1. Life span extension of Russian reactors causes concern in Europe
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The primary question of the hearing was raised by its title "Another Chernobyl Waiting to Happen?ï¿½ and it was widely attended by European Commission (EC) representatives, Members of European Parliament (MEPs) and NGOs to discuss the implications of the dangerous life-span extensions for Russian reactors. Among those reactors being granted extensions include the fatally flawed Chernobyl-style RBMK reactor.
Sergii Mirnyi, a liquidator who took part in cleaning up the aftermath of the 1986 explosion at Chernobyl, shared his still vivid impressions of the accident 20 years after the fact. One can argue about the direct health implications of the incident, said Mirnyi, but no one can dispute the psychological effects. In the days following the explosion, the 45,000 residents of Pripyatï¿½where the bulk of Chernobylï¿½s workers livedï¿½were evacuated for a period of what they were told would be three days.
It was not until three months had passed that a handful of residents whose homes had not been too highly contaminated were let back in to collect some of their belongings from houses that, in many cases, had been looted. The remainder of Pripyatï¿½s citizens were never allowed to return, and the remaining ruins of Pripyat stand as a ghost of the Soviet past.
Russian nuclear power plants
Today, Russia operates 10 nuclear power plants with a total of 31 reactor units, including 11 RBMK reactors. Nuclear power supplies approximately 16 percent of country's energy needs. All nuclear power stationsï¿½except for the Bilbino Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in far eastern Siberiaï¿½are located in the European part of Russia.
The governmentï¿½s current nuclear expansion plan suggests building up to 40 new reactor units by 2040. But for the time being, the plan is lagging behind. During the past five years, only two reactor units have been put into operationï¿½although five were planned.
Each reactor unit costs around EUR 1 billion to build and commission. Russia, therefore, has to attract up to EUR 40 billion in investment during the coming years to fulfill its nuclear expansion plan. Russiaï¿½s government connected natural gas giant Gazprom is one likely cash cow to milk to foot this bill.
But the gas monopolyï¿½s managers are sceptical. They say nuclear power plants are ineffective, expensive, and difficult to run. However, if the question is taken out of the realm of practicality and put into the arena of politics, Gazprom will have no choice but to obey the received wisdom of the Kremlin.
Spinning out of service
Eleven of the 31 reactor units operating in Russia surpassed their 30-year engineered life span in 2006, and taking them out of service is no easy task. If these reactors had been decommission on schedule, it would have reduced the current output of the Russian nuclear energy sector by one third, creating social tensions in the regions where nuclear power plants are the core of economical activity. The ensuing cash crash in these regions would have required huge cash infusions into the communities affected. At a less crucial level, it would also have sapped Russiaï¿½s knowledge and expertise in running nuclear power plants.
New lease on life
Having considered these consequences, Russia decided to breathe new life into its aging reactors.
Operational life span extension work was completed on seven first generation reactor units by 2005, allowing them to operate for another 15 years. Twelve more units will receive life span extensions by 2013. Second generation reactors will get an even better bargain. Their life spans will be extended for 20 years as they are considered to be safer than first generation reactors.
According to Bellonaï¿½s Alexander Nikitin, who heads the organisationï¿½s St. Petersburg office, the disturbing question of Russian reactor life-span extensions gives the EU full rights to question Russian nuclear policy.
Isidro Lopez Arcos, principal administrator for the EC's Directorate General of External Relations, said the commission attempted to get a commitment from Russia to shut down first generation reactors. A working group between the EC and Russian authorities was even established to explore different ways of reaching this agreement. The group has held several meetings since 2001, and an incentive package of Euratom loans to finish new reactors under construction in Russia in exchange for Moscowï¿½s commitment to shut down its first generation reactors. The Russians rejected the compromise.
Yet the EC continues to explore new possibilities and compromises. One opening for leverage may come when Russia joins the Western European electrical grid, meaning that a level environmental and nuclear safety playing field between Europe and Russia would have to be adopted.
Life-span extensions are unsafe, economically impractical and illegal
Bellona has analysed Russian extension practices and concluded that Russian authorities have overlooked a significant number of important points while making the decision to bandage their aging reactors.
First, the practice is inherently unsafe. During extension works on a reactor unit, some components are replaced or repaired. But there are vital parts, such as the reactor vessel, which are not feasible to replace. At some nuclear power plants, the deterioration of the reactor vessel is a key safety factor that remains unresolved.
Second, an infrastructure for managing the additional volumes of radioactive waste that will be produced by reactors receiving life-span extensions has to be in place, and so far, the Russian government has remained mum on this point. The requirement for a better system for dealing with spent nuclear fuel (SNF) is especially acute for RBMK reactors, whose fuel cannot be reprocessed and, as a consequence, piles up in storage facilities on site.
Third, extending reactor life-spans is also expensive. For some reactors, the price tag for performing the process is as much as half the cost of building a new reactor. To make life-span extension economically viable, extension costs should not exceed one-third the price tag of building a new reactor form scratch.
Finally, the whole process of reactor life span extension, as it has been practiced so far, is illegal under Russian law. Russian legislation requires state environmental impact assessments of these projects to extend engineered life-spans. Yet none of the reactors that have received life span extensions has undergone any kind of state environmental expert assessment.
Valery Ryzhov, who is responsible for energy issues in the Russian delegation to the EU, said that nuclear regulatory authorities are in place in Russia, and that the EU has no cause to worry. He also said that Russian reactors designs are as safe as any western prototype.
Nikitin replied that in today's Russiaï¿½in the environment of President Vladimir Putinï¿½s power verticalï¿½all the key decisions about the nuclear industry are taken on a political level.
"If a Russian regulator was told to extend the life-span (of a reactor), they will do so regardless of whether it is safe or not, and regardless of the formal procedures," Nikitin said.
Bellonaï¿½s Russian Programme Director Nils Bï¿½hmer said: "What we try to achieve with this discussion, at the absolute minimum, is making Russia follow its own regulations." making the statement that life-span extensions be carried out by conducting legislatively required state environmental evaluations.
"We should work to ensure that the Russian civil society is involved in this process," MEP Harms said. Yet, so far, there have been no public hearings about the life extension practices.
In summary, the hearings concluded by saying that the system already in place in Russia should work off paper as well as on. It is impossible to prevent accidents, participants in the hearing agreed, but it is possible to greatly mitigate the possibilities for mishaps if only the controlling functions of both regulators and civil society are in place.
1. Iran refuses to halt enrichment despite sanctions moves
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Iran flatly refused to suspend uranium enrichment despite moves at the UN Security Council to draft a sanctions resolution against it for failing to halt the sensitive nuclear work.
"The suspension is completely unacceptable and we have rejected it," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters. "It has no place in Iran's peaceful nuclear programme."
His comments marked an unequivocal refusal from Tehran to back down in the face of pressure to suspend uranium enrichment, a process which the West fears could be diverted towards making nuclear weapons.
"The greatest sanction would be for a generation to deprive its own people and future generations of nuclear technology," he added.
In a meeting late on Friday, representatives of the five UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany agreed to discuss sanctions against Tehran after it failed to suspend sensitive uranium enrichment operations.
Senior US official Nicholas Burns said the so-called "5+1" group would start drafting this week a sanctions resolution, although he admitted finding a consensus on the extent of punitive measures would be difficult.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also maintained his defiant stance, brushing off the intensifying moves to impose sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran is interested in talks and negotiations, and resorting to the language of force and threats will have no results with Iran," official media quoted him as saying.
Ahmadinejad also said in a meeting with his cabinet that Western powers "intend to achieve their aims through intimidation and threats".
"But our people are strong, wise and steadfast, and will not back down on their rightful position," he added, according to the ISNA news agency.
General Yahya Rahim Safavi, head of the Revolutionary Guards, warned that "in this sensitive situation we have to be ready to confront the probable foreign threats," ISNA also reported.
Alaedin Borujerdi, the head of parliament's foreign affairs committee, said any hasty measures by the West would spark "as a consequence a reaction by the parliament and national security council."
However the momentum towards imposing some kind of UN sanctions regime on Tehran appears strong after the London meeting, which gathered US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and top diplomats from the five other countries.
In a statement issued by host Britain, the group agreed to discuss sanctions and lamented Tehran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, but insisted that the door remains open to negotiations if Tehran were to back down.
Burns, the US under secretary of state for political affairs, said that work on a new Security Council resolution under Article 41 of the UN charter, which allows for diplomatic and economic sanctions, would start next week.
It remains to be seen what kind of sanctions regime will be acceptable to Russia and China, which have both always insisted on the importance of a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Hosseini claimed the world powers were split over what action to take against Iran.
"Divisions have even appeared within the UN Security Council. With the policy of Iran's government, these divisions have become more apparent," he said.
Iran's insistence on its right to enrich uranium lies at the heart of the crisis. The process can be used to make nuclear fuel and, in highly extended form, the fissile core of an atomic bomb.
Tehran insists its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful energy needs, vehemently rejecting US allegations that it is seeking to manufacture nuclear weapons.
Rice has said the United States wants a graduated series of sanctions, to be implemented through multiple UN resolutions that would ramp up pressure on Iran if it persists with its nuclear work.
The first set of measures is expected to focus on preventing the supply of material and funding for Iran's nuclear or ballistic missile programmes.
Other steps could include asset freezes and travel bans on officials linked to possible Iranian weapons programmes
1. Iranian nuclear solution should involve IAEA - Russia's FM Lavrov
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Iran's nuclear issue should be settled through diplomacy and with the involvement of the UN nuclear watchdog, the Russian foreign minister said Monday.
In an article for the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Sergei Lavrov said: "Our principled stance is that it [the Iranian issue] should be resolved using diplomatic and political means only."
"All issues related to the Iranian nuclear program should be solved with the help of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]," he said.
Lavrov said Russia's position is shared by other nations involved in efforts to overcome the international standoff over Iran's nuclear program.
"Importantly, other participants in the talks [over Iran] speak out for a diplomatic solution, as well," he said.
Russia, along with the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, has been trying to have Iran suspend its uranium enrichment activities to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon. Earlier this year, the six countries offered Tehran a package of incentives to encourage suspension, but no deal on the proposal has been reached so far.
Lavrov reemphasized the importance of sustaining the nuclear non-proliferation regime, but said Iran is entitled to pursue a civilian nuclear program to satisfy its needs for energy.
"Iran has the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in accordance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA regulations."
Speaking about Russia's cooperation with Iran on a project to build a nuclear power plant in the port of Bushehr, Lavrov reiterated its "transparent character" and said "it is being carried out in strict compliance with the NPT and IAEA resolutions."
Last week, the United States and Britain renewed their calls for international sanctions against Iran after negotiations between the country's key nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana failed to produce any breakthrough. Russia, China and France, however, maintain their opposition to any punitive measures against Iran.
The Iranian foreign ministry responded Sunday by saying Tehran would not halt uranium enrichment, but expressed its willingness to continue talks with the international community.
"Negotiation is the best way," ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.
1. A test for Asia as Kim blasts a hole in the Bush doctrine
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"The United States of America will not allow the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most dangerous weapons." That ringing proclamation by President George W. Bush lies atthe heart of the "Bush doctrine", which took America to war in Iraq.It was made in the president's 2002 State of the Union address - the same speech in which he introduced the world to an "axis of evil" of three countries: Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
Almost five years on and the North Koreans' apparently successful test of a nuclear weapon has delivered what may be a final blow to the Bush doctrine. In the name of preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the US invaded Iraq - only to discover that it had no such weapons. But North Korea has successfully tested a nuclear weapon, in spite of the Bush doctrine. The third member of the "axis of evil", Iran, is pressing ahead with its own nuclear programme - and seems likely to be greatly heartened by North Korean success.
In spite of American declarations that it will not tolerate North Korea's nuclear programme, there seems little that the Bush administration can do in the short term. Tougher sanctions will be tried. It is difficult to persuade members of the nuclear weapons club to give up their nukes. Although the Bush administration will have to think about its military options, it seems highly unlikely that the Americans will launch military strikes, such as the bombing raids on North Korean missile-launch sites that some former Pentagon officials have suggested.
America needs its key allies in the region in this situation - and South Korea and Japan are likely to be deeply resistant to military action. More pragmatically, the Americans know that the limitations of North Korean missile technology mean that they are far less vulnerable to Kim Jong-il's bombs than are North Korea's immediate neighbours.
But if North Korea "gets away with it", Iran is likely to draw some conclusions that are very unwelcome to the US. The first lesson is that if a country can only get across the nuclear finishing line, it becomes much less vulnerable to military strikes. The second is that the Bush administration's talk of its implacable determination to prevent the spread of WMD to dangerous regimes is just that - talk.
Only last month - on the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 - Mr Bush reiterated his original pledge not to allow the world's most dangerous regimes to get access to WMD. He quoted Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the Iranian president, to illustrate the blood-curdling nature of the threat to the US. Indeed, it is the irrational and dictatorial nature of the current Iranian regime that lies at the heart of the case that is being made by those in Washington who are pressing for pre-emptive strikes against Iran.
Unfortunately, Mr Kim makes Mr Ahmadi-Nejad look like a model of sanity and lucidity. He has, on occasions, threatened to turn South Korea into a "sea of fire" and has even openly threatened to attack the US. It will be hard to make the case that it is too dangerous to tolerate an Iranian bomb if the US has already had to accept the reality of a nuclear North Korea.
Those American strategists who still want to go after Iran would probably respond that a nuclear Iran is potentially even more dangerous than a nuclear North Korea because the Iranians - backed by nuclear weapons and oil money - could turn themselves into an assertive regional superpower in a way that is just not imaginable for bankrupt, isolated North Korea. But that argument may be a little too sophisticated to save a Bush doctrine that was meant to be based on consistent, clear and easily understood principles.
The fact that the Bush administration has not come out of the North Korean debacle covered in glory does not mean that the other big players - China, Japan and South Korea - have done any better. On the contrary, South Korea's "sunshine policy" now looks wildly over-optimistic. Chinese prestige has suffered from its inability to control its North Korean neighbour, in spite of the fact that the Kim regime is utterly dependent on supplies of food and oil from its giant neighbour.
But one positive side-effect of the crisis is that it may now cause a convergence of views and a new determination among the major powers that are trying to deal with North Korea. Mr Kim's Asian neighbours seem likely to accept American urgings that the world should take a tougher line with North Korea. If the regional powers and the United Nations agree on a tough and unified response, that could yet send a useful lesson to Iran ï¿½ that the game of divide-and-rule can only go so far.
The North Korean nuclear test could also foster an important diplomatic rapprochement that is already under way in east Asia. Shinzo Abe, the new Japanese prime minister, has just completed a visit to Beijing - the first such visit by a Japanese leader in five years. Mr Abe then went on to the South Korean capital, Seoul, to try to patch up relations there - which have also suffered badly because of disagreements over Japanese attitudes to the second world war.
If China, Japan and South Korea can now form a useful working relationship, they will collectively be much better placed to deal with North Korea. Since it is the countries of the region that are most directly threatened by a nuclear North Korea, it makes sense for them to take the lead in fashioning a response. The US should certainly welcome any such development. For one lesson of the failure of the Bush doctrine in the Middle East is that efforts to de-fang "rogue states" are immeasurably complicated if they do not enjoy regional support.
Ronald Reagan, former US president, is said to have told Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet leader, that the differences between the US and the Soviet Union would pale into insignificance if the two countries were jointly faced with a threat from Mars. Mr Kim is as close to a Martian as anyone in world politics. If his nuclear posturing provokes the big powers in east Asia to bury some of their differences and work together on making the region more secure, the North Korean dictator may ultimately have done the world a favour.
North Korea has become the ninth nuclear power de facto, Russia's defense minister said Tuesday.
The reclusive Communist state announced Monday that it successfully detonated a nuclear device underground, in defiance of a UN Security Council statement urging it to give up its nuclear test plans and return to disarmament talks, and earlier warnings from the international community.
"North Korea has turned into the ninth nuclear power," Sergei Ivanov, who is also deputy prime minister, told journalists, adding that North Korea's nuclear test is a serious blow to the nuclear non-proliferation regime,
"Such events arouse justifiable fear and indignation," he said.
He said Russian experts have no doubt that the explosion was a nuclear one, but refused to give details.
"We have our secret methods, but I will not discuss them," he said
The minister said no dangerous substances in the atmosphere have yet been detected following North Korea's nuclear test.
"No traces of substances harmful to humans have been detected in the atmosphere," he said.
Ivanov said that Russian experts made a precise evaluation of the nuclear explosion's strength, without specifying the figure.
The Russian Defense Ministry put the figure at 5-15 kilotons of TNT equivalent Monday, while initial U.S. estimates were substantially lower.
3. North Korea has enough plutonium for up to seven bombs: intelligence
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North Korea is believed to have stored up to 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of plutonium, enough to make as many as seven nuclear bombs, South Korea's intelligence chief has been quoted as saying.
Kim Seung-Gyu, head of the National Intelligence Service, also reportedly told parliament that the North might carry out further nuclear tests following Monday's one.
"North Korea is believed to have stored some 30 to 40 kilograms of plutonium," he was quoted as telling parliament's intelligence committee on Monday.
Chung Hyung-Keun, an opposition Grand National Party lawmaker who serves on the committee, quoted the intelligence chief.
The 40 kilograms includes 10-12 kilograms that it had secured before it opened its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of Pyongyang, to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, Kim said.
"As one bomb needs five to six kilograms of plutonium, North Korea would be able to make up to seven atomic bombs," Chung told journalists.
"We cannot rule out the possibility of the North carrying out further nuclear tests as Pakistan, for example, carried out six nuclear tests," he said.
4. North Korean nuclear test met with worldwide condemnation - and a grain of scepticism
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The UN Security Council, whose permanent members include the United States, Russia, Great Britain, France, and China - North Koreaï¿½s closest ally -unanimously condemned the nuclear test within a half hour, said United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations John Bolton.
ï¿½Can you imagine ï¿½ it took the Security Council only 30 minutes to come back with a unanimous condemnation of the test,ï¿½ said Bolton. ï¿½That is certainly record time.ï¿½
The underground nuclear test has apparently been verified by various seismological institutions throughout the world, which registered differing levels of a strong vibration in the area of the Korean sub-continent at 10:36 a.m. Korean time (1:35 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time) Monday.
The United Nations (UN) Security Council was in emergency session within minutes of the news, diplomats told Bellona Web, and international condemnation of the apparent nuclear test rained in throughout on North Korea throughout the day not only form the Security Council members, but other European Nations, Japan and South Korea.
Chinaï¿½s condemnation holds special importance as Beijing does $2 billion worth of business with North Korea a year, which puts the country in a unique negotiating position. Yet, Pyongyong has refused to return to the six-party diplomatic talks with its Asian neighbours, Europe and the United States.
Timeline of events
The South Korean government informed officials in Washington that an explosion occurred seconds after it registered the vibrations. Minutes later, an effusively smiling anchorwoman with North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) made the almost surreal televised announcement of the test, calling it "a historical event that has brought our military and our people huge joy."
Kim Jong-il, North Korea's reclusive dictator, had no personally broadcast remarks on the blast. There are few biographical details available about him, aside from the fact that he was born to North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung, and inherited the reigns of power from him.
He is also said to be a fan of James Bond films and the "Friday the 13th" series. Official North Korean news sources also report that Kim Jong-il wrote 1,500 books during his college career, which would mean he was putting out more than one book a day.
The head of South Koreaï¿½s intelligence agency, Kim Seung-gyu, hinted that it was possible North Korea would soon carry out a second nuclear test in the near future, Seoulï¿½s Yonhap news agency quoted one South Korean lawmaker as saying.
The North Korean claim of the successful nuclear test, which was viewed by western nations with some scepticism this morning, became more and more veracious as various nations weighed in with their independent data.
Australian seismologists said they registered a tremor corresponding to the detonation of a one-kilotonne nuclear explosion. Russia reported a higher figure of five to 15 kilotonnes ï¿½ far higher that Australiaï¿½s measurements and equal, at worst, to the 15-kilotonne detonation that leveled Hiroshima. In all, the denotation reached 3.6 to 4.2 on Richter scales around the world.
By early late morning, diplomats said, the Security Council was already discussing sanctions against North Korea.
Ability to detonate rather than strength real message from Pyongyang
But Steven Albright, a former US weapons inspector, told Bellona Web in an interview that it was not so much the strength of the detonation but the fact of the detonation that was the real issue.
ï¿½They werenï¿½t testing to see if they could do it ï¿½ they already knew how to build a nuclear device,ï¿½ said Albright form Washington. ï¿½They did this to send a message that they are now capable of building weapons.ï¿½
But what kind of weapons North Korea can build, said Albright remains a ï¿½murky area.ï¿½ It is unlikely that North Korea possesses the technology to build a nuclear warhead that is light enough to fit on a missile, he said.
But North Korean has been buying and experimenting with missile technology from China for years, and could possibly build an airborne device that could hit Japan, though not the United States ï¿½ North Koreaï¿½s key enemy in the nuclear dispute.
Bush administrationï¿½s mistakes brought about nuclear test
According to Albright, the Administration of US President George Bush, Jr. made a serious error when it refused to extend talks with the already self-isolated North Korea. Further errors were made by the US administration when it began to pressure North Korea with threats of sanctions.
ï¿½When the United States refused talks, it put North Korea in a vacuum where it would have to make its own decisions,ï¿½ said Albright. But when the United States began to threaten sanctions, said Albright, ï¿½it drove Pyongyang crazy.ï¿½
Albright added that the international community knows that North Korea has enough separated plutonium to build from four to 13 nuclear weapons. A tour of North Koreaï¿½s nuclear facilities by the UNï¿½s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed this, said Albright.
ï¿½What remains unknown is how much plutonium they have separated and how much they have ready for nuclear weapons,ï¿½ Albright said.
Much of the North Korean nuclear know-how is suspected to have come from Abdul Qadeer Khan, the rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist who is suspected of selling nuclear secrets to many nations including Iran, Albright added.
But while Albright and the UN Security Council are treating this as the first true nuclear test since India and Pakistan both detonated atomic devices in May 1998, South Korean intelligence officials have voiced some doubt.
According to anonymous South Korean sources, the same vibrations could have been caused by detonating several thousand tonnes of TNT in the spot where international seismologists detected the tremours. Furthermore the South Korean government reported no rise in its standard background radiation after the North Korean explosion took place.
But that expected rise in radiation could be some hours in the coming as the test was conducted underground, said Albright. Furthermore, other states, acting on their own intelligence, have issued round condemnations of what they term a nuclear weapons test.
This suggested to Security Council diplomats interviewed for this article that Seoulï¿½s intelligence was acting more on hope than on fact.
John Senssor, former US Ambassador to China, who had frequent interactions with North Korea, said the test was carried out because ï¿½North Korea was sick of being lumped into the vague category as a member of the ï¿½axis of evilï¿½ and wants to be taken seriously as a nuclear threat.
The North Korean diplomatic mission to the UN said that, rather than condemning North Korea, the west should celebrate its scientific achievement.
ï¿½The United States should stop its ridiculous accusations and celebrate the DPRKï¿½s (Democratic Peoplesï¿½ Republic of Koreaï¿½s) scientific advances,ï¿½ a member of North Koreaï¿½s diplomatic mission to the UN told Bellona Web.
But the celebrations are not on the calendar of any Security Council nations.
The international denunciations roll in
Bush condemned the North Korean claim by condemning it as ï¿½a volatile act.ï¿½ He added that North Korea ï¿½has defied the desires of the international community and the international community will react.ï¿½
Chinese authorities immediately condemned the test. North Korea "has ignored the widespread opposition of the international community and conducted a nuclear test brazenly on October 9," China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its Web site. "The Chinese government is firmly opposed to this."
In its condemnation of the test, China said it would consider sanctions that would be devastating to North Korea. China is responsible for half of the food aid to the hermetic country and almost all of its oil imports.
Russiaï¿½s President Vladimir Putin also condemned the tests saying: ï¿½Russia deplores the acts of North Korea and its assertions because the country is now an added hazard to nuclear non-proliferation.
But the leader of the nation that fears a nuclear North Korea the most spoke out strongly during a visit to Seoul today.
In a news conference in South Koreaï¿½s capitol, visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the possession of nuclear weapons by North Korea "greatly threatens the northeast Asian region" and the rest of the world. Combined with North Korea's development of longer-range ballistic missiles, he said, the testing of a nuclear weapon constitutes a "major threat" that extends "beyond northeast Asia."
"We are now in a new era of nuclear threat," Abe said after meeting with South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun. "This North Korean nuclear test is a great challenge to us, and the international community must take a firm stand on this challenge." He said discussions are underway on "strict actions" in response, but he declined to elaborate.
Roh said the test was "unacceptable." He said South Korea would react "sternly and calmly."
According to Iranian diplomatic sources, who spoke with Bellona web on the condition of anonymity, Tehran is carefully monitoring the North Korean situation, especially as it relates to Washingtonï¿½s reaction.
ï¿½So far ï¿½ as in the past ï¿½ we have heard blustery rhetoric, but no plan of action against (Pyongyang)ï¿½ said an Iranian nuclear official who asked his name not be use on the grounds that he is not allowed to discuss the North Korean situation.
ï¿½The same rhetoric applies to the Islamic Republic, but the US is looking for any excuse to pull the trigger on us. This has not been the case with North Korea, which now has proven weapons capabilities.ï¿½
The United Nations security council will almost certainly go into emergency session to discuss a resolution imposing severe sanctions against North Korea, after the country announced today it had conducted its first-ever nuclear weapons test.
The security council normally moves at glacial speed but can respond quickly when faced with a crisis that threatens international stability.
A resolution adopted in July introduced only limited sanctions against North Korea in response to a series of missile launches. At the time the council called on the country to rejoin talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to drop its nuclear weapons ambitions; a demand it immediately rejected.
The timing of the test could be linked to the security council's scheduled meeting today to select Ban Ki-moon, the South Korean foreign minister, as the next UN secretary general. The North Korean leadership would have been unhappy at the choice of its southern neighbour for such a high-profile international post.
Mr Ban, due to take over on January 1, would have the job of policing sanctions and trying to restart negotiations, a task that would be made more difficult by his nationality.
The security council is in a dilemma over sanctions. There will be a reluctance to impose blanket measures against North Korea after the suffering endured by the Iraqi people during 12 years of widespread sanctions. Given the parlous state of the North Korean economy, such a sweeping regime would be even more damaging, with much of the population already close to the breadline.
Bruised by the Iraq experience, the west has argued that while blanket sanctions might not work, targeting them was effective against Libya. A ban on the export of oil technology and general international isolation helped persuade Libya to voluntarily abandon its albeit limited nuclear programme, according to the British and US governments.
But targeted sanctions would have little impact on North Korea, whose government is already so isolated - and its leadership not given to travel - that it is difficult to envisage what punitive measures would have an effect.
The one country that stands a chance of bringing North Korea round is China. Pyongyang is dependent on China for much of its fuel and food. But Beijing would be reluctant to turn that supply off not only because of the suffering it would cause but because it could result in an exodus from North Korea, with starving people streaming across the border into China.
The crisis presents another challenge for the already troubled UN. Failure to bring North Korea back into talks and abandon its weapons programme will underline again its overall weakness, and the pressure is already on.
Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said: "We expect the UN security council to take immediate actions to respond to this unprovoked act. The United States is closely monitoring the situation and reaffirms its commitment to protect and defend our allies in the region."
John Howard, the Australian prime minister, said bluntly it was a test for the UN.
The South Korean presidential spokesman, Yoon Tae-young, said: "Our government will sternly react under the principle that it cannot tolerate the North's possession of nuclear weapons."
South Korea suspended an aid shipment to the North scheduled for tomorrow.
6. U.S. Leadership with China, South Korea and Japan Key to Containing Nuclear Chain Reaction
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
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Without prompt, effective, leadership by the United States in response to the reported nuclear test by North Korea on October 8, two other consequences could follow: regionally, a nuclear chain reaction could take place in the form of an arms race, or, internationally, Iran could take a cue to be more provocative in the nuclear arena.
The most important thing is for the United States to take the lead in involving Japan, South Korea and China in very intensive diplomacy about how all of the major powers in Northeast Asia can avoid the temptation to engage in an arms race which will exacerbate fears of a nuclear confrontation in the region. Given that some people perceive that Japan's new leadership might wish to reconsider Japan's nuclear policy, it is vitally important that the United States lead an intense and sustained effort with Japan, South Korea and China to clarify each other's intentions and policies in ways that avoid any nuclear competition. These countries must take up the difficult task of determining what is the new objective toward North Korea -- is it to dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons program, to limit the size of its arsenal, to limit its capacity to deliver its weapons on missiles, to prevent further proliferation of nuclear materials or technology to other states or terrorist groups, to isolate them further or to change the existing regime?
If it is concluded that the North Korean test was a technical failure, it is absolutely imperative that the United Nations Security Council take every step conceivable to prevent North Korea from testing again. As with its missile test, failure may make North Korea more determined to recoup its lost face by trying again. North Korea is a country that has chosen to isolate itself throughout most of its history. As a result, when it wants something from the United States and other countries, North Korea becomes incrementally more aggressive. It does the same when it also feels frustrated and threatened. This test is a signal of them wanting something and feeling frustrated.
China is a key actor because it provides the resources on which the North Korean elite depend for their own comfort. Stepped up efforts from the South Koreans and Japanese will be equally important as they will influence China's own calculations. Therefore, China, South Korea and Japan have to decide how hard they are willing to work to prevent North Korea from doing this again. The United States and China will have to work together to identify a common bottom line. With China's tough response and a restrained reaction from the United States, there may be an opportunity to do that as both parties move towards the middle.
As for the Iranian implications of the North Korean test, Iranian hardliners will be watching to see whether there is any effective international reaction against North Korea. It is crucial that Russia and China especially, due to their involvement in the North Korean talks and as veto wielding members of the Security Council, make sure that whatever signal is sent to North Korea is one that inspires caution within Iran.
Having calm, focused diplomacy thinking about the long-term is critical now. Working to build a cooperative front, and being careful to avoid knee-jerk Congressional action here in the United States, is vital to maintaining a constructive and effective course of action. The United States and other nuclear weapon states must pay more attention to steps they could take to prevent a chain reaction of other countries conducting nuclear weapon tests; now is the time for far-sighted, collaborative, and smart policies to prevent the further spread and use of nuclear weapons.
1. Radiation in Russia normal after N. Korean nuclear test - agency
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Radiation levels in the Primorye Territory in Russia's Far East are normal following an apparently successful North Korean nuclear test, a regional environment monitoring agency said Tuesday.
Pyongyang's claim that it detonated a nuclear device underground on Monday has met with unanimous international condemnation, and a draft UN Security Council resolution has been drawn up by the United States pressing for sanctions against the reclusive communist state, with which Russia shares a small border.
A spokesman for the agency in the Russian Pacific region said: "As of October 10, the background radiation level in the south of the Primorye Territory bordering North Korea is 10-11 microroentgen/hour. The maximum permissible background radiation level established in Russia is 20 microroentgen/hour."
He said the agency would continue collecting air samples to be analyzed for radioactivity for at least a week.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said Tuesday that his country has also been monitoring radiation levels, and so far has detected no major changes.
North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003, and in February 2005 announced it had acquired nuclear weapons. Some experts, however, questioned the claim.
Negotiations involving six nations - North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States - seek to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear program. Talks began in 2003, but stalled last November.
Mediators proposed building a nuclear reactor for North Korea if it abandoned its nuclear program, but Pyongyang said it wants the reactor first and will then give up its nuclear research.
At the latest round of talks in September, 2005, North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees, but later refused to return to the negotiating table until Washington lifted financial sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for its alleged involvement in counterfeiting and other illegal activities.
2. Russia condemns N. Korean nuclear test, urges talks
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Russia joined international condemnation of North Korea's reported test of a nuclear weapon Monday, saying it undermined global non-proliferation efforts, poses a security threat, and dramatically changes the balance of power in the region.
South Korean news agency Yonhap, citing the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), said that Pyongyang had conducted an underground nuclear test in defiance of a UN Security Council statement urging it to give up nuclear test plans and return to disarmament talks, and earlier international warnings.
"Russia absolutely condemns the test in North Korea, which has inflicted great damage to the non-proliferation process," Russian President Vladimir Putin said, also urging the Communist regime to return to the six-nation talks.
North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States have been engaged in talks on the nuclear issue since 2003, discussing aid and security guarantees for the secretive regime in exchange for a renunciation of its nuclear program. But talks stalled last November over Pyongyang's demands that the U.S. lift sanctions imposed on it for its alleged involvement in counterfeiting and other illegal activities.
Putin instructed the Foreign Ministry to hold consultations in the UN Security Council.
The Foreign Ministry earlier Monday summoned North Korea's ambassador to voice concerns about the move, which it said could provoke a nuclear arms race in northeast Asia.
"This step, made in defiance of all appeals from the international community, threatens a further escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula, undermines the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and sets a precedent for a nuclear arms race in northeast Asia," the ministry said in a statement following a meeting with the Korean diplomat.
Mikhail Kamynin, Foreign Ministry spokesman, reiterated Russia's stance, saying that no matter what the motivation, such a step would only aggravate problems on the Korean peninsula. He said it was a threat to security and stability in the region and the world.
Russia's lawmakers shared the president and ministers' position on the nuclear tests.
A senior member of Russia's lower house of parliament said the nuclear test demonstrated North Korea's defiance of signals from the international community, but added that it was unclear how near the country was to producing nuclear weapons.
Russia's defense minister and deputy prime minister confirmed Pyongyang's first ever nuclear test since it withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003, and announced it had developed nuclear weapons in 2005. Sergei Ivanov said the power of the nuclear device tested was equivalent to 5,000-15,000 tons of TNT.
"We know the exact site of the test," Ivanov said, adding that the environmental situation was normal, including in the Primorye Territory bordering on North Korea. "But we will continue monitoring."
Konstantin Kosachev of the State Duma's international committee said the test had "drastically changed the situation on the Korean peninsula, and affects the interests of Russia, which borders on North Korea."
"The test is the most undesirable result of the efforts made within the six-nation talks to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear program," he said.
A fellow MP echoed his concerns, saying the test poses a threat to Russia.
"We do not need another state possessing nuclear weapons on Russia's border," said Mikhail Grishankov, deputy head of the State Duma's Security Committee, adding that reports of a nuclear test were very alarming.
But Kosachev implicated the United States for the latest developments, saying the decision to pressure North Korea instead of focusing on talks was to blame, and said that further economic sanctions against the impoverished country were not needed.
North Korea, which relies heavily on foreign aid, is already under limited UN Security Council sanctions imposed in July after it conducted missile launches, widely interpreted as an attempt to force the six negotiators, especially the U.S., to make concessions in talks.
A member of the Russian Federation Council, the upper chamber of parliament, in charge of international affairs moved to explain Russia's more 'moderate' position on the matter, saying Pyongyang was not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and international legal instruments could not therefore be applied to the country.
Mikhail Margelov said Russia's position is "somewhere between Washington's threats and Beijing's so-far verbal condemnations."
Pyongyang's ally, China has strongly protested the test, saying it had sought a nuclear-free Korea. The United States has demanded new sanctions against Pyongyang, but said it would not respond to the test militarily.
North Korea said the nuclear test was a success, and it would help maintain peace and stability in the region.
"The nuclear test was carried out 100% using our own technology," the KCNA reported.
1. Defense bill backs MOX program, with conditions on DOE spending
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Congress in September passed an authorization bill expressing qualified support for the construction of a facility to make reactor fuel out of US surplus weapons plutonium. The language on the mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel fabrication facility is part of the fiscal 2007 National Defense Authorization Act and adds another element to a House-Senate debate over funding for construction of the plant.
In its version of the FY-07 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, the House provided no funding for the plant, which is a centerpiece of DOE's plutonium disposition program. The full Senate has not approved its version of the appropriations bill, but the Senate Appropriations Committee has endorsed a bill that would give the project $325 million, $35 million above the Bush administration's request.
The defense authorization bill passed last month sets the funding level at $264. million. But the report accompanying the bill establishes a number of preconditions for any FY-07 spending on the program. The Secretary of Energy must obtain an "independent cost estimate" for the surplus materials disposition program, of which the MOX project is a part, and must develop a "corrective action plan" for the issues raised by a December 2005 DOE Inspector General report.
That report found that the projected cost of the MOX plant had tripled in three years, in part because of weak management by DOE and Duke Cogema Stone & Webster, the consortium the department hired to build the plant at the department's Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Since then, there have been changes in the project, including new personnel at the top levels of DCS, as the consortium is known, and a renegotiated DOE-DCS contract.
Under the defense bill language, the secretary also must certify that DOE intends to use the MOX facility for US plutonium disposition regardless of the fate of an analogous project in Russia. A key hurdle to the Russian project was removed last month when the US and Russia signed a protocol providing liability indemnification for US government employees and contractors working in Russia, but officials from both countries acknowledge that other obstacles remain.
The defense-bill language reverses a long-standing congressional directive that the US and Russian programs should move in rough parallel. Linton Brooks, the head of DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration -- the section of DOE that is responsible for the disposition program -- and Senator Pete Domenici, the New Mexico Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that controls the funding for the program, have both publicly supported such a "de-linking" of the US and Russian programs.
The defense bill, like the House and Senate appropriations bills, provides no funding for the Russian program. The administration had requested $35 million for that effort.
Nikolai Spassky, the deputy head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, said that Russia was "not shirking" its obligations under its disposition program. One complication has been financing, he said. The Russians have long held the position that the US and other international donors should subsidize not only the construction but also the operation of the Russian MOX plant.
There also have been "unforeseen technical problems," he said October 3 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. The "practical implementation" of the "proposed MOX technology" has been "much more complicated than originally envisaged," he said. The "transfer" of the technology has been "quite complicated," he said.
Russia was to build a MOX plant that was a "Russianized" version of the DCS facility, which in turn is based on French technology for LWR MOX fuel fabrication. But, after years of little or no progress, the US and Russia are discussing alternatives, including fast reactors, for Russia's disposition job.
Representative Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican who strongly supports the MOX project, said through his press office that he hoped the conditions imposed by the defense bill would not slow down the project. Wilson "plans to work with the Georgia and South Carolina delegations in urging the DOE to provide the information as quickly as possible," spokeswoman Kimberly Olive said.
An aide to Representative John Spratt said that he still hoped the appropriators would provide the full administration request but that the defense-bill provision represents "a very reasonable compromise" and could serve as a basis for agreement between the House and Senate appropriators. Like Wilson, Spratt, a South Carolina Democrat, is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
The final defense-bill figure is $90 million higher than the one in the House-passed bill. The Senate authorizers had provided full funding. The language establishing conditions is very similar to a provision in the House bill.
A long-time observer and supporter of the MOX program said there recently has been a "studied effort" by the administration to "reverse what appeared to be a seriously deteriorating situation" in Congress, as well in talks with the Russians.
2. Belarus warns Lithuania on nuclear storage site near border
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Belarus is ready to get involved in building a nuclear storage facility in Lithuania, but is opposed to its location near the country's border, President Alexander Lukashenko said Saturday.
Lithuania's Ignalina nuclear power plant, scheduled to be shut down by 2009, is similar to the one in Chernobyl, Ukraine, where the world's worst nuclear accident happened in 1986. Lithuania's prime minister said in early September it will build a new nuclear power plant to resolve an energy crisis expected in 2009 and meet the European Union's nuclear safety requirements.
"Belarus is ready to get involved economically, diplomatically and financially to address the matter of building a nuclear waste storage facility in Lithuania," Lukashenko said, adding his country was against the site being built near the Belarusian border.
He said Lithuania was going to build a facility to store nuclear waste from the Ignalina NPP five kilometers from the Belarusian-Lithuanian border.
"We have enough leverage to ensure that the facilities are not built near the Belarusian border," he said. "The decision to build [it] should be made by taking into account the interests of other states."
He said he hoped the two countries will resolve the issue "in a civilized manner."
Lithuania and Estonia dismissed earlier media reports that the Baltic states would build a joint storage facility for nuclear waste in Estonia.
Local media cited Estonian MEP Andres Tarand as saying that his Lithuanian counterparts had repeatedly suggested that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania would share responsibility for storing nuclear waste. The three Baltic states agreed to build a nuclear power plant in Lithuania by 2015.
A rupture in a heating device at Bulgaria's only nuclear plant caused a leak of radioactive solution, but the spill did not result in any contamination, plant management said Monday.
An early estimate by plant management showed that it was a zero-level event under the zero-to-seven International Nuclear Event Scale, which means it was of no safety significance.
The leak was registered Saturday at one of the plant's two 1,000-megawatt units, which had been taken off-line for annual maintenance, the plant said in a statement.
``No radioactive contamination has been established in the turbine hall, at the plant's site or outside of it,'' the statement said. ``There is no contamination of staff.''
The head of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, Sergei Tsochev, said his experts would to investigate the incident at the plant, located 125 miles north of Sofia.
Bulgaria agreed with the European Union in 1999 to close the two oldest reactors in the Kozlodui nuclear power plant by the end of this year because of safety concerns. Bulgaria is expected to become an EU member in 2007.
The two newer 1,000-megawatt reactors are to stay running until the next decade.
1. India demands tangible steps for nuclear weapons free world
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India has demanded multilateral negotiations on prohibiting development, production and stockpiling of nuclear weapons as also destruction of current atomic arsenals for their "global, non-discriminatory and verifiable" elimination within a specified timeframe.
In a working paper on nuclear disarmament presented to the United Nations General Assembly, India affirmed its commitment to a nuclear weapons free world and asked the nuclear weapons states to "unequivocally" pledge progressive downsizing of stockpiles leading to complete disarmament.
The possibility of terrorists and other non state actors acquiring the weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons and "dirty bombs", has added a new dimension and urgency to nuclear disarmament, it said.
India also asks nuclear weapons states to take measures to reduce nuclear danger, including the risks of accidental nuclear war by de-alerting of nuclear weapons.
Pointing out that non-nuclear states have persistently sought legally-binding assurances, it called for "universal and legally binding" agreement on non-use of nuclear weapons against non nuclear weapons states and convention on complete prohibition of use or threat of use nuclear weapons.
India also offered to join multilateral negotiations to enshrine the commitment of "no-first" use of and non use of nuclear weapons against non nuclear weapons states in legally binding agreements.
"An agreement among the states possessing nuclear weapons on a global 'no-first-use' posture will engender stability and reduce danger of the accidental or unintended use of nuclear weapons," said the paper presented yesterday.
The paper said that international efforts in nuclear disarmament would yield tangible results only when they are backed by international consensus.
Recognizing that goal of complete elimination of atomic weapons cannot be achieved till states possessing them continue to believe that they constitute a crucial element of their security strategy, the paper called for reducing salience of nuclear weapons in strategic and security doctrine and policies.
This, it said, is essential, for realizing the goal. "Alignment of nuclear doctrines to a posture of 'no-first-use' and 'non-use' against non-nuclear weapon states by all nuclear weapon states will be an important steps towards achieving the objective."
Stressing that nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation are mutually reinforcing, the paper demanded an "effective, credible and comprehensive" system of export controls which does not hinder "legitimate application" of science and technology for peaceful and development purposes.
Non-proliferation polices, the Indian working paper emphasized, must also be forward looking so as to allow for expansion of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy for the states desiring to increase their share of nuclear power as a non polluting energy source.
The paper is mainly based on the proposals presented by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to the UN General Assembly in 1988. The international community, it said, succeeded in negotiating conventions on total elimination of biological and chemical weapons and there is no reason why nuclear weapons cannot be eliminated in the same manner.
A prohibition on the first use of nuclear weapons would be essential for their eventual elimination.
The international community is far from achieving the objective of total elimination of nuclear weapons though some progress has been made with Russia and the United States taking steps to reduce their arsenals, the paper said.
However, not only the global threat has not subsided but another dimension has been added with possibility of terrorists and non state actors acquiring such arms.
The international security situation is still characterized by lack of trust and political will amongst states to make progress towards complete elimination of nuclear weapons, it stressed.
The paper listed various initiatives taken by India over years. In 1954, New Delhi called for a ban on nuclear testing. In 1965, India presented a proposal for non discriminatory treaty on non-proliferation predicated on steps towards elimination of weapons of mass destruction. In 1976, New Delhi negotiations for an international convention that would prohibit the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons and 1982, India called for nuclear freeze.
In 1988, Rajiv Gandhi presented an action plan which called for eliminations of nuclear weapons in a time bound programme.
In this context, the paper pointed out that the UN general assembly, in its very first resolution adopted unanimously in 1946, sought the elimination, from national armaments, of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction and to use of atomic energy only for peaceful purposes, a goal that has been reaffirmed by it on several occasions.
1. Russia keen to expand nuclear cooperation with India
Indo-Asian News Service
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Russia, an influential member of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), has said it is keen to expand civilian nuclear cooperation with India, but underlined that issues regarding the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the NSG regime needed to be resolved to accelerate the process.
'We are keen to expand our activity in the nuclear sector with India. The enhancement of bilateral peaceful nuclear cooperation is also in the interest of our countries,' Russian ambassador to India Vyacheslav I. Trubnikov said at a seminar in Chandigarh.
'Russia is ready to interact in this sphere provided it will not violate Russia's existing international obligations,' he said as he alluded to the Kudankulam nuclear power project being built in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu with Russian help.
'However, the concrete prospects and possibilities of such cooperation are closely geared to resolving the issues related to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the NSG regime,' he said.
Nearly seven months ago, Moscow agreed to supply 60 tonnes of uranium to bail out fuel-starved Tarapur reactors in the teeth of the American objections. The decision was announced during the visit of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to India in March.
India and Russia also decided to expand civil nuclear energy and space cooperation between them during Fradkov's visit that came close on the heels of India and the US sealing a landmark civilian nuclear accord based on New Delhi's plan of the separation of its civilian and military nuclear facilities.
Moscow's decision to supply fuel for the Tarapur plant had upset Washington, which opposed the fuel supply on the grounds that it violated the NSG guidelines.
New Delhi had defended the move saying that the fuel was being sought under safety exception clause of the NSG guidelines, and, therefore, did not constitute a violation of the NSG guidelines.
The NSG is expected to take a final call on adjusting its guidelines on permitting global nuclear commerce with New Delhi after the India-US civil nuclear deal clears the US Congressional process.
1. Pak says it won't accept nuclear 'discrimination'
Asian News International
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In an obvious reference to the controversial Indo-US nuclear deal under which India would get sophisticated technology for its civilian nuclear programmes, Pakistan has said that it would not accept "discrimination" in the nuclear field while underscoring the energy needs of its expanding economy.
Speaking in a debate on disarmament-related issues at the UN, the country's special envoy to the UN Masood Khan claimed that discrimination in the nuclear field won't bring stability in South Asia.
"In strategic and defence areas, Pakistan always demands and deserves parity of treatment with our neighbour (India). A discriminatory approach in the nuclear or conventional arms field will not bring stability in South Asia," an APP report quoted Khan as saying on Thursday evening.
Khan said that Pakistan would continue to develop nuclear technology for power generation under strict IAEA safeguards. "We will not accept discrimination," he said and added that the sole purpose of Pakistan's nuclear capability was to deter external aggression and its strategic posture to maintain a credible minimum nuclear deterrence reflected restraint and responsibility. Pakistan would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, added the envoy.
1. Japan has no plans to create nukes after N.Korean tests - PM
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Japan does not plan to create its own nuclear weapons following North Korea's tests, the country's new prime minister said Tuesday.
Japan, the only country to have been subjected to nuclear strikes, has strongly advocated non-proliferation and arms control since WWII. The country ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1976.
Following Pyongyang's widely-condemned announcement of nuclear tests, Japan's nationalist premier Shinzo Abe Tuesday said at an extraordinary session of parliament's lower house: "We have no intention of changing our policy forbidding the possession of nuclear weapons. There will be no change in our non-nuclear principles."
The reclusive communist state announced Monday that it had successfully detonated a nuclear device underground, in defiance of a UN Security Council statement urging it to give up nuclear test plans and return to disarmament talks, and earlier international warnings.
Reports on the power of the explosion varied - the Russian Defense Ministry put the figure at 5-15 kilotons of TNT equivalent, while initial U.S. estimates were substantially lower.
Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the secretary general of Japan's Cabinet, said the country was holding consultations with the UN Security Council, and that introduction of 'sanctions of a military nature' against North Korea were being considered.
Finance Minister Koji Omi said additional economic sanctions against the country could be introduced.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said his country was planning to impose unilateral sanctions against the Pyongyang regime, but would not impose them without 100% confirmation that the conducted tests created a nuclear explosion.
North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States have been engaged in talks on the nuclear issue since 2003, discussing aid and security guarantees for the secretive regime in exchange for a renunciation of its nuclear program.
However, talks stalled last November over Pyongyang's demands that the U.S. lift sanctions imposed on it for its alleged involvement in counterfeiting and other illegal activities.
I argued in my previous column that the recent call by Jamal Mubarak, the son of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, for Egypt to develop nuclear energy, was a welcome contribution to a much-needed grand vision for the role of Egypt in the region.
Although Egypt, as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is perfectly entitled to develop nuclear energy, it is not entitled to develop nuclear weapons unless it withdraws from the NPT.
There were suggestions in the past that Egypt might withdraw unless Israel accepted a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. But Egypt renewed the NPT without getting anything from Israel in return.
This raises questions about the value of Egyptian membership of the NPT. Its practical effect, if not its purpose, has been to perpetrate a discriminatory nuclear regime.
It allows the nuclear weapon-states to keep and develop nuclear weapons, but seeks to prohibit others from doing so with the never-fulfilled promise that the nuclear states would work for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Even Egypt's recent affirmation of its right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes has met with negative reactions from Israel and other nuclear powers.
The discriminatory approach has been also evident in the scholarly theorisation and the general debate in the US about nuclear weapons.
Consider this typical view. In their joint report of the Carnegie Commission Reducing the Nuclear Danger, McGeorge Bundy, a former special assistant for national security affairs, William Crowe, a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and Professor Sidney Drell of Stanford, reach conclusions that illustrate this bias.
The nuclear bomb, write the three veterans, is so dangerous and "so destructive that in all the conflict and tumult of the Cold War no one chose to use it or to provoke its use by others".
They draw from this correct observation the predictable conclusion: namely that the United States should lead a worldwide effort for the avoidance of further nuclear proliferation.
The usual suspects are rounded up: Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Libya; while Israel is given the benefit of the doubt, because "the underlying motivation for the Israeli bomb is clearly the reality of vastly outnumbering unfriendly neighbours".
This rationalisation for the Israeli monopoly of nuclear weapons is based on reasoning by false analogy. It wrongly assumes that the size of population, number of soldiers and depth of territories have the same strategic importance for nuclear weapons that they historically had for conventional weapons.
The same argument also falsely assumes that nuclear weapons are war weapons when they are essentially deterrence weapons.
In fact, the same observation about the extreme danger of the nuclear bomb making its use unthinkable could more logically have led to a different conclusion, namely that the nuclear bomb is primarily a blackmailing weapon whose effectiveness resides, not in its use, but primarily in its power of deterrence.
Nuclear weapons may be considered as the ultimate defence weapons in that they act on the political will of the enemy deterring aggression by making the cost of war prohibitive. Neither acquisition of territories nor war loot - the traditional fruits of war in the conventional era - are worth the cost of assured destruction.
This conclusion is supported by the record of nuclear deterrence during the Cold War. Conventional wisdom, on the other hand, is based on false analogies with the past and theorisations about the future, leading to the predictable conclusion the three veteran specialists reach: We should continue to have the bomb but they (our challengers) should not be allowed to have it.
From a technological point of view, nuclear energy stands to benefit Egypt's scientific and economic development.
From a political and security point of view, acquiring nuclear weapons would end Israeli hegemony in the region. It would establish a different balance of power between the two most powerful countries in the region.
Egyptian nuclear weapons and the appropriate delivery means (air, land and submarines) would introduce a new strategic doctrine in the region. It would replace the current Israeli blackmail doctrine of Unilaterally Assured Destruction with the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).
The MAD doctrine means that if Israel were to threaten Egyptian national existence, Egypt would be in a position to do the same. This would render war between the two countries unthinkable and would introduce different strategic calculations in the region affecting Israel's bullying behaviour.
There would simply be no stakes worth fighting for when the only certainty of going to war is the mutual assured destruction of the two countries.
If MAD kept the peace between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, why can it not keep the peace in the Middle East?
1. DPRK Nuclear Test: Statement by IAEA Director General
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IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei deeply regrets, and expresses serious concern, about the reported carrying-out of a nuclear test earlier today by the Democratic Peopleï¿½s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
This reported nuclear test threatens the nuclear non-proliferation regime and creates serious security challenges not only for the East Asian region but also for the international community.
The breaking of a de-facto global moratorium on nuclear explosive testing that has been in place for nearly a decade and the addition of a new State with nuclear weapon capacity is a clear setback to international commitments to move towards nuclear disarmament, said the Director General.
Dr. ElBaradei further reiterates the urgent need - more than any time before - for establishing a legally binding universal ban on nuclear testing through the early entry-into-force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty.
Dr. ElBaradei continues to believe in the importance of finding a negotiated solution to the current situation regarding the DPRK nuclear issue. The Director General believes that resumption of dialogue between all concerned parties is indispensable and urgent.
2. President Bush's Statement on North Korea Nuclear Test
The White House
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Last night the government of North Korea proclaimed to the world that it had conducted a nuclear test. We're working to confirm North Korea's claim. Nonetheless, such a claim itself constitutes a threat to international peace and security. The United States condemns this provocative act. Once again North Korea has defied the will of the international community, and the international community will respond.
This was confirmed this morning in conversations I had with leaders of China, and South Korea, Russia, and Japan. We reaffirmed our commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, and all of us agreed that the proclaimed actions taken by North Korea are unacceptable and deserve an immediate response by the United Nations Security Council.
The North Korean regime remains one of the world's leading proliferator of missile technology, including transfers to Iran and Syria. The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States, and we would hold North Korea fully accountable of the consequences of such action.
The United States remains committed to diplomacy, and we will continue to protect ourselves and our interests. I reaffirmed to our allies in the region, including South Korea and Japan, that the United States will meet the full range of our deterrent and security commitments.
Threats will not lead to a brighter future for the North Korean people, nor weaken the resolve of the United States and our allies to achieve the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Today's claim by North Korea serves only to raise tensions, while depriving the North Korean people of the increased prosperity and better relations with the world offered by the implementation of the joint statement of the six-party talks. The oppressed and impoverished people of North Korea deserve that brighter future.
3. Statement by Mikhail Kamynin, the Spokesman of Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regarding the Nuclear Test in the DPRK
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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Ignoring the unanimous will of the international community, interested in a nonnuclear status of the Korean Peninsula, Pyongyang today announced "the successful conduct of an underground nuclear test."
Russia has repeatedly voiced the opinion that such a step, whatever its motive, can only lead to an exacerbation of the problems existing in the Korean Peninsula and is fraught with a threat to peace, security and stability in the region and with undermining of the nuclear nonproliferation regime.
We demand that the DPRK immediately take steps to return to the NPT regime and resume six-party talks. This will also be our position in the United Nations Security Council.
In the present complicated situation, the Russian Foreign Ministry calls on all the states involved to exercise restraint and composure.
We are conducting a scrupulous analysis of the situation and close consultations with all concerned countries.
4. Major Relocation of Highly Enriched Uranium Completed at Y-12 National Security Complex
National Nuclear Security Administration
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The Y-12 National Security Complex has completed the relocation of a significant quantity of highly enriched uranium at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee facility, thus reducing the number of areas in the Y-12 Protected Area that require the highest levels of protection.
Relocation of this material marks another major improvement in security at Y-12 and builds upon other significant improvements put into action over the past few years. This is part of efforts at Y-12 to implement the U.S. Department of Energy Design Basis Threat (DBT). This action will significantly enhance security and lead to improved efficiency and productivity of operations.
Y-12 is a key facility in the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex and is responsible for ensuring the safety and reliability of the nationï¿½s nuclear weapons stockpile.
The highly enriched uranium (HEU) relocated and consolidated at Y-12 formerly was stored in Building 9204-4 (also known as Beta-4), a large production facility built during the World War II Manhattan Project. Because of the relocation to other locations within the Y-12 Protected Area, the Beta-4 facility now requires a much lower level of protection.
Ted Sherry, manager of the Y-12 Site Office, said, ï¿½By moving out of the Beta 4 facility, we have been able to redeploy our Protective Force personnel and thus reduce the amount of overtime in performing the security mission at Y-12. Productivity in Beta-4 will be enhanced by the downgrading of this facility to reduce requirements for material control and accountability."
"The cost savings that will be achieved through this relocation are huge," said Sherry. "We have saved about $17 million alone by not having to make interim security upgrades in the Beta-4 facility. Over the long term, we will avoid spending approximately $137 million in security costs between 2006 and 2018, when operations are scheduled to begin at the Uranium Processing Facility."
Relocation of HEU from Beta-4 is a part of efforts under way at Y-12 to relocate Quality Evaluation (QE) operations. QE is a key Y-12 mission associated with the assessment of the integrity, design compatibility and safety of the nuclear weapons stockpile. The relocation is intended to accelerate disassembly operations, consolidate materials and operations, eliminate the need to transport materials, and improve safety while meeting all security requirements. Relocation of Y-12 QE operations is expected to be completed this fall.
The HEU relocation is a major milestone in Y-12ï¿½s DBT implementation plan and represents a significant cooperative effort by the Y-12 Site Office, BWXT Y-12 and Wackenhut Services, Inc. The material relocation consisted of several activities, including combining or repackaging numerous legacy items to facilitate transfer to the receiving facility. The work included the transfer of more than 600 items in 240 containers, including materials in storage areas and materials used in facility process operations. Work on the relocation began in 2005.
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