Monthly Archives: September 2014

Arab Resolution on Israel Defeated at IAEA Meeting

ABC News | VIENNA — Sep 25, 2014

An Arab-backed resolution singling out Israel for special attention over its alleged nuclear arsenal was defeated Thursday at an annual conference of the U.N. atomic agency.

Nations meeting at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference voted 58-45 against the resolution, while 27 abstained.

Backed by 18 Arab states, including Syria, the resolution expressed concern “about the Israeli nuclear capabilities,” urging Israel to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and put its nuclear facilities under international oversight. The Jewish state is overwhelmingly considered to possess nuclear arms but declines to confirm it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the outcome of the vote, calling the resolution an effort “to harm Israel.” It was the second consecutive year that a resolution seeking to censure Israel was put to a vote and defeated at the IAEA meeting.

Introducing the resolution in Vienna, Kuwaiti Ambassador Sadiq Marafi criticized what he called Israel’s “provocative and aggressive attitude” and described the country as “the only obstacle on a way to create a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East.”

Israeli Ambassador Merav Zafari-Odiz, while welcoming the outcome, questioned how a “genuine dialogue among regional parties” could be expected “when our Arab neighbors continue to choose the path of condemning and singling out Israel in every possible international arena.”

The U.S. opposed the resolution. U.S. envoy Laura Kennedy said it “lessens confidence among the regional parties and diminishes the prospect for constructive dialogue.”

Separately, the conference voted 117-0, with 13 abstentions, in favor of a resolution submitted by Egypt that called on “all states in the region” to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Nuclear Weapons in the New York Times

Tri-Valley CAREs

The front page of the New York Times recently encapsulated the social, economic, moral and ecological crises of our age with side by side stories about global climate change and U.S. plans to spend $1 trillion on new nuclear weapons and bomb plants, including Livermore Lab.

U.S. Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms details a “nationwide wave of atomic revitalization” that includes “renovated plants that Mr. Obama has approved,” which could, in the future, “let the arsenal expand rapidly.” The article goes on to discuss new warheads and carriers (subs, missiles and planes) and the studies that show a trillion dollar price tag over the next 30 years.

Further, the NYT article goes into key details about the policies – and sheer politics – that undergird this insane new 21st century arms buildup. Tri-Valley CAREs is explicitly noted in the article’s cited link about the “coalition of peace groups” that “sued to halt work on a replacement bomb plant in Kansas City.”

The following day, the New York Times editorial board published its assessment of President Obama’s role in the buildup. Titled, Backsliding on Nuclear Promises, the editorial notes that the proposed nuclear spending is “unwise and beyond what the nation can afford.” It cites to several non-governmental organizations’ analyses to say that the modernization plans are excessive. And, the editorial ends with what it rightly calls Obama’s “foolish tradeoff – pouring money into modernization while reducing funds that help improve security at nuclear sites…”

There is much more to be said, of course: The immorality of nuclear weapons, their illegality under the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the horrific toll on human health and the environment spawned by their production, and the unimaginable consequences of their use are largely absent from the article and editorial.

Still, we think the New York Times deserves huge kudos for the quality of the information it did provide and, perhaps equally importantly, for putting nuclear weapons back on the front page.

Read on by clicking into the links, below, and join Tri-Valley CAREs in creating needed policy change. Public education and action are essential!

Click here to read the intitial NYT article, “U.S. Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms.”

Click here to read the Editorial, “Backsliding on Nuclear Promises.”

Verification Requirements for a Nuclear Agreement with Iran

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Federation of American Scientists | Report | September 2014

Negotiations are currently underway with Iran regarding their nuclear program; as a result, one of the main questions for U.S. government policymakers is what monitoring and verification measures and tools will be required by the United States, its allies, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful.

To answer this question, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) convened a non-partisan, independent task force to examine the technical and policy requirements to adequately verify a comprehensive or other sustained nuclear agreement with Iran. Through various methods, the task force interviewed or met with over 70 experts from various technical and policy disciplines and compiled the results in the new report, “Verification Requirements for a Nuclear Agreement with Iran.” Authored by task force leaders Christopher Bidwell, Orde Kittrie, John Lauder and Harvey Rishikof, the report outlines nine recommendations for U.S. policymakers relating to a successful monitoring and verification agreement with Iran.  They are as follows:

 

Six Elements of an Effective Agreement

1. The agreement should require Iran to provide, prior to the next phase of sanctions relief, a comprehensive declaration that is correct and complete concerning all aspects of its nuclear program both current and past.

2. The agreement should provide the IAEA, for the duration of the agreement, access without delay to all sites, equipment, persons and documents requested by the IAEA, as currently required by UN Security Council Resolution 1929.

3. The agreement should provide that any material acts of non-cooperation with inspectors are a violation of the agreement.

4. The agreement should provide for the establishment of a consultative commission, which should be designed and operate in ways to maximize its effectiveness in addressing disputes and, if possible, building a culture of compliance within Iran.

5. The agreement should provide that all Iranian acquisition of sensitive items for its post-agreement licit nuclear program, and all acquisition of sensitive items that could be used in a post-agreement illicit nuclear program, must take place through a designated transparent channel.

6. The agreement should include provisions designed to preclude Iran from outsourcing key parts of its nuclear weapons program to a foreign country such as North Korea.

 

Three Proposed U.S. Government Actions to Facilitate Effective Implementation of an Agreement

1. The U.S. Government should enhance its relevant monitoring capabilities, invest resources in monitoring the Iran agreement, and structure its assessment and reporting of any Iranian noncompliance so as to maximize the chances that significant anomalies will come to the fore and not be overlooked or considered de minimis.

2. The U.S. Government and its allies should maintain the current sanctions regime architecture so that it can be ratcheted up incrementally in order to deter and respond commensurately to any Iranian non-compliance with the agreement.

3. The U.S. Government should establish a joint congressional/executive branch commission to monitor compliance with the agreement, similar to Congress having created the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the implementation of the 1975 Helsinki Accords.

Download Full Report Download Report Summary

The International Atomic Energy Agency Further Shreds Its Credibility

The IAEA’s technical arm is deferring to its political arm on the “possible military dimensions” to Iran’s nuclear energy program.

Foreign Policy In Focus | Russ Wellen | September 25, 2014

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The IAEA visits Iran’s first nuclear-energy plant in Bushehr. (Photo: AEOI INRA / IAEA Imagebank)

The United States and Iran seem to be moving, however haltingly, toward a nuclear deal. Iran continues — arguably, it’s in the right — to stonewall U.S. demands that it drastically reduce its enrichment program. In an effort to reach a new deal before the interim one expires on Nov. 24, Washington has proposed leaving Iran’s centrifuges in place but disconnected from uranium.

Meanwhile, in an article on Sept. 8 at BloombergBusinessweek, to which Dan Joyner linked at ArmsControlLaw, Jonathan Tirone writes that inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will not be tasked with making a decision about whether Iran tried to develop nuclear weapons.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection team will likely have to make an assessment based on incomplete information. … It isn’t realistic to expect the IAEA to provide a black-and-white assessment showing that Iran either did or did not have a nuclear-weapons program … officials said. … Whether the directors give inspectors another one, five or seven years to investigate won’t help them reach a firmer decision, they added.

Instead

… its board of nationally-appointed governors [will] draw definitive conclusion about the country’s past nuclear work, said the two senior international officials, who asked not to be named because the information isn’t public.

Odd, isn’t it, that inspectors who are presumably expert would choose or be forced to hand off the decisions to the board of governors, who Joyner characterizes as “political representatives.” Beyond that, Joyner reiterated a theme of his: “the IAEA has absolutely no mandate or authority to investigate and assess whether safeguarded states have done research and development work on nuclear weaponization not involving fissile materials.” Joyner continues. (Note: PMD refers to the possible military dimensions often attributed to Iran’s nuclear energy program.)

Notwithstanding this lack of legal authority and … a lack of technical expertise to assess nuclear weaponization R&D as well, the IAEA has proceeded over the past three years to gather what information they could about the PMD claims, and has tried to engage Iran on this issue, with little success.

It’s never been clear to me what [IAEA Director General Yukiya] Amano’s game plan was on the PMD issue – i.e. how he thought the investigation would realistically play out, and what he thought would be achieved through it. Again, there is no legal source that lays out the IAEA’s authority and tools for investigating nuclear weaponization, so there are no standards for the agency to follow.

It now appears that the final chapter of the IAEA’s PMD inquiry in Iran will consist of the IAEA DG’s office handing over whatever technical information they have, however incomplete, to the national political representatives who constitute the 35 member Board of Governors of the IAEA, and asking them to determine whether Iran worked on nuclear weaponization in the past.

Yes, it does sound crazy. Joyner again.

This seems to me to be a complete cop-out – a surrender by the IAEA DG’s office. … This is a punt – a buck passing, plain and simple.

Joyner, referring to his contention that the IAEA has no mandate to investigate violations adds:

And even though the IAEA should never have gotten involved in this issue in the first place, this sets a very bad precedent for the agency going forward.

He concludes:

The IAEA DG’s office is basically admitting that they cannot do their job of making a technical determination here, and they are instead punting the issue over to the BOG for a politicized vote. What does that say to IAEA member states about the IAEA’s ability to objectively apply technical safeguards to their nuclear programs, and about the independence and apolitical nature of the agency?

It sounds as if the technical side of the IAEA has reservations about the allegations that possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear energy program exist, but that it lacks the guts to stand by its findings. In other words, it’s handing its findings over to the political side of the IAEA and saying, “Here. Twist these any way you want.”

US urged to clarify depleted uranium policy

US urged to clarify depleted uranium policy as A-10 gunships deploy to the Middle East

The decision to deploy A-10 gunships in the regional conflict against Islamic State has raised fears of the further use of depleted uranium in Iraq, and potentially in Syria.

The Pentagon has announced plans to send 12 A-10 gunships from the 122nd Fighter Wing to an unspecified location in the Middle East as part of its wider campaign against Islamic State (IS) fighters. The aircraft, which can fire 30mm DU cannon rounds, are designed for use in close air support of grounds troops. However President Obama has given assurances that US troops will not be involved in ground combat operations during the conflict.

In June, Iraq called for a global treaty ban on DU, highlighting the need for technical assistance for clearance and urging the UN and member states to act with more urgency on the issue. The renewed use of DU on its territory when contamination from 1991 and 2003 remains unresolved would be politically problematic. ICBUW strongly urges the US not to use DU and to state publicly that it will not do so. The arrival of the A-10s in the Middle East will coincide with debate over a fifth UN General Assembly resolution expressing concern over DU weapons.

With the aircraft not due in the Middle East until mid-October, there is an opportunity for US campaigners to seek clarification on whether DU will be used. Those in countries forming part of the new coalition, such as France and the UK, should ask their governments whether they endorse any use of DU by US forces in the conflict.

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An Iraqi Army tank captured by ISIS fighters.

US DU usage policy unclear

The deployment may provide a new test for US policy on DU use – namely when does it view its use acceptable or unacceptable. Following the short-lived use of A-10s in Libya in 2011, the US claimed that no DU had been used – although reserved the right to use it in future. Concern over the potential use of DU in Libya had been raised by parliamentarians in a number of NATO countries, including the UK and Belgium. Analysts expressed surprise at the US decision, as tackling Libya’s armoured vehicles seemed like a logical use for the A-10, a role for which the US claims DU ammunition is critically important. This remains the political line although information revealed earlier this year demonstrated that DU was also used against non-armoured targets, unmounted troops and buildings in Iraq in 2003.

A-10 aircraft fire 30mm PGU-14 armour piercing incendiary DU ammunition from a cannon fitted beneath the cockpit. The GAU-8 cannon normally fires a standard combat mixture of PGU-14 and PGU-13 high explosive rounds, which are pre-loaded on an ammunition belt before the plane takes off. The A-10 has been responsible for more DU contamination than any other platform. In the case of Libya, and if the US statement was correct, then it was the first public acknowledgement by the US that A-10s were being loaded only with the high explosive PGU-13 rounds during combat of this type, although the practice has previously been identified in photographs of A-10 units in Afghanistan.

At issue is therefore whether the US has set itself a voluntary code of conduct that determines whether DU use is acceptable or not in any given conflict. Perhaps it is cost/benefit analysis of perceived military necessity versus impact on public relations? The calculation underlines the continuing global stigmatisation of the weapons, which is also reflected in the increasingly large majorities voting in favour of DU resolutions at the UN General Assembly. It is highly likely that, given the level of concern about the weapons in the region, any use of DU by the US would be a propaganda victory for IS.

Iraniërs bereid tot een nucleaire deal, maar niet tegen elke prijs

Henk van der Keur | stichting Laka | 21 september 2014

Iraniërs staan open voor een nucleaire schikking met wereldmachten en steunen de inzet van hun regering in de lopende onderhandelingen met de wereldmachten. Dat blijkt uit een in juli uitgevoerd opinieonderzoek door de Universiteit van Teheran in samenwerking met een Amerikaanse partner. Maar hun bereidheid om verdere concessies te accepteren is beperkt.

Aan de deelnemers werd een lijst van negen hypothetische concessies voorgelegd die Iran zou kunnen doen voor het bereiken van een deal. Voor iedere concessie hadden de respondenten de keuze uit “is acceptabel”, “zou acceptabel kunnen zijn” of “is niet acceptabel”. Vier concessies werden door een meerderheid als (mogelijk) acceptabel beschouwd: [1] de P5+1 (permanente leden van de VN-Veiligheidsraad + Duitsland) de verzekering geven dat het nooit een kernwapen zal produceren (79%); [2] toestaan dat de huidige internationale inspecties worden gecontinueerd (76%); [3] meer inspecties toestaan (62%); en [4] geen uraniumverrijking tot boven de 5% voor een overeen te komen periode (57%).

Twee hypothetische concessies die aan de respondenten werd voorgelegd, werden door de meerderheid als onacceptabel beschouwd: [1] ontmanteling van “ongeveer de helft” van Iran’s huidige centrifuges die in bedrijf zijn (70% onacceptabel); en [2] beperking van kernonderzoek (75% onacceptabel).

De reacties op de overige drie concessies waren verdeeld: [1] beperking van voorraden verrijkt uranium voor een overeen te komen periode (49% acceptabel versus 44% onacceptabel); [2] bevriezing van het aantal centrifuges voor een overeen te komen periode (46% vs. 45%); en [3] geen vernieuwing van centrifuges voor een overeen te komen periode (42% vs. 47%).

De bevindingen maken duidelijk dat het Iraanse publiek bereid is een deal te accepteren die het verrijkingsprogramma bevriest tot het huidige niveau, zoals onlangs voorgesteld door de Iraanse minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Javad Zarif. [om een indruk te geven: de huidige omvang is vergelijkbaar met de proef- en demonstratiefabriek van Urenco Almelo in de jaren zeventig, HvdK]
Maar ze zullen geen deal accepteren die het verrijkingsprogramma of het kernonderzoek verder inperkt.

Iraniërs koesteren een diep wantrouwen over de motieven van de VS om het Iraanse kernprogramma als mikpunt te gebruiken. Van de respondenten is 75% het eens met de stelling dat “het Iraanse kernprogramma slechts een excuus is voor de VS voor het bereiken van andere doelen”. Gevraagd naar welke doelen dat zijn, meldt 53% een Amerikaanse wens om “Iran te domineren of zijn ontwikkeling te blokkeren,” terwijl 11% zegt dat de VS “probeert de politieke orde in Iran te veranderen.”

De Iraniërs vertrouwen ook niet de Amerikaanse belofte dat het de sancties zal opheffen als Iran voldoet aan zijn verplichtingen in het slotovereenkomst. 74% denkt dat de VS de sancties zal blijven handhaven door de motivering te veranderen.

Op basis van de gegevens merken voormalige diplomaten op dat de Iraanse president Hassan Rouhani een nucleaire deal niet nodig heeft voor het veiligstellen van zijn politieke toekomst. Gevraagd naar wie er schuldig is als de nucleaire onderhandelingen spaak lopen, zegt 40% van de respondenten de VS en 20% de P5+1. Slechts 9% zegt dat het primair de schuld zou zijn van de Iraanse regering.

85% van de Iraniërs is Rouhani goedgezind (51% ‘zeer goedgezind’), en 68% zegt dat door hem de economische situatie in Iran verbetert, terwijl de meeste sancties van kracht blijven. Over de sancties: 85% is het er over eens dat ze een negatieve impact hebben op de economie van Iran, maar een kleine meerderheid (53%) zegt dat het ‘goed’ gaat met de economie, waarmee het suggereert dat de pijn van de sancties geen invloed heeft op de publieke opinie. De binnenlandse aanhang van Rouhani blijkt sterk en het is niet waarschijnlijk dat dit zal veranderen als de onderhandelingen falen, daar de verwachtingen van de Iraniërs op dit punt niet zo hoog gespannen zijn.

Japan’s 2013 plutonium report

IPFM Blog |

On September 16, 2014 Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission released its annual report “The Current Situation of Plutonium Management in Japan” (in Japanese). According to the report, at the end of 2013 Japan owned 47,145 kg of plutonium, of which 10,833 kg were in Japan and 36,312 kg – stored abroad. This is an increase of almost three tons (2,904 kg) compared with the 44,241 kg included in the 2012 plutonium report. Part of this increase – 640 kg – is due to a correction of the error in the 2012 report (see the discussion below).

The amount of plutonium in Japan increased by 1,538 kg since the end of 2012. This increase includes 901 kg of plutonium in MOX fuel that was delivered to the Takahama-3 reactor in June 2013 and 640 kg of plutonium in MOX fuel that was unloaded from Genkai-3 reactor in March 2013 (this material should have been included in the 2012report as unirradiated Pu, but it wasn’t). Also, 3 kg of Pu were reported as processing losses at two reprocessing plants.

The 36,312 kg of separated plutonium stored outside Japan is in two countries – 20,002 kg is in the United Kingdom and 16,310 kg in France. The amount of Japan’s material in the UK has increased by 2,950 kg. This increase is likely to be a result of the April 2013 plutonium swap in which Japan assumed ownership of 650 kg of German plutonium stored in the United Kingdom and probably of some other material as well. The amount of Japan’s material stored in France has decreased by 1,585 kg.