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Nuclear News - 9/10/2009
PGS Nuclear News, September 10, 2009
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski

A.  Iran
    1. ElBaradei Wants Iran to Accept US Offer for Talks, PressTV (9/9/2009)
    2. Iran Presents Proposals as West Ups Nuclear Pressure, Fredrik Dahl and Reza Derakhshi, Reuters (9/9/2009)
    3. Iran 'Closer to Nuclear Weapon', BBC News (9/9/2009)
    1. US, EU Urge North Korea to Return to Nuke Talks, Channel NewsAsia (9/9/2009)
    2. North Korea May Test Third Nuclear Bomb, Defector Agency Says, Heejin Koo, Bloomberg (9/9/2009)
    3. Push for Fresh North Korea Sanctions, Al Jazeera (9/9/2009)
    4. U.S. Urges World to Enforce Key North Korea Sanctions, Mark Heinrich, Reuters (9/8/2009)
C.  India
    1. India's Nuclear 'Fizzle' Kicks Up Toxic Row, Pratap Chakravarty, AFP (9/10/2009)
    2. Pokhran Row, R. Ramachandran, Frontline (9/9/2009)
D.  Pakistan
    1. Pakistan Has Taken Steps to Enhance International Confidence in Nuclear Security: Congressional Report, Associated Press of Pakistan (9/9/2009)
E.  Non-Proliferation
    1. EU Urges Syria to Come Clean on Uranium, UPI (9/9/2009)
    2. UN Secretary General Calls for More Nuclear Free Zones, Alexander Manda, Xinhua News Agency (9/9/2009)
F.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. China Pledges Efforts in IAEA's Nuclear Safety Operation, Xinhua News Agency (9/9/2009)
    2. IAEA, GEAC Hold AFRA Regional Training Nuclear, Ghana News Agency (9/7/2009)
G.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Arab States Race for Nuclear Power, UPI (9/9/2009)
    2. Venezuela to Acquire Nuclear Know-How from Iran, PressTV (9/9/2009)
    3. IAEA Hikes Nuclear Power Projections for 2030, Sylvia Westall, Reuters (9/8/2009)
    4. UAE Denies Nuclear Deal Imminent, Luke Pachymuthu and Amena Bakr, Reuters (9/8/2009)
H.  Links of Interest
    1. U.S. Moves to End Dependency on Foreign Isotopes, Anna Mehler Paperny, The Globe and Mail (9/10/2009)

A.  Iran

ElBaradei Wants Iran to Accept US Offer for Talks
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“The International Atomic Energy Agency's outgoing Director-General, Mohamed ElBaradei, says Iran should not refuse an unconditional offer of dialogue put forward by the United States.

Speaking at a session of the IAEA board of governors, ElBaradei described dialogue as the only way forward in resolving Iran's nuclear dispute with the West.

"Unless we talk with each other and not at each other, we will not move forward. Dialogue is absolutely key," he told the board on Wednesday.

Iran faces pressure to halt its nuclear enrichment, as world powers believe its program is aimed at building a nuclear bomb.

Tehran, however, has denied seeking nuclear weapons and has called for the removal of all weapons of mass destruction across the globe.

While Iran is already under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions resolutions for its enrichment work, tougher UN Security Council sanctions are likely to be considered against the country.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has broken with the past American policy of shunning direct talks with Iran and has expressed readiness to join discussions with the Islamic Republic to resolve the dispute over Tehran's nuclear activities.

US President Barack Obama had earlier declared that Western powers would give Iran until September to resume talks on its much-debated program.

Referring to the unconditional proposal, ElBaradei urged Iran to accept the offer.

"The US is making an offer without preconditions and on the basis of mutual respect," he argued. "The offer by the US is an offer that should not be refused, that cannot be refused, because it has no conditions attached to it. And I hope your response... will be a positive response."

The remarks came as Iran submitted a new package of proposals to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany on Wednesday.

Following the submission of the proposal, the United States expressed hope that the package would be constructive for resolving the nuclear dispute.

"We hope that what is contained in that response is a serious, substantive and constructive response to the P5 + 1 proposal," US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters after a meeting of the UN Security Council.

"We will study the content carefully," she added.

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Iran 'Closer to Nuclear Weapon'
BBC News
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“Iran is moving closer to being able to make a nuclear bomb, the US envoy has told a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

Glyn Davies told the meeting Iran was nearly or already in possession of enough low-enriched uranium to produce a bomb, if it was further enriched.

Iran denies seeking anything beyond a civilian nuclear power programme.

It has now presented a package of new proposals to the group of six world powers negotiating over its programme.

Diplomats from those powers - the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany - will hold a conference call later in the day to discuss the proposals.

There were no plans to issue a statement afterwards, an official said.

The negotiations are taking place as the IAEA - the UN nuclear watchdog - holds a week-long meeting in Vienna.

'Dangerous and destabilising'

"We have serious concerns that Iran is deliberately attempting, at a minimum, to preserve a nuclear weapons option," US envoy Mr Davies told the 35 nations on the IAEA board of governors.

"Iran is now either very near or in possession already of sufficient low-enriched uranium to produce one nuclear weapon if the decision were made to further enrich it to weapons-grade."

He said this moved Iran "closer to a dangerous and destabilising possible break-out capacity" - the point at which it could create an atomic bomb.

Tehran has now handed over a new set of proposals for handling the issue to the six powers.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Tuesday said that Tehran would be willing to launch a new round of talks "in the framework" of the proposals.

But in Vienna Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, also told the board of governors that the agency had long been faced with false accusations about Iran from the US.

"The world is observing curiously whether or not this [US] administration follows the same trend as the Bush administration - pursuing hostile political confrontation, using fabricated baseless allegations," he said.

Some observers believe Tehran might just be stalling for time, reports the BBC's world affairs correspondent, Peter Biles.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is due to attend the UN General Assembly in New York later this month, and Iran's willingness to co-operate internationally is now under greater scrutiny than ever, he says.

Mixed report

The head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, has said in the past that the threat posed by Iran is exaggerated.

But on Wednesday he urged Tehran to accept the US offer of dialogue, adding that unless both countries talked to each other - not at each other- then no progress would be made.

"The US is making an offer without preconditions and on the basis of mutual respect," Mr ElBaradei told reporters before the IAEA convened.

"The offer by the US is an offer that should not be refused, that cannot be refused, because it has no conditions attached to it. And I hope [the] response will be positive."

In its latest report, the IAEA said a visit to Iran's Natanz plant in August had noted a reduction in the number of centrifuges used to actively enrich uranium.

But it also accused Tehran of a lack of co-operation with the IAEA on Western intelligence allegations of weaponisation.

Iran is continuing to enrich uranium in defiance of the UN Security Council, saying it has a right to a nuclear power programme.

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Iran Presents Proposals as West Ups Nuclear Pressure
Fredrik Dahl and Reza Derakhshi
(for personal use only)

“Iran handed a package of proposals to world powers on Wednesday, as it came under renewed Western pressure to swiftly engage in "meaningful" talks to resolve the dispute over its nuclear program.

Tehran says its proposals address "various global issues" and represent a "new opportunity for talks and cooperation." But it was not clear what the proposals were and whether they would be enough to avert the threat of further sanctions on Iran.

The United States voiced hope that Iran's proposals would be constructive and said it intended to study them carefully.

"We hope that what is contained in that response is a serious, substantive and constructive response to the ... proposal," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters after a meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

"We will study the content carefully."

Hours before the package was handed to representatives of world powers in Iran, the United States said the Islamic Republic was moving closer to being able to make atomic bombs by stockpiling enriched uranium.

"We have serious concerns that Iran is deliberately attempting, at a minimum, to preserve a nuclear weapons option," U.S. envoy Glyn Davies told a meeting of the 35-nation governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"Iran is now either very near or in possession already of sufficient low-enriched uranium to produce one nuclear weapon if the decision were made to further enrich it to weapons-grade," Davies said at the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog body.
Iran, the world's fifth-largest crude exporter, says its nuclear program is aimed at producing electricity and has repeatedly rejected demands to halt enrichment, which can have both civilian and military purposes.

Senior diplomats from the six major powers, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, plan to hold a conference call on Wednesday to discuss Iran's proposal, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said his non-proliferation inspectors had "serious concerns, but we are not in a state of panic.

"That is because we have not seen diversion of nuclear material (from declared civilian uses), we have not seen components of nuclear weapons. We do not have any information to that effect," he said.

But there is growing Western disquiet about Iran's nuclear advances which have been largely out of sight due to the restrictions Iran has placed on U.N. inspections.

ElBaradei said intelligence material suggesting Iran had illicitly studied how to assemble nuclear arms was serious and Tehran must address it, not just issue unsubstantiated denials.

"If this information is real, there is a high probability that nuclear weaponization activities took place (in Iran)."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday Iran was ready for dialogue on problems and challenges facing the world but insisted it would not back down in the nuclear issue.

Ahmadinejad has already snubbed U.S. President Barack Obama's end-September deadline to talk to the major powers on Iran's nuclear work, saying discussion on the issue was "finished" and Tehran would not negotiate on its "rights."

Iran was ready to negotiate and cooperate on making "peaceful use of clean nuclear energy" available for all countries and in preventing the spread of nuclear arms, he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama has indicated Iran will face much harsher international sanctions, possibly targeting its lifeblood oil sector, if it does not accept good-faith negotiations by the end of September.

In Vienna, three big European Union powers prodded Iran to engage in meaningful nuclear talks "now" and warned Tehran could not endlessly evade an IAEA investigation.

"Iran's responses so far have been neither positive nor satisfactory," Germany's Ambassador Ruediger Luedeking said.

"We again call on Iran to engage in meaningful negotiations with a view to achieving a comprehensive diplomatic solution. Iran should make use of the window of opportunity now," he said, speaking on behalf of France and Britain as well.

The three European countries said Tehran's "persistent defiance and point-blank refusal" to suspend enrichment, and its avoidance of negotiations, as demanded by U.N. Security Council resolutions since 2006, was unacceptable.

The six powers originally offered Iran trade and diplomatic incentives in 2006 in exchange for a suspension of enrichment. Iran ruled out such a move as a precondition for talks.

They improved the offer last year but retained the precondition. Iran said it wanted a broader peace and security deal, dismissed by Western officials as vague and irrelevant.

Diplomats say Western officials have suggested a face-saving way into talks could be a verified freeze in enrichment expansion, with suspension still the goal in exchange for benefits to Iran. But Tehran has ruled out any such freeze.

Analyst Samuel Ciszuk, of IHS Global Insight, said unless "Iran gives some ground in these talks there will be little option for the U.N. Security Council other than new sanctions."

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North Korea May Test Third Nuclear Bomb, Defector Agency Says
Heejin Koo
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“North Korea may test a third nuclear bomb late this month or early next should the United Nations and the U.S. strengthen sanctions against the communist nation, a South Korean group of North Korean defectors said.

North Korea leader Kim Jong Il told his top military and party officials last month to prepare for another nuclear weapons test in the event the U.S. continues to pressure North Korea and reject its attempts at starting dialogue, the Seoul- based Open Radio for North Korea said in an e-mailed newsletter, citing an unidentified high-ranking North Korean official.

The U.S. is orchestrating financial restrictions under UN auspices against North Korean companies suspected of being involved with its nuclear development program. The State Department said yesterday it would freeze assets of North Korea’s state-run General Bureau of Atomic Energy and the Korea Tangun Trading Corp.

North Korea, which in May tested a second nuclear device, last week said it’s in the final stages of weaponizing plutonium and can either engage in negotiations or accelerate its program. The communist nation walked out of disarmament talks involving the U.S., China, Russia, South Korea and Japan in April.

Stephen Bosworth, the top American envoy on North Korean nuclear issues, said over the weekend that the U.S. would hold talks with Kim’s government only within the six-party framework.

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Push for Fresh North Korea Sanctions
Al Jazeera
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“The US has moved to freeze the assets of two North Korean entities believed to be connected with its nuclear and weapons programmes.

The General Bureau of Atomic Energy (GBAE) and the Korea Tangun Trading Corporation were barred from doing business in the US with immediate effect, the US state department said in a statement.

The presidential order on Tuesday was part of Washington's latest efforts to pressure Pyongyang into resuming multi-party talks on disarming its nuclear arsenal.

The US aims to use tougher new sanctions to prevent suspect North Korean entities from obtaining financial and commercial means to "develop nuclear weapons and the missiles capable of delivering them".

US jurisdiction

"Any assets of the entities designated today that are within US jurisdiction must be frozen," the statement said.

"Additionally, US persons are prohibited from conducting any transactions with these entities."

The two entities were earlier blacklisted by the UN in July for their role in North Korea's weapons of mass production and missile programs, it said.

The GBAE oversees North Korea's nuclear programme and manages operations at the Yongbyon nuclear plant, while the trading firm helps procure commodities and technologies for defence research, development and procurement.

The move came as North Korea marked the 61st anniversary of its founding on Wednesday with patriotic songs and praises to Kim Jong-il, the leader of the communist state.

Eternal loyalty

Thousands of North Koreans marched to historical landmarks in the capital as television broadcasts aired songs calling for eternal loyalty to Kim, who missed last year's celebrations due to a suspected stroke.

In recent days the US has made overtures in an attempt to get North Korea back to the six-party talks but the North continues to wrongfoot the international community with conflicting messages about its nuclear programme.

Last week the North said it had reached the final stages of enriching uranium and was also building more plutonium-based atomic weapons.

North Korea in April quit six-party talks with South Korea, the US, Japan, Russia and China in protest at the international censure of a rocket launch.

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US, EU Urge North Korea to Return to Nuke Talks
Channel NewsAsia
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“US and EU representatives pressed North Korea at a meeting of the UN atomic watchdog Tuesday to return to six-party nuclear disarmament talks and allow UN inspectors back into the country.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-member board of governors heard statements from a number of different countries all urging Pyongyang to resume cooperation with the IAEA and return to negotiations with South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China.

US envoy to the IAEA, Glyn Davies, said Washington "calls on North Korea to return without conditions to the six-party talks and honour its commitments to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula."

Pyongyang quit the six-party talks in April in protest at UN censure of a rocket launch.

The hardline communist state also carried out a second nuclear test in May. And last week, it said it had reached the final stages of enriching uranium and was also building more plutonium-based atomic weapons.

The European Union "strongly condemns these actions and urges the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) to abandon and completely dismantle any nuclear weapons-related programme in a prompt, transparent, verifiable and irreversible manner," the 27-nation bloc said in a statement read out by Sweden, which currently holds the EU presidency.

"There is an urgent need for the discontinued international dialogue to resume," the EU said.

Similar statements were also made by Russia, South Korea and Japan -- members of the six-party grouping -- according to diplomats who attended the meeting.

Davies insisted Washington was "open to engaging North Korea, including bilaterally within the multilateral framework of the six-party talks."

IAEA member countries also urged North Korea to restart cooperation with the atomic watchdog.

In April, Pyongyang ordered the IAEA to remove all containment and surveillance equipment from the Yongbyon nuclear facilities and asked its inspectors to leave the country.

"The EU urges the DPRK to reverse its decision to expel IAEA inspectors as well as the decision to restore those nuclear facilities which have been disabled, and to resume and maintain its cooperation with the IAEA," Sweden said.

Washington too "believes that the IAEA has an important role to play" in the disarmament process, Davies said.

"As my president said: 'North Korea has a pathway to acceptance in the international community, but it will not find that acceptance unless it abandons its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and abides by its international obligations and commitments'."

The IAEA board was set to continue its traditional September meeting on Wednesday, when the focus of debate would switch to the investigations into alleged illicit nuclear activities in Iran and Syria.

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U.S. Urges World to Enforce Key North Korea Sanctions
Mark Heinrich
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“The United States pressed all nations on Tuesday to enforce toughened U.N. sanctions against North Korea, saying this was vital for any chance of getting it back onto the road toward nuclear disarmament.

The U.S. call reflected concern that North Korea's neighbors, especially China and South Korea, may be hesitant to apply sanctions rigorously for fear of causing internal collapse that could trigger a refugee exodus or even armed conflict.

A U.S. official charged with enforcing sanctions on North Korea sought South Korea's further support in talks two weeks ago as Pyongyang was making conciliatory gestures toward Seoul after months of military grandstanding.

China, Stalinist North Korea's biggest benefactor and the closest thing it could claim as a real ally, has been loath to push any punishment that could destabilize Pyongyang's mercurial leadership and stir anarchy along its border.

"Effective implementation of these (U.N. sanctions) resolutions is imperative to convince North Korea that its only viable option is a return to diplomacy and denuclearization," said Glyn Davies, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

Addressing a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's governing body, he urged all nations to fully implement relevant resolutions and to "be vigilant and transparent" in their dealings with North Korea.

Davies said international resolve to rein in North Korea was vital to peace and security as well as the credibility and viability of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The sanctions, aimed at stamping out North Korea's shadowy arms trade vital to its sagging coffers, were passed by the U.N. Security Council after Pyongyang's long-range rocket launch in April and second test of a nuclear device in May.

North Korea has publicly written off often-stalled disarmament-for-aid talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States and proclaimed it would revive its nuclear weapons program.

Pyongyang has signaled that it wants only direct dealings with the United States, something Washington has ruled out.

"Our policy remains the same. We will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapon state. We remain committed to the goals of the (six-party process toward denuclearization)," Davies said.

"North Korea must signal that it is willing to commit to an irreversible process of complete, verifiable denuclearization. We are open to engaging North Korea, including bilaterally within the multilateral framework of the six-party talks."

The 27-member European Union echoed the U.S. position at the IAEA gathering and also urged North Korea to readmit U.N. non-proliferation inspectors kicked out earlier this year.

Analysts say North Korea may be swayed into resuming the talk to please China, the host of the discussions, but few expect it will ever give up nuclear weapons.

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C.  India

India's Nuclear 'Fizzle' Kicks Up Toxic Row
Pratap Chakravarty
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“A claim by a leading Indian scientist that one of India's nuclear weapons tested in 1998 "fizzled" has unsettled the military here and opened fresh debate about the need for more trials.

The tests under the then-Hindu nationalist government sparked outrage the world over and drew sanctions, but were declared a success and are credited with propelling India to the status of full-fledged nuclear-armed state.

India has still not signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), but any further tests have been ruled out by the Congress party-led government, which has also acclaimed the tests a complete success.

Nevertheless, some in the nuclear and military establishment have used the scientist's claims to make a case for further trials, which would inevitably spark fresh tensions between India and its regional rivals China and Pakistan.

"Two things are clear: that India should not sign the CTBT and that it needs more thermonuclear device tests," K. Santhanam, the coordinator of the tests in 1998, told a newspaper on August 27. He went on to spark the storm by labelling the blast from the thermonuclear device a "fizzle" and has since refused to elaborate or speak to the media. AFP made repeated attempts to contact to him.

India tested five nuclear devices on May 11 and 13, 1998, including the thermonuclear bomb that Santhanam said released less energy than the government's claim of a yield equal to 45 kilotons of TNT high explosives.

The effects of the first three simultaneous underground blasts, which included a 15-kiloton device and a plutonium bomb, measured 5.3 on the Richter scale at overseas seismic monitoring centres -- the size of a moderate earthquake.

Even though no one doubts the capability of India to deploy a nuclear weapon and despite the government's reassurances, the uncertainty has upset some and is being used by others to promote a pro-testing agenda.

"Our armed forces need to be satisfied with what is given to us," former Indian army chief general V.P. Malik said, echoing the views of several other serving officers who spoke to AFP off the record.

"The ability to produce nuclear weapons or to deliver them are not in doubt but what is in doubt is the yield of these weapons systems," Malik told AFP.

Malik, who was at the military helm during the 1998 tests, said New Delhi owed an explanation to the military.

"If this needs more tests then that is up to them (the government) but the armed forces, which are the end users of such weapons, need to be convinced," Malik added.

Homi Sethna, who steered India's maiden nuclear weapons test in 1974, backed Santhanam.

"I stand by Santhanam's statement that India needs to conduct more nuclear tests," the octogenarian nuclear scientist said.

Possible fresh tests by India have sparked concern in Pakistan, which conducted tit-for-tat nuclear explosions in 1998.

Pakistan, which has fought three wars with India since 1947, has reminded India of its pledge on a unilateral moratorium on testing.

"We are disturbed by media reports that India might be considering additional tests," Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said last week in Islamabad.

Current nuclear scientists and the Indian government have closed ranks to restore confidence and discredit Santhanam.

"If Santhanam has any scientific data to back up what he has claimed, I am sure scientists would be more than happy to debate it," India's chief military scientist R. Chidambaram said.

"This kind of statement means nothing," he recently told reporters after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too rejected Santhanam's comments as "needless."

M.R. Srinivasan, a former chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission who is credited with playing a pivotal role in the country's nuclear programme, also denied Santhanam's assertions.

"I hold the view the 1998 tests were correct and now we have enough information to design a minimum credible deterrent," the scientist told AFP.

India and the United States last year signed a historic civilian atomic energy deal which ended decades of India's status as a nuclear pariah and marked a new beginning between the countries.

Some foreign policy experts cautioned India not to be swayed by any demands for tests and jeopardise the pact with the US, which promises affordable energy to millions of poor Indians.

K.C. Singh, a former Indian ambassador, bluntly warned further tests could prompt Washington to scrap the nuclear deal.

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Pokhran Row
R. Ramachandran
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“Since the days of the Shakti series of Pokharan-II underground nuclear tests, conducted jointly by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) more than 11 years ago, controversy over the yields of the devices tested, in particular that of the thermonuclear device, or hydrogen bomb (S1), has refused to go away.

The devices of May 11, 1998 – S1, S2 and S3 – were exploded simultaneously as the shafts S1 and S2 were just one kilometre apart and there was the danger of the shock wave from the first large explosion damaging the neighbouring shaft and the equipment therein. Similarly, the sub-kiloton devices of May 13, too, were exploded simultaneously, apparently for reasons of “convenience and speed”. The thermonuclear design yield was limited to 45 kt to avoid any damage to Khetolai village, located 5 km away, the DAE had stated. In a paper published in 2008 in the journal Atoms for Peace, R. Chidambaram, former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the leader of the POK2 tests, claimed that thermonuclear weapons of yields up to 200 kt could be confidently designed on the basis of the S1 test.

Soon after the tests, Western analysts, analysing the data of the tests as recorded by seismic stations worldwide, began to doubt the claims of Indian scientists for the combined yields of the May 11 devices and asserted that the actual yields were much lower. These estimates ranged from 10-15 kt to 20-25 kt. However, on the basis of correct interpretations of the regional and global seismic data and on-site measurements of ground accelerations and post-shot radiochemical analysis of the radioactive debris in the shafts, DAE scientists countered these estimates through a number of published papers on the results of the tests that confirm their early estimates (Table 1). While some well-known experts have concurred with the DAE’s claims, the controversy has sort of remained unresolved with many specialists continuing to question the DAE’s analyses and conclusions.

From the DAE’s perspective, the claimed yield values are accurate and these agreed with the estimates of simulations and design values, thus rendering the Shakti campaign successful. DAE scientists also claimed that the tests were sufficient to build a credible minimum deterrent (CMD) and the data gathered in the tests were sufficient to carry out sub-critical tests, if required. In sub-critical tests, the fissile material is prevented from becoming critical and initiating an explosive chain reaction. Such tests will not be forbidden under a verifiable Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) if it should come into force. It was on this basis that the country declared a unilateral moratorium on testing. Continuation of this moratorium is a precondition to India’s civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States.

With K. Santhanam, a former DRDO official who was part of the core group associated with the tests, now stating publicly that the thermonuclear test was a “fizzle”, fresh fodder has been added to the controversy. He first made these remarks on August 24 at an in-house meeting of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) on the CTBT. He has since reiterated the statement to the media as well. “Based upon the seismic measurements and expert opinion from world over,” Santhanam has been quoted as saying, “it is clear that the yield in the thermonuclear device test was much lower than what was claimed. I think it is well documented and that is why I assert that India should not rush into signing the CTBT.”

Clearly, if there is any credibility to this statement, the government’s premise on the claimed CMD posture and the vacation of nuclear threats, its unilateral moratorium on testing as well as its position on the CTBT would seem shaky. In the wake of President Barack Obama’s apparent reversal of the U.S. stand on the CTBT, there could be increasing pressure on India to sign the treaty. What is important is that Santhanam’s assertion seems to be based on “expert opinion from world over”. Strangely, he does not wish to rely on measurements – seismic as well as other – made by Indian agencies and the rebuttals by DAE scientists of the various external “expert opinions”. His claim would have been more convincing had he presented any scientific counter-evidence to the DAE’s claims or challenged its analyses with an independent set of measurements by the DRDO or by responding to the DAE’s claims in technical terms.

Domestic criticism of the thermonuclear test had come from none other than P.K. Iyengar, former AEC Chairman, way back in August 2000. He wrote: “[T]he fusion core [probably] burnt only partially, perhaps less than 10 per cent.” This comment has been wrongly interpreted by various media commentators to mean that the thermonuclear weapon had fizzled. A thermonuclear weapon has a primary fission (or fusion-boosted fission) trigger and a secondary fusion containing the solid lithium deuteride (LiD). Neutrons from the fission are absorbed by Li in the LiD to yield tritium and helium. The tritium in turn combines with deuterium in situ and undergoes fusion, releasing large amounts of energy. Even in the most advanced thermonuclear weapons, efficiency of the secondary fusion is around 50 per cent.

Arguing that the fusion to fission yield ratio in the Pokhran-II test must have been at best 1:1, Iyengar said that while he had no reason to dispute the yield (of 40+ kt) claimed by DAE scientists, he believed that the burn of the secondary fusion core was likely to have been highly inefficient. That is, the amount of LiD used must have been a great deal more than the optimum. He further argued in favour of more thermonuclear tests to improve the fusion efficiency as well as to increase the fusion to fission yield ratio. Iyengar reiterated the argument in a recent article (New Indian Express, September 2). He has further argued that the fusion yield cannot be derived unambiguously from radiochemical analysis as the methodology is complex and subject to large errors. In reality, however, the design ratio was 2:1, with the yield of the boosted fission trigger being 15 kt. According to Chidambaram, detailed radiochemical analysis, too, had validated this as well as the total yield (Graph 1).

Now, since both Santhanam and Iyengar were privy neither to the design of the weapon nor to the details of the radiochemical analysis and other measurements, their arguments are quite speculative. National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan, in fact, said in a recent interview (The Hindu, August 30): “First and foremost, DRDO has nothing to do with [this aspect of the] tests…. The measurements are not done by DRDO.” And, in any case, unlike Santhanam now and many Western analysts before him, Iyengar has not questioned the yield itself.

Therefore, the question of whether India should conduct more than one thermonuclear test to improve the efficiency of the weapon and to make its nuclear deterrent more credible, particularly in the context of its no first-use policy, and its relevance to India’s stand on the CTBT, is entirely distinct from the need to do more tests if S1 had been a fizzle. It may even be argued that the bogey of a thermonuclear fizzle is now being raised by those who would like India to conduct more tests and not sign the CTBT. Indeed, as Narayanan said, “I think we are going to face pressures from the international community… [It] is going to say that this is one of India’s very devious methods of preparing for a test, that [our] scientists are saying that was a fizzle, therefore India may find it necessary to prove itself once again. This is my worry. I hope it doesn’t happen.”

Irrespective of the unwarranted fallout of the controversy, it is important to know the exact situation with regard to the yield of the Pokhran-II tests even if the evidence is not enough to settle the issue. The only data pertaining to the tests that are globally available are the seismic signals. On the other hand, data from the other close-in measurements, namely, on-site accelerometer measurements of the ground acceleration, CORRTEX (Continuous Reflectometry for Radius vs Time Experiment) measurement of the two-way transit time (TWTT) of an electric pulse through a coaxial cable (which determines the strength of the advancing shock front from the explosion as a measure of the explosive yield), and the analysis of radioactivity in the explosion debris are available only to the agencies involved in the tests. In fact, the radiochemical data and the capacity to analyse them – considered the most accurate means to calculate the yield – exist with the DAE only. It is reliably learnt that though on May 11, 1998, the DRDO set up its own accelerometer to measure the ground acceleration, the instrument malfunctioned and did not record the associated waveform correctly. An independent internal check in this regard, outside the DAE, would have been possible if this had worked. Much of the controversy with respect to the test yields has, therefore, naturally arisen from the seismic data, which were the first to be recorded over the global seismic networks as signatures of an underground nuclear explosion.

An underground nuclear explosion sends up a shock wave near the point of detonation and a small portion of the total energy released is converted into elastic seismic waves. The efficiency with which the wave energy is transmitted through the medium depends on the nature of the surrounding medium, the source characteristics and the coupling of the medium and the source, which depends on the geophysical properties of the rocks in the vicinity of the explosion site. These seismic waves travel through the body of the earth and also along its surface. The former are called body waves, which include both compressional P waves and shear S waves. P waves travel faster than S waves and also their frequency content is greater. At short distances (less than 2,000 km) body waves travel through the crust and top portion of the upper mantle, and these waves are called regional seismic waves. Beyond 2,000 km, body waves travel through the mantle and the core and are called teleseismic waves. Surface waves include two groups of waves, Rayleigh (R) waves and Love (L) waves. At regional distances, a group of higher mode Rayleigh and Love waves, called Lg waves, arrives at the detector before the fundamental L and R waves.

The energy of seismic sources – a measure of the yield in the case of explosions – is measured using a logarithmic magnitude scale. Three magnitude scales are used: body wave magnitude m(B), surface wave magnitude m(S) and Lg wave magnitude m(Lg). The yield Y of a nuclear explosion (in kt) is given by an empirical relation m = a + b log Y, where a and b are not universal constants but are site specific. To arrive at the value of explosive yield, one needs to measure the magnitude and also use site-specific values of the constants a and b. For m(B) in particular, such well-established relations exist only for a few well-known testing sites of nuclear weapon states. While a varies significantly from site to site, b varies in a narrow range 0.75-0.85.

According to S.K. Sikka, one of the key DAE scientists involved in the Pokhran-II tests, a major reason for Western analysts giving a lower yield is the arbitrary use of an a value of a known site, such as the Russian Shagan river site, for an unknown site such as Pokhran. Owing to the anisotropy and heterogeneities in the earth through which waves travel, m(B) can vary, and given a logarithmic m-Y relation, yield estimates would vary considerably even for small differences in m(B). In practice, assuming that errors in magnitudes arising from differences in propagation characteristics from the source to different seismic stations are random, the magnitude of an event is arrived at by averaging all globally measured m(B) values.

In the case of Pokhran-II, the computation of the average was further complicated because of the simultaneity of the tests, which causes P waves emanating from individual explosions to interfere constructively or destructively depending on the direction of detection with respect to the source geometry. Sikka and associates showed that owing to the interference of P waves from the two large signals S1 and S2, the values of m(B) along the line joining the two shafts (east-west) would be lower compared with m(B) values along north-south. For Pokhran-II, the average m(B) estimates of the networks of the International Data Centre (IDC), Arlington, U.S., and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are thus smaller, they argued. After making the necessary corrections, they showed that, as compared to m(B) = 5.0 and 5.2 respectively for IDC and USGS, the correct average value was 5.4. This gave a combined yield value for the May 11 tests to be 58±5 kt (Graph 2).

Soon after the Indian announcements of the test yields, Terry Wallace in Seismological Research Letters (SRL) and Brian Barker and associates in Science questioned the Indian yields. In fact, these two papers continue to be cited to challenge the Indian figures. But in their analysis, Sikka and colleagues had also rebutted their conclusions. First, Wallace and Barker used the average USGS and the IDC values of m(B) respectively to calculate the yields, which, according to Sikka, were inaccurate without including interference effects.

Moreover, both used the formula for the Shagan river site for Pokhran, which was inappropriate. DAE scientists pointed out that the Indian plate was different from the Eurasian plate, and in the absence of a site-specific m-Y relation for Pokhran, it was more appropriate to use the formula for the Nevada test site (NTS) (with a = 4.05 instead of 4.45 and b = 0.77) to calculate the Pokhran yields. Using an m(B) of 5.4, this gives 58 kt (Graph 2).

It must be pointed out that while the seismology community has not accepted the DAE’s argument of interference being significant, there has not been any convincing rebuttal based on detailed analysis either. Wallace’s rejection had been rebutted by DAE scientists who pointed out that his use of USGS stations only amounted to a biased selection as they lay within a narrow angle with respect to Pokhran and interference within them would be negligible. In a 2001 analysis in the Indian journal Current Science, British weapon scientists A. Douglas and others concluded that the effect was small. But they too rejected a number of stations as, according to them, their m(B) measurements were corrupted by the arrival of coincidental earthquakes.

Since there is a great deal of site-specific uncertainty (in a) in the determination of the absolute yield from seismic data and b does not vary significantly in the m-Y relation, the relative yields between two tests for a given site can be evaluated with much greater confidence by using the difference in m(B) values and eliminating a. By measuring the ratio of amplitudes of P waves (see picture) at 13 seismic stations common to both Pokhran-I and II (Table 2), Sikka and others have calculated the average change in m(B) to be 0.45. This, in turn, corresponds to a ratio of 4.46 between the yields of Pokhran I and II. A Pokhran-I yield value of 12-13 kt gives Pokhran-II yield to be 54-58 kt.

Clearly, this method of estimating the Pokhran-II yield critically depends on the Pokhran-I yield. It may be recalled that there is controversy over its value as well. On the basis of an apparent statement made by Iyengar that the Pokhran-I yield was 8-10 kt, this is the value that has generally been used by Western analysts instead of the official figure of 12-13 kt. Some, in fact, believe that it was less than 5 kt. A figure of 2 kt has also been stated.

Clarifying this to this correspondent, Iyengar said that local acceleration measurements at Pokhran had given a value of 10 kt, whereas British weapon scientists had measured an m(B) corresponding to 8 kt. “Therefore, we were very happy that our device had worked with an yield in the ballpark we had estimated,” Iyengar said in an e-mail exchange.

According to Sikka, radiochemical analysis of Pokhran-I had been done and it gave a value of 12 kt. Based on post-shot data such as cavity radius, surface velocity and the extent of rock fracturing, an analysis in 1985 has yielded a value of 12-13 kt. This has been accepted by some Western analysts on the basis of international m(S) measurements (Graph 3). But despite this, people like Wallace continue to use a lower figure for Pokhran-I. Interestingly, however, Wallace himself was a co-author of a report of the IRIS Consortium to the U.S. Senate in 1994 that gives a value of 10-15 kt, according to Sikka.

However, in a post-1998 analysis for the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), Carey Sublette, while generally agreeing with the arguments of DAE scientists, has pointed out that given Pokhran’s sandstone and shale strata over a water table, the plot of yield versus crater morphology fits better with a Pokhran-I value at 8 kt rather than 13 kt. He then goes on to rely on this value to give a lower estimate of around 30 kt for Pokhran-II. In a comparative analysis similar to that of Sikka and Co., Douglas and associates arrive at 0.37 for the average m(B) difference. This corresponds to a yield ratio of 3.1. With Pokhran-I at 13 kt, this gives a Pokhran-II yield of 40 kt. They prefer to use a value of 8 kt and arrive at a Pokhran-II value of 25 kt.

Given the uncertainties in dealing body wave magnitudes and the possibility of introducing bias in analysing m(B) values, renowned seismologist Jack Evernden prefers to use long-period surface waves. These show less scatter compared with short period P waves. Being waves of longer wavelength (60 kilometres), they are less influenced by the small-scale in homogeneities as well as interference effects. In fact, the relationship is almost independent of the site. Soon after the Pokhran-II tests, Evernden used USGS’ m(S) value and calculated the yield to be in agreement with the Indian claims. It may, however, be pointed out that for Pokhran-II very few stations reported m(S) values. Using an m(S)-Y formula due to J.R. Murphy, the value of m(S) = 3.56 estimated by DAE scientists yields a value of 49 kt. Similarly, the use of a formula due to Evernden and G.E. Marsh yields a value of 52 kt, both of which are consistent with DAE figures.

Notwithstanding Iyengar’s reservations about the method, the most reliable estimate comes from the post-shot radiochemical analysis. It may be pointed out that the U.S. has always relied on radiochemical analysis for estimating its nuclear test yields, rather than seismic data. In a 1999 analysis, DAE scientists claimed that the post-shot radioactivity measurements on samples extracted from the S1 site had confirmed that the fusion secondary gave the designed yield.

This radioactivity, apart from unburnt fissile and tritium, consists of (a) fission products from the trigger and the fission component of the secondary (if present); and, (b) activation products due to the high-energy (14 MeV) neutrons produced by fusion, such as sodium-22 and manganese-54, which are produced much more in fusion than in fission. Graph 4 shows the gamma radiation peaks due to fission and neutron-activation products, which are much higher in the case of the thermonuclear sample than in the case of pure fission samples (Graph 1).

According to Chidambaram’s Atoms for Peace paper, “a study of this radioactivity and an estimate of the cavity radius, confirmed by drilling operations at positions away from ground zero, the total yield as well as the break-up of the fission and fusion yields could be calculated.” The yield estimate by this method was 50±10 kt.

But this too does not seem to satisfy Western analysts. According to Sublette, the radiochemical analysis refers to an entirely different method. He argued that the DAE method had inherent limitations arising from the error in measuring the cavity radius. Values lower than the claimed radius of 40 m would substantially bring down the yield value, he said. The upshot of the ongoing story is that notwithstanding the DAE’s detailed arguments and analyses, doubts continue to persist. But that should not prevent the DAE and the government from carrying out a totally objective internal evaluation of the success or otherwise of Pokhran-II.

Since the present AEC Chairman Anil Kakodkar, who was also part of Pokhran-II team, has stated categorically that no more tests are needed, the current controversy, one hopes, will not drive the country’s polity towards more nuclear tests.

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D.  Pakistan

Pakistan Has Taken Steps to Enhance International Confidence in Nuclear Security: Congressional Report
Associated Press of Pakistan
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““Pakistan has in recent years taken a number of steps to increase international confidence in the security of its nuclear arsenal,” according to an updated U.S. Congressional Research Service report. The report on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, prepared for members of Congress and committees and made available Tuesday, acknowledges that “in addition to dramatically overhauling nuclear command and control structures since September 11, 2001, Islamabad has implemented new personnel security programs.”

“Moreover, Pakistani and some U.S. officials argue that, since the 2004 revelations about a procurement network run by former Pakistani nuclear official A.Q. Khan, Islamabad has taken a number of steps to improve its nuclear security and to prevent further proliferation of nuclear-related technologies and materials,” the report says in background evaluation.

“A number of important initiatives, such as strengthened export control laws, improved personnel security, and international nuclear security cooperation programs have improved Pakistan’s security situation in recent years,” two nonproliferation analysts, who have co-authored the report, state in its summary.

Tracing Pakistan’s nuclear program in the regional perspective, the report recalls when India conducted nuclear weapon tests on May 12, 1998, Pakistan’s government responded two weeks later on May 28 and May 30 with six tests in western Pakistan.

Islamabad’s ‘minimum credible deterrent’ doctrine is widely regarded as primarily a deterrent to Indian military action, the report says. The experts also take into account concerns vis-a-vis U.S.-India nuclear deal in 2008.

India has stated that it needs only a ‘credible minimum deterrent,’ but New Delhi has never defined what it means by such a deterrent and has refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the report points out.

“Furthermore, both the agreement and associated 2008 decision by the Nuclear Suppliers Group to exempt India from some of its export guidelines will renew New Delhi’s access to the international uranium market. This access will result in more indigenous Indian uranium available for weapons because it will not be consumed by India’s newly safeguarded reactors.”

The report touches on the ability of the two South Asian countries to expand their weapons and nuclear security concerns in the context of instability in Pakistan in the recent past and militant challenges but also cites statements by experts and senior U.S. officials who have been voicing increasing confidence in the safety of Pakistani weapons.

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E.  Non-Proliferation

EU Urges Syria to Come Clean on Uranium
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“The European Union expressed its concern that Damascus has failed to provide the necessary information regarding nuclear material at Dair Alzour.

The Israeli air force in 2007 conducted an airstrike on the Dair Alzour facility near al-Kibar in Syria, which intelligence officials claimed was a nuclear reactor of North Korean design under construction since 2001.

Inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency also found traces of uranium particles that were undeclared by Damascus, though it was uncertain if the particles were from the Dair Alzour facility.

"I urge Syria to cooperate with the agency in its verification activities related to the nature of the Dair Alzour site," said IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei in his introductory statement to the Board of Governors in Vienna on Monday.

The EU in statements published Wednesday to the IAEA Board of Governors said it agreed with the agency, noting without the support from Damascus, its commitment to nuclear safeguards "would clearly remain in doubt."

The statement went on the express its concern that Syria has not provided the IAEA with the supporting documentation regarding the uranium particles at the Dair Alzour site.

"The EU therefore calls upon Syria to cooperate with the agency to establish modalities which will allow IAEA access to relevant information and locations while protecting sensitive military information," the statement read.

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UN Secretary General Calls for More Nuclear Free Zones
Alexander Manda
Xinhua News Agency
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“Ban Ki-Moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, on Wednesday called for more nuclear free zones, modeled on the Latin America wide area created in Mexico in the late 1960s, at the opening session of a disarmament conference here.

"We are hoping to see progress on this topic, especially in the Middle East," Ban told the opening session of the 62nd United Nations conference on disarmament which began on Wednesday in Mexico City.

He praise Central Asian nations for putting such a zone in place in 2006, and Latin America for pioneering the trend with the Tlalteloco agreement, signed in Mexico City in 1967.

He said that disarmament is the United Nation's top priority under his administration, and that while nuclear weapons are the top priority, the UN also seeks to massively reduce the use of and trade in small arms including pistols and rifles which kill many more people each year.

Despite the end of the Cold War, "military spending continues to rise today and is now well above one trillion dollars," he said.

"Many of the world's 12,000 nuclear weapons are still on hair-trigger alert, threatening the survival of our species," he said.

UN statistics show that world weapons spending is above 200 dollars a person, while around a billion people worldwide are struggling to survive on a dollar a day, a widely used definition of absolute poverty. Ban said that the UN pursues the idea that development cannot be secured without disarmament and that disarmament cannot be secured without development.

"We are very pleased that the UN Security Council will hold a meeting on Sept. 24 to discuss nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament," he added. The meeting will be chaired by U.S. President Barack Obama, who Ban said had revived disarmament effort worldwide.

Ban said the UN was pursuing disarmament based on five guiding principles, the first of which was never to lose focus on disarmament.

The second is that "disarmament must be reliably verified. The UN is seeking a new convention or mutually reinforcing instruments," he said. Thirdly "disarmament must be related to legal obligations."

In this context he praised Obama for committing to the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on nuclear weapons. The agreement requires ratification by all 44 nations that have nuclear reactors or weapons to enter into force. India, Pakistan and North Korea, which have nuclear capabilities, have not signed the treaty. Nuclear armed India and Pakistan went to war in the early part of this decade, but did not use nuclear weapons and signed a ceasefire in 2003.

"The UN will host a special meeting at the sidelines of the general assembly to urge early adoption of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty," he said.

The fourth principle is seeking the greatest possible transparency from nations with nuclear weapons and the fifth is that disarmament must anticipate new types of weapons like those based on vehicles in space.

Ban stressed that disarmament is needed because security can never be completely guaranteed by even the most spectacular weapons alone.

"No nation acting on its own, no matter how powerful, can solve this on its own," he said.

Ban said that he was hopeful for an agreement pursued by Obama, to check the production of fissionable materials, which can later be used for nuclear bombs.

The conference is run by the United Nations Department of Public Information alongside leading non-government organizations, under the headline "For Peace and Development: Disarm Now." It is the first time the annual conference has been held in Latin America and only the second time outside of UN headquarters in New York.

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F.  Nuclear Cooperation

China Pledges Efforts in IAEA's Nuclear Safety Operation
Xinhua News Agency
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“China appreciates the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s efforts in preserving nuclear safety and will actively participate in the agency's safety operation in the future, said an official from China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA) here on Wednesday.

Dong Baotong, director-general of the CAEA's Engineer System Department, addressed the IAEA's Board Meeting held in Vienna from Monday, expounding the Chinese government's attitude on the prevention of nuclear terrorism and the promoting of nuclear application.

He said china will earnestly fulfill its international obligations and commitments when taking part in the agency's nuclear safety operations, and further improve the management of domestic radioactive sources and the administrative regulations concerning its import and export.

China has sped up its development of nuclear energy, said Dong, adding that 11 nuclear power units have been put into operation in China, with a total installed capacity of 9.1 million kilowatts, and there are 24 more to be built.

He also noted that China is cooperating with the IAEA in fields like regulations standardizing, nuclear safety, waste disposal, and such cooperation and exchanges will not only help enhance China's research and development ability in nuclear power, but also provide support for other developing countries.

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IAEA, GEAC Hold AFRA Regional Training Nuclear
Ghana News Agency
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“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has agreed to assist Ghana to assess her national nuclear training and educational needs, Professor Yaw Serfor Armah, Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), said on Monday.

He said by performing a Training Needs Assessment (TNA), its findings would provide the basis for the development of the National Nuclear Security Training Programme.

The Programme would focus on filling the gaps between the actual performances of personnel working in the area of nuclear security and the required competences and skills needed to meet the international requirements and recommendations described by the United Nations and the IAEA relating to nuclear security.

Prof. Armah was addressing participants at the opening of a three-day Africa Regional Cooperative Forum for Science, Technology and Research (AFRA) training course on Nuclear Security, Safety and Safeguards, which is jointly organised by the IAEA and GAEC.

Participants from Ghana, Niger, Sudan, Egypt, Namibia, Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Republic of Congo and the Seychelles, would discus among other things, the main principles of nuclear security, safety and safeguards, and the role of state authorities in the implementation of these principles.

Participants would also be informed about the IAEA requirements, recommendations and activities in these areas and further raise awareness on the need for comprehensive measures with regard to nuclear security, safety and safeguards.

Prof Armah commended the IAEA for its commitment to nuclear safety and, lately, greater emphasis on nuclear security and for supporting Ghana in the establishment of a Nuclear Security Support Centre (NSSC) to build up the capacity for response to security related nuclear emergencies.

He said the centre would also offer education and training of national and regional personnel to serve as a resource pool of qualified experts and equipment to undertake technical support missions within the region.

Prof. Armah explained that in Ghana it was the sole mandate of the Radiation Protection Board under the Legislative Instrument LI 1559 of 1993, to authorise, licence, inspect and control all activities and practices involving radiation sources, radioactive materials and X-ray facilities in hospitals and other industrial applications.

He said it was important therefore for the Board to ensure that these dangerous materials were properly managed and freed from the reach of persons with malicious intentions.

Professor Geoffrey Emi-Reynolds, Director of the Radiation Protection Board (RPB), called for support for the promulgation of a legislative instrument that would make the Board an independent entity, as required by the IAEA and other international standard authorities.

He said currently the Board, which is to be the superior regulatory authority as far as nuclear security was concerned, operated under the GAEC, which was internationally unacceptable.

Prof. Benjamin J. B. Nyarko, Director of Nuclear Research Institute, GEAC, said the challenge in respect to nuclear security, safety and safeguard was huge and required the involvement and support of all security agencies to ensure their total safety.

He said the training would also build knowledge and expertise and prepare Ghana for its take-off plans of introducing nuclear energy as a complement to the hydro electric power supply.

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G.  Nuclear Energy

Arab States Race for Nuclear Power
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“Amid the gathering storm over Iran's controversial nuclear ambitions, the race is on among Arab states to build nuclear power plants of their own, opening up immense trade opportunities for the industrialized world as well as the specter of proliferation.
The United States, Britain, France and Russia are competing for contracts in the nuclear energy bonanza that is emerging in the Middle East as Arab states seek to generate more power to feed their growing economies and to build desalination plants, a vital element in development plans as water resources shrink.

Saudi Arabia's minister of water and electricity, Abdullah bin Andul-Rahman al-Hussein, told the kingdom's al-Watan newspaper in late August that Riyadh was working on plans for its first nuclear plant.

Saudi Arabia and the neighboring United Arab Emirates signed preliminary agreements with the United States for nuclear technology in 2008.

In May, France's economy minister, Christine Lagarde, said Paris was close to finalizing a nuclear energy cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates. In 2007, France also pledged to help Morocco, a former colony, and Qatar, another of the Gulf states, to develop their nuclear programs.

The U.A.E. is the furthest along among the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council -- which also includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain -- although Riyadh's plans are accelerating.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited the U.A.E. in May to open France's first military base in the Gulf -- and to promote a French consortium's bid to secure a $40 billion deal to build at least four, and possibly six, reactors.

The French consortium, which includes Areva, GdF Suez and Total, is the front-runner for the winner-takes-all contract.

Other bidders are General Electric of the United States with Hitachi of Japan, and the Korea Electric Power Corp. with Hyundai Engineering and Samsung C&T Corp.

The Gulf states are all major oil producers, Saudi Arabia is the world's leading exporter, and the U.A.E. is the third-ranked producer.

But they, and their fellow Arabs, are finding that their economic development is outstripping their power generation capabilities, hence the focus on nuclear energy.

In Egypt, energy demand is growing by 7 percent a year. Even the oil-rich Gulf states are suffering power cuts these days.

The U.A.E. hopes to have its first nuclear plant online by 2015, although industry sources say that may be way too optimistic. It takes on average eight years -- and $4 billion -- to construct a reactor plant.

Two years ago, there was little interest in nuclear energy around the Arab world. But now that's all changed -- to a large degree because of what's happening in Iran.

Apart from the six Gulf states, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan, Egypt and even impoverished Yemen are also committed to pursuing nuclear energy programs.

"The rules have changes," King Abdullah II of Jordan recently told Israeli daily Haaretz. "Everybody's going for nuclear programs."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed a deal in 2008 that cleared the way for Russian involvement in building four nuclear power plants in the Arab world's most populous nation. The first, on the Mediterranean coast, is expected to cost $1.5 billion.

In August, Putin approved a draft plan for Russia, which is building Iran's first plant at Bushehr on the northern Gulf coast despite U.S. objections, to cooperate with Turkey to develop a nuclear power facility near its Mediterranean coast.

The Middle Eastern states say they do not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, as the Americans and their allies say Iran does.

But the United States and Israel, the only regional state to have nuclear arms, fear that some Arab states will eventually seek to develop uranium enrichment programs to counter Iran's allegedly clandestine efforts.

Egypt, Libya and Algeria were all suspected proliferation risks, with the help of China, Argentina, North Korea and others, at various times up until five years ago.

Israeli warplanes bombed a suspected nuclear reactor built by North Korea in Syria in September 2007.

The U.S. Congress has expressed considerable disquiet about Washington helping the U.A.E. because the emirates are key trading partners with Iran. The fear is that U.S.-supplied technology and knowhow could find its way across the Gulf to the Islamic Republic.

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Venezuela to Acquire Nuclear Know-How from Iran
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“The Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has unveiled a plans by his country to import nuclear know-how from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Chavez told the French Le Figaro daily on Wednesday that his Iranian counterpart President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was an ally and a friend, and that they had agreed to transfer nuclear technology to Venezuela during his visit to Tehran last week.

"I thank him for the technology transfers from Iran to Venezuela. We signed a new agreement last week in Tehran," he said, quoted in an AFP report.

The Venezuelan President reiterated that "Iran has the right to develop nuclear energy as do France and many other countries and why not Venezuela."

Defending Iran's right to develop its own nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, Chavez dismissed allegations, made mainly by Western countries and Israel, that Tehran is trying to manufacture a nuclear bomb under the cover of a civilian nuclear energy program.

"I am sure that Iran is not working on production of a bomb. No one has provided any proof of that," said Chavez.

During his two-day visit to Iran, Tehran and Caracas also signed three cooperation agreements in the fields of medicine, oil and trade.

The Latin American leader declared last week that preliminary steps have been taken for Venezuela to kick off its plan to establish a "nuclear village" with the help of the Iranians.

The site would pave the way for Venezuela to benefit from nuclear energy, Chavez noted.

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IAEA Hikes Nuclear Power Projections for 2030
Sylvia Westall
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“The International Atomic Energy Agency raised its nuclear power projections for 2030 on Tuesday, with China, India, Japan and South Korea seen embracing atomic energy more than before.

The Vienna-based agency expects installed nuclear power capacity to rise by at least 40 percent worldwide over the next two decades to around 510 gigawatts. It could more than double in one scenario, the agency said.

The projections were eight percent higher than last year's estimates for 2030 and predictions for Asian countries in particular helped pull up the total.

"The financial crisis that started in late 2008 has affected the prospects of some projects, but its impact has been different in different parts of the world," the IAEA said in a statement.

"The medium- and long-term factors driving rising expectations for nuclear power have not changed substantially."

The IAEA said ongoing concerns about global warming, energy security, and fossil fuel prices meant nuclear power was still seen as a good bet in the medium to long term.

The agency said governments, utilities and vendors were seen firming their commitment to previously-announced projects and this raised confidence in the sector over the longer term, despite the financial turmoil.

A new verification agreement between the IAEA and India in August last year also raised nuclear power prospects for the country which is expected to become one of the biggest users of atomic energy.

Nuclear supplier countries lifted restrictions on nuclear trade with India after the agreement, allowing India to accelerate its planned atomic power expansion.

The IAEA projections are drawn from nuclear experts worldwide who look at operating reactors, licence renewals, planned shutdowns and possible construction projects in their calculations.

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UAE Denies Nuclear Deal Imminent
Luke Pachymuthu and Amena Bakr
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“The United Arab Emirates denied on Tuesday that it was days away from awarding the largest ever energy contract in the Middle East for the development of a nuclear power plant. Skip related content

The denial was issued after industry sources told Reuters that the UAE was on the verge of naming a winner for the contract to build at least four reactors, which consultancy Eurasia Group estimates may cost as much as $40 billion (24 billion pounds).

A government official familiar with the negotiations said "the UAE is not days away from awarding this contract. The process is still ongoing."

The consortium from France, which includes nuclear group Areva , GdF Suez , and Total , is in pole position to win the contract, sources familiar with the negotiations said earlier.

"We think we are still well positioned to win it, we have the nuclear expertise," a source from the French group said.

"The winner will take it all, the bid was for two reactors originally but then they (UAE) wanted four and maybe six, whoever wins gets the whole package."

The other bidders include a consortium comprised of General Electric and Japan's Hitachi, and another of Korea Electric Power Corporation, Hyundai Engineering and Construction and Samsung C&T Corporation .

"Emirati leaders have historically valued France's nuclear experience," the Eurasia Group said. "And a major deal with the French government would fit within the UAE's diversification plans in terms of both energy and security."

President Nicolas Sarkozy was in the UAE in May to open a military base, and some analysts saw the visit as enhancing the French consortium's prospects of winning the contract.

"Sarkozy's visit was clearly to promote the French bid and this is a natural process that France always goes through when it comes to commercial deals," said Christian Koch, director of international relations at the Gulf Research Centre.

"France is already a major partner to UAE in the defence area and I wouldn't be surprised if they are leading in the bid now."


Record oil revenues have driven an economic boom that has strained domestic power grids in the UAE, and to keep the export cash coming in, Abu Dhabi is looking to nuclear energy to help cap fuel burnt for power at home, analysts said.

"Right now the country only burns fossil fuels, bringing in nuclear energy will help it to free that (gas) up for industrial or for international exports," said Raja Kiwan of PFC Energy.

"This is part of the leadership's plans to develop a more well diversified and long-term strategy for energy use throughout the country."

The UAE anticipates its electricity requirements to rise from 15.5 gigawatts (GW) in 2008 to 40 GW in 2020, the Eurasia Group said.

The proposed nuclear plant will likely provide about 3 percent of the power supply to the market in the UAE by 2020 with the start-up of about 1 GW of nuclear power, and by 2025 nuclear power will supply about 15 percent to the market, consultancy Wood Mackenzie said.

The UAE's plans have the blessing of the United States. But even so, atomic development in the emirates could complicate attempts to halt Iran's nuclear work.

The West suspects Tehran is using its programme to build nuclear bombs, while Iran insists it needs nuclear energy to meet domestic generation requirements.

"It will confuse rather than clarify the diplomatic argument with Iran over its nuclear programs," said Simon Henderson, an analyst with The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"If the UAE has civil nuclear plants, and a Saudi official said in August that they should have them as well...why can't Iran?"

Nascent nuclear programmes in the UAE and other countries in the Middle East have fuelled concern of a regional arms race.

The UAE has pledged to buy the fuel it needs for reactors to avoid enriching uranium, the fuel for nuclear power plants, which if further refined can be used to make nuclear bombs.

Taking enrichment out of nuclear programmes reduces the possibility of weapons development.

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H.  Links of Interest

U.S. Moves to End Dependency on Foreign Isotopes
Anna Mehler Paperny
The Globe and Mail
(for personal use only)

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