Iran’s nuclear program
Topic: GS –II: International relations
Iran announced that it will raise its enrichment of uranium, breaking another limit of its faltering 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and further heightening tensions between Tehran and the US.
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- Iran made the decision a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal. Iran has repeatedly warned Europe in recent weeks that it would begin walking away from an accord neutered by a maximalist American campaign of sanctions that blocked Tehran’s oil sales abroad and targeted its top officials.
THE NUCLEAR DEAL
- Iran struck the nuclear deal in 2015 with the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China. The deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
- Iran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium under the watch of U.N. inspectors in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
- President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise of tearing up the deal because it didn’t address Iran’s ballistic missile program or its involvement in regional conflicts, withdrew America from the accord in May 2018. That halted promised international business deals and dealt a heavy blow to Iran’s already anemic economy. In the time since, the Trump administration has said any country that imports Iranian crude will face U.S. sanctions.
IRAN’S NUCLEAR FACILITIES
- Natanz, in Iran’s central Isfahan province, hosts the country’s main uranium enrichment facility, located underground. Iran has one operating nuclear power plant in Bushehr, which it opened with Russia’s help in 2011. Under the accord, Iran reconfigured a heavy-water reactor so it couldn’t produce plutonium and agreed to convert its Fordo enrichment site – dug deep into a mountainside – into a research center. Iran said it may stop the heavy-water reactor reconfiguration. Tehran also operates an over 50-year-old research reactor in Tehran.
IRAN’S URANIUM STOCKPILE
- Under terms of the nuclear deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of low-enriched uranium. That’s compared to the 10,000 kilograms (22,046 pounds) of higher-enriched uranium it once had.
- Currently, the accord limits Iran to enriching uranium to 3.67%, which can fuel a commercial nuclear power plant. Weapons-grade uranium needs to be enriched to around 90%. However, once a country enriches uranium to around 20%, scientists say the time needed to reach 90% is halved. Iran previously has enriched to 20%. Iranian officials say they’ve quadrupled their production of low-enriched uranium and broke the 300-kilogram limit on July 1.
- A centrifuge is a device that enriches uranium by rapidly spinning uranium hexafluoride gas. Under the atomic accord, Iran has been limited to operating 5,060 older-model IR-1 centrifuges. The IR-1 is based on a 1970s Dutch design that Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan used to build Islamabad’s nuclear weapons program and later sold to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
- Iran has the technical ability to build and operate advanced versions called the IR-2M, IR-4 and IR-6 at Natanz, but is barred from doing so under the nuclear deal. Western experts have suggested these centrifuges produce three to five times more enriched uranium in a year than the IR-1s.
- Iran’s nuclear program actually began with the help of the United States. Under its “Atoms for Peace” program, America supplied a test reactor that came online in Tehran in 1967 under the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. That help ended once Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the shah.
- In the 1990s, Iran expanded its program, including buying equipment from A.Q. Khan. Among its activities, Iran “may have received design information” for a bomb and researched explosive detonators, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
- By August 2002, Western intelligence services and an Iranian opposition group revealed a covert nuclear site at Natanz. Iran to this day denies its nuclear program had a military dimension. Iran suspended enrichment in 2003 but resumed it three years later under hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. World powers imposed crippling U.N. sanctions in response. The Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to be a joint U.S.-Israeli creation, soon disrupted thousands of Iranian centrifuges.
- A string of bombings, blamed on Israel, targeted a number of scientists beginning in 2010 at the height of Western concerns over Iran’s program. Israel never claimed responsibility for the attacks, though Israeli officials have boasted in the past about the reach of the country’s intelligence services. Israel last year said it seized records from a “secret atomic archive” in Iran.
India to become a $5-trillion economy
Topic: GS -III: Economic Development
It is now clear that the main goal of the second Modi government will be to make India a $5-trillion economy by the end of this term.
What is the meaning of becoming a $5-trillion economy?
- Essentially the reference is to the size of an economy as measured by the annual gross domestic product or GDP. As a thumb rule, the bigger the size of the economy, the more prosperous it can be expected to be.
- The GDP of an economy is the total monetary value of all goods and services produced in an economy within a year. There are many ways to calculate a country’s GDP. You could aggregate the total production, or you could add up all the income earned by the people, or you could add up all the expenditure made by the entities (including government) in the economy. For most international comparisons, GDP is calculated via the production method (that is, adding up the value-added at each step) and the monetary value is arrived at by using current prices in US $.
- Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said during her Budget speech. In 2014, India’s GDP was $1.85 trillion. Today it is $2.7 trillion and India is the sixth-largest economy in the world.
Are Indians the sixth-richest people in the world?
- That India is the sixth-largest economy does not necessarily imply that Indians are the sixth-richest people on the planet. The GDP is the first and most rudimentary way to keep score among economies. If one wants to better understand the wellbeing of the people in an economy, one should look at GDP per capita. In other words, GDP divided by the total population. This gives a better sense of how an average resident of an economy might be fairing.
Can India achieve the target by 2024?
- The answer would depend essentially on the assumption about economic growth. If India grows at 12% nominal growth (that is 8% real GDP growth and 4% inflation), then from the 2018 level of $2.7 trillion, India would reach the 5.33 trillion mark in 2024.
- However, there’s a glitch. Last year, India grew by just 6.8%. This year, most observers expect it to grow by just 7%. So India must keep growing at a rapid pace to attain this target.
Telling Numbers: Road accidents
Topic: GS –II: Governance
- Road accidents in India killed between 1.46 lakh and 1.5 lakh people every year between 2015 and 2017, data tabled by the government in Parliament show. This works out to a daily average of 400 or more deaths in each of the three years.
- The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways presented the data in reply to a question about the number of accidents on national highways and expressways. It said it analyses data for all roads, including national highways and expressways.
- The ministry also presented state-wise data. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of deaths in road accidents in each of the three years, followed by Tamil Nadu. Together, these two states accounted for nearly one-fourth of all such deaths in the country in 2016 and 2017.
Plan for district eco-panels draws fire
Topic: GS-III: Environment
State-level officers tasked with environmental assessment have objected to several clauses in a draft law that proposes the creation of district-level environment impact assessment authorities.
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- The proposed Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2019, makes the District Magistrate (DM) the chairperson of an expert authority, or the District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA), that will accord environment clearance for “minor” mining
- The EIA 2019 aims to be an update of the EIA 2006. This document prescribes the environment clearance process whereby developers of infrastructure projects that have the potential to significantly alter or impact forests, river basins or other ecologically sensitive regions seek permission from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and experts appointed by it.
- While expert committees constituted by the MoEF appraise projects, those below a certain size are appraised by State-level authorities called the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).
- On March 2016, the Ministry further delegated the authority to grant clearances for up to five hectares of individual mining lease of minor minerals and 25 hectares in clusters, to the DEIAA.
- Several provisions in the EIA 2006 over the years have been challenged in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and led to the MoEF modifying rules. The EIA 2019 aims to be an update that accommodates all these revisions.
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