Iran said on Tuesday it was willing to swap low-grade for high-grade uranium but that the nuclear fuel exchange under a U.N.-brokered plan must be carried out on its own territory.
The United States and its allies hope to get new United Nations sanctions imposed on Iran in the coming weeks over its continued enrichment work, after failing to reach an agreement with Tehran on Western countries giving Iran enriched uranium in return for Iranian low-grade uranium, but outside Iran.
Western countries fear Iran wants to stockpile uranium to enrich it to levels that could be used for nuclear weapons. Iran says its sole aim is to run nuclear energy plants to generate more electricity.
"In order to bring about a constructive interaction, we have declared our readiness for fuel swap, provided it is done within the country (Iran)," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.
"We are prepared for a fuel swap even though we do not regard this condition of supplying fuel to the Tehran research reactor through a swap as correct."
Iran said on Monday it had earmarked potential sites for 10 new nuclear enrichment plants, two of which could see construction start this year.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Monday for an immediate embargo on Iran's energy sector, saying the U.N. Security Council should be sidestepped if it cannot agree on the move.
Netanyahu made no reference to the possibility that Israel, assumed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, would try to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. Some analysts believe this option is circumscribed by the long ranges, Iranian defenses and U.S. reluctance to see another regional conflict.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61M1PJ20100223
2. Iran Sends New Letter to IAEA About Fuel Supply
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Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Tehran has sent a new letter concerning fuel supply for the Islamic Republic's research reactor.
"Iran is still ready to purchase the fuel it needs for Tehran's research reactor," the letter said. It asked the Agency to fulfill its duty and "facilitate the delivery of the fuel."
"Iran is ready to simultaneously exchange the fuel required for the Tehran research reactor with its low-enriched uranium within Iranian territory if the IAEA lacks the ability to fulfill its duties," Ali Asghar Soltanieh said in his letter to UN nuclear watchdog chief Yukiya Amano.
This comes as President Ahmadinejad announced on February 11 that Iran has successfully completed production of its first stock of uranium enriched to 20 percent.
"We have produced the first batch of 20 percent enriched uranium at the Natanz Enrichment Facility," Ahmadinejad said.
Iran has requested that the International Atomic Energy Agency arrange for the supply of the fuel to the country. The West has been pressuring Iran to accept a UN-backed deal which requires Iran to send most of its domestically-produced low enriched uranium (LEU) abroad for conversion into the more refined fuel that the Tehran research reactor requires to produce medical isotopes.
Tehran says its concerns on guarantees over the return of its LEU should be heeded. The US, which first floated the proposal, refuses to consider Iran's demand.
Iran needs 120 kilos (264 pounds) of 20 percent-enriched uranium to fuel the Tehran research reactor, which produces medical isotopes for cancer patients and is soon to run out of fuel.
If the research reactor's fuel is completely exhausted, there will be consequences for thousands of Iranian patients who are prescribed post-surgical treatment.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=119282§ionid=351020104
3. 'IAEA Raising Unnecessary Suspicions About Iran'
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Iran's envoy to the IAEA has objected to the fact that suspicions have been raised about Tehran's nuclear activities only because it is not implementing voluntary protocols.
"We have to be able distinguish between two different issues. One is the Safeguards Agreement… and the other is additional measures, which are voluntary like the additional protocol. They cover more activities," Ali-Asghar Soltanieh told Press TV on Sunday.
"For example, if a country also applies the additional protocol, as we were doing for two and a half years, they would be reporting on uranium mines. Now we are not reporting," he added, pointing out that it did not mean that Iran was doing anything wrong.
Soltanieh was referring to a report issued on Thursday by International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano which accuses Tehran of not providing "the necessary cooperation to permit the Agency to confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."
However, Iran's nuclear facilities and enriched uranium are still under the supervision of IAEA inspectors, as outlined in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Safeguards Agreement.
Like all previous IAEA reports, the newly issued evaluation verifies the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran, but the complaint about the level of cooperation refers to Iran's lack of inclination to implement the additional protocol.
Amano's report also says that there were concerns about "the possible existence… of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile."
Soltanieh also addressed that part of the report, saying that the IAEA chief cites no "new cause for concern" about Tehran's activities except a series of alleged documents that were already examined by his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei.
Three years ago, a row erupted between Iran and the West when the CIA claimed to have obtained a series of documents on a laptop that had allegedly been smuggled out of Iran.
According to the CIA's claim, the documents apparently showed Iranian nuclear work deviating toward militarization.
However, afterwards the US refused to provide either Tehran or the IAEA access to the contents of the laptop for independent analysis or confirmation, arguing that the reports were top secret.
This, along with other points raised by Iranian officials and independent media, leads to serious doubts about the authenticity of the documents.
The absence of any confidentiality stamps, dates, or senders and recipients markings on the rather detailed documents was one of the main points that Tehran had raised in a 117-page document that disputed the authenticity of the alleged papers.
During his interview with Press TV, Soltanieh said that he has asked the IAEA director general why he included a reference to past issues regarding Tehran's nuclear program in his first report on Iran.
Soltanieh added that Amano had acknowledged that his reference to the alleged studies was "absolutely nothing new" but simply an attempt to provide a background on all previous issues regarding Iran's nuclear program.
"There is nothing new. The alleged studies were forged… two or three times, Mr. ElBaradei officially announced that there is no authenticity to these materials. Therefore, the director general has already questioned the validity of these materials.
"Mr. Amano only tried to bring a full background on the issues that were discussed before for the reader to understand the background. Of course it unfortunately has created some misunderstandings," Soltanieh said.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=119194§ionid=351020104
Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi has said that International Atomic Energy Agency Secretary General Yukiya Amano should amend his latest report about Iran’s nuclear program before delivering it to the IAEA Board of Governors.
“The agency’s approach… has become more politicized and the report has been written under pressure from the United States,” Boroujerdi told the Mehr News Agency on Sunday.
Amano should correct his report before delivering it to the IAEA Board of Governors on March 1, the MP stated.
Although Iran notified the IAEA before it began enriching uranium to the 20 percent level and asked the agency to send inspectors to monitor the enrichment process, Amano said in his report that Iran started enriching nuclear fuel without informing the agency, Boroujerdi noted.
This will undermine the credibility of the agency’s reports, he added.
Political analyst Morad Enadi said here on Sunday that the most important part of Amano’s report is that it says there is no deviation in Iran’s nuclear energy program from civilian purposes.
“Amano’s report contained many positive points. For instance, he emphasized that the agency’s inspectors conducted 35 snap inspections of Iran’s facilities over the past three years,” Enadi told the Mehr News Agency on Sunday.
Amano is moving on the same path as former IAEA secretary general Mohamed ElBaradei, but because Iran had just started the enrichment of uranium to the 20 percent level and certain Western countries politicized the issue, the end of the report was critical, he said.
In a report issued on Thursday, the UN nuclear watchdog claimed that it has concerns that Iran may be working to develop a nuclear-armed missile.
Iran says that its nuclear activities are being conducted to meet the country’s growing demand for energy and the IAEA has never found evidence that its nuclear program has been diverted to weapons production.
MP Hojjatoleslam Hossein Ebrahimi said that no one should expect the IAEA to issue reports different from Amano’s latest report about Iran’s nuclear program because the agency is dominated by the U.S.
Thus, Iran should press ahead with its peaceful nuclear activities because the agency will never change its approach, Ebrahimi told the Mehr News Agency on Sunday.
Available at: http://www.tehrantimes.com/Index_view.asp?code=214623
5. Iran 'To Build Two New Nuclear Sites This Year'
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The head of Iran's nuclear programme has said the country will build two new uranium enrichment facilities within the next year.
Ali Akbar Salehi, who is also Iran's vice-president, said the new facilities would be built in the mountains to protect them from attack.
The UN nuclear watchdog last week said it was concerned Iran might currently be trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran's supreme leader denied the enrichment of uranium was for weapons.
Tehran has always maintained that its nuclear programme is peaceful.
But the US and other nations, which fear Iran is seeking nuclear arms, have been pressing for the UN to impose further sanctions over the issue.
Mr Salehi said the facilities would use new and more advanced centrifuges, according to the semi-official Iranian news agency Isna.
The two sites are reportedly the first of 10 to be built in a plan announced by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last November.
The centrifuges might allow the Iranians to speed up the development of nuclear material.
Tehran has said it wants to enrich uranium to 20%, more than it has previously done.
The country says it is doing this to produce isotopes for medical use and to generate electricity.
But according to an unusually forthright report by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released last week, Iran's level of co-operation with the agency is decreasing, adding to concerns about "possible military dimensions" to its nuclear programme.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said any fears were "baseless", as Iranians' beliefs "bar us from using such weapons".
Last year Iran revealed a previously unknown nuclear facility in the mountains near the city of Qom.
Previously it was believed that the only type of centrifuge Iran possessed were decades-old and in the the country's main enrichment facility at Natanz, which is monitored by the IAEA.
The facility near Qom had not become operational before its existence was announced.
Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8528117.stm
A delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has arrived in Tehran to assess the country's nuclear safety system, an Iranian nuclear official says.
The group of "senior officials from the IAEA's Nuclear Safety & Security department" has arrived in the county, Ali Shirzadian, a spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said on Sunday.
"The IAEA experts will be staying in Iran for about two weeks," he continued.
The Department of Nuclear Safety and Security contributes to efforts to achieve and maintain a high level of nuclear safety and prepare for emergencies through the enhancement of national measures and international cooperation.
Iran, a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), says its nuclear program is directed at civilian applications of the technology. The West, however, accuses the country of conducting a covert military nuclear program, particularly since earlier this month Iran started to enrich uranium to the 20-percent level.
On Thursday, the new head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Yukiya Amano, issued a two-sided report about Iran's nuclear program.
The report, while critical of some aspects of Iran's uranium enrichment, once again verified the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in the country.
"The information available to the Agency is extensive… broadly consistent and credible in terms of the technical detail, the time frame in which the activities were conducted and the people, and organizations involved," the Vienna-based IAEA said in the report.
The report, however, called on Tehran to further discuss and cooperate on the issue of the alleged studies. "Iran has not provided the necessary cooperation to permit the Agency to confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities," it added.
Iran's envoy to the UN atomic watchdog said the concern expressed in the Agency's latest report is "groundless," as it is not based on any new information.
"It seems that unsubstantiated allegations that certain countries had previously made about Iran have once again been introduced in this report," Tehran's Ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told ISNA on Friday.
"Issues pertaining to the 'alleged studies, missiles and explosives' are worn-out topics, which have already been dismissed in ElBaradei's reports. They are not anything new," he added.
He then went on to imply that the IAEA's decision to reintroduce past issues and take a different tone was the direct result of a change in its leadership, and not the outcome of not an unbiased evaluation.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=119212§ionid=351020104
The top US military officer said Monday that any military strike against Iran would not be "decisive" in countering its nuclear program.
"No strike, however effective, will be in and of itself decisive,"Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a news conference, adding that he supported using diplomatic and economic pressure against Iran.
Also Monday, the United States said Monday that Iran's plan to build two new uranium enrichment plants is "further evidence" it rejects engagement with the international community.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley added that the United States and other powers were reviewing Iranian targets for sanctions and Washington would offer specific proposals to the United Nations in the coming weeks.
President Barack Obama's administration has increasingly turned its attention to sanctions after its first-year bid to engage Iran in talks over its nuclear program and other issues yielded nothing concrete.
US officials say Iran's behavior shows it does not want to cooperate with the world community.
Iran has balked at an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) offer to ship uranium abroad for enrichment, been forced to disclose a second uranium enrichment plant hidden in the mountains near Qom and defiantly announced plans for yet more enrichment plants.
'Change in behavior needed'
Iran -- which had mentioned plans for 10 new enrichment plants weeks ago -- said on Monday it is considering plans to build two of them concealed inside mountains to avert air strikes.
"This is further evidence that Iran refuses to engage cooperatively and constructively with the IAEA," Crowley told reporters, referring to the UN nuclear watchdog.
"Adding... more potential enrichment sites adds to the questions, rather than resolves the questions that the international community has," Crowley said.
Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- the permanent five members of the UN Security Council -- plus Germany continue to work closely "to identify potential targets for sanctions," he said.
"And we will, I think, be advancing specific proposals... to the UN in the coming weeks."
On Thursday, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, in a blunt first report to the watchdog's board of governors, expressed concern that Iran might be seeking to develop a nuclear warhead.
"The IAEA report represents one of the clearest denunciations of what the Iranians have been working on," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.
Gibbs said Obama and international leaders "have been clear that without a change in behavior, the Iranian government faces necessary consequences."
He suggested that China -- which has balked at punitive measures -- would eventually endorse a fourth round of UN sanctions against Iran.
"We've worked quite closely with the Chinese on the strongest sanctions that have ever gone through the Security Council in Resolution 1847 dealing with North Korea," he said.
"So we believe strongly, and I think the Chinese believe, that an arms race either in the Middle East or an international arms race is, in no way, in their interest," he said.
Available at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3853103,00.html
8. Iran Should Pay for Nuclear Fuel and Reject Swap Deal: Rohani
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Expediency Council Strategic Research Center Director Hassan Rohani has said that Iran should pay money to buy nuclear fuel and should not exchange its low-enriched uranium for 20 percent enriched nuclear fuel.
“We should only pay money to buy 20 percent (enriched) uranium, like the entire world. We need the 3.5 percent enriched uranium for a reactor we are planning to build in Darkhovin. We should produce the (enriched) uranium and work hard to provide fuel for the reactor when it comes on stream,” Rohani stated in an interview with the Mehr News Agency published on Saturday.
Many countries routinely ask the International Atomic Energy Agency to provide nuclear fuel for their reactors, and the IAEA has a responsibility to supply the fuel for the Tehran research reactor, Rohani said.
He stated that Iran asked the IAEA for nuclear fuel during the administration of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-1997) and the agency purchased the fuel for Iran from Argentina and the Tehran research reactor is still running on that fuel.
Rohani said exchanging low-enriched uranium for 20 percent nuclear fuel is actually like a suspension of enrichment for four years because, according to the proposed fuel exchange deal, Iran should give foreign countries a large consignment of the enriched uranium it has stockpiled over the past four years.
He criticized the officials who put forward the proposal for a nuclear fuel swap and said Iran’ nuclear dossier was referred to UN Security Council because the country refused to halt enrichment.
Even if Iran decides to agree to the nuclear fuel swap, it should demand that Iran’s nuclear dossier be sent back to the IAEA, he added.
Rohani also said that the Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy program started during former prime minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s administration (1981-1989), and all the necessary equipment was provided during former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s administration (1989-1997), and the country succeeded in domestically producing centrifuges during former president Mohammad Khatami’s administration (1997-2005).
Available at: http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=214539
South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator said Tuesday that a peace treaty can be discussed after progress is made in the denuclearization of North Korea.
Wi Sung-lac, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, made the remarks before leaving for Beijing for talks on the resumption of the deadlocked six-party talks.
Meanwhile, U.S. special envoy for North Korea Stephen Bosworth plans to visit South Korea, China and Japan this week.
"I think I can meet with him this Thursday in Seoul," Wi said.
Philip Crowley, spokesman of the State Department, said Monday that Ambassador Bosworth will depart Washington for consultations with partners in the six-party talks.
But the envoy does not have any plan to meet with North Korean officials nor to visit Pyongyang during his Asian trip, the spokesman added.
Wi said the government remains unchanged in its stance that it can review the peace treaty issue after seeing some progress in denuclearization.
He did not elaborate further, saying he would not speculate how the multilateral forum would go.
"First of all, I will listen to the Chinese officials," he said.
During his three-day trip to China, Wi is scheduled to meet with Wu Dawei, special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs.
His visit comes after a visit by North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan to China.
"Since last fall, member countries of the six-party talks have had separate bilateral meetings that center on how to make the North come back to the talks and end its nuclear ambitions," Wi said.
"There were brisk discussions particularly between China and North Korea, so I think we should listen to the results about the visit to North Korea by senior Chinese Communist Party official Wang Jiarui and Kim's return visit to China," he added.
Pyongyang declared it would boycott the six-way talks in retaliation for sanctions adopted by the U.N. Security Council after its second nuclear test on May 25 last year.
Available at: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/02/116_61270.html
2. Bosworth to Begin Asian Tour on Resumption of 6-Way Talks: State Deptartment
Yonhap News Agency
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Ambassador Stephen Bosworth will embark Tuesday on a tour of South Korea, China and Japan to discuss reopening the six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions, the State Department said Monday.
In a flurry of diplomacy to revive the nuclear talks -- stalled over U.N. sanctions for the North's nuclear and missile tests, South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan will visit Washington to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday to coordinate their North Korea policy and other issues of mutual concern, spokesman Philip Crowley said.
"Ambassador Stephen Bosworth and Sung Kim will depart Washington tomorrow for consultations with our partners in the six-party process. They will make stops in Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo," Crowley said. "As part of our ongoing consultations, Secretary Clinton will host Korean foreign minister Yu Myung-hwan here at the State Department on Friday."
Bosworth, special representative for North Korea policy, meanwhile, does not have any plans for meetings with North Korean officials, nor to visit Pyongyang during his upcoming Asian trip, the spokesman said. Sung Kim, special envoy for the six-party talks, will accompany Bosworth.
"I do not expect them to go to Pyongyang," he said.
Asked if Bosworth and Sung Kim will meet with North Korean officials in Beijing, Crowley said, "No."
The spokesman denied reports that North Korea's chief nuclear envoy, Kim Kye-gwan, will visit New York next week to meet with Sung Kim on the sidelines of an academic seminar.
Kim Kye-gwan visited Beijing earlier this month, and said that he discussed with Chinese officials the reopening of the six-party talks and a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency later said that Kim also discussed removal of international sanctions on North Korea, another precondition Pyongyang has set to any revival of the multilateral nuclear talks, which have been on and off since their inception in 2003.
Washington has said it is ready to discuss those issues, but only after the North returns to the talks, which also involve South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.
Bosworth flew to Pyongyang in December in the first high-level bilateral contact for the Obama administration.
Wang Jiarui, head of the international liaison department of the Chinese Communist Party, visited the North Korean capital early this month to meet with leader Kim Jong-il in the fifth such meeting for the Chinese official since 2004.
While in Beijing, Bosworth will be debriefed on Wang's Pyongyang visit and the ensuing trip to Beijing by Kim Kye-gwan, Crowley said.
"In a couple of cases, there have been meetings recently with North Korean officials, and we're going to be consulting to see where we think we stand in the process," he said.
While meeting with Wang, the North Korean leader reaffirmed his nation's commitment to denuclearization, but also underscored "sincere efforts" of the parties involved in an apparent reference to the North's demand for a peace treaty and the removal of sanctions.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2010/02/23/26/0301000000AEN20100223000200315F.HTML
North Korea vowed Friday not to dismantle its nuclear program -- not even in exchange for economic aid -- as long as the United States continues a "hostile policy."
"It was none other than the U.S. that pushed [North Korea] to acquiring nuclear deterrence and it is, therefore, wholly to blame for the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula," the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
North Korea will never abandon its nuclear program, "even if the earth is broken to pieces unless the hostile policy towards [North Korea] is rolled back and the nuclear threat to it removed," the agency said.
The United States believes that North Korea has enough weapons-grade plutonium to build a half dozen nuclear bombs.
The reclusive Communist nation last year cut off six-party talks involving the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, in anger over international criticism of its nuclear and missile tests.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton previously said the United States was willing to meet bilaterally with North Korea but only within the framework of the six-party talks. She also has warned that the United States will not normalize ties with Pyongyang or lift sanctions unless North Korea takes irreversible steps toward dismantling its nuclear program.
North Korea has made it clear it is no rush to resume the stalled talks aimed at persuading the country to give up its nuclear weapons arsenal, according to Lynn Pascoe, the U.N. envoy to the country.
Speaking after a recent visit to Pyongyang, Pascoe said he and North Korean officials had "a frank and open discussion back and forth on a variety of issues." But, he said, "They are not eager to return to the six-party talks."
Pascoe said the North Koreans said they do not like the United Nations sanctions slapped on their nation.
Observers have said that the North Korea's dire economic conditions, including a severe food shortage, could bring it back to the bargaining table.
But North Korea said Friday that it feels no obligation to barter based on food, fuel or funding.
"Those who talk about an economic reward in return for the dismantlement of its nuclear weapons would be well advised to awake from their daydream," KCNA said.
Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/02/19/north.korea.nuclear/index.html?hpt=T2
Japan and Australia on Sunday pledged to help countries with atomic energy programmes to stay clear of the nuclear-weapons path, according to Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith after talks in Perth.
In their Joint Statement, an official transcript of which was received by The Hindu, they pledged to work for “a world without nuclear weapons” and decided to initiate “practical steps”. It was decided to “work together to realise a world of decreased nuclear risk on the way to world without nuclear weapons”. Recognising the “global trend” of many states opting for atomic energy to produce electricity and address climate change issues, they decided to assist such countries in the realm of “3S.”
The “3S” relate to nuclear non-proliferation-related safeguards, safety and security. “Mindful that ensuring 3S is a basis for maintaining the international nuclear non-proliferation regime,” Japan and Australia “decided to cooperate in the provision of assistance ... to countries concerned, in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
The move acquires political importance in the context of a non-proliferation report the two nations sponsored. The Ministers announced an “intention to pursue a package of practical ... measures for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference” in May.
They wanted the international community to consider “ideas” for “enhancing the effectiveness of security assurances” by one or more nuclear powers. Such an assurance would be a pledge to refrain from using nuclear weapons against countries without such devices.
Another “idea” was to make more effective any pledge by a nuclear power to “retain [atomic] weapons solely for the purpose of deterring others from using such weapons.”
Available at: http://www.hindu.com/2010/02/22/stories/2010022256411500.htm
2. Five NATO States to Urge Removal of US Nuclear Arms in Europe
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Five Nato states plan to call for the removal of all remaining US nuclear weapons on European soil in a move intended to spur global disarmament, officials said today.
Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Luxembourg will make a joint declaration "in the next few weeks", a Belgian official said, with the intention of influencing a growing debate within Nato over the usefulness of nuclear weapons in alliance strategy.
The office of the Belgian prime minister, Yves Leterme, issued a statement saying: "The Belgian government wants to seize the chance provided by the US president's call for a world without nuclear weapons."
Official figures are not published, but there are thought to be between 150 and 240 "tactical" nuclear weapons in Europe, in the form of aerial bombs. Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have 10-20 each, but most are stockpiled at US bases in Italy (70-90) and in Turkey (50-90).
Italy and Turkey have made no public statements on the weapons on their soil since Barack Obama's call last April for the eventual abolition of nuclear arms.
Russia is estimated to have 4,000 tactical weapons in its arsenal, but many proponents of disarmament argue that the short-range weapons on both sides are militarily obsolete, since the end of the cold war. They point out that the US and Russia can reach each other with inter-continental ballistic missiles in minutes while the tactical gravity bombs take hours – if not days or weeks in Turkey's case – to be loaded on to planes and flown to their targets.
It is unclear, however, whether Rome and Ankara will fight to keep the bombs as the embodiment of America's nuclear umbrella. Some east European Nato members are opposed to their removal for the same reason.
"Denied the protection of Nato's nuclear weapons in Europe, Turkey would have additional reasons to worry about Iran's nuclear programme – and perhaps to develop nuclear weapons of its own. Newer Nato members in central Europe, who see in the nuclear weapons a symbol of US commitment to defend them, would be left feeling vulnerable," George Robertson, a former defence secretary and Nato secretary general, argued in an article he co-authored this month for the Centre for European Reform.
Nato officials are due to meet in Washington tomorrow, and in Rome next week, to discuss the future role of nuclear weapons in the alliance's "new strategic concept", which is due to be decided this year.
Des Browne, another former defence secretary who now runs a "top level group" of other ex-ministers and former generals to push for disarmament, said the five-country initiative was "a very welcome addition to the debate … it's further evidence that senior European politicians are moving to the view that we can reduce the salience of these weapons and still retain our security."
Browne is due to take a delegation of European politicians to Washington next week to argue the cause of disarmament before Congress, which will have to approve any steps the Obama administration takes to reduce America's reliance on nuclear weapons.
Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/22/nato-states-us-nuclear-arms-europe
1. India Expanding Civil Nuclear Energy Programme: President
Indo-Asian News Service
(for personal use only)
India is fast expanding its 'ambitious' civil nuclear energy programme and has signed peaceful atomic agreements with many countries, President Pratibha Patil said here Monday, adding that many more such deals were being negotiated.
'As part of the ambitious expansion of the country's nuclear energy programme, approval was accorded to the construction of additional pressurised heavy water reactors and sites for setting up light water reactors,' said Patil, highlighting the government's achievements in the field of nuclear energy in the last year.
She was addressing the joint session of parliament which commenced its budget session Monday.
'Following the availability of imported fuel, as a result of the opening of international civil nuclear cooperation, commercial production has commenced in two units of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Project,' the president said, adding that one more unit was expected to begin commercial production soon.
'New agreements for cooperation in the field of civil nuclear energy were concluded with Russia, Mongolia, Namibia, Argentina and the United Kingdom while other are under negotiation,' she said.
Available at: http://in.news.yahoo.com/43/20100222/836/tbs-india-expanding-civil-n-energy-progr.html
2. Chavez Calls for Wind, Nuclear Energy to Boost Electric Grid
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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called on his government to begin developing wind and nuclear energy generation projects amid a drought threatening to halt hydroelectric plants.
Chavez, who inaugurated thermoelectric plants in Merida today to bring about 50 megawatts of electricity online, said Venezuela will develop a nuclear electricity program. The nation now depends on hydroelectric power for more than two-thirds of its energy needs.
“The U.S. can say whatever they want to say, but we’re going to develop nuclear energy,” Chavez said on state television. “We’re a sovereign country and the Yankees don’t rule here anymore.”
Chavez, who declared a state of emergency on the electricity crisis this month, is seeking to install 5,000 megawatts of generation this year as his popularity wavers amid rolling blackouts nationwide and threats to halt service to industrial consumers in Caracas.
Chavez approved the creation of a national electricity fund today with almost $2 billion of starting capital to finance electric projects nationwide.
Venezuela will buy generators from General Electric Co., based in Fairfield, Connecticut, to produce 880 megawatts of power, Chavez said on Feb. 19.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601130&sid=aU3nF7caRgBM
1. General Atomics Proposes a Plant That Runs on Nuclear Waste
The Wall Street Journal
(for personal use only)
Nuclear and defense supplier General Atomics announced Sunday it will launch a 12-year program to develop a new kind of small, commercial nuclear reactor in the U.S. that could run on spent fuel from big reactors.
In starting its campaign to build the helium-cooled reactor, General Atomics is joining a growing list of companies willing to place a long-shot bet on reactors so small they could be built in factories and hauled on trucks or trains.
The General Atomics program, if successful, could provide a partial solution to one of the biggest problems associated with nuclear energy: figuring out what to do with highly radioactive waste. With no agreement on where to locate a federal storage site, that waste is now stored in pools or casks on utilities' property.
The General Atomics reactor, which is dubbed EM2 for Energy Multiplier Module, would be about one-quarter the size of a conventional reactor and have unusual features, including the ability to burn used fuel, which still contains more than 90% of its original energy. Such reuse would reduce the volume and toxicity of the waste that remained. General Atomics calculates there is so much U.S. nuclear waste that it could fuel 3,000 of the proposed reactors, far more than it anticipates building.
The decision to proceed with its 12-year program indicates that General Atomics believes the time is right to both make a nuclear push and to try to gain approval for an unconventional design proposal despite the likely difficulty of getting it certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The EM2 would operate at temperatures as high as 850 degrees Centigrade, which is about twice as hot as a conventional water-cooled reactor. The very high temperatures would make the reactor especially well suited to industrial uses that go beyond electricity production, such as extracting oil from tar sands, desalinating water and refining petroleum to make fuel and chemicals.
Success is far from certain. High-temperature reactors place special stress on the metals used in reactor components, and there isn't any commercial certification process at the NRC to assess the reactors' unique characteristics and to verify that they could operate safely for an expected 40- to 60-year life. That process would need to be developed or such reactors couldn't be certified.
The regulatory agency would also have to decide how to handle license requests from companies that might want to locate reactors near industrial facilities, such as oil refineries, something that current regulations don't contemplate and that could pose special safety risks in the event of an industrial fire or explosion.
"We anticipate that [reviewing the reactors] will take a great deal of additional effort because of the uniqueness of the designs," said David Matthews, head of the new reactor program at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the governmental agency that regulates civilian uses of nuclear technology. He added that the agency "isn't in a position to make any firm commitments" to review the EM2.
Another possible problem is financing. General Atomics expects the development effort to cost $1.7 billion, and it intends to seek financial assistance from the Energy Department that may not materialize. Technical problems could also emerge, as could opposition from scientists and other activists who oppose nuclear expansion.
"We know we're in the very early stage with a lot of work ahead of us," said John Parmentola, senior vice president of General Atomics, a company that was founded in 1955, eventually became part of General Dynamics and was then taken over by Gulf Oil Corp. and then by Chevron USA. In 1986, General Atomics was purchased from Chevron by Neal Blue, its current chief executive and chairman, and other family members.
The Obama administration has said it wants to stimulate the U.S. nuclear sector to give the nation more low-emission energy and a high-value export product. It recently approved the first loan guarantee for a new nuclear plant and has said it would be willing to triple guarantees to $54.5 billion.
General Atomics has built more than five dozen small reactors over the years, mostly for research purposes, including two gas-cooled units. Its Peach Bottom unit, in Pennsylvania, ran from 1967 to 1974, and its unit at Fort St. Vrain in Colorado produced electricity from 1976 to 1989.
Mr. Parmentola said the company learned lessons from both reactors and has designed its EM2 reactor to be simpler and to integrate passive safety systems that use natural physical forces to keep the reactor operating within safe limits. The company makes many other products, including aircraft-carrier catapults for the U.S. Navy and Predator unmanned drones used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
General Atomics intends to complete a preliminary design for the reactor and demonstrate that it can manufacture fuel elements in the next few years. It wants to be in a position to seek NRC design certification within five years, and, if no big problems emerge, to gain required approvals to sell reactors and make fuel assemblies by 2022.
Mr. Parmentola said the company hasn't yet sought agreements with forges or other vendors that might make the pressure vessels or other key components, but he said the reactor's moderate 240-megawatt size means it should be possible to make all important parts in domestic factories. "We want to create a U.S. enterprise," he said.
The NRC is currently reviewing certification requests for five conventional large reactors. It may soon be asked to consider certification requests for two conventional small reactors as well, one by Virginia-based Babcock & Wilcox Co. and the other by Oregon-based NuScale Power Inc.
Available at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703791504575079370538466574.html?mod=rss_whats_news_us_business
2. UK Scientists Plan World's First Nuclear Fusion Power Station
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Scientists in the UK have drawn up plans for the world’s first nuclear fusion power station, which could be online in 20 years.
Unlike a conventional nuclear power station, nuclear fusion provides clean, safe, carbon-free power with a minimum of radioactive waste. However, up until now the theory has never been successfully put into practice due to the massive technical challenges.
A report in the Sunday Times however says the Research Councils UK (RCUK), which oversees the British government’s spending on science and technology, has stated it believes that many of those obstacles are close to being overcome.
It wants to commit Britain to a 20-year research and construction plan that would see a fusion power station in operation around 2030.
Didcot in Oxfordshire is among the sites under consideration for the so-called Hiper project.
The RCUK report has been put together by a group of independent fusion experts. It concludes that a demonstration fusion plant would be big enough to generate power comparable to a commercial power station.
Available at: http://www.building.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=284&storycode=3158578&c=0#ixzz0gGIqSrPz
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