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Nuclear News - 5/4/2009
PGS Nuclear News, May 4, 2009
Compiled By: Luke Wagoner

    1. Report: Pyongyang Has ‘Small Nuclear Arsenal', JoongAng Daily (5/4/2009)
    2. U.S. Talks Tough Over Aid to North, JoongAng Daily (5/4/2009)
    3. US Official Expects North Korea Nuclear Test, Jamadi-ul-Awwal (5/3/2009)
    4. N. Korea to Use Nuke Status as Bargaining Chip, Kang Hyun-kyung, The Korea Times (5/3/2009)
B.  Pakistan
    1. Pakistan Nuclear Projects Raise US Fears, Simon Tisdall, The Guardian (5/3/2009)
    2. Despite Taliban Turmoil, Pakistan Expands Nuke Plants, McClatchy News Service (5/1/2009)
    3. Worried Obama Confident Over Pak Nuclear Weapons’ Security, Daily Times (5/1/2009)
C.  India
    1. Koodankulam Sets Off Chain Reaction, Anil Sasi, The Hindu Business Line (5/4/2009)
    2. India to Set Up Nuclear Reactors in Kazakhstan, China View (5/3/2009)
D.  Iran
    1. US Congressman Unveils Iran Sanctions Bill, House Armed Services Committee (5/1/2009)
    2. Sec. Gates: Bomb Iran, They'll Still Get a Nuke, Dan Weil, Newsmax (5/1/2009)
E.  Japan-Russia
    1. Japan to give USD 40 mln to Dismantle Russian Submarines, Indopia (5/1/2009)
F.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Australia's WorleyParsons to Set Up Egypt Nuclear Plant, Zawya (5/3/2009)
    2. Russia to Build Floating Arctic Nuclear Stations, John Vidal, The Guardian (5/3/2009)
G.  Links of Interest
    1. Why is the Burden of US-Iran Engagement Only on Washington?, The Daily Star (5/4/2009)
    2. 'Long Road' to Nuclear-Free World: Robert Gates, AFP (5/3/2009)


Report: Pyongyang Has ‘Small Nuclear Arsenal'
JoongAng Daily
(for personal use only)

North Korea possesses “a small nuclear arsenal” but may have the capability to deploy it, according to a recent U.S. report. “North Korea has already built a small nuclear arsenal and shows no signs of being willing to negotiate it away,” said the report, co-authored by former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, who served as U.S. Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton in 1994-1997. But the country, which tested an atomic device in October 2006, “may not have the ability to deploy nuclear weapons,” it said.

The report was published last month by the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent U.S. think tank based in New York. American and South Korean officials say North Korea has enough plutonium stockpiled to create up to six nuclear bombs, but they refuse to categorize the country as a nuclear state.

Experts are split on whether the 2006 nuclear test was a success because it is believed to have resulted in a yield equivalent to 1 kiloton of TNT. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima during the Second World War produced an explosion of about 15 kilotons of TNT.

North Korea recently threatened to conduct another nuclear test if the United Nations Security Council fails to withdraw its condemnation of the April 5 rocket launch by Pyongyang.

The report, also chaired by former U.S. National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, urged Washington to engage in “aggressive diplomacy” to revive multilateral talks aimed at ending the North’s nuclear ambitions.

The negotiations, which also include South Korea, Japan, Russia and China, have been stalled for months, while North Korea recently declared them “defunct” in anger over the U.N. action. “Any chance of success with North Korea and Iran will require aggressive diplomacy that fully involves the Obama administration in close cooperation with other relevant international actors,” the report said. “The United States will need to strengthen the resolve of the six-party coalition ... to keep any dismantlement on track,” it said, adding such an effort will require the coordination of “competing interests among coalition members.”

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U.S. Talks Tough Over Aid to North
JoongAng Daily
(for personal use only)

The United States has no plans to provide North Korea with economic aid until it stops threatening to conduct further nuclear and missile tests and returns to the six-party talks, said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“We have absolutely no interest and no willingness on the part of this administration to give them any economic aid at all,” Clinton said yesterday, Korean time, at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We are very serious about trying to make it clear to the North Koreans that their recent behavior is absolutely unacceptable.”

Clinton said a budget of nearly $100 million for future U.S. aid to North Korea has been set aside in case North Korea decided to return to the six-party nuclear disarmament talks.

But the U.S. Secretary of State said it was “implausible, if not impossible” that the North would make it back to the table and resume disabling their nuclear program.

“They are digging themselves into a deeper and deeper hole with the international community,” she added.

North Korea on Wednesday threatened it would conduct further nuclear and ballistic missile tests if the United Nations Security Council fails to apologize immediately for condemning the North’s rocket launch on April 5.

Since the UN Security Council’s release of a presidential statement denouncing the rocket launch, North Korea has adopted a belligerent stance and issued a series of threats. On April 14, one day after the statement was adopted, the North said it would reactivate its partially disabled nuclear facilities and never again participate in the six-party talks.

Pyongyang later ordered inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to remove their surveillance equipment and leave North Korea.

Then on April 25, North Korea said the reprocessing of spent fuel rods to develop weapons-grade plutonium had already begun. North Korea is believed to possess enough plutonium for about six atomic weapons.

Also yesterday, the State Department named countries that it believes support terrorism. The list included Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, but not North Korea, although that situation might change at a later date.

“The State Department is in the process of reviewing the DPRK’s [North Korea’s] status as what they call a not fully cooperating country,” said Ronald Schlicher, acting coordinator of counterterrorism.

“That review is part of a broader process of identifying countries not fully cooperating. And decisions in that whole process, including North Korea, should be coming in the next few weeks for you.”

Last October, the United States removed the North from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in return for Pyongyang’s agreement to disable its nuclear program.

Schlicher noted yesterday that the exclusion required that “North Korea had not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six-month period prior to that decision and required undertakings that they would not do so in the future.”

North Korea was added in 1988 after selling weapons to the Japanese Red Army and after detonating a bomb on a South Korean passenger jet in mid-air.

The State Department imposes arms-related and financial sanctions on terrorism sponsors.

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N. Korea to Use Nuke Status as Bargaining Chip
Kang Hyun-kyung
The Korea Times
(for personal use only)

Seoul will need to reward North Korea with high-priced economic incentives to end its nuclear program if the Stalinist country is recognized as a nuclear state, according to a former Cabinet minister.

Jeong Se-hyun, a former unification minister (2001-2004), told The Korea Times last week that South Korea will also have to rely heavily on the U.S. nuclear umbrella to assure its people can live in peace, as it vowed not to possess nuclear weapons under a bilateral agreement.

Jeong offered the observation after experts speculated the North will attempt a second nuclear test in a move to become a nuclear state after its failed effort in October 2006.

Under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), nuclear states refer to countries that tested nuclear devices before 1967. Five countries, the United States, France, United Kingdom, Russia and China, are recognized as nuclear states under the treaty. Meanwhile, three other countries, India, Pakistan and Israel, are nuclear states that remain outside the NPT.

Gary Samore, U.S. President Barack Obama's coordinator for policy on weapons of mass destruction, said last Friday at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. that he thinks the North will carry out another nuclear test.

Samore added, ``That's what they are threatening to do.''

His remark came two days after the North threatened to perform a nuclear test unless the U.N. Security Council apologized for imposing sanctions.

Concerns have mounted over the North seeking nuclear status after Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), indicated it was a nuclear state.

``North Korea has nuclear weapons, which is a matter of fact. I don't like to accept any country as a nuclear weapons state, but we have to face reality,'' the IAEA chief was quoted as saying.

Former Unification Minister Jeong interpreted the IAEA chief's remark as a gesture to curry favor with the Stalinist country. IAEA inspectors left the country in April after the North demanded the agency remove them.

``ElBaradei probably wanted his people to get back to the nuclear site in North Korea by making the comment which is exactly what the North wishes to hear. If the IAEA inspectors are brought back to the North to conduct on-site inspection, it will definitely help the watchdog's profile,'' he said.

Asked about the effect on the peninsula of North Korea being a nuclear state, Jeong forecast that the security burden that Seoul would have to shoulder would probably soar.

``To get a sense of how much we should pay for peace if the North becomes a nuclear state, we'd better look at what happened in 1996 when the Agreed Framework was signed between the United States and North Korea to freeze the North's nuclear reactor,'' he said.

Under the agreement for dismantlement in return for economic incentives, the North agreed to freeze and dismantle its graphite-moderated nuclear reactors and related facilities at Youngbyon. The facilities are the North's 5-megawatt experimental reactor, reprocessing plant, fuel fabrication plant and two other reactors, which were under construction in 1994.

In return, the United States agreed to make arrangement for an international consortium to finance and supply two 1,000-megawatt light water reactors to the North, along with 500,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil to help the impoverished economy.

The former minister called the deal ``a very profitable business'' for North Korea.

``South Korea, Japan, European Union and the United States provided 500,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil as well as the 2000-megawatt light water reactors in exchange of the dismantlement of the North's 5-megawatt reactor. Therefore, we can imagine without difficulties that the North will demand much higher-priced economic perks in return for ending its nuclear program, when and if the North is recognized by the international community as a nuclear state,'' he said.

``Being recognized as a nuclear state is an effective bargaining chip for the North in the future negotiations,'' he added.

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US Official Expects North Korea Nuclear Test
(for personal use only)

A senior Obama administration official said late on Friday he expects that North Korea will test a nuclear weapon before it is forced back to international disarmament negotiations.

At an event at the Brookings Institution, US President Barack Obama’s policy coordinator for weapons of mass destruction, Gary Samore, also expressed some understanding for Russia’s objections to US missile defence plans in Europe. Samore said North Korea was trying to divide the five countries that have been involved with it in disarmament talks and was looking for ways to provoke problems.

“It’s very clear that the North Koreans want to pick a fight,” he said. “They want to kill the six-party talks.” North Korea has vowed to restart its atomic programme in anger over the UN Security Council’s criticism of Pyongyang’s long-range missile launch on April 5. It also kicked out all international monitors from its nuclear facilities.

Asked if he expected Pyongyang to carry out another nuclear test, Samore said: “I think they will.

That’s what they are threatening to do.” Pyongyang conducted its first atomic test in 2006 and is thought to have enough plutonium to make at least half a dozen nuclear bombs.

Samore said the United States was committed to the six-nation talks and predicted that North Korea would be forced back to negotiations within nine months.

“We’ll just wait,” he said. He added that he believed that other major powers would support further sanctions against North Korea if they should carry out a test.

“The Chinese are very, very angry at the North Koreans,” he said. Among the five countries involved in the negotiations with North Korea, China is widely seen as having the most influence.

It also is a member of the UN Security Council, with veto power, and would have to approve any international sanctions against the North.

On Russia, Samore broke with the US line formulated under the Bush administration, which held that Russia’s objections to US missile defense plans in Europe were unfounded.

He said some of Russia’s concerns were valid in the context of US-Russia talks for long-term reduction of their nuclear arsenals.

The Bush administration had argued that its missile defence plans were aimed at countering Iran, and the shield’s capabilities were too limited to pose a threat to Moscow.

However, Samore said Russia’s concerns would be legitimate if the two countries were to reduce their arsenals significantly. “When we go down to really low numbers then missile defence has a potential capability,” he said.

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B.  Pakistan

Pakistan Nuclear Projects Raise US Fears
Simon Tisdall
The Guardian
(for personal use only)

Pakistan is continuing to expand its nuclear bomb-making facilities despite growing international concern that advancing Islamist extremists could overrun one or more of its atomic weapons plants or seize sufficient radioactive material to make a dirty bomb, US nuclear experts and former officials say.

David Albright, previously a senior weapons inspector for the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency in Iraq, said commercial satellite photos showed two plutonium-producing reactors were nearing completion at Khushab, about 160 miles south-west of the capital, Islamabad.

"In the current climate, with Pakistan's leadership under duress from daily acts of violence by insurgent Taliban forces and organised political opposition, the security of any nuclear material produced in these reactors is in question," Albright said in a report (pdf) issued by the independent Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.

Albright warned that the continuing development of Pakistan's atomic weapons programme could trigger a renewed nuclear arms race with India. But he suggested a more immediate threat to nuclear security arose from recent territorial advances in north-west Pakistan by indigenous Taliban and foreign jihadi forces opposed to the Pakistani government and its American and British allies.

"Current US policy, focused primarily on shoring up Pakistan's resources for fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida, has had the unfortunate effect of turning the US into more of a concerned bystander of Pakistan's expansion of its ability to produce nuclear weapons," Albright said in the report, co-authored with Paul Brannan.

The Khushab reactors are situated on the border of Punjab and North-West Frontier province, the scene of heavy fighting between Taliban and government forces. Another allegedly vulnerable facility is the Gadwal uranium enrichment plant, less than 60 miles south of Buner district, where some of the fiercest clashes have taken place in recent days.

A suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Kamra air weapons complex near Gadwal in December 2007, injuring several people.

Uncertainty has long surrounded Pakistan's nuclear stockpile. The country is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty or the comprehensive test ban treaty. Nor has it submitted its nuclear facilities to international inspection since joining the nuclear club in 1998, when it detonated five nuclear devices. Pakistan is currently estimated to have about 200 atomic bombs.

Although Pakistan maintains a special 10,000ong army force to guard its nuclear warheads and facilities, western officials are also said to be increasingly concerned that military insiders with Islamist sympathies may obtain radioactive material that could be used to make a so-called dirty bomb, for possible use in terrorist attacks on western cities.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, told Congress recently that Pakistan had dispersed its nuclear warheads to different locations across the country in order to improve their security. But John Bolton, a hawkish former senior official in the Bush administration, said this weekend that this move could have the opposite effect to that intended.

"There is a tangible risk that several weapons could slip out of military control. Such weapons could then find their way to al-Qaida or other terrorists, with obvious global implications," Bolton said.

Bolton threw doubt on President Barack Obama's assurance last week that while he was "gravely concerned" about the stability of Pakistan's government, he was "confident that the nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands". Since there was a real risk of governmental collapse, Bolton said the US must be prepared for direct military intervention inside Pakistan to seize control of its nuclear stockpile and safeguard western interests.

"To prevent catastrophe will require considerable American effort … We must strengthen pro-American elements in Pakistan's military, roll back Taliban advances and, together with our increased efforts in Afghanistan, decisively defeat the militants on either side of the border," Bolton wrote in an article published in the Wall Street Journal.

"At the same time, we should contemplate whether and how to extract as many nuclear weapons as possible from Pakistan, thus somewhat mitigating the consequences of regime collapse."

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, has dismissed such warnings as hyperbolic and accused US officials and analysts of being guilty of a "panic reaction".

"The spectre of extremist Taliban taking over a nuclear-armed Pakistan is not only a gross exaggeration, it could also lead to misguided policy prescriptions from Pakistan's allies, including our friends in Washington," Haqqani said last week.

Senior British officials have also poured cold water on some of the more sensational statements emanating from Washington. "There is obvious concern but it is not at the same level as the state department. We are not concerned Pakistan is about to collapse. The Taliban are not going to take Islamabad. There is a lot of resilience in the Pakistani state," one official said.

The warnings about Pakistan's nuclear weapons come ahead of a summit meeting in Washington this week between Obama, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. The three leaders are expected to discuss implementation of the US's new integrated strategy for the Afghan-Pakistan region, which includes a "surge" of 17,000 US troops plus additional Nato forces in Afghanistan and further non-military development aid and assistance for Pakistan.

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Despite Taliban Turmoil, Pakistan Expands Nuke Plants
McClatchy News Service
(for personal use only)

Pakistan is expanding its nuclear weapons program even as Islamic extremists in northwest Pakistan advance in the direction of several highly sensitive nuclear-related sites, U.S. officials and other experts said this week.

Pakistan's government is completing two new nuclear reactors to produce plutonium for weapons that would be smaller, lighter and more efficient than the 60-odd highly enriched uranium-fueled warheads that Pakistan is now thought to possess, the officials and experts said.

"In the current climate, with Pakistan's leadership under duress from daily acts of violence by insurgent Taliban forces and organized political opposition, the security of any nuclear material produced in these reactors is in question," said an April 23 report by the Institute for Science and International Security.

Some of the officials and experts are more worried that Islamic radicals or sympathizers inside Pakistan's military might get their hands on radioactive material that could be used to make a crude dirty bomb than they are about a theft of one of the heavily guarded weapons themselves.

The two new plutonium production reactors are being built next to a reactor at Khushab, about 160 miles southwest of Islamabad, the capital, that's been operating since 1998. It's on the heartland Punjab Province's northern border with the restive North West Frontier Province, much of which is under the Taliban's control or influence.

David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security said that commercial satellite pictures taken of the Khushab site in January appear to show one reactor all but complete, and the other having its roof installed.

Pakistan also has a number of important military-industrial complexes, including the Gadwal Uranium Enrichment Plant, where the final enrichment of uranium weapons fuel is thought to take place, less than 60 miles south of Buner, where the Pakistani military is battling the Taliban.

Close to Gadwal is the Kamra Air Weapons Complex, which designs and produces aircraft and conventional bombs, but also is thought to have links to nuclear arms. A suicide bomber blew himself up outside the complex in December 2007, injuring five children.

With al Qaida-allied militants solidifying their grip on the Swat Valley on Buner's northern boundary, their first stronghold outside the tribal area bordering Afghanistan, and active in key cities, including Islamabad, the construction of the two new reactors has added to U.S. concerns about the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons production facilities.

"Clearly we have a rising threat level," said a U.S. defense official, who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly. "I don't think it likely that the jihadists will make a mad dash tomorrow (to seize a nuclear site). But in the course of time, I see a rising threat."

U.S. officials and experts said that they remain confident for now that the Pakistani military, which maintains a special 10,000-man force to guard its nuclear facilities, is taking extraordinary steps to protect its nuclear sites, as well as the warheads themselves.

"The Pakistani army recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands. We have strong military-to-military cooperation," President Barack Obama asserted at a news conference on Wednesday.

Pakistan's aircraft-dropped and missile-launched weapons reportedly are kept unassembled, with their nuclear cores stored separately from their conventional explosive triggers. They also are fitted with highly classified U.S.-designed security devices that require two people to enter firing codes.

The senior U.S. defense official declined to discuss how the United States would react if militants seized a Pakistani nuclear facility. However, he added: "We have to have a strategy to deal with that. You can be certain that kind of planning is ongoing."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was less sanguine than the president. She said that the insurgency now poses a "mortal threat" to the United States and the world.

"If the worst, the unthinkable, were to happen, and this advancing Taliban encouraged and supported by al Qaida and other extremists were to essentially topple the government for failure to beat them back, then they would have the keys to the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan," she said in an April 26 interview with Fox News.

Some U.S. officials and experts, noting that security has been problematic even at some U.S. nuclear facilities, said they doubted that Pakistan's system is foolproof.

"Continued instability in the country could impact these safeguards," said an April 1 Congressional Research Service report.

The fear that jihadists might obtain radioactive material for a dirty bomb is heightened by concern about a potential "insider threat" amid intelligence reports of strong Islamic and anti-American sentiment within the Pakistani officer corps, which had no exchange programs with the United States for a decade prior to 2002 due to U.S. nuclear sanctions, they said.

"There is a rising tide of jihadist sympathizers within the Pakistani military," asserted the U.S. defense official.

Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector, said the United States "hasn't engaged Pakistan . . . in years" in discussions on the expansion of its nuclear weapons program. He said the Obama administration should make it a priority to convince Pakistan to join international negotiations on a global agreement to end the production of nuclear weapons fuel.

"There are (U.S. officials) who are convinced that things aren't so good. There has just been a happy face put on it," he said.

"No one has an incentive to embarrass the Pakistanis" when their cooperation on fighting al Qaida and other Islamic terrorist groups takes priority, he said.

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Worried Obama Confident Over Pak Nuclear Weapons’ Security
Daily Times
(for personal use only)

US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that he is ‘gravely concerned’ about the stability of the Pakistani government, but is confident that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal will not fall into the hands of the Taliban.

Addressing a prime-time news conference on his 100th day in office, Obama called the government in Pakistan ‘very fragile’. But he said, “I’m confident that we can make sure that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is secure.”

“I am more concerned that the civilian government right now is very fragile and don’t seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services, said Obama. “As a consequence, it’s very difficult for them to gain the support and loyalty of their people,” he added.

“So we need to help Pakistan help Pakistanis. And I think that there’s a recognition increasingly on the part of both the civilian government there and the army that that is their biggest weakness,” said Obama.

He also said that the Pakistan Army had begun to realise that ‘homegrown militants, and not India’, posed the biggest threat to Pakistan’s stability. “On the military side, you’re starting to see some recognition … that the obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided, and that their biggest threat right now comes internally,” he said.

“We want to continue to encourage Pakistan to move in that direction (focusing on terrorists). And we will provide them all of the cooperation that we can. We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognise that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable,” he added. daily times monitor/agencies

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C.  India

Koodankulam Sets Off Chain Reaction
Anil Sasi
The Hindu Business Line
(for personal use only)

Action is picking up in the Indian nuclear sector. With the opening of the new window of nuclear commerce with other countries, the first on the list of projects to come up in the country is at the Koodankulam site in Tamil Nadu. Two reactors are already being constructed with Russian assistance under an earlier inter-governmental pact, while another four units are being planned.

With Russia cashing in on its first-mover advantage and commencing preparatory work for the proposed additional units at Koodankulam, and the French and the Americans waiting in the wings, some degree of momentum in setting up of new Light Water Reactor-based capacities could be envisaged once a new government takes office at the Centre.

More important, Koodankulam Stage II could be vital, both in terms of pricing and safety benchmarks, for all the new nuclear capacities that are to come up in the country.


According the latest information, Russia has communicated to the Indian side that it plans to wrap up the feasibility study for two of the four units proposed at the Koodankulam nuclear site by mid-2009. This means construction of the project’s new units could possibly begin this year itself.

On the issue of reactor type for new Koodankulam units, the possibility of continuing with the third generation ‘VVER-1000’ reactor being used in the two units currently under construction, or going in for the new generation ‘VVER 1200’ units, is being debated by the Department of Atomic Energy. Currently, state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is preparing the construction site and obtaining necessary clearances for the two new units (Units 3 and 4).

The fourth unit will be built almost simultaneously with the third one, while the construction of a proposed fifth and sixth units at the same site is likely to commence when the third and fourth units are near completion. The Russian government-owned utility Atomstroyexport, which is currently involved in building the first and second units of the Koodankulam project, will take up the work for the new reactors as well. Atomstroyexport is currently building nuclear plants in China and Iran and starting a similar project at Belene in Bulgaria.


The biggest apprehension voiced against imported nuclear reactor-based capacities planned in the country, in the wake of the Indo-US nuclear deal, has been on the pricing front. The fear, essentially, is that the project cost entailed in setting up these new, gargantuan imported reactors could push final retail electricity tariffs to levels that consumers will find difficult to pay, creating an Enron kind of a situation.

For the new ‘VVER 1000’ units being offered by the Russians, the upfront price tag being quoted is $2 billion for each reactor under discussion. Russia has, meanwhile, proposed a sweetener in the form of a 30 per cent discount.

The discounts are based on plans by the Russians to start serial production of reactors for the Indian nuclear industry, for which Atomstroyexport is tying up with local partners. A pact with Larsen & Toubro has been signed by the Russian firm. Factoring in the discount, the cost of construction for each new reactor comes to roughly Rs 7 crore per mega watt (at current exchange rates).

This, according to analysts, is within “acceptable range”, provided there are no overruns in project execution deadline and consequent price escalations. While at these levels, project costing is around 35 per cent higher than for a thermal plant of a similar size, it needs to be borne in mind that the age of a nuclear station is pegged at 60 years, double that for a typical thermal station.

The cost estimates, however, do not include decommissioning costs that have to be borne at the end of the life of a nuclear plant. In the case of first two ‘VVER-1000’ units under construction at Koodankulam, where work started way before the nuclear sector opened up, the total construction cost was estimated at $2.6 billion. At current exchange rates, it translates to around Rs 6.5 crore per MW.

The Russian Government had provided India with long-term credit, which covered almost half of the cost of these first two units. The NPCIL expects the first Koodankulam unit, when operational, to be able to sell power at less than Rs 2.50 a unit (kilowatt hour) — ostensibly a very acceptable tariff estimate.


Koodankulam’s two under-construction units are being built in accordance with an agreement signed by India and the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1988, even as actual work on the first two units started in March 2002. The initial accord stipulated the construction of two 1,000 MWe (mega watt electric) reactors.

Subsequently, in December 2008, India and Russia signed an agreement for the construction of four more reactors at the same site. According to NPCIL officials, the first Koodankulam unit may be ready by the end of 2009. The ‘VVER 1000’ units currently being installed have special devices that intercept, cool and localise core melt in case of an accident — a kind of concrete trap located under the reactor. Besides, the Russians claim the units are earthquake-, hurricane- and air-crash proof.

The two existing units, located on the Indian Ocean coast, survived the tsunami of 2004, with the waves kept away by a special ‘wave cutter’. The Russian nuclear industry already has a significant presence in India, with a total of 100 Russian companies and organisations already involved in the Koodankulam project.

For the first two units, the Russian side’s mandate was to draft documentation, supply equipment and materials, control the construction and equipping process, and train Indian operators at Russian enterprises and nuclear plants.


Koodankulam is important in the way imported Light Water Reactor-based nuclear capacities get added in the future, in probably the same way as the Tarapur project was to the nascent Indian nuclear industry. This is specifically because Koodankulam could well prove to be the benchmark for future projects being developed through foreign participation under inter-governmental pacts.

India is planning to set up a slew of nuclear power parks across the country, with the sites chosen so far being Jaitapur in Maharashtra, Pati Sonapur in Orissa, Haripur in West Bengal, Mithirvirdi in Gujarat, and Kowadi in Andhra Pradesh. Six to eight reactors, of 1,000-1,650 MW, are proposed to be installed at each nuclear park. Negotiations are on with four global suppliers — GE-Hitachi and Toshiba-Westinghouse of the US, Areva of France, besides Atomstroyexport.

The French have already been assured the Jaitapur site, where Areva NP would set up its EPR reactor units even as the American reactor manufacturers are also waiting in the wings for site allocation. With different reactor manufacturers grabbing a piece of the Indian nuclear market, the ones offering the best deals could be those who get the first-mover advantage.

Koodankulam will prove to be a crucial benchmark in terms of pricing and project implementation experience for all of the drama set to unfold in Act Two of the India nuclear saga.

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India to Set Up Nuclear Reactors in Kazakhstan
China View
(for personal use only)

India will set up an unspecified number of nuclear reactors in Kazakhstan under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) reached between the two countries early this year, said the local newspaper Mail Today on Sunday.

The MoU was signed during Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev's visit to India in January, the newspaper quoted unidentified sources as saying.

The two countries have also reached an advanced stage in discussions on nuclear cooperation and Kazakhstan could well be the first foreign destination for India-made reactors, said the report.

Such reactors would be of medium size, with a capacity to generate 200 to 300 megawatt of power each, according to the report.

Kazakhstan has also agreed to supply over 2,000 tons of uranium to India to make fuels for its nuclear plants.

Kazakhstan is the world's second biggest uranium producer and has 15 percent of the global uranium reserves.

India has already signed nuclear cooperation deals with Russia, France and the United States.

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D.  Iran

Sec. Gates: Bomb Iran, They'll Still Get a Nuke
Dan Weil
(for personal use only)

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says taking out Iran’s nuclear facilities with a military strike won’t work and recommends tougher sanctions instead.

The military option would simply push Iran’s effort to develop nuclear weapons into secrecy, making it more difficult for the U.S. to know what’s going on there, he told the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In the end, a strike would merely postpone Iran’s plan to build nukes, not eliminate it. The best strategy for keeping such weapons out of Iran’s hands is for the U.S. and its allies to convince the country that it’s better off without them, Gates says.

Sanctions can help there, he maintains. And along those lines, Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Senators that the U.S. and its allies should strengthen the sanctions against Iran.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., says the U.S. should tighten loose regulations that allow American companies to do business with Iran.

As for Gates, he says the argument that should be presented to Iran is that its production of nukes would “start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and they will be less secure at the end than they are now.”

The Defense Secretary also says the U.S. and Russia should cooperate in establishing missile defense programs in the Mideast to repel Iran.

Russia has objected to U.S. plans to station anti-missile facilities in Eastern Europe.

The White House recently denied a report that Washington could scrap its demand that Iran cease enriching uranium at the start of talks on its nuclear program.

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US Congressman Unveils Iran Sanctions Bill
House Armed Services Committee
(for personal use only)

A US congressman on Thursday introduced legislation that would expand economic sanctions against Iran, in a bid to curb that country’s nuclear drive.

The bipartisan bill, introduced by Democratic Congressman Howard Berman, would give President Barack Obama the authority to impose sanctions against any entity that provides goods or services that enhance Tehran’s ability to maintain or expand its domestic production of refined petroleum.

“Our country has a vital national security interest in ensuring that Iran not possess nuclear arms or achieve the means to produce them on short notice,” said Berman.

Berman, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that he supports Obama’s efforts to engage with Iran to resolve the nuclear dispute.

“However, should engagement with Iran not yield the desired results in a reasonable period of time, we will have no choice but to press forward with additional sanctions - such as those contained in this bill – that could truly cripple the Iranian economy,” he said yesterday.

Berman said that he hoped that lawmakers would not need to take action on the legislation, as that would mean that Iran has complied with international demands to suspend its uranium enrichment activities and alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.

A similar bill was introduced in the Senate on Tuesday, which gives Obama unprecedented authority to impose sanctions against foreign firms that export gasoline and refined petroleum products to Iran.

While Iran is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, a lack of refinery capacity forces the county to import about 40 percent of its gasoline.

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E.  Japan-Russia

Japan to give USD 40 mln to Dismantle Russian Submarines
(for personal use only)

Japan will give another four billion yen (USD 40 million) towards an international project to dismantle decommissioned Russian nuclear submarines in the Far East, a report said today.

The decision will be announced when Prime Minister Taro Aso meets his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on May 12 in Tokyo , Kyodo News said, citing unnamed government sources.

Japan has already provided around 20 billion yen to help dismantle more than 70 retired nuclear submarines believed to have been abandoned in the Russian Far East. Many more decommissioned submarines are believed to be in Russian northwest.

The dismantling will be completed in the spring of 2010 and Japan is also considering helping Russia build storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel, Kyodo said, citing Japanese diplomats.

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F.  Nuclear Energy

Australia's WorleyParsons to Set Up Egypt Nuclear Plant
(for personal use only)

Egypt has invited Australia's WorleyParsons to negotiate with its nuclear authority to sign a contract to establish the country's first nuclear power plant.

WorleyParsons comes second on the list of 14 bidders after U.S. Bechtel company, which has failed to sign the contract with the Egyptian government, an official source of the Egyptian Ministry of Electricity and Energy said in news remarks.

If negotiations with the Australian company become successful, then it will select an appropriate site for a nuclear power plant, assess nuclear technology, carry out a quality control program and provide personnel training, the source said.

The Australian company will also follow up the implementation of the nuclear project, run construction and engineering works and carry out experimental operation, it added.

The brochure of conditions and specifications has been technically reviewed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and legally by Egypt's State Council.

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Russia to Build Floating Arctic Nuclear Stations
John Vidal
The Guardian
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Russia is planning a fleet of floating and submersible nuclear power stations to exploit Arctic oil and gas reserves, causing widespread alarm among environmentalists.

A prototype floating nuclear power station being constructed at the SevMash shipyard in Severodvinsk is due to be completed next year. Agreement to build a further four was reached between the Russian state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, and the northern Siberian republic of Yakutiya in February.

The 70-megawatt plants, each of which would consist of two reactors on board giant steel platforms, would provide power to Gazprom, the oil firm which is also Russia's biggest company. It would allow Gazprom to power drills needed to exploit some of the remotest oil and gas fields in the world in the Barents and Kara seas. The self-propelled vessels would store their own waste and fuel and would need to be serviced only once every 12 to 14 years.

In addition, designers are known to have developed submarine nuclear-powered drilling rigs that could allow eight wells to be drilled at a time.

Bellona, a leading Scandinavian environmental watchdog group, yesterday condemned the idea of using nuclear power to open the Arctic to oil, gas and mineral production.

"It is highly risky. The risk of a nuclear accident on a floating power plant is increased. The plants' potential impact on the fragile Arctic environment through emissions of radioactivity and heat remains a major concern. If there is an accident, it would be impossible to handle," said Igor Kudrik, a spokesman.

Environmentalists also fear that if additional radioactive waste is produced, it will be dumped into the sea. Russia has a long record of polluting the Arctic with radioactive waste. Countries including Britain have had to offer Russia billions of dollars to decommission more than 160 nuclear submarines, but at least 12 nuclear reactors are known to have been dumped, along with more than 5,000 containers of solid and liquid nuclear waste, on the northern coast and on the island of Novaya Zemlya.

The US Geological Survey believes the Arctic holds up to 25% of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves, leading some experts to call the region the next Saudi Arabia. But sea ice, strong winds and temperatures that can dip to below -50C have made them technologically impossible to exploit.

Russia, Norway, Denmark, Canada and the US have all claimed large areas of the Arctic in the past five years. Russian scientists used a mini-submarine to plant a flag below the North Pole in 2007 and have claimed that a nearby underwater ridge is part of its continental shelf.

Last week, ministers from many Arctic countries heard scientists and former US vice-president and Nobel prize winner Al Gore say that the Arctic could be free of ice in the summer within five years, with drastic consequences for the world's climate and human health.

But many countries bordering the Arctic see climate change as the chance to exploit areas that were once inaccessible and to open trade routes between the Pacific and Atlantic.

According to a new report by the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum, Russia is considering other nuclear plants for power-hungry settlements. "The locations that have been discussed include 33 towns in the Russian far north and far east. Such plants could be also used to supply energy for oil and gas extraction," says the report by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme.

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G.  Links of Interest

Why is the Burden of US-Iran Engagement Only on Washington?
The Daily Star
(for personal use only)

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'Long Road' to Nuclear-Free World: Robert Gates
(for personal use only)

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