Nuclear weapons

  • Iran dealKerry tells Israelis: U.S. “guarantees” it can prevent Iran from getting the bomb

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to assuage concerns in Israel over the nuclear deal with Iran, saying in a Sunday interview on Israel’s Channel 10 TV that “There is a lot of hysteria about this deal.” He added: “I say to every Israeli that today we have the ability to stop them if they decided to move quickly to a bomb, and I absolutely guarantee that in the future we will have the ability to know what they are doing so that we can still stop them if they decided to move to a bomb.”

  • Nuclear whistleblowingMan who revealed Israel’s nuclear secrets detained in Jerusalem for talking to foreigners

    Nearly thirty years ago, in the fall of 1986, MordechaiVanunu, a low-level technician at Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor, left Israel for a trip to the Far East. He settled in Australia, converted to Christianity, and sometime in August that year began to talk with Peter Hounam, a London Sunday Times reporter, about what he saw at Dimona. He spent eighteen years in jail, eleven of these years in solitary confinement, and was released, under severe restrictions, in 2004. Last Thursday he was detained in Jerusalem for violating one of his release conditions: he talked with two foreigners, that is, non-Israelis, for more than half-an-hour.

  • Nuclear weaponsU.S. urged to end “hair-trigger” nuclear weapons alert

    Today, just as at the height of the cold war, U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are on hair-trigger status, ready to be fired in minutes in response to a warning of an incoming attack. Several instances of erroneous and misinterpreted warning signals illustrate how this “launch on warning” posture creates a risk of a mistaken launch. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has called on President Barack Obama to use the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference — which begins this Monday, 27 April at the United Nations — to announce an end to the cold war practice of keeping U.S. ground-based nuclear missiles on “hair trigger” alert.

  • Nuclear risksHow to verify a comprehensive Iran nuclear deal

    With the negotiation between the P5+1(the United States, European Union, Britain, France, Russia, and China) and Iran resuming yesterday (Wednesday) about a set of parameters for an eventual Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the shape of a final deal about Iran’s nuclear program has emerged. Many important provisions of a final deal, however, remain to be negotiated in the coming months. David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, says that a critical set of these provisions involves the adequacy of verification arrangements which would be in place to monitor Iran’s compliance with a deal. Tehran’s long history of violations, subterfuge, and non-cooperation requires extraordinary arrangements to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is indeed peaceful.

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  • Nuclear risksU.S. says South Africa’s weapon-grade uranium not sufficiently secure

    In the early 1990s South Africa’s former apartheid government dismantled the country’s six nuclear bombs and its nuclear weapons-making infrastructure as it began planning the transformation of the country into a democracy. The nuclear fuel, extracted from the country’s nuclear weapons, has over time been used to make medical isotopes, but roughly 485 pounds remain. A November 2007 breach at the Pelindaba nuclear research center, where the nuclear fuel is stored in a former silver vault, alarmed U.S. officials, who had reason to believe the culprits were after the center’s fuel inventory. Incentives from the Obama administration for South Africa to convert its nuclear-weapons fuel, have been rejected by South Africa.

  • Nuclear wasteScientists develop deep borehole disposal (DBD) method to deal with nuclear waste

    Technologies which will enable nuclear waste to be sealed five kilometers below the Earth’s surface could provide a safer, cheaper and more viable alternative for disposing of the U.K.’s high level nuclear waste. Scientists calculate that all of the U.K.’s high level nuclear waste from spent fuel reprocessing could be disposed of in just six boreholes five kilometers deep, fitting within a site no larger than a football pitch. The concept — called deep borehole disposal — has been developed primarily in the United Kingdom, but is likely to see its first field trials in the United States next year.

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  • IranP5+1, Iran agree on parameters of an agreement over Iran's nuclear program

    A couple of hours ago, the P5+1 and Iran announced the parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran’s nuclear program. These elements form the foundation upon which the final text of the JCPOA will be written between now and 30 June, and State Department says that they “reflect the significant progress” which has been made in discussions between the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran. Many important implementation details are still to be negotiated, and State stressed that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” The number of centrifuges in the hands of Iran will be reduced from the 19,000 they currently have to 6,104 – all of which older, first-generation IR-1 centrifuges – and 5,060 of them will be used to enrich uranium. For the next fifteen years, Iran will not enrich uranium beyond 3.67 percent.

  • Nuclear forensicsImproving plutonium identification

    Researchers have developed a new kind of sensor that can be used to investigate the telltale isotopic composition of plutonium samples — a critical measurement for nuclear non-proliferation efforts and related forensics, as well as environmental monitoring, medical assays, and industrial safety. The novel device, based on “transition edge” sensor technology developed at NIST, is capable of ten times better resolution than all but the most expensive and time-consuming of current methods, and reduces the time needed for sample analysis from several days to one day.

  • African securitySouth Africa refuses to give up cache of weapon-grade uranium

    In the 1980s, White minority-ruled South Africa built six nuclear bombs. In 1990s the F. W. de Klerk government began planning the transformation of the country into a democracy. As part of the transition, the country’s nuclear weapons, and nuclear weapons-making infrastructure, were dismantled under IAEA supervision. TheWhite-minority regime and, since 1994, the democratically elected South African government, have both held to, and refused to give up, the 485 pounds of weapon-grade nuclear fuel – some of it extracted from the dismantled weapons and some of it already produced but not yet put in warheads. Despite pressure by successive U.S. administrations, South Africa says it is determined to keep its weapon-grade nuclear fuel.

  • IranIran letter may be a failed experiment or a sign of things to come

    By Peter Spiro

    Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) sparked a political firestorm with his 9 March open letter to the leaders of Iran, co-signed by forty-six of his colleagues. The letter warns Iranian negotiators that President Obama’s successor could cancel any agreement with the United States not approved by the Senate as a formal treaty. Cotton’s observations on U.S. treaty law are facile at best, the stuff of an elective constitutional law course. It is not the substance that has rankled so many Washington observers, however, it is the form. Many described the letter as a “breach of protocol,” as if it has been out of institutional politesse that members of Congress have historically refrained from this kind of direct communication with foreign leaders. That understates the case considerably. Established constitutional doctrine holds that presidents have exclusive authority to engage foreign governments on the nation’s behalf. If this principle – sometime called John Marshall’s “sole organ” doctrine, after Chief Justice Marshall – is not followed, and if politics does not stop at the water’s edge, the result will be a free-for-all foreign policy, a scaling up of the polarization already endemic to domestic politics. No one should welcome the prospect, but it may become a fact of life. Expect presidents to up the ante by taking more aggressive unilateral measures, further reducing the possibility of inter-party cooperation. The 9 March letter may be a peek at a new kind of politics beyond the water’s edge, requiring new kinds of navigation.

  • IranObama: Deal depends on Iran agreeing to a verifiable 10-year freeze on nuclear activity

    President Barack Obama said yesterday (Monday) that Iran must commit to a verifiable freeze of its nuclear activities for at least ten years in order to make a nuclear deal possible. He said that there are still considerable gaps between the position of Iran and that of the P5+1 group, and that the odds were still against reaching an agreement. He said there was a “substantial disagreement” between his administration and the government of Israel over how to achieve their shared goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The goal of the United States is to make sure “there’s at least a year between us seeing them try to get a nuclear weapon and them actually being able to obtain one,” Obama said.

  • Cyber operationsNew document details U.S.-Iran cyber tit-for-tat

    Just as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart discuss plans to ensure Iran does not weaponized its nuclear program, a newly disclosed National Security Agency (NSA) document details the intensifications of cyber skirmishes between the two countries. While the document does not describe the specific targets in Iran, it acknowledges, for the first time, that the NSA’s attacks on Iran’s nuclear program, a George W. Bush administration project, initiated the cycle of retaliation and escalation of the U.S.-Iran cyber conflict.

  • IranU.S. curbing intelligence sharing with Israel as discord over Iran talks deepens

    As a result of the growing tensions between the United States and Israel, and what the United States views as an improper use by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of sensitive information regarding the nuclear negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran, the White House last week begun to limit the scope, quality, and depth of the information it shares with Israel regarding the talks with Iran about the Iranian nuclear program. A senior Israeli official said that U.S. representatives continue to meet with and update their Israeli counterparts, but are passing on information about the talks “at a lower resolution.”

  • Cloak & daggerMystery surrounding Argentinian prosecutor’s death deepens

    Iranian intelligence operatives, using Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad agents, plotted and carried out two massive bombings in Buenos Aires twenty years ago: In 1992 a bomb destroyed the Israeli embassy, killing twenty-nine and injuring 242. In 1994, a powerful car-bomb exploded outside a Jewish Federation building, killing eighty-five and injuring 150. Former president Carlos Menem is already facing charges of being bribed by Iran to help hide the involvement of Iranian officials and their local accomplices in the two attacks. Alberto Nisman, a federal prosecutor investigating the involvement of the current president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, in the cover-up, announced that a 320-page report he had prepared, and a large volume of supporting evidence, conclusively proved that Fernandez and her foreign minister,Héctor Timerman, negotiated a secret deal with Iran to keep Iran’s responsibility for the early 1990s’ attacks under wraps in exchange for a lucrative grain-for-oil deal. A day before Nisman was to present his findings to the Argentine parliament, he was found dead in his apartment.

  • Iran sanctionsBoomerang: Democrats say they would delay vote on Iran sanctions bill

    Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) announced during a Senate hearing yesterday (Tuesday) that he and other Senate Democrats would not support bringing the sanctions bill he cosponsored with Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) to the floor until at least 24 March. Menendez has led a small group of Democrats who were critical of the administration’s handling of the talks with Iran over the latter’s nuclear program talks. The bi-partisan approach to the sanctions issue collapsed in the face of what Democrats considered to be a clumsy politicization of the issue by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. Dermer suggested to Boehner the idea of inviting Netanyahu to speak in front of Congress to criticize the administration’s policy. Netanyahu is lagging in the polls behind the center-left camp in the 17 March parliamentary elections in Israel, and Dermer, one of Netanyahu’s closest political advisers, believed the speech would boost Netanyahu’s standing in Israel. The process of the invitation was not less problematic than the invitation itself: In an unprecedented break with protocol, Boehner and Dermer did not bother to consult with, or even inform, the White House or the Department of State that they were arranging for a foreign head of state to speak before Congress.