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Nuclear News - 9/8/2009
PGS Nuclear News, September 8, 2009
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski

A.  Iran
    1. Official: Russia, China Scuttled Bid to Slap More Sanctions on Iran, Barak Ravid, Haaretz (9/8/2009)
    2. UN Watchdog Denies Hiding Info on Iran Nuclear Program, Haaretz (9/7/2009)
    3. Iran Urges UNSC to Disengage from Nuclear Issue, PressTV (9/3/2009)
    4. Ahmadinejad Says Iran Ready for More Sanctions, Hiedeh Farmani and Farhad Pouladi, AFP (9/3/2009)
    5. Six Countries Hold Meet in Germany on Iran Nuclear Program, Associated Press (9/2/2009)
    6. Buying American in Tehran, Jerry Guo, The New York Times (9/1/2009)
    1. South Korea, U.S. Show Unified Front on North's Nuclear Weapons, The Chosun Ilbo (9/7/2009)
    2. North Korea Says Uranium Program Near Completion, Jae-Soon Chang, The Sacramento Bee (9/3/2009)
    3. South Korea Says No Change in North Korea's Nuclear Stance Despite Recent Conciliatory Gestures, Kwang-Tae Kim, Associated Press (9/1/2009)
C.  India
    1. Former Deputy National Security Advisor Wants India to Sign CTBT, Tamil Nadu, Express News Service (9/5/2009)
    2. India Battles with Nuclear Fallout, Ninan Koshy, Asia Times (9/3/2009)
    3. Kakodkar Says No More Nuclear Tests Required, The Hindu (9/3/2009)
D.  Pakistan
    1. US Satisfied with Pakistan's Nuclear Security: Gates, Dawn (9/8/2009)
    2. Should Pakistan Sign the CTBT?, Rabia Akhtar, The Daily Star (9/5/2009)
    3. Pakistan Concerned Over Reports of India's New Nuclear Test: FO, Anne Tang, Xinhua News Agency (9/3/2009)
    4. Pakistan Rapidly Ramping up India-Specific Nuclear Arsenal, Chidanand Rajghatta, The Times of India (9/2/2009)
    5. Pakistan Court Again Puts Curbs on Nuke Scientist, Babar Dogar, Associated Press (9/2/2009)
E.  Non-Proliferation
    1. Russia Says Progress Made on U.S. Nuclear Arms Deal, Guy Faulconbridge,  ,  , Reuters (9/3/2009)
F.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Nuclear Safety Agreement Signed, IOL (9/3/2009)
    2. South Korea to Train Myanmar Technicians on Nuclear Energy, Xinhua News Agency (9/2/2009)
G.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Merkel Favors Extending Nuclear Phase-Out by Up to 15 Years, Brian Parkin, Bloomberg (9/8/2009)
    2. The New Nukes, Rebecca Smith, The Wall Street Journal (9/8/2009)
    3. UAE About to Award $40bn Nuclear Deal, Luke Pachymuthu and Amena Bakr, Arabian Business (9/8/2009)
    4. JAEC to Name Consultant for Nuclear Project Next Month, Taylor Luck, Jordan Times (9/3/2009)
H.  Links of Interest
    1. Brazil Knows Everything There Is to Build an A-Bomb, Brazzil Magazine (9/7/2009)
    2. Building Up the Regime for Verifying the CTBT, Tibor Tóth, Arms Control Association (9/7/2009)
    3. Damascus Deception, Gregory L. Schulte, Foreign Policy (9/2/2009)
    4. Rosatom Signs Inter-Governmental Agreement With Poland For Return Of Spent Nuclear Fuel From Eva And Maria Research Reactors, Energy Business Review (9/1/2009)

A.  Iran

Official: Russia, China Scuttled Bid to Slap More Sanctions on Iran
Barak Ravid
(for personal use only)

“Russia and China have rejected a proposal by the United States, Britain, France and Germany to impose more sanctions on Iran should a dialogue over its nuclear program fail, a senior official in Jerusalem said.

The two nations refused to discuss the possibility of further pressuring the Islamic Republic, according to the official, during high-level six power talks held last week in Germany.

Officials in Jerusalem are concerned by the failure of the meeting and the obstacles put up by Russia and China. Nevertheless, they believe the delay in action on Iran stems from the fact that the powers are waiting for Tehran's official response to the West's offer of dialogue, which it will apparently give this week.

The six powers met last Wednesday in the German city of Frankfurt, in a meeting at which all the countries' most senior officials dealing with the Iran nuclear issue were present.

"Nothing was agreed upon," the Israeli official said. "Russia and China avoided a serious discussion, presented an inflexible stance and set things back one year."

The official added that the U.S., Britain, France and Germany had raised possible scenarios in which Iran would not respond to offers from the West before a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on September 22, or would respond negatively.

According to the official, the difference of opinion led to an absence of a joint statement at the end of the talks. He added that the U.S. and the three European powers chose not to publicize details of the talk or to publicize the dispute and lack of progress.

The four countries in favor of sanctions concluded following the meeting that it would be difficult to advance further sanctions against Iran at the UN Security Council and that there would be a need for independent sanctions from the European Union.

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UN Watchdog Denies Hiding Info on Iran Nuclear Program
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“The UN nuclear watchdog chief on Monday rejected Israeli and French suggestions that he has hidden information about Iran's atomic program as groundless and said they should stop immediately.

Mohamed ElBaradei delivered a rare public comment on the International Atomic Energy Agency's sensitive inspections work in response to allegations he has sat on "evidence" his critics say point to an Iranian drive to "weaponise" uranium enrichment.

An Aug. 28 IAEA report said Western intelligence material implying Tehran secretly combined uranium processing, explosive tests and work to remodel a missile cone in a way that would fit a nuclear warhead was compelling.

It said Iran must clarify the matter instead of just rejecting the intelligence as fabricated, without substantiating its denials. But the report contained no concrete evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons agenda.

In an address opening a meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors, ElBaradei said all information on its Iran investigations released so far had been vetted for substance and the agency would stick to that standard of objectivity.

"I am dismayed by the allegations of some member states, which have been fed to the media, that information has been withheld from the Board. These allegations are politically motivated and totally baseless," he said.

"Such attempts to influence the work of the (IAEA's non-proliferation inspectorate) and undermine its independence and objectivity are in violation of ... the IAEA Statute and should therefore cease forthwith."

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said last week the IAEA had yet to publish annexes of findings on Iran which he said were "important" for an assessment of "possible military dimensions" to Iran's uranium enrichment campaign.

Israel's Foreign Ministry has said the IAEA report "does not reflect" all the agency knew about Iran's "efforts to continue to pursue its military (nuclear) program and its ongoing attempts at concealment and deception".

Israel is Iran's arch-foe believed to harbour the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal. It has been lobbying six world powers to intensify efforts to stop Iran's nuclear activity -- by crippling sanctions or even last-resort military action.

The West suspects Iran is pursuing the means to produce atomic bombs behind the facade of a civilian nuclear program. Iran says it wants only electricity from uranium enrichment.

ElBaradei said Iran last month complied with longstanding IAEA requests for tighter monitoring of its Natanz enrichment plant to help verify no diversions into nuclear weapons work.

"On other issues relevant to Iran's nuclear program, however, there is stalemate," he said, referring to Iran's withholding of design information on planned nuclear sites, the weaponisation probe and Iran's refusal to adopt an IAEA protocol permitting inspections ranging beyond declared nuclear sites.

Iran has spurned UN demands to halt enrichment, drawing three rounds of moderate UN sanctions since 2006.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared on Monday Iran would continue uranium enrichment and never negotiate on its "obvious" rights to a sovereign nuclear energy sector.

U.S. President Barack Obama has given the Islamic Republic until later in September to take up a six-power offer of talks on trade benefits if it shelves enrichment, or face stiffer sanctions, something the major powers are likely to consider in talks at the United Nations later this month.

The UN nuclear watchdog says his agency is locked in a stalemate with Iran over the country's suspect nuclear program.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei has told the
agency's 35-nation board that Iran has not suspended uranium enrichment.

He says Tehran has not cleared up other lingering questions about its atomic activities.

ElBaradei urged Iran on Monday to substantively re-engage with the
Vienna-based IAEA to prove there are no military dimensions to its nuclear program.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful. The United States and key allies contend it is covertly trying to build a bomb.

The IAEA board is taking a hard new look at Iran and Syria this week.

Earlier Monday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran is ready to hold talks with the world powers over global challenges including its nuclear program, but added Iran will never negotiate on its 'obvious' rights and will continue to work on the controversial program.

Ahmadinejad said Monday Iran will initially present its package of proposals to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

He didn't give a timeframe but reports have indicated that Iran may do so this week.

Western powers have given Iran until the end of September to agree to talks on its nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad said setting deadlines for talks is incompatible with the needs of the world today.

U.S. President Barack Obama has given the Islamic Republic until later in September to take up a six powers' offer of talks on trade benefits if it shelves nuclear enrichment, or face harsher sanctions.

"From our view point our nuclear issue is finished," Ahmadinejad told a news conference.

"We will continue our work in the framework of global regulations and in close cooperation with the (UN) International Atomic Energy Agency. We will never negotiate on the Iranian nation's obvious rights," he said.

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Ahmadinejad Says Iran Ready for More Sanctions
Hiedeh Farmani and Farhad Pouladi
(for personal use only)

“A defiant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday Iran was ready for more sanctions and would not bow to pressure in meeting any deadline set by world powers over its nuclear programme.

"No one can impose sanctions on Iran anymore. We welcome sanctions. We have given our proposed package," Ahmadinejad said told reporters after parliament strongly backed 18 of the 21 members of his proposed new cabinet.

He was referring to Tehran's package of proposals that would form the basis of fresh talks with world powers which Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said on Tuesday had been updated.

Jalili on Thursday added that the "package will be presented soon," according to the ISNA news agency.

Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, meanwhile announced that the president will go later this month to the UN General Assembly meeting in New York "to encourage Iranian views in managing the world."

Iran's reaction comes as the United States and five other world powers -- Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany -- pressed the Islamic republic on Wednesday to accept an offer of face-to-face nuclear talks before a key UN meeting in late September.

Senior diplomats from the six world powers, known as P5+1, and the EU, met in Frankfurt on Wednesday urging Iran to accept their offer of direct talks.

Earlier, foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said Iran will not bow to "threat and pressure" in meeting any deadline set by world powers.

"We are a nation which believes in dialogue and interaction, but if they (six world powers) want to set up a deadline using threat and pressure, it is not acceptable," Ghashghavi was quoted on Thursday as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

Iran insists its nuclear work is peaceful but Western countries suspect that Tehran wants atomic weapons. The UN Security Council has slapped three rounds of sanctions on the country, and pressure is growing for more.

"We are a nation which believes in dialogue and interaction, but if they (six world powers) want to set up a deadline using threat and pressure, it is not acceptable," Ghashghavi said.

He said Iran's nuclear issue must be dealt by the International Atomic Energy Agency and not by the UN Security Council.

"They must understand that the Iranian nation and government will not surrender to pressures. It will go ahead with its programme based on international regulations," he was quoted as saying by IRNA.

He also dismissed the threat of further sanctions if Iran failed to talk with global powers.

"We have said this many times that sanctions is a rusty sword which has no effect. There is no reason for retreat, but we are committed to our international obligations," he added.

US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said on Wednesday that world powers had stressed that "a negotiated solution is still open to Iran."

"They expected Iran... to respond to the offer of talks (issued by the six) in April by agreeing to meet before the UN General Assembly meeting," Kelly told reporters.

The General Assembly meets in New York the week of September 21.

Rahim Mashaie told reporters that the president will attend the assembly meeting in New York.

"He will undertake this trip which will be a good occasion to participate in an international meeting and to encourage Iranian views in managing the world," Rahim Mashaie said.

The Frankfurt meeting was held after a UN atomic agency report last week said that Iran had slowed production of enriched uranium -- usable in nuclear power but also weapons -- and had agreed to tighter monitoring of its enrichment plant.

Iran insists its nuclear work is peaceful but Western countries suspect that Tehran wants atomic weapons. The UN Security Council has slapped three rounds of sanctions on the country, and pressure is growing for more.

Washington has also downplayed the IAEA report, saying Iran was still not cooperating fully with the UN inspectors.

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Iran Urges UNSC to Disengage from Nuclear Issue
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“Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency says the UN Security Council must legally disengage from the country's nuclear issue.

In an interview with al-Alam TV late Wednesday, Ali-Asghar Soltaniyeh said, "The UN Security Council's involvement in Iran's nuclear work lacks legal foundation and thus has to stop."

He cited 'political pressure' as the reason behind the engagement, arguing that the involvement had conversely complicated the issue.

Calling the IAEA the only authorized body to verify the country's nuclear work, Soltaniyeh reiterated that Iran would continue cooperating with the agency within the framework of its legally defined 'obligations' to help remove ambiguities surrounding its nuclear work.

He also touched upon Iran's recently updated package of proposals and possible talks with the six major powers.

Iran's nuclear issue can only be examined at the IAEA, Soltaniyeh said, adding that any possible talks with the P5+1 would cover a wide range of issues including global security and nuclear disarmament.

"As Mr. Jalili said before, the range of talks is very broad and covers various global and regional issues including global security, international cooperation, energy safety, disarmament and… nuclear proliferation," Soltaniyeh said.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili told reporters on Tuesday that the Tehran government has updated its proposed nuclear package in view of last year's global developments, including the economic downturn and the Georgian crisis.

Jalili said the Islamic Republic's package of proposals is updated and will be presented to the veto-wielding members of the United Nations Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany (P5+1).

US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said after the Wednesday meeting of the P5+1 in Germany that the six major world powers wanted Iran to respond to the offer of talks by agreeing to meet before the UN General Assembly meeting in late September.

According to Kelly, the major powers 'called on Iran to engage in direct talks based on mutual respect' and 'stressed that a negotiated solution is still open to Iran'.

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Six Countries Hold Meet in Germany on Iran Nuclear Program
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

“Six countries trying to address concerns about Iran's nuclear program met in Germany on Wednesday, but the German government said it has received no official word yet on new proposals that Tehran is pledging to make.

The closed-door meeting took place near Frankfurt and involved political directors - Foreign Ministry officials below ministerial level - from the U.S., France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany.

The six stressed that the way remains open for a negotiated solution, a high-ranking German diplomat said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly.

Referring to comments earlier this week by Iran's top nuclear negotiator, he called on Tehran to agree to talks before the UN General Assembly meets later this month.

On Tuesday, Iran's main nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, told reporters his nation would present new proposals and would open talks in order to ease common concerns in the international arena. He gave no details.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Jens Ploetner acknowledged media reports of Jalili's statement, but said such offers must be formally presented to the governments involved before they could be considered.

"So far we have not received any such communication from the Iranian government through official channels," Ploetner told reporters in Berlin.

"Consequently...from our point of view nothing has changed."

"We hope that the press reports will be followed by something of substance at an official level."

Western nations and others worry Iran is moving toward development of nuclear warheads. But Iranian leaders say the country only seeks reactors to produce electricity.

The German diplomat said the six countries would meet again on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month to review developments.

That would dovetail with U.S. President Barack Obama's deadline for Iran to agree to nuclear talks or risk harsher sanctions. Last year, Tehran was offered economic incentives in exchange for suspending uranium enrichment, but Iran's leaders responded by saying they would never give up control of the production of nuclear fuel.

In its latest report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it has pressed Iran to clarify the purpose of its uranium enrichment activities and reassure the world that it's not trying to build an atomic weapon.

The agency acknowledged, however, that Iran has been producing nuclear fuel at a slower rate and has allowed U.N. inspectors broader access to its main nuclear complex in the southern city of Natanz and to a reactor in Arak.

ElBaradei: Threat of Iran nuclear program is 'hyped'

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency is quoted as saying he thinks that in many ways the threat posed by Iran has been "hyped."

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published by a group of prominent scientists, interviewed International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei.

The magazine quotes ElBaradei as saying there is no concrete evidence that Tehran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program. Despite that, ElBaradei says, "many people are talking about how Iran's nuclear program is the greatest threat to the world."

It quotes the Nobel Peace Prize laureate as saying: "In many ways, I think the threat has been hyped."

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Buying American in Tehran
Jerry Guo
The New York Times
(for personal use only)

“My daily commute involves a walk down this city’s most expensive shopping avenue, Fayyazi — past tony boutiques that sell Calvin Klein jeans, Gucci handbags, Dior perfume and Victoria’s Secret lingerie. Over lunch, my Iranian co-workers debate the merits of BlackBerrys versus iPhones, both found in the backrooms of electronics stores here.

As an American living in Iran’s turbulent capital through this historic summer, I was initially struck by how easy it is to find practically anything from back home, despite supposedly stringent Western trade sanctions. (Since President Ronald Reagan imposed export restrictions in 1987, technically only agricultural and medical products and “informational materials” like movies and magazines can be exported to Iran from the United States.) But as an analyst for a local hedge fund, I’ve also observed how easy it is to conduct substantial business with European investors and how firms like the one where I worked have adjusted to being considered corporate untouchables by the West.

American sanctions against this country are not only obviously ineffective, as my walk along Fayyazi demonstrated, they often have unintended consequences that hurt American interests.

President George W. Bush’s 2005 sanctions on financial assets, meant to crack down on rogue banks facilitating Iran’s nuclear program, had two unforeseen side effects. Freezing the financial assets of these banks increased the price of credit, making it more costly for honest financial firms like ours to operate. It also increased the value of Western goods like TV satellite dishes, cigarettes and alcohol, which the Revolutionary Guards sell on the black market, netting an estimated $12 billion a year.

Today, five members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany are to meet to consider cutting off Iran’s supply of imported gasoline and diesel — which accounts for 40 percent of the country’s total consumption — if the regime does not agree to restart negotiations over its nuclear weapons program by the end of this month. Sadly, though, the only people such sanctions would hurt would be the poor, who would face higher prices for food and bus fare.

Sanctions against foreign investment firms hurt ordinary Iranians, too, because those businesses pour money into companies that make medicine and build roads and housing, providing jobs for the millions of young Iranians who graduate each year with limited job prospects.

Further isolating Iran economically may in fact play right into the hands of Revolutionary Guard hard-liners. Tougher sanctions would rally this fratricidal conservative bloc against an old common enemy and help the Guards’ many businesses, which include smuggling goods through secret landing spots on the coast.

The “targeted” financial sanctions that the United States instituted in 2005 have been ineffective because Iran, despite its reputation as an international pariah, conducts substantial financial transactions with countries as varied as Brazil, France, Italy, South Korea and, of course, China and Russia. In March, when the Treasury Department froze the assets of our company’s main competitor, First Persia Equity Fund, that firm’s reputation took a huge hit. Yet its day-to-day business was not affected, for it has always dealt mainly with European banks and investors that see Iran not as a national security threat but as a money-making opportunity.

Despite this, American officials believe sanctions can be effective, and often cite as evidence the case of Banco Delta Asia, a bank based in Macao that handled much of the North Korean regime’s external transactions. The United States blacklisted the bank, resulting in a freeze on $25 million in accounts linked to North Korea. In 2007, American negotiators used those accounts as a bargaining chip in an effort to persuade Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

But the comparison doesn’t hold up because Iran’s foreign financial networks are far more complex and pervasive than North Korea’s. By my count, at least six state banks that the United States considers to be financiers of Iran’s nuclear or arms programs have operational branches throughout Europe. Bank Sepah — a bank that the Iranian military uses for funneling money to the country’s ballistic missile program — even has an office on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Iranians by now have grown used to the constant saber-rattling. In December 2006, when the United Nations Security Council froze assets of weapons proliferators in Iran, according to calculations made by the fund where I worked, the Tehran Stock Exchange fell 7 percent. After the next round in March 2007, the index fell about 3 percent. By the third round last year, markets didn’t budge. Local shops have adapted by routing their transactions with international merchants through second-tier banks in third-world countries like Pakistan.

Companies that import equipment like electronics have likewise hired middlemen in Dubai. Hewlett-Packard, for example, has officially sold zero computers here. But according to research by the firm I worked for, Iran is the company’s largest market in the Middle East.

By driving large chunks of business outside the regulated economy, sanctions have benefited not only the Revolutionary Guards but also shadowy money lenders called hawalas. The hawalas swap debts without any cash exchanging hands — a particularly good way to minimize the risk of detection when transferring more than $10,000. (Most European banks will happily handle any transaction under this amount.)

Financial sanctions can never really work until Europeans sever their banking ties to Iran. But Iran is one of the Middle East’s largest economies, and the European Union is Iran’s largest trading partner. Some $20 billion worth of goods, exported each year from Europe to Iran, is at stake. Even when European countries have imposed sanctions, they are often not enforced. Last year, Italy simply lifted its sanctions against Bank Sepah.

In any case, at this point sanctions may not be needed. The Iranian government’s brutal crackdown in the wake of the disputed presidential election is becoming its own greatest undoing. YouTube videos of protesters dying in the streets and news reports of prison abuse and show trials do more to isolate the government here than a gas embargo ever could.

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South Korea, U.S. Show Unified Front on North's Nuclear Weapons
The Chosun Ilbo
(for personal use only)

“South Korea and the United States are wrapping up senior diplomatic talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons with a show of unity. They say a six-nation process that has been underway for six years must be preserved.

Senior U.S. Envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, emerged from meetings with South Korean counterparts in Seoul holding firm to Washington's insistence that Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities must be ended.

"We have had very useful conversations here with our South Korean partners," he said, "We are agreed entirely that denuclearization, complete and verifiable, remains our core interest."

Bosworth has been in the South Korean capital since Friday, holding meetings with officials including chief South Korean nuclear negotiator Wi Wung-lac and Unification Minister Hyun In-taek.

Both sides are expressing concern over North Korean statements on Friday that Pyongyang is continuing to extract plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for material useable in weapons.

The North also said it had reached the final stage of a uranium enrichment program, possibly creating a second process by which it can build nuclear arms. Until this year, Pyongyang has denied U.S. accusations it possessed a covert HEU, or highly enriched uranium program, in violation of previous agreements.

Bosworth said the problem will take time to solve. "This is not the first we have heard of HEU," he said. "And it may not be the last."

Bosworth repeated the Obama administration's policy that Washington is willing to talk one-on-one with North Korea, but only within the framework of six-nation talks begun in 2003 aimed at ending all of the North's nuclear capabilities.

North Korea has declared those talks "dead" several times this year, and says it is willing to deal only with the United States as a fellow nuclear weapons nation.

The United States and South Korea say they will be diligent about implementing UN Security Council sanctions imposed after North Korea conducted the second nuclear weapons test in its history in May.

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North Korea Says Uranium Program Near Completion
Jae-Soon Chang
The Sacramento Bee
(for personal use only)

“North Korea said Friday it is on the threshold of mastering a new way of building atomic bombs, pressuring the United States to agree to direct negotiations or see the communist regime become a greater nuclear risk.

Pyongyang's claim to have succeeded in experimental uranium enrichment - an easier way to make nuclear weapons - raises concerns that North Korea may add uranium-based weapons to enlarge its stockpile of atomic bombs made from plutonium.

North Korea also said it is continuing to weaponize plutonium.

The tough talk came as Washington showed no signs of easing pressure on North Korea despite its recent series of conciliatory gestures, including releasing two detained American journalists and reportedly inviting top U.S. envoys to Pyongyang.

"We are prepared for both dialogue and sanctions," the North said in a letter to the U.N. Security Council carried Friday by its official Korean Central News Agency. If some veto-wielding permanent members of the council put "sanctions first before dialogue, we would respond with bolstering our nuclear deterrence first before we meet them in a dialogue," it said.

The Security Council slapped tough sanctions on North Korea for conducting an underground nuclear test in May.

The North said it does not oppose the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but warned it would be left with no choice but to take "yet another strong self-defensive countermeasure" if the standoff continues. It did not elaborate on possible countermeasures.

The letter stressed "the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is closely related with the U.S. nuclear policy towards the DPRK." Those are the initials for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the country's official name.

The letter was sent to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, this month's president of the Security Council. The U.S. mission said it was received Thursday and sent to the 14 other council members that night.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the North's announcement was troubling.

"We are very concerned by these claims that they are moving closer to the weaponization of nuclear materials, but I can't really comment on the veracity, how true these claims are," Kelly said.

Security Council diplomats said they do not anticipate a council meeting on the letter or a new U.N. resolution.

The United States and other members have been focusing on implementation of the council resolution adopted unanimously in June after the North violated a previous resolution by conducting a suspected ballistic missile test and a second nuclear test. The resolution imposed tough new sanctions on the reclusive communist nation's weapons exports and financial dealings, and allows inspections of suspect cargo in ports and on the high seas.

The U.S. has pressed for North Korea to return to six-party talks on its nuclear program. The North pulled out of the negotiations with the U.S., South Korea, China, Russia and Japan after the council criticized its April rocket launch.

Pyongyang said later it won't return to the negotiations and will only talk one-on-one with the Obama administration.

Analysts said the North appears to be trying to add urgency to the standoff to get Washington into one-on-one talks.

"I think this is a 'let's-have-direct talks' message," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies. "The North is saying that the more delayed U.S.-North Korea talks are, the greater its nuclear capabilities will become."

Washington's special envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, is in the region for discussions with China, South Korea and Japan over how to bring Pyongyang back to six-nation talks that the North has boycotted since earlier this year.

South Korean media reported last week the North invited Bosworth and chief U.S. nuclear negotiator Sung Kim to visit Pyongyang for their first nuclear talks since President Barack Obama took office. Washington has said it has no plan to send them.

Bosworth said Friday any nuclear development in North Korea was a matter of concern.

"We confirm the necessity to maintain a coordinated position and the need for a complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," he said in Beijing. He also said the U.S. is willing to have direct talks with Pyongyang, but only within the framework of the six-nation disarmament talks.

The letter from North Korea's U.N. Ambassador Sin Son Ho, obtained by the Associated Press, accused the Security Council of operating a double-standard and said it should apologize rather than impose sanctions.

If the Security Council had not made an issue of North Korea's "peaceful satellite launch in the same way as it kept silent over the satellite launch conducted by South Korea on Aug. 25, 2009, it would not have compelled the DPRK to take strong counteraction such as its second nuclear test," the letter said.

North Korea said it was "fair and square" that it took "self-defensive steps" against the threats aimed at depriving the country "of its rights to peaceful economic construction."

North Korea has long sought direct negotiations with Washington. It says it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself against a threat from the U.S., which has 28,500 troops based in South Korea. North and South Korea technically remain at war because their three-year Korean War ended in 1953 with a truce, not a peace treaty.

The U.S. had long suspected the North also had a covert uranium enrichment program, which would give it a second source of nuclear material. North Korea for years denied the claim but revealed in June it was prepared to start enriching uranium.

Verifying the North's claim on uranium enrichment won't be easy, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae said, adding it could be a negotiating tactic.

Uranium can be enriched in relatively inconspicuous, underground factories, and could provide North Korea with an easier way to build nuclear bombs, experts say. Uranium-based bombs may also work without requiring test explosions like the two carried out by North Korea this May and in 2006 for plutonium-based weapons.

The North's announcement suggests the regime has made progress in research and development in its uranium program in a small pilot factory, said Lee Choon-geun of South Korea's state-funded Science and Technology Policy Institute. Still, he said it could take at least five years to build a uranium-based bomb.

The U.S., China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have tried for years to persuade North Korea to dismantle its plutonium-based nuclear program - which experts say has yielded enough weaponized plutonium for at least half a dozen bombs - in exchange for much-needed aid.

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South Korea Says No Change in North Korea's Nuclear Stance Despite Recent Conciliatory Gestures
Kwang-Tae Kim
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

“A top South Korean official said Wednesday that North Korea's recent conciliatory gestures do not represent any fundamental changes, saying the communist country is showing no signs of ending its nuclear weapons program.

In April, North Korea quit the six-nation talks - involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan - aimed at ending its nuclear program. In another defiant move, North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in May, drawing international condemnation and new U.N. sanctions.

But the North has been reaching out to Seoul and Washington in recent weeks by freeing two American journalists and a South Korean worker detained for four months. The North also released four South Korean fishermen seized in late July after their boat strayed into northern waters.

The two Koreas also have restored regular traffic for their joint industrial park in the North and agreed to hold a new round of family reunions in later this month, signs of easing tensions.

However, Unification Minister Hyun In-taek told ruling party lawmakers Wednesday that the North's recent overtures are "just tactical changes because the North has neither declared its return to the six-nation talks nor changed its position" on its nuclear program.

Hyun is South Korea's point person on the North.

The North views its nuclear program as a security guarantee against what it claims is U.S. hostility and its alleged plans to attack against Pyongyang. The North has recently called for one-on-one negotiations with Washington on the nuclear program. The U.S. has said it is willing to hold direct talks with Pyongyang - but only on the sidelines of the disarmament talks.

North Korea dispatched a Foreign Ministry delegation to China on Tuesday, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said, two weeks after Chinese nuclear envoy Wu Dawei visited Pyongyang. It was not immediately clear whether the delegation would discuss the nuclear issue.

North Korea over has protested the hardline policies of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who wants to hold the North accountable for its nuclear disarmament commitments in return for aid to the impoverished neighbour.

However, he has recently stressed Seoul's commitment to helping North Korea if the North shows willingness to change. Lee made the comments to a North Korean delegation that came to Seoul last month to mourn the death of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported, citing an unidentified senior ruling party official.

Other newspapers also carried similar reports.

The U.S. fought with South Korea in the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice, leaving the North and South still technically at war.

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C.  India

Former Deputy National Security Advisor Wants India to Sign CTBT
Tamil Nadu
Express News Service
(for personal use only)

“India must sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and push other nations to sign and ratify it said former deputy national security advisor and chairman of the joint intelligence committee Satish Chandra, on Friday.

With the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference looming in 2010, the debate over signing CTBT has cropped up again, with some experts decrying the Pokhran II thermonuclear test results and calling for more tests.

Speaking at a discussion on ‘Global Nuclear Disarmament: Opportunities and Challenges’ organized by the Centre for Security Analysis and Delhi Policy Group on Friday, Chandra said, after signing the nuclear deal with United States, India’s option to test another nuclear bomb has gone and it is in the country’s interest if it pushes for other countries as well to sign the CTBT. India is one of the 14 countries that have not signed the treaty and it has so far maintained that it will not sign the CTBT in its present form.

Lt Gen V R Raghavan, advisor and research consultant to the international commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, dismissed the controversy surrounding Pokharan II and said India has a weapon and it is more than enough to safeguard our national interest.

“Tests alone don’t solve security problems. We have a weapon and a delivery mechanism. And it is more than enough to safeguard our interests,” said Raghavan.

In a similar vein disarmament was also discussed as one of the reasons to sign the CTBT. “India should push for CTBT and it is in India’s interest if the treaty comes through so that no other state can undergo nuclear tests,” said Chandra.

“Disarmament is not a simple process as no country would like to be in a disadvantageous position. International guarantees are required for disarmament. Although the number of nuclear warheads have come down from 70 thousand to about 26 thousand, it is far from enough,” he said Dr Rajesh Rajagopalan, professor of international studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University agreed with these views saying, “Smaller the country possessing nuclear weapons, greater the problem in going for nuclear disarmament.” He added that the seriousness of Obama administration in pursuing the ratification of the CTBT will only be known during the 2010 NPT review conference.

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India Battles with Nuclear Fallout
Ninan Koshy
Asia Times
(for personal use only)

“The controversy ignited by a leading scientist who participated in India's nuclear tests in 1998 has shaken political and scientific circles in India.

By describing the tests as a "fizzle", K Santhanam has not only challenged the official claims about the tests but also raised critical questions about India's nuclear doctrine, its voluntary moratorium on tests, its adherence to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) [1] and the much-trumpeted civilian nuclear deal with the United States.

Santhanam said on August 26 that "based on the seismic measurements and also the opinion from experts there was a much lower yield in the thermonuclear device test" conducted at Pokhran in May 1998. In nuclear parlance, a test is described as a fizzle when it fails to meet the desired yield. Affirming that India would need more tests, Santhanam cautioned against India being pressurized into signing the CTBT.

Santhanam's statement has divided the scientific community and made the political establishment nervous. But it's not an entirely new development; the division in the scientific community in India and abroad on the results of the 1998 tests started within a week after they were conducted.

The official claim was that the thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb had achieved a yield of 43 kilotons and that "it had been purposely kept at this relatively low yield to prevent damage to neighboring villages and radiation venting". At the first press conference after the tests, the leading scientists of the team, including R Chidambaram, head of the Atomic Energy Agency (AEA) and APJ Abdul Kalam, director general of the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), asserted that weaponization was complete.

One of those present at that press meet was K Santhanam, then a senior official of the DRDO who had played a leading role in coordinating the tests.

These claims were challenged both in India and abroad. In India, though the scientific community generally took the official line, serious doubts were expressed by some leading scientists, including PK Iyengar, former director of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Those who followed the technical debate in the international nuclear weapons community at that time will recall that foreign analysts had challenged India's claims and agreed, based on seismographic studies, that the yield of the thermonuclear device was in the range of 12 to 25 kt.

Some suggested that Shakti I was a "boosted fission" weapon, not a thermonuclear device. According to the website of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), "Based on seismic data, the US government and independent experts estimated the yield of so-called thermonuclear test in the range of 12-25 kilotons, as opposed to the 43 kt claimed by India. The lower yield raised skepticism about India's claim to have detonated a thermonuclear device."

In November 1998, Nucleonics Week, the international nuclear industry's trade journal, reported that scientists at the Z division of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California - an industry watchdog responsible for making estimates of progress in foreign nuclear weapons programs based on classified data - had concluded that the second stage of a two-stage Indian hydrogen bomb device failed to ignite as planned.

Chidambaram and others repeated their claims and even expanded them. During a two-hour briefing for the Indian Science Writers' Association in February 1999, Chidambaram made a series of claims about the "perfect" character of India's tests and the country's "high technological threshold". He said that the Indian scientists had achieved a "perfect three", with the tests: mastering the optimum emplacement design for the nuclear device; getting specific yield calculations and ensuring zero radioactive contamination.

It is this claim of perfection that is under serious challenge and generally believed to be dubious, if not hollow. Prominent scientists such as A Gopalkrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and P K Iyengar are in agreement with the criticism of Santhanam and point out that the single thermonuclear device India tested in 1998 did not function at all as per design and did not produce anything near the expected design yield.

There was something wrong with the design or prediction method, they argue, and therefore a re-examination of these aspects to decide whether further tests are necessary to obtain a "perfect" design approach is called for.

For Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the controversy should have ended with what he believed to be the final verdict given by former president APJ Abdul Kalam. Kalam refuted the claims of Santhanam, who was his junior in the DRDO at the time of the tests.

The credentials of Kalam, then considered the highest authority on the subject, are questioned by many scientists, including Homi Sethna, another former chairman of the AEC, who was the guiding force behind India's first nuclear test in 1974.

The most profound statement made by Kalam, who later became president of India, immediately after the tests was not scientific - but political. He said how a nuclear-armed India "will be free of foreign invasions which have constantly remolded the ancient Hindu civilization". Those who believe that this was the statement - more than the bomb itself - that endeared Kalam to the leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruling at that time, may have a valid point. Sethna has suggested that Kalam's statement refuting Santhanam was that of a politician.

The fact that the controversy disturbed the political establishment came through in comments made by India's National Security Adviser M K Narayanan in an interview to a national daily. While putting on a brave face, Narayanan dismissed Santhanam as a "bit of a maverick" instead of facing the many issues raised by the statement.

He said Western analysts had questioned the Pokhran II tests because "they don't want to recognize that we are a nuclear weapon power, particularly that we are capable of a fusion device". Narayanan should know. He knows how much time and energy had to be spent to get India a certificate from president George W Bush recognizing it as a de facto nuclear weapon state of good conduct.

Yet another claim made by Chidambaram and others at the time of the tests was that India could develop simulation technology. Their statement on May 16 referred to this and other sub-critical experiments. It was apparently the confidence in developing simulation technology that also made them claim that no further tests were necessary. This claim also was disputed at that time. France, in spite of almost 200 tests in the Pacific, could not develop simulation technology.

To ensure support for the CTBT, the US made secret arrangements with France to provide it technical assistance as well as cooperation with US nuclear weapon laboratories to enhance computer simulation to maintain the reliability of nuclear weapons. There have been reports that soon after the tests, India approached the US for similar assistance. This was a non-starter in Washington as providing such assistance to a non-nuclear weapon state would be a violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Scientists who now say that the 1998 tests failed are clearly stating that the establishment of a validated computer simulation model cannot be done without more weapons tests.

The nuclear tests were carried out in a doctrinal vacuum. There was neither a doctrine that guided the tests nor a consensus after the tests as to what India's nuclear doctrine should be. On August 4, 1998, prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee stated in parliament, "We have now declared our nuclear doctrine." He then said that India's nuclear doctrine would be "no first use based on minimum deterrence".

One year later, on the eve of elections to parliament, the government released the Draft Nuclear Doctrine proposed by the newly formed National Security Advisory Board. Nothing much was heard of this precious document for a long time, though it was known later that it was disowned by foreign minister Jaswant Singh as "unofficial" in his negotiations with Strobe Talbott, former US deputy secretary of state.

After virtual silence on the nuclear doctrine for a long time, a government press release on January 4, 2003, "shared with the public" the Cabinet Committee on Security's review of the operationalization of India's nuclear doctrine.

It spoke of "building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrent", "a position of no first use" and "a secondike capability that will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage in the event of a nuclear attack". The doctrine says, "The fundamental purpose of Indian nuclear weapons is to deter the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons by any state or entity against India and its forces anywhere." (Emphasis added).

What will be the minimum deterrent required for credible secondike capability and for punitive retaliation against any state or entity which could include the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?

More importantly, the doctrine speaks about attacks "against India and its forces anywhere". Those who advocate more nuclear tests see a mismatch between the doctrine and weaponization. The question of whether India needs an array of thermonuclear weapons for deterrence also is relevant. So far, not even a limited discussion on requirements for deterrence has been attempted in the public domain.

Santhanam has made it clear that the purpose of his statement was to prevent the Indian government from being railroaded into signing the CTBT as the Indian government will be under increasing pressure from the Barack Obama administration. Until the time of the nuclear tests India had opposed the CTBT.

In the statement on India's nuclear policy presented to parliament on May 27, 1998, it was said that the government had announced India's desire to observe a voluntary moratorium and refrain from conducting underground nuclear explosions.

It also signaled a willingness to "move towards a de jure finalization of the declaration" thus meeting the basic obligations of the CTBT. Within hours of the test, Brajesh Mishra, the prime minister's principal secretary, said that India was ready to adhere to certain provisions in the CTBT. Brajesh added, "This cannot be done in a vacuum."

What India wanted from the US were concessions, especially in the matter of high technology and lifting of sanctions. Talbott wrote later in his book Engaging India, "India was prepared to find a modus vivendi with the US and with the global nuclear order through participation in a number of arms control agreements. India reiterated its 'de facto adherence to the spirit of the CTBT'. In exchange of lifting of sanctions, India might take the next steps, de jure formalization of our position and acceptance of the letter of the treaty."

India had come almost to the point of signing the CTBT when the US Senate refused to ratify it. India had to wait until the George W Bush administration left office to make a deal with the US. There is more than implicit acceptance of the CTBT by India in the nuclear deal. The voluntary moratorium of India has been turned into a virtual ban on future tests and thus a condition of the civilian nuclear agreement with the US.

The Obama administration is keen to get the CTBT ratified by the senate. Once it is done, there will be much pressure, not only from the US but also from member states of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group, on India to sign the treaty.

Although India's official position is that it can conduct tests, in practice it is not allowed to do so. If India conducts tests, the nuclear agreement will be terminated by the US; and if it does so after the deal is implemented, there will be enormous loss for India. Therefore, those who ask for more tests argue this is the best time to do it.

The debate now is between those who make a case for further tests to have a "credible nuclear deterrent" and an officialdom hamstrung by the nuclear deal with the US. The voice of those who are gravely concerned about the nuclear arms race in the volatile sub-continent is yet to be heard.

1. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 10, 1996, but it has not yet entered into force.

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Kakodkar Says No More Nuclear Tests Required
The Hindu
(for personal use only)

““India does not need to carry any more nuclear tests,” Atomic Energy Commission chief Anil Kakodkar said here on Wednesday in the backdrop of the controversy over whether the 1998 Pokhran thermonuclear explosion was a fizzle.

Joining issue with an ex-Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) scientist K. Santhanam who claimed that Pokhran-II was not a full success and that a few more nuclear tests were required, Dr. Kakodkar said the country had strong simulation capability and additional tests were not required.

“We have enough data”

“We have enough data. We have comprehensive simulation capability and therefore there is no need for any more tests,” Dr. Kakodkar told PTI days after Mr. Santhanam ignited a controversy that Pokhran-II was a fizzle since the thermonuclear explosion did not give the desired yield. “We are very confident about the simulation capability.”

Already validated

Indian nuclear scientists had already validated and benchmarked the validated tool of the three-dimensional simulation for earth motion and displacement data collected following Pokhran II tests in 1998, he said.

“There is no need for a series of tests to validate the yield since the tool and also observations are available,” he said, adding that it was published in the international journal Nuclear Technology in 2006 four years after its communication from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).

Measurements done

Dr. Kakodkar said BARC scientists had done the measurements meticulously and large number of diverse instrumentations was used using four independent measurements — seismic, large tele-seismic, accurate measurements at Gauribidinur seismic measurement site; radiochemical samples estimation done by different groups; specific evidence of fusion reaction and 3-dimensional simulation of motion of earth and displacement.

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D.  Pakistan

US Satisfied with Pakistan's Nuclear Security: Gates
(for personal use only)

“The United States is satisfied with the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview aired Monday, calling the arrangements in place ‘sufficient and adequate.’

‘I'm quite comfortable that the security arrangements for the Pakistani nuclear capabilities are sufficient and adequate,’ Gates said in an interview with Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite news channel, according to a transcript.

He said that assessment was ‘based both on our own understanding of the security arrangements that the Pakistanis have for their weapons and their capabilities, their laboratories and so on. But also the insurances we have been given by the Pakistanis.’

Gates also praised the performance of both Pakistan's military and civilian government over the past 16 months, saying it had exceeded Washington's expectations.

He said a political consensus had formed on the need to take on extremists in the Swat valley and the tribal areas, and that the government had been effective in its handling of refugees in the aftermath of the military operations against the Pakistani Taliban.

‘We are very impressed by that and we are prepared to be helpful, to help the Pakistanis in any way we can,’ he said.

Asked about reports that the Pakistani intelligence supported Taliban groups in their war against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gates acknowledged that those relationships go back to the campaign against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

However now ‘I believe we are in the same trench, working for the same goal,’ he said

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Should Pakistan Sign the CTBT?
Rabia Akhtar
The Daily Star
(for personal use only)

“After South Asian nuclearization in 1998, the P-5 and the international community strongly condemned nuclear testing by both India and Pakistan and urged both states to immediately sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). In an initial reaction to the pressures thus generated on Pakistan, the then Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed was quoted as claiming that Pakistan “would not be coerced into signing CTBT in disregard to its vital security interests.” However, in an attempt to deal with the political backlash of nuclear testing in the form of sanctions by the international community, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while addressing the 53rd session of the United Nations General Assembly stated that, “Pakistan has consistently supported the conclusion of a CTBT for over 30 years…In a nuclearized South Asia, CTBT would have relevance if Pakistan and India are both parties to the Treaty. However, Pakistan's adherence to the Treaty will take place only in conditions free from coercion or pressure.”

However, the CTBT drafted for signature in 1996 was rejected by US Senate in 1999. In a speech the then US Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, summed up the concerns of many states adequately when she said, “If we do not accept the rules we insist that others follow, others will not follow them either. The result will be a steady weakening of nuclear controls." The US Senate's rejection of the CTBT brought much shame to the US which until then was the biggest proponent of arms control and disarmament. The rejection created divergent views on the credibility of the treaty itself, thus making it relatively easier for states like Pakistan to take a firm position. Following the US Senate's failure to ratify CTBT, an interesting editorial appeared in Asia Times which reinforced views on the path to be followed, urging both India and Pakistan not to sign the CTBT and continue with the development of credible nuclear deterrents and nuclear command and control structures reiterating that “this will add rather than detract from stability and security on the sub-continent. And there would be nothing whatsoever wrong with both countries testing their arsenals and delivery systems in the future in the framework of timely notification.”

Pakistan's position on the CTBT remains very clear that Pakistan will not be the first to resume testing in the region since it was not the one to start it in the first place. This notwithstanding, the dynamics in South Asia at play today are different from those a decade earlier when both India and Pakistan were new nuclear states. With the signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal, the determinants and prospects of Pakistan's signing the CTBT have become more difficult on four broad levels. First, India has made it absolutely clear that it wants to retain the option of nuclear testing. This alone leaves no room for further speculation that Pakistan's signing of CTBT would be detrimental to its national interest. Post Indo-US nuclear deal, the Indian stance on CTBT was reiterated quite categorically when it was stated that, “New Delhi would not sign the CTBT even it was ratified by other countries.”

Second, the recent launch of Indian nuclear submarine Arihant serves as a significant indictor of how Pakistan should respond to regional and international arms control and disarmament arrangements. The Arihant will be armed with ballistic missiles thus having the potential to provide India with the second strike credibility that it requires for the credibility of its nuclear deterrent. Although India has time and again stated that its second strike capability will not be Pak-centric, Pakistan cannot be content with mere rhetoric, it needs to look beyond semantics.

Third, the Indian Cold Start doctrine has a negative impact on strategic stability in South Asia because it aims to sabotage the credibility of Pakistan's nuclear deterrence under the cover of a conventional doctrine.

Fourth, coupled with an offensive conventional military doctrine, Indian ambitions for the acquisition of a missile defense shield push Pakistan towards a recurring security dilemma. Thus it is useful and meaningful for Pakistan to maintain a pragmatic Indo-centric position on CTBT instead of just trying to be the good guy.

Pakistan should to be ready for any eventuality in the region given its strategic dynamics with India and also because of the presence of extra regional forces which make South Asia highly vulnerable and any arms control agreement inoperable. Therefore Pakistan should retain the option of testing of its nuclear arsenal to maintain and enhance the credibility of its deterrence.

Given the current scenario, Pakistan should also realize that ten years later it will be completing the second decade of nuclearization, the world might still be idealizing complete nuclear disarmament and might still be negotiating arms control arrangements like the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). Therefore it is time to discard the symbolic significance of signing the CTBT for the comfort of the international community and analyze the practicality of it. For Pakistan, it would be suicidal to sign the CTBT, the compulsions of its immediate strategic environment suggest as much.

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Pakistan Concerned Over Reports of India's New Nuclear Test: FO
Anne Tang
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

“Pakistan is concerned on reports that India is again preparing for a new nuclear test, the Foreign Office said on Thursday.

Pakistani Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit made the remarks at his weekly news briefing.

The spokesman said there are reports that India has a new nuclear test in the works, adding these reports are rather embarrassing to Pakistan. He said Pakistan is however steadfast on its policy of maintaining minimum defense deterrence and does not want arms race in the region.

A senior Indian scientist, K. Santanam, had recently revealed that the country's 1998 test had not been as successful as previously claimed. But leading Pakistani physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy reportedly said that the admission was not an act of coming clear but an attempt by India's nuclear establishment to press the case for new tests.

The recent United States statements on nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan and nuclear proliferation are quite baseless, Basit said, adding that Pakistan like any other responsible country is full-fledged alive to its responsibility.

Expressing concern over the release of Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday that they were monitoring the situation very closely because U.S. still believed that Abdul Qadeer Khan poses a threat of nuclear proliferation.

A Pakistani court last week removed all restrictions on the movement of the father of the country's nuclear program Abdul Qadeer Khan and allowed him to go anywhere as he wants. But the court restored the security protocol of the renowned nuclear scientist Wednesday after hearing intra-court appeal on the pleading by the Pakistani federal government. The government said that the restrictions are necessary for his own safety.

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Pakistan Court Again Puts Curbs on Nuke Scientist
Babar Dogar
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

“A Pakistani court on Wednesday suspended an earlier order lifting restrictions on the movement of nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who is alleged to have spread nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

Deputy Attorney General Mohammed Amir Rehman said a two-member panel of the Lahore High Court issued the interim ruling following an appeal from the Pakistan government. The court has scheduled another hearing for Sept. 15, he said.

A judge of the Lahore High Court issued an interim order last week asking the government and police to lift all restrictions on Khan's movement. That ruling was in response to a petition by Khan, and raised concern among U.S. officials, who consider him a proliferation risk.

Khan was detained in December 2003 and admitted on television in early 2004 to sole responsibility for operating a network that spread nuclear weapons technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya. He has since retracted that statement.

He was pardoned by then President Pervez Musharraf, but immediately placed under de facto house arrest.

In February, the Islamabad High Court announced he was a "free citizen," subject to a confidential accord struck with the government. Since then, he has had to tell authorities of his travel plans, get permission for guests to visit him at home, and intelligence agents and security officials have maintained a heavy presence outside his house, prompting him to launch the petition.

The government says the restrictions are necessary for his own safety.

Khan's lawyer Ali Zafar said he heard about Wednesday's court order through the media, but had no details.

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Pakistan Rapidly Ramping up India-Specific Nuclear Arsenal
Chidanand Rajghatta
The Times of India
(for personal use only)

“Pakistan's rapidly ramped up nuclear arsenal is now 70-90 strong with increasingly sophisticated bomb designs and smart delivery

systems aimed primarily at India, two US researchers have said, even as Islamabad is running from pillar to post seeking foreign aid to stem an economic collapse.

In a paper written for the Bulletin for Atomic Scientists, Robert Norris of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists say Pakistan is "busily enhancing its capabilities across the board," with new nuclear-capable ballistic missiles being readied for deployment, and two nuclear capable cruise missiles under development.

Two new plutonium production reactors and a second chemical separation facility also are under construction.

The paper essentially upgrades Pakistan's nuclear arsenal both quantitatively (from 60 weapons last year to 70-90 now) and qualitatively -- from uranium-base to being plutonium-centric.

"The fact that they are preparing nuclear-capable cruise missiles suggests their scientists have been able to miniaturize nuclear warheads by using plutonium," Kristensen told ToI. "They are shifting their nuclear base from uranium to a sense, they are turning a chapter."

Plutonium-based warheads are lighter and easier to handle, a better fit for nimble cruise missiles. India's nuclear arsenal is largely plutonium-based.

Kristensen said Pakistan's weapons and deliver-systems can be assumed to be India-specific because Islamabad "has not declared any other adversary." The United States has been expressing concern to Pakistan about its accelerated program and urging it hold back, but there does not appear to be any concerted effort from Washington to influence Pakistan's decisions, he added.

Pakistan is an economically desperate situation and running from pillar to post for foreign aid, including beseeching the so-called Friends of Democratic Pakistan on a monthly basis for financial support to stave off a collapse. But that does not seem to have impacted the multi-billion dollar ramping up of its nuclear arsenal in the absence of any US effort to leverage the economic handle it has on Islamabad.

Islamabad, on its part, uses its role as a so-called ally in the war against extremists to keep expanding its nuclear program by implicitly threatening to cease helping the US – a nightmare scenario for Washington since most of teh supplies to its forces in Afghanistan goes through Pakistan.

"Both countries have a trump card to play. We have not heard any any descriptions about how they play it out," Kristensen said.

In their paper, Kristensen and Norris say Pakistan is improving its weapon designs, moving beyond its first-generation nuclear weapons that relied on Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU). After pursuing plutonium-based designs for more than a decade, Islamabad appears to have mastered the technology.

Central to that effort, the paper says, is the 40–50-megawatt heavy water Khushab plutonium production reactor, which was completed in 1998 and is located at Joharabad in the Khushab district of Punjab. Six surface-to-air missile batteries surround the site to protect against air strikes. Norris and Kristensen say as a sign of its confidence in its plutonium designs, Pakistan is building two additional heavy water reactors at the Khushab site, which will more than triple the country's plutonium production.

Explaining the changing nature of the Pak arsenal, they say all of these efforts suggest that Pakistan is preparing to increase and enhance its nuclear forces. In particular, the new facilities provide the Pakistani military with several options: fabricating weapons that use plutonium cores; mixing plutonium with HEU to make composite cores; and/or using tritium to "boost" warheads' yield.

Without referencing the recent controversy in India about the success or otherwise of its thermo-nuclear test in 1998 (now dubbed the sizzle vs fizzle debate), the paper says "absent a successful full-scale thermonuclear test (by Pakistan), it is premature to suggest that Pakistan is producing two-stage thermonuclear weapons" – in other words, it has yet to acquire a Hydrogen Bomb.

But, they say, the types of facilities under construction suggest that Pakistan has decided to supplement and perhaps replace its heavy uranium-based weapons with smaller, lighter plutonium-based designs that could be delivered further by ballistic missiles than its current warheads and that could be used in cruise missiles.

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E.  Non-Proliferation

Russia Says Progress Made on U.S. Nuclear Arms Deal
Guy Faulconbridge,  , 
(for personal use only)

“Russia and the United States have made progress on reaching a new deal to cut vast Cold War arsenals of nuclear weapons, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying on Thursday by local news agencies.

President Barack Obama and Kremlin chief Dmitry Medvedev agreed in July the outlines of a preliminary deal to replace the landmark 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1) but negotiators are facing a host of technical issues in talks.

Lavrov said negotiators had made progress on difficult issues and would report to both presidents when they meet on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh later this month.

"We will have something to report by Pittsburgh," Lavrov was quoted as saying. Lavrov said he was confident that a replacement to the START treaty would be found before it expires in December.

Finding agreement on a replacement for START-1, signed by George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev just months before the close of the Cold War, is seen by both sides as a way to "reset" relations after the friction of recent years.

But many hurdles still remain before a deal can be inked, including U.S. plans to deploy missile defense units in Europe.

"We need to resolve many, rather difficult questions involving the security of Russia and the United States," Lavrov was quoted as saying.

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F.  Nuclear Cooperation

Nuclear Safety Agreement Signed
(for personal use only)

“The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) of South Africa have agreed to work together on a nuclear accident programme, the US embassy said on Thursday.

The agreement would allow the NNR to participate in the NRC Co-operative Severe Accident Research Programme.

The programme would facilitate the exchange of information and improve the US's and South Africa's knowledge of severe accident research.

The agreement would remain in effect for five years.

The NRC and the NNR have had a co-operative relationship on nuclear safety and security since 1994.

The NRC had committed provide assistance to South Africa for training and capacity building in nuclear safety and security.

The NRC was created as an independent agency by the US Congress in 1974 to enable the nation to safely use radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while ensuring that people and the environment were protected.

The NRC regulates commercial nuclear power plants and other uses of nuclear materials, such as in nuclear medicine, through licensing, inspection and enforcement of its requirements.

The NRC conducts regulatory research in partnership with nuclear safety agencies and institutes in more than 20 countries.

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South Korea to Train Myanmar Technicians on Nuclear Energy
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

“South Korea will provide training on nuclear energy to officials and technicians from Myanmar along with other member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the local weekly Myanmar Times reported Wednesday.

It was offered by the South Korean government when ASEAN+3 energy ministers met recently in Myanmar's second largest city of Mandalay, South Korean embassy here was quoted as disclosing.

The East Asian country agreed to the provision of technical know-how on nuclear power stations in order to reduce the burning of fossil fuels and to help protect the environment.

Under a three-year training program which lasts from 2009 to 2011, South Korea will train a total of 150 technicians and senior government officials from ASEAN countries including Myanmar, the report added.

The East Asian energy ministers, at a series of meetings with counterparts from ASEAN nations held in Mandalay, called for deeper and closer regional energy cooperation and integration, and regional actions to build a secure, stable and sustainable energy future.

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G.  Nuclear Energy

Merkel Favors Extending Nuclear Phase-Out by Up to 15 Years
Brian Parkin
(for personal use only)

“Chancellor Angela Merkel said she favors extending Germany’s planned nuclear phase-out by up to 15 years as the government tries to keep power costs down in pushing to expand generation from renewable sources.

In a town-hall-style meeting in Cologne three weeks before elections, Merkel told voters that prolonging the phase-out that’s planned for 2020 is “justifiable” to avert having to import power from nuclear sources in other European Union states. Utilities including RWE AG and E.ON AG have pressured the government to let them keep nuclear plants running longer.

“I would regard an extension of 10 to 15 years as justifiable,” she said in answering concerns posed by a studio guest over the safety of nuclear plants. “That presumes we can ascertain in 2010 and 2011 that the plants are safe.” Germany runs 17 nuclear plants that are due to come off the power grid in steps by 2020 or 2021.

With surveys showing that a majority of Germans reject an extended phase-out, Merkel and her Christian Democrat party have kept the issue of nuclear energy from taking a prominent role in the election campaign. Still, the CDU said in a Sept. 1 energy- policy manifesto that atomic power will remain “for the time being an indispensable component of a balanced energy mix.”

Merkel today reiterated her plan to seek a coalition with the Free Democrats after the Sept. 27 election. The alliance with the junior partners who also back an extended phase-out would end her three-year alliance with the Social Democrats, the architects of legislation passed in 2002 to close the plants.


About 32 percent of Germans favor speeding up the phase-out while 31 percent want the government to stick to its timetable for closure, a July 12 survey published by polling company Forsa showed. Another 16 percent backed prolonging the plants’ life- cycle for an unspecified period, while 17 percent said Germany should avoid a phase-out altogether.

Merkel’s CDU has rejected the path of Finland and France in planning new nuclear plants, according to the party’s Sept. 1 statement.

Environment groups including Greenpeace Germany have criticized Merkel’s proposal to the nuclear plants’ life-cycle. The German taxpayer may subsidize the nuclear industry in direct and indirect aid by about 92.5 billion euros between 2008 and the planned phase-out, Greenpeace claimed on Sept. 3.

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The New Nukes
Rebecca Smith
The Wall Street Journal
(for personal use only)

“If there ever were a time that seemed ripe for nuclear energy, it's now.

For the first time in decades, popular opinion is on the industry's side. A majority of Americans thinks nuclear power, which emits virtually no carbon dioxide, is a safe and effective way to battle climate change, according to recent polls. At the same time, legislators are showing renewed interest in nuclear as they hunt for ways to slash greenhouse-gas emissions.

The industry is seizing this chance to move out of the shadow of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and show that it has solved the three big problems that have long dogged it: cost, safety and waste. Researchers are working on reactors that they claim are simpler, cheaper in certain respects, and more efficient than the last generation of plants.

Some designs try to reduce the chance of accidents by automating safety features and minimizing the amount of hardware needed to shut down the reactor in an emergency. Others cut costs by using standardized parts that can be built in big chunks and then shipped to the site. Some squeeze more power out of uranium, reducing the amount of waste produced, while others wring even more energy out of spent fuel.

"Times are exciting for nuclear," says Ronaldo Szilard, director of nuclear science and engineering at the Idaho National Lab, a part of the U.S. Energy Department. "There are lots of options being explored."

But nuclear is far from a sure thing. Yes, the plants of tomorrow—some of which could enter construction as soon as 2012—go at least part way toward solving some of the problems of yesterday. But they are still more expensive than fossil-fuel plants, and they still generate waste that must be stored safely somewhere.

And while the industry is winning converts, plenty of powerful enemies remain. Many scientists and environmentalists still distrust nuclear power in any form, arguing that it can never escape its cost, safety and waste problems. What's more, critics say, trying to solve the problems in one area, such as safety, inevitably lead to more problems in another area, such as costs.

Here's a closer look at how the industry says it's addressing its longstanding problems—and where skeptics say nuclear energy is still coming up short.

For many people, talk of nuclear power conjures up memories of two accidents: the partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania in 1979 and the more extensive power surge that destroyed the reactor at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986.

As a whole, though, the U.S. nuclear industry has a solid safety record, and the productivity of plants has grown dramatically in the past decade. The next generation of reactors—so-called Generation III units—is intended to take everything that's been learned about safe operations and do it even better. Generation III units are the reactors of choice for most of the 34 nations that already have nuclear plants in operation. (China still is building a few Gen II units.)

"A common theme of future reactors is to make them simpler so there are fewer systems to monitor and fewer systems that could fail," says Revis James, director of the Energy Technology Assessment Center at the Electric Power Research Institute, an independent power-industry research organization.

The current generation of nuclear plants requires a complex maze of redundant motors, pumps, valves and control systems to deal with emergency conditions. Generation III plants cut down on some of that infrastructure and rely more heavily on passive systems that don't need human intervention to keep the reactor in a safe condition—reducing the chance of an accident caused by operator error or equipment failure.

For example, the Westinghouse AP1000 boasts half as many safety-related valves, one-third fewer pumps and only one-fifth as much safety-related piping as earlier plants from Westinghouse, majority owned by Toshiba Corp. In an emergency, the reactor, which has been selected for use at Southern Co.'s Vogtle site in Georgia and at six other U.S. locations, is designed to shut down automatically and stay within a safe temperature range.

The reactor's passive designs take advantage of laws of nature, such as the pull of gravity. So, for example, emergency coolant is kept at a higher elevation than the reactor pressure vessel. If sensors detect a dangerously low level of coolant in the reactor core, valves open and coolant floods the reactor core. In older reactors, emergency flooding comes from a network of pumps—which require redundant systems and backup sources of power—and may also require operator action.

Another big concern is how well a plant can handle a terrorist attack, especially the nightmare scenario of someone flying a jetliner into the reactor area. The Evolutionary Power Reactor from France's Areva SA, another Generation III design, guards against such an accident by putting the reactor inside a double containment building, which would shield the reactor vessel even if the outer shell were penetrated. The design also boasts four active and passive safety systems—twice the number in many reactors today—that could shut it down and keep the core cool in case of a mishap. Areva's EPRs are being built in Finland, France and China and four are under consideration for construction in the U.S. The Union of Concerned Scientists, a group critical of nuclear expansion, considers this the only design that is less vulnerable to a serious accident than today's operating reactors.

Further out, Gen IV reactors, which use different fuels and coolants than Generation II and Generation III reactors, are designed to absorb excess heat better through greater coolant volume, better circulation and bigger containment structures. Advanced research into metal alloys that are resistant to cracking and corrosion should result in more suitable materials being used in plants, too, and giving them longer useful lives.

Still, Generation III reactors are incredibly complex systems, requiring the highest-quality materials, monitoring and training of personnel. Critics say it's unrealistic to think they can operate flawlessly. Corrosion of vital equipment remains a potential problem, especially if it goes undetected deep within parts of the reactor that are difficult or impossible to directly inspect.

What's more, none of the Generation III designs have been cleared for construction by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Some Generation IV concepts haven't even been presented to the NRC for review, and they still are years away from crossing that threshold.

"The designs are safer and the safety culture is better than 20 years ago," says Tom Cochrane, senior scientist with the nuclear-analysis team of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental-advocacy group. But he's still not convinced reactors are safe enough to proceed. Critics remain concerned about possible physical breaches of security in the case of a terrorist attack.

Some researchers see the answer to the safety problem in revolutionary reactor designs that promise to be more "inherently safe"—physically incapable of suffering a catastrophic meltdown. One such design, at least in theory, is the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, being developed in China and South Africa. It's powered with balls of uranium-filled graphite rather than the typical fuel rods. If the cooling system were to fail, the reactor temperature stays well below the balls' melting point and then automatically cools down.

Westinghouse is working with the Department of Energy toward the possibility of getting a design certified by the NRC by 2017 or so. China currently has a small prototype pebble-bed reactor and plans to start construction this year on a 200-megawatt plant using the technology.

Most industry observers think the design is intriguing but faces big hurdles in this country because it uses a gas coolant, instead of water, and different fuel. The NRC would have to develop special processes for reviewing such a design because its expertise is in pressurized water or boiling water reactors.

Exelon Corp., which operates 17 commercial reactors in the U.S., was interested in the pebble-bed reactor in the late 1990s but is no longer involved. "There were technical problems such as fuel issues that made us decide we didn't want to proceed," says Amir Shahkarami, senior vice president of nuclear generation at Exelon.

While safety may be nuclear power's biggest PR problem, cost is what killed development a generation ago, ultimately determining that only half the plants licensed by the NRC got built. And nuclear plants generally face an unfortunate trade-off: making them more safe can make them more expensive.

Makers of Generation III models are addressing the cost issue in a number of ways. For one, they claim the reactors will remain in service more years, so construction costs will be spread over a longer operating life. Today's plants are being designed to last at least 60 years—longer than any other plants except hydroelectric dams. Existing nuclear plants were expected to be retired after 40 years, though roughly half have gotten 20-year license extensions.

The new plants are also designed to be much simpler and quicker to build, reducing financing costs by potentially hundreds of millions of dollars. For instance, there's the ABWR reactor, which has been built in Japan by GE-Hitachi and which NRG Energy Inc. hopes to build with Toshiba's help in South Texas. The reactor is built in modules, vastly speeding construction time. GE-Hitachi, a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Hitachi Ltd., says it has built the plant in 42 months in Japan, which is more than twice as fast as the Generation II reactors it built in the 1980s. The company compares construction methods to putting up a modular home versus constructing a stick-built house.

NRG hopes to build two ABWR reactors in Texas, next to its existing South Texas Project nuclear plant. Each plant will employ 190 modules, which NRG believes will cut field labor costs by 30%. Faster construction also will reduce the length of time it will have to rent a heavy crane at $400,000 a month.

Still, nuclear plants will remain very expensive. Recent estimates put Generation III plant costs at $4,000 to $6,700 per kilowatt of capacity, or $4.4 billion to $11 billion, for plants ranging from 1,100 megawatts to 1,600 megawatts in size. In comparison, a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study estimated the price of a coal plant at about $2,300 a kilowatt of capacity and a gas-fired plant at about $850 a kilowatt of capacity.

In fact, only a handful of U.S. utilities are big enough to build Generation III reactors alone, without being part of a consortium. As a result, some see nuclear power's future in small reactors that could be manufactured in factories instead of on site—and cost only $3,500 to $5,000 per kilowatt of capacity, or millions of dollars instead of billions.

Babcock & Wilcox, a unit of McDermott International, has designed a small 125-megawatt reactor that would be built at its U.S. factories and then delivered to power-plant sites by rail or barge. This would eliminate a bottleneck—and the associated higher costs—for ultra-heavy forgings that are required for large reactors. Small reactors could be built at a number of domestic heavy-manufacturing sites. The Lynchburg, Va., company has been building small reactors and other key components for Navy ships for decades, at plants in Indiana and Ohio.

Another plus of small reactors: They're designed to be refueled less frequently, reducing the number of refueling outages. Instead of every 18 months to two years, they could go four or five years, reaping a saving from having less down time. Another feature of some reactors is the ability to do more maintenance while plants are running, again reducing idle time.

Babcock & Wilcox hopes to apply for certification of a design for its mPower modular reactor in 2011. It's too early to seek orders, but it's working with Exelon and the Tennessee Valley Authority on a preliminary design, to make sure it would meet the needs of utilities. It's unlikely any could be built in the U.S. before the middle of the next decade.

Critics say there's not enough practical experience to know if any of the U.S. designs, big or small, will function as proponents say. Only one, the ABWR, has completed the review process at the NRC and completed the detailed design that would be used as the basis of actual construction.

What's more, critics say that the economics of small plants simply don't work: The licensing costs are so great for nuclear plants, somewhere between $50 million and $100 million per site, and security and construction costs are so high that the economics work only for big plants, with lots of output, so costs can be spread over many kilowatt-hours of electricity. Proponents hope factory-like construction techniques and a wider availability of suitable sites will help them overcome that drawback.

It's one of the most contentious issues surrounding nuclear power: Where do you put the spent fuel?

Tens of thousands of metric tons of nuclear waste—mainly spent fuel rods—are sitting at power-plant sites while the federal government struggles to come up with a site to store it all. No nation has yet built a permanent waste site, although the current situation can continue for some time: Even critics say storage methods in place now should allow fuel to be stored safety for 50 to 100 years, while permanent plans are worked out.

The big problem with controlling waste: Today's reactors capture only about 5% of the useful energy contained in uranium—which means lots of radioactive leftovers once the fuel is used. Some Generation III reactors promise to address this problem by squeezing more electricity out of their fuel, reducing the total amount of waste produced, but it's only by a relatively small amount. In short, it does nothing to solve the looming waste issue, though it does produce more megawatts of electricity in the short run.

Some Generation IV reactors, known as fast reactors, may offer a breakthrough in the future—because they're designed to burn previously used fuel.

GE-Hitachi, for example, is developing a fast reactor called Prism that would take spent fuel or weapons waste, sitting in storage today, and use nearly all of it as fuel, leaving little waste. What's left would also be less radioactive than current waste, and would need to be stored for hundreds of years instead of thousands of years, scientists say. Fast reactors are able to unlock energy in waste because they can burn plutonium, neptunium and other materials that Generation II and Generation III reactors leave behind.

GE-Hitachi estimates there's enough energy sitting in nuclear storage sites in the U.S. to completely meet the nation's energy needs for 70 years, if fast reactors were used to convert waste into electricity.

The company hopes to apply for NRC certification of its Prism design in 2011 and build a prototype reactor at an estimated cost of $3.2 billion within the next decade. The cost is enormous for a reactor that would be only 311 megawatts in size, amounting to $10,000 per kilowatt of capacity, but the company says costs for subsequent units should drop.

Critics point out that the U.S. tried to develop fast reactors in the past, but dropped its efforts because the technical hurdles and cost appeared too great. The NRDC, in a recent report, said that fast reactors would be "expensive to build, complex to operate, susceptible to prolonged shutdowns…and difficult and time-consuming to repair."

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UAE About to Award $40bn Nuclear Deal
Luke Pachymuthu and Amena Bakr
Arabian Business
(for personal use only)

“The UAE is days away from awarding the largest ever energy contract in the Middle East for the development of a nuclear power plant, industry sources said on Tuesday.

The contract to build at least four reactors is expected to cost the world's third-largest oil producer as much as $40bn, consultancy Eurasia Group said in a research note published in August.

The consortia 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.

"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 Center.

"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 burned 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.

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JAEC to Name Consultant for Nuclear Project Next Month
Taylor Luck
Jordan Times
(for personal use only)

“The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) is expected to name an international consultant to aid in the preparation of the Kingdom’s first nuclear power plant next month.

The JAEC is in the final process of evaluating international consultants for the pre-construction phase of the country’s first nuclear power plant set to be built on a site in Aqaba Governorate, Kamal Araj, JAEC commissioner for international cooperation, said in an e-mail interview with The Jordan Times.

Some 10 international companies, from countries that reportedly include Russia, the US, the UK and others, are vying for the contract.

The winning firm will be tasked with identifying options for the nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear waste management, grid and reactor size, and desalination/water supply, as well as establishing a utility company and tender documents for the actual construction of the plant, according to the commission.

The Kingdom’s first nuclear power plant, to be built in an area southeast of Aqaba, some nine kilometres inland, is expected to produce 750-1,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity.

Meanwhile, a national committee is currently studying and evaluating four international bids to build Jordan’s nuclear research reactor, in order to announce a preferred bidder by the end of this year.

According to JAEC Research Reactor Project Manager Ned Xoubi, constructing the 5MW plant at the Jordan University of Science and Technology is an important step in the Kingdom’s peaceful nuclear energy programme.

“It is almost impossible to think of a nation that has developed nuclear energy without first building a research reactor. Since we have taken the strategic decision to develop a nuclear power programme and move Jordan into the nuclear age, building a research reactor is another milestone that we have to reach on the road to nuclear energy,” Xoubi told The Jordan Times via e-mail.

According to Xoubi, the research reactor will become a focal point for a Nuclear Technology Centre, which will train upcoming generations of nuclear engineers and scientists in the Kingdom in addition to provide irradiation services for the industrial, agricultural and medical sectors.

In terms of cooperation, the government is looking to sign nuclear cooperation agreements with Spain, Romania and Argentina within the next two months, with the commission hoping to sign similar arrangements with Japan and the US next year, Araj said.

The Kingdom has previously signed agreements with France, China, South Korea, Canada, Russia and the UK.

With plans in place to construct four nuclear power plants within the next 30 years, nuclear power has the potential to provide the Kingdom with 60 per cent of its energy needs by 2035.

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H.  Links of Interest

Brazil Knows Everything There Is to Build an A-Bomb
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Damascus Deception
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