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Archive for the ‘nuclear’ Category

New From the GAO

December 11, 2013 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise: NNSA’s Budget Estimates Do Not Fully Align with Plans. GAO-14-45, December 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-45
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659612.pdf

2. Indian Health Service: Opportunities May Exist to Improve the Contract Health Services Program. GAO-14-57, December 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-57
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659603.pdf

3. Dodd-Frank Regulations: Agencies Conducted Regulatory Analyses and Coordinated but Could Benefit from Additional Guidance on Major Rules. GAO-14-67, December 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-67
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659587.pdf

4. Defense Management: Actions Needed to Ensure National Guard and Reserve Headquarters are Sized to Be Efficient. GAO-14-71, November 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-71
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/658979.pdf

5. Financial Audit: Office of Financial Stability (Troubled Asset Relief Program) Fiscal Years 2013 and 2012 Financial Statements. GAO-14-172R, December 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-172R

6. Small Business Lending Fund: Treasury Should Ensure Evaluation Includes Methods to Isolate Program Impact. GAO-14-135, December 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-135
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659594.pdf

Testimony

1. Reverse Auctions: Guidance is Needed to Maximize Competition and Achieve Cost Savings, by Michele Mackin, director, acquisition and sourcing management, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and the Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce, House Committee on Small Business. GAO-14-200T, December 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-200T

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Extreme Risks – 2013

October 31, 2013 Comments off

Extreme Risks – 2013
Source: Towers Watson
From press release:

Towers Watson’s extreme risks ranking has a new top three: Food/water/energy crisis, Stagnation and Global temperature change – while Sovereign default and Insurance crisis have both fallen five places and Depression loses the top spot for the first time since the research began in 2009. While Food/water/energy crisis (previously Resource scarcity) rose ten places to take the top slot, other extreme risks that have also risen up the ranking this year are Global trade collapse (+4) and Global temperature change (+3). Extreme risks that, in Towers Watson’s view, are less of a threat than in 2011 include Sovereign default, which has fallen five places, as has an Insurance crisis, while a Currency crisis and a Banking crisisfell three and two places respectively.

Towers Watson’s research and ranking, entitled Extreme risks 2013, categorises very rare events that would have a high impact on global economic growth and asset returns if they occurred. The top 15 Extreme risks now for the first time include: Stagnation, Health progress backfire, Nuclear contamination, Extreme longevity and Terrorism, while those that have dropped out of the top 15 this year are: Euro break-up, Hyperinflation, Political crisis, Major war, End of fiat money and Killer pandemic.

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

October 28, 2013 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.

During the Cold War, the U.S. nuclear arsenal contained many types of delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons. The longer-range systems, which included long-range missiles based on U.S. territory, long-range missiles based on submarines, and heavy bombers that could threaten Soviet targets from their bases in the United States, are known as strategic nuclear delivery vehicles. At the end of the Cold War, in 1991, the United States deployed more than 10,000 warheads on these delivery vehicles. That number has declined to less than 2,000 warheads today, and is slated to decline to 1,550 warheads by the 2018, after the New START Treaty completes implementation.

At the present time, the U.S. land-based ballistic missile force (ICBMs) consists of 450 Minuteman III ICBMs, each deployed with between one and three warheads; they will all be reduced to only one warhead over the next few years, and the fleet will decline to, at most, 420 missiles. The Air Force is also modernizing the Minuteman missiles, replacing and upgrading their rocket motors, guidance systems, and other components. The Air Force had expected to begin replacing the Minuteman missiles around 2018, but decided, instead, to continue to modernize and maintain the existing missiles, so that they can remain in the force through 2030; it is, once again, considering what to do to sustain the missiles after 2030.

New From the GAO

October 25, 2013 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Combating Terrorism: DHS Should Take Action to Better Ensure Resources Abroad Align with Priorities. GAO-13-681, September 25.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-681
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/658133.pdf

2. Nuclear Weapons: Information on Safety Concerns with the Uranium Processing Facility. GAO-14-79R, October 25.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-79R

3. Federal Facilities: Selected Facilities’ Emergency Plans Generally Reflect Federal Guidance. GAO-14-101, October 25.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-101
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/658555.pdf

New From the GAO

October 17, 2013 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Managing Critical Isotopes: Stewardship of Lithium-7 Is Needed to Ensure a Stable Supply. GAO-13-716, September 19.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-716
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657965.pdf

2. Nuclear Power: Analysis of Regional Differences and Improved Access to Information Could Strengthen NRC Oversight. GAO-13-743, September 27.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-743
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/658274.pdf

3. Medicare Information Technology: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Needs to Pursue a Solution for Removing Social Security Numbers from Cards. GAO-13-761, September 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-761
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657710.pdf

4. Farm Programs: Changes Are Needed to Eligibility Requirements for Being Actively Involved in Farming. GAO-13-781, September 26.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-781
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/658209.pdf

Testimony

1. Haiti Reconstruction: USAID Infrastructure Projects Have Had Mixed Results and Face Sustainability Challenges, by David Gootnick, director, international affairs and trade, before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. GAO-14-47T, October 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-47T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/658446.pdf

Press Release

1. GAO Executive Wins Service to America Medal, October 17.
http://www.gao.gov/press/service_to_america_award_2013oct17.htm

Disasters, Rebuilding and Leadership – Tough Lessons from Japan and the U.S.

October 9, 2013 Comments off

Disasters, Rebuilding and Leadership – Tough Lessons from Japan and the U.S.
Source: Knowledge@Wharton (U Penn)

On March 11, 2011, deep below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, enormous seismic forces reached a tipping point. At 2:46 p.m., one of the earth’s tectonic plates suddenly shifted, thrusting violently underneath another. The North American plate was pushed upward with such force that the movement generated a massive tsunami. It took the wall of moving water 51 minutes to reach the coast of Japan, some 45 miles away.

In some places, the tsunami towered more than 125 feet above the ground when it hit. Thankfully, the height of the wave was far less where it came ashore near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant — “only” 50 feet high. Still, the nuclear disaster caused by the earthquake and tsunami has been rated by the International Atomic Energy Agency as equal in severity to the 1986 accident at Chernobyl, the worst nuclear disaster on record.

The complex catastrophe — earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown — killed close to 20,000 people, displaced hundreds of thousands more and contaminated a large swathe of beautiful countryside for decades or longer. More than two years later, Japan is still struggling to recover and prevent even more devastation.

On May 24, 2013, the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) sponsored a panel at the Wharton Global Forum in Tokyo to consider the leadership lessons generated by the Fukushima disaster, and to look at its impact on Japan’s energy policy and the resettlement of afflicted areas.

While the scale of the natural disaster in Japan was beyond the experience of anyone now alive, it was far from unprecedented and should have been anticipated, according to several post-Fukushima reports. Yet those in leadership positions failed to adequately prepare for the catastrophic events of March 2011. Unwilling to face up to the rare but predictable worst-case scenario, government and industry leaders were quickly overwhelmed by events. The judgments they made and the actions they took — or failed to take — often compounded problems. A close look at these mistakes offers valuable lessons for leaders facing disasters in the future.

New From the GAO

September 11, 2013 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Environmental Health: EPA Has Made Substantial Progress but Could Improve Processes for Considering Children’s Health. GAO-13-254, August 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-254
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/656921.pdf

2. Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise: Observations on NNSA’s Options for Meeting Its Plutonium Research Needs. GAO-13-533, September 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-533
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657746.pdf

3. Cargo Tank Trucks: Improved Incident Data and Regulatory Analysis Would Better Inform Decisions about Safety Risks. GAO-13-721, September 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-721
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657756.pdf

Testimonies

1. 2020 Census: Progress Report on the Census Bureau’s Efforts to Contain Enumeration Costs, by Robert Goldenkoff, director, strategic issues, and Carol R. Cha, director, information technology acquisition management, before the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service, and the Census, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-13-857T, September 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-857T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657733.pdf

2. Unemployment Insurance Information Technology: States Face Challenges in Modernization Efforts, by Valerie C. Melvin, director, information management and technology resources issues, before the Subcommittee on Human Resources, House Committee on Ways and Means. GAO-13-859T, September 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-859T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657736.pdf

3. Delphi Pensions: Key Events Leading to Plan Terminations, by Barbara D. Bovbjerg, managing director, education, workforce, and income security issues, and A. Nicole Clowers, director, financial markets and community investment issues, before the Subcommittee on Government Operations, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-13-854T, September 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-854T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657740.pdf

Report on the Workshop on Radionuclides in Wastewater Infrastructure Resulting from Emergency Situations

August 21, 2013 Comments off

Report on the Workshop on Radionuclides in Wastewater Infrastructure Resulting from Emergency Situations
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) National Homeland Security Research Center (NHSRC), hosted an expert workshop December 3-4, 2012, in Alexandria, Virginia, to engage with subject matter experts and wastewater utility stakeholders on radionuclides in wastewater collection and treatment systems. The key objective of this workshop was to provide EPA NHRSC recommendations and technical information in the area of radionuclides in wastewater infrastructure resulting from emergency situations, as well as related needs and concerns of, and potential solutions for, the wastewater industry.

Study: U.S. Nuclear Reactors Vulnerable to Terrorist Attack

August 15, 2013 Comments off

Study: U.S. Nuclear Reactors Vulnerable to Terrorist Attack (PDF)
Source: Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project (NPPP), University of Texas

More than 10 years after the 9/11 hijackers considered flying a fully loaded passenger jet into a Manhattan area nuclear reactor, U.S. commercial and research nuclear facilities remain inadequately protected against two credible terrorist threats – the theft of bomb-grade material to make a nuclear weapon, and sabotage attacks intended to cause a reactor meltdown – according to a new report prepared under a contract for the Pentagon by the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project (NPPP) at the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, and released today.

(T)he report, titled “Protecting U.S. Nuclear Facilities from Terrorist Attack: Re-assessing the Current ‘Design Basis Threat’ Approach,” finds that none of the 104 commercial nuclear power reactors in the United States is protected against a maximum credible terrorist attack, such as the one perpetrated on September 11, 2001. More than a decade after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, operators of existing nuclear facilities are still not required to defend against the number of terrorist teams or attackers associated with 9/11, nor against airplane attacks, nor even against readily available weapons such as high-power sniper rifles.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Elevated Frequency of Cataracts in Birds from Chernobyl

August 14, 2013 Comments off

Elevated Frequency of Cataracts in Birds from Chernobyl
Source: PLoS ONE

Background
Radiation cataracts develop as a consequence of the effects of ionizing radiation on the development of the lens of the eye with an opaque lens reducing or eliminating the ability to see. Therefore, we would expect cataracts to be associated with reduced fitness in free-living animals.

Methodology/Principal Findings
We investigated the incidence of lens opacities typical of cataracts in more than 1100 free-living birds in the Chernobyl region in relation to background radiation. The incidence of cataracts increased with level of background radiation both in analyses based on a dichotomous score and in analyses of continuous scores of intensity of cataracts. The odds ratio per unit change in the regressor was 0.722 (95% CI 0.648, 0.804), which was less than odds ratios from investigations of radiation cataracts in humans. The relatively small odds ratio may be due to increased mortality in birds with cataracts. We found a stronger negative relationship between bird abundance and background radiation when the frequency of cataracts was higher, but also a direct effect of radiation on abundance, suggesting that radiation indirectly affects abundance negatively through an increase in the frequency of cataracts in bird populations, but also through direct effects of radiation on other diseases, food abundance and interactions with other species. There was no increase in incidence of cataracts with increasing age, suggesting that yearlings and older individuals were similarly affected as is typical of radiation cataract.

Conclusions/Significance
These findings suggest that cataracts are an under-estimated cause of morbidity in free-living birds and, by inference, other vertebrates in areas contaminated with radioactive materials.

Renaissance in reverse: competition pushes aging U.S. nuclear reactors to the brink of economic abandonment

July 22, 2013 Comments off

Renaissance in reverse: competition pushes aging U.S. nuclear reactors to the brink of economic abandonment (PDF)
Source: Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School

Although Wall Street analysts expressed concerns about the economic viability of the aging nuclear fleet in the U.S., the recent early retirements of four nuclear reactors has sent a shock wave through the industry. One purely economic retirement (Kewaunee, 1 reactor) and three based on the excessive cost of repairs (Crystal River, 1 reactor, and San Onofre, 2 reactors), in addition to the cancellation of five large uprates(Prairie Island, 1 reactor, LaSalle, 2 reactors, and Limerick, 2 rectors), four by the nation’s large nuclear utility, suggest a broad range of operational and economic problems.

These early retirements and decisions to forego uprates magnify the importance of the fact that the “nuclear renaissance” has failed to produce a new fleet of reactors in the U.S. With little chance that the cost of new reactors will become competitive with low carbon alternatives in the time frame relevant for old reactor retirement decisions, a great deal of attention will shift to the economics of keeping old reactors online, increasing their capacity and/or extending their lives.

The purpose of the paper is not to predict which reactors will be the next to retire, but explain why we should expect more early retirements. It does so by offering a systematic framework for evaluating the factors that place reactors at risk of early retirement.

+ It extracts eleven risk factors from the Wall Street analysis and identifies three dozen reactors that exhibit four or more of the risk factors (see Exhibit ES-1).

+ It shows that the poor performance of nuclear reactors that is resulting in early retirements today has existed throughout the history of the commercial nuclear sector in the U.S. The problems are endemic to the technology and the sector.

+ It demonstrates that the key underlying economic factors – rising costs of an aging fleet and the availability of lower cost alternatives – are likely to persist over the next couple of decades, the relevant time frame for making decisions about the fate of aging reactors.

New From the GAO

July 12, 2013 Comments off

New GAO Report
Source: Government Accountability Office

Nuclear Weapons: Factors Leading to Cost Increases with the Uranium Processing Facility. GAO-13-686R, July 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-686R

New From the GAO

July 10, 2013 Comments off

New GAO Reports

Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Nuclear Reactor License Renewal: NRC Generally Follows Documented Procedures, but Its Revisions to Environmental Review Guidance Have Not Been Timely. GAO-13-493, May 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-493
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654950.pdf

2. Elder Justice: More Federal Coordination and Public Awareness Needed. GAO-13-498, July 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-498
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/655821.pdf

3. Medicare Outpatient Therapy: Implementation of the 2012 Manual Medical Review Process.
GAO-13-613, July 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-613
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/655807.pdf

Testimonies

1. Financial and Performance Management: More Reliable and Complete Information Needed to Address Federal Management and Fiscal Challenges, by Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States, before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-13-752T, July 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-752T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/655804.pdf

2. Federal Employees’ Compensation Act: Analysis of Benefits Under Proposed Program Changes, by Andrew Sherrill, director, education, work force and income security, before the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, House Committee on Education and the Workforce. GAO-13-730T, July 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-730T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/655804.pdf

Report on Nuclear Employment Strategy of the United States

June 21, 2013 Comments off

Report on Nuclear Employment Strategy of the United States (PDF)

Source: U.S. Department of Defense

In 2011, the President directed DoD, in consultation with other departments and agencies, to conduct in-depth analysis as a follow-on to the 20102 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The purpose of this analysis was to conduct a detailed review of U.S. nuclear deterrence requirements in order to align U.S. nuclear planning to the current and projected security environment.

The analysis assesses what changes to nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy could best support the five key objections of U.S. nuclear weapons policies and posture outlined n the 2010 NPR:

1. Prevent nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism;

2. Reduce the role of U.S. nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy;

3. Maintain strategic deterrence and stability at reduced nuclear force levels;

4. Strengthen regional deterrence and reassure U.S.Allies and partners; and

5. Sustain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal.

The analysis further considered what options should be provided to the President in the event that deterrence failes, and so assesses a sixth assessed objective:

6. Achieve U.S. and Allied objectives if deterrence fails.

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

June 18, 2013 Comments off

U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues (PDF)

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

During the first Obama Administration, Congress reviewed the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the 2012 New START Treaty, and funding plans for the U.S. nuclear enterprise. Specifically, even though the United States plans to reduce the number of warheads deployed on its long-range 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.

During the Cold War, the U.S. nuclear arsenal contained many types of delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons. The longer-range systems, which included long-range missiles based on U.S. territory, long-range missiles based on submarines, and heavy bombers that could threaten Soviet targets from their bases in the United States, are known as strategic nuclear delivery vehicles. At the end of the Cold War, in 1991, the United States deployed more than 10,000 warheads on these delivery vehicles. That number has declined to less than 2,000 warheads today, and is slated to decline to 1,550 warheads by the 2018, after the New START Treaty completes implementation.

At the present time, the U.S. land-based ballistic missile force (ICBMs) consists of 450 Minuteman III ICBMs, each deployed with between one and three warheads; they will all be reduced to only one warhead over the next few years, and the fleet will decline to, at most, 420 missiles. The Air Force is also modernizing the Minuteman missiles, replacing and upgrading their rocket motors, guidance systems, and other components. The Air Force had expected to begin replacing the Minuteman missiles around 2018, but decided, instead, to continue to modernize and maintain the existing missiles, so that they can remain in the force through 2030; it is, once again, considering what to do to sustain the missiles after 2030.

The U.S. ballistic missile submarine fleet currently consists of 14 Trident submarines; each carries 24 Trident II (D-5) missiles. The Navy converted 4 of the original 18 Trident submarines to carry non-nuclear cruise missiles. The remaining submarines currently carry around 1,000 warheads in total; that number will decline as the United States implements the New START Treaty. The Navy has shifted the basing of the submarines, so that nine are deployed in the Pacific Ocean and five are in the Atlantic, to better cover targets in and around Asia. It also has undertaken efforts to extend the life of the missiles and warheads so that they and the submarines can remain in the fleet past 2020, and to begin design work on a new submarine.

The U.S. fleet of heavy bombers includes 19 B-2 bombers and 94 B-52 bombers. The B-1 bomber is no longer equipped for nuclear missions. The fleet will decline to around 60 aircraft in coming years, as the United States implements New START. The Air Force has also begun to retire the nuclear-armed cruise missiles carried by B-52 bombers, leaving only about half the B- 52 fleet equipped to carry nuclear weapons. The Air Force plans to procure both a new long-range bomber and a new cruise missile over the next 20 years.

The Obama Administration is completing a review of the size and structure of the U.S. nuclear force, and a review of U.S. nuclear employment policy, as it implements the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review. It is also implementing the New START Treaty with Russia that will limit the number of deployed missiles and warheads in the U.S. strategic force. Congress will review the Administration’s plans for U.S. strategic nuclear forces during the annual authorization and appropriations process, and as it assesses U.S. plans under New START and possible future arms control treaties with Russia. This report will be updated as needed.

Alleged Improprieties Regarding the Canine Program at the Department Of Energy’s Y-12 Site

May 2, 2013 Comments off

Alleged Improprieties Regarding the Canine Program at the Department Of Energy’s Y-12 Site

Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General

The Department of Energy’s (Department) Canine Program is an essential component of its efforts to identify and deter potential threats to infrastructure and personnel. At the Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12) and other nuclear material hosting sites in the Department, canines are used to detect explosives, narcotics, concealed humans and also track human presence at facilities that store, handle and maintain special nuclear material. As outlined in Department directives and adopted as best practices by law enforcement and security professionals, the performance of canine teams depends on continual reinforcement of skills through realistic performance testing, proficiency training and annual certifications. As required by their contract with the Department, canine services contractors are required to develop and implement a canine training and certification program that embodies these principles. Canine services at Y-12 were obtained through a 5-year contract that is valued at almost $15 million. Subsequently, in 2012, we received allegations that the Department’s Y-12 site: (1) possibly "rigged" testing for canine teams, and (2) worked canines beyond their physical capability to perform effectively. Because of conflicting testimony and a lack of supporting documentation, we could not conclusively determine whether there were instances of "rigged" testing. However, our inspection identified a number of issues that led us to question the efficacy of the processes used to test, train and certify canines at Y-12. For instance, performance testing, training and annual certifications of canine teams were not properly conducted and/or documented. We did substantiate the allegation that handlers had worked canines beyond their physical capability to perform assigned duties. Deficiencies associated with the management of a multi-layered contract structure for furnishing canine services at the Y-12 site contributed to the problems we observed. Finally, Federal officials and various contractor officials acknowledged that they had not reviewed the training and certification records for the canine teams because the Canine Program was not identified as a high-risk security area based on the Department’s graded approach for risk determination. Management concurred with the recommendations in the report and agreed to develop and implement standardized policies and guidelines for all National Nuclear Security Administration sites utilizing canine detection services.

CRS — North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues

May 1, 2013 Comments off

North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)

This report summarizes what is known from open sources about the North Korean nuclear weapons program—including weapons-usable fissile material and warhead estimates—and assesses current developments in achieving denuclearization. Little detailed open-source information is available about the DPRK’s nuclear weapons production capabilities, warhead sophistication, the scope and success of its uranium enrichment program, or extent of its proliferation activities. In total, it is estimated that North Korea has between 30 and 50 kilograms of separated plutonium, enough for at least half a dozen nuclear weapons. North Korea’s plutonium production reactor at Yongbyon has been shuttered since its cooling tower was destroyed under international agreement in June 2008. However, on April 1, 2013, North Korea said it would resume operation of its plutonium production reactor. Experts estimate it will take approximately six months to restart. This would provide North Korea with approximately one bomb’s worth of plutonium per year.

While North Korea’s weapons program has been plutonium-based from the start, in the past decade, intelligence emerged pointing to a second route to a bomb using highly enriched uranium. North Korea openly acknowledged a uranium enrichment program in 2009, but has said its purpose is the production of fuel for nuclear power. In November 2010, North Korea showed visiting American experts early construction of a 100 MWT light-water reactor and a newly built gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant, both at the Yongbyon site. The North Koreans claimed the enrichment plant was operational, but this has not been independently confirmed. U.S. officials have said that it is likely other, clandestine enrichment facilities exist. Enrichment (as well as reprocessing) technology can be used to produce material for nuclear weapons or fuel for power reactors. An enrichment capability could potentially provide North Korea with a faster way of making nuclear material for weapons and therefore is of great concern to policymakers.

North Korea has made multiple policy statements in the past year asserting its nuclear weapons status: in May 2012, North Korea changed its constitution to say that it was a “nuclear-armed state.” In January 2013, North Korea said that no dialogue on denuclearization “would be possible” and it would only disarm when all the other nuclear weapon states also disarm. In March 2013, North Korea stated its goal of expanding its nuclear weapons program.

Many experts believe that the prime objective of North Korea’s nuclear program is to develop a nuclear warhead that could be mounted on North Korea’s intermediate-range and long-range missiles. This was confirmed by North Korean official statements in late March 2013.

Miniaturization of a nuclear warhead would likely require additional nuclear and missile tests. In January 2013, a North Korean statement said that it would respond with a nuclear test “of higher level.” On February 12, 2013, the North Korean official news agency announced a “successful” underground nuclear detonation, and seismic monitoring systems measured a resulting earthquake that was 5.1 in magnitude. This is magnitude is slightly higher than past tests, but yield estimates are still uncertain. The South Korean Ministry of Defense estimated that the test yield was between 6 and 7 kilotons, while the U.S. Director of National Intelligence so far has said “approximately several kilotons.” North Korea claimed that the February 12, 2013, nuclear test was to develop a “smaller and light” warhead. At a minimum, the test would likely contribute to North Korea’s ability to develop a warhead that could be mounted on a long-range missile. To date, no open source date on test emissions is available that might show whether the North Koreans tested a uranium or plutonium device. This information could help determine the type and sophistication of the North Korean nuclear warhead design, about which little is known.

CRS — Next Steps in Nuclear Arms Control with Russia: Issues for Congress

April 23, 2013 Comments off

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

Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)

In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Obama stated that the United States would “engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals.” These reductions could include limits on strategic, nonstrategic and nondeployed nuclear weapons. Yet, arms control negotiations between the United States and Russia have stalled, leading many observers to suggest that the United States reduce its nuclear forces unilaterally, or in parallel with Russia, without negotiating a new treaty. Many in Congress have expressed concerns about this possibility, both because they question the need to reduce nuclear forces below New START levels and because they do not want the President to agree to further reductions without seeking the approval of Congress.

Over the years, the United States reduced its nuclear weapons with formal, bilateral treaties, reciprocal, but informal, understandings, and unilateral adjustments to its force posture. The role of Congress in the arms control process also depends on the mechanism used to reduce forces. If the United States and Russia sign a formal treaty, then the Senate must signal its advice and consent with a vote of two-thirds of its Members. The House and Senate would each need to pass legislation approving an Executive Agreement. But the President can reduce U.S. nuclear weapons in parallel with Russia, without seeking congressional approval, if the reductions are taken unilaterally, or as the result of a nonbinding political agreement.

Each of the mechanisms for reducing nuclear forces can possess different characteristics for the arms control process. These include balance and equality, predictability, flexibility, transparency and confidence in compliance, and timeliness. Provisions in formal treaties can mandate balance and equality between the two sides’ forces. They can also provide both sides with the ability to predict the size and structure of the other’s current and future forces. Unilateral measures allow each side to maintain flexibility in deciding the size and structure of its nuclear forces. In addition, the monitoring and verification provisions included in bilateral treaties can provide each side with detailed information about the numbers and capabilities of the other’s nuclear forces, while also helping each side confirm that the other has complied with the limits and restrictions in the treaty. With unilateral reductions, the two sides could still agree to share information, or they could withhold information so that they would not have to share sensitive data about their forces.

It usually takes far longer to reduce nuclear forces through a bilateral arms control treaty than it takes to adopt unilateral adjustments to nuclear forces. The need to find balanced and equitable trades, limits acceptable to both sides, detailed definitions of systems limited by the treaty, and agreed procedures for monitoring and verification can slow the process of negotiations. In addition, it can take months or years for a treaty to enter into force, both because the legislatures must review and vote on the treaty and because other domestic or international events intervene. In contrast, the nations may be able to adopt and implement unilateral adjustments more quickly.

If the Obama Administration reduces U.S. nuclear forces in parallel with Russia, but without a formal treaty, the two nations could avoid months or years in negotiations. Because New START would remain in force, predictability and transparency would remain important. Balance and equality would, however, receive a lower priority, while flexibility and timeliness would grow more important. Congress may question whether such an agreement is subject to congressional review. It may also seek to limit funding for further reductions through the annual authorization and appropriations process if it does not support the Administration’s approach to further reductions. This report will be updated as needed.

CRS — Nuclear Weapons R&D Organizations in Nine Nations

April 23, 2013 Comments off

Nuclear Weapons R&D Organizations in Nine Nations (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)

Seven nations—China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—possess nuclear weapons. North Korea tested a nuclear explosive device in 2006, and announced that it had conducted a test in 2009 and another in 2013. Israel is widely thought to have nuclear weapons. As an aid to Congress in understanding nuclear weapons, nuclear proliferation, and arms control matters, this report describes which agency is responsible for research and development (R&D) of nuclear weapons (i.e., nuclear explosive devices, as distinct from the bombers and missiles that deliver them) in these nations and whether these agencies are civilian or military. It also traces the history of such agencies in the United States from 1942 to the present. This report will be updated annually, or more often as developments warrant.

In the United States, the Army managed the nuclear weapons program during World War II. Since 1946, weapons R&D has been managed by civilian agencies, at present by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous agency in the Department of Energy. Concerns about “the immediate and long-term issues associated with the NNSA,” however, led Congress to establish the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise in the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act, P.L. 112-239. China’s nuclear weapons R&D is apparently under the direction of the military, collectively called the People’s Liberation Army.

France’s nuclear weapons R&D is supervised by the Ministry of Defense, which delegates the direction of these programs to the French Atomic and Alternative Energy Commission (CEA). However, as with NNSA in the United States, CEA is not a part of the Ministry of Defense. CEA also conducts nuclear programs in science and industry under the supervision of other ministries.

India’s nuclear weapons R&D appears to be controlled by the Department of Atomic Energy, which is under the direct control of the Prime Minister.

Israel’s nuclear program is under civilian control, but since Israel neither confirms nor denies that it possesses nuclear weapons, it classifies information on such weapons, including organizations responsible for R&D. The Israel Atomic Energy Commission reportedly has overall responsibility for Israel’s nuclear weapons program, and the Director General of that commission reports directly to the Prime Minister.

North Korea’s Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry is in charge of the day-to-day operation of the nuclear weapons program. Under it are nuclear-related organizations. Policy is decided by leader Kim Jong-un and other Communist Party and military leaders who advise him.

Pakistan’s National Command Authority (NCA) supervises the functions and administration of all of Pakistan’s organizations involved in nuclear weapons R&D and employment, as well as the military services that operate the strategic forces. The Prime Minister is the chair of the NCA, and membership includes senior civilian and military leaders.

Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) is responsible for nuclear weapons R&D and production. It is a civilian agency, though it has many links to the military.

In the United Kingdom, a private company, AWE Management Limited, manages and operates the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), a government-owned, contractor-operated entity. The Ministry of Defence (MoD), which is headed by a civilian, controls the operations, policy, and direction of AWE and can veto actions of the company. The MoD provides most of the funding for AWE.

When Armies Divide: The Security of Nuclear Arsenals During Revolts, Coups, and Civil Wars

April 17, 2013 Comments off

When Armies Divide: The Security of Nuclear Arsenals During Revolts, Coups, and Civil Wars

Source: RAND Corporation

This work examines what happened in April of 1961, when the French government was about to conduct the fourth of a series of nuclear tests in the Sahara. Four French Army generals, unhappy that de Gaulle was willing to support Algerian independence, staged a coup to keep Algeria as a French colony. The nuclear test was conducted a few days ahead of schedule — it was not successful — and speculation ever since has been that the test was moved up to keep the weapon out of the rebel generals’ hands.

While there is evidence that one of the generals contacted the officer who was in charge of the tests to try to delay them, Jenkins concludes that the generals really never had a plan in place to seize the weapon and that the French government didn’t want to delay the test. At the time it happened, the world viewed it as an internal, French problem.

The second, shorter part of the book compares the 1961 events to what might happen today if the military in Pakistan or North Korea splintered, and a rebel group got their hands on those countries’ nuclear materials. Jenkins contends that such a scenario today would clearly be an international incident, that neither Pakistan nor North Korea would want any foreign intervention, and that the United States "might not be the only first responder."

Two additional short essays by Dr. Stephen J. Lukasik and Constantin Melnik, a security assistant to the French prime minister in 1961, also review what happened in 1961.

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