Bulgaria has sent its remaining highly enriched uranium to Russia for safeguarding from terrorist or other potential misuse.
Nearly 14 pounds of the spent fuel were received Thursday at a Russian nuclear facility, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration announced. A first shipment of 37.3 pounds of fresh uranium fuel was sent to Russia in December 2003.
"With this shipment there is no more highly enriched uranium in Bulgaria," said Brian Wilkes, a spokesman for the U.S. agency, which was established by Congress in 2001. "Bulgaria now joins Latvia in clearing out all Soviet-era dangerous nuclear fuel."
Remaining in Bulgaria, he said, are small quantities of low-enriched uranium, which most civilian reactors run on.
in the 1970s the Soviet Union sent shipments of enriched uranium to Bulgaria, which was then part of the Soviet bloc. The returned shipment was transported under guard in casks to the Danube River, loaded on a barge and shipped to Ukraine and then shipped by rail to the secure Russian facility near Chelyabinsk.
Spent and fresh uranium fuel has also been returned to Russia from Serbia, Romania, Libya, Uzbekistan, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic and Vietnam.
At the same time, all highly enriched uranium spent fuel was returned to the United States by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Greece, Italy, the Philippines, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Thailand.
The founder of a Russian company involved in trade with Iran has been charged with trying to smuggle a metal that can be used for weapons of mass destruction or delivery systems to the Islamic republic, prosecutors said Thursday.
The metal in question is tantalum, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office said. It can be used in the production of chemical processing equipment, nuclear reactors and missile parts, and is subject to export restrictions under Russian law.
Tantalum powder, a super-grade chemical, can also be used in the manufacture of mobile phones, personal computers, motor vehicles and electronics goods.
Prosecutors in southern Russia's Astrakhan region, across the Caspian Sea from Iran, have sent their case against Anar Godzhayev to court, the Prosecutor General's Office said in a statement. That means Godzhayev, a citizen of Uzbekistan, could face trial soon.
He and his lawyers were not immediately available to comment. Godzhayev is being held in Astrakhan.
Prosecutors claim Godzhayev lied about the contents of an outgoing shipment in customs documents after a business partner, in July 2007, asked him to send more than a ton of materials containing tantalum to Iran. He was detained after customs officials checked the shipment in a container on a boat due to leave for Iran.
Russia supports Iran's right to nuclear energy and is building the nation's first nuclear power plant.
While Russian leaders have said there is no evidence proving claims by the U.S. and other Western countries that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, Moscow is involved in international efforts to persuade Iran to ease those fears by abandoning uranium enrichment.
Russia has also questioned U.S. assessments of the potential threat from Iranian missiles.
But amid tense ties, Russia and the United States say they are cooperating well in efforts to thwart the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Godzhayev could be sentenced to seven years in prison if convicted.
North Korea's further disabling of its main nuclear reactor under the latest round of six-party talks effort seems to be proceeding well.
North Korean workers, as of last week, had removed 4,000 of the 8,000 nuclear fuel rods from its Yongbyon reactor near Pyongyang and placed them in an adjacent water pond, Kyodo news service reported Thursday, quoting sources close to the denuclearization effort by the United States, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea.
The removal of the fuel rods from the reactor is one of final steps remaining to prevent the restart of the facility.
The latest steps follow the six-party talks, which resumed last week in Beijing after an absence of nine months. Those talks restarted after North Korea submitted its declaration of nuclear programs.
In Beijing, North Korea agreed it will complete the process by October, Kyodo said. In return it is to get substantial aid from the other countries.
"If North Korea is to finish disablement by that time frame, it would have to speed up the rate of discharging the fuel rods," one of the sources told Kyodo.
Yongbyon's fuel fabrication facility and the spent fuel reprocessing plant have been fully disabled, Kyodo said.
The high-level talks between six countries and Iran over its controversial nuclear programs have yielded "insufficient" progress on Saturday and diplomats attending the one-day meeting have called for enhanced efforts so as to solve the issue peacefully.
"There is always progress in these talks, but insufficient," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told a press conference after talks with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in the presence of U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns and senior diplomats from China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.
"We didn't get the answer to our questions...we hope very much we get the answer and we hope it will be done in a couple of weeks," he said.
According to the diplomats, Iran has given no clear answer to a package of incentives for suspending its nuclear program, but the country is expected to make a response within two weeks.
Still, Solana appraised the one-day meeting as "constructive," saying that the diplomats talked frankly about everything, including common points as well as differences on the nuclear issue.
He also expressed the belief that the issue should be solved through cooperation instead of confrontation.
Jalili also described the meeting as constructive, saying it has enhanced the understanding of each other's views. This is the first time that senior diplomats from the six countries join Solana in direct talks with the Iranians on the nuclear issues.
However, U.S. spokesman Sean McCormack after the talks warned that Iran should either accept the incentives, or face "further isolation."
"We hope the Iranian people understand that their leaders need to make a choice between cooperation, which would bring benefits to all, and confrontation, which can only lead to further isolation," McCormack said in a statement.
Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Kisliak, who attended the talks, said he would also expect Iran to respond within two weeks.
"We hope that the two weeks we agreed on with the Iranians will help Iran to specify its stance on our proposals," he said.
Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jieyi, who represented China at the meeting, called for enhanced diplomatic efforts and flexibility so as to find a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.
"Enhanced diplomatic efforts and flexibility are needed for an early resumption of negotiations so that a long-term, comprehensive and appropriate solution could be found for the nuclear issue," he said.
The package of incentives, presented last month by the five U.N. Security Council permanent members plus Germany, suggests that Iran get a temporary reprieve from economic and financial sanctions in exchange for freezing its enrichment activities.
Preliminary negotiations over a permanent halt could then begin,although the United States would not join them until after Iran agrees to fully suspend uranium enrichment.
According to Jalili, Iran has also presented its own package ofproposals on solving the nuclear issue, and that package contains "a number of opportunities that should not be lost."
Jalili said Iran's package and the six countries' package have many common grounds, and the parties at the meeting had agreed to hold further talks on those common grounds.
India did not remove all ambiguities about its nuclear inspection agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), member states said after a briefing with a senior Indian official on Friday.
Foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon, Indiaï¿½s top foreign affairs bureaucrat, briefed members of the IAEA board and the Nuclear Suppliers Group about the Safeguards Agreement that would allow the agency to monitor Indian civilian nuclear reactors.
Board members say it is likely to be adopted at a meeting on August 1 but some governments are concerned about potential loopholes in the text, which might allow India to terminate the agreement.
ï¿½Itï¿½s a good agreement, itï¿½s a good initiative and itï¿½ll work,ï¿½ Menon said after the meeting that lasted less than one hour. ï¿½They answered some questions, but not very much to our satisfaction,ï¿½ a European diplomat who attended the meeting said. Several diplomats told DPA that ambiguities remained about unspecified ï¿½corrective measuresï¿½ referred to in the text, which India may take if its nuclear fuel supply were interrupted.
Diplomats and non-proliferation advocates think that this clause could allow India to terminate IAEA inspections if the US or other nations stopped supplying it with nuclear material after an Indian nuclear test. Menon explained that the corrective measures to be taken ï¿½depended on circumstances,ï¿½ two diplomats said.
The inspection agreement is part of its nuclear deal with the US, under which New Delhi agreed to separate its nuclear energy sector from the nuclear weapons programme. In return, the US will provide nuclear fuel and technology for civilian power reactors. Board members were told India would circulate a so-called separation plan in the coming days or weeks, to clarify what will be inspected by the IAEA.
Several IAEA members say that the safeguards agreement gives India too much discretion in deciding what facilities would be monitored and when the IAEA would start doing so.
European Union members on the board have demanded another formal briefing by IAEA officials that will take place on August 25, as Fridayï¿½s meeting was an informal event. One board member told DPA that although the agreement would go through August 1, it was still not clear if it would be adopted unanimously.
After the IAEA Board approves the text, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the 45 nuclear exporting countries that define export control rules, have to make an exemption for India, as it is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Only then will the US Congress ratify the nuclear pact with India.
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