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former IAEA Director-General

Nuclear Nonproliferation

High-Level Group Calls for Extension of New START Agreement

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U.S., European, and Russian Nuclear Experts & Former Officials Issue Urgent Call for Trump and Putin to Take Steps to Avoid a New Nuclear Arms Race

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U.S., European, and Russian Nuclear Experts & Former Officials Issue Urgent Call for Trump and Putin to Take Steps to Avoid a New Nuclear Arms Race

For Immediate Release: April 18, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104.

(Washington, Hamburg, Moscow)—With relations between Washington, Moscow, and Europe at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, a distinguished, high-level group is warning that urgent steps need to be taken to contain nuclear risks and tensions and prevent a new nuclear arms race.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the group notes that: “Existing nuclear arms control agreements are at risk, and both sides are pursuing costly programs to replace and upgrade their Cold War-era strategic nuclear arsenals, each of which exceeds reasonable deterrence requirements. A compliance dispute threatens the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) will expire in 2021 unless extended.”

Among the signatories to the statement are: Des Browne, former Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom, Richard R. Burt, former U.S. negotiator of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty; Tom  Countryman, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association; retired Major General Dvorkin, a chief researcher at the Center for International Security at the Institute of Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations; Gen. Victor Esin, former Chief of Staff and Vice Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces; Volker Rühe, former Minister of Defense, Germany; Strobe Talbott, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State; and Sen. Richard G. Lugar, former Chairman, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The statement was organized by the members of a 21-member German-Russian-U.S. Deep Cuts Commission, which was established in 2013 to develop proposals to overcome obstacles to sensible arms control agreements and further reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles.

Last week at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Robert Soofer announced that the administration will soon “begin a whole-of-government review of the pros and cons of extending the [New START] treaty.”
 
“Without a positive decision to extend New START, and if the INF Treaty comes to an end, there would be no legally-binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear superpowers for the first time since 1972, and the risk of unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition would grow,” the statement warns.

“Presidents Trump and Putin … should discuss and pursue—on a priority basis—effective steps to reduce nuclear risks and tensions, and to avoid a renewed nuclear arms race,” they write.

Their recommendations include:

  • Immediate Extension of New START Treaty. This treaty imposes important bounds on the strategic nuclear competition between the two nuclear superpowers. The treaty will by its terms expire February 5, 2021, but can be extended by up to five years by agreement by the two sides. Extending the treaty until February 2026 would preserve its significant security advantages—both the limits and the transparency that is provided by the treaty’s verification measures.
  • Intensified Efforts to Resolve INF Treaty Compliance Questions. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty made a major contribution to European and global security by eliminating all U.S. and Soviet ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Unfortunately, the treaty is now at risk, with the United States and Russia exchanging charges of treaty violations, and the U.S. government stating that it will not allow Russia to gain a military advantage through its violation. Currently, no meetings are scheduled to address the issue. A resolution of the dispute requires high-level leadership from the White House and the Kremlin.
  • Maintaining a Regular Dialogue on Strategic Stability. U.S. and Russian officials held a round of strategic stability talks in September 2017 but they postponed a follow-up round that was to be held earlier this year. They should make that dialogue a continuing and regular part of the U.S.-Russian agenda.
  • Sustained Military-to-Military Dialogue on Key Issues. Over the past five years, the instances of U.S. and NATO military aircraft and warships and Russian military aircraft and warships operating in close proximity to one another have increased dramatically. NATO has deployed ground forces to the Baltic states and Poland, putting them in closer proximity to Russian ground forces. U.S. and Russian forces also operate in close proximity in Syria. The risk of accidents and miscalculations that could escalate to a full-fledged armed conflict is growing.

The full statement is available online in English and in Russian.

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Posted: April 17, 2018

The Risks of Nuclear Cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the Role of Congress

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As President Trump decides whether to continue implementing the successful 2015 Iran nuclear deal, lawmakers could soon be asked to consider a consequential agreement on nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

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Volume 10, Issue 4, April 5, 2018

Curbing the spread of nuclear weapons and the technologies to make them has long been and remains strongly in the U.S. national security interest, especially in the troubled Middle East.

As President Donald Trump decides in the coming weeks whether to continue implementing the successful 2015 Iran nuclear deal, lawmakers could soon be asked to consider a lower-profile, but nonetheless hugely consequential, agreement which would provide for civilian nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry led an interagency delegation to London in late February to discuss a pact, known as a 123 agreement, with a Saudi delegation led by Minister of Energy and Industry Khalid Bin Abdulaziz al-Falih. A 123 agreement, named after a section of the 1954 Atomic Energy Act, sets the terms for sharing U.S. peaceful nuclear energy technology, equipment, and materials with other countries.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry (L) and Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih (R) shake hands after a signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding on carbon management, on December 4, 2017 in Riyadh. (Photo: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

 

The Trump administration has not commented on the status of the talks and no agreement was announced during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Washington the week of March 19.

Though Saudi Arabia says that it is seeking nuclear power for peaceful purposes to diversify its sources of energy, recent statements by the Saudi leadership have cast doubt on the kingdom’s commitment to its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) not to acquire nuclear weapons.

In a bombshell interview with CBS News March 15 bin Salman warned: “Without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” The Saudi government has also made it clear that it seeks to make its own nuclear fuel.

Engaging in nuclear cooperation with a country that has threatened to leave the NPT carries significant risks. The Trump administration should insist on nonproliferation safeguards that go beyond those required by existing U.S. law, including a Saudi commitment not to engage in uranium enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing activities. These activities are considered sensitive because they can be used to make fuel for nuclear power reactors and for nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, the administration’s interest in revitalizing the U.S. nuclear industry, disdain for the Iran deal, and desire to strengthen the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia casts doubt on whether it will use the significant leverage it has over the kingdom to push for adequately strong safeguards. If Trump walks away from the Iran deal–as seems increasingly likely–and strikes a pact with Saudi Arabia that does not include a Saudi pledge not to enrich or reprocess, the prospects for a dangerous and destabilizing nuclear fuel-making race in the Middle East will greatly increase.

Fortunately, bipartisan opposition in Congress to an agreement that does not block Saudi fuel-making appears to be mounting. Lawmakers should closely scrutinize any agreement with Saudi Arabia to ensure that it contains adequate safeguards. And if it does not, Congress should use its authority to put conditions on the agreement to ensure it does not leave the door open to further proliferation of nuclear fuel-making technologies in the Middle East.

In addition, as Congress reviews the agreement and prepares to consider potentially other agreements in the near future, Congress should strengthen the nonproliferation standards and procedures for congressional review of 123 agreements.

123 Agreements and U.S. Nonproliferation Policy
The United States has appropriately sought to deny the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to states that do not already possess them through several avenues, including the terms of nuclear cooperation agreements.

After the Indian nuclear test explosion in 1974, Congress amended the Atomic Energy Act in 1978 to mandate that nuclear cooperation agreements include tougher bulwarks to prevent U.S. nuclear assistance from being diverted to military uses. The amendment put in place nine provisions, including the requirement that recipients of U.S. civil nuclear cooperation have in place full-scope international safeguards and may not conduct activities such as uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing unless Washington first consents. The Atomic Energy Act has not been updated since 1978.

In recent years Washington has urged states seeking nuclear cooperation with the United States to agree to a legally-binding commitment to forswear the pursuit of enrichment and reprocessing as a complement to other U.S. efforts to prevent the spread of these technologies. 

This so-called “Gold Standard” was enshrined in a 2009 agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the renewal in 2014 of a pact with Taiwan. Three of the past four 123 agreements that the United States has negotiated not involving a nuclear-armed state have included either a legally or politically binding commitment not to enrich or reprocess.

In addition to the UAE, the United States has negotiated several nuclear cooperation agreements with other partners in the Middle East, including Morocco (1980) and Egypt (1981). The agreements with Morocco and Egypt expire in 2022 and 2021, respectively.

Over the past decade, the United States has also conducted discussions on cooperation with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. But these discussions have not resulted in agreements, in large part due to the unwillingness of either country to forswear enrichment and reprocessing.

Saudi Arabia’s Interest in Nuclear Power
Saudi Arabia has ambitious plans for nuclear power. The kingdom says it wants to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion. Many observers believe Riyadh will be hard pressed to build even half that many. The kingdom has solicited bids for the first two reactors and hopes to sign contracts by the end of this year.

The Trump administration has pledged to revitalize the U.S. nuclear industry and sees in Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions a major commercial opportunity. The administration is currently conducting a review of U.S. policy toward civil nuclear power.

Riyadh claims that the primary motivation for its pursuit of nuclear power is to help meet the country’s rising demand for electricity and conserve its oil resources for export. However, it is questionable whether Saudi Arabia needs nuclear power to meet these objectives. According to several analyses commissioned by the Nuclear Policy Education Center, development of the kingdom’s natural gas resources and investment in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar would be safer and more economically rational alternatives.

Until recently, Saudi Arabia’s official position had been that it would choose not to enrich or reprocess. The kingdom has no near-term practical need for these capabilities and they would be more expensive than relying on the open market for enrichment services. In a May 2008 U.S.-Saudi memorandum of understanding on nuclear energy cooperation, Saudi Arabia declared “its intention to rely on international markets for nuclear fuel and to not pursue sensitive nuclear technologies, which stands in direct contrast to the actions of Iran.”

The Saudi government, however, would not agree to forgo fuel cycle capabilities in negotiations with the Obama administration and is now stating publicly that it intends to acquire them (though on what timeline is uncertain). In an interview with Reuters in March 2018, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy and Industry Khalid Bin Abdulaziz al-Falih stated: “It’s not natural for us to bring enriched uranium from a foreign country to fuel our reactors.” Al-Falih also said he hopes Washington will “help us with the fuel cycle,” suggesting that Riyadh may be seeking Washington’s blessing and active assistance to enrich or reprocess.

In reality, relying on the international market is what most states with nuclear reactors do to fuel them. How Saudi Arabia would acquire fuel-making technology is unclear and there would be significant obstacles. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a group of 48 supplier countries who implement export guidelines to try to prevent peaceful nuclear trade from contributing to nuclear proliferation, adopted new guidelines in June 2011 that strongly discourage the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technology. For its part, the United States does not transfer this technology to anybody. Riyadh could seek to acquire it from Pakistan or North Korea, neither of which are members of the NSG. But this would present its own problems.

Ultimately, Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of nuclear power and interest in enrichment appears motivated primarily by its security competition with Iran, which has violently manifested itself in the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen. Riyadh also believes the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is highly problematic, both because it limits and does not eliminate Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity and, in Riyadh’s view, enhances Iran’s position in the region.

Recent statements from the country’s leadership suggest the kingdom wants to keep open the option to acquire nuclear weapons under the cover of a NPT-compliant civilian nuclear power program. Disturbingly, neither Trump nor any member of his administration has publicly condemned Bin Salman’s threat to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran does. It has long been U.S. policy to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, including to U.S. allies and partners. The administration’s silence is even more worrisome in light of statements from Trump during the 2016 election campaign that the acquisition of nuclear weapons by U.S. allies such as South Korea, Japan, and Saudi Arabia is “going to happen anyway.”

The Case for Stringent Nonproliferation Conditions
The likelihood that Saudi Arabia will actually decide to engage in enrichment and/or reprocessing–to say nothing about acquiring nuclear weapons–is unknown but would face significant hurdles. Saudi statements could be designed to deter Iran and/or elicit greater protection from the United States.

Developing the capability to produce nuclear fuel is time-consuming, technically challenging, expensive, and, in a region as volatile as the Middle East, potentially threatening to one’s neighbors. Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told Trump in a March 5 meeting at the White House that the United States should insist on a Saudi commitment not to enrich and reprocess.

Most importantly, Saudi acquisition of the capability to make the key explosive ingredients of nuclear weapons runs a high risk of undermining the kingdom’s alliance with the United States. There is no other country–or technology–that Riyadh’s leaders can turn to that can provide the same level of proven support and protection.

But Saudi Arabia’s increasingly unabashed nuclear hedging is a threat to the nonproliferation regime that the United States has led for decades. To be consistent with the U.S. historical record of seeking to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, the Trump administration should seek safeguards in any 123 agreement that go beyond the existing nine nonproliferation conditions required by the Atomic Energy Act.

As Harvard University Senior Fellow and former Bush administration official Will Tobey testified to Congress last month, “the United States has never before contemplated, let alone concluded, a nuclear cooperation agreement with a state that is threatening even provisionally to leave the [nuclear] nonproliferation treaty.”

At a bare minimum, the United States should insist that Saudi Arabia sign and ratify the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which allows for expanded agency access to information, sites, and materials to guard against diversion for illicit activities. No non-nuclear country has ever built nuclear weapons under the Additional Protocol.

Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries that has yet to adopt the Additional Protocol (Iran has signed and is provisionally implementing it). Washington has not in recent years negotiated a 123 agreement with a state that had not signed up to the measure.

The United States should also seek a prolonged, legally-binding Saudi commitment not to pursue enrichment and reprocessing that does not sunset for the duration of the agreement. The absence of a ban on them would depart from the policy pursued by both the Bush and Obama administrations and open the door for the kingdom to pursue fuel cycle capabilities without U.S. approval if it uses technology or materials provided by other suppliers. A typical 123 agreement requires that the U.S. consent to any request to enrich or reprocess U.S.-origin materials or fuel.

In addition, an agreement that does not include the “Gold Standard” could lead the UAE to invoke a provision in its 123 agreement that allows for amending the agreement if Washington strikes a more “favorable” 123 pact with another Middle East country. Egypt’s 123 agreement, which is up for renewal in 2021, contains a similar provision.

Whether the Trump administration is insisting on these safeguards in discussions with the Saudis is unknown. It has not yet briefed Congress on the talks since they formally began.

In testimony at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing March 22, Perry suggested that the Saudis should adhere to the Additional Protocol. But he refused to say whether the United States is pushing for a prohibition on fuel-making or would consent to or assist in the development of a Saudi fuel-making program. (A permissive agreement that facilitates Saudi fuel-making would exacerbate the negative consequences described above.)

Critics of insisting on tougher nonproliferation standards in an agreement with Saudi Arabia, particularly restrictions on fuel cycle technologies, argue that the United States lacks leverage to convince Riyadh to accept these terms. They also argue that such terms could prompt Saudi Arabia to engage in cooperation with countries, such as Russia and China, that would demand less stringent nonproliferation, nuclear security, and nuclear safety provisions than those contained in the Atomic Energy Act.

These arguments are unconvincing for several reasons.

First, the administration has significant leverage in this case. While the U.S. nuclear industry no longer holds the preeminent supply position that it once did, countries still value the imprimatur of legitimacy for their nuclear efforts that comes with a 123 agreement. More importantly, Saudi Arabia relies heavily on the United States for military and economic support and president Trump is pursuing an expansion of cooperation with Riyadh in these areas. Given the dangerous downsides of the proliferation of nuclear fuel-making in the Middle East, the administration should attempt to use the influence this assistance provides.

Second, 123 agreements set the conditions for nuclear trade, but they are not contracts and do not automatically result in commerce. Even if Washington strikes a deal with Riyadh, there is no guarantee the kingdom will choose U.S. vendors. Regardless, as Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski of the Nuclear Policy Education Center note, Russia and China may not be appealing partners for Riyadh. U.S. nuclear technology has a better record of safety and reliability than what Russia and China have available for export. Meanwhile, Russia is the top supplier of nuclear reactors to Riyadh’s archenemy Iran.

South Korea, which is building four of its APR 1400 reactors in the UAE, is likely to be the most desirable vendor for Saudi Arabia. But given the reliance of this reactor on U.S. technology, exporting it to the kingdom could require a Saudi 123 agreement with Washington. This provides the Trump administration with another significant point of leverage.

Flawed Comparisons to the Iran Deal
Opponents of the 2015 agreement restricting Iran’s nuclear program claim that it undermines efforts to impose restrictions on Saudi enrichment and reprocessing since the Iran deal does not prohibit Iranian uranium enrichment activities.

This too is a deeply flawed—and dangerous—argument. The Iran deal, which is not an agreement for nuclear cooperation, severely and verifiably restricts Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, does not yet have fuel cycle capabilities and does not need them to produce nuclear energy.

The deal also requires—in perpetuity—stringent monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program under the Additional Protocol, which the Saudis have not yet signed.

During the early years of the Bush administration when Iran’s nuclear program was much smaller, pursuing a deal that eliminated Iran’s uranium-enrichment program may have been feasible. But by 2013 when the Obama administration began negotiating with Iran, such an outcome was not possible.

Obama administration officials also clearly stated that acknowledging Iran’s uranium enrichment program did not change longstanding U.S. policy that there is no “right to enrich” under the NPT as claimed by some states or alter U.S. opposition to the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technology.

It is clear that Saudi Arabia is concerned that the Iran deal leaves Tehran with too much nuclear capacity, especially after certain limitations on enrichment and fuel cycle activities begin to expire in the mid-2020s. Even more concerning from Saudi Arabia’s perspective is Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region. Bin Salman stated in a recent interview that Iran’s leadership “makes Hitler look good.”

These anxieties will need to be responsibly managed and addressed. But instead of walking away from the Iran deal, the Trump administration should continue to vigorously implement and enforce it. If Trump kills the deal, Iran could respond by resuming nuclear activities limited by the agreement. This would greatly increase the odds that Saudi Arabia will choose to quickly follow a similar path, and perhaps the UAE, Egypt, and other regional states as well. Attempting to counter Iran by facilitating Saudi fuel-making is also unwise. A cascade of fuel making in the Middle East would have profoundly negative consequences for regional security and the nonproliferation regime. The Iran case demonstrates the crisis that can ensue when a state takes steps toward nuclear weapons while maintaining that its program is entirely peaceful. 

Additionally, to address legitimate concerns about the future of Iran’s nuclear program after certain restrictions expire, the administration should pursue opportunities to build on the agreement in ways that strengthens nonproliferation in Iran and regionally and reduces Iran's incentives to expand its enrichment program.

Strengthening Congressional oversight
A growing number of lawmakers are justifiably raising concerns about a potential 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia that does not block the kingdom from engaging in fuel-making.

“The idea of Saudi Arabia having a nuclear program with the ability to enrich is a major national security concern,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) said at a March 21 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the implications of civilian nuclear cooperation with Riyadh. “Unfortunately from the little we do know from the administration it is looking at this deal in terms of economics and in terms of commerce and national security implications only register as a minor issue–if at all.”

Similarly, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Perry at the March 22 hearing that he “and many others” would oppose a nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia that does not include a fuel-making ban.

Once the executive branch submits a signed cooperation agreement to Congress, lawmakers have 90 days in continuous session to consider the pact, after which it automatically becomes law unless Congress adopts a joint resolution opposing it.

If the Trump administration presents lawmakers with a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia that does not contain adequate nonproliferation safeguards, Congress, which has the right to vote on the final agreement, should condition its approval on the adoption of several requirements. Options include:

  • a provision that would automatically terminate the agreement if it is ever determined that Saudi Arabia has sought or has acquired enrichment and reprocessing technologies, for any reason;
  • an annual certification from the president that Saudi Arabia is not seeking, nor has any nuclear technology supplier discussed the transfer of, enrichment and reprocessing technologies to the Saudis;
  • a provision that Congress must approve as an amendment to the agreement any decision by the United States to provide consent to Saudi enrichment and reprocessing; and
  • a commitment from the Trump administration that the United States will use all available means to encourage other members of the NSG to refrain from transferring sensitive fuel cycle technology to any state that does not already possess such technology.

In addition, it is also past time that Congress pursued revisions to the Atomic Energy Act procedures for Congressional review of 123 agreements.

On March 21, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) introduced HR 5357, the Nuclear Cooperation Reform Act of 2018. The bill, which mirrors legislation unanimously approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2011, would add new requirements to the nine conditions already in Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act that, if met, would be subject to the same Congressional “fast track” approval process as current law.

Agreements with states that cannot meet the higher set of standards would be subject to a more rigorous process requiring affirmative Congressional approval. Among the new requirements for “fast track” approval would be:

  • the application of the Additional Protocol; and
  • a pledge from countries that do not already possess enrichment and reprocessing capabilities not to acquire these capabilities and/or facilities to conduct them.

A common argument in opposition to earlier versions of the legislation was that by requiring more stringent standards, it would deny NPT members their rights under the treaty.

But asking that states forego enrichment and reprocessing is not about denying rights; it is about asking countries not to exercise rights in the context of a bilateral cooperation agreement with the United States.

In any event, under the bill, Congress could still pass agreements without a fuel-making ban. Such agreements would simply require a higher bar for approval than those containing a ban. This would provide powerful leverage to the executive branch negotiating team in its discussions with the Saudis and future talks with other potential partners.

Another argument is that by requiring tougher standards, other countries will not agree to nuclear cooperation with the United States and instead turn to other suppliers for nuclear trade.

Similar arguments were made at the time Congress was considering the amendments to the Atomic Energy Act via the 1978 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, and they were found to be wanting by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and others. The modifications to existing law proposed in the Ros-Lehtinen and Sherman legislation are less stringent than those enacted in 1978 and these amendments did not inhibit the United States from successfully renegotiating most of the existing 123 agreements at that time.

In light of the growing interest in nuclear power in geopolitically sensitive regions of the globe; the inclusion of the "Gold Standard" in the UAE and Taiwan agreements; and the new NSG rules adopted in 2011, it is prudent to update the Atomic Energy Act to better address the proliferation risks of today-and tomorrow.—KINGSTON REIF, with DARYL G. KIMBALL and KELSEY DAVENPORT

Subject Resources:

Posted: April 4, 2018

International Support for the Iran Nuclear Deal

International support for the 2015 nuclear deal between the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) and Iran remains strong, despite comments by U.S. President Donald Trump threatening the future of the agreement. The Arms Control Association will be adding international statements in support of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on this page as they are released. March 2018: General European Union “All parties recommitted to the full implementation of the agreement...It’s, for us, a matter of security for Europe...

Timeline of Nuclear Diplomacy With Iran

April 2018

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: April 2018

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, U.S. Secretary of State' John Kerry, and European Union High Representativ Catherine Ashton meet Sept. 25 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.Iran and six world powers known as the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) reached a historic nuclear deal on July 14, 2015 that limited Iran's nuclear program and enhanced monitoring in exchange for relief from nuclear sanctions. Prior to that, Iran had been engaged in efforts to acquire the capability to build nuclear weapons for more than two decades. Although it remained uncertain whether Tehran would have made the final decision to build nuclear weapons, it had developed a range of technologies, including uranium enrichment, warhead design, and delivery systems, that would give it this option in a relatively short time frame. Tehran maintains that its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful.

What follows is a chronological recount of the most significant developments in Iran’s nuclear program, international efforts to negotiate a settlement to address this controversial issue, and implementation of the agreement reached by Iran and the P5+1 on July 14, 2015.

 


Skip To: 1970's, 1980's, 1990's, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

 

November 1967: Iran’s first nuclear reactor, the U.S. supplied five-megawatt Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) goes critical. It operates on uranium enriched to about 93 percent (it is converted to run on 20 percent in 1993,) which the United States also supplies.

1970's

February 1970: The Iranian parliament ratifies the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

1974: Shah Reza Pahlavi establishes the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and announces plans to generate about 23,000 megawatts of energy over 20 years, including the construction of 23 nuclear power plants and the development of a full nuclear fuel cycle.

1979: The Iranian Revolution and the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran result in a severing of U.S.-Iranian ties and damages Iran’s relationship with the West. Iranian nuclear projects are halted.

1980's

January 19, 1984: The U.S. Department of State adds Iran to its list of state sponsors of terrorism, effectively imposing sweeping sanctions on Tehran.

1987: Iran acquires technical schematics for building a P-1 centrifuge from the Abdul Qadeer Khan network.

1990's

1992: Congress passes the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act of 1992, which prohibits the transfer of controlled goods or technology that might contribute “knowingly and materially” to Iran’s proliferation of advanced conventional weapons.

1993: Conversion of the TRR is completed by Argentina’s Applied Research Institute. It now runs on fuel enriched to just less than 20 percent, 115 kilograms of which is provided by Argentina; the contract for the conversion was signed in 1987.

August 5, 1996: The U.S. Congress passes the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, also known as the Iran Sanctions Act, that penalizes foreign and U.S. investment exceeding $20 million in Iran’s energy sector in one year.

2002

August 2002: The National Council of Resistance on Iran, the political wing of the terrorist organization Mujahideen-e Khalq (MeK), holds a press conference and declares Iran has built nuclear facilities near Natanz and Arak.

2003

 

September 12, 2003: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors adopts a resolution calling for Iran to suspend all enrichment – and reprocessing- related activities. The resolution requires Iran to declare all material relevant to its uranium-enrichment program and allow IAEA inspectors to conduct environmental sampling at any location. The resolution requires Iran to meet its conditions by October 31st 2003.

October 21, 2003: Iran agrees to meet IAEA demands by the October 31st deadline. In a deal struck between Iran and European foreign ministers, Iran agrees to suspend its uranium–enrichment activities and ratify an additional protocol requiring Iran to provide an expanded declaration of its nuclear activities and granting the IAEA broader rights of access to sites in the country.

2004

June 18, 2004: The IAEA rebukes Iran for failing to cooperate with IAEA inspectors. Iran responds by refusing to suspend enrichment-related activities as it had previously pledged.

November 14, 2004: Iran notifies the IAEA that it will suspend enrichment-related activities following talks with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. According to the so-called Paris Agreement, Iran would maintain the suspension for the duration of talks among the four countries. As a result, the IAEA Board of Governors decides not to refer Tehran to the UN Security Council.

2005

February 27, 2005: Russia and Iran conclude a nuclear fuel supply agreement in which Russia would provide fuel for the Bushehr reactor it is constructing and Iran would return the spent nuclear fuel to Russia. The arrangement is aimed at preventing Iran from extracting plutonium for nuclear weapons from the spent nuclear fuel.

August 8, 2005: Iran begins producing uranium hexafluoride at its Isfahan facility. As a result, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom halt negotiations with Tehran.

September 24, 2005: The IAEA adopts a resolution finding Iran in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement by a vote of 22-1 with 12 members abstaining. The resolution says that the nature of Iran’s nuclear activities and the lack of assurance in their peaceful nature fall under the purview of the UN Security Council, paving the way for a future referral.

2006

February 4, 2006: A special meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors refers Iran to the UN Security Council. The resolution “deems it necessary for Iran to” suspend its enrichment-related activities, reconsider the construction of the Arak heavy-water reactor, ratify the additional protocol to its safeguards agreement, and fully cooperate with the agency’s investigation.

February 6, 2006: Iran tells the IAEA that it will stop voluntarily implementing the additional protocol and other non-legally binding inspection procedures.

April 11, 2006: Iran announces that it has enriched uranium for the first time. The uranium enriched to about 3.5 percent was produced at the Natanz pilot enrichment plant.

 

June 6, 2006: China, France, Germany, Russia the United Kingdom, and the United Sates (the P5+1, referring to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) propose a framework agreement to Iran offering incentives for Iran to halt its enrichment program for an indefinite period of time.

July 31, 2006: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 1696, making the IAEA’s calls for Iran to suspend enrichment –related and reprocessing activities legally binding for the first time.

August 22, 2006: Iran delivers a response to the P5+1 proposal, rejecting the requirement to suspend enrichment but declaring that the package contained “elements which may be useful for a constructive approach.”

December 23, 2006: The UN Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1737, imposing sanctions on Iran for its failure to suspend its enrichment-related activities. The sanctions prohibit countries from transferring sensitive nuclear- and missile-related technology to Iran and require that all countries freeze the assets of ten Iranian organizations and twelve individuals for their involvement in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

2007

March 24, 2007: The UN Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1747 in response to Iran’s continued failure to comply with the council’s demand to suspend Uranium enrichment.

August 21, 2007: Following three rounds of talks in July and August, the IAEA and Iran agree on a “work plan” for Iran to answer long-standing questions about its nuclear activities, including work suspected of being related to nuclear weapons development.

December 3, 2007: The United States publicly releases an unclassified summary of a new National Intelligence Estimate report on Iran’s nuclear program. The NIE says that the intelligence community judged “with high confidence” that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003 and assessed with moderate confidence that the program had not resumed as of mid-2007. The report defines Iran’s nuclear weapons program as “design and weaponization work” as well as clandestine uranium conversion and enrichment. The NIE also said that Iran was believed to be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon between 2010 and 2015.

2008

March 3, 2008: The UN Security Council passes Resolution 1803, further broadening sanctions on Iran. It requires increased efforts on the part of member states to prevent Iran from acquiring sensitive nuclear or missile technology and adds 13 persons and seven entities to the UN blacklist.

June 14, 2008: The P5+1 present a new comprehensive proposal to Iran updating its 2006 incentives package. The new proposal maintained the same basic framework as the one in 2006, but highlighted an initial “freeze-for-freeze” process wherein Iran would halt any expansion of its enrichment activities while the UN Security Council agreed not to impose additional sanctions.

2009

February 3, 2009: Iran announces that it successfully carried out its first satellite launch, raising international concerns that Iran’s ballistic missile potential was growing.

April 8, 2009: Following an Iran policy review by the new Obama administration, the United States announces that it would participate fully in the P5+1 talks with Iran, a departure from the previous administration’s policy requiring Iran to meet UN demands first.

June 12, 2009: Iran holds presidential elections. Incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is declared the winner amid many indications that the election was rigged. This sparks weeks of protests within Iran and delays diplomatic efforts to address Iran’s nuclear program.

September 25, 2009: United States President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that Iran has been constructing a secret, second uranium-enrichment facility, Fordow, in the mountains near the holy city of Qom. IAEA spokesman Marc Vidricaire said that Iran informed the agency September 21 about the existence of the facility, but U.S. intelligence officials said Iran offered the confirmation only after learning that it had been discovered by the United States.

October 1, 2009: The P5+1 and Iran agree “in principle” to a U.S.-initiated, IAEA-backed, proposal to fuel the TRR. The proposal entails Iran exporting the majority of its 3.5 percent enriched Uranium in return for 20 percent-enriched uranium fuel for the TRR, which has exhausted much of its supply. This agreement was later met with domestic political opposition in Iran, resulting in attempts by Tehran to change the terms of the “fuel swap.”

2010

February 9, 2010: Iran begins the process of producing 20 percent enriched uranium, allegedly for the TRR.

May 17, 2010: Brazil, Iran, and Turkey issue a joint declaration attempting to resuscitate the TRR fuel-swap proposal. In the declaration, Iran agrees to ship 1,200 kilograms of 3.5 percent enriched uranium to Turkey in return for TRR fuel from France and Russia. France, Russia, and the United States reject the arrangement, citing Iran’s larger stockpile of 3.5 percent-enriched uranium and the failure of the declaration to address Iran’s enrichment to 20 percent.

June 9, 2010: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 1929, significantly expanding sanctions against Iran. In addition to tightening proliferation-related sanctions and banning Iran from carrying out nuclear-capable ballistic missile tests, the resolution imposes an arms embargo on the transfer of major weapons systems to Iran.

June 24, 2010: Congress adopts the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act; tightening U.S. sanctions against firms investing in Iran’s energy sector, extending those sanctions until 2016, and imposing new sanctions on companies that sell refined petroleum to Iran.

July 26, 2010: The EU agrees to further sanctions against Iran. A statement issued by EU member state foreign ministers refers to the new sanctions as “a comprehensive and robust package of measures in the areas of trade, financial services, energy, [and] transport, as well as additional designations for [a] visa ban and asset freeze.

September 16, 2010: The Stuxnet computer virus is first identified by a security expert as a directed attack against an Iranian nuclear-related facility, likely to be the Natanz enrichment plant.

2011

January 21-22, 2011: Following a December meeting in Geneva, the P5+1 meets with Iran in Istanbul, but the two sides do not arrive at any substantive agreement. Iran’s two preconditions for further discussions on a fuel-swap plan and transparency measures, recognition of a right to enrichment and the lifting of sanctions, were rejected by the P5+1.

February 16, 2011: U.S. intelligence officials tell a Senate committee that Iran has not yet decided whether it wants to develop nuclear weapons but is keeping that option open through development of its material capabilities.

May 8, 2011: Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant begins operations and successfully achieves a sustained chain reaction two days later, according to Atomstroyexport, the Russian state-owned company constructing and operating the plant.

June 8, 2011: Iran announces that it intends to triple the rate of 20 percent-enriched uranium production using more-advanced centrifuge designs. It also says it will move production to the Fordow enrichment plant near Qom, which is still under construction.

July 12, 2011: Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov unveils a proposal wherein Iran would take steps to increase cooperation with the IAEA and carry out confidence-building measures in return for a gradual easing of sanctions.

October 21, 2011: EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, sends a letter to Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili calling for “meaningful discussions on concrete confidence-building steps” to address international concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

November 8, 2011: The IAEA releases a report detailing a range of activities related to nuclear weapons development in which Iran is suspected to have engaged as part of a structured program prior to 2004. The report raises concerns that some weapons-related activities occurred after 2003. The information in the report is based primarily on information received from other countries, but also includes information from the agency’s own investigation. The findings appear consistent with the U.S. 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

December 31, 2011: As part of the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress passes legislation that will allow the United States to sanction foreign banks if they continue to process transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.

2012

January 2012: The EU passes a decision that will ban all member countries from importing Iranian oil beginning July 1, 2012. Other provisions of the decision will prevent member countries from providing the necessary protection and indemnity insurance for tankers carrying Iranian oil.

January 29-31, 2012: Following an exchange of letters between Iran and the IAEA, it was agreed that an Agency team would travel to Tehran to begin discussions on the IAEA’s investigations into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program laid out in the November 2011 IAEA report.

February 15, 2012: Jalili responds to Ashton’s Oct. 21 letter, while Iran simultaneously announces a number of nuclear advances, including the domestic production of a fuel plate for the TRR.

April 14, 2012: Iran meets with the P5+1 in Istanbul for talks both sides call “positive.” They agree on a framework of continuing negotiations with a step-by-step process and reciprocal actions.

May 23-24, 2012: Iran and the P5+1 meet in Baghdad for a second set of talks.

June 18-19, 2012: Talks between Iran and the P5+1 continue in Moscow. Representatives discuss the substance of a P5+1 proposal and an Iranian proposal. Ashton and Jalili announce that will determine if political-level talks will continue after a technical-level meeting in July.

July 3, 2012: Experts representing the six parties meet in Istanbul to discuss the technical aspects of the P5+1 proposal and the Iranian proposal.

July 24, 2012: Schmid and Bagheri meet in Istanbul to discuss the outcome of the technical level experts meeting and confirm that Ashton and Jalili will talk to determine the future of the negotiations.

August 30, 2012: The IAEA reports that Iran increased the number of centrifuges installed at the Fordow enrichment plant and is continuing to produce uranium enriched to 20 percent in excess of its needs for the Tehran Research Reactor.

September 2012: Ashton and Jalili meet in Istanbul to assess “common points” reached at the low-level expert talks held in early July. The meeting was not considered a formal negotiation.

September 27, 2012: In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu draws a red-line for an Israeli attack on Iran. Netanyahu defines his red-line as Iran amassing enough uranium enriched to 20 percent (approximately 250 kilograms), which, when further enriched, will be enough for one bomb.

November 16, 2012: The IAEA reports that since August, Iran completed installation of the approximately 2,800 centrifuges that Fordow is designed to hold, although the number enriching remains constant. The number of cascades producing 20 percent enriched uranium remains constant at Fordow. The report also notes that Iran installed more centrifuges at Natanz, and continued producing uranium enriched to 20 percent.

2013

February 26, 2013: Iran and the P5+1 resume negotiations in Almaty, Kazakhstan over Iran's nuclear program. The P5+1 offers Iran an updated proposal based largely on the 2012 package.

April 5-6, 2013: Iran and the P5+1 meet again in Almaty for a second round of talks. At the end of the meetings, negotiators announce that no further meetings are scheduled and the sides remain far apart.

June 3, 2013: At the quarterly meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, Director General Yukiya Amano says that the agency's talks with Iran over clarifying the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program have not made any progress.

June 14, 2013: Hassan Rouhani is elected president of Iran. A former nuclear negotiator, he asserts that Iran will maintain its nuclear program, but offers to be more transparent.

August 6, 2013: Three days after his inauguration, Iran's President Hasan Rouhani calls for the resumption of serious negotiations with the P5+1 on Iran's nuclear program.

September 26, 2013: The P5+1 foreign ministers meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the sidelines on the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Zarif presents the P5+1 with a new proposal that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry describes as “very different in the vision” of possibilities for the future. Zarif and Kerry meeting for a bilateral exchange after the larger group meeting. Zarif later says he and Kerry move to agree “first, on the parameters of the end game.” Zarif says Iran and the P5+1 will think about the order of steps that need to be implemented to “address the immediate concerns of [the] two sides” and move toward finalizing a deal within a year. The parties agree to meet again on October 15 in Geneva.

September 27, 2013: President Barack Obama calls Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, marking the highest level contact between the U.S. and Iran since 1979. While President Obama says that there will be significant obstacles to overcome, he believes a comprehensive resolution can be reached.

In Vienna, Iran's new envoy to the IAEA, Reza Najafi, meets with IAEA deputy director Herman Nackaerts to resume negotiations on the structured approach to resolving the agency's concerns about the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program. Both sides describe the meeting as constructive and agree to meet again on October 28.

October 15-16, 2013: Iran and the P5+1 meet in Geneva to resume negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. At the end of the talks, the parties release a joint statement describing the meetings as "substantive and forward looking." The statement also says that Iran presented a new proposal that the P5+1 carefully considered as an "important contribution" to the talks. The proposal is understood to contain a broad framework for a comprehensive agreement and an interim confidence building measure to be instituted over the next 3-6 months, but no details are given as the parties agreed to keep the negotiations confidential.

Wendy Sherman, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, says after the talks that Iran approached the meetings "with a candor" she had not heard in her two years of negotiating with Tehran. The parties agree to meet again November 7-8 in Geneva with an experts level meeting October 30-31.

October 28-29, 2013: Iran meets with the IAEA to continue discussions over the agency's investigations into Iran's past nuclear activities with possible military dimensions. According to a joint statement, Iran presented a new proposal at the talks that contained "practical measures" to "strengthen cooperation and dialogue with a view to future resolution of all outstanding issues." Iran and the IAEA agree to meet again in Tehran on November 11.

November 7-10, 2013: The P5+1 and Iran meet in Geneva to continue negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. On November 8, with the expectation that a deal is close, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flies to Geneva to join the talks, as do the foreign ministers from the other P5+1 countries. The parties fail to reach an agreement on a first-phase deal, but announce that talks will continue on November 20 in Geneva.

Secretary Kerry says in Nov. 10 press conference that the parties "narrowed the differences" and made significant progress toward reaching an agreement during the talks.

November 11, 2013: IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and Ali Akbar Salehi meet in Tehran to continue talks on an approach for the agency's investigations into Iran's past nuclear activities with possible military dimensions. Amano and Salehi sign a Framework for Cooperation Agreement. The framework lays out initial practical steps to be take by Iran within three months, including allowing IAEA access to the Heavy Water Production Plant at Arak and the Gchine uranium mine, and providing the agency with information on new research reactors and nuclear power plants that Iran intends to build. The statement commits the parties to cooperation "aimed at ensuring the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme through the resolution of all outstanding issues that have not already been resolved by the IAEA."

November 20-24, 2013: Iran and the P5+1 meet again in Geneva to continue negotiations. On November 23, the foreign ministers from the P5+1 join the negotiations. Early on November 24, Iranian Minister Javad Zarif and Catherine Ashton, leader of the P5+1 negotiating team, sign an agreement called the Joint Plan of Action. It lays out specific steps for each side in a six-month, first-phase agreement, and the broad framework to guide negotiations for a comprehensive solution.

The first-phase pauses further developments in Iran's nuclear program, rolls back significant elements like the stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, and requires more extensive IAEA monitoring and access to nuclear sites. In return, Iran receives limited sanctions relief, repatriation of limited assets frozen abroad, and a commitment that no new nuclear-related sanctions will be imposed on Iran for the duration of the agreement. For more details on the agreement, click here.

The plan will establish a Joint Commission to monitor the agreement and work with the IAEA. The six month period can be extended by mutual consent of both parties.

December 8, 2013: Under the terms of the Framework for Cooperation Agreement the IAEA visits the Arak Heavy Water Production Plant.

December 9-12, 2013: The P5+1 and Iran meet in Geneva at the technical level to begin discussions on the implementation of the Nov. 24 Joint Plant of Action.

December 11, 2013: Iran and the IAEA meet again in Vienna to review progress made on the six actions that Iran agreed to take as part of the Framework for Cooperation Agreement. The parties also begin discussing the next practical steps for Iran to take and initially plan to meet again on Jan. 21 to finalize the measures. The meeting is later postponed at the request of Iran to Feb. 8.

December 30-31, 2013: Technical level discussions between Iran and the P5+1 on implementing the Joint Plan of Action continue in Geneva.

2014

January 9-10, 2014: Iran and the P5+1 meet for a third time in Geneva to discuss implementation. The parties reach an agreement and return to their respective capitals for approval.

January 12, 2014: Iran and the P5+1 announce that implementation of the Joint Plan of Action will begin on Jan. 20.

January 20, 2014: Implementation of the Joint Plan of Action begins. The IAEA issues a report on Iran's compliance with the deal. The report states that Iran is adhering to the terms of the agreement, including, halting enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, beginning to blend down half of the stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium to 3.5 percent, and halting work on the Arak Heavy Water Reactor. The IAEA also begins more intrusive and frequent inspections.

The United States and the European Union also issue statements saying they have taken the necessary steps to waive the specific sanctions outlined in the Nov. 24 deal and release a schedule of payments for Iran to receive oil money held up in the other countries.

February 9, 2014: Iran and the IAEA meet to discuss further actions for Iran to take under the November 11 framework agreement to resolve the agency’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. They agree on additional actions, including Iran’s past work on exploding bridgewire detonators, one of the past activities with possible military dimensions.

February 17-20, 2014: Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 on the comprehensive agreement begin in Vienna. The parties agree on an agenda and framework to guide the talks

March 17-20, 2014: The P5+1 and Iran meet in Vienna to continue negotiations.

April 7-9, 2014: Another round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 take place in Vienna.

May 13-16, 2014: The P5+1 and Iran begin drafting the comprehensive agreement.

 

May 21, 2014: Iran and the IAEA announce an additional five actions for Iran to complete before August 25. Two of the activities that Iran agrees to provide information on relate to possible military dimensions.

June 2-6, 2014: At the IAEA board meeting Director General Yukiya Amano says that Iran is complying with the terms of the interim agreement and the agency's investigation into the unresolved concerns about Iran's nuclear program. The agency's quarterly report shows that Iran has neutralized nearly all of its stockpile of 20 percent uranium gas by dilution or conversion to powder form.

June 16-20, 2014: Iran and the P5+1 hold another round of negotiations in Vienna.

July 2-19, 2014: Iran and the P5+1 continue talks in Vienna on a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Early on June 19, the parties announce that they will extend the talks through November 24 and keep the measures agreed to in the interim agreement in place. The parties also announce additional actions that Iran will take, namely converting 25 kg of uranium powder enriched to 20 percent into fuel plates and blending down about 3 tons of uranium enriched to less than 2 percent. The P5+1 will also repatriate $2.8 billion in funds. The parties agree to resume talks in August.

August 25, 2014: Iran misses a deadline to complete actions on five areas of concern to the IAEA as part of the agreement that Iran and the agency reached in November 2013.

September 5, 2014: The IAEA's quarterly report on Iran's nuclear program shows that Iran is complying with the interim deal, but did not provide the IAEA with information about past activities with possible military dimensions (PMDs) by the Aug. 25 deadline.

September 18, 2014: Talks between Iran and the P5+1 resume in New York City on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Both sides say that little progress was made at the end of the talks.

October 14-16, 2014: Iran and the P5+1 meet in Vienna to continue negotiations. Officials say that they remain focused on reaching an agreement by the Nov. 24 deadline and progress was made during the talks.

November 9-10, 2014: Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State Kerry meet in Muscat, Oman to continue talks. P5+1 lead negotiator Catherine Ashton is also present.

November 18-24, 2014: Iran and the P5+1 meet in Vienna to continue negotiations on an comprehensive agreement. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joins the talks on Nov. 20. French Foreign Minister Fabiusu, British Foreign Secretary Hammond, and German Foreign Minister Steinmeier all join the talks between Nov. 20 and 22. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov arrives on Nov. 23 and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang on Nov. 24.

November 24, 2014: Iran and the P5+1 announce that negotiations will be extended because progress was made on the difficult issues and both sides see a path forward. The parties announce that they now aim to reach a political agreement by March and then complete the technical annexes by June 30. Both sides will continue to implement the conditions of the interim Joint Plan of Action from November 2013. Iran and the P5+1 also make additional commitments.

December 15, 2014: Talks between the P5+1 and Iran continue in Geneva. U.S. State Department officials say the talks are "good and substantive." Parties plan to meet again in January.

December 24, 2014: Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says in a letter to his foreign counterparts that Iran’s goal remains to reach a comprehensive nuclear deal that assures the world its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.

2015

January 15-18, 2015: The P5+1 and Iran meet in Geneva to continue negotiations.

January 21, 2015: In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jan. 21, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken says: "We assess that we still have a credible chance of reaching a deal that is in the best interest of America's security, as well as the security of our allies."  

January 23-24, 2015: Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and European Union Political Director Helga Schmid meet again with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi in Zurich, Switzerland.

February 18-20, 2015: Talks between the P5+1 and Iran resume in Vienna.

February 19, 2015: A report by the Director General of the IAEA confirms that Iran is upholding its commitments under the interim deal, including additional provisions from the November 2014 extension. The report notes “Iran has continued to provide the Agency with managed access to centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities.”

March 3, 2015: Prime Minister Netanyahu delivers a speech to a joint session of Congress. His speech claims that the Iran deal  “would all but guarantee that Iran gets [nuclear] weapons, lots of them.”

March 9, 2015: Senator Tom Cotton and 46 other senators sign an open letter to the Parliament of Iran. The letter warns that any deal reached without legislative approval could be revised by the next president “with the stroke of a pen.”

March 17-20, 2015: Talks between the P5+1 and Iran continue in Lausanne. The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, says to reporters "We have made progress on technical issues… One or two issues remain and need to be discussed."

March 25-April 2, 2015: Negotiations continue in Lausanne. By March 29, all of the Foreign Ministers from the seven countries involved and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini are present.

April 2, 2015: Iran and the P5+1 announce agreement on a general framework that outlines the broad parameters of a nuclear deal. The United States issues a more specific factsheet on the details. Iran and the P5+1 agree to continue meeting to finalize a deal before June 30.

April 14, 2015: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passes legislation authored by Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that will require the President to submit the deal to Congress for a vote of approval or disapproval. According to the legislation, the President will not be able to waive sanctions during the 30 day Congressional review period.

April 15, 2015: Iran and the IAEA meet in Tehran to continue discussing the agency's investigations into the possibly military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program.

April 27, 2015: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet in New York on the sidelines of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. Technical drafting work on the annexes of the agreement is underway.

May 7, 2015: The Senate passes the Corker legislation 98-1 on congressional review of an Iran nuclear deal.

May 12, 2015: EU and Iranian negotiators meet in Vienna to continue drafting a comprehensive agreement.

June 26, 2015: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Vienna to continue negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran and the P5+1. U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz joins Kerry. 

July 14, 2015: Iran and the P5+1 announce a comprehensive deal. Iran and the IAEA announce a roadmap for the agency's investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program.

July 19, 2015: The Obama administration sends the comprehensive deal and supporting documents to Congress, beginning the 60 day review period mandated by the Iran Nuclear Deal Review Act.

July 20, 2015: The UN Security Council unanimously passes a resolution endorsing the nuclear deal and the lifting of UN Security Council nuclear sanctions once key steps are taken in the deal.

August 15, 2015: The IAEA confirms that Iran submitted documents and explanations to answer the agency's unresolved concerns about past activities that could be related to nuclear weapons development.

September 2, 2015: The 34th Senator announces support for the nuclear deal with Iran, meaning that Congress will not have the support to override a presidential veto on a resolution disapproving of the deal.

September 8, 2015: Four additional Senators announce that they will support the nuclear deal with Iran, bringing the total number to 42. This important milestone will prevent the Senate from reaching the 60 vote threshold required for ending debate and moving to vote on a resolution of disapproval.

September 9, 2015: The IAEA announces that is submitted follow-up questions to Iran based on the information provided by Iran on Aug. 15. The IAEA is ahead of its Sept. 15 deadline to submit the questions.

September 10, 2015: A vote to end debate and move to vote on a resolution of disapproval fails to reach the required 60 votes on the Senate floor. The measure fails 58-42. Four democrats joined the 54 Republicans in favor of moving to vote on the resolution of disaproval. Similar votes fail on Sept. 15 and Sept. 17.

September 11, 2015: A vote on a resolution of approval fails in the House of Representatives, 269-162, with 25 Democrats voting joining the Republicans in voting against the measure.

September 17, 2015: The congressional review period ends without passage of a resolution of approval or a resolution of disapproval.

September 20, 2015: IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and Deputy Director General Tero Varjoranta visit the Parchin site at Iran. The IAEA has concerns about Iran conducting explosive activities there relevant to a nuclear device. Amano and Varjoranta confirm that environmental sampling was done at the site under IAEA surveillance and the agency is now testing the samples.

October 4, 2015: A panel of Iranian lawmakers reviewing the JCPOA release their assessment of the deal. The report issued says that the agreement contains some security threats, such as allowing inspectors access to military sites, but should go ahead.

October 10, 2015: Iran tests a medium-range ballistic missile, the Emad. The Emad is a more precise version of the Shahab-3, believed to be capable of carrying a 750 kg payload over 1,700 kilometers. The test is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929 (2010), which prohibits Iran from testing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. 

October 10, 2015: Iran's parliament approves a preliminary bill supporting the Iran deal. 

October 13, 2015: Iran's parliament approves a detailed bill supporting the Iran deal.

October 14, 2015Iran's Guardian Council ratifies the bill approved by the parliament, completing Iran's internal review of the agreement. 

October 15, 2015: The IAEA announces the activities laid out in the July 14 roadmap for the investigation into the past possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program has been completed. The IAEA aims to complete its report by Dec. 15.  

October 18, 2015Iran and the P5+1 formally adopt the nuclear deal. Iran begins taking steps to restrict its nuclear program. The United States issues waivers on nuclear-related sanctions to come into effect on implementation day. The EU announces it passed legislation to lift nuclear-related sanctions on implementation day. 

October 18, 2015Iran notifies the IAEA of that it will provisionally implement its additional protocol and modified Code 3.1 to its safeguards agreement as of implementation day.

October 19, 2015The first meeting of the Joint Commission takes place in Vienna. One of the purposes of the meeting is to set up working groups called for under the deal, such as the working group on procurement and the Arak reactor modification.  

October 20, 2015The Supreme Leader issues a statement endorsing the nuclear deal and bill passed by the Iranian parliament. 

October 21, 2015The United States raises Iran's ballistic missile test as a possible violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929 at a meeting of the Security Council. 

November 21, 2015Iran tests another medium-range ballistic missile in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929. 

December 2, 2015: The IAEA issues its assessment of Iran's past activities related to nuclear weapons development (PMDs). The IAEA assess that Tehran had an organized weapons program prior to 2003 and that some activities continued, although not as an organized effort, through 2009. The report says that the agency has no credible indication that nuclear material was diverted from Iran's declared program or that any activities continued after 2009.

December 15, 2015: The IAEA Board of Governors holds a special meeting to consider the Dec. 2 report on Iran's weaponization activities. The board passes a resolution terminating past resolutions on Iran's nuclear program and ending the investigation. The board requests that the IAEA continue reporting on Iran's nuclear activities under the nuclear deal and report immediately on any concerns that arise with Iran's implementation.

December 28, 2015: Iran announces that it shipped 8.5 tonnes of low-enriched uranium, including the 20 percent enriched material in scrap and waste, out of the country to Russia. In return, Iran receives 140 tonnes of uranium yellowcake.

2016

January 11, 2016: Iranian officials announce that the Arak reactor core is being disabled. Iranian and P5+1 officials say that implementation day is close.

January 16, 2016The IAEA verifies that Iran met its nuclear related commitments. Based on the IAEA report, Zarif and Mogherini announce implementation day, triggering the lifting of sanctions. UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which the Council passed in July to endorse the deal and trigger the lifting of UN sanctions comes into effect. Prior resolutions on Iran's nuclear program are terminated. 

January 17, 2016: The U.S. Treasury Department issues an announcement that new sanctions will be imposed on 11 individuals and entities involved with Iran's ballistic missile programs. U.S. President Barack Obama says that with implementation of the nuclear deal Iran will not obtain nuclear weapons and that "the region, the United States, and the world will be more secure." Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gives a speech saying that "Iran's nuclear rights have been accepted by all." 

January 26, 2016Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, says 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. 

February 11, 2016: Abbas Qaidaari, director of the Defense and Security Studies Department at the Center for Strategic Studies in the Office of the Iranian President, writes in a piece for the Atlantic Council that “Iran’s strategic defense plan currently sees no justification” for missile 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.

February 26, 2016The IAEA issues its first quarterly report on Iran's post-implementation day nuclear activities. The report notes that Iran is meeting its nuclear obligations, although it slightly exceeded a cap set on the stockpile of heavy water allowed under the agreement. The IAEA notes that Iran had 130.9 metric tons of heavy water, slightly above the 130 metric ton limit set by the deal, but shipped out 20 metric tons on February 24 to stay below the limit. 

March 9, 2016: Iran test launches two different variations of the Qadr medium-range ballistic missile. 

March 14, 2016U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power says she raised Iran's ballistic missile tests at a Security Council meeting, saying that the tests are inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231. 

March 15, 2016Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif defends Iran's missile launches saying that the missiles are permissible under UN Security Council Resolution 2231 because the missiles are not designed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads. 

March 21, 2016: Then-candidate Trump delivers remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference, noting his “number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.”

April 22, 2016: Officials from Iran and the United States meet in Vienna, signing a purchase agreement for Washington to buy 32 metric tons of heavy water for $8.6 million. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet in New York to discuss implementation of the deal. In remarks after the meeting Kerry says that Washington is working to clarify confusion amongst foreign banks about the sanctions lifted in January. 

May 27, 2016The IAEA issues its quarterly report on Iran's implementation of the nuclear deal. The report shows Iran is abiding by restrictions under the agreement and inspectors have been able to access certain Iranian sites using complimentary access visits. 

July 18, 2016Iran's research and development plan for advanced centrifuge machines, leaked to the AP, is reported on in the press. 

July 29, 2016: In a statement, the IAEA notes it sent a letter to Iran denying it was the source of leaked information about Iranian plans for phasing in advanced centrifuges in 2027.

September 8, 2016: The IAEA releases its third quarterly report since JCPOA implementation day, showing Iran continues to abide by its restrictions under the JCPOA. The report notes that Iran removed 96 IR-1 centrifuges from the storage area at Natanz to replace damaged centrifuges that were enriching uranium.

September 21, 2016: The U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control grants Airbus and Boeing permission to sell planes to Iran. The licenses were made possible by sanctions waived as part of the JCPOA. 

September 22, 2016: Iran and the P5+1 meet in New York to review progress on JCPOA implementation and the pace of sanctions relief. The meeting marks the first ministerial-level meeting since the announcement of the deal’s implementation in January. Speaking to the UN General Assembly on the same day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expresses concern over the slow pace of sanctions relief and claims the U.S. has been in lack of compliance.

September 26, 2016: Sergei Kireienko, head of Rosatom, the state-run Russian nuclear energy company, announces that Moscow purchased 38 tons of heavy-water from Iran. The material was delivered to Russia in mid-September.

November 2, 2016: IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano expresses concern to Iranian leaders regarding the size of Iran’s heavy water stock. On November 8th, the Agency confirms that Iran’s heavy water stock, at 130.1 tons, exceeds the 130 metric ton limit outlined in the deal, marking the second time Iran has exceeded the limit. On November 9th, Iran informs the IAEA of plans to remain in compliance by transferring heavy water out of the country.

November 8, 2016: Donald Trump is elected as the 45th President of the United States. During the presidential campaign, Trump referred to the JCPOA as the worst deal ever negotiated and pledged to renegotiate it. The U.S.’s European allies in the P5+1 previously signaled they would resist efforts to renegotiate the deal.

November 20, 2016: IAEA releases its fourth quarterly report on Iranian nuclear program since JCPOA implementation day. The report notes that Iran had 130.1 metric tons of heavy water, slightly over the 130 metric tons permitted under the deal. The IAEA report says Iran plans to transfer heavy water out of the country.

December 1, 2016: Congress passes a 10-year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), which becomes law on December 15th. Extension of the ISA is consistent with U.S. obligations under the JCPOA, although many of the ISA’s provisions are being waived under Washington’s commitments under the agreement.

December 6, 2016: IAEA verifies that all 11 metric tons of heavy water shipped out of Iran have reached their destination and are in storage, bringing Iran back within the limit on heavy water of 130 metric tons established by the JCPOA.

December 13, 2016: President Rouhani announces Iran will respond to Washington’s extension of the Iran Sanctions Act by researching and developing nuclear propulsion for marine vessels.

December 15, 2016: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reissues sanctions waivers early, on the same day that the ISA renewal comes into effect, to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to the JCPOA.

December 18, 2016: IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano visits Iran, meeting with President Rouhani and Ali Akhbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization. Amano and Salehi discussed issues related to implementation. Further, Amano sought clarification on Iran’s announcement regarding naval nuclear reactor research and development.

December 23, 2016: The IAEA, at the request of Federica Mogherini, circulates decisions made by the Joint Commission set up to oversee implementation of the nuclear deal. The documents contain additional information on hot cells, recovering waste uranium, describing and calculating efficiency for advanced centrifuges, and utilizing the procurement channel.  

2017

January 12, 2017: In his confirmation hearing for the position of Secretary of Defense, General Jim Mattis tells Congress that, while he believes the JCPOA is an imperfect agreement, “when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.” His remarks echo a previous statement in April, when he noted there is “no going back” on the deal absent a clear violation of the agreement.

Iran receives the first shipment in an order of 100 planes purchased from Airbus. Sanctions waived as part of the nuclear deal allow Iran to purchase new commercial aircraft.

January 15, 2017: IAEA verifies that Tehran has taken certain steps to remove infrastructure and excess centrifuges from Fordow within the necessary timeframe required by the JCPOA (one year after Implementation Day). Secretary of Energy Moniz releases a statement noting “Iran successfully met the milestone of removing excess centrifuges and infrastructure from Fordow, demonstrating that the deal continues to limit Iran’s nuclear program so as to provide confidence that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon and maintain at least a one year breakout time.”

January 28, 2017: Iran test fires a medium-range ballistic missile, in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231. The test prompts former NSA Michael Flynn, on February 1, to declare the United States has placed Iran “on notice.”

February 9, 2017: EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini travels to Washington for meetings with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and members of Congress. Mogherini notes that the JCPOA is key for the security of Europe given its geographic proximity to Iran.

February 24, 2017: IAEA releases its first quarterly report on Iranian nuclear activity in 2017, reporting on the size of Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 3.67 percent for the first time. The report notes that the stockpile was 101.7 kilograms. The limit established by the deal is 300 kilograms.

March 23, 2017: Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) introduces a new Iran sanctions bill, the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017, targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for terrorism.

March 31, 2017: Former Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken and six former Obama administration officials release an op-ed in Foreign Policy outlining their opposition to the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017.

April 18, 2017: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in a letter to speaker of the House Paul Ryan, certifies to Congress that Iran is compliant in meeting its obligations under the JCPOA.

April 23, 2017: Iran and China resolve a price dispute and complete an agreement to modify Iran’s Arak reactor. China will work with Iran to carry out modifications stipulated by the JCPOA to reduce the reactor’s output of weapons-grade plutonium.  

May 16, 2017: Ambassador Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S. negotiator for the JCPOA, states her opposition to the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017, noting its potential to undermine the nuclear accord.

May 17, 2017: The U.S. renews sanctions waivers as required by its JCPOA obligations, marking the first time the Trump administration has waived sanctions and taken a proactive step to implement the deal.

May 19, 2017: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is re-elected to a second term. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini congratulates Rouhani on Twitter and reaffirms the EU’s commitment to full JCPOA implementation.

June 2, 2017: The IAEA releases its second quarterly report in 2017 on Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA, reporting that Iran is meeting its obligations under the nuclear deal. 

June 15, 2017: Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 (S.722) passes the Senate by a vote of 98-2. The bill was amended to correct sections that violated the JCPOA, but Iran continued to assert that the bill contradicts the spirit of the deal. 

June 20, 2017: The UN Secretary General releases the biannual report on UN Security Council Resolution 2231, affirming that Iran is complying with the JCPOA but raising concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile activity. 

July 10, 2017: White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders says that at the G20 summit, President Trump encouraged foreign leaders not to do business with Iran, which Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif later cited as a failure on the part of the United States to “implement its part of the bargain” in an interview

July 17, 2017: The Trump administration reluctantly certifies Iran's compliance with the JCPOA, delaying the announcement for hours and issuing new non-nuclear sanctions on Iran the next day.  

July 21, 2017: The Joint Commission of the JCPOA meets for the sixth time to address the implementation of the agreement. 

July 25, 2017: The U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 3364, the Countering Adversarial Nations Through Sanctions Act, which would impose new sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia. 

August 31, 2017: In its third quarterly report, the IAEA finds that as of Aug. 21, Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium was 88.4 kg (194.89 pounds), well below a 202.8-kg limit, and the level of enrichment did not exceed a 3.67 percent cap. Iran’s stock of heavy water, stood at 111 tons, below the 130 ton limit.

September 20, 2017: The foreign ministers of China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly for the ministerial meeting of the E3/EU+3 and Iran. In remarks following the meeting, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini states that all agreed that all sides are implementing the JCPOA.

September 22, 2017: Iran parades its new medium-range ballistic missile tested in January, the Khoramshahr, with a range of about 2,000 km, in a military parade.

October 13, 2017: Trump declares that, as part of a broader new strategy toward Iran, he will not certify under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) that the suspension of sanctions under the JCPOA is "appropriate and proportionate" to measures taken by Iran under the deal. Trump's decertification itself does not violate the JCPOA. However, decertification opens up a window of 60 days where Congress may re-introduce sanctions waived under the nuclear deal with Iran under an expedited process. In his address, Trump encourages Congress to enact legislation against the JCPOA's "sunset clauses" which set dates after which certain restrictions under the deal on Iran's nuclear program will no longer apply. Trump says if his concerns about the deal are not resolved he will terminate the agreement.

Trump also states that he will further sanction the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for its support for terrorism, but does not designate the group as a terrorist organization.

Immediately following the announcement, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron released a joint statement expressing their continued support for the JCPOA.

November 13, 2017: The IAEA issues its fourth quarterly report for 2017 on Iran's implementation of the JCPOA. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano tells the agency's Board of Governors that the nuclear-related commitments are being implemented and that IAEA inspectors have had access to all locations they have needed to visit.

December 13, 2017: The JCPOA Joint Commission meets for the seventh time to oversee the implementation of the agreement.

December 15, 2017: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres issues the biannual report on the implementation of Resolution 2231. The report notes that the nuclear deal is being implemented but finds that Iran has violated the arms embargo provisions of Resolution 2231. The report also notes that the secretariat is continuing to investigate allegations that ballistic missiles launched at Saudi Arabia from Yemen were transferred by Iran to the Houthis in violation of 2231. Iran denies the claims.

2018

January 12, 2018: The Trump administration announces that it will re-issue waivers on nuclear-related sanctions on Iran to meet U.S. obligations under the agreement. However, Trump says he will not re-issue the waivers again and will withdraw from the deal unless Congress passes legislation addressing what he describes as flaws in the agreement. Trump says his administration is also engaging with European allies on a supplemental agreement of unlimited duration that would impose sanctions if Iran tests long-range missiles, thwarts inspections, or makes progress toward a nuclear weapon.

January 26, 2018: The UN panel of experts assessing implementation of sanctions on Yemen finds Iran in noncompliance with its obligations under the arms embargo established by Resolution 2216. The report notes that Iran did not take "necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer” of short-range ballistic missiles and other equipment. Iran disputes the report and argues that the evidence is fabricated.

February 22, 2018: The IAEA issues its first quarterly report for 2018 on Iran's implementation of the JCPOA. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano tells the agency's Board of Governors that the nuclear-related commitments are being implemented and that IAEA inspectors have had access to all locations they have needed to visit. As of Feb. 12, 2018, the quantity of Iran’s uranium enriched up to 3.67% U-235 was 109.5 kg. The report notes that Iran informed the agency of its intention to pursue naval nuclear propulsion in the future.

March 15, 2018: State Department Director of Policy Planning Brian Hook meets with representatives from the E3 (France, Germany, and the UK) in Berlin to continue discussions on the JCPOA and Trump's demand for a 'supplemental' agreement with the Europeans that addresses sunsets, ballistic missiles, and inspections.

March 16, 2018: The JCPOA Joint Commission meets to oversee implementation of the agreement.

March 19, 2018: EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council that the EU is not considering new sanctions on Iran's ballistic missile activities, amid reports that the E3 are developing such measures.

April 11, 2018: Political directors from the E3 (France, Germany, and the UK) and the United States meet in Washington, DC to continue talks on Trump's demand for a supplemental agreement that addresses sunsets, ballistic missiles, and inspections. 

April 11, 2018: China and Iran hold a seminar on civil nuclear cooperation under the JCPOA in Beijing. 

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

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Posted: March 27, 2018

Nuclear Weapons: Who Has What at a Glance

March 2018

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102; Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

Updated: March 2018

At the dawn of the nuclear age, the United States hoped to maintain a monopoly on its new weapon, but the secrets and the technology for making nuclear weapons soon spread. The United States conducted its first nuclear test explosion in July 1945 and dropped two atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Just four years later, the Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear test explosion. The United Kingdom (1952), France (1960), and China (1964) followed. Seeking to prevent the nuclear weapon ranks from expanding further, the United States and other like-minded states negotiated the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996.

India, Israel, and Pakistan never signed the NPT and possess nuclear arsenals. Iraq initiated a secret nuclear program under Saddam Hussein before the 1991 Persian Gulf War. North Korea announced its withdrawal from the NPT in January 2003 and has tested nuclear devices since that time. Iran and Libya have pursued secret nuclear activities in violation of the treaty’s terms, and Syria is suspected of having done the same. Still, nuclear nonproliferation successes outnumber failures and dire forecasts decades ago that the world would be home to dozens of states armed with nuclear weapons have not come to pass.

At the time the NPT was concluded, the nuclear stockpiles of both the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia numbered in the tens of thousands. Beginning in the 1970s, U.S. and Soviet/Russian leaders negotiated a series of bilateral arms control agreements and initiatives that limited, and later helped to reduce, the size of their nuclear arsenals. Today, the United States and Russia each deploy roughly 1,400 strategic warheads on several hundred bombers and missiles, and are modernizing their nuclear delivery systems.

China, India, and Pakistan are all pursuing new ballistic missile, cruise missile, and sea-based nuclear delivery systems. In addition, Pakistan has lowered the threshold for nuclear weapons use by developing tactical nuclear weapons capabilities to counter perceived Indian conventional military threats. North Korea continues its nuclear pursuits in violation of its earlier denuclearization pledges.

Nuclear-Weapon States:

The nuclear-weapon states (NWS) are the five states—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States—officially recognized as possessing nuclear weapons by the NPT. The treaty legitimizes these states’ nuclear arsenals, but establishes they are not supposed to build and maintain such weapons in perpetuity. In 2000, the NWS committed themselves to an “unequivocal undertaking…to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.” Because of the secretive nature with which most governments treat information about their nuclear arsenals, most of the figures below are best estimates of each nuclear-weapon state’s nuclear holdings, including both strategic warheads and lower-yield devices referred to as tactical weapons.

China

France

  • About 300 total warheads. 

Russia

  • February 2018 New START declaration: 1,444 strategic warheads deployed on 527 ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers.
  • The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) estimates approximately 4,500 stockpiled warheads and 2,510 retired warheads for a total of roughly 7,010 warheads, as of early 2017. 

United Kingdom

  • About 120 strategic warheads, of which no more than 40 are deployed at sea on a nuclear ballistic missile submarine at any given time. The United Kingdom possesses a total of four ballistic missile submarines.
  • Total stockpile is estimated up to 215 warheads.

United States:

  • February 2018 New START declaration: 1,350 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 652 ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers.
  • FAS estimates approximately 4,000 stockpiled warheads and 2,550 retired warheads for a total of 6,550 warheads as of February 2018.

Non-NPT Nuclear Weapons Possessors:

  • India, Israel, and Pakistan never joined the NPT and are known to possess nuclear weapons.
  • India first tested a nuclear explosive device in 1974. That test spurred Pakistan to ramp up work on its secret nuclear weapons program.
  • India and Pakistan both publicly demonstrated their nuclear weapon capabilities with a round of tit-for-tat nuclear tests in May 1998.
  • Israel has not publicly conducted a nuclear test, does not admit or deny having nuclear weapons, and states that it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Nevertheless, Israel is universally believed to possess nuclear arms, although it is unclear exactly how many.

The following arsenal estimates are based on the amount of fissile material—highly enriched uranium and plutonium—that each of the states is estimated to have produced. Fissile material is the key element for making nuclear weapons. India and Israel are believed to use plutonium in their weapons, while Pakistan is thought to use highly enriched uranium.

IndiaBetween 120-130 nuclear warheads.
IsraelAn estimated 80 nuclear warheads, with fissile material for up to 200.
PakistanBetween 130-140 nuclear warheads.


States of Immediate Proliferation Concern:

Prior to the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran pursued an uranium-enrichment program and other projects that provided it with the capability to produce bomb-grade fissile material and develop nuclear weapons, if it chose to do so. Iran’s uranium enrichment program continues, but it is restricted and monitored by the nuclear deal. In contrast, North Korea has the material to produce a small number of nuclear weapons, announced its withdrawal from the NPT, and tested nuclear devices. Uncertainty persists about how many additional nuclear devices North Korea has assembled beyond those it has tested. In September 2005, Pyongyang “committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.”

Iran:

  • No known weapons or sufficient fissile material stockpiles to build weapons.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the institution charged with verifying that states are not illicitly building nuclear weapons, concluded in 2003 that Iran had undertaken covert nuclear activities to establish the capacity to indigenously produce fissile material.
  • July 2015: Iran and six world powers negotiated a long-term agreement to verify and significantly reduce Iran's capacity to produce material for nuclear weapons.
  • As part of this agreement, the IAEA and Iran concluded an investigation into Iran’s past nuclear weapons-related activities. The agency concluded that Iran had an organized program to pursue nuclear weapons prior to 2003. Some of these activities continued through 2009, but there were no indications of weaponization activities taking place after that date.

North Korea:

  • Estimated as of January 2018 to have approximately 10-20 warheads and the fissile material for 30-60 nuclear weapons.
  • While there is a high degree of uncertainty surrounding North Korea's fissile material stockpile and production, particularly on the uranium enrichment side, North Korea is estimated to have 20-40 kilograms of plutonium and 250-500 kilograms of highly enriched uranium. The estimated annual production of fissile material is enough for 6-7 weapons.
  • North Korea operates its 5-megawatt heavy-water graphite-moderated reactor used to extract plutonium in the past for nuclear warheads on an intermittent basis since August 2013. There has also been activity at North Korea's reprocessing facility in 2016, indicating that Pyongyang has likely separated plutonium from the reactor's spent fuel. 
  • North Korea unveiled a centrifuge facility in 2010, but it is unclear if Pyongyang is using the facility to produce highly-enriched uranium for weapons.
  • By 2020, experts estimate that North Korea could have anywhere between 20-100 nuclear warheads based on the rate of its stockpile growth and technological improvements. 

Syria:

  • September 2007: Israel conducted an airstrike on what U.S. officials alleged was the construction site of a nuclear research reactor similar to North Korea’s Yongbyon reactor.
  • The extent of Syrian-North Korean nuclear cooperation is unclear, but is believed to have begun in 1997.
  • Investigations into U.S. claims uncovered traces of undeclared man-made uranium particles at both the site of the destroyed facility and Syria’s declared research reactor.
  • Syria has not adequately cooperated with the IAEA to clarify the nature of the destroyed facility and procurement efforts that could be related to a nuclear program.


States That Had Nuclear Weapons or Nuclear Weapons Programs at One Time:

  • Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited nuclear weapons following the Soviet Union’s 1991 collapse, but returned them to Russia and joined the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states.
  • South Africa secretly developed but subsequently dismantled its small number of nuclear warheads and also joined the NPT in 1991.
  • Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, but was forced to verifiably dismantle it under the supervision of UN inspectors. The U.S.-led March 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent capture of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein definitively ended his regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
  • Libya voluntarily renounced its secret nuclear weapons efforts in December 2003.
  • Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan also shelved nuclear weapons programs.
     

Sources: Arms Control Association, Federation of American Scientists, International Panel on Fissile Materials, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of State and Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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Posted: March 8, 2018

A Dangerous Retreat From Disarmament Diplomacy

Since the beginning of the nuclear age, the United States has played a leadership role in global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament diplomacy to help advance U.S. and international security.

March 2018
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

Since the beginning of the nuclear age, the United States has played a leadership role in global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament diplomacy to help advance U.S. and international security. Past presidents have actively led efforts to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons leading to their eventual elimination, a key obligation undertaken by all states under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

For decades, U.S. presidents have pursued arms control agreements under difficult circumstances, often when relations with foreign adversaries were at their worst. Dwight Eisenhower pursued a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviets, and John Kennedy concluded the Limited Test Ban Treaty. Under Lyndon Johnson, the United States led the way on the negotiation of the NPT and initiated strategic arms talks with the Soviets, which opened the way for Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter to conclude strategic arms limitation treaties.

At their 1985 Geneva Summit, president’s Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev declared: "A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought." (Photo: White House Photo Office)Ronald Reagan, under strong public pressure to freeze the arms race, negotiated agreements with the Soviets to ban intermediate-range missiles and verifiably reduce strategic nuclear arsenals. George H.W. Bush took bold steps to withdraw tactical nuclear weapons during the tumultuous final days of the Soviet Union.

Bill Clinton’s administration convinced three former Soviet republics to give up their nuclear weapons, pushed for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), secured the indefinite extension of the NPT, and negotiated a freeze on North Korea’s nuclear program. Even George W. Bush accelerated the pace of U.S. strategic arms reductions under an agreement with Russia. Barack Obama prioritized the negotiation and ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and, despite worsening relations with Russia, put enormous effort into the negotiation of the complex deal to curtail and contain Iran’s nuclear program.

Now, citing a “threatening security environment,” the administration of Donald Trump is effectively abandoning the United States' traditional global leadership role on nuclear arms control. At the same time, it is accelerating costly plans to rebuild the oversized U.S. nuclear arsenal, pushing to develop and deploy new nuclear capabilities, and expanding the range of circumstances in which the United States might consider using nuclear weapons.

As Trump explained on Feb. 12, the United States is “creating a brand new nuclear force.... We’re gonna be so far ahead of everybody else in nuclear like you’ve never seen before.” He continued, “Frankly I’d like to get rid of a lot of ‘em [nuclear weapons]. And if they [other nuclear-armed states] want to do that, we’ll go along with them. We won’t lead the way, we’ll go along with them.”

Trump’s passive and aggressive attitude on nuclear matters is fraught with peril. History shows that nuclear risk reduction and proliferation prevention does not just magically happen. It requires persistent, creative, and energetic U.S.-led diplomacy and engagement with adversaries.

But the Trump administration’s newly completed Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) does not offer any new nuclear risk reduction initiatives. Instead, the report meekly states that “the United States will remain receptive to future arms control negotiations if conditions permit.” The report does reiterate U.S. support for the nonproliferation elements of the NPT, but omits any mention of the U.S. disarmament commitments under Article VI of the treaty. Nevertheless, U.S. diplomats gamely claim that Trump “remains firmly committed to nonproliferation” and will continue to abide by the NPT commitments.

The NPR report does not even commit to the extension of New START, which will expire in three years. If the treaty is allowed to lapse in 2021 with nothing to replace it, there will be no limits on U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces for the first time since 1972. At a time when U.S.-Russian relations are strained, New START is even more vital for strategic stability and risk reduction. The NPR report also declares, without any explanation, that the United States will not seek ratification of the CTBT, a treaty the United States and 182 other states have signed that has not entered into force. Worse still, the Trump administration is actively undermining the global nuclear nonproliferation regime by threatening to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal if the other parties do not agree to extend indefinitely the current limits on Iran’s nuclear capacity. The better approach is to fully implement the agreement and seek opportunities to build on its nonproliferation value.

Responsible nations do not ignore their legal and political commitments on nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament. They cannot afford to undercut effective treaties and miss opportunities to reduce and eliminate nuclear risk, especially now. This applies to U.S. dealings with North Korea, which has finally indicated it is open to direct talks with Washington. This also applies to Russia, which is violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Absent U.S. leadership, other states and the United Nations will need to put forward creative approaches to bring about a cessation of the arms race, draw all nuclear-armed nations into the disarmament enterprise, and reduce the nuclear danger.


The monthly “Focus” editorials from Arms Control Today are available for reprint on a non-exclusive basis
with permission from the Arms Control Association and link to the original publication online.

 

Posted: March 1, 2018

Nuclear Nonproliferation: Six Lessons Not Yet Learned

More action is needed to avert the next nuclear proliferation crisis. 


March 2018
By Pierre Goldschmidt

If one had to choose the most exceptional year in the history of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards regime, it would be 2003. That year saw four events that, it is clear after 15 years, represented important challenges and in some respects missed opportunities for the governments seeking to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

On January 10, 2003, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), a unique case so far. On February 21, IAEA inspectors discovered at Natanz in Iran a pilot centrifuge enrichment facility ready to start operation, as well as the existence of undeclared nuclear material. On March 20, U.S. forces invaded Iraq on the pretext that the country still had a weapons of mass destruction program that included nuclear weapons. On December 19, Colonel Moammar Gaddafi announced that Libya was abandoning its 20-year covert nuclear weapons program; and as a result, the IAEA discovered the existence of a vast international network of clandestine nuclear traffic headed by Abdul Qadeer Khan of Pakistan.

A South Korean protester sprays paint on a portrait of then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during a rally January 23, 2003 in Seoul protesting North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Fifteen years later, North Korea, led by Kim Jong Un, has an arsenal of nuclear weapons in defiance of world powers. (Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)Incidentally, it was also the year during which, after some 15 years of an IAEA budget policy of zero real growth, the agency’s Board of Governors agreed to increase the regular budget of the safeguards department by 22 percent (in real terms) over a period of four years.

Still, the international community failed to take bold steps similar to what it had done a dozen years earlier. At that time, following the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the world discovered that Iraq had developed a clandestine nuclear weapons program over an extended period of time in parallel to its declared peaceful nuclear activities. This was despite the fact that Iraq was a party to the NPT and had had a comprehensive safeguards agreement in force with the IAEA since 1972.

Realizing that a comprehensive safeguards agreement1 did not provide the IAEA with the necessary tools to verify the declarations of non-nuclear-weapon states, the IAEA board in 1997 approved the Model Additional Protocol to provide the tools to draw the so-called broader conclusion that there are no undeclared nuclear material and activities in a non-nuclear-weapon state and that its declarations are correct and complete.

It is disturbing that no comparable measures were adopted after the 2003 events. The following analysis will focus on Iran’s noncompliance with its IAEA safeguards agreement, North Korea’s withdrawal from the NPT, and the lessons not yet fully learned.

The Lessons From Iran

Three major lessons from the experience with Iran relate to dealing with a state found in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement.

Lesson 1: In a case of noncompliance, the IAEA must refer it to the UN Security Council without undue delay. In November 2002, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said, “I believe that while differing circumstances may necessitate asymmetric responses, in the case of noncompliance with nonproliferation obligations, for the credibility of the regime, the approach in all cases should be one and the same: zero tolerance.” Yet, by failing to declare Iran in noncompliance in the IAEA director-general’s November 2003 report and in the ensuing Board of Governors resolution, the IAEA created a damaging precedent with far-reaching consequences still felt today.

When noncompliance is detected by the safeguards department, time is of the essence in reporting it. Any noncompliant state should know that it will be referred within a short period of time first to the IAEA board and then to the UN Security Council. If it proactively cooperates to correct the situation, it should be referred to the council for “information purposes only,” as was the case with Libya in March 2004. If the state in noncompliance adopts a “policy of concealment, with cooperation being limited and reactive, and information being slow in coming, changing and contradictory,”2 as was the case in Iran, the issue should be reported without delay to the council for action.

In the case of Iran, the IAEA board adopted on September 12, 2003, a consensus resolution that called on Iran to “suspend all further uranium enrichment-related activities” and to grant “unrestricted access, including environmental sampling, for the [IAEA] to whatever locations the [IAEA] deems necessary for the purposes of verification of the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations.”

The problem with such a resolution, which the board might well adopt in a future case of noncompliance, is that it is not legally binding. The only way to make it legally binding is to have it adopted by the Security Council. In the case of Iran, a binding resolution was not adopted by the council until December 2006.3 Three crucial years were lost, making the situation practically irreversible.

Lesson 2: In case of noncompliance, the IAEA should temporarily receive expanded verification authority. Under the governing IAEA statute, safeguards are “designed to ensure that special fissionable and other materials, services, equipment, facilities, and information…under [IAEA] supervision or control are not used in such a way as to further any military purpose.” To reach that objective, the statute provides that the agency will have the right and responsibility “to send into the territory of the recipient State inspectors…who shall have access at all times to all places and data and to any person who by reason of his occupation deals with materials, equipment, or facilities which are required by this Statute to be safeguarded, as necessary…to determine whether there is compliance with the undertaking against use in furtherance of any military purpose.”

Pierre Goldschmidt (center), deputy director-general and head of the safeguards department of the International Atomic Energy Agency, visits Iran's Karaj Nuclear Research Centre for Medicine and Agriculture in February 2003. Ambassador Ali Akbar Salehi, who later became the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, stands on the far right. In the back is a medical-isotope cyclotron from the Belgian firm IBA.(Photo: Pierre Goldschmidt)Last year marked the 60th anniversary of this forward-looking mandate coming into force. In practice, unfortunately, the commitments accepted by non-nuclear-weapon states under a comprehensive safeguards agreement and even an additional protocol to their safeguards agreement are much more limited, particularly as relates to access to information, persons, locations, and data and documents.4 Iran is well aware of those limitations.

The record shows, particularly in the cases of Iran and North Korea, that the agency will temporarily need expanded verification authority when a state is found in noncompliance or in breach of its obligation to comply with its safeguards agreement and does not show full transparency and cooperation in resolving questions with regard to its nuclear program. This expanded authority needs to go beyond that granted under a comprehensive safeguards agreement and an additional protocol as clearly reflected in the September 2005 IAEA report on Iran, which stated,

Given Iran’s past concealment efforts over many years, such transparency measures should extend beyond the formal requirements of the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol and include access to individuals, documentation related to procurement, dual use equipment, certain military owned workshops and research and development locations. Without such transparency measures, the [IAEA] ability…to verify the correctness and completeness of the statements made by Iran will be restricted.5

The problem is that these additional transparency measures have not been defined in any precise way. Also, they were not included in Security Council Resolution 1737, in which the council in 2006 decided “that Iran shall provide such access and cooperation as the IAEA requests to be able…to resolve all outstanding issues, as identified in IAEA reports.”

These broader access rights, conducted under “managed access” conditions, must not exclude military sites because it is likely that the military or related actors would be involved in nuclear activities associated with a weapons program, should one exist.6 Denial of, unwarranted delays in, or limitations to access should be reported by the IAEA director-general to the board and, as appropriate, to the Security Council.

Lesson 3: The UN Security Council should adopt a generic resolution preventively dealing with cases of noncompliance.

International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and Iranian technicians disconnect the connections between the twin uranium-enrichment cascades at the Natanz facility on January 20, 2014, as Iran halted production of 20 percent enriched uranium under terms of a deal with world powers to curtail capabilities that could be used to produce nuclear weapons. (Photo: KAZEM GHANE/AFP/Getty Images)In order to give the IAEA the verification tools it needs in cases of noncompliance, the Security Council should adopt a generic resolution under Article 41 of the UN Charter stating that if the IAEA finds a state to be in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement in accordance with Article XII.C of the IAEA statute, the Security Council upon request by the agency would automatically adopt a state-specific resolution requiring that state to temporarily grant to the agency extended access rights.7 These rights, defined in the Model Temporary Complementary Protocol published in April 2009, would be terminated as soon as the agency’s secretariat and board have drawn the so-called broader conclusion that there are no undeclared nuclear material and activities in the state and that its declarations to the IAEA are correct and complete.8

This generic resolution should also require the noncompliant state to (1) immediately suspend all nuclear fuel-cycle-related activities as long as the IAEA has not been able to draw the broader conclusion and (2) conclude with the agency, within a limited period of time, a facility-specific safeguards agreement for all its nuclear facilities. The latter requirement is necessary to close the most damaging safeguards agreement loophole detailed below in Lesson 6.

This generic resolution should provide that if the IAEA director-general is unable to report within 60 days of the adoption of the corresponding state-specific resolution that the noncompliant state has concluded the required facility-specific safeguards agreement or that it is fully implementing the other requirement of the resolution, the Security Council would immediately convene to adopt a new Article 41 resolution sanctioning the noncompliant state. The level of sanctions would not be predetermined, and the permanent members of the Security Council would still have a veto right, but it would make the adoption of sanctions at an early stage much more likely and therefore constitute an improved deterrence.

One should bear in mind that, for almost 10 years, the Security Council’s legally binding sanctions against Iran were very limited and essentially targeted designated individuals and entities involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities. These limited sanctions did not stop Iran from continuing to make progress on its nuclear program in contravention of legally binding Security Council resolutions. At the time of the November 2003 report, Iran had no operating uranium hexafluoride-conversion plant and no operating centrifuge plant at Natanz, and the construction of a heavy-water research reactor at Arak had not yet started.

By early 2006, when the IAEA finally reported Iran’s noncompliance to the Security Council, the situation was very different, and there was no way Iran could be compelled to return to the status of its nuclear program at the time of the November 2003 IAEA report.

This fact is reflected in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action concluded in July 2015 between Iran and China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which allows Iran to continue enriching uranium under a range of restrictions.

The nuclear agreement’s main objective is to ensure that Iran is constrained and monitored for 15 years so that it cannot break out and manufacture a nuclear weapon in less than one year.9 As long as all parties meet their obligations, this objective will be attained. Some of the constraints accepted by Iran represent a remarkable and largely unexpected achievement. Yet, this is really not a long period for Iran; it will soon be 15 years since the IAEA visited Natanz for the first time.

There is little doubt that around 2030, if not before, Iran will be a nuclear threshold state, that is, a state capable of manufacturing more than one nuclear weapon in a period of a few months and having the necessary delivery means. With that in mind, while the nuclear deal’s negotiations were underway, in March 2014 this author recommended privately to high-ranking officials at the U.S. Department of State the inclusion of two provisions.

The first was a requirement that Iran place each of its nuclear facilities under an IAEA facility-specific safeguards agreement. The second was a requirement for Iran to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), as requested in June 2010 under Security Council Resolution 1929. Unfortunately, neither was included in the nuclear deal.

It is difficult to understand on what basis Iran could have objected to these two requirements since Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had issued a fatwa stating that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam, and the agreement’s preamble states that “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.” France, Germany, Russia, and the UK have ratified the CTBT. So it is most likely that the United States, because it has not yet done so, did not push for inclusion.

The Lessons From North Korea

There are three further lessons to be drawn from the safeguards experience in North Korea.

North Korea shows off a purported nuclear device in a photo released by its official Korean Central News Agency on September 3, 2017. Under leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea has conducted four underground nuclear test explosions in the past five years, after years of failed international nonproliferation efforts. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)Lesson 4: In case a nation withdraws from the NPT, the UN Security Council must act promptly and decisively to condemn the action and impose sanctions. Shortly after North Korea submitted its initial report to the IAEA in May 1992 under its safeguards agreement, inconsistencies emerged between its initial declaration and agency findings, centering on a mismatch between declared plutonium production and solutions containing nuclear waste. On April 1, 1993, the IAEA board declared that North Korea was in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement and promptly reported the case to the UN Security Council.

In the meantime, North Korea had declared on March 12, 1993, its intention to withdraw from the NPT. The Security Council in May 1993 adopted Resolution 825, calling on North Korea to reconsider its withdrawal. Since then, North Korea has repeatedly been declared by the IAEA to be in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement.

The Agreed Framework concluded between the United States and North Korea in October 1994 resulted in the latter suspending its NPT withdrawal and agreeing to freeze the operation of a number of sensitive facilities. Unfortunately, because of the imprecise formulation of the framework, North Korea subsequently did not agree to some IAEA verification measures, such as the taking of samples and nondestructive analysis measurements. The North Koreans also did not submit accounting reports to the agency for the facilities covered by the freeze.

In October 2002, the Bush administration said that a North Korean official, confronted with a U.S. assessment, admitted the existence of a clandestine uranium-enrichment program. That was the starting point of a crisis that led to North Korea’s announcement on January 10, 2003,
of its NPT withdrawal.

For a period of 13 years after North Korea was first reported to the Security Council for noncompliance, the council failed to adopt a single resolution condemning Pyongyang, even during the three and a half years that followed its NPT withdrawal. Only after the North Koreans tested a nuclear weapon on October 9, 2006, did the council five days later take legally binding action for the first time by adopting Resolution 1718, which imposed an embargo on arms and luxury goods, an asset freeze, and a travel ban for persons designated as involved in the nuclear program. Further, it imposed a ban on a range of imports and exports and prohibited Pyongyang from conducting nuclear tests or launching ballistic missiles.

These sanctions were much too mild and came much too late to dissuade North Korea from continuing with its nuclear weapons program. Since then, North Korea accelerated testing of nuclear weapons and launched increasingly more capable ballistic missiles.

The main factor leading to this serious situation is China’s consistent opposition, until 2017, to effective Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang. China’s stated justification was concern that harsh sanctions could precipitate the collapse of the regime, potentially driving hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees into China and increasing the likelihood of Korean unification under the leadership of the democratic South. China would then have a border with a U.S. ally that is home to more than 25,000 U.S. troops.

Although China’s concerns are legitimate, the consequence of its unconstructive and ineffective attitude until very recently is that North Korea today has an arsenal of nuclear weapons, which it is unlikely to abandon in the foreseeable future. In any case, it is critical for the Security Council to adopt new measures to minimize the risk that other states could one day follow North Korea’s example.

Lesson 5: The Security Council needs to deter withdrawal from the NPT by making the use of the veto right less likely. As exemplified by the cases of Iran and North Korea, one of the greatest difficulties in deterring states from violating their nonproliferation undertakings and from ignoring legally binding Security Council resolutions is the hope that at least one of the five veto-wielding council members will oppose the adoption of effective sanctions.

As a step toward strengthening the nonproliferation regime, the Security Council should adopt a generic and legally binding resolution deciding that if a state notifies its withdrawal from the NPT (an undisputed right under Article X.1), such notification constitutes a threat to international peace and security as defined under Article 39 of the UN Charter.10 This generic resolution should make sure that the Security Council would meet immediately with a view to decide, under Article 41 of the UN Charter, which measures would apply as soon as the withdrawal becomes effective.

This generic resolution should include a statement by the council’s five permanent members that they consider the withdrawal to be such a major threat to international peace and security that, in such a case, they do not intend to exercise their veto right against any state-specific sanctions resolution if they are the only permanent member to do so.

Because this declaration of intention is not legally binding, that generic resolution would not deprive those members of their veto right on any state-specific resolution. It would ensure that the council consider the matter without delay and increase the risk of immediate sanctions for the withdrawing state.

Lesson 6: All nuclear fuel-cycle facilities should be subject to irreversible IAEA safeguards. One of the main outstanding safeguards loopholes that deserves prompt attention is the absence of a requirement for IAEA safeguards to irreversibly remain in force should a state leave the NPT. If one day Iran or any other NPT non-nuclear-weapon state decides to withdraw, its safeguards agreement with the IAEA would automatically lapse under the terms of that agreement. As a result, a state may withdraw from the NPT and use previously safeguarded nuclear materials and facilities to produce nuclear weapons without violating any international treaty. NPT members therefore should strengthen safeguards rules and practices by creating a legal requirement to maintain safeguards even if a state exercises its right to withdraw from the NPT.

Over the past 15 years, states and organizations have submitted proposals designed to close this significant loophole. For example, Luxembourg submitted a working paper on behalf of the European Union to the 2005 NPT Review Conference recommending that states “[a]ffirm as a matter of principle that all nuclear materials, equipment, technologies and facilities, developed for peaceful purposes, of a State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remain, in case of a withdrawal from the Treaty, restricted to peaceful uses only and as a consequence have to remain subject to safeguards.”11 Germany and France made similar proposals in 2004.

The UN Security Council attempted to address this issue in 2009, passing Resolution 1887, which urges states to “[r]equire as a condition of nuclear exports that the recipient State agree that, in the event that it should terminate its IAEA safeguards agreement, safeguards shall continue with respect to any nuclear material and equipment provided prior to such termination, as well as any special nuclear material produced through the use of such material or equipment.” However, this resolution does not extend to domestically produced nuclear material, equipment, and facilities. Moreover, because it was not adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, it is not legally binding.

None of these proposals have created an effective legal barrier to a state’s utilization of previously safeguarded facilities and materials for military purposes after its withdrawal from the NPT. It seems unrealistic to expect, as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) does, that a country deciding to leave the NPT and expel IAEA inspectors would agree thereafter to enter into a facility-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA, return previously delivered material and equipment to the supplier state, or accept inspectors from the exporting state to conduct verification work that IAEA inspectors are no longer allowed to do.

As this author recommended in March 2015,12 it would be much more effective to require states to conclude a facility-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA before any materials or technology are transferred, rather than as a bilateral and limited fallback obligation after a state has withdrawn from the NPT, as foreseen by the NSG. Indeed, in contrast to comprehensive safeguards agreements, facility-specific safeguards agreements, known as INFCIRC/66-type agreements, do not lapse if the state withdraws from the NPT.

NSG members should formally agree to interpret their “effective safeguards in perpetuity” export criterion13 as requiring the recipient state to have an INFCIRC/66-type safeguards agreement in force with the IAEA before enrichment- or reprocessing-related equipment, technology, or expertise is transferred. NSG non-nuclear-weapon states should lead by example and place all their enrichment and reprocessing facilities under facility-specific safeguards agreements with the IAEA.

For non-nuclear-weapon states, INFCIRC/66-type safeguards agreements concluded with the IAEA are and would continue to be subsumed under existing comprehensive safeguards agreements. They would become operational only if the latter were terminated.

This approach does not create a new safeguards standard, as the Model Additional Protocol did in 1997. Instead, it involves the simple adoption of an older type of safeguards. Therefore, it should face fewer political obstacles, would impose no operational financial burden on the state or the IAEA, and would require only a little extra paperwork at the outset.

By virtue of the current roster of NSG members, if this approach could be achieved, nearly all non-nuclear-weapon states that are parties to the NPT and currently operate enrichment and reprocessing facilities would have endorsed this new mechanism. The only exception would be Iran.

Nuclear-weapon states should also lead by example when it comes to their own facilities. Currently, nuclear-weapon states have a voluntary offer agreement with the IAEA, under which they determine which facilities they will make available for safeguards. The nuclear-weapon states provide the IAEA with a list of these “eligible” facilities. In order to demonstrate commitment to the principle of irreversible safeguards, each nuclear-weapon state should agree to place any enrichment or reprocessing facility on its list under INFCIRC/66-type safeguards agreements.

In such a case, enrichment facilities in China, France, the UK, and the United States, as well as French and UK reprocessing plants, would be subject to irreversible IAEA safeguards. With negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty stalled, this would provide an alternative means of achieving a first step toward a similar goal and may enable the nuclear-weapon states to demonstrate some concrete progress in this area.

What Now?

It is likely that an increasing number of non-nuclear-weapon states will acquire the necessary scientific, technical, and industrial capability to manufacture nuclear weapons and their means of delivery, thereby becoming nuclear threshold states. Indeed, a September 2008 IAEA report on Libya stated that even nuclear weapons designs existed in electronic form.14

It is therefore crucial to adopt without delay measures to deter nuclear threshold states from manufacturing nuclear weapons and then withdrawing from the NPT. As well summarized by Nicholas Miller and Vipin Narang in August 2017,

Nonproliferation efforts relying primarily on export controls and efforts to limit technology may buy time but are clearly insufficient against a motivated proliferator…. To be successful against isolated countries like North Korea, nonproliferation policies must either address the proliferator’s underlying motives—in other words, their sense of insecurity—or they must enlist a strong multilateral coalition that enforces sanctions vigorously, with few exploitable cracks. This is a tall order, but North Korea shows that the stakes are rarely higher.15

To this end, members of the Security Council should discuss and agree on legally binding generic procedures for responding to noncompliance and NPT withdrawal. Because council members would not know which states might be involved in the future, such discussions should be easier and less acrimonious than they would be during the heat of a crisis. An agreement on a set of standard responses to be applied evenhandedly, regardless of the noncompliant state’s allies, would significantly enhance the credibility of the nonproliferation regime.

If adopted, the measures recommended in this paper would make a real difference in protecting against nuclear proliferation. Yet, all countries, most of all the five permanent members of the Security Council, will need to acknowledge that these measures should be adopted now in order to mitigate the consequences of the next proliferation crisis.

ENDNOTES

1 Under a comprehensive safeguards agreement, the IAEA has the right and obligation to ensure that safeguards are applied on all nuclear material in the territory, jurisdiction or control of the State for the exclusive purpose of verifying that such material is not diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

2 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” GOV/2003/75, November 10, 2003, para. 50.

3 UN Security Council, S/RES/1737, December 27, 2006. It was only after finding Iran in possession of a document on the production of uranium metal hemispheres, a process related to the fabrication of nuclear weapons components, and after Iran resumed enrichment activities in January 2006 that the IAEA Board of Governors adopted a resolution on February 4, 2006, deciding to report the Iranian file to the UN Security Council. IAEA Board of Governors, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” GOV/2006/14, February 4, 2006.

4 For a detailed analysis of these additional protocol limitations and the way they should be temporarily corrected when a state found to be in noncompliance is not fully and proactively cooperating with the IAEA, see Pierre Goldschmidt, “IAEA Safeguards: Dealing Preventively With Non-Compliance,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 12, 2008, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/Goldschmidt_Dealing_Preventively_7-12-08.pdf.

5 IAEA Board of Governors, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Report by the Director-General,” GOV/2005/67, September 2, 2005, para. 50.

6 “The IAEA’s existing authorities should be interpreted to give the Agency the responsibility to inspect for indicators of nuclear weaponization activities.” IAEA Board of Governors and IAEA General Conference, “Report of the Commission of Eminent Persons on the Future of the Agency: Note by the Director General,” GOV/2008/22-GC(52)/INF/4, May 23, 2008 (containing an annex titled “Reinforcing the Global Nuclear Order for Peace and Prosperity: The Role of the IAEA to 2020 and Beyond,” p. 19).

7 Other generic resolutions are UN Security Council Resolution 1373 concerning acts of international terrorism and Resolution 1540 concerning the acquisition of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and their means of delivery by nonstate actors.

8 Pierre Goldschmidt, “Concrete Steps to Improve the Nonproliferation Regime,” Carnegie Papers, No. 100 (April 2009), pp. 29-41.

9 The nuclear agreement with Iran includes transparency measures extending beyond 15 years, such as a long-term IAEA presence in Iran, IAEA monitoring of uranium ore concentrate produced by Iran from all uranium ore concentrate plants for 25 years, and containment and surveillance of centrifuge rotors and bellows for 20 years.

10 In Resolution 1540 (2004), the Security Council is “[a]ffirming that proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery, constitutes a threat to international peace and security.” It has reaffirmed that statement many times thereafter, but has never “decided” that this is the case under an operative paragraph of a legally binding Chapter VII resolution.

11 "Withdrawal from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," Working paper submitted by Luxembourg on behalf of the European Union, May 10, 2005, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N05/339/76/PDF/N0533976.pdf?OpenElement

12 Pierre Goldschmidt, “Securing Irreversible IAEA Safeguards to Close the Next NPT Loophole,” Arms Control Today, March 2015.

13 Nuclear Suppliers Group, “Guidelines for Nuclear Transfers,” NSG Part 1, June 2013, para. 6(a)(iv).

14 “Much of the sensitive information coming from the [Abdul Qadeer Khan] network existed in electronic form, enabling easier use and dissemination. This includes information that relates to uranium centrifuge enrichment and, more disturbing, information that relates to nuclear weapon design.” IAEA Board of Governors, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,” GOV/2008/39, September 12, 2008, para. 38.

15 Nicholas Miller and Vipin Narang, “How North Korea Shocked the Nuclear Experts,” Politico, August 26, 2017, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/08/26/north-korea-nuclear-tests-shock-experts-215533.
 


Pierre Goldschmidt is a former nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He was deputy director-general and head of the Department of Safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency from May 1999 to June 2005. This paper is based on the author's presentation at a November 2017 conference held by the Wilson Center and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Posted: March 1, 2018

Arms Control ‘Under Fire’

 

 


March 2018
By Sharon Squassoni

Arms control treaties and nonproliferation agreements are mechanisms that nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states alike rely on to help provide transparency, predictability, and stability for regional and global security. In the last year, several elements of this key architecture have come under fire.

U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control is a key element because both countries together still possess about 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons. Without bilateral progress, there is little incentive for others to move forward. However, for the first time in many years, no U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control negotiations are under way. If the draft U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is any guide to U.S. policy, there will be no U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control negotiations for the foreseeable future. Instead, we could see a return to a nuclear arms race.

(Photo: www.thebulletin.org)Russian officials consistently have asked to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) for another five years, to 2026, including an early call from President Vladimir Putin to President Donald Trump. Extending that treaty is an easy, positive step to take, but it hasn't been done. The landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is on the rocks. For four years, both sides have alleged violations, but Russia last year actually fielded a ground-launched cruise missile that violates the treaty. The United States has stated it will remain in compliance, but the NPR puts Russia on notice that the status quo is untenable.

More broadly, the NPR describes the re-emergence of great-power competition and blames Russia for rebuffing U.S. overtures on follow-on negotiations for New START on tactical nuclear weapons. It elevates the reported Russian interest in limited nuclear weapons use to a strategic imperative and concludes that the only response is more U.S. nuclear weapons.

Russia, for its part, has engaged in provocative and illegal behaviors thought to be part of Cold War history. The NPR declares that Russia has not only violated that INF Treaty, but also the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, the Budapest Memorandum, the Helsinki accords, presidential nuclear initiatives … the list goes on. In the words of the NPR, the Cold War is over, but its language on tailored deterrence for Russia is as harsh as any during the Cold War.

With U.S.-Russian relations so strained, there is little room for progress anywhere else, which brings us to the Iran nuclear deal. Trump has been consistent in his dislike of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which puts additional constraints on Iran's capabilities to develop nuclear weapons. In October, Trump did not certify to Congress that Iran was in compliance, but Congress was unable to pass legislation that would provide an alternative approach. Earlier this month, Trump continued to waive sanctions, but called on the Europeans to craft a supplementary deal by May. Trump himself has never offered a single viable alternative. But, so far, he hasn't been willing to unilaterally pull out of the deal as he has threatened. Nonetheless, this is hardly a recipe for stability and predictability going forward.

Other multilateral agreements are in trouble. The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty turns 50 years old in 2020. Twenty-five years ago, in exchange for the indefinite extension of the treaty, the nuclear-weapon states promised to conclude a nuclear test ban, end the production of fissile material for weapons, reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, and in general, progress toward reducing the risks from nuclear weapons. Well, as you know, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was signed 20 years ago, but it still hasn't entered into force. No longer does the United States promise not to test nuclear weapons until the CTBT enters into force, but instead the new NPR states that the United States will not resume nuclear testing unless necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of U.S. nuclear weapons.

Finally, the 2020 review of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty will not be pretty, in spite of the conclusion last year of a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons won a Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts related to the ban treaty, and more than 50 states have signed it so far. Nuclear-weapon states, on the other hand, boycotted the negotiations and have rejected it.

We need more than symbolic victories to achieve a safer, more secure future. We need to do more.


Sharon Squassoni is a research professor at the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy in the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University and is a member of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The following remarks, edited for space and style, were made at a January 25 news conference announcing the advance of the Bulletin’s Doomsday Clock by 30 seconds to two minutes to midnight, signifying the most dangerous situation since 1953 following the first U.S. test of a thermonuclear device.

Posted: March 1, 2018

U.S. Targets Support for North Korea

Sanctions implementation remains a problem, according to a UN panel of experts.


March 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

The United States continues to ratchet up pressure on North Korea to end its nuclear weapons and missile development, with Washington imposing additional sanctions and calling for better implementation of UN sanctions.

A U.S. Treasury Department news release Jan. 24 stated that nine entities, 16 individuals, and six ships were added to the sanctions list as part of U.S. efforts to “systematically target individuals and entities financing the [Kim Jong Un] regime and its weapons programs.” The effort is to target “illicit actors in China, Russia, and elsewhere” for working on behalf of North Korean financial networks and for entities that “continue to provide a lifeline to North Korea” in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

This photo, released on February 9 by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, shows Hwasong-15 intercontinental-range ballistic missiles during a military parade in Pyongyang. Analysts believe the missile is capable of reaching much or all of the continental United States, depending on the weight of its payload. (Photo: KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/Getty Images)Earlier in the month, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on all states to improve sanctions implementation during a meeting of 20 countries in Vancouver. The countries represented were the 18 that supported South Korea during the Korean War by sending troops under UN command, plus South Korea and Japan.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters Jan. 16 that the states agreed to take “significant steps to keep North Korea from evading sanctions and to sever financial lifelines for the country’s weapons of mass destruction.”

Sanctions implementation remains a problem, according to a leaked report from a UN panel of experts that assesses implementation of Security Council measures on North Korea.

The experts report, obtained by the Associated Press in early February, said that North Korea is using “deceptive practices” to circumvent financial sanctions and noted that there are “critical deficiencies” in sanctions implementation. The report concluded that Pyongyang is engaging in prohibited ballistic missile activities with Syria and Myanmar and exceeding caps on oil imports, including through illegal ship-to-ship transfers.

Tillerson, at the Vancouver meeting, specifically called for improving maritime interdiction activities and putting an end to ship-to-ship transfers.

The report found that North Korea evaded UN sanctions on coal by shipping it through other countries and using deceptive practices to hide the origin of the coal. Coal purchases were fully banned by Security Council Resolution 2371 in August 2017. The UN report also noted that China imported iron ore from North Korea in violation of sanctions.

China and Russia were not invited to participate in the Vancouver meeting, but Tillerson specifically called on both countries to do more to implement UN sanctions. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a Jan. 16 press briefing that China opposed the Vancouver meeting and that it has “no legality.”

Leaders at the Vancouver meeting emphasized the importance of full implementation of UN sanctions, but they appeared split on how to engage with North Korea diplomatically.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said “tough sanctions and pressure” and “the offer of a different, brighter future” must work hand in hand.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said that North Korea’s decision to engage in inter-Korean dialogue was proof that the sanctions regime is working. Kono said that it would be “naïve” to reward North Korea for engaging in inter-Korean dialogue and that now is the time to “fully and rigorously” implement UN measures. He also called for states to consider additional measures, such as cutting diplomatic ties with North Korea and repatriating North Korean workers.

Posted: March 1, 2018

The U.S. Atomic Energy Act Section 123 At a Glance

February 2018

Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107; Kingston ReifDirector for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

Updated: February 2018

Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954 establishes the conditions and outlines the process for major nuclear cooperation between the United States and other countries. In order for a country to enter into such an agreement with the United States, that country must commit to a set of nine nonproliferation criteria. As of January 20, 2017, the United States has entered into 23 nuclear cooperation agreements that govern nuclear cooperation with 48 countries, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Taiwan. The United States negotiated new agreements in 2015 with China and South Korea to replace existing ones. Japan's 123 agreement is up for renewal in 2018.

The nine nonproliferation criteria for section 123 agreements are as follows:

  • Nuclear material and equipment transferred to the country must remain under safeguards in perpetuity.
  • Non-nuclear-weapon states partners must have full-scope IAEA safeguards, essentially covering all major nuclear facilities.
  • A guarantee that transferred nuclear material, equipment, and technology will not have any role in nuclear weapons development or any other military purpose, except in the case of cooperation with nuclear-weapon states.
  • In the event that a non-nuclear-weapon state partner detonates a nuclear device using nuclear material produced or violates an IAEA safeguards agreement, the United States has the right to demand the return of any transfers.
  • U.S. consent is required for any re-transfer of material or classified data.
  • Nuclear material transferred or produced as a result of the agreement is subject to adequate physical security.
  • U.S. prior consent rights to the enrichment or reprocessing of nuclear material obtained or produced as a result of the agreement.
  • Prior U.S. approval is required for highly-enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium obtained or produced as a result of the agreement.  An agreement permitting enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) using U.S. provided material requires separate negotiation.
  • The above nonproliferation criteria apply to all nuclear material or nuclear facilities produced or constructed as a result of the agreement.

Section 123 requires that the Department of State submit a Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement (NPAS) explaining how the nuclear cooperation agreement meets these nonproliferation conditions. Congress has a total of 90 days in continuous session to consider the agreement, after which it automatically becomes law unless Congress adopts a joint resolution opposing it.

The President may exempt a proposed agreement from any of the above criteria upon determination maintaining such a criteria would be “seriously prejudicial to the achievement of U.S. non-proliferation objectives or otherwise jeopardize the common defense of the United States.” Exempted 123 agreements would then go through a different process than non-exempt agreements, requiring a congressional joint resolution approving the agreement for it to become law. There are no 123 agreements in force that were adopted with such exemptions.

In 2006, Congress passed the Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act which amended the AEA permit nuclear cooperation with India, a country which is not a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and does not maintain full-scope safeguards.  The Hyde amendment has been criticized for undermining U.S. international counterproliferation efforts.

A 123 agreement alone does not permit countries to enrich or reprocess nuclear material acquired from the United States and permission to do so requires a further negotiated agreement.  A debate is currently raging in the nonproliferation community over the “Gold Standard,” named after the U.S.-UAE 123 agreement signed in 2009 whereby the UAE voluntarily renounced pursuing enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies and capabilities.  The UAE agreement stands in stark contrast to the “blanket consent” granted to India, Japan, and EURATOM, who have ENR approval from the U.S. 

ENR capabilities are controversial because the process transforms raw uranium or spent nuclear fuel into highly-enriched uranium.  While these capabilities are generally used for energy purposes, because the same technology can be used for weaponization processes there are concerns of serious proliferation risks when a country obtains the technology.  A Gold Standard for 123 agreements would require any country party to a 123 agreement with the United States to renounce ENR activities. The Department of Energy and the U.S. nuclear industry advocate a continuance of the case-by-case approach followed thus far in renewal agreements. A case-by-case approach allows countries to apply for ENR permission, and has been successfully pursued by India and Japan.  South Korea is pushing for an agreement to permit reprocessing to develop its own nuclear industry, a major target in its economic development plans.

Thus far Congress has attempted several times to pass measures ensuring that future 123 agreements adhere to the Gold Standard.  The most prominent of these bills was H.R. 1280, which among other amendments to the Atomic Energy Act declared that future 123 agreements must include “a requirement as part of the agreement for cooperation or other legally binding document that is considered part of the agreement that no reprocessing activities, or acquisition or construction of facilities for such activities, will occur within” the country.  The bill also required states considering 123 agreements to be members of many international treaties and conventions promoting non-proliferation.  Though reported out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in April 2011, it was blocked from floor consideration and died with the 112th Congress.

The executive branch has been less clear in its position.  The George W. Bush administration coined the term Gold Standard when the U.S.-UAE deal was signed in 2009 and declared it the new standard for nuclear cooperation agreements.  The Obama administration did not explicitly come out in favor of a Gold Standard, though there were several interagency reviews soliciting opinions, including during the summer of 2012.  A 2011 letter from the Obama administration to Capitol Hill renounced the idea of a uniform approach to 123 agreements and advocated for a case-by-case approach in future negotiations.  (See ACT, March 2012).

The Trump administration began formal negotiations on a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia in February 2018. The administration has not yet decided if it will insist that a Saudi 123 agreement adhere to the Gold Standard.

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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Posted: February 26, 2018

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