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Nuclear News - 6/26/2009
PGS Nuclear News, June 26, 2009
Compiled By: Luke Wagoner


A.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Russia's Medvedev Heads to Nigeria, Bashir Adigun, Associated Press (6/25/2009)
    2. Swiss to Destroy Papers in Intl Nuke Smuggling Case, Laura MacInnis, Reuters (6/24/2009)
    3. US, Russia Drive for Summit in Nuclear Arms Reduction Talks, AFP (6/24/2009)
    4. Israel Tries to Block Jordan’s Nuclear Cooperation with Others, DPA (6/24/2009)
    5. NNSA Announces Contract to Downblend 12 Metric Tons of Surplus Highly Enriched Uranium, National Nuclear Security Administration (6/23/2009)
    6. UAE, S.Korea Sign Nuclear Cooperation Pact, Reuters (6/22/2009)
B.  DPRK-S.Korea
    1. US, SKorea Hold Defense Talks Amid NKorea Threats, Jae-Soon Chang, Associated Press (6/26/2009)
    2. Intel: Missile Launch Toward U.S. Unlikely, UPI (6/25/2009)
    3. US Nuclear Umbrella: Double-Edged Sword for S. Korea, Jung Sung-ki, The Korea Times (6/24/2009)
    4. U.S. Renews Sanctions Against North Korea, Reuters (6/24/2009)
C.  Non-Proliferation
    1. EU Seeks to Beef up Defences Against Dirty-Bomb Attacks, EUbusiness (6/24/2009)
    2. Belgium Takes a Leading Role to Ban Uranium Weapons, Nico Bijnens, The Epoch Times (6/24/2009)
    3. Mexico Begins Radiation Detection Operations at Lazaro Cardenas Port, National Nuclear Security Administration (6/23/2009)
D.  Nuclear Energy
    1. OECD Boosts Support for Nuclear Exports, World Nuclear News (6/25/2009)
    2. Uranium Resources Seen Rising 10-15 pct-IAEA Expert, Reuters (6/24/2009)
    3. The Demise of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, Steve Thomas, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (6/22/2009)
E.  Links of Interest
    1. Daddy Dearest, Josh Kurlantzick, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (7/1/2009)
    2. Bombers vs Verifiers: A Nuclear Race Worth Winning, Deborah MacKinzie, New Scientist (6/24/2009)
    3. Who Will Succeed ElBaradei?, Fred McGoldrick , Principal, Bengelsdorf, McGoldrick and Associates, LLC. , Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (5/21/2009)



A.  Nuclear Cooperation

1.
Russia's Medvedev Heads to Nigeria
Bashir Adigun
Associated Press
6/25/2009
(for personal use only)


Russia's president said Wednesday his nation's investment in Nigeria could stretch into the billions of dollars, as the two nations signed deals on nuclear energy, gas and oil exploration in Africa largest oil producer.

Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev was on his first trip to the West African nation. The deals pave the way for Russia to build power plants, pipelines to export gas, and explore energy deposits, officials said.

"If we carry out all our plans, Russian investment in Nigeria can reach billions of dollars," Medvedev said.

Medvedev began his tour in Egypt Tuesday and left Nigeria's capital, Abuja for the southern African nations of Namibia and Angola, both rich in uranium and diamonds.

Under one of the deals, Russia's state natural gas supplier Gazprom and Nigeria's main oil company agreed to create a joint venture to explore and produce oil and gas in Africa's most populous country. Gazprom's chief in Nigeria has said the Russian firm would invest $2.5 billion in the new venture.

Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for Russia's state-run civil nuclear energy agency, Rosatom, said earlier that agreements signed Wednesday will also pave the way for the construction of nuclear power reactors in Nigeria.

Nigeria presidential spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi said the nuclear deal was aimed at the "the peaceful use of nuclear energy, especially for the purpose of electricity."

Nigeria has frequently said it would like to build a nuclear power plant to address its chronic power shortages, partially caused by poor management and maintenance of its electricity infrastructure.

Nigeria has nuclear materials for research and medical purposes, including in a reactor, that are regularly inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Vienna-based nuclear watchdog for the United Nations. The United States signed an accord with Nigeria's nuclear agency in 2005 agreeing to pay for tighter security at sites where radioactive materials are kept.

Russia is a major builder of nuclear power plants and producer of nuclear fuel.

"Nigeria believes there is much to gain from close ties with Russia given its oil and gas industry," Adeniyi said.

Russia is also expected to push forward the construction of a trans-African pipeline that would send Nigerian gas to Europe. Should the deal go through, Gazprom could gain control over Nigeria's gas resources, which would strip European consumers of a possible alternative to Russian gas supplies.

The deal comes at a difficult time for Gazprom as production is declining and the severe financial crisis is forcing it to delay the launch of major new gas fields that would supply Europe with energy. The Nigeria agreement, however, would be likely to give Gazprom plenty of time to line up the funds.

Russian mining and oil companies have been active in Africa in recent years. But the Russian business presence has not been matched by the Kremlin's recognition of Africa as a key business partner.

"Russia has a number of goals (to pursue in Africa), one of which would be to take part in a growing competition for resources and markets on the continent — mainly with China," said Yaroslav Lissovolik, chief economist with Deutsche Bank in Moscow.

Medvedev's visit will be the second Russian presidential visit to sub-Saharan Africa and the first one in more than three years.

A major battlefield in the Cold War, Africa lost importance for Russia after the Soviet Union collapsed and the current volume of trade is paltry. But a newly assertive Russian leadership has been trying to reclaim a global role.

In Namibia, Russia is expected to seek supply deals for uranium.

The head of Russian diamond monopoly Alrosa, which has operated in Angola since 1990, also is joining Medvedev on his trip.

Others, such as the struggling Russian carmaker GAZ, will be looking for new markets for their products.

"Ties with Africa were utterly destroyed after the fall of the Soviet Union," said Sergei Mikheyev, an analyst at the Moscow-based Center for Political Technologies. "It is laughable to say that Russia will conquer Africa and its markets in one visit, squeezing out the Chinese or Americans from there. But this is a start."

Available at:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jPZjiv0fHEG-rgNYe3FsiLIXkm-AD991AC1O1


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2.
Israel Tries to Block Jordan’s Nuclear Cooperation with Others
DPA
6/24/2009
(for personal use only)


Israel is trying to block Jordan’s bids to obtain nuclear technology for peaceful uses through agreements with the world’s leading nuclear powers, the daily Alarab Alyawm reported Wednesday, citing a senior diplomat.

Over the past three years, Israel “sought to obstruct the signing of any nuclear cooperation with Jordan,” the paper quoted an unnamed senior Jordanian diplomat as saying.

“Israeli agents were following closely the movements of the President of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), Khalid Touqan, and his discussions with concerned officials in other states of the world, and tried by all means to sway those countries not to sign cooperation agreements with Jordan,” the diplomat said.

The Israeli ambassador in Jordan violated all diplomatic conventions many times by trying to convince ambassadors of Western countries accredited to Jordan to block the signing of nuclear cooperation agreements with Jordan, the paper reported. “The envoys confided this to their friends in Amman.”

On Sunday, Jordan inked a nuclear cooperation agreement with Britain, the latest of a series of such accords. Similar agreements had previously been signed with Canada, France, the United States, Russia, China and South Korea.

Jordan and other Arab countries have come to show increasing interest in possession of nuclear technology after Iran went adamantly ahead with its nuclear programme over the past few years.

Available at:
http://www.khaleejtimes.com/darticlen.asp?xfile=data/middleeast/2009/June/middleeast_June792.xml§ion=middleeast&col


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3.
Swiss to Destroy Papers in Intl Nuke Smuggling Case
Laura MacInnis
Reuters
6/24/2009
(for personal use only)


Switzerland said on Wednesday it would destroy bomb designs and other sensitive documents seized from a Swiss man accused of being part of an international nuclear smuggling ring.

Thousands of papers were confiscated from Urs Tinner, who is being prosecuted for his suspected role in a trafficking network run by Pakistan's Abdul Qadeer Khan, who in 2004 admitted to leaking nuclear secrets.

The Khan network trafficked nuclear materials, equipment and know-how to Iran, Libya and North Korea for about two decades. Its leader was released from house arrest earlier this year on the order of Pakistan's High Court.

In a statement posted on the federal government's website, Swiss authorities said they had agreed with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that documents related to uranium enrichment or atomic weapon design posed a risk.

Switzerland, which is not a nuclear power, is not authorised under the global Non-Proliferation treaty to possess documents related to nuclear weaponry.

The Swiss were told by the IAEA they could either transfer the files to one of the five nuclear powers allowed to possess such documents -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia -- or destroy them.

"The IAEA estimates nevertheless that the destruction of these documents is the surest solution to preventing this information from falling into bad hands," the Swiss statement said. "For reasons of sovereignty and in order to satisfy the requirements of security policy, the Federal Council chose this last solution."

Switzerland has been struggling for years about what to do with the documents, and has previously announced plans to destroy some sensitive computer files. It said on Wednesday that key documents would be held in a secure location for the duration of Tinner's trial and then destroyed when it ends.

In Vienna, IAEA spokesman Marc Vidricaire said: "The final decision to destroy the documents was a matter for the Swiss government. I can confirm that the agency gave them advice."

IAEA investigators helped break up the Khan network but have been barred by Pakistan from interviewing him to help resolve questions about Iran's disputed uranium enrichment programme, which got off the ground with the help of Khan agents.

Tehran has repeatedly said it is enriching uranium solely for electricity generation, but Western powers suspect that it is actually working toward creating nuclear weapons capability and would want to build atomic bombs.

Available at:
http://in.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idINLO56587620090624?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0


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4.
US, Russia Drive for Summit in Nuclear Arms Reduction Talks
AFP
6/24/2009
(for personal use only)


Russian and US negotiators wrapped up talks in on confidence-building cuts in their nuclear arsenals, a diplomat said Wednesday, in a final drive to lay the foundations for a summit next month.

The third formal round of negotiations on replacing the Cold War era Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in Geneva "has ended", a Russian diplomat said.

It was the last scheduled session before the summit between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and US President Barack Obama in Moscow on July 6 to 8, she added.

The negotiations have been shrouded in secrecy, with both sides reluctant to even indicate when the meetings started or finished.

The United States on Tuesday pointed to progress in the talks launched last month.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly recalled that both Obama and Medvedev, want "significant reductions" in their nuclear weapons arsenals.

"That's what each... country is working towards. I think that we've made progress in the talks that we've... had so far," Kelly told reporters in Washington without elaborating.

The attempt to strike a new deal to succeed the 1991 START treaty, which expires on December 5, is regarded as a key foundation in rebuilding US-Russian ties that deteriorated during president George W. Bush's administration.

Russia has welcomed the talks as "constructive".

Medvedev stressed last week that further nuclear arms reductions could only come about if Washington addressed Moscow's "concerns" about deployment of the US missile defence shield in ex-Soviet states in eastern Europe.

"In every case, the issue of the connection between strategic offensive and defensive weapons must be definitely fixed in any agreement," he added.

Kelly played down those differences, saying: "We don't make the linkage. We've heard what... the Russian side has said.

"This is something that I believe will be worked out between the two sides," Kelly said when asked if the differences represented an impediment before the summit.

"I do believe that we will reach the goal that the two presidents have set for themselves."

Moscow has reacted angrily to the US missile defence plans, saying they were a threat to Russian security, although Washington says they are not directed against Russia and meant to protect against "rogue states" like Iran.

Disarmament experts have said they expect a deal on START to emerge by autumn, with deep, binding and verifiable destructions of nuclear arsenals that would act as a first confidence-building step between the superpowers.

Obama and Medvedev could also announce an intermediate "framework" agreement on START in Moscow.

But analysts also expect trade-offs with other issues including Russian demands on the missile shield, tactical weapons, and US hopes for cooperation on North Korea and Iran's nuclear programmes, that would ultimately be resolved separately.

After a decade of negotiation at the tail-end of the Cold War, START secured the verifiable destruction of Russian and US offensive weapons, including a complex set of cuts in nuclear warhead numbers.

Moscow and Washington subsequently agreed in 2002 on the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), also known as the Moscow Treaty, with even deeper reductions in the deployment of strategic warheads to 1,700-2,200 each by 2012.

However, SORT only sought the withdrawal of weapons, not their outright destruction, and had no verification provisions, unlike START.

Available at:
http://www.spacewar.com/2006/090624165743.sijkw44c.html


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5.
NNSA Announces Contract to Downblend 12 Metric Tons of Surplus Highly Enriched Uranium
National Nuclear Security Administration
6/23/2009
(for personal use only)


The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that it has awarded a $209 million contract to down-blend 12.1 metric tons (MT) of surplus U.S. highly enriched uranium (HEU) and store the resulting low-enriched uranium (LEU). The contract was awarded to a team consisting of WesDyne International, LLC (a division of Westinghouse Electric Company, LLC) and Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. (a subsidiary of the Babcock and Wilcox Company).

Under the agreement, 12.1 metric tons of HEU will be down-blended to about 220 metric tons of LEU at the Nuclear Fuel Services facility in Erwin, Tennessee. The resulting LEU will have a market value of more than $400 million. NNSA expects the down-blending to begin in 2009 and to be completed in 2012. The contractors performing the down-blending work will be compensated with a fraction of the LEU; the remainder of the LEU will be stored to support the mixed oxide (MOX) program for disposition of surplus weapons plutonium.

The contract helps implement President Obama’s unprecedented commitment to strengthening and leading international nuclear nonproliferation efforts. The disposition of surplus U.S. HEU not only achieves a clear nonproliferation goal, but the resulting LEU will be used to provide assurance of fuel supply to utilities participating in the MOX program for the disposition of surplus weapons plutonium.

“President Obama has outlined a far-reaching commitment to renewing U.S. leadership in global nuclear nonproliferation efforts,” said NNSA Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Ken Baker. “This contract to downblend 12 metric tons of surplus U.S. highly enriched uranium is a clear demonstration of our leadership of nuclear nonproliferation efforts and an important part of our effort to assure a fuel supply to utilities participating in the MOX program for the disposition of surplus weapons plutonium.”

The LEU will be stored until it is needed at Westinghouse’s Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility in Columbia, South Carolina. The NNSA’s Office of Fissile Materials Disposition will oversee the down-blending effort.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Available at:
http://nnsa.energy.gov/news/2403.htm


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6.
UAE, S.Korea Sign Nuclear Cooperation Pact
Reuters
6/22/2009
(for personal use only)


The United Arab Emirates signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with South Korea on Monday to allow the transfer of technology and equipment to the Gulf Arab state, the official WAM news agency said.

The agreement will allow South Korean firms to compete with U.S. and French rivals for contracts under the UAE nuclear energy programme.

The agreement "stipulates that the government of South Korea would help the UAE in building its peaceful nuclear programme ... over 20 years", WAM reported.

Unlike its neighbour across the Gulf, Iran, the UAE has won Western backing for its nuclear energy plans that would help the world's third-largest oil exporter meet rising demand for electricity without tapping export crude.

The deal was signed during a visit by South Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo. The UAE plans to build a number of reactors to meet an expected requirement for an extra 40,000 megawatts of electricity by 2017.

The United States has been at odds with Iran over the Islamic Republic's atomic plans, which Washington says are aimed at building a bomb, a charge Tehran denies vehemntly.

The UAE has vowed transparency. It said it would draw up legislation to govern the sector and establish a regulatory authority and an international advisory board of experts.

In May, U.S. President Barack Obama approved a nuclear energy deal with the UAE worth potentially billions of dollars to U.S. energy companies.

U.S. firm GE and Westinghouse Electric Co, a subsidiary of Toshiba Corp, stand to secure a big share of the expected $40 billion market if the U.S. Congress approves the deal.

The UAE has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that it plans to have its first nuclear power plant ready in 2015, an IAEA director said last month. The IAEA believes this is optimistic, the director said.

French firms also plan to compete for the business. France's Total, Suez, and state nuclear reactor maker Areva said last year they planned to develop two third-generation reactors in the UAE.

Available at:
http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-40519620090622?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0


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B.  DPRK-S.Korea

1.
US, SKorea Hold Defense Talks Amid NKorea Threats
Jae-Soon Chang
Associated Press
6/26/2009
(for personal use only)


Top U.S. and South Korean defense officials met Friday for talks expected to focus on heightened tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile threats. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called the North a "stumbling block" to world peace and security.

Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy's trip to Seoul came as the U.S. sought international support for aggressively enforcing a U.N. sanctions resolution aimed at punishing Pyongyang for its second nuclear test last month.

North Korea has in response escalated threats of war, with a slew of harsh rhetoric including warnings that it would unleash a "fire shower of nuclear retaliation" and "wipe out the (U.S.) aggressors" in the event of a conflict.

On Thursday, the communist regime organized a massive anti-American rally in Pyongyang where some 100,000 participants vowed to "crush" the U.S. One senior speaker told the crowd that the North will respond to any sanctions or U.S. provocations with "an annihilating blow."

That was seen as a pointed threat as an American destroyer shadowed a North Korean freighter sailing off China's coast, possibly with banned goods on board on its way to Myanmar. The North Korean-flagged ship, Kang Nam 1, is the first to be tracked under the U.N. resolution.

Flournoy's Asia trip, which already took her to Beijing and Tokyo, also followed signs that North Korea is gearing up to test-fire short- or medium-range missiles in violation of the U.N. resolution. Pyongyang has issued a no-sail zone in waters off its east coast, effective from Thursday through July 10.

South Korean officials refused to give details of Flournoy's talks with South Korea's Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee, saying it was an unofficial meeting. But Flournoy was scheduled to speak to a group of South Korean reporters later in the day.

President Lee criticized the North for "threatening compatriots with nuclear weapons and missiles." The regime is a "stumbling block to world peace and security," Lee said in a speech read by one of his aides at a ceremony marking the death of a renowned independence fighter.

It is not clear what was on board the North Korean freighter, but officials have mentioned artillery and other conventional weaponry. One intelligence expert suspected missiles.

The U.S. and its allies have made no decision on whether to request inspection of the ship, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Wednesday in Washington, but North Korea has said it would consider any interception an act of war.

If permission for inspection is refused, the ship must dock at a port of its choosing so local authorities can check its cargo. Vessels suspected of carrying banned goods must not be offered bunkering services at port, such as fuel, the resolution says.

A senior U.S. defense official said the ship had cleared the Taiwan Strait. He said he didn't know whether or when the Kang Nam may need to stop in some port to refuel, but that the Kang Nam has in the past stopped in Hong Kong's port.

Another U.S. defense official said he tended to doubt reports that the Kang Nam was carrying nuclear-related equipment, saying information seems to indicate the cargo is banned conventional munitions. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to talk about intelligence.

North Korea is suspected to have transported banned goods to Myanmar before on the Kang Nam, said Bertil Lintner, a Bangkok-based North Korea expert who has written a book about leader Kim Jong Il.

Available at:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iURO8fOyWVOA0ytFlaAGuC9F7R9wD9928J081


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2.
Intel: Missile Launch Toward U.S. Unlikely
UPI
6/25/2009
(for personal use only)


A U.S. intelligence officer said it doesn't appear North Korea intends to fire a long-range missile, dismissing reports of a possible launch toward Hawaii.

The official said warnings issued by North Korea to sailors indicate the country intends to test-fire short- and medium-range missiles, CNN reported Thursday.

The North Korean government issued a warning to mariners to avoid an area in the Sea of Japan between June 24 and July 9 because of a "military firing exercise," a U.S. military communication about the warning that was provided to CNN said.

Reports in Japanese media that cited intelligence information indicated Pyongyang intended to fire a missile toward Hawaii July 4. Soon after the report, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was deploying defensive measures around Hawaii.

Shorter-range missiles can be "rolled out on a dime," but U.S. intelligence found no "readily observable" indication of an imminent long-range missile launch, the official told CNN.

The planned missile launch is the latest in a series of provocations from North Korea, beginning with an underground nuclear test and another missile test-firing -- actions that have been condemned by the international community and which prompted a new round of U.N. sanctions.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the United States has not decided yet to seek permission to board and inspect a North Korean vessel suspected of carrying illicit weapons or technology in violation of U.N. sanctions.

Morrell told reporters Wednesday while the United States is "interested" in the North Korean-flagged Kang Nam, no decision has been made to stop and search the ship.

Available at:
http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2009/06/25/Intel-Missile-launch-toward-US-unlikely/UPI-68821245930394/


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3.
U.S. Renews Sanctions Against North Korea
Reuters
6/24/2009
(for personal use only)


President Barack Obama on Wednesday renewed sanctions against North Korea, declaring that its nuclear program posed a national security risk to the United States and a danger to the Korean Peninsula.

The reclusive communist state has rebuffed U.S. efforts to engage it diplomatically and staged a second nuclear test on May 25 that was internationally condemned and led to the imposition of tougher sanctions the United Nations Security Council.

"The current existence and risk of the proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula constitute a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States," Obama said in a notice to Congress.

The expanded U.N. sanctions ban all weapons exports from North Korea and most arms imports. U.N. member states are also authorized to inspect North Korean sea, air and land cargo and destroy any goods that violate the sanctions.

Obama has said the U.S. military is prepared for the possibility that North Korea may attempt to launch a missile toward Hawaii in response to the new U.N. sanctions.

His decision to renew separate U.S. restrictions on Pyongyang was expected and followed a White House meeting last week with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Obama promised then to end a cycle of allowing impoverished North Korea to create a nuclear crisis and then granting concessions in the form of food, fuel and other incentives to get Pyongyang to back down.

The North previously has reneged on promises it made in return for such aid.

Available at:
http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE55N6KD20090624?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews


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4.
US Nuclear Umbrella: Double-Edged Sword for S. Korea
Jung Sung-ki
The Korea Times
6/24/2009
(for personal use only)


Amid growing concern about North Korea's high-stake nuclear gamesmanship, the United State has vowed to provide an ``extended'' nuclear umbrella to South Korea, where no tactical nuclear weapons are present.

Debates are under way, however, on the effectiveness of this in the case of conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

Proponents say the U.S. commitment to providing extended nuclear deterrence capabilities will help prevent the North from ``miscalculating'' that it would gain anything from missile and nuclear tests.

Opponents argue the U.S. nuclear deterrence pledge could only provoke the communist North and send the wrong message that Pyongyang is a recognized nuclear state.

``The U.S. extended deterrence means a stronger and broader defense against the North's chemical, biological and missile attacks as well as nuclear attacks. So this is huge step in the joint defense of South Korea and the United States against North Korea,'' a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA) said.

``But there is concern, at the same time, that talking too much of the nuclear umbrella would give North Korea a good excuse to claim itself to be a nuclear power,'' the researcher said.

At the June 16 summit in Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama reaffirmed that the United States would provide an ``extended nuclear umbrella'' to South Korea in response to increasing nuclear threats from North Korea. Pyongyang conducted a second nuclear test last month and test-fired several short-range missiles, defying calls by the international community to give up its nuclear ambitions.

This was the first time for a U.S. leader to clarify at a summit coverage of South Korea under its nuclear umbrella.

The U.S. government has promised since 1978 that it will provide necessary nuclear deterrence capabilities for South Korea against North Korea in the annual South Korea-U.S. defense ministers' meetings, but the issue had not been discussed at a summit level.

Under the extended nuclear deterrence pledge, military experts say, the U.S. military would mobilize all necessary capabilities to neutralize North Korean nuclear provocations.

For example, the U.S. Air Force could send B-2/52 bombers and other fighter aircraft carrying nuclear bombs, such as the B-61, to hit nuclear facilities in the North. Tomahawk cruise missiles could be launched from nuclear-powered submarines to strike targets.

The B-61 bomb is known to have a ``dial able'' explosive power of 0.3 to 340 kilotons and believed to be capable of destroying North Korea's key underground facilities.

U.S. fighter aircraft would also be ready to conduct surgical strikes with high-end bombs, such as bunker busters.

Redeployment of US nuclear weapons in S. Korea?

Some conservatives argue the government should ask the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) to re-deploy its tactical nuclear weapons to deter nuclear-armed North Korea.

Tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) typically refer to short-range weapons, including land-based missiles with a range of up to 500 kilometers and air- and sea-launched weapons with a range of around 600 kilometers.

The USFK removed its TNWs in 1991. Prompted by mounting concerns about the security of nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union, then U.S. President George Bush announced in September 1991 that the United States would eliminate its entire worldwide inventory of ground-launched TNWs and would remove all nuclear weapons from surface ships and attack submarines.

Jeon Seong-hoon at the Korea Institute for National Unification said, ``As North Korea's nuclear capability increases, the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear umbrella could decrease. In that context, I believe, the redeployment of USFK's tactical nuclear weapons, at least on a temporary basis, could be the best option.''

A military official concurred. The official, who requested to remain anonymous, said the USFK should deploy tactical nuclear weapons again as long as it is not violating the 1991 Washington-Moscow arms control agreement.

``Redeployment of air-launched tactical nuclear weapons do not violate the 1991 agreement,'' the official said. ``If there were 10 tactical nuclear weapons in the South, North Korea's nuclear threat could be easily neutralized.''

An Army commanding general, who has been in charge of military operations, expressed a negative view about the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons to the South.

``Realistically, it's impossible and not feasible,'' the officer said, asking not to be named. ``Politically, such a move would face severe opposition from China.''

Self-Reliant Deterrence

South Korea's military is also planning to acquire weapons systems to help deter North Korea's lingering nuclear and missile threats on its own.

The military plans to increase the procurement numbers of precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and air-launched cruise missiles. It aims to buy 1,400 JDAMs by 2013 to bring its total number to 4,551.

The JDAM is a guidance tail kit that converts existing unguided free-fall bombs into accurate, adverse weather munitions. Carried by advanced fighter jets, including F-15Ks, the bomb has a glide range of 24 kilometers and can strike within 13 meters of its target. It can penetrate up to 2.4 meters of concrete.

The South Korean Air Force is also seeking to equip some of its KF-16 fleet with JDAMs.

In addition, the South plans to acquire about 270 joint air-to-surface, standoff (cruise) missiles (JASSM) by 2011. The JASSM, developed by U.S. Lockheed Martin, is an autonomous, long-range, air-to-ground, precision missile designed to destroy high-value, fixed and mobile targets.

Nuclear Submarines?

Beginning in 2018, South Korea plans to build indigenous 3,000-ton KSS-III submarines fitted with domestically built submarine combat systems aimed at automating target detection, tracking, threat assessment and weapons control. The heavy sub will be armed with indigenous ship-to-ground cruise missiles and be capable of underwater operations for up to 50 days with an advanced AIP system, Navy officials said.

According to informed government sources, the Navy wants to deploy about six KSS-III submarines and then may push to develop a nuclear-powered submarine as a hedge against future uncertainties in Northeast Asia.

Many observes admitted the Navy needs nuclear-powered submarines in the long term but are skeptical about the plan, citing the potential political and diplomatic backlash, particularly from the United States.

South Korea initially pushed for developing a nuclear-powered sub in 2004 but canceled the initiative later for these reasons.

``A nuclear-powered submarine plan involves both military and political aspects,'' a defense analyst said. ``Nuclear subs will, of course, offer benefits to the Navy in terms of much longer operational range and fuel efficiency. But the thing is, unless legal and political problems are resolved first, we can't go forward with the plan.''

The analyst apparently referred to a 1991 inter-Korean non-nuclear declaration and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in which non-nuclear weapon states such as South Korea are required to place all of their nuclear materials under inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure they are not used to develop atomic weapons.

Some proponents say that because nuclear-powered submarines use low-grade nuclear fuel, they do not violate the denuclearization pledge. Opponents say that since a nuclear-powered sub would require enriched uranium fuel, the ability to enrich uranium also could be used to produce material for building nuclear weapons.

Nuclear submarines can remain underwater much longer than conventional submarines, propelled by diesel generators, and are considered a strategic weapon second only to aircraft carriers.

To thwart North Korea's asymmetrical capabilities and other regional hostile forces, the Navy has emphasized strengthening its submarine fleet. The Navy has nine German-made Type-209 1,200-ton submarines and three Type-214 1,800-ton submarines, first built locally under technical cooperation with HDW of Germany. They are all diesel- and electric-powered.

``Submarine fleets are seen as one of the most powerful features of any military force,'' said the analyst. ``For South Korea, the requirements and roles of advanced attack submarines are essential to help neutralize the North's increasing asymmetrical capabilities.''

Six more Type-214 subs are scheduled to be commissioned by 2018, when the Navy will inaugurate a submarine command. The Type-214 submarine, a core part of the future strategic mobile squadrons, is armed with modern torpedoes and submarine-to-surface missiles.

The 65.3-meter-long sub can submerge to depths of up to 400 meters, with a maximum submerged speed of 20 knots. With the help of Air Independent Propulsion (AIP), which improves its underwater performance and gives it stealth capability, the submarine can carry out underwater operations for as long as two weeks, putting Guam in its operational range, according to the Navy.

The sub's ISUS-90 integrated sensor enables operators to detect about 240 targets simultaneously and track 32 targets.

Available at:
http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2009/06/120_47427.html


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C.  Non-Proliferation

1.
Belgium Takes a Leading Role to Ban Uranium Weapons
Nico Bijnens
The Epoch Times
6/24/2009
(for personal use only)


After being the first country to ban land mines and cluster bombs, on June 21, Belgium again distinguished itself by becoming the first country to ban uranium weapons.

On March the 7th, 2007, the Belgian Chamber Commission on National Defense voted unanimously in favor of banning the production, use, storage, trade and transport of ammunition and armor that contain depleted uranium, or any other industrially manufactured uranium.

On June the 21th 2009, after a stipulated two-year grace period, that law finally entered into force. The two years was used to promote the ban outside Belgium in the hopes of getting other countries to follow suit.

Uranium weapons are known to damage the central nervous system, trigger different types of cancers and they cause permanent damage to the genetic structure of all beings. They are also responsible for long term damage to nature and the environment. Moreover, the victims of these weapons are mainly civilian.

Author of the proposition, Dirk Van der Maelen (Flemish Socialist Party), is very happy with the outcome. He pointed out that when Belgium took the initiative to ban land mines and cluster bombs in 1995, the international community soon followed. The result was the Ottawa Treaty, signed by 156 countries and the Oslo Treaty, signed by 94 countries.

Van der Maelen now hopes that this law will eventually result in another international treaty to free the world of these kinds of weapons. On his personal website he stated:

“The support for a ban of these kind of weapons is getting bigger. In Costa Rica, Japan, New Zealand and in a number of Scandinavian countries Chamber Commission members have now also entered a proposition to ban Uranium weapons. I hereby call to our Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht to search for allies and to use all diplomatic means to strive for an international treaty.”

The decision is the result of more than three years of hard work, direct action and lobbying by the Belgian Coalition Ban Uranium Weapons. The ICBUW is convinced that Belgium will soon be followed by other countries to ban the use of uranium weapons. The European Parliament has also repeatedly called for an international ban.

To put this new law in the spotlight, Chairman of the Chamber Commission Patrick Dewael, opened a photo exhibition about the human dramas caused by the use of uranium weapons. The exhibition shows black and white pictures taken by the famous Japanese photographer Naomi Toyoda, who documented the long term effects of the uranium weapons deployed in Iraq.

The director of the institute of cancer research from the city of Basra in Iraq gave a speech about how local civilians suffer from permanent damage caused by the use of these weapons. Van der Maelen and Ria Verjauw of ICBUW also spoke at the event.

Available at:
http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/18574/


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2.
EU Seeks to Beef up Defences Against Dirty-Bomb Attacks
EUbusiness
6/24/2009
(for personal use only)


The European Commission unveiled Wednesday proposals to boost the continent's defences against the "most frightening scenario" of bio-terrorism or a dirty bomb attack.

"Terrorist groups acquiring weapons of mass destruction, including CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) materials is the most frightening scenario," said EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot.

The proposals, underpinned by an EU action plan, are aimed at preventing criminals from getting access to such materials, detecting them before they are misused and responding quickly and efficiently when an attack occurs.

They include steps to protect potentially dangerous materials and reduce any risk they might be lost, boost the exchange on data between the 27 nations on security issues and train emergency workers to save lives and limit damage.

It would tie nations into an exchange of best practice, harmonise the way they assess the risks, and raise awareness in countries that have not suffered the kind of attacks seen in Britain and Spain in 2005 and 2004.

An EU expert said the likelihood of such a strike is small, with the highest threat being posed by bio-terrorism.

"The risks are not that big because it's very difficult to prepare and weaponise these sorts of materials in most cases," he told reporters on condition of anonymity.

"The main risks that experts see is from biological attack," the expert said, referring to a US assessment of a 50 percent chance of a biological attack within the next five years.

But Barrot warned: "The seriousness of the potential consequences for our societies is such that we cannot be complacent."

In 1995, a sarin gas attack on a Tokyo underground railway killed 12 people and injured thousands. In a series of attacks in the United States in 2001, 17 people were exposed to deadly anthrax spores.

One of Europe's weak points remains the lack of stocks of vaccines, as the outbreaks of bird and swine flu in recent years have demonstrated, and no agreement has yet been reached between the 27 EU nations on stockpiling.

The expert said it was also important to develop an early warning system, and particularly one that would mobilise law enforcement agencies more effectively.

He also pointed out wide differences between national response plans in the event of any attack.

"Some member states are better prepared than others, that's quite clear. A member state that has had an experience with a terrorist attack is of course going to take the threat a little bit more seriously," he said.

The proposals involve more than 130 measures, many of them preparatory action, and the commission hopes they can be introduced over the next three years.

Available at:
http://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/1245857522.94


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3.
Mexico Begins Radiation Detection Operations at Lazaro Cardenas Port
National Nuclear Security Administration
6/23/2009
(for personal use only)


The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Mexican Servicio de Administración Tributaria (SAT) today announced that new radiation detection equipment has been installed at one of Mexico’s busiest seaports.

Installed at the Port of Lazaro Cardenas, this new equipment is part of a global effort to implement President Obama’s commitment to preventing nuclear terrorism by securing dangerous nuclear material around the world. The equipment will be used to help detect smuggled or illicit shipments of nuclear and other radioactive materials that might move through the port.

“Our partnership with the government of Mexico is an important component of President Obama’s commitment to ensuring the nuclear security of the United States and our allies by keeping dangerous nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists,” said NNSA Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Ken Baker. “The success of this project also reflects the dedication and hard work of the Mexicans in designing and installing the radiation detection equipment as part of a cost-sharing effort.”

The new radiation detection equipment was installed on the Hutchison Port Holdings terminal at the Port of Lazaro Cardenas as part of NNSA’s Megaports Initiative. This is the second of four Megaports to go operational in Mexico. The radiation detection equipment at the Port of Veracruz became operational in March 2009. Once all four Megaports are operational, an estimated 92-93% of Mexican imports and exports will be covered under the Megaports Initiative. The remaining percentage of trade transits through various smaller ports not covered by the program’s scope.

The success at the Ports of Lazaro Cardenas and Veracruz was achieved under a cost-sharing agreement between NNSA and the Mexican Government. While the Mexican Government funds the design, engineering, construction and installation of the equipment at the four Megaports, NNSA provides the radiation detection equipment, related communications system, training on the operation and maintenance of the detection system, and limited maintenance support.

The Megaports Initiative is part of NNSA’s Second Line of Defense Program, which aims to strengthen the capability of foreign governments to deter, detect, and interdict illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials across international borders and through the global maritime shipping system. The Megaports Initiative provides radiation detection equipment, training, and technical support to key international seaports to scan cargo containers for nuclear and other radioactive materials.

Around the world, the Megaports Initiative is currently operational in 23 ports and work is underway at over 20 additional ports in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. A fact sheet on NNSA’s Second Line of Defense program is available at http://www.nnsa.energy.gov/news/2299.htm.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Available at:
http://nnsa.energy.gov/news/2401.htm


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D.  Nuclear Energy

1.
OECD Boosts Support for Nuclear Exports
World Nuclear News
6/25/2009
(for personal use only)


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has said that its member countries have agreed to boost official backing for exports of renewable energy and nuclear power equipment.

In a move to respond to growing demand for low-carbon energy, the organisation said that "countries that participate in the OECD's Arrangement on Officially Supported Export Credits agreed on a new framework for official export credits giving improved terms on an equal footing in both sectors."

A statement from the OECD said, "Under the new arrangement, projects in the renewable energies, water and nuclear power sectors will be entitled to official export credit support in the form of loans with longer repayment terms of up to 18 years and more flexible definitions of repayment schedules, accompanied by a revised fixed interest rate regime for longer loan durations."

With regards to nuclear power, the export credits apply to contracts for complete nuclear power plants or plant components. It includes materials and services, including the training of personnel directly required for the construction and commissioning of new nuclear power plants. In addition, the export credits will cover some modernization and life extension contracts, depending on the value of the contract and how long the plant's life will be extended.

The export credits also cover contracts for the supply of nuclear fuel and enrichment, as well as used fuel management.

The participating countries also agreed that, by the end of 2009, they would examine the issues of a minimum floating interest regime, as well as the maximum amount of official support for local costs.

The agreements are designed to support renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass and hydro power, as well as nuclear power, in preference to traditional energy projects using fossil fuel, where existing, stricter financial terms and conditions continue to apply.

Participating countries also agreed to take account of climate change issues in their future work on renewable energies.

Available at:
http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-OECD_boosts_support_for_nuclear_exports-2506094.html


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2.
Uranium Resources Seen Rising 10-15 pct-IAEA Expert
Reuters
6/24/2009
(for personal use only)


Uranium worth extracting should rise by 10 to 15 percent this year with Australia, Russia, Canada and India racing to feed rising demand for nuclear fuel, a U.N. atomic official said on Wednesday.

Experts at an International Atomic Energy Agency symposium said this week they expect uranium demand will continue to grow despite the global downturn as countries turn to atomic energy to replace fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions.

Globally identified uranium resources that are economically viable totalled 5.5 million tonnes in 2007, according to a joint report by the Nuclear Energy Agency in Paris and the Vienna-based IAEA.

Chaitanyamoy Ganguly, head of the IAEA's nuclear fuel cycle and materials department, told Reuters he expects the figure to rise in the 2009 report, to be published in June next year.

'From the trend based on the (symposium) presentations ... you'll see at least a 10-15 percent rise in identified resources,' Ganguly said. '(That) is the lower range. I will not be surprised if it is beyond that.

'In Australia, in Russia, in Canada, all the presentations that we have heard so far, there is an upward trend,' he said.

A tie-up between Rosatom, the Russian state-owned producer, and the Canada-based Uranium One firm announced last week is just the latest in a series of moves on the part of Asian and European countries to lock in uranium supply.

Just over 60 countries, or around half of the IAEA membership, are seeking advice on how to build their first nuclear plant. The agency expects this number to rise as concerns about energy security and carbon emissions grow.

Spot uranium is trading at $54 a pound, according to a weekly report from Ux Consulting (UxC), a price which Ganguly said is 'comfortable' for utilities and uranium producers.

The price of U3O8, a compound that is processed into fuel for reactors, has risen from $40 a lb in April, its lowest in more than three years, lifted by a general rise in commodity and energy markets.

Ganguly said although no new nuclear reactors went online last year and the global financial slump will affect projects, longer-term demand -- driven by China and India -- will rise again in 2015-2020.

'It will definitely pick up tempo after this recession is over.' He said it was important to make uranium in the ground ready for use more quickly, a process which now takes some 10 years due to licensing required to ensure mining does not damage the environment and is benefical to local communities.

Available at:
http://www.forbes.com/feeds/afx/2009/06/24/afx6581757.html


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3.
The Demise of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor
Steve Thomas
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
6/22/2009
(for personal use only)


In February 2009, Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) Ltd., an eponymously named South African company announced a major change of strategy. After 10 years of development it said it was abandoning plans to build a full-size 165-megawatt-electric demonstration plant. Furthermore, PBMR Ltd. said it will try to redirect its future plans for the reactor from electricity generation toward thermal applications, such as coal gasification and water desalination. With government funding set to run out next year, the company will have to close if new funding is not found.

Although the company claimed the global recession had driven it to make such changes, it is hard to fathom that PBMR Ltd.'s problems are simply the result of the ongoing financial crisis since the project has been troubled for years. The company's actions instead point to potentially deeper problems with the reactor design itself. If this is the case, there are bound to be implications for the only other major pebble bed reactor research program left, which is in China and based on the same technology.

Where the pebble bed came from
Pebble bed reactors are helium-cooled, graphite-moderated reactors in which the fuel is in the form of tennis ball-sized spherical "pebbles" encased in a graphite moderator. New fuel pebbles are continuously added at the top of a cylindrical reactor vessel and travel slowly down the column by gravity, until they reach the bottom and are removed.

The technological root of both the South African and the Chinese PBMRs is the German high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) developed at the government's Jülich research center outside Cologne. A German company promoted the pebble bed design for a couple of years with high expectations that Russia would buy the technology. These hopes never materialized, however, and in 1991, it abandoned the reactor design citing a lack of realistic business prospects. It did, however, continue selling technology licenses, most notably to companies in South Africa and China.

In 1993, the South African utility Eskom took up a PBMR design that, unlike its predecessors, was expected to generate electricity using a gas turbine driven directly by its helium coolant. In 1999, Eskom set up PBMR Ltd. to develop and market the PBMR and to complete a feasibility study. The subsidiary raised money, but several investors eventually pulled out of the project. The end of the feasibility phase of the project was never announced publicly, although it appears to have been completed in March 2004.

A successor company to PBMR Ltd., which would have built the larger demonstration reactor if the feasibility study had been successful, was never created. And since none of the project partners ever agreed to fund a larger demonstration reactor, the project has, in some respects, been languishing since 2004. The development of the demonstration plant, which was originally expected to cost $223 million and be in service by 2002, was expected to cost at least $1.8 billion by the time it was abandoned. If funding had continued, it was projected to be in service no earlier than 2014. Commercial plants were not expected to be operational before 2025.

Critical faults in the PBMR design
For some, helium-cooled, graphite-moderated reactors such as the PBMR have always been the ultimate evolution of fission reactor design. The use of helium and graphite allows the reactor to burn the fuel efficiently and to operate at much higher temperatures than conventional light water reactors. It is hoped the temperatures would be high enough to allow for the reactor's heat to be used directly for industrial processes such as hydrogen production and tar sands processing. High temperature reactors can also be designed to use thorium-based fuel as well as uranium and can be developed as fast neutron reactors that don't need moderators.

In Germany, a 15-megawatt-electric prototype PBMR was designed, built, and operated from 1967 to 1988, followed by a 300-megawatt-electric demonstration Thorium High Temperature Reactor, which only operated from 1985 to 1988. A report explaining the delays and problems in the German pebble bed design became public in 2008 when the Jülich Center released a review of its previous pebble bed reactor work.1 It was Jülich's design, specifically the prototype pebble bed reactor, which South Africa had taken as the basis for its PBMR.

The prototype, known as the AVR (Arbeitsgemeinschaft VersuchsReaktor or Research Group Experimental Reactor) had been portrayed to the South African public as an unqualified success. The new Jülich report, however, presented a starkly different picture. In particular, it found that the AVR's fuel had reached dangerously high temperatures during operation. Although the exact temperature reached inside the reactor is unknown, melt strips placed within dummy fuel pebbles, which are designed to withstand heat of up to 1,400 degrees Celsius, melted, meaning the reactor was being operated beyond the design limits for the fuel. The report disagreed with a 1990 Association of German Engineers report on the AVR that stated that high temperatures within the reactor were solely the result of poor-quality fuel. Other factors, as yet unknown, were probably involved, the Jülich report concluded.

According to the South African PBMR joint venture, the maximum fuel operating temperature within the reactor should not exceed 1,130 degrees Celsius.2 If the large temperature variations observed in the AVR are a guide, however, this assumption is far too optimistic, and the PBMR's fuel would fail. The Jülich report found that such fuel failure would contaminate reactor components on an order of magnitude higher than similar contamination in traditional light water reactors, and would thus increase decommissioning costs. The report concludes that irradiated graphite dust created by the rubbing of fuel pebbles within the AVR as they worked themselves through the reactor could become a major safety issue in the case of an accident.

The Jülich report further recommends that gas-tight containment structures be built for any commercial pebble bed plant deployed and that further research and development is necessary to evaluate the safety of the design and to understand why such high temperatures were experienced at the AVR. The need for such containments for PBMR-based plants has been the subject of disagreement for some time. PBMR Ltd. has claimed the pebble bed is "intrinsically safe" and "melt-down proof" and has argued that no pressure containment is needed and that the emergency evacuation zone needs to be no larger than the plant site itself. If a containment structure is required, the additional cost would make the reactor prohibitively expensive to build commercially. Although the Jülich report is bitterly contested by PBMR advocates, the high credibility of Jülich, which submitted the report to an extensive peer review process, means it cannot simply be dismissed.

Impact on next generation reactor designs
All the major countries involved in designing reactors, including the United States, Germany, France, Japan, and Britain, have put major time and effort into developing high-temperature, gas-cooled reactors such as the PBMR. Despite more than 50 years of trying, however, no commercial-scale design has yet been produced. Yet China and South Africa have found the allure of pebble bed technology irresistible , as if it were an "unpolished gem" waiting to be developed, regardless of the consistent engineering problems it has had since the beginning.

South Africa took a particularly aggressive approach, believing that it could develop a commercial-size PBMR design without even operating a prototype. If the PBMR is proved to be fundamentally flawed, as indicated in the Jülich report, South Africa's $980 million investment in the project will be seen in hindsight as wasteful, one that the country, plagued with many more pressing and basic problems, could ill afford.

PBMR Ltd. is now exploring all possibilities to develop new markets for its reactor, and to collaborate on technology development, to replace the government's funding for the project that it will lose next year. For example, following its February 2009 announcement, PBMR Ltd. negotiated a technology cooperation agreement with China's PBMR developers including Tsinghua University's Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology and Chinergy Co. Ltd. The South African project's appalling budget and time over-runs and the company's inability to complete a finished design may scare away other potential new customers and investors, leaving China the world's largest investor in PBMR-based reactor designs.

China, which has much greater financial resources than South Africa, appears to be taking a conservative approach, building and studying how its prototype reactor performs before committing itself to any commercial-sized plants. In 1992, the Chinese decided to build a 10-megawatt-electric pebble bed prototype based on the AVR design. This prototype was completed in 2000 but was not connected to the grid until 2003.3 In 2001, the Chinese announced their intention to build a 100-megwatt-electric commercial version; the reactor's output was subsequently increased to 195 megawatts. In 2004, the Chinese expected a demonstration plant using this design would come online in 2011. Yet in 2008, the Chinese tweaked the design to have two smaller reactors connected to one steam turbine, which together would produce about 200 megawatts of electricity.

Compared to the original South African PBMR design, China expects to use a steam cycle rather than helium gas for at least its first pebble bed units and plans to operate its reactor at 750 degrees Celsius. How much this decision may have been based on concerns about excessively high fuel temperatures is unclear. The Shandong site, where the demonstration plant is being built, could eventually host up to 18 pebble bed reactor modules. Unlike South Africa, which attempted to go straight to a fixed, final design, China has been actively tweaking its design. In April 2008, an engineer close to the project told Nucleonics Week, "The design continues to evolve and it is likely that the last unit built on this site won't look exactly like the first one."

Chinese nuclear decision-making is rather opaque to the West and if the problems identified in the Jülich report do cause the Chinese to think again about their plans for the pebble bed modular reactor, it is unlikely that there will be a public announcement comparable to that by PBMR Ltd. The project will just quietly slip out of Chinese plans. Even if this happens and the South African program is effectively ended as well, it is unlikely to be the last that is heard of the pebble bed design, since support in Germany is still strong in some quarters. But it seems unlikely those supporters will ever be able to convince anyone else to spend the large amounts of money necessary to try to bring the design to commercial fruition.

Available at:
http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/the-demise-of-the-pebble-bed-modular-reactor


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E.  Links of Interest

1.
Daddy Dearest
Josh Kurlantzick
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
7/1/2009
(for personal use only)
http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=23300&pro..


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2.
Bombers vs Verifiers: A Nuclear Race Worth Winning
Deborah MacKinzie
New Scientist
6/24/2009
(for personal use only)
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20227143.900-bombers-vs-verifiers-a-nu..


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3.
Who Will Succeed ElBaradei?
Fred McGoldrick , Principal, Bengelsdorf, McGoldrick and Associates, LLC.
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
5/21/2009
(for personal use only)
http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/who-will-succeed-elbaradei


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DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of Partnership for Global Security. Partnership for Global Security takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.

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