The International Atomic Energy Agency has said Iran has activated more equipment to enrich uranium more efficiently, violating UN resolutions.
The UN watchdog said a second set, or "cascade", of centrifuges was operating at the Natanz pilot fuel enrichment plant when inspectors visited in July.
The move to enrich uranium to 20% purity means Iran could quickly advance to making weapons-grade material.
The West believes Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Iran denies this. Power station
Iran has been producing low-enriched uranium (LEU) of about 3.5% purity for some time, and announced in February that it had begun enriching uranium to 20% to make fuel for its Tehran research reactor, which produces medical isotopes. A bomb would require at least 90%.
"The IAEA can confirm that on 17 July, when agency inspectors were at [Natanz], Iran was feeding nuclear material to the two interconnected 164-machine centrifuge cascades," spokeswoman Gill Tudor said.
Ms Tudor said the move was "contrary to UN Security Council resolutions affirming that Iran should suspend all enrichment-related activities".
The centrifuges spin uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas at high speeds to separate the fissile U-235 atoms from the denser U-238 atoms.
Experts say that using two interconnected cascades increases efficiency by allowing leftover LEU to be re-fed into the machines.
The IAEA said in a report in February that Iran had achieved enrichment levels of up to 19.8%, which added to its concerns about the "possible military dimensions" of its nuclear programme.
Experts say the technical leap required to get to 90% purity from 20% is relatively straightforward, because it becomes easier at higher levels. Going from the natural state of 0.7% purity to 20% takes 90% of the total energy required, they add.
Iran insists its nuclear programme is for entirely peaceful purposes.
Meanwhile, the head of the country's atomic energy organisation announced on Monday that its first nuclear power station at Bushehr would come on stream by September, after years of delays.
"The plant is undergoing the final sets of experiments for detection of any possible failure," Ali Akbar Salehi said. "The preliminary phase will be completed in less than two weeks and the plant will be ready to launch."
Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-10925381
2. Iran Ready for Talks with Washington, Says Khamenei Aide
(for personal use only)
Iran is ready to discuss its nuclear programme with the United States, the adviser to the Islamic republic's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Monday during a visit to Syria.
"While we do not have any faith in the American government... Iran is ready for talks on its nuclear programme," Ali Akbar Velayati told reporters at a news conference in the Iranian embassy in Damascus.
"Iran has reservations about the composition of the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) but remains committed to resolving the problem through dialogue," he said.
Last week Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he was ready for face-to-face talks with his US counterpart Barack Obama on "global issues."
On Sunday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington remains "open to engagement" with Iran while adding that Tehran had "to reassure the international community by words and actions as to what their nuclear program is intended for."
Iran atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi had said late last month that Tehran was ready for immediate talks with the United States, Russia and France over an exchange of nuclear fuel, a plan that the world powers led by Washington had previously cold-shouldered.
The Security Council backed a fourth round of UN sanctions against Iran on June 9 in an effort to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. The sanctions were followed by unilateral punitive measures imposed by the United States and the European Union.
Washington and other world powers suspect that Iran is masking a weapons drive under the guise of a civilian atomic programme. Tehran insists its nuclear programme has no military aims.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i9qknnLlloOLX2PlK31VIWGLUpZQ
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki says the International Atomic Energy Agency chief will soon set the date for the Vienna Group-Iran nuclear talks.
“IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano is preparing a letter to set a date for talks with the Vienna Group,” Mottaki said in a joint press conference with his visiting Lebanese counterpart Ali al-Shami on Sunday.
The Iranian foreign minister added that the Islamic Republic is completely ready to participate in negotiations that are based on the Tehran nuclear fuel swap declaration, IRNA reported.
Tehran issued a nuclear declaration with Ankara and Brasilia on May 17 based on which it agreed to ship most of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for nuclear fuel.
The Vienna Group -- the US, Russia, France, and the IAEA -- raised some questions about the tripartite declaration, to which Iran officially responded on July 29. Tehran has expressed complete readiness to hold talks in September.
Earlier this month, Amano said positive signals from the Vienna Group had given rise to hopes about nuclear fuel swap talks with Iran.
"I am working on that. I have a positive reaction from member states ... and why not," Amano said when asked if he intended to push for the talks to start in September.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=137945§ionid=351020104
1. N. Korea May Conduct 3rd Nuclear Test: Defector
(for personal use only)
North Korea will not give up on its nuclear ambitions despite international sanctions, and may conduct its third nuclear test in the near future, a former senior North Korean official said in an interview Saturday.
"North Korea believes nuclear arms are its most important defensive tool, and the country will not abandon its nuclear ambitions," Hwang Jang-yop was quoted by local broadcaster KBS as saying.
Hwang is a former secretary of the ruling Workers' Party and the highest-ranking North Korean official to defect to South Korea.
The 87-year-old man is the author of North Korea's "juche" or self-reliance ideology that forms the backbone of the country's regime.
Hwang also said the communist state may conduct a nuclear test in defiance of international sanctions.
Earlier this week, the United States said it will carry out fresh sanctions on North Korea "in the next several weeks" that could lead to cutting companies or individuals involved in Pyongyang's illicit activities off the international financial system.
Available at: http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20100808000002
A high-ranking government official on Friday called for the nation’s participation in sanctions against Iran, citing the possibility of nuclear ooperation between Iran and North Korea.
We must cooperate because this could also effect South Korea’s security,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.
He was citing previous cases when North Korea was found to have exported missile technology to Iran.
“The two sides have been cooperating on missile technology since the 1980s,” he said. “This means that Iran could have just as easily exported uranium enrichment technology to North Korea.”
Thus, he said sanctions against Iran were not unrelated to South Korea’s security.
Pyongyang is seen to have a clandestine program for enriching uranium. The reclusive regime has so far conducted two controversial nuclear tests.
As North Korea appears to have engaged in illicit activities with Iran, he said the sanctions against Iran will be inevitably tied in with sanctions against Pyongyang.
Seoul earlier this week indicated that it may impose financial sanctions on Iran.
The penalties, however, are expected to be at a level where it does not harm South Korea’s bustling economic ties with Iran.
Seoul is cautious about rubbing Iran the wrong way, as trade volume with Iran reached almost $10 billion last year.
South Korea is currently under mounting pressure from the U.S. to adopt sanctions of its own against Iranian entities seen to be involved in activities for aiding the Iranian government’s nuclear ambitions.
The official mentioned that Iran’s Shahab missile was manufactured based on North Korea’s intermediate-range Rodong missile.
Based on these two missiles, he said North Korea was able to manufacture its longer-range Taepodong 2 missile, while Iran built the Shahab-5.
The official said he believes Iran is capable of enriching uranium to a level where it can build at least one nuclear weapon.
Iran, however, claims that it is developing its nuclear technology for energy-securing purposes.
“As we also are calling for North Korea’s denuclearization, we need to play our part by participating in any sort of activity supporting nuclear nonproliferation,” he said.
South Korea’s relations with the U.S. also are a huge factor, analysts said.
While urging Seoul to help punish Iran, the U.S. has been expressing its support for South Korea as it seeks to retaliate on the North for the sinking of the Cheonan and Pyongyang’s refusal to denuclearize.
Critics have said Washington’s support of Seoul on the North may be a quid pro quo for cooperation on Iran.
The U.S. recently announced that it would be punishing the North with sanctions of a wider scope.
Available at: http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20100806000608
1. Turkey Expects Nuclear Agreement with Kecpo By End-August
(for personal use only)
Turkey, which is in talks with South Korea's state-controlled utility KEPCO to build a nuclear power plant, expects an agreement by the end of this month, Turkey's energy minister said on Thursday.
Turkish Energiy Minister however, said, "there are four or five major topics. We have not reached an agreement on some of them yet. Maybe we cannot agree at the end."
Turkish and South Korean officials got together last week in Ankara and they will have one more meeting next week as part of ongoing negotiations aiming to build a nuclear power plant in northern province of Sinop on the Black Sea coast.
Turkey wants to build two nuclear plants, one in the northern coast and the other in Akkuyu town on southern coast of the country.
In May, during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Ankara, Turkey inked a $20 billion deal with Russia for construction of Akkuyu plant.
Turkish Energy Minister said construction of two plants would be a well-balanced project plan for power distribution in the country.
Yildiz also said that the government was not willing to make an energy investment that could have an effect on country's macro-economic situation, adding that government's stake in nuclear plants was projected as 25 percent for each.
Available at: http://www.poten.com/NewsDetails.aspx?id=10568812
Russia Saturday accused the United States of not fulfilling its obligations under a key arms control treaty.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said the United States had violated key parts of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
"In the period of the validity of START 1, Russia's concerns in regard to the observance of the treaty by the U.S. were not allayed," the statement said, RIA Novosti reported.
The statement expressed concerns about what it called unsanctioned re-equipping of intercontinental ballistic missile launch facilities. It called on U.S. leaders to provide evidence launchers and bombers that had been converted to carry conventional weapons could not be returned use as carriers of nuclear weapons.
The foreign ministry also accused the United States of violating terms of the treaty on chemical and biological weapons.
A new START treaty, signed April 8 and awaiting ratification in the U.S. Senate and the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, would replace START 1, which expired in December 2009.
The report comes about a week after U.S. officials said Russia may not be complying fully with international agreements on chemical and biological weapons.
The White House said it hopes the treaty would be ratified by the end of the year.
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2010/08/07/Russia-US-violating-START-terms/UPI-70331281204766/
1. Iran-Russia Nuclear Plant to be Inaugurated in September: Official
(for personal use only)
The joint Iran-Russia nuclear power plant in the Gulf port of Bushehr in southern Iran will be inaugurated in late September, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Monday.
ILNA news agency quoted him as saying that that all tests and necessary arrangements were currently underway and the plant would be opened in one and a half months.
The spokesman added that the 'real fuel' would reach the plant within months after the opening and the complex would then start its operation at 'maximum level'.
The tests of the 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor have so far been carried out using 'virtual fuel' as Bushehr's nuclear fuel remains under International Atomic Energy Agency seals.
The Russians have several times delayed the completion of the plant for various reasons, including political considerations.
Russia has constantly rejected Iran's criticism over the delay and said that the plant was not an ordinary project because Russia came into the project after the plant was first started by a German firm in the mid-1970s and so first had to adapt it to Russian technology.
Iran has received 87 tons of low-enriched uranium from Russia for the plant, sufficient to run it for about three years.
Despite concern in the West over Iran's nuclear programme, the light-water project in Bushehr is tolerated due to Russia's involvement and guarantees that nuclear fuel for the plant will be delivered from, and the nuclear waste returned to, Russia.
Iran says that its nuclear projects are just for civilian purposes while the West is concerned that Iran is clandestinely pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.
Available at: http://sify.com/news/iran-russia-nuclear-plant-to-be-inaugurated-in-september-official-news-international-kijukddjhag.html
2. Egypt Plans Starting Nuclear Power Tender This Year
(for personal use only)
Egypt plans to start an international bidding process this year for its first nuclear energy plant, Electricity and Energy Minister Hassan Younes told state-owned al-Ahram newspaper.
The Arab world's most populous country is aiming to shift away from oil and gas to other sources and has said it wants to build four nuclear power plants by 2025, with the first to start operating in 2019.
Officials hope the new nuclear programme will add capacity of up to 4,000 megawatts by 2025.
"Egypt's nuclear project is progressing steadily and we expect to start the tender before the end of this year," Younes told the daily newspaper in an interview published on Saturday.
The ministry has invited several firms for consultancy and project briefings, such as the French nuclear reactor maker Areva (CEPFi.PA), engineering group Alstom (ALSO.PA) and Westinghouse Electric Co, he added.
The government was also looking to Korean and Japanese firms. In June, Russia's atomic energy corporation Rosatom briefed Egyptian energy officials on Russian nuclear power plant technology and design in a two-day workshop. [ID:nLDE65T03N]
Last year, Egypt signed a deal with Australia's WorleyParsons (WOR.AX) for a nuclear power consultancy.
The firm was due to begin looking into potential locations for the plant, Egypt's first, including updating studies on the Dabaa site on the Mediterranean coast, where Egypt planned to build a power station in the 1980s.
Younes said the studies had concluded that Dabaa was the most suitable location.
"The project is moving ahead on time. Internationally, it takes 8 to 10 years for such projects to bear fruit in developing countries and 12 to 15 in countries where nuclear projects are being set up for the first time," he added.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKLDE67601F20100807
Russia fought a deadly battle Tuesday to prevent wildfires from engulfing key nuclear sites as alarm mounted over the impact on health of a toxic smoke cloud that has shrouded Moscow.
Two soldiers were killed by blazing trees as they strove to put out a fire dangerously close to Russia's main nuclear research centre, while workers were also mobilised to fight blazes near a nuclear reprocessing plant.
After almost two weeks of fires that have claimed over 50 lives and even part destroyed a military storage site, the authorities said they were making progress in fighting fires that still covered 174,035 hectares of land
"A positive dynamic in liquidating the wildfires continues to be observed," said the head of the emergencies ministry's crisis unit, Vladimir Stepanov.
"The numbers (of emergency workers) have been increased in those regions where there is a difficult situation with the fires," he added.
The emergencies ministry said that over the last 24 hours, 247 new fires had appeared, more than the 239 had been put out, and 557 fires were still raging across the affected region.
Two members of the Russian armed forces were killed Monday fighting wildfires around Russia's main nuclear research centre in Sarov, a town in the Nizhny Novgorod region still closed to foreigners as in Soviet times.
Rifle battalion commander Vasily Tezetev, 22, "died the death of a hero" Monday while dealing with the fire burning in a nature reserve close to the town, the local emergency centre said, Interfax reported.
Another serviceman, named as Vasily Veshkin, 27, who usually worked at a local prison camp, also died fighting the fire on the same day, it added. Both were killed when they were hit by burning parts of trees that fell to the ground.
Meanwhile, officials said fires burning within 15 kilometres (10 miles) of Snezhinsk in the Urals, home to another of Russia's top nuclear research centres, had been localised to a five-hectare area and there was no risk for the town.
There was no risk to the nuclear reprocessing plant in the town of Ozersk, also in the Urals, where a state of emergency had been declared a day earlier, emergencies ministry spokeswoman Irina Andrianova told Interfax.
The Russian authorities were stung earlier this month when wildfires spread to a naval logistics centre outside Moscow and caused significant damage. President Dmitry Medvedev fired a string of officers as a result.
The acrid smog from wildfires 100 kilometres (60 miles) out in the countryside that descended over Moscow eased Tuesday but forecasters said the air quality was still dangerously poor.
The Moscow authorities acknowledged for the first time on Monday that the daily mortality rate in Moscow had doubled and morgues were overflowing with bodies but the federal government has yet to confirm those figures.
Mortality for the wider Moscow region has increased by a quarter over the last three weeks, the ITAR-TASS news agency quoted the Moscow region's top health official Vladimir Semenov as saying.
Carbon monoxide in the Moscow air was 1.4 times higher than acceptable levels Tuesday, the state pollution watchdog said, a slight improvement from the day before. On Saturday they had been an alarming 6.6 times worse.
Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, meeting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for the first time since returning from a much-criticised holiday, said calls to the emergency health services in Moscow had grown by one-fifth.
Luzhkov initially refused to return from holiday, with his aides earning ridicule in the tabloid press by denying there was any crisis in the city.
"You of course did the right thing by coming back from holiday. You did it on time," Putin said pointedly.
The heatwave has had a huge impact on all areas of Russian society and economists warned Tuesday the record temperatures could have cost the country up to 15 billion dollars and undercut a modest economic revival.
Worst hit has been agriculture, which has seen 10 million hectares of land destroyed.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iwWiUNaKIBhSI1RSoJM0j5wvQCAg
Moscow was shrouded in smoke Friday as authorities warned of a possible radioactive cloud that could form if the wildfires raging in Russia spread to an area contaminated by the Chernobyl accident.
The images emerging from Moscow Friday look like they were taken from a doomsday movie: A giant smoke cloud has made the landmarks including the Kremlin disappear, with the few commuters who have to leave their houses or cars moving around wearing face masks. The others stay inside, desperate to evade the worst smog in the capital since the fires started more than a week ago. Pollution in Moscow, experts warned, is four times above safe levels.
"It's a serious reason not just for the aged, children and pregnant not to go out into the street but also for people in good health," Yevgenia Semutnikova, of the pollution watchdog Mosekomonitoring, told the Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper.
The relentlessly spreading wildfires have devastated several regions south and west of the capital, despite a major firefighting operation that includes nearly 200,000 people and dozens of planes.
The fires have destroyed residential houses, military facilities, a significant share of Russia's wheat crops and as of Friday claimed the lives 52 people, authorities said.
And it could get much worse: Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu warned Friday that the fires in the Bryansk region might send into the air radioactive contamination locked in soil devastated by the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident of 1986.
"If a fire appears there, the radioactive particles could fly away with the smoke and a new polluted area could appear," he said.
Moscow has already ordered the evacuation of nuclear and explosive material from Sarov, a top-secret nuclear facility in the Nizhny Novgorod region, which is one of the worst hit. Authorities also ordered the removal of missiles and other defense equipment from a munitions depot at Alabinsk southwest of Moscow.
There were at least 589 fires raging Thursday over 196,000 hectares, up from 529 fires Tuesday and 460 fires Monday.
Russia's agriculture sector has been worst affected. Thousands of hectares of farmland have been burned. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Thursday banned wheat exports until the end of the year, sending grain prices on international markets through the roof.
The fires are aided by a severe draught and the hottest summer since temperature recordings began 130 years ago.
Moscow saw its fifth daily temperature record in August Friday as the mercury soared to 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit, beating a record of 95.7 degrees F registered on Aug. 6, 1920, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports.
Meteorologists warn there won't be a cool down anytime soon. They predict the heat wave to continue next week and possibly beyond mid-August.
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2010/08/06/Russia-Fears-of-nuke-smog-as-fires-rage/UPI-34701281118148/
1. Japan Nuclear Venture to Target Mideast If Vietnam Expansion is Successful
(for personal use only)
Japanese companies led by Tokyo Electric Power Co., which last month formed a venture to jointly bid for nuclear contracts, will target the Middle East if their strategy is successful in Vietnam.
Japan, having lost out to South Korea in December on a $20 billion atomic contract with the United Arab Emirates, is testing the new approach with Vietnam before considering opportunities in Gulf nations such as Saudi Arabia, Tokyo Electric’s chairman said.
“We learnt our lesson from our unsuccessful bid for the U.A.E. nuclear program,” Tsunehisa Katsumata said in an interview today in Abu Dhabi, which is hosting a two-day Japan forum. “We decided to set up a ‘one-stop shop’ because we understand that is what emerging-market countries need.”
Toshiba Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. are among six Japanese companies in the venture as the country aims to compete with France, Russia, Canada, and the U.S. in the expanding global reactor market. Toshiba said July 12 it plans to pursue nuclear power contracts in Saudi Arabia. Vietnam said in June it plans to build as many as 13 atomic plants with a capacity of 16,000 megawatts over the next two decades.
The “all-Japan endeavor” would offer countries the “entire system,” from nuclear education to building and operating reactors, Katsumata said.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is one of several Arab Gulf countries seeking to develop nuclear energy to meet rising electricity demand. Kuwait and France signed a civil nuclear-energy accord in April and the U.A.E. will start operating four nuclear plants by 2020.
Asian nations such as Japan and South Korea, which import almost all of their energy needs, are eager to boost economic ties with the oil-rich Middle East as they seek supply security.
Since winning the U.A.E. contract, South Korean companies are increasing their foothold in the fourth-largest oil-producer of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The two nations agreed on Aug. 2 to cooperate on energy exploration and stockpiling of crude oil.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-09/japan-nuclear-venture-to-target-mideast-if-vietnam-expansion-is-successful.html
DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of Partnership for Global Security. Partnership for Global Security takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.