The United States has expanded land- and sea-based missile defense systems in and around the Gulf to counter what it sees as Iran's growing missile threat, U.S. officials said.
The deployments include expanded land-based Patriot defensive missile installations in Kuwait, Qatar, UAE and Bahrain, as well as Navy ships with missile defense systems in and around the Mediterranean, officials said.
General David Petraeus, who as head of U.S. Central Command is responsible for military operations across the Middle East, said this month that the United States has stationed eight Patriot missile batteries in four Gulf countries, which he did not identify.
The buildup began under the Bush administration, but has expanded under President Barack Obama, who is pushing for a new round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
Officials said the expansion was meant to increase protection for U.S. forces and key allies in the Gulf.
The chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said last month the Pentagon must have military options ready to counter Iran should Obama call for them.
"The chairman has made it clear many times that he remains concerned about the ballistic missile threat posed by Iran, but it would be inappropriate to discuss any mitigation or defense measures we might have in place to deter/defeat that threat," a spokesman for Mullen said.
Obama announced a revised missile defense system last year that included the deployment of Aegis ships equipped with missile interceptors to help defend Europe and U.S. forces against Iranian rockets.
The Pentagon said it envisioned keeping three ships at any given time in and around the Mediterranean and the North Sea to protect areas of interest, with the possibility of sending additional ships to the region as needed.
The Obama administration said the decision to change plans was based mainly on technological developments and a shift in intelligence assessments to meet short- and medium-range missile threats posed by Iran.
Pentagon officials said deploying ships with SM-3 interceptors, made by Raytheon Co., would provide the flexibility to move U.S. missile defense capabilities as may be needed.
Ships with Aegis interceptor systems are capable of blowing up ballistic missiles above the atmosphere. The system can track over 100 targets, military officials said.
U.S. arms sales to Gulf allies have risen sharply in recent years, underscoring concerns about Iran.
In fiscal 2009, UAE bought $7.9 billion in U.S. arms, topping Saudi Arabia, which bought $3.3 billion, the Pentagon said. In 2008, UAE made $8.9 billion in arms deals while the Saudis had $7.8 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60U18R20100201
In reaction to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remarks on Iran's nuclear program, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki warned Sunday about the consequences of "tension-seeking" American policies.
“We believe the world public opinion should be concerned about tension-seeking US policies and their consequences on regional and international peace and stability,” Mottaki told reporters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Mottaki was reacting to the recent remarks made by his American counterpart, Hilary Clinton, on Tehran's nuclear program. He said Tehran does not take her comments “seriously.”
“Clinton's efforts to take the US back to the time of the unsuccessful policies of [former President George W.] Bush will bear no fruit for the American people and the new administration,” he said.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has been faced with the hostile approaches of certain US officials during the past three decades but has always tried to maintain peace and stability in the region,” he said.
In unusually blatant remarks aimed at China, Secretary Clinton on Friday assailed the country for not joining the US-led front in imposing fresh sanctions against Iran over its nuclear work.
Clinton said she understood China's unwillingness to impose new penalties on Iran, one of the country's biggest oil suppliers in the world, but warned against “longer-term implications” if Iran did not stop its nuclear program.
"We understand that right now it seems counterproductive to you to sanction a country from which you get so much of the natural resources your growing economy needs. But think about the longer-term implications."
Mottaki, meanwhile, said sanctions and threats cannot prevent Iran, which has always committed itself to regulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), from seeking its inevitable right to peaceful nuclear technology.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=117526§ionid=351020101
3. Peres to IAEA Chief: Iran Threat to Entire World
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"Nuclear weapons in the hands of a fanatical regime such as Iran's pose a threat not only to Israel but to the entire world," President Shimon Peres told International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The meeting with Peres was Amano's first with a senior Israeli official since he took over for Mohamed ElBaradei as the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog in December, 2009.
Peres urged the IAEA to work towards curbing Iran's nuclear program. "I hope that under your leadership the (IAEA) will act in a serious and determined manner against Iran's nuclear armament," Peres said during the meeting.
"The IAEA's work is based on trust, and Iran does not respect the organization's decisions," the Israeli president said.
On Friday Amano said dialogue was continuing on a draft deal on enriched uranium between Iran and world powers despite Tehran's rejection of terms meant to prevent the material being used for atomic bombs.
Western diplomats have said Iran has effectively turned down the IAEA-brokered proposal and the United States and major European allies are pursuing broader UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its disputed nuclear activity.
"The proposal is on the table. Dialogue is continuing," said the IAEA director-general in his first public remarks on the standoff since he succeeded ElBaradei.
Available at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3841727,00.html
4. IAEA Still in 'Dialogue' on Iran Enrichment Deal
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The head of the UN nuclear watchdog said Friday his agency was still trying to negotiate a uranium enrichment deal with Iran amid new warnings to the Islamic state over its atomic programme.
"Our proposal is on the table. Dialogue is continuing," Yukio Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Amano, who took over as head of the UN agency from Mohamed ElBaradei in November, said he was writing his first report on Iran's compliance with UN demands for an IAEA board meeting in March. But he refused to give details of the dialogue or whether Iran had improved cooperation.
Under an IAEA plan, Iran would hand over most of its stocks of low-enriched uranium in return for Russian and French supplies of nuclear fuel enriched to the higher level required for a research reactor.
Diplomats say Iran has rejected the offer, heightening Western fears that Iran is trying to build its own nuclear bomb -- a charge strongly denied by Tehran which insists its programme is peaceful.
Amano's comments came one day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Western powers were moving toward tougher action against Iran.
"Iran has provided a continuous stream of threats to intensify its violation of international nuclear norms," Clinton said in London on Thursday.
"Iran's approach leaves us with little choice than to work with our partners to apply greater pressure in the hopes that it will cause Iran to reconsider its rejection of diplomatic efforts," she added.
Clinton said she and the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany and Italy discussed possible new measures against Iran at the UN Security Council.
Clinton also discussed the case during talks with the Chinese and Russian foreign ministers Yang Jiechi and Sergei Lavrov.
The US Senate voted Thursday to slap new sanctions on Iran, targeting its petrol imports.
In his annual State of the Union address earlier this week, US President Barack Obama said that Iran's leaders would "face growing consequences" if they pursue nuclear weapons.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h8AycqJ3Y8xcP9XevjRi1WbS1iDw
5. Iran's Enrichment Plan 'Hinders Solution' to Nuclear Issue
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Tehran's decision to enrich uranium for its research reactor could impede the resolution of Iran's nuclear issue, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday.
Andrei Nesterenko said the international community was concerned by Iran's statement that it would enrich uranium to a 20% concentration to provide fuel for the Tehran research reactor.
"In this context the decision to enrich uranium to a higher concentration is at odds with the relevant resolutions of the [UN] Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors and will only intensify the existing concerns and hinder an early solution," he said.
Under an international plan, Iran was to ship its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for further enrichment and processing into fuel for power plants. Iran would not thereby be able to enrich uranium to make weapons.
Tehran suggested it could consider a simultaneous swap of its nuclear fuel for other uranium, but that the exchange would have to take place on its own territory.
Moscow said Wednesday it was disappointed with Iran's failure to react "constructively" to the proposals made by a group of international mediators on Tehran's nuclear program.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered no indication as to the specific nature of Iran's reaction, but warned that "it is impossible to wait forever" and that Russia's partners "are already talking about the need to discuss further steps at the UN Security Council."
Mediators from the Iran Six - Russia, the United States, China, Britain, France and Germany - are currently discussing the transition from talks to new sanctions in response to Iran's refusal to fold its controversial nuclear program.
Lavrov's remarks came in the wake of Tehran's decision to postpone a visit to Russia by Iran's top security official and chief nuclear negotiator.
Iranian news agencies reported on Monday that Saeed Jalili was due in Moscow for a three-day visit that would include meetings with President Dmitry Medvedev and other officials to discuss bilateral relations, regional and international issues.
Russia has a history of close ties to Iran, including in nuclear energy through the construction of the Bushehr power plant, but is seen as having moved closer to the U.S. position on imposing new sanctions.
Iran, which is already under three sets of UN sanctions for refusing to halt uranium enrichment, recently announced plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment facilities. Western powers suspect it of pursuing an atomic weapons program.
The Iran Six have long been trying to persuade Tehran to halt uranium enrichment not only through sanctions but also in exchange for economic and diplomatic incentives.
Iran Six envoys last met in New York on January 16, but in the face of Chinese resistance to a tougher course of action decided against immediate sanctions in the hope of finding new political and diplomatic solutions to the problem.
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20100129/157717229.html
Thailand said Monday that an aircraft loaded with North Korean weapons was flying to Iran when it was intercepted in December but the ultimate destination of the arms is still not known.
Thai authorities seized the Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane and its five-man crew as it landed to refuel on a flight from Pyongyang Dec. 12. Found on board were 35 tons of weapons.
A Thai government report to the U.N. Security Council, leaked to reporters in New York over the weekend, said the aircraft, which had violated U.N. sanctions against North Korea, was bound for Tehran's Mahrabad Airport.
But Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayarkorn said Monday that "to say that the weapons are going to Iran, that might be inexact."
"The report only says where the plane was going to according to its flight plan, but it doesn't say where the weapons were going to," he said. "It's still under investigation, and the suspects are under our legal system."
The five-man crew — four from Kazakhstan and one from Belarus — remain under detention. The crew has been charged with illegal arms possession, but the charges are expected to be stiffened once the investigation wraps up, police have said.
The weapons found on board the aircraft were reportedly light battlefield arms, including grenades — hardly the ones Iran's sophisticated military would need.
From the start there has been speculation that the weapons were to be shipped on to some of the radical Middle Eastern groups supported by Tehran.
The U.N. imposed sanctions in June banning North Korea from exporting any arms after the communist regime conducted a nuclear test and test-fired missiles. Impoverished North Korea is believed to earn hundreds of millions of dollars every year by selling missiles, missile parts and other weapons to countries such as Iran, Syria and Myanmar.
Investigations by The Associated Press in several countries showed the flight was facilitated by a web of holding companies and fake addresses from New Zealand to Barcelona designed to disguise the movement of the weapons.
The plane's chief pilot maintains that the aircraft was headed for Kiev, Ukraine.
"I never said or confirmed the plane was routed to Iran. I only know that the plane was going to Ukraine and the cargo was to have been unloaded there. That's the information I have," the crew's Thai lawyer, Somsak Saithong, told The Associated Press on Monday.
He said the prosecutor will have to decide whether to drop the case or send the five for trial before Feb. 11, when their detention period expires. After seeing his clients, Saithong said all continued to insist they did not know the contents of the cargo they were flying.
Available at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100201/ap_on_re_as/as_thailand_weapons_3
South Korean officials say with North Korea seeking a dialogue, an inter-Korean summit appears favorable in the future.
While no firm moves have been made for a summit, the presidential office in Seoul said Monday the current political climate across the Korean Peninsula seems right, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported.
"North Korea seems to be seeking to resolve its internal problems by normalizing inter-Korean relations," presidential spokesman Park Sun-kyoo told reporters.
"The mood for progress (for a summit) is ripening. No concrete preparations, however, are currently under way."
Park repeated South Korea's conditions, including North Korea's denuclearization, and addressing South Korean abductees and prisoners of war.
The likelihood of a summit between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and the North's leader, Kim Jong Il, has increased since Lee expressed his willingness for such a meeting in an interview with the BBC.
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/International/2010/02/01/Two-Korea-summit-seen-favorable/UPI-75111265034829/
3. Special U.N. Envoys to Visit North Korea Next Month: Official
Yonhap News Agency
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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans to send two special envoys to North Korea next month to discuss restoring a dialogue channel between the U.N. and the North, a ranking U.N. official said Saturday.
Lynn Pascoe, U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, and Kim Won-soo, an advisor to Ban, will make a four-day visit to the communist country, starting on Feb. 9, said the official, requesting anonymity.
The visit is primarily intended to resume high-level talks between the U.N. and North Korea suspended for years and the special envoys will discuss issues related to North Korea's nuclear program and humanitarian aid, said the official.
The U.N. had sought to send special envoys to Pyongyang early last year but North Korea rejected the offer at that time, the official noted.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2010/01/31/8/0401000000AEN20100131001600315F.HTML
1. Sweden, Poland Urge Sharp Cuts in Tactical Nukes
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The foreign ministers of Sweden and Poland on Monday urged the U.S. and Russia to sharply reduce their arsenals of tactical nuclear weapons, and said Moscow should withdraw such arms from areas bordering the European Union.
In an op-ed published on the Web site of the International Herald Tribune, Sweden's Carl Bildt and Radek Sikorski of Poland singled out Russian warheads placed in the Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic Sea and the Kola Peninsula of northwestern Russia.
"Such a withdrawal could be accompanied by the destruction of relevant storage facilities," the two ministers said.
U.S. and Russian negotiators have been seeking a new nuclear arms reduction deal to replace a 1991 treaty on strategic nuclear weapons. Bildt and Sikorski said the time has come for an arms control regime to also cover tactical weapons, which are designed to be used on the battlefield rather than placed on intercontinental ballistic missiles.
"Such weapons are dangerous remnants of a dangerous past — and they should not be allowed to endanger our common future," they said.
The U.S. is believed to store about 200 warheads in Western Europe, and that Russia holds about 2,000 warheads, mostly in Western Russia, the ministers said. They urged the former Cold War foes to "greatly reduce" those weapons, by negotiations or unilateral moves, as steps toward their total elimination.
"With some exceptions, tactical nuclear weapons were designed for outdated, large-scale war on the European continent," they said.
On Tuesday, Bildt will address a conference in Paris of Global Zero, a nongovernment nuclear disarmament group that includes more than 200 political leaders and military officials from around the world.
Available at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100201/ap_on_re_eu/eu_sweden_poland_nuclear_weapons_1
2. U.S., Russian Negotiators in Final Push for START Pact
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American and Russian nuclear arms control negotiators resumed talks on Monday in a final push to conclude an overdue treaty on cutting strategic weapons, a U.S. spokesman said.
"We hope that the remaining negotiations can be concluded quickly but will not make any predictions about when we will finish," said Michael Parmly, spokesman at the U.S. mission.
After months of intensive talks in Geneva, the two sides suspended talks before Christmas and agreed to resume early in 2010.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev spoke last week and pledged to complete the treaty to succeed the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expired late last year.
An accord is seen as important both to "reset" frosty relations between Washington and Moscow and to set an example of nuclear disarmament at a time when major powers are pressing Iran and North Korea to renounce their nuclear ambitions.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last month that the two powers should be able to hammer out final issues in the next few weeks.
Russian diplomatic sources in Geneva told Reuters that Moscow expected the talks to wrap up around February 27.
"The auguries are good for finally resolving this," Gareth Evans, a former Australian foreign minister and co-chair of an international commission that has just issued a report on eliminating nuclear threats.
Evans told a news conference the remaining issues involved verification, and were not substantive "show-stoppers," but had more to do with convincing U.S. public opinion.
The two presidents have agreed will cut deployed nuclear warheads to between 1,500 and 1,675 on each side.
Evans, a veteran diplomatic trouble-shooter, said the deal and its ratification by the U.S. Senate were important but should have been done years ago. It would need to be followed up quickly with far more difficult negotiations on further reductions, he said.
The International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, co-chaired by Evans, estimates that the United States has 2,200 deployed strategic weapons and Russia 2,800.
Altogether there are at least 23,000 nuclear warheads, of which Washington and Moscow hold 22,000, with a combined blast capacity equal to 150,000 of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945, the report said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6103DN20100201?type=politicsNews
Spain recently signed a bilateral agreement with Jordan to cooperate in the field of the peaceful use of nuclear energy, including for power generation and water desalination.
Jordan's official Petra news agency reported that the agreement was signed on 20 January by Sylvia Iranzo Gutierrez, Spain's secretary of state for trade, and Khaled Toukan, chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC). It covers issues such as the exchange of expertise, human resource development, used nuclear fuel management and disposal, nuclear safety, the drafting of legislation and regulatory frameworks, and public information and awareness. It also includes cooperation in the use of radioisotopes and radiation in industry, agriculture and medicine.
During the signing ceremony at JAEC's headquarters, Gutierrez said that the signing of the cooperation agreement was an expression of Spain's support for Jordan to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Toukan described the agreement as "another milestone on our steady path to nuclear energy."
The bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement with Spain, which had been in the works since May 2009, is Jordan's eighth such accord. It follows similar agreements with countries including Argentina, Canada, China, France, Russia, South Korea and the UK. Toukan said that Jordan also plans to sign agreements with Romania and the Czech Republic before the end of 2010. The country is also working on finalizing memoranda of understanding (MoU) to proceed with agreements with the USA and Japan.
The previous day, Jordan and France adopted the final version of an MoU to be signed by the countries in February during a visit by French prime minister François Fillon. The MoU is expected to lead to an agreement to support energy projects and major projects in Jordan. It includes the establishment of a centre at the University of Jordan specializing in nuclear science, to teach students not only from Jordan but from different Arab countries. A number of French educational establishments will assist in developing the centre's curriculum.
In December 2009, a consortium of the Korea Atomic Energy Institute (Kaeri) and Daewoo Engineering and Construction was selected by JAEC to build a 5 MWt research reactor at the Jordan University for Science and Technology. The unit is seen as a vital precursor for the kingdom's plans to build a nuclear power reactor, providing training opportunities for nuclear scientists and engineers as well as producing radioisotopes for industry, agriculture and medicine. The contract to build the research reactor and related facilities is worth some $173 million.
Jordanian energy plans foresee a nuclear power plant for electricity and desalination in operation by 2015, and the country's Committee for Nuclear Strategy has set out a program for nuclear power to provide 30% of electricity by 2030 or 2040, and to provide for exports. As well as a raft of international cooperation agreements and memoranda of understanding covering both nuclear power and uranium exploration, it has agreed an Additional Protocol on nuclear safeguards with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and signed up to the International Nuclear Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials.
Australian consulting firm Worley Parsons was award of a $11.3 million pre-construction consultancy services contract as Jordan moves towards its ambition to have a its first nuclear power plant in operation by 2015. The company has been tasked with narrowing down JAEC's shortlist of five potential reactor designs for the country's first power reactor, as well conducting a feasibility study and financial assessment of the project and assisting in the tender for the plant vendor.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Spain_and_Jordan_agree_to_nuclear_cooperation-0102104.html
2. Japan, U.S. to Launch Talks on Cooperation in Nuclear Forensics
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Japan and the United States will launch working-level talks in February aimed at promoting cooperation in the field of nuclear forensics, a sophisticated process to analyze the composition of nuclear materials, sources of both governments said Saturday.
Representatives of Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, an organization under the Department of Energy, will attend the talks.
It would be the first intergovernmental consultation on nuclear forensics between Japan and the United States.
Nuclear forensics focuses on analyzing the nature, use and origin of nuclear materials, such as highly enriched uranium and plutonium that can be used to produce nuclear arms, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Analysis of radioisotopes, isotopic and mass ratios, material age, impurity content, chemical form and physical parameters can reveal a "nuclear fingerprint," the IAEA says.
The possible revelation of such nuclear fingerprints is expected to help deter nuclear powers from providing nuclear materials to third parties and prevent nuclear terrorism.
U.S. President Barack Obama reached an agreement with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in Tokyo in November to promote bilateral cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation, including the field of nuclear forensics.
The United States will host the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on April 11 to 12. It expects to make use of Japan's technological capabilities in the field of safeguards to prevent diversion of civil nuclear materials to military use and to enhance measures to prevent nuclear terrorism.
In response to a recent inquiry by Kyodo News, an official at the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration expressed hope for stepped up cooperation with Japan through the upcoming working-level meeting.
"A Japanese delegation from MEXT (the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) is scheduled to visit Washington next month for discussions on the possible new agreement," the official said.
"While NNSA seeks to establish cooperation with foreign counterparts to strengthen the nonproliferation regime, the extent of our cooperation with MEXT on nuclear forensics has not yet been determined."
A Japanese science ministry official confirmed that talks will take place on cooperation in the field of nuclear forensics.
A senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official, meanwhile, said Japan "can contribute much (in the nuclear forensics field) with its high- level scientific and technological capabilities."
The United States and European countries have formed a multilateral framework, called the Nuclear Smuggling International Technical Working Group, which works with the IAEA to provide assistance to nuclear forensic scientists around the world. The group, established in the mid-1990s, is aimed at finding technical solutions to the problem of illicit trafficking in nuclear and radioactive materials.
Concerned about possible nuclear proliferation among terrorist groups, the United States plans to enhance nuclear forensics technologies and establish a database of nuclear fingerprints.
The official at the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration also said his organization "supports broad participation, including by Japan, in this important effort."
Available at: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9DI11FG0&show_article=1
The Cabinet on Monday approved the Kingdom joining the Nuclear Safety Convention, the UN nuclear watchdog agency’s pact on maintaining safety in nuclear power plants.
In its weekly meeting here, presided over by King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the Cabinet approved accession to the 1994 convention, which has 66 members and is overseen by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency.
The UN convention sets certain safety standards for the operation of nuclear plants and commits parties to adhere to them, though it lacks any enforcement powers beyond the pressure from other signatories.
On domestic issues, the Council of Ministers reviewed the proposed measures for the Al-Haramain Express Train Project as referred to it by the Minister of Finance and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Investments Fund.
Upon recommendation of the Supreme Economic Council, the Council approved a number of measures including:
The General Investments Fund will conclude and finance services and work contracts for the Al-Haramain Express Train Project on the basis of loans from the financial resources of the fund. These loans will be repaid from general state budget allocations in coming years. The company carrying out the project will enjoy all the privileges and facilities granted to state projects in obtaining energy needs at local prices. The Ministry of Transport will urgently provide the ministries of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Petroleum and Mineral Resources with detailed maps of the route of the Al-Haramain Express Train Project, as well as road limits and geographical coordinates for the route in digital and paper form.
Abdul Aziz Khoja, Minister of Culture and Information, said the Council was briefed on a number of international developments.
The Council lauded the outcome of the London Conference on Afghanistan and Yemen. In this regard, the Kingdom has reaffirmed its full commitment to maintain long-term policies to provide assistance and aid to Afghanistan.
The Cabinet reiterated Kingdom’s continued support to Yemen and urged the international community to stand united to enable Yemen to overcome all the challenges facing it.
Dr. Khoja said the Council also discussed a number of issues including the progress in different government sectors. King Abdullah has directed the agencies concerned to carry out all projects in accordance with the deadlines set for them, with the objective of improving the standard of services and upgrading their efficiency.
The Council referred to the economic, cultural and scientific activities witnessed by the Kingdom in the past few days lauding the achievements made by the International Higher Education Exhibition.
The exhibition included more than 300 representatives from foreign universities among them the top 100 universities in the world besides the participation of 30 international scientific institutions.
Available at: http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentID=2010020262080
2. Merkel Says Germany Committed to Nuclear Fusion
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Germany is committed to research into nuclear fusion as a clean and abundant source of alternative energy but international cooperation is vital, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday
"Nuclear fusion could provide endless energy without producing radioactive waste," said Merkel in a podcast.
"It is worth investing in such a technology of the future, but no one country can do this alone, you need international scientific cooperation."
In 2006, more than 30 countries signed a deal to build the world's most advanced nuclear fusion reactor, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).
The objective of ITER is to demonstrate the feasibility of producing electricity from a fusion reaction, which involves fusing atomic nuclei at extremely high temperatures inside a giant electromagnetic ring.
Critics argue however it could be at least 50 years before a commercially viable reactor is built, if one is built at all.
Merkel said her government was increasing funds available for research this year and was committed to developing renewable energy sources.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60T1E620100130?rpc=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=GCA-GreenBusiness&rpc=401
An alliance of oil refining firms, chemical companies, and reactor vendors is working on development of a 300 MW fast reactor to swap out the use of several million barrels a day of crude oil for process heat. The industry consortium is working on building a first-of-a-kind high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) with commercial prospects by 2022.
While the Department of Energy has been pursuing development of this technology at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), a former R&D manager from that site, now working for Areva, has some encouraging news about a wider effort by the petrochemical industry.
Areva’s R&D manger leading the effort, Finis Southworth, told a conference call of nuclear energy bloggers in January it will take about 10-12 years and $3 billion to design, license, and build a 300 MW (electricity) 600 MW (heat) fast reactor to provide process heat co-located at oil refineries and chemical manufacturing plants.
Southworth said members of the NGNP Alliance include Areva, Dow Chemical, Conoco, and Chevron. There are additional members of the Alliance, but for business reasons have chosen not to go public with their participation. However, in March 2009 Rod Adams at Atomic Insights found a public list of the membership, released by the Heritage Foundation, and posted it on his blog.
NRC licensing challenges ahead
While the technology roadmap to develop the reactor is relatively straightforward, the path to complete NRC licensing has some unknown twists and turns.
"NRC licensing is critical to our success," Southworth said, "and it takes too long." He added that right now, "NRC does not have the regulatory framework to conduct safety analyses for high temperature gas cooled reactors."
Not much progress seems to have occurred at the NRC since it published an NGNP licensing strategy in 2008.
One of the safety features of the new reactor design, Southworth says, is that its "passive safety" features do not require electrical power, pumps, pipes, or cooling systems to shut down.
Market and competitive factors
Market opportunities for the new reactor include providing process heat for oil refineries and chemical plants. The reactor would be designed to deliver heat in the range of 450-550C. For applications in the Alberta tar sands, heat would come out of the reactor at 450C and could be piped up to 10 Km arriving at the mining site at 350C.
Areva is looking for partners to develop the reactor. Southworth said one of them will be Mitstubishi. "Any investor will have a stake in the intellectual property," he said.
In 2009 the Department of Energy announced a $40 million NGNP funding opportunity through INL's NGNP program. The award date has long since passed with no word from the agency whether it will ever spend the money. "We're disappointed by the delay," Southworth said.
The best case scenario for payback to process heat customers for a commercial version of the reactor looks like this. Assume a member of the NGNP Alliance burns 1 million barrels of oil/day at $70/barrel. That's a daily cost of $70 million. Every 30 days it burns $2.1 billion in crude oil for process heat and over 300 days it burns $21 billion.
If a new 300 MW high temperature gas-cooled reactor costs $3,500/Kw, or $1.05 billion, the payback occurs in the first year assuming all the oil used for process heat is swapped out for heat from the reactor. The actual payback will be much longer due to the need to amortize R&D, NRC licensing, and start-up costs, which could be an additional $3 billion.
Regardless of costs, what becomes clear from talking with Southworth is that the first version of the reactor will be built at a customer site. It is unlikely, he says, that Alliance members are interested in funding a first-of-a-kind prototype in Idaho.
Small reactors like the one the Alliance is developing will also gain cost competitive advantages relative to natural gas if Congress puts a price on CO2. Southworth said his estimate is that a price north of $20/ton is the threshold or tipping point for this trade-off.
Further into the future, Areva is also looking at sodium-cooled fast reactors to be used in Europe to attain uranium self-sufficiency. The fast reactors will be used to "breed" fuel and to burn waste actinides from the first pass of the nuclear fuel through a conventional light water reactor.
Available at: http://theenergycollective.com/TheEnergyCollective/57945
DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of Partnership for Global Security. Partnership for Global Security takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.