Recent arrests suggest that Germany remains a hub for sales of prohibited supplies to Iran that are being used in Iran's nuclear program. Illegal exports are undermining Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has pursued an embargo policy in order to prevent a possible war in the Middle East.
Investigators showed up at around 9:30 a.m. on a sunny Wednesday in August. They wore bulletproof vests as they entered the driveway. Their superiors had ordered them to take protective measures.
The agents held up search and arrest warrants in front of the intercom camera and waited until the gate slowly opened at this residence in the upper-middle-class Hamburg district of Poppenbüttel. They had come to arrest the building's owner, a nondescript older man named Gholamali K., and his son Kianzad.
The two Iranian-Germans are suspected of working at the heart of a ring that allegedly supplied valves to Iran's controversial nuclear program. At the same time, investigators searched offices in a number of German cities -- in Oldenburg, Weimar and Halle -- and arrested two additional men.
The four arrests are the latest blow to suspected supporters of Iran's bid to become a nuclear power. Investigations show that Germany remains a hub for clandestine deliveries to Iran, despite wide-ranging sanctions.
Iranian-German collaborations have a long history. For many years, companies like German engineering giant Siemens played an important role in the construction of the Iranian nuclear reactor in Bushehr. German mechanical engineering companies rank among the best in the world, and their products are highly coveted by engineers in Tehran. A recent confidential situation report by the German Customs Criminal Investigation Office (ZKA) said that Germany is a "focal point for Iran's procurement activity" by Iran. The report went on to say that "preventing illegal exports" represents "a key challenge."
Sales of banned high-tech products boost the Iranian nuclear program, but they also threaten the German government's policy, which is largely relying on tight export restrictions to head off a war in the Middle East. The means "at our disposal to force Iran to be more transparent have not been exhausted," says German Chancellor Angela Merkel, adding that "sanctions are at the top of the list here."
Merkel made a promise to the international community. Germany will "do everything that it can to ensure that trade with Iran will not simply seek out new routes," she said back in November 2007. This is the policy that the German government is pursuing in official talks with the Iranians as well as the Israelis.
The chancellor's main argument is that sanctions are an effective approach. It's a line of reasoning that she uses to counter the warmongers surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is endeavoring to prepare the world for a military strike against Iran. Just last week, in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, the Israeli leader adamantly warned of the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
If companies in Germany are able to slip through the tightly woven net of restrictions, this could create the impression around the world that German companies are collaborating virtually at will with the regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Such a realization would largely undermine Merkel's argument. Consequently, there is little that the chancellor and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle fear more than the allegation that German support helped pave the way for the creation of an Iranian nuclear bomb.
The products that were to come from Germany this time around are fist-sized valves that are an essential component for launching heavy water reactors and bringing them under control. Such a facility is being built in Arak.
The regime is developing a heavy water reactor in this provincial capital in northwestern Iran -- population 470,000, located 280 kilometers (174 miles) from Tehran. Such reactors can operate with naturally occurring uranium, making them suitable for countries that have problems enriching this substance. This reactor was officially designed for the production of radioactive isotopes for nuclear medicine, but it also produces plutonium and tritium, which are elements that can be used to build a nuclear bomb. With the aid of a heavy water reactor, for instance, India was able to produce the fissionable material for its first nuclear warhead.
Arak is a pillar of Iran's nuclear program. The reactor is on the observation list of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and would be among the targets if Israel were to launch air strikes.
The German agency conducting the investigation has given the operation the codeword "Ventilator," named after the German word for valves, Ventile.
Investigators claim the deal dates back to 2007, when a man from Iran named Hossein T. made contact with an engineer named Rudolph M., 78, in the eastern German city of Weimar. M. owns a company that has specialized in plant engineering and custom fittings since 1995, and he is reputed to be an expert in his field.
According to federal prosecutors, Hossein T., 48, runs a number of companies that are closely linked to the Iranian nuclear program. In 2007, T. allegedly received a major order from an Iranian firm called Modern Industries Technique Company (MITEC). MITEC is a familiar player in the-cat-and-mouse game between Iran and the international community.
The company is responsible for building the reactor near Arak. In June 2010, the United Nations added MITEC to its blacklist of companies aiding Iran's nuclear program. One month later, the European Union followed suit and banned the company. Since then, anyone who does business with MITEC is committing a punishable offense.
Hossein T. is suspected of purchasing special components for MITEC: approximately 1,800 valves in three different models -- some forged, others cast -- some apparently innocuous, others specially "suitable and designed for use in nuclear reactors," according to investigative files.
The valves are of vital importance for Arak. The 1,800 valves would have been enough to equip the entire reactor, and would have represented a major step toward completing the nuclear facility. The deal was worth €6 million ($7.7 million) to the Iranians.
Investigators say that Rudolf M. and Hossein T. met for concrete talks by no later than May 2009. Kianzad K., 25, was allegedly also present during the negotiations -- the same German-Iranian who was arrested along with his father in August in Hamburg, and has been in custody awaiting trial ever since. Federal prosecutors believe that the father and son were responsible for coordinating the project in Germany. Gholamali K., 59, runs a company specialized in exporting valves and pumps. According to the investigating agencies, the negotiations were successful. The first shipment of valves left Germany on Oct. 29, 2010 and wound its way via Turkey to Iran. In the spring of 2009, officials warned Rudolf M. that Iranian companies were endeavoring to acquire advanced technology from Germany. M. replied that he had merely received a "non-binding verbal request for fittings for the oil industry." The Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA) responded that exports to Iran, "even via third countries," could be subject to sanctions.
Investigators allege that M. subsequently provided a fictive end buyer in Azerbaijan, and that M. must have realized "that the valves were intended for use in Iran." M.'s lawyer, Dieter Bolz, responds that his client merely "delivered to Azerbaijan according to contractual agreement." He says that M. neither had contact with MITEC, nor did German agencies warn him about doing business with this company. Furthermore, Bolz said that his client had no knowledge that "the valves that he supplied were destined for the production of nuclear weapons," adding that they were not even suitable for use within the reactor core. A few days ago, the engineer was released on a bail bond of €40,000 pending trial.
A second shipment of 655 standard industrial valves worth nearly €1 million was allegedly purchased from an entrepreneur in the eastern German city of Halle who had close contacts with Gholamali and Kianzad K.; 51 valves reached Iran.
The businessman from Halle and father and son K. also purportedly played a role in the procurement of a third model, which was specifically designed for nuclear facilities. The order was reportedly organized in Germany; the valves were forged and cast in India, and delivered to a company with headquarters in Turkey -- presumably to cover up the export of the goods to Iran. According to customs officials, between the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011 a total of four shipments were sent to Turkey, and later to Iran, but there were disagreements over the quality of the goods. Apparently, not all of the valves had been correctly manufactured. Neither Kianzad and Gholamali K. nor the businessman from Halle wish to comment on the allegations.
The "Ventilator" investigation is also so politically charged because Hossein T. presumably played a key role in the mullahs' procurement network. Investigators hope that they can use his contacts to uncover an entire network of companies that supply Iran's nuclear industry.
As long as German agencies are able to uncover supplier rings such as "Ventilator," Merkel and Westerwelle can argue that effective controls are in place. But what about the exports that cannot be stopped -- and those that the Americans and Israelis track down? They are a source of embarrassment for the German government.
Every few months, delegations from the Israeli foreign intelligence agency Mossad and the Israeli Foreign Ministry visit officials in Berlin. They present documents to prove that German companies are supporting Teheran. The pressure is mounting. In 2008, Israel managed to push through a ban on exports of German heavy trucks to Iran. In 2011, following months of pressure from the Israelis and the Americans, the German government and the European Union closed the Hamburg-based European-Iranian Trade Bank (EIHB), which was the last financial institution that Iran was able to use for transactions with Europe.
An event in February 2011 provided some insight into the pain that the sanctions inflict on the regime. In return for the release of two arrested German journalists working for the mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag newspaper, Westerwelle had to personally travel to Tehran. Images of the German foreign minister shaking hands with President Ahmadinejad went around the world. This was the visible price that Westerwelle had to pay.
But behind closed doors, the Iranians demanded more from the German government than just a handshake. They wanted the Germans to ensure that Iranian aircraft could once again refuel with sufficient quantities of kerosene at German airports. Iranian top diplomats also urged the German government to release roughly $1 billion in frozen accounts at the European-Iranian Trade Bank. India had deposited the money in payment for oil deliveries from Iran. At the meeting in February 2011, Westerwelle agreed to consider both possibilities, but one and a half years later the sanctions are stricter than ever.
The tightened embargo measures apparently came too late to halt all of the valve shipments destined for Arak. Two weeks prior to the arrests in Germany, on Aug. 1 inspectors from the IAEA traveled to the Persian Gulf. They checked on the reactor construction project in Arak and noted that a pipe system for cooling and regulating the pressure had recently been installed -- presumably with valves from Germany.
Available at: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/nuclear-technology-for-iran-german-investigators-uncover-illegal-exports-a-858893.html
Western powers stepped up pressure on Iran on Friday, as Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama stressed their "shared goal" to stop Iran getting a nuclear bomb.
Netanyahu, who is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, followed up on his demand for a "clear red line" to be drawn on Iran's nuclear drive with a telephone call to the US president focused on the nuclear showdown.
And, in a more sure to infuriate Tehran, the US State Department said it had removed an exiled Iranian opposition group, the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, from its list of designated terrorist organizitions.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's decision to take the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq or People's Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI) off the terror list will increase its fund raising clout in the United States and annoy Tehran.
"Property and interests in property in the United States or within the possession or control of US persons will no longer be blocked, and US entities may engage in transactions with the MEK without obtaining a license," the State Department said.
Iran, meanwhile, demanded the UN Security Council act after it was hit by cyber-warfare and a series of Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated in attacks it blames on Israel and the United States.
According to a White House statement, Obama and Netanyahu "underscored that they are in full agreement on the shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
They "took note of the close cooperation and coordination" between the United States and Israel on "the threat posed by Iran" and agreed to continue regular consultations, the statement added.
Netanyahu grabbed the world's attention at the UN General Assembly with his fierce attack on Iran and his demand for action to stop it enriching uranium to a level that could make a bomb.
The Israeli used a cartoon drawing of a bomb with a fizzing fuse a graph to represent Iran's progress towards having enough enriched uranium to arm a bomb, and drew a red line across it to mark the limit of his tolerance.
He did not mention Israel's threats to stage a unilateral attack, but said Iran's uranium enrichment plants were a credible "target".
"At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs -- and that's by placing a clear red line on Iran's nuclear weapons program," Netanyahu told the 193-member UN assembly.
"The red line must be drawn on Iran's nuclear enrichment program because these enrichment facilities are the only nuclear installations that we can definitely see and credibly target."
He said Iran could have enough enrichment uranium in the next 12 months to move on to the final stage of making a bomb.
"Faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down," Netanyahu added. "Red lines don't lead to war, red lines prevent war."
Netanyahu and Obama have had a testy relationship, particularly over how to deal with Iran. But Netanyahu welcomed Obama's vow at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday to "do what we must" to stop an Iranian bomb, the White House said.
Iran responded to Netanyahu's speech by saying it would "retaliate" against any military strike. Without naming Israel or the United States, Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Friday his country has been a victim of "nuclear terrorism."
Salehi said the Security Council, which has passed four rounds of sanctions against Iran's uranium enrichment, should stop using nuclear weapons fears "as a pretext to act as a legislative body."
The council should "utilize its authority to act against those states undertaking cyber attacks and sabotage in the peaceful nuclear facilities and kill nuclear scientists of other countries," Salehi told the General Assembly.
"Any such act committed by a state, as certain countries continue to commit such crimes in my country, is a manifestation of nuclear terrorism," he added.
The United States has denied involvement in the killings of four Iranian scientists since 2010. Israel has refused to comment on the killings.
According to US media, the United States and Israel were behind the Stuxnet computer virus which temporarily crippled Iran's uranium enrichment at its Natanz plant.
The United States is part of a six-nation group which has approved sanctions against Iran while pursuing diplomatic talks on its program. The group has also stepped up warnings to Iran.
Foreign ministers from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany met on Thursday on the sidelines of the UN summit and demanded the Islamic state act "urgently" to ease international fears about its plan.
"I call on Iran to stop playing for time. The situation is serious," Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the UN on Friday.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she would talk with Iranian negotiators to see if new talks are to be held.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gQ39-wdNX-pzteKe-Wq29Cw_2Xkw?docId=CNG.74d6248c59b36d5725f7b1f2be7e8b53.371
3. U.N. Criticizes "Shrill War Talk" in Iran Nuclear Dispute
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The U.N. on Friday urged all sides in the dispute over Iran's nuclear program to tone down "shrill war talk," reacting to this week's clashes at the world body between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"It's obvious that harsh tones and rhetoric are not going to be helpful, that is quite clear," said U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky when asked about Netanyahu's speech on Thursday to the General Assembly.
"What is also clear is that Iran needs to prove to the international community that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes," Nesirky said.
Using a cartoonish diagram of a bomb, Netanyahu suggested in his speech that Israel might take military action to prevent Iran from reaching the point where it has enough enriched uranium for a bomb. He indicated that point could come by the spring or summer of 2013.
"Even without a chart, the secretary-general in his quite forceful remarks to the General Assembly on Tuesday made very clear that there does indeed need to be a toning down of the rhetoric from all sides," Nesirky said.
"He referred to the shrill war talk of recent weeks," Nesirky said, referring to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon.
Ban met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday and warned him of the dangers of incendiary rhetoric. Ahmadinejad disregarded Ban's caution, predicting on Monday that Israel would be "eliminated."
U.S. President Barack Obama followed on Tuesday with a warning to Tehran that it would do what it has to do to prevent Iran from getting an atomic weapon.
Iran's U.N. mission responded to Netanyahu's speech, saying Tehran was strong enough to defend itself and that it reserved the right to retaliate with full force against any attack.
Iran rejects allegations by Western nations and Israel that it is seeking the capability to produce an atomic weapon. Tehran insists its nuclear ambitions are limited to the peaceful production of medical isotopes and electricity.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/29/us-un-assembly-iran-rhetoric-idUSBRE88R19E20120929
1. N. Korea Denounces U.S. Efforts to End North-Myanmar Ties
Yonhap News Agency
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North Korea denounced on Friday the U.S.'s recent calls on Myanmar to end the Southeast Asian country's ties with the communist North.
"After first demanding suspension of military ties, the U.S. now came to openly press Myanmar to end relations with us, branding us as a 'bad friend,'" the North's Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman said in a dialogue reported by the state-run (North) Korean Central News Agency.
Denouncing the U.S.'s anti-North calls on Myanmar, the North said the "bad friend" title is better suited for the U.S.
In her September meetings with Myanmar President Thein Sein and Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the U.S., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced concerns over the country's alleged ties with North Korea.
Clinton also expressed the U.S.'s willingness to ease sanctions on Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, if the Southeast Asian nation comes clean on its suspected ties to North Korea.
"The U.S.'s hostile, oppressive policies toward North Korea have not changed a bit," the North Korean spokesman said in the dialogue with the state news agency.
Calling for a change in the U.S.'s stance toward the North, the spokesman also said, "If the U.S. sticks to its hostile, outdated anti-North policies, it would not be able to put up with (its presence) on the Korean Peninsula."
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2012/09/28/40/0401000000AEN20120928008000315F.HTML
1. Construction of Aomori Nuclear Power Plant to Continue
The Japan Daily Press
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The Electric Power Development Co. (J-Power) stated on Monday that it would be resuming its construction of a new nuclear power facility in Oma, Aomori Prefecture, northern Japan. This will be the first time a utility company has made such a decision since the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, or since the government announced plans of abandoning nuclear power by the 2030s. J-Power’s president, Masayoshi Kitamura, spoke at the unfinished plant, saying its completion had been pushed back about 18 months since the original schedule of November 2014.
While the Japanese government has stated part of its long-term energy goals include prohibiting the construction of any new nuclear reactor facilities, a loophole was granted for any that had already started being built. A statement from J-Power says they have reached an understanding with local residents to continue construction. The Oma plant started being built in May 2008, now standing at about 40% completed, but was put on hold until now as a result of the March 2011 disasters.
The central government’s permission is not needed to resume construction of the plant, however J-Power will have to meet the safety standards and requirements set by the newly formed Nuclear Regulation Authority before the plant can begin operating. The local government of Aomori Prefecture has called for the construction of the plant to continue, with it being located at the northernmost tip of Japan’s main island Honshu.
Available at: http://japandailypress.com/construction-of-aomori-nuclear-power-plant-to-continue-0113946
1. India to Discuss Nuclear Plant Safety With Sri Lanka
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Responding to the local media reports in Sri Lanka that raise fears over the commissioning of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu, India has offered to discuss safety features of the reactor with Sri Lanka.
Indian authorities will include talks on Kudankulam safety in a dialogue between the two nations for cooperation on nuclear issues when a Sri Lankan delegation visits India in the coming months for discussions on the plant.
"The safety aspect will be a part of the broader agenda for talks over cooperation in nuclear energy but we are already telling them that India will abide by all international conventions over nuclear safety at Kudankulam,'' The Times of India quoting an official dealing with Sri Lanka said.
To allay the fears Sri Lankans have over the Kudankulam plant the High Commission of India in Colombo issued a statement on Thursday said that the plant in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district has high safety standards and it is no threat to Sri Lanka and reiterated that the Indian government "assigns utmost attention to nuclear and radiation safety, including the safety of operating personnel, public as well as the environment."
The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is a state-of-the-art plant that is compliant with the highest safety standards available in the nuclear industry today. The safety measures instituted at the plant are of the highest order, India has assured.
The statement further said that the safety is the overriding priority in all the activities associated with nuclear power plants, ranging from siting, design, construction, commissioning, operation to de-commissioning.
The Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu is just 250 km from Sri Lanka's northwest coastal town of Mannar.
In the event of a nuclear disaster in the South Indian plant, Sri Lanka would be in the direct path of the impact range and the disaster would wreak havoc in the tiny island as Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Authority does not possess adequate facilities to face a threat of nuclear accident.
The Times of India report says that India's vote for the US-sponsored resolution at the UN Human Rights Council against Sri Lanka has rallied anti-India elements in the country and the Indian officials have been surprised by the intensity of the anti-India campaign.
Available at: http://www.colombopage.com/archive_12A/Sep29_1348887915CH.php
2. EON, RWE Close Bidding for U.K. Horizon Nuclear Venture
Sally Bakewell and Alex Morales
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EON AG (EOAN) and RWE AG (RWE), the German utilities dropping out of Britain’s atomic-power program, are due to close the bidding today on their Horizon nuclear venture in the country after rising costs prompted their withdrawal.
A group combining Areva SA (AREVA) and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group Co., a Hitachi Ltd.-led partnership, and a third comprising Westinghouse Electric Co. and China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corp. are the likely bidders, Malcolm Grimston, an analyst at Chatham House in London, said by phone.
Britain, seeking to replace aging power stations and cut carbon-dioxide emissions, is one of only three western European countries still pursuing plans for new nuclear plants following last year’s Fukushima disaster. Areva and Toshiba Corp. (6502)’s Westinghouse have already submitted designs to the government for reactors and received preliminary regulatory approval.
“Areva and Westinghouse were the technology suppliers bidding into Horizon in the first place and are already in the Generic Design Assessment process,” Daniel Grosvenor, head of the nuclear team at Deloitte LLP in London, said by phone. “The Hitachi group has some catching up to do.”
Areva said July 7 it would team up with China Guangdong Nuclear and other utilities to bid for Horizon, and remains the only company to have confirmed its intentions. Westinghouse may join State Nuclear Power Technology to buy a stake, the Financial Times reported in July, while Hitachi may also be interested, the FT said.
Horizon has government support to site reactors in Wales and western England. Britain says it needs 110 billion pounds ($178 billion) of investment by 2020 to replace atomic plants, upgrade grids and cut emissions. It gets about 22 percent of its electricity from nuclear, a similar proportion to the U.S., and is seeking to spur the development of new reactors through a bill that guarantees power contracts.
That encouragement was insufficient to maintain the commitment of EON and RWE, which backed away from the Horizon project in March, citing the high cost of capital. That left Electricite de France SA, Iberdrola SA (IBE) and GDF Suez (GSZ) SA as the only developers progressing U.K. nuclear plans.
Horizon is likely to attract bids of at least 300 million pounds with a “possibility to get significantly more,” said Tony Roulstone, director of the University of Cambridge’s masters program in nuclear energy.
Officials at EON, RWE and the Horizon venture all declined today to comment on the bidding process.
British regulators on Dec. 14 issued “interim” approvals of Areva’s European Pressurized Reactor design and the AP1000 model from Westinghouse, and asked the companies to resolve a list of technical concerns. The reactor makers incurred regulatory costs of more than 25 million pounds apiece to get to that stage, according to the Office for Nuclear Regulation.
Hitachi’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, which it makes with General Electric Co., has been licensed in the U.S., Taiwan and Japan, and is yet to seek U.K. approval. Keisaku Shibatani, a Hitachi spokesman, declined to comment on any bid, citing the “other parties involved.”
While Areva this year continued to resolve questions identified by regulators, Westinghouse paused its work until it has a U.K. customer, Westinghouse U.K. Chief Executive Officer Mike Tynan said yesterday in a phone interview.
“There’s a basket of issues but there’s not one in itself that would provide a major roadblock” to eventual approval, Tynan said. He declined to comment on Horizon or confirm whether Westinghouse is bidding with State Nuclear Power Technology. It’s already working with the Chinese utility to build four reactors in Sanmen and Haiyang in China.
Areva’s EPR reactor is being built in Finland, France and China, giving the 1,650-megawatt facility more cost certainty, a company spokeswoman said.
“There’s a whole bunch of people running around telling you that they think they know what it costs to build a nuclear power station, and they don’t,” said Dominic Nash, an analyst in London at Liberum Capital Ltd. “The only people who can really afford that risk are going to be large sovereign wealth funds or nationalized companies, hence EDF and the Chinese consortia.”
Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-09-27/eon-rwe-close-bidding-for-u-dot-k-dot-horizon-nuclear-venture
3. S. Korea, U.S. Halt Talks on Nuclear Energy Cooperation
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korea and the United States have called a halt to their sensitive negotiation on future nuclear energy cooperation, an informed source here said Thursday.
"Actual talks are deemed difficult this year," said the source well versed in the issue, requesting anonymity.
South Korea's Lee Myung-bak government "has decided to pass negotiations to the next administration," added the source. Lee is to retire in February.
Seoul instead plans to focus on efforts to publicize its position on the matter for the time being, the source said.
South Korean officials argue that the current pact with the U.S. is obsolete.
The existing pact, signed in 1974 and set to expire in 2014, bans South Korea from enriching uranium even for commercial purposes and reprocessing nuclear waste from about two dozen reactors using U.S.-supplied nuclear materials.
Seoul wants Washington to allow the expansion of its nonmilitary activities to meet its enhanced status as an exporter of nuclear plants.
But the U.S. has been reluctant, apparently out of concern over a negative impact on nonproliferation and arms control initiatives.
Speaking to Korean reporters here, Gary Samore, arms control coordinator at the White House National Security Council, said South Korean can continue to buy enrichment services from the U.S. and France and other international markets rather than having its own uranium-enrichment technology.
"So there is no danger that Korean industry will not be able to get access to low-enriched uranium," he said.
South Korea, however, points out that the restrictions in the existing accord are based on a view decades ago, when Washington was wary of Seoul's possible development of nuclear arms.
South Korea has proved its commitment to peaceful operation of nuclear reactors and it has abided by international obligations, according to officials in Seoul.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2012/09/28/39/0301000000AEN20120928000300315F.HTML
4. Bulgaria Mulls Talks to Resume Belene Nuclear Project
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Bulgaria is considering talks with a U.S.-registered consortium to restart the abandoned Belene nuclear power project as a private endeavour, government officials said on Thursday.
Representatives of the recently registered Global Power Consortium have expressed interest in taking over the project to install two 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactors at the Danube River town of Belene and build it without state funds or guarantees.
Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said he would consider the bid serious if the investors deposit 200 million euros in dollars, agree to take up all liabilities of Belene so far and build it without state guarantees or long-term power purchase agreements.
"They should prove they are serious," Borisov told reporters, adding the investors should also reveal the companies behind the consortium.
The Balkan country quit the Belene project in March after failing to attract Western investors for the plant, estimated to cost more than 10 billion euros ($12.84 billion) and on concerns it will increase Russia's influence on its energy sector.
Bulgaria has an operational 2,000 megawatt nuclear power plant at Kozloduy and has hired U.S. Westinghouse to draw up plans to add another 1,000 MW unit at the site.
The ill-fated Belene project has put pressure on the centre-right cabinet ahead of parliamentary elections next year with the opposition Socialists demanding a referendum to restart it.
Russia's Atomstroyexport has demanded compensation of 1 billion euros over the cancellation of the Belene plant it had been contracted to build. The claims could strain Bulgaria's finances, as its economy slowly recovers from a deep recession.
If all the government conditions are met, a decision to restart the project can be taken next March, Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev said.
A recent poll by independent Institute for Social Surveys and Marketing showed 42 percent of the people did not support abandoning Belene and 32 percent would vote for its restart, while 22 percent will oppose it at a future referendum.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/27/bulgaria-nuclear-idUSL5E8KR2B520120927
5. India Yet to Address Concerns on Civil Nuclear Liability Law
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India is yet to address the concerns of American companies with regard to civil nuclear liability laws, a senior administration official has said, noting that the two countries, nevertheless are making progress on the implementation of civil nuclear agreement.
"We continue to talk about the civil nuclear liability legislation in India, that still is under review in the Supreme Court and in the parliament, but there's still some clauses of that legislation that cause concerns to some of our companies," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake told reporters.
"So that is still something that needs to be addressed. But we also welcome the fact that the Government of India has signed the Convention on Supplementary Compensation. That's certainly a welcome step forward, and we urge our Indian friends to consult with the IAEA to make sure that their own legislation is in conformance with the Convention on Supplementary Compensation. So in short, I think there's progress but still work to be done," Blake said.
Blake said there is a bipartisan support in the United States on India. "It's important to stress what we've said for many, many years, which is that there's a bipartisan consensus in the United States, and I believe in India as well, to develop our strategic partnership further," he said.
"That's been reflected in so many ways, but particularly in the strong people-to-people ties that we have, but also in the strong bipartisan support that the Civil Nuclear Agreement received when it came up for a vote in the United States. So I expect that whoever is elected in November will continue to support the development of our strategic partnership with India," he said.
Responding to a question, Blake said early this year a Memorandum of Understanding for Early Works Agreement was signed between Westinghouse and the Nuclear Power Cooperation of India.
"So we very much welcome the signing of that MOU, and this is, I think, a very concrete sign, first of all, of our companies' continued interest in working in India, but also I think a concrete sign on the part of the Government of India as well that they too are interested and that it’s important now to start developing some of these early works, like site preparation, like getting contracts ready, and so forth," Blake said.
Available at: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/281425/india-yet-address-concerns-civil.html
Spanish researchers have identified 23 atomic power plants that are more prone to suffering the effects of a tsunami, after one struck the Fukushima Dai-ichi power station in Japan that led to the meltdown of three reactors in March 2011.
In the study published in the journal Natural Hazards, the researchers drew a map of the world’s geographic zones that are more at risk of large tsunamis.
As such phenomena are still difficult to predict, the authors used historical, archaeological, geological, and instrumental records as a base for determining tsunami risk.
In total, they found that 23 plants are located in dangerous areas, including Fukushima I, with 74 reactors located in East and Southeast Asia.
“We are dealing with the first vision of the global distribution of civil nuclear power plants situated on the coast and exposed to tsunamis,” said study co-author José Manuel Rodríguez-Llanes, researcher at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.
Despite the fact that the risk of these natural disasters threatens practically the entire western coast of the American continent, the Atlantic Coast, and the coast of North Africa, the authors say that the Eastern Mediterranean and areas of Oceania, especially in South and Southeast Asia are at greater risk due to the presence of atomic power stations.
27 out of 64 nuclear reactors that are currently under construction in the world are found in China. This is an example of the massive nuclear investment of the Asian giant.
“The most important fact is that 19 (two of which are in Taiwan) out of the 27 reactors are being built in areas identified as dangerous,” state the authors of the study.
In the case of Japan, which in March 2011 suffered the consequences of the worst tsunami in its history, there are seven plants with 19 reactors at risk, one of which is currently under construction.
South Korea is now expanding two plants at risk with five reactors. Indian (two) and Pakistani (one) reactors could also feel the consequences of a tsunami.
“The location of nuclear installations does not only have implications for their host countries but also for the areas which could be affected by radioactive leaks,” said lead author Joaquín Rodríguez-Vidal, a researcher at the University of Huelva.
To avoid future disasters, Rodríguez-Vidal recommends the drafting of more local analyses that consider the seismic amplification of each nuclear power plant and determine the adaptation of installation identified in the study.
“But since the tsunami in 2004 the Indian Ocean region is still to take effective political measures,” warn the researchers.
Notably, the Fukushima crisis took place in a highly developed country with one of the highest standards in scientific knowledge and technological infrastructure.
“If it had occurred in a country less equipped for dealing with the consequences of catastrophe, the impact would have been a lot more serious for the world at large,” the authors wrote.
Available at: http://www.asianscientist.com/in-the-lab/nuclear-power-plants-tsunami-risk-areas-2012/
2. Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme Fully Secure: FM Khar
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Pakistan told the United Nations Friday that it accords the “highest priority” to ensuring a fool-proof safety and security mechanism for the country’s nuclear programme. “Nuclear security is both a global challenge and a national responsibility,” Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said in a speech to a high-level meeting on Countering Nuclear Terrorism.
“Over the years,” she said, “we have put in place extensive physical protection measures, robust command and control structures, comprehensive export controls and wide-ranging regulatory regimes,” she said.
The foreign minister told delegates that Pakistan’s regulatory regime encompasses physical protection of materials and facilities, material control and accounting, transport security, prevention of illicit trafficking and border controls, as well as plans to deal with possible radiological emergencies.
“We have also developed technical solutions, personnel responsibility programmes, and intelligence capabilities to deal with WMD- (Weapons of Destruction) related terrorism,” she said.
The foreign minister said Pakistan would cooperate in international efforts to strengthen regulatory mechanisms and establish effective barriers against the common threat of nuclear terrorism. “We are part of global efforts to make sure that terrorists do not law their hands on nuclear materials, knowledge and expertise,” Khar added.
Available at: http://app.com.pk/en_/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=209931&Itemid=1
3. Nuclear Site Ends Security Contract Following Nun's Break-In
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The government's "Fort Knox" of weapons-grade uranium storage has ended a contract with a unit of an international security firm two months after an 82-year-old nun and other nuclear activists broke into the site.
The managing contractor at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, site, B&W Y-12, a unit of Babcock & Wilcox Co, said late on Friday it will terminate the contract with WSI Oak Ridge on October 1. WSI is owned by security firm G4S, which was at the center of a dispute over security at this year's London Olympic Games.
The move came after the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), an Energy Department agency, sent a letter on Friday to B&W Y-12 President Charles Spencer saying it had "grave concerns" about his company and WSI providing security at Y-12, the nation's only site for storing and processing weapons-grade uranium.
The letter recommended that B&W terminate the subcontract with WSI and work with it to take over security operations after the July 28 break-in.
The nun, Megan Rice, and two others cut perimeter fences to reach the outer wall of a building where enriched uranium was stored. The site was shut temporarily after the breach.
An investigation by the Energy Department's inspector general last month found a security camera had been broken for about six months and was part of a backlog of repairs needed for security at the facility.
The NNSA repeated on Saturday that Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said the incident was an important "wake-up call" for the entire nuclear complex.
"The security of our nation's nuclear material is the Department's most important responsibility, and we have no tolerance for federal or contractor personnel who cannot or will not do their jobs," said NNSA spokesman Joshua McConaha.
After the incident the NNSA's top security official and two other federal officials were reassigned. In addition, top officials at WSI were removed and officers associated with the break-in were fired, demoted, or suspended without pay.
WSI's parent company, G4S, found itself the focus of a political and media storm this summer in Britain over outsourcing of security after it failed to provide enough guards for the Olympics.
WSI did not immediately answer a request for comment about the ending of the contract.
It seems few other jobs will be lost over the incident that brought new questions about the government's outsourcing of sensitive security operations.
B&W said in a statement it will offer employment to all Y-12 security police officers and active union workers with WSI Oak Ridge.
The NNSA and Department of Energy are engaged in reviews of security operations from the contractor, to the federal management, to the security model, McConaha said.
The final review will begin after Chu asks outside observers to analyze current protection of nuclear materials and explore more options for protecting the sites.
Chu received a classified review of the Y-12 incident earlier in the week by the department's health, safety, and security office.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/29/us-usa-nuclear-gaf-idUSBRE88S0F320120929
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