1. Russia Closes Down 2nd of 3 Remaining Plutonium Producing Reactors in Siberia
(for personal use only)
Russia closed down the second of its three remaining plutonium-producing reactors Thursday, part of a years-long effort by Moscow and Washington to shutter the Cold War-era facilities that produced material for nuclear weapons.
The atomic energy agency, Rosatom, said in a statement that the ADE-5 reactor at the Siberian Chemical Plant in Seversk stopped operation and workers will begin removing remaining uranium fuel. It will take several years to dismantle the reactor's technical equipment.
The plant's first reactor was shut down on April 20. Russia's last plutonium-producing reactor, in the city of Zheleznogorsk, is expected to be shuttered by 2010.
Located in secret cities, the plants were part of the Soviet Union's sprawling nuclear weapons complex and produced weapons-grade plutonium over the course of 50 years. But in the early years after the Soviet breakup, the Defense Ministry stopped buying the plutonium.
The United States pushed for years to close down the plants, but they produced electricity and heat for nearby cities as a byproduct of their operations and the Russians did not want to leave Siberian cities without power before coal-fired replacement plants were built.
The United States committed US$926 million (ï¿½599 million) to help build the fossil fuel plants, along with donations from Britain, Canada and other nations.
The design of the Seversk and Zheleznogorsk reactors ï¿½ similar to the Chernobyl reactor that exploded in 1986 ï¿½ also raised fears of accidents.
According to the National Nuclear Security Administration, a U.S. agency that coordinates nonproliferation programs, the plants together produced more than 1 metric ton of plutonium annually.
The United States has also funded efforts to help Russia pay for construction of a plant to turn the stockpiled plutonium into a mixed oxide nuclear fuel and for research into a more advanced reactor that could speed up the process of disposing of plutonium.
The United States ï¿½ which has closed all its 14 plutonium-production facilities ï¿½ is believed to have about 110 U.S. tons (100 metric tons) of weapons-grade plutonium stockpiled and Russia about 154 U.S. tons (140 metric tons).
1. Assad Pledges to Work with UN Nuclear Inspectors
(for personal use only)
President Bashar al-Assad said in remarks published on Thursday that Syria would cooperate with UN inspectors due to visit this month to probe claims Damascus was building a nuclear facility.
"Syria invited the IAEA and will cooperate with it," Assad was quoted by the official SANA news agency as telling journalists during a visit to Kuwait this week.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Monday it would send a team of experts to investigate US and Israeli claims that Syria had been building a nuclear reactor with North Korean help, allegations denied by Damascus.
The site at Al-Kibar in a remote area of northeastern Syria on the Euphrates river was bombed and destroyed by Israeli warplanes in September.
Assad said an agreement signed between Syria and the IAEA states that inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog cannot be carried out on the basis of news reports.
"Otherwise Israel would have sent a report every day about a nuclear reactor anywhere in Syria that would serve as a justification for the IAEA to come," he said.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on Monday that the watchdog was treating the information seriously and expected Syria's "full cooperation" during the June 22-24 visit.
US media reports have said Damascus would only allow inspectors to visit Al-Kibar and not two or three other suspect sites the IAEA was interested in.
In April, the United States turned over intelligence alleging that an installation at Al-Kibar was an undeclared nuclear reactor that was close to completion but not yet supplied with the necessary nuclear material.
Damascus has dismissed the accusations as ridiculous.
In comments to newspapers in the United Arab Emirates published on Tuesday, Assad again strongly denied the allegations.
"If anyone had a secret dossier on nuclear facilities in Syria with a Korean role, as they claim, then why did they wait for seven months before destroying a normal military facility by the Israeli raid?" he asked.
"Why did they not resort to the UN nuclear energy organisation to carry out an inspection?"
"Acquiring nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is an international trend that all countries are rightfully pursuing. In Syria, we want this to be done within an Arab context, which was discussed and agreed during the Arab summit in Riyadh."
1. U.S. Voices Concerns over China Nuclear Weapons Plans
(for personal use only)
The United States pressed concerns about Chinese nuclear weapons and space plans in talks between the two powers on Wednesday that also covered North Korea, Iran and other international security hotspots.
U.S. Acting Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, John Rood, said the "strategic dialogue" in the Chinese capital had discussed how to expand cooperation in countering the threat of nuclear arms proliferation.
But Rood said U.S. diplomats and defense officials also came with concerns about China's own nuclear weapons and space military plans. There were no signs that the two sides made major strides in allaying mutual worries.
"China clearly has large-scale efforts in the nuclear area. This is something that we've sought a greater dialogue with our Chinese colleagues about," Rood told a news conference.
"We would like to have a better understanding of Chinese doctrines and plans in this area. I think that was something that we articulated in the discussions today."
The U.S. officials again raised objections to an anti-satellite test China conducted in January 2007 by using a missile to destroy one of its own satellites.
China did not immediately give its own account of the talks. But its officials have often noted that their defense spending and nuclear arsenal remain far smaller than Washington's, and said they are committed to "no first-use" of such weapons in any war.
"Our Chinese colleagues, I think, clearly articulated that that remains China's policy," Rood said of the no-first-use doctrine.
With about 200 nuclear warheads according to an estimate by the Federation of American Scientists, China's arsenal is far smaller than the United States' near 10,000. China had about 20 missiles capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, compared to 830 U.S. missiles that could hit China, a Federation study said.
Chinese diplomats have repeatedly said they want stronger international rules to avoid an expensive, destabilizing arms race in space.
But recent Chinese military analyses suggest that at least some in China's military take a bleak view of prospects for such efforts and believe their country must get ready for escalating rivalry.
Last month, Chinese President Hu Jintao publicly backed Russian opposition to U.S. plans to set up a missile defense system that would include bases in eastern Europe. China's neighbor Japan is also involved in the U.S. anti-missile efforts.
"We think our missile defense cooperation with Japan is not threatening to China. This is a purely defensive capability," Rood said.
1. Effectiveness of Indian N-safeguards Questioned at IAEA Meet
(for personal use only)
Abdul Samad Minty, South Africaï¿½s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, said here there is concern that Indiaï¿½s nuclear facilities meant for peaceful purposes might be misused since it was not clear how the country would safeguard them. ï¿½The international community would like to know how Indiaï¿½s nuclear supplies meant for peaceful use will be safeguarded from proliferation,ï¿½ Minty said while speaking on ï¿½South Africaï¿½s Commitment to Disarmament and Nuclear Non-Proliferationï¿½ on the opening day of the five-day IAEA Board of Governors meet Monday.
However, discussion of the 20-page safeguard agreement between India and the IAEA was not on the agenda of the meeting.
Minty said the international community was also concerned about the nuclear deal between India and the US since not much was known about the bilateral agreement between the two countries.
He said there was a fear that India was being seduced by vested interests to go nuclear to keep the worldï¿½s limited oil and gas resources away from its growing market.
However, IAEA Director General Mohammad El Baradei had welcomed the nuclear agreement between India and the US in the past, calling it an important step towards satisfying Indiaï¿½ growing need for nuclear technology and fuel as an engine for development.
South Africa gave up its nuclear options in the 1990s and wants other nations to follow suit. One of the founders of the anti-apartheid movement in the country, Minty is a staunch supporter of non-proliferation.
ï¿½As long as some countries have nuclear weapons there will be others who will also aspire to possess them. The responsibility for the elimination of nuclear weapons lies with the nuclear weapon states,ï¿½ Minty said.
ï¿½In South Africa we believe that when it comes to nuclear weapons there are no right hands,ï¿½ he added.
At the same time, he asserts the right of every nation, including Iran, to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
At Mondayï¿½s meeting, El Baradei addressed the status of implementation of the non-proliferation treaty in several nations.
Regarding verification of Iranï¿½s nuclear programme, El Baradei said: ï¿½It is regrettable that we have not made the progress we had hoped for with respect to the one remaining major issue, namely clarification of the cluster of allegations and secretariat questions relevant to possible military dimensions to Iranï¿½s nuclear programme. The so-called ï¿½weaponisationï¿½ studies remain a matter of serious concern.ï¿½
He said that over the last five years of verification activities, substantial progress has been made, but also called on Iran to ï¿½demonstrate the necessary transparency and provide full disclosureï¿½ to allow the IAEA to reach a conclusion on the nature of the Iranian programme as soon as possible.
El Baradei also updated board members on the status of safeguards in Syria on information provided to the IAEA of a Syrian installation destroyed by Israel in September 2007 that was claimed to be a nuclear reactor. He noted that an IAEA team will visit Syria June 22-24 and expressed hope that the country will fully cooperate on the matter.
1. EU Issues Alert After Incident at Slovenian Nuclear Plant
(for personal use only)
The European Commission issued a bloc-wide alert after a nuclear power plant in Krsko, Slovenia, began shutting down due to a technical problem with its cooling system. No damage was caused to the environment.
The plant's primary cooling system lost coolant, the Commission said in a statement on Wednesday, June 4.
"The plant has been stopped preventively for some hours to allow the personnel to determine the cause of the failure and fix it," it said, adding that there had been no discharge to the environment.
The European Community Urgent Radiological Information Exchange (ECURIE) immediately informed all 27 EU members of the incident. ECURIE requires early notification of all nuclear emergencies.
Located in Krsko about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of the capital Ljubljana, the nuclear power plant was constructed in the late 1980s and is co-owned by Slovenia and neighboring Croatia.
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.