Category Archives: Iran

FULL May 27 IAEA IRAN REPORT

Arms Control Law | Dan Joyner | May 28, 2016

Readers will likely have read media reports today summarizing the IAEA’s latest official report on Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA and Security Council Resolution 2231, which was presented to the IAEA Board of Governors today. A full copy of the IAEA report has, fortunately, been provided to ACL in the interests of transparency by a source in Vienna. You can find it at the link below.

The five page report finds that Iran is upholding its commitments under the JCPOA, and has been cooperating with IAEA inspectors. It concludes:

The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and locations outside facilities where nuclear material is customarily used (LOFs) declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. Evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for Iran remained ongoing.

Noticeably absent, of course, is any consideration of whether the other parties to the JCPOA, including particularly the U.S., are abiding by their JCPOA commitments. I think this would actually make for more interesting reading.

Iran Report May 27 2016

Iran and China agree closer ties after sanctions ease

BBC News | 23 January 2016

_87864272_87864271

Xi Jinping is the first Chinese leader to visit Tehran in a decade

Iran and China have pledged closer economic and political ties after talks in Tehran between the two presidents.

China’s Xi Jinping is one of the first world leaders to visit Iran since international sanctions were lifted.

The two leaders signed 17 agreements on a range of issues from energy to boosting trade to $600bn (£420bn).

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he and Mr Xi had signed a “comprehensive 25-year document” on strategic relations.

They also discussed terrorism, instability in the Middle East, as well as “science, modern technology, culture, tourism… security and defence issues,” President Rouhani said on Iranian TV.

President Xi is also due to meet Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during his 24-hour visit.

He is the first Chinese president to visit Tehran in over a decade.

International sanctions on Iran were lifted last week after it agreed to roll back the scope of its nuclear activities.

China is Iran’s biggest trading partner and both countries are hoping the strong relationship will continue in Iran’s new post-sanction era, the BBC’s Farhana Dawood reports.

 

China-Iran: heralding regional changes, the visit of Xi Jinping to Tehran

Pressenza | Press TV | 22 Jan, 2016

iran-nile-bowie-720x480

Iran (Image by Nile Bowie)

China: Iran’s Friend in Sanctions, Ally in Post-Sanctions Era

By Ebrahim Rahimpour, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia, Oceania, and CIS Countries

Xi Jinping, Secretary General of China’s Communist Party and the President of the People’s Republic of China, is to visit the Islamic Republic of Iran on January 22 and 23, upon an official invitation by his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, and after paying similar visits to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. During his stay in Tehran, the Chinese president will be heading a high-ranking political and economic delegation. Jinping’s accompanying delegation will consist of a large number of senior Communist Party and government officials, including members of the Political Bureau of the Communist party, deputies to prime minister, ministers and high-ranking officials, as well as senior officials of major Chinese state-run organs and companies. Xi Jinping’s visit to Iran will come 14 years following a visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran by the former Chinese president, Jiang Zemin. It will be also his fifth official meeting with Rouhani after the latter was elected president. Previous meetings between the two heads of state occurred on the sidelines of international and regional meetings in Bishkek (2013), Jakarta (April 2015), and New York (during the current year), and also during Rouhani’s official visit to Beijing in June 2014.

According to available historical documents, official relations between Iran and China date back to more than 2,000 years ago and to the time when the Ashkanid dynasty ruled the Iranian Plateau and China was under the rule of the Han dynasty. Since that time and especially through the historical Silk Road, trade and cultural exchanges prospered in the course of time between these two ancient and pacifist cultures on the two sides of the Old Continent, and those relations have continued up to the present time. Following reestablishment of political relations between the two countries in modern times and since 45 years ago, especially following victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, bilateral relations between Tehran and Beijing entered a new phase, which was marked with all-out expansion of cooperation between the two countries in all fields on the basis of mutual respect, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and protection of both sides’ national interests.

In this way, due to numerous historical and cultural commonalities as well as abundance of common political views between the two sides on various regional and international issues, on the one hand, and the complementary role of the two countries’ economies, on the other hand, necessary ground was provided for all-out growth and development of relations under guidance of the two countries’ leaderships. These relations have stood the test of time over more than three decades now.

By implementing correct economic policies since the late 1970s and also through perseverance of its nation, the People’s Republic of China has turned into a great and effective power in the world. As a result, China is currently the world’s second biggest economy, the biggest exporter of technical and engineering goods and services in the world, and a country with the biggest foreign exchange reserves. China, at the same time, is the biggest importer of crude oil, which makes it the main driving force behind the world’s economic growth. The country is also among the biggest consumers of energy and its huge consumer market, with a population of 1.4 billion, has been always a top priority for commodity exporters from other parts of the world. As a result, during the past years, China has come up as the foremost trade partner of Iran, the biggest customer of our country’s crude oil and the most important market for Iran’s goods and non-oil exports.

As restrictions and sanctions imposed on the Iranian nation by the Western countries escalated during past years under pretext of the country’s peaceful nuclear program, China’s high economic, industrial and technological potential provided a valuable opportunity for development of bilateral relations between Tehran and Beijing. Such potential can also form a strong foundation for further development of those relations in the future. On the other hand, and in view of measures taken by the new Iranian administration, which culminated in the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a new chapter will be opened in Tehran’s relations with Beijing. Therefore, there is hope that the Chinese president’s visit to Tehran will take place in forthcoming days and with the removal of sanctions, will help elevate bilateral cooperation to the level of strategic ties in all fields.

During his stay in Iran, Xi will hold bilateral meetings with his Iranian counterpart and also with other senior officials of the Islamic Republic. The two countries are also expected to sign a document on developing strategic relations between Iran and China. Chinese delegates and their Iranian counterparts will sign about 17 additional documents, including agreements and memorandums of understanding in political and economic fields to boost bilateral cooperation in such areas as energy, industry and mine, technology, investment, finance and banking, transport, culture and media, environment, and development of manpower, which will undoubtedly usher the two countries’ cooperation in a whole new phase. The two countries will also have the opportunity to share views and efforts on regional and international issues of interests, and conduct consultations on the new idea of the Chinese president with regard to reviving the Silk Road, which has come to be known as the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

Due to its special and strategic position in West Asia, Iran can be a trustworthy partner for China in order to realize the idea of reviving the Silk Road both on land and in sea as bedrock for its own economic development and development of those countries that are located along the road, especially by providing communication and transportation facilities.

Last but not least, the forthcoming visit to Tehran by Xi Jinping, as the first leader of a great foreign power to come to the country after the implementation of JCPOA began, is also important from another viewpoint, especially due to recent developments in our country’s relations with some neighboring states and existing crises in the Middle East region. For this reason, the visit has drawn a lot of attention from experts on regional issues and international analysts because analysts believe that the visit is a sign of Beijing’s new approach to bilateral relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran as a big power in West Asia and in the sensitive regions of Persian Gulf and Middle East. It goes without saying that such a new approach in Iran’s relations with China will soon reveal its important impacts on developments in the region and international system.

Key Words: China, Iran, Friend, Sanctions, Post-Sanctions Era, Xi Jinping, Visit, Common Political Views, Economic Policies, Western Countries, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Silk Road, Persian Gulf, Middle East, West Asia, Rahimpour

Source: Iran Newspaper
http://iran-newspaper.com/
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Link for Further Reading: Iran and Silk Road Economic Belt: Attractions and Ambiguities

*Photo Credit: Reuters/Mark Ralston

Twisting the Facts on Iran Nukes

Consortiumnews | Gareth Porter | December 17, 2015

Part of the credibility crisis afflicting the world’s officialdom is the tendency to issue reports that start with the politically desired conclusion and then twist words and facts accordingly, a problem apparent in a U.N. report on Iran’s alleged nuclear program, as Gareth Porter explains.

Many government reports The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assessment has cleared the way for the board of governors to end the Agency’s extraordinary investigation into accusations of Iran’s past nuclear weapons work. But a closer examination of the document reveals much more about the political role that the Agency has played in managing the Iran file.

Contrary to the supposed neutral and technical role that Director General Yukiya Amano has constantly invoked and the news media has long accepted without question, the Agency has actually been serving as prosecutor for the United States in making a case that Iran has had a nuclear weapons program.

Yukiya Amano, a Japanese diplomat and director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Yukiya Amano, a Japanese diplomat and director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The first signs of such an IAEA role appeared in 2008 after the George W. Bush administration insisted that the Agency make a mysterious collection of intelligence documents on a purported Iranian nuclear weapons research program the centerpiece of its Iran inquiry.

The Agency’s partisan role was fully developed, however, only after Amano took charge in late 2009. Amano got U.S. political support for the top position in 2009 because he had enthusiastically supported the Bush administration’s pressure on Mohammed ElBaradei on those documents when Amano was Japan’s permanent representative to the IAEA in 2008.

Amano delivered the Agency’s November 2011 report just when the Obama administration needed additional impetus for its campaign to line up international support for “crippling sanctions” on Iran. He continued to defend that hardline position and accuse Iran of failing to cooperate as the Obama administration sought to maximize the pressure on Iran from 2012 to 2015.

When the Obama administration’s interests shifted from pressuring Iran to ensuring that the nuclear agreement with Iran would be completed and fully implemented, Amano’s role suddenly shifted as well. In late June, according to Iranian officials involved in the Vienna negotiations, Secretary of State John Kerry reached agreement with both the Iranians and Amano that the “possible military dimensions” (PMD) issue would be resolved through a report by Amano before the end of the year.

Based on that agreement, Amano would write a report that would reach no definitive conclusion about the accusations of nuclear weapons work but nevertheless bring the PMD inquiry to an end. The report was still far from even-handed. It could not be, because Amano had embraced the intelligence documents that the United States and Israel had provided to the IAEA, around which the entire investigation had been organized.

Dodgy Intelligence Documents

Iran had insisted from the beginning that the intelligence documents given to the IAEA were fraudulent, and ElBaradei had repeatedly stated publicly from late 2005 through 2009 that the documents had not been authenticated. ElBaradei observes in his 2011 memoirs that he could never get a straight answer from the Bush administration about how the documents had been acquired.

Different cover stories had been leaked to the media over the years suggesting that either an Iranian scientist involved in the alleged weapons program or a German spy had managed to get the documents out of Iran.

But in 2013, former senior German foreign office official Karsten Voigt revealed to me in an interview that German intelligence had obtained the documents in 2004 from a sometime source whom they knew to be a member of the Mujahideen E-Khalq (MEK). A cult-like Iranian exile terrorist group, MEK had once carried out terror operations for the Saddam Hussein regime but later developed a patron-client relationship with Israeli intelligence.

Quite apart from the unsavory truth about the origins of the documents, the burden of proof in the IAEA inquiry should have been on the United States to make the case for their authenticity. There is a good reason why U.S. judicial rules of evidence require that “the proponent must produce evidence sufficient to support a finding that the item is what the proponent claims it is.”

But instead Amano has required Iran, in effect, to prove the negative. Since it is logically impossible for Iran to do so, that de facto demand has systematically skewed the entire IAEA investigation toward the conclusion that Iran is guilty of the covert activities charged in the intelligence documents.

And the Agency has reinforced that distorted frame in its final assessment by constantly making the point that Iran possesses technology that could have been used for the development of a nuclear weapon. Every time Iran produced evidence that a technology that the IAEA had suggested was being used for the development of nuclear weapons was actually for non-nuclear applications, the Agency cast that evidence in a suspicious light by arguing that it bore some characteristics that are “consistent with” or “relevant to” work on nuclear weapons.

The “final assessment” uses that same tactic to frame not only Iranian development of various technologies but its organizations, facilities and research activities as inherently suspicious regardless of evidence provided by Iran that they were for other purposes.

Another tactic the IAEA had used in the past to attack Iran’s credibility is the suggestion that the government actually made a partial confession. In May 2008, the IAEA had claimed in a quarterly report that Iran “did not dispute that some of the information contained in the documents was factually accurate but said the events and activities concerned involved civil or conventional military applications.”

That statement had clearly conveyed the impression that Iran has admitted to details about activities shown in the documents. But in fact Iran had only confirmed information that was already publicly known, such as certain names, organizations and official addresses, as the IAEA itself acknowledged in 2011. Furthermore, Iran had also submitted a 117-page paper in which it had pointed out that “some of the organizations and individuals named in those documents were nonexistent.”

The IAEA resorted to the same kind of deceptive tactic in the final assessment’s discussion of “organizational structure.” It stated, “A significant proportion of the information available to the Agency on the existence of organizational structures was confirmed by Iran during implementation of the Road-map.”

That sentence implied that Iran had acknowledged facts about the organizations that supported the purported intelligence claims of a nuclear weapons research program. But it actually meant only that Iran confirmed the same kind of publicly available information as it had in 2008.

On the issue of whether an Iranian organization to carry out nuclear-weapons research and development had existed, the final assessment again uses suggestive but ultimately meaningless language: “[B]efore the end of 2003, an organizational structure was in place in Iran suitable for the coordination of a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”

Similar language implying accusation without actually stating it directly can be found in most of the assessments in the document. In the section on “procurement activities,” the report refers to “indications of procurements and attempted procurements of items with relevance, inter alia, to the development of a nuclear device.”

That language actually means nothing more than that Iranians had sought to purchase dual-use items, but it preserves the illusion that the procurement is inherently suspicious.

EBW and MIP

The use of “relevance” language was, in fact, the IAEA’s favorite tactic for obscuring the fact that it had no real evidence of nuclear weapons work. On the issue of the purported intelligence documents showing that Iran had developed and experimented with Exploding Bridge-Wire (EBW) technology for the detonation of a nuclear weapon, Iran had gone to great lengths to prove that its work on EBW technology was clearly focused on non-nuclear applications.

It provided detailed information about its development of the technology, including videos of activities it had carried out, to show that for the objective of the work was to develop safer conventional explosives.

The IAEA responded by saying “that the EBW detonators developed by Iran have characteristics relevant to a nuclear device.” By that same logic, of course, a prosecutor could name an individual as a suspect in a crime simply because his behavior showed “characteristics relevant” to that crime.

A similar tactic appears in the assessment of the “initiation of high explosives” issue. The 2011 IAEA report had recorded the intelligence passed on by the Israelis that Iran had done an experiment with a high explosives detonation technology called multipoint initiation (MIP) that the Agency said was “consistent with” a publication by a “foreign expert” who had worked in Iran.

That was a reference to the Ukrainian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko, but he was an expert on producing nanodiamonds through explosives, not on nuclear weapons development. And the open-source publication by Danilenko was not about experiments related to nuclear weapons but only about measuring shock waves from explosions using fiber optic cables.

The 2011 report also had referred to “information” from an unnamed member state that Iran had carried out the “large scale high explosives experiments” in question in the “region of Marivan.” In its final assessment, the Agency says it now believes that those experiments were carried out in a “location called ‘Marivan’,” rather than in the “region of Marivan.”

But although Iran has offered repeatedly to allow the IAEA to visit Marivan to determine whether such experiments were carried out, the IAEA has refused to carry out such an inspection and has offered no explanation for its refusal.

The Agency relies on its standard evasive language to cover its climb-down from the 2011 assessment. “The Agency assesses that the MPI technology developed by Iran has characteristics relevant to a nuclear device,” it said, “as well as to a small number of alternative applications.”

That wording — combined with its refusal to make any effort to check on the one specific claim of Iranian experiments at Marivan — makes it clear that the Agency knows very well that it has no real evidence of the alleged experiments but is unwilling to say so straightforwardly.

The Agency did the same thing in regard to the alleged “integration into a missile delivery system.” A key set of purported intelligence documents had shown a series of efforts to integrate a “new spherical payload” into the existing payload chamber of the Shahab-3 missile.

The final assessment avoids mention of the technical errors in those studies, which were so significant that Sandia National Laboratories found through computer simulations that not a single one of the proposed redesign efforts would have worked. And it later became apparent that Iran had begun redesigning the entire missile system — including an entirely different reentry vehicle shape from the one shown in the drawings — well before the start date of the purported nuclear weapons work.

But the IAEA was only interested in whether the workshops portrayed in the purported intelligence were in fact workshops used by the Iranian government. Iran allowed the Agency to visit two of the workshops, and the final assessment declares that it has “verified that the workshops are those described in the alleged studies documentation” and that “the workshop’s features and capabilities are consistent with those described in the alleged studies documentation.”

Flawed Computer Modeling

One of the most egregious cover-ups in the assessment is its treatment of the alleged computer modeling of nuclear explosions. The agency recalled that it had “received information from Member States” that Iran had done modeling of “nuclear explosive configurations based on implosion technology.”

Unfortunately for the credibility of that “information,” soon after that 2011 report was published someone leaked a graph of one of the alleged computer modeling efforts attributed to Iran to Associated Press reporter George Jahn. The graph was so similar to one published in a scholarly journal in January 2009 that Scott Kemp, an assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said he suspected the graph had been “adapted from the open literature.”

Furthermore the information in the graph turned out to be inaccurate by four orders of magnitude. In response to that revelation, a senior IAEA official told Jahn that the Agency knew that the graph was “flawed” as soon as it had obtained it but that IAEA officials “believe it remains important as a clue to Iranian intentions.”

In fact, the official revealed to Jahn that the Agency had come up with a bizarre theory that Iranian scientists deliberately falsified the diagram to sell the idea to government officials of a nuclear explosion far larger than any by the United States or Russia.

That episode surely marks the apogee of the IAEA’s contorted rationalizations of the highly suspect “information” the Agency had been fed by the Israelis. In the final report, the Agency ignores that embarrassing episode and “assesses that Iran conducted computer modeling of a nuclear explosive device prior to 2004 and between 2005 and 2009,” even though it describes the modeling, enigmatically, as “incomplete and fragmentary.”

The assessment further “notes some similarity between the Iranian open source publications and the studies featured in the information from Member States, in terms of textual matches, and certain dimensional and other parameters used.”

Unless the Agency received the “information” from the unidentified states before the dates of the open-source publications, which one would expect to be noted if true, such similarities could be evidence of fraudulent intelligence rather than of Iranian wrongdoing. But the assessment provides no clarification of the issue.

Nuclear Material

On the issue it calls “nuclear material acquisition,” however, the Agency makes a startling retreat from its previous position that has far-reaching implications for the entire collection of intelligence documents. In its 2011 report, the IAEA had presented a one-page flow sheet showing a process for converting “yellow cake” into “green salt” (i.e., uranium that can be enriched) as a scheme to “secure a source of uranium suitable for use in an undisclosed enrichment program.”

But the final assessment explicitly rejects that conclusion, pronouncing the process design in question “technically flawed” and “of low quality in comparison with what was available to Iran as part of its declared nuclear fuel cycle.”

In other words, Iran would have had no rational reason to try to seek an entirely new conversion process and then turn the project over to incompetent engineers. Those were precisely the arguments that Iran had made in 2008 to buttress its case that the documents were fabricated.

The assessment carefully avoids the obvious implication of these new findings — that the anomalies surrounding the “green salt” documents make it very likely that they have were fabricated. To acknowledge that fact would cast doubt on the entire collection. But the surprising backtracking on the “green salt’ evidence underlines just how far the IAEA has gone in the past to cover up awkward questions about the intelligence at the center of the case.

Now that the Obama administration has settled on a nuclear agreement with Iran, the IAEA will no longer have to find contorted language to discuss Iran’s past and present nuclear program.

Nevertheless, the Agency remains a highly political actor, and its role in monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the agreement may bring more occasions for official assessments that reflect the political interest of the U.S.-led dominant coalition in the IAEA board of governors rather than the objective reality of the issue under review.

Assessing the IAEA ‘Assessment’ of “Possible Military Dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear programme

Atomic Reporters | Tariq Rauf and Robert Kelley | December 2015

VIENNA, 15 December 2015: This morning the Board of Governors (BoG) of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted a resolution closing what has been referred to as a ‘manufactured crisis’ regarding allegations of “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear programme. This process has taken nearly a decade to reach a solution that easily could have been reached many years ago, had not ill advised politicization interfered with the IAEA’s technical work; and an incautious report issued by the IAEA in November 20114 based on dubious “third party” or intelligence information and non-expert analysis. The IAEA BoG resolution inter alia takes note of the “clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear programme…and further notes that this closes the Board’s consideration of this item”. The resolution also “[r]eaffirms that Iran shall cooperate fully and in a timely manner with the IAEA through implementation of its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, including by providing access, reaffirms that such cooperation and implementation are essential for the IAEA to reach the Broader Conclusion that all nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities”.

This assessment, reflecting personal views, written by two former IAEA officials with direct experience with the Iran nuclear file at the IAEA aims to shed light on the political pressures exerted on the IAEA by some of its powerful Member States and ‘intelligence’ information injected by them to influence the technical workings of the Agency. It is also to highlight, in this context, some of the complex matters relating to allegations of military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme, as well as to discuss structural weaknesses in the management of the IAEA by its senior leadership and its governing bodies, and above all to make recommendations to strengthen the IAEA which is the global body charged to implement nuclear verification, and promote nuclear safety and security.

It must be stated at the outset that both authors are fully supportive of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed by the EU/E3+3 and Iran on 14 July 2015 in Vienna, as well as of the IAEA conducting its important mission in a non-political, open, accountable and transparent manner. This assessment begins with a brief description of the allegations made by the IAEA in November 2011 regarding possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme. It then briefly recounts the final assessment of all past and present outstanding issues issued by the IAEA in December 2015, along with the authors’ commentary. This is followed by a short discussion on the clash of cultures between the scientific method and the law enforcement method in the Agency’s treatment of the Iran nuclear file, and pseudo-scientific analyses in the Google era. The last section provides some recommendations on strengthening the governance structures of the IAEA…

You can download a PDF with the full article here.

Tariq Rauf and Robert Kelley both served in senior positions at the International Atomic Energy Agency and covered safeguards matters among other duties. Rauf is Director of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Programme and Kelley in an Associated Senior Fellow with the same programme at SIPRI. Full biographical details are available at www.sipri.org along with technical assessments of Iran’s nuclear programme. This assessment reflects the personal views of the two authors.

Rauf and Kelley on the PMD Report and the IAEA Intel Problem

Arms Control Law | Dan Joyner | December 16, 2015

Tariq Rauf and Bob Kelley’s new SIPRI report providing an analysis of the IAEA PMD report is a must read.  The two former IAEA insiders give a rigorous and critical review of the technical findings of the IAEA in both the original 2011 PMD report, and now in the final 2015 PMD report. You won’t find this kind of serious and independent review from the normal DC think tank crowd.

Rauf and Kelley further give some overall critical observations about culture and and administrative paradigm clashes in the IAEA, and then particularly focus on a problem that I and others have pointed to as well over the years – the increased recent reliance by the IAEA secretariat on intelligence information provided to it by third party member states.  Here’s their conclusion and recommendations:

A structural weakness of the IAEA is that there is no transparent process for the supply of intelligence information and confirmation of its authenticity. The usual process is for the Member State(s) to provide the intelligence information either in documentation or electronic form to a special assistant in the Director General’s office and/or to the Deputy Director General for Safeguards, alternatively to give a closed briefing in its embassy/mission. The IAEA then deals with the information as described in an earlier section above. There is no established process to share such information with the accused State or with the BoG. In 1993, however, the IAEA Secretariat was allowed by the US to show classified satellite imagery provided by the US to the Board in a technical briefing. To the authors’ knowledge this modality has not been repeated.
The supply and use of intelligence information is a sensitive yet complex issue as noted in the excerpt from an IAEA BoG Governor cited in an earlier section above. The IAEA cannot serve as a feedback loop to intelligence agencies on the veracity of information provided by them through safeguards inspections and assessments. Nor can or should the IAEA rely on such information without confirming its authenticity. This obviously leaves the IAEA in a difficult position as is clearly evidenced by the Iran PMD file where the Agency seems to have been caught short.
Recommendations
The authors recommend that the BoG put in place a methodology for the acceptance and use of intelligence information drawing from the practices of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). In these two organizations, allegations of non-compliance can be raised by any State Party which provides its information to the Director General, who in turn shares it with the Executive Council. The Executive Council is convened; the Accuser State puts forward its case on allegations of non-compliance or suspicious activities in another State along with supporting information/evidence. The Accused State has the opportunity to present its defence. Following deliberations, the Executive Council can stop a challenge inspection in the case of the OPCW or authorize an on-site inspection in the case of the CTBTO. Such a practice could serve the IAEA well – the Accuser State to provide information to the IAEA Director General, who then shares it with the BoG, the Board convenes to examine the in formation presented by both the Accuser and Accused States and then to decide on the way forward preferably on the basis of consensus but by a vote if necessary. In fact, the JCPOA contains a somewhat similar provision for the Joint Commission in paragraph 36 on dispute resolution, and as noted previously in 1993, the IAEA Secretariat presented satellite imagery on DPRK from the U.S. to the Board of Governors.
It is essential that the IAEA BoG expeditiously comes up with a mechanism governing the provision and handling of intelligence information to the IAEA Secretariat. There is great potential for misuse of such information and of suborning the independence of the Agency in the absence of such a mechanism, as abundantly demonstrated by the cases of Iraq, Iran and Syria in recent time.
In my view this is first class analysis. Not only clearly identifying an important problem, but also providing an eminently workable solution that is already in practice in similarly situated and mandated arms control organizations.  I truly hope that the IAEA BOG will take heed of this report and institute the changes Rauf and Kelley propose.

Experts worry that India is creating new fuel for an arsenal of H-bombs

The Center for Public Integrity | Adrian Levy | December 16, 2015

Tribal lands are taken for a top-secret atomic city, known as Challakere, where centrifuges will spin uranium capable of being used in powerful bombs

IMG_2708

Counselor Doddaullarti Karianna tours the villages beside the kavals, at Khudapura, to listen to the fears of neighbors and friends, who still have not been consulted about the construction of a nuclear city in Challakere.                                                                                                                       Adrian Levy

 

Challakere, India — When laborers began excavating protected pastureland in India’s southern Karanataka state in 2012, members of the nomadic Lambani tribe were startled. For centuries, the scarlet-robed herbalists and herders had freely crisscrossed the undulating meadow there, known as kavals, and this uprooting of their rich landscape came without warning or explanation.

By autumn, Puttaranga Setty, a wiry groundnut farmer from Kallalli, encountered a barbed wire fence blocking off a well-used trail. His neighbor, a herder, discovered that the road from this city to a nearby village had been diverted elsewhere. They rang Doddaullarti Karianna, a weaver who sits on one of the village councils that funnel India’s sprawling democracy down to the grass roots.

Karianna recalls being baffled and frightened by the news. He said the 365,000 residents of the farming and tribal communities that live in over sixty villages alongside the kavals believe they are protected by a female deity that rises from the pasture, and so the “thought of not having [access to] the kavals was terrifying; like saying there will be no Gods.”

Officials with India’s state and central governments refused to answer his questions. So Karianna sought legal help from a combative ecological-advocacy group in Bangalore that specializes in fighting illegal encroachment on greenbelt land. But the group’s lawyers were also stymied. Officials warned its lawyers that the prime minister’s office was running the project from New Delhi.

“There is no point fighting this, we were told,” Leo Saldanha, a founding member of the advocacy group recalled. “You cannot win.” Indeed, an unprecedented election boycott and protests by thousands of local residents, some violent, have had no effect.

Only after construction on the site began that year did it finally become clear that two secretive agencies were behind a project that experts say will be the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic research laboratories and weapons and aircraft testing facilities. Among the project’s aims: to expand the government’s nuclear research, to produce fuel for India’s nuclear reactors, and to help power the country’s fleet of new submarines, one of which underwent sea trials in 2014.

But another, more controversial ambition, according to retired Indian government officials and independent experts in London and Washington, is to give India an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could — if India so decides — be used in new hydrogen bombs (also known as thermonuclear weapons), substantially increasing the explosive force of those in its existing nuclear arsenal.

Such a move would be regarded uneasily by India’s close neighbors, China and Pakistan, which experts say might respond by ratcheting up their own nuclear firepower. Pakistan in particular considers itself a fierce military rival, having been entangled in four major conflicts with India, as well as frequent border skirmishing.

New Delhi has never published a detailed account of its nuclear arsenal, which it first developed in 1974. Until now, there has been little public notice, outside India, about the construction at Challakere and its strategic implications. The government has said little about it, and made no public promises about how the highly enriched uranium to be produced there will be used. As a military facility, it is not open to international inspection.

But a lengthy investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, including interviews with local residents, senior and retired Indian scientists and military officers connected to the nuclear program, and foreign experts and intelligence analysts, has pierced some of the secrecy surrounding the new facility, parts of which are set to open next year. It makes clear that it will give India a nuclear capability – the ability to make many large-yield nuclear arms – that most experts say it presently lacks.

And if these tasks require the trampling of the kavals, so be it.

The independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimates that India already has between 90 and 110 relatively low-yield nuclear weapons, as compared to Pakistan’s estimated stockpile of up to 120. And China, to India’s north, is estimated to have more than 260 warheads.

China  successfully tested a thermonuclear weapon — involving a two-stage explosion, typically producing a much larger force and far greater destruction than single-stage atomic bombs — as long ago as 1967, while India’s scientists claimed to have detonated a thermonuclear weapon in 1998. But test site preparations director K. Santhanam said in 2009 it had “fizzled,” rendering the number and type of such weapons in India’s arsenal uncertain to outsiders.

India, according to a recent report by former Australian nonproliferation chief John Carlson, is one of just three countries that continue to produce fissile materials for nuclear weapons (the others are Pakistan and North Korea). The enlargement of India’s thermonuclear program would more clearly position the country alongside Britain, the United States, Russia, Israel, France, and China, which already have significant stocks of such weapons.

FINAlIndiaMeta+Canvas120215

Eleanor Bell/Center for Public Integrity

Few authorities in India are willing to discuss these matters publicly, partly because the country’s Atomic Energy Act and the Official Secrets Act shroud everything connected to the Indian nuclear program, and in the past have been used to bludgeon those who divulge details. Spokesmen for the two organizations involved in the Challakere construction, the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), which has played a leading role in nuclear weapons design, declined to answer the Center’s questions about the government’s ambitions for the new park, as did the Indian ministry of external affairs.

Western analysts, speaking on condition that they not be named, say however  that preparatory work for this effort has been underway for four years, at a second top-secret site known as the Rare Materials Plant, 160 miles to the south in Rattehalli, close to the city of Mysore. Recent satellite photos of that facility have revealed the existence of a new nuclear enrichment complex that is already feeding India’s weapons program, and some Western analysts maintain, laying the groundwork for a more ambitious hydrogen bomb project. It is effectively a test bed for Challakere, they say, a proving ground for technology and a place where technicians can practice producing the highly enriched uranium the military would need.

The environment ministry approved the Mysore site’s construction as “a project of strategic importance” that would cost nearly $100 million in Oct. 2012, according to a letter marked Secret, from the ministry to atomic energy officials that month. Seen by the Center, this letter spells out the ambition to feed new centrifuges with fuel derived from yellowcake — milled uranium ore named after its color — shipped from mines in Jadugoda, 1,200 miles away in India’s north, and to draw water from the nearby Krishna Raja Sagar dam.

Finding authoritative information about the scope and objectives of these two massive construction projects is not easy. “Even for us, details of the Indian program are always sketchy, and hard facts thin on the ground,” a circumstance that leaves room for misunderstanding, a senior Obama administration official said in Washington.

But Gary Samore, who served from 2009 to 2013 as the White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, said “I believe that India intends to build thermonuclear weapons as part of its strategic deterrent against China.” Samore said it is unclear when India will realize this goal of a larger and more powerful arsenal, but “they will.”

A former senior British official who worked on nuclear issues likewise said intelligence analysts on both sides of the Atlantic are “increasingly concerned” about India’s pursuit of thermonuclear weapons and “actively monitoring” both sites. U.S. officials in Washington said they shared this assessment. “Mysore is being constantly monitored, and we are constantly monitoring progress in Challakere,” a former White House official said.

Robert Kelley, a former project leader for nuclear intelligence at Los Alamos, who served twice, from 1992-1993 and 2001-2005, as the director of the Iraq Action Team at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that having analyzed the available satellite imagery, as well as studying open source material on both sites, he believed that India was pursuing a larger thermonuclear arsenal. He warned that its development “will inevitably usher in a new nuclear arms race” in a volatile region, where India, China, and Pakistan have border disputes, wary militaries, and diplomats who sometimes deploy incendiary rhetoric.

However, Western knowledge about India’s weapons are stored, transported and protected, and how the radiological and fissile material that fuels them is guarded and warehoused — the chain of custody — remains rudimentary.

After examining nuclear security practices in 25 countries with “weapons usable nuclear materials,” the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, in January 2014 ranked India’s nuclear security practices 23rd, only above Iran and North Korea. An NTI analyst told the Center India’s score stemmed in part from the country’s opacity and “obfuscation on nuclear regulation and security issues.” But the group also noted the prevalence of corruption in India and the insecurity of the region: the rise of Islamist jihad fronts inside India and in nearby Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as home-grown leftist insurgencies.

“Many other countries, including China, have worked with us to understand the ratings system and better their positions,” but India did not, the analyst said.

Spokesmen for the two organizations involved in the Challakere construction, the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), which has played a leading role in nuclear weapons design, declined comment about the government’s ambitions for the new park.

Like the villagers nearby, key members of the Indian Parliament say they know little about the project. One veteran lawmaker, who has twice been a cabinet minister, said his colleagues are rarely briefed about nuclear weapons-related issues. “Frankly, we in Parliament discover little,” he said, “and what we do find out is normally from Western newspapers.” In an interview with Indian reporters in 2003, Jayanthi Natarajan, a former minister for environment and forests and past member of a parliamentary committee on defense and atomic energy matters, said that she and other members of Parliament had “tried time and again to raise [nuclear-related] issues … and have achieved precious little.”

Starting work while the nuclear deal’s ink is still wet

Nonetheless, lawyers acting for the villagers living close to Challakere eventually forced some important disclosures. The Parliament’s representative for the region heard about plans for the park from the Indian defense minister as early as March 2007, according to a copy of personal correspondence between the two, seen by the Center.

This was the very moment India was also negotiating a deal with the United States to expand nuclear cooperation. That deal ended nearly three decades of nuclear-related isolation for India, imposed as punishment for its first atom bomb test in 1974. U.S. military assistance to India was barred for a portion of this period, and Washington also withheld its support for loans by international financial institutions.

The agreement was highly controversial in Washington. While critics warned it would reward India for its secret pursuit of the bomb and allow it to expand its nuclear weapons work, supporters emphasized language in which India agreed to identify its civilian nuclear sites and open them to inspection by the IAEA.

India also said at the time that it would refrain from conducting new atomic weapons tests. And in return for the waiving of restrictions on India’s civil nuclear program, the President was required to determine that India was “working actively with the United States for the early conclusion of a multilateral treaty on the cessation of the production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 2006 that the deal would not trigger an arms race in the region or “enhance [India’s] military capacity or add to its military stockpile.” Rice added: “Moreover, the nuclear balance in the region is a function of the political and military situation in the region. We are far more likely to be able to influence those regional dynamics from a position of strong relations with India and indeed with Pakistan.”

Opponents of the deal complained, however, that it did not compel India to allow inspections of nine reactor sites known to be associated with the country’s military, including several producing plutonium for nuclear arms. The deal also allowed 10 other reactor sites subject to IAEA inspection to use imported uranium fuel, freeing up an indigenously-mined supply of uranium that was not tracked by the international community and could now be redirected to the country’s bomb program.

Given India’s “need to build up [its] nuclear deterrent arsenal as fast as possible,” it should “categorize as many power reactors as possible as civilian ones, to be refueled by imported uranium, and conserve our native uranium fuel for weapons grade plutonium production,” strategist Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam, a longtime adviser to the Indian government, notoriously wrote in December 12, 2005, in The Times of India.

By May 2009, seven months after the US-India nuclear cooperation deal was ratified by Congress, the Karnataka state government had secretly leased 4,290 acres adjacent to Varavu Kaval and Khudapura villages in the district of Chitradurga to the defense research group and another 1,500 acres to the Indian Institute of Science, a research center that has frequently worked with the DRDO and India’s nuclear industry, the documents obtained by lawyers showed.

In December 2010, a further 573 acres were leased to the Indian Space Research Organisation and 1,810 acres were bought by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. Councilor Karianna said the villagers were not told at the time about any of these transactions, and that the documents, which they saw two years later, “were stunning. We were being fenced in — behind our backs.”

Srikumar Banerjee, the chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission, first offered an official glimpse of the project’s ambitions in 2011, when he told CNN’s Indian news channel that the enrichment plant could be used to produce nuclear fuel, or slightly enriched uranium, to power India’s heavy and light water reactors. However, Banerjee added that the site would also have a strategic use, a designation that would keep international inspectors away.

Erecting barricades and draining the local water supply

The sensitivity of the Challakere project became clearer after the legal team filed a lawsuit in 2012 at the High Court of Karnataka demanding a complete accounting of pasture land being seized by the authorities, only to learn from the state land registry that the Indian army was to be granted 10,000 acres too, as the future home for a brigade of 2,500 soldiers. The State Reserve Police, an armed force, would receive 350 acres, and 500 acres more was being set aside for a Commando Training Centre. The nuclear city close to Challakere would, in short, be ringed by a security perimeter of thousands of military and paramilitary guards.

In July 2013, six years after the plans were green-lit by Delhi, the National Green Tribunal — India’s environmental agency — finally took up the villager’s complaints. It dispatched investigators to the scene and demanded that each government agency disclose its ambitions in detail. The DRDO responded that national security trumped the tribunal and provided no more information.

While the IAEA would be kept out, villagers were being hemmed in. By 2013, a public notice was plastered onto an important shrine known as Boredevaragudi warning worshippers it would soon be inaccessible. A popular altar for a local animist ceremony was already out of bounds. The route for a festival of Hiriyara Habba at Khudapura, which celebrated the community’s ancestors, was also blocked.

IMG_2710

By the spring of 2014, more than 17 miles of 15-foot-high walls had been built throughout the kavals, catching out villagers who had not been consulted. They were now prevented from grazing their cattle or, in some cases, from reaching holy sites. A few broke through the walls, like here in Voru Kaval. Most were rebuilt immediately and security patrols by a private company now guard them.                                                                                                                                                                        Adrian Levy

“Then the groundwater began to vanish,” councilor Karianna said. The district is a semi-arid zone, and local records, still written in ink, show that between 2003 and 2007, droughts had caused the suicides of 101 farmers whose crops failed. Now, due to the construction, a critical man-made reservoir adjacent to Ullarthi was suddenly fenced off. Bore wells dug by the nuclear and military contractors as the construction accelerated siphoned off other water supplies from surrounding villages.

Seventeen miles of 15-foot-high walls began to snake around the villagers’ meadows, blocking grazing routes, preventing them from gathering firewood or herbs for medicine. Hundreds rallied to knock holes into the new ramparts. “They were rebuilt in days,” Karianna said, “so we tried again, but this time teams of private security guards had been hired by someone, and they viciously beat my neighbors and friends.”

BARC and the DRDO still provided no detailed explanations to anyone on the ground about the scope and purpose of their work, Karianna added. “Our repeated requests, pleadings, representations to all elected members at every level have yielded no hard facts. It feels as if India has rejected us.” Highlighting local discontent, almost all of the villagers ringing the kavals boycotted the impending general election, a rare action since India’s birth as an independent democracy.

The growing local discontent, and the absence of public comment by the U.S. or European governments about the massive project, eventually drew the attention of independent nuclear analysts.

Suspicions stoked by satellite photos

Serena Kelleher-Vergantini, an analyst at the Washington, D.C., based nonprofit, the Institute for Science and International Security, scoured all the available satellite imagery in the summer of 2014. Eventually, with the help of the Bangalore-based environmental group, she zeroed in on the construction site in the kavals. The journal IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review was separately doing the same in London, commissioning Kelley, formerly of the IAEA, to analyze images from the Mysore plant.

What struck both of them was the enormous scale and ambition of the projects as well as the secrecy surrounding them. The military-nuclear park in the kavals, at nearly 20 square miles, has a footprint comparable to the New York state capital, Albany. After analyzing the images and conducting interviews with atomic officials in India, Kelleher-Vergantini concluded that the footprint for enrichment facilities planned in the new complex would enable scientists to produce industrial quantities of uranium, although the institute would only know how much when construction had progressed further. As Kelley examined photos of the second site, he was astonished by the presence of two recently expanded buildings that had been made lofty enough to accommodate a new generation of tall, carbon-fiber centrifuges, capable of working far faster to enrich uranium than any existing versions.

Nuclear experts express the productiveness of these machines in Separative Work Units, abbreviated to SWUs (pronounced swooz). Kelley concluded that at the second site, the government could install up to 1,050 of these new hyper-efficient machines, which together with about 700 older centrifuges could complete 42,000 SWUs a year — or enough, he said, to make roughly 183 kilograms (403 pounds) of weapons-grade uranium. A new H-bomb, with an explosive force exceeding 100,000 tons of TNT, would require just 4 to 7 kilograms of enriched uranium, according to the International Panel on Fissile Materials, a group of nuclear experts from 16 countries that seek to reduce and secure uranium stocks.

Retired Indian nuclear scientists and military officers said in interviews that India’s growing nuclear submarine fleet would be the first beneficiary of the newly-produced enriched uranium.

India presently has one indigenous vessel, the INS Arihant, constructed in a program supervised by the prime minister’s office. Powered by an 80-megawatt uranium reactor developed by BARC that went critical in August 2013, it will formally enter military service in 2016, having undergone sea trials in 2014. A second, INS Aridaman, is already under construction, with at least two more slated to be built, a senior military officer said in an interview. Each would be loaded with up to 12 nuclear-tipped missiles. The officer, who was not authorized to be named, said the fleet’s expansion gained a new sense of urgency after Chinese submarines sailed across the Bay of Bengal to Sri Lanka in October 2014, docking in a port facility in Colombo that had been built by Chinese engineers.

Asked what else the additional uranium would be used for, a senior scientist at the DRDO, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it would mostly be used to fuel civilian nuclear power reactors and contribute to what he called “benign medical and scientific programs.” The government has not made such a promise publicly, however, or provided details. India does not have to report what it does with its indigenous uranium, “especially if it is not in the civilian domain,” said Sunil Chirayath, a research assistant professor at Texas A&M University who is an expert on India’s civilian nuclear program.

A senior Obama administration official in Washington, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, expressed skepticism about the government scientist’s private claim. The official said that India’s civilian nuclear programs, including power stations and research establishments, were benefiting from new access to imported nuclear fuel (after the embargo’s removal) and now require almost “no homemade enriched uranium.”

India has already received 4,914 tons of uranium from France, Russia, and Kazakhstan, for example, and it has agreements with Canada, Mongolia, Argentina and Namibia for additional shipments. In September 2014, Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia signed an agreement to make Australia a “long-term, reliable supplier of uranium to India,” a deal that has sparked considerable controversy among Australians.

The International Panel on Fissile Materials estimates that the Arihant class submarine core requires only 65kg of uranium, enriched to 30 per cent. Using this figure and the estimated capacity of the centrifuges India is installing in Mysore alone — not even including Challakere — Kelley concluded that even after fueling its entire submarine fleet there would be 160kg of weapons-grade uranium left over, every year, or enough to fuel at least 22 H-bombs.

His calculation presumes that the plant is run efficiently, and that its excess capacity is purposeful and not driven by bureaucratic inertia – two large uncertainties in India, a senior U.S. official noted. But having a “rainy day” stockpile to deter the Chinese might be the aim, the official added.

comparison-desktop

Source: Institute for Science and International Security, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Attempting to match China’s nuclear arsenal?

A retired official who served inside the nuclear cell at the Indian prime minister’s office, the apex organization that supervises the military nuclear program, conceded that other uses besides submarines had been anticipated “for many years.” He pointed to a “thermonuclear bomb program” as “a beneficiary,” and suggested India had had no choice but to “develop a new generation of more powerful megaton weapons” if it was to maintain “credible minimum deterrence.”  Once this meant the bare minimum required to prevent an attack on India, but a new Indian doctrine adopted in 2003 — in response to Pakistan’s increasingly aggressive nuclear posture — altered this notion: “Nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage.”

The official said: “China has long had a thermonuclear capability, and if India is to have a strategic defense worth its salt, and become a credible power in the region, we need to develop a similar weapon and in deployable numbers.” U.S. and British officials affirmed that they have been aware of this discussion among Indian scientists and soldiers for years.

Asked for comment, Vikas Swarup, India’s official spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi did not respond to email or calls.

In an interview, General Balraj Singh Nagal, who from 2008 to 2010 ran India’s Strategic Forces Command within its Nuclear Command Authority, declined to discuss specific aspects of the nuclear city in Challakere or the transformation of the Rare Materials Plant close to Mysore. But he said that keeping pace with China and developing a meaningful counter to its arsenal was “the most pressing issue” facing India.

“It’s not Pakistan we are looking at most of the time, like most in the West presume,” General Nagal said. “Beijing has long managed a thermonuclear program, and so this is one of many options India should push forwards with, as well as reconsidering our nuclear defense posture, which is outdated and ineffective. We have to follow the technological curve. And where China took it, several decades before us, with the hydrogen bomb, India has to follow.”

The impact of the U.S.-India deal and India’s fissile production surge on the country’s neighbors can already be seen. “Pakistan recently stepped up a gear,” the recently retired British Foreign Office official said. He pointed to an increase in Pakistan’s plutonium production at four new military reactors in Khushab, a reprocessing plant known as Pinstech, near Islamabad, and a refurbished civilian plutonium reprocessing plant converted to military use in Chashma, as well as “the ramping up of uranium production at a site in Dera Ghazi Khan.”

The retired foreign office official added: “India needs to constantly rethink what deterrence means, as it is not a static notion, and everyone understands that. But the balance of power in the region is so easily upset.” The official said that in choosing to remain publicly silent, the United States was taking a risk, evidently to try and reap financial and strategic rewards.

Officials at the Pentagon argued before Washington reached its 2008 nuclear deal with India that lifting sanctions would lead to billions of dollars worth of sales in conventional weapons, according to a U.S. official privy to the discussions.That prediction was accurate, with U.S. exports of major weapons to India reaching $5 billion from 2011 to 2014, and edging out Russian sales for the first time.

“But the U.S. is also looking for something intangible: to create a new strategic partner capable of facing down China,” and so India has taken advantage of the situation to overhaul its military nuclear capability, the British official noted. Pushing back China, said the official, who has worked for 30 years in counter terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and nonproliferation, especially in Southern Asia, is regarded as being “in everyone’s interest.”

White House officials declined to comment on this claim on the record. But Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s former top nonproliferation official, told the Carnegie conference in March that some officials in the Bush administration had the ambition, in making a nuclear deal with India, to “work together to counter China, to be a counterweight to an emerging China.” He added that in his view, that ambition has not been realized, due to India’s historic insistence on pursuing an independent foreign policy. He also said the nuclear deal had unfortunate repercussions, because other nations concluded that Washington was playing favorites with India.

In Challakere, construction continues despite a ruling by the National Green Tribunal on August 27, 2014, that called for a stay on all “excavation, construction and operation of projects” until environmental clearances had been secured. Blocked roads were to be re-opened with access given to all religious sites, said Justice M. Chockalingham and Dr. R. Nagendran of the tribunal. But when villagers have attempted to pass over or through the fences and walls, they are met by police officers who hand out photocopied notes in English: “Environmental clearances has (sic) been awarded [to BARC] dated 24 July 2014, which is a secret document and cannot be disclosed.”

Councilor Karianna said: “Still, to this day, no one has come to talk to me, to explain to us, what they are doing to our land,” which he depicted as being at the “epicenter of historic India.”

The kings of Mysore once used the kavals as a crucible for experimental breeding of the muscular cows, known as Amrit Mahal, recognizable by their ebony hump and ape-hanger horns, which hauled chariots and six-ton cannons into four, bone-crushing campaigns against the British Empire fought in the last three decades of the 18th century. The cattle remain, picking their way between towering rough stone walls and barbed wire fences patrolled by private security guards, while weavers like those in Karianna’s village continue to manufacture thick, black kambli or goat-wool blankets that are bought in bulk by the Indian army for its troops facing down Pakistan and China, and stationed in the thin air of the Himalayas to the north.

“Is this what ‘national interest’ means?” Karianna asked, looking out over the rolling pasture, enveloped in the red dust kicked up by diggers. “We sit beneath out ancient trees and watch them tear up the land, wondering what’s in store.”

National security managing editor R. Jeffrey Smith contributed to this article from Washington, D.C.

Adrian Levy is an investigative reporter and filmmaker whose work has appeared in the Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, and other publications. His most recent books are: The Meadow, about a 1995 terrorist kidnapping of Westerners in Kashmir, and The Siege: The Attack on the Taj, about the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

This story was co-published with Foreign Policy and the Huffington Post. It is part three of a four-part series about india’s civil and military nuclear program. The other articles can be found here: https://www.publicintegrity.org/national-security/nuclear-waste