1. U.S., Europe Radioisotope Producers to Cut HEU Use
The Korea Herald
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The U.S., Belgium, France and the Netherlands announced Monday that they agreed to enhance cooperation in minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium in producing medical isotopes.
Medical isotopes refer to radioactive materials used for medical purposes such as imaging organs and tumors, and HEU is their material of origin.
Under the agreement the four countries will collaborate in developing non-HEU-based production process to a level that stable supply of such materials is established by 2015.
As part of the efforts, Belgium, France and the Netherlands will dispose of scrap HEU. The U.S. and other partners will provide support for the project. In addition, the U.S. will provide the three European nations with HEU required to produce medical isotopes for the duration of the process of replacing the current production method with that using HEU.
In the long term, the four nations said that they hope to eliminate the use of HEU in medical isotope production completely.
Belgium, France and the Netherlands are among the largest producers of medical isotopes in the world. The combined output of the three countries accounts for 80 percent of Europe’s annual supply, and 30 percent that of the U.S.
“Simply put, we are reducing the availability of HEU, weapons grade material,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said, adding that their plans will ensure that the supply of molybdenum-99, a key medical radioisotope, will remain stable. “2015 is sufficient time frame and we are very confident that this will happen.”
However, the process of replacing HEU-based medical isotope production with a lowly-enriched uranium-based process will require approval from the authorities, which will take time and investment, the officials said.
In addition, as the HEU used for medical isotope production can be used in weapons production as well, the four countries plan to ensure that the material and facilities using HEU are provided with security measures as per the recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Available at: http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20120326001297
2. Nuclear Industry Calls for Greater Role in Security, Safety
Yonhap News Agency
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Global energy leaders on Friday called on the industry to take on a greater role in bolstering nuclear security and safety as the world must cope with the threat of natural disasters and terrorists elements. In a joint nine-point statement announced at the two-day Nuclear Industry Summit in Seoul, 118 global atomic energy companies and international organizations outlined practical measures that can be pursued by the industry to enhance public confidence in fission power generation and ensure growth of atomic power down the road.
The statement is to be recommended to leaders of 58 nations and international organizations who will participate in the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit scheduled for early next week, the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP), the event's organizer, said.
Companies such as KHNP, France's Areva SA, China National Nuclear Corp. and the World Nuclear Association endorsed the promotion of an upgraded security culture and cooperation in research to develop a high density, low enriched uranium fuel for small research reactors.
They also stressed support for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines to cut back on the use of highly enriched uranium, countermeasures against cyber terrorism, exchange of best practices and integrated security and safety for nuclear installations and materials.
Industry leaders added that close global cooperative dialogue must be maintained within the atomic energy sector, while established operators must take action to assist newcomers in nuclear power generation to follow the IAEA's recommendations.
Beyond the official statement, industry experts said there may be a need for an independent safety organization to regulate the nuclear industry as a whole.
In regards to taking all possible steps to strengthen nuclear security and safety, South Korea's Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, who addressed the forum earlier in the day, said the country is fully committed to promoting the peaceful use of atomic power.
"Seoul will share its accumulated knowledge and experience in the nuclear power sector with the international community," he said.
The policymaker said the country, as a leading operator of nuclear power plants, will do its part to promote knowledge and information sharing between governments, businesses and the general public.
The need for more information-sharing was echoed by Areva SA chief executive Luc Oursel and World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) executive director Roger Howsley. Both called for a free flow of information and said there is a need to do away with the excessive secrecy within the sector.
Experts said following Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster last year, there is a pressing requirement to raise public confidence if the nuclear industry is to move forward.
The Fukushima meltdown was triggered by a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami, and is considered the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl tragedy.
Oursel said while last year's disaster raised concerns about the safety of nuclear power, countries around the world have resumed reactor building projects. He predicted global nuclear capacity, which currently stands at 400 gigawatts, will grow to 600 gigawatts by 2030.
He said the nuclear renaissance has not been seriously affected, although there has been renewed emphasis on safety and security. He said the French nuclear power company aims to invest 8 billion euros (11.97 trillion won) over the next two years to build up its capabilities and knowhow, with a large portion set aside for atomic safety.
The WINS official said threat of terrorism and natural disasters have raised the need for more coordination across the board.
Howsley said with South Korea transforming itself as a presence in the atomic power building sector, it has to dedicate more to the issue of safety and security.
"South Korea and other countries must learn to think progressively on safety," he said, adding that the international organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2008, will start a concerted training program in 2013. The program could augment Seoul's existing safety program run by the Korea Institute of Nuclear Nonproliferation and Control, he said.
Following the official debate sessions, KHNP president Kim Jong-shin said in a press conference that the industry summit represents a positive move to build up global security and safety in the nuclear field to counter threats posed by terrorism as well as natural disasters.
He also said that the industry continues to learn from mistakes from the Three Mile Island incident in 1979 to the recent Fukushima tragedy, and most recently, the mishap at South Korea's Gori-1 that was shut down earlier this month. The Gori incident was caused by technicians mistakenly cutting power to a reactor and then concealing the breakdown of an emergency generator in February.
The KHNP, meanwhile, said 200 participants were present for the industry summit from energy companies from around the world and international agencies including the IAEA, the Nuclear Energy Agency, the World Association of Nuclear Operators and the World Nuclear Association.
South Korea said that the industry summit is expected to allow the international community to gauge the strength of South Korea's atomic power industry and highlight the importance of nuclear energy safety, the KHNP said, adding it could also promote Seoul's efforts to export its knowhow in nuclear power generation.
South Korea which first started operating a commercial nuclear reaction in the late 1970s currently has 21 units in operations with seven under construction. The country sealed a deal with the United Arab Emirates a nuclear power plant for the Middle East country.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/business/2012/03/23/20/0501000000AEN20120323004000320F.HTML
1. Obama to China: Help Rein in North Korea, Alister Bull and Matt Spetalnick
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U.S. President Barack Obama urged China on Sunday to use its influence to rein in North Korea instead of "turning a blind eye" to its nuclear defiance, and warned of tighter sanctions if the reclusive state goes ahead with a rocket launch next month.
"North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations," a stern-faced Obama said after a tour of the heavily fortified border between the two Koreas resonant with echoes of the Cold War. Such a launch would only lead to further isolation of the impoverished North, which much show its sincerity if on-again-off-again six-party aid-for-disarmament talks are to restart, Obama told a news conference in the South Korean capital.
Seoul and Washington say the launch will be a disguised test of a ballistic missile that violates Pyongyang's latest international commitments. North Korea says it merely wants to put a satellite into orbit.
Even as Obama warned North Korea of the consequences of its actions, he spoke bluntly to China, the closest thing Pyongyang has to an ally, of its international obligations.
Obama said Beijing's actions of "rewarding bad behavior (and) turning a blind eye to deliberate provocations" were obviously not working, and he promised to raise the matter at a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Seoul on Monday.
"I believe that China is very sincere that it does not want to see North Korea with a nuclear weapon," he told a news conference in Seoul before a global summit on nuclear security. "But it is going to have to act on that interest in a sustained way."
It was Obama's sharpest message yet to China to use its clout with North Korea in a nuclear standoff with the West, and dovetails with recent calls for Beijing to meet its responsibilities as a rising world power.
In an election year when Republicans have accused Obama of not being strong enough with Beijing, talking tough on China is seen as a potential vote-winner after three years of troubled diplomacy in dealings with Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
China is host to the six-party talks, which involve Japan and Russia as well as the two Koreas and the United States.
Obama earlier visited a U.S. base on the edge of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) as a solemn North Korea came to a halt to mark the 100th day after "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il's death.
"You guys are at freedom's frontier," Obama, wearing an Air Force One bomber jacket, told about 50 troops crammed into the Camp Bonifas mess hall at one of the world's most heavily fortified frontiers. He spent about 10 minutes on a camouflaged viewing platform at the DMZ, talking with some of the soldiers on guard and peering with binoculars across the border into North Korea as flags flapped loudly in the brisk, cold wind.
The White House cast Obama's first visit to the DMZ, which has bisected the peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953, as a way to showcase the strength of the U.S.-South Korean alliance and thank some of the nearly 30,000 American troops still deployed in South Korea.
The 4-km (2.5-mile) wide DMZ was drawn up at the end of the 1950-53 civil conflict, which ended in a truce that has yet to be finalized with a permanent peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas in effect still at war.
Washington has condemned next month's planned rocket launch as a violation of North Korea's promise to halt long-range missile firings, nuclear tests and uranium enrichment in return for a resumption of food aid.
Obama said that if the North goes ahead with the rocket launch, a February food aid deal could fall apart and Pyonygang could face a tightening of international sanctions.
Obama said he was sympathetic to China's concerns that too much pressure on North Korea could create a refugee crisis on its borders, but insisted Beijing's approach over the decades had failed to achieve a "fundamental shift" in Pyongyang's behavior.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted a military official on Sunday as saying the main body of the rocket had been moved to the launch site on North Korea's west coast. The launch will coincide with big celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of the state's founder, Kim Il-sung. North Korea's defiance is clouding Obama's much-touted nuclear disarmament agenda, which is also being challenged by Iran's persistence with nuclear research in the face of sanctions and international criticism.
Obama will join more than 50 other world leaders on Monday for a follow-up to the inaugural nuclear security summit he organized in Washington in 2010 to help combat the threat of nuclear terrorism. While North Korea and Iran are not on the guest list or the official agenda, they are expected to be the main focus of Obama's array of bilateral meetings on the sidelines.
Obama's visit coincided with the end of the 100-day mourning period for Kim Jong-il, who died in December. Tens of thousands of people crammed into Kim Il-sung Square in central Pyongyang to mark the occasion.
The state's new young leader, Kim Jong-un, the third member of the Kim family to rule the state, bowed before a portrait of his father at the palace where he lies in state. He was joined by his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, and military chief Ri Yong-ho.
Standing alongside South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Obama told reporters it was difficult to get an accurate impression of how the succession process was going because it was not clear who was "calling the shots" in the North.
The young Kim himself made a surprise trip to the DMZ in early March. He looked across the border through binoculars and told troops to "maintain the maximum alertness since (they) stand in confrontation with the enemy at all times".
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/25/us-korea-north-obama-idUSBRE82O07W20120325
2. Obama Warns North Korea Rocket Endangers Negotiations
Julianna Goldman, Margaret Talev, Sangwon Yoon
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President Barack Obama warned North Korea its plan to fire a long-range rocket undermined prospects for future negotiations as the military in Seoul said Kim Jong Un’s forces had moved the missile to its launch site.
Obama, who peered through binoculars into the North as he toured the Demilitarized Zone yesterday, spoke at a meeting in the South Korean capital with President Lee Myung Bak. He’ll hold talks today with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao as they gather for a nuclear security summit aimed at keeping fissile material out of the hands of terrorists.
Kim, who took over when his father Kim Jong Il died in December, is putting at risk 240,000 metric tons of food aid from the U.S. even as many of his people go hungry. Obama, who faces an election this year, is using his trip to increase pressure on North Korea and Iran over their nuclear programs. The rocket launch “would constitute a direct violation” of North Korea’s commitments and obligations and “seriously undermine the prospects of future negotiations,” Obama said. “North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or by provocations.”
There are 28,500 U.S. forces in South Korea, facing off against a North Korean military that has placed 70 percent of its ground forces within 90 kilometers of the DMZ, including about 250 long-range artillery systems capable of striking the Seoul area, according to U.S. Forces Korea. “Long-range rocket launches are worrisome because they could improve North Korea’s weapons technology, serving as a chance to test missile systems that can carry nuclear warheads,” said Koh Yu Hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.
Obama said during his news conference with Lee that he will press China’s Hu in their meeting to take a tougher stance toward North Korea to fulfill its international obligations and move toward denuclearization. North Korea is dependent on energy and food assistance from China, which has sought to support its neighbor to avoid unrest that could hinder trade and prompt a wave of refugees across its border.
“My suggestion to China is that how they communicate their concerns to North Korea should probably reflect the fact that the approach they’ve taken over the last several decades hasn’t led to a fundamental shift in North Korea’s behavior,” Obama said.
Hu expressed concern over North Korea’s planned rocket launch during a meeting today with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, according to Kim Tae Hyo, South Korea’s senior secretary for national security strategy. Kim said the Chinese leader told Lee that his country is “continuously communicating” with North Korea to prevent the liftoff.
Obama met Lee at the presidential Blue House yesterday less than two weeks after the two nations’ free-trade pact came into effect and as their militaries continue war games aimed at deterring any aggression from the regime in Pyongyang.
“The contrast between South Korea and North Korea could not be clearer,” Obama told troops at Camp Bonifas on the edge of the DMZ. “Both in terms of freedom but also in terms of prosperity.” The president stopped for about 10 minutes at Observation Post Ouellette, within 100 yards (90 meters) of the demarcation line that was drawn at the end of the Korean War in 1953. U.S. and South Korean troops make foot patrols from the post, which has four guard towers and underground bunkers.
Obama looked into North Korea, where guard posts, the industrial complex at Gaeseong and sparsely vegetated hillsides and fields are visible from Ouellette. South Korean manufacturers employ North Korean workers at the Gaeseong complex, which has kept running even as political tensions rise. It was like peering into “a time warp” of a half-century of missed progress, Obama said at his press conference with Lee.
A North Korean flag flew at half mast in the distance as the totalitarian regime yesterday marked 100 days since the death of Kim Jong Il.
Lee and Obama said they weren’t prepared to make strategic assessments of Kim Jong Un. Obama added that North Korea’s long- term objectives weren’t clear and it was difficult to see “who’s calling the shots” in the country.
North Korea and Iran aren’t participants in the two-day Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, where the focus will be on preventing radioactive material from getting into the hands of terror groups. The legacy of the Soviet Union’s breakup, inadequate atomic stockpile controls and the proliferation of nuclear-fuel technology mean the world may be awash with unaccounted-for weapons ingredients, ripe to be picked up by terrorists.
North Korea described the event as a platform for an “international smear campaign” against it, according to a statement on March 23 carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. South Korea was the U.S.’s seventh-largest goods trading partner, with $88 billion in total for 2010, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
The free-trade agreement between the two nations is the biggest for the U.S. in almost two decades. It will cut about 80 percent of tariffs between them and may increase U.S. exports as much as $10.9 billion in the first year it’s in full effect, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-25/obama-warns-north-korea-rocket-jeopardizes-future-negotiations.html
1. Japan's Tepco Shuts its Last Reactor, Power Risks Loom
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Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima power plant, shut its last operating nuclear reactor on Monday for regular maintenance, leaving just one running reactor supplying Japan's creaking power sector.
Japan has 54 reactors, but since the tsunami last March triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years at the Fukushima plant, it has been unable to restart any reactors that have undergone maintenance due to public safety concerns.
Tepco said it shutdown the No.6 reactor at its Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, the world's biggest nuclear power plant, raising concerns about a power crunch this summer when electricity demand peaks due to hot weather.
"We are likely to be able to provide stable electricity supply at the moment, but we would like to ask customers to continue conserving power," Tepco President Toshio Nishizawa said in a statement released on Sunday.
"We are currently closely studying the summer power supply situation. We will do our utmost to operate in a stable way and maintain our facilities," he added.
Out of the 17 reactors owned by Tepco, which provides electricity to some 45 million people in the Tokyo area, all six at its devastated Fukushima Daiichi plant, 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo, are off line, as well as four at its neighboring Fukushima Daini plant.
At its Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, 230 km northwest of Tokyo, three remain offline after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck the area in July 2007 and small fires followed. Four others are under maintenance. Japan's last running reactor, Hokkaido Electric's Tomari No.3, is set to go off line on May 5 for maintenance.
Greenpeace Japan's Executive Director Junichi Sato said that the country could survive without rushing to restart its nuclear sector.
"Japan is practically nuclear free, and the impact on daily life is invisible," Sato said in a statement "With proper demand management, energy efficiency measures, and more than sufficient backup generation in place, there is no excuse for shortages in the coming months, and absolutely no need to rush restarts of nuclear plants."
To avoid blackouts, utilities have restarted old fossil fuel plants and have called for power conservation, but some analysts warn of power shortages in the summer, especially given ageing fossil fuel plants could be less reliable.
The process to restart halted reactors is unclear. Japan's nuclear safety watchdog and another experts' panel are currently reviewing stress test results submitted by utilities that gauge how reactors can withstand extreme events like a huge tsunami.
Once they give approval, ministers including Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda can give the green-light for the restarts, but only after they deem there is enough local and public support, and surveys show this may not be easy.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/26/us-japan-nuclear-tepco-idUSBRE82P04Q20120326
2. Uranium from Eight Sites Soon to Fuel Nuclear Reactors
N. Arun Kuma
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The department of atomic energy (DAE) has identified eight sites in India to mine uranium to fuel nuclear reactors in the country.
In an informal chat with Deccan Chronicle on the sidelines of the 14th annual graduation day at St Joseph’s College of Engineering on Sunday, K. Ramamurthy, station director, Madras Atomic Power Station, said that DAE had identified eight sites, including Tumalapalli in Andhra Pradesh and Jaduguda in Jharkand to fuel existing and upcoming nuclear reactors.
“Even though we have abundant uranium reserves in the north-eastern part of our country we are not able to exploit them due to the local extremist problem”, he said.
Pointing out that the Indian southern coast had abundant thorium which can cater the needs of the country for the next 500 years, Mr Ramamurthy said DAE had planned to convert thorium into uranium as more fast breeder reactors are being set up in the country. Such conversion would help India reach self-reliance in nuclear fuel.
“From 2030 onwards it will be an era of thorium based reactors,” he added.
He said that by the beginning of next financial year MAPS would start producing its total capacity of 440 megawatts of electricity.
Available at: http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/sci-tech/energy/uranium-eight-sites-soon-fuel-nuclear-reactors-667
World leaders may pledge tighter controls over nuclear materials to keep them out of the hands of terrorists, according to the draft of a communique to be released at the end of their two-day meeting in Seoul.
Securing vulnerable nuclear material before the next Nuclear Security Summit in 2014 is the top priority, according to a copy of the six-page working document obtained by Bloomberg News. The draft, completed at a March 23 meeting of nuclear advisers attending the meetings in the South Korean capital, will be subject to debate at the gathering that ends tomorrow.
“One of the virtues of the nuclear security summit process is that all countries can agree that it is worthwhile to prevent nuclear terrorism, even if they cannot agree on proliferation, disarmament, and nuclear energy issues,” Matthew Bunn, a Harvard University professor and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, wrote today in an e-mailed response to questions.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev are among more than 40 leaders attending the meeting to stave off terrorist acquisition of nuclear material. The legacy of the Soviet Union’s breakup, inadequate atomic stockpile controls and the proliferation of nuclear-fuel technology mean the world has lost precise count of atomic material. At least 2 million kilograms (4.4 million pounds) of weapons-grade nuclear material is stockpiled, according to the Princeton, New Jersey-based International Panel on Fissile Materials.
Some nations wanted the summit to “affirm that full and effective implementation” of nuclear treaties “has a vital role in promoting international peace and security,” according to a previous draft of the statement written Feb. 21 and also obtained by Bloomberg News.
North Korea dropped out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 while Iran has been accused of violating its statutes by seeking an atomic-weapons capability. Other nations like India, Israel and Pakistan aren’t members of the treaty.
“The summit participants include countries who want the nuclear weapon states to commit to rapid nuclear disarmament and states with nuclear weapons that absolutely oppose going to zero any time soon,” Bunn said.
The U.S. has a “unique responsibililty” and “moral obligation” when it comes to atomic weapons, President Barack Obama said today in a speech at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. “I say this as President of the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons.”
The U.S. will seek talks with Russia to reduce strategic and tactical weapons and warheads in reserve, Obama said, adding that the U.S. has “more nuclear weapons than we need.” Leaders at the summit will say that the March 2011 Fukushima Dai-Ichi meltdowns show that “sustained efforts” are needed to improve safety and security, according to the draft. They will also move to stop using high-enriched uranium to produce medical isotopes used in cancer treatments by next year, the document says.
Countries should enact legislation binding themselves to international conventions on nuclear terrorism and nuclear- material protection, according to the draft. While the U.S. Senate has approved both conventions, the House of Representatives hasn’t passed implementing legislation bringing the conventions into law.
“We’re at the beginning of a much different nuclear era,” Kenneth Luongo, President of the Partnership for Global Security and a former arms-control adviser at the Department of Energy, said in an interview in Seoul. “Nuclear power will begin growing in much more dangerous neighborhoods as the world population grows and energy demands increase.”
The communiqué will also highlight the need to contain lower-level radioactive materials needed for so-called “dirty bombs,” support the creation of a nuclear-forensics database and encourage countries to share more police data on smuggling, according to the draft.
Leaders will issue the meeting’s final communiqué at 4:30 p.m. local time in Seoul tomorrow, summit spokesman Hahn Choong Hee said today at a press briefing. Leader’s won’t issue a separate work plan on the steps needed to contain nuclear material like they did in 2010, he said.
European leaders are being kept away from the summit because of political complications and budget conflicts, Hahn said. UK Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel aren’t attending the two-day meeting.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country will host the next summit in 2014, had to cancel his appearance because of budget negotiations, according to Hahn.
The absence of high-level leaders is “unfortunate,” Bunn said. “A key point of the summit process is to raise these issues to a level where decisions can be made that cut across agency boundaries.”
Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-03-26/leaders-target-loose-nuclear-material-draft-communique-says
2. Obama Says U.S. Reducing Nuclear Arsenal Won’t Harm Security
Margaret Talev and Julianna Goldman
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President Barack Obama urged Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday to use his country’s relationship with North Korea to send a strong message about Pyongyang’s planned satellite launch next month, U.S. deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.
Obama and Hu are among more than 40 world leaders in Seoul attending a two-day summit aimed at securing the world’s nuclear stockpiles to keep fissile material out of the hands of terrorists. Obama, who faces re-election later this year, is using this trip to increase pressure on North Korea and Iran over their nuclear programs. The U.S. president also met yesterday with outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
U.S. President Barack Obama is in Seoul to attend a nuclear security summit along with more than 40 world leaders around a goal of keeping fissile material out of the hands of terrorists. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg
The North Korean government has announced plans to put a satellite into orbit between April 12 and 16, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founding leader, Kim Il Sung, on April 15. The U.S. sees the launch as a test of a missile that could carry an atomic warhead. Obama made it clear to Hu that the proposed launch is in direct violation of existing agreements, Rhodes told reporters at a briefing yesterday. The two leaders “agreed to coordinate closely in responding to this potential provocation,” he said.
After Obama’s meeting with Medvedev, who will be succeeded by President-elect Vladimir Putin in May, television microphones picked up the U.S. president telling the Russian leader that he would have greater flexibility “after my election” in November to work on resolving Russian’s objections to a planned U.S. missile defense shield in Europe.
The session with Medvedev followed a speech by Obama in which he committed to further reduce America’s nuclear weapons stockpile, saying that the U.S. had more nuclear arms than it needed and that doing so wouldn’t compromise national security.
Obama, who spoke at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, said the U.S. would seek talks with Russia on steps to reduce their arsenals of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, as well as the number of warheads they have in reserve.
“I firmly believe that we can ensure the security of the United States and our allies, maintain a strong deterrent against any threat and still pursue further reductions in our nuclear arsenal,” Obama said. “We can already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need.” The president said he had directed his national security team last summer to conduct a review of the country’s nuclear forces, recognizing that the nuclear arsenal inherited from the Cold War is “poorly suited to today’s threats including nuclear terrorism.”
Under the terms of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that took effect last year, the U.S. and Russia would be limited to no more than 1,550 strategic warheads. It sets a maximum of 800 land-, air- and sea-based launchers.
Obama signed the treaty in April 2010 with Medvedev in Prague as part of a push to bolster relations between the two countries and reduce the spread of nuclear weapons worldwide.
A White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of Obama’s speech, said reducing stockpiles remains a priority for U.S.-Russia relations and that Obama would raise it with Putin when they meet in May.
In addition to his talks with Hu and Medvedev, Obama met yesterday with President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan. That country inherited the world’s fourth-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the collapse of the Soviet Union and in 1991 renounced their use and relinquished them. In his speech yesterday, Obama said there was still time to solve the standoff with Iran over its nuclear program via diplomatic means. “But time is short,” he said.
“Iran’s leaders must understand they too face a choice,” Obama said. “Iran must act with the seriousness and sense of urgency that this moment demands. Iran must meet its obligations.” Obama is trying to ratchet up economic pressure on Iran in an effort to persuade it to abandon any illicit part of its nuclear program. The U.S., Europe and Israel have accused Iran of seeking the capability to build a nuclear weapon. Iran says its program is for civilian energy and medical research. Iran and North Korea were among the topics on the agenda for Hu and Obama. In his speech at the university, Obama said that while the U.S. had no hostile intent toward North Korea, provocations by the regime in Pyongyang wouldn’t be rewarded. “Those days are over,” he said.
During a March 25 news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Obama warned North Korea’s leaders that their plan to fire a long-range rocket next month undermined prospects for future negotiations and would make it difficult for the U.S. to proceed with a Feb. 29 aid deal whereby 240,000 metric tons of food would be delivered to the country.
The U.S. leader, who on March 25 visited the Demilitarized Zone on the border between the two countries divided since 1953, said Koreans would ultimately be reunited. “The currents of history cannot be held back forever,” he said in his speech yesterday.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-26/obama-says-u-s-reducing-nuclear-arms-won-t-endanger-security.html
3. Japan to Push Anti-Terror Measures at Nuclear Plants
The Times of India
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The US had repeatedly warned Japan about vulnerabilities at its nuclear plants in case of a Sept. 11-style terror attack. It turned out Washington was right about the soft spots, but wrong about the enemy that would strike them.
When nature unleashed its own fury on Japan last year with a devastating tsunami, a list of US recommendations proved highly prescient. The elements Washington identified as most vulnerable in an attack, spent fuel pools, cooling systems, backup electricity, were the ones worst hit in Japan's disaster.
Tokyo had ignored the recommendations, which were implemented at US nuclear sites, because Japanese officials thought the chances of terrorist-flown aircraft striking its plants were remote. But as leaders from around the world head to Seoul for a major summit this week on nuclear security, Japan's disaster at its Fukushima plant has provided a salient example of how solid protections against terrorist attacks go hand in hand with protections against natural disasters.
The summit is primarily about ways to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists, but the Japanese government plans to propose a series of Fukushima-inspired measures to enhance emergency power backup systems and advocate a closer link between anti-terror security and general safety issues.
``We have to imagine the unimaginable,'' Kensuke Yoshida, the director of the arms control and disarmament division of Japan's foreign ministry and a member of Japan's delegation, told The Associated Press.
``Once an incident happens, the consequences will be extremely grave, whether caused by a natural disaster or terrorists,'' Yoshida said. Japan had been slow to make that connection. Documents made public since Japan's nuclear crisis began last year suggest the scenario that played out in Fukushima was by no means unforeseeable, it was simply ignored.
After the 9/11 attacks, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a number of directives to the domestic nuclear industry based on a review of what might happen if an airliner hijacked by terrorists was crashed into an atomic plant.
It expressed concern that such an attack could cripple a plant's power system, and proposed portable diesel-driven pumps, portable power supplies and hoses be made readily available so that reactor cores can be kept cool to prevent them from going into dangerous, radiation-spewing meltdowns. It also suggested measures to provide backup cooling water to the vulnerable spent fuel pools. The suggestions were passed on to Japan several times, but Tokyo dismissed them because it regarded the recommendations as a terrorism issue and did not think it faced a significant terrorist threat, according to Tetsuya Endo, a former diplomat and vice chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of Japan.
``The agency that got the recommendations just put them in their pocket. No one else knew anything about it,'' said Endo, who is on an independent fact-finding commission that recently released a scathing review of Japan's response to the crisis.
``We are an island nation with an island mentality. We see ourselves as free from the possibility of terrorist attack,'' he said.
Last year's March 11 earthquake and tsunami devastated the very systems that the NRC had found to be weakest. Fukushima experienced the electrical blackout that it warned of, and three of its reactors went into meltdowns, forcing tens of thousands to evacuate as plant workers struggled to find ways to keep them cool.
In recent testimony before a parliament-appointed investigative panel, Haruki Madarame, a nuclear physicist and head of Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission, acknowledged that Japan should have taken the US findings more seriously. ``Even though we were aware of the issue and knew that they were taking steps, we didn't do anything,'' he said. ``When other countries were discussing the problems, we only wasted time trying to find excuses why we didn't have to do it.''
Edwin Lyman, a nuclear terrorism expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said Japan's crisis is a good case-in-point for experts who have long warned that anti-terrorism measures need to be enhanced. ``The Fukushima accident has certainly illustrated the dependence of nuclear plants on electrical power supply, both off- and on-site, and how core damage can occur solely as a result of a prolonged loss of power in the absence of timely intervention,'' he said.
But he said the disconnect between policymakers who are primarily concerned with anti-terror measures and those focused on mitigating natural disasters continues to be a major problem. Lyman said the United States' post-9/11 recommendations, which were made public in May to support the NRC's argument that the U.S. was prepared for a Fukushima-type event, reflected that imbalance. "The measures were specifically intended to help plants survive the impact of a single aircraft, and not to survive other types of initiating events, like earthquakes and floods,'' he said. "In fact, the US guidance specified that such equipment did not have to be seismically qualified.'' Because of the Fukushima example, he said, the NRC is now updating its measures to take into account a wider variety of challenges.
Available at: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-03-25/rest-of-world/31237023_1_fukushima-nuclear-plants-fuel-pools
4. India Says Nuclear Terrorism a 'Continuing Concern'
The Times of India
(for personal use only)
India, which is rapidly expanding its atomic power programme, said Saturday that nuclear terrorism is a "continuing concern" ahead of a summit on atomic safety to be held next week in Seoul.
The summit will focus on the threat from nuclear-armed terrorists and follows one in Washington convened by US President Barack Obama in 2010 on the same subject.
Nuclear terrorism "remains a continuing concern," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said as he left for the two-day summit which opens on Monday in the South Korean capital.
Coal-dependent India is one of the few countries in the world that is seeking to increase its nuclear energy quickly as it aims to overcome a peak overall power shortage of around 12 percent. "I will highlight the high priority we attach to nuclear security, safety and non-proliferation" at the summit, Singh said in a statement, adding it was vital to reassure the public about safety measures. Singh, who will be among leaders or senior officials from 53 nations attending the meeting, said the summit has become "even more important" after the devastating Fukushima accident in Japan last year. India has been caught in the backlash against atomic power caused by the tsunami-led meltdown at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
Work resumed earlier in the week on one of two Russian-backed 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors in the Indian southern state of Tamil Nadu's Koodankulam region that had been held up over safety concerns.
The Koodankulam plant is one of many India hopes to build as part of its ambitions to produce 63,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2032 -- a nearly 14-fold increase from current levels. Nuclear energy has been a priority for India since 2008 when then US president George W. Bush signed into law a deal with New Delhi that ended a three-decade ban on US nuclear trade with the country.
During his trip, Singh will also hold talks with the South Korean leadership, including the country's president, Lee Myung-Bak.
Available at: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-03-24/india/31233623_1_nuclear-terrorism-nuclear-security-nuclear-energy
Signalling an end to the Fukushima gloom that overhang the global nuclear sector, South Korea has offered to build nuclear reactors in India and sought land for the project. The move is significant on another count too - it indicates a renewed interest in the Indian nuclear power sector with the impending resolution of the Kudankulam crisis.
New Delhi, in turn, is likely to launch Korean satellites, adding South Korea to its clientele which includes Israel, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Algeria. Emerging from talks with president Lee Myung-bak in the presidential Blue House in Seoul, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, "India has offered to launch Korean satellites on Indian space launch vehicles."
A joint statement said, "The two leaders proposed that the concerned agencies of both countries study the possible cooperation in future space activities, including launching a nano-satellite developed by Korean students on an Indian launch vehicle."
Korea, in many ways, rewrote nuclear history a few years ago by winning a contract to build reactors in the UAE, undercutting French giant Areva. Given the delays in working out a nuclear deal with Japan, which is holding up deals with France among others, some quarters in India feel Korean reactors could be the answer.
India has supported the South on the issue of North Korea, weighing in against Pyongyang's plans to launch an " application satellite".
In a departure from previous years, Posco barely found mention in the meeting between Manmohan Singh and South Korean president Lee Myung-bak, but the PM invited Korea to bid and participate in infrastructure projects across India.
In his remarks to Korean industry as well as in the joint statement, Singh said India planned to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure development for 2012-17. "Noting the enviable track record of Korean companies in successfully executing infrastructure projects all over the globe, PM invited them to actively participate in the construction projects for highways, ports, airports, metros and power plants being regularly launched in India... (He) pointed out that India followed a transparent and competitive bidding process, which was open to qualified companies from all countries," it said.
India and Korea agreed to increase the bilateral trade target to $40 billion by 2015. India and Korea also signed an agreement for simplifying visa procedures. This agreement will make travelling easier for business persons, the PM added.
Relegating Posco to the sidelines is surprising since the PM has been personally invested in the project billed as the largest FDI in India. But the Orissa government and Posco have been at odds over a continuing protest by around 700 people at the site. Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik is unwilling to adopt strong-arm tactics against the protesters, fearing another Nandigram.
Ties between Delhi and Seoul are on an upswing, and a trilateral with Japan is slated for later this year. India has backed Seoul on North Korea even on the latest standoff. Prior to Singh leaving for Seoul, the external affairs ministry cautioned publicly that tensions should not be exacerbated in the region. The joint statement said, "Noting North Korea's announcement made on March 16, 2012, that it plans to launch the so-called 'application satellite', they urged that nothing should be done which increases tensions in the region and violates the relevant UN Security Council resolutions."
Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/South-Korea-offers-India-nuke-reactors/articleshow/12408369.cms
Sometime in 2014, the first reactor for the Braka Nuclear Power Plant will be loaded onto a freighter in the South Korean city of Changwon. By the time it steams to the site 300 kilometres west of Abu Dhabi, the Arab world's first nuclear-power station will be a few dozen months from switching the lights on. The commissioning will be a benchmark in the UAE's record as a global energy leader. But whether Braka becomes a model for curbing nuclear-weapons development - as its creators hope - or an exception depends on the cooperation of countries represented at the Seoul nuclear summit convening today.
After Japan's Fukushima disaster last year, and with Iranian leaders pursuing a policy of intentional nuclear ambiguity, the global nuclear-energy business needs a clear-cut model of safe, peaceful civilian development. Abu Dhabi can deliver that with the continued support of partners abroad. When the US and the UAE signed a nuclear cooperation deal in 2009, so began a nuclear partnership that would eventually be dubbed the "gold standard" for nuclear cooperation. Among the most noteworthy aspects of the so-called 123 Agreement was the UAE's decision to give up its right - enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - to enrich and reprocess fuel. There are civilian uses for enrichment and reprocessing, but the materials can also be ingredients of a weapons programme. Iran's enrichment programme is what troubles world leaders today. The UAE's voluntary decision was a goodwill gesture and a counter-narrative.
But the trade-off came with a caveat: if a neighbouring state were to seal better terms with Washington, the UAE could renegotiate. Recent reports that the Obama administration has dropped objections to a Jordanian uranium-enrichment programme have raised questions about the US-UAE agreement. A similar deal may be in the works with Vietnam.
The UAE programme has started well. The country has an independent regulator, an internationally recognised advisory board and a history of transparency. But further challenges will come. South Korea's nuclear programme, the source of much of the UAE's technological know-how, has suffered a recent operational issue, transparency problems and recent allegations of an attempted cover-up of the malfunction. The UAE can avoid these problems with the help of its partners.
Leaders gathered in Seoul must consider the decisions that will support a global nonproliferation regime - open and verifiable, like the UAE's, and not opaque and obstructionist, like Iran's. That should be a goal that almost everyone can support.
Available at: http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/editorial/uaes-nuclear-model-favours-full-transparency
3. Japan, U.S. Labs to Study Using Low Enriched Uranium for Test Reactor
The Mainichi Daily News
(for personal use only)
Laboratories in Japan and the United States will soon launch a joint study on using low enriched uranium fuel to operate a test reactor in Osaka Prefecture instead of highly enriched uranium fuel that can be diverted for weapons use, a Japanese researcher involved in the project said Saturday.
Hironobu Unesaki, professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, said the research will be conducted by the Japanese institute and the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory. The move, which comes amid heightened concerns that HEU fuel used for research purposes may be diverted for use in nuclear terrorism, is expected to find ways to overcome technical problems involving switching to LEU fuel.
In a related development, leaders from around the world are scheduled to meet Monday and Tuesday in Seoul for the Nuclear Security Summit where they are likely to agree on minimizing the use of HEU so as to prevent such fuel from getting into the hands of terrorist groups through research laboratories. Unesaki said there have been almost no reported cases of switching from HEU fuel to LEU fuel to operate a critical assembly experimental device used for basic research.
The joint study will seek to make the switch for the Kyoto University Critical Assembly, a small research reactor established in 1974 that currently runs on HEU fuel imported from the United States while conducting basic research in fields such as radiation physics and nuclear reactor physics. While there is no telling whether or not the study will be successful due to the technical difficulties and financial burdens involved, Unesaki said that success would pave the way for a pioneering international contribution in antiterrorism measures.
Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has reinforced its activities to recover HEU from various locations around the globe as it sees nuclear terrorism as a major threat and has promoted the switch to running research reactors to LEU fuel.
As part of the move, a total of around 600 kilograms of HEU -- equivalent to 20 or more nuclear bombs based on simple calculations -- have been recovered in Japan and returned to the United States since 1996.
Unesaki and his colleagues have conducted preparatory research with U.S. researchers on the possibility of switching from HEU to LEU fuel, and they have determined that a full-fledged study into the matter was necessary.
HEU has 20 percent or more of uranium 235, a key isotope for nuclear chain-reaction found at a rate of only 0.7 percent in natural uranium ore, and LEU has less than 20 percent. Weapons-grade HEU has to be further enriched to 90 percent or more.
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120325p2g00m0dm002000c.html
4. Russia Can Build Other Nuclear Stations In Bushuhr, Says Iran’s Abbasi
(for personal use only)
Tehran can build new nuclear stations in Bushuhr overlooking the Arabian Gulf waters, the very city that houses the Islamic Republic’s first nuclear power station, head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereydoun Abbasi said Saturday.
“We can establish four stations to generate electricity in Bushuhr city, but we have also specified other areas in other cities. If all issues related to these projects are addressed then we will inform the IAEA about them,” Abbasi was quoted by official media as saying from Bushuhr.
Abbasi said Iran was capable of “designing and building” a nuclear reactor “similar to Tehran’s nuclear reactor” under the IAEA’s supervision.
“We are intending to build a reactor similar to Tehran (research) reactor in coordination with the IAEA,” he added.
“IAEA inspectors will supervise all stages of designing, construction and location of the reactor, and will not make any step without coordination with the international agency,” added Abbasi.
Meanwhile, Abbasi said some countries have asked Iran’s assistance to build nuclear station for the generation of electricity. “We cannot mention these countries upon their request, but talks are ongoing in that regard.” He did not elaborate.
He said Iran was keen on continuing cooperation with Russia to building other nuclear stations. “Because the Russian company has done a very good job in Bushuhr station, we would like to continue cooperation with it to building other reactors inside the country.”
Abbasi said Bushuhr nuclear station was operating at 75 percent of total capacity and producing 700 megawatts.
Available at: http://www.eurasiareview.com/25032012-russia-can-build-other-nuclear-stations-in-bushuhr-says-irans-abbasi/
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