Nuclear Issues

123 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.

Paper - Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy

Stabilizing Sino-Indian Security Relations: Managing the Strategic Rivalry After Doklam

| June 21, 2018

The paper provides a detailed analysis of the contemporary Sino-Indian conventional ground and nuclear force balances and carefully reconstructs how mutual developments in these areas are perceived by both New Delhi and Beijing.

Panel: What does Brexit mean for Europe's security architecture?

Thomas Lobenwein

Report

Brave new world? What Trump and Brexit mean for European foreign policy

| Dec. 08, 2016

On 24 and 25 November 2016 experts from politics and academia, including FDP Executive director Cathryn Clüver, discussed the impact of Brexit on several policy areas in a series of workshops at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. All events took place under Chatham House rules.

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

American Nuclear Diplomacy

| August 4, 2016

In this report, American Nuclear Diplomacy: Forging a New Consensus to Fight Climate Change and Weapons Proliferation, Former Deputy Secretary of Energy and Belfer Center Senior Fellow Daniel Poneman writes that we face two existential threats: nuclear annihilation and catastrophic climate change. Each, he says, stems from human origins. Both must be fought aggressively.

"Multiple studies confirm the grim truth that, even if all nations fulfill their Paris Climate Agreement emissions pledges, the world will still far overshoot the 2°C warming limit scientists say we must not exceed to prevent devastating climate impacts. Carbon-free nuclear energy can help close the gap. But can we expand its environmental benefits without increasing the risks of nuclear terror?"

Poneman outlines a diplomatic strategy and tough-minded, bipartisan policies to get us there.

A fuel fabrication facility at the Yongbyon Nuclear Center in North Korea, February 2008.

AP

Report - Institute for Science and International Security

Correlating the Operation of the Coal Plant to Reprocessing Activities at Yongbyon

| April 15, 2016

As of April 2016, there are growing indications that North Korea has separated, is separating, or will soon be separating plutonium from irradiated fuel at the Radiochemical Laboratory, a process commonly referred to as reprocessing. An analysis of recent satellite imagery obtained shows several activities, which could be correlated to the preparation or actual reprocessing activities underway.

Discussion Paper - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

The Three Overlapping Streams of India's Nuclear Power Programs

| April 15, 2016

As India’s civilian nuclear energy program expands with the assistance of international nuclear suppliers, it creates new potential pathways to the acquisition of fissile material that could be diverted for military purposes. A key question is whether and how India’s civilian and military nuclear facilities are separated. In this discussion paper from the Belfer Center’s Project on Managing the Atom, Kalman A. Robertson and John Carlson argue that India has not established a complete and verifiable separation of its civilian and military nuclear programs. The authors recommend steps for India to take under its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency to provide assurances to all states that components of its civilian program are not contributing to the growth of its nuclear arsenal. These steps include renouncing options that would facilitate the use of safeguarded items to produce unsafeguarded nuclear material, and placing the proliferation-sensitive components of its nuclear power industry under continuous safeguards.

Representatives of participating companies sign containers with uranium to be used as fuel for nuclear reactors, prior to loading them aboard Atlantic Navigator ship, in St. Petersburg, Russia, November 14, 2013.

AP

Report - National Academies Press

Reducing the Use of Highly Enriched Uranium in Civilian Research Reactors

| January 28, 2016

Reducing the Use of Highly Enriched Uranium in Civilian Research Reactors is a report of the Committee on the Current Status of and Progress Toward Eliminating Highly Enriched Uranium Use in Fuel for Civilian Research and Test Reactors. The committee was established by the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board, Division on Earth and Life Studies and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report is the result of a congressionally mandated study (P.L. 112-239, Section 31781) to assess improvement in reducing highly enriched uranium use in fuel for civilian research and test reactors.

 

Belfer Center Senior Fellow William Tobey is a member of the Committee that produced the report.

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.