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Nuclear News - 12/1/2009
PGS Nuclear News, December 1, 2009
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski

A.  Iran
    1. China Says Talks Best to Tackle Iran Nuclear Issue, Reuters (12/1/2009)
    2. U.S.: Time Running Out for Iran, CNN (12/1/2009)
    3. Iran Nuke Plans Largely Bluster, Experts Say, Ali Akbar Dareini and Jason Keyser, Associated Press (12/1/2009)
    4. Mottaki Blasts IAEA Board for Anti-Iran Resolution, Tehran Times  (12/1/2009)
    5. New Sanctions Threat Over Iran's Nuclear Plans, Richard Spencer, The Age (12/1/2009)
    6. Nations Warn Iran on Nuclear Sites Plan, BBC News (11/30/2009)
    7. Iran Sends Mixed Signals on Quitting Nuclear Curb Pact, Parisa Hafezi, Reuters (11/30/2009)
    8. US Ambassador Warns Nuclear Plans Will Further Isolate Iran, Margaret Besheer, Global Security (11/30/2009)
    9. Iran Hints at Diplomatic Solution to Nuclear Crisis, Aresu Eqbali and Farhad Pouladi, AFP (11/30/2009)
    1. China Says Wants US Talks with North Korea to Succeed, Associated Press (12/1/2009)
    2. North Korea Not Yet Indicated It Will Return to 6-way Talks: State Department, Hwang Doo-hyong, Yonhap News Agency (11/30/2009)
    3. U.S. Wants to Close Dialogue with North Korea in Single Phase: Official, Tony Chang, Yonhap News Agency (11/30/2009)
C.  Pakistan
    1. Pakistani President Turns Over Nuclear Authority, Asif Shahzad, Associated Press (11/28/2009)
D.  Syria
    1. Report: IAEA Experts Visited Syria Nuclear Site, Roee Nahmias, Ynet News (11/30/2009)
E.  India
    1. India Tightens Security at Nuclear Facilities, Bappa Majumdar, AlertNet (12/1/2009)
    2. Indo-US Pact on Reprocessing Spent Fuel Almost Ready, The Economic Times (11/30/2009)
    3. 1998 Nuke Test Was 100 Per Cent Success: Kakodkar, The Press Trust of India (11/28/2009)
F.  Nonproliferation
    1. Medvedev, Obama Discuss New Arms Reduction Pact, RIA Novosti (11/30/2009)
G.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Japan Diplomat Takes IAEA Helm Amid Iran, North Korea Defiance, Shigeru Sato and Yuji Okada, Bloomberg (12/1/2009)
    2. Canada, India Reach Nuclear Cooperation Pact, Reuters (11/29/2009)
H.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Russia to Start Iran Nuclear Plant in 2010 - Sources, The Star (11/30/2009)
    2. Research Funding Cuts Could Jeopardise UK Nuclear Power Programme, Ian Sample, The Guardian (11/30/2009)
I.  Nuclear Industry
    1. French Nuclear Giant Sells Unit, AFP (12/1/2009)
J.  Links of Interest
    1. Outlook for New U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Chief Amano, Sylvia Westall, Reuters (12/1/2009)

A.  Iran

China Says Talks Best to Tackle Iran Nuclear Issue
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China on Tuesday urged accelerated diplomacy to solve the Iran nuclear issue, saying sanctions are "not the goal," despite Western outrage at Tehran's newly unveiled plans to expand uranium enrichment.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said all parties involved in the dispute should step up negotiations and dialogue.

Iran announced plans on Sunday to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants in a big expansion of its atomic program, two days after the U.N. nuclear watchdog rebuked it for carrying out such work in secret.

China supported the resolution of the International Atomic Energy Agency's board in a rare public show of exasperation at Iran.

But Qin's comments suggest the world's number two oil consumer still has a limited appetite for confrontation with one of its biggest suppliers of crude. Iranian oil made up nearly 12 percent of China's crude imports last year.

"(China) advocates resolution of the Iran nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations," Qin told a regular news conference in the Chinese capital.

"We believe that all sides must continue enhancing diplomatic efforts. Sanctions are not the goal."

Beijing faces a tricky balance over Iran with Western countries urging it to back stiffer pressure, and possibly fresh U.N. sanctions, aimed at curtailing Tehran's nuclear program, which critics say is aimed at amassing the technology to make nuclear weapons.

Iran says its intentions are purely peaceful.

China is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, so it holds veto power over any potential resolution to censure Iran or ratchet up sanctions.

But China is generally averse to economic embargoes.

Last week, Iranian media reported that China's Sinopec had signed a tentative deal to provide $6.5 billion in financing for oil refinery projects in Iran.

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Iran Nuke Plans Largely Bluster, Experts Say
Ali Akbar Dareini and Jason Keyser
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Iran's announcement of plans to build 10 more uranium enrichment facilities is largely bluster after a strong rebuke from the U.N.'s nuclear agency, analysts said Monday. Nonetheless, the defiance is fueling calls among Western allies for new punitive sanctions to freeze Iran's nuclear program.

U.S. and European officials were swift to condemn the plans, warning that Iran risked sinking ever deeper into isolation. Iran responded that it felt forced to move forward with the plans after the International Atomic Energy Agency passed a resolution Friday demanding that it halt all enrichment activities.

Iran's bold announcement Sunday appears to be largely impossible to achieve as long as sanctions continue to throw up roadblocks and force Iran to turn to black markets and smuggling for nuclear equipment, said nuclear expert David Albright.

"They can't build those plants. There's no way," he said. "They have sanctions to overcome, they have technical problems. They have to buy things overseas ... and increasingly it's all illegal."

A more worrisome escalation in the standoff would be if Iran reduced its cooperation with the IAEA, as some Iranian officials have threatened to do if the West continues its pressure. The U.N. inspectors and monitoring are the world's only eyes on Tehran's program. The head of Iran's nuclear agency on Monday ruled out an even more drastic move, saying Tehran does not intend to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Enrichment is at the center of the standoff between Iran and the West because it can be used both to produce material needed for atomic weapons as well as fuel for nuclear power plants. Iran insists it only wants the latter.

New enrichment plants, on the scale of the one Iran already operates in the town of Natanz, would be extremely expensive, take years to build and would be difficult to stock with centrifuges and other necessary equipment while sanctions are in place, Albright said.

Further dimming the credibility of the plan, 10 new facilities on the scale of Natanz would put Iran in league with the production levels of any of Europe's major commercial enrichment suppliers, said Albright, president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.

"And also they don't have enough uranium. They would need a massive amount of uranium," he said.

A diplomat from one of the six world powers attempting to engage Iran on its nuclear program described the Iranian announcement as a "political move" with little immediate significance beyond demonstrating Tehran's defiance.

The diplomat, who follows the nuclear dossier the IAEA has gathered on Iran, noted that Tehran appears to have significant problems with its present enrichment program, to the point that it cannot even keep the centrifuges it has set up at Natanz running without breakdowns.

The diplomat demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the issue.

Still, the announcement is of major concern because it could signal an intention to put up numerous decoy sites to deceive the outside world, while building perhaps a few secret military enrichment sites on a small scale that could be put to use in weapons production if Tehran decides to do go down that path, Albright said.

Such concerns were heightened with the recent discovery that Iran had a second, previously unknown enrichment facility burrowed partway into a mountain near the holy city of Qom.

"I tend to think that this Qom site was probably meant to be a clandestine facility for breakout that they wanted built for nuclear weapons," said Albright. "And now that it's been exposed they may want to replace it."

Iran's announcement triggered calls for new penalties that Albright said could evolve into a "mini-cold war strategy" to further isolate and contain Iran while holding out a hand for negotiations.

The United States' ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, said Iran's plans would be "completely inappropriate" and would further isolate it from the world.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called Iran's decision "a bit childish."

"Iran is playing an extremely dangerous game," Kouchner said on France's RTL radio Monday. "There's no coherence in all this, other than a gut reaction."

The French defense minister, Herve Morin, said the international community should "probably commit toward new economic sanctions against Iran."

Iran and the top powers at the U.N. are deadlocked over a U.N.-drafted proposal for Iran to send much of its enriched uranium abroad, which the West seeks because it would at least temporary leave Tehran unable to develop a nuclear bomb. So far Iran has balked at the offer. The unusually strong IAEA censure of Iran over enrichment was a sign of the West's growing impatience with its defiance.

Iranian Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads the nuclear program, told state radio that the decision to build the new uranium enrichment facilities was necessary to respond to the resolution.

"We had no intention of building many facilities like the Natanz site, but apparently the West doesn't want to understand Iran's peaceful message," Salehi said.

Salehi said Iran would not go so far as to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, under which Iran is subject to oversight by the U.N. nuclear agency.

"If we wanted to obtain nuclear weapons, we would have pulled out of NPT ... Iran doesn't want to withdraw from the treaty," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying Monday.

Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani insisted "a diplomatic opportunity" was still possible "under which Iran will continue its (nuclear) work under international surveillance."

But a day earlier, Larijani warned that Iran could reduce its cooperation with the IAEA if the West continues its pressure and doesn't compromise.

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Mottaki Blasts IAEA Board for Anti-Iran Resolution
Tehran Times
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Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki criticized on Monday the IAEA Board of Governors for issuing an unfair resolution against Iran.

Under a pressure by the West, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors adopted resolution against Iran on Friday. The resolution criticized Iran for beginning construction of a new uranium enrichment facility at Fordo, which is near Qom, and demanded that it immediately halt its construction.

Twenty-five members of the 35-nation board, including Russia and China, voted in favor of the resolution.

In a press conference with visiting Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko on Monday, Mottaki said, “…if there is a right for having the peaceful nuclear energy, what is the reason behind these oppositions?”

Asked about the motive behind certain countries’ unfair votes against Iran, he said, “Those who voted must explain because we thought a lot but (we) did not find any reason for this resolution.”

On a claim by the Western countries that Iran has not responded to the Vienna talks in which Mohamed ElBaradei proposed a plan for nuclear fuel exchange, he said, “This is wrong. We responded at the proper time and the measures taken by the IAEA Board of Governors have weakened the international body and we are worried for the IAEA Board of Governors and the United Nations Security Council.”

Shmatko whose country voted in the favor of the resolution refused to be drawn into the matter.

“I do not want to talk about this issue (resolution) here as what were discussed today was economic and trade (relations) and this issue is different from decisions made by the international organizations,” the Russian minister noted.

“In my view, (we) should be optimistic about future and I completely know that Iranian negotiators are experienced and it is not necessary to politicize this issue.”

He also said there is good potential for continuing nuclear talks.

“I hope both sides will, in a respectful manner, arrive at a peaceful solution,” said the energy minister whose country voted in favor of the resolution.

Russia favors constructive agreements between Tehran and the 5+1 group and it completely disagrees with further complication in the issue, he added

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New Sanctions Threat Over Iran's Nuclear Plans
Richard Spencer
The Age
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Western governments have begun preparations for new Iran sanctions in response to its plans to build 10 nuclear fuel plants.

Britain said it could begin drawing up proposals within weeks as anger at Tehran's announcement grew. A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown said time was running out for Iran to engage in talks.

''The priority always is to get the talks to work,'' he said.

''We would then review at the right moment, and maybe it's towards the end of this year, whether we pursue the second route of a dual-track policy, which is, obviously, you think about things like sanctions.''

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also said new measures were possible. ''If Iran rejects the hand that has reached out, it must expect heavier sanctions,'' he said.

His French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, described Iran's plans as ''ridiculous'' and ''childish'', while French Defence Minister Herve Morin said the international community should ''probably commit towards new economic sanctions against Iran''.

Any move to impose sanctions would need to be backed by China and Russia, which are close trading partners with Iran. China did not respond to Iran's announcement, while Russia's Energy Minister said Moscow was against escalating the row.

Iranian politicians continued their defiance, with hardliners pushing for Iran to withdraw from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). Its signatories guarantee that they will not develop nuclear weapons and will submit civilian nuclear programs to international inspection. Ari Larijani, the parliament speaker, said the West had made the treaty ''useless'' by using it as a weapon against Iran.

''What is this NPT, which has become a one-sided tool?'' he said. ''We say that we want to carry out our activities under NPT and they must guarantee this - that NPT regulations be properly applied and that they do not do indulge in any political interference.''

However, all sides were careful to leave room for further negotiations.

Western leaders remained divided over whether new sanctions were feasible or would have any effect.

Mr Larijani said: ''I still think there is a diplomatic opportunity and it is beneficial to them to use this, so that Iran continues its work under the framework of the agency and international supervision.''

Western governments, and in particular US President Barack Obama, who has made engagement with Iran a cornerstone of his foreign policy, believe that recent Iranian statements may be bluster that disguises an intent to reach a deal once the country's internal politics have stabilised.

On Sunday, Iran said it intended to build 10 uranium enrichment plants, insisting that they were for civilian use.

Existing UN sanctions are designed to stop Iran from gaining technology that might help in enriching uranium or developing nuclear weapons.

New sanctions would be likely to target Iran's oil, especially its reliance on imported refined petroleum products.

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U.S.: Time Running Out for Iran
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The White House warned Iran Tuesday that it faces further sanctions if "they don't stop their enrichment activities, if they don't forsake their nuclear weapons program."

"Our allies are serious about addressing this head-on," President Barack Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs told CNN. "I think it would be wise for the Iranians to uphold their responsibilities" to the international community.

"This is up to them. Time is indeed running out," he said.

Iran denies it plans to build nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear program is for civilian electricity and medical research.

Obama's spokesman refused to rule out military action against the Islamic state, but said "I think first and foremost we will examine what type of sanctions will have an impact on Iran."

Gibbs was speaking on the heels of a declaration by Iran that not only will it move ahead with plans to build 10 new nuclear plants, it will take legal action over infringements on its nuclear rights.

"We will not do away with our rights," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at a news conference Tuesday, without clarifying what legal action meant.

He did say that Iran would write letters of protest to nations that backed a U.N. resolution of rebuke over Iran's nuclear program.

Mehmanparast accused such countries of politicizing nuclear fuel as a way to meddle in his country's domestic affairs.

"We will elaborate on why their decisions were incorrect, and how to correct and what the consequences might be," he said of the letters.

Locations have been chosen for five of the 10 new nuclear plants, according to Tabnak, a Web site owned by former Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rezaie.

"These five locations are situated in northern provinces and in the Darkhowain region in Khuzestan," Tabnak said Tuesday, quoting PANA News.

The board of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Friday passed a resolution demanding that Iran stop construction on a once-secret nuclear enrichment facility in the Iranian holy city of Qom.

Twenty-five countries, including Russia and China, backed the measure, which also demanded that Iran stop uranium enrichment, which can be used for producing fuel for a nuclear device.

In the resolution's wake, Iran's state news agency reported Sunday that the nation's Cabinet had authorized the construction of 10 new nuclear production facilities.

At Tuesday's news conference in the Iranian capital, Tehran, Mehmanparast said his country needs nuclear fuel from the plants to meet its long-term energy needs, to move toward self-sufficiency.

"The plans we have, we will push our plans ahead," the foreign minister said. "We will adhere to IAEA framework and under their supervision.

"We remain committed to the NPT," he added, referring to the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, which bars member states from pursuing nuclear weapons and requires international inspectors to have access to nuclear facilities. The treaty gives Iran the right to produce nuclear fuel, Iran says.

Tehran says the plants authorized Sunday would produce enough enriched uranium to yield about 20,000 megawatts of electricity a year. Iran currently has one nuclear power plant, which has yet to begin full operation.

By comparison, 65 nuclear power plants in the United States produced about 800,000 megawatts of power in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

In his final report to the IAEA's governing board, outgoing Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei said Thursday that the agency has been able to verify that no known stocks of nuclear fuel have been diverted from authorized uses. But he said inspectors "have effectively reached a dead end" without further Iranian cooperation.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Monday that, in the United States' view, "as Iran makes choices that seem to indicate that it is not at this stage ready and willing to take up the offers on the engagement track, then we will put greater emphasis on the pressure track."

The "pressure track" is often code language for the pursuit of further U.N. Security Council sanctions.

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Iran Hints at Diplomatic Solution to Nuclear Crisis
Aresu Eqbali and Farhad Pouladi
(for personal use only)

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said Monday Iran's nuclear issue can be resolved through talks, softening his tone a day after Tehran defiantly announced plans for 10 new uranium enrichment plants.

Larijani at the same time questioned the importance of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), raising concerns about how long Tehran would remain a member given its determination to pursue its nuclear programme in defiance of international censure.

"I still think there is a diplomatic opportunity and it is beneficial to them (world powers) to use this, so that Iran continues its work under the framework of the agency and international supervision," Larijani said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

He said this way it would be clear to world powers that Iran's nuclear programme is "peaceful" in nature.

Larijani, Iran's former chief nuclear negotiator, insisted that Tehran wanted its nuclear file to be within the IAEA framework.

"But this is one side of the issue. The other side is that if there are political tricks and cheating, then Iran will definitely change its approach. They must decide which way to go," he added.

Larijani's change in tone was noticeable as on Sunday he had been the first top Iranian official to strike out at the IAEA after it censured Tehran for building a second uranium enrichment plant near the Shiite holy city of Qom.

Iranian lawmakers later Sunday issued a formal declaration urging hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government to reduce ties with the IAEA and to continue with Tehran's nuclear programme "without a halt."

The Iranian cabinet then ordered the country's atomic body to build 10 new enrichment plants, state television reported.

Iran's atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi said an IAEA resolution on Friday censuring Iran for building a second nuclear site near the holy city of Qom had prompted the decision to build more sites, in addition to its existing one at Natanz.

"We had no intention of building so many sites ... but apparently the West does not want to understand Iran's message of peace and the way they behaved persuaded the government to pass a decree to build 10 sites like Natanz," Salehi told public radio.

Western powers led by Washington want Iran to come clean on its uranium enrichment programme which they suspect is aimed at building atomic weapons, a charge consistently denied by Tehran.

The West, which was infuriated by Iran's disclosure of its Qom plant, fears Iran could also divert its current stock of low-enriched uranium to make weapons and wants Tehran to agree to a IAEA-brokered deal which envisages sending the LEU abroad in one go.

Iran has rejected the proposal, saying it would send its LEU only if it gets enriched fuel for a Tehran reactor at the same time.

Enrichment of uranium is the most controversial aspect of Iran's nuclear programme as the material can be used as fuel for nuclear reactors as well as to make the fissile core of an atom bomb.

Iran maintains it has the right to enrich uranium as it is signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Larijani however questioned the relevance of the NPT.

"I think they have completely made NPT useless," he said during his Monday press conference.

"What is this NPT which has become a one-sided tool ... to create a political atmosphere? We say that we want to carry out our activities under NPT and they must guarantee this... that NPT regulations be properly applied and that they do not do indulge in any political interference."

Hossein Shariatmadari, representative of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in hardline newspaper Kayhan suggested Iran quit the NPT.

"It cannot be justified for Iran to be a member of the NPT. Very soon we will reach a solution which will be to quit the NPT," he said in his editorial on Monday.

Iran's announcement of its plans to expand its uranium enrichment programme drew sharp retorts from the United States and France.

"If true, this would be yet another serious violation of Iran's clear obligations under multiple UN security council resolutions, and another example of Iran choosing to isolate itself," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

France condemned Monday what it branded Iran's "ridiculous" and "childish" threat to build 10 more uranium processing plants.

"For Iran to continue to ignore the demands of a great independent agency like the International Atomic Energy Agency is very dangerous," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told the daily Le Figaro.

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Iran Sends Mixed Signals on Quitting Nuclear Curb Pact
Parisa Hafezi
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An influential Iranian leader suggested on Monday Iran should quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty in protest against a U.N. censure over its nuclear activity, but its atomic energy chief dismissed such a move.

Tehran caused an international outcry on Sunday when it announced plans to build 10 more uranium enrichment sites in retaliation for a rebuke by the U.N. nuclear agency for covering up an enrichment project for at least two years.

Russia said it was "seriously concerned" by Iran's gambit to massively expand enrichment, criticism that could raise Western hopes for Russian backing for harsher sanctions against Tehran.

Washington condemned the plans as a serious violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said there was little point in Iran staying in the treaty if it was liable to be reprimanded by the International Atomic Energy Agency for exercising its right to develop peaceful nuclear energy.

"I believe that their moves are harming the NPT the most ... Now, whether you are a member of the NPT, or pull out of it, makes no difference," Larijani told a news conference.

However, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's atomic energy agency and seen as a relative moderate, told Reuters later Tehran had no wish to leave the NPT.

"Our spiritual leader says that to obtain nuclear weapons is a sin -- if we wanted to obtain nuclear weapons we would leave the Non-Proliferation Treaty," he said through an interpreter.

"We are naturally enduring a lot of pressure but we will remain in the treaty."


Iranian officials have previously said Iran had no intention of leaving the NPT, under which its nuclear sites are subject to IAEA inspections, or to use enrichment to produce fuel for nuclear weapons, which it says violate the tenets of Islam.

Analysts believe Iran would think twice before quitting the NPT since this would betray weapons ambitions and could provoke a pre-emptive attack by Israel and possibly the United States.

It could take Iran many years to equip and operate 10 new enrichment plants.

Iran dismissed skepticism voiced by some Western analysts about its ability to execute the plan. "They will see in the future that what we have said is no bluff," First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi told Fars news agency.

If Iran expands enrichment as it says, suspicions that it plans to develop nuclear weapons will grow since it lacks the technology needed to convert low-enriched uranium (LEU) it is making into fuel for civilian nuclear power plants.

Such technology is not needed to refine LEU into the fissile material used for nuclear warheads.

Larijani said there was still room for diplomacy.

Referring to the six world powers pressing Iran for steps to prove it does not seek nuclear weapons, he said: "It would be useful for them also to use this diplomatic opportunity to let Iran work in the framework of the IAEA and international supervision to assure them that Iran's activities are peaceful.

"Of course they are free to choose another method and Iran will act accordingly."

The IAEA board angered Iran when it censured it for covertly building a second uranium enrichment plant near the holy city of Qom, in addition to its main IAEA-monitored one at Natanz, and calling for a halt to construction.


Salehi, quoted by state broadcaster IRIB, said the decision to go ahead with 10 new enrichment sites was spurred by the IAEA resolution, adding: "Iran's government sent a strong message."

Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Iran's plans were unacceptable and might lead to increased pressure on Tehran to comply with U.N. resolutions.

"We view the Iranian announcement, if it is in fact accurate and implemented, that they intend to build 10 additional facilities as completely inappropriate and further isolating Iran from the international community," she told reporters.

Russia, which has so far refused publicly to support U.S. suggestions that broader economic sanctions may be needed to restrain Iran, said it was "seriously concerned by the latest statements of the Iranian leadership."

France said Iran should be given a "last chance" in talks over its atomic program and it must heed IAEA warnings.

"The fact that Iran persists in ignoring the demands of a big independent agency like the IAEA, that's very dangerous," Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Iran's announcement "clearly goes in the wrong direction. Iran is urged to cooperate with the IAEA without ifs and buts ... It is clear that if Iran rejects the outstretched hand of the international community, it must expect further sanctions."

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Nations Warn Iran on Nuclear Sites Plan
BBC News
(for personal use only)

Western nations have warned Iran not to defy international demands by building 10 uranium enrichment sites.

America's envoy to the UN called Iran's announcement "unacceptable", while the French foreign minister said Iran was playing "an extremely dangerous game".

Germany warned Iran to expect further sanctions if it went ahead.

The Iranian government approved the move on Sunday, days after it was rebuked by the UN nuclear watchdog for covering up a uranium enrichment plant.

The head of Iran's nuclear programme, Ali Akbar Salehi, accused the West of provoking his country into launching the plan to build 10 new plants.

However, Iran's parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, said he believed that a diplomatic solution was still possible.

Western powers say Tehran is trying to develop nuclear arms while Iran says it needs nuclear energy for its economy.

'Seriously concerned'

Speaking at the UN, US envoy Susan Rice denounced Tehran's move.

"We view the Iranian announcement, if it is in fact accurate and implemented... as completely inappropriate and further isolating Iran from the international community," she said.

If Iran would not pursue a path of engagement, then the US would "put greater emphasis on the pressure track", she added.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle earlier made similar comments.

"It is clear that if Iran rejects the outstretched hand of the international community, it must expect further sanctions," he said.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called Iran "childish", while a source in Russia's foreign ministry was quoted as saying Moscow was "seriously concerned by the latest statements of the Iranian leadership".

Asked by the BBC if military action by Israel against Iran was now more likely, Israel's ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor, called for "all options to be on the table" without being more specific.

Six nations - the US, UK, France, Germany, China and Russia - have been involved in co-ordinating the UN Security Council's position on Iran.

Existing UN sanctions are meant to prevent the flow of any items or technology which might aid Iran in enriching uranium or developing nuclear weapon delivery systems.

The sanctions range from actual sales or supplies to dealings with named individuals.

'Peaceful message'

Iran's proposed new plants would be of a similar size to its main existing enrichment plant at Natanz.

Mr Salehi, who is also a vice-president, said: "We had no intention of building many facilities like the Natanz site but apparently the West doesn't want to understand Iran's peaceful message."

He accused foreign powers of pushing the UN's nuclear watchdog to rebuke Iran for covering up another uranium enrichment plant near the town of Qom.

"The action by 5+1 [the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany] at the IAEA prompted the [Iranian] government to approve a proposal to build 10 sites like that of Natanz," Mr Salehi said.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told his cabinet at the weekend that parliament had ordered that Iran should produce 20,000 megawatts of nuclear energy by 2020.

It therefore needed to make 250-300 tonnes of nuclear fuel a year, he said, which would require 500,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium.

Natanz has nearly 5,000 working centrifuges, with existing plans to build 54,000 in all.

Mr Larijani told reporters in Tehran that it was in foreign powers' interests to find a diplomatic solution.

"I still think there is a diplomatic opportunity and it is beneficial to them [world powers] to use this, so that Iran continues its work under the framework of the agency [the IAEA] and international supervision," he said.

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US Ambassador Warns Nuclear Plans Will Further Isolate Iran
Margaret Besheer
Global Security
(for personal use only)

A senior U.S. official says Iran's announcement it intends to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants in defiance of the international community's demands it halt such activities will further isolate that country and could put it on the path to more U.N. sanctions.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice says the Obama administration views the Iranian announcement as "unacceptable."

"Let me underscore that the board of governors of the IAEA demonstrated a great deal of unity as well as a great deal of resolve in passing the resolution that they did last week," said Rice. "We view the Iranian announcement, if it is in fact accurate and implemented, that they intend to build 10 additional facilities, as completely inappropriate and further isolating Iran from the international community. We view that, frankly, as unacceptable."

The IAEA is the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency. Last week its board of governors met in Vienna and passed a resolution demanding Iran stop work on a formerly secret enrichment plant in the city of Qom.

In response, Iran announced plans to build 10 new enrichment facilities, saying locations for five of the plants have already been approved.

Ambassador Rice, who also holds the rank of Cabinet member, told reporters the United States and its partners, which include the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, known as the P5, as well as Germany, have been pursuing a two-track approach to resolving the Iranian nuclear issue.

"While we have been and will remain in close consultation with our P5+1 partners on the way forward, we have said that this is a dual track effort - there has been an engagement track which we have been very actively engaged in, but there is also a pressure track," said Rice. "And as Iran makes choices that seem to indicate that it is not at this stage ready and willing to take up the offers on the engagement track, then we will put greater emphasis on the pressure track. Time is short. And we are serious about implementing to the fullest extent that dual track policy."

President Barack Obama has said he would review diplomatic efforts with Iran at the end of this year, before pursuing possible new sanctions through the Security Council. Iran is already in defiance of repeated Security Council demands that it stop enriching uranium.

Iran says its nuclear ambitions are strictly peaceful and intended to produce energy for civilian uses, but several Western nations believe Iran is trying to secretly develop nuclear weapons.

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China Says Wants US Talks with North Korea to Succeed
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

China voiced hope Tuesday that a rare direct meeting between North Korean and American officials next week would result in Pyongyang returning to talks on dismantling its nuclear program.

President Barack Obama's special envoy, Stephen Bosworth, is to travel to Pyongyang next Tuesday to discuss restarting the six-nation talks, in the first one-on-one talks between Pyongyang and Washington since Obama took office in January.

"We hope the dialogue between the DPRK and the United States can be held and can be successful," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference, referring to the country by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

North Korea pulled out of nuclear talks in April to protest international criticism of a long-range rocket launch. It then conducted its second-ever nuclear test in May and has pushed for direct talks with the U.S.

The U.S. has said it is willing to engage the North in direct talks but has stressed the discussions must lead to an end of Pyongyang's boycott of the disarmament talks that also involve China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said getting North Korea to return to the talks was the aim of Bosworth's trip.

"That is the main goal of Ambassador Bosworth's trip, to get them to return to the six-party talks," he said in Washington.

But reports from Seoul over the weekend said the meeting was unlikely to produce a major breakthrough. Yonhap news agency quoted a senior South Korean official it didn't identify as saying prospects of achieving a major outcome were "dim for now."

The North says it will rejoin the talks only after "hostile relations" between Pyongyang and Washington turn into "peaceful relations," the official said.

YTN television network carried a similar report, saying it was unlikely Bosworth would meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during his trip.

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North Korea Not Yet Indicated It Will Return to 6-way Talks: State Department
Hwang Doo-hyong
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

North Korea has given no indication that it will return to the six-party talks, the State Department said Monday, even as the U.S. point man on North Korea is set to visit Pyongyang to attempt to revive the nuclear negotiations.

Ambassador Stephen Bosworth will visit North Korea Dec. 8.

"I'm not aware of any kind of diplomatic exchange like that per se, but that is the main goal of Ambassador Bosworth's trip, to get them to return to the six-party talks," spokesman Ian Kelly said, when asked if Pyongyang has indicated that it will come back to the multilateral forum. "I am not aware that they have indicated that."

Kelly's remarks come amid conflicting reports on North Korea's intentions, with some saying Pyongyang will come back after at least a couple of bilateral talks with the U.S.

Others say North Korea is interested more in establishing a peace regime to replace the fragile armistice signed at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War and in resolving its nuclear issue through bilateral discussion with the U.S.

In Seoul only weeks ago, U.S. President Barack Obama announced the trip to Pyongyang by Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, to attempt to lure the reluctant North back to the table. North Korea has boycotted the talks in response to international sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests.

State Department officials have said Bosworth will stay in Pyongyang for two days, leading a delegation of four or five inter-agency officials, including Sung Kim, U.S. special envoy for the six-party talks.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week offered North Korea "significant benefits" in return for "the verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

Clinton said the U.S. "would explore some of the issues which they have raised continually with us over the years; namely, normalization of relations, a peace treaty instead of an armistice, economic development assistance."

She added, "All of that would be open for discussion. But the North Koreans have to commit to denuclearization. And we also think it's important to do so within the context of the six-party talks."

Clinton was discussing benefits pledged under a six-party deal signed in 2005 by the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

In anger over U.N. sanctions, North Korea vowed to permanently boycott the six-party talks, which it called a tool of suppression, and demanded that the nuclear issue be resolved through bilateral talks with the U.S.

More recently, however, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il expressed his willingness to return to the six-party talks pending the outcome of bilateral discussions with the U.S.

The reclusive North Korean leader made the overtures in early October when he met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Pyongyang on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral ties.

The premier of China, the host of the nuclear talks, at the time offered hefty economic aid, including construction of a bridge over the Aprok River linking the two communist allies.

In Beijing on his recent Asia trip, Obama "expressed appreciation for Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Pyongyang, in which he came back with a statement from Kim Jong-il saying that North Korea was prepared to move towards six-party talks under certain conditions."

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U.S. Wants to Close Dialogue with North Korea in Single Phase: Official
Tony Chang
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

The U.S., which is set to hold direct bilateral talks with North Korea next week to lure the country back to denuclearization talks, wants the contact to be a one-off event but the North is expected to attempt to drag out the two-way dialogue, a senior Seoul official said Monday.

U.S. special envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, is scheduled to fly to Pyongyang on Dec. 8 on a mission to persuade Pyongyang to return to the six-party nuclear disarmament forum it quit earlier this year. It will be the North's first one-on-one dialogue with the U.S. Barack Obama administration, which took office in January.

"North Korea will likely try to drag out the bilateral meeting with the U.S., while the U.S. is trying to finish the contact as a one-off event," a senior diplomatic official told reporters, requesting anonymity.

The official said that Bosworth intends to enter North Korea with the mission of bringing the communist state back to the six-party talks.

When asked on whether the two countries could later raise the level of bilateral talks to the Cabinet-level, the official said that such prospects were "still premature."

"If Bosworth goes to North Korea and produces some results on achieving irreversible denuclearization, Secretary Hillary Clinton could possibly go to Pyongyang, but looking at the North's position so far, that seems unlikely."

Pyongyang also seems to want recognition as a nuclear state, similar to India and Pakistan, according to the official, who added that such a demand would most likely not be met.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il told visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in October that his country would rejoin the multilateral nuclear forum, depending on the outcome of its bilateral talks with the U.S. His remarks were widely seen as a hint that the North may opt to rejoin the stalled six-party forum. The other parties involved are South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

As a precondition of its return to the nuclear negotiations, North Korea still insists on the establishment of a peace regime with the U.S., the official said. Pyongyang's media routinely calls for the U.S. to replace the Korean War armistice agreement with a peace treaty to be signed between it and the U.S.

The foreign ministry official said that Bosworth will fly to North Korea by way of Seoul and stop over in Seoul on his way to Washington after the planned trip to the North.

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C.  Pakistan

Pakistani President Turns Over Nuclear Authority
Asif Shahzad
Associated Press
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Pakistan's embattled president has relinquished command of the country's nuclear arsenal amid political wrangling that has posed a major distraction to the U.S.-allied government as it fights Taliban and other militants near the Afghan border.

The move came as President Asif Ali Zardari faced the expiration on Saturday of an amnesty protecting him and thousands of other bureaucrats and politicians from a host of corruption and criminal charges.

Zardari enjoys general immunity from prosecution as president, but the Supreme Court could choose to challenge his eligibility for the post since the amnesty decree by ex-military leader Pervez Musharraf was never formally approved by parliament.

Zardari has come under tremendous pressure over past corruption allegations, which he denies, as well as military objections to his overtures toward archrival India and acceptance of a multibillion dollar U.S. aid bill that came with conditions some fear impose unwanted controls over the military.

Zardari's office said the president would be prepared to fight any charges against him.

"These cases were all made by two hostile governments and they were politically motivated cases not just against the president but many other political leaders," spokeswoman Farahnaz Ispahani said.

Zardari transferred control of the National Command Authority, which oversees the nuclear arsenal, to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani late Friday, according to his office. He also reissued 27 other Musharraf-era ordinances ahead of a midnight Saturday deadline.

The decision was the result of a Supreme Court ruling aimed at reversing the 2007 imposition of emergency rule by Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 military coup and quit last year. Zardari's office said the transition posed no threat to the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

"Transferring the chairmanship of the National Command Authority to the prime minister is giant step forward to empowering the elected parliament and the prime minister," presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said in a statement.

Analysts said the move signaled Zardari's willingness to shed powers as part of a compromise that would enable him to keep his job.

"It appears to be a self-defense and survival strategy," said Rasool Bakhsh Rais, a political science professor at Lahore University of Management Science.

In an interview with Express News TV, Zardari said Friday he was also likely to give away his powers to dissolve parliament and appoint services chiefs by the end of this year.

Speculation over Zardari's future has escalated after he was forced to abandon an effort to get parliament to approve the Musharraf decree that granted more than 8,000 government bureaucrats and politicians, including the president and many others from his Pakistan People's Party, immunity from a host of corruption and criminal charges.

The amnesty list was part of a U.S.-backed deal to allow Zardari's late wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, to return from exile in 2007 and run for office safe in the knowledge she would not be dogged by corruption allegations. The U.S. and other Western powers supported the bid by Bhutto, who was seen as a secular and pro-Western politician.

But Bhutto, who was forced from her post twice in the 1990s because of alleged corruption, was killed by a suicide bomber shortly after she returned to Pakistan. Zardari took over as co-chairman of her party and was elected president in September 2008 by federal and regional lawmakers.

Last weekend, the government released the list of some of those who had been protected by the decree, including the interior and defense ministers. Those listed have protested their innocence against what they deem politically motivated charges filed by a military-led investigative body from 1986 to 1999. Many have expressed a willingness to fight in court.

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D.  Syria

Report: IAEA Experts Visited Syria Nuclear Site
Roee Nahmias
Ynet News
(for personal use only)

A delegation of International Atomic Energy Agency experts traveled to Syria and visited the al-Kibar nuclear site that was bombed by Israel in 2007, Qatari newspaper al-Watan reported on Monday.

According to the report, the delegation's members took soil samples from the site to try and locate the origin on the uranium found there. Damascus told the experts that the traces of uranium found at the site were remnants from the Israeli strike in the area.

In mid-November, the IAEA inspectors visited a nuclear site in Damascus to examine uranium reside found in the state, and the explanation provided for the residue was unsatisfactory.

A UN spokesperson said that the inspectors visited the facility following suspicious findings uncovered during the composition of a secret report.

Some analysts have said the findings raise the question of whether Syria used some natural uranium intended for the alleged reactor at Dir a-Zur for tests applicable to learning how to separate out bomb-grade plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. Syria in the past has denied such allegations.

Last February, it was reported that UN inspectors discovered traces of uranium and graphite in samples taken from the site Washington says was a secret graphite nuclear reactor.

Furthermore the IAEA said that the uranium found at the site is unlikely to have come from Israeli missiles that bombed it.

The IAEA wrote in a report that its "current assessment is that there is a low probability that the uranium was introduced by the use of missiles."

It was the first disclosure that graphite particles had turned up and a senior UN official said the discovery of additional uranium traces was a "significant" find, while stressing an IAEA investigation of Syria remained inconclusive.

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E.  India

India Tightens Security at Nuclear Facilities
Bappa Majumdar
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India has tightened security at its nuclear facilities, assigning a rapid response military team to complement civil protection measures after intelligence warnings the sites were a prime target for militants.

There are 22 nuclear reactors across the country, some of them close to crowded cities such as Mumbai, and guarding them is seen as a security challenge for a country of 1.1 billion people. Army officials told Reuters that this was the first time the country was strengthening coordination between its civilian forces and military to secure nuclear facilities.

"The security arrangement in place at all vital installations is unprecedented to tackle all kinds of threats,"an army officer said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Federal forces guarding vital installations traditionally also provide security to nuclear facilities, but junior Home Minister Mullappally Ramachandran said the military was also being brought in and air defence cover provided.

"In view of the prevailing security scenario, the nuclear installations continue to remain prime target of the terrorist outfits," Ramachandran told parliament on Tuesday.

The security move comes within weeks of intelligence warnings that militants looking for targets may have carried out reconnaissance of some of the nuclear facilities.

Security around nuclear installations also came into renewed focus after officials this week confirmed the leak of a radioactive substance into drinking water at an atomic power plant. Media reports said the contamination was deliberate.

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Indo-US Pact on Reprocessing Spent Fuel Almost Ready
The Economic Times
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India and the US are likely to finalize an agreement on reprocessing of spent fuel within a week or so with negotiators narrowing differences down to one remaining issue.

National Security Advisor M K Narayanan revealed that both sides have reached the final stage of negotiating the reprocessing agreement, which is one of three steps that needed to be concluded to enable American companies to enter the civilian nuclear sector in India. He further said that all issues have been resolved except for one. ``We have arrived at the final stage. There is only one item that is left, but its a matter of legalese now,’’ Mr Narayanan said. ``It will take a week or a little more to wrap it up,’’ he added.

Ahead of Mr Singh’s visit to the US, three issues were holding up the finalisation of the agreement. Now only one issue remains with the other two being resolved during the fourth round of negotiations that was held on the eve of Mr Singh’s visit to the US.

The remaining issue relates to the suspension of the supply of reprocessing technologies in case India conducts a nuclear test. The Indian side has said that it will not go any further than what is outlined in the 123 Agreement. The two sides are negotiating the language of the text on this issue.

But the two sides have resolved differences on issues related to setting up multiple dedicated national facilities for reprocessing spent fuel and the security of reprocessing facilities. Mr Narayanan said that progress had been achieved due to intervention at the highest level.

Negotiations on the reprocessing deal started in July this year.

The Indian side has sought to deny any delays saying that negotiations were taking place on schedule.

The nuclear agreement was discussed between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US president Barack Obama during their recent meeting in Washington. After the meeting, Mr Singh said that there were `minor problems’ related to the reprocessing agreement .``I think there are no insurmountable problems. I am confident that in the next couple of weeks we can sort out issues,” the prime minister had said.

The US State Department had also subsequently said it was confident that the agreement would be completed well before the August 2010 agreement.

Under the 123 Agreement, the US had agreed that India will set up a national facility dedicated to reprocessing safeguarded nuclear material under the International Atomic Energy Agency. But both sides had to agree on `arrangements and procedures’ under which reprocessing would take place in this new facility.

Apart from the reprocessing agreement, there are two more steps that need to be completed. The United States wants India to give an assurance on non-proliferation in the form of a letter. This is required by the US Department Of Energy to issue a licence to US companies.

Without the licence, American companies cannot do business in India. On this issue, India has maintained that it has given enough assurances on non proliferation in the 123 Agreement.

The third relates to the civil liability legislation, which will limit compensation by US companies in the event of a nuclear accident. Ahead of Mr Singh’s visit, the Cabinet had approved the legislation for introduction in Parliament.

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1998 Nuke Test Was 100 Per Cent Success: Kakodkar
The Press Trust of India
(for personal use only)

Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar has said India's 1998 nuclear test was a 'hundred per cent success'.

"I assure (you) that the nuclear test conducted in 1998 was hundred per cent success. The yield of the test was verified using various alternative methods and it was perfect," he told reporters after inaugurating the Zirconium complex at Pazhayakal near here yesterday.

Kakodakar's remarks came in response to a question about the controversy surrounding the 1998 Pokhran nuclear test after some top nuclear scientists raised doubts about the success of the explosion.

He also expressed satisfaction over the progress made in the Indo-US nuclear agreement.

The country's second Zirconium plant here, the first being at Hyderabad, has a capacity to produce 500 tonnes of Zirconium Oxide and 250 tonnes of Zirconium Sponge per annum, which are used for manufacturing Zirconium alloy components required for nuclear power reactors.

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F.  Nonproliferation

Medvedev, Obama Discuss New Arms Reduction Pact
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

The Russian and U.S. presidents discussed a new bilateral arms reduction treaty in a phone conversation on Monday, the Kremlin said.

Moscow and Washington are negotiating a replacement for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), the basis for Russian-U.S. strategic nuclear disarmament, which expires on December 5.

Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama "touched on issues of future cooperation between Russia and the United States in stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan, and also discussed progress in preparing a new treaty on strategic arms reduction," the Kremlin said.

An outline of the new pact was agreed during a summit held by Obama and Medvedev 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.

Obama also conveyed his condolences to the families of those killed in last Friday's terrorist attack on a train travelling from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

A total of 26 people have been confirmed dead following the derailment of several carriages of the Nevsky Express, and two remain unaccounted for.

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G.  Nuclear Cooperation

Japan Diplomat Takes IAEA Helm Amid Iran, North Korea Defiance
Shigeru Sato and Yuji Okada
(for personal use only)

Yukiya Amano, a disarmament negotiator for the only nation attacked with nuclear weapons, faces immediate tests from a defiant Iran and provocative North Korea as he takes over the International Atomic Energy Agency today from Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.

Amano, 62, handled nuclear proliferation issues for Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for three decades. He joined the IAEA’s 35-member board of governors in September 2005 and was elected the agency’s director general in July.

Amano assumes his post two days after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Cabinet ordered Iran’s nuclear agency to begin building 10 uranium enrichment sites within two months, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency. Iran says the fuel is for civilian use while the U.S. claims it is for weapons development.

“Iran seems to be saying its last ‘goodbye’ to ElBaradei and saying ‘hello’ to Amano,” said Takehiko Yamamoto, a professor of international relations at Waseda University in Tokyo. “There’s a tough road ahead of Amano, with his first and major task being to beef up the agency’s inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites and shoot down the country’s ambitious nuclear armament plans.”

The IRNA report came a day after the UN agency censured Iran for concealing the existence of an enrichment plant built into the side of a mountain. The IAEA board demanded that Iran suspend construction of the almost-completed Fordo plant.

‘Difficult Challenges’

Iran already faces three sets of UN Security Council resolutions over its nuclear program. ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said Nov. 27 the agency had reached a “dead end” in its six-year investigation into whether Iran is concealing a nuclear weapons program.

“The situation surrounding the agency is stormy now,” Amano said in Vienna on the first day of his four-year term, according to the agency’s Web site. “We have a lot of difficult challenges, but I would like to do my best,” he said. “I will try to be an impartial, reliable, and professional Director General.”

Amano resigned from the Foreign Ministry on Nov. 13, said a ministry official who declined to be named. Amano turned down repeated requests for an interview, most recently on Nov. 6, made through the ministry. The IAEA said in a Nov. 27 statement that Amano will available for a photo opportunity in Vienna on his first day in office and won’t take questions.

Iran, North Korea

Amano’s appointment comes as the IAEA tries to balance the growing demand for nuclear reactors against the spread of weapons technologies through the network of Pakistan’s Abdul Qadeer Khan. The former head of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programs was placed under house arrest in 2004 after confessing to running a network that sold machinery for making bomb-grade uranium to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

IAEA inspectors were kicked out of North Korea on April 16, a month before that nation tested a nuclear device. The Security Council in June imposed more sanctions against the Stalinist state, including restricting financial transactions.

Japan is involved in six-nation talks aimed at getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear programs. The other parties are the U.S., China, Russia and South Korea.

“The world faces increasing risks of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism,” Amano told the IAEA board Sept. 14. “It is unlikely that this trend will ever be reversed, but rather will continue to accelerate.”

Amano, who studied law at the University of Tokyo before joining the diplomatic corps in 1972, failed to win majority support in three meetings of the IAEA board. He was elected in July after an unidentified country changed its vote from no to abstain.

Agency Divided

He defeated South Africa’s IAEA ambassador, Abdul Samad Minty, who helped dismantle his country’s nuclear arsenal. Minty was supported by developing nations concerned that nuclear powers led by the U.S. would limit their access to atomic technology.

Nuclear technologies can address climate change, food security, water availability, health and the global economy, Amano said.

“Merely being a ‘Nuclear Watchdog’ does not suffice,” he told governors Sept. 14. The missions to guard bomb-making material and transfer civil nuclear technology should carry equal weight.

Amano said today he wants to address “global issues that include non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, enhancing nuclear security, addressing the energy need, providing good health care, and water management, among others.”

His appointment means diplomats from Japan, the world’s third-biggest atomic generator after the U.S. and France, will helm both the IAEA and the Paris-based International Energy Agency, an adviser to energy-consuming countries.

Hiroshima, Nagasaki

IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka has said the world needs to build more than 17 reactors a year to slow global warming while at the same time guarding against further nuclear proliferation.

Japan’s constitution, written by the U.S. after the country surrendered Aug. 15, 1945, following the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, renounces the use of force to resolve international disputes. About 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan provide for the country’s defense as part of the U.S. security umbrella.

“I will stand firm against the spread of nuclear weapons,” Amano told IAEA governors March 4. “As I come from a country that has the experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I am deeply convinced that a nuclear catastrophe should never be repeated.”

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Canada, India Reach Nuclear Cooperation Pact
(for personal use only)

Canada and India agreed on Saturday to cooperate on nuclear issues, with a pact that ends a freeze in cooperation dating from 1974 and could offer new opportunities for Canadian uranium firms.

"Increased collaboration with India's civilian nuclear energy market will allow Canadian companies to benefit from greater access to one of the world's largest and fastest expanding economies," Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement, announcing the conclusion of negotiations on a nuclear cooperation agreement.

"Canada and India will now take the necessary steps to prepare the agreement for final signature and implementation," said the statement, released after talks between Harper and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago.

Canada halted nuclear co-operation with India after the country diverted material from Canadian-designed reactors to make a nuclear bomb in 1974.

Possible Canadian winners from a deal include uranium miner Cameco Corp (CCO.TO: Quote, Profile, Research), which has said it plans to open a marketing office in India in an effort to win uranium supply deals, mining joint ventures and a chance to leverage its expertise in nuclear technology that India already uses.

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H.  Nuclear Energy

Research Funding Cuts Could Jeopardise UK Nuclear Power Programme
Ian Sample
The Guardian
(for personal use only)

Britain's plans to rebuild its ageing nuclear power infrastructure could be jeopardised by deep cuts that are due to be announced across university physics departments, scientists warn.

Nuclear physicists said the entire field could be "wiped out" in British universities if research grants are slashed to fill a £40m hole in the finances of the major physics funding body.

Researchers told the Guardian that nuclear physics is vulnerable to severe funding cuts because it is a minority group in a branch of science dominated by larger fields such as astronomy, cosmology and particle physics.

"We are worried that the STFC [Science and Technology Facilities Council] doesn't realise even minor cuts in nuclear physics could kill the subject in Britain at a time when we are embarking on a new nuclear power programme," said Professor Jim Al-Khalili, a physicist at the University of Surrey.

A report published by the STFC last week reviewed the status of nuclear physics and engineering in Britain and found the workforce was adequate for only a minimal nuclear power building programme.

If the government embarked on a more ambitious plan to build around 30 nuclear power stations over the next two decades, "the present level of nuclear engineering research and development activity in the UK would be wholly insufficient both in terms of scope and volume," the report concluded.

Some scientists believe the funding council decided not to publicise the report because it highlights the importance of nuclear expertise, which is central to the government's energy plans and plays a vital role in counterterrorism, healthcare, and radiological safety issues.

The STFC has ordered a major review across all of the projects and facilities it funds with a view to prioritising science that turns a profit and closing down other research. The cuts in less favoured areas will be announced after a council meeting on 15 December.

"We don't know how the cuts will fall, but there is a real danger the entire field of nuclear physics research at universities in this country could be wiped out," said Professor Paul Nolan, a physicist at Liverpool University.

"You can't start decommisioning nuclear power plants and building new ones to run for another 50 years if you don't have people trained up to know what's going on," he added.

Astronomers are also bracing themselves for cuts that could threaten international collaborations, including an agreement that gives them time on the Gemini-North telescope in Hawaii.

Physicists are still recovering from cuts imposed last year after the STFC discovered an £80m shortfall in its budget soon after it was formed by the merger of two other research councils in 2007.

The STFC said it could not comment on which areas will lose funding before its review is completed.

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Russia to Start Iran Nuclear Plant in 2010 - Sources
The Star
(for personal use only)

Russia plans to start up Iran's first nuclear power station in March 2010 to coincide with the Iranian New Year, two sources closely involved with the project told Reuters.

The sources, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation, both said that Russia had ordered that the plant be ready for operation by the holiday which falls in the second half of March.

"We have been given the task of launching the plant by Iranian New Year," said one of the sources. "There is still a lot of work to do."

The second source added that testing at the plant was going well.

Diplomats say Russia uses Bushehr -- and major arms contracts -- 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.

The United States previously criticised Russia's involvement in the project but has dropped its opposition and now says the station removes any need for Iran to have its own enrichment programme.

Russia says the plant is purely civilian and cannot be used for any weapons programme as it will come under International Atomic Energy Agency supervision. Iran will have to return all spent fuel rods to Russia.

Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko was due to visit the Bushehr plant on Monday.

Russia in November said technical issues would prevent its engineers from starting up the Bushehr reactor by the year-end. Moscow had previously said the plant, which is being built by a Russian state-owned company, would be started up in 2009.


Iran has defied international pressure to allay fears over its nuclear programme and on Sunday President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government said it would build 10 new uranium enrichment plants.

The move was condemned by the United States as a clear attempt by the Islamic Republic to isolate itself and Washington warned that time was running out for Iran to address the West's concerns over its nuclear plans.

Russia is "seriously concerned" by the Iranian statement, a source in the Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying by local news agencies.

Russia has so far refused to publicly support calls by the United States for the threat of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.

Moscow agreed to build the Bushehr station in 1995 on the site of a plant begun in the 1970s by German firm Siemens. This project was disrupted by Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution and the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

The contract to build the plant is a state secret, though it is estimated to be worth about $1 billion.

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I.  Nuclear Industry

French Nuclear Giant Sells Unit
(for personal use only)

French nuclear giant Areva has decided to sell its power transmission and distribution network to French firms Alstom and Schneider Electric, rejecting Japanese and US bids.

The sale estimated at 4.09 billion euros (6.13 billion dollars) was announced after a meeting of Areva's supervisory board late on Monday.

Alstom and Schneider Electric were favourites to take over the Transmission and Distribution unit despite union concerns that the sale would lead to job losses.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has made developing France's cutting-edge nuclear industry a priority and has been keen to keep it in French hands. Areva is 92 percent owned by the French state.

Japanese high tech giant Toshiba and US conglomerate General Electric were also bidding for the unit that generates and distributes electricity.

Economy and Finance Minister Christine Lagarde welcomed the decision and said selling the Areva division to the two French champions was simply "the best option".

"The decision was taken in favour of Alstom and Schneider certainly because the overall offer was the preferred one," she said.

State-controlled Areva, a world leader in nuclear power, announced in June that it was opening its capital to new investors and would sell assets to raise money for massive investments in new nuclear technology.

Areva has said it needs nine billion euros in investment over the next three years to keep its competitive edge in the energy market.

Areva said the three offers it had received were "similar and all higher than the acquisition price paid five years ago" when it bought the unit from Alstom for 900 million euros.

Under the deal to be finalised over the coming months, Alstom will take over transmission, or about two-thirds of the division, with distribution to be moved over to Schneider Electric.

The French companies pledged in a statement to keep jobs.

"The two partners do not foresee any restructuring linked to the acquisition and are committed to ensuring a professional future for each and every employee," they said.

"Furthermore, in Europe and up until the beginning of 2013, there will be no site closures" except for those that pre-date the sale, they added.

France operates 58 nuclear reactors, the world's second largest network after the United States, and is vying for a big stake in the revival of the nuclear industry worldwide.

Areva has won contracts to build reactors in China and Finland while putting in bids for plants in Britain, India and other countries.

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J.  Links of Interest

Outlook for New U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Chief Amano
Sylvia Westall
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