1. A no-nuclear-weapons world can start with the United States
The News & Observer
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I would like to see a nuclear weapons-free world, but as long as the United States, the world's leading nuclear power, maintains a large stockpile of combat-ready nuclear weapons, it is not likely that the world will ever achieve that goal.
A first step toward eliminating the world's nuclear arsenal has to be taken somewhere, and I propose that the most effective place to take that step is here in the U.S.
Why might it be reasonable to talk about unilateral nuclear disarmament? The Cold War has been over for 15 years, yet the United States still has over 2,000 nuclear missiles aimed at Russia, and Russia likely has a similar number aimed at us. Of the remaining seven states with nuclear weapons (Great Britain, France, Israel, India, Pakistan, China and North Korea) none directly threaten the U.S., and five of them are ostensibly allies of ours.
China owns a significant fraction of our national debt, and is not likely to do anything that jeopardizes that investment, especially with its current emphasis on economic development rather than military conquest. Only the North Koreans pose any nuclear threat to us and that is minuscule even if they are serious,
Iran, should it successfully acquire nuclear weapons in the next few years, can threaten U.S. interests in the Middle East, but represents no direct threat to the United States., and it is likely that a non-nuclear strike could at least cripple, if not destroy the Iranian nuclear program, should it come to that.
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Why, if the U.S. and Russia are at least nominal allies in the current "war on terror," do we still have all those nuclear warheads aimed at each other? I don't have a clue as to why we still target them, but I submit that the only reason they still target us is because we target them.
If this is the case, why are we designing a new generation of nuclear warheads that will demand that we restart our plutonium and tritium production lines? Why are we trying to design a new class of nuclear weapons capable of penetrating into the earth before they explode -- the so-called bunker busters?
Updating our nuclear weapons capability along with our historic and current refusal to adopt a "no first use" policy, in my opinion, can have only one outcome -- to encourage other nations, both nuclear and non-nuclear, to build up nuclear arsenals to insure themselves against becoming victims of a U.S. nuclear attack.
It is historically clear that this would give other nations more clout in negotiations with us on matters not necessarily related to nuclear weapons. A case can be made that the Chinese determined to build their own nuclear force following American threats to attack them with nuclear weapons during the crises in the Taiwan Straits in the 1950s and 1960s. And a former deputy defense minister of India has been quoted as saying, "Never negotiate with the U.S. unless you have a nuclear weapon."
This posturing is also counter to the intentions of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), which we have signed and ratified (in 1969), and which calls for the nuclear nations to work toward reducing their nuclear arsenals, ultimately to zero.
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What would be likely to happen if we were to take all of our nuclear weapons out of service and start a program to systematically destroy the weapons and neutralize the uranium and plutonium contained in them?
Doing this would regain for us the moral high ground in the worldwide nuclear debate, thus greatly enhancing our authority in matters of nuclear proliferation. It would allow Russia to follow suit by taking her nuclear missiles off alert and starting to dismantle them. Maintaining a nuclear force, mostly to counterbalance ours, has been an enormous drain on the Russian post-Cold War economy. And it would also allow other nuclear nations, most notably Great Britain, to end their nuclear weapons programs, and would remove the excuse for such nations as Iran or North Korea to pursue theirs.
We still retain sufficient conventional weapons capability to adequately protect ourselves, or to retaliate against anyone who should attack us, even with nuclear weapons. The size of the weapons is far less important than their accuracy, and we have shown that our conventional weapons are accurate enough to target a single point within a single building.
So I contend that unilaterally eliminating our nuclear weapons force would not only save several billion dollars each year, but could greatly enhance our standing in the efforts to create a peaceful world, could provide incentives for other nations to do the same, would put us back in the lead of meeting the requirements of the NPT, and would in general make the world a considerably safer place.
It's worth doing.
(Hugh Haskell holds a Ph.D. in physics and is a retired naval aviator and Vietnam veteran who taught physics at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics for 18 years.)
1. Reports indicate no nuclear contamination in sub fire
Russia & CIS Military Newswire
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The fire that occurred aboard a nuclear submarine of the Russia's Northern Fleet early on Thursday will not result in the nuclear contamination of the water of the Barents Sea, Russian Greenpeace Energy Department Coordinator Vladimir Chuprov told Interfax on Thursday.
"Should official reports comply with the reality, that the fire occurred in the electromechanical compartment, then the reactor was not damage, thus, there is no threat of nuclear contamination," the expert said, adding that "as of now there is no point in Greenpeace representatives going to the spot."
At the same time, the incident "shows the danger and vulnerability of nuclear facilities," Chuprov said.
"The Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) plans to launch a floating reactor in the Kamchatka region, the most seismically dangerous region, where tsunamis are possible. One may imagine what could happen," the environmentalist said.
At the same time, the Norwegian environmental organization Bellona considers the fact that the Russian Navy "reported on the incident aboard a Northern Fleet nuclear submarine in a timely manner" as positive, Igor Kudrik, a representative of the Norwegian organization, told Interfax.
"If we believe the official reports, there are no threat of a radiation leak," he said.
However, Kudrik said, "the Russian Navy's high activity, particularly in the Northern Fleet, including exercises, sorties and otherwise" has been witnessed recently. "There is enough financing for these undertakings, but the infrastructure and the ship maintenance is underfunded. Such incidents may persist if the combination of frequent sorties and inadequate repair and maintenance work continues," he said.
Earlier, the press service of the Northern Fleet told Interfax-AVN that two crewmembers died in a fire aboard the nuclear submarine. The fire was extinguished at about midnight. The nuclear reactor's emergency system of the reactor came into action. The submarine was on a planned cruise. The fire occurred when the submarine was at anchor to the north of the Rybachiy peninsula.
2. Rosenergoatom to start building nine nuclear power units in 2007
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Rosenergoatom, Russia's state-run nuclear power generating monopoly, said Thursday it planned to begin construction of nine nuclear power-generating units in 2007.
"Next year we will work under entirely new conditions prompted by the market," the concern's general director Sergei Obozov said. "We have once again to prove our business efficiency." Russia's nuclear industry is under major revamp 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, in 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 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.
3. Russia company ready to bid for building nuclear plant in Morocco
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The Russian company Atomstroieksport is ready to participate in biddings for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Morocco.
``If Morocco declares at the end of the year a tender for the construction of a nuclear power plant in the country, our company will take part in it, all the more so that we have all resources and possibilities for that,'' the company's president Sergei Shmatko told ITAR-TASS on Thursday.
He said that representatives of the Russian Agency of Atomic Energy, Atomstroieksport, Rosenergoatom and TVEL corporation met a Moroccan delegation in Moscow in late August.
The delegation, which was led by Office National d'Electricite chief Younes Maamar, was familiarised with ``possibilities for building a safe and modern nuclear power plant with a VVER-1000 reactor that is successfully used at several Russian nuclear plants and is being built at present in China, India and Iran''.
Russia proposes building this type of reactor on an outskirt of Casablanca, an official of Rosenergoatom company told ITAR-TASS.
He said that the company's specialists were ``ready to give assistance to the Moroccan side in engineering and consultative services for running such nuclear power plant, and in training personnel for the future Moroccan plant''.
Morocco ``has adopted a program of nuclear energy development, and there are even plans to launch its nuclear power plant in 2016-17,'' the official said.
Russian nuclear sector specialists say that Morocco has an experience with nuclear high technology.
A research reactor producing isotopes for medical use operates near Rabat.
4. Russian leader Putin cites prospect for uranium production with S. Africa
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Text of report by South African news agency SAPA website
South Africa and Russia could also work together in nuclear matters, visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday [6 September]. He said in Cape Town a friendship and partnership treaty signed between the two countries could lead to "opportunities" on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. "Our South African colleagues can now participate in the work of the United Nuclear Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Science," he told a meeting of business leaders from both countries.
"There are many opportunities here for the practical implementation of such works. Here we have the opportunity for uranium production, for construction and operation of different facilities." There were also unique opportunities for engineering designs requiring highly-skilled personnel, he said.
Just over 20 years ago, the world's worst-ever accident in the history of nuclear power occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine.
Explosions at the plant and a nuclear meltdown released a plume of radioactive fallout that drifted over large parts of the then Soviet Union and Europe.
Theories as to what caused the accident place the blame on the Russian-trained engineers operating the plant, or suggest flaws in the Russian-built reactor might be to blame. In either case, the accident was avoidable.
5. RF to end nuke wpns guard system renovation in 2-3 years
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Russia's Defence Ministry will complete modernisation of guard complexes of nuclear weapons storage facilities in the coming two-three years, head of the ministry's 12th main department Lieutenant-General Vladimir Verkhovtsev said in an interview published by the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper on Tuesday.
His department exploits practically the whole nuclear ammunition arsenal that was handed over by the industry to the Defence Ministry. It is one of the most closed ones in the military department owing to its specificity.
In the words of General Verkhovtsev, ``The improvement of the guard system is currently underway at nuclear weapons storage facilities.'' He said, ``As of today all the storage bases are equipped with engineer obstacles and devices for detection of intruders, as well as guard complexes meeting all Russian and international requirements, including video surveillance systems and access control service.''
In the words of the official, ``The state of guarding and defence of nuclear weapons storage bases of the Russian Defence Ministry ensures reliable security of nuclear munitions.''
1. U.S. officials press for Iran sanctions ahead of last-ditch nuclear meeting
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U.S. officials pressed their case Tuesday for sanctioning Iran over its defiance on uranium enrichment, calling for punishment even ahead of a meeting billed as a last-ditch effort to persuade Tehran to freeze its nuclear program.
In a Washington speech on terrorism, President Bush warned that he would never allow a nuclear-armed Iran to blackmail the world and threaten the American people.
Formally, the United States and five other world powers are giving the Iranians a final chance to compromise on enrichment at talks planned for Wednesday between European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.
But U.S. officials on both sides of the Atlantic suggested the time had already come for sanctions.
Their comments reflected Washington's skepticism that Tehran would change course in talks with Solana and signal readiness to heed the U.N. Security Council demand for a halt to enrichment, which can produce civilian nuclear fuel or fissile material for an atomic bomb.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington that the Security Council had made clear in a resolution that it was prepared to vote for sanctions if Iran failed to meet the Aug. 31 deadline to suspend enrichment.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed on the deadline day that Tehran had failed to cease enrichment.
And so, McCormack said, the United States intended to proceed "down that pathway."
Echoing those comments, Gregory L. Schulte, chief U.S. delegate to the IAEA, accused Iran's leaders of making "a strategic decision to acquire nuclear weapons," adding: "The time has come for the Security Council to back international diplomacy with international sanctions."
U.N. and European officials told The Associated Press on Monday that Larijani and Solana had tentatively agreed to meet Wednesday to try to bridge differences over the nuclear program. The officials insisted on anonymity for sharing the confidential information.
They said the date and venue could still change, and details were being kept confidential in an apparent attempt not to jeopardize any chance of success.
The Solana-Larijani talks are seen as the last chance for a negotiated solution before the council actively starts work on sanctions. Senior negotiators of the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany are to meet in Berlin on Thursday to discuss the results of Wednesday's meeting.
Iran's unyielding stance appears to be based on the calculation that sanctions will be opposed by Russia and China, both veto-wielding Security Council members that have major commercial ties with Iran.
Also Tuesday, the Iranian parliament took the first step toward requiring the government to block international inspection of Iran's nuclear facilities if the United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions, said Kazem Jalali, a legislator and spokesman of the Foreign Policy and National Security Committee.
He said his panel approved the outline of a bill under which "the Iranian government is obliged to suspend all inspections by the IAEA inspectors to its nuclear facilities if the U.N Security Council imposes restrictions on the country." The measure would need approval of other bodies before it could take effect.
In Moscow on Tuesday, a top Kremlin aide said sanctions against Iran could be counterproductive. Still Igor Shuvalov, a senior aide to President Vladimir Putin, said that "every possibility is present ... we are not closing the door on anything."
Shuvalov said that reluctance on sanctions did not imply support for a nuclear-armed Iran. "We could suffer more than anyone else if they built nuclear weapons," he said.
But he cautioned that introduction of economic sanctions could further increase global oil prices and have a negative impact on regional stability. He added that Russia's location next to Iran and former Soviet Muslim republics in Central Asia made it particularly vulnerable.
"We don't mind using a stick, but we don't want that stick to hit us or our partners over the head," he said.
Russia is building a nuclear power plant in Bushehr, Iran, to which the United States long objected, saying the plant could be used by Iran to produce material for weapons. Russia eventually worked out a deal with Iran for all the plant's spent fuel to be sent to Russia, theoretically limiting the possibility Iran could reprocess it for arms.
However, Iran has resisted Russia's proposal to conduct all Iran's uranium enrichment on Russian soil.
In June, the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany offered Iran a package of economic and diplomatic incentives to limit its nuclear program. Iran did not respond until Aug. 22. Government officials and diplomats have said Iran did not address a freeze on uranium enrichment the key condition sought by the six powers.
Iran's slowness in responding to the incentives package prompted the Security Council to issue the resolution ordering a halt in Iran's uranium enrichment by the end of August.
Associated Press writers Barry Schweid in Washington and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.
Iran retains several options for riding out U.S. diplomatic pressure until it can develop its own nuclear weapons, a new report says.
The report, entitled "Iranian Nuclear Weapons? Options for Sanctions and Military Strikes," was written by Anthony H. Cordesman and Khalid R. Al-Rodhan and was published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
The report warned that Iran could halt its nuclear development program for a sufficient period of time to convince other nations that it had complied with their demands "while creating new disperse facilities and improving concealment and deception."
Another option, Cordesman and Al-Rodhan said, was for Tehran to "pause most efforts, but push forward with more advanced centrifuge and possible laser isotope separation." Iran might also try to develop "more advanced production capabilities" so that they could move forward with nuclear weapons development far more rapidly, they wrote.
The Iranians could "maintain ambiguity by using small redundant efforts, canceling efforts when uncovered, or pausing when acute pressure came from the outside," the experts wrote. Tehran could also concentrate on developing advanced centrifuges to separate nuclear-grade material and focus on completing its bomb design and simulation preparations before moving on to building production facilities to produce nuclear weapons. The authors described this strategy as "particularly attractive."
Cordesman and Al-Rodhan wrote that Iran could also "deploy its Shahab missiles with conventional warheads, and create a launch on warning/launch under attack capability mixed with sheltering and mobility." This would give Tehran the future option of arming its Shahabs with weapons of mass destruction once they were ready, the experts wrote.
3. U.N. Nuclear Agency Faults Iran; The finding that Tehran has impeded inspections and failed to suspend uranium enrichment paves the way for debate over sanctions.
Alissa J. Rubin and Maggie Farley
Los Angeles Times
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Iran has continued to enrich uranium in defiance of a United Nations deadline to halt such work and has offered minimal cooperation with inspectors trying to assess whether its program is for peaceful purposes, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog reported Thursday.
Iran's defiance, while hardly unexpected, paves the way for the start of Security Council debate over international sanctions against the Islamic Republic; the United States has taken the lead in the campaign to penalize Tehran. China and Russia, both of which have veto power, have expressed misgivings about any move in that direction.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that his country "will not accept for one moment any bullying, invasion and violation of its rights."
Speaking to a crowd in the northwestern Iranian city of Orumiyeh, he urged defiance, and described the United States as "the main source of the problems of mankind."
President Bush, speaking in Salt Lake City, described Iran as a "grave threat" to the world and called on other nations to help stop its nuclear efforts. "There must be consequences for Iran's defiance," he said. "And we must not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons."
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John R. Bolton said the Security Council would not start discussing possible sanctions until next week, after the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, meets with Ali Larijani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator.
"We're certainly ready to proceed here in New York when we're given the instructions to do so," Bolton said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency report says Iran continues to enrich uranium at its Natanz facility and still denies inspectors access to individuals who are key to answering questions about Tehran's nuclear program.
Iran also has refused or delayed requests by inspectors to review records and take uranium samples so that experts can assess the percentage of enrichment Tehran has achieved -- information necessary for evaluating whether Iran's program might have a military aspect.
Uranium when enriched to low levels can be used to generate electricity, but when more highly enriched, it can be used as the core of an atomic weapon.
The report also raises questions about newly detected highly enriched uranium on equipment tested by inspectors.
There was "no progress at all this summer ... nothing in terms of substantive progress," said a senior official close to the IAEA, referring to Iran's failure to answer long-standing questions and assuage fears that it may be attempting to gain the expertise to manufacture a nuclear weapon.
Tehran operated a clandestine nuclear program for 18 years before it was uncovered in 2002. Since then, the Vienna-based IAEA has been trying to learn if it was intended for civilian purposes including the generation of nuclear power, as Iran has said.
Many countries believe Iran is attempting to gain the capability to make a bomb.
The council had set Aug. 31 as the deadline for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. The senior official said that as of Tuesday, when inspectors last checked, Iran was continuing to feed uranium gas into centrifuges used to isolate an isotope of uranium needed for a nuclear reaction.
So far, Iran has enriched only "tens of grams" of uranium, said the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The U.N. agency's report says Iran has reported enriching uranium to a level far below what would be required for use in a bomb. But inspectors have not been able to verify that assertion.
The U.S. has called for the swift enactment of economic sanctions; but with other countries leery of confrontation, it is advocating relatively mild moves initially.
The first step would be a ban on the export of nuclear- or missile-related materials to Iran and perhaps a travel ban or asset freeze for key Iranian officials, U.S. officials said.
Bolton and other State Department officials said they were optimistic about persuading Russia and China to agree to the initial sanctions, citing a July agreement that included the two nations' foreign ministers indicating support for such steps.
But Russia's defense minister, Sergei B. Ivanov, said last week that the situation in Iran was "not urgent" and that sanctions were rarely effective.
Moscow's reticence may be bolstered by the IAEA report, which indicates that Iran has moved slowly to build its pilot enrichment plant and has enriched only very small amounts of uranium.
Russia is unlikely to back a ban on nuclear-related materials because it is Iran's key partner in building nuclear power plants, diplomats said. Russia and China both have an interest in Iranian oil.
Even France and Germany, usually allied with the United States on Iran policy, appear reluctant to move quickly.
Regarding the newly discovered evidence of contamination by enriched uranium mentioned in the IAEA report, the senior official said the traces had been found on containers at a waste storage site.
The contamination did not resemble previous contamination believed to have come from equipment imported from Pakistan.
"If you're telling me it doesn't come from equipment from another country, then it shouldn't be there," said a Western diplomat familiar with Iran's program.
1. N. K. likely keeping plutonium in stockpile from lack of delivery system: CRS
Yonhap News Agency
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North Korea may have enough plutonium for nuclear weapons but not enough delivery systems, forcing it to retain the plutonium stockpile as is, a U. S. congressional report said Monday.
Larry Niksch, Asia and foreign affairs expert at the Congressional Research Service (CRS), said the one or two atomic bombs North Korea is believed to have developed are likely similar to the large-size plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945 during World War II.
Pyongyang claimed in 2003 that it reprocessed spent fuel rods from its reactor, a critical step to extracting weapons-grade plutonium. The intelligence community estimates that if the claim is true, North Korea may have obtained enough fissile material to make half a dozen nuclear weapons.
"The question of whether North Korea produced additional nuclear weapons with the plutonium that it apparently acquired after 2003 may depend on whether North Korea is able to develop a nuclear warhead that could be fitted onto its missiles," Niksch wrote.
Pyongyang, defying international calls for restraint, test-launched a barrage of missiles in July, including a long-range Taepodong that theoretically can reach the U. S. west coast. Views vary on whether the communist regime has mastered the technology to arm the missiles with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
"However, North Korea has few delivery systems that could deliver such a bomb to a U. S. or Japanese target," said Niksch.
"Thus, Pyongyang probably would not produce additional Nagasaki-type bombs but would retain its weapons-grade plutonium until it could use it in producing a nuclear warhead," he said.
Niksch argued that the six-party joint statement in September, hailed at the time as major progress in dismantling North Korea's nuclear programs, actually shows an even wider gap in positions between Washington and Pyongyang.
South and North Korea, the U. S., China, Russia and Japan had agreed in the statement that Pyongyang would abandon its nuclear programs and arms in return for incentives provided by other members of the talks.
But just hours after the statement was announced, North Korea declared it would not dismantle until it first received light-water reactors.
Part of North Korea's strategy appears to have been to create a long-term stalemate on the nuclear issue at least through the second George W. Bush administration, gaining time to continue its nuclear development, and make other countries accept it as a de facto nuclear state, Niksch said.
When it came back to the six-party talks in the summer of 2005, Pyongyang widened the gap with Washington further, such as demanding rewards just for freezing its nuclear activities, he noted, and North Korea's current boycott of the negotiations continues.
2. U.S. nuclear envoy says North Korea disarmament going through `difficult period'
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North Korea must be convinced to return unconditionally to six-party talks on its nuclear weapons program, the U.S. and Japanese negotiators agreed Monday, amid concerns the reclusive regime may be preparing for a nuclear test.
But U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who arrived in Tokyo Monday for talks with Japanese officials, said Pyongyang has not shown any signs of wanting to return to stalled talks.
"The DPRK has not indicated any interest in returning to the process," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters upon his arrival in Tokyo. He used the acronym for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"Obviously, this is a very big problem for the six-party process."
Hill later met Japanese chief envoy Kenichiro Sasae, and the two agreed to cooperate with the other parties in the talks China, Russia, South Korea to bring the reclusive regime back to the negotiating table, according to a statement issued by Japan's Foreign Ministry.
The envoys also discussed ways to convince the North to hold off nuclear tests, missile test fires and other "provocative behavior," the statement said.
Hill is making a tour of Asian nations in an effort to restart the North Korea talks, which have stalled since November.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting, he said the U.S. was committed to the process and was ready for dialogue with the North as long as it returned to the negotiating table.
"We're available for the six-party process and within that, we can have as many bilateral meetings as DPRK would like to have," he said. "But we're not proposing new incentives to North Korea to come back to the talks."
Hill's visit to the region also comes amid concerns Pyongyang could conduct a nuclear weapons test. He said he had no new information on a possible test by the North, but warned such a move could further destabilize the region.
"All governments in the region ... have made very clear that this would be a very unwelcome development and the DPRK should think long and hard before taking such a provocative step," he told reporters ahead of the meeting.
The North triggered intense international protests when it tested seven missiles on July 5. All the rockets landed harmlessly into the waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula.
Hill is scheduled to head to Beijing on Tuesday, followed by stops in Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shanghai. He then heads to Seoul on Sept. 11, before returning to Washington on Sept. 12, according to the U.S. Embassy.
The envoy was to meet senior government officials at each stop to discuss issues facing the East Asia region and bilateral relations.
South Korea's main spy agency warned last week that the North could test a nuclear device at any time, following reports of suspicious activity at a suspected North Korean underground nuclear testing site.
Pyongyang claims to have nuclear weapons, but has not performed any known test. Many experts believe the North has enough radioactive material to build at least half a dozen nuclear weapons.
The United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have tried to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear program at six-party negotiations that have been on hold since November because North Korea refuses to attend until Washington lifts financial restrictions aimed at the North.
The U.S. has urged the North to come to the talks without preconditions, saying the financial issue is unrelated to the six-party talks but that it would be willing to discuss them in that forum.
3. Arms race, trade tensions would follow a North Korea nuke test: study
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A nuclear weapons test by North Korea would create tensions between Western powers and China, destabilize financial markets and trigger an arms race in Northeast Asia, a US study warns.
Of all of North Korea's neighbours, South Korea is the most economically vulnerable to destabilizing shocks if Pyongyang carries out a threat to detonate a nuclear device, said the study on the hardline communist state's security policy.
The most radical consequence of such a test, however, would be political: it may strengthen Japanese attitudes towards re-militarization, according to the study coordinated by the National Bureau of Asian Research, a nonpartisan US think tank.
While China would suffer the least direct economic impact, the study warned of "significant" indirect effects if Beijing's policy towards North Korea became entangled in trade policy tensions with the United States, the European Union and Japan.
The three powers are almost certainly to react strongly to a North Korean nuclear test -- including pressing for stepped up sanctions -- and China's response could emerge as a source of tension, it said.
Reports of suspicious activity in North Korea recently have fueled speculations the reclusive nation may be preparing for an underground nuclear test, its first since declaring in February 2005 that it possessed atomic weapons.
China is North Korea's traditional ally and main benefactor of aid and is the top broker in stalled international talks aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons drive.
"If the diplomatic tensions over North Korea's nuclear program were to spill into trade policy and encourage protectionist behaviour in the United States, Japan or Europe, this would adversely affect China," Marcus Noland, a Korean expert at the Washington-based Institute of International Economics, told AFP.
China's rapid economic growth depends importantly on export surpluses that it maintains with the United States as well as Japan and Europe.
And if a dispute erupts with these three powers, "the Chinese government has the least room for maneuver due to the fact that the country's internal social and political stability may in part be tied to the regime's ability to deliver economic growth," Noland said.
He analyzed the economic implications of a North Korean nuclear test on Northeast Asia in the study aimed at gauging the effects of any fundamental shift in the unpredictable Stalinist regime's security policy.
Among the possible economic implications were capital flights, asset price declines and reduction in investments in South Korea and Japan. Seoul's sovereign debt could also be downgraded.
"Though not catastrophic," the economic implications "would not be benign," Noland said.
But the study pointed out that a North Korean nuclear test "could stimulate an arms race in Northeast Asia" leading "to the advent of nuclear weapons in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea."
These "developments would not be in China's best interests," it said.
China's strategic clout in the region was damaged when North Korea launched missiles over Japan in 1998.
It not only led to enhanced military cooperation among the United States, Japan and South Korea but also strengthened the hands of those in Japan supporting larger defense budgets.
If Pyongyang fires a nuclear test this time, it would "likely harden attitudes in Japan toward North Korea and strengthen political forces supporting re-armament," Noland said.
It would also galvanize diplomatic support for the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative, a plan to forcibly intercept ships or aircraft suspected of carrying so-called weapons of mass destruction.
North Korea has been one of the unstated targets of the plan, launched in 2003 in the immediate aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq and involving more than 70 countries including Australia, Japan and a number of European nations.
1. Civilian nuclear power effort widens: Critics say U.S. global plan could increase weapons proliferation
Stephen J. Hedges
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Even as it marshals a diplomatic campaign to deny Iran nuclear weapons technology, the Bush administration is pressing a plan to broaden the use of nuclear power for civilian purposes around the globe, a plan that some weapons experts say could increase the risk of nuclear proliferation.
Under the proposal, working its way through Congress, the U.S. and its fellow nuclear powers would supply other countries with fuel for civilian reactors--then retrieve the spent fuel before it could be converted to weapons-grade material.
Once nuclear nations retrieve the spent fuel they would reprocess it, extracting plutonium that could be used to generate additional power. But critics worry that some nations involved in the reprocessing might produce plutonium that could be stolen or sold for use in nuclear weapons.
"It gives countries, under the guise of civilian nuclear programs, the ability to make one of the key ingredients for a nuclear bomb--plutonium," said Joseph Cirincione, senior vice president for national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning Washington think tank. "And they can stockpile it in large quantities. How are you going to tell Iran that they can't do this if you're promoting it yourself?"
Proponents of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership say it will do just the opposite. The countries that receive fuel would not be allowed to produce or reprocess it themselves; instead there would be a tightly controlled cartel of nuclear nations, including the U.S., that would produce fuel for reactors and reprocess it after use.
Rising oil and natural gas prices have bolstered the administration's case in Congress. Currently, nuclear fuel generally is not reprocessed because of the expense.
The House recently approved the Bush plan, though it provided only $120 million for the initiative, $130 million less than the administration requested. In the Senate, some funding was restored. The two chambers still must negotiate a final version of GNEP funding for 2007.
If approved, GNEP would mark a wholesale shift in U.S. energy policy and a dramatic swing back toward nuclear energy, which previous administrations have declined to support enthusiastically. The Department of Energy already has awarded several contracts that it hopes will demonstrate GNEP's feasibility.
"Absolutely it's a big change," said Phillip Finck, associate director for applied science and technology at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. "In the nuclear area, it is a big change."
Finck, a supporter of the plan, rejected critics' concerns that the reprocessed fuel would be siphoned off. GNEP would impose tight control on the countries that retrieved the spent fuel, he said, and would require that the extracted plutonium be mixed with other elements, making it unusable for weapons.
"There is a belief among certain people--non-proliferation people--that reprocessing is threatening," Finck said. "And that has been long-standing. That's why you have to impose international standards."
Argonne, which specializes in the fast reactor technology that is used in reprocessing, is one of several national laboratories that stand to benefit greatly if GNEP is approved.
Frank von Hippel, a professor at Princeton University, predicted that congressional support of GNEP would erode in the future as the program's true costs become apparent.
"You're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars," von Hippel said. "The debate over GNEP is going to be going on for years."
GNEP is similar to earlier, doomed efforts to reprocess nuclear fuel in specialized fast reactors, none of which operate in the U.S. today.
Then-President Jimmy Carter abandoned one plan in 1977 after India detonated a nuclear weapon that was developed with plutonium extracted with the aid of a U.S. reprocessing system.
The Bush plan comes as the administration also is pressing Congress to approve a nuclear cooperation agreement with India, which some non-proliferation experts argue could promote India's weapons program.
The India agreement also is controversial within the administration, because it would provide India with enriched uranium, arguably freeing up India's domestic uranium stocks for weapons development.
In addition, the administration recently lent its approval to a Russian plan to reprocess spent nuclear fuel that other countries acquired from the U.S. Previous administrations have opposed similar Russian plans.
Roots in '01 Cheney task force
GNEP has its roots in the May 2001 findings of an energy task force headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. The plan called for the U.S. to "re-examine its policies to allow for research, development and deployment of fuel conditioning methods." It also states that those methods should "reduce waste stream and enhance proliferation resistance."
Nuclear power production in the U.S. has been affected by concerns over safety, cost and environment impact.
Questions about the disposal of nuclear waste, elements of which can remain highly radioactive for thousands of years, have also proved difficult to resolve. In the U.S., efforts to establish a nuclear waste repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain have taken years and continue. In the meantime, utilities have been forced to store spent nuclear waste in cooling ponds and special casks at nuclear power plant sites.
GNEP proponents say the plan will reduce the amount of waste that must be stored, because some of it--including plutonium--will be burned during reprocessing. They also argue that the expanded use of nuclear power in the U.S. and abroad will mean fewer fossil fuel emissions from traditional power plants.
GNEP also is intended to revive a stagnant U.S. nuclear industry. There are 104 power reactors operating in the U.S., producing about 20 percent of the nation's electricity. But no new power reactor has been started since May 1996, according to the Department of Energy.
The Energy Department cites high costs and slow construction as chief reasons why no new reactors have been built.
Argonne's Finck said spent fuel is highly radioactive and difficult to handle safely, and that under GNEP, it will be tightly controlled by metering and international inspections.
"The idea there is to propose to these countries, these smaller countries, a fuel lease-back system where we, the fuel cycle nations, would provide them with fresh fuel," Finck said.
"And once they're done using the fuel, we would take care of the spent fuel and its dividends. We don't want fuel to lie around, and we don't want them to be forced to do enrichment activities."
As debate continues about Iran's nuclear program, KEITH SUTER reports on the man who showed it how to build the bomb
Iran has ignored the deadline set by the United Nations to stop its uranium enrichment program and now faces sanctions. Although Iran may be developing only nuclear power plants, it has long been suspected that it bought secrets from the ''father of the Islamic bomb'', Abdul Qadeer ''A.Q.'' Khan.
Khan, a national hero in Pakistan, was shielded from CIA questioning for years, but confessed in 2004 that he sold secrets to Iran.
Khan has had a greater impact on the spread of nuclear weapons in the past three decades than any other person. He is ''at least as dangerous as Osama bin Laden'', according to former CIA director George Tenet. Khan has been responsible not only for developing the nuclear capability in his native Pakistan, but also for building a secret nuclear-weapon supply system that spanned the globe.
Knowledge -- not material -- was the key to Khan's success. He learned about nuclear technology as a student in western Europe and then went home to Pakistan to build nuclear weapons. He sold nuclear knowledge to Libya and North Korea as well as to Iran.
If the present confrontation between the UN Security Council and Iran results in an international inspection of Iran's nuclear programs, it will be possible to get a clearer idea of the extent of Khan's dealings with that country.
How was the brilliant young scientist studying in The Netherlands in the early 1970s transformed into a shadowy, globe-trotting nuclear merchant?
One explanation is that he was a patriot. In 1971, India, Pakistan's perpetual rival, had helped East Pakistan break away to form Bangladesh. India had had nuclear weapons since 1974, so Khan felt it was his duty to create nuclear weapons. Another explanation is greed. His nuclear exports have made him wealthy, with extensive properties in Pakistan, Dubai and London. He spent $1 million on the weddings of his two daughters.
He also had a religious motive. As a proud Muslim, he built the world's first ''Islamic bomb'', proving Muslims could develop sophisticated technology. He ended the monopoly over nuclear weapons held by developed countries. The bomb also helped make Pakistan more influential in the Islamic world.
Being a font of nuclear knowledge also appealed to his ego. He made everyone stand when he entered a room. The Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan XI cricket team was named in his honour, as were schools and other Pakistani institutions.
When he built a palace in Pakistan without planning permission, the local authorities sent a bulldozer to demolish it. His bodyguard shot the driver and the house remained standing.
His career was partly made possible by sloppy security in the Dutch nuclear industry. Working at a Dutch nuclear plant translating technical documents, Khan had easy access to nuclear technology. In October 1975, when the Dutch government became suspicious, the ministry of economic affairs finally asked that he be deprived of access to information about sensitive centrifuge technology. He resigned, effective from March 1976.
Back in Pakistan, he began making his own nuclear technology based on the European plans. Western intelligence agencies monitored his work but could not get at him. Covert CIA action and air strikes on his sites were considered, but thought to be too risky.
Then in 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and Pakistan became the base from which US-armed guerrillas fought Russians. CIA worries about Pakistani nuclear ambitions were down-played. Pakistan was too important for the Americans to offend.
The then Pakistani president, Zia ul-Haq, promised the US government that Pakistan would not build nuclear weapons, not embarrass the US and not transfer the nuclear technology.
Pakistan broke all three promises but got away with it. It tested its first nuclear weapons in May 1998.
Western intelligence agencies began trailing Khan again, but he knew how to make their job difficult. For example, he knew his telephone conversations were monitored and was careful what he said.
The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks changed the situation again. Pakistan was now on the front line in the war with Osama bin Laden. The US knew Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf was under daily threat, not least for his pro-US position (when many Pakistanis were supporting bin Laden). The US worried that Musharraf could be overthrown and his replacement would have access to nuclear weapons, so the Pakistan president should be supported.
On the other hand, there were worries that Khan may have also sold nuclear weapons to bin Laden. Secret debates within the US government help explain president George W. Bush's statement in his January 2002 Axis of Evil speech, in which he lumped Iraq, Iran and North Korea together. Iraq and Iran had fought a long war in the 1980s and they hated each other. Communist North Korea was very different from the other two.
What linked them was the speculation that they had all been customers of the shadowy Khan.
Another twist took place in March 2003. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's ruler since 1969, suddenly decided he had had enough of being isolated from the international community. Since 1979, the US had designated Libya as a sponsor of terrorism. The oil-rich country was the subject of international sanctions.
By the late 1990s, Gaddafi was tired of Middle East politics (he wanted to be seen as an African leader) and he wanted to sell his oil to make money. He let it be known that he was willing to get rid of his nuclear facilities and hand over terrorists -- provided the sanctions were lifted. Through 2004, the Libyans came clean. The West lifted the sanctions.
The Pakistan government reacted with outrage to the shocking news of Khan's secret exports. The government pretended not to know what had happened and the West accepted this pretence. Khan was too important to be put on trial; no great fuss was made about him.
Khan is now under permanent house arrest in one of his luxurious homes in Pakistan. Western intelligence agencies are still trying to find out what he sold, and to whom. News on August 23 this year that he is suffering prostate cancer may mean he will be more willing to talk, which seems more likely than Iran being forced to come clean by the UN Security Council.
HOW LONG until Iran becomes a nuclear weapons state?
The current best guess of American intelligence agencies is found in a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) completed last summer: "Left to its own devices, Iran is determined to build nuclear weapons," it says, yet it is unlikely that Iran could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb before "early to mid-next decade."
Senior Bush administration officials, lawmakers in both parties and analysts out of government are increasingly skeptical of the Iran NIE. They believe that the U.S. intelligence community is underestimating Iran's nuclear program after having overestimated Iraq's programs in 2002.
To counter the growing chorus of skeptics, President Bush should do in the case of Iran what he did with regard to the Iraq NIE after the invasion: declassify the key judgments in the document and the dissents from it. Of course, to ensure the ability to collect future intelligence on Iran, the declassified NIE should not reveal the sources and methods employed; it should simply declare what U.S. intelligence agencies believe and where they disagree.
Initially ordered by the National Intelligence Council in January 2005, the Iran NIE was the intelligence community's first comprehensive estimate of Iran since 2001. Unlike the flawed Iraq NIE, rushed to completion in 20 days and relying on questionable sources, the Iran NIE was crafted and debated over several months and reflects an updated reporting standard that required a "dramatic increase in the transparency of sourcing," according to Gen. Michael Hayden, deputy director of national intelligence.
Fully declassifying the NIE's key judgments and dissents about Iran's nuclear program would serve several functions:
First, it would educate the public about U.S. intelligence agencies' best collective estimate of Tehran's nuclear intentions and capabilities. President Bush has declared that, regarding Iran, he "will not tolerate construction of a nuclear weapon." If it comes down to using military force, the American people will be more supportive if they clearly understand the threats, the knowns and the unknowns of Iran's nuclear program. It will ensure more probing media reporting and a more vigorous national debate.
Second, it would slow down what Bush has labeled "wild speculation" about using force against Iran, since the intelligence estimate suggests we have years, not months, to exhaust all diplomatic avenues toward finding a solution.
Third, since the NIE's central conclusions about Iran's nuclear program have already been selectively leaked to the media, declassifying the key judgments and dissents would publicly establish the intelligence community opinion. This would inoculate the White House against further intelligence leaks from hard-liners who seek a confrontation with Iran, and from Tehran's exaggerated claims of nuclear progress.
As the president worried earlier this year: "People will say, if we're trying to make the case on Iran, 'well, the intelligence failed in Iraq, therefore, how can we can trust the intelligence in Iran?'" The first step toward trust at home and abroad is transparency.
The U.S. government's expert opinion about the Iranian nuclear program is contained in the summer 2005 NIE. Bush has both a precedent and the legal authority to declassify an NIE "when it is in the public interest." Declassifying the key judgments and dissents of the Iran NIE clearly meets this criterion.
Micah Zenko is a research associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
It is hard to think of a time when a nation -- and a whole civilization -- has drifted more futilely toward a bigger catastrophe than that looming over the United States and western civilization today.
Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran and North Korea mean that it is only a matter of time before there are nuclear weapons in the hands of international terrorist organizations. North Korea needs money and Iran has brazenly stated its aim as the destruction of Israel -- and both its actions and its rhetoric suggest aims that extend even beyond a second Holocaust.
Send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.
This is not just another in the long history of military threats. The Soviet Union, despite its massive nuclear arsenal, could be deterred by our own nuclear arsenal. But suicide bombers cannot be deterred.
Fanatics filled with hate cannot be either deterred or bought off, whether Hezbollah, Hamas or the government of Iran.
The endlessly futile efforts to bring peace to the Middle East with concessions fundamentally misconceive what forces are at work.
Hate and humiliation are key forces that cannot be bought off by "trading land for peace," by a "Palestinian homeland" or by other such concessions that might have worked in other times and places.
Humiliation and hate go together. Why humiliation? Because a once-proud, dynamic culture in the forefront of world civilizations, and still carrying a message of their own superiority to "infidels" today, is painfully visible to the whole world as a povertyicken and backward region, lagging far behind in virtually every field of human endeavour.
There is no way that they can catch up in a hundred years, even if the rest of the world stands still. And they are not going to wait a hundred years to vent their resentments and frustrations at the humiliating position in which they find themselves.
Israel's very existence as a modern, prosperous western nation in their midst is a daily slap across the face. Nothing is easier for demagogues than to blame Israel, the United States, or western civilization in general for their own lagging position.
Hitler was able to rouse similar resentments and fanaticism in Germany under conditions not nearly as dire as those in most Middle East countries today. The proof of similar demagogic success in the Middle East is all around.
What kind of people provide a market for videotaped beheadings of innocent hostages? What kind of people would throw an old man in a wheelchair off a cruise liner into the sea, simply because he was Jewish?
What kind of people would fly planes into buildings to vent their hate at the cost of their own lives?
These are the kinds of people we are talking about getting nuclear weapons. And what of ourselves?
Do we understand that the world will never be the same after hate-filled fanatics gain the ability to wipe whole American cities off the face of the Earth? Do we still imagine that they can be bought off, as Israel was urged to buy them off with "land for peace" -- a peace that has proved to be wholly illusory?
Even ruthless conquerors of the past, from Genghis Khan to Adolf Hitler, wanted some tangible gains for themselves or their nations -- land, wealth, dominion. What Middle East fanatics want is the destruction and humiliation of the West.
Their treatment of hostages, some of whom have been humanitarians serving the people of the Middle East, shows that what the terrorists want is to inflict the maximum pain and psychic anguish on their victims before killing them.
Once these fanatics have nuclear weapons, those victims can include you, your children and your children's children.
The terrorists need not start out by wiping our cities off the map. Chances are they would first want to force us to humiliate ourselves in whatever ways their sadistic imaginations could conceive, out of fear of their nuclear weapons.
After we, or our children and grandchildren, find ourselves living at the mercy of people with no mercy, what will future generations think of us, that we let this happen because we wanted to placate "world opinion" by not acting "unilaterally"?
We are fast approaching the point of no return.
Thomas Sowell is senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.
1. South Africa's support for Iran's nuclear program "holds firm"
(for personal use only)
Text of report by Nic Dawes entitled "SA Nuke Moves Alarm US" published by South African newspaper Mail & Guardian on 1 September; subheadings inserted editorially
South African support for Iran held firm this week as a United Nations deadline for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment programme expired, potentially triggering sanctions by the UN Security Council or the United States and its allies.
A flurry of diplomatic activity followed last week's visit to Pretoria by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottak, and the renewed insistence by South Africa on Iran's "inalienable right" to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Iran is high on the agenda of President Thabo Mbeki's meeting next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced this week.
Russia is the major supplier to Iran's nuclear programme and is eager to broker a diplomatic solution to the crisis. It is part of the "P5+1" coalition of permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany, which has offered Iran economic incentives to halt its enrichment activities, but is hesitant about sanctions.
As the crisis escalated last week top US nuclear diplomat James Schulte met South Africa's representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Abdul Minty, in Pretoria. He was followed this week by representatives of the EU 3 - the British, French and German component of the P5+1. No details of either meeting have been released, but during his trip Schulte publicly called on the South African government to bring its influence to bear on Iran.
Citing South Africa's 1991 decision to end its nuclear weapons programme he told University of Pretoria's Centre for International Political Studies: "South Africa's example and leadership position you to help Iran's leaders to think hard about Iran's future and to consider two different models: the first, North Korea - nuclear-armed, but impoverished, isolated, insignificant; the second, South Africa - nuclear weapons-free, but secure, dynamic and a respected player in your region and the world. "The choice should be clear. You can help Iran's leaders make the right one."
South Africa's response, guided by complex domestic and geopolitical considerations, contained little to please the US. Local officials stress that the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) decision to report its concerns about Iran's programme to the UN Security Council was - in a departure from precedent - reached by majority vote, not consensus. They say Iran has no legal obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to engage in further "confidence-building measures".
Writing in the latest issue of ANC journal Umrabulo, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad argues that the nuclear weapons states (the US, Britain, France, Russia and China) are undermining the "balance of rights and obligations" underpinning the treaty.
South Africa played a leading role during the 1995 negotiations that lead to the treaty's extension. The major Western powers argued for it to remain in force indefinitely, while non-aligned countries, led by Indonesia, wanted it scrapped unless the nuclear powers agreed to disarm. South African representatives crafted a compromise extending the treaty indefinitely in exchange for a commitment from the nuclear powers to disarmament measures, including the implementation of a comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a deal on the handling of fissile material, and systematic efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. Further revisions in 2000 added undertakings. "There has been limited, if not minimal, progress," Pahad writes. "In some areas there was, in fact, a reversal of these undertakings."
Plans to expand capacity of local nuclear industry
During a treaty review last year South Africa sought a text balancing criticism of the nuclear weapons states' failures with concerns about proliferation, particularly the contribution of "non-state actors" like the AQ Kahn smuggling network to the illegal spread of weapons technology. Instead, Pahad stresses in apparent reference to George W Bush's administration, proposals were made "to impose restrictions on the inalienable right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes [including] a cap on new enrichment and reprocessing facilities".
South Africa's sensitive diplomatic moves dovetail with the development of plans to expand the capacity of the local nuclear industry. The timing of Friday's [27 August] announcement by Minister of Minerals and Energy Buyelwa Sonjica that South Africa was considering restarting uranium enrichment has not escaped Western diplomats. But the government insists that there is no connection between backing for Iran, activism around the Non-Proliferation Treaty and South Africa's plans to expand its nuclear energy capability.
"We believe in multilateralism; that is the principle we are defending here," one official said. But others in the government are privately irritated by US-led attempts to limit the use of highly enriched uranium for civil purposes and to further cap enrichment by non-nuclear weapons states. Security of supply will become increasingly important as the proportion of nuclear power in the energy mix grows. Brazil, the South Africans point out, recently began enriching uranium.
Briefing editors in Pretoria this week, Minister of Public Enterprises Alec Erwin said a study was being conducted into the "full uranium value chain", from fuel production to medical research. Erwin stressed that enrichment would be for peaceful purposes. "South Africa has said unequivocally that we have withdrawn our capacity for weapons-grade enrichment. Whether we should now go back to enrichment for civilian uses is a matter we are going to have to study very carefully," he said.
Russia voiced regret Friday that Iran had rejected international demands to halt uranium enrichment but said there was "a range of options" yet to be considered and talk of sanctions should wait until after a meeting of top world powers next week.
Russia shares the position of the UN nuclear watchdog agency and "expresses regret that Iran did not fulfill the demands of (UN) Resolution 1696 by the time designated in that document and did not stop work on uranium enrichment," foreign ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said.
Kamynin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that Russia would work intensively with the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany -- the "P5 + 1" -- in the coming days to determine how to proceed on the issue.
The United States and the European Union fear that Iran wants to build nuclear weapons under cover of its nascent atomic energy program, a suspicion that Tehran has repeatedly insisted is unfounded, and say that international sanctions against Iran may be the next step.
Russia and China, both veto-wielding permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, have joined calls for Tehran to halt the most sensitive nuclear work that can be used both for civilian and military purposes, but have said the problem should be solved though negotiations.
As international diplomatic tensions build over the Iran nuclear impasse, many are anxious to know how Russia and China will respond to pressure led by the United States for tough and early action against Tehran.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Moscow's approach to the Iran nuclear issue, saying Russia shared the goal of containing nuclear weapons proliferation but also wanted countries' right to develop nuclear energy safeguarded.
"We wish to uphold the unshakeable nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime, while also respecing the rights of every country participating in the non-proliferation accord to the peaceful development of nuclear energy," Lavrov said.
"We will consider a whole range of options for resolving the Iranian nuclear question, but only those options that take us forward toward this goal and not those that prevent us from reaching it," Lavrov said after a speech to university students.
Speaking separately, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said discussion of international sanctions on Iran following the lapse of an August 31 UN deadline for Tehran to halt uranium enrichment was still premature.
"The sensitive issue of sanctions against Iran is not on the table today," Ivanov was quoted as saying by news agencies. "We must wait for the meeting of the six foreign ministers which will take place in Vienna on September 6."
Russia has maintained for years that it has as much interest -- if not more -- than any other country in preventing Iran, a nearby neighbor with strong influence in a number of mainly-Muslim countries on Russia's borders, from acquiring nuclear weapons.
However, by contrast to Western countries, Russia also has long-standing good relations with Iran and considerable economic interests there -- Iran's nuclear energy program is being developed with Russian help under contracts worth about 800 million dollars.
IT IS frequently said by pro-nuclear experts that there really is no problem with nuclear waste. You encase it in an inert medium, seal it, then bury it in a deep store either permanently, or in a manner that allows future access if, at some stage, a way to neutralise or make use of nuclear waste is discovered.
These experts admit that there are disaster scenarios that can be painted in going down this route but then, they say, there are disaster scenarios for everything. Running out of power and declining into a povertyicken Third World economy would be an equally disastrous scenario. Generating more power by producing more is also potentially disastrous if it leads to catastrophic weather events.
By comparison, geological storage is "solid" and workable and nuclear power is "clean", in terms of emissions of greenhouse gasses, so let's get on with it, say the pro-nuclear folk.
In July this year, the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), appointed by the government to review all the options for nuclear waste disposal, gave this view still more weight by coming down firmly on the side of the geological disposal argument. It would have been mildly astonishing if they had finished up recommending any other solution since this is the favoured option all around the world.
En route to its recommendations, CoRWM reviewed the historical position of nuclear waste in Britain and the options available.
After lengthy analysis, it concluded that geological storage is reasonable, that interim storage is going to be hugely important until we get viable geological stores and, even after that, we need a new approach to implementing any storage plan that gets approved if it is not going to be scuppered yet again by public protest.
This, of course, is the nub of the issue. The problem of nuclear waste storage lies not so much in refining the technology - a technical solution, in general terms, has been around for years. Instead it lies in the fact that the Great British Public are profoundly uncomfortable with nuclear waste in any shape or form.
Even people who think a geological store for nuclear waste is a reasonable idea would move house tomorrow if the government were to decide that the geology of the rock under their neighbourhood would make the ideal location for this particular store. Nuclear waste is the ultimate "not in my backyard" generator. The issue is prone to turning perfectly reasonable people into raving Nimbys.
CoRWM does not shrink from addressing this problem. "Nuclear waste's association with nuclear energy and weapons, and the risks to health from radioactivity make its management an issue of controversy and conflict," the committee says in its report. Accidents like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island helped to lower public confidence in the nuclear industry and exacerbated the general public's anxiety over the whole issue of nuclear waste.
For the last three decades, CoRWM points out, every initiative to find a way forward for managing radioactive waste has foundered in the wake of opposition and protest. The original drilling programme to assess the geological suitability of sites died in the face of local protests. Sea dumping of nuclear waste, which few now think was a brilliant idea, got clobbered by international protest, trades unions, organised opposition and Greenpeace campaigns.
Then, attempts to find suitable sites in eastern England for the disposal on land of intermediate and low-level wastes ran into a wall of opposition from both local government and local people.
So what is different now? In CoRWM's view, the problem with the earlier initiatives was that they focused on technical solutions and completely overlooked the need to win public acceptability for these proposals. What is needed is a different climate for the debate, one in which nuclear accidents are a fading memory, and where public anxiety is soothed by a complete openness in the decision-making process it undertakes.
CoRWM does not address the possibility directly that, regardless of how open the discussion process is, the public may still reject the idea that geological storage solves the problem of nuclear waste - and hence reject the idea that we have a solution that can be used to underpin a new nuclear plant build programme.
CoRWM itself has its origins, in part at least, in a House of Lords select committee on science and technology which, in 1999, compiled a report on radioactive waste. That report proposed the setting up of a Nuclear Waste Commission.
In 2001 the government published its "Managing Radioactive Waste Safely" consultation paper, which prioritised the development and implementation of a policy "which inspires public support and confidence".
This would be achieved by a process in which all options were considered, and in which all the information would be made available to the public in a "clear, unbiased and complete" fashion. This in turn would be achieved by establishing an "independent and authoritative" committee, namely CoRWM, with the brief to oversee a review of the options for a long-term solution to nuclear waste. The committee began work in November 2003.
As CoRWM points out, the UK's existing nuclear waste - its "legacy waste" - is a problem requiring a long-term solution whether or not the government presses ahead with a new nuclear power station roll-out. If such a build-out does happen, the issue of what we do with the resultant waste becomes even more critical.
The UK already has some 478,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste in storage in some shape or form today, a volume, as CORWM points out, that amounts to five times the mass of the Royal Albert Hall.
There is no doubt that CoRWM had some interesting issues to ponder. Firstly, there is the issue of ethics and fair play between the generations. We need to leave a clean countryside, not a radioactive stew to the next generation. Secondly, there are issues such as the difficulty in placing a value on possible future scenarios over the kind of lengthy time-spans involved in the breakdown of nuclear materials.
As CoRWM puts it: "Is scientific knowledge about the safety of containment systems in the far future sufficiently credible to enable commitment to geological disposal now?"
There are trade-offs between flexibility (allowing future generations access to the store, for example) and burdens. What this means is that if the store is not sealed as the waste is dumped, then the store needs to be maintained. This need creates both hazards and burdens for future generations and it will require organisations to do the managing and maintaining of the store.
CoRWM's solution has been to opt for geological storage, after setting out all the facts for all the options. It has addressed the "future uncertainty" issue by calling for more research. It also noted in its report that "the committee recognised that the disposal option could not be implemented for several decades".
The point here is that the committee appears to concede that no PR campaign the government or the nuclear industry could mount today in favour of geological storage would change public opinion to any appreciable degree in the short term. This is not music to the ears of a Labour government which is shaping up to commit itself to using new nuclear stations to replace the "hole" in the UK's generating capability that will emerge when existing nuclear plants (and a number of the older coal-fired plants) reach the end of their useful life.
CoRWM recommends involving local "potential host" communities, those whose under-soil deep rock structures suit geological storage, in debates about whether or not a geological store remains open for a long time, or whether it should be closed early and sealed.
What the committee's optimistic language fails to note is that before "potential host communities" enter into any discussion of the merits of "open or closed storage" for nuclear waste, these potential communities are likely to scream loud and long about anyone's right to tag them as a good place to dump nuclear waste in the first place.
The government has had considerable success at pushing through lesser projects, such as new motorway routes, in the teeth of fierce activist protests, but one suspects that these kinds of confrontations would pale into insignificance when compared to the uproar a nuclear store site would generate.
The committee's anticipation that it could take "several decades" to win acceptance may turn out to be optimistic, and that leaves new nuclear in a peculiarly exposed position - particularly when the government intends to have the building of new nuclear power plants funded by the public sector.
REBECCA BREAM, MURE DICKIE, FIONA HARVEY and DAVID PILLING
(for personal use only)
Theoretically, Japan has a closed-fuel-cycle policy for disposing of the roughly 1,000 tonnes of radioactive waste produced by its 53 nuclear power stations each year. Eventually, the idea is to transform the waste into plutonium for use in fast-breeder reactors.
However, after an accident at the Monju prototype reactor about 10 years ago, the timetable has slipped badly. The official plan is now to have a commercial fast-breeder programme by 2050, about 70 years behind the original start-date.
In the meantime, waste is being shipped for storage to the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in northern Aomori. The plant, one of the most expensive ever built, has recently started active testing of reprocessing and is scheduled to go commercial next year. Even then, it will not be able to reprocess all Japan's waste.
As another stop-gap measure, about 7,000 tonnes of waste have been shipped to France and the UK for reprocessing. But Japan's programme for mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel, which can be used in conventional reactors, has virtually halted after a data tampering scandal at the UK's BNFL.
No site has yet been built for a permanent waste depository. Even after plutonium fast-breeders are built, the industry will still have to dispose of unwanteduranium. David Pilling, Tokyo
The Swedish government is currently weighing up where to put its deep-level waste repository and will make a decision by 2008, according to the World Nuclear Organisation.
The shortlist of two locations comprises Forsmark, just north of Stockholm, and Oskarshamn, in the south-east of the country.
There are working nuclear reactors on both sites and Forsmark already houses low-level waste, while at Oskarshamn there is an intermediate waste facility and a radioactive waste research centre. Rebecca Bream, London
Finland is at the forefront of nuclear waste disposal, part of its strategy of embracing nuclear power.
On the site of the only nuclear power station currently under construction in Europe, Finland is building an underground repository for its highly radioactive waste at Olkiluoto, on the Gulf of Bothnia. The bunker will be ready in 10 to 15 years, and draws on research on underground disposal done in Sweden, where the geology is fairly similar.
Old nuclear fuel rods will be placed in steel canisters, then encased in copper, which is corrosion-resistant. The bunker will be full by 2100 then filled with crushed rock and sealed. Rebecca Bream, London
The amount of nuclear waste to be disposed of in China is about to grow rapidly, as China builds up to 30 new reactors over the next 15 years.
The country's accumulated total waste from nuclear power reactors is still only about 1,000 tonnes, but by 2020 the industry is forecast to be producing that amount every year.
It could store waste in the vast expanse of western China, which is sparsely populated. Given the authoritarian and often secretive Communist government, residents are unlikely to protest.Beijing officials have even suggested importing Taiwanese waste as a potentially profitable goodwill gesture.
Following studies started in the 1980s, a number of potential sites have already been identified where vitrified high-level waste could be placed in a geological repository 500 metres underground. Actual disposal is still decades away, however, with hazardous waste being kept for the moment in temporary regional stores. Mure Dickie, Beijing
All the countries with nuclear power programmes have faced difficulties in disposing of the waste.
In the UK, a government-appointed body recently recommended deep burial of the waste underground as the best option. Fiona Harvey, London
In the US, Yucca Mountain in Nevada was chosen as the site for waste burial in 1957, but controversy has dogged the decision. The government decided in July that the facility would begin to accept waste in 2017. Fiona Harvey, London
3. Paris seeks to takes lead on nuclear waste ENERGY POLICY: France has set out in law its preference for underground storage sites. But the move is proving controversial.
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The most interesting building at the nuclear waste site of La Hague, just outside the port town of Cherbourg in northern France, is an empty shell. What makes it special is that there is little of note, just a warren of echoing white-plastered rooms.
Thirty years ago, this was where France's nuclear waste was processed, packaged and stored in rooms so highly radioactive that ordinary metal cables would melt within weeks. Today, after a dismantling process lasting 20 years, it is the nuclear industry's equivalent of a listed building, proof that even the most contaminated areas can be made safe again.
"You can eat your lunch off the floor," says Eric Blanc, deputy director of the La Hague reprocessing and interim storage site, run by France's Areva nuclear group.
Maybe, but Areva is unlikely to have luncheon guests any time soon. Recent incidents at nuclear power stations in Sweden and the Czech Republic appear to have bolstered safety concerns at a time when governments are pushing for a revival in the industry to address energy supply concerns.
While sites like La Hague reprocess and store the waste temporarily, Europe's citizens remain divided over the best permanent solution for radioactive products that remain hazardous for thousands of years.
A poll late last year showed that while more than a third of people in member states supported nuclear energy, almost 80 per cent believe there is no safe way to dispose of the waste. Until that debate is resolved, say experts, governments will be thwarted in their attempts to convince voters of the need for nuclear power.
In a bid to accelerate public debate on the issue, the European Commission has prepared recommendations on the safe management of radioactive waste and decommissioning of power plants. But given the public's mistrust of nuclear waste, it is still some way from winning agreement for a common approach to the problem.
France, however, has gone ahead on its own. A few weeks ago it passed a law stating that burying the waste deep underground was its preferred solution and set a timetable to achieve its goal.
By 2015 France will have licensed a permanent underground storage site and it will be operational by 2025. The law also states the waste must be capable of being retrieved at any time for up to 100 years, a deadline that many expect to be extended as the process gets under way.
In the meantime, France will build new interim storage facilities and a prototype reactor that will accelerate the breakdown of radioactive elements in nuclear waste.
Hans Riotte, of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's nuclear energy agency, says the vote on a comprehensive waste management package has put France clearly in the lead in Europe, even if Finland and Sweden were earlier to decide to build deep storage facilities. "France has a clear date and a clear schedule," he says.
"It is the only country in Europe to have this fixed in law. Their message is that we already have the waste and we have to take care of it."
The decision has opponents. Greenpeace has campaigned against the French policy, arguing that the waste should be kept near the site where it is produced to avoid transport risks.
For the French government, though, it is local opposition and public opinion that poses the real problem. Nuclear power is used to generate almost 80 per cent of the country's electricity, but a recent survey showed that 55 per centof people are critical ofhow nuclear waste is managed.
The government is planning significant incentives for communities which volunteer to take the nation's nuclear rubbish.
Bure, a small town in eastern France, hosts a laboratory set up last year to study the geological impact of storing hot nuclear waste deep underground. Many expect that Bure will, in the end, be chosen as the storage site.
But locals are not sure they want to take the waste, even if they have already welcomed the laboratory and the Euros 10m (Dollars 13m, Pounds 7m) incentive granted to local authorities at the same time.
"People are very afraid," says one woman who works for a neighbouring town council. "More people are against it than for it."
Signalling the scale of opposition, a petition with 50,000 signatures was recently handed to the local council demanding a referendum should any permanent storage facility be proposed.
No reply has yet been given.
But in a region with just six-seven inhabitants per square kilometre, convincing these sceptics may prove the most daunting task the government will face as itputs the new policy into practice.
(EDITORIAL from the JoongAng Daily on Sept. 7) Yasuhiro Nakasone, the former Japanese prime minister, said Japan is currently dependent on U. S. nuclear weapons and that the country needs to look into making nuclear weapons in case of a possible upheaval in the international situation, such as a rupture of the U. S.-Japan security treaty.
Mr. Nakasone is the chairman of a subcommittee of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's constitution drafting committee.
Shinzo Abe, who is likely to be elected chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party in this month's election and take office next month, also plans to amend the Constitution so as to facilitate Japan's transition into a major military power.
It is noteworthy that an unofficial spokesman of Japan's conservative politicians publicly mentioned "the need for nuclear armament," which has been taboo in the country.
Of course, there are many obstacles to Japan building a nuclear weapon. One of these is the strong domestic opposition. For example, an official at the Japanese Embassy here said, "For Japanese people, who were the victims of nuclear weapons, it is impossible to even imagine possessing nuclear weapons."
What's more, the United States has been scrutinizing "nuclear dominoes" in Northeast Asia so as not to lose its leadership. China, which possesses nuclear weapons, will not just sit and watch this.
But some factors might make it possible for Japan to have nuclear weapons. Above all would be a North Korean nuclear test. In addition, the United States might change its position if relations between the United States and China become shaky due to conflicts over Taiwan. The fundamental U. S. strategy for Northeast Asia is to maintain balance in the region through its alliance with Japan.
A discussion among Japanese politicians on having nuclear weapons would make the already unstable situation in Northeast Asia much worse. This is especially true because Japan has the money, technology and raw materials to make nuclear weapons.
According to the data from its Ministry of National Defense, Japan possesses 15 to 70 tons of plutonium and the world's third- strongest nuclear industrial infrastructure. Unlike North Korea, Japan would be able to develop nuclear weapons in months.
South Korea cannot accept Japan's possession of nuclear weapons, to say nothing of the North's. We should prepare for the worst case? a nuclear arms race in Northeast Asia.
1. Indian prime minister telephones Iranian president as nuclear controversy rages
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India's prime minister telephoned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, a Foreign Ministry statement said Thursday, as Tehran postponed a tentative meeting with a top European official to discuss Iran's disputed nuclear program.
The statement provided no details of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's 15-minute Wednesday night talk with Ahmedinejad.
"Both leaders agreed that a strong and vibrant India-Iran relationship is of strategic importance for both countries, and would be beneficial for the peace and prosperity of the entire region," the statement said.
India last week said it did not want confrontation and destabilization in the region.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy uses only, but the United States and some Europeans believe the regime wants to develop nuclear weapons.
On Tuesday, U.S. President George W. Bush said he would never allow a nuclear-armed Iran because such a government could blackmail the free world.
Mehdi Safari, Iran's deputy foreign minister for Asia, Oceania and the Commonwealth, visited New Delhi last week and held talks with Indian officials on the nuclear issue and cooperation in the energy sector.
Foreign Ministry officials told him India believes that as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran must enjoy all its rights and honor all its obligations. India also said it wants all issues to be resolved through dialogue and discussion rather than coercion, according to the Foreign Ministry statement.
Iran postponed a meeting Wednesday in the Austrian capital on its nuclear program with the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.
"We will not have the meeting today in Vienna," Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, the chief Iranian envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, told The Associated Press. "Both sides are arranging (a meeting) for a couple of days later."
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday warned that intelligence agencies believe Islamic militant groups are planning more attacks in India, and said the targets could include economic, religious and nuclear sites.
Intelligence reports suggest that terrorist cells exist in some of India's major cities and pose a serious threat to the country's security, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a speech at a conference on internal security in New Delhi.
The prime minister's warning follows similar concerns expressed by India's defence minister and the country's national security adviser after a series of train bombings in Mumbai left more than 207 people dead on July 11.
Singh said the assailants may use "suicide bombers," and could launch "attacks on economic and religious targets," as well as "nuclear establishments, army camps and the like." 9 arrested in Denmark for terror plot Also yesterday, Danish security police arrested nine men suspected of plotting to carry out a terrorist bomb attack in the Nordic country.
Justice Minister Lene Espersen said most of the men are Danish citizens and that police had acted after discovering several of the group had collected materials to make explosives.
She gave no details about the potential target of an attack.
Reports in Danish media said the men were aged between 18 and 35. Earlier, police had said they were all aged under 30. They were arrested early yesterday morning in Denmark's third largest city, Odense.
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