Multibillion-Dollar Uranium Facility Moving Forward, Final Cost Unclear

On the radar: UPF build to start, design unfinished; Inaugural speech lines; Securing Syria’s chemical weapons; No breakthrough with Iran; Ban speech; Chu out; and Retro options for ICBM replacement.

January 18, 2013 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke

Build first, design later - Construction site preparation could soon start on the new Uranium Processing Facility in Tennessee, as the National Nuclear Security Administration is soon expected to approve a Critical Decision package on the facility. While work gears up, plans and costs remain uncertain.

--Designs for the projected $6.5 billion facility are only 66 percent complete, and a full cost estimate has yet to be issued. This raises question on what the facility’s final price tag will be. The most recent cost estimate is several years old, and the facility received an expanded redesign over recent months. Frank Munger at the Knoxville News Sentinel has the story.

Nuke policy in inaugural speeches - “With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat and roll back the specter of a warming planet.” – Barack Obama, 2009

--“We’re not just discussing limits on a further increase of nuclear weapons; we seek, instead, to reduce their number. We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.” – Ronald Reagan, 1985

--“And now, as in no other age, we seek [peace] because we have been warned, by the power of modern weapons, that peace may be the only climate possible for human life itself.” – Dwight David Eisenhower, 1957.

--Michael Krepon at Arms Control Wonk has the complete list.

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Syria’s chem weapons - The Obama administration is quietly arranging for Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Russia to “take principal responsibility for safeguarding Syrian chemical weapons sites if the country’s lethal nerve agents suddenly become vulnerable to theft and misuse,” reports Jeffrey Smith of The Center for Public Integrity.

--Washington has decided that the best course of action after the fall of the Assad regime would be to get the chemical agents out of Syria as quickly as possible and destroy them at facilities in Russia or nearby countries. Full story here.

Iran talks - The IAEA and Iran did not reach agreement on how to resolve the IAEA’s concerns about Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons-related research. Another round of talks is scheduled for February 12th.

--"We had two days of intensive discussions...We could not finalise the structured approach to resolve the outstanding issues regarding possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme," said IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts. Fredrik Dahl at Reuters has the story.

Tweet - @FitzpatrickIISS: Aligning the political forces in Tehran to support an IAEA deal is proving to be too difficult. Uncompromising hardliners remain in control.

Event - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to give a major address on nonproliferation and disarmament. Today at 1:30pm EST at the Monterey Institute for International Studies. Live stream here.

Cabinet shuffle - Secretary of Energy Steven Chu is expected to leave his cabinet post, announcing his departure as soon as next week. Bloomberg has the story.

Tweet - @Cirincione: My blog for @HuffPoPol on one of the world's most famous time pieces, the @BulletinAtomic's doomsday clock.

2nd term - Following the significant progress made in his first term, President Obama should focus on high-priority nuclear risk reduction initiatives that would move the U.S. and the world “farther away from the nuclear precipice,” writes Daryl Kimball in Arms Control Today.

--Recommendations: Seek a diplomatic solution that keeps Iran from the bomb, implement a U.S. nuclear strategy that reduces the roles and numbers of nuclear weapons, pursue deeper reductions with Russia, and seek ratification of the CTBT.

Internship - @CNS_Updates: STUDENTS: Application deadlines approach for many CNS Internships, some as early as March 1st.

Back to the future - The Air Force is seeking recommendations for how to replace its fleet of Minuteman III ICBMs and, in the process, is reviving retro arguments from the 1980s - including options reminiscent to a mobile MX missile and the so-called “midgetman” ICBM. Mark Thompson at Battleland talks about the options.