually develop."

The U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) conducts the fifth test of the controversial National Missile Defense (NMD) system. The test was originally scheduled to take place on December 1, but it was delayed twice because of bad weather. While the Pentagon claims the test was a success, critics argue that the interceptor received precise location data, making the test unrealistic. Lt. General Ronald Kadish, head of the BMDO, said that the test was only designed to test certain parts of the system and was not meant to be realistic. Each of the five tests to date of the NMD system have cost $100 million.

Russian television reports that police arrested seven people accused of trying to sell more than two pounds of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium. The people were arrested in Balashikha, a town southeast of Moscow. They were trying to sell a capsule of Uranium-235 for $30,000. The suspects were charged with illegal handling of nuclear materials. If confirmed, the seizure would be the first acknowledged case of weapons-grade nuclear material theft in Russia. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, police have regularly seized nuclear material stolen by people in order to make a profit. However, previously acknowledged cases have only involved low-grade uranium.

India tests an improved version of its nuclear-capable, surface-to-surface Prithvi missile from a remote testing center at Chandipur, 750 miles southeast of New Delhi. The five-ton missile has a range of up to 155 miles and can be fitted with a nuclear warhead. It is an advance on an earlier version test-fired in May of this year.

President George W. Bush serves formal notice to Russia that the U.S. is withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and proceeding with plans to develop and deploy the controversial National Missile Defense (NMD) system prohibited by the treaty. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov responds saying that the decision is regrettable, however, "Russia can be unconcerned with its defense systems. Maybe other nations should be concerned if the U.S. chooses to abandon the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty." Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue states, "Weíve taken note of the relevant reports and express our concern. China is not in favor of missile defense systems. China worries about the negative impact. We think the relevant sides [of the ABM Treaty] should seek through constructive dialogue a solution that safeguards the global strategic balance and doesnít harm international efforts at arms control and disarmament."