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  Timeline of the Nuclear Age 2000s  2003


India announces that it has set up a nuclear command system and that nuclear retaliatory attacks could be authorized only by the civilian political leadership through the new Nuclear Command Authority, headed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Air Marshal T. M. Asthana has been appointed to head the country’s first nuclear forces command, a subsection of the Command Authority.

Israel carries out its first successful, though largely simulated, test of the Arrow missile defense system off of Israel’s Mediterranean coast, according to Arieh Hertzog, director of Israel’s missile defense program. The test was carried out in preparation for an expected U.S. war with Iraq.

M. Hatta Rajasa, the Indonesian Research and Technology Minister, announces that Indonesia could build its first nuclear power station by 2015 to meet the energy needs of its growing population. Indonesia first planned to build nuclear power plants in the early 1990’s, but the plan was abandoned in 1997 due to public concern.

Roberto Amaral, Brazil’s newly appointed Minister of Science and Technology, raises concerns with his comments regarding Brazil’s need to continue research in the field of fission, implying that Brazil might be interested in pursuing nuclear weapons capability. Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology later clarifies that Brazil had no intention of pursuing nuclear technology for non-peaceful purposes.

India successfully test-fires the short range variant of the nuclear-capable Agni ballistic missile. The surface-to-surface missile, with a range of 370 to 500 miles, was test-fired from a mobile launcher at the coastal testing range at Chandipur-on-sea in Orissa. U.S. State Department officials called the test disappointing, as it comes at a time of increasing tensions between India and nuclear rival Pakistan.

North Korea announces its withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This is the first time a NPT member state has taken such action – which is allowed under Article 10 – in the 35-year history of the Treaty. Opinions regarding the legality of North Korea’s withdrawal differ due to the way it was carried out.

White House officials announce that President George W. Bush has signed two waivers that release up to $466 million dollars to help destroy and secure Russia’s Cold War arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. The funding had been authorized by Congress, but had been held up for over a year due to strict restrictions attached to the Congressional authorization. A significant portion of the funding will go towards destroying Russia’s large chemical weapons arsenal."

Officials from the U.S. and India hold talks about U.S. missile defense plans and about the possibility of Israel selling its Arrow anti-missile system to India. The Israeli sale would require U.S. approval, and some U.S. officials have said that the sale could harm anti-proliferation efforts though it might bolster U.S.-India relations. The systems will likely cost $3 billion to $5 billion, a high price for India.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announces Russia’s plans to develop an extensive missile defense system, which could include space-based components. The United States has expressed approval for such developments and, according to U.S. ambassadors, is serious about missile defense collaboration with Russia.

British Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon announces that his government has come to a preliminary conclusion for approval of a U.S.-requested radar upgrade at the British air base Fylingdales. The announcement drew some heavy opposition from many Labor Members of Parliament and from the Russian Foreign Ministry, but such resistance is not expected to prevent the upgrade, which is thought to be an important piece of the U.S. national missile defense system that is to be deployed in 2004.

UN inspectors visiting an army munitions depot southwest of Baghdad discovered a dozen empty warheads, which, according to Hans Blix, Chief UN weapons inspector, were "clearly designed to hold chemical weapons" and were not listed in Iraq's December weapons declaration to the UN.

Iraqi officials tell Hans Blix, Chief UN weapons inspector, that they have found four empty chemical warheads in addition to the ones found by inspectors on January 16. Blix said he welcomed efforts by Iraq to search for the munitions and to admit their existence, but questioned whether there may be other such undeclared weapons.

Shin Yong Sung, vice minister of North Korea Power and Coal Industries, states that its recently reactivated graphite nuclear reactor will start generating electricity "within weeks" and that the electricity would be used in the North’s Pyongan provinces that surround Pyongyang.

Germany and France, key allies of the United States, issue a joint statement voicing strong opposition to immediate war on Iraq.

Military journalist Grigory Pasko, jailed on charges of espionage for alleging that Russia’s navy dumped nuclear waste at sea, is freed by a Russian court. Pasko was jailed in December 2001 for working with Japanese television and newspapers gathering information for reports that included allegations that the Russian navy was dumping nuclear waste in the Pacific Ocean. Environmentalists and human rights activists have said he had disclosed no state secrets.

Hans Blix, Chief UN weapons inspector, submits a largely negative report on Iraqi compliance with UN disarmament resolutions, citing ways in which Iraq was still failing to fully cooperate with inspectors. Later Blix does, however, challenge many of the Bush Administration’s grand claims of Iraqi violations, including the idea that military action was fast becoming the only solution.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham states that the Bush Administration will propose a 30 percent increase to $1.3 billion next year for programs aimed at keeping nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists, much of which will go towards helping Russia secure its nuclear material. There are still fears that the cooperative security funding will not be adequate to secure all Russian nuclear material.

U.S. officials announce that American spy satellites over North Korea have detected what appear to be trucks moving the country's stockpile of 8,000 nuclear spent fuel rods out of storage, prompting fears that North Korea is indeed preparing to produce nuclear weapons.

The space shuttle Columbia breaks apart upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Subsequent disclosures indicate that there were radioactive sources on board the shuttle and that retrieval operations would be testing debris for radioactivity.

Senator Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) reveals that the U.S. Defense Department is asking Congress to allow the Ballistic Missile Defense System to become the first major weapons system to be deployed without undergoing the operational testing that is legally required. In addition to Levin, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) have voiced their concerns with the proposed waiver.

Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun reports that China conducted a successful test of a Dongfeng 21 medium-range missile that was equipped with multiple warheads in December of 2002. China denies conducting the tests or developing a missile to counter U.S. missile defenses.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami states that Iran had begun mining uranium near the city of Yazd in central Iran and that Iran has acquired the knowledge to prepare the ore for use in civilian power plants. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors that visited two Iranian facilities near the city of Natanz in following weeks are shown a small network of centrifuges for enriching uranium and are told that Iran had components to make a significant number of additional centrifuges. Khatami's announcement brings into question an agreement between Iran and Russia under which Russia is to supply fuel and take back spent fuel for the nuclear power plants Russia is building in Bushehr. If Iran begins to provide and reprocess its own nuclear fuel it would bring the country a step closer to producing weapons-grade plutonium.

U.S. Central of Intelligence Agency Director George J. Tenet warns of an upsurge in the desire for nuclear weapons among small nations in a hearing before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. Citing North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Libya as countries attempting to obtain nuclear weapons technology, Tenet alarmingly states that "the 'domino theory' of the 21st century may well be nuclear."

A report entitled "Differentiation and Defense: An Agenda for the Nuclear Weapons Program" is released from the Republican-controlled House Policy Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs. The report calls for repealing a law limiting the development of low-yield nuclear weapons, advocates for the development of a Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, pushes for increased test readiness and urges the revitalization of the nuclear weapons manufacturing complex. The second to last section of the document entitled "The End of Arms Control" calls the Moscow Treaty a "gentlemen’s agreement" and refers to the "limited opportunities for strengthening arms control regimes" outside of the U.S.-Russian context.

India test-fires a supersonic Brahmos cruise missile. The Brahmos has a range of 185 miles and a payload of 440 pounds but cannot carry a nuclear warhead. Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes says the Brahmos missile was launched off an Indian navy destroyer and accurately hit its target. The Pakistani government denounces the test as a sign of what it called India’s "massive militarization." 

Gholamreze Aghazadeh, Iran’s top nuclear energy official, states that Iran will not yet sign an Additional Protocol to its safeguard agreement with the IAEA since few other countries have done so. Iranian officials continue to insist that their nuclear programs are for civilian use and that Iran intends to continue to cooperate with the IAEA, but the intention of the program is questioned by many foreign governments.

On the eve of the inauguration of South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun, North Korea test-fires a missile into the Sea of Japan. According to the Japanese Defense Agency, the missile appears to have been a 2.3-ton Silkworm with a range of about 100km, was fired from South Hamyong Province and traveled an estimated 60 kilometers from the launch site. Japanese Foreign MinisterYoriko Kawaguchi stated that if the missile was a ground-to-ship weapon as reported, the test would not be considered a violation of the joint declaration through which North Korea has agreed to a missile testing moratorium.

An energy white paper comes out of the U.K. government in which, according to the Financial Times, Tony Blair intervened personally to block any commitment to building new nuclear power stations. The paper concentrates on increasing the use of renewable energy sources while keeping the nuclear option open. If the renewable targets are missed, reliance on nuclear power appears to be the only fallback for meeting emission reduction goals.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham warns that the $133 million that Congress cut from the Yucca Mountain budget request for 2003 may delay the high-level nuclear waste repository project. Abraham is expected to ask for more funding from the Bush administration and for more flexibility in spending funds already provided. Opponents of the project argue that it is behind schedule for reasons not associated with recent budget cuts.

U.S. intelligence officials announce that they have concluded from satellite imagery that North Korea had restarted a five-megawatt reactor at its primary nuclear complex in Yongbyon. North Korean officials had announced plans to reactivate the site weeks before.

Prime Minister John Howard of Australia admits that missiles and laser weapons could be placed on Australian soil if the government ever joined the U.S. missile defense program.

The Pentagon delivers its proposed 2004 Defense Authorization bill to Congress, two lines of which would repeal a 10 year ban on developing low-yield nuclear weapons. This repeal would pave the way for the nation's nuclear weapons laboratories to begin investigating designs for new nuclear weapons with smaller yields that would be more likely to be used in a combat situation. Such research would also likely result in resumed nuclear testing.

The US Senate unanimously approves the bilateral Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty with Russia, also known as the Moscow Treaty, with no amendments. Though all approved the treaty in the end, many Senators emphasize their criticism that the treaty did not go far enough. Two amendments to strengthen the treaty are proposed by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA), but both are defeated.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issues a report concluding that supposed evidence of Iraq’s nuclear weapons program provided by the US did not, in fact, withstand the Agency’s scrutiny. There was, according to the IAEA, no indication that Iraq attempted to import aluminum tubes or to produce or import magnets for use in a centrifuge enrichment program. Documents provided by the US allegedly proving that Iraq had a contract with Niger to import Enriched Uranium were also found to be forgeries. In a New Yorker article, Seymour Hersh quoted a senior IAEA official as saying, "These documents are so bad that I cannot imagine that they came from a serious intelligence agency. It depresses me."

North Korea test-fires a medium-range anti-ship missile, a version of a Chinese-designed Silkworm, from a site on the northeast coast of North Korea into the Sea of Japan. The test occurs a day after Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, publicly reject the idea of negotiations with the North in anything other than a multilateral setting.

The world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal is inaugurated in The Hague, the capital of the Netherlands, and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan presides as 18 international judges of the International Criminal Court took the oath of office. A 1998 accord, known as the Rome Treaty, established the International Criminal Court, and the international court is scheduled to begin considering 200 complaints already filed.

Russia’s atomic energy Minister, Alexander Rumyantsev, concedes that Russia could not be sure that Iran was not pursuing nuclear weapons. As Russia is aiding Iran’s nuclear development by constructing a nuclear power reactor in Bushehr in the face of U.S. opposition, Russia had previously insisted that Iran’s nuclear program was strictly for peaceful purposes

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, announces that Iran has nearly completed its uranium enrichment plant, and called on the Iranian government to agree to more intrusive inspections at its nuclear sites. Iran’s political leaders, while divided on many fronts, continue to agree that their country has the right to develop nuclear weapons, though the current government denies pursuing such weapons.

The Russian Duma indefinitely delays ratification of the Moscow treaty, in protest of the U.S.-led war against Iraq. 

Swedish International Nuclear Safety Project representatives, the Murmansk Region and Russia’s Ministry for Nuclear Power sign a contract to finance nuclear waste disposal projects based in the Murmansk Region, in Russia’s North-West Federal District. Sweden is allocating $500,000 to help Russia dispose of solid nuclear waste in Andreyev Bay. Yuri Yevdokimov, Murmansk’s regional governor, states, "The contract is symbolic as Sweden has never before been directly involved in Russian nuclear waste disposal." Another contract between Russia and Norway is expected to be signed in April.

After failing to secure the 9 votes needed for a second Security Council Resolution giving authority to use military force, the Bush administration officially announces the start of the war against Iraq. The announcement and assault contradict a previous statement by President Bush publicly promising that the second resolution would come to a vote in the Security Council.

Russia flight-tests an 18-year-old SS-25 ICBM known as the Topol from the northwestern base Plesetsk at a target on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The missile was reportedly launched from a mobile unit, and, according to the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, hit the target in Kamchatka with "designed accuracy."

In what was reportedly a surprise to Pakistani officials, India tests its most sophisticated short-range surface-to-surface missile. The Pirthvi missile has a range of 150km and can carry conventional and nuclear warheads of up to 1 ton. Pakistan also test-fires its own Abdali surface-to-surface missile that has a range of up to 200km. Pakistani officials had, however, alerted India of their intention to test.

Japan launches two spy satellites that will decrease the country’s reliance on U.S. intelligence in assessing North Korea’s weapons activities.

North Korea’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty becomes official under Article X of the treaty. North Korean officials had argued that its withdrawal was official immediately when the country announced its intention to withdraw on January 10, 2003.

US officials announce that a leading nuclear weapons lab, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), had resumed production of plutonium pits for nuclear weapons for the first time in 14 years. LANL is one of five facilities under consideration to become home to the DOE’s proposed permanent modern pit facility. As the US already has approximately 15,000 pits in strategic reserve that appear to be stable and long-lived, there is no apparent need for the pit production unless the US plans to construct new nuclear weapons.

In trilateral talks between China, the United States, and North Korea, officials from Pyongyang admit that North Korea has nuclear weapons.

Days before the 17th anniversary of the disaster at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear reactor, a Ukrainian intelligence agency declassifies several documents that show design flaws, shoddy workmanship, and major violations of safety rules at the plant, exposing 29 accidents at the plant between 1977 and 1981. Russia responded by claiming that post-Soviet Ukraine has not properly maintained the concrete canopy covering the faulty reactor, leaving holes through which radiation could leak.

States Parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) gather for the first time since North Korea announced its withdrawal from the treaty in January and since the US-led forces invaded Iraq in March. The New Agenda Coalition begins the open debate at the NPT Review Conference Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) with a strong call for the elimination of nuclear weapons. The statement, issued on behalf of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden and New Zealand, also included an intense critique of the U.S.-Russian Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty’s (SORT) lack of transparency or irreversibility measures. Discussion of the Iraq War was muted, though several countries voiced their support for multilateral diplomatic solutions to proliferation issues over the unilateral use of force. Countries also voiced varying degrees of concern over North Korea’s withdrawal from the treaty.

The US Missile Defense Agency’s Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish announces that the agency will be free to enlarge the Ground-based Midcourse Defense, adding interceptor silos without giving any further consideration to environmental concerns.

Senator Edward Kennedy states that the Bush administration’s plans to develop a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons could trigger a new arms race, and would likely be used as an excuse to resume nuclear testing. Dr. Sidney Drell, who served as a consultant to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and currently sits on the National Nuclear Security Administration advisory committee, also stated that using nuclear bombs to destroy biological or chemical weapons stored deep beneath the earth was a "terrible idea."

In the second test in a month, India successfully tests its nuclear-capable surface-to-surface Prithvi missile. Shortly after the test, India offers to re-establish full diplomatic ties with Pakistan, ties that were downgraded following an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001.

Pakistan offers to eliminate its nuclear arsenal if India follows suit, as both countries moved to reopen diplomatic relations. India's Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, announces on May 8 that India would not mirror Pakistan's offer.

The Taiwanese Cabinet approves a bill that would prohibit the development or use of nuclear weapons, mandate a gradual elimination of nuclear power plants and accelerate the use of renewable energy resources in Taiwan. Such a law would likely accelerate the decommissioning of three existing nuclear power plants in Taiwan, but it is still unclear whether a planned fourth nuclear power plant will be permitted to be built.

North Korea declares that the 1992 North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is officially nullified. Through the Declaration South and North Korea had agreed not to test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons, to use nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes, and not to possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities.

The NATO Military Committee quickly approves, with relative unity, a classified military operational requirement (MOR) for a missile defense study, with a possible tie-in to a US missile defense shield. On the same day, Denmark's parliament votes to allow the government to begin talks with Washington on the modernization of the US Thule air base in Greenland for US missile defense.

The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group, states that it has evidence of two previously undisclosed uranium enrichment facilities west of Tehran. The announcement comes as some US officials step up their case for regime change in Iran. Though the MEK is listed by the State Department as a foreign terrorist group, senior Pentagon officials have reportedly proposed providing covert support to the group in an effort to promote an internal uprising.

US President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladmir Putin exchange instruments of ratification of the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions, also known as the Moscow Treaty. The exchange takes place during a summit in St. Petersburg following the ratification of the treaty by the Russian Duma, or lower house, on 14 May, and by the upper house later that month.After the treaty enters into force, Russian Army Gen. Andrey Nikolayev, chairman of the State Duma’s committee on defense, notes that the treaty allows for the fitting of multiple warheads to its missile systems, stating that, "We could not do this before. Now we have legal clearance for it." He also states that "if the USA develops a (anti-ballistic missile) system which substantially affects our security, Russia will undoubtedly take commensurate steps, even including withdrawal from the SORT treaty. The ratification law makes provision for this."

At a Summit in Evian, France, G-8 leaders issue a strong statement recognizing the dangers of nuclear weapons proliferation and suggesting that force could in some circumstances be used to meet the threat. The statement emphasized concerns over the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran. Though the summit addressed other economic concerns, such as the weakening of the US dollar, the focus of the meeting was on nuclear weapons proliferation and international terrorism.

Oleg Saryev, president of the Rosenergoatom nuclear power agency, reportedly states that in 2008 Russia will switch fuels in part of its nuclear power facilities to weapons-grade plutonium. Under agreements reached in 2000, Russia and the United States agreed to destroy 34 tons of plutonium left over from dismantled nuclear weapons. However, Russian ecologists have stated that the use of plutonium as a nuclear fuel could cause more nuclear disasters as well as pollution and an even greater risk of the spread of nuclear materials.

The US General Accounting Office (GAO) releases a report that states that the Bush administration’s directive to deploy an operational missile defense system by 2004 will open the door to greater cost and performance risks. The GAO, a nonpartisan Congressional audit agency, issued its report as the US Missile Defense Agency is scaling back on the number of flight tests that will actually involve the interception of a target. Rushed construction is now being undertaken in Fort Greely, Alaska in order to make President Bush’s 2004 deadline.

Bloomberg News reports on a US report from the Defense Department in September 2002. The DoD report found, ``There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or whether Iraq has -- or will -- establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities.’’ The report was issued even as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was saying that the country had amassed stockpiles of the banned arms. U.N. Security Council members, including Britain, called on the Bush administration to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return to Iraq to certify whether it possessed secret biological and chemical weapons before the U.S.-led invasion.

The Bush administration initiates a meeting in Madrid to discuss interdiction of arms and arms materials on the high seas. There are no international norms prohibiting the transit of missiles and most other arms, and there are long-standing international norms securing the freedom of the high seas and the right to navigation and transit. Still, the Bush administration is talking closely with officials from Japan and Australia on how the countries might "change" international law to allow the countries to interdict arms transfers, particularly missiles, fissile materials and other weapons coming from North Korea. It is unclear how such a "change" could be undertaken given that China and Russia are unlikely to agree to a Security Council resolution on such a discriminatory policy, and given that the Bush administration has shown no interest in creating nondiscriminatory prohibition through a multilateral treaty.

Luis Moren Ocampo, an Argentine human rights lawyer, is sworn in at The Hague’s Peace Palace as the first prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Meanwhile the United States is pursuing several initiatives to undermine the Court.

An interceptor missile fired from a Navy cruiser misses its target missile in the second consecutive failed test of a missile defense system that President Bush has committed to deploying by 2004. The failure follows cutbacks in scheduled tests of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System and Missile Defense Agency requests for permission to deploy the missile defense system without undergoing the operational testing that is legally required.

The House and Senate intelligence committees begin closed hearings on the use of intelligence regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, though Republicans are blocking any push for a full-blown investigation. During one of the initial committee hearings, Christian Westermann, a top State Department expert on chemical and biological weapons, reportedly told the House Intelligence committees that he had been pressured to distort some evidence.

In his annual report released on 10 June, the Chief of Canada’s Defense staff, Gen. Ray Henault, stated that Canada had a common interest with the US in developing a missile defense system.

The Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Korea releases a report that indicates that it can make a conditional review for participation in a missile defense system for Northeast Asia organized by the United States.

Hans Blix retires after serving as the Chief of the United Nations Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission for three years. In his farewell speech, Blix notes that Iraq’s failure to account for its alleged biological, chemical or nuclear weapons does not mean that it possessed them or posed an imminent threat. Blix will head a planned International Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction which will likely be based in the Swedish capital, Stockholm. Demetrius Perricos, an experienced inspector, has been appointed as an acting executive chairman for the Commission, though there is not likely to be a permanent appointment unless UN inspectors are ordered to return to Iraq.

The Bush administration suspends military aid to 35 countries that have not signed International Criminal Court immunity pacts with the US. Thirty-seven, mostly smaller poorer countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe that have already signed such pacts. The United States has privately reprimanded EU governments for actively lobbying countries not to sign the US-drafted agreements. Bosnia’s parliament bowed to such pressure, agreeing to an immunity pact on 6 June. The United States has also recently brought forward a resolution in the Security Council to extend the immunity from the ICC granted to the United States last year.

Joseph C. Wilson, a retired US ambassador, publicly announces that US and British officials ignored his finding that there was no Iraqi attempt to buy uranium oxide from Niger, and that they exaggerated the public case for invading Iraq. Wilson’s new allegations prompt key Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee to increase their push for the Armed Services Committee to undertake a second probe into alleged White House manipulation of intelligence. Wilson has already testified before the closed House and Senate Intelligence Committee probes

Tokyo Electric Power Company, the nation’s largest utility is forced to close all 17 of its nuclear reactors temporarily after admitting that it has faked safety reports for more than 10 years.

North Korea announces that it has reprocessed all 8,000 of its spent nuclear fuel rods, producing enough plutonium to build approximately six nuclear bombs.

David Kelly, former UN weapons inspector and UK government scientist, is found dead from an apparent suicide after months of being at the center of the debate surrounding allegations that the UK government under Prime Minister Tony Blair pumped up intelligence that Iraq had nuclear weapons and could deploy them within 45 minutes.

The US House of Representatives approves a defense appropriation bill that cuts more than $50 million sought by the White House to develop new nuclear weapons. The cuts include: eliminating funds for developing lower yield tactical weapons and for speeding up the process for underground nuclear tests. Cuts also include significant reductions to spending on earth-penetrating modifications and the elimination of over half of the funds requested for studies to choose a location for a new plutonium pit factory. The cuts are not mirrored in the version of the bill approved by the Senate subcommittee.

French President Jacques Chirac defends decades of nuclear testing in the South Pacific during his first visit to Polynesia since the last French nuclear tests were conducted in 1995. Chirac says that the tests helped establish France as a world power. The French conducted hundreds of nuclear blasts in French Polynesia from 1958-1995, causing serious environmental degradation and imposing serious health risks to the inhabitants of the South Pacific.

During a session of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, China and Russia urge for talks to begin negotiations on a treaty to ban weapons in space. Two years after tabling proposals for a treaty to ban weapons in space, an effort known as PAROS (Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space), China and Russia renew their commitment to the treaty process, citing growing “Star Wars” dangers, a clear reference to US missile defense efforts which includes plans for space-based elements.

The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announces that the X-band Radar will be based on the island of Adak, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands chain. The X-band Radar is a key component of the US sea-based missile defense system which is planned to become operational by the end of 2005.

The US Missile Defense Agency conducts a successful flight test of a Boost Vehicle developed by Orbital Sciences from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the Central Coast of California.

South Korea succeeds in test-firing an anti-ship cruise missile with a range of 150 kilometers. According to South Korean officials, the missile hits a target located some 70 kilometers off South Korea 's east coast.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) releases a report claiming that particles of undeclared highly-enriched uranium were found at the Natanz nuclear facility, 200 miles south of Tehran, Iran .

The first round of six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program in Beijing, China fail to establish any diplomatic negotiations between the US and North Korea.

A former Cold War missile silo in Arizona, known as “ Site 7,” is auctioned off through the Internet website eBay. Pete and Pat Goshia auction the silo and surrounding property for $1.4 million. The disabled missile site is one of 18 in Southern Arizona that were once home to US Titan 2 Missiles.

The World Nuclear University is inaugurated at the annual meeting of the World Nuclear Association. The university is established to promote the spread of nuclear expertise and technology across the world. Speaking at the meeting, Professor James Lovelock promotes atomic energy as the only alternative to fossil fuels and the impending disaster of global warming. As the University’s chancellor, Hans Blix says global warming is a greater danger than the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The Guardian, a British newspaper, claims Saudi Arabia is considering developing a nuclear strategy. The Guardian unveils a strategy paper that lays out three options for Saudi Arabia including: acquiring nuclear weapons for deterrence; aligning the country with an existing nuclear power that would offer protection; and attempting to reach a regional agreement on establishing a nuclear-free Middle East. The Saudi Embassy in London rejects the claim.

Foreign Ministers of the New Agenda Coalition (NAC) meet at the 58th session of the United Nations General Assembly to review developments on nuclear disarmament and to renew their commitment to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. In a statement, the Ministers express deep concern regarding the lack of progress to date on the implementation of the Thirteen Steps for nuclear disarmament, which all States parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), including the nuclear weapons states, agreed to at the 2000 NPT Review Conference.

According to a report compiled by the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), a rigorous six-month search of Iraq for weapons of mass destruction fails to disclose a single trace of evidence. The group, headed by US Central Intelligence Agency adviser David Kay, requests another six to nine months to continue the search.

Afghanistan signs and ratifies the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). 

Iran claims it has ruled out giving up its uranium enrichment program. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi states, "Abandoning nuclear activities or enrichment is not something that Iran is ready to compromise on."

The US General Accounting Off ice (GAO) criticizes Department of Defense (DoD) plans to field a national missile defense system because the system’s technologies are “immature” and “untested.” In the report, the GAO says the Missile Defense Agency “has accepted higher costs and schedule risks by beginning integration … before these technologies have matured.” Of the technologies needed to deploy a national missile defense, the GAO says the system’s radar is “the least mature.”

The Bush Administration slashes over $89 million in military aid to 32 friendly countries – including Brazil, Costa Rica, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, South Africa, new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe, and several other Latin American and African countries – that have ratified the 1998 Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). The countries are sanctioned because they have refused to exempt US citizens and soldiers from the jurisdiction of the ICC. Exceptions to the cuts are made for NATO member states and specially designated non-NATO allies, including Argentina, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Israel.

Kyrgyzstan deposits its instrument of ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), bringing the total number of ratifications to 106 countries. Under the terms of the treaty, Kyrgyzstan will host an auxiliary seismic station, AS060 at Ala-Archa that is part of a 337-facility International Monitoring System (IMS) designed to verify compliance with the CTBT.

India announces it has commenced building an aerospace command station in order to position its nuclear weapons in space. India ’s Air Chief Krishnaswamy says the move will provide India an edge to counter nuclear attacks.

The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB) issues another warning to the US Department of Energy (DoE) cautioning officials that the Yucca Mountain project does not meet its strict quality assurance standards. In a letter, the NWTRB expresses concerns over the effectiveness of the casks designated to indefinitely hold lethal, high-level nuclear waste. Specialists cite the waste package design as susceptible to corrosion and, consequently, prone to leaking deadly nuclear waste into the aquifer that serves as the only source of drinking water for the people of Amargosa Valley.

Watts Bar Nuclear Plant at Knoxville, Tennessee resumes operation, making it the only commercial nuclear station in the US to produce both electricity and tritium for nuclear warheads. The US government has not produced tritium since 1988 when the Savannah River Site in South Carolina was closed due to operational and safety problems.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) receives documents from Iran clarifying the status of its nuclear activities. The documents are received after British, French and German foreign ministers convene in Tehran to persuade Iran to dispel suspicions that its nuclear program could be used to develop nuclear weapons. The European initiative offers to recognize Iran ’s right to a civilian nuclear energy program, give technical assistance and guarantee Iran ’s access to imported fuel for nuclear power plants. The meeting secured Iran ’s agreement to accept new international inspections of some of its nuclear facilities and to suspend production of enriched uranium.

The Iraq Survey Group reveals that high-strength aluminum tubes obtained by Iraq were not intended for uranium enrichment, but were used for rockets. Brigadier General Stephen Meek, Commander of the Joint Captured Enemy Materiel Exploitation Center, pronounces the tubes as “innocuous.” Prior to the war, President George W. Bush said these tubes provided one of the strongest pieces of evidence that Iraq was seeking to rebuild its nuclear weapons program. The Bush Administration had claimed that these aluminum tubes were used as centrifuge rotors to enrich uranium for nuclear warheads.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohammed ElBaradei warns that between 35-40 countries possess the capability of building nuclear weapons in just a few months. ElBaradei stated, “Under the current [non-proliferation] regime, there is nothing illicit for a non- nuclear state to conduct uranium enriching activities … or even to possess military-grade nuclear material.”

North Korea agrees “in principle” that it is ready to take part in a second round of six-nation talks based on “the principle of simultaneous actions,” under which North Korea will abandon its nuclear weapons development program in exchange for security assurances, foreign aid, energy assistance and diplomatic recognition.

Russia announces plans to assist India in the construction of four new nuclear reactors and calls for international bans on its nuclear cooperation with India to be lifted. Proclaiming a lack of alternative energy sources, India has launched plans to build the four additional nuclear reactors in order to meet the nation's growing energy needs. Russia is currently involved in the construction of a 21,000-megawatt nuclear power plant at Koodankulam.

In order to reduce the threat of terrorism and prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohammed ElBaradei calls for international efforts to tighten the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to better control access to nuclear technology. ElBaradei states that the UN should consider putting all production of weapons-usable material around the world under international control to limit “the increasing threat” posed by countries and terrorists. ElBaradei also calls for the establishment of international nuclear waste repository centers so that only a few nations would provide centralized fuel waste serv ices for all countries possessing spent nuclear fuel. It is unclear how ElBaradei’s proposal would affect nuclear weapon states and countries that have nuclear programs, but are not suspected of developing nuclear weapons.

Honduras ratifies the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The First Committee on Disarmament and International Security at the United Nations votes on two resolutions sponsored by the New Agenda Coalition (NAC). The first resolution, “Towards a Nuclear Weapon Free World: A New Agenda,” is based on the Final Document of the 2000 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference where all states parties to the NPT unanimously agreed to advance efforts for nuclear disarmament through 13 practical steps. The resolution receives 121 votes in favor, 6 in opposition and 38 abstentions. The second resolution, “Reductions of Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons,” specifically addresses the issue of tactical (sub-strategic or short-range) nuclear weapons. The resolution receives 118 votes in favor, 4 in opposition and 41 abstentions.

North Korea announces to Reuters News Agency that it has a nuclear weapon.

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report reveals that Iran has been developing a uranium centrifuge program for 18 years and a laser enrichment program for 12 years. The report confirms the discovery of traces of enriched uranium and plutonium in Iran’s nuclear facilities. The report concludes, “to date there is no evidence that the previous undeclared nuclear materials and activities … were related to a nuclear weapons program.”

Eritrea ratifies the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Germany permanently shuts down one of its 19 nuclear reactors, marking its clear commitment to phase out nuclear energy. In 2000, the German government reached a legal agreement with its nuclear industry to shut down all of the country’s nuclear reactors by 2025. Germany has also passed the New Atomic Energy Act which prohibits the construction of new nuclear power plants. Federal Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin states, "This new direction in energy policy shows that a major industrialized country can prosper without using electricity generated from nuclear energy."

US President George W. Bush succeeds in persuading the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) to suspend its $6.4 billion project to construct two nuclear reactors in North Korea . The announcement effectively ends the 1994 Agreed Framework reached between the Clinton Administration and North Korea . In response, North Korea accuses the United States of deliberately breaching the nuclear agreement and demands compensation. Under the Agreed Framework, the U.S. agreed to provide North Korea with technology and aid to build two nuclear power plants and in exchange North Korea agreed to cease its nuclear weapons development program and activities.

A US Senate filibuster blocks the 2004 $31 billion Energy Bill (HR6), leaving the nation without energy legislation until next year. As it stands, the bill favors the fossil fuel and nuclear industry over renewable energy sources. Some key nuclear provisions include: $7.5 billion in tax subsidies for nuclear energy and $165 million in tax credits for new nuclear power plants. Under the bill, the nuclear industry would also receive $1.1 billion for a new nuclear reactor to produce hydrogen fuel. In addition, at least $2.7 billion would go to research and develop new reactors under the “Nuclear Power 2010” program that was written by the nuclear industry.

First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian General Staff Yuri Baluyevsky announces Russia ’s plans to review the country’s nuclear strategy and maintain its tactical nuclear weapons stockpile. Baluyevsky claims the announcement is a response to US plans to develop new nuclear weapons, which Russia has described as destabilizing.

New scientific studies reveal further problems with the storage of high-level radioactive waste at the proposed US nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada . The federal Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB) sends the US Department of Energy (DoE) a lengthy letter confirming that the “miracle metal” designed to hold deadly nuclear waste will likely corrode much earlier in the repository’s planned 10,000-year storage. Bob Lux, Director of Nevada’s Agency for Nuclear Projects, states, “The canister performance is the linchpin of the whole deal and the review board’s letter has caused a real problem for the DoE on whether it goes forward.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) passes a resolution condemning Iran for its 18-year cover up of an advanced nuclear program. The resolution stops short of recommending sanctions. While praising Iran’s “active cooperation and openness,” the IAEA governing board strongly deplores Iran’s involvement in uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing activities, both of which could allow the country to develop a nuclear weapons program. The resolution is an agreement reached between the US, UK, France and Germany. The resolution establishes a fast track procedure to take any further violations by Iran to the UN Security Council.

Hassan Rouhani, Secretary General of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, announces in a news conference, “Our uranium enrichment program has been suspended voluntarily, temporarily, to build trust.” He adds, “But the issue of ending uranium enrichment is not in question and never has been nor will be.”

US President George W. Bush signs the Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 2004. Together with the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill signed on November 24, 2004, the bill authorizes: $6 million for Advance Concept studies, including research on “mini-nukes”, $7.5 million for the research of Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrators (“bunker busters”), $11 million towards the construction of a Modern Pit Facility for plutonium pit production, $25 million towards shortening nuclear test readiness from the current 24-36 months to 24 months (“Enhanced Test Readiness”), $34 million to improve the Nevada Test Site, and $9.1 billion for ballistic missile defense.

The Korean Central News Agency announces that six-nation talks between the US, North Korea and its neighboring countries will not take place in mid-December. According to the Korean Central News Agency, “The main problem in preparing for the next round of six-nation talks is the United States’ refusal to make a shift in its policy and its insistence that we disarm ourselves by abandoning our nuclear program first.”

Prime Minister John Howard announces Australia ’s plans “in principle” to participate in the US missile defense program. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says that the system would prevent “rogue” states from acquiring missile technology, but gave little indication of possible costs or how Australia would participate. It is widely believed that pressure from Australia ’s aerospace defense industry to win government contracts was key in influencing Howard’s decision to participate in the US missile defense project.

A memo from the US National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Linton Brooks urging directors of Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national nuclear laboratories to work with the Pentagon on exploring a full range of nuclear weapons concepts is revealed. The memo states, “We should not fail to take advantage of this opportunity to close any gaps that may have opened in the past decade in our understanding of the possible military applications of atomic energy.” The memo contradicts Brooks’ interview with Arms Control Today on December 2, 2003, in which he said that the administration is not ”thirsting to develop” new nuclear weapons.

On the 50th anniversary of former President Eisenhower’sAtoms for Peace” speech, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohammed ElBaradei reiterates the call for greater multilateral control over nuclear fuel cycle activities in order to prevent nations from obtaining weapon-grade material to develop nuclear weapons. ElBaradei states that nuclear weapons pose more of a danger now than they did during the arms race between the US and the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. ElBaradei also proposes an Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty that would restrict the right of states to sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle. He also proposes a new “proliferation-free” fuel cycle that would produce waste unfit for reprocessing for nuclear weapons use.

The US is the only country to vote against a resolution in the United Nations Security Council that aims to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force. The US is also only one of two countries to vote against a resolution entitled “A Path to the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons,” which calls for compliance with a program for transparent, verifiable and irreversible reduction and elimination of nuclear forces – steps that were previously agreed to in the final document of the 2000 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conferece by all states parties to the treaty. The US, along with Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Israel are the only countries to abstain from the resolution entitled, “Prevention of Arms Race in Outer Space”, which calls for negotiations to prevent the weaponization of space. The resolution received a vote of 174-0

At the Space and Missile Defense Symposium, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld refers to space and missile defense as “core war fighting competencies” in the US defense strategy. Rumsfeld adds that space is “fundamental to modern warfare” and that unrestricted access to space is “a vital US interest.”

A Defense White Paper is released by the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) indicating the government’s “growing interest” in missile defense technology. The Paper confirms the UK ’s intention to “continue to examine, with our NATO allies,” the strategic issues relating to missile defense in order to “inform future political and policy decisions.”

Following US President George W. Bush’s call for a UN resolution to control nuclear, chemical and biological weapons at the annual ministerial meeting of the UN General Assembly in September 2003, US Ambassador John Negraponte presents a draft resolution to the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council. Aimed at preventing terrorists from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, the draft resolution requires all countries to adopt and enforce laws “to prohibit any non-state actor from the manufacture, acquisition, possession, development, transport or use” of such weapons and missiles. The resolution makes no reference to obligations of the nuclear weapons states to pursue nuclear disarmament.

Sweden announces that it will fund a new Non-Proliferation Commission that will be headed by former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix. Sweden agrees to provide the Commission with almost $2 million. The Commission is scheduled to release its findings in 2005. According to Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds, “I am convinced that the Commission, under the capable leadership of Hans Blix, can help inject new energy in the global efforts against weapons of mass destruction.” Hailing the establishment of the Commission, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan states, “The Commission faces a task of the utmost importance - providing proposals on how to make progress in non-proliferation and disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, and on how to minimize the risk of these weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.”

The US hosts a ministerial meeting of 14 nations and proposes a global research and development effort to promote its hydrogen energy plan entitled International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy (IPHE). If harnessed through renewable energy sources, hydrogen has the potential to serve as a clean fuel. However, the US plan proposes using hydrogen as a source of energy based on nuclear and fossil fuel sources. Environmentalists denounce the plan as a “dirty energy plan.” President Bush’s Fiscal Year 2004 Energy Bill allocates $1.2 billion for a co-generation nuclear and hydrogen reactor in Idaho.

Japan announces its decision to join the US in developing its missile defense system in order to protect itself from the threat of North Korean attacks. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda states, “Ballistic Missile Defense meets [ Japan ’s] exclusively defense-orientated policy as the only effective method to counter attacks by ballistic missiles.”

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi agrees to “disclose and dismantle” all weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and to “immediately and unconditionally” allow international inspectors into Libya. In a press conference, a senior US official outlines information that Libya provided the US and UK on its WMD efforts, including nuclear fuel cycle activities intended to support the development of nuclear weapons. Gaddafi announcement comes after nine months of secret negotiations with the US and the UK, as well as after successful US intelligence efforts that led to the interdiction of a shipment of uranium enrichment centrifuge equipment bound for Libya.

Iran signs the Additional Protocol, providing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with increased authority and rights to access to the country’s nuclear facilities. IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei, who also signed the agreement, says it is “an important building block toward establishing confidence that Iran's program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

Following speculations on Pakistan ’s role in providing Iran and North Korea with crucial technology to enrich uranium for the development of nuclear warheads, Pakistan detains three of its senior nuclear scientists at its main nuclear facility for questioning. Abdul Qadeer Khan, known as the father of Pakistan ’s nuclear bomb, and Farooq Mohammed and Yasin Chohan, important participants in Pakistan ’s successful nuclear tests, are questioned regarding their connections with Iran ’s nuclear program. Pakistan has consistently denied having a policy of exporting nuclear expertise to other countries. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Massod Khan admits that scientists involved in the technology transfers may have been motivated by “personal ambition or greed.”

Following a three-day visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, North Korea agrees to resume six-nation talks regarding its nuclear program during early 2004.

Brazil announces that it does not intend to sign the Additional Protocol which would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) more intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities. In a statement, Brazil reaffirms the “peaceful objectives” of its nuclear program, and its commitment to safeguard agreements signed with Argentina and the IAEA, as well as its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

19.1 kg of plutonium are reported missing from the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria, England. A spokesman for British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, the company that manages the Sellafield plant, says the figures of plutonium that were “unaccounted for,” are normal as “it is impossible to measure absolutely exactly that amount of material going into the plant and the amount coming out because of the huge amount of material that is put through it each year.” However, Dr. Frank Barnaby, a nuclear consultant and a former director of the Stockholm International Research Institute states, “In reprocessing, a small amount of material is bound to be lost in the process, but 19 kg is a very significant amount of plutonium.”

Syria pushes for a Security Council resolution to establish a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East, and urges the Council to take steps to require Israel to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction. The resolution also urges countries in the region to sign and ratify the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.