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Nuclear News - 1/22/2009
PGS Nuclear News, January 22, 2009
Compiled By: Helene Picart

A.  China
    1. China says nuke weapons not targeting any country in peacetime, Fang Yang, (1/20/2009)
B.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. US-UAE nuclear energy pact has messages for Iran, Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press (1/21/2009)
    2. UAE renounces rights to nuclear fuel cycle, PressTV (1/21/2009)
    3. Nuclear deal with Japan signed, Roland Hughes, The National (1/20/2009)
    4. It's time for Korea to join PSI: think tank, Jin Dae-woong, The Korea Herald (1/16/2009)
    1. Obama vows to actively engage N.K. to resolve nuke threats, The Korea Herald (1/21/2009)
    2. North Korea's Military Action Is Intolerable, Russian Amb. Says, Kim Se-jeong, The Korea Times (1/21/2009)
    3. S. Korean nuke envoy ends trip to N. Korea, The Korea Herald (1/20/2009)
D.  Russia
    1. Key U.S. lawmaker calls for new approach to Russia, Jackie Frank and David Storey, Reuters (1/20/2009)
    2. Russia will fulfill duties on Iran’s nuclear power plant, Tehran Times  (1/15/2009)
    1. IAEA to look into Gaza uranium ammunition claim, Sylvia Westall, Reuters (1/20/2009)
F.  Nuclear Industry
    1. French firm to engage in nuclear trade with India, Associated Press of Pakistan (1/21/2009)
    2. India Inc expects Obama to stay committed to nuke deal, Press Trust of India (1/21/2009)
G.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Turkey’s first nuclear tender to be cancelled due to high price-report, Hurriyet Daily News (1/21/2009)
    2. Unleashing star power, Ciaran Walsh, Russia Today (1/20/2009)
    3. Abu Dhabi Probes Nuclear Power, Stanley Reed, Business Week (1/14/2009)
    4. Japan eyes restarting controversial 'dream nuclear reactor', Agence France-Presse (1/14/2009)
H.  Nuclear Research
    1. South Africa's pebble bed company achieves another milestone, Power Engineering International (1/14/2009)
I.  Links of Interest
    1. Nuclear Iran: Not Inevitable, Institute for Science and International Security  (1/21/2009)
    2. The Nuclear Option: European Gas Dispute Gives Nukes Fresh Legs, Keith Johnson, Wall Street Journal (1/14/2009)

A.  China

China says nuke weapons not targeting any country in peacetime
Fang Yang
(for personal use only)

China, for the first time in history, revealed in detail of its longstanding policy of "no first use of nuclear weapons" Tuesday, promising that its nuclear missile weapons are "not aimed at any country" in peacetime.

In a white paper on national defense released by the Information Office of the State Council Tuesday, China reaffirms its will to implement "a self-defensive nuclear strategy".

"In peacetime, the nuclear missile weapons of the Second Artillery Force are not aimed at any country," the white paper says.

"But if China comes under a nuclear threat, the nuclear missile force of the Second Artillery Force will go into a state of alert, and get ready for a nuclear counterattack to deter the enemy from using nuclear weapons against China," the white paper says.

The Second Artillery Force is China's core force of strategic deterrence. Under the direct command of the Central Military Commission, the nuclear armed force is aimed to deter nuclear strike from other countries and to conduct nuclear counterattacks and precision strikes with conventional missiles.

It was the first time that China's national defense white paper dedicates a whole chapter to the Second Artillery Force.

Since its establishment several decades ago, the Second Artillery Force has developed a weaponry and equipment system consisting of both nuclear and conventional missiles. The missile arsenal includes both solid-fueled and liquid-fueled missiles of different ranges, capable of carrying various types of warheads.

According to the white paper, the nuclear missile force of the Second Artillery Force will use nuclear missiles to "launch a resolute counterattack against the enemy" in case of a nuclear attack. It can perform nuclear attack either independently or together with the nuclear forces of other services, the white paper says.

The conventional missile force of the Second Artillery Force is commissioned to conduct medium- and long-range precision strikes against key strategic and operational targets, according to the white paper.

The white paper also outlines the goals of building up China's strategic deterrence force. It says the Second Artillery Force will follow the principles of building "a lean and effective force" and adapting to trend in the evolution of military science and technology.

"The Second Artillery Force strives to raise the informatization level of its weaponry and equipment, ensures their safety and reliability and enhance its capabilities in protection, rapid reaction, penetration, damage and precision strike," the white paper says.

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B.  Nuclear Cooperation

UAE renounces rights to nuclear fuel cycle
(for personal use only)

The United Arab Emirates has relinquished its right to uranium enrichment amid US efforts to pressure Iran into following suit.

New reports reveal that the UAE renounced the option of enriching uranium and producing nuclear fuel on its soil in a deal it signed with the United States last week.

The agreement allows US-UAE cooperation on building the Arab world's first nuclear plant by 2017, AP reported on Tuesday. The US State Department has described the deal as an effort against Tehran's uranium enrichment.

"The UAE's approach to development of civil nuclear energy stands in direct contrast to Iran's pursuit of nuclear capabilities incompatible with IAEA and UN Security Council resolutions," the US State Department said.

The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Iran and the UAE have both signed, grants Iran and all other signatories the right to enrich uranium on their soil under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Western powers, which not only produce but also sell nuclear fuel, however, continue to demand that Iran give up its rights under the NPT, alleging that Tehran may use the nuclear fuel cycle for weaponization.

Tehran insists that it only seeks to make use of the civilian applications of nuclear technology.

Analysts believe the oil trade will gradually give way to a nuclear fuel market, as concerns over global warming and the hazards of burning carbon-based resources force countries to turn to alternative sources of energy.

The US seeks to secure the existing nuclear fuel market by pressuring countries into giving up their right to produce nuclear fuel in exchange for nuclear know-how.

"This is a real counterexample to what Iran is doing... We're seeking commitments from nations within the Middle East that they're going to rely on the markets for nuclear fuel," an unnamed US official told the The Wall Street Journal in December comments about the UAE deal.

Contrary to Western contentions, Tehran enjoys wide support in the country on the issue of its enrichment program. Iran launched its nuclear activities itself after the US refused to live up to commitments it made prior to 1979 on the helping Iran with its nuclear program.

The US-UAE deal has sparked much controversy as it is believed to have bypassed IAEA safeguards. The Agency spends decades studying requests before giving the official go-ahead to countries seeking to begin their nuclear activities.

Washington has also undermined IAEA work by finalizing a nuclear deal with India. Since New Delhi possesses nuclear weapons, Washington's deal with the country constitutes a breach of the NPT.

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US-UAE nuclear energy pact has messages for Iran
Ali Akbar Dareini
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

An atomic energy deal between the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates, signed in the waning days of the Bush administration, could give Mideast nations a significant boost toward acquiring nuclear technology if Iran pushes ahead with its own ambitions.

The pact signed last week in Washington can help the UAE become the first Arab nation to develop a nuclear power-generating industry as early as 2017, according to U.S. officials.

The Bush administration has championed the agreement as a model for promoting peaceful nuclear energy, while guarding against weapons proliferation. The deal sets the legal groundwork for U.S. commercial nuclear trade with the UAE, which sits just across the Persian Gulf from Iran.

But it also allows Gulf nations worried about Iran's nuclear program to send a signal to Tehran.

"The clear message to Iran is: If Tehran insists on pursuing its nuclear program, we (Arab countries in the region) are going to have one, although without enrichment," said Mustafa Alani of the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.

"Arab states can no longer ignore nuclear technology. There is a huge nuclear technology gap between the Arab states and their neighbors such as Iran, Pakistan and Israel. We need to work to narrow this gap," Alani said.

It is unclear if the Obama administration will stick with the deal or abandon it. Congress will either block or ratify the deal within 90 days.

Under the deal, the UAE renounces the option of enriching uranium and producing nuclear fuel itself and instead would buy fuel from abroad for a reactor.

Uranium enrichment can be used to produce nuclear fuel but can also generate the material needed for a nuclear weapon — which is why the United States and its allies are trying to get Iran to suspend its enrichment program.

In Iran, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said the deal showed a U.S. double standard on nuclear technology, pointing to U.S. pressure on Tehran to limit its program.

Iran says its program is aimed only at generating electricity and denies aiming to build a weapon.

Currently, no Arab nation has a full-fledged nuclear energy program, though several — like Egypt — have small-scale research reactors. The U.S. signed a technology cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia last month that includes cooperation on a peaceful nuclear energy program. Egypt has also said it intends to develop a peaceful energy program and Washington has said it is willing to help.

Alani said importing nuclear technology does potentially give the UAE a chance to seek nuclear weapons capability in the long term should Iran develop an atomic bomb. The UAE has foresworn nuclear arms as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

"If Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is going to collapse and Iran gets a bomb, then it will open the door for an arms race in the region," Alani said.

The State Department says the United States would have grounds to scrap the agreement if the UAE reneges on its commitment not to engage in enrichment or reprocessing activities.

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Nuclear deal with Japan signed
Roland Hughes
The National
(for personal use only)

The UAE and Japan yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that could lead to the country’s civilian nuclear programme following a similar path to the Japanese model.

Japan became the third country, after the US and the UK, to sign an MoU with the Government. All three are looking to share their expertise with the UAE on building and operating nuclear reactors. A Government white paper issued last year said a third of all the country’s power should come from a new fleet of nuclear reactors by 2020.

A more detailed agreement between the two countries could be signed as soon as in the coming months, along similar lines of formal agreements signed by the UAE with France in January 2008 and the US last week.

Takamori Yoshikawa, the senior vice minister at the Japanese trade ministry, signed the MoU with Saif Sultan al Aryani, an undersecretary at the Foreign Ministry, in Tokyo yesterday.

The development comes after representatives of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, who will run the UAE nuclear programme, visited Japan last month.

Kenji Kimura, the director for international nuclear energy affairs with the Japanese government, told The National that the full details of a final agreement between Japan and the UAE had yet to be ratified, and would be finalised over the coming months.

“This is just the initial step. We will look to work on the preparation of security, safety, training and infrastructure.

“The Japanese nuclear industry has been built up with years and years of experience and we believe we can contribute positively to the UAE.”

Japan’s vice trade minister Harufumi Mochizukisaid the UAE’s civilian nuclear programme “can be a model for other oil-producing countries”, and that yesterday’s pact was “the first step between the two countries”.

The next step would be the signing of a treaty between the two countries that could eventually allow Japanese companies such as Hitachi and Toshiba to produce nuclear technology for the UAE.

Under international law, countries are not allowed to purchase nuclear technology unless they have first signed an accord to ensure that it will not be used for military purposes.

Such a bilateral agreement was signed between the UAE and France last year, and the UAE and the US last week. Outgoing Secretary of State Condoleeza Ricesigned an agreement with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE Foreign Minister, allowing American manufacturers to sell nuclear technology to the UAE.

Further MoUs with other countries running their own nuclear reactors are expected. Once final agreements with those countries are in place, the UAE would then be in a position to start the tender process for the production of nuclear reactors.

Mr Mochizuki said a more detailed agreement with the UAE was “one more item on the agenda” that needed to be addressed.

Should the UAE pursue closer ties with Japan, it would benefit from one of the oldest civilian nuclear programmes in the world, dating back to 1954. The first Japanese reactor opened in 1966.

Japan’s 53 nuclear reactors produce about 30 per cent of the country’s electricity, although that figure is expected to exceed 40 per cent by 2017. Three more reactors are being built, with another 13 planned.

Japan is the biggest buyer of oil from the UAE, and imported 368 million barrels in 2007. Oil and gas account for half of the country’s energy consumption.

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It's time for Korea to join PSI: think tank
Jin Dae-woong
The Korea Herald
(for personal use only)

A state-run think tank yesterday called for South Korea's full participation in a U.S.-led anti-proliferation regime, to curb the North's possible attempt to sell nuclear technology and materials.

"Our country, which has shunned its active role in the PSI despite threats of North Korea's nuclear proliferation, should reconsider its policy on the PSI toward official participation," professor Lee Seo-hang at the Institute of the Foreign Affairs and National Security said in a report. The IFANS is affiliated with the Foreign Ministry.

"It is proper for us to declare our official and open support to the PSI, and expand our participation step by step." Lee said. "Counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a universal value of human kind just as human rights."

PSI is a U.S.-led global network fighting against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and calls on signatories to search suspicious ships passing through their waters.

South Korea has been reluctant to officially participate in PSI in consideration of North Korea's possible protest.

Seoul currently joins five of the eight PSI activities as an observer, mostly by watching briefings and training. The remaining three activities include formally participating in the PSI, providing physical support for regional drills and engaging in drills outside the region.

"The PSI is anticipated to be enhanced under the incoming administration of Obama. We should reevaluate the value and performance the PSI in a positive way given that the efforts to end North Korean nuclear program are in a stalemate," Lee said.

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has been an ardent advocate of the PSI since he served as Senator, Lee said.

In the recent Obama-Biden plan, Obama also said he will beef up the PSI to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons and ensure the security of nuclear materials.

South Korea's recalcitrance to the PSI has always been a thorn in relations with United States.

Washington urged Seoul to fully join the initiative in 2006 following North Korea's October nuclear test, but the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration decided against it, saying the nation's sensitive relationship with Pyongyang was more important.

North Korea has frequently criticized the PSI, calling it a product of Washington's hostile policy against Pyongyang.

Seoul has been concerned that a full participation could trigger tension with the North, such as armed clashes at sea when the government attempts to check North Korean cargo ships.

Opponents here have pointed out that there is already an existing inter-Korean maritime agreement that permits the South to inspect cargo to and from North Korea.

The PSI was initiated by U.S. President George W. Bush on May 31, 2003, to help stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction through international cooperation. The program now has more than 90 member states and 70 of them engage in regional joint exercises.

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North Korea's Military Action Is Intolerable, Russian Amb. Says
Kim Se-jeong
The Korea Times
(for personal use only)

Russia will not tolerate any kind of military threat from North Korea, the Russian ambassador said Wednesday, warning its long-time ally, which proclaimed an ``all-out war posture'' against South Korea last week.

Speaking at the World Korean Forum at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul, Ambassador Gleb A. Ivashentsov, said, ``We oppose a missile test or nuclear activity by North Korea near our border. When it carried out a nuclear test in October 2006, the site was only 177 kilometers away from Russian territory.'' The forum was hosted by the Korean Global Foundation and supported by

In a statement issued last Saturday, the communist North threatened an ``all-out confrontational posture'' against the South.

Seoul responded calmly to the North's threat, which analysts said was mainly aimed at the new U.S. government.

Instead, Ambassador Ivashentsov suggested that the two Koreas engaged more peacefully through economic projects. ``There is no better way than long-term economic projects to rebuild trust between South and North Korea."

The Trans Siberian Railroad-Trans Korean Railroad (TSR-TKR) project and establishment of a gas pipeline would leverage the impaired relationship, he said.

The TSR-TKR is expected to connect the Korean Peninsula and open the route to the doorstep of Europe, and the gas pipeline is expected to enhance energy security for heavily foreign-oil dependent South Korea, he said.

Negotiations between the three countries on railroad projects are already underway, Ivashentsov noted.

Russia and North Korea last year agreed on the modernization of a 52-kilometer-long railroad between Najin port in the East Coast of North Korea and Hasan in Russia and the construction of a cargo terminal at the port. South Korea supported it, he said.

The ambassador spoke out against talks at the international level about regime change in North Korea. ``Pressure from the international community won't bring about regime change in North Korea. Regime change can only start internally with the support of domestic politics.''

Likewise, human rights issues in the impoverished country are ``an internal problem,'' he said, affirming that the Russian government has no intention to interfere.

As for South Korea-Russia relations, the ambassador presented a positive outlook, especially for next year, when the two countries celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties. It will offer momentum for further cooperation and exchange, he said.

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Obama vows to actively engage N.K. to resolve nuke threats
The Korea Herald
(for personal use only)

President Barack Obama vowed Tuesday to engage enemies as well as friends to resolve\nuclear threats and to use power prudently to regain U.S. global credibility, tarnished by the war in Iraq, according to news reports.

Yonhap News said Obama, the first African-American president, made his remarks at a swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

"With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet," Obama said.

Obama's reference to nuclear threats, without naming North Korea and Iran, suggests that those issues remain a priority even as the United States confronts an economic crisis and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In an apparent effort to draw Obama's attention, North Korea last week threatened to take "an all-out confrontational posture"

against South Korea in the face of a hard-line policy by President Lee Myung-bak, who has pledged not to engage the North unless Pyongyang abandons its nuclear ambitions.

North Korea's foreign ministry has also said that it will not abandon its nuclear arsenal unless the U.S. normalizes ties and abandons what it considers a hostile North Korea policy.

The latest round of six-party talks faltered last month over North Korea's refusal to agree to a verification regime for its nuclear facilities.

At his inauguration Tuesday, Obama said his administration will not resort to unilateral use of power, apparently referring to the so-called cowboy diplomacy of President George W. Bush.

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S. Korean nuke envoy ends trip to N. Korea
The Korea Herald
(for personal use only)

South Korea's deputy chief nuclear envoy said Monday that North Korea maintains its hard-line position on denuclearization as he returned from a rare trip to Pyongyang, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Hwang Joon-kook, head of the foreign ministry's North Korean nuclear issue bureau, added that he also visited the North's main nuclear site in Yongbyon for discussions on discarding unused fuel rods stored at the facilities that are the hotbed of the secretive nation's nuclear ambitions.

"I visited the Yongbyon nuclear facilities, including the storage (area) for unused fuel rods and was briefed by a related North Korean official," he told reporters upon arriving at the Beijing international airport on his way back to Seoul.

"I had consultations with the North Korean side on the basis of the results of the visit to Yongbyon," he added. "As I talked with the official at the North Korean foreign ministry, I felt that the North's position is not different from its existing one."

Hwang led a team of South Korean officials and civilian nuclear experts on a fact-finding mission to decide whether to buy the fresh rods. His team arrived in Pyongyang last Thursday and is to return to Seoul on Tuesday.

Hwang said his discussions there were not affected by Pyongyang's latest acrimonious statements. Over the weekend, the North's military declared an "all-out confrontational posture" against South Korea, citing the Lee Myung-bak administration's "hostile" policy.

Separately, its foreign ministry said its denuclearization is unrelated to its pursuit of normalizing ties with Washington, in an apparent message to the incoming Obama administration.

"Such a mood did not affect my talks (in North Korea)," he said, refusing to give further details.

"It is hard to answer for now," he said. "There will be a chance to disclose the outcome of my trip after reporting to senior officials."

Removing the fuel rods is one of the few remaining steps that Pyongyang has to take to disable the Yongbyon complex under a 2007 aid-for-denuclearization deal with South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia, and Japan.

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D.  Russia

Key U.S. lawmaker calls for new approach to Russia
Jackie Frank and David Storey
(for personal use only)

Russia has a number of ties with Iran, having built Iran's first atomic power station and delivered nuclear fuel there. Tehran says Moscow has also delivered air defense systems to Iran, which could help repel any Israeli or U.S. air strikes on Iran's nuclear sites.

Berman said the U.S. relationship with Moscow was very important, mentioning as examples Russia's possession of nuclear weapons and its role as a major energy supplier.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obama's nominee for secretary of state, said on Tuesday that if confirmed she would work to engage the Russians -- with whom she wanted to revive a key nuclear arms treaty -- as well as Iran.

Washington has led a diplomatic drive to deny Iran access to nuclear technology with bomb-making potential; Iran says its nuclear work is a peaceful project designed to generate electricity.

Clinton also said the Obama administration would seek to create "better coalitions with countries that we believe also have a big stake in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon power." Russia, to Iran's north, would presumably be one of those countries.

Berman said in recent years the United States had defined its relationship with Pakistan in terms of security assistance and given "short shrift" to economic aid that "would have been much more appreciated by the Pakistani people."

He liked Kerry's plan to push for tripling non-military U.S. aid to Pakistan, to $1.5 billion annually. "I don't know what the exact, right figure is, but I certainly share the focus," Berman said.

The Pentagon has taken over many tasks, such as reconstruction in war zones, that U.S. foreign aid workers and diplomats once handled, he said. Berman plans to introduce legislation in the spring to help restore resources to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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Russia will fulfill duties on Iran’s nuclear power plant
Tehran Times
(for personal use only)

Russia will fulfill its commitments on completing Iran’s first nuclear power plant in Bushehr despite of any pressures, said Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi.

Speaking in an interview with the Russian newspaper Zavtra Online, the ambassador said Iran did not believe that the Russian side has deliberately delayed completion of the 1,000-MW power plant.

Based on the previously agreed timetable, the power plant which is being built in cooperation with Russia, was to become operational in fall of 2008. However its construction was delayed for various reasons including some difficulties occurred in delivering its remaining equipment and necessary fuel.

Sajjadi regretted that completion of the project has been prolonged.

“However, this was not only the fault of the Russian side, but some countries that should produce equipment of the power plants have, sometimes failed, surprisingly, to fulfill their commitments,” explained the ambassador.

He stressed that certain states would not miss a chance to disturb promotion of Iran-Russia ties.

“We will not be surprised if the U.S. offers to construct new power plants in Iran in half of their real price, if U.S. officials see that Moscow will build them for the country,” Sajjadi said.

Iran is to increase the number of its nuclear power plants to help electricity generation to meet the country’s energy demands.

Sajjadi denied U.S. allegations that Iran was to develop nuclear weapons saying producing those weapons “has no place in Iran’s defensive doctrine.”

Referring to Iran’s complete cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the ambassador said that the IAEA’s inspectors had “free access” to Iran’s nuclear sites and facilities and the agency was fully informed of their activities.

As for the U.S. and Israeli threats against Iran, Sajjadi said, “Iran is not Iraq or Afghanistan. If the U.S. enters any adventurism against Iran, then we would threaten its interest worldwide.”

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IAEA to look into Gaza uranium ammunition claim
Sylvia Westall
(for personal use only)

The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog said Tuesday it would look into a claim by Vienna-based Arab ambassadors that Israel may have used ammunition containing depleted uranium in Gaza attacks.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said the request was made in a letter addressed to Director General Mohammed ElBaradei and was delivered by the Saudi Arabian ambassador on Monday on behalf of other Arab diplomats.

"We are circulating the letter to member states and will investigate the matter to the extent of our ability," IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.

She said the IAEA had not yet decided on its course of action as it needs to check with member states first.

The Israeli ambassador to the IAEA, Israel Michaeli, declined to comment on the letter while a spokesman for the Israeli military said he was checking the report.

The IAEA has in the past contributed to studies on depleted uranium traces from ammunition in the Balkans which found it was highly unlikely that a reported increase in cancer risks there could be linked to the traces.

Depleted uranium is used in weapons because it can penetrate tanks and armor more easily due to its density and other physical properties.

It is a particular health risk as a dust around impact sites where people's lungs and other vital organs can be exposed to it. It also has civilian uses in medical equipment and is used in radiation shields.

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F.  Nuclear Industry

French firm to engage in nuclear trade with India
Associated Press of Pakistan
(for personal use only)

A French firm Areva has become the first international entity to engage in nuclear trade with India which has not signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

According to the Indian media reports, India and France have concluded talks for the supply of 300 tonnes of enriched uranium which will be delivered to the fuel starved Indian reactors in the course of next few months.

France has become the first country to engage in nuclear commerce with India in the wake of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver, accorded in September last, to end India’s nuclear embargo that was placed in the wake of India’s illegal detonation of a nuclear device in 1974.

In addition to France, India has signed nuclear cooperation agreements with US and Russia and an accord with Kazakhstan is on the cards when the Kazakh President visits India in the next week.

According to analysts, the NSG guidelines for its member countries that permit nuclear trade with India for its safe guarded nuclear plants is going to be extensively exploited by the country to divert indigenous supply of uranium to boost up her nuclear weapons program.

An acute shortage of indigenous uranium resources and the resultant shortfall in her production of uranium fuel, pegged at around 300 tonnes per annum had made it difficult for India to support both its power as well as nuclear weapons program.

With ample supplies now available for the safe guarded nuclear plants, thanks to the Indo‑US nuclear deal and the NSG waiver, India’s domestic uranium has now been freed to drive her ambitious nuclear weapons program.

A quantum jump in Indian capability to produce nuclear weapons, while remaining outside of the NPT and the CTBT, has greatly added to the prospects of a nuclear arms race in the subcontinent, say observers.

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India Inc expects Obama to stay committed to nuke deal
Press Trust of India
(for personal use only)

Indian industry expects US President Barack Obama to remain committed to the Indo-US nuclear deal hoping the new American administration will not create roadblocks for outsourcing, which is more helpful to the US firms than businesses in India.

As the business leaders hailed Obama's swearing in as US President, they gave vent to their concerns over the possibility of the new American administration making the landmark Indo-US nuclear deal contingent on New Delhi signing the test-ban treaty.

While the industry here, like rest of the world, hopes the Obama team to revive the moribund US economy, apprehensions were also raised over the possible moves against outsourcing of businesses of which India has been among the main beneficiaries.

"We expect Obama's continued support to the Indo-US nuclear deal. We are hopeful that Obama would take steps to ensure continuity of the 123-agreement and give shape to commercialisation of the agreement," Ficci Secretary General Amit Mitra said.

He also wanted the new President to re-examine the technology denial regime towards India and create a framework under which the dual-use technology can be shared with New Delhi at par with other G8 countries, he said.

Ficci wants the Obama administration to view outsourcing as a business decision of commercial enterprises especially in a situation where costs play an important role.

"A US Chamber of Commerce study shows that 74 per cent of the benefits of outsourcing actually go to American companies," Mitra said.

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G.  Nuclear Energy

Turkey’s first nuclear tender to be cancelled due to high price-report
Hurriyet Daily News
(for personal use only)

The tender for Turkey's first nuclear tender is likely to be cancelled due to the high price offer and a shift in the location of the plant from the south of the country to the northern Black Sea region, Vatan daily reported on Wednesday.

Turkey's state-run power company, TETAS will submit a "negative" report for the price bid in the nuclear tender and submit it to cabinet for approval, the daily said.

The consortium, formed by Russia’s state-run Atomstroyexport, Inter RAO and Turkish Park Teknik had offered 21.16 cents kWh for the construction and management of nuclear power plant on Monday. The consortium however revised its initial price offer in another letter, but it was returned as such a move is not allowed under tender law.

The consortium was the sole bidder in the tender, which was described as disappointing by some analysts, because a number of foreign and local companies that had previously expressed interest did not submit bids.

Since Turkey’s Nuclear Tender Law does not allow for a second tender, the law will be amended, for which preparations were already underway, the daily reported.

The cabinet is not expected to approve the tender, since the consortium's reported price offer was inline with the "rational price" principle, the report also said, adding that the tender was expected to be cancelled after the cabinet's decision.

Vatan also said the location for the new nuclear plant is also planned to be changed, with the first preference being Turkey's northern Black Sea province of Sinop.

Turkey plans to build three nuclear power plants as part of its efforts to reduce the country’s costly dependence on imported energy.

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Unleashing star power
Ciaran Walsh
Russia Today
(for personal use only)

Building work has started in southern France on a multi-billion dollar project aimed at demonstrating the feasibility of nuclear fusion power. Freelance writer Ciaran Walsh reports for RT on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.

This ambitious project, known as ITER, has been undertaken jointly by the EU, China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the USA. It is the biggest scientific experiment in the world and its scale is only matched by the importance of its potential success.

In a world where energy has become an international security issue – where the price and supply of oil and gas can lead to ‘energy wars’ – this huge $10 billion mega-experiment could provide the peaceful answer by producing energy of the stars, like our own sun, with little or no emissions.

Catherine Ray, the European Commission spokesperson for Science and Research, explains the importance of the project: “The idea was based on the principle that the EU and the world had to develop alternative sources of energy. It is a big project, very ambitious, and could not be achieved by just one country. It is the first type of combined international research on this scale. The timeline is quite broad - the plan is to have a new source of energy by 2050... We know it’s not going to be an immediate alternative source for us – it’s really on the long-term perspective.”

But will it actually work? The science involved is at the very forefront of our current understanding and with estimates that the Earth’s supply of fossil fuels could have already run out by 2050, is this fusion gamble worth the risk? Those behind the ITER project plan to switch on the reactor for the first time only in 2018. Bearing in mind that the project will only demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power as opposed to actually supplying it - it remains an impressive feat to have 50 per cent of the world’s population (in the form of the parties undertaking the experiment) signed up.

What is fusion?

Fusion naturally occurs within the stars. Hydrogen nuclei, under conditions of extreme heat and pressure, combine with each other to form helium atoms – releasing huge amounts of energy. This process of fusion, ongoing for billions of years, has provided a constant supply of light and warmth on earth. But this process, which comes naturally to the sun, is not so easy to reproduce in a lab.

Neil Calder, Head of Communication for the ITER project, explains that although the science involved is at the forefront of possibility, the idea of fusion - and trying to get it under control - is half a century old: “The idea of getting energy by getting two atoms and forcing them together in conditions of extreme temperature so that they fuse and in this process release lots of energy is something that has been understood since the post war period. This ITER idea was first mooted in ‘85 between Gorbachev and Regan who said that the world should get together and build this machine - but it was only in 2001 that the decision was made to go ahead.”

It is only recently that breakthroughs in this area have been made. While the general public may have long given up on the idea of fusion – as opposed to fission - as an answer to the energy crisis, plasma scientists have been making significant progress: “We have made leaps and bounds in progress,” explains Calder, “and we are now at the stage where a machine in England can produce as much energy as they put in - but not for a very long time...there is a machine in France that showed it could be done for a long period of time but not produce much energy so using the knowledge gained from all these experiments around the world we are now building an ultimate machine, like ‘deep thought’, that we are sure will demonstrate that using fusion to produce large scale energy is possible.”

A clean and safe source of energy?

But are there any dangers involved? Could this power plant turn out to be a powder keg?

“The great thing about fusion, from a safety point of view, is that it’s really hard to do so if any tiny parameter goes wrong, the machine just stops, the chances of any explosion or runaway is just zero. It’s the other way round - keeping the machine going is the problem,” explains Calder.

One group that is not excited by the ITER project is Greenpeace. They are angry with the amounts of money involved, the timescale given, and claim that the process is not clean. Jan Beránek, the Nuclear Energy Project leader for Greenpeace, says: “We don’t see how ITER can contribute to reduction on carbon or greenhouse gases in the needed time. We need to cut green houses gases by 20 percent by 2020 and cut them to zero by 2050 and we think ITER is missing the time window in which we need to act to save the planet. If it was the only solution we would jump in and support it but there are other options for renewable energy sources - it does not make sense to wait for 50 years for a technology that might not come.”

“We are also concerned about high emissions of tritium from the proposed ITER plant,” continues Jan Beránek, “we estimate ITER would release 10 times more tritium than all of Germany’s nuclear power plants put together.”

It’s a claim that is refuted by Neil Calder of ITER. He maintains that ITER is a clean way of producing abundant energy - although not exactly 100 per cent clean: “ITER produces no CO2, produces no nuclear radioactive waste, OK, the machine itself will become radioactive over the years and we will have several thousand tonnes of radioactive material when we have to take it apart but this is stuff that becomes clean after 20-30 years, you could make toys out of it,” he explains. “We can’t say its 100 per cent clean for tritium – yes, it’s one of the fuels we use, but we burn it, we don’t produce it - we are actually reducing the global levels of it.”

Money well spent?

Günther Hasinger is the new director of the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics. He understands the concerns over the cost and timescale of the mega-project but he is firmly behind the plan and is quietly confident of success: “I don’t think the money is huge in respect to the potential benefit that can come out if it,” he says, “the international space station is more expensive than ITER yet if ITER works it will be more important than that. Consider the risks that we are running with fossil fuels and put that into financial value.”

It’s clear that the ITER project is important to secure the energy needs of a world that is close to exhausting its current fuels. If successful, ITER will show that abundant and relatively clean energy can be produced. It will be an answer for all - not just a select few - and its safety marks it out as a viable long term plan. However, the physics involved is complex; as Professor Hasinger says, the plasma created is difficult to control: “It’s like carrying marmalade around in a net - a lot of it has to be calculated by trial and error.”

The money involved is also vast and the timescale could run close depending on how the future unfolds. We can only hope that breakthroughs continue to be made and the gamble pays off. Imagine the potential for peace in the world if the question of how and where we get our energy are no longer of concern.

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Abu Dhabi Probes Nuclear Power
Stanley Reed
Business Week
(for personal use only)

Abu Dhabi may be one of the world's richest and most important oil producers, but that isn't stopping the emirate—the linchpin of the United Arab Emirates—from plunging into other energy sources. The sheikdom, which has several hundred billion dollars in financial reserves, already has committed to spending $15 billion on green energy technologies, including a model low-carbon-emission city called Masdar.

Now it is taking a serious look at nuclear energy. David Scott, an Abu Dhabi official, says that the UAE would eventually like to get some 25% of its power from nuclear power. That might mean six or more nuclear plants, which cost $5 billion or more each today. The prospect of orders on that scale could trigger fierce competition among nuclear plant builders such as Westinghouse in the U.S. and Areva (CEPFi.PA) in France. UAE officials expect to sign a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with the U.S. soon.

Why is a country with the world's fifth-largest proven oil reserves interested in nuclear energy? Like most of the Gulf states, the UAE has seen surging domestic demand for electricity in recent years thanks to fast-growing, energy-intensive industries such as aluminum smelting—not to mention living with low energy prices that encourage consumption.

Short on Natural Gas
Like most of the Gulf countries, Abu Dhabi didn't foresee the rapid growth in electricity use and is now running short of natural gas, the preferred fuel for power generation. Moreover, Abu Dhabi has big ambitions to turn itself into a global energy center that would create high-quality jobs even after its oil runs out. "The desire for nuclear power transcends pure economics," says Leila Benali, director of Middle East and Africa at Cambridge Energy Research Associates in Paris. "It is driven by more strategic and geopolitical factors."

The UAE already depends on gas imports from Qatar for 60% of its electricity generation, but there is no assurance that Qatar can accommodate the UAE's expected 9% annual growth in power consumption. What's more, tight gas supplies are forcing other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Dubai—the second-largest of the United Arab Emirates—to burn oil and other liquids to produce power, cutting into supplies available for export. "It is growing alarmingly clear that the Middle East is short, make that very short, of energy, in particular natural gas," says Neil McMahon, a London-based analyst at Bernstein Research in a recent report.

Given these challenges, the UAE has been pondering for some time how to meet an expected near-doubling of its need for electricity by 2020. Analysts calculated that even if the country went all-out installing solar and wind energy sources, these would provide only a maximum of 4% to 5% of expected peak production capacity of more than 40,000 megawatts. The country's planners thus came to the conclusion that for both environmental and economic reasons, "the option of nuclear power was too great to ignore," says Scott, who is executive director for economic affairs at Abu Dhabi's Executive Affairs Authority.

Looming Controversy Over Proliferation
Of course, getting even one plant up and running by 2020 will be a huge challenge given the hurdles that have to be cleared. For one thing, even though the UAE is a military lightweight and an ally of the West, the country's leaders know from the bruising political fight over Dubai Ports World's attempt to acquire U.S. ports that any foray into the nuclear arena by an Arab country is likely to be controversial. No matter how different the countries are from one another, the UAE's nuclear ambitions likely will be complicated by the effort to stop Iran—located just across the Persian Gulf—from developing atomic weaponry.

To head off worries, the UAE has pledged to adhere to a series of safeguards and principles, including "the highest standards of nonproliferation," it says in a statement. Hamad al Kaabi, the country's permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, says the pending agreement with the U.S. "does not allow any transfer of sensitive technology" or "materials that are highly enriched," of the sort that potentially could be used in weapons.

Still, Kaabi, who is a U.S.-trained nuclear engineer, indicates his country is determined to add nuclear to its growing energy bag of tricks. "There is a clear need for such a program," he says. "The need and rationale will not change."

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Japan eyes restarting controversial 'dream nuclear reactor'
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

Japan, an economic giant with almost no natural energy resources, is eyeing restarting its "dream nuclear reactor" this year after a raft of safety scares closed the plant for more than 13 years.

The state-run Japan Atomic Energy Agency is putting the final touches to Monju, the nation's only fast-breeder reactor.

It has repeatedly postponed the relaunch as problems keep coming up and it struggles to convince many residents of Tsuruga, 350 kilometres (220 miles) west of Tokyo, of the plant's safety.

"Monju is far from being in a condition that would make local residents feel safe to run it again," said Miwako Ogiso, leader of a group opposed to the gigantic plant.

Fast-breeder reactors, or FBRs, have often been billed as "dream reactors" because they produce more fuel than they consume, producing plutonium by burning the waste left by more conventional light-water reactors.

Major world economies rushed to develop fast-breeders over the past five decades, following the United States, which generated the world's first nuclear energy with an FBR constructed in 1946.

But a series of problems, along with fears over the proliferation of plutonium, which can be converted to produce nuclear weapons, led all Western nations to withdraw from FBR projects.

France is closing its last fast-breeder reactor -- the Phenix -- this year and in 2005 asked to join the Monju project in Japan, which is the only nation without nuclear weapons that still has an FBR programme.

Besides Japan, Russia and India are the only nations that operate fast-breeder reactors, with China planning to start later this year.

Theoretically, fast-breeders would be ideal for resource-poor Japan, which imports virtually all of its oil from the politically unstable Middle East.

Despite being the only nation ever attacked by atom bombs, Japan has embraced nuclear power.

It relies on its 55 light-water nuclear reactors to produce about one-third of its energy needs. Japan would be able to generate power sustainably at Monju by recycling the used nuclear fuel from the light-water reactors.

But the path has not been easy.

In 1995, less than two years after Monju had started generating power, dozens of fire alarms went off as a room filled with thick white smoke.

The Monju operator later discovered that a special thermometer had broken, leaking high-temperature metallic sodium that reacted violently with oxygen.

While there was no danger of a radiation leak, local residents were angered by the secrecy of the operator, which covered up key data and even altered video footage.

"In order to regain confidence from local residents and restart the plant, we had to turn the secretive policy around to a more transparent one, which is the biggest change brought after the accident," said Monju's director general Kazuo Mukai.

But more problems have emerged as the behemoth plant prepares to restart. The operator recently found a corrosion hole on a ventilation duct, which would have leaked radioactive emissions directly into the outside air.

"Since operations have been suspended for such a long time, the maintenance of the facility has been neglected, which is inexcusable," Mukai admitted.

The agency had hoped to restart the plant in February, but it now is looking to autumn or later.

Local residents are far from assured.

"It is completely wrong that they are trying to resume operations at the plant just after quickly fixing the bad parts," Ogiso said. "You never know which part might have gone bad after the plant was closed for 13 years."

Ogiso said her group opposed building any more nuclear plants in Fukui prefecture, where 13 out of the nation's 55 reactors are concentrated, with two more on the way.

Japan also suffers frequent earthquakes. The world's biggest nuclear plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, northwest of Tokyo, was shut down by a strong tremor in July 2007, although no one was hurt.

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H.  Nuclear Research

South Africa's pebble bed company achieves another milestone
Power Engineering International
(for personal use only)

The South African nuclear design company Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) has, in collaboration with South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa), successfully manufactured coated particles which form the basis of high temperature reactor fuel containing 9.6 per cent enriched uranium.

The fuel which consists of uranium-dioxide coated particles has been were shipped to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the United States where they will undergo irradiation testing at the Idaho National Laboratory.

According to PBMR CEO Jaco Kriek, this achievement will give PBMR huge credibility as a participant in the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) project in the USA.

He said the manufacturing of nuclear fuel is a key driver of PBMR's partnership in the Westinghouse-led consortium, which in 2006 was awarded a contract by the US Department of Energy to consider the PBMR technology as a heat source for producing non-carbon derived hydrogen.

The successful manufacturing of the coated particles is the culmination of many years of intensive development work at PBMR's world-class Fuel Development Laboratories.

The PBMR fuel is based on the design and manufacturing process employed in the latest, high-quality fuel that was used in the German AVR research reactor that successfully operated for 21 years.

"We have conducted extensive development work and we are satisfied that the coated particles that were produced for testing will provide proof and assurance that the PBMR will perform to its predicted best-in-the-world safety capabilities, in the process heat and electricity markets, as well as cogeneration applications," says Kriek.

The PBMR fuel differs from conventional nuclear fuel in that the particle coating, which forms a part of the fuel, acts as the fission product barrier. Conventional nuclear fuel uses a metal barrier.

PBMR is a high temperature gas-cooled reactor with a closed-cycle, gas turbine power conversion system. Although it is not the only gas-cooled, high-temperature reactor currently being developed in the world, the South African project is internationally regarded as the leader in the High-Temperature Reactor technology.

PBMR is characterized by inherently safe features, which mean that no human error or equipment failure can cause an accident that would harm the public.

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I.  Links of Interest

Nuclear Iran: Not Inevitable
Institute for Science and International Security
(for personal use only)

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The Nuclear Option: European Gas Dispute Gives Nukes Fresh Legs
Keith Johnson
Wall Street Journal
(for personal use only)

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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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