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Nuclear News - 10/31/2008
PGS Nuclear News, October 31, 2008
Compiled By: Matthew Giles

    1. US says others may help supply North Korea energy, Reuters (10/28/2008)
B.  Russia
    1. Russia reforging its nuclear shield, Ilya Kramnik, RIA Novosti
C.  Iran
    1. Intel Says Iran Plans Secret Nuclear Experiments, George Jahn, Associated Press (10/30/2008)
D.  Nuclear Safety
    1. Swedish nuclear plant posted cleaners as guards, Associated Press (10/30/2008)
E.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Future still dim for nuclear power, Ewin Hannan, The Australian (10/29/2008)


US says others may help supply North Korea energy
(for personal use only)

Countries outside the five-nation group negotiating North Korea's nuclear disarmament have volunteered to help supply North Korea with energy as a reward, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday.

Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said he had discussed the matter with Japan's top nuclear negotiator, Akitaka Saiki, at the State Department.

Under an agreement last year between North Korea and its five negotiating partners, up to 1 million tonnes of heavy fuel, or energy aid equivalent to that, will be provided to North Korea when it disables its nuclear facility at Yongbyon and declares its nuclear programs.

But Japan, one of the five nations, has so far refused to give energy aid to North Korea because of a dispute over abducted Japanese citizens.

Tokyo is under pressure from Seoul, which wants Japan to join South Korea, China, Russia and the United States in providing energy aid that was promised.

Over the weekend, there were media reports that other countries, such as Australia, might pitch in instead of Japan to provide heavy fuel oil to North Korea.

Hill, asked about Australia's possible participation, said some other countries had "expressed interest" in supplying the fuel oil, but declined to name them.

"We're going to work with them and try to see if we can complete the fuel oil deliveries so we can synchronize that with the disablement activities," he said, referring to the disablement of North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility.

Asked whether Saiki accepted that another country might deliver the oil instead of Japan, Hill said, "we didn't discuss that except to say that we have been in contact with other countries on it."

North Korea said last week that Japan was no longer qualified to be involved in the six-party talks because it has refused to provide energy assistance.

But the government in Tokyo faces pressure at home to find the fate of 12 people Japan lists as missing after being kidnapped by Pyongyang in the 1970s and 1980s.

Hill also said that a North Korean delegation would be going to New York next week for a meeting with a nongovernmental organization, and this would provide a chance for some consultations with Sung Kim, the U.S. ambassador to the six-party talks.

The United States removed North Korea from its terrorism blacklist this month in exchange for Pyongyang's agreement to verification measures for its nuclear activities. That agreement needs to be approved by the other members of the six-party talks. Hill said they were trying to find a date for a meeting "as soon as we can."

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B.  Russia

Russia reforging its nuclear shield
Ilya Kramnik
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

The introduction of the RS-24 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) in 2009 will be the most important phase in the renewal of the Russian Strategic Missile Force (SMF) after the adoption of the Topol-M.

For the first time in post-Soviet Russia, a new ground-based MIRV-equipped missile system will be adopted by Russia's military.

There is little information on the performance of the new RS-24. According to the most reliable sources, this missile, developed by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology like the Topol-M, is in fact a further development of the latter, with an improved third stage and dispensing mechanism, the so-called "bus," from the RSM-56 Bulava ICBM.

The new missile should have a range of 11,000 km or more, and the warheads are most likely to have a yield of between 150 and 300 kilotons each. The RS-24 will hold an interposition between the Topol-M with a 550-kiloton single warhead, though in the future it could be tipped with three individually targeted warheads with a yield between 150 and 300 kilotons, and heavy lift launch vehicles RS-20 Voevoda, carrying up to 10 warheads, 750 kilotons each. The RS-24 is therefore likely to be comparable in performance with the silo-based liquid-fueled UR-100 NUTTH.

Aside from the warheads, the RS-24 carries missile defense penetration systems, hindering enemy detection and interception, which makes the new missile a valuable asset amid the deployment of U.S. global missile defense.

Like the Topol-M, the RS-24 could be specified in either a silo-based or a mobile version, which would increase the Russian SMF's versatility. With the current production capacity, by the beginning of the next decade, up to 15 ICBMs, including five to six RS-24s, could be delivered to the military annually, keeping the ICBM numbers at the required level.

With the RS-24 entering service, the structure of the Russian SMF in the coming decade looks clear. Along with the Topol-M, the new missile will form the backbone of the SMF, their number totaling up to 250 and 60, respectively, by the end of the next decade. Additionally, by 2020, several dozens of Topol and UR-100 NUTTH ICBMs will remain in service. A new heavy missile is also expected to replace the RS-20 Voevoda ICBM. All in all, the SMF would include about 300 to 350 missiles of various types with 800 warheads.

The backbone of the Naval Strategic Nuclear Force will be liquid-fueled RSM-54 Sineva ICBMs, installed on six 667BDRM nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines, which will have their life cycle extended into late 2020s, and cutting-edge solid-fuel RSM-56 Bulava ICBMs on 955/955� submarines. The navy plans to commission eight missile submarines of the above-mentioned class to replace the 667BDR submarines. By 2020, the Russian navy will most likely have between 12 and 14 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines carrying between 192 and 224 missiles with 800 to 900 warheads.

Strategic aviation will go on with the employment of the Tu-95MS and Tu-160 bombers, as the new advanced strategic bomber will not enter service before 2020. The balance in bombers class numbers is likely to change, however, with Tu-95s down to between 40 and 48 from the current 68, and Tu-160 up to between 22 and 24 from the current 16.

Therefore, before the end of the next decade, the total potential of Russia's nuclear triad is estimated to be between 1,600 and 1,900 warheads. Is it a big figure? On the one hand, with the given deployment of U.S. missile defenses, this number of warheads doesn't seem so. On the other hand, the rapidly increased defense penetration capability of Russian nuclear weapons will make this inventory sufficient to inflict unacceptable damage to an attacker, whoever it may be.

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C.  Iran

Intel Says Iran Plans Secret Nuclear Experiments
George Jahn
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Iran has recently tested ways of recovering highly enriched uranium from waste reactor fuel in a covert bid to expand its nuclear program, according to an intelligence assessment made available to The Associated Press.

The intelligence, provided by a member of the 145-nation International Atomic Energy Agency, also says a report will soon be submitted to the Iranian leadership for a decision on whether to go ahead with the project.

The alleged tests loosely replicate Saddam Hussein's attempts to build the bomb nearly two decades ago. But experts question the conclusion by those providing the intelligence that Tehran, too, is trying to reprocess the fuel to make a nuclear weapon.

They note that the spent fuel at issue as the source of the enriched uranium is not enough to yield the approximately 30 kilograms (65 pounds) of weapons-grade material needed for a bomb.

Still, they say that the alleged experiment appears plausible � if not as a fast track to weapons capability then as a step that could move it further along that path.

With Iran's nuclear program already under international scrutiny, any new efforts by Tehran to increase its nuclear expertise and its store of enriched uranium would set off alarm bells � particularly if that stock was highly enriched. The higher the enrichment the easier it is to reach the 90 percent level used in the fissile core of nuclear warheads.

The 3-page intelligence report, drawn from Iranian sources within the country, says the source material would be highly enriched � some at above 90 percent, the rest at 20 percent.

In contrast, Iran's enrichment program under constant IAEA monitoring has churned out material that is less than 5 percent enriched, in line with the fuel needs of modern reactors.

"Procedures were evaluated for recycling fuel by dissolving fuel rods" for irradiated waste and then reprocessing the material into uranium metal, says the intelligence assessment. Uranium metal is used for nuclear warheads.

"Sufficient data was collected for planning production lines for recovering the fuel," says the assessment, which gave Tehran's Jaber ibn Hayan Laboratories, run by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as the location for the experiment.

Top officials of AEOI are "in the final stages" of writing a report for the Iranian leadership for assessment on whether to go forward with reprocessing, according to the intelligence.

The laboratories and the Tehran Nuclear Research Center, the site of the reactor, have figured in suspect experiments, including clandestine plutonium separation attempts uncovered by the IAEA.

If the information is accurate then Iran is "trying to get their nose in the tent" of reprocessing material potentially suitable for a warhead, said David Albright, whose Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security tracks suspect secret proliferators.

"On the surface it may have nothing to do with making a bomb, but in the end that's what it could be about."

IAEA spokespeople were unavailable Thursday but an official of the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog said the agency would not comment. He asked not to be named because he was not authorized to be quoted by name.

Both Albright and a senior Vienna-based diplomat agreed that the alleged experiment roughly jibed with Saddam's efforts to chemically process research reactor fuel to recover enriched uranium � in the case of Baghdad, enough and at a sufficiently high level of enrichment to make a bomb.

Close to success, the Iraqis saw their plans fail with the destruction of the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center during the first Gulf War of 1990-1991.

"This is the 'Iraqi scenario,'" said the diplomat, referring to the alleged Iranian experiment. He � like the source of the intelligence � demanded anonymity because their information was restricted.

But both he and Albright noted that the purported source for the fuel � Tehran's TNRC research reactor � was unlikely to have enough material for reprocessing into the core of a warhead.

The five-megawatt reactor initially ran on weapons-grade uranium fuel enriched to 93 percent that was provided by the U.S. in the late 1960s to the then pro-Washington regime. But measured in terms of potential proliferation, the amount was small � only 7 kilograms (15 pounds).

Then, in the late 1980s, Argentina helped reconfigure the reactor core and provided about 115 kilograms (250 pounds)of uranium. In contrast to modern reactors that run on low-enriched fuel, that material was highly enriched to about 20 percent.

Albright said that even optimal reprocessing would probably yield less than about half of the 30 kilograms (65 pounds) of weapons-grade uranium needed for a bomb. That restriction makes it unlikely that Iran was looking to the TNRC reactor for that immediate purpose.

Instead, an Iranian reprocessing plans could be part of Tehran's attempts to push the nuclear envelope.

U.S.-led efforts for tough U.N. sanctions for Iran's refusal to suspend enrichment have been consistently blocked by Russia and China. Tehran also has support of developing countries traditionally suspicious of Washington.

Defying weak sanctions, the Islamic Republic has moved further through enrichment toward developing weapons capability � now anywhere from six months to several years away, depending on the source.

Iran may be banking on further international inaction if it announces it will reprocess, perhaps arguing that it will need it as a source for new fuel for the research reactor. If allowed to do so, it will have moved another step ahead on the path to being able to develop warhead material.

"It's the idea that Iran wants to slowly develop nuclear weapons capability under the tent and it does it slowly so that people will accept it," said Albright. "It's (a matter of) keeping your head down, moving slowly and deliberately and winning at each step."

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D.  Nuclear Safety

Swedish nuclear plant posted cleaners as guards
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Managers of an atomic power plant in Sweden used janitors to guard the facility when the alarm system was malfunctioning, according to a critical report Thursday from the country's nuclear watchdog.

In a statement on its Web site, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority called the incident at the Oskarshamn plant serious because the workers had no training as security guards.

In early October, managers deployed 20-25 cleaning and maintenance staff to help guard parts of the plant's perimeter, the statement said.

The workers worked in shifts for about a week and were instructed to alert security if an outer fence was being breached, because motion sensors in parts of the newly installed alarm system were not working. The surveillance cameras and other security equipment still worked.

"OKG's decision to use non-security-educated personnel violates the company's internal routines. It is particularly serious since the routine deviation has been going on for a long time," the authority said in its report.

It also criticized the plant for not documenting the decision properly, and said the incident "could be a sign of inadequate safety culture regarding the attitude to physical protection."

In a separate statement, Oskarshamn said it had taken the criticism to heart, and said it had based the decision on the fact that the inner security fences had been intact, equipped with the necessary alarm and surveillance equipment.

The Oskarshamn plant is located 210 miles (340 kilometers) south of Stockholm. It has three reactors and provides around 10 percent of Sweden's electricity.

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E.  Nuclear Energy

Future still dim for nuclear power
Ewin Hannan
The Australian
(for personal use only)

Australia should be prepared to accept nuclear waste from overseas countries if we intend to sell uranium, but nuclear power is unlikely to attract significant private sector investment in the near future.

Experts yesterday debated the future of nuclear power as part of a roundtable discussion on potential solutions to climate change at the Australia Unlimited conference in Melbourne.

Selena Ng, nuclear business development manager with Areva Australia, said 40 nuclear power plants were being built in 14 countries and global nuclear capacity could quadruple by 2050.

While the bulk of the growth would be in China and India, there would be new nuclear projects in Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

"To meet the projected demand for nuclear power, the world will need well over 200,000 tonnes of uranium per year by 2050," Ms Ng said.

"The majority will have to be by mining. Australia possesses more uranium than any other country ... but currently produces less than one-fifth of the uranium needed.

"It certainly has the potential to at least triple its production over the coming decades."

Australia would be well placed to benefit economically from the growth in demand in nuclear power, Ms Ng said. "In some sense, it has an obligation to do so to enable the emerging countries, in particular, to meet their clean energy needs." She said Australia had vast areas that were technically suitable for a nuclear waste facility.

"The use of nuclear power worldwide to generate electricity will continue to grow with or without us," she said.

"Shutting our eyes isn't going to make it go away."

The Rudd Government opposes the use of nuclear power in Australia.

During last year's election campaign, Labor seized on the Howard government's interest in the technology to warn voters they could end up with nuclearreactors in their electorates.

Opposition resources spokesman Ian Macfarlane is leading a partyroom push to persuade his Coalition colleagues to consider adding nuclear power to Australia's greenhouse abatement arsenal.

Peter Cook, chief executive of the Co-operative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies, said he believed that nuclear energy would have a significant role to play in the abatement of greenhouse gases.

He stressing his comments were not those held by the centre.

"We have to be very responsible in our attitude," Dr Cook added. "If we are going to sell uranium, I believe it's appropriate that we also accept nuclear waste back, which is not a popular view.

"Nonetheless, I think it's a very responsible approach that ensures we do not have nuclear proliferation.

"I think it has got a place but I think it will be quite some years before that place is occupied in Australia because the politics are against it."

Pacific Hydro's Australia Pacific general manager Lane Crockett said he did not understand why nuclear power could be considered given Australia was rich in a number of other resources.

NabCapital chief executive John Hooper said nuclear power would struggle to obtain private sector funding.

"It has a complex range of after-effects that make funding for nuclear power quite difficult," Mr Hooper said.

"If this country chose to go down that track, it would have to be a government-led response initially. I think it's difficult to let the private sector lead in that type of investment."

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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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