• ISIS obtaining nuclear weapons “obviously a concern”: British defense secretary

    British defense secretary Michael Fallon said the prospect of ISIS or another terror group with the “technical know-how” obtaining nuclear weapons is “obviously a concern.” Fallon said it was important to ensure that terror groups could not “get their hands on nuclear weapons” and said the United Kingdom was doing its part by maintaining strict export controls on the necessary technology.

  • Ending civilian use of highly enriched, weapon-grade uranium

    Efforts to convert civilian research reactors from weapon-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuels are taking significantly longer than anticipated, says a report from the National Academies of Sciences. The report calls for the federal government to take immediate steps to convert civilian research reactors currently using weapon-grade HEU fuel to a lower-enriched HEU fuel while awaiting the qualification of new LEU fuel.

  • Iran nuclear deal: how to ensure compliance?

    The U.S. and European countries lifted nuclear-related sanctions against Iran on 16 January as part of a deal in which the country agreed to limit its nuclear activities and accept a new system of international inspections. The issue now is how the international community can be confident that Iran is not violating the deal. Iran agreed never to develop nuclear weapons when it signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. There’s no ironclad method to prevent Iran from breaking its promise and developing nuclear weapons, but this new agreement builds in a number of strong protections. In conjunction with U.S. and allied intelligence capabilities, these rules mean even a sophisticated and carefully executed secret plan would carry a high risk of detection.Looking at the deal as a whole, Iran’s best strategy for acquiring nuclear weapons would simply be to wait for restrictions on its declared enrichment program to be lifted. Assuming that the deal does not fall apart sooner, most of those provisions are scheduled to expire in 2030. In the meantime, the deal helps make a nuclear-armed Iran a less immediate prospect.

  • It is 3 minutes to midnight -- still

    The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists yesterday announced that the minute hand of the Bulletin’s closely watched Doomsday Clock will remain at three minutes to midnight, since recent progress in the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris climate accord “constitute only small bright spots in a darker world situation full of potential for catastrophe.” The Bulletin’s panel of security experts said that “Three minutes (to midnight) is too close. Far too close…” – but that this reflects “world leaders continue to fail to focus their efforts and the world’s attention on reducing the extreme danger posed by nuclear weapons and climate change. When we call these dangers existential, that is exactly what we mean: They threaten the very existence of civilization and therefore should be the first order of business for leaders who care about their constituents and their countries.”

  • Iran decommissions Arak nuclear reactor

    Iran has decommissioned its Arak nuclear reactor by removing the sensitive core, and UN inspectors are inspecting the reactor today (Thursday) in order to verify the removal of the core, as required by the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 powers. The removal of the core of the reactor will make it impossible for Iran to pursue the plutonium path to the bomb. The dismantling of about 13,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges, as called for by the agreement, will make it impossible for Iran to use enriched uranium to build a bomb for the duration of the agreement.

  • Seismologists "hear" the nuclear explosions in North Korea

    International experts are far from convinced that North Korea actually conducted its first H-bomb test, which was reported by the country last week.Seismology alone cannot tell whether it was a hydrogen bomb or not, but seismologists say that what emerges from the existing data is that last week’s seismic events in North Korea were slightly smaller than a similar event in 2013.

  • U.S. to impose new sanctions on Iran over ballistic missile program

    The United States is preparing a new round of economic sanctions against Iran after Iran had violated agreements related to its ballistic missile program by testing, on 10 October, an advanced version of one of its missiles. The ballistic missile agreement is unrelated to the nuclear agreement the P5+1 powers signed with Iran last summer. The nuclear program-related sanctions would begin to be lifted in 2016 if Iran fully complies with the requirements of the nuclear deal.

  • Iran began dismantling its nuclear program, but has way to go to come into full compliance: IAEA

    The IAEA says that Iran has begun dismantling parts of its nuclear program, as agreed in a deal with the P5+1 powers – but that it has some way to go before coming into full compliance with the agreement. Iran has removed 4,500 centrifuges from the Natanz and Fordo site – but it has to remove 10,000 more before 15 December. Iran has added 460 kg low-enriched uranium to its stock – it now has 8.3 tons of low-enriched uranium – but that stock must be slashed to just 300kg by 15 December. If Iran does not meet in full these, and other, clauses in the agreement by 15 December, the economic sanctions will not be lifted.

  • Can Iran’s rulers still use enemies abroad to rally nation?

    The rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran have routinely used external conflicts to divert public attention from domestic problems, deflect attacks, promote national cohesion, and repress their opponents. Democratic activists in Iran may hope that the signing of the international nuclear deal will curb the country’s regime from further militarizing the state and repressing the opposition, but it is more likely that Iran’s leadership will continue their contentious pattern, and continue their anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric. With the nuclear agreement or without it, the theocracy’s history suggests that its leaders are more likely to focus on external conflicts in order to shore up their power base, deflect attacks, divert attention from unresolved internal problems and repress demands for democracy.

  • GOP caucus infighting stymies House vote on Iran deal

    The Senate is not likely to bring the Iran nuclear deal to the floor of the Senate for an up-or-down vote because forty-two Democrats have now announced their support for the deal. It now appears that the House will not vote on the Iran deal, either, but for a different reason: Infighting among House Republicans who oppose the deal. The more conservative members of the House GOP caucus say the Obama administration had not provided all the required information about the deal. Opponents of the deal insist it includes “secret side deals” about nuclear inspections, side deals which have not been revealed either to the public or to lawmakers. The critics say that the review act, which gave Congress 60-day window to debate and vote on the deal, has not been triggered on 19 July, as the administration insists, since the act required all the information and documents pertaining to the deal to be given to Congress. Since, they argue, not all the documents have been given to Congress, not only has the review act has not been triggered on 19 July – and cannot close on 17 September – but there should be not vote of approval or disapproval.

  • Upholding disarmament agreements with engineering

    Arms control agreements face a problem: how to ensure that countries with nuclear weapons abide by disarmament agreements. The linchpin of these agreements is being able to verify that the signers are following the rules — but the trick is for both sides, or a third party, to be able to police weapons in a way that doesn’t give out too much information about them, for example, how these weapons were built. An MIT project, called Zero Knowledge Warhead Verification, tackles this problem with a beam of light, a scrambler, and a detector.

  • Pro-deal filibuster to prevent Senate vote on Iran agreement

    President Barack Obama has won a second major victory on the Iran nuclear deal in as many weeks: Last week Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) became the 34th senator to announce her support for the deal, thus allowing the president to sustain the veto he would have issued after the Republican majority in the Senate would have voted to disapprove the nuclear deal with Iran. On Tuesday, Obama won a second, even bigger victory: There will be no vote on the deal on the floor of the Senate. The reason: Three Senate Democrats — Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Gary Peters of Michigan, and Ron Wyden of Oregon — said earlier Tuesday they will support the deal. Thirty-eight members of the Democratic caucus have already announced their support for the deal. Sixty senators are needed to vote for cloture, that is, an end to debate, so a motion can be brought the floor for a vote. With forty-one Democrats now supporting the deal, the Republican critics of the deal cannot end the debate to force an up-or-down vote on the floor on a resolution of disapproval.

  • Obama wins: Iran deal opponents cannot override Presidential veto

    The Obama administration has won a major victory yesterday (Wednesday) when Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) announced she would support the nuclear agreement reached by the P5+1 and Iran. She is the 34th Democrat supporting the accord, thus giving the administration enough votes to sustain a presidential veto of a Senate vote of disapproval. It takes sixty-seven senators to override a presidential veto, but with thirty-four Democrats now supporting the accord, opponents of the agreement can no longer reach the required veto-overriding number. It is also not clear that there will be a vote of disapproval in the Senate. To have a vote of disapproval brought the floor, the fifty-four Senate Republicans must persuade six Democrats to support cloture, that is, a motion to bring debate to an end so a vote can take place. It requires sixty senators to vote to end debate and bring a vote to the floor, and so far only two Democrats – Chuck Schumer of New York and Bob Menendez of New Jersey – have announced their opposition to the agreement, leaving opponents of the accord four votes short of a successful cloture motion. If no such vote takes place, there would be no need for a presidential veto.

  • Iran nuclear deal close to clearing last hurdle as more Senate Democrats announce support

    The nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran is about to clear the last political obstacle to its implementation after two more Senate Democrats announced they would support the deal. Their support means that the Obama administration is just one senator short of having the required 34 votes in the Senate to sustain a presidential veto, which will follow the rejection of the deal by the Republican majority in the chamber. The president may yet not need to use the veto at all. With the growing number of Democrats coming out to support the Iran deal, there is a possibility that the Republican majority in the Senate – at fifty-four Senators — may fall short of even passing a vote of disapproval: Sixty senators would be required bring debate to a close and pass the motion of disapproval, meaning that if forty-one Democrats come out in support of the deal, the president will not have to use the veto at all.

  • New 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.