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Nuclear News - 2/26/2009
PGS Nuclear News, February 26, 2009
Compiled By: Helene Picart

A.  Iran
    1. EU 'Mulling Over New Tough Iran Sanctions', PressTV (2/26/2009)
    2. Iran Tests Its First Nuclear Power Plant, Nasser Karimi, Associated Press (2/25/2009)
    3. Iran Set for Big Nuclear Expansion, Hossein Jaseb, International Herald Tribune (2/25/2009)
    4. Iran Calls IAEA Reports Repetitive, Misleading, PressTV (2/25/2009)
    5. Barak: Time Running Out on Iran Threat, Ynet News (2/25/2009)
    1. Obama and Aso Warn North Korea Against Nuclear Provocation, The Telegraph (2/25/2009)
C.  Russia
    1. Russia to Continue Modernizing Its Nuclear Deterrent - deputy PM, RIA Novosti (2/25/2009)
D.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. IAEA Is Ready to Develop the GCC Nuclear Programs for Electricity, Arab Times (2/25/2009)
    2. Italy-France Deal Sparks Nuclear Revival, EurActiv (2/25/2009)
    3. Asean Nuclear Energy Talks At Technical Level Only, Bernama (2/25/2009)
E.  Syria
    1. Syria Set Up Missile Facility at Suspect Nuclear Site, Katy Byron, CNN (2/24/2009)
F.  Nuclear Industry
    1. Siemens Plans Nuclear Cooperation with Russia, Spiegel Online (2/25/2009)
    2. World Weighs Up a Nuclear Fuel Solution, T. Carlisle, The National (2/25/2009)
    3. Toshiba Wins US Nuclear Plant Projects, Agence France-Presse (2/25/2009)
    4. EDF Interested in Russian Uranium, The Moscow Times (2/25/2009)
G.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Nuke, Why Not?, Ucilia Wang, Greentechmedia (2/25/2009)
H.  Nuclear Safety
    1. Import Nuclear Bombs With Ease ...Through Indian Ports, Rituparna Bhuyan, Ajay Modi and Te Narasimhan, Business Standard (2/26/2009)
I.  Links of Interest
    1. Bugaria's Nuclear Dilemma, BBC News (2/26/2009)
    2. Pros and Cons of Multilateral Nonproliferation: Lessons Learned from the Bush Administration, Ambassador Jackie Wolcott, The Heritage Foundation (2/25/2009)
    3. Nuclear Options, Hans Blix, The Guardian (2/25/2009)

A.  Iran

EU 'Mulling Over New Tough Iran Sanctions'
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Britain, France and Germany are reportedly proposing a tough list of new sanctions to be imposed against Iran over its nuclear program.

A report by the Financial Times claims that the EU trio is targeting 34 Iranian entities and 10 individuals who are believed to be connected with the country's disputed nuclear program.

The UN Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions against Iran, urging the country to halt its enrichment activities.

The UN nuclear watchdog, while requesting more cooperation from Tehran, said in its latest report on Iran's nuclear program that there has been no diversion of "declared nuclear material in Iran."

Iran, however, is accused by the US, Israel and their European allies -- Britain, France and Germany -- of pursuing a military nuclear program. Officials in Tehran contend the only objective of the disputed program is the civilian applications of the technology.

According to the report, the commander and deputy head of volunteer Basij forces, Sharif University, Iran Insurance Company, Iran Air Cargo, Iran Space Agency and Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute are among the entities on the list.

Iran's Bank Tejarat is also on the EU's new list of sanctions. Iranian commercial banks including Melli, Saderat, Sepah and Mellat are already under sanctions over the country's nuclear program.

Available at:§ionid=351020104

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Barak: Time Running Out on Iran Threat
Ynet News
(for personal use only)

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday that immediate diplomatic action must be taken on the Iranian nuclear program, in light of recent reports of initial tests at the Bushehr nuclear reactor in the Islamic Republic.

"Time flies. It's slipping through our fingers. Even if the (US) Administration decides to engage in dialogue, such dialogue must be brief and limited in time," he said.

Barak's words came only hours after Iran's nuclear agency head announced that "good news" would be released on April 9 regarding progress on the nuclear program.

Speaking at a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, the defense minister added: "Firm and forceful sanctions need to be imposed on the Iranian regime, and there needs to be willingness to consider other options, in case those sanctions fail to stop the nuclear drive."

According to Barak, Russia, which was a major partner in operating the reactor, plays a central role in curbing Iran's nuke efforts. "It's hard to see international sanctions stopping Iran if they’re not accompanied by close cooperation with the Russians, and possibly also the Chinese and the Indians.

"Only a tight-knit, comprehensive and focused international ring could perhaps stop this project," he added.

As to the possibility that Israel may take action against Iran, Barak said: "At the moment what is needed is sanctions, but Israel does not rule out any option and recommends that others not rule out any option as well. We mean what we say."

In his speech, the defense minister also commented on the situation in the south. "This operation (in Gaza) delivered a very hard blow to Hamas, made them want a ceasefire, and also created an opportunity, which I hope we will have the sense to take advantage of, to speed up the process of bringing Gilad Shalit home.

"This operation has not brought about complete calm so far, and despite Egypt's efforts, it hasn't stopped the smuggling. The IDF struck seven tunnels in the Philadelphi Route once again today, in a bid to send a message and curb the smuggling, and also in response to the rocket fire at Israel and IDF soldiers in recent days. We're striving to achieve calm and stop the hostile operations from Gaza, and I believe we can do it."

Available at:,7340,L-3677627,00.html

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Iran Calls IAEA Reports Repetitive, Misleading
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Iran's envoy to the UN nuclear watchdog says the agency should avoid issuing "repetitious" reports on the country's nuclear program.

"I have told the board that the agency should stop submitting repetitious reports that fail to provide any new insight into Iran's nuclear program," Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh said on Wednesday.

Speaking after a 5-hour meeting of the watchdog's 35-nation board of governors in Vienna, Soltaniyeh said the IAEA largely "misinforms the public" about Iran nuclear intentions.

"It is not clear whether the report seeks to address technical experts, diplomats or the general public. Therefore, it must be devised in a way that does not create ambiguity for its readers, as it has so far done," he added.

The senior Iranian official was referring to a Thursday report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran's nuclear progress.

IAEA Chief Mohamed ElBaradei, on Thursday issued a report reconfirming -- for the sixteenth consecutive time -- the "non-diversion" of declared nuclear material in the Islamic Republic.

The report also repeated previous claims that the agency has been unable to make any "substantive progress" regarding Iran's nuclear program.

The IAEA report said that "21 unannounced inspections" at Iranian nuclear sites have confirmed that Iran has enriched almost 1,010 kilograms of uranium-235 to a level of "less than 5 percent".

The media was quick to accuse Iran of producing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb.

Nuclear arms production requires an enrichment level of above 90 percent and involves a much higher level of nuclear know-how.

In the report, the IAEA also asked Iran to implement the Additional Protocol and further "transparency measures", which are voluntary procedures that involve providing a broader declaration of nuclear activities and giving the agency wider access to atomic sites.

Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), says a broader access would expose sensitive information related to its conventional military and missile related activities, insisting that any government would be reluctant to accept such a protocol because of national security concerns.

According to the Iranian envoy, the head of the regional section of IAEA Safeguards Agreement, Hermann Nackartes, had at the briefing objected to what he calls the "incorrect interpretations" of the IAEA report.

Soltaniyeh stressed that no ambiguity surrounds the activities at the Natanz facility.

The uranium enriched at Natanz is currently held in sealed containers under the strict supervision of IAEA inspectors.

Despite pressure and embargoes, Iran has so far refused to quell the West's alleged concerns by giving up its right to enrich uranium, which is a necessary step in producing nuclear fuel -- the energy source of the future.

Available at:§ionid=351020104

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Iran Set for Big Nuclear Expansion
Hossein Jaseb
International Herald Tribune
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Iran said on Wednesday it plans a nearly 10-fold expansion of its uranium enrichment capacity in the next five years, denying a U.N. report which said its nuclear activities had slowed.

"Our plans to install and run centrifuges is not based on political conditions ... We have neither slowed down or accelerated our work there," Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, told a news conference.

He was speaking in southwestern coastal town of Bushehr where Iran is building its first nuclear power plant. Iran said on Wednesday it had carried out successful tests at the Russian-built plant, taking it a step closer to its launch.

The visiting head of Russia's state nuclear company, Sergei Kiriyenko, hailed "significant improvements" in the Islamic Republic's first such plant to produce electricity.

Iran said on Wednesday it plans a nearly 10-fold expansion of its uranium enrichment capacity in the next five years, denying a U.N. report which said its nuclear activities had slowed.

"Our plans to install and run centrifuges is not based on political conditions ... We have neither slowed down or accelerated our work there," Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, told a news conference.

He was speaking in southwestern coastal town of Bushehr where Iran is building its first nuclear power plant. Iran said on Wednesday it had carried out successful tests at the Russian-built plant, taking it a step closer to its launch.

The visiting head of Russia's state nuclear company, Sergei Kiriyenko, hailed "significant improvements" in the Islamic Republic's first such plant to produce electricity.

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Iran Tests Its First Nuclear Power Plant
Nasser Karimi
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Iranian and Russian officials began a test-run of Iran's first nuclear plant on Wednesday, a major step toward launching full operations at the facility, which has long raised concerns in the U.S. and its allies over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The pilot operations at the 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor, built with Russian assistance under a $1 billion contract, have long been delayed over construction and supply glitches.

It's unclear when the reactor could be switched on. Test runs normally occur a few months before a reactor's startup.

The plant, which will run on enriched uranium imported from Russia, has worried the West because the spent fuel could later be turned into plutonium, potential material for nuclear warheads.

U.S. concerns over the reactor softened somewhat after Iran agreed to return spent fuel to Russia to ensure Tehran does not reprocess it into plutonium. Russia's fuel deliveries to Iran began in 2007.

Iran has its own domestic program for enriching uranium that it says will be used in future reactors. The U.N. is demanding Iran suspend this program because of fears it could enrich uranium to a higher degree and produce a nuclear warhead. Iran has denied it is pursuing nuclear weapons, maintaining its program is only for peaceful purposes.

Wednesday's tests at the reactor, located in the southern port city of Bushehr, were a computer run to ensure the reactor's processes work properly. For the tests, technicians loaded a "virtual fuel" of lead into the reactor to imitate the density of enriched uranium, said Iranian nuclear spokesman Mohsen Shirazi.

The aim is to run the equipment and ensure there are no malfunctions when actual enriched uranium fuel is put in. No electricity is produced during the testing.

"This (test) is one of the major elements of an extensive project," he said. Once the virtual fuel is in place, "we will check to see how the reactor will operate," said Russian nuclear agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko, who was inspecting the process.

Vice President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, who heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the test was going well and engineers told him they expected no problems in the test run.

"Today was one of the most important days for the Iranian nation," Aghazadeh told reporters. "We are approaching full exploitation of this plant."

Kiriyenko said Bushehr witnessed "remarkable progress in recent months" but that work remains to be done to "speed up the launching of the site." The Russian-Iranian team was "approaching the final stage" before the plant becomes operational, he said.

In Israel, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, "Iranians are showing again that they are making progress in their nuclear race."

"This should be understood as very bad news for the whole of the international community," Palmor said, calling for "immediate and very determined steps in order to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power."

The Bushehr reactor was initially to start in 2008, and some 700 Iranian engineers were trained in Russia over four years to operate the plant.

The Bushehr project dates backs to 1974, when Iran's U.S.-backed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi signed an agreement to build the reactor with the German company Siemens. The company withdrew from the project after the 1979 Islamic revolution toppled the shah. In 1992, Iran signed an agreement with Russia to complete the project and work began on it in 1995.

Russia says there is no evidence that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons and has joined China in weakening Western-backed sanctions in the U.N. Security Council, arguing that punishing Tehran too harshly for its nuclear activities would be counterproductive.

The U.N. Security Council has passed three sets of sanctions against Iran over uranium enrichment and is considering further measures.

Tehran also plans to build a 360-megawatt nuclear power plant in Darkhovin, in the southwestern Khuzestan province that would use locally produced enriched uranium.

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Obama and Aso Warn North Korea Against Nuclear Provocation
The Telegraph
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Mr Aso, who was the first foreign leader to visit the Obama White House, said the two leaders shared concerns over moves by Pyongyang, although he did not elaborate on their exchange.

"Regarding the missile issue, we discussed how the initial reactions are important. After a missile is launched, we discussed that what is important is how other, foreign nations would act," Mr Aso told reporters after the summit.

A senior Japanese official who attended the White House talks said the two leaders did not want North Korea to act provocatively.

North Korea said on Tuesday it was readying to launch a satellite, a move that the United States and its allies believe could actually be a long-range missile test.

"In light of North Korea's announcement that it was preparing to launch a satellite on a rocket, the two leaders agreed that North Korea should not take actions that may increase tension," the Japanese official said.

A White House statement also said the leaders agreed to work together "to verifiably eliminate North Korea's nuclear program and to deal with the problem of North Korea's missiles."

Mr Obama's invitation to Aso was seen as a move to reassure Japan, which is sensitive about its status as the key US ally in Asia.

Japan was upset last year when then US President George W Bush removed North Korea from a blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism as part of a denuclearisation deal.

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C.  Russia

Russia to Continue Modernizing Its Nuclear Deterrent - deputy PM
RIA Novosti
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Russia will continue developing and modernizing its nuclear triad in 2009 despite the current global economic crisis, a deputy prime minister said on Wednesday.

Russia's state defense orders for 2009 are worth about 1 trillion rubles ($28 billion), with money allocated to the Defense Ministry, as well as to more than 10 other ministries and agencies.

"The bulk of state defense orders in 2009 is allocated to the procurement of new weapons, R&D and modernization of existing arsenals, with priority given to the strategic nuclear triad, including the Strategic Missile Forces, the Navy and strategic aviation," Sergei Ivanov said in a speech to the lower house of Russia's parliament.

"It would certainly incur large expenses, but we do not have a choice, as we will have to continue developing and enhancing our nuclear deterrent," he said.

Ivanov added that the government also prioritizes the development of space-based intelligence-gathering and communications systems with the goal to create a national air-and-space defense network.

President Dmitry Medvedev said last year that Russia would make the modernization of its nuclear deterrent and Armed Forces a priority in light of the recent military conflict with Georgia.

"A guaranteed nuclear deterrent system for various military and political circumstances must be provided by 2020," Medvedev said.

Russia's military expenditure has been steadily growing recently, and the country reportedly plans to increase the current defense budget of $40 billion by 50% in the next three years.

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D.  Nuclear Cooperation

Asean Nuclear Energy Talks At Technical Level Only
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Talks on nuclear energy is only at the technical level among the Asean countries, Deputy Secretary General of Asean for Asean Economic Community, Pushpanathan said.

"Nuclear energy is being looked into. There are discussions but only at the technical level," he said when asked on the issue.

He declined to say which of the 10 member countries were pushing the idea or were against it.

"Some countries are keen on it," he said.

It was reported that at least three Asean members -- Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam -- had announced plans to build nuclear power plants.

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IAEA Is Ready to Develop the GCC Nuclear Programs for Electricity
Arab Times
(for personal use only)

Deputy Director General of Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) for Information Dr Nader Al-Awadhi praised on Wednesday the standing cooperation between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states in the domain of civilian applications of nuclear energy. The IAEA expressed readiness to develop the GCC nuclear programs aiming at generating hydro-electrical energy, Al-Awadhi told KUNA here on the sidelines of a technical workshop being attended by experts from the IAEA and the GCC secretariat.

There is an expanding cooperation between the IAEA and Kuwait to launch a Kuwaiti national nuclear program for peaceful purposes, said Al-Awadhi, also chairman of the national committee on peaceful uses of nuclear technology. Regarding the ongoing workshop, he said that it falls in the framework of cooperation between the IAEA and the GCC and is the first meeting of the joint executive committee of the two sides. The workshop, which will come to a close on Friday, gathered officials and experts from the IAEA and the GCC secretariat including Kuwaiti experts. It aims to discuss the plans of the six GCC member states to develop peaceful nuclear programs, Al-Awadhi pointed out.

It is discussing a package of programs relating to the scientific infrastructures of the GCC members, the planning for development of nuclear power, the legal infrastructure, the safety controls of nuclear facilities and the launching of a regional center for nuclear researches, he disclosed. The discussions focus on three projects namely, enhancement of the standing cooperation between the two sides; another relating to water desalination, and a third for hydro-electrical energy generating. Kuwait plays an outstanding role in the workshop as its delegation tabled a range of practical plans regarding the nuclear scientific infrastructure in the GCC region, he underscored.

The state of Kuwait has worked out several research papers on the projected demand on energy in the future, the best locations of the planned nuclear reactors and the rehabilitation and training of workforce. It took the initiative in lobbying for the development of a GCC civilian nuclear program during Jaber GCC Summit in 2006, Al-Awadhi recalled. The workshop is scheduled to table its recommendations to the GCC secretariat and the GCC ministerial committee for endorsement, he added. The five-day workshop which started on Monday is being attended by experts and officials from the six GCC member states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates and Director of the IAEA’s technical assistance for Asia Professor Wang Dazhong.

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Italy-France Deal Sparks Nuclear Revival
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Italy yesterday (24 February) became the latest EU country to embark on a new wave of nuclear energy development, as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed a deal to build new plants in Italy.

As part of an accord on civilian nuclear cooperation between the countries, Italian and French energy giants Enel and EDF will build at least four nuclear plants in Italy, the intention being to have the first one up and running by 2020. The agreement between the companies gives Enel a majority stake in the plants and allows them to lead their operation.

The deal signals a U-turn for Italy. Italians rejected nuclear power in a referendum in November 1987, which led to the closure of all the plants in operation at the time. Despite this, Berlusconi's new government voiced plans to resume building nuclear plants after the May 2008 elections.

The new plants will use European Pressurised Water Reactors (EPR), a state-of-the-art atomic energy technology. Enel also expressed interest in extending ongoing cooperation with EDF to build five additional EPR reactors in France.

French exception

France opted to continue to develop nuclear power, while many other European countries moved to restrict or ban nuclear plants in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union. Belgium and Germany, for example, banned the construction of new reactors.

France relies on nuclear for almost 80% of its electricity production, and is the world's largest net exporter of electricity, most of which goes to the UK, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany. Sarkozy's government gave the go-ahead for the construction of a new reactor in Flamanville, Normandy, while last year, EDF bought British Energy - which dominates the UK nuclear landscape - and plans to build new plants in the UK.

As a result, electricity prices are lower in France than in most European countries, prompting strong arguments in favour of nuclear in neighbouring Germany, where electricity prices are higher than the EU average and the government plans to phase out nuclear completely by 2021.

Changing climate

The tide is turning, however, as fluctuating oil prices and concerns about energy security are bringing about a nuclear renaissance across Europe. The current climate is quite different to that in the 1980s, when the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island accidents were fresh in citizens' minds and worries about climate change related by rising emissions did not feature high on the political agenda.

Nowadays, oil prices are much higher, making nuclear a highly competitive option, while the recent gas supply crisis between Ukraine and Russia highlighted the need for alternative energy options. For example, to guarantee adequate electricity supply and make up for recent gas disruptions, Slovakia recently decided to restart a nuclear plant that had been shut down in accordance with its EU accession treaty (EurActiv 12/01/09).

Opinion is clearly becoming more favourable towards nuclear power. The UK is planning to build new reactors, and Germany seems ready to abandon its phase-out plans should the Christian Democrats, who support atomic energy, win the September general elections with a sufficient majority.

Of the Nordic countries, Denmark is the only one to stick to a zero-nuclear policy. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt announced on 5 February that Sweden would backtrack from a thirty-year ban on building new nuclear capacity. Finland, meanwhile, is building its fifth plant in Olkiluoto, and Finnish energy group Fortum has applied to build the country's sixth reactor.

Poland also plans to complete two nuclear power stations by 2025 as part of an energy security action plan that seeks to reduce the country's dependence on coal (EurActiv 6/02/09).

Green opinion split

Even green actors are divided on the virtues and vices of nuclear power. Greenpeace and WWF oppose it, arguing that it will not deliver the necessary emissions cuts to stop climate change and in any case only replaces one environmental problem with another, generating dangerous radioactive waste.

On the other hand, respected environmentalists such as James Lovelock and Patrick Moore, one of Greenpeace's founder, have defended atomic power as a solution to the world's climate woes.

However, critics allege that developing nuclear power deflects attention away from renewable energies, which could provide a sustainable and lasting solution to energy security.

The EU reached a deal on ambitious climate legislation in December 2008, obliging national governments to commit to individual targets to raise the Union's share of renewable energies to 20% of its total energy mix by 2020. Nevertheless, the bloc's Second Strategic Energy Review, which sets out a vision for a secure European energy future, promotes further development of nuclear as a clean, indigenous resource alongside renewables (EurActiv 4/02/09).

Thus the Union as a whole clearly supports more nuclear power, but disagreement remains as to how green nuclear energy really is.

Enel CEO Fulvio Conti said: "Enel is pleased to have an industrial partner with the experience and internationally-recognised reputation of EDF for the re-launching of nuclear power in Italy. The agreements signed today contribute to strengthening the Italian and French economies in the strategic energy sector and to developing further reciprocity in our respective markets."

Commenting on EDF's plans to build European Pressurised Reactors in the UK, Nathan Argent, head of Greenpeace's energy solutions unit, said: "Instead of being hoodwinked by the vacuous promises of the nuclear lobby, government and industry should instead be making a clever investment in energy efficiency. This would create tens of thousands of British jobs, and also tackle fuel poverty and climate change in the fastest possible way."

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E.  Syria

Syria Set Up Missile Facility at Suspect Nuclear Site
Katy Byron
(for personal use only)

Syria's nuclear chief told members of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency Tuesday that his country has built a military missile facility at a site where traces of uranium have been detected in the past, a source who attended the meeting told CNN.

The disclosure by Ibrahim Othman to members of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency was the first time Syria has described the type of military facility it has at the Dair Alzour site, the source said.

Othman did not give details about when the facility was built or whether it was operational. He revealed the nature of the facility when asked if Syria had a nuclear facility at the site, the source said.

Syria has been repeatedly questioned over whether a nuclear facility exists at the site, which was bombed by Israeli aircraft in September 2007.

Syria says the missiles that destroyed the building at the site were the source of the uranium particles, according to an IAEA report issued last week. Israel has rejected Syria's claims.

The agency said the uranium particles "are of a type not included in Syria's declared inventory of nuclear material" and that "there is a low probability that the uranium was introduced by the use of missiles."

But, "the presence of the uranium particles," site imagery and procurement information "need to be fully understood."

Syria needs to provide more information and documentation about "the use and nature" of a building that was bombed and its procurement activities, the report said. And, Syria "needs to be transparent by providing access to other locations alleged to be related" to the site.

In the report, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei also urged Israel and other states to make any relevant information available to the agency and agree to the IAEA sharing the information with Syria.

In November, the agency asked Israel to provide information in response to Syria's claims that its munitions could have been the source of the uranium particles.

Israel said in a December 24 letter "it rejects Syrian claims on the matter" and that "Israel could not have been the source of the uranium particles found on the site of the nuclear reactor."

Syrian authorities have reacted angrily to accusations they were building a nuclear reactor. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem suggested that any trace of uranium unearthed at the military site in eastern Syria came from Israeli bombs.

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F.  Nuclear Industry

EDF Interested in Russian Uranium
The Moscow Times
(for personal use only)

Electricite de France, the world's biggest nuclear-power producer, is interested in mining uranium in Russia, Sergei Kiriyenko, chief executive of Rosatom, said Tuesday.

EDF held talks on taking part in developing the Elkonsky uranium deposit in Russia's Far East, Kiriyenko said in Moscow in comments confirmed by Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov.

The Elkonsky field is Russia's largest untapped source of uranium, which is processed to make fuel for nuclear plants.

Rosatom's mining unit, Uranium Holding ARMZ, said last year that it would cost 90 billion rubles ($2.5 billion) to develop Elkonsky, which could produce 5,000 tons of uranium per year.

The state corporation plans to form a group of investors to develop the deposit, with the government retaining a controlling stake in the project.

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Siemens Plans Nuclear Cooperation with Russia
Spiegel Online
(for personal use only)

Germany may be phasing out its nuclear power stations, but German group Siemens plans to cooperate with Russia's Rosatom to tap into the growing global market to build new nuclear plants.

A deal could be signed in the coming months, reports business daily Handelsblatt.German industrial group Siemens is preparing to sign a nuclear cooperation deal with Russia to tap a growing global market for building nuclear power plants, German business daily Handelsblatt reported on Wednesday.

The newspaper said the planned cooperation marked the first time in many years that Siemens will engage in the "hot area" of nuclear engineering. It has previously confined itself to supplying conventional technology for nuclear plants, such as turbines and process control technology.

Handelsblatt reported that a letter of intent on comprehensive cooperation with Russia's Rosatom could be signed as soon as next month.

Siemens and Rosatom had said earlier this month they would assess closer ties in the field of atomic energy, after talks in Moscow with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Chancellor Angela Merkel has signalled her approval of the Russian-German venture.

The German company now aims to assume "an internationally leading role in nuclear technology together with the Russian partners," said Wolfgang Dehen, the Siemens management board member in charge of energy, according to Handelsblatt.

Concrete agreements may be reached by the end of April. Dehen said Rosatom was the only supplier worldwide whose engineering operations span the entire cycle of nuclear power generation. Independent experts had credited Rosatom with building "very reliable nuclear power stations," he said.

'Fantastic Potential'

"The market offers fantastic potential today," said Dehen. "Nuclear energy faces a renaissance worldwide, not just in Russia."

The technology was virtually free of carbon emissions, which made it suitable for combating global warming, and it was also economical, Dehen said. He added that Siemens wanted to participate in a growing global market in which 400 nuclear power stations are planned by 2030, with an investment volume totalling €1 trillion ($1.28 trillion).

Meanwhile Italy and France announced Tuesday a deal to build four nuclear plants in Italy, the first since a national referendum in 1987 suspended the construction of new nuclear plants in Italy following the Chernobyl disaster.

Other European countries are also turning back towards nuclear power. Sweden, which had voted to phase out nuclear power in a 1980 referendum, now plans to lift the ban and Britain is also drawing up plans to revive its nuclear plants.

The German government is sticking for now to the gradual shutdown of its 19 nuclear power stations by 2020. But Merkel's conservatives, who share power with the anti-nuclear Social Democrats, are opposed to the phase-out, and the policy could change depending on the outcome of the German general election in September.

Available at:,1518,609816,00.html

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Toshiba Wins US Nuclear Plant Projects
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

Japan's Toshiba Corp. said Wednesday it had won a contract to build two nuclear plants in the United States that are scheduled to start generating power in 2016.

It is the first such contract a Japanese company has won overseas, covering the projects entirely from engineering and procurement to construction of the nuclear plants, the company said.

Under the contract, Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corp., a US-based Toshiba subsidiary, will build two Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) nuclear power plants in Texas.

The plants, the first ABWRs to be constructed in the United States, will have an output of approximately 1,400 megawatts each, the company said.

Toshiba, which bought Westinghouse Electric from British Nuclear Fuels in 2006, is investing heavily to expand its nuclear power business overseas.

"We look forward to ... establishing the ABWR as a key power generation option in the US," said Toshiba vice president Yasuharu Igarashi in a statement.

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World Weighs Up a Nuclear Fuel Solution
T. Carlisle
The National
(for personal use only)

Canada and Australia have dominated global uranium supply for more than a decade, but that is changing. Asian and African producers are taking steps to boost their output of the radioactive mineral that fuels most of the world’s nuclear reactors, and other uranium-rich countries are seeking to develop their resources.

On Tuesday, Jordan signed up the big Anglo-Australian mining and metals company, Rio Tinto, to help it explore for uranium and other metals that could be mined to produce fuel for nuclear power plants.

“Under the 18-month agreement, the firm will fund the exploration of different areas of Jordan for uranium, thorium and zirconium,” Khaled Toukan, the head of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, told the state-run Petrs news agency. “A consortium between the two sides will be established at a later stage, boosting prospects of further co-operation in the future.”

The new accord is the latest in a series of agreements Jordan has signed in its quest to turn its untapped uranium resources into a means of reducing its dependence on energy imports from its neighbours. Last August, it signed a memorandum of understanding with Areva, the French nuclear power company, for uranium exploration and exploitation. This month, it also signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with Canada, the world’s biggest uranium supplier and the maker of nuclear reactors with the unusual design feature of being able to use unenriched “yellowcake” uranium ore as fuel.

Without significant oil and gas reserves, Jordan hopes to build a nuclear plant by 2015 to supply its electricity needs, using its own uranium as the fuel supply. The country’s 1.2 billion tonnes of phosphate reserves, mostly located in sparsely inhabited stretches of desert, are estimated to contain 130,000 tonnes of uranium, or about 2 per cent of global reserves.

But beyond supplying its own electricity needs, Jordan is also eyeing the export market for uranium, which in the medium term shows promise of strong growth in Asia.

It is not the only developing nation with a growing interest in exploiting its uranium reserves, either for the first time, or more intensively than in the past.

Kazakhstan’s state-owned nuclear energy company, Kazatomprom, is aiming to raise uranium production this year by 40 per cent to 11,935 tonnes, according to a statement this month by Mucktar Dzhakishev, its chairman. That would establish the central Asian country as the world’s biggest uranium producer, as well as stabilising its revenues from exports of the metal, which have been hit by a 40 per cent decline in the price of uranium since the middle of last year.

Kazakhstan was the world’s third-biggest uranium producer from 2003 to 2007. But last year, a 28 per cent increase in annual output to 8,521 tonnes, by Kazatomprom’s estimate, from 6,637 tonnes put it neck and neck with Australia. Kazatomprom is targeting 15,000 tonnes per year of uranium production by next year.

“By the middle of 2010, we will be able to complete the creation of the technical foundations necessary for boosting Kazakhstan’s uranium output to 27,000 tonnes per year,” Mr Dzhakishev said.

Canada was the biggest uranium producer last year, with output of about 9,000 tonnes. But production has been declining since 2005 due to technical problems at the country’s major mines, which are also under fire from environmentalists.

Australia’s uranium production of about 8,430 tonnes last year is not expected to exceed 11,000 tonnes annually until 2012 or 2013, according to industry projections.

Niger, a Saharan state that ranks among the world’s poorest countries, is also set to boost output significantly after its government signed a €1.2 billion (Dh5.66bn) agreement last month with Areva to develop the world’s second-biggest uranium mine.

In recent years, Niger has been vying with Russia for the position of fourth-largest global uranium producer, with each country’s annual output fluctuating between about 3,150 and 3,400 tonnes, according to the World Nuclear Association, based in London. But Areva expects the new mine to produce 5,000 tonnes of uranium annually for 35 years, starting next year, more than doubling Niger’s output.

The reason countries in the developing world are increasingly interested in exploiting their uranium resources, despite the environmental risks that mining radioactive materials can pose, is the recent global surge of interest in nuclear power development.

More than a dozen Middle-Eastern and African countries that now face electricity shortages have said they wanted to develop civil nuclear programmes. Some, including the UAE, Egypt and Iran, have taken solid steps towards achieving that goal. Despite UN sanctions imposed over suspicions that it may also aspire to develop nuclear weapons, Iran is progressing towards commissioning its first nuclear power plant, possibly later this year.

In Europe, countries that had previously put the brakes on nuclear development due to public health and safety concerns are now rethinking their decisions as they strive to meet commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Just this month, Sweden’s government announced plans to lift a ban on building nuclear power plants that it had adopted following a 1980 referendum on nuclear expansion.

Italy, which held a similar referendum in 1987 – spurred by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster a year earlier – this month created a government department devoted to nuclear and renewable power and energy efficiency. Claudio Scajola, the country’s economic development minister, said the government was pursuing a new nuclear strategy to help Italy fulfil its environmental targets while reducing domestic electricity prices, which are among the highest in Europe. He also said the country needed another nuclear plant to reduce its dependence on imported gas.

Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, has expressed enthusiasm for building a new generation of nuclear reactors as a means of tackling global warming and ensuring a secure energy supply. The German power companies E.On and RWE are jointly bidding to build three new atomic power stations in Britain. France’s EDF also plans to build nuclear plants in the UK, following its takeover of British Energy.

But plans for nuclear expansion in Europe may take years to translate into increased requirements for uranium-based fuel. Finland is the only EU country building a nuclear power station, the continent’s first new plant in 30 years.

But in Asia’s largest economies, the need for nuclear expansion was never in question and is proceeding rapidly. In the next 10 years, Japan plans to build 13 new reactors, while China aims to build 16 new plants by 2012 and India plans to build 30 to 40 new nuclear stations in the next several years.

“Hopes for a world nuclear power revival rely on Asia as the engine of that rebirth,” said Michael Schneider, an independent nuclear analyst based in France.

As a result of their nuclear expansion programmes, the big Asian economies are competing with each other for uranium and looking beyond Canada and Australia for long-term supply deals.

Last month, India signed a civil nuclear agreement with Kazakhstan under which it will obtain uranium to fuel its nuclear expansion. The two countries agreed to co-operate on uranium development in Kazakhstan.

At about the same time, Jordan signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with China. The desert kingdom and Asia’s most populous nation plan to work together to develop uranium mines in Jordan and may also build a nuclear reactor there, Mr Toukan said.

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G.  Nuclear Energy

Nuke, Why Not?
Ucilia Wang
(for personal use only)

If you ask Nobel laureate Arno Penzias what could be the next big technology breakthrough for fighting climate change, he would say: nuclear power.

"The thing as big as the introduction of nuclear power is the introduction of nuclear power. We need this desperately," said Penzias at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco Monday. "Life on this planet depends on us going nuclear. We as a planet needs to take that option so we can build a civilized world around it."

Penzias' sentiment is heard more and more commonly these days, as President Obama makes clean energy – and the country's ability to supply its own energy needs – a top priority for his administration. What makes nuclear power attractive: it's zero emission and ability to provide consistent power. What makes it unsettling: the disposal of its radioactive wastes.

Obama has said he wouldn't rule out nuclear based on ideological ground (see YouTube video). But a provision that could have provided billions in loan guarantees to the nuclear industry didn't make it into the $787 billion stimulus package signed by Obama last week.

Rosa Yang, vice president of technology innovation at the Electric Power Research Institute, an American utility industry group, recently spoke of a "renaissance in nuclear" because of nuclear power is attracting a growing interest from different countries.

Penzias wasn't the only outspoken supporter of nuclear at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco Monday. Barbara Thomas Judge, chairman of the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority, gave a strong pitch for developing more nuclear power.

Judge said people had good reason to be scared of nuclear power more than two decades ago because of the reactor disasters of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. But she said better technologies have come along and, frankly, the scope of the waste disposal problem has been exaggerated.

"There is a myth about the waste issue: Listen you guys, only 10 percent of it are from civil nuclear power. The other 90 percent of wastes that already exist are from weapons [programs]," Judge told an audience. "We were pretty sloppy with this staff in the Great Britain. Whatever we do about building nuclear power plants, we've got to clean up."

If the United States isn't quick to embrace nuclear, other countries certainly are. Sweden is looking at ditching its ban on nuclear power. Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich state of the United Arab Emirates, would like to get 25 percent of its electricity from nuclear.

There are 436 active nuclear reactors worldwide with a total capacity of about 370 gigawatts, and 44 reactors are under construction, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. In the United States, 31 states have commercial nuclear power plants with a total of 104 reactors, said the federal Energy Information Administration (a power plant can have more than one reactor).

Judge promotes replacing old power plants with new and improved ones, an approach that might make the projects gain community acceptance more quickly. That certainly appears to be the plan in the United Kingdom.

Judge also predicts a shortage in skilled nuclear reactor designers and builders, given the world's new found interest in this form of energy.

There are several widely used nuclear technologies today. Key players in the sector include General Electric, Westinghouse Electric, Areva and Atomic Energy of Canada.

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H.  Nuclear Safety

Import Nuclear Bombs With Ease ...Through Indian Ports
Rituparna Bhuyan, Ajay Modi and Te Narasimhan
Business Standard
(for personal use only)

India’s sea ports do not have equipment to detect radioactive or contaminated consignments, exposing the country to security and safety risks, besides damaging reputation of goods manufactured here.

“There are infrastructure constraints at the ports. There is no way to detect if harmful material or radioactive substances get imported or exported out of the country. One has to be very careful in importing scrap metal as well,” said a government official familiar with the procedures related to foreign trade.

Recently, a European country found traces of a radioactive material in a consignment containing steel products. In fact, experts say, this has been happening since 2007.

The root of the problem, according to government officials and exporters, is some radioactive steel scrap that was imported into India about three to four years back. This scrap was used to manufacture packaging material for heavy-duty engineering goods consignments. Subsequently, when consignments packed with this radioactive steel were exported to the United States in 2007, alarm bells started ringing at the ports there.

But the fact that such contaminated material was not detected when it was being imported or exported in the form of packaging material, shows that Indian ports are not equipped to detect radioactive substances. Therefore, anti-social elements could easily import dirty bombs — unsophisticated explosive devices that combine radioactive material and conventional explosives — into the country.

When asked, a Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) spokesperson said that the department mostly tracked valuation of export and import consignments and import of banned substances. “There is a scanner for container surveillance at Nhava Sheva (near Mumbai). The process to increase the number of scanners at ports is on,” she said.

According to sources in the shipping ministry, most of India’s metal scrap is imported through the Kandla port in Gujarat, with the remaining coming through Chennai, Vizag and Tuticorin ports. The source added that none of these ports have equipment to detect radioactive substances. Many a time, metal scrap has been found to contain ammunition, including guns and grenades.

A blast at a plant operated by Bhushan Steel in October 2004 brought the issue to the forefront. The plant was processing imported metal scrap allegedly having explosive material.

Engineering exporters recall that in 2007, about 200 containers exported from the Kolkata port were detected to have radioactive traces. “These were either returned back or impounded. But that was a lesson for us and an awareness programme was started to deal with the issue,” said Suranjan Gupta, senior joint director, Engineering Export Promotion Council.

However, foreign sea ports in US and Europe continued to receive consignments with radioactive traces from India. As recently as January, an export consignment of a Mumbai-based company was found to have traces of radioactivity.

Steel ministry discussed the issue in a meeting recently. Government sources said that the steel scrap used to manufacture packaging material of the Mumbai-based company was imported from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries by Vipras Castings Ltd, a Raigarh-based firm.

“The government received a letter from the Indian embassy in Germany, citing a local media report about the detection of radioactive substances in a consignment from India. This was followed by another letter, citing another media report in Germany saying the level of radioactivity was not hazardous,” said a steel ministry official.

According to Rakesh Shah, former chairman of the Engineering Export Promotion Council, many exporters in East India have bought scanners to detect radioactivity in the material that they use.

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I.  Links of Interest

Bugaria's Nuclear Dilemma
BBC News
(for personal use only)

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Nuclear Options
Hans Blix
The Guardian
(for personal use only)

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Pros and Cons of Multilateral Nonproliferation: Lessons Learned from the Bush Administration
Ambassador Jackie Wolcott
The Heritage Foundation
(for personal use only)

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