Why New York City Will Be Shut Down At The Sixth Seal

Published time: 10 Feb, 2016 22:12Edited time: 11 Feb, 2016 01:51

New measurements at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in upstate New York show levels of radioactive tritium 80 percent higher than reported last week. Plant operator insists the spill is not dangerous, as state officials call for a safety probe.

Entergy, which operates the facility 25 miles (40 km) north of New York City, says the increased levels of tritium represent “fluctuations that can be expected as the material migrates.”

“Even with the new readings, there is no impact to public health or safety, and although these values remain less than one-tenth of one percent of federal reporting guidelines,” Entergy said in a statement.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo raised an alarm last Saturday over the reports of groundwater contamination at Indian Point, noting that the company reported “alarming levels of radioactivity” at three monitoring wells, with “radioactivity increasing nearly 65,000 percent” at one of them.

The groundwater wells have no contact with any drinking water supplies, and the spill will dissipate before it reaches the Hudson River, a senior Entergy executive argued Tuesday, suggesting the increased state scrutiny was driven by the company’s decision to shut down another nuclear power plant.

“There are a number of stakeholders, including the governor, who do not like the fact that we are having to close Fitzpatrick,” Michael Twomey, Entergy’s vice president of external affairs, said during an appearance on ‘The Capitol Pressroom,’ a show on WCNY public radio.

The James A. Fitzpatrick plant is located on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, near Oswego, New York. Entergy said it intended to close the plant once it runs out of fuel sometime this year, citing its continued operations as unprofitable.

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant on the Hudson river © wikipedia.org

‘65,000% radioactivity spike’: New York Gov. orders probe into water leak at Indian Point

“We’re not satisfied with this event. This was not up to our expectations,” Twomey said, adding that the Indian Point spill should be seen in context.

Though it has never reported a reactor problem, the Indian Point facility has been plagued by issues with transformers, cooling systems, and other electrical components over the years. It currently operates two reactors, both brought on-line in the 1970s.

In December, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission allowed Entergy to continue operating the reactors, pending license renewal. The facility’s initial 40-year license was set to expire on December 12, but the regulators are reportedly leaning towards recommending a 20-year extension.

By contrast, Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine was only three years old when it exploded in April 1986. To this day, an area of 1000 square miles around the power plant remains the “exclusion zone,” where human habitation is prohibited.

The tritium leak at Indian Point most likely took place in January, during the preparations to shut down Reactor 2 for refueling, according to Entergy. Water containing high levels of the hydrogen isotope reportedly overfilled the drains and spilled into the ground.

According to Entergy, tritium is a “low hazard radionuclide” because it emits low-energy beta particles, which do not penetrate the skin. “People could be harmed by tritium only through internal exposure caused by drinking water with high levels of tritium over many years,” an Entergy fact sheet says.

Environmentalist critics are not convinced, however.

“This plant isn’t safe anymore,” Paul Gallay, president of environmental watchdog group

Riverkeeper, told the New York Daily News. “Everybody knows it and only Entergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission refuse to admit it.”

Iran Offers the UK to Save the Oil (Revelation 6:6)

Iran offers to swap seized oil tanker for another taken by UK

TEHRAN, Iran — President Hassan Rouhani suggested on Wednesday that Iran might release a U.K.-flagged ship if Britain takes similar steps to release an Iranian oil tanker seized by the British off Gibraltar earlier this month.

His remarks could create an opening to reduce tensions as Boris Johnson becomes prime minister. It’s unclear how the new government will respond to Rouhani’s suggestion or the impasse with Iran.

“We do not seek the continuation of tension with some European countries,” Rouhani said in comments carried on his website.

“Should they be committed to international frameworks and give up their wrong actions, including what they did in Gibraltar, they will receive a proportional response from Iran.”

In this July 21 photo, a speedboat of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard trains a weapon toward the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. (Morteza Akhoondi/Tasnim News Agency via AP)

Britain this week announced plans to develop and deploy a Europe-led “maritime protection mission” to safeguard shipping in the area after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seized the Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday.

Rouhani said that while Iran does not seek a military conflict, it will not allow threats to its security in the important waterway. He described the Iranian seizure of the ship as “professional and brave.”

Iranian officials have alleged the ship was seized after it violated international maritime law by turning off its signaling for longer than is allowed and passing through the wrong channels.

However, Iranian officials have also suggested the ship was seized in response to Britain’s role in impounding an Iranian supertanker two weeks earlier off the coast of Gibraltar, a British overseas territory.

The U.K. says the tanker was suspected of violating sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.

Both sides have called the interception of one another’s ships “hostile acts” and “piracy.”

<img src=”https://www.armytimes.com/resizer/ic-KxoQorwj9_HwGMfViy9BqKwA=/600×0/filters:quality(100)/arc-anglerfish-arc2-prod-mco.s3.amazonaws.com/public/HNCXDI72E5CVZHGOUBDGBQ4X2M.jpg&#8221; alt=”Crew members of the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero, which was seized by Tehran in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. (IRIB News Agency via AP)”/>

Crew members of the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero, which was seized by Tehran in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. (IRIB News Agency via AP)

Stena Bulk, the owner of the ship being held by Iran, said it made first contact Tuesday evening with the crew of 23 since its seizure five days ago.

The company said the ship’s master advised “that everyone was safe with good cooperation with the Iranian personnel on board.”

The crew are mostly Indian, but also include Filipino, Russian and Latvian nationals. Iranian state TV aired video of the crew onboard the vessel off Iran’s port of Bandar Abbas earlier this week.

A spate of incidents in past weeks has threatened security in the Strait of Hormuz, which lies between Iran and Oman. Tensions have also soared following President Donald Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from the nuclear deal and impose maximal sanctions on Iran.

One-fifth of global crude passes through the Strait of Hormuz, making it an internationally important chokepoint for global energy supplies from Gulf exporters.

In past weeks, Iran has shot down a U.S. spy drone, U.S. officials say military cyberforces struck Iranian computer systems that handle missile and rocket launchers, and six oil tankers have been sabotaged near the strait.

<img src=”https://www.armytimes.com/resizer/mBi2QJ0ZqaExCaSMbNTa9SHSq8A=/600×0/filters:quality(100)/arc-anglerfish-arc2-prod-mco.s3.amazonaws.com/public/UJYPXAC6GJHH7DTYJJX7G3LIIQ.jpg&#8221; alt=”State-run IRIB News Agency aired on Monday images depicting the crew of the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero that was seized by Tehran in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. (IRIB News Agency via AP)”/>

State-run IRIB News Agency aired on Monday images depicting the crew of the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero that was seized by Tehran in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. (IRIB News Agency via AP)

Iranian officials on Wednesday reiterated their denial that any Iranian drones were intercepted, after the U.S. military said Tuesday that it took aim at two of them last week.

U.S. Central Command said one Iranian drone crashed into the sea after the amphibious assault ship Boxer took “defensive action” against it last Thursday. It said the Boxer also “engaged” a second Iranian drone at the same time, but could not confirm it was destroyed.

Iran’s defense minister, Gen. Amir Hatami, told reporters Wednesday that “if someone claims he should provide evidence,” adding that “none of our drones have been intercepted.”

Despite a U.K. government advisory that British-flagged ships avoid the Strait of Hormuz, a large British-flagged vessel transited the corridor and arrived at a port in Qatar on Wednesday.

Maritime publication Lloyd’s List identified the vessel as the BW Elm and reported that a British warship, likely the Type 23 frigate Montrose, closely shadowed the large liquefied petroleum gas carrier but that the Royal Navy did not provide a direct escort.

The Ministry of Defense declined to specifically comment on the transit and referred to recent comments made by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in which he the confirmed the Montrose has accompanied more than 30 ships over the last ten days through the strait.

In a statement to the AP, the ship’s owner BW LPG declined to comment on specifics, but noted protection by the navy.

“BW LPG is grateful for the UK and international community for their naval presence in the area providing security to merchant vessels transiting” the Strait of Hormuz, the company said, adding that it is operating “at our highest security protocol.”

Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The Expense for a Nuclear Australia (Daniel 7)

An expensive leap into greater uncertainty? Hugh White and the defence of Australia  | The Strategist

Geoffrey Barker

An expensive leap into greater uncertainty? Hugh White and the defence of Australia

Hugh White sees the US–Australia military alliance weakening, possibly disappearing, as China’s rise undermines US hegemony in East Asia and as US relative power wanes. ‘We will really be on our own’, he observes in How to defend Australia.

On this foundation, White builds a provocative case for greatly expanded acquisitions of submarines, fighter aircraft and, somewhat equivocally, nuclear weapons. His objective: to deter or to defeat a future Chinese attack on Australia without active US support.

How to defend Australia is an elegant, readable and confronting book in which White is asserting, once again, his prominent position among Australian defence intellectuals. He’s something of a gadfly, asking awkward questions, offering scathing criticisms, posing radical answers and urging quick decisions. ‘We don’t have much time’, he writes in the opening chapter. ‘Time is not on our side’, he reaffirms near the end of the book.

It’s obvious that historic strategic shifts are reshaping power relations in East Asia and that Australia now faces increasingly complex and uncertain security challenges. But is White’s pessimism entirely justified? Is the US really on a downward historical spiral while the rise and rise of China is now inevitable? If it’s not, White’s case for radical changes in Australia’s defence policy might seem at least unduly gloomy.

In fact, Australia’s alliance with the US has never guaranteed it US support in the event of an attack.  The ANZUS Treaty is an agreement to consult in the event of a threat; it commits the parties to act only in accordance with their constitutional processes. Likewise, there has always been uncertainty about the wisdom of Australia’s reliance on US extended nuclear deterrence. White rightly notes Australia will face a difficult choice on nuclear weapons acquisition if it can’t rely on Washington’s nuclear umbrella. But that has always been the case: military alliances between great and lesser powers rarely if ever guarantee certainty to the minor party seeking protection.

China is quickly catching up with the US as an economic and military power, but US military budgets still outstrip Chinese defence spending and US armaments are superior to most Chinese equivalents. Chinese military doctrine, organisation, training and leadership generally lag behind the US and other advanced powers. The Chinese military also lacks real war experience and global logistic support. Bureaucracy, graft and corruption remain serious issues for the Chinese military.

China faces other constraints. A recent report from China’s Academy of Social Services says the country faces a long period of ‘unstoppable’ population decline after 2029. It says growth in the working population has stagnated and the ageing population is ‘bound to cause very unfavourable social and economic consequences’. The US, by contrast, has a large, growing and diverse young population which will be available to develop the nation’s civilian and military power. China has abundant people, but they are increasingly aged and dependent and will grow old before they grow rich.

If economic and military power and demography aren’t sufficient to ensure the US remains a worthwhile and willing alliance partner for Australia, then it doesn’t seem unduly optimistic to expect that America’s national pride and its democratic political system will help to keep the US engaged.

It’s true, as White argues, that the US is suffering political malaise under President Donald Trump. But despite his isolationism Trump is conducting a domestically popular escalating trade war with Beijing with scant regard for its effects on allies and others. That is not the action of an administration preparing to make way for China.

Democracies, unlike despotic regimes, ultimately and often painfully survive idiosyncratic leaders who rise periodically to challenge and even debauch their values. The US especially has large, excellent and powerful diplomatic and security elites with the political clout to restrain wayward leaders.

White undervalues these formidable US assets in concluding that US power and influence in the region will shrink and possibly disappear. He may have conceded too much too soon in reading the funeral rites for the US–Australia alliance. He also ignores the recent Lowy Institute poll which found that 73% of Australians believe the US would come to our defence if we were attacked and that only 32% of Australians trust China.

There’s another important reason why Australia should preserve the alliance rather than move to offset its demise. Most of our most advanced military equipment—including F-35 fighter jets, and submarine and surface-ship combat systems—can only be maintained, updated and kept operational by their US makers. Somewhat cavalierly White seems to accept this prospect and argue that we could manage with poorer weapons from Europe and perhaps even from Russia. It’s hard to see military leaders or the government acquiescing willingly in this conclusion while accepting White’s proposal to double the defence budget to $80 billion a year.

Nevertheless, White has confronted the country with some tough questions about the alliance and defence policy. But the alliance never has been an absolute security guarantee. We need it because it complicates the decisions of potential aggressors and because it assures us of access to the world’s best military equipment. In an uncertain world we can hope for little more. White’s proposals would be an expensive leap into even greater uncertainty to the strategic advantage of China.

Geoffrey Barker is a former defence and diplomatic correspondent with extensive experience in the US and Europe. Image: US Department of Defense.

Babylon the Great to Send Nukes to the Gulf

Nuclear submarine could be sent to support Navy in the Gulf after Iran oil tanker seizures

A NUCLEAR-POWERED submarine and Royal Marine Commandoes could be sent to support Navy defences in the Gulf after Iranian forces seized two British oil tankers, according to reports.

Foreign Secretary and Conservative Party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt warned Iran it was choosing a “dangerous path” with its “totally unacceptable” moves in the Gulf.

Hunt is expected to use a Commons statement to announce diplomatic and economic measures the UK may reimpose on the regime.The Government’s Cobra security committee discussed Iran’s hijacks in an emergency meeting and could push for EU and UN sanctions on the country after they were lifted in 2016 as part of a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme.

UK-registered submarine Stena-Impero was seized by Iranian forces during a gunboat and helicopter raid as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz on Friday.

In what appeared to be a co-ordinated attack, a second oil tanker veered off course towards the Iranian coast after it was also bombarded by armed guards.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard said on state TV it was boarded for “violating international maritime rules,” a claim which has been disputed by the ships owner, Stena Bulk, who said it was in “full compliance with all navigation and international regulations.

“If we end up in a conflict back by Donald Trump, I think it would not only be comparable with Iraq in fact it could be even worse than Iraq

Justice Minister Richard Burgon told Soppy Ridge

Retired naval Commander Tom Sharpe told The Sun: “The Yono midget submarine is a particular menace.

“Often lurking just below the surface, they are armed with a couple of heavyweight torpedoes. These will kill a frigate and possibly even a carrier.

“There are always a couple at sea and they are hard to track and even harder to defeat.”

Shadow Justice Minister Richard Burgon told Soppy Ridge on Sunday, Sky News: “If we end up in a conflict back by Donald Trump, I think it would not only be comparable with Iraq in fact it could be even worse than Iraq and that should really scare everybody.

“So we need sensible negotiations, we’ve got a really important part to play diplomatically in this, we can use our negotiating weight.”

Of Course Russia And America Are Headed Toward Nuclear War

Are Russia and America Headed Toward Nuclear War?

Last week, U.S. and Russian delegations met in Geneva to discuss arms control. Dimitri A. Simes, a contributor to the National Interest, spoke to Viktor Murakhovsky, a retired Russian colonel, defense analyst, and editor-in-chief of the Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine, to better get the Russian perspective on the future of arms control. Murakhovsky is widely regarded in Russia as a leading military expert and is frequently cited by Russian media. The following transcript of their conversation has been lightly edited for length.

Dimitri A. Simes: Last fall, President Donald Trump announced that the United States will exit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. More recently, National Security Advisor John Bolton stated that Washington is not sure whether it will extend the New START treaty. How did Moscow react to these developments?

Viktor Murakhovsky: I will not speak on behalf of all of Moscow, so I will just explain my personal analysis. In my view, the INF treaty was concluded under very particular circumstances. During that time period, ballistic missiles were practically the only type of intermediate range missiles—cruise missiles were only starting to be developed. For that reason, there existed a threat that the flight time from the Federal Republic of Germany to the western part of the Soviet Union was twelve to fifteen minutes. If you look at technical components of the treaty, it focused on prohibiting the development of ballistic intermediate range missiles and the liquidation of that class of weapons.

The military-technical situation has changed significantly since then. If we talk about the United States and Russia now, the primary intermediate range missiles are air-based and sea-based cruise missiles. For Russia at the present moment, considering that NATO countries now border it—I am talking of course about the Baltic States and Poland—it makes no absolutely difference whether cruise missiles are based on land, sea, or air. In this sense, the purpose of the treaty for Russia, which was reducing the threat of a sudden strike by intermediate range missiles, is now totally gone.

At the same time, there was the development of drone technology. If we look at the line of drones in the United States, then we will see strategic surveillance drones and drones that operationally can perform intelligence gathering and deliver strikes. Under the letter of the [INF Treaty] concerning cruise missiles, drones undoubtedly fall under that. Russia currently does not have such weapons and in my view raising any grievances with the United States over this question would be absolutely stupid. No one is going to cut back on or eliminate this class of weaponry.

For these reasons, the purpose of the INF treaty has disappeared from a military-technical standpoint with the development of new weaponry and from a political standpoint with the expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders. For example, if the United States places a destroyer in Estonia’s waters, an action that would not violate the treaty, the flying time of its cruise missiles to St. Petersburg will be ten to fifteen minutes.

Thus, the treaty is dead. We must bury and forget about it. Now is a totally different political and military situation. We now have new systems of weaponry which the treaty does not address.

I think that some of the initiatives that were publicly announced by the United States, that it would be possible sometime in the future to reach a new agreement but this time with China’s participation as well, have no real prospects. China will not even talk about it and spurns any efforts to place restrictions on its strategic offensive arms or its intermediate and short-range missiles.

Simes: When I asked other Russian analysts about Trump’s recent arms control proposal, they expressed the concern that it might be a cynical pretext to gain cover for exiting the New START treaty or driving a wedge between Russia and China? Do you have a similar assessment?

Murakhovsky: I think the proposal is totally unfeasible, I don’t know with what goal it was made. Regarding driving a wedge between Russia and China, this proposal has no impact on that whatsoever.

Concerning the New START Treaty, it is well known that many in the American establishment, military, and some of Trump’s political advisors view this agreement as also unnecessary. Their view is, “Let every country do in the realm of strategic offensive weapons whatever it wants because no one will gain such an absolute advantage as to be able to unilaterally crush an adversary without a retaliatory strike.” From a military technical standpoint, this is a position I actually would agree with.

The fact of the matter is that in the case of a strategic conflict involving intercontinental nuclear weapons, it won’t make much difference for the two sides how many launchers were used, how many nuclear warheads were used. Right now, the treaty sets the limit at 800 launchers—if one side has 1500 launchers, that does not change the outcome at all.

All this talk of decapitation strikes or counterforce strikes is just a pathological intellectual exercise, which has very little to do with real-world combat implementation plans, to real-world deployment of armed forces, and to how wars are prepared for, begin, and fought.

President Trump or President Ivanov won’t just wake up one morning on the wrong side of the bed and decides to press the big red button. That just doesn’t happen. Deploying armed forces and preparing strikes against an adversary requires a very considerable amount of time. Concealing such preparation is absolutely impossible. For that reason, even if the New START treaty will cease to exist, the world will not turn upside down.

At the same time, I believe that such a treaty is extremely important from a political point of view because it is effectively the only instrument today that allows the two sides to inspect one another and creates a certain level of trust—trust that no one is insidiously developing additional nuclear material in some basement, that the data that the two sides exchange correspond to reality. This treaty has a whole array of consequence when it comes to trust.

It creates a background for dialogue between representatives of the two presidents. They know that if your counterpart is abiding by the agreement, then you can believe your counterpart’s words—if he says something, then it is. When such a background is absent, that is when there are no verifiable arms control agreements, then trusting the other side becomes more and more difficult—even in negotiations on other subjects.

Thus, from a political point of view this agreement is of course very important, but from a military-technical one—nothing fatally scary will occur if it ceases to exist.

Simes: So, am I correct in thinking that you do not share the concern held by many analysts in Washington that if the INF Treaty falls through and then the New START Treaty falls through, then we could see a new arms race between Russia and the United States?

Murakhovsky: I don’t think there will be one, there is no sense in it. I understand what these analysts are talking about, they are worried about a quantitative arms race—what I said earlier about both sides increasing their launchers and nuclear warheads. However, I must repeat that such an increase makes no military sense.

On this issue, China’s position seems quite typical to me. It currently has the financial and technical capabilities to field a nuclear arsenal comparable to the level of what the United States and Russia have now. But it does not do this and has no plans of doing so. Instead, it has chosen to simply maintain a nuclear arsenal at level it deems sufficient to deliver an unacceptably costly blow to a potential adversary. There are no signs of China entering into a quantitative nuclear arms race because such a race has entirely lost its purpose.

Of course, competition in the realm of military technology will continue. One clear example of this is Russia’s introduction of Avangard hypersonic missiles. At the same time, one must understand that these technologies were not suddenly born yesterday. These technologies were developed over several decades, starting in the Soviet Union during the 1980s.

Will the United States eventually acquire this technology? I don’t doubt it. With the current level of financing and effort, there are enough companies in the military-industrial complex that are capable of making their own version of this technology.

Iran to Execute American Spies

Iran says it arrested 17 CIA spies, sentencing some to death

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaks at a meeting in Tehran on Sept. 12, 2017.(Associated Press)

By RAMIN MOSTAGHIM , NABIH BULOS

JULY 22, 2019

TEHRAN —  Iran claimed Monday that it had smashed a CIA spy ring on its soil, saying some of the 17 Iranian nationals netted by authorities had already been sentenced to death.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, in an interview with Fox News, dismissed the claims, insisting that “the Iranian regime has a long history of lying.”

“It’s part of the nature of the ayatollah to lie to the world,” Pompeo said in reference to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “I would take with a significant grain of salt any Iranian assertion of actions they have taken.”

President Trump weighed in with a tweet, calling the claim “totally false.”

“The Report of Iran capturing CIA spies is totally false. Zero truth. Just more lies and propaganda (like their shot down drone) put out by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do. Their Economy is dead, and will get much worse. Iran is a total mess!”

Speaking to dozens of journalists assembled in the underground press club of Iran’s Ministry of Culture, an Iranian counterintelligence official said the 17 detained Iranian nationals had been working in a number of key private-sector institutions in “economic, nuclear, infrastructure, military and cyber fields.”

“We have intelligence dominance over the CIA’s espionage activities in Iran,” said the official, who identified himself as “director-general of the intelligence ministry’s counter-espionage department” but declined to give his name.

An accompanying presentation provided to journalists showed business cards for a number of U.S. diplomats based in Turkey, Austria, Zimbabwe and elsewhere who Iranian officials said recruited the spies when they were applying for U.S. visas.

“Some of the Iranian citizens get into the ‘visa trap’ and they are asked to become spies if they want to receive visas,” the official said.

Others, he said, were framed by the CIA when they wanted to “maintain or extend their visas.” CIA officers also approached Iranian citizens through shell companies or “on the sidelines of scientific conferences in European, African and Asian countries,” he said.

The spies were foiled through inter-service cooperation with Iran’s intelligence allies, the official said. Countries whose intelligence services allowed the CIA to recruit on their soil would “be held responsible,” he warned.

The presentation also featured images, said to be of CIA operatives, taken from the suspected spies’ phones. The spies were enticed, said the official, with promises of immigration to the U.S. as well as jobs and money once there.

In March, Mahmoud Alavi, Iran’s intelligence minister, said in an interview with the Iranian news agency Tasnim that authorities had apprehended 290 suspected spies. Iranian intelligence services routinely claim to have captured spies working for the United States or Israel.

Monday’s assertions come amid tensions between Tehran and Washington, as well as an Iranian standoff with Britain over tit-for-tat seizures of oil tankers at sea.

The alleged spy bust, the official said, was “another global failure for the CIA.”

“Considering that CIA has been crippled, it will be natural that this service tries to restore and rebuild itself, and of course Iranian intelligence community will always be wakeful and vigilant,” he said.

Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran and Times staff writer Bulos from Beiru

The Iranian Horn Grows Rapidly (Daniel 8:4)

What the Smuggled Archive Tells Us About Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Project

Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael OfekJuly 22, 2019

Iranian flag image via Columbia SIPA Center on Global Energy Policy

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,233, July 22, 2019

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: As an apparent act of defiance against Western countries’ reluctance to support it against US sanctions, Iran has begun to enrich uranium beyond the level permitted by the nuclear deal. This fact, together with the information revealed by the smuggling out by the Israelis of Iran’s nuclear weapons program archive, belies Tehran’s oft-expressed claim that its nuclear program was always for peaceful use and shows the hollowness of the nuclear agreement.

On July 7, 2019, Iran announced that in light of Western countries’ reluctance to support it against the newly imposed US sanctions, it will enrich uranium above the maximum 3.67% level agreed upon in the 2015 nuclear agreement (the JCPOA). According to Ayatollah Khamenei aide Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran will enrich uranium to 5% from now on, which is the level of enrichment of nuclear fuel at the Bushehr nuclear power plant. Iranian officials have since signaled that their country might in fact increase uranium enrichment to 20% (the level in the fuel of Tehran’s research reactor).

This would represent Iran’s second violation of the JCPOA. On July 1, it crossed the maximum amount of 300 kg UF6 (uranium hexafluoride), which, according to the agreement, is allowed to be enriched to 3.67%.

Furthermore, on July 11 – ten months after PM Benjamin Netanyahu identified the “secret atomic warehouse” at Turquzabad in Tehran – it was reported that soil samples taken from the site by IAEA inspectors were found to contain traces of radioactive material. This proves that the warehouse was indeed a nuclear storage facility, and that Iran’s failure to report it to the IAEA was a violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which it is a signatory.

Despite all this, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini announced at the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on July 15 that Iran’s recent breaches of the JCPOA are insignificant and can be reversed. The EU ministers, scrambling to salvage the nuclear deal, stressed that it is the only option available by which to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Although Tehran can theoretically break out to produce nuclear weapons within six months or so, it is more inclined to take slow, measured steps to withdraw from the agreement. It threatens Western Europe with its intentions while being careful not to categorically break the rules in the hope that Europe will circumvent Trump’s sanctions. This form of brinksmanship is reminiscent of Iran’s conduct in 2003 after its military nuclear program was exposed: it cooperated with the IAEA with regard to nuclear facilities that could be presented for civilian purposes, such as the uranium enrichment facilities and the Arak heavy water reactor, while at the same time concealing activities of a nuclear-military nature.

The Iranian nuclear archive that Israel seized at the beginning of 2018 proves that by 2003, Iran had a well-planned and advanced program of developing nuclear weapons capable of launch via ballistic missile. The bottleneck since then has been to accumulate enough fissile material, high-enriched uranium or plutonium, for nuclear weapons.

The nuclear archive contains a wealth of new information about Iran’s accelerated efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Investigation of the information suggests that Iran’s nuclear capability had progressed far beyond what the Western intelligence services and the IAEA had estimated so far. This effort was carried out within the framework of the 110 Project of the Amad program. The program began in 1989 with the aim of producing five nuclear bombs at 10 kilotons each that can be installed with ballistic missiles.

In the second half of 2002, Iran violated its commitment to the NPT. This was revealed via the exposure of the uranium enrichment plant that Iran established in Natanz and its plan to build a heavy water reactor for plutonium production near Arak, which Iran had refrained from reporting to the IAEA.

The extensive documentation in the archive indicates that notwithstanding the IAEA’s demand for full disclosure of the Iranian nuclear program, senior Iranian defense officials and senior Iranian nuclear scientists were discussing how to proceed with the nuclear weapons program in mid-2003. The most prominent scientists were Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and Dr. Fereydoon Abbasi, former president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. They concluded that a complete separation should be made between 1) nuclear R&D activities that could be presented overtly as purely civilian in nature; and 2) nuclear R&D activities that should be camouflaged and kept covert; e.g., neutron physics studies. The activities classified as secret were to be linked to legitimate research at Iran’s universities and technological research institutes.

Thus, in late 2003, the Tehran authorities decided to convert Amad into a smaller, more secretive nuclear weapons program. In 2011, after taking steps to disguise the plan, Tehran assigned it the wonderfully euphemistic name “Organization for Defensive Innovation and Research” (the Persian acronym of which is SPND).

The nuclear archive operation was first exposed by Netanyahu on April 30, 2018. From October 2018 through May 2019, two institutes in Washington, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), presented a series of highly detailed reports on the archival documents, which contained information about secret facilities that had not yet been exposed. (According to the institutes, some of the information in the archive is unpublishable due to rules regarding non-proliferation of nuclear weapons technologies.)

As early as 2004, the IAEA suspected that key elements of the nuclear program were being conducted at the Parchin military site, about 30 km north of Tehran. In May 2012, satellite images detected suspicious activity there: the Iranians destroyed some of the structures previously blocked by IAEA inspectors, and the area around them was completely razed.

Information in the nuclear archive allows us for the first time to correlate the images in the archives of the two main buildings on the site, Taleghan-1 and Taleghan-2, and satellite photographs of the buildings from 2004.

In the Taleghan-1 structure, a huge cylindrical steel cell was installed for explosive detonation experiments that began in February 2003. The purpose of the experiments was to develop a neutron trigger for a nuclear explosive device. (When the nuclear device is imploding, the trigger emits a neutron flux to increase the chain reaction of the uranium core and strengthen the yield of the nuclear explosion.) The archive proves that the Taleghan-1 was designed for neutron trigger development experiments, as it contains images from inside the building of two types of neutron detectors.

A smaller cylindrical steel tank was installed in the Taleghan-2 structure to conduct “cold tests” of the compression of a non-fissile uranium core with explosives for imaging a nuclear-grade uranium-core compression. In addition, the Taleghan-2 contained a huge flash x-ray camera designed to capture the core compression process due to the implosion. Such a camera is designed to shoot with extremely fast and extremely short pulses of 20 to 35 nanoseconds.

In addition, the archive documents uncovered a previously unsuspected subterranean nuclear facility in Parchin known as the Shahid Boroujerdi project. The facility was used to convert the UF6 compound into metallic uranium, then melt, cast, and machine it into hollow hemispheres designed to train future production of cores.

Another important facility that was unknown until the Iranian archive revelation was Sanjarian, adjacent to Tehran. Initial information on the facility, which has not yet been verified, was reported in 2009 by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an opposition organization to the Tehran regime based in Paris. The purpose of the Sanjarian facility was to produce the explosive system that surrounds the uranium core of a nuclear weapon, the function of which is to compress the core through the explosion in order to bring it to super-criticality. This process is called implosion. The explosive system is called MPI (Multi-Point Initiation system) or “Shock Wave Generator.” The main explosive in the MPI envelope is Octol, a mixture of HMX and TNT. The channels inside the shell contain special exploding bridgewire (EBW) detonators that are suitable for simultaneous ignition and are ignited only when high voltage is applied.

Another critical activity in Sangjarian was the production of PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate), a high-risk, high-impact explosive designed to be installed inside MPI channels. By around 2002, Iran had completed about two-thirds of the tasks required for the MPI project. According to the assessment reflected in the archival documents, the third part was probably completed by the end of 2003.

Other important activities within the framework of the nuclear weapons program included the Midan Project – which involved locating and setting up a nuclear test field, apparently in a desert area in northern Iran southeast of Semnan – and Project 111, which involved integrating a nuclear bomb as the warhead of the Shahab-3 ballistic missile.

The archive revelation exposed Iran’s repeated declarations that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes as a bald-faced lie, and highlighted the many shortcomings of the Iranian nuclear deal. It can be assumed that a surrender by Iran to Trump’s demand to reopen the nuclear agreement, which would mean a complete renunciation of its nuclear weapons development, is inconceivable to the Tehran regime.

Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek, a BESA Center Research Associate, is an expert in the field of nuclear physics and technology who served as a senior analyst in the Israeli intelligence community.