Iran's Ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh has hailed the presence of foreign diplomats at the country's nuclear facilities as a "gesture of goodwill and transparency."
"The inspection of [nuclear sites] by world representatives is in line with Iran's policies to make its nuclear activities transparent, because we are always interacting with the agency and its member states and this interaction is continuous," the Iranian permanent envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency told reporters in Tehran late Sunday.
The Iranian diplomat reiterated that the Islamic Republic has such interaction with not only the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) member states but also European countries and provides their ambassadors and representatives with explanations in the case of any ambiguities.
Representatives from the IAEA, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Group of 77 and the Arab League arrived in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Saturday for a two-day visit at the invitation of the Islamic Republic to tour the country's nuclear facilities, including the Arak heavy water reactor and the Natanz enrichment facility.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton refused Iran's invitation, saying the task of inspection should be carried out by the IAEA.
Soltanieh highlighted NAM's support for Iran's peaceful nuclear activities, saying Tehran has always consulted with the organization about all its nuclear activities down to the smallest detail.
"In a similar move in 2004 and 2007 we asked the representatives of NAM, Group of 77 and the Arab League to visit Iran's nuclear sites, proving that the doors of our nuclear facilities are open to them," the Iranian official noted.
He went on to say that the European states and their media are however misleading the public opinion, trying to portray a false and non-peaceful image of Iran's nuclear drives.
Soltanieh said the presence of representatives of 120 countries at the Arak heavy water reactor and the Natanz enrichment facility is a positive proof of transparency in Iran's atomic program.
"The foreign diplomats were suitably impressed with Natanz and Arak facilties and reiterated that the past propaganda used against Iran has been false and incorrect," the Iranian diplomat continued.
The foreign diplomats cited Iran's nuclear activities as transparent and refuted the allegations leveled by the West against Iran, which claim Iran is pursuing a covert and non-peaceful nuclear drive, Soltanieh concluded.
The United Sates and its Western allies are accusing the Islamic Republic of seeking a military nuclear program under the guise of peaceful activities, a claim that Iran has rejected vehemently.
Tehran says as a member to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) it reserves the right to continue its atomic program and that all its nuclear work is under the full supervision of the IAEA.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/160536.html
2. Russia Denies Reported Cyberattack on Iran's Nuclear Power Plant
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Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom on Monday denied a reported virus contamination in the Iranian Bushehr nuclear power plant (NPP)'s computer system.
Earlier in the day, British newspaper Daily Telegraph said a Stuxnet virus, which was developed at Israeli Dimona NPP, had installed itself into the computers of the NPP built by Russians, also Iran's first one.
However, according to Sergei Novikov, a Rosatom spokesman, "there are no viruses in the power plant's computer network, especially in units responsible for security, because this network is totally autonomous and isolated from external sources."
The Daily Telegraph referred to some Russian specialists working in Bushehr, saying that the virus had already done "enormous damage" to the reactor and that Russian team "cannot guarantee safe activation of the reactor."
"Russian nuclear officials have warned of another Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster at Iran's controversial Bushehr reactor because of the damage caused by the Stuxnet virus," the newspaper said.
In response, Rosatom said the virus had not sneaked into the automatic control system of the NPP's technological processes, and stressed that nothing has endangered the reactor control system.
Fears about possible aftermath of the Stuxnet computer virus on Bushehr NPP's security first appeared in October 2010, when Russian technicians started loading the first nuclear rods into the reactor.
The commercial launch of the Bushehr NPP was expected within weeks, according to Russia's Foreign Ministry.
Available at: http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90777/90853/7263720.html
3. Sanctions Hurt Iran, but Compromise Unlikely: Report
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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's management of Iran's economy has been a "disaster" and sanctions are making matters worse, a report said on Monday, but Tehran is still unlikely to compromise on its nuclear program.
Iran is due to hold a second round of talks with six major powers over its disputed nuclear activities in Istanbul on January 21-22 following U.N., U.S., and EU sanctions imposed last year that target oil and gas sectors vital to the Iranian economy.
But Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful figure in Iran, are unlikely to be swayed, wrote Jonathan Paris in a report for the Legatum Institute, a London-based think-tank backed by the Legatum investment group.
"The reality is that even if the economy is hurting, it has a very small place in the calculus of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. Unless the severity of the sanctions dramatically escalates, it is unlikely that Iranian leaders will see the sanctions as a domestic threat to their survival in power," he said.
"Enormous pressure is required to lead them to compromise on the nuclear program."
If Iran can survive the current wave of sanctions, imposed after eight years of wrangling over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, Iranian leaders may calculate the international community will not be able to maintain enough unity to keep up the measures.
"If sanctions fail to induce a compromise, then it seems that the only remaining measure is to convince Iran's leadership that there is a credible threat of a U.S. attack," said Paris.
Western states believe Iran's drive to enrich uranium is a cover for a secret program to either make nuclear weapons, or at least achieve a capability to do so.
Iran's refusal to comply with previous United Nations Security Council resolutions to allow full inspections of its nuclear sites convinced Russia and China to also back the UN sanctions last June. The United States and the EU added their own additional measures targeting finance and the energy sector.
Iran says its nuclear program is solely to provide fuel for a network of 20 power plants it plans to build so it can export more of its bountiful oil and gas reserves.
RISE OF THE GUARDS
Sanctions add to the burden of economic mismanagement that fueled price rises in essential commodities even before the latest round of worldwide food inflation that has sparked protests elsewhere, and even revolution in Tunisia.
"Economic stewardship under President Ahmadinejad has been a disaster for all but a few privileged groups," said the report.
One of the groups to have benefited though is Iran's military elite, the Revolutionary Guards, which has grown more powerful both politically and economically under Ahmadinejad.
It was the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) which put down the huge street protests that followed Ahmadinejad's re-election in June 2009.
"The IRGC controls the instruments of power, secures the streets and has become the edifice on which the survival of the clerics depends," the report said.
"It is hard to imagine the clerics ruling without the IRGC, but it is possible for the IRGC to survive without the clerics."
The Guards do benefit however from the Islamic legitimacy conferred by the clerics, Paris said, "otherwise, Iran would simply be another authoritarian regime ruled by a praetorian guard."
Resentment is growing inside Iran, the report said, against lack of investment in jobs at home by a government which nevertheless spends large sums to help Hezbollah in Lebanon, upgrade North Korean missiles and even develop a space program.
But the opposition Green Movement that mobilized the large protests in 2009 is now fractured and split between those who want reform and those who want regime change, Paris wrote.
Iran's political elite is also deeply divided, the report said, with competition among conservatives, ultra-conservatives, reformers, Ahmadinejad, the judiciary, the leader, parliament and clerics and others leading to "decision-making paralysis."
Even so, Iran's elite tends to unite when threatened, Paris said.
"The current leadership appears to be taking Iran into a cul-de-sac, refusing to compromise for fear of looking weak, and moving in the direction of political isolation and economic hopelessness," the report said.
"The leadership harbors ambitions to rival the U.S. as a superpower in the Gulf and beyond. Iran risks, instead, becoming a pariah state."
Available at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110117/wl_nm/us_iran_nuclear_report
4. IAEA Envoys Visit Iran's Natanz Enrichment Site - Report
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Iran showed its Natanz uranium enrichment plant to a group of United Nations nuclear watchdog ambassadors as a sign of transparency about its nuclear activities, state television reported Sunday.
Envoys from mainly non-aligned developing nations were on the tour. Counterparts from the West, Russia and China were either not invited or rejected Iran's gesture, with some saying such visits were the province of U.N. inspectors and could not replace talks to resolve a stand-off over Iran's nuclear work.
Natanz and the incomplete Arak heavy-water reactor are at the heart of a long-running international dispute over Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran says has peaceful aims but the West suspects is designed to develop a weapons capability.
"The aim of this tour was to make it clear that America and some other countries are trying to distort the facts of Iran's peaceful nuclear activities," said Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"This was an initiative to display the transparency of our activities ... and that the propaganda against our work is baseless," he was quoted by state television as saying.
It was not known if the envoys were given access to Natanz's underground centrifuge production hall.
Uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas is fed into centrifuges installed at the Natanz site for enrichment of its fissile content to yield fuel for atomic power stations or, if refined to a very high degree, for nuclear warheads.
Iran denies any intention to produce weapons-grade uranium, saying it wants only fuel for a future network of power plants.
In Norway, a newspaper cited U.S. diplomatic cables as saying that Iran has been developing contacts in more than 30 countries to acquire technology, equipment and raw materials needed to assemble a nuclear bomb.
Aftenposten said that according to the cables, obtained by WikiLeaks, more than 350 Iranian companies and organizations were involved in the pursuit of nuclear and missile technology between 2006 and 2010.
WESTERN POWERS NOT WELCOME
Iran snubbed the United States, Britain, France and Germany by not inviting their IAEA ambassadors on the nuclear site tour. The envoys had toured the incomplete Arak complex Saturday.
China and Russia, discouraged by Western officials, declined the offer. Western officials, including the EU, dismissed Iran's invitation as a gambit to divide six world powers trying with a mix of negotiations and sanctions to get Iran to restrain its nuclear program and open it up to unfettered U.N. inspections.
The next talks will be in Istanbul on January 21-22.
Analysts said the selective invitation might have been aimed at fraying a new harmony among the U.S. and European governments on the one hand, and Russia and China in their approach to Iran, on how to approach its nuclear activity.
Soltanieh disagreed, saying the tour aimed at easing mistrust in Iran's nuclear work. The envoys will stay in Iran until Monday. "Those countries that didn't join us in this visit have lost a great opportunity," Soltanieh said.
Expectations of a breakthrough at the Istanbul meeting are low after a first round of talks in Geneva last month failed to make substantial progress. Iran has repeatedly said it had no intention to halt enrichment, calling it a sovereign right.
"Time is on our side in the talks with the (six powers), and not on the side of the Western countries," acting Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who is also head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, told state television Sunday.
Salehi had said Saturday that the Islamic Republic's enrichment activities were "progressing strongly."
"The world has to acknowledge our rights finally," said Salehi, the student news agency ISNA reported.
Iran has been hit by four round of U.N. sanctions and the United States and the EU have imposed extra sanctions to push Iran to suspend sensitive uranium enrichment-related work in exchange for a packet of trade and diplomatic incentives.
Available at: http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE70F12P20110116
5. Paper: Iran Still Trying to Buy Nuclear Technology
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Despite a tightening net of sanctions, Iran has continued covert attempts to purchase technology for its controversial nuclear program through more than 350 companies, the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reported Sunday.
Citing U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, Aftenposten reported that Iran has tried several times in 2008 and 2009 to buy uranium, computers and control systems required to run nuclear reactors.
It said the country has also tried to buy centrifuges, milling machines and materials which can increase the range of Iranian missiles.
The cables come from a trove of 250,000 uncensored U.S. diplomatic documents that WikiLeaks has been making public. Aftenposten said last month it had obtained all the documents.
The U.S. and some of its allies accuse Iran of using its civil nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons capability. Tehran denies the accusation, saying its nuclear work is merely geared toward producing nuclear energy and isotopes to treat medical patients.
On Saturday, several international envoys — but crucially none from the world powers — got a look inside an Iranian nuclear site as part of a tour the Islamic Republic hopes will build support before a new round of talks on its disputed atomic activities Jan. 20-22.
According to Aftenposten, about 350 Iranian companies and organizations are involved in a pursuit to buy nuclear and missile technologies in violation of U.N. sanctions against the country's nuclear and missile program. The newspaper published a list of attempted purchases by Iran in more than 30 countries, including in the U.S., U.K., China, India, and Germany.
Available at: http://www.woodtv.com/dpps/news/international/iran-still-trying-to-buy-nuclear_3698216
1. South Korea: Nuclear Push Could Bring North's Collapse
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Impoverished North Korea could bring its own collapse if it keeps pouring scarce national resources into its nuclear weapons program and military, a senior South Korean official warned in an interview to be broadcast Monday.
South Korean officials have used tough language against North Korea after two deadly attacks last year killed dozens of people. But it's still rare for a top Seoul official to speak publicly on a potential North Korean collapse and shows the South's growing impatience with its communist neighbor.
"I think they will come to the point where they can no longer sustain the burden of military expenditures," Chun Yung-woo told "PBS NewsHour," according to part of the interview posted on the U.S. public broadcaster's website.
Chun is South Korea's chief presidential adviser on national security and foreign affairs and once was the South's top negotiator on now-stalled six-nation talks on the North's nuclear weapons program.
"They are already suffering from misery ... I think they will be worse off," Chun said. "I think their obsession with their military capabilities, especially weapons of mass destruction like nuclear weapons, chemical weapons ... that would be a short-cut to their demise."
He said "the energy for changing" North Korea is growing but declined to predict when that change might happen.
North Korea's state-controlled economy was devastated by natural disasters and mismanagement in the 1990s, and a botched 2009 currency reform and massive flooding last year are feared to have worsened it. However, experts say the North still devotes much of its scarce resources to its 1.2 million-member military under its "army-first" policy.
In November, the North unveiled a uranium enrichment facility that could give it a second way to make atomic bombs in addition to its known plutonium-based program. North Korea has deployed new types of tanks near the border with South Korea and boosted its special operations forces in recent years, according to an official South Korean defense document released late last month.
Tension on the peninsula spiked after North Korea unleashed artillery shells on a front-line South Korean island near their disputed sea border, killing four people. The shelling came eight months after a deadly warship sinking that South Korea and the U.S. have blamed on Pyongyang. The North has denied its responsibility for the sinking that killed 46 sailors, and it says the South provoked the island attack with nearby military drills.
Chun said the attacks indicate how desperate North Korea is due to its economic crisis.
"I think North Korea's behavior enabled us to see North Korea as it is, not as we want to see it," Chun said. "I am inclined to see it as an indication of their desperation."
The Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, denied Monday that Chun's comments may indicate that South Korea is pushing for North Korea's collapse. Spokesman Kim Young-sun told reporters South Korea still seeks substantial reconciliation with North Korea but also keeps a close eye on developments in the North.
Available at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110117/ap_on_re_as/as_koreas_clash
2. South Korea Wants UN to Act on North Korea Uranium
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South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak said Saturday that North Korea's new enriched uranium program should be dealt with by the United Nations Security Council, his spokeswoman said.
"The issue of North Korea's uranium enrichment program should be referred to the United Nations Security Council," Lee was quoted as saying when he met with Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara.
South Korea's foreign minister Kim Sung-Hwan said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency published Thursday that the programme was designed to make nuclear weapons, rebutting Pyongyang's claims that it is for peaceful use.
"I absolutely agree," Maehara was quoted as telling Lee.
The North, which is already nuclear-armed, heightened regional security fears last November by revealing an apparently operational uranium enrichment plant to visiting US experts.
Pyongyang says the plant will fuel an experimental light water reactor now under construction to generate electricity.
But senior US and other officials fear it could easily be reconfigured to produce weapons-grade uranium to augment the country's existing plutonium stockpile.
The North quit six-party nuclear disarmament talks in April 2009 and conducted its second atomic weapons test a month later in protest at what it perceives as a hostile US policy towards it.
Available at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110115/wl_asia_afp/nkoreanuclearskorea
3. South Korea, Japan Urge North Korean Denuclearization - Summary
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South Korea and Japan urged North Korea on Saturday to take "specific action" to improve the climate to enable the resumption of six-party talks over the north's nuclear programme.
The call was made as South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung Hwan met his visiting Japanese counterpart, Seiji Maehara in Seoul during the Tokyo minister's one-day visit.
"For dialogue with North Korea, the North should demonstrate through specific action its sincere willingness to carry out its own commitment to denuclearization," Maehara said.
Maehara's one-day visit came after he had expressed willingness to hold direct talks with North Korea this year to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes and past abductions of Japanese nationals. North Korea welcomed the overture.
That move raised some concern that the wrong message was being sent to the provocative regime that shelled a South Korean border island in November and has made ominous threats of nuclear war.
Maehara said Saturday that South Korea, the United States and Japan have taken a united stand, demanding the secretive communist state demonstrate a commitment to eliminate its nuclear weapons' programme and improve relations with Seoul.
He said Japan would continue to back South Korea's position in the conflict, calling the attacks "unpardonable."
"It is North Korea that engaged in provocative acts, we cannot agree to talks for talks' sake and (Pyongyang) is required to take specific action," Maehara was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency. "That is the position of South Korea, the US and Japan."
Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have been warm since Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan offered an apology in August for the 1910-45 colonial rule over the peninsula. He also promised to return ancient royal Korean books taken during that period.
Japan is seeking greater security and economic cooperation with South Korea. Its defence minister visited Seoul this week, and efforts are moving toward free-trade negotiations.
A day before Maehara's visit, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was in Seoul and stressed that Washington would make a resumption of the six-party talks conditional on North Korea ending its provocations and living up to its international obligtations.
The six-party talks - the two Koreas, plus Japan, the US, China and Russia - were broken off by Pyongyang in April 2009, yet over the past few months the north had several times expressed its willingness in principle to return to the negotiations.
Available at: http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/news/362471,korean-denuclearization-summary.html
4. Gates: Nuclear Talks Possible if North Korea Stops 'Dangerous Provocations'
The Christian Science Monitor
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US Defense Secretary Robert Gates today hinted that Washington might be willing to renew nuclear talks with North Korea without preconditions.
On Friday, before meeting here with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Secretary Gates said talks with North Korea were possible if the North ceased “dangerous provocations” and took “concrete steps” to meet its obligations.
"We could see a return to the six-party talks” whenever North Korea gave reason to believe that negotiations could be “productive and conducted in good faith," he said. Six-party talks were last held in Beijing in December 2008.
While Gates's comments may have appeared strong, they did not include a clear call for North Korea to give up its nuclear program as a prelude to renewing six-party talks, which North Korea has called for “with no preconditions.”
However, South Korea has rejected the notion of returning to talks without preconditions. On Friday, Mr. Lee called for US "cooperation" on the North Korean nuclear issue.
Gates's aims in Asia
Gates’s remarks came after fence-mending stops in China and Japan. In three days in China, he sought to reopen communications with military leaders upset by US arms sales to Taiwan. In Japan, he defended the need for the US to keep 49,000 troops in the country for defense against both North Korea and China, which he warned might “behave more assertively toward its neighbors” if US troops were withdrawn.
In South Korea, where the US has 28,500 troops, Gates encountered deeper sensitivities about North Korea after two recent attacks – the sinking of the South Korean navy vessel that killed 46 people and an artillery barrage on a South Korean island in November that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians.
During today's meeting with Lee and Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, Gates made a point of satisfying South Korean leaders by saying that diplomatic engagement should begin with talks between North and South Korea. Defense Minister Kim, for his part, said “strong force is the only way to deal effectively” with North.
Former US envoy: 'We need more than talks'
While Gates held his meetings, elsewhere in Seoul former US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill was speaking at a private think tank about past efforts to denuclearize North Korea. Hill, who negotiated with North Korea during the presidency of George W. Bush, insisted that getting the North to do away with its nuclear program remains the top priority.
“We cannot walk away from that,” he said at the forum here. “We really do not have the option of leaving North Korea to have its nuclear weapons.”
Hill defended the record of the six-party talks in getting North Korea to shut down the five-megawatt reactor needed for producing plutonium for warheads but said the North Koreans “lied on their declaration about uranium enrichment.”
“We need more than talks,” said Hill. “The North Koreans have demonstrated they did not deal with the process seriously.”
What will bring South Koreans to the table?
The purpose of talks – which include Russia and Japan as well as the two Koreas, China, and the US – has always been to end the North Korea’s nuclear program, but the sense among many Koreans is that North Korea has no intention of abandoning nuclear weapons. The construction of a new reactor to produce highly enriched uranium for warheads at the North’s main nuclear complex at Yongbyon has convinced South Korean officials that returning to talks will not resolve the issue.
South Koreans cite two conditions under which talks might resume. “North Korea needs to settle the issue of provocations,” says Hahm Chai-bong, director of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, “and North Korea should go back to previous freezing” of its nuclear program.
Korean officials say, however, that North Korea is increasingly unlikely to give up its nuclear program in the run-up to the April 2012 centennial of the birth of Kim Il-sung, who died in July 1994. Kim’s son and heir, Kim Jong-il, is believed to be anxious to display the country’s strength while grooming his own son, Kim Jong-un.
Available at: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2011/0114/Gates-nuclear-talks-possible-if-North-Korea-stops-dangerous-provocations
1. India, Japan Close to Finalizing Nuclear Agreement
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India and Japan are close to finalizing a civil nuclear cooperation agreement, former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said today.
"India and Japan have come to a stage of concluding the nuclear cooperation agreement," Hatoyama, a key leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, said.
He hoped India would uphold its unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests and underscored the sensitivity Japanese people attach to it given that it was the only nation to suffer a nuclear attack.
The India-Japan civil nuclear agreement is the key to the success of India's ambitious plans to scale up atomic power generation. Some American companies keen to set up nuclear plants in India are owned by Japanese companies and governed by Japanese laws.
The former Japanese Premier also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and commerce minister Anand Sharma.
The negotiations for the nuclear agreement were launched on June 28 when officials from Japan and India met for the first round in Tokyo.
The agreement will enable Japanese companies like Mitsubishi, Hitachi and Toshiba, all having advance civil nuclear energy technologies, to set up projects in India where the nuclear energy market it pegged at an estimated $150 billion.
Major atomic power companies of the US and France, both of which already have a bilateral nuclear cooperation treaty with India, have urged Tokyo to sign the nuclear pact with New Delhi so that they can use Japanese technology for building reactors in the country.
The other countries with which India has already signed civil nuclear deal included the US, France, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Argentina and Namibia.
Hatoyama along with five Japanese delegates also had a brief meeting with top officials of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMIC-DC).
He also announced the launch India-Japan Global Partnership Summit which is scheduled to be held in Tokyo in September this year.
The summit is aimed at enhancing socio-economic, cultural and spiritual bonding between the two nations.
"The summit will bring the best of the best from both the countries not only from the field of industry but also from art, culture and education," Sam Pitroda, co-chair of the summit, said.
Available at: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_india-japan-close-to-finalising-nuclear-agreement_1495728
2. Kremlin: Medvedev, Ahmadinejad Discuss Nuclear Energy Cooperation
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The Kremlin says President Dmitry Medvedev has discussed nuclear energy co-operation with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
A Kremlin statement says the presidents spoke by telephone Monday and agreed that Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, a project completed with Russian help but beset by years of delays, is one of the most promising areas of co-operation.
The United States and its allies fear that Iran is trying to make nuclear weapons, not nuclear energy, while Tehran asserts it is enriching uranium to make nuclear fuel and not weapons and says it will not negotiate over its right to enrich for peaceful uses.
Later this week, Iran will meet world powers in Istanbul over its disputed nuclear program.
Available at: http://www.macleans.ca/article.jsp?content=w5676543
3. South Korea, U.S. Agree on Joint Study of ‘Pyroprocessing’
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South Korea and the United States have agreed on a 10-year joint study on the issue reprocessing spent nuclear fuel with a new, proliferation-safe technology, an official said here.
A nuclear accord signed with the US in 1974 prevents South Korea from reprocessing fuel from civilian nuclear plants. With the accord set to expire in 2014, Seoul and Washington have been in talks to rewrite the agreement since last year.
At the first round of talks in October last year, South Korea and the US agreed to launch joint research on Seoul’s demand to adopt what is known as “pyroprocessing” technology, which is considered by some to be less conducive to proliferation.
The two sides also agreed to separate the pyroprocessing issue from talks on revising their nuclear accord called the Korea-US Atomic Energy Agreement.
“Apart from talks on revising the Korea-US Atomic Energy Agreement, experts from the two nations agreed to start joint research on the pyroprocessing technology for 10 years,” Lee Kyung-ryeol, head of a task force in charge of talks on revising the nuclear accord at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said at a forum in Seoul yesterday.
“With the results of the joint research, a decision will be made on whether the Republic of Korea could adopt the pyroprocessing technology in the future,” Lee said, referring South Korea by its official name.
In the face of growing nuclear waste stockpiles and its ambition to become a global power in the civilian nuclear industry, South Korea hopes to adopt pyroprocessing technology, which leaves separated plutonium, the main ingredient in making atomic bombs, mixed with other elements.
Available at: http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/article1092887.ece
1. India’s Nuclear Power Projects Need Transparency: IAEA Director-General
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“While India has a good regulatory body, there is need for more transparency,” advised director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Yukiya Amano when asked about his reaction to massive protests against the development of the world’s largest nuclear power hub at Jaitapur, Mahahrashtra.
He was speaking to the media after inaugurating the 21st Annual Conference of Indian Nuclear Society (INS) on ‘Impact of Radiation Technology on Human Health & Environment,’ at the BARC premises in Trombay.
According to him India is an established nuclear power with great contributions to nuclear applications in fields like medicine and agriculture. He felt, “The association of the country with IAEA is likely to increase in the area of decommissioning in the coming years as many older installations in India will require extensive refurbishment or decommissioning.”
Emphasising the importance of nuclear power as source of stable and clean energy he pointed out how more and more countries were looking at this option for their power needs. “As compared to 29 until a few years ago, today there are 60 countries which already have nuclear power,” he said and added, “we at the IAEA, expect between 10 and 25 new countries to bring their first nuclear power plants on-line by 2030.”
He also pointed how the growth in this sector is being driven primarily by Asia. “Of the 61 reactors now under construction, 39 are in Asia.” He said concerns over depleting fossil fuel reserves and climate change are accelerating this process.
Welcoming the huge interest in nuclear power in the developing world he said, “Access to nuclear power should not be the sole prerogative of the developed countries ,” but added, “with this right to equal access for peaceful purposes, these nations also have the same responsibility to ensure the highest safety standards and to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.”
Amano presented the INS’ Homi Bhabha Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr Anil Kakodkar, former Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission.
Available at: http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report_indias-nuclear-power-projects-need-transparency-iaea-director-general_1495892
2. UN Atomic Expert Downplays China's Nuclear 'Breakthrough'
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China has become one of only a handful of countries that can reprocess spent nuclear fuel but is not yet capable of doing so on an industrial scale, a UN atomic expert said Monday.
Earlier this month, the China National Nuclear Corporation said it had achieved a significant "breakthrough" by developing a fuel reprocessing technology that will extend the lifespan of Beijing's proven uranium deposits to 3,000 years, from the current forecast of 50-70 years.
Experts said however that other countries already own such technology and it remains to be seen whether China will reprocess spent fuel on an industrial scale.
"The completion of a pilot-scale fuel recycling facility... puts China into a fairly exclusive group of nuclear technology holders, as few other countries are currently operating at even this scale," said Gary Dyck, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency?s Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Materials Section.
But "for China to enter into commercial recycling of irradiated nuclear fuel, they will need to construct and commission a much larger facility," Dyck said.
China announced its "breakthrough" to much fanfare on state television two weeks ago, but provided scant detail about the technology.
Dyck told AFP that China's pilot-scale plant was based on the same aqueous recycle technology used in all commercial-scale plants currently in operation in countries such as France and Russia.
He said that recycling fuel from light water reactors and using the plutonium to produce MOX (mixed oxide fuel, made up of plutonium and uranium) fuel for use in other light water reactors "can improve the efficiency with which uranium resources are used by approximately 15 percent."
That rate of efficiency could then be improved "by a factor of 60 or more" if the recycle technology is used with fast breeder reactors.
China commissioned its first fast breeder reactor, the China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR), just last year.
Beijing has stepped up investment in nuclear power in an effort to slash its world-leading carbon emissions and scale down the nation's heavy reliance on coal, which accounts for 70 percent of its energy needs.
China currently has 13 nuclear reactors and has given the green light to plans for 34 others, 26 of which are already under construction.
Beijing currently produces around 750 tonnes of uranium a year but annual demand could rise to 20,000 tonnes a year by 2020, according to state media.
China, which overtook Japan in mid-2010 to become the world's second-largest economy, is the world's biggest energy consumer, according to the International Energy Agency.
Available at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110117/wl_asia_afp/chinaenergynuclearscienceiaea_20110117191012;_ylt=Aie_B12YaxAdqZ2vKwrYd43POrgF;_ylu=X3oDMTM0MnUxa3Z2BGFzc2V0A2FmcC8yMDExMDExNy9jaGluYWVuZXJneW51Y2xlYXJzY2llbmNlaWFlYQRwb3MDNwRzZWMDeW5fcGFnaW5hdGVfc3VtbWFyeV
3. Egypt to Issue Nuclear Plants Tender by End of January
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Egypt will issue a tender for its nuclear power plants in about two weeks time and bidding companies will be given six months to present their offers, its minister of electricity and energy said on Sunday.
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 plants by 2025, with the first to start operating in 2019.
"The tender should be out by the end of January and is now being reviewed by the state council," Hassan Younes told Reuters in an interview in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi.
Officials hope the new nuclear programme will add capacity of up to 4,000 megawatts by 2025.
"We have received interest for the bid from companies in all parts of the world including France, the United States, China, Russia and Japan," said Younes. The winner of the bid will be announced by the end of July or beginning of August 2012, he added.
The ministry had invited several firms for consultancy and project briefings, including French nuclear reactor maker Areva, engineering group Alstom and Westinghouse Electric Co, a U.S.-based unit of Japan's Toshiba.
In 2009, Egypt signed a deal with Australia's WorleyParsons for a nuclear power consultancy.
On Sunday, Orascom Construction Industries, Egypt's biggest listed builder, said it had formed a joint venture with state-owned Arab Contractors to bid on nuclear projects in the Middle East, including Egypt's first nuclear power plant.
That plant will be located in Dabaa on the country's Mediterranean coast.
Asked about possible political tension that could arise from Egypt using nuclear power, Younes said there was no intention of enriching uranium domestically and the energy will be used for peaceful purposes.
"This is a peaceful nuclear programme, so there are no problems," he added.
Last year, the United Nations slapped a fourth round of sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment, which with further refinement can yield materials for weapons.
Western powers fear Iran is using its nuclear programme to develop weapons, while Tehran says it needs power generation to meet rapidly rising demand.
Egypt has installed capacity of about 23,500 MW, but strained to meet demand during an unusually hot summer, leading to intermittent power cuts across the grid. It has said it aims for an additional 58,000 MW of capacity to the grid by 2027.
"The growth rate for power demand in the peak hours was up 11.2 percent from previous summer, but this summer I don't expect there will be any outages because we increased our power generation by 6 percent which is 1500 mega watts," said Younes.
Available at: http://af.reuters.com/article/investingNews/idAFJOE70F07320110116
4. Japan Plans To Stockpile 120 Tons of Enriched Uranium
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Japan will begin this year to stockpile enriched uranium for nuclear power generation purposes in order to meet global demand for nuclear power expected to rise, Japanese media reported.
The Japanese government, in cooperation with the private sector, aim to secure a stable supply of fuels to enhance its energy security and pitch the country's nuclear power generation technologies to emerging economies, Nikkei said.
The paper noted that although utilities currently hold reserves for their own nuclear power plants, the new initiative will mark the first time the government has stockpiled emergency supplies of nuclear fuel, and it plans to accumulate 120 tons through fiscal 2015.
Japan consumes more than 1,600 tons of enriched uranium per year. Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. enriches about 4% of domestic demand, while utilities import the remainder from countries such as the U.S., Russia and France.
The government will use two to four storage facilities operated by uranium-processing companies and will cover costs to purchase uranium, as well as the interest on maintenance expenses, the paper said, adding that stockpiling costs are estimated to reach about 24 billion yen (about $290,000,000) over five years, of which the government plans to finance around 400 million yen.
Japan and Jordan signed an agreement in September for nuclear power cooperation, paving the way for the export of Japan's technology in that field. Japan hopes to win more deals to provide nuclear energy technology with other countries in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Turkey.
Available at: http://www.panorientnews.com/en/news.php?k=675
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