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Nuclear News - 2/24/2009
PGS Nuclear News, February 24, 2009
Compiled By: Helene Picart

A.  Iran
    1. Iran Offered Nuclear Bargaining Chip, Says Envoy, The Canberra Times (2/23/2009)
    2. Iran Plans 'Pre-Commissioning' of Nuclear Plant, Agence France-Presse (2/23/2009)
    3. MP: ElBaradei's Report Proves Iran's Non-Diversion, Fars News Agency (2/22/2009)
    4. Iran not Producing Weapon-Grade Uranium: IAEA, Atul Aneja, The Hindu (2/22/2009)
    5. Schroeder in Iran Backs Nuclear Consortium, Payvand News (2/22/2009)
    1. Clinton Casts Doubts About a North Uranium Program, Brian Lee, Joong Ang Daily (2/23/2009)
    2. Six-Party Members Agree N. Korea Must Surrender Nukes: Official, Yonhap News Agency (2/22/2009)
    3. Seoul to Delete Account of N.K. Nuke in Defense White Paper, The Korea Herald (2/20/2009)
    4. Seoul, Washington Reaffirm Joint Front Against North, The Korea Times (2/20/2009)
    5. Clinton Names Special NKorea Envoy, Matthew Lee, Associated Press (2/20/2009)
C.  India
    1. DAE Pulled Up for Nuclear Fuel Shortage, Sandeep Dikshit, The Hindu (2/22/2009)
D.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Israel, U.S. React to IAEA Reports, JTA (2/22/2009)
    2. Iraq Invites France Back to Build Nuclear Plant, Agence France-Presse (2/22/2009)
    3. US Seeks Syria Nuclear Explanation, Al Jazeera (2/21/2009)
    4. Romania, Russia Sign Spent N-Fuel Disposal Agreement, Itar-Tass News Agency (2/21/2009)
    5. U.S. Nuclear Regulator Ready to Help Armenia, Emil Sanamyan, The Armenian Reporter (2/19/2009)
E.  Nuclear Industry
    1. China Help for Vietnam Nuke Power Plant Likely, Xiao Wan, China Daily (2/24/2009)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. Loose Nuke Scientist, Jane Harman, The Washington Times (2/23/2009)
    2. Nuclear Agenda Draws Scrutiny, Brian Bender, The Boston Globe (2/22/2009)
    3. [VIDEO] Russia Postpones Iran Missile Deal, Gareth Porter, The Real News (2/22/2009)
    4. India Should Take Leadership Role in India Ocean Region, A. Vinod Kumar, Thaindian News (2/22/2009)

A.  Iran

Iran Offered Nuclear Bargaining Chip, Says Envoy
The Canberra Times
(for personal use only)

Iran offered to stop aiding attacks on Western forces in Iraq if the West dropped opposition to its nuclear program, a top British official says.

Sir John Sawers, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, told the BBC that Iranian officials had privately admitted their role in supporting insurgents' roadside bomb attacks on British and US troops.

But Britain rejected the proposed deal, floated in meetings at London hotels.

"The Iranians wanted to be able to strike a deal whereby they stopped killing our forces in Iraq in return for them being allowed to carry on with their nuclear program," Sir John said in a BBC TV documentary on Saturday.

He paraphrased the terms of the proposed deal as: "We stop killing you in Iraq, stop undermining the political process there, you allow us to carry on with our nuclear program without let or hindrance."

The proposal came in a series of meetings between Iranian and European officials, he said.

"There were various Iranians who would come to London and suggest we have tea in some hotel or other. They'd do the same in Paris, they'd do the same in Berlin, and then we'd compare notes among the three of us."

The news agency Mehr quoted an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hassan Ghashghavi, as saying in response that the country's authorities "have many times stressed that Iran has no role in attacks on American and British troops".

"The Islamic Republic of Iran from the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has played a role for the return of peace, stability and calm in these countries," he said. "It had regular dialogues and co-operation with international forces with regard to these issues."

The claim is one of several in the documentary about backroom talks between the West and Iran since 2001.

Quoting Iranian and US officials, the program also said Tehran co-operated closely with the US to oust the Taliban in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks, even providing intelligence to help with bombing raids.

Inside Iraq the Government has reopened the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, promising decent conditions including a gym, computer chatroom and hair salon.

The Baghdad prison, which gained global notoriety in 2004 after US jailers filmed themselves tormenting and sexually abusing Iraqi prisoners, was shut down two years ago for refurbishment when the US handed control of it to the new Iraqi government.

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Iran Plans 'Pre-Commissioning' of Nuclear Plant
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

Iran will this week "pre-commission" its first nuclear power plant, which is being built by Russia in the southern city of Bushehr, local news agencies reported on Sunday.

"In the presence of the heads of the atomic energy organisations of Iran and Russia, the pre-commissioning of Bushehr power plant will be carried out on Wednesday," the ISNA news agency said, quoting Iran Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Mohsen Delaviz.

It did not say exactly what the pre-commissioning of the much-delayed plant would entail.

Russia took over construction of the plant in 1994 but completion has been delayed due to a number of factors, including the controversy over Iran's nuclear programme.

Earlier this month, the chief of Russia's state nuclear federation, Sergei Kiriyenko, said that his visit to Iran would be "to get acquainted with the works at the plant."

He also said that a "technical launch" of the plant was possible before the end of this year as everything was going according to plan, unless there are "unforeseen circumstances since we have to integrate all the equipment."

The nuclear fuel supplied by Moscow for the plant is sealed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to the latest report by the UN body released on Thursday.

According to the report, Iran has informed the agency that the loading of the fuel in the plant will take place only in the second quarter of 2009.

All the main equipment at Bushehr has been installed by Russian contractor Atomstroiexport.

The start-up of the plant, as and when it happens, will be a leap forward in Iran's plan to develop nuclear technology.

Tehran's ambitious nuclear drive has triggered a row with Western governments which suspect it is seeking to acquire a warhead, a charge Iran strongly denies.

Western powers fear Iran could use uranium enrichment technology to make a nuclear bomb but Tehran insists it wants solely to generate electricity for a growing population whose fossil fuels will eventually run out.

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Iran not Producing Weapon-Grade Uranium: IAEA
Atul Aneja
The Hindu
(for personal use only)

Iran has not converted the low-grade uranium that it has produced into weapon-grade uranium, inspectors belonging to the International Atomic Energy Agency have said.

The Austrian Press Agency quoted an IAEA expert as saying that the uranium substances that Iran has produced at its Natanz enrichment facility have been carefully recorded and remote cameras have been installed to supervise part of the stockpile.

“If the Iranians intend to transport these uranium substances to a secret location for further processing, agency’s inspectors will find out,” he said.

The expert added that “so far, Iran has carried out good cooperation with us in relevant verifications”.

IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei has said that Iran has slowed down its uranium enrichment programme. He made this observation while submitting a report to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday. Iran has reportedly added only 164 centrifuges (which are used for enrichment) since December last, a comparatively slower rate than in the past.

The IAEA report said that Iran had so far produced around 1,000 kg. of low-enriched uranium.

Iran has denied accusations by the United States and its allies that it has been engaged in a clandestine nuclear weapons programme.

Iran has continued with its uranium enrichment activities which it stresses only have a peaceful orientation.

The report notes that Iran has not stopped uranium enrichment activity despite imposition of sanctions by U.N. Security Council.

The Security Council has demanded that Iran must suspend all uranium enrichment as a first step to allow negotiations to commence.

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MP: ElBaradei's Report Proves Iran's Non-Diversion
Fars News Agency
(for personal use only)

The latest report by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohammad ElBaradei on Iran proves the Islamic Republic's compliance with NPT and non-diversion in its nuclear activities, an Iranian parliament deputy said on Sunday. "The IAEA director general's report on Iran is no different from his previous report", member of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy commission Hamid Reza Haji Babaei told FNA.

ElBaradei's Iran report was presented to the IAEA Board of Governors on Thursday.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency chief will be delivered within seven to ten days prior to the seasonal meeting of the agency's Board of Governors for contemplations. The first meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors is slated to be held on March 2.

The lawmaker said that the report by the UN nuclear watchdog chief on Iran should be split into two parts, adding, "One part of this report refers to Iran's responsibilities towards the Agency and NPT (the Non-Proliferation Treaty) and ElBaradei has announced in this section that Iran has fulfilled its responsibilities well" and that its activities included no diversion from peaceful to military means.

Haji Babaei said that the other part of the report is two-sided and has been prepared under the pressures of certain member states of the IAEA Board of Governors.

In the second part, ElBaradei speaks about fulfillment of such duties as the approval of the Additional Protocol by Iran and suspension of Iran's nuclear program which are neither considered as NPT rules nor mentioned in the Modality plan approved by Iran and the Agency and are, thus, out of question, he stressed.

He added that what is said in the report under the title of "alleged studies", is out of the framework of the NPT rules and regulations.

Generally speaking, we consider this report to be "positive" as "ElBaradei has approved Iran's stances", the lawmaker said, reminding that the negative parts of the report lack legal and technical values.

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Schroeder in Iran Backs Nuclear Consortium
Payvand News
(for personal use only)

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has welcomed the prospects of an internationally-run nuclear enrichment plant in Iran.

Iran's offer to form a nuclear consortium is acceptable and should be followed up, Schroeder said in a Saturday meeting with Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani in Tehran.

Tehran had previously made an offer to the United Nations to build an international enrichment facility inside Iran in a bid to resolve the controversy surrounding the Iranian nuclear program.

Tehran says the only aim of its nuclear program is the civilian applications of the technology. The US, Israel and their European allies -- Britain, France and Germany -- accuse the country of pursuing military purposes.

Iran's proposal followed a plan suggesting that the White House should help build an internationally-run enrichment facility inside Iran to replace the country's current facilities.

Larijani said Iran -- a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty -- is entitled to enrich uranium inside the country.

"The Islamic Republic has observed international regulations and depriving Iran of nuclear technology and energy for peaceful purposes is impossible," he said.

Former German chancellor Schroeder is in Tehran on a four-day unofficial visit.
Iran stands by nuclear consortium offer

A member of Iran's parliament has supported the idea of building an internationally-run nuclear enrichment plant inside the country.

"An internationally-run nuclear consortium will be effective in resolving Iran's nuclear challenge with the West," a member of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Hossein Sobhani-Nia told IRNA news agency on Sunday.

Tehran had previously made an offer to the United Nations to build an international enrichment facility inside Iran in a bid to resolve the controversy surrounding the Iranian nuclear program.

Tehran says the only aim of its nuclear program is the civilian applications of the technology. The US, Israel and their European allies -- Britain, France and Germany -- accuse the country of pursuing military purposes.

Iran's proposal followed a plan suggesting that the White House should help build an internationally-run enrichment facility inside Iran to replace the country's current facilities.

On Saturday, former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder welcomed the prospects of Iran's offer as "acceptable".

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Clinton Casts Doubts About a North Uranium Program
Brian Lee
Joong Ang Daily
(for personal use only)

Striking a different tone from American intelligence officials, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cast doubt s on the existence of North Korea’s purported highly enriched uranium program, in what some observers here believe is an indicator of Washington’s changing priorities in talks on denuclearizing the reclusive country.

When referring to the suspected program in an interview with U.S. network Fox News on Friday, Clinton said, “I think that there is a sense, among many who have studied this, that there may be some program somewhere, but no one can point to any specific location nor can they point to any specific outcome of whatever might have gone on, if anything did.”

She added, “I don’t have any doubt that they would try whatever they possibly could. Have they? I don’t know that and nobody else does either.”

Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea specialist at Dongguk University, said that the remarks by the secretary marked a sharp departure from past positions taken by an American administration.

“There was only circumstantial evidence but never any conclusive evidence regarding the uranium enrichment program, and from a practical point of view [Clinton] is opting not to make the issue stand at the forefront,” he said. “Washington is also keen on focusing on the plutonium-based nuclear program, which is a current issue, not a future one.”

Washington raised suspicions over an alleged highly enriched uranium program in a meeting with North Korean officials in 2002. The result was the collapse of the 1994 Agreed Framework that had averted the first nuclear crisis. Regarding the intelligence that led Washington to confront the North Koreans about the program, top U.S. intelligence officials have said they were confident that North Korea was trying to operate an enrichment program at the time, and are moderately sure such efforts still continue today.

Based on such intelligence, the Bush administration embarked on an initial policy path of pressuring North Korea, but eventually reversing to engage in the six-party talks. When the Bush administration came to power, it criticized the Bill Clinton administration for striking a deal it viewed as having too many loopholes and rewarding the North Koreans for bad behavior.

Secretary Clinton has made no secret of her displeasure with the Bush administration’s scrapping of the 1994 Agreed Framework that was formed under her husband’s government, saying that doing so only allowed Pyongyang to produce more plutonium and conduct its first nuclear test in 2006.

“She also wants to finish what her husband started, so this is a subtle message to the North that the past should not stand in the way of the future. The HEU program is the past,” said Koh.

In the final days of the Clinton administration dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington raised hopes that ties between the two could be normalized, but all such efforts ended with Bush coming into office.

Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor of North Korean studies at Korea University pointed out that Clinton’s remark reflected Washington’s willingness to engage Pyongyang, as President Barack Obama has promised from the beginning of his tenure.

“Pyongyang has probably dissected every word that she said while she was here and will soon come out with an answer,” said Koh. “Washington is in the course of devising its policy direction on North Korea and what she is saying now can be interpreted as precursors of what’s to come.”

Controversy still surrounds the alleged 2002 admission about an HEU program by the North’s First Vice Minister Kang Sok-ju to a U.S. delegation. Pyongyang officially denied ever having made such a statement.

In her maiden trip to Seoul, Secretary Clinton reaffirmed the alliance with South Korea and warned Pyongyang about any activities that may threaten security here, but that was expected considering the host country. Her real message may have been what she didn’t say in the official press conference.

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Six-Party Members Agree N. Korea Must Surrender Nukes: Official
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

A nuclear-free Korean Peninsula is key to peace and stability in North East Asia, on which all regional players involved in nuclear disarmament talks reached full agreement, a South Korean official said Sunday.

Huh Chul, a director-general at the Foreign Ministry, represented South Korea at a mini-six-party meeting held in Moscow last week to discuss a durable peace mechanism in North East Asia.

The other countries involved in the talks are North Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.
The two-day Moscow forum on Thursday and Friday was sponsored by one of four working committees formed under the control of six-party talks created in 2003 to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

At the Moscow forum, the U.S., joined by South Korea and Japan, stressed the need for North Korea to denuclearize as a pre-condition for a sustainable peace mechanism in Northeast Asia, Huh said.

North Korea as well as China and Russia voiced no objection to the call, the South Korean official said, disclosing that current inter-Korean tension was not an issue.

"The North also refrained from making overt criticism of Seoul's current North Korean policies, which could have made the talks difficult," said Huh who heads the ministry's Korea Peninsula Peace regime office.

The main six-party talks have been stalled since late last year because of North Korea's objection to a U.S.-proposed verification regime on its past nuclear activities.

Huh voiced cautious optimism that if any progress is made at committee-level discussions, it may provide fresh momentum to the stalled main six-party forum.

He expressed hope that his committee may re-convene as early as possible to capitalize on gains made in the latest round.

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Clinton Names Special NKorea Envoy
Matthew Lee
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton named a special envoy for North Korea on Friday but warned the communist nation that ties with the United States will not improve unless it stops threatening South Korea.

Amid a disturbing rise in belligerent rhetoric from the North toward the South and signs it may be getting ready to test-fire a ballistic missile, she urged Pyongyang to halt "provocative and unhelpful" gestures and rejoin stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.

"North Korea is not going to get a different relationship with the United States while insulting and refusing dialogue with (South Korea)," Clinton told reporters at a news conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan.

"We are calling on the government of North Korea to refrain from being provocative and unhelpful in a war of words that it has been engaged in because that is not very fruitful," she said.

Clinton, who also received a military briefing on the situation along the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea and discussed broader issues such as climate change and the global economic crisis with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Han Seung-soo, praised Seoul for its democracy and prosperity.

She said that was "in stark contrast to the tyranny and poverty across the border to the North" and commended the "people of South Korea and your leaders for your calm, resolve and determination in the face of provocative and unhelpful statements and actions by the North."

She declined to comment on intelligence suggesting the North could soon fire a missile but noted such an act would violate U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718, which was passed after Pyongyang detonated a nuclear device in 2006.

"The North should refrain from violating this resolution and also from any and all provocative actions that could harm the six-party talks and aggravate the tensions in the region," Clinton said.

She demanded that the North follow through on promises it made to dismantle and verifiably disable its nuclear weapons program during negotiations with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States last year, saying Washington is not willing to engage with Pyongyang until it does so.

Only then would the Obama administration be willing normalize ties and negotiate a peace treaty, she said later in a speech to students at Ewha University.

"I make the offer again right here in Seoul if North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate nuclear weapons, the Obama administration will be willing to normalize bilateral relations, replace the peninsula's long-standing armistice agreement with a permanent peace treaty and assist in meeting the energy and other economic and humanitarian needs of the Korean people," she said.

Earlier, Clinton said the new U.S. special representative for North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, would work with South Korea, Japan, China and others to look at ways to get Pyongyang back to the negotiating table and deal with broader policy.

Bosworth will also deal with North Korean human rights and humanitarian issues, she said, praising him as "a capable and experienced diplomat" who will report to her and President Barack Obama.

En route to South Korea from Indonesia on Thursday on her first overseas trip as America's top diplomat, Clinton surprised reporters traveling with her when she spoke candidly about a possible succession crisis in North Korea and its impact on restarting the talks.

Those comments marked a rare, if not unprecedented, instance of a senior U.S. official publicly discussing such a diplomatically sensitive matter.

"I don't think it's a forbidden subject to talk about succession in the Hermit Kingdom," she told reporters Friday before departing for Beijing, the last stop on her trip. "It's a fact. Obviously, it's a factor."

Earlier Friday, Clinton again acknowledged concerns over a potential power struggle to replace ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, but she stressed that the United States was still addressing its concerns to the existing government.

"As we look at planning and contingency planning, we're taking everything into account, but we feel there is a government in place right now and that government is being asked to re-engage with the six-party talks, to fulfill the obligations that they have agreed to," she said.

"And we expect them to do so," Clinton added, stressing that her earlier succession comments had not divulged any classified information and that similar analysis could easily be found in newspapers and online.

Kim, 67, inherited leadership from his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, in 1994, creating the world's first communist dynasty. Last year, South Korean and U.S. officials said Kim suffered a stroke and underwent brain surgery in August.

North Korean officials have steadfastly denied Kim is ill but state-run media made no mention of Kim's public appearances for weeks last fall, feeding fears that his sudden death without naming a successor could leave a power vacuum and spark an internal struggle.

Kim's father had cultivated a powerful cult of personality that encompassed him and his son, and recent dispatches in North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency have stressed the importance of bloodline and inheritance in what is seen as references to the succession plan.

Kim Jong Il is believed to have at least three sons: Kim Jong Nam, in his late 30s; Kim Jong Chul, in his late 20s; and Kim Jong Un, a son in his mid-20s by another companion.

The eldest is believed to have been the favorite to succeed his father until he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport in 2001, reportedly to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

Last month, the South Korean news agency Yonhap said the youngest, Kim Jong Un, was named Kim's heir apparent.

And, on Thursday, citing unidentified sources in Beijing, Yonhap said Kim Jong Un had registered his candidacy for March 8 parliamentary elections in a sign the son is poised to become the country's next leader.

Fueling speculation of possible power struggle, the North's state-run news agency reported last week that Kim Jong Il had replaced his defense minister and chief of the military's general staff.

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Seoul to Delete Account of N.K. Nuke in Defense White Paper
The Korea Herald
(for personal use only)

An upcoming South Korean defense white paper will not include an account of North Korea's alleged possession of nuclear weapons, the defense ministry said Friday, in an effort to downplay Pyongyang's demand that it be recognized as a nuclear state, according to Yonhap News Agency.

"We will only state three things, that it reprocessed nuclear fuel rods, the information on the amount of North Korean plutonium reserves shared by the U.S. and South Korea and that North Korea conducted nuclear tests," a defense ministry official said during a meeting of the parliament's National Defense Committee.

North Korea has insisted that it be recognized as a nuclear state following a nuclear weapons test it conducted in 2006. Regional powers, including the United States and Russia, have so far denied Pyongyang's claims.

The white paper, produced annually, has stated in the past that North Korea may have produced several rounds of nuclear weapons using plutonium extracted prior to an agreement with the U.S. in 1994, in which the North pledged to freeze its plutonium-producing reactor in return for economic benefits.

"The claim (of its nuclear status) is made solely by North Korea. We deleted the account after consulting with related ministries not to become entangled by the North's intentions," the official said.

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Seoul, Washington Reaffirm Joint Front Against North
The Korea Times
(for personal use only)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to South Korea has served as an opportunity for Seoul and Washington to reaffirm their efforts to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea. Clinton and South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan sent a clear message to Pyongyang that they would not tolerate the communist state's development of nuclear weapons.

Such a message is not new, but it shows the two allies' firm stance against the North's nuclear ambitions amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula. It is sad that the Kim Jong-il regime is only stepping up its saber-rattling and nuclear-baiting in an apparent bid to draw attention from the new U.S. administration and extract more concessions from both Seoul and Washington.

On Friday, Yu and Clinton agreed to closely cooperate in tackling the North Korea issue to foil any reckless attempt by the North to keep South Korea and the United States apart. It is imperative that the traditional allies work together to prove that it is futile for the North to resort to its anachronistic policy of having direct talks with the United States while marginalizing the South.

In this regard, we welcome the agreement between the top diplomats that they will push for the ``complete and verifiable'' dismantlement of the North's nuclear programs through the six-nation talks. It is urgent that Seoul and Washington translate the accord into action to prod the world's last Stalinist country to return to the table and make good on its commitments to denuclearization.

Clinton and Yu have called on Pyongyang to refrain from taking provocative actions and to go back to inter-Korean talks to ease tensions and move toward reconciliation and peace. The North Korean leadership should pay heed to the call by doing its best to revive the stalled six-party negotiations and the South-North talks which have been suspended since conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office in February 2008.

Last week, Clinton said the United States is willing to normalize ties with the North as long as it abandons its nuclear program. She also said the superpower is ready to replace the long-held armistice agreement on the peninsula with a permanent peace treaty. But the North is refusing to accept the conciliatory gestures. Instead, it is preparing to test-fire a long-range Taepodong-2 ballistic missile and also threatening to have an ``all-out confrontation'' with the South.

North Korea should no longer try to test the Barack Obama administration as its outdated brinkmanship tactics and nuclear blackmail have proven to be failures. It must realize that turning the clock back will only lead to self-destruction. The North may face an implosion fueled by its economic collapse and potential political uncertainties in the post-Kim Jong-il era.

Now, the ball is in North Korea's court. The North is required to resume dialogue with the South and sit again with nuclear disarmament negotiators of the United States and other six-party nations. We hope the Kim Jong-il regime will change itself to enjoy economic aid, security guarantees and diplomatic incentives in return for denuclearization. This is certainly the best option for North Korea.

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C.  India

DAE Pulled Up for Nuclear Fuel Shortage
Sandeep Dikshit
The Hindu
(for personal use only)

The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) has rapped the Department of Atomic Energy for being unable to exploit the country’s uranium resources for running atomic power plants which led them to their being operated at half the capacity or less.

The country’s nuclear power plants operated at 80 per cent efficiency in 1999-2003 but power generation dropped considerably after an increase in the number of reactors. This was due to inadequate fuel available because of India’s isolation from the global commerce mainstream and the DAE’s inability to operationalise indigenous mines.

This fuel mismatch led to a continuing drop in efficiency despite the fact that uranium ore was available in large quantities in several States. The average capacity generation of pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs ) slumped from 80 per cent in 2002-03 to 72, 67, 64, and 50 per cent, respectively, during 2003-08.

“This resulted in the PHWRs operating at lower capacity and denying the nation the full benefits of clean nuclear energy to the extent of 21,845 million units corresponding to Rs. 5,986 crore calculated at an average tariff of Rs. 2.74 per unit,” the CAG report noted. It observed that the DAE based its fuel needs for 15 PHWRs on the availability of uranium rather than actual demand for running the atomic power units at maximum capacity. “The formal demand on nuclear fuel cycle was based more on the availability of uranium rather than on the requirement of the fuel for the PHWRs at its maximum capacity, to enable it to generate optimum nuclear power,” it noted in this respect.

The DAE, in its response said the CAG’s observations amounted to a “theoretical exercise that can lead to misleading conclusions” and pointed out that plants were being operated at lower levels to conserve fuel. While nuclear reactors were being constructed largely on schedule, the development of uranium mines got delayed primarily due to external factors. The DAE was trying its best to open new mines despite hurdles such as law and order issues and environmental clearances.

Unimpressed by the explanation, the CAG said the DAE’s “best efforts” were “belated” and did not yield the desired results. “The DAE, as the implementing department of the government of India for the nuclear power programme, needs to effectively address these factors referred by them as being external to them,” it felt.

The CAG also pulled up the DAE for seeking approval for constructing four new PHWR although there was shortage of uranium fuel. “The DAE had not linked or ensured availability of fuel to fully address the needs of the PHWR programme up to 2020.”

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D.  Nuclear Cooperation

Iraq Invites France Back to Build Nuclear Plant
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

Electricity Minister Karim Wahid on Sunday invited France to help Iraq build a nuclear power plant, three decades after Paris constructed a reactor near Baghdad that was bombed by Israeli warplanes.

"We have had very good relationships with French companies," the minister told AFP in an interview.

"I am willing to enter into contacts with the French nuclear agency and to start to build a nuclear power plant, because the future is nuclear," he said. "This is my perspective."

Under former dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq sealed a 1976 deal with France to build the Osirak nuclear reactor, where construction started in 1979.

But in June 1981, during the Iran-Iraq war, Israel sent warplanes to bomb the unfinished reactor south of the Iraqi capital, charging that Saddam's aim was to build nuclear weapons.

Then French premier Jacques Chirac cultivated a special relationship with Iraq during the 1970s. As French president two decades later, he opposed the US-led invasion which toppled Saddam over alleged weapons of mass destruction.

"France has not shown up yet (in post-Saddam Iraq). They will come hopefully," said Wahid, adding that France, whose President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Baghdad on February 10, had "been a good friend to Iraq."

"My coming here is to tell French companies: the time has come, come and invest," Sarkozy told a joint news conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on the first ever visit to Iraq by a French president.

Sarkozy said a large French business delegation would follow him to Baghdad by the end of the summer. Defence, energy and water were all key sectors for cooperation with Iraq, he said.

"We are ready to listen to the requests of the Iraqis."

Wahid also invited French companies to invest. "We have many projects to be announced for investments," he said, singling out "power generation investment called IPP," or independent power producers.

Sweeping away the Saddam era, the government last year sold and transported its uranium concentrate -- or "yellow cake," which is partially processed uranium ore -- to Cameco of Canada.

"We no longer need this material accumulated by the former regime," Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told AFP.

Oil-rich Iraq, which has the world's third largest known reserves but whose budget has been hit by the slump in world prices, still has to clean up the last radioactive waste at the former plant.

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Israel, U.S. React to IAEA Reports
(for personal use only)

Israel and the United States reacted to a report by U.N. nuclear inspectors that Iran continues to enrich uranium in defiance of sanctions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency report also found that Iran had enriched more uranium than was previously known, bringing it closer to having the ability to manufacture a nuclear-tipped missile.

"The ramifications, in the face of Iran's continuation of its nuclear program -- particularly the stockpiling of enriched uranium while ignoring the demands of the international community -- are more serious" than in previous reports, Israel's Foreign Ministry said in a statement released Feb. 19. "Israel reiterates its call to the international community and its institutions to increase the pressure on Iran to abandon its program, which threatens to achieve nuclear weapon capability."

The U.S. State Department urged Iran "without delay" to "suspend its uranium enrichment-related reprocessing, and heavy water-related activities, to make a full disclosure to the IAEA of all nuclear weapons activities, and to facilitate full IAEA verification of its nuclear program."

The U.N. Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran in efforts to have the Islamic Republic stand down from its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Diplomats in both countries also reacted to further evidence uncovered by IAEA inspectors of plans to enrich uranium at a Syrian site destroyed by Israel in September 2007. Syria has limited the inspectors' access to the suspected uranium enrichment sites in the country.

"It is imperative that Syria fully cooperate with the IAEA by granting the IAEA unfettered access to any site or information needed for the investigation," the State Department said.

Echoed Israel's Foreign Ministry, "Israel expects the IAEA and its head to continue its impartial investigations, including visits to additional sites that Syria until now has not allowed to be inspected. These two states operate clandestinely in the nuclear realm in a way that endangers regional and world peace while flagrantly violating their international commitments."

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Romania, Russia Sign Spent N-Fuel Disposal Agreement
Itar-Tass News Agency
(for personal use only)

Romania and Russia earlier this week signed an inter-governmental agreement on the removal of spent nuclear fuel from the research reactor at Turnu-Magurele, in the south of the country. Russia pledged to repatriate the nuclear fuel, supplied to Romania back in 1957, for temporary technological storage, subsequent processing and ultimate disposal.

The director of the national committee for the control of nuclear activity, Borbala Vaida, signed the agreement for Romania, and the general director of the atomic energy agency Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, for Russia.

The contract was concluded within the framework of the Russian-US agreement of 2004 on the repatriation of highly-enriched nuclear wastes and their subsequent processing. The project’s value is estimated at 4.5 million dollars, which is to be disbursed by the US Department of State. Romania will pay about 700,000 dollars for keeping processed nuclear fuel in Russia. The contract concerns about 200 kilograms of highly enriched (36 percent) nuclear fuel, which may pose a threat, if seized by terrorists. This amount is enough to make a nuclear explosive device.

The experimental nuclear reactor in Romania, loaded with Russian fuel, was shut down in 2002, and in 2003 Russia removed part of the waste. The operation will be completed in 2009.

Rosatom chief recalled Russia’s vast experience of recycling and storing nuclear materials. However, this sort of activity is not a business for Russia, because the country repatriates only nuclear fuel it had provided in the past. Kiriyenko said such operations are evidence of Russia’s responsibility for ensuring the non-proliferation of nuclear arms. Under the Russian-US agreement either party takes back only nuclear fuel of its origin.

Over the past several years, the Rosatom chief said, Russia removed 650 kilograms of its nuclear fuel from Latvia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Vietnam, Bulgaria and other countries. The greatest amount – 154 kilograms was taken out of Hungary. Nuclear fuel is transported amid tight security. The removal of 1.5 kilograms of waste requires five tonnes of protective equipment.

Kiriyenko said the conclusion and implementation of the Romanian-Russian treaty was a major contribution to ensuring security in Europe and the world over, and to easing the potential nuclear arms proliferation risk.

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US Seeks Syria Nuclear Explanation
Al Jazeera
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The US government has asked for a meeting with Syria's ambassador to discuss concerns including Damascus' possible nuclear programme and support for groups that Washington labels as terrorists, a state department spokesman has said.

The request follows a report by UN inspectors on Thursday that uranium traces were found at a Syrian site that Washington says was an almost-built nuclear reactor.

Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the US, has been asked to meet the acting head of near eastern affairs at the state department next week, spokesman Gordon Duguid said.

"The meeting is an opportunity for dialogue to discuss our concerns with the Syrians," he said.

"There remain key differences between our two governments, including concerns about Syria's support for terrorist groups and networks, Syria's acquisition of nuclear and non-conventional weaponry, interference in Lebanon and a worsening human rights situation."

Duguid said the US expected the "mounting evidence and ongoing concerns" with Syria to be addressed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors at its March 2 - 6 meeting.

"We fully support the IAEA in its investigation [into Syria's nuclear programme] and urge the international community to continue insisting that Syria comply with its IAEA obligations and cooperate fully with the IAEA without delay," he said.

Lebanese affairs

Relations between Syria and the United States nosedived after the 2005 assassination of Rafik al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, although Syria denies involvement.

Tensions have lingered over Damascus' support for the Palestinian group Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, and accusations that Syria allowed fighters to infiltrate Iraq.

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, told a British newspaper this week he hoped for better relations with the US and that Barack Obama, the US president, would send an ambassador to Syria soon.

The US withdrew its ambassador under in 2005 after al-Hariri's assassination.

John Kerry, chairman of the US senate foreign relations committee, will visit Syria over the weekend.

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U.S. Nuclear Regulator Ready to Help Armenia
Emil Sanamyan
The Armenian Reporter
(for personal use only)

"We have had a good bilateral agreement with Armenia," sharing technology and training, chairperson of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Dale Klein told the Armenian Reporter on February 13.

Asked if the United States would continue to have a role in Armenia's efforts to replace its existing nuclear power plant with a new one in coming years, Mr. Klein said he and his counterparts in Armenia enjoyed a "very good relationship" and, "if asked for help, [the NRC] will try to help to the extent that [it] can."

The NRC oversees safety and security of U.S. plants and provides expertise around the world. An NRC commissioner, Peter Lyons, visited Armenia last year and the United States had funded a feasibility study looking at options for building a new reactor.

Mr. Klein noted that for the United States to take part in the Armenian nuclear energy sector, privately owned U.S. companies would have to be attracted to the project. In general, he said, it made sense for Armenia to have a "diversified portfolio" in terms of energy supplies.

In remarks at the Council on the Foreign Relations, Mr. Klein said that 50 new nuclear power plants were being built around the world, 21 of them in China and 12 in India.

In the United States, in addition to 104 functioning power plants, 17 applications for 26 more reactors are currently being considered by the NRC.

But there are concerns that fewer reactors may end up being built, considering the economic slowdown and the Obama administration's reservations about the long-term impact of nuclear waste.

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E.  Nuclear Industry

China Help for Vietnam Nuke Power Plant Likely
Xiao Wan
China Daily
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China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPG), one of the two main nuclear power plant operators in the country, yesterday said it was in talks with Vietnam to help build its first nuclear power project.

The company has signed a letter of intent with Vietnam's main power company for the project, the Shenzhen-based company said on its website, without giving details.

The project is to be located in Ninh Thuan, a southern coastal province in Vietnam. It is designed to have two 1,000-mW reactors, said a CGNPG executive who declined to be named.

The project is at an early stage now as it is still awaiting the final approval of the Vietnamese government, he said.

Vietnam, which has no nuclear power plants at present, plans to build nuclear power projects with a total capacity of 4,000 mW by 2021.

"Now we are competing with others, including companies from Japan, for the construction of the project," said the official.

"Besides the Vietnam project, we are also in talks with other countries such as Belarus," he said.

CGNPG started building the Yangjiang nuclear power plant in December. The plant is expected to generate 45 billion kWh of electricity each year.

The 70-billion-yuan plant will have six 1,000-mW units. The first unit will start operating in 2013. All the units will be finished by 2017.

China began building three nuclear power plants, at Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong, last November.

This year, it will start constructing four nuclear power plants, Zhang Guobao, vice-Minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in an article published in People's Daily. Of the four, two are in Shandong, one in Zhejiang and the other in Guangdong.

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F.  Links of Interest

Loose Nuke Scientist
Jane Harman
The Washington Times
(for personal use only)

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[VIDEO] Russia Postpones Iran Missile Deal
Gareth Porter
The Real News
(for personal use only)

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India Should Take Leadership Role in India Ocean Region
A. Vinod Kumar
Thaindian News
(for personal use only)

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Nuclear Agenda Draws Scrutiny
Brian Bender
The Boston Globe
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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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