Middlebury Institute of International Studies
October 2020
VCDNP Short Course for Practitioners
The Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) held its nineteenth intensive short course on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament from September 28—October 2, 2020. The VCDNP welcomed 11 diplomats and officials posted in Vienna and representing 11 different countries from four of the five UN Regional Groups. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the intensive short course was held in an online format.

The five-day course consisted of lecturers and panel discussions as well as informal conversations and socials. The program was designed to give the course participants a broad understanding of past and present issues related to nonproliferation and disarmament. Many of the matters covered during the course had recently been discussed at the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference, which took place a week before the course, and many would be topical for the upcoming Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
US Russia China cooperation
US Nonproliferation Cooperation with Russia and China
The United States has at times worked cooperatively with Russia and China to promote shared nonproliferation objectives. But with no end in sight to the current precipitous decline in Washington’s bilateral relations with Moscow and Beijing, constructive engagement on today’s nonproliferation challenges has become increasingly problematic.

Authored by veteran nonproliferation expert Bob Einhorn, Occasional Paper #48, "US Nonproliferation Cooperation with Russia and China," examines the history of US cooperation with Russia and China on key issues including Iran, North Korea, Syria, international nonproliferation mechanisms, and nuclear security. It also outlines the obstacles to future nonproliferation cooperation, as well as the growing proliferation threats that require such cooperation. Most importantly, it identifies several possible areas where the United States can hope to find common ground with both countries.

Investigating Biological Outbreaks
COVID-19 has exposed key gaps in the global community’s ability to assess infectious disease outbreaks of international concern, in particular the ability to differentiate between natural and laboratory sources of infection. The risk of natural outbreaks is increasing as unchecked population growth, industrial expansion, and corresponding ecological disruption increases the likelihood that novel disease agents will come into contact with naïve human populations. Likewise, the risk of laboratory accidents is increasing as more high-containment laboratories are built and higher risk experiments are conducted around the world. Meanwhile, a deliberate biological attack may resemble an outbreak of natural or accidental origin, and a natural or accidental outbreak may be misattributed as an attack.

Occasional Paper #49, "Investigating Biological Outbreaks: Nature versus the Laboratory" by Richard Pilch, Miles Pomper, Jill Luster, and Filipa Lentzos outlines a readily adoptable, stepwise methodology to guide the investigation of corresponding outbreak origins, building upon traditional epidemiological principles. It also offers recommendations to ensure such access under existing international regimes, primarily the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations.

Uranium Mining and Milling in Saudi Arabia
Recent news reports have emerged regarding possible developments in Saudi Arabia's nuclear program, including a Wall Street Journal report of a new uranium mill and a New York Times report of a uranium-conversion facility.

For the newest issue of Nonpro Notes, a team of CNS researchers dove into the open-source data on Saudi Arabia to determine the veracity of these reports. They were unable to prove—or disprove—the allegation that a uranium conversion facility has been constructed near Riyadh. However, since Saudi Arabia has sought and found large quantities of uranium reserves, and, considering its intent to pursue nuclear weapons should Iran do so, the researchers note the Kingdom's current safeguards remain inadequate.

International nuclear suppliers and assistance providers, including China, should not provide further support to the budding Saudi nuclear program until the Kingdom rescinds its current, inadequate safeguards and concludes an Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Small granite rock stone fly isolated on black background
Death Dust
Comparatively little is known about the past radiological-weapons programs of states: are these weapons more difficult to manufacture than depicted by science-fiction authors? Are radiological weapons a thing of the past, or do they remain an attractive option for some countries?

A new study published in International Security by Samuel Meyer, Sarah Bidgood, and William C. Potter offers a comparative analysis of the underexplored radiological-weapons programs in the United States and Soviet Union and identifies the drivers behind their rise and demise. The findings also illuminate the factors likely to affect the pursuit of radiological weapons by other states in the future. The article proposes steps that might be undertaken to reduce the possibility of their production, deployment and use.
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