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Nuclear News - 2/16/2010
PGS Nuclear News, February 16, 2010
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski

A.  Iran
    1. US Joins France, Russia in Denying New Iran Nuclear Offer, AFP (2/15/2010)
    2. Sanctions Against Iran Not to Affect S-300 Supplies - Lawmaker, Itar-Tass News Agency (2/15/2010)
    3. Iran 'Negotiates Without Limiting Enrichment', PressTV (2/15/2010)
    4. Israeli PM Pushes for Iran Sanctions in Moscow, Aron Heller, Associated Press (2/15/2010)
    5. U.S. Warns Iran on 'Building a Bomb', UPI (2/14/2010)
    6. US Asks Gulf to Pressure Iran, Sees Changes in China, Lachlan Carmichael, AFP (2/14/2010)
    7. Austria Threatens Iran With Sanctions, PressTV (2/13/2010)
    8. Salehi: Iran Will Produce Fuel Plates Soon, PressTV (2/13/2010)
    1. China to Make Massive Investment in North Korea, Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press (2/15/2010)
    2. North Korea May Take Time to Return to Nuke Talks: UN, AFP (2/13/2010)
C.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. UK, India Sign Civil Nuclear Accord, Reuters (2/13/2010)
D.  Nuclear Energy
    1. UAE ‘Meets Nuclear Gold Standard’, Zoi Constantine, The National (2/14/2010)
    2. Obama Nuke Plant Loan Reflects New Energy Strategy, Ben Feller, ABC News (2/13/2010)
E.  Links of Interest
    1. Turkey Minister's Iran Visit Tests Ankara Influence, Zerin Elci and Ibon Villelabeitia, Reuters (2/14/2010)
    2. Sellafield: Inside the Big Clean-Up, Danny Fortson, The Times  (2/14/2010)
    3. Israel General Doubts Power to Hit Iran Atom Sites, Reuters (2/13/2010)
    4. IAEA Board Elects New Chairman, AFP (2/12/2010)

A.  Iran

Iran 'Negotiates Without Limiting Enrichment'
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Iran says it has no plan to limit its nuclear activities but is ready to negotiate with the West over a nuclear fuel swap if it receives a formal proposal.

"Iran is ready to sit down at the negotiation table only if it receives a formal written proposal for the swap or sale of 20-percent enriched uranium," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on Monday.

"Iran will continue enriching uranium to 20 percent purity until the time the fuel needed for the Tehran research reactor is supplied. It has currently no plan to limit its [nuclear activities]," the Iranian Labor News Agency quoted him as saying.

Iran announced Tuesday it had started enriching uranium to the level of less than 20 percent after potential suppliers failed to provide fuel for Tehran's research reactor, which produces medical isotopes for treatment of cancer patients. The research reactor is running out of fuel.

On Thursday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran had produced the first stock of 20-percent-enriched uranium at the Natanz enrichment facility.

Mehmanparast reiterated that in addition to the production of the fuel within the country, which is carried out under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Islamic Republic is ready to exchange or buy the 20-percent-enriched uranium for its research reactor.

The spokesman criticized threats of imposing sanctions or pressure on Iran, saying, "We think that any policy which will make Iran suspend its activities to supply the fuel for Tehran research reactor will be in contradiction to regulations."

Iran has repeatedly announced that it remains open to talks on a fuel swap with the West. However, Tehran insists that its conditions, mainly revolving around guarantee issues, must be taken into consideration if the West is interested in a fuel exchange with Iran.

Iran needs 120 kilograms (264 pounds) of 20 percent-enriched uranium to fuel the Tehran research reactor.

If the fuel for the Tehran research reactor completely runs out, there will be dire consequences for thousands of Iranians who depend on its radioisotope production for medical treatment.

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Israeli PM Pushes for Iran Sanctions in Moscow
Aron Heller
Associated Press
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he pressed for "severe sanctions" against Iran over its nuclear program in his meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and he praised the Russian leader for showing "an understanding" over the issue.

The meeting came just days after Iran announced it would be enriching uranium to higher levels. That process could be used to build bombs if ramped up further and has fueled Israel's conviction that Iran wants to ultimately develop nuclear weapons.

"I expressed our position that what are needed now are very severe sanctions that have the ability to influence this regime. Severe sanctions have to include the import and export of fuel," Netanyahu told reporters after the meeting. "I found a considerable degree of understanding from the Russian president to the problems concerning us."

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest threat, citing Tehran's support for Arab militants, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threats to destroy Israel and Iran's nuclear program.

Israel has been on the forefront of pushing for sanctions, and Netanyahu said Monday they could be effective since 80 percent of the Iranian economy was based on energy.

Russia has generally resisted new sanctions, but has shown increasing frustration over the past week as Iran proceeds with uranium enrichment despite international pressure.

Netanyahu said that in his talks with Medvedev he noticed a shift in the Russian position.

"I can say that Russia definitely understands there is a need to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and it understands that steps must be taken," he said. "I think that Russia understands Iran's direction very well and is considering what to do with other members of the Security Council."

Iran has already defied three sets of U.N. sanctions. China, which relies on Iran for energy supplies, is the only other major power resisting further sanctions.

Netanyahu said he insisted that the next round of sanctions be "sanctions that have teeth" and can thwart the threat from Iran. He described his meeting with Medvedev as warm and friendly and said the two talked about joint projects between the two countries. Medvedev welcomed Netanyahu to the Kremlin by saying Russia regards Israel as more than an ordinary partner.

After four decades of Cold War animosity, ties between Moscow and Israel have improved significantly since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Israel is also home to more than 1 million Soviet immigrants.

But Moscow's positions on Iran and its arms sales to Syria have strained ties, as have Israeli weapons sales to Georgia, which Russia invaded in 2008 in support of pro-Moscow secessionists. Israel has since scaled back its weapons sales to Georgia.

Iran's Bushehr atomic energy plant was built by Russia, and the country has worked to keep strong ties with Iran, despite concerns that the Bushehr plant would be a stepping stone toward nuclear weapons.

Russia also has caused concern in Israel with its contract to sell S-300 long-range air-defense missiles to Iran, which would significantly boost Iran's defense capability.

None of the missiles have been delivered, Russian officials say, although there have been no public explanations for the delay. Some observers suggest Russia is holding back on the missiles to persuade Iran to back off on its nuclear ambitions.

Netanyahu refused to divulge what was discussed on this matter but said he left the meeting optimistic.

"I trust what I heard from the president of Russia. I trust him because I know that in this issue, Russia is guided by concerns about regional stability," he said.

While Israel has said it hopes diplomacy will resolve the nuclear standoff, it has not ruled out military action. In 1981, Israeli warplanes destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor.

An Israeli air attack in 2007 destroyed what the U.S. says was a nearly finished nuclear reactor in Syria that would have been able to produce plutonium when completed.

Netanyahu refused to say whether an Israeli military offensive was discussed, but remarked there has been a convergence of international opinion on the threat from Tehran.

"There is a growing understanding about the Iranian threat and the need to stop them from developing a nuclear weapon. The gaps between the leading countries is getting smaller and smaller."

The two-day visit by Netanyahu is his first official trip to Russia since taking office a year ago. But he made a clandestine visit to Moscow in September after rumors emerged that a hijacked Russian freighter may have been secretly carrying S-300s bound for Iran. No details of that visit have been released, although Medvedev later acknowledged it had taken place.

Israel is believed to possess nuclear arms but refuses to confirm or deny its status. Again this year, its rivals have demanded that Israel open up its facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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Sanctions Against Iran Not to Affect S-300 Supplies - Lawmaker
Itar-Tass News Agency
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If sanctions are imposed upon Iran, they will cover its nuclear and missile programmes, but will not affect Russian S-300 supplies to this country, first deputy chairman of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky said.

He told Itar-Tass on Monday that the international community should not drive Tehran into the corner with sanctions, but the sanctions should be precise and target Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes.

Slutsky believes that Tehran’s decision to enrich uranium to 20 percent inside the country is destructive. “This paves the way for the supporters of the stick policy in the dialogue with Iran. Strong statements have already been made regarding ‘specific measures’ in respect of the Islamic Republic,” the lawmaker said.

He noted that questions regarding the absence of transparency in Iran’ s nuclear activities were quite legitimate and well founded. “By being stubbornness and by rejecting all initiatives of the international community, Iran paves the way to a strong international reaction,” he said.

Slutsky stressed that possible sanctions against Iran should not affect Russian S-300 missile defence system supplies to Iran. “The contract for the supply of S-300 systems is not limited by international sanctions because it envisages the supply of purely defensive weapons,” the official said.

Sanctions against Iran have become more relevant following Tehran's decision to enrich uranium, but they won' t solve the problem, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier.

“The situation has in fact become more complicated, and very seriously, after Iran officially notified IAEA of the start of work on additional enrichment up to 19.75 percent. In this new situation the question of sanctions and the drafting of a new sanctions resolution is assuming additional relevancy. But Russia has said that sanctions won't solve the problem,” the diplomat said.

The West has already made statements on the need for harsher sanctions against Iran. “That Western countries are forcing sanctions upon us is a well known fact,” Rabkov said.

Moscow believes that “sanctions, if and when the U.N. Security Council adopts the relevant decision, should aim to strengthen the non-proliferation regime”, he said.

“Any other attempts to push a possible future resolution towards provisions that will take it beyond the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime would naturally be inappropriate to us,” the diplomat said.

The Russian approach is that “sanctions do not solve the problem”, he added.

“Our position is perfectly balanced and justified. Irrespective of how the situation will evolve further, there should remain an opportunity for a negotiated settlement. It is necessary to look for ways to resolve the international community's concerns over Iran's nuclear programme through diplomatic engagement with Iran,” Ryabkov said.

He stressed that Russia “continues diplomatic efforts” and the proposal to provide fuel for Iran's research reactor remained in force. “All this remains and is not rejected, and we will continue these efforts,” he said.

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US Joins France, Russia in Denying New Iran Nuclear Offer
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The United States, Russia and France on Tuesday said that Iran's escalation of its uranium enrichment further undermines international trust in its nuclear drive.

The three powers sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressing new concern about Iran's actions and signalling new pressure on the Islamic state.

"If Iran goes forward with this escalation, it would raise concerns about Iran's nuclear intentions," said the joint letter, which was obtained by AFP.

"Iran's enrichment of its LEU (low-enriched uranium) stockpile to higher levels is not only unnecessary, but would serve to further undermine the confidence of the international community in Iran's actions," it said.

Iran announced on February 7 that it intended to start producing 20 percent enriched uranium for a medical research reactor, defying world powers who have warned of new UN sanctions unless Tehran halts its nuclear drive.

Western powers suspect Tehran is enriching uranium to make atomic weapons as the material in high purity form can be used in the fissile core of a nuclear bomb.

Iran insists its intentions are peaceful and that it needs 20 percent level uranium to fuel its Tehran research reactor.

The West is trying to convince Iran to accept an IAEA-brokered deal that envisages Tehran being supplied with nuclear fuel for the reactor in exchange for its low-enriched uranium. Iran has so far refused to sign up to the deal.

Iran's announcement that it would enrich on its own and its "subsequent formal notification to the IAEA are wholly unjustified," the three countries wrote in the letter to watchdog chief Yukiya Amano.

It was signed by French envoy Florence Mangin, Russian ambassador Alexander Zmeyevskiy and US ambassador Glyn Davies.

The moves "represent a further step toward a capability to produce highly enriched uranium."

The countries "recognise the need in Iran for medical radioisotopes," the letter continued.

"If Iran does not wish to accept the IAEA offer, we note that these are available on the world market and could be obtained as a responsible, timely and cost effective alternative to the IAEA's proposal.

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U.S. Warns Iran on 'Building a Bomb'
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday the United States welcomes "meaningful engagement" with Iran but not "while they are building their bomb."

Speaking at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Qatar, Clinton said the United States and its allies were "encouraging Iran to reconsider its dangerous policy decisions," the BBC reported.

Iran has insisted its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes but Clinton said "evidence is accumulating" that Tehran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

"I would like to figure out a way to handle it in as peaceful an approach possible, and I certainly welcome any meaningful engagement," she said, "but ... we don't want to be engaging while they are building their bomb."

Clinton traveled to Qatar as part of a three-day tour of the Gulf region intended to promote Arab support for tougher sanctions against Iran in response to its nuclear program. The United States is urging the U.N. Security Council to impose further sanctions.

Clinton's agenda is likely to include efforts to reinvigorate the Arab-Israeli peace process, the BBC said.

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US Asks Gulf to Pressure Iran, Sees Changes in China
Lachlan Carmichael
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton takes the US drive to halt Iran's sensitive nuclear work to Saudi Arabia on Monday as she sounded more upbeat that China may eventually support sanctions against Tehran.

During a visit to Qatar on Sunday, Clinton told Iran's neighbours it appeared increasingly evident Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons and warned the Revolutionary Guards' rising power poses "a direct threat" to all.

A Clinton aide told AFP and another reporter on condition of anonymity that the US chief diplomat's remarks on China and Iran's alleged atomic weapons drive were more forceful than her previous ones.

Frustrated that a year-long drive to engage Iran in nuclear and other talks has yielded little, President Barack Obama's administration last week imposed fresh unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

US officials also want the UN Security Council to draft new sanctions against a force they say runs Iran's nuclear programme, supports anti-US and anti-Israeli militants and cracks down on Iranian anti-government protesters.

"It's time for Iran to be held to account for its activities which do already and can continue to have destabilising effects," Clinton said in a speech to the US-Islamic World Forum, set up after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

During a three-day tour that began in Qatar, the chief US diplomat added to the US sense of urgency after Iran began Tuesday to enrich uranium to 20 percent purity while insisting its intent was peaceful.

"Iran leaves the international community little choice but to impose greater costs for its provocative steps," she said after talks with Qatar's emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani, who is both foreign minister and prime minister.

"We are now working actively with our regional and international partners... to prepare and implement new measures to convince Iran to change its course," she said.

Clinton also met in Doha with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan whose country has good ties with Iran and has repeatedly offered to serve as mediator on the nuclear issue.

A Clinton aide who asked not to be named said Turkey's stand was close to that of China, but made no comment.

Turkey's foreign minister is due to visit Iran on Monday, the aide said.

Clinton struck an upbeat note about support for sanctions among the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

She said Russia has said "publicly and privately that it can and will support sanctions," and detected a shift in the Chinese position.

"The weight is maybe beginning to move toward not wanting to be either isolated or inadvertently contributing to instability that would undermine their economic interests," she said.

She recalled China's investment stake in Iran and its oil imports from that country.

On the flight to to Doha, the US assistant secretary of state for near east affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, said Washington would ask for oil-rich Saudi Arabia's help in pressing China to join the US drive for sanctions against Iran.

But Feltman neither confirmed nor denied suggestions from reporters that the administration would ask the Saudis to offer China oil supply guarantees in return for winning Beijing's support for new UN sanctions.

Clinton is due to meet Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and Prince Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister, in Riyadh on Monday, following a broadcast question-and-answer session with Arab and Muslim university students in Doha.

The Clinton aide said the Obama administration was open to what he called a Qatari proposal for direct US-Iran talks to break the nuclear impasse.

In her speech -- a follow-up to one that Obama gave in Egypt last October in which he called for a "new beginning" with the world's Muslims -- Clinton said she was "disappointed" the Arab-Israeli peace process remained deadlocked.

"But we need to remember that neither the United States nor any country can force a solution. The parties must resolve their differences through negotiations," she added.

"We are committed to our role in ensuring that negotiations begin and succeed," she said.

The Arab and Muslim enthusiasm that greeted Obama's victory in the US election in 2008 has given way to frustration and disenchantment, particularly over the deadlock in the peace process.

The Clinton aide said Qatar's leaders asked Clinton to press Israel to allow construction material to enter the Gaza Strip to rebuild homes destroyed in Israel's military offensive in December 2008 and January 2009.

The aide also said Clinton asked the Qataris to reopen the Israeli trade office they closed after that offensive, adding the Qataris are considering the move.

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Austria Threatens Iran With Sanctions
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Austria joins the US in stepping up efforts to punish Iran over Tehran's decision to produce nuclear fuel for a research reactor, warning that sanctions could be in store for the Islamic Republic.

"Iran can still return to the negotiating table but it must realize it has now exhausted the patience of the international community," Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said on Friday.

"The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s proposal to enrich uranium abroad would have been a promising and confidence-building measure, but unfortunately Iran did not grasp this outstretched hand," he told journalists after meeting with the chief of the Vienna-based IAEA Yukiya Amano.

"Now the ball is in the UN Security Council's court," he added, warning that time was running out for a negotiated solution to Iran's nuclear program.

Iran announced on Tuesday that it had started enriching uranium to a level of 20 percent after potential suppliers failed to provide fuel for Tehran's research reactor, which produces medical isotopes for cancer patients.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that Iran had produced the first stock of 20 percent-enriched uranium at the Natanz enrichment facility.

This sparked anger in the West, which has been pressuring Iran to accept a UN-backed draft deal, which requires Iran to send most of its domestically-produced low enriched uranium abroad for conversion into the more refined fuel that the Tehran research reactor requires to produce medical isotopes.

Iran has requested the UN nuclear watchdog to arrange for the supplying of the fuel to the country.

Iran says it is still open to talks on a fuel swap with the West. However, it reiterated that its "conditions," mainly revolving around guarantee issues, must be taken into account if the West is interested in a fuel exchange with Iran.

Iran needs 120 kg (264 lb) of 20 percent-enriched uranium to fuel the Tehran research reactor, which is soon to run out of fuel.

If the research reactor's fuel completely dries out, there will be heavy consequences for thousands of Iranian patients, who desperately need post-surgery treatment with radio medicine.

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Salehi: Iran Will Produce Fuel Plates Soon
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Iran's nuclear point man Ali-Akbar Salehi says that much to the West's surprise, Tehran will produce nuclear fuel plates within the next few months.

Iran on Tuesday announced that it started enriching uranium to a level of 20 percent after potential suppliers failed to provide fuel for Tehran's research reactor which produces medical isotopes for cancer patients.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran could not wait for Western countries to "waste time" because the Tehran research reactor will soon run out of fuel.

Two days after that, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that Iran had successfully produced the first stock of the 20-percent enriched uranium.

Western countries reacted with cynicism to Iran's declaration, with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner describing the plan as a political bluff.

Kouchner claimed that Iran does not have the ability to enrich uranium to 20 percent and accused Tehran of "blackmail."

Salehi, Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, dismissed Kouchner's remarks and assured him that Iran would produce the plates within the next few months.

He wondered why Western countries were concerned over Iran's declaration while they claimed that Tehran lacked the ability to enrich uranium to higher levels.

According to Salehi, Iran had the potential to enrich uranium to higher levels but preferred to buy the required fuel considering certain "economic and political reasons."

Iran's willingness to purchase the fuel, however, was misinterpreted as lack of Iran's expertise in nuclear technology, he said.

Iran's top nuclear official asserted that Iran could surely enrich uranium to higher levels, saying that the country was a nuclear forerunner among Muslim countries.

White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs Thursday cast doubt on the announcement that Iran produced the first batch of 20 percent uranium.

"The Iranian nuclear program has undergone a series of problems throughout the year," Gibbs said. "We do not believe they have the capability to enrich to the degree to which they now say they are enriching."

Iran says it is still open to talks on a fuel swap with the West. Iran has, however, reiterated that its "conditions", mainly revolving around guarantee issues, have to be taken into account if the West is interested on a fuel exchange with Iran.

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China to Make Massive Investment in North Korea
Hyung-Jin Kim
Associated Press
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China plans to invest billions of dollars in North Korea in an apparent effort to prod the impoverished country to rejoin international nuclear disarmament talks, a news report said Monday.

The news came one week after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told a visiting high-level envoy from Beijing that he was committed to a nuclear-free Korea. Kim subsequently dispatched his top nuclear envoy to Beijing for talks on the resumption of six-nation negotiations on ending the North's nuclear program in return for aid.

Several state-run Chinese banks and other multinational companies neared an agreement to invest about $10 billion to build railroads, harbors and houses in North Korea following their negotiations with Pyongyang's official Korea Taepung International Investment Group, according to Seoul's Yonhap news agency.

More than 60 percent of the $10 billion investment would come from the Chinese banks, Yonhap reported citing an unidentified source it described as knowledgeable about the situation at the North Korean investment agency.

The investors and the North's State Development Bank plan to sign the deal next month, Yonhap said. The news agency didn't identify the investors.

Calls to Beijing's Finance Ministry rang unanswered on Monday, a national holiday in China. South Korea's main spy agency, however, dismissed as "not true" the Yonhap report.

"We see the report on the $10 billion investment as 'not true,'" said a spokesman at the National Intelligence Service on customary condition of anonymity, citing protocol. He provided no further details.

The Unification Ministry and Finance Ministry in Seoul said they could not immediately confirm the report.

China, the North's key ally and biggest aid provider, is widely seen as the country with the most clout with Pyongyang. Its influence is seen as key to getting North Korea to return to the six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

North Korea quit the talks and conducted a second atomic test last year, inviting tighter U.N. sanctions. The regime has called for a lifting of the sanctions and peace talks formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War before it returns to the disarmament talks. The U.S., South Korea and Japan have responded the North must first return to the negotiations and produce progress in denuclearization.

Yonhap said the North could help resolve its chronic food shortage and economic difficulties with the investment. The North's gross domestic product for 2008 was estimated at $24.7 billion, according to Seoul's central bank.

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North Korea May Take Time to Return to Nuke Talks: UN
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More talks will be needed to bring North Korea back to nuclear disarmament negotiations but it does want to improve relations with South Korea, a top United Nations official said Saturday.

Lynn Pascoe, who said Friday after visiting Pyongyang that the North was "not eager" to return to the nuclear forum, predicted a "major discussion" among the six parties about restarting the stalled dialogue.

"I think this is going to be a major discussion. It is a major discussion," Pascoe, the under-secretary-general for political affairs, told reporters at South Korea's Incheon airport after arriving from China.

The UN official Friday ended a four-day trip to the North for talks on UN programmes and the nuclear issue.

He said in Beijing Friday he held "frank" discussions with officials on issues including the six-party talks and UN sanctions which were tightened following its missile launches and nuclear test last year.

"They certainly are not happy with the sanctions and they certainly were not eager -- not ruling out, but not eager -- to return to the six-party talks," said Pascoe.

Chinese and North Korean nuclear negotiators held several days of talks in Beijing this week aimed at restarting the forum which the North quit last April.

Media reports said Pyongyang was sticking to its two conditions for coming back: a lifting of sanctions and a US commitment to discuss a formal peace treaty.

Washington, Seoul and Tokyo say the North must return unconditionally and show commitment to scrapping its nuclear programme before other issues are dealt with.

During the Beijing visit which ended Saturday, the two sides discussed "speeding up the denuclearisation of the peninsula through confidence-building such as the conclusion of a peace treaty, the lifting of sanctions and the resumption of the six-party talks," North Korea's foreign ministry said.

As the nuclear standoff continued, the North's relations with the South also worsened sharply, although it began making peace overtures last year.

Pascoe, quoted by Yonhap news agency, said that in general the North Koreans "did want to improve the relations (with South Korea), but the specifics are another issue, of course".

He said his trip, the first by a high-level UN official since 2004, had been useful. "We worked quite hard to improve the reengagement with the North and the United Nations and I think in that we were quite successful."

Yonhap, quoting a diplomatic source in Beijing, said Friday the North's chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan would visit the United States next month.

The US State Department said there were no discussions or plans "at this point" for such a visit.

Some analysts believe the North will eventually feel obliged to return to negotiations given its worsening economy and acute food shortages.

Pascoe warned Friday that declining donations were hurting UN humanitarian projects in the North.

He said initiatives were about "one-quarter of what they should be" and were shrinking due to "donor fatigue."

"That for us is a real concern," he added, without giving specific information on the food situation.

The UN's World Food Programme, in an assessment published last September, said one third of women and young children are malnourished.

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C.  Nuclear Cooperation

UK, India Sign Civil Nuclear Accord
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Britain has signed an agreement on nuclear energy cooperation with India, paving the way for an international conference, the government said Saturday.

The declaration, signed in New Delhi, will help British companies collaborate with Indian partners in civil nuclear technology and help both countries achieve energy security and low carbon growth, business minister Pat McFadden told Reuters in a telephone call.

The agreement will result in India attending a Nuclear New Build Conference in London between March 1-3, along with nuclear business and political leaders from 15 countries, including the United Arab Emirates.

McFadden said the declaration was in line with "our strong non-proliferation commitments."

"The agreement really opens the door to a discussion that can begin between some of the best UK-based engineering companies and the nuclear authorities in India.

"Given that we in the UK are also going to be expanding our own civil nuclear power source in the coming years, getting that supply chain right not only for our own purposes but for the purposes of export is a major opportunity for British industry."

Among the delegates will be representatives from the Nuclear Power Cooperation of India. McFadden said there was significant Indian expertise in this field, and both countries could learn from each other.

Britain was a market leader in the sector, with British-based industry earning 700 million pounds ($1.11 billion) in overseas business each year and employing 80,000 people, a spokeswoman for UK Trade & Investment, the British government's trade arm, said.

India and the United States signed a civilian nuclear deal in 2008, ending India's nuclear isolation since it tested a nuclear device in 1974 and opening up its atomic market for firms such as General Electric Co and Westinghouse Electric Co, a subsidiary of Japan's Toshiba Corp.

But with delays in implementation of the deal, U.S. firms have lagged in a competitive scramble with Russian and French firms whose governments guarantee their liability in case of an industrial accident.

Britain is planning to build a new generation of nuclear powers plants at home, but will need French help to do so.

"It's a long time since we built a nuclear power station, we've still got good engineering capacity but I think it's fair to say that we want to strengthen our supply chain capacity, with a view to both our own expansion in civil nuclear power and the export opportunities in other countries who are doing so for much the same reasons that we are..."

In a separate announcement, McFadden said Britain and India had agreed a 10 million pound three-year research program to develop cost-effective and efficient solar energy solutions.

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D.  Nuclear Energy

UAE ‘Meets Nuclear Gold Standard’
Zoi Constantine
The National
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The UAE’s civil nuclear energy programme is being developed to “global gold standards” and could be a model for other nations, according to a leading figure in the nuclear arms reduction movement.

Gareth Evans, a co-chairman of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament and a former Australian foreign minister, spoke as he was visiting Abu Dhabi for a meeting with high-level government and industry officials.

His stop in the UAE came as part of a 26-country tour to promote a report released by the commission in December which charts a road map towards a nuclear weapons- free world.

The report, which also outlines the need to “destroy the curse, but retain the blessing of nuclear energy”, was written ahead of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s (NPT) review conference in May.

According to Mr Evans, who arrived in the country last Monday, the UAE’s nascent nuclear energy programme could be a model for others wishing to pursue the civil nuclear path, and “an answer” to those concerned about the possible risks to non-proliferation efforts.

“The UAE has a particularly significant story to tell to the international community because of the decision to acquire civil nuclear energy to a global gold standard basis,” he said, in an interview.

The UAE is expected to have four nuclear reactors by 2020, which would make it the first country in the Arab world to harness nuclear power.

In December, the UAE and the United States finalised a deal, known as the 123 Agreement, which allows for the transfer of material and equipment for nuclear research and power production. It also outlines strict non-proliferation guidelines.

The UAE has also committed to a ban on domestic enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear materials in a bid to reaffirm that its programme is solely for peaceful purposes.

According to Mr Evans, the 123 Agreement “ticks all the boxes”, particularly on security and safeguard issues. “Some people describe countries newly acquiring civil nuclear energy as ‘bomb-starter kits’,” he said. “The UAE has made it unequivocally clear that it’s not going to be in the bomb-starter kit business.”

Mr Evans will visit nuclear-armed states, including Pakistan, India and Israel, during his tour.

One area in which he would like to see more movement is in efforts towards a “weapons of mass destruction free zone” in the Middle East.

Among the recommendations outlined in the commission’s report is for the UN Secretary General to convene a regional meeting to discuss ways to achieve a region free of nuclear weapons.

“Obviously Israel’s possession of a substantial nuclear arsenal, and unwillingness to talk about going down this direction until there is a stable and sustainable peace involving it and its neighbours, is going to make it very difficult to move rapidly to any kind of negotiation on that front,” said Mr Evans.

“But I think it is important to begin serious discussions about the pre-conditions and pre-requisites for that.”

However, Mr Evans stressed that nuclear non-proliferation must be dealt with at the global and not just the regional level.

The commission was launched in 2008 by the Australian and Japanese governments. In addition to Mr Evans and his co-chairwoman, Yoriko Kawaguchi, a former Japanese foreign minister, the independent body is comprised of a diverse group including Brajesh Mishra, a former national security adviser to the Indian government, and Prince Turki Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia.

The commission’s report says non-proliferation and disarmament are inextricably linked.

“The basic story that this report wants to tell is, so long as any country has nuclear weapons, others will want them. So long as any country has them, they’re bound one day to be used by accident or miscalculation, if not design,” said Mr Evans. “Any such use would be catastrophic to life on this planet.”

The report, which Mr Evans described as a “very pragmatic and realistic” proposal of how to eventually rid the world of nuclear weapons, includes a strategy for minimising and eventually eliminating the warheads.

It outlines targets for the next three years, including progress on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.

The commission would also like to see significant developments in the area of disarmament by 2012, including a new agreement between the US and Russia, who between them possess 95 per cent of the world’s 23,000 nuclear weapons.

In the next three years there also needs to be a resolution to the issue of Iran’s nuclear intentions, according to the report, as well as to North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The commission has outlined a plan to reduce the number of nuclear warheads from the current 23,000 to fewer than 2,000 by 2025.

According to Mr Evans there are currently 2,000 nuclear warheads on “launch-on-warning” status.

“It’s sheer dumb luck that we have survived for all these years since the end of the Second World War without a nuclear catastrophe,” he said.

“It’s got nothing to do with political leadership or good management.”

According to Mr Evans, while it will be difficult enough to reduce the number of weapons, the real challenge will come when trying to eliminate the very last of them.

“You’ve got to have issues of verification absolutely resolved so that no one can possibly cheat and you’ve got to have the issue of enforcement resolved so that if someone does try to cheat, the whole world will be on them like a ton of bricks.”

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Obama Nuke Plant Loan Reflects New Energy Strategy
Ben Feller
ABC News
(for personal use only)

The Obama administration's planned loan guarantee to build the first nuclear power plant in the U.S in almost three decades is part of a broad shift in energy strategy to lessen dependence on foreign oil and reduce the use of other fossil fuels blamed for global warming.

President Barack Obama called for "a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants" in his Jan. 27 State of the Union speech and followed that by proposing to triple loan guarantees for new nuclear plants. He wants to use nuclear power and other alternative sources of energy in his effort to shift energy policy.

Obama in the coming week will announce the loan guarantee to build the nuclear power plant, an administration official said Friday. The two new Southern Co. reactors to be built in Burke, Ga., are part of a White House energy plan that administration officials hope will draw Republican support.

Loan guarantees for other sites are expected to be announced in the coming months, the official said, who would speak only on condition of anonymity ahead of Obama's announcement. The federal guarantees are seen as essential for construction of any new reactor because of the expense involved. Critics call the guarantees a form of subsidy and say taxpayers will assume a huge risk, given the industry's record of cost overruns and loan defaults.

"The last thing Americans want is another government bailout for a failing industry, but that's exactly what they're getting from the Obama administration," said Ben Schreiber, an analyst for the environmental group Friends of the Earth. "This is great news for Wall Street but a bad deal for Main Street."

Even with next week's announcement, construction of the first reactor is still years away. The Southern Co. has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a construction and operating license for the plant, one of 13 such applications the agency is considering. NRC spokesman Eliot Brenner said the earliest any of those could be approved would be late 2011 or early 2012.

The Southern Co. has begun site preparation in Burke but cannot begin construction without NRC approval.

Obama's budget for the coming year would add $36 billion in new federal loan guarantees on top of $18.5 billion already budgeted — but not spent — for a total of $54.5 billion. That's enough to help build six or seven new nuclear plants, which can cost $8 billion to $10 billion each.

The proposed new reactors would generate power for some 1.4 million people and employ about 850 people, the administration official said, adding that the Georgia project would create about 3,000 construction jobs.

Spiraling costs, safety concerns and opposition from environmentalists have kept utilities from building any new nuclear power plants in the U.S. since the early 1980s. The 104 nuclear reactors now in operation in 31 states provide about 20 percent of the nation's electricity. But they are responsible for 70 percent of the power from pollution-free sources, including wind, solar and hydroelectric dams that Obama has championed as a way to save the environment and economy at the same time.

Environmentalists and fiscal hawks oppose new nuclear plants and note that they come at the same time Obama has proposed eliminating a long-planned nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Obama has appointed a commission to find a safe solution for dealing with nuclear waste, but in the meantime the government has no long-term plan to store commercial radioactive waste.

Republicans like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham welcome the shift, but some pro-nuclear Republicans remain nervous about the heart of the Obama-backed climate bill — a plan to limit heat-trapping pollution, which would raise energy costs.

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E.  Links of Interest

Sellafield: Inside the Big Clean-Up
Danny Fortson
The Times
(for personal use only)

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Turkey Minister's Iran Visit Tests Ankara Influence
Zerin Elci and Ibon Villelabeitia
(for personal use only)

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Israel General Doubts Power to Hit Iran Atom Sites
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IAEA Board Elects New Chairman
(for personal use only)

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