1. China, U.S. Agree to Further Promote Six-Party Talks
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China and the United States on Wednesday agreed to make further efforts to promote the six-party talks on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.
Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and his U.S. counterpart Hillary Clinton discussed the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula during their talks at the State Department. Minister Yang, who is here on a five-day working visit as guest of Secretary Clinton, hoped that all parties concerned maintain calm and restraint, making joint efforts to promote the process of six-party talks and safeguard peace and stability on the peninsula.
Secretary Clinton said that the goal of a nuclear-free peninsula is indispensable, adding that the U.S. side hopes that the six-party talks could continue to proceed forward.
The minister and the secretary also exchanged views on Afghanistan, stability in South Asia, the nuclear issue of Iran, the Middle East peace process and the Darfur issue in Sudan.
They agreed that both sides maintain close communications and coordination diplomatically on international and regional issues and work together to pursue proper solutions to hotspot issues concerned.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-03/12/content_10998197.htm
Libyan officials criticized the United States for its apparent lack of follow-through on incentives offered for the shutdown of its nuclear weapons program.
Officials in Tripoli told The New York Times that the slow response by the United States could undermine the Obama administration's efforts to convince other nations to halt their development of weapons of mass destruction.
"We gave some devices, some centrifuges, for example for America, but what do you give us? Nothing," complained Libya's Ambassador to the United Nations Abdelrahman Shalgham. "That's why we think North Korea and Iran are hesitating now to have a breakthrough regarding their projects."
The Times said the Libyan government was still waiting for U.S. pledges of assistance with civilian nuclear programs, chemical weapons disposal and the possible sale of military equipment.
Khaled Bazelya, a member of Libya's National Economic Development Board, told the Times: "You give something, you expect something in return; that's the Arab way. The expectation here is very high but the West is not responding."
A White House official told the newspaper that relations between the two nations were still delicate and that Libya may be "unrealistic" about the amount of time the U.S. response requires.
Libya agreed in December 2003 to dismantle its nuclear program.
Available at: http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/libya-losing-patience-united-states/story.aspx?guid=%7B47D1D596-AFDF-4029-AA0C-CDB5CECEB8CA%7D&dist=msr_1
3. S.Korea Takes Lead for Jordan Nuclear Plant Deal-Report
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South Korea has taken the lead in talks to sell Jordan a nuclear power plant through a private deal without a formal bidding process, which would be its first such export deal, local media reported on Wednesday citing a top executive.
"Jordan's No.1 nuclear power plant (project) is leaning towards a private deal with South Korea without a public bid," Kim Ssang-soo, the chief executive officer of state-run Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) (015760.KS), was quoted as saying during his trip to Amman.
KEPCO officials were not immediately able to confirm the report.
South Korea, which generates about 40 percent of its power through nuclear power plants, has been trying to sell nuclear power generation techniques for years, but has not yet been successful.
Competition is fierce among the world's six or seven exporters of nuclear power know-how, which include Canada, the United States, Russia and Japan.
The countries usually participate in public bids to win multi-billion dollar nuclear power projects. Officials said last August that France's Areva (CEPFi.PA) was a frontrunner among several international firms for the project.
"Jordan was initially going to work with France for the No.1 nuclear power plant, and with Korea for its No.2 power plant. But recently, Jordan has changed its stance towards working with Korea for the No.1 plant as well," Kim said.
South Korea will also participate in a public bid to win nuclear power plant projects in the United Arab Emirates, and is also in preliminary talks with China and Turkey for cooperation, the CEO said.
Citing market sources, Yonhap said South Korea would be responsible for 20 percent of the Jordan nuclear power plant project, which would cost more than $5 billion. Kim declined to comment on the issue.
Jordan, which does not produce any crude oil of its own, plans to increase its use of nuclear power to about 30 percent of total power generation by 2040.
Shares in KEPCO rose 8.02 percent on Wednesday, outperforming the wider market's 3.23 percent gain.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssIndustryMaterialsUtilitiesNews/idUSSEO29770720090311
4. US Assures India It Will Proceed With Nuclear Deal
The Economic Times
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The new Obama Administration on Wednesday assured India that it will proceed with the landmark Indo-US nuclear deal, signed during George W Bush's tenure, and said the two countries needed to ramp up cooperation in counter-terrorism and global issues such as climate change.
Senior State department officials gave the assurance to Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, who is on a four-day official visit.
Menon on Monday met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and discussed the nuclear deal, counter-terrorism cooperation, bilateral issues, Sri Lankan conflict and bringing the situation under control in war-torn Afghanistan.
During his talks with Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Nicolas Burns today, Menon discussed the landmark civil nuclear deal and other bilateral issues.
During his meeting with the Secretary of State, Clinton told Menon that the two countries needed to ramp up their cooperation in bilateral and global issues including climate change and counter-terrorism.
"The Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, its current status and the way forward too was discussed during the meeting (between Menon and Clinton)," State Department Acting Spokesman Robert Wood told reporters.
"I think there was a bit of a discussion on the additional protocol that was just worked out with the IAEA," Wood said.
Available at: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/PoliticsNation/US-assures-India-on-nuke-deal/articleshow/4252515.cms
5. UN Atomic Scientists Call for ‘Maserati’ Upgrade to Keep Pace
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United Nations nuclear scientists, in charge of tracking the isotopic fingerprints of atomic bomb- making material, said they need an upgrade to counter challenges posed by countries like Iran and North Korea.
International Atomic Energy Agency scientists said in an interview with Bloomberg News yesterday that they need 70 million euros ($89 million) of new instruments and labs to replace the 1970s-era infrastructure they currently have. The Vienna-based agency’s credibility will be at risk without the money, Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said March 2.
The upgrade “would be like stepping into a Maserati after driving a Volkswagen,” said David Donohue, 58, head of the IAEA’s clean-lab, where scientists in white body suits analyze unmarked swipes from Iran, Syria and 69 other countries for radioactivity. “We need it so we’re not at the mercy of the world’s best labs,” which do the work the IAEA can’t process.
The IAEA is the only UN organization with its own laboratory and scientific staff. The 52-year-old agency, started by U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower with the moniker “Atoms for Peace,” is in charge of accounting for uranium and plutonium worldwide to ensure that the material isn’t used for weapons.
The lab in Seibersdorf, Austria, which gets 1,000 samples of nuclear material a year, has to outsource 80 percent of its analysis to U.S. and European labs with better equipment.
“The deteriorating conditions in our laboratories threaten both our ability to deliver our program, as well as our independent analytical capability,” ElBaradei, 66, said to the IAEA’s 35-member board of governors. “The needs are indeed critical and quite urgent.”
The IAEA wants its 145 member states to raise the agency’s 2010 operating budget by 11 percent, to 368 million euros. The European Union, Japan, the U.S. and other countries have opposed raising UN budgets, according to the Center for UN Reform Education.
A 3.5 million euro mass spectrometry machine, made by Gennevilliers, France-based Cameca is at the heart of the IAEA budget request, said laboratory director Christian Schmitzer. Scientists can use the machine, which can analyze particles below a billionth of a meter, to identify the country and source of individual uranium or plutonium particles.
The IAEA’s reliance upon outside labs to conduct their most sensitive analysis has come under criticism by some member states. Iran, under investigation since 2003 over an alleged nuclear weapons program, says that leaks are undermining trust.
“The leakage of confidential information provided to the inspectors by inspected States has damaged the mutual trust,” Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Aliasghar Soltanieh, said in a statement March 5. He said he wanted guarantees of “confidentiality regarding all information related to the implementation of safeguards.”
While it’s “never been possible to prove that a mistake has ever happened” at the IAEA laboratory, Schmitzer said leaks outside IAEA control “do exist, I suppose.” He declined to comment further.
The U.S. and European Union contribute about half of the annual budget for the IAEA. A 17-member panel including Anne Lauvergeon, France’s Areva SA Chief Executive, Mexico’s former President Ernesto Zedillo and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn told the IAEA governors in May that the agency needed more money.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a13zeL6LUIaE
1. Bushehr Nuclear Plant to Start Operating by Aug 22
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Iran said on Tuesday that its much-delayed nuclear power plant, where testing began last month, would start operating by August 22.
The 1,000-megawatt Russian-built plant in the southern port city of Bushehr will first generate around 500 megawatts by August 22, Energy Minister Parviz Fattah said, quoted by state television's website.
The Russian federal nuclear company which is constructing the plant has so far declined to give a date for the start-up.
“By the end of the Iranian month of Mordad (August 22), 500 megawatts of the 1,000 megawatt Bushehr nuclear plant will be transmitted to the national grid,” Fattah said.
“The remaining 500 megawatts will be transmitted in the second half of the (Iranian) year,” which ends March 2010.
On March 4, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced in parliament that the plant would begin operating by September.
Russian and Iranian officials began testing the plant on February 25, as Tehran pressed on with its nuclear program despite Western opposition.
Moscow supplied the fuel for the plant in 2008 but it is currently sealed by the UN watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been investigating Iran's nuclear drive for the past six years.
Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Moscow's federal nuclear agency, announced when tests began that construction of the plant was complete but he did not set a date for its commissioning.
Available at: http://www.tehrantimes.com/Index_view.asp?code=190891
2. Gül Says Turkey Will Resist Iran Acquiring Nuclear Weapons
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On his way to Iran yesterday, President Abdullah Gül said the coming to power of a new administration in the US has opened the way for a new world order, inviting the countries of the world -- including US adversaries -- to heed the change.
Gül, who was scheduled to meet top Iranian leaders, including the country's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, in Tehran, also made clear that Turkey would oppose the neighboring country's desire to acquire nuclear weapons.
"We are in a new world. A new era has begun with the new administration in the US, with its message that it gives to the world," Gül told reporters as he departed for Iran, where he was scheduled to meet Iranian leaders on the sidelines of a regional economic cooperation meeting. Gül named Afghanistan, Iran and Afghanistan-Pakistan relations as areas where the most important challenges of the new era lie. "It is important for world peace and stability that everyone is prepared for a new era like this to emerge," he said.
Breaking with the George W. Bush administration's policy of isolation, the Obama administration wants to reach out to Iran diplomatically and convince it not to use its nuclear program for military purposes. The new US policy puts Ankara and Washington on the same page as to how to handle the dispute over Iran's nuclear program. Ankara says it opposes the proliferation of nuclear weapons in its region but calls for a diplomatic solution to the row over Iran's nuclear program.
Speaking to journalists aboard the plane to Tehran, Gül said Iran's security concerns must be addressed, but emphasized Turkey will oppose Iran trying to address those concerns by developing nuclear weapons, NTV reported.
Gül insisted that a new era has unfolded with the arrival of the new US administration and that there was now a considerable chance for lasting peace in the Middle East. But he said peace could not be achieved if other countries just sit back and criticize US policies. "There are very important prospects for peace. The first five to six months are critical because things will continue in the way they began," Gül was quoted as saying on the plane.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Ankara on Saturday, discussing, among other things, Turkey's role in efforts to reach out to Iran. "We are going to ask for your help in trying to influence Iranian behavior," Clinton said in a televised interview during her visit.
Clinton's visit raised prospects of Turkish mediation between Iran and the US, a role that Turkish leaders said they were ready to play if they are asked to. Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, who is accompanying Gül on his visit to Iran, said on Sunday that Turkey was not a mediator at the moment but Turkey "can contribute to bringing relations between the two countries to a much better place, and our hope is that this search for dialogue will bring concrete results."
Turkey's ties with Iran have expanded significantly after the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power in 2002. The two countries are now planning to cooperate in the field of energy.
President Obama will visit Turkey in the coming weeks, most probably at the end of a European tour that concludes on April 5. Iran is expected to be one of the main issues on the agenda of the talks, in addition to a possible Turkish role in the US troop pullout from Iraq and Turkish contributions to international military efforts to stabilize Afghanistan in the face of a rising Taliban insurgency.
Visit is a message in itself
It is not clear, however, whether or not Obama will use his visit to Turkey to deliver an anticipated address to the Muslim world. Clinton said Turkey will not be the venue of this address although Turkish officials say discussions are still continuing on the matter.
Gül reiterated that the visit would be a bilateral one. Asked if Obama will deliver his long anticipated speech in Ankara, Gül declined to comment, saying instead that Obama's visit to Ankara was a message in itself.
On the plane, Gül also stated, without elaboration, that there will be "very good developments" in the Kurdish issue in the coming days, according to NTV. The government is receiving calls from liberals at home and the Iraqi Kurds for an amnesty for the members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), who are launching attacks on Turkey from their bases in northern Iraq, as a way to convince the terrorist group to lay down arms.
Available at: http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=169215&bolum=100
Russia’s Head of the Department for Disarmament and Conflict Resolution Studies of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations said on Wednesday Iran’s nuclear activities have peaceful nature that threaten no country.
In an exclusive interview with IRNA correspondent in Moscow, Russia, Alexander Pikayev said the accusation against Iran of building nuclear weapons, the charge the IAEA has denied, is baseless.
Pikayev hoped Iran will remove ambiguities about its peaceful nuclear activities by continuing cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Stressing that Tehran-Moscow relations are based on peaceful nuclear cooperation, Pikayev said the recent pilot launch of the Bushehr Power Plant has proved it.
The Russian expert said Iran is a great power in the region that plays an important role in the Middle East; therefore, its power cannot be ignored by any country.
He said Iran-Russia cooperation in solving the crises in the Caucasus region and Central Asia would help ensure regional stability as well as fight against terrorism and drug trafficking.
He then referred to the presence of US and NATO forces in the Caucasus and Central Asia as the cause of chaos, stressing the need for ending their presence in the region.
Calling on Iran and Russia to make further efforts to ensure a stable region, Pikayev said the regional powers are willing to solve their problems by their own means without foreigners’ interference.
The Russian official noted that the western sanctions against Iran are “irrational” and “fruitless” because Iran is a developing country which is rich in energy resources.
In addition, he said the European Union has fallen in the trap of US policy and because of that has imposed sanctions against Iran.
Pointing out Iran’s achievements, the recent launch of the home-made Omid (Hope) satellite in particular, Pikayev said Iran is moving towards progress despite the imposed sanctions.
Available at: http://www5.irna.ir/En/View/FullStory/?NewsId=393507&IdLanguage=3
4. United States and Israel Give Different Conclusions On Iran
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United States intelligence has come to a conclusion that differentiates the conclusion brought forth by Israeli intelligence: Iran does not have highly enriched uranium.
Over the years, Iran’s nuclear program had brought concern to the world let alone the United States and Israel. Israel is concerned that Iran could create nuclear warheads capable of hitting the country. The topic Iran and Israel became a major part of the 2008 United States Presidential Elections. It brought into question whether or not Iran could actually nuke Israel.
On top of that, Iran had not really been forthcoming with the details of its nuclear program. Plus, Iran does not recognize the state of Israel. In regards to being able to create nukes, it may not be the case. So far, a nuclear warhead needs highly enriched uranium.
So far, Dennis Blair and Lt. General Michael Maples, respectively the US National Intelligence Director and Defense Intelligence Agency Director, explain that it is not the case for Iran. They explain that they only have low-enriched uranium. Neither of them given any implications or indications that Iran plans to refine the uranium.
With that said, it contradicts what Israeli intelligence has said.
Perhaps that could cause somewhat of tensions between the United States and Israel. While they have the same information, both US and Israeli intelligence have come at two completely different conclusions.
Overall, it seems that Israel and the United States reached different conclusions. Perhaps a third or forth perspective is needed. One could ask these questions? What conclusion would Great Britain come to? What conclusion would France come to? What conclusion would the UN Security Council come to? What conclusion would the European Union come to? What conclusion would Russia come to?
So far, this information looks very contradictory. Recently, it was Admiral Mike Mullen the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Major General Amos Yadlin the top intelligence official in Israel saying that Iran is now capable of making weapons. However, Blair brushed off Yadlin’s comments as talking about a “worst-case scenario.”
One should also ask: How should this affect US-Russia relations?
Back in mid-November of 2008, it was revealed that Iran had successfully fired a new type of long range surface-to-surface missile. The missile runs on solid fuel instead of liquid fuel. Iran insists that it is for defensive purposes and not for offense. But, it can strike Israel and southeastern Europe.
This would also bring forth the subject of the United States missile shield in Eastern Europe. That has caused tensions between the United States and Europe. However, there may be a compromise in regards to the missile shield.
In regards to Israel, it has cautioned the United States in regards to talking with Iran. Again, it is convinced that Iran could make a nuclear bomb. On top of that, Yossi Melman, an intelligence correspondent said convincing Iran to step down from uranium enrichment is slim. Melman also made note to talk about the missile shield system in Eastern Europe.
However, there is another thing that needs to be factored in as well: Benjamin or “Binyamin” Netanyahu of the Likud Party. Netanyahu won the elections and will become Israel’s newest Prime Minister. So far, Netanyahu is trying to avoid a government that leans toward the right as he tries to get centrist support. However, the Kadima Party brushed away Natenyahu’s offer.
Once Netanyahu officially takes office as Israel’s PM, one can expect the topic of Iran’s nuclear program to pop up. What will the outcome be? We will have to wait to find out. The outcome could depend on what type of government Netanyahu ends up forming.
Available at: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/268953
1. US, China 'Unified' in Opposing NKorean Missile Launch: Clinton
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The United States, China and negotiating partners are willing to discuss a range of responses, even UN action, if North Korea test fires a missile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday.
After her talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Clinton said China as well as South Korea, Japan and Russia are committed to dismantling North Korea's nuclear program and to opposing its planned missile launch.
Under a landmark six-party agreement signed in 2007, North Korea agreed with the United States and the four other countries to scrap its weapons-grade nuclear program in exchange for energy aid.
However, not only has North Korea balked at their terms for verifying nuclear disarmament, it also insists it will launch a satellite that US officials say would amount to a missile test-fire in breech of UN resolutions.
"We are outspoken in our opposition to the North Korean's missile launch, and we believe that that is a unified position, and that each of the members of the six-party talks have attempted to dissuade North Korea from proceeding," Clinton said.
"And we are also agreed that we will discuss a response if we are not successful in convincing them not to go forward with what is a very provocative act," she said.
"And there are a range of options available to take action against the North Koreans in the wake of the missile launch, if they pursue that, but also to try to resume the six-party talks," said the chef US diplomat.
"Let's not confuse the two."
Clinton noted that missiles were not part of the brief of the six-party negotiations, although she said she would like them to be included.
When asked whether the Chinese shared the US view that a missile launch would violate UN resolution 1718, she said: "I think that our partners in the Six-Party Talks are concerned about the missile launch."
"They are willing to address it if it does happen with us in a variety of ways, including the Security Council," she said. "But I don't want to, you know, talk about hypotheticals. We are still working to try to dissuade the North Koreans.
The Clinton-Yang talks took place after State Department spokesman Robert Wood dismissed as "baseless" fresh North Korean charges that US-South Korean military exercises amounted to war preparations and accused Pyongyang of stoking more regional tensions.
North Korea's foreign ministry described the annual ongoing drill involving tens of thousands of troops as "nuclear war exercises designed to mount a pre-emptive attack," and vowed to take "every necessary measure to protect itself."
But Wood said: "They're baseless. They're nonsense, frankly... These exercises which take place, as you know, annually, are not a threat to the North."
North Korea's "bellicose rhetoric is not helpful, it can only increase tensions in the region," he added.
"And what we want to see happen is we want to see the North comply with its international obligations with regard to the six-party framework."
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hwNqnIJa61QmkpGwtoC7y60cz4nQ
2. North Korea's Nuke Saber-Rattling: A Test for Obama
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Stephen Bosworth, the diplomat President Barack Obama appointed to the thankless task of trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear-weapons program, got quite a reception when he arrived on his first official visit to Seoul this week. The North Korean government in Pyongyang shut down the last military communication line between the two countries on the divided peninsula, temporarily halted all transit to and from a special industrial zone just north of the border and declared that if the U.S. or Japan should try to shoot down a long-range missile the North is expected to test soon, it would retaliate with a military strike of its own. "I have no illusions about what I've agreed to try to deal with," Bosworth told reporters. "It's a very difficult mandate."
That's putting it mildly. Many diplomats in East Asia believe that getting the North to stand down its nukes may be a lost cause. It's easy, given the timing, to attribute Pyongyang's recent bellicose rhetoric as standard stuff: the North always ratchets up tensions whenever the U.S. and South Korea hold major military exercises, as they are doing this week. And many North Korea watchers in Seoul believe the recent tone is simply intended to soften up a new Administration in Washington. Again, fairly predictable for the North Korean regime. (See pictures of North Koreans going to the polls.)
But it's not clear that the usual diplomatic arc with Pyongyang — public fits intended to strengthen its bargaining position for an eventual return to the table — is in play right now. If in the next few weeks the North launches what it terms a "satellite intended for peaceful purposes" — in truth, a long-range missile capable of reaching Alaska — it will be the North's most provocative act since it tested a nuke in the autumn of 2006. Bosworth and, earlier, his boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have already beseeched the Chinese to intervene with the North, and diplomats in Seoul say that Beijing has done so. If Pyongyang ignores that counsel, says Victor Cha, former director of Asian affairs on President Geroge W. Bush's National Security Council, the Obama Administration will face two key choices: go to the United Nations to seek broad international sanctions against Pyongyang or reimpose the U.S.'s own financial sanctions, which infuriated the North's leadership precisely because they effectively cut off Pyongyang's access to the international financial system. (Recall that only after the Bush Administration agreed to drop those sanctions did the North return to the six-party nuclear talks in early 2007.) "This is a delicate decision for Obama, and it may be headed straight for him," says one Asian diplomat. "Any move toward sanctions means things go into the deep freeze diplomatically."
The other reason some wonder whether the recent saber-rattling from the North is standard operating procedure is murkier: questions still surround the health of the North's Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il. Kim suffered a stroke late last summer, and since then he has been seen in public even more rarely than usual. On Sunday he was photographed "voting" in North Korea's sham parliamentary elections, and he looked noticeably older and thinner than he did just six months ago. There are conflicting opinions about his level of involvement in managing the country since the stroke. (See pictures of Kim Jong Il.)
The key figure emerging now, Seoul-based North Korea analysts believe, is Kim's brother-in-law Chang Sung-taek. Chang is close to North Korea's politically powerful military — he has two brothers who are generals. If anything, analysts believe, the military's influence has increased in recent months. The problem with that, for both Obama and the rest of the outside world, is that there is little to no evidence that North Korea's generals want to make a deal on their nuclear program — now, later or ever. The best way they could signal that point would be to launch the Taepodong II long-range missile.
Available at: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1883998,00.html?xid=rss-world
Energy Secretary Steven Chu sought Wednesday to assure skeptical senators that the Obama administration supports continued development of nuclear energy, even as it backs away from building a nuclear waste dump in Nevada.
"Nuclear is going to be part of our energy future. It has to be," Chu told members of the Senate Budget Committee at a hearing in which a half dozen senators, Republicans and Democrats, raised concerns about the administration's support for nuclear power.
Each time Chu gave a similar assurance, even as he reiterated that the administration has every intention of pulling the plug on a proposed nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain.
"You can see the reason for some of the skepticism," Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., told Chu.
"I don't want to save Yucca. I accept the fact that may not be viable," said Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the committee's ranking Republican. However, he said he was concerned about the administration's degree of support for building new reactors.
Chu said he is ready to act on loan guarantees for the first group of new reactors and plans on "moving very aggressively to getting the money out the door." Congress in 2005 authorized $18.5 billion in loan guarantees for new reactors, but none of the applications has yet to be approved.
Still, Chu said the administration is determined to move in a new direction on how to deal with the thousands of tons of waste in the form of used reactor fuel now being kept at power plants.
Chu said the material can be kept safely "for decades" at reactor sites. And he said he hopes to have a recommendation from a special panel on alternatives to Yucca Mountain and long-term nuclear waste disposal before the end of the year. He said he will soon name members to the planned panel.
"I believe in nuclear power as a central part of our energy mix. It provides clean, busload electricity," Chu told the hearing.
Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, nevertheless, said he was worried about "subtle signals that raise concern" about the administration's support of nuclear energy, particularly its opposition to endorsing reprocessing of nuclear waste.
"Closing the fuel cycle is something we want to do," replied Chu, referring to future reprocessing of waste so it can be recycled.
But Chu said more research is needed because current methods of reprocessing used in Japan and Europe raise concerns about nuclear proliferation because they produce pure plutonium.
Obama's proposed budget calls for eliminating funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, except for money needed to respond to questions from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on a Yucca license application the Bush administration submitted last year.
Chu dismissed suggestions that the license application be withdrawn. He said the application process could provide an insight as to what the NRC will require of a future nuclear waste strategy.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gECUYBUKRfAXEInCMaMKbUHnWkcwD96S202G1
2. Commercial Operation of Sino-Russian Nuclear Station "Going Smoothly"
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A Sino-Russian cooperative nuclear power station in Lianyungang, eastern Jiangsu Province, has operated smoothly since it began commercial operation in December 2007, the station's managers said Wednesday.
In January and February, the first phase of the Tianwan project, which has two 1.06-million-kilowatt units, sold 2.477 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and earned 963 million yuan (about 141 million U.S. dollars) in revenue, according to Jiang Guoyuan, general manager of the Jiangsu Nuclear Power Co., Ltd., which manages and operates the Tianwan nuclear power station.
The Tianwan complex is the largest cooperative technological and economic effort between China and Russia.
Last year, Tianwan generated 12.1 billion kwh of power, Jiang said.
The complex is intended to have eight generating units eventually. When all units are in operation, the complex would have an installed capacity of 8 million to 10 million kw, meaning it could generate 60 billion to 80 billion kwh of electricity a year.
That would be equivalent to 80 percent of the power generated by the mammoth Three Gorges hydropower station, Jiang said.
Faced with an energy crunch resulting from fast economic growth, China has decided to develop more nuclear power. By 2020, the goal is to have installed nuclear capacity of 40 million kw, accounting for 4 percent of the country's total capacity.
China has 11 nuclear generating units at six sites, all located along the eastern coast, with a combined installed capacity of 9.08 million kw.
Available at: http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90776/90883/6611996.html
A year after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, amid panic worldwide about the safety of nuclear energy, Sweden voted to ban construction of new nuclear power plants and phase out its existing ones.
Now, like many countries across Europe, it is changing its mind. Last month, the government proposed allowing the construction of new reactors to replace the country's aging ones, which provide nearly half the nation's electricity.
Swedes have made their peace with nuclear plants, not only because memories have faded and safety records improved after 30 years, but also because reactors are seen as one of the few options available to nations wanting to rapidly slash greenhouse gas emissions.
"People shout about wind power, but it's only providing 2 percent" of Sweden's electricity, said Ake Hjort, a Swedish energy engineer. "To replace one nuclear plant you need 5,000 to 6,000 windmills. For us, it's not a question of wind power or nuclear power but the proper mix." As the Obama administration and other governments around the world look for ways to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels and cut greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear power is enjoying a revival, even among some of its toughest critics. And some nations where green movements once railed against nukes now are at the forefront of finding solutions to lingering problems such as long-term storage of radioactive waste.
The United States, which has more than 100 working reactors—the world's largest number—has 32 new plants either planned or proposed. China, in an effort to cut air pollution from coal plants and feed huge new demand for power, is building 11 reactors and laying plans for nearly 100 more.
Europe, which has focused on building renewable-energy capacity to cut greenhouse gas emissions, now acknowledges that meeting its tough targets will be nearly impossible without new nuclear plants.
"It's the only large-scale … technology we have for zero emission power," said Ian Cronshaw, head of energy diversification for the Paris-based International Energy Agency.
Enthusiasm for nuclear power is coming from some remarkable quarters. Italy, which shut down its last two nuclear plants after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, now plans to build eight to 10 new reactors to cut its heavy reliance on imported energy. Finland and Sweden are well on their way to building long-term nuclear waste storage.
Even oil-producing nations such as Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates are among more than 40 new nations interested in acquiring nuclear power.
The two energy giants, like Russia, "want to sell their oil and gas at nice prices to people hooked on it and not use too much domestically," said Steve Kidd, director of strategy and research for the World Nuclear Association, a London-based nuclear power lobbying group.
President Barack Obama, while promising to "safely harness nuclear power" for the U.S. energy mix, has so far shown more enthusiasm for renewable power than nuclear plants. On Thursday, his energy secretary also confirmed that a 27-year effort to build a national nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada is being abandoned.
But Britain's government, which five years ago held a similarly skeptical view of nuclear power, "today realizes renewables can't do everything," Kidd said. With production from Britain's aging gas fields dropping about 8 percent a year, the country now plans to use up to six new reactors to make up some of the shortfall, Cronshaw said.
Whether the more than 370 reactors proposed or planned worldwide are ever built remains in considerable doubt, nuclear experts say. Nuclear power plants are more expensive than most fossil-fuel alternatives, and finding financing for them will prove difficult as the world grapples with widespread recession.
Long-term storage of nuclear waste also remains a serious problem. Finland and Sweden, the only countries in the world closing in on a long-term solution for high-level nuclear waste, plan to put theirs in underground bedrock tunnels but are still grappling with issues of the long-term security of the material, which will remain radioactive for a hundred thousand years.
France manages its own nuclear waste problem in part by reprocessing spent fuel, which produces new usable uranium but also, controversially, the plutonium needed for nuclear weapons.
Available at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-europe-nukes-2_goeringmar11,0,7790030.story
German power group RWE, which has teamed up with E.ON to build British nuclear power stations, believes the first plant could be up and running in 2017, its UK chief executive told Reuters.
"The year 2017 or 2018 would be the first point at which we could expect to have the first plant operating. That is the optimistic view," Andrew Duff, CEO of RWE npower, said in an interview.
E.ON UK and RWE said in January they aimed to build and operate 6,000 megawatts (MW) of nuclear capacity in Britain -- enough power to fuel Scotland and Wales. Britain needs to replace ageing power plants over the next two decades.
"3,000 megawatts each (for RWE and E.ON) is the plan...probably on a minimum of two sites," Duff said, adding that the cost for RWE's part would top 6 billion pounds.
This would be part of long-term investment plans on top of a planned 1 billion pounds to go into coal, wind and gas fired capacity in the UK each year over the next decade.
He said there are many risks -- the availability of sites needs to be secured, the technology licensed and construction approved. There also needs to be a solution for nuclear waste storage.
RWE, which operates five nuclear power units at three sites in Germany, would either choose Areva or Westinghouse technology for Britain, Duff said.
WINNING OVER THE PUBLIC
Public opinion in Britain is increasingly in favour of nuclear power in the realisation it is needed to cut climate-changing carbon emissions, Duff said.
Dwindling gas in the North Sea are also pushing Britain into a search for alternative fuels, he said.
Duff added that apart from French competitor EDF, the German consortium was the only one with potentially suitable land.
This means they are less dependent on an auction to be held shortly by Britain's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) for land at existing reactor sites, he said.
RWE bought options on farmland near the Wylfa site in Wales, while E.ON has sites near Oldbury.
The division, which is forecasting the second year of falling profits, will only see a recovery in the long term, Duff said.
"We wouldn't be investing so heavily if we weren't optimistic about the UK market. In the longer run we are very confident."
The falling pound, programmes that oblige U.K. utilities to promote energy saving, and "fierce" competition will weigh on profits, the company said last month.
"2009 is going to be a tough year for the energy industry," Duff said.
RWE npower is RWE's second-biggest unit in terms of sales but generated less than a tenth of RWE's 6.8 billion euros (6.3 billion pounds) of operating earnings in 2008. The division produces more than 10 percent of English and Welsh power.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUKTRE52B23T20090312?sp=true
China's major heavy machinery maker, Sany Heavy Industry Co is planning to enter the nuclear power and jet engine manufacturing business even as it remains cautious on overseas acquisitions, a top company official said.
This would mark another major shift for the company after it diversified into wind power equipment manufacture recently.
"These are our goals and part of our strategic plan," said Xiang Wenbo, president of Sany Heavy Industry on the diversification into nuclear power and jet engine equipment-making business.
Sany, which Xiang said aims to become the General Electric of China, would gradually tap into the "core manufacturing sectors," he said, without giving any specific timetable.
"The core manufacturing sectors such as nuclear power and aircraft engine equipment-making not only hold great market potential, but is also vital to China's overall national strength," Xiang said in an exclusive interview with China Daily during the ongoing annual parliament session.
China still prohibits the entry of private enterprises in some core industries, but Xiang said he believed they would eventually gain the government support and approval if they "show they are capable".
Sany, which makes concrete pumps and road rollers, expects its sales to touch 30 billion yuan this year, up from last year's 20 billion yuan, Xiang said.
"Our sales growth will mainly come from the domestic market, which is set to gain from the government's 4-trillion yuan economic stimulus plan," Xiang said.
The company still remains pessimistic on the overseas market even though it reported a 160 percent surge in exports in 2008. Xiang said he expects overseas sales growth to remain flat this year.
"Overseas sales this year may remain the same as last year, at around $500 to $600 million," Xiang said.
"The heavy machinery industry has been hit severely by the global financial crisis," he said.
But Xiang, a deputy to China's top legislature, said the global economic downturn is also the "perfect time" for overseas acquisitions in the machinery sector for Chinese companies.
"The market value of some Western peers have evaporated more than 90 percent compared with their peaks and are only traded at a P/E ratio of 3, which I think is a perfect time for acquisitions," Xiang said.
He suggested that government should work out a package of supportive policies to assist Chinese firms making overseas acquisitions, such as extending credit support.
Xiang said "several" foreign companies have approached Sany for possible acquisition deals but he declined to reveal their names.
Sany "has the financial resources and international operations expertise to acquire foreign rivals", Xiang said.
"But we will move very cautiously in this regard," Xiang said.
"The cost of buying the company is much lower than integrating them and it could lead to disasters if mismanaged," he said.
"Language barrier, cultural differences and management style are all elements that should be fully considered before taking a decision on such deals," Xiang said.
The Hunan-based company, which has recently announced a 100 million Euro investment in Germany to build R&D and manufacturing facilities, is more interested in setting up its own plants overseas than the outright acquisition of foreign players, Xiang said.
"We can manage our risks better by setting up the plants ourselves as we can control the pace and process of our investment," he said.
If the economic downturn worsens, "we could downsize our factory or our investment more easily than if we had bought a foreign company," Xiang said.
The Shanghai-listed company, Xiang said, intends to recruit 1,000 graduates this year and has no plan to slash jobs and cut salaries.
"We have confidence in our company and Chinese economy, so we just want to increase our human resources reserves," Xiang said, adding the company will assign the new recruits to strengthen its R&D capacity.
Sany announced earlier this year that its chairman will only receive 1 yuan annual pay this year while its board members will cut salaries by as much as 90 percent, and senior management by 50 percent, to cope with the economic downturn.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-03/10/content_10980327.htm
Russian state uranium holding Atomenergoprom said on Tuesday it had bought stakes in uranium deposits located in Kazakhstan from tycoon Vladimir Anisimov for an undisclosed sum through its unit Atomredmetzoloto (ARMZ).
State-controlled Gazprombank, the banking arm of Russian gas giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM), said in a separate statement it had provided ARMZ with a loan for the acquisition of the assets.
It did not reveal the size of the loan.
ARMZ bought a 50 percent stake in part of the Budyonnovskoye deposit, which has proven and probable reserves of 18,200 tonnes of uranium and estimated reserves of 31,600 tonnes of the radioactive metal, the Gazprombank statement said.
It has also bought a 25 percent stake in another part of the Kazakh deposit with proven and probable reserves of 25,100 tonnes and an estimated 58,900 tonnes, it said.
The remaining stakes in the deposit belong to Kazakh state atomic company Kazatomprom.
"A complex programme of Russian-Kazakh cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy envisages joint annual output of uranium by ARMZ and Kazatomprom in Kazakhstan at 6,000 tonnes and eventually at 8,000 tonnes," Atomenergoprom said.
ARMZ was the world's fifth-largest uranium producer and the second-largest owner of uranium reserves last year, Gazprombank said.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idUKLA45164920090310
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