History Warns New York Is The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Friday, 18 March 2011 – 9:23pm IST | Place: NEW YORK | Agency: ANI

If the past is any indication, New York can be hit by an earthquake, claims John Armbruster, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

If the past is any indication, New York can be hit by an earthquake, claims John Armbruster, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.Based on historical precedent, Armbruster says the New York City metro area is susceptible to an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 once a century.According to the New York Daily News, Lynn Skyes, lead author of a recent study by seismologists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory adds that a magnitude-6 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and magnitude-7 every 3,400 years.A 5.2-magnitude quake shook New York City in 1737 and another of the same severity hit in 1884.

Tremors were felt from Maine to Virginia.

There are several fault lines in the metro area, including one along Manhattan’s 125th St. – which may have generated two small tremors in 1981 and may have been the source of the major 1737 earthquake, says Armbruster.

There’s another fault line on Dyckman St and one in Dobbs Ferry in nearby Westchester County.

“The problem here comes from many subtle faults,” explained Skyes after the study was published.

He adds: “We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought.”

“Considering population density and the condition of the region’s infrastructure and building stock, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have considerable consequences in terms of public safety and economic impact,” says the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation on its website.

Armbruster says a 5.0-magnitude earthquake today likely would result in casualties and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

“I would expect some people to be killed,” he notes.

The scope and scale of damage would multiply exponentially with each additional tick on the Richter scale.

The China Nuclear Horn and the Race to the End

China nuclear threat: US expert fears ‘unnecessary arms race’ | World | News | Express.co.uk

PUBLISHED: 08:00, Sat, Apr 25, 2020

Frank O’Donnell fears a “dangerous arms race” (Image: GETTY)

THE increasingly fractious relationship between China and the United States, with Washington last week accusing Beijing of carrying out a series of nuclear tests last year,could result in an unpredictable and dangerous arms race between the world’s three superpowers, an US expert has warned.

Frank O’Donnell, a nonresident fellow in the Stimson Center South Asia Program, was speaking after a report published by the US State Department about possible breaches of a “zero yield” standard for test blasts in related to activities at China’s Lop Nur nuclear test site throughout the course of 2019. The document claims: “China’s possible preparation to operate its Lop Nur test site year-round, its use of explosive containment chambers, extensive excavation activities at Lop Nur and a lack of transparency on its nuclear testing activities raise concerns regarding its adherence to the zero yield standard.”

China subsequently denied the allegations, with foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian insisting his country was committed to a moratorium on nuclear tests.

He added: “China has always adopted a responsible attitude, earnestly fulfilling the international obligations and promises it has assumed.

“The US criticism of China is entirely groundless, without foundation, and not worth refuting.”

The report suggested tests of the nature outlined in the report would represent a breach of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  Both nations have signed the CTBT, but neither has so far ratified it.

Mr O’Donnell is sceptical about the claims outlined in the US report. He told Express.co.uk: “China’s aggressive expansionism in the East and South China Seas and continuing lack of transparency around the origins and current status of coronavirus infections within its borders remain concerns for global security.

“However, there is still no solid proof that China is changing its positions on the different issue of its nuclear policy and posture.

“In the US State Department’s recent report, strongly alleging that China has resumed supercritical nuclear testing at the Lop Nur facility, the supporting evidence provided for this allegation renders it little more than conjecture.

“In sum, the evidence presented is that, firstly, the facility has been recently augmented, including a claim that this includes ‘explosive containment chambers’.

“However, the terms of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty permit subcritical explosive tests, which “simulate aspects of nuclear explosions using chemical explosives.

“But since a subcritical mass of plutonium (or a surrogate material) is used, no actual nuclear explosion occurs.”

Mr O’Donnell pointed out: “The US, Russia, UK, and probably China have all conducted subcritical tests.

“It is telling that the US State Department reference to ‘explosive containment chambers’ does not specify the truth that such chambers could be utilised for such subcritical testing, and that such activities are consistent with regular practice by other nuclear weapons states, not least the US.”

Mr O’Donnell added: “If the Trump administration is truly concerned with Chinese nuclear testing activities and transparency, it should ratify the CTBT, as China has stated that it will ratify the Treaty following US ratification.

“Following this ratification, it could seek to negotiate an agreement with China and Russia regarding inspections of test facilities to determine that only subcritical tests are being conducted.

“That the US State Department seeks to generate these allegations, instead of pursuing these specific arms control and confidence-building initiatives as part of its diplomacy toward these states, indicates that it seeks to generate a general aura of a mushrooming Chinese nuclear threat.

“This serves to justify its recent departure from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, probable looming departure from the New START Treaty, and continuation of an unnecessary nuclear arms race with China and Russia.”

The Stealthy American Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

The Air Force is Developing a Stealthy Nuclear-Tipped Cruise Missile for its Bomber

The Pentagon has selected Raytheon over Lockheed Martin to develop a new stealthy air-launched nuclear-tipped cruise missile called the Long-Range Stand-Off (LRSO) missile.The LRSO will allow Air Force bombers to unleash surprise nuclear strikes over long distances.

LRSO is the planned successor for the 38-year-old AGM-86 nuclear-tipped cruise missile carried by Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers since the 1980s. The seventy-six B-52Hs in Air Force service can carry up to twenty AGM-86Bs on two-underwing pylons and an internal rotary launcher in the bomb bay. The LRSO, however, will also be compatible with forthcoming B-21 stealth bombers, and potentially even B-2s should the Air Force keep them in service long enough.

Development of the LRSO began 2012 but was delayed by funding shortfalls for three years. Finally, in 2017 the Air Force gave Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin each $900 million to develop LRSO design concepts dubbed the YGM-180 and YGM-181, with a competition winner to be selected in 2022 and entry into service pegged for 2030.

The Air Force’s down-selection of Raytheon two years early comes as a surprise. The early decision may be more about industrial base management (balancing out defense dollars and orders across companies to keep them in business) rather than differences in capability between the proposed designs.

According to Breaking Defense, LRSO may cost an estimated $4.5 billion to develop plus $10 billion to procure a thousand missiles, resulting in a staggering unit price of $10 million per missile. Other sources offer similar numbers, while critics estimate total program costs of $20 billion or higher, though they may be lumping in roughly $7 billion projected to extend the service life by refurbishing W80-1 nuclear warheads to a more reliable W80-4 model.

Advocates for modernization of U.S. nuclear forces argue that cost is worth it because of the need to maintain a credible air-launched deterrence, and the likelihood that modern air defense systems may be able to detect incoming AGM-86B missiles from a distance. Furthermore, they argue that while B-2 and F-35 stealth jets can penetrate enemy airspace to attack with B61 nuclear gravity bombs, some targets may simply be too well-defended, and thus should be struck with stand-off range weapons.

But LRSO has also attracted controversy as a weapon seemingly designed for a surprise nuclear first strike, which may increase the temptation to initiate a nuclear conflict, as well as risk inadvertently inciting a nuclear attack from nervous adversaries.

Cold War Cruise Missiles

When the AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) entered service in 1982, it had long been clear the Air Force’s fleet of huge B-52 bombers were unlikely to survive long attempting to penetrate modern Soviet air defenses. The hair-raising game plan in the 1970s was for low-flying B-52 to carry lots of smaller AGM-69 nuclear missiles to bulldoze a path of nuclear destruction through Soviet air defenses in order to reach the actual target.

When the AGM-86 entered service in 1982, it boasted a staggering range of 1,700 miles, allowing B-52s to launch nuclear strikes without having to get up close and personal with Soviet missiles and interceptors. Each 1.5-ton missile carried a W80-1 nuclear warhead with a yield adjustable between 5 and 150 kilotons. For comparison, the “Little Boy” bomb that devastated Hiroshima had a yield of 15 kilotons.

The AGM-86B model of the surface-skimming missiles uses a terrain contour mapping guidance system for navigation as its cruise at 550 miles per hour (roughly the speed of a 767 airliner) powered by an F107 turbofan engine on its spine.

But while surface-skimming cruise missiles are harder than airplanes to track and shoot down, their approach would still likely be detected, giving the Soviets time to seek cover underground, direct doppler-radar equipped MiG-31 interceptors to try to destroy them, and issue orders for a nuclear retaliatory strike.

Thus the Pentagon began developing a successor, the AGM-129 Air-launched Cruise Missile (ACM), which was basically shaped like an upside-down stealth jet. The AGM-129’s reduced radar cross section also allowed it to fly higher while remaining undetected, and thus out to greater range (2,300 miles) due to the lower density of friction-inducing air molecules at high altitude.

The nuclear-only AGM-129A was supposed to replace the AGM-86B entirely, but the Cold War ended in 1991 and with it the impetus to invest in strategic nuclear weapons. So after spending $6 billion on the program, the Air Force cut AGM-129 production early.

That left 450 AGM-129s alongside a larger arsenal of AGM-86s, including GPS-guided non-nuclear warhead variants (the AGM-86C and AGM-86D CALCM) which were used in aerial bombing campaigns targeting Iraq and Serbia from 1991 to 2003.

The AGM-129s proved less reliable and more expensive to maintain, so when it became necessary to reduce the number of nuclear weapons for strategic arms treaties, the Air Force decided to ditch the fancier stealth missiles and keep the AGM-86s. The non-nuclear CALCMs were also retired in 2019, their role subsumed by the AGM-158B JASSM-ER stealth cruise missile.

As Raytheon was the AGM-129’s manufacturer, it already has relevant experience in long-range stealth cruise missile design. However, the LRSO’s characteristics remain unclear. For example, it’s known the Air Force was considering both subsonic and supersonic-capable engine options, but it’s unclear which direction has been embraced. 

Deadlier—But Not Necessarily Safer

If the objective is to make a nuclear attack as lethal as possible, a stealth cruise missile helps because it may go undetected until far too late, giving personnel little or no opportunity to seek shelter or launch counterattacks.

But maximizing the deadliness of offensive nuclear forces may not necessarily maximize deterrence of enemy nuclear attacks.

To begin with, we have good reason to believe “winning” a nuclear war would only be a few degrees better than losing one because China and Russia have survivable nuclear arsenals. Even in the unlikely event that their land-based nuclear missiles and bombers were mostly wiped out in a first strike, there would always remain submerged ballistic missile submarines capable of launching dozens of nuclear weapons at metropolises and military bases across the globe.

And weapons that can strike with little to no warning are likely to have a destabilizing effect, increasing an adversary’s nuclear-paranoia. Afterall, if they believe they won’t see a first strike coming at their nukes until far too late, they may think their only choice is to attack first.

Adversaries may also jump the gun at faint “stealth” radar contacts—say one potentially produced by an F-35 stealth fighter or a non-nuclear JASSM missile—and fearing that they must “use it or lose it,” pull the trigger on a nuclear retaliatory strike without verifying whether they are genuinely facing nuclear attack.

In other words, fielding more unpredictable nuclear offense may increase the odds that the U.S. will be hit with nukes too—and arguably, disincentivizing such an outcome arguably should take precedence over any other national defense imperatives.

LRSO was also originally billed as coming with conventional (non-nuclear) variant, but Congress canceled that requirement in 2019. However, the Air Force claims it may develop conventional variant anyway. But fielding both nuclear and conventional versions of the same missile comes with the risk that a conventional attack could be mistaken for a nuclear strike, and thereby inadvertently elicit a nuclear riposte.

To be fair, the cat may already be out of the bag. Both Russia and China field dual-capable conventional/nuclear missiles, and Russia too has incorporated stealth technology into its Kh-101/Kh-102 air-launched cruise missiles.

Furthermore, if the B-52 is to retain a role in air-based nuclear deterrence in the coming decade (a necessity disputed by critics of LRSO), then it does require some kind of standoff-range cruise missile. However, arms control expert Hans Kristiansen has argued that conventional precision strikes using JASSM stealth missiles may obviate the need to resort to nuclear attacks.

The Pentagon’s re-investment in offensive nuclear capabilities is part of a broader global trend pursuing nuclear arms that can strike with less warning. Fundamentally, proponents of the LRSO believe that a scarier and more unpredictable offense will deter adversaries from ever initiating a nuclear conflict, while critics believe a nuclear arms race only increases the likelihood that such “first strike” weapons may eventually get used by both sides.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

Kim’s Death Could Activate the South Korean Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Kim Jong Un’s death could force US and South Korea to take military action

By Jack Elsom For Mailonline 12:08 EDT 22 Apr 2020 , updated 03:21 EDT 23 Apr 2020

Kim Jong Un’s death would cause a geopolitical meltdown that could see North Korea’s cold war with the West turn hot, experts have warned.

A power vacuum left by the dictator could explode into an ugly civil war, which would spark ‘humanitarian suffering’ and a wave of refugees fleeing the violence.

Military planners have forecast the fallout could force the United States and South Korea to mobilize against the nuclear-armed state in an intervention that would ‘make Afghanistan and Iraq pale in comparison’.

Whispers that Kim is gravely ill after undergoing heart surgeryhave been seeping out of the hermit regime in recent days.

Donald Trump has said there is no evidence to confirm the speculation, while Seoul and Beijing also cast doubt on the claims.

Yet, with no denial from official North media, attention in military circles has turned to wargaming the possible scenarios of the strongman’s death.

David Maxwell, a retired special forces colonel and now senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, pointed to the blurry line of succession which could lead to a power struggle in Pyongyang.

He told the : ‘Units of the North Korean People’s Army are going to compete for resources and survival.

‘This will lead to internal conflict among units and could escalate to widespread civil war.’

Kim Jong Un’s death would cause a geopolitical meltdown that could see North Korea’s cold war with the West turn hot, experts have warned

Military planners have forecast the fallout could force the United States (President Trump pictured) and South Korea to mobilize against the nuclear-armed state

A US Army 2nd Infantry division Howitzer fires during live fire exercises at Younchun, near the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea in 2003

A rocket launch at an undisclosed location in North Korea from March 21

Retired Lieutenant General Chun In-Bum, the former head of South Korea’s special forces, agreed that the question of succession would split the regime in factions and unleash ‘chaos, human suffering, instability’.

Kim Jong Un’s chosen successor is not known, although his sister’s recent promotion suggests she is being groomed for leadership.

Kim Yo Jong was brought back into her brother’s inner circle to become head of propaganda.

She had been blamed for the collapse of the denuclearisation talks with Washington and cast out into the cold.

In the event of unrest in the North, the Maxwell said the US and South Korea may be left with no option but to engage.

He said: ‘The ROK/US alliance is going to have to be prepared to secure and render safe the entire WMD program, nuclear, chemical, biological weapons and stockpiles, manufacturing facilities, and human infrastructure (scientists and technicians).

‘This is a contingency operation that will make Afghanistan and Iraq pale in comparison.’

President Trump said there is no confirmation that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is ill following a surgery. At the briefing Tuesday he wished Kim well and said ‘good luck’

On Monday, the news broke that Kim may be in grave danger after cardiovascular surgery, but whether there’s truth to the report is still up in the air

The extent of Kim’s declining health is not clear – North Korea’s state-run news agency KCNA yesterday reported on sports equipment, mulberry picking and a meeting in Bangladesh, but did not give an update on the leader.

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper carried undated remarks attributed to Kim in articles about the economy, the textile industry, city development, and other topics.

As usual Kim’s name was plastered all over the newspaper, but there were no reports on his whereabouts.

Kim was last seen in public on April 11, and speculation about his well-being was first sparked on April 15 when he mysteriously failed to attend a ceremony to mark the anniversary of his grandfather Kim Il Sung’s birth.

Thae Yong Ho, a former North Korean deputy ambassador to London who defected to South Korea in 2016, said state media’s extended silence is unusual because it had been quick to previously dispel questions about the status of its leadership.

‘Every time there is controversy about [Kim], North Korea would take action within days to show he is alive and well,’ he said.

His absence from the April 15 anniversary worship, in particular, is ‘unprecedented,’ Thae said.

Daily NK, a Seoul-based speciality website, reported late on Monday that Kim, who is believed to be about 36, was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure on April 12.

It cited one unnamed source in North Korea.

A CNN report then cited an unnamed U.S. official saying the United States was ‘monitoring intelligence’ that Kim was in grave danger after surgery.

Since then, two South Korean government officials rejected the CNN report.

Senior party and government officials celebrate the 108th anniversary of founder Kim Il-Sung’s birth in Pyongyang on April 15 – a ceremony which Kim Jong-un inexplicably missed

Trump comments on health of Kim Jong Un amid rumors of illness

At the White House, Trump threw cold water on it as well – though only because it came from CNN.

‘When CNN comes out with a report I don’t place too much credence in it,’ the president said.

Trump added that he ‘may’ reach out to Kim, who he’s met with three times, while also telling the North Korean leader ‘good luck.’

‘I can only say this, I wish him well,’ the president said from the podium. ‘Because if he is in the kind of condition that the reports say, that the news is saying, that’s a very serious condition as you know.’

South Korea’s presidential Blue House said there were no unusual signs from North Korea.

Robert O’Brien, U.S. President Trump’s national security adviser, told Fox News the White House is monitoring the reports ‘very closely.’

Bloomberg News quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying the White House was told that Kim had taken a turn for the worse after the surgery.

However, authoritative U.S. sources familiar with U.S. intelligence questioned the report that Kim was in grave danger.

A Korea specialist working for the U.S. government said, ‘Any credible direct reporting having to do with Kim would be highly compartmented intelligence and unlikely to leak to the media.’

Kim is a third-generation hereditary leader who rules North Korea with an iron fist, coming to power after his father Kim Jong Il died in 2011 from a heart attack.

He is the sole commander of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, which Trump tried unsuccessfully to persuade him to give up in 2018 and 2019 summits.

Reporting from inside North Korea is notoriously difficult, especially on matters concerning its leadership, given tight controls on information.

There have been past false reports regarding its leaders, but the fact Kim has no clear successor means any instability could present a major international risk.

Asked about how any North Korean political succession would work, O’Brien said, ‘The basic assumption would be maybe it would be someone in the family. But, again, it’s too early to talk about that because we just don’t know what condition Chairman Kim is in and we’ll have to see how it plays out.’

In recent years, Kim has launched a diplomatic offensive to promote himself as a world leader, holding three meetings with Trump, four with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and five with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China is North Korea’s only major ally.

Donald Trump meets Kim Jong Un in Vietnam in February 2019 – a summit which ended abruptly without any agreement on denuclearisation

Losing the dictator could leave the nuclear power in a vulnerable position as it scrambles to replace Kim Jong. Among those who are believed to be successors is his sister, Kim Yo-jong, pictured meeting South Korean officials in the border village of Panmunjom last year

Speaking to Reuters, an official at the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, which deals with North Korea, expressed the belief that Kim was not critically ill.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing was aware of reports about Kim’s health, but said it does not know their source, without commenting on whether it has any information about the situation.

Daily NK said Kim was hospitalized on April 12, hours before the cardiovascular procedure, as his health had deteriorated since August due to heavy smoking, obesity and overwork. It said he was now receiving treatment at a villa in the Mount Myohyang resort north of the capital Pyongyang.

‘My understanding is that he had been struggling (with cardiovascular problems) since last August but it worsened after repeated visits to Mount Paektu,’ a source was quoted as saying, referring to the country’s sacred mountain.

Kim took two well-publicized rides on a stallion on the mountain’s snowy slopes in October and December.

Speculation about Kim’s health first arose due to his absence from the anniversary of the birthday of North Korea’s founding father and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.

North Korea’s official KCNA news agency gave no indication of his whereabouts in routine dispatches on Tuesday, but said he had sent birthday gifts to prominent citizens.

Kim has sought to have international sanctions against his country eased, but has refused to give up his nuclear weapons.

Trump has described Kim as a friend, but the unprecedented engagement by a U.S. president with a North Korean leader has failed to slow Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, which pose a threat to the United States.

Joseph Yun, a former U.S. envoy to North Korea under President Barack Obama and Trump, told Reuters he believes ‘something really is quite amiss, quite awry right now in North Korea.’

‘It’s worrisome. If he’s seriously ill and he dies, there is no succession plan,’ said Yun, who has since worked as a CNN analyst. ‘You could see a huge power struggle, people jockeying for position. Their lives would depend on it.’

Yun said for all its secrecy, North Korea in recent years had been quick to respond to significant foreign news reports and it is noteworthy that it has stayed silent so far.

As for Kim’s relationship with Trump and faltering efforts to get North Korea to denuclearize, Yun said, ‘That’s pretty much put in doubt, not that it’s been going anywhere anyway.’

With no details known about his young children, analysts said his sister and loyalists could form a regency until a successor is old enough to take over.

Kim was the first North Korean leader to cross into South Korea to meet Moon in 2018. Both Koreas are technically still at war. The 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Trump Planned To Attack Khamenei’s Residence

Iran Guards General Says Trump Planned To Attack Khamenei’s Residence

Radio Farda

Speaking on a live program on Iran’s state-run TV on Thursday the Commander of the Guard’s Aerospace Force claimed the United States was planning to hit Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s residence in January.

After the targeted killing of Qods Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani on Jnauary 3, President Donald Trump threatened in a tweet that the U.S. will target “52 Iranian sites … some at a very high level and important to Iran and the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, will be hit very fast and very hard.”President Trump never named the 52 targets designated to be attacked if Iran hit American troops.

In response to Soleimani’s killing, Iran attacked two Iraqi bases hosting American and other coalition troops on January 8.

Trump’s Comment About Hitting Iran’s Cultural Sites Stirs Controversy In Iran, US

Referring to President Trump’s threat, Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh said: “The cultural spot that they were talking about was the residence of the Supreme Leader”. He also said after Iran’s missile attack the Guards were prepared to target 400 additional sites if the United States reacted. “We believed that they would retaliate, we had designated 400 sites to hit,” he said.

Iran’s Supreme Leader lives in a house adjacent to his office and a religious hall where he usually delivers his public speeches in a compound in central area Tehran. The old building of the Iranian Parliament, the Supreme National Security Council and the President’s office are located within the compound.

A special unit of the Revolutionary Guard is in charge of the security of Khamenei’s residence and the various buildings of his headquarters under the supervision of Ali-Asghar Hejazi, a former intelligence ministry deputy.

New Breakout Estimates on the Iran Nuclear Horn

Iranian Breakout Estimates and Enriched Uranium Stocks

Reports

by David Albright and Sarah Burkhard

April 21, 2020

In light of a recent U.S. State Department arms control compliance report highlighting Iran’s growing “uranium enrichment activities and stockpile of enriched uranium,” this report presents recent Iranian breakout estimates and compares them to pivotal historical ones, where breakout is defined as the time Iran would need to produce 25 kilograms of weapon-grade uranium (WGU), enough for a nuclear weapon. As of late February 2020, the breakout estimate is 3.8 months, with a range of 3.1 to 4.6 months. This estimate is based on an Institute breakout calculator, utilizing modified ideal cascade calculations, adjusted with results from an earlier multi-year program of complex computer simulations of Iranian breakout, conducted in collaboration with centrifuge experts at the University of Virginia, and supplemented by operational data on Iranian centrifuges. The breakout estimates result from Iran’s installed enrichment capacity and its stock of low enriched uranium (LEU), as reported by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its quarterly reports on Iran. A significant development is that Iran is at the threshold of having enough LEU to move from a four-step enrichment process to a three-step one, allowing a significant reduction of breakout times, a phenomenon referred to in the media as a “key threshold” or “enough LEU for a nuclear weapon.” A potential covert enrichment plant utilizing 3000 IR-2m centrifuges is also assessed, giving a breakout of 3.1 months.The Annex to this report contains a summary of Iran’s stock of low enriched uranium, based on the IAEA’s most recent quarterly report on Iran, summarizing the situation as of late February 2020 and identifying which of the LEU stocks are used in the breakout calculations.

Introduction

If Iran decided to build nuclear weapons, it could use its existing, declared production-scale gas centrifuge plants, the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) and the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP), and low enriched uranium already produced there to make weapon-grade uranium, the key nuclear explosive material. It could also build a clandestine centrifuge plant, as it was doing in the past, where WGU could be produced without the knowledge of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or Western intelligence.

The April 2020 U.S. State Department Compliance Report, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, states that Iran has “progressively expanded its uranium enrichment activities and stockpile of enriched uranium, key factors in determining the amount of time required to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon or device, should Iran decide to pursue nuclear weapons.”1 This time period is often referred to as the time needed to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon, or as breakout time. In line with previous conventions used by the Institute, 25 kilograms of WGU represents an amount sufficient for a single nuclear weapon.2

Breakout predictions are intended to represent a realistic minimum time Iran would need to produce its first 25 kilograms of WGU, alternatively referred to as a credible worst-case estimate. They account for system limitations, centrifuge breakage, and other inefficiencies, but not for all the various problems or delays of the type that have been encountered by Iran’s program, which could lengthen the time needed for enrichment further.

The breakout estimate is not a “best” or average estimate of Iran’s breakout, since such estimates are associated with high uncertainties, plagued by an Iranian centrifuge program in significant flux and one surrounded with great secrecy about its breakout capabilities. Just as important, calculational methodologies that emphasize simple use of “ideal cascade” calculations should be avoided, as they lead to serious underestimates of the breakout timelines and are non-plausible in the Iranian context. Similarly, not all of Iran’s LEU stocks are suitable for use in a breakout, an issue discussed below and in the Annex.

It needs to be remembered that the purpose of the breakout estimate today is to measure the risk posed by Iran’s increasing nuclear enrichment capabilities. As part of a risk assessment for a nuclear Iran, where the risk cannot be quantified over all possibilities, including assigning probabilities to these possibilities, a realistic worst case estimate becomes a supportable way of quantifying risk, with the important proviso that a case should not be incompatible with existing knowledge about Iran’s nuclear program. Likewise, cases should be avoided that arbitrarily assign difficulties to Iran achieving a breakout, given that Iran’s centrifuge program can always do worse, from the point of view of lengthening breakout timelines, but it can also do better than such expectations.

Methods

Two Institute studies are relied upon in current breakout estimates:

1) Iranian Breakout Estimates, Updated September 2013, by Patrick Migliorini, David Albright, Houston Wood, and Christina Walrond, 3 October 24, 2013. https://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/Breakout_Study_24October2013.pdf

The Institute and experts at the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia (UVA) engaged in a multi-year program to quantify, via sophisticated computer simulations, Iran’s ability to adapt its enrichment program to produce WGU. A range of breakout scenarios were evaluated based on the properties of IR-1 centrifuge cascades, LEU stockpiles, total installed and operating IR-1 centrifuges, and a possible covert facility containing IR-2m centrifuges. This analysis utilized a modified form of the well-known four-step enrichment process that was developed under A.Q. Khan for Pakistan’s centrifuge program and transferred to other countries, such as Iran. Using all four steps, Iran would enrich natural uranium to 3.5 percent in step one, then to 20 percent in step two, 60 percent in step three, and finally to WGU in step four. The analysis also considered a subset of the four-step process with three-step and two-step processes starting with the then-existing 3.5 and near-20 percent LEU stockpiles.

2) New Estimates of Iran’s Breakout Capabilities at Declared Sites Using a New, Simple-to-Use Breakout Calculator, by David Albright with Sarah Burkhard, September 3, 2019. https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/new-estimates-of-irans-breakout-capabilities-at-declared-sites-using-a-new

This report presents a new Institute breakout calculator and its applications to several theoretical cases where Iran increases its stocks of low enriched uranium above the limits allowed in the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The new estimates are based on modified ideal cascade calculations, where the modifications are adjustments that compensate for the systematic, significant underestimating of breakout times by ideal cascade calculations applied to Iran’s gas centrifuge program or other relatively small, less advanced centrifuge programs. The adjustments in the breakout calculator are based on complex computer simulations, described in reference 1) above, which model breakout times in Iran’s enrichment infrastructure. The adjustments to the new calculator reflect the effect on estimated breakout in a four-step enrichment process and further inefficiencies in Iranian cascade operations, in particular that the cascades are far from ideal, as defined under ideal cascade calculations. Without these modifications to the ideal cascade calculations, these simple calculations would result in breakout times that are too short and unrealistic for Iran’s centrifuge program. The net effect of these modifications to the calculator is, in general, a significant increase in predicted breakout times.

Since the finalization of the JCPOA, breakout estimates have included Iran redeploying its centrifuges that were removed from Natanz and Fordow as a result of the JCPOA. An additional consideration is whether Iran would also redeploy its 1000 IR-2m centrifuges at Natanz that were put in storage under the JCPOA as well. Both breakout cases, with or without IR-2m centrifuges, are evaluated in reference 2) above, but IR-2m redeployment early in a breakout is viewed as more likely, given that this centrifuge is one of Iran’s most advanced ones and is also available to use in large numbers in a breakout. Consistent with that view, Iran redeployed an IR-2m cascade at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) early in Iran’s step-by-step violations of the JCPOA following July 1, 2019. Moreover, the IR-2m centrifuges appear to break less and operate better than the IR-1 centrifuges, which is reflected in the calculator. The calculator assumes that in this case, the 1000 IR-2m centrifuges would be reinstalled in six cascades in three months and operate better than the IR-1 centrifuges. Moreover, the IR-2m deployment would occur in parallel to the redeployment of IR-1 centrifuges that would also be installed at a rate of two cascades per month.

The calculator estimates the time to produce the first quantity of WGU. With additional centrifuge cascades added during the breakout period, Iran’s enrichment capacity is greater at the end of this period than at its start. Therefore, the time to produce a second quantity of WGU would be less than the time to produce the first one, if Iran had sufficient LEU to continue with a three-step process. (Currently, Iran does not have enough LEU for two or more significant quantities of WGU produced in a three-step process.)

Breakout estimates do not include the additional time that Iran would need to convert WGU into weapons components and manufacture a nuclear weapon. This extra time could be substantial, particularly if Iran wanted to build a reliable warhead for a ballistic missile. However, these preparations would most likely be conducted at secret sites and would be difficult to detect; many relevant activities may have been ongoing for years. If Iran successfully produced enough WGU for a nuclear weapon, the ensuing weaponization process might not be detectable until Iran tested its nuclear device underground or otherwise revealed its acquisition of nuclear weapons. Therefore, the most practical strategy to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons remains preventing it from ever accumulating sufficient nuclear explosive material, particularly in secret or without adequate warning. This strategy depends on knowing how quickly Iran could make WGU.

Historical Breakout Estimates

Two breakout cases are considered first, allowing a review of earlier estimates and later permitting a comparison with current estimates. The first historical case is the time to breakout on the JCPOA’s Implementation Day in January 2016, when Iran’s LEU inventory was 300 kilograms, all less than 3.67 percent enriched, and it had 5060 operating IR-1 centrifuges, all at the FEP at Natanz. The breakout calculator described in reference 2) gives an estimate of 12.4 months, assuming re-deployment of only IR-1 centrifuges, the position taken by the US Department of Energy. This estimate is in line with the 12 months estimated by the U.S. government at the time. If redeployment of the IR-2m centrifuges were included, the breakout time drops to about seven to eight months. Although this period of time is still substantial, JCPOA advocates emphasized achieving a twelve-month breakout time. A more nuanced discussion was not welcomed or acknowledged publicly, despite senior Energy Department officials and later French officials revealing to one of the authors on multiple occasions this assumption of no IR-2m redeployment during a theoretical breakout.4

The second historical case using the calculator is a breakout estimate of 2.2 months prior to Implementation Day, when Iran had over 18,000 IR-1 centrifuges deployed and 14 tons of LEU, enriched to about 3.5 percent.5 It should be noted that only about 1250 kilograms of 3.5 percent LEU are needed to produce 25 kilograms of WGU; Iran’s LEU stock then was enough for producing 280 kilograms of WGU, representing about eleven WGU quantities. This estimate is compared to the breakout estimates of two to three months common prior to Implementation Day. An Institute study from early 2014 discusses the lengthening of breakout achieved by the 2013 Joint Plan of Action (JPA), the stepping stone to the JCPOA, estimating that the JPA lengthened breakout times from at least 1.0-1.6 months to at least 1.9-2.2 months (see Figure 1).6

Figure 1. ISIS’s estimated breakout times (central estimates) to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon in the years leading up to the JCPOA. Breakout times have gotten shorter since 2009, reaching a low near one month by the fall of 2013. Under the interim deal of the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), they increased to about two months by mid-2014. If there had been no Joint Plan of Action, breakout estimates (in red) would have shortened dangerously. Source: Institute, https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/the-sixs-guiding-principles-in-negotiating-with-iran/8

Current Breakout Estimates

The breakout calculator is used to estimate current breakout times based on Iranian LEU stocks and installed enrichment capacity, using the most recent values from IAEA reporting. Table 1 below and Table A.1 in the Annex shows the stocks of LEU as of February 19, 2020.

In the breakout estimate, the following conditions are assumed:

• An enrichment capacity at the Natanz and Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plants, as drawn from the latest IAEA report. The enrichment contribution from advanced centrifuges at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant is not included, as their use in a breakout would be complicated and likely not contribute to reducing breakout timelines;7

• Only LEU stocks above two percent enriched are used. Stocks of less than two percent enriched uranium are not used, since to do so would require additional modifications of the cascades to handle the lower enrichments, likely significantly slowing or contributing only slightly, rather than speeding up breakout timelines; and

• Iran redeploys its 1000 IR-2m centrifuges, removed from the Natanz FEP prior to the JCPOA’s Implementation Day; however, the rest of the centrifuges deployed are IR-1 centrifuges from Iran’s existing stock. Iran may in fact deploy additional advanced centrifuges, but this effect is not included in this estimate, as none of the dozen advanced centrifuge types Iran is testing at the PFEP stands out as Iran’s clear centrifuge of choice, many assessed as performing poorly.

Under these conditions, the breakout calculator gives an estimate of 3.1 months, with no initial set-up time added. Doing so would lengthen the estimate to about 3.5 months. In addition to the IR 2-m re-deployment, a major factor is that most of the LEU is already enriched to 4.5 percent instead of 3.5 percent, a significant change from estimates performed before the JCPOA’s Implementation Day, since this one percent increase in enrichment can provide up to a 15 to 20 percent reduction in breakout time to produce 25 kilograms of weapon-grade uranium. The greater enrichment level also means that the production of 25 kilograms of weapon grade uranium requires less LEU than if it were enriched to 3.5 percent: 900 kilograms of 4.5 percent LEU vs. 1250 kilograms of 3.5 LEU. This last condition is particularly significant here, since it means that the existing amount of LEU is enough to reach the requisite amount of weapon-grade uranium without the need to also use some natural uranium to make a portion of the needed WGU. As a result, the process is strictly a three-step one instead of a three-step followed by a four-step one. This ability to use only three steps to reach weapon-grade, instead of four, is why the media often discusses a key threshold of about 1000 kg of LEU as significant. 8

As discussed in the Annex, it is possible that the average enrichment level is lower than assumed above. If the enriched uranium in these two stocks is assumed to have an average uniform enrichment level of 3.5 percent instead of 4.5 percent, then the breakout estimate is 4.6 months. In this estimate, a set-up and/or transition time of about two-thirds of a month is assumed, when no enrichment is taking place. Another reason for the longer breakout increase is thata stock of 1113 kilograms of 3.5 percent LEU is not enough by itself to produce 25 kilograms of WGU,requiring the feeding of some natural uranium in a four-step instead of a three-step process. If there were enough LEU, e.g. 1250 kg, the breakout time would reduce to 3.5 months, assuming no initial set-up time.

If the average of the range of 3.1 to 4.6 months is used, the estimated breakout time as of late February 2020 is 3.8 months, but decreasing.

Breakout in a Potential Covert IR-2m Enrichment Facility

An earlier Institute study, using documents from the Iran Nuclear Archive and IAEA inspector observations, demonstrated that the Fordow enrichment plant was originally designed as a plant to make weapon-grade uranium from LEU.9 At the time, the principal centrifuge was the IR-1 centrifuge. This breakout case considers a covert enrichment plant of similar size, holding 3000 IR-2m centrifuges, using LEU produced elsewhere as feedstock to enable a faster breakout in a three-step enrichment process to reach weapon grade, where the only LEU is enriched below five percent. This case is partially motivated by lingering uncertainty surrounding Iran’s past production of IR-2m centrifuges. While six cascades holding 1008 IR-2m centrifuges installed at the FEP were removed and put in storage under the JCPOA, the unit had been set up to hold an additional 12 cascades, for a total of 18 cascades of IR-2m centrifuges. On August 24, 2013, the IAEA reported that “preparatory installation work had been completed for the other 12 IR-2m cascades in the unit.”10 It appears illogical that Iran would have halted production of IR-2m centrifuge while preparing the FEP for new installations. Yet, up until this day, it remains unknown how many of the planned 3000 IR-2m centrifuges were produced, fully or partially, a critical question the JCPOA did not answer before or after it was implemented; neither has the IAEA answered it.

Reference 1): This scenario was considered in the 2013 study, where each IR-2m was assigned a possible enrichment output of either three or five separative work units per year (swu/year) and the LEU enrichment level was 3.5 percent, the maximum level of LEU enriched less than five percent at the time. Knowledge about the IR-2m centrifuge was lacking in 2013, when this study was written; a broad range was selected to include all possibilities. In the case of the three-step process, the breakout estimate is 2.2 and 4.5 months, where the former reflects a five swu/year machine and the latter, a three swu/year machine.11 In this study, Iran possessed more than enough LEU to meet the threshold of using a three-step process.

Breakout calculator: The breakout calculator assigns each IR-2m a value of about 3.6 swu/year based on IAEA data of IR-2m centrifuges operating in a cascade of 164 centrifuges. This case considers a range defined by enrichment levels, namely 3.5 and 4.5 percent enriched uranium, where each subcase assumes enough LEU to meet the three-step threshold. The breakout result is 2.7 and 3.1 months, where the former corresponds to 4.5 percent enriched and the latter, 3.5 percent enriched.12

In order to compare the two sets of results, it is helpful to scale the breakout results of 2.2 and 4.5 months from reference 1) to a breakout estimate with the enrichment output of the IR-2m used by the breakout calculator, namely 3.6 swu/year, arriving at a corresponding breakout estimate of 3.81 months. This value compares to the breakout time of 3.1 months from the calculator. Their average is 3.46 months.

Because the average enrichment level of the LEU is not currently known precisely—but taken as either 3.5 or 4.5 percent, the average of these two scenarios is used. In this case, the values of 3.46 and 2.7 months are averaged, resulting in 3.08 months, or rounded to 3.1 months. The range is assigned as 2.7 to 3.9 months.

Alternatively, taking an average of all four breakout estimates (2.2, 2.7, 3.1, and 4.5 months) independently gives a value of 3.12 months, rounded to 3.1 months.

Annex on LEU stock at end of last reporting quarter of the IAEA, based on March 3, 2020 report on Iran13

Low Enriched Uranium

The IAEA disclosed in its last quarterly report that Iran has continued to exceed the JCPOA’s cap of 300 kilograms (kg) of low enriched uranium (hexafluoride mass), or 202.8 kg (uranium mass). On July 1, 2019, the IAEA first reported that Iran had surpassed the JCPOA’s LEU stock limit by enriching 205.0 kg of LEU (uranium mass). 14 Iran also continued to enrich up to 4.5 percent, in violation of the 3.67 percent enrichment limit under the deal. The IAEA first stated on July 8, 2019, that Iran was enriching up to a level of 4.5 percent.15

On February 19, 2020, the IAEA’s most recent public verification date, Iran possessed a stockpile of about 1510 kg of low enriched uranium (hexafluoride mass), all enriched below five percent, or the equivalent of 1020.9 (uranium mass). In terms of uranium mass, this stock increased by 648.6 kg since the last IAEA quarterly report; in terms of hexafluoride mass, the increase was 959 kg.

The additional stocks of enriched uranium reported in this IAEA report were produced at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP), Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP), and the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP).

This LEU stock is composed of three bins, characterized by dates of production and enrichment level. The first bin is enriched uranium enriched up to 3.67 percent and produced prior to July 8, 2019, totaling 214.6 kg (uranium mass) or 317.5 kg (hexafluoride mass). The second bin is uranium enriched up to 4.5 percent but above 2 percent and produced after July 8, 2029, totaling 537.8 kg (uranium mass) and 795.6 kg (hexafluoride mass). The third bin holds uranium enriched up to 2 percent and produced after July 8, 2019, totaling 268.5 kg (uranium mass) or 397.2 kg (hexafluoride mass). The enriched uranium in the third bin stems from advanced centrifuges in lines 2 and 3 at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant.16 These values, and ones from earlier reporting periods, are listed in Table A.1.

Table A.1. Enriched Uranium Quantities, less than 5 percent, all quantities in uranium mass only (kg)*

*These totals do not include undisclosed stocks of enriched uranium exempted by the Joint Commission.

**This value has shifted slightly in the last few IAEA quarterly reports. In the most recent report, the IAEA attributes the difference to further processing of some of it. The reason for the discrepancy from August to November 2019 was not explained.

In Table A.1, the May vs. August vs. November 2019 vs. February 2020 comparisons show how Iran has increased its stockpile of LEU hexafluoride, as measured in uranium mass. The enriched uranium bin containing between 2 and 4.5 percent enriched uranium was produced mostly in the Fordow and Natanz enrichment plants. The amount produced in each plant is not provided. Likewise, it is not known how much, if any, enriched uranium from lines 4, 5, and 6 in the PFEP are included in this bin.17 The enrichment level of that uranium may be significantly less than 4.5 percent although still above 2 percent. Nonetheless, in the absence of contrary information, the bulk of the enriched uranium in this bin is assumed to be near 4.5 percent.

In terms of calculating monthly averages, the most significant bin is the one with between 2 and 4.5 percent enriched uranium, where its stock increased by 408.6 kg (uranium mass) during the last reporting period, which ran from November 3, 2019 until February 19, 2020, a total of 108 days. During this period, the monthly average was 114 kg per month (uranium mass), or 168 kg per month (hexafluoride mass).

In the previous reporting period, covering August 19 to November 3, 2019, the average rate was about 51.6 kg per month of enriched uranium (uranium mass) and 76.3 kg per month of enriched uranium (hexafluoride mass). In this reporting period, compared to the previous one, average monthly enriched uranium production more than doubled. Using a simple, ideal cascade enrichment calculator, where all the enriched uranium is assumed to be at 4.5 percent, this monthly rate corresponds to the enrichment output of about 600 swu per month, somewhat higher than expected to be produced only in the FEP and FFEP, which currently host centrifuge cascades capable of about 400 swu per month. Given that likely more separative work was needed to make this enriched uranium, it is possible that a significant amount of the enriched uranium in this bin is not at the level of 4.5 percent or some may be from lines 4, 5, and 6 from the PFEP. A breakdown of the enrichment levels and origins of the “up to” 4.5 percent LEU bin in the next quarterly IAEA report would provide clarity.

Another question, albeit speculative at this time, involves the possibility that increased production of LEU at the FEP and FFEP resulted from inadvertent assistance Iran may have received from Russia under the JCPOA on stable isotope separation in IR-1 centrifuges. This assistance may have unintentionally allowed Iran to significantly increase the separative output of the IR-1 centrifuge cascades, now enabling Iran to run its IR-1 centrifuges noticeably more efficiently than before.

The stock of less than 2 percent LEU also saw a significant increase in this reporting period, from 30.5 to 268.5 kg values (uranium mass). However, without knowing its enrichment level, one is hard pressed to judge its significance, since the amount of enrichment effort, or separative work, to make enriched uranium at such low levels, varies tremendously. Moreover, this stock of LEU is not used in our breakout estimates, since it would require special modifications of the cascades to handle it, likely slowing or contributing only slightly, rather than speeding up breakout significantly.

1. U.S. State Department, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, Executive Summary of the 2020 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments (Compliance Report), April 2020, https://www.state.gov/2020-adherence-to-and-compliance-with-arms-control-nonproliferation-and-disarmament-agreements-and-commitments-compliance-report/

2. Weapon-grade uranium is defined as uranium enriched to at least 90 percent U-235. The amount of 25 kilograms above referring to the entire amount of uranium should not be confused with what is defined as a “significant quantity” of weapon-grade uranium by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 25 kilograms of uranium-235 in more than 90 percent enriched uranium. At 90 percent enriched, a significant quantity would correspond to 27.8 kilograms of weapon-grade uranium. Moreover, a first nuclear weapon may require more or less than 25 kilograms of WGU, depending on its design and the rate of losses in preparing weapons components from the weapon-grade uranium hexafluoride, which is the output of a centrifuge plant.↩

3. During this study, Patrick Migliorini and Professor Houston Wood were affiliated with the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia. An earlier study from this collaboration was William C. Witt, Christina Walrond, David Albright, and Houston Wood, “Iran’s Evolving Breakout Potential,” Institute for Science and International Security, October 8, 2012, http://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/Irans_Evolving_Breakout_Potential.pdf; See also, David Albright, Patrick Migliorini, Christina Walrond, and Houston Wood, “Maintaining at Least a Six-Month Breakout Timeline: Further Reducing Iran’s near 20 percent Stock of LEU,” Institute for Science and International Security, February 17, 2014, https://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/20_pct_stock_cap_17Feb2014-final.pdf

4. The lack of redeployment of IR-2m centrifuges was discussed in meetings with senior Department of Energy officials and in a meeting with a political director of the French Foreign Ministry. ↩

5. This estimate includes a set-up time of two weeks. ↩

6. David Albright, Patrick Migliorini, Christina Walrond, and Houston Wood, “Maintaining at Least a Six-Month Breakout Timeline: Further Reducing Iran’s near 20 percent Stock of LEU,” Institute for Science and International Security, February 17, 2014, https://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/20_pct_stock_cap_17Feb2014-final.pdf; This estimate includes a two week set-up time. ↩

7. David Albright and Sarah Burkhard, “A Technical and Policy Note on Iran’s Recent Announcement on its Enrichment Capacity Claims,” Institute for Science and International Security, April 15, 2020, https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/a-note-on-irans-enrichment-claims

8. David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, “Iran Crosses a Key Threshold: It Again Has Sufficient Fuel for a Bomb,” The New York Times, March 3, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/03/world/middleeast/iran-nuclear-weapon-trump.html

9. David Albright, Frank Pabian, and Andrea Stricker, “The Fordow Enrichment Plant, aka Al Ghadir,” Institute for Science and International Security, March 13, 2019, https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/the-fordow-enrichment-plant-aka-al-ghadir

10. IAEA Director General, Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran, GOV/2013/40, August 28, 2013, https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/gov2013-40.pdf

11. This estimate includes a set-up time of two weeks.↩

12. This estimate includes a set-up time of two weeks.↩

13. IAEA Director General, Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), GOV/2020/5, March 3, 2020, https://isis-online.org/uploads/iaea-reports/documents/IAEA_quarterly_Iran_report_February_2020.pdf

14. IAEA Director General, Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), GOV/INF/2019/8, July 1, 2019, https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/19/07/govinf2019-8.pdf

15. IAEA Director General, Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), GOV/INF/2019/9, July 8, 2019, https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/19/07/govinf2019-9.pdf

16. David Albright and Sarah Burkhard, “A Technical and Policy Note on Iran’s Recent Uranium Enrichment Capacity Claims,” Institute for Science and International Security, April 15, 2020, https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/a-note-on-irans-enrichment-claims

17. Ibid. ↩

US Signals Growing Unease with the Pakistani Nuclear Horn

US President Donald Trump with Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan. (Bloomberg Photo )

US signals growing unease with Pakistan, tightens export of nuclear byproducts

The announcement of suspending the export of nuclear byproducts came after President Donald Trump and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan talked on phone about the coronavirus pandemic. Trump mentioned the call at the daily briefing of the White House task force but gave no details.

The United States has suspended the export of nuclear byproducts under a blanket general licensing system to Pakistan, whose history of nuclear proliferation has been a concern and has led to the blacklisting of many of its government agencies and private contractors.

The decision announced in the government gazette called the Federal Register on Wednesday does not prohibit export of these nuclear materials — that are used as radionuclides embedded in devices — altogether, but make it mandatory for exporters to seek government’s permission every time and for every specific consignment.

Radionuclides are radioactive elements used widely, among other fields, in medicine and for irradiation of food.

“The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing an Order suspending the general license authority under NRC regulations for exports of byproduct material to Pakistan,” said the announcement in the register. “Exporters are no longer authorized to use the general license to export byproduct material to Pakistan and now must apply for a specific license pursuant to NRC regulations.”

It did not ascribe any specific reason other than that the Trump administration has determined that the suspension is “necessary to enhance the common defense and security of the United States and is consistent with the provisions of the Atomic Energy Act”.

The order did not say so, but under relevant rules, a country’s proliferation record can be ground for cancellation of export license.

“The Commission will closely monitor these countries and may at any time remove a country from a general license in response to significant adverse developments in the country involved,” says the code of federal regulations for the energy sector. “A key factor in this regard is the nonproliferation credentials of the importing country.”

A response was awaited from the US Nuclear Regulator Commission (NRC) to a request for the reasons for the suspension.

The announcement came after President Donald Trump and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan talked on phone about the coronavirus pandemic. Trump mentioned the call at the daily briefing of the White House task force but gave no details. It would not be ascertained if the nuclear export development figured in their discussion.

Pakistan’s history of nuclear proliferation has been a major concern for the United States,as for the rest of the world. The nuclear black market established by AQ Khan, who built Pakistan’s nuclear bomb with stolen technology that he then passed on to Iran, Libya and North Korea, is thriving.

The Trump administration has continued to pursue Pakistani government agencies, private contractors and fronts, who have sought to find a way around US rules and conditions, with unmitigated urgency and unchanged priority.

The immediate trigger for Wednesday could not be ascertained. But Joshua White, a former top White House official for South Asia who first flagged the Federal Register announcement, said, “We can’t be certain what prompted this move by the NRC. It may have been undertaken in response to a series of technical violations or regulatory oversights, or it may be in response to broader US concerns related to Pakistan’s nuclear programs or non-proliferation commitments.

The US justice department indicted five Pakistani and Pakistani-descent men in January for using front companies to procure American goods for Advanced Engineering Research Organization and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, both Pakistani government agencies that are on the US “Entity List” of exporting destinations whose activities have been declared “contrary to US national security or foreign policy interests”.

In 2018, seven Pakistani organizations were added to the US “Entity List”, a US commerce department blacklist of governments, government agencies, private companies and individuals viewed as a threat to US national security and the export of sensitive US material to whom are tightly controlled and are subject to specific government clearance.

The Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, a non-partisan, and non-profit body that seeks to end proliferation by tightening export control regimes in source countries such as the United States, said in a report in September 2019, that since 2014, the US commerce department has added 40 Pakistani or Pakistani-related entities to that list.