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Nuclear News - 6/18/2008
PGS Nuclear News, June 18, 2008
Compiled By: Joseph Longa

A.  Threat Reduction
    1. Nuclear Weapons Blueprint 'Shared Among Smuggling Ring', Caroline Gammell, Daily Telegraph (6/16/2008)
    1. Chinese Vice President Arrives in North Korea, Likely to Discuss Nuclear Program, Associated Press (6/17/2008)
C.  Iran
    1. Russia Backs New Incentives for Iran to Halt Uranium Enrichment, RIA Novosti (6/15/2008)
D.  Syria
    1. IAEA Says Syria Lacks Skills for Nuclear Facility, Reuters (6/17/2008)
E.  Nuclear Safety
    1. Russian Nuclear Agency Rejects Rumors of Radiation Leaks, RIA Novosti (6/16/2008)

A.  Threat Reduction

Nuclear Weapons Blueprint 'Shared Among Smuggling Ring'
Caroline Gammell
Daily Telegraph
(for personal use only)

Blueprints for advanced nuclear weapons were found on computers belonging to an international smuggling ring and may have been shared among "rogue" states, it has been claimed.

The files included designs for a sophisticated compact nuclear device which could be fitted onto a ballistic missile.

The sensitive information was discovered on heavily encrypted computers in Switzerland and destroyed, but there are fears that the designs could have passed into the wrong hands.

Former UN arms inspector David Albright, an authority on the now defunct smuggling ring run by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, said the information may have been leaked some time ago.

"These advanced nuclear weapons designs may have long ago been sold off to some of the most treacherous regimes in the world," he warned.

Mr Albright said the network might have given the blueprints to Iran or North Korea: "They both faced struggles in building a nuclear warhead small enough to fit atop their ballistic missiles and these designs were for a warhead that would fit."

The warnings came in his report which was due to be published this week - but was leaked to the Washington Post - after years spent investigating Khan.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, Nadeem Kiani, did not rebut the findings.

"The government of Pakistan has adequately investigated allegations of nuclear proliferation by Khan and shared the information with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"It considers the Khan affair to be over."

In Vienna, a senior diplomat familiar with the Khan network, said the IAEA had been aware of a sophisticated nuclear weapons design being peddled electronically by the black-market ring as far back as 2005.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei made it public knowledge at the time and expressed concern about who might have come in possession of the information.

In November 2005, he said at least one weapon design had been copied by the Khan network onto a CD-ROM "that went somewhere that we haven't seen".

The nuclear blueprints were discovered in 2006 on computers owned by Swiss businessmen and recently destroyed by the Swiss government under the supervision of the UN nuclear watchdog agency.

Swiss President Pascal Couchepin said the files contained "detailed construction plans for nuclear weapons, for gas ultracentrifuges to enrich weapons-grade uranium as well as for guided missile delivery systems".

Two brothers, engineers Urs and Marco Tinner, are facing trial for alleged links to Khan's nuclear smuggling network.

Khan, who was put under house arrest in Pakistan in 2004 for passing nuclear technology to Libya, Iran and North Korea, led his country's uranium enrichment program that made Pakistan the Islamic world's first nuclear power.

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Chinese Vice President Arrives in North Korea, Likely to Discuss Nuclear Program
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

China's vice president arrived in North Korea on Tuesday for his first foreign trip since taking office in March, underscoring the close ties between the countries.

Xi Jinping, who stopped in Pyongyang for a three-day visit, was greeted by Yang Hyong Sop, vice president of the Presidium of the North's Supreme People's Assembly, and other officials, according to footage filmed by APTN North Korea.

He inspected an honor guard of the Korean People's Army and received a bouquet of flowers, the footage showed.

Xi praised North Korea's reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il, saying that under his leadership the people have made "great achievements in socialist revolution and construction," official Xinhua News Agency said. It was not clear whether Xi would meet with Kim.

He said relations between China and North Korea were moving forward, and China is willing to further bilateral exchanges and cooperation, Xinhua said. The visit will enhance the friendship between the two sides, he said.

North Korea's nuclear program will likely be discussed during the visit, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said earlier this month. Six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament have stalled since it missed a deadline last year to submit a list of all of its nuclear programs.

Xi is considered the leading contender to succeed President Hu Jintao in 2013, and was made vice president in March. Shortly afterward, he was handed responsibility for overseeing preparations for this summer's Beijing Olympics, a key task.

China is North Korea's leading source of food and fuel aid and hosts the six-nation nuclear talks.

Qin said cooperation between the two countries was "in full swing," with trade last year reaching nearly US$2 billion.

Xi will visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Yemen after his North Korea trip.

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C.  Iran

Russia Backs New Incentives for Iran to Halt Uranium Enrichment
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

Russia backs new incentives offered by six world powers to Iran in exchange for halting the Islamic Republic's uranium enrichment program, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said on Sunday.

European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, handed Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki a package of new incentives from the Iran six - China, France, Russia, the United States, Germany and Britain - on Saturday. The proposals offer political, security and trade benefits to Iran.

"This is a comprehensive package and Russia fully supports these proposals," Kislyak said.

Iran's government spokesman said on Saturday that the Islamic Republic would not accept any new incentives, proposed by the EU and world powers, in exchange for halting its uranium enrichment program.

Gholam-Hossein Elham told journalists: "If the package of incentives from the "six" contains demands for a suspension [of uranium enrichment], then we will not discuss it."

Iran is currently under three sets of relatively mild UN Security Council sanctions for defying demands to halt uranium enrichment, which it says it needs purely for electricity generation despite Western accusations that the program is geared toward weapon production.

Iran maintains that it has never been involved in research into the development of nuclear weapons.

A report released by the U.S. intelligence community in late 2007 said that Iran had ceased attempts to create a nuclear bomb in 2003. U.S. President George Bush responded that, "Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous and Iran will be dangerous if they have the know how to make a nuclear weapon."

Bush told journalists after a meeting with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin this week, that "all options are on the table" when it came to Iran's nuclear program and reiterated that Washington is not ruling out military action.

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D.  Syria

IAEA Says Syria Lacks Skills for Nuclear Facility
(for personal use only)

There is no evidence Syria has the skilled personnel or the fuel to operate a large-scale nuclear facility, the head of the United Nations atomic watchdog said in remarks aired on Tuesday.

"We have no evidence that Syria has the human resources that would allow it to carry out a large nuclear programme. We do not see Syria having nuclear fuel," International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamad ElBaradei told Al Arabiya television.

In an interview with the Dubai-based television station, ElBaradei said the IAEA only had pictures of a site in Syria bombed by Israel last year, which resembled a nuclear facility in North Korea.

Arabiya aired only part of the interview.

The IAEA added Syria to its proliferation watch list in April after receiving U.S. intelligence material, including photographs suggesting Damascus had almost finished building a nuclear reactor in secret with North Korean help before Israel destroyed it in an air strike in September.

Damascus, a U.S. foe and ally of Iran, denies any covert nuclear activity and says the site Israel bombed was a military facility under construction. It has said it would cooperate with a U.N. investigation into the allegations of nuclear activity.

ElBaradei has said previously that Syria had agreed to a June 22-24 inspection visit to examine the allegations. In the interview, he called on Damascus to cooperate with the IAEA inspectors.

Diplomats have said Syria has refused IAEA requests to examine three sites other than the bombed one.

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E.  Nuclear Safety

Russian Nuclear Agency Rejects Rumors of Radiation Leaks
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

Russian nuclear power agency Rosatom dismissed on Monday rumors circulating of a radioactive leak from two plants in northwest and south Russia.

Bogus e-mail messages on June 15 said that there had been alleged radioactive leaks at the Leningrad nuclear power station, in northwest Russia, and the Volgodonsk nuclear power plant, in the south of the country, a spokesman for the company said.

"In fact, all nuclear power stations in Russia are operating in completely normal regimes. The background radiation is within the natural levels for the environment," the spokesman said.

The spokesman called the messages a provocation aimed at distributing gossip about an alleged accident.

The Leningrad NPP, located 80 km west of St. Petersburg, has four 1,000 MW units with graphite-moderated reactors. The first unit has been undergoing repairs since May 23.

The Volgodonsk NPP, situated some 1,000 km (621 miles) south of Moscow and has one pressurized water reactor, started operation in 2001.

Last month, several Internet forums carried reports of radioactive emissions from the Leningrad NPP near St. Petersburg, and of a planned evacuation of local residents. Several days later hackers attacked Russian nuclear power websites allowing users to check radiation levels.

In 2007, after similar false reports of an accident at the Volgodonsk nuclear plant, several dozen people, believing they could have been affected by radiation, consumed large amounts of iodine and fell ill with iodine poisoning.

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