• The 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.

  • Concerns 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.

  • New 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.

  • The 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.”

  • Iran 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.

  • Iran 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.

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  • U.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.

  • Multinational control of enrichment “the only realistic way” to reduce nuclear risks

    Within the next two weeks, or soon after, the United States and five world powers hope to finalize a nuclear deal with Iran to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for a relaxing of international economic and financial sanctions. What, however, happens in ten years when some of the key restrictions being discussed begin to phase out? One of the biggest concerns is Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which uses high-speed centrifuges to produce uranium enriched to a level appropriate for nuclear power reactor fuel. Enrichment plants like this can be quickly reconfigured to produce “weapon-grade” uranium. A new report suggests that “Reducing proliferation risks by ending national control over dangerous civilian nuclear activities is an important idea with a long history,” in the words of one of the report’s authors. “As civilian nuclear technology keeps spreading, multinational control may offer the only realistic way to stop the spread of nuclear weapons capability.”

  • Underground explosives tests help U.S. detection capabilities

    Three weeks ago, a National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) led-team successfully conducted the fourth in a series of experiments designed to improve the U.S. ability to detect underground nuclear explosions. The Source Physics Experiment (SPE-4 Prime) is a fundamental step forward in the U.S. effort to improve arms control verification, and will eventually be used to assure compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

  • Iran’s refusal to allow inspection of military sites could derail nuclear agreement

    As the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council— the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China — plus Germany near a deal to ease international sanctions if Iran agrees to restrictions and monitoring of its nuclear activities, diplomats say Iran’s refusal to provide inspectors access to its military bases could set back the negotiations, which have been in the works for over twenty-months. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken has publicly said that U.S. officials want IAEA inspectors to be given “anywhere, anytime” access to sites where nuclear work is suspected, adding that the Obama administration will not accept a deal unless access is granted “to whatever Iranian sites are required to verify that Iran’s program is exclusively peaceful — period.”

  • France will not sign off on a nuclear deal with Iran if military sites are off limits to inspectors

    Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister, said France will not accept a deal on Iran’s nuclear program if Tehran refuses to allow inspections of its military sites as part of the final agreement. Throughout the negotiations with Iran, France has taken a tougher stance toward Iran than the other negotiating countries, known as the P5 + 1 (the five permanent members of the Security Council – the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, and France – and Germany). “France will not accept a deal if it is not clear that inspections can be done at all Iranian installations, including military sites,” Fabius told the national assembly in Paris.

  • U.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 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.

  • Kerry 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.”

  • Man 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.