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Non-Proliferation Strategies, Challenges, and Future of Nuclear Limitation

Non-Proliferation Strategies, Challenges, andFuture of Nuclear Limitation

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The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a globalagreement created with the primary role of thwarting the dispersionof nuclear weapons in the world. The treaty was also ratified in abid to promote the peaceful use some nuclear technology, such asnuclear energy and to ensure the disarmament of nuclear weapons[ CITATION Boo12 l 1033 ].The idea of NPT commenced in 1968, afterthe U.S. had discharged nuclear weapons in Japan. The Japanesebombings caused an international concern about nuclear weaponpossession and usage. In 1970, the treaty came into force, “and theInternational Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was given the power topolice the nuclear activities of the member states that had acceptedthe terms and conditions of the treaty”[ CITATION Bel13 l 1033 m Joy11].

Currently, the NPT is a universal treaty, whichbans all countries, except for the UK, US, France, China, and Russiafrom possessing nuclear weapons. In addition, the treaty requiresthat the five countries excepted from the ban should eventually getrid of their nuclear weapon reserves with time[ CITATION Let10 l 1033 ].In spite of the NPT’s effort of ensuring that countries cannotpossess atomic arsenals, various challenges have arisen in the recentpast. In the past decade, countries likeIran, North Korea, and Iraq have been found to be in breach of thetreaty. This essay, therefore, seeks to discuss the development ofthe NPT, some of the challenges facing the NPT, why some states seekto progress nuclear weapons, as well as to highlight some of theimplications of nuclear limitation in the contemporary society. Toachieve these objectives, the paper shall provide a historicaloverview of the NPT, discuss the major issue surrounding the NPTagreement, and highlight some of the future expectation.

Early Non-Proliferation Strategies

Immediately after the Second World War, the US wasthe only country in the world with nuclear weapons. These weapons hadbeen utilized in Japan to end World War II, and it had devastatingeffects in Hiroshima and Nagasaki where the atomic bombs had landed.The issue of nuclear weapons had raised concerns among other nationsthroughout the world because of the grave impacts on Japanese soil.Other countries were willing to enter into a negotiating pact so asto end the use of nuclear weapons in the battle field. As a result,President Truman proposed that the US should get rid of the atomicarsenal, but only if other countries in the world did not pursue aplan to accumulate nuclear weapons and allow the inspection to verifythat they did not have any atomic weapons. President Truman’sstrategy for disarmament was known as the ‘Baruch Plan,’ and itwas expected to give a single agency, under the jurisdiction of theUN, the power to inspect, veto, and research nuclear explosives[ CITATION Bun92 l 1033 ].

However, President Truman’s strategy did requirethe US to surrender its atomic arsenal for inspection until theagency had inspected the USSR and other nations that had exhibitedthe ability to create nuclear weapons. The USSR, which at the timehad poor relations with the US, rejected the concepts of the BaruchPlan, as it was pursuing its nuclear vision. Consequently, the UnitedStates became skeptical about the idea of discussing atomic weaponsin the UN. This prompted the country to enact the Atomic Energy Actin 1946, with the objective of maintaining nuclear technology secrecyand preventing other countries from proliferating the technology[ CITATION Fuh14 l 1033 ].

In 1953, the president of the United States,Eisenhower, gave a speech known as the ‘Atom for Peace’(Fuhrmann&amp Sechser, 2014). This speech came after the United States failedto convince countries to reduce the number of nuclear weapons intheir arsenals with the aid of the Baruch Plan. Eisenhower’s ideaof ensuring control of nuclear technology was different from Truman’sin that it proposed that the US should make an effort to assistcountries with nuclear potential to attain their objectives in apeaceful manner. As a result, the US amended the Atomic Energy Act toinclude the concept of assisting other nations. In addition, the IAEAwas formulated to carry out nuclear inspections as well as assistnations that needed it[ CITATION Fuh14 l 1033 ].

Formulation of the NPT

Owing to Eisenhower’s efforts, countries thathad nuclear power ambitions like the USSR, France, and the UScommenced submitting research reactors, which were used to aid intraining and expounding knowledge on nuclear fission and itspotential benefits other than weapon development. With the rapidadvances in research, the atomic harnessing learning curve improvedimmensely. As such, the nations that once lacked the knowledge on howto develop nuclear technology had gained skills and sufficientinsight into how to develop this technology effectively andefficiently. This led to increased fears on how the technology couldbe used by countries that lacked self-control. To curb these fears,the debate on controlling the spread of the nuclear technology gainedmomentum.

The results of discussions on non-proliferation,in 1961, produced the first consensus where parties to the dialogueagreed that countries in possession of nuclear technology shouldavoid relinquishing control or disseminating information, on how todevelop atomic weapons, to states that did not have the technologicalknow-how. This agreement formed the basis of the NTP. In 1962, theUS submitted a draft with guidelines on how countries would utilizenuclear technology and a proposal for the disarmament of nuclearweapons in Geneva.

The draft was met with a response from the USSR,which asserted that the US had to dissolve its agreement that claimedUS would use atomic weapons to protect NATO allies. This assertiontogether with United States’ proposal for a multilateral force withnuclear weapons became the biggest barriers to the successfulratification of the NPT.

For the NPT treaty to be ratified, both the US andthe USSR had to compromise some of their security aspects. The UnitesStates gave up on their pursuit of a multilateral force. On the otherhand, the USSR conceded on the issues of prohibiting the deploymentof atomic weapons in NATO allies, “as long as the weapons remainedunder the control of the US government” [ CITATION Car08 l 1033 ].With these two stumbling issues out of the way, the NPT negotiationsgained speed and countries commenced accepting the terms of theagreement.

The states that did not possess nuclear weaponswere required to accept the terms set in the NPT draft, and they werealso required to submit to IAEA inspections when needed to. Inaddition, major nuclear controllers of the world, at the time, UK,USSR, and the US were asked to provide to member countries that werepursuing peaceful nuclear technology ambitions.

In 1968, the NPT was finalized, and countriescommenced ratifying the treaty[ CITATION Bri151 l 1033 ].This process extended until 1970. However, other minor negotiationswere still taking place at the IAEA among member parties. Thesenegotiations mainly focused on the scope and nature ofthe investigation that the IAEA could carry out during the inspectionof nuclear weapons in member countries. Most of the West Europeannations had waited for the completion of the negotiations before theysigned the NPT treaty. To ensure the treaty remained relevant, astime changed, the members agreed that further negotiations would takeplace every five years. During the 1995 negotiations, the treatyterms were amended with the member countries extending the terms ofthe contract from the initial 25years agreement to an indefinitenumber of years[ CITATION Car08 l 1033 ].

NPT Accomplishments

Since its incursion, the NPT has had some greataccomplishments in discouraging the proliferation of nuclear weaponsacross the globe[ CITATION Cin13 l 1033 ].To commence with, the major proponents of the treaty have overseenthat fewer than 30 countries gain access to nuclear technology andweapons. In the early 1960s, scholars andpolitical analysts had projected that approximately 25 to 30 would benuclear armed by 1990. This is however not the case as the NPT hasslowed down this progression to the extent that the world has onlynine countries with atomic arsenal today. According to a report byCarlson (2008), today the numbers of countries having nuclear powerinclude the main five nuclear weapon states plus India, Israel,Pakistan, and DPRK. However, none of these countries confirms nordenies its possession of atomic arsenal[ CITATION Car08 l 1033 m Nay13].

The major success of the NPT, however, wasobserved when South Africa decided to dismantle its atomic weaponsand join the NPT. This accomplishment can be matched by the decisionof two South American nations, Brazil and Argentina, joining the NPT.Apart from these two accomplishments, the NPT has overseen anincrease in the number of member states, with former USSR states likeBelarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan joining the movement, which aims toreduce the spread of nuclear weapons. These countries previously hadnuclear weapons within their territories. However, their compliancewith the NPT agreement has ensured that the number of countries withweapons of mass destruction remains lower than anticipated[ CITATION Car08 l 1033 ].

Carlson (2008) averred that the accomplishments ofthe NPT could be attributed to the compliance and politicalcommitment shown by the majority of the member states. Most nationsare that signed the treaty are in support of peaceful coexistence anduse of the nuclear weapons. As such, they have a tendency to honortheir non-proliferation objectives. Apart from commitment andcompliance, the nations have also submitted to the idea of trust andverification by the IAEA[ CITATION CSS09 l 1033 ].Hence, there is very little incentive to develop nuclear weapons whenmonitoring and verification of non-existence is a common occurrence[ CITATION Wen16 l 1033 ].

Countries are also compliant because very fewnations in the world have the ability to produce fissile material.Trade on these types of fissile material is also heavily monitoredand controlled thus limiting the number of countries that are willingto develop atomic weapons. Lastly, the compliance to the NPT can beattributed to the peace that has existed since the Second World Warand the cold war. No country currently threatens another withoutcause. In the case of conflict, diplomatic structures are in place toensure the disagreement dissipates quickly. This gives littleincentive for many countries to develop atomic weapons, thus adheringthe terms of the NPT[ CITATION Car08 l 1033 ].

Development of nuclear weapons/ Challenges

Although the mandate and outreach of the NPT haveexpanded from their initial status, the treaty has come under strainfrom different and unexpected areas. One of the biggest challenges ofthe NTP came from Iraq, who showed the capacity to hide nuclearweapons from the IAEA inspectors prior to the Gulf War[ CITATION Bur10 l 1033 m Ker11].After the UN Security Council had extendedthe authority of the NPT to exceed the previously inspectionlimitation that had been proposed in the 1970 NPT agreement, theinspectors were able to find highly enriched uranium in Iraq, whichwas intended for use in weapon making. France and the USSR hadprovided this uranium to the Iraqis in an attempt to assist in thepeaceful development of nuclear energy. However, the country had gonebeyond the NPT statutes of limitation and refined the Uranium in abid to build an atomic arsenal.

Immediately after the incidence in Iraq, themember parties were prompted to adopt more stringent rules and betterstrategies to efficiently handle the issue of nuclear proliferation.In spite of this, the chief negotiators of the new protocol forinspection of nuclear weapons, in 1997, did not reach a consensusthat required all member parties to agree to the new model ofinspection, as was the case in previous agreements[ CITATION IAE15 l 1033 ].Hence, as of 2003, less than half of themember states had negotiated the new protocols, and only twentypercent of the states had a parliamentary ratification pertaining tothe new protocols[CITATION ElB03 l 1033 ].Even some of the strong proponents, like theUS, had not adopted the new safeguard agreement five years after ithad been proposed.

Nevertheless, the IAEA sought newer strategies todetermine the use of nuclear technology, especially after moreproblematic nations, like North Korea and Iran started emerging fromthe shadows[ CITATION Sen05 l 1033 ]. Theresulting consequence of using these methods was that the IAEAdetected traces of nuclear activity in North Korea, which promptedthe calls for extensive inspections that wereobserved in the early 1990s. However, the government of North Korearejected the proposal for investigation, thus leading to a stalematebetween the country and the IAEA authorities. In a bid to dissipatethe tension, the US, and North Korea negotiated on the issue.Eventually, North Korea accepted to dismantle a reactor that had ledto the production of plutonium[ CITATION Bli03 l 1033 ].

The results of the bilateral negotiations alsorequired North Korea to provide evidence of its past activities inthe nuclear technology field. Despite the measures taken to ensurethat North Korea remained compliant with the rules ofnon-proliferation during the agreement, the country appears to havegone against the contract. Evidence suggests that North Koreamaintained active nuclear programs at other sites in the country. Asa result, between 2002 and 2003, both the United States and NorthKorea agreed that the terms of the agreement of 1994 were notfavorable to either party. Hence, North Korea withdrew from the NPT[ CITATION Bli03 l 1033 ].

Evidence from research also indicates that Iranhas been a major contributor of the challenges facing the NPT. Iranfailed to disclose their experiments, which aimed to enrich uraniumand separate plutonium for the creation of nuclear technology. Thistriggered concerns among the IAEA inspectors who conducted anextensive inspection to determine whether the country was headingtoward the acquisition of atomic arsenals. The results of theinspection showed that Iran had small samples of enriched uranium aswell as apparatus capable of enriching large quantities of uranium.None of the equipment and nuclear material had been reported thereports Iran had handed to the IEAE.

Although Iran had failed to report about itsnuclear ambitions and enrichment programs, the report by the IAEAindicated that there was no proof of nuclear activity in the country.This report dismayed the US, who believed that Iran was pursuingnuclear ambition contrary to their obligation to the NPT agreement.Nevertheless, the result of this discovery of trace amounts ofenriched uranium was accompanied by negotiation between the UK,France, and Germany, and Iran, with the aim of disarming Iran andreducing. The outcome of the negotiations was an agreement, whereIran accepted to sign additional contracts that would permitadditional inspection. In addition, Iran was also required to abandonits uranium enrichment program. The IAEA together with the US alsomade a decision to monitor Iran closely for any nuclear activitywithin its borders.

During the reign of President Bush, countries likeIraq and Iran were pressed in a bid to curb their nuclear ambitions.This was done in a domineering way, which is contrary to the proposalof the NTP. The resulting factor was America invading Iraq withoutthe authorization and approval of the UN. The Bush administrationjustified the war by indicating that they were eliminating apotential threat to the world. Hence, the war was waged on theassumption that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction. Theaftermath of the War in Iraq raised compelling evidence on whetherthe public opinion should be sought before waging war[ CITATION Car04 l 1033 ].

Other issues such as the China-Pakistan deal havealso challenged the power of the NPT. According to reports by the USdepartment of defense, China provided Pakistan with fissile materialand assisted them in the development of a nuclear weapon program. Asa result, it was against the NPT recommendation. It is believed thatsuch deals encourage the proliferation of fissile material.International political scientist suggests that the US and China aretrying to portray their dominance on the issue of world power.According to political scientists, the attempt by China to providefissile material and assist them in nuclear development was a move tobalance the US and India deal. As a result, both the superpowers haveunknowingly encouraged countries to possess nuclear material, thusincreasing the number of atomic arsenals and knowledge in the world(Boon, Huq, &amp Lovelace, 2012).

Critics and some scholars have argued that the NPTmay not stop the proliferation of atomic arsenals. Theirdisappointment has specifically been directed to the lack ofdisarmament efforts shown by the nuclear states, with the five majornuclear wielding possessing thousands of nuclear weapon andtechnology. To make matters worse, these nuclear wielding states areindependent and powerful states, which cannot be bullied intodisarmament. As a result, they are left to control their activities,especially activities related to nuclear disarmament (Carlson, 2008).

Today, the majority of the developing nations areattacking the non-proliferation treaty based on political reasons.One of the most solid reasons is the attack based on the failure ofthe nuclear wielding states to proceed with disarmament. Since theincursion of the NPT, the five big nations with nuclear weapons havefailed to get rid of the atomic arsenal completely. To date all thefive nuclear wielding still possess a considerable amount of nuclearweapons in their arsenals. As a result, many of the developingnations are calling out these nations on their hypocrisy and wantthem to disarm or share the technology to allow everyone to use it.

Currently, the nuclear wielding states havemaintained a firm stance on their rights to hold nuclear weapons.This has brought great divide among nations with many seeing the moveas a bargain between the non-holders and the holders of nuclearweapons. However, Carlson (2008) argues that it is wrong to perceivethe non-proliferation efforts as an ‘us-against-them’ phenomenon.Instead, the author wants the member countries to address the issueof disarmament effectively. The author is of the opinion that thiscan be achieved through a better explanation as well as thecommitment of the nuclear wielding countries to the reduction ofatomic weapons.

The future of NPT

Today, advances in technology, coupled withimproved access to information, knowledge, and skills, have led to anupsurge of the number of countries that acquire nuclear weapons.Nuclear technology that is not weaponized does not present a threatto the world. However, the knowledge coupled with the proliferationof fissile material represents a great risk to the war againstproliferation. This situation is especially dangerous when countriescommence developing undeclared programs. Carlson (2008) is of theopinion that even declared programs may prove to be problematic,especially if countries lose control and breakout programs emerge.The breakout programs and non-declared near programs may be thebiggest threats to the non-proliferation regime that countries haveenjoyed for over half a century.

There is a general concern among the NPT memberparties that some countries are utilizing the assistance clause inthe NPT to gain nuclear technology and once they gain thetechnological expertise they can withdraw from the treaty like NorthKorea did. These countries could then use the expertise to developnuclear weapons without restrictions. For this reason, the nuclearwielding states want some regulation to be formulated in order tocontrol the acquisition of fissile material like uranium andplutonium. The Nuclear Supplier Group proposed new states withaspiration for nuclear weapons should be placed under multilateralcontrol. This proposition was intended to ensure that co-owners wouldcheck on how the new states utilized the nuclear materials[ CITATION ElB03 l 1033 ].While this proposition is valid, it remainsto be seen how member countries would react to the changes if thisproposition were accepted. The issue of multilateral control andownership is contentious since most countries do like other countriesoverseeing their projects or controlling essential aspects of theirprojects.

The capacity to develop nuclear together withterrorism and increased cases of violation is raising doubts onwhether the NPT can withstand the changes and keep the nuclearambition of all countries in check. Scholars and political scientistsare concerned that the NPT may not withstand the rapidtransformations in the modern world. As a result, they believe thatthe NPT should be complemented with a new institutionalnonproliferation framework in a bid to reduce the challenges facingcurrent nonproliferation efforts. In Carlson’s (2008) opinion, thenew framework should address the issue of equity and security ofsupply.

While the nonproliferation treaty ensures thatnuclear weapons and technology do not fall into the wrong hands, someindividuals are of the idea that the treaty is being used tomonopolize and justify cartelism in the energy industry[ CITATION Car08 l 1033 ].Consequently, these individuals have sharedtheir ideas with their governments, which have led to the increasednoncompliance to the guidelines set in the NPT. To curb this issue,the new framework should ensure that ensure that the NPT is not useduse as a means of justifying cartelism but rather as an act ofcontrol over the proliferation of dangerous weapons. Addressing thisissue of equity would form the key basis of ensuring that atomicweapons do not proliferate across the globe.


The NPT was founded for the sole purpose ofaverting the dispersion of nuclear weapons around the world. In thisregard, the NPT has accomplished some great milestones however,there have been extreme setbacks in the course of meeting thepredetermined goals and objectives. Somenations have adhered to the NPT regulations while others have defiedthese regulations by advancing in nuclear weapons. However, NPT hasmanaged to achieve most of the organizational guidelines in the fightagainst nuclear weapons. For instance, someof the ways through which the NPT has achieved great milestones is byensuring that the number of nuclear-wielding countries has remainedbelow the anticipated 25-30 countries by the 1990s.

The treaty has this far limited the number ofcountries with nuclear weapons to nine. In addition, the treaty hasensured the disarmament of South Africa, which decided to kill itsnuclear ambitions and comply with the rules and regulation of theNPT. Countries like Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Belarus, which once hadnuclear weapons were able to join the NPT and comply with theprotocols set. In addition to this, countries like Brazil andArgentina joined the NTP to add to the list of nations that want toavoid the spread of nuclear weapons. The joining of these countrieswas a major step towards achieving the NPT goals and objectives ofensuring the world remains free from nuclear weapons.

The advancements in technology, in the modernworld, have posed challenge to the NPT and its ability to control theprogress of nuclear weapons. There are concerns among nations aboutthe efficiency of NPT in controlling the spread of nuclear weapons.As a result, there have been various proposals that additionalpolicies and regulations be put in place to ensure the organizationaccomplishes its mandate and objectives.

Despite this progress, the NPT has been met withthe challenge of non-compliance. Countries like North Korea, Iran,and Iraq were found to be in possession of nuclear weapons. Iraqalone has led to the two different wars due to their nuclear activityeven through the second war with the United States remainedquestionable. On the other hand, North Korea stopped all theircompliance efforts and decided to withdraw from the NTP. The issue ofnoncompliance has been attributed to lack of initiative shown by thefive major nuclear-wielding countries. The NPT has been forced todeal with non-compliant nations around the world by engaging talkswith then so as to encourage compliance of other countries.

Despite their crusade for nuclear disarmament,these countries have maintained considerable stocks of nuclearweapons and nuclear technology. Consequently, developing nations havequestioned the motives of these nations. Some individuals haveinsinuated that this is a strategy to hoard nuclear technology andcreate exploitative energy cartels. Scholars are of the opinion thatfuture success of the NPT depends on the ability of the five majornation to disarm or reduce their nuclear stock. Additionally, itdepends on the formulation of a regulatory framework that wouldcomplement the NPT by ensuring issues of equity are addressed beforethey get out of hand.


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