Fissile Material Production Cutoff Treaty [FMCT] Excerpts

24 June 1997

Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Thursday, 24 June 1997, at 10 a.m.
President: Mrs. Krasnohorská (Slovakia)


Ms. CRITTENBERGER (United States of America):


In regard to nuclear arms, bilateral negotiations work. They have succeeded in the past, and they remain intensely needed now. The Conference on Disarmament is not the appropriate forum to pursue agreements to reduce nuclear arsenals - at least not at this stage. However, we remain convinced that the Conference on Disarmament has substantial contributions to make in regard to the wider or more general process of nuclear disarmament, those broad undertakings which have practical implications for all or nearly all the world's nations. Viewed from this perspective, the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty falls squarely within the nuclear disarmament process. We believe that in practice, as its preamble states, the CTBT will constrain the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons, and that it will end the development of advanced new types.

On a multilateral level, the next logical step is for the CD to negotiate a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices, on the basis of the report of the Special Coordinator dated 24 March 1995 and contained in document CD/1299, and the mandate contained therein. We strongly agree with an eloquent remark by Italian Ambassador Balboni Acqua during his statement last Thursday: "It is inconceivable to permit fissile materials to be manufactured while nuclear tests are being banned and existing fissile material is being destroyed."

When he spoke here on 15 May, United States Arms Controls and Disarmament Agency Director John Holum stressed the CD's successful history of using practical, problem-solving, step-by-step methods to negotiate and conclude treaties on major disarmament issues. He noted that we need to adopt this practical approach once again in order to negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

Nuclear-weapon States have ceased to produce fissile material, but this change in policy occurred only recently. A fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT) would codify this in a legally binding, verifiable, and global agreement. The nuclear-weapon States would then be asked to accept a permanent legal constraint embodying what is now only a voluntary, and reversible, policy. This, in practice, would place an upper limit on the amount of fissile material than can ever be used for nuclear weapons. After nuclear-weapon States have disposed of highly enriched uranium or plutonium removed from existing nuclear weapons, they could not compensate for that by adding to their stockpiles of fissile material.

Reprocessing and enrichment facilities produce new fissile material, so the FMCT will put all those facilities under safeguards. That will ensure they are used solely to produce fissile material for peaceful purposes - research, medical isotopes, reactor fuel, and other non-explosive uses. In practice, fissile material is the modern chokepoint in creating or enlarging nuclear stockpiles. Even a State that knows how to make nuclear weapons cannot manufacture them unless it has adequate fissile material on hand.

All those who consider nuclear disarmament a priority for the Conference on Disarmament should look upon the negotiation of a fissile material cut-off treaty as an important and positive step. It is difficult to imagine how nuclear arms reductions can proceed much further unless there is a dependable limit on nuclear materials and confidence that the international community will be able to detect clandestine production.


The meeting rose at 10.55 a.m.