Russia's last three plutonium-producing atomic reactors will be shut down by 2010 as part of a $728 million program funded mostly by the United States, the Federal Atomic Energy Agency said Monday.
The announcement came a day before Russia was due to start building a coal-fired power station at Zheleznogorsk, in the Krasnoyarsk region, that will replace the town's plutonium-producing reactor, one of the three.
As part of a drive to stem the proliferation risk from plutonium, a high-grade element easily adapted for military use, the U.S. government has agreed to invest in facilities to replace the energy lost from closing the reactors, the agency said in a statement.
The announcement of the reactors' closure comes nearly nine years after the two countries signed an agreement to halt the production of weapons-grade plutonium worldwide.
"This is a step towards realizing the 1997 agreement," a spokesman for the agency said Monday.
On Tuesday, officials from the Federal Atomic Energy Agency and the U.S. Energy Department are expected to attend a ceremony to mark the start of construction of the $443 million coal-powered plant in Zheleznogorsk.
The rest of the U.S. money, $285 million, will be put toward the expansion of an existing Severskaya coal power station in the Tomsk region by 2008, where the other two plutonium-producing reactors are to be closed down, the agency said.
"There have been a lot of problems and delays with the Krasnoyarsk project because of funding issues, so this is a great event that fits in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership," said nonproliferation expert Rose Gottenmoeller, who heads the Carnegie Moscow Center. The partnership is a U.S. initiative to bring nuclear countries together to cooperate on atomic reactor construction and safety, and irradiated fuel disposal.
Though using uranium as fuel, plutonium reactors produce weapons-grade plutonium that can be used for nuclear arms. One reactor produces 1.2 tons of plutonium per year, Gottenmoeller said.
"For the U.S., this is a good investment" from an energy and safety standpoint, she said.
Under the 1997 agreement, Russia's last three plutonium-producing reactors were supposed to be converted to civilian use by 2000. Russia had already shut down 10 plutonium-producing reactors before 1997.
It was eventually decided that converting the reactors would prove too costly, and that it was better to close them.
Since 1997, the two countries have worked on a number of initiatives to safeguard nuclear fuel, including an agreement to cut plutonium stockpiles by 30 tons each.
"Now it will be important for the Russians to demonstrate that they will take responsibility for such projects, including financial responsibility," Gottenmoeller said. Russia made a step in this direction earlier this year by pledging to spend $2 billion on dismantling its nuclear submarines and destroying chemical weapon stocks, she said.
Despite voting for a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on Iran to halt its nuclear program, Russia continues to assist the rogue state with the development of a laser isotope separation process that uses laser technology to enrich uranium and do so more efficiently than with gas centrifuges. That, at least, is the troubling report from a Russian nuclear engineer in the German newspaper Der Spiegel this week. Iran first tried to obtain the technology from Russia in 1999 or 2000, and in a 2003 letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran admitted it had pursued the technology but claimed that it no longer had such a program.
If accurate, the report reveals a disturbing contradiction between Russia's Security Council vote against the Iranian nuclear program and its secret willingness to aid that country's nuclear ambitions. What this story also highlights is a more obstinate Russian disregard for the West and for the United States in particular that Mr. Putin has used in recent years to fashion a more assertive foreign policy. As we wrote in July as Russian President Vladimir Putin played host at the G-8 meeting in St. Petersburg and, as host, managed to keep specific criticism of Syria and Iran out of a statement on the Middle East crisis Russia was moving in the direction of the odd man out in the club of industrialized democracies. The United States benefits from the best relationship possible with Mr. Putin's energy superpower, but that relationship cannot be founded on false pretenses.
The United States also announced last week that it put in place sanctions on two Russian companies one of which is state-owned for violating the Iran Nonproliferation Act and furnishing Iran with material that could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction. The Russian Foreign Ministry responded in a statement that the sanctions were "unlawful" because Russian companies "act in strict conformity with international law and Russian legislation." The Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted Russian officials who claimed that the sanctions were retribution for the $3 billion arms deal that Mr. Putin reached, over strong U.S. opposition, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. (That Mr. Putin treated Mr. Chavez to a somewhat cooler reception than some of the Venezuelan firebrand's other hosts on his recent tour, which included Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reflects Mr. Putin's low regard for Mr. Chavez's anti-U.S. alliance, not his deference to United States.)
Like Mr. Putin's obstructionism at the G-8 Summit, Russia earlier this week Russia helped the Arab League campaign to weaken the draft resolution on Lebanon at the United Nations. If Iran has not suspended its nuclear program when the Aug. 31 deadline set down by the Security Council is reached, continued Russian unwillingness to impose sanctions would surely undermine the council's resolution. And providing Iran with technology for an advanced uranium enrichment process would undermine U.S. efforts entirely with disastrous effects. Even Mr. Putin should not think that this is a good way to assert his Russo-centric world view.
3. Russia takes back uranium from Polish research reactor
(for personal use only)
Highly-enriched Russian-produced uranium has been successfully removed from Poland to Russia. As an ITAR-TASS correspondent was told by Rosatom [Federal Atomic Energy Agency] today [10 August], "in order to reduce the global nuclear threat, Russia and the USA have repatriated highly-enriched uranium from the Polish research reactor Maria".
Rosatom explained that "the repatriation to the Russian Federation of 40 kg of fresh (nonirradiated) highly-enriched fuel (enriched to 20-80 per cent uranium-235) from the research reactor in the town of Swierk was carried out on 9 August". "The repatriation of the Russian-produced fuel from Poland was carried out with the assistance of the International Atomic Energy Agency in the framework of the implementation of the Bratislava accords between the Russian and US presidents," Rosatom said.
Rosatom noted that "such operations have been conducted for around two years now in accordance with an agreement between the governments of the two countries providing for the removal of highly-enriched nuclear fuel from research reactors built as part of Soviet projects in former socialist countries, Soviet republics and in the Middle East". A total of 228 kg of highly-enriched uranium has already been repatriated to Russia from nine countries, including Libya, Uzbekistan and Latvia, Rosatom explained, noting at the same time that "13 of the 17 countries where research reactors were built in the Soviet period have confirmed their agreement to take part in the programme".
The fuel returned to Russia is processed and used as fuel for atomic power stations and is partly returned to research reactors, but in the form of low-enriched fuel - up to 20 per cent. Some of the research reactors from which the nuclear fuel is being removed will be shut down.
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, irradiated nuclear assemblies were only removed from a research reactor in Iraq. Before the Russian-American agreement, signed in 2004, came into force, there were around 30,000 irradiated assemblies at such reactors, around 14,000 of them with highly-enriched uranium.
Rosatom also noted that "under this agreement the American side is also carrying out the removal of highly-enriched fuel from research reactors built by the USA in various countries".
The Russian company Tekhsnabeksport intends before 2012-2013 to complete the removal to Russia of highly-enriched spent nuclear fuel from 20 research reactors built by the USSR in 17 countries.
Ethiopia has ratified an international United Nations treaty that bans explosive testing of nuclear weapons, bringing the total number of ratifications to 135, an official statement said Saturday.
The impoverished country became the 33rd African nation to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) on Tuesday, the Vienna-based preparatory commission for the nuclear treaty organisation said in a statement received here.
Ethiopia hosts two International Monitoring System (IMS) facilities -- an auxiliary seismic station at Furi and a radionuclide station at Filtu -- which are part of a global network of 337 IMS monitoring facilities that are being established under CTBT terms to verify compliance with the terms of the treaty, it added.
The two facilities in Ethiopia transmit data via satellite to the International Data Centre (IDC) in Vienna, where the data are used to detect, locate and characterize events. Final data is made available to the state signatories for final analysis, the statement said.
The treaty will take effect once all 44 countries that participated at the 1996 disarmament conference and also possess nuclear power or reactors when the treaty was adopted, ratify the document.
The CTBT is a major pillar of the international push for non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the pursuit of nuclear disarmament. In addition, it bans nuclear weapon test explosions and pushes for the development and improvement of nuclear weapons and an end to the development of advanced new types of these weapons.
1. Cartwright: U.S., Russia mulling security options amid spread in arms
Elaine M. Grossman
Inside the Air Force
(for personal use only)
The U.S. commander of strategic forces, Gen. James Cartwright, says he explored in meetings this spring with Russian military counterparts finding new ways to bolster security amid increasing arms proliferation worldwide.
In an interview, he noted the most likely threats may come from adversaries that lack the traditional military apparatus of the former Cold War rivals, but nonetheless wield potentially great power with a small number of short- or medium-range missiles. The danger may be particularly grave if a terrorist or rogue nation can arm such missiles with nuclear warheads or other highly destructive weapons.
During an early April visit to Moscow and three other locations, the Marine Corps general discussed with Russian brass the need for a "construct that makes sense for us . . . in a world where these missiles are proliferating," he told sister publication Inside the Pentagon in a July 27 interview. "If a nation also develops a weapon of mass destruction . . . warning times and [other confidence measures] we used during the Cold War start to not be a good metric for the world that we're going to live in."
In that evolving global environment, "where somebody can just roll out a short- or medium-range missile, fire it off and then hide very quickly, it's going to be tough," Cartwright said. "So how do we start to deal with that?"
The Russians "don't have an answer," he said. "We don't have an answer yet. But it is a dialogue that we certainly believe is an important one to enter into."
Cartwright raised the issue in the context of U.S. plans to build a "prompt global strike" weapon that would allow the Pentagon to strike any target around the globe with a conventional weapon within one hour of an order to launch. Russian leaders told the American commander they have qualms about Navy plans to begin fielding by 2009 a new version of the Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile that would substitute a conventional warhead for the traditional nuclear front end, according to some officials.
Both variants of the D-5 missile would ride aboard the same subs, leaving some U.S. lawmakers and defense experts concerned, as well, about ambiguous launches that could potentially trigger an unwanted Russian response.
In discussions with more than a dozen senior Russian military officers, including Chief of the General Staff Gen. Yuriy Nokolayevich Baluevskiy and Space Forces Commander Gen.-Col. Vladimir Aleksandrovich Popovkin, Cartwright explored new ways in which national intent might be made more transparent, the U.S. commander said. Options might include ballistic missile inspections, notification of test or operational launches, or other confidence-building measures.
In a notification procedure while using a conventionally armed Trident missile, "we would say to them, 'Gee, we're going to launch something out of the southern Pacific,' as an example," Cartwright said, ITP reported on Aug. 3. "If they saw a launch coming from the southern Pacific, that's not a guarantee of our intent. But at least they can start to match up, 'OK, they told us to look here. Something happened in that spot. They told us it would look something like this. It does.' So you start to build a confidence that the intent is as advertised."
At least one lawmaker on Capitol Hill was not as sanguine about how Cartwright's talks in Russia played out, particularly with regard to the proposed Trident modification.
"Gen. Baluevskiy said this could be a costly move which not only won't guarantee [al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's] destruction but could provide an irreversible response from a nuclear-armed state which can't determine what warhead is fitted on the missile," Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) said in an Aug. 3 floor speech (see related story).
But Cartwright portrayed other potential missile threats facing Russia as militarily more significant than any concerns about the notional Conventional Trident Modification.
"Russia's got to worry about ballistic missiles from Korea, China, India -- I mean, all of these countries that are proliferating these missiles, either in adding them to their inventory or in their ability to develop them and sell them to other nations," said the U.S. Strategic Command head. Nations in close proximity to one another face "really a bigger problem" because they "have even shorter [missile flight] time lines to react against," he said.
During the Cold War, the relatively ample warning time of long-range missiles offered more room for diplomacy to occur before resorting to force.
"Once you encroached on warning time, a country could . . . say, 'Oop -- you're getting into my comfort zone. Let's have a dialogue. Let's talk about it. We can posture but we don't have to shoot right away,'" Cartwright said. "And so you have more options, the more time you have."
For the future, "we can't just wish away short- and medium-range and long-range ballistic missiles," he continued. "They're here. They're proliferating. So how do we start to deal with that environment?"
The United States has begun to construct a global missile defense system that could intercept enemy ballistic missiles before they reach U.S. soil.
"But again, that's just for certain threats. It's not for the whole world," Cartwright observed. "Countries that live in the range of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles have got to think their way through . . . the right balance between the defensive capabilities and the offensive capabilities."
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun urged North Korea on Tuesday to return to stalled talks on its nuclear weapons program and said Seoul was ready to provide assistance to the communist nation to achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
"North Korea should return to the six-way talks without conditions," Roh said in speech marking the 61st anniversary of the peninsula's liberation from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule.
Roh also pledged that Seoul "will spare no efforts and assistance to ensure that North Korea abandons its nuclear (weapons program), improves relations with major countries, including the U.S., and moves toward the path of peace and prosperity."
He did not give further details on what assistance the South would offer, although the country previously has said it would ship energy aid to the North if it abandons its nuclear program.
Roh also said the United States could "take a leading role in helping turn Northeast Asia into a community of peace and prosperity" by helping to settle the nuclear dispute. He didn't elaborate.
The nuclear talks were last held in November, when negotiators made no progress toward implementing a September agreement in which the North agreed to give up its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
North Korea has refused to return to the negotiations until Washington lifts financial restrictions it imposed on the communist nation for alleged illegal activity such as counterfeiting.
The United States says the North should return to the talks without conditions, saying the issue is unrelated to the nuclear standoff.
Roh called for tolerance and patience toward North Korea to promote economic reform in the impoverished communist state.
In 2002, the isolated regime introduced limited reforms in an apparent attempt to revitalize its moribund economy. However, North Korea's economy is still in shambles following natural disasters and mismanagement in the mid-1990s, provoking a famine that killed an estimated 2 million people.
2. Breaking Kim jong-il's myths key to deterring N. Korea: U. S. psychology expert
Yonhap News Agency
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Breaking North Koreans' deep myths about their top leader Kim Jong-il and making him understand that he personally stands to gain from listening to the international community are the likely keys to curbing the danger posed by the closed, communist regime, a former U. S. intelligence analyst said Sunday.
Dr. Jerrold Post, professor of political psychology and international affairs at George Washington University, said Pyongyang's missile launches last month were motivated by "defensive aggression."
"I believe that both the development of nuclear capability and the threat of the long-range missile represent his attempts to have a way of deterring what he sees as threats from the West," Post told Yonhap in a telephone interview.
He had been with the Central Intelligence Agency for 21 years where he founded and directed the Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior, a behavioral science unit providing assessments of foreign leaderships and decision-making for the U. S. president and officials.
He authored "Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World" which includes an extensive section on Kim Jong-il, in which Kim is partly described as a micromanager preoccupied with minute details and as a narcissist who lacks empathy for the sufferings of his own people and understanding of whom he sees as adversaries, such as the U. S.
The book talks about a serious gap between the myth and the reality of Kim Jong-il.
Ironically, there is a clearer image of Kim Jong-il in the West than there is within North Korea, Post pointed out, due largely to propagandistic and systematic deification of the leader.
He keeps calling for sacrifice by the people in Pyongyang's struggle against enemies, "and yet while he is calling for sacrifice, the country is starving, and as the country is starving, he's persistently living a very hedonistic lifestyle," he said.
"I think it's useful to have the support in this very quite closed information space for there to be really an effective education of the North Korean peasants as to who their leader really is," said Post.
With the awareness of what Kim is about, the North Koreans may be able to become attentive to their genuine needs and less attentive to brandishing powerful military force, he said.
To resolve the nuclear and weapons of mass destruction issues, the United States and its allies need to address what is of central importance to Kim Jong-il and what his self-interests are, he argued.
"He very much wishes to remain in power and be freed of anxiety of a threat against his regime," he said, "And all that speaks to the requirements to having a clear understanding of Kim Jong-il and what makes him tick."
The key, then, is to make Kim personally understand that continuing his saber-rattling with weapons is destructive, and that there will be economic and security gains by truly engaging in negotiations, according to the professor.
"The security guarantee would be extremely important in reducing North Korean anxiety," he said.
Pyongyang test-fired seven ballistic missiles on July 4 (Washington time), defying international calls for self-restraint amid efforts to revive six-nation talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons program.
South and North Korea, the U. S., China, Russia and Japan are the participants in the talks that last met in November. North Korea had agreed in a joint statement in September to give up its nuclear weapons and programs in return for political and economic incentives from other parties.
In his book, Post said the only diplomatic stance that will deter Kim is one based on his self-interest.
"He will regularly be calculating, 'What's in it for me and my senior leaders? What can we get away with?" he wrote.
Post emphasized that there has to be both carrots and sticks in dealing with North Korea, and at present, there are "preciously few carrots" being offered.
"That means not only strong clear negative consequences but strong clear positive consequences so that behaviors violating international norms should beget clear negative consequences, but by the same token, behaviors of desired directions need to be affirmed and rewarded," Post told Yonhap.
He warned against a generalized approach to leaders like Kim Jong-il, stressing that each leadership and its strategic culture varies from country to country.
"So part of what I would argue for is the importance of understanding each country in its own historical, political and cultural context," he said.
"There is no one-size-fits-all for deterring rogue states. What deters North Korea will be different from what deters Iran," Post said.
Vietnamese authorities are searching for a lost container of dangerous radioactive powder, officials and reports said Tuesday, two months after a similar incident in the communist nation.
A team from the Vietnamese Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety and Control is hunting for the box, which weighs up to 7 kilograms (15.4 pounds) and contains Cesium-137, a radioactive isotope, the agency's director Ngo Dang Nhan said.
"The radioactive substance is inside a tightly closed metal box, so it could not leak onto the environment. But there is still a certain danger," he told AFP.
The box, which was provided by the then-Soviet Union in 1990, was found to be missing last Tuesday after the Song Da cement company in northern Hoa Binh province suspended a production line for maintenance, Tien Phong newspaper said.
The plant's management only informed authorities of the loss on Monday, following an anonymous letter to the state-owned newspaper, it said.
Cesium-137, which can be used in cement production, is chemically similar to potassium. When absorbed into the body, it spreads throughout the muscles.
In June a box containing radioactive powder went missing from an atomic institute in Hanoi and was later discovered in a densely populated area of the city.
The box was only found after a woman opened it to salvage the metal casings. No one was affected in that case.
"People sometimes steal boxes to salvage the metal casings. Most of them have low educational understanding," Nhan said.
After the first incident Vietnam called for tighter security for radioactive material.
Hundreds of facilities using and researching radioactive substances, many of which are health care establishments, operate in Vietnam, which hopes to have its first nuclear power plant up and running by 2020.
2. Revealed: nuclear security rules broken 39 times in past year
The Sunday Herald
(for personal use only)
THE British nuclear industry has reported 39 lapses in security against terrorism in the past year, including laptop thefts, internet misuse, a power cut and lightning strikes.
The failings are revealed in a report from the Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS), the government watchdog responsible for ensuring nuclear power stations and radioactive waste facilities are protected from terrorist attacks.
The revelations have disturbed experts and environmentalists, who are calling for security to be tightened. The OCNS has itself warned of "complacency" on leaks of sensitive nuclear information.
According to the OCNS report, eight breaches in information security were reported in the year to March 31. They included "the theft of laptops from parked vehicles" and "inappropriate transmission of restricted information over the internet", the report said.
"Assessments suggest that no major damage had occurred, but the fact that they continue to happen reinforces the enduring need to combat complacency.
The information security inspector continues to work closely with security managers within the industry to raise the standard of personal security awareness."
OCNS also expressed concern about "additional security challenges" posed by the growing use of wireless computer networks and portable e-mail devices like the Blackberry. "OCNS has devoted considerable effort working with the industry and central security authorities to minimise the security risks, " it said.
Nuclear plant operators reported a further 26 breaches of site security to OCNS last year. They included "a failure of mains power at a control room", "lightning causing alarm faults" and "spoil being placed too close to a perimeter fence".
Five security lapses in nuclear transports were reported, though they were described as "minor". In total, OCNS oversaw 2100 movements of nuclear materials during the year.
Overall, OCNS director Roger Brunt nevertheless concluded that civil nuclear security was satisfactory. "I am satisfied that the security of nuclear material has not been prejudiced, " he said.
But this hasn't reassured everyone.
"As the threat from terrorism continues to grow, these incidents are disturbing, " said Friends of the Earth Scotland's chief executive, Duncan McLaren.
"They may appear trivial to some, but if they are not acted upon the nuclear industry is literally leaving the door open for those who might wish to deliberately do mischief, or worse."
Pete Roche, a nuclear consultant based in Edinburgh, questioned whether "dangerous nuclear technology" was compatible with an open and democratic society. "Isn't it time we stopped exacerbating the problems we have already created for ourselves by planning even more reactors and potential terrorist targets?" he said.
The risks of nuclear terrorism have also been highlighted in a new study on the security of industrial radioactive sources in Iran. More than 80 sources of material capable of being made into "dirty bombs" were discovered to be outwith regulatory control or vulnerable to theft.
Outside hospitals and the nuclear industry, radiation is used in some 500 factories and universities across Iran to measure and test materials. Scientists from the Iranian Nuclear Regulatory Authority sampled 48 of them to check how well the sources were looked after.
Inthe latest issue of Radiation Protection Dosimetry, the researchers reported 39 lost or abandoned sources at five sites. They said a further 49 radioactive sources were vulnerable to theft or damage.
According to Dr Frank Barnaby, a nuclear security consultant with the Oxford Research Group, there was a real risk of radioactive sources being stolen and combined with conventional explosives to make a "dirty bomb".
"It's absolutely amazing that this hasn't been done already, " he told the Sunday Herald. "I'm surprised that those who plotted the latest airline attack didn't go for dirty bombs. It would have been easier for them to get away with."
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is fining Florida Power and Light for security lapses at its New Hampshire Seabrook Station nuclear power plant.
The NRC is proposing a $65,000 fine.
Service Employees International Union reported Aug. 9 that Florida Power and Light, which owns and operates Seabrook, subcontracts security at the facility to the Wackenhut Corporation, a subsidiary of London's Group 4 Securicor.
Wackenhut is the U.S. government's largest contractor for private guards. Wackenhut currently has multi-million dollar contracts with a number of federal agencies, including the Department of Energy.
Wackenhut security personnel guard nearly half the nation's commercial nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons sites, where there have +been numerous security problems reported.
The NRC fine was issued for Florida Power and Light failing to "maintain complete and accurate records of test results."
The Department of Homeland Security recently terminated Wackenhut's $9.6 million annual contract to protect its Washington headquarters.
Service Employees International Union Director of Property Services Stephen Lerner said, "Wackenhut has again demonstrated an inability to play by the rules and provide adequate security. Until the NRC takes action against this irresponsible contractor, the public can have little confidence that our nation's nuclear facilities are safe and secure."
1. Look beyond UN Security Council to end Iranian nuclear dispute: Indonesia
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Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim state, urged the international community to look beyond the UN Security Council to end the Iranian nuclear crisis, amid a looming deadline for Tehran to suspend all uranium enrichment activities.
"When it comes to the dealing of this issue at the global level by the United Nations, we believe that there is still room for negotiations beyond the Security Council," Indonesia's envoy to Washington Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat told reporters on Tuesday.
All parties, he said, should pursue "constructive dialogue to find an acceptable solution which addresses, on the one hand, the concern regarding possible development of nuclear weapons by Iran and, on the other hand, the rights of Iran to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."
Speaking at a forum organized by the National Press Club, Parnohadiningrat said that it was pertinent that venues for dialogue remain open to end the nuclear crisis, which had kept energy markets on tenterhooks.
The Security Council on July 31 adopted a resolution requiring Iran, the world's fourth largest crude oil producer, to suspend all activities related to uranium enrichment by August 31 or risk possible sanctions.
It follows a July 12 agreement to refer Iran to the council for failing to respond to a package of energy, commercial and technological incentives to suspend enrichment. Iran has said it will respond to this package by August 22.
Western powers, led by the United States, suspect Iran could be trying to build nuclear weapons, charges denied by Tehran which says its atomic program is for peaceful purposes.
"Of course by the end of this month, we will see" how the world handles the crisis, Parnohadiningrat said.
At least until this stage, Indonesia believes there is scope for a peaceful settlement of the issue beyond the Security Council, the envoy said, adding, however, "I do not know whether a week later, things can change."
A defiant Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated in a speech Tuesday that Tehran would not be cowed into giving up its nuclear program.
Indonesia has emphasized the need for Iran to abide by all of the provisions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the global nuclear watchdog, Parnohadiningrat said.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told Ahmadinejad at a meeting in May that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Jakarta would abide by it "both in letter and spirit" and hoped other parties would do the same, the envoy said.
Parnohadiningrat also said that Indonesia was aware of the growing global problem of controlling the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
"The dire possibility of these weapons, particularly nuclear weapons, being acquired and deployed by non-state actors is a serious concern to us all," he said.
But, he added, no nation was capable of effectively dealing with the complex issue unilaterally.
2. Iran's Ahmadinejad rejects UN nuclear resolution
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Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday rejected a UN Security Council resolution that demands Tehran halt sensitive nuclear work, saying the Iranian people did not accept the "language of force".
"If they think they can use a resolution as a stick against us, they should know that Iranian people do not bend to language of force," Ahmadinejad told a vast crowd in the northwest province of Ardebil.
The UN Security Council on July 31 adopted a resolution requiring Iran to suspend all activities related to uranium enrichment by August 31 or risk possible sanctions.
Ahmadinejad said he had received a telephone call from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan advising him to respond to an international offer aimed at ending the standoff.
"In return, I told him that we are willing to resolve the problem through negotiations... but by this resolution, we have lost our confidence in them," Ahmadinejad said in a speech carried live on state television.
3. Iran leader says US and Europe face backlash from supporting Israel
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Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the United States of "blindly supporting" Israel against Hezbollah and President George W. Bush of seeking to "solve everything with bombs", in a television interview broadcast Sunday.
Ahmadinejad again denied seeking a nuclear bomb, questioned the US military presence in Iraq and gave the US network CBS an evasive answer when questioned about an alleged unit of suicide bombers in Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
Commenting on the Israeli-Hezbollah war, the conservative leader said US support for Israel "threatens the future of all peoples, including the American and European peoples.
"So we are asking, why the American government is blindly supporting this murderous regime."
Ahmadinejad has in the past said Israel should be wiped off the map and denied the existence of the Holocaust.
In this interview, he said through a translator that Israel is "a fabricated government" because he said it had been forced upon the Middle East after the Holocaust.
The US administration, Israel's main ally, has repeatedly accused Iran and Syria of giving military and financial support to Hezbollah.
But in the interview, recorded last Tuesday before the UN Security Council ordered a cessation of hostilities, Ahmadinejad said: "Hezbollah is a popular organisation in Lebanon. And they are defending their land."
CBS released excerpts from the interview earlier last week and the full transcript on Sunday.
Ahmadinejad again denied that Iran sought a nuclear bomb but insisted that the United States and its allies would not stop Tehran's nuclear research.
"If Mr Bush thinks that he can stop our progress I have to say that he will be unable to do that."
The UN Security Council passed a resolution on July 31 which gave Iran one month to comply with demands to freeze its uranium enrichment. After that the Security Council could consider sanctions.
Ahmadinejad said Bush and his supporters "want to monopolize energy resources in the world. Because once they have that, they can impose their opinions, points of view, policies on other nations and, of course, line their own pockets."
He added: "Basically we are not looking for-working for the bomb. The problem that President Bush has, is in his mind he wants to solve everything with bombs. The time of the bomb is in the past. It's behind us. Today is the era of thoughts, dialogue, and cultural exchanges."
Ahmadinejad said he was "saddened" that so many people have been killed in Iraq's spiralling unrest but that the United States was to blame because of its failure to assure security despite its huge military presence.
In December the US president called Ahmadinejad an "odd guy". This time the Iranian president took the offensive, criticising Bush for not responding to an 18 page letter sent in June.
"I think that Mr. Bush can be in the service of his own people. He can save the American economy without killing people, without occupation, without threats."
He added: "Those who refuse to accept an invitation to good will not have a good ending or fate."
"His approval rating is dropping every day. Hatred vis-a-vis the president is increasing every day around the world. For a ruler, this is the worst message that he could receive.
"Rulers and heads of government at the end of their office must leave office holding their heads high," Ahmadinejad declared.
Asked if he wanted normal relations with the United States, the Iranian president said the United States would have to change.
"Please look at the makeup of the American administration, the behavior of the American administration. See how they talk down to my nation."
He added: "it is very clear to me they have to change their behaviour and everything will be resolved."
CBS interviewer Mike Wallace asked Ahmadinejad about an alleged special unit of suicide bombers in Iran's revolutionary guard that would be activated if the United States attacked.
"So are you expecting the Americans to threaten us and we sit idly by and watch them with our hands tied," the president replied.
"I do hope that the Americans will give up this practice of threatening other nations so that you are not forced me to ask such questions."
4. Yemen supports Iran's right to peaceful nuclear programme
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President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Yemen supports Iran's right to enrich uranium for "peaceful purposes", the official news agency Saba reported Saturday.
"Iran and any other Islamic state has the right to own nuclear energy to use for peaceful purposes," Saba quoted Saleh as saying in talks with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Sanaa.
On Thursday, Iran again rejected an end-of-the-month UN Security Council deadline to suspend sensitive nuclear fuel work, saying it would not accept "illegal international obligations".
The Security Council has given Iran until August 31 to halt uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities or face possible sanctions.
The resolution was passed after Tehran ignored a previous non-binding deadline and failed to respond to an international offer of incentives in exchange for a moratorium on nuclear fuel work.
Iran has repeatedly insisted its nuclear programme is for civil purposes only, despite Western concerns that it may be a cover for developing nuclear weapons.
Mottaki also delivered a letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Saleh on "developments in the region, mainly the Israeli aggression on the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples", Saba said.
Iran slammed Friday's unanimous UN Security Council resolution aimed at ending the month-long conflict between Israel and Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah as biased and serving only interests of the Jewish state.
Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed the June 2005 election of the staunchly anti-American Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran. Ahmadinejad, though, has proven to be a difficult partner for Putin -- especially regarding the Iranian nuclear issue.
At the end of Sept. 2005, Putin and Ahmadinejad (who had just taken office the previous month) met in New York where they both had come to attend the annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly. According to a Russian press account, the meeting did not go well: Putin "tried to persuade him to back away from the radical position he has now taken. The Iranian leader proved extremely intransigent and bluntly told his Russian counterpart that Tehran would not make any concessions or curtail its nuclear program... That no doubt displeased Vladimir Putin, because an Iran that possesses nuclear weapons is just as unacceptable to Moscow as it is to Washington."
The following month, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Putin in Moscow to urge him to join the United States in voting at the International Atomic Energy Agency governing board meeting in November to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council. The Russians, however, insisted that this was not necessary. Moscow then renewed its initiative to resolve the crisis by proposing that Russia enrich uranium for Iran. To make the idea more palatable, Moscow proposed that this be done by a joint Russian-Iranian venture in Russia. But while the United States and the EU-3 were willing to go along with this proposal, Tehran made it clear that it preferred to enrich uranium in Iran.
The Putin administration genuinely appears to have believed that it was offering a solution to the crisis. Moscow, then, felt let down by Tehran's lack of cooperation, especially after Russia had done a number of things for Tehran, including: the launch of a remote-sensing (i.e., spy) satellite for it in Oct. 2005, and the signing in November 2005 of a $1 billion contract to sell Iran 29 Tor M-1 SAM air defense systems along with Pechora-2A SAM systems. Losing patience with Tehran, Moscow let it be known in Jan. 2006 that it might join the United States and others on the IAEA governing board in referring the Iranian nuclear dossier to the U.N. Security Council. Tehran responded by sending Iranian National Security Council Chief Ali Larijani to Moscow shortly before the IAEA vote with the message that Iran now took a more positive view of Moscow's proposal for a Russian-Iranian joint venture to enrich uranium for Iran in Russia, but still insisted that the proposal had to be "refined."
On Feb. 4, Russia joined with most other members of the IAEA governing board in voting to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council. The Iranian press denounced Moscow for its "betrayal." President Ahmadinejad responded by announcing Iran's withdrawal from the IAEA Additional Protocol, which allowed surprise inspections by IAEA officials of facilities in signatory countries. A few days later, the Iranian foreign minister declared Tehran's willingness to continue talks with Moscow about its proposed joint venture to enrich uranium, but only if part of the joint venture would be located in Iran. Moscow pointed out that this condition would be unacceptable to the United States and EU-3, but Tehran held firm to it. On Feb. 26, 2006, Tehran announced that Iran had agreed to a Russian-Iranian joint venture to enrich uranium in Russia, but on March 12, Tehran said this proposal was not on. One Russian press account saw this move as retaliation for Moscow adopting a position on Iran similar to that of the EU-3 and the United States.
Russia's position, though, was not the same as theirs. Russian officials have repeatedly indicated that Moscow will not support a Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Iran, thus portraying itself as Tehran's protector. In addition, Russia (along with China) has expressed opposition even to the imposition of economic sanctions against Iran by the Security Council. Although Moscow responded negatively to Ahmadinejad's April 2006 claim that Iran had "joined the nuclear club" through enriching uranium to power plant level, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was insistent that the Iranian nuclear problem could not be resolved through the use of force.
On the other hand, there was recognition in Moscow that the United States might undertake unilateral military action against Iran. Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, chief of the general staff of the Russian Armed Forces said that, "in the event of such a conflict, Russia would maintain neutrality." This would be consistent with Russian behavior with regard to other U.S.-led military interventions Moscow disapproved of, such as in Kosovo and Iraq.
On June 6, the five permanent members of the Security Council, along with Germany, presented Iran with a series of proposals aimed at inducing it to renounce enriching uranium on its own territory. Ali Larijani later noted that they contain "some positive points" and Ahmadinejad called them "a step forward." But much to the frustration of the international community, Iran has refused to respond to them until the end of Aug. 2006. The United States and the EU-3 want a Security Council resolution that at least imposes economic sanctions on Iran if it does not accept the June 6 proposals, but Russia and China have balked even at this.
Moscow sought to allay criticism from America and the EU-3 for its softer approach toward Iran by indicating that it could still help resolve the crisis diplomatically. Indeed, Putin himself expressed optimism about this after his meeting with Ahmadinejad at the June 2006 Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, held in Shanghai.
By July 2006, however, Moscow seemed to become disillusioned by Ahmadinejad's delay in responding to the June 6 proposals for resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. Indeed, Lavrov said that this "absence of a positive reaction from Iran... runs counter to what President Ahmadinejad told the president of Russia a month ago." But Lavrov again ruled out Security Council support for the use of force against Iran. He did, however, suggest that Russia might support economic sanctions. But then Moscow backed away from this.
Russia voted in favor of U.N. Resolution 1696 (which passed by a 14-1 vote on July 31, 2006) that called upon Iran to verifiably suspend all nuclear enrichment activities by Aug. 31, 2006 or to face further Security Council measures. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said, however, that what Moscow liked about the resolution was that it did not "carry the automatic threat of sanctions," either military or economic. Yet despite the Russian Foreign Ministry urging Iran to accept Resolution 1696, Iran rejected it. But Larijani said Iran "will continue developing relations with Russia and China, despite their supporting" the passage of this resolution.
Putin apparently continues to believe that his proposal to enrich uranium for Iran in Russia offers a way out of the crisis that would benefit Iran, America, the EU-3, and of course, Russia. He is frustrated that Ahmadinejad has not accepted this proposal, especially after America and the EU-3 have, at least in principal. He may hope that if the crisis gets worse, Ahmadinejad might accept it as a way of avoiding conflict with the United States. Ahmadinejad, however, has so far exhibited no serious interest in Putin's proposal.
1. India said "ready" to help Zambia develop nuclear policy
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Text of report by Mwila Nkonge entitled "India ready to help explore uranium deposits -Wallang" published by Zambian newspaper The Post website on 15 August
India is ready to help Zambia develop a nuclear policy, India's High Commissioner to Zambia River Wallang has said.
And High Commissioner Wallang has revealed that Tata Zambia's proposed vehicle assembly plant in Ndola is likely to open next month.
He also disclosed that some Indian investors had shown willingness to enter the Zambian sugar industry. In an interview ahead of India's 59th Independence Anniversary which falls today, High Commissioner Wallang assured that provided all things were equal, his country would help Zambia regarding the exploitation of her uranium deposits. He said as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), India was ready to help Zambia within the agency's framework.
"The Indian nuclear technology, research and development started way back in 1946. Since the 1970s, India has been building nuclear power plants through its own technology and scientists. India is one of the few countries in the world that has the capacity and ability to master the entire nuclear cycle from fuel (uranium, plutonium, thorium) enrichment to fabricating all the thousands of specialized components that go into a nuclear plant. India also extensively uses nuclear sciences in agriculture, health and other sectors," High Commissioner Wallang said.
"India is a major member of the IAEA and makes valuable contributions in terms of export and expertise to that world body. I have seen reports about possible presence of uranium in Zambia and I am sure that through the IAEA, India could help Zambia exploit her wealth. India can also offer training to Zambians in nuclear sciences, should the need arise."
On Indian investments in Zambia, he said beside Vedanta Resources' investment in Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), there are others in precious stone mining, most of whom he hailed as deeply committed to Zambia. "New investments may also come in the sugar industry. Now, you mentioned Tata and as you know, Tata has been in Zambia for decades now. They have stuck with Zambia through good times and bad times and they are already present in the hospitality sector," High Commissioner Wallang said.
"Now they are finalizing to open their vehicle assembly plant in Ndola, perhaps by September. We see a great future for this plant and its products that can meet the needs of not only Zambia but also neighbouring countries. You should note that Tata is the only company in India that is indigenously designing and manufacturing vehicles in India. Therefore, Tata are the best people to help Zambia to also think in terms of producing locally designed and manufactured products."
High Commissioner Wallang added that while some Indian information and communications technology (ICT) companies were interested to partner with local institutions, delays in facilitating these partnerships are allowing exploitative investors to fleece the country.
"I feel Zambia is wasting time by not understanding what these institutions could do for the youth of the country. I have seen some foreign institutes in Zambia who charge very high fees but in comparison, the fees of the Indian institutions would be much more affordable to students here and the standard would be world class," said High Commissioner Wallang.
2. Indian nuclear scientists speak out against nuclear deal with U.S.
Ramola Talwar Badam
(for personal use only)
A group of Indian nuclear scientists voiced concern Monday that changes suggested by the U.S. House of Representatives to a landmark civilian nuclear deal would hamper India's national defense and hinder its research program.
In an open letter to Indian parliamentarians, eight senior scientists including three former chairmen of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission said it was critical that "decisions taken today do not inhibit our future ability to develop and pursue nuclear technologies for the benefit of the nation." A copy of the letter was made available to The Associated Press.
The scientists described the agreement signed last year by U.S. President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as historic and said the "basic principles for cooperation were well laid out." However, they said, the agreement was modified by U.S. lawmakers with the insertion of new clauses last month.
"If the U.S. Congress, in its wisdom, passes the bill in its present form, the 'product' will become unacceptable to India," the scientists said.
U.S. officials have said the "goal posts have not been moved" since the time Bush and Singh signed their pact.
The U.S. House of Representatives last month approved the deal that would allow U.S. agencies and companies to sell India nuclear fuel and technology. In return, India would have to strengthen nuclear safeguards, allow international inspections of its civilian facilities, and separate its civilian and military nuclear programs.
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote next month on the plan, which reverses years of U.S. policy. The Senate vote will be followed by several other legislative and diplomatic steps before the treaty can be enforced.
It was the first time prominent Indian nuclear scientists have come together and publicly spoken out against the nuclear deal. They have urged Indian lawmakers to debate and discuss the new clauses recommended by the U.S. House of Representatives.
"The situation is such that we must speak up. We cannot mortgage India's national interest and should not agree to things like a perpetual ban on testing," P.K. Iyengar, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, told The Associated Press. "We are binding our future and that has never been done before."
The letter says the current deal "infringes on our independence for carrying out indigenous research and development in nuclear science and technology ... Research and technology development are the sovereign rights of any nation. This is especially true when they concern strategic national defense and energy self-sufficiency."
Last month, Indian Prime Minister Singh assured opposition parties that India would step back from the deal if the terms were altered from the original agreement.
1. Israel doesn't regard Pak's N-weapons a threat: Peres
The Press Trust of India
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Israel has said it is apprehensive of Iran's nuclear programme and does not regard Pakistan's nuclear weapons as a threat.
Islamabad's nuclear programme was not a problem, but the issue was how responsible the Pakistani government was, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said in an interview to local ARY television.
On the Iran nuclear issue, Peres said the Tehran government was "irresponsible" and its nuclear programme a "threat" to Israel.
"Differences with Pakistan are not on religion, but on responsibility. Everything will be satisfactory if Pakistan has a responsible government," he said.
Peres also said Pakistan and Israel could have normal diplomatic relations and that Jerusalem had never refused a dialogue with Islamabad.
"Israel doesn't have any conflict with Pakistan and I don't think Israel and Pakistan will ever indulge in a conflict...We want friendship with everyone. It is up to Pakistan to decide if it wants diplomatic relations with Israel," he said.
Pakistan has not yet recognised Israel and has no diplomatic relations with that country.
The Israeli Minister also expressed the hope that the Indo-Pak peace process will succeed.
Peres accused Hezbollah of being responsible for the ongoing conflict in Middle East and said Israel wanted a political solution to the problem.
THE appeal of nuclear energy is growing in Africa, but scientists maintain that the continent is not yet ready to handle this technology and is better off maximising the benefits related to the safe and effective use of nuclear and related techniques.
A delegation from the Africa Regional Co-operative Agreement for Research Development and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA) was in Zimbabwe last week to enlighten decision-makers and local scientists about the benefits of nuclear technologies in socio-economic development.
The delegation included Dr Messaoud Baaliouamer, the AFRA vice chairperson and official of the Atomic Energy Commission of Algeria and Prof Laila Fikri Fouad, the vice chairperson of the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority and member of the AFRA field management committee.
Dr Baaliouamer and Prof. Fikri gave an overview of the background, objectives and programmes that AFRA was already involved in, throughout the African continent in promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technologies.
One major fact that emerged from the seminar that ran under the theme: "Harnessing Nuclear Science and Technology for National Development," was the huge opportunities that AFRA exposed for Zimbabwe's scientific institutions to tap, in addition to other International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) programmes.
For instance, under the AFRA programme for human health, there is a budget of US$200 000 that the local Radiotherapy Centre can benefit from to sustain the multidisciplinary treatment of cancer patients as well as funding the repair and maintenance of radioactive machines.
There are separate funds for nuclear security and safety, waste management infrastructure, agricultural production, industrial applications, livestock productivity, air pollution, quality management and control, nuclear medicine among other programmes from which specific Zimbabwean scientific institutions can benefit from if they meet some of the AFRA requirements and guidelines.
On the whole, the presentations by AFRA officials were quite technical, but it was the debate on nuclear energy in Zimbabwe and Africa that generated a lot of interest among scientists at the seminar.
Why is Zimbabwe and other African countries not utilising the uranium deposits they have to generate nuclear energy in the wake of growing demand for electricity and the crippling shortages that are affecting many countries on the continent?
Crippling shortages of electricity have been reported in several parts of Africa including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda and many others.
Dr Baaliouamer said the decision to go nuclear or not, lay in the hands of individual nations.
"Every country is free to make its decision depending on the resources it has to develop nuclear energy," he said. "So far only South Africa has two nuclear energy reactors in the whole of Africa."
He said a few other countries had research reactors, among them Egypt with two Russian built research reactors, Nigeria with a 30KW Chinese built reactor operated by the Centre for Energy Research and Training at Ahmadu Bello University, Ghana, Libya, Morocco and Algeria have one each. In total Africa has nine nuclear reactor plants, with only two in South Africa used to produce electricity.
"It's a national policy a country has to decide on," said Dr Baaliouamer. "Africa is not yet ready for this and I think it is better for the continent to optimise the other benefits that go with the positive use of nuclear technologies."
Tobias Mabuto, a food and biotechnology researcher at the Scientific Industrial Research and Development Centre believes Zimbabwe has the necessary human resource base to undertake research in nuclear energy with a view of easing the electricity woes, the country currently faces.
"I'm personally interested in the development of nuclear energy in Zimbabwe and I think it's the fear related to such disasters as Chernobyl, Bhopal, Nagasaki and Hiroshima that has overshadowed debate about the benefits of nuclear energy," he said.
"There are fears about the dangers that nuclear energy can have on people - the birth of abnormal children, disruptions on the normal functioning of tissues and other changes that cannot be reversed."
He said time was ripe for Zimbabwean scientists to undertake feasibility studies on the use of uranium to develop other alternative energy sources for the country.
Zimbabwe has uranium deposits that some famed mine prospectors say are uneconomic to extract while others argue that the deposits are vast and should be tapped. Uranium can also be sourced from the processing of platinum, a fact mining conglomerates rarely disclose.
Dr Unesu Ushewokunze-Obatolu, the director of Veterinary Public Health, Animal Disease Diagnostics and Animal Health Research, said Zimbabwe and most countries in Africa still do not have the capacity to develop nuclear energy.
"We have the uranium, but we don't have the resources to develop our own nuclear energy plants," she said. "It's very costly, it's something that we cannot afford to do at present."
"It's much more complex than we can think. At the international level it can become a North-South issue. Are we trusted by the powerful countries to handle such technologies, If Iran can come under such heavy hammering, what about us?
"They will probably not allow us to develop it. They will hammer us and impose more restrictive measures. We have to build confidence within ourselves and create international credibility that we can handle such technologies. Do you think they can allow 'guerrillas' (liberation movements) to have nuclear energy, no? It's an unequal world," she said.
But the appeal of nuclear power is still high in Africa. First, energy experts say most African countries are experiencing a sharp increase in demand fuelled by industrial growth and programmes to bring electricity to the majority in rural areas.
For instance, during the apartheid era only 30 percent of black people in South Africa had access to electricity but today this figure has jumped to more than 60 percent showing growing demand.
Most African governments are taking bold steps to develop policies to diversify their own energy sources including domestic nuclear power despite the conditions and barriers set by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency and the Pelindaba Treaty that declared the continent as a nuclear weapons free zone.
Recently, the Nigerian government declared its hopes to exploit nuclear energy for power generation and other peaceful purposes despite the soaring oil prices and being Africa's top oil producer.
The West African country's government said, at the launch of the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, that nuclear technology would enable the country to diversify its electricity generation base beyond oil and gas and hydro-power to include nuclear and coal.
In Tanzania and Zimbabwe too, politicians are pushing for the exploration of alternative sources of energy including the exploration of uranium reserves for electricity generation.
Tanzania is estimated to have 2 000-square km of uranium rich land while Zimbabwe has deposits in the north including uranium realised from the processing of platinum.
Uganda, Namibia, South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe and others in North and West Africa have engaged mining experts in uranium exploration activities for the mineral and for feasibility studies in the development of nuclear power.
According to the IAEA, there are 27 nuclear power reactors under construction across the world and these include three in China and eight in India.
The agency says there are a total of 441 nuclear power reactors in operation in 30 countries with a generating capacity of some 370 GW supplying about 16 percent of the world's electricity needs.
Conservative projections by the IAEA show the global nuclear power capacity increasing by 13 percent between now and 2020 while its maximum projection is set at 75 percent by 2030 for an output of about 640 GW.
There is certainly enthusiasm about nuclear power and scientists arguing for this type of energy say: "the nuclear age is back."
But the acquisition of nuclear technology is not easy. It's a sensitive and delicate issue that requires the support of the rich and powerful nations who are often not eager to share this knowledge with developing countries.
For African countries to tap their nuclear resources, they need to be credible and reliable when it comes to safety, security, technical experts and the huge financial capital outlay that goes with it.
Critics say developing nations are still not ready to handle nuclear power technology but can benefit from other peaceful applications which support their developmental efforts.
They say developing countries lack experienced engineers and scientists needed to operate nuclear power plants safely. They argue that a lot of money has to be spent training the required personnel.
They insist that the global campaign against nuclear power is still strong and the 'hype' over nuclear waste disposal and operational safety will certainly make it difficult for African governments to proceed with nuclear power programmes that may take 10 -12 years from project conception and planning to the actual commissioning of plants.
"Cost and waste must not be forgotten in nuclear debate. While nuclear energy eliminates the emission of greenhouse gases its radioactive by-products are among the most toxic substances and remain so for 1 000 years," one energy expert said.
"There is simply no way to store this waste safely over such a long time. At some point in the future it is likely to leak into the environment to become a pollutant far more dangerous than greenhouse gases."
Other energy critics say another problem is that while nuclear fuel is cheap compared to coal, oil and other energy sources, the capital and non-fuel operational costs of running a nuclear power plant make the electricity it generates far more expensive than electricity from other sources.
In addition, costs are hidden by government subsidies funded by the taxpayer.
There is strong conviction that most of the world's electricity needs can be met by solar power and other sustainable energy sources if more resources are channelled to research and application.
In light of these arguments, the rising tension in Iran over its nuclear programme and the risks of radiation-based technologies, it makes sense for African countries to first strengthen their capacities to utilise nuclear technologies in diverse fields like health, nutrition, agriculture and environmental management to uplift the lives of the people.
Nuclear techniques can be used to diagnose and treat diseases, to identify drug resistance strains in parasites such as those that cause tuberculosis and malaria, cancer treatment, improving crop yields, protein content and drought tolerance, enhancing food hygiene and storage, tsetse control and in the management of water supplies.
In most industrialised countries there is one radiotherapy machine for 250 000 people while in Ethiopia there is one for 60 million people while in other African countries the treatment is simply not available.
In Zimbabwe, there are about 7 000 new cancer patients every year and two radiotherapy centres that service a population of 12 million people. The machines broke down in March this year and are not functioning due to lack of foreign currency to procure spares to service them.
There is shortage of specialised health professionals and this makes it vital for African countries to first attend to these challenges before nose diving into the delicate and sensitive area of nuclear energy.
It is important for African countries to maximise the benefits of nuclear technologies and related techniques to enhance national development but closely co-operating with AFRA, which is largely funded by the UN IAEA.
There is more to gain by using nuclear technologies in the conservation of water resources, dam safety, maintenance of scientific equipment, industrial application in oil industries, biotechnology to improve crop and milk production, in the treatment of cancer and the control of tsetse flies than to venture into the costly and controversial field of nuclear power.
The benefits of nuclear technologies and related techniques are undeniable and with closer co-operation with international agencies, adoption of safer structures and mechanisms, this can transform the lives of millions of people on the continent.
Only then, can Africa move to use its own uranium deposits to meet its energy needs.
1. Effect of Nuclear Blast at Port Would Be National
Los Angeles Times
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A nuclear explosion at the Port of Long Beach would have catastrophic consequences for the United States, killing 60,000 people immediately, exposing 150,000 more to hazardous radiation and causing 10 times the economic loss resulting from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, according to a long-awaited study released Tuesday.
Two years in the making, the detailed analysis by the Rand Corp.'s Center for Terrorism Risk Management Policy paints a terrifying picture not only of the possibility of such an attack but of its immediate and long-term effects on Southern California, the nation and the global economy.
"It would be bad enough if a terrorist organization were ever able to get a nuclear device inside the boundaries of the United States," said Michael A. Wermuth, director of Rand's homeland security research. "But this report shows that an attack of this scale can have far-reaching implications beyond the actual point of the attack itself."
The study examined the effects of terrorists concealing a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb in a shipping container and having the weapon explode shortly after it was unloaded onto a pier at the Port of Long Beach.
Within the first 72 hours, according to the study, the blast would "devastate a vast portion of the Los Angeles metropolitan area."
In addition to the human casualties, the report says, the blast and subsequent fires might destroy the infrastructure and all ships in the Port of Long Beach and adjoining Port of Los Angeles, which combined comprise the nation's busiest port of entry and handle about one-third of the nation's imports.
If the attack led to the closure of all U.S. ports as a security measure, the report says, the ripple effect would be global since the value of imports and exports from American ports represents about 7.5% of world trade activity.
Additionally, the study says, 2 million to 3 million people might need to relocate because the nuclear fallout would contaminate a wide swath of the region. And the destruction of port area refineries, responsible for a third of the gas west of the Rockies, could create critical shortages of gasoline.
"It would take years to recover economically" from such an attack, Wermuth said. "It would take any number of years before some of the area close to ground zero could be rebuilt, and some of it would not be habitable for 20 years."
The report is the latest to address concerns about the vulnerability of the nation's ports nearly five years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Wermuth emphasized, however, that the study was not meant to predict that such an attack was likely.
Rather, he said, it was to analyze the potential consequences of a terrorist event "so all the various entities, both government and private, can see how dependent the broader economy is on a geographically specific part of the economy."
Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) echoed Wermuth's comments about the scenario.
"The report does not estimate the likelihood of such an attack," said Harman, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Committee on Homeland Security.
But it does underscore "the need to radically improve security at our ports," Harman said, calling the ports "a gaping hole in American security for years."
THE prospect of terrorists carrying a nuclear bomb in a suitcase or a shipping container and detonating it in a major city is the world's ultimate nightmare, says former NSW premier Bob Carr.
"I think the prospect of suicidal terrorists being equipped with atomic weapons is very real," Mr Carr said yesterday.
Last night the Federal Government and terrorism specialists agreed that nuclear terrorism was a real threat.
Mr Carr said such a bomb could originate in the countries that made up the former USSR or come from Pakistan.
"All this suggests that the day will come when someone out of a terrorist organisation gets a bomb and puts it in a container and the bomb is detonated in the heart of a Western city," he said.
"If Iran went really bad, would Iran equip Hezbollah with what it needs for globalised terrorism? Not just lobbing missiles over the border of Lebanon but getting into a Western city … with a nuclear bomb?
"That's the nightmare that haunts our civilisation."
A spokesman for Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said Mr Carr was only repeating what authorities had said many times, that the prospect of an attack was real. "It is on that basis that Australia is preparing itself to meet the threat of terrorism," he said.
Terrorism specialist Clive Williams said he believed that those nations with nuclear weapons kept tight control of them, but that could change if, say, a different government in Pakistan, for ideological reasons, handed over nuclear weapons to a third party.
Similarly, the mafia was very strong in the Ukraine and might ultimately be able to buy a weapon there. But the mafia was making so much money from its other ventures that it was unlikely to jeopardise its position.
In September 1997, former Russian national security adviser Aleksandr Lebed claimed that the Russian military had lost track of more than 100 suitcase-sized nuclear bombs that had been designed for use by the Soviet special forces.
The US State Department said later it had been assured by Russian authorities that all nuclear weapons were accounted for and those described by Mr Lebed did not exist.
Professor Williams said that if al-Qaeda had obtained such a bomb it would almost certainly have used it by now.
He said al-Qaeda was trying to obtain highly enriched uranium to make its own bomb.
The material was very difficult to get hold of, he said, and it would take about 15 kilograms to build a bomb the size of the one that devastated Hiroshima.
Hypothetically, terrorists would smuggle the bomb components into a city such as New York, hire an apartment, build the bomb inside it and then detonate it there.
Another possibility was that terrorists could wrap radiological waste from a hospital around conventional explosive compounds to make a "dirty bomb", which would widely scatter radioactive material.
1. Nuclear power returns to stage amid oil crisis: A growing number of oil-dependent economies look to build more plants despite safety risks
The Korea Herald
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It might be a weird coincidence that political leaders in major economies have pronounced support for nuclear energy in 2006, on the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.
As skyrocketing oil prices push up costs for conventional oil- and gas-fired electricity generators and while pressures intensify to cut carbon gas emissions, global utilities and politicians are turning their gazes into nuclear power.
U.K. prime minister Tony Blair declared nuclear power to be "back on the agenda with a vengeance" earlier this year, and U.S. President George W. Bush wants new generation of nuclear power plants to be built by 2010.
Korea, which has the world's sixth largest nuclear power infrastructure, is also clearly on the atomic trend. Korea currently operates 20 commercial nuclear reactors, which supply about 40 percent of the country's total energy demand.
On the back of recent technical advances and about 1.3 trillion won investment for the past decade, 10 more fresh reactors are scheduled to be built or designed in the coming years.
The government aims to develop its nuclear power industry into one of the global top five between the year 2007-11, according to its third comprehensive nuclear energy development plant program.
"Nuclear power is the most efficient and cleanest energy. But people feel that building and operating nuclear plants is too dangerous," said Choi Chi-hun, vice president of GE Energy.
The biggest charm which nuclear reactors can offer is low maintenance cost.
Once built, nuclear plants are relatively cheap to run because fuel is a small part on the accounting books, and the prices of raw materials such as uranium are relatively stable.
This compares with the financially distressed gas and coal-fired power stations, which are vulnerable to fuel market spikes.
To operate a 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant for a year, it needs 30 tons of uranium.
Its fuel efficiency amounts to 1/50,000 of oil, 1/70,000 of coal and 1/40,000 of liquefied natural gas, according to Korea Hydropower & Nuclear Power Co.
"Just one loading is sufficient to operate reactors for the next 12-18 months, compared to fossil fuels which need a continuous supply of fuel during operation," KHNP spokesperson Cho Kyoung-lae said.
Atomic energy resources also offer the most efficient and fastest way to help cap the fast-increasing carbon dioxide emissions across the world.
Nuclear power generation produces heat and a handful of atomic wastes, which has limited impact on the global warming process.
Since many developed economies find it increasingly hard to meet the Kyoto Protocol's goal of drawing down carbon dioxide emissions to below the 1990 level by 2008, nuclear power seems more attractive than ever.
For Korea which is expected to be under substantial pressures to take up the Kyoto initiative around 2013, the atomic appeal is clearly apparent.
"With the Kyoto Protocol effective from Feb. 2005, countries have become more conscious of environment-friendly energy sources. Even environmentalists have started rethinking their opposition to nuclear power as a cleaner, cheaper alternative to traditional fossil fuels," Cho said.
Another fast-emerging benefit of nuclear energy is the question of energy security for many oil-dependent economies.
As the anxieties intensify over global oil supplies due to deepening political tensions in several oil producing countries in the Middle East and Africa, major oil importers have become keen on tapping alternative energy sources including nuclear.
Washington and many European nations believe such efforts help reduce their dependence on petroleum imports.
A worldwide push for more nuclear reactors is based on this calculation. India has said it wants to build around 25 reactors by 2020 as part of efforts to fuel its fast-growing economy. China, the world's fastest growing economy, has similar-sized ambitions. Even in the United States, where no nuclear plant has been built for three decades, a consortium of nine power companies called NuStart is developing proposals to revive the forgotten energy. This came amid Bush administration's growing efforts to make the United States more energy self-reliant.
But there are still many unanswered questions about the alternative energy source.
An intense debate over the risks of decommissioning and waste disposal is underway in many countries.
Sometimes it entails some violations and political strifes in local communities where government planners wanted to build reactors or waste disposal facilities.
Despite the substantial cost competitiveness of nuclear energy, a minor mismanagement in the handling of fuel and its waste could lead to a massive disaster like Chernobyl.
In late 2003, the Korean government's strong push to build a waste dump in Buan, North Jeolla Province, triggered massive protests from local residents.
Violent protests demonstrate that the nuclear energy is not yet welcomed in many corners.
Korea Eco-center, a Seoul-based environmental group, pointed out that there were four cases involving safety risks at local nuclear power plants.
Civic groups also stress that nuclear benefits only delay the development of other renewable energy sources such as solar and hydrogen power.
Since the risky but cost efficient power source offers an easy way to less consume fossil fuels, they believe it would dampen interests and investment in other safer alternative energies.
1. Regional nuke-free zone treaty to be signed in Kazakhstan
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Text of report by Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency
Astana/Semipalatinsk, 15 August: An agreement on the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia is expected to be signed in the city of Semipalatinsk (East Kazakhstan Region) on 8 September, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry's press service told the Interfax-Kazakhstan agency today.
The press service said that the agreement would be signed by foreign ministers of the Central Asian states.
The head of the foreign policy department of the Semipalatinsk administration, Aytkazy Saltabayev, told Interfax-Kazakhstan that representatives of UN, IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and countries of the nuclear club have been invited to attend the agreement-signing ceremony. He said that the ceremony, attended by 80 foreign guests, would be held at the Abay theatre.
"A group of five leading experts from the Kazakh Foreign Ministry visited Semipalatinsk to deal with protocol and organizational issues," Saltabayev said.
At the same time, he said that the signing of the agreement on the nuclear-free zone in Central Asia was timed to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the closure of Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground.
Some 500 nuclear tests had been carried out at this testing ground over the period of its functioning in 1949-89. It was shut down in 1991 by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev's decree.
Over 1m people live within 18,000 sq. km area around the testing ground.
With Japan being urged to go nuclear to counter possible threats from North Korea, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi threw fuel on the fire on Tuesday by paying his official respects at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, a symbol to many of the country's past militarism.
Koizumi, who became the first Japanese premier in 21 years to visit the shrine on the anniversary of the country's surrender in World War II, has visited Yasukuni in his official capacity as prime minister on five previous occasions, but never on the sensitive anniversary.
The anniversary visit had been widely anticipated, even if it was deplored by China, South Korea and many Japanese as well. Only last month, China, South Korea and Japan found themselves, more or less, on the same side in criticizing North Korea's missile tests.
Prominent leaders said then Japan should consider possessing the capability to carry out preemptive attacks. That notion is a departure from Japan's post-war policy of not possessing offensive weapons, but has led some to speculate that Japan might consider arming herself with nuclear weapons.
Sometimes it seems as if elements in the George W Bush administration are egging Japan on. US Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer has raised the possibility of an independently nuclear-armed Japan.
"If you had a nuclear North Korea, it seems to me that that increases the pressure on both South Korea and Japan going nuclear themselves," he said.
On the TV interview program Meet the Press, Vice President Dick Cheney said, "The idea of a nuclear-armed North Korea with ballistic missiles to deliver them will, I think, probably set off an [nuclear] arms race in that part of the world."
North Korea claims to be a nuclear weapons state, though it has not proved this assertion beyond doubt by actually testing one. As it demonstrated earlier this year, it has medium-range missiles capable of striking both South Korea and Japan (though not the continental US - not yet anyway).
This talk partly reflects the frustration many in the Bush administration feel over its inability to push China to push North Korea to disarm. One way to motivate Beijing is to scare her with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Japan.
The Republican Party policy committee paper anticipating a North Korean test put it this way: "Essentially, the United States must demand that the PRC [People's Republic of China] make a choice: either help out or face the possibility of other nuclear neighbors."
The implication was that Washington would tolerate or even encourage a Japan armed with nuclear weapons.
Maybe, but if they are counting on China quaking over the prospect of a nuclear Japan, they are going to be disillusioned. China's leaders are not going to fall for that bluff. They know that in the final analysis Japan will never acquire nuclear armaments because to do so makes Japan less safe.
Japan is famous for its nuclear allergy, as the only country ever attacked with nuclear weapons. It is also famous for its "three no's" policy: not to make, posses or allow nuclear weapons on its soil. These attitudes remain a strong brake on Japan going nuclear. But there is a more compelling reason why it's against Japan's interests.
Japan will never go nuclear because it can never maintain a credible nuclear deterrent against China. There can never be, as there was during the Cold War, a strategy of mutual assured destruction. The only assured destruction in any nuclear exchange with China would be that of Japan.
It would only take about five thermonuclear bombs, three on Tokyo and two in the Kansai region (Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto), to end Japan. But five nuclear bombs or even a few more, devastating as they may be, would not spell the end for China. Japan, in short, cannot survive a first strike and retaliate. China can.
Major-General Zhu Chenghu, dean of the Defense Affairs Institute for China's National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army, caused something of a controversy last year when he said China could aim nuclear weapons at American cities if US forces intervened in an assault on Taiwan. Not so extensively reported was his comment, "We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all the cities east of Xian" (in central China).
That was as blunt a reminder that China has something that Japan does not have - depth. China has a lot more to lose than it did in Mao Zedong's time, when the communist leaders built bomb shelters and deliberately moved factories to the interior to help protect them from nuclear attack. But China can still absorb a lot of punishment - historically it has absorbed a lot of punishment.
Japanese Self-Defense Forces staff reached a similar conclusion in a study commissioned in 1981 on the feasibility of Japan acquiring nuclear arms. The report was then aimed at the threat from the Soviet Union and concluded that in a nuclear exchange, Japan would suffer about 25 million fatalities, compared with about 1 million in Russia's Far East.
Deterrence worked in the long nuclear face off between the US and the old Soviet Union because both countries are continental powers. It was possible to imagine one or the other absorbing a first strike and surviving to retaliate. Such is not the case with Japan (or Taiwan and South Korea).
Japan is much better off continuing to rely on the US and to strengthen its alliance with the US so that it can depend on the United States' nuclear weapons for protection. Among other things, the US provides the strategic depth that Japan simply does not have.
Of course, people in Japan and elsewhere will continue to talk about Japan going nuclear. Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the Japan Democratic Party, once commented, "We have plenty of plutonium in our nuclear power plants, so it is possible for us to produce 3,000-4,000 nuclear warheads, making Japan an unbeatable power."
Japan's conservatives can bluster all they want. In the final analysis they will still come to the same conclusion. By adding up the advantages and disadvantages of an independent nuclear-arms program, they will inevitably decide that these weapons are a loser for Japan. The country is far safer under the US nuclear umbrella.
Todd Crowell is a correspondent for Asia Times Online based in Thailand.
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