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Nuclear News - 3/17/2009
PGS Nuclear News, March 17, 2009
Compiled By: Helene Picart

A.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Russia Urges Australia to Honor Uranium Deal, Lin Liyu, China View (3/17/2009)
    2. Nonproliferation Panel Urges U.S. to Adopt No First Use of Nuke Arms, iStockAnalyst (3/15/2009)
    3. Israel: Nuke-Free Zone in Middle East? Only With Peace, Gil Ronen, Israel National News (3/15/2009)
    1. Journey From "Cradle to Grave" of Radioactive Sources, IAEA (3/13/2009)
C.  Iran
    1. Brown Offers Iran 'Clear' Nuclear Choice, Agence France-Presse (3/17/2009)
    2. Iran Dismisses Sanctions, Launches Gas Project, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (3/13/2009)
    3. Assad: Iran Has Right to Peaceful N-Technology, PressTV (3/13/2009)
    1. Japan to Go Nuclear If Unified Korea Is Nuke-Armed, The Korea Times (3/17/2009)
    2. Missile Launch May Lead to PSI Review, Kim Ji-hyun, The Korea Herald (3/16/2009)
    3. Security Council Decision Will Hold the Key, Kim Ji-hyun, The Korea Herald (3/16/2009)
    4. Pyongyang Removed 75% of Spent Fuel Rods, Jung Sung-ki, The Korea Times (3/15/2009)
E.  Russia
    1. Russia Orders Major Modernization of Army, PressTV (3/17/2009)
F.  Nuclear Industry
    1. Australian Uranium Output Could Jump 20% by 2012, Bruce Hextall, Reuters (3/16/2009)
    2. Eskom Hires Alstom to Retrofit Units at Koeberg, Business Day (3/16/2009)
    3. Two Nuclear Power Plants Planned, Joong Ang Daily (3/14/2009)
    4. Utilities Could Struggle to Fund £40bn New Nuclear Programme, Carol Millett, Contract Journal (3/13/2009)
G.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Energy Minister Hopes to Expand Paks Nuclear Power Plant, The Budapest Times (3/15/2009)
    2. Lasers to Create Mini Sun in Hunt for Clean Energy, Chris Gourlay and Jonathan Leake, The Times  (3/15/2009)
    3. Uganda Gets Ready for Nuclear Energy, Henry Mukasa, The New Vision (3/13/2009)
H.  Links of Interest
    1. Urgent Rethink on the Nuclear Option, Ian Fells, The Times  (3/15/2009)
    2. A 'Back Channel' Appeal to Iran, Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times (3/15/2009)

A.  Nuclear Cooperation

Russia Urges Australia to Honor Uranium Deal
Lin Liyu
China View
(for personal use only)

Russia urged Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith to honour a deal to sell uranium to the former Soviet state in a meeting on Tuesday.

"In the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, I believe there is no alternative to this cooperation because it is fruitful for both Russia and Australia," chairman of the Upper House of the Russian Parliament Sergey Mironov said.

After the meeting in Canberra, Mironov told reporters he will lent his support to Rudd's proposal for an Asia Pacific Community by 2020.

"Russia is interested in this initiative undertaken by Kevin Rudd about setting up the Asia Pacific Community," Mironov said in the parliament.

Mironov has described the proposal as a good idea but believes it should concentrate on security and other matters and leave the regional forum for economics to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathering.

"This new entity would rather detail political problems and problems of security. Russia is considering thoroughly this initiative and our president will respond to this initiative in proper time," Mironov said.

The former Howard government had struck a deal, which estimated to be 1 billion Australian dollars (0.66 billion U.S. dollars) worthy with Moscow in 2006. The deal was to sell uranium to Russia on the proviso it be used for civilian purposes under strict safeguards.

But the parliament's treaties committee recommended in September last year the government delay the deal until Australia can be certain Russia will meet its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

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Israel: Nuke-Free Zone in Middle East? Only With Peace
Gil Ronen
Israel National News
(for personal use only)

Israel would agree to the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, but only when there is peace between the region's nations, an official Israeli representative to disarmament talks said this weekend. Such an agreement had to be reached on the basis of free consent, he added.

"We would need peace, reconciliation and the recognition of every state's right to live in peace," Meir Yitzchaki, the Israeli representative to the United Nations-linked Conference on Disarmament, told Deutsche Press-Agentur.

While Israel favors the establishment of a region free of non-conventional weapons 'eventually', it would have to be part of the process and the other nations in the area would have to recognize its right to exist, Yitzchaki added.

Yitzchaki addressed the conference at the United Nations offices in Geneva Thursday and said that ongoing threats against the Jewish state, and the fact that other Middle Eastern states were actively engaged in proliferation and support of terrorism, did not allow for the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free zone at this time.

He added that Israel supports the convening of a multilateral regional forum for discussing the subject of nuclear arms.

Israel has not signed the international nuclear non-proliferation treaty and is widely believed to possess a significant stockpile of nuclear weapons, as well as the ability to deliver them by various means.

Nations including Turkey, China, Egypt and Algeria voiced their support of a nuclear weapons-free Middle East at the Geneva conference. Their delegates said that linkage between the establishment of a nuke-free zone and the peace process would undermine the non-proliferation system.

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Nonproliferation Panel Urges U.S. to Adopt No First Use of Nuke Arms
(for personal use only)

A panel promoting nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation will urge the United States to take a leadership role in nuclear disarmament by developing a nuclear policy of ''no first use,'' according to a draft of policy recommendations made available on Sunday.

The International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament will also urge the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and restore the U.S.-Russia strategic nuclear arms control process as part of its five-point proposals, according to the draft.

The commission seeks to achieve total abolition of nuclear weapons in three stages, with the five-point recommendations for Washington serving as its initial step, said Nobuyasu Abe, former U.N. undersecretary general for disarmament affairs, who is a member of the panel's advisory board.

The commission, a joint initiative established by the Australian and Japanese governments, will complete the report by the end of this year as the panel seeks to promote nuclear disarmament ahead of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in spring 2010.

U.S. President Barack Obama has set a world without nuclear weapons as one of his policy goals.

No first use is a pledge not to use nuclear arms by a nuclear power unless the country or its allies are first attacked by an enemy with a nuclear weapon.

Some Japanese government officials insist that the United States should not abandon the no-first-use policy because it acts as a deterrent against possible North Korean missile attacks.

Under the three-stage nuclear abolition goal, tactical nuclear weapons will be reduced substantially and a pact to abolish fissile material will be reached in the second stage.

In the final stage, an international regime will be established to verify whether a nation is secretly developing nuclear weapons and impose punishments on any violators.

The commission is co-chaired by former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans and former Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, and its members include former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and then Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda agreed to establish the commission in July last year, and its members have met last October and February this year since its launch.

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Journey From "Cradle to Grave" of Radioactive Sources
(for personal use only)

Broader and better-coordinated international efforts to implement complete and integrated systems for "cradle to grave" management of sealed radioactive sources (SRS) are essential for their long-term sustainability, experts agreed at an IAEA workshop held in Chang Mai, Thailand.

SRS are routinely used in medicine, industry, agriculture and other fields. Among other applications, they are used to diagnose and treat medical patients, inspect welds and protect stored crops. However, there is a safety and security risk associated with these sources, which need to be managed and maintained under regulatory control even once their useful life is over. Their sustainable management remains a challenge for many countries, as most disused SRS have no final disposition route.

Workshop participants acknowledged the IAEA´s efforts to strengthen the safety and security of disused SRS and to support the upgrading of management infrastructure in Member States. The IAEA is expected to continue to play a leading role in this area, coordinating efforts through the use of international instruments such as the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, the Import/Export Guidance and the Joint Convention on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.

Although a number of storage facilities have been recently built or renovated with physical protection upgrades allowing for improved control of disused SRS, storage remains a necessary but intermediate step and there is no better option than disposal for long-term sustainability.

Disposal is generally recognized as a safer and more secure solution for all types of radioactive sources, with the possible exception of very short lived sources which are suitable for decay storage. Yet, the lack of licensed disposal facilities accepting long-lived disused SRS is a worldwide issue and dedicated solutions must be developed and implemented.

Workshop participants recognized the borehole disposal of sealed sources concept, known as BOSS, as a mature concept ready for implementation in candidate Member States, in particular those where disused sources are prevailing in radioactive waste inventories.

The International Workshop on Sustainable Management of Disused Sealed Sources - Working towards Disposal, was held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, from 12-16 January 2009. The event was organized by the IAEA and hosted by the Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology (TINT) under the auspices of the Asian Nuclear Safety Network (ANSN).

Some 80 managers and experts from 23 countries representing national programmes, regulatory bodies, international projects and source management organizations attended the five-day workshop.

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C.  Iran

Brown Offers Iran 'Clear' Nuclear Choice
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

Prime Minister Gordon Brown appealed Tuesday for Iran to end its uranium enrichment programme in return for international assistance in developing nuclear power.

Brown said the Islamic republic had a "clear choice" between cooperating with the international community or facing tougher sanctions over its enrichment activities.

He told an international conference in London that Iran represents a crucial test for the world as it faces the prospects of a huge expansion in nuclear power generation in response to climate change.

"Iran is a test case for this new philosophy of the right to civil nuclear power with sanctions for rule breakers," Brown said, adding it had "the same absolute right to a peaceful civil nuclear programme as any other country. "Indeed the UK and the international community stand ready to help Iran achieve it.

"But let me be equally clear that Iran's current nuclear programme is unacceptable. Iran has concealed nuclear activities, refused to cooperate with the IAEA, and flouted UN Security Council resolutions."

The United States and the European Union fear Iran is covertly trying to develop nuclear weapons, a claim Tehran rejects.

Brown said: "Iran therefore faces a clear choice -- continue in this way and face further and tougher sanctions, or change to a UN-overseen civil nuclear energy programme that will bring the greatest benefits to its citizens.

"I hope that Iran will make the right choice."

Brown told the audience of scientists and diplomats that "like it or not" the world will increasingly have to switch to nuclear power to generate electricity if targets on slashing carbon emissions are to be met.

He said that if Iran dropped its defiant stance and agreed to cooperate with the international community it could be part of a number of states who could benefit from assistance in developing their civil nuclear power sectors.

"We have to create a new international system to help non-nuclear states acquire the new sources of energy they need.

"Because -- whether we like it or not -- we will not meet the challenges of climate change without the far wider use of civil nuclear power."

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Assad: Iran Has Right to Peaceful N-Technology
(for personal use only)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in an interview with the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun has defended Iran's right to nuclear technology.

"As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, (Iran) has the right to have peaceful reactors," Assad said.

When asked whether Syria might serve as a go-between for the United States and Iran, Assad said, "We won't say no, provided that we have a clear framework and realistic objectives to work through in order to succeed."

Assad criticized as a 'ploy' the US accusation that a facility in eastern Syria was a nuclear plant developed with the support of North Korea. The accusation was made after Israel bombed the facility in September 2007.

"Why did the US say they have evidence eight months after the date of the bombing?" Assad asked. He added that if the site had been a nuclear reactor, there would have been 'radiation and casualties. We didn't have that.'

Assad assumed the Syrian presidency in 2000 following the death of his father, Hafez Assad.

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Iran Dismisses Sanctions, Launches Gas Project
Fredrik Dahl
(for personal use only)

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed international sanctions against Iran as a "childish idea" on Friday as he officially launched a major natural gas project in the Gulf, Iranian media reported.

On Thursday U.S. President Barack Obama said he was extending economic sanctions against Tehran because it continued to pose an "extraordinary threat" to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States.

It was a routine extension of punitive measures imposed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1995.

Ahmadinejad said that trying to create obstacles for Iran's development with sanctions was "a childish idea and a big mistake," the official IRNA news agency reported.

"We don't need anyone... We rely on our own abilities," Iran's Press TV quoted him as saying in the southern Gulf port of Assaluyeh. "God willing, the Iranian nation's advancement is gaining speed."

Ahmadinejad described Friday's commissioning of Phases 9 and 10 of the South Pars field, Iran's single biggest natural gas deposit, as a "happy gift" for the Iranian nation, which is also the world's fourth-largest oil producer.

The investment amounted to about $4 billion, media said.

South Korea's LG Engineering Construction Corp and a pair of Iranian energy firms in 2002 won a deal to develop phases 9 and 10, out of 24 phases at South Pars. Iranian media said the two phases would have a daily output of 50 million cubic metres.


"This grand achievement happened under conditions in which some in the world with immorality and misbehaviour did not fulfil their promises," IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

"They signed contracts to provide equipment and spare parts but ... some of the equipment and spare parts remained aboard ship and were taken back," he said, in an apparent reference to Western firms scaling down their plans for investment in Iran.

Since taking office in January, Obama has talked of engaging Iran on its nuclear work and other issues, breaking with the policy of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

He has also warned of more sanctions if Iran does not stop enriching uranium, which has both military and civilian uses.

Iran has repeatedly ruled out halting such activity, which it says is aimed at generating electricity, and shrugged off the impact of both U.S. and U.N. sanctions.

But analysts say Iran is facing growing economic problems after oil prices plunged about $100 a barrel from a peak of $147 in July as the global economic downturn hit fuel demand.

Tehran has reacted cautiously to Obama's outreach, saying it wants to see real change in U.S. policy after Washington under Bush spearheaded a drive to isolate the Islamic Republic.

Iran sits on the world's second-largest gas reserves after Russia but has been slow to develop exports.

Many Western energy firms have become wary of investing in Iran because of the sanctions. Asian firms have snapped up some projects and are looking at others.

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Japan to Go Nuclear If Unified Korea Is Nuke-Armed
The Korea Times
(for personal use only)

Japan will likely go nuclear if a unified Korea decides to keep the nuclear arsenal developed by North Korea, setting the stage for a tense military competition between the two Northeast Asian rivals, Yonhap News Agency reported Monday, quoting a U.S. congressional report.

"Any eventual reunification of the Korean Peninsula could further induce Japan to reconsider its nuclear stance," the report by the Congressional Research Service was quoted as saying.

"If the two Koreas unify while North Korea still holds nuclear weapons and the new state opts to keep a nuclear arsenal, Japan may face a different calculation," said the Jan. 19 report, titled "Japan's Nuclear Future: Policy Debate, Prospects and U.S. Interests." It cites some Japanese analysts as describing a nuclear-armed unified Korea as "more of a threat than a nuclear-armed North Korea."

Many Koreans still harbor resentment of Japan over its colonization of the Korean Peninsula for nearly four decades from 1910. Hundreds of thousands of Korean women were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers and millions of Koreans were taken to forced labor camps.

"If the closely neighboring Koreans exhibited hostility toward Japan, it may feel more compelled to develop a nuclear weapons capability," the report said, stressing the need for the U.S. to take into account Japan's possible nuclear armament in drawing up "U.S. contingency planning for future scenarios on the Korean Peninsula."

Japan is said to be a quasi-nuclear weapons state with ample plutonium for the production of warheads and advanced technology in the field.

"Japan's technological advancement in the nuclear field, combined with its stocks of separated plutonium, have contributed to the conventional wisdom that Japan could produce nuclear weapons in a short period of time," the CRS report said.

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Missile Launch May Lead to PSI Review
Kim Ji-hyun
The Korea Herald
(for personal use only)

North Korea, if it goes through with a rocket launch, may open the door for Seoul to consider full-fledged membership in a Washington-led campaign to combat weapons proliferation, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said.

"That is a possibility because the Proliferation Security Initiative is aimed to contain weapons of mass destruction, and if North Korea develops and attains such capabilities, there will be a need to prevent proliferation. So from this point of view, the launch may raise the need to review full membership," Yu said during an interview with The Korea Herald last Friday.

Calls may rise from both home and abroad, the minister noted, should Pyongyang go through with a planned launch of what it claims to be a satellite -- the Gwangmyeongseong-2 -- but is widely believed to be a long-range missile.

The North last week signaled that the launch was imminent by notifying international maritime and aviation agencies of the estimated satellite coordinates.

But reflecting the lingering controversy over the PSI membership -- the move would likely further inflame the North, one of the main nations targeted by the program -- Yu said that the government would have to exercise prudence due to the "unique peninsular circumstances."

Seoul is currently on observer status, and the previous government had put off full membership citing such circumstances. Recently, however, an increasing number of scholars and officials have voiced the need to fully participate, calling membership one of the few significant leverages left for Seoul in dealing with Pyongyang and its brinkmanship.

Despite strong international warnings toward the North, Yu said, the communist state appears likely to go ahead with the launch to achieve a variety of goals, running the gamut from regime stability to rattling the United States and South Korea.

"But the North would be further isolated internationally. There is a reason why the North has chosen the path it did, and while it may achieve its goal, there will be consequences to suffer, and the North will be bracing for them," the minister noted.

He reiterated that for both Seoul and Washington, not to mention the United Nations, it would make no difference whether the North launches a missile or satellite because either would violate the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718. The resolution was adopted shortly after Pyongyang's 2006 nuclear test and bans any activity by the North related to nuclear or ballistic missile development.

The sanctions that accompanied the resolution have become slack due to past anticipation that the six-party talks aimed at the North's denuclearization may be effective. The talks have been deadlocked since December.

Critics have pointed out that even if the security council meets following North's launch, there could be discord, mostly due to objections from Russia and China, both long-time allies of Pyongyang.

"Japan, Russia, China and the United States all have their own concerns and stances, and we cannot criticize this. It is important that they find a common denominator. What is significant is that China and Russia also firmly believe that North Korea's persistence in developing intercontinental ballistic missiles are not helpful to international peace and security. It would be based on this belief that they would by all means seek to halt North Korea's develpment plans," Yu said.

The prospects for the six-party talks reopening remain uncertain, mostly due to North Korea's imminent launch. The minister said, however, that the talks would eventually have to begin again, and that the international community, must resume dialogue with the North even if it implements the launch.

"The North would be sanctioned, but we cannot say it is the end of the world and walk away from the North even after the missile launch because we still need to finalize Pyongyang's nuclear disablement process," Yu said.

There could be separate bilateral missile talks between the United States and North Korea, as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton recently hinted, but Yu said further six-party discussion would be necessary.

"For now, there is the possibility of the missile agenda being dealt with in the six-party framework. But there are some pros and cons to consider. If Washington deals with the missile issue on a completely different track, some of the focus would be shifted (from the six-nation talks), so discussion is necessary to decide which approach would be more effective," he said.

"For now, it seems that there would be an opportunity for Washington and Pyongyang to hold discussions within the six-party framework. The six-party talks involve not only all six nations, but also bilateral working-group discussions, so there is room for variety."

Missile talks between Washington and Pyongyang were halted in 2001 under former U.S. president George W. Bush.

President Barack Obama has repeatedly emphasized that the six-party framework will remain the driving force for ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Regarding mounting calls from Washington for Seoul to dispatch its troops to support anti-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan, the minister spoke in cautious tones, citing the uncertain public sentiment.

"What we need to remember is that we cannot decide on the dispatch just because the government wants to. It is a matter hinging on public sentiment and the National Assembly. For now, we should concentrate on civilian level cooperation, while seeking what contributions we may more actively pursue on both military and non-military terms. We are frankly not quite confident about the public reaction, and about how such a dispatch may be received by the people, and how the National Assembly would react. If we fail to attain parliamentary approval, there is nothing we can do. At the moment, we are only thinking of what reconstruction efforts we may offer on the civilian level," he said.

Seoul faced a tremendous public backlash when it sent troops to Iraq under former President Roh Moo-hyun who successfully implemented four extensions of the dispatch.

But the need for a bigger and possibly combatant presence in Afghanistan may rise under the upgraded version of the alliance with Washington.

The two nations are expected to issue a declaration to further develop what the allies now call the "21st Century Strategic Alliance."

Lee is expected to meet with his U.S. counterpart in London next month for the G-20 summit to discuss these and other pending security and bilateral issues.

The two nations also are holding discussions to coordinate a separate summit before the year is out, Yu said.

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Security Council Decision Will Hold the Key
Kim Ji-hyun
The Korea Herald
(for personal use only)

Following are the questions and answers of the interview with Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan. -- Ed.

(Insert phrase: North Korea has imposed a complicated task. ... There is a reason why the North has chosen the path it did, and while it may achieve its goal, there will be consequences to suffer, and the North will be bracing for them.)

Korea Herald: What counter measures would follow North Korea's missile launch?

Yu Myung-hwan: The United Nations Security Council will discuss the measures. We have to see to what extent and what the contents would be, but there already is in place the Resolution 1718, which stipulates that the North should refrain from all activities related to intercontinental ballistic missiles. So even if the North says it has launched a satellite, it would regardlessly be in violation of the resolution because (both the missile and satellite) use the same technology and same launch projectile. There is no room for doubt (that it is not in violation.) The Security Council's resolution is to keep North Korea from developing long-range rocket capability, regardless of whether it is a missile or a satellite. It is not a matter of if it is acceptable if the North fires a satellite. The resolution takes issue with the fact that the North, which has developed nuclear capabilities, is attempting to develop long-range rockets. Nobody would fear if the North fires a missile when it has no nuclear capacity. It would not make sense to develop such a costly intercontinental ballistic missile to mount a conventional bomb. It would make some sense to mount a conventional weapon on a short-range missile, but it is unimaginable to launch a three-phase rocket with a conventional warhead attached. It is because North Korea possesses nuclear capability that the Security Council issued the resolution banning the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The essence is not to develop long-range rockets, a three-phase rocket.

KH: How are South Korea, the United States and Japan working together to handle North Korea's missile launch attempt. Especially with the United States, is South Korea on the same page?

Yu: The Security Council would immediately call a meeting and discuss the specific measures they could consider. With the United States, we are still discussing the options. Our agreement so far is that the Security Council decision would hold the key. The allies would take necessary action on the sanctions, based on that decision. Our measures would be adjusted based on the council decision.

KH: Do you believe Russia and China would participate in the sanctions?

Yu: Russia and China would take part in the United Nations discussions. But as for the degree or extent of the sanctions, Japan, Russia, China and the United States have different thoughts. We can not criticize them for this because they have different views, concerns and stances. It is important that they find a common denominator amidst that. What is significant is that China and Russia also firmly believe that North Korea's persistence in developing intercontinental ballistic missiles are not helpful to international peace and security. It would be based on this belief that they would by all means seek to halt North Korea's development plans. That is what diplomacy is about. And bilateral discussions at the United Nations will also be needed, along with discussions within the six-party framework. North Korea has imposed a complicated task. There is a reason why the North has chosen the path it did, and while it may achieve its goal, there will be consequences to suffer, and the North will be bracing for them. It will also become increasingly isolated in international society. There is a reason why the North has chosen the path it did, and while it may achieve its goal, there will be consequences to suffer, and the North will be bracing for them.

KH: The South Korean government is partially taking part in the Proliferation Security Initiative and symphathizes with its principles. Would North Korea's missile launch serve as an occasion for Seoul to consider becoming a full-fledged member?

Yu: That is a possibility. If North Korea develops weapons of mass destruction and attains the capabilities, there will be a need to prevent the proliferation of that capacity. From this point of view, the launch may raise the need to review full membership. But the catch is that we need to consider the "special circumstances" of the Korean peninsula so it could arouse some controversy. We would have to be prudent because it would require policy consideration. We have yet to reach a decision. But (if the North launches the missile) there would be increased calls from public and media to seek extra effort to prevent proliferation. If the North becomes successful in intercontinental ballistic missiles, we also may see increased calls from the international society as well via the United Nations.

KH: Secretary of state Hilary Clinton mentioned the need for "missile talks" with North Korea after her recent meeting with her Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi. How would this be conducted?

Yu: We are yet uncertain of the modality of such talks. The missile talks were conducted purely in the form of bilateral talks towards the end of the Bill Clinton government, but after that the six-party process commenced and the Barack Obama government has made it clear that it would proactively support the six-nation talks because it believes it to be a critical framework for resolving the nuclear problem. So we would have to discuss with Washington the formality and modality of missile talks.

For now, there is the possibility of the missile agenda being dealt within the six-party framework. There are some pros and cons to consider. If Washington deals with the missile issue on a completely different track, some of the focus would be shifted (from the six-nation talks) so we would have to consider and discuss the pros and cons involved. For now, there would be an opportunity for Washington and Pyongyang to hold discussions within the six-party framework. The six-party talks involve not only the talks between all six nations, but also bilateral working-group discussions, so there is room for variety. Discussions among the related parties would be necessary to decide whether it would be more effective to discuss the missile issue wihin the six-party talks or on a separate basis.

The formality of the missile talks, if any, would be quite flexible. There would be no need to insist on one specific modality.

KH: Do you believe the United States and Japan would intercept North Korea's missile?

Yu: From a general point of view, any nation, in a situation where the lives and safety of its people could be endangered due to territorial violations, may feel obliged to take countermeasures.

KH: What are your predictions for when the six-party talks would resume, and prospects?

Yu: If North Korea launches its missile, there would be the countermeasures to consider, so the six-party talks would be affected. For now, it is difficult to predict when the talks would start. But because there would be two separate issues to deal with -- the missile and nuclear agenda -- we expect to face a more difficult and complicated situation. We would like to see short-term results, but we believe we would need more time. Another issue is whether the North would agree to the talks. There are too many factors of uncertainties at this point.

KH: Will President Lee Myung-bak hold a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama at the G-20 financial conference in London next month? What are the plans for future mutual visits between the two leaders?

Yu: We believe President Lee will meet with President Obama on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting. We decided to hold further discussions through our mutual diplomatic channels on when President Lee or President Obama could manage separate visits. The final decision is pending, but the two presidents are expected to meet separately before the year's end. They also may meet at the APEC meeting in November.

KH: The Obama and Lee administrations are seeking to adopt a declaration on the future vision of the bilateral alliance. What is the progress so far?

Yu: To further develop the 21st century strategic alliance, the government is in discussion for specifically laying out the vision declaration to buttress future-oriented ties.

KH: Washington has been upping calls for Seoul to step up global peacekeeping efforts to uphold the 21st century strategic alliance. How will Seoul react if Washington continues to expect a troop dispatch to Afghanistan?

Yu: There have been questions on whether Secretary Clinton raised the issue during her recent visit to Seoul, but she did not. What we have to discuss for now is sending police, necessary equipment, training support, agricultural and medical support. What we need to remember is that we can not decide on the dispatch just because the government wants to. It is a matter hinging on public sentiment and the National Assembly. It would be difficult to reach those stages. So for now, we should concentrate on civilian level cooperation, while seeking what contributions we may more actively pursue on both military and non-military terms.

We are frankly not quite confident about the public reaction. How such a dispatch may be received by the people, and how the National Assembly would react. If we fail to attain parliamentary approval, there is nothing we can do. At the moment, we are only thinking of what reconstruction efforts we may offer on the civilian level.

KH: What are the goal, desired effect and future action plans for President Lee's "New Asia Initiative?"

Yu: South Korea, now that it has reinforced its diplomatic relations with the neighboring four nations, is ready for and in need of widening the nation's diplomatic horizon by seeking full-fledged cooperative ties with all Asian nations.

We believe South Korea should capitalize on its unique position to help represent the Asian world in international society and work for their benefits by acting as a bridge connecting the developed and underdeveloped nations. In particular, Seoul would be ideal in playing such a role on global issues such as efforts for resolving the worldwide economic crisis and climate change.

For this goal, we will be working closely together with like-minded Asian nations to strengthen a cooperative network with them via multilateral diplomatic vehicles. The South Korea-ASEAN summit Seoul will host in June are part of such efforts, in addition to President Lee's latest agreements with New Zealand and Australia for starting free trade agreement discussions. South Korea will seek to become an Asian hub for such trade pacts by establishing free trade agreements with key Asian counterparts.

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Pyongyang Removed 75% of Spent Fuel Rods
Jung Sung-ki
The Korea Times
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North Korea has removed about 6,100 of its 8,000 spent fuel rods from the Yongbyon plutonium-processing reactor in an effort to meet disarmament obligations it promised under a 2007 denuclearization-for-aid deal, the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported, Saturday.

However, the North has apparently slowed down the removal process amid a stalemate over the six-party talks aimed at dismantling the communist state's nuclear weapons program, the report said.

The report also said it would take about three to four months for the North to reprocess the extracted fuel rods in a bid to reverse its denuclearization pledge.

The multinational talks, involving the United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia, have not been held for about three months, as North Korea has rejected a proposal by the United States and other participating nations to establish a protocol on ways to verify the North's nuclear materials and activities.

Discharging spent fuel rods is part of the agreed upon 11 steps to disable the Yongbyon reactor under the 2007 deal in which the communist state would receive energy assistance from the other five nations.

Earlier this year, South Korean officials visited Pyongyang to discuss Seoul's potential purchase of North Korea's unused fuel rods, but failed to reach a compromise.

The North is believed to have about 14,000 unused fuel rods that can be used in making 100 tons of uranium, which would cost around $11 million, experts say.

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E.  Russia

Russia Orders Major Modernization of Army
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The Kremlin has ordered the modernization of its nuclear arsenal over concerns that NATO is continuing its expansion toward Russian borders.

At a meeting with military chiefs in Moscow, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday ordered a "large-scale" rearmament of the Russian army and navy to begin in 2011.

The plans will "first of all" see the Kremlin boost its nuclear forces and modernize its nuclear arsenal.

"The primary task is to increase the combat readiness of our forces, first of all our strategic nuclear forces. They must be able to fulfill all the necessary tasks to ensure Russia's security," Medvedev told the top military officers.

Moscow announced last year that it would increase its military spending over the next two years. The Kremlin will spend nearly $140 billion (£94.5bn) on buying arms before 2011.

Moscow has repeatedly voiced concern over NATO's possible eastward expansion to include more former Soviet states, such as Georgia and Ukraine.

The US missile shield in Europe, which Moscow considers a grave threat to its national security, is another reason for the Russian military preparations.

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F.  Nuclear Industry

Australian Uranium Output Could Jump 20% by 2012
Bruce Hextall
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Australia's uranium industry could lift output by about 20 percent in three years, government and industry officials said on Monday, as the nation gears up for its first major expansion of uranium mining in a decade.

Australia's uranium industry has been hamstrung since the early 1980s by political hostility to the nuclear fuel, but long-standing bans on new mines by various state governments are gradually being lifted in the face of economic crisis.

A state-government minister and an industry executive told a conference that Australia could boost annual output of uranium oxide to 12,460 tonnes by 2012 from new mines in South Australia and Western Australia and from expansion of existing mines.

Australia produced 10,101 tonnes last year from its three existing mines, two of which are in South Australia and the other in the Northern Territory. Western Australia lifted its ban on new mines last year and Queensland may also lift its ban soon.

South Australian state mines minister Paul Holloway said Japan's Mitsui & Co (8031.T) had already invested A$104 million ($68.3 million) in December for a 49 percent stake in a new mine project called Honeymoon in the state's outback.

Canada's Uranium One (UUU.TO) Inc, which owns the rest, aims to produce about 400 tonnes per annum from 2010 from Honeymoon.

"While we expect increased competition within Australia now that Western Australia has dropped its long-standing opposition to uranium mining, this state still retains its first-mover advantage," Holloway said in a prepared speech. Among existing uranium producers, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA.AX), a unit of Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) (RIO.L), is expanding output at its Ranger mine in the Northern Territory and BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) (BLT.L) plans to lift output at its Olympic Dam mine in South Australia.

The country's third mine, Beverley in South Australia, is operated by U.S. based General Atomic's Heathgate Resources.

In Western Australia, Toro Energy Ltd (TOE.AX) hopes to have its Wiluna project in production as early as 2012.

Toro Energy chief executive Greg Hall told the conference the Wiluna project could produce 680 tonnes a year.

Toro and BHP, with its Yeerlirrie project, are the only firms currently holding uranium mining leases in Western Australia.

Hall told the conference that long-term uranium prices of about US$70 per pound were likely to be maintained as new nuclear power plants were brought oneam.

He said 43 new nuclear plants were being built and a further 106 planned world-wide, with 439 plants now in operation.

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Eskom Hires Alstom to Retrofit Units at Koeberg
Business Day
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French engineering group Alstom said on Friday it had signed a contract worth about € 125m with state-owned power utility Eskom.

Alstom will retrofit low-pressure turbines of the two units at Koeberg nuclear power station , increasing the station’s power output by more than 65MW, improving availability and reliability and extending the lifetime of the plant.

“The retrofits will be carried out during planned refuelling outages, thus reducing the chance of interruption to generation from the station,” Alstom said .

The units are shut down regularly for refuelling and maintenance.

Shutdowns , whether planned or unplanned, at any of the two units at the power station have in the past increased the strain on the national power grid, especially in the Western Cape. The power station is the backbone of electricity supply to that province.

Eskom has had to rely on electricity supply from the two open- cycle gas turbine power stations in the Western Cape to ensure continuity of electricity supply during shutdowns at the power station, the only nuclear power station in Africa.

Eskom spokesman Fani Zulu said retrofitting the Koeberg plant was part of the refurbishing work being done at the facility.

Alstom Turbomachines senior vice-president Guy Chardon said the company was “pleased to have this opportunity to further build on our relationship with Eskom through the supply of the retrofit for their two steam turbines”.

“We believe nuclear energy offers a carbon-free, efficient, viable alternative for meeting increasing demand for energy .”

Eskom is in the middle of a major capital expansion programme that will improve SA’s electricity generating capacity, and Alstom has been a recipient of multibillion-rand contracts from the electricity provider, including the supply of turbines to the utility’s Medupi and Kusile coal-fired power stations. Alstom said its turbines generated about 80% of SA’s installed electricity capacity.

Eskom has a R343bn capital expansion programme, but the deteriorating conditions in the global financial markets have frustrated its plans to raise a significant portion of the money .

The Treasury has agreed to R175,97bn in loan guarantees over the next five years to finance its investment in new capacity.

The guarantees were in addition to the R60bn loan Finance Minister Trevor Manuel announced in his budget speech last year.

The loan, disbursed over three years, would be used for Eskom’s capital expenditure.

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Two Nuclear Power Plants Planned
Joong Ang Daily
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Korea plans to place an order for two nuclear power plants that will cost 6.3 trillion won ($4.2 billion) to cut its dependence on oil, said a government official and an executive at a unit of Korea Electric Power Corp.

The government will allocate 4.8 trillion won for land fees and other charges and 1.5 trillion won for the construction of the two 1,400-megawatt plants, said the official at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, who declined to be identified because the information hasn’t been released. The order may be placed in the second quarter, said the official at Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co., a unit of state-run Korea Electric.

Korea, which imports almost all of its oil, is trying to cut a reliance on crude oil and diversify its energy sources.

In December, the government said it plans to add 12 nuclear power plants to 20 existing units in the country by the end of 2022.

Nuclear plants will provide 48 percent of power generating capacity by 2022, a 34 percent increase from this year.

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Utilities Could Struggle to Fund £40bn New Nuclear Programme
Carol Millett
Contract Journal
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Utilities could struggle to deliver the UK's £40bn new nuclear programme due to high costs, the level of risk and the lack of debt funding in the market, according to a leading banking expert.

The UK Government is hoping utilities will deliver up to ten new build nuclear stations in the UK by 2025, with construction of the first plants starting in 2013. However Stephen Vaughan, head of utilities at Rothschild told delegates that the high cost and risks associated with nuclear new build, combined with scarcity of debt funding, could see far fewer nuclear plants built in the UK than planned.

Speaking at the Nuclear Build: Construction Challenges Conference in London, Vaughan said that the current debt funding crisis, combined with the high risks associated with building new nuclear plants, meant utilities would have to fund their nuclear reactor schemes on balance sheet.

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G.  Nuclear Energy

Energy Minister Hopes to Expand Paks Nuclear Power Plant
The Budapest Times
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Hungary's energy minister on Saturday said he hoped that Parliament would endorse an expansion of the country's sole nuclear plant in Paks, south of Budapest.

Csaba Molnar said that the government seeks approval for preparations to build one or more new blocks at the plant. He added that expanding capacity of the plant to 1000 megawatts would cost some 2.5-3 billion euros.

Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said in February that the government was asking Parliament to approve the doubling of capacities in Paks in the first half of this year. "Hungary's medium-term plan today is to have the region's most independent energy system which is the most diversified and stands on many feet, in order to avoid getting in trouble in the future," he said.

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Lasers to Create Mini Sun in Hunt for Clean Energy
Chris Gourlay and Jonathan Leake
The Times
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Scientists are to use the world’s most powerful laser system to replicate the fiery core of the sun in experiments that may ultimately offer humanity a clean source of energy.

After more than 50 years of experimentation, physicists are hoping to develop the first form of nuclear fusion technology that produces more energy than it consumes.

Within the next fortnight, researchers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California will fire 192 separate laser beams capable of generating 500 trillion watts - 1,000 times the power of the US national grid - for a fraction of a second.

The energy pulse will be concentrated on a tiny pellet of hydrogen in an attempt to mimic the reactions that take place inside the sun. The scientists hope to refine the process over the next year until they trigger a nuclear reaction capable of producing large amounts of energy.

“We hope the ignition experiments will show that we can generate more power than we put in and that fusion can be the source of a supply of carbon-free energy,” said Ed Moses, director of the NIF.

“I think the old joke about fusion being just 50 years away, no matter when you ask, is about to become defunct.

“If we succeed, public perception of fusion will change because it is the ultimate energy source - no carbon, limitless, safe and secure.”

NIF was built to test designs for thermonuclear weapons. However, its research will also show how fusion might be used as a peaceful source of energy.

It is among a handful of international projects focused on delivering nuclear fusion.

In France, work has begun on building the £8 billion Iter fusion project, which uses magnetic fields rather than lasers to create the conditions for fusion. However, Iter’s first “burn”, or reaction, is not expected until 2022.

A British-led fusion project, the high power laser programme (HiPER), is expected to build a reactor at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in Oxfordshire by 2020.

The fusion process mimics reactions that take place inside the sun. Unlike nuclear fission reactions - in which atoms are split apart - the fusion process squeezes atoms together under enormous pressures and temperatures until they fuse, releasing huge quantities of energy.

“It’s long been said by scientists that fusion is just around the corner,” said John Collier, head of the HiPER project. “But if the NIF gets it right, I think we’ve overcome the critical hurdle by showing that we can gain more energy than we put into the reaction.”

The next step would be to create a reactor capable of producing a steady stream of energy.

“The limitation with NIF is you can only fire it around once a month,” said Collier. “HiPER is designed to look at the next step - designing a prototype to show this technology can be commercially viable.”

Even if scientists are able to tame fusion reactions, most experts believe we would still be at least 25 years away from being able to build fusion power stations that could provide a clean alternative to fossil fuels.

Such power stations would use hydrogen atoms extracted from sea water as fuel to generate carbon-free electricity with minimal radioactive waste.

Last week leading scientists issued a plea to politicians to take action on climate change now or face decades of war and social unrest and a planet that becomes unrecognisable.

Mike Dunne, a director at RAL, believes the time has come to invest in nuclear fusion. “If the NIF succeeds, as we expect it to, I fully expect a dramatic public and political response,” he said.

“But to fully take advantage of its success, politicians must start investing in fusion now.

“We probably need around £10 billion internationally. That’s obviously a large sum but, to put it into context, the global energy market is worth around £1.4 trillion annually.”

However, the NIF experiment is not without controversy. The Californian facility’s primary purpose is to allow munitions to be tested without a radioactive fallout, which would contravene the nuclear test ban treaty.

Critics fear the US military is using the NIF complex to develop a new generation of advanced nuclear weapons, although a spokesman for the facility denied this.

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Uganda Gets Ready for Nuclear Energy
Henry Mukasa
The New Vision
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Uganda mineral fortunes continue to rise. From petroleum in Lake Albert region, the country is now getting ready to embrace the first ever nuclear energy programme from uranium, which a Canadian company has prospected in Mubende, a central region.

The company, IBI Corporation (IBI - TSX Venture), has kick-started the process of prospecting for uranium on its approximately 2,000 square kilometres of land in the area. The international mining and investment company issued a statement on Tuesday, from Toronto, that it has formed the first advisory board meeting to prepare and present a proposal for a Nuclear Energy Program for Uganda (NEPU).

President Yoweri Museveni requested for the NEPU proposal during a recent meeting where IBI president, Gary A. Fitchett, outlined the company’s conceptual uranium development strategy.

“IBI’s uranium development strategy for Uganda views the country’s potential uranium resources as a strategic mineral that should be used for the benefit of Ugandans through the development of a national nuclear electrical power generation program,” the statement said.

IBI observed that if successful, the uranium would provide electricity to boost the hydro that has not satisfied the county’s power demands.

IBI’s NEPU advisory board includes, among others; Joshua Tuhumwire, Commissioner, Uganda Department of Geological Survey and Mines; Paul Sherwen, Chairman, Uganda Chamber of Mines and Elly Karuhanga, Director IBI Corporation.

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H.  Links of Interest

A 'Back Channel' Appeal to Iran
Doyle McManus
Los Angeles Times
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Urgent Rethink on the Nuclear Option
Ian Fells
The Times
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DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of Partnership for Global Security. Partnership for Global Security takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.

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