Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty

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Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty

Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in 2011

United States views on international law (based on the document “Digest of U.S. Practice in International Law”): On January 27, 2011, Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller addressed the United Nations Conference on Disarmament (“CD”) in Geneva. Excerpts follow from her discussion of the need for progress at the CD on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (“FMCT”). Her remarks are available in their entirety at (internet link) see this world legal encyclopedia in relation with the year 2009 at 766-768 for prior developments in FMCT negotiations. See also Secretary Clinton's address to the CD in Geneva on February 28, 2011, available at (internet link) Ms. Gottemoeller provided further remarks on the FMCT on July 27, 2011 at a High Level Meeting (“HLM”) in New York on revitalizing the work of the CD, available at (internet link)

Mr. President, an FMCT long has been one of the key goals of multilateral arms control. A cutoff will provide a firm foundation for future disarmament efforts, and help to consolidate the arms control gains made since the end of the Cold War. It is one of the key steps called for in the Final Document of the NPT Review Conference. An FMCT's verifiable controls on fissile material will play an important role by strengthening confidence among the relevant states and help to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.

Mr. President, no other world body of sovereign states is better suited to negotiate an FMCT. We readily acknowledge that an FMCT would have profound security implications for countries that have unsafeguarded nuclear facilities, including the United States of America. Under the CD's rules of procedure and consensus principle, every State assembled in this room will have an equal opportunity to defend its interests and ensure that an FMCT does not harm its vital interests.

The entire point of seeking to pursue an FMCT here, in the CD, is precisely because of the consensus principle undergirding this body's substantive work. No country need fear the outcome of FMCT negotiations. And no country should feel it necessary to abuse the consensus principle and frustrate everyone else's desire to resume serious disarmament efforts and negotiations.


Time Is Running Out In short, Mr. President, it's time for the members of this body to approve a program of work and get started on FMCT negotiations in the CD. If we cannot find a way to begin these negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament, then we will need to consider other options. The calls for exploring such alternatives were in evidence at this year's HLM and during the subsequent UNGA First Committee session. The longer the CD languishes, the louder and more persistent such calls will become.

Should we not be able to agree to begin negotiations now, in preparation for CD negotiations on a Fissile Materiels Cutoff Treaty, we strongly support the idea of robust plenary discussion on broad FMCT issues, reinforced by expert-level technical discussions on specific FMCT topics which could further inform CD plenary exchanges.

This work will be, not a substitute for FMCT negotiations in the CD, but healthy intellectual homework that will prepare the way for what almost certainly will be a difficult negotiation.

We urge every CD Member State to dispatch to Geneva scientific and technical experts on fissile material to support such discussions here in the coming weeks. The U.S. experts will follow me here in several weeks, and be available to contribute to discussions in the CD, and hold meetings on the margins with interested delegations.

We look forward to contributing to these FMCT discussions, in CD plenary and, informally, elsewhere in the Palais, and hope that they will shed light on the U.S. own views and on the views of others.

The continued stalemate on FMCT negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament prompted the P-5 to renew efforts to promote the negotiations. Representatives of the P-5 met in Geneva in August to discuss how to achieve their shared goal of a FMCT in the CD. In her remarks at a high level workshop against Nuclear Tests in New York, New York on September 1, 2011, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Marcie B. Ries reported on these discussions and expressed the hope of the United States that the P-5 “working with other relevant partners, will be able to chart a productive path forward,” on the FMCT. Ms. Ries' statement is available at (internet link) On December 13, 2011, Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller delivered remarks at a Conference in the United Kingdom on “Challenges of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime” in which she reported on progress in commencing FMCT negotiations. Excerpts from her remarks follow. The full text of Ms. Gottemoeller's December 13 remarks is available at (internet link)


I am also glad to be here talking about the development of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). As you all know, an FMCT has long been one of the key goals of multilateral arms control. A cut-off will provide a solid foundation for future disarmament efforts, and help to consolidate the arms control gains made since the end of the Cold War. An FMCT's verifiable controls on fissile material production will play an important role by strengthening confidence among the relevant states and help to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. The United States is firmly committed to making this Treaty a reality.

Though we believe that the Conference on Disarmament (CD) is the best-suited international body for negotiating a multilateral arms control agreement, we've made no secret of the U.S. frustration with the CD's current impasse with FMCT—a frustration shared by many countries. Secretary Clinton told the CD the U.S. patience is not unlimited and I will reiterate that sentiment here. We are in a race against time and these obtrusive delays put the U.S. collective security at risk. However, the United States is encouraged that the P5 is renewing joint efforts to move the CD closer to FMCT negotiations.

To CD or Not to CD?

More about the Issue

Of course, for any negotiation to be substantive and worthwhile, the key states most directly affected by an FMCT should be involved. When it comes down to what is in the best interest of international security, the negotiating venue for the FMCT is of less importance than the participants.

That being said, there is no current consensus among these key states to negotiate an FMCT outside the CD. We believe that it is unlikely that any—much less all—of the non-NPT states would participate in efforts such as technical expert talks in Vienna, which is one idea that has been circulated. It is not even clear that all P5 states would participate in such outside efforts.

Technical discussions that lack key participants are also unlikely to be fruitful. Indeed, they could actually serve to undermine the sense within the international community that FMCT is ripe for negotiation. We should be wary of unworkable technical proposals that create unrealistic expectations and move us further from the needed consensus. This is a risk we should not take as we seek to create and sustain momentum for an FMCT. The fact is that the key obstacles to FMCT negotiations are political, not technical.

There are also those who propose moving FMCT negotiations to the United Nations General Assembly. The UNGA, as a rule, operates by majority vote, although there have been exceptions, such as with the Arms Trade Treaty. Again, it is doubtful that the key states would participate in such a process, particularly if it does not operate by consensus. Simply put, negotiations will have to be consensus-based to get key states involved, similar to the process in the consensus-based CD. It is hard to see how a non-consensus-based strategy outside of the CD would be more effective in getting meaningful negotiations underway than striving to break the impasse at the CD.

With the goal of approaching this issue with the involvement of all key players, at last June's Paris Conference, the P5 committed to renewed efforts with other relevant parties to promote FMCT negotiations in the CD. The P5 continued their discussion in Geneva in August and met again in October in New York on the margins of the United Nations First Committee. This multilateral effort is already producing positive effects.

We were pleased that India, a key FMCT stakeholder, joined the P5 at the October meeting. The P5 is continuing to discuss this issue with Pakistan and Israel individually. We hope we will be able to also include additional countries as these consultations continue to go forward.

It seems that for now, the U.S. best hope is in the efforts of the P5 Plus consultative process. It is true that this process will need time to develop further and that resolving the issues that have created gridlock in the CD will be difficult. Still, we believe this course of action has the best potential to move the CD to action on the FMCT in 2012.

Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in 2011

United States views on international law (based on the document “Digest of U.S. Practice in International Law”): Amending the Consensus Rule? There is some talk of amending the consensus rule at the CD, in order to break the current logjam. The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission made this argument in their 2006 Final Report.

The United States does not share the view that the impasse in the CD is the result of its procedural rules. On the contrary, the consensus rule has served CD members well by providing assurance that individual member states' national security concerns can be met. This is a point that the United States continues to make to Pakistan.

There may be a case for some modifications to how decisions are taken on small procedural items at the CD—such as agreement on meeting schedules and similar, administrative issues—but those issues are not at the heart of the impasse. The road will not be clear until all members of the CD are convinced that commencing negotiations is in their national interest, or at least, not harmful to those interests. The United States is working hard to make the case to Pakistan—and all countries with reservations about the FMCT—that the commencement of negotiations is not something to fear.

Scope Once FMCT negotiations have begun, CD members will face many complex and contentious issues, perhaps none so contentious as the issue of scope. We are well aware that CD members are divided on this issue.…

The U.S. position is clear: FMCT obligations, including verification obligations, should cover only new production of fissile material. The United States has taken a step-by-step approach to reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal in negotiations with the Soviet Union and now Russia. A step-by-step approach would serve us well with an FMCT. One essential step in the process should be codifying a legal ban on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.

We are fully aware that many CD members have a different view and this issue will be the subject of vigorous debate. That is what negotiations are for, and the United States looks forward to that debate. What is not helpful is an effort to “pre-negotiate” the outcome of negotiations by an explicit reference to existing stocks in a negotiating mandate. We would not be alone in seeing this as a thinly-veiled effort to prevent negotiations from getting underway.

Verification Another potential challenge in the negotiating process will be the creation of a verification regime. The United States supports an effectively verifiable FMCT and believes that sufficient measures can be taken to ensure that a militarily significant diversion of newly-produced fissile material can be detected in a timely manner.

The IAEA already has the requisite tools and experience to monitor declared facilities. Safeguards on enrichment and reprocessing plants have been well developed, and improvements to these techniques continue to be made. While FMCT verification will have different goals than those of traditional IAEA safeguards, many of these proven techniques will be of direct relevance.

Procedures will, of course, need to be developed for non-routine inspections to detect undeclared production facilities in states with a long history of fissile material production outside of Safeguards. Drawing on established regimes, such inspections should include managed access or other procedures (e.g., confidence-building measures) to balance the inspectorate's right of access against the need to protect information that is sensitive for proliferation, proprietary, or other reasons. This will be a challenge as it is in all verification efforts, but it is a challenge we believe can be met.

Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in 2013

United States views on international law [1] in relation to Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty: On March 12, 2013, Ambassador Laura Kennedy, U.S. Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament, delivered a statement (excerpted below) to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva regarding the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (“FMCT”). Ambassador Kennedy's statement, available at (link resource), refers to UN General Assembly Resolution 67/53, adopted in December 2012. U.N. Doc. A/RES/67/53. Resolution 67/53 created a group of governmental experts (“GGE”) to make recommendations that could contribute to the conclusion of a FMCT.

Some Aspects of Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty

Madam President, thank you for the opportunity to address this plenary on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty—FMCT. The negotiation of an FMCT has been an issue at the core of this Conference's agenda for many years. It is a central tenet of President Obama's Prague vision of a world without nuclear weapons — part of the step by step mutually reinforcing process to get there. Many times the international community has underlined the centrality of FMCT to nuclear disarmament. The international community has long been ready to negotiate FMCT. For no other nuclear disarmament measure has the technical and conceptual ground work been better prepared than it has for FMCT. The 2010 NPT Review Conference Action Plan reaffirms FMCT's priority and the primacy of achieving it as a logical and essential next step on the path towards global nuclear disarmament. We much prefer that FMCT be dealt with here in the CD, a well-established venue for negotiations that includes every major nuclear-capable state and operates by consensus.


But while there are no technical or conceptual obstacles to the commencement of FMCT negotiations, there are political ones. As you are well aware, these are self-inflicted. A Program of Work including FMCT negotiations, CD/1864, was approved by this Conference in the spring the CD have been blocked and the will of the international community has been repeatedly thwarted. Efforts by several CD members to craft sensible, compromise language have all failed, including two promising Program of Work proposals offered by the distinguished representatives of Egypt and Hungary, respectively, and an earlier effort by Brazil, when the equally distinguished Brazilian Ambassador presided over the CD. The deadlock in the CD over FMCT appears as intractable today as it ever has, though it need not be.


Years of frustration and inactivity led to a predictable result, with the 2012 UNGA First Committee taking action. While not enthusiastic about increasing UNGA involvement in CDrelated issues, the United States assessed that the Canadian-sponsored FMCT resolution (67/53) establishing a Group of Government Experts (GGE) was balanced, consensus-based, and could lead to future FMCT negotiations in the CD. This is why in the end we decided to support the Canadian resolution and why we will encourage others to support its work. It's not a substitute for the CD; it's an impetus for the CD to regain lost credibility by returning to the role carved out for it as a forum for multilateral disarmament negotiations. We intend to actively participate in the GGE, if invited, and we will encourage other countries that would be directly affected by an FMCT to do the same. As the Canadian Ambassador noted, the UN Secretary General invited views on FMCT in this regard. The U.S. will provide such views by May 15, as requested, and hopes all other states will do so as well.


Madam President, my delegation has already outlined our substantive views on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty in past plenaries, and in other meetings held over the past two years on the “margins” of the Conference on Disarmament. The U.S. shares the international goal of a non-discriminatory treaty that halts the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and that is internationally verifiable. An FMCT would be an important, international achievement, both for nonproliferation and disarmament. It would effectively cap the fissile materials available for use in nuclear weapons. Put alongside the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), measures that constrain the technological sophistication of a country's nuclear arsenal, and its size, would be in place. An FMCT would also fold additional enrichment and reprocessing facilities into the international monitoring regime of IAEA safeguards. It would help consolidate the advancements in arms control since the end of the Cold War, and provide the basis for further, deeper reductions in nuclear arsenals globally.


Consistent with the Shannon mandate, the ultimate scope of the Treaty will be an issue for negotiations. The U.S. position on FMCT scope is well known. It is that FMCT obligations, including verification obligations, should cover new production of fissile material. Existing stockpiles should be dealt with separately, through other agreements and voluntary measures.

Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in 2013 (Continuation)

United States views on international law [1] in relation to Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty: We have already undertaken such agreements with Russia, and have taken unilateral steps in addition. In 1994, the United States removed 174 metric tons of highly enriched uranium from its weapons program. In 2005, the United States announced that an additional 200 metric tons would be removed, which would be enough for more than 11,000 nuclear weapons. In an arrangement with Russia, 472 metric tons of Russian highly enriched uranium has now been down-blended for use as commercial reactor fuel and that number is expected to reach the 500 MT target this year. In addition, more than 60 metric tons of plutonium was removed from U.S. defense stocks, of which 34 metric tons was included in the U.S.-Russia Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA). That agreement commits each country to dispose of at least 34 metric tons of excess weapon-grade plutonium, enough in total for approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons. Disposition will be subject to IAEA monitoring and will transform the material into forms that cannot be used for nuclear weapons.

More about Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty

President Obama has accompanied this steady drawdown of fissile material stocks with an accelerated focus on securing fissile material worldwide—a high level, international focus, which he initiated at the Nuclear Security Summit in 2010, followed by the Seoul Summit in 2012. We look forward to the next summit in The Hague.


In short, the U.S. and Russia, the two countries with the largest fissile material stocks have been reducing our stockpiles over the course of many years–more specifically in the 18 years since the Shannon Mandate. The old debate over FMCT scope in the CD is behind the curve in this respect. Attempts to address existing stocks multilaterally and link them to a ban on new production for weapons purposes will only complicate consensus on beginning a negotiation on an FMCT—we know that and have chosen to address stocks by other means. Furthermore, the longer production is not banned, the more stocks will accrue in countries, unlike the United States, that have not imposed a moratorium on production. All of this said, we are well aware that others have a differing view on the scope issue. That is what negotiations are for. It is not possible to resolve such difficult issues before negotiations even begin. Efforts to do so seem to have the effect, whether by design or inadvertently, of preventing negotiations.


As others here today, we have begun the 2013 session of the CD with renewed commitment to the negotiation of an FMCT, despite the stagnation of this body the last many years. Negotiations in the CD would neither discount nor override the national security concerns of any member; on the contrary, the security interests of all are assured by consensus in this Conference. Of course, our deliberations here today, no matter how substantive, are not a substitute for negotiations. The CD should take this important step in multilateral nuclear disarmament and initiate FMCT negotiations as soon as possible. We are ready to launch them.

Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty

In relation to the international law practice and Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in this world legal Encyclopedia, please see the following section:

Use of Force, Arms Control, Disarmament, Nonproliferation

About this subject:

Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament

Under this topic, in the Encyclopedia, find out information on Nuclear Nonproliferation. Note: there is detailed information and resources, in relation with these topics during the year 2011, covered by the entry, in this law Encyclopedia, about Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty


See Also

  • Use Of Force
  • Arms Control
  • Disarmament
  • Nonproliferation
  • Nuclear Nonproliferation



  1. Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in the Digest of United States Practice in International Law



  1. Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in the Digest of United States Practice in International Law

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