By Elise Labott
World powers and Iran hope to reach an initial agreement at talks this week on Tehran’s nuclear program, diplomats and Iran’s foreign minister said.
If Iran agrees at talks in Geneva to take steps toward curbing its nuclear program, a senior U.S. administration official said Iran could see some relief from economic sanctions that have crippled its economy
"What we're looking for is a first phase, a first step, an initial understanding that stops Iran's nuclear program from moving forward and rolls it back for first time in decades," the senior U.S. administration official told reporters in Geneva on the eve of a fresh round talks between Iran and world powers.
In exchange, Washington would be willing to offer Iran "very limited, temporary, reversible sanctions relief,” the official said.
By Barbara Starr
In another public embarrassment for the Air Force's nuclear missile program, two crew members were disciplined earlier this year for leaving silo blast doors open while they were on duty in an underground facility housing nuclear missiles.
The incidents, first reported by the Associated Press, were confirmed Wednesday by the Air Force.
Under Air Force regulations, a two-man missile launch crew is required to keep the underground blast door shut when one crew member is asleep during the 24-hour shift.
In April a crew member was found "derelict in his duties in that he left the blast door open in order to receive a food delivery from the onsite chef" while the other crew member was on an authorized sleep break, Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. John Sheets said in a statement.
The crew member who was found "derelict" received a punishment of forfeiting $2,246 in pay for each of two months. The other crew member admitted to similar misconduct "on a few occasions" and received a letter of admonishment. The April incident occurred at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.
In May, at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, a maintenance team was allowed into an underground launch control center while one crew member was sleeping, in violation of rules. In this case, the commander of the crew, when questioned about the incident, told the deputy to lie about being asleep, which she initially did, according to officials.
The incident was investigated, and both crew members were disciplined. The commander is forfeiting $3,045 in pay for each of two months and facing a discharge board.
Air Force officials insist security was not compromised in these incidents because there are multiple layers of security above ground that would keep unauthorized personnel from gaining access to a launch control center. The centers are generally 40 feet to 100 feet underground, and the two-man crew controls as many as 10 missile silos.
There also are multiple layers of security surrounding nuclear launch codes.
But the disclosures come on the heels of the firing of the two-star general in charge of the Air Force's three nuclear wings. Earlier this month, Maj. Gen. Michael Carey was "relieved" of command "due to a loss of trust and confidence in his leadership and judgment," the Air Force said at the time. Carey's removal had to do with reports of alleged misbehavior on a business trip.
In August, one of the Air Force's nuclear wings failed a safety and security inspection and a separate wing did poorly in an inspection earlier in the year, which resulted in 17 military personnel being decertified from their jobs. They have since undergone retraining and are back at work.
It was on its face disturbing, even shocking news – two military officials in charge of the nation's nuclear arsenal sacked within days of each other.
But Major General Michael Carey and Vice Admiral Tim Giardina (fired amidst rumors of misbehavior involving alcohol and gambling) are just the latest in a recent rash of firings in the military's top ranks.
The firings come as leadership in the military try to send a message of "zero tolerance" when it comes to bad behavior.
The military has been here before – last fall a string of incidents involving improper behavior among top brass resulted in then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordering a review of ethics standards.
Officials tell CNN that in the case of the nuclear commander fired Friday that no sensitive nuclear weapons operations were impacted.
By Barbara Starr, Shirley Henry and Larry Shaughnessy
Another U.S. military officer with high-level oversight responsibility for the nation's nuclear arsenal has lost his job - the second in the past week.
Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, the two-star general in charge of three Air Force nuclear wings, was "relieved" of command "due to a loss of trust and confidence in his leadership and judgment," the Air Force said in a statement on Friday.
Carey was fired by his boss Lt. Gen James Kowalski, head of the Air Force's Global Strike Command, several months after Kowalski requested an inspector general investigation.
Brig. Gen. Les Kodlick, the chief spokesman for the Air Force, told reporters the inspector general's office began its investigation after multiple "reports of misbehavior" but declined to be specific.
By Jamie Crawford
None of the 107 nuclear facilities in the United States are protected against a high-force terrorist attack, and some are still vulnerable to the theft of bomb-grade nuclear fuel, or sabotage intended to cause a nuclear meltdown, a new report says.
The Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project (NPPP) at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas released the report Thursday. It wants to shine a light on the security gaps that still exist more than 10 years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
"It would be a tragedy if the United States had to look back after such an attack on a nuclear reactor and say that we could have and should have done more to prevent the catastrophe," said Prof. Alan J. Kuperman, co-author of the report.
The study was done at the request of the Defense Department after the Pentagon commissioned an academic study of the security vulnerabilities of the nation's 104 commercial nuclear power reactors and three civilian research reactors.FULL STORY
By Jamie Crawford
North Korea may be increasing its ability to enrich uranium at its Yongbyon nuclear complex, according to an analysis of recent satellite imagery.
The Institute for Science and International Security report concluded that North Korea appears to have greatly expanded a building in the fuel fabrication complex that is used for gas centrifuges in the uranium enrichment process at the reactor facility.
The development amounts to a doubling in size of the complex from its original construction.
Construction on the building expansion appears to have preceded an announcement by the North Korean government earlier this year that it planned on restart all the nuclear facilities at the previously mothballed site.
North Korean and Chinese officials have called for the resumption of six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program, Chinese authorities said Wednesday.
The announcement came as North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye Gwan, was in Beijing for bilateral talks.
Kim and China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui issued statements Wednesday calling for the resumption of the talks to "peacefully solve nuclear issues through dialogue" with all relevant parties.
North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, the United States and Russia met last decade to deal with North Korea's nuclear weapons program but those meetings had been discontinued.FULL STORY
By Holly Yan, CNN
President Barack Obama will ask Russia to join the United States in slashing its supply of strategic nuclear warheads by about one-third, a senior administration official said.
Obama will announce the goal during a speech Wednesday in Berlin - a city rife with Cold War history.
The president will also outline his goal to reduce U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, the official said. The president hopes to work with NATO allies on proposals toward that goal.
It's all part of Obama's "vision of achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," the official said.
"We will seek to negotiate these reductions with Russia to continue to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures," the official added.
Obama's speech will take place almost exactly 50 years after President John F. Kennedy delivered his "Ich bin ein Berliner" - or "I am a Berliner" - speech in the city that was divided by Western and Soviet occupations during the Cold War.FULL STORY
By Barbara Starr
In an unprecedented action, an Air Force commander has stripped 17 of his officers of their authority to control and launch nuclear missiles.
The 17 are being sent to undergo 60 to 90 days of intensive refresher training on how to do their jobs. The action comes after their unit performed poorly on an inspection and one officer was investigated for potential compromise of nuclear launch codes, according to Lt. Col. John Dorrian, an Air Force spokesman.
The story was first reported by The Associated Press.
The action was taken by the deputy commander of the 91st Operations Group, Lt. Col. Jay Folds, whose officers run launch control centers for the Minuteman III nuclear missiles from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.
By Pam Benson and Chris Lawrence
Despite the uproar over a disclosure this week of Pentagon intelligence concluding North Korea may be able to deliver a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile, it's not the first time the Defense Intelligence Agency has suggested Pyongyang had that capability.
Since 2005, two former DIA chiefs have raised the possibility during congressional testimony.
At a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing in April 2005, then-DIA director Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby acknowledged the possibility in response to a question about whether North Korea had the capability to put a nuclear device on a missile.
"The assessment is that they have the capability to do that," Jacoby said.