1. UK police find radiation in Berezovsky's office building
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British police said Tuesday they had found traces of a radioactive isotope believed to have killed a Russian ex-spy, in an office building of his associate, fugitive Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky.
Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian intelligence defector, died Thursday in a London hospital with symptoms of radioactive poisoning. British health officials said Friday a large dose of Po-210, a toxic uranium by-product, had been found in his body.
Berezovsky, a billionaire with British citizenship wanted in Russia for fraud, whose office is located at 7 Down Street, Mayfair, declined to comment on the radiation discovery.
"I will make no comments until Scotland Yard finishes its investigation. Let others comment, I will wait," he said over the phone.
The businessman also declined to say whether he had been questioned by police.
Litvinenko, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, who defected from Russia's security service in 2000 and became a British national in October, reportedly visited the building to make a copy of documents he had received from an Italian contact, Mario Scaramella, on November 1.
Litvinenko said Scaramella had sent him an e-mail relating to an investigation into the killing of his friend, investigative journalist and Kremlin opponent Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in Moscow in October.
Polonium-210 radiation traces have also been discovered at 25 Grosvenor Square, about 400 yards from Millenium Hotel where Litvinenko met with his Russian contacts on November 1.
Nikolai Kovalev, former head of the KGB's successor, the FSB, said the discovery of polonium in Berezovsky's office could imply his involvement in Litvinenko's death.
"Boris Berezovsky's involvement has been further proved," Kovalev said, adding that Berezovsky and Litvinenko could have been preparing an operation using polonium.
After Litvinenko died, the Western press circulated a statement allegedly written by him, in which Litvinenko accused the Kremlin of orchestrating his death.
"The ultimate target of the operation could have been to promote KGB phobia, and to show that Russia is ruled by KGB people," said Kovalev, also a member of parliament.
Kovalev said Berezovsky, if he is involved in the incident, had already taken care of his alibi and would now accuse special services of trying to kill him.
"He is keeping silent, which means he is preparing for a news conference where he will say he had expected polonium traces to be found in his office, and will start saying on all corners that the special services tried to kill him," Kovalev said.
Kovalev said Litvinenko could have neglected safety rules in handling a polonium container.
"The container was handed over to Litvinenko, but the curious young man got into it or did something wrong, contrary to Berezovsky's scenario," he said.
Another possibility, he said, could be that Berezovsky deliberately poisoned Litvinenko.
"I do not rule it out that there was some plan aimed against Litvinenko," Kovalev said. "Perhaps, Boris Abramovich [Berezovsky's patronymic] wanted to kill several birds with one stone."
2. Nuclear research facility ready to remove reactor from Moscow
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Specialists from the Kurchatov nuclear research institute in Moscow are preparing to start removing one of the few remaining research reactors from the capital, the president of the institute said Friday.
Russian ecologists have called repeatedly for the withdrawal of all nuclear research reactors from the capital citing threats of radiation and health risks. Moscow is one of the only European capitals to still have operating nuclear reactors on its territory.
"We have fully stopped the operation of our largest [40-megawatt F-1 graphite research] reactor," academician Yevgeny Velikhov said. "And we are starting to prepare the first reactor for withdrawal [from Moscow]."
The Kurchatov Institute is Russia's leading research and development institution in the field of nuclear energy. It has a total of 7 research reactors located at various facilities in the capital. Five of these are not operational, and two 8-magawatt reactors, which are used as a neutron source for research and to produce radioisotopes for medicine, are still in operation.
"We have already sent the first shipment of nuclear fuel to the Urals," he said. "It is a large program and its implementation depends on state financing."
The institute is funded through the Ministry of Industry, Science and Technology, and federal budget resources represent about 15% of its total financing.
The expert said there were no other reasons for the delay in the withdrawal other than the lack of financing.
He also said the presence of research reactors in Moscow did not pose a threat to the population.
"In 60 years of its [reactor's] operation, we have not changed nuclear fuel even once and have never repaired it [the reactor]," Velikhov said referring to the F-1 graphite reactor at the institute.
"Its safe operation is ensured by its design," he said.
The mysterious poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko has cast a dark shadow on the Kremlin, as he had investigated two high-profile affairs that have the potential to seriously embarrass the Russian government.
One of the last photographs taken of the former KGB and FSB spy foreshadowed what was soon to come: Lying on a large white pillow in a London hospital with tubes attached to his chest, his head bald and eyes barely open, Litvinenko resembled a cancer patient in his final hours.
When he succumbed last Thursday to the radioactive and thus poisonous isotope polonium-210 that unidentified individuals had managed to feed into his body, doctors lost a relentless fight to save the 43-year-old's life.
The case has now been turned over to Scotland Yard, and it is one of the most high-profile spy killings in the country's history since the man whom Litvinenko charged with his murder sits at the helm of the Russian government.
"You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life," said Litvinenko's statement, read out by fellow dissident and friend Alex Goldfarb last Friday. "May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people."
The Kremlin has of course denied any involvement in the killing, calling such allegations "absolute nonsense."
Before his mysterious poisoning, Litvinenko probed the assassination of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Moscow has come under attack after Politkovskaya, one of the most fiercely anti-Kremlin Russian media figures, was found shot dead on Oct. 7 in the elevator of her apartment building in Moscow.
But evidence in the Politkovskaya case may not have been Litvinenko's hottest material: The London Times reported Monday that he had also drawn up an extensive dossier -- which is now in the hands of Scotland Yard -- dealing with the Kremlin's forced takeover of oil firm Yukos.
Litvinenko had given the dossier to Leonid Nevzlin, the former deputy head of Yukos, who fled to Israel after Moscow sold off his company.
"Alexander had information on crimes committed with the Russian Government's direct participation," Nevzlin told the London Times after he had given the file to the authorities.
Investigators confirmed rumors that Litvinenko had managed to uncover "startling" new material in the affair, which has seen several former Yukos officials disappear or die in mysterious circumstances while the company's former head and the most prominent Yukos victim, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has been jailed.
Litvinenko, in the hours and days before his death, apparently passed on the names of a number of people linked to the Kremlin that have targeted him.
"At present we have a bewildering number of theories and names put to us, and we must establish some firm evidence," one individual close to the investigation told the London Times.
The long list of enemies comes at no surprise: Litvinenko for the past six years has repeatedly published criticism of Putin and the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor to the KGB; he wrote a book called 'Blowing up Russia: Terror from Within,' alleging that the Russian spy service orchestrated the 1999 apartment block bombings in Russia that killed more than 300 people and were later used to justify military offensives in Chechnya. At the time, the former spy was already in seemingly safe London, where in 2000, he sought political asylum after he had left Russia because he faced prison time there because of spectacular allegations against the FSB.
In 1998, Litvinenko, then a FSB specialist who fought terrorism and organized crime, announced at a news conference that his superiors had ordered him to kill Boris Berezovsky, who at the time was one of Boris Yeltsin's top security officials.
Litvinenko was arrested and imprisoned, and fled to Britain soon after his release; Berezovsky did the same.
In the past years, the Kremlin has tried to polish Russia's image; with the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg, Moscow managed to up the government's standing abroad. The two recent murders, however, have severely tarnished Russia's image and could significantly cloud EU-Russian relations.
In light of the latest spy killing, politicians in Western Europe have urged their governments to press Moscow with their concerns.
Menzies Campbell, a British opposition politician, according to the London Times said the government should have been "much tougher" on Putin and added that British-Russian relations would have to be re-considered if Litvinenko's killing was due to "state terrorism."
Government officials in Britain and in Germany are much less aggressive, and critics say this is due to Europe's growing dependence on Russian energy supplies. Russian-EU relations have recently been quite rocky in the wake of bilateral tensions with Poland and Georgia.
But Andreas Schockenhoff, responsible for German-Russian relations for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, said the reasons were different. "We must not put Russia under general suspicion," he told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.
Observers note it wouldn't make much sense for Moscow to go to great lengths and risk internationl isolation to eliminate a man who, despite his fierce and numerous anti-Kremlin writings, never managed to destabilize Putin.
On the other hand, polonium-210, the radioactive isotope found in Litvinenko's body, points to either a state-sponsored assassin or at least one who is able to pull some strings: A very rare element in nature, polonium is found in uranium ores at very low quantities and getting your hands onto it is extremely difficult, Andrea Sella, a chemistry professor at University College London, told the London Times.
"This is not the sort of thing that amateurs could have cooked up in a bathtub. You would have to go to a nuclear lab such as Oak Ridge, Los Alamos or Harwell -- or to one of the Russian ones."
An investigation was under way last night into Russia's black market trade in radioactive materials amid concern that significant quantities of polonium 210, the substance that killed former spy Alexander Litvinenko, are being stolen from poorly protected Russian nuclear sites.
As British police drew up a list of witnesses for questioning over the death, experts warned that thefts from nuclear facilities in the former Soviet Union were a major problem.
A senior source at the United Nations nuclear inspectorate, the International Atomic Energy Agency, told The Observer he had no doubt that the killing of Litvinenko was an 'organised operation' which bore all the hallmarks of a foreign intelligence agency. The expert in radioactive materials said the ability to obtain polonium 210 and the knowledge needed to use it to kill Litvinenko meant that the attack could not have been carried out by a 'lone assassin'.
Suggestions that the death may have involved some form of state sponsorship were being investigated by MI5 and MI6 who are looking at theories that foreign agents may have been behind the death of Litvinenko. Scotland Yard has asked the Kremlin for help with its inquiries, though Russia has dismissed any involvement in the death as 'absurd'. Litvinenko received British citizenship this month.
A senior British security source said they were providing the police with material in 'hostile intelligence agencies' operating in the UK, including those from Russia. He said: 'Russia has never really decreased its activity in the UK from the end of the Cold War.'
Privately, however, there is deep scepticism in Whitehall about whether the Putin administration would be willing to risk a crisis in British-Russian relations by directly authorising an assassination of a British citizen on British soil, particularly using a method that might involve other Britons being contaminated. The two countries are currently engaged in delicate negotiations over energy security.
More than anything, the death of the London-based former KGB spy has placed Russia's still thriving trade in radioactive material under scrutiny. 'From the terrorism threat standpoint, these cases are of little concern but they show security vulnerabilities at facilities,' said an IAEA spokesman.
One of the few figures available, on a database compiled by researchers at Stanford University in the US, revealed that about 40kg of weapons-usable uranium and plutonium were stolen from poorly protected nuclear facilities in the former Soviet Union between 1991 and 2002. Although the IAEA has no confirmation of polonium finding its way into the underground trade, there have been several unconfirmed reports of thefts.
In 1993 the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reported that 10kg of polonium had disappeared from the Sarov, which produces the rare radioactive material and is described as Russia's own version of Los Alamos, the US government's nuclear research base in New Mexico.
Globally there have been more than 300 cases during the past four years where individuals have been caught trying to smuggle radioactive material. In 2005 there were 103 confirmed incidents of trafficking and other unauthorised activities involving nuclear and radioactive materials, many involving Russia.
In one incident, in the remote west of former Soviet Georgia, a group of woodsmen found two capsules of the material which was emitting heat in a forest. They used them to keep warm at night but soon developed acute radiation sickness. The capsules turned out to be the highly radioactive strontium 90 core of a nuclear generator from a long abandoned aircraft navigation beacon.
Meanwhile in Britain, Cobra, No 10's crisis committee, met again yesterday to discuss emerging findings in the police investigation and in public health.
The Foreign Office held a meeting on Friday with the Russian ambassador to request full co-operation from the Russian government in the police investigation, including making witnesses available. Officials from the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in Aldermaston, Berkshire, and Porton Down, the government's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, were trying last night to track down the precise source of the polonium 210 that killed Litvinenko.
No date has been set for a post mortem examination on Litvinenko until a risk assessment is carried out to see if it is safe to perform the procedure, and if so, what precautions would be necessary.
The trial of former Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov began Tuesday after two postponements. Adamov faces charges of organized fraud and abuse of power stemming from his time in office from 1998 to 2001.The judge in the closed hearing at the Zamoskvoretsky District Court was to decide whether to admit evidence against Adamov submitted by the team of prosecutors, and on that basis whether to proceed with the trial or dismiss the charges.
If convicted, Adamov could face up to 10 years in prison.
Adamov, 67, was detained in Switzerland at the request of U.S. authorities in May 2005 on suspicion of stealing $9 million in U.S. funds that were earmarked for improving nuclear safety in Russia.
6. Rosenergoatom to build 7 floating thermal power plants by 2015
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Russia´┐Żs Rosenergoatom concern is planning to build a fleet of seven autonomous thermal power plants by 2015, in addition to the floating nuclear power plant, already under construction in Severodvinsk, deputy director general of the company Sergei Krysov said on Thursday.
"Gazprom displayed considerable interests in floating nuclear power plants, as it needs at least five floating power units to develop new deposits," Krysov said.
"To develop the Shtokman field, at least two 200-megawatt floating plants will be needed, and at least three power units for new Yamal deposits," he added.
According to Rosenergoatom, one floating station saves approximately 150 million cubic meters of gas a year, and in these terms, it fully pays back after seven or eight years of operation.
Krysov said the use of floating power plants is considered at present in Russian regions where the installation of ground-based units is unprofitable. These facilities can also be used for water desalination, if dedicated equipment is installed, he added.
The company executive reminded that Rosenergoatom had begun the implementation of the project to build a floating nuclear power plant. The construction might be completed by 2010. The floating reactor will have five radiation protection barriers, and will be able to withstand a 6-magnitude earthquake and a plane crash. The autonomous reactor will occupy an area of six hectares.
7. Nuclear strikes from 'rogue states' possible - Russian Air Force
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Russia's Air Force commander said Wednesday he considers nuclear missile launches by terrorists or 'rogue states' to be a genuine threat.
"Increasingly probable and dangerous for the U.S., Russia and European countries are single or multiple missile strikes from third countries, known as rogue states, countries with unstable, non-democratic regimes, or terrorist organizations with access to missile technology," Vladimir Mikhailov said.
Mikhailov said accidental launches were also possible.
"Although accidental launches of missiles with nuclear warheads have not occurred in the history of nuclear missile technology, this does not mean they will not occur in the future, given the growing spread of nuclear missiles," he said.
Mikhailov also said terrorist organizations and the countries harboring them would not be deterred by the threat of a retaliatory strike, which has acted as a constraint for Russia and the United States, the world's largest nuclear powers.
"The objective of terrorists is to attract as much attention to their attacks as possible," he said.
Retaliation against a missile strike is also fraught with massive civilian casualties and destruction, the commander said, referring to recent warfare between Israel and Lebanon.
Mikhailov warned that missile technology will be increasingly popular in 21st century conflicts due to its combat capability and relatively small size.
International non-proliferation efforts have been facing difficulties in recent years.
North Korea said it conducted its first nuclear test on October 9, which could make it the ninth country known to have nuclear weapons, along with the U.S., Russia, France, China, Britain, India, Pakistan, and Israel, the latter three being de-facto nuclear powers.
The secretive Communist state is already under UN sanctions over the move, while Iran faces sanctions over its defiance to halt uranium enrichment. The Islamic Republic has been in at center of an international nuclear dispute, suspected of pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian energy program.
Russia has taken a moderate position in both disputes, acknowledging the countries' right to peaceful nuclear power under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but voicing concerns over their unwillingness to ease the international suspicions.
1. Iran offers to share nuclear know-how with Algeria
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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has offered to share Tehran's nuclear expertise with Algiers, in a meeting with Algerian energy minister Shakib Khalil.
"We are ready to share our experience in different domains including peaceful nuclear technology with Algeria," the government daily Iran quoted Ahmadinejad as saying during a meeting with Khalil on Monday.
Algeria is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, which supports Iran's civilian nuclear activities -- feared by the West to be a cover for secretly developing nuclear weapons.
Oil-rich Iran denies the allegations, saying it only wants to generate electricity.
World powers have been debating a draft UN resolution that would impose limited sanctions on Iran over its failure to comply with an earlier UN resolution on halting uranium enrichment.
Iran agreed on Thursday to open records to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on its uranium enrichment activities.
Iran's offer to open the operating records of pilot enrichment plant at Natanz could potentially yield key information to agency inspectors that has up to now been off limits.
Former UN nuclear inspector David Albright said the records should tell them how well the centrifuges have operated.
The records would also help strengthen IAEA findings on the degree to which Iran has enriched the small amount of uranium it has processed since starting its enrichment programme early this year. The agency puts that at 5 per cent or below - far from the more than 90 per cent needed to make the core of nuclear warheads.
Although the IAEA's approved all requests for technical aid it turned down Iran's request for technical help in building its Arak plutonium-producing reactor.
Iran says it only wants to generate energy and that the plutonium-producing Arak plant would be used to make nuclear isotopes for medical use, there is concern that the programme could also be manipulated to make nuclear weapons.
Gregory L Schulte, the chief US delegate to the IAEA, said Arak was removed entirely from the programme, not just deferred. ´┐ŻThe US and the IAEA are not prepared to help countries build nuclear bombs.´┐Ż
The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) refused to provide Iran with technical assistance for its project to build a heavy-water reactor in Araq.
The UN nuclear watchdog fears that Iran plans to produce weapons-grade plutonium there.
This decision may influence the UN Security Council's resolution on Iran.
The IAEA Board, which met in Vienna on November 23, heard the report on Iran's nuclear program presented by Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. The report had been sent to the governors confidentially ahead of the meeting. It says that the agency cannot guarantee the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program unless the country ensures proper transparency.
The conclusions of the IAEA governors will be forwarded to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, which are to coordinate a new draft resolution on Iran.
The United States is pushing for harsh sanctions, whereas Russia and China are in favor of much softer measures. Britain, France and Germany are advocating moderate sanctions. All of them, however, are waiting for Tehran's reaction.
A careful analysis of the recent dynamics of the Iranian nuclear problem shows that Tehran is prodding the Security Council towards adopting very harsh sanctions.
This is the only possible explanation for the recent statement by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in which he said that Iran would by all means begin using its 60,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges.
The enrichment complex under construction in Natanz, which is expected to have 54,000 centrifuges, as well as Tehran's intention to build a heavy-water plant in Araq, make nuclear and non-proliferation experts doubt the civilian nature of Iran's nuclear program.
Nevertheless, Iran continues to burn one bridge after another.
The latest statement by the Iranian president was especially shocking, because Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, paid a three-day visit to Moscow ahead of the six-party meeting on Iran. That visit was expected to influence the wording of the UN resolution.
The tone of Larijani's talks in Russia was predictable, especially in view of the fact that they were held before Vladimir Putin's meeting with President George W. Bush, whose plane stopped over in Moscow for refueling. Iran's nuclear program was the main issue on the two president's agenda.
Larijani hinted in Moscow that Iran might make considerable concessions, notably, that it may start cooperating with the IAEA and even resume talks with the Kremlin on the construction of a joint uranium enrichment facility in Russia.
In principle, Moscow's efforts have prodded the draft resolution away from the harsh American-European wording. The EU's initial version stipulated a ban on the supply of any equipment and technologies that Iran could use for its nuclear program. Freezing Iranian assets and banning the movement of Iranian nuclear specialists outside Iran were also proposed.
But the Kremlin argued that by approving such a resolution, the Security Council would usurp the powers of the IAEA, while it should instead use its prestige to support the agency's position. The resolution also looked like an attempt to punish Iran, while it should be aimed at developing cooperation with it.
Eventually, Moscow managed to limit bans on the export of nuclear technology to Iran.
The draft resolution is being viewed as a pilot version of sanctions, although what it stipulates are in fact mere limitations that could be described as relative. Through it, the international community is sending a signal to Iran in the hope of receiving a reasonable response. That response will determine the world's relations with Iran, including its future cooperation with the IAEA.
The UN nuclear watchdog's decision to deny technical assistance to the Araq project could be said to reflect doubts about Iran's allegedly peaceful nuclear program.
4. U.N. nuclear agency may halt funding for Iranian reactor
Alissa J. Rubin
Los Angeles Times
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The international community tentatively decided late Wednesday to halt financial support for a controversial nuclear reactor in Iran that could be used to help produce plutonium for atomic bombs, but to continue to fund seven other Iranian civilian nuclear projects.
The decision to stop funding was a victory for Western countries that suspect Iran's ultimate goal in its nuclear program is to build a bomb.
Under the deal tentatively agreed on by the 35-member board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear monitoring arm, the Islamic Republic would continue to receive technical assistance for its civilian nuclear projects such as nuclear medicine, but would not receive money for the heavy-water reactor under construction near the town of Arak.
The withdrawal of funding, however, will be handled in a discreet manner and without a formal vote, which might divide the board.
"The majority were uncomfortable with going ahead with that project," said an official close to the IAEA.
"But many were also concerned about setting a precedent; they are worried that their project could be denied next," the official said.
The issue will come up at today's meeting of the IAEA board of governors in Vienna. The board must approve technical assistance projects carried out by the agency, which also inspects nuclear plants for safety and tracks the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Technical assistance to Iran, which totals less than $1 million a year, represents only a sliver of the $70 million that the agency spends on technical projects. The U.N. nuclear agency funds more than 800 projects in 134 countries, according to agency officials.
The debate in Vienna this week highlighted again the two most difficult issues for the agency: the murkiness of the line between civilian and potentially military nuclear projects and the tensions between the nuclear "haves" and "have nots."
The Arak plant, much like the uranium enrichment plant that Iran is building at Natanz, has a legitimate peaceful use.
But it also can be used to make fissionable material for a bomb.
Although the IAEA can conduct inspections to ensure that these plants are used only for peaceful purposes, the possibility remains that Iran could follow North Korea's model, leaving the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, expelling inspectors and beginning to produce fissionable material for a nuclear weapon.
In deference to the concerns of developing nations, the compromise avoided criticizing Iran or the project directly. Leading the charge on Iran's behalf was Cuba, which leads the Non-Aligned Movement, the 115-member organization that represents developing countries.
Under the compromise, the Arak project will be left off the biennial list, leaving open the possibility that the funding would be revived later, although Western diplomats indicated that the project was unlikely to be funded again.
"The technical cooperation program is a two-year-program, so in theory the question could be put forward again," a Western diplomat said. "But quite frankly, if we have the same situation as today, I cannot imagine that the board will approve it at that time either."
The board reported Iran to the U.N. Security Council in February, saying Tehran had failed to respond fully to IAEA nuclear inspectors' requests for information about its past nuclear program, and refused to adhere to a board resolution asking it to suspend uranium enrichment.
The Security Council appears unlikely to come to agreement in the coming weeks on sanctions. Russia and China have backed Iran and been reluctant to endorse sanctions, which they fear could push Iran to leave the nonproliferation treaty.
The controversy about Iran's Arak project is not new. In past resolutions, the IAEA board of governors has asked Iran to reconsider the project.
Heavy-water reactors are of concern because their spent fuel rods can be reprocessed into plutonium that can be used for nuclear bombs.
Pakistan and India use similar heavy-water reactors to make plutonium for bombs for their nuclear weapons program, according to nuclear experts.
Iran also is slowly building a plant to enrich uranium, a second method that can be used to obtain fissile material that can be used in a bomb. But the plant at Natanz has run into difficulties with the delicate centrifuge technology.
Plutonium can be produced using a reprocessing plant, a somewhat less fragile process. But plutonium is highly radioactive and much more hazardous to workers.
Iran is not known to have a reprocessing plant, and Iranian officials assert unequivocally that the Arak plant would be used only to make radioactive isotopes, such as those used in nuclear medicine.
1. Russia-Iran cooperation commission to meet Dec.11 in Tehran
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Russia's nuclear chief will attend a session of a Russian-Iranian intergovernmental trade and economic commission on December 11 in Tehran, his press service said Friday.
Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, co-chairs the intergovernmental commission, along with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.
Iran has been at the center of an international dispute this year over its nuclear efforts, which some countries suspect are a cover for a nuclear weapons program, despite Tehran's statements to the contrary.
Russia, one of Iran's major economic partners, has consistently supported the country's drive for nuclear energy and resisted international calls for sanctions against the Islamic Republic, and is building a $1 billion nuclear power plant in the south of Iran.
2. Russia alarmed by Iran`s plans to expand nuclear research
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today expressed Moscow's "alarm" at Iran's plans to expand nuclear research and its refusal to accept proposals tabled by five permanent UNSC members and Germany to restart dialogue.
"We are alarmed, of course, by Iran's refusal to accept the sextet's proposals, which aim to create conditions for restarting the talks," Lavrov said in an interview published by the government-run Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily.
Lavrov said Moscow was alarmed also by Iran's energetic statements about plans to expand significantly its nuclear research, supplemented with arguments that this is allegedly not banned by the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
"We have taken note of this. But Iran has been refraining from commenting on the fact that under the non-proliferation treaty it must cooperate with the IAEA," Lavrov said.
Earlier last week, the Foreign Minister discussed the Iran nuclear issue in New Delhi with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee.
"The treaty (NPT) lists both the obligations and the rights and we confirm them for all signatories to the treaty. Regarding the obligations, Iran owes a few things to the IAEA.
"This is well known and is documented in a resolution by the IAEA Board of Governors and in the UN Security Council's July resolution which supports the Board of Governors' decision," Lavrov stated.
Even though these questions remain unanswered, Russia remains adherent to the commitment to continue working on this problem in the UN Security Council.
1. N. Korea Nuclear Envoy Meets With U.S. and China
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North Korea's nuclear envoy sat down with top negotiators for the United States and China on Tuesday, an unannounced meeting aimed at reactivating stalled six-nation talks on persuading North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said before the talks with Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawai got started that the timing of the next round of six-party talks ''depends on the United States.''
''There are too many outstanding issues'' and both parties should narrow their differences, Kim told reporters on arrival at the airport.
''I said on Oct. 31 that we can enter the talks at any time,'' he said. ''I said that because we can do that from a dignified position as we have taken defensive measures through our nuclear test to counter sanctions and pressure against us.''
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the discussions, which included bilateral and trilateral meetings between the three delegates, were ongoing, and did not give any details.
''We hope all sides can grasp this opportunity and take a flexible, pragmatic, and constructive approach in order to realize the early resumption of six-party talks,'' Jiang said at a regular briefing.
Kim's trip to Beijing -- a rare foreign visit for him -- and the presence of other negotiators improved the prospects of compromises to give new life to the disarmament talks, which have been at an impasse for more than a year.
Officials have yet to determine an exact date for the next round of negotiations, which also involve Russia, Japan and South Korea.
Late Tuesday evening, Hill and Kim separately left the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, where the meetings were held. Neither spoke to the media.
An unannounced meeting between Hill and Kim last month in Beijing led to Pyongyang agreeing to return to the arms negotiations amid heightened tensions after its first nuclear test on Oct. 9.
''The issue for us is to make sure we are extremely well-planned and ready for the six-party talks, which we do anticipate will get going at some point very soon,'' Hill said when he arrived on Monday.
Hill met separately with South Korea's nuclear envoy, Chun Yung-woo, and Wu on Tuesday morning, said U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Susan Stevenson. She did not have any details on the talks.
Japan's representative Kenichiro Sasae told Japanese reporters that he had also held bilateral talks with Wu and Hill.
North Korea agreed in September 2005 to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees and aid. But Washington imposed financial sanctions against a Macau-based bank on suspicions it was laundering counterfeit money for the North Koreans. Angered by the move, Pyongyang withdrew from the talks two months later.
An environmental activist alleged Thursday that highly toxic chemicals had accidentally spilled from weapons being reprocessed at a central Russian plant.
Russian officials, however, denied there was a spill at the Maradykovsky complex.
Lev Fyodorov, the head of the Union for Chemical Safety in Moscow, said several aviation bomb casings had ruptured last week during reprocessing and that toxic liquid had spilled onto the ground.
But he said that the chances of environmental damage from the alleged accident were slim, since it occurred inside the reprocessing complex, 450 miles northeast of Moscow.
"I think it's an accident. They (Russian officials) don't think so," Fyodorov said, adding that the alleged spill was a sign that the reprocessing method Russia chose "is convenient only for making a quick accounting" before other signatories to the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention.
The Maradykovsky reprocessing plant opened to great fanfare in September on the site of one of Russia's seven former chemical weapons production plants.
The plant is a focal point of the push to meet an April 2007 target date for Russia to destroy 20 percent of its stockpile. To date, just 3 percent of its stockpile has been eliminated.
News of the spill first broke Wednesday when Tatyana Korolyovaya, an environmental activist in a town close to the Maradykovsky complex, made the allegations on Radio Liberty.
The Maradykovsky plant holds 6,900 tons of nerve agents stored in aerial bombs and missile warheads, more than 17 percent of Russia's chemical-weapons stockpile.
1. Russia could help build NPP in Egypt - nuclear chief
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Russia intends to take part in a tender to build a nuclear power plant in Egypt, the Russian nuclear chief said Tuesday.
"Construction of an NPP in Egypt is quite possible," Sergei Kiriyenko told journalists. "When a tender is announced in Egypt, we will be ready to announce our participation."
The head of the Federal Nuclear Power Agency said preparations for such a tender are already under way, and added that specific features of the project will depend on the customer.
There will soon be strong demand for small- and medium-power reactors, he said.
Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly Atomstroyexport is currently building five nuclear power plants in China, India and Iran, on contracts worth $4.5 billion, and is also bidding to build a plant in Belene, Bulgaria.
Company president Sergei Shmatko said in late October that talks regarding the construction of NPPs could be held with Morocco, Vietnam, Egypt and South Africa.
2. Ukraine, Russia discuss nuclear fuel supplies for 2007
(for personal use only)
Russia's nuclear fuel producer and supplier TVEL and Ukraine's national nuclear energy generating company Energoatom held talks Friday on nuclear fuel supplies to Ukraine in 2007, the Russian company said.
TVEL, one of the world's largest nuclear fuel producers and suppliers, said the two companies discussed long-term cooperation, taking into account Ukrainian and Russian national interests.
Russia's Federal Nuclear Power Agency (Rosatom) said in early November that Russia plans to raise the price of enriched uranium it supplies for Ukraine's nuclear power plants in 2007.
Russia is currently supplying uranium fuel for 15 nuclear power generating units of Ukraine's NPPs in 2006 under a contract signed in January by TVEL and Energoatom.
3. Cameco, Russian nuclear company pursue joint venture
The Canadian Press
(for personal use only)
Cameco Corp. announced Wednesday that it has a non-binding agreement to pursue joint ventures in uranium exploration, development and production with Techsnabexport, a state-owned, Russian nuclear company.
Cameco, which is the world's largest uranium producer, said it will have further discussions with Tenex to finalize an agreement that will enable the two companies to jointly explore for uranium in Russia, Canada and other prospective jurisdictions.
The Canadian company has worked with Tenex for a number of years and currently has an agreement with it to purchase uranium from dismantled Russian weapons for reprocessing and eventual use as fuel for nuclear reactors.
Russia announced in May that it will no longer provide highly enriched uranium from nuclear weapons to U.S. utilities beyond 2013, when the 20-year program ends. Cameco has been actively involved in reprocessing the enriched uranium.
As a result of Russia's decision to end the program, as well as increased interest in nuclear power around the world, there is a strong demand for alternative sources of long-term supplies of uranium.
A tight supply of the mineral has been made worse by problems at Cameco's Cigar Lake uranium project after it was struck by flooding. Before the flood, Cigar Lake production was slated to start in 2008.
The mine is half-owned by Cameco, with 37 per cent held by the Areva Group of France, 8 per cent by Idemitsu Kosan Co. of Japan and 5 per cent by a subsidiary of Tokyo Electric Power Co.
1. Causes of Bulava missile test failure still unknown - space agency
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Investigations into the failure of a test launch of the newest Russian ballistic missile a month ago have yet not been able to establish the causes of the incident, a Russian Space Agency official said Tuesday.
A Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile launched October 25 from the Dmitry Donskoi nuclear submarine in the White Sea self-destructed after it deviated from its trajectory.
"The causes of the failure are still unknown," said Vitaly Davydov, deputy head of the space agency.
A Navy spokesman said at the time that the missile lifted off successfully from a submerged position, but strayed from its trajectory several minutes into the flight.
"It could have triggered a self-destruct system," he said, adding that a special commission would conduct a detailed investigation into the incident.
A similar test conducted September 7 also failed when a testing program error in the second stage of the flight caused the missile to miss its designated target.
The R-30 Bulava (SS-NX-30) ballistic missile, a naval version of the Topol-M ballistic missile, was developed at the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology. It can carry up to ten nuclear warheads and has a range of 8,000 kilometers (about 5,000 miles).
The first in-flight test launch was conducted September 27, 2005 also from the Dmitry Donskoi, a Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine.
On December 21, 2005, another Bulava was launched from the Dmitry Donskoi in the White Sea before traveling thousand miles to hit a dummy target at the Kura test site, on the Kamchatka Peninsula. It was the first time a Bulava had been launched from a submerged position.
Russia's Borey-class nuclear submarines could be equipped with Bulava missiles as early as 2008, the missile's chief designer said in April.
2. Russia scraps 145 out of 197 decommissioned nuclear submarines
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Russia has dismantled 145 out of 197 decommissioned Soviet-era nuclear submarines, the head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power said Tuesday.
Russia has signed cooperation agreements on the disposal of decommissioned nuclear submarines with the United States, Britain, Canada, Japan, Italy and Norway. The disposal program will cost an overall $2 billion, toward which Russia had allocated $850 million as of 2005.
"We have a joint nuclear submarine dismantlement program that involves a number of countries, including EU members," Sergei Kiriyenko said. "Out of 195 nuclear submarines decommissioned from the Russian Navy, we have dismantled 145."
"The disposal of another 17 is under way, and we are preparing to scrap 32 more in the future," he said.
During the dismantling process, spent nuclear fuel is removed from the submarine's reactors and sent to storage, the hull is cut into three sections, and the bow and stern are removed and destroyed. The reactor section is sealed and transferred to storage.
"We will scrap all decommissioned nuclear submarines by 2010," the nuclear chief said.
An all-out war or armed conflict between the great powers no longer seems possible. However, the five official nuclear powers are in no hurry to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their policy, a fact attested to by the US's new nuclear doctrine, loose rules of engagement for using nuclear weapons in the event of a crisis and greater regional tensions.
Russia therefore has no choice but to remain a major nuclear power in the foreseeable future.
It is our opinion that, depending on the global military-political situation, by 2012 Russia's strategic nuclear forces should have
* about 600 ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles;
* ten to 12 SSBNs (ballistic missile submarines);
* 50 strategic bombers for carrying nuclear and conventional weapons;
* 1,000 to 1,200 nuclear warheads on ICBMs and SLBMs (submarine launched ballistic missiles).
Moscow would therefore be able to maintain its special strategic relationship with the United States and preserve its global political role.
Russia and the United States have managed to conclude the legally binding Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions stipulating a ceiling of 1,700-2,200 warheads in the next decade.
But the Russian side had initially insisted on a more comprehensive treaty that would call for irreversible and controlled strategic arms reductions. Moreover, Washington has refused to formalize its assurances that the National Missile Defense (NMD) system will only be able to intercept several dozen warheads.
Consequently, the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions does not stipulate irreversible and controlled reductions; nor does it place any limitations on the potential of ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) systems.
In effect, this treaty merely reduces the combat readiness of strategic offensive arms and does not provide for disarmament or arms control measures. The United States will not scrap any strategic delivery vehicles or their warheads, meaning that Washington can beef up its strategic forces anytime.
But Russia has to spend a lot on scrapping its aging strategic offensive arms because of their specific features, as well as the lack of co-production arrangements between post-Soviet republics and some other factors.
Moscow, which has no alternative but to fulfill the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions, must also modify its nuclear policy. We must face the facts: the United States will create the NMD system in the near future and completely dominate the world unless Russia's nuclear policy adapts to the above-mentioned priorities.
If possible, Moscow should continue to negotiate with Washington and suggest a joint search for ways of minimizing risks that stem from the current mutual nuclear deterrence situation. However, given the current attitude of the Bush Administration towards bilateral and multilateral strategic offensive arms control, such agreements seem unlikely.
Under these circumstances, we should study the possibility of resuming work on weapons and systems that can effectively breach or neutralize the US ABM system.
In his state of the nation address, Russian President Vladimir Putin said "work is already under way on creating ... maneuverable combat units that will have an unpredictable flight trajectory for the potential opponent."
But this is not enough, because such weapons were contemplated during the Soviet period. Experts believe the cheapest option is to implement a set of active and passive measures for protecting Russia's strategic nuclear forces.
The most likely scenario involves parallel unilateral reductions in both the US's and Russia's nuclear arsenals without any mutual agreement or prior consultations. These cuts will depend on technical and economic expediency factors.
Such a situation would mean the end of arms control as we know it, and politicians, diplomats, military leaders and the general public might find it disorienting.
There are 600 metric tons (661.4 short tons) of highly radioactive uranium and plutonium stored in a high-security warehouse on the grounds of a nuclear power plant here. Bonded in ceramic and stored under pressurized helium in cylinders, this spent fuel from the Dukovany plant's four 20-year-old reactors, still gives off enough heat to make you sweat.
The warehouse is full now. Beginning next month, the plant will begin storing its spent fuel in a new adjacent facility, with room to hold 1,340 metric tons, enough space to fulfill the plant's storage needs until its projected decommissioning in 2025.
What happens to the waste after that is another matter.
As Czech officials speak of the dawning of a new nuclear age, the fact remains that the future of long-term nuclear waste storage is uncertain. The government's plans to build a deep geological repository for radioactive waste currently are stalled in a self-imposed six-year moratorium, which will end in 2009. Ongoing public protests in towns identified as potential storage sites portend a tough sell for officials after that.
The state is now courting these towns, hoping to find one willing to one day offer the country's waste a home.
"We will have to rely on nuclear energy in the future," said V´┐Żtězslav Duda, managing director of the Radioactive Waste Repository Authority (S´┐ŻRAO). "We're trying to find a way to compromise with the public."
That compromise needs to happen, analysts say; the Czech nuclear power industry is in great flux right now. Uranium prices are rising, as is interest in reusing spent nuclear fuel. Government officials and state-owned energy utility companies are hinting at future construction of more nuclear plants.
The government's ultimate plan for its nuclear waste is tied to the construction of a deep geological repository within the granite massif that underlies much of the country. It is scheduled to open by 2065. Planning and conceptual design of the site began in the 1990s, with six potential sites, all in Bohemia, announced in 2003.
This led to a few problems, Duda said.
"The public didn't welcome it," he said. "With strong opposition, we decided to postpone any further development of the repository until 2009."
Duda's office has not changed its preference to locate the repository in one of the six sites previously selected, and is now reaching out to the towns near these sites by holding meetings, distributing information and talking with mayors. Duda said he also expects that the town chosen will receive an annual financial compensation much larger than the 1.5 million Kč ($68,300) it gives to towns storing low-level waste.
He and other experts attribute public resistance to an ignorance of the true risks and benefits of a repository.
"There is now a very strong consensus with no dissenting views from experts" that geological repositories are the best solution for waste storage, said Derek Taylor, nuclear energy adviser to the European Commission.
Finland and Sweden are both actively constructing such facilities, he said, and other countries with nuclear power are expected to follow suit. There is no current European Union legislation on the issue.
"It's pretty simple," said Jiř´┐Ż Dvoř´┐Żk, mayor of Lodh´┐Żřov, South Bohemia, a town near one potential site. "We held a local referendum and 99.72 percent of our citizens voted against storage. We said no to the idea and will not change our position."
If a repository were built below the town, he said, "It'd be like sitting on a time bomb."
Franti´┐Żek Venkrbec, mayor of Rohozn´┐Ż, South Bohemia, another potential host, was more conciliatory. A previous administration resolutely rejected a repository, he said. But his office is more open to the repository after going on trips to Germany, Switzerland and Sweden with S´┐ŻRAO to learn more about the field.
"It is all about information," he said.
By 2010, the Czech Republic will no longer be an energy exporter, and soon after, as the decommissioning dates approach for many domestic coal plants, the country will face an energy shortage, according to ČEZ. Coal provides 40 percent of the country's power and nuclear energy 31 percent.
To tackle this shortage, Czechs have several options, said Jaroslav Vlček, deputy director of the Dukovany plant. These include importing energy (like Hungary currently does), building new coal plants or constructing new nuclear power plants.
If the country goes the third route, he said, ČEZ should begin making plans by no later than 2008. New reactors would first be built at Temel´┐Żn, which has the infrastructure to support two more reactors, ČEZ officials said.
In September, Industry and Trade Minister Martin Ř´┐Żman stumped for new reactors at Temel´┐Żn. The following month, President V´┐Żclav Klaus came out strongly in support of nuclear energy at an informal EU summit in Finland, and Prime Minister Mirek Topol´┐Żnek publicly supported construction of a new power plant, but not until after Dukovany's decommissioning.
According to ČEZ officials, with proper modernization, Dukovany can remain open until 2035 or 2045.
Chinese President Hu Jintao's current visit to India has opened a small window for possible nuclear cooperation between the two countries. As the US Congress comes close to ratifying a historic nuclear pact with India, Beijing seems to be looking to turn aside geostrategic and security concerns (which it has been underlining so far) in the interest of business opportunities that building new nuclear reactors could open.
Indeed, business has taken precedence over politics, especially when the stakes involved can be more than US$100 billion, the estimated civilian nuclear energy reactors market in India.
Summing up Beijing's new thinking, Hu declared that "India's growth is an opportunity, not threat".
This is the first time that a joint statement at the highest level has talked about cooperation in nuclear energy between India and China. The two countries have had limited nuclear relations in the past, including Chinese supplying low-enriched uranium to India's Tarapur atomic reactor in 1995 and heavy water in the 1980s.
There is still a long way to go. Beijing's position will become more apparent when it will be required to elucidate its stand at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), where discussions regarding international acceptance of India's nuclear status should proceed after US congressional ratification of the nuclear pact.
Indian officials, however, say China is now unlikely to oppose the deal at the NSG and is more likely to concentrate on winning contracts and nuclear tenders. The competition can be stiff, with top companies from countries such as Russia, France, apart from the US already in the race. A US business delegation comprising representatives of top nuclear firms will visit India this month.
But India will be closely watching China's dealings with Pakistan and whether it does go ahead with a similar nuclear pact as the Indo-US deal, as has been suggested. Hu will head to Pakistan after the conclusion of his India trip.
One reason New Delhi has been averse to Chinese firms' close involvement in key strategic areas such as telecoms and ports is China's support to Pakistan and other countries such as Bangladesh in the same areas, including involvement in the Gwadar port in Balochistan. Gwadar opens the possibility of Chinese naval presence very close to Indian shores.
It will not be palatable to Indian security mandarins that the same set of engineers should be setting up nuclear reactors in both the countries. China has been involved in the construction of at least two nuclear reactors in Pakistan. The US has refused to deal with Pakistan on nuclear energy because of its dubious proliferation record.
In the past, reacting to the Indo-US civilian nuclear energy deal, China has asked India to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty first. India has refused to sign the NPT as it considers it to be biased in favor of countries that already possess nuclear weapons. Beijing has been critical of the US for violating international norms by signing the nuclear pact with India and was unhappy about Indian nuclear-weapon tests in 1998.
Not too long back, Beijing said that given India's strong military strength, it was Pakistan more than India that needed nuclear weapons to defend itself.
Because of intense pressure from Beijing, including the possible blacklisting of Indian information-technology firms keen to expand in China, New Delhi has refrained from a comprehensive law against foreign investments by Chinese firms. But the suspicions harking back to a war fought in the early1960s continue to be there, though the Chinese companies have still won several contracts in India, in several infrastructure, oil and gas projects, because of the sheer cost advantage and quality of delivery.
Language, culture and different political systems (read democratic rights), however, continue to be issues with the very efficient Chinese personnel, a contrast to the slightly more laid-back and affable approach of Indians.
Still, even talking about opening the doors for future nuclear cooperation, in the context of raging nuclear-weapons-related controversies in North Korea, Iran and Pakistan, is a significant move forward.
The joint statement issued after the deliberations involving Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Hu said: "There is the need for an international energy order, and for global energy systems to take into account the needs of both countries based on a stable, predictable, secure and clean energy future. In this context, the international civilian nuclear cooperation should be advanced through innovative and forward-looking approaches while safeguarding the effectiveness of international non-proliferation principles."
While enhanced Indo-US relations are being seen as Washington's attempt to balance the might of China in the region, it is clear now that Beijing does not want the US to walk away with business as well. The more difficult task in this context, however, will be relations with Islamabad, with which Beijing has enjoyed long close military ties.
Indeed, Hu's day-long meetings with top Indian dignitaries were a clinical exercise. There were no asides, warm handshakes, impromptu speeches, smiles and laughter. Hu and Manmohan during the joint press declaration looked more like the chief executive officers of two large corporates announcing the results of a successful partnership so far, in the strict interest of business parameters and quarterly results. There was nothing cultural, unlike, say, a conference with former US president Bill Clinton or even George W Bush.
The declaration issued after talks between Manmohan and Hu says: "Both sides believe that comprehensive economic and commercial engagement between India and China is a core component of their strategic and cooperative partnership." Setting a target of raising bilateral trade flows to US$40 billion by 2010 (double the current level), it emphasizes that the two countries will make joint efforts "to diversify their trade basket, remove existing impediments, and utilize the present and potential complementarities to sustain and strengthen bilateral commercial and economic cooperation".
A Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement has been signed, while a joint task force will expedite its study of the feasibility and benefits of India-China regional trading arrangement and submit the report by next October.
The two countries, which have been competing globally to acquire oil and gas fields, have agreed to implement closely the provisions of the memorandum on cooperation in oil and gas signed last January. Next year has also been designated the China-India Friendship Year for Tourism. The two special representatives leading the discussion on the boundary question have been asked to accelerate efforts to arrive at a settlement.
The 13 agreements the two countries made during Hu's visit cover diverse areas, including protection of bilateral investment, trading of iron ore and export of rice, agriculture, education, forestry and the conservation of cultural heritage.
India and China have decided to hold regular summit-level exchanges in each other's country and on multilateral forums, open new consulates in Kolkata and Guangzhou, and set up an "expert-level mechanism" to discuss issues relating to trans-border rivers.
Hu said China and India are major developing countries, and that their relationship is of global significance in bilateral, regional and international dimensions. He said the two share "broad and sustained interests".
Manmohan said, "At the fulcrum of our efforts is our collective political will to enrich and reinforce our strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity, and to resolve our outstanding issues in a focused, sincere and problem-solving manner."
It is true, however, that cooperation in nuclear energy has opened a new dimension.
Days before the reconciliation process begins on the Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation Bill, New Delhi has sought a clarification from Washington on the Bingaman Amendment that calls for establishing a cooperative threat reduction programme between the both countries.
Sources said the amendment´┐Żnow a part of the Senate version of the Bill´┐Żwas never brought up with India during the negotiations and to that extent, is not binding on India. However, the amendment has not escaped attention of N-deal critics who see this as an intrusive measure.
While New Delhi is a bit upset that there was no indication on any such move from Washington, it does not see it as a deal-breaker simply because this is not the first time the US Congress has sought to establish such a programme with India.
Four years ago, the Congress, through Section 8171 of the Department of Defence Appropriations Act 2002, tasked the Secretary of Defence to submit a report describing ´┐Żsteps that have to be taken to develop cooperative threat reduction programmes with India and Pakistan´┐Ż. This was how far the issue went as it was never taken up formally with India.
The Cooperative Threat Reduction Programme was framed to address the issue of nuclear weapons in breakaway republics of the erstwhile Soviet Union. The idea was to inspect, check and safeguard such warheads and radioactive material. The programme was to also look at dealing with scientists involved in such projects before the Soviet break-up. Since many were rendered unemployed, another objective was to ensure that they were not lured by terror groups.
The Bingaman Amendment, while urging the US Administration to establish such a programme, operates on the logic of pursuing ´┐Żcommon non-proliferation objectives´┐Ż through cooperation among Indian and American scientists. This could also mean a range of joint research projects on proliferation resistant technologies like the Generation 4 reactors, which is mentioned in the July 18 joint statement. In fact, sources point out that the objective in 2002 could have been different.
Similar is the case with a host of reporting requirements tied to this Bill. Many of them are already necessitated by the Congress through Section 601 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act which requires the US President to submit a report on what the Administration has done to make countries with nuclear weapons give up the option and join the NPT.
While India has been a major target of the US non-proliferation regime, sources said, there is little mention of the Indian programme in these reports. Such an objective was also laid in the Foreign Assistance Act with India in 1992-93, but that did not come in the way of India going ahead with the Pokhran tests.
Having agreed to separate the civilian programme from the strategic, the understanding is that India must look to integrate with the norms of international civilian nuclear energy cooperation. The strategic side is not up for discussion and to that extent, both versions of the Bill in the US Congress have been broadly sensitive to this distinction which lies at the heart of the N-deal.
2. India fear Terrorist attack at its nuclear establishments: Shivraj Patil
New Asia Times
(for personal use only)
Threats to India's nuclear plants has been increased manifold after a landmark deal between India and United States of America. Deal between India and United States is for civilian nucelar co-operation between two countries.
On Wednesday the Home Minister of India, Mr. Shivraj Patil expressed the possibilities of terrorist attacks to India's nuclear plants
Security at India's nuclear facilities has been stepped up over the last year after officials said they had information that the sites were on the hit-list of Islamist militants.
Several high-profile attacks on other targets across the country, blamed on Pakistan-based militant groups fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir, have also led to increased vigil at government facilities.
But Home Minister Shivraj Patil's comments were the first to link the vulnerability of the nuclear plants to the civilian nuclear pact with Washington which is in the final stages of approval by the U.S. Congress.
"Our critical infrastructure faces a serious threat from terrorists," Patil told a conference of state police chiefs.
"In view of the recent Indo-U.S. agreement on civil nuclear energy cooperation, our atomic power plants have become highly vulnerable," he said.
Patil did not elaborate but a home ministry official said security agencies feared the nuclear plants could be targeted by Islamist militants opposed to American policies and U.S. presence in South Asia.
India has 15 nuclear power plants in operation, with an installed generating capacity of 3,310 megawatts (MW). Seven more plants with a capacity of 3,420 MW are under construction and scheduled for completion by 2009.
Fourteen of the 22 plants categorised as civilian facilities would be allowed to access fuel and equipment from the United States under the deal which overturns a three-decade ban on nuclear trade.
The deal was approved by the U.S. Senate last week and needs approval jointly by the House of Representatives and the Senate, besides the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Patil said installations in the oil and natural gas sector, defense, communications and the IT sector were also vulnerable, adding "the enemy" was always looking for new targets.
"The challenge of terrorism must be faced resolutely and the police and security agencies cannot afford to lower their guard," he said.
By a large majority, last week the American Senate approved President George W. Bush's plan to recognize India's nuclear capability, without compelling it to open its nuclear installations to international inspectors. The Senate's vote reflects a sea change in America's nuclear policy. Prior to that, in June, the House of Representatives also approved the plan by a large majority. In the near future the two resolutions will be combined and the joint formulation will be brought for final approval.
The precedent that the United States has set in the matter of India could well bring about a change of direction in Israel's nuclear policy. In February, Bush visited India and signed a declaration of strategic partnership with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Under the agreement, the United States will legitimize India's atomic bomb in retrospect and in return India will submit the civilian part of its nuclear industry to international inspection and will commit itself to refraining from proliferating atomic weapons.
Practically speaking, India's nuclear industry is split in two parts: civilian and military. The civilian part, which comprises 22 of the 26 nuclear reactors in the country, will be under international inspection. The remaining 12 reactors will be defined as "military" and will remain closed to inspection. At the military reactors, India will be permitted to produce fissionable materials to its heart's content, but will commit itself to refraining from performing nuclear tests.
This strategic partnership is a far-reaching step. From the American perspective, the advantage is considerable: India will position itself with the United States vis-a-vis China and Islamic extremist elements in Pakistan, and will join a coalition that the United States is putting together against Iran's nuclear plan. India, too, will benefit greatly: It will not have to submit its nuclear military project to inspection and it will be allowed to import knowledge, materials and installations for the production of cheap electricity.
The strategic change in direction that Bush has initiated is reminiscent of the change that was brought about by president Richard Nixon's administration, at the beginning of the 1970s, in the American attitude towards the Israeli nuclear program. The two administrations that preceded it demanded of the government of Israel that it add its signature to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and reveal its nuclear plans to the world. Nixon's secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, persuaded the president to change course in American policy and recognize Israel's nuclear option. If Israel's nuclear capacity is equivalent to a fait accompli, argued Kissinger, it is better that Israel maintain it in conditions that will be beneficial to the United States in the Middle East.
The strategic partnership between the United States and India has yielded a new route for progress for countries that thus far have not been accepted into the nuclear club. Countries that can be relied upon to observe the rules of the international game - i.e. refrain from proliferating nuclear weapons and not carry out tests - will be brought in. India, like Pakistan and Israel, has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, but in the eyes of the Bush administration, its government is considered reliable.
In the eyes of the United States, Israel resembles India. Ever since it obtained nuclear capability, it has destined it for defense, presenting the world with a display of nuclear ambiguity and has always, even in times of emergency when it seemed to its leadership that the country was under an existential threat, refrained from warning its enemies that it has a nuclear option.
If the United States decides relate to Israel in a way similar to the way it has related to India's nuclear industry, it will be possible to split the industry here into two areas: The reactor in Dimona will be defined as "military" and will receive an exemption from international inspection, while the reactor in Nahal Soreq will be defined as "civilian" and will be put under inspection. As a result of this, perhaps Israel will decide to cancel the policy of nuclear ambiguity and will be allowed to import nuclear know-how and materials for civilian purposes.
After the vote in the Senate, the White House published a statement on behalf of the president in which he praised the approval of the strategic alliance with India. The agreement, noted the statement, "will bring India into the international nuclear non-proliferation mainstream and will increase the transparency of India's entire civilian nuclear program." It is possible that in the future we will be reading a similar statement on the matter of Israel's nuclear industry.
1. U.S. Signs International Fusion Energy Agreement
U.S. Department of Energy
(for personal use only)
Representing the United States, Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, Under Secretary for Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), today joined counterparts from China, the European Union, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation to sign an agreement to build the international fusion energy project known as ITER.
´┐ŻThe energy that powers the stars is moving closer to becoming a new source of energy for the Earth through the technology represented by ITER,´┐Ż U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman said. ´┐ŻThe ITER Members represent over half of the world´┐Żs population. The U.S. is proud to be part of this partnership, and to join in the pursuit of nuclear fusion as a source of clean, safe, renewable and commercially deployable energy for the future.´┐Ż
Fusion energy is an important component of President Bush´┐Żs Advanced Energy Initiative (AEI), given fusion´┐Żs potential to become an attractive long-range option for the U.S. clean energy portfolio. In FY 2006, DOE allocated $25 million to ITER and the President, as part of the AEI, has requested $60 million for the project in FY 2007.
´┐ŻSigning this agreement brings us one step closer to a viable source of fusion power,´┐Ż Dr. Orbach said. ´┐ŻITER also is the first stand alone, truly international, large-scale scientific research effort in the history of the world. It will surely serve as a model for future collaborative large scale science projects,´┐Ż he added.
ITER will be constructed at Cadarache, France and is expected to be completed in 2015. The site is adjacent to the main research center of the French Atomic Energy Commission. The EU, as the host, will provide 45.46 percent of the construction phase funding. The U.S., as a non-host partner, will participate in the construction phase at the level of 9.09 percent. The U.S. contribution to ITER will consist of about 80 percent in-kind components, and about 20 percent in cash to a central fund and for personnel assigned to the project at the ITER site. DOE laboratories will subcontract with industry to build the components of ITER for which the U.S. is responsible. The total value of the U.S. contribution is $1.122 billion.
Fusion energy, created when light atomic nuclei are fused together at temperatures greater than those of the interior of stars and far above the melting point of any solid container, could provide significant amounts of electricity and also generate hydrogen that could power fuel cell vehicles of the future. Fusion power has the following advantages:
*Fusion is clean: It produces negligible atmospheric emissions and zero greenhouse gas emissions.
*Fusion is safe: Reactors cannot ´┐Żmelt down,´┐Ż and do not generate the high-level, long-lasting radioactive waste associated with nuclear fission.
*Fusion is renewable: Commercial fusion reactors would use lithium and deuterium, both readily available natural resources.
President Bush announced on January 30, 2003, that the U.S. was joining the negotiations for the construction and operation of this major international research project, whose mission is to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of clean fusion energy. The President´┐Żs initiative in joining ITER allows the United States to share the combined experience and knowledge that will result from the design, construction and operation of this vital project at a greatly reduced cost to the individual partners. The U.S. was one of the original participants in the early design and R&D for ITER, and U.S. participation in the ITER construction and operation phases capitalizes on the previous investment.
Following the initialing of the Agreement in Brussels on May 24, 2006, which marked the conclusion of negotiations, DOE transmitted to Congress the final initialed text to begin the 120-day review required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. DOE also briefed committees of jurisdiction in both the House and the Senate during the negotiations to facilitate the 120-day review. On September 29, 2006, House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert wrote to Secretary Bodman, ´┐ŻI am satisfied that the Agreement on the Establishment of the ITER International Fusion Energy Organization for the Joint Implementation of the ITER Project has been negotiated in accordance with the requirements listed in paragraph 972(c)(3) [of the Energy Policy Act of 2005]. Under Secretary Orbach and his staff are to be congratulated for their hard work over the past several years in securing this agreement.´┐Ż
President Bush´┐Żs Advanced Energy Initiative represents a 22 percent increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy that will accelerate breakthroughs in the way our cars, homes and businesses are powered. For FY ´┐Ż07, the President requested more than $2.1 billion in AEI funding for research into cutting-edge technologies with a goal of reducing oil consumption by 5 million barrels a day by 2025 and producing clean electricity for millions of homes.
DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the nation and helps ensure U.S. world leadership across a broad range of scientific disciplines. The Office of Science supports a diverse portfolio of research at more than 300 colleges and universities nationwide; manages 10 world-class national laboratories with unmatched capabilities for solving complex interdisciplinary scientific problems; and builds and operates the world´┐Żs finest suite of scientific facilities and instruments used annually by more than 19,000 researchers to extend the frontiers of all areas of science.
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