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Nuclear News - 4/8/2010
PGS Nuclear News, April 8, 2010
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski

A.  U.S.-Russia
    1. Obama, Medvedev Sign Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty, Julianna Goldman and Lyubov Pronina, Bloomberg (4/8/2010)
    2. Russia 'Could Opt Out of Nuclear Disarmament Deal', BBC News (4/6/2010)
B.  Iran
    1. Iran Has Produced Several Kilos of 20% Enriched Nuclear Fuel, Tehran Times  (4/8/2010)
    2. Iran Derides Obama's "Cowboy" Nuclear Stance, Ali Akbar Dareini and George Jahn, Associated Press (4/7/2010)
    3. Russia to Deliver S-300 to Iran, UPI (4/7/2010)
    4. Bahrain Asserts Iran Nuclear Right, Offers Diplomacy, PressTV (4/7/2010)
    5. Iran Says Oil Sanctions Threat "A Joke", Robin Pomeroy and Hashem Kalantari, Reuters (4/6/2010)
    6. US Casts Doubt on Iran Interest in Denuclearization, PressTV (4/6/2010)
    7. FADC to Press Russia on Iran, Jerusalem Post (4/6/2010)
    1. Obama’s Warning to North Korea, The Dong-a Ilbo (4/8/2010)
    2. North Korea to Return to Nuclear Talks but Progress Unlikely: Former U.S. Envoy, Kim Young-gyo, Yonhap News Agency (4/7/2010)
D.  Nonproliferation
    1. New US Policy Limits Role of Nuclear Arsenal, Dan De Luce, The Sydney Morning Herald (4/7/2010)
    2. IAEA Officials, 60 States to Attend Nuclear Disarmament Meeting in Iran, Tehran Times  (4/7/2010)
    3. Serbia Going Nuclear Free to Reduce Terrorist Threat, Boris Babic, Monsters and Critics (4/7/2010)
    4. U.S. Plans Help German Nuclear Arms Removal: Minister, Reuters (4/7/2010)
E.  Nuclear Security Summit
    1. Crackdown Sought on Nuclear Material, David Crawford and Peter Spiegel, The Wall Street Journal (4/7/2010)
    2. Nuclear Security Summit Aims to Enhance Global Protection of Nuclear Materials, Megan McCourt, Kansas City Info Zine (4/7/2010)
    3. Two Contrasting Views Could Present Obstacles to Upcoming Global Nuclear Security Summit, Matthew Rusling, Xinhua News Agency (4/7/2010)
    4. IAEA Says Nuclear Summit 'Recognition' More Security Needed, AFP (4/7/2010)
    5. Washington Summit to Discuss Nuclear Terrorism, Andre de Nesnera, Voice of America (4/6/2010)
F.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Bulgaria Halts Nuclear Plant Construction, UPI (4/7/2010)
    2. IAEA Inspects Syria Reactor in Uranium Traces Probe, ABC News (4/6/2010)
G.  Links of Interest
    1. Treaty Between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, U.S. Department of State (4/8/2010)
    2. Obama's Middle-Path on Limiting Nuclear Weapons, The Star (4/7/2010)
    3. Video: Nuclear Security Summit Preview, Fissile Materials Working Group, C-Span (4/6/2010)
    4. Scientists Discover Heavy New Element, James Glanz, The New York Times (4/6/2010)

A.  U.S.-Russia

Obama, Medvedev Sign Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty
Julianna Goldman and Lyubov Pronina
(for personal use only)

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, pledging to cut their countries’ nuclear arsenals by about 30 percent, put their signatures to an arms-reduction treaty that opens a new chapter in relations between the two former Cold War rivals.

Obama and Medvedev sealed the agreement in a ceremony in Prague. While the two sides are still at odds over U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system, Obama and Medvedev pledged to keep talking to resolve those differences and build up a relationship that had soured in recent years.

“Today is an important milestone for nuclear security and non-proliferation, and for U.S.-Russia relations,” Obama said in remarks after the signing in a hall of mirrored walls and gilded chandeliers in Prague Castle. The treaty, he said, “will set the stage” for further cuts in nuclear weapons.

Medvedev called the agreement a “win-win situation” for both countries and an “important step” that will enhance cooperation on other issues.

U.S. officials have said the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which replaces an accord that was signed in 1991 and expired in December, demonstrates the American commitment to reducing the spread of nuclear weapons and will encourage other countries to work toward that goal.

Iran Pressure

The U.S. president is seeking to use the accord in his effort to build international support for tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear development program and to get a global consensus on steps to prevent terrorists from getting atomic material.
It would require each nation to limit deployed strategic warheads to no more than 1,550, from 2,200 allowed now, and no more than 800 deployed and non-deployed land-, air- and sea- based launchers. Not all warheads in the U.S. and Russia arsenals would count toward the limit.

The arms treaty was signed just days after Obama released a document outlining his nuclear policy that shifted U.S. doctrine to focus more on the threat from extremist groups and nations such as Iran and North Korea rather than confrontation with nuclear powers such as Russia. It also leads into a summit on securing nuclear materials that Obama is hosting April 12 and 13 in Washington.

Medvedev is scheduled to attend that meeting, which includes representatives of 45 other nations, and plans a fuller visit to the U.S. in the coming months.

The treaty is subject to ratification by the U.S. Senate and the Russian parliament. Obama said he expects the Senate to approve it this year and Medvedev said there will be “no delay” from Russia.

Missile Defense

Differences remain over the missile defense system the U.S. plans to deploy to guard against an attack by rogue nations, such as Iran.

The U.S.-Russia relationship chilled when former President George W. Bush proposed putting a radar site in the Czech Republic and interceptors in Poland. Russian officials said that posed a threat to their security. Obama last year scrapped that plan for one that initially would be largely based on U.S. ships at sea.

Still, the Russian government issued a statement today reiterating its position that it reserved the right to withdraw from the START Treaty if there was a “qualitative or quantitative” buildup of a U.S. missile defense.

U.S. View

The White House played down any friction. Brian McKeon, deputy national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, wrote on the White House Web site that such statements have been part of arm-reduction treaties dating to the Nixon administration.

The U.S. remains “committed to continuing to develop and deploy” the missile defense system and that is not restricted by the treaty, McKeon, who will be leading the effort to win U.S. Senate ratification of the treaty, wrote.

Obama said he and Medvedev will continue discussions on missile defense that “will allow us to move forward in a constructive way.” He reiterated that the plans are intended to protect the U.S. and its allies from a “rogue missile from any source” and aren’t intended to change the balance of power between the two nations.

Medvedev said Russia wants to work with the U.S. on the issue.

“The wording in the signed agreement satisfied both sides,” he said. “We are not indifferent to what happens with missile defense. This is a flexible process and we are interested in cooperating tightly with our American partners.”

Threat Assessments

The U.S. and Russia will share threat assessments and conduct a joint study of “emerging ballistic missiles,” Obama said.

Obama emphasized the link between the arms control agreement and attempts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and material. The acquisition of such weapons by more states presents an “unacceptable risk to global security,” Obama said.

He singled out Iran, saying the nation is flouting the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and risking an arms race in the Middle East.

“That’s why the United States and Russia are part of a coalition of nations insisting that the Islamic Republic of Iran face consequences, because they have continually failed to meet their obligations,” he said.

Medvedev also addressed Iran and the possibility of further sanctions against the Islamic government.

No ‘Blind Eye’

“Regrettably, Iran is not responding to many constructive proposals that have been made, and we cannot turn a blind eye toward this,” he said. He said he wouldn’t “rule out” the possibility that the United Nations “will have to review this issue once again.”

The treaty replaces the original START agreement, signed July 31, 1991, months before the collapse of the Soviet Union, by then-President George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev.

It took effect on Dec. 5, 1994, under President Bill Clinton, who in the same year proposed a total ban of nuclear testing. Two years later Clinton signed a comprehensive test ban treaty with Russia, the United Kingdom and 90 non-nuclear nations that pledged an end to all nuclear weapons testing.

The Senate in 1999 failed to ratify the test-ban accord. Obama has pledged to pursue ratification and continue prohibiting testing.

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Russia 'Could Opt Out of Nuclear Disarmament Deal'
BBC News
(for personal use only)

Russia's foreign minister has said his country could opt out of a new nuclear disarmament treaty if it feels threatened by US missile defence plans.

But Sergey Lavrov said current, short-term US plans, which could include ground-based interceptor missiles in Romania, seemed acceptable to Russia.

Russia and the US are due to sign a deal to reduce their nuclear stockpiles in Prague on Thursday.

Mr Lavrov said the treaty marked a "new level of trust" between the two states.

The treaty succeeds the 1991 Start treaty on nuclear disarmament, which expired in December.

It restricts both Russia and the US to 1,550 warheads, about 30% less than currently allowed.

The treaty, which was agreed last month, was delayed by Moscow's concerns over US missile shield plans.

US President Barack Obama scrapped a previous plan for a missile shield based in Poland and the Czech Republic that had angered Russia.

'Nuclear free world'

"We have noted that the announced plans proceed from the fact that at the first stages this system will not have strategic characteristics," Mr Lavrov said of current US plans.

But he said Russia would have to "see what will happen next".

"Russia will have the right to abandon the Start treaty if a quantitative and qualitative build-up of the US strategic anti-missile potential begins to significantly affect the efficiency of Russia's strategic forces," he said.

The Russian foreign minister also offered qualified backing for the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons that President Obama set out in a speech in Prague last year.

"We call on every state without exception, but first and foremost those that possess nuclear arsenals, to join Russia and the US in their effort in this area and make their own active contribution to the process of disarmament," he said.

But he added that attention would first need to be paid to space-based weapons and missiles fitted with conventional warheads.

"To move toward a nuclear-free world, it is necessary to resolve the question of non-nuclear-equipped strategic offensive weapons and strategic weapons in general, which are being worked on by the United States, among others," he said.

"World states will hardly accept a situation in which nuclear weapons disappear but weapons that are no less destabilising emerge in the hands of certain members of the international community."

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B.  Iran

Iran Has Produced Several Kilos of 20% Enriched Nuclear Fuel
Tehran Times
(for personal use only)

Iran has produced several kilos of uranium enriched to a purity of 20 percent to power its medical research reactor, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) director announced on Wednesday.

However, Ali Akbar Salehi declined to state how many kilos have been produced.

Speaking to reporters, he said good news on how the country will produce fuel for the research reactor will be announced in the next few months.

He went on to say that Tehran is still ready exchange its low enriched fuel for fuel rods, although Iran itself is capable of producing fuel rods.

Elsewhere in his remarks, he said the 5+1 group (the U.S., Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany) and Iran have each presented a package of proposals and that Iran will hold talks with the 5+1 group based on the common points in these two packages, which include global nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation as well as Iran’s nuclear issue.

Nevertheless, Tehran must wait to see if the 5+1 group will enter talks with Tehran in a fair manner, he noted.

He added that there are two camps in the West dealing with Iran’s nuclear dossier: One group is sensible and is trying to resolve the issue in a dignified way, but the other one -- which is influenced by international Zionism and whose existence is dependent on international turbulence -- is trying to undermine efforts of the sensible camp through its U.S. lobby.

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Bahrain Asserts Iran Nuclear Right, Offers Diplomacy
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Amid calls for tougher UN sanctions against Iran, Bahraini Shura Council Chairman Ali bin Saleh Al Saleh has defended Tehran's right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

"Iran and all countries have the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful aims," the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted Saleh as saying in a meeting with an Iranian parliamentary delegation in Manama.

He played down the policy of threats and warmongering and said negotiations and consultations between countries and an active diplomacy would be the best solution to such issues.

Saleh pointed to threats posed by the West and Israel against Iran's peaceful nuclear program and said, "The region has witnessed many wars and cannot tolerate a new war or adventurism."

"Any war on Iran will doom to failure," he stressed.

Iran says its nuclear program is aimed at the civilian applications of the technology. The West, however, accuses the country of having the intention to develop nuclear weapons.

Based on the allegation, Washington has been pushing to impose a fourth round of United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran.

This is while inspectors of the UN nuclear watchdog, which has conducted the largest amount of inspection in the history of the body on Iran's nuclear program, have not found anything to verify that claim.

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Iran Derides Obama's "Cowboy" Nuclear Stance
Ali Akbar Dareini and George Jahn
Associated Press
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U.S. allies on Wednesday lined up behind President Barack Obama's new policy aimed at reducing the likelihood of nuclear conflict. But Iran — classified as a possible target under the guidelines — dismissed it as a "cowboy" policy by a political newcomer doomed to fail.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in the Slovak capital Bratislava for an official visit, did not address the issue before leaving for Prague to sign a landmark treaty Thursday with Obama aimed at paring U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear weapons by 30 percent. But Washington's supporters in Asia and Europe welcomed Obama's pledge Tuesday to reduce America's nuclear arsenal, refrain from nuclear tests and not use nuclear weapons against countries that do not have them.

North Korea and Iran were not included in that pledge because they do not cooperate with other countries on nonproliferation standards.

The U.S. considers them nuclear rogues — Pyongyang for developing and testing nuclear weapons and Tehran because it is suspected of trying to do the same under the cover of a peaceful program, something Iran denies. Outlining the policy Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the focus would now be on terror groups such as al-Qaida as well as North Korea's nuclear buildup and Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Addressing thousands in the country's northwest, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad derided Obama over the plan.

"American materialist politicians, whenever they are beaten by logic, immediately resort to their weapons like cowboys," Ahmadinejad said in a speech before a crowd of several thousand in northwestern Iran.

"Mr. Obama, you are a newcomer (to politics). Wait until your sweat dries and get some experience. Be careful not to read just any paper put in front of you or repeat any statement recommended," Ahmadinejad said in the speech, aired live on state TV.

Ahmadinejad said Obama "is under the pressure of capitalists and the Zionists" and vowed Iran would not be pushed around.

"(American officials) bigger than you, more bullying than you, couldn't do a damn thing, let alone you," he said, addressing Obama.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — whose country is the only mideast nation considered to have nuclear weapons — dismissed speculation that the Jewish state could come under pressure.

"I'm not concerned that anyone would think that Israel is a terrorist regime," he said. "Everybody knows a terrorist and rogue regime when they see one, and believe me, they see quite a few around Israel."

Washington's key European partners on its efforts to contain Iran's nuclear activities welcomed the Obama initiative.

British Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth said it "delivers strong progress" on pledges first made a year ago, adding Britain "looks forward to working closely with the US and other key allies and partners in the future."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero of France, like Britain a nuclear weapons state that backs global disarmament efforts, said Obama's nuclear posture "is convergent with our views."

Hailing the U.S. policy review as a historic shift in U.S. nuclear strategy, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urged Iran to see it — and Thursday's planned Obama-Medvedev treaty signing — as a sign that the international community is "serious about disarmament."

In Asia, key allies benefiting from being under the U.S. nuclear defense umbrella expressed support, suggesting the Obama statement helped defuse concerns that they would be left vulnerable by a change in Washington's policy.

"This is a first step toward a nuclear-free world," said Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. "Deterrence is important, but so is reducing nuclear arsenals."

Katsuya Okada, Japan's foreign minister, noted that Japan, which is located near North Korea, China and Russia but has decided not to develop nuclear weapons of its own, was concerned about how the policy will affect its security.

"The United States had assured its allies that this position will not endanger them," he said. "This is important."

In South Korea, the foreign and defense ministries issued a joint statement saying the new U.S. stance would strengthen Washington's commitment to its allies and pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons development.

"The government welcomes and supports" Obama's announcement, they said. There was no immediate reaction to Obama's plan from North Korean state media.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key also welcomed the announcement.

"President Obama made good on his pledge a year ago to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security policies and set the world on a path to a nuclear-weapons-free world," he said in a statement. "The review clearly states the long-term objective of U.S. policy is the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, and implements the first of the actions that will be needed to get there."

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai refused to comment on the new U.S. nuclear defense policy, which also calls on China to explain its nuclear intentions more clearly.

"China's nuclear policy and China's strategic intentions are clear. Since the 1960s we have repeated our position on many occasions and our position has never been changed," Cui said, without elaborating. "I believe people with fair and just minds will not question China's position."

Beijing, which is said to have 100 nuclear warheads, has said it would not be the first to attack with nuclear weapons.

Chinese President Hu Jintao is to travel to Washington to take part in an April 12-13 nuclear summit that will focus on securing nuclear material to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. The meeting is expected to bring together about 46 leaders.

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Russia to Deliver S-300 to Iran
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Despite intense pressure from the West, Russia plans to deliver its advanced S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Iran.

"Contracts have been signed, and they are being implemented -- they have not been torn up," head of the Federal Agency for Military Cooperation Mikhail Dmitriyev told Russia's Ria Novosti news agency.

The official, however, fell well short of providing a clear delivery date for the system, which the Islamic republic could use to protect its nuclear facilities from airstrikes.

Iran has accused the United States of trying to scupper the deal for fear that Iran may reverse- engineer the system.

Angered by delays in the delivery, Tehran has threatened to build its own missile defense system if Russia caved into Western demands to resist the missile sale.

Russia signed a contract with Iran on the supply of at least five S-300 air defense systems to Tehran in December 2005. The deal though has yet to be finalized with the West pressuring Moscow to distance itself from Iran in a dispute over its nuclear program.

Russia has since then refused to rule out delivering the S-300 anti-aircraft systems.

Both the United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the nuclear program spat.

Earlier this week a senior cleric in the Revolutionary Guards threatened again that Iran would strike with missiles fired at "the heart of Tel Aviv" if it were attacked by Israel.

The threat was coupled by similar warnings from the country's defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi, who said Iranian intelligence was "preventing Israel from engaging in any type of adventure," according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

The S-300 system, which can shoot down cruise missiles, track targets and fire at aircraft up to 90 miles away, features high jamming immunity. It is able to simultaneously track up to 100 targets.

Mounted on a truck, the S-300MPUM1 can fire missiles traveling at more than 2 kilometers per second, experts say.

Iranian officials have not indicated what type of land-to-air-missile defense system they can manufacturer in replacement of the Russian order.

Iranian officials have said Tehran could seek recourse with an international court and sue Russia should Moscow refuse to fulfill its commitments on the delivery of the S-300 system.

Washington has been urging Russia to support tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, which the West suspects is intended to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran, though, has repeatedly spurned the claim, saying it is for power generation only.

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FADC to Press Russia on Iran
Jerusalem Post
(for personal use only)

A Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee delegation led by chairman Tzahi Hanegbi traveled to Moscow Tuesday in a bid to convince the Russians to back further UN sanctions on Iran.

The delegation - which also includes MKs Amir Peretz, Ze'ev Elkin, Miri Regev and Robert Ilatov - was due to meet Russian lawmakers, nuclear officials and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s top advisers, and present them with Israel’s assessments on Iran’s nuclear activities.

The Israeli-Palestinian track, tensions in southern Israel, and the threats posed by Hizbullah and Syria were also due to be on the agenda.

The two sides were also set to sign an accord for fixed dialogue between the two countries' parliaments - an agreement the Knesset only has at present with the US Congress.

HHanegbi stressed that such an inter-parliamentary dialogue forum between the FADC and Russia's equivalent would significantly bolster the close ties between the two countries.

"This is a most important development, especially considering Russia’s unique weight in the processes of the international community to stop Iran's nuclear program," said Hanegbi in a statement.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans Tuesday to challenge the French president's support for new sanctions against Iran, and to press Paris again on Turkey's stalled membership bid to the European Union.

France has helped lead the push for new sanctions against Teheran over its nuclear activities, and last week French President Nicolas Sarkozy and President Barack Obama said they hoped for a quick new UN resolution approving them.

Erdogan, was due to hold talks Tuesday with Sarkozy in Paris, and in an interview before his visit said he doubted more sanctions against Iran would help persuade the Islamic Republic to assuage Western concerns about its nuclear program.

"I don't think those (sanctions) being discussed could produce results," Erdogan told the French daily Le Figaro.

Turkey as well as Brazil, both rotating members of the UN Security Council, have resisted a new sanctions resolution.

"We don't want nuclear arms in the region," but Iran does have a right to nuclear energy, Erdogan was quoted by Le Figaro as saying.

He urged a diplomatic solution to the international standoff, and noted Iran is Turkey's No. 2 natural gas supplier and a major trade partner.

Last week, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel was visiting Turkey, Erdogan showed little sign of budging on his Iran stance. Merkel also told Erdogan she hadn't changed her mind on opposing Turkey's joining the EU, calling the ongoing membership talks an "open-ended" process.

Erdogan told Le Figaro he would urge Sarkozy this week to back Turkey's bid.

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Iran Says Oil Sanctions Threat "A Joke"
Robin Pomeroy and Hashem Kalantari
(for personal use only)

The idea of international sanctions on Iranian oil exports is a joke, a senior Iranian official said on Tuesday, adding Iran would not abandon its disputed nuclear work despite mounting international pressure.

U.S. President Barack Obama is pushing for new U.N. sanctions in the coming weeks to pressure Iran to stop its sensitive nuclear activities, which Washington and its European allies believe is a cover to develop bombs.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said restricting Iran's oil and gas exports -- an idea not included in the latest proposals agreed by Western powers -- was "illogical" and that all sanctions would fail.

"Countries need oil to guarantee their economic growth ... talking about imposing sanctions on Iran's oil sector is like a joke," Ramin Mehmanparast told a weekly news conference. "Such a move would hurt other (importer) countries.

"Imposing sanctions on Iran is illogical and a politically-motivated measure ... Iran will never abandon its nuclear activities because of sanctions."

The United States already bans imports of Iranian energy, but the world's fifth biggest oil exporter has willing buyers around the world. Crude hit an 18-month high near $87 on Monday, reflecting growing confidence of an economic upturn.

A senior executive at the National Iranian Oil Company said on Monday sanctions that disrupted the supply of crude oil would "lead to the intensification and prolongation of the economic recession (in consumer countries)."

The latest draft proposals agreed by the United States, Britain, France and Germany include restrictions on new Iranian banks established abroad and on insurance of cargo shipments to and from Iran.

Commenting on potential restrictions on Iran's petroleum imports, Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi said the country had the refining capacity to avoid that being a massive blow.

"Iran has the capability to produce fuel in case of emergency," he was quoted as telling Iranian state radio.


In an interview in Tuesday's New York Times, Obama said he wanted a U.N. sanctions resolution "that has bite" to pressure Iranians over a nuclear programme he said "would provide them with nuclear weapons capabilities".

Announcing new limits on the conditions under which the United States could use nuclear weapons, Obama said it would not apply to "outliers like Iran and North Korea".

Iran denies it is trying to make nuclear weapons and says it is developing purely peaceful nuclear technologies. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he is still open to negotiate with foreign powers, but under strict conditions.

Mehmanparast said he hoped Russia would fulfil an Iranian order for a missile defence system which Israel and the United States do not want it to have.

Analysts say the S-300 could help Iran thwart any attempt by Israel or the United States -- which have refused to rule out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the atomic row -- to bomb its nuclear facilities.

Mehmanparast accused Washington of kidnapping an Iranian nuclear scientist who, according to U.S. media, chose to defect.

ABC News reported last week that nuclear physicist Shahram Amiri, who disappeared during a pilgrimage to Mecca in June, had defected to the United States and was helping the CIA.

"America's connection with Amiri proves what we said in the past, that American intelligence services were involved in this kidnapping," Mehmanparast said.

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US Casts Doubt on Iran Interest in Denuclearization
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As Iran prepares to hold an international conference on nuclear disarmament US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley whose country possesses the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons tries to cast doubt on Iran's interest in global denuclearization.

Iran is to hold an international conference on nuclear disarmament on April 17th and 18th.

Apart from officials from more than 60 countries, representatives and authorities from various international and non-governmental entities have been invited to the two-day conference dubbed "Nuclear energy for all, nuclear weapons for none”.

Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali Asghar Soltanieh earlier said that senior officials form the IAEA and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization will also attend the disarmament summit.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Sunday that the conference focused on a complete elimination of nuclear weapons across the world.

"Talks on nuclear disarmament relate to countries that possess them (nuclear weapons) along with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council," he said.

Mottaki said the conference also aims to "show Iran's transparent will and sensitive stance on nuclear weapons" and added that the Islamic Republic has been committed to nuclear disarmament.

Crowley, however, said Iran had better take actions to prove that its nuclear program was peaceful if it was earnest in its call for nuclear disarmament.

"If Iran really has an earnest interest in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, it can start by reassuring the international community about its intentions," Crowley said.

"There are specific actions that Iran needs to take and has failed to take, which have brought us to the point where we need to evaluate potential sanctions," he added.

Crowley, went on to add that Iran "could start by looking in the mirror" if it wanted to strengthen the non-proliferation regime.

The US, the first country in the world to develop nuclear weapons and the only one to have used them against another nation, accuses Iran of working toward a military nuclear program.

Crowley's statement comes as the UN nuclear watchdog, the body responsible for verifying countries' nuclear programs, has to date found no evidence on diversion of Iran's nuclear work toward any military purposes.

This also comes as US President Barrack Obama refused to include Iran in the list of the countries which the US would commit not to use nuclear weapons against them in possible conflicts.

Iran says it has allowed unfettered UN access to its nuclear sites, has cooperated closely with the UN nuclear watchdog, and has enriched uranium only under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)”.

Tehran says the US accusations are politically-motivated and aimed at depriving the country of its inalienable rights.

“The language of 'sanctions' as well as attempts to strip countries of their inalienable rights will eventually prove to be ineffective,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said on Sunday.

“They demand that we prove that our uranium enrichment has not diverted into military purposes, while in fact, this is a fact that has been repeatedly verified in the string of reports issued by the IAEA in the past years,” he said.

“We have come to believe that these countries are well aware of the peaceful course of our nuclear program, but nevertheless continue to pressure us [to secure their own interests].”

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Obama’s Warning to North Korea
The Dong-a Ilbo
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The U.S. government in its Nuclear Posture Report released Tuesday said Washington will not launch a nuclear attack against a country upholding the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. U.S. President Barack Obama told The New York Times Monday that the U.S. will not use nuclear weapons even if attacked with biological and chemical weapons by a non-nuclear state that follows the treaty. This is a clean break with the nuclear policies of the Clinton and Bush administrations. Obama also declared a stop to nuclear testing and the development of nuclear weapons and warheads.

The U.S. president in April last year had pledged to pursue a nuclear-free world in Prague. Today, he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will sign a new treaty on nuclear arms reduction, a follow-up treaty to START I. The two leaders have agreed to reduce the number of long-range nuclear warheads from 2,200 to 1,500 and missiles deployable to land and sea from 1,600 to 800. Obama will also chair a nuclear security summit in Washington Monday and Tuesday to be attended by leaders and officials from 47 countries. These events demonstrate Obama’s strong commitment to reduce all nuclear threats. Hopefully, his initiative will begin international efforts to free the world from nuclear weapons.

Another major point of the new U.S. nuclear doctrine is Obama’s determination not to tolerate countries blocking his goal of achieving a nuclear-free world. Naming North Korea and Iran, Obama said nuclear weapons will be used against outliers who withdraw from the nuclear treaty or violate its provisions. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates also said the Nuclear Posture Report has a strong message for North Korea and Iran.

North Korea must take Obama’s warning seriously. His nuclear doctrine can give Pyongyang the opportunity to abandon nuclear weapons and assure the security of its communist regime. If North Korea returns to the treaty, from which it withdrew in 2003, it will be excluded from the targets of U.S. nuclear attacks. Pyongyang should also remember its promise to give up its nuclear ambition made at the six-party nuclear talks.

The change in U.S. nuclear strategy and the nuclear arms reduction treaty between the U.S. and Russia will also affect the nuclear policies of other nuclear states including the U.K., France and China. Israel, Pakistan and India, three countries believed to have gone nuclear, will also feel pressured. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May will deal with countries that have withdrawn from the treaty. If North Korea continues to defy the times by developing nuclear weapons, it will face only isolation and international sanctions.

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North Korea to Return to Nuclear Talks but Progress Unlikely: Former U.S. Envoy
Kim Young-gyo
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

North Korea is likely to return to the six-party nuclear talks out of its economic need, but that is no guarantee of progress in the negotiations, a former senior U.S. diplomat said Wednesday.

The North Koreans "are looking for ways to get back into the six-party talks to get tangible economic assistance in exchange for promises of nuclear disarmament," John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said here.

"Economic conditions in North Korea have deteriorated, so they need to seek to alleviate the situation through talks to relieve economic pressure," he told Yonhap News after his speech at the Foreign Correspondents Club.

Pyongyang has shunned the multilateral talks since December 2008 and has since conducted its second nuclear test and launched a long-range rocket that the U.S. and its allies say was an intercontinental ballistic missile test.

North Korea insists the U.N. sanctions, imposed as punishment for the nuclear and missile tests, be lifted before it returns to the six-nation talks also involving South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

Bolton, one of the most vociferous critics of engagement with North Korea, said the North's return to the talks is no guarantee of progress.

"The North Koreans are not going to be talked out of any nuclear weapons," he said. "North Korea has made four sets of commitments since 1994, and has never followed through on them."

The U.S. approach should focus on North Korea's regime collapse, he argued. The "North Korea regime is fragile. The U.S. policy should seek the reunification" of the two Koreas, he said.

In his speech to the club, Bolton was harsh on U.S. President Barack Obama, criticizing his "lack of interest" in foreign policy.

Obama "is not fundamentally motivated when he gets up in the morning by concerns about international affairs or American security. He is motivated by a desire to restructure the American health, financial system," he said.

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D.  Nonproliferation

IAEA Officials, 60 States to Attend Nuclear Disarmament Meeting in Iran
Tehran Times
(for personal use only)

Senior officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency will attend the upcoming nuclear disarmament conference in Tehran.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, made the announcement in an interview with ISNA published on Tuesday.

The Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapons for No One conference is scheduled to be held in Tehran from April 17 to 18.

A number of major international figures, nuclear experts, and foreign ministers and international and non-governmental organizations have been invited to participate in the conference.

Representatives of 60 countries to attend conference

Representatives of over 60 countries have accepted Iran’s invitation to the international conference on nuclear disarmament, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said during his weekly press briefing on Tuesday.

Iran has also extended invitations to a number of international organizations, he added.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman said the theme of the conference is in line with Iran’s foreign policy.

“We believe that all countries should make efforts to prevent the use of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction,” he stated.

Mehmanparast described nuclear power as a clean source of energy which the world should invest in.

The world is currently in need of clean sources of energy, and given the finite nature of fossil fuels, the world needs to move toward alternative clean sources of energy, he said.

Talks with 5+1 group will only focus on Iran’s package of proposals

The Foreign Ministry spokesman said any talks with the 5+1 group (five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) would only focus on Iran’s package of proposals and not on the country’s nuclear activities.

“We regard Iran’s nuclear issue as resolved, and dealing with it outside the framework of the IAEA is not right. If Iran decides to hold talks with the 5+1 group, they would be on Iran’s package of proposals not on our nuclear activities,” Mehmanparast noted.

Iran has expressed willingness to return to the negotiating table with the 5+1 group and any gesture of willingness from the other side would be welcomed by Tehran, he added.

Nuclear fuel swap proposal still on the table

On the proposal for a nuclear fuel swap, Mehmanparast said Iran is still ready to make a deal if its conditions are met.

Iran presented the fuel swap proposal to obtain fuel for the Tehran research reactor, and the offer is still on the table, he stated.

“Even though Iran is currently enriching uranium to 20 percent, it is still ready to exchange fuel if the conditions are met,” he said.

Iran may choose new partner for future nuclear projects

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the start-up of the Bushehr nuclear power plant has been postponed several times but that might have been due to technical problems.

“We still do not know for sure whether Russia has been deliberately dragging its feet on the project. There have been a number of procrastinations and some of them have been technical,” he added.

Mehmanparast stated that Iran intends to build more nuclear plants, adding that the Islamic Republic might consider choosing a new country with a good history of punctuality as its partner in the projects.

Moscow agreed to construct the Bushehr nuclear power plant in 1995 and the project was supposed to be completed in July 1999, but the start-up of the reactor has been postponed several times.

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New US Policy Limits Role of Nuclear Arsenal
Dan De Luce
The Sydney Morning Herald
(for personal use only)

The United States unveiled new limits on the nation's nuclear arsenal Tuesday, saying it would only use atomic weapons in "extreme circumstances" and would not attack non-nuclear states.

In a policy shift, the United States said for the first time that countries without atomic weapons that complied with non-proliferation treaty obligations need not fear a US nuclear attack.

But President Barack Obama warned exceptions could be made for "outliers" such as Iran and North Korea, both accused of flouting UN resolutions.

"Indeed, the United States wishes to stress that it would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners," a new policy document said.

The Nuclear Posture Review released Tuesday also described "nuclear terrorism" as an immediate and extreme threat, with efforts to prevent the spread of atomic weapons given top priority.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the threat of nuclear terrorism as "very real" and said networks around the world were trying to obtain access to radiological materials.

Obama's new policy rules out building new nuclear weapons or carrying out tests, but calls for setting aside billions of US dollars to "modernize" existing US weaponry.

The overhaul comes two days before he is due to sign a treaty with Russia to slash stockpiles of long-range nuclear warheads by a third, and less than a week before he hosts world leaders at a nuclear summit.

Obama has committed the United States to a series of nuclear arms cuts in a bid to bolster efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

For next week's summit, Obama called on world leaders to commit to securing all "vulnerable nuclear materials" around the world within the next four years.

The United States has never renounced the "first use" of nuclear weapons, and Obama's policy stops short of calls by arms control activists to explicitly limit their role to deterrence of other nuclear-armed states or terror groups.

The issue over "first use" divided Obama's deputies, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the administration had decided to keep its options open.

"There was agreement within the administration that we didn't think we were far enough along the road toward getting control of nuclear weapons around the world to limit ourselves so explicitly," he told reporters.

Gates said the review sent a firm message to countries such as Iran or North Korea that refuse to abide by UN authority.

"If you're not going to play by the rules, if you're going to be a proliferator, then all options are on the table in terms of how we deal with you," he said.

While limiting the possible use of nuclear weapons, the policy review also warned of a "devastating conventional military response" in the event of a chemical or biological attack on the United States.

The policy review met with criticism in Washington from both left and right, with hawks accusing Obama of undermining US military power and liberals urging bolder action and bigger arms cuts.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called the new policy a "courageous step" towards disarmament, saying it offered hope for further cuts to US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.

Obama promised in a speech in Prague a year ago to work toward a world without nuclear weapons.

In an interview with The New York Times, Obama said that despite ruling out a US nuclear attack in some cases, he retained "all the tools that are necessary in order to make sure that the American people are safe and secure."

He said he wanted to ensure the US approach to nuclear weapons was clear to the rest of the world, including Iran and North Korea.

"And I do think that when you?re looking at outliers like Iran or North Korea, they should see that over the course of the last year and a half, we have been executing a policy that will increasingly isolate them so long as they are orating outside of accepted international norms."

US nuclear forces on land and at sea will stay on full-time alert under the new policy, but Gates said efforts would be made to improve the "command and control system" to give the president more time to make a decision in a nuclear crisis.

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Serbia Going Nuclear Free to Reduce Terrorist Threat
Boris Babic
Monsters and Critics
(for personal use only)

Serbia's plan to be a nuclear-free country by the end of this year sends a big signal that by getting rid of dangerous material, it is making itself and the world safer from a possible nuclear attack at the hands of terrorists.

Serbia was the first country to respond to a 2002 agreement forged by the United States and Russia aimed at placing nuclear fuel under tighter control to avoid any security hazards, the official in charge of the task in Serbia said.

The US-Russian drive was prompted by September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

'Then we had a brand new democratic, pro-Western government which wanted to demonstrate the will to cooperate in the post- Milosevic era,' the director of the Nuclear Facilities of Serbia (NOS), Radojica Pesic, said.

Pesic described to the German Press Agency dpa the country's efforts just ahead of a nuclear summit Monday and Tuesday in Washington designed to enhance the security of nuclear-related stockpiles around the world.

The Serbian government plans to have all nuclear material disposed of or sent back to Russia by the end of 2010 as part of the 49-million dollar project backed by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The Serbian effort will also save the government the costs associated with enacting tougher security measures to keep facilities safe from possible breaches.

Less than a year after the September 11 attacks, Serbia had already sent all its unspent and most dangerous, weapons-grade enriched fuel back to Russia.

The top-security operation was carried out in total secrecy, even during a total blockade of Belgrade during the transport of the fuel from the Nuclear Institute Vinca, 10 kilometres outside the capital.

'Serbia was the first of the many points across the globe to start repatriating the fuel it received for its reactors from the Soviet Union,' Pesic said.

Serbia signed a foreign-trade agreement with Russia to transfer the spent nuclear fuel in 2010 at the September IAEA regular conference in Vienna.

The Vinca institute, once Yugoslavia's centre for military and civilian nuclear research, operated two reactors, a large one with a 6.5 megawatt capacity, and a small, zero-power facility used in laboratories.

While Yugoslavia had plans to work on nuclear technology for military purposes, the programme dwindled in the late 1970s and led to the shutting down of the big reactor in 1982, amid an endless discussion on whether it should be upgraded.

Serbia had no such plans - it formally decommissioned the big reactor in 2004. With the unspent fuel already back in Russia, Serbia is now on track to also clean and ship out the storage of nuclear waste.

'It is obviously an operation with a major security aspect and involves security organizations, so I cannot reveal the details, but I can say it is on schedule and will be completed during the course of the year, as we agreed with Russia,' Pesic said.

He explained that the repackaging of waste from containers stored in a protective pool of water was ongoing under the direction of Russian experts.

All activities within the fuel repatriation programme are under the auspices of the IAEA - the United Nations nuclear monitoring body.

'It is all carried out under the IAEA umbrella, with the participation of the US and Russia,' Pesic said.

The project is financed from a fund set up by the IAEA, to which Serbia contributed 25 million dollars, the US 7 million, Russia 3 million, IAEA 2.9 million and the Czech Republic 1 million. A US non- governmental organization called Nuclear Threat Initiative provided 100,000 dollars.

While the large reactor has been shut down, the small one has continued to operate for research by a small number of Serbian nuclear scientists.

With plans for military nuclear technology long-since abandoned, Serbia is currently legally bound against even considering atomic power for energy, as it inherited a Yugoslav-era moratorium on developing it.

'Even if we had the several hundreds of millions of dollars to begin considering a nuclear power plant, we would still have to reach a strategic decision on whether to build it alone, or in a regional project,' Pesic said

Nuclear technology at that level is a matter of '10, 15 or 20 years in Serbia,' he said.

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U.S. Plans Help German Nuclear Arms Removal: Minister
(for personal use only)

Washington's plans to reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons will bolster efforts to remove the last remaining U.S. nuclear arms in Germany, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Wednesday.

Westerwelle said Tuesday's announcement by President Barack Obama that the U.S. aimed to renounce development of new atomic weapons was a "historic" step that brought the vision of a Germany free of nuclear arms closer to reality.

"The German government wants the last tactical nuclear weapons removed from Germany," he said in a statement in Berlin. "This provides a tailwind to the government's aims."

Westerwelle, a member of the Free Democrats (FDP) who rule in a coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, has made disarmament his signature issue.

He announced the day after last year's federal election that he wanted talks on removing the last U.S. nuclear warheads from Germany, calling them "relics of the Cold War." According to unofficial estimates, the United States still has around 20 nuclear weapons stationed at a base in the western German town of Buechel.

Westerwelle said removal of the weapons should involve the "closest cooperation" with Germany's allies and promised to address the matter at an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Tallin on April 22-23.

He said Obama's plans also sent out a signal that Iran should desist from any moves to acquire nuclear arms.

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E.  Nuclear Security Summit

Crackdown Sought on Nuclear Material
David Crawford and Peter Spiegel
The Wall Street Journal
(for personal use only)

A proposed communiqué calls for leaders from more than 40 countries to endorse a global crackdown on the illicit trade of nuclear material at a summit in Washington next week.

The communiqué, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, calls for tougher criminal prosecution of traffickers, better accounting for weapons-grade nuclear materials and more international collaboration in such cases. The international community must "effectively prevent and respond to incidents of illicit nuclear trafficking," the draft says.

The U.S.-led initiative comes as Washington has been pushing for tougher sanctions against Iran in connection with Tehran's nuclear program. Though Iran isn't officially on the agenda of next week's meeting, officials said Tehran's suspected nuclear-weapons program and the international effort to contain it have lent the meeting an additional sense of urgency.

An Iranian firm closely linked to Tehran's nuclear program has allegedly acquired special hardware for enriching uranium, a key step toward making an atomic bomb, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, despite sanctions intended to keep such equipment out of Iran.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, the Obama administration unveiled a nuclear-weapons strategy that establishes new formal limits on their use, prompting criticism from both advocates of more ambitious curbs and conservatives who questioned the decision to alter decades of bipartisan consensus on how to deter enemy attacks.

President Barack Obama and his top military and diplomatic aides said the new 72-page Nuclear Posture Review moves the U.S. closer to Mr. Obama's goal of eventually eliminating nuclear weaponry. But some arms-control specialists said the document was too timid, and fell short of their expectations by failing to adopt a no-first-use policy and to keep open the option of striking some non-nuclear targets, such as Iran and North Korea.

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, who has emerged as the leading Republican critic of Mr. Obama's nuclear policies, said he was troubled by the decision to take several non-nuclear threats off the U.S.'s target list, an early salvo in what could become a partisan battle over Mr. Obama's nuclear agenda in the coming months.

The new policy narrows the range of threats the Pentagon will seek to deter with nuclear weapons. Because of advances in missile defense and conventional weapons, the new policy states that the U.S. no longer will target most non-nuclear states, even those that threaten use of chemical and biological weapons.

The document stops short of declaring that deterring a nuclear attack is the "sole purpose" of the U.S. arsenal, however. The policy states that because there are some countries that have not lived up to their obligations under international nuclear treaties, the U.S. reserved the right to keep noncomplying countries targeted.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the carve-out was specifically aimed at Iran and North Korea, which are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but have been cited for violations or, in the case of North Korea, have threatened to withdraw from the pact.

Next week's summit would hardly be the first international initiative aimed at curbing the illegal nuclear trade. Officials involved in the talks say the U.S.'s primary goal for the summit is to refocus global attention on proliferation amid concern that previous efforts to curtail the spread of atomic technology and material have fallen short.

A big concern is the threat posed by terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda, which the U.S. and other countries worry could acquire nuclear materials for a bomb.

Several terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, have attempted to acquire weapons of mass destruction or to build conventional bombs that would blast out nuclear waste as shrapnel, according to Western intelligence officials.

Officials from the U.S. and other Western countries also cite developments in Iran, which they say has managed to secretly advance its nuclear weapons program, as evidence for the need for stricter enforcement. Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna said Tuesday that the U.S. is concerned about preventing Iran from obtaining key nuclear parts.

"The prevention of nuclear trafficking is a key part of the U.S. non-proliferation strategy," she said.

Leaders from more than 40 nations, including China and India, are expected to take part in next week's summit. Mr. Obama first announced plans for a nuclear security summit last year.

In addition to the calls for tougher controls on the nuclear black market, leaders are expected to agree on a proposal urging countries to convert nuclear reactors powered by highly enriched fuel, which can be more easily repurposed for use in nuclear weapons than low-enriched uranium, into reactors using low-enriched fuel.

The proposed communiqué also reaffirms the "essential" role of the IAEA in policing compliance with existing international nuclear treaties and calls on states to cooperate in developing databases of incidents of suspected illicit trafficking.

In addition to the communiqué, leaders at the summit are expected to endorse a "work plan" that outlines more detailed actions that countries can take to reduce nuclear trafficking.

A follow-up conference is planned for 2012, according to the draft.

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IAEA Says Nuclear Summit 'Recognition' More Security Needed
(for personal use only)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) praised on Wednesday next week's nuclear terrorism summit in Washington as a "recognition" that nuclear security needed more attention.

"I would look at this summit... as a recognition that the security field has to be given more attention," the IAEA's director of nuclear security Anita Nilsson told journalists.

"As long as there is material for (attacks) and as long as there is an interest by different groups of using the material, there is a risk and a threat."

Whether in nuclear research facilities, power plants or medical centres, nuclear security measures had to be implemented to prevent material falling into the wrong hands, she insisted.

"I think this summit will help tremendously in that regard," added Nilsson, who will attend the Washington summit as an observer, alongside IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano.

"There is also a catch-up to do when it comes to these measures because all the recognition wasn't there some 10 years ago," she added.

The 151-member International Atomic Energy Agency provides assistance to member states on nuclear security issues, such as training, technical measures and security assessment.

It has also contributed to security arrangements for major public events, including the Athens and Beijing Olympics and the upcoming South Africa World Cup, Nilsson noted.

"We of course hope that the agency will be recognised and that the mechanisms that can be offered by the agency for improving nuclear security will be fully utilised."

"We are ready to take on more responsibility," she added.

The nuclear security summit is being held in Washington on April 12-13 to discuss the prevention of acts of nuclear terrorism and steps that can be taken to secure vulnerable nuclear materials.

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Nuclear Security Summit Aims to Enhance Global Protection of Nuclear Materials
Megan McCourt
Kansas City Info Zine
(for personal use only)

One of President Barack Obama's goals is to create a world free of nuclear weapons. This seemingly impossible goal may come closer to reality next week when Obama hosts 45 world leaders at the global Nuclear Security Summit.

Heads of state from Russia, China, Israel and Pakistan will discuss plans to secure nuclear materials, prevent their theft and stop attempts at nuclear terrorism on April 12 and 13.

At a press conference Tuesday, members of the Fissile Materials Working Group explained the goals and possible outcomes of the summit. The group is composed of 26 organizations that collaborate and provide recommendations on nuclear material control priorities to government officials.

The threat of nuclear terrorism is a very real possibility, said Matthew Bunn, a member of the FMWG steering committee and associate professor of public policy at Harvard University. Terrorist groups such as al-Qaida are constantly working to acquire nuclear materials, but there's no proof they have any, he said. If lax security allowed any terrorist organization to get nuclear material, it would create international concern.

"It's a global problem not limited to any one country," Bunn said. "All countries, including the United States, have work to do."

The two types of nuclear materials used in nuclear weapons are highly enriched uranium and plutonium. Nearly 40 countries have stockpiles of these materials, the largest being in Russia and the United States.

Establishing a consensus of the threat posed by nuclear materials is the No. 1 goal of the summit, said Kenneth Luongo, co-chair of FMWG and president of the Partnership for Global Security.

Another main objective of the summit is to get all countries to sign onto the major agreements for creating worldwide nuclear safety, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, which prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Eleven of the countries attending the summit have signed the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, and 34 have signed the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

"I think the president would like to come out the other end with all the participating countries signed up to the key existing mechanisms," Luongo said.

One more treaty will be added Thursday when President Barack Obama joins Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague to sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as START. The treaty will last 10 years and cut about one-third of the nuclear weapons the two countries deploy.

"With this agreement, the United States and Russia - the two largest nuclear powers in the world - also send a clear signal that we intend to lead," Obama said at a press conference March 26. "By upholding our own commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we strengthen our global efforts to stop the spread of these weapons, and to ensure that other nations meet their own responsibilities."

The responsibility of other nations to keep their nuclear materials secure is another major goal of the summit. Forming international security standards would be a desirable outcome of the summit, Luongo said. One goal will be to help countries develop specific plans for nuclear security.

"We need to move toward more stringent global standards," Luongo said. "We need a baseline everywhere."

At the end of the summit, a communiqué explaining what the countries have agreed to will be released.

Luongo listed several topics that are probably not going to be discussed at the summit. He predicted there would be no mention of specific problem countries or areas, no new initiatives, no new funding and no discussion of the threat of radiological terrorism, also known as dirty bombs.

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Two Contrasting Views Could Present Obstacles to Upcoming Global Nuclear Security Summit
Matthew Rusling
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

The United States' ultimate fear might be the sight of a mushroom cloud floating over the city of New York.

That seemed the stuff of science fiction films until the attacks of 9/11 proved the United States was vulnerable to a terrorist attack. But 9/11 would look like a mere practice run compared to the tsunami of destruction that a nuclear-armed terror group could unleash.

That is a big reason why U.S. President Barack Obama is hosting the Global Nuclear Security Summit on April 12th and 13th in Washington, D.C. Obama has on numerous occasions said he views nuclear terrorism as the most deadly threat to global security and wants to help develop a plan of action to secure vulnerable nuclear materials within four years.

And while most experts agree the odds of a terror group mounting a successful nuclear attack on the United States is low, the devastation would be so great that Obama is taking that possibility very seriously.

The summit's purpose is to figure out how to start securing vulnerable nuclear material worldwide, prevent nuclear smuggling, foil attempts at nuclear terrorism and to demonstrate commitment to the issue, and more than 40 heads of state will descend on the U.S. capital to discuss what each is willing to do.

But some nations place a higher priority on the issue than others, and that could present a hurdle.

Indeed, when it comes to nuclear security, there are roughly two camps -- the "nuclear threatened," or those nations who see nuclear terrorism as a major national security risk, and the " nuclear non-threatened," or those who do not.

The "nuclear threatened" tend to be developed nations targeted by groups such as al-Qaida, especially the United States. The " nuclear non-threatened" tend to be developing countries, although there are a number of exceptions, such as India, which has been the target of terror attacks.

"There is a significant perception gap between in particular the United States and the developing world on how serious the threat of nuclear terrorism is," said Kenneth Luongo, president of the Partnership for Global Security, a non profit promoting efforts to secure weapons of mass destruction.

"The reason is that 9/11 is seared into the American psyche and we are obviously not as well protected as we could be and we are target number one," he said.

While no one is against keeping nuclear materials out of terrorists' hands, many developing countries must contend with what they view as more pressing problems, such as food, clean water, jobs and economic development, he said.

And securing nuclear materials is no easy task for the roughly 50 nations worldwide that have them, as such operations include tightening border security at myriad ports and border crossings to make sure no bomb making materials get in or out. Unprotected border areas are also a concern.

Civilian nuclear facilities containing the type of highly enriched uranium used to construct a nuclear weapon would also have to be secured -- many are located on university campuses -- as many are not as well guarded as they should be, experts said.

Worldwide, there are enough available nuclear materials to build 120,000 nuclear bombs, and al-Qaida continues to pursue weapons of mass destruction, according to the Fissile Materials Working Group, an organization collaborating in a series of meetings designed to create consensus on controlling fissile materials.

Still, costs could inhibit practical action in some developing countries, said James Acton, associate in the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank.

Some countries are also "allergic" to policy prescriptions originating in the United States. And while Obama is working to remedy those sensitivities, the balancing act will be difficult, Luongo wrote in a recent article.

But in spite of these obstacles, the summit will be a valuable forum in which to hear every nation's priorities, said Olga Oliker, senior international policy analyst at the Rand Corporation think tank.

Luongo said the summit will likely focus on re-emphasizing mechanisms already in place, such as conventions that many countries have not yet singed onto. That includes the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism -- an agreement of more than 70 nations intended to prevent terrorists from obtaining a nuclear device by safeguarding nuclear materials. Another is the International Atomic Energy Agency's Additional Protocol, an agreement to strengthen safeguards.

More generally, the gathering will seek agreement that a threat exists and what it entails, ask participants to comply with existing mechanisms and to bring their own ideas to the table, he said.

Oliker said the summit should be seen as one in a series of events intended to make headway on the issue.

"I would not expect a giant leap forward from the summit but we might expect some movement toward a better understanding of each others' goals," she said.

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Washington Summit to Discuss Nuclear Terrorism
Andre de Nesnera
Voice of America
(for personal use only)

A unique two-day summit expected to bring together more than 40 heads of state and government will open in Washington April 12. As VOA reports, the unprecedented meeting will focus on one issue: how to safeguard nuclear materials from terrorists.

How to secure nuclear stockpiles against terrorists will be the focus of the Global Security Summit.

President Barack Obama launched the idea of a summit last year. He outlined his vision during a speech in Prague.

"I am announcing a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years," he said. "We will set new standards, expand our cooperation with Russia, and pursue new partnerships to lock down these sensitive materials."

In his speech, President Obama said nuclear terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal nuclear weapons.

The conference will discuss groups like al-Qaida and how to prevent them from obtaining nuclear materials for bombs.

Alexandra Toma is a nuclear security expert with the group Connect U.S. Fund. She says the danger is real. "It's the number one threat to American security today - to American and global security, frankly. We've seen two bi-partisan commissions come out just this January saying al-Qaida has been trying to get nuclear weapons since the 1900s and they are actively continuing to do so," Toma said.

The conference is expected to look at improving security for nuclear materials worldwide and increasing international cooperation.

But experts say no-one knows how large the world stockpile of nuclear material is because not every country reports what it's producing.

"During the Cold War in particular, the U.S. and Russia produced for military purposes," Ken Luongo said. He heads the research organization Partnership for Global Security. "They didn't report to each other or to any international authority how much. The Pakistanis and the Indians are now very secretive about how much material they produce. We don't know how much the Israelis have produced etc. etc. So we don't have an accurate gauge."

Luongo says not every country believes terrorists want to obtain nuclear materials to build a bomb. "A lot of countries are not buying the fact that nuclear terrorism is a high priority. It baffles me, but it's real. And there's a big divide between the view of the United States and some of its key allies and the rest of the world, in particular in the developing world," he added.

Analysts say a key goal is to get participants to agree that the threat exists.

But Alexandra Toma wants more concrete results from the gathering. "What we expect to see come out of the summit is a communiqué with an action plan, a specific timeline with very particular benchmarks that are measurable on how to secure and lockdown these vulnerable nuclear materials," she stated.

Recently, President Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitri Medvedev agreed on a new treaty slashing long-range nuclear weapons. Experts believe that action could have a positive effect on the outcome of the meeting on nuclear terrorism.

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F.  Nuclear Energy

Bulgaria Halts Nuclear Plant Construction
(for personal use only)

The government of Bulgaria halted more than 20 years of work on a $5.3 billion nuclear power plant in Belene because of funding shortages.

The facility on the Danube River, 150 miles northeast of Sofia, would be the country's second nuclear plant with two 1,000 megawatt Russian reactors, the EUobserver reported Wednesday.

Construction was halted in the 1990s because of environmental protests but resumed in 2004.

However, Prime Minister Boiko Borisov's center-right government announced because of economic conditions and an unacceptable loan offer from Russia, work would be stopped.

Russia had offered about $2.5 billion in bridge financing for "an unspecified share" in the plant built by Russia's Atomstroyexport, France's Areva and Germany's Siemens, but Borisov said the deal was unacceptable and other investors were being sought, the report said.

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IAEA Inspects Syria Reactor in Uranium Traces Probe
ABC News
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U.N. inspectors have been able to revisit a Damascus nuclear research reactor as part of a probe into possible covert atomic activity in Syria, diplomats said on Tuesday.

But Syria continues to deny inspectors follow-up access to a desert site where Israel bombed a building in 2007 which U.S. intelligence reports said was a nascent, North Korean-designed nuclear reactor geared to yield atomic bomb fuel.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency has been checking whether there could be a link between the Damascus reactor and the bombed Dair Alzour site after discovering unexplained particles of processed uranium at both.

Syria turned down a planned IAEA inspection of the Damascus reactor in February, saying it was too busy with preparations for an IAEA Board of Governors meeting. But inspectors have now been allowed to examine the site.

"They visited Damascus only," a diplomat close to the IAEA said. The nuclear watchdog's next report on Syria is due toward the end of May.

Syria, an ally of Iran which is under investigation over nuclear proliferation suspicions, has denied ever having an atom bomb programme.

But in his February report on Syria, new IAEA chief Yukiya Amano gave independent support to Western suspicions for the first time by saying the uranium traces found in a 2008 visit by inspectors pointed to nuclear-related activity on the ground.

Syria's envoy to the IAEA has suggested Israel dropped uranium particles on to its soil to make it look as if a covert nuclear weapons plant was being built, an explanation which has been treated with skepticism by Western diplomats.

The IAEA wants to re-examine the desert site so it can take samples from rubble removed immediately after the air strike.

The agency has also been seeking access to three other Syrian sites under military control whose look was altered by landscaping after inspectors asked for access.

Israel is widely believed to be the only Middle East state to possess nuclear weapons, although it maintains public ambiguity about its capability.

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