The Nuke Review: July 16 – July 22
Iran’s parliament calls for nuclear ships. A parliamentary committee has approved a bill for the design of nuclear-powered merchant ships. The creation of such a fleet would provide Tehran with added justification to continue enrichment activities. Iranian news source Mashreghnews.ir argues that Western sanctions are forcing Iran to find new sources of fuel for larger vessels due countries refusing to refuel them during long voyages. The news source said that Iran’s nuclear industry will have to upgrade their capabilities to achieve the 50% – 60% level of nuclear enrichment necessary for nuclear propulsion.
Homeland Security set to miss port security deadline. A 2007 congressional directive ordered the U.S. Homeland Security department to provide screening of all inbound shipping containers at foreign ports by July 2012. This policy decision was made to strengthen maritime security and prevent the smuggling of nuclear devices onto U.S. soil. However, DHS secretary Janet Napolitano informed Congress in May that she was extending a two-year exemption to cover foreign ports due to the costly and cumbersome screening process. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) has commented that he does not believe that DHS intends to comply with the law. Specialists, however, do not believe that current detection equipment is capable of detecting all potential threats. Terrorist expert Stephen Flynn commented, “The current system is woefully inadequate for stopping any determined adversary who wants to get a weapon of mass destruction into the United States.”
U.K. Ministry of Defense warns about nuke safety. A Ministry of Defense report states that spending cuts and staff shortages are putting the safety of Britain’s nuclear weapons and nuclear-powered submarines increasingly at risk. The report warns that there is a “lack of adequate resources to deliver the defense of the nuclear programs safely” and that the situation requires “significant action”.
Iran’s nuclear proposals are “nonstarters”. During a trip to Israel, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented, “As to the diplomatic track, I made very clear that the proposals we have seen from Iran thus far within the P5+1 negotiations are nonstarters. Despite three rounds of talk, it appears that Iran has yet to make a strategic decision to address the international community’s concerns and fulfill their obligations under the IAEA and the UN Security Council.
The U.S. collaborated with Poland and Ukraine for nuclear security at the 2012 European Soccer Championship. The National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) reported the successful completion of its work with Ukraine and Poland to strengthen security at border crossings and airports in the lead up to the recent Union of European Football Association’s European Soccer Championship.
U.S. builds up military presence in Middle East. According to U.S. officials, the Pentagon is building a missile-defense radar station in Qatar and organizing a large-scale mine sweeping exercise in the Persian Gulf. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has also approved sending another carrier to the region to maintain a continued presence of two carriers, as one of the current carriers is scheduled to leave. The USS John Stennis strike group, scheduled to depart by the end of summer, includes the Aegis guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay and approximately 5,500 sailors.
Armenia and Georgia participate in WMD security exercises with U.S. and EU. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) reported that a series of field training exercises were conducted between the U.S. and EU with Armenia and Georgia. The exercises used realistic scenarios to demonstrate and strengthen internal, bilateral and international notification and response procedures that are activated in the event of illicit trans-border movement of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-related materials
Iranian dissident group claims Revolutionary Guard is expanding nuclear program. According to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a specially-designed group called the New Defense Research Organization has been established. This group answers directly to the revolutionary Guard and is responsible for work in key areas of the alleged nuclear weapons program.
Missile Defense may spark modernization of China’s nuclear arsenal. On the sidelines of a nuclear disarmament discussion in Vienna, A senior Chinese military officer noted that the U.S. led missile-defense shield “undermines the strategic stability”. Major General Zhu Chenghu, commented “We have to maintain the credibility of deterrence.” Zhu suggested that maintaining a necessary level of deterrence involves the modernization of China’s nuclear forces including improvements it its capabilities of survival and penetration abilities.
North Korea may be developing EMP weapons. The Hong Kong based journal Bauhinia reported last month that North Korea’s military was engaging in satellite navigation jamming near the demilitarized zone. This has sparked concerns that Pyongyang is developing electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons. While there are differences between GPS-jamming and EMP, they both use electromagnetic waves. The report stated Chinese analysts believe that North Korea is working on small nuclear warheads that could produce “super-EMP bombs”.
House votes against defense sharing with Russia. The U.S. House of Representatives approved language to prevent the sharing of classified information about U.S. missile defense technology with Russia. The amendment to the FY13 Department of Defense spending bill, H.R. 5856 passed by a voice vote.
IAEA establishes new radiation sensor in Indonesia. A large radiation scanner became operational at the Belawan Seaport in Medan, North Sumatra. The IAEA supplied the equipment as part of an EU sponsored program to strengthen global nuclear safety. The UN agency plans to deliver additional radiation monitors to other Indonesian ports at a later date.
Iran has no plans for higher grade nuclear fuel. Iran’s nuclear chief Fereidoun Abbasi stated that there is no plan to enrich uranium to the higher levels required for nuclear propulsion. His comments come days after an Iranian parliamentary committee approved the plan to design nuclear merchant ships. Abbasi did, however, note that if Iran decided to go in that direction it would first declare its need for higher enriched nuclear fuel to the IAEA.