By: E&P Staff
A startling report to be published in Sunday’s New York Times reveals that experts believe that as many as 40 countries may be able to follow North Korea as nuclear nations.
The opening of the article, now available at www.nytimes.com, by David Sanger and William J. Broad, follows.
The declaration last Monday by North Korea that it had conducted a successful atomic test brought to nine the number of nations believed to have nuclear arms. But atomic officials estimate that as many as 40 more countries have the technical skill, and in some cases the required material, to build a bomb.
That ability, coupled with new nuclear threats in Asia and the Middle East, risks a second nuclear age, officials and arms control specialists say, in which nations are more likely to abandon the old restraints against atomic weapons.
The spread of nuclear technology is expected to accelerate as nations redouble their reliance on atomic power. That will give more countries the ability to make reactor fuel, or, with the same equipment and a little more effort, bomb fuel ? the hardest part of the arms equation.
Signs of activity abound. Hundreds of companies are now prospecting for uranium where dozens did a few years ago. Argentina, Australia and South Africa are drawing up plans to begin enriching uranium, and other countries are considering doing the same. Egypt is reviving its program to develop nuclear power.
Concern about the situation led the International Atomic Energy Agency to summon hundreds of government officials and experts from around the world to Vienna in September to discuss tightening restrictions on who can produce nuclear fuel.
?These dangers are urgent,? Sam Nunn, an expert on nuclear proliferation and a former Democratic senator, told the group. ?We are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe and, at this moment, the outcome is unclear.?