1. Baradei for Fresh Efforts Towards Nuclear Disarmament
Press Trust of India
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Asking the world community to recognise the link between nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has called for rapid progress towards eliminating atomic weapons through deep cuts in existing arsenals and resuscitation of multilateral efforts in this regard.
"Those efforts should start with bringing into force the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and starting negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty," the head of the UN atomic watchdog told the 192-member United Nations General Assembly.
The Assembly reaffirmed its confidence in the IAEA, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and appealed to member states to continue to support the Agency's indispensable role in "encouraging and assisting the development and practical application of atomic energy for peaceful uses".
Presenting his annual report, ElBaradei told the Assembly that, given the groundswell of global interest in nuclear power and increased potential risk associated with the spread of sensitive technology - the time had come to develop a new framework for using nuclear energy which took into account both lessons learned and the current reality.
Such a framework, he added, should include action to achieve robust technological innovation in nuclear power and applications, a multinational framework for the fuel cycle to assure supply and curb proliferation risk, and universal application of comprehensive safeguards and the Additional Protocol as the standard for nuclear verification.
On the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle, the Agency had examined proposals for creating an actual or virtual reserve "fuel bank of last resort" to assure the nuclear fuel supply, converting a national facility into an international enrichment centre, and constructing a multinational enrichment facility under Agency control.
"Controlling nuclear material is a complex process, yet, if we fail to act, it could be the Achilles heel of the nuclear non-proliferation regime," Elbaradi said.
Given that, he proposed an incremental approach to moving forward that included, first, the establishment of an equitable system for supply assurance, and, next, bringing under multinational control any new operations for uranium enrichment and plutonium separation.
The nuclear non-proliferation and arms control regime continued to present a broad set of challenges, he said, adding effective verification must be supported by four essential elements: adequate legal authority; state-of-the-art technology; access to all relevant information; and sufficient human and financial resources.
ElBaradei noted that the Additional Protocol is an instrument that enabled the Agency to draw credible conclusions about both the peaceful nature of a country's declared nuclear programme, and also the absence of undeclared facilities.
However, to date, just over half of the 162 States with safeguards agreements had brought additional protocols into force.
Calling for swift progress towards nuclear disarmament, he favoured deep cuts in existing arsenals, downgrading of alert levels for deployment of nuclear weapons and reviving of multilateral disarmament efforts.
1. Lavrov Returned to Moscow After He Held Talks with Ahmadinejad
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov underscored the necessity of rebuilding trust in a peaceful nature of Iran's activities in the field of using nuclear energy.
Lavrov returned to Moscow on Wednesday from Tehran, where he held talks on Tuesday with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his Iranian colleague Manuchehr Motaki.
"The discussions were a follow-up of the dialogue began during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran several weeks ago," Lavrov said.
"The visit was very useful and confirmed the importance of consistent, progressive and sincere dialogue without avoiding important issues, such as the Iranian nuclear program. By such actions we'll be contributing to the finding of a just solution and weï¿½ll be doing it while keeping contact with European partners, China and the United States, as the participants in the six-party process to resolve the issue related to the Iranian nuclear program," the diplomat said.
"We come out solely for a peaceful settlement of issues raised by the international community," the minister noted, "we'll be resolutely following the decisions worked out by the UN Security Council."
"We reiterate that unilateral actions which are now being taken with respect to trade-economic sanctions against Iran are not helping further collective efforts," Lavrov underlined.
He said he had informed the Iranian foreign minister about further, preferably proactive work of the International Atomic Energy Agency on clearning all the questions which the international community asked regarding the previous Iranian nuclear program."
The minister reiterated that Russia was committed to collective work on settling this problem.
Lavrov noted that his talks "has confirmed the importance of consistent dialogue, without avoiding difficult issues related to the Iranian nuclear program."
"I believe that by such actions we'll be contributing to finding of a just solution... The dialogue will continue."
In Tehran, the parties discussed the development of bilateral cooperation in the trade and economic sphere, ahead of the upcoming session of the intergovernmental commission over these issue," the minister added.
1. Report: India's Nuclear Chief Warns of Energy Shortfall if Deal with US Fails
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India's nuclear chief said the country will face an enormous energy shortfall if a civil nuclear cooperation deal with the United States falls through, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
Anil Kakodkar, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, said India could reach its target of 20,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2020 only if the nuclear deal goes through.
"If the deal opens up, this will be realized, and maybe even more power will be generated. Otherwise a 6,000 megawatt shortfall will be created," Kakodkar told scientists and engineers at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center, the country's top nuclear facility, according to the Indian Express newspaper.
The country's 15 nuclear power reactors currently produce more than 3,000 megawatts.
The deal would reverse three decades of American anti-proliferation policy by allowing the U.S. to send nuclear fuel and technology to India, which has been cut off from global atomic trade by its refusal to sign nonproliferation treaties and its testing of nuclear weapons.
Billed as the cornerstone of a new partnership between India and the U.S., the deal has faced growing opposition in India, especially among communist parties that are key to the survival of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government.
The communists say the deal could undermine India's nuclear weapons program and damage its foreign policy. They have threatened "serious consequences" if the government pursues the pact.
The deal faces opposition in America, too. Critics there, including some in Congress, say providing U.S. fuel to India would free up India's limited domestic supplies of nuclear material for use in atomic weapons, which they argue could spark a nuclear arms race in Asia.
Swapnesh Malhotra, spokesman of the Department of Atomic Energy, confirmed that a 6,000 megawatt shortfall was likely if the deal fell through. The Atomic Energy Commission headed by Kakodkar is part of the government-run Department of Atomic Energy.
While domestic nuclear reactor programs were on track to produce up to 10,000 megawatts, the country needed six more reactors to cover the shortfall, Malhotra said told The Associated Press.
"We need to import six reactors and this is where the gap of 6,000 comes in," he said.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is expected to file an application, perhaps as early as Tuesday, with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build two new nuclear power reactors at a site in Alabama.
The TVA, the nation's largest public power provider, plans to build the reactors at the site of the partially completed and then mothballed Bellefonte nuclear power station near Scottsboro, Ala. The TVA, in conjunction with an industry consortium called NuStart, has been working on the proposal for two years.
The application will be the second filed with the NRC for new nuclear power plants in just over a month. NRG Energy Inc. submitted an application on Sept. 25 to build and operate two new reactor units at its Bay City, Texas, power plant site.
Prior to the NRG application, there had not been an application for a new nuclear power plant in the United States since before the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979. The NRC says it expects as many as 21 applications for 30 reactors over the next couple of years.
Officials at TVA, the Energy Department and NuStart scheduled a press conference for Tuesday afternoon to ï¿½toutï¿½ TVA's application plans, according to an Energy Department advisory.
TVA spokesman John Moulton said Monday evening he could not confirm that the submission would be made Tuesday. But he said the TVA board of directors has approved submitting a combined construction and operating license application, and said TVA had said it would do so before the end of the month.
ï¿½We have been told to expect a second application tomorrow,ï¿½ NRC spokesman Eliot Brenner said Monday evening, although he declined to give the name of the applicant or other details.
The rush to build reflects a renaissance in nuclear power in recent years as plant owners have been able to reduce operating costs, while the costs of producing electricity from both coal and natural gas have risen. The nuclear industry also has capitalized on the argument that nuclear power does not emit greenhouse gases, a problem especially for coal-burning power plants that release large amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide.
The TVA application will be the first involving construction of a Westinghouse AP1000 advanced reactor, made by Westinghouse Electric Co., which is owned by Japan's Toshiba Corp. The two reactors being planned by NRG Energy are boiling water reactors made by General Electric Co.
Constellation Energy, based in Baltimore, also has been pushing ahead with plans to build a new nuclear power plant. It has submitted a partial application with the NRC for a new reactor, to be built by France's Areva Group, at the site of its existing Calvert Cliffs reactor on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.
The TVA operates six nuclear reactors. It restarted its Browns Ferry Unit 1 reactor in Alabama last summer after a lengthy shutdown. In 1996 it began operating Unit 1 at Watts Bar in Tennessee, the last new nuclear reactor to come on line in the United States, although its license application predates the Three Mile Island accident.
The Bellefonte site is the location of two partially completed nuclear reactors that TVA canceled and never finished. While little if any of the old reactors is expected to be used in building the new ones, the site has been characterized as ideal for a new reactor because of the existing power lines and infrastructure.
1. Honduras Asks Atomic Energy Agency for Help in Opening Possibly Radioactive Cargo
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Honduras sought expert help Tuesday after spotting a cargo container believed to contain radioactive waste in one of Central America's largest ports.
Government official Marcos Flores said the shipment is believed to be Honduran X-ray supplies headed to Taiwan for recycling, but they want to be sure that the material is handled correctly. He said the International Atomic Energy Agency has promised to send specialists this week to determine how to open and inspect the cargo.
"We don't have specialists here in Honduras because we've simply never had a radioactive emergency like this," Flores said.
George Gatling, the American owner of the Honduran shipping company involved, Inversiones Materiales, said he did not know what it contained and declined to give information on his client.
"They just hired me to send the container to another country," he told local media.
The shipment was seized Saturday in Puerto Cortes after inspections detected radiation levels more than 130 times higher than those allowed.
Puerto Cortes is one of several major ports chosen by the U.S. government to participate in an international nuclear detection program. In April, the port began screening shipments for nuclear and radiological materials that could be used by terrorists to build bombs.
Other participating ports are Port Qasim, Pakistan; Southhampton, England; Salalah, Oman; Port of Singapore; and the Gamman Terminal at Port Busan, Korea.
Data gathered from the scans are sent almost immediately to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers stationed at the overseas ports.
More than 250,000 containers pass through Puerto Cortes each year, carrying US$1.8 billion (euro1.3 billion) worth of goods from Central America to destinations around the world, including the United States and Europe.
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