The Iranian military has started the second day of its largest nationwide air drills aimed at boosting the country's defense capabilities in case of any foreign attacks on its territory.
The anti-air defense units from Iran's Armed Forces and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) are taking part in the three-stage, five-day defense maneuvers dubbed "Modafean Aseman Velayat 3" (Defenders of Velayat Skies).
The air maneuvers are being held near Iran's "nuclear and other vital landmarks” and include the test of long-range anti-air missiles.
The drills aim to enhance response capabilities in countering threats against the county's populated and strategic centers.
During the second day of the maneuvers, advanced equipment used for communication and exchange of intelligence along with modern electro-optical systems were successfully tested and utilized.
The spokesman for the military drills Brigadier Hamid Arzhangi said the exercises today mainly focused on assessing monitoring instruments installed across the country.
Arzhangi noted that thousands of monitors have been positioned along the seven thousand kilometers of Iranian borders, as well as the central areas of the country.
During the drills, the aerial monitoring network passed on intelligence to control and command headquarters using highly advanced telecommunication instruments in the shortest possible time, he added.
The command headquarters then processed the incoming intelligence and took appropriate measures as part of the exercise, the official said.
Iranian military officials say the drills convey a message of peace and friendship to neighboring countries and a fierce warning against enemies.
Iran has staged numerous military drills in 2010 to demonstrate the country's military capabilities in the face of numerous threats and allegations leveled against the country's civilian nuclear program by the US and its allies.
Tehran has fiercely rejected the allegation as entirely fictitious, maintaining that its nuclear work is solely for peaceful purposes, a statement that has been repeatedly verified by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In its numerous reports on Iran's nuclear work, the IAEA has confirmed non-diversion of the country's nuclear program.
Iranian officials have repeatedly warned that any military action on the country's soil would prompt a severe and immediate reaction by Iran that would not be limited to the immediate region.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/151342.html
Italy has given its support to Iran's peaceful nuclear program as the two countries vow to boost cooperation on regional and international issues as well as culture.
“We recognize the right of all countries, including Iran, to peaceful nuclear energy," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Tuesday in Rome, Mehr news agency reported.
During a meeting with Iran's Vice President Hamid Baqaie, the Italian top diplomat further reiterated his country's support for transparent, honest, and constructive talks with the Islamic Republic.
Frattini also called for an expansion of practical cooperation between the two countries on international issues, including the war in Afghanistan.
“We believe that we can have good cooperation on fighting drug trafficking and countering terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan,” the Italian minister said.
He also pointed out that the two countries are moving closer to finalize a draft agreement for cooperation in war-ravaged Afghanistan which will afterwards be signed by Iranian and Italian foreign ministers.
Baqaie, for his part, hailed Italy's support for Iran's nuclear program and drew an analogy between Iran's nuclear activity and the nationalization of the country's oil industry.
The Iranian government is seeking to peacefully use nuclear energy -- at the nation's demand -- to meet medical and research needs and mounting energy demands, he said.
The Iranian official, who also heads Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization, welcomed a boost of bilateral cooperation in the areas of culture and tourism.
On the issue of Afghanistan, Baqaie said Tehran believes Rome can play a significant role in the region and supports a more active Italy in the international arena.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/151333.html
4. Not Clear Iran Sanctions Will Work: Israeli Military Chief
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Israel's top military officer on Wednesday said it remains unclear if economic sanctions against Iran will convince Tehran to give up its nuclear program.
"The real question here is, is it sufficient enough to persuade" Iran to abandon its nuclear work and "that's to be determined," Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi said after talks with his US counterpart, Admiral Mike Mullen.
"We still have some time to watch it and see what will be the final outcome," Ashkenazi told reporters at the Pentagon.
Asked how much time Israel was willing to wait, he said it would not be "appropriate" to discuss a possible deadline.
He said that Israel supported the current US-led approach focused on a fresh round of punitive sanctions.
His comments came amid apparent strain between Israel and the United States over how to confront Iran, with US officials reluctant to publicly threaten military action.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently told US Vice President Joe Biden that only a "credible" threat of military action would stop Iran from developing the atomic bomb, a senior Israeli official said.
But US Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week disagreed sharply when asked about Israel's view, saying the latest round of sanctions were having an impact on Iran's economy.
Mullen standing along side Ashkenazi, said that sanctions were proving more effective than some skeptics had predicted.
"I've certainly seen a body of evidence that indicates the sanctions are taking their toll, much more rapidly than some had anticipated," Mullen said.
But he said "all options remain on the table, including military options."
The United States spearheaded international efforts to impose a fourth round of UN Security Council sanctions in June, sanctions it says are aimed at bringing Iran back to the negotiating table to discuss its nuclear program.
Sanctions notably ban investments in oil, gas and petrochemicals while also targeting banks, insurance, financial transactions and shipping -- which Tehran has brushed off as having no impact.
Washington and Tel Aviv fear the atomic program masks a drive to build a nuclear bomb, but Iran denies the charge, saying its efforts are for peaceful purposes.
Gates on Tuesday warned a military strike against Iran would only delay Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons in the short-term.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jzmRn5nWkwPqRpe4F0s35EbkOTeg?docId=CNG.21e7fa852d1d4f7aca132a96e687a7e3.4d1
5. Military Action Won't Stop Iran Nuclear Program: US
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US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Tuesday that military action would not stop Iran's nuclear program and instead would only make it "deeper and more covert."
Gates told a conference that military action would offer only a "short-term solution" to the thorny issue of Iran's nuclear program.
Western nations have accused Tehran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon, something Iran vehemently denies.
Military action against the Iranian government, which has refused global calls to rein in its suspect nuclear enrichment program, would "bring together a divided nation, it will make them absolutely committed to obtaining nuclear weapons," the US defense chief said.
Under that scenario, Iran's secret nuclear efforts "would just go deeper and more covert," said Gates.
He said he believed diplomacy and economic pressure were the best way to try to persuade Tehran -- which already has been slapped with a series of UN and international sanctions -- to abandon its nuclear project.
"The only long-term solution to avoiding an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is for the Iranians to decide it's not in their interest," Gates said.
"Everything else is a short-term solution -- is a two-to-three year solution."
He said there were signs that the latest economic sanctions had hit Iran hard and created tensions between the country's supreme leader and the president, Ahmadinejad.
"We even have some evidence that (Tehran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei now is beginning to wonder if (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad is lying to him about the impact of the sanctions on the economy," he said.
"I personally believe they are intent on acquiring nuclear weapons, but also the information we that have is that they've been surprised by the impact of the sanctions," Gates said, adding that the measures "have really bitten much harder than they anticipated."
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g64FsYSZmeVnt-m9FludPsfAwuGQ?docId=CNG.70dba1b8e4efe2bdae1cc5674a9676aa.191
The Stuxnet computer worm discovered in June likely was designed to attack and destroy Iran's nuclear centrifuges, U.S. and German researchers say.
Researchers say Stuxnet, the world's first known "cyber missile," was designed to "sabotage special drive motors used almost exclusively in nuclear fuel-refining centrifuge systems" and cause them to explode, The Christian Science Monitor reported Tuesday.
In separate investigations, research teams in California and Germany reached the same conclusion last week: Nuclear centrifuges were by far the worm's most likely target.
"Stuxnet changes the output frequencies and thus the speed of the motors for short intervals over periods of months," Symantec researcher Eric Chien reported on his blog Nov. 12. "Interfering with the speed of the motors sabotages the normal operation of the industrial control process."
Stuxnet "sabotages the system by slowing down or speeding up the motor to different rates at different times," including sending it well beyond its intended maximum speed, destroying a centrifuge's capacity to produce weapons-grade fuel, the Monitor said.
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2010/11/16/Stuxnet-aimed-at-Irans-nuclear-program/UPI-14351289952150/
1. North Korea to Build Light-Water Reactor Soon: Expert
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North Korea claims to be building an experimental light-water nuclear reactor for completion by 2012, says a US expert who visited the communist state this month.
Jack Pritchard, president of the Korea Economic Institute, told journalists in Washington Tuesday that he had visited the Yongbyon nuclear complex where the North claims the light-water reactor is being built.
Siegfried Hecker, a US scientist who accompanied Pritchard, has also reported the claims.
While the existing ageing reactor at Yongbyon has supplied plutonium for the North's nuclear weapons, light-water reactors are generally used for generating electricity.
Experts say it is relatively difficult to extract plutonium from them to make atomic weapons.
Some Seoul analysts say the North may be stressing its overall atomic expertise in hopes of prodding the United States into resuming stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.
Pritchard, quoted by South Korea's Yonhap news agency, said he saw "some small modifications to the fuel fabrication centre (at Yongbyon) that they described as part of their new light water reactor programme".
Pritchard, a former US special envoy on North Korea policy who visited the North on November 2-6, also met Kim Kye-Gwan, North Korea's chief nuclear envoy, and other officials.
The reactor is apparently being built slightly in front of where the complex's now-demolished cooling tower was located.
Pritchard said the North wants to complete construction of the reactor that "will only provide enough electricity for the immediate area of Yongbyon... by 2012".
Pyongyang's official policy is to become a "great, powerful and prosperous nation" by that year, the 100th anniversary of the birth of founding president Kim Il-Sung.
"Quite frankly, we are sceptical," said Pritchard.
He said the experimental reactor is one tenth the size of two light-water reactors which were being built under a now-abandoned US-North Korean deal.
Under that 1994 agreement several countries were to build those reactors to generate electricity. In return, the North was to shut down its plutonium-producing operation.
The deal broke down in 2002. The light-water reactors were never completed and the North restarted its original reactor.
The North quit the nuclear disarmament talks in April 2009 and staged a second nuclear test a month later. In recent months it has expressed conditional willingness to return to dialogue.
President Barack Obama warned Thursday in Seoul that North Korea must show "seriousness of purpose" before six-party talks can resume.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gjItaI7ATmKTYx0cd-mv56h89HRQ?docId=CNG.a4b7d13a383c27ada09ff8d773de7255.171
2. Six-Party Talks Possible by Early 2011: Experts
The Korea Times
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Amid reports that North Korea is expanding its nuclear program and proliferation activities, experts here predict a meeting under the stalled six-party disarmament framework could come as soon as early next year.
Their analysis comes in the wake of recent reports that the North is building a light-water reactor and proliferating nuclear equipment, and as Seoul and Washington call for Pyongyang to show its genuine intent to denuclearize before the talks resume.
“I think the six-party members are trying to talk about the possibility of the resumption of the talks even if the North doesn’t take positive action toward dismantling all of its nuclear development program,” Yoo Ho-yeol, an expert on inter-Korean relations at Korea University, told The Korea Times.
Many analysts say the North will brandish its nuclear program to consolidate military power as it attempts to transfer power to leader Kim Jong-il’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un. The elder Kim’s health is said to be waning after reportedly suffering a stroke in 2008.
The talks are seen by many as the most viable way to hold dialogue with North Korea and manage its nuclear ambitions. Pyongyang walked away from the forum, which also includes Japan, Russia and China, last year in response to international sanctions imposed for its nuclear and missile tests.
On the sidelines of the G20 summit held in Seoul last week, leaders of parties to the talks discussed how and when to resume the forum in bilateral meetings.
At the summit U.S. President Barack Obama called on Pyongyang to show “seriousness of purpose” before talks are resumed, while Chinese President Hu Jintao said Beijing has called on it to improved inter-Korean relations. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed concern over the ongoing program and vowed to work for better conditions for the talks to resume.
Park Young-ho, a senior fellow of the government-affiliated Korea Institute for National Unification, said he “cautiously expects” China, the North’s main benefactor, to exert its influence over Pyongyang to coax it back to preliminary talks.
“The the North could make some type of ‘forward-looking’ gesture so that in the first quarter of next year we might see the resumption of talks among top representatives within the six-party framework,” he said, adding that during such a meeting, Washington and Pyongyang would meet bilaterally.
A U.N. report released last Friday confirmed suspicions that Pyongyang is “surreptitiously” supplying banned nuclear and ballistic equipment to Iran, Syria and Myanmar. It said the North is using “masking techniques” to make the shipments and avoid international sanctions.
Then on Saturday, media reported that Pyongyang is apparently building an experimental light-water nuclear reactor at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, citing an American nuclear expert who had been invited to the isolated state.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun on Monday said Seoul had not yet confirmed the report but that such a development would "be going contrary to expectations from members of the six-party talks and the international community."
The North, backed by China, has in recent months signaled its willingness to come back to the talks.
But prospects for resumption have been clouded by the ongoing issue of the sinking in March of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, which Seoul blames the North but Pyongyang denies.
Seoul, which previously demanded an apology for the incident, has recently prioritized the North’s genuine intent to denuclearize over an apology. Washington continues to call for the North to live up to previous agreements under the six party framework and improve its ties with the South.
Oh Kong-dan, a researcher with the U.S.-based Institute for Defense Analysis, said efforts in Washington to resume the talks could be hastened by its presidential election cycle, with the next polls slated for 2012.
“When an administration is going through its third year ― the Obama administration ― they become frustrated and nervous on any stalled issues, for example, the six-party talks,” she said. “So everybody begins to show interest in dealing with the North.”
Professor Yoo said the parties could opt to take a “synchronized approach” to resolving issues related to the talks, the Cheonan incident and tension on the peninsula.
“Once we agree to resume the talks in Beijing, then by adopting that as gesture from the North to reduce tensions on the peninsula, then we can bring the Cheonan incident within the six-party framework,” he said. “From there, we can discuss how to resume humanitarian aid and economic cooperation.”
Available at: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/11/113_76451.html
3. South Korea's Nuclear Envoy to Discuss DPRK Issues with U.S. Specialist
Xinhua News Agency
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South Korea's top nuclear envoy to six-party talks over denuclearizing the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is set to meet with a U.S. expert in Asian affairs, local media reported Tuesday.
Wi Sung-lac is scheduled Wednesday to meet with Mark Manyin, an Asian affairs specialist at the Congressional Research Service ( CRS), a research division of the U.S. Congress, according to Yonhap News Agency.
The two are expected to discuss Seoul's policy toward Pyongyang, nuclear issues of the DPRK and resuming the stalled six-party talks, Yonhap cited an unidentified foreign ministry official as saying.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2010-11/16/c_13609091.htm
A member of congress in the United States has introduced legislation to safeguard a US-Australia nuclear co-operation deal, potentially threatened by a ticking US legislative clock.
Under US law, nuclear co-operation accords cannot go into effect before the end of a congressional review period set at 90 days of continuous session - a threshold that the current Congress may not reach, depending on the length of a year-end "lame duck" session.
Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said her bill would ensure that the US-Australia accord "will not be interrupted by a technicality," allowing "nuclear commerce with this key ally to continue without interruption."
US President Barack Obama submitted the accord to the Congress for approval on May 5, promising it "will advance the non-proliferation and other foreign policy interests of the United States."
Ros-Lehtinen, who is likely to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee when a new US Congress convenes in January, said however that a similar accord with Russia should be allowed to lapse.
"In Australia, we have a proven ally. Serious questions remain about the Russian Federation as a responsible US partner," she said in a statement.
Ros-Lehtinen said a nuclear co-operation deal with Russia "should be stopped" because Moscow "continues to undermine US interests in Iran, Venezuela, Central Asia, and elsewhere."
"Russia promotes nuclear proliferation through its reckless policies of selling nuclear facilities, technology, and materials to any country with ready cash, including constructing the Iranian nuclear reactor at Bushehr," she said.
"If the legislative clock stops before the Russia agreement is approved, the president should not resubmit it to Congress until Moscow has changed course and has lived up to the example set by Australia," said Ros-Lehtinen.
Available at: http://nz.news.yahoo.com/a/-/world/8342290/bill-safeguards-us-aust-nuclear-pact/
2. Biden Says Nuclear Pact Failure Would Endanger US
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Vice President Joe Biden says Senate failure to ratify a pending nuclear arms treaty with Russia would endanger U.S. national security.
Biden responded bluntly as prospects for Senate ratification of the agreement in the current lame-duck congressional session faded fast on Tuesday.
Sen. Jon Kyl, who is the leading Republican senator on the treaty, said he didn't think the issue should be considered this year. Kyl cited a busy Senate agenda and the complexity of the treaty. Democrats are unlikely to be able to move forward without him.
Biden said without ratification, Americans will have no way to verify Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal.
He said it would weaken cooperation between two nations that hold 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g3JgS-3WjPa0msY6aKt0hal2V_vg?docId=ab62fa175fbb48278e3732f12c395919
The permit application process for three new nuclear plants in Switzerland has taken a step forward with an in-principle decision from the federal safety regulator that the Niederamt, Beznau and Müheleberg sites are suitable for the purpose.
The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) has reviewed applications for the three plants, which would all be replacements for existing nuclear power units, and drawn up definitive appraisals for the Swiss Federal Office of Energy. According to ENSI, all three applications were technically complete and correct and international legal requirements for site selection had been met. The regulator ruled that none of the sites showed any characteristics likely to be a problem for the construction of a new nuclear plant, but has requested some clarifications from the applicants, especially concerning seismic risks, before construction permit applications are submitted.
The applications for Beznau and Mühleberg were drawn up on behalf of Axpo/BKW by planning joint venture Resun AG. Axpo hailed the ENSI announcement as an "important milestone" in the framework permit application process. Alpiq, parent group of Kernkraftwerk Niederamt, also welcomed the regulator's decision, saying it attested to the "very high quality" of the Niederamt project. (Niederamt would be the replacement for the nearby Gösgen plant.) Both groups said they were working to address the requirements and recommendations brought up in ENSI's extensive reports on their applications.
All three applications are for 1100 to 1600 MWe advanced reactors of as-yet unspecified design using hybrid cooling systems to minimize water consumption. They would be replacing existing smaller units - two 365 MWe pressurised water reactors (PWR) at Beznau, a 985 MWe PWR at Gösgen, and a 372 MWe boiling water reactor (BWR) at Mühleberg - which are all currently scheduled for closure in the period 2019-2029. The existing plants at Beznau and Gösgen also provide district heating as well as electricity. Replacement of the nuclear units is part of an energy policy announced by the country's government in 2007 to avoid predicted energy shortfalls by 2020 as reactors close and an electricity import agreement with France is phased out. Switzerland's other operating nuclear power plant, the 1165 MWe Leibstadt BWR, is not scheduled for closure until 2034.
The three relevant townships will be given the opportunity to comment on the applications in early 2011, and ENSI's findings on the applications, already published on its web site, will be open to review as part of a public enquiry in mid-2011. A federal decision on granting general authorisations for the plants is probable by mid-2012, according to ENSI. This decision would then be subject to approval at the national level and could then be subject to a referendum, likely to take place in 2013.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Safety_inspectorate_OKs_Swiss_new_build_sites-1611107.html
France's EDF and Areva have resolved issues raised by Britain about control systems on the European Pressurized Reactor, boosting the EPR's prospects for more contracts around the world.
EDF and Areva -- which hope to build an EPR in Britain by 2018 and export the technology worldwide -- welcomed the UK Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) downgrade of its approval blocking Regulatory Issue (RI) to a Regulatory Observation. "This decision by the UK safety authority is very good news for the EPR. The control and instrumentation issue was, and is, one of the most sensitive in terms of nuclear safety and was vital to resolve," Vincent de Rivaz, the chief executive of EDF Energy said.
"Closure of the only RI, on such a significant topic, is a defining moment for the EPR."
The HSE said on Tuesday it was satisfied the two companies had addressed most of the concerns it raised in April 2009 over controls and instrumentation as part of the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) for reactors to be built in Britain.
But the HSE said both companies would have to continue working to get the EPR through the next stage of the GDA if the French reactor is to become the first new atomic energy generator in Britain for decades.
"They still need to commit a high level of their attention and resource to successfully meet the UK EPR Programme," the HSE said.
State-controlled French nuclear giant EDF plans to build four EPRs in Britain by 2025, while German utilities EON EONG.DE and RWE plant to jointly build 6 gigawatts in nuclear capacity in Britain by 2025.
The German duo will choose either the EPR or Westinghouse's AP1000 reactor design, which is also part of the GDA and for which the HSE has also raised an RI over the structure of its facilities.
An HSE spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday that Westinghouse, which is controlled by Japan's Toshiba, had submitted its response to the concerns raised in October and that the regulator was reviewing the information.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKLDE6AF12220101116
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