ï¿½Dirty Bomb Vulnerabilitiesï¿½, U.S. Senate, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, United States Congress (7/12/2007)
1. Oil Aid Heads to North Korea, Nuclear Talks Set
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South Korea sent oil to the North on Thursday, part of a deal by which the communist state is to shut its nuclear reactor, and Beijing said big powers would meet next week for talks to push Pyongyang to scrap its atomic arms program.
A ship carrying 6,200 tons of fuel oil was expected to dock in the energy-starved North on Saturday, the day a team from the U.N. nuclear watchdog is due to arrive to oversee closure of the reactor, source of Pyongyang's weapons-grade plutonium.
Speaking to reporters in Seoul, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it would take a month to set up all the monitoring equipment needed to make sure Pyongyang lives up to its pledge to mothball the Soviet-era reactor.
"That is not a complicated process because we would simply, at that stage, shut down the reactor and make sure that there's enough monitoring equipment to ensure that at all times we can verify and provide assurance about the shutdown of the facility," Mohamed ElBaradei said.
What is expected to be a 10-member IAEA team will gather over the next two days in Beijing and then fly into North Korea.
At six-way talks in February, North Korea agreed to shut the reactor at Yongbyon, about 100 km (60 miles) north of Pyongyang, and allow IAEA inspectors back into the country in exchange for the oil supplied by the South.
Last week, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said the communist state might shut down the Yongbyon plant, which also contains a nuclear reprocessing facility, once the oil arrives.
The next round of six-way talks, grouping the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, is due to open in Beijing on July 18, China's Foreign Ministry said. The scheduled two-day session comes as momentum has been building in an often sputtering denuclearization process.
Last month, about $25 million in North Korean assets frozen in a Macau bank for nearly two years for suspected links to illicit activities was returned to the secretive state.
Pyongyang had said it refused to start shutting down the reactor until it had the money.
If North Korea scraps its nuclear weapons program, it can receive another 950,000 tons of oil, along with security guarantees and the possibility of establishing diplomatic ties with its long-time nemesis, the United States.
Analysts have said Pyongyang may never abandon its nuclear weapons.
With them, it can have a seat at the table with global powers and pressure them into making concessions. Without them, it is merely a poor country in a region of global economic powers.
"The Korean peninsula nuclear issue is a complex one and the six-party process is an arduous one," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.
1. Iran and U.N. Team Hold Further Talks on Nuclear Issues
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Reuters July 12, 2007 (for personal use only)
Iranian nuclear officials and a visiting team from the U.N. nuclear watchdog held a second round of talks on Thursday to discuss ways to remove outstanding questions about Iran's disputed nuclear programme.
Iran has offered to draw up an "action plan" to address Western suspicions that its nuclear programme is a front to obtain nuclear arms. Tehran says it needs nuclear technology only to generate power.
"The second round of talks between Iranians and the IAEA team has started," the official IRNA news agency reported, without giving any details.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deputy Director General Olli Heinonen and other agency officials held a first round of talks on Wednesday with an Iranian team led by Javad Vaeedi, deputy to Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday Iran had no intention of suspending its uranium enrichment activity, as demanded by the U.N. Security Council.
The U.N. watchdog's Director General Mohamed ElBaradei has said Iran's transparency offer combined with what the IAEA has said was a slowdown in Iran's uranium enrichment work had raised hopes of defusing the dispute between Iran and the West.
Results of the talks were expected to be announced on Thursday afternoon during a news conference.
Diplomats say the United States and its European Union allies believe Iran's offer of transparency may be little more than a bid to buy time and avert further U.N. measures.
Two rounds of sanctions have been imposed on Iran since December for failing to halt enrichment, and a third one is being considered.
The IAEA wants explanations for traces of highly enriched -- bomb-grade -- uranium found on some equipment, and also wants more information about experiments with plutonium and the status of research into an advanced centrifuge able to enrich uranium three times as fast as the model Iran now uses.
The IAEA also wants to know more about documents showing how to cast uranium metal for a bomb core.
U.S. President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday discussed a long-stalled nuclear cooperation deal ahead of talks next week that U.S. officials hope will finally close a deep rift over the agreement.
In a telephone call, the two leaders "discussed the transformation of our bilateral relationship, including the civil nuclear cooperation initiative," White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters.
He gave no details about the status of the deal, which was first announced in July 2005, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently predicted it could be wrapped up by the end of this year.
However, a congressional source who tracks the issue said the U.S.-India negotiations "are not going well at all" with new areas of disagreement opening up.
The source questioned whether the accord could be completed before Bush leaves office in January 2009.
The much-heralded agreement would give India access to U.S. nuclear fuel and reactors for the first time in 30 years, even though New Delhi has tested nuclear weapons and never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Two senior Indian officials are due in Washington next Tuesday and Wednesday for meetings with Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, the lead U.S. negotiator on the deal.
The agreement has become the touchstone of a new U.S.-India relationship that Washington envisions as a pillar of 21st century international security.
U.S. officials have not revealed much about their specific disagreements with New Delhi but key obstacles have included a U.S. congressional mandate that Washington halt nuclear cooperation if India tests a nuclear weapon as it did in 1998.
Other disputed points have been the U.S. refusal to give India prior approval to allow reprocessing of spent fuel with U.S. components and to assure permanent fuel supplies.
1. Brazil to Spend $540 Million on Nuclear Program
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President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said that Brazil will budget about $540 million over eight years to complete its nuclear program, including uranium enrichment and possibly building a nuclear-powered submarine.
"I believe that this project could be the embryo for all we need from the point of view of nuclear energy and from the point of view of energy production," Silva told reporters Tuesday after visiting a navy research center in Sao Paulo state.
The country says its nuclear program is peaceful and it has no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons.
In 2004, the Brazilian government drew attention when it refused unrestricted inspections by the International Atomic Energy Association, arguing that full access to its centrifuges would put it at risk of industrial espionage.
Inspectors said they were satisfied after monitoring the uranium that comes in and out of the centrifuges.
"Brazil can give itself the luxury of being one of the few countries in the world to control all the technology of the uranium enrichment cycle," Silva added. "Why not dream big, and say we want to arrive at the possibility of having a nuclear submarine?"
The navyï¿½s nuclear program, begun in 1979, has already mastered part of the enrichment process. But it lags in developing and constructing a reactor entirely from Brazilian technology, navy Adm. Julio Soares de Moura Neto said. Silva has frequently touted nuclear power as a way to diversify Brazilï¿½s energy sources and meet growing demand in South Americaï¿½s largest nation and economy.
Last month, his government moved to restart work on a long-planned third nuclear power plant, Angra 3, which has been stalled since the 1980s by lack of funds.
Brazilï¿½s two operating nuclear plants, Angra 1 and Angra 2, have an installed capacity of about 2,000 megawatts. Angra 3 would raise capacity to 3,300 megawatts, at a cost of about $3.6 billion, according to the Mines and Energy Ministry.
Brazilï¿½s nuclear program began during a 1964-85 military dictatorship, and the ruling generals had secret plans to test an atomic bomb underground in the Amazon jungle. The idea was scrapped in 1990.
Silvaï¿½s announcement came a day after the governmentï¿½s environmental protection agency gave preliminary approval to a $10 billion to $14.7 billion project to build two dams in the Amazon that would generate 6,450 megawatts, or 8 percent of current electricity demand.
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