1. Russia Seeks Formal Arms Treaty to Replace START
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Russia said on Wednesday the landmark Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) must be replaced with a formal, binding pact when it expires in 2009 and not the informal arrangement that the United States proposes.
The START pact, signed in Moscow in 1991, set ceilings on the size of the Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals and became a symbol of the end of the Cold War.
U.S. President George W. Bush's administration plans to let it expire and replace it with a less formal agreement that eliminates strict verification requirements.
Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying that would not be sufficient.
"If everything finally boils down only to transparency and mutual confidence measures, if no curbs are imposed on the creation of new missiles and new nuclear weapons, then this will be our common failure," Lavrov was quoted as saying.
"So right now we are struggling to make sure that the document that replaces the START treaty should establish lower ceilings not only for nuclear payloads but for the missiles carrying them as well."
Lavrov said the present-day START treaty had failed to resolve a major task -- that of reducing the number of missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
"The Moscow (START) treaty covers only those nuclear warheads that are in combat readiness," he said. "But if they are not deployed but are just kept in depots, it means you may have as many of them as you want."
1. Russia Urges Recognition of Iran's Nuclear Cooperation with UN
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The refusal to acknowledge Iran's cooperation with the UN over its controversial nuclear program reduces the possibility of an eventual solution to the dispute, Russia's foreign minister said on Wednesday.
"A constant refusal to acknowledge the positive steps taken by Iran in its contacts with the [UN nuclear watchdog] IAEA will reduce the chances of clearing up the issues directly," Sergei Lavrov said, in an apparent reference to the U.S. and its allies, who have sought tough measures against Tehran.
Many Western countries suspect Iran of using its nuclear program as a shield to build nuclear weapons. Iran has denied this, saying the program is designed to generate energy.
A report delivered earlier this month by the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, stresses the positive aspects of Iran's "nuclear dossier," saying the country has provided extra documentation, but notes that the Islamic Republic is still denying UN inspectors access to Iranian experts involved in its nuclear program.
ElBaradei said that Iran was also continuing to enrich uranium, a process necessary for both weapons production and electricity generation.
The report prompted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to call on Washington and its allies to apologize for their suspicions and to demand the lifting of two sets of UN Security Council sanctions imposed on Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment activities.
Speaking to journalists on his way back from Tuesday's U.S-sponsored Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, Lavrov urged further nuclear talks with Tehran, warning, however, that they should not be politicized.
1. India Eyes Nuclear Debate for Political Signals
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India's parliament holds a long-awaited debate on a controversial nuclear deal with the United States on Wednesday, with critics expected to prove the pact does not enjoy majority support.
The debate will not lead to a vote on the historic deal, which brought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's three-and-a-half year coalition to the brink of collapse, nor is it expected to produce a breakthrough.
However, amid the high-decibel rhetoric that is anticipated, both the ruling Congress party and its communist allies -- who have rejected the deal -- are expected to signal their political strategies, analysts said.
"We will oppose the deal," said Sitaram Yechury, a senior leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the largest of four left parties whose 60 MPs support Singh's coalition.
"We are against the deal and we will reiterate our stand," he told reporters ahead of the debate. "This debate will show where the majority opinion of parliament is on the deal."
The nuclear pact aims to end more than three decades of sanctions against nuclear commerce between New Delhi and Washington even though India has stayed out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and tested nuclear weapons.
Proponents of the pact say it will help meet India's soaring energy needs and is a sign of a growing strategic friendship between the two countries.
But communist allies of Singh, known for their traditional anti-Americanism, have rejected it saying it compromises sovereignty and imposes American influence.
The communists had threatened to end support of the government if it pursued key global approvals needed to clinch the deal, but relented this month to give a conditional go-ahead.
While the government has opened talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for a safeguards pact for the deal, it hopes the parliament debate will give Singh another chance to convince opponents.
"Everyone wanted a debate, so the government agreed to a debate," said one of Singh's aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Washington says time is running out on the deal as it still needs the backing of the Nuclear Suppliers Group of nations and has to be approved by the U.S. Congress before campaigning for presidential elections takes over next year. But neither the ruling Congress party nor the communists are expected to make significant departures from their positions during the debate, political analysts said.
"Do I expect anything big to happen? No," said Mahesh Rangarajan, an independent analyst. "But will we watch it for the nuances for the coming weeks? Yes, absolutely."
1. Stateï¿½s Power Producers Put Off by Nuclear Plantï¿½s High Cost, Long Construction Time
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Oklahoma power producers said Tuesday the high cost and lengthy construction time for a nuclear power plant make it unlikely they will turn to nuclear energy to meet rising consumer demand for power in the state.
John Wendling, director of power supply operations for Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., said OG&E is the largest generator in the state with 6,200 megawatts of capacity but is still too small to afford the cost of a nuclear power plant, estimated by industry officials at between $5 billion and $6 billion.
ï¿½As an individual company, weï¿½re not big enough,ï¿½ Wendling told state lawmakers at a meeting of the House Energy and Technology Committee where producers and an official with the Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Energy Institute discussed the future of nuclear energy in Oklahoma.
Wendling and representatives of other power producers said nuclear energy is one of many options they consider when deciding how to keep up with Oklahomaï¿½s growing demand for electric power. But licensing and construction of a nuclear power plant would take up to 10 years, too long to meet the demand producers will face in the next five years.
ï¿½Part of it is how long does it take to build the asset,ï¿½ Wendling said. ï¿½We need to be able to understand the risks.ï¿½
Mike Kiefner, chief operating officer of the Grand River Dam Authority, said it may require the financial resources of all of Oklahomaï¿½s energy providers to afford the cost of a nuclear power plant.
Wendling also said energy providers need to educate the public about the safety and reliability of nuclear energy to overcome what he called ï¿½the Three Mile Island syndrome,ï¿½ a reference to the 1979 nuclear accident in Pennsylvania.
Following the meeting, an environmentalist, Jean McMahon of Fort Gibson, said she opposes nuclear energy, describing nuclear power plants as ï¿½extremely dangerous.ï¿½
ï¿½They still have nowhere to store the waste,ï¿½ said McMahon, who wore a polar bear suit on which ï¿½No Nukes ï¿½ Solar Yesï¿½ was written on the front.
Last month, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission rejected a $1.8 billion, 950-megawatt coal-fired plant proposed by OG&E, Public Service Company of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority.
The utilities said they needed the massive Red Rock plant to keep up with Oklahomansï¿½ growing appetite for energy. Using coal as a fuel would diversify their fuel mix and help keep consumer costs low.
ï¿½Weï¿½re all concerned about power and the cost of power,ï¿½ commission Chairman Jeff Cloud told lawmakers. He said nuclear power is clean, reliable and inexpensive, but raising the issue ï¿½can be, no pun intended, politically radioactive.ï¿½
Mike McGarey, director of state outreach for the NEI, said 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S. currently provide 20 percent of the nationï¿½s power. Nuclear power has the lowest production costs of any fuel and is the largest source of emission free electricity in the nation, McGarey said.
However, utilities have been reluctant to build new plants due to high construction costs, uncertainty over how to dispose of nuclear waste and a licensing process that costs hundreds of millions of dollars, Cloud said.
ï¿½That upfront cost has been a deterrent,ï¿½ Cloud said.
But demand for electricity nationally is expected to rise 45 percent by 2030, and nuclear power is one way to increase generating capacity, Cloud said.
ï¿½Other states are moving in that direction. Oklahoma is not in the game yet,ï¿½ Cloud said. Oklahoma is one of 19 states that does not have a nuclear power plant, Cloud said. In the 1970s, PSO proposed the Black Fox nuclear power plant near Inola in eastern Oklahoma but abandoned it after a nine-year battle with opponents.
In the seven-state region that includes Oklahoma, nuclear plants are operating in Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri and Texas. Colorado and New Mexico also do not have nuclear plants.
In September a power producer in Texas, NRG Energy Inc., submitted the first application for a new nuclear reactor in the U.S. in nearly 30 years. NRGï¿½s application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is for two new units at its facility in Bay City, Texas, about 90 miles southwest of Houston.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has promised that a decision on whether Britain should build new nuclear power stations will be made early next year.
Mr Brown told delegates at the Confederation of British Industry's annual conference in London yesterday that the time for public debate had finished. He said the controversial decision over Britain's nuclear future must be made to ensure security of energy supplies over the next decades.
Although the Government insists that it has not decided about more nuclear stations, many experts believe that it is a question of when, not if, the power stations are built. A decision had been held up by a judicial appeal won by Greenpeace in February.
Mr Brown told the conference: "We must - and we will - take the right long-term decisions to invest for the next generation of sustainable and secure energy supplies.
"We have said that new nuclear power stations potentially have a role to play in tackling climate change and improving energy security. And having concluded the full public consultation, we will announce our final decision early in the New Year."
Eighteen of Britain's 23 nuclear reactors will reach the end of their lives by 2015. Ministers want to increase the amount of energy from low carbon sources by encouraging more nuclear power and overseeing a three-fold increase in energy generated from renewable sources - from 5pc to 20pc - by 2015.
Mr Brown also endorsed plans to build a third runway at Heathrow airport, which some estimates say could cost ï¿½13bn. Mr Brown said that he understood the urgent need to increase capacity.
He said: "Britain as a world financial centre must be readily accessible from around the world."
The Prime Minister added that there was "no doubt" that financial turbulence in the US had crossed the Atlantic to Europe, but he said the UK economy had the ability to "hold a stable course". However, a CBI survey published yesterday found that 35pc of small and medium-sized businesses were either experiencing difficulties borrowing or expected to have problems in the next year.
The Bank of England's chief economist warned yesterday that the impact of the credit crunch on the banks so far is only the tip of the iceberg. Charles Bean said that the banks had so far reported "only a relatively small fraction of the likely losses associated with the US sub-prime market".
"It is quite likely that, over the coming months, there will be more revelations to come out; not necessarily just in this country," he added.
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