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Nuclear News - 3/25/2010
PGS Nuclear News, March 25, 2010
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski

A.  Russia-United States
    1. U.S., Russia Agree to Slash Nuclear Arsenals, Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times (3/25/2010)
B.  Iran
    1. U.S. Softens Sanction Plan Against Iran, David Crawford, Richard Boudreaux, Joe Lauria, and Jay Solomon, The Wall Street Journal (3/25/2010)
    2. West 'Fussing' Over Iran Nuclear Drive: Ahmadinejad, Jay Deshmukh, AFP (3/25/2010)
    3. Russia, China Urged Iran to Change Nuclear Stance, Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, Reuters (3/24/2010)
    4. Six Key Powers Hold Conference Call on Iran: Diplomat, AFP (3/24/2010)
    5. Turkey Rebuffs U.S. Call to Join Iran Sanctions, Selcuk Gokoluk, Reuters (3/24/2010)
    6. Only Dialogue Will Solve Iran Issue, Qatar Says, PressTV (3/24/2010)
    7. Iran-West Nuclear Swap Still Possible, Says Brazil, PressTV (3/23/2010)
    1. New South Korean Vice Minister Pledges to Maintain Hardline Stance on North Korea, Sam Kim, Yonhap News Agency (3/23/2010)
D.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Nuclear Revival May Lift Uranium Price, Calgary Herald (3/25/2010)
    2. Toshiba Unit Reaches Deal on UK Nuclear Site, Reuters (3/24/2010)
    3. South African Nuclear Project May Get $10 Million for U.S. Deal, Carli Lourens, Bloomberg (3/24/2010)
E.  Links of Interest
    1. A Closed Nuclear City's New Bid, Artem Zagorodnov, Russia Now (3/24/2010)
    2. Can Nuclear Summit Ease Security Concerns?, Lucy-Claire Saunders, Xinhua News Agency (3/24/2010)
    3. Nuclear Waste Piles Up, and It's Costing Taxpayers Billions, Mark Clayton , The Christian Science Monitor (3/24/2010)
    4. An Ex-CIA Spy Explains Iran’s Quest for Nuclear Weapons, Reza Kahlili, The Christian Science Monitor (3/24/2010)
    5. Jordan Opens Storage Facility, World Nuclear News (3/22/2010)

A.  Russia-United States

U.S., Russia Agree to Slash Nuclear Arsenals
Paul Richter
Los Angeles Times
(for personal use only)

American and Russian officials have reached a deal to slash their nuclear arsenals after eight months of unexpectedly tough negotiations, sources close to the talks said Wednesday.

President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who ordered the negotiations begun last July, still must sign off on details of the agreement, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

The two leaders are expected to sign a treaty next month in Prague, Czech Republic.

The accord will replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991, and will set limits on the number of long-range deployed nuclear warheads, as well as the number of nuclear-capable bombers and missiles.

The two final obstacles were agreement on how to verify the size of the nuclear arsenals and the issue of missile defense. Neither government would explain how it solved those disagreements.

The two sides had previously agreed to reduce the number of long-range nuclear warheads deployed by each nation from a ceiling of 2,200 to between 1,500 and 1,675.

The deal would also require each side to downsize its stock of strategic bombers and land- and sea-based missiles to 800, from 1,600.

The deal is the biggest step so far in Obama's effort to scale back the world's nuclear arsenals, and it is to be followed by other reductions from the United States and Russia.

The two nations' arsenals represent 90% of the world's nuclear weapons.

The difficulty of the negotiations was sobering for Obama administration officials, who had approached them with optimism.

Some officials who had expected the talks to be smooth said privately during the process that they had misjudged the Russian eagerness to craft a replacement treaty.

U.S. officials had thought the negotiations would be relatively simple because both countries seemed to agree that the current arsenals were bigger than necessary.

But as the talks went on, the Americans found their counterparts more demanding than expected on deal terms and more suspicious of U.S. intentions. The Russians seemed to believe the Americans wanted the deal more than they did, and they sought to use that fact in the negotiations, U.S. officials have said.

Differences among the Russians also appeared to be a factor. In recent months, Russian leaders have expressed differing views on American missile defense plans.

Moscow has been deeply concerned for years about U.S. plans for an antimissile umbrella, fearing such a program could, if expanded, neutralize Russia's huge arsenal of offensive missiles.

Russian officials were angry about the George W. Bush administration's plans for a missile defense system that was to be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic. The U.S. said the shield was intended to counter Iran's missile program, but the Russians feared that stationing an antimissile system in former Soviet bloc countries would encroach on Moscow's influence near its borders.

Obama agreed last year to cancel the program.

One knowledgeable source said that "95% of the agreement has been done for a long time. It was that last 5% that was the doozie."

"All the documents for the signing of the strategic arms treaty have been coordinated and agreed upon," a Kremlin spokesman who spoke on condition of anonymity said Wednesday night. "It's now up to the presidents of Russia and the United States to define the time and place for the signing."

The Russian government has not officially responded to a Czech announcement that the new START document would be signed in Prague. But the Kremlin source acknowledged that it probably would take place in the Czech capital.

In one hint that the signing was near, Obama met Wednesday with Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), the committee's ranking minority member.

To go into effect, the treaty will have to be ratified by both the Senate and the Russian legislature.

Conservatives are likely to closely study the language on provisions for verifying that the Russians are scaling back their arsenal. The provisions are far briefer than they were during the Cold War, when the countries had far bigger arsenals and greater fears of each other.

But the provisions remain complex enough that they consumed much of the time involved in crafting the deal, the sources said.

John Isaacs, executive director of the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, said he was optimistic that the treaty would clear the Senate.

But the next round of negotiations with the Russians will be more challenging, he said.

Russian negotiators sought to force the United States to abandon a modified missile defense plan but ended up settling for language saying that the size of offensive arsenals must be tied to the size of antimissile defenses.

Success on the treaty is likely to boost Obama's broader nonproliferation effort.

The administration hopes to convince smaller nonnuclear states that they do not need nuclear arms, and this deal would strengthen U.S. arguments that the nuclear states are doing their part to reduce the world's nuclear inventory.

The signing ceremony will come in the days before Obama convenes an international conference on nuclear security in Washington.

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B.  Iran

U.S. Softens Sanction Plan Against Iran
David Crawford, Richard Boudreaux, Joe Lauria, and Jay Solomon
The Wall Street Journal
(for personal use only)

The U.S. has backed away from pursuing a number of tough measures against Iran in order to win support from Russia and China for a new United Nations Security Council resolution on sanctions, according to people familiar with the matter.

Among provisions removed from the original draft resolution the U.S. sent to key allies last month were sanctions aimed at choking off Tehran’s access to international banking services and capital markets, and closing international airspace and waters to Iran’s national air cargo and shipping lines, according to the individuals.

The U.S. and allies are trying to force Iran to rein in a nuclear program that they worry is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Tehran says its nuclear activities are peaceful. The U.K. and Germany, concerned that Russia and China would reject the resolution outright and preferring to turn up pressure on Iran gradually, persuaded U.S. officials to drop or soften several elements, including some of the document’s harshest provisions, the individuals said.

U.S. officials said they wouldn’t comment on the day-by-day negotiations taking place among the Security Council members. But they acknowledge that there has been a tension between seeking the strongest possible sanctions at the U.N. and still maintaining consensus among the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany, which are drafting the sanctions.

“We are seeking an appropriate resolution that puts significant pressure on the government,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Wednesday. “We continue to consult with various countries, and it’s our desire to maintain unanimity. It will be a strong united statement that Iran will have to pay attention to.”

The disclosure of weakened proposals came as U.S. officials sought to persuade Russia and China to back measures against Iran in a conference call on Wednesday among the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany, the first such meeting including China since mid-January.

Russia and China didn’t endorse a draft resolution, but signaled that they were open to further discussions, people familiar with the matter said. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Interfax news service, “We are continuing the process of comparing the approaches of the parties and considering further options.”

Russia and China also have been working in tandem to press Iran to accept a United Nations-brokered proposal to send uranium abroad for enrichment, Russian officials said Wednesday. The effort is unusual, coming from the two powers usually least inclined to lean hard on Tehran. “The clouds are gathering, and the position of Iran leaves less and less space for diplomatic maneuver,” a senior Russian diplomat told reporters Wednesday.

The current resolution still would target major power centers in Iran, in particular the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country’s elite military force, according to a person familiar with the draft. It would also stiffen a broad range of existing sanctions, including the search and seizure of suspicious cargo bound for Iran through international waters and a ban on states offering financial assistance or credits for trade with Iran. If approved, they would be the most stringent measures Iran has faced.

Yet the original U.S. draft would have gone much further. The cargo sanctions initially named Iran Air and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and demand a blanket ban of their airplanes and ships from other countries’ airspace or territorial waters. The revised version calls for interdiction only of shipments that would evade already-existing sanctions.

The earlier resolution would have made it difficult for Iran to insure imports and exports of oil and other essential commodities, by barring foreign insurers from serving international transport contracts from Iran. The new draft calls only for unspecified “additional steps” to enforce current sanctions on insurance.

The previous draft would also have barred Iran’s access to international capital markets by prohibiting foreign investment in Iranian bonds. The country hasn’t traditionally relied on debt markets, but earlier this month a state-owned Iranian bank, Bank Mellat, announced an offer to sell bonds valued at €1 billion ($1.35 billion) to fund development of natural-gas field in South Pars. The new draft makes no mention of Iranian bonds.

The current draft notes “with serious concern the role of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard” in “Iran’s proliferation sensitive nuclear activities and the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems,” according to a person familiar with its contents.

The U.S. Treasury Department has identified billions of dollars in assets controlled by the Revolutionary Guard in financial and commercial sectors, including at least $7 billion in the energy sector and a controlling stake in Iran’s largest telecommunications provider, Telecommunication Company of Iran.

The draft would force an international freeze on the assets of the entire Revolutionary Guard and “any individuals or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction,” and on “entities owned or controlled by them, including through illicit means,” according to the person familiar with the draft.

If enforced, the proposed sanctions could force the Revolutionary Guard to divest itself of some holdings to prevent major disruptions in the economy.

The Revolutionary Guard’s affiliation with the country’s telecom operator, for example, could prompt foreign partners to stop connecting international calls.

Though the sanctions under discussion would target the government, they would inevitably hit many Iranians as well, a senior European official with knowledge of the sanction preparations said. “We don’t want to hurt the Iranian people,” he said, but “people will be affected.”

China, which relies on Iran as a major supplier of oil, said last week that the standoff with Iran should be resolved through negotiations. U.S. officials have said China remains the linchpin for the Security Council adopting sanctions, and have enlisted key Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to use their energy dealings with China as leverage to push for cooperation.

“I believe in the end the Chinese will be on board,” said a senior U.S. official working on drafting the sanctions.

Russia has sent mixed signals in recent weeks on its willingness to impose tougher restrictions on Tehran. Last week, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Moscow would assist Iran in starting a civilian nuclear reactor, against U.S. objections.

In a nod to Moscow, the resolution wouldn’t sanction work on many existing energy projects, including that nuclear power plant.

Russia doesn’t want to push Iran to the point of quitting the international Non-Proliferation Treaty and barring nuclear inspectors, analysts say. Industrial lobbies close to the Kremlin also oppose sanctions that would jeopardize their sales of weapons and nuclear energy equipment to Iran.

One of the toughest proposed sanctions in the current draft is a comprehensive international arms embargo against Iran, a longtime goal of the U.S. Despite U.S. pressure to end weapons shipments, a number of countries continue supply Iran with arms, however.

The balance between seeking tough measures and unanimity is affecting the timing of a U.S. push. Negotiations could drag on into the summer.

U.S. officials said they will follow any new U.N. sanctions enacted with a range of new measures implemented either unilaterally or with allied countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The Obama administration has been holding meetings with so-called like-minded nations from outside the Security Council, such as Japan, South Korea, and the U.A.E., which have extensive financial ties to Tehran.

“International pressure will be backed by steps that are taken nationally,” Mr. Crowley said. “We are looking for sanctions that have bite.”

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West 'Fussing' Over Iran Nuclear Drive: Ahmadinejad
Jay Deshmukh
(for personal use only)

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday accused the West of stirring up a "fuss" about Iran's nuclear programme, as reports said Washington has backed down from harsh sanctions against Tehran.

Ahmadinejad's latest outburst came a day after senior officials of the group of six major world powers dealing with Iran's nuclear programme held a conference call to discuss sanctions against the Islamic republic.

"They are saying we are worried that Iran may be building a bomb. But we are saying you have built it and even used it. So who should be worried?" Ahmadinejad said.

"They are just making a fuss. They have ended up humiliating themselves," he said in a speech at the inauguration of a new dam in southwest Iran that was broadcast on state television.

Western powers suspect Tehran is making a nuclear bomb under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme.

But Iran, which has steadfastly pursued nuclear technology under Ahmadinejad's presidency, denies these accusations, saying the goal is to generate electricity.

The hardline president said the Western powers were purely interested in stopping his country's overall progress.

"Let me tell you, the era when they could hurt the Iranian nation is over. The Iranian nation is at such a height that their evil hands can't touch it," Ahmadinejad said.

"They want to stop, even for an hour, the fast speeding train of Iranian progress. But they will be unable to do it," he said, adding Western countries were in decline and "humiliated by the Zionists."

Israel -- who are believed to be the the Middle East's sole but undeclared nuclear weapons power -- and the United States have not ruled out using military strikes against Iran's atomic sites.

Israel, which has repeatedly come under Ahmadinejad's verbal attacks, has consistently urged world powers to swiftly impose harsh sanctions against Iran.

But senior officials from the United States, Russia, France, Britain, China -- the five veto-wielding powers of the UN Security Council -- and Germany failed to agree on sanctions in a conference call on Wednesday.

While the United States, Britain and France agree on the need for tough new measures, Russia and particularly China have been more reluctant to sign off on new sanctions.

China, Iran's main economic partner which for weeks stalled on holding the talks, appealed for more diplomacy to resolve the crisis on Thursday.

"China urges all sides to use diplomatic means to peacefully resolve the Iranian nuclear issue... this is the best choice," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that, in order to get Russia and China firmly on board, Washington was no longer pushing for harsh measures which would have effectively closed international airspace and waters to Iran's state-owned air cargo and shipping lines.

The report said the proposed package of sanctions had also been stripped of plans targeting insurance for certain Iranian companies and the sale of Iranian bonds.

The Journal said the revised sanctions would more narrowly target "major power centers in Iran, in particular the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps," and would firm up existing pressure on Tehran.

The watered down version sought to enforce existing sanctions on cargo shipments, urged the United States to take additional steps to bar insurance provision and called for "vigilance" in transactions involving Iran.

Washington had hoped to get a new round of UN sanctions passed early this year, possibly around April, the newspaper said, but difficulty securing support could push the effort back into the summer.

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Only Dialogue Will Solve Iran Issue, Qatar Says
(for personal use only)

Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani says Iran's nuclear issue can only be solved through diplomacy and dialogue.

“Iran's nuclear issue should be solved through dialogue," the Qatari top diplomat said in his speech in Moscow on Wednesday.

“Qatar has very good ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran and also the Western countries," he added.

“We believe that no sanctions should be imposed against Iran because it is a major power and a key player in the [Middle East] region," IRNA quoted the Qatari prime minister as saying.

“We hope that a just solution will be found for Iran's nuclear issue so that Iran's right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes will be respected," he added.

Sheik Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani discussed regional and international issues in meetings with Russia President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

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Russia, China Urged Iran to Change Nuclear Stance
Louis Charbonneau, Reuters
(for personal use only)

Russia and China have quietly made clear to the Iranian government they want Tehran to change its approach to the nuclear issue and accept a U.N. atomic fuel offer, Western diplomats said on Tuesday.

Russia's and China's coordinated diplomatic approaches took place in Tehran around the beginning of March, according to several Western U.N. Security Council diplomats.

They said it was significant that two powers seen as blocking Western efforts to get tough on Tehran appeared to be using their influence behind the scenes to ratchet up the pressure on the Islamic Republic.

"Russia and China had a demarche in Tehran to try and get them to shift their position on the nuclear issue, particularly with regard to the Tehran Research Reactor," one diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

"The Russians and Chinese were saying that their position (on a new sanctions resolution) would depend on Iran's response to the demarches."

Another Western diplomat confirmed the Russian and Chinese "demarche," a formal diplomatic approach that can be anything from a gentle expression of displeasure to an angry protest.

"The Russians said they got nothing from Iran," the second diplomat said. "The Chinese said they got a response from the Iranians to wait a little longer and they will come up with something. But they (China) didn't get anything in the end."

Russian frustration with Iran has been growing since Tehran snubbed a U.N. nuclear watchdog plan under which the Iranians would ship most of their low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for further enrichment and processing into fuel assemblies for a Tehran reactor for medical isotopes.

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Iran was letting the opportunity for normal cooperation slip away. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Moscow may support new sanctions on Iran, RIA news agency reported.


On March 4, Russian and Chinese U.N. envoys used a meeting of the Security Council to publicly urge Iran to accept the U.N. fuel plan. That proposal was meant to buy time for negotiations among the six powers and Iran by moving potential nuclear bomb material abroad.

Iran rejects Western allegations that its nuclear program is a quest to develop atomic weapons and has ignored five U.N. resolutions ordering it to halt its enrichment program.

While China has urged Tehran to accept the International Atomic Energy Agency plan, it has repeatedly said the time was not right for new sanctions against Iran. Beijing has yet to react to a sanctions proposal drafted by Washington and circulated to Russia, China and the three European powers.

But China's refusal to engage in what Western diplomats described as "substantive discussions" on a new round of sanctions against Tehran may have come to an end, envoys said.

"The Chinese have finally agreed to participate in a conference call this week to discuss sanctions," said a Western diplomat. That call, among senior foreign ministry officials from the five permanent Security Council members and Germany, was tentatively scheduled for Wednesday.

"The Iranians clearly haven't come around after China's and Russia's demarches, so perhaps the Chinese are accepting that the time to discuss sanctions has come," one diplomat said, adding that "you never know with the Chinese."

The latest U.S. sanctions draft includes a proposed a ban on new Iranian banks abroad and foreign banks in Iran as well as an arms embargo with international inspections similar to one in place against North Korea, Western diplomats said.

It would also urge "vigilance" against Iran's central bank, ban insurance and reinsurance of shipments to and from Iran and would blacklist several Iranian shipping firms.

In Washington, a leading senator said the U.S. Congress should not finish legislation to squeeze Iran's gasoline suppliers while the Obama administration is seeking another U.N. sanctions resolution.

"I think for Congress to get out ahead at this moment would be complicated," Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters outside the Senate. "The object here is to be effective, not first."

Russia and China backed three rounds of sanctions against Iran but worked to dilute the measures before they were put to a Security Council vote. Western diplomats expect them to do the same if they agree to negotiate on new sanctions.

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Six Key Powers Hold Conference Call on Iran: Diplomat
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After weeks of stalling, China joined five other major powers in a conference call to weigh proposed new UN sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear program, diplomats said.

A senior Chinese official on Wednesday took part in the call with fellow foreign ministry political directors from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant identified the Chinese official assigned to the exchanges from capitals as Liu Zhenmin, who until recently was China's deputy UN ambassador here.

He told reporters here that that the six officials "have agreed they will have further discussions of possible measures (sanctions) early next week."

Asked whether China's presence signaled a willingness by Beijing to engage substantively in bargaining over a fourth round of sanctions against the Islamic Republic, the British envoy said: "my understanding is that they (the Chinese) have agreed to engage substantively."

Earlier Wednesday, China's new UN Ambassador Li Baodong would only say that his country, which maintains close energy and economic ties with Tehran, has always advocated diplomacy and was "working with other members to find a peaceful solution."

While Moscow has signaled readiness to back fresh sanctions in the face of Iran's perceived intransigence, Beijing has so far been cool to the idea.

Both Russia and China had pinned their hopes on Tehran defusing the crisis by accepting a deal brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency last October.

Under the deal, Iran would ship out most of its stockpiles of low enriched uranium in return for the supply by France and Russia of uranium enriched to the 20 percent level required for a Tehran medical research reactor.

But Iran has balked and put forward a counterproposal of its own for a simultaneous fuel swap on Iranian soil, which western countries and the IAEA itself rejects.

In addition, relations between Beijing and Washington have soured over the past few weeks over US arms sales to Taiwan, Internet freedom, the value of the Chinese yuan and a visit by the Dalai Lama to the White House.

Lyall Grant said it was too soon to say when a new sanctions draft resolution would be brought before the full 15-member council.

"The resolution will be brought to the council when it is ready," he said.

In Washington, Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said Wednesday's conference call was part of "a regular consultation" with US partners about "the importance of holding Iran accountable."

"We're in the midst of discussing next steps, and that's going to take some time," he added.

Meanwhile, the White House said US President Barack Obama also held a video conference Wednesday with the leaders of Britain, Germany and France to discuss next steps on Iran.

The Security Council already has slapped three rounds of sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, which the West and Israel view as a cover to build nuclear weapons.

Iran denies the charges and maintains that its nuclear program is solely geared toward electricity generation for its growing population.

The new sanctions proposed by Western powers would target Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards who oversee the country's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

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Turkey Rebuffs U.S. Call to Join Iran Sanctions
Selcuk Gokoluk
(for personal use only)

NATO-member Turkey on Wednesday rebuffed calls from ally the United States to support more sanctions against Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, saying diplomacy should be given more chance.

Turkey, a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has been leery of a U.S.-led push to back new sanctions on fellow Muslim nation Iran, which the West suspects is trying to develop atomic bombs.

"There is still an opportunity ahead of us and we believe that this opportunity should be used effectively. Not less, but more diplomacy (is needed)," Turkey's Foreign Ministry spokesman Burak Ozugergin told a news conference.

Last week, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon, the U.S. State Department's top diplomat for Europe, urged Turkey to support more sanctions against Iran, saying Ankara could face consequences if it moves out of step with the international community.

Turkey, which has applied to join the European Union, is not the only country that insists on more diplomacy with Iran, which says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

China, a permanent, veto-wielding member of the Security Council, along with non-permanent member Brazil, have urged more time for diplomacy with Iran.

Turkey has boosted ties with Iran and other Muslim neighbors since the Islamist-leaning AK Party first took office in 2002, and some commentators have expressed concern Ankara might be tilting away from its long-time Western allies.

Turkey has offered to use its access to the Iranian leadership to solve the nuclear dispute but frequent trips by Turkish officials to Tehran have failed to produce a breakthrough.

"We think that Iran has good intentions on this issue and wants a solution. Otherwise, we would not be making such efforts. We inform our Western friends regularly about the impressions we get (from talks with Iran)," Ozugergin said.

He reiterated Ankara's opposition to any Middle Eastern country acquiring nuclear weapons and said Iran had the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes like all other countries.

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Iran-West Nuclear Swap Still Possible, Says Brazil
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Brazil's foreign minister says a US-drafted UN-proposed nuclear swap deal to solve Iran's nuclear issue still has the chance to be agreed upon.

Celso Amorim said Tuesday that there was a lack of confidence between Iran and some countries engaged in nuclear talks, adding that a third “faithful depository” country could solve the problem.

Amorim denied that Brazil had a "special proximity" with Iran, saying Brazil's only difference with Western powers was that it believed a uranium exchange deal proposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in October could still succeed through negotiations.

“Iran doesn't have confidence in some countries and those countries don't have confidence in Iran. So what is the solution? Just as you have in private transactions, a faithful depositary that can be a third country,” the Brazilian minister told reporters in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday after a meeting with Yukiya Amano, the director general of the IAEA.

Amorim did not specify which country should act as a neutral ground, but he did rule out Brazil, Reuters reported.

Under the proposed deal, Tehran would have to ship most of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) out of the country, and receive nuclear fuel up to 18 months.

Iran needs the fuel to power a research reactor in Tehran that produces medical radioisotopes for cancer treatment, but maintains that it need guarantees that nuclear fuel rods would eventually find their way back to the country, should it ship out its LEU stockpile.

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New South Korean Vice Minister Pledges to Maintain Hardline Stance on North Korea
Sam Kim
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

A career-long government specialist on inter-Korean relations took office Tuesday as South Korea's vice unification minister, touting his government's policy of tying large-scale aid to North Korea to progress in Pyongyang's denuclearization.

Um Jong-sik took office as South Korean operators of suspended tours to a North Korean mountain resort prepared to visit the communist neighbor later this week after Pyongyang threatened to seize their assets there.

Um did not comment on Thursday's scheduled meeting at the Kumgang mountain resort on the east coast, but said his government will maintain its stance of not giving into the North's pressure.

"For the past two years, we have established new principles and directions for inter-Korean relations," Um said in his inauguration speech at the ministry in Seoul.

"We should consistently pursue changes in North Korea and progress in inter-Korean relations that is based on principles," he said, referring to the policy of linking aid to denuclearization steps.

North Korea has called on South Korea this year to resume the tours, warning that it will otherwise scrap its side of a tourism deal forged with a previous Seoul government.

The tours were suspended after a South Korean woman was shot to death at the resort in July 2008. The South demands a joint on-site probe and full safety guarantees while the North says its own probe was sufficient and that safety issues have been addressed.

Ties between the sides frayed to one of their worst conditions in history after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in early 2008 and said he would suspend large-scale aid to North Korea until Pyongyang showed progress toward denuclearization under a six-nation agreement.

Gestures for rapprochement have reappeared in recent months after the North was slapped with a new round of U.N. sanctions for its nuclear test in May last year, but have not led to breakthrough in inter-Korean relations.

In an editorial carried Tuesday in the Rodong Sinmun, the paper of the North's Workers' Party, Pyongyang decried the Seoul government as the worst partner in inter-Korean relations ever, saying, "its fixation on principles is a crime that drives relations to ruin."

South and North Korea remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

Um, 52, has served at the Unification Ministry and in North Korea-related posts at other government branches, including the presidential office, since he joined the government in 1986.

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D.  Nuclear Energy

Nuclear Revival May Lift Uranium Price
Calgary Herald
(for personal use only)

Uranium prices are likely to rise in the next year or two due to a building boom in nuclear power plants, an executive of Spanish nuclear fuel maker Enusa said Wednesday.

Spot uranium prices have tumbled from a peak of $136 US a pound in June 2007 to around $40 currently, partly due to Kazakhstan raising production of the metal, which is used as fuel in nuclear power plants.

"The forecasts are for it to be around $40 for the next year or two, and then it may rise due to the nuclear renaissance," said Francisco Tarin, purchasing manager at Enusa.

"If it goes up to $50 or $60, that would be reasonable, because we have seen much higher prices in recent years and the industry could withstand them," he added in an interview at Enusa's plant in Juzbado, 230 kilometres west of Madrid.

Governments around the world are turning to nuclear power to avoid using fuels such as crude oil and coal, and to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The International Atomic Energy Authority, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, estimates that in addition to 436 reactors now operating in the world, there are 56 under construction and 200 more planned.

State-owned Enusa manufactures nuclear fuel rods using the equivalent of some 320 tonnes of uranium a year.

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South African Nuclear Project May Get $10 Million for U.S. Deal
Carli Lourens
(for personal use only)

South Africa’s Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Ltd., the company that lost government funding after spending a decade trying to develop small nuclear power plants, expects to get $10 million for a U.S. contract.

The company is part of a Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC group selected by the U.S. Department of Energy for “conceptual and planning work” for a so-called Next Generation Nuclear Plant, Pebble Bed spokeswoman Lorna Skhosana said in an e-mailed response to queries today. Pebble Bed anticipates “receiving an estimated $10 million” from the deal, she said.

South Africa will halt funds for the company after spending 7.4 billion rand ($1 billion) on its nuclear technology in the past 11 years, Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan said Feb. 18. Pebble Bed was set up in 1999 to develop 24 high- temperature, gas-cooled reactors, generating 110 megawatts each.

The company will switch to more conventional technology as it looks to minimize costs and risk, said Chris Forlee, a deputy director general at the Department of Public Enterprises.

The U.S. contract gives the company enough money to operate for another year, Johannesburg-based newspaper The Times said, citing Pebble Bed Chief Financial Officer Lynette Milne. The company said on Feb. 18 that it may fire three quarters of its 800ong workforce because of a shortage of funding.

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Toshiba Unit Reaches Deal on UK Nuclear Site
(for personal use only)

Westinghouse, the U.S. subsidiary of Japan's Toshiba, has agreed to take over the long-term management of a British nuclear fuel manufacturing site, the British government said on Wednesday.

The company has said that if it got the contract for the Springfields site, near Preston in northwest England, it would look at making a significant investment in the facility.

Westinghouse previously had a short-term contract to operate the site which expires at the end of this month.

Britain's Labour government, which faces an election within weeks, has launched a drive to replace ageing nuclear power plants with new reactors.

"The Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA) has successfully reached agreement with Westinghouse Electric Co LLC (WEC) on new commercial arrangements for the Springfields site and fuel manufacturing," British junior energy minister David Kidney said in a statement.

"The agreement will see the commercial operations and staff fully transfer to WEC, which is the current site management contractor, and the NDA land leased to WEC on a long-term basis," he said.

The government gave no financial details. But it said that in addition to providing an income stream for the NDA, the new arrangements and plans for the site were expected to reduce the NDA's decommissioning liabilities significantly.

Kidney said the agreement was expected to enhance the site's long-term commercial sustainability through investment and expansion of existing fuel operations.

"The agreement further demonstrates that major energy companies are gearing up for significant investment in the low carbon energy sector in the UK," he said.

He said the government had put a measure before parliament allowing the site to carry out new fuel manufacturing activities.

Westinghouse Chief Executive Aris Candris told reporters last September that following the investment the facility could help the company fulfill demand from Europe as well as Britain.

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E.  Links of Interest

A Closed Nuclear City's New Bid
Artem Zagorodnov
Russia Now
(for personal use only)

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An Ex-CIA Spy Explains Iran’s Quest for Nuclear Weapons
Reza Kahlili
The Christian Science Monitor
(for personal use only)

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Can Nuclear Summit Ease Security Concerns?
Lucy-Claire Saunders
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

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Nuclear Waste Piles Up, and It's Costing Taxpayers Billions
Mark Clayton
The Christian Science Monitor
(for personal use only)

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Jordan Opens Storage Facility
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

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