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Nuclear News - 12/3/2007
PGS Nuclear News, December 3, 2007
Compiled By: Nuclear News


A.  DPRK
    1. U.S. Envoy in North Korea to See Nuclear Complex, Jon Herskovitz, Reuters (12/3/2007)
B.  Iran
    1. Iran says Sanctions Won't Help End Nuclear Row, Reuters (12/2/2007)
C.  China-Iran
    1. U.S. Says Agreement with China on New Iran Sanctions, Reuters (12/3/2007)
D.  Pakistan
    1. US War Game Mulls Options for Securing Pak N-Stockpile , Press Trust of India (12/2/2007)
E.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Tories Take Heat for Announcing Nuclear Stand without Public Notice, Debate, Bruce Cheadle, Canadian Press (11/30/2007)



A.  DPRK

1.
U.S. Envoy in North Korea to See Nuclear Complex
Jon Herskovitz
Reuters
12/3/2007
(for personal use only)


The top U.S. negotiator for North Korea went to the secretive state on Monday to visit an ageing nuclear complex at the heart of its atomic arms programme that Washington wants scrapped.

Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who flew to Pyongyang from a U.S air base in South Korea, will be in North Korea until Wednesday to help implement a deal where the impoverished state abandons its atomic ambitions in return for massive aid and an end to its status as an international pariah.

On arrival, Hill said he would first visit the Soviet-era Yongbyon nuclear complex and later meet the North's top nuclear envoy, Kim Kye-gwan, China's Xinhua news agency reported from Pyongyang.

Hill said in Seoul late last week: "I suspect, too, though that when I get there (Yongbyon) and see what we have done, I will also be struck by how much more will need to be done".

As part of the disarmament-for-aid deal, North Korea has started disabling three key facilities at Yongbyon, about 100 km (60 miles) north of Pyongyang: its sole working reactor, a plant that makes nuclear fuel, and another that turns spent fuel into plutonium.

The deal North Korea reached with the United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia also commits it to provide a complete inventory of its nuclear arms programme by year's end and answer U.S. suspicions it was secretly enriching uranium for weapons.

If Pyongyang complies, Washington has pledged to start the process of removing it from a State Department list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

A team of U.S. nuclear experts has been at Yongbyon for the past several weeks to disable the facilities. U.S. and South Korean officials said North Korea had been cooperating.

After leaving North Korea, Hill is due to head to Beijing for another round of six-way nuclear talks.

The next session is expected to outline steps to dismantle the North's nuclear facilities and the rewards Pyongyang will receive for compliance.

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B.  Iran

1.
Iran says Sanctions Won't Help End Nuclear Row
Reuters
12/2/2007
(for personal use only)


Further U.N. sanctions will not solve the row with the West over Iran's disputed nuclear plans, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Sunday, a day after six world powers discussed imposing new penalties on Tehran.

The powers met in Paris on Saturday after the European Union's top diplomat, Javier Solana, said he was disappointed about his latest talks with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator that had aimed to persuade Tehran to halt sensitive atomic work.

"If these powers are trying to deprive Iran of its rights, resolutions and sanctions will be fruitless," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told a weekly news conference.

The five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany agreed in September to delay sanctions against Iran until the end of November, pending a report by Solana on his mediation efforts and another by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA.

The International Atomic Energy Agency report found Iran was cooperating, but not proactively.

Two rounds of sanctions have already been imposed on Iran for failing to heed a U.N. demand that it halt uranium enrichment, a process the West believes Tehran is trying to master so it can build atomic bombs.

Iran insists it wants only fuel for power plants.

Iran has refused to stop the activity, saying it is a national right and insisting its work is based on international law and regulations.

"If there are some expectations that are beyond treaties, then they are unacceptable to us," Hosseini said.

A French diplomat said the Paris talks were positive and progress was made but a decision on sanctions could not be taken because Russia's envoy was unable to attend.

In previous meetings Russia and China, which have strong trade ties with Iran, have agreed only to the mildest measures proposed by Britain, the United States and France.

Hosseini said Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili would travel to Moscow on Monday for talks, but did not give details. "He will meet high-ranking Russian officials to discuss the two countries' strategic issues," Hosseini said.


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C.  China-Iran

1.
U.S. Says Agreement with China on New Iran Sanctions
Reuters
12/3/2007
(for personal use only)


The United States has agreed with China on the basis for more United Nations sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, and said a deal could be reached if Russia is brought on board, a top diplomat said on Monday.

World powers held a meeting on Saturday aimed at agreeing more U.N. sanctions against Iran, which a French diplomat has said could lead to a deal on punitive measures within weeks, despite previous opposition from China and Russia.

"We were able, with the Chinese government, to focus on a number of areas where we would agree to sanctions," said Nicholas Burns, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, speaking to reporters in Singapore.

A decision on new sanctions could not be reached on Saturday as Russia's envoy was prevented from flying to the meeting in Paris because of snow in Canada.

"Now if we can bring the Russians on board, I think we'll have the makings of a third Security Council resolution," Burns said.

The five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany agreed in September to delay sanctions against Iran until the end of November, pending an investigation by the U.N. nuclear watchdog and a European Union mediation effort.

The last-ditch EU talks appeared to fail and the U.N. report found Iran was cooperating, but not proactively, which failed to satisfy all six powers.

In previous meetings Russia and China, which have strong trade ties with Iran, have agreed only to the mildest measures proposed by Britain, the United States and France.

"After six months of delay, I felt in our meeting the other day we made some progress," said Burns.

Tehran rejects Western charges it is pursuing nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian atomic program. It says it only wants to generate electricity, but its failure to allay international fears has prompted two rounds of U.N. sanctions.


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D.  Pakistan

1.
US War Game Mulls Options for Securing Pak N-Stockpile
Press Trust of India
12/2/2007
(for personal use only)


Amidst concerns that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal may fall into hands of non-state actors, a classified war game in the US has concluded that "there are no palatable ways to forcibly ensure the security of Islamabad's nuclear weapons."

The classified war game by US military experts and intelligence officials in Washington explored strategies for securing Pakistan's nuclear arsenal if the country's political institutions and military safeguards began to fall apart.

"The conclusion of last year's game was that there are no palatable ways to forcibly ensure the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons -- and that even studying scenarios for intervention could worsen the risks by undermining US-Pakistani cooperation," said a former Pentagon official on condition of anonymity.

"It's an unbelievably daunting problem," said this participant in the secret exercise, conducted without official sponsorship from any government agency apparently due to the sensitivity of its subject. The contingency plans that do exist, he added, are at the headquarters of U.S. Central Command in Tampa, and are in "very close hold," he said.

Even so, planners really haven't developed answers for how to deal with nuclear weapons stashed in Pakistan's big cities and high mountain ranges, he was quoted as saying by the Washington Post in a report on Sunday.

The report said the secret exercise was one of several such games the US government has conducted in recent years examining various options and scenarios for Pakistan's nuclear weapons: How many troops might be required for a military intervention in Pakistan? Could Pakistani nuclear bunkers be isolated by saturating the surrounding areas with tens of thousands of high-powered mines, dropped from the air and packed with anti-tank and anti-personnel munitions? Or might such a move only worsen the security of its arsenal?


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E.  Nuclear Cooperation

1.
Tories Take Heat for Announcing Nuclear Stand without Public Notice, Debate
Bruce Cheadle
Canadian Press
11/30/2007
(for personal use only)


The Conservative government was pilloried Friday for committing Canada to a new international nuclear club without any public or political debate.

Opposition MPs demanded that Canada's participation in the U.S.-led Global Nuclear Energy Partnership be debated and voted upon in the Commons after learning by press release that Canada was joining the group.

The surprise announcement came late Thursday after months of government stone-walling and denials.

"It is great news for Canada to be part of this partnership," Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn told the Commons on Friday.

But Lunn then refused to meet with reporters to discuss the matter, staying in a private Commons lobby for more than an hour while media waited outside.

Eventually, his spokeswoman emerged to say the minister had answered all relevant questions during the daily question period and had nothing more to add.

The minister's behaviour played perfectly to the opposition critics.

"Why have Canadians been kept completely in the dark?" NDP Leader Jack Layton asked outside the House.

The GNEP is a technically complex, hugely expensive initiative to foster a new breed of nuclear reactors that would reuse nuclear waste within a closed fuel cycle to prevent the spread of nuclear bomb-making materials.

That closed fuel cycle has prompted environmentalists to claim the GNEP would force countries like Canada - the world's biggest uranium exporter - to repatriate spent nuclear waste from abroad for disposal.

The government's principal preoccupation Friday was to deny critics' claims that Canada has signed on to become a nuclear waste dump.

"We have absolutely, explicitly stated that under no uncertain circumstances will Canada ever be taking back spent nuclear fuel at any time from any country," Lunn told the Commons in response to a friendly question from a Conservative backbencher.

Had Lunn taken the time, he might also have explained that the lease-and-return fuel cycle is being pitched for countries that enrich uranium - something Canada currently does not do.

Canada is following the lead of Australia, which also joined the partnership while stating it would have no part in repatriating nuclear waste.

Harold Feiveson, a professor at Princeton University in New Jersey and a prominent U.S. skeptic of the GNEP, said Friday by e-mail that he's not quite sure what Canada is signing on to.

"Without the closed fuel cycle, I am not sure what GNEP comprises," said Feiveson.
Last month, an influential panel of American scientists urged U.S. President George W. Bush to abandon his billion-dollar commitment to the GNEP.

The research council of the National Academy of Sciences said GNEP was taking money and interest away from more promising avenues of nuclear research.

And it is the scientific debate that is most intriguing as the GNEP proposal matures.

In addition to announcing that Canada would join the partnership, Thursday's government news release announced that the future of Crown corporation Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) was also up for review.

Lunn's office indicated there was no direct cause-and-effect link between the two announcements.

But an Ottawa energy policy consultant said there's "absolutely" a direct link.

In fact, GNEP's serious technical pitfall - undeveloped, untried and uncosted "fast reactors" - could very well work to Canada and AECL's benefit, said Steve Aplin.

AECL's heavy-water CANDU reactors could be used to burn the waste from America's light-water plants, he said, and that may be the end game the Harper government has in mind.

If selling reactors to the U.S. is the goal "they've got a better bargaining position inside the GNEP than outside of it," said Aplin.

"And it's not really risky because this thing is in doubt in the United States. There's a huge amount of scientific reticence about (GNEP) in its current incarnation."


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