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Nuclear News - 11/5/2009
PGS Nuclear News, November 5, 2009
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski

A.  Iran
    1. Iran Raises Uranium Output as Photos Show Need for Wider Checks, Jonathan Tirone, Bloomberg (11/4/2009)
    2. Exiled Group Says Iranian Nuclear Site Needs Check, Elaine Ganley, Associated Press (11/4/2009)
    3. Iran Wants to Be Seen as Regional Power: ElBaradei, Louis Charbonneau , Reuters (11/4/2009)
    4. Iran 'Not Intimidated' by Sound of Sanctions, PressTV (11/4/2009)
    5. Obama, EU Leaders Urge Iran to Meet Obligations, AFP (11/4/2009)
    1. Nuke Negotiator Heads to U.S. to Discuss North Korea, The Korea Herald (11/5/2009)
    2. Group of U.S. Experts to Visit North Korea This Month: Sources, Tony Chang, Yonhap News Agency (11/5/2009)
    3. U.S. Pressed North Korea to Allow IAEA Inspectors Back, Breitbart (11/3/2009)
    4. Quiet Progress Made in U.S.-North Korea Talks, Foreign Policy (11/2/2009)
C.  Pakistan
    1. India Worried About Pakistan Nuclear Control, The Times of India (11/5/2009)
D.  Nonproliferation
    1. Russian, U.S. Officials Discuss New Arms Control Deal, RIA Novosti (11/4/2009)
E.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. India, EU to Sign Deal on Civil Nuclear Energy This Week, The Economic Times (11/5/2009)
F.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Japan Nuke Plant Starts Using Controversial Fuel, Khaleej Times (11/5/2009)
    2. Kansai Electric May Extend Lifespan of Atomic Reactor, Megumi Yamanaka, Bloomberg (11/5/2009)
    3. Areva Shares Fall Over Nuclear Safety Concerns, Nina Sovich, Reuters (11/4/2009)
G.  Links of Interest
    1. German Nuclear Policy Skirts a Taboo, Vera Eckert, Reuters (11/5/2009)
    2. Nuclear Waste: Coming To a Town Near You?, Steve Hargreaves, CNN (11/4/2009)
    3. IAEA: Future of Fusion Energy, Christopher Smith, Nuclear Street (11/4/2009)

A.  Iran

Exiled Group Says Iranian Nuclear Site Needs Check
Elaine Ganley
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

An exiled Iranian opposition group called on the U.N. nuclear agency Tuesday to waste no time in examining a hidden site near Tehran that it claims is used to help build nuclear detonators.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, or NCRI, the political arm of the Mujahedeen Khalq, said the site is built under a hillside east of Tehran and comprises a series of interconnecting tunnels. "All activities related to the manufacture of detonators are done in this web of tunnels," Mehdi Abrichamtchi told a news conference.

The group first revealed its claims about the site at a September news conference. It provided what it said were details about its construction and workings Tuesday. The site is allegedly under what the NCRI says is the Research Center for the Technology of Explosion and Impact, or METFAZ, which is run by the Iranian Defense Ministry.

Abrichamtchi said the group obtained its information from sources within the powerful Revolutionary Guard and the Defense Ministry, the two organizations it claims are behind Iran's alleged bid to build nuclear weapons.

Abrichamtchi claimed that tunnel construction for both METFAZ and a site near the holy city of Qom began in 2000. Iran made public the existence of the site at Qom this year, and U.N. inspectors visited it last week, although their findings have not been made public.

The revelation of the previously clandestine plant under construction near Qom increased concerns by the United States, France and other powers that Iran may be enriching uranium for use in nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is strictly civilian, for research and energy purposes.

The opposition group regretted that authorities waited until this year to act on the Qom site, claiming the group had signaled its existence in 2005. In fact, the Mujahedeen told a news conference in December 2005 that the Iranian regime was building a network of tunnels and underground facilities in about 14 locations, including Qom.

Abrichamtchi said his group had signaled the existence of the METFAZ site, in a military area near the town of Sanjarian, to the International Atomic Energy Agency but had received no response.

"We hope the international agency won't wait four years as for Qom to move to visit this site ... before the mullahs get a chance to move things around and cover up the whole thing," he said. "The regime is much closer to the bomb."

The NCRI has a mixed record of accuracy. In 2002, it disclosed the existence of two nuclear sites that helped uncover two decades of Iran's clandestine nuclear program. However, other so-called revelations about a nuclear weapons program have not been publicly verified.

With diagrams at hand, allegedly "originals" from Iran, Abrichamtchi said workshops at the METFAZ site used to help make detonators for a nuclear explosion are embedded in the web of tunnels. Three vertical tunnels lead to the surface with hillside entrances hidden behind two large warehouses, he said.

Abrichamtchi described a setup of front companies to conceal work on secret nuclear sites, including Qom. He claimed, for instance, that tunnels at Qom were built in part by Qorb-e-Qaem Company, allegedly the engineering section of the Revolutionary Guard Corp's Air Force.

The opposition group appealed to the international community for a firm position on Iran's nuclear program, notably a boycott, of oil, technology and other critical products.

The Vienna-based U.N. nuclear agency is currently awaiting a response from Tehran on a proposal allowing Iran to ship most of its enriched uranium abroad for further enrichment, a way to ensure it does not have enough material at hand to make a bomb.

"Waiting for a written response ... is to run after a mirage," Abrichamtchi said.

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Iran 'Not Intimidated' by Sound of Sanctions
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As Washington scrambles to assemble tougher sanctions against Tehran, a senior Iranian lawmaker assures that the country will never be 'intimidated' into giving up its nuclear rights.

In a speech commemorating the 30th anniversary of the US embassy takeover in Tehran, Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel warned Washington against threatening the Iranians with sanctions.

"[The Islamic Republic] will not negotiate on its legitimate rights," said the former speaker of the Iranian Parliament (Majlis).

His remarks come after US President Barack Obama urged the Tehran government to "decide whether it wants to focus on the past, or whether it will make the choices that will open the door to greater opportunity, prosperity and justice for its people."

"I have made it clear that the United States of America wants to move beyond this past, and seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect," said the US President.

In Iran, Obama's remarks were seen as a far cry from the oft-stated promises of 'change' he made while on the stump.

According to Haddad-Adel, the statements show that Obama's promises of change were "mere slogans to help him rise to power."

"What we have seen in the past ten months was just a change of tone in Washington, not a change of US policy," said Haddad-Adel. "The real change should come in the US approach towards Muslim people and democracy."

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has also said that Washington's stance on Iran has not changed in the least.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran decided from the very beginning to avoid presumption and instead take into consideration the slogan of 'change'. But what we have witnessed in practice during this period of time has been in contradiction with the remarks that have been made,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.

Washington and a number of European powers have been trying hard in recent days to get Iran to sign an IAEA-drafted proposal on third-party nuclear fuel supply.

Under the plan, as much as 70 percent of Iran's low-enriched uranium (LEU) would be sent abroad to be turned into fuel rods for medical use at the Tehran research reactor.

Powered by 20-percent enriched uranium, the Tehran research reactor produces isotopes for cancer care to more than 200 hospitals.

Iranian officials have welcomed foreign cooperation on fuel supply, but have rejected the idea of sending out the bulk of its stock in one batch.

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Iran Raises Uranium Output as Photos Show Need for Wider Checks
Jonathan Tirone
(for personal use only)

Satellite photos indicate that Iran has increased production at a uranium mine, underscoring the need for wider UN inspections to determine whether the country is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

Evidence of stepped-up activity at the Gchine mine, near the Persian Gulf coast city of Bandar Abbas, is seen in pictures obtained by Bloomberg News and the Washington-based New America Foundation, according to four nuclear analysts who examined the images. The mine could produce enough uranium to craft at least two atomic bombs a year, experts said.

The photographs, taken on April 26 and Oct. 3 by DigitalGlobe Inc. and GeoEye Inc., two U.S. commercial satellite companies, show Iran increased the rate at which it pumps waste from the mine during the intervening months. Iran has filled one waste pool since November 2008, when a previous photograph was taken, and built a second pond with pipes connecting it to processing tanks that separate the metal from rock.

“Iran’s decision to expand mining and milling at Bandar Abbas seems to validate the suspicions of those who think it was the main uranium site for a covert program,” Jeffrey G. Lewis, nuclear strategy and non-proliferation director at the New America Foundation, a public policy institute, said in an Oct. 20 interview.

The increased uranium production indicates that United Nations inspectors need to widen their field of vision beyond facilities such as Iran’s uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz and its Esfahan conversion facility, Lewis and other analysts said. The UN’s nuclear agency should renew demands to inspect research labs, machine shops and mines including Gchine, they added.

Top Priority

The international community’s top priority should be to gain “considerably more access into the Iranian program as a whole so that there is a verifiable distance between Iran’s option to build a bomb and the exercise of that option,” said Lewis, who formerly ran the nuclear non-proliferation research program at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The U.S. and several allies say Iran’s atomic work is cover for the development of a weapon, while the government in Tehran insists that the program is peaceful and intended for civilian purposes such as electricity generation.

Iran has been under investigation by the UN since 2003 because it concealed nuclear work from the world body’s International Atomic Energy Agency for two decades. It is subject to three sets of UN economic sanctions for ignoring Security Council demands that it suspend uranium enrichment and related work and allow wider inspections.

Weapon Fears

The IAEA said Oct. 29 that it would consult with world powers and Iran after the country failed to fully accept a UN- brokered plan for Russia to process nuclear fuel for a medical- research reactor in Tehran. Iran said its “technical and economic concerns” had to be addressed.

The proposal would slow any effort by Iran to make a weapon with its 1,500-kilogram (3,300-pound) stockpile of low-enriched uranium and, if accepted, improve prospects for international talks aimed at ensuring that the country doesn’t produce a bomb.

Holder of the world’s No. 2 oil and natural gas reserves, Iran has been using about 530 tons of uranium obtained from South Africa in 1982 to fuel its declared enrichment program, centered at the Natanz plant, about 210 kilometers (130 miles) south of Tehran. IAEA inspectors have long sought to establish whether Iran has an alternative fuel source for a nuclear effort running in parallel with the declared program.


The Gchine site, which Iran no longer allows the IAEA to visit, could produce enough raw uranium for processing into two warheads a year if Iran chose to secretly enrich the uranium to weapons grade, according to calculations by the Verification Research, Training and Information Center, a London-based institute that is a non-governmental observer at the IAEA and funded by European governments.

Gchine has the capacity to produce annually up to 21 tons of milled uranium, or yellowcake, Iran told the Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency, part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in 2007. Satellite photographs taken last year showed that the mine was only beginning operations and not working at capacity.

“Although the mill has a design capacity of 21 tons of yellowcake per year, it has actually operated at much lower levels,” Lewis said. “The construction of a much larger pond suggests Iran is moving toward operating the mill at its design capacity.”

About half that amount, or 9,000 kilograms of yellowcake, would be needed to produce the 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of 93 percent enriched uranium required for a weapon, according to the verification center.

History of Concealment

The satellite photos, while showing that Iran is ramping up capacity, can’t pinpoint the amount of uranium being produced, the analysts said. Inspections would be needed to find out how close to production capacity Iran is at the mine.

“Given Iran’s history of concealing nuclear facilities, an effective safeguards regime needs to cover all of Iran’s nuclear activities from the moment the ore comes out of the earth at Bandar Abbas and elsewhere,” Lewis said.

An IAEA agreement with Iran, which allows inspection of declared nuclear sites such as Natanz and Esfahan, located about 340 kilometers south of Tehran, doesn’t extend to mining operations.

Inspectors gained some access to Gchine from 2003 until 2006, when Iran stopped complying with an IAEA agreement that allowed for more stringent investigations. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ceased Iran’s cooperation with the so-called Additional Protocol in 2006 in retaliation for the IAEA’s referral of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear work to the Security Council.

Heavy-Water Reactor

The agency has repeatedly requested more access to the mine as well as other sites involved in Iran’s atomic work, most recently in a Sept. 9 report.

The Additional Protocol, created in 1997 after the discovery that Iraq and North Korea had atomic programs, would give inspectors access to places beyond Gchine, such as an incomplete heavy-water reactor in Arak, 240 kilometers south of Tehran, and plants that make centrifuges used in uranium enrichment. Inspectors would also be allowed to take water and soil samples and talk with key figures in Iran’s nuclear program.

What the international community “would like to know now is where all that uranium yellowcake is going,” Andreas Persbo, executive director of the verification institute, said in an Oct. 21 interview.

Chain Reaction

Two of the four analysts who examined the satellite images and confirmed the production increase declined to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly on the issue. The two satellite image companies regularly take pictures of countries such as Iran and sell the photographs to interested governments and scientists.

Inspectors don’t know whether all of the mine’s output is going to Esfahan for conversion, whether some is being stockpiled at the mine or whether it is being secretly transferred to an undeclared site, said Persbo. Iran hasn’t reported details of the output.

At the conversion stage, yellowcake is turned into uranium hexafluoride gas. It is then transported in casks to Natanz, where centrifuges isolate the uranium-235 isotope used in a nuclear chain reaction.

Iran could produce a warhead without the IAEA’s knowledge if secret facilities to convert and enrich the uranium mined at Gchine were used, according to the analysts.

Underground Facility

Iran told the IAEA about a previously secret underground enrichment plant, called Fordo, some 160 kilometers south of Tehran, in September. IAEA inspectors undertook a four-day visit to the site and will report their findings to the organization’s 35-member board of governors.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Aliasghar Soltanieh, when reached by telephone yesterday, wouldn’t confirm that production had increased at Gchine or comment on whether the country would submit to wider inspections.

The IAEA declined to comment on the satellite photographs. U.S. diplomats also declined to comment and referred Bloomberg News to an Oct. 21 speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency doesn’t have the tools or authority to carry out its mission effectively,” Clinton said in the Washington speech. “We saw this in the institution’s failure to detect Iran’s covert enrichment plant.”

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Iran Wants to Be Seen as Regional Power: ElBaradei
Louis Charbonneau
(for personal use only)

Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran says is only intended to generate electricity, is an attempt to force the world to acknowledge it as a regional power, U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on Wednesday.

"They believe that the nuclear know-how brings prestige, brings power, and they would like to see the U.S. engaging them," he told a forum on nuclear disarmament. "Unfortunately that holds some truth. Iran has been taken seriously since they have developed their program."

Saying Iran's nuclear program was a "means to an end," ElBaradei said Tehran "wants to be recognized as a regional power."

He reiterated the position of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. agency he has led for 12 years and leaves at the end of the month, that there is "no concrete evidence" Tehran is pursuing atomic weapons as Western countries suspect.

The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have tried for years to persuade Iran to halt uranium enrichment in exchange for economic and political incentives. Tehran has so far refused to a halt the program.

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, ElBaradei had little to say about talks on a draft nuclear fuel deal among Iran, Russia, the United States and France in Vienna for which he has become an unofficial mediator.

The IAEA fuel proposal calls for Iran to transfer most of its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France to turn it into fuel for a reactor that produces isotopes for treating cancer. But diplomats say Iran is reluctant to ship its uranium abroad.


ElBaradei said the proposed deal represented a "unique opportunity" for Iran and the United States to move beyond decades of tension and animosity. He said he hoped for an agreement before he leaves office.

He indicated Iran would have to respond soon to the offer, which he said could help Tehran demonstrate that its nuclear plans are peaceful. "It's an opportunity, but it's also a fleeting opportunity," he said.

U.S. and French officials have said negotiations with Tehran cannot drag on forever and have warned Iran it could face a fourth round of U.N. sanctions.

ElBaradei said he was convinced the Iranians were prepared at one point to stop their enrichment program but that the previous U.S. administration and the three European powers missed an opportunity to end the standoff by imposing conditions on Iran that were "impossible to accept."

"They were ready to stop at an R&D (research and development) level ... that could have not have created any concern for the international community," he said.

President George W. Bush's administration was reluctant to engage Iran, although it relaxed that policy in its final years.

Bush's successor, Barack Obama, has reversed that position, telling Tehran he is ready to engage Iran's leaders without preconditions. Tehran has reacted coolly so far.

Some Western diplomats who have followed the Iran nuclear issue for years have said they do not believe Iran had seriously considered suspending its enrichment program.

ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who vehemently opposed Bush's decision to invade Iraq in March 2003, made clear he believed Bush's policy of refusing to negotiate with either Iran or North Korea was a massive failure.

"Thinking that I shouldn't talk to people I disagree with, not understanding that dialogue is the only way to change behavior, has led us to where we are -- a total mess."

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Obama, EU Leaders Urge Iran to Meet Obligations
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US President Barack Obama and European Union leaders issued a joint call Tuesday on Iran to meet its international obligations, as pressure mounted on Tehran to accept a nuclear fuel deal.

An EU-US summit had agreed on "sending a clear message to Tehran that we want them to be a full member of the community of nations, but that they have to act consistent with international rules and responsibilities," Obama said.

He was speaking after White House talks with EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden, who holds the EU presidency.

Earlier Tuesday in Tehran, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had lashed out at the United States, saying Tehran would reject any new nuclear talks backed by its arch-foe because Washington was not to be trusted.

"Every time they have a smile on their face, they are hiding a dagger behind their back," said the country's top cleric who has the final say on all Iranian national issues.

"Iran will not be fooled by the superficial conciliatory tone of the United States," he said in a speech to students on the eve of an annual anti-American rally.

Khamenei's salvo raised the possibility that the Washington-backed nuclear fuel deal for a Tehran research reactor may be derailed, despite world powers turning up the heat on Iran.

Under the deal, brokered by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran would send its low-enriched uranium abroad for conversion into fuel for the reactor. Iranians say they would rather buy the fuel directly.

"Look, we have, not just we, but the IAEA and Russia and France has on the table, a very good proposal that will help Iran become better integrated in the international community, will be the first step towards ending its isolation," said US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly.

"And we would urge Iran to accept the proposal as it's laid out by the director general of the IAEA, Doctor (Mohamed) ElBaradei," Kelly said.

Pressuring Iran to accept the deal, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Morocco on Monday: "This is a pivotal moment for Iran.

"Acceptance fully of this proposal would be a good indication that Iran does not wish to be isolated and does wish to cooperate."

World powers led by Washington are backing the deal as they want to remove Tehran's stock of low-enriched uranium, which they fear could be further enriched by Iran to very high levels and used to make atomic weapons.

Tehran denies seeking to develop a weapons capability.

Also in Washington hitting out at Tehran, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in particular, was German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"A nuclear bomb in the hands of an Iranian president who denies the Holocaust, threatens Israel and denies Israel the right to exist is not acceptable," she said in a rare address to the US Congress.

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Group of U.S. Experts to Visit North Korea This Month: Sources
Tony Chang
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

A group of U.S experts on Korean affairs plan to visit North Korea later this month to meet with key officials involved in Pyongyang's nuclear program, informed sources said Thursday.

Jack Pritchard, president of the Korea Economic Institute (KEI), and Scott Snyder, director of the Center for U.S.-Korea Policy at the Asia Foundation, are expected to visit North Korea from Nov. 21-24, a senior diplomatic source said, asking for anonymity.

The source said Pritchard mentioned the travel plan during his South Korea visit last month.

Another diplomatic source said he was aware that Pritchard, Snyder, and a fellow researcher from the KEI are planning to visit North Korea in a private capacity.

"The purpose of the visit is to meet with key North Korean officials involved in the country's nuclear program," the source said.

After months of provocations, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il indicated Pyongyang would return to six-party denuclearization talks pending the outcome of bilateral talks with the U.S.

Officials at the U.S. State Department have repeated that they are considering whether to accept Pyongyang's invitation for Stephen Bosworth, special representative for North Korea policy, to visit there and if so, when he will make the high-stakes trip.

Sources said that Pritchard and the party have consulted with the State Department on the planned trip and are expected to brief the U.S. government of the results.

U.S. officials argue the North's recent conciliatory overtures are the result of international financial sanctions and an overall arms embargo, which they said effectively cut off revenues from arms sales, one of the limited sources for obtaining hard currency for the impoverished communist state.

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Nuke Negotiator Heads to U.S. to Discuss North Korea
The Korea Herald
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Wi Sung-lac, the nation's top nuclear negotiator, yesterday headed for the United States to discuss Washington's upcoming meeting with North Korea, which is expected to be a prelude to future discussions on ending the North's nuclear weapons programs.

"The trip is mainly to coordinate with the Barack Obama administration on the North Korean nuclear issue, and from a broader perspective, seek joint efforts to resume the six-party talks," said one high-ranking Foreign Ministry official who declined to be identified.

Wi also will visit Japan to meet his Japanese counterpart in the six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

"There will be discussion on Japan's views for the comprehensive package. (South Korea and the United States) have offered as a solution to eradicating North Korea's nuclear arsenal," the ministry official said.

Wi's visit comes as Washington and Pyongyang appeared poised to meet for a bilateral meeting the North has been seeking since July this year when it appeared to put an abrupt end to saber-rattling and reengaged with the United States and South Korea.

The two sides have reportedly already agreed to meet some time after President Barack Obama wraps up his Asian tour in mid-November.

The State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the government would make the decision on the bilateral dialogue "when the time is right."

Wi earlier said he expects the meeting to occur "soon," since the North extended its invitation to the United States in August, "which was quite a long time ago."

The real question, ministry officials pointed out, was that whether it would reap desired results.

Seoul and Washington hope to achieve substantial progress in denuclearizing the North, but skeptics have said it would be a tough task since the allies -- and even China -- are determined not to be strung along by Pyongyang, as they have been in the past.
As a positive sign, however, North Korean deputy nuclear envoy Ri Gun acquiesced to Washington's demands to regard the talks as a part of the framework of the six-nation talks, according to Foreign Policy magazine and other news reports.

The reports also said Ri, during preliminary discussions with Washington's chief nuclear negotiator Sung Kim last month, agreed to appoint the North's first vice foreign minister Kang Sok-ju to counterpart Stephen Bosworth who is Washington's special representative to the North.

Bosworth is thus expected to sit down with Kang in Pyongyang for the bilateral meeting.

But on other demands, such as an immediate return to the six-party talks and recommitting to the Sept. 19, 2005 declaration, the North reportedly declined to respond.

The declaration calls for the North to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and return, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry declined to confirm that North had agreed to some of the preconditions.

Moon Tae-young, the Foreign Ministry spokesman yesterday said he was aware of reports of such a dialogue between Ri and Kim but said he had no comment.

The North gestured it was willing to come out for talks with the United States in July, following months of brinkmanship tactics that included a second nuclear test.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in October went as far as saying he would agree to the six-nation talks based on the results of a one-on-one with Washington.

Pyongyang quit the multilateral dialogue in April after the United Nations Security Council denounced its rocket launch. On May 25, it conducted its second nuclear test.

Earlier this week, the North claimed that it had finished reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods, indicating it has resumed activity at its nuclear facilities.

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U.S. Pressed North Korea to Allow IAEA Inspectors Back
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The United States recently urged North Korea to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors back into its nuclear facilities, a source close to the six-party nuclear disarmament talks said Tuesday.

Washington also asked Pyongyang to send senior government officials, such as First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju, to the United States for talks with Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korean policy, the source said.

Sung Kim, U.S. special envoy for the six-party talks on disbanding North Korea's nuclear arsenal, urged Pyongyang to allow IAEA inspectors back in the reclusive country to monitor its nuclear activity when he met with Ri Gun, director general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry's North American affairs bureau, in New York on Oct. 24, the source said.

IAEA inspectors involved in monitoring North Korea's main nuclear complex in Yongbyon left the nation in April after being expelled, along with U.S. nuclear experts involved in disablement work at the complex in retaliation for a U.N. Security Council statement condemning North Korea's recent rocket launch.

Washington's request for a senior North Korean official to visit the United States was filed through a recent series of communications between the two sides, the source said.

Also Tuesday, the United States accused North Korea of violating U.N. Security Council resolutions and its own prior nuclear commitments after Pyongyang said it had finished reprocessing about 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods at its Yongbyon nuclear complex as of the end of August.

"Reprocessing plutonium is contrary to North Korea's own commitments," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said. "It certainly runs counter to the commitment that they made in 2005, and it violates U.N. Security Council resolutions."

But Kelly stopped short of condemning North Korea's announcement outright, saying instead that the United States is focused on getting North Korea back to the stalled six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

"What we're focused on with North Korea is getting to the point where we can re-launch the six-party talks, which will get us our ultimate goal, which is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Kelly said.

In April, North Korea withdrew from the six-party talks and said it would start reprocessing nuclear spent fuel rods to produce plutonium at the Yongbyon complex, located 90 kilometers north of Pyongyang, in protest against U.N. criticism of its rocket launch earlier that month.

The announcement by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency came a day after the reclusive nuclear-armed state repeated its call for direct talks with Washington, saying that if the two countries ended their mutual hostility and forged trust, progress could be made toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

In September, Washington announced a plan to seek direct talks with Pyongyang as part of efforts to resume the six-party talks. But the United States is still deciding when and where to have the bilateral talks, Kelly said.

Although Kelly characterized the discussion between the U.S. and North Korean officials as useful, the meeting apparently yielded no agreement on full-scale bilateral talks involving Stephen Bosworth.

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Quiet Progress Made in U.S.-North Korea Talks
Foreign Policy
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Despite initial reports that next to nothing was accomplished during last week's discussions between U.S. and North Korean officials in New York and San Diego, an administration official told The Cable that substantial progress was made in behind-the-scenes talks between Sung Kim, the State Department's special envoy to the six party talks, and Ri Gun, North Korea's lead negotiator.

According to an account from an official with access to information on the negotiations, which a second source has confirmed, the U.S. side put forth a proposal with three main conditions. The first was that the North Koreans agree to have exactly two formal bilateral meetings with the United States before returning to a multilateral forum. The North Koreans agreed. They had previously said they would return to the multilateral talks only if the bilateral meetings went well.

The second condition put forth by the U.S. was that Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, who has been invited repeatedly to Pyongyang, would be able to meet with Kong Sok Ju, North Korea's first vice foreign minister. According to the official, the North Koreans also had no problem with that.

Bosworth's visit would be seen as a failure unless some demonstrable progress was made and it is widely believed that only the top officials in Kim Jong Il's regime have real negotiating authority. By meeting with Kong, Bosworth could leapfrog Ri and his boss ,Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye Gwan.

The third condition put forth by the U.S. side is the main sticking point. The United States wanted North Korea to abide by its previous commitments, namely the Sept. 19, 2005 declaration in which the North Koreans committed "to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards.

Here the North Koreans demurred, according to the official, saying they wanted to resume talks based on the idea of "denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," a nuanced but important distinction.

One Korea hand who closely follows the issue explains the difference:

"Denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is a formulation that has been used in previous U.S.-DPRK joint documents including the October 2000 communiqué. It broadens the scope of what we are talking about to include more than just North Korea. That may sound silly since we all know there are no nuclear weapons anymore in South Korea, but the North sees this as a political issue of balance."

So if "denuclearization" is something the U.S. side has agreed to in the past, the obvious question is, why not just agree to use that as the basis for negotiations now? One administration official who is not directly involved in the discussion said the U.S. side could be trying to set limits on what the initial resumption of talks should encompass.

"Of course, we want to reframe to address [denuclearization] at some point, though I thought we really just wanted reaffirmation of the Sept. 5 declaration, rather than fighting the bigger fight right now," the official said.

The outside-the-government Korea hand offered a more pessimistic interpretation:

"If the administration is sticking, it may be because it doesn't see any immediate political benefit to beginning talks since there is bound to be domestic criticism and there is no guarantee of achieving quick results. There is good reason to be skeptical about any North Korean offers. But at some point the issue becomes, how high do you set the bar at this very initial stage of contacts?"

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C.  Pakistan

India Worried About Pakistan Nuclear Control
The Times of India
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With the Taliban unleashing a series of attacks on Pakistan's defence installations, including a military base linked to its strategic programme, there is growing worry about Islamabad's ability to safeguard its nuclear arsenal.

"The internal security situation in Pakistan seems to be deteriorating every day. We really don't know for how long and how far its establishment would be able to adequately safeguard its strategic assets," minister of state for defence M M Pallam Raju said on Wednesday.

Asked about the possibility of Pakistani nuclear weapons or even enriched uranium falling into Taliban's hands, the minister said, "I hope they (Pakistan) are taking adequate measures and we hope that such an incident will not happen," he added.

The ongoing turmoil in Pakistan, coupled with its huge stockpile of enriched uranium and the long-standing `sympathetic' links forged by some elements of the country's security establishment with jihadi outfits, could well spell danger for the world at large.

Jihadi outfits armed with `dirty bombs' -- basically radiological dispersal devices combining radioactive material with suitable explosives -- are after all what `nightmare scenarios' are often made up of.

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D.  Nonproliferation

Russian, U.S. Officials Discuss New Arms Control Deal
RIA Novosti
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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle have discussed a new arms control agreement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

It said they had discussed "the progress of strategic arms control negotiations," regional issues, and "aspects of bilateral relations."

The ministry's press and information department said the discussion took place on Tuesday.

The Kremlin said last Saturday that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama discussed the progress towards a replacement for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) and the presidents expressed hope a new pact would be ready by early December.

START I, the basis for Russian-U.S. strategic nuclear disarmament, expires on December 5.
The latest round of talks took place in Geneva last week. The presidents will meet on the sidelines of this year's gathering of APEC leaders, hosted by Singapore on November 14-15.

The outline of the new pact was agreed during the presidents' bilateral summit in Moscow in July and includes cutting their countries' nuclear arsenals to 1,500-1,675 operational warheads and delivery vehicles to 500-1,000.

START I commits the parties to reduce their nuclear warheads to 6,000 and their delivery vehicles to 1,600 each. In 2002, a follow-up strategic arms reduction agreement was concluded in Moscow. The document, known as the Moscow Treaty, envisioned cuts to 1,700-2,200 warheads by December 2012.

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E.  Nuclear Cooperation

India, EU to Sign Deal on Civil Nuclear Energy This Week
The Economic Times
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The European Union and India are likely to sign an agreement on civilian nuclear energy, dealing with India’s participation in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, during the India-EU summit that takes place this week.

“An agreement on civil nuclear energy, focusing on India’s participation in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project, is expected to be signed,” Daniele Smadja, ambassador, head of the European Commission’s delegation to India, told reporters.

She further said the agreement will facilitate India’s participation in the project. One of the costliest and largest scientific project, ITER is an international fusion research project which has seven participants, including the European Union, Japan, China, the Republic of Korea, Russia, India and the US.

India was inducted into the ITER project as the seventh member in 2006. In fact, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had recently referred to ITER project, saying it was a good example of a collaborative clean technology effort. New Delhi is keen to contribute to the ITER project and have a constructive involvement.

But the project, which is coming up at Cadarache in France, has been running behind the schedule. The EU countries, which have to provide 45% of the cost, are still debating how they will pay for their share of the costs. The first leg of the construction is now expected to start in 2010.

And the reactor is expected to be operational by 2016. The agreement between India and the EU is expected to facilitate India’s participation in the project, which is aimed at showing nuclear fusion as a cheap energy source..

At the EU-India summit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday will hold delegation-level talks with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

Apart from energy, the two sides are expected to discuss issues like the India-EU FTA, expanding cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism, global economic financial situation and climate change.

On trade, MEA spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said: “Both sides will discuss issues related to trade and investment.” Bilateral trade has grown by 20% a year, with trade standing at e61 billion in 2008.

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F.  Nuclear Energy

Japan Nuke Plant Starts Using Controversial Fuel
Khaleej Times
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A Japanese nuclear power plant on Thursday started using recycled mixed-oxide or MOX fuel from a controversial shipment from France that arrived in the country amid protests in May.

A reactor at the Genkai nuclear plant in western Saga prefecture was activated after being loaded with MOX, a blend of plutonium and reprocessed uranium, said a spokesman of the plant’s operator.

The 1.18-million-kilowatt reactor is expected to reach the state of nuclear chain reaction overnight and generate power from Monday, said the operator, Kyushu Electric Power Co, one of three that ordered the MOX.

The recycled fuel, produced by French nuclear giant Areva, arrived in Japan by ship in May amid international protests led by environmental group Greenpeace, which has called for an immediate ban on MOX shipments.

The MOX ship took a secret route and travelled under armed guard.

The protesters argue that shipping MOX around the world represents an unacceptable risk because of the danger of an accident or a terrorist attack.

Greenpeace also warns that the widening use of MOX increases the dangers of nuclear proliferation, arguing that the plutonium in it is easier to extract for weapons use than the plutonium in conventional spent nuclear fuel.

Japan has few energy resources of its own and relies on nuclear power from 53 plants for nearly one third of its domestic electricity needs.

Opponents of the nuclear plants warn of the risk of an accident in Japan, which suffers some 20 percent of the world’s most powerful earthquakes.

Local residents and activists have also opposed the shipment and use of MOX, warning it is more dangerous than conventional nuclear fuel.

Japan previously obtained MOX, most recently eight years ago, but none was used amid a data cover-up scandal and a series of accidents at nuclear plants.

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Kansai Electric May Extend Lifespan of Atomic Reactor
Megumi Yamanaka
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Kansai Electric Power Co., Japan’s second-largest utility, is seeking to extend the lifespan of a 39 year-old nuclear reactor instead of replacing the unit.

The Osaka-based company filed a request today to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency for an extension beyond next November for the 340-megawatt No. 1 Mihama reactor, it said in a statement released in Tokyo. The unit, built in November 1970, is the second-oldest of Japan’s 54 atomic plants.

Japanese utilities are considering measures including uprating reactors to improve output and running older units longer as the country seeks to rely more on nuclear energy and less on fossil fuels. Tokyo Electric Power Co., Asia’s biggest utility, is seeking to extend the life of a 38 year-old reactor to 60 years, Managing Director Sakae Muto said last month.

Japan aims to get 40 percent of its power from nuclear energy by 2030, the trade ministry said, up from 25 percent in 2008, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Nuclear operators need permission every 10 years from the nuclear safety agency to operate reactors that are more than 30 years old. Kansai Electric hasn’t said how long it would run the reactor if it gets permission for an extension.

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Areva Shares Fall Over Nuclear Safety Concerns
Nina Sovich
(for personal use only)

A new generation of French nuclear power reactors came under attack on Tuesday as opposition parties called for an inquiry into their security systems, after three nuclear safety bodies asked for changes to their design.

In a rare joint statement, nuclear safety bodies in France, Britain and Finland on Monday ordered France's Areva (CEPFi.PA) and EDF (EDF.PA) to modify the safety features on its European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) due to insufficient independence between the day-to-day systems and the emergency systems.

Opponents to nuclear power latched on to the news, with France's opposition socialist party calling for a parliamentary inquiry.

CAP21, a political party founded by Corrine Lepage, a former environment minister, also said more investment should be made in renewable energy rather than nuclear.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has championed nuclear power, both at home and abroad, where he hopes French companies will benefit from a global drive to find ways of generating electricity that produce less CO2 emissions and are independent of oil price fluctuations.

The design problems come as a blow to Areva, which has staked its export growth on the EPR and is hoping that it will beat out American rival Westinghouse, owned by Japan's Toshiba (6502.T), to become the standard-bearer for a new generation of nuclear plants.

Pierre Boucheny head of French research at financial service company Kepler capital markets told Reuters Areva's financial visibility was obscured by unexpected hitches and delays in the construction of the firm's first EPR in Finland.

"This problem (over safety) might cause a delay of a few months, maybe more, but it's hard to say what it will cost," he said.

Non-voting shares in Areva closed 3.9 percent lower at 8.75 euros.

Areva said on Monday it was in talks to modify the design of the EPR plants before the end of the year and insisted the safety of the EPR plants was not in question.

EDF, which operates all of France's 19 nuclear power plants, said on Tuesday it had been asked to conduct a closer study of secondary systems at its Flamanville EPR reactor and would respond by year-end.

Areva has started building two EPRs in China's Guangdong province and in January Sarkozy gave approval for the construction of a second EPR plant in France.

Areva has also joined forces with Total (TOTF.PA) and GDF Suez (GSZ.PA) in a consortium to bid build at least four nuclear power reactors in the United Arab Emirates

Britain also is mulling whether to relaunch its nuclear energy programme with modern plants and the Italian government has signalled that it intends to build four new nuclear plants.

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G.  Links of Interest

German Nuclear Policy Skirts a Taboo
Vera Eckert
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IAEA: Future of Fusion Energy
Christopher Smith
Nuclear Street
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Nuclear Waste: Coming To a Town Near You?
Steve Hargreaves
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DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of Partnership for Global Security. Partnership for Global Security takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.

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