While the White House has released a “First Step Fact Sheet” review of the interim agreement signed Nov. 24 in Geneva, it was the Iranian press that first obtained and released the actual agreement signed. As demonstrated during Geneva I and II, Iran’s press proved again at Geneva III to have more timely access to decision-makers inside negotiations. Here is a copy of the “Joint Plan” that was signed.
Atomic Reporters opened the first of a series of initiatives to work with journalists from media in the Middle East with a one day workshop 14 November in Amman Jordan. It was organized jointly with the Arab Institute for Security Studies as a side event to its annual WMD and Security Forum. Support was provided by Austria’s Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs.
The Arab Spring has resulted in broader diversity of the region’s news media, and subjects previously taboo are being discussed more openly and critically. Journalists are reaching outside their accustomed terrain for information; Atomic Reporters offers knowledge to help them move through this new landscape. More than 20 participants took part in the workshop.
Current events such as the accession of Syria to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the first USA Iran talks for ten years over its nuclear programme require journalists, many new to such subjects, to bring a level of competence to report the issues clearly and accurately. Steps towards convening a conference on the proposal for a nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East continue to unfold behind closed doors presenting challenges to reporting an issue with major implications for the region.
Atomic Reporters as an independent and non-partisan broker of information will provide journalists from the Middle East who seek it, technical information, history, context and links to sources about arms control. Several speakers in the workshop, not affiliated to Atomic Reporters, acknowledged the value of Atomic Reporters as an independent organization drawing journalists’ attention to a branch of science they have little opportunity to develop competence in writing about – nuclear science.
Mohamed Shaker, chair of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA) gave the opening address to the workshop and Alfred Bratanek, Deputy Head of Mission in the Austrian Embassy Amman welcomed participants. Speakers in the workshop were: Grace Asirwatham, Deputy Director-General for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW); Sameh Aboul-Enein, Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister, Egypt; General (Ret.) Khaled Abdulla Al Bu-Ainnain, Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), UAE; Coralie Hindawi, Assistant Professor, the American University of Beirut; Amb. Mahmoud Karem, ECFA; Zia Mian, Princeton University, USA. Atomic Reporters was represented by Julian Borger, Diplomatic Editor, The Guardian; Tariq Rauf, former head of verification and security policy coordination at the IAEA; Peter Rickwood, founder Atomic Reporters.
Support has been dedicated for two workshops for senior journalists from all the countries of the Middle East and the first will be held in Vienna, Austria, early in 2014.
Media cited France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius as saying Iran’s heavy water reactor IR-40 at Arak was a reason to block an interim deal with Iran at talks in Geneva that ended Sunday.
The heavy water research reactor, a clunker whose construction has been dogged by delays, will produce plutonium. But here are some technical issues to consider that question Fabius’ seizing upon it with such vigor:
It is probable that the fuel supply will be a problem – a limit to how much plutonium the reactor could produce in a year; as it is, this is very much an issue for IAEA safeguards inspectors. Details of inspections in August 2013 here. And in May the IAEA reported (para 32) Iran would use dummy fuel during pre-commissioning.
If, because of an insufficient supply of of fresh fuel, its operators prolong each cycle the plutonium would be “cooked” beyond weapons grade into a virtually unusable form. But this is the sort of data IAEA inspectors would be privy to when the reactor goes on-line.
The reactor fuel, just like in a Candu reactor, will be natural uranium. It’s a high fired form of uranium oxide pellets. Packed in tubes clad in precision prepared zirconium metal tubes. Reprocessing the spent fuel for its plutonium will be a challenge. There is no sign that Iran has built a reprocessing plant and no open source information of attempts to buy one.
Arak is not a clear and present danger. There will be an adequate and long lead time for verification clues the IAEA can collect, especially in the fuel supply if there is ever an attempt to divert it. Without minimising the risks, it poses, it seems disingenuous by France to have used the spectre of Arak to break up the party in Geneva.
Well, well. Everybody’s eye is now caught by the new official website the Iranians launched about their nuclear program: nuclearenergy.ir
Smooth. Very smooth.
We suppose we’ll hear more on the content by the nukular pundits. But there is much we can say about the design and the entirely new style and PR approach in this new elegant and functional site. This is the work of pros! And forgive us for risking a guess but it smells like Madison Avenue.
“Iran meets with their P5+1 counterparts November 7-8 in Geneva for another round of talks aimed at breaking the decade-long stalemate over its nuclear program. Digging through our files in attempt to add perspective amid the repetition, we stumbled across these 2005 documents. The first is the letter [EU ROUHANI LET] to Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s current president who was then leading his country’s negotiations with the European Union while his country voluntarily enforced a nuclear suspension. The tension inside the message, created at Rouhani’s request for IAEA removal of seals at the Isfahan uranium-processing facility, is palpable and portends the breakdown that would follow.
The second document [EU 2005 IRAN PROP] is the 32-page EU offer to Iran, made to swap concessions in international relations for a cessation of atomic work. The proposal, with the ungainly title, “Framework For a Long-Term Agreement Between The Islamic Republic of Iran and France, Germany and the United Kingdom, with the Support of the High Representative of the European Union,” is notable for a few reasons. First, from the mere standpoint of historical curiosity, it has a fantastic Alice-in-Wonderland element of style, in which rabbit holes are referred to in terms of trade, pipelines and politics. The proposals are so vast and sweeping, it is possible to imagine the accord would still be under negotiation, even if had it been accepted eight years ago. The paper appears less to solve problems than to swap them for issues potentially even more vexing.
Second, it is interesting to note how the EU proposal refers to future light-water reactors in the future-perfect tense. On page 16, under the sub-head “Fuel Assurances,” for example, the document refers to a fleet of LWRs that would form the backbone of Iran’s nuclear industry. The problem is that there’s no explanation about how those reactors would be obtained and what role Iranian scientists and engineers would play in establishing their presence.
There are other gems inside the document: on page 5, France and the U.K. would reiterate their promise not to drop nuclear weapons on Iran (as long as it stayed in the NPT!); on page 8, the Euros ensure maximum gridlock by referencing the Conference on Disarmament just before pledging support for a Middle East WMDFZ; of course, no EU proposal would be complete without the establishment of a new committee — in this case one dedicated to regular meetings on security and defense on page 12.
So far this year, diplomats have kept details about plans presented during the current phase of negotiations secret. That is widely interpreted as lending credence to the seriousness of these talks. Let us hope that the 2005 European proposal remains under seal in the tomb it must share with “Plan 9 From Outer Space.”