Nuclear Issues

68 Items

The main hall for the IAEA’s Talks on Supplying Nuclear Fuel for Iranian Research Reactor, Vienna, Austria, 19 October 2009. 

Dean Calma/IAEA

Paper

The Deal That Got Away: The 2009 Nuclear Fuel Swap with Iran

| January 2021

With concerns and uncertainties regarding Iran’s nuclear future persisting to this day, this paper seeks to review the TRR negotiations and the context in which they unfolded in order to capture some of the lessons of negotiating with Iran regarding its nuclear program, primarily from the viewpoint of senior U.S. officials involved at the time. The paper is also informed by the personal perspective of one of the authors (Poneman) who led the U.S. delegation in the 2009 Vienna talks, and who, prior to this publication, had not publicly elaborated on his experience. The other author (Nowrouzzadeh), who supported the TRR talks in an analytical capacity within the U.S. Department of Defense, also conducted an extensive interview with Poneman as part of their collaboration on this paper. By drawing on existing literature and recent interviews with several senior U.S. officials involved in the negotiations now that over ten years have passed, the authors seek to draw useful lessons from this episode that can assist policymakers in understanding Iran’s nuclear decision-making and in their continued efforts to shape the future trajectory of Iran’s nuclear program.

Tractors on Westminster bridge

AP/Matt Dunham

Paper - Institut für Sicherheitspolitik

The Global Order After COVID-19

| 2020

Despite the far-reaching effects of the current pandemic,  the essential nature of world politics will not be transformed. The territorial state will remain the basic building-block of international affairs, nationalism will remain a powerful political force, and the major powers will continue to compete for influence in myriad ways. Global institutions, transnational networks, and assorted non-state actors will still play important roles, of course, but the present crisis will not produce a dramatic and enduring increase in global governance or significantly higher levels of international cooperation. In short, the post-COVID-19 world will be less open, less free, less prosperous, and more competitive than the world many people expected to emerge only a few years ago.

The nuclear archive warehouse outside Tehran (Satellite image via Google).

Satellite image via Google

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

The Iran Nuclear Archive: Impressions and Implications

In mid-January, a team of scholars from the Belfer Center’s Intelligence and Managing the Atom Projects traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel to examine samples of, and receive briefings on, an archive of documents related to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The large cache includes some 55,000 pages of documents and a further 55,000 files on CDs that included photos and videos. A clandestine Israeli intelligence operation spirited the materials out of Iran in early 2018.

The documents that the Belfer group were shown confirm that senior Iranian officials had decided in the late 1990s to actually manufacture nuclear weapons and carry out an underground nuclear test; that Iran’s program to do so made more technical progress than had previously been understood; and that Iran had help from quite a number of foreign scientists, and access to several foreign nuclear weapon designs. The archive also leaves open a wide range of questions, including what plan, if any, Iran has had with respect to nuclear weapons in the nearly 16 years since Iran’s government ordered a halt to most of the program in late 2003. 

This brief report summarizes the group’s conclusions about what the archive reveals about Iran’s program and questions that remain open.

Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Security Science, July 2015

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Discussion Paper - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

When Did (and Didn’t) States Proliferate?

| June 2017

In this Project on Managing the Atom Discussion Paper, Philipp C. Bleek chronicles nuclear weapons proliferation choices throughout the nuclear age. Since the late 1930s and early 1940s, some thirty-one countries are known to have at least explored the possibility of establishing a nuclear weapons program. Seventeen of those countries launched weapons programs, and ten acquired deliverable nuclear weapons.

Paper - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

Iran and a New International Framework for Nuclear Energy

| November 2016

As early as the end of the Second World War it was recognized that nuclear fuel cycle technologies developed for military purposes—specifically, uranium enrichment and reprocessing—had major potential for peaceful applications but remained inherently dual-purpose, and if not controlled appropriately, could be diverted to military use. The very first issue considered by the newly founded United Nations was “the problems raised by the discovery of atomic energy.”

Report

Tipping the Balance?

| December 2015

Standing before the United States Congress early in March 2015, in the face of a looming deadline in the Iran and P5+1 talks over the Iranian nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu portrayed the negotiations in stark terms. Drawing a direct parallel between biblical plots to persecute Jews in pre-Islamic Persia and modern Iran’s nuclear program, Netanyahu framed Iran as nothing less than an existential threat to Israel. Anything short of a practical dismantling of Iranian nuclear infrastructure would be unacceptable. Largely perceived as an attempt to undermine President Barack Obama’s efforts to reach a negotiated settlement with Iran, Netanyahu’s actions thus proved quite contentious inside the United States.

A heavy water nuclear facility near Arak, Iran.

AP

Report

Strengthening the Verification and Implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

| November 16, 2015

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) puts Iran’s nuclear program under greater scrutiny than before and reduces the likelihood of an overt dash to the bomb for the next 10 years. But the agreement contains a number of notable weaknesses—particularly regarding undeclared nuclear activity and weapons- related research—that should be mitigated by adopting stronger verification measures.

Report - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

Proliferation Alert! The IAEA and Non-Compliance Reporting

| Oct. 20, 2015

In this new report, Trevor Findlay provides the first comprehensive study of the IAEA's handling of states not complying with their non-proliferation obligations. The report finds that none of the cases have followed the non-compliance process outlined in the Agency's Statute and safeguards agreements. Rather, each case has posed unique challenges to the non-proliferation regime. The report concludes that creativity and deft statecraft are key to the handling of complex non-compliance cases.

Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, shakes hands with Director General of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, during their meeting in Tehran, Sept. 20, 2015.

AP

Report - Institute for Science and International Security

IAEA Visit to the Parchin Site

| September 22, 2015

On September 21, 2015, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano informed the Board of Governors that one day earlier he had visited a suspect site within the Parchin Military Complex in Iran. A few days prior to Director General Amano’s visit, as foreseen in an unofficial draft Iran/IAEA agreement, Iran, took environmental samples at the suspect location. Amano said in a public statement that access to the site was important in order to “clarify issues related to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.” However, the manner in which environmental samples were taken raises troubling precedents for both the IAEA’s investigation into Iran’s past work on nuclear weapons and the verifiability of the long term nuclear deal, the Joint Compreheansive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Iran and the Arab World after the Nuclear Deal

| Aug. 13, 2015

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran and the P5+1 presents significant implications for the future order of the Middle East. Just how it will impact that order remains uncertain. Will it shift Iranian foreign policy toward greater cooperation and reconciliation or produce greater Iranian regional empowerment and aggressiveness?

This report helps answer these and related questions. It includes views from leading experts in the Arab world to assess the impact of the nuclear agreement on Iran-Arab security relations.