Saturday, April 10, 2004

Nuclear Nonproliferation: focus on Egypt & Algeria next

On March 30, Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center went before the US House of Representatives' Committee on International Relations and argued that after Libya, the Bush administration should direct its nuclear nonproliferation efforts towards encouraging Egypt and Algeria to give up their nuclear facilities...
I first raised questions about Algeria’s need for a second large research reactor over a year ago. This reactor can make nearly a bomb’s worth of plutonium a year, is located at a distant, isolated site, is surrounded by air defense missiles, and only makes sense if it is intended to make bombs. In fact, Algeria already has a second, smaller, less threatening research reactor in Algers. Shutting down the larger plant at Ain Ousseara would save Algeria money and make everyone breathe easier. Then there is Egypt’s large research reactor purchased from Argentina. It too can make nearly a bomb’s worth of plutonium annually. Perhaps Egypt could offer to mothball this plant in exchange for Israel shutting down its large plutonium production reactor at Dimona. The later is so old it will take hundreds of millions of dollars to refurbish it just to keep it operating. Israeli critics of continuing to operate Dimona reactor have publicly called for its shutdown in the Kennest. Certainly, progress on any of these fronts would be helpful in addressing other proliferation problems in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere.