Flashing a victory sign, an Iranian nuclear scientist who claims he was abducted and abused by U.S. agents a year ago returned Thursday to his homeland and into the heart of the latest crossfire between Washington and Tehran.
The conflicting accounts about Shahram Amiri — captive or defector who got cold feet — are unlikely to alter the Western-led pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.
But Iran's leaders are expected to use Amiri to ring up as many propaganda points as possible against Washington — showing that relations remain in a deep freeze and hopes of breakthrough talks appear as distant as ever.
It also gives the ruling clerics a welcome distraction at a time when domestic protests are growing over Iran's stumbling economy and worries about the fallout from international sanctions.
Amiri's return "shows the strength of the Islamic republic," boasted lawmaker Amir Taherkhani. Another prominent parliament member, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, called the alleged kidnapping a "terrorist act."
But the Washington Post reported that the CIA paid Amiri $5 million to provide intelligence on Iran's nuclear program. The Post in its online edition late Wednesday said the money came from a secret program aimed at inducing scientists and others with information on Iran's nuclear program to defect.
U.S. officials also told the Post that Amiri should be unable to get to that money now that he's returned to Iran, which is under financial sanctions.
It remains unclear how Iranian authorities will ultimately deal with Amiri — and the U.S. claims he cooperated with American authorities — despite his hero-style welcome.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called Amiri a "dear compatriot" and said Iran was keenly interested in learning more about the reasons for his alleged abduction.
Journalists were allowed to cover Amiri's first steps back in Iran in a rare relaxation of media restrictions. The last such press gathering permitted at Tehran's international airport was linked to another tussle with Washington: the May visit by the mothers of three jailed Americans arrested last year on the Iran-Iraq border.
Amiri's pre-dawn arrival capped a stunning tumble of events over the past month that included leaked videos with mixed messages, Amiri surfacing at a diplomatic compound in Washington and the White House finally acknowledging his presence in the country.
The U.S. says he was a willing defector who changed his mind and decided to board a plane home from Washington. Amiri has told a very different tale, claiming he was snatched while on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and bundled off to the United States to be harshly interrogated and offered millions of dollars by the CIA to speak against Iran.
Amiri was embraced by his family — including his tearful 7-year-old son — and greeted by a top envoy from Iran's Foreign Ministry. The 32-year-old Amiri smiled and gave the V-for-victory sign.
Speaking to journalists after a flight via Qatar, Amiri repeated his earlier claims that he was snatched while in the Saudi holy city of Medina and carried off to the United States.
The first months were full of intense pressures, he alleged. "I was under the harshest mental and physical torture," he said at the Tehran airport, with his young son sitting on his lap.
He also alleged that Israeli agents were present during the interrogations and that CIA officers offered him $50 million to remain in America. He gave no further details to back up the claims or shed any new light on his time in the United States, but promised to reveal more later.
"I have some documents proving that I've not been free in the United States and have always been under the control of armed agents of U.S. intelligence services," Amiri told reporters.
Previously he claimed that CIA agents "pressured me to help with their propaganda against Iran," he said, including offering him up to $10 million to talk to U.S. media and claim to have documents on a laptop against Iran. He said he refused to take the money.
Amiri refused to say how — if under guard — he could have escaped U.S. agents to release videos in which he alleges that he had been snatched by American and Saudi kidnap teams while on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. He said that to disclose such information now could harm national security, and said he would explain everything later.
On Thursday, Amiri sought to play down his role in Iran's nuclear program — which Washington and allies fear could be used to create atomic weapons. Iran says it only seeks energy-producing reactors.
"I am a simple researcher who was working in the university," he said. "I'm not involved in any confidential jobs. I had no classified information."
His case was often raised by Iranian officials in the past year, but Washington offered no public response. It took a higher profile after Iranian authorities decided to pursue charges against the three Americans arrested along the border with Iraq in July 2009.
Iran's deputy foreign minister, Hassan Qashqavi, said there would be "no link" between Amiri's return and the case of the three Americans, whose families say they were hiking in northern Iraq and that if they crossed the border, they did so inadvertently.
U.S. officials also have repeatedly asked Iran for information about Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007.
Amiri was generally a footnote in the international showdown over Iran's nuclear ambitions until last month. Iranian state TV aired a video he purportedly made from an Internet cafe in Tucson, Arizona, to claim he was taken captive by U.S. and Saudi "terror and kidnap teams."
The video was shortly followed by another, professionally produced clip in which he said he was happily studying for a doctorate in the United States. In a third, shaky piece of video, Amiri claimed to have escaped from U.S. agents in Virginia and insisted the second video was "a complete lie" that the Americans put out.
U.S. officials never acknowledged he was on American soil until Tuesday, hours after he turned up at the Iranian interests section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington asking to be sent home. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Amiri had been in the United States "of his own free will and he is free to go."
On Thursday in Tehran, he asked American authorities to explain their secrecy.
"Why didn't they allow me to have an open interview with the media in the United States?" he said. "Why didn't they ever announce my presence?"
U.S. officials would say little about the circumstances of what they assert was a willing defection by Amiri and what went wrong. But there were suggestions that threats to his family in Iran pushed Amiri to first make the claims he was kidnapped.
Amiri, however, claimed his family faced no problems.
"My family was completely free and they were under financial support of the Iranian government," he said.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iZal31yYlzKA5bukqiASakTuX19QD9GVJETG0
In an apparent change of rhetoric on Iran, the Russian president demands explanations from Tehran about the "military components" of its nuclear program.
"I would like to say that Iran is our rather active trading partner and has been tested by time, but that does not mean we are indifferent to the way Iran is developing its nuclear program and we are not indifferent to how the military components of the corresponding program look," Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday.
"In this respect, we are waiting for the appropriate explanations from Iran," he said at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.
The remarks follow Medvedev's guarded statement on Monday in which he claimed Iran was "nearing the possession of the potential which in principle could be used for the creation of a nuclear weapon."
Iran dismissed the remarks as "false," saying it would not abandon its right to peaceful nuclear technology as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
In June, Russia supported a US-proposed UN resolution for imposing tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
Medvedev further said, "Iran should find the courage to start full cooperation with the international community, even if it does not like some of the questions that are posed."
Iran's nuclear program has been under close inspection of the IAEA, which has, in its reports, verified the non-diversion of nuclear material in the country.
The new UN sanctions came less than a month after Iran agreed with the West's demand to swap its low-enriched uranium on Turkish soil with nuclear fuel.
Despite the change in rhetoric, Russia continues to pursue economic cooperation with Iran. Tehran and Moscow on Wednesday signed a road map aimed at outlining future energy cooperation between the two longtime trade partners.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=134893§ionid=351020104
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has ruled out the idea of Turkey and Brazil joining the major powers' talks on the Iranian nuclear program.
"There have been no discussions on the issue," RIA Novosti quoted Lavrov as saying on Wednesday.
After the Tehran declaration was signed, Iran called for the participation of Turkey and Brazil in the P5+1 group's talks on the Iranian nuclear program.
The P5+1 group members are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the United States, Britain, Russia, France, and China — and Germany.
The foreign ministers of Iran, Turkey, and Brazil signed a declaration in Tehran on May 17, according to which the Islamic Republic would ship 1200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey to be exchanged for 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched nuclear fuel rods to power the Tehran research reactor, which produces radioisotopes for cancer treatment.
"The UN Security Council has recognized the Iran Six as an informal leader to consider the settlement of all aspects relating to the Iranian nuclear program. But at the same time it is clear that a number of other countries are interested in helping settle this rather old issue peacefully. Brazil and Turkey are among them," Lavrov said.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=134813§ionid=351020104
4. US Urges 'Constructive' Iran Dealings on Nuclear Issue
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Iran should be dealing "constructively" with the UN nuclear watchdog and leading world powers regarding its controversial nuclear program, a State Department spokesman said Wednesday.
"At this stage, the primary focus should be on Iran engaging constructively the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and the P5+1," Philip Crowley said when asked about Turkey's mediating efforts in the matter.
The P5+1 refers to the six major powers negotiating with Iran: the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.
Crowley said that was the message US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conveyed to her Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in a telephone conversation earlier this week.
The spokesman said he believed the two top diplomats had "a mutual understanding" on who Iran should engage at this point, but stressed that Ankara and Tehran, as neighbors, were "within their rights" to continue their diplomatic contacts.
Davutoglu on Tuesday said nuclear talks with Iran could not take place without Turkey, when a reporter asked if it was true Clinton had told him to keep out of the issue.
Turkey, Brazil and Iran in May signed an nuclear fuel swap deal that was largely ignored by the international community and did not stop the UN Security Council from slapping new sanctions on Tehran on June 9.
European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said conditions were right for a resumption of nuclear talks with Iran later this year, in a letter addressed to Iran's chief nuclear negotiator that was published Wednesday.
A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Ashton's exchange with the Iranian official, "at this point of time, that's the kind of conversation the international community should be having with Iran."
Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Wednesday in Lisbon that nuclear talks could resume "in the month of September," but that Tehran also believed the 5+1 group should expand.
"There have to be changes in the structure of the 5+1 group. New countries must join this group," Mottaki said without naming the countries he had in mind.
The last high-level talks between Iran and the P5+1 were held in Geneva in October 2009 when the two sides agreed a nuclear fuel swap that has since stalled.
Western powers have demanded that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program, fearing that Tehran would use the material to build a nuclear bomb. Tehran insists that its atomic program is a peaceful drive to produce energy.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iTraLbos3ZUt2AWqzbAKLrc0Fdgw
South Korea and the United States have changed the venue for their joint naval exercise against North Korean provocation from the West Sea to the East Sea, apparently so as not to provoke a reaction from China, a senior government official said Thursday.
The drill will involve the nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier the USS George Washington, the official at the Ministry of National Defense said on condition of anonymity. .
However, he said, an independent naval exercise by the South Korean Navy will be held in the West Sea in a show of force against the North, which has been accused of torpedoing a South Korean warship in the disputed western waters in March.
Detailed plans on the joint and independent maritime maneuvers around the Korean Peninsula will be set during the "2+2" meeting of foreign and defense ministers from the two countries in Seoul next Wednesday, the official said.
"Some say China didn't help much in adopting the U.N. Security Council's (UNSC) presidential statement condemning the attack on the Cheonan," he told The Korea Times.
"But that's not the case. If you compare the latest statement to a previous one adopted in 2006 after the North's first nuclear test, the tone is much stronger, enough to give a warning signal to the North."
"We'll need more Chinese help in resolving inter-Korean issues in the future. So we don't need to risk relations with China," he said.
The UNSC statement condemned the attack but stopped short of directly blaming North Korea, though a Seoul-led multinational investigation team concluded in May that the communist state was responsible for the ship sinking that claimed the lives of 46 sailors.
Seoul and Washington hinted that they would hold a large-scale naval drill involving a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the West Sea to protest North Korea's attack on the Cheonan.
China has publicly opposed the drill because the location of the planned exercise is close to its eastern territorial waters.
Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon spokesman, snubbed China's protest, saying the United States would go ahead with the plan.
"This is a matter of our ability to exercise in the open seas, in international waters," he said. "Those determinations are made by us, and us alone."
Available at: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/07/205_69448.html
2. N.Korea to Hold Talks With UN Command on Sinking
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North Korea's military is scheduled to hold talks Thursday with the US-led United Nations Command, the first since the sinking of a South Korean warship sent regional tensions soaring.
South Korea, the United States and other nations accuse the communist state of firing a torpedo which broke the corvette in two in March with the loss of 46 lives. The North vehemently denies the allegations.
The meeting was originally set for Tuesday but the North sought a postponement for "administrative reasons".
The talks will now be held at 10:00 am (0100 GMT) Thursday at the border village of Panmunjom, according to a statement Wednesday from the UN Command which monitors the Korean War armistice.
The talks between colonels are intended to make arrangements for a later meeting at general-level.
The North previously refused to hold discussions with the US-led command over the sinking, calling for talks only with South Korea, but it shifted its stance last Friday.
Hours after that development, the UN Security Council issued a statement which condemned the attack but did not apportion blame -- a result hailed by the North as a "great diplomatic victory".
The statement was watered down under pressure from Pyongyang's ally China.
The North's ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said the UN move marked the failure of a "despicable conspiratorial diplomacy" by the US, South Korea and Japan to push the situation to the brink of war.
"The hectic diplomacy of those despicable tricksters to do harm to the (North) ended in failure, bringing only shame and disgrace, in the final analysis," it said.
Despite denials of involvement in the sinking, the North is apparently using the incident in its propaganda, Radio Free Asia reported.
The US-funded station on its website depicted a poster which it said it obtained from a Chinese trader recently returned from a trip to the North.
The poster shows a warship being smashed in two by a red fist along with the slogan, "If you come at us, (we will smash you) with a single blow!"
In the wake of the UN statement, the North reiterated conditional willingness to return to stalled six-party nuclear disarmament negotiations.
But it also threatened "strong physical retaliation" if South Korea and the United States persist in "demonstration of forces and sanctions".
As a show of strength, the US and South Korea plan to hold a joint naval exercise in the Yellow Sea "in the near future," according to the Pentagon, despite strong protests from China about any war games close to its waters.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet their counterparts in Seoul next week to "discuss and likely approve" the joint exercises, the Pentagon said.
The exercises would include new naval and air exercises in both the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea, and spokesman Geoff Morrell they "will involve a wide range of assets and are expected to be initiated in the near future."
The exercises, he said, would be defensive in nature but "will send a clear message of deterrence to North Korea."
Some analysts believe the North's navy sank the corvette in revenge for damage it suffered in a firefight last November near the disputed sea border.
Analysts at a Seoul seminar did not specify who was to blame for the sinking, but said the North may also become more belligerent as it prepares for a power transfer from leader Kim Jong-Il to his youngest son Jong-Un.
David Kang, professor at the University of Southern California, said the new leadership could mean a "more belligerent North Korea that is less willing to negotiate with the outside".
This is because "the young dictator" needs to prove to his own military and regime that he is strong enough to lead the country, Kang said in a paper introduced at the seminar.
Chances of a smooth succession may not be high, Kang said, since the son, unlike his father, would have almost no time to build support and legitimacy.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iHIPGrC9zvbeyAGM_nHL31cNdupA
1. Turkish Parliament Approves Bill on Construction of Nuclear Plant
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Turkish parliament has approved a bill on agreement between Turkey and Russia on construction of Akkuyu nuclear power plant.
The parliament enacted the bill approving the cooperation agreement signed by Turkey and Russia in the Turkish capital of Ankara on May 12, 2010.
According to the agreement, the two countries will cooperate in construction and operation of nuclear power plant in Akkuyu in southern province of Mersin. Russian party will launch procedure for establishment of project's company.
The power plant will have the total capacity of 4,800 MW.
Akkuyu will be the first nuclear power plant in Turkey.
The nuclear energy power plant is expected to meet 14 percent of the energy Turkey currently generates.
Available at: http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=216127
France supports Jordan's right to enrich uranium as outlined in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the top French diplomat in Amman said on Tuesday.
During a press meeting yesterday to mark Bastille Day, observed on July 14, French Ambassador in Amman Corinne Breuzژ said France respects Jordan's right to civilian nuclear energy as outlined in various international treaties and conventions.
"There is no reason for Jordan not to build its own nuclear reactor," she said in response to a question, adding that Paris respects Jordan's commitment to various international conventions and International Atomic Energy Agency regulations.
France, which has signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with the Kingdom, is assisting Jordan's nuclear power programme in several areas, Breuz pointed out.
The envoy referred to French Prime Minister Francois Fillon's visit to the Kingdom in February, which culminated in the signing of a uranium mining agreement paving the way for an open-pit uranium mine to be constructed in the central region by French firm AREVA and the Jordanian-French Uranium Mining Company.
The firm is operating within a 1,400-square-kilometre concession area in the central region, encompassing Swaqa, Khan Azzabib, Wadi Maghar and Attarat, and is expected to commence uranium mining as early as 2012.
Breuzژ also highlighted the nuclear technology being offered by AREVA and Japanese company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which the government has short-listed among three technologies under consideration for its first nuclear power plant.
The ambassador referred to the ATMEA 1, a 1,000-1,100 megawatt (MW) plant Generation III+ reactor, as a "competitive technology".
She underlined the importance of ensuring the Kingdom has well-qualified staff ahead of major developments in the nuclear programme, adding that France is actively providing support and training in different areas.
The French embassy in Amman has organised seminars on nuclear power financing as well as nuclear safety and security with international experts and local officials in the capital, she pointed out.
France will also assist Jordan in establishing a centre of excellence as announced by French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy in Paris in March.
The facility will be the first centre of excellence in a global network France plans to establish with the Paris-based International Institute of Nuclear Energy at its epicentre.
Seven students from the University of Jordan, the Jordan University of Science and Technology and Balqaa Applied University have received scholarships to pursue master's degrees in nuclear sciences at French colleges and institutes.
ATMEA1 was among three technologies short-listed by the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) last month, along with Canadian AECL's Enhanced CANDU 6 reactor, and the AES-92 VVER-1000 reactor by Russian firm AtomStroyExport. The 1,000-1,150MW model reactor, which incorporates technology from AREVA's Evolutionary Power Reactor and Mitsubishi's Advanced Pressurised Water Reactor, has yet to be built or brought online anywhere in the world. Last month, Japan and Jordan agreed to a draft nuclear cooperation agreement, the approval and ratification of which is a prerequisite for Jordan to import the French-Japanese technology.
The JAEC and consultant Worley Parsons entered discussions with the three suppliers this month in what is expected to be a year-long process to select the final bidder.
The Kingdom's first nuclear power plant is slated to be established 25 kilometres outside Aqaba and several kilometres inland.
Nuclear power has been singled out by officials as a means to wean the country off of energy imports, which constituted 96 per cent of energy consumed at a cost of 13 per cent of the gross domestic product in 2009.
Available at: http://www.zawya.com/story.cfm/sidZAWYA20100714053956
Poland and the US signed Tuesday a nuclear energy cooperation agreement, the Polish economy ministry said.
The deal, which covers, among other things, the regulatory framework for a nuclear power sector, was signed by Polish deputy economy minister Hanna Trojanowska and the US Commerce Department's undersecretary, Francisco Sanchez.
Poland's largest power company, Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE), which has been tasked by the government to construct two nuclear reactors, each with a capacity of 3,000 MW, has recently signed a number of non-exclusive cooperation agreements with Westinghouse Electric, GE Hitachi and France's EDF. The first plant is scheduled to be commissioned in 2020.
Poland fast-tracked the creation of a nuclear power sector in January last year during the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute. The government plans to meet 15% of its energy needs from nuclear power by 2030.
Currently the country produces close to 95% of its power from coal or lignite. In the early 1990s Poland abandoned plans to construct a nuclear reactor in Zarnowiec, northern Poland, following protests from the local community.
Available at: http://www.platts.com/RSSFeedDetailedNews.aspx?xmlpath=RSSFeed/HeadlineNews/Nuclear/8904089.xml
Saudi Arabia's decision last week to sign a nuclear cooperation pact with France marks a major step forward for a pan-Arab drive toward nuclear power, even as the United States strives to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Jordan is talking with Areva of France and Mitsubishi of Japan, among other companies, to acquire the technology required to build the Hashemite kingdom's first nuclear power generating plant.
Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates, which is the Arab state furthest down the path of developing nuclear energy, issued licenses to the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. to start preparing a site for a nuclear power facility. In December, the Emirates awarded a South Korean consortium a $20.4 billion contract to build and operate four 1,400-megawatt nuclear power plants.
All told, 13 Middle Eastern states, including Egypt, have announced plans -- or dusted off old plans -- to build nuclear power stations since 2006.
This is causing unease in Washington even though they have all declared that their objective is to boost electricity generation to meet a rapidly growing demand.
"Oil producers are burning up reserves simply to keep pace with power demand that is growing by 7 to 8 percent every year in some (Persian) Gulf states," the Financial Times observed.
All say they have no intention of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. But there is concern that once they've mastered the technology they'll seek to counter Iran's alleged push to acquire such weapons by doing so themselves.
"The region looks around and they find all the non-Arabs have a nuclear program or are on their way," Mustafa Alani of the Gulf Research Center in Dubai told the Financial Times. "They look at India, Pakistan, Israel and now Iran."
"There's a feeling this region made a mistake when they opted for zero nuclear energy for the last 40 years and the Iranian program was a wake-up call. The intention is civilian but you need the know-how at least."
Lurking behind this rationale is a general, and seemingly growing, sense that U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is unable or unwilling to take on Iran over its contentious nuclear program.
The Sunni-led Arab states, those in the gulf in particular, see Shiite-dominated Iran determined to become the regional colossus and without the conviction of U.S. protection, they feel extremely vulnerable and exposed.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdallah, "fears that his country's historically closest ally is naive, and dangerously so, for putting so much faith in diplomacy," says British analyst Simon Henderson, an expert on Saudi Arabia with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
"Despite the official blandishments, there are clear indications that under Abdallah, and especially since 2001, Saudi Arabia has put distance into its relationship with the United States …
"On Iran, there is a widening if not unbridgeable gap between the two countries," Henderson noted in a June 28 analysis.
"The kingdom's own pursuit of (peaceful) nuclear energy is a clear sign that Riyadh thinks that the United States cannot or will not stop Iran's program."
The Americans have sought to ensure that none of the Arab states will seek to enrich uranium to weapons-grade level.
But in June, David Cox, assigned by Riyadh to evaluate the economic and technical feasibility of Saudi involvement in all stages of the nuclear cycle, was quoted as saying the Saudis would want to be involved in as many stages of the nuclear power cycle as possible.
"Enrichment could happen there and the same with mining uranium," said Cox, president for energy at the British branch of Poyry, a Finnish management consultancy.
"That mirrors the Iranian stance," Henderson noted, "though the ability to make low-enriched uranium for power plants is but for a few technical tweaks, the same technology needed to make highly enriched uranium for an atomic weapon."
Washington will be uneasy with the Saudis opting for French nuclear assistance rather than American, which would have made surveillance of Saudi enrichment easier.
The Obama administration endorsed the Emirates' contract with the South Koreans only after Abu Dhabi pledged to refrain from enriching uranium -- the process that's at the crux of the dispute with Tehran.
But Washington is at odds with longtime ally Jordan because it plans to exploit large uranium deposits it recently discovered in the desert. The Americans see that as a proliferation risk.
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Science_News/Resource-Wars/2010/07/14/Saudi-nuclear-drive-gains-momentum/UPI-13761279128270/
KOREA ELECTRIC Power Corp., a firm owned by the South Korean government, is willing to put up a two-unit nuclear power plant in Bataan that can generate as much as 1,400 megawatts.
Bok-Yull Lee, president and chief executive of Kepco Philippines, said it was a good idea to build a new nuclear power plant in Bataan since it was already a “proven site.”
“It would help stabilize the Luzon grid as it can provide baseload capacity for the island. In Korea, because of nuclear, our electricity price is very cheap. Forty percent of our power comes from nuclear,” Lee said.
According to Lee, current estimates showed that it might cost at least $5 billion to put up a similar facility as the mothballed 600-megawatt Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, but stressed that it would be more economical to use the latest technology.
Kepco’s latest model, he added, would consist of twin units that can generate a combined 1,400 MW. However, Lee said the government should first establish a nuclear policy before it could decide to push through with the nuclear power project.
“I think there has to be a policy first. The Department of Energy must [be amenable] to building nuclear power plants first. But without any clear policy, it will not be easy,” Lee added.
BNPP, the country’s first nuclear power plant, was built during the Marcos era by Westinghouse Electric at a cost of $2.2 billion. However, it was mothballed in 1986 before it could start operations due to safety concerns.
Recent reports, however, proved to be encouraging for those who are considering to put up nuclear power projects in the country as President Benigno Aquino III was quoted as saying that the possibility of using nuclear energy as a source of power was being studied.
Froilan A. Tampinco, president of state-run National Power Corp., earlier said that nuclear energy should be considered by the government as among the viable options to securing energy self-sufficiency, particularly over the long term.
Tampinco explained that the Philippine government should start making preparations as early as now to ensure that all the necessary policies and infrastructure are in place since it would take as long as 10 years to put up a facility.
According to the DoE, the first 600-MW nuclear power plant of the country should be in place by 2025.
Available at: http://business.inquirer.net/money/topstories/view/20100714-281093/Korean-firm-willing-to-put-up-nuke-plant
2. China's CNNC Keen To Build Argentina Nuclear Power Plant
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China National Nuclear Corp., or CNNC, has expressed interest in helping to build Argentina's fourth nuclear power plant, Argentina's Planning Ministry said Tuesday.
Planning Minister Julio de Vido met with the head of CNNC, Mao Xiaming, to discuss the tender of construction contracts. They agreed that a Chinese delegation will travel to Argentina in August, while in September representatives from Argentina's National Atomic Energy Commission will visit China, the ministry said.
De Vido is in China accompanying President Cristina Fernandez, who started an official visit to the Asian giant on Monday.
The Argentine government plans to pick the builder of the 1,500-megawatt Atucha 3 plant later this year, and the government has already identified four possible construction companies: Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, or AECL, France's Areva SA (ARVCY, CEI.FR), the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation, Rosatom, and Westinghouse Electric Co., the U.S. unit of Toshiba Corp. (TOSYY, 6502.TO).
According to an Energy Department presentation, the plant could come online in 2016-2017, while local press have reported it will cost more than $3 billion to build. Industry analysts say that Argentina's government-run nuclear-power industry is notorious for cost and time overruns.
Nuclear power currently accounts for 6.8% of Argentina's electric power generation capacity, and the government expects that to rise to 21.1% in 2025.
The country currently has two operating nuclear power plants--Atucha I, built with Siemens AG (SI, SIE.XE), and Embalse, built with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, or AECL, in the province of Cordoba. The 360MW Atucha 1 came online in 1974, while the 650MW Embalse began operating a decade later.
Argentina has started a $1 billion upgrade of Embalse, which seeks to extend the plant's working life for an additional 25 years beyond the original termination date of 2011.
Embalse supplies power to the country's northeast, including the Cuyo and Centro regions and greater Buenos Aires. It uses technology from AECL and is fueled by natural uranium that hasn't been enriched.
The third nuclear plant, Atucha 2, should be completed by the end of this year. The plant, which will generate about 700 megawatts and provide about 3% of Argentina's total power output, was originally supposed to come online in 1987, but was stalled for 14 years because of political and economic obstacles.
Argentina relaunched its nuclear-power program in 2006 as energy woes began to worsen. Shortages of natural gas used to fuel conventional generation plants started appearing in early 2004, while the national power grid began running short on generation capacity in late 2006.
Although Argentina's atomic-power program was largely put on ice in the 1990s, nuclear research remained active.
State-owned company INVAP has steadily engaged in nuclear development projects, including a 20MW nuclear research reactor inaugurated in Australia in 2007.
Among other nuclear advantages, Argentina also has inactive uranium mines and the capacity to enrich uranium, process fuel rods, and produce the heavy water used in reactors.
Since 2003, Argentina has increased its power-generation capacity by about 30% to 24,000 megawatts.
Price caps and other policies have limited profit and led most companies to invest less in exploration and production, industry executives say.
Since 1998, Argentina's crude oil output has fallen by 25% and it faces the prospect of becoming a net importer. Gas production has been declining since 2004.
Oil and gas reserves also have declined, and Argentina hasn't had a major discovery in 15 years, according to research done by eight former Argentine energy secretaries.
The Argentine government recently said it may build a fifth nuclear power plant after completing the construction of its third and fourth nuclear plants.
"We're thinking about building a fifth plant, though we haven't evaluated all at the details yet," Planning Ministry spokesman Horacio Mizrahi said in an interview.
Available at: http://news.morningstar.com/newsnet/ViewNews.aspx?article=/DJ/201007131611DOWJONESDJONLINE000430_univ.xml
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission says low-level radioactive steam generators, like the 16 decommissioned vessels Bruce Power plans to ship through the Great Lakes, do not present a risk to the public or environment.
The federal regulator says it will not issue a transport licence, which is now the subject of a technical review, unless Bruce Power's plan is deemed safe.
"Those concerned by Bruce Power's proposed shipment of used steam generators can be confident that no licence will be issued unless the regulator is convinced that the shipment will be completed safely, without risk to the health, safety or security of Canadians or the environment," spokesman Marc Drolet said in a statement.
But there is concern and it is giving rise to organized opposition.
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley has teamed up with Owen Sound Mayor Ruth Lovell Stanners and is seeking support from other mayors around the lakes to stop the shipment.
Bradley said Wednesday he has contacted the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative group, a bi-national coalition of municipal leaders, to join the fight against what is seen as a precedent-setting bid by Bruce Power.
"I am flagging this issue for them," said Bradley, adding he hopes finding allies may help persuade Canadian nuclear regulators to veto the plan.
"There is confusion because there are very different and educated points of view," Lovell Stanners said of the transport plan.
She has invited the CNSC to answer questions at council's July 26 meeting.
Bruce Power requires a special licence from the CNSC for the proposed shipment to Sweden because of the cargo's size. Each shipment will require a separate licence.
Drolet said it is considered a "low-risk licence" and is typically issued by designated officers, rather than by the commission. The CNSC has not yet determined the extent of the approval process for Bruce Power's licence, he said, but it could be referred to the commission tribunal.
Available at: http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2669461
1. National Nuclear Security Administration Congratulates Nevada Site Office Aviation Program for Receiving Federal Award
(for personal use only)
National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Thomas P. D’Agostino today congratulated the Nevada Site Office (NSO) Aviation Program for receiving a major federal aviation program award for the second time in the last three years. NSO Aviation Program manager Joe Ginanni accepted the top award in the Small Program Category on behalf of the team during the 2010 GSA Federal Aviation Awards Ceremony in Phoenix.
“We congratulate the NSO Aviation Program, for its outstanding work, and we are proud to have programs of its caliber serving throughout the nuclear security enterprise,” said Administrator D’Agostino. “From Stockpile Stewardship to international nonproliferation efforts to emergency response, NNSA is committed to excellence in every aspect of our mission. That wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and dedication of the NSO Aviation program and others like it from across our enterprise.”
Each year, the GSA Federal Aviation Awards recognize the best aviation programs and professionals from across the federal government.
Comprised of the NSO and its contract partner the National Security Technologies LLC Aviation Department, the NSO Aviation Program provides aerial support to the NNSA Office of Emergency Response. Together, they work to protect U.S. citizens from nuclear and radiological attacks or accidents 24 hours a day, seven days per week from Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, DC.
Today’s ceremony marks the second time this year the NSO Aviation Program has received a major award. Earlier this year, the program received the 2009 U.S. Department of Energy Jeff Snow Aviation Program Memorial Award. This is the fourth time in six years that this team has been recognized as the most outstanding DOE aviation program.
Available at: http://nuclearstreet.com/blogs/nuclear_power_news/archive/2010/07/15/National-Nuclear-Security-Administration-Congratulates-Nevada-Site-Office-Aviation-Program-for-Receiving-Federal-Award-07155.aspx
Even as it touts U.S. efforts to sharply reduce its number of nuclear warheads, the Obama administration plans to increase spending on the aging nuclear weapons infrastructure to levels reminiscent of the Cold War, a new budget document shows.
A 20-year spending plan from the agency that manages the nuclear arsenal shows that the administration wants to hike nuclear weapons spending to an average of more than $8 billion a year, compared with recent spending levels of $6 billion to $7 billion a year.
The National Nuclear Security Administration plan is drawing criticism from some arms-control groups, who contend that the increased spending is unjustified and may prompt other world powers to doubt President Obama's pledge to reduce U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons.
"We have to think carefully about what signal we're sending to other countries," said Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists.
Advocates of the plan within the Obama administration and Congress say the spending increase is overdue to modernize the nuclear support complex, parts of which haven't been updated since World War II.
Administration officials also argue that even as they reduce the number of U.S. warheads, they need to bolster the government's ability to increase weapons production quickly if a new threat arises.
Obama has made reduction of the nuclear arsenal a central element of his foreign policy agenda. The president hopes that by shrinking the U.S. stockpile, his administration can persuade other nuclear states to do likewise and encourage nonnuclear states to decide against starting nuclear weapons programs.
The Senate is now considering the New START nuclear treaty, a pact with Russia that would reduce the number of active long-range nuclear warheads by about 30%.
The increase in nuclear spending has political value for the White House: Administration officials hope it will help win the votes of conservative senators who have reservations about the treaty with Russia.
Kristensen said the plan suggests that the agency is preparing to draw down the U.S. nuclear stockpile to between 3,000 to 3,500 weapons by 2021, a drop of 30% to 40% from the current arsenal of about 5,000 weapons. An agency spokeswoman declined to comment on the estimate.
Other analysts said such a drop would be consistent with the kind of reduction that Obama has already described. "It's not surprising," said Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Assn.
Reductions already underway will reduce the stockpile to 4,700 weapons by 2012. In the last four-plus decades, the U.S. arsenal has fallen 85% from its peak of 31,000 warheads in 1967.
But in the world of nuclear weapons, there's a lot more to pay for than just warheads. The plan calls for the United States to spend $175 billion from 2010 to 2030 on new weapons production, testing and simulation facilities, and on extending the life of nuclear weapons in the arsenal.
And that's not all: The Pentagon's spending to maintain and operate the equipment that delivers the warheads — missiles, bombers and submarines — is not included.
Spending for the weapons complex would peak between 2014 and 2018 under the plan.
Henry Sokolski, a Pentagon official under President George H.W. Bush, cautioned that despite the Obama administration's planning, the nuclear stockpile ultimately could be vastly different from what is being forecast.
"For the first year or two any spending plan for the executive branch will be quite firm and useful," said Sokolski, now with the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington. But because of changing threats and fiscal realities, he added, in future years "they become exponentially more speculative, no matter what they say."
Available at: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-nuke-report-20100715,0,1912167.story
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