Proposals to ban the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons date to the mid-1950s. Since then, specific proposals about a cutoff treaty have evolved in details and justification, but they have been consistent overall.
In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/RES/48/751) calling for the negotiation of a nondiscriminatory, multilateral, and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The next year, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) agreed that it is the appropriate forum for the negotiation of such a treaty.
In March 1995, the CD agreed to establish a mandate for an ad hoc committee based on the 1993 UN General Assembly resolution. The mandate is included in the "Shannon Report," named after then-Canadian Ambassador Gerald Shannon who led the CD consultations on this issue. Because several countries resisted limiting the treaty to a ban only on the future production of fissile material, the Shannon Report explicitly states that the mandate to negotiate a halt to the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons does not preclude any country from raising for consideration in the ad hoc committee past production of fissile material or its management.
On August 11, 1998, the CD agreed, contextually and specifically in CD/1547 and CD/1548, to convene an ad hoc committee to negotiate a ban on the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices. The committee is charged to negotiate, "on the basis of the report of the Special Coordinator [Shannon Report] and the mandate contained therein, a nondiscriminatory, multilateral, and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices."
Members of the CD are now considering the implications of this decision. The purpose of this primer is to provide information relevant and helpful to negotiations. Toward that goal, terminology from resolutions and country statements has been identified, defined, and discussed in this primer. For example, "fissile material" will need to be precisely defined in the negotiations. Thus, section I on isotopes attempts to provide useful background information for discussing the most relevant isotopes. Another example is the term "production" under a treaty, which in the case of plutonium could mean its production in a nuclear reactor or its separation from irradiated fuel in a reprocessing plant. In discussing scope and verification of a treaty, the primer focuses on identifying key questions and providing information that amplifies those questions. An extensive listing of key terms is also provided.
A motivation for producing this primer is our inability to
find a concise, current description of relevant information. Although
a large number of articles and research reports exists on the
topic of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for
nuclear weapons, these documents tend to be specialized in nature.
Nonetheless, this primer cannot be comprehensive. It represents only a modest beginning at compiling the information necessary to negotiate a treaty.
ISIS has sought comments on sections of this primer, and is grateful to the reviewers. However, ISIS bears sole responsibility for the primer's organization and contents. Because a document such as this primer remains a "work in progress," comments are welcome and should be conveyed to ISIS.
President of ISIS