Iran sends new batch of 20%-enriched uranium to research reactor. Head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani announced the fourth shipment of 20%-enriched uranium to the Tehran Medical Research Reactor. Speaking about the international talks over Iran’s nuclear program, Abbasi-Davani said “We welcome talks in any situation. We have strongly defended our stance and will continue with talks until we reach a logical solution.”
Russia moves forward on increased production of short-range ballistic missiles. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced that his government has allocated $750 million to 17 arms-manufactures for the production of the Iskander mobile tactical ballistic missile system (NATO designation: SS-26 Stone). The renewed investment into the Iskander missile system is in response to the U.S. led efforts to establish a missile defense system in Europe. The Iskander M is a rapid response theater missile system with a range of 400 km intended for precision strikes on high-value targets such as command posts, airfields, air-defense sites, and opposing missile systems. Medvedev commented, “The Iskander M is without doubt one of the most effective systems in its class and, in our opinion, is ahead of foreign analogs.
U.S. Missile Defense Program continues to face problems. According to new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), cost estimates and timetables for five key missile defense programs are “either not reliable or the program is missing information that could make it more efficient.” Systems analyzed by the GAO were the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA, Aegis Ashore, Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD), Precision Tracking Space System (PTSS), and the Targets and Countermeasures Extended Medium-Range Ballistic Missile. The GAO noted that major aspects of the missile defense program require better management or the entire endeavor will experience serious delays.
U.S. to downgrade previously classified nuclear weapon-related information. According to a report posted online by the Federation of American Scientist, “Several categories of information, including topics concerning nuclear weapons, weapons testing, improvised nuclear devices, and international cooperation relating to nuclear forensics, will be downgraded, classified for shorter durations, or declassified.”
The NNSA participates in emergency response exercise in Russia. The exercises were conducted outside Murmansk at the Sayda-Bay radioactive waste facility. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) associate administrator Joseph Krol commented, “This exercise provided an excellent opportunity for local, regional and national governmental organizations to practice response actions, mutual assistance and verify notification procedures. He further stated, “We are pleased to be able to continue to share NNSA’s expertise in emergency operations and learn from our international partners. The Sayda-Bay facility includes a temporary storage pad for decommissioned submarine reactor compartments. Under the exercise scenario, an aircraft crashed into the pad, resulting in a fire that led to the loss of integrity for one of the stored reactor compartments, which then released radioactive materials into the atmosphere.
U.S. expresses interest in missile defense cooperation with India. Speaking in New Delhi, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter stated that missile defense was an important area for future cooperation between the United States and India. Carter said, “We want to do things together, we want to develop products together and produce technology together. There is a little difference between trade and cooperation and between the two, we are really looking for cooperation.”
Low-level talks over Iran’s nuclear program continue. International talks continued in Istanbul to discuss the outcome of the technical experts’ meeting on July 3rd. However, unlike previous meetings that were attended by representatives of all the P5+1 countries, the talks on July 24th were attended by only Helga Schmid of Germany and Ali Baqeri of Iran. According to a statement from the office of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, this meeting will be followed by another between Ashton and Saeed Jalili, the secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, about “the prospects for a future meeting at the political level.” However, EU officials have stated that the next round of talks are not expected to be scheduled before September.
Turkey to develop ICBMs. Turkish news source NTV reported that the Turkish Armed Forces have started to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile system. The decision to launch the program was reportedly made at a July 17th meeting of the Defense Industry Executive Board, headed by Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan and chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel. While the board decided to create a satellite launch center to place domestic satellites into space, the primary aim of the facility is attain an ICBM launch capability.
Construction of fourth Russian Borei-class submarine set to begin. The next Borei-class SSBN, named “Prince Vladimir”, will be built at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk with a tentative start date of July 30th. The Borei-class strategic nuclear submarine, armed with the Bulava missile system, will be the foundation of Russian strategic naval forces.
Defense Hawk opposes House proposal on nuclear weapons. Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA), a Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee took the House floor to argue against the Defense Appropriations Bill amendment that would block nuclear weapon reductions. He said, “We simply don’t need, and we can’t afford to have and continue to produce all of the nuclear weapons that will, more than likely, never be used. They are a good deterrent and they have been an effective deterrent…But the Cold War is over, and we are in a position today where we must reduce the size of our nuclear weapon force.”
TVA starts environmental study for use of MOX fuel. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced preparations for an environmental impact study on the use of MOX fuel for the Sequoyah and Brown Ferry nuclear power plants in Tennessee and Alabama. The variety of MOX that the TVA is considering for these plants utilizes weapons-grade plutonium from retired nuclear weapons. TVA spokesman Ray Golden stated that, “TVA is willing to consider using mixed oxide fuel if it meets three criteria: It is operationally and environmentally safe; economically beneficial to TVA customers; and licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.” The TVA currently has a tentative agreement with the Department of Energy for the procurement of MOX beginning on 2018.
Iran says sanctions will not force a change in nuclear policy. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei commented on state television, “They (the West) explicitly say they need to increase pressures, tighten sanctions to force Iranian authorities to reconsider their calculations. But a look at the facts leads us not only to avoid reconsidering our calculations, but to move on our intended path with greater confidence.” While acknowledging that the sanctions had created complications, Khamenei stated that they could be overcome. He also suggested that some of the sanction-participating countries would discontinue their participation in the long run due the economic ramifications on their own countries.
GAO analyzes DHS’s efforts to combat nuclear smuggling. In testimony prepared for Congressional review, the GAO audited the Department of Homeland Security progress in the radiation screening of U.S. bound cargo. The report acknowledged the significant progress DHS has made in deploying radiation detection equipment for trucks and containers entering U.S. seaports. However, the GAO noted limited progress in the effort to scan the 4,800 loaded railcars in the approximately 120 trains that enter the U.S. from Canada and Mexico everyday. The testimony further reprimanded DHS by stating that even less progress had been made in regards to the scanning of air cargo and commercial aviation for nuclear and radiological materials.
Russia to back SEANWFZ Treaty. The Russian Foreign Ministry is prepared to endorse the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ) protocol. However, Russia’s support is contingent upon being exempt from pact rules should there be an attack on Russian military or territory.
India tests BrahMos cruise missile. The Indian Army successfully test fired the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from the Chandipur test range in the providence of Orissa. Both the sea- and –ground launched versions of the BrahMos have already entered into service. The air-launched version is slated for completion by the end of 2012. The BrahMos has a range of 290 km with a payload of 300 kg and a top speed of Mach. 2.8. Russia and India have reportedly agreed to jointly develop the BrahMos 2, a next generation supersonic cruise missile expected to reach speeds of Mach 5- Mach 7.