For almost half a century, the Northern Fleet has operated two-thirds of the navy's nuclear-powered vessels.
Much of the spent fuel from these vessels has been dumped directly into the Barents and Kara seas, with the remainder placed in vastly inadequate storage.
A journey west along the Kola Peninsula's rugged Barents Sea coastline displays a natural beauty that belies the harsh realities lying hidden below the choppy surface.
About halfway between Severomorsk and the Norwegian border lies Andreeva Bay, an environmental nightmare where the waters are completely devoid of life.
Leaks from the region's largest nuclear waste storage facility mean no fish will ever swim in this fjord. Onshore, both the soil and the groundwater are badly contaminated.
On this vast site, 32 tons of highly radioactive waste with a high uranium content is stored in crumbling concrete bunkers and rusting tanks and containers - about a third of the nuclear waste mountain that can be found on the Kola Peninsula.
Most of it is spent fuel from the Northern Fleet's nuclear powered submarines, some from nuclear powered ice breakers.
And these days nobody, not even the officials in charge, suggests it is safe.
"The current storage facilities are in poor condition," according to an official from SevRao, a division of Russia's nuclear industry agency Rosatom, which has taken over control of Andreeva Bay from the ministry of defence.
"This is the biggest environmental threat facing the Murmansk region today," according to Andrei Zolotkov, director of local green group Bellona.
"The amount of radioactivity is equivalent to 93 submarine reactors, or comparable with Chernobyl."
Mr Zolotkov's warning attracts attention in Murmansk, where he is seen as an authority on this matter.
Not only is he a former crew member of both nuclear-powered ice breakers and service ships unloading spent nuclear fuel from submarines.
He is also a former member of Russia's parliament, the Duma during Soviet times, and he has long worked for the radiation safety department at Murmansk Shipping Company, which operates both nuclear-powered ships and nuclear storage facilities.
But most importantly, Mr Zolotkov was among those who first raised the alarm back in the 1990s and he has been campaigning for a solution ever since.
Last week there was a breakthrough - the first public hearing of its kind, held in a former Communist Party building in the centre of Murmansk.
More than a decade of campaigning has resulted in an action plan for dealing with the nuclear waste mountain at Andreeva Bay, so at last the people of Murmansk have been told face-to-face what they have known for years.
"All installations are degrading and in poor condition and pollution levels are increasing, not decreasing," a SevRao official says.
Mounting task ahead
The people of Murmansk thus faces a stark choice.
*leave the waste where it is and face guaranteed disaster
*go in to clean it up, move it to proper and permanent storage facilities or transport it to a reprocessing plant
The task is hugely complicated and extremely expensive, at an estimated cost of $4bn [£2.14bn].
Both technical and economic assistance will come from the Kola Peninsula's northern neighbours, as well as from London, Brussels and Washington, to construct buildings and storage facilities.
But Russia will take on the massive operating costs and the task of actually shifting the waste over the next six years, a challenge that will involve a string of potentially lethal operations.
Remote-controlled machines will be used to load the waste into sealed transport containers. Much of the waste will be taken to Murmansk, where it will be encapsulated for long-term storage in a new, modern storage facility.
Waste that can be reprocessed will be sent south from Murmansk to Mayak, hundreds of kilometres away in the Urals.
And herein lies the crux of the dilemma facing local people: there is no railway line to Andreeva Bay, and the road is unsafe. Thus the only solution is to use ships to transport the waste, straight into and through the heart of Murmansk.
For years the locals will have to live with the knowledge that several hundred nuclear waste shipments will pass through the increasingly busy port, where some of it will be put into permanent storage.
The rest of the waste will be reloaded onto specially built trains with armed guards that will pass through the city on its journey across the Kola Peninsula, where it will pass several remote towns.
And for the Kola Peninsula's people this is just the beginning, as it begins to tackle a nuclear waste mountain weighing almost 100 tons.
Risks will have to be taken, tough choices must be made.
But as Mr Zolotkov points out: "If we do nothing, the situation will only get worse".
1. Britain says U.N. resolution likely to be circulated next week
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Britain's ambassador said he expects a draft U.N. resolution on Iran to be introduced in the Security Council early next week. Diplomats said it will seek sanctions on Tehran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment.
France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere had said Tuesday he hoped to circulate a draft by the end of the week. But France, Britain and Germany, who have led negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program, were still discussing the text with the United States on Thursday, and had not yet shown it to Russia and China.
"My expectation is that sometime early next week we'll put a resolution down," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry told reporters Thursday.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said "we're consulting on it and I expect within a day or two we'll have something to circulate more broadly in the council."
European Union foreign ministers said after a meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday that they have no choice but to back diplomatic talks at the United Nations about sanctions on Iran.
The ministers backed a decision by the U.N.'s five permanent Security Council members — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — and Germany to pursue limited sanctions on Tehran while keeping the door open to future talks.
The six countries offered Iran a package of economic incentives and political rewards in June if it agreed to consider a long-term moratorium on enrichment and commit to a freeze on uranium enrichment before talks to discuss details of their package.
But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly and defiantly said his country would continue enrichment, and is not intimidated by the possibility of sanctions.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, warned on Wednesday that a U.N. resolution would wreck any possibility for a compromise to resolve the standoff over the country's nuclear program.
The United States has called for broad sanctions, such as a total ban on missile and nuclear technology sales, while the Russians and Chinese back prohibitions of selected items as a first step.
EU nations have not decided what sanctions they might support against Tehran, but are leaning toward softer measures.
Council diplomats indicated the draft to be circulated by Britain and France will seek to ban the import and export of material and equipment that could be used to produce nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the draft is still being discussed.
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said after foreign ministers from the six countries met in London earlier this month that they would seek measures under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter.
Article 41 authorizes the Security Council to impose nonmilitary sanctions such as completely or partially severing diplomatic and economic relations, transportation and communications links.
The United States wants swift adoption of a sanctions resolution, but de La Sabliere said Thursday the draft resolution is complex and he cautioned journalists to "expect slowness."
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin signaled Monday that Moscow is in no hurry to adopt a resolution against Iran.
Unlike North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test, he said, "the current state of things" with Iran does not require a vote within days.
"I think the idea would be to move much more deliberately on this matter," Churkin said. "And, of course, our hope is that there is always a diplomatic way and cooperation with Iran when the Security Council action would not be required."
At an open Security Council meeting Thursday on the Middle East, Israel's U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman urged the international community to act resolutely against what he called Iran's quest for nuclear weapons.
"Let there be no illusions: North Korea is only the prelude to a more disturbing story, the emergence of a nuclear Iran, armed and willing to share its state terrorist capabilities with the other unholy extremists who yearn to destroy us," he said.
"The international community must be determined, clear and unequivocal in its plan of action," Gillerman said. "There is no room for hesitation, second guessing or compromise. There is only one choice: the world must ensure that Iran does not attain nuclear weapons."
Iranian diplomat Mansour Sadeghi told the council his government "categorically rejected" all allegations against his country made by Israel.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that Iran would have ``a price to pay'' if it doesn't back down from its nuclear ambitions, hinting broadly that Israel might be forced to take action - his strongest words yet about the Iranian threat.
In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday called Israel's leaders a ``group of terrorists'' and threatened any country that supports the Jewish state.
``You imposed a group of terrorists ... on the region,'' Ahmadinejad said, addressing the U.S. and its allies. ``It is in your own interest to distance yourself from these criminals ... This is an ultimatum. Don't complain tomorrow.''
``Nations will take revenge,'' he told a crowd of thousands gathered at a pro-Palestinian rally in the capital, Tehran.
Ahmadinejad, who has a history of similarly fiery rhetoric, said Israel no longer had any reason to exist and would soon disappear.
``This regime, thanks to God, has lost the reason for its existence,'' he said.
``Efforts to stabilize this fake (Israeli) regime, by the grace of God, have completely failed ... You should believe that this regime is disappearing,'' he said.
Talking to reporters Thursday on his way home from a three-day trip to Moscow, Olmert didn't specifically threaten to cripple Iran's nuclear program in a military strike, as Israel did 25 years ago in Iraq when it sent combat planes to destroy an unfinished nuclear reactor. But he repeated what he said a day earlier after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow - the Iranians ``have to be afraid'' of the consequences of their intransigence.
``They have to understand that if they object to every compromise, there will be a price to pay,'' Olmert said.
Israel rejects Tehran's claim that its nuclear program is peaceful, designed solely to produce energy. In the past, Israel has said it would not lead a campaign against Iran's nuclear program, rather act in concert with world powers that are similarly worried about Iran's intentions.
But with Iran rejecting various compromise proposals and insisting on enriching uranium - a process key to developing nuclear weapons - Olmert has been raising the stakes with increasingly defiant rhetoric.
Israel cannot reconcile itself to a nuclear Iran, he said - and ``there comes a time when you have to do damage control.''
``A red line must be drawn that cannot be crossed,'' he said, without specifying what that line was.
``Time isn't standing still,'' he added, ``and perhaps there will be a need to do something in the future.''
Though some Israeli officials have made specific threats to hit Iran, military experts have questioned Israel's ability to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, which, unlike Iraq's in 1981, are scattered among installations, with some of them hidden underground. But they have said Israel could set the program back years by striking several of the sites.
Israel considers Iran to be the greatest threat to its survival. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for the Jewish state's destruction, and Iran already has missiles capable of carrying payloads to Israel.
Russia is building Iran's first nuclear reactor and has impeded U.N. sanctions against Tehran. It has also agreed to resume shipment of fuel for the reactor, which experts say could be diverted and used to build bombs.
Ahmadinejad on Friday called the U.N. Security Council and its decisions ``illegitimate.'' ``What sort of Security Council is this? The whole world knows that the U.S. and Britain are enemies of the Iranian nation,'' Ahmadinejad said.
The United States and Britian - along with France, Russia and China - have power to veto any Security Council measures.
``You want to be the judge, the complainant and the enforcer. But the time for such logic has passed. No one accepts this from you,'' Ahmadinejad said, addressing the U.S. and Britain.
After meeting for four hours with Putin and Russian defense officials, Olmert said he was convinced they understood the gravity of the situation and don't want to see a nuclear Iran. But at a news conference with Olmert at the Kremlin on Wednesday, Putin pointedly made no mention of the Iranian nuclear standoff.
3. Tehran warns against threats, pressure on nuclear issue
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Iran's Foreign Ministry Friday warned the European Union and other countries involved in talks on its controversial nuclear program not to use threats and pressure.
"The European Union and other countries should know that the UN Security Council and sanctions are an illegitimate means [of resolving Iran's nuclear problem], which disrupt talks and long-term cooperation, and are a serious mistake," the ministry said commenting on the EU's statement on Iran, adopted October 17.
The EU said in the statement it would support sanctions against Iran if the UN Security Council decides to impose them.
The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1696 July 31, demanding Iran suspend uranium enrichment by August 31 or face possible economic and diplomatic sanctions. However, an IAEA report said Tehran refuses to suspend its program and continues to block IAEA inspectors from inspecting its nuclear facilities.
"Iran will give a positive response to any friendly initiatives, and will adopt an appropriate position on any policy based on threats and pressure, because the Islamic Republic still calls on the European side to resume talks," the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.
The six powers mediating the Iranian nuclear issue, the five permanent UN Security Council members, plus Germany, have been trying to persuade Iran to accept a package of incentives, and to suspend uranium enrichment, which many countries believe is the beginning of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said earlier Friday that the UN Security Council has ruined its reputation, while its resolutions have become irrelevant.
"The U.S. and the U.K. want to censure us [over Iran's nuclear program] by using the UN Security Council, but its resolutions have lost their relevance and authority," he said, adding that Iran is ready to sell nuclear fuel to the West at a heavy discount.
"The West is opposed to any progress in this country, and its offer of help is a lie, pure and simple," he said. "Why should they supply us with nuclear fuel? We will produce our own nuclear fuel over the next five years, selling it at a 50% discount."
He said Iran fully honors its international obligations in the nuclear realm and intends to pursue its peaceful nuclear program.
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.
1. U.N. sanctions on Iran to exempt Russia project
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To dissuade Moscow from blocking U.N. action against Iran, Russia would be permitted to work on a nuclear reactor in Iran even if the U.N. Security Council imposes sanctions on Tehran for its nuclear program, U.S. and European officials said.
The exclusion for the Bushehr project, a light-water reactor being developed with Russian help in southwestern Iran, is in a sanctions resolution drafted by Britain, France and Germany. The three countries have led efforts to halt nuclear activities that the major powers say are aimed at bomb-making but Tehran insists are for energy production.
In New York, French U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere told Reuters the three European powers planned to put forward a draft U.N. Security Council resolution "during the course of this week. We are aiming for Wednesday or Thursday."
Russia, which is being paid $800 million by Iran for its work on the Bushehr reactor, holds a veto in the Security Council, so its support for the measure will be crucial.
The resolution would impose limited sanctions, including bans on nuclear and missile cooperation, after Iran ignored a Security Council demand to halt uranium enrichment by Aug 30.
In interviews, U.S. and European officials said Russia, which like China has been hesitant about sanctions, would not vote for a Security Council resolution without an exemption for the Bushehr project, which is due to begin operation next year.
"It ensures that you get the Russians to go along," a U.S. official said.
A European diplomat explained: "We think there shouldn't be any cooperation on the nuclear side and none on missile side or even a defense relationship (with Iran but) the Russians think it's OK for there to be nuclear cooperation as long as it's for civilian purposes."
Russia is believed to have some 1,500 technicians working at Bushehr and they are expected to remain, officials said.
For more than a decade, the United States has opposed Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran and strongly objected when Russia in 1995 took over the contract for Bushehr, a 1,000-megawatt project begun by German firm Siemens in the 1970s.
Washington's opposition cooled after Russia, following revelations in 2002 that Iran was pursuing a covert uranium enrichment program, slowed Bushehr's completion and negotiated a deal under which Russia would provide fresh fuel for Bushehr, then take back spent fuel so it could not be diverted for weapons.
Some U.S. officials said Russia's willingness to take back spent fuel made the project less of a proliferation risk, but others hoped that if the Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran, that would give Russia political cover to halt the project entirely.
The Bush administration is negotiating with Moscow on a U.S.-Russia nuclear cooperation agreement that some experts predicted would open the door to so much new and lucrative nuclear trade that Russia could afford to jettison the Bushehr contract. But said one U.S. official: "Russia wants both."
Russia and Iran last month signed an agreement fixing a 2007 start-up date for Bushehr, with Moscow resisting pressure from Tehran to speed up work on the long-delayed plant.
Rose Gottemoeller, director of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Moscow Center who worked closely with Russia as a senior Clinton administration official, said she was comfortable with the Bushehr exemption.
"My basic conclusion is (Russian officials) have gotten religion on this issue and have tailored the Bushehr fuel services contract to properly avoid proliferation while preserving the reactor deal," she said in an e-mail.
Mark Medish, another Carnegie Russian expert, said the exemption reflects practical politics and there could be diplomatic value in allowing a Russia-Iran channel to continue operating. Also, letting Bushehr proceed gives the Security Council flexibility to further tighten sanctions in the future, he said.
But Henry Sokolski of the Non-proliferation Education Center said a Bushehr exemption would be a disappointment after the tough U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea.
Given concerns about Iran covertly making nuclear fuel, "you shouldn't trust them with a light-water reactor," said Sokolski, who says such technology is more dangerous than many people think.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il said Pyongyang didn't plan to carry out any more nuclear tests and expressed regret about the country's first-ever atomic detonation last week, South Korean news reports said Friday.
Kim told Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan that ``we have no plans for additional nuclear tests,'' Yonhap news agency reported, citing an unnamed diplomatic source in Beijing.
Kim also told the Chinese that ``he is sorry about the nuclear test,'' the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo daily reported, citing a diplomatic source in China. The North Korean also raised the possibility the country would return to arms talks.
``If the U.S. makes a concession to some degree, we will also make a concession to some degree, whether it be bilateral talks or six-party talks,'' Kim was quoted as telling a Chinese envoy, the newspaper reported.
The delegation led by Tang met Kim on Thursday and returned to Beijing later that day.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of citizens and soldiers rallied Friday in the North Korean capital to cheer the nuclear test - the first known celebration directly tied to the explosion, according to North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency.
KCNA reported that more than 100,000 people gathered in Pyongyang's central Kim Il Sung square to ``hail the success of the historic nuclear test.''
China, which wields veto power in the U.N. Security Council, is viewed as a key nation in efforts to persuade the North to disarm, as it is the isolated communist nation's main trading partner.
Meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Beijing on Friday, Tang said that his trip had ``not been in vain.'' Chinese officials also expressed hope that the North would return to arms talks that it has boycotted since last year in anger over U.S. financial restrictions.
North Korea has long insisted that the U.S. desist from a campaign to sever its ties to the international financial system. Washington accuses Pyongyang of complicity in counterfeiting and money laundering to sell weapons of mass destruction.
The North has refused since last November to return to the nuclear talks, which include the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. Pyongyang has sought bolster its negotiating position by a series of provocative actions, test-firing a barrage of missiles in July and performing its nuclear test Oct. 9.
The date 9 October 2006 will be one to remember. North Korea probably exploded a nuclear bomb on that day. Was it a test that failed? The future may provide answers, but the political fallout is clear and the impact substantial.
First, international pressure, led by the US, China, Russia, and Japan was not enough to prevent North Korea from taking this fateful step. A terrible dictatorship, a regime without a future and a dwarf in terms of power-politics defied the international giants. There is now justifiable outrage, and a call for sanctions is heard everywhere.
But what will be the effect of sanctions against a regime whose goal is survival through self-isolation - a regime that will have no qualms in ruthlessly sacrificing its people? Also, can China really permit strong sanctions against its neighbour, a regime fighting for survival, one equipped with nuclear arms and missiles, and a humanitarian disaster of the highest order among its population? Just how credible and effective can sanctions be?
Second, the Security Council now looks like a paper tiger because its authority was successfully challenged by a worn-out regime. This fact will be noted everywhere, particularly in Tehran. If the boundaries between nuclear haves and have-nots becomes more permeable, or even dissolves altogether, the entire multilateral security system could be called into question. On October 9, the gate leading down this path was thrown open.
Third, the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) regime, which was on the brink of toppling even before North Korea's actions, is threatening to disintegrate. A number of small and mid-sized powers will now ask themselves a radically new question: if North Korea can be a nuclear power, why not us? If in these times of militarily accomplished regime change real sovereignty can only be guaranteed by nuclear arms, why not go down this route? A collapse of the non-proliferation regime will increase not only the risk of regional nuclear arms races, but also of a transfer of nuclear know-how and technology, increasing the risk of nuclear confrontation.
Fourth, the nuclear crisis triggered by North Korea demonstrates that the US - for the first time since the Cold War's end - is no longer the main player on the international scene and that its options are both limited and problematic. Following the hand-over from Clinton to Bush, the US gave up its strategy of engaging the North Korean regime to moderate its behaviour and thus unnecessarily reduced its own options. China has now become the main player in the North Korean crisis, and in the region as a whole. This will have a serious impact across the Pacific and cause America to focus its strategic attention there. Europe might thus be called on to take up the slack in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, both sooner and on a much larger scale than Europeans suspect.
So what is to be done? There is no way around a strategy of engagement and containment with regard to North Korea or the crisis will escalate. The US will have to enter talks - direct and bilateral if necessary. Indeed, it looks like that is what will be needed. China, humiliated by Kim Jong Il, will for the first time have to assume leadership in the region and resolve, or at least contain, the crisis.
Looking to the future, the whole approach to nuclear non-proliferation must change. It is no use lamenting the real danger of nuclear proliferation, while in practice standing idle as the non-proliferation treaty falls apart.
If the world is not one day to consist of a few big nuclear powers and many mid-sized and small ones, then the big nuclear powers must now undertake a serious disarmament and non-proliferation initiative. Part of this initiative must be to provide, as a corollary to new disarmament requirements and control mechanisms, the assurance of non-discriminatory access to nuclear know-how, research, and technology.
This will require an international institutional solution to the problem of enrichment, with participation in the enrichment process entailing new obligations - above all, the willingness to assure transparency through verification and intensive inspections. Moreover, only new strides towards disarmament by the big nuclear powers, and a guarantee of access to technology and know-how under international control, can stop the trend toward "nuclear sovereignty".
Five years after President Bush called Iraq, Iran, and North Korea an "axis of evil," developments in these countries remain depressing. Iraq is a disaster, and nothing indicates that the situation can be turned around. With each day, questions about the fallout for the region become more pressing. Civil war? Disintegration and thus the "Balkanisation" of Iraq? Will it really be possible to limit the disaster to Iraq itself?
Now North Korea seems to have the Bomb. Iran is intensively working toward the same end, while continuing to expand its hegemonic position in the region. If to the "axis of evil," we add Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Israel and the Palestinians, along with terrorism, the resulting picture is anything but hopeful. Should the US be tempted now, in response to the failure of its policy, to consider a military "option" against Iran, the nuclearisation of the international system will not be arrested. Indeed, such a step will only push the Middle East into an explosive mega-conflict with unpredictable and uncontrollable consequences.
"North Korea's government is at the brink of collapse," Herfried Muenkler, political analyst at Berlin's Humboldt University, told German online daily Netzeitung. "In such a situation, playing with a nuclear potential to blackmail is the final sheet anchor."
He added that Pyongyang knew about the U.S. inability to solve the North Korean nuclear issue militarily, due to Washington's commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The goal seems to be to receive economic privileges in exchange for the commitment to refrain from proceeding with nuclear proliferation," he said.
North Korea, a poor country of 25 million with paltry domestic resources, could turn into a dangerous precedent for other nuclear states to pressure the international community into giving economic aid for non-proliferation, he said.
Muenkler added the possibility that Pyongyang might sell nuclear technology to Iran or even al-Qaida can not be ruled out, despite ideological differences.
"North Korea would in that case act after the principle: 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend,'" he said. "I assume that (U.S. President George W.) Bush has already received a warning in that direction."
4. Interview - N.Korea status as nuclear power in doubt - Germany
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Germany expressed doubts on Thursday about North Korea's declaration that it was now a nuclear-armed power and said all available evidence indicated last week's atomic test was not fully successful.
Deputy Foreign Minister Gernot Erler said North Korea's long-range missile test in July was also unsuccessful.
"All the available data indicates the nuclear test on Oct. 9 did not function properly. Given the limited extent of the blast there would have to have been a technical miracle (for it to have been successful)," Erler told Reuters in an interview.
"Nobody believes North Korea has these (nuclear weapons) capabilities yet. It didn't function properly. This could also explain why they would want to undertake a second test."
He expressed admiration for what he called Tokyo's restraint in the crisis.
Japan, which has large quantities of bomb-grade plutonium and could easily go nuclear, has so far chosen not to do so, despite the obvious security threat posed by North Korea.
"One can only hope that this will remain the case, but one can't be certain," Erler said.
Erler expressed scepticism that the sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council would have an impact on North Korea because sanctions only work when the target acts rationally.
"One must say that in terms of their language, the immediate reactions of North Korea were anything but rational," he said, adding that Pyongyang had even gone so far as to call its neighbour and supporter China "gangster-like".
One explanation for North Korea's war-like rhetoric, Erler said, could be that Pyongyang is preparing the North Korean population for harder times once sanctions begin to take effect.
Erler hopes for a "re-rationalisation" of North Korea and a resumption of stalled six-party talks between Pyongyang, South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China.
Negotiations and diplomacy are the only way to solve this crisis, he said.
Point of no return?
There would likely be a way to grant North Korean leader King Jong Il's wish for bilateral talks with Washington within the framework of the six-party talks, he added.
It is unclear if North Korea has reached the "point of no return". If Pyongyang is recognised as the world's ninth nuclear power, there is little chance that it will ever disarm, he said.
"I don't know of any historical example of an actual nuclear power disarming itself," Erler said.
The countries with nuclear weapons are the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India and Pakistan. Israel is assumed to have a sizeable nuclear arsenal but neither confirms nor denies it.
South Africa, Ukraine and Kazakhstan are sometimes mentioned as former nuclear powers, but South Africa never became a full nuclear power and Ukraine and Kazakhstan did not have access to the Soviet bombs once located on their territories, Erler said.
5. Rumsfeld's Doubts on North Korea Inspections Shared by Analysts
Jeff Bliss, Bloomberg News
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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's assessment yesterday that stopping North Korea from peddling its nuclear technology abroad was ``practically impossible'' is shared by U.S. weapons analysts and lawmakers.
Finding radioactive material the size of a suitcase in hundreds of shipping containers flowing from the reclusive communist nation would be difficult even with full international cooperation, said Graham Allison, a former Defense Department official now at Harvard University. Complications arise from nations such as China and Russia that want to avoid intrusive checks.
Rumsfeld said the collective effort needed to make the inspections work has been lacking. ``We have not seen that kind of cooperation that would have a high probability of being able to prevent a continued proliferation,'' he said in response to a question from a military audience at Maxwell-Gunther Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.
The pessimistic outlook came as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is visiting Asian officials to stiffen support from China, Russia and South Korea for the inspections dragnet envisioned in a United Nations resolution.
The urgency of the inspection task was underlined by North Korea's detonation of a nuclear bomb last week. The UN Security Council, saying the country was violating an international treaty, voted last week to restrict sales of military equipment, impose inspections and demand an end to the nuclear program.
China's reluctance to support cargo checks will make it almost impossible to find the nuclear technology, said Representative Howard Berman, a member of the House International Relations Committee.
``These sanctions leave glaring openings,'' said Berman, a California Democrat. The North Koreans ``could think with reason that for some time they wouldn't get caught.''
President George W. Bush said after the North Korean test that any exporting of the country's technology posed a ``grave threat.'' That prospect has been raised by North Korea, according to a report released this year by the office of U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.
North Korean officials in August 2003 and again during talks in April with the U.S., Russia, China, South Korea and Japan ``privately threatened to `transfer' or `demonstrate' its nuclear weapons,'' the report said.
The Bush administration is wise to take the North Koreans at their word considering the penchant of the country's leader, Kim Jong Il, for selling weapons systems to generate hard currency, said Allison, director of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
``They've never made a weapons system they didn't sell,'' he said. ``They are Missiles R Us.''
Since the 1980s, North Korea has been a missile supplier to countries including Iran, Libya and Syria. North Korea sold as many as 300 Scud missiles to Iran between the late 1980s and mid- 1990s, according to the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, a Monterey, California-based policy group.
Some weapons analysts said that while it's improbable North Korea would risk military defeat to sell its know-how, the scenario can't be ignored.
The threat of North Korean centrifuge blueprints and enriched uranium ending up in the hands of Iranian scientists or al-Qaeda is greater than the country firing nuclear-armed missiles at its neighbors, said Aaron Friedberg, former deputy assistant for national security affairs for Vice President Dick Cheney.
Although North Korean policy makers will think twice before launching a missile the U.S. could easily track, they will be less cautious about secret technology sales, said Friedberg, now a professor at Princeton University in New Jersey. ``The sale of material could much more discreet,'' he said.
Using Khan's Network
The North Korean government could employ contacts and methods used to obtain bomb technology from Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan's nuclear sales network, said Corey Hinderstein, director of special projects for the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington-based anti-proliferation group.
Khan's secret network is ``not completely uprooted,'' Hinderstein said. North Korea just needs someone to take the parts and designs out of the country, said Representative Gary Ackerman, a member of the House International Relations Committee who has traveled to North Korea.
``If you know who the buyers and sellers are, you just need a different mule,'' said Ackerman, a New York Democrat.
The North Koreans could shop around the designs and samples of centrifuges they purchased from the Khan network and some of their own nuclear material and manufacturing infrastructure they've developed in their testing, Hinderstein said.
The U.S. and its allies are developing a layered system of checks to pressure the North Koreans to keep their technology to themselves.
To enforce the UN resolution, the U.S. is attempting to expand the Proliferation Security Initiative, an international effort to intercept shipments of chemical, nuclear and biological weapons or related components. The inspections under the initiative, however, require international cooperation that might not be forthcoming. China has questioned the initiative's legality and isn't a participant.
Rice said yesterday in Tokyo that the U.S. wants ``steady, effective'' enforcement of the resolution. She said the details of how that would be achieved must be worked out.
China has agreed to construct a fence along part of its 880- mile border with North Korea, which is a well-worn trade route between the two countries. North Korea also shares a 12-mile border with Russia and a 148-mile border with South Korea.
Allison, who was an assistant secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, said he's advised friends in the Bush administration to urge the president to state publicly that the U.S. military response would be immediate and massive if Kim sells North Korea's technology.
``We have a huge challenge today finding a way to make him believe that there's a very bright line here, and that line does not permit the sale of any nuclear technology,'' he said.
Some analysts said that North Korea already has received the message and isn't foolish enough to test U.S. resolve. ``If it's traced back to him, it would mean the end of Kim's regime,'' Feinstein said.
Still, Berman said Kim, emboldened by his flouting of international treaties, increasingly isolated and hurting from the UN resolution's economic sanctions, may decide he has little to lose in defying world opinion once again.
``Nothing yet other than their own weaknesses has deterred them,'' he said.
6. China Reverses Its Refusal to Search N. Korean Cargo
Los Angeles Times
(for personal use only)
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressed China on Monday to help stop flows of weapons-related goods to and from North Korea, as Beijing reversed its refusal to conduct inspections but continued to oppose interceptions that might lead to conflict.
On the eve of a weeklong trip to Japan, China, South Korea and Russia to discuss how to contain and engage North Korea, Rice said she was confident that China would make "all efforts" to prevent North Korea from trading in dangerous materials.
China, along with the rest of the U.N. Security Council, backed a sanctions resolution on North Korea that called for aggressive land, air and sea inspections and seizure of materials if necessary.
The council acted Saturday after the government in Pyongyang tested a nuclear device Oct. 9. The office of National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte confirmed Monday that radioactive debris was detected in air samples collected Wednesday near Punggye.
After the vote, China said it would not participate in the inspections because it feared they would lead to confrontation near its borders. Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya softened that stance Monday, saying that China has always conducted inspections on its borders and in its ports, and is considering ways to strengthen them.
But China is still wary of aggressive interdictions and seizures — especially in international waters or airspace, where the law is murky.
"Inspections are one thing. Interdiction and interception are another. In the high seas or in the air, if you have suspicion of a particular cargo, what do you do?" he asked. "What about freedom of the high seas, and freedom of passage? It has to be done with great care.
"We must be careful that it won't be carried out in such a way like a quarantine, searching every ship going in and out of a country. Most countries consider that an act of war. It could easily lead to unnecessary confrontation," Wang said.
North Korea has warned that it would consider Security Council sanctions "a declaration of war" and take countermeasures.
China stepped up inspections of trucks at the 880-mile border's main crossing in Dandong after the resolution passed, the Associated Press reported.
China is building a massive fence along parts of its border with North Korea, the AP reported. It said farmers and visitors had seen scores of soldiers near the Yalu River erecting concrete barriers and stringing barbed wire.
Rice said she was "not concerned that the Chinese are going to turn their backs on their obligations. I don't think they would have voted for a resolution if they did not intend to carry through on it."
Asked about reports that a second nuclear test might be ahead, Rice said that she did not expect Pyongyang to commit "such a provocative act."
She said the U.N. resolution held a lesson for Iran, whose nuclear program is to be the focus of a sanctions discussion this week at the Security Council.
Tehran "can now see that the international community will respond" to efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, Rice said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country would not be intimidated by the sanctions on North Korea and planned to push ahead with its nuclear program.
American intelligence agencies have concluded that North Korea’s test explosion last week was powered by plutonium that North Korea harvested from its small nuclear reactor, according to officials who have reviewed the results of atmospheric sampling since the blast.
The officials, who would not speak for attribution because it was an intelligence matter, were responding to specific questions about what had been learned about the nature of the weapon.
As administration and intelligence officials watched for indications that the North might be preparing a second test, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned North Korea on Monday that it risked even further isolation if it took such a provocative action.
American officials have reported recent activity at the test site, leading some to believe that another test might be carried out soon.
The intelligence agencies’ finding that the weapon was based on plutonium strongly suggested that the country’s second path to a nuclear bomb — one using uranium — was not yet ready. The uranium program is based on enrichment equipment and know-how purchased from Pakistan’s former nuclear chief.
Nuclear experts said that the use of plutonium to make the bomb was important because it suggested that North Korea probably had only one nuclear program mature enough to produce weapons.
“This is good news because we have a reasonably good idea of how much plutonium they have made,” said Siegfried S. Hecker, the former chief of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and now a visiting professor at Stanford University. Mr. Hecker, who has visited North Korea and is one of the few foreigners to have seen parts of its nuclear infrastructure, said that it was his guess that “they tried to test a reasonably sophisticated device, and they had trouble imploding it properly.”
The supply of plutonium materials is known from the days when international inspectors kept tabs on the fuel rods in the North’s reactor, and intelligence analysts estimate that North Korea has enough material to make 6 to 10 plutonium bombs.
Politically, the results of the test may revive last week’s finger-pointing about who is more responsible for the Korean test: Bill Clinton or President Bush.
As president, Mr. Clinton negotiated a deal that froze the production and weaponization of North Korea’s plutonium, but intelligence agencies later determined that North Korea began its secret uranium program under his watch. The plutonium that North Korea exploded was produced, according to intelligence estimates, either during the administration of the first President Bush or after 2003, when the North Koreans threw out international inspectors and began reprocessing spent nuclear fuel the inspectors had kept under seal.
Unlike the Clinton administration in 1994, the current Bush administration chose not to threaten to destroy North Korea’s fuel and nuclear reprocessing facilities if they tried to make weapons.
That threat in 1994 — which was ultimately resolved with an agreement to freeze the weapons program — was made by William J. Perry, who was the defense secretary then. In an interview on Monday, Mr. Perry said: “There was a brief window to catch this plutonium before it was made into bomb fuel. It’s gone. It’s out of the barn now.”
After a week of some lingering doubt about whether the test had indeed been a nuclear detonation, the office of John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence, confirmed that much in a statement issued Monday.
“Analysis of air samples collected on Oct. 11, 2006, detected radioactive debris which confirms that North Korea conducted an underground nuclear explosion in the vicinity of Punggye on Oct. 9, 2006,” said the statement, putting on the record a conclusion that officials first disclosed Friday, the night before the United Nations Security Council voted on sanctions. “The explosion yield was less than a kiloton,” the statement added.
It gave no further details, and the officials who described the early findings did not disclose more beyond the conclusion that plutonium, not uranium, was the device’s core.
The determination that the blast was nuclear was announced a day before Secretary Rice was to depart for a trip to Japan, South Korea, China and Russia. She will go to the capitals of the nations that have been engaged in the six-party talks over North Korea’s nuclear program except, of course, North Korea.
The unanimous resolution adopted by the Security Council last week imposing sanctions on military material and luxury goods was proof of “a strong and firm hand and strong and firm response,” Ms. Rice said Monday during a State Department news conference. She said the international community wanted “to leave open a door for North Korea to take a different course if it wishes to do so.”
Pressed to respond to analysts’ assessment that desires by China and South Korea for continued economic and business exchanges with North Korea might trump demands for a stiff sanctions and inspections regime, Ms. Rice said her goal was to work out the details of putting the Council resolution into effect.
The Associated Press reported Monday from Dandong, China, that customs officials were examining trucks at the North Korean border as China complied with the United Nations sanctions.
However, China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Guangya, indicated that his nation would not conduct similar searches at sea.
Mr. Wang made clear that China would not halt ships and board them to search for ballistic missiles or for bomb-making equipment or material that can be used to manufacture nuclear, chemical and biological arms.
“This is a resolution we have to implement,” he told reporters at the United Nations. “The question was raised whether China will do inspections. Inspections yes, but inspection is different than interdiction and interception. I think different countries will do it different ways.”
During the news conference on Monday, Ms. Rice said she was “not concerned that the Chinese are going to turn their backs on their obligations. I don’t think they would have voted for a resolution if they did not intend to carry through on it.”
NNSA, an agency under the U.S. Department of Energy, announced Thursday that, in cooperation with the Belgian government, it had completed that the first phase of installation of radiation detection equipment at the port of Antwerp -- one of Europe's largest seaports.
"Under NNSA's Megaports Initiative, specialized radiation detection equipment will help to identify smuggled or illicit shipments of nuclear and radiological materials," the agency's statement said.
"This joint collaboration with Belgium at one of Europe's largest seaports will not only enhance security in Belgium, but also help to secure the entire global shipping network. The Megaports program is crucial to preventing terrorists from using shipping channels to smuggle illicit nuclear and radiological material," said NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks.
The NNSA said that it had been working with the Belgian Finance Ministry on the project since 2004 "to install the equipment and train operators. "The Megaports design and installation, which covers 10 container terminals across 13,348 hectares (approximately 3,3000 acres), will allow the monitors to screen a significant amount of container traffic that transits the port," the U.S. agency said.
The NNSA said its Megaports Initiative "is aimed at preventing smuggled shipments of nuclear and radioactive materials through the global shipping network."
"The specialized radiation detection technology deployed under the program is based on technology originally developed by NNSA's national laboratories as part of the U.S. government's overall efforts to guard against the proliferation of weapons materials. The Megaports program is currently operational in six countries, and is at various stages of implementation and negotiations with approximately 30 other countries around the world," the NNSA said.
On October 6, 1986 K-219, a Soviet strategic nuclear-powered missile submarine (NATO's name "Yankee II) sank in the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean.
One of the versions was a collision with USS Augusta. Despite the start of perestroika and the new mentality, the collision became possible because the Soviet Union moved its submarine patrol area closer to U.S. territory in response to the deployment in Europe of American medium-range missiles, which were capable of reaching Soviet territory in 15 to 20 minutes.
It is essential to recall the Cold War times. Few remember now the massive European protests against the deployment of American Pershings. But it was clear that missiles attract missiles, and the Soviet Union was bound to target its missiles at every new site that threatened its security.
Today, a new missile crisis is unfolding before our eyes. Head of the U.S. Missile Defense Systems Henry Obering said the White House deems it necessary to provide missile defense not only for U.S. territory, but also for overseas American troops and its allies. At present, the Pentagon has 10 anti-missiles deployed in two sites - in Alaska and California. Officially, the missiles have been positioned there to thwart a threat of Iran's missile strike against Europe and the U.S. In addition, the U.S. intends to deploy 10 long-range interceptor missiles in Eastern Europe, close to the Polish-Belarusian border, to protect against Iran. But this excuse is beneath criticism. The Iranian Shakhab-3 missiles with a range of 3,500 km can only reach Europe, but not the U.S. The shortest flight path from Iran to Europe lies through the Caucasus, the Black Sea, and Ukraine rather than Russia.
Washington claims that its ABM defense, which is being built at overseas bases, is not targeted against Russia. But Russia has not received any guarantees to this effect so far. The Russian Foreign Ministry declared that until this happens, Russia cannot ignore a potential threat to its security.
When Supreme Allied Commander in Europe American Gen. James Jones visited Moscow last April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed concern over the appearance of NATO's similar military installations in Bulgaria and Romania.
In an article published the other day by the Polish newspaper Dziennik, Yury Baluyevsky, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, explained: "We are convinced that implementation of the U.S. plans may lead to the deployment of (missile) systems close to the Russian borders. These systems are capable of upsetting the existing balance between the Russian and American strategic delivery vehicles."
Washington claims that these systems are not aimed against Russia or China, but these words are glaringly at variance with deeds.
Quoting Baluyevsky, ITAR-TASS wrote: "If U.S. missile defense plans are carried out to this or other extent, the existing correlation between the U.S. and Russian strategic offensive potentials will change, and Russia may have to adjust its position on reducing these weapons."
As it always happens, deployment of U.S. military bases overseas will be accompanied by the formation of solid military infrastructure, which will deal a final blow to the treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe. The CFE treaty has had one foot in the grave since the Baltic countries joined NATO without signing it.
First, the American ABM deployment area in Europe will have to be protected from the air, at least against terrorist attacks. In practical terms, it means that NATO's air force can move to the borders of Russia's ally, Belarus. Secondly, this area will require radars, which, in turn, will have to be thoroughly guarded as well.
Deputy head of the Main Department of International Military Cooperation Lt.-Gen. Buzhinsky believes that "NATO will build new facilities in the European deployment area under the pretext that they are required for the functioning of the ABM system. It will need other forces, such as the navy, air defense, aviation, and ground-based troops in order to protect the security of these facilities."
Moreover, Europe-based military installations may be used for other purposes. If need be, NATO could install attack missiles in silos after minor adjustments. Neither Russia, nor its CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) allies, Belarus in particular, can ignore these plans.
Indicatively, NATO has not yet made a decision on the ABM scale and structure, and for this reason the system will not be integrated into NATO's command network. Declarations about defense of the NATO countries by the ABM system mean that NATO will have to pay at least some of the expenses involved in maintaining its infrastructure. But at the same time, the residents of the countries with ABM deployment areas will risk being hit by the fragments of intercepted ballistic missiles and interceptor missiles, whereas decisions on launching anti-missiles will be made thousands of miles away from Europe.
Until recently, the Europeans believed that instead of building an ABM system with long-range interceptors, it makes sense to upgrade the existing air defense systems capable of intercepting ballistic missiles in Europe. It was not ruled out that Russian and Western systems could be used together for the protection of peacemaking operations. This idea was sealed in the declaration on new NATO-Russia relations, which was adopted in Rome in 2002.
After talks with his Polish counterpart Anna Fotyga, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made this statement on the reconfiguration of the U.S. military presence in Europe in general, and the third advanced ABM deployment there (after the U.S. and the Far East) in particular: "Let's not forget that NATO is discussing the building of its ABM system. In this context reconfiguration may question strategic stability. I've told my counterpart that we are interested in these processes being transparent and understandable for us. Of course, we will take them into account while planning our own measures to ensure global strategic stability and Russia's national security."
In late August, replying to the proposal of his American colleague to replace nuclear warheads on strategic missiles with high-precision re-entry vehicles to fight terrorists, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov suggested considering withdrawal from the treaty on medium-range missiles. Former Air Force Commander Anatoly Kornukov mentioned Kaliningrad as a possible site for the deployment of C-400 air defense missile systems with a range of up to 400 km.
1. Why the 'Dirty Bomb' Threat to NFL Stadiums Isn't Credible
World Politics Watch
(for personal use only)
As I write, CNN is reporting the breaking news that a threat about the planned simultaneous detonation of seven "dirty bombs" at this weekend's National Football League games, posted Oct.12 on an Internet chat site, is not considered credible by U.S. authorities.
Although the Department of Homeland Security initiated prudent security measures by informing and advising the NFL, it has determined the threat is unreliable.
How and why did DHS determine the threat is empty? Is it technically and organizationally feasible to launch such an attack with radiological dispersion devices (RDDs) -- so called "dirty bombs" -- on the U.S. mainland?
The DHS and U.S. intelligence services no doubt analyzed the source of the threat -- comparing it with known information about credible terror groups and other intelligence -- and examined the technical feasibility of carrying out the threat and its potential consequences. There are several reasons why such an analysis would reveal the threat to be incredible.
The discussion thread on the online chat site where the threat originated, according to multiple news reports, was titled "New Attack on America Be Afraid." The thread was posted on a Web site called "The Friends Society," which, according to the Associated Press, "links to various online forums and off-color cartoons." It claimed:
"On Sunday, October 22nd, 2006, there will be seven "dirty" explosive devices detonated in seven different U.S. cities; Miami, New York City, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland and Cleveland. The death toll will approach 100,000 from the initial blasts and countless other fatalities will later occur as result from radioactive fallout.
"The bombs themselves will be delivered via trucks. These trucks will pull up to stadiums hosting NFL games in each respective city. . . ."
But it seems incredible that a terrorist cell would orchestrate such a complex operation, be in a position to carry it out -- having overcome all the technical and logistical challenges of getting to that point -- and then be so careless as to casually discuss the matter on an American chat site. Such a site is not a likely place to make a triumphant announcement of this accomplishment or to initiate an attempt at blackmail. Advanced warning of such a threat would also mean near certain interdiction if it were to be attempted.
Then there is the question of whether it is possible for a terrorist group to orchestrate such an attack. In order to do so, it would need to obtain radioactive materials, which are for the most part secure and registered. This would require the theft or purchase of stolen or lost radioactive material. Candidate materials are used in medical treatment, food irradiation and industrial applications. Accountancy of these materials in the former Soviet states is in some cases not up to Western standards and they may have been lost or stolen. But the United States is working with its international partners to locate and secure materials in the former Soviet states under the Cooperative Threat Reduction Initiative. It spends approximately $1 billion annually on this key security task.
Even if sufficient material to make seven RDDs were obtained by a terrorist group, the construction of seven effective dispersal devices would require time-consuming fabrication steps involving the radioactive materials. Such materials are very difficult to handle. Without sophisticated handling and transport equipment, materials useful for an RDD could kill those working with them. If the terrorists did not kill themselves in the process, then severe radiation sickness would be expected -- not an easy thing to hide.
If the materials were obtained outside of the United States, the movements of the materials would likely be tracked at ports or airports. Knowing the potential threat of such "weapons of mass disruption," U.S. intelligence agencies and border security forces are certain to have prioritized their effort to mitigate this threat accordingly. If a sleeper cell or domestic terrorist group stole a large radioactive source or several smaller radioactive sources, the theft would be known to the FBI and to government authorities. Such data, if such crimes had been committed, would be simple to link to the threat.
Transport of RDDs -- with their signatures of gamma ray radiation emissions -- would also be detectable by the authorities. General security measures at the football stadiums would hamper the positioning of the devices. Additional security resulting from a specific threat would certainly thwart terrorists' efforts to use such devices, owing to their distinctive radiation signatures.
And finally, such devices, although potentially disruptive, are unlikely to be very effective. The blast from an RDD's high explosive likely would cause more deaths -- a few tens at worst -- than the radioactive material's dispersion. This would be the case particularly if materials more easily obtained and more easily handled were used, such as low-level radioactive waste
To summarize, the threat to detonate seven dirty bombs likely was not made by a credible source; if orchestrated, it likely would be detected somewhere during the process of its production and transport; and, in the unlikely event that the threat were real and not previously detected, the plot would not threaten many lives and could in all probability be intercepted before it was carried out.
China's first experimental fast nuclear reactor that can burn up to 70 percent of uranium fuel is expected to start trials in four years.
The general manager of the China National Nuclear Corp. compared the burn rate in the fast reactor with the conventional reactor which consumes only 0.7 per cent of the uranium it is fed, reports the China Daily.
The far higher uranium utility rate in the fast reactor will go a long way in easing the country's energy shortage, Kang Rixin said.
The report said China started its research into fast nuclear reactor technology in 1995 and invested $175 million in the construction of the experimental reactor.
Separately, the director of the Southwestern Institute of Physics said the country also has been researching nuclear fusion as an alternative energy source for the last 40 years. The research currently is focusing on the feasibility of using deuterium or heavy hydrogen extracted from seawater to create nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion is how the Sun produces energy.
When more than 100 ambassadors gathered at the United Nations nuclear agency to mark its 50th year of juggling global arms and energy demands, organizers were surprised by the ambitious agenda that the envoys had in mind:
More countries than ever wanted the International Atomic Energy Agency to back their desires for nuclear power.
In the first surge of interest in building nuclear power plants in decades--what some analysts are calling a global nuclear renaissance--countries as far afield as Egypt, Poland, Nigeria and Vietnam expressed nuclear aspirations at the IAEA's annual meeting last month.
Driving those aspirations are high oil prices, increased evidence of global warming and, most significantly, fresh and provocative debate as world powers increasingly struggle with fears of renegade uses of nuclear technology and how to keep sensitive know-how from falling into the wrong hands.
Case in point is North Korea, which years ago bolted from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty designed to ensure peaceful uses and last week conducted an underground test of a nuclear weapon. Iran, which hid its uranium-enrichment efforts for years, also is in a standoff with the UN Security Council over its right to master the fuel cycle.
Iran insists it is pursuing enrichment to supply power plants. Western powers suspect that Iran may have similar ambitions to North Korea and be working to enhance its fuel process to weapons capability.
On Monday, Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the IAEA, estimated that as many as 30 nations "in a very short time" could have technology that would let them someday produce nuclear weapons. At a conference on nuclear proliferation in Vienna, he said that a cadre of "virtual new weapons states" was evolving, without naming any specific country. Those countries may be "hedging their bets" by developing civilian energy programs that could quickly be converted into arms programs, he said.
Market for uranium
The disputes with Iran and North Korea have complicated international nuclear issues but they have also clarified how other nations will have to carefully stake their peaceful claims in a nuclear world.
While Iran is attempting to enrich its own uranium, other potential nuclear countries view fuel production as too difficult and costly an endeavor. They want to fuel their power plants by buying enriched uranium commercially from suppliers in Russia, France, the United States and a consortium that includes Britain, the Netherlands and Germany.
"It is energy security," Poland's UN ambassador Jacek Bylica said about options discussed with ElBaradei. "We feel it's much more secure for us to have independent sources of energy" without relying solely on outside oil and gas supplies, Bylica said.
Analysts said interest in civilian nuclear energy has flourished in the past two years as countries assess large-scale forecasts for power demands. Countries are exploring the option with an enthusiasm not seen since the 1970s. Seventeen of the 28 nuclear plants under construction in the world are in Asia; developing countries are notably eager for information.
In the past 18 months, ElBaradei has visited Ghana, Nigeria, Turkey and Egypt, answering questions about possible plant construction.
"Why are more countries interested? When the price of oil rises, alternatives begin to make sense. ... Wind and solar power can't cover their needs. For many, it comes down to practical considerations: When people go home at night, do the lights come on?" said Tariq Rauf, IAEA's verification and security policy chief.
The passing of time also plays a role. Long shadows of concern cast by the accidents in 1979 at Three Mile Island in the U.S. and in 1986 at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union have receded. It is generally agreed that reforms have greatly strengthened safety margins, even if some critics are not yet satisfied.
In Poland, the Communist political elite was so frightened by Chernobyl that officials scrapped a nuclear reactor ready for installation in 1986 and sold it at a bargain price to Finland. Twenty years later, a democratic Poland, a member of the European Union and NATO, is seriously revisiting the idea.
"There was a perception in the 1980s that the Communist government then was hiding the dangers and the environmental impact of nuclear plants," Bylica said. Enhanced safeguards and economic necessities now make nuclear power attractive.
Egypt, which supported nuclear research in the 1960s, also shelved its work after Chernobyl. But as oil and natural gas supplies ebb, and electricity demand climbs as much as 7 percent a year, Egypt is looking for options. Its UN ambassador, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, said Egypt is eyeing nuclear plants but has no plans to enrich uranium. For Egyptians, the dispute between Iran and the Security Council is a cautionary tale.
"Countries like Japan and Brazil are almost already there," he said about efforts to produce enriched uranium. "It's unrealistic to think countries [like that] are going to retreat. ... But countries just starting out have to be practical and judge whether it's worth the fight."
Inherent in that bargain, however, is the question of how countries will find fuel to power their plants if, for any reason, commercial supplies are disrupted. At the IAEA general conference in September, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a U.S-based foundation aimed at reducing nuclear risks, pledged $50 million to create a uranium stockpile as a safeguard for countries that choose not to produce their own nuclear fuel.
The idea behind the largess is simple: The fewer countries that produce fuel, the lower the risks. Nuclear observers agree that rogue elements that seek to traffic in or use the fuel for criminal or terrorist purposes are an increasing threat.
The pledge, backed by CNN founder Ted Turner, former Sen. Sam Nunn and financial adviser Warren Buffett, would allow the IAEA to determine the conditions of access. The fuel bank is one of about six proposals that emerged this year as nuclear nations try to strengthen safety perimeters.
"We are looking for a new paradigm" so newcomers don't feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear enrichment programs, said Charles Curtis, a former undersecretary of energy and president of the foundation.
"We have an urgent need to effect new international cooperation. And right now," Curtis said, "it's a race between cooperation and catastrophe."
1. First unit of Tianwan NPP reaches 75% capacity - Atomstroiexport
(for personal use only)
The first power unit of the Tianwan nuclear power plant in China has been tested at 75% of its capacity, Atomstroiexport said Wednesday.
Atomstroiexport has been building the Tianwan NPP, which uses improved VVER-1000 reactors and K-100-6/3000 turbo-generators, under the terms of a Russian-Chinese agreement signed in 1992.
"This is one of the most important stages in the construction of the Tianwan NPP, which confirms the quality of the work done and makes it possible for Atomstroiexport specialists to pass on to the next cycle of tests," Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly said.
Atomstroiexport is currently building five nuclear power plants in China, India and Iran, projects worth $4.5 billion, and is also bidding to build a plant in Belene, Bulgaria.
China has agreed in principle to offer four to six nuclear power plants to Pakistan and the issue is expected to be finalised during President Hu Jintao's visit to Islamabad next month.
According to the "DAWN", an understanding to this effect had been reached between the two countries when President Gen Pervez Musharraf visited China in February this year.
Pakistan, trying to meet its target of generating 88,000MW nuclear power by 2030, has asked China for 600MW and 1,000MW power plants which are deemed cost-effective with good output.
China has already supplied two nuclear power plants of 300MW capacity each to Pakistan; Chasma-1 has been commissioned while Chasma-2 is in the process of being set up.
Chinese officials, during their visit to Pakistan in December in connection with the concrete-pouring ceremony at Chashma-2, had assured authorities here that more nuclear power plants would be provided to the country.
We will enhance our cooperation with Islamabad, particularly in setting up nuclear power plants in Pakistan, a source quoted one of those Chinese officials as saying.
The source said there were indications that the issue would figure in talks between the two presidents, adding that Beijing looked considerate to oblige Pakistan despite being a member of the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group which does not encourage offering nuclear power to non-member countries.
Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri told journalists on Monday that the Chinese president's would be a very successful visit.
The sources said the issue was again discussed with the Chinese leadership when President Musharraf visited Beijing on June 15 to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit.
This time, Pakistan's emphasis will be on the immediate purchase of two power plants so that Pakistan's growing energy requirements could be met to some extent.
1. Nuke deal in present form will create difficulties: Shourie
Press Trust of India
(for personal use only)
There will be "unnecessary difficulties" in the future if the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal is passed by the US Congress in the present form, Rajya Sabha MP and former Minister Arun Shourie has said.
The accord agreed upon by US President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for "full" cooperation in civilian nuclear field, but the Bill coming out of the US Congress is "not full", he said in his address at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank yesterday.
"The nuclear deal... if it goes in its present form... will create unnecessary difficulties in the future," Shourie said.
He said the political fallout in India in the event of the deal not getting through Congress is that every political party will claim credit for it but the important aspect for India and the US to bear in mind is that while the contingencies of the other will have to be factored in they should "never" make any issue the test of bilateral ties.
"I think everybody on all sides of the Indian political sprectrum will claim victory. The opposition people will say that because of us something wrong was not done and the Prime Minister will say because "I stood firm" the deal was not done", Shourie said.
"If it goes through then he (meaning the Indian Prime Minister) will try to persuade all of us, that the clauses "you are worried about" is non binding, etc" Shourie said and recalled an adage during the Vietnam War "Cry victory and run".
Commenting on the implications of the Democrats returning to Capitol Hill as victors in the November 7 Congressional elections, Shourie said the "rhetoric may change a little bit" but the Presidency may be bogged down to a situation in which Bush may not be able to "deliver" the civilian nuclear agreement.
"The major thing will come out on the nuclear deal. The House and the Senate bills are so far apart... I don't know how they will be reconciled... With the Executive seen as being bogged down in other things, the delivery (of the deal) will be that much more difficult," he said.
The Parliamentarian argued that till about five years ago nuclear energy was moving out of the radar screen even in countries of Europe and in the context of the India-US deal the point has been made that some 30 years down the line only six per cent of India's needs would be met by nuclear energy."
1. Japan, Acting to Calm U.S. Worries, Rules Out Building Nuclear Arms
(for personal use only)
Japan "is absolutely not considering" building a nuclear arsenal in response to the North Korean nuclear test, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Wednesday, moments after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated that Japan was protected by the American nuclear umbrella.
Rice arrived here Wednesday on the first stop of a tour through northeast Asia and Russia. Her trip is aimed at allaying concerns and coordinating strategy against the Pyongyang government in the wake of the test.
The question of whether Japan would go nuclear has stoked worries within the U.S. government and increased tensions in the region. Earlier in the day, Aso told a parliamentary committee that while Japan's nonnuclear principles remain unchanged, "it's important to have discussions on the matter."
The ruling party's policy director on Sunday also urged a debate on whether Japan should consider developing its own nuclear deterrent. Japan is the world's only victim of a nuclear attack, and it has consistently refused to allow the United States to store nuclear weapons on its territory. But experts say Japan has a large supply of plutonium from its civilian nuclear power program, giving it access to the material necessary to quickly make the switch to a strategic nuclear program.
In response to a question at a news conference with Rice, Aso said: "There is no need to arm ourselves with nuclear weapons. For Japan's own defense . . . we have the commitment, and that commitment has been reconfirmed by Secretary Rice."
"Japan has answered this question," Rice said. "The role of the United States is to make sure that everybody, including the North Koreans, know very well that the United States will fully recognize and act upon its obligations under the mutual defense treaty" with Japan.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is to meet with Rice on Thursday, also reiterated Wednesday that his government would not discuss building a nuclear bomb. "That debate is finished," Abe testily told reporters.
Speaking to reporters as she flew to Asia, Rice acknowledged that a nuclear arms race was a concern, which is one reason she planned to use the trip to assure Japan and South Korea that they remain under U.S. protection. "I think through doing that we can mitigate some of the potential for a truly destabilizing set of events to take place in the region in response to the North Korean test," she said.
During a speech in Shanghai in 2004, Vice President Cheney warned that, if faced with a reality that North Korea has a stockpile of nuclear weapons, other nations in the region "may conclude their only option is to develop their own capabilities, and then we have a nuclear arms race unleashed in Asia."
South Korea and Taiwan are also considered potential candidates to begin nuclear weapons development.
1. Rice Emphasizes Diplomatic Approach to North Korea Crisis
U.S. Department of State
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A diplomatic solution to the North Korean crisis is still possible, and the U.N. resolution aimed at reining in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions is not designed to escalate tensions, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
During an October 19 joint press briefing in Seoul, South Korea, with South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, the soon-to-be secretary-general of the United Nations, Rice said some of the early reports about the intent of Resolution 1718 in terms of cargo inspections “have been a little exaggerated.”
“[S]ome people seem to be imagining quarantine or a blockade,” she said. “That is not the intention of the resolution.”
Resolution 1718, the secretary said, calls for “scrutiny” of North Korean cargo that might be involved in nuclear programs. “But there are many different ways in which this can be achieved,” Rice said.
She said the United States and the Republic of Korea have been engaged actively in container security initiatives and port security initiatives that focus on detection of potential radioactive materials. The United States and other countries also have been engaged in various counterproliferation measures under the Proliferation Security Initiative.
That initiative, announced by President Bush in 2003, seeks to counter proliferation networks by working with like-minded states prepared to make maximum use of their laws and capabilities to deny rogue states, terrorists and black marketeers access to materials related to weapons of mass destruction-related and to means of delivering those materials.
Rice said the initiative relies very heavily on intelligence. “It isn't just sort of constant random inspection of ships. And it relies on international law,” she said, adding that the initiative has been implemented “in a way that has been effective but I think has not been confrontational.”
The United States hopes, the secretary said, that there are “many measures that could be taken to implement Resolution 1718 that have the same character.”
Rice is in Asia to rally support for Resolution 1718 and coordinate efforts to implement it. Other stops on her trip include Tokyo, Beijing and Moscow. In all her public appearances, she has underscored the importance of reaching a diplomatic solution to Pyongyang’s defiance of the international community.
“I want to emphasize again,” she said in her appearance with Ban, “the United States has no desire to do anything to escalate this situation. And so the idea that somehow we would want 1718 to be implemented in a way that escalates tensions on the Korean Peninsula, or on the high seas for that matter, simply could not be more wrong.”
In Tokyo, she told the press October 19: “I want everyone to know that there remains a path open for diplomacy and that we hope that the North [North Korea] will return to the talks, but this time return really willing and ready to dismantle its weapons program. The denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is the purpose of those talks.”
2. DOE Reactor Site Returns To Green Field Conditions
National Nuclear Security Administration
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On Wednesday, October 18, 2006, the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program commemorates the first-ever chemical and radiological release of a U.S. nuclear power reactor site for unrestricted future use – the Department of Energy S1C Prototype Reactor Site in Windsor, Connecticut. The 10:30 a.m. ceremony, held at the DOE Windsor Site off Prospect Hill Road in Windsor, CT, includes a performance by the U.S. Navy Band – Northeast Region.
The event is being hosted by Admiral Kirkland H. Donald, Director of the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, a joint Department of Energy and Navy program. Attendees are expected to include Undersecretary of Energy and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration Linton Brooks, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Gina McCarthy, EPA Regional Administrator Robert Varney, and Windsor Mayor Donald Trinks. Officials of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency as well as other Federal, State and local elected officials have also been invited.
This ceremony concludes twelve years of facility dismantlement and environmental characterization and restoration associated with returning the site to “Green Field” conditions. First, the S1C Prototype at the Windsor Site and all supporting facilities and utilities were removed and the materials properly disposed of. Then extensive environmental characterization of the Site was performed, followed by remediation where necessary. Over 140,000 environmental sample results from the 11 acre site were analyzed and reported – a new standard in environmental stewardship. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program personnel and contractors worked in cooperation with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to complete the project. These agencies also provided independent oversight of the project. The current Windsor Site condition makes it suitable for any future use, without restriction, from economic development to recreation.
Throughout the Cold War, the S1C Prototype nuclear submarine propulsion plant at the Windsor Site supported the submarines and surface ships of the Navy’s nuclear fleet by testing new equipment and training Naval propulsion plant operators. S1C was the prototype for the USS TULLIBEE (SSN 597), an early advanced-design, fast-attack submarine constructed by Electric Boat and commissioned in 1960. The S1C Prototype was operated at the Windsor Site from 1959 until 1993. During that time, over 14,000 Naval operators were trained there, including Admiral Donald early in his career.
Under Admiral Donald, the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program is responsible for all aspects of the design, construction, operation, maintenance and disposal of the Navy’s nuclear reactors, including selection and training of the Naval operators. Over the past 50 years, Navy warships have safely steamed more than 135 million miles on nuclear power in support of the Nation's defense, accumulating over 5,800 reactor-years of operation.
The National security mission supported by the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program is dependent on a strong commitment to safety and the environment; this cleanup effort reaffirms and demonstrates that commitment.
3. Research Reactor at University of Florida Has Been Converted
National Nuclear Security Administration
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The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has successfully converted a research reactor at the University of Florida from the use of highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium. This conversion comes on the heels of a reactor conversion at Texas A&M University that was announced last week. By the end of this year, NNSA will have converted six U.S. and international research reactors.
As a part of its nonproliferation mission, NNSA converts research reactors in the U.S. and around the world from operating on highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. LEU is not suitable for use in a nuclear weapon and is not sought by terrorists or criminals. The conversion is part of the Bush administration’s efforts to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium in civil applications around the world.
“Decreasing the use of highly enriched uranium in the United States and around the world is a priority for this administration,” said Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman. “Converting this domestic reactor at University of Florida and the one last week at Texas A&M University further demonstrates our commitment to limiting the spread of nuclear material.”
HEU is primarily used in research reactors to produce isotopes for medical applications, and early reactor technology used HEU fuel because it was more difficult to achieve comparable power levels using LEU. However, modern reactor designs can use newer high-density LEU fuels while maintaining comparable power levels, making conversion an attractive option for limiting the availability of HEU nuclear material.
“Reducing the use of highly enriched uranium around the world makes for good nonproliferation policy and international security. NNSA will continue working with our international partners and with domestic research institutions to convert reactors to low enriched uranium,” said NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks.
NNSA worked closely with the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the University of Florida to complete this reactor conversion. Senior officials from NNSA joined others in Gainesville today to commemorate the successful fuel conversion of the reactor.
Under the 2005 North American Security and Prosperity Partnership, the United States, Mexico, and Canada agreed to convert civil HEU reactors on the North American continent to LEU fuel by 2011, where such LEU fuel is available. The University of Florida research reactor is the second of six domestic research reactors the United States will convert. Mexico will convert its one research reactor in Mexico City, and Canada will convert three research reactors.
This reactor conversion also supports the 2005 Bratislava Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Cooperation issued by President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under the statement, the United States and Russia agreed to work together to convert more than 30 U.S. and Russian-supplied research reactors around the world from the use of HEU to LEU.
The Global Threat Reduction Initiative’s (GTRI) mission includes returning and securing nuclear fuel and radiological sources, protecting radiological and nuclear material and converting research reactors around the world. Currently, GTRI is working to convert 59 more reactors around the world from HEU to LEU by 2014.
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