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

A.  Official Statements
    1. Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors, IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA (3/2/2009)
B.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Obama 'Ready to Drop Shield Plans for Russian Help on Iran', RIA Novosti (3/2/2009)
    2. U.S. Outreach to Iran Could Aid IAEA Probe: ElBaradei, Mark Heinrich and Sylvia Westall, Reuters (3/2/2009)
C.  Iran
    1. U.S. Officials' About-Face on Iran Nukes Could Sway Obama Policy, Amos Harel, Haaretz (3/2/2009)
    2. Iran Dismisses Concerns About Nuclear Material, Nasser Karimi, Associated Press (3/2/2009)
    3. Arms Experts Correct the Record on Iran Uranium Claims, Greg Thielmann and Peter Crail, Arms Control Association (3/2/2009)
    4. Clinton Doubtful Iran Will Respond to US Diplomacy, Robert Burns, Associated Press (3/2/2009)
    5. IAEA Officials: All Materials at Natanz Under Control, Tehran Times  (3/1/2009)
    6. Iran Set to Build More Nuclear Plants, PressTV (3/1/2009)
D.  Russia-Iran
    1. Russia and Iran to Ink 10 Year Nuclear Fuel Supply Contract, RIA Novosti (3/2/2009)
    2. Russia 'Not Involved in Iran Sanctions Plan', PressTV (2/28/2009)
    1. New US North Korea Envoy Arrives in Beijing, Alison Klayman, VOA News (3/3/2009)
    2. NKorea, UN Command Hold Urgent Talks at Korean DMZ, Kim Hyung-Jin, Associated Press (3/2/2009)
    3. SKorea Has New Nuke Envoy, Agence France-Presse (3/2/2009)
    4. Seoul Urges NKorea to Drop Nuclear, Missile Plans, Agence France-Presse (3/1/2009)
F.  Syria
    1. 'Special Inspections' for Syrian Nukes, United Press International (2/27/2009)
G.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Brazil Flips The Switch On Uranium Enrichment Plant, Jessicah Curtis, The Huffington Post (3/2/2009)
    2. Israeli Scientists Suggest ‘Peaceful’ Nuclear Fuel, Yehudah Lev Kay, Israel National News (3/2/2009)
    3. JAEC Running on All Cylinders to Achieve Nuclear Ambitions, Taylor Luck, The Jordan Times (3/1/2009)
    4. Four More Floating Nuke-Plants, Barents Observer (3/1/2009)
    5. GCC Keen to Establish Peaceful Nuclear Programme, Says Kuwait, Arab Times (2/28/2009)
H.  Nuclear Industry
    1. Westinghouse Helps Develop China's Nuclear Sector, Wan Zhihong, China Daily (3/2/2009)
    2. S.Korea Scraps Uranium Deals on Weak Prices-Report, Angela Moon, Reuters (3/1/2009)
I.  Links of Interest
    1. Can President Barack Obama Save the Non-Proliferation Treaty?, Scitizen (3/2/2009)
    2. Critical Moment for the Six-Party Process, The Hankyoreh (2/28/2009)
    3. International Status and Prospects of Nuclear Power, IAEA (2/27/2009)
    4. The Nuclear Technology Review 2008, IAEA (2/27/2009)

A.  Official Statements

Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors
IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei
(for personal use only)

Our agenda for this meeting includes topics related to nuclear safety, technology and verification.

Nuclear Safety and Security

As you can see from the draft Nuclear Safety Review for the Year 2008, we are pleased to report that nuclear safety performance worldwide is steadily improving. But the risk of nuclear accidents or malicious acts can never be eliminated and there can be no room for complacency. Vigilance and continuous improvement are key, both at existing nuclear facilities and at new facilities being planned in a growing number of countries. The drive to introduce, or expand the use of, nuclear power always needs to be matched by a strong commitment to safety and security as indispensable enablers of nuclear technology.

While substantial progress has been made in strengthening nuclear safety and security worldwide, much work remains to be done. For our part, I believe the Agency must focus on improving the Incident and Emergency Centre to enhance our capabilities to respond to a large accident, as well as to provide more effective support for capacity building in Member States, especially for new entrants to nuclear power.

Nuclear Applications

You have before you the Nuclear Technology Review 2009. It highlights ways in which nuclear techniques can make real and lasting contributions to development.

In therapeutic nuclear medicine, progress continues to be made in developing radiopharmaceuticals which kill cancer cells without damaging healthy tissue. Nuclear imaging is playing a growing role in the development of new drugs. Radiotracer tools are being used to measure the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity, while isotope techniques are helping to improve freshwater management.

There have been disruptions over the past year in the supplies of a vital medical isotope, molybdenum-99, needed for diagnostic imaging, which had a negative impact on patient services throughout the world. There is an urgent need for enhanced international cooperation to ensure that adequate supplies of this isotope are available for all.

Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy
The Agency´s Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), now in its fourth year of operation, continues to build partnerships to help combat cancer more effectively in the developing world. We are grateful for continued Member State support for our initiatives in the cancer area. I am pleased to announce that an agreement between the IAEA and the World Health Organization for a new Joint Programme on Cancer Control will be signed shortly.

Food Security
I reported to the Board in March 2008 that the FAO had served notice of its intention to terminate the FAO/IAEA Joint Division. There have been extensive consultations by the Secretariat with the FAO Secretariat and with the Member States of both organizations, and I trust that the work undertaken by the Joint Division - an excellent early example of "Delivering as One" within the UN System - will be recognized as indispensable by our counterparts in Rome and will continue.

Nuclear Power

2008 was a somewhat paradoxical year for nuclear power. It was the first year since 1955 in which not a single new power reactor came on line, but it also saw construction start on no fewer than ten new reactors, the highest number since 1985, the year before the Chernobyl accident.

As the Nuclear Technology Review shows, expectations for the use of nuclear power continue to rise. Growth targets for nuclear power were raised in China and the Russian Federation. The ending of restrictions on India´s nuclear trade should allow an acceleration of its planned expansion of nuclear power. Asia remains the focus of growth in nuclear power: of the ten construction starts in 2008, eight were in this region.

There were important developments elsewhere as well. In the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has now received combined licence applications for 26 new reactors, while the Department of Energy submitted a formal application to build and operate the long-planned high-level waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

The number of Agency technical cooperation projects on energy planning accelerated this year from 29 to 41 and there were also significant increases in the number of projects on uranium exploration and mining and on introducing nuclear power. Increased interest in Agency assistance from so-called "newcomer" countries is substantial and we have a special responsibility to help them ensure that their nuclear programmes are well designed, well run, safe and secure. In December, we held a successful workshop on methods for newcomers to evaluate their progress in nuclear infrastructure development against the milestones that the Agency published in 2007.

In April, China will host an International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century, organized by the Agency with the support of the OECD/NEA. The conference will provide an opportunity to review the status and prospects of nuclear power, including the evolution of technology. It will also offer a forum for many countries considering the potential benefits of adding nuclear power to their energy mix to further assess its viability.

Assurance of Supply
You will recall that, for a number of years, I have been advocating the establishment of multinational mechanisms to assure access for all countries to nuclear fuel and reactor technology, as envisaged in the Statute. In September 2004, I asked an international expert group on multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle to consider ways in which the IAEA could facilitate guaranteeing the supply of nuclear fuel. One of the key recommendations of this expert group in February 2005 was to consider the possibility of the Agency becoming the administrator of a fuel bank. The Secretariat subsequently received several proposals concerning assurance of supply and international nuclear fuel centres, which were compiled in my report to the Board of 13 June 2007.

The report described some common themes for assurance of supply of nuclear fuel services and suggested a possible framework for discussion, which included a reserve of low enriched uranium under IAEA control. I am pleased to note important progress on two specific proposals that aim to establish a fuel assurance mechanism with the involvement of the Agency:

First, I have circulated, at the request of the Russian Federation, document GOV/INF/2009/1, which outlines a proposal for a low enriched uranium reserve for the use of Member States that Russia intends to present in detail, in the near future, for your consideration. It provides assured export licences and covers all long term costs. I trust that the Board will positively consider the detailed Russian proposal and give due consideration to other concrete proposals which may be forthcoming.

Second, I can report a positive initial response to the Nuclear Threat Initiative´s offer of $50 million for a low enriched uranium reserve, contingent on contributions of an additional $100 million by others by the end of September 2009 and on the Board choosing to establish such a fuel reserve of last resort under its auspices. To date, with the contributions and pledges made by Norway ($5 million), the USA ($50 million), the United Arab Emirates ($10 million) and the European Union (€25 million), the international community is quite close to meeting the target of matching contributions specified by the NTI. Once the remaining funding is secured, I intend, with the Board´s agreement, to develop a possible framework for this proposal for the Board´s consideration.

I remain convinced that a multilateral approach has great potential to facilitate the expanded safe and secure use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, while reducing the risk of proliferation. The ideal scenario, in my opinion, would be to start with a nuclear fuel bank under IAEA auspices, based on the following principles: 1) that any such mechanism should be non-political, non-discriminatory and available to all States in compliance with their safeguards obligations; 2) that any release of material should be determined by non-political criteria established in advance and applied objectively and consistently; and 3) that no State should be required to give up its rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty regarding any parts of the nuclear fuel cycle. The next step would be to agree that all new enrichment and reprocessing activities should be placed exclusively under multilateral control, to be followed by agreement to convert all existing facilities from national to multilateral control.

This is a bold agenda and it is clearly not going to happen overnight. But bold measures, including assurances of nuclear fuel supply and multinationalizing sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle, are vital if we are to enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world while curbing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and eliminating them altogether.

Verification of Nuclear Non-Proliferation

Status of Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols
You have before you a draft comprehensive safeguards agreement with a modified Small Quantities Protocol for Djibouti, and draft additional protocols for Djibouti, India and the United Arab Emirates. It is encouraging that a number of comprehensive safeguards agreements have recently entered into force, bringing the number of NPT non-nuclear-weapon States without the required safeguards agreement down to 27. This is a positive trend that needs to be maintained. For those NPT States without the required comprehensive safeguards agreements in force, the Agency cannot perform any safeguards activities or draw any safeguards conclusions. I also reiterate my call on all States that have not yet done so to bring into force additional protocols without delay, as these are central to the Agency´s ability to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. To date, additional protocols are in force for 90 States.

Application of Safeguards in the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea
In the DPRK, the Agency has continued to monitor and verify the shutdown status of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities. All of the fuel rods discharged from the 5 MWe reactor remain under Agency containment and surveillance.

Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran
You have before you my report on Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008) and 1835 (2008) in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran, including all declared low enriched uranium. As the Report states, contrary to the request of the Board of Governors and the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, or its work on heavy water related projects. Nor has Iran implemented the Additional Protocol, which, as with other countries with comprehensive safeguards agreements, is a prerequisite for the Agency to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. Iran has not permitted the Agency to perform the required design information verification at the IR-40 reactor currently under construction, and it has not implemented the modified text of its Subsidiary Arrangements General Part on the early provision of design information.

The Agency regrettably was unable to make any progress on the remaining issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions of Iran´s nuclear programme because of lack of cooperation by Iran. For the Agency to be able to make progress, Iran needs to provide substantive information and access to relevant documentation, locations and individuals in connection with all of the outstanding issues.

Unless Iran implements the transparency measures and the Additional Protocol, as required by the Security Council, the Agency will not be in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran. I again urge Iran to implement all measures required to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme at the earliest possible date and to unblock this stalemated situation. At the same time, I urge the Member States which have provided information to the Agency to agree to the Agency´s sharing of this information with Iran.

Finally, I am hopeful that the apparent fresh approach by the international community to dialogue with Iran will give new impetus to the efforts to resolve this long-standing issue in a way that provides the required assurances about the peaceful nature of Iran´s nuclear programme, while assuring Iran of its right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic
The Agency has continued its analysis of all information available to it, including from the 23 June 2008 visit to the Dair Alzour site. Further analysis of the environmental samples taken from the Dair Alzour site has been carried out, revealing additional particles of uranium which had been produced as a result of chemical processing. These particles, and those identified as a result of the previous analyses, are of a type not included in Syria´s declared inventory of nuclear material. Syria has stated that the origin of the uranium particles was the missiles used to destroy the building. In response to a letter from the Agency, Israel denied that the uranium particles originated in Israel. The Agency´s current assessment is that there is a low probability that the uranium was introduced by the use of missiles.

In a letter dated 15 February 2009, Syria reiterated that the destroyed facility, and the current facility, on the Dair Alzour site were military installations and not involved in any nuclear activities. The letter did not address many of the questions raised by the Agency. Syria´s responses to some of the Agency´s questions were only partial and included information already provided to the Agency.

The Agency expects Syria to provide additional information and supporting documentation about the past use and nature of the building at the Dair Alzour site, and information about procurement activities. Providing additional access to other locations alleged to be related to Dair Alzour would be a welcome sign of Syria´s transparency. Such access, together with the sampling of destroyed and salvaged equipment and debris, is essential for the Agency to complete its assessment. I urge Syria to take these measures at the earliest possible date. I also urge Israel and other States that may possess relevant information - including satellite imagery - to make it available to the Agency and to agree to the Agency´s sharing of such information with Syria.

Programme and Budget

Two weeks ago, you received The Agency´s Draft Programme and Budget 2010-2011. I take this opportunity to emphasize that the proposed substantial increase in the budget was not taken lightly, particularly given the current financial climate. But the risks at hand - resulting, among other things, from years of zero growth policies - mean these critical needs can no longer be postponed. They must be addressed with a sense of urgency.

For example, with nuclear terrorism being the greatest threat to international peace and security, it is imperative that we begin, now, a process of providing adequate regular budget funding for our nuclear safety and security programme - parts of which are currently as much as 95% dependent on insecure extrabudgetary resources.

Increasing demands for energy, and concerns regarding both climate change and security of energy supplies, have led to some 50 countries turning to the Agency for help as they explore the possible introduction of nuclear power programmes. The Agency must have sufficient resources to help these countries to accomplish their objectives and to ensure that any new programmes are implemented with the highest regard for safety and security. And we are, of course, mandated to effectively safeguard the steadily increasing amounts of nuclear material worldwide and respond to the clandestine spread of nuclear technology.

At the same time, calls from Member States for help in meeting basic human needs - in disease treatment, food production and securing supplies of drinking water, for example - have never been more pressing or of a higher priority.

In addition to these operational requirements, the Agency needs to undertake long postponed capital investment in infrastructure and specialized equipment. The deteriorating conditions in our laboratories, for example, threaten both our ability to deliver our programme, as well as our independent analytical capability. And we need a mechanism - a major capital fund - that will facilitate rational planning and responsible resource accumulation for these longer term requirements. Major projects vital for improving the Agency´s efficiency and effectiveness include the ISIS Re-engineering Project (IRP) to upgrade our safeguards data systems and support the new State-level safeguards system. The Agency-wide Information System for Programme Support (AIPS) will also bring greater transparency to our financial and procurement operations.

So, yes - the needs are indeed critical and quite urgent. I therefore urge you to give the 2010-2011 Programme and Budget the earnest consideration that it deserves.

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B.  Nuclear Cooperation

Obama 'Ready to Drop Shield Plans for Russian Help on Iran'
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

Washington has told Moscow that Russian help in resolving Iran's nuclear program would make its missile shield plans for Europe unnecessary, a Russian daily said on Monday, citing White House sources.

U.S. President Barack Obama made the proposal on Iran in a letter to his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, Kommersant said, referring to unidentified U.S. officials.

Iran's controversial nuclear program was cited by the U.S. as one of the reasons behind its plans to deploy a missile base in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic. The missile shield has been strongly opposed by Russia, which views it as a threat to its national security. The dispute has strained relations between the former Cold War rivals, already tense over a host of other differences.

The leaders have exchanged letters and had a telephone conversation since Obama was sworn into office in January, Kommersant said. The first high-level Russia-U.S. meeting will take place later this week, when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Geneva.

Moscow has not yet responded to the proposal by Obama, the paper said, adding that a decision was unlikely to be made during Lavrov and Clinton's meeting.

The issue is likely to be discussed when Obama and Medvedev meet in London on April 2 on the sidelines of the G20 summit of world leaders to address the financial crisis. Earlier reports said Medvedev had also invited the U.S. leader to visit Russia and the date of Obama's first visit to the largest country in the world could be announced in the British capital.

In an interview on Sunday with Spanish media, Medvedev said he hoped to discuss the issue of missile defense with Obama in London. He also said he hoped the new U.S. administration would display a "more creative approach" to the issue than its predecessors.

"We have received signals from our American colleagues," Medvedev said. "I expect those signals will turn into specific proposals. I hope to discuss the issue, which is extremely important for Europe, with U.S. President Barack Obama."

The United States and other Western nations suspect Tehran of secretly seeking nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is purely aimed at generating electricity. However, unlike his predecessor, George W. Bush, Obama has stated a preference for diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on the NBC television channel on Sunday that the Islamic Republic was not close to building a nuclear bomb. "They're not close to a stockpile, they're not close to a weapon at this point, and so there is some time," Gates said.

Gates also said that while more sanctions should be imposed against Iran, the door should not be closed to diplomacy.

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U.S. Outreach to Iran Could Aid IAEA Probe: ElBaradei
Mark Heinrich and Sylvia Westall
(for personal use only)

A new U.S. readiness to engage Iran could help resolve suspicions about its nuclear work but Tehran must do more to "unblock this stalemated situation," the U.N. nuclear watchdog chief said on Monday. Mohamed ElBaradei made the remarks in an address kicking off a week-long meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors in Vienna, the first since U.S. President Barack Obama took office on January 20.

ElBaradei also said Syria was obstructing IAEA efforts to clarify U.S. intelligence indications that it almost built a covert nuclear reactor geared to yielding plutonium for atom bombs before it was destroyed in a 2007 Israeli air strike.

Obama has signaled a readiness to talk to Iran, Syria and other U.S. foes without preconditions after years of unfruitful isolation policy by George W. Bush, but concrete steps await the outcome of a foreign policy review in about a month.

Still, Washington's return under Obama to support for multilateral cooperation to address frozen conflicts has been greeted with relief in the IAEA and by many of its governors, and ElBaradei's remarks touched on that.

"I am hopeful that the apparent fresh approach by the international community to dialogue with Iran will give new impetus to the efforts to resolve this long-standing issue in a way that provides the required assurances about the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, while assuring Iran of its right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes," he said.

ElBaradei did not mention the Obama administration by name, but his inference was clear.


But he reiterated that Iran was stonewalling IAEA attempts to defuse mistrust in its nuclear ambitions by:

* refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can yield fuel for power plants or, if reconfigured, for atom bombs.

* refusing to allow U.N. inspector checks beyond declared nuclear installations.

* refusing to let inspectors go to a heavy water reactor under construction to verify Iranian design data to ensure it will be put only to peaceful uses.

* refusing to provide documentation, access to officials for interviews and relevant sites to check intelligence allegations of "possible military dimensions" to its nuclear fuel program.

"I again urge Iran to implement all measures required to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program at the earliest possible date and to unblock this stalemated situation," ElBaradei told the gathering.

Iran says it is enriching uranium for a planned network of nuclear power plants, not weapons as Western powers suspect.

It says the mainly U.S. intelligence is forged and the access the IAEA is seeking involves classified information and military sites of a conventional, not nuclear, nature and therefore beyond the agency's scope.

Iran stopped allowing wider-ranging inspector movements in retaliation for U.N. sanctions it calls unjust and illegal.

On Syria, IAEA inspectors say enough traces of uranium were found in soil samples taken in one trip to the bombed site granted by Syria last June to constitute a "significant" find, and satellite pictures revealed a building resembling a reactor.

ElBaradei said Syria repeated in a February 15 letter to the IAEA that the wrecked facility, and another built on top of it, were military installations not involved in nuclear activities.

"The letter did not address many of the questions (we) raised. Syria's responses to some of (our) questions were only partial and included information already provided," he said.

He again pressed Syria to back up its denials of wrongdoing with documentation and more on-the-ground IAEA access.

"Such access, together with the sampling of destroyed and salvaged equipment and debris, is essential for the agency to complete its assessment," ElBaradei said.

Diplomats close to the IAEA say satellite imagery shows Syria removed such materials and landscaped sites in question to alter their appearance after inspectors asked to see them.

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C.  Iran

Arms Experts Correct the Record on Iran Uranium Claims
Greg Thielmann and Peter Crail
Arms Control Association
(for personal use only)

Experts at the nonpartisan Arms Control Association (ACA) urged senior U.S. officials and the media to exhibit greater care to accurately state what is known about Iran's nuclear capabilities. The experts highlighted the confusion created over the weekend by inaccurate portrayals of the type of nuclear material Iran has produced which suggested that Tehran was closer to a nuclear weapon than public U.S. intelligence and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports indicate.

Responding to a question on CNN's "State of the Union" Mar. 1 regarding whether Iran has enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen stated "we think they do, quite frankly, and Iran having a nuclear weapon, I've believed for a long time, is a very, very bad outcome for the region and for the world."

The question was based on a Feb. 19 IAEA report which found that Iran has now stockpiled approximately 1010 kilograms of low-enriched uranium (LEU), an amount which, theoretically, could be enough to make material for a weapon if enriched further. The question confused this stockpile with fissile material, which is either highly-enriched uranium (HEU) or plutonium. LEU cannot be used in a nuclear weapon.

"Mullen's answer unfortunately contributed to this confusion and suggested that the United States believes that Iran has already created the material needed for a nuclear weapon, which does not seem to be the case according to published U.S. intelligence assessments," stated Greg Thielmann, senior fellow with ACA. Thielmann directs ACA's new "Realistic Threats and Responses" project.

Mullen's spokesman, Captain John Kirby, later offered a correction to CNN, stating that Mullen was only referring to the LEU identified in the IAEA report.

"The confusion surrounding the question of what material Iran has and whether or not it has enough for a weapon demonstrates the need to be precise when defining what we know about Iran's capabilities, especially considering the impact such assessments may have on public perception," said Peter Crail, a research analyst for ACA.

"Low-enriched uranium is not fissile material and the IAEA did not say that Iran had any of the latter," Crail noted. "But with headlines running over the past week stating that Iran had enough material for a bomb, one could easily assume there was not much of a difference," he added.

The stockpile of LEU cited in the IAEA report remains under agency safeguards. In order to use this material for a weapon, Iran would need to remove it from agency containment and surveillance and enrich it further to the high levels needed for a weapon. Iran's declared enrichment facility at Natanz is not currently configured to carry out this additional enrichment and doing so would require actions that would be detected by IAEA inspectors. Accordingly, the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) assessed that Iran would most likely use a clandestine facility to produce HEU if it decided to build a weapon. It is not known whether Iran has such a secret facility at present.

The U.S. intelligence community also continues to assess that Iran is still some time from having enough HEU for a weapon. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said in Senate testimony Feb. 15, "Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame."

"There are a number of reasons for this timeframe, including assumptions about the efficiency Iran has demonstrated in running its centrifuges," Thielmann stressed.

When asked Mar. 1 on NBC's "Meet the Press" about the possibility of getting Iran to abandon nuclear weapons, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates offered a measured answer, stating that the Iranians are "not close to a stockpile, they're not close to a weapon at this point and so there is some time," to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"Gates underscored an important point regarding what we know about Iran's capabilities and what it means for our strategy," Thielmann said. "His remarks imply that there has been no change in the intelligence community's 2007 assessment that Iran halted its covert nuclear weapons program in the Fall of 2003. If Iran is still some time from having sufficient material for a weapon, and indeed, has not made a decision to develop and test a weapon, there is still time for a diplomatic strategy to try to walk Iran away from such a course," argued Thielmann.

"In terms of the bigger picture, what is far more worrisome than Iran's stockpile of LEU under IAEA safeguards is the fact that Tehran is not providing the agency with broader access under the agency's Additional Protocol so that it can better detect any undeclared nuclear activities in the country, including through the monitoring of Iran's centrifuge manufacturing efforts," Crail asserted. "The public focus on the known nuclear material seems to gloss over the more critical risk of Iranian efforts that may occur, or may be occurring in secret," he said.

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Clinton Doubtful Iran Will Respond to US Diplomacy
Robert Burns
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed doubt Monday that Iran would respond to the Obama administration's expressions of interest in engaging Tehran on nuclear and other issues, a senior State Department official said.

Clinton made the statement in a private meeting with the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, who had expressed to Clinton a concern among Persian Gulf nations that Obama might make a deal with Iran without full consultation with U.S. allies. The official who described the exchange spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.

Clinton told her counterpart that the Obama administration is carefully calculating its moves and will consult fully with Gulf allies.

"We're under no illusions," the official quoted Clinton as telling al Nahyan. "Our eyes are wide open on Iran."

Clinton and al Nahyan were in Sharm el-Sheik to attend an international conference to raise money for the war-torn Gaza Strip. They met during a break.

She told the UAE minister, whose country has close historic commercial ties to Iran but is wary of Iranian nuclear ambitions, that she doubts the Iranian government will respond to U.S. diplomatic initiatives. Last week Clinton announced that she has appointed veteran diplomat Dennis Ross to be her special adviser on matters related to the Gulf, to include overtures to the Iranians.

The U.S. official said Clinton's statement did not reflect a change in her view of the likely outcome of efforts to engage Iran. The Bush administration refused to deal with Iran unless it first halted its uranium enrichment program, which Iran insists is strictly for peaceful nuclear energy but that the United States and other countries believe is a step toward building an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

On Sunday in Washington, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a broadcast interview that Iran has sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon and warned of a dire outcome if Tehran moves forward with building a bomb.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran has processed 2,222 pounds (1,010 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium. But the report left unclear whether Iran is now capable, even if it wanted, of further enriching that material to the much higher degree needed to build a warhead.

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi told reporters in Tehran, "We have said many times that a nuclear weapon has no place in Iran's defense doctrine."

Obama has said from the start of his administration that if Iran unclenched its fist the United States would extended an open hand.

Clinton also told her UAE counterpart that Iran's "worst nightmare" is an international community united against Iranian nuclear ambitions, the U.S. official said.

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Iran Dismisses Concerns About Nuclear Material
Nasser Karimi
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Iran on Monday dismissed U.S. concerns about how much fissile material the country has produced, saying it isn't developing a nuclear bomb and that any effort to make weapons-grade uranium would be difficult under the eyes of international inspectors.

The comments came a day after the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said Iran has sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon and warned of a dire outcome if Tehran moves forward with building a bomb.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran has processed 2,222 pounds (1,010 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium. But the report left unclear whether Iran is now capable, even if it wanted, of further enriching that material to the much higher degree needed to build a warhead.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi told reporters in Tehran, "We have said many times that a nuclear weapon has no place in Iran's defense doctrine."

Qashqavi did not comment specifically on the amount of fissile material Iran has produced. But he implied that even if Iran wanted to produce weapons-grade uranium, it would be difficult since the country's enrichment facility is being monitored by the IAEA.

"How is it possible for uranium enriched 3 to 4 percent to be enriched up to 90 percent while under IAEA monitoring?" he said.

Iran says its nuclear program aims only to generate electricity and has been producing uranium that is less than 5 percent enriched in line with fuel needs of modern reactors. Nuclear weapons use uranium that is enriched to about 90 percent.

The U.S. and many of its allies suspect Iran's real aim is to develop a program that would allow it to produce nuclear weapons and fear it will take the next step to further process its enriched uranium. International inspectors have not said Iran has taken that step.

Uranium is enriched by spinning a uranium gas at supersonic speeds in a series of thousands of centrifuges, and the technology can be used to produce low-enriched uranium for fuel or high-enriched for a warhead. But the latter requires more complicated techniques, and experts say it is unclear whether Iran has mastered the process.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, also appearing on a Sunday talk show, did not go as far as Mullen, saying the Iranians were not close to a weapon at this point, leaving time for diplomatic efforts. Gates appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, while Mullen was interviewed on "Fox News Sunday."

President Barack Obama has offered increased diplomatic engagement with Iran in a bid to prove Tehran has more to lose by ignoring the wishes of countries concerned about its uranium enrichment than it has to gain through its nuclear efforts.

The U.N. has passed three sets of sanctions against Iran for its failure to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

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U.S. Officials' About-Face on Iran Nukes Could Sway Obama Policy
Amos Harel
(for personal use only)

Israel is anxiously awaiting the new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, which is due to be published in another month.

President Barack Obama's administration is currently formulating its policy toward Iran's nuclear program, and the revised NIE will serve as the basis for its conclusions. The administration has already decided that it wants to begin a dialogue with Iran, but it is still wrestling with questions such as how to prevent Iran from advancing its nuclear program under cover of negotiations and what role sanctions should play in the process.

The last NIE effectively stymied efforts to impose stiffer sanctions on Iran by declaring that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program. Since then, however, Iran has been feverishly developing its uranium enrichment capabilities - widely considered the hardest part of making a nuclear bomb - and some experts now believe it has enough fuel for its first bomb.
On Sunday, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told CNN's "State of the Union" program that he believes Iran has enough fissile material for a bomb.

"We think they do, quite frankly," Mullen said.

However, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates hastened to deny this.

"They're not close to a stockpile, they're not close to a weapon at this point, and so there is some time," Gates said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

These differing assessments were apparently more a matter of terminology than substance. Mullen said merely that Iran had enough material for a nuclear "device," whereas Gates in the past has always spoken specifically about the amount of material needed to put a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile.

Both men were responding to a report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency last month that said Iran had built up a stockpile of 1,010 kilograms of low-enriched uranium. Many analysts say that would be enough for a bomb, if converted into highly-enriched uranium.

Israel's assessment has thus far been that Iran will achieve enough fissionable material for a bomb by the end of 2009. The U.S., however, had until recently maintained that this would not happen until 2010.

Adm. Dennis Blair, the U.S. director of national intelligence, told Congress last month, "Iran probably has imported at least some weapons-usable fissile material but [we] still judge it has not obtained enough for a nuclear weapon. We cannot rule out that Iran has acquired from abroad or will acquire in the future a nuclear weapon or enough fissile material for a weapon."

Blair also reiterated that Iran was continuing work on two of the three technologies needed for a nuclear arms program - uranium enrichment technology and nuclear-capable ballistic missile systems. U.S. intelligence agencies have said that Iran suspended the third program, namely, developing an actual nuclear warhead.

Several senior U.S. officials have reiterated in recent days that the goal of Obama's planned dialogue is to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting on Iraq last Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice stressed that the U.S. intends to "seek an end to Iran's ambition to acquire an illicit nuclear capacity and its support for terrorism. It will aim to encourage both Iran and Syria to become constructive regional actors."

Mullen, in his remarks to CNN, said, "Iran having nuclear weapons, I've believed for a long time, is a very, very bad outcome - for the region and for the world."

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IAEA Officials: All Materials at Natanz Under Control
Tehran Times
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Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali Asqar Soltanieh said on Friday the agency officials have confirmed that all materials at Natanz uranium enrichment facilities are under their control.

Soltanieh made the remarks in reaction to some media reports about the declared amount of low-enriched uranium at Natanz.

He said that officials of the UN nuclear watchdog discussed the issue on Tuesday.

Meantime, an IAEA spokesperson said in a statement earlier that Iran is cooperating well with the United Nations nuclear inspectors, dismissing misleading allegations raised by the western media on Iranian nuclear program following the latest IAEA report on Iran.

In a statement last Sunday, IAEA Spokeswoman Melissa Fleming clarified the IAEA’s position on the misleading and naive articles in the U.S. and European press concerning Iran’s production of Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU), stressing that all Iran’s nuclear activities and materials are accounted for, that Tehran’s nuclear program includes no component which could worry the IAEA and that Iran has good cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog.

“IAEA has no reason at all to believe that the estimates of LEU produced in the (Natanz) facility were an intentional error by Iran. They are inherent in the early commissioning phases of such a facility when it is not known in advance how it will perform in practice,” Fleming clarified.

Elsewhere, Soltanieh denied reports about Iran having problem in processing uranium at UCF in Isfahan and providing the necessary amount of yellowcake for the site.

Referring to the Friday statement of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) members of the IAEA, the Iranian official noted the group’s demand for UN nuclear watchdog not to politicize the technical issues of Iran’s nuclear program.

They also underlined Iran’s right to use peaceful nuclear technology and criticized any country which wants to prevent Iran from its rights, he added.

Soltanieh said that NAM members had pointed to Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA on resolving the remaining issues and the agreed modality plan and urged implementation of the agency’s safeguards in the country be normalized.

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Iran Set to Build More Nuclear Plants
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Iran's authorities are determined to launch more nuclear power plants across the country, a prominent Iranian parliamentarian has stated.

"The start up of the Bushehr nuclear power plant made clear that the Iranian government and nation have an indomitable spirit for progress towards utilization of new energy sources," deputy head of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission in Iran's Parliament, Esmaeil Kowsari, said in an exclusive interview with IRNA News Agency on Saturday.

The Iranian lawmaker highlighted that following the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, western states rescinded their contracts under which they were liable to construct and complete the Bushehr plant. The pre-commission of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, nevertheless, made clear that Iran relies upon its professionals and is resolved to set up other nuclear plants elsewhere in the country.

"The Bushehr plant will generate some 250 megawatts of electricity by September 2009 and another 250 megawatts by the end of next Iranian year (ending March 21, 2010)," he said.

The Iranian nation under the visionary leadership of the late Imam Khomeini struggled for control of the country's infrastructure - a matter earlier assumed by outsiders. Foreign firms, in return, repudiated their projects with an aim to indicate they are not committed to their contractual obligations.

Kowsari noted that Iran intends to build the 360mw Darkhoein nuclear power plant in the south of the country through domestic technical know-how.
Iran on Wednesday pre-commissioned its Bushehr nuclear power plant at a ceremony attended by the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Gholam Reza Aghazadeh as well as the head of Russia's state nuclear company, Sergei Kiriyenko.

Pre-commissioning is an important step before the actual commissioning of the power plant located in Iran's southwest.

The West remains critical of Russia's involvement in building Iran's first nuclear power plant. Moscow says the plant is purely civilian and cannot be used for any weapons' program.

Russia last year completed delivery of nuclear fuel to the station under a total contract estimated to be worth about USD 1b.
Moscow says the plant poses no proliferation risk, as Iran will return all spent fuel rods to Russia.

The West accuses Iran of covertly seeking to build nuclear weapons, something Tehran denies. The Islamic Republic of Iran insists its nuclear activities are merely aimed at generating electricity in a bid to meet its soaring energy demand.

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D.  Russia-Iran

Russia and Iran to Ink 10 Year Nuclear Fuel Supply Contract
RIA Novosti
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RIA Novosti reported that Russia and Iran are planning to sign a nuclear fuel supply contract for a term of at least 10 years.

Mr Sergei Kiriyenko head of Russia's nuclear power corporation said that earlier in the day Russia had completed the construction of Iran's first nuclear power plant at Bushehr and would soon launch a trial run. But he did not say when the plant would go into operation, commenting that this would depend on the outcome of the testing.

Mr Kiriyenko said that "We're unable at this stage to set an exact date for the launch; we have an agreed on testing and inspection schedule. The actual date will depend on how these tests proceed."

He said that the plant in south Iran, which Russia undertook to finish as part of a 1998 contract was originally scheduled to go on line at the end of 2006, but the date has been pushed back several times.

Mr Kiriyenko previously said that under the Russian to Iranian contract, Russian experts would operate the plant's first reactor and create a team of skilled Russian staff.

Mr Manouchehr Mottaki foreign minister of Iran said earlier that the Bushehr plant would go on stream in the H1 of 2009.

In December 2007 to January 2008, Russia supplied nuclear fuel for the plant under control of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog. Iran has agreed to return spent nuclear fuel to Russia.

The construction of the Bushehr plant was started in 1975 by German companies. However, the German firms stopped work after a US embargo on hi-tech supplies to Iran was imposed following the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the subsequent seizure of the US embassy in Tehran by radical students.

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Russia 'Not Involved in Iran Sanctions Plan'
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Russia's UN envoy says the country has not been included in talks on a new EU plan to toughen sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

Reports indicate that the US allies in Europe -- France, Germany and the UK -- have prepared a proposal to impose sanctions on 34 Iranian institutions and 10 individuals who allegedly help develop Iran's nuclear program.

The list includes the Sharif University of Technology, which offers a nuclear physics engineering program to the countries brightest.

"If they have any discussions to that effect, we are not part of them," Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters on Friday.

Speaking after a UN Security Council meeting, Churkin said Iran's nuclear issue should be resolved through incentives and not sanctions.

"We have been talking with our partners in this group of six (5+1) about the need to produce incentives for Iranians to cooperate based on the well-known package of the six," he said.

The diplomat was referring to a Western package of political and economic incentives recently presented to Iran to convince the country to halt its uranium enrichment program.

The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) -- to which Tehran is a signatory -- grants Iran the right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes.

"Everybody is looking forward to the start of dialogue between the US and Iran," Churkin said in reference to US President Barack Obama's promise of a "principled and sustained engagement" with Iran.

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New US North Korea Envoy Arrives in Beijing
Alison Klayman
VOA News
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The United States' new chief emissary on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, arrives in Beijing, Tuesday. His visit represents the beginning of the Obama administration's efforts to revitalize the stalled six-party denuclearization talks.

Beijing is Ambassador Bosworth's first stop on his first official visit to the region as chief American negotiator for the six-party talks.

Participants in these talks are: the two Korea's, China, Japan, Russia and the United States. Negotiations were most recently stalled by North Korea's refusal to allow nuclear material to be taken abroad for testing.

There is also concern that Pyongyang is preparing a missile launch.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters Tuesday that China hopes recent difficulties will be temporary.

Spokesman Qin says China hopes the six parties can remember the overall interest of denuclearization on the peninsula and that they can work together to bring the process to the next stage.

In early February, Bosworth visited North Korea while he was still dean of the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University. After that visit, he said officials were willing to take steps toward nuclear disarmament, if their aid demands were met.

In Beijing, Bosworth will meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and China's emissary to the talks, Wu Dawei.

Bosworth will travel from Beijing to Tokyo, Thursday, and on to Seoul on Saturday. He will meet with Japanese and South Korean officials, as well as senior Russian officials who will be visiting Seoul.

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NKorea, UN Command Hold Urgent Talks at Korean DMZ
Kim Hyung-Jin
Associated Press
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High-level military officials from North Korea and the U.S.-led U.N. Command held urgent talks at the border Monday amid heightened tensions in the region and concerns that the North intends to test-fire a long-range missile.

The talks at the village of Panmunjom inside the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea — the first meetings between general-level military officials since 2002 — were hastily arranged after the North proposed them last week, U.N. command spokesman Kim Yong-kyu said.

"These talks can be useful in building trust and preventing misunderstanding as well as introducing transparency regarding the intentions of both sides," the U.N. command said in a statement. Kim said his office would disclose details about the meeting after it was over.

Relations between the two Koreas are at their lowest point in a decade, with North Korea bristling over South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's hard-line policy toward Pyongyang. The two Koreas technically remain at war because their three-year conflict in the 1950s ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

The tensions have intensified in recent weeks amid reports that North Korea is preparing to test a long-range missile believed capable of reaching U.S. territory.

Analysts say communist North Korea also wants to capture President Barack Obama's attention at a time when international disarmament talks with the regime remain stalled.

Obama is dispatching his envoy for North Korea, Stephen W. Bosworth, to Asia this week to discuss the nuclear dispute. Bosworth plans to meet with officials in China, Japan and South Korea, and will consult separately with Russian officials, the State Department said.

The North last week called its plans a peaceful bid to push its space program forward by sending a communications satellite into orbit and warned it would "punish" anyone who attempts to disrupt its launch plan.

Neighboring governments believe the satellite claim may be a cover for a missile launch.

The U.S., South Korea and other neighboring nations have warned North Korea against firing either a missile or a satellite, saying both would invite international sanctions.

North Korea, which in 2006 tested a nuclear weapon and unsuccessfully fired a long-range missile, is banned from engaging in any ballistic missile activity under a U.N. Security Council resolution.

The North, meanwhile, stepped up the rhetoric against South Korea and the U.S., citing a policy of "confrontation" against the communist country.

"If the U.S. warlike forces opt for reckless military confrontation and provocation of a war of aggression against (North Korea), the latter will mercilessly stamp out aggressors," said Yang Hyong Sop, vice president of the parliament, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Sunday.

The warning comes as the U.S. and South Korea prepare for next week's annual military exercises, drills that North Korea calls a rehearsal for invasion but that Seoul and Washington say are purely defensive.

South Korea's new unification minister, Hyun In-taek, said Monday that Seoul is ready for dialogue with Pyongyang to improve the "difficult" ties between the neighboring nations.

The two Koreas remain divided by the world's most heavily fortified border, with the U.S.-led U.N. Command overseeing their 1953 cease-fire.

Although other nations contributed forces during the Korean War, U.S. troops are the only combat forces left on the peninsula apart from the South Korean military. The U.S. has 28,500 troops in South Korea.

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SKorea Has New Nuke Envoy
Agence France-Presse
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South Korea on Monday appointed a new chief negotiator for stalled six-party talks on North's Korea's nuclear disarmament.
Wi Sung-Lac, special assistant to the foreign minister, has taken over the post, a foreign ministry statement said.

He replaces Kim Sook, who was named last week as a deputy director of the National Intelligence Service after 10 months as chief nuclear envoy.

Mr Wi, 54, a career diplomat since 1979, was minister for political affairs at the South Korean embassy in Washington from 2004 to 2007 after heading the foreign ministry's North American affairs bureau from 2003 to 2004.

North Korea conducted a nuclear test in October 2006 but four months later reached a six-party deal to scrap its atomic weapons programmes in return for energy aid, major diplomatic benefits and a formal treaty to end the 1950-53 Korean War.

However the talks - grouping the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia - are deadlocked by a dispute over how to verify the North's declared nuclear activities.

Washington last month also changed its top nuclear negotiator, with the long-serving Christopher Hill becoming ambassador to Iraq.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has named Stephen Bosworth to a new post of special envoy to North Korea, with Mr Hill's deputy Sung Kim becoming chief US delegate to the talks.

Mr Bosworth on Monday was to begin a tour of China, Japan and South Korea aimed at reviving the nuclear negotiations and persuading the North to scrap plans for a missile test.

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Seoul Urges NKorea to Drop Nuclear, Missile Plans
Agence France-Presse
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South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak Sunday urged North Korea to drop its nuclear-weapon and missile ambitions, and called for "unconditional" inter-Korean talks amid rising tensions.

His remarks came as the communist North was defiantly preparing to test-launch what US and South Korean officials say is a long-range ballistic missile, amid deadlocked nuclear disarmament talks.

Pyongyang has also ratcheted cross-border tensions since declaring an "all-out confrontation" with Seoul, arguing over inter-Korean military borders.

"What really protects North Korea is not nuclear weapons and missiles, but cooperation with South Korea and with the international community," Lee said in a speech marking the 90th anniversary of Koreans' civil uprising against the Japanese colonial rule.

"Denuclearisation is a shortcut for North Korea to become a member of the international community and develop fast."

Lee repeated that Seoul was willing to help and talk with Pyongyang.

"The door for unconditional dialogue is still open wide now. The South and the North should talk at an early date," he added.

The North appears to have begun assembling a rocket which it claims will launch a satellite, Seoul's Yonhap news reported Friday, despite US and South Korean warnings to halt what they see as a planned missile test.

The launch may come in late March or early April, as a US-South Korean military exercise is scheduled for March 9-20 and a US-South Korea summit in early April on the sidelines of the April 2 G-20 meeting, Yonhap said.

US envoy Stephen Bosworth makes an Asian tour this week to try to revive stalled talks on the North's nuclear disarmament and agree on a strategy to deter any missile launch, officials in Washington said Thursday.

The North says it is determined to go ahead with what it calls a peaceful satellite launch but has given no date.

"We will launch a satellite as planned," Kim Myong-Gil, a Pyongyang envoy to the United Nations, told South Korean journalists in Atlanta Thursday.

"Launching a satellite is part of a sovereign right which is universal. We've been exercising our sovereign right and will continue to do so. This cannot be negotiable," Kim was quoted as saying.

Seoul and Washington say Pyongyang is seeking a pretext to test a Taepodong-2 missile which could theoretically reach Alaska, warning that any North Korean rocket launch would violate a UN resolution.

The North test-launched a Taepodong-1 missile in 1998 and also fired a longer-range Taepodong-2 in 2006. The 2006 test failed after 40 seconds but resulted in sanctions under the UN resolution. The North tested an atomic weapon in 2006.

The North is angry at conservative Lee, whose government has scrapped his predecessors' policy of reconciliation and exchange with Pyongyang.

The 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

Rodong Sinmun, the North's communist party daily, Sunday denounced this month's US-South Korean military exercise as a preparation to invade the communist state. It warned of a "merciless" strike by Pyongyang in case of war.

Dozens of South Korean activists rallied in Seoul Sunday to burn cut-out North Korean missiles and portraits of Pyongayng leader Kim Jong-Il in protest at the communist state's stoking of tensions.

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F.  Syria

'Special Inspections' for Syrian Nukes
United Press International
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The International Atomic Energy Agency should issue a legally binding inspection request to Syria to examine its weapons programs, an analysis says.

The Israeli air force in 2007 conducted an airstrike on the Dair Alzour facility near al-Kibar in Syria, which intelligence officials claimed was a nuclear reactor of North Korean design under construction since 2001.

Inspectors with the IAEA also found traces of uranium particles that were undeclared by Damascus, though it was uncertain if the particles were from the Dair Alzour facility.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says the IAEA therefore should move toward a legally binding "special inspection" process to compel Syria into compliance.

"It is important for Syria to provide the plans for the original building (Dair Alzour) and to answer all of the IAEA's questions promptly," the report says, adding new inspections should include various other suspected sites.

The report says Damascus has successfully stalled the IAEA, a practice that also has allowed Iran and North Korea to move forward with their nuclear programs while remaining technically in compliance with international obligations.

This is a perilous precedent in the regulatory regime, the Carnegie Endowment report says. "The principle of 'innocent until proven guilty' is dangerous when applied to states, because it allows a non-compliant state to avoid its guilt being proven by denying the IAEA access."

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G.  Nuclear Energy

Brazil Flips The Switch On Uranium Enrichment Plant
Jessicah Curtis
The Huffington Post
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Brazil has become one of just a handful of states to enrich uranium in a controversial bid to boost nuclear power production and ensure future energy independence.

In an exclusive interview with the Huffington Post, Nuclear Industries of Brazil (INB) spokeswoman Helena Beltrão confirmed that several of the 10 specially designed centrifuges housed at an enrichment plant in Resende, Rio de Janeiro, would be up and running by the end of March.

"Industrial-scale enrichment will start in the first quarter of this year . . . The product will then be used as fuel for the Angra 1 and 2 nuclear power plants," Beltrão said, adding the company planned to produce up to 12 tons of low-enriched uranium by the end of 2009.

A few years ago this statement would have seemed deeply troubling to the international community. In 2004, INB refused to allow inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency unrestricted access to the newly developed Resende facility, causing concern over the nuclear ambitions of South America's emerging energy giant.

Brazil insisted access was only denied to protect commercially sensitive information on the centrifuges' design, uniquely developed at the Navy Technological Center in São Paulo with support from the Nuclear and Energy Research Institute.

Months later, the country signed a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, soothing global concern over its ambitious enrichment plans and paving the way for collaborative nuclear efforts. Since then, Brazil has enjoyed close cooperation with a number of states including the US, and Argentina through the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials' bilateral inspection regime.

Brazil was awarded an environmental license from the Brazilian Environment and Renewable Natural Resource Institute to enrich uranium when the Resende facility officially opened in 1996, but permission to start the enrichment process was only granted by the National Nuclear Energy Commission on January 5 this year.

Later the same month, INB announced enrichment would start in February, with Nuclear Fuel Production Director Samuel Fayad Filho telling Brazil's press, "The great advance is that in [the] future we are not going to depend on foreign services for this important technology."

A western diplomat close to the IAEA told the Huffington Post that fresh Resende inspections were successfully carried out in the first weeks of February this year, leaving no remaining barriers to the enrichment process.

There has been little international response to INB's announcement with most western analysts focussed on the dilemma posed by Iran's nuclear objectives. The US State Department told the Huffington Post last week, "This new development has been declared, it's above board. We wouldn't have any problem with it."

But some analysts and nuclear experts say the development is more controversial than it first appears and that it could have an impact on tricky nuclear negotiations between the US and emerging nuclear powers like Iran.

While few suspect Brazil is after weapons-grade nuclear materials, Jacqueline Shire, a Senior Analyst with the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, points out that the US must not appear to maintain double standards when it comes to backing or rejecting states' attempts to develop enrichment capabilities.

"One thing is that Brazil is not adhering to the (IAEA's) Additional Protocol," she said. "It's important that Brazil should set the standard for transparency."

Brazil is thought to have some of the largest uranium deposits in the world and the state plans to keep the $25 million its costs a year to enrich the ore in Europe in Brazilian hands. If time proves that Brazil's unique centrifuges are as productive in practice as they are on paper, INB could achieve nuclear energy independence by 2020, leaving the state free to enter the exclusive nuclear suppliers group.

Andrew Newman of Harvard University's Project on Managing the Atom says that while the US government probably is not "particularly thrilled" by the development, future Brazilian uranium exports could serve US and international interests.

Newman says Brazil could be "thinking about being a regional fuel supplier"--a move which could create a more or less transparent source of nuclear reactor fuel in Latin America.

Analysts also argue that the establishment of Brazil's enrichment program could discourage more states from following suite by supplying a significant portion of global demand.

For now, Beltrão says INB's focus is on producing enough enriched uranium to power its own nuclear plants and support the government's National Energy Plan. This marks a deliberate move away from the confrontational policies of the past but as Shire warns, "No one cheers when centrifuges are spinning."

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Israeli Scientists Suggest ‘Peaceful’ Nuclear Fuel
Yehudah Lev Kay
Israel National News
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Israeli scientists from Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva have suggested a new type of 'peaceful' nuclear fuel which cannot be used to create nuclear weapons. The fuel could be exported to nations interested in producing nuclear power without fear that they could use it for a more sinister purpose.

The investigative team, which included Professor Yigal Ronen, Dr. Yogin Shwagraus, and Mr. Luenid Gold will publish their results in the upcoming issue of the Science and Global Security journal.

In order to create a nuclear power plant or a nuclear weapon, naturally mined uranium must be enriched, usually using a gas centrifuge method. The technologically advanced enrichment step of producing nuclear fuel is prohibitive to many countries which would like to become nuclear powers.

On the other hand, nuclear fuel with already enriched uranium can be purchased, but international regulations limit its sale since the spent nuclear fuel can be recycled for use in a nuclear weapon. The Israeli scientists suggest in their study that the element americium be added to the fuel at a level of 0.1 percent. According to their research, the addition would neutralize the spent fuel, making it unusable in a weapon.

Professor Ronen explained that “many countries in the Middle East such as Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen are interested in building nuclear power plants. The critical point is finding a way to neutralize the plutonium which the power plants create [as a byproduct].” His new research may enable the peaceful exportation of nuclear fuel to these countries and prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

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Four More Floating Nuke-Plants
Barents Observer
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Rosatom and the Republic of Yakutia signed an agreement last week for implementing investments to build four floating nuclear power plants for use in the northern coastal areas of the Siberian Republic.

The deal was signed on February 24th and is by Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation considered to be a new page in the history of Russian nuclear industry.

- It will help to preserve Russian leadership in this high-tech sector, writes Irina Tsurina, head of Rosatom’s Analytical Department of Propaganda on the web-site of the state agency.

- FNPP (floating nuclear power plant) is a new abbreviation that will soon come into general use. It is very important for us to make it associable with Russia - as sputnik and cosmonaut were in the Soviet times - as floating NPP is a unique Russian technology, Tsurina writes.

The deal between Yakutia and Rosatom outlines a series of investment projects in addition to the floating nuclear power plants, like uranium mining and a processing combine, reports Interfax.

The construction of Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant started at the Sevmash yard in Severodvinsk in April 2007, but in August 2008 Rosatom transferred the assignment to the Baltiiskii Yard in Sankt Petersburg. Before Christmas last year BarentsObserver reported that transfering the construction from Severodvinsk to St. Petersburg did not bring progress to the project. Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported thar the Russian plans for a series of floating nuclear power plants is far from being materialized.

However, Rosatom still maintain that the world’s first nuclear electricity production on a floating barge will be ready by May 2010, writes Interfax. BarentsObserver earlier reported that the intention with this first plant is to supply the Severodvinsk region with electricity.

No information is given about where the four new floating nuclear power plants will be built, in Severodvinsk or in St. Petersburg.

If built in St. Petersburg the plants have to be towed out of the Baltic Sea and all the way along the coast of Norway before sailing into the Arctic waters to their ports in Yakutia.

When the plants need maintance and change its highly radioactive spent nuclear, normally after 4-5 years, it will be towed back to Murmansk or Arkhangelsk regions. Today, spent fuel can be transferred either at a naval yard on the Kola Peninsula or in Severodvinsk, but it could take plant at the civilian Atomflot base, outskirts Murmansk. From Atomflot, spent nuclear fuel is shipped by train to the Mayak reprocessing plant in the South-Urals.

Rosatom is planning to construct a total of seven or eight floating nuclear power plants by 2015, writes World Nuclear News.

Each floating nuclear power plant will be equipped with two water cooled reactors of the KLT-40S type. This reactor technology is a slightly modernized version of the reactors today in use onboard Russia’s fleet of civilian nuclear powered icebreakers based in Murmansk.

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JAEC Running on All Cylinders to Achieve Nuclear Ambitions
Taylor Luck
The Jordan Times
(for personal use only)

The government will today invite bids for international consulting firms to assist in the tender process for the Kingdom’s first nuclear reactor, one of many developments in the Kingdom’s rapidly progressing nuclear programme.

The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) will submit a request for proposals for an international consultant for the preconstruction phase of the plant, entailing feasibility studies, technology selection, fuel cycle, waste management in addition to safety procedures, JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan told The Jordan Times in a recent interview.

The consulting firm will also aid in preparing and examining bid documents for the construction of the country’s first nuclear power plant all the way through the final contract, according to the commission.

Utility company

The winning bidder will also pave the way for the establishment of a nuclear electricity utility company operated jointly by the government and an international nuclear operator.

Under the scheme, the government and the operator will own a total share of 50 per cent in the utility, he said, with the other 50 per cent open to private ownership, private companies, social pension funds and international investment firms.

“We want to have an international nuclear operator on board, because it will minimise risk and give more confidence to financing houses and governments,” Toukan said, adding that partnership with a certified nuclear operator must come in parcel with any potential agreement for building the reactor.

“This is one of the requirements; we need an international nuclear operator from the country that builds the reactor to be with us on board,” he said, adding that the nuclear commission will work mainly on the Public Private Partnership model in constructing and running the plant.

The utility will be established prior to the construction phase, he said, as the consulting firm will determine the ratio of various shareholders.

Tender documents for the plant’s construction will be announced by the utility company itself, which will then be the owner and operator of the plant.


Last week, the commission signed a memorandum of understanding with British-Australian firm Rio Tinto, the largest mining company in the world, for reconnaissance and prospecting work in Rweished in the northeast, Wadi Sahra Abyad in the southeast and Wadi Bahiyya in the Mafraq area.

The firm will soon conduct initial phases of grid studies, sample collecting to determine prospects for future exploration of uranium, in addition to other metals such as podioum and zirconium, Toukan said.

After 18 months, if results are “promising”, the government will move to negotiate an exploration agreement leading to the establishment of a joint company jointly owned by Rio Tinto and the commission, Toukan noted.

Meanwhile for the last three months, the JAEC and Sino Uranium have been taking Gama measurements in preparation for mining measurements in Mafraq and Wadi Bahiyya, and have designated nine-square-kilometre sample plots to determine the areas’ uranium potentials.

Exploration efforts by the JAEC and France’s AREVA, through the Jordanian French Uranium Mining Company, are well under way in the central regions, he said, which is believed to be home to a majority of the Kingdom's 130,000 tonnes of uranium, most of which is found within 1.5 metres below surface level and suitable for extraction.

Following prospective work, the company will focus on the design and construction of the Kingdom’s first uranium mine and a plant for extraction and processing, with the commission currently finalising a mining agreement with AREVA that is expected to be signed this summer.

“Four years from January 2009 they should be in production,” Toukan said.

Power plant

Currently, eight interested international consulting firms are working with the commission in site study and characterisation work for the location of the nuclear power plant.

In April, the commission will select one of the firms, from the US, Europe, Canada, Russia and South Korea, to carry out the studies, allowing the commission to announce an international tender for the plant’s construction by the first quarter of 2011.

Toukan noted that after consultation with 11 national agencies including the Ministry of Environment, NGOs and environmental groups, the commission has zeroed in on its final choice for the location of the country’s first nuclear reactor: A site on the south beach of the Gulf of Aqaba, outside the Aqaba Special Economic Zone and nine kilometres inland.

“This plant will be located closer to the outer edge, on the peripheries of the desert. It will be away from the sea and we are going to desalinate water from the sea and transfer it to the plant,” he said, adding that considerations have been made to ensure negligible environmental impact.

“We are not going to go for direct cooling so that there is a minimum environmental impact,” Toukan said, adding that the location will have the potential to host 4-6 nuclear power plants.

Due to economies of scale and in order to take advantage of tools and manpower in the area, Toukan has previously said construction of the second plant could be expected within two to three years after the groundbreaking of the first.

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GCC Keen to Establish Peaceful Nuclear Programme, Says Kuwait
Arab Times
(for personal use only)

Director General of Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) Dr Naji Al-Mutairi said Saturday the GCC countries sought to establish a joint nuclear program to be used for peaceful purposes. Al-Mutairi, in a statement distributed here, praised keenness of His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah to establishing the peaceful nuclear program in Kuwait. Authorities in Kuwait are “exerting serious and rapid efforts” to honor keenness of Sheikh Sabah, he said, which would be a “turning point” in the development of Kuwait. Kuwait was the GCC country which proposed, during the 2006 Riyadh Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit, the establishment of a peaceful nuclear program. After the GCC leaders approved the proposal, explained Al-Mutairi, studies were prepared to establish a “common and public” nuclear project. A Gulf team was formed in mid-2007 working under the GCC Secretariat to prepare for the project.

KISR, he said, was part of this team, and was the liaison body with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). KISR, said Al-Mutairi, is contributing to preparing elaborated studies for the peaceful use of nuclear energy as well as discussing proposed projects sent by the IAEA. The Gulf team, said the KISR chief, has prepared an initial feasibility study in coordination with the IAEA. The study, he added, included many domains like electricity, water desalination by using nuclear energy, infrastructure, legislation and human resources for the common GCC project. KISR, he said, is working as a coordinator for an integrated national plan for safety and security. This plan aims at preventing and how to deal with radioactive threats, smuggling of radioactive and nuclear materials. IAEA’s experts, said Al-Mutairi, agreed to help the GCC countries to building the infrastructure of the nuclear-related institutes including the storing of radioactive materials.

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H.  Nuclear Industry

Westinghouse Helps Develop China's Nuclear Sector
Wan Zhihong
China Daily
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Log onto the website, a major employment portal in China, and you can find an advertisement for Westinghouse, on which the US-based nuclear power offers a number of jobs in China.

"We are making continuous efforts to find more local talents in China," said Liu Xingang, vice-president of Westinghouse, adding the move came after the company signed its milestone deal with China in 2007.

China finalized an agreement with Westinghouse two years ago, under which it would use the US company's AP1000 technology to build two nuclear power plants with four reactors in Zhejiang and Shandong provinces.

Although details of the deal have yet to be officially announced, media reports have estimated the agrreeement, the first example of large-scale Sino-US nuclear cooperation, was worth $8 billion.

Westinghouse's AP1000 third-generation nuclear power technology is seen as the most advanced in the field at the moment. The two nuclear power plants are also the company's first major projects in China.

"Everything is going smoothly with the two plants," said Liu. "We will start construction of the Sanmen plant in Zhejiang in March, and later begin building the Haiyang plant in Shandong."

Zhang Guobao, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said earlier that China would start construction of four nuclear power plants this year. The Sanmen and Haiyang plants are included in the plan.

"The global financial crisis has so far made little impact on our business," said Liu.

For Westinghouse, there was more good news in China recently. The country is poised to revise its energy development plans by nearly doubling its nuclear power capacity over the next decade.

In an earlier plan for China's nuclear industry, the country planned to increase its nuclear power capacity to 40 gW by 2020, accounting for 4 percent of the nation's total power capacity. However, the target has since been revised to 70 gW.

"We welcome China's plan to further develop nuclear power. With more use of this clean energy, China will improve its energy structure," said Liu.

China's nuclear power industry will continue to see accelerated development over the next decade, and will not be affected by the global financial crisis, said Yu Jianfeng, vice-general manager of China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC).

"In times of economic downturn, nuclear projects help to boost the domestic economy, as they require a large amount of investment," he said. "Construction of nuclear power projects can also boost many other industries, such as steel, metallurgy and building has materials."

In line with the policy to boost domestic demand, China started construction of three nuclear power plants since last November. The three projects, located in Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong have a total investment of around 200 billion yuan.

New technology

The Sanmen nuclear power plant, which has two reactors, each with a capacity of 1,000 mW, will also become the world's first plant using Westinghouse's third-generation nuclear power technology, said Liu.

"We are fully confident of making it a model project," he said.

According to Westinghouse, the design of the AP1000, a pressurized water reactor, has three main advantages - safety, economic competitiveness and greater efficiency.

China has put an increasing focus on the construction of third-generation nuclear reactors in recent years. In 2007, the country set up the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp Ltd (SNPTC), which is mainly responsible for the domestic development of nuclear power using advanced third-generation technology from overseas.

Besides the agreement with Westinghouse, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group signed an 8-billion-euro deal in 2007 with French nuclear company Areva for two third-generation reactors. Under the agreement, Areva will use its European pressurized reactor technology to build a plant in Taishan, Guangdong province.

Construction of the two reactors, each with a capacity of 1,700 mW, will begin in the fall of 2009. They are expected to begin operations in 2014, according to sources close to the deal.

"Although Westinghouse's technology is different to that of Areva in terms of its design, compared with the first or second-generation technology it offers two distinct advantages: greater safety and improved fuel efficiency," said Fu Manchang, a veteran nuclear analyst.

"It (third-generation technology) will become the mainstream for China's nuclear sector," he said.

China currently has 11 nuclear reactors in operation, using domestically developed technology as well as imported technology from France, Russia and Canada, all of which is first or second generation.

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S.Korea Scraps Uranium Deals on Weak Prices-Report
Angela Moon
(for personal use only)

State-run Korea Electric Power Corp has cancelled two preliminary deals to develop uranium mines in the United States and Slovakia due to weak product prices, local media reported on Monday, citing officials from the energy firm.

The power monopoly will instead seek to buy uranium mines currently in development or in production stage in Australia, South Africa and Kazakhstan, Yonhap News said.

In May, the firm signed cooperation deals with U.S. Yellowcake Mining Corp and Canada-based uranium explorer Tournigan Energy Ltd to develop mines in Colorado and Kurisokva, Slovakia, respectively.

Under the agreement with Yellowcake Mining, KEPCO plans to secure a 50 percent stake in the Beck mine, which has proven reserves of 5,000 tonnes of uranium and estimated reserves of 10,000 tonnes.

Citing KEPCO officials, the report said the cancellation came due to a sharp drop in uranium prices, which fell to $47 a pound in January from a record high of $135 a pound in 2007.

Whether KEPCO had to pay a fine for scrapping the deals was not immediately known and officials were unavailable for comment.

KEPCO will maintain explorations of a uranium block in Canada, as it has already begun work in that area, the report said.

Shares in KEPCO lost 3.96 percent as of 0236 GMT, trading at 23,100 won, and underperforming the wider market's 3.35 percent fall.

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I.  Links of Interest

Can President Barack Obama Save the Non-Proliferation Treaty?
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Critical Moment for the Six-Party Process
The Hankyoreh
(for personal use only)

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International Status and Prospects of Nuclear Power
(for personal use only)

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The Nuclear Technology Review 2008
(for personal use only)

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