Authorities Expecting The Sixth Seal? (Revelation 6:12)

New York Times

By SAM ROBERTS

JULY 17, 2014

Here is another reason to buy a mega-million-dollar apartment in a Manhattan high-rise: Earthquake forecast maps for New York City that a federal agency issued on Thursday indicate “a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought.”

The agency, the United States Geodetic Survey, tempered its latest quake prediction with a big caveat.

Federal seismologists based their projections of a lower hazard for tall buildings — “but still a hazard nonetheless,” they cautioned — on a lower likelihood of slow shaking from an earthquake occurring near the city, the type of shaking that typically causes more damage to taller structures.

“The tall buildings in Manhattan are not where you should be focusing,” said John Armbruster, a seismologist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “They resonate with long period waves. They are designed and engineered to ride out an earthquake. Where you should really be worried in New York City is the common brownstone and apartment building and buildings that are poorly maintained.”

Mr. Armbruster was not involved in the federal forecast, but was an author of an earlier study that suggested that “a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed.”

He noted that barely a day goes by without a New York City building’s being declared unsafe, without an earthquake. “If you had 30, 40, 50 at one time, responders would be overloaded,” he said.

The city does have an earthquake building code that went into effect in 1996, and that applies primarily to new construction.

A well-maintained building would probably survive a magnitude 5 earthquake fairly well, he said. The last magnitude 5 earthquake in the city struck in 1884. Another is not necessarily inevitable; faults are more random and move more slowly than they do in, say, California. But he said the latest federal estimate was probably raised because of the magnitude of the Virginia quake.

Mr. Armbruster said the Geodetic Survey forecast would not affect his daily lifestyle. “I live in a wood-frame building with a brick chimney and I’m not alarmed sitting up at night worried about it,” he said. “But society’s leaders need to take some responsibility.”

The China Horn Will Not Be Coerced Into Arms Control

Can China Be Compelled Into Arms Control?

There is little reason to believe that Chinese leaders will see incentives to enter arms control arrangements anytime soon.

Robert Farley

Credit: CCTV YouTube screen capture

Arms control is always complicated, and a multilateral agreement across multiple weapons systems between China, the U.S., and Russia would tax even the best diplomats. The Trump administration has adopted an adversarial approach to China, attempting to threaten China into compliance by withdrawing from other arms control agreements, to test nuclear weapons, and to overwhelm China through a massive increase in defense spending. But is there any reason to believe that China can be compelled?

States certainly do engage in arms control in order to protect their physical security, as well as their economic and financial well-being. Concerns about the economic impact of the arms race informed both the Soviet and American approaches to arms control in the 1980s. Fear that the industrial power of the United States might swamp them both convinced Japan and the United Kingdom to pursue naval arms limitation in the 1920s.

But the United States cannot, at present, threaten to swamp China. Both Japan and the Soviet Union struggled to compete with the U.S., devoting far greater percentages of their economies to defense spending than Washington. Today, the opposite holds; China spends less as percentage of its GDP than the United States. There surely are concerns about the vitality China’s long-term economic growth (although the same can be said of the United States) but China nevertheless has sufficient slack in its defense spending to maintain its military position relative to the United States without risking bankruptcy.

Moreover, unlike the Soviet Union, China has demonstrated a willingness to accept military vulnerability in its relationship with the United States. The Soviet Union sought first to balance U.S. strategic advantages with massive conventional superiority in Central Europe, then directly matched U.S. strategic nuclear forces. China has never sought nuclear equality with the United States, and is only now approaching a point in which it can threaten conventional parity in the Western Pacific. An arms race can only bring an enemy to its knees if the enemy decides to run the race, and Beijing has yet to indicate it’s willing to commit.

Finally, it should go without saying that the cavalier fashion with which the United States has treated arms control agreements as of late inspires no confidence in Beijing, Moscow, or anywhere else that Washington will adhere to any agreements in the long-term. The pervasive sense that the United States has either given up on arms control or that it will give up on any agreement as soon as the next Republican President enters office will make any foreign leader with any sense at all reluctant to pay the costs and take the risks associated with a major arms limitation initiative.

Authors

Contributing Author

Robert Farley

Robert Farley is an assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.

Russia’s Growing Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

The Russian Submarine Khabarovsk will be armed [+]

Russia’s Newest Submarine, Khabarovsk, Could Redefine Underwater Warfare

Jun 9, 2020,

Aerospace & Defense

I cover the changing world of underwater warfare.H I Sutton

In a move that harks back to the Cold War, the Russian Navy is quietly developing a whole new category of submarines, and their unique capabilities could influence the nature of undersea warfare. The first of the new type, Khabarovsk, is expected to be launched this month. In my view, this is likely to be the defining submarine of the 2020s because it represents a novel and difficult adversary.

Other navies are unlikely to emulate it, but they will want to counter it. The underwater game of cat and mouse where U.S. Navy hunter-killer submarines stalk the Russians could be reinvigorated. But these new targets are not ballistic missile subs. Khabarovsk is instead designed to be armed with the gigantic Poseidon nuclear drone-torpedoes.

Russia has managed to keep many details about the submarine out of the public domain. Relatively little is known about this large nuclear-armed boat, certainly in comparison to Western types. So it’s launch is eagerly anticipated by defense watchers.

When will Khabarovsk be launched?

Despite rumors of its impending launch, analysis of the shipyard does not yet show any leading indicators. We know that that she is being built in Construction Hall 1 at the Sevmash yard in Severodvinsk in Russia’s Arctic North. These details may sound mundane, but it means that we can watch for any tell-tale signs of launch preparations.

In order to roll her out of the shed, the launch rails outside will have to be cleared. Then flotation devices will be prepared on either side of the launch rail. Their arrangement will be different for each type of submarine so this will be useful information in itself. Then the boat is winched out tail first.

The whole basin will then be flooded to float the submarine off. This presents its own problems because the Kirov-Class battle cruiser Admiral Nakhimov is undergoing an extensive upgrade there. She is likely watertight, but all the items associated with the work will have to be moved out of the way.

These things do not yet appear to be happening. And there is a large red barge blocking the most obvious route. Based on analysis of the satellite images, the barge has been in the same position since last July. But while a launch date of this month seems optimistic, it cannot yet be ruled out. Time will tell.

What Is Known About The Submarine?

The existence of the “Project 08951” submarine has never been a secret, but it is barely talked about in Russian sources. Gradually, from the few sources and old-fashioned analysis, a picture has emerged.

Khabarovsk will likely share a lot of elements of the Borei Class Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN). This should reduce cost and also make it more stealthy than many other submarines in service with the Russian Navy. The forward half will be taken up by six ginormous Poseidon torpedoes. This is what makes her a unique category of submarine.

Poseidon, also known as ‘Status-6′ and the NATO reporting name ‘Kanyon,’ is designed to be both nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed, giving it virtually unlimited range. It therefore would poses a threat to coastal cities such as New York and Los Angeles. The Russian Ministry of Defense describes it as a multi-purpose weapon and suggests that it could also target the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Battle Groups.

Actually Khabarovsk is not the first Russian submarine to be fitted for Poseidon. The equally enigmatic ‘special mission submarine’ (read ‘spy sub’) Belgorod was launched on April 23 last year. She will also be armed with 6 Poseidon weapons. But her role will be split, with her also acting as a mother submarine to the Losharik deep-diving midget sub. The combination of being a spy submarine and a strategic weapons platform at the same time seems contradictory.

Belgorod may be further delayed however because of repairs needed to Losharik. The nuclear-powered midget sub suffered a fatal accident on July 1 2019. So Khabarovsk may yet overtake Belgorod to become the first Poseidon carrier to enter operational service.

Khabarovsk will not be the last of these Poseidon-armed submarines either. Two follow-on Project 09853 are planned, bringing the fleet to four submarines each with six Poseidons. Even less is known about these other submarines.

The Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk. Construction [+]

Sergei Bobylev/TASS

Reshaping Submarine Warfare

Unless there is a change in Russian plans, Khabarovsk will likely be a new focus of Western anti-submarine warfare for the next decade, in particular the U.S. Navy and Royal Navy, whose nuclear submarine fleets have a long tradition of stalking Russian boats. The Poseidon-armed boats will present new challenges to these hunters.

In particular, building new weapons to intercept the Poseidon will take time. Its speed and depth might make it virtually untouchable to the current generation of advanced torpedoes. Possibly the U.S. Navy’s Mk.48 ADCAP (Advanced Capability) and the Royal Navy’s Spearfish torpedoes could just reach it. But the angles and ranges involved seem to make it a limited proposition. So new faster, longer ranged and deeper diving torpedoes may be on the cards.

And possibly that is part of the rationale behind Poseidon. Countering it will cost the West vast amounts of money. And it will mean compromises along the way. Other priorities may be sidelined to make way for countering Poseidon, which could weaken capabilities elsewhere.

Today, hardly anyone in the West has even heard of this submarine. But it is the one to watch for.

Iran executes its “opposition”

Iran says it will execute man convicted of spying on Soleimani for CIA

Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) – An Iranian who spied for U.S. and Israeli intelligence on slain Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani has been sentenced to death, Iran said on Tuesday, adding the case was not linked to Soleimani’s killing earlier this year.

FILE PHOTO: A supporter of Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah carries a child holding a picture of the late Iran’s Quds Force top commander Qassem Soleimani during a rally commemorating the annual Hezbollah’s slain leaders in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Lebanon February 16, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

On Jan. 3, a U.S. drone strike in Iraq killed Soleimani, leader of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force. Washington blamed Soleimani for masterminding attacks by Iran-aligned militias on U.S. forces in the region.

“Mahmoud Mousavi-Majd, one of the spies for the CIA and the Mossad, has been sentenced to death … He had shared information about the whereabouts of martyr Soleimani with our enemies,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said in a televised news conference.

“He passed on security information to the Israeli and American intelligence agencies about Iran’s armed forces, particularly the Guards,” Esmaili said.

Esmaili said Mousavi-Majd’s death sentence has been upheld by a supreme court and “he will be executed soon.”

Later, the judiciary said in a statement that Mousavi-Majd’s conviction was not linked to “the terrorist act of the U.S. government” in Soleimani’s killing in Iraq.

“All the legal proceedings in the case of this spy … had been carried out long before the martyrdom of Soleimani,” the statement said, adding that Mousavi-Majd had been arrested in October 2018.

Officials have not said whether Mousavi-Majd’s case is linked to Iran’s announcement in the summer of 2019 that it had captured 17 spies working for the CIA, some of whom it said were sentenced to death.

Nor have they said whether Mousavi-Majd’s case is linked to Iran’s announcement in February of this year that Iran had sentence to death a man for spying for the CIA and attempting to pass on information about Tehran’s nuclear program.

Soleimani’s killing led to a peak in confrontation between Iran and the United States. Iran retaliated with a rocket attack on an Iraqi air base where U.S. forces were stationed. Hours later, Iranian forces on high alert mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner taking off from Tehran.

Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Peter Graff and William Maclean

Rising nuclear horns keen to stock up on nukes

Analysis: Rising superpowers keen to stock up on nukes

There were 13,865 nuclear weapons on the planet last time anyone counted. A quarter of them are, in one way or another, deployed with operational forces. Russia holds the most, with 6,500, according to 2018 figures, and has been upgrading nuclear storage sites.

That’s partly why Russia’s latest protocol on the use of nuclear arms is of concern. The document published on 2 June theoretically allows Russia to use the full might of its nukes when an enemy uses theirs or other weapons of mass destruction are directed towards the country or its allies, or in a situation when conventional weapons threaten the very existence of the nation.

Mark Galeotti, a Russian security affairs expert, says it is actually a useful statement: “It’s a statement of broad policy, not a detailed doctrine, and makes clear that Moscow regards its nuclear weapons as a deterrent and defensive force.”

 

At the same time there are new calls from Chinese experts to stock up on nuclear arms. Whether that happens is another thing. In May the editor of the Global Times, an English- language newspaper aligned with the ruling Communist Party, urged China to increase its number of nuclear warheads to 1,000 to deter the rising threat from the US. Quoted military experts claim that “having a nuclear arsenal appropriate to China’s position will help establish a more stable and peaceful world order”. At the moment, China has an estimated 320 nuclear warheads.

The call for more nukes comes at a worrying time when China’s relations with the US and Donald Trump worsen and the country has caused international outrage by imposing a new security law on Hong Kong.

 

Then there are India and Pakistan. They too are expected to boost the size of their nuclear arsenals, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). India has seen a remarkable surge in military expenditure and has made developments in ballistic missile technology to achieve a range of around 4,000 km, which allows it to strike targets almost anywhere in China. SIPRI notes that China and India are now the top military spenders after the USA.

 

The overall lack of transparency makes gauging nuclear might hard. These emerging superpowers are particularly opaque about releasing figures. Russia sees no reason to publicly disclose a detailed breakdown of its forces. China’s reporting lacks depth and its exact number of nuclear weapons remains a state secret. The size of the Indian and Pakistani arsenals remains a secret, too – though it’s known that India has at least 600kg of weapons-grade plutonium, enough to stuff 150-200 nuclear warheads.

North Korea also keeps it nuclear weapon capabilities a secret. In 2017, US experts calculated that, judging by the pace of its uranium enrichment activities, it could build an additional 12 nuclear weapons per year.

Situation Heats Up In Kashmir

India vs Pakistan: Bomb disposal squad forced to detonate explosives on disputed border

TENSIONS between India and Pakistan have escalated after a heavy exchange of fire between the two countries early this morning.

By Steven Brown 16:35, Tue, Jun 9, 2020 | UPDATED: 17:36, Tue, Jun 9, 2020

India: Forces defuse unexploded shells in Uri

Over the weekend, the Indian Army accused the Pakistani Army of violating the ceasefire at three various locations along the border of Jammu and Kashmir. A firefight took place on Sunday (June 7).

According to reports, India’s bomb disposal team were called to detonate an IED recovered on the Baramulla-Handwara Highway in North Kashmir.

The Indian Army said in a statement: “Heavy exchange of fire is currently underway in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Pakistan has violated the ceasefire in Mankato at about 6.30am by firing with small arms and intense shelling with mortars and the Indian Army retaliating.”

During a joint search operation by the Kupawara Police and Indian security forces, large quantities of arms and ammunition from a weapons dump were found in the village of Keran.

Indian military in Kashmir (Image: Getty)

These weapons included five AK 47s, 15 AK mags and UBGL grenade.

An investigation is underway according to Sputnik News.

Over the years, New Delhi and Islamabad have fought deadly conflicts over the region since the petition in 1947.

Just last week, India faced increased pressure on the borders of Pakistan and China.

READ MORE: India and China agree to help defuse border standoff in huge boost …

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Image: Getty)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with US President Donald Trump on the “situation on the India-China border”.

Mr Trump offered to mediate the feud between the countries but they both rejected the offer and claimed the situation is under control.

The Global Times reported border forces had been armed with new tanks, drones and helicopters.

It was also reported the Chinese military had held high-altitude infiltration exercises in the Tanggula Mountains in Tibet, a highly contested boundary.

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Countries with nuclear weapons (Image: Express)

Around 5,000 Chinese troops were reportedly at the border, according to Indian media.

Reports suggested China’s People’s Liberation Army has sent multiple advanced weapon systems and refitted fighter jets for operation in high altitude areas of the Tibetan plateau.

The Indian army has also moved several battalions from an infantry division usually based in the Ladakh city of Leh, near the border, to “operational alert areas” along the frontier, reports claim.

After Mr Modi reshaped the Indian constitution in August and asserted federal rule over Kashmir and Ladakh, tensions escalated.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan (Image: Getty)

Both Pakistan and China condemned the move with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan warned security and human rights implications could bring the two nuclear-armed rivals to war.

Pakistan recently signed to be part of China’s One Belt, One Road policy, strengthening the relationship between the two countries.

Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka – all who border India – also joined the initiative.

Back in January, Pakistan and China both held joint naval drills and combined counterterrorism manoeuvres a month earlier, sparking fears of a World War 3 outbreak.

Indian troops patrol Kashmir (Image: Getty)

On Saturday (June 6), military commanders from India and China held talks in order to resolve the ongoing border dispute.

The talks took place in a Himalayan outpost in a bid to end the latest border standoff between the world’s two most populous nations.

A dispute which has seen thousands of troops sent to both sides of the disputed border.

According to India’s foreign ministry, the meeting took place in a “cordial and positive atmosphere”.

The aim is to prevent the escalation of any form of conflict and potentially another Doklam standoff.

A Call For Violence Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

‘Raise a gun’: Calls for violence against Israel by Hamas in light of Trump plan

June 8, 2020

Palestinians hold a protest march in Ramallah against the Trump peace plan as the Hamas terror group leader calls for Palestinians to wage war on Israel.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The leader of the Hamas terror group in Gaza praised his rival, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, for cutting off ties with Israel and called for a new armed uprising against the Jewish state.

“We welcome the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to disengage from all agreements with the Israeli occupation, but we need real actions,” Ismail Haniyeh said.

“It has been proven to all liberation movements around the world that liberation cannot be achieved unless a gun is raised,” Haniyeh said in comments carried by the PIC news agency affiliated with Hamas.

Haniyeh welcomed the support given the Palestinians by some Arab and Muslim countries, including objections to annexation by Jordan, calling for a rejection of the proposal by President Donald Trump earlier this year for a peace deal that would see a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“No to the deal of the century,” Haniyeh said.

Also, on Monday in Ramallah, Abbas’s Fatah organization held a protest march at which several hundred people demonstrated “against the deal of the century and the decision of the occupation to annex our territory.”

One young boy held up a picture of terrorist leaders Yasser Arafat and Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin with the slogan ‘Why did they leave us.’

Arafat died in 2004 after leading the Palestine Liberation Organization for decades, during which it became infamous for airplane hijackings and two “intifada” uprisings in which Palestinian terrorists killed over 1,000 Israelis in waves of suicide bombings and shooting attacks. Yassin vehemently opposed the idea of peace with Israel and promoted Hamas suicide and rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. He was killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza in 2004.

In a veiled threat to Abbas, Haniyeh also called to “rebuild the Palestine Liberation Organization and form an organized leadership for the Palestinian people.” He said the PLO “is now almost idle, and we are not calling for an alternative to it, but we do not accept that it be misused under the slogan ‘the legitimate and sole representative of the Palestinian people.’”

The Iran-backed Hamas has not hidden its desire to try and take control from Fatah, which would give it a platform in Judea and Samaria to launch attacks in its long-term goal to replace Israel with an Islamic state.

Ahmed Yassinanti-Trump protestsHamasIsmail HaniyehPalestiniansTrump peace plan

Iran continues to spin her nuclear horn

Analysis of the IAEA Iran Verification and Monitoring Report

Reports

by by David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Andrea Stricker [1]

June 8, 2020

Summary

This report summarizes and assesses information in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA’s) quarterly safeguards report for June 5, 2020, Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), including Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The IAEA continued its important verification and monitoring mission in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, including chartering jets to fly inspectors to Iran.

Highlights of the report are:

• Iran’s violations of nuclear limitations in the JCPOA continued. Iran’s stock of low enriched uranium (LEU) grew by about 50 percent, to 2324.9 kilograms of low enriched uranium (hexafluoride mass), all enriched below 5 percent, or the equivalent of 1571.6 kilograms (uranium mass).

• Enrichment capacities did not grow at the Natanz and Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plants during this reporting period. Total enrichment capacity increased by only about five percent, reflecting the deployment of more advanced centrifuges at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant.

• Breakout timelines decreased slightly from the last reporting period to an average of 3.5 months, with a minimum of at least 3.1 months. These values reflect greater certainty that Iran possesses sufficient enriched uranium to make enough weapon-grade uranium (WGU) for a nuclear weapon. Iran does not yet possess enough LEU for a second nuclear weapon, but if it did, it could produce the second one more quickly than the first.

• A companion IAEA Iran safeguards report, NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which will be discussed in a separate Institute report, makes the startling finding: “The Agency notes with serious concern that, for over four months, Iran has denied access to the Agency, under Article 4.b.(i) and Article 5.c of the Additional Protocol, to two locations and, for almost a year, has not engaged in substantive discussions to clarify Agency questions related to the possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities in Iran.”

Part 1: Low Enriched Uranium Stocks

The IAEA reports 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). 2 Iran also continued to enrich to 4.5 percent, in violation of the JCPOA’s 3.67 percent enrichment limit. The IAEA first stated on July 8, 2019 that Iran was enriching up to a level of 4.5 percent. 3 On May 20, 2020, the IAEA’s most recent verification date, Iran possessed a total stockpile of about 2324.9 kg of low enriched uranium (hexafluoride mass), all enriched below 5 percent, or the equivalent of 1571.6 kg (uranium mass). Iran added 550.7 kg (uranium mass) to its low enriched uranium stockpile during the reporting period. As seen in Table 1, of the 1571.6 kg quantity, Iran has a stock of 873.4 kg of LEU (uranium mass) enriched above 2 percent and up to 4.5 percent, and 483.1 kg of LEU (uranium mass), enriched up to 2 percent, all in the form of uranium hexafluoride (UF6), enriched in advanced centrifuges at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP). The remainder, 215.1 kg LEU (uranium mass), is uranium enriched up to 3.67 percent before July 8, 2019. In terms of uranium hexafluoride mass, Iran possessed 1292.0 kg of up to 4.5 percent but greater than 2 percent enriched uranium, 714.6 kg of uranium enriched up to 2 percent, and 318.2 kg of uranium enriched to about 3.5 percent and produced before July 8, 2019.

Not all of the LEU enriched between 2 and 4.5 percent was produced at the Natanz and Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plants; an unstated amount was produced in advanced centrifuges at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz.

In Table 1 below, a stockpile comparison from May 2019 to May 2020 shows how Iran has increased its production of LEU throughout the year, as measured only in uranium mass. The net increase in the total stock of LEU in Iran from May 20, 2019 to May 20, 2020, was 1397.5 kilograms LEU (uranium mass), at an overall average rate of about 108.7 kilograms (uranium mass) per month. Alternatively, these values convert to 2067.3 kg LEU (hexafluoride mass), or an average of about 160.8 kg LEU (hexafluoride mass) per month.

During this reporting period, covering February 2020 to May 2020, the average production rate was about 181.4 kg per month of enriched uranium (uranium mass) and 268.3 kg per month of enriched uranium (hexafluoride mass). Average monthly production of enriched uranium is only slightly up from the last reporting period, where it was 179.6 kg per month.

Ignoring the LEU enriched less than 2 percent, the monthly rate of production during this reporting period is 111 kg per month (uranium mass) or 164 kg per month (uranium hexafluoride mass). As discussed above, a fraction of this LEU was produced in advanced centrifuges at the pilot plant.

Table 1. Enriched Uranium Quantities, less than 5 % enriched, all quantities in uranium mass*

*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 two most recent reports, 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.

Part 2: Enrichment capacity

IR-1 Centrifuge Deployments at Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP)

At the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant, the IAEA reported that Iran operated no more than 5060 IR-1 centrifuges in 30 cascades. Iran withdrew 96 IR-1 centrifuges from storage to replace broken ones in these cascades. During the previous reporting period, it withdrew 92 IR-1 centrifuges, and during the prior one, it withdrew 48 IR-1 centrifuges.

Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP)

The IAEA reported that since January 22, 2020, the Fordow plant was enriching uranium in six cascades, containing 1044 IR-1 centrifuges, in one wing of the plant, called Unit 2. An additional 13 IR-1 centrifuges were installed in Unit 2, all of them involved in initial research and development activities related to stable isotope production. In total, as of late May 2020, 1057 IR-1 centrifuges were installed in Unit 2 of the FFEP.

Advanced Centrifuges

Iran continued to take steps during the IAEA reporting period to violate the JCPOA’s limitations on advanced centrifuges. The following summarizes the deployment of advanced centrifuges in the six lines at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant, or PFEP, their enrichment status, and their enrichment capacity, if known, as of the last reporting period.

Iran was no longer remixing the product and tails (waste), but collecting it separately, meaning that Iran accumulated enriched uranium at the PFEP. As of May 20, 2020, 483.1 kilograms (uranium mass) of uranium enriched up to two percent had been collected from lines 2 and 3 of the six lines at the PFEP. The IAEA does not provide the average enrichment of this material, although it can be safely assumed that it varies from just above natural uranium (0.71% uranium 235) up to 2% uranium 235. (This average value matters because the amount of separative work to make, for example, a quantity of two percent enriched uranium, is several times the amount needed to make that same quantity of one percent enriched uranium.) The IAEA did not reveal how much enriched uranium was collected in lines 4, 5, and 6 of the PFEP.

Lines 2 and 3 contained a variety of centrifuge types and numbers, many accumulating enriched uranium. The following is a summary, as of the end of the last reporting period, of all the centrifuges installed in lines 2 and 3, or about 90 in total, that were accumulating enriched uranium (so far about 483.1 kg, as mentioned above):

1 Up to 20 IR-4 centrifuges in a cascade;

2 Up to 10 IR-5 centrifuges in a cascade;

3 Up to 30 IR-6 centrifuges, in a centrifuge cascade of 10 IR-6 centrifuges and another of 20 IR-6 centrifuges;

4 Up to 20 IR-6s centrifuges; and

5 Up to 10 IR-s centrifuges.

According to the IAEA report, as of June 1, Iran was testing the following single centrifuges with uranium hexafluoride in lines 2 and 3, but not accumulating enriched uranium:

1 one IR-2m centrifuge;

2 one IR-3 centrifuge;

3 two IR-4 centrifuges;

4 one IR-5 centrifuge;

5 three IR-6 centrifuges;

6 one IR-6m centrifuge;

7 one IR-6s centrifuges;

8 one IR-6sm centrifuge;

9 one IR-7 centrifuge;

10 two IR-8 centrifuges;

11 two IR-8s centrifuges;

12 one IR-8B centrifuge;

13 two IR-s centrifuges; and

14 one IR-9 centrifuge.

Iran was also accumulating enriched uranium in lines 4, 5, and 6, in redeployed IR-2m and IR-4 centrifuge cascades (164 centrifuges each) and an IR-6 cascade (135 centrifuges). The IAEA did not specify how much enriched uranium had been produced so far, or its level of enrichment. This enriched uranium is likely included in the IAEA’s aggregate, reported amount of enriched uranium enriched up to 4.5 percent.

The redeployed cascades of 164 IR-2m and IR-4 centrifuges in lines 4 and 5 of the PFEP represent Iran’s most successful advanced centrifuge types. When previously operated in a production-scale cascade, each IR-2m centrifuge had an enrichment capacity of about 3.7 separative work units (SWU) per year. The total cascade thus has an estimated enrichment capacity of about 607 SWU per year. This is equivalent to about 675 IR-1 centrifuges operating in production cascades, where each IR-1 is assumed to have a capacity of 0.9 SWU per year. The IR-4 has a lower capacity than the IR-2m, estimated here as ten percent lower, or about 3.3 SWU per year per centrifuge. The production cascade would have a total output of about 540 SWU per year, or equivalent to about 600 IR-1 centrifuges. These two cascades represent a total capacity of about 1147 SWU/year, or the equivalent of about 1275 IR-1 centrifuges.

Line 6 at the PFEP held 135 IR-6 centrifuges in a single cascade (up from 72 during the last reporting period). Iran stated earlier that the line will hold 164 IR-6 centrifuges in a cascade. The IR-6 has a single machine estimated capacity of 6.8 SWU per year. No recent data are available publicly on its performance in this cascade. Assuming that the cascade value would be about 90 percent of the capacity achieved by an IR-6 operating by itself, 135 IR-6 centrifuges in cascade would have an output of about 826 SWU per year, and a cascade of 164 IR-6 would have total capacity of about 1000 SWU per year, or the equivalent of about 1115 IR-1 centrifuges.

Line 1 currently holds an inoperable cascade of IR-1 centrifuges. However, Iran reportedly announced planned modifications of line 1 that include removal of the inoperable centrifuges, apparently to clear space for upcoming R&D activities.

In addition, according to the quarterly report, Tehran was violating an additional JCPOA limitation by conducting mechanical testing of centrifuges at the Tehran Research Centre and a workshop at Natanz. According to the IAEA report, “On 27 May 2020, the Agency verified that, for periods of four to ten days, Iran had conducted mechanical testing of up to six IR-4 centrifuges simultaneously, and up to ten IR-6 centrifuges simultaneously” at these two locations.

As can be seen, Iran is developing a large number of centrifuges simultaneously, an unusual practice. The centrifuges at the PFEP include: IR-1, IR-2m, IR-3, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, IR-6m, IR-6s, IR-6sm, IR-7, IR-8, IR-8s, IR-8B, IR-s, and IR-9. No information was provided in the IAEA report on how well these centrifuges work, their failure rates, or why so many of them are being developed. Typically, a centrifuge program with such characteristics is likely failing at developing a commercially viable centrifuge, although several of these centrifuges could work adequately in a nuclear weapons program, where efficiency, low failure rates, and low cost are not priorities.

Table 2 summarizes the enrichment capacity by facility. Iran’s enrichment capacity has grown from an estimated 7429 swu/yr to 7835 swu/yr during this reporting period, representing a growth of about 5.5 percent.

This total enrichment capacity represents the equivalent of 8706 IR-1 centrifuges. However, as will be noted below, this entire capacity cannot be used in a breakout capacity, since many of the advanced centrifuges are not properly organized to contribute meaningfully to a breakout.

Table 2. Number of enriching centrifuges and enrichment capacity

*The value for lines 2 and 3 of the PFEP is a rough estimate based on the use of estimated and measured values for the separative output of these centrifuges in cascades, drawn from IAEA information. The values for lines 4, 5, and 6 of the PFEP are given in the text. All of the values used to make these estimates reflect historical enrichment output values obtained by Iran prior to the nuclear deal and do not reflect current values, which are not included in the IAEA’s quarterly reports. **Twenty advanced centrifuges in lines 2 and 3 operating as single centrifuges are not included; moreover, the capacity of the ten IR-s centrifuges are not included in the enrichment capacity total due to lack of data about their enrichment output, but their contribution to the overall capacity is negligent.

Part 3: Current Breakout Estimates

The Institute’s breakout calculator is used to estimate current breakout times based on Iranian LEU stocks and installed enrichment capacity, using the above values.4 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;

• 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.

• This breakout calculator utilizes 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 weapon-grade uranium in step four. Currently, Iran can achieve weapon-grade uranium in three steps, starting with its existing LEU stockpiles.

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-2m 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 percent LEU in hexafluoride mass. 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.5

As discussed above, it is possible that the average enrichment level is lower than assumed in the breakout calculation. 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 3.4 months, assuming no initial set-up time. Assuming an initial set-up time of two weeks, this value increases to 3.9 months. During this reporting period, Iran’s stock of LEU grew in excess of 1250 kilograms, allowing for a three-step process with 3.5 percent enriched uranium and a significantly lower breakout timeline than reported at the end of the last reporting period. If the average of the range of 3.1 to 3.9 months is used, the estimated breakout time as of late May 2020 is 3.5 months, with a lower bound of about three months.

Part 4: Other Information – Undeclared uranium particles, Arak reactor, Heavy water

In January 2019, according to the recent IAEA report, the IAEA detected “natural uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at a location in Iran not declared to the Agency.” The media reported in April 2019 that the IAEA had taken the samples at an open-air warehouse in the Tehran neighborhood of Turquz-Abad, a site Israel originally revealed to the IAEA in the summer of 2018 and revealed publicly in September 2018. Over the summer of 2018, Iran removed the contents of the site and sanitized it during the subsequent months, prior to the IAEA visit. 6 Despite the sanitization, the IAEA found the uranium particles, which Bloomberg reported included uranium hexafluoride. 7 At least in part due to this environmental sampling result, the IAEA’s investigation led it to request access to the two other sites, as described in the IAEA’s separate June 5, 2020 NPT safeguards report and one prior from March 2020. As mentioned above, Iran has refused IAEA access to the sites during the last four months, triggering a safeguards crisis.

The IAEA also reports for the first time in this report that it took environmental samples at two declared sites in Iran in January 2020, “pursuant to information provided by Iran related to the possible origin of the detected natural uranium particles.” The IAEA reports that its analysis of those samples has been delayed due to the temporary closure of its analytical laboratories during the COVID-19 pandemic. The IAEA reports that Iran has not pursued construction on the Arak (IR-40) heavy water reactor based on its pre-JCPOA design. Questions remain about how far a JCPOA project with China and the UK has progressed to re-orient the reactor to a configuration producing less plutonium, operating on lower power, and using low-enriched uranium fuel instead of natural uranium fuel. The IAEA has never reported on the project’s progress. Iran announced one development in December 2019, namely the start of a secondary cooling circuit, that may support the original reactor configuration and not the JCPOA design. 8

The IAEA reports that Iran’s heavy water stock was 132.6 metric tonnes as of May 11. Iran shipped out 5.1 metric tonnes of heavy water during the reporting period; the heavy water’s destination was not provided in the report. Iran deliberately exceeded the JCPOA’s cap on heavy water in November 2019 and the stock has remained over the limit since that time. Iran notified the IAEA that the Heavy Water Production Plant (HWPP) will be “overhauled” for about one month starting in late June.

Finally, the IAEA reports that Iran continued to use carbon fiber for centrifuge rotor tube production “that was not subject to continuous Agency [IAEA] containment and surveillance measures,” as required by the JCPOA and a decision of the Joint Commission of January 14, 2016 (see INFCIRC/907). 9

[1] Stricker is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

2. 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://isis-online.org/uploads/iaea-reports/documents/IAEA_Iran_report_1Jul2019.pdf

3. 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://isis-online.org/uploads/iaea-reports/documents/IAEA_Iran_report_8Jul2019.pdf

4. David Albright and Sarah Burkhard, “New Estimates of Iran’s Breakout Capabilities at Declared Sites Using a New, Simple-to-Use Breakout Calculator,” Institute for Science and International Security, September 3, 2019, https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/new-estimates-of-irans-breakout-capabilities-at-declared-sites-using-a-new/8

5. 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

6. David Albright, Olli Heinonen, Frank Pabian, and Andrea Stricker, “Revealed: Emptying of the Iranian “Atomic Warehouse” at Turquz Abad,” Institute for Science and International Security, November 29, 2018, https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/revealed-emptying-of-the-iranian-atomic-warehouse-at-turquz-abad/8

7. Jonathan Tirone, “Iran Atomic Inspections Continued at a Record Pace Last Year,” Bloomberg, May 5, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-05/iran-nuclear-inspections-continued-at-a-record-pace-last-year

8. Iran Unveils Development at Arak Reactor in Face of U.S. Pressure,” Reuters, December 23, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-arak/iran-unveils-development-at-arak-reactor-in-face-of-us-pressure-idUSKBN1YR0KA#:~:text=Iranian%20state%20media%20said%20technicians,the%20core%20of%20nuclear%20reactors

9. Relevant clauses from INFCIRC/907: “Template for Describing Centrifuge Types: Explanatory Note,” II(3)(e)(v). The IAEA would verify that Iran only engages in manufacturing of centrifuge rotor tubes using the material that are drawn from the above referenced dedicated monitored storage locations for as long as Paragraph 61 of the Annex 1 of the JCPOA remains in effect, subject to the exception specified below. II(3)(e)(v). Despite the readiness of supply, Iran may decide, consistent with the JCPOA, to manufacture centrifuge rotor tubes using its own materials of construction, provided that the IAEA has verified the technical specifications of these materials through sampling and maintained them under monitoring until their use in the manufacture of rotor tubes. ↩