1. Clinton: China to Play Role in Iran Sanctions Push
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that China agrees Iran must not become a nuclear weapons power and that the fellow Security Council member will play a role in forging sanctions against the Islamic republic at the United Nations.
In the Canadian capital for a meeting of top diplomats from the Group of Eight leading industrialized democracies, Clinton said that despite China's general opposition to international sanctions, it will contribute to the process at the U.N. Security Council.
The U.S. is leading the charge to penalize Iran for refusing to prove that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful. China is a permanent member of the Security Council and can block new sanctions with a veto, so its support for sanctions will be crucial.
"China is part of the consultative group that has been unified all along the way, which has made it very clear that a nuclear-armed Iran is not acceptable to the international community," Clinton said in an interview with Canadian television.
"I think as the weeks go forward and we begin the hard work of trying to come up with a Security Council resolution, China will be involved, they will be making their suggestions," she said.
China has been holding up consideration of new sanctions, saying diplomacy must be given time. But last week it appeared to soften its position in a conference call among senior officials from the six nations working most closely on the matter, according to diplomats.
Clinton did not address the specifics of any contribution that China might make but said she believed agreement could be reached.
"We're just going to have to, as in any effort, we're going to have to try to come to some consensus and we're in the middle of that process," Clinton said after answering flatly "no" when asked if the world would have to start living with a nuclear-armed Iran.
Iran will be a major topic at Clinton's meetings in Canada with her counterparts from the other G-8 nations, which include Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Russia.
Those discussions were beginning with a working dinner Monday and continuing in a formal session Tuesday.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful means only. Western powers believe the country is working to produce a nuclear weapon, as Iranian officials have refused demands to come clean about their intentions.
Russia, which like China is typically opposed to sanctions, has said it is willing to consider new penalties and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will see Clinton in Ottawa to consider the issue further.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5j2VVtWwPGkAuYAWc6gIIdgGtjotgD9EOISP81
An Iranian lawmaker has warned against Israel's nuclear arsenals and called for adoption of strict acts to establish a world free from weapons of mass destruction.
"Iran strongly calls for nuclear disarmament in the world particularly in the Middle East and elimination of Israel's nuclear arsenal," the Iranian Parliament's (Majlis) First Vice-Speaker Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabifard said in an address to the 122nd Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Bangkok, Thailand.
He added that Iran remains quite adamant about the use of nuclear energy for peaceful aims despite pressure and threats, saying, "The Islamic Republic will continue its peaceful nuclear activities."
"Iran calls for supplying the fuel required (for Tehran medical research reactor) and the fuel cycle in line with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)," he said.
A deal backed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) requires Tehran to send most of its low-enriched uranium abroad for further processing to be formed in special rods for the research reactor.
Iran says it would agree to a deal if guarantees are provided by the West that the fuel would be shipped to the country in a timely manner, but Tehran's demand has been shrugged off by the West.
Iran is currently enriching uranium to the level of less than 20 percent.
Aboutorabifard pointed to the West's great efforts to deprive the Iranian nation of its inalienable international rights and said, "Arrogant powers used all diplomatic and non-diplomatic potential to place an obstacle in the way of Iran's legal activities but all their efforts failed."
The US and its mainly Western allies have been trying to use their privileges at the United Nations Security Council to push through a fourth round of sanctions against Iran for its refusal to bow to pressure by nuclear powers to halt its peaceful nuclear program.
However, China and Russia — two permanent, veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council — have been reluctant to go along with the plan.
Iran says as a signatory to the NPT, its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at civilian applications of the technology.
The Iranian lawmaker cited attrition crises, causing insecurity and imposing threats and sanctions as among the West's measures to counter the Islamic Republic.
He reiterated that the Iranian nation would wisely pursue the path of progress and power in different fields and stand against US-led extremism, threats and pressure.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=121928§ionid=351020101
3. US Diplomat Says China Recognizes Iran 'Danger'
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A top US diplomat said Monday that China recognized the "danger" of Iran's nuclear program and dismissed suggestions that recent rows between Washington and Beijing had impeded cooperation.
China has been seen as the most hesitant member of the so-called "P5-plus-1" -- the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany that are negotiating with Iran -- over imposing further sanctions.
But Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said Chinese officials were willing to talk to him about cooperation on Iran when he visited Beijing earlier this month.
"We've had a recognition, I think, by our Chinese counterparts of the danger of the Iranian nuclear program and the fact that there does not seem to be a willingness on the Iranians to take the very generous offer that the P5-plus-1 made to them," Steinberg told reporters in Washington.
"Despite the very serious efforts, which we support, of the Chinese to encourage diplomacy on the part of the Iranians, they don't seem to be responsive," he said.
China last week joined the other five nations in a conference call to weigh proposed new UN sanctions against Iran.
Western powers suspect Iran is developing nuclear weapons, although the clerical regime says its uranium enrichment is for peaceful purposes.
Steinberg and Jeffrey Bader, President Barack Obama's top adviser on Asia, visited China in the wake of Beijing's protests over the US approval of arms sales to Taiwan and Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama.
Steinberg said while he did not see "a direct linkage between these things," he was "very encouraged by the fact that, on issues of concern to us, we have seen some progress," citing Iran.
He said he explained US positions on Taiwan and Tibet and was "treated with great courtesy" in Beijing.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gJUwBZuE_ORshSzObNZn6eOBJxxA
4. Turkey Supports Diplomacy on Iran Nuclear Issue
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Turkey has once again rejected a proposal for imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.
"We must first try to find a diplomatic solution," Erdogan told der Spiegel magazine. "What we need here is diplomacy, and then more diplomacy," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the German magazine.
He reiterated that any other alternative threatens world peace.
The comments come ahead of a visit to Turkey by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The US and its European allies are pushing for tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear energy program.
They allege that Tehran is covertly after atomic weapons. However, the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have found no diversions in Iran's atomic program.
Tehran insists its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=121833§ionid=351020104
5. Two More Nuclear Sites Suspected in Iran: Report
Press Trust of India
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UN inspectors and intelligence specialists in western countries believe Iran may be preparing to build at least two additional secret nuclear sites despite demands that it open up its nuclear program, The New York Times has reported.
The newspaper said late Saturday the suspicions were prompted by recent comments by a top Iranian official.
In an interview with the Iranian Student News Agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had ordered work to begin soon on two new plants.
The plants, he said, "will be built inside mountains," presumably to protect them from attacks, according to The Times report.
"God willing," Salehi was quoted as saying, "we may start the construction of two new enrichment sites" in the Iranian new year, which began March 21.
Available at: http://www.ptinews.com/news/585027_Two-more-nuclear-sites-suspected-in-Iran--report
6. Russia Does Not Rule Out Sanctions Against Iran
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President Dmitry Medvedev said on Saturday he still supported diplomacy to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme but sanctions should not be ruled out.
"We are convinced that the path of sanctions is not optimal," Medvedev said in a message to the Arab League conference in Sirte, Libya.
"At the same time, such a scenario cannot be excluded," he added, according to a transcript provided by the president's press service.
Russia which, together with China, had been reluctant to endorse broader sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear programme, has softened its stance on punitive measures against the Islamic Republic in recent months.
During his visit to France earlier in the month, Medvedev said that if diplomacy failed, Russia would support "smart" sanctions against Iran, because it could not wait for ever for cooperation by Tehran.
On Saturday, Medvedev said any sanctions that are introduced should be "well calculated and not targeted at the civilian population of Iran".
His foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, was quoted as telling a television channel that sanctions would be aimed at "encouraging cooperation with Iranian agencies in charge of the nuclear program."
"So far what we are hearing does not indicate 'clever sanctions' at all," Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying in an interview with Russia's TV-Center, to be aired later on Saturday.
Lavrov also said that Iran's lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was of concern to Russia. "In this sense, we want more from Iran," Lavrov said.
He reiterated that Russia would not support a military strike against Tehran.
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-47264020100327?rpc=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&rpc=401
7. NATO Chief Calls for New Missile Defenses to Counter Iran
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NATO states should agree at a summit this year to make missile defense systems against states including Iran an alliance mission and look at every opportunity to cooperate on this with Russia, the head of NATO says.
In a speech prepared for delivery at a conference in Brussels on Saturday, alliance Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said a NATO-wide missile defense system would show collective will to defend against a growing threat.
"We need a decision by NATO's next summit in November that missile defense for our populations and territories is an alliance mission. And that we will explore every opportunity to cooperate with Russia," Rasmussen said in an advance text of the speech made available by NATO.
In reiterating his wish to see collaboration with Russia, Rasmussen said this required a decision by Moscow "to see missile defense as an opportunity, rather than a threat".
He said current trends showed a "real and growing" threat from weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, with more than 30 countries possessing or developing missiles with greater and greater ranges.
"In many cases, these missiles could eventually threaten our populations and territories," he said.
Iran, which the West suspects of working to produce nuclear weapons, has said it possesses missiles with a range that would put NATO members Turkey, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria within reach, Rasmussen said.
If Tehran were to complete development of intermediate and intercontinental missiles after taking a key step in introducing its SAFIR 2 space-launch vehicle last year, "then the whole of the European continent, as well as all of Russia would be in range", he said.
"Proliferators must know that we are unwavering in our determination to collective defense."
Nuclear strike on Iran?
Deeply concerned as it is by the risk of a nuclear-armed Iran, Israel has never even hinted at using atomic weapons to forestall the perceived threat.
But on Friday a respected Washington think tank has said that low-radioactive yield "tactical" nuclear warheads would be one way for the Israelis to destroy Iranian uranium enrichment plants in remote, dug-in fortifications.
Despite the 65-year-old taboo against carrying out -- or, for that matter, mooting -- nuclear strikes, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) says in a new report that "some believe that nuclear weapons are the only weapons that can destroy targets deep underground or in tunnels".
But other independent experts are on record warning that such a scenario is based on the "myth" of a clean atomic attack and would be too politically hazardous to justify.
In their study titled "Options in Dealing with Iran's Nuclear Program", CSIS analysts Abdullah Toukan and Anthony Cordesman envisage the possibility of Israel "using these warheads as a substitute for conventional weapons" given the difficulty its jets would face in reaching Iran for anything more than a one-off sortie.
Ballistic missiles or submarine-launched cruise missiles could serve for Israeli tactical nuclear strikes without interference from Iranian air defenses, the 208-page report says. "Earth-penetrator" warheads would produce most damage.
Israel is widely assumed to have the Middle East's sole atomic arsenal. Israeli leaders do not comment on this capability other than to underscore its deterrent role; President Shimon Peres has said repeatedly that "Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the region."
A veteran Israeli defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said preemptive nuclear strikes were foreign to the national doctrine: "Such weapons exist so as not to be used."
Available at: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1159407.html
1. North Korea to Build Light Water Reactor Soon: State Media
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North Korea will build a light water nuclear power plant "in the near future", its official news agency said Monday, also taking a swipe at speculation about the health of leader Kim Jong-Il.
The country "will witness the appearance of a light water reactor power plant relying on its own nuclear fuel in the near future in the 2010s", the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a lengthy commentary.
It gave no details of the project.
Experts say light water reactors are more resistant to proliferation than gas-graphite types such as the North's Yongbyon reactor, but they can also be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.
The North agreed to shut down existing atomic programmes under a 2005 six-nation nuclear disarmament deal. But it quit the forum almost one year ago and vowed to restart production of weapons-grade plutonium.
The other parties in the 2005 deal agreed to "respect" the North's desire to build a light water reactor but gave no firm commitments.
KCNA, in its commentary, criticised what it called a deluge of "despicable" reports suggesting serious weaknesses in the communist state.
It noted that "wild rumours" about the health of leader Kim are circulating, along with reports of serious food shortages and economic difficulties due to last November's currency revaluation.
The agency also noted "misinformation" that it is smuggling missiles and other weapons and bolstering its nuclear capacity.
"The scenario for vituperation seems to know no bounds," it said, adding that the aim of "hostile forces" is to portray the regime as unstable so as to deter foreign investment.
The agency said that after strengthening the nuclear deterrent, the government since last year had been focusing on the economy and improving living standards through actively seeking foreign investment.
Widespread reports say the bungled currency change worsened already serious food shortages and sparked rare internal unrest.
Kim, 68, suffered a stroke in August 2008 and some reports say he also has chronic kidney problems.
The North refuses to return to the six-party nuclear talks until the United States makes a commitment to discuss a permanent peace pact, and until United Nations sanctions are lifted.
The US says the North must first return to the disarmament talks and show it is serious about denuclearisation.
KCNA said the Obama administration was reluctant to take the initiative for fear of being seen as weak before the mid-term elections.
It said the US justified its doctrine of "strategic patience" towards the North by suggesting that the government may not last.
But the North "has a firm foundation of the independent national economy, which remains solid despite any storm from outside".
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gCAn1IItCKbDm68x8lFhKZ-TxSbw
2. North Korea Vows 'Nuclear Strikes' in Latest Threat
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North Korea's military warned South Korea and the United States on Friday of "unprecedented nuclear strikes" as it expressed anger over a report the two countries plan to prepare for possible instability in the totalitarian country, a scenario it dismissed as a "pipe dream."
The North routinely issues such warnings. Diplomats in South Korea and the U.S. have repeatedly called on Pyongyang to return to international negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear programs.
"Those who seek to bring down the system in the (North), whether they play a main role or a passive role, will fall victim to the unprecedented nuclear strikes of the invincible army," North Korea's military said in comments carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
The North, believed have enough weaponized plutonium for at least half a dozen atomic bombs, conducted its second atomic test last year, drawing tighter U.N. sanctions.
Experts from South Korea, the U.S. and China will meet in China next month to share information on North Korea, assess possible contingencies in the country, and consider ways to cooperate in case of an emergency situation, South Korea's Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported earlier this month, citing unidentified sources in Seoul and Beijing. The experts will also hold follow-up meetings in Seoul in June and in Honolulu in July, it said.
The North Korean statement Friday specifically referred to the March 19 newspaper report.
A spokeswoman said the South Korean Defense Ministry had no information.
South Korean media have reported that Seoul has drawn up a military operations plan with the United States to cope with possible emergencies in the North. The North says the U.S. plots to topple its regime, a claim Washington has consistently denied.
Last month, the North also threatened a "powerful — even nuclear — attack," if the U.S. and South Korea went ahead with annual military drills. There was no military provocation from North Korea during the exercises.
China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the U.S. have been trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in six party talks. The North quit the negotiations last year.
The fate of the North's nuclear weapons has taken on added urgency since late 2008 as concerns over the health of leader Kim Jong Il have intensified.
Kim, who suffered an apparent stroke in 2008, may die within three years, South Korean media have reported. His death is thought to have the potential to trigger instability and a power struggle in the North.
Gen. Walter Sharp, the top U.S. commander in South Korea, says the possibility of turmoil in the North is of real concern, citing the country's economic weakness, malnourishment in both the military and general population, and its nuclear weapons.
"The possibility of a sudden leadership change in the North could be destabilizing and unpredictable," he said in testimony before the House Appropriations Committee hearing earlier this week.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iURO8fOyWVOA0ytFlaAGuC9F7R9wD9EM4I600
1. U.S., India Agree on Processing Spent Nuclear Fuel
Gaurav Singh and Brigitte Greenberg
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The U.S. and India have agreed on procedures for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from the U.S., helping General Electric Co.’s atomic venture bid for contracts to build power plants in the South Asian nation.
The agreement will enable India to reprocess U.S. nuclear material under International Atomic Energy Agency standards and allow American companies to participate in the country’s civil nuclear energy sector, the U.S. State Department said in a statement today.
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, a subsidiary of Fairfield, Connecticut-based General Electric and Monroeville, Pennsylvania-based Westinghouse, a subsidiary of Tokyo’s Toshiba Corp., are likely to bid for nuclear energy contracts as the world’s second fastest-growing major economy builds generating plants to end blackouts and reduce poverty. India plans to raise nuclear generation capacity 10-fold over the next decade to sustain its economic growth.
The State Department statement didn’t provide more details and S.K. Malhotra, a spokesman for India’s Department of Atomic Energy, couldn’t be reached on his mobile phone.
Earlier this month, India’s government failed to introduce a bill intended to shield foreign equipment suppliers from liability in the event of a nuclear accident. The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill 2010, listed as the main item on parliament’s agenda on March 15, was deferred because of opposition from lawmakers.
India plans to increase nuclear power generation capacity to 40,000 megawatts by 2020 from 4,340 megawatts as of Feb. 28. That target may be delayed by 15 years amid policy delays, Shreyans Kumar Jain, chairman of Nuclear Power Corp. of India, the monopoly atomic power producer, said on Dec. 10.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601091&sid=aC_HGDKrGeFE
India on Sunday afternoon successfully tested its nuclear capable surface-to-surface Agni I missile from a test range in Orissa, an official said.
The missile, which can strike a target 700 km away, was tested as part of user-trial from a facility on Wheeler Island in the district of Bhadrak by the Indian armed forces, director of the test range S.P. Dash told IANS.
"It was a fantastic launch," he said.
The armed forces had successfully tested two nuclear-capable missiles, Dhanush and Prithvi II, Saturday in Orissa.
Available at: http://www.khaleejtimes.com/displayarticle.asp?xfile=data/international/2010/March/international_March1143.xml§ion=international&col=
3. Renewed Efforts to Sell Nuclear Reactors to Kazakhstan
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India is renewing efforts to sell nuclear reactors to Kazakhstan after a hiatus caused by the turmoil in Kazatomprom following the arrest of several of its senior officials, including its chief executive, on charges of embezzlement.
If India manages to convince Kazakhstan about the efficacy of its reactors over Russian ones, this would be the first-ever export of indigenously designed and manufactured reactors, official sources said.
The sale of the reactors will be outside the civil nuclear Inter-Governmental Agreement being negotiated between the two countries, which envisages the import of uranium and cooperation in mining and training of personnel.
Kazakhstan has consistently ranked among the world's top three producers of uranium and has tied up with a Japanese nuclear major to further modernise its uranium mining industry.
At present, the country is evaluating two options. The first is the possibility of importing 220 MW pressurised heavy reactors from India, and the second, to continue importing the much larger Russian VVER reactors.
The stream of opinion in Astana favouring the Indian reactors believes that they are ideal for a huge country with scattered population. On the other hand, Kazakhstan has extremely close ties with Russia and was the last to secede from the Soviet Union.
Their proximity was demonstrated recently when Moscow shelved plans to individually join the World Trade Organisation. It entered into a customs union with Kazakhstan and Belorussia and plans to jointly approach the WTO for membership.
Ties began on a promising note when India became the first foreign destination (apart from other countries of the erstwhile Soviet Union) for Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev after his country became independent. Both countries stepped up their engagements after a brief spell of lukewarm ties, with Mr. Nazarbayev being the chief guest at the Independence Day celebrations here last year.
While cooperation in other spheres — chiefly oil and gas, besides refurbishment of Soviet era utilities plants — has progressed well, Kazakhstan's nuclear cooperation with some countries was marred by the arrest of the then Kazatomprom chief Moukhtar Dzhakishev for embezzlement, and his subsequent sentencing.
With the company getting its bearings back, New Delhi hopes the old ally will be the first destination of made-in-India nuclear power plants.
Available at: http://beta.thehindu.com/news/national/article317846.ece
The desirous Pakistan-U.S. civil nuclear deal is still out of reach for Pakistan though it is a non-NATO ally of America in "war on terror."
Responding to questions by journalists on his return from Washington, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Memood Qureshi said here Sunday that the issue of civil nuclear deal with the United States has yet to be further discussed in April when he goes for an international conference on nuclear disarmament and non- proliferation.
"However stressing too much on certain issues would not be in national interest," said Qureshi.
The foreign minister, after attending the most awaited Pak-U.S. strategic dialogue in Washington, said that his week-long visit was very successful and this time no "do more" was heard in his meetings with U.S. officials.
He said that response of U.S. officials was so positive and all long awaited issues were discussed in a friendly environment.
Qureshi said that Pakistan sensitivity was taken into account, U.S. agreed to review the decision of body scanning, in near future a breakthrough is expected in connection to drone technology.
He claimed that trust is restored between the two countries.
Qureshi said that U.S. accepted Pakistan's needs and assistance on several sectoral issues was agreed. Free access to western market, agriculture, defense and several other issues were also discussed.
In Washington, the Pakistani delegation led by Qureshi presented its necessities to U.S. officials. Coalition Support Fund hanging for long will be received next month, he said.
However, Qureshi declined to clearly say as how much money would be received in this connection. Washington vowed to provide 125 million U.S. dollars for projects relating to energy in Pakistan, he said.
It also promised assistance for infrastructure, education, agriculture security, food security, social sector, development and others in Pakistan, Qureshi told journalists but said nothing clearly about the nuclear deal with Pakistan.
No doubt this time America was comparatively friendly to Pakistan but the wish of the latter for nuclear deal is still a dream.
Among the important matters the issue of civil nuclear deal was essential for Pakistan. Analysts in Pakistan maintain that the U.S. is not willing to accept the demand of Pakistan for civil nuclear deal though Pakistan is facing power shortage for long and it has been curtailing its capability of economic and industrial growth.
Dr. Riffat Hussain, prominent analysts and Chairman of Defense and Strategic Studied at Quaid-e-Azam University, told Xinhua that he sees no possibility of nuclear deal between the U.S. and Pakistan.
Hussain said that such a deal would need support in the U.S. congress and that is very difficult. Such a deal with India was signed after 7-year-long effort, he added.
Analyst Lieutenant General (Retired) Talat Masood told Xinhua that at this stage expecting a civil nuclear deal between Pakistan and U.S. is unrealistic as U.S. President Barack Obama, propagating nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, is going to attend the conference on nuclear security next month.
Pakistan's record in connection to nuclear proliferation was damaged in the near past but the blame against Pakistan is now diminishing gradually, he added.
However, he also ruled out any such deal in near future and said that a final deal in this connection could take 10 to 15 years.
Pakistani Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit told Xinhua that a civil nuclear deal with the United States among other options for addressing the chronic energy crises in Pakistan is still on agenda.
When asked whether U.S. would agree to give favor to Pakistan in this connection, he replied with vague answer saying, "Nothing could be ruled out and we can hope for it in future."
Basit said that for solving the problem of energy crises in Pakistan immediately other options were considered and U.S. would assist Pakistan in improving capacities in hydro powers, wind energy projects, and others.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2010-03/29/c_13228143.htm
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Russia set up the world's first nuclear fuel reserve Monday to ensure uninterrupted supplies for the world's power reactors.
The idea for a fuel bank was initiated by the IAEA in order to give countries an alternative to developing their own uranium enrichment technology, like Iran has done.
"With our effort, we made the world a little better," said Sergei Kirienko, the head of Russia's nuclear corporation ROSATOM in Vienna, after signing the agreement with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.
The reserve is intended as an insurance mechanism for countries whose foreign supply of nuclear fuel is interrupted.
In such a case, the IAEA would provide the nuclear material, which is to be made and stored at Angarsk in Siberia. The recipient country would pay current market prices for the low-enriched uranium.
Russia would have 30 per cent of the target of one reactor load ready by the end of the year, Kirienko said.
Developing countries have expressed scepticism about the fuel bank, as they fear that such mechanisms might indirectly prevent them from acquiring peaceful nuclear technology.
But Kirienko stressed that participation in the reserve was voluntary and that "it has no restriction for the receiving country."
The Russia-IAEA project had already attracted great interest, he added.
According to IAEA officials, Iran's effort to build an uranium enrichment programme was the starting point for the nuclear agency's initiative.
Enrichment technology can be used not only for making reactor fuel, but also nuclear bomb material.
When the IAEA board approved the fuel bank in November, the countries that objected included three that are seriously considering starting nuclear power programmes - Egypt, Malaysia and Venezuela.
Available at: http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/316281,iaea-and-russia-establish-nuclear-fuel-bank--summary.html
In a region blessed with oil and gas, Jordan was dealt an unlucky hand. The country is among the most import dependent in the world, meeting 95 per cent of its energy supply needs from neighbouring states.
Now the government wants to leverage the one energy resource it does have in abundance – uranium – to start its own energy exports within a decade.
With the help of an international partner, Jordan is hoping to become the second Arab state after the UAE to construct a civilian nuclear power plant, and wants to have four units operating in the country in 30 years’ time.
The dreams are big, but the challenges just as formidable, experts say.
The capital cost of nuclear plants, the particularities of regional politics and the capacity of the electricity grid could all prove to be major hurdles to overcome to implement a successful nuclear programme. Jordan is not in the same economic position as the UAE, and its leaders have said they will not give up the country’s international right to enrich uranium, a decision that could make it harder for it to tap the technology and expertise of some industrialised countries.
Dr Khaled Toukan, the chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, said last week he was aware of the significant challenges, but was confident they could each be overcome.
“The conventional notion is of the Middle East as a rich, oil-producing region but on a country by country basis it is clear that many countries in the Middle East are suffering under the toll of high oil prices,” he said, noting 20 per cent of the government’s budget goes to importing fossil fuels.
“The development of secure alternative energy supplies is a top priority for the country and the decision makers in Jordan.”
The commission is now evaluating offers from a number of foreign companies to invest, build and operate a nuclear power plant in the country by the end of the decade, and plans to narrow the list of contenders to two by the middle of next month. The partner company will own as much as 40 per cent of the power plant, underscoring a significant departure from Abu Dhabi’s approach, in which a consortium from South Korea was chosen as a contractor to build and then hand over four reactors, Dr Toukan said.
“In our case, we cannot actually have the same option,” he said. “We have to look at the financing issue.”
The government likes to boast of its undeveloped uranium resources, which could one day offer a low-cost source of fuel for the reactors, but the price of the fuel forms a small proportion of the cost of nuclear power. The bulk of the multibillion-dollar cost comes at the beginning: for expensive technology; carefully regulated construction; and a plethora of costs associated with safety standards and international regulations.
Since the Jordanian government lacks the cash reserves and income to fully finance the project, it will depend on the equity partner to help pay for the plant up front and receive a return on the electricity over the plant’s lifetime, which could range from 60 to 100 years. Both the partner and the government would be likely to take out large loans from banks and other financing institutions.
Under such a model for any power station – known as an “independent power project” – the main concern of partner companies and any lending institutions is that they will be consistently paid for the electricity, said Michael Cooper, the director of infrastructure and export finance at HSBC Middle East.
“As a lender, we need to know that as we sign the agreement with the government utility, we’re going to get paid for that power,” he said at a nuclear conference in Amman.
Given the high cost of the reactor, any country building one would require funding from all possible sources, including banks, export credit agencies and multilateral funding agencies, he said.
“To build a nuclear power station, whether it be in North America, Europe or anywhere in the MENA region, you will need to use all the options,” he said. “Not only are the institutions today providing less money on an individual basis, there are also less institutions to choose from.”
To get financing from banks in the midst of the continuing credit crunch, nuclear developers needed to start talking to bankers years before a nuclear construction contract was awarded, he said.
Bankers want to be assured that the particular safety and regulatory risks of nuclear power have been fully addressed by the country to the highest standards and accepted by the international community before it starts construction, Mr Cooper said. Jordan has already completed much of the preparatory work with its 2007 creation of an independent nuclear safety regulator and its ongoing feasibility studies for specific reactor designs and sites across the country.
The larger question, for bankers and multinational nuclear firms alike, is whether key foreign governments will sanction Jordan’s nuclear aspirations by agreeing to share technology and expertise.
The UAE’s own programme gathered steam last year when the US government agreed to finalise a nuclear co-operation agreement. The so-called 123 Agreement was significant not just because it gave the UAE access to American technology and expertise, but also because it was understood by other foreign governments and multinational firms to be a vote of confidence in the Emirates’s pledge to pursue nuclear energy safely and transparently.
Jordan has signed a memorandum of understanding with the US, and Dr Toukan predicted Jordan would be able to finalise its own 123 Agreement with Washington within two years.
But a key provision of the UAE’s agreement was that the country would give up its right under international law to enrich uranium, the process used for creating reactor fuel, but which can also produce the ingredients needed for nuclear weapons.
Jordan has rejected the UAE’s approach, a move that will be likely to make it more difficult for it to get an agreement, said Antony Froggatt, a nuclear policy expert at Chatham House, the British think tank.
“It would clearly be beneficial for them politically to take the same type of approach [as the UAE], but whether it would be a show-stopper, I don’t know,” he said.
Inability to reach agreement with the US could make it more difficult for the Jordanians, since they would have less suppliers to choose from, he added.
“That may have a knock-on impact in terms of other countries being willing to supply, and on the final price as well.”
Jordan’s nuclear aspirations also present a basic technical question that must be addressed before the reactors are completed: will there be a large enough market for the electricity?
The short-term answer is “no”, so the utility must have the option of selling power across the Middle East when Jordanian consumption dips.
A regional grid linking the Levant with North Africa and the Gulf is a prerequisite to the introduction of nuclear power in the region, said Abdelmajid Mahjoub, the secretary general of the Tunis-based Arab Atomic Energy Agency.
“There are three grids, and at the moment there is not automatic interconnection,” he said. “It’s more technical, organizational and political” than a matter of investment. “The grid needs to be ready by 2015, two years before the UAE commissions its reactor.”
All of the risks facing Jordan’s nuclear programme are manageable, Dr Toukan said. The challenge is in convincing others to take the same view.
Available at: http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100327/BUSINESS/703279968
3. Nuclear Not the Cheapest Path for Australia: OECD
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Nuclear power will be the Western world's cheapest option for electricity in an age of significant carbon charges, but Australia will be one of the few exceptions, a global study has found.
In a stunning conclusion, the study by the OECD and the International Energy Agency found that even with a carbon charge of $US30 ($A33) a tonne, it ill be cheaper for Australian generators to burn black coal and send the emissions into the atmosphere than to turn to gas or other low-emission alternatives.
And even on the optimistic assumption that carbon can be captured and stored for $US17.50 to $US25 a tonne, it will be cheaper, it found, for generators in most of Australia to keep sending carbon up the chimney than to adopt carbon capture and storage.
The study, Projected Costs of Generating Electricity: 2010, compares the long-term cost of new state-of-the-art generators using different power sources in different countries - assuming a price of $US30 a tonne for carbon emissions.
In general, the plants are expected to be commissioned by 2015, although carbon capture and storage technologies are assumed to come later.
The study was carried out by the Paris-based IEA and its cousin, the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency, using data supplied by governments - or, in Australia's case, the Energy Supply Association of Australia.
It essentially asks the question: which technology will be best for a carbon-constrained age? Not surprisingly, it concludes that there is no one-size-fits-all answer, with the best choice varying from one region to another. But three strong conclusions stand out:
For the Western world in general, including the success stories of Asia, nuclear power will be the cheapest source of electricity in a world of carbon pricing. This is particularly true for Japan and Korea - Australia's two biggest customers for coal in 2008-09.
For Australia and the United States, geothermal energy offers the cheapest source of future electricity, at least at the power station gate, but that could be a long way from the transmission lines and the consumers.
In most countries, including Australia, gas is generally not competitive as a source of base-load power - assuming interest rates remain low. But if financing costs were to double from the assumed discount rate of 5 per cent, the flexibility and low capital cost of gas-fired power would see it replace nuclear as the best choice.
Renewable energy is generally not competitive, other than large hydro projects in the few countries where they are still possible, and biogas and wind in the US. While solar energy costs are expected to fall sharply over the next decade, the study warns that it could be 20 years before solar is a financially attractive option.
For Australian investors, the real head-turning stuff could be the projections of energy costs in Japan and Korea - on 2008-09 data, our two biggest customers for coal. If these figures are right, it's not new coal loaders we'll be needing, but new conveyor belts for the drums of uranium oxide.
In Japan, the study estimates, assuming a 5 per cent discount rate, a new nuclear plant would produce electricity at a cost of $US49.71 a megawatt hour. Power from a new coal plant would cost $US88.08, with gas more expensive still.
In Korea, the gap would be even wider, with nuclear costing $US29.05 a megawatt hour and coal $US65.80. The study attributes this to Korea's low construction costs and its experience in building nuclear stations.
It would be a different story in China, which is assumed not to have carbon pricing. Its massive hydro schemes supply the world's cheapest power, with coal and nuclear more or less equal in cost.
No nuclear power options were costed in Australia, since none have been proposed. Without them, Australia stands to lose its cheap energy advantage, as even Japanese nuclear energy would be cheaper than any of our coal options.
There were also surprising conclusions for Victoria, with the study estimating that brown coal with carbon capture and storage would be a cheaper source of power than gas. But if the discount rate for projects is raised towards 10 per cent, gas or dirty brown coal would be the best options in Victoria, and dirty black coal or geothermal in the rest of Australia.
Available at: http://www.theage.com.au/business/nuclear-not-the-cheapest-path-for-australia-oecd-20100326-r36f.html
4. A 60-Year Life for German Nuclear an Option-Minister
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Germany's government on Friday confirmed that extending lifecycles of nuclear plants by 28 years was one option under discussion, which would allow the reactors to operate for up to a total 60 years.
"This is one of the possible alternatives," Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle told reporters in Berlin.
The centre-right government, in power since last autumn, is examining how many years it wants to add to the lives of the 17 nuclear plants which under a previous government were allowed only 32 years of operations, ending in 2021 at the latest.
Currently, four, 12, 20 and 28 years are being discussed, the government said.
The nuclear industry says 60 years is a common lifespan for many reactors worldwide, even the slightest extension in Germany is opposed by a vociferous anti-nuclear movement.
The government has assigned nuclear a bridging role until the time that politically favoured renewable energy can provide a substantial part of national power requirements.
The question of how long this means and how additional revenues from competitively produced nuclear power will be shared between utilities and the public will play a big role in talks about a national energy plan, due to be published in the autumn.
This will lay down crucial rules for the future energy mix.
Renewables last year provided 16 percent of German electricity and nuclear 23 percent.
Nuclear operators EnBW (EBKG.DE) and RWE (RWEG.DE) are cutting the loads at two old plants heading for closure under the unrevised nuclear exit plan to avoid having to shut them before a fresh decision is made in Berlin.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKLDE62P10M20100326
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