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Nuclear News - 4/7/2009
PGS Nuclear News, April 7, 2009
Compiled By: Helene Picart

    1. Getting Nuclear Power Started, IAEA (4/6/2009)
    2. Slovenia to Nominate Candidate for IAEA Chief, Marja Novak, Reuters (4/6/2009)
    1. Q+A-What Next in the North Korean Crisis?, Jon Herskovitz, Reuters (4/7/2009)
    2. Seoul Considers Joining Anti-WMD Proliferation Plan, Ser Myo-ja, JoongAng Daily (4/7/2009)
    3. Analysts Say N. Korean Rocket not a Total Failure, Chang Jae-soon , Associated Press (4/6/2009)
    4. EU, U.S. Jointly Call on DPRK to Abandon Nuclear Weapons Programs, China View (4/5/2009)
C.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Kazakhstan Offers to Host Nuclear Fuel Bank, Peter Leonard, Associated Press (4/6/2009)
    2. German Leaders Back Obama's Call for Nuclear Disarmament, Deutsche Welle (4/6/2009)
    3. Russia Says to Start Nuclear Talks with U.S. in April, Toni Vorobyova, Reuters (4/4/2009)
D.  Iran
    1. Iran Urges Russia to Complete Bushehr Nuclear Plant Rapidly, Tehran Times  (4/7/2009)
    2. Russian FM: Moscow Determined to Continue Cooperation with Tehran, Tehran Times  (4/7/2009)
    3. Iran Criticizes Obama, Calls on U.S. to Scrap Nuclear Arms, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (4/6/2009)
    4. Iran's Mousavi Vows to Push Nuclear Drive, Agence France-Presse (4/6/2009)
E.  India
    1. India Will not Sign NPT in Present Format, The Hindu (4/6/2009)
F.  Nuclear Industry
    1. Drilling Starts on WA Uranium Project, ABC Australia (4/7/2009)
    2. Japan Pursues Plutonium-Based Fuel, Hiroyuki Koshoji, United Press International (4/6/2009)
G.  Pakistan
    1. World Should Recognize Pak as Nuclear Power: Qureshi, Press Trust of India (4/5/2009)
H.  Links of Interest
    1. Nuclear Arms in the Developing World, Andrew Grotto, The Guardian (4/6/2009)
    2. The Road to Zero Nukes, George Perkovich, The Guardian (4/6/2009)
    3. Pres. Obama Speech in Prague, Czech Republic, C-Span (4/5/2009)
    4. Obama Launches Effort to Reduce Nuclear Arms, Mark S. Smith, Associated Press (4/5/2009)


Getting Nuclear Power Started
(for personal use only)

As several developing economies consider rolling out or expanding nuclear power programmes, they are approaching the IAEA for assistance on key issues such as energy and human resources planning.

In response, the IAEA offers guidelines and tools to support decision-making at various levels, with the goal of promoting the safe, secure and sustainable development of nuclear power.

Energy planners met at the IAEA in Vienna from 24-27 March to draft indicators that can be used by countries to compare nuclear power with their other energy options. These will provide a flexible tool for analysts and decision makers to understand national situations and trends, the impact of policies and the potential impact of policy changes.

The new indicators capture energy, environmental, economic and financing issues, as well as technical, social, political and institutional aspects that influence demand for nuclear power.

The new set of indicators is the result of a collaborative effort between experts from the IAEA, Member States and other international organizations.

"Various groups have worked together to produce this draft. This is a great result and we look forward to the next stage in the process, when these indicators will be tested by Member States," says the IAEA´s Alex Roehrl, an Energy Systems Analyst from the Nuclear Energy Planning and Economic Studies Section.

There is interest in pilot applications of the new indicators in Argentina, Chile, Ghana, India, Malaysia and Nigeria. A meeting is already scheduled for October 2009 to review the outcomes of pilot applications and refine the set of indicators.

The Human Factor

Human resources development is another area in which the IAEA provides crucial support to Member States considering nuclear power. From 31 March - 2 April, experts from Belarus, Chile, Egypt, France, India, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Poland, Qatar, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the USA reviewed draft guidance on human resources development for a country introducing nuclear power.

The document contains information on the necessary competencies and on workforce planning options to develop them. It also features examples from countries with recent experience in building their nuclear workforces. It will be published later this year, but several countries are already putting its guidance to use.

"We will provide assistance through the IAEA´s Technical Cooperation Programme," says the IAEA´s Tom Mazour, a Nuclear Power Engineer in charge of the project. "At the meeting, Belarus, Chile, Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Nigeria, UAE and Thailand requested assistance."


In line with concerns about climate change, security of supply, volatility of energy prices, power market reforms and the energy aspects of socio-economic sustainable development, there have been "rising expectations" for the future role of nuclear energy in developed as well as developing countries.

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Slovenia to Nominate Candidate for IAEA Chief
Marja Novak
(for personal use only)

Slovenia is set to propose a senior former diplomat as a candidate to head the International Atomic Energy Agency following an inconclusive election last month, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

Ernest Petric, currently a constitutional court judge and a former Slovenian ambassador to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, was the second person to enter the reopened race to succeed IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei.

"Petric is a candidate for director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency," the ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters.

It said the government was expected to formally endorse Petric soon. Its next session was planned for Thursday.

The IAEA directorship is a crucial U.N. appointment because the agency is responsible for preventing the illicit spread of nuclear arms to unstable states. The IAEA is now investigating Iran and Syria over allegations of secret nuclear activity.

Malaysia endorsed Noramly Muslim, the country's atomic energy board chief, for the politically sensitive IAEA helm last week shortly after the agency's 35-nation board of governors relaunched the campaign, asking for fresh nominations.

The next round of voting for a successor to ElBaradei, who retires in November after 12 years spanning three terms in office, is expected to be held in the first half of May.

Neither of the two original candidates -- South Africa's Abdul Samad Minty and Japan's Yukiya Amano -- garnered the minimum 2/3 majority in the IAEA board required for victory.

They were not seen as sufficiently broad-based, able to bridge an ideological divide in the governing body highlighted anew when industrialized nations overwhelmingly backed Amano while developing nations swung behind Minty.

Petric, 72, is a former ambassador to the United States and Austria and served as chairman of the Vienna-based IAEA governors in 2006-07. He has a degree in international law.

Another half-dozen possible compromise candidates have been mooted including three Latin Americans, a Spaniard and a Hungarian.

Amano, who outpolled Minty in several rounds of voting on March 26-27, is expected to be re-nominated by Japan. Minty's status is unclear. The deadline for nominations is April 27.

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Q+A-What Next in the North Korean Crisis?
Jon Herskovitz
(for personal use only)

The U.N. Security Council remains divided over how to respond to North Korea's rocket launch, two days after the missile flew over Japan.

Following is what might happen next in the crisis.


Diplomatic sources said the most that can be expected from the Security Council is a call to tighten existing sanctions on North Korea and a statement of concern over the launch.

China, which shares a long border with the North and is the closest Pyongyang can claim as a major ally, would be the key player in tightening existing sanctions. But Beijing is reluctant to do so because it fears taking action that might destabilise the impoverished North.

U.N. sanctions were imposed after North Korea conducted a nuclear test and other missile exercises in 2006. The punishment includes financial sanctions as well as a ban on the trade in any material that could be used in the North's weapons of mass destruction programmes.

North Korea has threatened to quit six-party nuclear talks and restart its plant that makes plutonium if it is punished for launching a rocket many saw as a disguised long-range ballistic missile test.


North Korea, which has a history of using its military threat to squeeze concessions from major powers, may boycott the six-way nuclear disarmament talks if it is punished. It has done this several times. Since there is little momentum now to resume talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, a boycott might not cause much damage to the often-delayed process that began in 2003.

A more provocative move would be if North Korea restarted its Soviet-era Yongbyon nuclear plant, which was being dismantled under a disarmament-for-aid deal it reached with the five powers in 2005.

The North has mostly implemented steps meant to put the plant out of business for at least a year. But proliferation experts said it may look to restart the facility that separates arms-grade plutonium from spent fuel rods. It may take as little as three months to resume operations at this facility, they said.


North Korea's propaganda has used the launch to herald the country's technical achievements and rally national pride. This may mean there is little need for a nuclear test to rally the masses behind leader Kim Jong-il's "military first" doctrine.

But experts said since the North's only nuclear test in October 2006 was just a partial success, another is inevitable because it needs one to see if it has built a better bomb design.

Another nuclear test would be one of the biggest cards North Korea could play. It would be done at a time to garner maximum political effect, analysts said.


The sputtering six-party talks are likely headed for more delay. The missile launch changed the dynamics by increasing the North's leverage in the discussions, experts said, which could lead Pyongyang to try to water down some existing obligations and resist calls from the five dialogue partners to agree to a nuclear inspection system, if it shows up at all.

North Korea may also try to set up separate, bilateral missile talks with the United States, as it did after sending a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan in 1998, in an attempt to win concessions from new U.S. President Barack Obama and isolate Washington from allies South Korea and Japan.


Japan is looking to extend and perhaps broaden its existing sanctions but that will not cause much pain for Pyongyang because the economic influence is so small.

South Korea's conservative government halted unconditional aid last year when it took office. This aid had a value equal to about 5 percent of the North's annual economy. The South could shut a joint factory park located just north of their heavily armed border that supplies Pyongyang's leaders with cash, but Seoul so far has rejected that idea.

The United States may consider placing North Korea back on its terrorism blacklist. This could hurt its international trade and limit its ability to tap into global finance.


Impoverished North Korea is unlikely to fire another Taepodong-2 long-range missile soon due to the high cost.

Pyongyang will likely refrain from testing its mid-range ballistic missiles because that would undermine its argument that Sunday's launch was for the peaceful purpose of putting a satellite into orbit.

It may, however, test-fire short-range missiles to raise tension with South Korea. The North has said it would see Seoul's plan to join a U.S. initiative to halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as an act of war and may feel it needs to raise tension with its rich neighbour in response.

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Seoul Considers Joining Anti-WMD Proliferation Plan
Ser Myo-ja
JoongAng Daily
(for personal use only)

Despite fierce opposition by the North, South Korea says it is actively considering joining the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative to take part in the international efforts to stop the transfer of weapons of mass destruction.

Following North Korea’s Sunday launch of a long-range rocket, President Lee Myung-bak held a breakfast meeting with leaders of the country’s three main political parties yesterday and discussed the issue.

“Participating in the PSI has been reviewed in terms of Korea’s international cooperation to stop proliferation of WMDs and to fight terrorism, unrelated to North Korea’s rocket launch,” President Lee was quoted as saying in the meeting by Blue House spokesman Lee Dong-kwan. “We are actively considering joining it.”

The decision to join the PSI will be made independently, apart from the North’s rocket launch, the president was quoted as saying. “The president explained that it is not a matter of us joining the initiative immediately because the North fired the rocket, nor postponing the decision if the rocket had not been launched,” Lee Dong-kwan said. “That is the government’s official position.”

The Proliferation Security Initiative is an international regime led by Washington to interdict weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and related material. The international partnership was announced in 2003 by then-U.S. President George W. Bush.

Under the initiative, the United States and its allies intercept and inspect planes and ships in international waters suspected of carrying illegal weapons or missile systems. As of now, 94 countries are members of the program.

North Korea has condemned the PSI, warning that the South’s participation will be regarded as a declaration of war. While the previous liberal administrations in Seoul were reluctant to join the program, the Lee administration is more positive about participation. According to the Blue House, politicians were split over the issue.

“Lee Hoi-chang, head of the Liberty Forward Party, said Korea must enthusiastically participate, while Chung Sye-kyun, head of the Democratic Party, said we should be more cautious about it,” Lee Dong-kwan said.

Along with the two opposition party leaders, Grand National Chairman Park Hee-tae attended the meeting. Lee was accompanied by the Blue House’s senior secretary for foreign affairs and national security. The politicians were briefed about the North’s rocket launch, consultation among concerned nations and Korea’s assessment on the North’s failed attempt to put a satellite into orbit.

Shortly after the Blue House meeting, Chung repeated his position about Korea’s plan to join the PSI. “I think the government and other parties are agreeing to Korea’s participation in the PSI,” Chung said at the party’s Supreme Council meeting. “But the Democratic Party’s position is that the matter must be decided more cautiously. I told the president it is necessary to manage the situation smoothly bit by bit, rather than ratcheting up tensions with North Korea.”

While discussion at the UN Security Council to punish the North for its long-range rocket launch was stalled, Seoul’s decision on joining the PSI has emerged as a key issue at the National Assembly. Once the decision is made, participating in the PSI will proceed quickly, because it does not require legislative approval.

Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan repeated yesterday the president’s position before the lawmakers. “The government is actively considering joining the PSI, and we are not hesitating,” Yu said. “How North Korea will react is nothing for us to be concerned about.”

DP Representative Song Min-soon, who served as the foreign minister for the Roh administration from 2006 to 2008, disagreed. “China has opposed the PSI, and the move will escalate unnecessary tensions surrounding the Korean Peninsula. It is not a card to be played at this point,” Song said. “We must be more prudent about it.”

In addition to the debate over South Korea’s joining of the PSI, the nation’s leaders also argued about who should be responsible for the North’s latest series of provocations and frozen inter-Korean relations. According to the Blue House, Lee told the political leaders that he is not a hawk. “I want to handle the North Korean issues pragmatically,” the president was quoted as saying. “Normalizing inter-Korean relations will benefit both Koreas.”

Liberty Forward Party spokeswoman Park Sun-young said Chung of the Democratic Party was critical of the Lee administration for the current inter-Korean deadlock. President Lee, in turn, said the past two liberal administrations were actually responsible, Park said.

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Analysts Say N. Korean Rocket not a Total Failure
Chang Jae-soon
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

North Korea's rocket may have fallen into the sea, but military experts cautioned Monday against calling it a complete failure, noting that it traveled twice as far as any missile the country has launched.

Although the distance was still far short of showing North Korea could reach U.S. territory, it rattled the North's neighbors and countries around the globe, with the U.S. and its allies pushing for quick punishment at an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting held hours after liftoff.

The launch, which demonstrated progress, is a particularly worrying development for a belligerent country that says it has nuclear weapons and once threatened to turn Seoul into a "sea of fire."

President Barack Obama, faced with his first global security crisis, called for an international response and condemned North Korea for threatening the peace and stability of nations "near and far" with what Pyongyang claimed was a satellite launch and its neighbors suspect was a test of a long-range missile technology.

"North Korea broke the rules, once again, by testing a rocket that could be used for long-range missiles," Obama said in Prague. "This provocation underscores the need for action, not just ... in the U.N. Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons."

Council members met for three hours Sunday but failed to release even a customary preliminary statement of condemnation — evidence of the challenges in agreeing on some kind of punishment. China, the North's closest ally, and Russia hold veto power and could water down any response.

Diplomats privy to the closed-door talks say China, Russia, Libya and Vietnam were concerned about further alienating and destabilizing North Korea.

"Our position is that all countries concerned should show restraint and refrain from taking actions that might lead to increased tensions," Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui said.

Analysts say sanctions imposed after the North's underground nuclear test in 2006 have had little effect because some countries showed no will to impose them. Those sanctions bar the North from ballistic missile activity. Pyongyang claims it was exercising its right to peaceful space development.

Still, Japan said it plans to extend its economic sanctions on the North for another year. The measures, among other things, prohibit Japanese companies from buying North Korean exports.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso urged the Security Council to take a firm stance against North Korea and said he would continue lobbying China and Russia for support.

"The international society should send a strong message to North Korea in a concerted action," he told reporters Monday.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak also pressed Monday for China's support, his office said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il personally observed the launch, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency reported Monday, expressing "great satisfaction" with the achievement.

Pyongyang says the experimental communications satellite is already transmitting data and patriotic songs. And the Choson Sinbo, a Japan-based newspaper considered a propaganda mouthpiece for the North, reported Monday that more launches are likely.

But U.S. and South Korean officials claim the entire rocket, including whatever payload it carried, ended up in the ocean after Sunday's launch. South Korean officials said the rocket's second stage landed in waters about 1,900 miles (3,100 kilometers) from the northeastern North Korean launch site.

That's double the distance a rocket managed in 1998 and far better than a 2006 launch of a long-range missile that fizzled just 42 seconds after liftoff, but still well short of U.S. territory. Anchorage, Alaska, is roughly 3,500 miles (6,000 kilometers) from the launch site, Seattle about 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers).

Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, said that while the rocket's first stage successfully broke away, it appears the second and third stages failed to separate or had difficulty doing so.

"So it has to call into question the dependability and reliability of the system," he said. "They're still a long ways off" from being able to successfully target and strike the United States, he said.

But Kim Tae-woo, an analyst at Seoul's state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, said the launch raises the stakes at stalled disarmament talks because Pyongyang now has more to bargain away.

"Militarily and politically, it's not a failure" because "North Korea demonstrated a greatly enhanced range," Kim said. "North Korea is playing a game of trying to manipulate the U.S. by getting it within range, which is the so-called pressure card."

Pyongyang could carry out other provocative acts, such as a second nuclear test, if its rocket launch doesn't produce what it wants: direct talks with the U.S., said Kim Keun-sik, a North Korea expert at South Korea's Kyungnam University.

However, he said naval skirmishes or short-range missile tests are unlikely since they are "routine" provocations directed at South Korea, not the U.S.

"They will wait for the response to this satellite launch," Pinkston predicted.

North Korea, one of the world's poorest countries, is in desperate need of outside aid, particularly since the help that flowed in unconditionally from neighboring South Korea for a decade has dried up since Lee took office in Seoul in 2008.

Pyongyang routinely uses its nuclear weapons program as its trump card, promising to abandon its atomic ambitions in exchange for aid and then exercising the nuclear threat when it doesn't get its way. The North also has reportedly been peddling missile parts and technology.

Iran, another country with controversial missile and nuclear programs, defended North Korea's rocket launch.

"We always consider the peaceful use of space in the framework of international regulation as a right for all," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hasan Qashqavi, said in Tehran.

Iran is believed to have cooperated extensively with North Korea on missile technology, though Iran denies it.

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EU, U.S. Jointly Call on DPRK to Abandon Nuclear Weapons Programs
China View
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The European Union (EU) and the United States issued a joint statement on Sunday, urging the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to "abandon all nuclear weapons programs" and work to promote peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

The statement, issued during the EU-U.S. summit on Sunday, came after the DPRK announced to have successfully launched a rocket carrying a communications satellite.

"The launch of a missile by North Korea (DPRK) defies UN Security Council resolutions and harms peace and stability in northeast Asia," said the EU-U.S. statement.

"We call on North Korea (DPRK) to honor its commitment to abandon all nuclear weapons programs, to abide by recognized norms of international relations, and to work to promote peace and stability in northeast Asia," it said.

The latest DPRK launch "demands a response from the international community, including from the UN Security Council to demonstrate that its resolutions cannot be defied with impunity," said the statement.

The two transatlantic sides also warned that the DPRK can not realize either international acceptance or economic development linked to the international system until it stops "threatening behavior" and works with the other parties to implement the Sept. 19, 2005 Six-Party joint statement.

Under the 2005 statement, the DPRK agreed to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and allow international inspections in exchange for energy aid, economic cooperation and security guarantees.

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C.  Nuclear Cooperation

German Leaders Back Obama's Call for Nuclear Disarmament
Deutsche Welle
(for personal use only)

German political leaders have welcomed US President Obama's plans for a non-nuclear world. Now calls are mounting from opposition parties for the withdrawal of the remaining American nuclear weapons on German soil.Germany has voiced strong support for US President Barack Obama's call to eventually rid the world of nuclear weapons.

On the sidelines of a European Union-United States summit in Prague on Sunday, Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that she saw the announcement as an important signal.

"This is not just a long-term goal," Merkel said. "President Obama has also proposed practical measures such as negotiations with Russia on a new START treaty which could lead to disarmament steps in the short term."

In a speech at Prague Castle, Obama pledged to lead the quest for a world without nuclear weapons. He denounced fatalism over nuclear proliferation and called for an immediate end to nuclear testing.

Serious talks on arms control

Last Wednesday the US president discussed missile reduction with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, on the sidelines of a Group of 20 economic summit. The two leaders pledged to pursue a new deal on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, also known as START I.

The 1991 treaty limits the number of missiles and warheads that each side may have in its arsenal and was the basis of Cold War strategic arms control.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he expects the two leaders to pursue the talks seriously.

"This is not a consensus forged behind closed doors, but an agreement made in front of the whole world," he told German public broadcaster ZDF on Sunday. "That is why I'm convinced that both Russia and the United States are interested in a new treaty."

Nuclear-free Germany

Claudia Roth, co-leader of Germany's Green Party, said Obama's speech marked a historic change.

"After years of an unprecedented nuclear arms build-up by the Bush administration, the speech highlighted a landmark shift in US policy," she told reporters in Berlin.

The Greens leader called on Merkel's government to work to get NATO to abandon its strategy of nuclear deterrence and make sure that the remaining US nuclear weapons on German soil be removed.

The US Army has an unspecified number of nuclear warheads at its bases in Germany.

The call for their dismantling was echoed by Guido Westerwelle, the leader of the opposition Free Democratic Party.

"I demand the withdrawal of all nuclear warheads still based in Germany," he told ZDF television on Sunday. "They are a remnant of the Cold War and don't belong on German soil. The German government must begin talks with NATO on these warheads immediately."

Wolfgang Gehrcke, the foreign policy spokesman of Germany's Left party, urged the leaders of the European Union to join Obama's vision of a nuclear-free world. As a first step along this road they should press for the dismantling of such weapons in Europe, he told Monday's edition of the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.

"A nuclear-free world would eventually make the existence of large military blocs a thing of the past," Gehrcke added.

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Kazakhstan Offers to Host Nuclear Fuel Bank
Peter Leonard
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Kazakhstan offered Monday to host an international nuclear fuel bank, and Iran's leader said he supported the idea.

The United States initiated the project and allocated $50 million toward it in 2007.

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev said Monday that his Central Asian country would be an appropriate place for such a depository, as it was giving up its own Soviet-era nuclear arsenal.

If created, the global fuel bank would undermine claims by Iran and other states that they need to develop their own fuel enrichment programs.

Nevertheless, Iran's leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a two-day visit to Kazakhstan that he supported the project.

"We believe Nazarbayev's proposal to create a nuclear fuel bank in Kazakhstan is a very good proposal," Ahmadinejad was quoted by Russian agency RIA-Novosti as saying at a news conference Monday in the Kazakh capital of Astana. "Nuclear powers should be disarmed in such a way as they can dispel their anxiety and the anxiety of all mankind."

Since 2006 Iran has been under U.N. Security Council sanctions, applied to its nuclear and missile industries, for refusing to halt uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants or the material for atomic bombs.

The United States and some of its allies have accused Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear program is geared toward generating electricity, not producing weapons.

Kazakhstan inherited the world's fourth-largest nuclear arsenal amid the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, but it quickly sought international assistance in removing the weapons. The country still cooperates closely with the United States in permanently decommissioning infrastructure associated with the construction of nuclear weapons.

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Russia Says to Start Nuclear Talks with U.S. in April
Toni Vorobyova
(for personal use only)

Russia and the United States will start talks on a new deal to cut nuclear warheads before the end of the month, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying on Saturday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to pursue a new arms deal on Wednesday, making good a pledge to rebuild relations from a post-Cold War low.

"We must begin consultations by the end of April," Ryabkov told Russian news agency Interfax.

Talks would be on the level of Foreign Ministry department heads, he said. Medvedev and Obama said the deal would see nuclear warheads cut below levels agreed in 2002, when both sides committed to reduce arsenal by between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by 2012. They ordered negotiators to report first results in July.

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D.  Iran

Iran Urges Russia to Complete Bushehr Nuclear Plant Rapidly
Tehran Times
(for personal use only)

Iran urged Russia to speed up work to finish the remaining parts and complete construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

Iran's nuclear power plant located in the southern port city of Bushehr was pre-commissioned in February in the presence of the Head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Sergei Kiriyenko. During the test-run, the facility was tested by virtual fuel.

""The important project of Bushehr nuclear power plant that is regarded as the symbol for the two countries' cooperation by Iranian government and nation is one of the most important issues in (the two countries') mutual cooperation,"" Iranian Ambassador to Moscow Seyed Reza Sajjadi said on Monday.

""In this regard, it is necessary that all measures and actions are taken in a bid to accelerate the small remaining issues and accomplish this project on time,"" he stressed while addressing a gathering of Russian scholars and students.

Sajjadi termed ties between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation ""positive and progressive"", and said, ""Continued consultation between the two countries' officials promises a bright future for (the two sides') bilateral relations.""

The Iranian diplomat pointed to Tehran-Moscow cooperation and consultations in a number of important economic and technological fields, including energy, oil, gas, satellite technology, power plant construction, airplane purchase, planning and designing, shipbuilding, expansion of rail and road transportation.

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Russian FM: Moscow Determined to Continue Cooperation with Tehran
Tehran Times
(for personal use only)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Moscow is determined to continue cooperation with Tehran.

In an interview with the daily ‘Rossiiskaya Gazeta’, he referred to the recent meeting held between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the U.S. President Barack Obama.

During the meeting, President Medvedev said that any deal concerning Iran would not be possible, he said.

The two presidents met in London on April 1, 2009, reviewing the latest global developments including Iran’s peaceful nuclear program, Lavrov added.

He said leaders of the two countries, in their joint statement, announced their readiness to help settle Iran’s nuclear issue through peaceful and diplomatic means within the framework of the decisions made by the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The two sides reiterated that Tehran had the right to pursue peaceful nuclear program, Lavrov said, adding that the two leaders urged Iran to fulfill its commitments regarding the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Both Moscow and Washington consider Iran-IAEA cooperation crucial in removing the existing ambiguities in Iran’s nuclear activities, the Russian foreign minister said, underlining the need for resumption of negotiations to resolve the issue.

The Islamic Republic will then enjoy all rights of the non-atomic members of the NPT, he said, expressing the hope that Washington would be ready to attend talks with the Group 5+1 on Iran.

Referring to the U.S. president’s message to the Iranian nation, Lavrov welcomed Obama’s stand to normalize relations with Iran in all areas.

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Iran Criticizes Obama, Calls on U.S. to Scrap Nuclear Arms
Fredrik Dahl
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Iran criticized on Monday U.S. President Barack Obama for saying Tehran posed a threat with its nuclear program and urged Washington and other countries possessing atom weapons to dismantle their arsenals.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi made the comments a day after Obama, who is seeking to engage Iran diplomatically in a sharp policy shift from George W. Bush's approach, set out his vision for ridding the world of such arms.

Delivering a speech in Prague given new urgency by North Korea's rocket launch, Obama also said the United States would go ahead with plans to build a missile defense shield in Europe as long as Iran posed a threat with its nuclear activities.

Qashqavi noted that the Bush administration, which spearheaded a drive to isolate Iran over its disputed nuclear plans, had also described the Islamic state as a threat.

"It seems that the repetition of the past U.S. administration's accusations (against Iran) would be in contrast with the slogan of change (by Obama)," Qashqavi said.

"And such a thing -- nuclear armament -- does not exist in Iran to be inferred as a threat," he said.

The West suspects Iran's nuclear program is a cover for developing bombs. Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, says it is a peaceful drive to generate electricity.

Asked about North Korea's rocket launch, which analysts said was effectively a test of a ballistic missile designed to carry a warhead as far as the U.S. state of Alaska, Qashqavi said Iran's and North Korea's missile activities were not related.

Obama last month offered Iran a "new beginning" of diplomatic engagement, following three decades of hostility. Iran has responded cautiously to the overture, saying Washington must show real policy change toward Iran rather than in words.

Qashqavi said nuclear weapons had no place in Iran's defense doctrine and that the existence of such arms was a serious threat to the global community.

"We, like the rest of the world community, are awaiting a world free of nuclear arms," Qashqavi said.

"Our expectation from the U.S. and others is to take serious and practical measures toward nuclear disarmament and dismantling of weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Obama pledged on Sunday to cut the U.S. nuclear arsenal, to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force and to seek tough penalties for those that broke rules on non-proliferation.

He presented Iran with a "clear choice" of halting its nuclear and missile activity or facing increased isolation.

Tehran has repeatedly rejected international demands to stop its most sensitive atom work and officials say Iran will unveil "good news" when it marks its national nuclear day on Thursday.

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Iran's Mousavi Vows to Push Nuclear Drive
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

Former Iranian prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, who is running for the presidency in the June election, said he will push ahead with the country's controversial nuclear drive if elected.

"Having nuclear technology for peaceful purposes without being a threat to the world is our strategic objective," Mousavi said in a speech to his election campaign managers on Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by AFP on Sunday.

"I do not think any government will dare to take a step back in this regard, since people will question the decision. Given the long-term interest, we are obliged not to back down on this or other similar issues."

Mousavi is contesting the June 12 presidential election that will pitch him against incumbent hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is yet to formally announce his candidacy.

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.

But the West, spearheaded by Tehran's arch foe Washington, fears the Islamic republic's nuclear drive is aimed at making the atomic bomb.

Iran has already been slapped with three sets of UN sanctions for defying international demands to freeze uranium enrichment, the process which makes nuclear fuel but also the core of a nuclear bomb.

Mousavi was prime minister between 1981 and 1989, when the post was scrapped.

He is a member of the Expediency Council, the top political arbitration body, and heads Iran's Art Academy, which was established to safeguard the national heritage.

He also served as presidential advisor from 1989 to 2005.

Former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, a reformist, is also planning to stand in the June election.

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E.  India

India Will not Sign NPT in Present Format
The Hindu
(for personal use only)

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has reiterated India’s commitment to non-proliferation but said New Delhi would not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in its present format as it is discriminatory and in favour of the nuclear weapon states.

“Our position is very clear. We are totally in agreement that those who are signatories to the NPT, they must fulfil their treaty obligations. Because of this discriminatory nature, we are not signatories, but with the objectives of non-proliferation, we are with the rest of the world,” he told journalists here on Sunday.

“We are second to none in propagating non-proliferation but we did not sign the NPT and we do not have any intention of signing the NPT because we disagree with the objective. We disagree with the gross discrimination which these treaties make between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states,” he added.

He said nobody else other than the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could judge whether the NPT signatories were fulfilling their treaty obligations. “IAEA is the appropriate watchdog body in this area,” he said.

Admitting that there have been cases of harassment of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, Mr. Mukherjee said New Delhi was constantly in touch with the Sri Lankan authorities and had told them that killing fishermen who strayed into their waters accidentally was totally unacceptable. “We are also making efforts to warn the fishermen about the danger zones,” he added.

India, he said, had been persistently demanding that Pakistan fulfil its regional, bilateral and international obligations especially the bilateral obligation made by then Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf to the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in January 2004 and reiterated recently by Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Colombo last year.

Both leaders had promised that Pakistani territory would not be used by terrorists for activities against India. Mr. Mukherjee also mentioned the SAARC Anti-Terror Convention and anti-terror international obligations to which Pakistan is a signatory.

Pakistan situation

On Sunday’s terror attack in Pakistan, he said: “We want development and peace in the neighbourhood. It is in the interest of Pakistan and the international community that the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan is dismantled and the perpetrators of such acts of terror are brought to book.”

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F.  Nuclear Industry

Drilling Starts on WA Uranium Project
ABC Australia
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A major drilling program has commenced in Western Australia to prove up what could potentially be Australia's fifth uranium mine.

The Kintyre deposit, 2000 kilometres north east of Perth, is believed to hold around 36 million kilos of uranium of a similar grade to the Ranger mine in the Northern Territory.

Last year, Canadian company Cameco joined forces with Mitsubishi to buy Kintyre from Rio Tinto for almost $700 million.

Managing director of the Kintyre project, Ron Matthews says despite the recent price drop, uranium is a growth commodity.

"Uranium has done pretty well overall and certainly I think it's a general feeling it will go back up," he says.

"There's a definite demand out there and people are actively looking for new sources of uranium as the world looks at nuclear power increasingly."

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Japan Pursues Plutonium-Based Fuel
Hiroyuki Koshoji
United Press International
(for personal use only)

Japan, which currently produces about 30 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, is turning to a plutonium-based fuel to supplement its existing energy programs. For the resource-poor country, recycling reprocessed plutonium – which can also be used to produce nuclear weapons – can help reduce dependence on foreign energy supplies.

There are still some issues to be resolved in implementing the program, however. The process involves burning a mixed plutonium-uranium oxide, or MOX fuel, in conventional light water reactors.

MOX fuel is made by mixing plutonium extracted from nuclear spent fuel with uranium. It has been used in 57 nuclear reactors in nine countries so far, and is currently fueling 35 reactors in France, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. Only two plants, in France and Britain, are currently producing commercial quantities of the fuel.

Two tankers carrying fuel produced by French nuclear giant Areva are expected to arrive in Japan in late May. The Kyushu Electric Power Co. in southern Japan will be the first company to burn the fuel, replacing one-third of its uranium fuel with MOX in its Genkai power plant No.3 by late September or early October, after a safety review by the government. Later, the Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Chubu Electric Power Co. will also load the fuel.

One purpose in implementing the MOX program is to consume 35 tons of plutonium Japan had stockpiled in France and England. To avoid international suspicions that it might develop a nuclear weapon, Japan has promised it will not keep surplus plutonium. It has shipped 7,100 tons of nuclear spent fuel to those countries' reprocessing facilities. The MOX fuel on its way from France was made from this plutonium supply.

Another purpose is to conserve uranium fuel. "It is true that the program can save 15 to 20 percent of uranium fuel, but that is not the main purpose," said Hajimu Yamana, a nuclear energy professor at Kyoto University.

Domestic sources provide only around 4 percent of Japan’s energy needs – considering that even its nuclear power depends on imported uranium. Oil still accounts for nearly 50 percent of Japan’s energy consumption, and it imports 90 percent of its crude oil from the Middle East, an area the government considers politically unstable.

A desire to reduce its foreign energy dependence was a driving force behind Japan’s decision to develop nuclear power, and the same goal drives its decision to reprocess plutonium for fuel.

After uranium is burned in a typical reactor, the spent nuclear fuel still holds 50 percent of its potential power – 20 percent as uranium and 30 percent as plutonium.

"Plutonium is semi-domestically produced energy for Japan. If we continue to use all usable resources in the electrical power generation system, it could link to a fast breeder reactor, a more energy-sufficient system," Yamana said.

The MOX program will also help reduce the volume of high-level nuclear waste, Yamana pointed out. Compared to the direct disposal option – burying spent nuclear fuel underground after decades of cooling – extracting plutonium before disposal could reduce the waste repository by one-half to two-thirds, he said.

Some citizen groups have raised concerns as to the safety of the technology, as high technical precision is required to handle plutonium. An accident involving MOX fuel could be far more damaging than one with uranium, experts agree, as it emits 200 times more radiation.

Storage and transport of the fuel also requires more care and cost to prevent its handlers’ exposure to radiation. Another difficulty is the handling of spent MOX fuel, as it is much more radioactive and generates twice the heat of spent uranium fuel.

Currently, only France and Japan are proactive in using MOX fuel; Germany and Belgium use it only to consume existing stores of reprocessed plutonium. The United States, Sweden, the Netherlands and Italy have withdrawn from the program over the past dozen years because of high costs and resistance to the use of plutonium in their countries.

The United States has designed a MOX fuel plant to consume high-grade plutonium taken from dismantled nuclear weapons, scheduled for operation in 2016. The government hoped to sell the fuel to commercial reactors, but the failure of a MOX fuel test in a South Caroline power plant last year caused the program’s only contractor to withdraw, leaving the program in question.

Japan was expected to start burning MOX fuel in 16 to 18 commercial reactors by 2010. However, that plan also went off course when a scandal exposed in 1999 that British Nuclear Fuels had fabricated quality assurance data for MOX fuel exported to Japan.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., which had planned to load MOX fuel into its commercial reactors, also spread distrust of nuclear energy among Japanese citizens in 2002 when it was discovered to have covered up a series of technical problems. So far, only seven reactors are ready to begin burning the fuel, including the Genkai plant.

A citizens’ group in Saga prefecture, where the first reactor to be loaded with MOX fuel is located, aims to collect 400,000 signatures to stop the project and plans a huge protest rally in May to coincide with the arrival of the fuel tankers.

The Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in the northern region of Aomori, which was the first commercial plant in a nonnuclear-weapon state, has also experienced troubles. Last year scientists said the plant was located above an active geological fault, sparking fears that an earthquake could damage the plant and release radiation.

Such fears are not unfounded in an earthquake-prone country that has 54 nuclear reactors in all. In July 2007 a 6.8-magnitude earthquake shook the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station north of Tokyo, which was the world's largest nuclear power plant in terms of electricity generation. The plant was damaged by the tremors and all seven of its reactors still remain inactive.

"It is very risky to rely excessively on nuclear power, which holds numerous safety concerns and is vulnerable to earthquakes," said Hideaki Takemura, a project manager at the Institute for sustainable energy policies. The institute is looking for the best energy source for Japan.

Uncertainties over the long-term effects of burying highly radioactive waste are also a matter of concern. Whether nuclear waste is reprocessed or disposed directly, a certain quantity of radioactive material ends up underground. The only country that has specified a repository site for spent nuclear fuel is Finland; its site is under construction.

The United States selected Yucca Mountain in Nevada in 1978 and began research to determine whether it would be a suitable site for a nuclear repository. Even though over US$10 billion has been invested in research since 1994, President Barack Obama announced in late February that construction would not go ahead on the site.

Nuclear power, which generates electricity without emitting carbon dioxide, holds promise from the viewpoint of preventing global warming and of responding to high oil prices. However, the many issues yet to be resolved suggest it will take time for its full potential to be tapped.

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G.  Pakistan

World Should Recognize Pak as Nuclear Power: Qureshi
Press Trust of India
(for personal use only)

The international community should accept Pakistan as a nuclear power as had been done in the case of India, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said today.

Urging the world to accept Pakistan's status as a nuclear power and to recognize it as had been done with India, Qureshi said: We are a responsible nuclear power and it will be appropriate that the world should recognize it." Pakistan also wants the resumption of the composite dialogue process with India and it is good if friends of the two countries extend help to make this happen, he told reporters in his hometown of Multan.

However, the talks should resume once the general election in India is over, he added.

US Special Envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke will visit Pakistan on April 7 for discussions with the countrys top leadership, Qureshi said.

He also made it clear that no foreign military troops will be allowed to step on Pakistani soil and only the countrys law enforcement agencies and forces will conduct anti-terrorism operations.

He said that during his recent visit to Washington, he had clearly conveyed to the US that NATO will not be allowed to conduct operations in Pakistan as this is not acceptable to the country.

"They have understood our point of view and accepted it," he said.

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H.  Links of Interest

Nuclear Arms in the Developing World
Andrew Grotto
The Guardian
(for personal use only)

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The Road to Zero Nukes
George Perkovich
The Guardian
(for personal use only)

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Obama Launches Effort to Reduce Nuclear Arms
Mark S. Smith
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

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Pres. Obama Speech in Prague, Czech Republic
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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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