Nuclear weapons proliferation

  • Nuclear detectionNew NGA global map advances geophysics R&D, nuclear nonproliferation

    A team of researchers led by scientists at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) published a new map 1 September which characterizes the Earth’s radioactivity and offers new and potential future applications for basic science research and nonproliferation efforts.

  • Iran dealObama: Military option still on the table

    In a letter to a Democratic lawmaker, President Barack Obama said the United States will continue to exert economic pressure on Iran, and keep military options available, even if a nuclear deal with Tehran goes ahead. Obama, in a letter to Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) said that if Iran rushes to build a nuclear weapon, “all of the options available to the United States – including the military option – will remain available.”

  • Iran dealFormer senior U.S. military officers: Iran deal bolsters U.S. national security

    Three dozen retired senior U.S. military officers from all services on Tuesday released an open letter in support of the nuclear deal between the P5+1 power and Iran. The former military leaders describe the agreement as “the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” and say that the agreement would secure international support for military action against Iran, should one be deemed necessary. Such military action “would only be possible if we have first given the diplomatic path a chance,” the former senior officers say.

  • Iran dealIran’s frozen funds: how much is really there and how will they be used?

    By Nader Habibi

    The value and planned release of Iran’s frozen foreign assets have become hot political topics in both Tehran and Western capitals. Authoritative studies of the issue have concluded that as of July 2015, Iran’s frozen assets totaled $89.6 billion — excluding the $12 billion in the United States froze in 1979 (and which now, with interest, may be worth more than $30 billion), the status of which will not change as a result of the agreement. Of the $89.6 billion, only $29 billion would become available to Iran in the short run as a result of the nuclear deal. The rest may remain blocked for much longer because of legal disputes and ongoing tensions between Iran and the United States over other issues. The most important question for U.S. policymakers and the public is how Iran plans to spend the cash it gets back. How much if any will be spent on arms and economic resources for Iran’s allies in the region, such as the ruling regime in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon? Ever since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, Saudi Arabia has demonstrated a willingness to confront Iran in every proxy conflict with tens of billions of dollars of financial and military support. As a result, it is unlikely that Iran’s additional resources will be able to generate a decisive victory for any of its proxies. What these resources can achieve at best is to prevent the defeat of Iran’s allies and help them endure longer in the ongoing conflicts.

  • Iran dealLeading U.S. scientists support Iran deal

    Twenty-nine of leading U.S. scientists – among them Nobel laureates, nuclear weapons designers, and former White House and congressional science advisers – on Saturday sent a letter to President Barack Obama to express their support of the nuclear deal reached between the P5+1 powers and Iran, and to stress that in their professional assessment the deal “technically sound, stringent and innovative.” Most of the twenty-nine who signed the letter have held Q clearances, a top security clearance which grants its holders access to a special category of secret information related to the design of nuclear weapons. The scientists’ letter as describe as “without precedent” the deal’s explicit ban on Iran’s research on nuclear weapons “rather than only their manufacture,” as prescribed in the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

  • Iran dealThe Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “kicks the can down the road”: How to prepare for the day when the can finally lands

    The Institute for Science and International Security has published a series of briefs analyzing different aspects of the agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program. One brief deals with what the United States and the other world powers need to do now to prepare for what may happen in Iran in ten to fifteen years when many of the limits the agreement imposes on Iran’s nuclear activities will expire. The agreement does not prohibit Iran from building a large uranium enrichment capability and even a reprocessing, or a plutonium separation, capability. The agreement essentially delays the day when Iran reestablishes a nuclear weapons capability and possibly builds nuclear weapons, that is, the agreement essentially “kicks the can down the road.” Prudent planning requires careful efforts now to prepare for the day when the can lands.

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  • Iran dealInspection regime in Iran informed by lessons from Iraq experience

    Many critics of the agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program are especially concerned with the inspection regime negotiated in Geneva. The initial goal of the world powers was, in President Barack Obama’s words, an “Anywhere, anytime” inspections, but the deal finally reached saw the two sides agree to inspection procedures which fall short of that goal.

  • Iran nuclear dealThe science behind the deal

    By Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress

    The main U.S. objective of the deal with Iran is to decrease the riskiness of Iran’s civilian nuclear program to a point which (1) future nuclear weapon production would be unlikely, and (2) if Iran does cheat, it would be detected with reasonable certainty. Have the objectives been achieved in the deal signed 14 July? It is important to keep in mind that it is not reasonable for opponents of the deal to demand 100 percent certainty in verifying the agreement and it is also not necessary. A cost-benefit analysis is always done to determine what is feasible. Often this is not understood, and unreasonable demands may be placed on the verification regime.

  • Iran dealThe nuclear deal with Iran: Highlights

    The details of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed yesterday, 14 July 2015, in Vienna are complicated and mostly of technical nature, but the agreement itself is not much more than a bargain between the world’s powers and Iran: Iran agreed to accept the imposition of exceedingly strict limits on its nuclear program in exchange for a return of its frozen assets and the lifting of the crippling sanctions the United States, the EU, and the UN had imposed on it for its refusal to live within the strictures of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of which it is a member.

  • SyriaConcerns grow about Syria’s nuclear materials

    In September 2007 Israel destroyed the Al Kibar nuclear reactor in north-east Syria, which the Assad regime was building with the aid of North Korea. It is now under the control of ISIS, which is apparently dismantling and possibly conducting excavation activities at the site. Although Syria is no longer believed to have an active, secret nuclear reactor program at this time, it is believed to be hiding assets associated with its past undeclared nuclear efforts, including a large stock of more than 50,000 kilograms of natural uranium. Natural uranium is not as readily usable as Syria’s past chemical weapons stockpile, but if enriched to weapon-grade, this amount of natural uranium would be enough for at least 3- 5 nuclear weapons. As the situation in Syria deteriorates, concerns about Syria’ nuclear assets grow.

  • Medical isotopesNew commercial method for producing medical isotope reduces proliferation risks

    The effort to secure a stable, domestic source of a critical medical isotope reached an important milestone last month as the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory demonstrated the production, separation, and purification of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) using a new process. Mo-99 production faces several issues, beginning with its traditional production method using highly enriched uranium (HEU) in research reactors. HEU presents a risk of nuclear weapons proliferation, so the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has focused on the development of other methods for Mo-99 production and conversion of reactors to use low-enriched uranium (LEU). Mo-99 is also not produced in the United States, leaving the country to rely on isotopes from other sources in other countries, including a Canadian research reactor that will cease regular production next year, reducing the global supply.

  • IranThe military option against Iran: Not a single strike, but a sustained campaign

    The new, 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, is one weapon the United would likely use if a decision is made to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. Military analysts say that while the destruction of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will not be easy, it can be done. They also agree that it would halt Iran’s nuclear program only temporarily, and that it would take Iran three to four years to rebuild its nuclear capacity. “A single military strike would only delay an Iranian drive for a finite period so a credible military option would have to envision a long-term campaign of repeated follow-up strikes as facilities are rebuilt or new targets identified,” says one analyst. “This is within the U.S. capability, but would require policy consistency and sustained determination across several U.S. administrations. What is crucial is not the bomb, but a multiyear campaign of vigilance and precise intelligence of new targets.”

  • IranIran offered nuclear help in exchange for tighter restrictions on weapons-related technology

    The talks between the P5+1 and Iran over a nuclear deal resumed on Wednesday, and sources say that Western powers have offered Iran high-tech reactors in exchange for further curbs on those aspects of Iran’s nuclear program which would make it possible for it to “break out” of the confines of the deal and build a nuclear weapon. The Western powers promised to supply Iran with light-water nuclear reactors instead of its nearly completed heavy-water facility at Arak, which could produce enough plutonium for several bombs a year if completed as planned. One of the major goals of the P5+1 negotiators has been to reduce the Arak reactor’s plutonium output, thus blocking Iran’s plutonium path to the bomb. It offers cooperation with Iran in the fields of nuclear safety, nuclear medicine, research, nuclear waste removal, and other peaceful applications.

  • IranIran stored nuclear equipment in Sudanese arms factory destroyed by Israel in October 2012: Saudi memo

    In early October 2012 Israeli planes destroyed the Yarmouk arms factory near Khartoum, Sudan’s capital – 1,300 miles from Israel. At the time, it was reported that the target of the Israeli attack were chemical munitions Iran stored at the site with the intention of delivering them to Hamas. It now appears that the October 2012 Israeli attack targeted more than chemical weapons. According to officials in the Saudi embassy in Khartoum, Iran, in early 2012, shipped advanced nuclear equipment to Sudan, and stored that equipment at the sprawling site. The Saudi embassy memo, dated February 2012 and marked as “very secret,” was leaked last week by the WikiLeaks groups along with what the group claimed were 60,000 other official Saudi communications.

  • IranU.S. assumptions about key elements of Iran deal unrealistically “rosy”: Critics

    Critics of the emerging nuclear deal with Iran say that there ae two major risks which are not adequately addressed in the discussions over the agreement. The first is that Iranians will cheat, and continue to move toward the bomb covertly. The second, more subtle, problem is the combination of the State Department’s habit of tardy reporting, and the nuclear infrastructure and materials Iran will be allowed to keep, which will make its “breakout” time — that is, the time it will need to build a bomb from the point of making a decision to do so — exceedingly short.