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"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Kelsey Davenport

North Korea, United States Issue Threats as Deadline Approaches | North Korea Denuclearization Digest, December 11, 2019

North Korea, United States Issue Threats as Deadline Approaches The window for negotiations between the United States and North Korea appears to be closing, as both sides are resorting to threats ahead of the end-of-the-year deadline for progress imposed by Pyongyang in April. North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae Song cautioned Dec. 2 that “what is left to be done now is the U.S. option and it is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will get,” likely referring to North Korea’s willingness to continue diplomacy if the Trump administration changes its approach to talks or the...

Russia Upsets Effort to Save 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal

News Source: 
VOA
News Date: 
December 6, 2019 -05:00

New Broom at UN Nuclear Watchdog as Iran Tensions Rise

News Source: 
International Business Times
News Date: 
December 2, 2019 -05:00

Iran Newly Breaches Nuclear Deal


December 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

European parties to the 2015 nuclear deal that limits Iran’s nuclear program said Tehran’s decision to resume enriching uranium at its Fordow site makes diplomatic efforts to preserve the agreement and de-escalate tensions more difficult.

Iran has announced it is accumulating uranium enriched by more advanced technology, including these IR-4 centrifuges.  (Photo: Atomic Energy Organization of Iran)Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on Nov. 5 that Iran had “no other choice” but to resume enrichment at Fordow, violating the 15-year prohibition on enrichment at that site put in place by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The nuclear deal allows Iran to retain 1,044 centrifuges at Fordow, but requires Tehran to convert the uranium-enrichment facility into a medical isotope production and research center.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said on Nov. 6 that 696 of the centrifuges allowed at Fordow would be used for enriching uranium up to 4.5 percent uranium-235, slightly above the 3.67 percent U-235 limit set by the deal. The remaining 348 machines will be used for medical isotope production, he said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed in its Nov. 11 report that Iran began enrichment at the site on Nov. 9.

This is the fourth step Tehran has taken in breach of its JCPOA commitments over the past six months. In May 2019, Rouhani said Iran would “reduce compliance” with its nuclear obligations under the deal in response to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the deal in May 2018 and its reimposition of sanctions in violation of the accord. (See ACT, June 2019.)

The other parties to the deal (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union) criticized Iran’s decision, but said they remain committed to preserving the nuclear deal.

In a Nov. 11 joint statement, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, the UK and the EU foreign chief said the Fordow decision “represents a regrettable acceleration of Iran’s disengagement” from its commitments under the nuclear deal.

The officials said they “stand ready to continue diplomatic efforts” but it is critical for Iran to uphold its commitments under the nuclear deal and work with them to reduce tensions.

Rouhani said Iran continues to favor a diplomatic resolution to the dispute, but he put the onus on the remaining parties to find a way to preserve the accord. He said on Nov. 5 that Tehran would come back into compliance with its obligations if the parties can reach a “proper solution for the removal of sanctions on our export of oil and metal” and facilitate banking transactions.

Rouhani also said that Iran will take another step in 60 days in violation of the deal if the parties to the JCPOA do not deliver on sanctions relief. He did not specify what action Iran will take.

The European officials did not address Iran’s threat to commit another breach, but they did raise the possibility of using the dispute resolution mechanism laid out in the JCPOA to “resolve the issues related to Iran’s implementation of its JCPOA commitments.”

Any JCPOA party can trigger the dispute resolution mechanism to address an allegation of noncompliance with the agreement. If the party feels that the resolution process did not address the issue, that party “could treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing” its JCPOA obligations “in whole or in part” and notify the UN Security Council, which can snap back sanctions on Iran lifted by the nuclear deal.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Nov. 7 that Iran’s “expansion of proliferation-sensitive activities raises concerns that Iran is positioning itself to have the option of rapid breakout.”

Accumulating enriched uranium produced by the 696 IR-1 centrifuges represents about a 15 percent increase in Iran’s current enrichment capacity. The additional enriched uranium will slowly erode Iran’s breakout time, or the time it would take to produce enough material for one nuclear weapon, which was 12 months when the JCPOA was fully implemented.

It is unclear if the cooperative efforts to convert Fordow into a research and development center will continue in light of Iran’s decision to resume enrichment. The JCPOA requires the parties to the deal to assist Iran with the conversion, and the Trump administration had waived sanctions, most recently on Oct. 31, allowing that work to continue.

Yet, Pompeo reversed course on Nov. 18 when he announced the U.S. sanctions waiver for converting Fordow would be terminated on Dec. 15. He said Iran should “reverse its activity there immediately.”

The United States views the Fordow facility as more of a risk than the facility at Natanz, where limited enrichment is permitted by the JCPOA, because of its location. Fordow is an underground facility built into the mountains near Qom. U.S. military officials have stated that the location of the facility would make it difficult to destroy with a military strike.

In addition to confirming enrichment at Fordow, the IAEA also noted in its Nov. 11 report that Iran is accumulating enriched uranium produced by 164 IR-2, 164 IR-4, and 30 IR-6 advanced centrifuges at its Natanz site. Under the JCPOA, Iran is allowed to test limited numbers of advanced machines with uranium but is not permitted to accumulate enriched material.

Rouhani said in September that Iran would no longer be bound by the research and development restrictions in the nuclear deal. (See ACT, October 2019.)

Iran also informed the agency that it planned to install newly designed centrifuges at Natanz for testing. The JCPOA permits Iran to develop new centrifuges using computer modeling, but requires advanced permission from the Joint Commission, the body set up to oversee the deal, before beginning testing. It does not appear that Iran obtained this permission.

The IAEA report noted that Iran continues to abide by the additional monitoring and verification provisions put in place by the deal but encouraged Iran to “continue interactions” with the IAEA to resolve outstanding issues related to an investigation into uranium particles at an undeclared site.

IAEA Acting Director-General Cornel Feruta told the agency’s Board of Governors on Nov. 21 that the uranium was found at an undeclared location in Iran. He said that the matter remains unresolved and called for Iran to work with the IAEA to “resolve this matter promptly.”

Jackie Wolcott, U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, called the matter “profoundly concerning” in a Nov. 21 statement.

Iran takes fourth retaliatory step after U.S. pullout from 2015 agreement.

NRC Will Not Require Drone Defenses


The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced on Oct. 30 that it would not require nuclear power plant operators to defend against drone attacks.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has concluded that U.S. nuclear power plants, such as New York's Indian Point Energy Center, need not take additional security measures to protect against drone attacks. (Photo: Tony Fischer/Flickr)The NRC sets protection requirements for nuclear power plants and has been studying the threat posed by drones for the past two years. In an unclassified summary published in October, the commission concluded that nuclear power plants “do not have any risk-significant vulnerabilities that could be exploited” by drone attacks that would result in “radiological sabotage” or theft of special nuclear material. The NRC said it would continue evaluating the impact of drone technologies.

Edwin Lyman, the acting director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a Nov. 4 press release that the decision “ignores the wide spectrum of threats that drones pose to nuclear facilities.” He said that the NRC “seems more interested in keeping the cost of nuclear plant security low than protecting Americans from terrorist sabotage that could cause a reactor meltdown.”

No nuclear power reactor worldwide appears to have been attacked by a drone to date, but Greenpeace flew a drone into a nuclear power reactor in France in July 2018 to demonstrate the site’s vulnerabilities.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

NRC Will Not Require Drone Defenses

France Laments US Decision on Iran's Fordow Site

News Source: 
Tasnim News Agency
News Date: 
November 20, 2019 -05:00

U.S. to No Longer Waive Sanctions on Iranian Nuclear Site

News Source: 
Reuters
News Date: 
November 18, 2019 -05:00

Powerful Hard-Liner: Iran Should Stop Honoring Nuclear Deal

News Source: 
Associated Press
News Date: 
November 14, 2019 -05:00

New IAEA Report Details Iran’s Retaliatory Moves | The P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert EXTRA

The Nov. 11 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran’s implementation of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal confirms that Tehran resumed enrichment at its Fordow site under agency monitoring and is accelerating its production of low-enriched uranium. Iran’s frustration with the reimposition of U.S. sanctions in violation of the deal is understandable, but its most recent breach at Fordow is a very serious escalation that increases the risk that the nuclear agreement will collapse. Like Iran’s three prior breaches of the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive...

Iran Announces New Nuclear Violation | The P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert

Iran Announces New Nuclear Violation President Hassan Rouhani directed the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to introduce uranium gas into centrifuges installed at the Fordow facility on Nov. 6, violating the prohibition on enrichment activities at the site put in place by the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran’s decision to begin enriching uranium at Fordow under international supervision is a serious breach of the nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). While the step does not pose a near-term proliferation threat, it risks eroding European support and...

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