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Major News and Commentary Military and Civilian Nuclear Activities

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Iran Is No Existential Threat The best way to rescue Obama's failing diplomacy with the Islamic Republic is to stop letting Israel call the shots. BY

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/12/04/iran_is_no_existential_threat?page=full
Iran Is No Existential Threat
The best way to rescue Obama's failing diplomacy with the Islamic Republic is to stop letting Israel call the shots.
BY HILLARY MANN LEVERETT, FLYNT LEVERETT | DECEMBER 4, 2009

After months of halfhearted, fruitless attempts at engagement, the United States and its European partners are effectively re-enacting George W. Bush's Iran policy. In 2006, after Iran had ended a nearly two-year voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment, then-U.S. president pushed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to send Iran's nuclear file to the U.N. Security Council, which duly imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic. But the sanctions did not prove "crippling," as Bush had hoped: Iran continued to expand its nuclear infrastructure, and the risks of a military confrontation between the United States and Iran climbed.

Unfortunately, Barack Obama's administration has decided to repeat this sorry history. Last Friday, the IAEA passed a resolution urging Iran to send most of its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium abroad. It also reported Iran once again to the Security Council. Iran has wasted no time in upping the ante rather than backing down, saying it would restrict cooperation with the IAEA only to those measures "statutorily" required. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also announced that the Islamic Republic would build 10 new enrichment facilities in coming years. He later added, "Iran will produce fuel enriched to a level of 20 percent," the level required for Iran's research reactor in Tehran. This would be well above the 3 to 4 percent level that Iran has already achieved in producing low-enriched uranium and would take Iran closer to the 90 percent-plus level required for weapons-grade fissile material.

These developments again demonstrate the counterproductive futility of enshrining uranium enrichment and sanctions as the keys to resolving the nuclear issue. By prompting Tehran to reduce cooperation with the IAEA, the United States and its European partners have done real damage to the international community's ability to monitor the state of Iran's nuclear program. More broadly, U.S., British, and French insistence on "zero enrichment" in Iran makes successful nuclear diplomacy with Tehran impossible. At this point, there is no chance that Tehran will accept "zero enrichment" as a negotiated outcome, for at least two reasons: It is a country-specific formulation applied to Iran but not to anybody else, and it requires Iran to forswear its sovereign right to the full range of civil nuclear technology.

If the United States and its partners continue on their present course, the Islamic Republic will continue to expand its nuclear infrastructure, and the risks of an eventual military confrontation between the United States (or Israel, with U.S. support) and Iran will, once again, rise inexorably. There is no set of sanctions the Security Council might plausibly authorize that would change this reality, and various unilateral and secondary sanctions initiatives moving through the U.S. Congress will not work either.

A more constructive approach would seek to maximize international monitoring of Iran's nuclear activities by emphasizing country-neutral formulations for curbing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. This would require international acceptance of enrichment on Iranian soil. Getting Iran to ratify and implement the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would be an important step in this direction, but the most effective country-neutral initiative would be the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the region.

Although talk of an NWFZ -- or, more broadly, a weapons of mass destruction-free zone (WMDFZ) -- in the Middle East is not new, serious consideration of these ideas in U.S. foreign policy circles always stops as soon as Israel's nuclear status comes up. For years, the Israeli position has been that, once Arab-Israeli peace is achieved, it might become possible for Israel to join in creating an NWFZ/WMDFZ in the region. Although American foreign-policy elites typically take this position at face value, it deserves a higher degree of critical scrutiny.

It is simply not analytically credible to describe the unresolved Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese tracks of the Middle East peace process as "existential threats" to Israel. The 1978 Egypt-Israel Camp David accords effectively dispelled the prospect of Arab armies uniting to "push the Jews into the sea." Similarly, there is no amount of additional armed capabilities that would allow Palestinian and Lebanese militants to destroy Israel without also destroying the populations they are ostensibly seeking to liberate.

More recently, the dominant Israeli discourse about Iran has routinely characterized an Islamic Republic with a nuclear "breakout" capability -- not to mention actual nuclear weapons -- as an "existential threat" to Israel. (Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have reiterated Israel's position that Iran's full suspension of uranium enrichment is the only acceptable outcome from nuclear talks with Tehran.) But this position, too, does not stand up to rigorous scrutiny. It is not analytically serious to describe an Iran with mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle as an existential threat to Israel or any other state. Even if Iran were to fabricate a nuclear weapon, it is not credible to describe that as an existential threat to Israel -- unless one has such a distorted view of Shiite Islam that one believes the Islamic Republic is so focused on damaging "the Zionist entity" that it is collectively willing to become history's first "suicide nation."

Rhetoric from senior officials and politicians characterizing Iran as an existential threat resonates with the Israeli public, for understandable historical reasons, and Ahmadinejad's statements questioning the Holocaust only reinforce Israeli fears. As a result, there is, effectively, no political debate in Israel about Iran policy.

But, when Israeli politicians and policymakers use politically effective rhetoric about Iran's nuclear development being an existential threat to Israel, what is really motivating them? Fundamentally, Israel's political and policy elites are focused on eliminating Iran's fuel-cycle capabilities in order to preserve a regional balance of power that is strongly tilted in Israel's favor. Regional perceptions that the Islamic Republic had achieved a "breakout" capability would begin to chip away at Israel's long-standing nuclear-weapons monopoly. That, in turn, might begin to constrain Israel's currently unconstrained freedom of unilateral military action.

One can readily appreciate why Israel values its status as the Middle East's military hegemon and wants to maintain the maximum possible room for unilateral military initiative. But that strategic preference is not legitimated by the U.N. Charter, the laws of war, or any international convention. Moreover, Israel's strategic preference for preserving and enhancing its military hegemony does not, at this point, serve the cause of regional stability or containing the spread of nuclear weapons capabilities in the Middle East.

The United States has an abiding commitment to Israel's survival and security. But that commitment should not be confused with maintaining Israel's military hegemony over the region in perpetuity, by continuing to allow U.S. assurances of an Israeli "qualitative edge" for defensive purposes to be twisted into assurances of maximum freedom for Israel to conduct offensive military operations at will against any regional target.

It is time for the United States and its international partners to get serious about creating a regionwide framework for controlling WMD capabilities in the Middle East, including the full range of Israel's WMD capabilities, to create a more secure environment for all Middle Eastern states. Obama's observation, in his June 4 Cairo speech, that no single country should determine which other countries are permitted to have particular types of weapons, could be a positive first step in this direction. But, if he does not follow up purposefully, this will become one more good Obama idea that ends up disappointing the expectations it initially raised.

Flynt Leverett directs the New America Foundation's Iran Initiative and teaches international affairs at Pennsylvania State University. Hillary Mann Leverett is the chief executive officer of Stratega, a political risk consultancy. Together, they have more than 20 years of experience working on Middle East issues for the U.S. government, including at the National Security Council and the State Department, and now publish www.TheRaceForIran.com.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Atomic-Blast Detection Station Established Near Iran (Update1)

Atomic-Blast Detection Station Established Near Iran (Update1)

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601085&sid=ab_a09nGzc_Y

A United Nations group seeking to outlaw nuclear-weapons tests has set up a detection facility near the border between Iran and Turkmenistan that can register the shockwaves of an atomic blast.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization built seismic station PS44 near Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, a “few kilometers” from the Central Asian country’s southern border with Iran, the Vienna-based group said yesterday in a statement on its Web site. The site adds to the group’s 337 stations worldwide designed to detect seismic activity and atmospheric radiation caused by nuclear explosions.

UN inspectors received intelligence material that included Iranian designs for a 400-meter (1,312-foot) deep shaft that could be used for testing a nuclear bomb, the world body’s International Atomic Energy Agency said in May 2008. The documents also showed plans for a control station 10 kilometers from the unidentified blast site, along with diagnostic equipment to monitor an explosion.

US Says Cannot Meet Deadline to Screen Cargo for Nukes

US Says Cannot Meet Deadline to Screen Cargo for Nukes
Agence France-Presse
Top US security official Janet Napolitano on Wednesday admitted her government will fail to meet a 2012 deadline to scan all incoming ship cargo, measures designed to prevent a nuclear terror attack.
Full Article
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5haY5p9AWEOkUxmzp9vWfVVeDtqrw

Atomic-Blast Detection Station Established Near Iran Jonathan Tirone, Bloomberg

Atomic-Blast Detection Station Established Near Iran
Jonathan Tirone, Bloomberg
A United Nations group seeking to outlaw nuclear-weapons tests has set up a detection facility near the border between Iran and Turkmenistan that can register the shockwaves of an atomic blast.
Full Article
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601085&sid=ab_a09nGzc_Y

Don't Stop with START Daryl G. Kimball, Proliferation Analysis

Don't Stop with START
Daryl G. Kimball, Proliferation Analysis
Obama and MedvedevU.S. and Russian negotiators are working hard to conclude a new strategic nuclear arms reduction deal by the end of this month to replace the landmark 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires on December 5. Unfortunately, there are a few naysayers who are already trying to undermine support for the new START agreement before it arrives.

Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), for example, erroneously suggested in a November 21 statement "that there had been virtually no talk…of what happens after December 5 and prior to the possible entry into force of the follow-on agreement." Actually, the two sides have been discussing the bridging mechanism for months, but have not publicized the details because it was the subject of ongoing negotiations.
Full Article
http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=24254

Yucca Mountain Nuclear Disposal Site Is Dead, Says Longtime Advocate

Yucca Mountain Nuclear Disposal Site Is Dead, Says Longtime Advocate

Former lawmaker says Yucca Mountain is dead, calls for alternatives
Plans to turn Nevada's Yucca Mountain into the country's nuclear-waste repository should no longer be pursued, former Sen. Pete Domenici said, adding that the White House should move forward with a planned blue-ribbon commission to seek other options. A longtime supporter of nuclear energy, Domenici also proposed allocating the federal government's $23 billion waste-disposal fund toward a pilot recycling venture for nuclear fuel, which may bring down the amount of storage space needed for waste. The New York Times/ClimateWire

http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2009/12/02/02climatewire-yucca-mountain-nuclear-disposal-site-is-dead-59660.html

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Double Standards for Iran’s Nuclear Program from Antiwar.com Original by Muhammad Sahimi

Double Standards for Iran’s Nuclear Program
by Muhammad Sahimi

http://original.antiwar.com/sahimi/2009/12/01/double-standards-for-irans-nuclear-program/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+antiwar-original+%28Antiwar.com+Original+Articles%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

"The issue between Iran and the West goes beyond Ahmadinejad or any other Iranian government – democratic or not, for that matter. It has to do with Iran’s national rights in the framework of the international agreements that it has signed, in particular the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The issue also has to do with the double standards of the U.S. and its allies. They have agreed to transfer their nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and India; did nothing to prevent Pakistan from developing a nuclear arsenal; and supported Israel in its quest for nuclear weapons. They have also not opposed agreements between Egypt and Russia and Oman and Russia regarding the construction of nuclear reactors in Iran’s vicinity. But the same nations lament a nuclear race in the Middle East and the "threat" that Iran’s nuclear program supposedly poses to peace and stability in the region."

White House is "very supportive" of nuclear power, Chu says

White House is "very supportive" of nuclear power, Chu says
Energy Secretary Steven Chu highlighted the importance of nuclear and green power to the country's energy mix during a visit to South Carolina. In his tour Monday of General Electric's wind-turbine plant in Greenville, Chu said the Obama administration supports nuclear energy and remains committed to its expansion. The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.)/The Associated Press

http://www.thesunnews.com/575/story/1191704.html

Senate Democrats resume work on climate bill ahead of U.N. summit

Senate Democrats resume work on climate bill ahead of U.N. summit
Democratic senators plan to resume their push for a global-warming bill this week as President Barack Obama and other White House officials prepare for the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is seeking a meeting with key Senate committee chiefs for a pre-summit session, while the bipartisan trio of Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., works on a draft legislative proposal. The New York Times/ClimateWire

http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2009/12/01/01climatewire-with-an-eye-on-copenhagen-senate-tiptoes-bac-21712.html

Big Utility to Close 11 Plants Using Coal

Progress says nuclear is part of long-term power-generation plans
Progress Energy announced it would shut down 11 of its coal-fired power facilities by 2017. While the company is touting natural gas as an alternative in the short term, the long-term strategy for its generating system is in nuclear power, CEO Bill Johnson said. Progress stated plans to construct four reactors in North Carolina and Florida, but none would be operational by 2017. The New York Times (free registration)
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/02/business/energy-environment/02coal.html?_r=1

US treaty inspections to end at Russia missile plant: report

US treaty inspections to end at Russia missile plant: report
Moscow (AFP) Dec 1, 2009 - US arms inspectors must end their almost 15-year monitoring of Russia's main missile plant this week, as the key US-Russia nuclear treaty expires, a Russian military-diplomatic source said Tuesday. Under the old Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, up to 30 US experts monitored traffic to and from Russia's foremost missile factory in the remote village of Votkinsk, about 580 kilometres ... more

http://www.spacewar.com/reports/US_treaty_inspections_to_end_at_Russia_missile_plant_report_999.html

Ahmadinejad blasts nuclear partner Russia over IAEA vote

Ahmadinejad blasts nuclear partner Russia over IAEA vote
Tehran (AFP) Dec 1, 2009 - Iran hit out at its longtime nuclear partner Russia Tuesday over a yes vote for a censure motion at the UN atomic watchdog and insisted it was serious about plans for 10 more uranium enrichment plants. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that despite the support given in the International Atomic Energy Agency vote on Friday by Russia and China, Western governments would not succeed in their ... more

http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Ahmadinejad_blasts_nuclear_partner_Russia_over_IAEA_vote_999.html

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

IAEA Governors Approve First Nuclear Fuel Bank Plan

IAEA Governors Approve First Nuclear Fuel Bank Plan
Sylvia Westall, Reuters
International Atomic Energy Agency governors on Friday approved a Russian plan for a multilateral uranium fuel supply bank to stem the spread of nuclear arms as more countries seek atomic energy.
Full Article
http://www.reuters.com/article/GCA-Oil/idUSTRE5AQ1OG20091127

Pakistan’s Leader Cedes Nuclear Office

Pakistan’s Leader Cedes Nuclear Office
Sabrina Tavernise and David E. Sanger, The New York Times
President Asif Ali Zardari has ceded his position in Pakistan's nuclear command structure to his prime minister, in a sudden political maneuver widely seen as a fresh sign of turmoil on the eve of President Obama’s strategy announcement for the region.
Full Article
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/29/world/asia/29pstan.html

Iran's Nuclear Move Puzzles West

Iran's Nuclear Move Puzzles West
Daniel Dombey and Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Financial Times
In response to the revelation that Iran had been building an undeclared nuclear facility near the holy city of Qom, the United Nations nuclear watchdog asked Tehran whether it had any other such building plans.
Full Article
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e89a90b4-dd24-11de-ad60-00144feabdc0.html

* Nuclear Quagmire with Iran

http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=24223

The US Nuclear Industry: Current Status and Prospects under the Obama Administration

The US Nuclear Industry: Current Status and Prospects under the Obama Administration
Sharon Squassoni, CIGI Nuclear Energy Futures Paper
Expectations of a nuclear energy renaissance are particularly high in the United States, which hasn't had a new reactor order in 30 years.
Full Article
http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=24232

A Change in Leadership at the IAEA

A Change in Leadership at the IAEA
James M. Acton, Q&A
AmanoOn Monday, Mohammed ElBaradei stepped down after twelve years as head of the UN's nuclear watchdog. Yukiya Amano, ElBaradei's successor as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, will confront growing proliferation challenges from nuclear weapons programs and nuclear power industries across Asia, the Middle East, and beyond.

In the final days of ElBaradei's tenure, the last week of November, the IAEA issued a stern resolution censuring Iran for continually defying its international nuclear obligations. In response, Iran announced that it would build 10 additional uranium enrichment plants, once again challenging the IAEA's enforcement authority. In a new Q&A, James Acton reflects on ElBaradei's leadership, discusses Amano's agenda, and calls attention to the importance of the IAEA's work.
Full Article
http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=24240

* Japan's Amano Takes Helm at UN Atomic Watchdog
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j7HBzElyN6JUJQEM2OTmBDNYWf9Q

Uranium Demand Could Outstrip Supply For Three Years Straight (CCJ)

Uranium Demand Could Outstrip Supply For Three Years Straight (CCJ)

http://www.businessinsider.com/uranium-demand-will-outstrip-supply-in-2010-2009-11

Interest Brews In The Other Yellow Metal: Uranium

Interest Brews In The Other Yellow Metal: Uranium

http://www.businessinsider.com/interest-brews-in-the-other-yellow-metal-uranium-2009-12?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+greensheet+%28Green+Sheet%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

Monday, November 30, 2009

* U.S. moves closer to clinching nuclear energy deal with India

* U.S. moves closer to clinching nuclear energy deal with India
The U.S. and India are near the signing of a deal for nuclear fuel reprocessing, which is one of the remaining requirements to complete a civilian nuclear pact between the countries, an Indian official said. The construction of reprocessing sites under International Atomic Energy Agency rules is a vital part of implementing the agreement struck last year with then-President George W. Bush. The deal permits India to access civilian nuclear power despite declining to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Google/Agence France-Presse
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ilMrGQJmRisRmmrY3BuC50VPQFAg

French bid for Emirates nuclear plant at risk: report

French bid for Emirates nuclear plant at risk: report
Paris (AFP) Nov 25, 2009 - A French attempt to win a 41-billion-dollar (27.2-billion-euro) contract to build nuclear power stations in the Emirates is at risk over pricing, the La Tribune newspaper reported on Wednesday. The newspaper reported that the top official at the presidential Elysee Palace, Claude Geant, had held a meeting with the heads of big French companies concerned on Tuesday to discuss a further ... more
http://www.nuclearpowerdaily.com/reports/French_bid_for_Emirates_nuclear_plant_at_risk_report_999.html

Iran MPs call for reduced ties with UN atomic watchdog

Iran MPs call for reduced ties with UN atomic watchdog
Tehran (AFP) Nov 29, 2009 - Iranian lawmakers on Sunday demanded the government of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reduce ties with the UN atomic watchdog after it censured Tehran for building a new nuclear plant. Condemning a resolution issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday as "political and lacking consensus," MPs also demanded that Tehran continue its controversial nuclear ... more

US, India inch closer to nuclear deal: Indian official

US, India inch closer to nuclear deal: Indian official
New Delhi (AFP) Nov 29, 2009 - India and the United States are close to signing a nuclear fuel reprocessing agreement, one of the last requirements to finalise last year's landmark civilian nuclear deal, an official said Sunday. Indian National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan told reporters "we have arrived at almost the very last stage" of negotiations. Narayanan was speaking on board Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's ... more

http://www.nuclearpowerdaily.com/reports/US_India_inch_closer_to_nuclear_deal_Indian_official_999.html

Nuclear pope' ElBaradei steps down

Nuclear pope' ElBaradei steps down
Vienna (AFP) Nov 29, 2009 - UN atomic watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who once described himself as a "nuclear pope", quoted the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi in his farewell remarks at the International Atomic Energy Agency. "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; were there is ... more

http://www.nuclearpowerdaily.com/reports/Nuclear_pope_ElBaradei_steps_down_999.html