France’s Choice for Naval Nuclear Propulsion: Why Low-Enriched Uranium Was Chosen

This special report is a result of an FAS task force on French naval nuclear propulsion and explores France’s decision to switch from highly-enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU). By detailing the French Navy’s choice to switch to LEU fuel, author Alain Tournyol du Clos — a lead architect of France’s nuclear propulsion program — explores whether France’s choice is fit for other nations. Read or download now.

Use of Microbial Forensics in the Middle East/North Africa Region


In this report, Christoper Bidwell, JD and Randall Murch, PhD, explore the use of microbial forensics as a tool for creating a common base line for understanding biologically-triggered phenomena, as well as one that can promote mutual cooperation in addressing these phenomena. A particular focus is given to the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region, as it has been forced to deal with multiple instances of both naturally-occurring and man-made biological threats over the last 10 years. Although the institution of a microbial forensics capability in the MENA region (however robust) is still several years away, establishing credibility of the results offered by microbial forensic analysis performed by western states and/or made today in workshops and training have the ability to prepare the policy landscape for the day in which the source of a bio attack, either man-made or from nature, needs to be accurately attributed.

A full PDF version of the report can be found here.

Use of Attribution and Forensic Science in Addressing Biological Weapon Threats: A Multi-Faceted Study


The threat from the manufacture, proliferation, and use of biological weapons (BW) is a high priority concern for the U.S. Government. As reflected in U.S. Government policy statements and budget allocations, deterrence through attribution (“determining who is responsible and culpable”) is the primary policy tool for dealing with these threats. According to those policy statements, one of the foundational elements of an attribution determination is the use of forensic science techniques, namely microbial forensics. In this report, Christopher Bidwell, FAS Senior Fellow for Nonproliferation Law and Policy, and Kishan Bhatt, an FAS summer research intern and undergraduate student studying public policy and global health at Princeton University, look beyond the science aspect of forensics and examine how the legal, policy, law enforcement, medical response, business, and media communities interact in a bioweapon’s attribution environment. The report further examines how scientifically based conclusions require credibility in these communities in order to have relevance in the decision making process about how to handle threats.

A full PDF version of the report can be found here.

Understanding the Dragon Shield: Likelihood and Implications of Chinese Strategic Ballistic Missile Defense


While China has received growing attention for modernizing and expanding its strategic offensive nuclear forces over the last ten years, little attention has been paid to Chinese activities in testing and developing ballistic missile defenses (BMD). Motivated to understand the strategic implications of this testing and to learn Chinese views, Adjunct Senior Fellow and Professor, Bruce MacDonald and FAS President, Dr. Charles Ferguson, over the past twelve months, have studied these issues and have had extensive discussions with more than 50 security experts in China and the United States. Ever since the end of the Cold War, U.S. security policy has largely assumed that only the United States would possess credible strategic ballistic missile defense capabilities with non-nuclear interceptors. This tacit assumption has been valid for the last quarter century but may not remain valid for long. Since 2010, China has been openly testing missile interceptors purportedly for BMD purposes, but also useful for anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons.

A full PDF version of the report can be found here.

Moving Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems to Global Deployment


In the FAS Special Report entitled, Moving Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems to Global Deployment, Charles D. Ferguson, FAS President, identifies the major factors that will affect deployment of advanced reactors (often referred to as Generation IV reactors) in the coming years to decades and analyzes what industry and governments need to do to move forward toward the ultimate goal of widespread deployment of potentially hundreds of highly energy-efficient, much safer, more proliferation-resistant, and economically-competitive nuclear power systems. Moreover, the report looks at lessons learned from the history of development and deployment of Generation II and III reactors and seeks to learn explicitly about the reasons for the predominant use of light water reactors. It then seeks to apply these lessons to current efforts to develop advanced nuclear energy systems. In the process of that assessment, the report reviews the status of the global cooperative and national efforts to develop and eventually deploy advanced nuclear energy systems. The main intentions of the report are to provide a guide to policymakers in the form of findings that lay out potential pathways to forward deployment of one or more advanced nuclear power systems within the next ten to twenty years.

A full PDF version of the report can be found here.

Six Achievable Steps for Implementing an Effective Verification Regime for a Nuclear Agreement with Iran



Now that an agreement has been reached between the P5+1 and Iran, a non-partisan task force convened by FAS has published Six Achievable Steps for Implementing an Effective Verification Regime for a Nuclear Agreement with Iran, a report that addresses anticipated implementation challenges and offers findings and recommendations for strengthening the implementation process both internationally and within the United States.

Over the last 20 months, Iran has been in negotiations with the P5+1 regarding its nuclear program, culminating in an agreement on July 14, 2015 that was memorialized in a 159-page text. The essence of the agreement is that Iran has offered the P5+1 constraints on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. As part of these negotiations, in paragraph iii of the Preamble and General Conditions, “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.”

The negotiation process and the resulting agreement posed a critical question for the United States’ political and scientific communities: What monitoring and verification measures and tools will the United States, its allies, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) require for a comprehensive and effective nuclear agreement with Iran? Although it is resoundingly clear that this issue is a sensitive and controversial one and there is discrepancy on the “wisdom, scope, and content” of a possible agreement with Iran, there does appear to be a general consensus that effective implementation is as important as the agreement itself, and an agreement with Iran without effective verification and monitoring measures “would be counterintuitive and dangerous” and would have negative long-term effects for all associated parties.

To examine and scrutinize these issues, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) convened the Verification Capabilities Independent Task Force that released a report last September titled Verification Requirements for a Nuclear Agreement with Iran. This new report, Six Achievable Steps for Implementing an Effective Verification Regime for a Nuclear Agreement with Iran, further dissects the issue and discusses potential strategies for successful implementation of the verification regime associated with the recent agreement.

This phase of the Task Force’s study focuses on the anticipation of implementation challenges and offers findings and recommendations for strengthening the implementation process both internationally and within the United States. The report emphasizes six feasible steps for executing a strong verification regime for a nuclear agreement with Iran:

1.       Ensure that the Joint Commission Works Effectively Among the P5+1 and Iran to Facilitate Compliance and Communication

2.       Organize Executive Branch Mechanisms to Create Synergy and Sustain Focus on Implementation Over the Long-Term

3.       Support and Augment the IAEA in the Pursuit of its Key Monitoring Role

4.       Create a Joint Executive-Congressional Working Group (JECWG) to Facilitate Coordination Across the Legislative and Executive Branches of the USG

5.       Prepare a Strategy and Guidebook for Assessing and Addressing Ambiguities and Potential Noncompliance

6.       Exploit New Technologies and Open Source Tools for Monitoring a Nuclear Agreement with Iran

The report was released to the public on Thursday, August 6, 2015 and the Task Force hosted a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. later that day to present their findings and discuss possible implications of the agreement. Over 50 attendees from the political, scientific, and NGO circles gathered to express their thoughts and share their opinions on the issue at hand.

In other relevant news regarding scientists and the agreement with Iran, 29 of the nation’s top scientists — including Nobel laureates, veteran makers of nuclear arms and former White House science advisers — wrote to President Obama on Saturday, August 8 to praise the Iran deal, calling it “innovative and stringent.” While many of those who signed the letter are prominent FAS members and affiliates, such as the lead writer Dr. Richard L. Garwin, who serves on the FAS Board of Directors, Dr. Frank von Hippel, who has served as chairman of the FAS Board, and Dr. Martin Hellman, who is an FAS adjunct senior fellow, FAS, as an organization, has not taken an organizational stance either for or against the deal. As indicated by the report released by FAS on August 6, the Task Force convened by FAS supports providing research, guidance, and recommendations for implementing an effective verification regime for a nuclear agreement with Iran. Scientists with nuclear expertise and scientifically credible analysis must continue to serve as essential components to a strong nonproliferation system that allows nations to use nuclear energy peacefully as long as safeguards commitments are upheld.

Naval Nuclear Propulsion: Assessing Benefits and Risks

The United States and other countries with nuclear navies have benefited from having nuclear-powered warships. But do the continued benefits depend on indefinite use of highly enriched uranium (HEU)—which can be made into nuclear weapons—as naval nuclear fuel? With budgetary constraints bearing down on the U.S. Department of Defense, the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program is finding it difficult to address many competing needs including upgrading aging training facilities, handling spent nuclear fuel, and designing the next generation submarines to replace the Virginia-class attack submarines.

FAS convened an independent, nonpartisan task force of experts from the national security, nuclear engineering, nonproliferation and nuclear security fields to examine effective ways to monitor and safeguard HEU and LEU in the naval sector, and consider alternatives to HEU for naval propulsion so as to improve nuclear security and nonproliferation.

The results of the year-long task force study are compiled in the report, Naval Nuclear Propulsion: Assessing Benefits and Risks. The task force concluded that the U.S. Navy has strong incentives to maintain the continuing use of highly enriched uranium and would be reluctant, or even opposed, to shift to use of low enriched uranium unless the naval nuclear enterprise is fully funded and the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program has adequate financial resources to try to develop a life-of-ship reactor fueled with LEU that would meet the Navy’s performance requirements. The task force endorses having the Obama administration and Congress allocate adequate funding for R&D on advanced LEU fuels no later than 2017 in time for development of the next generation nuclear attack submarine. “The United States should demonstrate leadership in working urgently to reduce the use in naval fuels of highly enriched uranium–that can power nuclear weapons–while addressing the national security needs of the nuclear navy to ensure that the navy can meet its performance requirements with lifetime reactors fueled with low enriched uranium,” said Dr. Charles D. Ferguson, Chair of the Independent Task Force and President of FAS.

Four companion papers written by task force members are also available:

Naval Nuclear Propulsion: Assessing Benefits and Risks can be read and downloaded here (PDF).

The task force members thank the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for its generous support of this project.

Verification Requirements for a Nuclear Agreement with Iran

Negotiations are currently underway with Iran regarding their nuclear program; as a result, one of the main questions for U.S. government policymakers is what monitoring and verification measures and tools will be required by the United States, its allies, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful.

To answer this question, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) convened a non-partisan, independent task force to examine the technical and policy requirements to adequately verify a comprehensive or other sustained nuclear agreement with Iran. Through various methods, the task force interviewed or met with over 70 experts from various technical and policy disciplines and compiled the results in the new report, “Verification Requirements for a Nuclear Agreement with Iran.” Authored by task force leaders Christopher Bidwell, Orde Kittrie, John Lauder and Harvey Rishikof, the report outlines nine recommendations for U.S. policymakers relating to a successful monitoring and verification agreement with Iran.  They are as follows:


Six Elements of an Effective Agreement

1. The agreement should require Iran to provide, prior to the next phase of sanctions relief, a comprehensive declaration that is correct and complete concerning all aspects of its nuclear program both current and past.

2. The agreement should provide the IAEA, for the duration of the agreement, access without delay to all sites, equipment, persons and documents requested by the IAEA, as currently required by UN Security Council Resolution 1929.

3. The agreement should provide that any material acts of non-cooperation with inspectors are a violation of the agreement.

4. The agreement should provide for the establishment of a consultative commission, which should be designed and operate in ways to maximize its effectiveness in addressing disputes and, if possible, building a culture of compliance within Iran.

5. The agreement should provide that all Iranian acquisition of sensitive items for its post-agreement licit nuclear program, and all acquisition of sensitive items that could be used in a post-agreement illicit nuclear program, must take place through a designated transparent channel.

6. The agreement should include provisions designed to preclude Iran from outsourcing key parts of its nuclear weapons program to a foreign country such as North Korea.


Three Proposed U.S. Government Actions to Facilitate Effective Implementation of an Agreement

1. The U.S. Government should enhance its relevant monitoring capabilities, invest resources in monitoring the Iran agreement, and structure its assessment and reporting of any Iranian noncompliance so as to maximize the chances that significant anomalies will come to the fore and not be overlooked or considered de minimis.

2. The U.S. Government and its allies should maintain the current sanctions regime architecture so that it can be ratcheted up incrementally in order to deter and respond commensurately to any Iranian non-compliance with the agreement.

3. The U.S. Government should establish a joint congressional/executive branch commission to monitor compliance with the agreement, similar to Congress having created the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the implementation of the 1975 Helsinki Accords.

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Report Examines MANPADS Threat and International Efforts to Address It

On November 28, 2002, terrorists fired two Soviet-designed SA-7 man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) at an Israeli plane destined for Tel Aviv as it departed from Moi International Airport in Mombasa, Kenya. The missiles missed their target but the incident was a wake-up call for governments around the world. Shortly after the attack, the United States created an inter-agency task force to counter the threat posed by MANPADS, with other countries following suit. These countries launched several initiatives aimed at securing and destroying surplus, obsolete and poorly secured stockpiles of missiles; strengthening controls on international transfers of MANPADS; and improving information sharing on the international trade in these weapons. But are these efforts enough?

In the report,“The MANPADS Threat and International Efforts To Address It”, Matt Schroeder, Director of the Arms Sales Monitoring Project, assesses the terrorist threat from MANPADS, evaluates efforts by the international community to curb this threat, and proposes additional measures that governments can take to further reduce the illicit proliferation and use of MANPADS.

The Federation of American Scientists would like to thank the following individuals and institutions for their invaluable contributions to this report: James Bevan, Jeremy Binnie, Peter Courtney-Green, Gene Crofts, Alan Flint, Andy Gleeson, Jose Manuel Heredia Gonzalez, Paul Holtom, J. Christian Kessler, Stephanie Koorey, Jonah Leff, Cheryl Levy, Maxim Pyadushkin, Steve Priestley, Saferworld, Small Arms Survey and officials from the Organization of American States, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean and the Wassenaar Arrangement , along with officials from numerous governments.  Without their talent and support, this study would not have been possible.

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