1. Rssn nuclear chief says int´┐Żl uranium center to be set up in Siberia
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Russia will be ready to sign agreements as of the beginning of next year with countries interested in operations of an international center for uranium enrichment, Sergei Kiriyenko, the director of Russia´┐Żs Federal Atomic Energy Agency said here Tuesday.
Kiriyenko is attending a special forum timed for the jubilee 50th session of the International Atomic Energy Agency´┐Żs General Conference.
´┐ŻBy the yearend 2006, Russia will complete all the formalities pertaining to the establishment and launching of operations of a center of that kind,´┐Ż Kiriyenko said, adding that Russia will place under the IAEA control the technological area for construction of the center in the East-Siberian city of Angarsk.
´┐ŻAny country will have an opportunity to become a participant or shareholder in the center project,´┐Ż Kiriyenko said.
´┐ŻBeing a co-owner of the center, each participating country will have a say in the solution of its problems in the future and will get a share of revenues from its operations,´┐Ż he indicated.
´┐ŻThe only restriction the project will have is a denial of access to the technologies of uranium enrichment,´┐Ż Kiriyenko said.
The center´┐Żs project has a few important conditions ´┐Ż it must become multinational and multifaceted and bring economic benefits to all of its participants, he indicated.
´┐ŻIn this way, creation of the first such center will meet the requirements of our time and demands for electric power,´┐Ż Kiriyenko said. ´┐ŻAlso, it´┐Żll help eliminate the barriers that countries willing to develop the national nuclear industry are typically faced with.´┐Ż
The creation of international nuclear fuel centers would ensure non-discriminatory access to nuclear energy, the Russian president said Monday.
The Kremlin press office quoted Vladimir Putin as saying in a greeting message sent to participants of the 50th International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference in Vienna, that the further improvement of the global nuclear energy infrastructure, under the supervision of the IAEA, will boost nuclear security.
President Putin announced the initiative to set up international centers offering nuclear fuel services in January. The president said Russia and other "nuclear club" countries could set up enrichment centers, providing access on a non-discriminatory basis to nations seeking nuclear fuel.
In his message to the 140-nation IAEA conference, which is focusing on means of reducing the threat of nuclear proliferation, the president said Russia always supported the work of the IAEA. He said he was confident the organization will continue to make a major contribution towards developing the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and will actively support the development and implementation of environmentally safe, economically efficient nuclear technology to satisfy the growing global demand for energy.
3. Russia set for massive increase in nuclear power investment
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The state will increase investment in the nuclear energy industry from 18 billion rubles ($660 mln) in 2007 to more than 80 bln rubles ($3 bln) in 2009, Russia's economic development and trade minister said Wednesday.
"In 2007, state investment in the nuclear energy sector will be 18 billion rubles ($660 mln), in 2008, 53 billion rubles ($2 bln), and in 2009, over 80 billion rubles ($3 bln)," German Gref said.
He said earlier the ministry had forecast a 2.5% increase in electricity consumption in the first half of the year, but it had grown more than 5% in the reporting period. Gref said the investment sources had yet to be determined, but added that funds could be raised by Russia's electricity monopoly Unified Energy System from the sale of its power-generating assets.
Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, said Tuesday nuclear energy must replace the share of natural gas in Russia's energy balance.
Russia's reserves of coal and natural gas could be depleted in fifty years. But with around 8% of the world's uranium output, Russia is planning to mine 60-70% of its uranium needs by 2015, with the remainder coming from joint ventures in former Soviet republics, particularly Kazakhstan, which holds 25-30% of the world's uranium reserves.
"There is no alternative to the development of nuclear power in Russia, which must replace power generated using natural gas," he said.
Russia has the world's largest reserves of natural gas and has become a crucial exporter, particularly for Europe. But the nuclear agency head lauded his sector, saying it was growing regardless of military projects, as market-economy mechanisms were playing an increasingly important role.
Some European governments, in particular the United Kingdom, have decided to look toward atomic energy to provide for their future needs despite environmental activists' protests. And Kiriyenko said the revival of the nuclear sector in his country had been caused by growing energy consumption, a lack of new energy sources in the foreseeable future and unjustified hopes that energy-saving mechanisms could solve an energy deficit.
Russia currently has 10 operational nuclear power plants with 31 reactors, but Kiriyenko said Russia would need another 300 gigawatts from new plants to cover a projected energy deficit in the next 30 years.
Kiriyenko highlighted several key areas in the nuclear industry's development: the division of the industry into the military and civilian branches, budget spending on the construction of nuclear power plants to ensure a 2 GW annual increase, the adoption of a nuclear and radiation security program, the establishment of a single mining company, international centers for nuclear cycle services, the development of fast-neutron reactors and a serial construction of new power units.
1. Russia hails U.S. nuclear initiative, IAEA efforts - Kiriyenko
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Russia's nuclear chief said Monday that Moscow welcomed a proposal made by the United States on global partnership as another step toward securing non-proliferation in the nuclear sector.
Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, also said Russia paid close attention to and praised work conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, on identifying undisclosed nuclear materials and covert activities.
"We support the U.S. initiatives on global nuclear energy partnership and proposals from a group of largest suppliers of enriched uranium on guaranteed supplies," Kiriyenko said after the 50th IAEA General Conference in Vienna, Austria.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, which is part of President George Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative, seeks to develop carbon-free nuclear energy to meet growing electricity demand by using a nuclear fuel cycle that enhances energy security while promoting non-proliferation. It focuses on recycling and providing assistance to nations pursuing nuclear energy for civilian needs alone.
Kiriyenko also said he agreed with U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, who said U.S. President Bush's initiative on nuclear partnership was a supplement to Russian proposals.
"It is very important that President Bush's initiative supplement President [Vladimir] Putin's initiatives in the sphere of global nuclear energy cooperation," he said.
Putin suggested at the beginning of the year that international uranium enrichment centers be set up in Russia in a move that was widely interpreted as an attempt to reach a compromise in the crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Bodman had told the conference earlier that American-Russian cooperation in the nuclear sector was developing in every important respect. Last Friday, the countries signed a liability agreement under which the U.S. and Russia would dispose of 68 metric tons (about 150,000 pounds) of weapons-grade plutonium by converting it into fuel for commercial reactors.
Bodman also said the countries were successfully implementing the HEU-LEU conversion program, as well as a program on returning highly enriched uranium to Russia from a number of countries.
The move is part of a Russian-U.S. intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in returning nuclear fuel from Russian-made research reactors, signed in May 2004, and a joint statement on nuclear security signed by presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin during a meeting in Bratislava in February 2005.
Since 2004, Russia has repatriated new highly enriched uranium from Soviet-built plants in eight countries: Serbia and Montenegro, Romania, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Libya, Latvia, Poland and Uzbekistan.
Kiriyenko also praised the UN's atomic watchdog, which is headed by Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, for its efforts to maintain the nonproliferation regime.
"Russia attaches great importance to the IAEA's work on improving its control activities, including the development of the IAEA abilities to discover undisclosed nuclear materials and activities," he said.
IAEA inspectors have been at the forefront of efforts to clarify the nuclear-status of countries such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea in recent years. Russia is continuing to help build a controversial nuclear power plant in Iran, which has consistently said it needs atomic energy for civilian needs rather than a covert arms program, and has called on Tehran to cooperate with the Vienna-based organization.
Kiriyenko, who served a brief term as prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin in 1998, was also upbeat about a mooted system of nuclear-fuel services as more and more countries opted to pursue nuclear energy, but he added that the system should be under strict control of the IAEA.
He said the expansion of nuclear energy technologies was accompanied by the threat that nuclear energy could be used for military purposes. This problem, he said, could be solved by a Russian initiative to form a global nuclear energy infrastructure that would provide equal access on market terms for all countries to nuclear energy under regulation and standards of non-proliferation.
"The key element of such infrastructure is a system of international centers on nuclear fuel cycle services under the control of the IAEA," Kiriyenko said.
Earlier this month he said that Russia could control up to 25% of the world's nuclear-fuel services market.
"Russia believes that 25% of the world's market in nuclear fuel-cycle services, including uranium enrichment, is an optimal share," Kiriyenko said. "Technically and technologically, we are well positioned for this."
The United States and Russia have resolved a major hurdle in their negotiations to dispose of tons of excess plutonium, announcing an accord Friday on a liability issue that has long stymied the program.
The two countries signed a protocol that provides a framework for dealing with the liability problem, the Energy Department announced.
However, there are other issues still to be worked out, including details on how Russia is going to dispose of its 34 metric tons of plutonium from its weapons stockpile under the agreement.
At the same time, the future of the U.S. disposal program also has become clouded.
The Energy Department said it is ready to break ground this fall on a South Carolina plant that would convert its 34 metric tons of excess plutonium into a mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel to be burned in a commercial power reactor. However, the House has eliminated funding for the program for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
Future funding for the MOX conversion plant to be built at the Savannah River complex near Aiken, S.C., will depend on whether Congress restores the money.
The program has been described as a major nonproliferation effort as it would remove 68 tons of plutonium in the two countries and not make it susceptible to potential future diversion.
But the program, hailed six years ago as a breakthrough in safeguarding Russia's nuclear materials, has stalled over not only the liability issue, but also disagreement on how Russia is to get rid of its share of the plutonium.
"This agreement (on liability) demonstrates that both countries continue to be committed to this important nonproliferation program," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said in a statement Friday.
The two countries have been at odds since 2003 over the liability issue, with the Bush administration wanting language that absolves the United States and American contractors in event of an accident related to work on the Russian program, including construction of disposal facilities.
Linton Brooks, head of the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration, said the new protocol "formally resolves the issue" on liability. But he also has acknowledged further discussions are needed on the next steps in implementing the agreement.
Among those issues is to resolve how Russia will dispose of its 34 tons of plutonium. Russia recently said it did not want to convert the plutonium to MOX fuel ´┐Ż like the U.S. plan ´┐Ż but to burn it in a high-speed reactor.
Critics have said that could lead to more proliferation and not less since such a reactor also can be designed as a so-called "breeder" that produces plutonium.
Current discussions focus on details on the design of such a reactor if it is to be used under the plutonium disposition agreement and not "breed" more plutonium.
Under the agreement, first unveiled in 2000, each country agreed to dispose of 34 tons of excess plutonium now part of their weapons stockpile. In all, the U.S. is believed to have about 100 metric tons of plutonium and Russia about 145 metric tons.
President Jacques Chirac last night provoked a diplomatic showdown at the UN when he broke ranks with America and its allies and called on them to stop threatening Iran with sanctions.
To the barely concealed fury of American and British officials, who have been calling on the UN Security Council to confront Teheran over its nuclear ambitions, Mr Chirac argued for more negotiations.
"I don't believe in a solution without dialogue," he said. He added pointedly that he had never noticed that sanctions had been effective.
Mr Chirac's comments shattered the shaky consensus between America and the EU-3 - Britain, France and Germany - which have been leading the diplomatic negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme.
This is the first time that one of the countries has said that Iran's suspension of its uranium enrichment programme is not a precondition for talks. Enrichment is a key part of the process of making a nuclear weapon.
Mr Chirac's remarks set the stage for a testy meeting in New York this morning with President George W Bush, his old foe from the days of the pre-Iraq War diplomacy. The two leaders will later address the opening of the UN General Assembly ahead of an expected outburst from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's hardline prime minister.
Only last week Mr Bush warned America's allies not to get involved in talking to Iran. "My concern is that... they'll stall; they'll try to wait us out," he said. "So part of my objective in New York is to remind people that stalling shouldn't be allowed."
In public the White House kept its cool yesterday. "I think the process in Iran is [going] pretty well," said Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser.
But privately officials were fuming. They accused Mr Chirac of grandstanding and argued that a split between the western powers over Iran was exactly what Teheran had been hoping for.
"His remarks [are] not very helpful," said one senior western source who has been closely involved in the Iranian talks. "I think it's a key tenet of diplomacy not to show your hand."
America has been pushing for the UN Security Council to threaten sanctions on Iran following its failure to meet a UN imposed deadline of the end of last month to suspend its uranium enrichment.
Mr Chirac said yesterday he had not ruled out sanctions in the long term.
But with France clearly now all but united with Russia and China, two other veto-wielding powers, in opposing UN Security Council action against Iran, American hopes of progress in confronting Iran this week seem dim.
Undermining US strategy on Iran may seem wholly at odds with recent improvements in Franco-American relations. But Mr Chirac has different objectives.
In his remaining few months at the Elys´┐Że, with few observers expecting him to stand for a third term, he is more concerned with removing the feeling among the French public that his presidency has been a failure. Mr Chirac staked out his position in a series of interviews ahead of departing for the UN for what will almost certainly be his last visit to a General Assembly.
In an interview with Europe-1 Radio he argued that the threat to impose sanctions should be lifted in return for a temporary suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment. He later told CNN: "There is a lot more potential for dialogue and I would like us to go to the end of that particular road before we decide to go any further in any direction."
For US "hawks" Mr Chirac's intervention was the latest proof that by joining with the EU-3 the Bush administration had given Iran more time. "The Security Council has to stand by its resolutions," said one senior former administration official.
"And if they pass them they have to enforce them. Then it would allow the US to go and say 'now let's talk.' " If the Security Council failed to do its duty, he added, it would be more likely that America would turn in frustration to a "coalition of the willing. . . and that makes warfare more likely."
2. IAEA says Congress report on Iran's nuclear capacity is erroneous and misleading
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The UN's nuclear watchdog has attacked the US Congress for what it termed an "erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated" report on Iran's nuclear programme.
In a letter to the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives' intelligence committee, a senior director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the report was "incorrect" in its assessment that Iran had made weapons-grade uranium at a site inspected by the agency. Instead, the letter said, the facility had produced only small amounts of uranium, which were below the level necessary for weapons.
The letter, leaked to the Washington Post, also criticised the report for making the "outrageous and dishonest" claim that a senior inspector was removed "for concluding that the purpose of Iran's nuclear programme is to construct weapons".
While the IAEA noted five major errors in the report, intelligence officials told the Washington Post that it contained a dozen assertions that were either wrong or impossible to substantiate.
The House report, under the chairmanship of the Michigan Republican Peter Hoekstra, was released on August 23. It was not voted on or discussed by the full bipartisan committee but it was reviewed by the office of John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, before being released by Republican members of the committee.
Jane Harman, the Democrat vice-chairwoman of the committee, told colleagues in an email that the report "took a number of analytical shortcuts that present the Iran threat as more dire - and the intelligence community's assessments as more certain - than they are."
The report, titled Recognising Iran as a Strategic Threat, was written by Fredrick Fleitz, a CIA operative on secondment to the US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton. Mr Fleitz and Mr Bolton were involved in constructing the arguments in favour of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Mr Fleitz is writing a report about North Korea for Mr Hoekstra's committee.
The row over the Iran report is reminiscent of the disputes between the IAEA, its chief Mohamed ElBaradei and the Bush administration in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. "This is like pre-war Iraq all over again," David Albright, a former nuclear inspector who is president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, told the Post.
Relations between the White House and the IAEA almost collapsed when the agency revealed that the administration had based some of its claims about Iraq's alleged WMD programme on forged documents. The White House subsequently led an unsuccessful campaign to prevent Mr ElBaradei's re-election last year.
The IAEA took "strong exception" to the report's assertion that Mr ElBaradei had removed an agency inspector, Chris Charlier, for breaking an "unstated IAEA policy barring IAEA officials from telling the whole truth about the Iranian nuclear programme". He was removed at the behest of the Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, the letter says, under the terms of Tehran's agreement to allow inspectors into the country. The letter points out that this is routine and that Iran has accepted the presence of more than 200 IAEA inspectors. Mr Charlier remains head of the IAEA's Iran sanctions section.
Australia and Japan imposed financial sanctions Tuesday on 11 North Korean companies, a Swiss company and its president, based on allegations they helped the communist nation's weapons programs.
The coordinated effort is meant to pressure North Korea over both its test-firing of long-range missiles in July and its development of nuclear weapons, officials said.
A U.N. Security Council resolution after the missile tests urged nations to forgo trade with North Korea that could help its missile program.
``I do not know how North Korea will respond, but I hope North Korea will accept the U.N. Security Council resolution in a sincere manner and respond to various concerns of the international community,'' Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said.
Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the action was ``consistent with our strong international stand against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.''
``This supports and complements similar action taken by Japan today and previous actions taken by the United States, and sends a strong message to North Korea,'' Downer said in a statement.
China appealed for governments involved in the dispute over North Korea's weapons programs to show restraint, arguing against sanctions.
``The Chinese government has always held the position that the issue should be resolved through dialogue, and we are opposed to sanctions,'' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said. He didn't refer to Japan or Australia by name.
``Now the situation on the Korean peninsula is sensitive and complicated. All parties should focus on how to relax the situation and we hope all parties can keep calm and exercise restraint,'' Qin said at a regular news briefing.
The United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have tried to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear program at six-nation negotiations that have been on hold since November 2005 because North Korea refuses to attend until Washington lifts financial restrictions.
The sanctions that took effect Tuesday target Pyongyang-based trading companies that specialize in high-tech equipment, manufacturing and mining, along with a bank and a hospital.
Also on the list is Kohas AG, a Swiss industrial supply wholesaler, and the company's president, Jakob Steiger. In March, the United States froze the assets of Kohas and Steiger, alleging they helped North Korea proliferate weapons of mass destruction.
Japan's measures target an additional three companies. It was not immediately clear why Tokyo's list was longer.
Tokyo had already approved trade restrictions in the wake of Pyongyang's July missile tests. The launch included a long-range missile believed capable of hitting the United States. All seven missiles fell harmlessly into the Sea of Japan.
The new restrictions will also tighten identification checks on people making suspicious transactions, officials said. Japan's Finance Ministry also said it planned to inspect financial institutions engaged in foreign exchange operations to ensure compliance.
South Korea offered a muted response to the sanctions.
``We understand that (the two countries) made the decisions after reviewing domestic and international laws in accordance with the U.N. Security Council resolution,'' said South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Choo Kyu-ho.
North Korea's political paranoia spilled into the open this week when the isolated regime accused the US of plotting a nuclear strike. The state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said a "sub-critical" underground nuclear test in Nevada last month was part of Washington's efforts to develop new nuclear weapons. "The US is perfecting a nuclear war plan after listing our and other countries as targets for its pre-emptive nuclear attack," it said.
An American assault is not remotely on the cards. But North Korea's clamour reflects more than its leadership's persecution complex. In Seoul the claim was read as possible evidence that the North is preparing to justify an imminent nuclear test of its own. South Korean officials have said Pyongyang could conduct a test, or repeat July's destabilising Sea of Japan missile launches, at any time. Not coincidentally, President Roh Moo-hyun was in Washington yesterday arguing for a more "flexible" US line.
Pyongyang escaped binding sanctions, proposed by Japan, after the July launches when China diluted a condemnatory UN resolution. But it failed in its apparent aim of scaring the US into relaxing financial sanctions or offering improved, Iran-style incentives for good behaviour. Now analysts suggest it may be about to try again.
The US says it would view a North Korean nuclear test as "very provocative", while the reaction in Japan, the only country to experience atom bomb attacks, could be explosive. But with the six-party nuclear talks deadlocked for almost a year, and differences in approach evident between the US, South Korea, Japan and China, the mechanisms for avoiding another confrontation are lacking.
"The key has got be some kind of bilateral deal between North Korea and the US that everyone else can buy into," said Christopher Hughes, a regional expert at the University of Warwick. "An agreement with the US is what the North Koreans have always wanted. The US is searching for a way to reach them while stopping Japan overplaying its hand."
But Machiavellian manoeuvring by Pyongyang, diplomatic divergences and distrust continue to bedevil such efforts. When Christopher Hill, the US chief negotiator, proposed a one-on-one meeting with his North Korean counterpart last week he was reportedly rebuffed. Meanwhile, Kim Jong-il, North Korea's leader, is rumoured to be on the point of visiting China for consultations. Japanese officials play down the crisis while admitting that "favourable signs" from North Korea are lacking.
A senior diplomat said the likely appointment this month of a conservative, Shinzo Abe, to replace Junichiro Koizumi as Japan's prime minister would not change Tokyo's approach. "We will maintain our current policy of dialogue and pressure. We want talks to resume. We also want full implementation of UN resolution 1695 [that requires countries to halt WMD or missile-related technology transfers to North Korea]," the diplomat said. Reports yesterday suggested Japan may impose financial sanctions later this month, which North Korea says would be tantamount to a declaration of war.
Describing Mr Abe as a "neonationalist, more hawkish than Mr Koizumi", Dr Hughes predicted a tougher Japanese line on nuclear weapons and on the dispute over Japanese abducted by North Korea. Speaking yesterday, Mr Abe called for a more "assertive" international role for Japan. But after fierce Sino-Japanese frictions during the Koizumi era, Mr Abe would also face pressure to improve relations with China, Dr Hughes said. So partly to maintain his credibility with the right "he will probably still be tempted to bash North Korea quite hard". And that could be seen as provocation by the paranoiacs of Pyongyang.
1. 'Dirty' bomb fears over world's most insecure nuclear facility
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More than two tons of radioactive material stored in a rundown research facility in Serbia is an easy target for terrorists seeking to build a "dirty" bomb, according the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.
The outdated storage facility is on a 48-acre site at the Institute of Nuclear Sciences in Vinca, 10 miles outside the capital, Belgrade, surrounded by a rusty barbed-wire fence and secured only by a small number of armed guards.
Michael Durst, the special programme manager at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the Vinca site topped the global priority list of unsecured uranium sources because it combined the threats of nuclear proliferation and environmental disaster.
He said: "Vinca is unique in the amount of uranium stored within its facility ´┐Ż at least 2.5 metric tonnes ´┐Ż and the fact that about 30 per cent of it is leaking. It would be easily accessible to an organised group.
"There are other sites in Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, as well as elsewhere in the world, but the amount of nuclear material, the accessibility and the leakage makes Vinca the most dangerous. It requires immediate action."
Much of the uranium is said by officials to be stored in a 75ft pool, filled with murky water, in the institute's reactor building. Other nuclear material stored at the site includes plutonium and highly radioactive spent fuel by-products.
This week, the IAEA will appeal to international donors for funds to pay for decommissioning the site and moving the most dangerous material to Russia for disposal. A joint project by the IAEA, the Vinca institute and the Serbian authorities to secure the material has stalled for lack of funds. "The Vinca staff are highly professional and very co-operative," said Mr Durst, "But the budgets of the institute, and of the whole country, are very limited. They are keeping the whole thing together with gum and tape."
The institute was founded in what was Communist Yugoslavia in 1948, with the help of Soviet scientists. Its nuclear reactor was shut down in 1984, but there are still more than 800 workers at the site, 400 of them scientific staff. IAEA officials are concerned that low-paid employees might be tempted to sell some of the material themselves, or allow terrorists access to it.
Mr Durst said: "It would need a well-organised operation to transport it without endangering the lives of those involved. But if someone were willing to risk their life, it could be done."
Obrad Sotic, a former operations manager at the site, said: "For terrorists ready to commit suicide it wouldn't be a problem to steal a lot of these fuel elements, which are very light, and use them as a dirty bomb."
Thousands of spent fuel rods, made of the highly radioactive mixture of uranium and plutonium, are stored at the site.
While making a nuclear bomb out of the material would be a complex process, requiring special facilities and expertise, a single fuel rod tied to conventional explosives would be enough to create a dirty bomb, which would scatter radioactive debris across a wide area, said Mr Durst.
The IAEA estimates that the cost of disposing of the nuclear material could be as much as ´┐Ż50 million.
The material would be taken to a Russian disposal facility as, according to international agreements, spent nuclear fuel is disposed of in its country of origin, in this case the former Soviet Union.
Aleksandar Popovic, the Serbian science minister, said: "We need to close the financial gap to remove the fuel. We need to ensure Vinca is safe."
More than 100lb of highly enriched uranium fuel has previously been removed from Vinca by the IAEA and the American Russian and Serbian governments. It was transported to a disposal facility near Dimitrovgrad, in Russia.
But 4,000 people living in the village next to the complex are under constant threat of radiation leakage.
Predrag Milic, 43, a villager, said: "People that live in the area are scared of being so close to the institute."
2. Speaking His Peace - Transcript of Responses Made by Former US Ambassador Jonathan Dean (excerpted)
Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune
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Q: Do you believe there´┐Żs a better chance of that happening - an accidental nuclear attack by Russia - than, say, a terrorist smuggling a nuclear weapon into the United States?
Dean: Yes. Because they have many more weapons: They have about 2,000 of them on alert. Probably a mistaken launch, an unauthorized launch by some Russian fanatic, is bigger than the chance that a terrorist group will steal a nuclear weapon, also from Russia, and bring it to bear. In addition, we´┐Żre talking about maybe 300 nuclear strikes - 300 to 400 - in the United States, and that is the end of American society as we know it. Whereas with a terrorist attack, it probably would be an isolated incident.
Q: Is there a danger, in your view, of a terrorist group getting a nuclear weapon, smuggling it into the United States and detonating it?
Dean: There is some danger, but there is not a great one. There are increasing controls on the stockpile of existing weapons. They would have to get an existing weapon because they don´┐Żt have the capacity to develop it. There are increasing controls over entry into the United States. And at the moment, although that will not be the case in the future, the known terrorists lack the capacity to deal with weapons of that kind. Al-Qaida had one chemical weapons expert. He was the closest of anybody capable of dealing with a nuclear weapon. I think the possibility exists, but it´┐Żs remote. However, the possibility of an accidental launch is not remote. And in fact, William Perry, a former secretary of defense, said it was the biggest risk to the United States.
3. Duma ratifies International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism
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The Russian State Duma ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism on Friday. President Vladimir Putin signed the Convention on behalf of Russia at the UN headquarters in New York on September 14, 2005.
The explanatory note to the Convention says that it is the first agreement adopted by the UN on Russia's initiative.
Its adoption creates the basis for international interaction in fighting terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It also ensures the security of nuclear facilities used both for peaceful and military purposes against acts of terrorism and sets the responsibility for persons guilty of acts of nuclear terrorism. It calls for the exchange of information amongst the Convention signatories. The document also includes a mechanism for returning stolen radioactive materials, nuclear devices or substances.
Reactors at the 103 U.S. civilian nuclear plants churn out about 2,000 metric tons of highly radioactive byproduct a year while about 54,000 metric tons are cooling or being stored now. The waste has been waiting for a geological repository in Nevada to open, now eight years after its deadline.
In 1954 Congress took over the responsibility of waste from commercial nuclear plants with the goal of storing it until it becomes safe -- tens of thousands of years.
While the idea first was that two repositories, in either side of the country, would be ideal, Congress, absent completed scientific study (still ongoing) and without federal nuclear regulator approval, decided in 2002 that the only place to store the waste is deep inside Yucca Mountain, nearly 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Congress held four separate hearings on various aspects of the nuclear waste debate this week, while the nuclear industry lobby urged it to fast-track a Yucca solution and the Senate's leading nuclear energy proponent said he's given up on legislation this session but plans to unveil the ultimate compromise after January.
While the approach Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., favors, tacked onto an appropriations bill, would clear both current plants of their waste holdings and a path for new nuclear plants, it isn't getting the best reception.
Domenici calls for interim storage sites throughout the country to hold all current and future nuclear waste until a permanent site is ready -- an obligation of government set in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and something necessary for the nuclear industry to move forward on new projects (transportation issues notwithstanding since how to get the waste where is an as of yet unresolved problem).
But 10 state attorneys general sent a letter this week to Domenici and provision co-author, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., voicing complaints it would violate local jurisdiction of land and environmental laws, among others. (In a move unrelated to the legislation but fully connected to the debate, the Interior Department last week shot down an interim storage site in Utah over doubts of a permanent repository being completed).
And many members at a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality hearing Wednesday rallied around a promise that interim storage would never be approved by them, questioning if interim storage would take away from Yucca.
The pro-nuclear Nuclear Energy Institute is in favor of a mixed-bag approach that is Yucca-heavy, but any debate is good debate, spokesman Steve Kerekes told United Press International.
"We're quite pleased that the issue is before congress, that there are hearings and people are talking about solutions to the used fuel challenges that confront the country."
The NEI purchased two-weeks worth of ads in major Beltway newspapers pushing a "Fix Yucca Mountain" agenda as both a responsibility of the government and one that will reduce the "uncertainty" surrounding new nuclear projects.
"A lot of people are looking at waste as the thing that is going to make or break the expansion prospects in the United States over the next decade or so, and so they're focusing on it," said John Holdren, director of Harvard University's Science, Technology and Public Policy program.
Holdren, co-chair of the National Commission on Energy Policy, said "it is conceivable that Yucca Mountain will never go," which means if there's no interim, off-site storage, the waste will stay at the plants.
"That's the one problem that has to be solved if nuclear energy is going to play a bigger role is waste."
Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Watchdog Project at the anti-nuclear group Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said any talk of new nuclear plants is putting the cart before the horse.
"The first step in responsibly managing nuclear waste problem is to stop generating it," Gunter said. "If I was a plumber looking to fix your toilet, the first thing you have to do is stop using it."
While federal approval is necessary for any new nuclear plants, money may be the key decider between a Yucca-only or interim-also plan.
At the House hearing Wednesday, both Luis Reyes, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's executive director for operations, and Edward Sproat, director of the U.S. Energy Department's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, said they'd need more funding to simultaneously work on and approve interim storage and Yucca Mountain.
Sproat said the department will issue a funding scheme for Yucca by November, to match its timeline for an application to the NRC by 2008 and opening by 2017, which he said was just "the best achievable, not most probable" schedule.
2. IAEA Seeks Guarantees of Nuclear Fuel (excerpted)
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The world´┐Żs top nuclear experts and delegates from 140 countries are meeting in Vienna next week to consider proposals to guarantee countries´┐Ż supplies of nuclear fuel, the essential ingredient for nuclear power generation. The meeting, scheduled from 19-21 September, 2006 at the Austria Center, is open to the press.
A nuclear "fuel bank" - where the IAEA administers a nuclear fuel reserve - is among the proposals. A fuel reserve would assure a back-up supply for power reactors throughout the world on a non-discriminatory, non-political basis reducing the need for countries to develop their own uranium enrichment technologies at a time when concerns about nuclear proliferation are growing. Most government and industry experts agree that the commercial fuel market functions well in meeting current demand. Since this would be a back-up or reserve mechanism, it would be designed inherently in a way not to disrupt the existing commercial market in nuclear fuels.
"I want to make sure that every country that is a bona fide user of nuclear energy, and that is fulfilling its non-proliferation obligations, is getting fuel," said IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. "It is not asking any State to give up its rights under NPT."
The "special event", held during the IAEA´┐Żs 50th General Conference, entitled New Framework for the Utilization of Nuclear Energy: Assurances of Supply and Non-Proliferation, will develop recommendations for the establishment of assurance of nuclear fuel supply that is equitable and accessible to all users of nuclear energy for consideration of IAEA Member States. Chaired by Charles Curtis of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), keynote speakers include IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei; Director of the Russian Federal Nuclear Agency Sergei Kirienko; US Secretary of Energy Sam Bodman; Chairman of AREVA´┐Żs executive board, Anne Lauvergeon; former US Senator and NTI Co-Chairman, Sam Nunn; Annalisa Giannella on behalf of the EU High Representative Javier Solana; and Chair of The Eisenhower Institute, Susan Eisenhower.
"The importance of this step is that, by providing reliable access to fuel at competitive market prices, we remove the need for countries to develop indigenous fuel cycle capabilities. In so doing, we could go a long way towards addressing current concerns about the dissemination of sensitive fuel cycle technologies," Dr. ElBaradei said.
China has made a move to secure an Australian source for nuclear energy supplies by starting negotiations to buy a major uranium deposit field.
The proposed US$23 million transaction by Sinosteel for a 60 percent stake in the Crocker Well uranium field in South Australia would allow it to import supplies directly if and when mining of the field begins, The Australian reported in its Thursday edition.
"There's a national interest test to be applied here and one of the problems is that there is no clear definition of the national interest," an opposition Labor Party's spokesperson said in calling for a government review of the purchase.
"Perhaps it's time some serious attention was turned to that, given there is a global race to lock up energy supplies."
Full details of the proposed sale to Sinosteel by the Sydney-based company PepinNini were not immediately available. But the report said a memo of understanding had already been signed in Beijing between the two entities and negotiations would be held on a full agreement.
Sinosteel is no stranger to investment in Australian resources. It currently owns a 40 percent stake in an iron ore deposit in Western Australia.
The Australian government said in April that China would be allowed to buy uranium from Australia under strict controls to ensure the uranium would not be used for non-weapons purposes.
China's modernization has made it a major consumer of energy supplies, a factor in higher oil prices earlier this year around the world.
1. India takes a step closer to nuclear pact with US
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India has pledged to explore "peaceful uses of nuclear energy" with Brazil and South Africa in an agreement that could bolster a proposed deal with the US allowing it access to nuclear technology for civilian purposes.
Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, this week met Luiz In´┐Żcio Lula da Silva, Brazil's president, and Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, at a three-way trade summit in Bras´┐Żlia that aimed to forge closer ties between the countries.
In a joint statement the leaders agreed to "explore approaches to co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy under appropriate safeguards".
"International civilian nuclear co-operation, under appropriate International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, among countries committed to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation objectives could be enhanced through acceptable forward-looking approaches consistent with their respective national and international obligations," said the statement.
The US has prohibited civil nuclear co-operation with India for 30 years because the country developed nuclear weapons and has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. But US President George W. Bush last year agreed to allow India access to nuclear technology if it separated military and civilian nuclear plants and opened the latter to international inspectors.
The treaty was passed by the US House of Representatives in July but has yet to come before the Senate. India must also negotiate safeguards with the IAEA and gain approval from other nuclear regulators.
The Indo-US nuclear agreement was top of the agenda at a US-India Economic Summit in New Delhi this week where leaders outlined goals to boost bilateral trade from $26.8bn last year to $60bn within three years.
The positions of Brazil and South Africa are important because they are part of the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, which regulates nuclear materials. Brazil currently chairs the NSG.
"NSG functions on the basis of consensus," said K Subrahmanyam, former member of India's national security advisory board. "They have to say yes as a group for the US to supply technology to India."
The nuclear pact would help India meet enormous energy demand, pave the way for an "enhanced role" on the international stage and stimulate US and Indian business, David Mulford, US ambassador to India, told summit delegates.
New legislation would "bring about a cascade of revisions in India's international status - opening the nuclear market not only for American companies but also for the entire international community," he said.
Shri Pranab Mukherjee, India's defence minister, said the prohibitions on access to nuclear technology formed "an invisible barrier to trade and investment."
The Indian nuclear programme will continue whether or not the deal with the U.S. comes through, Anil Kakodkar, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman and Department of Atomic Energy Secretary, said on Wednesday.
He was speaking to presspersons after inaugurating an Emergency Response Centre at the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research.
Dr. Kakodkar said the two countries had held wide-ranging discussions on the modalities of the deal, including discussions with the International Atomic Energy Agency. India's nuclear programme was linked to three factors ´┐Ż sustaining fossil fuel reserves, heavy pricing of hydrocarbons, and global climatic problems. There was global interest in its nuclear programme as India was an advanced nuclear technology country. Nuclear technology could contribute to world energy requirements, and India was known to be a safe and responsible nuclear player.
"We have identified a separation plan, which has been discussed and agreed upon by the two countries. We are close to getting approval of the deal. However, the U.S. Congress will have to amend its laws to pass a guideline with regard to nuclear fuel suppliers, so that nuclear cooperation between the two countries can begin," he said.
There would be no changes in the framework of the deal. "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has spelt out all the elements in his statement in Parliament." India would look after its interest of carrying on with domestic research and development programmes, as the country was keen on opening up its three-stage nuclear programme to its full potential.
"We should be able to carry out our strategic programme, especially with regard to national security, as has been recognised in the July 18 agreement. However, we are also keen on international civil nuclear cooperation to ensure that we get additional energy resources through nuclear power," Dr. Kakodkar said.
On recycling spent fuel, he said spent fuel could not remain so in perpetuity. The country had adopted a close nuclear fuel cycle model, which was getting broader world recognition as the correct strategy for managing spent fuel. As for the controversy over uranium mining in Andhra Pradesh, Dr. Kakodkar said that by and large there was support for mining. "Only a small section is opposed to the uranium mining, probably because it is misinformed or inadequately informed."
The only nation to have suffered a nuclear attack is now talking about developing an arsenal of its own. On September 5, former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said Japan should consider developing nuclear weapons.
In light of Japan´┐Żs war history, the development of nuclear weapons had long been too sensitive to discuss in Japanese politics. Increasingly, however, that is no longer the case. For example, the conservative Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe has maintained in recent years that Japan has the right to possess nuclear weapons and should develop them. It just so happens that Abe is heavily favored to become Japan´┐Żs next prime minister.
Now, with North Korea´┐Żs latest missile tests, nuclear arms have become the subject of even more serious and open discussion in Japan. The New York Times describes this debate as an illustration of how the Japanese are coming to terms with their desire to become a ´┐Ż´┐Żnormal nation,´┐Ż one armed and able to fight wars.´┐Ż
Talk of Japanese nuclear armament does not bode well for the United States. Japan has been America´┐Żs staunchest ally in the Asian theater. One reason is the U.S.-Japan AMPO treaty that ensures Japanese safety under American protection. Japan´┐Żs increased interest in providing its own security is a warning sign of a weakened U.S.-Japan relationship. Nakasone last week ´┐Żurged the Japanese to seriously discuss whether to go nuclear, taking into account the possibility that Japan could one day no longer depend on the nuclear umbrella provided by the United States under the bilateral security pact´┐Ż (Jiji Press, September 5).
North Korea´┐Żs antics are giving some high-level Japanese officials just the rationale they need in order to pursue a policy that would enable Japan to stand on its own, and to distance itself from the U.S. If Japan feels it cannot rely on the United States for security, it will have to take matters into its own hands´┐Żfor example, a nuclear deterrent. This prospect aligns well with Shinzo Abe´┐Żs support of repealing or loosely interpreting Article Nine, the constitutional article that forfeits Japan´┐Żs right to make war. His ´┐Żpreemptive strike´┐Ż rhetoric regarding North Korea broke down some longstanding barriers in Japanese thinking.
Given the political go-ahead, Japan could become a nuclear-armed nation almost overnight. Because of its dearth of natural resources, Japan has long relied on nuclear power. With the plutonium from its reactors, Japan could easily manufacture thousands of nuclear weapons. Add to that the fact that Japan already produces machinery to manufacture centrifuges and other highly precise instruments that are used in making nuclear warheads, and Japan´┐Żs timetable for producing a nuclear weapon shrinks to weeks´┐Żor less, according to Abe.
Why is this important? Thetrumpet.com has long tracked mounting evidence of a developing powerful alliance among Russia, China, Japan and other Asian powers. Japan´┐Żs industrialization and economy put it in good stead to contribute mightily to such a force. With Shinzo Abe almost assured to take on Japan´┐Żs prime ministership following September 20 elections, the current nuclear weapons discussions at such high levels mark a trend for Japan to return to a militarily prominent global position.
1. Russia's nuclear chief says Iran NPP to be launched in Nov. 2007
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Russia's nuclear chief said Monday a nuclear power plant under construction in southern Iran will be launched in November 2007.
Russia is helping Iran build the plant at Bushehr, 400 kilometers (250 miles) southwest of the capital, Tehran. The Bushehr NPP, which is being built under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was previously scheduled to become operational by the end of 2006.
"The Bushehr nuclear power plant will be commissioned in September 2007, and the power generating launch will take place in November 2007," Sergei Kiriyenko told journalists on the sidelines of the 50th IAEA General Conference in Vienna.
He added he would hold a meeting September 25 in Moscow with Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization and the country's vice president.
"We will discuss issues related to the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant at a meeting with Iran's vice president," he said.
Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly, Atomstroiexport, is building Bushehr's first power unit under a $1 billion contract signed by Russia and Iran in 1995. A supplemental agreement signed in 1998 stipulates that Atomstroiexport complete construction of the plant on a turnkey arrangement.
2. Iran-Russia nuclear cooperation transparent, legal - Russian FM
Islamic Republic News Agency
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Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov here on Friday stressed that Tehran-Moscow nuclear cooperation is quite transparent and in accordance with international laws and related regulations.
Speaking at Russian Parliament, Dumas, Lavrov added, "Our nuclear cooperation with Iran is conducted under the direct supervision of the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA) and in full accordance with the articles of its nuclear NPT.
Voicing Moscow's strong opposition against imposing international sanctions against Iran, he said, "Russia resorts to imposing sanctions against another country only under emergency conditions, that do not exist in case of Iran's nuclear activities."
Arguing that imposing sanctions and resorting to veto right are measures that can be adopted at any moment, the Russian Foreign Minister added, "In addition to emergency conditions, such measures can be adopted when national interests, or international interests are at stake, or when a factor emerges as a serious threat against the international peace and security."
Lavrov said, "Ratification of the new Convention for Combat against Terrorism in Russia poses no threat against Iran-Russia nuclear cooperation."
Elsewhere in his remarks the Russian top diplomat criticized the unilateral approaches adopted by Washington in dealing with international affairs, reiterating, "Russia is opposed to adopting unilateral approaches, including in case of the prevailing crisis in Iraq."
He said that the US approach in such cases leads to paving the appropriate path for broader terrorist acts throughout the world.
Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman praised today's signing of a liability agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation that clears a legal hurdle for an important nonproliferation program administered by the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
Under Secretary of State Robert Joseph and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak signed the agreement in Washington, on behalf of their two governments. The United States and Russia successfully completed negotiations of the protocol in 2005, and the Russian government recently completed its formal process approving it for signature.
"This agreement demonstrates that both countries continue to be committed to this important nonproliferation program, which will dispose of enough weapons-grade plutonium for more than 16,000 nuclear weapons," Secretary Bodman said. "It's an important part of the Bush administration's effort to keep nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists."
The plutonium disposition program aims to eliminate a total of 68 metric tons (about 150,000 pounds) of surplus weapon-grade plutonium in the United States and in Russia, and stems from a 2000 nonproliferation agreement between the two countries. Both countries will dispose of their plutonium by converting it to mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for use in nuclear reactors. Once the MOX fuel is irradiated, the plutonium has been converted into a form that cannot be used for nuclear weapons.
"Signing this protocol with our Russian partners formally resolves the issue of what liability framework would apply for cooperation between the two countries to eliminate this dangerous material from Russian and U.S. stocks," said NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks. "We continue to work with the Russian Federation on the next steps in implementing the plutonium disposition agreement."
NNSA is nearing completion of site preparation activities for construction of a Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina. The agency is awaiting completion of the appropriations act for fiscal year 2007 before proceeding with construction.
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