Iran appears to have a secret $418 million slush fund for expansion of its nuclear operations, the German magazine Der Spiegel reports.
The information came from telephone calls made by a top Iranian official on a line tapped by a Western intelligence service, the magazine said. The money would be used to safeguard Iran's nuclear sites from attack by the United States or Israel and to build a secret nuclear plant.
Farhad Rahbar, vice-president and head of the planning and budget organization and a director of the Control Center for Nuclear Issues, reportedly wrote a clause authorizing the secret fund into the budget, allowing him to increase military spending by 30 percent.
Planning includes moving nuclear operations into tunnels, building additional centrifuges and a new nuclear plant at a secret location.
2. Iran wants 60,000 centrifuges in nuclear drive: Ahmadinejad
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President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad has defiantly announced the ultimate aim of Iran's atomic drive was to install tens of thousands of uranium-enriching centrifuges to produce nuclear fuel.
Despite the threat of UN sanctions over Tehran's refusal to hold back its nuclear programme, Ahmadinejad said that the long-term target of Iran should be to install 60,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium.
Iran has said it is looking to install 3,000 centrifuges by March 2007, in itself a massive step from the two cascades of 164 centrifuges apiece it has currently at its Natanz plant to enrich uranium on a research scale.
"We want to produce nuclear fuel and eventually we should go for 60,000 centrifuges. We should continue along this path. We are at the beginning of the wave," Ahmadinejad told a news conference Tuesday.
His comments reaffirmed Iran's insistence that it wants to produce its own nuclear fuel on Iranian soil and will not renounce its right to uranium enrichment, a process the West fears could be diverted to make a nuclear bomb.
Experts say that 50,000 centrifuges would normally be sufficient to produce 20 kilos (44 pounds) of weapons grade uranium in under a month, but Iran vehemently denies it wants the bomb.
The remarks came as the United States and European powers seek to find agreement for a UN draft resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran over its failure to suspend uranium enrichment.
Enrichment is carried out in lines of centrifuges called cascades and is used to make the fuel for civilian nuclear reactors. But in highly enriched form, the uranium can be used to make a nuclear bomb.
Building tens of thousands of centrifuges would take Iran's enrichment programme from its current research level to one where it could produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale.
World powers wanted Iran to suspend enrichment as a prelude to full-scale negotiations over its atomic programme, a demand that has been repeatedly rejected by Iran.
"The question of a suspension has now been passed," Ahmadinejad said.
But the president shrugged off the prospect of sanctions. "If they put in place sanctions a new financial order will be put in place."
Iran's arch-enemy the United States accuses it of seeking nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists its atomic programme is solely aimed at generating energy.
Amid mounting calls in the United States for contacts with Iran to stabilise neighbouring Iraq, Ahmadinejad said talks with Washington could only take place if the United States changed its "attitude" towards Iran.
"We would talk with the US government but on certain conditions, on the condition that it corrects its attitude," the president said, reaffirming his traditional stance on talks with the United States.
"And at that moment, we will talk with them as we talk with the others," he said.
The president confidently announced he would soon send a personal message to Americans and boasted to suspicious world powers that there now was no holding back the Iranian nuclear programme.
"I will soon send a message to the American people. I am in the process of preparing it," Ahmadinejad said.
"The message will elaborate upon the viewpoints of the Iranian nation, because many Americans asked me for it."
Ahmadinejad has already made message-writing part of his personal style, firing off missives to US President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that were greeted with frigidity by both parties.
The president gave no further details of the contents of the latest missive.
"The great powers have tried to prevent our people from achieving their rights in nuclear material," he said.
"This year I hope will be able to have the great celebration of the nuclearisation of Iran," he added. "We need time before we can arrive at a stage where we can make nuclear fuel for a power station. And yes, it will take time."
3. Israel will 'not tolerate' a nuclear Iran: Olmert
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Israel will not accept a nuclear Iran, visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told US television, but while not ruling out military action, said he hoped diplomacy would dissuade Tehran from pursuing its nuclear program.
"We will not tolerate the possession of nuclear weapons by Iran," Olmert told NBC television's "Today Show" program, ahead of talks with President George W. Bush on Iran's nuclear ambitions and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Asked whether his country was considering a preemptive strike targeting Tehran's nuclear facilities, Olmert answered: "I hope we don't have to reach that stage."
But the Israel leader said his first choice is a negotiated resolution.
"Every compromise that will stop Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities, which will be acceptable to President Bush, would be acceptable to me."
Olmert added that he was not seeking Washington's protection from Tehran.
"I am not coming to the United States to ask America to save Israel," he said, saying his country had drawn the lessons of the Holocaust and World War II.
"In the 20th century someone said, 'I will liquidate a nation of people.' And somehow the whole world heard it, may have understood it, but didn't do much to prevent it."
"Now we have the president of Iran speaking on every international platform that the purpose of his efforts is to ultimately wipe Israel off the map," Olmert said.
"I am not looking for wars or confrontations. I am looking for the outcome," he said, adding that in his view the only result that matters is "whether it will succeed to stop Iran from possessing nuclear weapons."
Monday's summit, which comes six months after Olmert's first meeting with Bush at the White House, has been described by officials in Jerusalem as "a down-to-business meeting" on Iran.
With Tehran continuing to reject international calls to halt its nuclear enrichment efforts, Israel in recent months has moved the Iranian threat to the top of its agenda.
Backed by the United States, Israel has said sanctions are necessary following Tehran's failure to suspend uranium enrichment, and has hinted at possible military action against the Islamic republic.
"This is not an issue of Israel only. It is a moral issue of the whole world and the whole world has to stop it," Olmert said.
4. Iran to admit IAEA inspectors, won’t waive atomic rights-Larijani
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Iran is ready to receive IAEA inspectors but won’t waive peaceful atomic rights, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani said after Moscow negotiations with Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov on Friday.
A draft resolution on Iran, which has been presented to the UN Security Council, will not assist the settlement of the nuclear issue, he said.
“Iran receives IAEA inspectors, and we are ready to resolve all problems at negotiations,” Larijani said.
“We want to use our rights resultant from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We won’t waive them,” Larijani said. “It would be the best to achieve settlement through negotiations,” he said. “If there are any differences, we are ready to settle them with the help of negotiations.”
“There is no place for nuclear weapons in our defense doctrine. Yet those who support the adoption of the UN Security Council resolution on Iran want to escalate tensions,” he said.
Russia plays a significant role in the solution of the Iranian nuclear problem, Larijani said.
“Iran and Russia are two important states of the region. Their cooperation is essential,” he said. “We are holding permanent consultations about the Iranian nuclear program. The sides think that the only way to find a solution is peaceful negotiations.”
“The negotiations were constructive and open. We discussed bilateral cooperation and regional development,” he said.
Iran plans to ask the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency later this month for technical assistance on a nuclear reactor project that could produce two bombs a year, two experts said on Thursday.
Robert Einhorn, a former top U.S. nonproliferation official now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association, both based in Washington, said the request should be rejected because it would advance Tehran's nuclear weapons capability.
"When the Arak reactor is completed, which the Iranians say could happen as early as 2009, it will be capable of producing enough plutonium for about two bombs a year," they said in an analysis.
Iran's request to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors meeting beginning November 23 would seek technical assistance to help ensure safety at a heavy-water production facility at Arak, Iran.
It has come up even as the U.N. Security Council is haggling over a resolution that would impose sanctions on Tehran for ignoring its demand to halt nuclear enrichment by August 31.
The United States and its allies accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of a peaceful energy program. Tehran says it needs nuclear power to produce electricity to meet the country's burgeoning energy needs.
Requests for help with safety issues -- like the one coming before the IAEA -- are usually hard to turn down, but the two experts said Iran's history of secretly pursuing weapons-related nuclear capabilities make this case different.
"The issue before the (IAEA) board is not safety; it is whether Iran should proceed with a project that the board itself has regarded with suspicion and called on Iran to suspend," they said in a written analysis.
Tehran has said the Arak reactor would be used to produce isotopes for peaceful purposes, but the project under construction is a large, heavy water-moderated reactor when a light-water research reactor is satisfactory for that task, they said.
Einhorn and Kimball noted that Britain, France and Germany offered to replace Iran's 40-megawatt heavy-water reactor with a light-water research reactor but Iran wasn't interested.
When reprocessed, fuel rods irradiated in heavy-water reactors yield high-quality, weapons-grade plutonium. Light-water reactors are generally considered to be less useful in weapons proliferation, experts say.
Iran is ready to consider a proposal to enrich uranium in Russia to lessen suspicions over its nuclear programme but would not stop similar work inside Iran, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Saturday.
The United Nations Security Council is trying to reach agreement on sanctions against Iran after it failed to halt uranium enrichment as demanded in a July council resolution.
Western nations accuse Iran of trying secretly to build an atomic arsenal, but Iran says it has the right to enrich uranium and only wants to generate electricity.
Russia had proposed building a joint nuclear enrichment facility on its soil to enrich Iran's uranium to the level used in power stations, which is lower than is needed to make bombs.
"Iran seeks to preserve its rights to nuclear technology on its soil, but that does not contradict joint work with others in other areas," Mottaki told a news conference.
Russia, one of Iran's main trading partners, wants parts of a European draft sanctions text deleted, while the United States wants stronger language inserted. Negotiations are likely to continue for some time.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday that Iran's enemies could not do a "damn thing" to stop Iran's nuclear activities.
Iran ended snap inspections of its nuclear facilities in February after its case was referred to the U.N. Security Council and has threatened to curtail all inspections by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, if sanctions are imposed.
2. Russia, Iran will push for resumption of talks - FM Lavrov
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Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday Russia and Iran will push for the resumption of international talks on Tehran's controversial nuclear program.
The long-running nuclear dispute was in the focus of talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Islamic Republic's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani. Lavrov and Igor Ivanov, Russia's Security Council chief, also attended the talks.
"We have reached agreement to continue our contacts, and we will work to achieve our common goal of resuming talks with six nations," Lavrov said
The five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany - Iran-6 negotiators - offered Tehran a package of incentives in June in a bid to entice Tehran to halt uranium enrichment, the process crucial for both power generation and weapons production. But Iran refused, citing its rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Lavrov said Russia will continue contacts with the six negotiators in the nearest days and will hopefully find a mutually acceptable basis for further talks.
The Security Council is discussing sanctions against defiant Iran drafted by Britain, France, and Germany.
The EU-3 proposed a ban on sales of missile and nuclear technologies to the country, freezing its military bank accounts, and imposing visa restrictions on Iranian officials linked to the nuclear industry. Russia, Iran's major trade partner, has called the sanctions excessive.
In December 2002, a time when the second North Korean nuclear crisis was in the offing, a North Korean freighter carrying 15 Scud missiles was discovered heading to Yemen. U.S. and Spanish forces seized the vessel but they had to release it because there was no provision under international law to prevent delivery of such a cargo.
Five months later U.S. President Bush announced the "Proliferation Security Initiative" which through mutual agreement would allow nations to interdict the transfer of weapons of mass destruction and their technology. Fifteen countries, including Japan, Russia, Britain, France and Germany have joined the PSI. South Korea, however, chose not to take part as one of the core countries. Instead, it decided to adopt observer status and cooperate with the PSI on a case by case.
As a country directly threatened by North Korea's WMDs, South Korea was expected to play a leading role in anti-proliferation efforts like PSI, but our administration took a more cautious position, concerned over antagonizing the North. A key strategic meeting of administration and ruling party officials over the weekend confirmed no full participation in the PSI. Seoul decided South Korea would just render material support for PSI drills.
In the eyes of opposition lawmakers and in conservative circles, Seoul's isolation from the international community on this issue has exposed the South as being a "wimp" in the face of Pyongyang's nuclear blackmail. Within the administration, Foreign Ministry officials were in favor of taking a more proactive stance, while managers of inter-Korean affairs called for continued caution and prudence.
National security authorities and leaders of the Uri Party appear to have agreed there have been a couple of new developments that justify Seoul's delay in playing an active role in the maritime containment of North Korea. One is Pyongyang's recent announcement of its intent to return to the six-party talks in Beijing, and the other is the Democratic victory in the U.S. midterm election, which could herald a change of U.S. policy on North Korea, or at least a blunting of the Bush administration's hard-line stance through congressional opposition.
There is also a navigation agreement between the two Koreas that allows the search of ships sailing in their contiguous waters. The bilateral pact has not actually been used in any specific maritime case but can prove useful in implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718.
Washington must be disappointed at Seoul's failure to move forward in support of the U.S. initiative, especially after the North's nuclear test. Stepped up diplomatic efforts are needed on the part of our officials to seek U.S. understanding of how Seoul is concerned about the possible consequences of a direct naval confrontation with North Korean vessels in the sea around the Korean Peninsula. An armed clash on either the East or West Sea is probable and that could be a disaster, not only for inter-Korean relations but for the multilateral efforts to persuade North Korea into abandoning its nuclear program.
Looking closely at the PSI, we find it a supra-legal measure based on the United States' current status as the world's only superpower maintaining immense naval capabilities. Korea in fact can do very little away from the peninsula and the waters around it, even if it joins the PSI's core countries. It can better serve the cause of preventing WMD proliferation by actively collecting information on North Korean moves and exchanging this data with friendly countries, thus helping establish an effective barrier around the dangerous regime.
North Korea has agreed to rejoin the six-party nuclear talks on its nuclear-weapons program before yearend following hard bargaining with the United States and China. The breakthrough resulted from mounting international pressure, especially the U.S. financial crackdown and the United Nations Security Council's resolution calling for sanctions against the North after its nuclear test Oct. 9.
However, North Korea agreed only to return to the talks -- nothing else. There has been no progress in persuading Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear arms and ambitions, an objective that nations participating in the six-party talks agreed to in September 2005.
With missile tests in July and a nuclear test in October, Pyongyang has resorted to brinkmanship to raise the ante in its talks with Washington.
Differing views have emerged over terms for resuming talks. A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said Pyongyang has agreed to rejoin the talks in hopes of holding negotiations with Washington on U.S. financial sanctions. The U.S. said it has agreed to negotiate with the North only within a working group to be set up within the framework of the six-party talks and that it has made no commitments with regard to lifting sanctions.
There is little doubt that the North Korean regime of Kim Jong Il has been hard hit by the financial sanctions. The agreement to establish the working group gave Pyongyang a justification for returning to the talks. But negotiations are likely to be difficult.
Washington and Pyongyang also have sharp differences over the UNSC resolution on sanctions. North Korea rejects the resolution, which was supported even by China and Russia. The U.S. condemns the North's possession of nuclear arms and is determined to push for the implementation of the resolution.
The UNSC's sanctions committee has given all U.N. member nations a list of materials related to nuclear arms, ballistic missiles, and biological and chemical weapons that are embargoed for export to North Korea. Member nations were obligated to report back to the UNSC by Monday on whether they were implementing the resolution.
By agreeing to rejoin the six-party talks, Pyongyang is likely to be trying to divert UNSC pressure. Furthermore, it is apparently scheming to drive a wedge between hardliners Japan and the U.S. and the more conciliatory China, South Korea and Russia.
South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun, who has been strongly criticized by Japan and the U.S. for his engagement policy toward the North, has failed to change his stance despite the nuclear test. The day after Pyongyang's agreement to rejoin the six-party talks, Roh announced a Cabinet shakeup, featuring pro-engagement politicians in diplomatic and security portfolios.
In a speech, Roh promised to continue his policy of appeasement, promoting the development of the Mount Kumgang tourist resort and the Kaesong industrial park in North Korea. Seoul was also considering the resumption of rice and fertilizer supplies to the North.
Even more troubling is the likelihood that, as a result of the nuclear test, Pyongyang may believe it has more leverage in negotiations with the U.S. The agreement to create the working group for talks on financial sanctions could be considered a U.S. concession.
North Korea is believed to have begun nuclear-weapons development in the early 1990s after it began feeling isolated on the Korean Peninsula, divided between North and South after World War II -- when the U.S.-Soviet Cold War started. After the Cold War ended in 1989, first the Soviet Union and then China normalized relations with South Korea.
In 1994, North Korea signed an "agreed framework" with the U.S. Clinton administration to halt nuclear-weapons development. The North, however, continued to push ahead with its nuclear program. In 2002, it admitted using enriched uranium and, in February 2005, announced it had nuclear weapons.
Japan's 2006 defense white paper quotes the then-chief of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency as telling the U.S. Congress at the time Kim Jong Il was unlikely to abandon nuclear arms.
North Korea may be hoping to follow the path set by Pakistan and India, which conducted nuclear tests outside the framework of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, despite the threat of U.S. sanctions. Pakistan later was exempted from the sanctions for cooperating with the U.S. in the war against terrorism. And India signed an agreement to cooperate with the U.S. on peaceful uses of atomic energy.
Resumption of the six-party talks should be based on the UNSC resolution and the last joint statement of the participating nations. The resolution demands that North Korea abandon all its nuclear arms and ambitions and return to the NPT regime and the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The North had promised to do so in the joint statement issued last year.
In the statement, the U.S. and Japan also vowed to normalize their relations with North Korea, with the U.S. vowing to respect Pyongyang's sovereignty and Japan promising to observe the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration.
If Japan and North Korea can normalize diplomatic relations on the basis of a resolution on nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missiles issues, and on the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents, large-scale economic aid from Tokyo to Pyongyang is possible.
The major question is whether Kim will make a strategic decision to abandon all nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles with the belief that doing so will guarantee the survival of his regime. The fate of the six-party talks, which may yet serve as a peacekeeping mechanism in Northeast Asia, will hinge on whether Kim will make that decision.
3. U.S., Russian diplomats meet to discuss renewed Korean nuclear talks
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A U.S. diplomat met Thursday with Russia's nuclear envoy to discuss how to restart disarmament talks with North Korea, and Russian news reports said no resumption was likely until at least mid-December.
The meeting between U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev came after the North agreed last week to end a yearlong boycott of the Chinese-organized nuclear talks.
Burns told reporters just before flying out of Beijing that he had a "good meeting" with Alexeyev, and confirmed "we have not yet agreed on a date for the six-party meetings."
No other details of the Burns-Alexeyev meeting were immediately released.
But Alexeyev told Russian reporters "the resumption of six-party talks over the settlement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula is not possible earlier than mid-December," Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported.
The talks include China, the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia, who last met in late 2005. The North then refused to return in protest over U.S. financial sanctions imposed on North Korean companies and a Macau bank that dealt with them.
Pyongyang agreed last week to end its yearlong boycott of the negotiations in the first sign of a relaxation of tensions after the North's Oct. 9 nuclear test.
Alexeyev also met with Wu Dawei, a Chinese deputy foreign minister, said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.
"Mr. Wu said to realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and to maintain peace and stability serves the interest of all parties concerned," Jiang said.
Burns said there will be more talks on North Korea at an economic conference in Vietnam later this month.
"I think there will be further discussion at APEC in Hanoi among our leaders," he said, adding that "the objective of the United States is the full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
China has already announced that President Hu Jintao will meet U.S. President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe separately when all three attend the Nov. 18-19 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Burns and Robert Joseph, a U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control, met this week with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and other officials. Alexeyev was in China as part of a visit by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.
Burns and Joseph were in Seoul on Tuesday and earlier visited Tokyo to coordinate strategy for renewed nuclear talks.
South Korean media said a North Korean deputy foreign minister, Kang Sok Ju, also visited Beijing this week and left for Moscow after talks with Chinese Foreign Ministry officials.
The United States and North Korea have agreed to discuss the bank sanctions on the sidelines of the nuclear talks.
The sanctions eliminated one of North Korea's main links to the global financial system. China also has ordered its banks to suspend financial transfers to the North in a potentially devastating blow to its frail economy.
As they prepare to take over Congress, victorious Democrats are wrestling with a dilemma on foreign policy -- while most public attention will be sucked up by the debate over Iraq, there may be little the Democrats can do but watch the Bush administration follow its own course on the war.
Instead, if the Democrats hope to create a track record of concrete achievements for voters in the 2008 election, they will have to focus on less prominent yet still vitally important foreign policy issues such as nuclear nonproliferation, Darfur, energy and global warming.
One of these measures is increased funding to stop nuclear proliferation, especially the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which helps Russia protect and decommission its vast, poorly secured stockpiles of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The program has been criticized by some Republicans as too generous to Russia, and the Bush administration has cut its budget by about $45 million.
"In many respects, Cooperative Threat Reduction was perhaps the greatest oversight of the executive branch in the past several years, and the greatest disappointment," said Jane Wales, president of the World Affairs Council of Northern California and a former National Security Council official in the Clinton administration.
"The need to secure advanced weapons material at the source in the former Soviet Union has huge importance for stopping proliferation to terrorists," said Wales, who directed the program during the Clinton years. "The Democrats are likely to provide stepped-up funding with much greater, high-level focus on moving the ball forward."
1. Russia lagging in destruction of chemical weapons
The Pueblo Chieftain
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Americans aren’t the only ones wrestling with what to do with the byproducts of destroyed chemical weapons.
Ross Vincent, a Sierra Club senior policy advisor, found that expected problems with agent hydrolysate have forced Russian officials to ask for a deadline extension from the organization monitoring treaty compliance, and he’s worried that could have ramifications for Pueblo.
Vincent was in Moscow last week serving as a panelist at the Eighth Russian National Dialogue on Chemical Weapons Demilitarization. He was invited to the conference by the sponsoring agency, Green Cross International. That’s the group founded by former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to promote peace and environmental issues.
One Green Cross cause is providing assistance to countries that are destroying their stockpiles of chemical weapons under the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention. That treaty calls for the elimination of the weapons by 2012, but many countries, including those with the largest remaining arsenals - the United States and Russia - are experiencing delays.
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said earlier this year that the United States would not meet the treaty deadline. The stockpile of 780,000 artillery shells and mortar rounds at the Pueblo Chemical Depot probably won’t be destroyed until 2020, according to the Pentagon’s latest projections.
In the United States, the problem is money. Officials say that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have made it impossible to spend more than $150 million a year on the Pueblo project, even though the entire cost possibly could be cut if the project were accelerated.
Another issue is what will be done with hydrolysate, that’s the water left over from the treatment of the mustard agent with hot water and caustic sodium hydroxide. Mustard agent hydrolysate contains thiodiglycol, a common solvent used in paint and ink, and residual sodium hydroxide. Federal officials want to ship the hydrolysate off-site for treatment and are lobbying the Colorado Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commission to change its position calling for on-site biotreatment.
Those opposed to that point out that environmental groups in other areas are expected to use legislation or litigation to block shipments, which could cause delays in the destruction program here.
Vincent, a member of the Colorado commission, said that Russia has its own hydrolysate issues and has asked the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague, Netherlands, for an extension of its deadline.
Vincent said it appears that at all seven of its stockpile locations, Russia will use a water-based system similar to that planned for Pueblo. However, he said, there are worries that the hydrolysate from the Russian weapons contains other contaminants that would complicate biotreatment. “It would kill the bugs,” Vincent said. In the biotreatment planned here, bacteria would break down the thiodiglycol and sodium hydroxide into salts and a sludge that could be hauled to a hazardous waste dump.
He said that the Russians continue to say they are determined to meet the deadline for destruction of the actual weapons. Unlike American weapons, he said, the Russian shells do not have explosives inside them - fuses and bursters were to be screwed into the shells just before use and that makes things go a lot faster. The weapons here all have explosives inside, which requires the additional step of robotically removing them before the mustard agent can be washed out.
What Russia wants from the OPCW is more time to destroy its hydrolysate. Vincent worries that if that happens, the Defense Department could slow things down even more here. “If the OPCW gives in to pressure, then all the international pressure to destroy the hydrolysate evaporates at the same time. The international pressure would go away and that’s not insignificant.”
Another concern of the Green Cross group, he said, is the apparent desire of the United States to back away from efforts to help the Russian demilitarization program directly. He said that it appears that this country wants to just provide a lump sum to pay for the work and stop an existing program that has U.S. representatives working with the Russians.
While diplomats from all over the world attended the conference, Vincent said he was told U.S. State Department officials were advised not to attend. Without U.S. involvement, he said, there’s a big worry about what could happen to the Russian weapons because security there is not as tight as it is around U.S. stockpiles.
In some cases, he said, weapons are going to be transported as much as 20 miles from arsenals to destruction plants.
2. Air bombs, warheads detoxified at Russia disposal facility
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Over 9,600 air bombs and missile warhead filled with especially dangerous poisoning substances are undergoing detoxification at a facility for destruction of chemical weapons in the settlement of Maradykovo, Kirov region.
The chief of the regional government’s department of convention problems, Mikhail Manin, told ITAR-TASS on Thursday that this amount of disposal was a result of operation of the Maradykovo plant, whose first phase was launched on September 7.
“The initial months of work are the most important period, during which checks of all services and systems ensuring safety and control of contaminating substances in the atmosphere air, water and soil, and environmental monitoring are going”.
Manin stressed that no violations of environmental standards had been registered over this period.
Maradykovo is one of Russia’s largest depots of chemical weapons. About 7,000 tons of war gases filling 40,000 air booms and missile warheads have been stored there since 1953.
The Maradykovo arsenal is to be liquidated by 2012 under a federal programme of chemical weapons disposal.
Former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix urged the United States Friday to ratify the Comprehensive Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT), saying the issue was the most important for world peace in terms of disarmament.
Speaking to students at Korea University in Seoul, Blix, former director-general of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said joining the CTBT is vital in preventing the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons.
Blix, chairman of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, further said that ratification of the treaty would help reduce the reliance on nuclear deterrence in security policies and reset the stage for global nuclear disarmament.
He indicated that the world should focus not only on preventing the transfer of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear weapons states but also on disarming nuclear ones.
He said that today the world's attention is riveted on North Korea's missiles and testing of a nuclear weapon, but stressed that that the world must not forget there are still 27,000 nuclear weapons in the world mainly in the possession of the United States and Russia.
While particularly dangerous in the hands of unstable states or terrorist groups, there are no safe possessors of nuclear weapons, he added.
Against this backdrop, he brought up two points to reduce the threats of nuclear weapons and to address proliferation risks. First is the basic respect for the restriction on the threat or use of force in the U.N. Charter, and the second is the revival of arms control and disarmament.
He said the double purpose of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was for non-nuclear weapons states to commit themselves not to acquiring the weapons, and for nuclear weapons states to negotiate toward nuclear disarmament.
But there is a feeling of frustration among non-nuclear member states that while they have remained non-nuclear, the nuclear weapons states have done little to engage in negotiations toward disarmament.
Last but not least, he also suggested a treaty on the cut-off of production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons use, including an effective verification mechanism. Recently, the United States presented a draft on the treaty.
He recommended that the U.N. Security Council establish a small subsidiary unit that could provide advice on weapons of mass destruction for countries such as North Korea.
1. General Electric, Hitachi to tie up in nuclear energy
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Japan's Hitachi Ltd. and General Electric of the US announced a tie-up in nuclear power as part of a broader industry realignment fueled by renewed interest in atomic energy.
Hitachi and General Electric will hive off their nuclear power operations into two joint ventures that will build, maintain and develop nuclear plants and boiling water reactors, with a final deal expected in early 2007.
Hitachi will own 40 percent of the US venture and at least 80 percent of the Japanese venture, with the rest going to its American partner.
The move is part of a growing trend among Japanese companies to buy or ally themselves with foreign multinational energy giants as they seek out promising new growth opportunities in markets such as China, India and Russia.
"By utilizing and sharing our knowledge and experience, we should see synergies to expand our nuclear energy operations in the global market place," Hitachi president Kazuo Furukawa told a joint press conference.
"Hitachi's commitment to compete in the global nuclear energy business is reflected in the 40 percent stake in the American venture," he said.
The Japanese venture will focus on operations in Japan, while the US venture will cover the rest of the world.
The United States turned away from nuclear power after a 1979 meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania. No new reactor has been put into service in the United States since 1996.
Now, however, President George W. Bush's administration wants to relaunch the construction of nuclear reactors in the United States due to the elevated cost of crude oil, whose price has been pushed up in recent years by geopolitical tension and supply concerns.
"We expect the nuclear industry to enter into a new renaissance in the very near future," said Rudolph Villa, the president of Nuclear Energy-Asia, an arm of GE Energy.
Villa described the international nuclear energy business as "exciting" as there were "many plans to build many plants" around the world, particularly in Asia, Europe and the United States.
Hitachi and GE began discussions on a fusion last year, after the US government's policy on purchasing new reactors became clear, officials said.
The Hitachi-GE ventures will try to get contracts for one third of the 25 new reactors that the United States plans to build, Furukawa said.
The tie-up is part of a broader industry realignment, including Toshiba Corp.'s 5.4-billion-dollar purchase of Westinghouse Electric Co. of the US, a long-term Mitsubishi Heavy partner.
Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and French group Areva, meanwhile, agreed last month to team up with an aim to develop a new midsized nuclear reactor within three years and commercialize it within a decade.
General Electric also has an existing nuclear energy contract with Toshiba.
GE chairman Jeffrey R. Immelt recently met Mitsubishi Heavy chairman Takashi Nishioka amid local media reports of a planned partnership between the two firms in nuclear power plant operations.
Despite pressure from the US, the Howard Government is determined to consider nuclear power as part of its wide-ranging response to climate change.
The Government is convinced it can get its nuclear agenda past the objections of US lawmakers who want to limit the club of nations able to enrich uranium.
There is concern within the cabinet that the Government has mishandled the politics of climate change and that major policy developments are expected within weeks.
Cabinet is about to consider plans leading to a $5bln investment in new technology as the Coalition's nuclear inquiry concludes nuclear power is cheaper than some forms of clean coal. The cost of brown and black "dirty" coal, and clean coal, varies from $45 to $110 per tonne.
The nuclear options inquiry being headed by former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski - due to report within two weeks - finds that nuclear power costs per tonne, including some capital costs, are about $100, which puts nuclear on an equal economic footing with clean coal.
But the Government nuclear power study is facing political resistance from the US President George W. Bush has been pushing a plan involving the major nuclear powers providing nuclear fuel to third party countries, meaning they will not have to develop enrichment technology.
Enrichment is considered a key proliferation risk and restricting the number of countries with the technology is considered essential.
But Australia, and Canada, as the world's largest uranium producers, are expected to resist diplomatic pressure to stay out of the enrichment industry.
The Prime Minister has previously indicated that the Switkowski report could provide the key economic argument for nuclear power in Australia.
John Howard is preparing a major speech on climate change which will attempt to regain the political momentum which the Coalition has lost in recent weeks.
Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said if Australia did choose to go down the enrichment path the technology used would most likely be American.
He said questions about the international implications of Australia developing a uranium enrichment industry were speculative until Dr Switkowski released his report.
But if Australia did develop an enrichment capacity, it would be to the strictest standards.
"Until we see Ziggy's report we're not sure what he sees as the opportunities," he said.
He said there was currently an overcapacity of enrichment facilities in the world, and any move for Australia to use the technology would only come if it was commercially sound.
Under the US scheme, countries such as France and Japan could "lease" fuel to third party countries and take the waste back when it is exhausted.
According to the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, the International Atomic Energy Agency is supportive of a multilateral system for enrichment.
The G8 has proposed a system where sensitive nuclear technologies would only be available to countries that were committed to non-proliferation.
The actual criteria that would determine which countries fit the bill and which did not are still under development.
3. Russia seeks SA participation in nuclear initiative
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Moscow is inviting South Africa to participate in a proposed international uranium-enrichment centre, to be sited in Russia, which would provide low enriched uranium to be used as fuel for nuclear reactors.
This proposed centre, which is an initiative of President Vladimir Putin, will be one of the topics that will be discussed at the next meeting of the South Africa/Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation, which will take place in South Africa late this year or early next year.
The Russian delegation will be headed by that country’s Minerals Minister, Yuri Trutnev, and it will include the head of Rosatom (Russia’s Atomic Agency), Sergei Kiriyenko.
Kiriyenko has been charged with the responsibility of promoting this initiative, and Russia wants South Africa to come on board.
The idea is that the creation of this centre will both prevent nuclear weapons proliferation and guarantee countries their right to peacefully exploit nuclear technology.
The initiative was political in origin – the idea was developed by Russia as an attempt to solve the problem of Iran’s nuclear programme: Moscow wanted, and still wants, Teheran to enrich its uranium in Russia, thereby guaranteeing that the Middle Eastern country would not be able to develop nuclear weapons.
The Russian government then came to the conclusion that the concept had wider validity, and is now trying to make it a real, working, international mechanism.
Hence the invitation to South Africa.
Moscow’s concept is that the centre would be established by interested governments by means of an international agreement, which would be based on the following principles: the right of every country to develop peaceful nuclear energy, without discrimination; the unconditional and continuous observance of the requirements of the global nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime; mutual benefit; and market conditions.
Each member government would designate the agencies or organisations which would participate in the centre and contract uranium enrichment services from it.
These designated agencies or organisations would create a management company, which would be registered and based in Russia, and subject to Russian legislation, which would run the centre and be responsible for the execution of orders, the management of investments, financial management, the overarching coordination of all activities, and so on.
The centre will use Russian uranium enrichment technology, and the member governments, agencies, and centre employees shall make no attempt to access that technology.
It is proposed that the operating department of the centre, including the enrichment process, storage facilities and uranium stock is created around an existing Russian operation, and would be under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The IAEA would either be a partner to the agreement establishing the centre, or would attach observers to its executive bodies; either way, the centre would be subject to the IAEA’s control mechanisms.
Non-Russian centre personnel would be allowed access to the enrichment plant in order to monitor the quality of the product; this access would be regulated by an executive agreement between the member agencies.
Russia would guarantee the supply of the enriched uranium product.
Prices charged by the centre would be coordinated by the co-founders, on the basis of world prices and the need for the centre to be self- financing. Moscow believes that this centre could be established in stages, depending on how many countries initially join and what their requirments are. South African used to enrich uranium, for both civil and military purposes, but this capability was totally dismantled during the early 1990s. Recently, a tentative debate has started on whether or not the country should re-create a uranium enrichment capability, this time solely for peaceful purposes.
4. World's first fusion power reactor to be built by 2016 - expert
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The world's first fusion power reactor will be built as part of an international research project by 2016, a leading Russian nuclear physicist said Friday.
Russia, the United States, the European Union, China, India, Japan and South Korea are taking part in the $12.1 billion project, known by the acronym ITER, to demonstrate the scientific and technological potential of nuclear fusion amid concerns over growing energy consumption and the impact of conventional fossil fuels on the environment.
Yevgeny Velikhov, president of the Kurchatov Institute of Nuclear Physics, said an agreement on the project will be signed in Paris November 21.
"We expect substantive work to begin next January," he said, adding that the first plasma operation is expected in 2016.
The reactor will be built in France's Cadarache, with the European Union covering 40% of the costs and the other participants contributing 10% each.
The first electricity-producing fusion power plant is to be built by 2030, most probably in Japan, Velikhov said.
"We believe that by the end of the century, nuclear fusion will account for a significant proportion of the energy humanity generates for itself," Velikhov said, praising it as an environmentally benign and essentially inexhaustible power source.
Russia, always a leader in nuclear energy development, plans to continue its trek into foreign -- and often controversial -- nuclear development, with an eye on countries unable to build and bring a plant online itself.
Atomstroyexport, Moscow's nuclear export arm, is building one reactor in Iran, two reactors each in China and India, and recently announced winning a tender for a dual-reactor plant in Bulgaria.
"It's not a secret that over the last two or three years, things have changed dramatically in regards to the future of atomic energy," Sergey Shmatko, president of Atomstroyexport, told United Press International in an exclusive interview from the company's Moscow headquarters.
"Suddenly there was a lot of countries that have popped up that weren't considered prospective in atomic energy. For example, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Chile, Argentina -- today each of the countries that are more or less stable are starting to think about getting involved in the atomic technology race," he said, adding in the years since the Chernobyl accident stalled nuclear development, safety has been increased while the main alternative to nuclear energy, fossil fuels, are much more expensive.
"Even the environmentalists talk about it," he said.
"We're talking about solutions in deficiencies in energy. The industrial alternative of atomic energy, there is none," saying renewable energy sources can't produce the power output nuclear plants can.
Sixteen percent of the world's power comes from 440 commercial reactors in 31 countries, according to the World Nuclear Association. Thirty more are being built now and another 55 are being considered. Even the United States, home of 103 running reactors, which hasn't licensed a new one since 1978, may see nuclear energy grow from the 20 percent share it holds now.
Dale Klein, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said Oct. 6 he expects more than 30 applications for new reactors in the next couple of years.
Atomstroyexport, which reconstructs and builds new nuclear plants around the world, won't be a major investor, said Shmatko.
"Our current projects are much better than those that are even being offered in the United States right now. I can't say that going into the United States market would be excellent economically, or we'd make a lot of money from that. I can't say that."
Shmatko said Atomstroyexport may be involved on a secondary level, such as a subcontractor, but its focus will be in countries with high energy needs, such as the developing world, as well as countries like India and China which have some, but not all, of the nuclear technology needed to come online.
The Obninsk reactor produced the world's first nuclear electricity in 1954 and Russia has maintained status as a nuclear energy -- as well as weapons -- power ever since. It plans to heavily invest in its domestic sector, spending $54 billion to upgrade and expand from the current 15.6 percent of power the industry serves the state to 25 percent by 2030.
Ninety percent of Russia's nuclear industry profits are made from exports, according to the Russian news and information agency, RIA Novosti.
The tender in Bulgaria is "a new stage for our company," Shmatko said, relatively free from direct control of Moscow and able to strike deals as the business model dictates. He called it a "Bulgarian project in Bulgaria. A European project," not Russian, promising to work with European Union officials when Bulgaria is admitted next year.
But politics are heavy in their deals, despite the attempts to steer clear, Shmatko says. The Bushehr reactor in Iran is in the cross-hairs as Tehran tries to persuade the U.N. Security Council its nuclear program -- which includes uranium enrichment -- is for civilian energy only. Under the current contract with Atomstroyexport, all spent fuel, which could be processed for weapons, would return to Russia.
"We understand this project is first of all political and not commercial," Shmatko said. He insists the company will abide by Russian Federation and international standards to guard against proliferation.
North Korea is also not on the horizon of Atomstroyexport. "We're working a lot in Southeast Asia," Shmatko said, including the China project and talks with Vietnam and South Korea. "We have no contacts whatsoever with North Korea."
Within the next two years there may be no more Atomstroyexport, at least not as its known now.
"There is a government plan in regards to this, creating a single company that will work with all companies that are working with atomic energy for civilian use," Shmatko said. "Beginning with uranium fuel, building atomic stations, engineering, exploiting, integration, all of that. That will be one company."
President Vladimir Putin is urging the State Duma to pass legislation allowing for Atomprom to be formed. It will be controlled by the state, with Russia's nuclear-field companies tucked into a corporate-like structure and allowed to work with private companies.
"And we are planning on being part of that one company, which will be realizing all of the industrial atomic power for Russia and abroad," Shmatko said.
1. Russia to Keep Its Heaviest ICBM in Service for Another Decade
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The Russian missile forces chief said that the military had decided to keep its heaviest intercontinental ballistic missiles in service for another decade, The Associated Press news agency reported.
Colonel-General Nikolai Solovtsov said that a decision to extend the service lifetime of the RS-20V missiles, also known as SS-18 Satan in the West, would allow the Strategic Missile Forces “to keep the world’s most powerful missiles for another 10 years,” the agency reported.
Solovtsov said that the RS-20V missiles’ original 15-year service lifetime would be extended to 25 years.
The RS-20V, which carries 10 individually targeted nuclear warheads, has been the heaviest missile in the military’s inventory since its deployment began in the late 1980s.
Solovtsov said that the lifetime of other Soviet-built missiles was also being extended.
Russia’s strategic forces have conducted regular test launches of Soviet-built ballistic missiles to check their performance and extend their time on duty. The post-Soviet funding shortage has left the military without funds to quickly replace them with new missiles, although recent years have seen a boost in defense spending.
2. Agency Botches Program To Ensure Reliability of Nukes
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Within the past month, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Energy has issued two separate reports that indicate mismanagement of the nuclear weapons program by the National Nuclear Security Administration, an agency of the DOE. The issues in both reports have a direct relationship to the nuclear weapons surveillance— the program that checks the reliability of the complex mechanisms.
In July 2002, the agency "re-engineered" the management of this reliability assurance program. For about 50 years, under agencies successively managing the nuclear weapons program (the Atomic Energy Commission, Energy Research and Development Administration and the DOE), all levels of management recognized that it was imperative to keep surveillance independent from those responsible for design and production. This independence was incorporated into DOE orders.
I have worked in or managed the surveillance program at the Army and DOE for 37 years. When the decision was made in 2002 to eliminate that independence, I sent letters to my management in Washington providing my rationale for opposing that decision. They decided to proceed anyway. During the following three years, I wrote three separate reports that provided detailed examples of why the approach was not working, all to no avail. Prior to retiring on Jan. 3, 2006, I sent letters to NNSA Administrator Amb Brooks, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman and the Inspector General's Office detailing the grave problems caused by the re-engineering of 2002— again to no avail.
The IG report talks about progress being made on the elimination of the surveillance testing backlogs. I am baffled as to how anyone can conclude that progress was made. The backlogs that existed in September 2005 (the cutoff date for the latest report) are significantly greater than the backlogs that existed in September 2000 (the cutoff date for the previous IG report specifically on backlogs) or February 2002 (just prior to NNSA's re-engineering).
The IG Report also talks about NNSA's plans to eliminate the testing backlog in 2007. This cannot realistically be done except by making an administrative decision that the previous required tests are no longer necessary despite the technical facts that exist to the contrary.
Most of the personnel involved in surveillance, at NNSA and the three national laboratories involved in nuclear weapons surveillance, saw this coming with the re-engineering in 2002. All the concerns that I listed in those 2002 letters to NNSA management have come to pass— if anything, I underestimated the negative effects.
The solution is simple. It is time for NNSA to move back to the successful model that had been used for the previous 50 years: independence and advocacy.
A new group should be formed within NNSA that is independent from those responsible for production. This group should be responsible for surveillance policy, oversight of the execution of that policy, and integrating the execution of that policy across the various systems in the stockpile. To be successful, this group must have control over the surveillance budget. The leader of the group needs to also be recognized as the NNSA advocate for surveillance.
Does NNSA have to wait for catastrophic failures to occur before corrective action is taken? NASA had Challenger and then Columbia. The nation suffered September 11 because no one took action when people were being trained to fly planes without instruction in how to take off and land. New Orleans had the devastation of Katrina because even though problems with levees were known, no action was taken.
The issues involved with the surveillance program are serious indeed. This is the program that assures the continued safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear stockpile. This is yet another example of the executive branch of our government "staying the course" despite the course not working. What catastrophe does NNSA have to experience before it corrects the problems created by re-engineering?
1. Al Qaeda seeking nuclear kit for attacks: UK official
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Al Qaeda is trying to acquire the technology that would enable it to use a nuclear device to attack Western targets including Britain, a senior British official said on Monday.
"We know the aspiration is there. We know attempts to gather materials are there, we know that attempts to gather technology are there," the senior Foreign Office official told reporters.
The comments at a briefing came days after the head of Britain's domestic spy agency said Muslim extremists were plotting at least 30 major terrorist attacks in Britain which could involve chemical and nuclear devices.
The Foreign Office official, asked whether there was any doubt that Al Qaeda wants to gather nuclear material for use against Western targets, said: "No doubt at all."
Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of intelligence agency MI5, said last week young British Muslims were being groomed to become suicide bombers and her agents were tracking some 1,600 suspects, most of whom were British-born and linked to al Qaeda in Pakistan.
Britain suffered its worst peacetime attack in July 2005 when four British Islamists blew themselves up on London's transport network, killing 52 commuters and wounding hundreds.
Earlier this month Dhiren Barot, 34, was jailed for a minimum of 40 years for plotting to blow up the New York Stock Exchange and carry out attacks in Britain with gas-filled limousines and a "dirty bomb."
Evidence against him included copious research into explosives, chemicals and radioactive materials.
In a separate ongoing terrorism trial, prosecutors say one of the suspects had told police in an interview that his superior in a Pakistan training camp had asked him to help contact the Russian mafia about buying a nuclear bomb.
However Salahuddin Amin, who is accused of plotting conventional bomb attacks in the UK using ammonium nitrate fertilizer, said he did not believe it was a genuine plot and nothing appeared to have developed from the plan.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair will focus on the fight against terrorism when he unveils the last package of laws of his premiership in a program to be read to Wednesday by Queen Elizabeth.
1. Russian and German environmentalists blockade nuclear factory in Gronau
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Some 20 activists from German and Russian anti-nuclear organisations blocked the entrance to the Urenco uranium enrichment plant in the German town of Gronau for over an hour on Saturday, leading to their brief detention by police.
The rally was organized to protest transportation of radioactive waste to Russia, and was organized jointly by the Russian anti-nuclear group Ecodefense! and Germany's Aktionsbuendnis Muensterland gegen Atomanlagen. Participants included five environmentalists from Moscow, Yekaterinburg and Tomsk, which are all destinations for foreign uranium tailings.
Russian law forbids the import of uranium tailings, yet up to 90 percent of these nuclear materials remain at Russian enterprises for final storage. But for both the European and Russian side, the law seems bendable according economic convenience: If Europe’s nuclear giant Urenco itself undertook the reprocessing of the uranium tailings, the cost of its products would increase roughly five-fold. Meanwhile, Russia’s nuclear industry gets to stuff its coffers for accepting the illegal waste.
Saturday’s blockade lasted around 70 minutes, and ended when police broke it up.
“We are demanding an end to the storage of radioactive waste in Russia, because it creates a threat to the health and prosperity of future generations. Germany should not be allowed to make use, in its own interests, of the nuclear industry in Russia being allowed to break laws and sneer at public opinion,” said Vladimir Slivyak of the Russian anti-nuclear group Ecodefense! during the protest, he told Bellona Web from Germany.
“We completely support our Russian colleagues – we must stop the international trade in radioactive waste. Every country should independently reprocess dangerous waste that it generates,” said Matthias Eickhoff, president of Aktionsbuendnis Muensterland gegen Atomanlagen.
What are uranium tailings?
Uranium tailings are a by-product of uranium mining. In mining, the uranium and its decay products that are buried deep underground are brought to the surface, and the uranium ore contained them is crushed into a fine sand. The uranium is then chemically removed, and the remaining radioactive sand, called uranium tailings, is stored in huge reservoirs.
If these uranium tailings are left on the surface and allowed to dry out, the radioactive sand can be carried great distances by the wind, and enter the food chain and bodies of water. Uranium tailings contain over a dozen radioactive materials that are all extremely harmful to living beings. The most important of these are thorium-230, radium-226, and radon-222.
Foreign radwaste storage and transport a bad precedent
The environmentalists gathered at Gronau said that imports of uranium tailing to Russia not only establishes a precedent for storing foreign radioactive waste in Russia, but also entails the use of private nuclear transports, thereby increasing the risk of terrorist attacks and accidents at sea or on the rails.
German radioactive waste is delivered to the Port of St. Petersburg, where it is unloaded onto trains bound for the Siberian destinations of Novouralsk, in the the Sverdlovsk Region, Seversk in the Tomsk Region, and Angarsk in the Irkutsk Region, as well as other destinations.
Other nuke transport dangers
Uranium hexafluoride –which is the chemical that makes uranium enrichment possible - is transported over enormous distances, often unguarded. In July 2006, activists from Greenpeace's St. Petersburg office discovered several unguarded trains containing uranium hexafluoride at the train station in the village of Kapitolovo in the Leningrad Region, where Izotop - a state-owned nuclear materials transport firm - is based.
The wagons bearing the uranium hexafluoride were parked directly next to passenger platforms. Moreover, Greenpeace measured the radiation dose on the platforms where passengers were standing at 800 microrontgens per hour, or more than 40 times the normal radiation background level.
“This sort of transportation could be a great present for terrorists, either as a source of nuclear materials, or as a direct target for an attack,” said Dmitry Artamonov, head of Greenpeace's St. Petersburg office. “Such an attack could lead to very serious consequences, since it would not be too difficult to destroy the containers. And even without terrorists, an 'everyday' accident could produce an effect just the same.”
How much nuclear material is travelling into Russia?
In November 2005, Ecodefense! presented a report detailing imports of radioactive waste into Russia under the guise of final reprocessing.
Since 1996, the German division of uranium manufacturer Urenco has been sending the waste from its uranium enrichment process - such as unusable uranium hexafluoride and uranium tailings – to Russia.
The total quantity of waste imported into Russia over the past decade is somewhere near 100,000 tons.
In the last six months protests against nuclear transport have taken place in the Russian cities of Yekaterinburg and Tomsk, as well as in Germany and The Netherlands. In October the same organisations held similar protests near the German Embassy in Moscow.
Russia and China have both said they want to help Egypt expand its nascent nuclear energy supplies, opening the way for stronger ties, but also leading to concerns over nuclear proliferation in the region.
Facing a fossil fuel shortage in the coming decades, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced in September that Egypt would turn to alternative energies, including nuclear power. The very public push to embrace nuclear energy has been well received in China and Russia, as well as in the United States.
After a meeting between Mubarak and Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing last Tuesday, Chinese state media reported that China had agreed to provide Egypt with cooperation on its nuclear energy aspirations. The details of the cooperation remain unclear. Prior to Mubarak's trip to Beijing, he stopped in Moscow to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Following their meeting, a Russian official was quoted as saying Russia would offer Egypt help in its nuclear projects.
The United States also seems poised to become involved. Immediately following the September announcement, the U.S. ambassador to Egypt said on Egyptian television that the United States was willing to provide technical assistance. And U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice used a trip to Cairo in October to express U.S. support of a nuclear energy program.
Russia and the United States have a long history of helping Egypt with its nuclear energy program. The United States provided a research lab in the 1950s, through the Atoms for Peace program, and Russia provided a 2-megawatt reactor. The reactor is still running in Inshas, north of Cairo, as is another 22-megawatt reactor Egypt bought from Argentina in 1997.
Whatever past relationship the countries have had with Egypt, both China and Russia are pursuing their own broader interests through their nuclear relations, according to Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, vice-provost for International Affairs at the College of William and Mary's School of Law in Williamsburg, Va.
"Assuming Russia and China are interested, of course there would be political motivations," he said. "Russia is looking to get back into the Middle East game and Egypt is the most influential Arab state.
"China has recently launched a very ambitious initiative to expand its influence in Africa, and adding Egypt would be part of its larger approach to gain regional influence."
John Tkacik, an expert on Asian affairs at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, sees the situation in a similar light.
"China and Russia certainly see an opportunity to entice Egypt from the U.S. camp despite the massive amount of U.S. economic and military aid that Egypt gets," Tkacik said.
The United States, on the other hand, may be more concerned with the spread of nuclear weapons technology than the spread of its own influence.
"Our No. 1 concern would be that no sensitive nuclear technology be transferred, e.g., plutonium separation or uranium enrichment technology, and that any technology that was transferred be subject to IAEA safeguards. Another concern would be that U.S. companies have a fair chance to bid for these contracts," Reiss said.
Despite declarations by Egypt that it is only interested in peaceful nuclear energy, one of the fears of the international community is that Egypt will attempt to secretly develop nuclear weapons, in part to balance Israel's assumed nuclear arsenal.
"The problem is that either fissile materials purloined during the fuel enrichment process at the front end and/or during the reprocessing of spent fuel at the back end of the fuel cycle might be clandestinely diverted into developing nuclear weapons," according to Bruce Unger, a professor of international relations at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. "Since the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is permitted under the nonproliferation treaty, provided that there are adequate safeguards to prevent such diversions, what needs to be done then is to establish those safeguards."
He said: "One way to do this is to create and operate regional nuclear fuel centers under International Atomic Energy Agency supervision or control. It is my understanding that the IAEA is considering just such an approach."
In 1981, Egypt fully adopted the NPT, which bars it from developing nuclear weapons.
Tkacik said that along with having reason to pursue nuclear energy, there could also be motivation for Egypt to pursue nuclear weapons.
"Egypt came up a bit short in the oil department, so nuclear power could be seen as a reasonable alternative. But Mubarak and the Egyptian military leadership must surely be attracted to nuclear weapons, if only to balance the Persian weapons with Arab ones," Tkacik said.
Although there are serious concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation in the Middle East, especially from Iran, Egypt has long supported a nuclear weapons-free zone in the region, largely to pressure Israel. This year Egypt forced a paragraph referring to a weapons of mass destruction-free Middle East into the IAEA's referral of Iran to the U.N. Security Council.
While concerns and motivations are being debated, the discussion of Egypt's nuclear future may be academic unless China, Russia or the United States turns up with more than a billion dollars to finance a new reactor.
"Unless it is heavily subsidized by the supplier state, Egypt does not have the hard currency reserves to fund a civil nuclear program," Reiss said.
Egypt has tried to buy reactors as far back as the 1960s, often failing because Cairo was unable to finance the projects. This lack of financing was partly to blame for Egypt abandoning the purchase of two nuclear reactors in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union.
1. India should set up a Nuclear Data Base Centre: Experts
Press Trust of India
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India has the capability to be a world class leader in the field of nuclear data in the next ten years and should set up a National Data Base Centre, experts have said.
"India has the expertise and capabilities to become a world leader in the field of nuclear data within a decade and lot of young scientists should come forward to make it a reality, experts have said.
A nuclear data base can assist users in the determination of the characteristics and performance of nuclear reactors, and permit improved nuclear power plant operation through the reduction and elimination of certain types of uncertainties.
India should set up a National Nuclear Database Centre soon, said ace experts who participated in the workshop on `Nuclear data for advanced nuclear systems, nuclear data bases and applications,' in Mangalore which concluded on Saturday.
Dr Alan Nichols, Head, Nuclear Data Section, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said India should take pride in the manner its energy needs are being addressed with 16 pressured heavy water reactors operating, constructing fast breeder reactor and working on advanced heavy water reactor. "It is important that India stands up and registers its nuclear data needs for industrial development and sound commercial goals," he said.
"The workshop provided an excellent opportunity to define its nuclear data needs, show the way forward to our understanding and ability to predict the nuclear-based behaviour of these relatively novel thorium-Uranium reactor systems," Nichols told PTI.
2. 'Indo-US nucear deal to upset non-proliferation'
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The Indo-US nuclear deal will upset the non-proliferation disarmament order and usher in a potentially catastrophic situation in South Asia, while confirming the global dominance of the United States.
This was the consensus view emerging at a workshop entitled "Imperialism, Militarisation and Nuclearisation - South Asia and the World".
Jointly organised by the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) and the Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC) during the ongoing Indian Social Forum (ISF) conclave, the panellists at the workshop included Dr Karamat Ali from Pakistan, Dr Fahim Hussain from Italy besides Shukla Sen and Achin Vanaik from India.
The nationality concept needs to be pulled down and the idea of a "shared sovereignty" should be aggressively pursued by South Asian nations, said Dr Karamat Ali - who also put in a strong case for a signing of a "no war pact" between countries in the region.
A confederation on the patterns of the European Union can be actualised and the first step towards this goal should be an agreement on the reduction of military budgets, Ali said. He referred to the Siachen issue as a "ridiculous dispute" between India and Pakistan.
Achin Vanaik focussed on the negative fallout of the "quasi-legal" status that India would acquire following the signing of the nuclear deal with the United States.
In its aftermath, India's nuclear capabilities will grow phenomenally other South Asian nations might get inspired to take to the nuclear trajectory, he said.
Others who spoke included Dr Fahim Hussain and Shukla Sen.
1. Radiation Detection Equipment Up and Running in Slovenia
National Nuclear Security Administration
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The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that radiation detection equipment to screen for nuclear and radiological material at the Port of Koper in Slovenia is fully operational. The equipment was installed in the Republic of Slovenia under NNSA’s Second Line of Defense program, which works around the world to prevent the illicit trafficking of nuclear weapons and “dirty bomb” material.
“Detecting smuggled nuclear material is part of our overall efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism. The Slovenian Port of Koper is a major crossroad between eastern and western Europe. It is important that we have adequate detection there,” said NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks.
Since April 2005, NNSA has worked with the Customs Administration of Slovenia to install the radiation equipment and train the appropriate law enforcement officials to use the system and respond to alarms.
“The enhanced screening capabilities at this port will improve the security of Slovenia, the United States, and all of our neighbors and allies,” said Brooks. “This cooperative effort provides a strong defense against illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials.”
The Second Line of Defense Program works with foreign partners around the world to equip border crossings, airports and seaports with radiation detection equipment. The specialized radiation detection technology deployed under this program is based on technologies originally developed by NNSA laboratories as part of overall U.S. government efforts to guard against proliferation of weapons materials.
2. U.S. Talks with Iran Hinge on End of Nuclear Enrichment Program
U.S. Department of State
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The administration is willing to have discussions with Iran on Iraq and other issues but any talks must be preceded by the verifiable suspension of Iran’s uranium enrichment activities, President Bush said November 13.
Speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the White House, Bush said, “Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a destabilizing influence” on the Middle East and efforts to foster peace in the region, and he urged the international community collectively to tell Iranian leaders “if you choose to continue forward, you'll be isolated.”
The president said he hopes that “rational people” inside the Iranian government “recognize isolation is not in their country's interest,” and that the Iranian people desire a “better way forward.”
“I don't think they want to confront the world. … I believe they could benefit by more trade and more openness with the world. But their leaders have to make the decision, and the decision is abundantly clear to them,” he said.
Olmert said the Iranian government’s “fanaticism and … extremism,” exemplified by its repeated calls to destroy Israel “is not just a threat for Israel, but for the whole world.”
“[T]he fact that the leader of a nation such as Iran can threaten the very existence of another nation, as he does towards the state of Israel, is not something that we can tolerate or would ever tolerate, and certainly not when we know that he is trying to possess nuclear weapons,” Olmert said.
The Israeli leader also said he hopes to open “a serious dialogue” with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas once a new Palestinian government is established that desires a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict based on the “road map” for peace and the principles set by the United Nations, United Kingdom, Russia and the United States, collectively known as the “Quartet.” (See full text of road map plan.)
Olmert also expressed a willingness to negotiate with Syria, but said such talks must be based on “a certain reasonable, responsible policy, which is not preformed by Syria for the time being,” citing Syrian support for terrorism, and its activities in Iraq and Lebanon.
“I hope that one day the conditions for contacts between them and us will be created. But to be honest, I don't think at the present time they manifest any such attitude. And that makes it impossible,” Olmert said.
Bush said the United States expects Syria to leave Lebanon “so that the Lebanese democracy can exist,” to stop harboring terrorist and extremist leaders and to help Iraq’s “young democracy” succeed.
“The Syrian president [Bashar Al-Assad] knows my position,” Bush said.
3. Governments Must Act To Thwart Nuclear-Related Smuggling
Jacquelyn S. Porth
U.S. Department of State
(for personal use only)
Every nation must take concrete action to keep terrorists from acquiring the means to detonate deadly weapons of mass destruction (WMD) because the global repercussions would be so widespread, a U.S. official told representatives of key European nations November 8.
U.S. Ambassador Gregory L. Schulte told a security workshop in Vienna, Austria, that action must be taken as long as terrorists seek nuclear and radiological materials and illicit trafficking occurs.
“Governments must secure this material before the terrorists do,” Schulte told an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe-sponsored event. That is why he urged all nations “to make 2007 the year of implementation” for U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540. Schulte is the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations Office in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency and other international organizations in Vienna.
The U.N. Security Council passed the resolution in April 2004. It says all U.N. members must take action against criminals, black marketeers and terrorists trafficking in illegal nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and related technology. According to the resolution, members must enact laws to prevent terrorists and black marketeers from gaining access to WMD components.
Echoing comments by U.S. arms control officials in other capitals, Schulte said the threat of terrorists using a deadly weapon is a real one for the world community, and the consequences of such a detonation would be catastrophic.
The consequences of even a small nuclear explosion would have profound financial, social, economic and psychological effects ricocheting around the world. “Fundamental aspects of contemporary life – including cross-border trade, international travel, financial markets, and open borders – would come to a halt,” Schulte said.
Although some security experts might judge the probability of a nuclear terrorist attack in Rome, Vienna, Moscow, Washington or other capitals as low, the ambassador said the devastation to any city would be so grave and the wider effects so far-reaching that “it would be irresponsible not to do everything we possibly can, now, to avoid this horror.”
Nations committed to implementing Resolution 1540 can help by participating in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. Initial partners met in Morocco in October. A follow-up meeting will be held in Turkey in February 2007.
KNOWLEDGE, SMUGGLING AND CONTROLS
A basic knowledge of science and engineering, Internet access, and financial support would put any dedicated terrorist group on the way to constructing a crude nuclear device, Schulte said. The missing ingredient is plutonium or highly enriched uranium (HEU).
Civilian nuclear research reactors could be a potential source for HEU, making it vitally important to secure the facilities or remove the source, according to Schulte. This might involve sending HEU back to countries where it may have originated or converting a reactor to run on a lower grade of uranium unsuitable for weapons use.
Schulte said the International Atomic Energy Agency created a database tracking examples of illicit nuclear material trafficking. He said there have been 18 instances of trafficking of HEU or plutonium to OSCE countries between 1993 and 2004. “A few seizures involved kilogram quantities of weapons-usable nuclear material,” he said.
Supply and demand create markets for such material, which is why the U.S. official said “we must secure the supply and shut down the market.”
Complete and robust implementation of Resolution 1540 will help close the gap between nations’ stated goal of stopping the WMD proliferation threat and preventative steps that need to taken, Schulte said. These steps include legal measures, physical protection, recognized accounting practices and effective trade and border controls.
He warned that terrorists always will probe the weakest link, whether legal loopholes, unsecured materials or porous borders.
The United States is prepared to help countries develop expertise or meet other needs through the Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program and other assistance efforts. In one year alone, Schulte said, the program budgeted $132 million for training, equipment and infrastructure development assistance related to Resolution 1540.
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