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Nuclear News - 8/30/2007
RANSAC Nuclear News, August 30, 2007
Compiled By: Justin Reed

A.  Threat Reduction
    1. Lugar, Nunn and Gen. Maslin Pose Deathly Questions, Brian Howey, Howey Political Report (8/29/2007)
B.  Iran
    1. Iran Atom Work at Slow Pace and Not Significant: IAEA, Mark Heinrich, Reuters (8/30/2007)
    1. U.S. Wants September Accord on North Korea's Nuclear Program, Heejin Koo, Bloomberg (8/30/2007)
D.  China-India
    1. China Likely to Swallow Anger Over India Nuclear Deal, Chris Buckley, Reuters (8/29/2007)
E.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Asia: Russia's Uranium Enrichment Center Wins International Support, Akiyoshi Komaki, The Asahi Shimbun (8/30/2007)

A.  Threat Reduction

Lugar, Nunn and Gen. Maslin Pose Deathly Questions
Brian Howey
Howey Political Report
(for personal use only)

There are some issues that are so huge and difficult to grasp that we lose track of their significance. Many Hoosiers have heard U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar say what he did here on Tuesday at the Carnegie Moscow Center: �Weapons of mass destruction remain the number one national security threat to the United States and Russia. Our nations continue to lack even minimal confidence about many foreign weapons programs.�

Many of us have heard of the successes of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program: the 6,982 Soviet strategic nuclear warheads deactivated, 653 intercontinental ballistic missiles destroyed, 485 ICBM silos eliminated, 101 ICBM mobile launchers destroyed, 613 submarine launched ballistic missiles eliminated, 436 SLBM launchers eliminated, 30 nuclear submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles destroyed, 155 bombers eliminated, 906 nuclear air-to-surface missiles destroyed, 355 nuclear weapons transport train shipments, 12 nuclear weapons storage site security upgrades, and 9 biological monitoring stations built and equipped.

�Perhaps most importantly,� Lugar notes, �Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan are nuclear weapons free� as a result of Nunn-Lugar.

On Tuesday we heard from the man who has his finger on the button, Russian Gen. Eugeny Maslin, who is a strong advocate of the program. With Nunn and Lugar looking on, Gen. Maslin asked a question he has heard from his own countrymen: �Could Russia not have resolved this issue by itself?�

He answered, �Yes, Russia is capable of resolving any situation. With the dissolution of the USSR, Russians could have done this. But, it would have happened much slower. This would have been done in a much more dangerous manner.�

Gen. Maslin noted that during the first Chechen War, the Americans began asking: �Did the Chechens have nuclear weapons? Could they steal nuclear weapons?�

And Gen. Maslin told a room of nuclear experts from around the globe, �I am saying that the threat of theft of nuclear munitions, radio active material � this has always existed and it would be. It is our primary task to relieve this threat.�

Of course, we all know what Sept. 11 could have been if instead of terror pilots turning airliners into missiles -- or if Timothy McVeigh had found plutonium instead of gas, fertilizer and a truck -- the number of victims in New York City or Oklahoma City would have been multiplied by the thousands. Gen. Maslin worries that the United States is the only country that has nuclear weapons outside of its borders. �These bases are bait for nuclear terrorists.�

And the sobering comments began cascading from the experts at this round table. Gen. Maslin: �Osama bin Laden has said he would try to hit the infidels with nuclear weapons.�

Former Sen. Sam Nunn, who chairs the Nuclear Threat Initiative and is a potential independent presidential candidate in 2008, asks even more disturbing questions: �If a nuclear strike hits New York City, Moscow or London or New Delhi, or Tokyo, what are the things we wished we had done?�

Or how about this doozy: �What could we have done if a computer hacker takes over a North Korean nuclear weapon?� Noting that President Bush and President Putin have a mere 15 minutes to react to a potential nuclear strike accident, Nunn asks, �What would we have wished we had done to give the presidents of the United States and Russia more time? Give us a warning time of an hour, or a day, or a week.�

And almost as an afterthought, Nunn notes that the threat of bio-terrorism grows. It was under the Nunn-Lugar program that vast arsenals of known weaponized anthrax, Marburg and Ebola � some, Lugar notes, under the security of rusty padlocks or string and wax in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union � were located and addressed.

The Nunn and Lugar visit comes at a time of Cold War-style saber rattling by President Putin. He�s compared the U.S. to the Nazis, resumed intelligence flights over Guam and planted a Russian flag at the North Pole. Speaking at the 200th Anniversary of U.S-Russian relations at Spaso House Monday, Lugar notes, �some commentators have questioned whether our nations are returning to a Cold War footing.� He adds, �We cannot afford to succumb to pessimism. The United States and Russia have too much at stake and too many common interests to allow our relationship to drift toward conflict.�

Jim Reid, the policy director for the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, reassured me that �day-to-day, there is no internal dispute� between the Americans and Russians who watched Nunn and Lugar push a button on Wednesday, destroying a Soviet era SS-25 missile. �The transparency is better than it�s ever been,� Reid said. Lugar adds, �Putin is basically saying, �We�re back.� The wilder and wilder statements are points in domestic politics.�

But Lugar describes the Nunn-Lugar program as a �window of opportunity � we never know how long that window will remain open.�

And one predominant thought I hear repeatedly from Russians and Americans: We are damn lucky that we haven�t had to ask the tough questions Nunn posed on weapons of mass destruction.

And yet, the haunting specter exists: WMD aimed at one of our cities. It�s hard to grasp, but it�s out there.

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B.  Iran

Iran Atom Work at Slow Pace and Not Significant: IAEA
Mark Heinrich
(for personal use only)

Iran's uranium enrichment program is operating well below capacity and is a long way from producing nuclear fuel in significant amounts, according to a confidential U.N. nuclear watchdog report obtained by Reuters.

A senior Iranian nuclear official praised the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) report and said it showed U.S. suspicions about Tehran's nuclear intentions were "baseless."

Officials familiar with the report said the IAEA would be able to open future inquiries into Iranian atomic activity if new suspicions arose, even after Tehran answers questions about the program under a transparency deal reached this month.

Western leaders suspect Iran wants to build atom bombs rather than generate electricity and were alarmed when Tehran announced in April it had reached "industrial capacity" to enrich uranium.

But the IAEA report said Tehran remained far short of that threshold. Iran had just under 2,000 centrifuges divided into 12 cascades, or interlinked units, of 164 machines each refining uranium at its underground Natanz plant as of August 19, it said.

A 13th cascade was being run test-run empty, another was stationary undergoing tests under vacuum and two more cascades were being assembled, said the report, sent to the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors and U.N. Security Council members.

"Iran made a fast start but then there was a leveling-off," said a senior U.N. official versed in the IAEA's findings.

"We don't know the reasons, but the slow pace continues. They have brought (just) two new cascades on line since early June and that is not too much," he said.

The report countered impressions gleaned by Western diplomats from the August 21 pact that Iran had negotiated immunity to further IAEA investigations after existing issues were resolved, which officials hoped would happen by year-end.

The report said the level of enrichment of the fissile element in uranium found in samples taken at Natanz by IAEA inspectors was below that reported by Iran -- 3.7 percent instead of 4.8 percent.

Five percent is regarded as the ceiling for fuel suited to operating nuclear energy plants, while weapons-grade uranium would require at least 80 percent enrichment.

The official said it remained unclear whether Iran's halting enrichment progress was due to technical problems or political restraint designed to blunt a U.S. push for more painful U.N. sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

"But there are not a huge number of breakdowns. They know something about this (difficult technological) process by now."

The report also recapped the phased plan Iran agreed with the IAEA 10 days ago to resolve questions about the scope of its nuclear activity. It detailed how the IAEA had settled one issue already -- past small-scale experiments with plutonium.

But the report made clear the cooperation pact by itself was not enough to give Tehran a clean bill of health.

As long as Iran refused to resume allowing wider-ranging, inspections of sites not declared to be nuclear, under the IAEA's Additional Protocol, the agency would be unable to verify Iran had no secret military nuclear facility somewhere.

"Iran would need to continue to build confidence about the scope and nature of its present and future nuclear program. Confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of (this)..., the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities, (requires) implementation of the Additional Protocol."

U.N. officials also said Iran did not seek in negotiations on the plan to condition its implementation on no tough sanctions by the United Nations Security Council, although Iranian leaders have raised such a linkage in public statements.

That raised Western concerns Iran has no intent to answer thornier questions and may drag matters out indefinitely. The U.N. has already imposed two sets of sanctions on Iran.

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U.S. Wants September Accord on North Korea's Nuclear Program
Heejin Koo
(for personal use only)

The U.S. government said it wants a six-nation agreement to be reached next month for North Korea to declare and disable its nuclear weapons program by the end of this year.

�We are really going to try to get to this in early September,� Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters in Washington yesterday.

North Korea agreed on Feb. 13 with the U.S., South Korea, China, Japan and Russia to close its Yongbyon reactor, which produced weapons-grade plutonium, and to eventually declare and disable all of its atomic programs in exchange for 1 million metric tons of fuel oil or the equivalent in economic aid. The communist nation tested its first nuclear bomb on Oct. 9 last year, drawing international condemnation and United Nations Security Council sanctions.

Hill is scheduled to travel to Geneva for Sept. 1-2 talks on normalizing U.S.-North Korean ties, one of five working groups meeting under the six-nation nuclear talks process.

The six nations are planning to hold the next full plenary session next month to discuss North Korea declaring and disabling its nuclear program. Hill said the meeting will probably be held in Beijing, following a meeting of the leaders of the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation group in Sydney Sept. 8-9.

The six nations will start implementing the expected agreement �in the fall with a hope that we can get through this by the end of calendar year '07,� Hill told reporters, according to a government transcript. The six nations will then, early next year, focus on �having North Korea abandon its fissile material and explosive devices,� he said.

North Korea has asked for a monthly fuel delivery of 50,000 tons, as well as machinery and materials to repair its power plants. South Korea last month sent North Korea the initial shipment of 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil, which is used to generate heat or power.

Hill said he will discuss in Geneva removing North Korea from the U.S. State Department's list of nations sponsoring terrorism. The communist nation has been on the list since 1988 after North Korean agents were implicated in the bombing of a South Korean passenger airliner a year earlier that killed all 115 people on board.

�It's in our interest that countries be removed from that list because it means they're no longer state sponsors of terrorism,� Hill said. �But we're not going to cup our eyes and pretend that a country is not a state sponsor of terrorism if they are a state sponsor. So we have to work through this and make sure that when and if the decision's taken it's a decision that can stand the light of day.�

Designation as a state sponsor of terrorism results in U.S. sanctions, including curbs on economic assistance and a ban on arms-related sales, according to the State Department's Web site.

The six nations have agreed to hold a meeting of their foreign ministers, including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, although a date and venue has yet to be set. Hill said the meeting will probably be held in October in Beijing.

There are no plans for Rice to visit North Korea this year, Hill said. Hill visited the capital, Pyongyang, in June to push forward the dismantling process, becoming the most senior American diplomat to visit North Korea in about five years.

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D.  China-India

China Likely to Swallow Anger Over India Nuclear Deal
Chris Buckley
(for personal use only)

India's nuclear deal with the United States, already dogged by opposition at home, has provoked alarm in neighbor China, but experts expect Beijing to swallow its complaints rather than risk a face-off with New Delhi.

The pact between New Delhi and Washington would offer India U.S. fuel and reactors while allowing it to stay out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, keep nuclear arms and protect its military atomic complex from international inspections.

Even if the agreement survives opposition from Indian leftists, who could break apart the coalition government, China's veto could kill it at an international level.

Indian newspapers have cited recent Chinese media comments to suggest that Beijing could scuttle the deal at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a 45-nation club that works by consensus.

Washington will need to go to the NSG, which is supposed to discourage nuclear trade with countries outside full safeguards, to ask for special leeway for India.

Chinese state media and think-tanks have said the nuclear deal will bolster U.S. efforts to "contain" China and undercut international rules to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

"The nuclear cooperation between the U.S. and India not only seriously damages the integrity and effectiveness of the non-proliferation regime, it exposes the United States' multiple standards in non-proliferation", the People's Daily, official voice of the ruling Communist Party, said last month.

U.S. moves to draw New Delhi into a loose regional alliance of democratic countries such as Australia and Japan which pointedly excludes Beijing have magnified China's worries, said Zhang Li, an expert on South Asia at Sichuan University.

"China has been trying to judge the nature of the U.S.-India nuclear agreement and that process hasn't ended," said Zhang.

"In the past couple of months, the problem has become more prominent because of the spread of this democracy alliance. This will affect China's judgment."

However, experts said China was unlikely to stymie the nuclear deal and risk pushing Delhi closer to Washington -- just when Beijing is seeking to avoid a destabilizing confrontation with its rising Asian neighbor and longtime rival.

"The United States has decided that using India to check and balance China is of more importance than non-proliferation, and that worries China," said Shen Dingli, a nuclear security expert at Fudan University in Shanghai.

"But China does not want to push India towards the United States. I don't think China will stand out to oppose the agreement; it doesn't want to offend the United States or India."

China's government has steered clear of detailed comment on the deal since Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and U.S. President George W. Bush agreed to it in principle in July 2005.

Even in private, Beijing officials have been non-committal, said a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"For China, the political costs of opposing it would be too high. It would drive a wedge between China and India," said Zhang. "But China may demand adjustments, even just to make a point about its concerns".

China and India have been trying to expand diplomatic and trade ties after decades of rivalry that included a brief war over disputed territory in 1962. Territorial disputes persist, as do mutual suspicions.

But popular support for diplomatic independence will deter any Indian government from following Washington closely, even if New Delhi gets the deal, several Chinese analysts said.

"The U.S. wants to use India to contain China," said a recent analysis of the agreement published by the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.

"But out of its own strategic interests, India is most unlikely to form an alliance with the U.S. to contain China."

As it seeks to sway New Delhi, Beijing is instead likely to promote its own civilian nuclear technology. When President Hu Jintao visited India in November last year, he pitched for such cooperation.

But China is also likely to seek expanded nuclear cooperation with India's rival, Pakistan, where Beijing has already helped build an atomic reactor -- and it will be able to point to the U.S.-India deal to counter any criticism, said Shen.

The United States has ruled out similar help to Pakistan which, like India, has not signed key non-proliferation treaties.

"When the U.S. has its nuclear business with India, it will find it difficult to point fingers at others," said Shen.

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E.  Nuclear Cooperation

Asia: Russia's Uranium Enrichment Center Wins International Support
Akiyoshi Komaki
The Asahi Shimbun
(for personal use only)

The Russian government plans to set up an international center here to enrich uranium for nuclear power plants in foreign countries.

The center, to be established in the premises of the Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Complex in eastern Siberia, is expected to prevent the proliferation of nuclear technologies to countries that do not have them.

Recently, Japanese reporters were allowed to see the inside of the 50-year-old complex for the first time.

Several facilities dot the complex's 8-hectare premises, which are located near Lake Baikal and covered with birch and pine trees. A huge portrait of Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) is posted on the wall of one of the brick buildings.

Visitors need to go through checkpoints to get to the site. Even in the compound, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has stationed armed guards at several locations.

Japanese reporters were permitted to enter one of the facilities, the Central Laboratory, in which engineers measure and control the qualities of various materials produced in the process of uranium enrichment.

The inside of the laboratory has a modern atmosphere which is unimaginable from the external appearance of the old building. State-of-the-art facilities, which are well air-conditioned, are lined up on both sides of the corridors.

The Japanese reporters accompanied Sergei Kiriyenko, chief of the Russian Atomic Energy Agency (RosAtom), on his visit there. In the compound, Kiriyenko attended a ceremony to sign an agreement with local municipalities for the opening of the international center for uranium enrichment.

The Japanese reporters were not allowed to enter a building for uranium enrichment--a key facility in the complex. By accepting them in the central laboratory, however, the Russian government apparently tried to show to the world that the international center is open to foreign countries.

"Russia voluntarily decided to put this center under the inspection of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). It is an unprecedented decision," Kiriyenko said.

Russia, the United States, China, Britain and France, the five countries which are recognized as nuclear powers under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), are not obliged to accept IAEA inspections.

However, the four countries except for Russia have voluntarily accepted IAEA inspections to their nuclear facilities except for those for military purposes.

The prime reason Russia has refused inspections is that, since the days of the Soviet Union, its nuclear facilities have not been separated clearly between those for military purposes and those for non-military purposes. All of the facilities have been placed under strict controls as military secrets.

The Angarsk chemical complex was previously used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. However, in order to establish the international center that is open to the world, the Russian government decided to accept the IAEA inspections for the first time.

"All quality controls in the center will be conducted in accordance with the U.S. standards," said Victor Krivov, vice director of the central laboratory. By saying so, he emphasized that the international center will meet global standards.

He added that Russian government officials had already held a meeting with IAEA officials for the inspections.

The plan to establish the international center was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2006. The idea of enriching uranium for nuclear power plants in foreign countries resulted from Russia's cooperation with the Bushehr plant in Iran whose nuclear development program is causing a concern around the world.

In the idea, Russia will first set up joint ventures with countries which want to develop nuclear powers, and then enrich uranium. The enriched uranium will be used as nuclear fuels in the plants in those countries.

Russia will never disclose information on uranium enrichment technologies to those countries. By refusing the disclosure, Russia will prevent the proliferation of nuclear technologies to them.

A Russian expert said, "The plan (to set up the international center) will meet two requirements. One is the growing demand for nuclear power and the other is nuclear nonproliferation."

Former Soviet republic Kazakhstan, which has the second-largest uranium reserve following Australia, has already decided to join the international center. Ukraine is also expected to agree with Russia to a joint project by the end of this year. Besides, Armenia is showing interest in the international center.

India, which is constructing nuclear power plants in cooperation with Russia, is also a candidate to join the international center. In addition, Iran and North Korea could expand or start cooperation with Russia through the center if their nuclear problems are resolved.

The United States, which places much importance on nuclear nonproliferation, also supports Russia's project of setting up the international center. The project is one of a few policies for which Russia wins support from international society.

Meanwhile, Russia's nuclear industry has a huge structural problem. Though it has sufficient uranium enrichment abilities, it can dig out only about 3,300 tons of natural uranium a year. The figure is much less than the country's annual total demand of 20,500 tons for domestic use and exports.

In order to supplement the shortage, Russia is not only using its stocks but also importing uranium.

In such circumstances, Russia has started to realign the domestic nuclear power industry on a large scale. Last month, the government established a state-run holding company, Atomenergoprom, which controls all the affiliated companies for non-military purposes--from those for uranium mining to those for the construction of nuclear power plants.

By putting the entire nuclear power industry under the direct control of Putin, the government is trying to strengthen its international competitiveness.

The ongoing rise in the price of uranium, which results from increasing global demand for nuclear power generation, is also leading Russia to reform its nuclear policies.

The primary index of the uranium price--the price of triuranium octaoxide (U3O8) per pound (about 454 grams)--sharply increased from $7 (815 yen) in 2000 to $136 (15,837 yen) in June this year, according to a survey of Ux Consulting Co.

Russia plans to build 26 new nuclear power plants for itself in the next 12 years and raise the nuclear power ratio in the total energy production from the current 15 percent to 30 percent.

By setting up the international center, the government is trying to strengthen the highly lucrative processing division in which uranium will be processed into nuclear fuels. At the same time, the government is trying to attract more investment in the domestic uranium mining sector by realigning the nuclear power industry.

Meanwhile, Japan is welcoming the Russian plan of setting up the center.

"We will be able to increase the countries to which we can entrust uranium enrichment," said a senior official of the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Presently Japan is storing uranium, which has been collected from spent nuclear fuels, in Britain and France. However, Japan can entrust re-enrichment of the collected uranium only to France.

Therefore, the Japanese nuclear industry has been forced to pay extravagant fees to France for re-enrichment, the senior official said.

As for the enrichment of natural uranium, a facility in the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture is able to meet only several percent of the entire domestic demand for enrichment.

If Japan can also entrust re-enrichment to Russia, it could reduce fees paid to France. The Japanese electric power industry has already started to consider entrusting the re-enrichment of collected uranium to Russia.

In order to realize the plan, however, Japan must conclude a bilateral agreement with Russia.
"All of the preparations for signing the agreement will be completed within this year if there are political wills in both countries," Kiriyenko said.

However, some Japanese government officials are cautious of the plan of entrusting re-enrichment to Russia, as Russia has not separated nuclear facilities for military purposes from those for non-military purposes.

The key issue is how Japan can obtain an assurance that Russia never use Japanese nuclear technologies and related materials for military purposes. Russia is requesting Japan's understanding by accepting IAEA inspections into the enrichment facilities in Angarsk.

However, a senior official of the Japanese Foreign Ministry said, "Even if Russia accepts the international inspections on some part of the facilities, the acceptance will not assure that Russia will not convert Japan's nuclear technologies for military purposes."

Japan has held meetings with Russia twice. However, the Japanese Foreign Ministry official said, "The gap of views between the two countries is very big."

As for Russia's hope for signing of the agreement this year, the official added, "It's almost impossible."

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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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