Nuclear weapons proliferation

  • Nuclear weaponsU.S. may support nuke conference proposal challenging Israel’s nuclear program

    Israeli officials expressed concerns that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, which ends today in New York after month-long deliberations, will approve decisions which would pose a major challenge to Israel’s unacknowledged nuclear weapons program. Arab states have already tried, in previous Review Conferences, to push for resolutions calling for making the Middle East a WMD-free zone, in effect, requiring Israel, the only nuclear-armed state in the region, to disarm. Israel’s position, supported by the United States and other countries, is that the nuclear arms issue should be dealt with as only one element of the regional security context. Until the 2010 Review Conference – these conferences meet every five years – the United States, acting on understandings reached between Richard Nixon and Golda Meir in September 1969, supported Israel’s position without much quibbling. In 2010, however, there appeared to be differences emerging between Israel’s and the U.S. approach to regional nuclear disarmament. Israel is worried that the United States, now in negotiations with Iran over the latter’s nuclear program, would support a Spanish compromise proposal which, in Israel’s view, is too close to Egypt’s original proposal which Israel finds unacceptable.

  • Iran dealIran deal supporters: Comparisons with 1994 North Korea deal not applicable

    Critics of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 powers charge that the negotiations, and the impending deal, repeat the mistakes the United States made in the nuclear deal it signed with North Korea in 1994. Supporters of the administration say there is no comparison between what happened twenty years ago and now. One example: the Agreed Framework between the United States and North Korea was a 4-page general document which did not include and reference to enforcement mechanisms should North Korea decide not to comply with the agreement. The emerging agreement with Iran, on the other hand, is a 150-page document dominated by intricate technical specifications and detailed procedures for inspection and verification, followed by specific benchmarks and definitions of violations and non-compliance and the resulting penalties which would be imposed on Iran should such violations occur.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • CanadaCanada reflective, tense in wake of attack on parliament building

    Canadians are still in shock today — the Globe and Mail’s healdine reads: “Attack on Ottawa: Brazen assault could be turning point for Canada” — at the realization that their country is not more immune to terrorist attacks than their neighbor to the south or fellow democracies across the Atlantic. There were acts of terrorism in  Canada in the past — mostly committed by Quebec separatists in the late 1960 and early 1970s — but yesterday’s attacks had a different feel to them. “A gunman struck at the heart of the Canadian government…. in what was one of the most brazen attacks on a Western government in recent history,” the Globe and Mail wrote.

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  • Nuclear proliferationScientists improve accuracy, reliability of nuclear tests inspection

    The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) operates the International Monitoring System (IMS) — 279 sensors-equipped facilities around the world which detect four types of physical phenomena that can provide evidence of a nuclear explosion having taken place: seismic waves, radioactive nuclei, underwater sound waves, and infrasonic waves. The evidence from the IMS is not always enough to convince signatories of the CTBT that a nuclear test has taken place. Scientists are trying to improve the accuracy and reliability of the IMS system.

  • Nuclear weaponsU.S. to spend more money on modernizing its nuclear arsenal, less on nonproliferation programs

    President Barack Obama has made gains in his quest to secure nuclear weapons and materials. In March, at the Nuclear Security Summitin Holland, Obama declared “it is important for us not to relax but rather accelerate our efforts over the next two years.” The Obama administration, however, is allocating more resources toward refurbishing and modernizing current nuclear weapons than advancing nuclear nonproliferation programs. Civilian institutions, including research labs, today hold enough nuclear explosive materials to put together 40,000 atomic bombs, but the administration has missed a self-imposed deadline of April 2013 for ensuring that nuclear materials were safe from terrorist organizations.

  • Nuclear processingContinued funding for S.C. mixed-oxide fuel (MOX) plant – at least until fall

    Federal legislators have secured the funds to keep the mixed-oxide fuelplant (MOX) at the Savannah River Sitein South Carolina moving forward at least into fall, according to South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and members of the state’s congressional delegation. The 310-square mile site once produced components for nuclear weapons, but since the agreement with Russia to turn nuclear weapons into reactor fuel, the site has focused on repurposing and cleanup.

  • Nuclear proliferationIran wants to expand its uranium enrichment capacity

    Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that Iran would need significantly to increase its uranium enrichment capacity for future energy needs, dealing a setback to negotiations between the country and world powers.

  • Nuclear proliferationGame of marbles inspires nuclear-inspection protocol

    Modern cryptography combined with simple radiation detectors could allow nuclear-weapons checks to be carried out with almost complete security. That is the conclusion of scientists in the United States, who have used computer simulations to show how a beam of neutrons can establish the authenticity of a nuclear warhead without revealing any information about that weapon’s composition or design.

  • Nuclear proliferationEngineering nuclear nonproliferation

    University of Virginia engineering professor Houston Wood’s career demonstrates the important role that engineers can play in making the world a safer place. For more than two decades, Wood has helped governments determine whether nuclear programs in other parts of the world are being dedicated to peaceful or military purposes. In recent years, Wood has been working to determine the break-out time that Iran would require to develop a nuclear weapon if it stopped allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA) to inspect its nuclear facilities.

  • Plutonium processingLawmakers want DOE to reduce run-away costs of S.C. plutonium processing plant

    Lawmakers have given the Obama administration two weeks to submit a plan for reducing the cost of constructing the mixed-oxide fuel conversion (MOX) facility which would convert bomb-grade plutonium into nuclear fuel. The MOX facility at the Savannah River Site, South Carolina was launched to help the United States meet its nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia, and agreement which called for the two countries to dispose of at least thirty-four metric tons each of weapons-grade plutonium.

  • IranU.S. officials say Israel softening position on nuclear deal with Iran

    Israel’s official position on any agreement reached between the world powers and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program is “zero, zero, zero,” that is, Israel insists that the agreement should clearly stipulate that Iran should have no centrifuges to enrich uranium, no centrifuge production capability, and no heavy-water reactor and the means to extract weapon-grade plutonium from it. American officials say, however, that informally there has been a softening of Israel’s position, and that it now appears clear that Israel no longer regards the zero- zero, zero option as realistic and achievable.

  • Plutonium processingS.C. fights to keep costly plutonium processing project alive

    The United States and Russia have agreed to dispose of thirty-four tons of weapon-grade plutonium each, an amount equal to 17,000 nuclear warheads. The United States budgeted $4 billion for a mixed-oxide fuel project, known as MOX, at the Savannah River Site, S.C., to process the plutonium, but construction costs have now reached $8 billion, and officials estimate the facility will cost about $30 billion over its operating years. DOE has suspended the MOX project and is looking for alternative plutonium processing methods. South Carolina has sued the federal government, arguing that since Congress has authorized the funds for MOX, the administration must spend the money.