Go to Home Page
  Timeline of the Nuclear Age 2000s  2008


The North Korean Foreign Ministry releases a statement accusing the United States of falling behind on commitments in exchange for disablement of the Yongbyon nuclear facility.

Kerry Beal, a former Wackenhut security guard at Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, blows the whistle on fellow guards taking regular naps while on duty.  After his claims are not addressed by the Wackenhut security firm, Mr. Beal releases a video tape of the sleeping guards to a New York City television station. The firm is fired from guarding the Peach Bottom plant but still guards seventeen other nuclear power facilities around the nation.

The Wall Street Journal publishes a letter written by George P. Schultz, William J. Perry, Sam Nunn, and Henry A. Kissinger in which they discuss the growing threat of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.In the letter they stress the importance of total nuclear disarmament and suggest various steps nations might take in order to complete this goal.

Sibel Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish translator for the FBI, alleges that the FBI is covering up evidence about corrupt government officials selling nuclear secrets to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.  In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the FBI claimed no such evidence exists.  However, Edmonds says, “I can tell you that that file and the operations it refers to did exist from 1996 to February 2002. The file refers to the counterintelligence program that the Department of Justice has declared to be a state secret to protect sensitive diplomatic relations.”  She also claims that the American-Turkish Council in Washington DC was one of the drop-off     points and that a government official warned a Turkish operative that they should not deal with a company called Brewster Jennings because it was a CIA front company investigating the nuclear black market.  Edmonds is now the subject of numerous gag orders predicated on the states secrets privilege.

Colombia ratifies the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, becoming the 144th nation to do so. This is significant because it is one of the 44 “Annex 2” states that must ratify the treaty before it can be entered into force.

A report released by the Government Accountability Office claims that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission underestimated the risk of a terrorist attack on a nuclear reactor on a college campus.  According to the New York Times, “Research reactors typically are less than 1 percent as powerful as civilian power reactors, and they usually do not operate under pressure, so there is less energy available to spread radioactive material in case of attack or accident.  They are used for scientific research, training and making medical isotopes.”  However, research reactors are often not guarded as securely as civilian power reactors.  The unclassified version of the report did not mention specific areas of concern.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses 33 research reactors, 26 of which are universities and colleges.  It disputes the GAO’s findings.

U.S. military uses a ship-launched Raytheon Co. Standard Missile-3 missile to destroy a crippled National Reconnaissance Office satellite; interpreted by many analysts as a demonstration of U.S.capabilities in response to a Chinese anti-satellite test a year earlier

The US paid a sum of $23.8 million to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization; The US is responsible for contributing the largest amount of dues to the CTBTO, and until this week was $28.3 million behind in its payments. This figure, according to “Nukes of Hazard” bloggers, equates to roughly two and a half hours of funding the war in Iraq, but enables the CTBTO to maintain and operate the IMS, which detects non-compliance globally.

President Nicolas Sarkozy dedicated “Le Terrible,” the newest addition to France’s fourth generation of nuclear-armed submarines, the “Triomphant” class.  He cited “Countries in Asia and the Middle East,” including Iran, that “are rapidly developing ballistic capacities” as a justification.  However, Sarkozy also pledged that France would reduce the number of warheads on its airplanes to fewer than 300, about half the number it had during the cold war.  He also proposed a treaty banning short- and medium-range nuclear missiles and called for more nations to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  The new submarine will be equipped with the new M-51 nuclear missile, which French newspaper Le Mond estimates has a range of 4,970 miles.  While the true number of warheads France possesses remains a secret, the Federation of American Scientists estimated that France has 348 warheads - 288 on submarines, 50 on air-launched cruise missiles, and 10 bombs.

Alex Wellerstein, a 26-year-old history of science graduate student at Harvard University, revealed that the U.S. government sought legal protection in the form of patent applications while developing the atom bomb.  After a famous fight with the physicist Leo Szilard over compensation for his intellectual property related to nuclear chain reactions, the government worried that if scientists owned the patents for their work they would seek to control how the government used their inventions.  By 1947, more than 8,500 technical reports and 6,300 technical notebooks had been reviewed by patent officers, resulting in about 2,100 patent applications approved for filing.

The U.S. Air Force learned that it mistakenly shipped classified ballistic missile components to Taiwan in August 2006 from the Defense Logistics Agency warehouse at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.  The Air Force had intended to send helicopter utility batters but instead sent four fuses designed to trigger nuclear and non-nuclear Minuteman III ballistic missiles.  In June, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates expelled Gen. Michael Moseley, the former Air Force chief of staff, and ex-Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, blaming them for the Taiwan incident and another episode involving live warheads.  In September, eight generals, ranging in rank from one to three stars, and nine other officers were disciplined.

United States intelligence officials brief Congress and indicate that the Syrian nuclear facility bombed by Israel in September 2007 was being built with North Korean assistance.

The Iranian government release photos of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad touring the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility located in the Iranian desert.  The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran runs the facility to test and run nuclear centrifuges for the industrial-scale enrichment of uranium.  The photos show Mr. Ahmadinejad walking with technicians by P-1 machines which were based on a Pakistani design sold on the black market.  The New York Times reports that Iran has 3,000 of these machines with plans to expand to 9,000.  Iran’s defense minister, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, accompanied the President despite Iran’s purportedly peaceful motives.

U.S. and Russia sign bilateral agreement to share nuclear technology and materials.

North Korea gave the United States 18,000 pages of documentation relating to its three attempts to acquire reprocessed plutonium for a nuclear weapon in 1990, 2003, and 2005.  The documentation did not include the promised information on North Korea’s uranium program or its role in nuclear proliferation.

Experts from the U.S. are monitoring Chinese nuclear plants that lie in the earthquake zone after a powerful earthquake shook the Sichuan Provinceearlier in the week.  Spy satellites are being used to look for radioactive leaks.  Chinabegan building nuclear plants in remote areas in the 1960s to make them less vulnerable to attack.  China’s main source of fuel for nuclear warheads, Plant 821, is located by a river in a hilly part of the Sichuan Province but is believed to be very structurally sound.

The U.S. House of Representatives defeat an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill that would restore funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW).

The U.S. completed the transfer of 550 metric tons of “yellowcake” uranium from Iraq to Canada. The uranium was taken from the former Tuwaitha nuclear complex about 12 miles south of Baghdad and sold by the Iraqi government to Cameco Corp., a Canadian uranium producer, and then transported across two oceans before completing its 8,500 mile journey in Montreal. A reactor at the Tuwaitha site was bombed by Israel in 1981.  The U.N. later documented and secured the yellowcake.  There was no evidence of any yellowcake from after 1991.  While the 3,000-acre (9,300-hectare) site has been secured by U.S. and Iraqi forces, cleanup is ongoing.

A new international disarmament group is announced: The International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (ICNND), headed by former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans and former Japanese foreign minister Yoriko Kawaguchi.

North Korea makes a declaration of non-weaponized nuclear material, indicating it has 30kg of plutonium.

North Korea symbolically blows up the cooling tower at its Yongbyon nuclear reactor.

Negotiators in the six-party talks announced an agreement that would allow international inspectors to verify North Korea’s disarmament.  Although most of the details have yet to be worked out, inspectors would be able to visit North Korean nuclear facilities, review documents, and interview technicians.  This follows last month’s news about the symbolic destruction of the cooling towers at the Yongbyon facility.  In exchange for the verification regime, the U.S. and Russia will supply North Korea with one million tons of heavy fuel oil.

An Islamabad court barred the disgraced scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan from giving interviews about the illicit nuclear network he once confessed to running, but eased some restrictions he has been under since President Pervez Musharraf placed him under house arrest in 2004 for running a network that sold uranium enrichment technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.  Earlier this month investigators also found an electronic blueprint for a compact nuclear bomb on computers in several cities around the world belonging to Khan’s network.  Dr. Khan, who is 72 and revered in Pakistan as the father of their nuclear program, said last week that he was innocent and had been coerced into confessing.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) once again delayed the opening of the Monju Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor.  The reactor was shut in 1995 after a sodium leak caused a fire.  The sodium leak detector alarm has sounded several times at the plant in the years since.  The Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center reports that, “The latest delay arose as a result of the very long time taken to check equipment for detecting sodium leaks. Because these checks have taken such a long time, the fuel in the reactor core has degraded to the point where it cannot reach criticality. Consequently new fuel has to be fabricated.”  In January, WikiLeaks released video showing the 1995 incident.

Indian opposition parties are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after Representative Howard L. Berman (D-CA) released a State Department letter to Congress which said the U.S. could immediately halt the sale of nuclear material and technology that pose security risks if India conducted any nuclear tests.  They believe the proposed U.S.-India nuclear deal would compromise India’s ability to control their nuclear technology.  According to Congress Party officials cited by the New York Times, India should not need to conduct a nuclear test for at least a decade and it may obtain the necessary materials and technology for doing so from other nations if the U.S. refuses.  The Bush administration must wait for the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the U.S. Senate to approve the plan.

Following an announcement earlier in the month that it would resume activity at the Yongbyon nuclear facility, North Korea asks the International Atomic Energy Agency to remove its seals and cameras from the plant.  Work to reassemble cables, pipes, and other parts is believed to have already begun.  North Korea claims to be restoring Yongbyon “to its original state” after the U.S. failed to remove it from the State Department’s blacklist of countries that support terrorism.

The U.S. House of Representatives approves the U.S.-India nuclear deal, the first time that nuclear trade has been allowed with a country that acquired nuclear weapons outside of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Senate agreed to a deal with India to allow civilian nuclear trade between the two countries, opening a new chapter in their relationship after frequently finding themselves at odds during the Cold War.  The 86-13 vote has been sharply criticized because the U.S.can now to sell nuclear fuel, reactors, and other technology to India despite the fact that it tested bombs in 1974 and 1998 and has shown no indication of ratifying the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  India agreed to open up 14 civilian nuclear facilities to international inspection, but will not have to do so for its eight military reactors.  The United States-India Business Council, which promoted the deal, estimates that India may spend as much as $175 billion over the next quarter century expanding its nuclear industry to cope with rising energy demands.

The State Department removed North Koreafrom its list of state sponsors of terrorism after North Korea agreed to resume dismantling the plutonium plant at Yongbyon and allow some inspections.  President Bush had previously called the country part of an “axis of evil.”

In response to the U.S.-India nuclear deal, China announces a deal to provide Pakistan with two new nuclear power plants.

The U.S. State Department published punitive sanctions against 13 “foreign persons” from China, Russia, South Korea, Sudan, Venezuela, and the United Arab Emirates for selling technology that may help other countries develop nuclear weapons technology.  The State Department claims that the sanctions, which took effect in August, are in response to violations of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, announced that there were 250 thefts of radioactive material throughout the world last year.  Although the amount of stolen material is not enough to produce a nuclear weapon even if it were combined together, he called the figure “disturbingly high.”  Most of the thefts came from former member states of the Soviet Union.

According to an investigation by the BBC, the U.S. abandoned a nuclear weapon in northern Greenland that was lost after a plane crash on January 21, 1968.  The Pentagon had been flying “Chrome Dome” missions with nuclear-armed B52 bombers from Thule Air Base, the Department of Defense’s northernmost base, in response to the perceived threat from the Soviet Union.  Declassified video of the cleanup shows a team of people in yellow protective suits picking up debris from the crash, which ultimately yielded “thousands of tiny pieces of debris scattered across the frozen bay, as well as to collect some 500 million gallons of ice,” but no bomb.  The Start III submarine was sent out in search of the bomb two years after one was successfully recovered off the coast of Spain but to no avail.  Officials confirmed that the bomb, whose serial number is 78252, had been abandoned, but residents continue to worry about potential long-term environmental and health impacts.

The United States delivers 200,000 tons of heavy fuel to North Korea as part of an agreement to exchange nuclear weapons for nuclear energy in the country.

The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism has concluded that terrorists will most likely carry out an attack with biological, nuclear or other unconventional weapons somewhere in the world in the next five years unless the United States and its allies act urgently to prevent that.  The Congressionally-directed study sprang from the 9/11 Commissions recommendations and spanned six months.  Some of the 13 official recommendations call for comprehensive strategies to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan, Iran, and North Koreaas well as the strengthening of international institutions such as the IAEA.  Three of the panels Democrats advised President-elect Obama on national security matters.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy wrote a letter to the United Nations in his capacity as President of the European Union seeking to revive the process of nuclear disarmament.  Specifically, he called for a global ban on nuclear testing; a moratorium on the production of all fissile material; the universal ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; the dismantling of nuclear bomb test sites; a universal inspection regime; further progress on a follow-on treaty to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty; and “the opening of consultations on a treaty forbidding short- and medium-range surface-to-surface missiles.”

Negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program collapsed today, ending hopes that a deal could be finalized in the remaining six weeks of Bush’s presidency.  This setback comes after North Korean objected to allowing soil and air samples to be taken near nuclear facilities and sent overseas for testing, a key part of the U.S. demand for verifiably disarmament.  Rumors about Kim Jong-il’s declining health have fueled speculation about who will succeed him.  It remains to be seen whether the latest move indicates a return to the pursuit of nuclear technology or merely a stall tactic.