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Nuclear News - 2/3/2009
PGS Nuclear News, February 3, 2009
Compiled By: Helene Picart

    1. North Wants Others to Reduce Nukes, Jung Ha-won, Joong Ang Daily (2/3/2009)
    2. U.S.: Committed to Nuclear Talks, Despite 'Unhelpful' North Korean Rhetoric, VOA News (2/2/2009)
    3. Obama Urged to Send Emissary, Hold Summit with N. Korean Leader, The Korea Herald (2/2/2009)
    4. Obama, Hu to Work for Nuke-Free NK, The Korea Times (1/31/2009)
B.  Iran
    1. Iran Urges Group 5+1 to Give up Preconditions in Nuclear Talks, Mu Xuequan, (2/2/2009)
    2. Iran Dismisses Bilateral Talks with US in Munich Conference, Fars News Agency (2/1/2009)
    3. Israeli Warlord Vows Face-off with Iran, PressTV (2/1/2009)
C.  IAEA-Iran
    1. Enough Time to Address Iran Bomb Concern: IAEA Head, Sylvia Westall, Reuters (2/2/2009)
    2. IAEA Chief Welcomes US Overtures to Iran, Agence France-Presse (2/1/2009)
D.  India
    1. India Signs Inspections Deal, Agence France-Presse (2/2/2009)
    2. India's First Fast Breeder Reactor to be Ready Next Year, The Hindu (2/1/2009)
E.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. US Targets Chinese, Iranian, NKorean Firms, Foster Klug, Associated Press (2/2/2009)
    2. Obama May Embrace Emirates Deal as Model for Nuclear Agreements, Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, Bloomberg (2/2/2009)
    3. Areva to Sign Indian Nuclear Deal This Week: French Minister, Agence France-Presse (2/2/2009)
    4. Japan to Launch Energy Talks?, Agence France-Presse (2/1/2009)
    5. ‘France Willing to Reprocess Uranium for India’, The Hindu Business Line (1/30/2009)
    6. Germany Calls on U.S., Russia to Initiate Nuclear Disarmament, RIA Novosti (1/30/2009)
F.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Bulgaria's Nuclear Plant Kozloduy Produced 15% More Electricity in 2008, Sofia News Agency (2/1/2009)
    2. Czechs Push for Nuclear Power Revival After Russian Gas Shutdown, Earth Times (1/30/2009)
G.  Links of Interest
    1. Global Economic Slump May Lay Bare Nuclear Safety and Proliferation Problem, Vladimir Slivyak, Bellona Foundation (2/2/2009)


North Wants Others to Reduce Nukes
Jung Ha-won
Joong Ang Daily
(for personal use only)

North Korea said yesterday it would complete its denuclearization process only if other nuclear superpowers and South Korea all agree to nuclear disarmament talks. The North’s General Chief of Staff warned that the South must commit itself first to “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” before the North gives up its weapons.

“Until nuclear dismantlement in the South eliminates nuclear threats from the United States, the denuclearization to remove our nuclear weapons will never materialize,” a spokesman for the North’s General Chief of Staff said in an interview with Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central News Agency.

The North’s military said the only way the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be achieved is after “all the parties with nuclear weapons start reducing their nuclear arsenals simultaneously.” In highly unusual remarks on nuclear issues to be made by the military, the General Chief of Staff emphasized that Seoul needs to go through a nuclear verification process in its entire country.

The North’s Foreign Ministry has generally in the past dealt with the country’s denuclearization process, including the six-party talks.

But Pyongyang’s military has recently shown signs of stepping onto the central stage in hostile rhetoric towards the outside world, including South Korea. The latest announcement from Pyongyang’s military came two weeks after it threatened an “all-out confrontational posture” to shatter the South’s Lee Myung-bak administration.

The notion of acknowledging North Korea’s nuclear weapons or tying its denuclearization negotiations to a larger disarmament process has long been considered politically untenable because they imply that the North is officially recognized as a member of the nuclear club. Pyongyang is widely believed to have conducted a nuclear test in October 2006. But the United States and its other Asian neighbors have long refused to see the North as a nuclear power, fearing such recognition would not only spark a full-fledged race to build atomic bombs by countries with nuclear development capabilities but also give more political leverage to Pyongyang during denuclearization negotiations.

The North also expressed discomfort with the idea of denuclearizing itself while the two Koreas are still technically at war.

“It is the utmost absurdity to try to remove the nuclear weapons of the potential enemy while neglecting the task to end the war,” said the North’s military.

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Obama Urged to Send Emissary, Hold Summit with N. Korean Leader
The Korea Herald
(for personal use only)

An American expert on North Korea urged U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday to send an envoy to Pyongyang and meet directly with the North Korean leader to persuade him to abandon his nuclear ambitions, reported Yonhap News Agency.

"After consulting with South Korea and Japan, the Obama administration should promptly send a high-level emissary, perhaps former President Bill Clinton or former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, to Pyongyang to offer a little more for a little more," said Leon V. Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council in New York.

Sigal also advised in an article posted on the Web site of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that Obama "hold a summit meeting with Kim Jong-il in return for North Korea disposing some of its plutonium -- at a minimum the spent nuclear fuel removed during the disablement process."

Obama said during his election campaign last year that he was willing to meet with Kim without preconditions, but he has yet to take any concrete steps in dealing with Pyongyang.

North Korea detonated its first nuclear device in 2006 and is believed to possess ballistic missiles that can reach the western part of the mainland United States. Experts continue to debate over whether the 2006 detonation was a success.

Analysts say Obama has put the North Korean nuclear issue on hold due to the urgency of the economic crisis, along with the conflict in the Gaza Strip, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The new U.S. President recently nominated former Sen. George Mitchell as the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East and sent him to meet with the region's leaders. But Obama has not yet nominated a special envoy to North Korea, as some expected he might.

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U.S.: Committed to Nuclear Talks, Despite 'Unhelpful' North Korean Rhetoric
VOA News
(for personal use only)

The United States says it remains committed to six-country talks to end North Korea's nuclear program, despite Pyongyang's hostile rhetoric towards its southern neighbor and U.S. ally.
North Korea announced Friday that it is canceling all political and military agreements with South Korea - the latest action in a series of threats against South Korea's pro-U.S. president, Lee Myung-bak.

U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Friday that Pyongyang's comments are not helpful. But he said the United States has not detected any movement of North Korean troops or equipment accompanying Friday's statements.

Wood also said the United States will continue to pursue an end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program through the six-party talks. He said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to meet with regional leaders to discuss the situation with North Korea. South Korea also downplayed Pyongyang's statement. Officials in Seoul expressed "deep regret" about North Korea's stance and urged Pyongyang to engage in dialogue to resolve their differences.

North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea issued a statement, published by the official Korean Central News Agency, declaring that North Korea would no longer honor accords struck with the south, including a Yellow Sea border agreement. The Yellow Sea border between the two nations was demarcated by a U.S.-led United Nations command at the end of the Korean War.

The two countries fought deadly skirmishes along their border in 1999 and 2002.

The North also accused the Seoul government of pushing the two countries to the brink of war.

North and South Korea technically remain at war, since they never signed a peace treaty to end the 1950 to 1953 Korean conflict.

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Obama, Hu to Work for Nuke-Free NK
The Korea Times
(for personal use only)

U.S. President Barack Obama has called Chinese President Hu Jintao to reaffirm his pledge to denuclearize North Korea through six-party talks, Yonhap News reported quoting the White House.

"President Obama expressed appreciation for China's role as Chair of the Six-Party Talks and the two sides affirmed the importance of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

In the telephone conversation Obama placed earlier in the day "to build a more positive and constructive U.S.-China relationship," the two presidents "agreed to work together on global issues, specifically mentioning North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, counterterrorism, proliferation, and climate change," according to the spokesman.

Obama and Hu also agreed to cooperate closely to cope with the ongoing global economic crisis and Obama "stressed the need to correct global trade imbalances as well as to stimulate global growth and get credit markets flowing," Gibbs said.

The call was made two days after Obama telephoned Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso Wednesday and "agreed to work closely through the six-party talks process" to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.

The latest round of the on-and-off six-party talks, which began in 2003, stalled again last month as the North would not agree to a verification regime for its nuclear facilities, insisting it will agree to a verification protocol in the third and last phase of the nuclear deal.

The talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia are in their second phase, in which North Korea is supposed to disable its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, in return for 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil or the equivalent.

The third phase calls for the North to dismantle its nuclear facilities and programs in exchange for massive economic aid and diplomatic recognition by Washington and Tokyo.

Obama has said he will continue the six-party talks while seeking more direct engagement with the reclusive, nuclear-armed communist state, but has not yet taken any concrete actions, amid speculation that the North Korean nuclear issue has been sidelined by the global economic crisis and the security challenges from the Middle East.

Obama has yet to nominate a special envoy for North Korea, although he appointed former Sen. George Mitchell as the U.S. special envoy for the Middle East last week, immediately after the Senate approval of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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B.  Iran

Iran Urges Group 5+1 to Give up Preconditions in Nuclear Talks
Mu Xuequan
(for personal use only)

Iran's Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Ali Larijani said on Monday Group 5+1 had to give up preconditions in future nuclear talks with Tehran, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Calling on France, Britain, China, Russia and the United States, plus Germany (Group 5+1), Larijani said "If you want the talks (with Iran) to be constructive, then give up the irrelevant preconditions which have had no use."

Speaking at a press conference in Tehran, he said "When Group 5+1 was born, it had good capacities to move forward. But some destructive motivations did not allow its capacities to be directed to solve the problem."

He pointed out "if they (Group 5+1) expect Iran to give up its nuclear know-how, it will not be of legal base and not acceptable for the Iranians."

"Carrot and Stick model does not fit the dignity of Iranians and at the present time there is no demand for that," he added.

Carrot and Stick model, which Group 5+1 and the European Union (EU) insisted upon, asks Iran to quit its suspected nuclear activities in exchange for a generous pack of incentives.

In January, Larijani said the U.S. approach at the next Group 5+1 meeting would be a test for change in policy.

"The approach of the U.S. at the next meeting of Group 5+1 and the way it deals with Iran's nuclear issue would be a test for change of President Barack Obama's policy towards Tehran," Larijani was quoted as saying by IRNA.

Iran's controversial and highly sensitive nuclear issue has come in the spotlight for more than five years.

The United States and its allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program. Iran has denied the charges and insisted that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Although propaganda of potential military confrontations over Iran's nuclear issue has never stopped, Washington and its allies were still trying to block Iran's nuclear process by both negotiations and sanctions.

Analysts think that both sides need to make change in their stance on the issue. Obama's victory in U.S. presidential elections is considered by the international community as a "chance" to bring change in the prolonged Iranian nuclear issue.

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Iran Dismisses Bilateral Talks with US in Munich Conference
Fars News Agency
(for personal use only)

Iran and the US are not scheduled to attend bilateral talks on the sidelines of a security conference due to be held in Munich, Germany on Feb. 6-8, Iranian foreign minister said on Sunday.
Manouchehr Mottaki said that Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani will take part in the conference, and stressed that the Iranian official is not scheduled to meet US counterparts, the Islamic republic news agency reported.

US Vice President Joe Biden is also due to attend the conference which is the 45th Munich Conference on Security Policy.

Some media reports in recent days claimed that top Barack Obama advisers and Iranian officials have been negotiating over the past year.

Nuclear non-proliferation experts had several "very, very high-level" contacts in the last few months with Iranian leaders, said Jeffrey Boutwell, executive director for the US branch of the Pugwash group, an international organization of scientists which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.

Former defense secretary William Perry, who served in Obama's election campaign, participated in some of these meetings focused on "a wide range of issues that separate Iran from the West: not only their nuclear program but the Middle East peace process, Persian Gulf issues," Boutwell told AFP.

The Pugwash official declined to name the other participants, except to say they had considerable clout. Tehran rejected the reports, saying that there had been no meaningful contacts between the two sides.

"It is possible that some Iranian officials have greeted US officials in some conferences and meetings but it's not called negotiations," Iranian Intelligence Minster Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie said on Sunday.

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Israeli Warlord Vows Face-off with Iran
(for personal use only)

Israeli election frontrunner Benjamin Netanyahu says his first mission if elected prime minister would be to 'thwart the Iranian threat'.

In an interview with Israel's Channel 2 TV late Saturday, Netanyahu said he fully intends to sabotage Tehran's nuclear efforts once and for all.

"[Iran] will not be armed with a nuclear weapon. It includes everything that is necessary to make this statement come true," said Israel's leading candidate for prime minister.

Israel, the sole nuclear power in the Middle East, accuses Tehran of seeking nuclear weaponry while the UN nuclear watchdog, in its Sept. 15 report on Iran, declared that it could not find any "components of a nuclear weapon" or "related nuclear physics studies" in the country.

Netanyahu, who is currently facing war crime charges in Gaza, claimed the Islamic Republic's uranium enrichment is the greatest danger to Israel and humanity.

After weeks of denying that it used illegal weapons in the densely-populated Gaza Strip, the Israeli military finally admitted Friday that it had pounded the Palestinian coast with at least twenty white phosphorus bombs.

The 1980 third Convention on Conventional Weapons has banned the use of white phosphorus as a weapon, even against military targets situated within population centers.

International attorneys have filed war crime charges against 15 Israeli political and military officials, including Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak.

In the second week of January, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) voted 33-1 to condemn Israel for grave violations of human rights in the Palestinian territory.
With only two weeks to go before the Israeli elections, Israel's 23-day offensive in Gaza --which killed some 1330 people and injured thousands of others including a large number of women and children-- has tipped the balance in favor of Netanyahu.

According to a Maariv poll on Saturday, Netanyahu has scored 28 seats in Israel's 120-seat parliament, five more than his closest rival, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of the centrist Kadima Party.

Labour defense minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, is lagging behind in third despite a 70 percent jump in approval ratings.

The February 10 election will be Israel's fifth in a decade.

Netanyahu, who opposes Israel-Palestinian peace talks, has repeatedly called for the "mass deportations of Arabs from the territories", vowing to expand illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank should he make a political comeback.

Jewish settlements are built on land Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war and are in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the occupying power from transferring citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory.

A leaked report on Jewish settlements in the West Bank revealed Thursday that the Israeli government was complicit in illegal construction on private land owned by Palestinians.

Israeli human rights group Yesh Din said the confidential information would help Palestinians sue Tel Aviv for "systematically violating international law and the property rights of Palestinian residents."

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C.  IAEA-Iran

Enough Time to Address Iran Bomb Concern: IAEA Head
Sylvia Westall
(for personal use only)

Iran could gain the capability to make a nuclear weapon in 2-5 years but there is ample time to deal with the concern, the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog said in a televised interview.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the Vienna-based U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that after stockpiling enriched uranium, Iran would face further technical and political hurdles should it seek to build nuclear arms.

"There is a concern, but don't hype the concern," ElBaradei, alluding mainly to U.S. and Israeli warnings, said in a CNN interview broadcast late Sunday. "There is ample time to engage (Iran) and reverse the concern and to move into more engagement rather than more isolation."

ElBaradei said that for Iran to have weapons capacity, it would have to eject IAEA inspectors, leave the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), reconfigure production to refine uranium to the high degree needed for bomb fuel and fit the material into a warhead:

"Even if I go by the CIA and other U.S. intelligence, the estimations (are) that if even if they go through all these scenarios, we're still talking about two to five years from now."

Western powers believe Iran's declared program to refine uranium to the low level required for civilian nuclear energy is a front for gaining the means to reprocess it into highly enriched material for bombs at short notice.

Iran insists its nuclear ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity, and refuses to freeze a program that it says is its sovereign right under the NPT.

It is under IAEA investigation over alleged military dimensions to its nuclear work as well as U.N. sanctions imposed over past undeclared activity and a failure to prove its nuclear intentions are wholly peaceful.

The IAEA's last report on Iran in November said it planned to start installing another unit of 3,000 enrichment centrifuges in early 2009, adding to 3,800 machines already enriching uranium and another 2,200 being gradually introduced.

Some Western analysts believe Iran will have enriched enough uranium by later this year to make a bomb if it wishes. Iran says it will enrich uranium only to the low level needed for civilian power.

In an interview with the Washington Post, ElBaradei said Iran had seen that the ability to build an atom bomb in a short period would give it an insurance policy against attack.

"Obviously, they look for their own security, and they have seen that if you have nuclear weapons, or at least the technology, you are somehow protected from an attack," he told the Post's Sunday edition.

ElBaradei urged Iran anew to cooperate with the IAEA probe in order to build trust, but also blamed the impasse on the Bush administration, which declined to open a dialogue with Iran.

He praised new U.S. President Barack Obama for being willing to start direct dialogue with Iran without preconditions.

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IAEA Chief Welcomes US Overtures to Iran
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

UN atomic watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei in an interview published on Sunday has welcomed recent overtures by US President Barack Obama to engage Iran in talks on its nuclear program.

ElBaradei called in an interview with the Washington Post for "a direct dialogue" between Iran and the United States, to encourage "trust-building" between the two nations.

"You're not going to have trust unless you have a direct dialogue. President Obama is saying he's ready to have a direct dialogue without preconditions, based on mutual respect. I say this is absolutely overdue," ElBaradei told the newspaper.

Experts have said that even before winning November's presidential election, Obama began to engage in "track two" discussions to approach America's foes in the Middle East, including Iran.

In an interview last week, Obama said the United States would offer Iran an extended hand of diplomacy if the Islamic Republic's leaders "unclenched their fist."

ElBaradei told The Post that diplomatic efforts to compel Iranian cooperation have been ineffective.

"Iran was cooperating even more before," he said."They cut the cooperation ... when they were taken to the Security Council in 2005."

He added: "I have said for the past six years that the policy of building trust between the West (and the United States in particular) and Iran has failed completely. We haven't moved one iota," he said.

ElBaradei also praised his agency's efforts to shed light on Iran's atomic program, which it long has claimed is civilian in nature, but which some countries believe aims to develop nuclear weapons.

"We have done as much as we can do in Iran to make sure that we understand the history and the present status of their program, to try to push them as far as we can within our authority to come clean," ElBaradei told the daily.

He added: "I am very proud that within the limited authority we have, we have been able to understand the scope of the most sensitive part of the Iranian program, which is the enrichment program, which is now under complete agency inspection."

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D.  India

India Signs Inspections Deal
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

INDIA signed an inspections agreement with the UN atomic watchdog on Monday as part of a deal lifting a 34-year-old embargo on nuclear trade with New Delhi, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.
'An agreement between the government of India and the IAEA for the 'Application of Safeguards to Civilian Nuclear Facilities' was signed on Monday in Vienna by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei and Ambassador Saurabh Kumar of India,' the agency said in a statement.

'The safeguards agreement, which is the result of several rounds of consultations conducted between India and the IAEA since November 2007, was approved by the IAEA board of governors in August 2008,' the statement said.

The agreement would enter into force once it had been ratified by New Delhi, the watchdog continued.

Up until now, India had allowed IAEA inspectors regular access to six nuclear reactors under safeguards agreements concluded between 1971 and 1994.

But under the new agreement, 'additional reactors are expected to be under IAEA safeguards in the future.' In all, New Delhi has agreed to open up 14 of its 22 declared civilian reactors to regular IAEA inspections by 2014.

The so-called safeguards agreement is a pre-condition for a US-led deal to allow nuclear nations to supply energy-hungry India with nuclear material and technology for civilian uses even though it refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

It was approved by consensus by the IAEA's board of governors in August.

And in September, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls the export and sale of nuclear technology, agreed to make a special exemption for India, even though it refuses to sign the NPT, having developed atomic bombs in secret and conducted its first nuclear test in 1974.

The United States wanted a special waiver so it can share civilian nuclear technology with New Delhi.

Critics say the deal undermines international non-proliferation efforts and accuse the nuclear powers of pursuing commercial and political gains.

Dependent on oil imports, India is seeking to broaden its fuel sources to sustain its fast-growing economy. Nuclear power supplies around three per cent of India's fuel needs but it aims to raise this to 25 per cent by mid-century.

Indian Premier Manmohan Singh signed a landmark nuclear deal with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in December covering the building of four new nuclear energy reactors in India.

The United States and France are the other powers to have signed bilateral agreements with New Delhi but former Cold War ally Russia is as yet the only state actively involved in building reactors in India.

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India's First Fast Breeder Reactor to be Ready Next Year
The Hindu
(for personal use only)

After over two decades of work, India's first nuclear reactor that will breed more fuel than it consumes will be ready next year, say senior officials at the Kalpakkam nuclear complex 80 km from here.

The heavily-guarded complex is a hive of activity now as the 4,000-odd experts who are designing and building the 500-MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) can finally foresee when it will be ready.

A breeder reactor is one that breeds more material for a nuclear fission reaction than it consumes, so that the reaction - that ultimately produces electricity - can continue.

If all goes well, the Rs.35 billion (Rs.3,500 crore/$700 million) project promoted by Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (Bhavini) will become the crowning glory for the experts past and present at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) at the complex that already houses four nuclear power reactors.

"The project is interestingly poised. Civil construction is nearing completion. Most of the reactor components are at the site and deliveries of other equipment are expected soon," IGCAR Director Baldev Raj told IANS.

Measured in terms of physical progress - including component manufacturing - around 40 percent of the project work is complete with an average increase of around 2.5 percent every month.

Officials are hopeful of getting the necessary clearances from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) this month to erect the main vessel and other equipments.

Last June, the huge safety vessel (200 tonnes, 13 metres in diameter and 13 metres in depth) was lowered into the reactor vault.

"Normally safety clearances are in a sequence; first for the site followed by clearances for concrete pour, erection of major equipments and reactor commissioning," IGCAR's reactor engineering group director S.C. Chetal told IANS.

As the project itself is first of its kind in India clearance for lowering of the safety vessel was obtained first.

Bhavini's project director Prabhat Kumar, who literally oversees the project's progress through the glass wall opposite his seat, told IANS: "Around Rs.1400 crore (Rs.14 billion) has been spent till date. This year we have exceeded even the revised estimates of Rs.725 crore (Rs.7.25 billion)."

Orders have been placed for equipments worth around Rs.32.50 billion (Rs.3,250 crore) and purchase orders worth Rs.2.5 billion (Rs.250 crore) will be soon issued.

Reeling off the equipment that has been received - safety vessel, main vessel, thermal insulation, thermal baffle, five sodium pumps, four argon buffer tanks, grid plate and others - Kumar listed the items to be received, such as inner vessel, roof slabs for the reactor building, compressed air system and nitrogen supply system.

Around 175 tonnes of solid sodium in 98 tankers have been imported from France and out of that 75 tonnes have been transferred to the sodium tanks.

"Next fiscal we will get two steam generators, heat exchangers, sodium pumps, similar panels," he added.

Civil works to house power generation equipment like turbine generator and facilities like sea water pump house, sea water intake and others have started and by this March switchyard, auxiliary power and outfall structures will be ready.

Confident that the reactor would start generating power some time in 2010, Kumar added a rider: "There may be some surprises as the project is the first of its kind in many ways".

He added: "Each and every weld point in reactor equipment has to be inspected and safety certified. It is dangerous to ease fabrication and welding processes."

The officials, however, fall silent when asked about rise in project cost due to rising prices of steel, cement and other raw material. "The Bhavini board has to consider the revised cost estimates first," is all they say.

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E.  Nuclear Cooperation

Areva to Sign Indian Nuclear Deal This Week: French Minister
Agence France-Presse
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French nuclear power engineering company Areva is to sign a deal this week with a number of Indian energy plants, France's foreign trade minister Anne-Marie Idrac said here Sunday.

Idrac said that a memorandum of understanding would be signed in the coming days, as part of French moves to tap into India's expanding civil nuclear sector.

The minister declined to say exactly how many plants were involved in the tie-up, but French officials accompanying her on the four-day trip said it would be a "significant number".

Areva announced in December last year that it will deliver 300 tonnes of uranium to India under an agreement signed between the two countries three months earlier.

The uranium will go to Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and is the first such shipment since a 34-year embargo on international nuclear trade with India was lifted in September.

The embargo was put in place after India tested nuclear weapons in 1974. It tested them again in 1998 and refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Russia, Canada and the United States have also signed agreements with India but Moscow -- New Delhi's former Cold War ally -- is the only state actively involved in building reactors in the country.

Nuclear power supplies about three percent of India's fuel needs but the government aims to hike this to about 25 percent by mid-century, lessening dependence on oil imports and coal to sustain its fast-growing economy.

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Obama May Embrace Emirates Deal as Model for Nuclear Agreements
Indira A.R. Lakshmanan
(for personal use only)

In her final days as secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice signed a nuclear-energy accord with a Persian Gulf ally 50 miles from Iran, calling the measure “a powerful and timely model for the world.”

President Barack Obama is likely to agree.

The deal with the United Arab Emirates is designed to assist the Arab nation in starting a nuclear-power industry that can’t be converted into a weapon-making enterprise. The agreement may help Obama keep his pledge to crack down on the production and smuggling of nuclear materials.

He has called the spread of nuclear weapons “the gravest danger we face.” That threat is increasing: With global electricity demand projected to double by 2030, dozens of countries across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America have expressed interest in nuclear power -- and with any nuclear program comes the risk of proliferation.

“The U.A.E. is doing it absolutely the right way,” says Jon Wolfsthal, a former U.S. government monitor at North Korean and Russian nuclear facilities will be advising Vice President Joe Biden on proliferation. “We should not only support the U.A.E. deal, but it could be used as a model” for other countries to pursue nuclear power in a way that doesn’t raise fears of clandestine weapons programs.

A federation of Arab sheikdoms that borders Saudi Arabia and produces as much oil as Iraq, the U.A.E. has committed to buy nuclear fuel from foreign countries and send back spent supplies.

Bomb Material

It is the first country to pledge that it won’t exercise its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium to make its own fuel. Those are also the only ways to create fissile material for bombs.

In exchange, the Bush administration supported allowing U.S. companies to sell the Abu Dhabi government nuclear technology.

The U.A.E. commitment is “a counterpoint to what Iran is doing,” says Wolfsthal, 42. Although Iran contracted to buy supplies from Russia and send spent fuel back, it has also insisted on enriching uranium, claiming it needs its own fuel. Like North Korea, which clandestinely reprocessed plutonium, Iran’s suspected dual-use facilities have triggered international sanctions, and leaders of both countries have resisted economic incentives to close them.

Ben Chang, Obama’s National Security Council spokesman, says the administration is studying the U.A.E. deal before deciding whether to send it to Congress, which will have 90 legislative days to block the agreement before it becomes law.

‘Undermine’ Efforts

Rejecting the accord would be counterproductive, says Andrew Grotto, a security analyst at the Center for American Progress in Washington, a public-policy group with ties to the Obama administration. Since the U.A.E. can legally buy nuclear- power technology from companies in France, Britain, Japan and other nations, blocking a U.S. agreement that includes safeguards against proliferation “would undermine our efforts to set a high bar for transparency,” he says.

The U.A.E. arrangement has won an unusual combination of support from both the U.S. nuclear-power industry -- which stands to gain billions of dollars from selling technology and materials worldwide -- and from nonproliferation experts including former United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, who is now chairman of the Stockholm-based Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission.

Blueprint for Programs

At the McLean, Virginia, headquarters of Thorium Power Ltd., a nuclear-energy company that’s advising the U.A.E. on building its industry, the deal was celebrated as a blueprint for prospective programs in Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and elsewhere.

Chief Executive Officer Seth Grae, 45, is trying to develop a “proliferation-proof” fuel based on thorium, a metallic element that theoretically couldn’t be reprocessed for weapons use. The company’s advisers include Blix, 80, who is also a former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Other ideas to halt proliferation include creating an international fuel bank to discourage countries from making their own fuel, a proposal Obama, 47, supports. The project, spearheaded by the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, has been funded by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, the U.S. government, the U.A.E., the European Union and Norway.

Tighten Export Controls

Many nonproliferation experts say the 45 nations that sell nuclear-energy technology need to tighten their export controls. George Perkovich, director of the nonproliferation program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, says all suppliers, including in the U.S., should take back spent fuel so plutonium can’t be reprocessed.

By voluntarily pledging not to seek sensitive nuclear technology, the U.A.E. sets “the gold standard” that other nations should emulate, says Thomas Graham Jr., 75, a former top U.S. arms-control negotiator who is now Thorium’s executive chairman.

There are some objections to the agreement. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, has questioned security at the U.A.E.’s port of Dubai, a nexus for the proliferation network once run by Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan that supplied Iran, North Korea and Libya with sensitive nuclear material.

Blix says there are ways to avoid this problem: If “Congress has concerns about leakage of technology to Iran, assurances of export controls would be in order.”

Ulterior Motives

Joseph Cirincione, president of the San Francisco-based Ploughshares Fund, a nonproliferation foundation, says he worries that power plants can be “the starter kits for nuclear weapons,” and that some nations may have ulterior motives in seeking nuclear energy.

“Iran’s rivals cannot afford to let it gain the military, political and diplomatic leverage conveyed by nuclear weapons,” he says. “What’s to stop them once they’ve built the reactors from adding on a fuel-making facility?”

The U.A.E.’s ambassador to the IAEA, Hamad Al Kaabi, says his nation’s “decision has nothing to do with Iran.” If the U.A.E. wanted weapons, it wouldn’t have become the first nation “to forgo enrichment and reprocessing,” he says. Since 2007, the U.A.E. has enhanced export controls through new laws, prosecutions, interdictions and the banning of companies involved in proliferation, adds Al Kaabi, a U.S.-trained nuclear engineer.

The U.A.E. deal probably comes too late to serve as a road map for negotiations with Iran, Perkovich says. “But it could work for the next country.”

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US Targets Chinese, Iranian, NKorean Firms
Foster Klug
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

The Obama administration said Monday it has imposed sanctions on companies in North Korea, China and Iran for violating U.S. law aimed at stopping the spread of missiles and other weapons technology.

The penalties were the first of their kind from the new U.S. administration and signaled a willingness to continue the Bush administration's tough stance on weapons proliferation.

The sanctions, while largely symbolic, come at a sensitive time in two key U.S. diplomatic efforts. The United States relies on Chinese leverage in international negotiations to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs. The Obama administration also needs the help of China, a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, to deter Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon.

The measures were in the works for some time, but Obama officials signed off on them after the new president took office and announced them in Monday's Federal Register. They bar the companies from trade with the United States that they were not likely involved in.

The Obama administration is currently reviewing its North Korea policy, but Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has called the six-nation nuclear disarmament talks "essential." The United States heavily relies on China, the host of the negotiations and a country seen as having the most outside leverage with the North.

Those talks are stalled, however, and tensions are rising on the Korean peninsula as the North has made increasingly bellicose threats since President Barack Obama's inauguration. Pyongyang pledged on Monday to maintain its atomic weapons and warned of a possible nuclear war. On Friday, the North said it would scrap all peace accords with Seoul.

The North Korean companies are Korea Mining and Development Corporation, Mokong Trading Corporation and Sino-Ki. The Iranian companies are Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group and Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group. The Chinese companies are Dalian Sunny Industries and Bellamax.

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Japan to Launch Energy Talks?
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

JAPAN will shortly launch talks with South Korea and Vietnam on cooperation in developing nuclear energy, with its sights set on growing demand in emerging economies, a report said on Sunday.

The talks on nuclear power accords with South Korea and Vietnam will start as early as this spring and Japan is expected to conclude an agreement with Russia, the Nikkei business daily said.

Demand for construction of nuclear power stations is rising in emerging economies.

The accords are designed to make it easier for Japanese companies to enter nuclear energy markets by simplifying export procedures for products related to nuclear power generation and prohibit their being diverted for military use or to other countries, Nikkei said.

Japan has already concluded bilateral nuclear cooperation accords with six nations, including the United States and Britain, as well as the European Union. Talks are also underway with Russia and Kazakhstan.

Japan is also considering entering similar arrangements with Indonesia, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates, Nikkei said.

Tokyo and Seoul are due to start working-level talks in March at the earliest on a nuclear pact after they recently reached a basic agreement to do so, the daily added.

The Vietnamese government has set a goal of opening its first nuclear plant in 2020, with plans to choose a contractor to build the facility as early as 2010, the report said.

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‘France Willing to Reprocess Uranium for India’
The Hindu Business Line
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France has indicated its willingness to consider taking back uranium for reprocessing if India is not in a position to reprocess the entire amount.

“India has a reprocessing facility which will be put under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. So for us the best is that the fuel is reprocessed here. (But) India does not have enough capabilities. We will consider the option of taking the fuel back to France for reprocessing,” the French Ambassador to India, Mr Jerome Bonnafont, said on Friday.

He was speaking at a luncheon meeting organised by the PHD Chambers of Commerce and Industry here.

This comes in the wake of the recent signing of an agreement between India and France which is to see Areva deliver 300 tonnes of uranium to India. “This contract is to be implemented in the next few weeks and months. There is nothing holding back implementation of the contract. It is simply that you need to gather the uranium, package it, organise the transport and (get through the) legal methods involved,” Mr Bonnafont said.

He added that a French delegation is to visit India later this year to scout for opportunities in the civil nuclear field. “The delegation should be here some time towards the middle of the year. Not only the delegation will have Areva and Alsthom people, but also include those involved in civil engineering, legal matters, financing, training, safety and security. All the aspects that go around the construction of a nuclear power plant,” Mr Bonnafont said.

On making N-deal public

Asked why details of the India-France nuclear agreement had not been made public yet, the Ambassador said that French laws did not permit this. “French laws say that you do not make an international agreement public before it has been presented to the Parliament, which we are in the process of doing now. When it comes to the content of the agreement, if you read the Franco-Indian declaration of 2008, the content of the Agreement is explained. The text is not there but the substance is,” he said.

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Germany Calls on U.S., Russia to Initiate Nuclear Disarmament
RIA Novosti
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German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on the U.S. and Russian presidents to take the initiative on nuclear disarmament during a meeting in Germany's parliament on Friday.

"The last period of reforms ended without any results," he said. "It is obvious that Russia and the U.S., which have more than 90% of the world's nuclear weapons, need to set an example here. I call on both of the young presidents from the U.S. and push this forward."

The minister said that he had already seen some of the "signs" that the U.S. was ready to move forward and renew the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) once it expires in December this year.

He also said that Obama had signaled his intention to send an agreement banning nuclear weapons tests to the U.S. Senate as well as halting the production of fissile materials capable of making nuclear weapons.

"These are three important signals that could be a great leap forward in the denuclearization of military technology," he said, adding he was hopeful "that the course will be set this year for disarmament policies over the next 10 years."

Relations between the U.S. and Russia have deteriorated over U.S. plans to deploy missiles and a radar in Central Europe as a defense against possible strikes from "rogue states" and Russia's recent conflict with Georgia over South Ossetia.

Last November, President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow would deploy Iskander missile systems in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between NATO members Lithuania and Poland, in response to any deployment by Washington of elements of a missile defense shield in Europe.

However, Moscow recently expressed hope that U.S. President Barack Obama's administration would "take a break on the issue of missile defense ... and evaluate its effectiveness and cost efficiency." And some media sources cited a Russian high-ranking military source as saying that the Defense Ministry had so far taken no practical measures to deploy Iskander missiles in its Kaliningrad exclave, in a sign that Moscow was ready to compromise with the United States.

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F.  Nuclear Energy

Bulgaria's Nuclear Plant Kozloduy Produced 15% More Electricity in 2008
Sofia News Agency
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Bulgaria's only nuclear power plant at the Danube town of Kozloduy produced almost 16 billion kW/h of electricity in 2008, which is a 15% increase compared to the 2007 production.

The news was announced by the NPP Director Ivan Genov in an interview for the Darik Radio on Saturday.

The Kozloduy Plant has only two 1000 MW reactors that are functioning - Units 5 and 6. Its "small" 440 MW reactors - Units 1, 2, 3, and 4 - have been closed in accordance with agreements with the EU over safety concerns.

Ivan Genov pointed out the potential restart of Units 3 and 4, which were shut down on January 1, 2006, would require no additional staff or funds. He said Unit 4 could be restarted within three weeks after the issuing of a permit by the Nuclear Regulation Agency.

The NPP Director also emphasized that the closure of Units 3 and 4 cost Bulgaria BGN 350 M in missed revenue every year.

The rhetoric about the restart of Units 3 and 4 was taken up again by the Bulgarian President and the government during the recent cutoff of Russian natural gas supplies. However, Bulgarian would have to get EU permission for any nuclear reactor reboot as the closure of the units is part of its accession treaty.

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Czechs Push for Nuclear Power Revival After Russian Gas Shutdown
Earth Times
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Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country chairs the European Union until June 30, called for a nuclear power revival in the wake of a gas crisis that left thousands of Eastern Europeans without heat in the midst of winter. "Do we want sustainable energy supply with low (CO2) emissions? Then we cannot do without nuclear," Topolanek told an energy security conference in north-eastern Czech Republic.

While backing atomic power, Topolanek warned against reliance on "imported" sources of energy.

"Do we want to strengthen our freedom and independence? Then we can't depend on the import of oil and gas to such a large extent," he said.

Eastern European leaders have warned against generating electricity from gas after the two-week shutdown of Russian deliveries via Ukraine threatened Slovakia's power supply.

Experts say that the continent's growing gas needs have been chiefly fuelled by emergence of gas-fired power plants.

Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs reiterated EU's neutral stance to nuclear power, which leaves its use up to the EU's 27 member states.

Piebalgs, who said he personally backs atomic energy, said opposition in countries such as Austria stand in the way of an EU-wide promotion of nuclear power plants.

The commissioner said the EU would not give nuclear power equal backing with renewable energy. "There are clear limits to how far the European Union can go with nuclear," he said.

The commissioner said that the EU could renew atomic-power loans "if member countries agree."

"I am ready to go ... as far as we can go in the union," Piebalgs said. "There are instruments that I think we should be less shy to use ... and at the same time keep some distance."

Nuclear energy critics see atomic power plants as costly and warn that countries have yet to figure out how to dispose of atomic waste adequately.

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G.  Links of Interest

Global Economic Slump May Lay Bare Nuclear Safety and Proliferation Problem
Vladimir Slivyak
Bellona Foundation
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