Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has thrown his weight behind Iran despite recent threats by Washington for new sanctions against Tehran.
Speaking at the State University of Moscow on Wednesday, Erdogan called for fair and just treatment of Tehran regarding its nuclear program and expressed his disapproval of the blatantly unchecked possession of nuclear arms by some 'other' countries in the region.
"We do not want nuclear weapons in our region. But it would be unfair to ask one country not to obtain nuclear weapons while another country in the region already has them," the Turkish 'Zaman' daily quoted Erdogan as saying.
In an indirect reference to Israel's nuclear arsenal, the Turkish prime minister criticized the dual stance of major powers on Iran's nuclear issue, calling for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff.
“If those who have the power do not act in a just manner, then the world will be a place where right and wrong are not distinguishable. There will be no global peace in such a world,” he said.
Israel and its staunch ally, the United States, have been accusing the Islamic Republic of pursuing military applications under the guise of a civilian nuclear program, a claim vehemently rejected by Iran.
Iran says its nuclear work is totally peaceful and under the full supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Erdogan's remarks come in the wake of a diplomatic feud between Turkey and Israel, following Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalonan "undiplomatic behavior," which included forcing Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol to sit on a lower seat and refusing to shake his hand.
Turkey has officially announced its opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons by any country, particularly Israel, calling on the international community to force the country to dismantle its nuclear weapons.
Tel Aviv is in possession of over 200 nuclear war heads, although it has never openly acknowledged this. Israel's nuclear arms are believed to be the major threat to the Middle East region.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=116124§ionid=351020204
2. Larijani: Iran Determined to Safeguard Nuclear Achievements
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Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said that Iranian nation will safeguard its nuclear achievements with a stronger determination.
He made the remarks during the on-the-record meeting of the Majlis on Wednesday.
Pointing to the recent terrorist act in Tehran on Tuesday in which an Iranian nuclear physicist was killed, he said the enemies will not benefit from assassination of Iranian scientists.
“Within several hours, an unknown monarchist group, which has been under complete control of the U.S. intelligence services, issues a statement and claims responsibility for this terrorist act. Apparently the Zionist regime and the CIA have imagined that they can hide the real cause of this incident by this sloppy statement,” he stated.
A “hasty” move by the U.S. and the Zionist regime to attribute the terrorist act to such a group in order to cover up their involvement in the action came as a “new scandal for Mr. Obama,” Larijani opined.
He went on to say even if the U.S. claims that the Iran Monarchist Association was behind the terror act then Washington comes under question that why it has hosted such a terrorist group.
He added clear information had been received before the incident that the Zionist intelligence service Mossad in cooperation with the CIA were planning to carry out a terrorist act in Tehran.
“Perhaps they had thought that they could take advantage of the opportunity created by internal disputes to conduct such acts in order to worry the university professors with the aim of damaging the country’s nuclear researches,” he noted.
But their actions are to no avail, he added.
Assassination shows the weakness of the U.S.
On Wednesday, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili also commented on the terrorist incident, saying the assassination was a sign of U.S. weakness and failure in confronting the Iranian nation.
“Islamic Republic of Iran is seriously determined to make progress, and this approach of the United States cannot affect this path. Iranian nation has firmly and vitally prepared itself for progress in various areas,” he said in a meeting with the visiting Omani Foreign Minister Youssef bin Alawi bin Abdullah.
Behaviors such as resorting to military actions and imposing sanctions have seriously undermined all claims of change made by the U.S. administration, he stated.
Available at: http://www.tehrantimes.com/Index_view.asp?code=212137
3. Parts Sent to Iran Could be Used for Nuclear Weapons Development
Los Angeles Times
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Three men, including an Iranian-born chemical engineer living in Glendale, have been charged in an alleged scheme to smuggle sophisticated industrial components into Iran that could be used in the development of a nuclear weapon, authorities said Wednesday.
The case, which comes as the U.S. is rallying allies to block Iran's nuclear ambitions, has drawn interest at the highest levels of government, an official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement told The Times.
Authorities allege the men were attempting to smuggle high-grade vacuum pumps and other items into Iran in violation of federal trade laws regulating the export of some technology to unfriendly nations and U.S. sanctions against Iran. Investigators' suspicions were heightened by the great care the defendants took to hide their alleged activities.
"These were educated men," said Louis Rodi, a top supervisor in the Los Angeles customs office. "These individuals knew what they were doing."
According to an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Jirair Avanessian, 56, of Glendale was paid several hundred thousand dollars to ship "high-dollar vacuum pumps and pump-related" equipment to Iran.
The parts, which were mislabeled and significantly devalued on shipping manifests, were initially sent to the United Arab Emirates, federal authorities said. A co-defendant would then forward the items to a third defendant in Tehran, according to court papers.
Rodi stressed that investigators do not know what the vacuums, valves and other components were ultimately going to be used for, but said he had been briefed by scientists on their potential uses, which include "development of nuclear capabilities."
Avanessian was indicted Dec. 30, along with Farhad Masoumian, 42, of Tehran following a joint investigation by the customs agency, the FBI and the IRS. The pair are charged with smuggling and money laundering. A third man, Amirhossein Sairafi, also of Iran, was charged separately in a criminal complaint filed last week. He was arrested this week in Frankfurt, Germany, according to authorities. None of the defendants could be immediately reached for comment.
Authorities said Masoumian, based in Iran, would place orders with Avanessian, who owns an import-export company called XVAC on Winchester Avenue in Glendale. Avanessian would ship the material to the United Arab Emirates, where Sairafi would send them on to Iran, the indictment alleges.
The defendants would "relabel the contents of the shipments in order to mask the true contents and to avoid interception by U.S. customs officials," according to the indictment. In most cases, Avanessian described the material on airway bills as "spare parts" and falsely declared that their value was under $2,500, the threshold for filing requirements that would have drawn greater scrutiny from customs officials.
Throughout the alleged conspiracy, which authorities said began in June 2005 and lasted until April 2009, Masoumian transferred several hundred thousand dollars into Avanessian's U.S. bank accounts, authorities allege.
The investigation was launched in February when customs officials inspected four wooden crates bound for Dubai via LAX, according to a search warrant affidavit filed by an FBI agent working the case. The shipment, sent by XVAC, was described as containing "spare parts" and had a declared value of $2,318. But it weighed more than 1,300 pounds.
Based on the generic description and apparent discrepancy between the weight and declared monetary value, authorities opened the crates, court documents state. Inside they discovered vacuum pumps and related equipment valued at nearly $190,000. The shipment was immediately seized by authorities.
Investigators began looking into Avanessian's past shipments and found 16 between 2006 and 2008 that, on paper, were "strikingly similar" to the seized shipment. In a search of Avanessian's house, agents found a laptop computer hidden underneath a dresser in his bedroom. The computer contained an e-mail to Sairafi regarding one of the shipments, court papers state.
Virginia Kice, a customs agency spokeswoman, said the investigation is ongoing and involves multiple federal agencies in addition to the FBI and IRS.
"It's a very significant case for a variety of reasons," Kice said. "These guys weren't exporting sewing machines, after all."
Available at: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-iran-weapons14-2010jan14,0,6559423.story
4. Iran Denies Nuclear “Halt” but Technical Woes Slow Pace
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Iran hastened on Monday to deny an Israeli media report that it had suspended uranium enrichment for two months to mollify Western powers mulling more sanctions against Tehran over suspicions it wants the programme to yield atomic bombs.
But while diplomats agreed there was no evidence of a politically driven suspension, they believe the Haaretz report may be symptomatic of stagnation in the shadowy enrichment programme due to technical problems.
The report’s author was the veteran intelligence correspondent of Haaretz newspaper but it was thin, quoting only “Iranian media sources”, and lacking others to substantiate it.
Diplomats in Vienna, home to the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency, also discounted the report. A senior diplomat familiar with IAEA operations said U.N. inspectors noticed no shutdown of enrichment on their latest visit to the underground Natanz complex last week.
A senior European diplomat accredited to the IAEA said a publicly acknowledged nuclear suspension is not politically feasible at this time as it would telegraph Islamic regime weakness in the face of Western pressure as it grapples with persistent street protests over alleged election fraud.
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s declared civilian atomic energy programme, told Reuters it was “going on according to plan under (IAEA) supervision…” The foreign ministry blamed alleged disinformation spread by Iran’s arch-adversary Israel.
Reading between the lines of the Haaretz story, diplomats, intelligence and nuclear experts recalled the latest IAEA report on Iran in November which revealed a 20 percent decline in the number of operating centrifuge enrichment machines since June.
In essence, they believe enrichment has not been “suspended” but rather is stagnating or even stalling due to crashes of old, 1970s-vintage centrifuges caused by an over-rapid expansion of the programme in the past two years.
“It would be a surprising and positive development if Iran actually had actually suspended enrichment, but I doubt this is the case,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, top non-proliferation expert at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“More likely they have stopped or slowed down the installation of additional cascades as they work to overcome the technical problems they have been experiencing with the centrifuges that are already in place.”
David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington said ISIS tracking of Natanz suggested the performance of the complex had improved steadily until early 2009 when it fell off markedly, and has remained largely flat since.
“Possible causes including many broken centrifuges and wear and tear on others (in the first batches installed) that may be reaching the end of their lifetime, which means Iran did not ensure highest manufacturing quality initially,” Albright said.
“We hear from centrifuge experts that Iran may have scaled up centrifuge numbers prematurely. It should have run a fixed, relatively small number of for an extended period of time to work out bugs and gain necessary experience before scaling up.”
Another reason, he said, could include an increasing Iranian focus on developing the smaller Fordow enrichment site, taking shape in a bunker deep underground to preserve enrichment in case Israel or the United States bomb Natanz. Intelligence experts agree Iran remains at least a few years away from the ability to produce a usable nuclear weapon.
Western officials are concerned about the possibility of Iran hiding further advances at undeclared locations, especially after the belated exposure of a second enrichment near Qom in September, but no such evidence has surfaced.
It has taken a good decade just to achieve limited enrichment far below capacity at the Natanz complex. Iran’s development of faster, more robust “new generation” centrifuges, based on black-market technology, has been slow. Testing of small numbers of advanced models at a pilot plant has been going on for three years.
Another obstacle to Iran’s nuclear expansion aspirations may be the quality and quantity of its uranium ore. The IAEA report pointed to possible shortages when it said Iran’s Isfahan uranium processing centre had not converted any uranium into UF-6 gas for enrichment since August.
The plant was undergoing maintenance as of late October, the report said. Some analysts believe impurities such as molybdenum common in Iran’s uranium ore may be partly responsible for vibrating and overheating that has afflicted the 1970s-vintage centrifuges Iran has deployed in Natanz.
With such technical obstacles restraining Iran’s march to nuclear power status, Russia and China are likely to brake the U.S.-led thrust for wider sanctions by arguing that ample time remains to resolve the standoff with further negotiations.
Available at: http://blogs.reuters.com/global/2010/01/13/iran-denies-nuclear-halt-but-technical-woes-slow-pace/
Tehran reacted angrily to comments made by U.S. Gen. David Petraeus regarding routine military provisions to deter an Iranian nuclear threat.
Petraeus, the top military official at U.S. Central Command, said during a weekend interview with CNN that U.S. military forces could react to a nuclear threat from Iran.
"They certainly can be bombed," the commander said. "The level of effect would vary with who it is that carried it out, what ordnance they have, and what capability they can bring to bear."
Ramin Mehman Parast, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign minister, said Washington's military posturing was a sign U.S. foreign policy was sliding back into the hawkish policies of the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, the Tehran Times reports.
Parast warned there would be repercussions for such remarks, describing them as "irresponsible and thoughtless."
Lt. Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, told London's pan-Arab daily that the comments from Petraeus were in line with regular preparations for a nuclear threat.
"These plans are part of our routine to prepare for a number of threats," he said.
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2010/01/13/Tehran-angered-over-Petraeus-comments/UPI-45961263414936/
6. Time Approaching to Boost Sanctions Against Iran: US Envoy
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Iran must expect more sanctions to be imposed on it unless it makes satisfactory moves to address the problem of its controversial nuclear programme, the US ambassador to the EU warned Wednesday.
"You'll hear over the next six months a lot more about our efforts on sanctions" against Iran, Ambassador William Kennard told a conference organised by the European Policy Centre think-tank in Brussels.
US President Barack Obama promised after coming to power a year ago that he was ready for "constructive ties" with Tehran, speaking of "a new era of engagement."
However, Kennard said Wednesday, "we also realize that having put some serious offers on the table" in order to have "a pathway to a diplomatic solution, those offers can't be available for ever."
"We can't afford to let the situation fester," he stressed.
Iran has ignored repeated UN Security Council ultimatums to suspend uranium enrichment, the sensitive process which makes nuclear fuel but in highly extended form can also produce the fissile core of an atomic bomb.
It is already under three sets of UN sanctions. Major powers, including the United States, are to meet in New York on Saturday to discuss proposals for a fourth.
Tehran maintains that its nuclear programmes is for strictly civil uses.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jSQVizRnDy6TkkTXB_H09XfJUx-g
7. Iran Accuses US, Israel in Nuclear Scientist Murder
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Iran's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it has found traces of US and Israel's involvement in the assassination of an Iranian nuclear physics scientist.
"Primary investigations into the assassination revealed signs of the involvement of the Zionist regime [Israel], the US and their allies in Iran," ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said.
Professor Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, a lecturer at Tehran University, was killed by a booby-trapped motorbike blast in the Iranian capital earlier in the day.
The explosion took place near the professor's home in the Qeytariyeh neighborhood of northern Tehran.
Mehman-Parast strongly condemned the assassination, saying the participation of Israeli and American agents "runs counter to international regulations."
He, however, said such moves would not affect Iran's pursuit of civilian nuclear technology.
"Such terrorist moves and apparent omission of Iranian nuclear scientists will definitely cause no obstacle in the way of the country's scientific and technological development. Rather they will speed up it."
An analyst said the terror is most likely sponsored by the West.
Mohammad Marandi, a professor at Tehran University, told Press TV that Ali-Mohammadi's colleagues at the capital's most prestigious university believe the attack was orchestrated by the West.
"It is widely believed among colleges that he was assassinated by terrorist organizations probably supported by the United States and has connections with the Americans and the Israelis under different names," he said.
"Unfortunately when it comes to Iran anything is acceptable in the eyes of the foreign powers."
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=115963§ionid=351020101
1. North Korea Envoy Seeks Parallel Talks on Nukes, Peace
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North Korea's envoy to the United Nations said Tuesday his nation is willing to conduct parallel talks on its nuclear program and on formally ending the Korean War, but only if all sanctions against it are lifted.
Summoning a few reporters to North Korea's U.N. Mission, Ambassador Sin Son Ho described U.S. and international sanctions as "an expression of distrust" that must be put aside before the North will rejoin stalled six-party talks to rein in its nuclear program and rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons. The talks have involved the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
He repeated his country's position, outlined in a statement Monday from North Korea's Foreign Ministry, that it will only resume the nuclear talks and start peace negotiations to formally end the Korean War after international sanctions on it are lifted.
Asked about the timing of resuming the six-party talks and peace negotiations with the U.S., Sin said, "we can work in parallel."
"The six-party talks is possible to be returned to sooner ... if the sanctions are removed," Sin said during a question-and-answer session. "Sanctions itself is an expression of distrust.
"A cease-fire agreement should have been signed long ago already," he said. "We will try to push the U.S."
But the U.S. and South Korea have already rejected the North Korean proposal outlined Monday.
Seoul said Tuesday that sanctions can be lifted only after the North rejoins disarmament talks and reports progress in denuclearization.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley on Monday urged Pyongyang to return to the talks, "and then we can begin to march down the list of issues that we have."
Despite the rejections, the North's top diplomat in Beijing on Tuesday repeated his country's position that it will only resume the nuclear talks after international sanctions on it are lifted.
"If sanctions are lifted, the six-party talks can be held at once," North Korean Ambassador to China Choe Jin Su said in a group interview in Beijing, according to Japan's Kyodo News agency.
The U.N. Security Council imposed tough new sanctions on North Korea last June, strengthening an arms embargo and authorizing ship searches on the high seas. Those were intended to rein in its nuclear program after Pyongyang's second nuclear test last May, which violated a council resolution adopted after its first nuclear blast in 2006.
Choe also said the conclusion of a peace treaty will help promote denuclearization "at a rapid tempo," Kyodo reported.
North Korea, which claims it was forced to develop atomic bombs to cope with U.S. threats, called for a peace treaty to be concluded this year, which it emphasized marks the 60th anniversary since the outbreak of the Korean War.
The signing of a peace treaty has been discussed at the six-nation disarmament talks before but has always been based on the assumption that there would be progress in North Korea's denuclearization.
The North quit disarmament talks last year in anger over international condemnation of a long-range rocket launch. The country later conducted its second nuclear test, test-launched a series of ballistic missiles and restarted its plutonium-producing facility, inviting widespread condemnation and tighter U.N. sanctions.
Available at: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=9544996
Germany is keen on civilian nuclear cooperation with India but the first step in this direction could be about reactor safety, according to German ambassador to India Thomas Matussek.
Speaking to The Hindu here on Wednesday, Mr. Matussek said: “We have been reluctant because one of the big risks of the globe is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction… India has gone its own special way with the nuclear deal with the United States and has decided not to go the way of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But you have an impeccable record of non-proliferation.”
He pointed to his experience of negotiating five Iran resolutions [while working as the permanent representative of Germany to the U.N.]. After making the offer to cooperate with Iran on civilian nuclear energy if it stopped enrichment as part of the negotiations, he said, cooperating with India was a “no-brainer.”
Germany was keen on a strategic relationship with India as “equal partners” over the long term, Mr. Matussek said. “We find [stability] in the European Union and to a certain degree in North America and we keep looking and looking and here we have an anchor of stability of over one billion people in a rough neighbourhood and we think your stability and security also defines ours,” he said.
German and international involvement in Afghanistan had been overambitious and it was now realised that the most realistic bet would be to place the country in a situation where the Afghan people themselves could decide how to organise their country.
The community had realised late that the real problem was Pakistan which was always in a position to say, ‘You help us; if not, we will blow ourselves up.’ Hard power was necessary to flush out terrorists but soft power in the form of education, the fight against poverty and a good governance system were required along with the real time sharing of intelligence and the capability to act on it real time.
He said the German Air Force was ready to provide not just the latest light combat and multirole aircraft but also the complete technical knowhow for indigenisation. Germany was also offering full support to the Indian anti-terrorism agencies and proposed a memorandum of understanding to India.
The MoU had been with the Home Ministry and then the Foreign Ministry and was now again with the Home Ministry. “I have talked to the Home Minister Mr. Chidambaram and he has said he will push it very hard,” Mr. Matussek said.
While strategic cooperation was being driven by the governments, there was also a vibrant industrial partnership especially in the automotive sector. Small and medium industries, largely family-run, contributed to 60 per cent of Germany’s GDP and this was similar to the Indian industrial structure.
India’s greatest strength was its huge population and, if things went according to plan, it could have a productive workforce of 600 million by 2050. Germany could help in the form of shopfloor training and vocational courses for them. A “train the trainer” academy would be set up in Pune when the Federal President visited India in the first week of February.
He would sign a bilateral agreement on economic and technological cooperation worth 350 million euros and agreements on scientific cooperation and social security.
Mr. Matussek said he would make sure that German leaders included Chennai in their itinerary. “I will come back regularly and Chennai will be one of usual staging points much more than other places,” he said.
Available at: http://www.hindu.com/2010/01/14/stories/2010011460681100.htm
A declaration on civil nuclear cooperation between India and Britain appears to be on the anvil when commerce minister Anand Sharma visits here next month. This was indicated by Lord Peter Mandelson, British secretary of state for business, innovation and skills.
In an exclusive interview, Mandelson confirmed: "We are indeed working with the Indian government on closer relations in the sharing of civil nuclear technology. I hope that I will be able to sign a civil nuclear cooperation declaration with minister Sharma early this year."
Mandelson was said to be disappointed that such an agreement was not concluded during his visit to Delhi last month. According to a source at the Indian High Commission here, India objected to a non-proliferation clause in the draft submitted by the UK.
However, even if the mentioned declaration is signed next month, this cannot become operational until New Delhi changes its policy of restricting nuclear collaboration to public sector entities. Most potential British suppliers of technology for generation of nuclear energy are in the private sector.
The same hurdle is, reportedly, holding up implementation of contracts with US companies. In contrast, such firms in France and Russia are generally government owned.
Mandelson, seen as the most powerful person in the British cabinet after Prime Minister Gordon Brown and an architect of New Labour, a concept that catapulted the Labour party to office in 1997 after 18 years in opposition — has rapidly acquired a reputation of being an enthusiast on India.
Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/India-Britain-set-to-sign-nuclear-deal/articleshow/5438655.cms
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Nawabzada Malik Amad Khan on Tuesday said Pakistan, as a nuclear power and a responsible member of the comity of nations, was fully implementing effective export controls in line with international obligations. He was speaking as chief guest at a day-long seminar on ‘Export Controls in Pakistan’ organized by Strategic Export Control Division (SECDIV) held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.The purpose of the seminar was to sensitize and educate public sector organizations on strategic export controls in Pakistan.
The Minister said wide-ranging legislative, regulatory instruments and administrative mechanisms had been put in place to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and their means of delivery to states or non-state actors.
These mechanisms also establish an extensive framework for controls over transfers of related technology and dual-use commodities, he said.
The Minister of State observed that it was a shared responsibility of all relevant organizations, industries and stakeholders to cooperate for a fool-proof implementation of export controls in Pakistan.
It may be recalled that the Export Control Act was enacted in 2004, control lists were notified in 2005 and the Strategic Export Control Division (SECDIV) was established in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2007 as the government authority to administer the Export Control Act.
The audience were informed that SECDIV acts as a licensing authority for export of sensitive dual-use goods and technologies for peaceful applications. An export license is required if exports,re-exports, trans-shipment and transit of goods, technologies,material and equipment under consideration are covered in the Control Lists.
The Export Control Act of 2004 also provides for penalties for any person who contravenes its provisions.
The SECDIV regularly undertakes activities to raise awareness through outreach programmes aimed at educating public and private sector entities, law enforcement agencies, exporters and all other relevant stakeholders.
The seminar was attended by senior representatives from various ministries, research organizations and academic institutions.
Available at: http://www.app.com.pk/en_/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=93708&Itemid=2
1. IAEA to Inspect Kazakhstan Nuclear Facilities in Next Two Months
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A delegation of the International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to visit Kazakhstan in January to February, Deputy Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Aset Magauov has announced.
"Such visits are made each year to inspect our nuclear facilities and activities. The IAEA has not uncovered any irregularities for the past ten years," Magauov told the lower house of parliament on Jan. 13.
"Discussions arose earlier about possible uranium shipments to Iran. Again, the Foreign Ministry made a statement on December 30 which says in clear terms that we had no deals and we did not plan any deals with Iran, and there were no conditions for that, either," he said.
"We drew up a list of countries yesterday at lawmakers' request to which we deliver uranium. Our information is transparent. The IAEA has no questions for us," Magauov said.
Available at: http://www.kyivpost.com/news/russia/detail/56879/
2. US Says Nuclear Arsenal Deal with Russia "Really Close"
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Russia and the United States are "really close" to agreement on a landmark treaty to cut their nuclear arsenals, a senior U.S. arms control official said on Wednesday.
The top U.S. negotiator was headed to Moscow for talks on a replacement for the Cold War-era START I treaty, said Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.
Formal negotiations will resume in Geneva on Jan. 25, Tauscher told reporters.
"I think we are really close," she said, although she would not predict when the treaty might be signed. "We are in a place where we are working very, very hard."
Forging a replacement for the 1991 START treaty is a key element of U.S. President Barack Obama's efforts to mend troubled relations with Russia, curb global arms proliferation and move toward a world without nuclear weapons.
Tauscher played down the failure to reach a deal by Dec. 5, when START expired.
"Nobody's expectation ever was that this was going to be a lay-up," she said.
After negotiators broke for the Christmas and New Year holidays, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin challenged the United States by saying that its plans for a missile defense system were the main obstacle to an agreement.
Obama moved to placate Russia last year by scrapping plans for missile defense installations in Eastern Europe, and the Kremlin had seemed to accept that the U.S. position that the new treaty must not place restraints on missile defense.
Analysts say the pact would have little or no chance of ratification in the U.S. Senate if it were to encompass missile defense. Tauscher said Washington would stand its ground.
"We have made very clear consistently and repeatedly that this is an offensive treaty and that this does not deal at all with missile defense," she said.
Hope for signing by may
The United States now wants the treaty signed by May to set an example for a conference it hopes will bolster the global Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
"If you and the Russians control 95 percent of the nuclear weapons and you're not reducing, you're going to weaken your hand if you're pressing for tighter measures" to rein in other nations' nuclear programs, said Steven Pifer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
In July, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed that the new treaty should cut the number of deployed nuclear warheads on each side to between 1,500 and 1,675.
Despite Putin's remarks, Pifer said he would be surprised if Russia pushes hard on missile defense because it is aware that would likely scuttle chances for Senate approval .
Russia has a pragmatic interest in reaching agreement, he said, because its aging arsenal is likely to fall below 1,500 warheads in the next five or six years anyway.
"So this treaty is their means of assuring that the United States comes down with them," Pifer said.
Available at: http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=52602
1. Merkel Committed to Extending Nuclear Plant Lives
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a newspaper on Thursday she was committed to her pledge to extend the lifespan of nuclear power plants and was in talks with plant operators.
"We will implement the extension of the operating times, and that will be part of the planned overall energy concept that German industry is constantly reminding us about," Merkel told Handelsblatt newspaper.
She added that the government had to decide what part nuclear power would play as a "bridge technology" as Germany boosts its renewable energy supplies.
"I understand that power plant operators, who face a switch- off, are interested in being as clear as possible about what is happening," she said, adding her role was to think of Germany's overall energy strategy.
"That means we are now having talks with nuclear plant operators and they can rely on the fact that we are standing by our basic commitment to extending operating times," Merkel told the paper.
Operators, including EnBW (EBKG.DE) and RWE (RWEG.DE), have been pushing for a quick decision.
Senior executives from four German utilities are due to meet top government officials on Jan. 21 to disccus the future of nuclear energy. As well as EnBW and RWE, officials from E.ON (EONGn.DE) and Vattenfall [VATN.UL] will participate.
The parties in Merkel's new coalition, comprising conservatives and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), agree they want to extend the lifespan of some nuclear plants but have so far given few details.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE60D0AZ20100114?rpc=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=rbssIndustryMaterialsUtilitiesNews&rpc=401
2. 'North Korea Nukes May Hinder Seoul's Recycling Bid'
The Korea Herald
(for personal use only)
South Korea may face significant obstacles in its attempts to revise an atomic agreement with the United States to secure a bigger scope in reprocessing spent nuclear energy.
"The United States will find it difficult to consent to any kind of reprocessing on the Korean Peninsula, particularly if Washington perceives that such a decision would jeopardize the satisfactory resolution of the nuclear issue in North Korea, including a nuclear-weapons-free Korean Peninsula," said Fred McGoldrick, a nuclear energy policy expert, in a recent report released by the Asia Foundation's Center for U.S.-Korea Policy.
Seoul signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States in 1974 under which it is bound to receive permission for enriching or reprocessing uranium. These are both critical steps for enhancing the efficiency of nuclear energy. But these procedures are rarely permitted because they can produce plutonium, the key ingredient for nuclear bombs.
South Korea is currently hoping to revise the agreement when it expires in 2014 to recycle its spent nuclear fuel through experimental new ways, including "pyroprocessing."
Pyroprocessing is considered to be a relatively safer yet more commercial way for recycling nuclear energy.
The Asia Foundation report is seen to be reflecting the policy considerations of the U.S. government, those close to the issue said yesterday.
Government sources here yesterday said the report does not fully reflect Washington's official views.
Nevertheless, they raised concerns that the Barack Obama administration may be unwilling to revise the current nuclear cooperation agreement in Seoul's favor.
"These views could make it difficult for negotiators when the actual talks start because it would mean that the North Korean nuclear issue is being lumped together with South Korea's peaceful nuclear activities," said one government official declining to be identified.
North Korea in May conducted its second nuclear test. It faced tough United Nations Security Council sanctions for the move, but is currently indicating it may come out to another round of the six-nation talks aimed at ending its nuclear ambitions. These talks have been stalled since April when Pyongyang officially quit them.
The Seoul official added, however, that Seoul has been making efforts to show that it is and will continue to participate in the global nuclear nonproliferation movement.
"The United States will want to look at our track record, and since 2005 we have been putting in place institutions and measures in order to show Washington and the world that we will act responsibly," the official said.
Seoul established the Korea Institute of Nuclear Nonproliferation and Control to more safely manage nuclear energy shortly after Seoul was slammed by the International Atomic Energy Agency for a nuclear enrichment experiment.
In a separate denuclearization declaration it jointly signed with North Korea in 1992, Seoul voluntarily forfeited all rights to enrichment and reprocessing.
The North violated this declaration with its first nuclear test in 2006.
Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan had last year called for negotiations on an agreement revision to start as early as possible, citing Korea's heavy dependence on nuclear energy and a lack of sufficient ways to store the spent fuel. Preliminary talks may begin during the latter half of this year.
The North, however, may lodge complaints if Seoul is permitted a bigger reprocessing scope, saying it would reverse its and international community efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, officials noted.
Available at: http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/NEWKHSITE/data/html_dir/2010/01/14/201001140006.asp
3. South Korea Aims to Export 80 Nuclear Reactors by 2030
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)
South Korea aims to export 80 nuclear reactors by 2030 as part of its strategy to become one of the top three atomic energy powers in the world, the government said Wednesday.
The Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in a nuclear energy industry meeting chaired by President Lee Myung-bak that the country will strive to grab at least 20 percent of the global market share for new reactors in the next 20 years.
To meet this goal, the country must "customize" export strategies to meet the needs of individual countries, attain full technological self-sufficiency that can bolster competitiveness, train more engineers and set up arrangements to ensure steady supply of fuel, it said.
"The plan is based on predictions that nuclear energy has considerable growth potential on a par with autos, semiconductors and shipbuilding in the coming years," said Na Ki-yong, head of the ministry's atomic industry division.
He said including the four APR-1400 reactors sold to the United Arab Emirates, Seoul wants to sign deals to build 10 reactors by 2012.
Foreign sources like the World Nuclear Association predicted that 430 large reactors may be built worldwide by 2030, while up to 1,000 small- and medium- sized reactors may be constructed by 2050.
South Korea reported the highest operational rate for its reactors in the world in 2008, can build its reactors more quickly and more cheaply than rivals compared to the United States, France, Russia and Japan.
The ministry said it will become totally self-sufficient in the technological field by 2012. The country has injected 99.6 billion won (US$88.3 million) to become fully independent of outside support since 2006. Presently the country's technology level stands at 95 percent of global leaders.
The plan calls for training of 2,800 new nuclear experts by 2011 to meet both domestic and overseas construction projects and greatly increase the number of research and development personnel.
It also includes a set of measures to have a stable supply of nuclear fuel.
At present the country's self-sufficiency in uranium-based fuel stands at 6.7 percent of demand, but this is to be raised to 25 percent in 2016 and 50 percent by 2030.
The ministry said that if the country can sell 80 reactors by 2030, total benefits could amount to $400 billion or larger than South Korea's total export volume of $363.8 billion tallied for last year.
The increase may help create 1.56 million new jobs and fuel related sales reaching 26.7 trillion won.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/business/2010/01/13/55/0501000000AEN20100113003500320F.HTML
Hydraulic testing of the secondary circuit at Iran's Bushehr reactor has been completed, taking the plant a step closer to its long-awaited start-up.
The 915 MWe VVER pressurized water reactor is being constructed by Russian reactor builder AtomStroyExport, who reports that the secondary circuit has now been tested up to a pressure of 110 kg/cm2 in accordance with the power station's commissioning program. According to AtomStroyExport, the plant's primary circuit has already been hydraulically tested up to 250 kg/cm2, 40% above normal operating pressure. The testing has confirmed that main and auxiliary equipment in the two circuits are functioning efficiently within plant design parameters. Iranian plans call for the plant to be operational by the end of March 2010.
Iran established its nuclear power program as long ago as 1957 and Siemens KWU of Germany began work on two pressurized water reactors at Bushehr in 1975. However, the project was abandoned from 1979 until 1994, when Russia's Minatom and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) agreed to complete the first unit at the plant with a VVER-1000 unit, making use of the infrastructure already in place. The project has necessitated AtomStroyExport and its contractors to integrate the Russian reactor design with the existing on-site facilities, including fabrication of all the reactor components in Russia under a construction contract with AtomStroyExport. As a result, the finished Bushehr will be unique amongst the world's nuclear power plants.
The Bushehr VVER was originally scheduled to begin operation in late 2006 but the project has been beset with delays. The fuel for the reactor's initial core had been delivered to Iran by the end of January 2008, and as of September 2009 the reactor was reported to be 96% complete with testing under way and fuel loading expected by October 2009. For the first year of operations, the plant is to be operated by a Russian-Iranian joint venture. Of the 3600 workers on site, about 1100 are Iranian with the rest brought in from Russia.
The Bushehr power plant stands outside the protracted international concern over Iran's program to develop its own uranium enrichment facilities. From the outset, Bushehr has been constructed under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) non-proliferation safeguards. It will use nuclear fuel supplied by Russia under IAEA seal, and this is to be returned to Russia after use. The plant will also operate under IAEA safeguards.
Despite its lack of apparent need to enrich its own uranium for nuclear power purposes, Iran has defied the UN Security Council by pressing on with its program to develop its own enrichment facilities. Plans for future nuclear power plants in Iran remain hazy, but the country followed its September 2009 revelation that it was working on a second enrichment facility by saying it plans to build a further ten enrichment plants.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Iranian_reactor_completes_latest_pre_start_tests-1201108.html
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