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Nuclear News - 6/9/2009
PGS Nuclear News, June 9, 2009
Compiled By: Luke Wagoner

A.  Iran
    1. Iran Stockpiles Enough Uranium to Make Nation's First Nuclear Bomb, David Leask, Scotland on Sunday (6/7/2009)
    2. Clinton Says Strike to Follow If Iran Attacks Israel, Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, Bloomberg (6/7/2009)
    3. MP: ElBaradei's Report Confirms Iran's Compliance with NPT, Fars News Agency (6/6/2009)
    4. IAEA: Iran Has Centrifuges for Two Nuclear Weapons Per Year, Steve Shippert, Center for Threat Awareness (6/6/2009)
    5. Iran in Major Nuclear Expansion, U.N. Oversight Harder, Mark Heinrich, Reuters (6/5/2009)
    1. NKorea Closes Shipping Lanes Near Port for Possible Ballistic Launch, Turkish Weekly (6/8/2009)
    2. S.Korea Makes Plans to Counter North Missile: Report, Reuters (6/7/2009)
    3. Obama Warns N Korea on Nuclear Test, Al Jazeera (6/6/2009)
    4. N Korea 'Ready to Launch Missile', Al Jazeera (6/5/2009)
C.  Syria
    1. Uranium Found at Second Syria Site - IAEA, Bethany Bell, BBC News (6/6/2009)
D.  Pakistan
    1. Pak Has 60 Nuke Bombs: Congressional Report, PTI (6/4/2009)
E.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Obama Seeks Global Uranium Fuel Bank, Brian Bender, The Boston Globe (6/8/2009)
    2. Nuclear Fusion May Reward Patience with a Technological Leapfrog, Tom Ashby, The National (6/8/2009)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. Obama Intent On Engaging Iran, VOA News (6/7/2009)
    2. ISIS Analysis of the IAEA Report on Iran, David Albright and Jacqueline Shire, Institute for Science and International Security  (6/5/2009)
    3. ISIS Analysis of the IAEA Report on Syria, David Albright and Paul Brannan, Institute for Science and International Security  (6/5/2009)
    4. Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic, Institute for Science and International Security  (6/5/2009)

A.  Iran

Clinton Says Strike to Follow If Iran Attacks Israel
Indira A.R. Lakshmanan
(for personal use only)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a nuclear attack by Iran on Israel would be followed by retaliation against the Islamic Republic.

“I don’t think there is any doubt in anyone’s mind that were Israel to suffer a nuclear attack by Iran, there would be retaliation,” she said in a taped interview airing today on ABC’s “This Week” program.

Clinton was asked whether her statement as a presidential candidate that Iran would “incur massive retaliation” for attacking Israel is now official U.S. policy. “I think it is U.S. policy to the extent that we have alliances and understandings with a number of nations,” Clinton said. “I think there would be retaliation.”

Clinton said the U.S. needs to make clear to Iran that pursuing nuclear weapons will undermine peace and security for Iran and the entire region. With Arab states and Israel anxious about Iran’s intentions, there’s danger of “a Middle East arms race which leads to nuclear weapons being in the possession of other countries,” she said.

Asked whether she was skeptical that President Barack Obama’s policy of engagement can succeed in forestalling Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Clinton replied, “Well, I am someone who is going to wait and see.”

While dialogue would give both sides better information about one another, the U.S. has “to be willing to sit and listen and evaluate without giving up what we view as a primary objective of the engagement, which is to do everything we can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state.”

UN Investigation

Iran, which has been under investigation by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency since 2003, has enough low-enriched uranium to produce the minimum amount needed for a bomb if the material were further enriched to weapons grade. The government in Tehran denies that it wants atomic weapons, saying the enriched uranium is to fuel a nuclear reactor.

On the issue of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, Clinton refuted recent statements by former and current Israeli government officials that the Bush administration had verbally agreed for Israel to continue building structures within existing Jewish settlement areas.

“That was never made a part of the official record of the negotiations as it was passed on to our administration,” Clinton said. “In fact, there is also a record that President Bush contradicted even that oral agreement” to which Israeli officials have referred.

Israeli Settlements

Obama and Clinton have repeatedly said Israel must cease any further settlement construction in order to abide by their commitments under the “road map” for Middle East peace that Israel and the Palestinians entered into under the Bush administration.

Clinton also said she was worried about “an arms race in Northeast Asia” in the aftermath of North Korea’s multiple missile tests, purported nuclear tests and threatening rhetoric against South Korea, which the U.S. is treaty-bound to defend against attack. The Korean peninsula remains technically at war, since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Clinton said progress is being made in the UN Security Council toward imposing additional financial sanctions, an arms embargo and other measures “against North Korea with the full support of China and Russia.”

“We are working very hard to create a mechanism where we can interdict North Korean shipments,” to stop the Stalinist regime from proliferating weapons, as it has in the past, she said. If they try to ship nuclear material, “we will do everything we can to both interdict it and prevent it and shut off their flow of money.”

Terrorist Designation

Asked if the U.S. would put North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, Clinton said, “We’re going to look at it. There’s a process for it. Obviously we’d want to see recent evidence of their support for international terrorism.”

North Korea was removed from the list last fall after the Bush administration certified that they were not promoting terrorism. The move was intended in part as a confidence- building measure to get the government in Pyongyang to return to stalled talks to eliminate their nuclear weapons program.

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Iran Stockpiles Enough Uranium to Make Nation's First Nuclear Bomb
David Leask
Scotland on Sunday
(for personal use only)

IRAN now has enough nuclear material to make its first atomic bomb, it was claimed last night.

The Islamic republic, whose president has threatened to "wipe Israel off the face of the Earth", has nearly doubled stockpiles of enriched uranium in the last six months, the United Nations said yesterday.

Experts believe it would take no more than six months for Iran to turn its stocks into enough weapons-grade material for a bomb if it decides to defy warnings from US President Barack Obama not to do so.

Officials from the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) yesterday reported huge rises in the amount of low-enriched uranium or LEU in Iran and the number of centrifuges needed to make it.

David Albright, a former weapons inspector who leads the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, said Iran already had enough LEU to enrich for one bomb and could have enough for a second by the end of this year.

He added: "Whether Iran intends to pursue this approach is unknown." The country has denied it has any interest in having a nuclear bomb.

America, Britain and their allies are eager to prevent Iran developing weapons that could be used to threaten Israel and other nations. They are already facing a stand-off with Communist North Korea, which tested a second nuclear device late last month.

Iran and North Korea, are feared to have developed informal military links, despite their huge ideological differences. Their two football teams played out a scoreless draw in the North Korean capital Pyongyang yesterday.

The latest report from the IAEA revealed Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium, which is the fuel used in nuclear power stations, had leapt to 1,300 kilos in the last six months, up 500 kilos.

The agency also discovered the Islamic nation had 7,000 centrifuges that could be used to make LEU, although only 5,000 were in operation. Inspectors have been denied access to one facility amid confusion over whether Iran has been trying to enrich its LEU to make weapons.

One UN source, who declined to be named, said: "There is now a forest of 7,000 machines – that's quite a lot. It's a very impressive place, and they will be installing more which could mean 9,000 soon. That makes it increasingly difficult to do the surveillance."

Iran has said its centrifuges are only needed to produce fuel for nuclear power stations. Russian contractors are currently completing a electricity plant in the country's south. Western experts are sceptical that Iran, one of the biggest oil producers, needs an alternative source of energy.

Albright, however, stressed it could take Iran "one or two years" to overcome technical hurdles in producing an effective bomb. Even if it starts to enrich its uranium to weapons-grade, it would still have to perfect the technology for miniaturising the substance, making it small enough to fit into a modern warhead.

He stressed there was no evidence that Iran was trying to weaponise its LEU at its main processing plant in Nantanz. He added any effort to move LEU from Nantanz to a covert facility would be noticed by inspectors within months.

Iran is this week expected to announce it has developed new ground-to-air missiles amid speculation Israel could carry out a pre-emptive strike on its nuclear facilities.

Defence minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said: "The range of this defence system is more than 40km and it is able to pursue and hit the enemy's airplanes and helicopters on a smart basis and at supersonic speed."

Israel has sent out mixed messages on whether it would attack Iran. Its defence minister said all options should be open. Israel has carried out similar attacks on both Syria where IAEA inspectors found evidence of uranium enrichment in a report also published yesterday and on Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, has repeatedly described Iran's nuclear programme as a threat.

Iranian leaders often dismiss talk of a possible strike by Israel, saying it is not in a position to threaten Iran, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter. They say Iran would respond to any attack by targeting US interests and Israel. The Islamic state often makes announcements of advances in its defence capabilities.

Military experts say Iran rarely reveals enough detail about its new military equipment to determine its efficacy but say the Islamic Republic, despite having much less firepower than US forces, could still cause havoc in the Gulf if it was pushed.

Last month, it said it had tested a missile that defence analysts say could hit Israel and US bases in the Gulf.

Experts said the announcement on air defence systems comes after Russia announced it would not go ahead with a lucrative contract to supply Iran with one of the most formidable anti-aircraft missiles in the world, the S-300.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is currently facing an election challenge from more moderate politicians. He does so after Obama made a passionate speech in Egypt, calling for the West and the Islamic world to set aside their differences.

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IAEA: Iran Has Centrifuges for Two Nuclear Weapons Per Year
Steve Shippert
Center for Threat Awareness
(for personal use only)

This article in the New York Times, Iran Has Centrifuge Capacity for Nuclear Arms, Report Says, should get your attention. Hopefully the report dispels in the eyes of some the incorrect conclusion that those of us who have been warning of the Iranian race for nuclear weapons are fear mongers and over the top. They now have the capability. It is only the desire which can be seen as debatable, even though arguing 'peaceful nuclear power' intentions requires an unhealthy leap of faith and a disconnect from logic, reason and past actions.

A week before Iran's presidential election, atomic inspectors reported Friday that the country has sped up its production of nuclear fuel and increased its number of installed centrifuges to 7,200 -- more than enough, weapon experts said, to make fuel for up to two nuclear weapons a year, if the country decided to use its facilities for that purpose.
That's 7,200 centrifuges - as you will learn later, 4,920 in production and 2,300 installed and awaiting activation.

In its report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that it had found no evidence that any of the fuel in Iran's possession had been enriched to the purity needed to make a bomb, a step that would take months. But it said that the country had blocked its inspectors for more than a year now from visiting a heavy-water reactor capable of being modified to produce plutonium that could be used in weapons. It also said that Tehran had continued to refuse to answer the agency's questions about reports of Iranian studies obtained by Western intelligence agencies that suggest that its scientists had performed research on the design of a nuclear warhead.

Why does Iran want a heavy water plant? There is only one answer, which is its only purpose: Plutonium production, which is the process of enriching spent uranium fuel - the byproduct of all nuclear plants and the remaining left-over from the uranium enrichment process - into the exponentially more potent plutonium.

Why does Iran want plutonium weapons? Because it alleviates the delivery systems challenges, currently stuck on how to get a large and heavy uranium warhead the distances required. With a plutonium warhead being much smaller and lighter, the missile challenges the West says will take years - based on a likely false uranium warheads assumption - are reduced to nearly nill in comparison.

Keep keenly in mind that North Korea produces plutonium weapons. And that their first blast was demonstrated with its primary customer on hand: General's and scientists from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Iran is required under three United Nations Security Council resolutions to cease the enrichment of uranium and to provide answers to those questions. The Iranian authorities have vigorously denied the authenticity of the studies on warhead design.
Wold you expect any different?

The report, one of a series made quarterly to the agency's board, described how the pace of enrichment and the installation of new centrifuges is accelerating at an enormous underground bunker in the desert at Natanz. It said that nearly 4,920 centrifuges were currently enriching uranium, and that 2,300 more were ready to go. That represents an increase of 30 percent in the total number of installed centrifuges since a February report.
You got that, right? A 30% increase in Iranian centrifuges since the last IAEA report, only 4 months ago.

Since we referenced North Korea in its proper context, readers may be interested in another major item tucked away later in the article.

In a separate report released Friday, the agency said it had found new evidence to support the claim that the complex that Israel bombed in the Syrian desert in 2007 was in fact a clandestine nuclear reactor. The clue, it said, was information uncovered on Syria's procurement of "a large quantity of graphite," a material that American intelligence officials have said was central to the reactor's operation.

Not only was it a clandestine nuclear reactor laid waste by Israel's Air Force, it was a plutonium plant which was a joint venture between Syria, Iran and North Korea. Iranians and North Koreans were among those killed in the Israeli strike. Again: Plutonium, Iran, North Korea.

But wait, there's more.

The agency also reported its discovery of particles of uranium in a Damascus laboratory and their "possible connection" to uranium traces already discovered at the bombed desert site. Firming up that link, it added, would require further analysis.
Uranium traces in Damascus. Not the desert site of the Israeli strike, but in a Damascus laboratory.

But it will take more time for the UN to investigate and analyze, naturally. Surely not unlike how it has taken since 2005 for the UN to complete the cycle of investigating, analyzing and capitulating on the Syrian assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, not to mention the many other anti-Syrian Lebanese assassinated or silenced.

UPDATE: In haste, I failed to make the observation also shared in the Los Angeles Times that Iran is still having significant issues with centrifuge designs and operational breakdowns.

Curiously, the young man the LA Times tapped for the observation can't figure out why Iran won't let the IAEA into its heavy water facility at Arak.

Kemp doesn't see why Iran won't allow international inspectors into its heavy-water research reactor near the town of Arak. "That makes no sense to me," he said.

Sigh. And he was doing so well up to that point.

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MP: ElBaradei's Report Confirms Iran's Compliance with NPT
Fars News Agency
(for personal use only)

The report presented by the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad ElBaradei, on Iran's nuclear program was a confirmation of Tehran's compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a senior MP said on Sunday.

"Generally speaking as the nuclear agency has announced, Iran's compliance with NPT and the 6-step modality plan became obvious (by the report)," member of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Heshmatollah Falahat Pisheh told FNA.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced in its latest report on Iran's nuclear program that the UN body has not observed any diversion in Iran's declared nuclear materials and activities.

Falahat Pisheh then referred to the issue of "alleged studies" raised by certain countries against Iran's nuclear program, and said if ElBaradei had in his previous report urged the western countries to present their documents, he would have definitely described those documents as ineffective and sheer lie in his recent report on Iran.

The IAEA head has also pointed to the same problem in his recent report, saying, "The Director General (Mohamed ElBaradei) urges member states which have provided documentation to the agency to work out new modalities with the agency so that it could share further information with Iran since the agency's inability to share additional information with Iran, and to provide copies or, if possible, originals, is making it difficult for the agency to progress further in its verification."

"This issue results from the fact that the agency has divested itself of its authority over Iran's nuclear program," Falahat Pisheh added, noting that the new report has nothing new and is similar to the previous reports on Iran.

Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative evidence to substantiate their allegations.

Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West's calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran has dismissed West's demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians' national resolve to continue the path.

In a previous report by the UN nuclear watchdog in February, the IAEA praised Iran's cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran's nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Also in his earlier report to the 35-nation Board of Governors, the IAEA Director General confirmed "the non-diversion" of nuclear material in Iran and added that the agency had found no "components of a nuclear weapon" or "related nuclear physics studies" in the country.

The IAEA report confirmed that Iran has managed to enrich uranium-235 to a level "less than 5 percent". Such a rate is consistent with the production of fuel need by nuclear power plants. Nuclear arms production, meanwhile, requires an enrichment level of above 90 percent.

The UN nuclear watchdog has also carried out frequent surprise inspections of Iran's nuclear sites so far, but found nothing to support West's allegations.

Following the said reports by the US and international bodies, many world states have called the UN Security Council pressure against Tehran unjustified, demanding that Iran's case be normalized and returned from the UNSC to the IAEA.

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Iran in Major Nuclear Expansion, U.N. Oversight Harder
Mark Heinrich
(for personal use only)

Iran has significantly expanded uranium enrichment with almost 5,000 centrifuges now operating and this has made it harder for U.N. inspectors to keep track of the disputed nuclear activity, an IAEA report said on Friday.

Obtained by Reuters, the restricted International Atomic Energy Agency report said Iran had increased its rate of production of low-enriched uranium (LEU), boosting its stockpile by 500 kg to 1,339 kg in the past six months.

Iran's improved efficiency in turning out potential nuclear fuel is sure to fan Western fears of the Islamic Republic nearing the ability to make atomic bombs, if it chose to do so.

Oil giant Iran says it wants a uranium enrichment industry solely to provide an alternative source of electricity.

But it has stonewalled an IAEA investigation into suspected past research into bomb-making, calling U.S. intelligence about it forged, and continues to limit the scope of IAEA inspections.

David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, a think tank that tracks proliferation issues, said Iran now had accumulated enough LEU to convert into high-enriched uranium (HEU) sufficient for one atom bomb.

This would require reconfiguring Iran's centrifuge network and miniaturizing HEU to fit into a warhead -- technical hurdles that could take 1-2 years or more -- and would not escape the notice of U.N. inspectors unless done at an undeclared location.

There are no indications of any such secret site.

"Still, Iran is ramping up enrichment to reach the point of potential nuclear weapons capability. They haven't made a political decision to do that. But their lack of constraint is disappointing given (U.S. President Barack) Obama's effort to start negotiations," Albright told Reuters from Washington.


The U.N. nuclear watchdog report said Iran had 4,920 centrifuges, cylinders that spin at supersonic speed, being fed with uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) for enrichment nonstop as of May 31, a jump of about 25 percent since February.

Another 2,132 machines were installed and undergoing vacuum tests while a further 169 were being set up -- bringing Iran's total number of deployed centrifuges at its underground Natanz enrichment hall to 7,231 -- with 55,000 eventually planned.

The IAEA had told Iran that given the burgeoning numbers of centrifuges and increased pace of enrichment, "improvements to the containment and surveillance measures are required in order for the agency to continue to fully meet its safeguards objectives," the report said, referring to basic inspections.

Senior inspectors were discussing solutions with Iran.

"There is now a forest of 7,000 machines, that's quite a lot, it's a very impressive place, and they will be installing more which could mean 9,000 (soon)," said a senior U.N. official who asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

"That makes it increasingly difficult to do the surveillance (to ensure no diversions for bombmaking purposes elsewhere). We are reviewing (the angles) of our cameras, walking rules (for workers handling equipment), where things are being kept."

At a separate pilot plant in Natanz, Iran continues to test small numbers of a more sophisticated centrifuge than the 1970s vintage it is now using. These models could refine uranium 2-3 times as fast as the P-1, analysts say.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has urged Iran to engage with the United States, "grasp the hand that Obama is extending to you," and negotiate over its nuclear program to ensure it remains civilian under effective monitoring.

But little progress in coaxing Iran to open up to IAEA investigators and grant more wide-ranging inspections is likely without a major thaw in Tehran's relations with Western powers.

"The Iran file has been on the table for six years. It's high time to sort it out. We hope Iran and international community get to the table and start to come up with solutions so we can do our (non-proliferation) job," said the senior U.N. official.

Obama has set a rough timetable for negotiating results with Iran, saying he wanted serious progress by the end of the year. He has underlined that any U.S. overtures will be accompanied by harsher sanctions if there is no cooperation.

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NKorea Closes Shipping Lanes Near Port for Possible Ballistic Launch
Turkish Weekly
(for personal use only)

North Korea is to close the shipping channels near the eastern port of Wonsan on the Sea of Japan in possible preparation for a missile launch, Japan's NHK television reported on Monday.

According to the report, Japanese security forces intercepted a North Korean radio announcement that said shipping was restricted for a 236-kilometer (147-mile) stretch of coast. The exclusion zone extends 100 kilometers from the coast into the Sea of Japan and will be in effect from June 10 through June 30.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said on Monday that the reason for the closure was "unknown," adding that they could not rule out that "North Korea is planning to launch a ballistic missile."

A similar port closure was announced by North Korea on May 25, when it tested an underground nuclear explosion and launched a series of short-range missiles.

At an emergency meeting at the end of May the UN Security Council denounced Pyongyang's May 25 nuclear test as a violation of Resolution 1718 and the international nonproliferation regime. All members agreed to draft a new resolution on the North, already under a number of UN sanctions over its first nuclear test, carried out in 2006.

The six-nation talks involving North and South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States, were launched in 2003 after Pyongyang withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Under deals reached in 2007, the North began disabling a nuclear reactor and other facilities at Yongbyon under international supervision, in exchange for economic aid and political incentives, which included the deliveries of fuel oil to Pyongyang.

However, in December last year, a round of six-nation talks ended in deadlock over a U.S. demand that nuclear inspectors be allowed to take samples out of the country from North Korean facilities for further analysis.

A Kremlin source told RIA Novosti earlier that the Russian leadership had no intention to turn a blind eye to North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, but was opposed to measures that would isolate Pyongyang.

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S.Korea Makes Plans to Counter North Missile: Report
(for personal use only)

South Korea has outlined a plan to counter a possible missile attack by North Korea, including airstrikes on a missile base, Seoul's Yonhap News reported on Sunday citing military sources.

A scenario by the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted to President Lee Myung-bak on Saturday included a plan to counter-attack in case North Korea fires a missile targeting the South's battleships in the contested waters off the west coast, Yonhap said.

The response under the contingency plan would be joint attacks from surface, air and sea against the North's missile base, it said.

In late May, South Korea and the United States raised the military alert level for the peninsula after the communist North ramped up tensions by war threats, missile launches and a nuclear test.

The South's navy earlier in June also deployed a guided-missile vessel near the sea border off the west coast. The Yellow Sea has been the site of two deadly clashes between the two rival Koreas in the past 10 years.

South Korean president Lee said on Saturday that his government would not back down to the North's threats, saying the South has a strong defense.

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Obama Warns N Korea on Nuclear Test
Al Jazeera
(for personal use only)

The US president has said that North Korea's leaders will not receive preferential treatment following recent missile tests.

Barack Obama made the comments before a ceremony on Saturday in France to mark the D-Day landings, a turning point in the second world war.

Obama said moves by the North Korean government, which included nuclear tests, had been "extraordinarily provocative", pushing diplomacy to its limits.

He said that his preferred use of diplomacy to solve tensions may not continue, particularly if North Korea does not respond in "a serious way".

'No rewards'

"We are going to take a very hard look at how we move forward on these issues," Obama said after a meeting Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, the city of Caen in Normandy, northern France.

"I don't think that there should be an assumption that we will simply continue down a path in which North Korea is constantly destabilising the region and we just react in the same ways.

"They have made no bones about the fact that they are testing nuclear weapons, testing missiles that would potentially have intercontinental capacity.

"We are not intending to continue a policy of rewarding provocation."

North Korea last launched a long-range missile in April. It has since carried out a nuclear test and several short-range missile tests.

North Korea is believed to be preparing for a further long-range missile test.

Obama said that the UN security council was preparing a new resolution on North Korea.

He asserted that China and Russia - the two major powers closest to Pyongyang - were also taking a stricter stance.

"They understand how destabilising North Korea's actions are," he said.

Obama was talking ahead of a ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings, a key date for the allies' victory in the second world war.

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N Korea 'Ready to Launch Missile'
Al Jazeera
(for personal use only)

There is growing speculation that North Korea may be preparing to launch another new medium or long-range missile.

Satellite images from the
GlobalSecurity website show the new Tongchang-ni launch site in the North's west coast near China and is reportedly ready for use after nearly a decade of construction.

The launch tower and what appears to be construction materials on the launch pad are seen in the images, according to Tim Brown, a senior fellow with GlobalSecurity.

He speculated the debris may be there to make the pad appear as though it is still under construction.

"The launch pad appears to be operational,'' Brown said.

North Korea last launched a long-range missile in April. It has since carried out a nuclear test and several short-range missile tests.

The news of the suspected launch preparation came as South Korean media reported on Friday of US intentions to implement financial sanctions on Pyongyang in an effort to punish the country over its weapons trading and counterfeit activities.

US warning

Warning the North that its actions will "no longer be rewarded", James Steinberg, the US deputy secretary of state, told Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean president, that "North Korea would be mistaken if it thinks it can make provocations and then get what it wants through negotiation as it did in the past. The US won't repeat the same mistake again".

Steinberg, on a four-day visit to Seoul, is accompanied by a senior US treasury official who oversaw previous financial restrictions on the North.

As international pressure heightens, tensions continue to rise on the Korean peninsula, and on Thursday, South Korean officials said a patrol boat from the North entered its waters around their disputed maritime border, but backed off after nearly an hour following repeated warnings.

The naval standoff came amid concerns that the North might try to provoke an armed clash in the area - the scene of deadly naval skirmishes in 1999 and 2002.

Meanwhile, international powers continue to work on an appropriate response to the North's nuclear test and missile launches.

On Thursday. ambassadors from key nations say they are nearing an agreement on new UN-backed sanctions against North Korea for violating UN resolutions and conducting a second nuclear test.

The proposals for a new UN resolution are being discussed by the five veto-wielding Security Council nations - the US, China, Russia, Britain and France - and also Japan and South Korea, the two countries most closely affected by the test.

They have been holding closed-door meetings since May 26, a day after North Korea's underground nuclear test.

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C.  Syria

Uranium Found at Second Syria Site - IAEA
Bethany Bell
BBC News
(for personal use only)

The UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, says traces of undeclared man-made uranium have been found at a second site in Syria, at a reactor in Damascus.

The IAEA is investigating US claims that a Syrian site destroyed in a 2007 Israeli raid was a nuclear reactor that was not yet operational.

Separately, the agency says Iran is continuing to enrich uranium in defiance of the UN Security Council.

Both Iran and Syria deny allegations of illicit nuclear activities.

'Link unclear'

Last year, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) found particles of man-made uranium at the al-Kibar site in Syria, which was destroyed by Israeli missiles in September 2007.

Now in a confidential report obtained by the BBC, it says it has discovered new traces of uranium of a type not included in Syria's declared nuclear material.

The traces were found at a small reactor used for teaching in Damascus.

The IAEA says it is not clear whether there is a link between the particles found at the two sites.

In a separate report, the IAEA says Iran now has about 7,000 centrifuges - the machines used for enriching uranium. The agency says that Tehran is running almost 5,000 of them.

It also says that Iran has boosted its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) by 500kg to more than 1,300kg in the last six months.

David Albright of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security think-tank has said that Iran now had enough LEU to convert into high-enriched uranium (HEU) to make one atomic bomb.

However, he said Iran would need to overcome some technical hurdles to achieve this - a process that could take several years or more.

A senior official close to the IAEA says the agency has made little progress in its investigations in Iran and in Syria.

The agency has urged both countries to co-operate with its inspectors.

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D.  Pakistan

Pak Has 60 Nuke Bombs: Congressional Report
(for personal use only)

Pakistan with about 60 nuclear warheads; primarily targeted towards India, is continuing production of fissile material for weapons and adding to its weapons production facilities and delivery vehicles, a US Congressional report has said.

The latest report by Congressional Research Service (CRS) - a research wing of the US Congress which prepares reports for Congressmen - has confirmed the recent statements and media reports that Pakistan was expanding its nuclear arsenal.

“Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal consists of approximately 60 nuclear warheads. It continues fissile material production for weapons, and is adding to its weapons production facilities and delivery vehicles,” said the report “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security issues”, which was issued on May 28 for media.

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a Congressional hearing on May 14 had confirmed that the US has “evidence” that Pakistan is expanding its nuclear arsenal. Also, a similar report was published in ‘The New York Times’ early this month.

Pakistan stores its warheads unassembled with the fissile core separate from non-nuclear explosives, and these are stored separately from their delivery vehicles, it said.

Pakistan does not have a stated nuclear policy, but its “minimum credible deterrent” is thought to be primarily a deterrent to Indian military action.

“Deterring India’s nuclear weapons and augmenting Pakistan’s inferior conventional forces are widely believed to be the primary motivation for Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal,” the CRS said.

The report further states that Islamabad gained technology from many sources including uranium enrichment technology from Europe, blueprints for a small nuclear weapon and missile technology from China.

Pakistan’s nuclear warheads use an implosion design with a solid core of highly enriched uranium (HEU), about 15-20 kg per warhead and “Islamabad continues to produce about 100 kg of highly enriched uranium for weapons every year,” the report said.

Referring to expansion of Khushab plutonium production reactor - by adding two additional heavy water reactors with Chinese help - the report said “the continued expansion of the complex and production of weapons materials could indicate plans to increase its nuclear weapons arsenal in the near future.”

The CRS reports that even as Pakistani officials have said that they have already determined the arsenal size needed for a minimum nuclear deterrent and they will not engage in an arms race with India, all indications were otherwise.

Mullen also confirmed that the US has “evidence” that Pakistan was expanding its nuclear arsenal and construction of additional nuclear reactors were a pointer in that direction.

The CRS said that Pakistan has pledged no-first-use against non-nuclear weapon states, but not ruled out first -use against a nuclear-armed aggressor that attacks Pakistan for example, India.

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E.  Nuclear Energy

Nuclear Fusion May Reward Patience with a Technological Leapfrog
Tom Ashby
The National
(for personal use only)

New energy technologies are often greeted by ridicule or wonder. Never has this been more true than with nuclear fusion, used by the sun and billions of other stars to keep burning for millennia, which has eluded scientists for decades.

To sceptics, the multibillion-dollar quest to reproduce the conditions at the heart of the sun is an expensive distraction. Nuclear fusion is, and always will be, 20 years from commercial use, they say.

But to its apologists, it represents a nirvana; almost limitless energy from abundantly available resources producing a low-level waste.

Traditional nuclear reactors, based on splitting the atom, are in vogue today because they are carbon-free and produce huge amounts of power. But those who make it their business to plan our energy future say uranium supplies will run short in the end if, as expected, the whole world turns to this technology. And the radioactive waste produced by a huge scaling up of fission reactors would present an unacceptable legacy for future generations.

So you can see why Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California governor, was so excited when he inaugurated America’s first fusion machine in his state last month.

“I can see already my friends in Hollywood being very upset that their stuff that they show on the big screen is obsolete. We have the real stuff right here,” he said.

The National Ignition Facility, a giant laser that can generate a power surge equal to five million million 100-watt light bulbs, is not designed to produce commercial power from nuclear fusion but to give scientists a clearer picture of whether this will ever be possible.

Another reason why this US$3.5 billion (Dh12.85bn) machine has been completed is that it doubles as a testing machine for hundreds of nuclear weapons that lie in US military bases and have not been tested since a moratorium imposed in 1992.

Such military applications of nuclear science go back to the origins of the science, before the Second World War.

It was Albert Einstein, the nuclear physicist who explained the gigantic amounts of energy stored up in ordinary matter with his famous formula, who wrote to president Franklin D Roosevelt in 1939 explaining how research in German laboratories into atomic chain reactions could be harnessed for warfare.

In Europe today, there is an equally ambitious nuclear fusion project under way on a hillside in Provence, southern France.

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is expected to cost seven countries $14bn, more than all the investment by Europe into other alternative energy technology put together.

A 42-hectare platform has been cleared for the project, including its centrepiece, known as the Tokamak. This is a doughnut-shaped vessel where a few grams of two isotopes of hydrogen are heated to 150 million degrees Centigrade, pressurised and then blasted with a gigantic electrical current.

The resulting atomic chain reaction is expected to produce more electricity than is used to ignite it, the key to fusion technology, generating heat to drive a turbine for power.

The project is already years behind schedule and billions over budget, and the whole thing has been scaled back recently in the hope of achieving something approaching a “result” by 2025.

After the appointment of Stephen Chu, another nuclear physicist, as energy secretary in Washington, this type of research will only get bigger, not least because of the $40bn assigned to renewable energy from America’s federal “stimulus package”.

While this column has applauded the UAE’s efforts to exploit nuclear technology to meet its power needs and to invest in other alternatives with a view to preparing for an age after oil, fusion research is one area where the Emirates has probably done well to steer clear, at least for now.

As the expected nuclear power programme of the Emirates demonstrates, there is much to be said for emerging economies leapfrogging experimental phases and deploying reliable, mature technologies to feed their development. ITER and the Californian ignition facility might give these advanced economies valuable lessons on the prospects for fusion technology, but they could also turn out to be time-wasters. After all, many scientists believe that a new generation of fission reactor will be the likely successor to the light water reactors under consideration by the Emirates.

Just as the Emirates now stands ready to benefit from five decades of nuclear energy research and build the world’s most modern fleet of reactors, it also stands to gain from the experience of others in fusion technology.

Perhaps in decades from now, when hundreds of Emirati nuclear physicists are operating a fleet of reactors along the coast of Abu Dhabi’s western region, the Emirates might begin to indulge in such dreams of its own.

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Obama Seeks Global Uranium Fuel Bank
Brian Bender
The Boston Globe
(for personal use only)

As part of a new strategy to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, President Obama plans to seek the creation of the first-ever international supply of uranium that would allow nations to obtain fuel for civilian nuclear reactors but limit the capacity to make bombs, according to senior administration officials.

Many arms-control specialists consider the idea of a "fuel bank" controlled by the International Atomic Energy Agency a key way to test the sincerity of Iranian leaders, who maintain that their enrichment program is only for civilian use and necessary because they cannot be assured of energy supplies from other countries.

Many specialists believe an internationally managed fuel bank could also remove the "peaceful use" justification for other nations that might be trying to use a civilian nuclear program as cover to make nuclear weapons.

"We want to give the Iranians an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to peaceful nuclear energy and serve as a new model," said a top administration official involved in crafting arms-control policy. "What we can do is create a system of incentives where, as a practical matter for countries that want nuclear power, the best way to obtain their fuel and to handle fuel services is through a new international architecture."

The IAEA, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, is also pursuing the fuel-bank idea, and in a pair of reports Friday highlighted the urgency of the issue. It said that Iran has expanded the number of centrifuges enriching uranium, making it more difficult for UN inspectors to keep track of the nation's disputed nuclear program. The agency also said it had discovered traces of processed uranium at a second site in Syria, where Israel in 2007 bombed a North Korean-designed reactor that US intelligence says was meant to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

Obama has outlined a goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons and has pledged to reduce the US arsenal and take other steps toward that long-term vision. In his closely scrutinized speech to the Muslim world last week, he declared that "we have reached a decisive point" on the Iran nuclear weapons issue and that he is committed to "preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path."

But he also said that "any nation - including Iran - should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power" if it follows nuclear weapons nonproliferation agreements.

The uranium fuel bank is a key building block of Obama's overall strategy, which is aimed at helping limit the further spread of the technology needed to build nuclear weapons - the same technology that provides nuclear energy.

The basic idea is to have a relatively small, but guaranteed supply of low-enriched uranium available as a backup should a country's supplies of civilian nuclear fuel from other nations be cut off for political or other reasons. Of the dozen or so countries that now can enrich uranium, several - such as Brazil and South Africa - do so to guard against such disruptions, not to build nuclear weapons.

The most advanced proposal calls for the IAEA to maintain a uranium supply for purchase by member states. The agency has already received $150 million in pledges from various countries and the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonpartisan arms-control advocacy group. The agency's 35-member board of governors is scheduled to begin debating the issue at a meeting later this month.

Russia and Kazakhstan have offered to house an agency-supervised fuel bank, while Germany has called for the creation of a multinational enrichment company under the auspices of the IAEA.

"This is an idea that has pretty broad support," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. "It addresses a problem that has been around for a long time. Nations that can make low-enriched uranium for nuclear power can use the same industrial capacity to make highly enriched uranium" for nuclear weapons.

Obama's support for the idea dates to his days as a senator from Illinois, when he cosponsored legislation calling for a US commitment to a fuel bank. The senior administration official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about internal deliberations, said Obama plans to discuss the issue with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a summit in Moscow next month.

But there remain significant political and economic hurdles to the fuel bank's creation, according to several US and European officials and nonproliferation specialists.

For example, some sectors of the nuclear power industry fear losing customers or profits if there is a new international provider of uranium. There are four main providers that sell nuclear energy fuel, one in Russia, one in the United States, one in France, and a German-British-Dutch consortium. But they can sell only to countries approved by their governments.

"Some in the industry are concerned that the material in the fuel bank may take away clients from them or the material could be dumped on the market [and] temporarily depress prices," said a European diplomat directly involved in the IAEA deliberations who was not authorized by his government to speak publicly.

Proponents, however, insist that at any given time the international supplies would be quite small and would have no measurable impact on the market.

For example, the Russian proposal calls for a supply of 120 tons of low-enriched uranium, according to IAEA documents obtained by the Globe, while the IAEA plan calls for between 60 tons and 80 tons - amounting to about a three-year supply for a 1,000-megawatt light water reactor, the most common type around the world, which produces enough electricity for about 1 million homes.

There is also skepticism from some non-nuclear nations who fear the move is designed to deprive them of their right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to develop their own civilian nuclear power industries.

But an IAEA official insists the fuel bank would not have that effect. "No one is talking about restricting the rights of any country," said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.

Indeed, many specialists predict Iran will still insist on enriching uranium even with an international supply available for its nuclear reactors. But such a decision by Tehran would be new evidence that it has military uses in mind for its nuclear program and help build more international pressure to punish it.

Iran's refusal to take advantage of the fuel bank "may give the US and other countries a stronger argument that Iran's program is really designed to give them a nuclear weapon potential," Kimball said.

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F.  Links of Interest

Obama Intent On Engaging Iran
VOA News
(for personal use only)

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Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic
Institute for Science and International Security
(for personal use only)

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ISIS Analysis of the IAEA Report on Iran
David Albright and Jacqueline Shire
Institute for Science and International Security
(for personal use only)

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ISIS Analysis of the IAEA Report on Syria
David Albright and Paul Brannan
Institute for Science and International Security
(for personal use only)

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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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