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"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
Kelsey Davenport

US set to double down on 'maximum pressure' as Iran eases adherence to nuclear deal

News Source: 
ABC News (abc-7)
News Date: 
May 8, 2019 -04:00

Understanding the U.S. Moves on JCPOA Nonproliferation Project Waivers

The Trump administration’s May 3 announcement to extend waivers for critical nuclear international cooperation projects with Iran is a mixed bag. It is clearly in the U.S. and international interest to allow the continuation of projects at key nuclear sites that reduce Iran’s nuclear weapons potential, as required by 2015 multilateral nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, the U.S. decision to cut down on the length of the waivers (from 180 days to 90 days) and tighten nuclear-related sanctions in other areas puts the deal in further jeopardy. The...

US renews some Iran nuclear waivers, targets uranium enrichment

News Source: 
Rudaw
News Date: 
May 4, 2019 -04:00

Trump admin slaps new restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities

News Source: 
NBC News
News Date: 
May 3, 2019 -04:00

Trump, Kim Raise Conditions for Third Summit


May 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in April that they are willing to participate in a third summit, but each imposed conditions on the meeting, raising doubt about the prospects for progress.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) greets North Korea leader Kim Jong Un during a portion of Kim's visit to Vladivostok on April 25. (Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AFP/Getty Images)The Trump administration wants to see additional action from North Korea demonstrating its commitment to denuclearization, while Kim said Pyongyang will abandon the negotiations at the end of this year if the United States does not take a more flexible approach. It is unclear how the two sides will resolve this standoff over the process to advance talks.

The U.S. and North Korean negotiating teams have not met since the second summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi ended abruptly on Feb. 28 without any progress on the goals of denuclearization and peace-building on the Korean peninsula. (See ACT, March 2019.)

Meanwhile, Kim met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 25 in Vladivostok. It was their first summit meeting. Putin told reporters afterward that he discussed denuclearization with Kim, but said North Korea “needs guarantees of its security and sovereignty” in return.

Putin said multilateral talks may be an option to develop “internationals security guarantees for North Korea,” and he said he would convey to Washington Kim’s position on future negotiations with the United States.

Trump, speaking to reporters during his April 11 summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said he would be willing to meet Kim again and expressed his belief that “tremendous things will happen” with North Korea, but it is “not going to go fast.”

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said on April 17 that Washington is looking for a “real indication from North Korea that they’ve made the strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons” and that Trump would be willing to participate in a third summit only if he can get a “real deal.” Bolton described a real deal as a “big deal,” likely referring to the more comprehensive agreement outlining the end state of negotiations that Trump sought in Hanoi. (See ACT, April 2019.)

In April 12 remarks to the North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim said that he is willing to try “one more time” if Washington proposes a third summit, but the United States must have the “right stance,” likely referring to the Trump administration’s preference to pursue a more comprehensive deal and its unwillingness to offer relief from economic sanctions earlier in the process.

Kim was clearly seeking relief from UN sanctions targeting North Korea’s economy during the Hanoi summit, but he told the assembly that the United States is miscalculating if it believes North Korea can be pressured into submission. North Korea “will no longer obsess over lifting sanctions” and will open the path to economic prosperity through our own means,” Kim said.

Pyongyang has repeatedly rejected pursing a big deal and indicated its preference for an incremental approach. In his April 12 remarks, Kim criticized the Trump administration’s “methodology” for pursuing negotiations.

He called for the United States to “lay down unilateral requirements and seek constructive solutions,” saying that the United States has until the end of the year to change its negotiating approach or the “prospects for solving a problem will be bleak and very dangerous.” He did not specify what if any actions North Korea would take if its deadline was not met.

Trump said on April 11 that the United States is still focused on the big deal with North Korea, but he did not rule out a step-by-step approach to negotiations, saying there are “various small deals that could happen.”

Trump continues to rule out economic sanctions relief early in the process. He said on April 11 that sanctions will “remain in place” until denuclearization is complete but that he would not impose new measures at this time.

The Trump administration’s unwillingness to consider economic sanctions relief is a setback for Moon, who reportedly hoped during his April 11 visit to Washington to persuade the Trump administration to be more flexible on sanctions and grant waivers allowing inter-Korean projects to proceed.

At the April 11 press conference, Trump said that he would support joint economic projects between the two Koreas at the right time but that now is not that time. He did say the United States is discussing “certain humanitarian things” and the United States is supportive of South Korean food aid for North Korea.

Moon is seeking a fourth summit with Kim. He said on April 15 that it was time to “begin the preparations in earnest” for the next meeting and that he hopes to hold “detailed and substantive talks on how to achieve further progress that goes beyond the previous two summits” between Trump and Kim.

Kim, however, has criticized Moon for attempting to act as a “mediator” between Pyongyang and Washington. He said on April 12 that Moon should “subordinate everything to the improvement of North-South ties.”

Commentary in North Korean media outlets has also criticized South Korea for “succumbing to the pressure” of the United States and failing to move forward on economic projects designed to promote integration between North and South Korea.

North Korea also criticized the composition of the U.S. negotiating team, with the foreign ministry calling for U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to step aside as head of delegation. In an April 18 statement, Kwon Jong Gun, head of the ministry’s Department of American Affairs, said that “talks will become entangled” if Pompeo is involved in future rounds of negotiations. He called Pompeo “reckless” and said North Korea would prefer a “person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.”

In what may have been an attempt to demonstrate limited patience with the negotiating process and put pressure on the Trump administration, Pyongyang tested what it called a new tactical weapon on April 17. North Korea did not provide specific details about the weapon, but it appeared to be an artillery system with a conventional warhead. Such a weapon would not break Kim’s voluntary moratorium on long-range ballistic missile testing announced in April 2018.

Kim was present at the test, and the state-run Korean Central News Agency said Kim described the weapon as “increasing the combat power” of the army.

 

North Korea threatens to end talks if U.S. refuses to ease its stance on denuclearization.

Officials Say IAEA Inspected Warehouse in Iran


May 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reportedly inspected a warehouse in Tehran that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alleges was used to store documents and materials related to Iran’s past nuclear weapons program. News reports did not specify exactly when the inspection took place, but one official said inspectors visited the site in March, according to a Reuters article.

IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano (left) and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meet in Washington, DC, on April 3. During his U.S. visit, Amano described his agency's efforts to monitor Iranian compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.  (Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)Netanyahu revealed the location of the warehouse during his speech at the UN General Assembly in September and said it was used for “storing massive amounts of equipment and material for Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program,” including 15 kilograms of radioactive material that had recently been removed from the building. Netanyahu called on IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano to “do the right thing” and send inspectors to visit the site “immediately.”

The IAEA typically does not comment on inspections and has not confirmed that a visit to the warehouse took place, but Amano said on April 3 that the agency had not seen any activities taking place “contrary to the Iran nuclear deal.”

Netanyahu did not specify what type of radioactive material was removed from the warehouse. To comply with its nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitments, Iran is required to declare certain nuclear materials, primarily uranium and plutonium, to the IAEA. There are no restrictions on other types of radioactive material, such as cobalt and radium.

The diplomats quoted in the Reuters article said the IAEA collected environmental samples to test for the presence of nuclear materials, but those results may not be fully analyzed until June.

Netanyahu has also been pushing the IAEA to follow up on archival materials documenting Iran’s past nuclear weapons-related work that Israel stole from Iran in January 2018. (See ACT, May 2018.) Netanyahu has argued that the archive’s existence is evidence that Iran is still seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Without naming Israel, Amano has spoken out against efforts by states to influence IAEA monitoring and verification activities. He said on April 5 that states “should not intervene in our work of safeguards implementation.” He emphasized that IAEA work depends on its independence and said that “if attempts are made to micromanage or put pressure on the agency in implementing nuclear verification, that would be counterproductive and extremely harmful.”

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), described Netanyahu’s efforts to pressure the IAEA to further investigate as “futile.” He said on April 9 that the IAEA’s investigation into Iran’s past activities is closed “legally and politically.”

Iran was not required to destroy archives detailing its past nuclear weapons-related work as part of the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The deal does commit Iran to address concerns raised by the IAEA about the military dimensions of its nuclear program prior to receiving U.S., EU, and UN sanctions relief.

In a December 2015 report assessing the material provided by Iran, the IAEA concluded that Tehran had an organized nuclear weapons development program until 2003 and continued some activities intermittently through 2009, but there were no indications of nuclear weapons-related work after that point. (See ACT, January/February 2016.)

U.S. intelligence assessments reached a similar conclusion, and in the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats assessed that “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.”

Meanwhile, Iran has continued nuclear research and development allowed by the JCPOA. During the celebration of National Nuclear Day on April 9, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani drew attention to the country’s nuclear achievements and announced the installation of 20 advanced IR-6 centrifuges at its Natanz facility.

Iran is permitted to enrich uranium using only up to 5,060 of its first-generation IR-1 centrifuge machines under the nuclear deal, but Tehran can test limited numbers of advanced centrifuges based on the terms of the JCPOA and a more specific research and development plan submitted to the IAEA that is not public.

The nuclear deal states that Iran can test limited numbers of IR-6 centrifuges in small and intermediate cascades, but does not provide specific numbers until eight and a half years after implementation of the deal, at which point Iran can test 30 machines in a cascade. Iran is allowed to introduce uranium into the cascades, but cannot withdraw any enriched material.

A European official from one of the states party to the nuclear deal told Arms Control Today on April 12 that if Iran follows through on Rouhani’s announcement, “it would not appear” to violate the terms of the nuclear deal.

 

U.S. Ends Exemptions to Iran Oil Sanctions

Ramping up U.S. pressure on Tehran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on April 22 that the Trump administration will no longer exempt any countries from U.S. sanctions designed to shut down Iranian oil exports.

U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sales took effect last November as part of President Donald Trump’s May 2018 decision to withdraw from the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran and reimpose pre-agreement sanctions on Iran. The Trump administration issued 180-day waivers in November allowing seven states and Taiwan to continue importing Iranian oil, but those waivers expire May 2. (See ACT, December 2018.) The president has the authority to renew the waivers every 180 days if a nation significantly reduces its oil imports from Iran.

Pompeo said that issuing the waivers in November gave U.S. allies and partners time to “wean themselves off of Iranian oil and to ensure a well-supplied oil market.” The United States is now “going to zero,” Pompeo said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif described the U.S. decision as an act of “economic terrorism.” Iranian officials said Tehran will respond and raised the prospect of closing the Strait of Hormuz, through which about 30 percent of the world’s seaborne oil passes on a daily basis.

China, the largest purchaser of Iranian oil, denounced the U.S. decision, and experts speculate that Beijing may continue importing oil despite Pompeo’s announcement. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on April 23 that Beijing “opposes U.S. unilateral sanctions” and is committed to protecting the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises.”

Pompeo said that the United States will “enforce sanctions and monitor compliance.” He warned that “any nation or entity interacting with Iran should do its diligence and err on the side of caution.”

The United States will maintain the sanctions until Iran ends its “pursuit of nuclear weapons,” ballistic missile testing and proliferation, and terrorism sponsorship, Pompeo said.

He did not offer any evidence that Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons or violating the 2015 nuclear deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency, tasked with monitoring the agreement, has repeatedly stated that Iran is meeting its obligations.

Prior to the November sanctions, Iran had been exporting approximately 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. That volume has dropped to about 1 million barrels daily as a result of the sanctions.

Pompeo said the United States was in close contact with other oil suppliers to ensure that the oil market remained balanced. In an April 22 statement, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said that Riyadh would be “monitoring” the market, but did not commit to increasing production.
—KELSEY DAVENPORT

The nuclear watchdog has continued monitoring activities in Iran as suspicions linger.

Indian ASAT Test Raises Space Risks


May 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

India’s successful March 27 test of a weapon designed to destroy satellites has raised concerns that the resulting debris field may threaten orbiting space objects and that other states will develop similar weapons.

InIndia launched a satellite interceptor on this booster March 27. (Photo: Defense Research and Development Organization) dian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that New Delhi had successfully used a ballistic missile interceptor to destroy an orbiting satellite, becoming just the fourth country after China, Russia, and the United States to test such anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons.

India launched the target satellite into low orbit in January, and the interceptor, developed as part of India’s ballistic missile defense system by the Defense Research and Development Organization, was launched from the Abdul Kalam Island launch center. India may have attempted an earlier test on Feb. 12, but that effort appears to have been unsuccessful.

Modi called the test a “historic feat” and said that the country is now “an established space power.” Modi said that India continues to maintain that “space should not be an area for warfare and that remains unchanged” despite the successful test. He described the test as defensive and said it was not targeted at any particular country.

Despite Modi’s insistence that the test was defensive, India’s development of ASAT capabilities could be perceived as offensive and destabilizing. ASAT weapons allow a state to target another country’s satellites, which could cripple intelligence and communications in the event of a conflict.

India has been seeking to match and deter Chinese military capabilities, and New Delhi’s pursuit of an ASAT weapon may have been designed to send a signal to Beijing, which conducted its own ASAT weapons test in 2007. ASAT capabilities are less useful against India’s other regional adversary, Pakistan, because Islamabad relies less on satellites for military and security purposes.

The U.S. State Department press release following the March 27 test took note of India’s announcement, but did not condemn the test. The muted U.S. response could be interpreted by India and other states as a green light for future testing, contributing to concerns about igniting a space race.

In addition to enhancing risks of an ASAT weapons competition, the Indian test introduced orbital debris that could threaten other objects circling the globe, including the International Space Station.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said it was a “terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris” above the station. He said it is “not acceptable” to put astronauts at risk.

Other nations’ ASAT weapons tests have created even larger debris fields. China tested an ASAT weapon in 2007, creating more than 2,300 pieces of debris. The Indian test likely produced about 400 pieces, similar to a 2008 test conducted by the United States. The United States argued at the time that its test was necessary to destroy a falling satellite.

The United States, Russia, and China are continuing to develop and refine ASAT weapons, but the testing is largely done through “proximity operations,” which are designed to prevent the actual destruction of satellites.

A March 27 statement from the Indian foreign ministry said that the test deliberately targeted a satellite in low orbit “to ensure that there is no space debris” and that any debris created “will decay and fall back onto the Earth within weeks.”

The Indian test revived calls for negotiating new limits to guide the peaceful use of space. Currently, the only international restraint is the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits the placement and testing of weapons of mass destruction and military installations in outer space, but does not address other space-based weapons or ASAT technology.

The European Union began to push for negotiations to develop guidelines on the use of outer space in 2008 and produced a draft code of conduct for outer space in 2012. India participated in the discussions on the code, and the draft included commitments by states to pursue space debris mitigation efforts and a controversial commitment to avoid “intentional destruction and other harmful activities.”

The United Nations held negotiations in July 2015 on the proposed code, which would be nonbinding, unlike a treaty. The Obama administration said at the time that the United States supported the meeting, but would not propose the negotiation of an ASAT weapons test moratorium.

Russia and China also objected to elements of the code and preferred to limit its applicability to civilian space activities, which would not cover ASAT weapons testing.

Preventing an arms race in space is on the agenda for the Conference on Disarmament (CD), but the issue has seen little progress there. Russia and China drafted a treaty and presented it to the CD in 2008. They later revised it in 2014, and a group of governmental experts made recommendations to the CD in 2017 on elements necessary for a legally binding treaty preventing an arms race in outer space. The Russian and Chinese proposal, however, does not definitively define what constitutes a space weapon, and because ASAT missile interceptors are ground based, they would likely not be covered by the draft text.

 

Advocates for the peaceful uses of space decry India’s successful test to destroy an orbiting satellite.

Renewing Waivers For Nuclear Projects With Iran Serves U.S. Interests

News Source: 
LobeLog
News Date: 
April 30, 2019 -04:00

Renewing Waivers for Nuclear Projects with Iran Serves U.S. Interests

Sections:

Body: 

Volume 11, Issue 7, April 29, 2019

A critical decision in the long-running effort to block Iran’s potential path to nuclear weapons is just days away. The Trump administration must decide by May 2 to renew sanctions waivers allowing required nuclear cooperation projects with Iran detailed in the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal to continue or let the waivers lapse. Failure to grant the waivers would jeopardize U.S. nonproliferation priorities and increase the risk that the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will collapse. Tehran is already threatening to withdraw from the JCPOA and, more seriously, the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) after the United States announced April 22 that it would no longer grant waivers to states seeking to purchase Iranian oil.

When the Trump administration first issued the 180-day nuclear cooperation waivers Nov. 5, it stated that allowing these projects to go forward would “impede Iran’s ability to reconstitute its weapons program and lock in the nuclear status quo until we can secure a stronger deal”—a clear acknowledgement that the U.S. benefits from these crucial nonproliferation projects.

The waivers were necessary after U.S. President Donald Trump violated the JCPOA by reimposing sanctions on Iran–despite Tehran’s clear record of compliance—and withdrew from the accord in May 2018. Had the Trump administration not issued the waivers, the United States could have penalized foreign entities involved in the nuclear projects for conducting legitimate work required by the JCPOA and endorsed by the UN Security Council in Resolution 2231.

Despite the fact that these nuclear cooperation projects help to reduce Iran’s nuclear weapons potential, the White House may allow the waivers to expire in order to try to ratchet up the pressure on Iran even further. Six Republican Senators wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo April 9 encouraging the Trump administration to allow the waivers to lapse in order to put additional pressure on Tehran. These members of Congress and some officials within the Trump administration appear to believe that the United States can coerce Iran’s leaders into a new set of negotiations designed to produce a “stronger deal” that addresses Iranian regional activities that Washington views as destabilizing and requires Tehran to capitulate to all U.S. demands on the country’s nuclear program. So far, this strategy has only isolated the United States and damaged Washington’s credibility.

In an April 11 Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, Pompeo said the decision regarding the nuclear cooperation projects is “complicated,” but did not indicate if the waivers would be renewed. Reportedly, Pompeo favors granting the waivers, but Iran hardliners in the National Security Council are opposed to renewal.

Failure to renew the waivers for JCPOA-related nuclear cooperation projects will not advance the Trump administration’s plan to maximize pressure on Iran in pursuit of a mythical “better deal,” which appears to be a thinly disguised call for regime change. Rather, it would be an own goal that sets back U.S. nonproliferation priorities and compounds Trump’s irresponsible decision to jeopardize the JCPOA by reimposing sanctions. It also risks putting the remaining P4+1 parties to the JCPOA (China, France, Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the EU) in violation of the deal by preventing them from meeting obligations under the agreement to assist Iran with certain nuclear projects, thus giving Iran a further justification to abandon the agreement.

Jeopardizing Critical Nonproliferation Projects

If the Trump administration does not issue the waivers, it will put at risk critical projects that serve U.S. and international nonproliferation and security interests, particularly the conversion efforts at the Arak reactor and the Fordow facility, a former uranium enrichment site.

Arak: Prior to the negotiation of the JCPOA, the unfinished heavy-water reactor at Arak posed a proliferation risk that the United States and its negotiating partners sought to mitigate with the nuclear deal. If Iran had completed the reactor as originally designed, it would have produced enough plutonium for an estimated two nuclear weapons per year.

As a result of the JCPOA, Iran removed the calandria, or core, from the Arak reactor, filled it with concrete, and committed not to undertake any additional work at the site based on the original design. The IAEA verified the removal of the calandria and continues to monitor the reactor site. In addition, Iran committed to modify the reactor so that, when operational, it would produce a fraction of the necessary plutonium for a nuclear weapon on an annual basis.

Iran also agreed to ship out the spent fuel from the reactor for 15 years, preventing Tehran from accumulating several years’ worth of plutonium and then reprocessing it into a form suitable for nuclear weapons. The JCPOA established a working group “to support and facilitate the redesign and rebuilding” of the Arak reactor. (See JCPOA, Annex III, Section B, Paragraph 5.1.) China agreed to lead the work with the United States providing critical support verifying the design. When the Trump administration withdrew from the deal, the UK took over the U.S. role.

If China is prevented from fulfilling its contract on the Arak work, Iran may decide at some point to restart construction on the reactor, perhaps based on the original design. If Tehran were to go down that path, it would pose a proliferation risk and provide Iran with a source of plutonium, which when separated, could be used for nuclear weapons.

However, once the reactor is converted, it would be more difficult and time consuming for Iran to use it for weapons purposes or to revert back to the original design. Given the nonproliferation benefits of modifying the Arak reactor and the risks of Iran returning to its original plan for the reactor, supporting and allowing conversion efforts to continue clearly serves U.S. interests.

Fordow: A similar argument can be made for the Fordow site. Prior to the negotiation of the JCPOA, Iran was enriching uranium to 20 percent uranium-235 at Fordow. While 20 percent uranium-235 is still far below the 90 percent considered weapons grade, it poses a greater proliferation risk as it is easier to increase enrichment from 20 percent to 90 percent than it is to move from 3.67 percent (reactor grade and Iran’s current limit under the JCPOA) to 20 percent.

As a result of the JCPOA, Iran is prohibited from enriching uranium and having any nuclear material at the Fordow facility for 15 years. Iran also had the reduce the number of centrifuges at Fordow from about 2,700 first generation IR-1 machines to 1,044. Of the 1,044 centrifuges, two cascades (348 centrifuges) will be used for stable isotope production.

The JCPOA stipulates that Iran will convert the facility into a “nuclear physics, and technology centre ” and encourage international collaboration in certain areas of research. (See JCPOA, Annex I, Section H, Paragraph 44.) The IAEA is also permitted daily access to the site under the JCPOA and the deal notes that Russia will assist with the conversion efforts.

Turning Fordow into a nuclear physics center, reducing the centrifuges at the site, and using a portion of them for stable isotope production serves U.S. and international nonproliferation interests. It significantly reduces the risk that Iran will reconstitute the facility for uranium enrichment and, by having a regular Russian and IAEA presence at the site, it provides greater assurance that if Iran were to begin to transition Fordow back to a uranium enrichment plant, the international community would quickly be alerted to that fact.

Additionally, the Fordow facility is located within a mountain that would render it nearly impossible to destroy using conventional military means. A military strike is not a viable option for addressing Iran’s nuclear program should Tehran exit the JCPOA and resume more troublesome nuclear activities, and it is more likely to incentivize the country to pursue nuclear weapons. But the invulnerability of Fordow to a strike underscores the importance of retaining the JCPOA and preventing the proliferation risk that would come if Iran were to reconstitute uranium enrichment at the Fordow site.

Other Projects: Additional JCPOA-supported projects that could be impacted if the United States does not grant waivers include the transfer of 20 percent enriched uranium fuel to Iran for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), which produces medical isotopes, and Russia’s assistance at the Bushehr nuclear power reactor.

Under the JCPOA, Iran is allowed to import limited quantities of fuel enriched to 20 percent uranium-235 under IAEA monitoring for the TRR. The P4+1 are required by the deal to assist Iran in obtaining the fuel. (See JCPOA, Annex I, Section J, Paragraph 60.) If Tehran is unable to purchase the 20 percent material, it could lead Iran to resume enrichment to that level, which poses a far greater proliferation risk than the 3.67-percent uranium-235 limit that Iran is required to abide by for 15 years under the JCPOA.

At Bushehr, Iran’s sole civil nuclear power reactor is fueled by the Russians. Russia also removes the spent fuel. Sanctioning Russian entities involved in the operation of the reactor and the spent fuel removal risks incentivizing Iran to increase its enrichment capacity to fuel that reactor, again posing a greater proliferation threat.

Additionally, these projects, particularly the conversion of Fordow to a stable isotope production and research center and the modifications of the Arak reactor, are tangible benefits for Iran that incentivize its continued compliance with the nuclear deal. Currently, as a result of Trump violating the JCPOA by reimposing sanctions, Iran’s economy has suffered, and foreign entities have withdrawn from the Iranian market. Nevertheless, research and development activities like the Fordow and Arak projects still provide Iran with benefits and incentives to remain in the agreement.

Putting U.S. Partners and Allies in Violation of the JCPOA

In addition to halting projects that benefit U.S. security and nonproliferation objectives, failure to grant the waivers allowing nuclear cooperation projects to continue risks putting the remaining P4+1 parties to the deal in violation of the agreement.

The impact of halting nuclear cooperation differs from the impact of foreign entities exiting the Iranian market in order to avoid being penalized under U.S. sanctions reimposed by Trump. Reimposing sanctions put the United States in violation of the JCPOA, but the deal does not guarantee Iran any particular level of economic benefit or require the P4+1 to guarantee that companies will do business with Iran. Therefore, the decision by companies to sever contracts with Iran did not abrogate P4+1 commitments under the deal.

However, unlike the economic sanctions, certain nuclear cooperation projects are required by the JCPOA and have been endorsed by the UN Security Council. If entities involved in these projects halt work out of fear of being sanctioned and the P4+1 are unable to meet their obligations to assist with these projects, it risks putting them in violation of the deal.

On Fordow, Annex III of the JCPOA states that “the transitioning to stable isotope production of two cascades will be conducted in a joint partnership between the Russian Federation and Iran, on the basis of arrangements to be mutually agreed upon.” (See JCPOA, Annex III, Section C, Paragraph 7.1.) Russia’s work at Bushehr would also be at risk if the Trump administration does not issue a waiver. In addition to providing fuel for the reactor and removing spent fuel, Rosatom, Russia’s state-run energy organization, is currently working on an additional two reactor units at the site.

If the United States does not grant a waiver allowing Russia’s state-run energy organization Rosatom to continue working at Bushehr and Fordow, it will put Moscow in the difficult decision of deciding between meeting its explicit commitments under the JCPOA and risking U.S. penalties or violating the nuclear deal.

Similarly, Annex III of the JCPOA states that the Arak working group “will provide assistance needed by Iran for redesigning and rebuilding the reactor” and agree upon steps to provide an “assured path forward to modernize the reactor.” (See JCPOA, Annex III, Section B, Paragraphs 5.1; 5.5.)

The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is the primary entity involved in the Arak reactor redesign project and the CNNC and Iran agreed upon a contract in 2017 for the initial phases of the work. However, despite receiving a wavier in November, Iran has raised concerns about the pace of work at Arak, as CNNC reportedly considers the guidance provided by the Trump administration on the waiver to be vague and insufficient. Given CNNC’s global reach and ambitions, the company is likely adverse to any risk of sanction by the United States and would be unwilling to continue the project without a waiver.

There are additional implications for revoking the waivers beyond the nuclear deal with Iran. Rosatom, for instance, is involved in a number of nuclear cooperation projects with U.S. entities. If Washington refuses to grant the waivers allowing legitimate work under the JCPOA to continue, Rosatom and others could choose to retaliate by terminating projects with U.S. based entities. That could inhibit competitiveness of the U.S. nuclear industry and adversely impact their operations.

The General Nonproliferation Value of Nuclear Cooperation

Beyond the nonproliferation and JCPOA-compliance benefits of issuing the waivers, there is value to encouraging and supporting additional nuclear cooperation projects suggested in Annex III of the agreement. Unlike the work at Arak, Fordow, the TRR, and Bushehr, these projects are optional, yet fulfilling them would have significant nuclear security and safety benefits. Additionally, it would continue to provide greater transparency into Iran’s civil nuclear activities.

Iran currently operates two reactors, the TRR and the Bushehr reactor, and has ambitious plans to expand its nuclear program for energy generation. Yet Iran lags behind international standards and best practices for nuclear safety and security. Iran is not a party to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 amendment, nor the Nuclear Safety Convention. Iran also does not publish its nuclear regulatory practices, so it is difficult to determine if Tehran is meeting international standards for governing its civil nuclear activities. Annex III of the JCPOA encourages cooperative work to address these critical gaps on nuclear security and safety, including measures such as strengthening emergency preparedness, training and workshops on nuclear safety and security, the establishment of a nuclear safety center, and assistance to strengthen physical protection at nuclear facilities.

Cooperative work on several of these areas is already underway. The EU-Iran high-level seminars on nuclear cooperation have begun the initial phases of constructing a Nuclear Safety Center and assisting Iran with updating its regulatory frameworks to reflect international best practices. This work is proceeding and does not appear, at this time, to be impacted by U.S. sanctions.

This type of assistance project benefits not only Iran, but the entire region. A nuclear incident, caused either by accident or an intentional act of sabotage, would have an impact beyond Iran’s borders. It is in the best interests of Middle Eastern countries, particularly those in the Persian Gulf, that Iran’s nuclear activities are safe and secure. Without the JCPOA, or if the United States aggressively targets entities involved in legitimate nuclear cooperation, it is unlikely that these projects will continue.

Conclusion

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA and reimpose sanctions was irresponsible and unjustified. If the Trump administration refuses to renew the waivers allowing nuclear cooperation projects to continue it would compound his dangerous decision to abandon the agreement.

Supporting nuclear cooperation with Iran benefits U.S. nonproliferation priorities and national security. It also allows the remaining parties to the deal to meet JCPOA requirements. Additionally, these projects provide greater insight and transparency into Iran’s nuclear activities and can provide important safety and security benefits.—KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy

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Failure to grant the sanctions waivers detailed in the 2015 Iran nucelar deal would jeopardize U.S. nonproliferation priorities and increases the risk that the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will collapse.

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