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Nuclear News - 11/7/2007
PGS Nuclear News, November 7, 2007
Compiled By: Justin Reed

    1. North Korea Nuclear Reversal Off to Good Start: U.S., Jon Herskovitz, Reuters (11/6/2007)
B.  Iran
    1. Iran: We Have 3,000 Centrifuges Working at Enrichment Plant, Associated Press (11/7/2007)
C.  Israel-Iran
    1. Israel on Offensive Against IAEA, Agence France-Presse (11/6/2007)
D.  Nuclear Industry
    1. Global Nuclear Firm Takes Over SA Company, Mail & Guardian Online (11/5/2007)
E.  Nuclear Waste
    1. Nuclear Agency to Update Waste-Storage Guidelines, Seanna Adcox, Associated Press (11/6/2007)


North Korea Nuclear Reversal Off to Good Start: U.S.
Jon Herskovitz
(for personal use only)

North Korea's first steps to roll back a nuclear arms program launched about 40 years ago are going well, a U.S. official said on Tuesday after visiting the North's plutonium-producing atomic complex.

Destitute North Korea struck a deal with regional powers last month to disable its Soviet-era nuclear complex in exchange for aid and an end to its international ostracism.

"I think we are off to a good start," U.S. State Department official Sung Kim said at Incheon airport near Seoul, according to a pool report. Kim was with a team of U.S. nuclear specialists who arrived in North Korea last week.

He said steps had been taken to reverse the operations at all three of the key facilities -- the North's ageing reactor, a plant that produces nuclear fuel and another that turns spent fuel into arms-grade plutonium.

"Our North Korean colleagues have actually done a considerable amount of preparatory work on all three facilities."
Kim said he believed disablement at one facility would be completed this week. The team wants irradiated fuel rods removed from the reactor, which experts said would halt its operations and could pave the way for further decommissioning steps.

The deal requires North Korea to disable the three plants by the end of 2007, provide a list of its nuclear arms activity, account for all its fissile material and answer U.S. suspicions of having a clandestine program to enrich uranium for weapons.

In Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency said IAEA personnel were monitoring the disabling program. North Korea kicked out IAEA monitors in 2002, but they re-entered in July to verify the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

Under the deal it reached with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States, the energy-starved North is to receive 1 million tonnes of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid.
The United States will also move towards taking North Korea off a U.S. terrorism blacklist.

U.S. officials estimate the North has about 50 kg (110 lb) of plutonium. Proliferation experts say that is enough for six to eight bombs.

A State Department spokesman in Washington said disablement had started on Monday. North Korea, which conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006, shut the three facilities in July.

Experts say that, although the disablement steps are reversible, they would prevent North Korea from going back to producing any more plutonium for about a year.

The North set up its nuclear research facility at Yongbyon, about 100 km (60 miles) north of Pyongyang, in the mid-1960s with help from Cold War communist allies. It began building its own reactor there in the early 1980s, experts said.

The North has frozen its facilities before but never before taken significant steps to reverse its rudimentary nuclear arms program, a diplomatic mainstay for wringing concessions from the outside world.

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B.  Iran

Iran: We Have 3,000 Centrifuges Working at Enrichment Plant
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Iran has achieved a landmark, with 3,000 centrifuges fully working in its controversial uranium enrichment program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Wednesday.

"We have now reached 3,000 machines," Ahmadinejad told thousands of Iranians gathered in Birjand, in eastern Iran, in a show of defiance of international demands to halt the program believed to be masking the country's nuclear arms efforts.

Ahmadinejad has in the past claimed that Iran succeeded in installing the 3,000 centrifuges at its uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. But Wednesday's claim was his first official statement that the plant is now fully operating all those centrifuges.

When Iran first announced launching the 3,000 centrifuges in April, the UN nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Tehran had only 328 centrifuges up and running at Natanz's underground facility.

Italian Premier Romano Prodi said Tuesday that Iran has every right to develop a peaceful nuclear program, while the international community has an equal right to verify its peaceful nature using the existing judicial measures.

In a speech delivered to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, on a visit to Rome, Prodi also said that Italy opposes any military action against Iran over Tehran's contentious nuclear program because such an attack could destabilize the entire Middle East.

Italy, as of this year a non-permanent member of the UN. Security Council, traditionally has good relations with Tehran and maintains a strong presence in Iran's gas market through Italian oil and gas giant Eni SpA.

Senior government officials, including the foreign minister, have spoken out against any use of force against Iran, saying that a new war in the region would be disastrous and calling instead for increased diplomatic efforts.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, but its assertions are widely disbelieved.

The Security Council has demanded that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment -a potential pathway both to generating nuclear power and creating the fissile core of warheads.

Iran could face further sanctions if upcoming reports by the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency do not show improved Iranian cooperation.

Germany's Merkel reaffirms readiness to impose new sanctions on Iran
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday reaffirmed Germany's
readiness to back tougher sanctions against Iran if it fails to back down in the dispute over its nuclear ambitions.

Before a weekend visit to U.S. President George W. Bush's Texas ranch, Merkel also stressed her commitment to a diplomatic resolution of the issue.

Germany, along with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, has been at the forefront of efforts to address concerns over Iran's nuclear program.

The Security Council has demanded that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment - a potential pathway both to generating nuclear power and creating the fissile core of warheads.

Iran could face further sanctions if upcoming reports by the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency do not show improved Iranian cooperation.

In her acceptance speech for the Leo Baeck Prize - the highest honor of
Germany's Central Council of Jews - Merkel stressed the special historic
responsibility of Germany for the security and existence of Israel.

"I am aware that, in view of the threat to Israel from Iran's nuclear program, these cannot remain empty words," she said.

"We are looking, together with our partners, for a diplomatic solution," Merkel said. "Part of that is that Germany, if Iran does not give way, is prepared for further and tougher sanctions."

Merkel said that she would discuss Iran, as well as prospects for peace
between Israelis and Palestinians, during her meeting with Bush.

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C.  Israel-Iran

Israel on Offensive Against IAEA
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

Campaigning for tougher sanctions on Tehran, Israel went on the offensive on Tuesday against the UN nuclear watchdog, accusing its chief Mohammed ElBaradei of playing into Iran's hands over its atomic drive.

The campaign comes with the International Atomic Energy Agency poised to publish a new report on Iran's nuclear ambitions, to serve as a key part of further discussions at the United Nations on whether to impose a third round of sanctions on Tehran.

"Unfortunately there are foreign officials playing the Iranians' game by contributing to the Iranian strategy of foot-dragging," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.

"From this point of view the International (Atomic Energy) Agency and its leadership are guilty," Regev added.

"One could ask whether the agency agreed to fulfil the role the Iranians want it to play, to allow Tehran to implement its strategy," he said.

Permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany, are backing a third UN Security Council resolution and vote on Iran, unless upcoming IAEA and EU reports show "a positive outcome."

But China and Russia, which could in theory veto further sanctions, have yet to call publicly for more punishment against the Islamic republic.

"The ayatollahs hope the pace of diplomatic discussions under way is as slow as possible so they (the Iranians) can continue with their nuclear armamemts programme at a faster pace," said Regev.

Israel and its chief ally the United States charge that Tehran is using its civilian nuclear programme as a cover to develop atomic weapons -- claims that Tehran flatly denies.

Senior Israeli army intelligence officer Yossi Beidetz told parliament's foreign affairs and defence ministry that Iran could acquire the bomb by 2009.

"Assuming Iran is not faced with difficulties, the most severe scenario is that Iran could have a nuclear bomb by the end of 2009," Beidetz was quoted by committee members as saying.

Israel, which belongs to the IAEA but has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is widely considered to be the Middle East's sole -- if undeclared -- nuclear-armed nation.

It considers Iran its chief enemy after repeated statements by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Jewish state should be wiped off the map.

Last month, on a tour of UN Security Council members to push for tougher sanctions against Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also criticised the IAEA chief.

"If ElBaradei thinks that an Iranian bomb in three years time does not bother him, it certainly worries me, even extremely," Olmert said in France.

"It would be better if ElBaradei made an effort to prevent them from obtaining a bomb."

ElBaradei said in an interview with France's Le Monde newspaper that Iran would need "between three and eight years" to develop a nuclear bomb and that there were was no immediate threat.

"I want to get people away from the idea that Iran represents a clear and present danger and that we're now facing the decision whether to bombard Iran or let them have the bomb. We're not in that situation at all," he said.

Gerald Steinberg, political science professor at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv, suggested that ElBaradei could either be anti-American or trying to avoid an attack on Iran at any price.

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D.  Nuclear Industry

Global Nuclear Firm Takes Over SA Company
Mail & Guardian Online
(for personal use only)

International nuclear-power technology company Westinghouse Electric on Monday announced that it had acquired South African company IST Nuclear for an undisclosed amount.

Westinghouse, which is a group company of the Toshiba Corporation, launched its newly acquired South African operation under the name Westinghouse Electric South Africa.

"We are excited about the launch of Westinghouse Electric South Africa and we believe that this acquisition brings together local experience and international expertise, which will allow us to tackle the challenge of providing nuclear energy to this energy-intensive economy," said Rita Bowser, regional vice-president of South Africa for Westinghouse Electric.

The company will promote its particular brand of nuclear power plant, the AP1000 -- a third-generation pressurised-water reactor system. It is also contracted to design key systems for the pebble-bed modular reactor (PBMR) demonstration unit to be built at the Koeberg site by 2011.

Westinghouse's technology is the basis for approximately half of the world's operating nuclear plants.

IST Nuclear, which was founded 25-years ago, is a diversified engineering solution business with experience in the nuclear, energy, telecommunications and defence industries. But what attracted Westinghouse to IST is its involvement with the PBMR project.

"IST Nuclear has been instrumental in the development of the PBMR, working with both South African and United States-based investors," said Westinghouse in a statement.

"The company supplied the helium test facility for the PBMR and is contracted to design key systems for the PBMR demonstration unit to be built at the Koeberg site by 2011," it added.

Westinghouse has a 15% stake in the PMBR and, together with the Industrial Development Corporation, Eskom and the South African government, is one if the project's key shareholders.

The world market for new power stations is said to be about R700-billion a year and independent assessments show that the PBMR should be capable of capturing a promising foothold in this market with at least 20 modules per year being exported once the technology has fully proved its worth.

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E.  Nuclear Waste

Nuclear Agency to Update Waste-Storage Guidelines
Seanna Adcox
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

The federal agency that oversees low-level radioactive waste has said it will update its long-term storage guidelines and require tighter security because more power plants, hospitals and universities will store the hazardous material on their own property beginning next year.

"The agency's existing guidance on LLW (low-level waste) storage is in some cases obsolete and may also have gaps in areas related to security," according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report released Friday.

The update is needed because an S.C. nuclear-waste landfill plans to close its doors to most of the country July 1.

The commission said it will also issue guidelines for monitoring stored waste, preparing it for eventual disposal and sealing it from extreme temperatures, rain and humidity.
The guidelines were last updated in 1990.

Some officials fear storing the waste in potentially hundreds of locations across the country could allow radiation to escape -- or that small, highly concentrated sealed sources, such as gauges, could be stolen to make "dirty bombs" that scatter radioactive debris.The update will include security requirements to guard against terrorism, said Jim Kennedy, senior project manager of the commission's low-level waste branch.

The report comes less than a year before a landfill in Barnwell County, S.C., closes to all but three states, meaning many power plants, hospitals and other companies will be forced to store the more radioactive low-level waste onsite.

As of July 1, nuclear waste generators in 36 states will have nowhere to dispose of that waste -- roughly an average of 20,000 cubic feet yearly, enough to fill six tractor-trailers.
Only two other landfills exist nationwide for low-level nuclear waste.

One, in Utah, takes only the least hazardous trash, such as slightly contaminated clothing that decays to nonhazardous levels within 100 years.

It accepts waste from all states.

The other landfill, in Washington state, receives such material, along with "hotter" waste that decays to non-hazardous levels within 500 years.

But it accepts shipments from only 11 states, including Utah and Nevada.

A private company hopes to open a landfill in Texas within a few years for all classes of low-level waste, but it would accept waste only from Texas and Vermont.

Though nuclear power plants account for less than 5 percent of the 22,000 companies licensed to handle radioactive materials, they generate most of the hotter low-level waste. That includes contaminated tools and water purifying filters.

The commission expects to review and sign off on that industry's storage plans by next fall.

Also by the end of 2008, the agency expects to clarify when it will allow very-low-level nuclear waste to be taken to federal or municipal landfills where other hazardous waste, such as mercury, is dumped.

The agency allows that only a handful of times yearly on a case-by-case basis, Kennedy said.

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DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of RANSAC. RANSAC takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.

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