The re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may deal a blow to international efforts to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, European Union officials said.
U.K. Foreign Minister David Miliband renewed a call on Iran to respond to a U.S.-backed offer meant to entice Iran away from producing nuclear fuel. He said the results of the disputed Iranian election could further stall progress.
“Our serious concern was about the implications of recent events for the engagement the international community seeks from the government of Iran,” Miliband told reporters today at an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg.
The Iranian president has defied three rounds of United Nations Security Council sanctions demanding that his government bring a halt to uranium enrichment. The U.S. and its allies accuse the regime of seeking a nuclear weapon, while Iran says its program is for peaceful energy use.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana also indicated hopes of a resolution are receding, saying he doubted there would be a “fantastic change” in the standoff on Iran’s program.
Miliband, who said “serious doubts” about Ahmadinejad’s re-election were shared by those outside Iran, pointed to an offer of civilian nuclear technology, trade agreements and security guarantees in return for cooperation.
“We view with considerable concern the failure of Iran to come back in response to the offer that came from the EU three- plus-three,” Miliband said, referring to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the U.S., Russia, China, U.K. and France -- as well as Germany.
EU foreign ministers said in a statement that claims of election fraud should be investigated and expressed “serious concern” about violence and the use of force against demonstrators.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said yesterday that the administration of President Barack Obama was undaunted by the election result and would resume its policy of engaging the Iranian regime rather than ostracizing it.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said June 5 that Iran had increased its rate of uranium production in the last three months and continued to block IAEA inspectors seeking to find out whether the nation is hiding an atomic weapons program.
EU foreign ministers two months ago responded to the Obama administration’s approach by urging a negotiated agreement without making an explicit call for tighter sanctions.
The IAEA is encouraged by U.S. efforts to hold talks with the Iranian government and awaits an “equal gesture of goodwill” from Tehran, the agency’s director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, said today in a statement.
Iran, under UN investigation since 2003, has enough low- enriched uranium to produce the minimum amount needed to arm a bomb if the material were further enriched to weapons grade, according to the IAEA. The government in Tehran says the enriched uranium is meant to fuel a nuclear reactor.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601100&sid=aBPP5xNaT1Ms
2. ElBaradei Prods Iran Not to Ignore Obama Overture
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The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief urged Iran Monday to meet a U.S. offer of unconditional talks with goodwill gestures including giving inspectors easier access to monitor its atomic program.
Friday's re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, condemned as fraudulent by losing candidates, dimmed hopes abroad for a moderate successor who might take up concern over Iran's nuclear work and seriously engage U.S. President Barack Obama.
The International Atomic Energy Agency leader did not mention the vote but said the ball was in Iran's court after Obama's overture following 30 years of U.S.-Iranian hostility.
Obama "gives reason for hope that a genuine dialogue can lead to a comprehensive settlement of many security, political and economic issues spanning over 50 years," Mohamed ElBaradei told an IAEA governors meeting.
He urged Iran to respond with "an equal gesture of goodwill and trust-building," for example by lifting restrictions on U.N. inspectors which prevent them from checking that Iran's uranium enrichment campaign is not being diverted to making atom bombs.
Ahmadinejad said Sunday Iran's nuclear issue "belongs in the past," indicating there would be no concessions during his second term in office.
The United States and five other world powers earlier this year improved a 2006 package of diplomatic and trade incentives offered to Iran to suspend enrichment and dropped a demand for a nuclear halt before talks can even begin.
But Iran has promised only readiness to negotiate a broader, vague palette of peace and security issues while saying its nuclear fuel campaign is a non-negotiable fait accompli.
Ahmadinejad has welcomed Obama's gesture but said he was awaiting real U.S. policy changes to back up the conciliatory talk. Washington had deferred action in the hope of Ahmadinejad losing the election to a moderate.
ElBaradei pushed Iran to accept a temporary "freeze for freeze" formula -- no further expansion of enrichment for no increase in U.N. sanctions -- suggested by the six powers to jumpstart talks. But Tehran has ruled that out as well.
A June 5 IAEA report said Iran now has over 7,000 centrifuge enrichment machines installed and stockpiled what U.S. analysts said was enough potential nuclear fuel to be reprocessed into fissile material for one atomic bomb.
Iran say it seeks industrial-scale enrichment only for electricity so it can export more of its oil wealth.
But it hid sensitive nuclear research and development from the IAEA until Iranian exiles blew the whistle in 2002.
It limits inspector movements, has stymied an IAEA probe into intelligence allegations of illicit atom bomb studies, and ceased giving design information on planned nuclear sites to the agency.
"There has been no movement on outstanding issues which need to be clarified to exclude the possibility of military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program," ElBaradei told the closed-door meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors.
Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/15/AR2009061500997_pf.html
3. US Urges Iran to Accept Invite to Nuclear Talks
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The United States urged Iran on Monday to agree to a meeting with the six key nations trying to ensure that its nuclear program is peaceful in which the U.S. will be ''a full participant.''
U.S. deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo told the U.N. Security Council that Iran has not responded to the request from the five permanent council members -- the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France -- and Germany for new talks, which would be the first international discussion on Iran's nuclear program since President Barack Obama took office in January.
''The United States remains committed to direct diplomacy with Iran to resolve issues of concern to the international community and will engage on the basis of mutual respect,'' DiCarlo said. ''The United States will be a full participant in these discussions and we continue to urge Iran to accept this invitation.''
DiCarlo's comments came hours after Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also urged Iran to ''respond to the U.S. initiative with an equal gesture of goodwill and trust-building.''
The Security Council met to hear a report by the committee monitoring sanctions against Iran as hundreds of thousands of Iranian protesters supporting reform leader Mir Hossein Mousavi defied the government and streamed through Tehran denouncing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's claim to victory in a disputed election.
Iran has been slapped with three rounds of sanctions by the Security Council over suspicions it is hiding nuclear activities and fears that it could retool its enrichment program from making low-grade material to produce nuclear power into producing weapons-grade uranium used for nuclear warheads.
The Iranian government insists that its nuclear program is purely peaceful -- but ElBaradei told Monday's meeting of the U.N. agency's 35-nation board that for over a year, Tehran has rebuffed IAEA requests for visits and information ''to exclude the possibility of military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program.''
Diplomats from Britain, France, Russia and China echoed DiCarlo's call for a quick resumption of negotiations with Iran.
''The international community has made clear our desire for a mature partnership for Iran,'' Britain's deputy U.N. ambassador Philip Parham said.
''We hope that we will see a genuine response from the Iranian government in the weeks and months ahead, but this opportunity is not a blank check,'' he said. ''We need to make real and urgent progress. ... The offer will not be there forever.''
Iran welcomed a ''constructive'' dialogue with world powers over its nuclear program on April 22, but insisted that it won't halt its uranium enrichment activities. The statement, carried by the official IRNA news agency, came in response to the invitation from the six parties for a new round of nuclear talks -- but there has been no official response.
On April 9, Ahmadinejad said Iran would present a new proposal for negotiations, saying ''conditions have changed'' -- an apparent reference to Obama's election and Iran's own progress in its nuclear program since previous international talks were held last year.
The U.S., Britain and France expressed concern at the latest IAEA report which underscored Iran's continued defiance of the Security Council in refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, provide access to all its nuclear facilities, and answer questions about past nuclear activities.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said it was important that the six countries maintain their commitment to assist the IAEA in establishing that ''there are no military aspects'' to Iran's nuclear program.
Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/06/15/world/AP-UN-UN-Iran-Nuclear.html?_r=1
South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities have begun surveillance on 11 North Korean sites for a possible third nuclear test, news reports here said yesterday.
"(We) have started running a surveillance network based on information that Pyongyang may conduct a third nuclear test in protest of the United Nations Security Council's sanctions," a local daily quoted an unnamed South Korean intelligence source as saying.
The candidate sites for a third nuclear test lie mostly in the northern part of the reclusive state - especially in the rocky areas of Hamgyeong and Pyeongan Provinces.
One of them is Geumchang-ri of North Pyeongan Province, previously suspected by U.S. intelligence as the location of a possible nuclear facility in 1998, according to the Korean daily.
Washington had sent a fact-finding team to Geumchang-ri in exchange for providing 600,000 tons of rice to North Korea, but failed to find any proof of nuclear activities there.
There are some 8,200 underground military facilities across North Korea, according to the South's Defense Ministry.
Yesterday's report on a possible third nuclear test has not yet been confirmed by any government official.
North Korea's declaration of uranium enrichment on Saturday struck many as deja vu of a decade-long game of "truth or dare" as a to whether the Stalinist state is really capable of producing nuclear weapons soon.
"The process of uranium enrichment will be commenced," the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency•on Saturday.
North Korea "would weaponize all plutonium and we've processed more than one-third of our spent nuclear fuel rods," he said.
The North, which drew condemnation around the world after its second nuclear test on May 25, said it has had "enough success" in developing uranium enrichment technology and was experimenting.
In October 2002, then U.S. special envoy James Kelly raised suspicions during his visit to Pyongyang that North Korea planned to run a highly-enriched uranium program, a second track to developing nuclear bombs on top of reprocessing fuel rods for plutonium.
According to diplomatic sources here, North Korean first vice foreign minister Kang Sok-ju asked Kelly, "what is wrong with us having an HEU plan?" "We have the right to proceed with our HEU plan and we plan to produce even stronger weapons," Kang was quoted as saying by sources.
A day before Kelly's meeting with Kang, the U.S. delegation had pointed out to North Korean Foreign Minister Kim Kye-kwan that Pyongyang's purported HEU program was a serious violation of the 1994 Geneva Agreement.
Kim denied Kelly's suspicion, demanding proof, according to sources.
Apparently, Kang, who "represents the Workers' Party and the government of DPRK," decided to revert what his colleague said a day earlier.
Washington classified the results of Kelly's visit to Pyongyang confidential for some days until it issued a statement by the State Department spokesman on Oct. 16, 2002, saying it has gathered intelligence that suggests North Korea had an HEU program and that Pyongyang acknowledged having such a program.
North Korea said in a statement by its foreign ministry spokesman nine days later, saying it was open to "resolving the (HEU program) issue through negotiations."
Apparently, it did not deny or acknowledge the existence of a HEU program.
Nearly four months later, North Korea said through its foreign ministry spokesman on Jan. 29, 2003, that "regarding his (Kelly's) words, there was nothing to admit and no need to deny."
On Jan. 30, then North Korean ambassador to Geneva said in a media interview that, "we make it clear that we have never acknowledged an HEU program."
The Geneva Agreement signed between North Korea and the Bill Clinton administration in 1995 lost luster during the HEU speculation in late 2002.
A six-nation discussion system was established in August 2003 instead.
North Korea has denied the existence of an HEU program over the five years of six-party talks since.
Several policymakers under former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung had raised a conspiracy theory that neoconservatives within the South exaggerated Pyongyang's HEU-related moves as an imminent security crisis.
The obscure question mark remained until last Saturday when North Korea officially declared it would enrich uranium in protest of the UNSC Resolution 1874.
A new truth or dare has now begun over whether North Korea has accumulated enough technology to move on to HEU from low-enriched uranium, which is used to run nuclear reactors to produce energy.
Available at: http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/NEWKHSITE/data/html_dir/2009/06/16/200906160049.asp
2. Japan Decides on Additional Sanctions on N. Korea
(for personal use only)
The Japanese government decided Tuesday to totally ban exports to North Korea and toughen restrictions on the flow of people as additional sanctions on Pyongyang in response to its nuclear test in May. As Japan has already banned imports from North Korea, the additional measures will lead to the complete suspension of bilateral trade.
Since the value of exports is small, the effectiveness of a total ban on bilateral trade is expected to be limited, but Tokyo apparently hopes to show a tough stance on North Korea's nuclear threat.
The decision, endorsed by the Cabinet, followed the U.N. Security Council's adoption Friday of a resolution to impose a broad range of additional sanctions on North Korea.
As for restrictions on the flow of people, the government has decided not to allow foreigners residing in Japan to reenter Japan in principle if they violate existing restrictions on trade or monetary measures and travel to North Korea.
Non-Japanese ship crew who violate such restrictions would basically not be permitted to make a landing either.
Under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 adopted after North Korea's first nuclear test in October 2006, Japan has prohibited exporting luxury items to North Korea. In 2008, Japanese exports to North Korea were worth roughly 800 million yen.
Also in response to the first nuclear test, Japan has imposed its own sanctions, including a ban on port calls to Japan by North Korea- registered vessels and a total import ban.
Japan also decided to impose additional sanctions following Pyongyang's rocket launch in April, including tighter rules on fund transfers to North Korea.
Available at: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D98RIJA80&show_article=1&catnum=0
3. N. Korea Says U.S. Nuke Umbrella for South 'Criminal Act' to Start War
Yonhap News Agency
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North Korea denounced the South on Monday for "begging" the U.S. for nuclear protection, calling the move a "criminal act" aimed at starting a nuclear war against the North.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak meets U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday (Washington time). The two leaders are expected to issue a joint statement after the summit that includes a U.S. pledge to provide an "extended nuclear deterrent" for Seoul.
Such official pledge is "an unforgivable criminal act to make South Korea a nuclear powder keg that can explode at any moment and drive the peninsula into a U.S. nuclear battlefield by drawing more U.S. nuclear weapons into South Korea," the Rodong Sinmun, the North's main newspaper published by the Workers' Party, said.
The U.S. has provided a nuclear umbrella over South Korea since the Korean War ended in 1953. But it would be the first time for any U.S. president to affirm it in writing. The meeting follows North Korea's second nuclear test on May 25.
The Rodong Sinmun said South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan "begged for" the written pledge during his recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"The group of traitors, setting the fate of the Korean people at naught, asked for it and revealed every shred of its atrocious scheme to wage a second Korean war with nuclear weapons on the back of its U.S. boss," the paper said.
The paper also accused the U.S. military stationed in South Korea of placing about 1,000 nuclear bombs south of the border and charged their joint military maneuvers are "nuclear war exercises," it added.
"Our nuclear deterrence is a means of defense for our homeland, but we will never show mercy to those who dare to wage a nuclear war against us," the paper said, warning invaders would be turned into "ashes."
Protesting a recent U.N. Security Council resolution condemning its latest nuclear test, the North said over the weekend that it will "weaponize" all plutonium it has and start enriching uranium to provide fuel for a light-water reactor it plans to build. The uranium enrichment plan sparked concerns it may actually be used to build nuclear weapons.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2009/06/15/55/0401000000AEN20090615003500315F.HTML
In response to the United Nations Security Council’s latest resolution against its nuclear test, North Korea on Saturday declared it would make even more nuclear weapons and acknowledged its uranium enrichment program for the first time.
North Korea also vowed to take military action against any attempt to further isolate the country.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement Saturday condemning and rejecting UN Security Council Resolution 1874. The resolution was adopted earlier in the day, Korean time, to impose an extended arms embargo and tough financial sanctions on North Korea for its May 25 nuclear test.
The North charged the resolution was adopted “at the instigation of the U.S.” and said it will “decisively counter ‘sanctions’ with retaliation and ‘confrontation’ with all-out confrontation.”
Developing uranium enrichment technology will be one countermeasure.
“The process of uranium enrichment will be commenced,” the statement read. “Pursuant to the decision to build its own light-water reactor, enough success has been made in developing uranium enrichment technology to provide nuclear fuel to allow the experimental procedure.”
In April, North Korea hinted at the development of the uranium enrichment technology by announcing it was considering building its own light-water reactor.
U.S. intelligence officials have long suspected the existence of a secret North Korean program to enrich uranium. Such a program can be difficult for satellites to detect because it is conducted underground.
While it develops the uranium enrichment program, North Korea said it will make weapons from its existing storage of extracted plutonium.
“The whole amount of the newly extracted plutonium will be weaponized,” the statement read. “More than one-third of the spent fuel rods has been reprocessed to date.”
In April, following the release of a statement by the president of the UN Security Council condemning the April 5 North Korean rocket launch, Pyongyang said it had begun reprocessing spent fuel rods, a step necessary to develop weapons-grade plutonium. North Korea had partially disabled its plutonium-producing plants under an agreement reached during the six-party denuclearization talks in 2007 but has since reactivated them and has deported inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In addition, the North on Saturday threatened “a decisive military response” to “an attempted blockade of any kind by the U.S. and its followers.”
Experts estimate North Korea possesses enough plutonium for about six atomic bombs, and uranium can be another source of such weapons. U.S. intelligence officials have said North Korea purchased about 150 tons of high-impact aluminum tubes, enough to build 2,600 P1 centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium. And Pakistan has admitted to supplying North Korea with about 20 P1 centrifuges from 1998 to 2001.
Pakistan has also reportedly given the North a design blueprint for P2 centrifuges. The P2 centrifuge produces more enriched uranium than the P1 because it is stronger and spins faster. P2 centrifuges use a maraging steel rotor, compared to P1’s aluminum rotor.
About 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of highly enriched uranium are necessary to make an atomic bomb. If more than 2,500 P1 centrifuges, or 1,000 P2 centrifuges, rotate for one year, they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for one atomic weapon.
North Korea insisted it never chose to go nuclear but was “compelled” to do so to deal with the U.S. hostile policy.
“It has become an absolutely impossible option for [North Korea] to even think about giving up its nuclear weapons,” the statement read. “It makes no difference to [the North] whether its nuclear status is recognized or not.”
The South Korean government on Saturday reacted with “grave concern and regret.”
“Measures in the North Korean statement present a direct challenge to the international community’s efforts toward the denuclearization of North Korea,” said Moon Tae-young, the South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman. “The South Korean government, together with the international community, will deal with the uranium enrichment program as sternly as with plutonium extraction.”
Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, also called North Korea’s actions “deeply regrettable.”
“We intend to do all we can to prevent continued proliferation by the North Koreans,” Clinton said.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China should “come to an agreement on the way forward” before engaging Pyongyang in denuclearization talks.
“The North Koreans have gained, or bought, a lot of time through the six-party-talks framework to pursue their own agenda. I think it’s important now, at this critical point in time, for us not to repeat any past mistakes,” Lee said during an interview conducted before North Korea’s statement on nuclear weapons. “Our ultimate objective is to try to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, but we must also ask ourselves: What do the North Koreans want in return for giving up their nuclear weapons program?” Lee continued. “I think this is the type of discussion that the five countries should be robustly engaging in.”
The North Korean rhetoric overshadowed the unanimous adoption of Security Council Resolution 1874 earlier Saturday, Korean time. In addition to a trade embargo on weapons and financial restrictions, the resolution calls for inspection of ships suspected of carrying banned arms and related materials. The resolution, however, doesn’t authorize the use of military force.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed these sanctions as “appropriate and balanced” reactions to North Korea’s nuclear test.
“Acting unanimously and agreeing on credible measures, the members of the Security Council have sent today a clear and strong message,” Ban said.
The resolution was also welcomed by key powers of the Security Council, including China, an ally of North Korea and a country previously reluctant to impose tough sanctions on Pyongyang.
According to the Chinese state Xinhua News Agency, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “China supports that the UN Security Council reacts in an appropriate and balanced way, and has taken part in relevant negotiations with a responsible and constructive attitude.”
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said the new resolution had “teeth that will bite,” but also warned of possible North Korean provocations. “Based on past experience and a pattern that North Korea has of reckless and dangerous actions,” Rice said, “it would not be a surprise if North Korea reacted to this very tough sanctions regime in a fashion that would be further provocation.”
Available at: http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2906143
5. North Korea Says It Will Start Enriching Uranium
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North Korea adamantly denied for seven years that it had a program for making nuclear weapons from enriched uranium.
But on Saturday, a few hours after the U.N. Security Council slapped it with tough new sanctions for detonating a second nuclear device, the government of Kim Jong Il changed its tune, vowing that it would start enriching uranium to make more nuclear weapons.
Declaring that it would meet sanctions with "retaliation," North Korea also pledged to "weaponize" all the plutonium it could extract from used fuel rods at its Yongbyon nuclear plant, which was partially disabled last year as part of the North's agreement to win food, fuel and diplomatic concessions in return for a promise to end its nuclear program.
That agreement collapsed in April, when North Korea -- fuming about Security Council condemnation of its March launch of a long-range missile -- kicked U.N. weapons inspectors out of the country and began work to restart its plutonium factory. It tested a second bomb on May 25, and South Korean officials have said more missile launches and a third nuclear test are possible in the near future.
"It makes no difference to North Korea whether its nuclear status is recognized or not," the Foreign Ministry in Pyongyang said in a statement carried by the state news agency. "It has become an absolutely impossible option for North Korea to even think about giving up its nuclear weapons."
The 15-member Security Council unanimously passed a resolution Friday that imposes broad financial, trade and military sanctions on North Korea, while also calling on states, for the first time, to seize banned weapons and technology from the North that are found aboard ships on the high seas.
North Korea seemed Saturday to have interpreted the seizure resolution as a "blockade." But at the insistence of China and Russia, the North's traditional allies, the resolution does not authorize the use of military action to enforce any seizure that a North Korean vessel might resist, nor does it restrict shipments of food or other nonmilitary goods.
"An attempted blockade of any kind by the United States and its followers will be regarded as an act of war and met with a decisive military response," North Korea said.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said North Korea's "continuing provocative actions are deeply regrettable."
The bellicose language in North Korea's statement -- which describes the Security Council action as "another ugly product of American-led international pressure" -- is similar in tone to previous North Korean responses to U.N. sanctions.
But the North's announcement that it would process enriched uranium to make more weapons was an extraordinary public admission of active involvement in a program whose existence has been denied by Pyongyang since 2002, when it was first mentioned in a U.S. intelligence report.
That year, the Bush administration accused North Korea of secretly continuing with nuclear weapons development in violation of a 1994 agreement. It then canceled construction of two light-water reactors in the North that were to have been used to produce electricity for the impoverished country.
But in 2007, the Bush administration began to back off its assertions that North Korea had an active program to enrich uranium. The chief U.S. intelligence officer for North Korea, Joseph R. DeTrani, told Congress at the time that although there was "high confidence" that North Korea had acquired materials that could be used in a "production-scale" uranium program, there was only "mid-confidence" that such a program existed.
Uranium enrichment, which offers a different route for making nuclear weapons than plutonium, uses centrifuges to spin hot uranium gas into weapons-grade fuel.
Insisting that it had no uranium-enrichment program, the North Korean government took an American diplomat to a missile factory in 2007, where there were aluminum tubes that some experts had said could be used in uranium enrichment. North Korea allowed the diplomat to take home some samples.
Traces of enriched uranium were unexpectedly discovered on those samples. Other traces were found on the pages of reactor records that North Korea turned over to the United States in 2008, as part of now-aborted negotiations on denuclearizing the North.
In recent years, U.S. officials have suggested that although North Korea has tried to enrich uranium, it has not been very successful.
North Korea on Saturday said it has indeed made progress.
"Enough success has been made in developing uranium-enrichment technology to provide nuclear fuel to allow the experimental procedure," the government said. "The process of uranium enrichment will be commenced."
This may have been bluster, at least in the short term.
It will take many years for the North to develop the uranium route to a bomb, according to Siegfried S. Hecker, a periodic visitor to the Yongbyon complex who was director of Los Alamos National Laboratory and is co-director of Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation.
Writing last month in Foreign Policy magazine, Hecker said North Korea lacks uranium centrifuge materials, technology and know-how. He warned, however, that Iran has mastered this technology and could help the North move forward with uranium enrichment. North Korea and Iran have shared long-range missile technology that could enable both countries to deliver a nuclear warhead.
North Korea also said Saturday that the spent fuel rods at its Yongbyon reactor are being reprocessed, with all the resulting plutonium to be used in nuclear weapons. The government said that it has reprocessed more than a third of them.
Hecker said in a recent interview that there is enough plutonium in the spent rods for "one or two more" nuclear tests. He also said it would take the North about six months to restart its Yongbyon plant, and that it could then produce enough plutonium to make about one nuclear bomb a year for the next decade.
Early this year, North Korean officials said that technicians have used all the plutonium previously manufactured at Yongbyon to make nuclear weapons.
In South Korea on Saturday, several analysts said the North's fist-shaking response to Security Council sanctions suggests that hard-liners in the country's military are exercising increasing power in running the government.
Kim Jong Il suffered a stroke last summer and has appeared frail in public appearances. He is believed to have chosen his youngest son, Jong Un, as his successor. It is unknown, however, how far the succession process has progressed in the secretive communist state.
"Given Kim's ailing health . . . the North Korean leader is likely to have yielded to the demands and pressure of military people who have little awareness of the outside world," said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.
Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/13/AR2009061300636.html?hpid=topnews
6. North Korea Says it Will 'Weaponize' its Plutonium
(for personal use only)
North Korea vowed Saturday to "weaponize" all its plutonium and threatened military action against the United States and its allies after the U.N. Security Council approved new sanctions to punish the communist nation for its recent nuclear test.
In a defiant statement, North Korea's Foreign Ministry also acknowledged for the first time that the country has a uranium enrichment program, and insisted it will never abandon its nuclear ambitions. Uranium and plutonium can be used to make atomic bombs.
The sanctions are "yet another vile product of the U.S.-led offensive of international pressure aimed at undermining ... disarming DPRK and suffocating its economy," said the statement, issued by the state Korean Central News Agency.
It said the country's "development of uranium enrichment technology to guarantee nuclear fuel for its light-water nuclear reactor has been successfully going on and has entered a trial stage."
Until now, North Korea had denied the existence of a uranium enrichment program.
It was not clear if the statement was another attempt by North Korea at brinkmanship or if it was actually willing to engage in no-holds barred conflict. But it opened up the possibility that North Korea could develop nuclear weapons through either of the two materials, raising the specter of greater instability in the region.
North Korea tested its first nuclear device in 2006 and a second one on May 25 in defiance of a U.N. ban, attracting the latest sanctions that aim to stop the reclusive communist nation's weapons exports and financial dealings. They also allow inspections of suspect cargo in ports and on the high seas.
Despite the U.N. sanctions, North Korea said it was "an absolutely impossible option" for it to abandon its nuclear programs, which it called a "self defensive measure" against a hostile U.S. policy and its nuclear threat against the North.
"An attempted blockade of any kind by the U.S. and its followers will be regarded as an act of war and met with a decisive military response," it said without elaborating.
North Korea describes its nuclear program as a deterrent against possible U.S. attacks. Washington says it has no intention of attacking and has expressed fear that North Korea is trying to sell its nuclear technology to other nations.
The statement also said that "the whole amount of the newly extracted plutonium (in the country) will be weaponized," and that "more than one third of the spent fuel rods has been reprocessed to date."
North Korea is believed to have enough plutonium for at least half a dozen atomic bombs. The North also has about 8,000 spent fuel rods which, if reprocessed, could allow the country to harvest 13-18 pounds (6-8 kilograms) of plutonium — enough to make at least one nuclear bomb, experts say.
Under a 2007 six-nation deal, North Korea agreed to disable its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon north of Pyongyang in return for 1 million tons of fuel oil and other concessions. In June 2008, North Korea blew up the cooling tower there in a dramatic show of its commitment to denuclearization.
But disablement came to halt a month later as Pyongyang wrangled with Washington over how to verify its past atomic activities. The latest round of talks, in December, failed to push the process forward.
The negotiations involve China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the U.S.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iURO8fOyWVOA0ytFlaAGuC9F7R9wD98PML780
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday told North Korea to end its course of nuclear confrontation. He also urged Iran to agree to Washington's offer of direct dialogue and called on Syria to cooperate with his agency's investigation.
Mohamed ElBaradei's comments at the opening session of the U.N. agency's 35-nation board meeting dovetailed with world concerns about North Korea and Iran.
North Korea has announced it is expanding its weapons-capable program after exploding its second test atomic bomb last month. And beyond the immediate concerns of serious street unrest in Tehran, the re-election of hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has clouded hopes that Tehran may be ready to end its nuclear defiance and meet U.N. Security Council demands that it curb its uranium enrichment.
Iran has been referred to the Security Council over suspicions it is hiding nuclear activities and fears that it could retool its enrichment program from making material for nuclear power into producing weapons-grade uranium used for warheads.
Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA, again rejected any such goals, telling The Associated Press on Monday that any assertions that Iran was trying to develop weapons capacity under the cover of a peaceful nuclear program were nothing more than "politically motivated gestures by some countries."
Syria also denies any hidden nuclear agenda but it, too, is under IAEA investigation. The U.S. claims Damascus has been hiding a nuclear program that came to light in September 2007 after Israeli warplanes destroyed what Washington says was its centerpiece — a nearly finished reactor built with North Korean help.
Except for a brief period that ended last year when North Korea broke off talks and resumed its nuclear activities, agency inspectors have been shut out of the country since 2003. The agency has more overview of Iran and Syria, which both remain within the nonproliferation fold as members of the agency.
But IAEA attempts to investigate the allegations against Iran and Syria have also been deadlocked. For over a year, both nations have rebuffed agency requests for visits and information meant to help prove or disprove the allegations against them, effectively deadlocking the two investigations.
ElBaradei spoke of the impasse in his opening comments.
"There has been no movement by Iran on outstanding issues which need to be clarified to exclude the possibility of military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program," he said, alluding to U.S. and other intelligence shared with the agency that suggests Tehran had developed plans for elements of a weapons program. As well, "Iran has not implemented any of the measures called for by the Security Council," he added, in an indirect reference to its refusal to freeze enrichment.
Noting newfound American willingness to talk directly to the Islamic Republic on nuclear and other issues of contention, ElBaradei urged Tehran to "respond to the U.S. initiative with an equal gesture of goodwill and trust-building."
On Syria, ElBaradei criticized the limited information and access" provided by Damascus, noting that the IAEA investigation was unable to make progress as a result
And he expressed concern over North Korea's second nuclear test. "This," said ElBaradei, "is a wrong step in the wrong direction, which has again created an environment of confrontation."
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g9q4mTfGpqomOPNxY7pyDFXgDvHgD98R5OSG1
2. Trident Contradicts UK Non-Proliferation Stance
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The failure of the five recognised nuclear powers to make progress with disarmament is undermining prospects of containing the spread of atomic weapons around the world, MPs warned in a report published today.
The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee urged the five powers - Britain, the US, Russia, China and France - to step up efforts to secure "decisive movement" towards disarmament at a key conference in 2010.
The committee said that Britain has the best arms control record of the five nuclear states, but warned that its decision to renew Trident was perceived around the world as a contradiction of its non-proliferation stance.
And it urged the Government to allow MPs a debate on the renewal of the ageing deterrent system when the project reaches "initial gate" stage later this year.
The cross-party committee welcomed Prime Minister Gordon Brown's announcement that the new Trident submarines will carry fewer warheads than the current vessels, but urged the Government to explain to Parliament how it has arrived at its assessment of the UK's "minimum nuclear deterrent".
"The decision to renew the UK's Trident system is perceived by some foreign states and some among the British public as appearing to contradict the Government's declared commitment to strengthening the international nuclear non-proliferation regime," said today's report, entitled Global Security: Non-Proliferation.
"We recommend that the Government should intensify its public diplomacy work better to explain the reasons for the Trident renewal decision and to give greater prominence to its work for multilateral nuclear disarmament and arms control."
The report said the five recognised nuclear states had "widely varying records" on nuclear disarmament and arms control.
Without decisive movement, there is a risk that the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York will fail, during a critical period for the international community's efforts to restrain the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, warned the committee.
The Government should go into next year's review with the aim of reaching agreement on a concrete plan to take the multilateral disarmament process forward through measures like a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.
Committee chairman Mike Gapes said: "The critical threats to international peace and stability posed by the recent actions of North Korea and Iran's continuing nuclear ambitions are some of the vital issues which must be addressed at the NPT Review Conference next year.
"Although we think that the UK has the best record among them, my committee concludes that the five recognised nuclear powers are often perceived as a group by the non-nuclear weapons states, and that, as such, the group is seen collectively to have failed to live up to its nuclear disarmament commitments.
"We further conclude that this undermines prospects for containing nuclear proliferation. We therefore believe that the renewed talks on nuclear disarmament which have been launched recently by Presidents (Barack) Obama and (Dmitry) Medvedev could greatly aid progress at the 2010 conference and hope that they come to speedy fruition.
"We call on all five of the recognised nuclear weapons states to commit to further progress on nuclear disarmament."
Mr Gapes also said the committee was "unconvinced" that US plans for a ballistic missile defence (BMD) system based in sites in the Czech Republic and Poland would add to European security.
"We urge that BMD in Europe should be developed, if at all, as a joint system between the US, Nato and Russia," he said.
"We repeat the call that we made in a report two years ago for the Government to schedule a full parliamentary debate on ballistic missile defence."
Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/trident-contradicts-uk-nonproliferation-stance-1704950.html
1. Nigeria, 16 Others May Turn to Nuclear Power Plants
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Nigeria and 16 other African countries may soon start power generation from nuclear plants, under a power base diversification programme being backed by the Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Already, IAEA has organised a regional training programme for personnel from countries participating in the project.
Some of the other countries involved in the project are Tunisia, Namibia, South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
The countries decided on the project with the conviction that nuclear plants are more economical to run, while their availability and productivity have risen with less down-time for maintenance.
As a major step towards actualising this, the countries gathered in Abuja yesterday for a regional training course on self-assessment of national regulatory infrastructure for safety.
With the training course, African member-states will be able to peer-review radiation and nuclear safety in the region and by so doing, contribute to the overall global nuclear security
"The long-term stability of the cost of electricity generated by nuclear power is also an important attraction," the Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, said at the meeting of the countries yesterday.
The training provides the opportunity to determine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to any organisation or system, under the project.
Speaking on the commitment of African countries to nuclear energy, Usman re-affirmed that energy is a fundamental input to economic activities, along with land, labour and capital.
"So, we need energy in all its forms, including nuclear. Nuclear power, of course, should not be viewed as the only answer. We need to invest right across the board so that we can obtain more energy from other low-carbon sources. But we have to be realistic about what these can offer.
"No renewable source yet has the capacity to generate the amount of power needed to run factories, steel mills, among others. As the world enters a global recession, cost is also an important factor. The new generation of nuclear reactors is cheaper than its predecessors and produces energy at a considerably lower cost than other low-carbon energy sources," he said.
He added: "Nuclear power, for example, can be as much as three times cheaper than wind and five times cheaper than solar power. It is also a known fact that nuclear power emits virtually no greenhouse gases. The complete nuclear power chain, including the mining of uranium, shipping fuel, constructing plants and managing waste, produces about the same amount of carbon dioxide as the full life-cycle emissions of wind and solar power.
"The attraction of nuclear energy is supported by the improved performance of the nuclear energy industry since the 1980s. The world has now accumulated more than 13,000 reactor-years of experience. Improvements in safety have been matched by improvements in efficiency."
In his remarks, IAEA representative, Mr. Daruisz Marchin, stressed that this regional training course therefore provides opportunity for assessing the level of radiation safety infrastructure not only in Nigeria, but also in the region as a whole.
Also speaking, the Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Prof. Shamsudeen Elegba, was hopeful that knowledge gained from the course would be used to self-assess regulatory infrastructure in all the participating member-states and lead to the upgrading of regulatory infrastructure for radiation and nuclear safety in the region as a whole.
Elegba, who was recently elected the pioneer Chairman of the Forum of Nuclear Regulatory Bodies in Africa (FNRBA), stressed that "the continuation of the project by organising this training workshop is indeed a welcome development for the objectives of the project to be fully met."
Available at: http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/news/article01//indexn2_html?pdate=160609&ptitle=Nigeria,%2016%20others%20may%20turn%20to%20nuclear%20power%20plants
2. Gulf’s Push for Nuclear Experts May Delay U.K. Plans
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U.K. utilities risk falling behind with plans to build nuclear power plants because Middle East nations may use higher salaries to lure skilled workers, reactor builder Westinghouse Electric Co. said.
“These nations have no legacy program to use as a source for nuclear expertise,” said Adrian Bull, U.K. stakeholder relations manager at Westinghouse, a unit of Japan’s Toshiba Corp. “If you have literally nothing to go on, you have to be the Chelsea or Real Madrid and buy in the people from elsewhere.”
Oil-producing nations including the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait plan nuclear plants to meet growing energy demand at home while exporting fuel abroad. The U.A.E. plans to select companies to develop an atomic power program by the end of this year and has a 2017 target date for completing its first reactor, the same year Electricite de France SA plans to start a new British nuclear plant.
Nuclear power is undergoing a revival worldwide as governments look to limit dependence on fossil fuel and curb greenhouse gas emissions. Nearly 70 countries have expressed an interest in developing nuclear power programs, according to the IAEA. That will increase demands on the limited pool of nuclear engineers and technicians from countries already operating reactors.
“Globally you have this shortage of talent in the nuclear area,” Iain Manson, head of energy and utilities in Europe, the Middle East and Africa for recruitment company Korn/Ferry International, said in a phone interview. “Everyone is moving to new nuclear build. Those parts of the world that move quicker will get the talent.”
Spanish football club Real Madrid last week agreed to pay a world record 80 million pounds ($132 million) for Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, last year’s World Player of the Year.
In Abu Dhabi, the capital of the U.A.E., “they are recruiting from all over including the U.K.,” Manson said. U.S. President Barack Obama recommended on May 20 that Congress approve an agreement to help the Middle East nation start an atomic energy program.
Padraic Riley, a spokesman for the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp., which will run the U.A.E.’s nuclear program, reiterated the country’s 2017 goal for new nuclear plants in a phone interview today. He declined to comment on recruitment.
“Some of the Middle East countries are building up the regulatory structures and all the things they need” for building new plants, according to Bull, who chairs a group for the U.K. National Skills Academy for Nuclear. So far the hiring is in “relatively small numbers,” he said.
If the pace grows, “we stand to be embarrassed” in the U.K. by recruiting too few workers, Bull said. “We need to be planning some overcapacity in our training programs to allow for the fact that people may go and not come back, or may go without people coming the other way.”
EDF, the world’s biggest operator of nuclear plants, plans to build four reactors in the U.K. with a capacity of 1,650 megawatts each after buying British Energy Group Plc in January for 12.5 billion pounds. It said in December the cost of building a similar model at Flamanville in France had climbed by about a fifth to 4 billion euros ($5.6 billion).
E.ON AG and RWE AG, Germany’s two biggest utilities, have a venture to build reactors in Britain with 6,000 megawatts capacity. Iberdrola SA, GDF Suez SA and Scottish & Southern Energy Plc have a rival group seeking sites for new reactors. Prime Minister Gordon Brown endorses the technology to replace older plants without adding to carbon-dioxide emissions.
There are “wonderful opportunities” for job-creation in the U.K. through promoting low-carbon technologies including nuclear power, as well as renewable energy and carbon capture and storage plants, Phil Hunt, the U.K. energy minister, said in an interview June 11.
Government education programs that focus on science, technology and engineering are designed to “open up the vistas for young people,” Hunt said. “A lot of our focus will be ensuring that we can help people get the skills in which we can drive forward the low-carbon economy.”
Hunt estimated 880,000 people already work in environmental and low-carbon businesses in the U.K. and pledged to work with companies to help that to expand.
“What better example of contributing to the low-carbon economy?” he said about nuclear power. There’s “lots of investment, high-quality jobs, high-quality skills, British know-how.”
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601102&sid=a0dbOpMmd9Vs
3. India's Fast Breeder Reactor Nears Second Milestone
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India's first indigenously designed fast breeder reactor, which is expected to start functioning at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu by 2010 and generate 500 MW of electricity, is headed for another milestone.
The breeder reactor - which breeds more material for a nuclear fission reaction than it consumes - is being built by the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (Bhavini) at the Kalpakkam nuclear enclave, 80 km from here. The prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) will see a major achievement when its main vessel is lowered into the safety vessel. This is expected shortly.
"We are confident of getting the regulatory clearances for lowering the main vessel soon. We will lower the main vessel into the already erected safety vessel," Prabhat Kumar, project director of Bhavini said.
Tasked to build fast breeder reactors in India, Bhavini is awaiting clearance from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). Mr. Kumar said around 46 percent of the PFBR project work is complete and by the end of the year it will be 60 percent.
The sodium cooled fast reactor designed by the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) has three vessels - a safety vessel, a main vessel and an inner vessel.
Outermost is the stainless steel safety vessel, which was lowered into the reactor vault last June - the first milestone.
The main vessel made of stainless steel measures 13 metres in diameter, 13 metres in height, weighs 200 tonnes and will go inside the safety vessel to hold the coolant liquid sodium, reactor fuel, grid plates and others.
The third and smaller of the three vessels is the inner vessel - 11 metres tall - and supports equipments like pumps, heat exchangers and others.
According to Kumar, a sum of Rs.1,719 crores has been spent on the project and the company may go in for the placement of bonds to raise funds for the Rs.3,400 crore ($717 million) project.
He said: "The PFBR will be funded 76 percent by the central government, four percent by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and the balance through loans. Instead of institutional loans, a decision is expected to be taken for issue of bonds."
The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) has accorded its sanction for Rs.250 crore to carry out pre-project activities for setting up two more fast reactors at the Kalpakkam nuclear enclave.
"Now the union cabinet will have to accord its sanction," Mr. Kumar said.
According to him, pre-project activities include site inspection, ground levelling, soil survey, laying of roads, setting up site assembly shops, water channels and others.
"It will take around one-and-a-half years to complete the pre-project activities," he said.
While the reactor uses fission plutonium for power production it breeds more plutonium than what it uses from the natural uranium. The surplus plutonium from each fast reactor can be used to set up more such reactors and grow the nuclear capacity in tune with India's needs.
The Indian fast reactors will be fuelled by a blend of plutonium and uranium oxide. The surplus plutonium from each fast reactor can be used to set up more such reactors and grow the nuclear capacity in tune with India's needs.
Available at: http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/008200906161340.htm
Japanese plans for 16-18 reactors to be using mixed oxide (MOX) fuel by 2010 have been put back by five years, the country's Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO) has announced.
In a newly published briefing, FEPCO chairman Shosuke Mori said that, after reviewing the organisation's so-called 'Pluthermal' project in the light of national policy and the availability of the country's own reprocessing facilities, it had been decided to revise its goal of having 16-18 reactors using MOX fuel to fiscal 2015 instead of 2010.
As long ago as the 1950s, Japanese nuclear energy policy recognised that the energy resource-poor country must recycle uranium and plutonium recovered fromÂ used nuclear fuel. Up until 1998, Japan sent the bulk of its used fuel to plants in France and the UK for reprocessing and MOX fabrication. However, since 1999 it has been storingÂ used fuel in anticipation of full-scale operation of its own reprocessing and MOX fabrication facilities.
Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd's (JNFL's) reprocessing plant under construction at Rokkasho-mura is scheduled for completion in August 2009, but earlier this year the company put back the completion date for its planned J-MOX fabrication facility from August 2012 to August 2015. Construction work on the fabrication facility is scheduled to begin in November 2009.
Four shipments of reactor-grade plutonium recovered from used fuel have been sent back to Japan from European reprocessing plants since 1992. The most recent, comprising MOX fuel for Chubu's Hamaoka BWR, Shikoku's Ikata PWR and Kyushu's Genkai PWR, arrived in Japan from France in May 2009.
While waiting for domestic facilities to become available, Japanese utilities have been signing overseas contracts to meet their MOX requirements. Global Nuclear Fuel-Japan (GNF-J) has outsourced a contract to manufacture the first three years' worth of fuel for J-Power's new Ohma ABWR plant, designed to run on a full MOX core, to Areva. The French company also has MOX fabrication contracts with Chubu, Kyushu, Shikoku and Kansai.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Japanese_MOX_target_moves_back_5_years-1206097.html
5. House Republicans Draft Energy Bill With Heavy Focus on Nuclear Power
John M. Broder
The New York Times
(for personal use only)
Badly outnumbered and months behind in the debate on energy and climate change, House Republicans plan to introduce an energy bill on Wednesday as an alternative to the Democratic plan barreling toward a House vote this month.
The Republican proposal, drafted by a group led by Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, leans heavily on nuclear power, setting a goal of building 100 reactors over the next 20 years. No new nuclear plants have been ordered in the United States since 1978 because of the high cost of construction and uncertainty about regulatory approval.
The bill also provides incentives for increased oil and gas production on public and private lands and offshore. It would also authorize oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, a focus of 30 years of controversy in Congress.
The Republican measure does not include any mandatory cap on emissions of heat-trapping gases, relying instead on nuclear energy, natural gas and renewable fuels like wind, solar and biomass power to reduce production of the gases, which have been linked to global warming.
“This is an alternative that takes us in the direction of energy independence and a clean environment without the national energy tax being offered by the Democrats,” Mr. Pence said.
At forums around the country, he said, people expressed a desire for more energy from domestic sources and concern about rising fuel prices. “A minority in Congress plus the American people equals a majority,” he said.
Republican officials said they were intending to offer the proposal, known as the American Energy Act, as a substitute for the bill sponsored by Representatives Henry A. Waxman of California and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats. The Waxman-Markey bill has been through hundreds of hours of public hearings and committee deliberations and passed the Energy and Commerce Committee last month on a 33-to-25 vote.
The Democratic measure will be considered by other House committees in coming days, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has made it clear that the bill is on a fast track to a vote in the full House before the July 4 Congressional recess. Committee leaders have been warned not to tinker too much with the substance of the 946-page bill, a product of extensive talks to win support from a number of Democrats worried about energy costs and job losses in their states.
Republican aides said they were hoping their bill would lure some of those Democrats away and give Republicans something to support, rather than simply opposing the Democratic plan.
Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/10/us/politics/10energy.html?ref=us
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