1. US Rejects Albaradei's Proposal for "Simultaneous Timeout" on Iran Nuclear Issue
The Kuwaiti News Agency
(for personal use only)
The US on Monday rejected the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed Albaradei's call late last week for a "simultaneous timeout" regarding the Iranian nuclear issue.
"There is a path (in resolution 1737) laid out for suspension: Iranian suspension of their enrichment activities to be responded by the council. That is very clear and it is not subject to reinterpretation," US envoy Alejandro Wolff told reporters in answer to a question.
In an interview with CNN in Davos last Friday, Albaradei said the timeout would include Iran freezing its nuclear programme while the Security Council temporarily suspends sanctions that took effect last month after adopting resolution 1737.
"I call on all parties to take a simultaneous timeout," Albaradei said. "Iran should take a timeout from its enrichment activity, the international community a timeout from the application of sanctions, and parties should go immediately to the negotiating table." Under resolution 1737, the timeout is not simultaneous.
Wolff said "my reading of resolution 1737 is that the Iranians have to suspend first, then the council will assess that act, see how serious it was then take appropriate action." The council said in that resolution that it "shall suspend the implementation of measures if and for so long as Iran suspends all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, as verified by the IAEA, to allow for negotiations." "as verified by the IAEA" is key here, a US diplomat said.
Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin told reporters in answer to a question that Albaradei's proposal "is something which is mentioned as a possibility in the resolution itself. This is one of the clauses of the resolution (1737)." He admits, however, that all acts by Iran "have to be verified." "I personally read Mr. Albaradei's remarks as a very useful reminder of the positive clauses which are included in the resolution," he said.
Churkin would not comment on Russian National Security Advisor Igor Ivanov's visit to Teheran yesterday.
He said, however, that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will have lunch with Security Council members in the Russian Mission in New York on Wednesday and meet with the Council on Foreign Relations.
He will then travel to Washington to attend the Quartet Ministerial meeting on the Middle East. It groups UN, US, EU and Russia.
1. North Korea Nuclear Talks to Resume Feb. 8 in Beijing
Heejin Koo and Eugene Tang
(for personal use only)
Six-nation talks on dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program will resume Feb. 8 in Beijing, after negotiations broke down last month over U.S. allegations of money laundering by North Korean companies.
ï¿½The six-party talks is a gradual and complicated process, but it's the best mechanism for arriving at the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula,ï¿½ Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said today at a briefing in the capital after announcing the date. ï¿½We hope each party will continue to head toward that goal.ï¿½
North Korea abandoned the talks in November 2005 after the U.S. Treasury Department labeled a Macau, China-based bank it did business with as a money-laundering threat. China, the U.S., North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Russia met again in December last year, without any progress being made.
The U.S. Treasury alleged Banco Delta Asia SARL laundered money from North Korea and worked with front companies trafficking drugs for Kim Jong Il's regime. Chinese officials responded by seizing the bank and freezing its assets, while international banks severed their relationships with North Korea.
U.S. Treasury officials held a three-hour meeting with North Korean delegates in Beijing today to discuss the issue as well as allegations that North Korea counterfeited U.S. currency, Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Glaser told reporters in Beijing.
The Treasury Department has gone through 300 cases of documents over the past 18 months and ``found evidence confirming a lot of troubling activity at the bank,'' he added. North Korea has said it won't return to the six-party talks until the issue is settled and $24 million of accounts at the bank is unfrozen.
ï¿½What we have accomplished today is to establish a framework to work and discuss with our North Korean counterparts,ï¿½ Glaser said. Officials will meet again tomorrow, he added.
China isn't involved in the financial discussions, Jiang said at today's briefing.
A unified response against North Korea following its October nuclear weapons test ï¿½has been the key to the renewal of the six-party talks and to prospects for forward movement at next week's session,ï¿½ U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Alexander Vershbow said at a symposium held in Seoul today. ï¿½Six-party talks offer the path toward a different and more positive relationship between North Korea and the rest of the world.ï¿½
North Korea must take ``concrete'' steps toward abandoning its nuclear weapons program during the next round of talks, Japan's Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Suzuki said.
ï¿½We will strongly seek from North Korea concrete action to give up its nuclear weapons,ï¿½ Suzuki said at a press conference in Tokyo today.
The government will raise the issue of North Korea's kidnapping of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s during the negotiations, Suzuki said. North Korea has admitted abducting 13 Japanese citizens, and it allowed five to return home in 2002. Japan says 17 citizens were kidnapped.
South Korea called for ï¿½proactiveï¿½ and ï¿½sincereï¿½ participation from the parties involved in the talks.
ï¿½We expect participating nations to take a proactive and sincere attitude during the talks, so as to yield concrete and substantive agreement toward implementing the Sept. 19 agreement,ï¿½ South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Hee Yong told reporters at a briefing in Seoul today.
Cho was referring to a September 2005 declaration between the six nations to remove nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula. The declaration promises security guarantees for North Korea, if Kim Jong Il's regime abandons its nuclear ambitions.
Ambassador Chun Yung Woo, South Korea's chief negotiator at the six-nation talks, will travel to Moscow tomorrow to meet his Russian counterpart Alexander Losyukov ahead of next week's gathering in Beijing, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a separate statement.
1. North Korea Denies Cooperating with Iran in Nuclear Development
(for personal use only)
North Korea dismissed allegations it is cooperating with Iran in nuclear development, accusing Western media of spreading lies to damage the communist country's reputation.
North Korea - which quit the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in early 2003 - conducted its first nuclear weapons test in October, drawing criticism from the international community and raising concerns about nuclear proliferation.
On Wednesday, the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph said North Korea was helping Iran to prepare for its own underground test, possibly before the end of this year, citing an unidentified senior European defense official.
The "assertion is nothing but a sheer lie and fabrication intended to tarnish the image of (North Korea) by charging it with nuclear proliferation," North Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
The ministry vowed the North would continue to honor its duty in the area of nuclear nonproliferation as a "responsible nuclear weapons state."
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog had seen no direct evidence of such cooperation.
Last week, an Iranian Foreign Ministry delegation led by Vice Minister Mahdi Safari met senior North Korean officials in Pyongyang and signed a three-year agreement on unspecified scientific exchanges, KCNA had reported, without giving further details.
North Korea and Iran are both under intense international pressure to give up their nuclear programs. The North is believed to have sold missiles to Iran.
The North's strong denial came as the U.S., Japan, China, Russia and South Korea prepare to hold a new round of talks with North Korea aimed at shutting down its nuclear weapons program.
The North says it has a right to nuclear weapons as a deterrent against U.S. plans to topple its government. The U.S. has said it has no intention of attacking the North.
Although North Korea's publicly acknowledged nuclear weapons program uses plutonium, Iran's nuclear program is based on uranium.
Iran insists its nuclear program is designed to produce energy, but Washington and European countries suspect its eventual goal is the production of weapons.
1. Russian Prosecutors Consider Probe into Uranium Smuggling
(for personal use only)
Russia is considering an inquiry into possible theft of highly enriched uranium from its nuclear sites, as another uranium smuggling report surfaced from Georgia, the Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday quoting a spokesman for the Prosecutor Generalï¿½s Office.
Georgia announced last week that in February 2006 a Russian citizen was arrested and jailed for trying to sell 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of highly enriched uranium-235 to Islamist extremists. Russia called the announcement a provocative act.
Documents from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) seen by Reuters suggested the uranium may have come from the Russian city of Novosibirsk in Siberia.
ï¿½The Russian Prosecutor-General has asked for copies of documents (from Georgia) to start checks, and to consider launching a criminal case on the illegal purchase and holding of radioactive substances,ï¿½ the spokesman said.
Highly enriched uranium in big enough quantities can be used to make a nuclear bomb.
A senior Georgian government official told Reuters on Monday a similar nuclear smuggling case occurred in 2003.
Shota Utiashvili, head of the Interior ministryï¿½s information and analytical section, said border guards then caught an Armenian man trying to smuggle 170 grams of highly enriched uranium-235 across the Armenia-Georgia border.
ï¿½According to our information the uranium was bought from Russia,ï¿½ he said.
Utiashvili said the man was handed over to the Armenian police but he was unaware what had happened to him after that.
Armenian officials were not available for comment.
The case has revived worries about the safety and security of hazardous material left over after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Experts had said tightened security had reduced the chances of uranium being traded on the black market to virtually nil.
Making nuclear power plants crash-proof to an airliner attack by terrorists is impracticable and it's up to the military to avert such an assault, the government said Monday.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in a revised security policy, directed nuclear plant operators to focus on preventing radiation from escaping in case of such an attack and to improve evacuation plans to protect public health and safety.
"The active protection against airborne threats is addressed by other federal organizations, including the military," the NRC said in a statement.
The agency rejected calls by some nuclear watchdog groups that the government establish firm no-fly zones near reactors or that plant operators build "lattice-like" barriers to protect reactors, or be required to have anti-aircraft weapons on site to shoot down an incoming plane.
The NRC, in a summary of the mostly secret security plan, said such proposals were examined, but that it was concluded the "active protection" against an airborne threat rests with organizations such as the military or the Federal Aviation Administration.
It said that various mitigation strategies required of plant operators such as radiation protection measures and evacuation plans "are sufficient to ensure adequate protection of the public health and safety" in case of an airborne attack.
The commission unanimously approved the plan, which has been the subject of internal discussions for 15 months, in a 5-0 vote at a brief meeting without discussion.
"Nuclear power plants are inherently robust structures that our studies show provide adequate protection in a hypothetical attack by an airplane," NRC Chairman Dale Klein said in a statement, adding that plant operators already must be able to manage large fires or explosions, no matter the cause.
Klein called the new rule "only one piece" of an effort to enhance reactor security and said the NRC will continue to examine and discuss the issue of airborne threats and take additional actions if found to be necessary.
The defense plan, formally known as the Design Basis Threat, spells out what type of attack force the government believes might target a commercial power reactor and what its operator must be capable of defending against.
While details are sketchy because of security concerns, the plan requires defense against a relatively small force, perhaps no more than a half-dozen attackers, but that they could come from multiple directions including by water and could include suicide teams.
The plan, which formally approves many of the procedures that have long been in place, reflects the increased concerns raised by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It also includes measures to address cyber attacks, according to the NRC.
Some members of Congress and nuclear watchdog groups have argued that the requirements fall short of what is needed, given what was learned by the Sept. 11 attacks on the twin towers in New York and at the Pentagon.
These critics have argued that defenders of a reactor should be ready to face up to 19 attackers _ as was the case on Sept. 11 _ and expect them to have rocket-propelled grenades, so-called "platter" explosive charges and .50-caliber armor-piercing ammunition.
The NRC does not assume such weapons being used and rejected the idea of a 19-member attack force, maintaining that the Sept. 11 attacks actually were four separate attacks, each by four or five terrorists.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said that NRC appears not to have followed the direction of Congress "to ensure that our nuclear power plants are protected from air- or land-based terrorist threats" of the magnitude demonstrated on Sept. 11.
The NRC "has missed an opportunity to provide the public with a real solution to the nuclear reactor security problem," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., a frequent critic of the nuclear industry and the NRC.
Daniel Hirsch, president of the Community to Bridge the Gap, a California-based nuclear watchdog group that had urged the NRC to require physical barriers to keep planes from hitting reactors, called the security measures "irresponsible to the extreme."
"Rather than upgrading protections, (the NRC plan) merely codifies the status quo, reaffirming the existing, woefully inadequate security measures already in place at the nation's reactors," said Hirsch. NRC officials have emphasized that the defense plan should require what is "reasonable" to be expected of a civilian security force at the 103 commercial nuclear power reactors.
In an unclassified summary of the DBT, the NRC maintains that studies "confirm the low likelihood" that an aircraft crashing into a reactor will damage the reactor core and release radioactivity, affecting public health and safety.
"Even in the unlikely event of a radiological release due to a terrorist use of a large aircraft against a nuclear power plant, the studies indicate that there would be time to implement the required onsite mitigating actions," says the summary.
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.