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Nuclear News - 4/27/2010
PGS Nuclear News, April 27, 2010
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski

A.  Iran
    1. Clinton, Lavrov Discuss Iran Nuclear Tensions: Russia, AFP (4/26/2010)
    2. China Seen Staking "Middle" Role at Nuclear Talks, Chris Buckley, Reuters (4/26/2010)
    3. Ahmadinejad Calls U.N. Veto Power "Satanic Tool", CBS News (4/26/2010)
    4. Brazil Backs Iran’s ‘Peaceful Nuclear Activities’: FM, Khaleej Times (4/26/2010)
    5. No Headway on Nuclear Deal as Iran Meets IAEA Chief, Sylvia Westall, Reuters (4/25/2010)
    6. Ahmadinejad Seeks New Partners in Africa, Jerusalem Post (4/25/2010)
    7. Iran's Ahmadinejad: Proposed Sanctions Not Legal, John Heilprin, Associated Press (4/24/2010)
    8. Iran Okays More IAEA Overview, Jerusalem Post (4/23/2010)
    1. DPRK Vows to Defeat Any Enemy, Xinhua News Agency (4/24/2010)
    2. Lee Says He Would Not Mind Not Holding Inter-Korean Summit, Lee Chi-dong, Yonhap News Agency (4/23/2010)
C.  Nonproliferation
    1. Nigeria, US to Fight Nuke Proliferation, The Sydney Morning Herald (4/25/2010)
    2. Uganda: Seek 'Nuclear Weapons-Free World', UPI (4/24/2010)
D.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Putin Proposes Russia, Ukraine Nuclear Energy Merger, Anna Shiryaevskaya, Bloomberg (4/27/2010)
    2. Italy, Russia Sign Nuclear Agreement, Silvia Marchetti, Xinhua News Agency (4/27/2010)
E.  Nuclear Energy
    1. China National Nuclear Starts Building Plant in Hainan Province, Bloomberg (4/26/2010)
    2. On Chernobyl Anniversary, Ukrainian President Says Reactor Still a Threat, Anna Melnichuk, Los Angeles Times (4/26/2010)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. Kenya Should Aim for Nuclear Power by 2020: Council, Elias Biryabarema, Reuters (4/26/2010)
    2. Using Virtual Reality To Make Nuclear Reality Safer, Mike Shuster, NPR (4/26/2010)
    3. Bomb School, William C. Potter, Foreign Policy (4/23/2010)
    4. UAE Has Its First Nuclear Site, World Nuclear News (4/23/2010)

A.  Iran

Ahmadinejad Calls U.N. Veto Power "Satanic Tool"
CBS News
(for personal use only)

Facing the threat of new U.N. sanctions, Iran's president said Monday the veto power held by the U.S. and other permanent Security Council members is a "satanic tool."

Washington and its allies have been pressing for a fourth round of U.N. penalties on Iran for its refusal to halt a key part of its nuclear program that could be used to make nuclear weapons. Iran says it only wants the technology for producing nuclear power.

In a revelation likely to add to their suspicions, however, a former foreign minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, was quoted as telling a newspaper that Iran obtained its first centrifuge from Pakistan in 1986.

It was Iran's first public confirmation of a clandestine transfer of nuclear technology specifically from Pakistan, which itself had already acknowledged the nuclear sales. Centrifuges, which purify uranium gas, are the central component of a process that can make fuel for power plants or - at higher levels of processing - weapons.

Iran's nuclear work remained a secret until 2003, when the U.N.'s nuclear monitoring agency began investigating the program. Its work and Iran's assurances that it only has peaceful motives have failed to quell the international concern and suspicion.

The timing of the new revelation was unusual, as Iran is in the middle of a diplomatic sprint around the globe to try to persuade other U.N. Security Council members to oppose new sanctions.

In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said officials were meeting daily at the United Nations in an effort to push through a new package of penalties "as rapidly as possible."

He said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had called several foreign officials over the weekend, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

"Iran needs to come forward and answer the questions the international community has about its nuclear program," Crowley said.

Besides the U.S., the other permanent council members are Britain, France, Russia and China.

Russia and China, which both have important commercial links to Iran, have so far been reluctant to support new sanctions.

In a speech to a gathering of policemen in Tehran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the veto rights giving the five nations more power than others on the council were an instrument of suppression.

"The world community doesn't need atomic bombs ... the Security Council or veto rights. These things are all for suppressing and destroying the nature of mankind and are satanic tools to keep human beings away from culture and morality," Ahmadinejad said, according to state television.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki held talks with Bosnian leaders Monday after making little progress in Austria over the weekend in Tehran's effort to convince non-permanent Security Council members to oppose sanctions.

"We do believe that the Security Council should try to democratize itself, to give the chance to all members to think and consider and make decisions on the basis of their own analysis," Mottaki said in Sarajevo.

Ahmadinejad visited Uganda, another non-permanent member of the 15-nation council, last week.

Velayati, Iran's former foreign minister, said he flew in a private plane to Islamabad to personally receive Iran's first centrifuge.

"I think it was in 1986 when we traveled to Pakistan on a private plane. We were told there was a mission that I had to take to Iran. We took it to Iran and later learned that it was a centrifuge. ... We didn't tell Pakistani authorities about it," Velayati was quoted as saying by the weekly Panjereh.

After years of denials, Pakistan admitted in 2005 that its top nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, sold crucial equipment to Iran, but it said it knew nothing of his activities when they occurred.

Iran has in the past confirmed that it purchased nuclear equipment from international dealers, including some from the Indian subcontinent, but Velayati's revelation was the first public acknowledgment that Iran obtained its first centrifuge machine from Pakistan.

Velayati, now a top adviser to Iran's Surpeme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said he didn't meet Khan in person but that the disgraced father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb "didn't have any unpleasant opinion about Iran."

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Brazil Backs Iran’s ‘Peaceful Nuclear Activities’: FM
Khaleej Times
(for personal use only)

UN Security Council member Brazil reiterated on Monday its support for Iran’s quest for “peaceful” nuclear energy, as world powers built pressure for a new set of UN sanctions against Tehran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meanwhile criticised the UN Security Council and the veto power of its five permanent members as “Satanic tools” aimed at “oppressing” mankind.

“What we want for Brazilian people is what we want for Iranian people, which is expansion of peaceful nuclear activities,” Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told Tehran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili on a two-day visit to Tehran, a state television website reported.

The report said Amorim also told Jalili that Brazil, as one of the 15 members of the UN Security Council, backs Iran’s nuclear rights and its active participation in international relations.

Jalili said that Brazil’s policy of defending nations who are pursuing peaceful nuclear energy helps strengthen cooperation between Tehran and Brasilia, the report added.

Amorim, whose visit paves the ground for next month’s high-profile trip to Iran by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, arrived in Tehran on Monday to hold talks over the Islamic republic’s controversial nuclear programme.

He is expected to meet other senior Iranian officials over the issue, including Ahmadinejad under whose presidency relations between the two countries have flourished.

Amorim’s visit comes as world powers push for a new set of UN sanctions against Tehran for pursuing the sensitive uranium enrichment programme, the most controversial aspect of its nuclear work.

As a temporary UN Security Council member, Brazil has not indicated whether it would vote for or against a possible sanctions resolution targeting the Islamic republic.

World powers accuse Iran of masking a weapons drive under the guise of what Iran says is a purely civilian atomic programme.

Washington has stepped up its efforts to impose new sanctions on Iran after a nuclear fuel deal drafted by the UN nuclear watchdog for a Tehran research reactor hit a deadlock.

For a sanctions measure to pass, nine of the 15 Security Council members would have to vote in favour, as long as none of the five permanent members employ their veto.

One of the veto-wielding powers China still continues to insist that a diplomatic solution was the way out to resolve the crisis.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is travelling to Beijing on Thursday to secure China’s backing for a sanctions resolution, a European diplomat said in Luxembourg.

“The Chinese haven’t supported the idea of fresh sanctions but they have allowed the process to move forward,” he said.

“Probably the best we can hope for is an abstention,” he said. “What we want to hear from the Chinese is that they are on the same page as the EU.”

But on Monday Ahmadinejad, in an address to police commanders, lashed out at UN Security Council structure.

“Mankind does not need the atom bomb, massive invasion or even the (UN) Security Council and its veto right,” the hardliner said, according to ISNA news agency.

“These are all for oppressing and destroying the reality of human beings and are Satanic tools.”

Brazil, apart from other UN Security Council members such as Turkey and Lebanon, has defended Iran’s nuclear programme, saying the Islamic republic has the right to peaceful nuclear energy.

Brazil has given little credence to US arguments that Iran was trying to secretly develop a nuclear arsenal.

Amorim said in a press interview on Sunday: “I don’t see Iran being close to making a bomb.”

“Call us naive, but I think those who believe in everything the US intelligence service says are much more naive. Look at the case of Iraq.”

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China Seen Staking "Middle" Role at Nuclear Talks
Chris Buckley
(for personal use only)

China is likely to stake out a position between the big nuclear weapons states and the non-nuclear-armed countries at an international conference next month, a prominent Swedish think tank said on Monday.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report that Beijing faces pressure over its nuclear weapons modernization after Washington and Moscow signed a treaty to cut their much bigger arsenals of atomic missiles.

For now, however, China is likely to fend off calls to formally curb its nuclear weapons development and could seek to use the conference on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to push back by backing demands from non-nuclear-armed states for deeper cuts from Washington and Moscow, the report said.

"China is unlikely to take part in any unilateral or multilateral (nuclear) disarmament steps in the near- to medium-term," said the report written by Bates Gill, the director of SIPRI and an expert on Chinese security policy.

"On the contrary, Chinese steps to modernize its nuclear arsenal will stand out among the world's major nuclear weapons states," said the report.

President Barack Obama announced this month a shift in U.S. doctrine, vowing not to use atomic weapons against non-nuclear states that abide by the NPT.


The deepening diplomacy over nuclear arms has thrown into relief China's awkward position in atomic diplomacy -- as a member of the club of five nuclear weapons states formally accepted by the NPT, but one claiming to share many developing countries' demands and grievances with that club.

Gill said that ambivalence is likely to play out at the conference throughout much of May discussing the NPT's future.

"Beijing will probably expect the United States in particular, but also Russia, to do much of the heavy lifting" over disarmament commitments, Gill said in an email.

China is also likely to use the conference to "defend the right of non-nuclear states, and particularly developing countries, to access nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes," said the SIPRI report.

Beijing faces growing calls from Western powers to support a fresh round of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear activities. Although China has been discussing possible sanctions, it has also long stressed that Iranian demands for peaceful nuclear power must also be heeded.

Under their new treaty, the United States and Russia vowed to limit their deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 each, 30 percent fewer than the limit set in a 2002 treaty.

The SIPRI has estimated that as of 2009 China possessed 186 deployed strategic nuclear warheads.

Since conducting its first nuclear test in 1964, China has said it will never be the first to use such weapons in any conflict.

But Beijing wants to preserve some leeway to upgrade its arsenal, insulating its deterrent against possible moves by potential foes, including the United States developing anti-missile technology.

China wants to have a limited nuclear "second strike" force to deter foes, the nation's main military newspaper said last week, spelling out the ideas behind the country's atomic modernization.

China has been replacing liquid-fueled ballistic nuclear-capable missiles with solid-fuel missiles, which will make launching them faster. It is also building new "Jin-class" ballistic missile submarines, capable of launching nuclear warheads while at sea.

"It remains too early to expect China to enter into official multilateral disarmament discussions with the other nuclear weapons states," Gill said in response to questions.

But if the United States and Russia were to contemplate cutting their strategic warheads to below 1,000 each, that would "depend on the other nuclear weapons states, and especially China, showing a willingness to engage in multilateral disarmament discussions," said Gill.

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Clinton, Lavrov Discuss Iran Nuclear Tensions: Russia
(for personal use only)

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spoken by telephone to her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov about the Iranian nuclear standoff, the Russian foreign ministry said Sunday.

The two "discussed in detail the current situation with the Iranian nuclear programme, establishing that further steps should be taken on the agreed basis, taking into account the opinions of each of the six powers," it said.

The foreign ministry statement said the phone call had taken place Saturday at Clinton's request but provided no other details.

The six powers are the group of countries which have been negotiating with Tehran in a bid to ease tensions over its nuclear programme. They are Russia, the United States, Britain, China, France and Germany.

The administration of US President Barack Obama has been seeking to convince Russia to support tougher sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council in order to rein in Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

The United States and its allies fear that Iran is seeking to acquire atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear energy programme, while Tehran insists the programme is peaceful in nature.

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Ahmadinejad Seeks New Partners in Africa
Jerusalem Post
(for personal use only)

Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in Africa this week to build alliances to evade stronger UN sanctions for his country's nuclear program, ease its international isolation and strengthen its economy.

Both Zimbabwe and Uganda, the two countries Ahmadinejad is visiting, have something to offer.

Iran has been under harsh criticism from Western nations for pressing ahead with uranium enrichment programs it says are to produce nuclear energy. The West fears the militant Islamic state could develop nuclear weapons.

"Iran hopes to persuade non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, such as Uganda, to vote against new sanctions or at least abstain from the vote," said Alireza Nader, an Iran expert at the Washington-based Rand Corp. "Zimbabwe's isolation from the West also appeals to Iran, which is coming under stronger pressure due to its ongoing nuclear program."

In Uganda, Ahmadinejad will discuss his country's nuclear program with President Yoweri Museveni. Uganda has not yet ruled out the possibility it could vote for sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, said Tamale Mirundi, a spokesman for Museveni.

Ahmadinejad landed in Uganda Friday night where he is expected to personally make his case after a two-day trip to Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe urged him to remain resolute in defiance of the West.

Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa told The Associated Press that while Uganda is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and wants nuclear weapons eliminated, "we strongly believe that every country has a right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."

In Uganda, the Iranian leader also finds a potential business partner just beginning to tap its oil resources. Oil-rich Iran is in the running to build an oil refinery for the African country. It's also built a housing complex with thousands of units and is looking at building a tractor assembly plant and a beef cannery.

Earlier Friday, Ahmadinejad opened a trade fair in Zimbabwe, where he castigated Western nations, saying their "bad behavior" had enslaved Africans.

"Some oppressive and arrogant states deny people their rights. Today, they are trying to possess and control world resources," he said, speaking through an interpreter. "They want to hinder the way to scientific and development improvements in our countries."

Ahmadinejad arrived at the fair in the city of Bulawayo with Mugabe in a vintage British colonial era Bentley limousine and inspected a guard of honor. Ahmadinejad was the first leader from outside Africa to open the exposition since Zimbabwe won independence from Britain in 1980. The first colonial Bulawayo fair 50 years ago was opened by British royalty, conveyed to the site in a similar car.

Iran is the largest participant at the fair. Many traditional Western exhibitors and local industries have stayed away from the annual trade fair, once a showcase of regional goods and products, because Zimbabwe's economy has tanked under Mugabe.

Ahmadinejad said Iran is interested in Africa's markets and could find like-minded leaders in Africa who face problems with the West. Zimbabwe and Iran say Iran has proposed assembling tractors in Zimbabwe and that the two countries have agreed to set up a joint investment company to help develop industry, energy, mining, water management and social and financial services.

At a state dinner Thursday night, Mugabe said both Zimbabwe and Iran are being targeted by the West because of how they want to manage their own natural resources.

"We remain resolute in defending Zimbabwe's right to exercise it sovereignty over its natural resources. We have equally supported Iran's right to peaceful use of nuclear energy as enshrined in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty," Mugabe said.

Zimbabwe and Iran say Iran has proposed assembling tractors in Zimbabwe and that the two countries have agreed to set up a joint investment company to help develop industry, energy, mining, water management and social and financial services.

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No Headway on Nuclear Deal as Iran Meets IAEA Chief
Sylvia Westall
(for personal use only)

Iran's foreign minister and the U.N. atomic watchdog chief made no headway on Sunday when they met to discuss a stalled nuclear fuel offer designed to ease tensions with the West, diplomats said.

The months-old plan calls for Iran to ship 1,200 kg (2,646 lb) of low-enriched uranium -- enough for a single bomb if purified to a high enough level -- to Russia and France to make into fuel for a medical research reactor.

Iran agreed to the offer in principle last October but balked at it later, saying it wanted instead a simultaneous swap on Iranian soil, a change which other parties to the deal said they could not accept because it would fail to build trust.

The West believes Iran's atomic program is ultimately aimed at making weapons. Tehran denies this.

"The meeting was held in a business-like atmosphere," the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement after the 2-1/2 hour meeting, which was requested by Iran.

Iran's Manouchehr Mottaki and IAEA's Yukiya Amano discussed the agency's inspections in Iran and exchanged views on possible ways to implement the fuel proposal, the IAEA said. It gave no indication of a breakthrough.

"The agency is not in a negotiation process. It is listening to all sides," a diplomat close to the IAEA said.

Mottaki said he discussed with Amano ways to find a deal that would be acceptable to all participants. But it was not clear that any new proposals had been discussed.

"I see very good chances that we will find ways for a fuel swap," Mottaki said. "Now is the time for a new beginning, for new talks." He said successful negotiations would lead to further diplomatic discussions and said sanctions would be the wrong move.


Mottaki is also visiting Vienna and other capitals to lobby Security Council members to oppose any new U.N. sanctions as closed-door negotiations continue on a draft Iran resolution.

Austria, which is on the council until the end of this year, said Iran had to start cooperating with the international community on its nuclear program or face punitive measures.

"This will be the consequence if something does not change on the Iranian side," Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger told a joint news conference with Mottaki. "The clock is ticking, time is running out for Iran," he said.

Spindelegger, who also criticized Iran's human rights record, said he had received new information from Iran on the fuel proposal which he would communicate to his European counterparts on Monday.

But he said this did not seem substantial enough to stop the sanctions drive. "Iran should be aware that we want to see actions not just hear words," he added.

Mottaki, who called the sanctions talk "unjust" said his discussions with Spindelegger had nevertheless been "very friendly." He urged Austria and other countries to be "independent" at the Security Council.

Moscow and Beijing have made clear that their decision to join negotiations with the United States, Britain, France and Germany on a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran was partly due to Iran's refusal to accept the IAEA fuel offer.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone on Saturday, Russia's Foreign Ministry said.

"The ministers held a detailed discussion of the situation around Iran's nuclear program, having stated that further steps toward its settlement should be taken on the basis of consensus, taking into account the opinions of all members of the 'six'," it said. It gave no further details.

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Iran's Ahmadinejad: Proposed Sanctions Not Legal
John Heilprin
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flouted any more United Nations sanctions on his nuclear program as illegal Saturday, insisting he will not submit to any such pressure based on the United States and Britain "lying" about the evidence.

The Iranian leader, wrapping up two days of talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, lambasted the Western allies for pressing for another round of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran.

Ahmadinejad let loose when asked by an Associated Press reporter to discuss his effort to evade more U.N. sanctions by meeting with Uganda, a non-permanent member of the 15-nation council. The council is preparing to consider a fourth round of sanctions on Tehran for its nuclear defiance.

"The nuclear issue of Iran has turned into a big test for the entire world," Ahmadinejad said, adding that the U.S. and Britain "say they are concerned about the building of a nuclear bomb, but they are lying like the other previous lies."

He was referring to unsubstantiated U.S. claims that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction, a key Bush administration rationale for the 2003 Iraq war. An exhaustive search turned up no nuclear, chemical or biological weapons or any evidence there was an active program to develop it.

"The measures that have been taken or are going to be taken by the United States and its allies in the U.N. Security Council lack the legal validity," Ahmadinejad said. "We do not submit, and we do not accept any kind of pressures. And we do not follow the illegal decisions. We think by issuing resolutions against us, Mr. Obama will suffer more."

Obama gained the presidency on the premise he would make a "change in the tough behavior" of the Bush administration, Ahmadinejad said, but "the fact that he's going to follow, to take decisions against the Iranian people, is an end to his stature."

Obama has been pressing for more economic sanctions against Iran because of its alleged failure to comply with its responsibilities as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Obama has said Iran cannot be allowed to become a nuclear weapons state.

Russia and China until recently had blocked attempts by the U.S., Britain and France, the three other permanent Security Council members, to introduce new sanctions. But Russia recently expressed a readiness to support "smart" sanctions that do not target the Iranian people, while China appears willing if the drafts submitted by the West are watered down.

Museveni, for his part, walked a fine line between seeking new investment from Iran while risking alienating the West. Uganda, he said, has not yet ruled out the possibility of voting for sanctions against Iran.

"We are not idiots of anybody," he said. "So after we have got the facts, we will consult our African brothers, and see what position we will take."

Iran, one of several nations vying to build an oil refinery for Uganda's untapped potential, has been under harsh criticism from Western nations for pressing ahead with uranium enrichment programs it says are to produce nuclear energy. The West fears the militant Islamic state could develop nuclear weapons.

But as part of its diplomatic offensive, Iran has agreed to give the U.N. nuclear monitoring agency greater inspection and monitoring rights to a sensitive site where it is enriching uranium to higher levels.

The Iranian and Ugandan presidents, as part of their joint communique, said they were committed to disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But they also said developing countries should have the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Iran began enriching uranium to near 20 percent two months ago and says it will be turned into fuel rods for research reactors that manufacture medical isotopes for cancer patients. It says it was forced to take this step because major powers would not compromise over a moribund plan that would have supplied the rods from abroad.

The International Atomic Energy Agency had pushed in vain for greater access to the enrichment operation since the start of the project.

Ahmadinejad said Saturday that IAEA would have "a commitment and the obligation to provide the enriched uranium of 20 percent for our research reactor, but we have accepted to exchange fuels with them. The proposal is still on the table."

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Iran Okays More IAEA Overview
Jerusalem Post
(for personal use only)

Iran has agreed to give the UN nuclear monitoring agency greater inspection and monitoring rights to a sensitive site where it is enriching uranium to higher levels, diplomats said Friday.

The move — indirectly confirmed by a senior Iranian envoy — comes as Teheran mounts a diplomatic offensive meant to stave off new UN sanctions for its defiance of Security Council demands that it curb nuclear activities that could be used to make weapons.
Iran began enriching uranium to near 20 percent two months ago and says it will be turned into fuel rods for a research reactor that manufacture medical isotopes for cancer patients. It says it was forced to take this step because the big powers refused to meet it half way on a moribund plan that would have supplied the rods from abroad.

The International Atomic Energy Agency had pushed in vain for greater access to the enrichment operation since the start of the project, seeking to realign monitoring cameras already set up to oversee Iran's long-standing enrichment plant that is churning out much-lower-level uranium. It has also been asking for more frequent inspections, said the diplomats, who asked for anonymity because their information is confidential.

They said Iran agreed in principle earlier this month to give the IAEA the greater overview it sought, but the increased access and monitoring still had to be put in place.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, the chief Iranian envoy to the IAEA, indirectly confirmed agreement, saying the two sides had "constructive talks" on the issue.

Iran last year rejected a UN-backed plan that offered nuclear fuel rods in exchange for Iran's stock of lower-level enriched uranium. That swap would have curbed Teheran's capacity to make a nuclear bomb.

Six world powers — the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany — endorsed the confidence-building proposal. Backed by the IAEA, the deal foresaw shipping 2,420 pounds (1,100 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium from Iran to Russia to be enriched to 20 percent, then to France for processing into fuel rods for the research reactor that makes nuclear isotopes needed for medical purposes.

Beyond meeting Iran's needs, the US and its allies saw the proposal as delaying Iran's ability to make a nuclear weapon by stripping it of much of the enriched uranium it would need for such a project. Teheran denies seeking such arms, insisting it is enriching only for an envisaged network of power-generating nuclear reactors.

Though Iran initially rejected the proposal, its leaders have tried to keep the offer on the table, proposing variations without accepting the Vienna-based IAEA's terms. The main stumbling block has been Teheran's refusal to ship the bulk of its low-enriched uranium abroad — a condition insisted upon by the West as key to slowing Iran's accumulation of enriched uranium and thereby any bomb-making capacities.

In the meantime, Iran has pushed ahead with further enriching uranium to 20 percent on its own, announcing this week that it has produced five kilograms (11 pounds) of the material, though it is not clear if it is able to take the next step of turning them into fuel rods for the reactor.

Any success in enriching up to that level brings Iran closer to quickly being able to make weapons grade uranium that serves as the core of nuclear warheads.

The Iranian concession comes just before the weekend visit of Iran's foreign minister to Austria on the first stop of an international campaign aimed at weakening a US-backed push for new UN sanctions.

Manouchehr Mottaki will meet Austrian counterpart Michael Spindelegger on Sunday, Austria's Foreign Ministry said.

Austria is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, which is preparing to consider a fourth round of sanctions on Teheran for its nuclear defiance.

Before his trip, Mottaki said Iran wants to talk with all council members except the US about a nuclear fuel deal that was originally touted as a possible way to ease the international standoff over Iran's nuclear program but has since hit a dead end.

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DPRK Vows to Defeat Any Enemy
Xinhua News Agency
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Ri Yong Ho, chief of the Korean People's Army (KPA) General Staff of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), said on Saturday that the KPA was ready to defeat any aggressors at any time.

The senior military official said that the situation on the Korean Peninsula was still tense because of the anti-DPRK policy and war plot taken by the United States and South Korea.

The KPA will adopt any measures including nuclear power to defend the country's security if the United States and South Korea dare to invade the DPRK, Ri told a national meeting to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the founding of the KPA on April 25, 1932.

Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of the DPRK, also attended the meeting.

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Lee Says He Would Not Mind Not Holding Inter-Korean Summit
Lee Chi-dong
Yonhap News Agency
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President Lee Myung-bak said Friday there have been "direct and indirect moves" for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, but such a meeting may not take place during his tenure, which ends in early 2013.

In two-hour talks with two of his predecessors -- Chun Doo-hwan and Kim Young-sam -- Lee reiterated that he is not interested in a politically motivated summit.

"President Lee told them that there had been direct and indirect moves for a South and North Korean summit," said Lee Dong-kwan, senior secretary for public affairs at Cheong Wa Dae
The president was quoted as saying, "But I have maintained the constant stance that I would not have a meeting that has political intentions just for the sake of a meeting, and it is alright not to hold even a single summit (with the North Korean leader)."

Working-level officials from the two Koreas are known to have had a series of unannounced contacts last year to arrange what would be the third inter-Korean summit. But their talks produced no tangible results due to differences over the terms and conditions.

Lee invited Chun and Kim to his office to discuss last month's sinking of a 1,200-ton South Korean warship close to the Yellow Sea border with the communist North. It was the first time for Lee to meet his predecessors at Cheong Wa Dae since he took office in early 2007.

Although international investigation is still underway to uncover the cause of the incident, many here believe North Korea might be involved. North Korea has long threatened military retaliation for bloody skirmishes with the South near the site of the warship's sinking.

Former President Kim Young-sam, whose administration was marked by a hardline policy on the North, was quoted as saying that the ship's sinking was "100 percent caused by North Korea's torpedo."

Kim also urged the government to delay the transfer of wartime operation control of South Korean troops from the United States, slated for 2012, saying it is premature given North Korea's threats.

He also called for North Korea to be described as the "main enemy" of South Korea in its defense white paper. Under a decade of liberal rule until Lee's inauguration, the defense ministry omitted the expression from the document.

Chun, a general-turned-president, agreed with Kim's opinions, the secretary said.

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C.  Nonproliferation

Nigeria, US to Fight Nuke Proliferation
The Sydney Morning Herald
(for personal use only)

Nigeria and the United States have agreed to work together to counter the spread of nuclear weapons, a senior US official said after a weekend meeting with acting president Goodluck Jonathan.

Undersecretary of state for political affairs William Burns met Jonathan late Saturday as the West leans on the UN Security Council - where Nigeria has a seat - to slap tougher sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

"The United States and Nigeria are determined to live up to our responsibility on nuclear issues," Burns told Nigerian state radio after the meeting, which he described as "excellent".

Both nations would work together to "both reduce existing nuclear arsenal ... and work against the proliferation of nuclear weapons", he added.

They will also "look for ways in which we can increase cooperation on civilian nuclear energy", he added.

Burns met Jonathan on the same day that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in Kampala to lobby Uganda - the other African member of the Security Council - on the nuclear issue.

Iran has previously offered to help Nigeria build a nuclear power plant.

Iran faces new sanctions after it refused a nuclear fuel supply deal which would have sent its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for conversion into high-grade uranium and later returned for its nuclear energy needs.

Last weekend, Iran - which is defying previous UN demands to halt uranium enrichment, and which denies it is on a quest for a nuclear arsenal - said it would lobby all UN Security Council members against sanctions.

Jonathan met US President Barack Obama a fortnight ago when he travelled to Washington on his first foreign trip for an international summit on nuclear security.

Nigeria is the United States' biggest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa, with about a half of Nigerian crude oil production crossing the Atlantic to the US market.

On April 5 the two countries announced a strategic partnership deal focusing on energy, regional security and good governance - the first time that the Obama administration has afforded such status to an African state.

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Uganda: Seek 'Nuclear Weapons-Free World'
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Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni called for a world free of nuclear weapons during a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Entebbe.

Museveni said nations should have the right to nuclear technology but only for peaceful purposes, CNN reported Saturday.

"Nuclear weapons are dangerous for humanity -- even more dangerous than all the other previous weapon systems," Museveni said at a Friday banquet to honor Ahmadinejad.

"We should therefore work for a nuclear weapons-free world," Museveni said. "This means that those who have these weapons should work to get rid of them under an internationally agreed and verifiable treaty."

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, including medical research and electricity. But the United States and other Western countries claim the republic is seeking the capability to build a nuclear weapon, and some call for tough sanctions.

CNN said Ahmadinejad arrived in Uganda Friday to try to win support for his country's nuclear program.

He is expected to sign trade and investment deals in oil development, agriculture, health and real estate, the U.S. network reported.

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D.  Nuclear Cooperation

Italy, Russia Sign Nuclear Agreement
Silvia Marchetti
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

Italy and Russia signed on Monday an important agreement of cooperation in the nuclear sector aimed at exchanging technological know-how and building new power plants.

The agreement was launched at a bilateral summit attended by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss bilateral and global issues, according to a statement released by the Italian government headquarters.

At a joint press conference hosted by the two leaders after the meeting, Berlusconi praised the excellent state of bilateral relations and welcomed Putin "as a friend to whom I am linked by years of fondness and affection."

The summit, held at Villa Gernetto in the town of Lesmo in northern Italy, focused primarily on energy and economic cooperation.

A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Italian oil giant Eni and Russia's Inter Rao Ues (both patrons were present at the meeting) to collaborate in the construction of groundbreaking nuclear power plants and in boosting energy efficiency, technical innovation and distribution in Russia and Eastern European countries.

The Italian and Russian research ministries launched as well a joint study on nuclear fusion. Italy and Russia have always enjoyed a prosperous energy partnership. Italy is one of Europe's main importers of Russian gas.

Berlusconi pledged that the construction of the South Stream pipeline, a strategic infrastructure aimed at bringing Russian gas to Italy bypassing Ukraine, will start in 2012 and finish by 2015. The project involves Italian Eni and Russian Gazprom.

Thanks to the South Stream pipeline, set to run beneath the Black Sea, "countries like Bulgarian and Romania, as well as Italy, will never again be at risk of being left in the cold and dark," Berlusconi noted, referring to a severe gas interruption following a dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

Nuclear is expected to become ever more central in bilateral relations. Putin offered Russian assistance and technological know- how for Italy to build nuclear plants, closed down in the 1980s' following a national referendum held in the country.

Berlusconi pledged to start construction of new plants within the next three years.

Putin stressed that what made ties between Italy and Russia so strong was not merely energy cooperation. "Our two countries deal together in many sectors" including metallurgy, aerospace and chemical industries, he said.

"Relations between Russia and Italy are not only a matter of good personal relations between Berlusconi and I, they are based on reciprocal state interests," said Putin.

But despite the excellent commercial ties, Berlusconi observed that in 2009 due to the global downturn bilateral trade registered a 30 percent drop. The Italian premier said he hoped "the economic revival to recover previous trade levels" between the two countries.

Putin as well expressed optimism for the future. "our trade must return to pre-crisis levels and in order to do so we must move actively,"he said.

In sign of friendship, the Russian premier invited Berlusconi to attend celebrations in Moscow for Victory Day on May 9 and committed to the reconstruction of two ancient artistic buildings destroyed in the L'Aquila earthquake by allocating 7.2 million euros.

Other issues discussed by the two leaders were the Middle East peace efforts and the upcoming Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) meeting, chaired by Italy and scheduled for May 27-28.

Berlusconi was accompanied at the summit, amongst others, by Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini, civil protection chief Guido Bertolaso and a pool of leading businessmen.

The Russia delegation included Energy Minister Serghei Shmatko, Deputy Premier Igor Secin and a group of state industry managers.

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Putin Proposes Russia, Ukraine Nuclear Energy Merger
Anna Shiryaevskaya
(for personal use only)

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed creating a nuclear power holding company with Ukraine as the two former Soviet republics rebuild ties.

“We have made massive proposals, referring to generation, nuclear power engineering, and nuclear fuel,” Putin told reporters after a meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev today. Any cooperation may be phased, Putin said after the surprise visit to Kiev.

Russia and Ukraine have reached agreements on natural gas subsidies and a navy base since Yanukovych’s election in February improved ties between the neighboring states. Putin also met yesterday with his Ukrainian counterpart, Mykola Azarov, to discuss industrial cooperation.

Putin and Azarov plan to meet in Sochi on the Russia’s Black Sea coast on April 30, where an intergovernmental commission will meet, Putin said. Russia and Ukraine are also discussing aviation and shipbuilding, he said.

Yanukovych said the proposals are “interesting.”

Ukraine currently operates four nuclear power plants with 15 reactors, according to the World Nuclear Association database. It was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident when a reactor at the Chernobyl facility exploded on April 26, 1986, spewing radiation across eastern and northern Europe.

Nuclear Upgrades

Russia is ready to take “an active part” in upgrading Ukrainian reactors and will allow Ukrainian partners on the Russian market, Putin said. Nuclear cooperation in third countries is also possible, he said.

Russia plans to boost the share of nuclear power in total output to 25 percent from 15 percent to 16 percent now, Putin told reporters near Milan yesterday.

Ukraine will get $40 billion to $45 billion of investment from Russia in the next ten years because of a gas agreement reached last week, with fuel supplies subsidized by Russia’s budget, Putin said. This year, Russia will run a deficit that is wider than Ukraine’s, if the neighboring country takes into account the reduced gas price, he said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Yanukovych reached the gas agreement in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, on April 21. Russia agreed to cut the price of gas for Ukraine by as much as 30 percent, and in exchange Ukraine agreed to allow Russia to keep its Black Sea fleet at the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol until 2042, with a possible five-year extension. The fleet’s lease was set to expire in 2017.

“The price they proposed to regulate the issue is excessive,” Putin said. “I could eat Yanukovych and the prime minister together for that money. Not a single military base in the world costs as much.”

The Ukrainian parliament ratified the accord today.

Debates planned on the fleet in Ukraine are “surprising,” as Russia discussed the extension with the previous government led by Yulia Tymoshenko and received no objections, Putin said.

“But it is not just about money to us,” Putin said. “Cooperation with Ukraine and cooperation in the military sphere improves the level of trust between our countries.”

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E.  Nuclear Energy

China National Nuclear Starts Building Plant in Hainan Province
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China National Nuclear Corp., the country’s biggest operator of nuclear power plants, started building a 19 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) generator on the southern island province of Hainan.

The first of two units will start electricity output by the end of 2014, the company said in a statement posted on its Web site today. The plant, a joint venture with top power producer China Huaneng Group Corp., has a capacity of 1,300 megawatts, China National Nuclear said in August 2008.

China, the world’s second-biggest energy user, wants 15 percent of its energy to come from renewable sources by 2020. The country currently has 9 gigawatts of nuclear capacity in operation, the China Electricity Council said in August. That will exceed 70 gigawatts by 2020, Wang Binghua, chairman of the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp., said in March.

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On Chernobyl Anniversary, Ukrainian President Says Reactor Still a Threat
Anna Melnichuk
Los Angeles Times
(for personal use only)

Ukraine's president warned Monday on the 24th anniversary of the world's worst atomic accident that the Chernobyl nuclear reactor remains a serious threat to Europe.

The 1986 reactor explosion sent a cloud of radiation over much of Europe and severe health problems persist. President Viktor Yanukovych says around 2 million people have illnesses caused by the radiation, and non-governmental organizations estimate the disaster has caused more than 700,000 early deaths.

The exploded reactor is encased in a deteriorating shell and internationally funded work to replace it is far behind schedule.

Yanukovych said during commemoration ceremonies Monday that the reactor is a threat "not only for Ukraine, but for Europe, Russia and Belarus."

The radiation left swaths of Ukraine and Belarus uninhabitable.

Yanukovych laid flowers at a monument to explosion victims in Chernobyl and visited a plant that reprocesses spent nuclear fuel.

Yanukovych pledged to give better care for Chernobyl victims and those who still have related diseases, calling that an issue of "conscience and honor."

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov promised better medical treatment, higher pensions and accommodation.

In Kiev, an Orthodox priest prayed near a monument to Chernobyl victims in front of hundreds who gathered to pay tribute to those who died. Some of them complained about inadequate compensation and treatment for those who fell ill after taking part in the cleanup.

"We lost our town, we lost everything. Every time, the authorities promise to raise our pensions, but they always lie," said Serhiy Krasylnikov, a former plant worker who heads a Kiev district union of Chernobyl victims.

A commemoration march took place Monday evening in the capital, Belarus. In previous years, opposition groups had used unsanctioned commemoration gatherings as a venue for protesting against the authoritarian government. This year, officials have sanctioned the march.

In Minsk's heavily policed central square, about 2,000 demonstrators held aloft opposition flags bearing slogans such as "Dictatorship is like another Chernobyl," and "You cannot stop radiation with decrees."

Authoritarian President Alexander "Lukashenko is like a second Chernobyl for Belarus. He doesn't solve the problem, but aggravates it," said Dmitry Rusevich, an 18-year-old student.

Their march was due to end with a candlelit vigil by a church dedicated to the victims of the disaster.

Independent analysts in Belarus say much is being done to hide the truth about the wider consequences of the disaster to this day. They say contaminated agricultural produce still finds its way onto store shelves.

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F.  Links of Interest

Kenya Should Aim for Nuclear Power by 2020: Council
Elias Biryabarema
(for personal use only)

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Using Virtual Reality To Make Nuclear Reality Safer
Mike Shuster
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Bomb School
William C. Potter
Foreign Policy
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UAE Has Its First Nuclear Site
World Nuclear News
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