1. North Korea Steps Up Aid to Iran on Nuclear Program
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North Korea has markedly extended its arms cooperation with Iran since the start of 2011, according to information received by Süddeutsche Zeitung from Western secret service sources.
Pyongyang passed on to the Ministry of Defense in Tehran a highly specialized computer program that simulates neutron flows, say the sources. Such information is vital both for the construction of reactors, as well as the development of nuclear warheads. In addition, North Korean scientists are supposed to have taught their Iranian counterparts how to use the software. This could give Iran crucial know-how for making nuclear weapons.
The program is called MCNPX 2.6.0, which is an abbreviation of Monte Carlo N-Particle Extended, and it was developed by the US atomic weapons laboratory at Los Alamos. It is used by many Western universities and research institutes, mostly for numerous non-military purposes. However it is subject to rigorous export controls since it can also be used to develop atomic weaponry. Just how North Korea acquired the software is unclear.
The deal with Iran may be part of a broader cooperation for which Iran may have shelled out $100 million. Experts unanimously agree that this amount of money would be too high for just the program and training. North Korea has been shifting arms technology for years, mainly missiles, to countries like Iran in return for hard currencies. The CIA believes that North Korea helped Syria build a secret nuclear reactor to produce plutonium that was bombarded by the Israeli air force in 2007.
With the MCNPX 2.6.0 software, scientists can work out self-sustaining chain reactions that are necessary to create nuclear explosions. The simulations would make it possible for Iranian scientists to figure out with a high level of precision if a nuclear bomb would explode, assuming that all the mechanical components were functioning properly. According to Süddeutsche Zeitung’s sources, North Korea also delivered to the Iranians a so-called nuclear data library -- data banks of primary importance to ensure the exactitude of the simulations.
Data garnered from North Korea’s own experiments is thought to be included in that library.
After research and development phases, North Korea tested nuclear warheads in October 2006 and then again in May 2009. Official documents show that the US also conducted experiments with nuclear material. The data was used for simulations that can further develop an existing arsenal of nuclear weapons and test reliability; the US stopped atomic testing in 1992.
In mid-February 2011, according to the secret service sources, a North Korean delegation went to Iran to teach a group of some 20 people working in the Ministry of Defense how to use the program. This group was linked to several dozen Iranian scientists working on the development of a nuclear warhead. The training is supposed to have taken place over a period of around three months at a secret Revolutionary Guard location.
According to the same sources, three of the North Korean experts who went to Tehran work at the Second Academy of Natural Sciences in Pyongyang, which is involved in the development of missiles and atomic weapons, and is thus under US sanction. Two other scientists were said to hold high positions at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, which lies at the heart of North Korea’s nuclear program. The delegation is said to have taken part of the Iranian payment back to Pyongyang, in cash. Two of the North Koreans were expected to return to Iran in August, possibly to help Iranian scientists with concrete simulations.
This new information hardens suspicions that Iran is continuing to develop atomic weapons although, according to an internal 2008 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) document, the country already possesses the information required to build a functioning warhead. The IAEA declined to comment on this and referred the Süddeutsche Zeitung to the latest report by its Director General, Yukiya Amano, which came out in May. In the report, Amano listed seven points detailing suspicious activities that could point to a "possible military dimension" to the Iranian nuclear program. At a meeting of the IAEA governing council in June, Amano stated off the record that his agency had indications that the questionable activities had been on-going “until recently.”
Both the European and American secret services are operating on the assumption that Iran is not currently running an active program to develop nuclear weapons. Most experts and members of the secret services believe that the Iranians have not yet made a political decision to do so – there are apparently diverging views within the Iranian regime on the subject. At the very least, however, the Iranian government is trying to assemble the various prerequisites so that in case of emergency, it could build nuclear weapons within a short period of time. In the estimate of a majority of Europe‘s secret services, Iran carried on research and development work for nuclear weapons after 2003. In 2007, the US intelligence community issued a much-disputed report to the effect that Iran had ended an active nuclear weapons program in 2003.
Olli Heinonen, a nuclear proliferation expert at Harvard University and former chief inspector with the IAEA, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that if Iran really is working on designs for nuclear weapons then cooperation with North Korea would be useful -- although the North Korean program is plutonium-based while Iran’s has up until now apparently been exclusively uranium-based. "Even if they have their own software and parameters, it’s always useful to compare notes," says Heinonen. In its universities, Pyongyang has "put a lot of effort into the simulation and calculation of neutron flows in warheads."
Iran and North Korea have cooperated closely on the development and construction of ballistic missiles, says Heinonen. "So it would be logical for them to discuss what you pack into the head of the missile and to work together on that front, too." Even if Iran already has plans for a functioning warhead, or may even have tested components, additional simulations are useful. "They’re clearly running an Iranian Manhattan Project," Heinonen added, referring to the US nuclear weapons program during World War II, “and want to improve their know-how.”
To produce a warhead, the goal would be “to keep making design improvements so that it’s as small and reliable as possible,” he explained. From that standpoint, collaboration with North Korea makes “perfect sense.”
Available at: http://www.worldcrunch.com/exclusive-north-korea-steps-aid-iran-nuclear-program/3649
2. Seoul Reacts Coolly to N. Korea’s Nuclear Pledge
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South Korea on Thursday gave a cool response to a North Korean pledge that it would suspend nuclear testing and processing if multilateral disarmament talks reopened “without preconditions.” I don’t see any particular progress,” Deputy Spokesman Shin Maeng-Ho of the South’s foreign ministry told AFP.
The JoongAng Ilbo newspaper quoted an unidentified government official as saying that Seoul wanted the six-party talks to resume at an early date.
“But the key is whether the North takes actions for denuclearisation before the talks resume. In that sense, the recent announcement fails to show North Korea’s sincerity in purpose,” the official told the daily.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Il on Wednesday promised Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that his reclusive state was prepared to renounce nuclear testing and processing if the long-stalled discussions resume, during rare talks in Russia.
“Without preconditions, in the course of the negotiations,” the North Koreans will be ready to introduce a moratorium on testing and spent nuclear fuel processing, Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said.
Medvedev told journalists that Pyongyang supported a planned pipeline to carry Russian gas supplies to South Korea through the North, a route that would allow Moscow to reach new energy-hungry Asian markets.
The South demands that the North allow inspectors back to monitor its nuclear sites, stop nuclear processing activities and suspend testing of weapons of mass destruction before the six-party talks resume.
Available at: http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/25/seoul-reacts-coolly-to-n-koreas-nuclear-pledge.html
3. U.S. Says DPRK's Offer on Nuclear Talks Welcomed, But Not Enough
Xinhua News Agency
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The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday that the offer by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to suspend its nuclear program at some point if the six-party talks resumed is a "welcome first step, but far from enough."
"I think you hit it on the head when you said 'familiar offer,' " State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters at a regular briefing.
"Obviously, if, in fact, they are now willing to refrain from nuclear tests and missile launches, this would be welcome, but it would be insufficient," she said.
During a visit to Moscow on Wednesday, DPRK leader Kim Jong Il told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that the DPRK was ready to impose a moratorium on testing and production of missile and nuclear weaponry only in the course of the six-party talks.
Nuland said DPRK's disclosure last November of uranium enrichment facilities "remains a matter of serious concern" to the U.S., describing these activities as "a clear violation of their obligations under UN Security Resolutions 1718 and 1874, and contrary to the commitments that they made in 2005."
U.S. envoy for DPRK policy Stephen Bosworth and DPRK Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan met in late July in New York over a possible resumption of the long-stalled six-party talks on the Korean Peninsular denuclearization. A DPRK Foreign Ministry spokesman said early this month that his country is ready to hold the talks without preconditions.
The six-party talks, involving China, the DPRK, the United States, South Korea, Russia and Japan, began in 2003. Six rounds were held before the talks stalled in December 2008.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-08/25/c_131071876.htm
1. Iranian Gets Death Sentence for Scientist's Murder
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An Iranian accused of assassinating a scientist on behalf of Israel has been sentenced to death, Iran's official news agency IRNA reported on Sunday.
Majid Jamali-Fashi had pleaded guilty to murdering Massoud Ali-Mohammadi in January 2010, the first of several attacks on scientists which Iran said were the work of enemies that wished to stop it developing nuclear technology.
The prosecution said Jamali-Fashi had travelled to Israel to receive training from the Mossad intelligence agency, and had been paid $120,000 for the assassination.
IRNA quoted a judiciary spokesman as saying he had been condemned to death for "waging war against God" and being "corrupt on Earth," both capital offences under Iran's strict form of Islamic law.
Although IRNA described Ali-Mohammadi as a nuclear scientist, a spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation said in the days after his death that he had not played a role in the activities of the organisation.
An Iranian opposition website said at the time that Ali-Mohammadi was an opposition supporter who had backed moderate candidate Mirhossein Mousavi in the disputed June 2009 presidential election, suggesting there may be other possible motives for his murder.
Eleven months after the bomb attack that killed Ali-Mohammadi as he set off to work, two other scientists were targeted.
Majid Shahriyari, who authorities said had a role in one of Iran's biggest nuclear projects, was killed but Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani survived and has since been appointed head of the Iranian nuclear organisation.
Washington has denied any involvement in the murders and Israel has declined to comment.
Available at: http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE77R1AQ20110828
Deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) says the pre-launch tests for Bushehr nuclear power plant are in their final stages.
“Bushehr nuclear plant is undergoing the final stages of the tests related to its launch and we hope that the plant will join the national power grid, based on the specified timeline,” Mohammad Ahmadian told reporters in the southern city of Bushehr on Saturday.
He added that part of the tests on the plant's turbines has been carried out in the past days and the final tests are being conducted in the current days, Mehr News Agency reported.
The AEOI official said that the reactors will be tested after the turbines.
Ahmadian went on to say that the process of joining the plant to the national grid is a “lengthy process” and it must be done in different phases in order to ensure that the plant functions correctly.
The nuclear official stressed that due to the sensitivities related to nuclear plants, safety has been the AEOI's “top priority” in launching the Bushehr plant.
Iran signed a deal with Russia in 1995, under which the plant was originally scheduled to be completed in 1999, but the completion of the project was repeatedly delayed. The nuclear power plant was finally finished with the help of Russia following a three-decade delay.
In October 2010, Iran started injecting fuel into the core of the reactor at Bushehr nuclear power plant in the initial phase of its launch. However, engineers began removing the fuel rods in late February for safety reasons.
On August 17, the AEOI announced a plan for the official inauguration of Bushehr's nuclear power plant in mid-November or in December.
According to the AEOI, the first phase of the Bushehr plant is scheduled to go on stream by the end of the holy month of Ramadan (early September) with a 40 percent capacity.
Available at: http://www.presstv.com/detail/196081.html
1. France to Seek Extension Of Global Nuclear Plants Stress Tests
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French Energy Minister Eric Besson Monday said he will ask the International Atomic Energy Agency to extend globally stress tests on nuclear plants carried out in Europe after the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan triggered worries about plants all over the world.
Besson will make the request official during a summit on Sept. 19 to be held in Vienna, he told French TV station France 2 Monday morning. However, he said it will be difficult to convince a majority of nations to approve imposing those stress tests on all the world's nuclear power plants.
The European Union launched earlier this year a region-wide test on the safety of operating nuclear reactors. Nuclear energy came into question after an earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused a disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in March. The stress tests are expected to be over by the end of the first quarter of 2012.
The French government has pushed for the stress tests and for tighter regulations for the building of new nuclear reactors. French state-controlled nuclear engineering firm Areva SA (AREVA.FR) considers its reactors are safer than competitors because they have higher safety standards. Tighter regulations would make their reactors more competitive.
At a recent gathering of officials from countries with nuclear plants running, France proposed a world-wide plan even though global tests would be expensive and it is unclear who would oversee them and who would have the authority to order the closure of a plant identified as unsafe.
The French energy minister also said France will keep using nuclear energy as a source of electricity, as it gives France energy independence and cheaper power, he continued during the interview.
He added that the process of auditing the 58 French nuclear reactors currently running is half done and the independent authority will release a report by the end of the year.
The construction of the nuclear plant located in Flamanville by French state-controlled power giant Electricite de France SA (EDF.FR) and Areva will continue despite a two-year delay and a cost increase, he added.
Besson said another EPR, as the model for the new plant is dubbed, will also be built in France on the northern coast, as scheduled.
Available at: http://www.foxbusiness.com/industries/2011/08/29/france-to-seek-extension-global-nuclear-plantsess-tests/
The Cabinet on Tuesday will take up the Nuclear Safety And Regulatory Authority Bill 2011 which will seek to establish the council of nuclear safety — the nuclear safety regulatory authority — and significantly also other regulatory bodies for the purpose of national defence and security.
The bill comes in the backdrop of rising concerns about the impact of any nuclear accident in India, of the kind that had taken place in Fukushima in Japan. After reviewing the situation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in April, had announced the decision to establish an independent nuclear regulator.
The council of nuclear safety — expected to be headed by the prime minister — will oversee and review policies with respect to radiation and nuclear safety and other related matters.
The regulatory authority will seek to ensure that the use of radiation and atomic energy is safe for the health of radiation workers, the public and the environment. The bill empowers the council to set up the appellate authority.
Significantly, the bill will have provisions to ensure that the right to information act, 2005 will not apply to certain information specified in the Act.
In line with the nuclear safety regulatory authority bill, certain amendments will also be made in the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, the Disaster Management Act 2005 and the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010.
The cabinet will also take up the consumer protection (amendment) bill which seeks to empower consumers, infuse transparency and ensure quicker disposal of cases by specifying a time frame.
The clearance of 5% disinvestment for Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited is also on the table as part of the Centre's plan to raise Rs40,000 crore through public sector disinvestment in the current fiscal.
Available at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/Govt-to-form-body-to-oversee-nuclear-safety/Article1-739400.aspx
3. Namibia Arrests Four in Suspected Nuclear Theft
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Namibian authorities have arrested four people they suspect of stealing drums of radioactive material from a mine in the country that is a major exporter of uranium, officials said on Monday.
The four were arrested on Friday in the coastal town of Swakopmund, the drums have been recovered and the material is thought to have come from Areva's Trekkopje mine, they said. Axel Tibinyane, regulator of the Atomic Energy Board of Namibia, said the contents of the drums are radioactive.
"The next step is to confirm that the material is indeed uranium oxide, but physical observation points in that direction. This will also allow us to fingerprint the origin of the material," Tibinyane told Reuters.
The spokesperson in Namibia for the French nuclear firm Areva, Sugnét Smit, told Reuters: "The situation is very sensitive. Tests have been conducted to see if it concerns yellow cake or not. The results will be released on Thursday".
Areva's Trekkopje is one of the few mines in Namibia that has processing facilities for yellow cake -- a form of uranium ore that can be enriched for nuclear fuel or, if enriched to a much higher level, for use in weapons.
The four suspects were expected to appear in court later on Monday.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/29/namibia-uranium-idUSL5E7JT0F320110829
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda said he expects the reactivation of nuclear reactors whose operations were suspended for scheduled checkups to begin this year.
Kaieda expressed his view at a joint press conference held Saturday for the five candidates in the Democratic Party of Japan's presidential election, including himself. It was the first time
Kaieda had referred to a specific time for the restart of nuclear reactors.
The government's policy on restarting the reactors has shifted under the administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, confusing local governments that host nuclear power plants.
People involved with the issue are paying close attention to Kaieda's remarks, as he has obtained the support of former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa in the presidential election. Ozawa heads the party's largest internal group.
According to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, reactor operations at 25 of the nation's 54 commercial nuclear power plants are under suspension due to periodic checkups.
For their operations to restart, nuclear reactors need to clear the first stage of stress tests that check the safety of the reactors. In this stage, plant operators assess the safety of the nuclear reactors on the premise that they have been hit by a major earthquake or tsunami.
The results will be first assessed by the the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which is part of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, and then checked again by the Cabinet Office's Nuclear Safety Commission.
In the final stage, the prime minister and three cabinet ministers related to nuclear power plants will decide whether to restart the nuclear reactors based on those assessments.
At Saturday's press conference, Kaieda said electric power companies are expected to submit the results of their first-stage stress tests to the agency in September, and it will take two to three months for the agency and the commission to assess the findings.
As a result, Kaieda said he expects the restart of the suspended nuclear power plants to begin "just before the year ends."
The agency has said it will take "several months" for it and the commission to finish assessing the results of the stress tests, and declined to comment whether the suspended nuclear reactors will be restarted this year.
Among the 25 nuclear reactors under suspension due to periodic checkups, stress tests have begun at the Shika nuclear power plant's No. 2 reactor in Ishikawa Prefecture; the Nos. 2 and 3 reactors at Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture; and the No. 1 reactor at the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture. The other nuclear reactors undergoing stress tests have not been officially announced, but the results of first-stage stress tests on the Tomari nuclear power plant's No. 1 reactor in Hokkaido are expected to be submitted to the agency in September.
Available at: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T110828003072.htm
5. WikiLeaks Cables Reveal Fears Over China's Nuclear Safety
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China has "vastly increased" the risk of a nuclear accident by opting for cheap technology that will be 100 years old by the time dozens of its reactors reach the end of their lifespans, according to diplomatic cables from the US embassy in Beijing.
The warning comes weeks after the government in Beijing resumed its ambitious nuclear expansion programme, that was temporarily halted for safety inspections in the wake of the meltdown of three reactors in Fukushima, Japan.
Cables released this week by WikiLeaks highlight the secrecy of the bidding process for power plant contracts, the influence of government lobbying, and potential weaknesses in the management and regulatory oversight of China's fast-expanding nuclear sector.
In August, 2008, the embassy noted that China was in the process of building 50 to 60 new nuclear plants by 2020. This target – which has since increased – was a huge business opportunity. To keep up with the French and Russians, the cable urged continuous high-level advocacy on behalf of the US company Westinghouse to push its AP-1000 reactor.
This is crucial, according to the cable dated 29 August 2008 from the American Embassy in Beijing, because "all reactor purchases to date have been largely the result of internal high level political decisions absent any open process."
For the US embassy, a bigger concern was that China seemed more interested in building its own reactors – the CPR-1000 – based on old Westinghouse technology, at Daya Bay and Ling Ao.
"As the CPR-1000 increases market share, China is assuring that rather than building a fleet of state-of-the-art reactors, they will be burdened with technology that by the end of its lifetime will be 100 years old," reads another cable dated 7 August 2008.
For the past 10 years the CPR-1000 has been the most popular design in China. In 2009, the state news agency Xinhua reported that all but two of the 22 nuclear reactors under construction applied CPR-1000 technology.
The cable suggests this was a dangerous choice: "By bypassing the passive safety technology of the AP1000, which, according to Westinghouse, is 100 times safer than the CPR-1000, China is vastly increasing the aggregate risk of its nuclear power fleet. "
"Passive safety technology" ensures that a reactor will automatically shut down in the event of a disaster without human intervention. Plants without this feature are considered less safe as they rely on human intervention which can be difficult to provide in a crisis situation.
China says it has updated and improved the technology on which the CPR-1000 is based, but the government recognises that it is less safe than newer models. China's national nuclear safety administration and national energy administration are currently drafting new safety plans, which are thought likely to include a stipulation that all future plants have to meet the higher standards of third-generation reactors like the AP-1000 or thorium technology.
But it will still have to manage dozens of second-generation reactors for decades to come.
Four CPR-1000s were approved by the state council just days before the Fukushima explosions. That accident – which was ranked on the same level as Chernobyl – has prompted a dramatic rethink of nuclear policy in Japan, Germany and Italy.
There is no sign of a change of heart in China, which plans to build more reactors than the rest of the world put together between now and 2020. The latest to be completed was the CPR-1000 at Ling Ao earlier this month.
The US embassy and Westinghouse may have wanted to play up the risks to improve the strength of their own bids, but safety concerns are also expressed within China. This year, Prof He Zuoxiu, who helped to develop China's first atomic bomb, claimed plans to ramp up production of nuclear energy twentyfold by 2030 could be as disastrous as the "Great Leap Forward" – Mao Zedong's disastrous attempt to jump-start industrial development in the late 1950s.
Writing in the Science Times, He asked: "Are we really ready for this kind of giddy speed [of nuclear power development]? I think not – we're seriously underprepared, especially on the safety front."
The rush to build new plants may also create problems for effective management, operation and regulatory oversight. Westinghouse representative Gavin Liu was quoted in a cable as saying: "The biggest potential bottleneck is human resources – coming up with enough trained personnel to build and operate all of these new plants, as well as regulate the industry."
Such worries increased in July when another of China's new industrial projects – a high-speed railway – led to a collision that killed 39 people. It too was built domestically, based on foreign designs and rolled out faster than its operators appear to have been capable of dealing with.
Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/25/wikileaks-fears-china-nuclear-safety
1. South Korea Civil Nuclear Talks With India in September
Daily News & Analysis India
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A month after signing a civil nuclear cooperation agreement, South Korea will enter into negotiations with India to build civil nuclear power plants.
The negotiations will be carried out over a series of high level visits from Korea, starting next month.
The development will inevitably intensify competition in the sector that is being dominated by big players - Russia, US, France and Japan. Sources said, in September, New Delhi will be hosting a delegation lead by the South Korean vice minister, Ministry for Knowledge Economy, Junggwan Kim.
Sources said Kim will be heading a composite delegation consisting of Korean government officials and prominent players from the civil nuclear power sector in Korea, including the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco).
The delegation will be holding talks with top Indian government officials including the Ministry of External Affairs and the Department of Atomic Energy.
This visit will be followed by another visit from South Korean Minister of Knowledge Economy, Joong Kyung Choi, in November.
India had signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with South Korea during president Pratibha Patil’s visit to Seoul in July.
Sources said during the negotiations India is likely to push for getting sub-contracts for Indian companies — Tata and L&T — in the $20 billion worth civil nuclear power plant project bagged by Kepco.
Tata’s and L&T already have a good experience in the nuclear power plant sector in India. Kepco stunned the world last year after it beat French giant AREVA in a competitive bidding and bagged $ 20 billion worth of orders from the United Arab Emirates for building four nuclear plants.
Kepco already has an MoU with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited. India’s nuclear commerce with the world received a shot in the arm following the 2005 Indo-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, and the September 2008, NSG waiver to India. India enetered into a number of civil nuclear agreements including with the French and the Russians.
Russia has already built the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. Units 1 and 2 of the plant are currently undergoing pre-commissioning testing and are expected to be commissioned in the near future. Negotiations for the start of construction work for Units 3 and 4 are at “an advanced stage” and construction is likely to begin soon.
During French President Sarkozy’s visit to India in December 2010, a General Framework Agreement and an Early Works Agreement were signed between NPCIL and AREVA.
Deals worth $10 billion were signed for the setting up two third-generation European Processing Reactors at Jaitapur, Maharashtra by AREVA.
After signing the US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement in October 2008, the twocountries announced completion of all steps to begin implementation ofthe Civil Nuclear Agreement during President Obama’s visit to India in November 2010.
“India and the US companies are now working towards early commencement of commercial cooperation in this area,” MEA country brief on US says.
Talks are on with the French and the Americans who have asked for sites to develop civil nuclear plants in India. Negotiations have however run into hurdle over India’s nuclear liability law which US claims does not meet international standards.
Available at: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_south-korea-civil-nuclear-talks-with-india-in-september_1580447
2. Concern Grows Over Prospects for Middle East Disarmament Meeting
Inter Press Service
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Four months before 2012 - the year a conference is slated to be held on freeing the Middle East region of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) - no date, facilitator, or host country has been named.
At the Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference in 2010, parties to the treaty agreed to organise a conference in 2012 involving all states in the Middle East to discuss biological, chemical, and nuclear disarmament in the region - in accordance with the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East. The United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and the United Nations Secretary General were to lead these efforts.
Though planning discussions are underway among high level officials from both Middle Eastern governments and the governments leading the planning effort, the fact that these countries have not yet named a host country, facilitator, or date - all of which are necessary to hold the meeting - is "disappointing," said Anne Penketh, Washington director of the British American Security Information Council, in an interview with IPS.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association also noted that intensive consultations to plan for the meeting were taking place. But he expressed worry that, provided the conference does happen, states will have been too focused on logistics in the lead up to the meeting rather than its substance to make it productive.
Though many issues have contributed to the delay in settling on the essential logistics of the conference, a significant one is the fact that states cannot agree over who should host the conference or serve as facilitator.
The very act of bringing together states in the Middle East is a challenge, Kimball emphasised, and agreeing simply to hold a conference was a "breakthrough," he told IPS. "This is a very challenging proposition - to get Israel and Egypt and Iran and Syria and Saudi Arabia in the same meeting room and to do so in a way that produces a constructive conversation."
Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal remains an obstacle in many areas of political discussion, but is especially sensitive when the discussion revolves around disarmament. Israel took offence at the final document of the 2010 NPT review conference, which singled out the country for not being a signatory to the agreement.
As a result, according to Penketh and Kimball, the Israeli government is concerned that the 2012 conference could evolve into a meeting focusing singularly on Israel and its nuclear weapons programme.
Yet such a possibility only enhances the benefits to Israel if it participates in the conference. Attending would improve Israel’s credentials in the region, Kimball pointed out. "It would give Israel the opportunity to point out the ways in which other countries in the region need to meet their own chemical, biological, and nuclear non-proliferation obligations," he added.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East that is not party to the NPT and the fact that it possesses an undeclared nuclear arsenal is widely accepted. Syria and Iran are party to the treaty but are widely believed to be developing chemical and nuclear arsenals, respectively.
Israel’s level of commitment to the 2012 conference is uncertain. It has said in the past that it would participate on the condition that Israel would not be singled out for criticism, and Kimball said that Israel has been "cagey" about whether or not it would participate in the conference.
Yet Penketh said she had spoken with Israeli officials who were "open" to discussions on a WMD free zone, and she said the Israelis remained engaged in the discussion process.
The Israeli Mission to the U.N. did not respond to a request for comment.
The current political upheaval and uncertainty sweeping through many countries in the Middle East does not simplify discussion over what is already an extremely complicated and sensitive topic.
Recently, disarmament "has not been the top issue on the diplomatic agenda for these countries," Kimball noted. As a result, the planning process has been delayed.
Yet even if governments are preoccupied, the unrest makes the case for a disarmament conference, especially one where Israel sits down with all of its neighbours, all the more compelling, said Penketh.
She said that some countries might seize on the unrest as an excuse not to attend the 2012 conference but that she hadn’t seen concrete evidence that any countries actually intended to do so.
Disarmament has always been closely connected to the Middle East peace process, especially because for one of the key players in the peace process, Israel, security is a top priority.
In an email to IPS, Richard Butler, former U.N. weapons inspector, called disarmament "intrinsically important" to the peace process.
But Penketh suggests there is a "strong argument" for separating the peace and disarmament processes.
Regardless of the connection between disarmament in the Middle East and the peace process in the region or what form it takes, however, both are long and complicated efforts requiring time and consistent commitment. Disarmament in the Middle East cannot be accomplished over the course of a single conference, but without such an initiative, progress is even more unlikely.
"Things are moving too slowly," Penketh concluded. "But they are moving."
Available at: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=104887
Hitachi Ltd. announced Thursday it will tie up with the provincial government of Saskatchewan, Canada, over development of nuclear energy and radiation technologies.
Hitachi and the provincial government will work on projects developing small nuclear power reactors, technology to re-collect uranium for nuclear fuel and medical technologies that use radiation.
It will be the first time since the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant that a Japanese company has established a business partnership over practical nuclear projects.
A nuclear-related business joint venture between Hitachi and General Electric will also take part in the projects.
A total of 10 million Canadian dollars (about 780 million yen) will be invested in the projects over the next five years. The parties plan to put the small nuclear reactors into practical use some time from 2023 to 2025.
There are currently 18 nuclear reactors operating in Canada, providing about 15 percent of the country's electricity.
Canada is one of the world's largest uranium producers, with all uranium in the country produced in Saskatchewan.
Available at: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/business/T110826005540.htm
Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is considering teaming up with Kansai Electric Power Co to try to win a nuclear power plant deal in Turkey, the Nikkei business daily reported on Saturday.
The industrial conglomerate Toshiba was in talks with Turkey to build a second nuclear plant on the Black Sea coast, but its partner, Tokyo Electric Power , has withdrawn from the project as it focuses on bringing Japan's own quake-crippled Fukushima nuclear plant under control.
Turkey had reservations about the safety of a boiling water reactor (BWR), a type adopted at Fukushima Daiichi plant, and asked Japan to consider the use of a pressurised water reactor (PWR), a specialty of Mitsubishi Heavy, instead of Toshiba's BWR, the report said.
Japan's second-biggest utility, Kansai, which derived about half of its power from nuclear plants before the March quake, is a main user of PWR-type reactors in Japan.
Turkey and Japan reached a basic agreement in December to build Turkey's second nuclear plant and had aimed to conclude the deal within three months. But the talks were delayed after Japan's earthquake and tsunami in March crippled the Fukushima plant which has been leaking radiation ever since.
Available at: http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFL4E7JR03O20110827?sp=true
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