1. State Duma passes bill on nuclear power sector reform
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The State Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament, passed in the first reading Wednesday a presidential bill to reform the country's nuclear power sector and facilitate its development.
The document aims to establish a state-controlled holding company, Atomenergoprom, using the sector's civilian assets, and to subsequently allow other Russian corporate entities to possess non-weapons-grade nuclear materials, nuclear installations and nuclear storage facilities.
Exclusive federal ownership of nuclear materials, nuclear installations and nuclear storage facilities is currently a major impediment to the development of the nuclear power sector.
The bill was supported by 368 deputies, with 226 votes required for passage. Fifty-eight MPs voted against, with one abstention.
Atomenergoprom, which will be wholly controlled by the government, is expected to be a large full-cycle corporation engaged in activities ranging from uranium extraction, fuel fabrication and electric power generation, to the construction of nuclear power plants, both domestically and abroad.
The new corporation will also include nuclear engineering units, design and research institutes.
The new government corporation will be established in two stages.
In the initial stage, Russia's nuclear fuel producer and supplier TVEL will become a subsidiary of Atomenergoprom, with 100% of its shares to be assigned to the charter capital of the new corporation, while nuclear enriching entities will join the parent company of the new nuclear holding, as requested by the defense ministry.
Russia's nuclear chief Sergei Kiriyenko said there was no need at the current stage to include spent nuclear fuel processing and disposal facilities into the new corporation.
2. Moscow court delays hearing of Adamov case until Dec. 11
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A Moscow court has postponed until December 11 a hearing in the case of Russia's ex-nuclear power minister, charged with embezzlement and abuse of office, a lawyer said Tuesday.
On November 24, the Zamoskvoretsky District Court rejected an appeal by Yevgeny Adamov's defense to send his case back to the Prosecutor General's Office to correct shortcomings in the investigation and clarify the charges, and scheduled a hearing for December 5.
"Lawyer Dmitry Kharitonov, who represents the interests of a co-defendant in the case, Vyacheslav Pismennyi, is currently on a business trip," Adamov's lawyer Genri Reznik said.
Adamov, 67, has been accused of leading an organized criminal group that inflicted damage worth over 3 billion rubles (about $110 million) to the Russian budget, enterprises and organizations.
Adamov is being prosecuted along with two co-defendants, Pismennyi, former director of the Troitsky research center, and Revmir Freishut, former director of TechSnabExport.
The trial has already been adjourned twice - on October 26 and November 8 - because Adamov's lawyers did not appear in court, and one of the defendants was in the hospital.
Adamov was originally arrested in Switzerland in May 2005 at the request of the United States, where authorities accuse him of misappropriating $9 million given to Russia for nuclear safety projects. Had he been convicted in the U.S., Adamov would have faced 60 years in prison.
He was extradited to Russia in early 2006 to face charges but was released by the Russian Supreme Court July 21, after a total of 15 months in prison, to await trial.
Adamov, who served from 1998 to 2001 as Russia's nuclear power minister, said in October he will insist on a trial in a U.S. court, although the U.S. authorities have accused him of a crime they said was committed in Russia.
On October 16, the Moscow City Court canceled the Zamoskvoretsky District Court's earlier decision to send Adamov's case back to the Prosecutor General's Office for a clarification of the charges.
The city court thereby upheld an appeal by prosecutors against the district court decision. Prosecutors demanded that the case should instead be sent for retrial in the district court.
3. Russia, Norway to continue cooperation in scrapping nuclear subs
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Russia's atomic energy agency, Rosatom, said Tuesday that a new five-year agreement it has signed with Norway's Foreign Ministry will further cooperation in dismantling Russian nuclear-powered submarines.
A Rosatom press release said Norway has pledged technical, technological and financial assistance in scrapping decommissioned submarines and other nuclear vessels of Russia's Northern Fleet, as well as providing safe storage of reactor compartments and spent nuclear fuel.
Norway's allocations for related projects will be made in amounts subject to approval by the country's parliament.
Rosatom's chief, Sergei Kiriyenko, said last week that Russia has dismantled 145 of its 197 decommissioned Soviet-era nuclear submarines, and that the remaining 50-odd vessels will be scrapped by 2010.
The United States, Canada, Britain, Italy, and Japan have also offered Russia their help in safely disposing of its decommissioned nuclear submarines.
All want to ensure that proliferation-sensitive components from the dismantled ships are not sold off to third countries, and that their spent fuel, which contains large amounts of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium, is removed and stored without harming the environment or public health.
4. Russia's only polonium-producing reactor idle for two years
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The only reactor in Russia able to produce a radioactive isotope found in the body of a former Russian secret service agent in the U.K. was shut down two years ago, a source in the Russian nuclear agency said Monday.
Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin's administration and a close associate of exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, died in a London hospital with symptoms of radioactive poisoning November 23.
British health officials said a lethal dose of polonium 210, a toxic uranium by-product, was found in his body.
"The reactor was shut down two years ago," the source at the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power said, without revealing the reactor's location.
But he said Russia has produced eight grams of polonium monthly from reserves that remain in stock following the reactor's shut-down.
"We have supplied it [polonium-210] to U.S. companies, and there were deliveries to British firms. The eight grams we have produced cannot have disappeared in Russia, but we do not keep track of the material after selling it," the source said.
Polonium supplies to the United Kingdom ended in 2001.
According to the latest report published by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), no cases of disappearance of radioactive materials have been registered in Russia in recent years.
The global nuclear watchdog has been keeping a database on illegal trafficking of radioactive materials since 1993.
Following Litvinenko's death, Western media circulated a message purporting to be his deathbed note, in which he accused President Putin of orchestrating his death. The Kremlin has denied any involvement.
An Italian contact of Litvinenko, Mario Scaramella, has also been diagnosed with polonium 210 poisoning. He said that he and Litvinenko were poisoned because of secret information they shared, but did not specify details.
In ongoing investigations run by Scotland Yard, trace amounts of radiation have been discovered at 12 sites in Britain, and on two British Airways planes that flew the Moscow-London route.
Russia's Transportation Ministry announced Saturday that radiation was discovered on a Finnair plane, which arrived from Berlin via Helsinki, at a Moscow airport.
The results of Litvinenko's post-mortem examination Friday have been passed on to toxicologists for analysis, and have yet to be announced.
5. Russia’s uranium reserves to guarantee 60-year supply to n-plants
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Russia’s uranium reserves will guarantee a 60-year-long supply of nuclear fuel to the country’s nuclear power plants as well as to those plants that are being build by Russian specialists in foreign countries, the head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, told a State Duma meeting on Monday.
“We do not take into account those reserves that may create fast neutron reactors,” he said.
The Natural Resources Ministry and Rosatom surveyed Russia’s uranium fields. At present, Russia ranks third in the world by natural uranium reserves.
“As world uranium prices go up, the country’s uranium fields become profit-making,” Kiriyenko said.
He recalled that Russia and Kazakhstan inked an agreement on creating a uranium development joint venture. The joint venture’s total reserves make up 173,000 tonnes of Kazakhstan’s uranium.
Kiriyenko said a Rosatom delegation would visit Kazakhstan on December 6 to mark joint development of a first kilogram of uranium.
6. Russian watchdog finds no violations in nuclear material storage
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A check conducted by Russia's nuclear watchdog revealed no violations of the nuclear materials storage and transportation rules, Konstantin Pulikovsky, the watchdog's head, said Monday.
Russian journalists asked Pulikovsky to comment on media reports that said polonium 210, used to poison ex-FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko in London, could have been produced in Russia.
"I say absolutely, definitely that no deviations from the norms on storage and transportation of nuclear materials, including polonium, were discovered," he said.
Russian defector Litvinenko, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin's administration and a close associate of exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, died in a London hospital November 23. His body was found to contain a lethal dose of polonium 210, a radioactive isotope.
A former bodyguard to President Vladimir Putin was murdered with a poison that produced symptoms remarkably similar to those of Alexander Litvinenko it emerged yesterday.
Roman Tsepov died aged 42 in 2004 after suffering severe radiation sickness brought on by a mystery substance he had ingested with food or drink.
The case suggests that use of radioactive poisons — similar to the polonium-210 that killed Litvinenko — may be more widespread than previously thought.
The nature of the poison is still a subject of speculation. Some reports in Russia say he was given a huge dose of a drug normally used to combat leukaemia and other cancers.
Other publications have suggest he was intoxicated by an experimental poison containing huge quantities of heavy metals, which came from a secret Russian chemical weapons facility.
Tsepov, nicknamed King of the Shadows, is said to have had a number of powerful enemies but the identity of his killer has never come to light.
He was a graduate of the supreme military commander school of the Russian Interior Ministry and served with the interior troops. In the early 1990s he set up Baltic-Escort, a security business, that provided bodyguard services to Anatoly Sobchak, the then mayor of St Petersburg, and his deputy, Putin.
He survived three murder attempts in the 1990s. His friends believe his ties to lucrative businesses in Russia could have made him a target but claim he was not linked to a mafia gang.
In September 2004 he was admitted to Sverdlov hospital in St Petersburg with severe food poisoning. As in the case of Litvinenko, doctors were baffled as his condition grew worse over the first two weeks.
He began to show classic symptoms of radiation sickness: he grew pale, his hair fell out and his white blood cell count fell. He died before he could be taken to a specialist hospital in Germany.
The investigation into the case is still continuing. There are reports that Tsepov could have ingested the poison in a powder or liquid form while eating a meal. The city prosecutor’s office in St Petersburg has described the case as a “premeditated murder”.
1. Nations fail to agree Iran nuclear sanctions plan
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Six world powers failed on Tuesday to agree a draft U.N. resolution to slap sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, and after months of haggling France said several key differences remain between the West and Russia.
With agreement still proving elusive at talks between senior officials in Paris, France, Britain and Germany felt the time had come to move their negotiations back to the United Nations in New York in a last push to broker a deal.
"We made substantive progress on the scope of the sanctions, targeting proliferation-sensitive activities. There remain several outstanding issues, on which we will reflect over the coming days," France's foreign ministry said in a statement.
In the talks, France, Germany and Britain told Russia they want a U.N. resolution on sanctions to be passed by the end of the year, an EU diplomat said.
After forcing the Europeans to water down their sanctions plans over the past weeks and spurning tough measures against Iran, the Russians indicated a compromise might be possible, prompting Tuesday's hastily arranged talks.
Yet the Europeans, the United States, Russia and China remained divided over the proposed bans on exports of sensitive materials, an assets freeze and travel ban on individuals and groups involved in Iran's nuclear program.
The sanctions would be a first phase of punishment against Iran for its failure to comply with an August 31 U.N. deadline to suspend uranium enrichment, which can produce fuel for nuclear power plants or bombs.
Iran denies Western charges that its nuclear program is a cover for an atomic weapons program but was ordered by the Security Council to freeze enrichment for failing to convince the world that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.
Despite the failure to reach agreement after its foreign minister said he thought a breakthrough was possible, France also sought to remain upbeat.
"We all agree on the necessity of adopting an effective resolution. We are now close to a conclusion of this process. The next step will be in New York," the foreign ministry said.
In Washington, Robert Gates, who has been nominated to replace Donald Rumsfeld as U.S. defense secretary, said military action against Iran would be "an absolute last resort" and diplomacy should be used first.
Gates also said he thought that Iran was trying to acquire nuclear weapons.
The European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Europeans had told the Russians they wanted a resolution on sanctions passed by the end of the year or else they would lose credibility.
"We had hoped that this discussion would enable us to move forward rather substantially and to be honest that was not the case," he said.
"We have indicated to them that for the credibility of our action, and for the credibility of the (Security) Council's action, we now need a decision by the end of the year," he said.
EU diplomats say the sanctions called for in the text will be largely symbolic but that unanimous approval of even mild sanctions will send a strong signal to Tehran that the world is determined to stop Iran obtaining nuclear arms.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country would consider it an act of "enmity" if France, Britain and Germany tried to block Tehran's nuclear development and would reconsider ties with them.
"If you insist on your path against the Iranian nation's right, the Iranian nation will count it as enmity against the Iranian nation and the Iranian nation will reconsider its relation to you," he said in Sari, northern Iran.
In October, Iran began operating a second group of 164 uranium enrichment centrifuges, violating a legally binding demand by the United Nations Security Council that Iran suspend such activities until the international community is confident that the country’s nuclear program “is for exclusively peaceful purposes.” Iran’s response was that a suspension would abrogate its rights under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty — even though under international law, it has temporarily surrendered these rights by violating the obligations that condition them.
Beneath the legalese, Iran is moving as fast as it can to master uranium enrichment, while threatening its neighbors and refusing to provide transparency that the International Atomic Energy Agency requires. Tehran bets that Russia will continue to buy it time by slowing and diluting Security Council sanctions. Once Iran has fully mastered enrichment, it will have gained confidence that it can produce weapons-grade uranium quickly if it decides to do so.
With this confidence, Iran would assess the costs and benefits of continuing the construction of a large-scale uranium enrichment plant. If Russia were prepared to join the United States, Europe and others in imposing significant costs, Iran might choose to negotiate a handsome benefits package in exchange for suspending enrichment-related activities. If the Security Council were to remain lenient, on the other hand, Iran would have complete freedom to maneuver.
International interlocutors must disabuse Iran that it can have its uranium cake and eat it, too. The vital security objective all along has been to prevent Iran from acquiring the capacity to make nuclear weapons fuel. Once Iran has mastered uranium enrichment, this objective will have been largely lost. At that point, it would make no further sense to offer Iran exceptional nuclear energy cooperation, political benefits or access to international markets, capital and technology.
Thus, Iran’s interlocutors should clarify now that the positive incentives the world wishes to negotiate with Iran will be withdrawn if it does not immediately accede to the binding Security Council demand for suspension.
The message from the Security Council, including Russia and China, should be: “You can get the uranium enrichment capacity you seek, even though, because you have violated your Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency Safeguards obligations, it threatens international peace and security. But you will lose the prospects of many benefits. The International Atomic Energy Agency and the Security Council will continue to press for the greater transparency required to verify ‘that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran.’ Maybe we can tighten the sanctions you will face, maybe we can’t, but the case won’t be closed, and you will not become an acceptable nuclear trade partner.”
Failure to clarify the limited duration of positive incentives only encourages those in Iran who argue that there are no real costs to defying the Security Council and continuing the enrichment program. Conversely, if Iran suspends enrichment while it is still meaningful, interlocutors should be willing to negotiate generously to meet the country’s nuclear energy, economic and security interests. This could ultimately include helping Iran develop its nuclear fuel cycle, if and when doubts about the peacefulness of its nuclear ambitions have been durably allayed.
Russia, China and perhaps others will be tempted to argue that pressing Iran this way could be an American attempt to precipitate a crisis and set the stage for military action. To pre-empt such charges, President Bush should clarify that if Iran complies with the Security Council’s demands, suspends its fuel-cycle activities and gives up its unjust support for organizations that commit violence against unarmed civilians, the United States will commit not to threaten Iran’s sovereignty or territorial integrity. Such a security guarantee, perhaps expressed in the Security Council, would facilitate not only longer-term nuclear negotiations with Iran, but also broader rapprochement.
Iranian national security decisions are made collectively. A precarious consensus emerged in 2005 to defy international demands and press on with enrichment. This consensus will not be reconsidered as long as the policy appears cost-free and the option of cashing in on restraint seems so open-ended that it could be still available after enrichment has been mastered.
The Iranian people, their neighbors and the world deserve a more considered debate of Iran’s options and of their consequences. Iran will never be in a better position than it is now to obtain a favorable deal that would improve its economy, employment and quality of life.
1. Russia supports ban on uranium enrichment technologies for Iran
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Russia backs the idea of banning exports of uranium enrichment technologies to Iran, the foreign minister said Tuesday.
"We approve of proposals to ban deliveries of uranium enrichment technologies, materials and services, chemical processing of irradiated fuel, and technologies for heavy-water reactors to Iran," Sergei Lavrov said after a meeting in Paris of deputy foreign ministers of the six parties to talks on Iran's nuclear program.
The minister said Iran's uranium enrichment activities had repeatedly provoked concern in the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which he said still has questions on the country's controversial nuclear program.
However, Lavrov warned against adopting wide-scale sanctions, which he said could have the opposite of the desired effect.
Iran remains at the center of an international dispute over its uranium enrichment, which some countries suspect is a cover for a nuclear weapons program. Tehran has consistently denied the claims, and says it needs nuclear energy for electricity.
Although Russia and China, veto-holding Security Council members and key economic partners of Iran, have been reluctant to resort to punitive measures, Lavrov admitted earlier that Moscow could approve sanctions if the Islamic Republic refused to soften its stance.
France, Germany and Britain have proposed a new draft UN resolution on sanctions against Iran, which includes banning the sale of missile and nuclear technologies to the country, freezing Tehran's military bank accounts, and imposing visa restrictions on officials linked to the nuclear industry.
1. U.S. Offers North Korea Aid for Dropping Nuclear Plans
Helene Cooper and David E. Sanger
New York Times
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The United States has offered a detailed package of economic and energy assistance in exchange for North Korea’s giving up nuclear weapons and technology, American officials said Tuesday.
But the offer, made last week during two days of intense talks in Beijing, would hinge on North Korea’s agreeing to begin dismantling some of the equipment it is using to expand its nuclear arsenal, even before returning to negotiations.
It is unclear whether North Korea will accept the offer, which is more specific — in both the details and the timing — than a vaguely worded statement of principles that the North signed in September 2005, a year before its first nuclear test.
The combination of incentives and demands was the focal point of three-way meetings on Nov. 28 and 29 involving Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill; North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Kim Kye-gwan; and Chinese officials at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. The incentives offered by the United States include food aid from the United States, Japan and South Korea, a senior administration official said.
The offer is significant because the administration has resisted making clear to North Korea exactly what kind of aid it would receive if it agreed to begin taking apart facilities like the plutonium reprocessing facility that turns spent fuel into weapons, and to provide a list of all its nuclear facilities. Hawks in the administration, particularly in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, have long opposed what they call “rewarding” North Korea for its nuclear test.
But State Department officials have argued that while the argument has gone on in Washington, the North has produced fuel for six or more weapons. They say the only successful strategy will be one that results in the beginning of dismantlement.
The incentives package also includes a pledge by the United States to work with North Korea toward finding a way to end the financial restrictions placed last year on a Macao bank, Banco Delta Asia, that was a main hub of the North’s international financial transactions. The Bush administration accused Banco Delta Asia of helping North Korea to launder money from drug smuggling and other illicit activities and to pass counterfeit $100 bills manufactured by the North’s government.
While the United States remains unwilling to lift the sanctions until the counterfeiting issue is resolved, a senior administration official said American officials had told the North Koreans they would work with them on the issue. “We would help them to help themselves,” the official said. “We would expect them to come forward with what they know, and we’d work through the problem.”
Describing the North Koreans’ response to the entire package of incentives and demands, the official, who was in the room during the exchanges in Beijing, said: “They listened intently. They were clearly in a listening and probing mode, and they said they were glad to be hearing this from us.”
The Beijing discussions took place in advance of planned six-country talks on the nuclear program. Diplomats from the other five countries — the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia — are wary that the off-again-on-again talks risk irrelevancy; they began in 2003 and have yet to produce anything beyond the agreement in principle of dismantlement for eventual aid.
No date has been set for the official talks.
North Korea boycotted the six-party talks last year after the United States cracked down on Banco Delta Asia, and on Oct. 9, Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test. On Oct. 31, North Korea agreed to return to the six-party talks.
Since then, though, American officials have balked at scheduling a meeting until first receiving a commitment from the North to start dismantling the nuclear program.
Staring each other down across the Pacific Ocean, North Korea and the U.S. remain locked in a stalemate over resolving their nuclear standoff with both sides calling on the other to back off first -- positions that appear no closer to reconciliation since Pyongyang's atomic test.
An agreement reached last year between North Korea and five other nations as part of a six-party disarmament process is supposed to be the basis for the next phase of efforts to resolve the crisis. But the agreement itself is vague enough to cloud the way forward, a potentially risky situation given that North Korea has raised the stakes by its entry into the nuclear club.
The North agreed several weeks after its Oct. 9 nuclear test to return to arms talks, and Washington has said the revived negotiations will take place by the end of the year. But preliminary discussions this week in Beijing on setting a date for the talks appear to have made little headway.
More than a year since the last six-nation nuclear negotiations were held, the North is sticking to its calls for Washington to end a campaign to isolate the communist nation from the international financial system for its alleged counterfeiting and money laundering.
The U.S. says it's open to talk about its blacklisting of a Macau bank where the North held accounts, but also wants to see Pyongyang take concrete steps toward denuclearization before giving any concessions.
This week in Beijing, the North and U.S. didn't agree on a date for the resumed nuclear talks, which also include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. Washington insisted that shouldn't be viewed as a failure but that it wants to lay the groundwork so they don't have six-nation talks just for talks sake, but actual progress.
The main U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill laid out the Americans' case to North Korea about what it should do -- believed to include initial moves like shutting down its main nuclear reactor and allowing international atomic inspectors to return.
"The best way for them to get out of sanctions is to get out of nuclear programs," he said Thursday before leaving China. "Unless they denuclearize, nothing is going to be possible."
But the North's nuclear envoy, Kim Kye Gwan, said Thursday that Pyongyang "cannot unilaterally abandon" its atomic weapons program -- even as he pledged commitment to the Sept. 19, 2005, agreement at six-nation arms talks where the North said it would disarm in exchange for aid and security guarantees. That agreement lays down the broad foundation for the North to get out of the nuclear business and shed its pariah status to become a member of the international community, promising diplomatic recognition and a peace agreement to replace the cease-fire that has held since 1953 on the Korean peninsula. But the devil is in the details, and the agreement has some vague wording that leaves plenty of room for interpretation.
The key phrase that both sides point to is a principle mentioned in the agreement of "commitment for commitment, action for action."
But moving beyond the commitments, who should take action first?
The North is now a confirmed nuclear power since detonating its underground nuclear blast, meaning it views itself in even higher esteem than before, believing it has the upper hand and that Washington should prove its good intentions first. The North claims it needs nuclear weapons for defense, and cites the financial moves by the U.S. as evidence of its hostile intentions.
But the U.S. appears to think it has the North on the ropes with its financial restrictions, given the strong protests they have evoked from Pyongyang. Also, Washington has managed since the nuclear test to get even North Korea's closest allies, such as China and Russia, to approve a U.N. Security Council resolution sanctioning the country. It's unclear who has time on their side, but one fact remains as the nuclear stalemate continues with no end immediately in sight: The North's main nuclear reactor remains operational, able to create more plutonium for its potential use in bombs.
The United States and other countries are demanding North Korea abandon its nuclear programs by the end of 2008, it was reported Saturday.
The Bush administration also threatened to impose additional sanctions on North Korea if Pyongyang refuses to accept the demand, the Kyodo News Agency quoted sources as saying Saturday.
This latest demand is a major pillar of proposals the United States and other countries made to North Korea this week in an effort to bring tangible results to the next round of the six-nation disarmament talks.
Specifically, the latest proposals call for North Korea to discontinue operations at its Yongbyon nuclear facility, where North Korea produced the plutonium for its first nuclear test.
The proposals also call for North Korea to accept International Atomic Energy Agency inspections, halt nuclear testing and publicly identify all its nuclear-related facilities, the sources said.
In return, the countries promise to assure North Korea's safety and improve its economy, while letting it normalize relations with the United States, the news agency said.
1. Russian top diplomat unaware of N. Korean nuclear swap proposal
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The Russian Foreign Ministry has no idea about the plans of North Korea to give Russia the right to enrich its uranium in exchange for Russia's support at the six-nation talks.
"I can sincerely and honestly say that I know nothing about it," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev told Interfax on Tuesday.
He said he had heard about the proposal from the media. "I cannot comment on what I hear for the first time," he said.
Earlier Tokyo Shimbun newspaper reported that North Korea had invited Russia to support it at the six-nation talks on the North Korean nuclear program in exchange for the right to import and enrich uranium from North Korea.
The newspaper, quoting Russian government sources, says such talks have been under way since 2002.
The six-nation talks involve the two Koreas, China, Russia, the United States and Japan. North Korea suspended them in November last year but they are expected to resume in a few weeks.
1. Russia eliminates over 15% of chemical wpns stockpiles – official
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Deputy head of the Russian Federal Agency for Industry Viktor Kholstov told Itar-Tass in an exclusive interview that at present Russia has eliminated over 15 percent of its total chemical weapons stockpiles. He is taking part in the 11th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons underway in The Hague.
According to him, at present Russia has eliminated 3,123 tonnes of blistering chemical warfare agents and neutralised 2,925 tonnes of neuroparalytic agents. “The immediate task of Russia to destroy 8,000 tonnes of chemical warfare agents by April 29, 2007 will be fulfilled,” Kholstov promised.
Initially this date had been set at the deadline of chemical weapons elimination for all countries, but this session is expected to extend the term to 2012, according to Kholstov. In this connection the official recalled that Russia had in 2001 turned to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons with a request to extend by five years the deadline for chemical weapons elimination.
Speaking about steps taken by Russia as a party to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Kholstov named three facilities for the destruction of hazardous agents. “By the end of 2005, all existing chemical weapons stockpiles at a facility in the Gorny settlement in the Saratov region were totally destroyed – 1,143 tonnes of blistering agents,” he added. “In December 2005, the second major facility for the elimination of blistering chemical warfare agents was put into operation in the Kambarka city in the Udmurtia republic and in August 2006 – the third facility in the Maradykovsky settlement of the Kirov region,” the industry agency deputy head indicated. According to Kholstov, the third facility for chemical agents elimination is principally different from the first two because chemical weapons are eliminated there in aviation bombs and not in storage tanks where they were kept. Moreover, another type of chemicals - paralytic agents are being destroyed in the Maradykovskoye settlement.
Kholstov said that Russia has simultaneously started a full-scale construction of new chemical weapons elimination facilities. According to him, “This year, a total of 718 million US dollars or 18.3 billion roubles have been allocated from the Russian federal budget for fulfilling tasks under the programme of chemical weapons destruction. The budget spending envisages about 980 million dollars – over 26 billion roubles next year for this purpose.”
Tony Blair has told MPs it would be "unwise and dangerous" for the UK to give up its nuclear weapons.
The prime minister outlined plans to spend up to £20bn on a new generation of submarines for Trident missiles.
He said submarine numbers may be cut from four to three, while the number of nuclear warheads would be cut by 20%.
Mr Blair said although the Cold War had ended the UK needed nuclear weapons as no-one could be sure another nuclear threat would not emerge in the future.
The options of changing to a land-based, or air-based nuclear weapons system had been considered and ruled out.
Instead the system would remain one based on a fleet of submarines which carry the Trident missiles, each of which can be fitted with a number of nuclear warheads.
Mr Blair said between £15bn and £20bn would be spent on new submarines to carry the Trident missiles. The submarines would take 17 years to develop and build, and would last until about 2050.
He said the UK would also join the US programme to extend the life of the Trident missiles until 2042 - and would then "work with" the US on successor missiles.
A decision on the nuclear warheads themselves "is not needed now", Mr Blair said, although the white paper said a decision would be needed in the next Parliament.
Mr Blair, who faces some opposition within the Labour Party to the plans, said there were "perfectly respectable" arguments about giving up nuclear weapons.
But he said he had to make a judgement about the country's security and the consequences of misjudgement would be "potentially catastrophic".
He denied that Britain was under an obligation to disarm under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and pointed out that new threats were posed by states like North Korea.
"In these circumstances it would be unwise and dangerous for Britain, alone of any of the nuclear powers, to give up its independent nuclear deterrent."
He also said "it is not utterly fanciful" to "imagine states sponsoring nuclear terrorism from their soil".
MPs will vote on the plans in March after a period of debate, he said.
Conservative leader David Cameron said his party agreed with Mr Blair's position "on substance and on timing".
"It is a vital matter for our national security but it requires a long-term approach. I hope we can work together on this issue for the good of the country," he told Mr Blair.
But Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said proper consideration of all relevant factors could only be made if the decision was postponed until 2014.
Security or legacy?
He added: "Why is this decision being pushed through his own Cabinet, and through Parliament, just as the prime minister is about to leave Downing Street? Is this about Britain's interests or about his legacy?"
Sir Menzies wants the number of UK warheads halved to 100 - a move he said could help kickstart multilateral disarmament.
Among Labour MPs who oppose replacing Trident former minister Michael Meacher asked: "How can this proposal really be justified in an utterly different post-Cold War environment?"
He argued that the move would restrict conventional defence spending, undermine the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and would take money away from the fights against terrorism, climate change and "long term energy insecurity".
A group of 28 Labour MPs, headed by Gordon Prentice, have written to the general secretary of the Labour Party asking for "wider and deeper consultation" among party members and affiliated organisations.
And Kate Hudson, from the anti-nuclear pressure group, CND, said she was "very very disappointed" with Mr Blair's announcement.
"He talked vaguely about reducing the number of submarines and warheads but it is not clear what that would mean," she said.
"I am sure many Labour MPs will be extremely angry because it is clear the prime minister has set out a pre-determined timetable."
1. Russian-Kazakh company produces 1st ton of natural uranium
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Director of Russia's Rosatom federal agency for atomic energy Sergei Kiriyenko will fly to Kazakhstan on Wednesday afternoon, to take part in a ceremony marking the production of the first tonne of natural uranium by a Russian-Kazakh joint venture.
Taking part in the ceremony on December 7 will be Kazakh Prime Minister Danial Akhmetov.
"In December, Kazakhstan and Russia will complete the process of setting up another joint venture - a uranium enrichment company in the Russian town of Angarsk," Kiriyenko said.
President of the Kazatomprom state-owned company Mukhta Dzhakishev stated that "Kazakhstan may become the world's largest producer of uranium in the future."
In 2005, the country produced 4,300 tonnes of uranium, up 30 percent from 2004.
The administration of Kazatomprom, which is among the world's top three uranium producers, aims to boost production to 15 tones a year by 2010.
Sergei Kiriyenko said at the State Duma lower house of the Russian parliament on Monday that "the available reserves of natural uranium in Russia guarantee nuclear fuel for all Russian nuclear power plants for the next six decades, and also for the NPPs which Russian specialists are building abroad."
In his view however, to implement all plans and programs to develop nuclear power generation of Russia and CIS states, it is necessary to restore and actively use the whole production cycle of the former Sredmash, a powerful corporation of the Soviet defense sector which had control over all nuclear technologies.
2. Russia to handle uranium from East German research reactor
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Both highly-enriched and low-enriched uranium from former East Germany’s nuclear research center will be taken to Russia for processing and storage, Russia’s atomic energy agency Rosatom told Itar-Tass.
An Itar-Tass Berlin correspondent says Germany’s federal radiation safety department has issued permission to recover the 200 kilograms of highly enriched uranium and 100 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, currently kept on the premises of the nuclear research center in Rossendorf, near Dresden, in Saxony.
Saxonia’s Science Minister Eva-Maria Stange believes that the transportation of radioactive materials to Russia for recycling and storage would help Germany avoid major spending on their safekeeping in its own territory. The costs average over one million euros a year, Stange said.
The radioactive materials will be taken to Dresden’s airport in special containers, and then airlifted to Russia. Rosatom’s processing plant in the town of Podolsk, the Moscow region is the end recipient.
Rosatom said “such operations have been carried out many times over the past two years under the Russian-US agreement on the removal of highly enriched uranium from research reactors of US and Soviet design built in third countries.”
“The date of the forthcoming operation is kept secret for security reasons,” Rosatom said.
3. Russian nuclear industry on path of systemic change
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"This year has been important for the nuclear industry from two points of view," said Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, at a news conference at RIA Novosti.
"This is a year when strategic decisions have been made that will divide the nuclear industry into military and civilian parts. The former will remain unchanged, while the latter will become independent and subject to universal transparency standards."
The nuclear industry, a conservative heavyweight which has preserved Soviet traditions longer than any other, can be pushed forward only by systemic change. Kiriyenko, a prominent politician and manager, initiated the sector's restructuring. The agency has surprised the country with the scale of its transformation. On December 6, the Russian parliament is expected to consider a bill that will finalize the division of the nuclear industry.
Civilian enterprises will be reincorporated as joint-stock companies, and legal entities will receive access to nuclear materials. At the same time, the state will maintain total control over the sector. The change will allow the fuel cycle and power generation to be combined into one process and to compete on the industrial market, which will eventually make the end product, kilowatt-hours, cheaper. It is also important that the industry will be able to attract private capital to meet some of its huge financial demands.
The new bill will also eliminate obstacles to foreign trade. For example, Australia, a major exporter of uranium, is willing to sell it to Russia only if it is not used in the defense industry.
The size of Russia's nuclear industry means that it needs significant amounts of uranium, but its own reserves will soon be exhausted. This year, the agency has managed to improve the situation. It set up a Mining Company that consolidated all uranium-producing assets in Russia and even international projects, which include a joint venture with Kazakhstan. This has allowed Russia to take a new position on the global market and to obtain additional opportunities of implementing innovative technology and boosting the construction of nuclear power plants (NPPs).
The NPPs that are currently in place were mostly built in the 1960s-1970s, and their service life is coming to an end. Together, they produce 16% of the electricity generated in Russia. Now the agency has set itself the task of maintaining this share until the 2020s-2030s. There is only one way to do this: to build at least two (or better three or four) nuclear generation units a year.
Kiriyenko's plan is based on the assumption that the reform of the nuclear industry has to be coordinated with the government's strategy and endorsed at the top level. This is why his agency drafted a federal target program for the nuclear sector's development, which was signed by President Vladimir Putin last July. In accordance with the strategy, the federal draft budget for 2007 allocates 17 billion rubles for the first couple of new reactors.
Digging deep into corporate problems, Kiriyenko found out that Atomstroiexport, a company that builds NPPs abroad, had been sold to private investors for $20 million, while its order portfolio stood at several billion dollars and was guaranteed by the state budget. The situation was inexplicable and illogical: a private company was an operator under intergovernmental agreements. Efforts were made to return a controlling stake (50.8%) in Atomstroiexport to the government. This move helped to dispel any doubts the company's foreign partners may have had.
Perhaps, these developments influenced Bulgaria's decision, which after a long delay chose Russia in a tender for the construction of an NPP in Belena. This victory signaled Russia's "return to the European market," Kiriyenko said. The country also won other European tenders, including ones for supplying nuclear fuel to the Czech Republic's Temelin NPP and to Finland's Loviisa, defeating a powerful rival, Westinghouse, on its traditional market.
"Russia is a member of all international organizations, including Generation IV, a global partnership which seeks to develop the nuclear reactors of the future," said Yevgeny Velikhov, president of the Kurchatov Institute Research Center and member of the Russian Academy. "We are members of an unprecedented global program to construct the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in France. Overall, the agency is making notable progress."
The United Nations General Assembly passed its first resolution in 1946. In the shadow of the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the highest priority of the new body was a call for plans "for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction." On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan focused on the terrible fact that 60 years on, the world still has no plan to be rid of what he called a "unique existential threat to all humanity."
Instead of elimination, the nuclear danger has grown and spread from one country with a few weapons to a situation where the United States and Russia have about 10,000 nuclear weapons each and have been joined as nuclear-armed states by Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and, most recently, North Korea.
Others are not far behind. Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has warned that there are another 20 or 30 "virtual nuclear weapons states" that have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons in a very short time span. For these countries, it may take a threat from an existing nuclear-armed state, a change in leadership, a newfound desire for national power and prestige, a resourceful scientist or unexpected access to technology to tip the balance.
Why has it come to this? Part of the reason is that all states who have or seek nuclear weapons share a common disregard for democracy and their own people — every state that has developed nuclear weapons has done so in secret from its people. No nuclear-armed state has ever clearly explained to its people what would happen if it carried out its nuclear war plans. Few citizens in such states know that in 1961 the U.N. General Assembly declared that "any state using nuclear and thermonuclear weapons is to be considered as violating the Charter of the United Nations, as acting contrary to the laws of humanity and as committing a crime against mankind and civilization."
Another part of the reason is that every nuclear-armed state claims its weapons are for deterrence. In 2004, C. Paul Robinson, President of Sandia National Laboratory, who was responsible for the engineering of U.S. nuclear weapons, explained "deterrence." He argued "deterrence ... comes from the Latin root word 'terre,' meaning 'to frighten with an overwhelming fear,' as in the English antecedent — terror." In short, to deter means to terrorize. Given this, should it come as any surprise that "terrorists" may be seeking nuclear weapons?
All of this must change if we are to plan for and achieve the end of the nuclear age. As a first step, people and leaders everywhere need to accept that all nuclear weapons are created equal. They are all weapons of terror and should be seen as equally immoral, illegal, illegitimate and dangerous. This principle may make it possible to find the "common global strategies" that Annan argued are needed to "make progress on both fronts — nonproliferation and disarmament at once."
Princeton's Program on Science and Global Security is home to one such effort. The International Panel on Fissile Materials brings together independent experts from 15 nuclear-armed and nonnuclear countries, to find ways to secure and reduce all stockpiles of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, the key materials in nuclear weapons, and limit any further production. If successful, this would serve to reduce existing nuclear arsenals, limit the weapons capabilities of the 20-30 "virtual nuclear weapons states" and restrict terrorists from gaining access to a nuclear capability. For more on this, see IPFM's "Global Fissile Material Report 2006."
But there are much larger questions that also need to be addressed. The Director-General of the IAEA has warned that "should a state with a fully developed [nuclear] fuel-cycle capability decide, for whatever reason, to break away from its nonproliferation commitments, most experts believe it could produce a nuclear weapon within a matter of months." If so, can a world free of nuclear weapons risk relying on nuclear energy?
An even bigger challenge is how states and people can feel secure when the United States has global interests and can unleash almost overwhelming conventional military force anywhere in the world. Lesser powers pose the same problem on a regional scale. The answer may lie again in the United Nations. The U.N. charter requires that "all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." Holding all states, especially the most powerful, to this basic commitment may eventually prove to be the key to the rest.
On Monday came the first signal that the US Senate and the House were preparing to iron out differences between the two bills this week. And with that came a strong message from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
In a 5-page letter, Rice wrote that the nine-member conference committee that will draft the final bill either drop or dilute key controversial amendments including:
*A clause that bans transfer of nuclear enrichment and reprocessing technology to India
*Cutting off nuclear co-operation and banning fuel supply from other countries if India violates NSG guidelines
*Asking India to back US efforts to sanction Iran for its nuclear weapons program
*Requiring an annual congressional report monitoring India's fuel use
Experts however predict that many of these clauses will be adopted as non-binding requirements making them harmless.
"There are probably 100s of these legislations that impose reporting requirements on the US government," says Director, South Asia Program and Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Teresita C Schaffer.
Administrations usually don't like them but in the end, they wont make a very big effort to get rid of them because the only thing that is required is a report.
And the fact that you tie up a few dozen government servants writing the wretched reports is not something that administrations will pay a high political price to get rid of.
The conference committee met for the first time on Tuesday to kickstart the reconciliation process. The final vote in the Senate and the House on the reconciled bill is expected later this week.
The US Congress has begun preparing final legislation to give India access to civilian nuclear technology amid concerns that inclusion of sensitive provisions may break the landmark deal.
The House of Representatives and Senate this week will reconcile their bills on the nuclear deal into uniform legislation to be put before the two chambers for approval again and signed into law by President George W. Bush, officials said.
"Work will begin immediately with the intention of completing all action by week's end," Bill Frist, the Republican majority leader in the Senate, said Monday as he appointed five senators from both sides of the political divide to work on the single legislation.
Indian officials have expressed concern that some of the provisions proposed contradicted the spirit of the original agreement first reached between Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July last year.
Under the deal, India, a non-signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), will be given access to civilian nuclear technology in return for placing its atomic reactors under global safeguards.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote last week to leaders of the House and Senate to remove or weaken some of the provisions, including one restricting nuclear technology transferred to India and another seeking New Delhi's support to end Iran's sensitive nuclear program.
But seven House Democratic lawmakers "strongly" insisted that the controversial provisions be included in the final legislation.
"Why in the world would secretary Rice ask that Congress remove all of the provisions which would strengthen nonproliferation, such as requiring India to help the United States prevent Iran from going nuclear?" asked Edward Markey, co-chair of the House Taskforce on Nonproliferation, among the seven.
"It seems as if the administration is trying to remove the fig leaf from this flawed deal," he said.
But Joseph Biden, ranking Democrat in the Senate foreign relations committee, urged India not to be overly concerned.
"There is nothing material in that legislation that should cause the Indians, other than for political reasons, to have any concern about the ratification," he told the Indian-American newspaper India Abroad.
"I would urge my Indian friends to look at how significant the overall support was," he said, referring to the bill's passage in the Senate two weeks ago with an overwhelming bipartisan support of 85 to 12 votes.
The bill also sailed through the House 359-68 in July.
Even if the single legislation is passed this week, as Congress leaders expect, the US legislature will still have to consider a comprehensive US-India agreement incorporating all technical elements of the deal, including a set of international safeguards that India had to adhere to.
The deal also needs the backing of the influential 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Bush and Singh agreed to the deal when Singh paid a visit to Washington in July. They reaffirmed it during the US leader's visit to New Delhi in March.
The agreement was seen as controversial because the US Congress had to create a rare exception for India from some of the requirements of the US Atomic Energy Act, which currently prohibits nuclear sales to non-NPT signatories.
In addition, US weapons experts warned that forging such an agreement with non-NPT member India would not only make it harder to enforce rules against nuclear renegades Iran and North Korea, but also set a dangerous precedent for other countries with nuclear ambitions.
Less than a week after the U.S. Senate hastily cleared the way for generous U.S. nuclear cooperation with India, New Delhi made three announcements that pretty much destroyed the White House’s arguments for proceeding.
First, within hours of the Senate vote, India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh met in New Delhi with Iran’s new foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, and reaffirmed India’s interest in securing massive amounts of natural gas from Iran and upholding a previous Indian strategic cooperation agreement with Tehran.
Second — and with great fanfare — on November 20 Singh and Chinese president Hu Jintao signed a declaration committing their two countries to cooperate on civilian nuclear energy and to expand trade (to a level even higher than between the U.S. and India).
Finally, India’s new foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, announced November 26 that India had no problem with China giving nuclear assistance to Pakistan despite U.S. efforts to block any civil nuclear cooperation with the world’s worst proliferator.
In the U.S., none of these events received much press attention (they all happened after Congress recessed for Thanksgiving). Yet, taken together, they make a hash of the White House’s case for pushing unrestricted U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation. Certainly, offering such cooperation is no longer likely to get New Delhi to hedge against a more muscular China or to wean India away from energy and security ties with Iran. Nor does the administration’s claim that it will strengthen nonproliferation and allow the U.S. to deal with India with far less reference to Pakistan seem very credible.
The American public seems to understand this. In a poll released November 28 by the Chicago Council of Global Affairs, only 24 percent of the public thinks the nuclear deal will strengthen U.S.-Indian security ties, while 71 percent oppose the deal because it suggests to other countries that they can develop nuclear weapons and get away with it.
Senior Bush-administration officials, however, are acting as though these views don’t count. For them, America’s aim must remain the same — to mollify India’s nuclear bureaucracy. They are already instructing Congress to water down or drop whatever restraints it passed in its enabling nuclear cooperation bills.
Doing so, of course, will require Congress to hold its nose. India never signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). It still bars full inspections of its nuclear facilities, broke its pledges not to use earlier U.S. nuclear aid to make bombs, and twice detonated nuclear weapons. India also refuses to stop making nuclear material for bombs (as the first five recognized nuclear-weapons states already have) or to slow its nuclear weapons program down.
Then, there are India’s close security ties with Iran. Back in January of 2003, New Delhi and Tehran signed a strategic cooperation agreement. Joint naval exercises ensued along with Indian naval training of Iranian sailors and the transfer of technology to Iran’s submarine program, India also initiated joint construction of a major Iranian naval facility at Chahbahar (just outside the Strait of Hormuz) and the stationing of Indian intelligence officers at a new Indian consulate sited in Iran adjacent to Pakistan’s rebellious province of Balluchistan. Also, in the last 20 months alone, the U.S. State Department has leveled sanctions against at least seven separate Indian entities that shipped nuclear, chemical weapon and missile related goods to Iran. In each case, the Indian government complained bitterly.
Finally, there is the nonproliferation precedent that the nuclear deal is likely to set. Critics have warned that unless the deal is properly conditioned, it will undermine the very nonproliferation rules Washington is now trying to enforce against Iran (an NPT member that, unlike India, allows full inspection of all of its nuclear facilities). They also wonder how the U.S. can prevent Pakistan and other states (including those in good NPT standing) from demanding similar, lax nuclear inspections as India. Until last week, the standard answer White House officials gave was that the critics’ worries were unfounded, that India was a unique case, and that India’s nonproliferation record was “impeccable.”
At this point, this and arguments that offering generous nuclear cooperation might somehow wean India from Iran and encourage it to act as a counterweight to Beijing seem flaccid or flat-out wrong (a hearing to determine when the State Department first learned of India’s efforts to secure a nuclear agreement with China would certainly prove elucidating).
But watch. Administration officials are more likely to find fault with Congress than with New Delhi. In fact, they are already joining in with Indian officials in objecting to most of the congressionally proposed restrictions on U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation.
These currently include requirements that the White House annually certify that India is backing U.S. sanctions efforts against Iran, that Congress be able to amend the nuclear cooperative agreement that’s finally negotiated with India, that U.S. inspectors assure that U.S. nuclear exports are not diverted or re-exported, and that India have an international nuclear-inspections agreement in force covering its civilian facilities in perpetuity before Congress finalizes U.S. nuclear cooperation. Congress also passed conditions that the U.S. not undermine its own policies against transferring nuclear-fuel-making technology to other nations by providing them to India, that U.S. do its best to persuade nuclear supplier states to suspend nuclear cooperation with India if New Delhi breaks its nuclear- and missile-nonproliferation pledges or its promise not to resume nuclear testing, and that the U.S. Department of Energy establish a cooperative threat-reduction program to help secure and account for Indian nuclear weapons related materials.
All of these provisions are designed to prevent U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation from fanning further proliferation. More important, they will be critical in setting the standard for other states — including Pakistan — that (following India’s explicit welcoming gesture to Chinese-Pakistani nuclear cooperation) are sure to seek similar nuclear treatment from the U.S. and other nuclear suppliers.
This last point is one that China understands. In announcing plans for nuclear assistance to India, President Hu specified that any nuclear cooperation China and India might engage in had to be conducted in a manner “consistent with their respective international commitments” to safeguard “the effectiveness of international non-proliferation principles.” It is now up to Congress to defend those principles. At a minimum, Congress must retain all of the language and conditions for U.S. nuclear cooperation the administration is trying to water down or eliminate. Anything less will only muddy the message that while the U.S. welcomes entering into strategic partnership with India, it will not look the other way if New Delhi cozies up to China, Pakistan, and Iran at America’s expense.
4. Address India`s concerns or no nuke commerce: Kakodkar
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India will not be able to do business in nuclear energy with the US unless American lawmakers take on board its concerns while finalising legislation next week to implement the civil nuclear deal, Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar said on Friday.
"We expect all our concerns to be addressed and unless (the US) rules are modified to take care of our country's interest, the business (in the nuclear sector) between the two countries is not possible," he said.
He was referring to the conference next week of the US Congress at which separate bills on the Indo-US nuclear deals passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate are expected to be taken up for reconciliation.
Washington has given an assurance that New Delhi's concerns would be kept in view while drafting the final legislation.
"The final legislation to be made by the US should be such that it is acceptable to India if business has to be done with them --- as a real cooperation," Kakodkar asserted.
Kakodkar will meet a five-member delegation of the US nuclear industry led by Under Secretary for International Trade Franklin Lavin here on Saturday. The team includes representatives of top nuclear energy firms like general electric and Westinghouse.
"We have to see whether the American businessmen do creditable and reliable business in the nuclear field," he said.
Of the 103 nuclear reactors around the world, only a handful are under the Interational Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) safeguards under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) regime.
Nuclear scientists like former BARC Director A N Prasad have aired their apprehensions over the shape the final legislation will take.
If the US Congress insists on Section 114 and 115 in the bill passed by the Senate, and if India is made to accept them, then "India is cold to America and the nuclear research community will have a gloomy future", they said.
Under Section 115, the Indian nuclear establishment is obliged to enter into "cooperative research" on technologies and practices for non-proliferation with a US agency -- the national nuclear security administration -- that had not figured at all in discussions for the Indo-US nuclear deal.
Section 114 deals with conditional supply of fuel to Indian reactors and seeks to cap the stockpiling of fuel.
New Delhi believes both these provisions are not in conformity with the reciprocal commitments reached between India and the US in the July 18, 2005 agreement and the joint statement issued by President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March this year.
"India's concerns are being taken very seriously by both lobbyists from the nuclear industry and the bush administration," Vijay K Sazawal, Director of Department of energy programmes at Bethesda in Maryland, said here on the sidelines of a day-long meeting of the US nuclear business delegation with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).
"As business communities, even we are involved in pushing the concerns expressed by India to the us lawmakers and we are hopeful that it (the final legislation) will be favourable for both countries," Sazawal said.
Sazawal said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had written two days ago to influential Senator Richard G Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, seeking his support for the deal in the upcoming reconciliation conference while taking into account India's concerns.
US embassy sources also said that "India's concerns are being taken very seriously".
During today's meet, NPCIL presented the highlights of India's nuclear industry, including its "excellent safety record and regulatory mechanism".
US Under Secretary Lavin told the US nuclear businessmen that if America has to do business with India, this tradition of excellence has to be followed and maintained.
Jain told his US counterparts that NPCIL, to facilitate the building of nuclear plants with imported technology, has identified six coastal sites. Each site will house plants producing 6,000 to 10,000 mw of power.
All the sites are expected to get clearance from various regulatory authorities within six months. "These sites are available for the future ambitious programme," Jain said.
The government plans to significantly scale up the generation of power by nuclear plants as part of efforts to meet the country's burgeoning energy needs.
1. NNSA Marks Major Milestone For Tritium Production
National Nuclear Security Administration
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The Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced today that it has started operations at a facility that restores its ability, for the first time in 18 years, to manufacture a key component of the nation's nuclear defense.
The Tritium Extraction Facility (TEF) at the Savannah River Site (SRS) has begun operations and tritium can now be extracted from target rods, ensuring a sustainable supply of tritium for the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile.
"This is a great achievement for NNSA, the Savannah River Site and for the safety, security and reliability of our nuclear stockpile," said Thomas D'Agostino, NNSA deputy administrator for defense programs. "With the start of operations in this facility, all the elements of a tritium production enterprise are now in place."
Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen gas that is an integral component in the nuclear weapons stockpile. It must be replenished in weapons periodically because it has a half-life of only 12.3 years. Many weapons in the stockpile were built during the Cold War-era and NNSA is actively engaged in maintaining, refurbishing and extending the life of the aging weapons, including replacing the tritium gas.
Operators and other workers have been in training for approximately two years to gain proficiency in facility operation and to get hands-on experience using the procedures and equipment. A comprehensive operational readiness review was recently completed to confirm that the facility could be operated safely.
The $506 million TEF follows a $142 million upgrade of an existing SRS facility, called the Tritium Modernization and Consolidation Project. This upgrade allowed for the shut down and deactivation of SRS' original tritium facilities, which operated for almost a half century.
"With the launch of this facility, coupled with the tritium modernization project at SRS, we now have the capability to produce tritium and continue to meet our future stockpile needs. NNSA will be able to satisfy the nation's tritium needs indefinitely," said D'Agostino.
An integral part of department's nuclear weapons industrial complex, the SRS processes and stores nuclear materials in support of the nation's defense and nuclear nonproliferation efforts. The site also develops and deploys technologies to improve the environment and treat nuclear and hazardous wastes left from the Cold War. The SRS complex covers 310 square miles encompassing parts of Aiken, Barnwell and Allendale counties in South Carolina, bordering the Savannah River. The SRS is owned by the Department of Energy and is operated by a team of contractors led by Washington Savannah River Company.
2. Nuclear Weapons Officials Agree to Pursue RRW Strategy
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Senior officials at the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today said they have determined that the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) is feasible as a strategy for sustaining the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile for the long-term without underground nuclear testing.
"The Reliable Replacement Warhead will provide means to ensure the long-term reliability of the stockpile and enable us to establish a safer and more secure nuclear deterrent,” said NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks. “It will give us the tools we need to build on the President’s vision of maintaining the smallest nuclear stockpile that is consistent with national security requirements."
The Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC), a working group of senior officials from the Defense Department and NNSA that oversees nuclear weapons policy, made the decision after reviewing competing designs for a replacement nuclear warhead for the nation’s sea-based nuclear deterrent. They were submitted by the nation’s two nuclear weapons design laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
The NWC launched the competition more than a year ago to determine whether a replacement warhead could enable long-term confidence in the performance of the current stockpile without a return to underground nuclear testing. The program has been authorized by Congress, although no decisions to build or deploy the warhead have been made.
The council is continuing to discuss the two laboratory submissions and has not selected a preferred design. Once the NWC reaches a decision, expected in the next few weeks, the two departments will conduct a study to further define and develop detailed cost estimates for the RRW program. A move to the engineering development and production engineering phase will require congressional approval.
The NWC is chaired by Kenneth Krieg, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. Other members are Ambassador Linton Brooks, undersecretary of energy for nuclear security and administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Admiral Edmund Giambastiani, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Ambassador Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, and General James Cartwright, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command.
The RRW will:
*Assure long-term confidence in the reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile;
*Enhance the security of nuclear weapons, through the use of state of the art technology to prevent unauthorized use by terrorists, rogue nations or criminal organizations;
*Improve the safety of the stockpile, through upgrades such as the use of insensitive high explosives, rather than conventional high explosives;
*Help to develop a more responsive nuclear weapons infrastructure by:
*Using replacement components and assemblies that are easier to manufacture and maintain;
*Exercising critical nuclear weapons design and production skills;
*Enable a reduced stockpile size, by increasing confidence in the infrastructure to produce weapons if and when they are needed; and
*Decrease the likelihood that a nuclear test will be needed to confirm weapon performance.
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 Partnership for Global Security. Partnership for Global Security takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.