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Nuclear News - 11/17/2009
PGS Nuclear News, November 17, 2009
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski

A.  Iran
    1. Iran: IAEA Report Refuted West's Fordo Claims, PressTV (11/17/2009)
    2. Iran Wants Nuclear Fuel Swap to Take Place on Its Own Soil, Siddharth Varadarajan, The Hindu (11/17/2009)
    3. ‘Iran Will Only Deliver Its Uranium After Receiving Nuclear Fuel’, Tehran Times  (11/17/2009)
    4. Obama Says China Agrees on Iran Nuclear Transparency, Caren Bohan and Patricia Zengerle, Reuters (11/17/2009)
    5. Iran Could Have More Secret Nuclear Sites, Warns UN Nuclear Watchdog, Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian (11/16/2009)
    6. UN Agency Can’t Rule Out More Iranian Nuclear Sites, Jonathan Tirone, Bloomberg (11/16/2009)
    7. Iran Warns It May Produce S-300 System, UPI (11/16/2009)
    8. Iran Elaborates Options Over Nuclear Fuel Issue, PressTV (11/16/2009)
    9. Obama Presses Iran on Atomic Deal, Tehran Defiant, Caren Bohan and Oleg Shchedrov, Reuters (11/15/2009)
    10. France's Kouchner Pessimistic on Iran Uranium Deal, The Star (11/15/2009)
    11. Turkey Open to Storing Iranian Uranium, Deutsche Welle (11/14/2009)
    1. North Korea Sends Military Delegation to China During Obama Visit, Sam Kim, Yonhap News Agency (11/17/2009)
    2. Seoul Hopes U.S.-DPRK Talks to Play Positive Role in Pyongyang's Denuclearization, Peoples Daily (11/17/2009)
    3. Hu Says U.S., China to Deal With North Korea via Talks, Reuters (11/16/2009)
C.  Pakistan
    1. Pakistan's Nuclear Assets Safe and Sound: PM, Xinhua News Agency (11/15/2009)
D.  India
    1. Nuclear Installations Put on Alert, Vinay Kumar, The Hindu (11/17/2009)
    2. US Seeks India's Promise on Non-Proliferation, The Economic Times (11/17/2009)
E.  Nonproliferation
    1. IAEA Deepens Syria Atom Probe Over Uranium Traces, Sylvia Westall, The Star (11/17/2009)
    2. U.S., Russian Leaders Say Nations Closer to Deal to Cut Nuclear Arms, CNN (11/15/2009)
F.  Nuclear Energy
    1. UAE-US Nuclear Deal Becomes a Reality, T. Ramavarman, Khaleej Times (11/17/2009)
    2. Post-Saddam Iraq Demands Right to Nuclear Power, Khaleej Times (11/16/2009)
    3. Russia Delays Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Power Station, Reuters (11/16/2009)
    4. Electricity-Hungry Vietnam Looks to Join Nuclear Club, Aude Genet, AFP (11/16/2009)
G.  Nuclear Industry
    1. Korea Gains as Nuclear-Plant Bidder, David Gauthier-Villars, Margaret Coker, and Evan Ramstad, The Wall Street Journal (11/17/2009)
    2. Hitachi to Invest in Nuclear Power, Batteries, Reuters (11/15/2009)
H.  Links of Interest
    1. IAEA Report on Iran: Fordow Enrichment Plant at “Advanced Stage of Construction”; Decline in Number of P1 Centrifuges Enriching but P1 Centrifuge Efficiency Increases; Discovery of Previously Unknown Stock of Heavy Water, David Albright and Jacqueline Shire, ISIS (11/16/2009)

A.  Iran

‘Iran Will Only Deliver Its Uranium After Receiving Nuclear Fuel’
Tehran Times
(for personal use only)

Senior Presidential Advisor Parviz Davoudi has said that Iran will only deliver its 3.5 percent enriched uranium after it receives the 20 percent enriched uranium in exchange.

“The administration will consider national interests in the (nuclear) fuel exchange. If an agreement is reached in this regard, we will (only) deliver the 3.5 (percent enriched) fuel after we have received the 20 percent fuel,” he told IRNA on Monday.

Davoudi added that the West has come to understand that Iran will not back down from its stance on peaceful nuclear technology and has recognized its inalienable right to civilian nuclear technology.

“At one time, the Westerners cold not tolerate even a few centrifuges. However, today, they are forced to accept Iran’s nuclear advances,” he said.

He also stated that Iran has not had a good experience in its dealings with France since France did not fulfill any of its commitments in previous agreements, and this has made Iran suspicious about Westerners.

The nuclear fuel talks between Iran, Russia, the United States, and France in Vienna concluded on October 21 without a final agreement, but IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei then presented a proposal for the four countries to study.

Under the draft deal, a large consignment of Iran’s enriched uranium would be shipped out of the country for processing into fuel rods with a purity of 20 percent, which would be used by a research reactor in Tehran that manufactures medical radioisotopes.

On October 23, diplomats from Russia, France, and the United States submitted their formal approvals of the deal to process Iran’s nuclear fuel abroad.

Several senior Iranian officials, including Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, have strongly criticized the deal, saying it is neither logical nor legal.

Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee rapporteur Kazem Jalali had said earlier that the proposed exchange of uranium should be done in Iran.

Fuel exchange is out of the question

MP Hossein Ebrahimi of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee has said that the issue of a fuel exchange is totally out of the question.

“Iran is capable of enriching uranium to 20 percent,” he told the Mehr News Agency on Monday.

However, Iran is ready to buy the 20 percent enriched uranium from other countries, he added.

Ebrahimi also stated that the International Atomic Energy Agency should respond to Iran’s legal requests, not the Western powers.

Buying enriched uranium is Iran’s priority

MP Mohammad-Karim Abedi of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee has stated that Iran’s priority is buying uranium from other countries.

It will also agree to a fuel exchange under certain conditions, he told the Mehr News Agency on Monday.

The MP also stated that the IAEA has adopted a double standard on Iran’s nuclear issue mainly due to pressure by the United States.

Iran should not give up all its enriched uranium

MP Mohammad Karami-Rad stated that Iran will have no alternative besides enriching uranium to 20 percent purity itself if other countries do not want to sell the uranium to Iran.

The MP made the remarks in an interview with the Mehr News Agency on Monday.

Karami-Rad added that Iran is ready to buy uranium from any country in the framework of IAEA regulations.

But it is illogical to ask Iran to give up all its enriched uranium, he noted.

The MP also stated that it is unfortunate that Russia is affected by the West’s pressure and expressed hope that the Russians will act in a way that does not undermine Tehran-Moscow relations.

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Iran Wants Nuclear Fuel Swap to Take Place on Its Own Soil
Siddharth Varadarajan
The Hindu
(for personal use only)

In the clearest statement to date of Tehran’s attitude to the U.S.-backed proposal for a nuclear fuel swap as a step towards building trust with Washington, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said his government will take a positive view of the plan provided the exchange of enriched uranium takes place “inside Iran.”

Mr. Mottaki told The Hindu in an exclusive interview on Monday that Iran is not keen to send its own nuclear fuel out of the country before the fuel it is to receive for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) arrives on its territory.

Under the original proposal made last month by the U.S. and its partners, Iran is supposed to ship 1200 kilos of 3.5 per cent low enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia, where it would be further enriched to 20 per cent. The 20 per cent LEU would then be sent to France for fabrication into fuel rods. Eventually, the rods would be shipped to Iran for use in the TRR, which produces medical isotopes.

Mr. Mottaki said Iran was in the process of “sending and receiving” suggestions to the other side. “With a positive view regarding the essence and nature of the proposal, we are reviewing the possibility of exchanging this fuel inside Iran.”

Asked whether the insistence on exchange “inside Iran” meant the TRR fuel must come first, Mr. Mottaki replied: “Well, if there is going to be any exchange of fuel inside Iran, this must mean one side of the fuel exists in Iran and the other side should come, the 20 per cent.”

The U.S. says its main interest in the original proposal of Iran shipping out virtually its entire stockpile of LEU is to “buy time,” since the fuel would no longer be available for weaponisation should Tehran choose to “break out” of the NPT.

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Iran: IAEA Report Refuted West's Fordo Claims
(for personal use only)

The Islamic Republic says the latest report by the UN nuclear watchdog proved West's huge media hype against Iran's second enrichment plant were based on 'baseless allegations'.

"The latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei proved that political hype and propaganda about Fordo plant were baseless," Mehr News Agency quoted Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Ali-Asghar Soltaniyeh as saying on Tuesday.

"The report confirmed that no centrifuges had been introduced into the facility and that no nuclear material had been used in it," he added.

Soltaniyeh made the remarks a day after the IAEA, in its latest report on Iran, confirmed that the country's nascent nuclear plant in Fordo “corresponded with the design information provided by Iran."

"Iran provided access to all areas of the facility," the IAEA said in the report.

According to the UN nuclear watchdog, the design information verification (DIV) of Fordo "included a detailed visual examination of all areas of the plant, the taking of photographs of cascade piping and other process equipment, the taking of environmental samples and a detailed assessment of the design, configuration and capacity of the various plant components and systems."

Meanwhile, Soltaniyeh, in an interview with Fars News Agency on Tuesday, described the IAEA report about Iran's nuclear program as "routine", saying that the only difference between ElBaradei's latest report and his previous ones referred to points about Fordo site.

The Iranian diplomat called on the body to put an end to its "boring and perpetual" approach to Iran's nuclear activities.

He reiterated that the Islamic Republic would "continue restoring its nuclear rights including uranium enrichment and cooperating with the IAEA."

Iran, a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), says its activities are aimed at the civilian applications of the technology.

The country faces pressure to halt its nuclear enrichment, as Western powers claim the program is aimed at building a nuclear bomb.

Tehran, however, has denied seeking nuclear weapons and called for the removal of all weapons of mass destruction from across the globe.

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Obama Says China Agrees on Iran Nuclear Transparency
Caren Bohan and Patricia Zengerle
(for personal use only)

China and the United States agree Iran must show its nuclear program is peaceful and transparent, President Barack Obama said on Tuesday, but Chinese President Hu Jintao was more guarded on the dispute at a summit in Beijing.

Iran's nuclear program, which Western powers have said appears to be for the production of nuclear weapons -- a charge Iran denies -- was among the issues on the table during Obama's trip to China, one of Iran's strongest trade partners.

"We agreed that the Islamic Republic of Iran must provide assurance to the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful and transparent," Obama said at a news conference with Hu.

"Iran has an opportunity to present and demonstrate its peaceful intentions but if it fails to take advantage of this opportunity it will face consequences."

Hu's remarks on oil-rich Iran were more measured than Obama's and stressed the need to keep diplomatic channels with the Islamic Republic open on the nuclear dispute.

"We both stressed that to uphold the international nuclear nonproliferation regime and to appropriately resolve the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations is very important to stability in the Middle East and in the Gulf region."

The United Nations' nuclear watchdog is concerned that Iran's belated revelation of a new uranium enrichment site near the holy city of Qom may mean it is hiding further nuclear activity, a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Monday.

"We hope all sides increase their diplomatic efforts, push the process of resolving the Iran nuclear issue diplomatically, and make progress," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters on Tuesday, adding China had noted the IAEA report.


Western powers have urged Tehran to accept a draft deal in which it would send most of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad by the end of the year for further enrichment to turn it into fuel for a medical reactor in Tehran.

Iran has held off from giving a firm response. Western powers have signaled that their patience is limited and fresh sanctions are a possible recourse.

While China has backed past U.N. resolutions pressing Tehran to cooperate with international demands about its nuclear activities, it has also resisted any sanctions that could impede its oil imports from Iran and trade between the two countries.

Jeffrey Bader, a top adviser to Obama on Asia, told reporters the administration was sure China would maintain a united front with the other members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, who have been leading the Iran talks.

"I am confident that whatever direction we choose to go -- we need to go -- toward the end of the year, that the Chinese (will) remain part of the unified P5 + 1 front," he told reporters in Beijing.

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Iran Could Have More Secret Nuclear Sites, Warns UN Nuclear Watchdog
Ewen MacAskill
The Guardian
(for personal use only)

The United Nations nuclear watchdog has expressed fears that Iran may have other secret nuclear sites following the discovery of the facility hidden in a mountain near the holy city of Qom.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, in a report published today, said the previously secret site at Fordo was in "an advanced state of construction" and was scheduled to start up in 2011.

The IAEA reprimanded Iran for failing to inform it until September about the site, even though construction had begun at least two years ago.

In a more pointed criticism of Iran than usual, the IAEA says the delay "reduces the level of confidence in the absence of other nuclear facilities under construction and gives rise to questions about whether there were any other nuclear facilities not declared to the agency".

The expression of concern comes at a sensitive moment, with no sign of a peace deal between Iran and the US, backed by Britain, France and Germany. Iran has not yet formally replied to a compromise offered by Barack Obama, who said at the weekend that time was running out.

The IAEA sent inspectors to the Fordo site late last month but today indicated it is to seek clarification on several issues, in particular how long the Fordo site had been planned.

The report said that technicians had moved sophisticated technical equipment into the uranium enrichment facility situated deep inside the mountain. An IAEA official said the facility was designed to produce about a ton of enriched uranium a year, enough for a small warhead.

The report quotes Iran insisting it "did not have any other nuclear facilities that were currently under construction or in operation that had not yet been declared to the agency".

Iran claims it is only intent on using nuclear energy to help meet its electricity needs.

The report is the last by the controversial head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, who has been accused by the US of being too soft on Iran. In contrast with the concern expressed in the report, ElBaradei only last week, in an interview with the New York Times, played down the significance of the previously undisclosed site, saying it was "nothing to worry about".

The report may reflect the thinking of the IAEA's inspectors and ElBaradei's political staff, who have tended to be more sceptical about Iran's intentions than their chief.

The US, along with Britain, France and Germany, claims that discovery of the Fordo site puts Iran in breach of its international treaty obligations. Although Iran reported its existence to the IAEA in September, the US said this was to pre-empt an announcement exposing the site.

Iran said work on the site only began in 2007 but the US said it started in 2002-04 and, after a pause, resumed in 2006.

The IAEA reprimanded Iran, saying its "failure to notify the agency of the new facility until September 2009 was inconsistent with its obligations".

Israel has threatened military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities to prevent it acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.

The report said it was concern about just such an attack that prompted Iran to build the facility inside the mountain, according to a letter from Iran to the IAEA on 28 October. "As a result of the augmentation of the threats of military attacks against Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran decided to establish contingency centres for various organisations and activities," the report said.

The Federation of American Scientists, which tracks nuclear proliferation, said today: "Of course, there is the question of whether Fordo is simply the only 'secret' facility that we know about. The danger is that there are other facilities that can escape safeguards because the IAEA does not know about them."

It added: "The good news in this story is that the facility is now known and the IAEA kicked in exactly as it should."

Russia today dashed Iranian hopes that a Russian-built nuclear reactor at Iran's southern port Bushehr will be switched on this year, providing Iran with its first operating nuclear power plant.

Iranian parliamentarians reacted angrily to the Russian announcement.

Russia has long backed Iran in the nuclear stand-off, blocking tough UN security council sanctions, but Obama has been pressing Russian leaders to join the US, Britain, France and Germany in a show of solidarity on the nuclear issue.

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Iran Elaborates Options Over Nuclear Fuel Issue
(for personal use only)

As the West refuses to heed Iran's concerns over their nuclear fuel proposal, a senior Iranian lawmaker says the Islamic Republic prefers to purchase the needed fuel.

"Purchase of uranium enriched to the level of 20 percent is the best option to supply the fuel needed for the Tehran reactor," spokesman of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Kazem Jalali told Mehr News Agency.

"Production of 20 percent enriched uranium inside Iran is another option on the table," he added.

Major powers put forward a proposal in Geneva on October 19, suggesting that Iran sends about 70 percent of its low-enriched uranium stockpile out of the country in exchange for metal fuel rods for a Tehran medical research reactor some 15 months later.

Iranian lawmakers rejected the deal after technical studies showed that it would only take two to three months for any country to further enrich the nuclear stockpile and turn it into metal nuclear rods for the Tehran Research Reactor.

Iran then put forward its own proposal that will envisage a two-staged exchange; the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards nearly one third of Iran's uranium stockpile inside the Iranian territory for the time that it takes to find a supplier.

Tehran says it will deal with any potential seller that is a member of the UN nuclear agency; to deliver uranium enriched to the level of 20 percent to the UN-monitored site.

Jalali said that purchase of the fuel would be a test for the West proving whether it is ready to supply fuel for a reactor which follows only medical purposes.

The lawmaker touched upon Iran's second option to supply the fuel and said, "Iran can enrich uranium inside its territory and turn five percent enriched uranium into uranium enriched to the level of 20 percent under the surveillance of the IAEA."

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Iran Warns It May Produce S-300 System
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Increasingly irate over a delayed arms deal, Iran has threatened to manufacture an advanced missile system itself if Russia does not deliver it to Tehran soon.

The warning, sounded by Alaeddin Bouroujerdi, a senior Iranian lawmaker, was the latest in a series of threats by Iranian officials angered at Russia for delaying delivery a much-vaunted missile sales agreement.

"Iran is not a country to come to a halt in the face of non-cooperation of other countries," Bouroujerdi was quoted as saying in a local newspaper.

"Naturally, and in light of Iran's capabilities, it will be able to produce missile defense systems in the near future," the Aftab Yazd daily added.

The controversy centers on a deal in which Russia would supply its high-grade S-300 air defense missiles to Iran.

Moscow, however, has come under strong pressure from the West to refrain from advancing arms deals with the Islamic Republic, which is at odds with Washington over its nuclear and missile program.

Last week senior Iranian lawmakers accused the United States of trying to scupper the deal for fear that Iran may reverse-engineer the S-300 system.

"The United States and certain Western countries are afraid that the contracts between Iran and Russia in the economic, political and military sphere will increase Iran's political and military might," Hassan Sobhaninia, an Iranian member of Parliament, said.

"They are making efforts to impede the implementation of these contracts," he told the Mehr News Agency.

The S-300 system, which can shoot down cruise missiles, track targets and fire at aircraft up to 90 miles away, features high jamming immunity. It is able to simultaneously track up to 100 targets.

Mounted on a truck, the S-300MPUM1 can fire missiles traveling at more than 2 kilometers per second, experts say.

Iranian officials have not indicated what type of land-to-air-missile defense system they can manufacturer in replacement of the Russian order.

Still, Bouroujerdi said he had recently met with Russia's top envoy to Tehran, who "agreed that both sides should fulfill their commitments" regarding the missile defense deal.

Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi has also called on Russia not to capitulate to "Zionist pressure" and to carry through on the deal.

Washington has been trying to extract specific pledges from Moscow for tougher sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear program. The West has long argued that the program is a cover for Iran's designs to build its nuclear arsenal -- an accusation the Islamic Republic has repeatedly rebuffed.

Israel also fears that these defenses could interfere with a possible strike on its nuclear facilities.

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UN Agency Can’t Rule Out More Iranian Nuclear Sites
Jonathan Tirone
(for personal use only)

The United Nations atomic agency said it has lost confidence in Iran’s truthfulness and can’t be sure the country isn’t hiding more nuclear facilities.

Iran’s concealment of its Fordo plant, built into the side of a mountain and revealed in a Sept. 21 letter, “gives rise to questions about whether there were any other nuclear facilities in Iran which had not been declared,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said today in a seven-page report.

Iran, with the world’s second-biggest oil and natural gas reserves, plans to start enriching uranium at Fordo in 2011, the Vienna-based IAEA said in the document.

“The IAEA’s latest report on Iran underscores that Iran still refuses to comply fully with its international nuclear obligations,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement. “Now is the time for Iran to signal that it wants to be a responsible member of the international community.”

World powers await Iran’s decision on a UN-brokered proposal for the country to ship most of its stockpile of low- enriched uranium abroad in return for reactor-grade fuel. France, Russia and the U.S. have agreed to the plan, which would supply a Tehran research reactor that makes medical isotopes.

Acceptance of the plan would improve the prospects for further talks on Iran’s nuclear program, which the U.S. and several major allies allege is cover for development of a weapon. Under the proposal, Iran would get back uranium in a more highly enriched form suitable for use in a reactor and not in an atomic bomb. Iran says it wants nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes, including the generation of electricity.

‘Wrong Side’

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, who retires after 12 years at the end of this month, said on Sept. 30 that Iran was “on the wrong side of the law” when it failed to tell inspectors about the Fordo site. ElBaradei said Iran should have notified the agency on the day construction began.

Iran argued it was obliged to inform the IAEA of the facility’s existence some months before uranium enters the site, adding that the plant is 18 months away from operation.

Iran will pursue its peaceful nuclear activities, including uranium enrichment, and will cooperate with the IAEA, the state-run Fars news agency cited the country’s ambassador to the agency, Aliasghar Soltanieh, as saying in response to the report. He called the document “repetitive,” Fars said.

Construction Start

Satellite photographs show Iran began construction at the Fordo site as many as seven years ago, the IAEA said. Iran says construction didn’t begin until the second half of 2007, when the government became concerned over possible military strikes against its atomic program. Investigators are continuing their probe into the site.

The Fordo facility, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Tehran near the city of Qom, “continues a disturbing pattern of Iranian evasion,” President Barack Obama said Sept. 26. Iran’s government concealed atomic work from the IAEA for two decades until 2003.

Obama yesterday said time is short for Iran to accept the terms of the fuel-exchange deal, under which its low-enriched uranium could be shipped to Turkey.

“We are now running out of time,” Obama said after meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore.

‘Not Satisfied’

Medvedev said that Russia is “not satisfied” with the pace of negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, and that “other options remain on the table.”

Iran is ready for “constructive and honest” cooperation with Western countries on its nuclear technology, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday, according to a posting on the presidential Web site.

“Cooperating with Iran is in the interest of the West,” Ahmadinejad said. “Their disapproval will make Iran more powerful and more advanced.”

Iran installed 5 percent more centrifuges at its Natanz fuel enrichment facility since the IAEA’s Aug. 28 report, when the agency said there were 8,308 machines ready to enrich uranium. The country raised its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to some 1,700 kilograms (3,748 pounds) from about 1,500 kilograms in August.

The report released today said the Fordo plant, which is almost completed, can house about 3,000 centrifuges, fewer than the 50,000 Tehran has said it will install at Natanz to fuel its nuclear power program. U.S. officials have said Fordo’s size indicates the plant wasn’t built for peaceful purposes.

Weapons-Grade Uranium

About 630 kilograms of low-enriched uranium could yield the 15 to 22 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium needed by an expert bomb-maker to craft a weapon, according to the London- based Verification Research, Training and Information Center, a non-governmental observer to the IAEA that is funded by European governments.

“There remain a number of outstanding issues which give rise to concerns and which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program,” said the IAEA, which has been investigating Iran’s nuclear work since 2003.

The UN agency is still awaiting Tehran’s response to intelligence documents, shared with inspectors by IAEA members, which show alleged links between Iran’s military and individuals and companies working on its nuclear program.

ElBaradei will present the reports findings to the UN nuclear agency’s 35-member board of governors when it convenes Nov. 26 in the Austrian capital.

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France's Kouchner Pessimistic on Iran Uranium Deal
The Star
(for personal use only)

Iran appears set on rejecting a U.N.-drafted deal with world powers designed to deny it the means to produce nuclear weapons-grade uranium, French Foreign Bernard Kouchner said in comments published on Sunday.

Under last month's proposal, Iran would export some 75 percent of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad to be turned into fuel for a Tehran research reactor. Diplomats said Iran's counter-offer would leave it enough LEU to convert into bomb material, a non-starter for France and the United States.

Asked in an Israeli newspaper interview whether a final Iranian decision was pending, Kouchner said: "You could phrase it that way, but in effect the answer has almost been given already, and it is negative. That's a shame, a shame, a shame."

"We demanded to take a large quantity of (LEU) because we do not want them, while we are enriching uranium on their behalf, to continue themselves enriching uranium which could one day be used for military purposes," he told Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

Kouchner said none of the negotiation conferences between Iran and a group of six world powers had been especially successful. "We are waiting. This is not good, and very dangerous."

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, but the secrecy around it projects and its vituperation of Israel have stirred war fears.

Israel, assumed to have the region's only atomic arsenal, has hinted at possible preemptive strikes against its arch-foe.

"I don't want to comment on a possible Israeli attack. I don't want it to happen," said Kouchner, who visits Israel later this week. "That is a big danger and therefore talks and peacemaking must be embarked on speedily."

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Obama Presses Iran on Atomic Deal, Tehran Defiant
Caren Bohan and Oleg Shchedrov
(for personal use only)

President Barack Obama said on Sunday time was running out for diplomacy in a dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, but a top Iranian official said it was up to the West to show it sincerely wanted a deal.

Russia and France, both involved in talks with Iran over what the West fears are its plans for an atomic bomb, also put pressure on Tehran, with French Foreign Bernard Kouchner saying the Islamic republic looked set to reject a U.N.-drafted accord.

Obama suggested patience was running low in the dispute with Iran, which faces possible harsher international sanctions or even Israeli military action.

"Unfortunately, so far at least, Iran appears to have been unable to say yes to what everyone acknowledges is a creative and constructive approach," Obama said after talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in Singapore.

"We are running out of time with respect to that approach."

Repeating previous Russian language, Medvedev said "other means" could be used if discussions did not yield results, but did not specify what they might be.

A draft deal brokered by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), calls on Iran to send some 75 percent of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia and France to be turned into fuel for a Tehran medical research reactor.


A senior adviser to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said no official response to the proposal had been announced.

"We are waiting to see how much sincerity the Western countries have in their pledges," said Mojtaba Samareh-Hashemi.

Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani said U.S. policy including steps to renew sanctions showed Obama was no better than his predecessor George W. Bush. The remarks in the legislature prompted lawmakers' chants of "Death to America."

Iranian officials have said Tehran prefers to buy reactor fuel from foreign suppliers rather than part with its LEU, or at most swap small amounts of LEU for the reactor material on Iranian soil. They have called for more talks.

Iran has amassed enough LEU for 1-2 bombs, analysts say, if it were further enriched to reach weapons-grade.

Asked by an Israeli newspaper whether a final Iranian decision was pending, France's Kouchner said: "You could phrase it that way, but in effect the answer has almost been given already, and it is negative. That's a shame, a shame, a shame.

"We demanded to take a large quantity of (LEU) because we do not want them, while we are enriching uranium on their behalf, to continue themselves enriching uranium which could one day be used for military purposes," he told Yedioth Ahronoth daily.


Iranian pledges in Geneva talks with six powers on October 1 won Tehran a reprieve from sanctions targeting its oil sector, but Western powers stressed they would not wait indefinitely for it to follow through.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said an end-of-year deadline for Iran remained.

Russian officials such as foreign minister Sergei Lavrov have said Washington was trying to push Moscow into a position of publicly threatening the imposition of sanctions soon if Iran did not play ball.

Iran says it is enriching uranium only for power plant fuel, not for nuclear warheads. But its history of nuclear secrecy and continued restrictions on U.N. inspections have raised Western suspicions it is covertly pursuing nuclear weapons capability.

The IAEA is consulting on possible compromises to save the deal, including Iran placing its LEU under escrow in a friendly third country, like Turkey, pending delivery of reactor fuel. Iran and Turkey discussed the idea in talks this month.

Iran's presidential adviser Samareh-Hashemi said regarding Turkey's role: "Turkey is also on the cards but they have not come to a firm agreement or decision to act accordingly."

Iran has an enrichment plant at Natanz and IAEA inspectors have visited a second, hidden enrichment site near Qom that Iran revealed in September after, Western diplomats said, discovering that U.S., British and French spy services had detected it.

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Turkey Open to Storing Iranian Uranium
Deutsche Welle
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Turkey's energy minister said he would be willing to accept low-enriched uranium from Iran for temporary storage, responding to a proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday.

"There is no problem from the side of Turkey with Iran storing its low-grade uranium in Turkey. We cannot say no," Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters.

Tehran has been hesitant to export its uranium stockpile in exchange for more highly-enriched uranium to power a Tehran medical reactor. In response, the IAEA suggested keeping it in a friendly third country, like Turkey, while waiting for the fuel.

Turkey is both a NATO member and a friend to Iran, and has said it would also be willing to mediate discussions between Iran and the West over Iran's nuclear program.

Original nuclear proposal going stale

The IAEA presented a plan to Iran on October 21 which would have them export 70 percent of their low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for further enrichment before returning it to Tehran.

Western powers supported the plan as a way for Iran to prove its nuclear program is peaceful, as it has repeatedly insisted.

Tehran has not officially accepted or rejected the proposal, but instead responded with calls for amendments and further negotiations, which the United States has rejected.

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North Korea Sends Military Delegation to China During Obama Visit
Sam Kim
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

North Korea said it sent a military delegation to China on Tuesday, as U.S. President Barack Obama agreed with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing to step up cooperation in persuading Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

The delegation led by Gen. Kim Jong-gak departed from the North Korean capital for China, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported in a single-paragraph dispatch, monitored in Seoul.

Kim, 63, is first vice director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army. The trip comes a day ahead of a visit by Obama to South Korea, which put its armed forces on high alert after a naval skirmish last week with North Korea.

Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed Tuesday to ramp up their joint efforts in denuclearizing North Korea through six-nation talks that also include South Korea, Russia and Japan.

North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in May and said last month it had completed reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods used to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

Slapped with sanctions tougher than those imposed after the first nuclear test in 2006, North Korea has turned to China for support and signaled willingness to return to the nuclear talks.

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Seoul Hopes U.S.-DPRK Talks to Play Positive Role in Pyongyang's Denuclearization
Peoples Daily
(for personal use only)

South Korea hopes that the upcoming bilateral talks between Washington and Pyongyang could be an opportunity that will actively promote the denuclearization of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) under framework of the six-party talks, the Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said on Tuesday.

"The government expects the North Korea (DPRK)-U.S. contact to play a positive role in resolving the North Korean (DPRK) nuclear problem," Yu told a press briefing.

Seoul will close consult with Washington as it pushes for dialogue with Pyongyang, Yu said.

However, Yu said that the DPRK has yet shown signs of change in its nuclear ambition, as it seeks bilateral dialogue with the United states while announcing that the work of reprocessing of all the 8,000 spent nuclear rods had been completed.

On the upcoming South Korean-U.S. summit to be held on Thursday, the foreign minister said that the two leaders of both sides will exchange views on the DPRK's nuclear issue and a comprehensive policy on the DPRK in an in-depth manner.

The two sides are also expected to reconfirm that the two nations will maintain close cooperation to achieve the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the DPRK, Yu added.

The United States announced earlier this month that it would send Stephen Bosworth, special representative for the DPRK policy, to Pyongyang to persuade it to return to the six-party talks.

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Hu Says U.S., China to Deal With North Korea via Talks
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Chinese President Hu Jintao said on Tuesday that he and visiting U.S. President Barack Obama had agreed to adhere to dialogue and consultation in seeking a solution to North Korea's nuclear programme.

Hu added that they had also agreed to a similar policy towards dealing with Iran and its nuclear programme.

North Korea's nuclear weapons programme is among the thorniest issues facing Obama as he visits China, which has opposed Pyongyang's nuclear tests but also sought to blunt sanctions the United States and its allies have urged against its communist neighbour, which has held two nuclear tests.

The United Nations' nuclear watchdog is concerned that Iran's belated revelation of a new uranium enrichment site near the holy city of Qom may mean it is hiding further nuclear activity, a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Monday.

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C.  Pakistan

Pakistan's Nuclear Assets Safe and Sound: PM
Xinhua News Agency
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Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said Sunday that the country's nuclear assets are in safe hands and no body including the United States can have access to them.

Speaking to reporters at the eastern Pakistani city of Multan, Gilani said that Pakistan's defence is in strong hands as the country's army is highly professional with complete sense of responsibility to defend the borders.

To a question, Gilani said that no time frame can be given regarding completion of the ongoing military operation in South Waziristan but will be completed well before the expectations of the people.

He said that there is no military operation going on in the southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan and the government is determined to resolve the problems of the people of the province through political means.

The prime minister said that the government has finalized a comprehensive package in consultation with all stakeholders for removing grievances of Balochistan and its rapid development that would be announced shortly.

To another question, Gilani said that he had asked U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take Pakistan into confidence while reviewing its Afghan policy. He said that the U.S. national security Advisor James Jones visited Islamabad to discuss future U.S. Afghan policy and include Pakistan's input in it.

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D.  India

Nuclear Installations Put on Alert
Vinay Kumar
The Hindu
(for personal use only)

Nuclear power centres in the country, particularly the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) at Trombay, were put on alert on Monday following intelligence inputs that terrorists might target them.

Senior officials of the Home Ministry said the alert was issued after intelligence agencies analysed inputs relating to threat perception from terror groups to atomic power installations.

Nuclear installations enjoy multi-level security arrangements and are protected by a combination of different security agencies, paramilitary and armed forces. “We have alerted the BARC in particular though security audits for all vital installations are carried out in detail from time to time,” the officials said.

The alert came a day after the arrest of a Pakistani at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on suspicion of being a spy. Several defence-related and sensitive documents were reportedly seized from his possession.

As intelligence agencies and nearly 20 teams of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) try to retrace the steps of terror suspects David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Rana, it has come to light that the duo was in Pakistan during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

The officials said Rana travelled from North to South and finally exited from Mumbai days before 26/11.

Records scrutinised so far indicated that Rana, a Pakistan-born Canadian citizen, finally flew out of Pakistan.

It was pointed out that it was a “painstaking and time-consuming” investigation that entailed putting all pieces of evidence together, contacting and interviewing all those who reportedly were in touch with either Rana or Headley and verifying all details. Voluminous phone and hotel records, mobile calls and SMS sent out or received by them while staying in India were also scanned.

Detectives are trying to ascertain who placed the advertisement for facilitating immigration to Canada and the U.S. on behalf of Rana, who was accompanied by a woman, Samraz Rana Akhtar. Both, born in Pakistan’s Punjab province, are said to have obtained multiple entry visas from the Indian consulate in Chicago in October last year apparently overlooking the rules stipulated by the Home Ministry.

The two arrived in Mumbai on November 12 last year. They travelled to Kochi in Kerala on November16.

Rana and Samraz were allegedly looking for recruits for the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Both Headley and Rana are under the FBI custody in Chicago.

Another key area of concern for the security agencies relates to “sleeper cells” of the LeT and HuJI terror groups that might have been set up by Rana, who reportedly ensured financial back-up for such activities.

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US Seeks India's Promise on Non-Proliferation
The Economic Times
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The Obama administration has asked for an “assurance” from India on nuclear non-proliferation, even as the two sides attempt to conclude a deal on reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives in the US on an official visit. Even as India and the US negotiate the reprocessing pact, the US wants India to give an assurance letter on nuclear non-proliferation. However, the Indian side feels that enough assurances have been given in the 123 agreement.

The US side has conveyed that this assurance letter is required by the US department of energy for issuing mandatory licences, without which US companies cannot enter into civilian nuclear trade with India. US President Barack Obama had written a letter to PM on this issue in the beginning of the year, and it has been taken up during the visits of the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in July and energy secretary Steven Chu in November. The US has also given India copies of similar assurance letters from other countries, including China and Germany.

With India remaining unconvinced, the issue is now being discussed by negotiators working on the reprocessing agreement. As per the provisions of the 123 agreement, a deal has to be negotiated between the Indian and the US side on the reprocessing of spent American fuel. Also, India, according to the 123 agreement, has to set up a national facility dedicated to reprocessing safeguarded nuclear material under the International Atomic Energy Agency. Both sides have to agree on ‘arrangements and procedures’, under which reprocessing will take place in this new facility. Negotiations started as early as July this year. A round of negotiations is likely to take place on November 20 and 21, just ahead of PM’s US visit.

The 123 agreement had given India the right to reprocess spent fuel, but had left room for both sides to negotiate a separate deal on the issue. India wants to maintain its sovereign rights in reprocessing too. The reprocessing agreement is another crucial element before Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation can start.

The Indian negotiating team is headed by Ravi B Grover from the department of atomic energy while the American delegation is being led by Richard Stratford, director of the office of nuclear energy affairs in the State Department. Under the US laws, the Obama administration has to get congressional approval for the reprocessing agreement.

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E.  Nonproliferation

IAEA Deepens Syria Atom Probe Over Uranium Traces
Sylvia Westall
The Star
(for personal use only)

Syria's initial explanation of uranium traces U.N. inspectors found at a Damascus atom research reactor is unconvincing and they will take more samples in a deepening probe, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

In a report obtained by Reuters on Monday, the IAEA said Syria was also still blocking follow-up access to a desert site of what U.S. intelligence reports said was a nascent, North Korean-designed nuclear reactor geared to yield atomic bomb fuel, before Israel bombed it in 2007.

The Vienna-based IAEA, which has been checking whether there could be a link between the Damascus and Dair Alzour sites, said in June particles of processed uranium had showed up in samples at the Damascus research reactor.

Some analysts have said the findings raise the question of whether Syria used some natural uranium intended for the alleged reactor at Dair Alzour for tests applicable to learning how to separate out bomb-grade plutonium from spent nuclear fuel.

Syria, an ally of Iran which is under IAEA investigation over nuclear proliferation suspicions, has denied ever having an atom bomb programme and has said the intelligence is fabricated.

Syria told the agency earlier this month that the traces at the Damascus site could have come from domestically-produced uranium concentrate known as "yellow cake", or from imports of commercial uranyl nitrate which it had not declared to the IAEA, according to Monday's report.

The report pointed out that the uranium samples did not fit Syria's earlier explanation for the particles -- that they came from reference materials or from a transport container. It said the type could also not be traced to Syria's declared inventory.

IAEA inspectors will visit the Damascus site on Tuesday to check Syria's latest explanation for the traces and the agency has asked for more information on Syria's yellow cake production and any other materials that could contain uranium particles.

The report said Syria was still refusing IAEA requests for return visits to the bombed Dair Alzour site and had not let the agency visit three military sites, whose appearance was altered by landscaping after the IAEA first asked to check them.

"Essentially, no progress has been made since the last report to clarify any of the outstanding issues," it said.

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U.S., Russian Leaders Say Nations Closer to Deal to Cut Nuclear Arms
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Russia and the United States are well on their way to reducing their nuclear stockpiles, President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday.

Ideological barriers no longer stand between the two countries, said Medvedev, who met with Obama after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit wrapped up Sunday in Singapore. They both attended the forum.

Russia and the United States hope to finalize a treaty to reduce nuclear arms by year's end, according to both presidents.

"The world is watching," Medvedev said.

The two sides are working on renegotiating a follow-up to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires December 5.

Both men have agreed on an ultimate goal of a nuclear-free world. No one realistically thinks this will happen anytime soon, but reducing the number of nuclear warheads from the levels allowed in the original START agreement is a step in that direction.

Talks between the two leaders in Singapore focused on the future of the START treaty, Iran and Afghanistan, though they covered a number of topics, they said.

The leaders talked about what needs to be done to get Afghanistan long-needed peace, Medvedev said.

On Iran, Obama spoke of presenting two paths: one that leads to integration into the international community, and one that leads to stepped-up global pressure.

Iran has defied a U.N. Security Council demand that it halt its uranium enrichment program, insisting it has a right to produce fuel for civilian power plants.

The United States and other leading nations have been negotiating with Iran to send low-enriched uranium abroad to be turned into material for use in medical research and treatment at a reactor in Tehran.

The deal could reduce the amount of material Iran has to make a nuclear bomb. The United States and its allies fear Tehran's goal is to make a bomb. Iran denies it.

"We're now running out of time," Obama said of Iran, adding that the United States and Russia will continue to nudge Tehran toward the "right" path. Leading nations are prepared to work further, but other options remain on the table if such efforts fail, Obama said, without offering details.

Medvedev also spoke of being dissatisfied with the pace of negotiations with Iran and cooperating with the United States.

The Obama administration has worked to foster such cooperation. Ties between Russia and the United States chilled during the administrations of George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin.

"We want to reset our relationship, and so we will do it together," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in March in Geneva, Switzerland.

Discussions with Medvedev in Singapore were thoughtful, said Obama, who added that he thought that "the reset button has worked."

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F.  Nuclear Energy

UAE-US Nuclear Deal Becomes a Reality
T. Ramavarman
Khaleej Times
(for personal use only)

The historic agreement between the UAE and the US on the peaceful development of nuclear energy is now a reality, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, confirmed.

“Now only a few technical steps, like exchange of diplomatic notes, are left to operationalise the agreement,” the minister told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of a conference here on Energy Security in the Gulf.

The deal, commonly known as the 123 Agreement, was signed on January 15 in Washington by the then US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, and the UAE Foreign Minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, before being referred to bilateral legislative processes.

The US Congress had 90 days to review the deal, a period that gave over in October. There were reports that the UAE Cabinet too had approved the accord in the last week of October.

But this is the first time that a UAE minister has confirmed the milestone. “The 123 agreement has become a reality,” Gargash said. “The highest bodies of both the countries have approved it.”

Asked when the diplomatic notes would be exchanged, he said, “It will be done soon.” The UAE is working out an ambitious nuclear power programme to expand its energy mix and reduce its reliance on oil.

According to estimates, the UAE’s annual energy requirement will go up to 40,000 megawatts by 2020. It currently generates 15,000 megawatts.

Nuclear reactors are expected to have a significant share in power generation by 2020, along with the seven per cent that the renewable energy sector is likely to contribute.

The UAE’s first nuclear reactor should go on stream in 2017, Hamad Al Kaabi, UAE’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, had stated recently.

Several firms from countries like the US and France have been pushing for nuclear contracts from the UAE. The US-based GE made its intent publicly known recently.

Though there are strong indications that the deal for the first reactor will be announced soon, Al Kaabi had declined to give a time-frame for any such announcement.

The 123 Agreement has a term of 30 years and permits the transfer of nuclear material, equipment including reactors, and components for civil nuclear research and power production, subject to subsequent individual licencing, as per the testimonies made before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on October 7.

The UAE has made a commitment on nuclear non-proliferation. Describing the Agreement as a ‘ground-breaking’, US officials had said that the US Administration valued the non-proliferation component of agreement.

For the first time in an agreement of this type, the UAE has voluntarily agreed to forego uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent fuel.

Additionally, for the first time, the agreement provides that before the US licences export of nuclear material, equipment, components, or technology, the UAE shall bring into force the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreements with the IAEA.

The US officials had said in their testimony, “The UAE is an example of a country that has concluded that indigenous fuel cycle capabilities are not needed to fully enjoy the benefits of nuclear energy.”

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Electricity-Hungry Vietnam Looks to Join Nuclear Club
Aude Genet
(for personal use only)

Vietnam is expected to take a key step towards meeting its burgeoning appetite for electricity by paving the way for its first nuclear power plant, but debate is still raging over the controversial project.

Parliament in the fast-growing communist state is set to vote at the end of November on the project -- which lawmakers have been mulling for more than a decade -- after legalising the use of nuclear power in 2008.

Vietnam's atomic energy commission estimates that nuclear power could meet as much as 30 percent of the nation's energy needs by the middle of the century, compared with less than five percent initially.

But environmental and security concerns have prompted some experts to ask if the government is already moving too fast.

"You can't look at nuclear power plants as you would at cars and just buy them as soon as possible," said Pham Duy Hien, chairman of the scientific council at Vietnam's Agency for Nuclear Safety.

The plan on the table is for the construction of reactors on two sites with a total capacity of 4,000 megawatts, at a cost estimated by experts at between 11 billion to 18 billion dollars.

Construction in the southern province of Ninh Thuan could start from around 2014, with at least one reactor coming on line in 2020.

The nuclear legislation -- the subject of heated debate in parliament -- also has experts alarmed as it lacks provisions to regulate the disposal of potentially hazardous nuclear waste.

"The quantity of radioactivity in the waste products after 10 years will be enormous," if the government sticks to its timetable for the power plant construction, said Hien.

As with any nuclear programme, even a peaceful one, there is always a risk sensitive material could fall into the wrong hands, he added, particularly taking into account endemic corruption in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese Union of Science and Technology Associations has urged the government to be flexible about the 2020 deadline, saying it should start with just one power plant.

But even before lawmakers have endorsed the first phase, the government is already planning to double the initial capacity by 2025, experts say.

In Ninh Thuan, local officials have voiced concerns about the project's environmental impact, particularly on the area's fishing communities.

Lawmaker Nguyen Minh Thuyet has called for Vietnam to take a step-by-step approach to joining the nuclear energy club, but said the project had broad backing.

"Lots of people support the project because they think Vietnam is going to suffer a severe energy shortage," he said.

Demand is rising about 15 percent a year as Vietnam enjoys an economic boom, and heavy industries such as the construction sector are big energy-consumers.

The country has significant hydrocarbon reserves, but only one operational refinery. It is considering exploiting new coal reserves but this would require sacrificing large swathes of rice paddy fields.

Hydro-electric dams have environmental costs and often adversely affect the local population. Additionally, most of Vietnam's rivers flow from China and have already been dammed.

"But a peaceful nuclear power industry is very complicated technology, and requires disciplined management," said Hien, urging the goverment to consider how to improve its overall energy efficiency.

"In Vietnam, we have only just started the process of industrialisation."

Despite the domestic debates, a number of foreign nations have long expressed interest in a role in the project including former colonial power France, as well as Japan, Russia, China and to a lesser extent South Korea and the United States.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung last week signed a nuclear cooperation pact but Dung declined to say whether which nation would be selected as Vietnam's main nuclear partner.

"The project is still being examined by the National Assembly. At the moment, we have no official decision... I do not want to anticipate what concrete actions will be taken ahead of the decision," Dung said.

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Post-Saddam Iraq Demands Right to Nuclear Power
Khaleej Times
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Vilified as a nuclear bomb-seeking threat to world peace before the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime, Iraq now wants access to civilian nuclear power for its economic and energy needs.

Science and Technology Minister Raed Fahmi, in an interview with AFP, called for the international community to lift the Saddam-era UN resolutions which still stand in its path.

“Our nuclear strategy is for civilian application of atomic energy and we believe we have the right and that certain obstacles contained in Resolution 707 should be lifted,” he said.

“We have a clear and transparent political strategy in close coordination with international bodies, and Iraq has the right to certain of its capacities,” the minister said.

But Fahmi stressed no political decision had yet been taken to build a nuclear power plant.

UN Security Council Resolution 707, among the punitive measures slapped on Iraq in August 1991 for Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, bans all nuclear activity in the country until the Council certifies it respects non-proliferation treaties.

Fahmi said the process of ratifying international treaties has started.

“We are working to put into practice and respect all Iraq’s commitments, and we have raised this issue with the IAEA,” the International Atomic Energy Agency, the minister said.

Iraq is one of the world’s top oil producers and has huge reserves but still suffers power cuts due to a rundown power supply network devastated by Saddam-era sanctions and decades of conflict.

It has launched a massive programme to build new power plants which will take several years to become operational and go online.

“There is a future for clean renewable energies and nuclear power is a choice for many countries. We have electricity problems and this is a possible choice,” said Fahmi.

He revealed Iraq has launched a programme for energy sector staff to receive training from the IAEA. “We are increasing our knowledge, to prepare our staff in terms of training in case a decision is taken,” the minister explained.

“We have a technical cooperation programme with the IAEA, there are training courses and conferences in which we take part. We have been invited and have been given the right to take part in technical cooperation” programmes.

Under Saddam, Iraq sealed a 1976 deal with France to build a nuclear reactor near Baghdad, where construction started three years later.

But in June 1981, during the Iran-Iraq war, Israel sent warplanes to bomb the unfinished Osirak reactor, charging that the now executed dictator’s aim was to build nuclear weapons.

Sweeping away the Saddam era, the government in 2008 sold and transported its uranium concentrate — or “yellow cake,” which is partially processed uranium ore — to Cameco of Canada.

In February, Electricity Minister Karim Wahid invited France, which opposed the US-led invasion which overthrew Saddam over charges of concealing weapons mass destruction that proved false, to help Iraq build a new nuclear plant.

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Russia Delays Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Power Station
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Russia on Monday said it would not start a nuclear reactor at Iran's Bushehr atomic power station by the end of the year as planned, citing technical reasons.

"The launch will not happen by the end of the year," Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko told reporters. "The engineers have to reach their findings."

Russia's nuclear chief Sergei Kiriyenko had said in February that the Bushehr launch was scheduled for 2009 but the plant has been delayed frequently.

Shmatko said the Bushehr decision was purely technical and that Russia would fulfill its contractual obligations to Iran.

But diplomats say Russia uses Bushehr as a lever in relations with Tehran, which is suspected by the United States and other Western powers of seeking to build a nuclear weapon.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Sunday after meeting U.S. leader Barack Obama in Singapore that Moscow was not completely happy about the pace of dialogue between Iran and the international community over Tehran's nuclear program.

Russia started deliveries of nuclear fuel for Bushehr in late 2007, a step both Washington and Moscow said removed any need for Iran to have its own uranium enrichment program. Russia last year completed delivery of fuel under a contract estimated to be worth about $1 billion.

Russia says the plant is purely civilian and cannot be used for any weapons program, as Iran will return all spent fuel rods to Russia.

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G.  Nuclear Industry

Korea Gains as Nuclear-Plant Bidder
David Gauthier-Villars, Margaret Coker, and Evan Ramstad
The Wall Street Journal
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South Korea is emerging as an unexpected contender in the global race to build nuclear-power plants, turning up as a finalist for one of the industry's most-coveted projects.

The Korean bid has surprised more-established competitors—including industry leader Areva SA of France—as well as officials in the United Arab Emirates, who are examining bids for a contract that could be worth as much as $40 billion to build and run the Arab world's first nuclear-power plants. U.A.E. officials could award the contract as early as the next few weeks.

Three groups have been short-listed for the U.A.E. deal, according to people familiar with the situation.

Early in the bidding process, many observers expected a two-horse race between a French consortium including Areva, GdF Suez SA, Electricité de France and Total SA and a U.S.-Japanese consortium including General Electric Co. and Hitachi Ltd.

But the Korean bid has emerged as "far more competitive than anyone first thought," according to a person familiar with the situation. The bidding group is led by Korea Electric Power Co., construction units of the Samsung and Hyundai business groups, and Westinghouse, a unit of Japan's Toshiba Corp.

Indeed, in an effort to bridge the cost gap with the cheaper South Korean bid, the French group revised its own offer and proposed to build fewer reactors than it initially planned, according to people familiar with the matter.

U.A.E. and company officials declined to comment on the contest, citing confidentiality agreements.

The U.A.E. deal calls for the winner to spearhead the development, construction and operation of nuclear reactors and supporting facilities in Abu Dhabi, the biggest and richest of the U.A.E.'s seven semiautonomous emirates.

The U.A.E. won't enrich its own uranium for reactor fuel, due to political and security concerns, but instead will buy it from third parties under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The global nuclear industry is dominated by France, Japan, the U.S. and Russia.

But, with more than half of the world's 439 nuclear reactors expected to be retired by 2030, and nuclear power plants gaining appeal because they don't emit greenhouse gases, demand for nuclear technology is expected to grow sharply, potentially offering new players room to make their mark internationally.

Analysts say that the trajectory of the Korean nuclear industry could depend on the outcome of the U.A.E. contract.

If the South Korean team wins the project, it would mark the first time the country's nuclear industry has exported its know-how.

The U.A.E., one of the world's largest oil exporters, is looking to build as many as four nuclear reactors as part of a plan to diversify its economy.

The oil-rich emirates don't have large quantities of cleaner-burning natural gas, and government planners have identified nuclear energy as the preferred choice to meet their fast-growing power needs.

The U.A.E. contract is unusual by industry standards because the country has no nuclear experience.

As a result, it is seeking not only the equipment necessary to build its first nuclear reactors, but also an operator to run the plant. This differs from the typical pattern, in which nuclear-engineering companies supply reactors to established power companies, who know how to operate them.

In a sign of the West's political and security concerns about transferring nuclear technology to the Middle East, the tender process for the contract was delayed by prolonged negotiations between the U.S. and the U.A.E. on a nuclear-cooperation treaty. That pact, signed this year, makes it legal for U.S.-based companies to sell such technology to Abu Dhabi.

The person familiar with the matter said that all of the short-listed groups had extremely high technical merits, and that a winner hasn't been chosen

Officials involved in the tender process say that, on top of technical merit, the economic and strategic ties that the bidding companies and their governments have with the U.A.E. will be a factor in the outcome of the nuclear-plant contest.

France, which dispatched Trade Minister Anne-Marie Idrac to the U.A.E. to lobby for the French bid, strengthened its relationship with Abu Dhabi this year by opening a military base in the U.A.E.

GE, whose chairman and chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, was in town for Abu Dhabi's inaugural Formula One Grand Prix earlier this month, has signed an $8 billion joint-venture deal with one of the main investment arms of the emirate's government, Mubadala Development Co., which has vowed to become one of GE's biggest shareholders.

South Korea, meanwhile, is a major buyer of Abu Dhabi's crude oil.

As part its energy plan, South Korea aims to build 10 more domestic nuclear reactors through 2030, on top of the eight now on the drawing board, six of which are under construction.

That pace is still less than one plant a year. For Korea to catch up with the industry's global leaders, it would have to pick up business internationally, said Whang Joo-ho, a professor of nuclear engineering at Kyung Hee University in Yongin, South Korea.

"Our nuclear industry is small compared" with global competitors, Mr. Whang said. "The only way we can keep up with their innovations is to go abroad."

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Hitachi to Invest in Nuclear Power, Batteries
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Japan's Hitachi Ltd (6501.T) said on Monday it would use the money it raises to increase production capacity in areas such as nuclear power and lithium ion batteries.

Hitachi, which has a joint venture with General Electric (GE.N) in nuclear power, plans to raise up to 418 billion yen ($4.7 billion) by issuing new shares and convertible bonds to shore up its capital base.

It will use 100 billion yen in capital spending for its power systems and research in its traffic system operations, and another 30 billion yen for production capacity in lithium-ion batteries, it said in a release.

It will spend another 90 billion yen to expand in software and services operations.

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H.  Links of Interest

IAEA Report on Iran: Fordow Enrichment Plant at “Advanced Stage of Construction”; Decline in Number of P1 Centrifuges Enriching but P1 Centrifuge Efficiency Increases; Discovery of Previously Unknown Stock of Heavy Water
David Albright and Jacqueline Shire
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