Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

Major Energy and Environmental News and Commentary affecting the Nuclear Industry.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Brazil's VP Announces Desire For Nuclear Weapons

Brazil's VP Announces Desire For Nuclear Weapons
Brazil VP Says Country Should Build Nuclear Arms -- Yahoo News/AP

BRASILIA, Brazil – Brazil's vice president says in an interview published Friday that his country should develop nuclear weapons. Other officials stressed that his comments were not government policy.

Jose Alencar, who also served as defense minister from 2004 to 2006, said in an interview with journalists from several Brazilian news media that his country does not have a program to develop nuclear weapons, but should: "We have to advance on that."

Read more ....


Iran Informs IAEA of Clandestine Enrichment Site

Iran Informs IAEA of Clandestine Enrichment Site
Friday, Sept. 25, 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama, right, delivers a statement today on a newly disclosed Iranian enrichment facility. He is accompanied by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, center, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy (Jim Watson/Getty Images).

Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency this week that it is constructing an underground uranium enrichment "pilot plant" at a site roughly 100 miles southwest of Tehran, the U.N. organization confirmed today (see GSN, Sept. 24).

The existence of the Qum enrichment site -- also confirmed to Iranian state media by an "informed source" -- is certain to heighten international suspicions that Iran's uranium enrichment program is intended to generate nuclear-weapon material.

In a Monday letter to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Iran billed the facility as a research site that would only produce low-enriched uranium on an experimental basis, IAEA spokesman Marc Vidricaire said, according to Reuters.

See Full Article...

What is Iran up to?

What is Iran up to?
Fri, 09/25/2009 - 12:42pm

The big story this morning, of course, is the revelation that Iran has been building a second nuclear enrichment facility. Here's what I think it means, with the caveat that the story is about three hours old and I still have lots of unanswered questions.

To start, it is not good news for those who have been hoping for a gradual improvement in Iran's relations with the outside world, hopes that were already undermined by the repercussions of the fraudulent election this past summer. At a minimum, it is bound to create new doubts about Iranian assurances regarding its nuclear program, although I don't know anyone who took those assurances at face value. After all, the whole idea behind inspections and other safeguards, and the whole reason that Western intelligence agencies have continued to watch Iran closely, is because we don't necessarily believe what Iran's government tells us.

That said, it is not clear from the early press reports exactly how blatant a violation this really is. According to the Washington Post, Iran notified the IAEA on September 21 that it was constructing a new pilot enrichment plant. Assuming that it has not already introduced nuclear material into this facility (and Tehran says it hasn't), Iran is therefore in compliance with the NPT's Comprehensive Full Scope Safeguards Agreement, which requires it to notify the IAEA six months before nuclear material is introduced into any new facility. Iran previously withdrew from the more demanding Subsidiary Agreement 3.1, which would have required more detailed and timely notification, in response to the IAEA's decision to refer Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council. So from Tehran's perspective, this new facility is not a violation at all: they are permitted to enrich under the NPT and they have complied with the Comprehensive Safeguards agreement by notifying the IAEA of the new facility. (Even that rather generous interpretation might not let Tehran entirely off the hook, however, as it seems likely that they informed the IAEA on September 21 because they had discovered that the United States had penetrated the program and they wanted to pre-empt today's revelation.)

The United States has an obvious response: unilateral withdrawal from Agreement 3.1 is not permissible, and so technically Iran is still in violation of its past commitments, but this legalistic back-and-forth is part of a long pattern. In addition, the U.N. Security Council has passed several resolutions demanding that Iran cease all enrichment, and its refusal to comply provides the main legal basis for sanctions. Iran is hardly the first country to ignore Security Council resolutions, however, and Tehran undoubtedly believes that the construction of a second plant is not a direct violation of its more basic obligations under the NPT.

The bottom line is that we still don't yet know just how serious the new discovery is. If nuclear material is already present there (despite what Iran now says), then it is a clear violation of the agreements that Iran's government has repeatedly claimed it is upholding, and thus casts even more doubt on its credibility. If the facility is still under construction and no nuclear material has been introduced, then Iran is technically in compliance of the basic safeguards agreement, and trying to exploit various legal loopholes. (Again, it is defying the SC resolutions, but it was doing that already and so today's announcement adds nothing new).

The New York Times story also makes it clear that this discovery is not by itself evidence that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program. The new facility is an enrichment plant, not a bomb-building factory, and everyone knows that Iran was already producing low-grade enriched uranium. Accordingly, the new revelation does not contradict earlier intelligence estimates which concluded that Iran was not actively trying to build a bomb.

Of course, this does not mean Iran is not interested in getting nuclear weapons, or at least achieving a "breakout" capability that it would allow it to go nuclear rapidly at some point in the future. As I've noted before, there are good reasons why Iran might want a nuclear deterrent of its own, just as there are good reasons why the United States and its allies would prefer that it didn't. In any case, this new report is bound to reinforce suspicions about Iran's long-term intentions and hardliners will undoubtedly use this information to press for tougher economic sanctions. This is of course, why the United States, Britain, and France released it, and if I had to guess, I'd bet that stricter sanctions will in fact be imposed.

That's another puzzle, by the way. The Times's story says the United States "has been tracking the project for years," which makes one wonder why its existence was not disclosed previously. Perhaps the United States was trying to protect "sources and methods," or lacked fully convincing information. In any case, the timing of the release seems to be clearly related to the current push for more stringent sanctions.

Most importantly, this new information does not strengthen the case for using military force against Iran's nuclear program, although hawks are bound to invoke it for that purpose. Airstrikes can delay Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapon, but cannot prevent it, and they are likely to strengthen Iran's resolve to acquire a genuine deterrent as soon as they can. Attacking Iran will rally the population around the regime, and given Iran ample reason to retaliate against the United States or its allies in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or elsewhere in the Middle East.

If we want to stop an Iranian bomb (as opposed to halting its nuclear enrichment activities), we are going to have to convince Iran that it doesn't need a nuclear deterrent to be safe. That won't be easy to do, given that Iran has three nuclear neighbors (Pakistan, India, and Israel), and a very bad relationship with the United States, which has given millions of dollars to Iranian opposition groups and formally committed itself to regime change on several past occasions. Persuading Tehran that they don't need a deterrent requires taking the threat of force, regime change, and the like off the table, instead of ratcheting the threat level up. I'm not saying that this approach will work; I'm saying that threatening preventive war won't. And actually launching a preventive war is likely to make things much worse.

On this issue, Iran expert Gary Sick has the right idea: "first, do no harm." Iran is committed to mastering the full fuel cycle, and probably wants to get a "breakout capability." Money quote:

The real purpose of negotiations, in my view, is to build a system of monitoring and inspections that will (1) provide maximum early warning of a potential future Iranian decision to "break out;" and (2) insure the maximum possible interval between that moment and the moment where Iran could actually have a bomb. Iran has said on several occasions that it is willing to accept such an enhanced inspection regime, but it will no doubt insist on a price. That, I think, is what the negotiations should be about."

Ironically, today's report may make this solution more feasible, by reminding the Iranian government that hiding a nuclear facility isn't easy -- especially when the outside world is suspicious -- and that any attempt to renege on a future agreements is likely to be detected. Maybe, just maybe, today's episode will make a deal easier to reach down the road. Not that I'd bet on that.

Stephen M. Walt

China Opposes Iran Sanctions Sought by US - Andrew Jacobs, New York Times.

China Opposes Iran Sanctions Sought by US - Andrew Jacobs, New York Times.

China will not support increased sanctions on Iran as a way to curb its nuclear program, a government spokeswoman said Thursday. Although China has generally opposed the use of sanctions, the announcement is sure to complicate President Obama’s efforts to impose tougher penalties on Iran, should international talks over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, scheduled for Oct. 1, fail to make headway. “We always believe that sanctions and pressure are not the way out,” said Jiang Yu, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, during a news conference. “At present, it is not conducive to diplomatic efforts.” On Wednesday, the White House savored success after Russia, a longtime opponent of economic sanctions, said it would consider tough new sanctions against Iran. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China has veto power over any decision by the body to impose sanctions.


Iran Has a Secret Nuke Plant from Danger Room by Noah Shachtman

Iran Has a Secret Nuke Plant
from Danger Room by Noah Shachtman

Iran has been building a clandestine, underground nuclear enrichment facility, the Tehran regime has admitted. President Obama said the plant, and the larger Iranian nuclear program, was “threatening the stability and the security of the region and of the world.”

The plant — built inside a mountain near the ancient holy city of Qum, 100 miles southwest of Tehran — is not yet complete. Nor has any nuclear material has been introduced into the “pilot” facility, according to International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman Marc Vidricaire. In a letter to the IAEA, Tehran “said the plant would not enrich uranium beyond the 5 percent level suitable for civilian energy production. That would be substantially below the threshold of 90 percent or more needed for a weapon,” the Associated Press reports.

The plant, however, would be in violation of international nuclear-control agreements, and the latest example of Iran’s attempts to hide parts of their atomic program from the world.

“As the international community knows, this is not the first time Iran has concealed information about its nuclear program. Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear power that meets the energy needs of its people. But the size and the configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program. Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow,” President Obama just said at a meeting of the G20 in Pittsburgh.

“The level of deception by the Iranian government and the scale of what we believe is the breach of international commitments will shock and anger the whole international community. And it will harden our resolve,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown added. “Confronted by the serial deception of many years the international community has no choice today but to draw a line in the sand… We are prepared to offer further and more stringent sanctions.”

The Iranians “have cheated three times,” one senior administration official told the New York Times last night. “And they have now been caught three times.”

The official was referring to the revelations by an Iranian dissident group that led to the discovery of the underground plant at Natanz in 2002, and the evidence developed two years ago — after Iran’s computer networks were pierced by American intelligence agencies — that the country had secretly sought to design a nuclear warhead.

[Photo: via NYT]

The Iran nuclear revelation from Marc Lynch

The Iran nuclear revelation
from Marc Lynch by Marc Lynch

Last night, President Obama along with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Nikolas Sarkozy announced that the IAEA had been presented with detailed evidence about the existence of a previously undisclosed Iranian nuclear enrichment facility. While there's always good reason to be skeptical about such intelligence claims, in this case it is significant that the Iranians hastened to pre-emptively declare to the IAEA that a "new pilot fuel-enrichment plant is under construction." The U.S. has, from what I can tell, been aware of this site for quite some time, and it has not yet gone operational. So this is not a story of the sudden discovery of an urgent new threat requiring whatever red-blooded solution the hawks will be peddling today. The interesting question is why Obama chose to go public with this information now, and how it fits into the administration's diplomatic strategy.

According to the New York Times, the administration went public because the Iranians had discovered that Western intelligence had "breached the secrecy surrounding the project." Perhaps. But it seems rather more likely that the administration chose to go public as part of a calculated effort to ratchet up the credibility of the threat of tough sanctions ahead of the October 1 meeting between Iran and the P5+1 in Geneva. The public disclosure puts Iran on the back foot ahead of those talks, and appears to have encouraged Russia to more seriously consider supporting such sanctions (that, plus the missile defense decision probably). This has to change Iranian calculations -- indeed, the perception that the sanctions are now more likely is precisely what may lead the Iranians to make more concessions to avoid them.

It also demonstrates to the Iranians the quality of Western intelligence and the difficulty of deception and denial -- especially in the atmosphere of (quite warranted) mistrust of their intentions. That may reduce their reasons to oppose the intrusive inspections and monitoring regime which Gary Sick argues is the most likely reasonable negotiated outcome. Such an outcome would be far more in the interests of the U.S., Iran, and Iran's neighbors than any plausible outcome of a military strike, and has to be the target of the engagement process.

So despite what I expect to see swarming the media in the next few days -- wanna bet that John Bolton or John Bolton-equivalent oped is already in production over at the Washington Times Washington Post (sorry, it's hard to tell the difference on foreign policy issues sometimes) -- I actually think that this public revelation makes war less rather than more likely. The timing of the announcement, immediately following the consultations at the UN and the G-20 and just before the Geneva meetings, makes it seem extremely likely that the Obama administration has been waiting for just the right moment to play this card. Now they have. It strengthens the P5+1 bargaining position ahead of October 1, changes Iranian calculations, and lays the foundations for a more serious kind of engagement. So now let's see how it changes the game.


US, French, UK leaders say Iran must abandon nuclear weapons program by year's end - or face sanctions from DEBKAfile

US, French, UK leaders say Iran must abandon nuclear weapons program by year's end - or face sanctions
from DEBKAfile

In a dramatic joint appearance in Pittsburgh, Friday, Sept. 25, Presidents Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy and prime minister Gordon Brown accused Iran of concealing a second uranium enrichment plant near Qom for years from international inspection, in violation of its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and UN Security Council Resolutions. Taking time out of the G20 summit, they went on live television to declare their willingness for a concerted effort to stop Iran attaining nuclear weapons by the end of 2009.

Chu seeks more loan guarantees for nuclear energy

Chu seeks more loan guarantees for nuclear energy

Energy Secretary Steven Chu aims to increase the department's loan-guarantee authority to help revive the U.S. nuclear energy industry and curb emissions of greenhouse gases. While firms have filed 18 requests for nuclear plant licenses, the agency can only authorize $18.5 billion in loans, which can cover four to five facilities. The U.S. needs to show the industry that it "is serious about investing in nuclear power plants," Chu said. Nasdaq.com/Dow Jones Newswires

NRC chief: Certifying reactor design first could expedite plant reviews

NRC chief: Certifying reactor design first could expedite plant reviews

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission can evaluate nuclear plants more quickly and efficiently if the reactor design has been certified under the agency's combined construction and operating license process, Chairman Greg Jaczko said. Speaking at a Platts Energy Podium conference, Jaczko said that some COL applications pertain to reactor designs that have not been certified. The NRC is reviewing 13 of the 18 COL applications that it has received, he added. Power Engineering

"Iran Is Breaking Rules That All Nations Must Follow"

"Iran Is Breaking Rules That All Nations Must Follow"
Obama Opens G20 Summit With Dramatic Statement After Iran Acknowledges Secret Nuclear Facility... Read Complete Remarks... New York Times: Obama Privately Pressed Leaders This Week On Iran... Marc Lynch: 'The Iran Nuclear Revelation'





Editor's Note: The following is an internal STRATFOR document produced to
provide high-level guidance to our analysts. This document is not a forecast,
but rather a series of guidelines for understanding and evaluating events, as
well as suggestions on areas for focus.

Iran's revelation of a second enrichment site is not critical in a military
sense. The West always knew the Iranians were playing a shell game. What it does
do, however, is highlight that one of the challenges of the situation is simply
that Western intelligence does not know how good its intelligence is -- until it
is used. So the Iranians are attempting a smoke-and-mirrors strategy in the hope
of deterring an attack. But they also don't know how much the West does or does
not know either.

Far more important was the decision by the leaders of the United States, the
United Kingdom and France to condemn Iran's partial unveiling of this new site,
and to demonstrate clearly that the time for talks is almost over. The round of
talks beginning Oct. 1 has been portrayed by the Israelis as the final round.
Now the United States is publicly saying the same thing, although Obama
continues to say it prefers a peaceful settlement.

There are four issues we need to drill into:

First, will the Russians come on board with gasoline sanctions in this context
or do they continue their opposition? We need to reassess the Russian mood and
see what their lowest possible price is for assistance.

Second, we should start seeing some overt movements by the U.S. military to
spook the Iranians. This will not be the typical watch for carriers moving
toward the Gulf. Between forces participating in the Iraq and Afghan conflicts,
the United States already has more than what it needs to attack Iran. Watch and
evaluate activities in the region itself.

Third, are there any statements out of Israel? They have been forcing this issue
to a head. A lack of statements from them is ominous.

Finally, Iran has the "use it or lose it" option with mines. If they feel attack
is imminent, will they use the mines? The United States must act against the
mines before anything else if this is not to cause a global recession on its

Bottom line: If the Iranians indicate that they will not cooperate and the
Russians do not budge on their opposition to imposing sanctions, then war could
come suddenly -- and from the United States. All the pieces for that war are
already in place. It is just a question of nerve -- for all parties.

Copyright 2009 Stratfor.
Iran's new nuclear proposal

Our colleagues over at ProPublica, the non-profit investigative journalism outfit, have secured what they say is a copy of Iran's five-page proposal for negotiations with the United States and other world powers.

Entitled, "Package of proposals by the Islamic Republic of Iran for Comprehensive and Constructive Negotiations," it can be found here. N&S can't yet vouch for the authenticity of the document.


Missile madness targets the money

Missile madness targets the money

President Barack Obama's decision to shelve plans for an anti-missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland continues a decades-long, military and political debate frequently set in terms little more sophisticated than "mine is bigger than yours". None of it is real, except the money, which is very real and very huge. - Julian Delasantellis (Sep 25, '09)


Obama hails historic U.N. resolution to rid world of nuclear weapons

Obama hails historic U.N. resolution to rid world of nuclear weapons


Iran tells IAEA it is building 2nd enrichment plant

Iran tells IAEA it is building 2nd enrichment plant


Thursday, September 24, 2009

China Opposes Iran Sanctions Sought by U.S

China Opposes Iran Sanctions Sought by U.S.: China will not support increased sanctions on Iran as a way to curb its nuclear program, a government spokesman said Thursday.

IAEA calls on Israel to sign Non-Proliferation Treaty:

IAEA calls on Israel to sign Non-Proliferation Treaty:

For the first time in 18 years, Israel, the United States and the Western powers were unsuccessful at preventing passage of a resolution calling on Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


The Afghan Disaster by Lew Rockwell

The Afghan Disaster by Lew Rockwell


A Dangerous US Policy Comes to an End William Pfaff cheers the end of EU-based missile defense

A Dangerous US Policy Comes to an End

William Pfaff cheers the end of EU-based missile defense


* Canada, Kazakhstan to strike deal involving nuclear technology

* Canada, Kazakhstan to strike deal involving nuclear technology
Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day is set today to sign an agreement that would allow the country to export nuclear technology to Kazakhstan. This comes after Day's Ukraine visit, which involved discussions on free trade and Atomic Energy of Canada's Candu nuclear reactors. "We have a very clear indication that they want to see Candus as part of their nuclear energy future," he said. Canada.com/Canwest News Service (9/23)


NRC official sees nuclear power in the future of U.S. energy

NRC official sees nuclear power in the future of U.S. energy
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is working to include nuclear power in the country's energy future, Commissioner Dale Klein said. His statement comes as he believes the Obama administration may likely concentrate more on developing power sources such as wind and solar instead of nuclear. "My job as a regulator is to make sure that it's done safely, securely and that we protect people and the environment," Klein added. KIDK-TV (Idaho Falls-Pocatello, Idaho)


When Zionists made deal with the Nazis By EDWIN BLACK, SPECIAL TO JPOST

When Zionists made deal with the Nazis


Ahmadinejad offers to buy US uranium

Iran prepared to buy its highly enriched uranium from the US


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

President Obama's Proposals To Implement Iranian Sanctions Are Not Going To Be Accepted from War News Updates by Bookyards

President Obama's Proposals To Implement Iranian Sanctions Are Not Going To Be Accepted
from War News Updates by Bookyards
China is potentially undermining US-led efforts aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear plans by supplying the state with petrol. Photo AFP

China Firms Selling Fuel To Iran As U.S. Sanctions Loom -- New York Times/Reuters

BEIJING/LONDON (Reuters) - State-run Chinese companies are selling gasoline to Iran, a move that could undermine U.S. pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear programme, traders and a newspaper report said on Wednesday.

Although some sources said the trade had been quietly ongoing for at least a year as Chinese companies joined a handful of global oil traders and Indian refiners who regularly sell to Iran, the revelation of this flow comes at a time when Western powers may consider target Iran's fuel imports if it refuses to enter talks over its disputed nuclear programme.

Iran is the world's fifth-largest crude exporter but imports up to 40 percent of its gasoline as it lacks the refining capacity to meet domestic demand.

Read more ....

More News On Iran Sanctions

Report: Chinese State Companies Supplying Gasoline to Iran -- Voice of America
France against fuel sanctions on Iran: foreign minister -- AFP
China selling petrol to Iran, report says -- AFP
'Iran begins fuel imports from China' -- Press TV
China, Russia wouldn't block new Iran sanctions:EU -- Reuters
Israel calls for 'crippling sanctions' against Iran - Netanyahu -- RIA Novosti
US lawmakers put off new Iran sanctions until after talks -- Washington TV
US lawmakers hold off on new Iran sanctions -- AFP
The Lengthening List of Iran Sanctions -- Council On Foreign Relations
Cracks in Iran’s Clique -- Thomas Friedman, New York Times
A smarter way to sanction Iran -- Christian Science Monitor

I have been observing the evolving Iranian discussion on nuclear programs and sanctions for the past few years. I am dishearten to say that from my vantage point nothing is going to change. In fact .... countries like China and France are actively laying the groundwork for more business and commercial relations that are clear contradictions to their public and official policy of supporting sanctions on Iran.

The reasons why are obvious .... the dependence, need and hunger for oil and energy. On my many trips to China over the past two decades, the need for energy has always been the consuming drive of most (if not all) Chinese foreign policy. Iran has enormous oil and natural gas resources .... and the Chinese are not fools .... they are going to make deals with the devil in order to get their hands on that energy.

Sanctions or not.


Chief of federal nuclear unit touts role of Idaho National Laboratory

Chief of federal nuclear unit touts role of Idaho National Laboratory
Warren Miller, who was recently confirmed to lead the Energy Department's Office of Nuclear Energy, expects the Idaho National Laboratory to continue advancing its programs on nuclear energy, which he said produces 70% of all carbon-free power. Miller aims to cut U.S. dependence on imported oil by exploring new designs for reactors that can be installed quickly over the next decade. KPVI-TV (Pocatello, Idaho)


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Harvey Wasserman Tom Friedman's Idiocy Atomique

Harvey Wasserman
Tom Friedman's Idiocy Atomique


Leon Hadar's op ed piece on Missile Defense


Leon Hadar's op ed piece on Missile Defense