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  Timeline of the Nuclear Age 2000s  2006


Iran rejects an offer from Russia to produce the fuel for the country in the Bushehr reactor.

North Korea claims it will not return to talks with the United States unless financial restrictions are lifted on several North Korean companies. 

Venezuelan officials announce that thieves have stolen equipment containing radioactive material used in the oil industry. Angel Diaz, head of the energy ministry’s nuclear affairs department, warns that the Cesium-137 material could cause contamination if exposed.

French President Jacques Chirac announces during his first major speech on France’s nuclear weapons strategy since 2001 that his country would be ready to use nuclear weapons against any state that carried out a terrorist attack or used weapons of mass destruction against it. During a speech at nuclear submarine base in northwestern France, President Chirac states, "The leaders of states who would use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using, in one way or another, weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response on our part. This response could be a conventional one. It could also be of a different kind.” President Chirac also states, "Against a regional power, our choice would not be between inaction or annihilation. The flexibility and reactivity of our strategic forces would enable us to exercise our response directly against its centers of power and its capacity to act."

During his fifth State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush introduces the “Advanced Energy Initiative,” a proposal that tries to classify nuclear energy as clean and paves the way for the construction of new nuclear power plants. The President described the Initiative as, “a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research – at the Department of Energy – to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants, revolutionary solar and wind technologies, and clean, safe nuclear energy.”

Iran resumes attempts at uranium enrichment.

U.S. President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reach a deal allowing the resumption of full civilian nuclear cooperation between the two countries. At a joint news conference announcing the deal, President Bush says he is “looking forward to working with our U.S. Congress to change decades of law” in order to move forward on the deal.

The White House releases its National Security Strategy, which reaffirms President Bush’s doctrine of preemptive war against terrorists and hostile states with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. The strategy lays out a robust view of America’s power and an assertive view of its responsibility to bring change around the world. After weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq, an essential assumption of the original strategy was undermined – that intelligence about an enemy’s capabilities and intentions can be sufficient to justify preventive war. President Bush defended the doctrine by deeming the preemptive use of force necessary for the U.S. "when the consequences of an attack with WMD [weapons of mass destruction] are potentially so devastating, we cannot afford to stand idly by as grave dangers materialize." The document also specifies policies for certain countries, including China, Iran, North Korea and Russia.

The $18.6 billion Rokkasho reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture, Japan, begins separating plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, the beginning of a 17-week test phase where 430 tons of spent fuel will be reprocessed. The plant, operated by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd, will produce mixed oxide fuel (MOX) on an experimental basis, the first time MOX will be manufactured in Japan.

Pakistan test fires a short-range nuclear capable surface-to-surface Hatf-II missile that can reach targets up to 180 kilometers. According to a government statement, "All desired technical parameters were validated.” India was informed about the test as part of notification procedures used to build confidence between the two countries.

Japan’s new reprocessing plant in Rokkasho leaks radioactive water. The facility, which is Japan’s first plant to extract uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, spills 40 liters (10.5) gallons of radioactive water inside a secure area. According to Japanese Nuclear Fuels Limited, which operates the plant, there was no impact on the outside environment or workers.

The International Atomic Energy Agency announces that Iran has successfully enriched uranium.

An accidental release of radioactive gas at a nuclear plant in southeastern Minnesota exposes about one hundred workers to low levels of radiation. According to Jan Strasma, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman, the Prairie Island plant was shut down for maintenance and refueling at the time, and no radiation was released outdoors. Nuclear Management Co., which operates the plant for Xcel Energy, said residual radioactive gas in some equipment was inadvertently released without being routed through a filtering system.

The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) announces that it has officially terminated its production of two light-water reactors in North Korea. This is in response to North Korea's continued violation of international law regarding nuclear weapons development.

The 14-member “Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Commission,” headed by Dr. Hans Blix, presents its final report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The report is titled “Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms.” The report gives detailed analysis of the nuclear problem, but fails to mention nuclear power as a proliferation threat.

North Korea test launches their Tae-po-dong II missile, which fails a minute into launch. Japan and South Korea punish North Korea through sanctions for attempting to launch a nuclear-capable missile.

Materials for nuclear or chemical weapons intended to be shipped to Iran were found in Hong Kong.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports that more than one hundred incidents of illegally transported nuclear or radioactive materials occurred in the past year.

Test results show that the leak of radioactive material that contaminated groundwater beneath the San Onofre nuclear power plant did not reach drinking water sources in San Clemente, California.

Israel purchases two submarines from Germany that are capable of carrying nuclear weapons. It is thought that this announcement is in response to threats of ballistic missile attacks from Iranian clerics.

The five ex-Soviet nations of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan pledge to not produce, buy, or allow the deployment of nuclear weapons on their soil. Kazakh Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev states, “The countries of our region declare a firm commitment to the principles of disarmament and nonproliferation. This is our contribution to ensuring global security.” The U.S. and several other nuclear weapons states express concern over the signing of a treaty creating a nuclear-weapons-free zone in Central Asia. The United States is concerned that this treaty will prevent nuclear-powered ships and aircraft from passing through these countries.

North Korea announces its intent to test a nuclear device in the near future.

All around the world, seismic detectors record a large explosion coming from the Northern Region of North Korea. North Korean President Kim Jong Il then announces to the world that North Korea successfully detonated a nuclear weapon.

Shinzo Abe, the newly elected prime minister of Japan, declares that Japan is committed to rejecting and never possessing nuclear weapons. Japan currently possesses all of the components to produce nuclear weapons. They are actively reprocessing uranium and have large stockpiles of plutonium. It is only the will of the Japanese people that prevents nuclear development from occurring.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals delays the Department of Energy’s (DOE) plan to build and operate a bio-warfare research facility at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California.

British courts fine one of the United Kingdom’s central nuclear facilities. Citing significant safety lapses, the court fines the parent company, Sellafield, the equivalent of $950,000.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) releases a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a statement that would propose alternatives to transform the nuclear complex. In July 2005, the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) recommended a Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) to build a completely new group of nuclear weapons. Other information about the RRW has been released in a vision entitled Complex 2030, which seeks to ensure the longevity of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. The programs would undermine the intent of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is the principal international agreements limiting the spread of nuclear weapons.

Mohammed El Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reveals that Iranian technicians have assembled 164 centrifuges, and they are days away from being able to begin the enrichment process. Many think that by going forward with enrichment, Iran is sending a message of defiance to the United Nations.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry states that North Korea has enough plutonium to build six or seven nuclear weapons, and twenty-eight jet bombers that could be used to carry a nuclear bomb.

Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) announces that the massive Divine Strake weapons test will no longer be taking place in New Mexico. In response to strong opposition in Nevada, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) had originally considered moving Divine Strake from the Nevada Test Site to the White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico.

The United States Senate overwhelmingly approves a controversial nuclear cooperation deal between India and the United States. In an 85 to 12 vote, the Senate approves an exception to existing U.S. nuclear export and non-proliferation laws that permit the sale of nuclear fuel and technology to India.

China and Pakistan agree to a trade deal that includes continued joint development of nuclear technology. This furthers the already strong nuclear cooperation between the two countries. China has already assisted Pakistan in building a 300 megawatt nuclear power plant at Chashma in the eastern province of Punjab.

The India Defense Ministry announces it has carried out its first successful test of a missile defense system. The Defense Ministry confirms that a Prithvi II missile was launched from the Chandipore test range 155 miles north of Bhubabaneswar, capital of India’s Orissa state. During the test, 3,000 people in five villages were evacuated, as a precaution.

The National Nuclear Security Administration reports that the plutonium life in nuclear weapons will not affect warhead reliability for decades. The study, which was conducted by Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories and reviewed by a group of independent scientists known as the Jason Group, says that plutonium pits could last at least another one hundred years. This is far longer than previously expected.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair presents his plan to upgrade Britain’s nuclear arsenal. The proposed program would create a new fleet of submarines and replace the stockpile of submarine-based nuclear weapons. It would also call for an overall reduction in the stockpile from 200 to 160 warheads. There would be no reduction in the number of nuclear-armed submarines in the British fleet. The estimated cost of the program is $39 billion.

As a result of a computer malfunction aboard the USS Erie, a test designed to show the Navy’s capability of intercepting two missiles simultaneously fails off the Hawaiian coast.  The test constitutes the second failure of nine tests meant to address concerns about North Korea’s long-range missile program.  Besides conducting tests, the U.S. Navy installs tracking technology and missile surveillance on much of its Pacific fleet.

President George W. Bush signs legislation allowing for nuclear cooperation between India and the United States. The piece of legislation carves out an exception for India to existing U.S. nuclear laws. It allows for the transfer of nuclear materials and technology from the United States to India. In exchange, India is required to place 14 of its 22 nuclear reactors under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Six party talks that aim at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program end without any progress. The talks end because the United States and North Korea did not meet each others expectations. U.S. representatives wanted to rehash a 2005 agreement in which North Korea would receive aid and security assurances in exchange for nuclear disarmament, while North Korea wanted to focus on lifting U.S. financial curbs.

Vayl Oxford, the director of nuclear detection at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), releases a contradictory report that announces a higher number of reported incidents of illegal diversion, sale, purchase, transport, and storage of nuclear materials than did the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s report released earlier this year.  Oxford reports that the number of incidents increased from 100 in 2000 to 215 in 2005, while the IAEA reported only 103 incidents in 2005.  The discrepancy in the two counts is largely due to how the two groups count incidents – the DHS includes suspected incidents in their count, while the IAEA only includes incidents that their members have confirmed.