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Nuclear News - 9/21/2010
PGS Nuclear News, September 21, 2010
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski


A.  Iran
    1. Iran Says U.N. Atom Body in Credibility Crisis, Reuters (9/20/2010)
    2. Iran Lawmaker Warns IAEA Inspectors, PressTV (9/20/2010)
    3. Ahmadinejad Says Future is Iran's, John Daniszewski and Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press (9/20/2010)
    4. Anti-Iran Sanctions Bore Fruit: France, PressTV (9/19/2010)
B.  DPRK
    1. IAEA Chief Notes "Serious Concern" About North Korea, Veronika Oleksyn , Associated Press (9/20/2010)
    2. South Korea Proposes Military Talks with North Korea Under New Conditions, Yonhap News Agency (9/19/2010)
    3. Obama to Discuss North Korea Nukes at UN General Assembly, The Korea Times (9/19/2010)
C.  Nonproliferation
    1. Arabs Prepare to Take on Israel at IAEA, Al-Masry Al-Youm (9/20/2010)
    2. Russia, US Request IAEA to Verify Weapons-Grade Plutonium's Disposition, IAEA (9/17/2010)
D.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Chinese Vice Premier Calls for Promotion of Peaceful Use of Nuclear Power, Xinhua News Agency (9/19/2010)
    2. Bushehr Nuclear Plant Compliant with NPT, PressTV (9/18/2010)
    3. IAEA Approves Site for Egypt's First Nuclear Plant, The Hindu (9/18/2010)
    4. South African Radioisotope Production on Target, World Nuclear News (9/17/2010)
E.  Links of Interest
    1. IAEA General Conference Session to Open in Vienna, RIA Novosti (9/20/2010)
    2. US to Keep Pressuring Iran Over Nuclear Program, Veronika Oleksyn , Associated Press (9/20/2010)
    3. China Firm Aims to Build Big Nuclear Plant for Pakistan, Chen Aizhu, Reuters (9/20/2010)
    4. Sudan Applies to IAEA Membership, Sudan Vision (9/19/2010)
    5. Huge Berlin Protest Targets Government's Nuclear Policy, Deutsche Welle (9/18/2010)



A.  Iran

1.
Ahmadinejad Says Future is Iran's
John Daniszewski and Edith M. Lederer
Associated Press
9/20/2010
(for personal use only)


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday that "the future belongs to Iran," and challenged the United States to accept that his country has a major role in the world.

The comments came in an hourlong interview with The Associated Press on the first day of his visit to the United States to attend the annual General Assembly of the United Nations this week.

He insisted that his government does not want an atomic bomb — something he has said in the past — and that Iran is only seeking peace and a nuclear-weapons-free world. He repeatedly sidestepped questions on when Iran would resume talks on its disputed nuclear program, and he said anti-nuclear sanctions against his government would have no effect.

Appearing calm and self-assured on his seventh trip to the United States, the Iranian president showed every sign of being in command of himself and prepared to deflect questions about his government's harsh suppression of opposition forces after last year's disputed election that returned him to a second term.

"The United States' administrations ... must recognize that Iran is a big power," he said. "Having said that, we consider ourselves to be a human force and a cultural power and hence a friend of other nations. We have never sought to dominate others or to violate the rights of any other country.

"Those who insist on having hostilities with us, kill and destroy the option of friendship with us in the future, which is unfortunate because it is clear the future belongs to Iran and that enmities will be fruitless."

Over the years, Ahmadinejad has become more articulate and polished. He wore a gray pinstriped suit and a pinstriped white shirt, open with no tie, for the interview, conducted in an East Side hotel not far from the United Nations.

A few blocks away, dozens of protesters demonstrated with tape across their mouths to symbolize what they consider to be the oppressive nature of the Iranian government. The nonprofit Israeli education group, Stand With Us, organized the rally, one of many expected outside the United Nations and elsewhere in the city before Ahmadinejad leaves Friday.

In the interview in a room crowded with aides, bodyguards and Iranian journalists, the Iranian leader projected an air of innocence, saying his country's quest to process ever greater amounts of uranium is reasonable for its expanding civilian power program, omitting that the watchdog United Nations agency involved has found Iran keeping secrets from its investigators on several occasions, including secret research sites.

He also did not acknowledge that the leaders of the political opposition in Iran have been harassed and that government opponents risk violence and arrest if they try to assemble. He did allow that there have been some judicial "mistakes."

Ahmadinejad argued that the opposition Green Movement, which has largely been forced underground, continues to enjoys rights in Iran but said that in the end it must respect "majority rule." He also disavowed any knowledge of the fate of a retired FBI employee, Robert Levinson, who vanished inside Iran in 2007, saying the trail will be followed up by a joint U.S.-Iranian committee.

Government opponents "have their activities that are ongoing and they also express their views publicly. They have several parties, as well as several newspapers, and many newspapers and publications. And so there are really no restrictions of such nature," the president said.

He did not mention that many newspapers have been closed down and that prominent opposition figures were put in prison and then tried after tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets claiming that the election that put him back in power in 2010 was fraudulent and stolen.

The public appearances of his rivals Mir Houssein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been severely restricted and their offices recently were raided by police.

Ahmadinejad said Iran is more free than some other countries. "I believe that when we discuss the subject of freedoms and liberty it has to be done on a comparative basis and to keep in mind that democracy at the end of the day means the rule of the majority, so the minority cannot rule."

He added: "In Iran I think nobody loses their job because of making a statement that reflects their opinion. ... From this point of view, conditions in Iran are far better than in many other places in the world."

Ahmadinejad asserted that international nuclear regulators had never found proof that Iran is pursuing an atomic bomb.

"We are not afraid of nuclear weapons. The point is that if we had in fact wanted to build a nuclear bomb, we are brave enough to say that we want it. But we never do that. We are saying that the arsenal of nuclear bombs (worldwide) have to be destroyed as well," he said.

The U.S. accuses Iran of hiding plans to build a nuclear bomb; Iran denies that and says it's working only toward building nuclear power plants.

Ahmadinejad took no personal responsibility for the fate of the three American hikers who were taken prisoner along the border with Iraq more than a year ago — treating it as a strictly legal affair.

"We're very glad that that lady was released," he said about Sarah Shourd, who arrived in New York on Sunday and held a news conference while Ahmadinejad was being interviewed by the AP, denying she had done anything wrong.

"(Due) to the humanitarian perspective of the Islamic Republic chose to adopt on the subject, she was released on bail," Ahmadinejad said. "And we hope that the other two will soon be able to prove and provide evidence to the court that they had no ill intention in crossing the border, so that their release can also be secured."

Tying the case to Iran's assertion that eight of its citizens are being held unjustly in the United States, he said, "It certainly does not give us joy when we see people in prison, wherever in the world that may be, and even when we think of prisoners here."

His answers were translated from Farsi by an Iranian translator, but Ahmadinejad appeared to be following the questions in English and occasionally corrected his interpreter.

Asked about Levinson, Ahmadinejad hinted that his government considers it possible that the retired FBI employee had been on some "mission" when he vanished.

"Of course if it becomes clear what his goal was, or if he was indeed on a mission, then perhaps specific assistance can be given," the Iranian leader said. "For example, if he had plans to visit with a group or an individual or go to another country, he would be easier to trace in that instance."

Levinson was last seen on Iran's Kish island in March 2007 where he had gone to seek information on cigarette smuggling for a client of his security firm. He had been an FBI agent in New York and Florida before retiring in 1998. He has not been seen since. Iran says it has no information on him.

Overall, Ahmadinejad said that Iran's course is set and the rest of the world needs to accept it.

Another round of international pressure in the form of sanctions would only be futile, he said. "If they were to be effective, I should not be sitting here right now."

The U.N. Security Council already has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Iran to try to pressure Ahmadinejad's government to suspend enrichment and return to negotiations with the six countries trying to resolve the dispute over the country's nuclear ambitions — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. Foreign ministers of the six are to meet this week on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

Ahmadinejad said in July that talks would begin in early September, and he was asked repeatedly if Iran would join those talks. He sidestepped an answer and refused to give any kind of timetable.

"We have placed no restrictions on negotiations," he insisted. "If they tell us officially that there's a joint meeting, we'll make the preparations for it."

But at the same time, Ahmadinejad said Iran wants answers to a number of questions it has presented to the six powers.

They include whether the group wants "to create the circumstances for further friendship or for further confrontation," whether the six are fully committed to implementing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and "what the group's opinion is regarding the atomic bombs that the Zionist regime holds," he said, a reference to Israel, which refuses to confirm it possesses a nuclear arsenal.

"Their response does not prevent the resumption of negotiations, but it certainly will define the framework for those talks when they resume," Ahmadinejad said.

Available at:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ibNFQ01iYUjHeS9GAki3jSUWrbWwD9IBB46O0


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2.
Iran Lawmaker Warns IAEA Inspectors
PressTV
9/20/2010
(for personal use only)


A senior Iranian lawmaker warns the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors against illegal acts as it would receive a befitting response from Tehran.

"If the IAEA inspectors violate their duties, they will face the Islamic Republic's reaction," Head of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi told ISNA on Saturday.

He said IAEA inspectors have visited Iranian nuclear facilities in accordance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) while the recent report by the agency's Director General Yukia Amano criticized Iran's cooperation with inspectors.

"The inspectors have violated their obligation to inspected countries. So, it is the right of every member state not to allow such inspectors to enter [their country]," he added.

The Iranian lawmaker reiterated that Amano did not observe impartiality in his report about Iran's cooperation with the inspectors, saying the report has supported a certain "unprincipled" stance.

"Our national interests require that Iran reacts to the IAEA inspectors, should they violate their commitments," Boroujerdi said.

The remark came after the latest report by the IAEA criticized Iran for "hampering" the efforts of agency's inspectors visiting Iranian nuclear facilities.

In June, Iran barred two IAEA inspectors from entering the country. The inspectors in question were not named.

Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi explained then that the two inspectors had been barred from entry over passing "false information about Iran's nuclear program to the IAEA and revealing information precipitately."

IAEA inspectors have conducted more inspections in Iran than in any other NPT signatory state and have confirmed that there has been no diversion of nuclear material from civilian to military applications.

Available at:
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/142972.html


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3.
Iran Says U.N. Atom Body in Credibility Crisis
Reuters
9/20/2010
(for personal use only)


Iran said on Monday that the U.N. nuclear watchdog was suffering a crisis of "moral authority and credibility", underlining increasingly strained ties between Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, criticised the IAEA's latest report on the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear programme as unfair and suggested that Western powers had influenced it.

The report showed Iran pressing ahead with its atomic work, which the West suspects is aimed at developing nuclear arms, in defiance of tougher international sanctions. Iran says its work is for peaceful uses only.

"It appears that the agency is suffering from (a) moral authority and credibility crisis," Salehi told the IAEA's general assembly in Vienna, speaking in English.

Available at:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE68J0AJ20100920


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4.
Anti-Iran Sanctions Bore Fruit: France
PressTV
9/19/2010
(for personal use only)


Disregarding the economic nature of US-sponsored sanctions against Iran, France's defense minister says the punitive measures have succeeded in creating a "political" row in the country.

"Our analysis is that (stronger) sanctions that were adopted, beyond the resolutions by of the United Nations by European Union and other countries…All this bears fruit, and you will see that today debate is starting to exist within the leading Iranian political groups," Herve Morin told the press after talks with his American counterpart Robert Gates on Thursday.

Gates told reporters that he believed the sanctions had been "more effective and more severe" than expected.

Morin was referring to disagreements between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Majlis. He, however, neglected the fact that in any politically-free society the government and parliament are at liberty to criticize one another.

Tehran has criticized Western powers for intensifying the standoff over Tehran's nuclear program and hampering negotiations by imposing a fourth round of UN Security Council sanctions targeting the country's economy.

The sanctions were imposed three weeks after Iran, Brazil and Turkey sought to diplomatically resolve the nuclear issue with a May 17 nuclear fuel swap declaration.

The United States, the European Union, and their allies imposed unilateral sanctions shortly afterwards.

However, Iranian officials have repeated insisted that economy continues to show growth and that the sanctions have failed to affect the energy rich country's financial sector.

Months after sanctions were imposed on Tehran; Iranian oil minister said that the country was expected to turn into a gasoline exporter in the near future.

Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- a supporter of Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy -- said Ankara plans to triple its trade volume with Iran within five years.

Israel and its allies accuse Iran of following a military nuclear program -- a charge repeatedly rejected by Tehran.

Iran argues that as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty it has the right to use peaceful nuclear energy.

Available at:
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/143138.html


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B.  DPRK

1.
IAEA Chief Notes "Serious Concern" About North Korea
Veronika Oleksyn
Associated Press
9/20/2010
(for personal use only)


North Korea's nuclear program remains "a matter of serious concern" and efforts should be made to resume talks on the matter, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday.

The autocratic Asian state has not permitted the Vienna-based watchdog to implement safeguards in the country since December 2002 and no inspectors have been allowed in since April, making it impossible to report to the international community about its atomic activities, Yukiya Amano said.

North Korea walked out of international talks on restarting negotiations on its nuclear disarmament last year to protest international criticism of a long-range rocket launch.

"I again call on all parties concerned to make concerted efforts for a resumption of the six-party talks at an appropriate time," Amano said.

Amano, speaking at the start of the IAEA's General Conference, also mentioned the failure of Iran and Syria to fully comply with his agency.

"My basic approach has been that all safeguards agreements between member states and the agency and other relevant obligations should be implemented fully," he said.

Others at the opening session were more outspoken.

Paul Magnette of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc urges Iran to address the IAEA's outstanding concerns and to meet with members of the international community "with the ultimate goal of establishing a comprehensive relationship."

The bloc also "urges Syria to cooperate fully and promptly with the agency," he said.

The head of Iran's nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the IAEA was suffering from a "moral authority and credibility crisis."

Available at:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gK7q-X-AqinJNZdHuZWXVgTLh31gD9IBKDL00


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2.
Obama to Discuss North Korea Nukes at UN General Assembly
The Korea Times
9/19/2010
(for personal use only)


The White House said Friday President Barack Obama will discuss concerns about North Korea's nuclear weapons programs when he meets with leaders from China and other nations on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week, according to Yonhap News Agency.

"The president, I think, has a number of important meetings," spokesman Robert Gibbs was quoted as saying. "I mentioned three here this afternoon, one with China, one with Japan and one with a larger group of Asian nations. I think many of the issues that we talked about last year at the United Nations remain on the docket: concern about Iran, concern about North Korea."

Available at:
http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/09/113_73283.html


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3.
South Korea Proposes Military Talks with North Korea Under New Conditions
Yonhap News Agency
9/19/2010
(for personal use only)


South Korea on Sunday proposed holding military talks with North Korea later than initially suggested, insisting the sides focus on steps Pyongyang should take to defuse tension over the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March, an official said.

In a telephone message to the North, the South's Defense Ministry proposed that the talks, the first of their kind in two years if held, take place on Sept. 30 at a building on the South Korean side of a border village, the ministry official said.

North Korea proposed the talks first on Wednesday, in what appeared to be one of its latest moves aimed at thawing cross-border relations after its leader visited China last month and pledged to work for the resumption of nuclear disarmament talks.

The North wanted talks on Sept. 24, saying they should deal with the western sea border that it refuses to honor and anti-Pyongyang leaflets South Korean activists fly across the border.

The talks, if held, would help facilitate a thaw in inter-Korean relations that deteriorated to the worst level in years when the sides began to trade harsh accusations in May over the sinking of the South's Cheonan warship.

Citing a multinational probe, Seoul says Pyongyang mounted a torpedo attack on the ship in March, while the North calls the sinking a fabrication aimed at justifying aggression against it.

"The North-proposed date for the military talks was too early," a South Korean government source said, suggesting his side has essentially agreed to hold the talks.

The South Korean proposal comes two days after Red Cross officials of the two countries met in the North and discussed reuniting families separated by the Korean War.

Meanwhile, the ministry will not describe North Korea as "main enemy" in this year's defense white paper, a notion reintroduced after six years to deal with growing military threats following the Cheonan incident, a senior military official said.

"The defense white paper will describe the North Korea threat about the same level as last year," the official said, asking not to be named. "The draft for military defense does define North Korea as main enemy," although minor changes were made to describe a recent situation.

South Korea first used the term to describe North Korea in its defense white paper in 1995 after a North Korean official threatened to turn Seoul into a "sea of fire" during military talks between the two sides a year earlier. Seoul toned down the expression in the biennial document starting in 2004, opting instead to define the North as a "direct military threat" or "existing military threat" in an apparent bid not to antagonize Pyongyang.

South and North Korea remain technically at war after their 1950-53 war ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

Available at:
http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2010/09/19/64/0401000000AEN20100919002800315F.HTML


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C.  Nonproliferation

1.
Arabs Prepare to Take on Israel at IAEA
Al-Masry Al-Youm
9/20/2010
(for personal use only)


The Arab League’s delegation at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will propose a draft resolution on the Israeli nuclear program under the title ”Israeli Nuclear Capabilities,” according to Mikhael Wahba, the league’s ambasador to the UN watchdog.

In a press conference on the margin of the opening session of the IAEA 45th conference, Wahba voiced his conviction that Arab states will succeed in passing the resolution as they did last year, with the goal of eliminating a serious security defect in the Middle East.

Wahba said Western efforts to avert the Arab plan have failed, emboldening the league's delegation.

Bassam al-Sabbagh, Syria’s permanent ambassador at the agency, meanwhile said that Syria is actively contributing to Arab efforts on the Israel resolution. He stressed the need for elimination of regional nuclear weapons as well as supervision of Israel’s nucelar facilities by the agency.

Yukiya Amano, IAEA chief, said in his speech to the agency’s general conference that the IAEA's primary goal is to prevent the spread of nuclear arms and provide tehnical assistance to member states in peaceful use of the energy. He stressed that the agency is anxious to give advice to states eager to install facilities for nuclear power generation, to enable them to start their projects on a sound scientific basis.

Amano said the agency is encouraging world financial entities to approve requests by states who wish to receive funding for their nuclear undertakings. He asked major nuclear countries to reduce their energy impact on the climate in addition to countering the problem of nuclear waste resulting from over-consumption.

Available at:
http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/news/arabs-prepare-take-israel-iaea


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2.
Russia, US Request IAEA to Verify Weapons-Grade Plutonium's Disposition
IAEA
9/17/2010
(for personal use only)


On 16 September 2010, the IAEA´s Director General Yukiya Amano received a jointly signed letter from the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, and the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, requesting that the IAEA undertake "an important verification role under the amended Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the United States of America Concerning the Management and Disposition of Plutonium Designated as No Longer Required for Defense Purposes and Related Cooperation".

The amended Agreement between the Russian Federation and United States creates a "framework for cooperation and establishes the infrastructure for disposition of weapon-grade plutonium designated as no longer required for each side´s defense programs, initially 34 metric tons each or enough for thousands of nuclear weapons."

The disposition agreement calls on the Russian Federation and the United States to undertake "all necessary steps to conclude appropriate agreements with the IAEA to allow it to implement verification measures with respect to each Party´s disposition program" and to prepare "the necessary legally-binding verification agreements in 2011".

Available at:
http://www.iaea.or.at/NewsCenter/News/2010/surplus_plutonium.html


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D.  Nuclear Energy

1.
Chinese Vice Premier Calls for Promotion of Peaceful Use of Nuclear Power
Xinhua News Agency
9/19/2010
(for personal use only)


Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang said Sunday China should vigorously promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and strengthen its self-innovation to ensure the sound, fast and safe development of China's nuclear industry.

Zhang made the remarks at a nuclear work conference in Beijing. He affirmed the achievements that China's nuclear industry has accomplished and the contribution it has made to the country's national defense and social and economic development in the past 55 years.

Zhang also said China should increase efforts to boost the safe and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.

The country should introduce advanced nuclear technologies developed abroad and strengthen cooperation and communication with leading nuclear companies, he said.

Zhang also said China should improve its self-innovation capacity and accelerate the translation of technological results into real-life productivity.

Available at:
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2010-09/19/c_13520086.htm


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2.
Bushehr Nuclear Plant Compliant with NPT
PressTV
9/18/2010
(for personal use only)


A Russian member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors says Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant could serve as a model for non-proliferation standards.

The Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, which has been developed in partnership with Russia, strictly abides by the terms and regulations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), RIA Novosti quoted Grigori Berdnikov as saying at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting on Friday.

Berdnikov made the comments during an address in Vienna where he also mentioned Russia's commitment to provide nuclear fuel for the plant with the condition that the waste be returned.

He further pointed out that the IAEA will oversee all stages of the plant's launch and operation.

"According to numerous assessments, the plant is a clear example of cooperation on peaceful nuclear energy and has a significant role in solidifying the conditions of non-proliferation," said the Russian official.

Iran celebrated the launch of its Bushehr nuclear reactor in August after the first fuel load.

The IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities but has found no evidence to prove Western claims that Iran plans to develop a military nuclear program.

Iran, which is a member of the IAEA and a signatory to the NPT, has repeatedly declared that it pursues a peaceful nuclear program.

Available at:
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/142930.html


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3.
IAEA Approves Site for Egypt's First Nuclear Plant
The Hindu
9/18/2010
(for personal use only)


The UN nuclear watchdog IAEA has approved an Egyptian site to host the country’s first nuclear power plant.

The site in El Dabaa is about 295 km from Cairo, and corresponds to all international requirements, IAEA experts said on Saturday.

Egypt is set to construct four nuclear power reactors by 2025, with the first of them to be put into operation in 2019.

The north African state’s nuclear programme was originally suspended after the Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union in 1986.

Egypt is expected to announce the tender for the construction of the nuclear power plant by the end of the year. Russia is ready to offer its vast experience, its high—technology solutions and financial assistance to the project.

In March 2008, during Egyptian president’s visit to Moscow, both countries signed an agreement on cooperation in the civilian nuclear sector. The document stipulates Russia’s right to participate in tenders to build nuclear power facilities in Egypt.

In 2009, the Egyptian authorities officially invited Russia to participate in a tender to build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant.

Egypt, which possesses large reserves of uranium ore, has two experimental nuclear reactors, one constructed in 1958 by the Soviet Union and the other bought from Argentina.

Available at:
http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/article697196.ece


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4.
South African Radioisotope Production on Target
World Nuclear News
9/17/2010
(for personal use only)


NTP Radioisotopes of South Africa is heading towards producing vital supplies of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) from the Safari 1 reactor using only low-enriched uranium, both for fuel and for the target plates used to produce isotopes. And the secret to future reliable radioisotope supplies could simply come down to realistic economics.

South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) subsidiary NTP is one of the world's major suppliers of reactor-produced Mo-99 and is now laying claim to be its only supplier of commercially viable quantities of the isotope produced solely from low enriched uranium technology, Necsa CEO Rob Adam told a special session of the World Nuclear Association's 35th Annual Symposium in London.

Mo-99 decays to produce technetium-99m (Tc-99m), used in around 50 million medical diagnostic imaging procedures every year. With a half-life of only 6 hours, Tc-99m is too short-lived to be transported to hospitals but is produced where it is needed in generators containing Mo-99. As Mo-99 itself has a half-life of only 66 hours, the world relies on reliable, steady supplies of the isotope, most of which is made by irradiating uranium-235 contained in a solid target inside a research reactor.

Most of the world's Mo-99 comes from only five research reactors: Canada's NRU, the Netherlands' HFR, Belgium's BR-2, France's Osiris and South Africa's Safari-1. Australia's Opal reactor, which started up in 2007, has the capacity to produce up to half the world's Tc-99m demand but at present has only a small molybdenum processing facility and supplies only domestic demand.

With the exception of Opal reactor, all were originally built to use fuel containing highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel. However, non-proliferation concerns have, over recent years, led a drive to convert research reactors to low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel - that is, fuel containing less than 20% uranium-235 (U-235). Conversion of the 20 MW Safari-1 reactor at Necsa's Pelindaba facility to LEU fuel was completed in 2009. But at Safari-1, this proliferation proofing has been taken a step further, with the introduction of LEU-based targets for isotope production.

The use of target plates containing LEU instead of HEU is not without its downsides. Conversion to LEU means that a larger mass of uranium - 2 to 5 times as much - needs to be irradiated to obtain the same production yield as with HEU targets. This in turn poses problems for the Mo-99 extraction and purification process, with larger quantities of uranium needing to be processed, and for the quantity of waste produced. At best, the volumes of radioactive waste will increase, but any significant changes to the processing system could generate different waste streams, all with associated cost implications.

Conversion of Safari-1 to LEU targets has not been achieved without overcoming significant technical hurdles, Adam notes. Some of these hurdles have been associated with variable yields, and Necsa is working to overcome them, he explained to World Nuclear News. For example, in order to achieve a sufficient mass of uranium in the targets, a powdered composite uranium-aluminium alloy has been developed and work is ongoing to optimise target plate configuration.

Mo-99 produced from LEU is around 20% more expensive than that produced from HEU, but South Africa is hopeful that regulatory systems in countries purchasing significant quantities of radioisotopes will respond by giving preferential treatment to LEU-origin products. The first radioisotopes produced at Safari-1 from LEU targets were shipped to international customers in July 2010, and the first major commercial shipment, to the USA, is due to take place on 29 September. The reactor is on course to reach full conversion to LEU targets within the year.

Isotope crisis a market product?

The unscheduled outages of two of the world's major isotope production reactors, Canada's NRU and the Netherlands' HFR, in recent years resulted in a gross undersupply of Mo-99 on the world scale. The choice by many Mo-99 customers to rely on a single source of supply has led to reliance on a handful of ageing research reactors paid for by governments. Such government funding, far from being the noble gesture it may at first seem, effectively represents a subsidisation of a critical step in a pharmaceutical value chain. This has in effect placed Mo-99 outside a natural market system and this lies at the heart of the current supply crisis, Adam argues.

"It is unfortunate but true that a great many patients have not and will not receive diagnostic scans whilst the Mo-99 shortage persists. There is no doubt that a significant amount of suffering and even a number of deaths have resulted from the unavailability of Mo-99 and the associated Tc-99m generators," Adam said. The five reactors which can produce commercial quantities of Mo-99 are all over 40 years old, but the market price of radioisotopes has not been high enough for investors to justify the expenditure on the construction of new isotope production reactors.

As things stand, Safari-1 is itself due to close in 2022. Replacement with a multi-functional research reactor with radioisotope production as just one of its functions could, given the artificially depressed market price of radioisotopes, prove prohibitive. A solution for South Africa could be the construction of a pared-down reactor with isotope production as its sole function. With such a reactor up and running, Safari-1 could then be refurbished and enjoy a new lease of life concentrating on other research functions, Adam told World Nuclear News.

NEA concurs

A newly released report by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) concurs with Adam’s views on the radioisotope market. The current economics of the Mo-99 supply chain are not adequate for supporting new investment, according to The Supply of Medical Radioisotopes: An Economic Study of the Molybdenum-99 Supply Chain. Without changes to address the market, policy and technology failures, the supply of Mo-99 and hence Tc-99m will continue to be unreliable, the agency warns.

For the supply chain to be economically sustainable, remuneration for reactor irradiation services and processing services needs to be based on the full costs of production, according to the report. This would likely result in higher market prices but the impact on the final cost of medical diagnostic procedures would be small, says the agency.

The report is the first of a series being prepared in support of the NEA High-level Group on the Security of Supply of Medical Radioisotopes (HLG-MR).

Available at:
http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-South_African_radioisotope_production_on_target-1709107.html


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E.  Links of Interest

1.
China Firm Aims to Build Big Nuclear Plant for Pakistan
Chen Aizhu
Reuters
9/20/2010
(for personal use only)
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE68J0TG20100920


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2.
IAEA General Conference Session to Open in Vienna
RIA Novosti
9/20/2010
(for personal use only)
http://en.rian.ru/world/20100920/160646223.html


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3.
US to Keep Pressuring Iran Over Nuclear Program
Veronika Oleksyn
Associated Press
9/20/2010
(for personal use only)
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gK7q-X-AqinJNZdHuZWXVgTLh3..


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4.
Sudan Applies to IAEA Membership
Sudan Vision
9/19/2010
(for personal use only)
http://www.sudanvisiondaily.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=60700


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5.
Huge Berlin Protest Targets Government's Nuclear Policy
Deutsche Welle
9/18/2010
(for personal use only)
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/142587.html


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