China, reluctant to isolate Iran in its standoff with the West over its nuclear program, will maintain cooperation with Tehran and foster "close coordination in international affairs," Premier Wen Jiabao said on Thursday.
Wen made the comments to the visiting First Vice President of Iran, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, in Beijing for a forum of Central Asian states, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
While the United States and European powers call for greater pressure behind demands that Tehran be transparent about its nuclear plans, Wen's comments suggested Beijing remained unwilling to risk its oil and investment ties with Iran by backing such demands.
Wen, quoted by Xinhua, said China was willing "to maintain high-level contacts with Iran, encourage mutual understanding and confidence, promote practical cooperation between the two sides and close coordination in international affairs."
Wen also said: "China is willing to continue playing a constructive role in promoting peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu, speaking at a later news conference, gave no further details of any discussion between Wen and Rahimi about the nuclear dispute.
But Rahimi said Iran hoped to keep expanding economic and energy ties with China, Ma told reporters.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, also in Beijing for the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, warned on Wednesday against intimidating Iran and said talk of sanctions over its nuclear program was "premature.
Putin was speaking after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to secure any specific assurances from Russia on Iran during talks in Moscow.
Wen's comments left little doubt that China wanted to keep at arm's length possible Western demands for stiffer sanctions.
"The Sino-Iran relationship has witnessed rapid development ...and cooperation in trade and energy has widened and deepened," Wen told Rahimi, according to Xinhua.
Last month, Iran said it was building a hitherto undisclosed second uranium enrichment facility, drawing warnings from the West that Tehran had to come clean about its activities, which critics say could give it the means to assemble atomic weapons.
Iran says its nuclear activities are for peaceful ends and that it complies with international nuclear rules.
China has voiced concern about the enrichment plant, but urged nations to solve the latest flare-up through negotiations.
Growing energy ties bind China, the world's No. 2 crude oil consumer, and Iran, which has the world's second-largest crude oil reserves but needs investment to develop them. Iranian oil made up nearly 12 percent of China's crude imports last year.
Beijing's distaste for sanctions and appetite for Iran's oil mean it could use its power as a permanent member of the Security Council to soften any proposed resolution on the dispute.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/vcCandidateFeed1/idUSTRE59E15R20091015
2. Israel Will Ensure 'Survival' Against Iran Threat
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Israel reserves the right to take whatever action is needed to survive in the face of Iran's nuclear ambitions, the Jewish state's far-right infrastructure minister, Uzi Landau, said.
"We'll take the actions that are necessary for our survival, we'll do whatever is necessary at that time," he told AFP late Wednesday, expressing regret that EU nations did not see the Islamic republic as a major threat.
"It is better not to talk now about the details" of any action, he said, amid concern that Iran is covertly building an atomic bomb as it develops a civil nuclear programme.
"By the actions taken by most European governments you don't see that the gravity of the situation has been understood," said Landau, from the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party.
Israel considers Iran to be its arch-enemy after repeated statements by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Holocaust was a "myth" and that Israel must be "wiped off the map."
On Friday, an aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying that Iran will "blow up the heart" of Israel if attacked by the Jewish state or the United States.
"Even if one American or Zionist missile hits our land, before the dust is settled, Iranian missiles will blow up the heart of Israel," his deputy representative to the elite Revolutionary Guards, Mojtaba Zolnour, said, according to state news agency IRNA.
The United States and its regional ally Israel have never ruled out a military option to stop Tehran's nuclear drive.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j9fGfkekDTHo5SQcT8-tAHwuxYsg
3. Iran Urges U.S. to Give Up Nuclear 'Double Standards'
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Iran is urging the United States to stop employing double standards and realistically assess the situation around the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, the IRNA news agency reported on Wednesday.
IRNA referred to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki's response to a statement by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said at a Tuesday meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow that sanctions against the Islamic Republic were not inevitable, the Iranian agency reported.
"The positions of Mrs. Clinton are at odds with the present-day reality of the negotiations [with the Iran Six on Iran's nuclear program] in Geneva and their results. Such approaches have double standards," IRNA quoted the foreign minister as saying.
"Tehran proposes that Mrs. Clinton look at things realistically and refrain from the unproductive slogans and exhortations of the previous Bush administration," Mottaki said.
Iran has been in the center of a protracted international dispute over its nuclear program, which it maintains is exclusively civilian in nature but Western nations fear could lead to the production of weapons-grade material.
Tehran is under three sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment that could be used both for electricity generation and weapons production.
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/world/20091014/156462518.html
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned major powers on Wednesday against intimidating Iran and said talk of sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear programme was "premature".
Putin, who many diplomats, analysts, and Russian citizens believe is still Russia's paramount leader despite stepping down as president last year, was speaking after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Moscow for two days of talks.
"There is no need to frighten the Iranians," Putin told reporters in Beijing after a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
"We need to look for a compromise. If a compromise is not found, and the discussions end in a fiasco, then we will see."
"And if now, before making any steps (towards holding talks) we start announcing some sanctions, then we won't be creating favourable conditions for them (talks) to end positively. This is why it is premature to talk about this now."
Clinton failed to secure any specific assurances from Russia on Iran during her visit, leaving her open to criticism at home that she had not received anything from Moscow after earlier U.S. concessions on missile defence.
Iranian, Russian, French, U.S. and U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency officials will meet in Vienna on Oct. 19 to discuss how to implement a plan agreed in principle at talks in Geneva for low-grade Iranian uranium to be enriched overseas to a purity suitable for nuclear reactors but not weapons.
The Geneva talks on Oct. 1 also produced Iranian agreement for international inspectors to visit a second enrichment plant now under construction near Qom. Apparent Iranian concession reduced pressure for a widening of economic sanctions some analysts said could be extended to the oil and gas industry.
Clinton said she would have liked to have seen Putin but that their agendas did not coincide. Putin left for a trip to the Russian Far East and China before her arrival in Moscow.
On the contentious issue of missile defence, which has divided Russia and the United States in the past, Putin said he hoped the United States would not renege on its promise to scrap plans for an anti-missile system in central Europe.
"We are being guided by what the head of the American state is saying," Putin said. "He said there would be no anti-missile shield in Europe. We are satisfied by this statement, and to make assumptions what happens next is not quite right."
Moscow had opposed plans by previous U.S. President George W. Bush to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, viewing this as a direct threat to Russia's national security.
Putin said however Moscow "feels no euphoria" about Bush's successor Barack Obama's promise to roll back the shield plans.
"We treated this decision with reserve, calmly," he said. "In any case, the country's leadership accepted it with understanding and gratitude. We believe this was Obama's right and courageous decision."
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-43160620091014
1. North Korea Seems to Want Nuke Agreement Like U.S.-India Deal: Former U.S. Official
Yonhap News Agency
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North Korea seems to want recognition as a nuclear power, but may ultimately be willing to agree on a partial denuclearization deal like the one the U.S. offered India in 2005, a former U.S. National Security Council (NSC) official said Thursday.
"I think they want to keep their nuclear weapons ... (but) I think they're willing to give up some of their weapons ... if they can get a deal, like the deal that was given to India," Victor Cha, former director for Asian affairs at the White House NSC during George W. Bush's presidency, said during a session at the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul.
The communist country has been dragging its feet for years in nuclear disarmament negotiations with South Korea, the U.S. and other regional powers. The country conducted its first nuclear test in 2006 and its second one in May this year.
Cha, currently director of Asian Studies at Georgetown University, was referring to the U.S.-India nuclear deal signed in 2005, under which India agreed to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities and place all its civil nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. In exchange, the U.S. agreed to work toward full civil nuclear cooperation with India.
Pyongyang appears to want the international community "to effectively recognize North Korea as a nuclear weapons state" and would allow the IAEA to inspect a portion of its nuclear facilities. But it also wants to "maintain the privilege to keep a portion of their nuclear capability separate, outside the international inspection," he said.
The North, according to Cha, also appears to want a security assurance from the U.S., but not in form of either a peace treaty or an agreement on the end of the Korean War, but one guaranteeing the continuity of the current regime during any type of reform of the country.
"They essentially want assurance ... that the regime should stay in power as the North enters the international community in a reform process," said Cha.
"The most difficult part of reform for a regime like North Korea's is that the process of opening up could lead to collapse of the regime. That is obviously (something) they don't want," the professor said.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2009/10/15/79/0401000000AEN20091015008300315F.HTML
2. North Korea Sees Peace Pact with US as Key to Disarmament
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North Korea called Wednesday for a peace pact with the United States, saying this was a "most reasonable and practical" way to end the long standoff over its nuclear weapons programme.
"A peace accord should be concluded between (North Korea) and the US if the nuclear issue on the peninsula is to be settled," the ruling communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in a commentary.
Such an accord is "one of the most reasonable and practical ways" to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons, it said.
The newspaper urged Washington to roll back its "hostile" policy, insisting this policy had compelled Pyongyang to acquire a nuclear deterrent.
The commentary relayed by the North's official news agency followed its conditional offer last week to return to six-party nuclear disarmament talks.
Leader Kim Jong-Il told visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao his country was ready to return to the talks it quit in April, but only after direct negotiations with the United States to end "hostile relations".
Pyongyang staged its second atomic weapons test a month after quitting the talks.
The North has long wanted dialogue with the United States alone and has been lukewarm about the six-party format, which also includes South Korea, Japan, Russia and China.
Washington has said it is open to bilateral talks but only to bring the North back to the multinational negotiations.
The newspaper said the armistice had become useless because it could not prevent a second war or armed conflicts on the peninsula.
A six-nation deal reached in February 2007 envisages negotiations on a peace treaty among "directly related parties" along with denuclearisation.
US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said Wednesday his country was ready for an "initial interaction" with the North "that would lead rapidly to a six-party resumption of talks".
Campbell told reporters during a visit to Beijing that coordination between the five nations negotiating with the North was better than ever.
"The alignment in views about the six-party framework has been deeply reassuring for us," he added.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gV-DBxuFMTKH4J_XEmyPqXBiholw
3. U.S. Hails Cooperation on North Korea, Sees New Steps
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North Korea's neighbours and the United States are coordinating closely to draw the isolated state back to nuclear disarmament talks and reviewing possible next steps, a senior U.S. diplomat said on Wednesday.
Many analysts have been sceptical of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's recent avowal that he could return to six-party talks aimed at dismantling his country's nuclear weapons programme.
But other governments in the stalled negotiations are working closely together on ways to bring Pyongyang back to them, Kurt Campbell, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, told reporters.
Kim made the heavily hedged commitment during a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao this month and Campbell said there were no divisions between Washington and Beijing over how to deal with Pyongyang.
"I have rarely seen better coordination between China and the United States in particular," said Campbell, formerly a scholar specialised in Asian security.
"There is a virtually unprecedented acceptance of basic goals and ambitions associated with the six-party talks and negotiations with North Korea."
Those talks bring together North and South Korea, China, the United States, Japan and Russia.
Campbell, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs, has been in Beijing for two days of talks ahead of President Barack Obama's visit next month.
The range of issues discussed underscored the growing importance of China to U.S. policy. Campbell said they also covered Myanmar, Iran, military ties and climate change.
North Korea has said it wants bilateral negotiations with the United States to take precedence over the six-party talks, which China has hosted since 2003.
The North walked away from the talks last December and in April declared them defunct. In May, it staged its second ever nuclear test blast, drawing fresh international sanctions.
NEW NORTH KOREAN BLAST ON U.S. POLICY
On Wednesday, North Korea's main newspaper Rodong Sinmun scorned U.S. policy as "shameless, preposterous and brigandish sophism", the official KCNA news agency reported.
"It was none other than the U.S. that compelled the DPRK to have access to nuclear deterrent," KCNA quoted the paper as saying. The DPRK is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's formal name.
Campbell said North Korea's neighbours agreed the six-way talks remained key to resolving the dispute and bilateral talks could only take place in the framework of the multilateral talks.
He also said the North's neighbours may be considering fresh initiatives, but gave no details.
"We are now reviewing steps in the near future," he said, adding that the United States was also closely consulting with Japan and South Korea.
"I think we will have more to say about this shortly."
Washington is also exploring wider cooperation with Beijing on other regional trouble spots, including Myanmar and Afghanistan, Campbell said.
China is the country closest to Myanmar's military leaders and could play an important role in U.S. policy towards the isolated Southeast Asian regime, which has been under review, he said.
"We think their insights and their role and their support behind the scenes could be very valuable going forward," he said of China's potential role in Myanmar.
But Campbell suggested that some distance remained between Beijing and Washington on how to address Iran's nuclear programme.
Iran is a major supplier of China's imported crude oil, and Beijing has been wary of stiffer sanctions Western powers say may be needed to deter Tehran from pushing ahead with disputed nuclear activities.
Critics say those activities could give Iran the ability to make atomic weapons. Iran says its activities are peaceful.
"We are going to need to see more cooperation and coordination between the United States and China," Campbell said of Iran.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/homepageCrisis/idUSSP545717._CH_.2400
India on Wednesday signed an agreement in civilian nuclear cooperation with Argentina, the seventh pact it has inked after coming out of isolation in the civilian nuclear field.
The nuclear pact was among the 10 agreements signed with Argentina following talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Argentine President Cristina Fernando de Kirchner.
The Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy was signed by Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs Vivek Katju and Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Talana.
“Taking into account their respective capabilities and experience in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, both India and Argentina have agreed to encourage and support scientific technical and commercial cooperation for mutual benefit in this field,” said a joint statement issued after the Argentine President’s talks with Dr. Singh.
Both countries also resolved to make use of the synergies between the two countries and the vast experience of their nuclear scientists and technologists.
India had signed civilian nuclear pacts with the United States, France, Russia, Kazakhstan, Namibia and Mongolia.
India and Argentina also signed pacts on business visas, cooperation in science and technology and outer space besides Memoranda of Understanding in hydrocarbon sector, sports, trade and geological research.
The joint statement said the two sides expressed their will to continue and expand bilateral dialogue and cooperation comprehensively to take it to the strategic partnership level.
The two leaders agreed to fix the bilateral trade target at $3 billion by 2012 while expressing keenness to expand and diversify commerce and economic cooperation to utilise untapped potential.
Available at: http://www.hindu.com/2009/10/15/stories/2009101562041200.htm
2. Areva May Sign India Nuclear Contract Early Next Year
Natalie Obiko Pearson
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Areva SA, the world’s biggest maker of atomic reactors, said an agreement with Nuclear Power Corp. of India to build a plant in the South Asian nation may be signed early next year before approvals are received.
“That won’t hold up progress on the signing of the final contract,” Arthur de Montalembert, chairman and managing director of Areva’s Indian unit, said in an interview at the venue of a conference in Mumbai today. “We don’t foresee any problem there.”
Areva will initially supply the Indian state-run monopoly with two 1,650-megawatt reactors for the project, the first large-capacity plant to be built after a global ban was lifted, according to the preliminary agreement between the companies in February. The final accord will be signed after getting French parliamentary and regulatory approvals.
While the contracts can be signed, work on the project at Jaitapur in the western state of Maharashtra can’t start until the approvals, he said.
The Indian government will give approval for the Jaitapur building site tomorrow, Shreyans Kumar Jain, Chairman of Nuclear Power, said at the conference.
Areva may offer Nuclear Power a stake in an African uranium mine to ensure fuel supplies for reactors.
“It would most likely be in Namibia where we have a mine that is set to begin late this year or early next year,” said Montalembert.
Buying shares in Areva’s mines will help boost supplies for locally built atomic plants as domestic reserves of uranium are insufficient for India’s requirements. India plans to increase atomic power generation 14-fold by 2030 following the lifting of a three-decade global ban on nuclear trade with the South Asian nation last year.
India will need 7,000 tons of uranium annually as it ramps up its nuclear power program, Jain said. Nuclear Power plans to acquire the fuel from five or six partners, including Areva.
Nuclear Power is developing eight indigenous heavy-water reactors, of which four have received government approval, Jain said. Work on two reactors will start in December, while it will begin for the other two in March, he said.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601091&sid=a6CVOlBQkfdY
Australia has asked India to take part in joint military exercises but is standing firm against exporting uranium for the Asian country's nuclear energy programme, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said.
Speaking in New Delhi on Tuesday, Smith said Australia wanted to strengthen security cooperation with India and was ready to place it in the "front rank of our bilateral relationships". But he repeated his government's position that it would not sell uranium to the Asian giant, which is energy-starved but nuclear-armed, unless it signs a key non-proliferation pact.
Smith said he and Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna had talked about uranium but that Australia had no plans to revive a landmark deal negotiated by the former government to sell the ore to India.
"We have had a long-standing principal position which is not aimed at India, it is the long-standing position that we do not export uranium to a country that is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," he said.
Smith said Australia had supported New Delhi in its successful bid to have a 34-year-old embargo on the export and sale of nuclear technology to India lifted and that this was "probably more important to India".
The minister said that as India's global influence increased, it became more important to strengthen regional ties.
"I invited India, through the External Affairs Minister Krishna, to take part in some of the multilateral military exercises that Australia has," he told Indian media, according to a transcript released by the foreign ministry.
"This is not only a sensible regional thing to do but it is also a confidence-building measure." Australia boasts the world's largest reserves of uranium, which is used as nuclear fuel, but has no nuclear power industry and only operates three mines producing partially-refined uranium ore known as yellowcake.
Smith, who has faced suggestions that China has pressed Australia not to supply its regional rival India with uranium, said the government disliked the idea that Canberra favoured one country over the other.
He said Canberra's relationships with China and India were both important but "necessarily different".
"We have a long-standing economic relationship with China," he said.
"It is also true to say that in recent times our relationship with China has not been free from difficulty. There are clear differences between the Australian system and the Chinese system."
Diplomatic tensions between Australia and China flared earlier this year after the arrest of an executive with Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h2KNsNuuGHCauZjkoCTwrCbWMmUQ
The rising violence in Pakistan has led Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's government to tighten security at many of the country's energy facilities.
Nawa-e Waqt reported Tuesday that the army had deployed troops to Chasma in Punjab, whose Mianwali District on the left bank of the Indus River contains Chashma Nuclear Power Plants 1 and 2, the Chashma Hydroelectric Barrage. The army has been deployed to other strategic installations as well to forestall possible terrorist attacks. The troops have instituted strict monitoring at all entry points for the energy installations, with laborers and employees only being allowed to enter after thorough searches.
As a further precaution the border adjacent to the Chashma facilities on both the Punjab and North-West Frontier province sides has been cordoned off, with travelers coming from both provinces being strictly checked and suspects apprehended.
The Chashma Nuclear Power Plants 1 and 2 each contain a 300 megawatt nuclear reactor, and currently two other plants, CHASHNUPP-3 and CHASHNUPP-4, are in the planning stages.
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Science_News/Resource-Wars/2009/10/14/Pakistan-tightens-energy-sites-security/UPI-89131255550204/
1. Bill to Ban Nuclear Weapons Set to Reach Belgian Senate
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A measure to specifically ban nuclear weapons in Belgium will be sent to the Belgian Senate on Thursday.
It aims to forbid the creation, repair, selling, transport and stock of nuclear weapons on Belgian soil and to direct the country to make extra efforts to ban nuclear weapons.
The proposed law is comparable to Japan's three nonnuclear principles of not possessing, producing or allowing nuclear weapons on its territory.
The most recent Belgian law on weapons dates back to 2006. It is a renewal of an old law dating back to 1930, and seriously restricted keeping or buying weapons as well.
But the 2006 law made no mention of nuclear weapons.
The current proposition, prepared by Socialist Sen. Philippe Mahoux, is the first step in the process of effectively banning all kinds of nuclear weapons in Belgium.
According to Sen. Mahoux, it would fit in with the obligations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which more than 180 countries, including Belgium and Japan, have signed.
He says the possible presence of such weapons in Belgium is a consequence of the country's engagement in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, even though this treaty "does not say anything about a hypothetical 'nuclear obligation.'"
At the same time, he argues, the measure will fit smoothly into NATO's recent plans to redefine its strategic concept.
Apart from opposition based on humanitarian considerations, keeping nuclear arms would undermine arguments by countries like Belgium and the United States to convince other countries not to start making nuclear weapons, Mahoux says.
Mahoux's supporters in the Socialist party say that at this moment the atmosphere is good for having a vote on such a law, referring to growing support for U.S. President Barack Obama's proposal for a world free of nuclear weapons.
But the full procedure will take until May 2010 to be completed.
Members of the Walloon Liberal Party MR are said to be opposed to the law because they reportedly think European defense is not possible without such weapons.
There are plans to set up a working group with NATO specialists and weapons experts and to raise public awareness on the issue of nuclear weapons and the possibility of them being present on Belgian soil.
International reports that about 20 such weapons exist in Belgium have been neither officially confirmed nor denied as the Belgian government remains silent on the subject.
Last year, during a visit to a Belgian military base used by NATO and a supposed stock base of nuclear arms, Belgian Defense Minister Pieter de Crem caused an uproar by inadvertently referring to Belgium's "nuclear capacity."
Available at: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9BBERA00&show_article=1
2. Japan, Marshall Islands To Work On Nuclear Abolition
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Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Litokwa Tomeing, president of the Marshall Islands, agreed Wednesday to work together for the elimination of nuclear weapons as nuclear-damaged countries, Kyodo news reported quoting Japanese officials as saying.
"Japan and the Marshal Islands, which share the experience of going through nuclear damage, should cooperate to create a world free of nuclear weapons," Hatoyama was quoted by the officials as saying to Tomeing in their meeting at the premier's office in Tokyo.
Hatoyama also touched upon the Fukuryu Maru No. 5, a Japanese fishing boat that was exposed to radiation from a U.S. hydrogen bomb test on Bikini Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands, in 1954, according to the officials.
Two Japanese cities -- Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- suffered U.S. atomic bombings in August 1945.
In their talks that lasted about 30 minutes, Tomeing responded that the two countries should work closely toward nuclear abolition, noting his Pacific Ocean nation experienced a series of nuclear tests by the United States, they said.
The president also commended Hatoyama for his speech late last month at a U.N. climate change meeting in which he pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels.
The speech was ''a great encouragement'' to the international community, Tomeing was quoted as saying to Hatoyama.
Available at: http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsindex.php?id=447121#
3. Watchdog Suspends Work at French Plutonium Plant
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The French nuclear safety watchdog ASN has suspended work dismantling a plutonium technology plant over worker safety fears, after almost three times as much plutonium was found at the site than expected.
The watchdog said it was only told of the problem on Oct. 6, although the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), the state body that supervises the plant in Cadarache near the southern port of Marseille, had been aware of the problem since early June.
Around eight kilograms (16 pounds) of plutonium were believed to have been stored at the site when it was in operation, but some 22 kilograms had been discovered to date and the final figure could be closer to 39 kilograms, the nuclear safety watchdog ASN said.
French industrial giant Areva (CEPFi.PA), which produces nuclear reactors, operated the plant.
The underestimation of the quantity of plutonium sharply reduced safety margins designed to prevent fissile material reaching critical mass, "which could potentially have serious consequences for the workforce," the ASN statement said.
The incident revealed gaps in the safety culture of those responsible for the plant, which produced fuel for nuclear power stations. ASN said dismantling work could only resume with its agreement.
The watchdog ranked the event as a level two "incident" on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), which runs from zero to a maximum of seven for a major incident.
The ASN said their had been no repercussions from the Cadarache incident, the latest to cloud the reputation of France's well-developed nuclear power industry.
In October, French media reported that waste from French power stations was being deposited in the open air in Russia.
Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo urged full transparency and expressed regret over the delayed declaration by the CEA, while Greenpeace accused the commission and Areva of revealing their inability to manage plutonium stocks.
The incident "constituted one the most serious and critical situations that we could have faced in a nuclear installation in a long time," said Greenpeace official Yannick Rousselet.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKLF53000420091015
1. German Parties Agree Nuclear Extension-Officials
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives have agreed with the Free Democrats (FDP) on extending the life of nuclear plants deemed safe but the timing is unclear, FDP and conservative politicians said on Thursday.
"You can say that," the FDP's Gudrun Kopp told Reuters, when asked about agreement on an extension. She is a member of a working group that is discussing economic and energy issues. A conservative member of the working group confirmed the agreement.
Details on the plants, the operating times and distribution of additional revenues would be agreed later, said Kopp.
The conservatives, comprising Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU), are in talks with the pro-business FDP to form a centre-right coalition.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssIndustryMaterialsUtilitiesNews/idUSBAT00321120091015?rpc=401&
The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) on Tuesday launched environmental and feasibility studies for the location of the Kingdom’s first nuclear power plant.
Yesterday marked the first gathering of the implementing parties of the site-selection and characterisation study, a two-year process that will examine the proposed site, located in the southern strip of Aqaba, nine kilometres inland and 450 metres above sea level.
Over the next three months, Belgian engineering firm Tractebel-GDF Suez, along with a consortium including the French company Bureau Veritas and Arab Consultants Bureau, will determine whether the site, some 20km outside Aqaba city, will be suitable for the construction of a nuclear power plant.
If the site is confirmed to be suitable, Tractebel and the consortium will commence with the safety and environmental feasibility studies, expected to take around 18 months.
In case the site is deemed not feasible, the JAEC will have identified alternative sites nearby in Aqaba, JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan said, expressing confidence that the site will meet all international standards.
“The government and the country are very keen on constructing the nuclear power plant as soon as possible to provide electricity in the coming decades,” Toukan said at the launch, underlining His Majesty King Abdullah’s directives that the peaceful programme proceeds with the “utmost transparency”.
The JAEC spent the last year-and-a-half identifying potential sites for the nuclear power plant, expected to be a Generation III reactor with the potential to generate up to 1,000MW of electricity annually.
The number of proposed locations were limited due to water availability, he said, adding that after careful studies, other candidate sites in the Eastern Badia and the northern region were ruled out.
A further site in Wadi Araba to take advantage of the proposed Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project will depend on the progress of the project, according to the commission.
The JAEC selected Aqaba due to the abundant water sources of the nearby Red Sea and the proximity to infrastructure such as the Port of Aqaba and the electrical grid, the chairman said, noting that there are plans in place to establish up to six reactors at the site.
During yesterday’s meeting, attended by French Ambassador in Amman Corinne Breuze and Belgian Ambassador Johan Indekeu, Toukan indicated that the JAEC is also considering a proposal to establish two power plants at the site simultaneously. The measure would decrease costs by 20 per cent through utilising economies of scale, he added.
Meanwhile, international consultants said they were eager to carry out the studies, which will be in line with the International Atomic Energy Agency and US Nuclear Regulatory Commission standards.
“We believe in Jordan and in Jordan’s nuclear programme,” Tractebel Vice President Luc Resteigne told The Jordan Times, noting that the Belgian firm was attracted to the “transparency and soundness” of the project.
Stressing that Tractebel is “fully independent” from any current and potential service providers, Resteigne said previous experience in building and providing maintenance in Belgium’s seven nuclear power plants will aid in examining the potential impact of the Kingdom’s nuclear power programme.
Bureau Veritas Nuclear Market Director Didier Bienfait said the French firm “looks forward” to bringing its experience to the project.
The studies will examine demographic and industrial developments in Aqaba over the last 40 years and make projections for the next 60 years in order to anticipate any changes throughout the power plant’s life cycle.
The studies will also include seismological standards, demographic growth and flight patterns in the area, among several diverse risk assessments.
Although a fault line of the Jordan Rift Valley runs through the port of Aqaba, the selected site is several kilometres away and is believed not to be affected.
The environmental survey will include complete mapping of the nearby coral reefs and other comprehensive studies on a level “never seen before in Jordan”, Arab Consultants Bureau engineer Wa’il Abu-El-Sha’r told The Jordan Times.
According to Resteigne, the consortium will examine the impact of two power plants on the area, while taking into consideration the potential establishment of six reactors at the site in the near future.
All the while, the consortium will send updated reports to the Jordan Nuclear Regulatory Commission (JNRC), he added.
During the launch, Toukan announced that an international consultant will be selected soon to work with the JNRC in evaluating the reports.
The commission is also expected to announce this month the selection of an international firm to assist in the technology selection process.
The firm is expected to assist in selecting a bidder to construct the country’s first power plant and establish a nuclear power utility company, a public-private entity, to own and operate the plant.
The Kingdom’s peaceful nuclear energy programme is considered central to the country’s efforts to energy independence. With future power plants, the energy source has the potential to provide the country with 60 per cent of its energy needs in the next 25 years and eventually transform Jordan into an energy exporter.
The Kingdom currently imports 96 per cent of its energy needs, at a cost of over 20 per cent of its GDP.
Available at: http://www.jordantimes.com/?news=20721
3. Tokyo Electric May ‘Uprate’ Reactors to Boost Output
Megumi Yamanaka and Michio Nakayama
(for personal use only)
Tokyo Electric Power Co., Asia’s biggest nuclear operator, may raise capacity at existing reactors to meet emissions-reduction targets set by the new government.
Tokyo Electric, which gets about one-third of its power from nuclear energy, is studying a plan to “uprate” reactors, Managing Director Sakae Muto said in an interview Oct. 7. The utility hasn’t decided which of the 17 reactors it operates in Japan may be uprated or how much it will cost, he said. A similar upgrade of 17 reactors owned by Exelon Corp., the biggest U.S. atomic generator, may cost $3.5 billion, the company said in June.
Uprating, which has been practiced in the U.S. since the 1970s as an alternative to building new plants, could boost the capacity of the boiling-water type units used by Tokyo Electric by about 7 percent without compromising safety, according to the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, an organization of nuclear scientists. The technique has yet to be tried in Japan.
“Unlike the U.S., Japan had been adding new reactors since 1970, but now with the tougher goal for trimming emissions and in the face of difficulties finding sites to build nuclear plants, it’s essential utilities get more out of existing plants,” Hirofumi Kawachi, an analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities Co., said by phone from Tokyo.
Boost Nuclear Dependence
Japan must increase dependence on atomic energy to meet Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s climate goals, a senior trade ministry official said last month. The country got 25 percent of its electricity from nuclear power in 2008, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. By contrast France, the biggest atomic generator, produced 76 percent and the U.S. 20 percent.
Japan Atomic Power Co., operator of three nuclear reactors, has been the first Japanese utility to explore uprating, and is seeking permission from the central government and local community to use the technique to add 5 percent to the capacity of one of its plants, spokesman Eiichi Miyatani said by phone.
Power uprates increase capacity by equipment upgrades that don’t require major construction or extended shutdowns, according to Japan’s trade ministry and the Atomic Energy Society.
In the U.S., where more than 100 uprates have been carried out, no new nuclear plants have been licensed since the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island station in 1979.
Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan has pledged to reduce greenhouse gases by 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels on the proviso that all other major emitters agree to a new global climate-protection treaty to be negotiated at Copenhagen in December. Nuclear energy is virtually free of carbon emissions.
Tokyo Electric emitted 127 million tons of carbon dioxide in the year ended March 2008, accounting 9.3 percent of Japan’s total volume, according to the Environment Ministry.
Shares in the company have declined 24 percent this year compared with a 22 percent decline in the Topix Electric Power & Gas Index. The stock climbed 1.1 percent to 2,270 yen at 9:17 a.m. in Tokyo.
The utility plans to add four more reactors as soon as 2019, and has no immediate plans to mothball ageing plants, Muto said.
“It’s very important for us to maximize the use of existing facilities,” Muto said. “Nuclear power has been the pillar for us and it will be for the future.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601101&sid=aw9_aIe2Cgek
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