Login/Logout

*
*  

The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Policy White Papers

Iran Nuclear Policy Brief: Breaking Down Iran's Breakout Capacity

Body: 


By Greg Thielmann
October 2014

Download PDF

As efforts intensify to bring the Iran nuclear negotiations to a successful conclusion by November 24, the issue of breakout continues to occupy center stage. Setting limits on Iran’s nuclear program to dissuade the leaders in Tehran from breaking out of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and possibly building nuclear weapons is a central objective of the P5+1 powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States).

Consideration of the effect of agreed limits on the time it would take Iran to build nuclear weapons is, therefore, a necessary step in formulating the P5+1 negotiating position, but is not sufficient for navigating the appropriate course toward a comprehensive agreement.

Relying on the narrow definition of the term “breakout”—obtaining enough weapons-grade uranium gas for one bomb—does not fully capture the path that would have to be traveled. It is also necessary to consider “effective breakout”—the time needed to build a credible nuclear arsenal—in order to ensure that the proper balance between verification and limitations can be achieved.

Description: 

As efforts intensify to bring the Iran nuclear negotiations to a successful conclusion by November 24, the issue of breakout continues to occupy center stage.

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

A Win-Win Formula for Defining Iran's Uranium-Enrichment Capacity

Body: 


By Kelsey Davenport
August 2014

Download PDF

As negotiators prepare to resume talks over Iran's nuclear program, they face a formidable task: to bridge the remaining gaps and reach a comprehensive nuclear deal by November 24. Perhaps the most difficult issue Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) must resolve is how to define the size and scope of Iran's uranium enrichment program.

To achieve a win-win outcome the two sides must develop a creative, technically sound formula that increases the time it would take for Iran to enrich uranium to weapons grade, while still providing Tehran with a modest program that allows domestic production of enriched uranium to contribute to fueling future civilian reactors and allows research and development to advance centrifuge technology.

In collaboration with the International Crisis Group, the Arms Control Association has developed a proposal to define Iran's uranium enrichment program in a manner that meets the fundamental concerns of both Tehran and the P5+1. The proposal is the product of feedback from a number of technical and political experts. While this may not be "the solution" to the enrichment puzzle, the proposal offers constructive options for the negotiators to consider.

Description: 

As negotiators prepare to resume talks over Iran's nuclear program, they face a formidable task: to bridge the remaining gaps and reach a comprehensive nuclear deal by November 24.

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

Iran Nuclear Brief: Iranian Missiles and the Comprehensive Nuclear Deal

Body: 


By Greg Thielmann
May 2014

Download PDF

The international community has been acutely concerned for many years about Iran's increasing capacity to produce material for nuclear weapons. With sufficient fissile material and a warhead design, Iran could use its existing ballistic missiles to pose a credible nuclear threat throughout the region. Consequently, after repeatedly directing Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, the UN Security Council decided in 2010 that Iran also had to halt all activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Now that serious negotiations are under way to curtail Iran's ability to dash for a bomb, seeking ballistic missile limits as part of a comprehensive nuclear deal would be unwise. Getting adequate and verifiable constraints on Iran's nuclear program remains the highest priority. The best way to address Iran's potential to exploit nuclear-capable missiles is to ensure that Iran's nuclear program is sufficiently limited and transparent. To also demand severe limits on conventional weapons that Iran regards as vital to its self-defense would jeopardize the negotiations' key objective.

Description: 

The international community has been acutely concerned for many years about Iran's increasing capacity to produce material for nuclear weapons. With sufficient fissile material and a warhead design, Iran could use its existing ballistic missiles to pose a credible nuclear threat throughout the region. Consequently, after repeatedly directing Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, the UN Security Council decided in 2010 that Iran also had to halt all activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Country Resources:

Iran Nuclear Brief: Iran's Nuclear and Missile Programs as P5+1 Talks Resume

Body: 


September 20, 2013
By Greg Thielmann

Download PDF

As negotiations are poised to resume between Iran and the six powers seeking to rein in Iran's nuclear program, it is difficult to avoid a sense of déjà vu.

For years now, the UN Security Council has demanded Iran suspend uranium enrichment. Tehran continues to expand its nuclear program and insists it will never compromise its right to enrich, the United States continues to tighten sanctions on Iranian trade and finances, and alarms are raised about Iran being able to sprint to a nuclear bomb with little warning.

Yet, with a new Iranian president and negotiating team, there are grounds for cautious optimism that talks this time can be different. Although Iran continues to enrich uranium and add to its nuclear complex, time remains to negotiate an agreement that adequately guards against Iran building nuclear weapons.

Description: 

As negotiations are poised to resume between Iran and the six powers seeking to rein in Iran's nuclear program, it is difficult to avoid a sense of déjà vu.

Country Resources:

The Naval Nuclear Reactor Threat to the NPT

Body: 


By Greg Thielmann and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini
July 24, 2013

Download PDF

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) has long been a critical bulwark against the spread of nuclear weapons. Although preventing the production and accumulation of fissile material is an important part of this effort, the NPT does not explicitly regulate the production, use, and disposition of highly enriched uranium (HEU) for naval nuclear reactors. This exclusion poses a growing risk to achieving the nonproliferation goals of the treaty. While seeking to advance prospects for a fissile material cutoff treaty, the United States is continuing to design naval reactors for the world’s largest nuclear submarine fleet that are powered with weapons-grade uranium. While proclaiming its renunciation of any nuclear weapons ambitions, Brazil plans to build six nuclear submarines powered by uranium fuel that may be close to weapons grade. Neither the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nor important NPT member states have fully confronted the proliferation implications of excluding naval reactor fuel from safeguards. The IAEA and NPT members should take steps to minimize the use of HEU for any reason—a goal they declared just this month at a nuclear security conference in Vienna.

Description: 

Preventing the production and accumulation of fissile material is an important objective of nuclear nonproliferation efforts. Unfortunately, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) exempts the fuel used in naval propulsion reactors from the constraints the treaty otherwise applies to enriching uranium beyond the levels used in civilian power reactors. As the number of countries with nuclear-powered submarines expands, this exclusion poses a growing risk to achieving the nonproliferation goals of the treaty.

Sorting Out the Nuclear and Missile Threats From North Korea

Body: 


By Greg Thielmann
May 2013

Download PDF

Following condemnations by the international community of North Korea’s December satellite launch and February nuclear test, Pyongyang unleashed a furious barrage of rhetorical threats in March and April against the United States and South Korea. Now, the hot air war of the early spring appears to be over, despite the exercise launch of six short-range missiles by North Korea off its east coast in recent days and the ongoing visit of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group to South Korea.

Yet North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear and missile capabilities continues, its political isolation from the international community deepens, and the United States is now stuck with a commitment to spend an additional billion-dollars on strategic missile defenses in Alaska. It is time to sort out what the threat actually is and what can be done about it.

 

Description: 

Following condemnations by the international community of North Korea’s December satellite launch and February nuclear test, Pyongyang unleashed a furious barrage of rhetorical threats in March and April against the United States and South Korea. Now, the hot air war of the early spring appears to be over, despite the exercise launch of six short-range missiles by North Korea off its east coast in recent days and the ongoing visit of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group to South Korea.

Country Resources:

Lessons for Handling Iran From the Sad Saga of Iraq

Body: 


By Greg Thielmann and Alexandra Schmitt
March 2013

Download PDF

Ten years ago today, President George W. Bush said in a radio address to the nation: "It is clear that Saddam Hussein is still violating the demands of the United Nations by refusing to disarm." Eleven days later, he announced the invasion of Iraq to remove the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) allegedly possessed by Hussein's brutal regime and to prevent their use by or transfer to terrorist networks such as al Qaeda. That no such weapons existed was less a symptom of flawed intelligence than the U.S. leaders' obsession with achieving regime change in Baghdad and their consequent willingness to distort evidence on WMD toward that end.

This distortion, along with failures by the press and Congress to exercise due diligence in evaluating the assertions of the executive branch, blinded the public to contravening information on Iraqi WMD that was readily available during the six weeks preceding the attack.

Ironically, the most important sources of this ignored information were the very inspectors that the international community had forced Iraq to readmit the previous fall. There are lessons here for current efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Description: 

Ten years ago today, President George W. Bush said in a radio address to the nation: "It is clear that Saddam Hussein is still violating the demands of the United Nations by refusing to disarm." Eleven days later, he announced the invasion of Iraq to remove the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) allegedly possessed by Hussein's brutal regime and to prevent their use by or transfer to terrorist networks such as al Qaeda. That no such weapons existed was less a symptom of flawed intelligence than the U.S. leaders' obsession with achieving regime change in Baghdad and their consequent willingness to distort evidence on WMD toward that end.

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

Iran's Missile Program and Its Implications for U.S. Missile Defense

Body: 


By Greg Thielmann
January 2013

Download PDF

Although plans for expanding U.S. strategic missile defenses focus on the Iranian ICBM threat, that threat is not emerging as was previously predicted.  Iran conducted no long-range ballistic missile tests in 2012 and has not flown even the larger space launch vehicle that it displayed two years ago, which could have helped advance ICBM technology.  Moreover, Tehran has still not decided to build nuclear weapons and continues to focus on short- and medium-range rather than longer-range ballistic missiles.

It is, therefore, time to adapt U.S. missile defense plans accordingly by suspending the fourth phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach. Doing so would remove an obstacle to negotiating further reductions in the strategic forces of Russia - the only country that poses an unambiguous existential threat to the United States.

Description: 

Although plans for expanding U.S. strategic missile defenses focus on the Iranian ICBM threat, that threat is not emerging as was previously predicted.  Iran conducted no long-range ballistic missile tests in 2012 and has not flown even the larger space launch vehicle that it displayed two years ago, which could have helped advance ICBM technology.  Moreover, Tehran has still not decided to build nuclear weapons and continues to focus on short- and medium-range rather than longer-range ballistic missiles.

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

Iran Nuclear Brief: Options for a Diplomatic Solution

Body: 


By Kelsey Davenport
January 2013

Download PDF

Since President Barack Obama took office four years ago, diplomats from the P5+1 group of states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany) and Iran have engaged in renewed but intermittent discussions aimed at resolving concerns about Iran's nuclear program. So far, however, the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement that would bridge the differences between the proposals that have been exchanged during the talks.

With high-level political negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 likely to resume soon, negotiators will need to consider new variations on their earlier diplomatic proposals if they are to make progress to resolve the concerns about Iran's growing nuclear capabilities and nuclear weapons potential.

There is still time for diplomacy, but both sides need to move with greater urgency toward a lasting solution. If each side provides slightly more flexibility and creativity, it may be possible to bridge the gaps and reach a resolution that addresses the most urgent proliferation risks posed by Iran's nuclear program, as well as Iran's desire to continue some nuclear activities and begin to remove elements of the severe sanctions regime that has been put in place.

Presentations from earlier briefings in the ACA "Solving the Iranian Nuclear Puzzle" series are available from the ACA here.

Description: 

Since President Barack Obama took office four years ago, diplomats from the P5+1 group of states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany) and Iran have engaged in renewed but intermittent discussions aimed at resolving concerns about Iran's nuclear program. So far, however, the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement that would bridge the differences between the proposals that have been exchanged during the talks.

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

November 2012 IAEA Report on Iran and Its Implications

Body: 


November 16, 2012
By Daryl Kimball

Download PDF

The new quarterly report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran’s nuclear program finds that Tehran has continued to install more centrifuges for uranium enrichment at its underground complex at Fordow, although the total number of operating centrifuges at Fordow has not yet increased, according to the Agency. The IAEA report also notes that while Iran continues to experiment with advanced and more efficient types of centrifuges, it is not yet using them for production-scale operations. The IAEA also reports that Iran has continued enriching uranium to the 20 percent level at the previously reported rate and that its stockpile of 20 percent material has increased moderately.

Description: 

The new quarterly report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran’s nuclear program finds that Tehran has continued to install more centrifuges for uranium enrichment at its underground complex at Fordow, although the total number of operating centrifuges at Fordow has not yet increased, according to the Agency

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Policy White Papers