The 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was preventable. The Great East Japan earthquake and the tsunami that followed it were unprecedented events in recent history, but they were not altogether unforeseeable. Stronger regulation across the nuclear power industry could have prevented many of the worst outcomes at Fukushima Daiichi and will be needed to prevent future accidents.
In an FAS issue brief, Dr. Charles Ferguson and Mr. Mark Jansson review some of the major problems leading up to the accident and provides an overview of proposed regulatory reforms, including an overhaul of the nuclear regulatory bureaucracy and specific safety requirements which are being considered for implementation in all nuclear power plants.
Iran’s quest for the development of nuclear program has been marked by enormous financial costs and risks. It is estimated that the program’s cost is well over $100 billion, with the construction of the Bushehr reactor costing over $11 billion, making it one of the most expensive reactors in the world.
The Federation of American Scientists and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace have released a new report, “Iran’s Nuclear Odyssey: Costs and Risks” which analyzes the economic effects of Iran’s nuclear program, and policy implications of sanctions and other actions by the United States and other allies. Co-authored by Ali Vaez and Karim Sadjadpour, the report details the history of the program, beginning with its inception under the Shah in 1957, and how the Iranian government has continue to grow their nuclear capabilities under a shroud of secrecy. Coupled with Iran’s limited supply of uranium and insecure stockpiles of nuclear materials, along with Iran’s desire to invest in nuclear energy to revitalize their energy sector (which is struggling due to international sanctions), the authors examine how these huge costs have led to few benefits.
The report analyzes the policy implications of Iran’s nuclear program for the United States and its allies, concluding that economic sanctions nor military force cannot end this prideful program; it is imperative that a diplomatic solution is reached to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful. Finally, efforts need to be made to the Iranians from Washington which clearly state that America and its allies prefer a prosperous and peaceful Iran versus an isolated and weakened Iran. Public diplomacy and nuclear diplomacy must go hand in hand.
The escalating confrontation between the United States and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program has triggered much debate about what actions should be taken to ensure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon. How might certain actions against Iran affect the global economy? FAS released the results of a study, “Sanctions, Military Strokes, and Other Potential Actions Against Iran” which assesses the global economic impact on a variety of conflict scenarios, sanctions and other alternative actions against Iran. FAS conducted an expert elicitation with nine subject matter experts involving six hypothetical scenarios in regards to U.S. led actions against Iran, and anticipated three month cost to the global economy. These scenarios ranged from increasing sanctions (estimated cost of U.S. $64 billion) to full-scale invasion of Iran (estimated cost of U.S. $1.7 trillion).
The nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran have been, for many years, two of the most pressing and intractable security challenges facing the United States and the international community. While frequently lumped together as “rogue states,” the two countries have vastly different social, economic, and political systems, and the history and status of their nuclear and long-range missile programs differ in several critical aspects.
The international responses to Iranian and North Korean proliferation bear many similarities, particularly in the use of economic sanctions as a central tool of policy. Daniel Wertz, Program Officer at the National Committee on North Korea, and Dr. Ali Vaez, former Director of the Iran Project at the Federation of American Scientists, offer a comparative analysis of U.S. policy toward Iran and North Korea in a FAS issue.
On May 20-21, 28 NATO member countries will convene in Chicago to approve the conclusions of a year-long Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR). Among other issues, the review will determine the number and role of the U.S. non-strategic nuclear weapons deployed in Europe and how NATO might work to reduce its nuclear posture as well as Russia’s inventory of such weapons in the future.
Lack of transparency fuels mistrust and worst-case assumptions and the concerns some eastern NATO countries have about Russia have been used to prevent a withdrawal of the remaining U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. The DDPR is expected to endorse the current deployment in Europe.
A new FAS report (PDF) concludes that non-strategic nuclear weapons are neither the reason nor the solution for Europe’s security issues today but that lack of political leadership has allowed bureaucrats to give these weapons a legitimacy they don’t possess and shouldn’t have.
Iran’s controversial nuclear program has been front and center on the international stage for more than eight years. Despite negotiations, sanctions, and political tug-of-war, the United States and its allies have yet to tame Iran’s atomic phoenix. At the center of this nuclear standoff is Iran’s controversial uranium enrichment program and efforts to obtain full nuclear fuel-cycle capabilities. To alleviate concerns about the intended nature of these activities, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has demanded -through six resolutions – that Iran suspend enrichment activities as well as construction of a heavy-water research reactor. Yet, Iran has opted to pay no heed to these resolutions and despite numerous proposals from different sides, the stalemate persists.
Dr. Charles D. Ferguson and Dr. Ali Vaez, authored a FAS report (PDF) analyzing the outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program, and provide recommendations to the major stakeholders in this debate including Iran, the United States, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Additionally, the report proposes a multipronged approach to resolving this deadlock, including enhanced safeguards and positive-sum diplomacy with incentives for Iran and other aspiring nuclear states.
Charles P. Blair, Senior Fellow on State and Non-State Threats, interviewed Federation of American Scientists’ Senior Fellow for Nuclear Policy Dr. Robert Standish Norris. The report takes a deeper look at the nuclear policies of the Obama administration—polices that Dr. Norris terms “radical” with regard to their vision of a nuclear weapon free world.
A modified U.S. nuclear bomb currently under design will have improved military capabilities compared with older weapons and increase the targeting capability of NATO’s nuclear arsenal. The B61-12, the product of a planned 30-year life extension and consolidation of four existing versions of the B61 into one, will be equipped with a new guidance system to increase its accuracy. As a result, the U.S. non-strategic nuclear bombs currently deployed in five European countries will return to Europe as a life-extended version in 2018 with an enhanced capability targets.
While diplomats and officials claim Iran has slowed down its nuclear drive, new analysis shows that Iran’s enrichment capacity grew during 2010 and warns against complacency as five world powers resume talks.
While the construction and the announcement of Iran’s Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, does not prove an intention to deceive the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it raises troubling questions. The facility is too small for a commercial enrichment facility, raising concerns that it might be intended as a covert facility to produce highly enriched uranium for weapons.
Though the nuclear arsenal of the United States is smaller than it was during the Cold War, the day-to-day deployment of forces has changed very little. The United States still has weapons ready to launch at a moment’s notice at all times.
The reason is simple: the mission for nuclear weapons has not changed from the time of the Cold War.
Most Americans would be surprised to discover that the instructions to our nuclear targeteers still include a requirement for a surprise first strike against Russian nuclear forces to destroy them on the ground. It is time to shift the focus from reducing numbers of nuclear weapons to reducing the missions of nuclear weapons.
Hans M. Kristensen and two analysts from the Natural Resources Defense Council examine the debate over China’s modernization of its nuclear forces, review the composition and possible future development of the Chinese nuclear arsenal, describe past and current U.S. nuclear targeting of China, and use government software to simulate the effects of Chinese and U.S. of nuclear attacks. The report (PDF) concludes that both countries use the other as an excuse to modernize their nuclear forces, and recommends that urgent steps are needed by both sides to halt and reverse a nuclear arms race.