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Nuclear News - 2/10/2009
PGS Nuclear News, February 10, 2009
Compiled By: Helene Picart

A.  Pakistan
    1. Pak Govt. May Appeal Against A.Q. Khan's Release, The Hindu (2/9/2009)
    2. Pakistan Allays Fears About Safety of N-Assets, The News (2/9/2009)
    1. Pyongyang Expert Warns of North’s Nuclear Plans, Joong Ang Daily (2/10/2009)
    2. U.S. Commander Urges N. Korea to Return to Talks to Discuss Nuclear Verification Regime, Sam Kim, Yonhap News Agency (2/9/2009)
    3. Seoul, Washington to Discuss N. Korea's Nuclear Program, Na Jeong-ju, The Korea Times (2/8/2009)
    4. Debate Re-ignited Over N. Korea’s Nuclear Status, Jung Sung-ki, The Korea Times (2/6/2009)
    5. Clinton Due in Seoul on N. Korean Nukes, Alliance: State Dept., Hwang Doo-hyong and Byun Duk-kun, Yonhap News Agency (2/6/2009)
C.  Russia
    1. Russia Says It Is Ready for More Arms Cuts, Steve Gutterman, Associated Press (2/8/2009)
D.  Iran
    1. Iran 'Ready' for New Nuclear Proposals, PressTV (2/8/2009)
    2. Russia Welcomes Direct Iran-US Talks, PressTV (2/8/2009)
    3. Biden Offers Iran ‘Incentives’ to End Nuclear Program, James G. Neuger, Bloomberg (2/7/2009)
    4. Germany Warns Iran Over Sanctions, BBC News (2/7/2009)
E.  India
    1. India Ready for Ban on Nuclear Weapons: NSA, Times of India (2/7/2009)
F.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. U.S. N-Policy Could Hurt Japan / Obama's Changes May Undermine Planned N-Waste Disposal Facility, Keiko Chino, Daily Yomiuri Online  (2/7/2009)
    2. Seoul Undecided on Buying N.Korean Fuel Rods, Arirang News (2/6/2009)
    3. Russia to Build Nuclear Plant in Belarus, Associated Press (2/6/2009)
G.  Nuclear Industry
    1. Doosan Heavy Exports Its First Nuclear Reactor, Lee Sun-young, The Korea Herald (2/10/2009)
    2. Fortum Files Application to Build Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant, Energy Business Review (2/9/2009)
    3. Russia's TVEL to Sign $780 Mln Nuclear Fuel Deal With India, RIA Novosti (2/7/2009)
    4. S.African PBMR Nuclear Firm Looks to U.S., Canada, Wendell Roelf, Reuters (2/6/2009)
H.  Links of Interest
    1. Pyongyang’s Game Plan, Brent Choi, Joong Ang Daily (2/9/2009)
    2. Asia's Nonproliferation Laggards, Charles Wolf Jr., Wall Street Journal (2/9/2009)

A.  Pakistan

Pak Govt. May Appeal Against A.Q. Khan's Release
The Hindu
(for personal use only)

Bowing to international pressure, the Pakistani government may appeal against the release of A.Q. Khan, the scientist who mentored the country's nuclear programme and who was accused of running an illegal proliferation network.

Quoting government sources, Dawn said Monday the Islamabad High Court decision last week freeing Khan from house arrest "might be challenged because of concerns expressed by the United States and the United Kingdom".

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a TV news channel on Saturday before leaving for Munich to attend an international security conference that the government reserved the right to file an appeal against the court's decision.

At the same time, Qureshi said Khan had already been relieved of his duties and had nothing to do with the country's nuclear-related policies.

"We have successfully broken the network that he had set up and today he has no say and has no access to any of the sensitive areas of Pakistan," Qureshi said.

"A.Q. Khan is history," he added.

The Islamabad High Court (IHQ) Friday declared Khan a "free man" and released him from four years of house arrest.

Khan had been put under house arrest in 2004 after confessing on state-run PTV to selling nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea and seeking the nation's forgiveness. Then president Pervez Musharraf did "forgive" him but restricted his movements.
Khan, who was seen in public for the first time in four years in May 2008, said the confession had been handed to him by authorities and he was forced to read it on national television in the "best interest of the nation".

In an interview to IANS in May 2008, Khan claimed that he never sold nuclear technology illegally and that he should have never made a confession to that effect.

Describing himself as "an innocent man", Khan had said that Pakistan's nuclear assets and weapons were "quite safe" and they could not be taken out of the country.

The civilian government had eased the restrictions placed on the scientist in 2004.

Right from the time of Khan's confession, the US has been persistently demanding permission to question him on his alleged proliferation activities.

Pakistan has been equally consistent in denying this permission.

Commenting on Khan's release, a White House statement sought assurances that he would not get involved in nuclear proliferation again, while Britain called on the Pakistani government to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency access to the scientist.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "very much concerned" about Khan's release because Washington believed he was involved in leaking nuclear technology and secrets.

The US State Department said that Khan's release would be "extremely regrettable" and "unfortunate".

Despite the charges against Khan, "a large number of Pakistanis still regard him as a hero for making the country a nuclear state," Dawn said.

However, security around Khan's house "remains tight with intelligence operatives in plainclothes posted around it. He cannot leave his residence and cannot meet anyone", the newspaper added.

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Pakistan Allays Fears About Safety of N-Assets
The News
(for personal use only)

Amid international clamour and concern about the release of Dr AQ Khan from a five-year house arrest, Pakis-tan on Saturday once again reminded the worried world capitals about its commitment to the objective of nuclear non-proliferation, underlining all the necessary measures been taken to promote it.

“The Government of Pakistan would like to reiterate that it has dismantled the nuclear black market network and no individual associated with it enjoys any official status, nor has access to any strategic facility,” noted a statement issued by the Foreign Office a day after the Islamabad High Court declared Dr Khan “a free citizen”.

“We have taken the necessary legislative, regulatory and administrative measures to ensure the effective export controls and to prevent the possibility of proliferation from Pakistan,” it added.

In a thinly-veiled response to a call by the UK for allowing the IAEA access to Dr Khan, Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit said: “We have investigated the matter and shared relevant findings with the IAEA, which has appreciated our cooperation.”

Referring to the February 6 court judgment, the Foreign Office spokesman made it clear that the government remained committed to the due process of law. In a message to the alarmed members of the international community who immediately reacted to the court’s judgment, the spokesman said: “The so-called AQ Khan affair is a closed chapter. It is counterproductive to speculate on the court’s judgment.”

Separately in Munich, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also tried to allay fears of the international community regarding the security of nuclear assets. Speaking at the Munich Young Leaders Roundtable on Security Policy, he held out the assurance about the safety of nuclear assets.

“The security and safety of our nuclear assets has been questioned lately amid growing fears of their falling in the wrong hands. “Let me assure you that despite the threat of extremism and terrorism, Pakistan’s nuclear assets are under safe custody and control, and we have instituted a fool-proof mechanism for their control,” the foreign minister said in his opening remarks released here to the media by the Foreign Office.

Reuters adds: Earlier, the White House said US President Barack Obama wants assurances from Islamabad that Dr AQ Khan will not be involved in nuclear proliferation following his release from house arrest.

Spokesman Robert Gibbs said the White House was aware of reports that a court on Friday ordered the release of Dr Khan. “We’ve seen the reports of the release, but have yet to receive an official word from the government,” Gibbs said.

“Obviously, this (US) president has made clear many times the great concern that he has about nuclear proliferation. “As we hear from the government (of Pakistan) about these reports, obviously, the president and this government want assurances that Dr Khan is not engaged or involved in any of the activity that resulted in his house arrest earlier,” he said.

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Pyongyang Expert Warns of North’s Nuclear Plans
Joong Ang Daily
(for personal use only)

The newly launched Barack Obama administration in the United States should broaden its scope of engagement with North Korea to cover a variety of issues, taking lessons from the “politically fragile” approach of its predecessor, an American expert said yesterday.

Joel S. Wit, a former State Department official who worked on U.S. policy toward North Korea in the 1990s, pointed out that resolving the North Korean problem is far more difficult now than eight years ago.

He said that Pyongyang has begun a gambit to secure better relations with Washington while holding on to its nuclear arsenal, including its stockpile of fissile material, which has quadrupled. The North withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and conducted a nuclear test in 2006.

“The Obama administration should broaden the scope of engagement through establishing new venues for bilateral and multilateral talks ... on setting up a peace regime and locating the remains of U.S. soldiers [killed during the 1950-53 Korean War],” he said in a Seoul seminar. “That will create a much more stable and stronger engagement process.”

Wit, an adjunct senior research fellow at the Weatherhead East Asia Institute of Columbia University, also said Washington should not hesitate to deal directly with Pyongyang at whatever level is necessary, ranging from special envoys to the president.

Obama has yet to appoint a special envoy to North Korea. Wit said that whoever will be chosen could be an early indicator of Obama’s policy on Pyongyang, which has not yet taken concrete shape.

“Whether a senior prominent person who directly reports to the secretary and the president or a low-level official, the same level with Chris Hill, or a lower level, is very important,” he said.

Christopher Hill, who served as Washington’s top nuclear negotiator for the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear dismantlement, has been tapped as the new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

The nuclear envoy will formulate a policy and sell it to Congress, as well as act as a “teacher” for more senior officials, he said.

He suggested that Washington try to quicken the slow-going disabling of the North’s main nuclear facilities in Yongbyon by allowing the communist nation to reprocess its current batch of spent fuel rods on the condition that the one bomb’s worth of plutonium separated from them is immediately shipped out of the country.

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U.S. Commander Urges N. Korea to Return to Talks to Discuss Nuclear Verification Regime
Sam Kim
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

The top U.S. commander in South Korea said Monday North Korea should first return to dialogue if it hopes to feel safe from what it claims to be the ever-present U.S. nuclear threat on the divided peninsula.

The comments by Gen. Walter Sharp of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command come amid a standoff in six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

The North rejected a U.S. proposal aimed at gaining access to its nuclear activities, demanding that the U.S. also verify it has no nuclear weapons hidden in South Korea.

"I think the answer to that will come out when North Korea finally agrees to sit down and discuss how we're going to go through with a verification regime," he said. "We, the United States, and the other countries of the six-party talks look forward to that day so that we can work these details out."

The talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and host China. Washington has maintained its side of verification on the Korean Peninsula was done in the early 1990's.

"The demand is for North Korea to verify that they do not have nuclear weapons and to denuclearize," Sharp told a group of foreign news media journalists in Seoul.

Stressing South Korea possesses no nuclear arms, the head of the U.S. Forces Korea said North Korea "successfully did a nuclear test in 2006."

"They have proclaimed the desire for nuclear capability," he said, adding South Korea and the U.S. "have to be prepared for that possibility."

North Korea has raised regional tensions recently as outside officials say the communist state could be preparing to test-fire its longest-range missile, the Taepodong-2.

Sharp said a test-launch would "show that the leadership within North Korea does not understand what it needs to be a responsible nation."

Citing a 2006 U.N. resolution warning North Korea not to advance missile development, Sharp said U.S.-South Korean armed forces have prepared a long list of plans for any North Korean contingency.

"We have plans that take a look at both an all-out attack from North Korea and instability in North Korea," he said, adding that "instability going from the entire range of humanitarian disaster and all the way up to major civil war and potential loose nuclear weapons."

"We hope we never have to execute those, but we're prepared for the full range of operations," he said, declining to disclose specifics because the information is classified. He added he did not detect any unusual military movements in North Korea recently.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against North Korea -- a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty.

Sharp said North Korea's long- and short-range artillery along the military demarcation line pose as great a threat as its missiles, but voiced confidence his forces are "properly positioned" to react.

"We work very hard to be able to very rapidly take both the long-range, the short-range, all of the missile systems and artillery to be able to destroy them if we were ready to go to war," he said.

The allies enjoy "excellent radar positions" and will retaliate "with artillery going back or with our air forces ganged" to "find and kill" targets, he said. But Sharp cautioned damage to the South Korean capital will be inevitable.

"There still will be destruction in Seoul. There's no doubt about it," he said, arguing any attempt for him to estimate civilian casualties would produce figures "exactly wrong."

About 10 million people reside in Seoul, and North Korea in the past has threatened to turn the city into "a sea of fire" to raise tension.

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Seoul, Washington to Discuss N. Korea's Nuclear Program
Na Jeong-ju
The Korea Times
(for personal use only)

South Korea and the United States will step up talks on North Korea and other security issues in the coming weeks, with top diplomats from both countries set to take trips to each other's countries for policy coordination.

U.S. President Barack Obama is close to choosing his envoy to North Korea, who faces a daunting task of shattering the Stalinist regime's nuclear ambition through the framework of the six-party negotiations.

Experts say the North may stir military conflicts on its border with the South in order to have direct talks with the U.S. administration over its nuclear program.

On Saturday, U.S. officials said the North showed a willingness to continue with the multilateral negotiations, but at the same time is preparing direct talks with the United States.

``We concluded that the outlook is that we can continue to work toward eventual denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,'' former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Stephen Bosworth told reporters, upon arriving in Beijing from a five-day trip to Pyongyang.

Bosworth and a group of non-government American experts visited Pyongyang to meet with senior officials in a civilian-exchange program between the United States and North Korea.

``North Korean officials neither confirmed nor denied recent reports about a missile test. They said we should all wait and see. There were no threats, no indication that they were concerned,'' Bosworth said.

In late January, South Korea's intelligence agency said the North was preparing to test-fire its longest-range missile, the Taepodong-2, which can reach as far as Alaska and the West Coast of the United States. North Korea said earlier that it had scrapped all peace agreements it had signed with South Korea.

Seoul officials hope the upcoming talks between Seoul and Washington will help ease tension in the Korean Peninsula as well as provide an opportunity to strengthen an alliance between the two countries.

``During a recent telephone conversation with President Lee Myung-bak, President Obama pledged to denuclearize North Korea through the six-party talks and a stronger alliance with South Korea,'' a Cheong Wa Dae spokesman said Sunday.

``We hope Obama understands that the Seoul-Washington ties are crucial to resolving the North Korean nuclear issue.''

Lee's senior secretary for diplomatic and security issues, Kim Sung-hwan, will visit Washington from Wednesday through Sunday for talks with officials from the White House.

Lee will be the highest ranking South Korean official to visit the United States since the inauguration of the Obama administration on Jan. 20.

Days later, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Seoul as part of her Asian swing and meet with President Lee on Feb. 20 at Cheong Wa Dae. Clinton will discuss the six-party talks and other regional security issues, according to the U.S. State Department.

On Feb. 19, Lee will also meet with 11 U.S. lawmakers, including Isaac Newton Skelton, head of the House's Armed Services Committee, at Cheong Wa Dae.

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Clinton Due in Seoul on N. Korean Nukes, Alliance: State Dept.
Hwang Doo-hyong and Byun Duk-kun
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit South Korea later this month to discuss six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear dismantlement and strengthening of the alliance, the State Department said Thursday.

"The issue of North Korea will come up in conversation," spokesman Robert Wood said in a daily news briefing where he announced Clinton's trip, which will also take her to Tokyo, Jakarta and Beijing. "We all want to see how we can get the North Koreans to abide by their international obligations." Clinton will be in Seoul Feb. 19-20.

Wood was referring to North Korea's refusal to agree to a verification protocol for its nuclear facilities, which stalled the latest round of the multilateral talks in December.

An official at the South Korean presidential office said the U.S. secretary will meet with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on the second day of her visit.

"President Lee Myung-bak will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Feb. 20 and host a luncheon to exchange views on ways to develop the Korea-U.S. alliance," Kim Eun-hye, a spokeswoman for the presidential office, told a press briefing in Seoul.

Secretary Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, "will not be traveling" along with the secretary, an official at the U.S. State Department earlier said, adding Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, will accompany Secretary Clinton. Hill reportedly has been tapped as the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

"She's very interested in hearing her counterparts' views about how we can best go forward and get the North to do what we all know it should be doing," Wood said.

The spokesman would not go into details of what Clinton will discuss with Japan about Tokyo's refusal to do its part under the six-party deal, including provision of energy aid to the North. Japan claims Pyongyang has failed to provide enough of an explanation on the abduction of dozens of Japanese citizens decades ago by North Korean agents.

North Korea returned five and said the rest are dead, but Japan insists more are alive in the North. Pyongyang has threatened to expel Japan from the six-party talks, which also include South Korea, China, and Russia.

"I don't want to get into the politics of oil shipments," Wood said. "The important thing is that we meet our obligations. And when the North takes the steps that it's required to do under the six-party framework, we and the other members of the six-party framework will take the steps that we're required to do."

The U.S. has said it will suspend heavy oil shipments to the North, citing North Korea's refusal to allow samples to be taken from its nuclear reactor as part of a verification regime.

Clinton will also discuss human rights in North Korea, the spokesman said.

"Human rights will be a big focus," he said. "And another issue I should have mentioned that she cares very deeply about and will be discussing on the trip is women's empowerment."

Clinton will also discuss "our expanding global cooperative partnership with our ally, the Republic of Korea," Wood said.

Her Asian trip was arranged to compensate for President Obama's European tour scheduled for April in order to avoid the impression that the administration is sidelining Asia in favor of Europe and the Middle East, according to analysts here.

Indonesia was included apparently as a gesture to the Muslim world. Obama lived there as a child.

"I don't need to tell you that it's the largest Muslim country in the world," Wood said. "And the secretary feels it's important, that we need to reach out and reach out early to Indonesia."

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Debate Re-ignited Over N. Korea’s Nuclear Status
Jung Sung-ki
The Korea Times
(for personal use only)

The U.S. spy chief-designate acknowledged Thursday that North Korea detonated a nuclear weapon in 2006.

The remark made by Leon Panetta, director-designate of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), during his Senate confirmation hearing have re-ignited controversy in South Korea over whether Washington recognizes Pyongyang as a nuclear power or not.

Previously, U.S. officials said the North conducted a ``nuclear device'' test, not a nuclear weapon test, and U.S. and South Korean authorities believed the test was unsuccessful.

``I really do think that if we are going to come into the 21st century we have got to set a list of priorities that not only look at current crises ― and clearly we've got Afghanistan, we've got Pakistan, we've got Iraq, we have North Korea,'' Panetta was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency.

``We know North Korea detonated a nuclear weapon in 2006,'' he said. ``But we don't know whether Kim Jong-il is prepared to give up that nuclear capability once and for all.''

Controversy erupted earlier this year over a report published by the U.S. Joint Forces Command in November that included North Korea in the list of five nuclear weapons states in Asia, alongside China, India, Pakistan and Russia.

The report said North Korea conducted a nuclear weapon test and had produced sufficient fissile material to create more weapons.

Subsequently, it was also found that U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in a magazine interview that he believed North Korea has built several nuclear bombs.

``North Korea has built several bombs, and Iran seeks to join the nuclear club,'' Gates said in an article to be published in the January edition of the policy journal Foreign Affairs.

Some defense officials and analysts here have raised speculation that the U.S. government is moving to change its position on North Korea's nuclear status.

Pyongyang is believed to have enough plutonium to produce six to eight nuclear weapons, and while this has never been officially confirmed, leaders from South Korea and the United States have said the North has succeeded in making nuclear bombs.

Regional powers have been pushing the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions under a 2007 disarmament-for-aid pact, but the six-party talks involving the United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia are at a stalemate over the establishment of a protocol to verify the North's nuclear materials and activities.

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C.  Russia

Russia Says It Is Ready for More Arms Cuts
Steve Gutterman
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Russia is ready for more nuclear weapons cuts and welcomes President Barack Obama's push for talks on an arms reduction treaty, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in remarks broadcast Saturday.

Russia is believed to have fewer warheads than the U.S. and has indicated it wants a binding deal on further reductions, but Lavrov's remarks were the clearest statement in the issue since Obama took office last month.

The Kremlin, meanwhile, has called on the Obama administration to abandon policies set by his predecessor George W. Bush, including plans for a missile shield based in former Soviet satellite states and the expansion of NATO into Georgia and Ukraine. Lavrov said Russia had long pressed the Bush administration in vain for a clear response to proposals for replacing the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, when it expires in December.

On Thursday, a spokesman for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a replacement treaty for START would be put on a fast track, and that the Obama administration was committed to cuts but had not decided how deep.

"We are ready to go further on the path of reductions and limitations," Lavrov said, adding only the caveat that Russia's overarching goal is to ensure its security.

START limited the United States and Russia to 6,000 nuclear warheads each. In 2002, Bush and Vladimir Putin, then president of Russia, agreed on a treaty that set a target of 1,700 to 2,000 deployed strategic warheads on each side by 2012.

Lavrov made no mention of specific numbers in the brief remarks. Asked about media reports claiming a reduction of up to 80 percent could be in the works, he said he had not heard them and that nothing had been confirmed officially.

The American nuclear stockpile is believed to contain about 2,300 warheads, and the Russian stockpile even lower. When the 2002 treaty was signed, many analysts said the number of Russian nuclear weapons could fall far below the target it set.

Amid increasingly sour ties with the United States under Bush, Russia poured a portion of its windfall oil revenues into its nuclear arsenal in order to keep up with its Cold War foe. Putin and his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, have boasted about Russia's arsenal and assured Russians they will be safe for decades to come.

But with Soviet-built missiles nearing the end of their service life and uncertainty about new missiles being tested, Russia has indicated it wants strict limits and an ironclad verification regime. The Kremlin has said it was frustrated by the Bush administration's aversion to binding deals and hopes for a change under Obama.

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D.  Iran

Iran 'Ready' for New Nuclear Proposals
(for personal use only)

Iran says it is prepared to hold nuclear talks and assess any new and constructive ideas the West has to offer on its nuclear program.

"If the West has new and productive proposals, it can set them forth. We are ready to review their suggestions [on the nuclear issue]," Iranian Majlis (parliament) Speaker Ali Larijani said in a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Saturday.

The United States and the West have spearheaded a drive to impose increasing pressures on Iran over its nuclear activities, accusing Tehran of making covert attempts to develop nuclear weapons through enrichment activities.

Iran argues that under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) -- to which it is a signatory -- it has the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, rejecting claims that it seeks weaponization.

The Larijani-Solana meeting follows an earlier session between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in which the possibility of placing tougher sanctions on Tehran was raised.

Western states claim they seek a win-win solution to resolve the dispute surrounding Iran's enrichment program, promising to provide Tehran economic and political incentives in exchange for the country renouncing its right to a nuclear fuel cycle.

Speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference on Friday, Larijani said the carrot-and-stick policy adopted by the West must be abandoned.

He added that the resumption of Iran-US talks would require a "pragmatic strategy based on fair play", a preconditions which would necessitate the adoption of "real change" and "practical policies" by the new US administration.

US President Barack Obama says he would be willing to hold direct talks with Iran.

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Russia Welcomes Direct Iran-US Talks
(for personal use only)

Russia welcomes a proposal by the new US President, Barack Obama, to hold direct talks with Iran and resolve the country's nuclear case.

We welcome that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov told a Sunday press conference in Munich with regards to the Obama offer.

Ivanov expressed optimism about the strong desire of the new US administration to change.

In an apparent shift from the Bush administration's policy on Iran, President Obama has vowed to engage in direct diplomacy with Tehran without preconditions.

Outlining the new US administration's foreign policy in Munich on Saturday Vice President Joe Biden said that Washington would move toward direct talks with Iran but at the same time warned of a continued tough line.

"Our administration does not believe in a clash of civilizations. There is nothing inevitable about that," said Biden.

Tehran and Washington severed ties in 1980 after the US embassy takeover and years of White House interference in Iran's internal affairs.

The election of Barack Obama as the new US President has raised hopes that the two countries may be able to restore diplomatic relations.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ivanov expressed Russia's readiness to help initiate talks between the US and Iran, saying, "If somebody asks us to help establish direct dialogue (between Washington and Tehran), we are ready to help such dialogue get started."

The United States and its allies accuse Iran of pursuing a military nuclear program, saying that the country has enough enriched material "for a bomb."

The UN nuclear watchdog, however, has confirmed in its November and latest report that Iran has only managed to enrich uranium-235 to a level "less than 5 percent" -- a rate consistent with the development of a nuclear power plant.

Nuclear arms production requires an enrichment level of above 90 percent.

Western powers have offered Iran political and economic incentives to convince the country to halt its uranium enrichment program.

This is while the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) -- to which Tehran is a signatory -- grants Iran the right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes.

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Biden Offers Iran ‘Incentives’ to End Nuclear Program
James G. Neuger
(for personal use only)

Vice President Joe Biden said the U.S. is determined to end three decades of tension with Iran as long as the Islamic republic halts its nuclear program and stops fomenting terrorism.

Speaking to an audience that included Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, Biden urged European allies and Russia to back diplomatic efforts to keep atomic weapons out of the Iranian government’s hands.

“This much is clear: we will be willing to talk,” Biden said at the Munich Security Conference today. Iran has “a very clear choice: to continue down the current course and there will be continued pressure and isolation. Abandon the illicit nuclear program and your support for terrorism, and there will be meaningful incentives.”

Sketching out what he called President Barack Obama’s “new tone” in U.S. engagement with the world, Biden made no mention of military strikes as a last resort to prevent Iran from going nuclear. Instead, he emphasized Obama’s desire to reach out to Muslim countries and hailed Iran’s “great civilization.”

Before Biden arrived in Munich, Larijani told the opening session yesterday that Iran isn’t seeking to build nuclear weapons and urged the U.S. to abandon the “tired carrot-and- stick” approach that he blamed for tensions dating to the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iran says its uranium enrichment program is for civilian electricity generation, denying Western suspicions that it wants to build a bomb and shrugging off three sets of United Nations sanctions.

‘Tougher Sanctions’

U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband urged Iran to take up the American offer or face “very serious, tougher sanctions.”

“It’s not going to get better than an American administration saying we want normal relations with Iran,” Miliband said.

Germany will press for tougher sanctions unless Iran abandons uranium enrichment, Chancellor Angela Merkel said. Germany has worked with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to put the squeeze on Iran.

“We have to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” Merkel said.

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Germany Warns Iran Over Sanctions
BBC News
(for personal use only)

Germany has warned Iran that it would support tougher sanctions if diplomatic efforts to stop the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons broke down.

Speaking at a security conference in Munich, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would back any change in approach by US President Barack Obama.

French leader Nicolas Sarkozy appealed to Russia to add to the pressure on Iran to stop enriching uranium.

Iran says it wants the uranium for nuclear power, not weapons.

Russia is building Iran's first nuclear power plant and expects to fire it up by the end of this year, but insists it is for purely civilian use, and cannot be used for military purposes.

Referring to the US stance of opening communication with Iran, Mrs Merkel said: "We are ready to walk this path together. But we are also ready for tougher sanctions if there is no progress."

Mr Sarkozy, also speaking at the conference, said Russian co-operation on imposing sanctions was necessary.

"We need the Russians to help so that sanctions against Iran are effective," he said.

"We have only one solution left, reinforce sanctions against Iran and link Russia to this process."

US Vice-President Joe Biden, in a wide-ranging speech about the foreign policy of President Barack Obama's new administration, said Iran needed to decide on its future course.

"We will be willing to talk to Iran, and to offer a very clear choice: continue down your current course and there will be pressure and isolation; abandon the illicit nuclear program and your support for terrorism and there will be meaningful incentives."

Missile defence

President Obama has announced a review of US policy towards Iran.

"Iran has acted in ways that are not conducive to peace in the region or to the prosperity of its people; its illicit nuclear program is but one of those manifestations," Mr Biden said.

He added: "We will continue to develop missile defences to counter a growing Iranian capability, provided the technology is proven to work and cost effective."

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Iran should take advantage of the US change in policy.

"It is not going to get any better than this.

"It's not going to get better than an American administration saying we want normal relations with Iran."

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E.  India

India Ready for Ban on Nuclear Weapons: NSA
Times of India
(for personal use only)

India is willing to negotiate a nuclear weapons convention leading to global non-discriminatory and verifiable elimination of nuclearweapons, National Security Advisor MK Narayanan has said here.

Addressing an international security conference in Munich on Friday, the NSA said: "If this conference succeeds in not merely addressing the issue of nuclear reductions but also devise pathways to their elimination, this might well be the transforming moment for the global community."

"Non-proliferation cannot be an end in itself, and has to be linked to effective nuclear disarmament. Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation should be seen as mutually re-inforcing processes. Effective disarmament must enhance the security of all states and not merely that of a few," he said while speaking on "Non-Proliferation, Arms Control and Future of Nuclear Weapons; Is Zero Possible?"

"Even today, India is perhaps the only nuclear weapons state to express its readiness to negotiate a Nuclear Weapons Convention leading to global, non-discriminatory and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons."

Recalling former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's stark warning when he presented his action plan to the UN general assembly in 1988, Narayanan said it was by far the most comprehensive initiative for complete elimination of all nuclear weapons in stages by 2010.

This included covering issues ranging from nuclear testing and cessation of production of fissile material for nuclear weapons to a time-bound elimination of stockpiles.

As concrete steps towards this end, Narayanan mentioned reaffirmation of the unequivocal commitment of all states possessing nuclear weapons to the goal of complete elimination of nuclear weapons, reduction of the salience of nuclear weapons in security doctrines and adoption of measures to reduce nuclear dangers, including preventing the unintentional or accidental use of nuclear weapons.

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F.  Nuclear Cooperation

U.S. N-Policy Could Hurt Japan / Obama's Changes May Undermine Planned N-Waste Disposal Facility
Keiko Chino
Daily Yomiuri Online
(for personal use only)

U.S. President Barack Obama's nuclear energy policy could have considerable significance for Japan.

In particular, possible policy changes relating to the construction of a nuclear waste facility would have a definite impact on Tokyo's plans for a similar project.

Though the new U.S. administration has yet to clarify its policy on nuclear power, among other issues, Obama's remarks during his presidential election campaign and the lineup of his administration staff provide indications of the likely course of his nuclear energy policy.

Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, pledged to promote nuclear power generation as an anti-global warming measure during his tenure. Bush's policy was seen as epochal in that there had been little momentum in nuclear power-related projects worldwide following the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident in 1986, among other incidents.

Bush announced a policy to encourage the construction of new nuclear power plants in 2002 and proposed the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) in 2006.

He also proposed an international cooperation scheme for nuclear fuel recycling, in which spent nuclear fuel is processed for reuse.

These steps were welcomed as a "nuclear power renaissance" by people in the industry. Sensing a business opportunity, business circles in Japan also were excited by the moves.

In 2007, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. and Areva, a French firm, jointly won a contract from the U.S. Energy Department to study new types of nuclear reactors under the GNEP initiative.

Obama is forward-looking regarding anti-global warming efforts and has vowed to make efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions, ease heavy reliance on oil, and develop clean and sustainable energy resources, such as solar and wind power. But many in the nuclear power industry say Obama's approach will be less effective at promoting nuclear power than that of the Bush administration.

In mid-January, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency presented an assessment of U.S. policies during an Atomic Energy Commission panel meeting.

The JAEA said the United States planned to use nuclear power to a certain extent, but would attach less importance to it than the Bush administration, which had actively promoted nuclear power.

Industry observers will be paying close attention to the United States' handling of disposal sites for radioactive waste. In 2002, the Bush administration approved plans to construct a final-stage disposal site in Nevada. But during his election campaign, Obama voiced opposition to the plan, saying it would be better to store radioactive waste in current facilities until scientists have settled upon safer long-term storage measures.

The JAEA has said any review of the U.S. plan would have a major impact on Japan, where the government currently is considering a final-stage disposal site for high-level radioactive waste.

As changes in the U.S. plan would affect debate in Japan, it would be necessary to conduct a detailed analysis of the reasons behind Washington's review.

Nuclear industry sources say it is highly likely the GNEP, too, will be reexamined. The budget for the initiative could be largely cut and the initiative itself likely significantly downscaled.

An MHI official indicated that the company intends to wait and see how events unfold, saying, "Though the main thrust of the trend won't change, its pace may slow."

The construction of new nuclear power plants also has been thrown into question. Though plans are in motion to construct more than 30 nuclear reactors in the United States, circumstances have been altered by the shift in administration and the economic crisis.

This is not good news for Japanese companies hoping to win contracts to construct the new reactors.

Shunsuke Kondo, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, said: "Generating nuclear power is a long-term project, and as such, various developments will occur during the process. But if U.S. policies change at roller-coaster pace, Japan won't be able to get an effective grip on the issue. I want to exchange opinions with the relevant U.S. government officials as soon as possible."

However, some within Japan's nuclear power industry have voiced optimism.

"If the United States seriously intends to cut CO2 emissions, it should rely on nuclear power. Even if the country initially distances itself from nuclear power, it will soon reconsider its position," an industry insider said.

But even if this is true, Japan still faces a difficult domestic challenge: Japan's atomic energy policy is based on the assumption that recycled nuclear fuel will be developed.

But construction work on the facilities necessary for such a recycling system has been delayed.

Operations at Monju, a fast-breeder reactor, have been suspended since 1995, following a sodium leak accident. Though the reactor was scheduled to resume operating this month, it likely will be postponed to late in the year.

A nuclear fuel reprocessing plant scheduled to open this month has been put back by six months. The whole project is running 10 years behind its initial schedule.

If these delays continues to persist, it will undermine public trust in the nation's atomic energy policy.

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Russia to Build Nuclear Plant in Belarus
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Russia's ambassador to Belarus says Moscow will finance Belarus' first nuclear power plant and construction will begin this year.

Alexander Surikov says the $5 billion project will be on "maximally beneficial credit terms" for Belarus and will be built by the Russian state monopoly, Atomstroiexport.

Critics say the plant will increase Minsk's dependence on Moscow.

Environmentalists are angry that it's being built near the border of Lithuania on a nature reserve that is a popular vacation spot.

The plant is expected to be fully operational by 2020, when it should supply a third of the energy needs for the country's 10 million people.

Belarus is heavily dependent on Russia for cheap oil and gas supplies.

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Seoul Undecided on Buying N.Korean Fuel Rods
Arirang News
(for personal use only)

North Korea is said to have some 15,000 of unused nuclear fuel rods. Last month, South Korea sent a delegation to the North to check their condition and consider buying them as part of efforts to denuclearize the communist country.

Although their condition was satisfactory Pyongyang reportedly asked for such a high price that Seoul decided not to buy them.

The Foreign Ministry, however, denied the reports Thursday saying no decision had yet been made.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young said, "There has been no decision on the purchase of unspent fuel rods. And when Seoul's delegation came back from the North, there were no negotiations on the price of the fuel rods."

The international market price for the fuel rods is said to be about US$11 million. But since Seoul has to bear the cost of modifying them to use them in its own nuclear power plants, the final price is expected to significantly impact Seoul's decision.

Getting rid of North Korea's unused fuel rods is one of the last steps left in the second phase of denuclearizing the communist regime. But with nuclear talks stalled and inter-Korean relations frozen, it remains unclear how much progress can be made.

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G.  Nuclear Industry

Doosan Heavy Exports Its First Nuclear Reactor
Lee Sun-young
The Korea Herald
(for personal use only)

Doosan Heavy Industries Co. said yesterday it had built and delivered a nuclear reactor to a power plant in China, marking the company's first sale of a nuclear reactor overseas.
The 600 megawatt reactor will be installed at the Qinshan Phase 2 Nuclear Power Station in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang. It is scheduled to go into operation in early 2011 after a 6 month period of installment and trial run.

Doosan received the order in August 2005 from China's state-run China National Nuclear Corp. "Doosan has supplied steam generators, pressurizers and other nuclear power equipment to China and the United States before, but this is the first time that it has provided a reactor itself," the company said.

Korea's only company specializing in nuclear power plant facilities, Doosan made a debut on the global power market in 1997 when it received orders for steam generators from the CNNC for the Qinshan power station.

The company has been trying to tap into the nuclear power reactor market in China. Demand for nuclear power generation is increasing in China as its economy consumes more and more energy but needs to curtail air pollution.
In 2007, Doosan clinched deals to build equipment for a new-type of nuclear power plant in Sanmen, Zhejiang Province. In May last year, it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the CNNC to expand their business cooperation in the nuclear power sector.

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Fortum Files Application to Build Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant
Energy Business Review
(for personal use only)

Power utility Fortum has submitted to the Finnish government an application for a decision-in-principle concerning the construction of a new nuclear power plant unit on the island of Hastholmen in Loviisa, Finland.

According to the company, it has already two nuclear power plant units on the island. As per the plan, the new unit will be operational in 2020. The application presents five different plant alternatives, all of which are expected to fulfill stringent Finnish safety standards once completed.

Construction of the nuclear power plant unit reduces dependency on energy imports, replaces retiring electricity production in the coming decades and ensures CO2-free and stable base-load electricity production at a predictable cost in Finland.

The energy company said that Loviisa-3 will be designed to allow for combined heat and power production. The location in the vicinity of the Helsinki metropolitan area offers possibilities for utilization of district heat.

In addition to nuclear power, Fortum is promoting renewable energy production, such as hydro and wind power and the utilisation of biomass-fuels, and energy conservation. With these methods, it is possible to achieve carbon dioxide-free electricity production. Today over 90% of Fortum’s power generation in the EU is carbon dioxide-free, claims the company.

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Russia's TVEL to Sign $780 Mln Nuclear Fuel Deal With India
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

Russian nuclear fuel producer TVEL expects to sign a $780 million contract on fuel supplies to Indian nuclear power plants, a spokesman for Russia's state nuclear power corporation Rosatom said on Saturday.

The contract, if signed, could make Russia the first country to supply nuclear fuel to India since the Nuclear Suppliers Group lifted a three-decade ban on nuclear fuel sales to the country on September 6, 2008.

"The contract is likely to be signed on February 11 in Mumbai," the spokesman said.

Under the deal, Russia would supply India with 2,000 metric tons of uranium pellets.

In December, the French company Areva and India's Atomic Energy Department signed a deal for the supply of 300 tons of uranium to be used in Indian nuclear reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

The fuel contract would be another step in burgeoning nuclear cooperation between Russia and India. On December 5, Moscow and Delhi signed an agreement to build an additional four reactors for the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, where it is finishing two reactors under an earlier contract, and construct new nuclear plants in India.

TVEL is one of the world's leading manufacturers of nuclear fuel, which it supplies to 73 commercial (17% of global market) and 30 research reactors in 13 countries.

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S.African PBMR Nuclear Firm Looks to U.S., Canada
Wendell Roelf
(for personal use only)

South African nuclear technology firm PBMR hopes to tap the U.S. and Canadian markets in the wake of Eskom's decision to abandon a plan to build a second nuclear plant, a senior company official said.

Development of the company's Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) technology for power plants, scheduled for commercial use by 2014, has been hit by the global financial crisis and funding problems at South African state-owned power utility Eskom [ESCJ.J], its major shareholder.

The Industrial Development Corporation, a South African state-owned finance institution, and U.S-based Westinghouse, which is majority owned by Japan's Toshiba Corp. (6502.T), also have stakes.

Eskom is struggling to fund a 343 billion rand ($34.63 billion) plan to build new power plants and ramp up its power capacity. Power shortages have forced it to cut supply to industry, including mining firms, and residents.

"The global financial crisis and related impact on funding ... has prompted the PBMR company to consider near-term market opportunities based on customer requirements to service both the electricity and process heat markets," Jaco Kriek, PBMR's chief executive, said late on Thursday night.

Kriek said the U.S. Department of Energy, which is funding development of new nuclear plants, companies active in Canada's oil sands development and South African petrochemical group Sasol (SOLJ.J), were among those targeted by the company.

PBMR technology could be used to produce enough heat and pressure to extract bitumen from oil sands or enough steam or hydrogen to refine coal products, he said.

The company is considered to be among the world leaders in the development of nuclear reactors that use radioactive material sealed in small pebbles.

Designers of the technology say it is safer than conventional reactors and will improve efficiency, although some environmentalists dispute it.

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H.  Links of Interest

Asia's Nonproliferation Laggards
Charles Wolf Jr.
Wall Street Journal
(for personal use only)

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Pyongyang’s Game Plan
Brent Choi
Joong Ang Daily
(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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