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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
Kelsey Davenport

A Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement and Possible Military Dimensions to Iran's Nuclear Program

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Volume 6, Issue 9, October 17, 2014         

Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) are working to negotiate a comprehensive agreement by Nov. 24 that ensures that Iran does not use its nuclear program to build nuclear weapons.

As they do, some U.S. policymakers are calling for resolution of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) investigation into possible nuclear weapons-related activities that Iran is believed to undertaken before a nuclear deal with the P5+1 is reached.

Emphasis on a quick resolution to the IAEA's investigation and insistence that it is resolved before a comprehensive agreement is concluded, threatens to derail talks with the P5+1 and sabotage the progress made to date. A comprehensive agreement is still within reach if the two sides can agree on limits to Tehran's uranium-enrichment and plutonium-production capabilities, combined with more stringent international monitoring, in return for phased sanctions relief--but both sides must be flexible and keep extraneous issues from spoiling the talks.  

The concerns motivating U.S. lawmakers to call for resolution of the IAEA investigation in advance of a deal appear to have been spurred by the news that Iran missed an Aug. 25 deadline to submit information on two areas of activities that could be related to the development of nuclear weapons. These activities are part of a larger set of allegations that the IAEA listed in an annex to its November 2011 Board of Governors report about Iran's past activities related to nuclear weapons development, referred to as the possible military dimensions (PMDs). Iran is cooperating with the IAEA to resolve these concerns and has met with the agency twice since missing the deadline to determine a path forward.

Resolving the PMD issue is important but is not a prerequisite for a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Nor is it realistic or necessary to expect a full "confession" from Iran that it pursued nuclear weapons in the past.

While it is vital that Iran cooperate with the investigation in a timely manner, the IAEA will need time to pursue leads, conduct a thorough review of the evidence, and assess whether activities with possible military dimensions took place and if they have been halted. It would be unwise to rush the IAEA into a quick resolution of its investigation solely to meet negotiating deadlines or to hold up the conclusion of the talks in order to wait months, or even years, for the IAEA to wrap up its work.

Furthermore, it is more likely that the IAEA would be able to obtain the cooperation and the information it needs to resolve the outstanding PMD questions if there is a comprehensive nuclear agreement because the sanctions relief that is so important to Iran will be tied to the satisfactory conclusion of the IAEA probe. Moving forward on a comprehensive agreement that assures Iran that its future peaceful nuclear activities will not be penalized or further restricted if it discloses information about the PMDs could also serve as a motivator for Iran to cooperate with the IAEA's investigation in a more timely manner.

What Are the PMDs?
Although much of Iran's nuclear program consists of dual-use technology that can be dedicated to civil nuclear energy and nuclear weapons use, Tehran is widely believed to have pursued activities relevant to the development of a nuclear warhead in an organized program prior to 2003. According to evidence provided to the IAEA, some PMD activities may have resumed.

In November 2011, the IAEA released information in an annex to its quarterly report that detailed Iran's suspected warhead work based on intelligence it received from the United States and several other countries, as well as its own investigation. According to the report, Iran was engaged in an effort prior to the end of 2003 that spanned the full range of nuclear weapons development, from acquiring the raw nuclear material to working on a weapon that could eventually be delivered via a missile.

This judgment is consistent with the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Assessment on Iran, which assessed "with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons" and that the program was halted in the fall of 2003. It assessed "with moderate confidence that Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program."

According to the November 2011 IAEA report, however, some information from IAEA member states suggests that some activities that would be "highly" relevant to a nuclear weapons program have resumed since 2004. Subsequent IAEA reports indicate that the agency received further information about periodic activities related to weapons development.

The series of projects that made up what the IAEA's November 2011 report called "the AMAD Plan," appears to have been overseen by senior Iranian figures who were engaged in working-level correspondence consistent with a coordinated program. Among the key components of this program were the following:

  • High-explosives testing. Iran's experiments involving exploding bridge wire detonators and the simultaneous firing of explosives around a hemispherical shape point to work on nuclear warhead design. Iran admits to carrying out such work, but claims it was for conventional military and civilian purposes and disputes some of the technical details.
  • Warhead design verification. Iran carried out experiments using high explosives to test the validity of its warhead design and engaged in preparatory work to carry out a full-scale underground nuclear test explosion.
  • Shahab-3 re-entry vehicle. Documentation reviewed by the IAEA has suggested that as late as 2003, Iran sought to adapt the payload section of a Shahab-3 missile for accommodating a nuclear warhead.
Iran has denied pursuing a warhead-development program and claims that the information on which the IAEA assessment is based is a fabrication.

The agency's investigation, however, is not limited to PMD issues. The IAEA is also seeking clarification from Iran on its nuclear declaration to the agency. This includes providing the IAEA with greater access to sites, individuals, and information about nuclear activities, such as centrifuge development.

The information and access provided to the IAEA as part of these actions gives the agency a more-complete picture of Iran's nuclear activities, and allows the IAEA to verify the completeness and accuracy of Iran's nuclear declaration.

Resolving the PMDs
Prior to the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Iran resisted cooperation with the IAEA on its investigation into the PMD issues and other areas of concern related to the clarity and completeness of Iran's nuclear declaration.

Rouhani, however, promised greater transparency on Iran's nuclear program, although his government continues to dispute the validity of the PMD evidence in possession of the IAEA and refutes the allegations that work was done to develop nuclear weapons.  On November 11, 2013, Iran and the IAEA concluded a framework agreement for moving forward to resolve the outstanding concerns.

Under the terms of the framework, Iran and the IAEA agreed to resolve all outstanding issues, including PMDs, in a step-by-step manner.

In the past year, under this framework, Iran has agreed to three sets of actions and in total has provided the IAEA with information and access on 16 areas of concern, including one PMD issue. In May, Iran provided the IAEA with information regarding its experiments with exploding bridge wire detonators and has since provided additional information based on further questions from the IAEA. Iran maintained that its work with these detonators was for civilian purposes. Bridge wire detonators are used for drilling in oil and gas fields.  

In May, as part of a set of five more actions under the framework, Iran agreed to provide the IAEA with information on two more PMD issues.

These two actions, which were to be completed by Aug. 25, include providing the IAEA with information on the initiation of high-explosives and studies on neutron transport, related modeling and calculations, and their alleged application to compressed materials. These activities are relevant to developing nuclear weapons.

Iran missed the deadline, but has since met with the IAEA to determine a path forward. Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Reza Najafi, said on Sept. 18 that the actions have not been completed "due to their complexity" and because the IAEA allegations are based on invalid information. Najafi said that the IAEA was aware Iran might not complete the actions by that date.

Most recently, Iranian and IAEA officials met in Tehran Oct. 7-8.Najafi described the meeting as "constructive." Iran and the IAEA agreed to meet again, at a date yet to be determined, to continue talks on resolving these issues.

PMDs and the Final Nuclear Agreement
Tying a comprehensive nuclear agreement to a resolution of the IAEA's investigation into the PMDs is unnecessary and risks derailing a deal.

Expecting Iran to "confess" that it pursued a nuclear weapons program is unrealistic and unnecessary. After having spent years denying that it pursued nuclear weapons and having delivered a fatwa against nuclear weapons, Tehran's senior leaders cannot afford to admit that it hid a nuclear weapons program.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, 354 members of Congress said that transparency on the PMD actions are necessary in order to establish a meaningful monitoring and verification system in a comprehensive deal.

Resolution of the agency's investigation is not necessary to put in place a comprehensive monitoring and verification regime that will prevent Iran from pursuing a covert program to build nuclear weapon or deviating from a comprehensive nuclear deal.

Establishing a baseline of Iran's nuclear program based on the agency's investigation will also take some time. In a best-case scenario, IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano said last month that the IAEA will need 15 months to complete its investigation and assessment of Iran's nuclear declaration and PMDs. Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 have six weeks to reach a comprehensive deal. Rushing the IAEA to complete its investigation will not provide the agency with the appropriate amount of time it needs to assess the entire program.

The IAEA's investigation into Iran's past nuclear activities related to weapons development is a separate process, and conditioning a nuclear deal on completion of the agency's investigation would delay and likely undermine the prospect for the conclusion of a comprehensive nuclear deal that limits Iran's nuclear potential and improves the international community's ability to detect and disrupt any potential future nuclear weapons-related effort.

Stringent and intrusive monitoring and verification mechanisms under the terms of the Additional Protocol would give the IAEA access to all of Iran's nuclear sites at short notice and access to additional sites if the agency suspects nuclear activities may be talking place. The IAEA and the international community will be able to quickly detect and deter any attempt to pursue nuclear weapons, whether through a covert program or by using declared facilities. Such measures are only possible with the negotiation of a comprehensive nuclear agreement by the P5+1 and Iran.

Additionally, sanctions relief that is important to Iran is likely to be tied to a satisfactory conclusion of the IAEA's investigation. The covert nature of Iran's nuclear program in the last decade spurred the IAEA to refer Iran to the UN Security Council. Subsequent sanctions that prohibit Iran from important materials and technologies important to nuclear development were put in place because Iran was not cooperating with the IAEA. It is unlikely that all of these sanctions will be removed without  satisfactory completion of the IAEA's investigation..

A comprehensive nuclear agreement can also take Iran's compliance with its IAEA obligations into account. Any future expansion of Iran's nuclear program, particularly its uranium enrichment, could be contingent  on the IAEA's satisfactory conclusion of its investigations. A deal between Iran and the P5+1 could also assure Iran that it will not be penalized for disclosures about past PMD activities.

Understanding Iran's past nuclear activities related to weapons development is important, but the international community must remain focused on a the future and ensuring that Iran's nuclear program is transparent and limited. Focusing too much on the past will only jeopardize the best opportunity in a decade to reach a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran. --KELSEY DAVENPORT

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Iran and the P5+1 are working to negotiate a comprehensive agreement by Nov. 24 that ensures that Iran does not use its nuclear program to build nuclear weapons.

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Resolution on Israel Fails at IAEA

By Kelsey Davenport

For the second year in a row, a resolution critical of Israel’s nuclear program failed to pass the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month. 

IAEA member states voted 58-45 against the resolution on Sept. 25.

The nonbinding resolution, referred to as “Israeli Nuclear Capabilities” and sponsored by a group of 17 Arab states, called on Israel to put its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards and join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon state.

In 2009 a similar resolution passed the IAEA conference for the first time after being voted down for years. An attempt the next year failed. The Arab states did not put the measure on the agenda in 2011 and 2012, saying they hoped that Israel would be more likely to attend a regional meeting on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East if it did not feel singled out for condemnation in the region.

The Arab states revived the measure in 2013 after the meeting on the WMD-free zone did not take place as planned in December 2012. 

A commitment to hold the meeting by the end of 2012 was a critical piece of the consensus on the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference. A meeting subsequently was scheduled for December 2012 in Helsinki, but was postponed when it became clear that not all of the countries in the region were willing to attend the conference. (See ACT, December 2012.)

Israel does not publicly admit to possessing nuclear weapons, but is widely believed to have an arsenal of approximately 80 to 100 warheads. Israel is an IAEA member and has placed some of its nuclear facilities under agency safeguards.

Thomas Countryman, U.S. assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said in a Sept. 25 statement that the United States “regret[ted]” that the resolution was introduced.

He said discussion of the resolution diverted IAEA member states from the “shared priority of strengthening the IAEA, and has diverted the regional states from the critical task of engaging with each other.”

For the second year in a row, a resolution critical of Israel’s nuclear program failed to pass the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month. 

Australia, India Sign Uranium Deal

By Kelsey Davenport

Australia and India signed a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement in New Delhi last month that will allow India to purchase uranium from Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the deal Sept. 5 during Abbott’s visit to India. Modi hailed the agreement as a “historical milestone” in the relationship between the two countries. 

A description of the agreement released by Modi’s office said the agreement will “promote cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy” and that Australia will provide “long-term reliable supplies of uranium” to India. The text of the agreement has not been released.

Abbott said India has an “impeccable” nonproliferation record and that Australia had received commitments from New Delhi that the uranium supplied to India would be used for civilian purposes and not the development of nuclear weapons. 

Australia and India began negotiations on the agreement more than two years ago, after Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard proposed lifting the country’s ban on uranium sales to India in 2011. Australia’s Labor Party voted in favor of the proposal in December 2011. (See ACT, January/February 2012.) 

Australia, one of the world’s largest producers of uranium ore, is a party to the Treaty of Rarotonga, which established a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the South Pacific. Under the treaty, parties are obligated to ensure that nuclear technology and materials are exported only to countries “subject to the safeguards required by Article III.1” of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

India is not a party to the NPT, but negotiated a limited safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2008. This means that the IAEA has access to some but not all of India’s nuclear facilities. 

India’s safeguards agreement helped pave the way for an exemption from the rules of the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008 to allow the group’s member states, including Australia, to export uranium and other nuclear goods to India. The rules of the voluntary regime generally prohibit nuclear exports to countries that are outside the NPT. 

In July of this year, India ratified an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement, which Australia said was a precondition for any agreement. 

The additional protocol, which India negotiated with the IAEA in 2009, is a voluntary measure that does not include many of the key provisions included in the IAEA Model Additional Protocol. It does not give the IAEA the authority to inspect undeclared facilities or require India to report on all of its nuclear fuel-cycle research and development. (See ACT, April 2009.) Australia’s Liberal Party opposed lifting the ban on sales to India in 2011 in part because India’s additional protocol does not meet the standards of full-scope safeguards required under the Treaty of Rarotonga.

In addition to mining its own uranium ore, India imports natural uranium from Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Namibia. 

India also is negotiating a nuclear cooperation with Japan. While visiting Japan last month, Modi said on Sept. 1 that he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed negotiators to “work expeditiously to conclude” a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. Modi said the negotiators had made “significant progress” over the past few months. 

India and Japan began negotiating the agreement in 2010. The talks were interrupted by the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011, but resumed in May 2013. 

As part of any agreement, Japan has said it wants India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and pledge not to reprocess spent nuclear fuel produced using technology or materials obtained from Tokyo. Reprocessing produces plutonium, which can be used in nuclear weapons.

India will be able to purchase uranium from Australia under a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement that the two countries signed last month.

IAEA Reports Delay in Iran Probe

By Kelsey Davenport

Iran provided the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with access to several nuclear facilities in August, but is behind schedule on turning over information on alleged activities related to nuclear weapons development, according to the agency’s director-general. 

Yukiya Amano told the IAEA Board of Governors on Sept. 15 that Iran expressed a willingness to “accelerate the resolution of all outstanding issues” and has begun discussions with the agency about the two remaining actions of the five that Tehran agreed to complete by Aug. 25. 

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Reza Najafi, said on Sept. 18 that the actions have not been completed “due to their complexity” and because the IAEA allegations are based on invalid information. Najafi said that the IAEA characterization that Iran had “missed the deadline” of Aug. 25 is inaccurate because the agency was aware Iran might not complete the actions by that date. 

On May 21, Tehran pledged to provide the agency with information in five areas of concern to the IAEA. (See ACT, June 2014.) These actions are part of a November 2013 agreement, the Framework for Cooperation, in which Iran and the IAEA committed to “resolve all present and past issues,” including allegations of activities with possible relevance for developing nuclear weapons, or “possible military dimensions,” as the agency refers to them. (See ACT, December 2013.) 

The IAEA laid out its concerns about possible weaponization activities in detail in its November 2011 report to its board, but did not hand over its evidence to Iran. (See ACT, December 2011.) 

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. Najafi said Iran denies the allegations of weaponization activities and that there are no “authenticated documents” to back up the IAEA allegations. Nevertheless, Iran will continue to cooperate to clarify the ambiguities, he said. 

The two incomplete actions include providing information on certain kinds of high explosives that could be relevant to nuclear weapons and information on studies “in Iran in relation to neutron transport and associated modelling and calculations and their alleged application to compressed materials.” Neutron transport studies can be relevent to nuclear weapons development. 

Iran has already completed 13 actions by two agreed-on deadlines earlier this year, including providing the IAEA with information on the alleged weaponization issue involving exploding bridge wire detonators. (See ACT, September 2014.) 

Najafi said that the information proved that the detonators were for civilian applications in the oil and gas industry. The IAEA, however, has said that it will not issue an assessment until Iran has furnished information on all the alleged weaponization activities. 

In his Sept. 15 remarks to the board, Amano said the IAEA also had requested that Iran provide the agency with proposals for new practical measures by Sept. 2 to advance the IAEA investigation under the Framework for Cooperation. Amano said that Iran had not proposed any new measures. 

Najafi said that as soon as the remaining two actions are completed, Iran and the IAEA can discuss additional measures. 

In comments to the press Sept. 15, Amano said the IAEA investigation could be completed in about 15 months if Iran cooperated. The aim of the probe is to give the IAEA an understanding of the “whole picture” so that it can issue a factual assessment of the alleged weaponization activities to the IAEA board, Amano said. 

U.S. Reaction

Laura Kennedy, chargé d’affaires at the U.S. mission to the IAEA, said Sept. 18 that the United States is concerned “about the pace of progress in addressing the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.”

She urged Iran to “intensify its engagement” with the IAEA and implement the measures “without delay.” 

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the panel’s ranking member, have drafted a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressing their concern over Iran’s “refusal to fully cooperate” with the IAEA investigation. The draft letter, circulated among House members for signature on Sept. 16, said that the only “reasonable conclusion” to be drawn from Iran’s “stonewalling” of the IAEA investigation is that Iran has “much to hide.” As Arms Control Today went to press, the letter had not been sent.

Royce and Engel said that Iran’s willingness to reveal aspects of its nuclear program, including the alleged weaponization activities, is a “fundamental test” of Iran’s intention to uphold a comprehensive nuclear agreement. 

Separately from the talks with the IAEA, Iran is negotiating with the United States and five other world powers over limits to its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief (see "Little Progress Seen in Iran Talks").

Completed Actions

In its most recent quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program, the IAEA said that one of the five actions was completed before the Aug. 25 deadline, while the other two were completed Aug. 30-31. 

According to the Sept. 5 report, Iran provided the agency with access to a centrifuge assembly workshop Aug. 18-20 and access to a centrifuges research and development center Aug. 30. 

On Aug. 31, Iran and the IAEA agreed on a safeguards approach for the Arak heavy-water reactor. Under that approach, the agency is to have regular access to the partially built reactor and receive updates on design information. Iran halted construction on the reactor in January as part of an interim agreement with the six world powers.

Iran is behind schedule on turning over information to the International Atomic Energy Agency on alleged activities related to nuclear weapons development.

Little Progress Seen in Iran Talks

By Kelsey Davenport

President Barack Obama last month urged Iran to take advantage of a “historic opportunity” to reach a nuclear agreement with the United States and five other world powers, but after a week of talks, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said negotiators made little progress.

In his Sept. 24 speech at the opening of the UN General Assembly session, Obama said it is possible to negotiate an agreement that meets Iran’s energy needs and assures the world that Tehran’s program is entirely peaceful.

Rouhani, speaking to the same body the following day, also used the term “historic opportunity.” But at a Sept. 26 press conference, he said progress had “not been significant” and movement toward an agreement had been “extremely slow.” 

Obama’s and Rouhani’s remarks came a week after the resumption of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the six powers known as the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States).

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters on Sept. 26 that there were “no significant advances” during the round of talks. A senior U.S. administration official said in a separate press event the same day that the parties “do not have an understanding on all major issues” and that Iran will need to make some difficult decisions to conclude a comprehensive agreement. 

An interim deal reached by Iran and the P5+1 last November set a target date of July 20 for reaching a comprehensive agreement, but allowed for an extension of the talks if all parties agreed. (See ACT, December 2013.) On July 19, Iran and the P5+1 agreed to extend negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear deal through Nov. 24. (See ACT, September 2014.)

Before the talks resumed on Sept. 18, several of the six countries, including the United States, met bilaterally with Iran to discuss the nuclear negotiations. 

Although Obama and Rouhani did not meet, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met twice to discuss the nuclear talks. 

Kerry and Zarif met again, with Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief and leader of the P5+1 delegation, on Sept. 25 to discuss how to move forward on the remaining issues. 

In addition to the bilateral meetings, a number of plenary sessions and technical meetings took place from Sept. 18 to Sept. 26. 

Ashton had requested that the foreign ministers from all seven countries be available for a ministerial-level meeting if she needed to “consult them collectively” but that proved unnecessary, Ashton spokesman Michael Mann said Sept. 26. 

Talks are expected to resume in mid-October.

Uranium Enrichment

Iran is determined to “enjoy its full nuclear rights under international law,” including uranium enrichment, and is committed to a deal that “removes concerns” from both sides, Rouhani said in his address to the General Assembly.

Determining the future size and scope of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program is one of the most significant obstacles that negotiations must resolve before the Nov. 24 deadline. 

The P5+1 wants to reduce Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity and put limits on other elements of its program, including the stockpiles of enriched material and the types of new centrifuges that Iran is developing. These limits would increase the amount of time it would take for Iran to enrich uranium to provide enough weapons-grade material for one bomb. In such material, more than 90 percent of the material is uranium-235. Iran currently is enriching uranium to less than 5 percent U-235. 

Iran says it needs to increase its uranium-enrichment capacity to provide fuel for nuclear power reactors it plans to build. 

At an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Sept. 17, Zarif said Iran does not need to increase its uranium-enrichment capacity in the near term. Russia provides fuel for Iran’s sole nuclear power plant, Bushehr, under a contract that lasts until 2021. 

To produce the fuel for Bushehr domestically, Iran would need a tenfold increase in its uranium-enrichment capacity. But Zarif said Iran “does not need all these centrifuges tomorrow” or in a year’s time. Iran has time to demonstrate the peaceful nature of its nuclear program and therefore “establish the type of confidence that is required” by the international community before Tehran can expand its uranium-enrichment capacity, Zarif said. 

The P5+1 has said it wants limits to Iran’s program for a period of at least 10 years. Zarif said that if Iran cannot establish international confidence in its nuclear program in five years, then “a deal is meaningless.” 

New Proposal Reported

On Sept. 19, The New York Times reported that the P5+1 had proposed disconnecting Iranian centrifuges that are installed but not currently enriching uranium. 

Typically, 174 single centrifuges are connected with pipes to form a cascade for enriching uranium more efficiently.

Iran currently has about 10,200 first-generation, or IR-1, centrifuges producing uranium enriched to less than 5 percent, which is suitable for nuclear power plants. About 8,000 additional first-generation centrifuges and 1,008 second-generation centrifuges are installed but not operating. 

According to the Sept. 19 article, the P5+1 proposed that, as part of a deal, Iran remove the pipes that connect the centrifuges. This would prevent Iran from quickly beginning enrichment using the machines, but does not require removing the centrifuges, which Iran says it will not do. 

A Western official familiar with the talks said that disconnecting the pipes is only “one element of a larger proposal” to limit Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity. In a Sept. 24 interview, he said that “other factors are being considered and discussed.” 

Those comments are consistent with remarks made by a senior Obama administration official in speaking more broadly about the potential deal at a Sept. 18 press briefing. The official said that there are “many components” to a deal that ensures that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful. The official said that the elements must “come together in a way that gives us and the international community confidence that the program is exclusively peaceful and Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon.”

A spokeswoman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Sept. 23 that Iran had not accepted or rejected the idea of disconnecting the pipes. 

Members of Congress expressed concern about the prospect of disconnecting the pipes between centrifuges. 

In a Sept. 19 letter to Kerry, 31 Republican senators, led by Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.), asked the administration if it was willing to accept anything less than complete dismantlement of Iran’s enrichment program and the partially built Arak heavy-water reactor. The reactor, which Iran says is designed to produce isotopes for medical purposes, would produce plutonium that is particularly suitable for nuclear weapons once it is separated from the spent fuel. 

Negotiators have said that before the decision in July to extend the talks, they made progress on agreeing to decrease the plutonium output of the reactor.

President Barack Obama urged Iran to reach a nuclear deal with the United States and five other world powers during his address to the UN General Assembly last month, but negotiators made little progress over a week of talks.

Senators Push Nonproliferation Budget

Kelsey Davenport

Twenty-six senators sent a letter to the Obama administration requesting increased funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs in the fiscal year 2016 budget for the Energy Department.

The signatories of the Aug. 13 letter, led by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), urged Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to “seek increased funding for vital nuclear material security and nonproliferation programs.”

The letter noted that the administration “proposed cuts to these programs over the last several years.”

The Obama administration’s budget for fiscal year 2015 would cut the Energy Department’s nonproliferation programs by $399 million from the fiscal year 2014 appropriation. Fiscal year 2014 ends Sept. 30.

It is “not the time to pull back on nonproliferation,” the letter said, noting that recent terrorist actions serve as a reminder of the importance of “ensuing that terrorist groups and rogue states” do not obtain nuclear weapons and materials.

The Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee, chaired by Feinstein, increased funding for nonproliferation activities to nearly $2.0 billion, $423 million above the president’s request for fiscal year 2015. The subcommittee released its bill and draft report July 24, but no further action has been taken on the bill.

The increases include an additional $136 million for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and $50 million for the International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation program.

The letter said the GTRI played an important role in eliminating nuclear materials from 13 countries since 2009 and that “significant work remains” to secure nuclear material at “hundreds of sites spread across 30 countries.”

The senators urged the administration to work with the Senate to “ensure that critical nuclear material security” programs have the necessary resources. The letter urged the administration, in next year’s budget request, to build on the funding levels that the appropriations subcommittee approved for fiscal year 2015.

In addition to Feinstein and Merkley, the signers of the letter included 20 Democrats, Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and independents Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Angus King (Maine).

Twenty-six senators sent a letter to the Obama administration requesting increased funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs in the fiscal year 2016 budget for the Energy Department.

Congress Questions Policy on N. Korea

Kelsey Davenport

Members of Congress questioned the Obama administration’s policy toward negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program at a July 30 hearing and expressed concern about Pyongyang’s growing nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, said the administration’s “so-called strategic patience policy is crumbling to pieces” and that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program “continues unfettered.”

As described by U.S. officials, the strategic patience policy seeks to hobble North Korean nuclear and missile programs through U.S. and international efforts to prevent the import and export of proliferation-sensitive materials and restart negotiations after Pyongyang demonstrates its commitment to dismantling its nuclear weapons program. For more than a decade, North Korea has had intermittent talks with the United States and its four negotiating partners—China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea—in the so-called six-party talks.

Glyn Davies, special representative for North Korea policy at the State Department, defended the administration’s approach at the hearing, saying that because North Korea “increasingly rejects meaningful negotiations,” the United States is looking for meaningful actions by North Korea before restarting talks. Davies said these actions could include steps by North Korea such as freezing its nuclear program and inviting inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency back into the country.

Davies said it might take continued diplomatic overtures combined with “the patient application of increasing amounts of pressure” to make North Korea realize its current path is “leading [it] nowhere.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said that “both carrots and sticks” are necessary to change North Korea’s behavior. He said the United States should discuss a nonaggression pact with North Korea and work with China to stem the “enormous subsidies” that Beijing sends to Pyongyang.

Davies said that negotiations with North Korea are a “multilateral task” and the United States is making progress working with countries in the region, including China, to push North Korea to take steps toward denuclearization in order to resume negotiations. Washington is also unilaterally tightening sanctions that “increase the cost” of North Korea’s illicit activities, he said.

North Korea committed to denuclearization in a 2005 joint statement with the other members of the six-party talks, but more recently, Pyongyang has said that it wants negotiations on its nuclear program to resume without any preconditions. (See ACT, November 2013.)

Those talks began in 2003 with the goal of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program. The multilateral negotiations were held intermittently until North Korea announced in April 2009 that it would no longer participate.

Washington has also negotiated bilaterally with North Korea in the past.

Pyongyang is believed to possess the nuclear material for approximately four to eight nuclear weapons and is working to increase its stockpile of weapons-usable nuclear material. (See ACT, January/February 2014.)

At a July 30 hearing, members of Congress questioned the Obama administration’s policy toward negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program.

Profile: State Dept. Targets ‘Generation Prague’

Kelsey Davenport

Since 2010, the State Department has hosted an annual conference on arms control and disarmament to support President Barack Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons, with students and young professionals in the field as its principal target audience.

In interviews, participants in the conferences praised the meetings while suggesting ways to strengthen the effort.

The State Department uses the term “Generation Prague” to refer to the conferences and the next generation of professionals working in arms control. The term is an allusion to Obama’s speech outlining nuclear policy in Prague on April 5, 2009.

The State Department created the Generation Prague concept in 2010 to provide a “forum and framework for collaboration” with young professionals, students, and foreign governments that were energized by the Prague speech, Erin Harbaugh, outreach officer for the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, told Arms Control Today in an Aug. 25 e-mail.

Now in its fifth year, Generation Prague is an event for “educating and empowering the next generation,” Alexandra Bell, director for strategic outreach in the Office of the Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, said in the same e-mail.

Young people view nuclear weapons “through a completely different lens” in comparison to other generations because many were born after the Cold War, Bell said. The conferences give emerging leaders an opportunity to discuss nuclear policies that will fit in a more interconnected world, she said.

Making Disarmament ‘Relatable’

Participants at the conference said they benefited from the experience. For Brenna Gautam, a senior at the University of Notre Dame who attended the conference while working as an intern in Washington, the gathering presented “a more relatable image of the issue of disarmament and arms control.” Gautam, a co-founder of her university’s Global Zero chapter, said in an Aug. 20 e-mail that this is important because she feels that nuclear disarmament is “not a very personal issue” for her generation.

Erin Corcoran, a recent college graduate with an interest in the field, said in an Aug. 21 e-mail that, for young professionals to continue making progress in reducing the threat of nuclear weapons, it is important to learn about the gravity of the threat posed by these weapons from “predecessors who lived and worked through the Cold War.”

Officials also say they benefit from the conferences. An Energy Department official said in a July 28 interview that the students and young professionals at Generation Prague have “challenged and broadened his thinking.” He said experts need to be reminded that youth “view the value of nuclear weapons differently” because the weapons do not have the same deterrent value today as they did during the Cold War.

One of the young professionals he mentioned was Kingston Reif, who participated in a 2011 panel and is now the director of nuclear nonproliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Reif said in an Aug. 20 e-mail that he was motivated to participate because nuclear threat reduction is the responsibility not only of previous generations, “but our generation and future generations as well.”

Although the conferences bring in high-level officials such as Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Bell said the State Department has also worked to bring in experts from the “policy trenches” to ensure that the “audience gets an idea of how policy is working from top to bottom.”

Shane Mason said he appreciated the opportunity to meet experts who have been in the field for five to 10 years and support high-level officials. Mason, a research associate at the Stimson Center, said in an Aug. 20 e-mail that these experts provide “practical insights” about finding jobs and developing the necessary skills for the field.

Increasing Participation

Mason said that barriers to careers, particularly at the State Department, “seem pretty insurmountable at times.” Although he acknowledged that budget constraints make hiring difficult, Mason said that young people will not stay in the field if they cannot find jobs.

Bell said a “key driver” for reaching out to young people is demographics, as many experts who “built the arms control and nonproliferation regimes” are reaching retirement age. The State Department “wants to recruit their replacements” and is looking for new ways to hire the next generation of leaders, she said.

Despite the difficulties finding jobs, the number of young people involved in nuclear issues at the global level apparently is growing. Meena Singelee, who has tracked participation by young experts attending conferences that are part of the review process for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, said the numbers have “gradually increased” since 2010, due in part to “renewed momentum” on disarmament issues and “new priorities” in areas such as nuclear security.

Singelee, executive director of the International Network Emerging Nuclear Specialists, said there remains a “lack of significant participation by young experts from developing countries,” she said.

The State Department is looking to expand Generation Prague to reach international audiences. Bell noted that the State Department has paired with international partners such as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and representatives from countries including Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Harbaugh said that the State Department sees Generation Prague as “one part of a larger push to engage global youth” and welcomes collaborators.

Moving Forward

Several participants agreed that the conferences could accomplish more. Corcoran said that small-group discussions at future conferences might be useful so that there would be more opportunities to “directly engage” with some of the experts.

Reif suggested that the State Department work with universities on events that bring officials to campuses to “demonstrate that nuclear weapons are not just a problem of the past.”

Gautam agreed and suggested that the State Department work with pre-existing clubs on college campuses that are dedicated to arms control issues. She said a stronger online presence could be helpful in reaching out to students who cannot attend events such as the annual conference in Washington. Streaming the conference live would be a good step, she said.

Harbaugh said that the State Department wants to partner with universities and nongovernmental organizations to “offer more opportunities through the year, in and out of Washington.”

She said plans are already underway for next year’s conference and that organizers hope to make it more “interactive.”

For the past five years, the State Department has hosted an annual conference on arms control and disarmament to heighten interest in the issue among students and young professionals.

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