1. Radioactive Trail Is Found in Case of Poisoned Spy
Sarah Lyall and Steven Lee Myers
New York Times
(for personal use only)
In the latest turn in the mystery surrounding Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian spy who died of radiation poisoning here a week ago, the British government said Thursday that radiation had been detected in 12 locations around London, and that it was likely to be found in more.
The radioactive trail, which might help establish Mr. Litvinenkoï¿½s movements around the time he fell ill, includes the two hospitals where he was treated and places he visited on Nov. 1, the day he became sick. It also includes two British Airways Boeing 767s that routinely fly between London and Moscow and are now grounded at Heathrow Airport.
Speaking in Parliament, the home secretary, John Reid, said the authorities were examining two other airplanes ï¿½ a third British Airways Boeing 767, which is on the ground in Moscow, and a Boeing 737, which is leased by the Russian company Transaero and arrived at Heathrow on Thursday. He said that the risk to the public was very low and that no one else had yet tested positive for radiation poisoning.
Mr. Litvinenko, 43, an outspoken critic of the government of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, died on Nov. 23 after an agonizing illness that caused his hair to fall out, his immune system to shut down and his organs to fail. As he lay dying from what turned out to be radiation poisoning caused by the radioactive isotope polonium 210, Mr. Litvinenko accused Mr. Putinï¿½s government of killing him. The Kremlin has dismissed the notion as nonsense.
But Alex Goldfarb, a friend of Mr. Litvinenkoï¿½s who is acting as a spokesman for his family, said the discovery of radiation on the jets pointed squarely at the Russian intelligence services and ï¿½reinforces the theory that the origin of this material that killed Alexander was in Moscow.ï¿½
If that is the case ï¿½ and it is by no means clear that it is ï¿½ then it would follow that whoever brought the polonium 210 into Britain was himself unknowingly contaminated with minute traces of it, enough to leave a trail that sensitive equipment could pick up later.
Dr. Mark Hill, a physicist at the Medical Research Councilï¿½s Radiation and Genome Stability Unit, said that while scientists in a lab would take the utmost care to prevent radiation from leaking out, it was possible that someone paying less scrupulous attention might end up with traces of the material on, for instance, his hands or clothing.
Investigators still have not said for sure whether the trail of radiation around London was left by Mr. Litvinenko alone, by someone else who handled the polonium 210 he ingested or by someone who came into contact with him after he became contaminated.
Dr. Philip Walker, a professor of physics at the University of Surrey, said in an interview that a substance like polonium 210 was most likely to be excreted in urine or feces and that it could conceivably have been spread in minuscule doses as Mr. Litvinenko traveled around London. But he was hard-pressed to conjure a surefire scenario. ï¿½There isnï¿½t a lot of experience in giving people doses of polonium 210,ï¿½ he said.
The incident has cast somewhat of a pall on British relations with Russia, an ally whose human rights record Britain has publicly criticized. The foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, met with Russiaï¿½s foreign minister on Wednesday and formally requested ï¿½all necessary cooperation with the ongoing investigation,ï¿½ Mr. Reid said. ï¿½The Russian foreign minister assured her this cooperation would be forthcoming.ï¿½
In Moscow, the newspaper Kommersant reported that Andrei Lugovi, one of the two Russians who met with Mr. Litvinenko at the Millennium hotel on the day he became sick, said he had flown on one of the contaminated British Airways jets on Nov. 3.
Mr. Lugovi has denied poisoning Mr. Litvinenko.
Doctors treating Yegor T. Gaidar, a former prime minister and academic who fell ill in Ireland the day after Mr. Litvinenko died, concluded that he had been poisoned, though the substance remained unknown, a spokesman for Mr. Gaidar said.
ï¿½They can say he was poisoned, but they cannot say what the substance was,ï¿½ the spokesman, Valery A. Natarov, said by telephone. ï¿½It was not natural. It was not some sort of food or drink.ï¿½
Yekaterina Y. Genieva, director general of Russiaï¿½s State Foreign Literature Library, traveled with Mr. Gaidar to Ireland and shared breakfast with him on the morning he became ill.
She said he had fruit salad and tea, served by an elderly woman at the site of the conference, the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. ï¿½I say this because this was the only other person he encounteredï¿½ who was not part of the group, she said in an interview on the telephone.
Ms. Genieva said Mr. Gaidar had complained that he felt ill and made arrangements to return to Moscow, but proceeded to give a lecture, then excused himself from the discussion.
Ms. Genieva said she found him in a corridor, vomiting and bleeding from his nose, and waited with him until an ambulance came. He was hospitalized and returned to Moscow two days later on Nov. 26. She declined to speculate on his illness, but added: ï¿½It was not normal at all. There were no obvious signsï¿½ of anything untoward.
2. Public hearings on a second nuclear plant in St. Petersburg to be held in January
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St. Petersburg will hold public hearings on the construction of a second satellite nuclear power plant (NPP) already in January next year. The decision to build the new site near the city is as good as set in stone, despite concerns that no specific plans are in place to decommission the existing Leningrad NPP.
Plans to hold public hearings on the construction of the second Leningrad NPP, or LNPP-2, in January 2007 were announced at a meeting of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assemblyï¿½s Commission for the Environmental Protection of the Population by assembly member Oleg Koryakin.
Though work is yet to be finished on the LNPP-2 project design, a principal decision to build new reactor blocks has been taken and endorsed by the Russian government.
According to the so-called Federal Target Programme approved in October 2006, LNPP-2ï¿½s first reactor block will come into operation in 2013, followed by a second reactor in 2014. Wider plans are in the cards to replace Russiaï¿½s aging nuclear power facilities by building two new reactor blocks annually beginning in 2012.
Such projections, seen by some as unduly grandiose, were stated as early as last May by the Federal Agency for Atomic Power (Rosatom) head Sergei Kiriyenko.
Koryakin, himself a former atomic specialist who worked in the Alexandrov Scientific and Research Technical Institute located a few kilometres away from Sosnovy Bor, the nuclear town housing the LNPP, expressed bewilderment when asked to comment on these plans by Bellona.Ru.
ï¿½They have no doubt shown quite some braggadocio in approving this resolution ï¿½ I have no idea how they are going to do all that,ï¿½ said Koryakin.
But not all grand statements made last spring have found their way into more substantial administrative or project paperwork. For instance, VVER-1500 reactors, which Russian atomic scientists have promised to provide for the new NPPs, have been replaced in the federal programme by less powerful VVER-1100s ï¿½ but these, too, still await their development.
The only solid information available on the governmentï¿½s bold initiative is that the ï¿½principal featureï¿½ of the new reactors will be a longer design service life ï¿½ 60 years, said Sergei Stepanov, a Leningrad NPP representative, at the meeting of the environmental protection commission.
Meanwhile, costs of building one new reactor block have taken a hike since last spring, rising from $1.5bn to $2.5bn. During his visit to the LNPP in May 2006, Rosatom head Kiriyenko was still making estimates of $6bn when assessing overall expenses of the construction of four new reactor blocks.
Will old reactors continue their exhausting marathon?
The LNPP currently operates four reactor blocks running Chernobyl-type RBMK reactors with a capacity of 1,000 megawatt each. The first and second reactors have long reached the end of their engineered life-spans, but instead of being taken out of operation, each of the reactors has been assigned another 15 years of service.
The operational terms were extended in violation of the law, say environmentalists, citing the lack of a state ecological evaluation to back the decision. Nevertheless, the LNPPï¿½s third and fourth reactors are now expected to continue their run beyond the finish line.
But even with the extended operational limits taken into consideration, all of Russiaï¿½s worn-out reactors are scheduled to be taken offline no earlier than between 2018 and 2025.
At the same time, as atomic specialists themselves admit, they have yet to see any specific goals set for the decommissioning of the old facilities.
ï¿½The Federal Target Programme says nothing about it. The programme only stipulates the time-frame [for the introduction of new reactor blocks] ï¿½ 2013,ï¿½ said Nikolai Afanasiev, deputy head of the North-European Interregional Territorial District for Nuclear and Radioactive Safety Control. ï¿½As for what condition the old blocks will be in ï¿½ I think theyï¿½ll be operational.ï¿½
According to LNPP representative Stepanov, decommissioning plans for the aging reactors will not come into development earlier than five years from now.
ï¿½Taking [a reactor] out of operation is a very difficult issue for all countries. We are talking about equipment that canï¿½t just be thrown away, that canï¿½t be done anything about,ï¿½ explained assembly member Koryakin. ï¿½So far, we have no examples of taking a reactor block offline anywhere in the world.ï¿½
But environmentalists argue that a lack of experience in ceasing the operation of a nuclear plant is hardly an excuse to put the issue on the back burner. On the contrary, they say, a decommissioning plan must be developed before the first brick is laid ï¿½ or dropped ï¿½ at a new reactor construction site.
ï¿½Before expanding the existing [Leningrad] nuclear power plant, authorities must provide the funds for, and start preliminary works on, taking offline the first two RBMK-type reactors, the ones built in 1973 and 1975,ï¿½ said Igor Kudrik, a researcher with the international environmental organisation Bellona. ï¿½Russia so far has no solution for the problem of handling [spent] fuel from RBMK reactors, meaning that one was supposed to think about how to decommission these reactors as soon as yesterday, much less by 2014 or 2018, when these reactors will stop running.ï¿½
Energy output straight to Finland
In March 2006, senior management of the St. Petersburg-based Baltenergo, a daughter company of the fuel and energy producer, state-run Rosenergoatom, negotiated a contract to start exporting electric power from the LNPP via a cable route to be laid across the floor of the Baltic Sea.
Under the contract, the LNPP will supply Scandinavian countries with around 8bn kilowatt-hours a year, an equivalent of a yearï¿½s worth of energy output from one of the plantï¿½s four reactors. The deal seems logical enough: After the introduction of the new reactor blocks, Russia's northwest will have a significant amount of surplus energy, given that the old facilities will continue operation. The time-frames set for the construction of new reactors and for taking out old ones overlap, and between 2014 and 2018, LNPP will be running altogether six reactors ï¿½ four old and two new ones.
But, says Kudrik, the LNPP is in any case unlikely to be able to export electricity after plugging into the European grid, as the plantï¿½s aging reactors lag behind international standards.
ï¿½Thatï¿½s why hopes that six working reactors will allow making easy profit from selling excess electricity for export are unfounded,ï¿½ said Kudrik.
Last week, environmentalists from Russia and Norway published an appeal to the governments of Russia, Finland and Sweden, making a stand against export sale of nuclear-generated electric power to Scandinavian nations. The statement claims that such plans will contribute to further extensions on the service terms of LNPP reactors, which have already used up their operational resource.
It goes on to say that energy supplies to Scandinavia will result in yearly proliferation of dozens of tonnes of highly toxic nuclear waste that will begin to pile up in the LNPPï¿½s temporary storage facilities.
At the environmental commissionï¿½s meeting, Koryakin suggested the organisation of a public discussion of the LNPP-2 construction plans: ï¿½Itï¿½s a given that in its majority, the population is ignorant, and the appearance of [new] reactors close to the city causes them to worry.ï¿½
ï¿½The sooner we start talking about it, the better: One the one hand, we will be calming down the population, on the other, demonstrating to the project owner and to the contractor that we have a financial stability and public control,ï¿½ he said.
Stepanov assured those present at the meeting that the January 2007 hearings will be completely open and will involve the participation of Rosatom specialists and representatives from environmental organisations.
ï¿½We had similar public hearings at the LNPP in April ï¿½ on the treatment of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½So we have some experience with this already.ï¿½
Stepanov added that the public debate is likely to spark an interest among Russiaï¿½s neighbours, and if they so wish they will be welcome to take part in the hearings and even co-operate in evaluating any potential environmental damage the project might infer.
As guaranteed by one of the articles of the 1991 Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, or the ï¿½Espoo Convention,ï¿½ called so because it was signed in the Finnish town of Espoo, all states that may in one way or another be subject to environmental impact from the construction of a nuclear power plant have the right to participate in a study estimating the risks of such a project.
However, Stepanov failed to answer to which extent neighbouring countries have been made aware of the initiative or whether all necessary documentation has been translated into the languages spoken by the nations of the Baltic region.
ï¿½I think they will themselves express their wish to participate in discussing the project,ï¿½
3. Polonium export controls 'tough', says Russia nuclear chief
The Irish Examiner
(for personal use only)
Russiaï¿½s top nuclear official said today that his country tightly controls all exports of polonium, the radioactive isotope that British authorities suspect killed former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London.
Rosatom director Sergei Kiriyenko also ruled out that the polonium found in Britain and linked to Litvinenkoï¿½s mysterious death last week could have been stolen from a production facility in Russia.
ï¿½Allegations that someone stole it during production are absolutely unfounded,ï¿½ Kiriyenko told a news conference.
ï¿½The controls are very tough,ï¿½ he said, adding that companies importing polonium from Russia are obliged to sign a certificate guaranteeing it is not misused.
Kiriyenko said Russia exports eight grams of polonium 210 monthly, all of it to the USA. He said Russia used to provide it to British companies but that exports to Britain ended about five years ago.
While he stressed the tough export controls on polonium 210, Kiriyenko said that final products in which it is used, including gauges used for the production of paint and in the printing business, are outside official controls.
Earlier Russian defence minister Sergei Ivanov denied that Russian security forces were involved in the poisoning death of Litvinenko, saying that was not in the Kremlinï¿½s interests, according to an interview.
Litvinenko, 43, a former KGB agent who was a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, died on Thursday of heart failure after falling gravely ill from what doctors said was poisoning by the radioactive polonium 210.
In an interview with the German weekly Der Spiegel, which was reprinted in the Russian government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Ivanov was asked if Russian special services were involved.
ï¿½I rule out that possibility. I donï¿½t see any sense (in that),ï¿½ he was quoted as saying.
ï¿½As far as high-profile killings are concerned, I donï¿½t like that word, because it doesnï¿½t matter who was killed ï¿½ a politician, a journalist, or someone else ï¿½ any murder is a disgusting crime in itself,ï¿½ he said.
Ivanov, a former KGB general, lamented that contract killings were taking place in Russia, but stressed that some of them have been solved.
4. Russia will build 42 nuclear reactors by 2030, nuclear chief says
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Russia plans to build 42 new nuclear reactors by 2030 as part of an ambitious program to revive its atomic power industry, the top nuclear official said Tuesday.
Federal Nuclear Agency director Sergei Kiriyenko said at a news conference that Russia would need to build at least two nuclear reactors a year to meet the goal.
Russia now has 31 reactors at 10 nuclear power plants, accounting for 16-17 percent of Russia's electricity generation, and President Vladimir Putin has called for raising the share to 25 percent.
Kiriyenko said the government would earmark some US$24 billion (ï¿½18.3 billion) for building new nuclear reactors through 2015, and that Rosenergoatom, the state-controlled agency in charge of the nation's nuclear plants, would provide another US$26 billion (ï¿½20 billion) through 2030 as nuclear power generation becomes increasingly profitable.
Expanding the share of nuclear energy would allow the nation to save more natural gas for export, Kiriyenko said. The government has kept Russia's domestic gas prices at a fraction of export prices, and gas accounts for about half of electricity generation now.
Kiriyenko said that nuclear industries would also develop floating nuclear power plants to deliver energy to remote northern areas and also for exports to other nations, particularly those which did not need high-power nuclear reactors. He said that such reactors could stay afloat near the shore or put on land.
In recent years, Russia has overcome a public backlash against nuclear power that followed the April 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and the government has supported efforts to revive the nuclear industries.
Kiriyenko also said that Russian and U.S. companies were continuing joint research on a next-generation reactor that would produce hydrogen as a byproduct.
"An experimental reactor must be ready by 2015, and then work will start on an industrial reactor," Kiriyenko said. He said that the new reactor would cost some US$2 billion (ï¿½1.5 billion) to build.
He said Russia had won a contract to build two nuclear reactors at a plant in Bulgaria, in addition to plants it is building in Iran, China and India. "That signals Russia's return to the European market," Kiriyenko said.
1. UN Sanctions on Iran Scaled Back, European Envoy Says
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Britain, France and Germany scaled back proposed limits on Iran's ability to acquire materials and technology for its nuclear program to gain Russian support for United Nations sanctions, a European diplomat said.
A revised draft resolution, given this week to the U.S., China and Russia, bans only items that might be used to build a nuclear weapon, the diplomat said on condition of not being identified. The initial text barred the transfer to Iran of a broad range of materials and technology that might contribute to its nuclear or ballistic missile programs.
The new draft removes a proposed ban on fuel for the Bushehr power plant that Russia is helping Iran to build. It also extends to 60 days from 30 days the period before the UN's nuclear watchdog agency would report to the Security Council on Iran's compliance with a required suspension of uranium enrichment activities, the diplomat said.
Britain, France and Germany circulated the revised text after UN envoys failed over the past month to reach agreement on how to block Iran's nuclear ambitions. Russia, backed by China, proposed sweeping changes to the draft circulated by the Europeans in mid-October, arguing that adoption of the measure might prevent a negotiated settlement of the dispute.
The U.S., which didn't fully back the first version of the draft resolution out of concern that it wasn't tough enough, has signaled overall satisfaction with the European revisions, the diplomat said. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton wouldn't comment.
``There's been no action on it in New York here for quite some time,'' Bolton told reporters yesterday at the UN. ``It's in the hands of political directors.''
The U.S. suspects that the Iranian drive to produce enriched uranium is a precursor to building a bomb, in contravention of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory. Iran, the second-biggest oil producer in the Middle East, says the fuel is needed to generate electricity.
Talks in New York will resume only after China, Russia and the U.S. accept the new concepts as the basis for negotiations, the diplomat said.
German Ambassador Thomas Matussek earlier this week said he expected the revisions to form the basis for a ``final product,'' meaning adoption by the Security Council. He said the amendments were a ``major step'' toward the Russian position.
Retained in the latest British, French and German version of the draft resolution are the proposed travel ban and asset freeze on officials involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs. Russia has opposed those provisions.
Claiming its nuclear programme was indigenous, Iran has 'cleared' Pakistan, especially its disgraced nuclear scientist AQ Khan, of having been involved in the proliferation of nuclear technology to Tehran.
This has prompted a section of Pakistanis to launch an offensive against the government in general and President Pervez Musharraf in particular for being "on the defensive" in the face of "Western propaganda" and demand that the ailing Khan, now under house detention, be treated better.
The 'clearing' of Pakistan's name by Iran even as the government announced in Islamabad that Khan had "fully recovered" six weeks after a prostate cancer surgery.
Iran's former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and National Security Council secretary general Ali Larijani told a team of visiting Pakistani journalists that Iran's nuclear programme was fully indigenous.
Larijani "categorically denied receiving centrifuges from Pakistan. This gives lie to reports regarding Tehran having confessed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that centrifuges supplied by Khan were the source of the high-level nuclear contamination allegedly detected in one of Iran's nuclear facilities," The Nation said.
Larijani had reiterated that his country's national security doctrine did not visualise pursuit of nuclear weapons and that is why it had signed the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the newspaper said.
"During the last four years Qadeer has been portrayed as the father of nuclear proliferation. The charge has been used to create doubts about Pakistan's ability to maintain nuclear safeguards.
As Larijani has pointed out, the motive behind the propaganda was to malign Iran and keep Pakistan under pressure," it observed.
Khan has been placed under detention since January 2004 after his role in proliferation was exposed.
According to reports, the recipients of Khan's proliferation of nuclear technology have included North Korea, Libya and Iran.
While promoting his memoirs, 'In the Line of Fire", Musharraf had said that Khan's involvement in nuclear proliferation - illegally exporting nuclear designs and spares - became known when he (Musharraf) was confronted with documentary evidence by the then director of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), George Tenet.
Musharraf's open criticism of Khan, whom he considers a "national hero", has been severely criticised by opposition parties and the media.
Musharraf said he had no choice but to act against Khan, since the entire operation, spread over years, was without the knowledge and consent of successive Pakistani governments.
Defence analysts have doubted this claim of Musharraf, saying that nuclear spares could not have been taken out using aircrafts without the direct involvement of Pakistani authorities at the highest level.
They have argued that Khan did not have the means to send out these nuclear technologies on his own.
The Russian government does not view the contract for building a nuclear plant in Iran as essential for its economic interests, but it will be launched on schedule next year, Russia's nuclear chief told a Moscow press conference Tuesday.
"As for protecting our interests in Iran, that's not a priority task," Federal Nuclear Agency director Sergei Kiriyenko said. "I can't say that the Bushehr plant project is extremely lucrative for us. It's an interesting project, we have put a lot of work in that, but I can't say it's super-profitable."
Russia - which along with China has the right of veto as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council - has been the main obstacle to efforts by Western nations to punish Iran for its refusal to halt sensitive uranium enrichment activity.
While Kiriyenko refrained from commenting on the dispute with Iran over its nuclear program, which the U.S. and other nations believe is aimed at developing weapons, his comments on Bushehr could indicate that Moscow is edging closer to supporting sanctions.
Kiriyenko insisted that Russia, like other nations, primarily wants to ensure that the Iranian nuclear program is peaceful. He said last year's deal obliging Tehran to ship all spent nuclear fuel from Bushehr back to Russia had assuaged international concerns that the material could be used to build atomic weapons.
Kiriyenko said the reactor in Bushehr was set to be launched in September 2007 and should start generating electricity two months later.
"I don't foresee any technical problems, provided the project receives stable financing," he said.
Russia's contract to build the Bushehr plant was estimated to be worth about $1 billion.
Russia strongly supports Iran's right to nuclear energy, but has joined the U.S. and Europe in demanding Iran halt enrichment in order to ease concerns. But Moscow rejected the European draft, urging revisions including removal of all references to the Bushehr plant.
The European draft resolution would order all countries to ban the supply of material and technology that could contribute to Iran's nuclear and missile programs, measures that could damage Russia's nuclear and arms-industry ties with Tehran. It would exempt the Bushehr plant, but not the nuclear fuel needed for the reactor.
Russia wanted the measures to last for a limited time only, and insisted that they should not affect the Bushehr contract. Its proposed amendments would reduce sanctions to the minimum needed to directly target enrichment.
Kiriyenko said that Moscow's offer for Iran to create a joint venture that would produce uranium for Iran on Russian soil remained on the table. Iran has stonewalled the offer and insisted on its right to have the domestic uranium enrichment program.
The North Korean government will now be reviewing Washington's proposals before going into official six-party negotiations, South Korean government sources said.
"At the latest meeting between the United States and North Korea, the two sides understood each other's position," South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator Chun Yung-woo said before heading back to Seoul yesterday.
"There is no need to cast a negative forecast just yet."
Chief nuclear negotiators of the two Koreas, the United States and China gathered in the Chinese capital this week to gauge each others' positions and agree on a date for the resumption of the official six-party talks.
The series of bilateral and multilateral meetings showed there were still many issues left for the member states to sort through before resuming the six-party talks.
Chun explained that North Korea needs some time to think because "it is the first time that North Korea has seen (the United States') detailed road map (for six-party negotiations).
Another government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States laid out a proposal for the first stage of denuclearization for the first time.
"Since it is the first time for North Korea to receive a detailed proposal, it would need time to think about it." The official added that Pyongyang will be giving the proposal serious consideration.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said yesterday before flying to Tokyo en route to Washington, "We still hope to get this thing going in December. We want to make sure they make some progress."
Sources say it is now a matter of waiting for a response from Pyongyang, which will review the proposal from Washington taken back by Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan.
Washington contends that the financial issue, prioritized by North Korea, can be discussed by forming a working group on the sidelines of the six-party talks.
It also wants North Korea to pledge that it will take substantive actions to show its commitment to denuclearize when the nuclear talks resume.
After the United States and North Korea agreed Oct. 31 to resume the negotiations, Washington and Seoul said the talks would restart by mid-December at the earliest.
The relevant governments are determined to secure a substantial outcome once the six-party talks resume, even if it means losing momentum by failing to reopen the negotiations before the end of the year, government officials said.
The mechanism of the six-party talks has drastically changed since North Korea's nuclear test in October.
In the past, negotiations were about spending weeks going back and forth from original negotiating positions. But member countries are now attempting to get the time-consuming overtures out of the way by first holding preparatory de facto negotiations.
North Korea's Kim Kye-gwan, in the meantime, reiterated Pyongyang's commitment to the Sept. 19 Joint Statement of principles on its nuclear dismantlement.
"We are ready to implement our pledge made in the Sept. 19 joint statement," Kim said after a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Chun Yung-woo yesterday.
"But we cannot unilaterally give up (the nuclear program) at the current stage," he added.
Sources said North Korea appears to have come to Beijing this week to assess Washington's position, rather then to make a deal, meaning it could take some time for Pyongyang to make a decision.
North Korea reportedly demanded that the United States and China first lift the freeze of North Korean accounts in a bank in Macau and suspend U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 before it starts dismantling its nuclear programs.
The communist regime also asked the United States to discard its "hostile" policy toward the North and take steps to guarantee its survival.
All of the demands are equivalent to incentives mentioned in the Joint Statement, which calls for a word-for-word, action-to-action implementation.
Sources said North Korea appears to have made as many demands as possible to raise its stake.
In related news, Yonhap News reported yesterday that President George W. Bush told President Roh Moo-hyun during their summit talks that he would be willing to meet face-to-face with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and sign a peace treaty if North Korea dismantled its nuclear weapons.
North Korea's nuclear ambitions can only be deterred through united international pressure, a panel of experts said to a packed lecture room in Aaron Burr Hall on Monday night.
The six-party talks concerning the North Korean nuclear program were halted in November 2005, following the country's test of a nuclear bomb in October, but could resume as early as the middle of December.
"We are now in a situation where the nuclear test has served to actually restart the momentum in nuclear negotiations," sociology professor Gilbert Rozman said.
Thus far, the six-party talks have been unproductive. Though the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia agree that North Korea should not have nuclear weapons, solutions have not been reached. Still, the current multilateralism is encouraging, the panel said, when compared to the separate negotiations of the past.
Rozman cites a "strategic ambivalence" on the part of the Bush administration, which portrays Kim Jong Il as dangerously unpredictable.
The other countries in the six-party talks place a "much greater emphasis on the rationality of the North Korean regime, and that they can be dealt with, but that they're very hard bargainers," Rozman said.
The panel agreed that the North Korean leader is not insane.
"I think what North Korea is doing makes a good deal of strategic sense for a regime as imperiled as it is and as concerned about the danger of collapse," Rozman said.
The panel said North Korea would be unlikely to deploy a nuclear weapon against the United States or its allies, given U.S. secondike capabilities.
"Clearly they have to understand that any missile launch with a nuclear warhead would almost certainly lead to an end of that regime, in one way or another," Christopher Chyba, who is a Wilson School professor, said.
Status, more likely, is what North Korea is seeking. "It's still the case, unfortunately, that significant prestige accrues to being a nuclear weapons state," Chyba said.
According to panelist Frank von Hippel, co-director of the Program of Science and Global Security, the bomb's power was equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT.
"That's a lot," he said, "but it is actually a lot less than the Nagasaki bomb, which was about 20 kilotons."
In addition to plutonium bombs, "It appears that North Korea is pursuing a uranium path to the bomb," Chyba said, citing evidence from Pakistan, Libya and Germany.
The facilities involved in a uranium path to the bomb are much more difficult to detect, von Hippel said.
At this point in time, though, "It doesn't seem to me that North Korea is anywhere close to producing significant amounts of uranium ... although this whole program is shrouded in uncertainty," Chyba said.
Chyba believes that as things are now, "North Korea is many years away from missile development and warhead development."
"It's in everyone's interest to find a resolution to this crisis," he added.
3. U.S. expert says success of six-party talks hinges on U.S. administration
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)
The success of nuclear negotiations with North Korea hinges on the George W. Bush administration, which can still strike a viable deal with the regime, a U.S. nonproliferation expert argued Tuesday.
Joseph Cirincione, senior vice president of the Center for American Progress, said he was optimistic of successful talks, given the Democrats' victory in this month's mid-term elections and the U.S. foreign policy focus on Iraq.
Compared to the situation in the Middle East, the North Korea issues are "least difficult," he said at a luncheon talk sponsored by the South Korean embassy.
After staying away for nearly a year, Pyongyang agreed last month to the six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. South and North Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan are members of the talks.
Cirincione used the 1994 Geneva Agreed Framework as an example of how an agreement is possible with North Korea. Pyongyang at the time pledged a freeze in its nuclear activities in return for a set of light-water reactors financed by an international consortium.
The pact fell through with the U.S. accusation that the North was hiding another secret nuclear weapons program using uranium.
But Cirincione argued the differences between then and now are "empirical evidence" that negotiations do work with North Korea.
"During the 1990s, North Korea did not produce a single gram of plutonium," he said.
He blamed outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for leading the country in the wrong direction.
"One of the worst parts of Rumsfeld's tenure in office was the support he gave to this regime change option and the view that we did not have to negotiate with these regimes, that we can overthrow the regimes," he said.
The new secretary-designate, Robert Gates, is by comparison a pragmatist, he said.
"When we coerce North Korea, their program accelerates and advances," Cirincione said.
Chances for negotiations are "still there," he stressed.
"It's waiting for us. It depends on the decision of this administration of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, whether they are serious of negotiating that deal or not."
The key is to make the deal attractive enough, said Cirincione.
"It's not too late. At the very least, we have to make one final genuine effort to negotiate an end to the North Korean program," he said.
1. Czech Republic allots another two million to Russian arms disposal
Prague Daily Monitor
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Czech Ambassador to Britain Jan Winkler handed over another two million crowns which the Czech Republic has earmarked for the disposal of Russian chemical weapons to the British Defence Ministry in London today.
The Czech Republic had already allotted the same sum three time before - in 2003, 2004 and 2005 - within the Global Partnership against the proliferation of mass destruction weapons project of the seven most developed countries and Russia (G8 group).
The latest Czech two-million subsidy will be spent on the construction of the Shchuchye base in the Planovoye village in the Urals. The Shchuchye base will neutralise nerve agents, such as VX, sarin and soman, which are stored there and in some other Russian depots.
Russia, along with other countries, signed the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction in 1997.
Moscow has the largest arsenal of chemical weapons in the world. According to available data, Russians have already destroyed 3 percent of them.
In September, Russia opened the third facility to dispose of chemical weapons at the base Maradikovski in the Kirov vicinity where some 7,000 tonnes of chemicals are stored in bombs and missile heads.
The construction of Shchuchye base, the largest facility for the disposal of chemical weapons, has been delayed due to disputes between Russia and US.
At one time, chemical weapons were part of a doomsday scenario, clouds of gas spreading across cities and rural areas alike, a haze of death blown by the wind.
They have names that invoke memories of the Cold War, when the threat of their use seemed very real. They recall the horrors of World War I: Mustard Gas, Nerve Gas.
The Chemical Weapons Convention, an international pact, had a deadline of next year for the destruction of the United States' chemical weapons stockpiles, and subsequently an extension until 2012. But that deadline won't be met either, according to reports this week.
The new date: 2023 - four years before the General Accountability Office expects Russia to meet its obligations to destroy 100 percent of its stockpiles.
Among the reasons for the delay cited by the Pentagon are technological issues in building plants to dispose of the weapons, plus safety and security questions. Five plants already are at work destroying the stockpiles, and two more are being developed.
The irony is that these weapons, created as part of an arsenal to keep America safe, and serve as a deterrent, now pose risks to people in this country, some lawmakers and citizens groups are suggesting. In fact, Congress has said elimination of the country's chemical weapons stockpiles - at a cost of $32 billion - is a homeland security issue, and has urged the Pentagon to get on with the job.
A Pentagon spokesman says destroying these weapons is not something that can be done quickly or easily. Fair enough. But the delays are raising questions about the Pentagon's commitment to the program. Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, where a disposal facility is being delayed, says the Pentagon is backsliding.
The military doesn't agree, but the concerns of lawmakers and people living near the stockpiles are understandable.
Those stockpiles should be destroyed as quickly as possible to meet our international obligations and to remove the potential risks to Americans.
1. Lukashenko backs project to build NPP in Belarus
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Belarus' president said Friday he supports an estimated $2.5-billion project to build a nuclear power plant in the country to cut its dependence on energy imports.
Belarusian scientists drafted a plan for the NPP in May but no final decision followed. The plant with a generating capacity of 2,000 megawatts would take about 10 years to build and is expected to reduce Belarusian dependence on Russia's energy by 24%.
"Belarusian scientists and experts ... have unanimously approved a resolution to build an NPP in the country and to begin all necessary arrangements this year," Alexander Lukashenko told an energy security conference.
Belarus currently imports most of its energy from Russia. The two countries are in tense talks over the gas price for next year. Russia is seeking to quadruple the current price of $46.68 per 1,000 cubic meters.
Lukashenko said his latest talks with the Russian leadership concerned a possible hydrocarbon deficit.
"Our negotiations for the first time highlighted a possible hydrocarbon deficit in the future, and Belarus might have to face a lack of hydrocarbons due to shortfalls inside Russia," he said.
Lukashenko said nuclear plants are the best way to overcome a global energy crisis.
"Nuclear energy is widely used in Europe. About 80% of France's electricity is generated at nuclear plants," he said.
Experts said the share of nuclear power in Belarus' energy balance could rise to 20%, and the share of natural gas could decline to 50% by 2020 if the project was implemented. By 2050, the plant could bring the share of nuclear power to 85%.
Lukashenko said a location for the plant would be carefully selected to avoid any risks to human health. "There can be no mistake in choosing the site," he said, adding that safety requirements must be strictly observed.
Belarus was one of the worst-hit countries in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl NPP disaster.
The first unit of the NPP could be commissioned by 2013, the chairman of the Belarusian National Science Academy's presidium said Friday following the energy security conference.
"The energy security concept envisions that the first power unit will be commissioned in 2015," Mikhail Myasnikovich said. "Today, the president formulated the task to consider the first capacities commissioned in 2013."
He also said a site in the Mogilev region, in the country's east, is likely to be chosen as the construction site, but added that the final decision will be made after geological and seismo-tectonic studies are completed.
Besides, he said, the NPP could be built near western borders, too.
1. Russia set to participate in Indonesian NPP tender - Kiriyenko
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Russia is ready to take part in a tender for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Indonesia, to be announced by 2008, the country's nuclear chief said Friday.
Russia and Indonesia today signed an agreement to cooperate in the nuclear energy sphere during a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is on a three-day visit to Russia.
"Indonesia will announce a tender on the construction of a NPP, either by the end of 2007 or not later than 2008," head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power Sergei Kiriyenko said. "We are ready to participate in the tender whenever it is announced."
Kiriyenko said Russia possessed a wide range of competitive technologies in the nuclear power sector, including a floating NPP design that may attract Indonesia's interest.
Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly, Atomstroyexport, which is currently building five nuclear power plants in China, India and Iran, on contracts worth $4.5 billion, won a tender to build two 1,000-megawatt reactors for the Belene NPP, about 150 miles from Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, on October 30.
2. Russia, Bulgaria sign Belene NPP construction deal
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Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly, Atomstroyexport, said Wednesday it has signed an agreement on the construction of a nuclear power plant in Belene with Bulgaria's National Electric Company.
The agreement is worth 4 billion euros ($5.3 billion), according to Russia's Federal Nuclear Agency.
Atomstroyexport said in a statement, "In line with the agreement, the entire volume of work on the project was divided into two stages. The first stage, which starts immediately after the signing and lasts about a year, envisages the implementation of most of the project's top-priority work."
The first stage will include a detailed examination of building structures and equipment at the site of the Belene NPP, and the drawing-up of engineering design plans.
The agreement is the first part of a general contract, which will be developed in parallel with initial work on the project. The contract will specify all details of construction, outline conditions for the project's implementation and the construction schedule, and will set the main equipment parameters.
The project's second stage, to begin immediately after the general contract is signed in the first half of 2007, envisages direct work on the construction site, and includes the whole range of construction, assembly and launch-related work.
The deputy head of the Russian Federal Nuclear Agency Vladimir Travin said, "The contract is worth some 4 billion euros for two blocs, and will be financed by the Bulgarian National Energy Corporation."
Atomstroyexport, which is currently building five nuclear power plants in China, India and Iran, on contracts worth $4.5 billion, won a tender to build two 1,000-megawatt reactors for the Belene NPP, about 150 miles from Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, on October 30.
3. Angara plant to host intï¿½l uranium enrichment center ï¿½ Kiriyenko
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The Russian government has decided to exclude the Angara plant from the list of restricted areas and open an international uranium enrichment center on the plant premises, Federal Atomic Energy Service head Sergei Kiriyenko said on Tuesday.
ï¿½I hope the formalities will be settled by January 25, an anniversary of the Russian presidentï¿½s ordinance to open a uranium enrichment center,ï¿½ he said.
The Angara plant will be operating under control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he said.
Russia has set up a joint venture with Kazakhstan for running the center, Kiriyenko said.
The initiative to open international centers, which would give third countries an access to peaceful atomic energy technologies but prevent the nuclear proliferation, belongs to President Vladimir Putin, Kiriyenko recalled.
North Korea's testing of a nuclear device last month illustrates the need for a world ban on such tests, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Thursday.
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also called on established nuclear weapon states - such as the U.S. - to move toward nuclear disarmament.
ElBaradei, in Tokyo for talks with Japanese officials, said at a lecture that Pyongyang's test showed the need to put tight controls on the spread of uranium enrichment and nuclear fuel reprocessing technology.
``This event also re-emphasized in my view the urgent need to establish a universal ban on nuclear testing,'' ElBaradei said.
North Korea carried out the test Oct. 9, triggering international anger and U.N. Security Council sanctions.
The agency chief also said a world nonproliferation system would not endure without serious steps by weapons states toward disarmament.
``There is still ... a sense of cynicism that nuclear weapons, despite what we say, are still important for deterrence, are still important for power, are still important for influence,'' he said.
``To change that environment, in my view, the weapon states need to lead by example,'' added ElBaradei, the winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.
Later Thursday, ElBaradei met with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who explained Tokyo's stance on resuming stalled six-party talks over Pyongyang's nuclear program, ministry official Kaoru Magosaki said.
ElBaradei and Aso also discussed Iran's uranium enrichment activities and international moves aimed at pressuring Tehran to abandon its nuclear program, Magosaki said. The pair agreed it would be best if both North Korea and Iran accepted inspections by the IAEA, he said.
Iran has repeatedly refused to suspend uranium enrichment - a process that could lead to building nuclear weapons - in defiance of an Aug. 31 deadline set by the U.N. Security Council. In response, the U.S. and its European allies have been pushing for the Security Council to pass a resolution that would penalize Tehran.
The tens of millions of dollars spent to upgrade security at Los Alamos National Laboratory make the findings of an investigation into a recent security breach at the nuclear weapons lab even more troubling, says the Energy Department's inspector general.
In a two-page memo, Inspector General Gregory H. Friedman said security at Los Alamos was "seriously flawed" when a worker removed classified documents later found in her home during a drug bust last month.
In a number of key areas, security policies at the nuclear weapons lab were nonexistent, not followed or were applied inconsistently, according to Friedman's summary of his investigation.
Cyber-security internal controls and safeguards were not functioning as intended, and monitoring by the lab and federal officials was inadequate, he said.
Friedman called his findings "especially troubling" because the department has spent so much money on improving security in recent years and because previous security lapses were part of the reason the department put the lab's management contract out for bid.
Since June, the lab - operated for decades by the University of California - has been run by a team comprised of UC, Bechtel National, BWX Technologies and Washington Group International.
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said Tuesday that the report outlines "some significant deficiencies and vulnerabilities" that the agency will quickly address.
"Unfortunately we cannot correct the errors of the past. But we will learn from this incident and we will do better," Bodman said in a statement.
The department did not release the report itself, which Bodman said contained information the department is prohibited by law from publicly disclosing.
Classified documents were found Oct. 17 at the home of Jessica Quintana, 22, a former employee of a lab subcontractor. A man who was renting a room at her home was jailed on drug and probation charges.
Quintana's lawyer, Stephen Aarons, has said the classified data was contained on a portable computer storage drive and in about 200 pages of paper documents.
Aarons says Quintana, an archivist who was converting lab documents to an electronic format, took the information home to catch up on work. He says she never showed it to anyone and there was no espionage involved.
LANL officials have said none of the material was top secret, nor did it contain the most sensitive nuclear weapons information. They said most of the documents were classified at the lowest levels and were 20 to 30 years old.
Quintana, who was laid off by the subcontractor about a month before the documents were discovered, hasn't been charged.
Lab Director Michael Anastasio said in a statement Tuesday that the lab has taken a number of security steps, including barring portable electronic storage devices in classified computing areas.
All classified scanning activities have been temporarily halted, and physical searches have been increased, with random searches occuring an average of more than 100 times daily, Anastasio said.
The lab's high-profile security problems include the case of scientist Wen Ho Lee, who pleaded guilty in 2000 to one count of mishandling nuclear secrets. In 2004, the lab was essentially shut down after an inventory showed that two computer disks containing nuclear secrets were missing. A year later the lab concluded that it was a mistake and that the disks never existed.
1. US firms keen on investing in Indian nuclear programme
Press Trust of India
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A slew of American companies today indicated their keenness to invest over 50 billion dollars in India's nuclear programme once the civil nuclear deal between the two countries is approved by the US Congress.
The companies, participating in an Indo-US business meet here, showed strong interest in involving themselves in India's programme to hike nuclear power generation capacity to 50,000 MW by 2030.
State-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, which runs nuclear projects generating around 3,400 MW, plans to add 20,000 MW by 2020.
The companies, which are involved in the construction of nuclear plants and fuel supply, are part of the first high-level US delegation led by Under Secretary for Commerce Franklin Lavin.
Though the firms claimed that the per unit tariff from privately owned nuclear plants would be quite cheap, their Indian counterparts contended it would be more than NPCIL's tariffs.
The US delegation, comprising companies like Westinghouse Electric, Transco Product Inc, BWXT, W M Mining, Fluor and Thorium Power, said the nurturing of bonds with Indian firms will lead to partnership, thereby enabling them to tap opportunities in nuclear energy.
Ron Somers, President of the US-India Business Council, told reporters the companies would discuss issues related to India's regulatory regime, particularly with state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India and the Atomic Energy Commission, during meetings slated for Friday and Saturday.
The representatives will also meet former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, who is the special envoy for the Indo-US nuclear deal, next week.
2. India nuclear deal likely final by May: U.S. envoy
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Hurdles to civilian nuclear trade between the United States and India could be removed by May if the two houses of U.S. Congress jointly approve the deal within the next week, Washington's envoy to India said on Wednesday.
Separate legislations that allow Washington to sell nuclear fuel and equipment to energy-hungry India have been endorsed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.
The two bills now need to be merged and jointly approved by the two chambers before President George W. Bush signs it but India is worried about several certification conditions in them and moves are afoot to get them removed.
Negotiations to reconcile the bills and approve them are expected next month in the "lame duck" Republican-led Congress which surrenders power to the Democrats in January.
"If that (reconciliation) happens it will happen in the next 4-5 days and that will finally mean a change in the law," ambassador David Mulford told Reuters.
"I would imagine all crucial components of the rolling process would be in place by May."
The deal aims to overturn a three-decade ban on nuclear trade between the U.S. and India which has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has tested nuclear weapons.
Besides joint approval by the two chambers, the deal also needs agreement on a bilateral pact between the two governments, and the backing of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The deal has been slammed by a vocal non-proliferation lobby in the United States which says the agreement allows New Delhi to expand its nuclear weapons arsenal and would foster an arms race among India and nuclear rivals Pakistan and China.
Mulford, speaking on the sidelines of a India-U.S. business summit, said the debate on the nuclear deal signaled America's awareness that New Delhi was a critical partner of Washington.
One indication of that interest was the presence of at least 25 U.S. nuclear firms at the summit in the financial hub of Mumbai to explore business opportunities in India after the deal is clinched, industry officials said.
India, which now produces about 3,500 MW of nuclear power, aims to boost it to 30,000 MW over the next 20 years to meet the demands of its booming economy, Asia's fourth largest.
"In value terms, the immediate market is of about $100 billion and it's a level playing field which means there will be companies from all over the world," said Ron Somers, president of the U.S.-India Business Council, an industry lobby group.
U.S. firm Thorium Power, which develops non-proliferating nuclear fuel, said on Wednesday it was in talks with the Indian government and energy firms to sell nuclear reactor technology.
"Once the legal frame is established we can sign deals. We are talking to four to five companies," said Dennis K. Hays, Thorium's vice-president.
3. US Congressional report rakes up Iran-India ties
Indo-Asian News Service
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A new US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report has suggested that India's long relationship with Iran and its support of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) positions on non-proliferation are obstacles to India's taking a hard line on Iran.
Yet the Bush administration has asserted that US-India nuclear cooperation would bring India into the "non-proliferation mainstream," says the report released ahead of next week's session of the outgoing lame-duck Congress that's due to take up the enabling legislation on the India-US nuclear deal in its final form.
The US Senate and the House of Representatives have both overwhelmingly approved two different versions of the enabling bills. The foreign relations panels of the two chambers are expected to meet in a conference to draw up a common bill for final approval by Congress.
The Bush administration has made the India deal as one of its top legislative priorities for the lame-duck session and said that it would try to have New Delhi's concerns as also those of the Congress addressed at the conference. Iran is one such sticky point.
As State department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters on Monday it would encourage Congress not to make such changes to the legislation that would materially affect the administration ability to implement the agreement.
CRS, which provides background material to Congress on issues before it, says during the Congressional hearings on the India deal, members had questioned whether India's cooperation with Iran might affect Washington's efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
India, like most other states, does not support a nuclear weapons option for Iran. However, its views of the Iranian threat and appropriate responses differ significantly from US views, it said.
Entities in India and Iran appear to have engaged in very limited nuclear, chemical and missile-related transfers over the years, and some sanctions have been imposed on Indian entities for transfers to Iran, the latest in July 2006, the report said.
US law requires recipients of US nuclear cooperation to guarantee the non-proliferation of any US material or equipment transferred. If a recipient state assists, encourages or induces a non-nuclear weapon state to engage in nuclear weapons related activities, exports must cease.
India's non-proliferation record continues to be scrutinised, as India continues to take steps to strengthen its own export controls, CRS said.
Additional measures of Indian support could include diplomatic support for negotiations with Iran; support for Bush administration efforts to restrict enrichment and reprocessing; support for multilateral fuel cycle initiatives, and for the Proliferation Security Initiative, the report suggested.
Another tool that may be utilised by those desiring to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).
Both the House (H.R. 5682) and Senate (S. 3709) bills to create an exception for India from relevant provisions of the US Atomic Energy Act refer to the desirability of getting India to join PSI, but do not make it a prerequisite for cooperation, the report noted.
Finally, efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons rely on coordinated export controls and strong national export control systems.
India has agreed to harmonise its export controls with the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group under the July 18, 2005 Joint Statement. India also passed a new law in May 2005, the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Bill.
The CRS reports cited "some observers" as suggesting that India does not have the necessary regulations in place to implement the law, and that India 's resources for implementation are remarkably limited.
A third issue is whether India will follow through in imposing penalties on violators of export control laws and regulations, it said as one consideration in assessing a country's non-proliferation record is the extent to which its export control and procurement system helps limit or eliminate illicit transfers.
The report cited David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, as arguing that three factors contribute to a flawed non-proliferation record for India in the nuclear area.
These are: a poorly implemented national export control system; an illicit procurement system for its own nuclear weapons programme, and a procurement system that may unwittingly transfer sensitive information about uranium enrichment.
When asked formally to respond to Albright's allegations, the administration stated it would be happy to discuss the allegations in a classified session with Members of Congress, the CRS report noted.
An eminent scientist today defended the setting up of a nuclear power plant at Haripur in West Bengal's East Midnapore district, saying the state government would lose out otherwise.
"If such a plant is not allowed to be set up, it will be a big loss to the state. Coal reserves are depleting fast and will be exhausted after some time. Who will then take the responsibility?," said Director of the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics Prof Bikash Sinha.
He dismissed claims by the opposition Trinamool Congress that nuclear power plants would be environmentally hazardous and said that it would also not deplete the water table as feared.
Claiming that India's nuclear management record was "outstanding", Sinha told reporters the disaster at Chernobyl nuclear plant in the then Soviet Union was "man made". Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) Chairman S K Jaim, heading the Centre's site selection committee, said here on November 19 that the committee would recommend Haripur as the potential site for the nuclear power plant.
The coastal nuke plant would have a capacity of 1,000 MW to 1,500 MW each. But, the location would have potential to install six to eight nuclear reactors. Based on each reactor's capacity of around 1,500 MW, the Haripur nuke plant capacity may go upto 8,000 MW, Jain said. Local people at Haripur, supported by TC, had prevented the site selection committee from visiting the area.
Japan has the technological know-how to produce a nuclear weapon but has no immediate plans to do so, the foreign minister said Thursday, several weeks after communist North Korea carried out a nuclear test.
Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who has called for discussion of Japan's non-nuclear policy, also asserted in parliament that the pacifist constitution does not forbid possession of the bomb.
``Japan is capable of producing nuclear weapons,'' Aso told a parliamentary committee on security issues. ``But we are not saying we have plans to possess nuclear weapons.''
Japan, the only country ever attacked by atomic weapons, has for decades espoused a strict policy of not possessing, developing or allowing the introduction of nuclear bombs on its territory.
Aso's comments appear to be stronger than those made last month by Defense Minister Fimio Kyuma, who stated that Japan has ``advanced technology and missile capabilities so perhaps we do have the potential to make nuclear arms.''
The non-nuclear stance has come under increasing scrutiny since North Korea's Oct. 9 nuclear test, which raised severe security concerns in Japan.
The test has raised fears it could trigger a regional arms race. The North's nuclear test followed Pyongyang's test firing of several ballistic missiles capable of hitting Japan.
Kiyomi Tsujimoto of pacifist opposition Social Democratic Party, criticized Aso for supporting open debate over a possession of nuclear weapons amid such concerns.
``International community is greatly concerned about Japan's plutonium possession,'' she said. ``As foreign minister, Mr. Aso, are you aware of global impact of saying it's not bad to discuss nuclear possession under the circumstances?''
Aso, however, denied he was fanning the debate.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has asserted several times since the test that Japan would not stray from its non-nuclear policy, and he has refused to initiate a formal review of that stance.
Several high-ranking government and ruling party members, however, including Aso, have argued for a high-level reappraisal of the nuclear policy in light of the North Korean threat.
In a hearing before the lower house of parliament's Security Committee, Aso reiterated his belief that the constitution's pacifist clause does not prevent Japan from having nuclear bombs for the purpose of defense.
The constitution's Article 9 bars Japan from the use of force to settle international disputes.
``Possession of minimum level of arms for defense is not prohibited under the Article 9 of the Constitution,'' Aso said. ``Even nuclear weapons, if there are any that fall within that limit, they are not prohibited.''
Nuclear power is not the only answer but looks to be an important part of the future energy mix in Asia and other parts of the world, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said this week in Tokyo. Dr. ElBaradei met with Japanese governmental and industry representatives, and spoke at an event hosted by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
The Director General noted that the latest world energy projections show a 53% increase in global energy consumption by 2030 if current policies hold. "Two aspects of this analysis are especially interesting," he said. "The first is the expectation that 70% of the coming growth in demand will be from developing countries. The second is that... the increased use of nuclear power would help to meet the increase in energy demand, enhance the security of energy supply and mitigate carbon emissions... Nuclear energy alone is not a panacea, but it is likely in the near future to have an increasing role as part of the global energy mix."
Japan has the largest nuclear power programme in Asia, and the third largest worldwide; only France and the United States have more nuclear generating capacity.
In his remarks, Dr. ElBaradei also addressed issues of nuclear security and safeguards. Regarding the Democratic Peopleï¿½s Republic of Korea, he said: "I am pleased to note the recent agreement to resume the six-party talks. The IAEA stands ready to work with the DPRK - and with all others - towards a solution for this issue that would make use of the Agencyï¿½s verification capability to assure the international community that all nuclear activities in the DPRK are exclusively for peaceful purposes. Equally, this solution would seek to address the security, economic and other concerns of the DPRK. Bilateral concerns, such as the tragedy of the Japanese abducted persons that has resulted in so much anguish, will also need to be addressed."
The Director General is on an official visit to Japan, Vietnam, China, and Indonesia.
2. DOE/NNSA Cites BWXT Pantex for Price-Anderson Violations
National Nuclear Security Administration
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The Department of Energyï¿½s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) notified BWXT Pantex that it will fine the company $110,000 for violations of the departmentï¿½s nuclear safety requirements. BWXT Pantex is the contractor responsible for managing and operating the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, the countryï¿½s only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility.
The Preliminary Notice of Violation (PNOV) cited violations associated with three unsuccessful attempts to separate two parts of a weapon assembly, which occurred between March 30, 2005 and April 26, 2005.
On two occasions during the separation attempts, several controls that were designed to limit the applied force to the weapon assembly were exceeded. The primary cause for the failure to maintain these controls is attributed to both inadequacy in the operating procedure and failure to follow the operating procedure.
Although no personnel radiation exposures or injuries resulted from the failure to limit the application of force to the assembly, the actions taken during the attempts to separate parts of the assembly demonstrated a nonconservative approach in decision making during a process in which strict adherence to established procedure was vital.
Included in the PNOV are two Severity Level II violations. The first violation is associated with the failure to adhere to safety limits and requirements. This includes the failures to adhere to limits in the force applied to the weapon assembly and a Technical Safety Requirement violation associated with the use of a tool that was explicitly forbidden from use as stated in a Justification for Continued Operation. The second violation is associated with failure to adhere to operating procedures. Specific examples include the failure to adhere to the control limits, failure to properly record the maximum force applied to the weapon assembly, executing a work activity not covered by the operating procedure, and failing to stop work when unexpected conditions arose. In addition, included in the PNOV are two Severity Level III violations associated with inadequacy with the operating procedure and failure to maintain tooling calibration.
BWXT Pantex has developed and is in the process of implementing corrective actions to the violations and underlying deficiencies. The Energy Department and NNSA will continue to monitor the effectiveness of BWXT Pantexï¿½s actions and improvements in safety performance.
The Price-Anderson Amendments Act of 1988 authorizes the Energy Department to undertake regulatory actions against contractors for violations of its nuclear safety requirements. The enforcement program encourages department contractors to identify and correct nuclear safety deficiencies at an early stage, before they contribute to or result in more serious events.
3. Studies Show Plutonium Degradation in U.S. Nuclear Weapons Will Not Affect Reliability Soon
National Nuclear Security Administration
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Recent studies by Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories show that the aging of plutonium in U.S. nuclear weapons will not affect reliability over the next several decades. The classified studies were done for the Department of Energyï¿½s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and have taken five years to complete.
Plutonium, which is used in pits for all U.S. nuclear weapons, is highly radioactive and degrades over time. The material was first produced in significant quantities in the 1940s, and the effects of plutonium aging on nuclear weapon reliability is a question relevant for a stockpile with warheads reaching ages beyond historical experience.
NNSAï¿½s weapons laboratories have been assessing whether the degradation of plutonium will affect the ability of the weapon to perform as designed. NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks said the recent aging studies showed that there appear to be no serious or sudden changes occurring, or expected to occur, in plutonium that would affect performance of pits beyond the well-understood, gradual degradation of plutonium materials.
ï¿½These studies show that the degradation of plutonium in our nuclear weapons will not affect warhead reliability for decades,ï¿½ Brooks said. ï¿½It is now clear that although plutonium aging contributes, other factors control the overall life expectancy of nuclear weapons systems.ï¿½
The classified studies looked at pits in each nuclear weapon type and gave specific information on plutonium properties, aging and other information. Overall, the weapons laboratories studies assessed that the majority of plutonium pits for most nuclear weapons have minimum lifetimes of at least 85 years.
Todayï¿½s nuclear weapons have highly-sophisticated designs and rely on thousands of parts and components that act within microseconds to perform complicated and precise functions. Plutonium aging is but one variable that can affect overall system reliability. Other factors include aging of high explosives and other organic components in the design, corrosion of uranium or plutonium components, or discovery of defects uncovered in surveillance programs. Warhead refurbishments, known as life extension programs, are key to replacing aging or otherwise faulty components.
The scientific process used in the assessment of plutonium aging on pit lifetimes was peer reviewed by the JASON panel, an independent scientific panel of academics with experience in nuclear physics and the nuclear weapons program. The JASON study concludes that most plutonium pit types have credible lifetimes of at least 100 years, while other pit types with less than 100 years of projected stability have mitigations either proposed or being implemented. The JASON review was congressionally mandated by the Defense Authorization Bill for fiscal year 2005, and was submitted to Congress today.
NNSA plans to continue plutonium aging assessments through vigilant surveillance and scientific evaluation, and the weapons laboratories will annually re-assess plutonium in nuclear weapons, incorporating new data and observations.
DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of RANSAC. RANSAC takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.