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Nuclear News - 3/10/2009
PGS Nuclear News, March 10, 2009
Compiled By: Helene Picart

A.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. China Begins Designing Nuclear Reactors for Pak, Saibal Dasgupta, The Times of India (3/8/2009)
    2. Funding Complete for Fuel Bank Concept, World Nuclear News (3/6/2009)
    3. U.S. and Russia Pledge Fresh Start in Relations, Sue Pleming, Reuters (3/6/2009)
B.  Iran
    1. Khatami Defends Iran’s ‘Nuclear Right’, Maryam Sinaiee, The National (3/10/2009)
    2. Arab Role Needed to Solve Iran Nuclear Issue: ElBaradei, Alison Williams, Reuters (3/9/2009)
    3. New Opportunity Arises for Resolving Iranian Nuclear Issue, Liu Gang, China View (3/8/2009)
    4. Iran Past "Nuclear Threshold": Israeli Spymaster, Dan Williams, Reuters (3/8/2009)
    5. Gorbachev Urges 'Maximal' Talks on Iran, PressTV (3/6/2009)
    6. Boroujerdi Reaffirms Iran's Strong Opposition to Nuclear Bomb, Islamic Republic News Agency (3/6/2009)
    1. N. Korea Unresponsive on Bosworth Visit: Seoul Official, Lee Chi-dong, Yonhap News Agency (3/10/2009)
    2. US Envoy Hopeful Nuke Disarmament Talks Can Resume Soon, Agence France-Presse (3/9/2009)
D.  Syria
    1. Syria Leader: Site Bombed by Israel Built Over, Associated Press (3/9/2009)
E.  Pakistan
    1. Ex-Indian General: Pakistan Nuclear Weapons Prevent India from Retaliatory Attacks Twice, Zhang Xiang, China View (3/9/2009)
    2. Will US Attack Pakistan to Secure Nuclear Weapons?, Akbar Majid, Merinews (3/8/2009)
F.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Australia's Queensland State May Drop Uranium Ban, Reuters (3/9/2009)
    2. Bulgaria Backs Down on Nuclear Reactors Restart, Anna Mudeva, Reuters (3/6/2009)
G.  Nuclear Industry
    1. Siemens Divorcing Russia Over Iran?, PressTV (3/8/2009)
    2. Nuclear Power Industry Sees Opening for Revival, Jim Doyle, San Francisco Chronicle (3/8/2009)
H.  Links of Interest
    1. Visit Raises Speculation over Turkish-Mediated U.S.-Iran Talks, Borzou Daragahi and Ramin Mostaghim, Los Angeles Times (3/10/2009)
    2. Iran N Program Bad Example for Region, PressTV (3/6/2009)

A.  Nuclear Cooperation

China Begins Designing Nuclear Reactors for Pak
Saibal Dasgupta
The Times of India
(for personal use only)

China has begun designing two more nuclear reactors for Pakistan, which will come up at its Chashma Nuclear Power Complex. The decisioncame soon after Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari's visit to China in the last week of February.

The state-run Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research & Design Institute has announced that it began designing the third and forth generators for the complex on March 1. The new reactors will have a capacity of 325 mw each.

China has already built one reactors at Chashma and is in the process of putting up a second one, which will be installed in 2009-2010. The first reactor in the complex, located in Pakistan's Punjab province, was attached to the country's power grid in 2000.

The Institute said it had recently taken up improvement on the first reactor, which is now in the process of being reinstalled. The two reactors were attached to the country's power grid in year 2000.

The announcement shows that Zardari's visit went far beyond the official claim that it was focussed on gaining a first hand knowledge of China's water resources and hydroelectricity systems. It is not clear whether Zardari, who skipped Beijing during his five-day tour, had visited the Shanghai Institute.

Another Chinese company, Shanxi Diesel Engine Heavy Industry Co. Ltd, has produced the emergency diesel generation system for nuclear power plants in Pakistan after official inspections. A third Chinese company, China Zhongyuan Engineering Corp. is the general contractor for the plants.

Reports in the Pakistani media suggested that Islamabad is expecting Beijing to fund 85 per cent of the construction cost for the third and fourth reactors in the form of suppliers' credit. The country's public sector development program for 2008-09 had set the cost of the third and fourth reactors at $1.61 billion.

There is no confirmation from the Chinese side that Beijing has agreed to finance the two new reactors.

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Funding Complete for Fuel Bank Concept
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

A contribution of $10 million from Kuwait has advanced the concept of an international nuclear fuel cycle. A target of $150 million in commitments has been met.

The target was set by the US-based Nuclear Threat Intitiative in 2006 when it pledged $50 million towards setting up a nuclear fuel bank, but only if others from around the world promised a further $100 million, or nuclear fuel of equivalent value.

Five international contributors responded to the NTI's challenge, committing a total of $107 million between them: the European Union, Norway, the United Arab Emirates, the USA and now Kuwait, which announced its move in Vienna today. The NTI's pledge now comes into effect taking the overall sum, meant to 'kick-start' the project, to $157 million.

There is no firm plan, but a 'nuclear fuel bank' would essentially take the form of supply guarantees based on a stockpile of low-enriched uranium managed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Although several proposals have been made, by countries as well as industry through the World Nuclear Association, a decision on how - or whether - to go forward remains. Ideas range from a full-scale IAEA-managed fuel production facility in an extranational territory, to a system of guarantees from existing commercial nuclear fuel companies. All of them involve some sort of IAEA arbitration based on compliance with safeguards commitments.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the IAEA, said that the next step would be to develop a proposed framework for the fuel reserve and present it to the IAEA board for consideration in June.

The concept of a fuel bank has been strongly supported by ElBaradei, who has said it is necessary for the serious expansion of nuclear power in future. The purpose is that guarantees of supply would dissuade individual countries from pursuing their own nuclear fuel production capability, some elements of which can be abused to create nuclear weapons.

A case in point is that of Iran, where uranium enrichment programs began outside the view of the IAEA. Iran has always said that the purpose was to make fuel for its forthcoming power reactor at Bushehr, but the hidden nature of the early stages of the project raised concerns that will not go away.

Besides enriched uranium, a comprehensive guarantee scheme would also have to cover supply of finished reactor fuel for the exact fuel assembly designs in use today. And a fuel bank to avoid situations like the current Iranian issue would beg the question of what the world would do if a country decided to develop its own enrichment plants despite supply assurances.

Head of the World Nuclear Association John Ritch said, "Creating a fuel bank system offers many challenges, but none more fundamental than the question of purpose. Countries not suspected of nuclear arms ambitions already have good access to commerce in nuclear fuel; do they need fuel assurances? As to countries that may harbor weapons ambitions, will they heed fuel assurances “ that is, will the existence of a fuel bank alter their behavior in any way?"

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U.S. and Russia Pledge Fresh Start in Relations
Sue Pleming
(for personal use only)

The United States and Russia pledged Friday to rebuild their strained relations and launched a plan to reach agreement on strategic nuclear missiles by the end of the year.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meeting in Geneva, agreed to find common approaches on Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea.

They discussed areas of disagreement, too, from human rights to Georgia, where Russia fought a short war in 2008 over a breakaway region, and Kosovo, whose independence is recognized by the West but not by Russia.

Clinton said after the meeting it would take time to rebuild the relationship and this would require "more trust, predictability and progress."

Their differences did not overshadow the talks, which marked a further stage in President Barack Obama's efforts to reach out to other countries and make U.S. diplomacy more effective.

"We exchanged our vision of immediate priorities in our relations. I am convinced, and the secretary of state will share my opinion, these priorities largely coincide," Lavrov told a news conference.

Symbolising Obama's intention to improve relations, Clinton presented Lavrov with a small box bearing a red button marked "reset," and the overall tone was conciliatory, with Clinton and Lavrov joking with each other on first-name terms.

"This is a fresh start not only to improve our bilateral relationship but to lead the world in important areas," Clinton said.

Lavrov said Russia and the United States would work honestly and openly together even on areas of difference.

"We understood that our bilateral relations are getting a chance today we cannot afford to miss," he said.

The tone was in contrast to relations under Obama's predecessor George W. Bush, strained by issues including Russia's 2008 military intervention in Georgia and U.S. plans to build a missile interception system in eastern Europe.

Both ministers agreed to work together on a range of issues. Clinton said the priority was a new treaty on strategic arms.


The United States wanted to reach agreement by the end of this year, when the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) expires, she said. Lavrov called the 1991 pact "obsolete."

Clinton said they wanted to present a plan to Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev before they meet at the G20 summit in London on April 2, so they could agree on instructions to be given to negotiators.

Besides trying to reduce their own arsenals, the two powers agreed to work together to prevent nuclear weapons spreading.

"The most serious threat facing humanity ... is a potential nuclear weapon in the hands of an irresponsible actor. Both Russia and America know that we have to work together to try to prevent that," Clinton said.

Lavrov said Moscow and Washington would try to reach agreement soon on how to deal with the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

He also sought to assuage U.S. concerns about Iran's interest in buying Russian S-300 air defense systems, which could help repel possible Israeli or U.S. air strikes.

Clinton said the United States was reviewing its policy toward Iran and would welcome Russian advice on how to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons or supporting terrorism.

The two agreed to work on Afghanistan, where Obama is considering beefing up U.S. forces and where Moscow fears Taliban insurgency may spread Islamist militancy toward Russia.

Russia and the United States would cooperate on preparing a U.S.-sponsored conference in Afghanistan, Lavrov said.

The U.S. plan for a missile defense shield in Europe was touched on only broadly, a senior U.S. official told reporters.

Russia has said it sees the system as a threat, but Obama has assured them it is directed at missiles from Iran.

Clinton left after the meeting for Ankara for talks with Turkish officials.

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B.  Iran

Khatami Defends Iran’s ‘Nuclear Right’
Maryam Sinaiee
The National
(for personal use only)

Mohammed Khatami, the former president who is running for the post again in this summer’s elections, has publicly supported Iran’s right to pursue a peaceful nuclear programme, while criticising Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government for failing to prevent international sanctions.

Mr Khatami, a reformist, made the comments over the weekend during campaign visits to the southern Iranian cities of Shiraz, Bushehr and Yasuj, where he was greeted by thousands of people.

He stressed that Iran had an irrevocable right not only to “nuclear energy” but also to “nuclear technology” and highlighted the role his government had played, from 1997 to 2005, in the development of the country’s atomic programme.

Mr Khatami blamed the Ahmadinejad administration for causing Iran’s international isolation and for “wasting opportunities” with the former US administration under George W Bush.

“I believe we could have attained peaceful nuclear technology without compromising our principles and interests as much as a grain and [could have prevented] our nuclear case from being referred to the [United Nations] Security Council,” Mr Khatami said.

In Bushehr, where Iran’s first and only nuclear power plant has been under construction by Russia for many years, Mr Khatami said interference from Iran’s “enemies”, a probable reference to US pressure on Russia, had delayed the completion of the plant.

Mohammed Atrianfar, a political analyst and member of the central council of the pro-Rafsanjani Servants of Construction Party (Kargozaran), which backs Mr Khatami’s candidacy, said the former president was echoing the reformists’ line on the nuclear programme.

“What Mr Khatami said can be taken as a positive signal to the international community: Iran can join the international nuclear club and have nuclear technology but if the international community is concerned about the dual applications of nuclear fuel, Iran can delay [enrichment] until confidence is established regarding its programme.”

Although the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, is the ultimate decision maker when it comes to the nuclear plan, the government has a decisive role in carrying out the plan of action, he said.

During the last two years of Mr Khatami’s presidency, Iran voluntarily suspended its uranium enrichment programme during negotiations with European powers.

But just a few days before the end of his term, Iran lifted the moratorium after negotiations failed.

Iran said the package offered in return for a voluntary suspension – including economic incentives and promises of technical co-operation – excluded recognition of its right to enrichment.

The nuclear negotiation team appointed by Mr Khatami’s administration and headed by Hasan Rowhani, a moderate conservative, was dismissed by Mr Ahmadinejad immediately after he took office and Iran began increasing the number of its centrifuges.

The IAEA, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, which had so far been the only international body dealing with Iran’s nuclear programme referred the case to the UN Security Council and since then three sets of UN sanctions have been imposed. Hardliners and conservatives credit Mr Ahmadinejad’s government with the country’s nuclear achievements, including the completion of the enrichment cycle, and have on many occasions rebuked Mr Khatami’s reformist administration for acquiescing to the West and slowing down that progress.

“Their analysis of the situation was based on too much optimism towards European countries and the US. They believed these countries would stop threatening Iran and would recognise our rights if Iran agreed to suspend its nuclear programme and complied with their wishes,” said Hamid Reza Taraghi, a spokesman for the Islamic Coalition Party (Motalefeh) that supports Mr Ahmadinejad’s nuclear approach and his candidacy in the June elections.

“This wrong analysis led to two years of delay in completing the uranium enrichment programme and it was during the period of voluntary suspension that [Mr Bush] called Iran a member of the axis of evil,” Mr Taraghi said.

It was most likely in response to these criticisms that Mr Khatami reminded a crowd of about 20,000 in Bushehr about his own administration’s role in nuclear development.

“Do you think all the progress regarding nuclear technology was made only during the past year or two?

“Many years of hard work have contributed to this progress,” he said.

Some ordinary Iranians seem to appreciate Mr Khatami’s approach to foreign policy and the nuclear issue.

“I strongly believe that we have a right to nuclear energy and I expect Khatami, as my preferred candidate, not to give it up,” said Abbas Taghizadeh, 46, a taxi driver in Tehran.

“But I also believe that much of the hardships like international sanctions and isolation of the country could be avoided if a more moderate foreign policy like that of Khatami was implemented.”

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Arab Role Needed to Solve Iran Nuclear Issue: ElBaradei
Alison Williams
(for personal use only)

The stand-off over the disputed Iranian nuclear program cannot be resolved without the engagement of Iran's Arab neighbors, U.N. atomic watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on Monday.

He said a U.S. policy turnabout toward direct talks with Iran has boosted chances of a peaceful solution but the involvement of Arab states was crucial. Arabs have historically mistrusted Iran but are split over how to deal with it.

"I find it surprising that the Arab countries are not engaged in dialogue between Iran and the West. The neighbors so far have been sitting on the fence. Any solution to the Iranian issue has to engage the neighbors," ElBaradei said.

Middle East analysts say Gulf Arab states had little love for ex-U.S. President George W. Bush's hawkish, no-negotiations stance on Iran, fearing it could lead to a ruinous regional war.

But now they worry that any U.S. rapprochement with Iran could ultimately produce a nuclear-armed, non-Arab, Shi'ite Muslim superpower in their back yard and squeeze Sunni Muslim Arabs between two non-Arab nuclear power hubs, Iran and Israel.

Any collective Arab action on Iran, however, appears mired in chronic divisions over other issues including a 2002 Saudi-sponsored peace offer to Israel, opposed by some hardline or militant Arabs backed by Iran.

ElBaradei also said a Middle East security structure drawing in Iran, all Arabs and Israel, believed to have the region's only nuclear arsenal, would be an indispensable part of any Middle East peace arrangement.

A lack of security guarantees, he said, lay at the heart of Iran's motivation to pursue what would be virtual nuclear weapons status, since uranium enrichment can be used either for electricity generation or for material to detonate atom bombs.

Iran says its nuclear program is to generate electricity.

"Iran could be a positive force in the region; it could also be a source of conflict and confrontation," ElBaradei told a foreign policy forum gathered in Austria's parliament.

The 66-year-old Egyptian, who won the Nobel Peace Prize along with the Vienna-based agency in 2005, will leave office in November after 12 years at the IAEA helm.

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Iran Past "Nuclear Threshold": Israeli Spymaster
Dan Williams
(for personal use only)

Iran has sufficiently mastered nuclear technology to be able to produce a bomb if it chooses, Israel's military intelligence chief was quoted as saying on Sunday.

"Iran has crossed the technological threshold," Major-General Amos Yadlin told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's cabinet, according to a government official.

"Reaching a military-grade nuclear capability is a question of synchronising its strategy with the production of a nuclear bomb," the official quoted Yadlin as saying.

Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons, has been producing low-enriched uranium on a scale that Western powers suspect is designed to yield raw material which could be refined to make the highly enriched uranium required for a warhead.

That would require reliable Iranian centrifuges -- the refinement tools long watched by Western and Israeli intelligence -- followed by assembly of an explosive device. Experts say the process would take as little as a few months.

Yadlin accused Iran, which has been the focus of new diplomatic overtures from the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, of prevaricating.

"Iran continues to stockpile hundreds of kilogrammes of low-level enriched uranium and hopes to use the dialogue with the West to buy the time it requires in order to move towards an ability to manufacture a nuclear bomb," he said.

Israel, which is assumed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, has endorsed U.S.-led efforts to talk Tehran into curbing its uranium enrichment. But Israeli officials have also hinted at the possibility of preventive military attacks.

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New Opportunity Arises for Resolving Iranian Nuclear Issue
Liu Gang
China View
(for personal use only)

A week-long meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s 35-nation board of governors dominated by the Iranian nuclear issue concluded here on Saturday.

In a joint statement issued at the meeting, six parities – the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany, expressed their readiness for direct dialogues with Iran for the first time, signaling new hope for solving the Iranian nuclear issue.


The joint statement issued by the six parties on the Iranian nuclear issue on March 3 has three implications: supporting the IAEA to further play its role in solving the Iranian nuclear problem; urging Iran to actively cooperate with the IAEA on the issue, and resolving the dispute through diplomatic means.

In a speech last Wednesday, Chinese Ambassador to the IAEA TangGuoqiang said solving the Iranian nuclear issue through negotiations is facing a new opportunity. All parties concerned should continue to boost their diplomatic efforts and fully demonstrate flexibility in order to open dialogues and negotiations at an early date and to seek a comprehensive and long-term solution to the issue.

It is widely agreed that the joint statement again confirmed the keynote for solving the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogues, indicating that in the context of the current international political and economic situation, all parties concerned are re-examining and adjusting their policies on Iran, a favorable signal on breaking the current deadlock.


The Iranian nuclear issue has attracted world attention for years. In January 2006, Iran declared restarting its nuclear fuel research after a suspense of more than two years, and has had an ever escalating confrontation with the West over the nuclear program.

Observers believe that the main reason for failures to break the nuclear deadlock is the lack of trust among related parties.

Iran said its nuclear program is only for improving its "energy structure", and as a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has the right to carry out uranium enrichment activities for peaceful purposes.

However, the United States and its major allies apparently will not allow the emergence of such a country as Iran to have the capability to produce enriched uranium. The former Bush administration even insisted that the ultimate intention of Iran's nuclear program was to possess nuclear weapons.

During the meeting, many countries have expressed the hope that Iran could "actively cooperate with the IAEA and the United Nations" to "clarify the claim that its nuclear program is for military use" as soon as possible and to implement the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

They also agreed that some western countries need to change its hostile attitude towards Iran, renounce the use of force as a threat, solve the problem through diplomatic means and conduct dialogues on an equal footing in a bid to build trust and push for the settlement of the nuclear issue.


The Obama administration has extended "olive branch" to Iran several times after coming into power, expressing its willingness to carry out open and direct dialogues with Iran.

U.S. Secretary of States Hillary Clinton also confirmed that to negotiate with Iran is among the priorities of the country's diplomatic policies.

In response, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Ahmadinejad said Teheran was ready for "fair talks" with the United States.

"The new U.S. administration has said it wants changes and follow the course of dialogue ... but the changes must be fundamental and not tactical."

Iran welcomes "true changes and is ready to hold talks but talks in a fair atmosphere with mutual respect," Ahmadinejad said.

Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said the United States needs a change of strategy to pave the way for direct talks with the country.

Iran's representative to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh also said in Vienna that Iran is willing to negotiate with the United States about all issues "without any precondition".

Analysts say despite the easing of confrontation between the United States and Iran, the settlement of the Iranian nuclear dispute depends on further actions from both sides, especially the United States.

An IAEA official who declined to reveal his name believed that the new policies of the United States and European countries could be "negotiations together with pressure", meaning that the western powers will give Iran hope while continuing to keep pressure and even impose sanctions on the Islamic country.

At present, it's unlikely for Iran to give up its nuclear program and the United States and other western countries are also unwilling to accept an "Iran with nuclear". Big breakthrough on the Iranian nuclear dispute can be achieved only when both sides reach a comprise on whether to stop uranium enrichment or not, analysts say.

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Boroujerdi Reaffirms Iran's Strong Opposition to Nuclear Bomb
Islamic Republic News Agency
(for personal use only)

The Chairman of the Foreign Policy and National Security Committee of Majlis Alaeddin Boroujerdi reiterated his country's firm and steadfast opposition to having a nuclear bomb.

"We are seriously opposing a nuclear bomb," Boroujerdi said in remarks to media representatives at the Iranian Embassy in Berlin on Friday.

We are supporting a "world free of nuclear weapons," he added.

Boroujerdi stressed that the existence of even one nuclear bomb would "threaten the world."

He warned that the existence of global nuclear weapons could lead to a "repeat of the catastrophe in Nagasaki and Hiroshima."

The Iran lawmaker made clear however that his country would pursue its peaceful nuclear program under the supervision of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

He stated again that the recent IAEA report certified that Iran's nuclear program had not been diverted for other purposes.

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Gorbachev Urges 'Maximal' Talks on Iran
(for personal use only)

Last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev urges the world to approach Iran's nuclear issue in a diplomatic manner rather than confrontational.

Gorbachev said that Tehran's nuclear issue can be best resolved if the world community engaged in a 'maximal dialogue' rather than confrontation with Iran.

"Let (Iran) integrate itself into the global community, build normal relations," he said in an interview with AP.

The remarks by the former Soviet leader comes as the six major powers - - US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany - - in a recent statement expressed 'serious concern' over Iran's nuclear work, adding that they remained 'committed to a comprehensive diplomatic solution.'

"(We) urge Iran to take this opportunity for engagement with us and thereby maximize opportunities for a negotiated way forward," the French IAEA representative, Olivier Caron, told the 35-nation gathering in Vienna on behalf of the Six.

The US, Israel, and their Western allies -- Britain, France and Germany -- accuse Iran of developing a nuclear program with military aspects, urging the country to halt its enrichment.

US President Barack Obama has also pledged to break the ice and open dialogue with Iran over its nuclear work and other regional issues.

Israel, however, has escalated war rhetoric against Iran, repeatedly threatening Tehran with an attack on its nuclear facilities. Israel says Iran's nuclear activities are a threat to its existence.

Iran rejects the allegations as baseless, insisting it is seeking peaceful applications of nuclear technology.

The UN nuclear watchdog, which conducts regular inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, said in its latest report on the country's nuclear program that there has been no diversion of "declared nuclear material in Iran." The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), however, urged more cooperation from Tehran.

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N. Korea Unresponsive on Bosworth Visit: Seoul Official
Lee Chi-dong
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

The top U.S. envoy on North Korea left the door open to visiting Pyongyang during his recent Asian tour, but authorities in the North were unresponsive, a senior Seoul official said Tuesday.

Stephen Bosworth could have traveled to the North if it had "responded positively" to the plan, said the official, speaking to reporters on customary condition of anonymity in a background briefing.

"I think North Korea was aware of the U.S.'s intention but it gave no response," he said. The official refused to clarify whether Bosworth delivered his intention to visit North Korea directly.

Bosworth returned to Washington earlier Tuesday after a four-day stay in Seoul, during which he openly said he wants dialogue with the North. He also visited Beijing and Tokyo.

The envoy was guarded about when or if he would initiate face-to-face talks with North Korean officials, saying only that the Obama administration is in the process of reviewing its North Korea policy.

The South Korean official said it is still too early to predict when the six-nation talks on North Korea's atomic weapons program will resume. The negotiations involve the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

"South Korea and the U.S. agree on the need for the early resumption of the talks but there is no concrete plan for it yet," he said.

Emerging from his meeting on Monday with Wi Sung-lac, South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator, Bosworth said he expects the Beijing-based talks to restart "in the relatively near future."

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US Envoy Hopeful Nuke Disarmament Talks Can Resume Soon
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

The new US envoy on North Korea expressed hope Monday that stalled six-nation negotiations on scrapping the secretive nation's nuclear programme can resume soon.

"We are hopeful that we can see the resumption of the six-party process in the relatively near future," Stephen Bosworth told reporters after a day of talks with South Korean officials.

The US goal remains "complete and verifiable" denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, he said, adding he cannot "contemplate a situation in which we would in any way change that goal."

The disarmament talks, which group the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, China and the United States, became bogged down in the final months of George W. Bush's administration over ways to verify the North's declared nuclear activities.

Bosworth came to Seoul after visiting Beijing and Tokyo and held talks here with a Russian envoy Saturday.

Some fears have been expressed that the six-party talks could be sidelined given that the new US administration appears more open to direct dialogue with the North.

Bosworth said Washington continues to see the six-party process as the "central element" of efforts to denuclearise the peninsula.

"We should be able to look forward to an early resumption of those efforts," he told reporters.

The envoy is scheduled to leave for Washington Tuesday.

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D.  Syria

Syria Leader: Site Bombed by Israel Built Over
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

The Syrian president said a facility bombed by Israel two years ago that the U.S. claims was a nearly finished nuclear reactor has been built over, but in comments published Monday denied it was a nuclear facility.

President Bashar Assad's remarks in the Emirates' Al-Khaleej daily confirmed statements made last month by two Western diplomats with the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog. The diplomats quoted Syrian nuclear chief Ibrahim Othman as telling the International Atomic Energy Agency that Syria built a new missile facility on the bombed site.

Assad did not elaborate on what was built at the location, called Al Kibar.

Israeli warplanes destroyed the site in the Syrian desert in Sept. 2007. Israel has not commented on the strike, but months later Washington presented intelligence purporting to show the target was a reactor under construction, built with North Korean help that would have been able to produce plutonium once completed.

Syria denies it has any nuclear ambitions and says the site was an unused military installation.

The autocratic Syrian leader's comments appeared to be an effort to close the chapter on the issue of the bombed site amid a recent drive by Damascus for better relations with Washington and the new Obama administration.

The diplomats in Vienna had said the new structure appeared to be a missile control center or an actual launching pad. Syria had previously said only that the site was military in nature and that it was being rebuilt. It has blocked IAEA inspectors from visits beyond an initial inspection of the bombed facility in June.

In the Monday interview, Assad said: "America justified the bombing eight months later" and questioned why Washington waited so long to announce the alleged evidence.

The Syrian president also pointed out that the country allowed the U.N. inspection team to visit, saying if Syria "had any nuclear activities we wouldn't have allowed them to come."

Environmental samples from the trip revealed traces of man-made uranium and graphite but U.N. officials say it's too early to say whether the graphite — a common element in North Korean prototype reactors — had any nuclear applications.

Assad disputed the uranium find.

"Where did the uranium come from?" he asked in the interview. "Under construction means that it was not built yet," he said, implying that there wouldn't have been any uranium traces unless the site was completed.

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E.  Pakistan

Ex-Indian General: Pakistan Nuclear Weapons Prevent India from Retaliatory Attacks Twice
Zhang Xiang
China View
(for personal use only)

Pakistan's possession of nuclear weapons prevented India from attacking it twice, one after the Mumbai attacks last November and the 2001 terrorist attack on Indian Parliament, the semi-official Press Trust of India quoted a former Indian Army general as saying on Monday.

Former Indian Army chief Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury told a seminar in New Delhi that Pakistan's nuclear weapons deterred India from attacking that country after the Mumbai strikes, according to the report.

He also told the seminar, entitled "Nuclear Risk Reduction and Conflict Resolve" that it was due to Pakistan's possession of nuclear weapons that India stopped short of a military retaliation following the attack on Parliament in 2001, said the report.

The 2001 Indian Parliament attack was a high-profile attack by militants belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed groups against the building housing the Parliament of India in New Delhi.

The attack led to the death of a dozen people, including five terrorists, six Indian policemen and one civilian. It also led to tensions between India and Pakistan and the 2001-2002 India-Pakistan standoff.

India also blames the same militant groups for staging the Mumbai attacks, in which at least 173 people were killed and over 300 wounded.

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Will US Attack Pakistan to Secure Nuclear Weapons?
Akbar Majid
(for personal use only)

Will the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in the heart of Pakistan prove to be the last straw on the camel’s back? Has the belligerence shown by the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba convinced the world that no business is possible with the Jehadis?

The answer to these questions cannot be a straight yes or no. However, if the grapevine is to be believed then the next few months could see a paradigm shift in the War Against Terror in so much so that there could be a possibility of a war staring South Asia.

Speculation is rife that United States of America, increasingly worried by the expansion of fundamentalist and Jehadi forces in Pakistan, could attack that country to secure its nuclear arsenal. US fears that terror groups, either forcibly or with the connivance of security official can manage to obtain a nuclear weapon, a situation which could be nothing less than catastrophe.

India, which is holding the elections next month could also be seriously affected, if the US seriously pursues the aggressive agenda and decides to divest Pakistan of nuclear weapons. Most probably the elections scheduled in April will have to be postponed in case of such an attack and an emergency like situation could be imposed here.

Indian army will also be pushed to stand at the borders and remain vigilant in case Pakistan decides to use the US attack as a ruse to teach India a lesson. A frustrated Pak army could also make a push towards India as it will need an enemy to fight a war, in the sense that fighting US is almost an improbability.

The immediate reason behind the shift in the US policy, it seems, is the brazen attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers, in which several people were killed. The utter failure of security forces and the inability of the Pakistani establishment to catch the culprits has further added to the US discomfiture.

Political and security establishment in US is worried about the manner in which the Taliban and other groups are taking over Pakistan. The day is not far when their ambitions run riot and they decide to take over the nukes.

It is this possibility of nukes falling in dangerous hands that is giving sleepless nights to the Americans. To preempt any such happening, it is being speculated that US is likely to take a more proactive stand than seen in this past.

Political observers, however, feel that in case US decides to attack Pakistan then it could be interpreted as an attack on a Muslim country. This could also bring neighbours India and China into this conflict as an attack on Pakistan will need Indian support and the Chinese won't like this.

They are also considered to be close to Pakistan government and military and would not like Americans flexing muscle in their backyard. China has also played an important part in helping Pakistan develop nuclear weapons and missile programme.

Some experts opine that this could be a premature step; if US ever takes such a step, it could suck many nations into a war, which is not needed at this time.

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F.  Nuclear Energy

Australia's Queensland State May Drop Uranium Ban
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Australia's resource-rich Queensland state may drop its ban on uranium mining and join other states in producing more of the nuclear fuel if conservatives win office at Queensland elections this month.

Lawrence Springborg, whose opposition party is rated a strong chance to win the state election due on March 21, told reporters in a mining town on Monday that Queensland was losing job opportunities because of the current government's stand.

"I see absolutely no sense in cutting off job opportunities for Queenslanders when just across the border in the Northern Territory, in South Australia, in Western Australia, thousands of Australians are being employed in the uranium industry...," Springborg was quoted as saying by Australian Associated Press.

"Why should Queenslanders not have this job opportunity in a time of economic downturn and why should the royalties be denied to this state?" he said in the mining town of Mount Isa.

The Queensland government, controlled by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Labor party, is politically opposed to uranium mining, in keeping with Labor's grass-roots opposition.

But the stance is at odds with the party's formal position, which changed in 2007 when it dropped its 25-year ban on new uranium mines provided they met stringent conditions.

Rudd opposes nuclear power at home but backs uranium exports, saying they would boost the economy by $10.9 billion over the next 20 years and help cut global greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia holds nearly 40 percent of the world's low-cost uranium, according to the Australian Uranium Association.

The country already has three operating uranium mines, which were all developed under previous governments in South Australia and the Northern Territory. Recently, Western Australia dropped its ban on uranium mining after Labor lost office in that state.

Australia exports around 10,000 tonnes of uranium oxide a year, the uranium association says on its Web site. ($1=1.562 Australian Dollar)

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Bulgaria Backs Down on Nuclear Reactors Restart
Anna Mudeva
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on lobbying for more European Union compensation for the shut units, officials said on Friday.

Parliament gave the Socialist-led government a mandate in January to seek a permission from the EU to reopen the reactors to cover losses caused by cuts in Russian gas supplies during its contract dispute with Ukraine and the economic crisis.

But Brussels has indicated that any attempt to restart them would be blocked, not least because of opposition from traditionally anti-nuclear member states such as Austria.

Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev met European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs in Brussels on Thursday to demand more EU money to compensate Bulgaria for losses caused by the units' closure, the government said in a statement.

"We will hardly have another (energy) crisis by the end of the year that will provoke a reopening of the reactors ... And all the signals (from Brussels) show that the possibility for a restart is very tiny," a government spokesman said.

Another government official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters that Sofia actually never intended to restart the two 400 megawatt reactors, shut in late 2006 to win EU entry.

"It was simply a move to try to demand more compensation," the official said.

Some, including the NMSP centre-right junior coalition partner, have said the move was a ploy by the Socialists to stoke a nationally sensitive subject and revive support ahead of parliamentary elections likely in June or July.

Opinion polls show more than 70 percent of Bulgarians want the government to resign. The country has been hit by a wave of protests from people fed up with life in the EU's poorest and most corrupt nation.

However, more than 70 percent of 7.6 million Bulgarians view the Kozloduy plant -- which houses two reactor units, after two were shut in 2002, and two were closed down as a condition of joining the EU -- as a symbol of national pride.

The government has repeatedly said the reactors were unfairly deemed dangerous by the EU and in January called on Brussels to compensate Bulgaria by allowing a restart.

On Thursday, Stanishev demanded Brussels pay more compensation for all four shut reactors at Kozloduy until 2013, on top of 550 million euros already committed, the government press office said, without giving other details.

Bulgaria was one of the European countries worst hit by the price row between Russia and transit country Ukraine, which left thousands of Bulgarians without power and shut factories.

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G.  Nuclear Industry

Nuclear Power Industry Sees Opening for Revival
Jim Doyle
San Francisco Chronicle
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With the Obama administration staking the nation's energy future on clean sources, the U.S. nuclear power industry aims to make a comeback by building dozens of new reactors that supply plentiful, carbon-free electricity.
But 30 years after the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania led to moratoriums on new plants across the nation, concerns about the cost and safety of nuclear power remain, including what to do with the growing stockpiles of highly radioactive waste from the nation's reactors.

President Obama's campaign pledge to find an alternative to burying the deadly waste at Yucca Mountain, Nev. - and recent votes in Congress to slash funding for the proposed nuclear graveyard 1,000 feet underground - could hobble the industry's hopes of providing a larger share of U.S. energy needs.

Still, industry leaders voice confidence about nuclear power as a clean source of electrical energy that can reduce the nation's reliance on dirty, coal-fired power plants that emit greenhouse gases, cause acid rain and speed climate change.

Applications to build at least 31 nuclear reactors are before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with more filings expected soon. Many of the projects are in the Southeast, with the first expected to go on line as early as 2015. Nuclear advocates hope eventually to build additional reactors in California.

"I'm aware of 33 or 34 projects in the hopper. I think the prospects are reasonably good. There's demand," said Bill Halsey, a leading expert on nuclear energy at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where scientists have worked on solutions for permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste.

New reactors
Nuclear power supporters predict that approval of pending construction licenses for new reactors in Florida, Alabama and Texas will raise demand for nuclear power in California, which has banned new reactors since the late 1970s because of concerns over waste disposal.

Obama has emphasized alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power, but also pledged to re-examine nuclear energy.

Officials at the Livermore lab hope to use a fresh infusion of federal funds to refine methods of disposing of or recycling nuclear reactors' spent fuel, which can remain highly toxic for hundreds of thousands of years.

The lab is run by a consortium headed by San Francisco's Bechtel Corp., which also builds nuclear power plants overseas.

Nuclear power opponents include the Sierra Club, the nation's oldest environmental group.

"Our view is that the nuclear industry has yet to demonstrate that they know what to do with the waste they generate," said Carl Pope, the club's executive director, "and they have yet to demonstrate that they can build and operate new reactors with their own money. They have yet to meet the test of the market. So we think it's a very poor investment of public money."

Meanwhile, global warming has prompted some conservationists, such as Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, to conclude that nuclear power will be a crucial energy source in the future.

'Not-so-good options'
"Many people are gritting their teeth and beginning to look at nuclear energy because the problems appear to be more manageable," said Per Peterson, a professor of nuclear engineering at UC Berkeley. "Nuclear energy is the only source that we've found that can directly displace coal for reliable, full-time electrical generation. ... It's the best of a set of not-so-good options."

There are about 440 nuclear power plants operating worldwide, including 104 commercial reactors in the United States. Four reactors are in California - two at Diablo Canyon near San Luis Obispo and two at San Onofre in Southern California. Energy from those plants, plus nuclear power imported from Arizona, accounts for 15 percent of California's electricity supply.

Nuclear reactors supply nearly 20 percent of U.S. electrical energy, and industry advocates say nuclear energy provides about three-quarters of the nation's carbon-free electricity. They also say reactor safety has improved significantly since Three Mile Island's meltdown in 1979.

Under California law, no new nuclear power plants can be built in the state until the industry finds a way to permanently dispose of its waste. Spent fuel rods are currently stored on site at U.S. nuclear plants.

Meanwhile, other nations, including China, are building nuclear reactors at a rapid rate. France, Britain and Japan rely heavily on nuclear power.

Building a reactor costs several billion dollars, which utilities and owner/operators hope to fund through bank loans, rate increases and federal loan guarantees.

In 1987, Congress chose Yucca Mountain as the nation's future repository for spent fuel rods from nuclear reactors. The state of Nevada has opposed the project.

"Over the last 40 years, a very broad scientific consensus has emerged that nuclear waste can be managed safely by a combination of recycle and deep geologic disposal," UC Berkeley's Peterson said. "There's political controversy, but the technical consensus is that the level of isolation will be sufficient to protect long-term public health and the environment."

The Department of Energy has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build the repository at Yucca Mountain, but funding for the project has been severely cut.

Nuclear waste fee
A recent study by the Congressional Research Service says that it would cost about $100 billion to dispose of the waste from U.S. nuclear reactors and dismantled weapons at the site. But nuclear advocates say these costs are nominal.

"The nuclear waste fee is only about a percent of the value of energy taken out," said Jim Blink, a scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "Nuclear has such a small amount of waste per unit of energy that we can afford to collect it and dispose of it in a way that's isolated from the biosphere."

Blink and other scientists spent two decades evaluating the suitability of Yucca Mountain as a permanent graveyard for nuclear waste, which currently includes about 60,000 metric tons from civilian reactors plus additional tonnage from the military.

They have done extensive studies of volcanic rock there, built a corrosion testing lab to simulate underground conditions, designed corrosion-resistant dry casks to hold spent fuel rods and used supercomputers to calculate the risks of permanent disposal.

Meanwhile, researchers and engineers are developing the next generation of nuclear reactors that will be capable of recycling spent nuclear fuel, leaving a residue of material whose high-level radioactivity is of shorter duration. Those reactors are not expected to go on line for 20 to 30 years.

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Siemens Divorcing Russia Over Iran?
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German engineering giant Siemens, bridled at Moscow's nuclear cooperation with Tehran, moves to limit joint ventures with Russia.

The Spiegel reported Saturday that Siemens is pressuring Russian atomic energy agency Rosatom over its involvement in building Iran's first power plant in the southern port of Bushehr.

The Munich-based Siemens launched a joint venture Rosatom on Tuesday, forecasting the construction of some 400 new nuclear power plants worldwide by 2030.

Siemens CEO Peter Loescher initially hailed the joint venture as a great opportunity "to enlarge our footprint in nuclear business with a very strong and experienced partner."

He later became critical of Russia's political and financial contributions to the Bushehr reactor and demanded that the Kremlin address international concerns over Tehran's uranium enrichment activities.

The ongoing Russian cooperation with Iran has prompted Siemens -- widely believed to be the largest engineering firm in Europe -- to reduce business with Russia only a week after its deal was sealed, Spiegel revealed.

Washington, Tel Aviv and their European allies accuse Tehran of inching toward nuclear weapons development. Iran, however, dismisses the allegation, saying its uranium enrichment is aimed at peaceful energy production.

Moscow has supplied nuclear fuel for the Bushehr power plant since 2007 under arrangements with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Western countries have criticized Moscow's involvement in building the Bushehr plant. Russia, however, insists that the Bushehr plant -- which was completed under a USD 1 billion contract -- is purely civilian and cannot be used for weapons production.

The 1000-megawatt reactor is expected to become operational later this year.

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H.  Links of Interest

Visit Raises Speculation over Turkish-Mediated U.S.-Iran Talks
Borzou Daragahi and Ramin Mostaghim
Los Angeles Times
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Iran N Program Bad Example for Region
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