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  Timeline of the Nuclear Age 1990s  1997

  1997  

In this year, A.Q. Khan begins sending nuclear centrifuges to Libya

The Swedish government decides to start phasing out nuclear energy and to shut down the first of Sweden’s twelve nuclear power plants before parliamentary elections commence in fall 1998.

In the Washington Post, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin states: "We know the military component of NATO. We know that NATO means a powerful nuclear presence, nuclear forces and all of this, is being moved closer to us in Russia... How am I supposed to explain it to my people who have been brought up to believe NATO is the enemy?" The Russian Prime Minister states that NATO expansion would be "the biggest mistake the West has made in fifty years."

At least 37 workers are exposed to inhaled doses of radiation after a fire explosion at a uranium fuel reprocessing site operated by DONEN in Tokai, northeast of Tokyo . Plutonium spewed by the wreck is detected 23 miles away. Again, DONEN is later forced to admit covering up information about the fire, minimizing the amount of radiation released by a factor of ten. Criminal charges are brought against the agency for falsified accident reports.

European Parliament calls on all members to support negotiations leading to the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention.

U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin reach agreement on a number of arms control issues during a summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland. The Presidents issue joint statements regarding future reductions of nuclear forces and the preservation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM).

A newly configured nuclear weapon, the B61-11, becomes part of the U.S. operational nuclear stockpile. The new bomb is designed to burrow 15 meters underground to destroy hardened command. The bomb is 3.7 meters long, weighs 545 kilograms, and has an estimated yield of 0.3 kilotons.

The first preparatory committee meeting for the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in the year 2000 is held in New York. NGOs associated with the Abolition 2000 Global Network release a draft Model Nuclear Weapons Convention.

The 12th Conference of Ministers of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries concludes its meeting in New Delhi, India with a final document demanding the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

The Chemical Weapons Convention enters into force, providing a model for a future Nuclear Weapons Convention. By this date, eighty-eight states have ratified the treaty, including four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Great Britain, and the USA). [see October 13, 1996]

In Moscow, after six rounds of negotiations, NATO General Secretary Javier Solano and Russia’s Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov agree on the text of the "Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security Between NATO and The Russian Federation."

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors meeting in Vienna approves a new Model Protocol, which expands the Agency’s safeguard activities.

China explodes a nuclear device in the 40-150 kiloton range, despite its pledge just days prior at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference to "exercise utmost restraint" regarding future nuclear testing.

A NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council is founded to give Russia a voice, but not veto power, in NATO.

In an open letter to President Clinton, fifty civilian leaders, among them Robert McNamara, Paul H. Nitze, and Sam Nunn, declare NATO’s expansion plans a mistake of historical proportions.

After 156 years, Hong Kong reverts from British to Chinese control.

The United States breaks a five-year moratorium on nuclear testing by conducting an underground sub-critical nuclear weapons test, called Rebound, at the Nevada Test Site. The test is conducted by scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. U.S. officials insist that they have not violated the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, but many critics argue that they have violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the treaty.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) votes to invite Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join NATO, a decision that requires ratification by all NATO members. Former Senator Sam Nunn states: "The Clinton Administration has not taken into account the implications of the expansion, including the possibility that it would leave Russia less willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal."

The 30 members of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty agree to amend the treaty to limit the weapons each country can posses rather than just having an overall cap on NATO and the former Warsaw Pact. The amendment will also cut European arsenals by 5-20 percent and place special territorial limits on weapons in sensitive areas.

The U.S. Department of Energy announces the award of multi-million dollar contracts to five universities to conduct basic science, mathematics, computer science, and engineering research for the U.S. nuclear weapons program. The five universities participating in the DoE’s Academic Strategic Alliances Program are the California Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Utah.

A study in the United Kingdom funded by the British Department of health, finds plutonium in the teeth of children throughout England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The study concludes that the cause of plutonium is radioactive discharges into the environment from the Sellafield Plutonium Reprocessing Factory.

Seven former U.S. Secretaries of State urge Congress to pay the outstanding U.S. debt to the UN of about $1 billion.

The last of 18 U.S. Trident submarines is put to sea. It carries 192 nuclear warheads on 24 missiles.

Alexander Lebed, President Boris Yeltsin’s former National Security Advisor, claims that 100 suitcase-sized nuclear bombs, each capable of killing up to 100,000 people, are missing in Russia.

The U.S. Department of Energy conducts its second sub-critical nuclear test, called Holog , at the Nevada Test Site. The test is conducted by scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

French President Jacques Chirac announces the detargeting of French nuclear forces.

U.S. and Russia agree to extend date for completing START II nuclear arms reductions for five years from January 1, 2003 to December 31, 2007. They also agree on modifications of the ABM treaty.

The U.S. Department of Energy announces that it will open the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, near Carlsbad, N.M., for storage of plutonium and other "transuranic" elements.

A proposal that Britain should abolish its nuclear weapons and transfer any savings to social welfare projects is defeated by 56 percent of the delegates during a Labour Party Congress in Brighton, UK.

NASA launches the Cassini probe with a 72.3 pound plutonium power pack on its way to Saturn, despite international protests. The Cassini probe will pass within 350 miles of Earth in 1999 for a sling-shot fly-by. In an address to the First Committee of the UN, Archbishop Renato Martino, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer at the UN, states that "nuclear weapons cannot be justified and deserve condemnation" and warns that "grave consequences lie ahead if the world is ruled by the militarism of nuclear arms."

The military fires its Miracl laser at the U.S. military satellite MISTI-3. Miracl, which stands for Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser, demonstrates that lower-intensity lasers may be able to disable the information-gathering equipment mounted on U.S. military satellites. Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Tarasov comments: "We must state very definitely that such activities cause growing concern in Moscow. Objectively, the development of laser programs could become a step to the creation of an anti-satellite potential.... The creation of anti-satellite weapons could sharply change the strategic situation."

Nine Nobel Peace Laureates issue a declaration to mark UN Disarmament Day (October 24), calling for a nuclear-weapons-free zone in Central and Eastern Europe. The declaration is motivated by NATO’s plan to expand eastward.

The Russian Duma ratifies the Chemical Weapons Convention. By this date, 104 countries have ratified the CWC, which outlaws the development, production, possession, and use of chemical weapons. [see April 29, 1997]

President Clinton signs the Presidential Decision Directive 60 (PDD 60) on U.S. nuclear warfare policy. Under this directive, the military will no longer prepare to win a protracted nuclear war. However, long-standing options for nuclear strikes against Russia are retained, and the list of sites that might be attacked in the event of a nuclear exchange with China could be broadened. PDD 60 apparently also permits U.S. nuclear strikes in response to attacks using chemical or biological weapons. The new guidelines were developed entirely in secret without any public, or even Congressional, discussion. China joins the Zangger Committee, which establishes guidelines for the export control provisions of Article III (2) of the NPT.

The United Nations distributes the draft Model Nuclear Weapons Convention (A/C.1/52/7) developed by non-governmental organizations connected with Abolition 2000. The document is submitted by Costa Rica. The model convention outlines a practical regime for the elimination of nuclear weapons and deals with the legal, technical, and political issues that would need to be addressed.

Governmental representatives from 121 states sign the "Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction," in Ottawa, Canada. Among the states that do not sign the convention are China, Russia, and the United States.

The United Nations adopts Resolution 52/38 O, (116 in favor, 26 against and 24 abstaining) welcoming the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons and calling for negotiations to commence, which would lead to the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention. The resolution adds a call for states to report to the UN Secretary-General on efforts and measures they are taking to implement the ICJ opinion and the obligation to conclude negotiations on nuclear disarmament.

The 1997 Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and its coordinator Jody Williams.

The ship MSC Carla, carrying highly radioactive cesium from France to the U.S., breaks in half during a storm and loses its contents off the coast of the Azores.

Russia’s Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev announces that Russia will begin deploying a new ballistic missile, the Topol-M. The advanced version of the Topol Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) carries a single nuclear warhead and can be deployed in silos or on mobile launchers. The new missile is cheaper, more accurate than its predecessor, and is intended to become the backbone of Russia’s strategic command.

The United States implodes the last Minuteman II nuclear silo. 

Russia and China make final a deal worth $3.5 billion in a joint venture to build two 1,000 MW nuclear reactors at Lian-yungang, a coastal city about 250 miles north of Shanghai.