Archive for the ‘nuclear’ Category

Preventing a Nuclear-Armed Iran: Requirements for a Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement

April 9, 2014 Comments off

Preventing a Nuclear-Armed Iran: Requirements for a Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement
Source: Brookings Institution

After a dozen-year standoff between Iran and the international community over the Iranian nuclear program, negotiations are underway between representatives of Iran, on the one hand, and the P5+1 countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China) and the European Union, on the other, on a comprehensive agreement aimed at ensuring that an Iranian nuclear program declared to be devoted to peaceful purposes will not be turned into a program for producing nuclear weapons.

However, key differences exist on the requirements of an acceptable deal, not just among negotiators at the table but also among key players outside the negotiations. Israeli officials and a number of members of Congress are demanding the elimination of key elements of Iran’s nuclear program, and the Obama administration and its supporters counter that several of those demands are neither achievable nor necessary for a sound agreement.

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CRS — U.S.-Vietnam Nuclear Cooperation Agreement: Issues for Congress

March 31, 2014 Comments off

U.S.-Vietnam Nuclear Cooperation Agreement: Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

U.S.-Vietnamese cooperation on nuclear energy and nonproliferation has grown in recent years along with closer bilateral economic, military, and diplomatic ties. In 2010, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding that Obama Administration officials said would be a “stepping stone” to a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement. This agreement was signed by the two countries in December 2013.

Under section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (as amended), this agreement is subject to congressional review. The nuclear cooperation agreement is expected to comply with all the terms of the Atomic Energy Act as amended and therefore will be a “non-exempt” agreement. This means that it will enter into force upon the 90th day of continuous session after its submittal to Congress (a period of 30 plus 60 days of review) unless Congress enacts a Joint Resolution disapproving the agreement.

Vietnam would be the first country in Southeast Asia to operate a nuclear power plant. Vietnam has announced a nuclear energy plan that envisions installing several nuclear plants, capable of producing up to 14,800 megawatts of electric power (MWe), by 2030. Nuclear power is projected to provide 20%-30% of the country’s electricity by 2050. Significant work remains, however, to develop Vietnam’s nuclear energy infrastructure and regulatory framework.

CRS — In Brief: U.S. Nuclear Weapon “Pit” Production: Background and Options

March 31, 2014 Comments off

In Brief: U.S. Nuclear Weapon “Pit” Production: Background and Options (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Congress is involved in the long-running and costly decision regarding the future production of “pits”; a pit is a nuclear weapon’s plutonium core. Rocky Flats Plant (CO) mass-produced pits during the Cold War; production ceased in 1989. The Department of Energy (DOE), which maintains U.S. nuclear weapons, then established a small pit manufacturing capability at PF-4, a building at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) (NM). PF-4 has made at most 11 pits per year (ppy). DOE also proposed higher-capacity facilities; none came to fruition.

U.S. policy is to maintain existing nuclear weapons. To do this, the Department of Defense has stated that it needs DOE to have the capacity to produce 50-80 ppy by 2030. This report focuses on options to reach 80 ppy. A separate debate, not discussed here, is the validity of the requirement; a lower capacity would be simpler and less costly to attain.

CRS — Nuclear Energy: Overview of Congressional Issues

March 26, 2014 Comments off

Nuclear Energy: Overview of Congressional Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The policy debate over the role of nuclear power in the nation’s energy mix is rooted in the technology’s fundamental characteristics. Nuclear reactors can produce potentially vast amounts of energy with relatively low consumption of natural resources and emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. However, facilities that produce nuclear fuel for civilian power reactors can also produce materials for nuclear weapons. The process of nuclear fission (splitting of atomic nuclei) to generate power also results in the production of radioactive material that must be contained and can remain hazardous for thousands of years. How to manage the weapons proliferation and safety risks of nuclear power, or whether the benefits of nuclear power are worth those risks, are issues that have long been debated in Congress.

CRS — Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses (updated)

March 19, 2014 Comments off

Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

A priority of Obama Administration policy has been to reduce the perceived threat posed by Iran to a broad range of U.S. interests. Well before Iran’s nuclear issue rose to the forefront of U.S. concerns about Iran in 2003, the United States had seen Iran’s support for regional militant groups, such as Lebanese Hezbollah, as efforts to undermine U.S. interests and allies. To implement U.S. policy, the Obama Administration has orchestrated broad international economic pressure on Iran to try to compel it to verifiably demonstrate to the international community that its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes. That pressure harmed Iran’s economy, created Iranian domestic sentiment for a negotiated nuclear settlement that would produce an easing of international sanctions, and paved the way for the June 2013 election of the relatively moderate Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran. Three rounds of subsequent multilateral talks with Iran achieved a November 24, 2013, interim agreement (“Joint Plan of Action”) that halts the expansion of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for modest and temporary sanctions relief. Subsequent negotiations led to a decision to implement the JPA beginning January 20, 2014, and that mutual implementation has proceeded as planned. A framework for talks on the permanent resolution were agreed between Iran and the six negotiating powers on February 20, 2014.

New From the GAO

March 19, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Military Housing: Information on the Privatization of Unaccompanied Personnel Housing. GAO-14-313, March 18.
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2. Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications: Review of DOD’s Current Modernization Efforts. GAO-14-414R, March 18.

The Journal of Physical Security 7(1), 2014

March 12, 2014 Comments off

The Journal of Physical Security 7(1), 2014
Source: Argonne National Laboratory

Welcome to volume 7, issue 1 of the Journal of Physical Security. This issue has 7 papers on the following topics: testing locks, seals and nuclear safeguards, a security thought experiment, vulnerability assessment issues, the levels of critical infrastructure risk, and community partnerships for counteracting radicalization. Volume 7, issue 2 should also be out shortly.

Paper 1 – SK McNeill, “Analysis of Explosive Magazine Padlock Breaching Techniques”, pages 1‐21
Paper 2 – HA Undem, “Nuclear Containment and Surveillance Terminology”, pages 22‐24
Paper 3 – P Kurrasch, “Money in a Glass Box”, pages 25‐30
Paper 4 – RG Johnston and JS Warner, “Vulnerability Assessment Myths (Or What Makes Red Teamers See Red)”, pages 31‐38
Paper 5 – RG Johnston and JS Warner, “What Vulnerability Assessors Know That You Should, Too”, pages 39‐42
Paper 6 – B Nussbaum, “The ‘Levels of Analysis’ Problem with Critical Infrastructure Risk”, pages 43‐50
Paper 7 – HS Mack, “Countering Violent Extremism in the United States: Law Enforcement’s Approach to Preventing Terrorism through Community Partnerships”, pages 51‐56

As usual, the views expressed by the editor and authors are their own and should not necessarily be ascribed to their home institutions, Argonne National Laboratory, or the United States Department of Energy.

New From the GAO

March 11, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office


1. Nuclear Safety: Countries’ Regulatory Bodies Have Made Changes in Response to the Fukushima Daiichi Accident.  GAO-14-109, March 6.
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1. Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request: U.S. Government Accountability Office, by Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States, before the Subcommittee on Legislative Branch, Senate Committee on Appropriations.  GAO-14-429T, March 11.
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2. Federal Rulemaking: Regulatory Review Processes Could Be Enhanced, by Michelle Sager, director,  strategic issues, before the Subcommittee on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.  GAO-14-423T, March 11.
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New From the GAO

March 6, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. VA Health Care: Actions Needed to Improve Administration and Oversight of Veterans’ Millennium Act Emergency Care Benefit. GAO-14-175, March 6.
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2. Electronic Health Record Programs: Participation Has Increased, but Action Needed to Achieve Goals, Including Improved Quality of Care. GAO-14-207, March 6.
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3. Nuclear Nonproliferation: Stronger Planning and Evaluation Needed for Radiological Security Zone Pilot Project. GAO-14-209, March 6.
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4. 2013 Sequestration: Agencies Reduced Some Services and Investments, While Taking Certain Actions to Mitigate Effects. GAO-14-244, March 6.
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Nuclear Deterrence and Cyber: The Quest for Concept

March 5, 2014 Comments off

Nuclear Deterrence and Cyber: The Quest for Concept
Source: Air & Space Power Journal

Nuclear weapons in the twenty-first century will be tasked with military and policy support missions in a technology environment of digital preeminence. The relationship between nuclear and cyber realms for the purpose of deterrence and other missions requires concept definition and practical demonstration. This study considers the relationship between nuclear and cyber within the context of nuclear arms control, including New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and post–New START options. The future of nuclear-cyber overlap will include challenges to the existing deterrence and nonproliferation regimes from nuclear weapons states in the Middle East and/or South and East Asia, as well as from improving conventional offensive and defensive weapons, including cyber war and antimissile defenses.

CRS — U.S. Nuclear Weapon “Pit” Production Options for Congress

March 4, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Nuclear Weapon “Pit” Production Options for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

“The Department of Defense states that it needs the Department of Energy, which maintains U.S. nuclear weapons, to produce 50-80 ppy [pits per year] by 2030. While some argue that few if any new pits are needed, at least for decades, this report focuses on options to reach 80 ppy.”

New From the GAO

February 20, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Oil and Gas: Interior Has Begun to Address Hiring and Retention Challenges but Needs to Do More. GAO-14-205, January 31.
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2. Plutonium Disposition Program: DOE Needs to Analyze the Root Causes of Cost Increases and Develop Better Cost Estimates. GAO-14-231, February 13.
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CRS — Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer

February 13, 2014 Comments off

Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

In order for the United States to engage in civilian nuclear cooperation with other states, it must conclude a framework agreement that meets specific requirements under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act (AEA). The AEA also provides for exemptions to these requirements, export control licensing procedures, and criteria for terminating cooperation. Congressional review is required for Section 123 agreements; the AEA establishes special parliamentary procedures by which Congress may act on a proposed agreement.

CRS — Iran Sanctions (updated)

January 31, 2014 Comments off

Iran Sanctions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Strict sanctions on Iran—sanctions that primarily target Iran’s key energy sector and its access to the international financial system—harmed Iran’s economy to the point where Iran’s leaders, on November 24, 2013, accepted an interim agreement the thrust of which is to halt further expansion of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for apparently modest sanctions relief. The June 14, 2013, election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president was an indication of the growing public pressure on the regime to achieve an easing of sanctions.

CRS — North Korea: U.S. Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation

January 31, 2014 Comments off

North Korea: U.S. Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

North Korea has been among the most vexing and persistent problems in U.S. foreign policy in the post-Cold War period. The United States has never had formal diplomatic relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the official name for North Korea). Negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program have occupied the past three U.S. administrations, even as some analysts anticipated a collapse of the isolated authoritarian regime. North Korea has been the recipient of well over $1 billion in U.S. aid and the target of dozens of U.S. sanctions.

This report provides background information on the negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program that began in the early 1990s under the Clinton Administration. As U.S. policy toward Pyongyang evolved through the George W. Bush and Obama presidencies, the negotiations moved from mostly bilateral to the multilateral Six-Party Talks (made up of China, Japan, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, and the United States). Although the negotiations have reached some key agreements that lay out deals for aid and recognition to North Korea in exchange for denuclearization, major problems with implementation have persisted. With Six- Party Talks suspended since 2009, concern about proliferation to other actors has grown.

Assessment of Nuclear Monitoring and Verification Technologies

January 29, 2014 Comments off

Assessment of Nuclear Monitoring and Verification Technologies (PDF)
Source: Defense Science Board

The Defense Science Board Task Force on Assessment of Nuclear Treaty Monitoring and Verification Technologies was established to examine a broad range of questions concerning the capability of the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Intelligence Community (IC) to support future monitoring and verification of nuclear nonproliferation and arms control treaties. The Terms of Reference (TOR) for the study, found in Appendix B, state the tasking. Given the breadth of the topics of interest to our sponsoring leadership and the time and resources available, the Task Force determined to focus on those aspects of the TOR that address what it views as the priority issue––namely, monitoring for proliferation. Assessments of strategies for monitoring nuclear activities in both permissive and non‐permissive environments, and of our current technical capabilities and future requirements for successfully implementing those strategies, were made.

CRS — Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons

January 16, 2014 Comments off

Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The FY2013 Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310, Section 1037) indicates that it is the sense of Congress that “the United States should pursue negotiations with the Russian Federation aimed at the reduction of Russian deployed and nondeployed nonstrategic nuclear forces.” The United States and Russia have not included limits on these weapons in past arms control agreements. Nevertheless, some analysts and Members of Congress have argued that disparities in the numbers of nonstrategic nuclear weapons may become more important as the United States and Russia reduce their numbers of deployed long-range, strategic nuclear weapons.

During the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union both deployed nonstrategic nuclear weapons for use in the field during a conflict. While there are several ways to distinguish between strategic and nonstrategic nuclear weapons, most analysts consider nonstrategic weapons to be shorter-range delivery systems with lower yield warheads that might be used to attack troops or facilities on the battlefield. They have included nuclear mines; artillery; short-, medium-, and long-range ballistic missiles; cruise missiles; and gravity bombs. In contrast with the longer-range “strategic” nuclear weapons, these weapons had a lower profile in policy debates and arms control negotiations, possibly because they did not pose a direct threat to the continental United States. At the end of the 1980s, each nation still had thousands of these weapons deployed with their troops in the field, aboard naval vessels, and on aircraft.

In 1991, the United States and Soviet Union both withdrew from deployment most and eliminated from their arsenals many of their nonstrategic nuclear weapons. The United States now has approximately 760 nonstrategic nuclear weapons, with around 200 deployed with aircraft in Europe and the remaining stored in the United States. Estimates vary, but experts believe Russia still has between 1,000 and 6,000 warheads for nonstrategic nuclear weapons in its arsenal. The Bush Administration quietly redeployed and removed some of the nuclear weapons deployed in Europe. Russia, however seems to have increased its reliance on nuclear weapons in its national security concept. Some analysts argue that Russia has backed away from its commitments from 1991 and may develop and deploy new types of nonstrategic nuclear weapons.

See also: Next Steps in Nuclear Arms Control with Russia: Issues for Congress (PDF)

CRS — Nuclear Power Plant Security and Vulnerabilities

January 16, 2014 Comments off

Nuclear Power Plant Security and Vulnerabilities (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The physical security of nuclear power plants and their vulnerability to deliberate acts of terrorism was elevated to a national security issue following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Congress subsequently enacted new nuclear plant security requirements and has repeatedly focused attention on regulation and enforcement by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). More than a decade after the 9/11 attacks, security at nuclear plants remains an important concern.

CBO — Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2014 to 2023

January 6, 2014 Comments off

Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2014 to 2023
Source: Congressional Budget Office

In its most recent review of U.S. nuclear policy, the Administration resolved to maintain all three types of systems that can deliver nuclear weapons over long ranges—submarines that launch ballistic missiles (SSBNs), land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and long-range bombers—known collectively as the strategic nuclear triad. The Administration also resolved to preserve the ability to deploy U.S. tactical nuclear weapons carried by fighter aircraft overseas in support of allies. Nearly all of those delivery systems and the nuclear weapons they carry are nearing the end of their planned operational lives and will need to be modernized or replaced by new systems over the next two decades. In addition, the Administration’s review called for more investment to restore and modernize the national laboratories and the complex of supporting facilities that maintain the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. The costs of those modernization activities will add significantly to the overall cost of the nation’s nuclear forces, which also includes the cost of operating and maintaining the current forces.

As directed by the Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (Public Law 112 239), CBO has estimated the costs over the next 10 years of the Administration’s plans for operating, maintaining, and modernizing nuclear weapons and the military systems capable of delivering those weapons. CBO’s estimates should not be used directly to calculate the savings that might be realized if those forces were reduced: Because the nuclear enterprise has large fixed costs for infrastructure and other factors, a partial reduction in the size of any segment of those forces would be likely to result in savings that were proportionally smaller than the relative reduction in force.

CRS — Interim Agreement on Iran’s Nuclear Program

January 2, 2014 Comments off

Interim Agreement on Iran’s Nuclear Program (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

In the early hours of November 24, 2013, in Geneva, Switzerland, Iran and the six powers that have negotiated with Iran about its nuclear program since 2006 (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany—collectively known as the “P5+1”) finalized an interim agreement requiring Iran to freeze many aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for what the Obama Administration calls “limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible” relief from international sanctions. The period of the interim deal is to be six months, during which time Iran and the P5+1 will attempt to reach a comprehensive deal on the long-term status of Iran’s nuclear program.


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