Archive for the ‘nuclear’ Category

EPA’s Proposed CO2 Rule for Existing Power Plants: How Would It Affect Nuclear Energy? — CRS Insights (August 4, 2014)

August 15, 2014 Comments off

EPA’s Proposed CO2 Rule for Existing Power Plants: How Would It Affect Nuclear Energy? — CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rule on June 18, 2014, to address CO2 emissions from existing power plants. Because nuclear power plants directly emit little or no CO2, a significant policy question is whether EPA’s proposed regulations would encourage the growth of nuclear energy or at least the continued operation of existing reactors. The formula in the proposed rule for setting CO2 goals explicitly accounts for some existing nuclear capacity and reactors under construction, providing a potential incentive for states to try to keep those plants operating. However, EPA’s proposed rule allows states to develop their own plans for meeting the CO2 emission rate goals, making it difficult to predict how nuclear energy might ultimately fare.

The proposed EPA standards would set state-specific goals for the amount of CO2 that could be emitted in 2030 for each megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generated. EPA projects that, under those proposed emissions rates, U.S. power plants would produce 30% less CO2 by 2030 than they did in 2005 (the base year in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan).

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DHS OIG — Domestic Nuclear Detection Office Has Taken Steps To Address Insider Threat, but Challenges Remain

August 1, 2014 Comments off

Domestic Nuclear Detection Office Has Taken Steps To Address Insider Threat, but Challenges Remain
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General

We reviewed the efforts of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) to address the risk posed by trusted insiders. Our objective was to assess DNDO’s progress toward protecting its information technology assets from threats posed by its employees, especially those with trusted or elevated access to sensitive, but unclassified information systems or data.

Steps are underway to address and mitigate the insider risk at DNDO. Specifically, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Under Secretary of Intelligence and Analysis established an Insider Threat Task Force to develop a program to address the risk of insider threats for DHS, including DNDO. In addition, the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis has detailed a counterintelligence officer to DNDO to help mitigate espionage‐related insider risks. The DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis routinely briefs DNDO on counterintelligence awareness, including insider threat indicators. In addition, DNDO provides security awareness training to its employees and contractors regarding security‐related topics that could help prevent or detect the insider risk. In September 2013, the DHS Office of the Chief Security Officer began a comprehensive vulnerability assessment of DNDO assets, which includes identifying insider risks and vulnerabilities. The DHS Security Operations Center monitors DNDO information systems and networks to respond to potential insider based incidents. Finally, the DHS Special Security Programs Division handles and investigates security incidents, including those types attributed to malicious insiders.

Additional steps to address the insider risk at DNDO are required. Specifically, DNDO needs to implement insider threat procedures, upon receipt of policy issued by the DHS Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) that defines roles and responsibilities for addressing insider risks to unclassified networks and systems. DNDO also needs to provide documentation that clearly shows the effectiveness of controls or processes in place to detect and respond to unauthorized data exfiltration from DNDO unclassified information technology assets via email services provided by the DHS OCIO.

DNDO can strengthen processes and controls for its own technology infrastructure. They can disable portable media ports on controlled information technology assets where there is no legitimate business need. DNDO can apply critical security patches to these assets and perform periodic security assessments of controlled sites to identify any indication of unauthorized wireless devices or connections to DHS networks.

New From the GAO

July 2, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Climate Change Adaptation: DOD Can Improve Infrastructure Planning and Processes to Better Account for Potential Impacts. GAO-14-446, May 30.
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2. Prescription Drugs: Comparison of DOD, Medicaid, and Medicare Part D Retail Reimbursement Prices. GAO-14-578, June 30.
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3. Nuclear Security: NNSA Should Establish a Clear Vision and Path Forward for Its Security Program. GAO-14-208,May 30.
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New From the GAO

June 23, 2014 Comments off

New From the GAO
Source: Government Accountability Office


1. DOD Financial Management: The Defense Finance and Accounting Service Needs to Fully Implement Financial Improvements for Contract Pay. GAO-14-10, June 23.
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2. Telecommunications: USDA Should Evaluate the Performance of the Rural Broadband Loan Program. GAO-14-471,May 22.
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3. Medicaid: Financial Characteristics of Approved Applicants and Methods Used to Reduce Assets to Qualify for Nursing Home Coverage. GAO-14-473, May 22.
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4. Advanced Reactor Research: DOE Supports Multiple Technologies, but Actions Needed to Ensure a Prototype Is Built. GAO-14-545, June 23.
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5. VA Spina Bifida Program: Outreach to Key Stakeholders and Written Guidance for Claims Audit Follow-up Activities Needed. GAO-14-564, June 23.
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6. Debt Management: Floating Rate Notes Can Help Treasury Meet Borrowing Goals, but Additional Actions Are Needed to Help Manage Risk. GAO-14-535, June 16.
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Related Product

Debt Management: Survey of Investors in Treasury Securities (GAO-14-562SP, June 16, 2014), an E-supplement to GAO-14-535. GAO-14-562SP, June 16.

CRS — U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues

May 27, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Even though the United States plans to reduce the number of warheads deployed on its longrange missiles and bombers, consistent with the terms of the New START Treaty, it also plans to develop new delivery systems for deployment over the next 20-30 years. The 113th Congress will continue to review these programs during the annual authorization and appropriations process.

New From the GAO

May 15, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office


1. Export Controls: NASA Management Action and Improved Oversight Needed to Reduce the Risk of Unauthorized Access to Its Technologies. GAO-14-315, April 15.
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2. F-22 Modernization: Cost and Schedule Transparency Is Improved, Further Visibility into Reliability Efforts Is Needed. GAO-14-425, May 15.
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3. National Nuclear Security Administration: Agency Report to Congress on Potential Efficiencies Does Not Include Key Information. GAO-14-434, May 15.
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4. Biological Defense: DOD Has Strengthened Coordination on Medical Countermeasures but Can Improve Its Process for Threat Prioritization. GAO-14-442, May 15.
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5. International Labor Grants: Labor Should Improve Management of Key Award Documentation. GAO-14-493, May 15.
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6. Financial Audit: Congressional Award Foundation’s Fiscal Years 2013 and 2012 Financial Statements. GAO-14-540, May 15.


1. VA Health Care: VA Lacks Accurate Information about Outpatient Medical Appointment Wait Times, Including Specialty Care Consults, by Debra A. Draper, director, health care, before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. GAO-14-620T, May 15.
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CRS — Mixed-Oxide Fuel Fabrication Plant and Plutonium Disposition: Management and Policy Issues

May 12, 2014 Comments off

Mixed-Oxide Fuel Fabrication Plant and Plutonium Disposition: Management and Policy Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) in South Carolina has been a key component of the current U.S. strategy for disposing of surplus weapons plutonium from the Cold War. That strategy called for the surplus plutonium, in oxide form, to be blended with uranium oxide to make mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for U.S. commercial nuclear reactors. The plutonium in MOX fuel would be mostly destroyed in the reactors by fission (splitting into other isotopes). At the same time, isotopes of plutonium undesirable for weapons would be created, along with highly radioactive fission products. As a result, after several years in a reactor, spent MOX fuel would have less total plutonium than when it was freshly loaded, and the remaining plutonium would be degraded for weapons purposes. Moreover, the fission products would make the material difficult to handle, in case of future attempts to use the plutonium.

Because of sharply rising cost estimates for the MOX project, the Obama Administration is proposing to place MFFF in “cold standby” and study other plutonium disposition options. The federal plutonium disposition program is run by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous agency of the Department of Energy (DOE). NNSA estimated in 2002 that MFFF would cost about $1 billion to design and build. DOE said in its budget justification for FY2014 that the MFFF contractor had estimated the project’s total construction cost would rise to $7.78 billion, and that construction would not be completed until November 2019. DOE’s FY2015 budget justification said the life-cycle cost estimate for the MOX program had risen to $30 billion.

CRS — Iran’s Nuclear Program: Tehran’s Compliance with International Obligations

May 8, 2014 Comments off

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Tehran’s Compliance with International Obligations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

In 2002, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began investigating allegations that Iran had conducted clandestine nuclear activities. Ultimately, the agency reported that some of these activities had violated Tehran’s IAEA safeguards agreement. The IAEA has not stated definitively that Iran has pursued nuclear weapons, but has also not yet been able to conclude that the country’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes. The IAEA Board of Governors referred the matter to the U.N. Security Council in February 2006. Since then, the council has adopted six resolutions, the most recent of which (Resolution 1929) was adopted in June 2010.

The Security Council has required Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA’s investigation of its nuclear activities, suspend its uranium enrichment program, suspend its construction of a heavywater reactor and related projects, and ratify the Additional Protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. However, Tehran has continued to defy the council’s demands by continuing work on its uranium enrichment program and heavy-water reactor program. Iran has signed, but not ratified, its Additional Protocol. Tehran has limited and reversed some aspects of these programs’ progress since the government began implementing a November 2013 Joint Plan of Action between Iran and China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Iran and the IAEA agreed in August 2007 on a work plan to clarify the outstanding questions regarding Tehran’s nuclear program. Most of these questions have essentially been resolved, but the agency still has questions regarding “possible military dimensions” to Iran’s nuclear programme. The IAEA has reported for some time that it has not been able to make progress on these matters.

This report provides a brief overview of Iran’s nuclear program and describes the legal basis for the actions taken by the IAEA board and the Security Council. It will be updated as events warrant.

New From the GAO

May 5, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Uranium Contamination: Overall Scope, Time Frame, and Cost Information Is Needed for Contamination Cleanup on the Navajo Reservation. GAO-14-323, May 5.
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2. Defense Contracting: Early Attention in the Acquisition Process Needed to Enhance Competition. GAO-14-395, May 5.
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3. Defense Acquisitions: Military Services Consistently Held Required Configuration Steering Boards That Actively Reviewed Requirements Changes. GAO-14-466R, May 5.

50 Facts About U.S. Nuclear Weapons Today

May 3, 2014 Comments off

50 Facts About U.S. Nuclear Weapons Today
Source: Brookings Institution

Their number and role in U.S. security have been reduced, but nuclear weapons still provide important security benefits to the United States and its allies. While the prospects for moving to lower levels than those in New START now appear limited, the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at Brookings put together an updated list of “50 Facts About U.S. Nuclear Weapons,” originally published in 1998.

CRS — Iran-North Korea-Syria Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Cooperation

May 1, 2014 Comments off

Iran-North Korea-Syria Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Cooperation (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Congress has at times expressed concern regarding ballistic missile and nuclear programs in Iran, North Korea, and Syria. This report focuses primarily on unclassified and declassified U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) assessments over the past two decades. These assessments indicate that

• there is no evidence that Iran and North Korea have engaged in nuclear-related trade or cooperation with each other, although ballistic missile technology cooperation between the two is significant and meaningful, and

• Syria has received ballistic missiles and related technology from North Korea and Iran and also engaged in nuclear technology cooperation with North Korea.

CRS — Achievements of and Outlook for Sanctions on Iran

April 29, 2014 Comments off

Achievements of and Outlook for Sanctions on Iran (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists

Most experts agree that the multilateral sanctions imposed on Iran since 2010 have contributed significantly to producing flexibility in Iran’s position on the scope of its nuclear program. There is similar agreement that the effect of sanctions on Iran’s foreign policy—particularly on its core interests in the Middle East region—and on its human rights practices, appear to have been minimal to date. In assessing effectiveness, however, it is difficult to separate the effect of sanctions from other variables such as Iran’s purported economic mismanagement, attitudes of the Iranian public, and Iranian politics.

Stepping Stone, Stopping Point, or Slippery Slope? Negotiating the Next Iran Deal

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Stepping Stone, Stopping Point, or Slippery Slope? Negotiating the Next Iran Deal
Source: Harvard Business School Working Papers

The November 2013 “interim” nuclear deal between Iran and the “P5 1” — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany — raises challenging questions. Will the initial deal function as a stepping stone toward a more comprehensive deal? Or will it drift into becoming a stopping point that leaves Iran dangerously close to nuclear weapons capability with the sanctions regime in decline? Or will it devolve to a slippery slope that would end up requiring a painful choice for key players between either acquiescing in a nuclear-capable Iran or attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities? With the Iran and the P5 1 each splintered into contending factions, a successful stepping stone strategy requires converting enough “persuadable skeptics” on each side to forge a “winning coalition” on behalf of the a more comprehensive nuclear deal. This supportive group must be strong enough to overcome the potent “blocking coalition” that will oppose virtually any larger, next-stage agreement. The best chance for the interim accord to become a stepping stone to a more valuable deal calls for a two-prong negotiating strategy with both value-enhancing and cost-imposing elements. The first prong of this strategy should strive to craft the most valuable possible next deal that credibly offers Iran a range of benefits, not limited to sanctions relief, that are greater and much more salient than those available from the interim agreement. The second prong should significantly worsen the consequences of failing to reach the next nuclear deal by a strong public U.S. Presidential commitment to sign a bill, prenegotiated with the Congress and P5 1 allies, imposing enhanced sanctions if negotiations toward an acceptable, but relatively narrow, agreement denying Iran an “exercisable nuclear option” do not succeed by the reasonable but firm deadline no later than twelve months from the start of the interim talks.

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.

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.


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