Canada to resurrect proposal restricting nuclear materials

Canada to resume international effort to eliminate key ingredients needed for nuclear weapons

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Canada will spearhead a plan to restart a dormant international effort to eliminate key ingredients for the manufacture of nuclear weapons, the Canadian Press (CP) wire service reported on Sunday.

While no official announcement of the initiative has been made, CP learned that Canada’s United Nations ambassador would this week propose a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The push is on to get the treaty in the works as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to attend the Nuclear Security Summit set up by US President Barack Obama that is set to begin in late March.

Canada had planned the new effort to get a treaty in place for some time, but the pace has been accelerated because of North Korea’s recent claim to have tested a hydrogen bomb.

“I think it sent a chill through the world community and reinvigorates this discussion and this debate,” Rosemary McCarney, Canada’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, told CP.

The initial meetings will take place at the Conference on Disarmament, the UN’s main arms-control group.

But it will be tough sledding to get an agreement, because the work for such a treaty began six decades ago and came to nothing.

“An FMCT has been on the UN’s agenda since 1957,” a memo to Trudeau said. It was obtained by CP under the Access to Information Act.

It is not the first time Canada has attempted to get a treaty signed.

In 1995, Canada managed to get an agreement on how negotiations would proceed, but the effort stalled. In the meantime, Canada has worked with Germany, the Netherlands and Australia to restart the idea.

Trudeau also plans to work with Obama to defuse the threat of nuclear terrorism, an initiative the US president announced in 2010 in a speech in Prague, Czech Republic. The president wants to ensure current nuclear materials are safe and not put up for sale on the black market.

The initiative is important, said Canadian federal officials who prepared briefing documents for Trudeau.

“A nuclear terror attack anywhere in the world would have catastrophic human, political, economic and environmental consequences,” the documents said.

“While the immediate risk of such an attack may appear to be low, states and terrorist groups are known to be actively seeking nuclear or radiological weapons capabilities.”