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Nuclear News - 3/4/2010
PGS Nuclear News, March 4, 2010
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski

A.  Iran
    1. US Rails at Iran’s ‘Alarming’ Nuclear Stance, Khaleej Times (3/3/2010)
    2. US Seeks to Gain China's Backing Against Iran, PressTV (3/3/2010)
    3. Brazil Rebuffs US Pressure for Iran Sanctions, BBC News (3/3/2010)
    4. Clinton Says Iran Won’t Negotiate Before Sanctions, Indira A. R. Lakshmanan, Bloomberg (3/3/2010)
    5. 118 UN Members Reaffirm Support for Iran's Nuclear Program, PressTV (3/3/2010)
    6. 'UN Security Council May Discuss Iran This Month', PressTV (3/3/2010)
    7. Russia Says it May Consider Iran Sanctions, Sophie Hardach and Mark Heinrich, Reuters (3/2/2010)
    1. North Korean Nuclear Envoy Set to Visit U.S., Says South, Reuters (3/3/2010)
    2. South Korean FM Says North Korea-U.S. Talks Possible, but Within 6-way Framework, Byun Duk-kun, Yonhap News Agency (3/3/2010)
C.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. NATO Chief Urges "Solidarity" on Nuclear Disarmament, Peoples Daily (3/4/2010)
    2. U.S. Official: START Replacement Agreement Possible by April, Jill Dougherty, CNN (3/2/2010)
D.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Putin Announces $1.77 Billion for New Reactor Builds, and Earmarks Another $2 Billion for Fast Reactor Production, Charles Digges, Bellona Foundation (3/2/2010)
    2. International Experts Conclude IAEA Peer Review of Iran's Safety Regulation of Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, ISRIA (3/2/2010)
    3. Israel to Review Nuclear Power Plant Construction, Haaretz (3/2/2010)
E.  Links of Interest
    1. KEPCO Closer to Clinching Turkish Nuclear Deal, The Chosun Ilbo (3/4/2010)
    2. U.S., EU Urge Syria to Drop Nuclear Secrecy, Haaretz (3/4/2010)
    3. Obstacles Face Poland's Move to Nuclear Energy, Earth Times (3/3/2010)
    4. Iran Hopes IAEA Won't Submit to West's Pressure, Bias, PressTV (3/2/2010)
    5. North Korea Presses Direct Nuclear Talks With U.S., Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters (3/2/2010)

A.  Iran

'UN Security Council May Discuss Iran This Month'
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The UN Security Council might discuss Iran's nuclear program and Western proposals for a fourth round of sanctions against Iran this month, Gabon's envoy says.

Ambassador Emanuel Issoze-Ngondet, who is president of the Security Council for the month of March, said that the dispute over Iran's nuclear program was not on the agenda of the 15-nation panel, but it may still hold a meeting on the issue.

“We think the question could come to the table (in March),” Reuters quoted Issoze-Ngondet as saying on Tuesday.

“But right now we are waiting. We're following the process that's ongoing. We're waiting for the right time to bring the Security Council to deal with it,” he added.

However, veto-wielding Security Council members Russia and China have often voiced opposition to calls for a new round of sanctions on Iran.

And Tehran has repeatedly declared that it will never relinquish the legitimate nuclear rights of the Iranian nation, no matter how much pressure the West imposes on the country.

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118 UN Members Reaffirm Support for Iran's Nuclear Program
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As the West pushes for new sanctions against Iran, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) moves to issue a new statement, voicing its support for Iran's peaceful nuclear program.

Egypt's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) read the newly-issued NAM statement in a Wednesday meeting of nuclear watchdog's board of governors.

"NAM confirms the basic and inalienable right of all states to the development, research, production and use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, without any discrimination and in conformity with their respective legal obligations," the statement said.

"Therefore, nothing should be interpreted in a way as inhibiting or restricting the right of states to develop atomic energy for peaceful purposes," it added.

"States' choices and decisions including those of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear technology and its fuel cycle policies must be respected," the 118-member movement said in its statement.

"NAM reaffirms the inviolability of peaceful nuclear activities and that any attack or threat of attack against peaceful nuclear activities, operational or under construction, poses a serious threat to human beings and the purposes of the Charter of the United Nation and of the regulations of the IAEA," it said.

The statement comes as the West is weighing new sanctions on Iran in an effort to force the country into meeting its demands over its nuclear program.

Meanwhile, China — a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council — has shrugged off Washington's call for harsher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear activities, arguing that diplomatic efforts have not yet been exhausted.

Tehran has repeatedly declared that sanctions will not force it to give up the Iranian nation's legitimate right to access nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

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Brazil Rebuffs US Pressure for Iran Sanctions
BBC News
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Brazil will not bow to pressure from the US to support further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear work, the country's foreign minister has said.

Celso Amorim told US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Brazil wanted to see further negotiations on the issue before it would support sanctions.

Mrs Clinton said that sanctions had to be passed first in order to persuade Iran to "negotiate in good faith".

The US fears Iran is developing nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

At a news conference with Mrs Clinton in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, Mr Amorim said: "We will not simply bow down to an evolving consensus if we do not agree.

"We have to think by ourselves and with our values and principles," he said.

'Door open'

Washington wants Brazil, which enjoys good ties with Iran, to support its push for a fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran over its refusal to stop enriching uranium - a possible step to building atomic weapons.

Tehran says the uranium is being enriched to provide fuel for nuclear power reactors it envisages building.

Brazil is currently a member of the UN Security Council.

"I think it's only after we pass sanctions in the Security Council that Iran will negotiate in good faith," Mrs Clinton said.

"The door is open for negotiations. We never slammed it shut," she said. "But we don't see anybody, even in the far-off distance, walking toward it."

Even before talks with Mrs Clinton began, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva repeated his stance that isolating Iran's leaders is counter-productive.

"It is not prudent to push Iran against a wall. The prudent thing is to establish negotiations," he said.

"I want for Iran the same thing as I wish for Brazil: To use the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. If Iran is in agreement with that, Iran will have Brazil's support."

President Lula said he did not want Iran to develop nuclear weapons and would raise the issue in a visit to Tehran in May.

Mrs Clinton is visiting South America at a time when there is a sense in the region that President Barack Obama's administration, distracted by so many other issues, has not lived up to expectations, says the BBC's Gary Duffy in Sao Paulo.

The US state department has said if Brazil uses its relationship with Iran to press the country to fulfil its international obligations then that would be an important step, but if it did not do that, Washington would be "disappointed".

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Clinton Says Iran Won’t Negotiate Before Sanctions
Indira A. R. Lakshmanan
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Brazil to seek support for tougher United Nations penalties on Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, said the U.S. believes Iran won’t negotiate until sanctions are imposed.

“Once the international community speaks in unison around a resolution, then the Iranians will talk and begin to negotiate,” Clinton said at a press conference today in Brasilia after talks with Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim. “We want to get to negotiations; we just think that the best path is through the Security Council.”

Clinton said that while Brazil and the U.S. differ over whether sanctions are the best approach, both countries “do not want to see Iran become a nuclear weapons country.”

Brazil, which holds a temporary voting seat on the UN Security Council, has said it takes Iran at its word that its nuclear program is for energy and medical purposes. Like Turkey, which also holds a rotating seat and China, a permanent Security Council member with veto power over resolutions, Brazil has resisted a U.S. and European push to squeeze Iranian commercial and financial transactions as a way to force Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program.

‘Against a Wall’

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reiterated his resistance to sanctions before meeting with Clinton, telling reporters, “It’s not prudent to put Iran against a wall.” He said he would have “frank” talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over Iran’s enrichment of uranium during a planned visit to Tehran in May, and repeated Brazil’s position that Iran has a right to a peaceful nuclear program.

Clinton complained during her press conference with Amorim that the U.S. sees “an Iran that runs to Brazil, an Iran that runs to Turkey, an Iran that runs to China, telling different things to different people to avoid international sanctions.”

Two U.S. officials who participated in Clinton’s meetings with Lula and Amorim said the Brazilians expressed concerns that sanctions would hurt the Iranian public and strengthen hardliners.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were private, said Brazilian leaders are concerned about the lack of transparency in Iran’s nuclear program and said their opposition to sanctions isn’t set in stone. If China, Russia and Turkey agree to pressure through the UN, Brazil may drop its opposition, the U.S. officials said.

‘Values and Principles’

Amorim seemed to contradict that view in his public comments after meeting Clinton.

Brazil “will not simply bow down to an evolving consensus if we do not agree. We have to think by ourselves with our values and principles,” he said.

“Usually, sanctions are counterproductive,” Amorim added, saying Brazil doubts that Iran would accept “an imposed agreement.”

Clinton said the U.S., like Brazil, would prefer negotiations to sanctions. That said, Iran has rejected all of President Barack Obama’s overtures, Clinton said. “The door is open for negotiations, we never slammed it shut. But we don’t see anybody, even in the far-off distance, walking to it.”

Clinton said the U.S. sees sanctions that might force Iran to the negotiating table as the best way to prevent an arms race in the Middle East and to ensure stability of the “oil markets of the world.”

‘Core Interests’

“Brazil is a global player with an independent mind, just as the United States is,” Clinton said at an event in Sao Paulo. “Every country has to make a judgment about what is in their core interests, in their security interests.”

Lula’s administration has cultivated trade and diplomatic ties with Iran. Bilateral trade between the countries reached $1.24 billion in 2009, a 40 percent increase since Lula took office in 2003, according to figures from the Brazilian Trade Ministry.

The National Iranian Oil Company has granted Brazil’s Petrobras SA the right to explore offshore oil reserves and drill in the Caspian Sea. Brazil’s top exports to Iran are sugar and beef, while Iran supplies Brazil with petrochemicals and auto parts.

Clinton told reporters traveling with her that she would remind Lula in their closed-door talks that Iran is in violation of its obligations to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency and that a recent report by the IAEA enumerated evidence citing clandestine activities and raising doubts about Iran’s claim of a peaceful program. Iran is already subject to three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions.

Revolutionary Guard

The U.S., Britain, France and Germany are pushing for tougher Security Council penalties that may target the Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite military group involved in Iran’s energy industry and its nuclear and weapons development.

Clinton’s trip to Brazil follows her visit last month to the Persian Gulf, where she asked Qatar and Saudi Arabia to enlist Arab and Gulf states to pressure Iran to roll back its suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.

She also encouraged Saudi Arabia to use its influence as China’s leading supplier of crude oil to persuade China to vote for sanctions at the UN. China has resisted tougher sanctions on Iran, China’s third-largest supplier of crude oil, according to Chinese government statistics.

Clinton and Amorim today signed three memoranda of understanding to strengthen cooperation on climate change prevention, technical and economic assistance to poor countries and the advancement of women.

In Sao Paulo, Clinton met with top Brazilian executives from prominent U.S. companies to discuss corporate social responsibility projects to assist underprivileged communities in Brazil.

Executives from Microsoft Corp., Ford Motor Co., Intel Corp. and Motorola Inc., among others, talked about promoting English and technical education to strengthen the Brazilian workforce, especially in the fields of information technology and engineering. Clinton praised their efforts and said the private sector has an important role to play in U.S. diplomacy.

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US Rails at Iran’s ‘Alarming’ Nuclear Stance
Khaleej Times
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The United States sees Iran’s failure to allay Western concerns over its suspect nuclear program as “alarming,” the White House said Tuesday, warning again of further sanctions.

“The Iranians are proving to the world that they have no desire to live up to their own responsibilities. That’s alarming,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

After months trying to engage Iranian leaders and persuade them to stop enriching uranium, US President Barack Obama’s administration is now seeking fresh UN sanctions against the regime.

If Iran is unwilling to answer its responsibilities, “we will take the next set of steps,” Gibbs warned Tuesday.

World powers suspect Iran is enriching uranium to make nuclear weapons under cover of its civilian energy program, a charge Tehran denies.

Enriched uranium can serve as fuel to power nuclear reactors or in highly refined form to produce the fissile core of an atom bomb.

Iran has so far snubbed a deal brokered last year by the International Atomic Energy Agency that envisages France and Russia supplying nuclear fuel for a Tehran research reactor if it hands over the bulk of its low-enriched uranium.

The head of the UN atomic watchdog, Yukiya Amano, said Monday that Iran was still not giving sufficient information on its nuclear activities but that the uranium fuel deal was still on the table.

Iran countered on Tuesday by accusing Amano of taking sides and called on the Japanese official to modify his stance.

Last month Amano circulated a blunt report to IAEA member states on Iran’s atomic program in which he expressed concern Tehran that may already be working on a nuclear warhead.

He also confirmed Iran had started enriching uranium to higher levels, theoretically bringing it close to levels needed for an atomic bomb.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday it could still take months to agree a fourth round of UN sanctions against Iran, as key Security Council veto-wielding powers China and Russia still appear divided on the matter.

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US Seeks to Gain China's Backing Against Iran
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Following unsuccessful anti-Iran campaign in Latin America and the Middle East, the US is now sending emissaries to China to win Beijing's support in pushing through a UN Security Council resolution for international sanctions against Iran.

Two top US diplomats arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for a visit that will, among other things, focus on persuading China to cooperate in imposing embargoes against Iran.

Washington hopes that the visit to China by US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and the National Security Council's Senior Director for Asian Affairs Jeffrey Bader will also help in easing trade tensions with the Asian power.

Steinberg will be the most senior US diplomat to visit Beijing since a wave of disputes erupted between the two governments in recent months over Internet issues, trade, and US arms sales to Taiwan.

“We've gone through a bit of a bumpy path here, and I think there's an interest both within the United States and China to get back to business as usual as quickly as possible,” US State Department spokesman told reporters in Washington on Monday.

Philip Crowley also asserted that Iran would be on the agenda of the talks between US officials and their counterparts in Beijing.

China, as well, seems interested in lowering the temperature of friction with the United States, a key trade partner.

Beijing has not yet acted on its threat to sanction US companies involved in the Taiwan arms sales. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said recently that he wants to ease trade tension with the United States.

The United States and other Western powers want China's backing for a proposed UN resolution slapping new sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program.

Analysts and officials say that China will resist any proposed sanctions that would threaten the flow of oil to China and Beijing's investments in Iran, but most believe that the veto-wielding member of the Security Council will accept a rather narrowly-cast resolution that has a more symbolic than practical impact.

China, which has large-scale trade and investment ties with Iran, has so far resisted US pressure over the issue, stressing that the matter must be resolved diplomatically.

China could use its veto power as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to block any proposed resolution.

Iran has repeatedly objected to what it describes as the unfair privileges that a few states have at the UN Security Council that allows some powerful countries to act above the law.

The US and its allies accuse Tehran of following a military agenda under its civilian nuclear program, although the UN nuclear watchdog inspectors stationed in Iran have not been able to substantiate such claims.

Under pressure from Washington, the UN Security Council has already passed a number of resolutions against Iran with the aim of restricting its nuclear activities.

Iran, however, has disregarded the motions, arguing that the resolutions are in direct contradiction with International Atomic Energy Agency regulations, which clearly state that all countries are entitled to enrich uranium as part of a peaceful nuclear program.

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Russia Says it May Consider Iran Sanctions
Sophie Hardach and Mark Heinrich
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Russia will back new sanctions against Iran as long as they do not create a humanitarian crisis, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday after talks with Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.

Medvedev said he still hoped to avoid new punitive measures, but added Russia could not wait forever for cooperation by Tehran, suspected by the West of developing nuclear weapons.

"We are optimists and we are not losing the feeling that we may achieve success," Medvedev said. "Nonetheless, if it doesn't work out ... Russia is ready to consider with our other partners the question of introducing sanctions.

Sarkozy told reporters: "(Medvedev) told me of his receptiveness to the question of sanctions so long as they don't create humanitarian dramas."

Israel, which sees itself directly threatened by any Iranian nuclear breakthrough, voiced optimism that China would not veto any new U.N. Security Council sanctions, saying Beijing had listened attentively to a visiting Israeli delegation.

Russia, and even more so China, have been reluctant in the past to endorse any broader sanctions against Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons.

A draft fourth Security Council resolution is expected as soon as this week. Some Western diplomats have predicted it would contain a "symbolic" tightening of sanctions against Iranian government assets like the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

That would fall far short of the sanctions Israel wants imposed on Iran's lifeblood oil exports and refined petroleum imports. Those hopes were dented when Washington said last week it opposed sanctions that could hurt the Iranian populace.

The new U.N. nuclear agency chief defended a report which said Iran could be trying to develop a nuclear missile.

"In my view, this report is factual and absolutely impartial. That is the essence ... it took stock of the whole picture," Yukiya Amano said told reporters. "I wanted the report to be clear, straightforward, easy to read and understand."

He said intelligence information that hardened the IAEA's disquiet about possible nuclear weapons-relevant activity in Iran was collected from multiple sources and was consistent in detail, timeline, and Iranian officials and agencies cited.

"We have an integrated team of experts, we have experience. And the information is extensive. We cross-check it. After this process, we are saying that altogether it raises concern."

Iran increased disquiet in the IAEA about its behavior last month by, according to Amano's report, starting enriching uranium to a higher, 20 percent purity before inspectors could get to the scene and enhance surveillance methods.


Iran's move heightened suspicions that its goal is a stockpile of bomb-grade uranium enriched to 90 percent.

Iran insists its enrichment work is geared solely toward medical research and generating electricity, though it lacks a working nuclear power station.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki insisted the Islamic Republic had fully cooperated with the IAEA.

"There is no proof or reason to see diversion of Iran's peaceful nuclear activities. There is no document," he told a news conference in Geneva.

Last month Iran announced a start to higher-scale enrichment that would refine uranium to 20 percent purity -- the level needed for conversion into fuel plates for its Tehran research reactor, which makes isotopes for cancer patients.

Iran moved 94 percent of its reserve of low-enriched uranium (LEU) above ground from its Natanz subterranean enrichment plant to draw what it needed to refine it up to 20 percent purity, then moved it back underground, Tehran's IAEA envoy said.

He dismissed media speculation that Iran had placed a large amount of the material in a visible spot above ground to provoke an Israeli air strike that would give Iran a pretext to expel U.N. inspectors and develop atom bombs for security reasons.

Iran made its first official response last week to an IAEA-brokered proposal that it swap its LEU for foreign-made uranium enriched to 20 percent and help allay Western fears.

Talks on the deal were still under way, Mottaki said.

"The issue of swap, it is possible to be carried out. The agreement could be made now, but the realization, the fulfillment of the swap needs time," he said.

Iran says it will only accept a simultaneous swap on its soil. But that would be unacceptable to the United States and its European allies.

"The half-life of that offer is fading very, very rapidly ... Our energies now have to move in other directions and you know what they are," Glyn Davies, United States envoy to the IAEA, told reporters.

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North Korean Nuclear Envoy Set to Visit U.S., Says South
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North Korea's top nuclear envoy plans to visit the United States in early March and could hold discussions to restart dormant nuclear disarmament talks, South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said on Wednesday.

The visit by Kim Kye-gwan comes as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week she was encouraged by signs Pyongyang may soon end its year-long boycott of the disarmament-for-aid talks.

The North has come under pressure to return to six-country nuclear talks due to U.N. sanctions imposed after a May 2009 nuclear test. The sanctions have dealt a blow to its wobbly economy, and a botched currency move late last year has sparked inflation and rare civil unrest.

Kim was invited to attend an academic function but U.S. officials were reluctant to sit down for direct talks unless there was a clear indication such dialogue would quickly lead to a resumption of wider nuclear discussions, Yu told a news briefing.

"North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan is planning to visit on the invitation of the U.S. academic community," Yu told the briefing.

There has been speculation in recent days in Japanese and South Korean media that reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-il may soon visit to China, his state's biggest benefactor.

His few previous visits to China, the closest thing his impoverished state can claim as a major ally, have usually led to a decrease in tension in the economically powerful region.

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South Korean FM Says North Korea-U.S. Talks Possible, but Within 6-way Framework
Byun Duk-kun
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said Wednesday there could be additional bilateral talks between the United States and North Korea, but that such talks must be held within the context of six-nation negotiations aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs.

Yu said it was still not clear when the stalled six-party nuclear talks will reopen, but added that the North will not stay away from the negotiating table forever.

"It will not be good for China and it will especially not be good for North Korea if the talks completely lose their momentum," Yu told a press briefing, noting the talks have been stalled for nearly 15 months since they were last held in December 2008.

"I believe North Korea, too, understands that it will be in their interest to return to the six-party talks. I believe the talks will not run idle forever because all the parties understand the need for the talks to be resumed," the minister said.

Pyongyang earlier said it's return to the nuclear negotiations depended on bilateral talks with Washington, which were held in the North Korean capital in December. The communist nation is now demanding the removal of U.N. sanctions and the start of discussions on a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

Yu said the North's demands marked an improvement from last year's stance, when the North said it would never return to the talks, but stressed that such demands can be granted only after North Korea first returns to the negotiating table and starts to denuclearize.

"Basically, a peace treaty is possible when (North Korea) is first denuclearized. Signing a peace treaty means we will agree to permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, but such an agreement will be meaningless when entered with a country that continues to develop long-range missiles and nuclear weapons," he told the press briefing.

The minister said efforts to restart the nuclear negotiations may include additional bilateral talks between Washington and Pyongyang but that such talks will only be held within the context of the six-party negotiations that also involve South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

Yu noted such dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea may take place within the first half of this month, if and when the North's chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan visits the United States on an invitation from U.S. academic circles.

A U.S. official told reporters in Washington, however, that the government has not yet "made a decision as to whether to grant a visa" to the North Korean diplomat.

Stephen Bosworth, Washington's special representative for North Korea policy, said last week that the Barack Obama administration may agree to hold bilateral talks with Pyongyang if the U.S. is "confident that it will, in fact, lead to a prompt resumption of the six-party process."

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C.  Nuclear Cooperation

NATO Chief Urges "Solidarity" on Nuclear Disarmament
Peoples Daily
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NATO Secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Wednesday called for solidarity among member states on the issues of nuclear disarmament.

He told reporters at his monthly press conference: "It is important that anything that affects NATO's nuclear policy or posture be decided by the allies together, without any unilateral moves. Solidarity is very important when it comes to this issue."

The secretary-general urged member states to be pragmatic on the issue, and seek balance between nuclear disarmament and nuclear deterrence.

"There are a lot of nuclear weapons in the world, and a number of countries that either have them, would like to have them, or could have them quickly if they decided they needed them. That is just the way it is. So whatever we do in support of arms control and disarmament should be balanced with deterrence," he said.

He said that NATO will discuss the issue as foreign ministers convene in Tallinn on April 22-23.

Recently, five European NATO member nations, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway, sent a letter to Fogh Rasmussen, calling for a debate over the alliance's stance on nuclear weapons. The move is seen as an attempt to press for the removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe.

The United States still has about 200 nuclear warheads in Europe, deployed in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey.

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U.S. Official: START Replacement Agreement Possible by April
Jill Dougherty
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U.S. and Russian teams negotiating a new arms control agreement to replace the 1991 START treaty hope to wrap up a deal by early April, nearly a year after they began.

A U.S. official with knowledge of the negotiations but not authorized to speak on the record told CNN the talks on the treaty, which expired December 5, 2009, have been "very tough" but said, "I think we can do it."

The biggest issue to resolve is verification, including on-site inspection of missiles that carry nuclear warheads, this official said, adding, "There are still some niggling technical details."

Negotiators worked out "innovative" ways of verifying each side's arsenal, the official said. When negotiations began in April 2009, Russia wanted a "minimalist" approach to verification and the United States wanted a "solid, effective regime," the official said.

"We pushed them constantly for more," the official said. "We always knew we would need a bridge to the next phase of deep reductions."

Verification will be a top issue politically as both the U.S. Senate and the Russian parliament, will have to ratify the new agreement.

"We will see a strong verification process," the official said. '"We're developing a lot of new ways to bump up the verification regime."

As the arms talks have continued, the U.S. team has grown from 10 to 12 people to a total of 35, which now includes lawyers and specialized linguists who must certify that the English and Russian language texts are precisely equal.

The Russian team includes representatives from the Ministry of Defense and the FSB, successor agency to the KGB. Many of them are new to negotiating but "know the innards of the Russian strategic rocket forces" and are very good, the official said.

Russian President Dimitry Medvedev "is very serious about this and about the caliber of the people," the official said.

Both sides are aware that times have changed and the Cold War is over. The U.S. official said one inspector on the Russian team pointed out that once-sensitive information, like the location of Russia's strategic forces, is available to anyone by doing a simple Web search.

A key point of the agreement already has been worked out: reducing the number of allowable deployed strategic warheads on each side. The United States currently has approximately 2,200 strategic deployed warheads; Russia has an estimated 2,500. Under the new agreement, each side would be allowed between 1,500 and 1,675 nuclear warheads.

The treaty also limits the number of "delivery vehicles" -- the strategic bombers and missiles that carry those warheads -- to between 500 and 1,100 for each side. The current limit is 1,600 but the United States actually has 900 delivery vehicles. Russia has an estimated 600. For the American side, President Obama will have the final word on the precise numbers within those parameters.

The Bush administration downplayed the need for a formal arms control agreement and the U.S. official said, "The amount of disconnectedness" between the two sides "at the end of the last administration was just incredible."

The talks, however, have been a "revelation" and a "surprise," the officials said, setting the stage for even further arms reductions. This will help, the official said, after the replacement agreement to START is finished, when negotiators will tackle more thorny issues like nondeployed warheads kept in storage, tactical nuclear weapons and further cuts in missiles and launch vehicles.

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D.  Nuclear Energy

International Experts Conclude IAEA Peer Review of Iran's Safety Regulation of Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant
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An international team of nuclear safety experts today completed an IAEA mission to review the effectiveness of Iran´s safety regulation of its first nuclear power plant and to identify possible improvements before the plant begins operation.

Upon invitation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assembled a team of senior regulators from seven Member States for an Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission.

The scope of the mission was limited to the safety regulation of Bushehr nuclear power plant (BNPP-1).

The IRRS review took place from 20 February to 2 March at the INRA offices in Tehran and included a technical visit to the BNPP-1 site.

The mission was an objective peer review based on IAEA safety standards, and was neither an inspection, nor an audit.

Ms. Olena Mykolaichuk, IRRS Team Leader and Head of the State Nuclear Regulatory Committee of Ukraine, commended her INRA counterparts:

"The regulatory work performed on the Bushehr construction and in preparation for commissioning has demonstrated significant progress of INRA as a nuclear regulatory authority," she said.

Philippe Jamet, Director of the IAEA´s Nuclear Installation Safety Division, added: "Through this IRRS mission, both Iran and the international experts contribute to the enhancement of nuclear safety and worldwide experience sharing."

In the course of its review the IRRS team identified the following strengths:

* INRA has a dedicated, conscientious staff, demonstrating clear commitments to further improvements.

* INRA clearly recognizes the value of peer reviews and international cooperation regarding nuclear safety.

* Despite a shortage of staff, INRA demonstrated strong leadership while performing both review and assessment and inspection tasks during the BNPP-1 construction and pre-commissioning.

* INRA has developed an excellent computerized documentation control system.

Recommendations and suggestions to improve INRA´s regulatory effectiveness included the following:

* The Government should support the prompt enactment of a law establishing INRA as an independent nuclear regulatory authority, as well as provide it with all authority and resources needed to carry out its functions.

* The Government is encouraged to join the Convention on Nuclear Safety and the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.

* INRA should replace the existing set of ad hoc regulatory requirements with a comprehensive system of national nuclear safety regulations.

* The number and expertise of technical staff should be increased and career incentives should be established to attract and retain them.

The IAEA has conveyed the findings from the current review mission to the Iranian authorities; the final report will be provided to the Government within four months.

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Israel to Review Nuclear Power Plant Construction
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Israel's Atomic Energy Commission and the Israel Electric Corporation signed a deal to develop the infrastructure needed to construct nuclear power plants, Israel Radio reported on Tuesday.

The agreement, signed by IEC director Amos Lasker and Udi Adam, director of the Negev Nuclear Research Center, stipulated that the two organizations would research the technology and engineering needed to assimilate such plants into Israel's existing energy-producing infrastructure.

An IEC official told Israel Radio that the need to include nuclear energy in Israel's energy plan stemmed from the global commitment to reduce greenhouse gases, also saying that "the plan is meant to preserve and promote the knowledge accumulated by the IAEC and the IEC regarding nuclear power plants."

The two organizations stated, according to Israel Radio, that they would also train the necessary manpower for such plants by initiating undergraduate university tracts in electrical engineering, with an emphasis on nuclear engineering.

Israel, who did not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, would be required to do so if it wanted to receive the materials needed to produce electricity using nuclear power.

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Putin Announces $1.77 Billion for New Reactor Builds, and Earmarks Another $2 Billion for Fast Reactor Production
Charles Digges
Bellona Foundation
(for personal use only)

In conjunction with other large energy producers around the world, most notably the United States, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has just tabled a proposal to pump $1.77 billion into its nuclear industry to fund new plants, Russian news agencies have reported.

The government infusion comes quickly on the hells of the announcement that Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, will be proceeding with the controversial Baltic Nuclear Power Plant in the Russian enclave of Kalliningrad, between Lithuania and Poland.

Washington also announced last week that it would supply some $8.3 billion in loan guarantees – to eventually grow to $54 billion – for a build out of nuclear power plants in the United States predicated on the idea that nuclear power produces no CO2 emissions.

Putin announced that the $1.77 billion of federal funding for a new domestic build at a meeting on investment in the Russian power industry two days after the US President Barack Obama declared that the United States would also be building nulclear power plants.

The Russian government’s $1.77 billion is part of an investment programme for Rosenergoatom, the utility that operates Russia’s 11 nuclear power plants which produce some 16 percent of the county’s energy consumption.

The investment programme in Rostenergoatom is part of company’s investment plan for the year, worth a total of $5.45 billion, including some $3.39 billion for new nuclear power plant construction, with almost half of this funding coming from Roenergoatom itself, World Nuclear News, industry internet publication, reported.

Medvedev supports nuclear for different reasons

At the same time Putin has been stumping his funding for nuclear power in Russia, Presidet Dmitry Medvedev chatted up energy efficiency and emissions cuts for his country in a meeting with the ministers of his government.

The meeting with Medvedev was a follow up on the UN climate summit held in Copenhagen in December where he laid out a promise to cut Russia’s emissions to 25 percent under 1990 levels by 2020. The Kremlin website reported that he had reiterated this promise in the course of the meeting.

The goal is one easily met by Russia, whose emissions in 1990 plummeted as the Soviet Union collapsed, bringing industry to a standstill, and thereby slashing the counties emission such that they are even today 35 percent below 1990 levels.

But Medvedev both at Copenhagen and in his recent meeting was vague about how he would keep emissions down. His most recent remarks mirrored previous ones in which he laid heavy reliance on the business community to adopt environmentally friendly practices – but nothing more specific.

Yet it had been widely understood, even prior to Copenhagen, that many nations would eventually begin to speak of a nuclear renaissance to meet their emissions cuts goals, although the topic was spoken of by the 190-some leaders present at the summit in muted tones, if at all.

Nuclear no fix for climate change

Indeed, a posting of a speech given by Medvedev on prior to his appearance in Copenhagen in which he indicated that his country would be increasing its dependence on its decrepit nuclear infrastructure elicited rotten tomatoes from environmental observers.

The outcry against the remarks, which were first widely reported by Bellona Web and the Russsia environmental group Ecodefence, were so unpopular that Medvedev yanked them from his eventual speech to the plenary session at the Copenhagen summit.

All the same, it remained no secret in Copenhagen that many countries would be reaching for the nuclear ring to live up to the self-impossed reductions goals the final accord urged each country to make by January 31.

In Washington, this has been especially apparent as Obama has spoken out strongly in favour of nuclear power builds in recent days to entice Republican Congressmen to support his foundering climate bill, which has been lodges in a Senate impasse for

As a counterpoint, Putin, who has been a long time supporter of Russian nuclear projects – from nuclear power plants to waste imports – as giant money-spinners. In his remarks doling out the $1.77 billion for nuclear power plant construction he, did not indulge the classical retort that nuclear power plants would cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2001, Putin signed a raft of bills allowing foreign spent nuclear fuel to be sent to Russia ostensibly for reprocessing. Other deals with Germany’s Urenco and France’s Eurodif to ship highly radioactive uranium tails for reprocessing to Russia were also allowed to persist under Putin’s watch.

According to statistics compiled by Ecodefence, nearly 90 percent of the waste imported to Russia under these reprocessing deals has remained in Russia, much of it stored in the open air.

Fast reactor production

As well as the funding for new power plant reactor construction, the Russian government has confirmed a development programme in which the development of fast neutron reactors will be a priority over the next decade, WNN reported. Fast reactors, a dicey proposition in the eyes of many experts, are reactors that can be fuelled by elements of the waste they produce.

The programme calls for the continuation of the existing sodium-cooled fast reactor plan for units of about 800 MWw, and the construction of a100MWe lead-bismuth-cooled fast reactor called the SVBR by 2015. This is planned to be followed by a lead-cooled 300MWe BREST fast reactor by 2020 – a sort of holy grail in the Russian nuclear industry that has so far only existed on paper.

Russia’s total budget for fast reactors by 2020 is slated at $2 billion, the lion’s share of that coming from the federal budget, WNN reported. According to the Kremlin, the fast reactor programme will boost by 70 percent the export of high technology equipment.

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E.  Links of Interest

KEPCO Closer to Clinching Turkish Nuclear Deal
The Chosun Ilbo
(for personal use only)

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U.S., EU Urge Syria to Drop Nuclear Secrecy
(for personal use only)

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Obstacles Face Poland's Move to Nuclear Energy
Earth Times
(for personal use only),obstacles-face-polands-move-t..

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Iran Hopes IAEA Won't Submit to West's Pressure, Bias
(for personal use only)

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North Korea Presses Direct Nuclear Talks With U.S.
Stephanie Nebehay
(for personal use only)

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DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of Partnership for Global Security. Partnership for Global Security takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.

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