Appropriators vs. Authorizers on Plutonium Boondoggle
On the radar: Nukes vs. military construction; SASC NDAA on CMRR-NF; Third round scheduled; Ignatius on a deal with Iran; A posture fix on the BMD impasse; Acton and Colby on spending; and Doodles of mass destruction.
May 25, 2012 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke and Mary Kaszynski
Hints of higher enrichment - IAEA inspectors have found traces of 27% enriched uranium at Fordo, AP reports. The likely explanation, David Albright says, is that the centrifuges overshot the 20% level at startup. http://owl.li/b9rBv
Alexander on giving CMRR to DOD; - Energy and Water Appropriations ranking member Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has come out against the HASC proposal to move CMRR and UPF funding from NNSA and the E&W bill to DOD and the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs bill.
--In a letter submitted at the markup of the MilCon appropriations bill, Sen. Alexander argues that “the Army Corp Engineers has no experience in the construction of one of a kind nuclear facilities” and that the move will put the nuclear facilities up against other priorities in the MilCon/VA accounts. Kingston Reif has the story. http://owl.li/b9r63
CMRR in the SASC mark - From the Senate Armed Services Committee summary of its defense bill mark: The bill “Restores to fiscal year 2013, the proposed deferral by ‘at least 5 years’ of the Chemistry and Materials Research Replacement (CMRR-NF) building, requiring the NNSA to use $150.0 million from funds authorized and appropriated for fiscal year 2013, requires the facility to be operational by the end of 2024.”
--”Puts Legislative cost caps on the CMRR-NF building at $3.7 billion and the first phase of the Uranium Processing Facility project for building 9212 at $4.2 billion.” (pdf) http://owl.li/b9r2N
Next stop: Moscow - The Baghdad talks came to a close yesterday with no deal on enrichment or sanctions but an agreement to meet again in Moscow June 18-19. Laura Rozen and Barbara Slavin report for Al Monitor.
--The lack of a breakthrough isn’t surprising. “If there had been a deal yesterday, people on both sides would have said…we gave in too easily,” said George Perkovich. http://owl.li/b9rsG
Farewell Mary Kaszynski - After co-editing nearly 175 editions of Early Warning, Mary Kaszynski closes out her term as Ploughshares Fund’s research intern today. We wish her the best of luck as she takes on an exciting position at the American Security Project.
Enrichment and pressure - In sketching a possible deal with Iran, David Ignatius of The Washington Post spoke with Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a Princeton scholar and former spokesman for the Iranian nuclear negotiating team. The key elements of the deal, Ignatius and Mousavian agree, is allowing Iran some level of enrichment activity.
--“A deeper point made by Mousavian is that Iran is unlikely to agree to anything if it’s seen as doing so under duress. This contradicts the established wisdom in Washington, which is that Iran has come to the table only because sanctions are beginning to hurt,” writes Ignatius. http://owl.li/b9qZJ
Posture and the missile defense impasse - The recent Global Zero report chaired by Gen. Cartwright got a lot of attention for its proposed smaller arsenal. As Tom Collina at Arms Control Now notes, the report also has a game changer recommendation on missile defense.
--The report says, “By removing the technical threat of a surprise U.S. nuclear first strike, the United States could no longer theoretically decimate the bulk of Russia’s strategic forces, and the specter of U.S. missile defenses mopping up a small number of surviving Russian missiles after the strike would evaporate.”
--Writes Collina, “Removing any credible threat of a first strike against Moscow, along the lines that Gen. Cartwright suggests, should be considered as a key part of the next round of talks to facilitate future bilateral arms reductions and missile defense cooperation.” http://owl.li/b9rcs
More security, fewer nukes - “The arsenal — the overkill — that remains from the Cold War is an economic and security menace....Tens of billions of dollars can be saved, without compromising security.” The Seattle Times’ Lance Dickie on why the Cartwright/Global Zero report makes sense. http://owl.li/b9rdQ
On spending and stability - “When nuclear policy is left to be blown about by erratic political winds, there are frequent and sharp changes in direction—changes that are expensive for the American taxpayer, reduce the effectiveness of what we procure, confuse allies, and risk unnecessarily exacerbating tensions with potential foes,” write James Acton and Elbridge Colby in The Hill.
--The authors argue for continued efforts to overhaul the U.S. nuclear arsenal and update the nuclear weapons complex, while pursuing further arms control treaties to enhance strategic stability and national security. http://owl.li/b9rfW
Atomic sketches - Did James Conant, then-President of Harvard, sketch a gun-type nuclear weapon on a notepad in 1943? Alex Wellerstein has the sketch and asks the question. http://owl.li/b9ri5
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