US officials believe Russian arms control, nuclear security cooperation will continue
Douglas P. Guarino, National Journal – April 2, 2014
Lawmakers at a Senate Armed Services subcommittee meeting expressed worry over the Russian incursion in Crimea and asked administration officials how the crisis might affect US-Russia cooperation on arms control and nuclear security, one of the areas where the US and Russia have a long track record of cooperation. Indeed, the officials being questioned stressed the history of US-Russia cooperation that has taken place even amid great tensions. The hearing also touched on the subject of Ukraine’s nuclear weapons and whether it should have given them up in the first place. Administration officials argued that Ukraine was right to give up its nuclear weapons and that the best way forward for countries like Ukraine will continue to be non-proliferation and disarmament. Republican lawmakers criticized that argument and suggested that nuclear weapons would have kept Ukraine safe.
Details of MOX facility delays, cost overruns emerge
Ryan Alexander, US News and World Report – April 2, 2014
Though it has been known for some time that the Department of Energy plans to put the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility on indefinite cold standby, details of difficulties with the facility were not forthcoming. This article addresses some of the reasons why the facility is being put on standby. Besides issues with construction of the facility, it turns out that one basic problem is that there is no demand for MOX fuel–a type of fuel that would require upgrades to existing nuclear reactors. The MOX fuel fabrication only makes economic sense if there is a buyer for the fuel at the end of the process, though converting weapons-grade plutonium to nuclear fuel does reduce the amount of dangerous materials available to potential terrorists.
Lawmakers in nuclear weapons states seek to protect nukes
Jenn Rowell, Great Falls Tribune – April 2, 2014
Three Congressmen from states that host nuclear weapons, Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT), Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), sent a letter to the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense asking that no funds appropriated in fiscal year 2015 “be used to reduce, convert, decommission, or otherwise move to nondeployed status, or prepare to reduce, convert, decommission, or otherwise move to nondeployed status, any Minuteman III ballistic missile silo that contains a deployed missile as of Jan. 1, 2014.” They also sought to block the Air Force’s planned environmental assessment of ICBMs, a process the Pentagon put on hold two weeks ago. If the language is added to the bill, it will still have to be attached in the Senate as well.
Iran, Russia working on oil-for-goods deal
Jonathan Saul and Parisa Hafezi, Reuters – April 2, 2014
Coming amid those reassurances, the potential Russia-Iran deal comes as a troubling sign of Russia’s ability to undermine negotiations with Iran. The deal, reported to be worth about $20 billion, would allow Iran to send its oil to Russia in exchange for unspecified goods and euqipment–possibly to include Russian assistance in constructing nuclear plants. US officials have stated their concern with the deal which would allow Iran to avoid sanctions on its oil exports.
Waste continues in Afghanistan even as US role wanes
Jamie Tarabay, Al Jazeera – April 2, 2014
This new report by Al Jazeera details the billions upon billions of dollars in fraud and waste that the United States has committed to Afghanistan. Much of this report relies on findings produced by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), but the scope of the waste–which appears unlikely to end even after US troops have officially withdrawn–should inform President Obama’s decision on keeping US forces in the country beyond 2014.