1. Miliband: West Ready to Solve Iran’s Nuclear Issue
Islamic Republic News Agency
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British foreign secretary despite repeating west’s past accusations against Iran’s peaceful nuclear program said Wednesday west is ready for surveying various multilateral initiatives aimed at solving Iran’s nuclear issue.
According to IRNA, David Miliband added at question and answer session of the British Parliament, “We support the Russian investments in Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Plant.” The British top diplomat added, “The nuclear NPT should be the basis for any kind of dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.”
Regarding the new US administration, he said, “This is the best chance for Iran to solve its problems with the west.”
In response to an MP who had asked Miliband why new sets of sanctions are not imposed against Iran, he said, “It is not an appropriate time for imposing new sanctions against Iran, since it is now time for us to support the US initiatives for entering direct talks with Iran.” The British foreign secretary added, “The new US administration’s proposal for talks with Iran after 30 years has provided an opportunity for Tehran to improve its relations with the west.” He added, “If Iran would agree with President Obama’s proposal, the rest of the world should facilitate that process.”
Repeating the past accusations against our country’s peaceful nuclear program, Miliband said, “Iran should heed its responsibilities towards the international community, or pay the cost for not doing so.”
He said that Iran has several interests in the Middle East, but so long as its nuclear problem has not been solved, Tehran would not be able to take advantage of them. An MP asked why Israel is not asked to destroy its nuclear warheads, and Miliband sufficed in replying, “We favor a nuclear weapons free Middle East.”
Deputy British Foreign Secretary in Middle East Affairs Bill Rommel, too, in response to a member of the British House of Commons who had asked him about Iran’s nuclear issue, wrote, “President Obama’s recent message to Iran has provided a real opportunity for Tehran to solve its nuclear problem with the West and to regain the trust of the international community.”
Rommel wrote, “If Iran would enter talks with the United States Britain, too, would solve its problems with Iran.”
He added, “Establishment of constructive relations with Iran based on mutual respect would serve Britain’s interests.”
Available at: http://www5.irna.ir/En/View/FullStory/?NewsId=414629&IdLanguage=3
2. US, Russia Call on Iran to Submit to Inspections
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US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called on Iran on Wednesday to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog and prove its nuclear program is ‘peaceful’ in nature.
The two leaders issued a statement after their talks in London recognising that Iran had a right to a “civilian nuclear program” but added Iran needed to restore confidence in the initiative’s “exclusively peaceful nature.”
“We call on Iran to fully implement the relevant UN Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors resolutions including provision of required cooperation with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).
Available at: http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticleNew.asp?col=§ion=middleeast&xfile=data/middleeast/2009/April/middleeast_April17.xml
In an exclusive interview on March 31 with "The Atlantic," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel could go it alone and attack Iran if the country went nuclear.
Netanyahu told Jeffrey Goldberg that if "the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying."
Should the Iranian government -- a "messianic apocalyptic cult," Netanyahu told Goldberg -- control atomic bombs, Israel does not need U.S. approval to launch an attack. One Netanyahu adviser told "The Atlantic" that the "problem [with attacking Iran] is not military capability."
Netanyahu's comments came days after an article by Seymour Hersh appeared in "The New Yorker" with reports that former Vice President Dick Cheney privately told the Israelis that Obama was "pro-Palestinian" and might not support their policies.
Reactions to the interview have been mixed: CBS's Tucker Reals can't decide if Netanyahu is bluffing.
In "The Atlantic" piece, Goldberg admits the threat may be a "tremendous" bluff but that as former commandoes, Netanyahu and Company are "men predisposed to action."
Reals calls the conversation "an interesting preview" of new dialogue between Washington and Israel.
"Haaretz's" Aluf Benn is more skeptical, citing experts in Israel's securityategic community who think an attack against Iran is "too big a mission for Israel" and that sending in an air force requires U.S. cooperation.
Over at Talking Points Memo, M.J. Rosenberg writes that, "Obama needs to get on the phone and let Netanyahu know" that "Israel cannot act unilaterally."
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, author of "After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy," writes in Asia Times that Israel's position "muddies" Obama's promised "new beginning" with Iran.
And former Israeli diplomat Zvi Shtauber, speaking at Harvard University, said that he thought Israel would only consider an attack when Iran was "within the striking distance" of nuclear capability.
Available at: http://www.rferl.org/content/Netanyahu_Prepared_To_Go_It_Alone_On_Iran/1565976.html
1. IAEA Chief "Encouraged" by U.S.-Russia Arms Pledge
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A U.S.-Russian commitment to rid the world of nuclear weapons and pursue diplomacy on Iran and North Korea is a welcome boost for non-proliferation efforts, the U.N. nuclear watchdog chief said Thursday.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama pledged at a London summit Wednesday to seek a deal by July on cutting their nuclear arsenals, work for a nuclear-free world and coordinate policy on Iran and North Korea.
Nuclear diplomacy and arms control were given short shrift by Obama's predecessor George W. Bush and Iran, meanwhile, has expanded a secretive uranium enrichment campaign.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had previously accused big powers of failing to meet obligations to disarm under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and spurring other countries to seek risky nuclear capability.
ElBaradei said he was "greatly encouraged" by the new U.S.-Russian agreement, saying it demonstrated leadership and "finally moves us beyond the Cold War mentality."
He welcomed that Obama and Medvedev were working towards early negotiations on a treaty that would verifiably ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.
ElBaradei, who often clashed with the Bush administration over what he saw as its policy of isolating and threatening Iran, said he supported the fresh U.S.-Russian stance on Tehran's disputed nuclear program.
"(I support) their commitment to pursue a direct and comprehensive diplomatic solution with Iran that would address the international community's concerns while guaranteeing Iran's right to a peaceful nuclear program," he said.
He has rejected criticism by some Western powers of perceived leniency towards countries such as Iran, under IAEA investigation.
Iran denies seeking a nuclear arsenal, saying its uranium enrichment work is to supply energy for purely peaceful means.
ElBaradei said he agreed with Obama's and Medvedev's assessment of an "urgent need" for the Korean peninsula to be rid of nuclear arms.
ElBaradei steps down in November after 12 years at the helm of the IAEA. Voting last week on a successor to head the U.N. guardian of nuclear safeguards was inconclusive, opening the field to new candidates.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUKTRE5312PS20090402?sp=true
2. Malaysia Endorses Candidate for IAEA Chief - Min
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Malaysia's government endorsed the country's atomic energy board chief as a candidate for the U.N. nuclear watchdog director-general's post, a minister said on Thursday.
Malaysia will put forward Noramly Muslim, chairman of the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board, after the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governers failed to agree on a sucessor to Mohamed ElBaradei last week.
"Yes, Professor Dr Noramly Muslim is officially endorsed by the Malaysian government (for the post)," Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Maximus Ongkili told Reuters in a mobile phone text message. He declined to give further details.
Noramly, who has researched the impact of nuclear technology in developing countries, was IAEA's deputy director-general for technical cooperation in the late 1980s.
He has argued for Malaysia to start using nuclear energy to generate electricity much sooner than its 2020 target as the Southeast Asian country's oil reserves are getting depleted.
Malaysia's endorsement of Noramly comes after the two original candidates -- South Africa's Abdul Samad Minty and Japan's Yukiya Amano -- were not seen as broad-based enough to replace ElBaradei, who steps down in November this year.
Board chairman Algeria has invite fresh nominations to be submitted within four weeks. Another election will be held in May just in time for the Board's meeting the following month.
Delegations want to avoid a prolonged, divisive succession battle given the challenges facing the IAEA. But because of the job's sensitive nuclear security mandate and divisions between member states, there is a desire for a consensus candidate.
The IAEA Director General oversees a global inspectorate that seeks to detect and deter covert diversions of nuclear energy to bomb-making and to promote peaceful uses of the atom, in keeping with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
He authors technical but politically charged reports on IAEA investigations into alleged proliferation activity. Iran and Syria are currently under scrutiny. North Korea, Libya and Saddam Hussein's Iraq were subject to earlier investigations.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idUKKLR8502020090402
3. IAEA May Need Intelligence Arm Against Atom Terror
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The U.N. atomic watchdog may need to set up its own intelligence unit to combat a growing menace of nuclear terrorism, a former senior CIA official said in an interview Wednesday.
"The good news is that no credible information has surfaced that al Qaeda has obtained weapons-usable nuclear materials. The bad news is that (these) are missing in significant quantities," said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen.
He said the International Atomic Energy Agency, with its expertise probing shadowy nuclear activity in Iran and the A.Q. Khan nuclear smuggling ring, could be well placed to transcend national barriers to intelligence-sharing on atomic threats.
"We urgently need to overcome bureaucratic and security impediments to finding a way via the IAEA or another (multilateral) way to greatly expand how nations work together to find loose nukes," he told Reuters.
"No single state has all the answers. We should leverage the IAEA's expertise, broaden (its) mandate in this regard ... to supplement and support national efforts."
He headed the CIA's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and terrorism division and the U.S. Energy Department's intelligence arm before leaving government in January to join a Harvard think tank concerned with the unraveling of the global nuclear order. The IAEA has struggled to resolve allegations of covert, proliferation-prone nuclear work in Iran and Syria and prevent losses or theft of nuclear materials in part for lack of timely provision of intelligence by member states, its officials say.
They have welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama's promise to cooperate more with the IAEA after chiding the unilaterally minded Bush administration for withholding intelligence of potential help in extracting transparency from Iran and Syria.
"LIVING ON BORROWED TIME"
Mowatt-Larssen, speaking on the sidelines of a 90-nation seminar on nuclear security held under IAEA auspices, suggested countries could second intelligence officials to the U.N. watchdog or it could hire retired agents.
"They could use their connections with member governments while reducing the IAEA's dependency on them," he said.
"It's urgent because there's been a fundamental breakdown in nuclear security. The record of material seizures shows they have been serendipitous, not because (police) were looking for it," said Mowatt-Larssen.
"We are living on borrowed time. The problem is too overwhelming for bilateral and unilateral efforts alone."
An IAEA official told the meeting that the agency had recorded 1,562 incidents of missing or stolen nuclear materials since 1993. That might well be only the tip of the iceberg due to suspected under-reporting of the problem, he said.
This was caused, Mowatt-Larssen said, by secrecy arising from "perceived national interests."
He said Pakistan, grappling with increasing attacks by Islamist militants that U.S. officials say have links to elements of the Pakistani security services, topped the list of countries regarded as the most likely sources of nuclear materials or know-how getting into the hands of terrorists.
"There's a common belief that it's too hard for men in caves to build a nuclear weapon," he said, alluding to al Qaeda. But al Qaeda, he said, has been seeking the bomb for 15 years and its planning was "professional."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5305I920090401?sp=true
A senior Kuwaiti official extolled here Wednesday existing cooperation between the State of Kuwait and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over Kuwait's nuclear plan and anti-radioactivity efforts.
Chief of Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) Director General's Office and country executive coordinator of IAEA affairs, Anwar Al-Yahya, made the remarks in an in interview with KUNA on the sidelines of an ongoing international nuclear safety conference, which kicked off here on Monday.
Coordination is being developed between the KISR and IAEA with a view to establishing a nuclear section at the former to supervise the country's nuclear program, given the fact that the KISR boasts skilled national cadres in various oil, water, agricultural and other fields, said Al-Yahya, who is head of the Kuwaiti delegation participating in the gathering.
The KISR is making preparations for a peaceful nuclear program in cooperation with the IAEA, he added.
An IAEA delegation has recently visited Kuwait to monitor and survey the country's potential necessary for the nuclear drive in order to find the best way to help Kuwait in this respect, Al-Yahya said.
Several meetings have been held between Kuwaiti and IAEA officials over the recent period in Vienna and Kuwait on the latter's planned nuclear program. In January, the IAEA sent its final report to Kuwait on its nuclear program for the coming stage, he said.
Concerning Kuwait's integrated national plan to prevent radioactive risks and perils, he said all Kuwaiti state agencies involved are doing their best to control potential smuggling of radioactive materials with a view to thwarting nuclear terrorism.
In November 2008, IAEA experts visited Kuwait, where they conducted an all-out survey of all outlets in the country, and discussed with Kuwaiti officials the possibility of supplying them with sophisticated equipment to monitor smuggling of radioactive materials, he added.
The IAEA only provides intensive training courses to Kuwaiti customs officials, while Kuwait is taking relevant measures at its border checkpoints, he said.
Asked about possible radioactive risks to Kuwait due to nuclear reactors in the region, he said any country seeking to set up peaceful nuclear reactors should ensure clarity and transparency and put its program under the supervision of the international nuclear watchdog.
On his talks with IAEA officials, Al-Yahya said he had already met with officials at the IAEA technical cooperation section on the possibility of supplying Kuwait with experts and aid in the agricultural field.
A Kuwaiti delegation will be invited soon to meet IAEA officials on bilateral cooperation in the desert cultivation area, he pointed out.
Concerning the conference, which is attended by representatives from 90 countries, he said the gathering mainly aimed to assess four years of world efforts to improve security and safety against risks of radioactive materials.
It is a good opportunity for the conferees to share views on how to help countries improve nuclear safety and security, to find reliable safeguards that nuclear programs are only destined for peaceful purposes, he said.
Available at: http://www.zawya.com/Story.cfm/sidKUN0072090401131714/Kuwait-IAEA%20nuclear%20cooperation%20hailed
2. US, Russia Call for Nuke Cuts in Sweeping Agenda
Jennifer Loven and Steven R. Hurst
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The United States and Russia set a newly ambitious course for global cooperation Wednesday as presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev ordered negotiators into immediate action on a treaty to further reduce nuclear weapons.
Going into their first face-to-face meeting in London, Medvedev had voiced openness to Obama's call for resetting the deeply troubled U.S.-Russian relationship, but few had expected the kind of sweeping statements that emerged from weeks of intense preparatory talks.
While setting in motion fast-track negotiations on a replacement for the seminal 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, which expires at year's end, the two leaders vowed at the same time to jointly confront other perceived threats. They specifically mentioned the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea and al-Qaida militants who have found refuge in Pakistan.
They set a nominal July deadline for a substitute treaty for START, a date that coincides with Obama's first presidential visit to Russia. That conceivably would leave time to get the new treaty approved in the U.S. Senate by the December expiration of the current agreement. But arms control experts say December is not a hard deadline so long as there is progress.
Sen. Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican devoted to arms control, said the announcement of intent was "truly remarkable."
Not known for overstatement, Lugar called the joint declaration "almost breathless in its optimism and scope." He spoke in an interview with MSNBC.
Obama's engagement with the Russians marks a stunning reversal from policies of the Bush administration, which was disinclined to take up deep arms control negotiations and had angered Moscow with its intention to install a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov drove that point home in a briefing with Russian reporters after the Obama-Medvedev meeting.
"The new atmosphere of mutual trust," he said, is meaningful in "taking into account mutual interests and readiness to listen to each other." He added, "We missed this much in the past years."
The joint statements are a major boost for both Obama and Medvedev — both new to the foreign policy proving grounds and in need of the other's help.
If Medvedev is successful, with Obama, in midwifing the birth of a new nuclear reduction treaty, the Russian leader will solidify his hold on Kremlin power, where former President Vladimir Putin — now the prime minister — is perpetually looking over the shoulder of his hand-picked successor.
Obama stands to gain a major ally in the foreign policy problems most vexing to his administration, particularly Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea.
Obama sweetened the deal for the Russians by pledging to work for the U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, something that long has been high on the Russian agenda. Moscow has ratified the test ban pact, but the United States has not, nor have four other members of the nuclear club: China, India, Pakistan and Israel.
The new U.S. president also said he would put his shoulder behind Russia's bid for World Trade Organization membership, a key to Moscow's integration into the global trading system.
In return, the Russians put Iran on notice that it "needs to restore confidence in its exclusively peaceful nature." Washington contends the Iranians are using work on a civilian nuclear program for electricity generation as a cover for weapons development. Moscow retains significant sway with Tehran.
On Afghanistan, the joint documents talk of solving the ongoing conflict in a "regional context," which was believed to signal Russia's readiness to help.
Moscow also agreed to toughen its tone on North Korea, with the statement saying the Stalinist country's plans for a missile launch would be "damaging to peace and stability in the region." Moscow joined Washington in urging Pyongyang to "exercise restraint and observe relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions."
Obama and his aides were particularly pleased about the Russian position on Iran and on agreement about the threat from extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But the talks were not all about agreement. Last August's devastating war between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia came up, with Obama saying directly that Georgia's pro-Moscow separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia would never be recognized as independent by the United States, U.S. officials said.
Speaking for the Russians on American missile defense plans in Central Europe, Lavrov voiced the expectation that Moscow's concerns could be eased in the coming talks on a treaty to replace START.
Going into the new nuclear talks, the United States had 2,200 strategic nuclear warheads deployed; Russia has 2,800. Under the subsequent 2002 Treaty of Moscow, a plan negotiated under the Bush administration, the two sides committed to reducing their nuclear warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200.
But that treaty did not establish its own system for verifying compliance; instead it said verification would rest upon the existing provisions of the START treaty. But if START expires in December without a replacement in place, the Moscow Treaty would be left with no legally binding system for verification.
Obama has declared his belief that the United States and Russia should take the lead in ridding the world of nuclear weapons altogether. Russian and American arms control experts believe that the START replacement treaty would seek initially to cut strategic warhead arsenals to 1,500 on each side.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hNIxj5X1YKnv5oMTXWK_qnkplCMAD979TBVG1?index=5
1. India to Ink Deal With Russia to Set Up 4 New Nuclear Reactors
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India will ink a deal with Russia in June to set up four new nuclear reactors in Kudankulam in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, according to an Indian nuclear scientist.
"India and Russia have already signed other enabling accords like agreements on sharing of information and it is only the techno-commercial offer that has to be finalized and we expect it to be completed by June," Indian Nuclear Power Corporation chief S.K. Jain told the media Wednesday night.
The four VVER-type nuclear reactors will be of 1,000 megawatts capacity each and will be in addition to the two being already built in the state.
"The first two units of 1,000 megawatts reactors, which are under advanced stages of construction, will be completed during the course of this year," he said.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-04/02/content_11121172.htm
2. India May Sign Nuclear Liability Accord After Polls, Saran Says
Gaurav Singh and Subramaniam Sharma
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India, the second fastest-growing major economy, may enact a law that will limit the liability of U.S. suppliers in the event of a nuclear accident after a new government takes office following general elections.
“The internal processes of India becoming a member of the convention have been completed,” Shyam Saran, special envoy to the prime minister, said in an interview in New Delhi. “Whatever differences had to be resolved have been resolved.”
Suppliers in the U.S., which helped India win global assent to resume nuclear trade, are disadvantaged in competing for orders from India because they don’t have insurance cover for nuclear accidents. General Electric Co., the world’s biggest maker of power-generation equipment, has been pushing for ratification of the treaty restricting liability.
The proposal needs to be approved by India’s cabinet before parliament enacts it into law. The process will move forward after a new government takes over, Saran said in his office yesterday. He didn’t give details.
The South Asian nation will sign the liability treaty after lawmakers approve the legislation.
India aims to add 60,000 megawatts of nuclear capacity by 2030 to add electricity generating capacity and help cut peak power shortages that narrowed to 13.8 percent in the 11 months ended Feb. 28, from 16.6 percent a year earlier, according to the Central Electricity Authority.
Saran said on March 23 that India seeks 10,000 megawatts of nuclear power reactors from U.S. companies that may translate into $150 billion worth of projects.
Paris-based Areva SA, the world’s biggest nuclear reactor builder, and Russia’s Rosatom Corp. have an edge over U.S. suppliers in competing for orders from India. They have sovereign immunity because they are fully or partially controlled by governments. India signed atomic energy accords with the U.S., Russia and France after a three-decade ban on nuclear trade with the South Asian nation was lifted in September.
The liability treaty, known as the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, makes plant operators responsible for damages from any accidents and shields suppliers from liability. Operators must set aside about $450 million for compensation in case of damage and governments that sign the treaty would cover additional claims.
The U.S., Argentina, Morocco and Romania were the only four nations to have ratified the treaty as of May 21, according to the Web site of the International Atomic Energy Agency. At least one other country, such as Japan, that meets a required minimum of nuclear power output must ratify the treaty for it to go into effect.
India doesn’t have sufficient current generation capacity to reach the threshold to enforce the accord.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601091&sid=aj1gN9_BLzng&refer=india
China is the only low-key voice in the international outcry over North Korea's planned rocket launch and is likely to stay that way, putting the stability of the reclusive state ahead of any retaliatory sanctions.
The United States, South Korea and Japan have sounded alarm at the impending launch, which they say is a long-range missile test in all but name. Even Russia last week urged Pyongyang to abandon plans to fire the rocket some time from April 4 to 8.
But China, the closest North Korea has to a major ally and economic partner, has kept above this fray. While Beijing may use its growing clout to influence global events, here it is using that weight to sit unmoved despite the push against a launch.
For China, what matters is the stability of North Korea given the nightmare scenario of refugees flooding across its border if the impoverished state collapsed.
"They clearly would be much happier if the launch didn't happen," Peter Beck, a North Korea expert at the American University in Washington D.C., said of China.
"But they're clearly not going to get tough with North Korea and cut off their lifeline ... The bottom-line, I think, is that short of starting a war, they won't abandon North Korea."
While other countries single out North Korea for pressure, Chinese diplomats have repeatedly urged all sides to show "calm and restraint" and said the rocket will carry a communications satellite, which is how Pyongyang describes it.
China calculates that its display of detachment will minimise damage to stalled negotiations seeking to persuade North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons, and help preserve China's stake in North Korea's survival, said several Chinese analysts.
"China's main worry is that over-reacting now serves nobody's interests," said Zhu Feng, a regional security expert at Peking University. "North Korea has a history of seeking to provoke international reactions, and this time is the same. A big reaction rewards North Korea and benefits no one else."
Beijing does not want to be cornered into backing a new U.N. resolution against Pyongyang, or be treated as a custodian responsible for North Korean behaviour, added Cai Jian, an expert on North Korea at Fudan University in Shanghai.
"I think Beijing will maybe express regret at a launch and urge all sides to exercise restraint," he said. "But there's no sign that China is prepared to accept stronger measures or condemnation beyond the current [U.N.] resolutions."
China is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, and has the power to veto proposed resolutions. It backed a 2006 resolution that other governments say bans such launches by the North. Beijing has refused to say openly whether it agrees.
BEIJING BRIEFED AND BUCKLED DOWN
That mild stance contrasts with October 2006, when it denounced as "brazen" North Korea's first and only test explosion of a nuclear device -- an act that defied public warnings from Beijing's image-sensitive leaders.
This time North Korea appears to have briefed China on its broad intentions, telling officials it will not let tensions boil into a major crisis, said a Beijing observer familiar with the issue. The observer requested anonymity, citing official sensitivity about relations.
The two neighbours have had opportunities to exchange views at a high level. The head of the Chinese Communist Party's International Department, Wang Jiarui, visited Pyongyang in January and met supreme leader Kim Jong-il. North Korean Premier Kim Yong-il visited China in mid-March.
"Given that China is their only lifeline, it would make sense for North Korea to minimise angst in Beijing," said Beck.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will probably visit North Korea later this year, as the two sides celebrate 60 years of ties, said Zhang Liangui, an expert on North Korea at the Central Party School in Beijing.
While mercantile interests often drive Chinese diplomacy, the opposite applies with North Korea -- trade and aid are used to prop up Chinese security interests in the rickety regime.
Last year, trade reached $2.79 billion, up 41.3 percent on 2007, dominated by China's exports. By comparison, China's trade with South Korea was worth $186.1 billion, according to Chinese customs numbers.
China's 1,416-km (880-mile) border with the North is a barrier against millions of potential refugees who could surge across if the North collapsed.
With worries about Kim Jong-il's health and longevity growing, Beijing does not want to risk upheaval in Pyongyang.
"China's stance is that it wants a slow evolution of the situation on the Korean peninsula, not a sudden rupture," said Zhu, the Peking University professor. "If we can pull closer to North Korea, that will enhance China's influence."
The North also remains a land buffer for China against the United States and its regional allies, South Korea and Japan.
Not all Chinese analysts, however, thought a softer approach would coax Pyongyang back to the nuclear disarmament talks that include South Korea, China, the United States, Japan and Russia.
Zhang, the Beijing professor, said a successful rocket launch with limited international repercussions would fan what he called North Korean "brinkmanship", not encourage it to negotiate.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSPEK65630
Germany has let its 17 nuclear reactors produce another 1,241 terawatt hours of electricity up to 2021 under the national nuclear exit programme, supervisory authority BfS said on Thursday.
The operators have used allowances to produce 53 percent of total volumes granted to them in a deal between the industry and government which came into force in 2002, said BfS in a statement with the latest nuclear production balance.
The volume is equivalent to only two to three years of total power demand, but to offset nuclear losses, Germany has stepped up its renewables sector and is building new gas and coal-fired plants.
The nuclear withdrawal deal was struck by a government led by Social Democrats and the Green Party as a result of a public debate focused on the perceived risks of the technology.
BfS has to monitor production and operators' use of remaining volumes, which they are allowed to shift around between plants, and which can be lengthened by unexpected stoppages and maintenance measures.
That is why the likely end of individual plants' lives cannot be precisely predicted, BfS said.
Two plants at Stade and Obrigheim were already closed under the deal in 2003 and 2005 respectively.
Nuclear operators have been seeking to reverse the exit programme, arguing that anti-nuclear sentiment which led to the deal has since shifted back again in favour of nuclear, due to its virtually zero carbon emissions.
They also extol the financial merits of written-off plants in an economic crisis and hope that a conservative win in national elections in September may bring a policy change.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idUKL217765520090402
Nuclear power is regarded as part of the long-term solution to the Gulf energy challenge. But there may be a better way.
At MEED's Arabian Power & Water Summit (APWS) on 31 March, Pradeep Aggarwal, head of Isotope Hydrology Section at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), showed a map of the world with countries producing nuclear power in dark blue.
They included leaders in the field such as the US, Russia, China, the UK and France. Less well known is that nuclear power accounts for more than half the electricity produced in Belgium, Lithuania and Slovakia.
He then showed in light blue the countries thinking about building nuclear power plants. The map instantly changed hue. Practically every significant country has nuclear plans. In the Middle East, only Iraq and Yemen doesn't.
Nuclear technology is compelling. Fission generates vast amounts of energy in plants far smaller than their conventional equivalents. Operating costs are less than half. The amount of uranium required is tiny and there are no carbon emissions. At the APWS, there was consensus that nuclear power should meet at least part of the Middle East's long-term energy needs.
But there are nagging doubts. The first is about the cost of nuclear power station construction. Aggarwal said that it takes up to $8,000 for every kilowatt of electricity capacity if decommissioning is taken into account.
Carbon emissions This means a 750MW station, probably the smallest viable size for a nuclear plant, could cost $6bn. That's up to six times more than a conventional unit with the same capacity. Proponents dispute these projections, particularly if a cost is attached to carbon emission output. But there is no doubt the upfront expense of going nuclear power is comparatively high.
But the biggest worries are not economic. The first is about enrichment. This involves concentrating uranium to make fission possible. Enrichment also leads to the production of weapons-grade material.
The world's attention is fixed on Iran's determination to develop enrichment capabilities. But the real issue is a contradiction at the heart of the IAEA's mission. It is advocating nuclear power as a means of accelerating economic development while simultaneously trying to contain the spread of the technology that makes it possible.
The agency is trying to find a way that uranium enrichment can be carried out centrally or by closely-controlled sources. But there is an obvious problem. Going nuclear, which is designed to increase energy security, only makes sense when it is done on a large scale.
This will make countries dependent on nuclear power. If deliveries of nuclear feedstock can be interrupted, their energy security will be reduced not increased. This is why Iran is insisting on having control over the entire nuclear feedstock supply chain.
Storing waste The second big issue is what to do with nuclear waste. Since no sane person wants it near where they live, US nuclear power companies have been forced to store waste on site. This is both costly and potentially hazardous.
Champions of nuclear power argue that the problems can be overcome with sufficient political will. But this cannot be said about the third issue: the possibility of disasters such as the Chernobyl meltdown. Accidents cannot be ruled out, particularly as a result of unforeseen natural disasters or war.
Going nuclear is an irreversible action. Once you have an operating power station, there is no safe way of shutting it down. That is why the atmosphere following Aggarwal's APWS presentation was subdued and even fearful. Decisions that will change the face of the Gulf forever are about to be taken.
Nuclear power may be the only answer to the long-term Gulf energy challenge. But there are short-term palliatives. If waste was eliminated, there would probably be enough capacity in existing Gulf power stations for at least 10 years. Up to 50 per cent of the water produced in Gulf desalination plants is lost because of leaky pipes. Changing the orientation of buildings to cut their exposure to direct sunlight could reduce air-conditioning consumption by at least 10 per cent.
But there is a far larger question that deserves serious thought. It is this. Does the world really want to see a nuclear power race in the Middle East when it remains so dangerously divided?
Available at: http://www.meed.com/commentary/last_word/2009/04/gulf_at_crossroads_over_nuclear_power.html
3. NFC Receives 60 Tonnes Uranium Fuel from France
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Following clearance by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, first consignment of 60 tonnes of uranium ore concentrate, imported from France, has arrived at the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) here for being converted into fuel for power reactors.
This uranium ore would be processed and used to produce power in safeguarded pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs).
Disclosing this at a press conference here on Tuesday, R N Jayaraj, chief executive, NFC , said that consequent to Indo-US nuclear deal, the 123 agreement and clearance by NSG to enable full civil nuclear cooperation, India and France had entered into bilateral cooperation for supplying reactors and fuel.
As a first step, Department of Atomic Energy entered into a contract with French Nuclear supplier AREVA NC for the supply of 300 tonnes of uranium ore concentrate and 60 tonnes were released under the first consignment which was received by the NFC.
Jayaraj said the fuel would be processed in the designated fuel plants at the NFC by converting uranium ore concentrated into nuclear grade uranium dioxide powder and then compacted in the form of cylindrical pellets.
These pellets will then stacked and encapsulated in thin walled tubes of zirconium alloy which will be sealed by resistance welding using end plugs, a technology which has been innovated in India.
Available at: http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/006200904011122.htm
Planning can start on the extension of Hungary's sole nuclear plant now that parliament has given its green light to the project, Energy Minister Csaba Molnar said Tuesday.
"Parliament gave its almost unanimous consent to the start of the planning phase," Molnar told journalists.
The day before, 330 deputies had voted in favor and six against, while there were five abstentions.
According to Hungarian law, parliament must approve construction of nuclear sites. Hungary currently has a single nuclear power plant, the Soviet-made Paks plant 100 kilometers south of Budapest, which produces 1,970 megawatts of electricity a day from four blocks, covering just over a third of the country's energy consumption.
Molnar didn't say how many new blocks would be built or by how much capacity would be increased. He did say that each additional 1,000MW capacity would cost an estimated EUR2.0 billion-EUR2.5 billion.
Planning and construction of the new blocks will take 12 years, said a spokesman for the nuclear plant, Istvan Mittler.
By that time, the significance of Paks for Hungary's energy supply will have increased because other plants producing about 6,000MW are scheduled to become obsolete by 2020, Molnar said.
Available at: http://www.easybourse.com/bourse-actualite/marches/correct-hungary-clears-way-to-extend-nuclear-plant-643713
5. Russia Suggests Setting Up 1,000 MW Nuclear Power Plant in Bangladesh
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A visiting Russian technical expert team Tuesday suggested Bangladesh to set up a 1,000 MW nuclear power plant to meet the country's growing demand of energy, officials said.
The Russian team made the suggestions in consultation with officials of Bangladesh's Science and ICT Ministry, an official of the ministry said on condition of anonymity.
He said the three-member technical team that represents the Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation -- Rosa tom -- at its first meeting Tuesday suggested setting up a 1,000 MW plant as it is the smallest unit in terms of production capacity.
The Russian expert team will continue the discussions with Bangladesh side for the next two days.
Bangladesh last year obtained a clearance certificate from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to go ahead with a nuclear power plant project.
The immediate past caretaker government launched a site preparation project at Rooppur, in Bangladesh's western Pabna district, about 200 km from capital Dhaka, with technical and financial support of the IAEA to make the site suitable for a power plant.
The IAEA provided 366,000 U.S. dollars as technical assistance for the project.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-03/31/content_11109009.htm
Korea is seeking to export nuclear reactors developed by local companies through a joint venture with a leading British engineering firm, the government said yesterday.
The joint venture between the state-run Korea Electric Power Corp., Korea Gas Corp., Korea Development Bank and Britain's AMEC engineering group will pave the way for the Korean firms to win overseas power plant projects, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said. They will also be able to develop oil and gas deposits.
The companies will set up a $30 million venture in Korea in October this year and start operating plant-building and energy exploration businesses.
The deal was signed by the heads of the four companies in London. President Lee Myung-bak and Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown attended the signing ceremony. President Lee is currently participating in the G20 summit in the British capital.
Under the agreement, AMEC holds a majority 54 percent stake with KEPCO, KOGAS and KDB holding 19 percent, 15 percent, and 12 percent, respectively.
"The joint venture will help the nation to get access to Asian, Middle Eastern and European countries that are looking to build new reactors," a ministry official said.
"The partnership will help the country expand its presence in the thermal power plant market," he added.
South Korea is one of the world's leading countries in the operation of nuclear power units which generate electricity. Since 1977, the country has rapidly acquired technology and knowhow to design, build and operate nuclear reactors.
The country currently has 20 reactors and ranks sixth in the world after the United States, France, Japan, Russia and Germany.
However, the country had problems with winning overseas orders of reactors due to the lack of experience in the global business area and in building business networks on a global stage, officials added.
Asia's third- largest oil importer plans to increase its overseas oil and natural gas output by 30 percent this year by taking advantage of lower energy prices to acquire petroleum assets. The joint venture will open doors for the country to secure energy resources abroad as well as develop renewable energy in the future, the ministry said.
AMEC is a global leader in engineering services and project management, and specializes in the development of oil, gas, mineral resources and power plant construction. The company has partnerships with Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, Aramco and Petro China.
The sales of the British firm totaled 5.5 trillion won in 2007. The company has been expanding business in Korea by participating in the building of the Incheon Bridge, gas wells in the East Sea and a low and intermediate level waste repository in Gyeongju.
Available at: http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/NEWKHSITE/data/html_dir/2009/04/02/200904020005.asp
Mention Mongolia to most people, and their minds conjure up hordes of bloodthirsty horsemen under Genghis Khan sweeping across Eurasia's vast grasslands, cutting a swathe of terror and destruction. In a world increasingly concerned with reliable sources of energy, however, Mongolia is rapidly becoming a major player, and an international race is on to secure access to one of its most valuable mineralogical deposits, uranium.
A vast landlocked nation in the heart of Central Asia of 603,908 square miles, slightly smaller than Alaska, with one of the lowest population densities in the world, Mongolia's 3 million inhabitants sit atop one of Eurasia's greatest untapped caches of minerals. Besides uranium, Mongolia's still largely untapped mineralogical deposits include significant copper, coal, gold, molybdenum, fluorspar, uranium, tin and tungsten deposits. How to develop these riches has consumed the State Great Hural, Mongolia's parliament, for the last several years as it has wrestled with drafting a definitive mineral law in a bid to clarify the country's investment structure for interested foreign concerns.
Like so many other Central Asian nations, the race to develop the country's mineral wealth is a three-way race among Western companies, Russia and China. Each contestant has some advantages, but each is seeking primacy, and the final result is far from certain. Resolution of the issue is critical for the Mongolian government because it lacks the indigenous fiscal and technical reserves to develop the deposits on its own. Sandwiched as it is between neighboring superpowers Russia and China, Mongolia is nevertheless making a concerted effort to reach out both to Western companies and the prosperous Japanese and South Korean economies.
Among nations interested in the ores are Russia, which is able to apply significant economic pressure since it already supplies 90 percent of Mongolia's fuel needs, and China, which absorbs 70 percent of Mongolia's exports.
Besides Russia's atomic-energy agency Rosatom, U.S., Japanese, Canadian, Kazakh and French companies have all expressed interest in developing Mongolia's uranium reserves, which consist of six major deposits and more than 100 smaller sites. The Mongolian government estimates the reserves contain 62,000 tons of uranium. Russian geologists have much higher estimates of Mongolia's uranium deposits, estimating that they consist of 120,000 to 150,000 tons. Worldwide, only 35 countries possess reported uranium reserves, and the Russian estimates, if accurate, would give Mongolia the world's eighth-largest uranium reserves, after Kazakhstan, Australia, South Africa, the United States, Canada, Brazil and Namibia.
Russian interest in Mongolia's uranium ore deposits dates back to the early 1980s, when joint Mongolian-Soviet geological teams prospected for uranium in Mongolia's eastern provinces. For the moment, Russia is ahead in the race to exploit the deposits; on Jan. 27 Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko and Mongolian Prime Minister Sanjaa Bayar signed an agreement in the eastern Siberian town of Irkutsk on creation of a joint venture for uranium mining of Mongolia's Dornod uranium deposits, where half of Mongolia's uranium reserves are concentrated.
Interestingly, Russian private investors, who were previously very interested in uranium resources in Mongolia, gave the Dornod project a miss because its high start-up costs would make it unprofitable. Moscow nevertheless regards Mongolia's uranium reserves as the country's biggest mineralogical prize since their development dovetails nicely with the Kremlin's own plans for economic expansion. The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union isolated Russia from the Central Asian deposits discovered by Soviet geologists, leaving Russia's sole significant uranium deposit its Streltsovsky mining and chemical plant in Chita. State-owned Rosatom accordingly is pressing forward despite the economic situation because it needs Dornod's output to solve its own uranium-shortage problems.
For Mongolia, its interests in the joint venture extend beyond mere ore processing; following the signing, Bayar told journalists, "We are also interested in the construction of small- and medium-scale nuclear power plants."
Despite such a commanding lead, Russia has competition in the race to develop Mongolia's uranium reserves. Three years ago France's Areva nuclear concern signed a memorandum of understanding for Mongolia's Mardai and Sainchand uranium deposits, but there has been little progress, despite a visit by Mongolian President Nambariin Enkhbayar to Paris in February 2007. Giving Russia a further inside advantage, Moscow will not have to compete with Mongolia's largest trading partner because last year China National Nuclear Corp. reported that Inner Mongolia's Ordos Basin, under Beijing's control, has enough indigenous uranium deposits to meet China's current demands.
Developing the country's mineralogical resources has also acquired distinct political overtones; during last June's parliamentary campaigns, the opposition Ardchilsan Nam, or Democratic Party, promised each Mongolian a 1 million tugrik ($696) "share of treasure." The successor to the former Communist Party, the ruling Mongol Ardyn Khuv'sgalt Nam, or Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, of which President Enkhbayar is a member, subsequently topped the DP's largesse, promising that each Mongolian would receive from the "country's profit" a 1.5 million tugrik ($1,043) grant.
Following charges of election fraud, on July 1 the streets of the capital, Ulan Bator, filled with a crowd estimated at 8,000 to 10,000 that set fire to buildings and cars, and engaged in violent skirmishes with the police. By the time the violence began to abate, five people were dead, 300 were injured and more than 700 arrests were made as the government declared four days of martial law.
Accordingly, while the future seems bright for Mongolia's energy riches finally to be extracted, politicians in Ulan Bator must take care to honor their electoral promises to both share the wealth and secure the best possible deal for their ores in an open and transparent manner understandable to the electorate, lest Genghis Khan's frustrated descendants again take to the capital's streets in search of their "share of treasure" of the "country's profit."
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Energy_Resources/2009/04/01/Mongolia_emerges_as_energy_powerhouse/UPI-87001238626454/
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