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Progress on Nuclear Disarmament, Nonproliferation Inadequate to Meet Threats, New Study Finds

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A new study suggests that President Obama, failed to make progress in key nuclear disarmament areas during his second term.

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For Immediate Release: July 15, 2016

Contacts: Tony Fleming, communications director (202) 463-8270 x110; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director (202) 463-8270 x107.

Washington, D.C.—President Barack Obama failed to make progress in key nuclear disarmament areas over the course of his second term, but did achieve important steps to improve nuclear materials security and strengthen nonproliferation norms, namely the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, according to a new study released by the Arms Control Association, which evaluates the recent records of all the world’s nuclear-armed states.

The report, "Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, 2013-2016", is the third in a series that measures the performance of 11 key states in 10 universally-recognized nonproliferation, disarmament, and nuclear security categories over the past three years. The study evaluated the records of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea—each of which possess nuclear weapons—as well as Iran and Syria, which are states of proliferation concern.

“The United States is investing enormous resources to maintain and upgrade nuclear weapons delivery systems and warheads and is keeping its deployed nuclear weapons on ‘launch-under- attack’ readiness posture. The lack of U.S. leadership in these areas contributes to the moribund pace of disarmament.” said Elizabeth Philipp, the Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the Arms Control Association, and a co-author of the report.

“Obama should use his remaining months in office to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategies and mitigate the risks of inadvertent use. Obama could consider declaring that Washington will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict,” said Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association and co-author of the report.

“U.S. leadership could spur China and Russia to take positive actions and improve the prospects for further disarmament. Russia’s decision to develop a new missile in violation of its treaty commitments and Moscow’s rebuff of attempts by the United States to negotiate further nuclear reductions is very troublesome, as is the expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal and Beijing’s steps toward increasing the alert levels of its forces.” Philipp added.

“Several states did take significant steps over the past three years to strengthen nuclear security, including action by the United States and Pakistan to ratify key nuclear security treaties,” said Davenport.

“The July 2015 nuclear deal struck between six global powers and Iran was also a significant nonproliferation breakthrough that has significantly reduced Tehran’s nuclear capacity and subjected its activities to more intrusive international monitoring and verification. While the international community must remain vigilant in ensuring that the deal is fully implemented, blocking Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons negates a serious nonproliferation concern and demonstrates the consequences of flouting the international norms and obligations” Davenport said.

“For the third time, the United Kingdom received the highest grade of all the states assessed, while North Korea remained at the bottom of the list with the lowest overall grades. North Korea’s recent nuclear test and its ballistic missile development require the next U.S. administration to pursue more robust engagement with Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear activities,” Phillip said.

“Our review of the record indicates that further action must be taken by all 11 states if they are to live up to their international disarmament and nonproliferation responsibilities. By tracking the progress, or lack thereof, of these states over time, we hope this report will serve as a tool to encourage policymakers to increase efforts to reduce the risk posed by nuclear weapons,” Davenport said.

A country-by-country summary can be viewed here.
The full report card can be downloaded here

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Posted: July 15, 2016

2016 Report Card on Nuclear Disarmament, Nonproliferation Efforts

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, July 12

The Iran Deal Turns One It has been one year since Iran and six countries known as the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) reached the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Although there have been slight hiccups along the way, the implementation of the agreement is proceeding relatively smoothly and the parties have been able to resolve most concerns and ambiguities that have arisen thus far. The secretary-general of the United Nations is expected to submit a report this month to the Security Council on the...

U.S. Purchases Iranian Heavy Water

Washington agreed to purchase heavy water from Iran in April, but an Iranian official said in May that the export of the water was delayed...

June 2016

By Kelsey Davenport

Washington agreed to purchase heavy water from Iran in April, but an Iranian official said in May that the export of the water was delayed over Tehran’s concerns about receiving payment for the purchase. 

Iranian and U.S. officials signed the purchase agreement for 32 tons of heavy water for $8.6 million in Vienna on April 22, but Jaberi Ansari, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said on May 12 that the heavy water will not be shipped until after Iran receives payment from the United States. 

Heavy water, which can be used as a moderator for nuclear reactors that are particularly well suited for producing weapons-grade plutonium, contains an isotope of hydrogen called deuterium. 

The U.S. purchase of heavy water will help keep Tehran in compliance with a stockpile limit of 130 metric tons stipulated by the nuclear deal reached between Iran and the United States and its negotiating partners last July. (See ACT, September 2015.) Iran slightly exceeded the heavy water limit earlier this year. (See ACT, March 2016.)

Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, said on May 12 that Iran was proceeding cautiously on the sale to ensure that there will be no problems transferring the U.S. payment to Iran. Despite sanctions relief granted under the nuclear agreement, Iranian officials have said that Tehran is having trouble clearing transactions. 

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told The Wall Street Journal on April 22 that the United States tested Iran’s heavy water and “it’s perfectly good.” Moniz also said the U.S. purchase would be a “statement to the world” that Iran’s heavy water can be purchased. 

The United States will ship the heavy water to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The heavy water will be used at U.S. research facilities, and some could be sold to private companies that use heavy water for industrial applications. 

The United States does not produce heavy water domestically. 

Iran began producing heavy water in 2006 for the nuclear reactor it was constructing at the Arak site.

As originally designed, the heavy water-moderated reactor at Arak would have produced enough weapons-grade plutonium in its spent fuel for roughly two nuclear warheads per year.

The new reactor will still use heavy water, but produce a fraction of the weapons-grade plutonium necessary for a bomb. 

After the reactor comes online, Iran must reduce its stockpile of heavy water from 130 metric tons to 90 metric tons. 

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran, said on May 10 that Tehran and Moscow are discussing a sale of 40 metric tons of heavy water to Russia. At the time Arms Control Today went to press, the heavy water had not been shipped to the United States.

Posted: May 31, 2016

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, April 27

Kerry and Zarif Discuss Sanctions and Heavy Water U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York on April 22 to discuss implementation of last July’s nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action . The meeting was the second for Kerry and Zarif in a week, and took place amidst concerns from Iranian officials that the United States has not met its sanctions-relief obligations under the deal, despite Iran implementing required restrictions on its nuclear program. Valiollah Seif, head of Iran’s Central Bank, said at the...

Iran’s Missile Tests Raise Concerns

Controversy over the potential nuclear capability of two ballistic missiles tested by Iran last month prompted calls for new U.S. and UN sanctions on Tehran.

April 2016

By Kelsey Davenport

Iran tested two ballistic missiles last month, raising calls in the United States for new national and international sanctions on the country.

On March 9, Iran launched two different variations of the Qadr medium-range ballistic missile as part of a military drill from a site in the Alborz Mountains in northern Iran. One of the missiles, the Qadr-F, has a range of 2,000 kilometers; the other, the Qadr-H, has a range of 1,700 kilometers, according to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The calls by U.S. officials and members of Congress for additional sanctions stem from concerns that the missile tests run contrary to UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls on Iran not to develop or test ballistic missiles that are “designed to be nuclear capable.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on March 15 that the launches were permitted under the resolution because the missiles tested were not designed to be capable of delivering nuclear warheads. Zarif, in an address at the Australian National University, said that Resolution 2231 does not call on Iran “not to test ballistic missiles, or ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads.”

The international community generally defines a ballistic missile as being nuclear capable if it can carry a 500-kilogram payload a distance of 300 kilometers.

Passed last July, Resolution 2231 endorses the nuclear deal reached between Iran and six countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) earlier in July and terminates past Security Council resolutions on Iran’s nuclear program, including Resolution 1929. (See ACT, September 2015.) Resolution 1929, which prohibited Iran from developing and launching missiles that were “capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” was terminated on Jan. 16, when the nuclear deal was formally implemented. Resolution 2231 came into effect that day.

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said on March 14 that she raised the issue of Iran’s ballistic missile tests being inconsistent with Resolution 2231 at a Security Council meeting that day. In remarks to press after the meeting, Power said the missiles were “designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons” and called the launches destabilizing and provocative.

Power said Iran’s reaction merits a response from the Security Council.

Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to the UN, took a different view, saying that Iran’s tests did not violate Resolution 2231 because the resolution only “call[s] upon” Iran to abide by the restriction. Churkin said that “you cannot violate a call.” The earlier resolution said that Iran “shall not” undertake any activity related to nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

Members of the U.S. Congress are also considering national sanctions against Iran.

One of the sanctions bills introduced in response to the ballistic missile tests was sponsored by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) on March 17 and co-sponsored by 11 other Republican senators. It includes new sanctions against individuals involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and entities that own 25 percent or more of Iran’s key ballistic missile organizations.

Ayotte said in a March 17 press release that she led efforts on the Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act of 2016 because “the potential danger to our homeland, as well as the urgent threat to our forward deployed troops and our allies like Israel, is only growing.”

Israel is in range of the ballistic missiles that Tehran tested on March 9. But Iran would need a ballistic missile with a range of more than 9,000 kilometers to target the United States. Iran has never tested or displayed a long-range ballistic missile.

Iranian officials have said that Tehran would limit its missiles to a range of 2,300 kilometers. (See ACT, March 2016.)

Democrats also are raising concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile tests. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a March 18 statement that “recent events in Iran underscore the need for a statutory framework to respond to Iran’s ballistic missile tests.”

Cardin said he is working on bipartisan sanctions legislation that will respond to Iran’s repeated ballistic missile launches.

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Posted: March 29, 2016

The Iranian Ballistic Missile Launches That Didn't Happen

Iran’s binge of short- and medium-range ballistic missile launches on March 8 and 9 garnered considerable attention in the press and in American political circles. These provocative launches, which coincided with a visit to Israel by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, were roundly condemned by U.S. politicians in both parties. It may be more revealing, however, to focus on two Iranian missile types that were not launched last week—launches that have been expected for years. These systems, the Simorgh space rocket and the Sejjil-2 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM), represent aspects of missile...

Iran Nuclear Deal Implemented

Inspectors verified that Tehran is adhering to the deal’s nuclear limits.

March 2016

By Kelsey Davenport

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (left); Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (center); and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini arrive for a press conference at IAEA headquarters in Vienna on January 16 to announce that the agency had verified that Iran had met its obligations under a July agreement to curb its nuclear activities. (Photo credit: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)Iran and six world powers in January passed a critical point in the implementation of the nuclear deal they reached last July as the international agency in charge of ensuring that nuclear programs are exclusively peaceful verified that Tehran had met its obligations under the deal to curb its nuclear activities.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini announced on Jan. 16 in Vienna that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had issued a report verifying that Iran had taken the necessary steps. Under the timetable laid out in the deal, that announcement triggered an easing of the web of sanctions that had been imposed on Iran for its nuclear activities.

Mogherini led the six countries known collectively as the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) that negotiated with Iran.

The IAEA report noted that Iran had taken steps required under the deal, such as reducing the number of centrifuges enriching uranium to 5,060, shipping out its enriched uranium in excess of 300 kilograms, removing the core of its incomplete heavy-water reactor at Arak, and allowing the agency to enhance its monitoring of Iran’s nuclear facilities.

On Implementation Day, as it is called, nuclear-related sanctions on Iran imposed by the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States were lifted or waived. Past UN Security Council resolutions on Iran were also terminated and replaced by UN Security Council Resolution 2231. The resolution, which the council unanimously approved on July 20, endorsed the July 14 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

In the Jan. 16 statement, Zarif and Mogherini said that “all sides remain firmly convinced that this historic deal is both strong and fair, and that it meets the requirements of all; its proper implementation will be a key contribution to improved regional and international peace, stability and security.”

In a Jan. 17 speech, U.S. President Barack Obama said that, under the deal, “Iran will not get its hands on a nuclear bomb. The region, the United States, and the world will be more secure.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a Jan. 17 statement that, with the arrival of Implementation Day, “Iran’s nuclear rights have been accepted by all and the Iranian economy became a global one.”

In testimony on Feb. 9 to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that, as a result of the enhanced monitoring and verification, the international community “is well postured to quickly detect changes to Iran’s declared nuclear facilities” and that the deal provides the IAEA with tools to “investigate possible breaches of prohibitions” in the agreement.

Iran and the P5+1 will continue to work on a number of additional provisions required under the deal. One of these measures is modifying the heavy-water reactor at Arak and fitting it with a new core.

The redesigned reactor will still produce medical isotopes but far less weapons-grade plutonium than it would have under its original design.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said on Jan. 26 that Iran and China had signed a basic agreement to formalize China’s assistance in redesigning the Arak reactor during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Iran the previous week. 

IAEA Funding

In the United States, members of Congress expressed support for funding IAEA efforts under the Iran deal. In a Feb. 8 letter to Obama, Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) and 34 other members of the House of Representatives called for “robust funding” for the IAEA in the fiscal year 2017 budget. The letter said that providing the agency with the necessary funding to fulfill its responsibilities puts Washington “one step closer to achieving our ambitious goals for global non-proliferation.”

IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano estimated in August that implementation of the IAEA’s obligations under the Iran deal would cost an additional 9.2 million euros (about $10.1 million).

Amano said that the additional costs for fiscal year 2016 would need to be met by extrabudgetary contributions but that for 2017 and beyond, they would be built into the IAEA budget.

The U.S. contribution to the IAEA comes primarily from the budget of the State Department.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on February 9. Clapper said that under the nuclear deal, the international community “is well postured to quickly detect changes to Iran’s declared nuclear facilities.” (Photo credit: Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images)The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2017 budget request, which was released Feb. 9, includes an assessed contribution of $101 million and a voluntary contribution of $89.8 million to support a number of IAEA programs, including nuclear safeguards and verification activities. The voluntary contribution request is a $2 million increase over the fiscal year 2016 appropriation.

A State Department official told Arms Control Today in a Feb. 11 email that the voluntary contribution includes planning for the United States to “pledge a significant share” of the estimated costs of IAEA activities under the nuclear deal. The official said that the “full costs” will not fall to the United States for fiscal year 2017 because of “strong international support and recent contributions” by other IAEA member states.

The official said that the State Department estimates that the U.S. voluntary contribution plus the support pledged by other IAEA member states will “fully cover” the IAEA’s financial requirements for implementing the Iran deal in 2017.

A spokesperson for the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said in a Feb. 18 email that a total of $13 million in the NNSA budget was requested for “activities related to implementation” of the nuclear deal.    

Missile Restrictions

On Jan. 17, the day after Implementation Day, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions on 11 individuals and entities involved with Iran’s ballistic missile programs.

Iran conducted two ballistic missile tests, in October and November, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929, which prohibited Iran from testing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

Nuclear-capable ballistic missiles are generally understood to be missiles capable of delivering 500 kilograms a distance of more than 300 kilometers. Resolution 1929, which the Security Council adopted in 2010, was terminated on Jan. 16 as part of Implementation Day, but the United States went ahead with the sanctions because the violations took place last fall.

Under Resolution 2231, the resolution adopted shortly after the deal was concluded, Iran is “called upon” not to test or develop ballistic missiles “designed” to be nuclear capable.            

Iran’s defense minister, Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan, said on Jan. 18 that Iran’s missile program will continue undeterred despite the new sanctions. A statement from the Iranian Foreign Ministry said that the missiles are not designed for carrying nuclear weapons and therefore missile tests “do not violate any international rule.”

But Iranian officials say that Tehran intends to voluntarily constrain the range of its ballistic missiles. Abbas Qaidaari, director of the Defense and Security Studies Department at the Center for Strategic Studies in the Office of the Iranian President, wrote in a Feb. 11 piece for the Atlantic Council that “Iran’s strategic defense plan currently sees no justification” for ranges greater than 2,000-2,300 kilometers. Qaidaari said that although Tehran is committed to developing its “deterrent conventional defense capabilities,” it will limit its ballistic missiles to that range.

The tests last fall involved variants of the Shahab-3 ballistic missile. The Shahab-3 is a medium-range system with a range of less than 2,000 kilometers. 

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Posted: March 2, 2016

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, February 26

IAEA Reports on Iran’s Compliance The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued its first quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program after the agency certified on Jan. 16 that Tehran met the requirements for formal implementation of the July 2015 nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. While light on details, the Feb. 26 report noted that Iran is meeting its nuclear obligations under the deal. Iran briefly exceeded the 130 metric ton limit on its heavy-water stockpile imposed by the nuclear deal, but took steps to reduce the 130.9 tons to under the required...

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, January 21

Iran, P5+1 Mark Deal Implementation Day Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini announced on Jan. 16 that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verified that Tehran completed its nuclear commitments under the July 14 nuclear deal. The agency’s verification triggered “implementation day” according to the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States). On implementation day, nuclear-related sanctions on Iran imposed by the United...

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