1. Rosenergoatom to be incorporated in 2007 - deputy CEO
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Rosenergoatom, Russia's state-run nuclear power generating monopoly, will be transformed into a joint-stock company in the first half of 2007, a deputy general director said Monday.
"In all appearance, the concern will be incorporated in the first half of 2007," Oleg Sarayev said at the ninth international nuclear forum in St. Petersburg.
"The incorporation will be held with 100% state property," he said.
Rosenergoatom's general director said in early September that the concern was planning to begin construction of nine nuclear power-generating units in 2007.
"Next year, we will work under entirely new conditions prompted by the market," Sergei Obozov said. "We have once again to prove our business efficiency."
Russia's nuclear industry is undergoing a major reorganization aimed at boosting nuclear energy production and increasing Russia's competitiveness on the global nuclear market.
Under a plan approved this summer by President Vladimir Putin, Russia will merge its civilian nuclear companies into one state company, Atomprom, to form a giant capable of competing on the world nuclear market.
"During the transitional period to Atomprom, of which we see ourselves as the core, we have to prove our soundness by improving [NPPs'] safety," Obozov said.
Rosenergoatom runs a total of 31 power-generating units at 10 of Russia's nuclear power plants.
If the plan is implemented, Atomprom will also absorb the civilian units of the Federal Nuclear Power Agency (Rosatom), including TVEL, the nuclear fuel producer and supplier, Tekhsnabexport (Tenex), the state-owned uranium trader, and Atomstroiexport, Russia's leading organization implementing intergovernmental agreements on the construction of nuclear facilities abroad.
Rosatom is set to amalgamate all of Russia's nuclear power generation, uranium production and enrichment, as well as the building and export of nuclear products.
1. Iran, EU will not discuss uranium enrichment moratorium
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Iran's top nuclear negotiator and the EU foreign policy chief will not discuss Tehran's moratorium on uranium enrichment, the vice president of the Iranian National Atomic Energy Organization said Tuesday.
Citing anonymous Bush administration sources, the Washington Times earlier in the day reported that Tehran was close to an agreement to suspend uranium enrichment for 90 days, a move regarded as a necessary precondition for additional talks with the European Union on Iran's controversial nuclear program.
Many in the West suspect the program of covertly seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, a claim Iran has consistently rejected.
"The imposition of a three-month moratorium on [uranium] enrichment activities will not be discussed during the upcoming talks between [Ali] Larijani and [Javier] Solana," Mohammad Saeedi said.
Solana and Larijani, head of Iran's influential Supreme National Security Council, last met September 10 in Vienna, where the sides said some progress was made on a series of issues. Media reports suggest they will meet Tuesday in Brussels, but Solana's press service said the meeting is not on his agenda.
On September 14, experts from Iran and the EU met to discuss Iran's atomic research program in Geneva.
Under a UN Security Council resolution, Tehran was to have suspended uranium enrichment by August 31 as a precondition for further talks on a package of incentives that six negotiators on Iran's program -- Russia, the United Kingdom, China, France, the United States and Germany -- worked out in June.
Tehran's response to those incentives was handed to the Iran-6 group August 22. According to media reports, Iran claims it will consider suspending its uranium enrichment program only after talks.
Some countries propose drafting sanctions against Iran in the event talks fail. But Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday after a meeting with the leaders of France and Germany, that the leaders are committed to a diplomatic resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier said he sees a number of constructive aspects in Tehran's response, and that these aspects help maintain contacts between Solana and the Iranian side.
The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1696 July 31, demanding that Iran suspend uranium enrichment by August 31 or face possible economic and diplomatic sanctions. However, an International Atomic Energy Agency report said Tehran refuses to suspend the program and bars inspectors from its nuclear facilities.
Russia, which signed the UN resolution, opposes the imposition of sanctions advocated by the United States. Washington is pushing for a sanctions deadline, regardless of skepticism from Russia, China and even its European allies.
French President Jacques Chirac advocates the continuation of dialogue, saying last week he opposes setting a deadline for sanctions, and that talks should be allowed to run their course.
2. Nuclear Iran Sparks Safety Fears Among Arab Neighbors
The Media Line
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Before the Chernobyl accident, no one in the vicinity gave the reactor a second thought.
ï¿½People just said, ï¿½Thereï¿½s a nuclear reactor in Chernobyl that creates electricity; itï¿½s healthy, itï¿½s fine and nothing will happen.ï¿½ Who would have dreamed?ï¿½
Some of the worst effects of the Chernobyl disaster were not only felt in the Ukraine, but also in neighboring countries such as Belarus, which absorbed at least 60 percent of the radioactive fallout from the disaster.
Two decades on, the horrors of Chernobyl linger like a cloud over the Persian Gulf. Inhabitants fear history could repeat itself in their neck of the woods, as they follow developments in Iran, their large neighbor to the north.
Tehran is currently at odds with the international community, which fears its controversial nuclear program is intended for building a bomb.
But bomb or no bomb, Gulf countries are troubled by the emergence of a nuclear program in their vicinity.
Threats of a Borderless Environment
ï¿½We all share the same climate and environmental zone,ï¿½ says Sami Al-Faraj, president of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies, who is also an adviser to governments in the Persian Gulf.
Winds in this region tend to blow from Iran southward, to the Gulf, so a nuclear leak would ultimately carry poisons or contamination from Iran to its southern neighbors, he explains.
The Persian Gulf has an unusual feature that distinguishes it from other gulfs in the world, in that its currents run counter clockwise, not clockwise.
In the case of a nuclear disaster, this means contamination will move from Iran to the coasts of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Al-Faraj is especially concerned about his home country, Kuwait.
ï¿½Our desalination plants, our fisheries, our sources of trade and transportation, all of these activities will be affected, especially our food and water security,ï¿½ he said.
The largest concern involves an $800-million nuclear facility being built in Bushehr, in southwest Iran, under an agreement between the Russian and the Iranian governments.
Bushehr is the southernmost nuclear facility in Iran and is located about 300 kilometers (188 miles) away from both Bahrain and Kuwait, as the crow flies. In contrast, fallout from Chernobyl transcended continents and is said to have even reached the eastern coast of the United States.
A nuclear accident at Bushehr threatens not only the regionï¿½s environment, but also world oil supplies. Contamination could reach strategic oil fields and damage the supply of oil from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, Al-Faraj says.
Greenpeace has also voiced concerns over the Iranian nuclear program.
ï¿½Any type of nuclear energy generates nuclear waste, which is by all standards an environmental hazard,ï¿½ says Ido Gideon, spokesman for Greenpeace Israel, which has been studying the impact of the program on the region.
In addition, he points out Iranï¿½s volatile position, both geologically and politically.
ï¿½The thing about the Iranian nuclear program, from our perspective, is that there is no transparency,ï¿½ Al-Faraj laments. ï¿½They are oblivious to our concerns. They label us stooges of the United States and say weï¿½re repeating Western propaganda.ï¿½
ï¿½This part of the world is prone to earthquakes,ï¿½ Al-Faraj adds. ï¿½The Iranians say their nuclear reactor in Bushehr is able to withstand an earthquake of up to eight degrees on the Richter Scale, but weï¿½re taking the worst-case scenario and expecting that the outer case of the reactor might break. This could cause contamination in the area.ï¿½
A spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said standards regarding the safety and security of nuclear facilities do exist, but it is not compulsory for countries to abide by them. Nevertheless, Iran has asked for IAEA inspectors to help ensure safety standards in the Bushehr reactor, he said.
Anton Khlopkov, deputy director of the PIR Center for Policy Studies in Russia, says facilities such as Bushehr are safer than some might think.
ï¿½According to my calculations, there are 23 such reactors in Russia, Europe, China, and under construction in India. All of them are quite safe, so I donï¿½t think there is any threat to Bahrain and other neighboring countries,ï¿½ he says.
ï¿½At the same time, we should bear in mind that because of lack of experience, in the first few years it will not be Iranians but mostly Russians who will operate and manage the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, when it becomes operational.ï¿½
As to other nuclear facilities in Iran, Khlopkov thinks Iran must expand its cooperation with the IAEA and with the international community on safety issues.
ï¿½Iran started its nuclear research in the 1960s, but since then it hasnï¿½t had many opportunities or facilities to train its specialists in the area of safety,ï¿½ Khlopkov says.
It should be noted that Arab objection to Iranï¿½s nuclear program has strategic, as well as environmental motives.
Most would agree that even if Iran is indeed pursuing a nuclear weapons program, Tehran is not likely to drop a bomb on its Arab neighbors.
However, the notion of a nuclear Iran is enough to make Middle Eastern leaders ill at ease.
ï¿½The Arab leaderships are clearly concerned about Iranï¿½s nuclear program because it sits in the bigger picture of Iran being a more assertive and dominant power in the region,ï¿½ says Emile El-Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the Henry L. Stimson Center and co-author of The Arab Gulf States in the Shadow of the Iranian Nuclear Challenge.
From 2002 until 2005 Arab leaders have been careful in their public statements about Iran, and expressed what El-Hokayem calls an ï¿½uneasy but calculated restraintï¿½ regarding the nuclear program.
But since the end of 2005, and especially in the past few months, Arab leaders have been more vocal in their criticism of Iran, he notes.
ï¿½This, in part, has been the product of a more belligerent tone coming from Tehran, with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad as president,ï¿½ he says.
The recent round of fighting in Lebanon has also given rise to fears that Iran is emboldening the Shiï¿½ite community in the Middle East, something that traditional Arab leaderships find troublesome.
ï¿½At the same time, they canï¿½t afford to antagonize Iran,ï¿½ El-Hokayem adds. ï¿½It will always be an important power in the region.ï¿½
When it comes to the people in the street, the attitude to Iranï¿½s nuclear program is quite different.
Tariq Khonji, a journalist in Bahrain, has been covering the environmental impact of Iranï¿½s nuclear program for his paper, Gulf Daily News. Most Bahrainis are ignorant of the potential hazards this program poses, he says.
Others are aware of the dangers, but nevertheless support the program because they view the issue politically. They support Iran because it is a Muslim country that is proudly defying the United States, Khonji says.
El-Hokayem agrees that at the level of the Arab street, there seems to be considerable support for Iranï¿½s foreign policy, including the nuclear program.
Whether environmental concerns outweigh the strategic factor, or vice versa, depends very much on the country.
ï¿½For Kuwait or Qatar thereï¿½s no doubt itï¿½s more environmental,ï¿½ El-Hokayem says. ï¿½For others, like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, itï¿½s more political.
ï¿½A nuclear-armed Iran is not likely to bomb them, but it will feel more emboldened and in a way it will be the big bully in the region. This is their concern. Itï¿½s not the use of nuclear weapons. Itï¿½s the secondary effect.ï¿½
Meanwhile, as the international community is tiptoeing around the Iranian issue to find a diplomatic solution, governments of Gulf countries are not sitting idly by waiting for a crisis to happen.
The Bahraini government, together with a London-based think tank, recently hosted a conference entitled The Dangers and Consequences of Nuclear Proliferation in the Gulf Region.
Also, marine experts are drawing up an emergency action plan in case of a nuclear mishap.
Capt. Abdelmumin Al-Janahi, director of the Bahrain-based Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Agency (MEMAC), says the Iranians have been quite cooperative and are aware of their responsibilities in this respect. He rules out any political undertones of this task force.
ï¿½We are only dealing with the technical side of the environment, whether itï¿½s an oil spill, a chemical threat or any other type of threat to the region,ï¿½ he says. ï¿½Politically, weï¿½re not involved by any means.ï¿½
In the diplomatic arena, Arab countries have no power to stop Iranï¿½s nuclear program, even if they wish to do so, El-Hokayem believes.
ï¿½They are small players in this great game. Those who have the power to alter Iranï¿½s nuclear calculations are primarily the Europeans, Russians, Chinese and Americans.ï¿½
Some nuclear dominoes are beginning to fall in the Middle East.
Gamal Mubarak, son of Egyptï¿½s effective president-for-life and likely candidate to succeed him, said in a speech this week it was time for Egypt to consider the issue of ï¿½alternative energy, including nuclear energy.ï¿½
Advancing nuclear technology in Egypt shouldnï¿½t be a concern, if the handling of nuclear fuel is under international control.
Iran, however, is insisting on a nuclear power industry and the right to enrich uranium for fuel, and has rejected Russiaï¿½s proposals to supply enriched uranium and dispose of the waste products.
Without controls, reactor fuel could be diverted for enrichment into bomb material. Plutonium, another bomb material, could be extracted from reactor waste.
If Iran gets away with it, it is highly unlikely that Egypt will accept controls. A Sunni Arab country - Egypt - isnï¿½t about to accept lower status than a Shiite Persian country - Iran. Egypt will see domestic political gain from resisting international pressure, and especially will see a plus from defying the United States.
Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Syria are likely to follow, each one, of course, swearing that it seeks nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes.
Defenders of these countries are likely to argue that since Israel already has nuclear weapons, some principle of equality requires that its adversaries at least have the means of making them too. But the world knows from experience that even if Israel has nuclear bombs (which it does not admit), it will use them only if the existence of the country is in peril. No other country in the region can be trusted to be so reserved.
Thereï¿½s likely nothing the United States or any other country can do to break this chain if Iran forges the first link.
The admiral in charge of American forces in Asia said Friday that he believes North Korea has no missile capable of reaching long distances and is unlikely to have one "for a while."
Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, the military's top officer in the Pacific, said that although the U.S. has limited intelligence on North Korea's missile program and even less on the secretive government's intentions, the failure of Pyongyang's test of a long-range missile in July was a sign that such technologies remain out of the regime's grasp.
"The fact that it failed, and the fact that apparently the last time they did this, which was eight years ago, it was also a failure, indicates some problems," Fallon told a group of military writers. "Before we could credibly give them a capability, or assign a capability, they'd have to demonstrate an ability to actually get a missile off the pad and have it fly at long range."
Fallon's position varies in some respects from that of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who has continued to warn of the threat of North Korea's Taepodong 2 long-range missile even after the recent test firing in which the rocket blew up less than a minute after liftoff.
"The Taepodong 2 is estimated to have the range that conceivably could reach the United States," Rumsfeld said shortly after the launch. "And the fact that it failed is a fact, but it does not change the nature of the launch."
North Korea's ability to launch long-range missiles has become highly politicized, with Bush administration critics saying Rumsfeld has overstated the threat to gain funding for the Pentagon's multibillion-dollar missile defense system.
Fallon said the July launch may have been meant primarily as a provocation rather than a genuine test of capabilities. He added that the U.S. military was taken by surprise by the multiple firings of several different missiles during the Taepodong 2 test. A total of seven missiles were fired over the course of several hours on July 4.
The Pacific commander also cast doubt on North Korea's ability to launch a successful invasion of the South, saying Pyongyang's ground forces have gradually degraded in recent years, thanks in part to international economic sanctions.
Since taking over Pacific Command 18 months ago, Fallon has traveled to China three times and has emerged as a leading proponent of more active engagement with Beijing, particularly between the two militaries.
Pentagon planning documents issued in February describe China as the country with the greatest potential to become America's military adversary in the future, but Fallon said the U.S. should be working to increase the number of visits and exchanges with the Chinese military. He acknowledged, however, that his view was not shared by others in the U.S. government.
Though he did not mention specific policymakers, Fallon said "institutions of our government" still tended to treat China as they once treated the Soviet Union, an approach he disagreed with. "It isn't a clone of the Soviet Union," Fallon said. "If you are basing most of your relationship on assumptions, you have a high probability of being incorrect, just on the law of averages."
This week, two Chinese naval ships docked in San Diego, a port visit that was followed by one of the first joint military exercises between the two countries in years. Fallon said China would reciprocate with a more complex joint exercise off its coast this year.
A senior North Korean official said his country plans to unload fuel rods from its nuclear reactor and "reprocess the fuel into plutonium to make nuclear weapons" as a way to leverage a return to bilateral talks with the United States, American scholar Selig Harrison told reporters at a Beijing news conference Saturday.
Harrison, one of the few U.S. scholars granted access to senior North Korean officials, said he spoke with Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-Gwan who told him Pyongyang planned to unload the rods from the Yongbyon reactor.
Kim reportedly said the government had been "unhappy with the financial sanctions the U.S. has imposed," but was eager to negotiate with the U.S. and return to the six-party talks. The talks include Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea and the United States.
"The financial sanction policy is working against the very objective that we say we have with North Korea, which is to get them to open up to the outside world," Harrison said.
Earlier this week Japan passed a new package of financial sanctions against North Korea that essentially banned transactions between Pyongyang and a list of 15 companies and one individual with ties to the North's missile and weapons programs. (Full story)
The move was parallel to earlier U.S. sanctions imposed against the communist country under a U.N. Security Council resolution that was adopted after the North's intercontinental ballistic missile launches in July.
Washington and North Korea's Asian neighbors -- South Korea, China, Russia and Japan -- have been trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear program since 2002 in the framework of the six-party talks.
One of the unsung stories during the lengthy shutdown of operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory that began in July 2004 was an exceptionally urgent operation to prepare packages of purified plutonium oxide for international shipment.
The project was part of a major non-proliferation agreement between the United States and Russia for disposing of large quantities of surplus weapons-grade plutonium. The two countries were supposedly on parallel tracks for realizing a mutual commitment to eliminate 34 metric tons of plutonium from each of their arsenals
According to participants, the LANL project was considered so crucial and it was on such a tight deadline that the nation's nuclear weapons chief Linton Brooks approved a unique exception to the blanket suspension of all activities considered dangerous at LANL.
Extraordinary precautions were put into place under heightened oversight by the laboratory's senior managers and officials of the National Nuclear Security Administration.
"We had to jump through many more hoops," said Randy Erickson, the program manager at the time, now the lab's Deputy Division Leader of the Decision Applications Division. "It was a push."
At the time work at the laboratory was suspended, a test batch from disassembled nuclear warheads had been ground down into a purified plutonium oxide powder and was ready for shipment to France to be mixed with uranium oxide into four mixed oxide (MOX) lead assemblies.
Lead assemblies are the first fuel samples used by a nuclear power plant to confirm that a new fuel design will perform safely and predictably over a period of several years.
According to the U.S. disposition plan, the MOX fuel will generate nuclear power and then the spent fuel will become part of the long-term waste repository.
Writing in a technical article published in early 2005, Erickson and David Alberstein observed that the facility in France was about to shut down and if the material did not get there in time, the MOX fuel would not have been available until the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility was built at Savannah River.
If the MOX lead assemblies weren't made in France, the program would be set back by three to five years, wrote Erickson and Alberstein. "(The delay would) increase the cost of the U.S. program by $1 billion, place the viability of the bilateral program in jeopardy and compromise U.S. credibility in this and other nonproliferation programs," the concluded.
As it turned out, the deadline was met. The lead assemblies are now being irradiated in a nuclear reactor at Catawba Nuclear Power Station in South Carolina, in accordance with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's authorization procedures.
NNSA Administrator Brooks wrote to the laboratory after the crisis,
"Due to exceptional efforts by a number of individuals, a combined federal and Los Alamos team accomplished the necessary packaging safely, effectively and in time to meet the shipment schedule."
Plutonium Disposition Program
Erickson gave an update on the plutonium disposition program at a meeting of the Los Alamos Committee on Arms Control and International Security this week.
The big news, he said, was the long-awaited signing of a liability agreement between the United States and Russia, one of a number of complications that have delayed the project.
The deal announced on Sept. 15 raised new hopes that a program to dispose of large quantities of weapons grade plutonium in the two countries would move forward again.
Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said in a press release that the plutonium disposition amounted to 150,000 pounds between the two countries and were enough weapons-grade plutonium for 16,000 nuclear weapons.
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-NM, said in his announcement that the agreement confirms the two nations' support for the disposition project.
Because the two programs are supposed to be mirror images of each other, so that one country doesn't get to far ahead of the other, progress in Russia may help shore up confidence in the United States.
Not everybody is on board with the disposition plans, however.
Just before the liability agreement was announced, a letter signed by 59 groups, including the Nuclear Control Institute and the Union of Concerned Scientists, went out to Rep. David Hobson (R-Oh), opposing the plan to re-use plutonium, rather than to immobilize it, which the groups consider to be a safer and more straightforward process.
In the DOE appropriations bill passed by the House of Representatives, the MOX program has been zeroed out by Hobson's appropriation subcommittee, based on lack of progress on the Russian side, although the Senate version of the bill increases the funding level by $50 million.
The Russians have been skeptical that "immobilized" plutonium cold not be "de-immobilized," Erickson said.
He added that there was a cost factor involved as well - that immobilization would have required funding a third major building at Savannah River.
Los Alamos National Laboratory's part in the plutonium disposition is a $40 million a year project, employing about 80 people, providing the technical demonstration and equipment to take surplus plutonium cores from bombs and warheads dismantled from Pantex Facility in Texas and convert them into what will eventually become nuclear fuel.
Steve McKee, who is now the program manager for the LANL project said the liability agreement has no immediate effect on the local effort, which will provide the final verification and validation of the disassembly technologies.
"The test plan runs over the next two-and-a-half years," he said. "We'll demonstrate the entire process from start to finish."
The work includes disassembly of each different kind of plutonium pit, validating models, establishing operating parameters and equipment durability and maintenance requirements.
Assuming future hurdles in a highly complex project can continue to be overcome, the equipment and procedures will then form the basis for the Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility, which is currently under design at Savannah River.
1. Anti-terrorism drills at Armenia NPP set for active phase
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A joint command and staff anti-terrorism exercise at nuclear power facilities in southwest Armenia will enter its active phase September 26, military officials said Monday.
The Russian-Armenian exercise, Anti-Terror-2006, which started at a nuclear plant in the city of Metsamor September 15 and will last until September 29, aims to practice coordination of law enforcement agencies in the event of a terrorist attack on vital infrastructure facilities.
"In the second stage of the exercise, the anti-terrorism task groups of the Armenian and Russian security services will set up a headquarters to organize and conduct a joint operation to release hostages and eliminate terrorists at the Metsamor NPP," said Colonel General Boris Mylnikov, head of the Anti-Terrorist Center of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose union of 11 former Soviet republics.
He said representatives of the CIS, the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Greece, and anti-terrorist committees of the UN Security Council, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization had been invited to the exercise as observers.
Two al-Qaida operatives visited the world's most accessible nuclear facility, where more than two tons of highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium are stored behind a rusty barb-wire fence protected by a handful of guards with light weapons, MI6 agents have learned.
An intelligence report obtained by Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin described the facility as "the dream target for terrorists." The view is shared by Michael Durst, a senior manager at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency.
"The site is top of our global priority list of unsecured uranium sources," said Durst. "At present it is easily accessible to an organized attack."
Once a jewel in the former Soviet arsenal, the National Science Institute at Vinca, 10 miles south of the Serbian capital, Belgrade, was closed in 1984 and its reactor switched off. Since then, the 48-acre site has steadily fallen into decay.
Last week, Durst said: "Vinca is unique in the amount of uranium stored within the facility, over two tons. About 30 percent of this is now leaking. The remaining caretaker staff at the institute are doing their best to deal with the situation. But they are poorly paid and our concern is that some employees could be tempted to sell some of the material themselves or allow terrorists access to it. It would have to be a well-organized theft to transport the fissionable material and the risks for those involved would be high. But if someone was ready to take the risk with their lives, it could be done."
MI6 agents, who tracked the two al-Qaida terrorists that visited the Vinca site, have established they were accompanied by the one organization with the expertise to carry out such a theft, reports G2 Bulletin.
It is run by Semyon Yukovich Mogilevich, head of the Rising Sun, eastern Europe's major criminal family. Mogilevich is described by the British Home Office "as one of the most dangerous criminals in the world." His organization is linked to money-laundering and trafficking in humans, weapons and drugs. The United States and several other countries have issued arrest warrants for him.
Aleksander Popovic, the Serbian government minister of science, said: "It must be a priority to stop the nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists."
Under international treaties, all such materials must be returned to the country of origin ï¿½ in Vinca's case to the former Soviet Union. But Moscow cannot fund the cost of doing so ï¿½ estimated to be nearly $100 million.
Last week the IAEA wrote to other countries, including the United States and Britain, asking for funds to remove the deadly materials.
"It could take a little while to get agreement on the level of help," said Obrad Sotic, a former operations manager at the site. "Meantime for terrorists ready to risk exposure to radiation, it would not be a problem to steal enough material to make 'dirty' bombs."
Durst confirmed that a substantial portion of the nuclear material is stored in a pool inside the unused reactor.
"There are other sites in Bulgaria and Romania," he said. "But the accessibility of the material at Vinca makes it the most dangerous site in the world."
When Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., issued a report card on U.S. homeland security efforts since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, nuclear plant security received the highest marks. But the B+ grade was coupled with scathing sketches of persisting problems.
The Nuclear Energy Institute, a leading industry group, says "the industry has invested $1.2 billion in security-related improvements" to the 64 civilian nuclear plants in the country.
"These include extending and fortifying security perimeters, installing new barriers to protect against potential vehicle bombs, installing additional high-tech surveillance equipment, and increasing security forces by 60 percent," according to details from a recent presentation by Adm. Frank L. 'Skip' Bowman, U.S. Navy, retired, president and chief executive officer NEI.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission also talks about nuclear security with confidence. Many details are kept a secret -- for security reasons -- so an accurate analysis hinges on the word of government officials, claims by those with vested interests, and assessments by those with homeland security expertise.
Schumer's report card, released Sept. 4, praised the NRC for "strictly regulated" nuclear plants and continued progress. The NRC has requested $70.3 million for its fiscal year 2007 security budget, down from $79.3 million budgeted this year but $11 million more than 2005.
"We are pleased that the Senator acknowledged the significant work the NRC has done in enhancing security at nuclear power plants in the past five years," wrote Scott Burnell, spokesman for the NRC, in an e-mail interview with United Press International.
But Schumer's grade, citing reports by the Government Accountability Office, criticized the NRC's Design Basis Threat -- standards each plant must meet in defending off an attack -- and the ability of plants to meet the DBT, details of which the NRC keeps secret.
"We are confident in the basis of our DBT," Burnell wrote, when asked about the attack scenarios.
He also wrote that there have been numerous reviews, assessments and changes in security in how the NRC and the nuclear plants it regulates operate since the attacks. This includes work with the U.S. Energy Department in determining consequences of airlines crashing into reactors, and working with the North American Aerospace Defense Command/U.S. Northern Command to create an early warning system.
"NRC has utilized the insights from its classified research on security assessments to direct that appropriate imminent threat procedures be developed at each power reactor," NRC Chairman Dale Klein wrote in an Aug. 28 letter to Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Dave Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said Schumer's report card shows improvements, but not enough.
"You'd think five years after 9-11 we'd get some A's," said Lochbaum. He's worried "if we have A-team terrorists come in and have a B+ response."
Lochbaum said the NRC's has increased its look at security, especially in "force-on-force" training -- how well the security apparatus at the plant fares against a simulated attack -- as well as background checks of prospective employees to obtain security clearance.
But recent security lapses at nuclear plants -- including the South Texas Project near Houston, Turkey Point in Florida City, Fla., and the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant near Chattanooga, Tenn., -- show regulators "still have some work to do," Lochbaum said. "These aren't isolated events."
Burnell wrote the NRC has boosted the minimum requirements for security forces each plant must meet, the specifics of which are secret.
"Security at nuclear plants doesn't keep me up at night," said James Carafano, an expert in homeland security issues and senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
"It's the best critical infrastructure protection program in the country," he said, even with the vulnerability of nuclear waste in its cooling process, which he calls the "Achilles heel" of nuclear plant security.
He called Schumer's report card a "political document absent of analytical rigor," full of "assumptions and pronouncements."
Neither Schumer nor his staff returned numerous calls and e-mails from United Press International.
Regardless, Carafano noted, "one of the problems in talking about nuclear security is a lot of it is classified."
Indeed, regulators often answer specific security questions with the 'just trust us' attitude.
Peter Stockton, spokesman for the Project On Government Oversight, a leading Washington watchdog, said the extent of secrecy is unnecessary.
"They don't have to say 'hey, guess what terrorists? You can get in through this particular fence'."
Stockton said the NRC should create a better dialogue with the public, so there is no lack of trust. He said when something goes wrong at a nuclear plant the NRC doesn't have to answer questions, "because of the classification of things they can get away with this stuff."
Apparently, Atomstroyexport is going to win the tender for building Belene nuclear power station in Bulgaria. According to Kommersantï¿½s information, Russian companyï¿½s victory will be announced on Monday. It is the first big contract for Russiaï¿½s nuclear technology export to Europe in the last 20 years. ï¿½Breakthrough to Europeï¿½ will require considerable concessions in price. Apparently, the nuclear station will cost Bulgaria less than $2.6 billion, against the competitorsï¿½ bid of $3 billion.
Bulgarian newspaper Labor announced the winner of Belene nuclear station construction tender is chosen, and it is Russian company Atomstroyexport (ASE). Bulgariaï¿½s Ministry of Economy and Energy is expected to announce official results today.
The construction of Belene nuclear station was initiated back in 1984 by the USSR. It was frozen in 1990, when nearly $1 billion had already been invested, 40 percent of building and assembly works had been done, and over 60 percent of technologic equipment had been supplied. ASE offered to build 2 nuclear units with the capacity of 1,000 Megawatt each. Russian company managed to offer better price. If ASE wins, Gazprombank will take part in financing the project.
According to expertsï¿½ estimations, Russian offer cost ï¿½2.6 billion at first, but then it was lowered. So, Russian nuclear company is ready to work almost for no profit. However, contracts with low and negative profitability are frequent for energy construction market, because Rosatom and ASE really need the contract for nuclear building in Europe, first in the last 20 years.
India has strongly urged Australia to change its nuclear policy and agree to supply uranium to power its booming economy.
This puts the Howard Government in an awkward situation - it must either offend India, a rising power and important trading partner, or protect the sanctity of a policy that other countries are abandoning.
Australia's current policy prohibits the sale of uranium to countries that have not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
While the Prime Minister, John Howard, is understood to be open to a change of policy, it is believed that the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, is opposed.
The US Senate is expected to decide this week to dump such a policy and legislate a new nuclear co-operation deal with India, and two senior Indian Government officials made it plain that Australia should also change its policy.
"Once the legislation is through, we would hope that Australia could push itself - and push the Nuclear Suppliers Group - to supply us with uranium and state-of-the-art technology," said M. K. Narayanan, the National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.
"The US, Russia, the UK have recognised why we need nuclear energy and they are going out of their way to assist, and we would hope that Australia would see it," he said in an interview with the Herald. "A friend in need is a friend indeed - that's the bottom line."
India, which has overtaken Britain to become Australia's fourth-biggest export market, would not be pleased with an Australian refusal. "Certainly, India would feel unhappy at the turn of events. We would see it as a turndown," Mr Narayanan said.
When the US President, George Bush, decided in July that the US should dump a similar policy, Mr Howard created a study group that travelled to the US and India to gather information on the US-India agreement.
This was a temporising mechanism, and now India is seeking a positive answer from Canberra.
Sanjay Baru, the spokesman for India's Prime Minister, said: "It's certainly not something that would spoil the relationship, but it would not be normal for Australia to have a relationship with China in this area but not with us merely because of the NPT."
Dr Baru said Mr Singh was "reaching out" to Australia and planned to visit next year.
He told the Herald: "Interaction is way below potential. Our PM looks forward to visiting Australia, probably next year ï¿½ If you look at the last two years of Singh's diplomatic diary, you will find a large part of the engagement is to the east."
2. U.S.-India Nuclear Deal May Stall in Congress as Time Runs Out
Judy Mathewson, Bloomberg
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An agreement to sell nuclear technology to India, one of President George W. Bush's key foreign-policy initiatives, may not get congressional approval this year.
While the agreement was approved by the House in July and may be introduced in the Senate next week, there may not be enough time for the two chambers to draft final legislation before the November elections.
Failure by Congress to pass the measure would require new legislation to be introduced next year, when Bush's Republican Party may no longer have a majority in one or both chambers of Congress that would be needed to push it through.
``My fear is we'd have to start from scratch next year, and that all of the effort we've expended on Capitol Hill will be for naught and our opportunity will slip away,'' said Ron Somers, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's U.S.-India Business Council, which represents companies such as General Electric Co. and Westinghouse Electric Co. that are in line to supply India with nuclear equipment.
Bush has touted the agreement with India as a centerpiece of his foreign policy. It would enable U.S. companies such as Fairfield Connecticut-based GE and Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse to sell non-military nuclear fuel and power-plant equipment to India. The legislation would exempt India from U.S. laws that bar such technology transfers to countries that haven't submitted to international inspections.
``The longer this delay drags on, the more of a missed opportunity this becomes on U.S.-India trade, particularly in terms of U.S. exports to India,'' said Devesh Kapur, director of the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business organization, says the agreement could generate $100 billion in energy sales for U.S. companies including San Francisco-based Bechtel Group Inc., the biggest U.S. engineering contractor. The U.S.-India Business Council said India's nuclear-power requirements will generate as many as 27,000 ``high-quality jobs'' each year for the next 10 years in the U.S. nuclear industry.
Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the agreement in July 2005. It would require India, for the first time, to open some of power plants to United Nations inspectors. It marks a turnabout for the U.S., which has barred nuclear exports to India since that country tested an atomic bomb in 1974.
Should Congress delay any more, ``the impact will be very great in India -- where it is seen as a critical test of the new relationship with America,'' said Stephen Cohen, an India analyst at the Brookings Institution, a policy study group in Washington.
Bush's plan faces other hurdles as well. The agreement requires approval from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which is dedicated to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. The group would have to unanimously agree to exempt India from a bar on selling atomic fuel and technology to countries that haven't signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Norway, Australia, and Canada are undecided or undeclared, while Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said in June that his country has ``genuine concerns'' about the plan. That position is unchanged, according to Aoife McGarry, a third secretary in the Irish Embassy in Washington.
There is also doubt about whether the administration can count on China's support. Qin Gang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said this week in Beijing that ``all nations must develop peaceful use of nuclear energy within the framework of the international community.''
`China Is the Wild Card'
``China is the wild card,'' Robert Einhorn, a former assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, said in an interview. ``China doesn't like what this deal does strategically because it boosts India's prospects for becoming a major world power.''
The agreement got a boost yesterday when a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader William Frist of Tennessee said he planned to bring the measure to a vote next week after overcoming resistance from a Republican lawmaker.
Senator John Ensign, a Nevada Republican, had objected to unrelated legislation added to the India measure by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The added measure would have committed the U.S. to spot checks of its nuclear facilities by international inspectors. Ensign feared terrorist states might be able to infiltrate the teams checking U.S. facilities, according to his spokesman, Jack Finn.
Trying to Adjourn
Congress is trying to adjourn at the end of next week, as lawmakers return to their districts to campaign for the midterm elections. This would leave as few as six days for the legislation to pass the Senate and be shaped into a final measure that would need the approval of both chambers. Lawmakers plan to return after the elections for a ``lame-duck'' session to pass vital spending measures.
Somers said failure to secure final legislation could have dire consequences for U.S. businesses. ``It would be like handing $100 billion in civilian nuclear-power work to our competitors for Indian business -- the French, the Canadians, the Germans and the Russians,'' he said.
Iranian Vice President Gholam Reza Agazade stated in Moscow that Iran may complete the construction of the Bushehr without Russian help. This sudden declaration may indicate that Iran is demanding more active defense from Moscow against the West.
Agazade, the Iranian vice president and minister of nuclear power, is in Moscow on a working visit on the invitation of Russian Atomic Energy Agency head Sergey Kirienko. ï¿½Iran's relationship with Russia is very important to it,ï¿½ Agazade said during a meeting with his Russian colleague. ï¿½We plan to discuss the construction of the atomic energy plant at Bushehr and the wide spectrum of relations between the two countries.ï¿½ It turned out, however, that Agazade brought unpleasant tidings with him from Tehran.
Deputy director of the Iranian Organization for Atomic Energy Mohammad Saidi, who accompanied Agazade to Russia, explained what Iran is unhappy with and what it wants from Moscow. Iranian state television quotes him as saying that ï¿½In the past, Russia gave us written guarantees on deadlines for the delivery of nuclear fuel. However, those deadlines have not been met. We are counting on Russia firmly promising to supply fuel for Bushehr.ï¿½ Iran is also dissatisfied with the pace of the construction work at the Bushehr plant. Agazade told journalists that ï¿½In the case that Russia proves to be incapable of bringing the atomic energy station in Bushehr to completion, the Iranians can complete the construction independently.ï¿½
Iran's threat looks fully realizable. Many countries of the third world are now reaching a level of economic development that makes the completion of an atomic energy station, or the construction of one from the ground up, possible.
Brazil was the worlds pioneer in ï¿½independentï¿½ construction of atomic energy plants. In the late 1980s, a Brazilian state company built two atomic energy plants, Angra 1 and Angra 2, with certain technical support from Siemens. Now Pakistan is waiting to come on line with the Chashna plant, being built with support from the People's Republic of China. Nigeria has a research reactor at Ahmadu Bello University and has applied to the IAEA for support in the construction of two power plants. Yesterday, Egypt announced its own program to construct three atomic power plants to begin in 2017. The country will develop much of the necessary technology itself, under the supervision of the IAEA.
While the construction of atomic power plants represents a level of technology that is no longer exclusive to the world's ï¿½nuclear club,ï¿½ with its technology for enriching uranium and making nuclear weapons, only two countries, Brazil and Iran, are ready to take that step themselves. Brazil informed the AEA in 2005 that it intends to convert to technology for the industrial, not experimental, production of enriched uranium and to meet 60 percent of its needs for it through its own efforts. Brazil has a unique technology for uranium enrichment. But Iran's uranium enrichment program was the chief cause of its conflict with the United States.
A Russian pullout from the Bushehr facility, which is 95 percent completed, might delay its opening by tens of months. Atomstroiexport, the main contractor for the plant's construction, is conducting pre-firing tests at the plant. ï¿½Adjusting the station's equipment is technically the most complex stage of the project. Atomstroiexport has been busy with it for about a year,ï¿½ a source at that company told Kommersant about Bushehr, ï¿½and the remaining work cannot be compensated for quickly.ï¿½ But the main problem is the fuel for the station. Without deliveries from Russia, the launch of Bushehr will be delayed until such a time as Iran is able either to prepare it itself or buy it on the market, which is unlikely to be receptive to its business.
Agazade made one more announcement yesterday aimed at Russia. He said that Iran has prepared the necessary documentation to declare a tender for the construction of two atomic power stations with capacities of 1000 MWt apiece. ï¿½However, we expect improvement in the political climate,ï¿½ he added. Thus two Iranian officials made ultimatums to Moscow at the same time: If the first block at Bushehr is not completed and Iran does not receive Russian nuclear fuel, Moscow risks the loss of its multimillion-dollar nuclear partnership with Tehran.
Thus, Iran is using the same carrot-and-stick tactic with Russia that ï¿½the sixï¿½ world powers are using with it in their efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis. In fact, Tehran is waiting for acknowledgment from Moscow that there is no nuclear problem with Iran. It may be pushing things, but it is already clear that an independent launch of the atomic power plant by Iran would show the world the bankruptcy of the concept of nuclear nonproliferation, at least for civil energy.
2. Russia to deliver 80 tons of fuel to Iran NPP - Atomstroiexport
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Russia and Iran signed Tuesday a supplementary agreement on the delivery of 80 metric tons of nuclear fuel to a nuclear power plant in southern Iran in March 2007, the head of Russia's nuclear exporter said.
Russia is helping Iran build the plant at Bushehr, 400 kilometers (250 miles) southwest of the capital, Tehran. The NPP is being constructed under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog.
Sergei Shmatko, the head of Atomstroiexport, Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly, said the supplementary agreement also stipulated a date for the plant's commissioning.
"We have signed a supplementary agreement to the contract for the construction of the Bushehr NPP," Shmatko said. "The agreement stipulates that the date for the power generating launch will be November 2007, and that the plant will be commissioned in September 2007."
Last Monday, Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia's Federal Nuclear Power Agency, told journalists on the sidelines of the 50th International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference in Vienna that the Bushehr NPP would be launched in November 2007.
"The Bushehr nuclear power plant will be commissioned in September 2007, and the power generating launch will take place in November 2007," Kiriyenko said.
At a meeting Tuesday with Mahmoud Janatian, a vice president of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Shmatko said the fuel would be delivered no later than six months prior to the plant's commissioning.
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 will complete construction of the plant on the basis of a turnkey arrangement.
Iran's vice president and head of the Atomic Energy Organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, arrived in Moscow Monday for talks with Kiriyenko on the plant.
Traveling to Moscow Monday, Aghazadeh said he intended to propose that some of the work at Bushehr be carried out by Iranian specialists.
He also said the implementation of his proposal would help accelerate the plant's commissioning, adding that Iran was capable of completing its construction alone.
"Iranians can complete the construction of the Bushehr NPP on their own in the event the Russians fail to bring it online," Aghazadeh told Iranian news agency Fars.
Russia, pledging to complete the Busheher reactor, has offered to sell a range of surface-to-air missile systems to protect Iran's nuclear facilities.
Russian diplomatic and industry sources said Moscow has been negotiating to sell Iran a range of anti-aircraft systems to protect Bushehr from Israeli or U.S. air strikes. The sources said contracts could be signed when Bushehr was ready to begin operations in a move expected to take place in late 2007.
"Russia has already installed and manned SAM systems around Bushehr," a diplomatic source said. "The current talks regard an air defense umbrella that would protect all strategic sites in Iran."
In November 2005, Russia reached agreement for the sale of 29 TOR-M1 short-range anti-aircraft systems to Iran in a deal valued at more than $700 million. The sources said Iran has also sought the strategic S-300PMU SAM system, capable of detecting and intercepting enemy aircraft at a distance of 300 and 150 kilometers, respectively.
1. Olmert unfazed by Egypt's plans to build nuclear plants
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Israel does not consider Cairo's newly declared nuclear ambitions a military threat, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told The Jerusalem Post on Monday, a day after an Egyptian cabinet minister said his country would soon begin building nuclear power plants. "It's not similar in any form or manner to what the Iranians are trying to do," the prime minister said.
Olmert said Egypt's proposed program fell into the civilian category, and that he was inclined to believe that Egypt would be "ready to submit itself to the real, genuine effective control" of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which would ensure that the program not develop "in the military direction."
Egypt's Minister of Electricity and Energy Hassan Younes told the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper on Sunday that within 10 years of the project's launch, Egypt would have an operational nuclear power plant.
The Egyptian cabinet had also set up a ministerial committee to "speed up implementing the nuclear alternative," said Magdi Radhi, a government spokesman. He said the committee would work out technical details and financing of the project.
"This is an urgent matter," he told the state-owned Middle East news agency.
Last Thursday, President Hosni Mubarak called for Egypt to revive plans for a nuclear program that were publicly shelved in the aftermath of the 1986 accident at the Soviet nuclear plant in Chernobyl.
"We must increase our exploitation of new energy sources, including the peaceful uses of nuclear energy," Mubarak told a conference of his ruling National Democratic Party.
While Olmert was sanguine, Dr. Guy Bechor, head of Middle Eastern Studies at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, expressed concern over a widening drive for nuclear power in the Middle East.
The threat posed by Iran's program was not limited to the danger of a nuclear attack, Bechor said. "A major threat is from other Arab leaders who will copy Iran to gain publicity and legitimacy."
Mubarak was attempting just that, said Bechor. "When someone tries to copy Ahmadinejad with a nuclear weapon, eventually something will not be controlled properly and this will create a major danger in the region," he said.
Egypt plans to build a 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant at el-Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast, Younes said. Its construction cost is estimated at $1.5 billion and the government will seek foreign investment for the project, the electricity minister added.
Egypt already produces some 84b. kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, some of which is exported to neighboring countries. But Egypt's demand for electricity increases by an average of 6 to 7 percent each year.
The independent Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported Sunday that the government planned to build three nuclear power stations with a total capacity of 1,800 megawatts. It quoted unnamed officials as saying the construction of the three plants would be completed by 2020.
In recent years, there have been reports that Egypt had sold the site to entrepreneurs to develop as a tourist resort. But since April 2005, there have been conflicting reports of negotiations between Egypt and Russia to build a nuclear power station.
Egyptian nuclear experts hailed the government's move.
"This is a landmark decision in Egypt's history," said Muhammad Abdel Salam, Egypt's top nuclear expert and a researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
"Egypt has all the potential to launch this program," said Ali el-Sa'eidy, a former electricity and power minister.
In February 2005, the IAEA disclosed that it was investigating Egypt's nuclear activities. It concluded that Egypt had conducted atomic research for as long as four decades, but that the research did not aim to develop nuclear weapons and did not include uranium enrichment.
The UN nuclear watchdog was looking into rumors that Egypt had aimed to develop an independent nuclear fuel cycle at its two research reactors.
Egypt has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and has long called for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.
On Thursday, US Ambassador to Egypt Francis J. Ricciardone said the United States was ready to supply technology to Cairo if it decided to develop a peaceful nuclear program.
"There is no comparison between Iran and Egypt in this field. Iran has a nuclear weapons program, but using nuclear power for peaceful means is totally different matter," Ricciardone told an Egyptian TV station.
1. Nigeria Affirms Interest for Nuclear Technology
Nigeria This Day
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The Federal Government has reaffirmed its interest for acquisition of nuclear technology, saying its aspiration to develop nuclear technology capability may be realised within the next 10 years.
Presenting Nigeria's case at the 50th regular session of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), at the weekend, the Special Adviser to the President on Energy, Prof. Anthony Olusegun Adegbulugbe, quoted President Olusegun Obasanjo as expressing optimism that Nigeria would be able to generate electricity from her own nuclear power plants in about a decade from now.
The special adviser said although the country was fully committed to the spirit and letter of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, it would, however, strive to build nuclear plants and to derive maximum benefits from its application for power generation.
"The Federal Government hereby reiterates her commitment to utilizing nuclear science to solve some of her developmental problems", he said.
According to him, the recent establishment of the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) to coordinate activities leading to the development nuclear technology capacity is a reaffirmation of the country's determination to deploy the facility for purely peaceful applications.
He said the President while inaugurating the Board of the NAEC, had charged the body to develop and implement a proactive energy programme, which would lead to the generation of electricity from nuclear power reactor within the next 10 -12 years.
While assuring the international community of the country's readiness to abide by safety standards, the presidential adviser said Nigeria had "set in motion the process to fast-track the development and deployment of nuclear power plants for electricity generation in the country"
To give vent to the countryï¿½s quest for nuclear technology capability, he said the President last July charged the board of the NAEC to take on the primary responsibility for the formulation and implementation of the country's nuclear energy programme.
Adegbulugbe said the country had embarked on a number of preparatory activities that was necessary to launch it into the nuclear age, among which were the strengthening of nuclear regulatory framework and cooperating with the IAEA in observance of international treaties on nuclear non-proliferation.
He solicited the continued support of IAEA in fostering regional cooperation towards effective utilization of some of the nuclear technology projects, which included the Gama Irradiation Plant, (a multi-purpose facility for industrial and research applications located in Abuja) and a miniature neutron source reactor in Zaria.
The presidential adviser said Nigeria had benefited immensely from the agency's support to the African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Training and Development (AFRA) related to nuclear science and technology in education and training.
He said the country is currently engaged in the mobilization and information programme aimed at enlightening the public on the benefits of the peaceful use of nuclear energy in electricity generation, agriculture, and health care delivery and pest control.
1. IAEA General Conference Adopts Resolutions in Key Areas
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Member States meeting at the IAEA General Conference have adopted resolutions on key areas of the Agencyï¿½s work. More than 100 IAEA Member States attended the week-long Conference, which concluded 22 September 2006 in Vienna.
Adopted resolutions include:
* Nuclear Security - Measures to Protect Against Nuclear Terrorism. The resolution welcomes Agency efforts and progress in key areas. It calls upon all Member States to provide political, financial, and technical support to improve nuclear and radiological security and prevent nuclear and radiological terrorism, and to the provide the Agencyï¿½s Nuclear Security Fund the support it needs. The resolution emphasizes the importance of physical protection and other measures against illicit trafficking and national control systems for ensuring protection against nuclear terrorism and other malicious acts, including the use of radioactive material in a radiological dispersion device.
* Strengthening the Effectiveness and Improving the Efficiency of the Safeguards System and Application of the Model Additional Protocol. Expressing the conviction that IAEA safeguards contribute to strengthening the collective security of States, the 5-page resolution supports the Agencyï¿½s verification system and efforts to strengthen it. Among other points, the resolution stresses the need for effective safeguards in order to prevent the use of nuclear material for prohibited purposes in contravention of safeguards agreements, and underlines the vital importance of effective safeguards for facilitating cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It further stresses the importance of the safeguards systems, including comprehensive safeguards agreements and additional protocols, and of pursuing the implementation of strengthening measures as far as available resources permit. It affirms that measures to strengthen the effectiveness and improve the efficiency of the safeguards system with a view to detecting undeclared nuclear material and activities must be implemented rapidly and universally by all concerned States and other Parties in compliance with their respective international commitments.
* Strengthening of the Agencyï¿½s Technical Cooperation Activities. The resolution stresses the importance of nuclear knowledge sharing and the transfer of nuclear technology to developing countries for further enhancing their scientific and technological capabilities and thereby contributing to their socio-economic development. It further stresses that the Agencyï¿½s resources for technical cooperation activities should be assured, predictable, and sufficient to meet objectives. It requests the IAEA Director General to support efforts to strengthen technical cooperation activities through partnerships and other cooperative channels and to help interested Member States in a number of specific areas, including food and agriculture, human health, industry, water resource management, environment, knowledge management, biotechnology, and nuclear energy planning for interested States.
* Strengthening the Agencyï¿½s Activities Related to Nuclear Science, Technology and Applications. The cluster resolution addresses nuclear applications for electrical power production and for non-power purposes. Among non-power applications, the resolution addresses the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy; the development of the sterile insect technique for the control or eradication of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes; and the African Unionï¿½s Pan African Tsetse and Trypanosomosis Eradication Campaign. Concerning nuclear power applications, the resolution addresses Agency activities in the development of innovative nuclear technology; approaches to supporting nuclear power infrastructure development; and nuclear knowledge.
* Measures to Strengthen International Cooperation in Nuclear, Radiation and Transport Safety and Waste Management. The cluster resolution urges the IAEA to continue strengthening its efforts in the subject areas, focusing particularly on mandatory activities and on technical areas and regions where the need for improvement is the greatest. Areas covered in the resolution include the Agencyï¿½s safety standards programme; nuclear installation safety; radiation safety; the safety of radioactive waste management; the safe decommissioning of nuclear facilities and other facilities using radioactive materials; education and training in nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety; nuclear and radiological incident and emergency preparedness and response; and the safety and security of radioactive sources.
* Implementation of the Safeguards Agreement Between the Agency and the Democratic Peopleï¿½s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Pursuant to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The resolution "calls upon the DPRK to cooperate promptly with the Agency in the full and effective implementation of IAEA safeguards and to resolve any outstanding issues that may have arisen due to the long absence of safeguards... and to comply fully with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons." The resolution stresses the General Conferenceï¿½s desire for a "peaceful resolution through dialogue to the DPRK nuclear issue, leading to a nuclear-weapon-free Korean Peninsula, with a view to maintaining peace and security in the region."
* Application of IAEA Safeguards in the Middle East. The resolution requests the IAEA Director General to continue consultations with the States of the Middle East to facilitate the early application of full-scope safeguards to all nuclear activities in the region as relevant to the preparation of model agreements, as a necessary step towards the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in the region.
* Applications for Membership of the Agency. Resolutions approved the applications for IAEA membership of the Republics of Malawi, Montenegro, Mozambique and Palau. Membership takes effect once the required legal instruments are deposited with the Agency, which in the case of Mozambique has been done. The IAEA now officially has 141 Member States.
2. Egypt welcomes IAEA endorsement of Egyptian proposal to apply safeguards to Middle East
Egypt State Information Service
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Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Abul-Gheit welcomed the endorsement by the general congress of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which wound up Friday 22/9/2006, Egypt's proposal on applying the safeguards system of the IAEA to all nuclear activities and installations in Middle East countries.
Abul-Gheit, in statements on Saturday 23/9/2006, said this means that these safeguards will be applied to Israel. He further hailed the fact that the proposal was adopted by an 89 percent majority vote.
He added that the endorsement showed a trend to promote a system that would help cement the system of nuclear non-proliferation and create an area free from nuclear weapons in the Middle East region as well. He also hailed the timing of adopting the proposal.
Abul-Gheit urged the chief of the IAEA and the nuclear countries to shoulder their responsibility and start to take practical and serious steps to activate the resolution.
He urged Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as it was the only state in the region still balking at coming aboard.
3. Rice Dismisses Iran's Conditions on Nuclear Talks
U.S. Department of State
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The United States rejects Iranï¿½s conditions on the suspension of its nuclear enrichment program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said following a Security Council meeting.
Rice said that there could be no new conditions added to those set by six major countries -- China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States -- for negotiations on a package of economic and technological incentives in exchange for Iran's ending is enrichment activities.
A July 31 Security Council resolution backed the group's position and gave Iran until August 31 to stop enrichment or face sanctions. (See related article.)
"The terms here are very clear," Rice told reporters September 21 in New York. "Iran has been told by the international community through a Security Council resolution, that they should suspend and if they suspend the negotiations can begin."
"I don't think we need any further conditionality. We need to have a suspension of enrichment and reprocessing and then we can move to full-fledged negotiations," she told journalists after attending a Security Council meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian situation during the opening of the 61st General Assembly.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad, also at the U.N. headquarters for the General Assembly, said at a press conference that his country was prepared to negotiate a suspension if it received fair guarantees. He said he was prepared to meet the council's demand but gave no time frame.
Rice said that the six nations are "committed to full implementation of [Security Council] Resolution 1696."
"We can either begin negotiations or go to the Security Council," the secretary said.
4. U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Urges North Korea to Implement Safeguards
U.S. Department of State
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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has adopted a resolution urging North Korea to "cooperate promptly" with the agency, implement IAEA safeguards and comply fully with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
The IAEA, comprising experts in the nuclear field, is the United Nations' "watchdog" for nuclear issues. Representatives of more than 100 member states met at the IAEA General Conference this week at the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
The resolution stresses the General Conference's desire for a "peaceful resolution through dialogue" regarding the nuclear weapons programs operated by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the formal name for North Korea.
On September 18, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei addressed the DPRK safeguards in his statement to the General Conference. He said that since the end of December 2002, when agency verification activities were terminated at North Korea's request, the agency has been unable to draw any conclusions regarding the DPRK's nuclear activities.
"The Agency stands ready to work with the DPRK -- and with all others -- towards a solution that addresses the needs of the international community to ensure that all nuclear activities in the DPRK are exclusively for peaceful purposes, while addressing the security and other concerns of the DPRK," ElBaradei said.
The DPRK has been a party to the NPT since 1985. But Pyongyang never has allowed the IAEA to verify the correctness and completeness of its declaration of nuclear material subject to safeguards under the agreement. IAEA inspectors were asked to leave the country in December 2002.
Efforts to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs have been ongoing. In August 2003, representatives from North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States met in Beijing for the first round of what became known as the "Six-Party Talks." Finally, after a number of intense meetings, North Korea signed a declaration of principles on September 19, 2005, in which it promised to end its nuclear weapons program and rejoin the NPT.
Pyongyang, however, has refused to return to the table to discuss implementation of the agreement. At the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York, which began September 19, representatives of the United States, Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Canada, the Philippines and the Republic of Korea met to discuss North Korean recalcitrance.
Ambassador Christopher Hill, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs and the top U.S. negotiator for the Six-Party Talks, told reporters September 21 that the talks were strictly informal.
Hill said that meeting, attended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, also included discussions of the need to develop stronger security mechanisms in Northeast Asia.
"All the participants, and starting with Secretary Rice, were at pains to make clear that we're not trying to substitute the Six-Party process," Hill emphasized to reporters. "I would say all participants were very strong in their support of the Six-Party process."
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