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ACA’s journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Policy White Papers

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

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

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By Kelsey Davenport
August 2014

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

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

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

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Posted: August 28, 2014

Iran Nuclear Brief: Iranian Missiles and the Comprehensive Nuclear Deal

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

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By Greg Thielmann
May 2014

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

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

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Posted: May 7, 2014

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

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

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September 20, 2013
By Greg Thielmann

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

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

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

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Posted: September 20, 2013

The Naval Nuclear Reactor Threat to the NPT

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

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By Greg Thielmann and Kelsey Davenport
September 2013

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

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

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

Posted: July 24, 2013

Sorting Out the Nuclear and Missile Threats From North Korea

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

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By Greg Thielmann
May 2013

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

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

 

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Posted: May 21, 2013

Lessons for Handling Iran From the Sad Saga of Iraq

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

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By Greg Thielmann and Alexandra Schmitt
March 2013

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

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

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

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Posted: March 8, 2013

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

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

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By Greg Thielmann
January 2013

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

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

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Posted: January 30, 2013

Iran Nuclear Brief: Options for a Diplomatic Solution

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

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By Kelsey Davenport
January 2013

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

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

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

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

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Posted: January 9, 2013

November 2012 IAEA Report on Iran and Its Implications

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

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November 16, 2012
By Daryl Kimball

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

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Posted: November 25, 2012

Submarine Nuclear Reactors: A Worsening Proliferation Challenge

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A long submerged flaw in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) surfaced conspicuously in June when Iran announced it intended to build a nuclear-powered submarine. The treaty does not ban a non-nuclear weapons state's production of weapons-grade uranium if it is to be used to power a naval reactor.

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July 26, 2012
By Greg Thielmann

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A long submerged flaw in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) surfaced conspicuously in June when Iran announced it intended to build a nuclear-powered submarine. The treaty does not ban a non-nuclear weapons state's production of weapons-grade uranium if it is to be used to power a naval reactor.

What many now consider a proliferation loophole in the NPT was first seen as theoretical because only nuclear weapons states had nuclear-powered submarines when the treaty was negotiated. Now, as more and more countries initiate or announce intentions to initiate nuclear-powered submarine programs, this excuse for enriching uranium to levels beyond the needs of civilian power reactors intensifies the challenge of achieving U.S. nonproliferation goals.

The United States should adjust its policy by: 1) choosing a reactor for the Ohio-class SSBN follow-on that does not require weapons-grade fuel and 2) pushing for multilateral action to close or at least narrow the NPT loophole that allows for non-nuclear weapons states to produce highly enriched uranium for naval reactors.

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Posted: July 25, 2012

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