P5+1 and Iran schedule next meeting. The next meeting planned for July 24 in Istanbul will be the second discussion focusing on the technical aspects of Tehran’s nuclear activities. A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton commented, “The objective for the meeting … is to look further at how existing gaps in positions could be narrowed and how the process could be moved forward.”
Nuclear weapons states not ready to sign ASEAN Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (SEANWFZ) treaty protocol. Contrary to previous reports that the P5 was prepared to sign the SEANWFZ protocol, their representatives presented last minute reservations at the ASEAN ministers’ meeting in Cambodia. The objections voiced were primarily over their rights and sovereignties in zones defined as “nuclear weapons free.” ASEAN hopes to have revisions ready for the P5 to sign the protocol in November at the 21st ASEAN Summit. The SEANWFZ is one of five international treaties established to declare Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones.
NNSA reports the elimination of 450 tons of Russian HUE. The National Nuclear Security Administration announced the completed conversion of more than 450 tons of Russian Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) into Low Enriched Uranium (LEU). This effort is the result of the 1993 U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement, whereby Russia converts weapons-origin HEU into LEU for delivery to the U.S for fuel fabrication. Nearly half of all commercial nuclear energy produced in the U.S. is derived from Russian nuclear weapons.
New nuclear-waste burning reactor technology takes step forward. GE-Hitachi submitted a thousand-page feasibility study to the U.K.’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) for a next generation PRISM fast reactor. The U.K. is looking to dispose of 100 tons of nuclear plutonium waste. Presently, the preferred option is to convert the plutonium into MOX fuel for conventional reactors. However, the U.K. does not have a large capacity for consuming MOX fuel, and the previous attempt to build a MOX facility was considered a failure. The GE-Hitachi Prism fast reactor would be designed to produce electricity by consuming the plutonium waste. The U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change believes that next generation ‘fast’ reactors could use the nuclear waste stockpile to provide low-carbon electricity for more than 500 years. The NDA is currently reviewing the submitted study.
Pentagon reports improvements for Iran’s ballistic missiles. The Defense Department released the Annual Report on Military Power of Iran to four congressional committees on June 29. The report, which was acquired by Bloomberg, found improvements in Iran’s short- and long-range ballistic missiles. Kenneth Katzman, a Congressional Research Service analyst, commented that the theme of the report was Tehran’s improvements in missile accuracy and lethality. The document also reaffirmed a prior U.S. assessment that if Iran receives “sufficient foreign assistance” it could be capable of testing an ICBM before 2016.
Clinton calls North Korea a serious threat to world security. While in Cambodia at the ASEAN Conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and “pattern of provocations’ are a serious threat to Asian and international security. In a statement later released at the conference, North Korea blamed its actions on the U.S., asserting that Washington’s “never-ending nuclear threat” against Pyongyang forced the North into pursuing nuclear weapons for its defense.
General says that U.S. arsenal could provide regional deterrence against a nuclear Iran. During a breakfast forum on Capitol Hill, Air Force Gen. Rober Kehler was asked whether the U.S. would provide extended deterrence to non-nuclear Gulf states should Iran move forward in developing nuclear weapons. Gen. Kehler responded that, “The president always has available the strategic nuclear deterrent to provide a deterrent from an attack on the U.S. … but also an attack on our allies and friends.”
British Intelligence Chief warns that Iran will have nuclear weapons by 2014. The Daily Telegraph quoted Sir John Sawers, head of MI-6 Secret Intelligence Service, as stating that Iran will likely achieve nuclear weapons capability within two years. Sir John also maintained that British intelligence had prevented Iran from acquiring the technology as early as 2008. A British government official remarked that Sir John’s comment was off the record during a leadership event for civil servants. The official also noted that the same comments had been made previously by others.
India successfully test launched Agni-I ballistic missile. The Indian Defense Research and Development Organization reported the launch of the Agni-I ballistic missile at 10:06 am. The Times of India reported that the tested missile had a range of 700 km. Therefore, this was more than likely the short-range version of the Agni-1. The original Agni-I is a 1,500 km medium-range ballistic missile. However, later versions were adapted to cover shorter ranges likely due to the Agni-I’s better-suited configuration for nuclear payload delivery over the Indian short-range Prithvi missile.
Syria moves chemical weapon stockpile. The Wall Street Journal reported that a portion of Syria’s chemical weapon stockpile has been removed from holding sites. Damascus is believed to control hundreds of tons of nerve and blister agents along with multiple methods of delivery. Jihad Makdissi, spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry, called the allegations “absolutely ridiculous and untrue.” Makdissi commented further that, “If the U.S. is so well-informed, why can’t they help Kofi Annan in stopping to flow of illegal weapons to Syria …?” Officials from the Obama administration have stated that the Syrian government appears to have control of the stockpile.
Satellite data reveals continued work at North Korean nuclear facility. Satellite imagery obtained by CNN’s Security Clearance, reveals recent construction at the Yongbyon light-water reactor facility. The imagery shows additional components have been added to the reactor building, including across the roof. According to Allision Pucionni, a senior imagery analyst at HIS Jane’s, a “traveling crane” is now visible at the site, which will likely assist in mounting the reactor dome.
Foreign nationals charged in plot to export illegal nuclear-related materials to Iran. The U.S. Department of Justice announced the indictment of Chinese and Iranian nationals in a plot to illegally export U.S. origin materials to Iran that could be used to construct, operate, and maintain gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment. Parviz Khaki, an Iranian citizen was arrested in the Philippines, while Zongcheng Yi, a Chinese citizen, remains at large. The plot reportedly involved the export of maraging steel, aluminum alloys, mass spectrometers, vacuum pumps, radioactive materials, and other specialized materials. Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice, commented that the indictment “shed light on the reach of Iran’s illegal procurement networks and the importance of keeping U.S. nuclear-related materials from being exploited by Iran.”