1. Russia discussing intl. uranium center creation - nuclear agency
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Russia is holding talks on the establishment of an international uranium enrichment center in Angarsk with Kazakhstan and other states, a deputy head of the country's nuclear agency said Saturday.
President Vladimir Putin suggested at the beginning of the year that, in light of tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions, international uranium enrichment centers be set up in Russia.
"We are talking about not a mythical but real joint venture that envisions participation of a foreign partner in managing the enterprise, defining the market strategy and distributing profits," Nikolai Spassky said. "This is the only approach that would make it possible to attract real foreign participants."
The head of Russia's Federal Nuclear Power Agency said Thursday that an International Atomic Energy Agency delegation would soon arrive in Moscow to continue work on establishing an international enrichment center in Angarsk in East Siberia.
"IAEA experts will soon arrive in Moscow to conduct work to establish an international uranium enrichment center in Angarsk, and then we plan to hold a working seminar with the IAEA," Sergei Kiriyenko told journalists.
Kiriyenko said the town about 5,000 km (3,100 miles) east of Moscow had not been chosen accidentally.
"Angarsk has always been connected with the nuclear sector's civilian side. The enterprise in Angarsk can be put under IAEA control, and it has additional reserve capacities," he said.
Kiriyenko said the center will make it possible to control the amount of uranium delivered for enrichment, and the amount of outgoing enriched uranium.
The Russian nuclear chief said earlier the nuclear enrichment center could be opened as early as 2007.
He proposed granting the center special zone status to ensure that its operation enjoys legal guarantees. "We should use all the ideas and proposals made by different countries today," he said then.
Kiriyenko also said the center could have an annual reserve of low enriched uranium.
2. Russia launches UK-funded nuclear fuel storage facility
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A spent nuclear fuel storage facility, whose construction was funded and controlled by Great Britain, was inaugurated Friday in northern Russia.
Under the Global Partnership program, Great Britain allocated 21 million GBP (about $40 million) for the construction of an interim nuclear storage facility and 50 storage containers at the state-run enterprise Atomflot, in Russia's Arctic port of Murmansk.
An inauguration ceremony was attended by Prince Michael of Kent, who opened the facility, together with Murmansk Region governor Yury Yevdokimov.
Andrei Abramov, Atomoflot's chief engineer, said the facility will contribute to the region's nuclear security and will downgrade major nuclear and environmental concerns.
"Spent nuclear fuel from atomic icebreakers is currently being stored on board the Lotta, a nuclear fuel supply ship," he said. "On-shore storage will dramatically increase safety."
Reloading of spent nuclear fuel to the new facility will allow the Lotta to collect further fuel from outlying sites and icebreakers for safer storage.
3. Rosatom to build new safer reactors at all n-plants ï¿½ Kiriyenko
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The Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) plans to build new and safer nuclear power-generating units at Russiaï¿½s all nuclear plants, Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko told a news conference on Thursday.
New units that will replace the operating ones will be built, ï¿½if there are no technical restrictions,ï¿½ he said.
ï¿½At present, there are no restrictions,ï¿½ Kiriyenko said pointing out that the issue of upgrading the Bilibino nuclear power plant in Russiaï¿½s Far East is still unresolved.
A large-scale nuclear power plant with four VVER-1000 reactors will be built in southern Russia, he said.
ï¿½At present, we are building a second nuclear power-generating unit at the Volgodonsk nuclear plant, and weï¿½ll build a third and fourth ones,ï¿½ he said.
ï¿½Rosatom plans to make from the Volgodonsk nuclear power plant a large-scale nuclear power station that will be able to meet fast growing demand for electric energy in southern Russia, that is comparable to that in Moscow,ï¿½ he said.
4. Former Russian nuclear chief proclaims innocence after partner pleads guilty to U.S. charges
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Russia's former atomic energy minister Yevgeny Adamov proclaimed his innocence again Wednesday on U.S. charges of tax evasion and money laundering, two days after his former partner pleaded guilty to similar charges in a U.S. court.
"I am not worried because I am not guilty," Adamov told reporters at a news conference.
U.S. prosecutors allege Adamov and Mark M. Kaushansky stole US$9 million from the United States, other countries and corporations by setting up U.S. corporations to which they diverted money that had been intended to improve Russia's nuclear safety.
Kaushansky pleaded guilty Monday in a U.S. federal court in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and eight counts of tax evasion. Asked by the judge why he was pleading guilty, Kaushansky said: "I just decided to admit that some tax-related irregularities were made."
U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said in a statement Monday that the indictment alleges Adamov was primarily responsible for diverting the money, but that Kaushansky "was most directly involved with the concealment and expenditure of those funds."
Adamov told reporters in Moscow that he was a patriot who had tried to help Russia's impoverished nuclear workers and to protect Russia's national interests. He said Kaushansky had "sins" and that Kaushansky indeed failed to pay taxes.
Adamov also accused prosecutors of grasping at straws and forcing Kaushansky to plead guilty to justify the cost of their multiyear investigation.
"We are witnessing, in front of our very eyes, the destruction of the pretty picture which was constructed and which perfectly confirmed the myth ... that everything in Russia is for sale, that all authorities in Russia are for sale," Adamov said.
During his tenure in office, he said, "I never once by my side saw thieves or corrupt officials."
Adamov said he had been prepared to cooperate with U.S. investigators, but that they refused to agree to certain conditions ï¿½ including not insisting that he travel in handcuffs and guaranteeing he would not face physical or psychological pressure. He also accused U.S. investigators of trying to squeeze him for Russian nuclear secrets and classified information.
Adamov was fired in 2001 by President Vladimir Putin, and a parliamentary committee accused him of illegally setting up companies inside and outside Russia.
He was arrested in Switzerland in May 2005 after being indicted, and U.S. officials sought to have him face trial in the United States, but Russian officials opposed that, arguing that he should face trial on similar charges in his home country.
A Moscow court in August sent the fraud and abuse of power case against Adamov back to prosecutors for reworking, citing procedural and other violations, and he has been free on bail since July.
He faces up to 10 years in prison in Russia if convicted.
1. Russia claims 25 pct of US uranium market - Kiriyenko
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Russia claims 25 percent of the U.S. uranium market, the head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom), Sergei Kiriyenko, told a news conference on Thursday.
Russia will be satisfied if its share in uranium fuel supplies to the U.S. market will make up 25 percent after 2013, he said.
ï¿½At present, Russia has no dumping uranium supplies in the United States except from those under the HEU-LEU contract that will expire in 2013,ï¿½ Kiriyenko said.
ï¿½After this weï¿½d like to have conditions for direct supplies of uranium products to the U.S. energy market. We do not ask for any privileges, but we will not tolerate any discriminatory measures from the U.S.,ï¿½ Kiriyenko said.
He pointed out that ï¿½if there are no restrictions to the export of Russian uranium products to the U.S. after 2013, we are ready to start from scratch increasing our supplies every year after by the end of each year the analysis of our supplies proves that they are not dumping.ï¿½
At present, Rosatom conducts ï¿½intensive talks with the U.S. Department of Commerce and Russiaï¿½s stand is extremely firm. We are ready to guaranteed uranium export to the U.S. market, but weï¿½ll never agree that Russiaï¿½s rights on the U.S. market are derogated from as compared to those of other participants,ï¿½ Kiriyenko said.
Cooperation of Russia and Iran in the construction of a nuclear power plant in Bushehr meets all international norms and does not contradict the non-proliferation regime, the chief of the Federal Agency of Atomic Energy, Sergei Kiriyenko, said.
He told a news conference on Thursday that Moscow and Tehran have an accord, under which nuclear fuel for the Bushehr plant ï¿½will be produced and delivered only from Russiaï¿½.
Spent nuclear fuel will be returned from Iran to Russia for reprocessing, Kiriyenko said.
Russiaï¿½s nuclear shield remains reliable, he went on to say.
Kiriyenko said there would be no division of the nuclear sector into civil and military parts.
He explained that civil nuclear enterprises would be incorporated, but all shares will be owned by the government.
ï¿½The military part of the sector is a specific part of our work, and it is different from the civil one, and requires special control and financing,ï¿½ Kiriyenko said.
He added that the production association Mayak in the Chelyabinsk region would not be ï¿½divided into military and civil partsï¿½.
ï¿½This is a nuclear weapons complex with all ensuing consequences,ï¿½ he said.
France has rejected a proposal from Iran to set up a consortium to produce enriched uranium on Iranian soil as a way out of the international impasse over Tehran's suspect nuclear programme.
"There is a channel of dialogue with the Iranians" that must pass through EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, a spokesman for the French foreign ministry said Tuesday.
"It's through this channel we await a response from the Iranians on the suspension" of uranium enrichment, as demanded by the UN Security Council, spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei told reporters.
He said the Iranian proposal, made on French radio earlier Tuesday by the deputy director of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad Saeedi, was "unexpected".
If the Iranians agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, Mattei said, "there could be place for negotiations where each side can make whatever proposals it wishes."
The French reaction came as Solana said in Finland he was "interested" by the Iranian offer to the French, but added he needed to study the idea more closely.
Saeedi, in his interview with France Info radio, suggested the French consortium idea as a way to break a deadlock over Iran's nuclear programme.
"To be able to reach a solution, we have just had an idea. We propose that France create a consortium for the production in Iran of enriched uranium," he said.
"That way France, through its Eurodif and Areva companies, can monitor our activities in a tangible fashion."
Iran ignored an August 31 deadline set by the UN Security Council for halting enrichment, and foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini on Sunday reaffirmed Tehran's refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program after EU-Iran talks last week failed to reach any compromise.
Earlier this year, Russia had proposed allowing Iran to enrich uranium on Russian soil as a way out of the standoff, but despite a flurry of talks Tehran never embraced the idea with enthusiasm and eventually rejected it.
Saaedi's proposal appears to contain the key difference that enrichment should be done by foreign firms on Iranian soil, meeting Tehran's constant demand that it will never surrender its right to enrichment in Iran.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had suggested in a speech to the United Nations in New York in September 2005 that foreign countries could help Iran to enrich uranium on its soil.
He said at the time the "further confidence-building measure" was to "engage in serious partnership with private and public sectors of other countries in the implementation of the uranium-enrichment program in Iran."
However key global players in the Iranian nuclear dispute such as France and Russia reacted at the time with scepticism to the offer.
The West is urging Iran to freeze uranium enrichment -- a process that can be used to make both nuclear fuel and the explosive core of a nuclear bomb -- in return for a package of economic and diplomatic rewards.
Iran says its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful energy needs, vehemently rejecting US allegations it is seeking to manufacture nuclear weapons.
Washington has pressed its Security Council allies to use sanctions to increase the pressure on Tehran, but has met stiff resistance, notably from Russia and China.
2. Iran gives no sign of nuclear suspension yet: Rice
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Iran has said nothing so far to suggest it plans to suspend uranium enrichment, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters as she flew to the Middle East, Rice said the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany might meet later this week to discuss Iran's nuclear program.
The Security Council has threatened to impose sanctions on Iran if it fails to suspend its enrichment of uranium, a process that can produce material for atomic weapons. Iran denies it is developing nuclear weapons.
The foreign ministers held a conference call over the weekend to discuss European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana's efforts to coax Iran into suspending enrichment.
"I think it's fair to say that we have not yet heard anything that suggests that the Iranians are going to suspend," Rice told reporters, noting that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was recently quoted as rejecting any suspension.
"I believe that Javier Solana will probably check his sources one more time to see if there is anything more there," she added. "We did have a discussion of the importance of remaining firm on (U.N. Security Council) Resolution 1696, which means that if the Iranians don't suspend, then we will go to the Security Council for sanctions."
Even though Iran has failed to meet the Security Council's demand that it suspend its nuclear activities by August 31, it is not certain that the major powers will now move to impose sanctions. Russia and China, which hold vetoes on the Council, both have had misgivings about the use of sanctions.
Rice spoke as she set off on a trip to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
She said it was possible the six nations -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany -- might meet later this week to discuss Iran but no decision has been taken.
Such a meeting could provide a venue to discuss possible sanctions on Iran. U.S. officials have said that these were likely, in the first instance, to focus on preventing Iran from acquiring "dual-use" items that can be used for civilian and military purposes.
Solana said on Thursday he had failed to reach a deal with the chief Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani on Tehran's nuclear ambitions, but said they would hold another round of talks soon.
Several Western diplomats who were briefed on Solana's talks with Larijani last week said the Iranians were still refusing to commit to suspending their uranium enrichment program and said Larijani appeared to be trying to drag out talks with Solana.
3. Iran will be building nuclear power plants in 10 years: analyst
Mehr News Agency
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Iran can be one of the countries that build nuclear power plants in the next ten years, and the Westï¿½s pressure and Russiaï¿½s procrastination can even accelerate the process, political analyst Ali Karami said here on Friday.
Procrastination by the Russian contract partner is not something new; over the years, they have violated all of the various agreements about bringing the Bushehr power plant on stream, but, according to the contract, they must complete the project, Karami told the Mehr News Agency.
Karami pointed out that Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Director Gholamreza Aqazadeh has said that Iran can complete the Bushehr nuclear power plant using its own expertise if the Russians do not complete it.
And the remarks received a significant reaction from political circles, he noted.
In fact, Iran is acquiring the links in nuclear technology one after another and the links are being joined, so the country will eventually be able to build nuclear power plants in the same way it developed the technology for the complete nuclear fuel cycle, he said.
This determination is a result of Iranï¿½s software movement, which is making great progress at this point in time, he added.
ï¿½Along with the Iran-Russia negotiations over the Bushehr nuclear power plant, political talks are also being held on Tehranï¿½s nuclear dossier.
ï¿½We should resist the suspension of nuclear activities.ï¿½
A firm stance in political talks will encourage Russia to fulfill its commitments; hence the destinies of the two negotiations are intertwined, he observed.
The US Congress yesterday moved to extend and tighten sanctions on Iran and companies doing business with Iran after talks in Europe on a compromise over Tehranï¿½s nuclear programme failed to reach agreement.
The legislation, passed by voice vote in the House of Representatives and awaiting action by the Senate, is aimed at choking off funds that could aid Iran in developing a nuclear weapon and raising the pressure on the Islamic republic at a critical time.
Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who pushed the bill, said it ï¿½provides US officials with the necessary tools to prevent Iran from acquiring the technical assistance, financial resources and political legitimacy to develop nuclear weapons and support terrorism.ï¿½
But critics said the bill could make international diplomacy more difficult by targeting countries the United States needs as allies in its campaign to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear program. They also said sanctions imposed by one country are seldom effective. ï¿½We can pound our chests all we want hoping that Russia or China will follow our lead (but such actions by Congress) simply carry no weight,ï¿½ said Republican Rep Jim Leach of Iowa.
The bill renews for five more years economic sanctions ï¿½ known as the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act or ILSA and set to expire this weekend ï¿½ to discourage companies from investing in Iranï¿½s energy sector. It also establishes mandatory economic sanctions on companies that provide Iran any goods, services or technologies that can be used in programs for nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in Berlin he failed to reach a deal with chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, but would hold more talks soon.
After Iran ignored the August 31 deadline, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China agreed to give Iran until early October to reach a deal.
North Korea yesterday declared that it would conduct a nuclear test ï¿½in the futureï¿½ to repel financial pressure and military threats from the US, in a bold statement likely to exacerbate fears that Kim Jong-ilï¿½s regime is preparing to take its next provocative step.
Although Pyongyang is renowned for its alarming pronouncements and for using threats as a bargaining tool, the statement comes after intelligence reports of earth-moving around possible test sites.
Meanwhile, many analysts predict North Korea will again try to force the US to drop crippling financial sanctions, after its July missile tests failed to do so.
ï¿½The USï¿½s daily increasing threat of a nuclear war and its vicious sanctions and pressure have caused a grave situation on the Korean peninsulaï¿½ and the Korean nation stands at the crossroads of life and death,ï¿½ the North Korean foreign ministry said in a statement published by the official Korean Central News Agency.
Saying it needed to ï¿½bolster its war deterrent for self-defenceï¿½, Pyongyang said it would ï¿½in the future conduct a nuclear test under conditions where safety is firmly guaranteedï¿½.
Richard Armitage, the former US deputy secretary of state, last week told the FT there was a ï¿½50/50ï¿½ chance that North Korea would conduct a test by the end of this year, while Song Young-sun, a defence expert and opposition lawmaker in Seoul, put the likelihood even higher, at 60-70 per cent.
South Korean security officials, who generally play down any threat from its neighbour, have dismissed such a prospect but yesterday convened a special meeting to discuss the statement. Taro Aso, Japanï¿½s foreign minister, said a nuclear test would be a threat to peace that Tokyo would ï¿½never forgiveï¿½.
ï¿½In the past, the country has done what it had said earlier, so I think it would be wrong automatically to think the country will not do this,ï¿½ Mr Aso said.
Tensions have worsened dramatically since the US last September imposed financial sanctions that have effectively curbed North Koreaï¿½s ability to trade either legally or illegally with the outside world and earn foreign exchange.
Pyongyang is refusing to return to the six-party talks on its nuclear weapons programme as long as the sanctions remain in place, while Washington has refused the Northï¿½s request to hold bilateral talks.
Hwang Joo-ho, a nuclear engineer at the Southï¿½s Kyunghee University, said he believed North Korea was capable of making a workable nuclear device from the spent plutonium fuel rods it claims to have reprocessed.
ï¿½It wouldnï¿½t be that hard for them to drill a shaft a couple of hundred metres deep to conduct a vertical test, but if they could find a big mountain with the right geology they could drill into it and conduct a horizontal test to stop their activities being seen from above,ï¿½ Prof Hwang said.
When the device explodes, the surrounding earth melts then solidifies when it cools. With a vertical test, the resulting crater usually cracks when it cools and leaves easily observable evidence of a test. However, this is not the case with a horizontal test if the shaft is drilled deep enough into a hill.
The most important news emerging from my recent trip to North Korea is that Pyongyang is planning to unload the fuel rods again from the Yongbyon nuclear reactor to reprocess more plutonium. They last unloaded them in June, 2005 and it is not necessary for technical reasons to unload them again until June of 2007. But Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said the unloading will begin "during this fall" and "not later than the end of the year."
Why are they speeding things up? Not as a provocation or threat, as the media have made it seem, but because they want to use Yongbyon as a bargaining chip in bilateral negotiations with the U.S. to resolve the stalemate over resumption of the six-party talks.
North Korea does want to return to the six-party talks. Kim Gye-gwan, chief negotiator at the talks, said, "Itï¿½s very important to us to resume the six-party talks because we would be the big beneficiaries if the September 19, 2005 Beijing declaration is implemented." But first, they want to negotiate an end to the financial sanctions imposed by the U.S. right after the September 19 agreement, which they regard as a violation of the accord.
The financial sanctions are very severe. The United States has in effect asked all the banks in the world not to deal with North Korea or to handle any transactions involving the country. The Bush administration says that it is only carrying out law enforcement against money laundering and counterfeiting and seeks to stop transactions relating to weapons of mass destruction. But the Treasury Department has made it clear that its goal is to cut off all North Korean financial interaction with the rest of the world.
Hereï¿½s what Undersecretary of the Treasury Stuart Levey told the Wall Street Journal on August 23: "The U.S. continues to encourage financial institutions to carefully assess the risk of holding any North Korea-related accounts." On August 29, he said that the North was having a very difficult time finding banking services, and that they had found themselves in near complete isolation. On September 8, Levey said, "The line between North Koreaï¿½s licit and illicit money is nearly invisible, and the U.S. government is urging financial institutions around the world to think carefully about the risks of doing any North Korea - related business."
I found instances in North Korea authenticated by foreign businessmen and foreign embassies in which legitimate imports of industrial equipment for light industries making consumer goods have been blocked. The North Koreans understandably see this as a regime change policy designed to bring about the collapse of their regime through economic pressure. They think the U.S. government is so divided between Vice President Cheney and the State Department that itï¿½s incapable of carrying out the September 19 agreement.
What theyï¿½re saying is in effect, "We want the U.S. to show us it is ready to move toward normal relations in accordance with the September 19 agreement. If the U.S. wonï¿½t lift all of the financial sanctions, all at once, then it should show us in other ways that it has got its act together and is giving up the regime-change policy.
What they have in mind are bilateral negotiations without preconditions leading to a package deal that would be followed by the six party talks. For example, the U.S. would lift some or all of the sanctions in return for North Korean concessions such as a freeze of the Yongbyon reactor, a missile testing moratorium, or a commitment not to transfer nuclear weapons or fissile materials to third parties. Or the U.S. would offer incentives such as energy aid and removal from the terrorist list in return for a North Korean compromise on aspects of the financial sanctions.
Here is what Kim Gye-gwan said: "I am optimistic that the Bush administration will climb down in the near future and return to the September 19 agreement. They have no choice, since we are the ones who hold the key to the six-party talks. The administration is under pressure from China and South Korea. Previously they said the financial sanctions were law enforcement and could not be discussed in the six-party talks, but now they are changing their tune. Previously they said there could be no bilateral contacts before the six-party talks. Now they are sending signals suggesting bilateral contacts. We are trying to find out whether they are ready for serious discussions without seeking to impose preconditions."
My own view is that the only way to break the deadlock in the six-party talks is to find some way to resolve the sanctions issue through bilateral negotiations. There is no chance of North Korea capitulating without some face-saving compromise.
The financial sanctions are seriously impeding North Korean efforts to open up to the outside world and to carry out economic reforms because they are blocking foreign investment and trade. They are slowing down economic growth. They are hurting certain individual rich North Koreans. But there is no sign whatsoever that the sanctions are undermining the Kim Jong-Il regime, as the Bush administration hopes.
North Korea is stable and there is more economic activity in Pyongyang than I have ever seen, more cars and bicycles, more people in the streets, better dressed people, more restaurants, more small mom and pop stores; above all, more interest in making money. Thatï¿½s the result of government reform policies that give more autonomy and profit incentives to economic enterprises. Everything is still formally owned by the state, but enterprises are leased to managers who pay less to the state than they used to and can keep much more money they make. In contrast to Pyongyang, the countryside is stagnant and impoverished in many areas, especially those hit by the recent floods, but this has not affected the political stability of the regime.
The idea of a collapse is connected to the idea that North Korea is an economic basket case, but they do have significant natural resources like gold and iron ore that China is buying in large quantities, and there is evidence of major seabed oil and gas reserves both in the Yellow and East seas. On this visit, I heard top officials speak for the first time about the petroleum potential in the Sea of Japan where Russian and U.S. companies already have struck it big to the north of North Korea off the coast of Sakhalin and Kamchatka. North Korea signed an exploration agreement with China for the Yellow Sea last December and they are in touch with Russia about possible collaboration in the East Sea.
As for recent rumors, North Korea wants to keep the world guessing about the possibility of a nuclear test. None of those I met made any threats regarding a test or would comment directly about reports of preparations for a test, neither confirming nor denying plans. All of them said it was a military matter about which they had no information. However, all of them emphasized that North Korea already has functioning nuclear weapons, implying that a test is not necessary. General Ri Chan Bok, North Korean representative at the DMZ, said "Weï¿½re a very small country and we canï¿½t have a nuclear test above ground like Russia or the U.S. in Nevada. They are big countries. If we have an underground test it could have radioactive leakage. These rumors are spread by U.S. agencies to smear us. I have never heard indications of a nuclear test in our government or armed forces." My conclusion is that the issue is still being debated and that whether North Korea tests or not will depend on how relations with the U.S. develop, and whether or not they feel increasingly cornered.
As we were ending our farewell dinner, Kim Gye-gwan said, "We really want to coexist with the United States peacefully, but you must learn to coexist with a North Korea that has nuclear weapons. You have learned how to live with other nuclear powers, so why not us?" I replied, "That doesnï¿½t sound like you are really committed to denuclearization." "You misunderstand me," he said, "we are definitely prepared to carry out the September 19 agreement, step by step, but we wonï¿½t completely and finally dismantle our nuclear weapons program until our relations with the United States are fully normalized. That will take some time, and until we reach the final target, we should find a way to coexist."
China on Friday backed a U.S.-South Korean proposal aimed at luring North Korea back to long-stalled international talks on its nuclear program.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei met with top South Korean officials in Seoul as part of renewed efforts to restart the six-party nuclear talks after nearly a year of deadlock. The negotiations involving China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States last convened in November.
Wu's meetings focused on a joint strategy that South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and President Bush agreed to pursue at a summit earlier this month.
"I support it," Wu, who is Beijing's main nuclear envoy, said Friday after his meetings.
China's support of the plan could be crucial in getting Pyongyang back to the negotiating table, as it is the North's main benefactor and communist ally.
Roh said Thursday that the proposal was made to North Korea, but it hasn't given any response so far. Roh declined to give any details of what was contained in the proposal.
Seoul's nuclear envoy, Chun Yung-woo, told reporters he briefed the Chinese diplomat on the outcome of a recent trip to Washington but gave no further details.
Chun returned Thursday from an extended trip to the United States, where he tried with his U.S. counterpart, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, to flesh out a joint strategy aimed at luring North Korea back to the negotiating table.
North Korea has refused to return to the talks in anger over U.S. efforts to cut off its access to the international banking system because of the communist regime's alleged counterfeiting of U.S. dollars and money laundering.
The need to get North Korea back to the negotiating table has taken on added urgency since it test-fired a series of missiles in July. Reports have also suggested it might conduct a nuclear test to further escalate tension.
The North boasts it has nuclear bombs, but the claim has not been independently verified. Many experts believe the North has enough radioactive material to build at least a half-dozen or more nuclear weapons.
The U.S. has rebuffed the North's long-standing demand for direct talks, but has recently shown signs of softening that stance. The U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Alexander Vershbow, said this week that Washington is open to "new approaches," and bilateral talks are possible only if the North promises to return to the six-party negotiations.
North Korea remains adamant in its demand for a lifting of the U.S. financial restrictions. One of the country's vice foreign ministers, Choe Su Hon, told the U.N. General Assembly this week that it is impossible to resume the nuclear talks while the U.S. sanctions continue.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also said this week that she would consider a trip to Asia to see if "one last push" can be made to get North Korea back to the negotiations.
1. Norway and United States drop out of AMEC to assume observersï¿½ roles
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Norway has officially dropped out of the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation (AMEC) project and will now hold only the title of ï¿½observerï¿½ to the programme that has aided dozens of nuclear remediation projects in Northwest Russia, chief of AMEC operations in Norway Commodore Jo Gade told Bellona Web in an interview Monday.
The United States has also dropped out of active participation in - and funding for - AMEC and has similarly relegated itself to an observatory role, Gade said. US officials were unavailable to independently confirm this.
Sharp criticism of the Norwegian and US role in the AMEC project by Great Britain could be the source of the two countries' withdrawal from the programme as the UK seeks to perform bilateral projects in Russia while trading on the AMEC name, though Gade did not point his fingers directly at London.
According to Gade, the Norway and the United States will declare their operations in AMEC ï¿½a successï¿½ and their efforts in the programme complete, as new civilian agencies overtake the their responsibilities
But the AMEC programme has long been considered a crucial element in multi-lateral nuclear disarmament because its strong and time-tested military to military relationship with the Russians has fostered trust and allowed AMEC officials environmental clean-up access to points that would have been considered sacred ground for other remediation efforts as recently as two years ago.
What AMEC was
Established in 1996, AMEC was - until the 2003 joining of the United Kingdom (UK) - a three country consortium created by the respective defense agencies of the United States, Russia and Norway in order to address military-related environmental problems, primarily submarine dismantlement, in the fragile Arctic ecosystem.
AMEC has long been seen as the environmental wing of the US Cooprative Threat Reduction (CTR) programme and was formed to address clean up issues of waste that was being left behind by the United States' and other nations' nuclear remediation projects.
AMECï¿½s underlying philosophy was that it should be easier to discuss military environmental problems through a military co-operative effort than through civilian channels. The programme also emphasised the need to leave behind an infrastructure for Russia to use after US-led Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) and Norwegian programmes have come to an end.
But a proliferation of civilian and commercial structures that the UK, in particular, thinks can fulfill AMEC's responsibilities have led the UK to press the point of corporate competition for AMEC projects, thus steering the organisation away from the pure military to military cooperation it has stood for in the past - something that has caused frustration among Norwegian and US AMEC officials.
The role of the ï¿½observerï¿½
Gade ï¿½ who is also assistant director of the Norwegian Ministry of Defense's Security Policy Department - said that Norwayï¿½s new observational role would entitle it and the United States to attend meetings of AMEC principals. Their decisions and input, however, will have no impact on what projects AMEC will undertake, and they will no longer be able to provide financial sponsorship for any of the projects that AMEC undertakes.
By so doing, the United States and Norway have left AMEC to stand as a bilateral military to military agreement between Russia and the UK.
ï¿½AMEC is a military to military organisation,ï¿½ said Gade, ï¿½but nuclear dismantlement projects (in Russia) are increasingly being taken on by civilian organisations like Rosatom. There just isnï¿½t that much to do from a military standpoint anymore.ï¿½
Another Norwegian AMEC official said Norway has more Russian military contacts outside the framework of AMEC than in it, thus making Norwayï¿½s participation in AMEC redundant.
ï¿½We have more points of contact with the Russian military outside of AMEC than we do inside AMEC,ï¿½ said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the future of the AMEC programme.
This official, however, would not comment on what future plans Norway had with its Russian military contacts.
It is as yet unclear how these observatory bodies will be chosen and to what degree they will be able to take part in the discussions of AMEC's two remaining stakeholders.
Turbulence after UK joins AMEC
By accounts of US and Norwegian AMEC officials, the UK began slowly to take over the organisation and to maintain a strong grip on its direction after it joined.
Folllowing a November 2005 paper delivered to an AMEC principals' meeting in Plymouth, England by UK AMEC officials, which negatively assessed Norway and Washingtonï¿½s role in AMEC, the two countries began to consider backing out of the programme and declaring their mission within it successfully accomplished.
The paper, entitled ï¿½AMEC― Napoleonic Bureaucracy or Effective Collaborative Delivery Programme?ï¿½ called Norway and the United States onto the carpet for programme hold-ups, inefficiency, and safety issues.
Both Norway and the United States vociferously denied the British claims. British officials told Bellona Web in May that they were not demanding anything extraordinary in the paper, and presented what they called a ï¿½series of recommendations.ï¿½ These recommendations later came to be known in AMEC circles as "The UK Paper."
After the UK paper, Norway broadly hinted that its swan song in the AMEC programme would be the transport of the K-60 ï¿½ a ramshackle, rust-eaten November class submarine that no one else would touch - from the closed Russian naval base of Gremikha to Polyarny, near Murmansk, for dismantlement.
The United State, for its part, sent a strongly worded letter of protest to UK officials, accusing them of turning their nuclear remediation projects over to RWE Nukem, a commercial organisation whose critics say is lacking in AMECï¿½s military experience. Norway, according to Gade, registered similar complaints with the UK over their paper.
ï¿½In a series of late night meetings, I told the British that their letter was nonsense from beginning to end,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½After all, it was (Norway) who undertook the transport of (the November class) submarine when no one else would touch it.ï¿½
Norway, with the help of the Dutch marine salvage firm Dockwise, made good on that commitment last month ï¿½ but it took some deft financial finagling for AMEC Norway, which is under control of the Norwegian Ministry of Defence, to get the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) to let loose the purse strings for the NOK 20m ($3m) project.
Back out and declare success
ï¿½We scaled down because of Russia is bending toward dealing with civilian agencies in (nuclear remediation),ï¿½ said Gade.
ï¿½It is best to cease AMEC and declare success.ï¿½
UKï¿½s position on US and Norwegian withdrawal
The UK, meanwhile, remained sanguine about the future of AMEC, while Gade said that the UK was only trading on the decade old AMEC ï¿½brand nameï¿½ to further a bilateral programme. This ï¿½brand nameï¿½ said Gade would lend the UK cause credibility when seeking funding, even though ï¿½ or because ï¿½ the United States had had the most success under the AMEC programme.
The UK however, is determined to continue the programme on its own terms and invited other qualified countries to join. Sweden and Canada have, according to UK officials, expressed interest in joining.
ï¿½We see the value of AMEC and plan to continue,ï¿½ said Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) chief Alan Heyes in an interview with Bellona Web. ï¿½We will take those countries expressing interest in joining AMEC into consideration,ï¿½ said Heyes, whose DTI controls the purse strings for UK AMEC.
Alan Mason, who is assistant to Commodore Simon Lister who runs UK AMEC, said ï¿½we were aware that the United States and Norway were reviewing their positionï¿½ in AMEC.
ï¿½The UK wishes to continue its role in AMEC because it considers it to be a valuable programmme, but as for Norway and the United States, their role reached a point were they needed to review their position.ï¿½
Mason said he did not know if the current plans of Norway and the United States had anything to do with the UK paper that questioned their performance in the AMEC programme.
The anonymous Norwegian official acknowledged, however, that the UK paper played a large role in Norway and the United Statesï¿½ decision.
ï¿½The UK realized it had put out a lousy paper, but was unwilling to recant any of its points,ï¿½ said the anonymous Norwegian official.
The daughter of disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan has criticised claims made by President Pervez Musharraf in his autobiography.
In her first statement since her father's arrest in 2004, Dina Khan said she wanted to set the record straight.
She said suggestions that her father asked her to go public on Pakistan's nuclear secrets were "ludicrous".
Dr Khan was put under house arrest after admitting passing nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya.
In his book, President Musharraf said that Dr Khan sent a letter to his daughter, Dina, asking her to "go public on Pakistan's nuclear secrets" through British journalists.
Now, Dina Khan has hit back. In a statement provided to the BBC, she says that Gen Musharraf's claims are "ludicrous".
Instead, she claims that the letter was for her mother, Dr Khan's wife, and gave details of what had really happened.
'Paying the price'
Dr Khan's arrest followed a tense period in which US pressure on Pakistan to act against him was building.
But moving against Dr Khan was tricky, not least because he remained intensely popular in parts of Pakistan thanks to his role in building Pakistan's own nuclear bomb.
He also knew a lot of secrets about the country, including who at the top might have known about his illicit activities passing on technology.
It has long been assumed that one of the reasons he has never been put on trial - or interrogated by the CIA - was because of who he might be able to implicate.
Details of the letter to his daughter were intended to be released in the event of something happening to Dr Khan.
"The letter gave his version of what actually transpired and requested my mother release those details in the event of my father being killed or made to disappear," Dina Khan said.
She says the letter mentioned "people and places" but contained no nuclear blueprints or information.
Dina Khan also says she was questioned by the British security service MI5 about the document but they were satisfied she had not committed any crimes and was not in possession of any important information.
"The mistake my father made was in being far too vocal in his opinion about those in power, and as a result he is now paying the price," she writes.
She says that her sister was forbidden from seeing her parents for a period of months, and that she was not allowed to travel to Pakistan for a year.
"Our mail is opened, our mobiles are tapped and the house is bugged."
When he was placed under house arrest, pressure had been building on Dr Khan for a number of months.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors who visited the Iranian enrichment plant of Natanz in February 2003 had realised that the machines used by Iran were of the same design that Dr Khan had worked on when he was a young scientist in Europe and which he had used to build Pakistan's own programme.
At the same time, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Libya had opened up a secret channel with MI6 to give up his nuclear programme which had been almost entirely provided by Dr Khan and his network.
The US tried to put pressure on President Musharraf to put Dr Khan out of business in September 2003, when CIA director George Tenet confronted him in a New York hotel room with evidence of Dr Khan's activities, but Gen Musharraf still did not act and frustrations grew in Washington.
In the end it took a phone call from then US Secretary of State Colin Powell in late January to seal Dr Khan's fate.
Mr Powell warned Gen Musharraf that President Bush was about to give a speech and publicly name and shame Dr Khan.
As a result, the scientist was brought before President Musharraf and forced to publicly confess.
The CIA have never been allowed to interrogate Dr Khan directly, something they would very much like to do since it is still unclear how much nuclear technology he actually passed on to Iran.
In the case of Libya, Dr Khan provided an actual nuclear weapons design.
Some in Washington believe similar information may have been provided to Iran, proving Iran was after the bomb and not just peaceful nuclear power as Tehran claims, but they have never been able to prove it.
However, all questions for Dr Khan have to be filtered through Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, and no-one is sure they are getting the real truth.
Allowing the US access to Dr Khan would be very sensitive within Pakistan, where he still has many supporters, as well as potentially embarrassing for Gen Musharraf, who simply wants to move on from the issue.
US officials say, though, that one of the reasons Pakistan will not be offered a civilian nuclear co-operation deal of the type negotiated with India is precisely because of Dr Khan.
The scientist remains under house arrest in Islamabad. He was recently allowed out briefly for surgery for prostate cancer.
Dina Khan ends her statement with a warning.
"The investigation into the nuclear scandal was officially closed months ago, yet my father's situation remains unchanged. Perhaps the hope is to have him rot quietly at home, forgotten by all.
"That will never happen. The truth will come out eventually, it always does."
The government has drafted an initiative that could see the supply and control of nuclear fuel for atomic power generation brought under a multinational framework, a move in response to global concerns about the management of nuclear fuel.
The government's new proposal is for a registration system that lists countries' nuclear fuel-supply capabilities.
Nations participating in the scheme would be required to state in a register what nuclear-related technologies they are capable of supplying, such as the production of raw materials, conversion of uranium, enrichment of uranium and processing of the fuel. The register would be held by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog.
Member nations that have abandoned development of technologies that can lead to the development of nuclear weapons--such as enrichment of uranium and extraction of plutonium--would then be supplied nuclear fuel from other member countries under the IAEA's mediation.
The government believes the scheme would prevent nuclear weapons proliferation and reduce the economic burden on nations that are supplied nuclear fuel.
The Japanese initiative was compiled as a counterproposal to a six-nation initiative Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia and the United States presented at a regular IAEA directors meeting in June.
Under the plan, the six countries, all nuclear fuel exporters, would guarantee supply of the fuel, and other participating nations would cease enriching uranium in exchange for the supply.
However, the six-nation initiative excludes Japan--which is permitted to reprocess spent nuclear fuel--from the list of suppliers. As many developing countries voiced strong objections, the government decided to draft its own initiative.
Since last year, plans to control the international supply of nuclear fuel have been mooted around the world.
The U.S. government has independently proposed its Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, which would take over from the six-nation initiative, which the United States sees as a short-term plan.
Under the GNEP, nations capable of reprocessing nuclear fuel, including Japan, would supply the fuel to countries that do not possess the technology. The former would then accept spent nuclear fuel, which would be reprocessed into usable fuel for fast reactors.
As the United States took a long-term view when it drew up the GNEP plan, its proposal calls for the development of fast reactors, which the United States currently does not have.
The government has responded positively to the GNEP plan.
"We'll consider the plan from the viewpoint of how Japan can contribute to it," a government official said.
However, the GNEP plan assumes a reprocessing technology called UREX (uranium recovery by extraction), which extracts plutonium mixed with other transuranic elements from spent nuclear fuel, will be available. Transuranic elements are created when uranium elements absorb neutrons.
But the method used in Japan's reprocessing plant in Rokkashomura, Aomori Prefecture, known as PUREX (plutonium-uranium recovery by extraction), only extracts plutonium in a reusable form.
Though the technological difference between the two is not huge, the government needs to carefully examine the GNEP to prevent it from adversely affecting Japan's reprocessing plan.
Russia proposed another initiative that involved international nuclear energy centers. The plan aims to construct facilities in various locations around the world for the production and processing of nuclear fuel. The centers would provide nuclear fuel to nations that do not possess the technology.
But Sergey Antipov, deputy head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency, remarked in February that the first center might be built in Siberia.
This indicated the Russian plan is based on Moscow's strong desire to grab the leadership role in international control of nuclear fuel. Only a handful of nations, such as Iran, have so far supported the plan.
All of the proposals about international nuclear fuel control reflect the varied intentions of the countries. It is certain, however, that the movement toward international control and supply of nuclear fuel will continue to accelerate, because it is necessary to prevent nuclear material and related technologies from proliferating uncontrolled, as has occurred in Iran and North Korea.
In addition, partly because of rising crude oil prices, more countries, especially developing nations, have opted for nuclear power as an energy source. How to provide nuclear fuel to those countries is a realistic and important question that needs to be addressed.
The question is no longer about whether nuclear power generation and reprocessing should be done, but how it should be done.
Japan is regarded as having an excellent record regarding the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, as the nation has fully cooperated with IAEA inspections for decades. Therefore, the role Japan can play in any future plan could be great.
Building a framework to more effectively control nuclear fuel and overcome the difference in intentions of the countries concerned is an urgent task.
Suddenly, nuclear power is in vogue. At the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, President Bush and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin announced a far-reaching agreement to cooperate in the rapid expansion of nuclear energy worldwide and called on other countries to join them. It was the latest in a series of high-profile initiatives by the White House to promote nuclear power. Bush argues that the future energy security of the United States and the world will depend on increasing reliance on nuclear energy.
A technology that for years suffered ignominiously in scientific purgatory has been resurrected. Its virtues have been heralded by the likes of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the famed scientist Sir James Lovelock and even a few renegade environmental activists. The nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979 and the horrific meltdown at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union in 1986 have become distant memories. Now, facing rising costs of oil on world markets and real-time global warming, nuclear technology has been given a public relations face-lift and is touted, by some, as the energy of choice in a post-oil era. However, before we let our enthusiasm run away from us, we ought to take a sober look at the consequences of re-nuclearizing the world.
First, nuclear power is unaffordable. With a minimum price tag of $2 billion each, new-generation nuclear power plants are 50% more expensive than putting coal-fired power plants online, and they are far more expensive than new gas-fired power plants. The cost of doubling nuclear power's share of U.S. electricity generation ï¿½ which currently produces 20% of our electricity ï¿½ could exceed half a trillion dollars. In a country facing record consumer and government debt, where is the money going to come from? Consumers would pay the price in terms of higher taxes to support government subsidies and higher electricity bills.
Second, 60 years into the nuclear era, our scientists still don't know how to safely transport, dispose of or store nuclear waste. Spent nuclear rods are piling up all over the world. In the United States, the federal government spent more than $8 billion and 20 years building what was supposed to be an airtight, underground burial tomb dug deep into Yucca Mountain in Nevada to hold radioactive material. The vault was designed to be leak-free for 10,000 years. Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency concedes that the underground storage facility will leak.
Third, according to a study conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2001, known uranium resources could fail to meet demand, possibly as early as 2026. Of course, new deposits could be discovered, and it is possible that new technological breakthroughs could reduce uranium requirements, but that remains purely speculative.
Fourth, building hundreds of nuclear power plants in an era of spreading Islamic terrorism seems insane. On the one hand the United States, the European Union and much of the world is frightened by the mere possibility that just one country ï¿½ Iran ï¿½ might use enriched uranium from its nuclear power plants for a nuclear bomb. On the other hand, many of the same governments are eager to spread nuclear power plants around the world, placing them in every nook and cranny of the planet. This means uranium and spent nuclear waste in transit everywhere and piling up in makeshift facilities, often close to heavily populated urban areas.
Nuclear power plants are the ultimate soft target for terrorist attacks. On Nov. 8, 2005, the Australian government arrested 18 suspected Islamic terrorists who were allegedly plotting to blow up Australia's only nuclear power plant. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission found that more than half of the nuclear power plants in this country failed to prevent a simulated attack on their facilities. We should all be very worried.
Finally, nuclear power represents the kind of highly centralized, clunky technology of a bygone era. In an age when distributed technologies are undermining hierarchies, decentralizing power and giving rise to networks and open-source economic models, nuclear power seems strangely old-fashioned and obsolete. To a great extent, nuclear power was a Cold War creation. It represented massive concentration of power and reflected the geopolitics of a post-World War II era. Today, however, new technologies are giving people the tools they need to become active participants in an interconnected world. Nuclear power, by contrast, is elite power, controlled by the few. Its resurrection would be a step backward.
Instead, we should pursue an aggressive effort to bring the full range of decentralized renewable technologies online: solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and biomass. And we should establish a hydrogen storage infrastructure to ensure a steady, uninterrupted supply of power for our electricity needs and for transportation.
Our common energy future lies with the sun, not with uranium.
1. Russian nuclear chief speaks on Tianwan NPP construction
(for personal use only)
Russia will start building the third and fourth power units of the Tianwan nuclear power plant in China after the first and second units are launched, the country's nuclear chief said Monday.
Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly, 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.
"The protocol signed at a session of the Russian-Chinese sub-commission Friday envisions that after work is completed on the first and second units, work will begin on the third and fourth power units of the Tianwan NPP," Sergei Kiriyenko, who took part in a meeting to discuss the construction process, said.
Kiriyenko said that in terms of a combination of active and passive security systems, the plant was the world's safest.
Atomstroiexport vice president Yevgeny Reshetnikov said Friday: "Russian specialists will be able to meet the previously agreed date for the handover of the first power unit of the Tianwan NPP by November 2006. By October 10 they will be ready to operate the first unit at 75% of capacity, and we are currently waiting for the Chinese side to authorize that."
2. Russia to sign deals to build 10-15 NPPs overseas in 2yrs
(for personal use only)
Russia plans to sign deals in the next two years to build 10-15 nuclear power plants abroad, the country's nuclear chief said Thursday.
The move comes as part of an ambitious campaign to revamp Russia's nuclear industry and make it competitive on the global market, a plan approved by the president in July.
Sergei Kiriyenko said: "I hope we will secure contracts in the next two years to build about 10-15 nuclear power plants abroad."
He also said that Russia will seek to build 20 nuclear power plants overseas in the longer term.
Russia's Atomstroiexport, the nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly, is already building five nuclear power plants in China, India and Iran, and is also bidding to build a plant in Belene, Bulgaria.
1. India, South Africa to co-operate in Nuclear Energy sector
(for personal use only)
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in Durban on Saturday on his first-ever visit to South Africa, a country that was highly critical of India's nuclear tests, but now appears to be willing to cooperate in civilian nuclear energy with New Delhi.
A number of bilateral agreements on a wide range of subjects including one on preferential trade are expected to be signed during Singh's four-day visit, one of the highlights of which is his participation in the centenary celebrations to commemorate the launch of Satyagraha by Mahatma Gandhi.
Nuclear cooperation will be among the key subjects of discussions between Singh and South African President Thabo Mbeki with Indian sources hoping for a 'positive and pragmatic' approach from South Africa on it.
A member of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, this uranium-rich country has indicated that it was willing to cooperate in nuclear energy. NSG will have to back the Indo-US nuclear deal if it goes through, to enable India to receive nuclear fuel.
2. "The goalposts haven't been shifted and they will not be shifted" - Question and Answer with U.S. Ambassador David C. Mulford
T.S. Subramanian and Kesava Menon
(for personal use only)
Q: Mr. Ambassador, you said in Jaipur that the United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act is likely to be passed before the U.S. Congress finishes its term. What if it isn't and one of the Houses is captured by the Democrats?
A: We have few days left for the Congressional session before they recess for election. An effort is being made to obtain a floor vote in the Senate. The House has already voted. This is looking less likely because there has been some wrangling over procedural matters even when both the sides, the Republicans and the Democrats, are bending backwards to emphasise their support for the Bill on the Indo-U.S. [nuclear] relationship. There are some differences of opinion on possible amendments and how to proceed through the Senate, which is a complicated parliamentary format to work in. It may still be that we get a floor vote. If we get a floor vote, I believe it will be strongly positive by a substantial majority. It will be a bi-partisan majority. If we get that vote, the Bill goes to the Conference of the House and the Senate. That is a select group of members. They will rationalise the two Bills into one single Bill and the single Bill will go back for approval to both the Chambers, which is a quick action and then be signed by the President. If that does not happen before the end of this Congress, which will be adjourning by early December. Then we will have to go back to square one in the Congress all over again and start with the committees, the mark-ups for floor action, and the Conference all over again. How the elections come out will influence that situation because if the House changes hands those committees will be chaired by people on the other political party.
My own view is that it will not matter a great deal [because] both the parties are very supportive of this agreement. But I am afraid that it would draw the process out because there wouldn't be the same pressure on the Congress to act. So it would take more time to re-position, work through the committees and the whole process again. But it will not change the commitment of this Administration to get it done.
Q: The July 18, 2005 Joint Statement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W. Bush and the March 2006 Separation Plan are a win-win arrangement for both India and the U.S. in civilian nuclear cooperation. So why are the House of Representatives Bill and the draft Senate Bill trying to change the terms of this agreement into issues of concern over proliferation and why are efforts being made at capping India's nuclear weapons programme? In short, why is the U.S. shifting the goalposts?
A: First of all, let me emphasise that the goalposts have not been shifted and they will not be shifted. The Administration has reached an agreement on the deal and for the deal to be implemented, the law has to be changed. The law has to be changed by the United States Congress. They have had certain suggestions to make about legislation and they are in the form of either what we call declaratory points which are not enforceable but are matters of stated opinion. The other type of amendments is in the form of substantive amendments. Most of the people who make those amendments believe that the amendments they are making are within the spirit of the July 18 Agreement. The Indian Government does not agree with that and the Administration does not agree in every case with that either. So we are trying to soften and change some of those amendments. And the question is what is the best tactic for doing that?
We have judged that it is not the best tactic to change the amendments on the floor of the Senate. That it is better to make that effort in the conference between the two Houses. The line that will be taken is that these amendments were put forward in June. That was very early in the process. They were put forward in the committees. Now we have floor votes with overwhelming support. So we would be making the point to the members that the overwhelming intention of the Congress, both the parties, is to see that this Agreement is put in place. So let us not have amendments there we know will make the deal unacceptable to the Indian Government because in their view these would fall outside the parameters of the Agreements of July 05 and March 06.
The second point is that the bilateral agreement which is being negotiated, the so-called 123 Agreement, is the operational agreement. When it is concluded, it would be submitted to the Congress for a vote. That vote will be an up or down vote. There will not be any opportunity to make amendments there. So what we will say to the people is, "Your amendment is a very detailed provision which is changing the law and the issues that you are worried about are dealt with in the 123 agreement. You will get a chance to vote on that later. If you don't like what you see, you can vote against it. We think that the Agreement will be supportive." We hope that one way or the other, we can soften or remove some of these amendments. But we do not know because it is in the hands of the Congress.
Q: But the Administration knew that the non-proliferation lobby in the U.S. would get active. Then why did not the Administration take pre-emptive action to put forth its case before the Congress before the non-proliferation lobbies got active?
A: We did put our case before the Congress immediately after the legislation was submitted in early May, may be even April. After the July agreement, I started making calls myself to members of the Congress in September 05 to lobby them to support this agreement. But we have a system that permits all parties to put forward their views.
The other point you made is incorrect when you said the aim of these amendments is to cap India's strategic programme. I disagree with that. This negotiation was always about a civil nuclear programme and that is the agreement... It is not a negotiation over India's strategic programme. There was no secret agenda to find a way indirectly to cap India's strategic programme. That is simply untrue. The fact that some of these amendments are objectionable [to India] does not mean that they are amendments which will effectively cap India's strategic programme. They have to do with some genuine concerns that members of the Congress have about matters of non-proliferation, management and handling of nuclear fuels, and so on. It is a complicated area. Obviously, there will be different opinions on things.
Q: You said you will try to reconcile things in the conference. That is one way of getting around this. The Senate Bill also includes a lot of provisions similar to the House Bill. It may not be in exactly the same language but the thrust is the same. How much of scope is there for reconciling the two in such a way that it is acceptable to India?
A: There is some scope which I have already explained. We should first get to know what is really acceptable in the final analysis or what is unacceptable. May be some of the things in there will turn out to be acceptable. For example, there are recording functions which are mentioned, I think, in the House Bill. These are requirements that would be imposed on the Administration. They are not imposed on India.
Q: It is not so much the reporting. It is an issue of waiver.
A: I wouldn't worry about that. The Administration will...
Q: In the draft Senate Bill, there is a provision that any waiver on nuclear technology transfers to India in areas such as reprocessing and enrichment or on fuel supplies "shall cease to be effective if the President determines that India has detonated a nuclear explosive device after the date of the enactment of this Act."
A: That is an issue that is pretty well taken care of and will not be an issue there. I can't commit on behalf of the United States Congress but my understanding is that that issue can be worked out. I think you might be scrutinising these issues closely.
Q: After India conducted its nuclear test in 1974, embargoes and technology denial regimes were imposed on it. But India survived for 30 years. Again, after the 1998 nuclear tests, sanctions were imposed on India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made it clear twice in Parliament in August that if extraneous conditions, not envisaged in the agreement, find their way into the Congressional legislation and they are going to hurt India, India will "draw the appropriate conclusions." Anil Kakodkar, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, has also said that India has got its own three-stage nuclear power programme and that it would go on. So the bottom-line is clear: India will not be unduly worried if this nuclear deal falls through. What is your reaction to that?
A: My reaction to what?
Q: If the deal does not come through, India will not be unduly worried because India has got its own three-stage nuclear power programme and it will go on.
A: It is up to India to decide what is in its national interests. If it finds that the agreement isn't helpful, then I suppose it will not accept it. But that is up to India to decide. It is not the impression I have that India thinks this deal is unimportant. I think they think that it is very important; very important to finish, to put into position. But India is a sovereign nation. It will make its own decisions. It is fair to say that you are scrutinising very closely a very complicated process which is being handled fully transparently by two major democracies. That is a recipe for some complication. This is not a deal, which is being cut in the backroom somewhere. This is a deal which is well agreed in the full light of the day and it is being processed by both the Governments in accordance with their democratic arrangements. So it is a very impressive process and it also by definition has some imperfections in it. Right? I think you will agree with that? But we should get some credit for doing it within the full, transparent democratic process in both the Governments. Both of us should get credit for that.
Q: The U.S. President is very much interested in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). There are plans to set up international reprocessing centres under the GNEP, especially in the P-5 countries. There is a strong feeling in the nuclear community in India that India is being played out of these international reprocessing centres although it has mastered the art of reprocessing (that is, India will not host any international reprocessing facility). Why isn't India being given its due recognition in this?
A: They [India] weren't cut out. In the negotiations, it was very clear that for India to have full access to the GNEP group, it would need to place one of its fast breeder reactors under safeguards. India decided that it would not do that. So India decided not to become a full-fledged member of that group. I guess if they decided to do that later [place one of its fast breeder reactors under safeguards], they will not then be restricted. That was the understanding at that time.
Q: Even then you will insist that India should place one of its breeder reactors under safeguards.
A: That was the condition in the negotiations. That was well understood and a decision was made by India not to do that.
1. United States, Kazakhstan Agree on Key Nonproliferation Project
U.S. Department of State
(for personal use only)
The United States and Kazakhstan have reached an agreement-in-principle on a key nuclear nonproliferation project, the U.S. Department of Energy has announced.
In a statement issued September 29, the department said that the agreement achieved by it and the Nuclear Threat Initiative with the government of Kazakhstan provides for the down-blending of highly enriched uranium (HEU) currently stored at Kazakhstanï¿½s Institute of Nuclear Physics.
In addition, it calls for the conversion of Kazakhstanï¿½s VVR-K research reactor to operate on low enriched uranium fuel instead of HEU, which can be used in nuclear weapons, the department said.
The statement calls the agreement ï¿½an important step forward in fulfilling Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayevï¿½s pledge late last year to rid his country of its HEU.ï¿½
ï¿½This agreement represents another example of the kind of productive cooperation the United States and Kazakhstan have shared in furthering nuclear nonproliferation,ï¿½ the statement quotes U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman as saying. ï¿½Our cooperative efforts support the Bush administrationï¿½s Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, recently announced by Presidents Bush and Putin."
The project is to be administered through the Department of Energyï¿½s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). NNSAï¿½s Global Threat Reduction Initiative will work with Kazakhstan to make arrangements for the down-blending of the HEU at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Kazakhstan and to initiate conversion of the VVR-K reactor. The agency will contribute at least $4 million to the threat-reduction initiative.
NTI -- a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to reducing the global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons -- played a key role in the agreement being reached by committing up to $1.3 million for a new reactor control and protection system to improve reactor safety and for a beryllium reflector to enhance reactor performance. An international board co-chaired by philanthropist Ted Turner and former Senator Sam Nunn governs the group.
Nunn, long a champion of nonproliferation initiatives, said Kazakhstan and the United States ï¿½are to be commended for the foresight and creativity needed to make this agreement a reality.ï¿½
ï¿½This project is an example of how governments, the private sector and international organizations can work together to find innovative and effective solutions to make the world safer,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½Under President Nazarbayevï¿½s leadership, Kazakhstan led the way in getting rid of all its nuclear weapons after the break-up of the Soviet Union and is once again showing the world a safer path by converting its weapons-usable highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium,ï¿½ Nunn added.
2. Container Ships Must Be Protected from Terrorist Exploitation
Jacquelyn S. Porth
U.S. Department of State
(for personal use only)
A State Department terrorism expert says the United States must work with its international partners to reduce the risk that terrorists will use container ships to carry weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Thomas Lehrman, director of the State Departmentï¿½s Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism, said terrorists constantly are adapting to existing defenses. Previously, an airplane might have been a weapon of choice against civilians, he said, but the next time the terrorists ï¿½may seek to slip a weapon of mass destruction into a container ship headed for one of our ports and then onto the streets of our cities,ï¿½ he said at a Maritime Security Expo in New York on September 20.
For this reason, Lehrman stressed, international coordination among specialists in weapons design, transportation and international finance is needed to prevent illegal shipments of WMD.
Because terroristsï¿½ access to chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological weapons poses such a grave threat, he said, the United States is determined to work with foreign government and private-sector partners to strengthen ï¿½national and collective defenses against this pre-eminent threat.ï¿½
Defending the United States and its international partners against a potential covert nuclear or biological terrorist attack presents many operational and technical challenges, he said. ï¿½Since we cannot afford to fail in this mission, we must embrace a strategic approach capable of reducing this risk to its absolute minimum,ï¿½ Lehrman said.
The official discussed how the United States and its partners must develop ï¿½a layered defense-in-depthï¿½ because no single layer, or capability, can provide enough protection against ï¿½a determined and adaptable terrorist adversary.ï¿½
PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS ARE KEY
Lehrman emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships in an era when more than 90 percent of global trade in goods is transported in containers through the maritime supply chain, making ports and related infrastructure ï¿½an inviting target.ï¿½
The ability to detect illicit and terrorist activity quickly is critical if governments are to ï¿½accelerate the appropriate enforcement response,ï¿½ he said, inviting private-sector entities to come up with new ways to protect the maritime supply chain.
Illicit WMD traffickers such as A.Q. Khan have used the maritime supply chain to transport WMD materials and delivery systems, he said, making the Proliferation Security Initiative an important effort to confront this threat. With more than 75 nations supporting PSI, Lehrman said more than 30 high-risk shipments have been stopped, including centrifuge parts en route to Libya.
The official also called for more research and development of technologies that can help secure maritime supply chains and facilitate ï¿½real-time sharing of information among and between international partners.ï¿½ Thwarting the next terrorist attack might well depend on rapid information-sharing with foreign government and/or private-sector partners, he said.
3. DOE Makes Available $8 Million for Pre-Conceptual Design of Next Generation Nuclear Plants
U.S. Department of Energy
(for personal use only)
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced that DOEï¿½s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) will make awards valued at about $8 million to three companies to perform engineering studies and develop a pre-conceptual design to guide research on the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP). The INL will issue a contract later this week to Westinghouse Electric Company for the pre-conceptual design of the NGNP, and will later issue contracts to AREVA NP and General Atomics to perform complimentary engineering studies in the areas of technology and design tradeoffs, initial cost estimates and selected plant arrangements.
This approach will provide the broadest range of technical input necessary to determine the research and development required over the next few years and to establish the technical and functional specifications for any subsequent design work. Each of the three companies will assemble an industry team to expand the overall capabilities and experience available for the NGNP.
ï¿½These three commercial teams, broadly representing nuclear and other energy sectors, bring an important commercial perspective to the NGNP research and development initiative,ï¿½ DOE Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dennis Spurgeon said. ï¿½Their involvement will help us focus our research and development activities as well as establish the functional requirements for the program.ï¿½
The studies will use DOE funds and in-kind contributions by industry for pre-conceptual design activities, scheduled to be completed in fiscal year 2007.
NGNP is a very high temperature reactor concept capable of producing high temperature process heat suitable for the economical production of hydrogen, electricity and other energy sources. The NGNP research and development program is part of DOEï¿½s Generation IV nuclear energy systems initiative aimed at developing next generation reactor technologies and is authorized by Congress in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
The results of the engineering and design work by Westinghouse Electric, AREVA NP, and General Atomics described above will provide an important foundation for completing the research and development on the very high temperature reactor.
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