The Non Proliferation Treaty in Middle Age

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has had a rocky history since its inception in 1970; nuclear weapons holders are loathe to give up or further reduce their historical stockpiles, while some non-nuclear weapons states believe that arming themselves is vital for their policies of regional deterrence.  Tariq Rauf of SIPRI and an Atomic Reporters Director discusses the upcoming NPT Review Preparatory Comittee (PrepCom), future aspects of the Treaty, the military dimension of the NPT, and the possibility of a Middle Eastern zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the following video:

Through the looking glass darkly

The 11th anniversary of the outbreak of the Iraq war was 19 March. The interest of Atomic Reporters readers who are students of the press debacle leading up to it will be piqued by film maker Errol Morris’ account – the first installment in a four part series – of a news conference by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in February 2002.
In the New York Review of Books, Mark Danner also had a four part series on events and players in the war and its consequences. The conclusion:

Keep Calm: IAEA’s JPOA Update

Date: 20 March 2014
Status of Iran’s Nuclear Programme
in relation to the Joint Plan of Action

keep calm

“…The Agency confirms that since 20 January 2014, Iran has:

i. not enriched uranium above 5% U-235 at any of its declared facilities;
ii. not operated cascades in an interconnected configuration at any of its declared facilities;
iii. diluted 74.6 kg3 of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 down to an enrichment level of no more than 5% U-235 at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP);4
iv. fed 31.7 kg5 of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 into the conversion process at the Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant (FPFP) for conversion into uranium oxide…”

Full document here: IRAN JPOA 3-14 UPDATE

Dirty Bombs & Nuclear Security: NSS Time

Data via Google Ngram
Data via Google Ngram

The 3rd Nuclear Security Summit kicks off in the Hague March 24. The final communique is expected to be released about 4:00 p.m. on March 25. While most reporters congregating at the event will do so in anticipation of a G7 meeting (minus Russia), Atomic Reporters may still glean insight on the state of today’s nuclear-security debate (key words Rokkasho & Ukraine).

Nuclear security has experienced a renaissance since the 1990s, when the U.S.-Russian Cooperative Threat Reduction program managed to remove and/or secure fissile materials from former Soviet countries. Following September 11, 2001, security discussions tended to focus on re-purposed nuclear material for a “dirty bomb.” The conversation about nuclear safety, which shares a silo with security at the IAEA, fell softer for more than a decade leading to 2008, the last year of our data.

How do we know this? We’re testing our experiences and memories against Google computational linguistics. The company’s Ngram tool looks for word patterns among 5.2 million books scanned by the company up until 2008. Sometimes its a helpful tool to gauge how technical conversations develop over time.

Of course, most of the time as a journalist, it’s easier to simply pick up the phone and talk with an expert. That’s why we’re pleased to post the Fissile Materials Working Group’s offer of nuclear-security experts available to journalists:


See you in the Hague.

Broadening the nuclear debate – Atomic Reporters is officially launched

The following notes were provided at a reception for the launch of Atomic Reporters 18 March 2014 at the Canadian Residence inVienna, Austria

Nuclear science and technologies – depending on your point of view – have the potential to save the planet or destroy it.

But because opportunities to learn more about the subject are scarce, only a few journalists possess the knowledge to approach it confidently. Newcomers assigned to cover the story find it particularly difficult. Complicating this problem, some experts are reluctant to talk to reporters who don’t understand the subject.

Atomic Reporters has been established to act as a mentor and an unbiased, independent source of information for journalists who wish to expand their knowledge of the subject and increase their competence.

It will open two-way paths of communication between journalists and experts, many of whom, particularly in the nuclear non-proliferation, safety and security communities, are frustrated because their concerns aren’t being reflected in the media. Data collected by Atomic Reporters shows that while nuclear experts are willing to engage with the press, speaking daily on average to a reporter, only 28 percent of the journalists who address them are considered “well informed” about the subject.

Atomic Reporters activities

In June 2014, we will hold a series of workshops for journalists from 17 Middle East countries. Initial workshops were held in Amman, Jordan in November 2013, and in Cairo in January 2012. We have also started to organize a workshop for journalists in Japan.

The foundation of Atomic Reporters has received guidance from nuclear technology and policy experts, communications practitioners and journalists. It has been incorporated in Canada as a non-profit and has been granted international non-governmental status in Austria, where it operates.

We wish to convey our sincere thanks to the United Arab Emirates, Austria, and Ireland, whose generosity in supporting our Middle East outreach also affirms our relevance as we take our first steps.

We shall continue to seek funding to expand our activities, particularly for the acquisition of open-source data tools to provide news media professionals and policy makers with insights by detecting trends and directions in the nuclear debate and to develop a nuclear glossary of terms for the Middle East.

The bedrock of Atomic Reporters is its independence. In its goal to become an indispensable tool in the reporting of nuclear news, it will promote evidence-based reporting, resist partisanship and advocate the rights of reporters to accountability and clarity.

Peter Rickwood, Vienna, 18 March 2014


Atomic Reporters surveyed experts and journalists who cover the nuclear file to obtain a measure of how they work together. Although the sampling is small,  the poll provides a clear snapshot of the relationship. You can see the results here: AR-POLLING-RESULT

AR Poll PP Snap

Crimea, Iran & Kremlinology

“I don’t quite get it. Was that a punch at the U.S. or Iran?”
                                     –Russian President Vladimir Putin, June 12, 2013

Kremlinology Graph

Growing up during the Cold War, young Atomic Reporters were familiar with the word “Kremlinology.” That art of signal reading has steadily declined over time, as demonstrated by Google’s Ngram Viewer, which compiles the number of times authors use words in published literature.

The decline of Kremlinology has contributed to many people wondering whether the Crimean dispute is going to affect negotiations with Iran. While the U.S. insists that the two issues be kept separate and that the Ukraine spat shouldn’t jeopardize the Iran-nuclear negotiation, it’s far from clear whether Moscow sees the issue quite the same.

Enter Vladimir Putin in his RT interview last June. It didn’t receive much coverage among Western news outlets. Those that wrote about the interview did so derisively. That’s too bad, because if a person can get past the high-octane spin, there was some important signaling going on about how Russia interprets U.S. interest in keeping Iran on the hot seat.

Continue reading Crimea, Iran & Kremlinology

Entering the Zone


The Zone has become a euphemism among non-proliferation’s chattering classes for the proposal to create a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East – a long sought, monstrously elusive goal.  Finland currently carries the burden of unraveling this Gordian knot by having had conferred upon it the task of organizing a conference to explore its implementation under its facilitator Jaako Laajava.
A conference may appear to be an unseemly many leagues from the achievement of a zone itself. But seating antagonists from the region at the same table is an achievement alone.
One of Atomic Reporters’ planks is to try to better inform journalists about the quest for the zone, something commonplace in other parts of the world but as distant as the Constellation Sagittarius from the Middle East.
We were thus intrigued by this story from the Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon which offers a glimpse of the delicate dance being discretely conducted  behind closed doors under the benign gaze of Ambassador Laajava.