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Nuclear News - 3/5/2009
PGS Nuclear News, March 5, 2009
Compiled By: Helene Picart

A.  Iran
    1. Iran: Israeli Nuclear Sites Within Missile Range, Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press (3/4/2009)
    2. Iran Envoy Says Fair Nuclear Talks Will Win Breakthrough, Sylvia Westall and Mark Heinrich, Reuters (3/4/2009)
    3. Iran Says Nuclear Plant to Start Operating by Sept, Agence France-Presse (3/4/2009)
    4. Iran's Uranium Reserves Inexhaustible, Islamic Republic News Agency (3/4/2009)
    1. IAEA Says Iran Strays from Non-Proliferation Obligations, Mark Heinrich, Reuters (3/4/2009)
    2. IAEA Approves Extra Nuclear Inspection Pact for India, World Bulletin (3/4/2009)
    3. IAEA Nuclear Fuel Bank Moves Step Closer, Says ElBaradei, Nuclear Engineering International (3/3/2009)
    4. IAEA Approves UAE's Ratification of Additional Protocol, Emirates News Agency (3/3/2009)
    1. Differences on Verification Hold Back Six-Party Nuclear Talks, China View (3/4/2009)
    2. U.S. Remains Committed to Removing Nuclear Facilities on Korean Peninsula, China View (3/4/2009)
D.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Obama Seeks Russian Help on Iran but Denies Deal, Ross Colvin and Caren Bohan, Reuters (3/4/2009)
    2. Russia's Top Nuclear Envoy Due in Seoul Next Week, Lee Chi-dong, Yonhap News Agency (3/3/2009)
E.  Syria
    1. Evidence Mounts of Syrian Nuclear Cover-Up: U.S., Mark Heinrich, Reuters (3/4/2009)
F.  Pakistan
    1. Fears Over Control of Arsenal, Richard Norton Taylor, The Guardian (3/5/2009)
G.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Italy's Nuclear Ambitions, Eric J Lyman, ISN Security Watch  (3/5/2009)
    2. What Happened to NPT Now, Mr Rudd?, The Economic Times (3/5/2009)
    3. Bangladesh to Build Nuclear Plant to Meet Energy Demand, Thaindian News (3/4/2009)
    4. Nuclear Power Can Deliver Nigeria from Electricity Problems, Says NNRA boss, Sulaimon Salau, The Guardian of Nigeria (3/4/2009)
H.  Nuclear Industry
    1. Areva Warns Siemens of Contract Breach in Nuclear JV, Marie Maitre, Reuters (3/4/2009)
    2. Russians Consider Slovakia as Site for Nuclear Fuel Plant, The Slovak Spectator (3/3/2009)
I.  Links of Interest
    1. Preventing a Cascade of Instability, U.S. Engagement to Check Iranian Nuclear Progress, Washington Institute on Near East Policy (3/5/2009)
    2. Japanese Perceptions of Obama's Nuclear 'Twin Commitments', Ken Jimbo, The Japan Times (3/5/2009)

A.  Iran

Iran Envoy Says Fair Nuclear Talks Will Win Breakthrough
Sylvia Westall and Mark Heinrich
(for personal use only)

An Iranian envoy on Wednesday held out the prospect of a breakthrough in any talks about Tehran's nuclear work and other security issues if governments negotiate on an "equal footing" and without preconditions.

Underscoring a U.S. turnabout from a policy of isolating Iran, Washington and five other big powers said on Tuesday they wanted direct talks with Iran to ease a deadlock over its refusal to halt nuclear work and open up to U.N. inspectors.

"(It) is Iran that is inviting others to come without preconditions," Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Agency, told reporters outside a meeting of the U.N. nuclear monitor's 35-nation board of governors.

"We do not consider anybody, any of the parties as a super power... If this mentality is changed and they understand that they are on equal footing and come in a civilised manner... then there will be a breakthrough," Soltanieh said.

"We are ready for negotiations without any preconditions, talking about comprehensive issues, about all global issues, regional issues, regional security, economic cooperation."

But he warned that Western nations behind sanctions on Iran would have to respect its "inalienable right" to a peaceful nuclear programme if negotiations were to be fruitful.

Iran says it is refining uranium only for a civilian nuclear programme to generate electricity. But its record of nuclear secrecy and limits on IAEA non-proliferation inspections have stirred Western suspicions of an illicit quest for atom bombs.


Tehran has reacted cautiously to U.S. indications of diplomatic outreach after decades of ostracising Iran, saying it is open to fair talks while demanding fundamental changes in U.S. policy, namely U.S.-driven sanctions and accusations Iran actively seeks nuclear weapons and supports terrorism.

Soltanieh said Tuesday's statement from the six powers was their way of "correcting the mistake" in getting IAEA governors in 2006 to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions rather than leaving inspectors to sort out the dispute.

But he also chided the IAEA, saying it had been forced by Western powers to put out incomplete reports on Iran's nuclear programme which did not reflect Iran's point of view.

"I harshly criticised that there is a deviation from the (IAEA's) expected statutory mandate," Soltenieh said.

"The agency is established for the promotion of international cooperation, for peaceful uses of nuclear energy but unfortunately safeguards (inspection) activities have overshadowed this," he said.

The IAEA's top legal counsel said on Wednesday Iran has strayed from non-proliferation obligations by ceasing to provide advance data on nuclear plans and allow inspector visits to a nascent heavy water reactor.

Briefing the IAEA's board of governors, Johan Rautenbach said this however did not mean Iran was in a more serious "non-compliance" with rules, a finding that could warrant further action by the U.N. Security Council.

On Monday, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran has been stonewalling agency inspectors and called on Tehran to unblock the "stalemate" and work to dispel fears of possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme.

Soltanieh said the only stalemate was political, caused by Western pressure on the IAEA to single out Iran.

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Iran Says Nuclear Plant to Start Operating by Sept
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

Iran said on Wednesday that its much-delayed nuclear power plant, where testing began last month, would start generating electricity by September 2009.

The 1,000-megawatt Russian-built plant in the southern port city of Bushehr will first generate around 500 megawatts, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told parliament, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"Since the fuel for the power plant is in Iran, the project will be operational in the summer (the quarter ending September) and generate 500 megawatts of electricity that would be transmitted to the national grid."

The plant will achieve full capacity in the second half of the Iranian year to March 2010, he said.

Iran and Russian officials began testing the plant on February 25, as Tehran pressed on with its controversial nuclear programme despite Western fears it may be secretly trying to build an atomic bomb.

Moscow supplied the fuel for the plant in 2008 but it is currently sealed by the UN watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been investigating Iran's nuclear drive for six years.

Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Moscow's federal nuclear agency, announced when tests began that construction of the plant was complete but he did not set any date for its commissioning.

The testing of the Bushehr plant raised fresh concerns in the international community over Iran's nuclear development, although Tehran insists that its atomic programme is purely peaceful.

On Tuesday, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany said in a rare joint statement that they were ready for direct talks with Iran to resolve the long-running nuclear standoff.

Despite being the world's number four crude oil producer and holding the second largest gas reserves, Iran insists it needs nuclear power to sustain a growing population, saying its fossil fuel will run out in the coming decades.

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Iran's Uranium Reserves Inexhaustible
Islamic Republic News Agency
(for personal use only)

Iran's Atomic Energy Agency has officially announced that some 400 uranium mines have been identified nationwide, which will help posterity benefit from nuclear energy.

In January 1989, the London-based magazine 'The Echo of Iran' wrote in its 12th edition that following five years of mining in Saghand, Yazd, experts discovered more than 3,000 tons of uranium and 4,000 tons of molybdenum. It has been announced that so far some 50 to 100 million dollars have been invested in mining the reserves.

In addition to the above-mentioned mines, other quarries have been discovered such as those in Bandar Abbas which needs less investment compared to the one in Saghand since it is an exposed field, a report by IRNA's News and Research Office said.

Although the reserves in the mine have not been fully estimated, preliminary studies reveal that it contains substantial amount of ore.

Currently, Iranian experts seek to assess uranium reserves which will lead to huge investment in the sector in the not-too-distant future.

According to Iran's Atomic Energy Agency, the country's demand for uranium in future will be extracted from Azarbaijan, North Khorasan, central Iran and Bandar Abbas.

It further announced that the proven reserves in Bandar Abbas, Yazd and Ardebil mines stand at more than 36,000 tons.

Mines identified so far can meet the country's uranium demands for tens of years. This gives Iran a distinct position in the international scene.

In addition to the uranium reserves, Iran also has unique technology in the field of processing and enriching uranium.

For this reason, Iranian youth's access to new technology for attaining a large volume of uranium concentrate has astonished western circles.

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Iran: Israeli Nuclear Sites Within Missile Range
Ali Akbar Dareini
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Iran's military chief warned Israel Wednesday that its nuclear facilities are within range of Iranian missiles, the latest message from Tehran that it will strike back if attacked.

Israel, which is itself believed to possess atomic arsenal, has warned that it could attack Iran if it does not abandon its nuclear program, which Israel and the U.S. suspect is a cover for weapons production. Israel's prime minister-designate, Benjamin Netanyahu, is among those taking a tough line and considered likely to keep open the option of a military strike.

Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said Iran now has a mighty military force capable of deterring any U.S. or Israeli attack.

"All nuclear facilities in various parts of the lands under occupation of the Zionist regime are within the range of Iran's missiles," the official IRNA news agency quoted Jafari as saying.

A day earlier, his deputy said Iran had a contingency plan for hitting back hard and causing many casualties.

Iran's Shahab-3 missiles have a range of up to 1,250 miles, putting Israel within striking distance. Iran has said it has also increased the range of its warplanes, allowing them to fly as far as Israel and back without refueling.

Tehran denies any aim to make nuclear weapons and says its atomic program is only for generating power and other peaceful purposes.

Iran has worked hard to increase the accuracy of its missiles. In November, it successfully test-fired the Sajjil, a solid fuel high-speed missile with a range 1,250 miles. Solid fuel is considered a significant breakthrough because it increases accuracy.

Jafari's deputy, Mohammad Hejazi, told the semi-official Fars news agency Tuesday that Iran has drawn up a contingency plan to retaliate against any Israeli attack and "impose high casualties in a short period of time."

"The enemy refrains from taking military action because it has estimated the damages it will sustain in a war against Iran," Fars quoted Hejazi as saying. "Having analyzed Iran's defense capabilities, they have reached the conclusion that military confrontation with Iran is tantamount to an endless quagmire."

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IAEA Approves Extra Nuclear Inspection Pact for India
World Bulletin
(for personal use only)

U.N. nuclear watchdog governors on Tuesday approved a deal allowing extra inspections of India's atomic industry, a condition of a U.S.-led deal allowing New Delhi to import nuclear technology after a 33-year freeze.

U.S. strongly opposes Iran and North Korea to develop nuclear program in the face of its allies, Israel and South Korea.

Passage of an "Additional Protocol" somewhat expanding the International Atomic Energy Agency's monitoring rights in India came a month.

The 31-page protocol would broadly give IAEA inspectors more information on India's nuclear-related exports, imports and source material, diplomats familiar with the issue said.

But some members of the 35-nation IAEA Board of Governors joined the consensus vote only with reluctance, they said.

Sceptics felt that while heightened U.N. safeguards were a net gain for a country outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), they could have been stronger had there been more time for negotiations, they added.

"Switzerland, Ireland, Cuba and South Africa protested that the agreement was handed to the board only two days ago, too late to thoroughly assess whether it will really contribute to disarmament," one diplomat in the closed-door meeting said.

"It doesn't because there are no provisions to ensure India cannot divert into its military nuclear sector nuclear materials and know-how it obtains abroad for the civilian sector."

The protocol, entitled "Nuclear Verification -- The Conclusion of Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols" -- would give inspectors wider access to India's programme but not as much as in countries that have signed the NPT.

India, Pakistan and Israel are the only countries never to have never signed the NPT.

"The agency will not mechanistically or systematically seek to verify information obtained. Verification activities in question are not linked to quantitative yardsticks like inventories of nuclear materials," the pact's preamble said.

"The frequency and intensity of (IAEA checks) shall be kept to the minimum consistent" with the aim of improving safeguards.

Disarmament advocates complained that it undercut the NPT, meant to prevent the spread and production of nuclear weapons.

They fear Indian access to foreign nuclear materials could allow it to divert more of its limited indigenous supplies to its bomb programme and drive historical foe Pakistan into another arms race.

After its first nuclear test in 1974, India conducted a series of nuclear tests in 1998, prompting rival Pakistan to follow suit within weeks.

IAEA safeguards require India to open up 14 of 22 reactors to inspections by 2014. New Delhi must still specify which reactors will come under inspection, an Indian government official said last month.

India's Additional Protocol lists some 100 nuclear-use materials and hardware to come under monitoring including entire reactors and heavy-water plants, reactor-core graphite, coolant and vacuum pumps, parts for fuel-producing centrifuges, spectrometers, uranium metal products and laser systems.

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IAEA Says Iran Strays from Non-Proliferation Obligations
Mark Heinrich
(for personal use only)

Iran has strayed from non-proliferation obligations by ceasing to provide advance data on nuclear plans and allow inspector visits to a nascent heavy water reactor, the U.N. atomic watchdog said on Wednesday.

But, briefing the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors, the IAEA's top legal counsel said this did not mean Iran was in "non-compliance" with rules, a finding that could warrant further action by the U.N. Security Council.

France requested a legal opinion from the IAEA safeguards division after agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei urged Iran to unblock a stalemate arising from its failure to open up to IAEA investigations and its increasing restrictions on inspections.

A February 19 IAEA report said Iran had extended curbs on monitoring imposed in 2006 in reprisal for sanctions to barring inspectors from visiting its planned Arak heavy water reactor to verify it is being designed only for peaceful uses.

Tehran says the Arak complex will be geared to producing solely isotopes for medical care and agriculture.

Western powers fear Iran may configure the Arak reactor to derive plutonium from spent fuel rods as another possible source of bomb-grade fuel, besides its Natanz uranium enrichment plant, which is under daily IAEA surveillance.

"While construction of the reactor is still some years away from completion, this refusal to grant access adversely affects the agency's ability to ensure that no diversion pathways are built into the facility," Johan Rautenbach, head of the IAEA's legal affairs office, told the closed-door governors meeting.

"It also adversely impacts the effective and efficient implementation of verification activities once construction of the reactor, with large hot cells suitable for (fuel) reprocessing activities, is completed," he said.


"This is inconsistent with its obligations under its (basic nuclear) safeguard agreement," Rautenbach added.

Iran's refusal to provide any advance design information on planned nuclear sites since last year was also "inconsistent" with subsidiary clauses to its safeguards deal agreed in 1992.

But Rautenbach said all this did not constitute "non-compliance," a finding that triggered Iran's referral by IAEA governors to the U.N. Security Council in 2006 for failing to report sensitive enrichment-related activity to inspectors.

"This should be seen in proper context," he said, saying subsidiary provisions were "broadly phrased" and scores of IAEA member states were not yet bound by them due to legal technicalities based on prior safeguards agreements.

Iran says it is refining uranium only for a civilian nuclear programme to generate electricity. But its record of nuclear secrecy and limits on non-proliferation inspections have stirred Western suspicions of an illicit quest for atomic bombs.

Iran has said that in keeping with its original safeguards agreement, it will notify the IAEA within 180 days of introducing nuclear material into any of its planned nuclear plants, including Arak.

But IAEA officials have said Iran's halting of inspections beyond its two declared uranium-processing and enrichment sites have largely blinded the watchdog to the Islamic Republic's nuclear advances, fanning alarm in the West.

The IAEA report also said Iran had built a dome over Arak, meaning satellite imagery was no longer useful in keeping an eye on what was being installed inside.

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IAEA Approves UAE's Ratification of Additional Protocol
Emirates News Agency
(for personal use only)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors at a session on Tuesday approved the UAE's ratification of the additional nuclear inspection measures known as the Additional Protocol.

The Additional Protocol was developed by the nuclear watchdog to verify nuclear activities by IAEA's member states to ensure their commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Representatives of member countries of the Arabian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) unanimously hailed the UAE's initiative as a highly significant step that demonstrates GCC members' commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and technology.

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IAEA Nuclear Fuel Bank Moves Step Closer, Says ElBaradei
Nuclear Engineering International
(for personal use only)

IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei has reported on the progress of the IAEA nuclear fuel bank initiative, and outlined what he called his 'ideal scenario' for it, in a speech to the IAEA board of governors in Vienna, Austria on March 2.

ElBaradei said that he has circulated a preliminary proposal from Russia for supplying low-enriched uranium for use of IAEA members that covers assured export licences and long-term costs. He said that a detailed version of the proposal will be published 'in the near future.'

He also said that members had nearly reached the goal of $100m in contributions. US charity the Nuclear Threat Initiative, co-founded by Ted Turner in 2001, has proposed $50m of funding if the IAEA can raise the $100m by September 2009, and if the IAEA chooses to establish a fuel reserve of last resort under its auspices.

An expert advisory panel recommended that the IAEA administer a nuclear fuel bank in 2005.

ElBaradei proposed three principles for how such a fuel bank should be run. First, he said it should be non-political, non-discriminatory and available to all states in compliance with their safeguards obligations. Second, he said that any release of material should be determined by non-political criteria established in advance and applied objectively and consistently. Third, no state should be required to give up its rights under the non-proliferation treaty regarding any parts of the nuclear fuel cycle.

He added, "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."

ElBaradei summed up the year 2008 as 'somewhat paradoxical' for nuclear power. He said: "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."

He added: "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."

He said that the IAEA continues to monitor and verify the shutdown operations of North Korea's Yongbyon reactor, but said that lack of cooperation by Iran has prevented the IAEA from making progress on investigation of possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme.

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Differences on Verification Hold Back Six-Party Nuclear Talks
China View
(for personal use only)

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei said here Wednesday that differences on how to verify nuclear facilities of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a major obstacle holding back the six-party talks.

"Parties involved have not reached an agreement on the issue and efforts are being made to find a solution acceptable to all," said Wu, China's top negotiator to the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.

Wu, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), made the remarks on the sidelines of the top political advisory body's annual session, which started Tuesday.

The six-party talks, involving the DPRK, the United States, the Republic of Korea, China, Japan and Russia, have been focusing on the settlement of nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula since August 2003.

The latest round of the talks ended in early December last year with no agreement on nuclear verification, as the DPRK and the United States differed over related issues.

Despite current difficulties, Wu said the all parties agreed that the talks should be continued and efforts should be made to push forward the negotiation process.

Wu said breakthroughs have been made over the past five years as the DPRK has agreed to disable its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon in exchange for economic and energy assistance, and the United States no longer regards the DPRK as a sponsor of terrorism.

"The efforts have helped maintain peace and stability in northeast Asia," said Wu.

"The frank and sincere communication has also helped improve understanding between the parties, which will have a far-reaching influence on their future relations," Wu said.

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U.S. Remains Committed to Removing Nuclear Facilities on Korean Peninsula
China View
(for personal use only)

U.S. special representative on the issue of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Stephen Bosworth said that the new U.S. administration remained committed to removing nuclear facilities on the Korean Peninsula.

Bosworth made the remarks at a briefing here Wednesday after meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, saying that the United States' aim of removing nuclear facilities will not change.

Bosworth also said his visit to Northeast Asia demonstrated the importance that the new administration attached actively to the issues of the Korean Peninsula, and the most important of those is to resume the six-party talks as soon as possible.

The six parties ended their third meeting during the sixth round of talks last December in Beijing without substantial progress on how to verify the DPRK's nuclear facilities.

"We believe the six-party-talks are central to all our efforts to deal with what's happening on the Peninsula," Bosworth said.

The DPRK said last month that it was preparing to launch a communications satellite, which South Korea and the United States officials believed could be a test of a long-range missile that in theory could reach the U.S. west coast.

"It was far better not to see the launch," Bosworth stressed.

Bosworth arrived here on Tuesday, and is scheduled to fly to Tokyo on Thursday for talks with Japanese officials. After that, he will also travel to Seoul to meet with meet Russian as well as South Korean officials.

Bosworth served as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea from 1997 to 2000, and executive director of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization from 1995-1997. He was dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University before taking up the present post.

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D.  Nuclear Cooperation

Obama Seeks Russian Help on Iran but Denies Deal
Ross Colvin and Caren Bohan
(for personal use only)

President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he wanted to work with Russia to resolve a nuclear stand-off with Iran but denied reports he had offered to slow deployment of a missile defense shield in exchange for Moscow's help.

The New York Times reported that Obama had sent a letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev suggesting he would back off deploying a system in eastern Europe to intercept and destroy missiles, a move Russia sees as a military threat, if Moscow helped stop Iran from developing long-range weapons.

"What I said in the letter is what I have said publicly, which is that the missile defense that we have talked about deploying is directed toward, not Russia, but Iran," Obama said after meeting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"And what I said ... was that, obviously, to the extent that we are lessening Iran's commitment to nuclear weapons, then that reduces the pressure for, or the need for a missile defense system," he said.

Obama's defense secretary, Robert Gates, said Washington wanted to reopen dialogue with Moscow on Iran. There were two options, he said -- to work together to persuade Iran not to go ahead with their ballistic missile program, or make Russia a "full partner" in the defense shield.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs stressed the linkage between the missile shield and Iran at a White House briefing.

"If working with our allies and working with Russia we can eliminate the threat, then you eliminate the driving force behind that system to combat that threat,".

Moscow, which plans to start up a nuclear reactor at Iran's Bushehr plant by the end of the year, has used its veto in the United Nations Security Council on a number of occasions to water down or defeat U.S.-led efforts to impose tougher sanctions on Iran.

The Obama administration has said it wants to "reset" U.S.-Russian ties, which deteriorated under former U.S. President George W. Bush and then Russian President Vladimir Putin, partly because of the plans to deploy the shield.


Putin's successor, Medvedev, told a news conference that Moscow was willing to talk to Washington about the shield but that it saw Iran's nuclear program as a separate issue.

"If the new (U.S.) administration shows common sense and offers a new (missile defense) structure which would satisfy European (needs) ... and would be acceptable for us, we are ready to discuss it," Medvedev said on a visit to Madrid.

"If we are talking about any 'swaps' (Iran for missile defense) this is not how the question is being put. This would not be productive," he said.

U.S. officials have said the United States will go ahead with the planned deployment of the missile shield in eastern Europe, but only if it is shown to work and is cost-effective.

The plan to site missiles and a radar tracking station in former Communist satellite states Poland and the Czech Republic has angered Moscow, which sees it as a threat, despite U.S. insistence that it is aimed at rogue missiles from Iran.

The United States and some European nations fear Iran is trying to build atomic weapons and are concerned at its development of ballistic rockets that could be used to carry any nuclear warheads great distances.

Tehran insists its pursuit of a nuclear capability is purely for the peaceful generation of electricity.

Obama has said he is prepared to offer Iran economic incentives if it abandons its nuclear program but he has also warned of tougher economic sanctions if it pushes ahead.

The United States and five other powers, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, said on Tuesday they were committed to direct talks with Iran, a switch from Bush's policy of trying to isolate the Islamic Republic.

On Capitol Hill, a key Republican said Obama should consider engaging Iran more directly.

"Among other steps, the possibility of establishing a U.S. visa office or some similar diplomatic presence in Iran should be on the table," said Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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Russia's Top Nuclear Envoy Due in Seoul Next Week
Lee Chi-dong
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

Russian Vice Foreign Minister Aleksei Borodavkin, who heads the country's delegation to the six-way talks on North Korea's nuclear program, will visit South Korea next week to discuss Seoul-Moscow relations and ways to advance the stalled negotiations, a diplomatic source said Tuesday.

He may also meet Stephen Bosworth, the new U.S. point man on Pyongyang, during his trip here, the source added.

Bosworth is scheduled to arrive in Seoul on Saturday for a four-day stay as part of his regional tour that also includes stops in China and Japan.

The State Department said earlier in the day that Bosworth will meet South Korean officials as well as "senior Russian officials who are traveling in the region" during his upcoming trip to Seoul. It gave no other details, including the names of the Russian officials.

South Korean government officials were also guarded about Bosworth's itinerary here, saying specifics have yet to be coordinated.

But the source told Yonhap News Agency that the top Russian nuclear negotiator will be in Seoul next week for a few days before flying on to Southeast Asia.

"Vice Foreign Minister Borodavkin is supposed to visit South Korea to hold a regular consultation session on South Korea-Russia ties. He will have a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Yong-joon," the source said. "He also plans to meet South Korea's new nuclear envoy Wi Sung-lac."

The source added that Bosworth is expected to pay a courtesy call on former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung during his trip here.

Kim is known for his trademark "sunshine" policy of engagement with the North. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 after an historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang earlier in the year.

Bosworth served as Washington's ambassador to Seoul during Kim's presidency from 1998-2003.

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E.  Syria

Evidence Mounts of Syrian Nuclear Cover-Up: U.S.
Mark Heinrich
(for personal use only)

The United States said on Wednesday that U.N. inspectors had found growing evidence of covert nuclear activity in Syria, and European allies said a lack of Syrian transparency demanded utmost scrutiny.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is looking into U.S. intelligence reports that Syria had almost built a North Korean-designed, nuclear reactor meant to yield bomb-grade plutonium before Israel bombed it in 2007.

Last month, the IAEA said inspectors had found enough traces of uranium in soil samples taken in a trip to the bombed site granted by Syria last June to constitute a "significant" find, and satellite pictures taken before the Israeli bombing revealed a building resembling a reactor.

But the IAEA report said Syria, citing national security reasons, had ignored many agency requests for further on-the-ground access and documentation to back up its assertion that Israel's target was a purely conventional military building.

"This report contributes to the growing evidence of clandestine nuclear activities in Syria," Gregory Schulte, U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, said during a debate by its 35-nation Board of Governors in Vienna.

"We must understand why such (uranium) material -- material not previously declared to the IAEA -- existed in Syria and this can only happen if Syria provides the cooperation requested."

He said it was also essential that Syria allow inspectors to examine debris removed from the bombed facility to an unknown location immediately after Israel's strike.

This applied as well, Schulte said, to three other military sites which satellite pictures showed Syria "sanitized" -- landscaping them and whisking away equipment -- shortly after the IAEA asked to check them out.

Last week, Damascus said the uranium particles were not "significant." It said they came from depleted uranium used in Israeli munitions, contradicting an IAEA finding that this was chemically processed uranium not in Syria's declared inventory.

Syria also suggested IAEA analyses were faulty and that satellite imagery Washington gave to the IAEA was fabricated. Its only declared nuclear site is an old research reactor, and it has no known nuclear energy capacity.

In a statement to the closed-door IAEA gathering, the 27-member European Union voiced concern at the "possibility that Syria has not declared all its nuclear installations."

"Any obstacles, unnecessary delays or a lack of cooperation ... undermine the credibility of the agency's verification capabilities. Such cases, therefore, deserve our utmost attention," it said."

Vienna diplomats said Syria had told the IAEA it had built a missile facility on the desert tract hit by Israel, a disclosure apparently meant to reinforce the Syrian refusal to grant more IAEA access on national security grounds.

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F.  Pakistan

Fears Over Control of Arsenal
Richard Norton Taylor
The Guardian
(for personal use only)

Of all the security threats posed by Pakistan, the most worrying is the fate of the country's nuclear arsenal.

Western governments are worried that if the state collapses, its nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of extremists, or simply out of control of any firm hands. Independent analysts are sceptical about official Pakistani assurances.

Pakistani authorities say their nuclear weapons are not assembled, the fissile cores are stored separately from the non-nuclear explosives packages and warheads are stored separately from the delivery systems. The country is estimated to have enough material for 55 weapons.

The key question remains control. "Please grant to Pakistan that if we can make nuclear weapons and the delivery systems, we can also make them safe," Khalid Kidwai, director general of Pakistan's strategic plans division, described as the keeper of Pakistan's nuclear keys, told the New York Times earlier this year.

For the Pakistani military, securing the weapons is a "high priority", Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said yesterday. One concern was whether extremist elements were able to infiltrate the military. "The big question is operational authority," he added. "Who has the codes?"

According to the US Institute for Science and International Security, in the event of a coup, foreign governments may intervene to prevent the weapons from falling into hostile hands.

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G.  Nuclear Energy

Italy's Nuclear Ambitions
Eric J Lyman
ISN Security Watch
(for personal use only)

On 24 February, Italy took its most concrete step yet it its return to nuclear power, signing an agreement with neighbor France to develop at least four state-of-the-art EPR nuclear reactors.

Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi and French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy signed the agreement with great fanfare in Rome, both calling it a major milestone for nuclear technology in Europe. "The future of renewable energy is nuclear power," a beaming Berlusconi declared.

The 72-year-old Berlusconi, a polarizing figure since he burst onto the Italian political in 1994, is an easy figure to criticize. Legal problems - charges that he has manipulated the Italian legal system and used political office to line his own pockets and enrich his media empire - have rightfully dogged Berlusconi for years. His verbal gaffes produce giggles in European capitals. His vain efforts to remain in the spotlight no matter what the costs can seem tragic.

But this time, Berlusconi may be right.

Much of the criticism against the nuclear power plans is historical. In 1987, 19 months after the nuclear reactor meltdown in Chernobyl in the then-Soviet Union, Italians went to the polls and voted overwhelmingly to reject a referendum that would have allowed the country's fledgling nuclear power industry to dramatically expand. Within two months of the vote, then-prime minister Giovanni Goria signed a decree halting work on a nearly completed reactor in Montalto di Castro, just north of Rome. By 1990, the country's two remaining nuclear generators, both in northwestern Italy, were shut down.

The 1987 referendum and the subsequent steps were hailed as a triumph of environmentalism. No more fears of nuclear meltdowns. No more toxic nuclear waste to dispose of.

But a lot has changed since then. EPR technology - the acronym stands for either Evolutionary Power Reactor or European Pressurized Reactor, depending on where it is marketed - has far more safety features than traditional water-cooled reactors. The waste it produces is more toxic than traditional nuclear waste, but mostly because it is more concentrated.

More importantly, it will be a major step in Italy's desire to become more energy independent. Both Italy and France are relatively poor in terms of natural resources. As such, Italy imports about 87 percent of the energy it uses. But that is about the same percentage of France's energy needs generated by nuclear power. In fact, France is a net exporter of electricity, selling about a fifth of its total production to Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands - and to Italy, which receives about 10 percent of its power from French nuclear reactors.

Of course, Italy will not reverse the trend with the four plants agreed to by Berlusconi and Sarkozy. France operates 59 nuclear reactors, with five more (including two EPR plants) in the works. But projections are that the four Italian plants will produce about as much power as Italy currently imports from France - an amount that should not be scoffed at. Plans are for more reactors to follow the four were agreed to in February.

Most environmental groups still oppose nuclear power. Yet the strongest arguments in favor of further development of may be the potential impact on greenhouse gas emissions scientists say are responsible for climate change. Italy, with an economy nearly 25 percent smaller than France's based on International Monetary Fund figures, produces around 20 percent more greenhouse gas emissions, even though close to 7/8 of its electricity is imported (most of the gas emissions produced by power generation are accounted for in the country where the power is generated).

Without a doubt, there are valid concerns in the nuclear debate. The problem of waste is not one that will be easily solved. Measures to prevent potential meltdowns are strong but should be improved. And there are fears that a focus on nuclear power could hurt the development of more traditional renewable energy sources like wind or solar power. But none of these are reasons to abandon the development of a technology that a growing number of key environmental players believe will play a central role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Yvo de Boer, the UN's top climate change official, said at the body's climate change summit in Poland last December that it was "difficult to imagine a scenario where long-range emissions reductions targets are met without the use of nuclear power."

Stephen Tindale, a former Greenpeace UK executive director and nuclear disarmament activist, has recently declared himself in favor of nuclear energy, calling it the lesser of two evils.

"Human survival is dependent on very rapid reductions in carbon dioxide emissions so the radioactive waste issues, the pollution from nuclear power stations, the radioactive pollution, those are not insignificant but they are not as great a threat in our view as climate change itself," Tindale said during an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Europe is in the midst of re-evaluating its stance on nuclear power. Though Germany is a notable exception, most of the continent is giving nuclear power a long look as it becomes increasingly wary of a future dependent on oil from the Middle East and gas from Russia. It's not insignificant that, Italy, so long among Europe's laggards in terms of economic growth and political stability will suddenly find itself thrust into the Europe's vanguard in an area that will only become more important with time.

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What Happened to NPT Now, Mr Rudd?
The Economic Times
(for personal use only)

The Australian Labour government may soften its stand on the export of uranium to India to help the latter ramp up its nuclear power programme. There are signs of this happening as the major uranium mining state of Western Australia has indicated it will open up exploration of uranium mines which will bring more revenue to the state.

Commercial exploitation of uranium may become even more imperative as the global recession takes a toll on Australia’s economy which may slow down to 0% GDP growth in 2009.

Australia’s massive budget surpluses built over the years are threatening to turn into a deficit because of a near-collapse of its massive income ($70 billion annually) from just exporting mineral resources. Australia is a mineral-rich state and the precipitous fall in the global hard commodity prices is likely to force Australia into exploiting its mineral wealth even more.

Therefore, it is possible that Australia may, in near future, liberalise its uranium mining policy as has been done by the Western Australia state. The Labour party, which came to power last year under the leadership of Kevin Rudd, is historically opposed to selling uranium to non-NPT signatories, India being one, for nuclear power. However, in the rapidly-developing recession, the trade unions in Australia, who form the backbone of Labour party, want to exploit uranium mines further to generate higher incomes for workers. India is a major market because it plans to ramp up nuclear power to 70,000 mw in 15 years.

The trade unions demand to further exploit uranium resources has put the Labour government in a quandary. According to Indian High Commissioner in Canberra, Ms Sujata Singh, the Labour party’s position is to freeze uranium mining at the current levels. However, this has not become the policy of the Labour government at the federal level. This suggests that Australia wants to keep a window open to exploit its uranium mines to the fullest if the need arises. In that event, India is likely to get uranium after it signs all relevant protocols in the manner that China has done with Australia for its nuclear power programme.

Sources said there is an understanding developing between India and Australia that, eventually, access to uranium would become part of a larger strategic relationship between the two countries encompassing heightened cooperation in cutting-edge agriculture technologies, military interaction as well as a comprehensive economic cooperation framework covering free trade in goods, services and investment flows.

Although India will not press for immediate uranium supplies as it does not need them urgently, it is becoming clear that the Labour government will gradually bring it into the rubric of the larger strategic partnership between India and Australia. Top Indian corporates such as Reliance Industries have a joint venture in place to exploit uranium in Australia. Local Australian companies too are putting pressure on the Labour government to become more liberal in uranium exports.

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Bangladesh to Build Nuclear Plant to Meet Energy Demand
Thaindian News
(for personal use only)

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wednesday told parliament that her government would set up a nuclear power plant to meet the country’s growing energy demand.

“We are taking initiatives to set up a nuclear power plant at Rooppur site,” she said in response to a question from a parliament member.

According to a proposal prepared by the government, a 600-MW nuclear power plant will be constructed at Rooppur located in the country’s western region.

The UN atomic watchdog, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has already approved a Technical Assistance Project for Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant to be initiated between 2009 and 2011.

Currently, the country is facing power shortage of nearly 2,000 MW.

Sheikh Hasina’s government has a plan to increase power generation from 3,500 MW to 7,000 MW in the next five years.

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Nuclear Power Can Deliver Nigeria from Electricity Problems, Says NNRA boss
Sulaimon Salau
The Guardian of Nigeria
(for personal use only)

To achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of cutting poverty by half in 2015, all sources of energy, including nuclear power, must come to play in meeting the electricity generation requirement of Nigeria.

The Director General of Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Mr. S. Elegba, who made this assertion in Lagos recently, ascribed it to the projection that the national electricity demand would be above 50,000 Mega Watts (50GigaWatts) by the year 2020.

Acknowledging the former president Olusegun Obasanjo's move towards nuclear power initiative, Elegba said that this was premised to the fact that it was the only viable option since national reserves of conventional sources were dwindling and the total installed capacity could hardly fulfill national energy needs and therefore could not sustain national industrial and economic development.

His words: "The sorry state of our electricity generation is summarised by the fact that Nigeria has never scaled the four GigaWatts barrier in actual power generation for a population of over 140 million. This was aptly and sadly recounted again by the Director General of the IAEA at the International Conference on Nuclear Power in France in 2005."

Elegba quoted the IAEA as saying: "Per capital electricity consumption in Nigeria is closer to 70 kilowatt-hour per annum."

This, he said, translated to an average availability of eight watts, which is less than a regular light bulb for each Nigerian citizen.

Nigeria's present electricity generation is mainly from hydro and gas/thermal. This energy mix is limited and not comparable to a country like South Africa, which generates 40,000MW of electricity for a population that is less than half of Nigeria's.

It could be recalled that President Obasanjo, in May 2006 established the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission with the vision of operating at least one nuclear power plant within the next 10-15 years. Nigeria needs to generate at least 3,000MW or 3G by 2020.

To him, generating power from nuclear is not peculiar to Nigeria alone, noting that about 440 power reactor were currently operational in 30 countries, while 40 were making move. These reactors, according to Elegba supply about 16 per cent of the world's electricity.

"Today, 40 developing countries have expressed the desire to develop nuclear power for electricity generation including eight from Africa; namely, Nigeria, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana and South Africa and 11 from Asia."

He stressed: "The country has invested the past 30 years in developing the physical and regulatory infrastructure for safe, peaceful, applications of nuclear energy. The power application of nuclear energy must now be developed to ensure adequate and reliable electricity supplies for industrialisation and national security."

Elegba, however, proffered a leeway from energy poverty. He said: "The way forward must necessarily be a hybrid of the two extremes, where the government regulates, the private sector generates, the government transmits while the private sector distribute. This is the 1010 model.

He gave the steps that would be required as regionalising of grids, generation of electricity by both private entrepreneurs and state governments. Others are:

-introduction of modular nuclear power plants by the private sector operators,
-introduction of micro nuclear power plants (30-40MW) which can be completed in three years,
-introduction of mini 400-600MW which can be completed in seven to eight years, and
-introduction of the mainframe nuclear power reactors that will require 10-15 years to complete.

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H.  Nuclear Industry

Areva Warns Siemens of Contract Breach in Nuclear JV
Marie Maitre
(for personal use only)

Areva (CEPFi.PA) said on Wednesday former partner Siemens would breach a non-competition clause if the German company went ahead with plans to tie up with the French nuclear reactor maker's Russian rival Rosatom.

In January, Siemens announced plans to exit its nuclear venture with Areva, a move Areva said had come as a surprise.

On Tuesday, Siemens (SIEGn.DE) and Rosatom, Russia's state nuclear company, announced a joint venture to develop Russian pressurized water reactor technology, the construction of new nuclear power plants and modernization of existing plants.

Rosatom, will hold a majority stake in the venture which will compete directly with Areva.

"Areva points out that Siemens with its 34 percent share in Areva NP has a number of compulsory obligations under the shareholders' agreement dated Jan. 30, 2001, which in particular contains a non-competition clause," Areva said on Wednesday.

"Areva has informed Siemens that by announcing this joint venture it is in breach of contract, with all the ensuing consequences by virtue of the shareholders' agreement."

Last week, Areva finance director Alain-Pierre Raynaud told Reuters it was in the "common interest" of Areva and Siemens to find an agreement on the amount Areva will pay to buy back the German conglomerate's 34 percent stake in Areva NP.

Raynaud said a clause of non-competition from Siemens, may be "more difficult" to negotiate, adding it may also help bring down the price of the 34 percent stake.

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Russians Consider Slovakia as Site for Nuclear Fuel Plant
The Slovak Spectator
(for personal use only)

Russian state corporation Tvel, one of the world's largest producers of nuclear fuel, is interested in building a nuclear fuel production plant in Slovakia, reports the Hospodárske Noviny (HN)economic daily on March 3. The plant would be involved in producing uranium-based fuel cells for nuclear power stations, according information supplied by the company's communication department to HN.

Apart from this Russian company, only French state energy concern Electricité de France produces nuclear fuel cores in Europe. Several meetings dedicated to nuclear energy were recently held at the level of the company representatives and the Economy Ministry.

Tvel currently supplies nuclear fuel to Slovakia's Slovenské Elektrarne, as well as to the Czech ČEZ, to Ukraine, the Baltic countries, Finland and China. Tvel is currently deciding between Ukraine and Slovakia as the site for the facility.

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I.  Links of Interest

Japanese Perceptions of Obama's Nuclear 'Twin Commitments'
Ken Jimbo
The Japan Times
(for personal use only)

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Preventing a Cascade of Instability, U.S. Engagement to Check Iranian Nuclear Progress
Washington Institute on Near East Policy
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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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