1. Russia May Boost Nuclear Potential – Deputy Defense Ministery
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Russia may have to boost its nuclear potential in future amid emerging nuclear proliferation threats, Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s deputy defense minister and a negotiator on the European missile shield, said on Monday.
“New challenges emerge, including missile and nuclear proliferation. Look at how unstable the situation in the Middle East is. That’s why Russia’s military doctrine envisages the use of nuclear weapons in specific cases. I do not rule out than under certain circumstances we will have to boost, not cut, our nuclear arsenal,” Antonov said in an interview with the Kommersant daily.
He named the U.S. missile shield in Europe as a main threat to Russia’s security. "The situation is dismal in this area. The U.S. continues to boost is missile defense potential in Europe and other regions. The European segment of the U.S. missile defense demonstrates aspirations to shift the strategic balance of forces in Europe. After the Cold War, U.S. strategic weapons - and missile defense is a strategic weapon - are getting closer to Russia’s borders,” Antonov said.
He also confirmed that Russian and U.S. missile defense talks have reached deadlock as U.S. cooperation proposals are vague and Russia’s participation in the project “is not even up for discussion.”
The deputy defense minister reiterated that Russia may quit the Russian-U.S. treaty on strategic arms reduction, signed in 2010. “This is one of possible variants of our retaliation measures. We have warned about it beforehand,” he said.
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20120206/171166824.html
2. Update: Fire Breaks Out at Central Moscow Nuclear Research Institute
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A fire broke out on Sunday at a Moscow nuclear research center that houses a non-operational 60-year-old atomic reactor, emergency officials reported as Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom said the blaze had not been accompanied by any open flames and posed no threat of a radiation leak.
There were conflicting reports late Sunday afternoon over whether the fire was in fact out, and the Alikhanov Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics in southwestern Moscow refused to take calls, making it impossible to determine whether any nuclear fuel or other radioactive materials were impacted by the blaze.
While the cause remains undetermined, the fire broke out early on Sunday in a part of the institute in southwestern Moscow that contains a research collider, institute officials said in astatement on its website (in Russian).
There were no radiation sources in the area of the collider, which had been shut off on December 25th, and there was no danger of a radiation leak, the statement said. It also said personnel were evacuated and nobody was hurt.
Sergei Vlasov, a spokesman for the Moscow branch of the Emergency Services ministry, told Reuters the fire had been confined to the basement and confirmed that no casualties had been reported. The institute houses the Soviet Union’s first heavy water reactor, designed in the late 1940s as part of dictator Josef Stalin’s programme to develop nuclear arms, according to the institutes website. Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for Rosatom, was quick to say that no fissile materials had been endangered by the fire, and that the blaze has been localized to an area consisting mostly of cables that posed no risk to any nuclear materials on site.
But Rosatom, too, remained mum about whether any nuclear or radioactive materials remained in the six-decade old heavy water reactor, though they said the reactor is non-operational. Nils Bøhmer, Bellona’s nuclear physicist and general manager said the situation underscored the decrepit condition of most of Russia’s nuclear industry.
“This is the kind of thing that should not be happening,” said Bøhmer Sunday. “It just proves that Russia’s aging nuclear infrastructure is prone to fires.” Grey smoke was reported by witnesses to be rising above the institute, which is encircled by a wall as bitter smell filled the air, Reuters reported.
Some 30 emergency vehicles, including fire trucks and ambulances, stood inside and outside the main gate of the institute, witnesses told the news agency.
The incident is the latest in a series of recent fires at Russian nuclear installations,including a blaze in December that engulfed the Yekaterinburg Delta Class IV nuclear submarine while it was in dry-dock near Murmansl for repairs, injuring nine and causing extensive damage.
Though there was no radiation leakage from the sub fire – which may have had weapons onboard at the time - the Ministry of Defense issued several statements that later proved to be untrue. Similar to the case of the fire that may or may not be ongoing at Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics – named for Abram Alikhanov, one of the developers of the Soviet A-bomb – the Defense Ministry issued conflicting reports on whether or not the sub fire had been extinguished, as well as its cause. The Defense Ministry had said the fire had started after welding works went awry on a wooden scaffolding around the sub. It later turned out the scaffolding was made of metal.
The Ministry also reported that the duration of the fire - whose smoke was visible 10 kilometers away - was due to the long buring of the sub's rubber outer hull. Photographs later revealed that the fire had been largely fueled by the subs hyro-accoustic chamber, still a part of the outter hull, but an area containing antenna's with long burning oils, oil saturated water and air pumps that fanned the flames. Finally, the Ministry said the sub did not have weapons on board. This could not be indepentently verified, but after the fire was extinguished, the Yekaterinburg was sent from the dry dock base in Ruslyakovo to Okolnaya, a base equipped with the necessary equipment to remove missiles or test missiles. The Defense Ministry denied nuclear weapons had been on board.
Rosatom’s Novikov said of the fire at the institute located in a heavily populated district of Moscow that: “This case poses no threat to fissile materials.”
He said that firefighters were pumping foam into the affected area, and that the institute’s heavy-water research reactor was no longer operational, the Reuters report said. The nuclear research institute is one of dozens within the city limits of Moscow – a city of 11 million – people, that sprung up with little consideration, and indeed knowledge, of how radiation affected humans or how radioactive materials should be disposed of during the Cold War.
“This fire reflects that there is a low safety culture surrounding fires in Russia’s nuclear industry,” said Bøhmer. “This is a huge concern for potential radioactive releases from numerous facilities across Russia.”
The fire at the Alikhanov institute is especially delicate given that it represents a large amount of radioactive substance right in the centre of Moscow. Even minor leaks would pose serious problems noted,” Bøhmer.
Russian news agencies issued conflicting reports on whether the fire was indeed out. Interfax cited a police source as saying fire brigades were denied access to the facility for “a long time” before being allowed in.
Vlasov told Reuters he could not confirm that report, but said the fire had not been extinguished as of 2:45 p.m.local time.
State-run RIA reported earlier that that the fire had already been put out. Russia’s nuclear industry has been a subject of worldwide scrutiny since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, in current day Ukraine, which Soviet authorities denied for two days.
But the culture of denial begins well before that with a 1957 explosion at the location of Russia’s Mayak Chemical Combine, which reprocessed nuclear fuel. The incident was termed the Kyshtym disaster to deflect blame for the toxic radiological explosion in spent nuclear fuel storage tank to a neighboring industrial town.
Hundreds and thousands were relocated from the Mayak area near Chelyabinsk in the southern Urals, but evacuation efforts for the highly irradiated region continue in fits and starts.
Russia has since suffered several accidents which observers say were the result of negligence and corruption, problems that have hindered modernisation of the civilian and military infrastructure. The sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in 2000 during training exercises, which killed all 118 sailors aboard is but one example.
The sub sank after a torpedo exploded, but Russia turned away foreign help to rescue those who survived the initial blast for a week out of security considerations. All crew were found dead when a Norwegian diving crew finally opened an escape hatch.
The fire at the Alikhanov Institute took place over an especially heavy weekend of thousandsong protests against the results of last December’s allegedly rigged Parliamentary elections in which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s party United Russia slid heavily in polls but managed to maintain a hold on the legislative body.
Available at: http://www.bellona.org/articles/articles_2012/Alikhanov_fire
3. Russian Strategic Subs to Resume Routine World Patrols
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Russian strategic nuclear submarines will resume routine extended patrols in international waters around the world in June 2012, Russian Navy Commander Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky said. “On June 1 or a bit later we will resume constant patrolling of the world’s oceans by strategic nuclear submarines,” Vysotsky said at a meeting with naval personnel on Friday.
The annual number of extended patrols performed by Russian strategic nuclear submarines and nuclear-powered attack submarines has dropped from more than 230 in 1984 to less than 10 today. The Russian military believes, though, that the submarine fleet is still the backbone of the Russian Navy, and that it will continue to play an important deterrent role in the future.
The Russian Navy has 12 nuclear-powered strategic submarines in service, including five Delta-III class, six Delta-IV class and a Typhoon class vessels. Two Typhoon class submarines, the Arkhangelsk and the Severstal, remain in reserve at a naval base in Severodvinsk in north Russia Russia has decided to suspend the planned disposal of strategic nuclear submarines currently in service with the Navy and plans to build eight new Borey class strategic submarines until 2020.
The first Borey class submarine, the Yury Dolgoruky, may join Russia’s Pacific Fleet as early as in June this year.
Available at: http://en.ria.ru/mlitary_news/20120204/171127327.html
4. Disposal of Russian Third Generation Nuclear Subs Suspended
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Russia has decided to suspend the planned disposal of third-generation strategic nuclear submarines currently in service with the Navy, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Thursday.
“The most successful projects will undergo two repairs instead of one. The subs' period of service will be extended to 30-35 years instead of the current 25,” Rogozin told journalists. He also said Akula (Typhoon) class submarines will be upgraded and their electronics and armaments replaced every seven years.
According to Rogozin, this will help gain time until all eight Borey class strategic submarines are deployed by 2020.
The deputy premier also said a naval vessel construction development program for the next 30 years is expected to be worked out soon.
Available at: http://en.ria.ru/mlitary_news/20120202/171099602.html
Inspectors at the San Onofre nuclear plant will have to wait until the middle of next week to enter a reactor and search for a radioactive steam leak.
Temperatures were still too hot — 105 degrees — inside the southernmost of two reactors on Friday for crews to start work inside. That reactor was shut down Tuesday for an indefinite length of time after air radiation alarms sounded at a turbine deck building.
Small traces of radioactive gas from the leak may have reached the atmosphere without endangering workers or residents near the oceanfront power plant 45 miles north of San Diego, according to nuclear regulators.
Plant operator Southern California Edison said it was too soon to say how long repairs would take, and it could not provide a cost estimate for the unplanned shutdown.
“The reactor operates at extreme temperatures,” said Jennifer Manfre, a spokeswoman for Edison. “This is just how long it takes after you do a shutdown until they can go in.”
A day of replacement power for each reactor cost between $600,000 and $1 million during the 1990s and shortly beyond, when nuclear engineer Murray Jennex still worked at the plant. Jennex, now a business professor at San Diego State University, said prices still vary based on the power source and market fluctuations.
The dual reactor San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station supplies about 20 percent of the area’s electricity at full capacity — enough to power about 2.1 million homes.
A routine inspection of the northern reactor, initiated in early January, has found excessive wear on its 2-year-old generator steam pipes. The inspection of those tubes was still under way on Friday after four days.
Maintenance and refueling on that reactor should be completed in early March. Generators in both reactors were replaced over the past two years with new equipment manufactured in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries at a total cost of $670 million.
Heat-transfer tubes measure about three-quarters of an inch in diameter, with walls roughly the thickness of a dime. They gradually degrade and are plugged over the life of a generator, reducing efficiency until it becomes cost effective to replace them.
Amid the routine maintenance inside the northern dome, a contract worker last week fell into the reactor pool without any apparent injury.
More than 20 feet deep, the pool holds water that circulates through the reactor core, but its uranium had been removed, Manfre said. The worker received less than 5 millirem of exposure to radiation. “That’s less than half the safe exposure you get during a common chest X-ray,” Manfre said. He was examined by medical personnel at the plant and returned to work the same day. The worker apparently lost his balance but was wearing a life vest and other safety equipment.
On site nuclear regulators were informed of the incident. Edison declined to name the employee or contractor, citing privacy concerns.
The California Independent System Operator, which balances most of the state’s transmission grid, has asked power plant and transmission line owners to delay new maintenance to ensure sufficient electricity supplies in Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric service territory. Peak-demand season is in June or July.
“We don’t have any indication that weather is going to drive a lot of demand between now and March,” said Stephanie McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the system operator.
Available at: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/feb/04/tp-nuclear-reactor-leak-fix-must-wait/
2. Air Samples Near Byron Nuclear Plant Come Back Clean
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Air samples taken near the Byron Exelon Nuclear Plant after this week's "unusual event" come back with no measurable increases of radiation.
Illinois Emergency Management Agency personnel took samples the day after a power outage forced the shutdown of the Unit 2 tower at the plant. Officials secured the area and did a controlled steam release after the shutdown.
Plant and fire officials reassured the public that there was never a health risk. The IEMA testing of water and vegetation in the area was done as a precautionary measure. "Our laboratory results confirm that the steam release at the Byron Nuclear Power Plant on Monday presented no health hazard for people who live and work in the area," said IEMA Director Jonathon Monken.
Results from the sampling tests and a fact sheet about tritium are available on the IEMA website atwww.iema.illinois.gov.
On Tuesday, Byron Exelon released a statement saying Unit 2 will remain offline and there is still no public risk. Unit 1 will continue to handle the production load and service will not be interrupted.
Available at: http://www.wrex.com/story/16673228/air-samples-near-byron-nuclear-plant-come-back-clean
1. Japan to Join Global Nuclear Compensation Pact-Paper
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Japan will join at least four other nations in a pact to help compensate victims of nuclear accidents in member countries, a newspaper reported on Friday, as it continues to grapple with the aftermath of the world's worst atomic disaster in 25 years.
The Asahi daily said that Tokyo could in the fiscal year starting in April sign up to the U.S.-led plan, under which countries would pay money into a shared fund they could draw on if they suffered a nuclear accident.
The government has decided to join after an earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in the country's northeast, triggering power shortages and radiation leaks that caused mass evacuations and widespread contamination. It had previously resisted, arguing that nuclear accidents were highly unlikely in the country, the paper said.
If damage claims exceeded 37 billion yen ($486 million) after a nuclear accident in another member country, Japan would be on the hook for around 7-8 billion yen, the Asahi reported, without citing sources.
Morocco, Romania and Argentina have already joined the scheme, dubbed the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, which also lays out legal guidelines for compensation claims related to atomic disasters.
Under the agreement, firms that export nuclear plant technology to member countries would not be liable for claims related to any accidents at facilities using the equipment, with the operator forced to shoulder the burden.
The treaty needs at least five states that have a minimum of 400,000 megawatts of combined nuclear capacity to go into effect, and the United States had asked Japan join, the Asahi said. With only three of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors currently running, the government is striving to persuade a wary public that it is safe to restart some of the reactors, in order to avoid a power crunch in the summer.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/03/japan-nuclear-idUSL4E8D28WG20120203
2. Radioactive Leaks at Crippled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Increase Two Months after it was Declared Safe
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Less than two months ago the crippled Japanese nuclear power plant at Fukushima was declared stable.
Yet now it has emerged that radioactive water is continuing to leak at the stricken site. These were spotted by workers at the reprocessing areas and were found to release enough beta rays that can lead to radiation sickness.
A series of nuclear meltdowns at the power plant were triggered by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
The organisation charged with keeping the site under control is the Tokyo Electric Power Company, and their spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said that no one was injured and the leak stopped after bolts were tightened on a tank.
Matsumoto said TEPCO also found that 8.5 tons of radioactive water had leaked earlier in the week after a pipe became detached at Unit 4, one of the plant's six reactors. The company earlier had estimated that only a few gallons had leaked.
He said officials are investigating the cause of that leak, but that it was unlikely the pipe had been loosened by the many aftershocks that have hit the plant.
The structural integrity of the damaged Unit 4 reactor building has long been a major concern among experts because a collapse of its spent fuel cooling pool could cause a disaster worse than the three reactor meltdowns.
Cold winter weather has also caused water inside pipes to freeze elsewhere at the plant, resulting in leaks in at least 30 locations since late January, Matsumoto said.
Officials have not detected any signs of radioactive water from the leaks reaching the surrounding ocean. Sandbag walls have been built around problem areas as a precaution. More than 100,000 people around the plant fled their homes after the disaster due to radiation fears. The government announced in December that the plant had reached "a cold shutdown condition" and is now essentially stable.
On Monday, six inspectors from the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency will begin an inspection of the plant to ensure its continued stability.
They will study the reactors' cooling functions and measures to prevent explosions and nuclear chain reactions, among other steps to keep the plant under control, officials said.
Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2096160/Radioactive-leaks-crippled-Fukushima-nuclear-power-plant-increase-months-declared-safe.html
1. Albania Postpones Building of Nuclear Power Plant
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Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha recently announced that the government will postpone the construction of a nuclear power plant in the Shkoder region until issues regarding its potential impact on the environment and territory are fully resolved, AENews reported.
''Nuclear energy is the cleanest and most economic, but the Fukushima catastrophe dictates a reassessment of the impact in Shkoder,'' Berisha said in Podgorica after talks with Montenegrin counterpart Igor Luksic. Berish stressed that the Shkoder zone, and the entire territory including Albania and Montenegro, are a highly active seismic zone. As a result, the government plans to put on hold the nuclear plant and for until scientific and specialist opinions are clear.
Available at: http://www.neurope.eu/article/albania-postpones-building-nuclear-power-plant
2. Earthquake Strikes Near Iranian Nuclear Power Plant
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An earthquake, measured at 5 on the Richter scale by the US Geological Survey, was felt only 70km from Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, which is expected to go online on March 20. As of 9:46am CST on February 5, 2012, there has been no report yet of casualties or damage at the reactor facility.
If damage did occur, it could have consequences for the future of Iran's nuclear ambitions. The quake strikes as Iran is mired in a diplomatic crisis with the West overthe ambitions of its nuclear energy program. Iran claims that their research is only for the sake of producing nuclear power to meet the growing energy needs of the developing country of some 74 million people, but numerous world leaders and global organizations such as theUN-affiliated International Atomic Energy Agency are concerned that they could be secretly using nuclear enrichment technology to develop nuclear weapons.
Construction on the Bushehr facility began in 1975 and it has remainedthe center of continuous diplomatic incidents ever since. The German firms building the plant were forced to stop after the United States imposed an embargo on shipments of high-technology supplies to Iran in response to the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the siege of the US embassy in Tehran, but in 1998Russia signed a contract with Iran to finish the plant.
The most recent earthquake, measured at 5.5 on the Richter scale, was felt on January 19 near the city of Neyshabour in northeast Iran, injuring 100 people and causing some structural damage. Iran’s deadliest earthquake struck the northern provinces of Gilan and Zanjan, killing around 37,000 people and injuring more than 100,000.
Available at: http://www.pennenergy.com/index/power/display/8633237470/articles/pennenergy/power/nuclear/2012/february/quakeikes_near.html
3. Vietnam Starts Seismic Survey for First Nuclear Power Plant
Thanh Nien News
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Nearly 100 workers and engineers Thursday started seismic surveys at the location of Vietnam’s first nuclear power plant in the central province of Ninh Thuan, a local news website reported the same day.
VnExpress quoted Phan Minh Tuan, deputy chief of Ninh Thuan nuclear power project management board, as saying that the survey team will also drill for more than 3,000 meters at sea to collect comprehensive data for construction and operation works later.
According to the plan of national electricity development, work on the country’s first two nuclear power plants in Ninh Thuan will start in December 2014, and be completed in 2022 The plants will be built with hi-end technology that is able to handle heat radiation automatically within 72 hours in case of problems, the VnExpress report said.
In October, 2010, Vietnam signed a multi-billion-dollar deal with Russia to build its first nuclear power plant. Russia in November last year agreed to lend Vietnam some US$9 billion for the project. Vietnam also plans to cooperate with Japan on two other nuclear reactors. Thirteen nuclear plants with the total capacity of 16,000 megawatts are slated to go into operation in the country over the next two decades.
Available at: http://www.thanhniennews.com/index/pages/20120203-vietnam-starts-seismic-surveys-for-first-nuclear-power-plant.aspx
1. Missile Defense Cooperation Could be “Game-Changer”
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Missile defense, an issue that has poisoned U.S.-Russia relations, could be a "game-changer" that transforms ties if the two sides cooperate on a shared system, says a report by former top officials from both sides of the Atlantic.
Recent headlines in both countries have been reminiscent of the Cold War, with the Russians threatening to deploy missiles aimed at countering a proposed U.S. missile shield, and the Americans responding that they will build the system, come what may.
The planned U.S. shield, endorsed by NATO, would deploy U.S. interceptor missiles in and around Europe in what Washington says is a layered protection against missiles that could be fired by countries like Iran.
Moscow says this could undermine its security if it becomes capable of neutralizing Russia's nuclear deterrent.
Now an international commission that has been working on the matter for two years has designed a basic concept for cooperation with the help of military professionals from both sides.
The new proposal by the Euro-Atlantic Security Commission says the United States, NATO and Russia could share data from radars and satellites about missile attacks and so provide one another with a more complete picture of any attack than countries would have on their own.
But the parties would remain responsible for shooting down any missiles that threaten them. They would keep sovereign command-and-control over their own missile interceptors. "While the Russians are somewhat skeptical about whether Iran is a threat ... the Russians are very strident about their worries about Pakistan, which has ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons," said Stephen Hadley, a co-chairman of the working group that produced the proposal. He served as national security adviser to former President George W. Bush, a Republican.
The head of NATO welcomed the proposal. "Overall I really think it points in the right direction," said NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at a security conference in Munich. "It outlines why it is in our common interest to develop cooperation on missile defense."
However, he added, one of the main obstacles to cooperation was the Russian insistence on having legal guarantees that the NATO system was not directed against Russia. If Russia was involved in the project might alleviate Moscow's anxiety over the system, he said. "The very best guarantee Russia could get would be to actually engage in positive cooperation because that would provide transparency and they could see that the system is not directed against Russia," he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking at the same conference, did not refer to the commission's proposal, and instead threatened to "compensate" if necessary for the missile defense system.
"If our concerns are not taken into account, if no equitable joint work is achieved, then we will have to compensate for the emerging imbalance," he said in a speech.
"Failure to agree would tremendously reduce the opportunities for cooperation in addressing not only missile risks, but the whole range of threats to our common security. That would not be our choice." Hadley said a working group of experts from the United States, Europe and Russia concluded that there was enough of a threat from the proliferation of nuclear weapons capabilities and ballistic missiles with a range of up to 4,500 km (2,800 miles), to conclude that defenses were needed. "Constructing defenses takes a long time, and the last thing you want to be - if you are doing defenses - is late to the party," he told Reuters in an interview.
Hadley co-chaired the missile defense group together with Volker Ruehe, a former defense minister of Germany, and Vyacheslav Trubnikov, a former Russian deputy foreign minister and retired general. The design of the shared system was created by Henry "Trey" Obering, a former chief of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, and Viktor Esin, a former chief of staff of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces.
The missile defense proposal was part of a larger report by the Euro-Atlantic Security Commission that said the United States, NATO countries and Russia should cooperate on the Arctic, energy issues, and regional conflicts as well as missile defense. It is being unveiled this weekend at an annual international security conference in Germany.
"Successful cooperation on ballistic missile defense would be a game changer," the proposal said. "It would go a long way toward overcoming the legacy of historical suspicion and achieving the strategic transformation that is needed."
"Cooperation on missile defense would establish a pattern for working together, build trust, and encourage further cooperation in other areas," it said.
Discussions about missile defense have been a source of tension since Ronald Reagan's idea of protecting the United States from ballistic missile attack was dubbed "Star Wars" a quarter-century ago. Lately the Russian rhetoric has been intense.
"I think it's well known the Russians are paranoid about missile defense and the implications that has," U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper told Congress this week.
"They overanalyze that and deduce that's a profound threat to their status as a national power." Recently the Russians have complained bitterly about plans to station elements of the U.S. missile defense system close to them, in NATO members Poland, Romania and Turkey, from where radars could presumably see into Russian territory.
On the American side, there is some anxiety about cooperating with the Russians, even though cooperation on European missile defense was favored by Robert Gates, former Pentagon chief under both Bush and President Barack Obama, and has been sought in talks during the Obama administration. In Congress, some lawmakers have been so worried that the Obama administration might provide sensitive information to Moscow that they recently wrote a ban on sharing classified data into law, unless the administration notifies Congress first.
"House Republicans will not allow any delay to efforts to deploy missile defenses that protect the United States. Nor will we permit sharing with Russia classified information about our missile defense," said Representative Michael Turner, chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.
Hadley said the commission's proposal would protect sensitive technologies by letting each side set up screens to filter radar and satellite data before it is shared.
"We would talk about what is being screened out, so people would know what they are not getting," he said. "We do that all the time, in cooperation with countries all over the world." But other analysts say that because the proposed approach focuses on the threat from intermediate-range missiles, it sidesteps the critical issue of long-range nuclear forces.
The main reason that efforts to cooperate on missile defense have so far failed is Moscow's concern that some of Washington's yet-to-be-deployed or developed interceptors could be aimed at Russia's strategic missiles, said Tom Collina, research director for the Arms Control Association in Washington. "Until these concerns are addressed, Moscow is unlikely to begin the trust-building process that (the report) suggests," Collina said.
Sam Nunn, the former U.S. senator who co-chairs the Euro-Atlantic Security Commission, acknowledges the proposal doesn't address all the issues that could arise, but said: "I think you could solve other problems as you go down the line."
"If people work together on the first stages of this, the light bulbs will go off, (and) people will say 'Hey, we need to work together on the other stages too,'" Nunn told Reuters. Otherwise, he said the Russians may make good on threats to resort to a larger offensive missile buildup. "That was what they said they'd do, and I happen to believe them."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/04/us-usa-russia-missiles-idUSTRE8130JG20120204
2. French Ready to Support South African Nuclear Programme
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France is supportive of South Africa’s nuclear energy plans, assured French Foreign Ministry secretary-general Pierre Sellal in Pretoria on Thursday afternoon. The European power is a leader in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. (Secretary-general is equivalent to a director-general in South Africa.)
“Our industry is ready to contribute to the nuclear programme to be launched by the South African government,” he said.
This would not just be a matter of selling reactors but would also involve “comprehensive cooperation” which would encompass training and the involvement of South African industry. “We strongly believe that nuclear energy has to remain and will remain an important element of the world energy mix,” affirmed Sellal. “This is a decision we have made in France.”
He pointed out that governments had to meet three objectives when they formulated their energy policies. These were – competitiveness (ensuring that their business sectors could compete internationally), security of supply, and sustainability. “We strongly believe that nuclear energy meets these three objectives.”
He acknowledged that the Fukushima crisis in Japan last year had eroded public trust in nuclear energy. “We think it is important to discuss these questions, in order to define, in front of the population, these issues as logically as possible. It is important that our two governments demonstrate that they are committed to address the issues raised by nuclear energy, such as safety.” A key contribution to convincing the people would be transparency.
Regarding science and technology cooperation in general, Sellal observed that it “is a very important chapter of our strategic partnership”. This cooperation between the two countries is governed by a bilateral agreement concluded a few years ago.
“We believe it will be important to have a science and technology component in the cultural seasons which will take place in South Africa and France,” he stated. There will be a season of France in South Africa this year, followed by a season of South Africa in France next year.
“It is important to show our cooperation in this domain and to show the capacities of the partners in these areas, [show] what illustrates the best capacities of the two partners.”
Available at: http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/french-ready-to-support-south-african-nuclear-programme-2012-02-03
3. S. Korea Optimistic Aid Will Bring North Korea Back to Talks
Peter Hirschberg and Sangwon Yoon
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South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy is “optimistic” that inducements offered by the U.S. and his country will persuade North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong Un, to resume talks aimed at ending the regime’s atomic program.
“The prospects of the normalization of the relationship between Pyongyang and the international community, and eventually a lifting of sanctions, all those benefits will be a strong incentive for the new leadership,” Lim Sung Nam, South Korea’s representative to the dialogue, said in his office in Seoul. “The six-party talks are basically a process of putting them on a learning curve regarding the cost of having nuclear weapons and the benefit of giving up nuclear weapons.”
Sanctions over the nuclear program have so far failed to cajole North Korea, which is reliant on aid from China to feed its people, back to the table after negotiations broke down in 2008. Lim said that while the North hasn’t given any concrete sign it may engage following the Dec. 17 death of dictator Kim Jong Il, his son, Kim Jong Un, may be reexamining policies toward the outside world.
Lim said he believes the prospect of international aid to a country whose economy is one-fortieth the size of South Korea’s will ultimately persuade Kim to return to talks. He said that before Kim Jong Il died the sides had been making “meaningful progress” on the steps needed to restart negotiations, which involve the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.
“Our reading is that Pyongyang is quite stable,” said Lim, whose father was born in the north and fled to the south during the 1950-1953Korean War. “All those events related to the funeral, the military parade and everything, are going pretty smoothly and we didn’t hear any news indicating there is some sort of domestic political change.”
Before the talks collapsed, the five nations had pledged massive economic, humanitarian and energy aid for the North to denuclearize, including crude oil, food and electricity on top of trade and diplomatic relations.
Since Kim Jong Un, thought to be younger than 30, inherited the leadership, the rhetoric from Pyongyang has echoed that of his father’s rule. North Korea’s National Defense Commission issued a statement yesterday questioning South Korea’s commitment to dialogue. The statement, published by the state- run Korean Central News Agency, accused the South of conducting a “vicious anti-DPRK smear psychological campaign.” DPRK refers to the nation’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
It included nine points it said South Korea needed to address to show it is serious about negotiations, including a halt to major military exercises and an apology for not sending an official delegation to Kim Jong Il’s funeral.
There is no need to respond to such “stubborn insistence” from the North’s propaganda, said South Korea’s Unification Ministry in an e-mailed statement expressing “regret.” Economic support from China could scuttle Lim’s hopes, said Kim Young Yoon, a senior research fellow at the state-run Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul.
“It’s unlikely that the North will rejoin six-party talks because of economic concerns,” Kim said. “China is giving them enough aid to sustain them at the moment and South Korea is also giving humanitarian aid.” China provides almost 90 percent of the North’s energy imports and 45 percent of its food, according to a 2009 report from the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations.
South Korea (ROKZ) says the North must show it is sincere about dismantling its atomic installations as a prerequisite for returning to negotiations. This would include allowing inspectors into the country to monitor a shutdown of the nuclear weapons program, said Lim, who keeps aerial photographs of the Yongbyon atomic facility on the wall of his office.
After six-party talks ended, North Korea in 2009 expelled International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and conducted a second nuclear test. In April that year, it said it would restore its main nuclear reactor for making weapons-grade plutonium at Yongbyon, which was disabled under a February 2007 agreement.
Kim’s regime allocates a third of its budget to 1.2 million soldiers, 1,700 aircraft, 800 naval vessels and more than 13,000 artillery systems, according to the American military. The U.S. estimates that North Korea has enough plutonium for a half-dozen nuclear devices and sells ballistic missiles for cash. U.S. economic sanctions, which have frozen the assets of North Korean companies, prohibit direct and indirect imports of goods and services and ban luxury-goods trade and money exchanges. The UN banned all arms exports from North Korea and authorized searching of the country’s ships for weapons.
North Korea’s economy contracted 0.5 percent to 30 trillion won ($26.8 billion) in 2010, compared with South Korea’s 1,173 trillion won, according to the South’s central bank.
The country had a shortfall of as much as 700,000 metric tons of food last year, which could affect a quarter of the population, according to the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization. Kim Jong Un faces a dilemma in deciding how much he can open up to the outside world in return for the economic assistance needed to fulfill his regime’s promise of creating a strong and prosperous country, said Peter Beck, the Korea representative for the Asia Foundation in Seoul.
“The only way they can follow through on that pledge is to start by reaching agreement with the U.S. and the other four parties,” said Beck.
Lim, 53, is a graduate of Seoul National University and holds a master’s degree in political science from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. His last post was at the South Korean embassy in China. “Through their own channel of communication in Beijing with Pyongyang, the Chinese should be making a lot of effort to bring the North Koreans back to the six-party process,” he said. Lim will travel to Moscow next week for talks with his Russian counterpart, deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Jan. 29 that it was “absolutely realistic” to reconvene six-party talks by the middle of the year.
“We might have to wait for some more time but I’m basically optimistic that the new leadership in Pyongyang could make the right decision,” Lim said.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-02/s-korea-optimistic-aid-will-bring-north-back-to-nuclear-talks.html
Officials for the French nuclear power company Areva are now looking to 2013 to begin construction on a $3 billion uranium enrichment plant near Idaho Falls.
Areva had hoped to begin construction on the Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility this year, but backed off that timeline after executives last year announced the company instead needed to focus on returning to profitability after a dismal 2011.
Bob Poyser, vice president for Areva's Idaho Falls operation, insists the company is committed and actively seeking investment partners. "The project is definitely still alive and moving forward," Poyser told The Post-Register in a story published this week.
Last fall, federal regulators awarded Areva a license to build and operate the facility. The company has also received a $2 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy. Areva already owns the land for the plant west of Idaho Falls and invested resources in planning and development. At one time, the company had hoped to begin construction this year to meet an opening date of 2014. The project, expected to create several thousand construction jobs and 700 permanent positions once operational, was viewed as a future driver of the eastern Idaho economy and a key component in Areva's plans to expand production of nuclear fuel for commercial power production in the United States.
But in December, Areva announced plans to scale back its operations, payroll and investments globally as it sought to recover from a challenging 2011. Poyser said a lack of cash and the need for new investment partners remain the key hurdles to moving forward. The company could also move forward on its own if it fails to secure investment partners in the next year.
"If we can't find a partner, the earliest start would be sometime in 2014 probably," Poyser said.
Available at: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700221218/Areva-pushes-back-plans-for-enrichment-plant.html
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