1. World Powers Urge Iran to Give More Nuclear Access
Fredrik Dahl and Caroline Copley
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The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council put pressure on Iran on Thursday to allay international concern about its nuclear program, and said they expected talks with Tehran to lead to concrete steps toward a negotiated solution.
Iran and major powers resumed talks in mid-April in Istanbul after more than a year - a chance to ease tension and help to avert the threat of a new Middle East war. They are to meet again on May 23 in Baghdad.
In a joint statement issued at a nuclear conference in Vienna, the United States, France, Russia, China and Britain pressed Tehran to agree urgently with the U.N. nuclear watchdog on access to "relevant sites and information".
"We remain concerned by Iran's persistent failure to comply with its obligations under UNSC (U.N. Security Council) resolutions," the statement said, referring to repeated demands that Tehran curb its disputed nuclear program.
The West says Iran's nuclear work is a cover for developing atomic bombs and wants verifiable assurances to the contrary from Tehran - for example, by accepting much more intrusive U.N. nuclear inspections and limiting its enrichment capacity.
Iran denies having a weapons agenda, saying it is enriching uranium solely for peaceful energy purposes.
Western diplomats say Iran appears to be stonewalling a request by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for access to a key military site, Parchin, where it believes military-related nuclear research may have taken place.
The diplomats say they suspect Iran may be "sanitising" the site southeast of Tehran of any incriminating evidence before U.N. inspectors can visit, a suspicion Tehran dismisses.
In Switzerland, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told Reuters that his inspectors wanted to go to Parchin "rather sooner than later" and reiterated that the U.N. agency had recently noticed what referred to as some "activities" there.
"We would also like to have access to, not only the site, but information and people related to Parchin," Amano said on the sidelines of a symposium in the town of St. Gallen. "I hope that these activities will not make our verification difficult."
He did not elaborate but his choice of words has been interpreted by Western diplomats as an indication that the agency thought Iran might be cleaning up the site.
Last November the IAEA issued a report detailing what it said were suspected Iranian research and development activities relevant to manufacturing nuclear weapons.
The U.N. agency wants Iran to address the questions raised in the report about possible military dimensions to Tehran's nuclear work. Iran has dismissed the allegations as fabricated.
The IAEA and Iran will hold a new round of discussions on May 14-15 in Vienna in an attempt to make progress in the IAEA's technical investigation, just over a week before the broader political negotiations take place in the Iraqi capital.
Two previous meetings between Iran and the agency earlier this year failed to make any major headway, especially on the issue of Parchin.
"We hope we can make progress," Amano said. But asked whether he had any indication that access would now be granted by Iran, Amano said: "I do not have a concrete indication that we would have access to Parchin."
Thursday's statement by the five powers - which together with Germany are involved in nuclear talks with Iran - said they were seeking a "sustained process of serious dialogue", where both sides can take urgent action to build confidence.
"We expect that subsequent meetings ... will lead to concrete steps toward a comprehensive negotiated solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program," it added.
"We will be guided in these efforts (talks with Iran) by the step-by-step approach and the principle of reciprocity," the five powers said.
Western states have imposed expanded, more biting sanctions against Iran's energy and banking sectors since the beginning of this year. The European Union is preparing to slap a total embargo on the purchase of Iranian crude oil in July.
Iran said on Wednesday it would seek an end to sanctions over its nuclear activities at the Baghdad talks, reflecting a hardening public line in the Islamic Republic that an end to sanctions is vital to the success of the negotiations.
However, the United States and its allies have made clear Tehran must take action to allay their concerns about its nuclear ambitions before they can consider relaxing sanctions.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/03/us-nuclear-iran-powers-idUSBRE8420HO20120503
2. Israel's Barak: Election Would Not Alter Iran Plans
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The prospect of an imminent election in Israel will not affect its strategy for tackling Iran's nuclear program, including plans for a possible preemptive war, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday.
Rifts in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative coalition over military conscription and budget cuts have prompted parties to mobilize to bring forward the ballot to as early as September, a year ahead of schedule.
That has raised questions about whether an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear sites - long threatened, although viewed by some Netanyahu critics as a bluff - might now be shelved due to government reluctance to send potential voters to bomb shelters.
"Elections will not affect deliberations of the professional echelon in everything regarding the Iranian issue," Barak said on his Facebook page, adding that Israel still saw military force as among "options on the table".
Israel, reputed to have the region's sole atomic arsenal, has long said it would strike Iran to prevent it from getting nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.
The United States and European Union have sharply tightened economic sanctions on Iran this year, and have called on Israel to show restraint to give the new measures a chance to bite. Washington says it too would be willing to strike Iran as a last resort, but the White House believes it is too early to give up on diplomacy.
Nuclear talks between major powers and Iran, which broke down last year, restarted in Istanbul on April 14 and are expected to continue later this month in Baghdad.
Netanyahu's national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, was touring European capitals this week to hear arguments in favor of the six world powers' negotiations with Iran.
"We are telling him (Amidror) that we need time," a Western diplomat told Reuters, saying the goal was "verifiable compliance" by Iran with nuclear anti-proliferation safeguards.
Netanyahu and Barak have maintained a continuously hawkish stance in public towards Iran, but there are signs that the Israeli security establishment may not be keen on war.
In a rare public rebuke on Friday, Netanyahu's former internal security chief accused the prime minister and Barak of having a "messianic" policy, and of overstating their belligerence.
"A barking dog doesn't bite," Yuval Diskin said. Surveys show Netanyahu's Likud party is likely to win the most seats in an election, but most Israelis would oppose going solo in an attack on Iran.
Israel could be vulnerable to cross-border missile salvoes from Iran and its guerrilla allies in retaliation for any strike. Fortification drives overseen by its Civil Defence Ministry have lagged, with the current minister, Matan Vilnai, due to step down in August and no successor in sight.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/02/us-iran-nuclear-israel-idUSBRE8410RD20120502
3. Official: Russia to Deliver Control of Bushehr N. Plant to Iran in Autumn
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A senior Iranian official announced that the Russian contractor of the Bushehr nuclear power plant will deliver full control of the facility to Iran by the end of autumn.
"The Russian contractor will definitely deliver the power plant (to the Iranian side) by the end of this autumn," Governor-General of Iran's Southern Bushehr province Mohammad Hossein Jahanbakhsh said on Monday.
Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereidoun Abbasi announced earlier today that the power plant is generating and sending 940 megawatts of electricity to the national power grid. "940MW of nuclear-generated electricity has been sent to the national grid," Abbasi said, adding that the Bushehr nuclear power plant had produced 730MW of electricity since February and Iranian experts succeeded in boosting its capacity to 940MW now.
He reiterated that the progress was made after Iranian experts and engineers managed to conduct numerous experimental tests based on the power plants' standards.
Abbasi had announced in February that the Bushehr power plant would reach its full capacity and start generating 1,000 MW of electricity in a matter of months.
He said the facility had generated and transferred 700MW to the national power grid in mid February, adding different tests would be carried out during the process and the country would receive the full control of the nuclear power plant only after all the relevant tests are conducted successfully. In 2011 Iran started using 500MW of nuclear-generated electricity, half the nominal capacity of the Bushehr power plant.
Iran held a ceremony in September to mark the preliminary launch of the Bushehr plant. The facility operates under the full supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Available at: http://www.power-eng.com/news/2012/04/30/official-russia-to-deliver-control-of-bushehr-n-plant-to-iran-in-autumn.html
1. U.N. Committee Sanctions Three North Korea Companies
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A U.N. Security Council sanctions committee on Wednesday added three North Korean state companies to a U.N. blacklist of firms banned from international trade in response to Pyongyang's rocket launch last month.
The decision by the Security Council's North Korea sanctions committee came after China consented to sanctions on the trio of companies. It falls far short of the roughly 40 firms the United States, European Union, South Korea and Japan had wanted to blacklist after Pyongyang's launch.
The newly blacklisted firms are "very significant North Korean entities" involved in Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said.
"The committee's package of new measures constitutes a serious and credible response to North Korea's provocation," she said in a statement. "These measures will increase North Korea's isolation and make it harder for Pyongyang to move forward with its illicit programs."
China, North Korea's protector on the Security Council and a permanent veto-wielding member, had initially consented to sanction only two new companies but eventually agreed to blacklist one more firm, council diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The three companies are Green Pine Conglomerate, Amroggang Development Banking Corporation and Korea Heungjin Trading Company.
Western diplomats attempted to play down the fact that Beijing had vetoed the vast majority of their proposed listings. Rice said the "committee's strong and united response shows that the Security Council is determined that there be consequences for this provocation and any future North Korean violation."
U.N. sanctions committees work on the basis of consensus, which means any individual council member can block agreement.
Last month the council adopted a "presidential statement" that strongly condemned North Korea's April 13 rocket launch, called for adding names to the list of those hit by existing U.N. sanctions and warned Pyongyang of further consequences if it carried out another missile launch or nuclear test.
Amroggang is a Tanchon Commercial Bank-related company managed by Tanchon officials, the U.N. said in a statement. Tanchon was blacklisted by the Security Council committee in 2009 because it is North Korea's main financial entity for the sale of arms and ballistic missiles.
It said Green Pine has taken over many of the activities of the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, which was blacklisted in 2009. The Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation is North Korea's main arms dealer.
Green Pine is responsible for about half North Korea's exports of arms and related material, the U.N. statement said. It produces maritime military craft such as submarines, military boats and missile systems, and has exported torpedoes and technical assistance to Iranian defense-related firms.
The Korea Heungjin Trading Company is used by the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation for trading purposes, it said.
The U.N. North Korea blacklist includes individuals facing international travel bans and asset freezes, companies whose assets are to be frozen and goods that North Korea is not allowed to export or import.
Prior to Wednesday's additions the North Korean sanctions list included eight companies and five individuals. North Korea is barred from importing nuclear and ballistic-missile technology as well as luxury goods.
The committee's move on Wednesday also expanded the list of missile-related goods North Korea is not allowed to import, the U.N. statement said.
The Security Council imposed two rounds of sanctions on Pyongyang after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/02/us-korea-north-un-idUSBRE84116Z20120502
2. North Korea Nuclear Test 'Could Take Place this Week'
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The assessment of Pyongyang's intention to detonate a nuclear device dovetails with South Korean intelligence reports and the announcement by Moscow that it has put its military forces in the Russian Far East at a heightened state of alert.
A report in the South Korean JoongAng Ilbo newspaper on Monday also said the test will be of a highly enriched uranium device. The two previous tests by North Korea, in October 2006 and May 2009, were of plutonium weapons.
Satellite reconnaissance images of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site indicate that work on a new underground shaft has been completed and that more than 280,000 cubic feet of rubble has been excavated.
Analysts say a successful nuclear test would go some way to rebuilding the international "face" that the regime lost on April 13, when a rocket that North Korea claimed was carrying a satellite crashed just moments after launch. The United Nations Security Council condemned the launch, which most member states agreed was a test of a ballistic missile.
On Wednesday, a senior official in the North Korean warned that the regime has developed "powerful modern weapons" and that it does not fear the "imperialists" in the United States.
On Sunday, the North Korean news agency announced that Kim Jong-un, the 29 year old who inherited the country after the death of his father in December, visited an exhibition of military technology and scientific developments in Pyongyang.
The "Great Successor," as he is described to the impoverished North Korean people, praised the scientists for their achievements and called on them to redouble their efforts. Kim also attended military exercises last week, with state media claiming that he "guided" the manoeuvres.
A group of defectors who have settled in the South launched 10 balloons over the border in North Korea at the weekend. The balloons were carrying 200,000 leaflets critical of the regime, around 1,000 $1 banknotes, DVDs and booklets.
Activists have used similar tactics in the past to try to destabilise the regime and, possibly, foment a popular rising similar to those seen in Middle East nations over the last 18 months. Pyongyang has in the past reacted angrily to the incursions and threatened to carry out artillery strikes against the launch sites.
Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/9235709/North-Korea-nuclear-test-could-take-place-this-week.html
3. Obama: N. Korea Hostility a Weakness, Not Strength
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President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Monday decried aggressive acts from North Korea, including its recent failed rocket launch, and vowed to maintain a unified front against such provocations.
Obama said Pyongyang is operating from a position of weakness, not strength, and Noda said the launch undermined diplomacy to contain North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
Obama said the U.S. and Japan, along with other countries in the region are unified in insisting that North Korea abide by its international responsibilities.
"The old pattern of provocation that then gets attention and somehow insists on the world purchasing good behavior from them, that pattern is broken," Obama said in a joint news conference with Noda at the White House.
Such actions, Obama said, "only serve to deepen Pyongyang's isolation."
North Korea fired a three-stage rocket earlier this month over the Yellow Sea, defying international warnings against what the U.S. and other nations said would violate bans against nuclear and missile activity. In response to the launch, the U.S. suspended an agreement to provide food aid to North Korea.
Noda, standing next to Obama in the White House East Room, said that given North Korea's past practice, there appeared to be a good chance that it would undertake yet another nuclear test. The Japanese prime minister said China remains an important player in trying to restrain North Korea's nuclear program.
Noda was in Washington looking to reaffirm Japan's strong alliance with the U.S. and to boost his leadership credentials as his popularity flags at home.
Noda, who came to power in September and is Japan's sixth prime minister in six years, faces huge challenges in reviving a long-slumbering economy and helping his nation recover from the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.
His Oval Office meeting and working lunch with Obama, as well as the news conference followed by a gala dinner hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, could offer Noda some brief relief from domestic woes. The two sides are determined to show that U.S.-Japan ties are as close as ever, particularly after the assistance from the U.S. lent following the massive March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered a meltdown at a nuclear plant.
Obama praised Noda and the Japanese people for their recovery after the disasters.
The U.S. alliance with Japan, the world's third-largest economy, is at the core of Obama's expanded engagement in Asia -- a diplomatic thrust motivated in part by a desire to counter the growing economic and military clout of strategic rival China.
Their meeting takes place during a delicate time in U.S.-China relations, as the two world powers reportedly negotiate an asylum deal for a blind Chinese legal activist who escaped from house arrest. Activists say he is under the protection of U.S. diplomats in Beijing, but Obama would not comment on the diplomatically sensitive case during the news conference.
He did add, however, that the issue of human rights is a recurrent one in U.S. meetings with China.
"It is our belief that not only is that the right thing to do because it comports with our principles and our belief in freedom and human rights, but also because we actually think China will be stronger as it opens up and liberalizes its own system," he said.
Obama and Noda said they want to strengthen the U.S.-Japan security alliance. The U.S. has about 50,000 troops in Japan, and both sides never tire of saying that their defense cooperation underpins regional peace and security.
Days before Noda's visit, the U.S. and Japan announced an agreement to shift about 9,000 Marines stationed on the Japanese island of Okinawa -- an announcement Obama reiterated Monday. The plan would spread U.S. forces more widely in the Asia-Pacific as part of a rebalancing of U.S. defense priorities after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is a move also aimed at easing what Okinawans view as a burdensome U.S. military presence and goes some way to ameliorate a long-term irritant in bilateral relations. But there's still no timetable and the plan faces opposition in Okinawa and in the Congress.
Noda is the first Japanese leader to be hosted at the White House since his Democratic Party of Japan, which had an initially awkward relationship with Washington, came to power in the fall of 2009. The party had at first favored a foreign policy more independent of the United States.
Noda is seen in Washington as capable and practical. The Obama administration hopes he can weather his political problems and stick around longer than his immediate predecessors. His support in polls has dwindled to below 30 percent as he pushes an unpopular rise in a consumption tax to tackle Japan's vast national debt and looming social security crisis to cope with the nation's aging population.
No breakthroughs on trade were anticipated at Monday's summit. Obama said both sides would continue discussions about Japan's interest in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact under negotiation by nine nations and a key plank in U.S. trade strategy to crank up its exports to support America's fragile recovery after the global slowdown.
While Noda is believed to be personally supportive of declaring Japan's intent to join the talks, he faces opposition at home, even within his own party. The pact could demand an assault on the heavy subsidies enjoyed by Japan's farmers.
Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-04/D9UFETLG2.htm
1. Japan, Kazakhstan Agree to Expand Joint Rare Earth Development Project
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Japan and Kazakhstan agreed Tuesday to expand their countries' joint rare earth development project and promote their cooperation in radioactive decontamination.
The agreement came at talks between Japanese industry minister Yukio Edano and his Kazakh counterpart Asset Issekeshev in the Kazakh capital Astana, Japanese officials said.
The agreement will double Kazakhstan's annual exports of the rare earth element dysprosium to Japan to some 60 tons from an earlier-envisaged level under the bilateral project. Japan's consumption of dysprosium for electric vehicle motors and other products total 500 to 600 tons annually.
The project, as well as Japan's agreement with India on Monday to import Indian rare earths into Japan, is designed to reduce Japan's heavy dependence on China for rare earth supply at a time when China accounts for 90 percent of global rare earth output and strategically restricts rare earth exports.
A joint venture including Japanese trading house Sumitomo Corp. is undertaking the project and its plant to extract dysprosium will launch operation possibly in June for exports to Japan starting as early as July.
The government-run Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation provides financial support for the project. Japan's Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. is expected to take part in the project by providing a rare earth extraction technology.
On radioactive decontamination, Japanese nuclear plant maker Toshiba Corp. signed a memorandum with Kazakhstan on Tuesday to introduce Kazakh technology for cleaning up areas contaminated with radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Kazakhstan has advanced radioactive decontamination technology since it had been home to Soviet nuclear test sites.
Toshiba will provide Kazakhstan with know-how gained through its experience with the Fukushima nuclear accident.
The Japanese firm and Kazakhstan will also cooperate in developing technology for disposing of radioactive waste when decommissioning nuclear plants.
Available at: http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20120502p2g00m0bu023000c.html
2. No Deadline for Uranium Sale to India, Says Australia
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No timeframe or deadline could be set for Australia to start uranium exports to India. But Australia's decision to export to India is firmly in place, despite opposition in some quarters, and both nations are discussing the issue to seal a deal, Australia's Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said on Monday.
“There are some groups, including the Green Party, which are opposed to the sale of uranium to India. The [ruling] Labor Party and the present government have decided to allow uranium exports to India only for peaceful use and generation of clean energy. The uranium is strictly for civilian use and not any other purpose,” he told a delegation of South Asian journalists here.
The exports would come about only after the formalities in respect of issues pertaining to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Supplies Group (NSG) were fulfilled by India, he said.
On December 4 last year, the Labor Party of Prime Minister Julia Gillard decided to end the ban on uranium sales to India.
Officials say India and Australia are negotiating a bilateral safeguards treaty. Ms. Gillard has made it clear that Australia will apply the same standards to India as it does to all countries to which it exports uranium. These are strict adherence to the IAEA's arrangements, strong bilateral undertakings and measures to ensure that the uranium will be used only for peaceful purposes.
Interestingly, India and Australia are also negotiating a Free Trade Agreement, which is expected to boost trade and services. India has refused to sign the NPT, arguing that the treaty is discriminatory, allowing a handful of countries to retain nuclear weapons.
Officials say that lifting of the curbs will help to bring in big investments in the uranium sector, as India is seen as a major power attaching importance to nuclear energy. India proposes to generate 20000 MW of nuclear energy by 2022, so it needs uranium imports.
It will take some time before uranium starts flowing into India, officials say.
The move to export to India has been welcomed by Australia's uranium mining industry, which has come under great pressure after the Fukushima disaster last year. The demand has fallen, and the news of Australia agreeing to sell to India led to a 10 per cent increase in uranium prices in global markets.
Australia is the world's third largest producer and exporter of uranium, after Kazakhstan and Canada. Over the past 10 years, Australia's production has averaged out at 8,500 tonnes a year, around 20 per cent of the world's production from 2000 to 2010.
Australia has the world's largest known reserves of uranium, amounting to 23 per cent of the world's total reserves.
Mr. Ferguson said the United Arab Emirates had hinted at setting up three nuclear power reactors, for which it would require uranium, and the Chinese were also going ahead with nuclear power generation.
Available at: http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/article3374221.ece
3. Japan, India To Resume Civil Nuclear Cooperation Talks; New Dialogues On Maritime And Cyber Security To Be Launched
International Business Times
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Japan and India Monday decided to launch two separate dialogues in maritime and cyber security domains and also to resume negotiations on civil nuclear cooperation.
Indian external affairs minister S M Krishna and Japanese foreign minister Koichiro Gemba held a strategic economic dialogue on a wide range of issues, including energy and trade ties and nuclear and strategic cooperation between the countries.
In a statement issued after the first India-Japan Ministerial-level Economic Dialogue, the Japanese foreign minister said that both the sides had "agreed to launch two new dialogue mechanisms between the two Foreign Ministries. The first is a cyber security dialogue; the second a maritime dialogue, both of which will be at the level of officials. They will further deepen our relations."
"We look forward to the first naval exercise later this year between the Indian Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force," he added.
The meeting decided to resume the negotiations on civil nuclear cooperation which had hit roadblocks after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Other areas of focus included technology sharing and cooperation in road and high-speed railway infrastructure in India, the statement said.
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano and several other senior ministers and officials from both India and Japan participated in the economic dialogue.
Deputy chairman of the Planning Commission of India Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Edano held the India-Japan Energy Dialogue Monday morning.
A joint declaration by both countries said that they had decided "to intensify cooperation in energy efficiency and conservation sector." The meeting focused on "boosting cooperation in renewable energy, clean coal technologies and enhancing technology exchange in energy and related sectors."
Japan has cordial and thriving economic and commercial ties with India, and Japanese companies are investing millions of dollars in various projects across India.
Bilateral trade between the countries is currently around $15 billion and both sides have set a target of $25 billion by 2014, according to an IANS report.
Available at: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/335089/20120430/japan-india-resume-nuclear-talks-launch-dialogues.htm
1. China Wants "Drastic" U.S., Russia Nuclear Arms Cuts
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A senior Chinese diplomat also told a meeting in Vienna that the development of missile defense systems which "disrupt" the global strategic balance should be abandoned, a possible reference to U.S. plans in Europe that have angered Russia.
A new U.S.-Russian arms reduction treaty will cut long-range, strategic nuclear weapons deployed by the two Cold War-era foes to no more than 1,550 on each side within seven years after it came into force in February 2011.
But they still have by far the most nuclear arms - a fact stressed by the Chinese representative on the opening day of a two-week conference to discuss the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a 1970 pact to prevent the spread of atomic bombs.
China, Britain and France are the other three recognized nuclear weapons states. But the size of their arsenals are in the low hundreds, well below those of the United States and Russia which have thousands of nuclear warheads.
Ambassador Cheng Jingye, head of the Chinese delegation, said all nuclear weapons states should publicly undertake "not to seek permanent possession" of atomic bombs.
"As countries with (the) largest nuclear arsenals, U.S. and Russia should continue to make drastic reductions in their nuclear arsenals in a verifiable and irreversible manner," he said, according to a copy of his statement.
"Other nuclear weapon states, when conditions are ripe, should also join the multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament," Cheng added, apparently referring to the five recognized nuclear-armed countries.
India and Pakistan - which also have nuclear arms - are not part of the NPT. Israel, widely believed to have weapons arms, is also outside the treaty, as is North Korea, which is believed to be preparing for a third nuclear test.
The Non-Aligned Movement of developing and other states also called on the United States and Russia to cut their arsenals, expressing concern that nuclear weapon modernization undermines the "minimal reductions" agreed by them.
China closely guards information about its nuclear arsenal. However, the U.S. Department of Defense has said that China has some 130-195 deployed nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
The head of the U.S. delegation, Ambassador Susan Burk, earlier told delegates that her country was making progress on disarmament and it would "detail those efforts this week."
Shortly after taking office in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama set the goal of eventually ridding the world of nuclear weapons as a central theme of his presidency and pledged dramatic steps to lead the way.
Obama unveiled a revamped policy in 2010 renouncing development of new nuclear weapons and restricting use of those already in the U.S. arsenal. He followed that up by signing the new START landmark arms reduction deal with Russia last year.
But momentum seems to have slowed on Obama's nuclear agenda and, with the November U.S. presidential election looming, chances for major new advances look doubtful.
Burk said The United States has made clear that it "understands its special responsibility to take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons by pursuing nuclear disarmament."
France said it was one of few states to have taken "ambitious, irreversible" disarmament action in the past 15 years, and now had less than 300 nuclear warheads.
"In the last 15 years we have cut the number of nuclear warheads by half," added Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel.
Britain - whose nuclear stockpile consists of fewer than 180 strategic warheads - is "fully committed to the long-term goal" of a world without nuclear weapons, said the UK representative.
But as long as large arsenals remain and the risk of proliferation continues, its "judgment is that only a credible nuclear capability can provide the necessary ultimate guarantee to our national security," Ambassador Jo Adamson added.
The development of missile defense systems "which disrupt global strategic balance and stability should be abandoned," Cheng said, without elaborating.
Washington says a planned European missile shield is meant to protect against a potential Iranian threat, but Russia says it risks tipping the balance of nuclear power between itself and the United States in Washington's favor.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/30/us-nuclear-china-weapons-idUSBRE83T0SD20120430
1. India Can Now Build Cheaper Nuclear Reactors than almost Anyone, Outgoing DAE Chief Says
The Times of India
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Now, India can build cheaper nuclear reactors, than even South Korea. Talking to TOI on the eve of his retirement, Dr Srikumar Banerjee, secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), said India can now manufacture nuclear reactors at $1,700 per unit. Come May, Banerjee will make way for Ratan Sinha, currently director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), who will take over as secretary, DAE.
"We are now the world's most economical manufacturer of nuclear reactors. Our cost per unit, of $1,700 (for a 700mw reactor) is substantially less than our nearest competitors. The average international cost is now between $2,500 and $3,000 (for a 1,000mw reactor). South Korea demonstrated its ability to build nuclear reactors for less when it wrested a massive reactor deal for the UAE from French giant, Areva, a couple of years ago.
With the protests in Kudankulam piping down, Banerjee said DAE was waiting for a couple of clearances from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) to start Kudankulam-1.
The AERB will have to conduct a robotic inspection of the pressure vessel in the Kudankulam plant. This is done after what they call the "hot run", which is a kind of a rehearsal but without nuclear fuel. "After this, they open the cap of the pressure vessel to do a robotic inspection. Only after clearing this inspection are we allowed to put in nuclear fuel," said Banerjee.
The DAE chief said he was looking at Kudankulam going "critical" by mid-June. "The approach to criticality should happen around that time," he said. "That will be exciting." Six months down the line, Banerjee said the DAE hopes to commission the second Kudankulam plant as well.
Indian companies manufacturing components and systems for nuclear reactors, Banerjee said, can now do the same work for much less cost. For instance, he said, L&T, which supplies many critical components for the Indian nuclear and defence sectors, can make the large reactor vessel in their new Hazira plant. This is something of an achievement because it's traditionally been the preserve of Japanese engineering expertise.
Banerjee was clear that the despite Fukushima, countries like India will have a high demand for nuclear energy. "In the months after Fukushima, we have received expressions of interest from Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to set up nuclear power plants. We will do all of them," asserted a confident DAE chief.
Available at: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-05-01/india/31526192_1_kudankulam-plant-nuclear-reactors-pressure-vessel
2. Progress Florida Levy Reactors Closer to License
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U.S. regulators have signed off on an environmental review for two new nuclear reactors that Progress
Energy Inc hopes to build at Levy County on Florida's west coast. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said in a release on Friday the NRC staff and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the final environmental impact statement for Levy's combined construction and operating licenses (COL).
Before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) can approve of the 2,200-megawatt (MW) project, the NRC said its staff must complete a safety review and its judicial arm must decide on a challenge of the staff's environmental review by environmental groups.
Progress Energy, a North Carolina-based power company, has said the NRC could issue a license for Levy in early 2013. Progress estimated the total cost of the Levy plant at $17 billion to $22 billion, including about $3 billion needed for transmission infrastructure, with the first unit expected to enter service in 2021 and the second 18 months later.
Progress said it planned to include joint owners in the Levy project, but has yet to announce any joint owners. Progress in January 2011 agreed to a $13.7 billion merger with neighboring North Carolina-based power company Duke Energy.
Progress applied with the NRC in July 2008 to build and operate two Westinghouse Electric AP1000 reactors at Levy.
Westinghouse is majority owned by Japanese multinational Toshiba Corp. The AP1000 is a 1,100-MW pressurized-water reactor design.
The Levy plant is on the west coast of Florida near Progress' 860-MW Crystal River nuclear power plant. Crystal River has been off line since September 2009 when a refueling and power up-rate began. During the upgrade, workers discovered a gap in the concrete containment dome, which was opened to install new steam generators.
Crystal River was originally expected to restart in April 2011 but Progress said last summer the unit would not restart until 2014. The company has estimated the cost of repairing the containment structure at between $900 million and $1.3 billion.
The AP1000 reactor design planned for Levy is the most popular design in the United States, claiming 12 of the 20 reactors under development or construction in the country.
The NRC certified the AP1000 in December 2011 and there are four AP1000s under construction in the United States - two at Southern Co's Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia and two at Scana Corp's Summer nuclear plant in South Carolina.
The two reactors at Vogtle will cost Southern and partners about $14 billion and enter service in 2016 and 2017. The two reactors at Summer will cost Scana and partners over $9 billion and enter service in 2017 and 2018. The utilities have said the difference in cost depends on several factors including whether the reactors are at a greenfield site like Levy and the cost of transmission lines.
Despite the so-called nuclear renaissance, the four new units at Vogtle and Summer will likely be the only new reactors built in the United States by 2020. The Tennessee Valley Authority, meanwhile, expects to finish an older reactor over the next few years at the Watts Bar nuclear plant in Tennessee that the government-owned power company started working on in the 1970s, stopped work in the 1980s, and restarted in the 2000s.
Several factors have stalled the nuclear renaissance that observers predicted a decade ago when fossil fuel prices were high and the U.S. government was expected to cap carbon dioxide emissions to combat global warming.
Low natural gas prices have kept electricity prices low, making it economically difficult for energy companies to build anything but natural gas-fired power plants without state-sponsored programs such as those in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida, that guarantee nuclear builders will recover costs.
New nuclear construction also slowed after the nuclear accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan last year. Other factors include weak growth in power demand and growing use of energy efficiency and conservation programs.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/30/utilities-progress-levy-idUSL1E8FU61U20120430
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