China is ready for "serious" talks at the United Nations on Iran's nuclear program, the United States said Wednesday, as it sought support for sanctions against Tehran.
"China has agreed to sit down and begin serious negotiations here in New York," the US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said on CNN television.
Rice said the talks would take place between the six big powers coordinating a response to Iran's controversial push for what it says is a civilian nuclear capacity, but which Washington says could mask a military program.
Rice said that Washington was pushing for "tough" sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council, where China has veto power on any resolution. Beijing has so far consistently opposed sanctions.
"This is progress, but the negotiations have yet to begin in earnest," Rice said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also upbeat, saying the P5+1 group -- permanent council members Britain, China, France, Russia, United States, plus Germany -- "continues to be unified."
"There will be a great deal of further consultation, not only among the P5+1, but with other members of the Security Council and other nations during next weeks," Clinton said.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j5jwheAa90qDDJDSEUQc3ThR_0Bw
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he wanted tougher U.N. sanctions in weeks against Iran over its nuclear program, and the world's leading industrial nations expressed optimism that China will agree on possible next steps.
Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy presented a united front on Iran at a joint White House news conference, saying they felt it was time to move ahead with tougher sanctions that their governments have been negotiating with China, Russia, Germany and Britain.
"My hope is that we are going to get this done this spring," Obama said. "I'm interested in seeing that regime in place in weeks."
In Gatineau, foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations urged the international community to take "appropriate and strong steps" to show its resolve over the nuclear program. They left the door open to diplomatic dialogue.
Western powers have wrestled for months over whether to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran, even as evidence has mounted raising doubts about whether Tehran is telling the truth when it says its nuclear program is only to produce peaceful atomic energy.
Particularly damning was a report in February from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, that said Iran may be working to develop a nuclear-armed missile.
China, reluctant for months, is believed by diplomats to be slowly falling in line behind the idea of imposing new sanctions. Beijing's support is critical given that it has the power to veto any new sanctions resolution from the U.N. Security Council.
In Beijing on Tuesday, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said his government opposed Iran acquiring nuclear weapons but stopped short of backing new sanctions.
"At present, we hope that all sides will make substantive efforts and demonstrate flexibility over the Iran nuclear issue," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying sanctions were a part of diplomacy, said Iran had repeatedly shown an unwillingness to fulfill its international obligations over the last 15 months.
"That's the basis on which I express my optimism that we're going to have a consensus reached in the Security Council," she told a news conference after the meeting in Gatineau, Quebec, just outside Ottawa, ended.
Obama, however, injected a note of caution, saying that many countries believed their commercial interests with Iran are more important than long-term geopolitical interests.
"Now, do we have unanimity in the international community? Not yet. And that's something that we have to work on," he said.
'DOOR REMAINS OPEN'
In their final communique, the G8 ministers said they wanted Iran to comply with demands from the Security Council and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"Ministers agreed to remain open to dialogue and also reaffirmed the need to take appropriate and strong steps to demonstrate international resolve to uphold the international nuclear nonproliferation regime," the communique said.
In Washington, Sarkozy said "the time has come to take decisions" on Iran and that with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, "we will make all necessary efforts to make sure that Europe as a whole engages in the sanctions regime."
Obama said the long-term consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran are unacceptable and that Tehran had so far rejected diplomatic entreaties.
"The door remains open if the Iranians choose to walk through it," he said.
The latest U.S.-drafted sanctions proposal would expand a U.N. blacklist to include members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and firms controlled by it.
Available at: http://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCATRE62T5FE20100331
Six key world powers have held fresh talks to discuss their next steps in dealing with Iran over its nuclear program, a US official says.
The US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that senior diplomats from the US, Britain, Russia, France, China, and Germany spoke by conference call for "consultations on next steps" on pressuring Iran into stopping its nuclear drive.
"We're in a period of intense diplomatic engagement on this issue and this call was within that context," AFP quoted Toner as saying.
The State Department's number three official, Undersecretary for Political Affairs William Burns represented the US in the conference call, Toner noted.
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday acknowledged a lack of unanimity between nations on new Iran sanctions, explaining that the powers had "not yet" closed wide gaps on the specifics of new punitive measures against Iran.
China and Russia, two veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council, have repeatedly called for a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear issue.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=122146§ionid=351020104
4. Erdogan: Nuclear Armed Countries Urge Iran Sanctions
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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again dismissed sanctions as a proper solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.
Erdogan said at a Monday joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Ankara that he was opposed to new sanctions against Iran.
He said diplomacy was still the best possible means of solving the issue.
"We are of the view that sanction is not a healthy path and... that the best route is diplomacy."
Erdogan then wondered why the international community refused to impose sanctions against the Middle East's sole nuclear weapons power, in an apparent allusion to Israel.
"We are against nuclear weapons in our region. But is there another country in our region that has nuclear weapons? Yes, there is. And have they been subjected to sanctions? No," Erdogan said.
The US, which accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, has been lobbying for more UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions against Tehran.
Turkey, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, is among countries that are opposed to imposing sanctions on Iran. Ankara has made it clear that any coercive measure against Tehran over its nuclear work would be of no avail.
This is while Merkel, whose country is working with the five permanent UNSC members over the Iranian nuclear issue, called on Turkey to support fresh sanctions against Tehran.
"We would be happy if Turkey votes in April on the Iran issue together with the United States and the European Union," she said.
Iran says any punitive measures against the country are legally baseless as Tehran's nuclear work is being fully monitored by the UN nuclear watchdog.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=121960§ionid=351020104
Top diplomats from the world's leading economies say Iran's recent actions deepen the serious doubts about whether its nuclear program is intended to be peaceful.
Closing a conference of foreign ministers from the Group of Eight main industrialized nations on Tuesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon urged Iran in the strongest possible terms that it must fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and comply with UN regulations.
Cannon says in a chair's statement that the ministers reaffirmed the need to take steps to demonstrate international resolve to uphold the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Top diplomats from the world's leading economies increased pressure on Iran on Tuesday over its suspect nuclear program, but the main audience for the tough talk seems to be a country not represented at the exclusive Group of Eight economic club: China.
Opening a conference of foreign ministers from the eight industrialized nations, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Iran must halt its nuclear enrichment activities and comply with demands to come clean about its atomic program.
On behalf of the ministers, Harper urged "a heightened focus and stronger coordinated action, including sanctions if necessary, on the Iranian regime." He said "Tehran must halt its nuclear enrichment activities and engage in peaceful dialogue."
He also called on North Korea to return to multinational talks aimed at getting it to abandon nuclear weapons. He said Tuesday's meeting was being held during "a particularly difficult time" in the international community's dealings with Iran and North Korea.
"Both are countries whose actions contravene their international obligations," Harper said. "Both use violence and intimidation to deprive their citizens' fundamental rights, both are serious threats to global security."
With Iran refusing to comply, the message is largely directed at China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council that is not a member of the G-8.
China, a vocal opponent of sanctions, wields veto power in the United Nations Security Council, and until recently it had balked at the mere suggestion of taking additional punitive steps against Iran. That, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested, is now changing.
In an interview with Canadian television on Monday, Clinton said China shared the view of the U.S., its European allies and Russia that "a nuclear-armed Iran is not acceptable."
"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.
Publicly, China reiterated its stance that the countries should seek a solution through negotiations, not new sanctions.
"We hope relevant parties could fully show their flexibility and make further efforts toward a proper resolution of this issue through diplomatic means," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday at a regular news briefing.
China opposes nuclear weapons for Iran, but said the country has the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Iran is already under three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions and China has been holding up consideration of a fourth, saying diplomacy must be given more time to work. But last week it softened its position in a conference call among senior officials from the six nations working most closely on the matter, according to diplomats.
A senior U.S. official told reporters traveling with Clinton that the Chinese "have said now that they will engage on the elements of a sanctions resolution." The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing diplomatic negotiation.
In Washington, meanwhile, the White House said President Barack Obama met Monday with China's incoming ambassador to the United States. It said Obama had stressed to the envoy the need for the two countries "to work together and with the international community on critical global issues including nonproliferation and pursuing sustained and balanced global growth."
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i2dA3ybVH2pM13SFLmXLVeL5hakwD9EP53IO0
6. Iran Nuclear Scientist Defects to U.S. In CIA 'Intelligence Coup'
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An award-winning Iranian nuclear scientist, who disappeared last year under mysterious circumstances, has defected to the CIA and been resettled in the United States, according to people briefed on the operation by intelligence officials.
The officials were said to have termed the defection of the scientist, Shahram Amiri, "an intelligence coup" in the continuing CIA operation to spy on and undermine Iran's nuclear program.
A spokesperson for the CIA declined to comment. In its declassified annual report to Congress, the CIA said, "Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons though we do not know whether Tehran eventually will decide to produce nuclear weapons."
Amiri, a nuclear physicist in his early 30s, went missing last June three days after arriving in Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage, according to the Iranian government. He worked at Tehran's Malek Ashtar University, which is closely connected to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, according to the Associated Press.
"The significance of the coup will depend on how much the scientist knew in the compartmentalized Iranian nuclear program," said former White House counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant. "Just taking one scientist out of the program will not really disrupt it."
Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, and other Iranian officials last year blamed the U.S. for "kidnapping" Amiri, but his whereabouts had remained a mystery until now.
According to the people briefed on the intelligence operation, Amiri's disappearance was part of a long-planned CIA operation to get him to defect. The CIA reportedly approached the scientist in Iran through an intermediary who made an offer of resettlement on behalf of the United States.
Since the late 1990s, the CIA has attempted to recruit Iranian scientists and officials through contacts made with relatives living in the United States, according to former U.S. intelligence officials. Case officers have been assigned to conduct hundreds of interviews with Iranian-Americans in the Los Angeles area in particular, the former officials said.
Amiri has been extensively debriefed since his defection by the CIA, according to the people briefed on the situation. They say Amiri helped to confirm U.S. intelligence assessments about the Iranian nuclear program.
In September, President Barack Obama announced the U.S., the United Kingdom and France had evidence that Iran "has been building a covert uranium enrichment facility near Qom for several years."
One Iranian web site reported that Amiri had worked at the Qom facility prior to his defection.
The New York Times reported Saturday that international inspectors and Western intelligence agencies suspect "Tehran is preparing to build more sites in defiance of United Nations demands."
Officials at Iran's mission to the United Nations did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
"The Americans are definitely letting the Iranians know that they are active in going after Iran's nuclear program," said Hooman Majd, an Iranian-American journalist.
A colleague of Amiri's at Tehran University called the disappearance "a disturbing sign" and blamed the Saudis for helping the U.S., according government-approved English-language web site Press TV.
"The Saudi regime has effectively discredited itself and will be seen by those who know what has gone on in the region as being confined to American demands and effectively abiding by American wishes," said Mohammad Marandi, a Tehran University professor, according to the Iranian web site.
Available at: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/exclusive-iran-nuclear-scientist-defects-us-cia-intelligence/story?id=10231729
The United States voiced hope Wednesday that any visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il to China would help lead to a resumption of six-nation talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear program.
South Korea said that the North Korean leader was highly likely to pay a visit to China, the closest economic and political partner of his reclusive regime.
"We hope it's an occasion, if he does in fact go there, that the Chinese can talk to him about the six-party (talks), the concerns that we have about their nuclear program and to urge that they return to talks," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. He said that he had no independent information that Kim was visiting China.
Kim agreed after an October visit to Pyongyang by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to re-enter the six-nation talks, from which it stormed out earlier in the year.
But North Korea has since insisted that the United States first negotiate with it on drafting a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, which finished with only an armistice.
North Korea had agreed in 2005 and 2007 rounds of the six-nation talks to end its nuclear weapons drive in return for security guarantees and badly needed fuel assistance.
The talks involve China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gIqtYJ9d9jlEgVeWuczuPWO-2zww
2. North Korea Hints at Continued Uranium Enrichment
Yonhap News Agency
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North Korea said Tuesday it could build a light-water nuclear reactor and produce fuel for it on its own, accusing the United States of waiting for the communist regime to collapse, rather than engaging it in negotiations.
The statement from Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency appears to be a veiled warning that the North will continue to pursue uranium enrichment unless Washington changes its attitude, as enriched uranium is used as fuel for light-water nuclear reactors.
Highly enriched uranium can be used to make atomic bombs, along with plutonium.
Accusing the U.S. of "waiting" for the North's collapse, the KCNA said Pyongyang has responded with resilience -- firing a long-range rocket in the 1990s, conducting two nuclear tests and another long-range rocket test in the 2000s.
"The DPRK will witness the appearance of a light water reactor power plant relying on its own nuclear fuel in the near future in the 2010s in the wake of mass-production of Juche iron and Juche-based vinalon cotton, its reply to them," the KCNA said in an English-language report.
DPRK is short for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "Juche" is the nation's primary ideology of self-reliance.
North Korea has boycotted six-nation talks on its nuclear programs since December 2008. Pyongyang now demands the removal of U.N. sanctions imposed on the communist state for its nuclear test in May last year, and the start of negotiations on a peace treaty to replace the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.
The U.S. has said the North should first return to the negotiating table.
"At present the U.S. administration finds itself in such difficult internal situation that it can hardly take any sincere approach toward the DPRK-proposed negotiations for the conclusion of a peace treaty and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," the KCNA said.
"(The U.S.) contends that its start of negotiations with the DPRK may create the 'danger' of betraying its weakness. However, for the U.S. to remain doing nothing would bring it the label of incompetence," it added.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2010/03/30/60/0401000000AEN20100330002000315F.HTML
3. Russia Moves to Enact Security Council Sanctions Against North Korea
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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree on Russia implementing beefed-up UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea over a nuclear test last year.
Resolution 1874, toughening economic sanctions against North Korea and calling on UN member states to step up inspections of North Korean cargoes, was adopted unanimously on June 12, 2009, in the wake of an underground nuclear test carried out by Pyongyang on May 25. It was not clear what was behind the timing of Medvedev's order.
The presidential decree requires all government offices, enterprises, banks, organizations and individuals currently under Russia's jurisdiction to take into account that since June 12, 2009, it has been forbidden to purchase any kind of weapons and materials connected to them from North Korea.
Transit through Russian territory of all weapons and materials connected to them and exporting them to North Korea is also forbidden.
"Security is being stepped up in Russia in order to prevent any such operations in accordance with Russia's legal system," the decree said.
The decree also prohibits any financial aid for trade with North Korea, including issuing export loans, if such financial aid facilitates North Korea's nuclear weapons program and its proliferation activities.
"It is forbidden to take upon oneself new obligations to provide North Korea with grants, financial aid and cheap loans, with exception of those which are aimed either at pursuing humanitarian goals and ... denuclearization or directly oriented at the needs of the civilian population," the decree said.
The decree prohibits Russian higher education institutions from providing North Korean citizens with knowledge that could help the country advance its nuclear weapons program and develop its nuclear weapons delivery systems.
The six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions involving the two Koreas, China, the United States, Russia and Japan came to a halt last April when North Korea walked out of negotiations in protest at the United Nations' condemnation of a missile test.
The country is banned from conducting nuclear or ballistic missile tests under UN Resolution 1718, adopted after North Korea's first nuclear test on October 9, 2006.
However, Pyongyang carried out a second nuclear test on May 25 last year, followed by a series of short-range missile launches, and has threatened to build up its nuclear arsenal to counter what it calls hostile U.S. policies.
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/world/20100330/158364472.html
1. ‘Nuclear Liability Bill Should Be Re-Introduced in Parliament’
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India needs the civil nuclear liability bill and it should be re-introduced in Parliament, said former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission Anil Kakodkar here on Tuesday.
Addressing reporters after inaugurating the technology centre of Walchandnagar Industries Ltd, Kakodkar said the Indo-US agreement on reprocessing of nuclear fuel, which was reached on Monday, would help in overcoming the uranium shortage in the country. "The bill should be re-introduced in Parliament. Its deferment will not have any impact on the Indo-US dialogue at the nuclear summit in Washington next month," he said.
"We have limited uranium capacity, of 10,000 MW on processed heavy water reactors. This can be increased by 20 times on fast breeder reactors. Thus, the reprocessing agreement will help in meeting the energy shortage," Kakodkar said. India can import light water reactors from US and its nuclear power capability may increase significantly as the country is quite capable of facilitating the setting up of fast breeder reactors, he added.
"The Indo-US nuclear deal will provide autonomy in achieving nuclear capability and help in importing nuclear items under IAEA safeguards," he said. The N-deal would help the country in meeting the huge demand for energy. "If you consider all the energy sources and put everything to use, we are still short of resources," he said when asked why hydel sources of energy remain largely untapped.
As of now, there is a provision for negotiation of the process and discussions would conclude in one year. "What has been done is the finalisation of that agreement, which will help in giving the go-ahead to the finalisation of negotiations for power reactors," Kakodkar clarified.
DCNS France to extend ties with Walchand Industries
DCNS France, a ship building company that assists India in building 'Scorpene' submarines for the Indian Navy, is planning to extend its ties with WalchandNagar Industries for supplying critical components for its international submarine projects, said Patrick Boissier, chairman, DCNS, after the inaguration of 'Vinod Doshi Technology Centre'.
Available at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/-N-liability-bill-should-be-re-introduced-in-Parliament-/598042
2. U.S. Can Suspend Reprocessing if ‘National Security' is Threatened
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The ‘arrangements and procedures' (A&P) under which India can reprocess U.S.-obligated spent fuel allow Washington to suspend reprocessing permission if it apprehends a “serious threat” either to its national security or to the physical protection of the facility where the reprocessing is taking place that makes suspension unavoidable.
But the A&P also specify a detailed consultation process similar to that contained in the Indo-U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement (the 123 agreement) prior to suspension. In the event of any suspension of reprocessing stretching beyond six months, the A&P envisage payment of compensation “for the adverse impact on the Indian economy due to disruption in electricity generation and loss on account of disruption of contractual obligations.”
More crucially, the text, released by the two sides on Tuesday, contains an Agreed Minute prohibiting the U.S. from invoking serious national security concerns and suspending reprocessing because of differences with India over the nature of its peaceful or non-safeguarded nuclear activities or fuel cycle choices. The Indian side was keen to write these clarifications in because it does not want the future size of its unsafeguarded breeder reactor programme or stock of unsafeguarded plutonium to become grounds for suspension of reprocessing. The U.S. has also agreed not to invoke national security concerns for the purpose of securing commercial advantage or hampering India's peaceful nuclear activities.
The U.S. granted India upfront reprocessing consent in the 123 agreement finalised in 2007 but said this consent would “come into effect” when India established a safeguarded reprocessing facility and negotiated the arrangements and procedures under which U.S.-obligated spent fuel would be reprocessed. ‘U.S.-obligated' means spent fuel resulting from the use of American reactors or U.S.-supplied nuclear fuel.
During the reprocessing negotiations which commenced last year, three sticking points emerged. The first was Article 7 dealing with suspension. In the original draft, the article had just two paragraphs, granting the U.S. side fairly open-ended rights. In the final version, this article, including its associated Agreed Minute mentioned above, has been elaborated upon and now accounts for a quarter of the length of the A&P. The Indian side is satisfied with the protection it has built in and is confident Washington will not be able to take any decision to suspend reprocessing lightly or for frivolous reasons.
The second obstacle was the number of facilities the A&P would apply to. The U.S. wanted to limit matters to just one facility while India spoke of multiple facilities. Finally, there were differences over the nature of the “consultation visits” that U.S. officials would be allowed to make to the reprocessing facilities, given Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assurance that there would be no American inspectors “roaming around” Indian nuclear facilities.
If the suspension conditions have been narrowed, the compromise on scope is that the A&P will cover reprocessing at two new national facilities dedicated to reprocessing safeguarded nuclear material under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. Though this is less than the ‘multiple' facilities India wanted, the agreement covers “future expansion, modifications, renovations or additions” to the two facilities, meaning total reprocessing capacity at the two sites can be augmented. Secondly, Article 1(4) says the U.S. “understand[s] the need for sufficient indigenous Indian capacity to reprocess … under IAEA safeguards, U.S.-obligated nuclear material … Based on this understanding, the Parties agree to pursue the steps necessary, consistent with their national laws, to permit reprocessing … at one or more new additional national facilities in India.” Unless otherwise agreed, the same A&P would apply to the new facilities.
As for American officials visiting the reprocessing facilities, Article 4 allows for “consultation visits” but only in accordance with an Agreed Minute which tightly lays down what these visits will entail. After one visit within six months of the facility commencing operations, a U.S. team of up to 10 persons will be allowed in once every five years to exchange views and consult with the Indian side on the implementation of physical protection measures and storage as mandated by the IAEA. Unlike IAEA safeguards inspectors, the U.S. team will not be allowed to use equipment and access within the facility shall be restricted by India “in order to protect sensitive locations and equipment … as well as sensitive information.”
In the initial draft, this article used ambiguous language to the effect that the exchange of information “may include visits by a U.S. team.” India took the view that ambiguity worked against it and that it would be better to nail the specifics of the visits down to precise parameters. With a “serious threat” to the facility's physical protection one of the grounds under which the U.S. can suspend the A&P, the Indian side felt it was best to be transparent about the protection measures the facility was implementing. Since the agreement allows consultation visits, any allegation made by American think-tanks or legislators about the lack of proper physical protection at the reprocessing facility could be more easily refuted.
The A&P also provide for an additional safeguard measure that is not part of the IAEA's standard playbook. If the IAEA so requests, India undertakes to incorporate an on-site laboratory to perform destructive analysis of process samples required by the IAEA safeguards approach. Such a lab would be paid for and operated by the IAEA. None of this would be a burden on the Department of Atomic Energy, say Indian officials.
All told, Indian officials are satisfied with the reprocessing deal. “The agreement speaks for itself” said an official, adding that it did not change India's position on any issue.
Available at: http://www.hindu.com/2010/03/31/stories/2010033164401400.htm
Japan and Poland signed a memorandum Tuesday to promote cooperation in the civil use of atomic power, with Tokyo aiming to have Japanese firms receive orders to build nuclear reactors in the Eastern European country.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima held talks with Polish Deputy Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak on the sidelines of the two-day ministerial meeting of the International Energy Forum, which opened Tuesday in the Mexican city of Cancun.
Poland is planning to start operating its first atomic plant in 2020, Japanese officials said. The memorandum is Japan's first such agreement with an Eastern European nation.
Available at: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nb20100401a5.html
2. Nuclear Disarmament Deal With Russia Faces Obstacle in U.S. Senate
Xinhua News Agency
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After a landmark agreement between the United States and Russia to reduce both nations' nuclear stockpiles, President Barack Obama faces the challenge of convincing the Senate to ratify the treaty.
Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev agreed on Friday to sign the new arms control treaty, which would reduce the nuclear arsenals of each country and mark what Obama billed as a pivotal step toward ending the threat of nuclear weapons in the world, a plan he first voiced in a speech in Prague last April, just months after taking office.
"Today, we have taken another step forward in leaving behind the legacy of the 20th century while building a more secure future for our children," Obama told reporters on Friday morning.
The new treaty limits both Russia and the United States to 1, 550 strategic warheads each, as well limiting deployed bombers able to carry nuclear weapons, submarine-based ballistic missile launchers and intercontinental ballistic missile launchers to a total of 800.
The new treaty will reduce by 30 percent to 40 percent the amount of Russian nuclear weapons that could be used against the United States. Under the previous treaty, 1,600 launchers and 6, 000 warheads were permitted for each country.
But a two-thirds majority is required in the Senate for the ratification of the treaty, and Democrats lack that kind of voting power.
And while no consensus has emerged in the Republican Party, some Republicans said they would not vote in favor of the new treaty until the Obama administration comes forward with a plan to update the United States' nuclear weapons cache.
Darrell West, an expert on U.S. politics at the Brookings Institution think tank, said that if Republicans insist on modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, it could become an obstacle to ratification.
With the U.S. national deficit running at more than 1 trillion dollars, there is no money for any serious changes in the United States' nuclear stockpile, he said.
And aside from those demanding upgrades for the U.S. arsenal, certain elements within the Republican Party will be especially difficult to win over.
"Military hawks will be the toughest obstacle in the Senate because they are very suspicious of anything involving Russia," West said. "They will be reluctant to support any kind of treaty."
But in spite of those hurdles, the treaty could still be ratified this year, as some Republicans have spoken of it favorably, such as Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, West noted.
"What he says will carry a lot of weight with his colleagues," West said.
In a statement released on Friday, Lugar urged the Senate to ratify the treaty.
"I look forward to the president's submission of the new treaty, its protocols, annexes and all associated documents to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification," he said.
"I also look forward to working with Chairman Kerry to begin scheduling hearings and briefings for the Foreign Relations Committee so that we can work quickly to achieve ratification of the new treaty," he added.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also weighed in on the issue, saying that most of the Senate would support the treaty.
Still, Charles Ferguson, president of the Federation of American Scientists, said some senators are unlikely to side with Obama on the treaty, such as Jon Kyl of Arizona.
In a letter to the president, Kyl expressed his concern about Russian statements of the possibility of establishing a legal linkage between missile defense and offensive weapons, saying the Senate was unlikely to support such a treaty, the Associated Press reported.
The senator is one of the leading Republican proponents of missile defense.
Nevertheless, it is important to realize that only about 10 Republicans need to be won over, Ferguson said. "So, keep listening to what Lugar and McCain have to say," he said, referring to 2008 presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona.
"They will be necessary for treaty ratification," said Ferguson.
The Obama administration has already said it will give more money and resources to weapons labs, contending that should be enough to secure enough Republican votes to ratify the treaty, he noted.
Some point to Republican bitterness over the healthcare bill as a possible obstacle that would prevent Republicans from aligning themselves with Democrats on any issue.
That bitterness will not entirely go away, but in the case of a major national security issue such as the new arms reduction treaty, political bi-polarization will not prevent many Republicans from supporting the treaty as long as they see it as being in line with U.S. security interests, Ferguson said.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2010-04/01/c_13233201.htm
Officials have conducted talks on Chinese involvement in civil nuclear power projects in both Belarus and Pakistan, where Chashma 3 and 4 now look closer to reality.
Earlier this month China's Vice President, Xi Jinping, met Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk. Belarus has been progressively preparing itself for the use of civil nuclear power over the last few years and Lukashenko took the opportunity to raise the possibility of nuclear cooperation with his Chinese visitor.
Belarus publicised a range of contracts worth some $3.4 billion, as well as a loan for $1 billion and aid from China worth $60 million. Official announcements said that Lukashenko had proposed to cooperate with China in nuclear power, including on the construction of a power plant although Chinese official sources did not confirm the conversation. Xi however recalled a 2005 bilateral between the nations that "symbolized a new phase of comprehensive development and strategic cooperation." Russia has real interest in the Belarusian project and its ambassador to the country quickly responded to the idea of Chinese involvement. While Russia would not object to Chinese finance, the involvement of Chinese companies and the possibility of technology transfer was not acceptable, according to quotes attributed to Alexander Surikov by the BELTA news agency.
According to Pakistani media, China has also moved forward with cooperation in that country, signing a new deal to construct two new pressurized water reactors at the Chasma plant. A detailed report in the Daily Times said China had agreed a low-interest loan to Pakistan for 82% of the $1.912 billion cost of two 320 MWe units. It added that the cabinet had approved Pakistan's share of the spending.
Chasma 1 was imported from China in the late 1990s with unit 2 following in the early 2000s and still under construction. In March 2009 Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research and Design Institute announced that it was proceeding with the design of Chasma 3 and 4, with China Zhongyuan Engineering as the general contractor.
However, questions remain about China's supply of Chashma 3 and 4. Contracts for units 1 and 2 were signed in 1990 and 2000, before 2004 when China joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which maintains an embargo on sales of nuclear equipment to Pakistan as a country without full-scope safeguards on nuclear technology and materials.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP_China_discusses_nuclear_with_Belarus_Pakistan_3103101.html
The USA has signed with Vietnam for increased cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Meanwhile, it has moved closer to opening nuclear trade with India with an agreement on nuclear fuel reprocessing.
America's memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Vietnam was signed in Hanoi yesterday by Le Dinh Tien, Vietnam's deputy minister of science and technology, and Michael Michalak, US Ambassador to the country.
In a statement, the US Department of State said, "This MoU will open the door for increased cooperation in such areas as the development of human resources and safety and security infrastructure, access to reliable sources of nuclear fuel, and the management of radioactive waste and used fuel."
It added, "Vietnam has demonstrated its commitment to the responsible expansion of nuclear power through careful steps taken in cooperation with the United States, among other international partners, towards the development of the robust nuclear infrastructure needed to oversee the deployment of its first nuclear power plants over the coming decades."
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Michalak commented: "Pursuant to the MoU, the United States and Vietnam will continue our current efforts to develop the regulatory and physical infrastructure needed for a safe and secure Vietnamese civilian nuclear power sector. This MoU will facilitate our two nations cooperating in areas such as requirements for power reactor and fuel service arrangements, including the establishment of a reliable source of nuclear fuel for future Vietnamese civilian nuclear reactors, allowing Vietnam to rely upon international markets for nuclear fuel services." He noted that the signing of the MoU is "the culmination of many months of detailed negotiations, building on several years of ongoing cooperation."
Michalak added, "I anticipate that our signatures on the MoU will serve as a stepping stone towards negotiation of a legally binding government-to-government Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy Agreement, known as a Section 123 Agreement, which would allow even broader and deeper nuclear cooperation between our two countries and would facilitate the participation of the US companies in the Vietnamese nuclear sector."
Tien noted that Vietnam is "willing to cooperate with international partners in the field on the basis of respect to national independence, sovereignty and mutual benefits."
The USA and Vietnam have signed several agreements to boost nuclear cooperation over the past few years, including a 2007 agreement between the US Department of Energy's (DoE's) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Vietnam's Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) for cooperation and information exchange on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. A similar agreement was signed in 2008 between the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety (Varans). The DoE and NRC have also provided technical assistance to Vietnamese drafters of the new Atomic Energy Law passed in June 2008.
In addition to the USA, Vietnam has signed nuclear cooperation and assistance agreements with countries including Japan, France, China, South Korea and Canada.
The Vietnamese government approved a nuclear power development plan in 2007, aiming for a 2000 MWe nuclear power plant to be online by 2020, and a general law on nuclear energy was passed in mid 2008. The plan calls for two reactors with a combined capacity of 2000 MWe to be constructed from 2014 at Phuoc Dinh in the southern Ninh Thuan province and come into operation from about 2020, followed by another 2000 MWe at Vinh Hai in the Ninh Hai district.
US-India reprocessing agreement
Meanwhile, the USA and India have completed negotiations on "arrangements and procedures" for reprocessing US-origin used nuclear fuel, according to the US Department of State. Negotiations on these arrangements and procedures began in July 2009. These arrangements, it said, "will enable Indian reprocessing of US-obligated nuclear material under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards."
"Completion of these arrangements will facilitate participation by US firms in India's rapidly expanding civil nuclear energy sector," the department said in a statement.
Following a 2005 agreement between the US and Indian heads of state on nuclear energy cooperation, the US Congress passed legislation in December 2006 to enable nuclear trade with India. Then in July 2007 a nuclear cooperation agreement with India was finalized, opening the way for India's participation in international commerce in nuclear fuel and equipment and requiring India to put most of the country's nuclear power reactors under IAEA safeguards. It would allow India to reprocess US-origin and other foreign-sourced nuclear fuel at a new national plant under IAEA safeguards. This would be used for fuel arising from those 14 reactors designated as unambiguously civilian and under full IAEA safeguards. After much delay in India's parliament, it then set up a new and comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA, plus an Additional Protocol.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-USA_and_Vietnam_agree_to_nuclear_cooperation-3103104.html
During a Turkish-Korean joint business forum held in Turkey on March 10, a protocol was signed to cooperate on Turkey's second planned nuclear power plant. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, attending the signing ceremony, welcomed the development as a positive step toward bolstering Turkish trade and economic ties with Eastern Asia.
The Turkish government earlier canceled the tender for its first nuclear power plant, which had been awarded to a Russian-Turkish consortium. Despite the cancelation of the tender in late 2009, the government insisted that it would proceed with its plans to build several nuclear plants in the near future.
Notwithstanding the objections to the nuclear project from various domestic sources, the government developed a new strategy to overcome the legal obstacles and accelerate its plans. Instead of competitive tenders, it opted for an inter-governmental agreement with Moscow, which would enable the Russian-Turkish consortium to build the nuclear plant at Mersin, on the Mediterranean coast. Turkey and Russia are continuing their negotiations on the details of the agreement, and Ankara is speeding up the process in order to finalize the deal in time for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's planned visit to Turkey in May.
According to Turkish government's projections, Ankara plans by 2020 to build several nuclear plants to produce 10% of its total electricity needs. International leaders in the nuclear power generation industry, including US and French companies, have considered competing over tenders for the subsequent nuclear plants. However, Ankara has opted for an inter-governmental model for the second power plant.
Turkey concluded a protocol agreement with South Korea under which the Korean Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) might be awarded the contract to build a second plant in Turkey's Black Sea coastal city of Sinop.
KEPCO has been pursuing such a deal for some time, as part of its strategy of becoming a global leader in the nuclear industry. A KEPCO-led consortium recently won a contract to build four plants in the United Arab Emirates, thanks to KEPCO's cheaper and faster delivery terms compared with its rivals.
During the signing ceremony for the agreement with South Korea, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz stressed that both parties would form working groups to determine the details of such cooperation, particularly on the target price. He expects to reach a final decision on this within the next three to four months. If Ankara accepts the conditions, it will conclude an inter-governmental agreement, similar to the one with Moscow.
Turkish and Korean officials indicated that KEPCO might consider entering into partnership with Turkish firms to complete this project. KEPCO has already entered a joint venture with a Turkish company, NUROL AS, to invest in the Georgian energy market.
It was later argued that one of Turkey's leading construction firms, ENKA, will form a 50-50 joint venture to build the nuclear plant in Sinop. Yildiz noted that the government would not become involved in the choice of Turkish partner, and would respect the choice of the South Korean firm, provided that the partner had the necessary expertise.
Concerning the interest expressed by other international players in nuclear power plants, Yildiz said Turkey would be open to offers from other countries and companies and will evaluate them on the basis of competitiveness in terms of financing and construction terms. He noted that so far, there was no other offer.
Ankara's choice of partner has not been independent of political considerations, as Turkey sought to use these lucrative contracts as a means to achieve other political objectives. Thus far, participation by French companies has been hindered due to Ankara's policy of excluding them from major tenders. In the wake of recent signs of rapprochement between Ankara and Paris, French participation in Turkey's nuclear projects might become realistic.
In recent years, US firms were unable to compete for lucrative Turkish defense industry tenders, due to strict demands by the Turkish government concerning technology transfers. It was largely for these reasons, for instance, that Turkey awarded a contract for the construction of its main battle tanks to South Korea.
Similar concerns have arisen over the future of Turkish-American cooperation in nuclear energy. Erdogan cancelled his participation in a nuclear energy summit hosted by US President Barack Obama in Washington in April, to protest against a US House of Representatives committee finding in favor of Armenian genocide claims. If the parties fail to manage the looming uncertainty over Turkish-American relations posed by the genocide issue, Ankara might move to take some retaliatory action in the future, which could threaten the energy partnership. Indeed, Trade Minister Zafer Caglayan recently signaled that Ankara may freeze economic cooperation with Washington over the Armenian genocide claims.
An overarching theme in Ankara's energy policy has been diversification of both energy resources and supplier countries. The government's constant reiteration of its commitment to nuclear energy is a natural extension of this underlying motivation.
Seen from this perspective, the South Korean choice might be an attempt to counter the criticism that Ankara has deepened its energy dependence on Russia in recent years. While Turkey was already dependent on Russian gas and oil for much of its domestic consumption, by awarding the first nuclear power plant to Moscow, the government exacerbated this vulnerability.
The construction of the second plant by South Korea could be a step in the right direction toward diversifying the country's energy suppliers. It also complements its goal of breaking a traditional dependence on the West through cooperation with other emerging economies.
Available at: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/LD01Ag01.html
Like most countries that embraced nuclear power decades ago, Japan has soured on the technology in recent years. But prompted by worries about climate and energy security, the country's industry ministry last week placed a big bet on a rapid expansion of its nuclear power capability.
When the draft energy plan is finalized and signed by the Japanese cabinet in June, it will stand as a roadmap for the country's new government, which campaigned on a platform of reducing carbon emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 — a promise that is unpopular with the business community. But despite the government's nuclear ambitions, individual reactors will still need approval from local authorities, which is far from certain.
Japan relies on imports for more than 80% of its total energy needs; the plan aims to reduce that figure to just 30% by 2030. "With the balance of energy demand changing dramatically we really have to think about energy security," says Ken Sasaji, director of the ministry's energy planning office.
Japan already has 54 reactors with a total generating capacity of 49 gigawatts, accounting for about a quarter of its electricity supplies (see 'Japan's energy mix'). But following a series of accidents between 1997 and 2007, growing public resistance meant that only five reactors were built in the past decade. The new plan proposes building eight reactors by 2020 to supply an additional 11.4 gigawatts of electricity.
To ensure that those reactors have fuel, Japan forged a nuclear-energy deal in March with Kazakhstan, which holds the world's second-largest uranium reserves and mines about 20% of the world's uranium ore, making it the world's biggest producer. Japan has promised to supply nuclear-energy technology to Kazakhstan in return for a stable supply of uranium.
And last week, Itochu, a Tokyo-based trading company backed by the government, bought a 15% stake in Kalahari Minerals, headquartered in London, which is developing a large uranium mine in Namibia. The mine is expected to begin producing more than 5,000 tonnes of uranium per year in 2013 — roughly 10% of the total uranium mined around the world in 2008.
Japan is also counting on its nuclear recycling programme, which recently started after years of failed efforts to convince local residents of its necessity and safety (see Nature 440, 138; 2006). In December 2009, a reactor on the southern island of Kyushu started burning mixed oxide fuel, made by mixing uranium with plutonium from spent fuel. And in February, the Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission gave its approval for a restart of the Monju fast-breeder test reactor in Tsuruga, which will use some of the neutrons generated during the fission process to turn non-fissile uranium isotopes into plutonium that can be extracted from the spent fuel.
There are also plans to squeeze extra energy from the country's existing reactors, some of which are around 40 years old. At a 19 March meeting of the US–Japan Nuclear Energy Steering Committee in Washington DC, the partners agreed to collaborate on studies aimed at extending the life of old reactors.
But the Japanese government will face a struggle to secure public acceptance of its nuclear ambitions, which are open for public comment until 7 April. Confidence in nuclear power was shaken in 2007 when a magnitude-6.8 earthquake caused a shutdown of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata after radioactive cooling water leaked into the sea (see Nature 448, 392–393; 2007).
And fresh objections are being raised about Monju. After decades of experimentation, most countries with significant nuclear capabilities have given up on fast-breeder technology, partly because of safety concerns. Monju itself has been closed since 1995 when leaking coolant damaged the plant, and a cover-up attempt damaged the plant's reputation.
With safety and earthquake-resistance tests completed in February, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, which runs Monju, now only needs the local Fukui government to sign on.
On 11 March, however, 29 scientists opposed to restarting Monju released a letter on the Citizens' Nuclear Information Center website claiming that checks of key pipes have been inadequate and that the current reactor set-up does not serve as a useful prototype for future fast-breeder reactors. The group argues that because Monju's construction costs were five times greater than a conventional reactor, a full-scale plant would have to be very different from the Monju protoype to be commercially viable.
Japan's situation contrasts with that of its neighbour, China, where more than 20 reactors are under construction and face little public opposition. China aims to reach at least 70 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2020.
For Japan, eight new reactors over the next decade will be a struggle, says Takuyuki Kawauchi of the industry ministry's nuclear-energy policy division. "We can't just start putting reactors wherever we want," he says. "We have to get the understanding of the local residents, and that takes time."
Available at: http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100331/full/464661a.html
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