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Creating political Will is the biggest challenge, say experts

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 10 2013 (IPS) - The word Hiroshima instantly conjures up images of nuclear mushroom clouds, toxic fumes, wreckages of buildings, charred bodies, death, devastation and destruction.

On August 6, 1945, 8:15 a.m. Hiroshima’s fate was pretty much sealed. The atom bomb called “Little Boy” dropped by the United States left 80,000 people dead. Reports claim that radiation exposure later killed close to 90,000 people.

Hiroshima has left an indelible mark on the world that emerged post World War II.  The end of the war also marked the beginning of the nuclear arms race. In spite of powerful lobbying and campaigning by members of civil society towards nuclear disarmament, critics have often said that the dream of a nuke free world is highly unrealistic.

To discuss nuclear proliferation issues and other modern day security concerns, experts gathered together at a daylong event at the Japan Society Monday. Discussions touched upon the effectiveness of the landmark Arms Trade Treaty to the threat posed by nuclear weapons in today’s world.

When it comes to implementation, “you have to have the political will to do so,” said Douglas Frantz, who along with Catherine Collins wrote “Fallout: The True Story of the CIA’s Secret War on Nuclear Trafficking.”

But the debate on nuclear energy has extended to nuclear power plants as well. In fact, the Fukushima disaster in Japan sparked off debates all over the world on safety issues associated with nuclear power plants. Experts have often pointed out on what they say is a greater issue of “uranium enrichment program” that needs to be monitored.

“There needs to be a world bank that contains enriched uranium at levels that can be used in civilian reactors,” Frantz told IPS. “Every country that has the license for nuclear reactors and every country that has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is abiding by it should have an unrestricted right to go there and obtain as much enriched uranium as it needs in order to run its civilian nuclear reactors.”

Asked about the United States’ stand on Iran’s nuclear programme, Frantz said that sanctions might not deter Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  The growing nexus where various parties are involved in destabilizing the world through nuclear trafficking needs to taken seriously, he said.

Frantz emphasised that the United States should ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and only then can it ask others to do the same. In fact, when it comes to the ATT, the U.S. continues to be the most watched country. The biggest question is the enforcement of the ATT, suggested the panelists.

“While some of the biggest powers are the most hesitant to sign on to treaties, I don’t think that should leave us without hope because, some of these countries like the United States has fairly well developed internal procedures for controlling arms transfer,” said David Bosco, assistant professor of international politics at American University.

Even if countries do not formally join the treaty, the very existence of the ATT should influence their behavior when it comes to arms trade, he said. But, one of the biggest gaps of the ATT lies in the fact that it is open to interpretation by respective countries depending on the situation and the circumstances, Bosco said.

Also, arm dealers are not just nation states, but a very significant percentage of weapons involved in conflicts come from individuals, and the ATT doesn’t address this issue, he added. But, it is at least a step in the right direction.

In terms of gang wars, it is “better to solve that problem within the framework of either the ATT or other agreements that are out there,” said Allison Pytlak, campaign manager for Control Arms.

Overall, at a national level there are going to be challenges when it comes to implementation and nation states are aware of this, said Pytlak.

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