Today's nuclear news

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

[Short entry] Iran confirms suspected missile silos

William Broad at The New York Times reports that the Iranian government has "unveiled" "deep underground" missile silos. They're capable of launching "long-range" missiles. And an Iranian general, Asghar Qelichkani, claims that the missile are "ready to hit their predetermined targets." The NYT article isn't too specific about what the General means by this. But the official press agency of the People's Republic of China, the Xinhua news service is happy to tell us:

Aerospace commander of Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said Tuesday that Iran's missiles have the range of 2,000 km and can reach U.S. bases in the region and also Israel.

Iran does not need to increase the range of its missiles since Israel is just 1,200 km away from Iran and the U.S. bases are even nearer, some 120 to 700 km away from Iran, said the commander.

With the existing missiles, Iran can hit the targets from the Iranian central cities of Semnan and Damghan, Hajizadeh said.

He dismissed the threats by the Europeans and said that Iran has designed and developed its missiles for U.S. and Israel targets.

There's a lot of smoke here but not too much fire. The existence of the silos has long been suspected, as the NYT mentions. While the existence of the silos opens the possibility that they may be used to house nuclear-tipped missiles, there is still no further, concrete evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. The silos are an effective defense even if they "only" house "conventional" weapons.

Strategically speaking, even in the unlikely event that Iran announced a nuclear arsenal tomorrow, with the "long-range" delivery implied by the silos, their use of a nuclear device is necessarily, strictly, as they have declared in the silos' announcement, defensive. 'Attribution,' the forensic science of nuclear weapons would conclusively identify the source of the plutonium and/or uranium used to make the weapon. Not to mention the fact that when a missile is launched anywhere in the world, US and EU satellites know about it immediately. And the full trajectory is determined within seconds, from launch point to target. The US (and ROTW*, for that matter) response would be immediate and devastating.

The important question that needs to be asked of the US government is why it continues a policy policy of promoting proliferation. We only need look to N. Korea to see its consequences.

*ROTW=Rest of the World

Thursday, June 9, 2011

[Short entry] Yucca Mountain still has legs

The excellent science policy news service FYI provided by the American Institute of Physics, a bi-weekly (or more) column on science policy developments in Washington, reports on the efforts by various interests to reinstate the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, near Yucca Flats, Nevada.

It's fact that folks in Nevada generally don't want their ground filled with hot waste. And there's some evidence of this in the candid comments of Rep. Shelley Berkeley (D-NV) who termed the Yucca Mountain Authorization Bill the "1987 screw Nevada bill."

The Big News is the FY 2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill prevents funding for any purpose toward the decommissioning of the repository. And Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) is trying to put money into the budget for continuing operations -- in case you didn't have enough to unsettle your stomach with the ongoing and escalating debt-ceiling battle.

A more thorough discussion on Yucca Mountain and the authorization process is forthcoming on this weblog -- with a little luck.

Friday, June 3, 2011

More on Iran's threatless nuclear program

Iran is not a threat to the U.S. or their neighbors.

Now Seymour Hersh has inside information to confirm this. Of course, Hersh provides consistent and usually accurate reporting on national security. His latest, Iran and the Bomb , is a good read, though with his characteristic unattributable sourcing. (You can also watch him on Democracy Now!) The important point to remember is that without Hersh's unnamed sources, the public record is rich in the fact that Iran is not building a nuclear weapons program.