Iran already has the know-how to make and explode a nuclear warhead and awaits a go-ahead from its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to race its first bomb into production, according to a report in the U.K.’s Times Online.
The Times bombshell credits Western intelligence sources for confirming the Israeli conclusion that Iran has reached the end of a multibillion-dollar, three-decade master plan to fashion a nuclear bomb.
An irony in the revelation is that the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate concluded two years ago that Iran cut off its nuclear bomb research effort in 2003 – as a result of the threat the U.S. invasion of neighboring Iraq presented.
However, the Times’ sources revealed that the real reason was the fact that Iran had completed its program to manufacture weapons-grade uranium by the summer of 2003, reaching a point of technological sophistication that would enable it to make a bomb within a year of an order from its supreme leader.
Furthermore, the device will be of a weight and bulk that would allow the weapon to be launched on Iran’s long-range Shehab-3 missiles. This represents Israel’s worst-case-scenario.
The latest reported intelligence detailed by the Times also suggested that the Iranian Defense Ministry — through its covert nuclear research department called “Amad,” or “Supply” in Farsi — would take just six months to enrich enough uranium and another six months to assemble the warhead.
This information is consistent with Israel’s claim that Iran has enriched 1,010kg of uranium to 3.9 percent, which it maintains would be enough for 30kg of highly enriched uranium at 95 percent. About 30kg is enough to build one bomb.
According to the Times, Iran’s method for triggering its nuclear device is the “multipoint initiation system,” which very simply explained involves wrapping highly enriched uranium in high explosives and detonating it.
The Times’ sources further warned that Iran may have established small secret desert facilities to handle the final push to the bomb. This might diminish the damage to the program that might be accomplished with military strikes on the nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak in central Iran. Israel has made it clear that a military option to diplomacy and sanctions is still on the table.
Heretofore, it had been surmised that a failsafe strike on the two known facilities would set back the Iranian program two to three years.
Furthermore, secret desert facilities would defeat the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, who at this point monitor only fissile material produced at the known sites.
The revelations come against a heated backdrop where Washington has the clock ticking until next month, the deadline given Iran to open talks on the nuclear crisis.
Meanwhile, British intelligence services suggested that there is no reason to doubt the assessment, according to the Times report.
According to a recent Times analysis, if Iran chooses not to engage with Washington and rejects a negotiated deal on its nuclear facilities, then America, Britain, and France will push for stronger United Nations sanctions against Tehran. These will take effect only if Russia and China, who hold the right of veto at the U.N. Security Council, drop objections to tighter economic measures.
Whether coincidental or premeditated, Press TV, the first Iranian international news network, broadcasting in English on a round-the-clock basis, today featured a story about another body that it reported has reached the exact opposite conclusion about the state of affairs in Iran’s nuclear program.
The French senate's Foreign Affair Committee affirms that there is no decisive evidence about the military nature of Iran nuclear program, Press TV reported.
“The Foreign Affairs Committee of the French senate has released its latest report saying there is no strong evidence to prove the nature of Iran's nuclear program is military,” the report said.
The Iranian media arm also reported that committee member Jean Francois-Poncet contends that “Iran's nuclear issue is indeed the second challenge in the region where the general nuclearization (sic) of the entire area is the main worry.”
Iran has maintained for a long time that its enrichment program is intended for civilian purposes and that as a Nonproliferation Treaty signatory, the country has a right to the technology already in the hands of many others.
Iran’s public relations initiatives aside, the ante may be going up in the stand-off between the U.S. and Iran.
According to The New York Times, the Obama administration is mulling cutting off Iran’s imports of gasoline and other refined oil products if it continues to stonewall on negotiations.
Available at: http://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/iran_bomb_ayatollah/2009/08/03/243195.html
2. U.S. Reiterates to Prevent Iran from Obtaining Nukes
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)
The United States vowed on Monday to "do what has to be done" to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons.
"We think it's important to do what has to be done in order to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a news briefing.
Gibbs declined to comment specifically on a New York Times report which said that the United States is considering to cut off Iran's gasoline imports if Tehran rejects nuclear talks.
The Obama administration is talking with allies and Congress about the possibility of imposing an extreme economic sanction against Iran if it fails to respond to President Obama's offer to negotiate on its nuclear program: cutting off the country's imports of gasoline and other refined oil products, the New York Times reported Monday.
The United States and its European allies claim that Iran intends to secretly develop nuclear weapons, while the UN Security Council also requires Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activity.
However, Iran insists that its nuclear plan is only for peaceful purposes, and continues its uranium enrichment activity despite the pressure from the western countries and relevant resolutions and sanctions of the United Nations.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-08/04/content_11820843.htm
1. Russia Backs N.Korea Sanctions, Nuclear Halt: U.S.
(for personal use only)
Russia has renewed its support for U.N. sanctions designed to halt North Korea's efforts to expand its nuclear arsenal, the U.S. envoy for implementing the sanctions said Monday.
Ambassador Philip Goldberg made the comment to Reuters in an interview at the end of his first day of discussions in Moscow with officials in the Russian Foreign Ministry. China made a similar pledge at the United Nations last Thursday.
After North Korea's second nuclear test in May this year, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution expanding an existing arms embargo.
It also urged states to cut off all financial ties with Pyongyang unrelated to aid programs, and called for additional firms and individuals to be placed on a U.N. blacklist for aiding North Korea.
"I think there is a unity of view among all the members of the Security Council, the sanctions committee, in implementing and in support for the resolution," Goldberg said.
He said this was intended "not as a matter to punish the North Korean people but as a matter to get us back to the main goal that we all share, which is denuclearization and non- proliferation on the Korean peninsula."
Asked if he felt Russia was responding positively to ensure U.N. sanctions were fully implemented, he said:
"I think there is very strong support amongst the entire Security Council for that goal."
Moscow sometimes has positioned itself in opposition to Washington on international issues and was reluctant to back tough new controls against North Korea but has condemned Pyongyang's continual defiance of successive U.N. resolutions.
Eight entities, including North Korea's General Bureau of Atomic Energy, and five North Korean individuals are now on the U.N. sanctions list. They face mandatory asset freezes and travel bans in all 192 U.N. member states.
Goldberg said the United States would likely expand its own sanctions list and then consider seeking U.N. support for it.
"We, under our own national law, have identified one or two entities that we will designate ourselves but we will probably at some point go back to the committee."
"We believe that the committee stands ready to accept more information and additional entities and individuals," he said.
Goldberg characterized the discussions, which also involved U.S. officials with oversight for national security and financial crimes, as very technical interpretations of national rules on inspections and on financial services and transactions.
Asked if efforts to "reset" relations between Moscow and Washington under U.S. President Barack Obama had improved the climate for the discussions, he smiled and said, "We had a very cordial and good exchange and that's what's important."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/reutersEdge/idUSTRE5724CG20090803
A US-led push for increases in the budget of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resulted only in a 2.7% boost after a difficult period of negotiation by its board of governors.
It is accepted that the IAEA's role is growing in line with renewed global interest in nuclear power, while it also has a special role as an arbiter of disputes on nuclear technology such as those involving Iran and North Korea. This is at odds with a general policy for United Nations bodies to go for zero growth rates and has resulted in what outgoing director general Mohamed ElBaradei calls "critical needs [that] can no longer be postponed... [and] must be addressed with a sense of urgency."
One person that agrees with ElBaradei is US President Barack Obama, whose campaign pledges included doubling the IAEA budget over four years. His concerns are primarily focused on nuclear security and maintaining the IAEA's safeguards capability. Leading the push for greater funds for the agency in 2010 was the USA, whose spokeswoman told World Nuclear News it was extremely happy with securing 2.7% growth for 2010, although it was prepared to go well beyond a reported figure of 8%.
Other Western countries though were less keen on a spending boost, the most vocal being Canada, France, Germany and the UK. These countries wanted growth nearer to zero with gains made in efficiency. One particular improvement would be to optimise safeguards checks on countries accepted as behaving in line with the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty obligations. Some â‚¬121 million ($174 million) goes on this kind of activity per year and an improvement would lighten the load with respect to almost every country that uses nuclear energy. It would also, however, break the principle of treating all member states equally under the treaty terms.
The Western countries were united in calling for more money for nuclear security and were successful in shifting certain security funding into the regular budget from its current position of relying 95% on voluntary contributions. But this was a disappointment for less developed nuclear nations which would have preferred to see more funds flowing into technical cooperation projects to increase their mastery of nuclear energy.
Of course, the IAEA's core mission of 'Atoms for Peace' is to do both: to enable all countries to enjoy the benefits of nuclear energy as long as they do so safely and do not spread weapons technology. This emerging clash of priorities needs to be resolved, the board decided, and a working group has been set up to define in detail which are the most and least important of the IAEA's main duties in order to guide future spending.
A practical measure adopted to address concerns over the IAEA's technical ability was the establishment of a specific fund for capital improvements to the Siebersdorf laboratory, where materials samples - including those from countries under international scrutiny - are processed. Some â‚¬80 million ($115 million) in improvements are said to be needed there.
The final agreement reached by the board of governors yesterday means that the IAEA will have a regular budget of â‚¬318 million ($458 million) for 2010 and â‚¬354.3 million ($510 million) for 2011 (an increase of 11.4% on the 2010 budget). More comes from voluntary donations from leading member states.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP_Bumpy_road_to_budget_deal_0408091.html
President Barack Obama will chair a high-level meeting of the Security Council on nonproliferation and disarmament during the U.S. presidency of the U.N.'s most powerful body in September, the U.S. ambassador said Tuesday.
The meeting will take place on Sept. 24, the second day of the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting. Obama is scheduled to address the assembly's opening session on Sept. 23.
Obama has invited leaders of the 14 other Security Council nations to attend the Security Council meeting.
"The Security Council has an essential role in preventing the spread and use of nuclear weapons and is also the world's principal multilateral instrument for global security cooperation," U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said in a statement.
"The session will be focused on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament broadly and not on any specific countries," she said.
Rice added that the U.S. will work closely with other council members in the next few weeks to prepare for the meeting.
The council meeting will take place ahead of next year's major conference to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The treaty requires signatory nations not to pursue nuclear weapons in exchange for a commitment by the five nuclear powers — the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China — to move toward nuclear disarmament. The nonweapons states are guaranteed access to peaceful nuclear technology to produce nuclear power.
At the last review conference in 2005, delegates failed in advance to agree on an agenda which was a major factor in the failure of the conference itself.
Unlike the 2005 conference, delegates preparing for the 2010 meeting agreed on an agenda during a two-week meeting here in May, and some said the change in Obama's tone and emphasis was a key factor.
Obama pledged in April to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons — a major reversal from former President George W. Bush's policy.
The president's pledge and new U.S.-Russian cooperation spurred hope for an end to a long deadlock on global disarmament efforts.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gyMPJSDpi-pmrQgWWImI4dX1mzngD99SBDGO0
3. Terror Drill Off New York Tests Agencies Against Seaborne Attack
(for personal use only)
Federal, state and municipal agencies staged an elaborate drill in the waters off New York City on Tuesday to prepare for the possibility of a nuclear or dirty-bomb attack from the water.
"We're a big city, and there are vulnerabilities," said Ray Kelly, commissioner of the New York Police Department.
Agencies involved in Tuesday's test emphasized they did not undertake it because of a specific threat against the city. However, Kelly said the city was taking no chances after a proclamation years ago by Osama bin Laden. "We do know that Osama bin Laden several years ago obtained a fatwah to use nuclear weapons, and our goal is to make certain that that fatwah does not come to fruition," he said.
In addition to increasing various agencies' preparedness for a seaborne radiological attack, Kelly said Tuesday's well-publicized drill was meant to deter those who would perpetrate such an attack.
"It pays to advertise to a certain extent. We want anyone who would do us harm to know that we're out there, that we have the capability to detect," Kelly said.
Eight government agencies participated in the drill, ranging from the NYPD to the U.S. Coast Guard. The exercise took place at the entrance of New York Harbor, just south of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge linking Staten Island to Brooklyn.
Per the drill's plan, eight boats were to cross a checkpoint set up by authorities. They were on the lookout for abnormally high concentrations of radioactivity -- a telltale sign of an improvised nuclear device or a radiological dispersal device, more familiarly known as a dirty bomb. Some of the boats were decoys with no radioactive substances aboard, while others had actual radioactive isotopes planted in them.
A radioactivity detector in the hull of the authorities' boats was to identify which vessels had radioactive substances in them. The devices are highly sensitive -- so much so that people who have recently had certain medical treatments can set them off.
It was up to the authorities participating in the drill to sort the good boats from the bad -- and to intercept the bad.
Only minutes into the six-hour exercise, equipment aboard a police boat detected radioactivity within a small white pleasure craft passing through the checkpoint.
Two patrol vessels then converged on the pleasure craft, while officials began to question the driver and his two passengers. Soon after, authorities boarded the boat and used a radiation detector, officially known as a radiological isotope identification detector, to produce a "spectrum" of the radiological material. They then transmitted the spectrum to the Department of Homeland Security's Joint Analysis Center (JAC) in Washington to determine precisely what radiological material was aboard the boat.
Within moments, the JAC radioed back with a positive identification: Caesium-137, an industrial radioactive isotope that if used in large enough quantities could power a devastating dirty bomb.
Sure enough, when a separate boat containing press and police officers sidled up to the apprehended craft soon afterward, the portable radioactivity detectors of officers onboard began to sound excitedly.
NYPD Sgt. Art Mogil said that, in part, the agencies chose to practice on leisure craft to illustrate that radiological weapons could be transported in deceptively benign-looking boats. "It doesn't require a large vessel. A device can be just a few pounds and still be a major threat," Mogil said.
James Waters, counterterrorism chief for the NYPD, said exercises like Tuesday's were vital because the stakes involved are so high. "Someone bringing in a radiological or nuclear device would be very serious if not catastrophic," he said.
On an average day, not all incoming maritime traffic in New York City is subjected to the radioactivity tests performed at Tuesday's drill. An NYPD official declined to specify what percentage of boats normally undergo such screening.
Available at: http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/08/04/new.york.terror.drill/index.html?iref=newssearch
1. Nuclear Watchdog Urged to Seek Answers from Burma
(for personal use only)
AMERICAN non-proliferation experts have called on the international nuclear watchdog to seek clarification from the Burmese Government over its nuclear program after a Herald report that quoted defectors claiming there was a secret military nuclear program.
The report, based on interviews by Professor Desmond Ball of the Australian National University and a journalist, Phil Thornton, said the country had been developing a secret nuclear program. It revealed Burma was building a secret reactor, with North Korea’s assistance, at Nuang Laing, close to Mandalay.
The report has prompted intense interest among US security experts, particularly in the light of comments by the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in Thailand.
She said there had been ‘‘co-operation between North Korea and Burma in the past’’ and that North Korea had provided Burma with high-technology materials barred by the United Nations Security Council.
She made the remarks while praising Burma for having co-operated in the enforcement of UN resolution 1874, which is designed to prevent North Korea from shipping nuclear materials to other nations.
A North Korean ship turned back after being shadowed by the US Navy en route to Burma last month.
Daryl Kimball, of the Arms Control Association, told the Nelson Report, an influential online security report, that although there had been no evidence of a Burmese nuclear-weapons quest, whatever the North Koreans were doing must be made a priority by the International Atomic Energy Agency, of which Burma is a member.
‘‘The report is probably enough cause for the IAEA director-general [and Russia] to seek clarification from Myanmar [Burma] and request a special inspection,’’ Mr Kimball said.
Russia is said to have agreed in 2007 to provide the Burmese with a small, civilian light-water reactor, which would be subject to agency inspections, although the project’s exact status is disputed.
David Albright, the head of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, which monitors nuclear proliferation said: ‘‘There’s no hard evidence, just suspicions right now. We are watching it.’’
He pointed out visits to Burma by executives from the North Korean firm, Namchongang Trading Corporation, which is under sanctions for its role in trading nuclear technology. Western officials say it channelled equipment and material for the nuclear reactor in Syria, which was destroyed in an Israeli air strike in September 2007.
Mr Albright also pointed to sales of technology used in ballistic missile manufacture from North Korea to Burma.
On Monday the Institute for Science and International Security posted links to photos on the YaleGlobal site, which show extensive tunnel construction in Burma overseen by North Korean engineers. They are understood to be separate to tunnelling related to the nuclear program referred to by the defectors.
Available at: http://action.americanrightsatwork.org/campaign/specter_rightthing?gclid=CIbu0vTtjJwCFQRM5QodJkZZZg
2. U.S. Repeats Concerns Over N. Korea-Myanmar Military Cooperation
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)
The United States Monday reiterated concerns over military cooperation between North Korea and Myanmar, but fell short of elaborating on what kind of cooperation the two reclusive regimes are seeking.
"We do have concerns about the nature of cooperation between both Burma and North Korea, and North Korea and any other country," Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state for public affairs, told a daily news briefing. "I think, over time, we would like to clarify with Burma more precisely the nature of its military cooperation."
Crowley was responding to reports that Myanmar has an underground nuclear facility built with the help of North Korea. Myanmar was formerly known as Burma.
The spokesman recalled U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent remarks that she "was encouraged that Burma said that it would abide by its responsibilities, you know, under the sanctions that were recently passed by the U.N."
Clinton last month expressed "growing concerns" over "military cooperation between North Korea and Burma, which we take very seriously," but said that Myanmar has also joined international efforts to sanction North Korea.
She was apparently referring to a North Korean cargo ship that was possibly heading to Myanmar, but returned home recently after being pursued by U.S. Navy vessels. The vessels were operating under an interdiction mandate imposed by a resolution adopted by the U.N. Security Council for North Korea's nuclear test on May 25, the second since its first test in 2006.
Crowley would not elaborate on the correlation of Myanmar's pledge and the return of the North Korean ship.
"There was this North Korean ship. There were reports that it was headed to Burma," he said. "But eventually the ship turned around, and we noted that the Burmese at the time had pledged that they would fully implement the U.N. sanctions. It's hard to say whether that Burmese decision had something to do with the ship turning around, but it turned around."
The U.N. resolution bans North Korea from conducting any further nuclear and ballistic missile tests while imposing an overall arms embargo, financial sanctions and an cargo interdiction on high seas to prevent proliferation of North Korean missiles, nuclear weapons and any other weapons of mass destruction. Pyongyang responded by saying it will boycott six-party talks on ending its nuclear programs for good, and demanded that Washington deal with Pyongyang bilaterally to resolve the standoff over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
The U.S., however, said it will have bilateral negotiations only within the six-party framework.
Crowley said he hopes Myanmar will abide by its commitment to sanction North Korea, saying the Barack Obama administration will continue imposing the sanctions under the resolution until the North agrees to its denuclearization.
"And we will be looking to see them implement those sanctions," he said. "And as the secretary did during her recent trip, she argued quite forcefully that all countries have responsibilities regarding the U.N. sanctions, and we are hard at implementing them."
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2009/08/04/26/0301000000AEN20090804000200315F.HTML
3. Myanmar Building Nuke Reactor, Says Media Report
The Times of India
(for personal use only)
After Iran and North Korea, the next international pariah to be accused of having nuclear ambitions is Myanmar.
A report in the `Sydney Morning Herald' on Saturday quotes two Myanmarese defectors as saying that the Myanmar junta was secretly building a nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction facility with North Korea's help, with the aim of acquiring its first nuclear bomb in five years.
According to the report, "The secret complex, much of it in caves tunnelled into a mountain at Naung Laing in northern Burma, runs parallel to a civilian reactor being built at another site by Russia that both the Russians and Burmese say will be put under international safeguards."
One of the defectors was described as an "officer with a secret nuclear battalion in the Burmese army who was sent to Moscow for two years' training". The other, it said, "was a former executive of the leading regime business partner, Htoo Trading, who handled nuclear contracts with Russia and North Korea".
If true, the full weight of international pressure will be brought against Myanmar, said officials familiar with developments. But equally, the information that has been peddled by the defectors is also "preliminary" and could be used by the west to turn the screws on Myanmar -- on democracy and human rights issues -- in the run-up to the elections in the country in 2010.
In 2002, Myanmar had notified IAEA of its intention to pursue a civilian nuclear programme. Later, Russia announced that it would build a nuclear reactor in Myanmar. There have also been reports that two Pakistani scientists, from the AQ Khan stable, had been dispatched to Myanmar where they had settled down, to help Myanmar's project.
Recently, the David Albright-led ISIS rang alarm bells about Myanmar attempting a nuclear project with North Korean help.
During an ASEAN meeting in Thailand last week, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton highlighted concerns of the North Korean link. "We know there are also growing concerns about military cooperation between North Korea and Burma which we take very seriously," Clinton said.
None of the information supplied is indepth, said sources, but it can be used to raise the temperature and awareness of Myanmar's alleged intentions.
The Australian media report said, "China and other Asian nations recently helped persuade Rangoon to turn back a North Korean freighter, the Nam Kam 1, that was being shadowed by US warships on its way to Burma with an unknown cargo. A month ago, Japanese police arrested a North Korean and two Japanese for allegedly trying to export illegally to Burma a magnetic measuring device that could be used to develop missiles."
According to the report, "A South Korean intelligence expert, quoted anonymously, claimed satellite imagery showed the ship was part of clandestine nuclear transfer and also carried long-range missiles. Shadowed by the US Navy, the vessel eventually turned around and returned home."
The Russian assistance to Myanmar's nuclear programme would be under IAEA safeguards, but not, if Myanmar is pursuing it with North Korea.
Myanmar has proven reserves of uranium, and the technology acquired from North Korea might be used to extract plutonium.
According to reports, the Russian reactor hasn't taken off because Myanmar just has no money. But reportedly over the past 6 years, many Myanmar scientists, technicians and military personnel have received nuclear training in Russia.
Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/NEWS/World/Rest-of-World/Myanmar-building-nuke-reactor-says-media-report-/articleshow/4846971.cms
As world concerns remain focused on the clandestine nuclear programme of North Korea and Iran, reports are filtering in of Myanmar's isolated military junta may be just a few years from testing its first atomic bomb. The key far-eastern nation is building a secret nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction facilities with North Korea's help, Sydney Morning Herald has reported citing two key junta defectors.
The Myanmarese military has sited the reactor in mountain caves inter-linked by deep tunnels at Naung Laing in Northern part of the country, apparently to camouflage it from detection by satellites. The secret complex, the paper said, runs parallel to a civilian reactor being built at another site by Russia that both the Moscow and Yangon authorities say will be put under international safeguards.
The revelations by the Australian Daily come as US Naval Warships recently shadowed a North Korean commercial vessel bound for Myanmar, suspecting it to be carrying contraband nuclear and missile components. However, the ship was not intercepted. China and other Asian nations had helped persuade Myanmar to turn back the North Korean freighter, the Nam Kam 1. A month back Japanese police arrested a North Korean and two of its own nationals allegedly trying to export illegally to Myanmar magnetic measuring device that could be used to develop missiles.
The Hearld identified the two defectors as an officer with a Myanmar army's secret nuclear battalion and the other a former executive and leading regime business partner, Htoo Trading, who handled nuclear contracts with Russia and North Korea. It said the defectors were extensively interviewed separately over the past two years by Australian strategic experts and a Thai-based Australian journalist. The defectors testimony brings into sharp focus, hints and sightings emerging recently of North Korean delegations visiting Myanmar, the paper said.
Washington, the report said, is increasingly concerned that Myanmar is the main nuclear proliferation threat from North Korea, after Israel destroyed in September 2007 a reactor that North Koreans were apparently building in Syria. It said that one of the defectors was picked up by the US intelligence agencies last year. Some weeks later Myanmar protested to Thai about overflights made by US drones across its territory. The key to clandestine nuclear cooperation between Myanmar and North Korea could be because of Pyongyong's eye on securing supply of uranium from Yangon's proven huge reserves and earning hard currency, the Herald said.
Available at: http://www.morungexpress.com/international/29977.html
BURMA’s isolated military junta is building a secret nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction facilities with North Korean help, with the aim of acquiring its first nuclear bomb in five years, according to evidence from key defectors revealed in an exclusive Herald report today.
The secret complex, much of it in caves tunnelled into a mountain at Naung Laing in northern Burma, runs parallel to a civilian reactor being built at another site by Russia that both the Russians and Burmese say will be put under international safeguards.
Two defectors were extensively interviewed separately over the past two years in Thailand by the Australian National University strategic expert Desmond Ball and a Thai-based Irish-Australian journalist, Phil Thornton, who has followed Burma for years.
One was an officer with a secret nuclear battalion in the Burmese army who was sent to Moscow for two years’ training; the other was a former executive of the leading regime business partner, Htoo Trading, who handled nuclear contracts with Russia and North Korea.
Their detailed testimony brings into sharp focus the hints emerging recently from other defector accounts and sightings of North Korean delegations that the Burmese junta, under growing pressure to democratise, is seeking a deterrent to any foreign ‘‘regime change’’.
Their story will ring alarm bells across Asia. ‘‘The evidence is preliminary and needs to be verified, but this is something that would completely change the regional security status quo,’’ said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, the head of Thailand’s Institute of Security and International Studies, yesterday.
‘‘It would move Myanmar [Burma] from not just being a pariah state, but a rogue state – that is, one that jeopardises the security and wellbeing of its immediate neighbours.’’
Washington is increasingly concerned that Burma is the main nuclear proliferation threat from North Korea, after Israel destroyed in September 2007 a reactor the North Koreans were apparently building in Syria.
Professor Ball said another Moscow-trained Burmese army defector was picked up by US intelligence agencies early last year. Some weeks later, Burma protested to Thailand about overflights by unmanned surveillance drones that were apparently launched across Thai territory by US agencies. These would have yielded low-level photographs and air samples, in addition to satellite imagery.
At a meeting with Asian leaders, including some from Burma and North Korea, in Thailand last week, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and other foreign ministers won promises from the Burmese they would adhere to United Nations sanctions on North Korean nuclear and missile exports.
China and other Asian nations had recently helped persuade Rangoon to turn back a North Korean freighter, the Nam Kam 1, that was being shadowed by US warships on its way to Burma with an unknown cargo. A month ago, Japanese police arrested a North Korean and two Japanese for allegedly trying to export illegally to Burma a magnetic measuring device that could be used to develop missiles.
Professor Ball, who has studied the Burmese military for several years, said the evidence from two well-placed sources demanded closer study: ‘‘All we can say is these two guys never met up with each other, never knew of each other’s existence, and yet they both tell the same story basically.
‘‘If it was just the Russian reactor, under full International Atomic Energy Agency supervision, which the Russians keep insisting is their policy and the Burmese may have agreed to with that reactor, then the likelihood of them being able to do something with it in terms of producing fissionable fuel and designing a bomb would be zero.
‘‘I’d be more worried about a meltdown like Chernobyl … It’s the North Korean element which adds the danger to it.’’
North Korea’s interest could be a combination of securing a supply of uranium from Burma’s proven reserves, earning hard currency, and keeping its plutonium extraction skills alive in case it agrees to fully dismantle its own Yongbyon nuclear complex. ‘‘Do they want another source of fissionable plutonium 239 to supplement what they get from their Yongbyon reactor?’’ Professor Ball said.
Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/revealed-burmax2019s-nuclear-bombshell-20090731-e4fw.html
1. Russia, Venezuela Discuss Nuclear Research Reactor Plans
(for personal use only)
Russia and Venezuela discussed prospects for building nuclear research reactors and distillation reactors, the Russian civilian nuclear power holding company Atomenergoprom said on Wednesday.
The heads of Atomenegoprom, part of Russia's state-controlled civilian nuclear power corporation Rosatom, and the Venezuelan Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, held their first working meeting since signing an agreement in 2008 on cooperation in civilian nuclear power, Atomenergoprom said.
During the meeting the sides discussed training for Venezuelan personnel in Russia "in the field of nuclear medicine, geological and geophysical research, and operation of nuclear energy and research reactors and also scientific and technical personnel," the statement said.
Venezuela has been a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency since 1957 and has signed a whole package of documents on the development of the civilian nuclear power industry.
Venezuela built a nuclear research reactor in 1960. The reactor was taken out of operation in 1994.
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20090805/155734441.html
2. UAE Adopts Further Measures for Nuclear Safety and Security
Asia Data Pulse Source
(for personal use only)
The Permanent mission of the United Arab Emirates to the International Atomic Energy Agency has communicated today the UAE Government's decision to join a number of additional international conventions related to Nuclear Safety and Security.
The UAE's decision was communicated by Ambassador Hamad Alkaabi, UAE Permanent Representative to the IAEA, who delivered the related accession letters from UAE Foreign Minister, H.H. Sheik Abdulla Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the IAEA Director general. Specifically, the UAE communicated its decision to join the IAEA Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. The UAE further communicated its acceptance of the amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection, bringing the latter closer to the requisite number of signatories needed to bring it into force.
"The UAE decision to Join these international instruments is consistent with UAE commitment to maintain the highest standards of safety, security and non proliferation in its efforts to evaluate and develop a peaceful nuclear energy program" Alkaabi Said. "This is a major milestone for the UAE and represents the fulfillment of all commitments made by the UAE related to the latter's accession to various international instruments during its evaluation of a peaceful nuclear energy program" The commitments to join these conventions were originally outlined in UAE policy of April ,2008, and obligations stemming from these conventions have already been reflected in UAE nuclear energy development plans, strategies and domestic legislation.
The Convention on physical protection obligates parties to make specific arrangements and meet defined standards of physical protection for international shipments of nuclear materials and obligates parties to receive determined assurances and protection before they allow export ,import or transit of nuclear materials . It also facilitates cooperation in the recovery and protection of nuclear material and criminalizes specific unauthorized possession or misuse of nuclear materials. The amendment to the convention accepted by the UAE better addresses issues of combating nuclear terrorism , smuggling and sabotage. It legally binds states to the protection of nuclear facilities and materials, storage, and transport. It also provides for enhanced cooperation between states regarding the rapid location and recovery of stolen or smuggled nuclear materials.
The IAEA convention on Nuclear safety commits participating States to maintain a high level of safety by meeting international benchmarks. The obligations of the Parties are based on the principles contained in the IAEA Safety Fundamentals for Nuclear Installations. These obligations cover activities including siting, design, construction, operation, the availability of adequate financial and human resources, the assessment and verification of safety, quality assurance and emergency preparedness. The Convention is based on parties common interest to achieve higher levels of safety which will be developed and promoted through regular meetings of the Parties and by the involvement in regulator peer reviews .
The Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management is the first legal instrument to directly address these issues on a global scale. It applies to spent fuel and radioactive waste resulting from civilian nuclear reactors and peaceful applications. The Convention calls for review meetings of Contracting Parties where each Party is required to submit a national report to each review meeting that addresses measures taken to implement obligations of the Convention.
Each of these conventions are fully consistent with the core principles enunciated by the UAE within its policy, including: 1) complete operational transparency, 2) working directly with IAEA, 3) cooperating with responsible nations, 4) maintaining highest standards of safety, security and non proliferation, and 5) ensuring long term sustainability.
The conclusion of the additional international IAEA instruments follows numerous other steps taken by the UAE Government, including the conclusion of multiple bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements, multiple support activities with the IAEA and the recent signing of the Additional Protocol to the UAE's Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement.
Available at: http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/2009/08/01/4303482.htm
With an eye on the vast, emerging Asian market for nuclear power generation, Japanese industry, academia and government groups are stepping up joint efforts to train personnel from the region in legal, technological and safety areas.
Amid concerns over global warming, more countries in Asia and elsewhere are moving to introduce nuclear power generation, giving rise to the need for a wide range of expertise.
Such countries are counting on Japan's help in pushing their goal, while Japan-- vying with such rivals as France and South Korea-- hopes to gain business footholds in the Asian market through cooperation in human resources development.
"Japan is highly rated for its safety regulations, nuclear nonproliferation efforts and manufacturing expertise," says industry ministry official Taizo Takahashi, director of the Nuclear Energy Policy Planning Division of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.
The cooperation includes support by the industry and education ministries for a graduate-level "advanced education program" in the field, as part of their Career Development Program for Foreign Students in Japan.
Called the Global Initiative on Asian Specialized Nuclear Personnel, the program was set up by Tokai University last year to train students who will contribute to Japan's nuclear power industry in the future.
Deby Mardiansah, 24, came from Indonesia last fall to study nuclear power generation in the two-year program, which also includes a business internship.
Living in a guest house on the university's Shonan campus in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Mardiansah attends classes covering everything from plant design to nuclear fuel cycles.
Participants are supposed to work for Japanese companies after completing the program; business Japanese is a required subject.
"Although Indonesia is prone to earthquakes, I hope I can make good use of Japan's experiences," Mardiansah said. He hopes to become a researcher back in Indonesia after working for a Japanese company.
Indonesia is set to start power generation at its first reactor between 2015 and 2019.
Eight students from Asia-- Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia--are enrolled in the Tokai University program.
It does not accept students from China and South Korea, however, as these countries are potential business rivals of Japan.
A total of 13 businesses, from plant makers, electric utilities and trading houses, are backing the program by sending lecturers and accepting students for internships.
"Efforts have been made to train overseas personnel in nuclear power generation in the past, but the Foreign Ministry, the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and other organizations did it all separately," said Jun Sugimoto of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA).
"There was no strategy there," said Sugimoto, director of the JAEA's Nuclear Technology and Education Center.
In June, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry set up a public-private council to pass Japan's expertise on to countries planning to introduce nuclear power generation.
An industry ministry official called the member entities of the council, the first to bring industry, academia and government together for international cooperation in the field, an "all-star cast."
While leading international efforts to manage nuclear materials for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the government also hopes the council will help secure uranium resources overseas and help domestic equipment makers seek business there.
The Japan Atomic Energy Commission, under the Cabinet Office, in July also set up an expert panel on international issues to discuss Japan's role in promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy and other themes.
There is good reason for the recent rise in business interest in nuclear power generation.
While about 150 reactors are either planned or under construction in 30 countries, the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development forecasts that up to 1,400 reactors will be in operation worldwide by 2050.
More than 20 countries are apparently planning to introduce nuclear power generation. They have high hopes of gaining Japan's help in building from scratch all the related laws, regulations, management structures and technology.
They are also required to meet rigorous safety standards and nonproliferation regulations under the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will inspect them.
That goes well with the wishes of the industry ministry's Takahashi and others to strengthen Japan's ties to those countries through cooperation in human resources development and expertise.
Japan's rivals have already taken steps in that direction.
France established an international cooperation entity called AFNI under its Atomic Energy Commission in May 2008 and has clinched deals with the governments of Algeria, Jordan and Libya, among others.
South Korea in 2008 opened the world's first Nuclear Safety School, which serves as the IAEA's regional training center.
The school's predecessor trained 132 people from 11 countries over three years in nuclear safety regulations.
In Kazakhstan, where feasibility studies for introducing nuclear power generation have started, cooperation with Russia, France and China is under way, in addition to Japan.
For almost a decade, Japan has helped train personnel from Vietnam, which plans to start operating four 1-million-kilowatt reactors in 2020. Vietnam's national assembly will likely decide on their feasibility studies this year.
The Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, set up by Japanese plant makers and power utilities, has sent experts to Vietnam and held seminars there under a memorandum signed with Vietnam's Atomic Energy Commission in 2000.
"The country that receives an order for feasibility studies is far more likely to clinch a contract to build reactors as well," said Masaharu Kobayashi, manager of international affairs at the forum.
The chairman of Vietnam's commission has taken part in a training program in Japan and has since visited this country many times.
"We hope to build a Hinomaru (Japanese) nuclear power plant there because we have strenuously supported the country," Kobayashi said.
Available at: http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200908040066.html
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