Fact Sheet

Jordan Overview

Jordan Overview

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Background

This is page is part of the Jordan Country Profile.

Jordan is not known to possess nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs, or ballistic or cruise missile systems. 1

The country is a member in good standing of all relevant nonproliferation treaties and organizations, in addition to participating in ad hoc efforts such as the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative. Jordan is a strong supporter of establishing a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East. 2

Nuclear

Jordan is a non-nuclear weapon state party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and is not believed to harbor nuclear weapons ambitions. In 1998, Jordan was the first country in the Middle East to adopt the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, which allows the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) extra inspection privileges. 3 However, Jordan has yet to adopt the newest amendments to the Small Quantities Protocol, preventing the IAEA from carrying out verification activities in the country. 4

In 2007, the Jordan University of Science and Technology started a nuclear engineering degree program in support of the country’s aspirations to have a nuclear power program. 5 The country concluded an agreement with South Korea in 2009 for the construction of the Jordanian Research and Training Reactor on the university’s campus, a 5MW research reactor fueled by 19% low enriched uranium<em”>, which is slated for completion by June 2016. 6 The fuel for the reactor will be supplied by the French firm Areva; 7 </em”>half of the cost will be financed by a soft loan from South Korea. 8

In order to achieve greater energy security, Jordan is seeking to diversify its energy portfolio. 9 In January 2007, King Abdullah II announced Jordan’s intention to develop a civilian nuclear power program, which would contribute to a number of national strategic goals. 10 In recent years, Jordan has experienced several shortages of energy imports from neighboring Egypt due to the ongoing unrest, providing further impetus for the country to pursue nuclear energy. For example, the Al-Arish pipeline, which exports natural gas from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and provides Jordan with 80 percent of its natural gas supply has been bombed by militants more than 20 times since the 2011 Egyptian revolution. 11

While the country hopes to obtain 30% of its electricity from nuclear power by 2030, there are significant obstacles to achieving this ambition. The country is earthquake prone and water poor, which poses major environmental challenges to the development of a nuclear energy program. Since nuclear power is highly capital intensive, requiring enormous up-front investment, Jordan may also find acquiring a nuclear power plant financially prohibitive. 12 Jordan possesses few trained personnel and a limited nuclear research and education infrastructure, though the country is working to address this challenge. The country established the Jordan Nuclear Regulatory Commission (JNRC) in 2007 and the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) in early 2008 to succeed the former Jordan Nuclear Energy Commission (JNEC) established in 2001. 13 The JNRC will focus on regulating and monitoring the use of nuclear energy and ionized radiation, while the JAEC will focus on nuclear power plant construction and the project to use natural uranium found in Jordan. Still in the early stages of its development, the JNRC likely remains insufficiently robust to provide oversight for a major civil nuclear program. 14

As a country new to nuclear power, Jordan will rely on foreign suppliers for assistance constructing and operating its first nuclear power plants. The country has concluded nuclear cooperation agreements with Argentina, Canada, China, France, Italy, Japan, Romania, Russia, Spain, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. 15 Although Jordan and the United States signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding potential nuclear cooperation, the process of negotiating an agreement has been suspended. 16

Officials at Jordan’s Atomic Energy Commission have expressed a preference for Generation III and Generation III+ reactor designs. 17 These reactors are generally distinguished from their older counterparts by evolutionary improvements in areas such as passive safety. In January 2011, Jordan issued a tender for the construction of its first nuclear power plant, which was eventually awarded to Rosatom’s reactor export subsidiary, AtomStroyExport, in October 2013. 18

A May 2012 parliamentary vote ordering the suspension of nuclear activities, including uranium exploration, was ignored by the government, and the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission has continued with the program, including the site selection process. 19 In March 2015, JAEC and Rosatom finalized a $10 billion contract for the construction of Jordan’s first nuclear power plant 70 kilometers east of Amman at Amra, which includes plans for a two-unit power plant with a total capacity of 2,000 megawatts. The construction is scheduled to be completed by 2022. Jordan will finance 51% of the cost, and the remaining financing will be provided by Russia. 20

Jordan is believed to have approximately 79,000 metric tons of uranium-ore reserves, which is roughly 2% of the world’s total. 21 The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission signed an exploration agreement with the French company, AREVA, in 2008 in order to study the possibility of uranium mining in central Jordan. 22 According to the JAEC, there are sufficient uranium reserves in central and southern Jordan to meet the demands of the country’s planned nuclear program for 150 years. 23 In May 2014, the Jordan Uranium Mining Company (JUMCO) announced a uranium plant project with an eventual capacity of 1500 tons. 24 Once developed, Jordan hopes to become a “leading uranium provider” to countries in the region interested in pursuing nuclear energy. 25

It is unclear whether Jordan will successfully conclude a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States, but given its agreements with other countries this is unlikely to be a limiting factor for the development of its nuclear power sector. Bilateral talks stalled in 2011 due to “political turmoil” in the Middle East, but resumed in February 2012. 26 The Obama Administration has sent mixed signals as to whether it will pressure Jordan to agree to the “gold standard” precedent set with the U.S.-UAE 123 agreement, under which the UAE agreed not to pursue indigenous uranium enrichment or plutonium reprocessing capabilities. 27 Currently, the negotiations on a U.S.-Jordan 123 agreement have been suspended. 28 While it is uncertain whether Jordan could ever build economically justifiable enrichment capabilities, the country has expressed a desire to keep its options open, perhaps seeing such capabilities as a way to add value to its natural uranium reserves. Like many non-nuclear weapon states, the Jordanian government also believes that the NPT affords it the right to all capabilities associated with the peaceful nuclear fuel cycle, and is therefore disinclined on principle to sign an agreement holding it to a different standard than most other treaty members.

Biological

Jordan does not possess biological weapons and is not known to have ever had a biological weapons program. 29 The country became a state party to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 1975, and has submitted an Article B BTWC Confidence Building Measure. 30

Since 2004, Jordan has launched several initiatives to develop its biotechnology sector, including establishing a National Center for Biotechnology to serve as a central coordinating institution for both domestic and international biotechnology activities. 31 However, the robustness of these initiatives remains hampered by human capital and investment constraints. 32 The Jordanian pharmaceutical industry has shown strong growth since the early 2000s, and exports products throughout the Middle East and North Africa. 33 In 2004, Jordan prepared a National Biosafety Framework to better manage the risks associated with these activities. 34 Jordan also hosted the Biosafety and Biosecurity International Conference in Amman in 2011 to promote “healthier and more secure communities in the Middle East and North Africa.” 35

Chemical

Jordan acceded to the Geneva Protocol in January 1977 and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in October 1997. 36 Amman has consistently been found in compliance with its CWC commitments, and is not believed to have pursued a chemical warfare capability. 37 Jordan’s borders with states suspected of chemical weapons activities necessitate robust border security and export controls to prevent its territory from being used as an illicit transshipment route. 38 This is of particular concern along the 377 kilometer Jordanian-Syrian border, given Syria’s ongoing civil war since 2011, and the documented use of sarin, a nerve agent, in 2013. 39 Jordan has invested heavily in counter-terrorism efforts, and has received training and other assistance from the United States to secure its borders against illicit trafficking. 40 In March 2011, The U.S. Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program gave $200,000 worth of border inspection equipment to organizations in Jordan, including the Jordan Nuclear Regulatory Committee (JNRC). 41 In April 2013, the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) awarded Raytheon a border security contract worth $35.9 million to establish a surveillance system and provide training along the Jordanian border. 42 Additionally, Jordan has asked the U.S. to supply surveillance aircraft and training for Jordanian Special Operations forces to defend against chemical weapons. 43

Missile

Jordan is not believed to possess Missile Technology Control Regime Category I or II ballistic or cruise missile delivery systems. 44 Amman is a state party to the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation. 45 Jordan is also a participant in the Proliferation Security Initiative. 46

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The Nuclear Debate of Summer 2000

The political struggle within the Russian military establishment during the summer of 2000, which resulted in a nuclear posture shift. (CNS)


Glossary

Nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon: A device that releases nuclear energy in an explosive manner as the result of nuclear chain reactions involving fission, or fission and fusion, of atomic nuclei. Such weapons are also sometimes referred to as atomic bombs (a fission-based weapon); or boosted fission weapons (a fission-based weapon deriving a slightly higher yield from a small fusion reaction); or hydrogen bombs/thermonuclear weapons (a weapon deriving a significant portion of its energy from fusion reactions).
Chemical Weapon (CW)
The CW: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as any of the following: 1) a toxic chemical or its precursors; 2) a munition specifically designed to deliver a toxic chemical; or 3) any equipment specifically designed for use with toxic chemicals or munitions. Toxic chemical agents are gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical substances that use their toxic properties to cause death or severe harm to humans, animals, and/or plants. Chemical weapons include blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents, as well as non-lethal incapacitating agents and riot-control agents. Historically, chemical weapons have been the most widely used and widely proliferated weapon of mass destruction.
Biological weapon (BW)
Biological weapons use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.  Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria (anthrax, plague, tularemia); viruses (smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fevers); rickettsia (Q fever and epidemic typhus); biological toxins (botulinum toxin, staphylococcus enterotoxin B); and fungi (San Joaquin Valley fever, mycotoxins). These agents can be deployed as biological weapons when paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol device.
Ballistic missile
A delivery vehicle powered by a liquid or solid fueled rocket that primarily travels in a ballistic (free-fall) trajectory.  The flight of a ballistic missile includes three phases: 1) boost phase, where the rocket generates thrust to launch the missile into flight; 2) midcourse phase, where the missile coasts in an arc under the influence of gravity; and 3) terminal phase, in which the missile descends towards its target.  Ballistic missiles can be characterized by three key parameters - range, payload, and Circular Error Probable (CEP), or targeting precision.  Ballistic missiles are primarily intended for use against ground targets.
Cruise missile
An unmanned self-propelled guided vehicle that sustains flight through aerodynamic lift for most of its flight path. There are subsonic and supersonic cruise missiles currently deployed in conventional and nuclear arsenals, while conventional hypersonic cruise missiles are currently in development. These can be launched from the air, submarines, or the ground. Although they carry smaller payloads, travel at slower speeds, and cover lesser ranges than ballistic missiles, cruise missiles can be programmed to travel along customized flight paths and to evade missile defense systems.
Nonproliferation
Nonproliferation: Measures to prevent the spread of biological, chemical, and/or nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. See entry for Proliferation.
Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)
The PSI: Announced by U.S. President George W. Bush in May 2003, PSI is a U.S.- led effort to prevent the proliferation of WMD, their delivery systems, and related materials through the use of information sharing and coordination of diplomatic and military efforts. Members of the initiative share a set of 13 common principles, which guide PSI efforts. For more information, see the PSI.
Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ)
NWFZ: A geographical area in which nuclear weapons may not legally be built, possessed, transferred, deployed, or tested.
Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS)
Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS): Under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), NNWS are states that had not detonated a nuclear device prior to 1 January 1967, and who agree in joining the NPT to refrain from pursuing nuclear weapons (that is, all state parties to the NPT other than the United States, the Soviet Union/Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China).
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
The NPT: Signed in 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to international security agreement. The “three pillars” of the NPT are nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Article VI of the NPT commits states possessing nuclear weapons to negotiate in good faith toward halting the arms race and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty stipulates that non-nuclear-weapon states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and will accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on their nuclear activities, while nuclear weapon states commit not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states. All states have a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and should assist one another in its development. The NPT provides for conferences of member states to review treaty implementation at five-year intervals. Initially of a 25-year duration, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. For additional information, see the NPT.
Nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon: A device that releases nuclear energy in an explosive manner as the result of nuclear chain reactions involving fission, or fission and fusion, of atomic nuclei. Such weapons are also sometimes referred to as atomic bombs (a fission-based weapon); or boosted fission weapons (a fission-based weapon deriving a slightly higher yield from a small fusion reaction); or hydrogen bombs/thermonuclear weapons (a weapon deriving a significant portion of its energy from fusion reactions).
Additional Protocol
The Additional Protocol is a legal document granting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) complementary inspection authority to that provided in underlying safeguards agreements. The principal aim is to enable the IAEA inspectorate to provide assurance about both declared and possible undeclared activities. Under the Protocol, the IAEA is granted expanded rights of access to information and sites, as well as additional authority to use the most advanced technologies during the verification process. See entry for Information Circular 540.
Information Circular 153 (INFCIRC/153)
Information Circular 153 (INFCIRC/153): An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) document entitled "The Structure and Content of Agreements between the Agency and States Required in Connection with the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)." Established by the IAEA in April 1970 after the NPT entered into force. The document created the full-scope safeguards system whereby any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT agrees to establish and maintain a system of accounting and control of all nuclear material under its jurisdiction. Accordingly, non-nuclear weapon states which are party to or have signed but not ratified the NPT must conclude a safeguards agreement with the IAEA.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
IAEA: Founded in 1957 and based in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA is an autonomous international organization in the United Nations system. The Agency’s mandate is the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, technical assistance in this area, and verification that nuclear materials and technology stay in peaceful use. Article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT to accept safeguards administered by the IAEA. The IAEA consists of three principal organs: the General Conference (of member states); the Board of Governors; and the Secretariat. For additional information, see the IAEA.
Research reactor
Research reactor: Small fission reactors designed to produce neutrons for a variety of purposes, including scientific research, training, and medical isotope production. Unlike commercial power reactors, they are not designed to generate power.
Low enriched uranium (LEU)
Low enriched uranium (LEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of the isotope U-235 that is higher than that found in natural uranium but lower than 20% LEU (usually 3 to 5%). LEU is used as fuel for many nuclear reactor designs.
Nuclear energy
Nuclear energy: The energy liberated by a nuclear reaction (fission or fusion), or by radioactive decay.
Radiation (Ionizing)
Radiation that has sufficient energy to remove electrons from substances that it passes through, forming ions. May include alpha particles, beta particles, gamma rays, x-rays, neutrons, high-speed electrons, high-speed protons, and other particles capable of producing ions.
Nuclear power plant
Nuclear power plant: A facility that generates electricity using a nuclear reactor as its heat source to provide steam to a turbine generator.
Uranium
Uranium is a metal with the atomic number 92. See entries for enriched uranium, low enriched uranium, and highly enriched uranium.
Bilateral
Bilateral: Negotiations, arrangements, agreements, or treaties that affect or are between two parties—and generally two countries.
Nuclear Cooperation (Section 123) Agreement
Nuclear Cooperation (Section 123) Agreement: Named after Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954, this type of agreement governs U.S. peaceful nuclear cooperation with foreign states, and must be in place for certain types of transactions to occur.
Enriched uranium
Enriched uranium: Uranium with an increased concentration of the isotope U-235, relative to natural uranium. Natural uranium contains 0.7 percent U-235, whereas nuclear weapons typically require uranium enriched to very high levels (see the definitions for “highly enriched uranium” and “weapons-grade”). Nuclear power plant fuel typically uses uranium enriched to 3 to 5 percent U-235, material that is not sufficiently enriched to be used for nuclear weapons.
Reprocessing
Reprocessing: The chemical treatment of spent nuclear fuel to separate the remaining usable plutonium and uranium for re-fabrication into fuel, or alternatively, to extract the plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.
Enriched uranium
Enriched uranium: Uranium with an increased concentration of the isotope U-235, relative to natural uranium. Natural uranium contains 0.7 percent U-235, whereas nuclear weapons typically require uranium enriched to very high levels (see the definitions for “highly enriched uranium” and “weapons-grade”). Nuclear power plant fuel typically uses uranium enriched to 3 to 5 percent U-235, material that is not sufficiently enriched to be used for nuclear weapons.
Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS)
Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS): Under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), NNWS are states that had not detonated a nuclear device prior to 1 January 1967, and who agree in joining the NPT to refrain from pursuing nuclear weapons (that is, all state parties to the NPT other than the United States, the Soviet Union/Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China).
Fuel Cycle
Fuel Cycle: A term for the full spectrum of processes associated with utilizing nuclear fission reactions for peaceful or military purposes. The “front-end” of the uranium-plutonium nuclear fuel cycle includes uranium mining and milling, conversion, enrichment, and fuel fabrication. The fuel is used in a nuclear reactor to produce neutrons that can, for example, produce thermal reactions to generate electricity or propulsion, or produce fissile materials for weapons. The “back-end” of the nuclear fuel cycle refers to spent fuel being stored in spent fuel pools, possible reprocessing of the spent fuel, and ultimately long-term storage in a geological or other repository.
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
The BTWC: The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BTWC) prohibits the development, production, or stockpiling of bacteriological and toxin weapons. Countries must destroy or divert to peaceful purposes all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and means of delivery within nine months after the entry into force of the convention. The BTWC was opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force on March 26, 1975. In 1994, the BTWC member states created the Ad Hoc Group to negotiate a legally binding BTWC Protocol that would help deter violations of the BTWC. The draft protocol outlines a monitoring regime that would require declarations of dual-use activities and facilities, routine visits to declared facilities, and short-notice challenge investigations. For additional information, see the BTWC.
Geneva Protocol
Geneva Protocol: Formally known as the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, this protocol prohibits the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous, or other gases, and bans bacteriological warfare. It was opened for signature on 17 June 1925. For additional information, see the Geneva Protocol.
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires each state party to declare and destroy all the chemical weapons (CW) and CW production facilities it possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, as well as any CW it abandoned on the territory of another state. The CWC was opened for signature on 13 January 1993, and entered into force on 29 April 1997. For additional information, see the CWC.
Export control
National laws or international arrangements established to restrict the sale of certain goods to certain countries, or to ensure that safeguards or end-use guarantees are applied to the export and sale of sensitive and dual-use technologies and materials. See entry for Dual-use
Sarin (GB)
Sarin (GB): A nerve agent, sarin causes uncontrollable nerve cell excitation and muscle contraction. Ultimately, sarin victims suffer death by suffocation. As with other nerve agents, sarin can cause death within minutes. Sarin vapor is about ten times less toxic than VX vapor, but 25 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide. Discovered while attempting to produce more potent pesticides, sarin is the most toxic of the four G-series nerve agents developed by Germany during World War II. Germany never used sarin during the war. However, Iraq may have used sarin during the Iran-Iraq War, and Aum Shinrikyo is known to have used low-quality sarin during its attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and injured hundreds.
Nerve agent
A nerve agent is a chemical weapon that attacks the human nervous system, leading to uncontrolled nerve cell excitation and muscle contraction. Specifically, nerve agents block the enzyme cholinesterease, so acetylcholine builds up in the nerve junction and the neuron cannot return to the rest state. Nerve agents include the G-series nerve agents (soman, sarin, tabun, and GF) synthesized by Germany during and after World War II; the more toxic V-series nerve agents (VX, VE, VM, VG, VR) discovered by the United Kingdom during the 1950s; and the reportedly even more toxic Novichok agents, developed by the Soviet Union between 1960 and 1990. The development of both the G-series and V-series nerve agents occurred alongside pesticide development.
Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)
The MTCR: An informal arrangement established in April 1987 by an association of supplier states concerned about the proliferation of missile equipment and technology relevant to missiles that are capable of carrying a payload over 500 kilograms over a 300-kilometer range. Though originally intended to restrict the proliferation of nuclear-capable missiles, the regime has been expanded to restrict the spread of unmanned aerial vehicles. For additional information, see the MTCR.
Ballistic missile
A delivery vehicle powered by a liquid or solid fueled rocket that primarily travels in a ballistic (free-fall) trajectory.  The flight of a ballistic missile includes three phases: 1) boost phase, where the rocket generates thrust to launch the missile into flight; 2) midcourse phase, where the missile coasts in an arc under the influence of gravity; and 3) terminal phase, in which the missile descends towards its target.  Ballistic missiles can be characterized by three key parameters - range, payload, and Circular Error Probable (CEP), or targeting precision.  Ballistic missiles are primarily intended for use against ground targets.
Cruise missile
An unmanned self-propelled guided vehicle that sustains flight through aerodynamic lift for most of its flight path. There are subsonic and supersonic cruise missiles currently deployed in conventional and nuclear arsenals, while conventional hypersonic cruise missiles are currently in development. These can be launched from the air, submarines, or the ground. Although they carry smaller payloads, travel at slower speeds, and cover lesser ranges than ballistic missiles, cruise missiles can be programmed to travel along customized flight paths and to evade missile defense systems.
International Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missiles (ICOC)
ICOC: A legally non-binding arrangement that was launched with the objective of preventing and curbing the proliferation of ballistic missile systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. States adhering to the ICOC agree not to assist ballistic missile programs in countries suspected of developing biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, as well as to exhibit "restraint" in the development and testing of their own ballistic missiles. It eventually became the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missiles (HCOC). For additional information, see the HCOC.
Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)
The PSI: Announced by U.S. President George W. Bush in May 2003, PSI is a U.S.- led effort to prevent the proliferation of WMD, their delivery systems, and related materials through the use of information sharing and coordination of diplomatic and military efforts. Members of the initiative share a set of 13 common principles, which guide PSI efforts. For more information, see the PSI.

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  43. Thom Shanker, "Jordan Asks for Assistance in Securing Syrian Border," New York Times, 14 August 2013, www.nytimes.com.
  44. "Missile Technology Control Regime- Handbook 2010," Missile Technology Control Regime, 2010, www.mtcr.info; "Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat," National Air and Space Intelligence Center Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, April 2009.
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  46. "Proliferation Security Initiative Participants," Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, US Department of State, 9 June 2015, www.state.gov.

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