1. NKorea Increases Activity Around Plutonium Plant: Report
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North Korea has increased activities around a plant which can produce weapons-grade plutonium but does not seem to have restarted it yet, a report said Wednesday. The plant was shut down under a six-nation nuclear disarmament deal.
But the North, angry at UN Security Council condemnation of its April 5 rocket launch, has announced it is quitting the pact and would restart the reprocessing of spent fuel rods to acquire plutonium.
It has also vowed to conduct a second nuclear test and ballistic missile tests unless the UN apologises and retracts its plan to tighten sanctions.
Since the North's first nuclear test in 2006 South Korea has placed hi-tech systems along the border to detect nuclear activities.
US satellite pictures show truck movements around the reprocessing plant at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, Yonhap news agency quoted a source as saying.
"However, our krypton detector has not shown any signs that North Korea has restarted reprocessing," the source told Yonhap.
It was unclear whether the truck movements were related to work to restart the plant, the source said.
South Korea had to wait more than a fortnight before it could confirm the North's first nuclear test on October 9, 2006.
It later announced plans to buy high-tech systems from Sweden and Germany that can detect minute atmospheric traces of certain gases including krypton which are released by reprocessing or by a nuclear test.
Baek Seung-Joo, of the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses, said North Korea already had enough plutonium to conduct a second nuclear test any time, without reprocessing spent fuel rods now in storage.
He told AFP a second test was "a matter of time" if the North also had a device to trigger such an explosion.
The North reportedly put the size of its plutonium stockpile at 31 kilograms (68 pounds) when it handed over a nuclear declaration in June 2008.
Available at: http://www.spacewar.com/2006/090513072402.g8bkkws2.html
Expressing "full faith and confidence" in Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, the Obama administration has asserted that it has received assurances from him about safety of the nuclear weapons and on continuing the fight against terrorism in his country.
"We were assured by President Zardari that they have complete command and control of the nuclear weapons in Pakistan," the State Department Spokesman, Ian Kelly, told reporters in response to a question at his daily press briefing.
When asked how the US would verify that, Mr. Kelly said "we have full faith and confidence in President Zardari." The State Department Spokesperson termed the last week's meeting of U.S. President Obama and Mr. Zardari at the White House as "very productive".
Mr. Obama and Mr. Zardari had met last week on the sidelines of the tri-lateral summit with their Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai.
"We look forward to continuing to help the Government of Pakistan in their battle against the extremists and their attempt to establish democratic institutions," he said.
Available at: http://www.centralchronicle.com/viewnews.asp?articleID=6941
On the dusty plain 110 miles southwest of Islamabad, not far from an area controlled by the Taliban, two large new structures are rising, structures that in light of Pakistan’s internal troubles must be considered ominous for the stability of South Asia and, for that matter, the world.
Without any public U.S. reproach, Pakistan is building two of the developing world’s largest plutonium production reactors, which experts say could lead to improvements in the quantity and quality of the country’s nuclear arsenal, now estimated at 60 to 80 weapons.
What makes the project even more threatening is that it is unique.
“Pakistan is really the only country rapidly building up its nuclear forces,” says a U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the issue, noting that the nations that first developed nuclear weapons are now reducing their arsenals.
Moreover, he and other U.S. officials say, there long have been concerns about those who run the facility where the reactors are being built near the town of Khushab. They note that a month before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Khushab’s former director met with Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and offered a nuclear weapons tutorial around an Afghanistan campfire.
Then there are the billions in U.S. economic and military aid that have permitted Pakistan’s military to divert resources to nuclear and other weapons projects.
Bottom line: Khushab exemplifies all of the dangers posed by the Pakistani nuclear weapons program.
First new reactor near completion In the past several months, satellite imagery shows the first of these new reactors at Khushab nearing completion while the second is in final stages of external construction. Operations at the first may begin soon, while the second is four or five years from operation.
David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a project that studies non-proliferation issues, is one of the few in Washington who sounded the alarm about the Khushab reactors.
“It’s a lot further along than we expected,” says Albright. “We’re seeing steady progress. … We don’t know if they have the (uranium) fuel or heavy water on-site, but on the outside, major construction appears finished … We don’t know what’s going on inside.”
What is clear, Albright says, is that Pakistani officials are committing limited national resources to building up the country’s nuclear arsenal, resources he and others note have been supplemented and replenished by U.S. aid.
“They’re building a capability beyond any reasonable requirement,” says Albright, who first wrote about Khushab two years ago, when he noticed construction south of an existing but smaller plutonium production reactor that’s been operating since about 1998.
“We think it’s bigger than the first one,” he says of the so-called Khushab-I reactor, estimated by U.S. intelligence at 70 megawatts.
Albright estimates the new reactors are “at least on the order of 100 megawatts,” each capable of producing enough plutonium for “four or five nuclear weapons a year.” While small by power reactor standards, that’s substantially larger than the research reactors that provided material for the weapons programs of Israel, India and North Korea. He also believes that the reactors could have a separate mission: producing tritium, an element critical to the development of thermonuclear weapons, what used to be called H-bombs.
Change in nuclear strategy Albright is not alone among non-proliferation experts. Zia Mian, of the International Panel on Fissile Materials at Princeton University, says adding a reliable and large-scale plutonium stream to the country’s long-term expertise in uranium enrichment signals a change in Pakistan’s nuclear strategy.
“The addition of the two reactors does two things,” Mian notes. “It allows them to make a lot more warheads, four or five a year, but it also allows them to make much lighter and more complex weapons for longer-range missiles and cruise missiles. ... And triggers for thermonuclear weapons are almost always plutonium-based.”
Mian notes that Pakistan already has intermediate-range and short-range missiles capable of hitting any target in India, as well as submarine-launched cruise missiles.
Available at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30648446/
2. US Urged to Engage Pakistan to Protect Nukes, Dawn
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Two senior US scholars, one of whom headed a White House review team, have urged the Obama administration to engage Pakistanis to protect their nuclear weapons instead of taking a unilateral action.
‘A jihadist state in Pakistan is neither imminent nor inevitable, it may not be likely, but it is a real possibility,’ says Bruce Riedel, who heads the White House team for reviewing the US policy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at Washington’s Brookings Institution, argues that the possibility of a Taliban takeover leads American policy-makers to the inevitable question: ‘What could we do if Pakistan collapsed and the security of its roughly 100 nuclear weapons could no longer be vouched for?’ The answer, says Mr O’Hanlon, ‘in most scenarios, is that we could only usefully do what the Pakistanis themselves might ask us to do. Unilateral American action would probably be too little, too late’.
Mr Riedel warns that a jihadist Pakistan would be a strategic nightmare for America, South Asia and the world.
According to him, a jihadist Pakistan would provide al Qaeda and other terrorist groups with the ultimate sanctuary in the worlds’ second largest Muslim state, protected by nuclear weapons, with a global diplomatic presence and Pakistani diaspora that could be used to support terror.
‘A jihadist takeover would also make the Nato mission in Afghanistan increasingly untenable. It would be a direct threat to both India and Iran, encouraging both to expand and accelerate their own nuclear programmes.’
The Brookings Institution, which arranged this debate, notes that the military offensive in Swat caused American officials and former officials to discuss what the American response should be to the heightened conflict.
Mr Riedel, who has served three US presidents as an adviser, recalls that just before her murder in December 2007 former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said, ‘I now think al Qaeda can be marching on Islamabad in two to four years.’
‘Today her prophecy seems all too real,’ says the US scholar who worked for the CIA for 29 years before joining the Brookings as a senior scholar.
He identifies the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other extremists as al Qaeda’s allies in Pakistan, noting that they are becoming increasingly powerful.
‘They are no longer confined to the tribal belt along the Afghan border but have built strong bases of support in the nation’s heartland, the Punjab, and in the major cities.’
He says that the mayor of Karachi told him recently the Taliban alliance are now threatening to take over his city, the country’s only major port and Nato’s logistical supply line for the war in Afghanistan.
‘Thus it is critical that the United States do what it can now to strengthen the Pakistani moderate centre which is resisting the jihadist Frankenstein,’ he argues.
‘Congress should pass the Kerry-Lugar legislation that triples economic aid and the Pentagon’s proposals for increasing counter-insurgency assistance to Pakistan with a minimum of conditionality.’
He warns: ‘Trying to legislate changes in Pakistani behaviour is a recipe for disaster — as the history of US-Pakistan relations demonstrates — now is the time to support Pakistanis who are ready to resist extremism and jihadism.’
Mr O’Hanlon notes that some in America believe Pakistani nuclear weapons are stored in easily identified sites that could be attacked with air power or special forces, and can be destroyed, if necessary.
‘Such an option might be worth considering if the alternative were to allow nuclear weapons to fall into the hands of extremists,’ he argues. ‘But the timing and the logistics would be challenging.’
Discussing the US dilemma whether to attack or not to attack the weapons, he points out: ‘We would not want to bomb sites that remained in government hands, even if Pakistani forces seemed to be gradually losing control of the situation. Yet if we waited even an hour or two after the sites were seized, the weapons could already have been removed.’
Mr O’Hanlon notes that the flight time for American bombers operating from the military base Diego Garcia might be too long, even if the aircraft had been pre-deployed and authorised to strike the sites. There is also the danger that US weapons would not penetrate the hardened facilities, mostly likely underground.
‘Moreover, there could be weapons in sites we don’t know about, since the Pakistanis don’t trust us entirely and the locations of all their weapons are unlikely to be fully known.’
Mr O’Hanlon points out that American officials believe at least ‘some weapons could be in transit at a given moment, especially if the Pakistanis came to believe that the security of their nuclear bunkers was in jeopardy’.
The best possible solution, he says, would be for Pakistan and its leaders to ask for help to create secure perimeters around nuclear sites.
If requested, the United States could do a lot. ‘Such a joint mission would also be a useful deterrent against possible Indian actions against such sites. I doubt things will get this bad, but if they do, let’s hope Islamabad has the good sense to request our collaboration on the ground,’ he concludes.
Available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/12-us-urged-to-engage-pakistan-to-protect-nukes--bi-08
Iran says Israel’s undeclared arsenal of approximately 200 atomic warheads is the only obstacle in the way of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.
In a Monday address to the third session of the preparatory committee for the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York, Iranian delegates hit out at the lack of world action on Israel’s possession of atomic nuclear weapons -- which can be launched from land, sea and air.
According to the delegates, the Israeli military’s indiscriminate and deliberate use of white phosphorus shells against Palestinian civilians shows that “Tel Aviv is not fit to possess nuclear weapons”.
“Israel’s nuclear arsenal represents the single greatest threat to countries in the region,” said the delegates, while criticizing the West’s hands-off approach to Tel Aviv’s development of nuclear weaponry.
“Washington echelons and their European counterparts actually helped equip Israel with nuclear weaponry, in complete violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” the delegation asserted.
Israel is widely regarded as the sixth-largest nuclear power in the world and the sole possessor of an atomic arsenal in the Middle East. It reportedly houses at least 100 bunker-busting bombs, which come in the form of laser-guided mini-nukes with the ability of penetrating underground targets.
Over the past decades, U.S. presidents have largely colluded with Israel’s so-called policy of nuclear opacity.
Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed that former U.S. president Richard Nixon and his chief foreign policy adviser Henry Kissinger privately endorsed Israel’s atomic arsenal in 1969 and banned any inspection of its Dimona nuclear center.
Although Tel Aviv was not a signatory to the NPT, the U.S. leadership went on to to provide it with advanced weapons such as krytrons (nuclear triggers) and supercomputers.
The Iranian delegation called for a non-discriminatory disarmament process, saying the West’s silence on Israeli nuclear weapons sends a negative message about double standards.
Available at: http://www.tehrantimes.com/Index_view.asp?code=194360
Egypt is refusing to sign treaties prohibiting biological and chemical weapons, a week after it was reported that weapons-grade uranium was found in Egypt.
The news, released in remarks by Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit to the Egyptian weekly Ruz Al-Yousuf, could lend credence to speculation that Egypt is seeking weapons of mass destruction.
Though Egypt is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Abu Al-Gheit's comments are likely to add to fears that Egypt's fledgling nuclear program is being planned for military purposes.
The International Atomic Energy Agency revealed in a report last week that traces of weapons-grade uranium were found in Egypt last year and in 2007, and that this was being investigated.
Egypt's Atomic Energy Authority said the substance was innocent and originated from trucks carrying residue of uranium for medical purposes.
Abu Al-Gheit said joining the international treaties against chemical and biological weapons was conditioned on Israel signing both these agreements and the NPT.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the implementing agency for the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which bans the development, production and use of chemical weapons, said Egypt, Israel and Syria were the only countries in the Middle East and North Africa that had not signed the CWC.
"The OPCW has long understood that the issue of the CWC is entwined with larger political and security-related issues in the region," OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan told The Media Line.
"We continue to be encouraged by the fact that both Israel and Egypt do engage with us on an unofficial basis, that both countries occasionally participate in CWC events as observers and we continue to maintain hope that both countries, as well as Syria, will detach the issue of joining the CWC from the issue of other treaties and arrangements," Luhan said.
"We suggest that joining the convention would demonstrate good will and increased trust in the region."
As to other treaties, Israel refuses to sign the NPT and maintains its policy of deliberate ambiguity, neither confirming or denying the possession of nuclear weapons. Arms experts believe Israel has between 100 and 200 atomic weapons, but this has never been confirmed by Israel.
Under the NPT, five world powers are allowed to possess nuclear weapons - the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China. Other signatories are obliged not to own nuclear weapons, and states that do possess nuclear weapons must disarm.
India and Pakistan have never signed the treaty and have each publicly acknowledged possession of nuclear weapons. North Korea withdrew from the pact in 2003 and tested a nuclear device in 2006.
Similar to several other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Egypt has over the past few years renewed its interest in seeking a nuclear program, which it claims is for the peaceful purposes of creating energy.
However, analysts are saying that the surge of interest in peaceful nuclear energy throughout the MENA region by countries like Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, is most likely a reaction to Iran's controversial nuclear program and an aversion to the idea of Iran being a nuclear-armed Shi'ite power in the mostly Sunni Middle East.
Abu Al-Gheit announced on Tuesday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would be heading to Washington on May 26 at the invitation of U.S. President Barack Obama. This will be Mubarak's first trip to Washington in five years. Egypt is an ally of the U.S. and receives more than $1.5 billion in aid from Washington annually.
Also, Obama has chosen Egypt as a venue from which to deliver a major address to the Muslim world next month.
The trip is scheduled as the Obama administration is seeking to reexamine the Arab Initiative, which outlines a plan to make peace between Israel and the Arab and Muslim worlds in exchange for Israel withdrawing from the Palestinian territories, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
In an interview with an Israeli television network on Tuesday, Mubarak rejected recent suggestions that terms considered by Israel to be deal-breakers be altered to make the plan workable. He said the Arab Initiative peace plan must remain as it was presented.
Mubarak reiterated the hard-line position of the Arab League, sponsors of the plan, which has said the proposal must be accepted in its entirety, with no alterations, modifications or amendments.
The Obama administration has sought changes to make the plan more acceptable to Israel.
Available at: http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7015123356
1. India to Acquire Russian Nuclear Submarine on Lease by Year End
Xinhua News Agency
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India will acquire its first nuclear-capable submarine Akula II from Russia on a 10-year lease by the end of this year, a senior Indian Defense Ministry official said Wednesday.
"Russia was scheduled to deliver the submarine by next month. But, there has been a delay in delivery as the submarine to be delivered to India met with an accident in Russia, killing a number of sailors. And, now it has been postponed till year end," the official said, on condition of anonymity.
He said that the Indian Navy would get the submarine which is now undergoing repairs to be ready for sea trials before being finally delivered to India.
"Russian Defense Ministry told us that in seven to eight months' time, the nuclear submarine will reach India," he said.
The official said that the Indian Navy will acquire the submarine on a 10-year lease.
"Initially it will be for 10 years, following which a decision to extend the lease or not will be taken by the Indian Defense Ministry," he said.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-05/13/content_11368340.htm
Russia and Japan agreed on Tuesday to expand their cooperation in the nuclear industry as part of a visit to Tokyo by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who presided over a deal that will open the way for contracts worth billions of dollars between the world's two leading nuclear technology powers.
In a raft of other deals, Gazprom enlisted the support of two Japanese energy companies to study options for exporting future gas output from the Far East.
The chief of the state nuclear corporation Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, and Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone signed a long-awaited, broad agreement on nuclear power cooperation allowing joint uranium mining, nuclear reactor construction and treatment of spent nuclear fuel for a period of at least 25 years.
The new accord, which has to be ratified by both countries' parliaments to take force, replaces the deal that the Soviet Union signed with Japan in 1991, which mostly provided for joint research. Japan had balked at signing the revised agreement since 2007 because of concerns that its technology might find a way to the Russian defense industry.
Russia has done its homework.
"Over the last two years, we drew a clear divisive line between the civilian and military portions of the nuclear industry," Kiriyenko said.
The agreement will allow new contracts worth "billions of dollars" to supply uranium fuel for Japanese nuclear power stations, Kiriyenko said. Russia also invited Japanese companies such as Mitsui and Marubeni to mine uranium in Yakutia, he said.
Vladislav Bochkov, a Rosatom spokesman, said the agreement would advance cooperation between Rosatom and Toshiba, which agreed in March to study an option of jointly constructing a uranium-enrichment plant in "Japan or another country" that would use the Russian technology. They also expressed interest last year in a broader cooperation in building nuclear reactors and equipment for them.
Russia found partners in another important industry -- gas. Gazprom signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry; Itochu Corporation; and Japan Petroleum Exploration Company, or Japex, to study options for handling future gas from the fields off Sakhalin Island and in Yakutia.
Gazprom is building a pipeline to carry some of the gas to the Pacific port of Vladivostok and is entertaining the idea of building a plant there to liquefy the gas in order to ship it by tankers, Putin said.
As another plan, Gazprom is going to study whether it would be more effective to build a gas-processing plant instead and export its products, the company said in a statement Tuesday.
Gazprom chief Alexei Miller said the company received proposals from Mitsui last month about joining forces in developing the huge Chayandinskoye field in Yakutia. Gazprom will study them, Miller said.
Available at: http://www.moscowtimes.ru/article/600/42/377079.htm
3. Russia Offers Use of Territory for North Korean Satellite Launches
Andre de Nesnera
Voice of America
(for personal use only)
Russia is a member of the six-party talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. It has often sided with China to prevent tough U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang.
The six-party talks began in August, 2003 as a forum focusing on North Korea's nuclear weapons program. It brings together representatives from the United States, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and North Korea.
Jim Walsh, a North Korea and nuclear expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says Pyongyang has the reactor needed to produce nuclear material.
"In order to build nuclear weapons, you need one of two materials. You need either highly-enriched uranium or plutonium - these are two different paths to the bomb. In the case of Iran, for example, the concern is that Iran will use its centrifuges to enrich uranium and use that highly-enriched uranium for a nuclear weapons program," he said. "North Korea, by contrast, has gone the re-processing route. It has this smallish research reactor - Yongbyon - and then it takes the waste product that is produced by that reactor and in that waste is plutonium. And it extracts that plutonium through a process called re-processing and then takes that plutonium to build nuclear weapons."
North Korea's nuclear ambitions continue to heighten tensions
Analysts say it is difficult to know how many nuclear weapons Pyongyang possesses - estimates vary from six to 12.
During the first several years of the six-party talks, little progress was made in curbing Pyongyang's nuclear weapons ambitions. But in 2007, an agreement was reached in which North Korea agreed to dismantle its nuclear weapons program and shut down the Yongbyon reactor. In return, the United States and others promised to help North Korea economically and the U.S. State Department took Pyongyang off the list of states sponsoring terrorism.
However toward the end of the Bush administration, negotiations ground to a halt, as North Korea refused to agree on specific verification measures of its nuclear activities.
Tensions heightened last month, April 5, when North Korea launched a long range ballistic missile. Western officials described the test as a failure, but Pyongyang called it a success, saying the rocket launched a communications satellite into orbit.
That test launch brought about international condemnation. Pyongyang reacted swiftly by saying it would conduct an underground nuclear test and begin reprocessing plutonium from its Yongbyon nuclear facility. And North Korea also withdrew from the six-party talks.
Diplomats discuss Russia's role in six-party talks
Late last month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov travelled to South and North Korea and confirmed that Pyongyang has no intention of returning to the six-party talks.
Many analysts say Russia's role in the talks process has been minimal, confined to threatening - along with China - to veto any United Nations resolution applying strong sanctions against Pyongyang.
"Russia has sort of sat this one out. It has participated in the talks and been there, but claims, and I think with some legitimacy, not to have a great deal of influence in North Korea, not to even understand it - explaining that the rupture with the North Koreans at the time of the collapse of Communisim in the Soviet Union simply cut off all of both their influence and a lot of their intelligence they were getting from North Korea," said David Kay, the former chief nuclear weapons inspector for the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency.
During his trip to the region last month, Sergei Lavrov made a little-noted statement. Speaking through an interpreter, he said Moscow is willing to help Pyongyang launch satellites into space from its territory.
"Russia is cooperating with many countries in the peaceful exploration of space, including launching satellites by our boosters. We have such agreements with South Korea and we are ready to develop similar projects with North Korea, and hope our proposal will be examined," said Lavrov.
Analysts say that statement indicates Russia would like to play a more active role in resolving the North Korean nuclear weapons issue.
Paul Carroll, a nuclear weapons and North Korea expert at the San Francisco-based Ploughshares Fund, an organization that supports initiatives to prevent the spread and use of nuclear weapons, says the Russian proposal could be attractive to Pyongyang for several reasons.
"One is - I could see where it would be possibly internationally observable. And it could be verified that in fact, it was a satellite and space launch attempt and not just another disguise of a missile test," said Carroll. "The other thing is it would just, I think, bring the North Koreans a little bit more into the international norms of behavior. I would hope that the Russians, if they were to offer such a carrot, sort of explicitly would impose some kind of conditions through which the launch would be monitored and transparent."
But Jim Walsh from MIT says he does not see the North Koreans allowing the Russians to send up satellites for them anytime soon.
"A satellite launch accomplishes several objectives for North Korea - part of it has to do with prestige. North Korea wants to say 'look, we did this, we're technologically advanced, we're a big deal'. But if you outsource that to the Russians, then you can't quite make those claims. So I think it's unlikely in the near term that the North Koreans are going to let the Russians do their space work for them," he said.
However Carroll and Walsh agree that the perfect forum in which to discuss the Russian proposal would be the six-party talks. But analysts say the first order of business will be to persuade the North Koreans to return to the negotiating table they left after international criticism of their long range ballistic missile test.
Available at: http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-05-12-voa55.cfm
Italy's Senate, the upper house of parliament, approved on Thursday measures aimed to bring the country closer to bringing back nuclear energy, which it rejected more than 20 years ago. The only Group of Eight industrialised nation without nuclear power, Italy voted in 1987 to shut its plants and suspend building new ones after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has since made nuclear revival one of priorities for his government.
Under the new draft law on development and energy, the government will be given six months to prepare necessary legislation and select sites for new nuclear power plants.
The draft law, backed by the Senate on Thursday, will be passed to the lower house of parliament next week for final approval, generally taken for granted because of the wide support which Berlusconi's government enjoys there.
Apart from selecting nuclear plant sites, the government will have to define rules for nuclear waste storage, introduce streamlined procedure for new plants' approval and set up an agency to supervise nuclear safety.
The government would also come up with compensation measures for communities which may agree to host new nuclear power stations.
Local authorities have a final say on industrial projects' approval in Italy and public opinion has been hostile to nuclear energy. Opponents say densely populated Italy is not fit for nuclear plants and has no funds for such costly projects.
Its supporters say Italy needs it to diversify energy supplies and reduce heavy dependence on fossil fuel imports as well as cut emissions of heat-trapping CO2.
Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/feedarticle/8506882
Construction is expected to begin next year on the largest store and treatment plant ever to be built in Scotland to deal with radioactive waste.
The facilities costing a combined total of more than £300m will be built on land next to the Dounreay nuclear power complex in Caithness.
They were approved by Highland Council and forwarded to the Scottish Government for consideration.
Ministers have decided not to call in the planning applications.
However, they have asked the local planning authority to include an extra condition about the establishment of a community benefit fund as part of its approval of the stores.
Work is due to start next year on the treatment plant and construction on the store is to begin in 2011.
Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) said the store will hold almost 200,000 cubic metres of waste from the defunct Caithness nuclear energy plant.
People living close to the proposed site on a former military airfield had raised concerns.
These included worries the dump will devalue neighbouring properties.
Building the store within the Dounreay site was ruled out because of the potential future threat of coastal erosion.
Solid and liquid intermediate-level radioactive waste will be processed in a new treatment plant, known as D3900, where it will be mixed with cement and set inside drums and crates.
Once set, the containers will be moved to the adjoining storage area where they will be held pending Scottish policy for the long-term management of this type of waste.
The first of the vaults of the store are expected to be ready to receive waste in 2014.
Tony Trayner, head of construction at DSRL, said the facilities were key to the clean-up of Dounreay.
He said: "An essential element of any decommissioning project is being able to deal with the radioactive waste that it generates and these new facilities will give us that capacity through to the end of our programme."
Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/8047790.stm
3. UAE Nuclear Deal May Stall as U.S. Condemns Torture
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The United States said on Wednesday it was very concerned by video of a member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi allegedly torturing an Afghan man, footage that could stall a civilian nuclear deal with the United Arab Emirates.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the department was consulting with Congress about the agreement, which could be blocked if an outcry over the video grows. The deal could be worth billions of dollars to U.S. energy companies that build and operate nuclear power plants.
"We, of course, are very concerned by this video," Kelly told reporters when asked whether the 2004 torture video was holding up implementation of the agreement, which was signed in the final days of the former Bush administration and has to be sent to Congress for review by President Barack Obama.
"We think it's an important agreement, but, as I said, we are right now in the stage of having consultations with Congress," Kelly said. "At the appropriate time, we'll make the decision," he told reporters.
In part of the video, which has been shown on U.S. television networks as well as at a congressional hearing on Wednesday, an Afghan man is shown being abused with an electric cattle prod, beaten with whips and a plank of wood with a nail on it and driven over by a car at a desert location in 2004.
Kelly declined to draw a link between the video and possible stalling on the deal.
But another U.S. official, who declined to be named, confirmed the graphic footage was an issue.
Some lawmakers also believe the UAE is not doing enough to curb Iran's atomic ambitions. They also want more transparency over the nuclear deal that establishes a legal framework for commerce in nuclear energy between the United States and UAE.
NO TIMELINE FOR NUCLEAR DEAL
A senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as the issue is sensitive, said the video was "shocking" and that the Obama administration had discussed it with the UAE.
"We have urged them to have a thorough and prompt review and to take appropriate follow-up action," said the official.
The senior official refused to speculate on when Obama might sign off on it. "I will not comment on internal deliberations or speculate about timing," the official said.
Abu Dhabi's judicial department said on Monday that prosecutors had detained Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a brother of the UAE crown prince, pending an outcome of an investigation into the video.
The UAE is a federation of seven emirates, each run by a ruling family. The reported investigation is the first of a ruling family member of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE.
Lawmakers aired a 10-minute video at a Capitol Hill hearing on Wednesday showing three incidents of abuse involving the royal family member.
One of the men in the video, whom the U.S. network ABC said last month was Sheikh Issa, is seen pouring what the network said was salt into the man's wounds. A man in police uniform takes part too.
"In each case, Sheikh Issa is seen beating and terrorizing his victims -- and in each case, he is assisted by uniformed individuals, some of whom, especially in the group incident, appear to be official uniformed security or police members," Rep. James McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said in a statement at the hearing.
McGovern wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month urging her to hold off on the nuclear deal until the issue over the video was resolved.
In his April 23 letter, McGovern urged a temporary hold on "further U.S. expenditures of funds, training, sales or transfers of equipment or technology including nuclear until a full review" of the torture video.
As a step toward implementing the deal, Obama has to issue a presidential determination over the agreement saying it is in the country's interests to proceed.
Once Obama has signed the determination, Congress is then notified by Clinton and a 90-day review period begins after which the deal comes into force unless there are objections.
McGovern, who urged any minors in the hearing room to leave before the video was shown, said it had been a hard decision to show the video publicly.
"I cannot describe the horror and revulsion I felt when witnessing what is on this video," said McGovern at the hearing, which was called to look into abuses in the UAE.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE54C7E720090513?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&rpc=22&sp=true
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