Australian news, and some related international items

The 2022 nuclear year in review: A global nuclear order in shambles

The Bulletin. By François Diaz-Maurin | December 26, 2022

It is hard to find a year filled with more concerns about nuclear risk than 2022. There surely was 1986 and the Chernobyl reactor accident. There was also 1962 and the Cuban Missile Crisis. And, of course, there was 1945 and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But this year, all sorts of nuclear risks coincided.

Russia, losing on the ground, contemplated the use of nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine—recklessly threatening the nuclear taboo, a 77-year tradition of non-use. Also in Ukraine, nuclear reactors and nuclear facilities became targets of military attacks. Elsewhere, North Korea test-launched more ballistic missiles than it ever had in a single year and even seems to be preparing for a nuclear test. Iran resumed construction of its underground nuclear complex, disconnected IAEA surveillance cameras, and accelerated its uranium enrichment program, leaving it only months away from possibly testing a nuclear explosive or deploying a crude nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile, if it wishes to do so. In response, Saudi Arabia took further steps toward enriching uranium, also refusing IAEA inspections that would ensure the Kingdom does not conduct covert nuclear weapons-related activities.

Despite all these concerns, efforts of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament failed to achieve any meaningful result this year. Participants in the first meeting of states parties of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), also known as the ban treaty, could not agree on calling out Russia’s nuclear threats and rhetoric in its war against Ukraine. The long-awaited review conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) ended without an agreement after Russia refused to sign off on an outcome document that referred to the control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. The international community, so far, seems incapable of finding ways to better protect nuclear facilities from attacks, even as the odds of a nuclear accident in Ukraine increase as the war drags on.

In August, the EU-mediated talks between the United States and Iran failed to revive the 2015 agreement limiting Tehran’s nuclear program, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which former President Trump abandoned in 2018. In the United States, the much-anticipated Biden administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) was finally released in October, only to deceive experts. The NPR has been invariably accused, at best, of maintaining the nuclear status quo and of passing on its chance to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in the US security strategy, if not of being a major step backward.

Finally, in late November, hopes that on-site inspections under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) could resume soon were cold-showered after Russia postponed a meeting of the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC), the treaty’s implementing body, planned to be held the next day in Cairo, Egypt. New START is the only bilateral nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia, the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. It is set to expire in 2026.

2022 will certainly appear in textbooks as the year when the global nuclear order was unprecedentedly shaken, if not irreparably destroyed……………………..

December 29, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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