1. Ahmadinejad Meets With Chavez as Nuclear Talks in Moscow Falter
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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Venezuela to meet with President Hugo Chavez after talks stalled in Moscow over his country’s nuclear program.
The Iranian leader arrived yesterday from stops in Brazil, where he attended the United Nations Rio+20 conference in Rio de Janeiro, and Bolivia.
Ahmadinejad is making his sixth trip to the region since 2006 as he seeks to capitalize on a surge in anti-American sentiment spearheaded by Chavez and his eight-nation Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas. The visit comes as pressure grows on Iran to cooperate with the international community on its nuclear ambitions.
“We know about the threats against the sovereignty and independence of the Iranian people and government,” Chavez said outside the presidential palace on state television, with Ahmadinejad at his side. “We know about the obstacles imposed by imperialism, blockades, threats, unilateral sanctions that seek to force the surrender of Iran’s Islamic revolution. Count on the support of the Venezuelan people and government.”
Two days of talks between British, Chinese, French, German, Russian and U.S. diplomats and their Iranian counterparts in Moscow this week failed to reach a breakthrough on Iran’s nuclear program. European Union sanctions on oil imports from Iran will start on July 1 as agreed by the bloc’s governments, an EU official in Brussels said yesterday.
Since 2005, Iran has opened six embassies in Latin America and more than doubled trade with Brazil, the region’s biggest economy. Bolivia moved its only embassy in the Middle East from Cairo to Tehran.
Ahmadinejad, speaking tonight, called Chavez “a great revolutionary that is resisting against imperialism by defending the rights of his people, Latin America and the peoples of the world.”
Chavez, who has visited the Islamic Republic nine times, has said he’ll stand by Ahmadinejad “under any circumstances” and that pursuing ties with Iran is a “holy matter” for Venezuela. Ahmadinejad, in turn, has thanked Chavez for his “brotherly stance” in backing Iran in the face of international sanctions.
The two countries have signed more than 100 bilateral agreements that encompass everything from low-income housing projects to bicycle factories, which Chavez jokingly referred to as “atomic” two-wheelers. Venezuela is making unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, with the help of Iran, Chavez said June 13 on national television.
The two countries in 2007 also established in Caracas the Banco Internacional de Desarrollo, which together with its main Iranian shareholder, Bank Saderat, is accused by the U.S. of being a vehicle for the Ahmadinejad government’s funding of Middle Eastern terrorist group Hezbollah.
“The objective is to show that Iran is not isolated, that it has friends in the international community,” said Cynthia Arnson, Latin America program director at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington. Iran “finds a great deal of comfort in seeking out regimes that have a similarly hostile posture toward the United States.”
More worrisome for Washington is whether Iran and Venezuela are cooperating in plans to use the South American country as a launch pad for attacks against the U.S. should relations with the Islamic Republic deteriorate further, Arnson said.
The U.S. last year imposed economic sanctions on state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA for working with Iran’s energy industry after, according to the State Department, it sent two cargoes of gasoline additive worth $50 million to Iran from December 2010 to March 2011.
The U.S. is monitoring Iran’s ties with the region closely, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said June 19. Venezuela must comply with international sanctions on Iran or face further penalties, she said
“All countries, including Venezuela, have an obligation to comply with international sanctions against Iran,” Nuland said, according to a transcript of a briefing to journalists in Washington. “We’re committed to ensuring that if we see violations of Iran sanctions that we will call them out and that we will seek appropriate action.”
2. Iranian General: Military Strike Would Be the End of Israel
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A high-ranking Iranian general said on Saturday Israeli military action against Iran's nuclear program would lead to the collapse of the Jewish state, Fars news agency reported.
Last week's round of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers in Moscow failed to secure a breakthrough, heightening fears Israel might take unilateral military action to curb Iran's nuclear activities.
The two sides agreed to a follow-up meeting of technical experts on July 3, saving the process from outright failure.
"They cannot do the slightest harm to the (Iranian) revolution and the system," Brigadier General Mostafa Izadi, deputy chief of staff of Iran's armed forces, told Fars.
"If the Zionist regime takes any (military) actions against Iran, it would result in the end of its labors," he added.
"If they act logically, such threats amount to a psychological war but if they want to act illogically, it is they who will be destroyed."
Izadi's comments are an apparent response to Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz's calls for tougher sanctions against Tehran and his indication that military action was still an option.
Analysts say Iranian officials use such rhetoric as a way of stoking Western concerns of chaos in the Middle East and the disruption of oil supplies in the event of military action.
During negotiations in Moscow the six powers - the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany - demanded Iran scale back its nuclear work and, in particular, stop enriching uranium to levels that could bring it close to making an atom bomb.
The demands included the shutting down of the Fordow underground uranium enrichment facility and the shipping of any stockpile out of the country.
In return, they offered fuel to keep Iran's medical isotope reactor running, assistance in nuclear safety and an end to a ban on spare parts for Iran's ageing civilian aircraft.
Iran denies its work has any military purpose and says the powers should offer it relief from sanctions and acknowledge its right to enrich uranium before it meets their demands.
3. Activity at Parchin May Hamper Watchdog's Work: IAEA
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Satellite images indicate activity at Iran's Parchin site which could affect the U.N. nuclear watchdog's ability to ascertain whether the Islamic Republic is developing nuclear weapons, its chief Yukiya Amano said during a visit to Budapest on Thursday.
"We are aware that activities are ongoing at the site of Parchin and we have concerns that this could hamper verification activities," Amano told reporters at a news conference after meeting Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi.
"In the past we did not see such active activities but our information and satellite imagery indicates they are undertaking quite important activities," he said.
On Wednesday a U.S. security institute published satellite imagery which it said appeared to show further activity, including removing earth, to clean up an Iranian military site the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wants to inspect.
Parchin, which Iran says is a conventional military complex, is at the center of Western allegations that Iran has conducted experiments - possibly a decade ago - that could help develop nuclear bombs. Iran denies any such ambition.
Earlier this week Iran and six world powers failed to make progress on their decade-old nuclear dispute during two days of talks in Moscow.
Iran has so far refused to grant the IAEA access to the Parchin facility as part of the U.N. agency's long-stalled investigation into suspected atom bomb research in the country.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/21/us-iran-iaea-amano-idUSBRE85K12G20120621
1. DPRK Vows to Bolster Up Nuclear Deterrence as U.S. Persists in Hostile Policy
Xinhua News Agency
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The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Monday denounced U.S.-South Korea joint drills as severe provocation, and vowed to bolster its nuclear deterrence for self-defense.
A spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry issued a statement slamming the largest ever U.S.-South Korea joint drill on Friday in the area south of the Demilitarized Zone, which even perpetrated firing at the DPRK flag, according to the official KCNA news agency.
"It is an extremely grave military action and politically- motivated provocation to fire live bullets and shells at the flag of a sovereign state without a declaration of war, the statement said.
The drill once again proved that the commitment which the U.S. made in the February 29 DPRK-U.S. Agreement that they would not antagonize the DPRK was a sheer lie, whose recent hostile policy towards the DPRK has gone beyond the tolerable limit, it said.
The spokesman said that the DPRK will further bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defense as long as the U.S. persists in its hostile policy towards it.
On Friday, South Korea and the United States staged their largest ever live-fire drill northeast of Seoul, aimed at checking solid military preparedness and war-fighting capabilities, according to the South Koreas Defense Ministry.
A spokesman for the National Peace Committee of Korea denounced the joint military exercises as an intentional act to provoke war, which has pushed the Korean Peninsula and the rest of Northeast Asia to the edge of armed conflict
U.S. President Barack Obama last Monday decided to extend for one year the sanctions against the DPRK, citing the "unusual and extraordinary threat" posed by the Asian country to U.S. national security, foreign policy and economy.
2. S. Korean, Russian Envoys to Discuss N. Korea's Nuclear Programs
Yonhap News Agency
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Senior South Korean and Russian diplomats will hold one-day talks this week in Seoul to discuss possible ways to revive the long-stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, a Seoul official said Monday.
Russia's deputy chief envoy to the six-party talks, Grigory Logvinov, was scheduled to arrive in Seoul later Monday for a three-day visit and hold talks with South Korea's top nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam on Tuesday, the senior official at Seoul's foreign ministry said.
"During the talks, Ambassador Logvinov and Lim plan to hold in-depth discussions about North Korea's nuclear issue and other overall matters with regard to North Korea," the official said on the condition of anonymity.
They will also discuss "the current state of the Korean Peninsula after North Korea's failed rocket launch and ways to move forward on the North's nuclear issue," the official said.
The visit by Logvinov to Seoul also coincides with the Russian government's move to write off 90 percent of North Korea's Soviet-era debt of US$11 billion.
Diplomatic efforts to resume the six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, were frozen in April when North Korea defiantly launched a long-range rocket.
The North's failed launch ended a possible deal with the U.S. in which Pyongyang agreed to suspend its nuclear and missile activities in return for food aid by Washington. Such conditions had been considered necessary steps to reopen the six-party talks.
The six-party talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear ambition have been stalled since late 2008. Pyongyang has conducted two nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009.
In Seoul, the Russian envoy is also expected to discuss an ambitious plan to build a natural-gas pipeline from Russia to South Korea via North Korea, the ministry official said.
The gas project, which has been discussed for about 20 years but never has materialized due in part to security tensions, gained momentum after late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il expressed his willingness to permit the envisioned pipeline to go through the nation during summit talks with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in August last year.
Kim died of a heart attack last December, and his youngest son, Jong-un, took the helm of North Korea.
1. International Nuclear Fuel Bank is Not Feasible for Kazakhstan
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The International nuclear fuel bank, set to be established in Kazakhstan in 2013, is not feasible, Tengrinews.kz reports citing Serik Kozhakhmetov, Director General of High Technologies Institute, an affiliated company of KazAtomProm, as saying at the meeting in the club of the Institute of Political Solutions (IPS).
The speaker said that the nuclear fuel bank is a political and an image-making project showing Kazakhstan's strive to creating an open nuclear security system. "The materials placed there will be owned by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency); we will be just an accountable keeper. The presence of the nuclear fuel bank will show the whole world that Kazakhstan hosts the project ensuring safe storage of somebody's materials," Kozhakhmetov said.
The expert compared the project with beautiful dishware that is bought when "there is food in plenty to be put on these plates"; it brings the respectability element in. According to Kozhakhmetov, the bank has no value from the technical point of view. "The presence of 30-60 tons of low-enriched uranium will not make any difference or make the nuclear-radiation security deteriorate if stored at Ulbinsk Metallurgical Plant, that has produced tens of thousands of tons of nuclear fuel since its construction," the panelist said.
Kozhakhmetov added that with creation of the bank, Kazakhstan may become some kind of equivalent of Switzerland in the financial market, but in nuclear energy sector. "In fact this bank is an insurance against risks for uranium consumers and those who produce it in the global system. Uranium is sold as any other commodity," the expert said.
Earlier Tengrinews.kz English reported that the international nuclear fuel bank with the capacity of 60 tons is to be created in Kazakhstan by fall 2013. Legally the nuclear materials will be owned by IAEA, not Kazakhstan. The project is aimed at enhancement of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
For more information see: http://en.tengrinews.kz/politics_sub/10956/ Use of the Tengrinews English materials must be accompanied by a hyperlink to en.Tengrinews.kz
Lithuania's parliament on Thursday backed government plans to work towards a final deal to build a new nuclear power plant by 2020-2022, a victory for the centre-right prime minister but a decision that could be overturned after an election this year.
Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius has been a driving force in efforts to cut the Baltic state's energy dependence on ex-Soviet master Russia. But an election is due in October and he is running behind in the polls.
Nevertheless, he hailed the parliament vote to work towards a final construction deal with U.S.-Japanese alliance Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy for a 1,350 MW ABWR reactor.
"I am happy a very important historic decision allowing the further development of nuclear energy in Lithuania ... has been made," Kubilius told reporters at parliament, which backed the concession deal with 74 out of the 141 seats in the house.
But the main opposition Social Democrat Party, which leads opinion polls ahead of the election, boycotted the vote in protest at the cost of the project, estimated by the Finance Ministry at up to 6.8 billion euros ($8.64 billion).
Lithuania wants Baltic neighbours Latvia and Estonia, to share the cost together with Hitachi as a strategic investor.
Having now won parliament's approval, the government is to continue talks with regional partners, and Hitachi, on setting up a project company and signing a shareholders agreement.
A final investment decision is expected in 2015, it added.
In 2011, Lithuania imported 65 percent of its electricity, making it the European Union member which is the most dependent on power imports, most of which came from Russia.
1. NISA to Tighten Checks on Fault Research Beneath Tsuruga Reactors
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The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency intends to enhance its monitoring of new research into an active fault under the Tsuruga nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.
At a meeting with experts Friday, NISA officials said they will station an inspector at the Tsuruga facility on a full-time basis to monitor additional studies of the fault by the plant's operator, Japan Atomic Power Co.
The announcement followed the discovery that crush zones consisting of coarse rock fragments that could shift together with the fault lie directly beneath the Tsuruga complex.
Masaru Kobayashi, head of NISA's department for evaluating the earthquake resistance of nuclear plants, said the agency hopes to ensure the reliability and transparency of the research process by posting updates on its website provided by the inspector.
Japan Atomic Power in May started preparing for further research at the Tsuruga plant, including exploratory drilling.
NISA plans to have its experts conduct a field study and decide whether the drilling site selected is appropriate.
The agency will also have experts observe a geological survey after the drilling, and will allow the press greater access to research activities at the site.
In research conducted during past quake-proof inspections, NISA only played a minor role in the final stages of drilling and should have monitored the process more closely, Kobayashi said.
2. Swedish Police Baffled by Explosives Near Nukes
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Two days after nuclear officials found a small amount of explosives on a forklift on the grounds of Sweden's largest nuclear power plant, police said they still had no clues about possible perpetrators or how the material got there.
Officers completed a search of the plant's premises in the morning, but found no other explosives, police spokesman Tommy Nyman said Friday.
"There's no suspect and we're trying to find out the motive now ... how it could get in there, and why," he said.
Nuclear officials said they had received no threats.
Nyman said investigators were analyzing witness statements and security camera footage of the vehicle's movements. He declined to give more details.
Power utility Vattenfall said the clay-like, fist-sized explosive was found on a fire extinguisher in the forklift during a routine check as it entered the high-security enclosure, where the four reactors are situated, from the plant's adjoining industrial area.
"To me, it looked like the size of a fist," Ringhals spokesman Gosta Larsen said, noting that the small gray mass would have been difficult to spot if the sniffer-dogs had not found it.
There was no danger of explosion because the material did not have a detonator or triggering device, police and nuclear officials said. They insisted that even if it had exploded, the damage would have been minimal and would not have affected the plant.
Police combed the outer enclosure of the Ringhals plant—an area the size of 150 football fields—but found no indication that the explosive had been brought in through or over the surrounding fencing, Gith Thedvall, a local police spokeswoman, said.
"So it must have been brought in by someone who came through the control gates," she said, referring to the gates at the plant's outer enclosure.
Wednesday's incident prompted Sweden to increase its security alert at the country's three nuclear plants, including Forsmark and Oskarshamn.
Police temporarily cordoned off the area immediately surrounding the forklift, but the find did not cause any other exceptional measures at the plant, officials said.
"It's serious that someone tries to bring in explosives to a nuclear plant," Larsen said. "But it was a really stupid thing to do because there's a 100 percent certainty that it would have been discovered. It would never have made its way through."
Critics slammed the plant and Sweden's nuclear industry after the incident, saying it shows how vulnerable atomic power stations are.
David Persson, a spokesman at the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, said the agency considers the incident serious but doesn't want to draw any conclusions or plan to tighten its guidelines or rules until police have established what actually happened.
"We're following this closely. There definitely shouldn't be any explosive materials near a nuclear plant, but it's positive that they found it," Persson said.
The United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said it was aware of the incident and was in touch with Swedish authorities but declined to comment further.
The Swedish government has not commented on the incident, saying that it would wait for the outcome of the police investigation.
Ringhals, with more than 3,500 workers, is Sweden's largest power plant, producing 28 Terawatt-Hours a year, or supplying around 20 percent of the country's electricity.
It is located near Varberg in Halland, some 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Sweden's second-largest city, Goteborg.
The US-Japanese joint venture bidding to build nuclear power plants in the UK could struggle to rush its reactor designs through Britain's notoriously lengthy licensing process.
GE Hitachi is keen to introduce its own boiling water-based reactor for its bid for the Horizon nuclear project, which will invest £15bn in plants in Anglesey and Gloucestershire. The nuclear new build policy was thrown into doubt three months ago when the German utilities E.on and RWE withdrew from the programme, but three consortia have since bid to take over.
Toshiba-owned Westinghouse and France's Areva have advantages over GE Hitachi because their own reactors are going through the UK's Generic Design Assessment for approval. A Whitehall source said: "GE Hitachi has built a lot [of reactors] so they think they could get through the GDA faster and then build faster. That may not be easy – they don't have a UK supply chain so it won't be that fast."
It is rumoured that Westinghouse has a stronger financing plan in place than Areva, making it a slight favourite to snap up Horizon.
The programme faces further problems should Centrica decide to pull-out of the programme. The British energy giant will decide later this year whether to commit to new nuclear, though EDF has drawn up contingency plans if it is left to push ahead on its own.
2. Belarus, Russia to Sign Nuclear Plant Deal in July
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Belarus will sign a master contract with Russia to construct the first nuclear power plant in the country in July, First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko said on Friday.
"Discussions about a master contract to build the nuclear power plant in Belarus have almost completed and it will be signed in early July," Semashko told the Belarusian parliament.
The head of Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, said in May that Moscow would invest $204 million at an early stage in the plant's construction.
The $10-billion plant will be built by Russia’s Atomstroyexport company, a Rosatom subsidiary. The plant will consist of two reactors with a capacity of 1,200 MW each and will boost the entire Belarusian energy system's capacity to 8,000 MW. The power station’s first unit is due to be ready in 2017 and the second in 2018.
Belarus began preparing to build a nuclear plant back in the 1980s, but the project was shelved following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in neighboring Ukraine.
Belarusian opposition and environmental activists have raised concerns over the project, which were further fuelled by the March 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station.
Russia says it employs advanced technology to ensure accident-free operations at all the power stations it builds.
3. Russian-Czech Firm to Bid for Temelin NPP Project
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The Russian-Czech consortium MIR.1200 will file a bid on July 2 for a tender to complete construction of the Temelin nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic, an official of Russian state-run civilian nuclear power corporation Rosatom said on Thursday.
“The date has been defined and the application will be filed on July 2,” Rosatom Deputy General Director Kirill Komarov said on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg economic forum.
The Temelin nuclear power plant went into commercial operation in 2002, more than twenty years after the former Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak government signed an agreement on its construction in 1981.
The plant currently operates two units with an aggregate capacity of 2,000 MW. The Czech government plans to build another two reactors at the plant.
4. Jordan to Break Ground on First Reactor 'By Year's End'
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Jordan is set to break ground on a nuclear research reactor this December in what energy officials are describing as a "milestone" in the country's atomic energy programme.
A consortium comprising the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute and Daewoo is scheduled to begin construction on a 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor - the Kingdom's first - in Ramtha at the end of the year, according to the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC).
To be built at the Jordan University of Science and Technology, the reactor will serve as a training ground for nuclear engineers and physicists who will man the country's nuclear programme in the future, JAEC Vice Chairman Kamal Araj said during an address at a regional nuclear conference in Amman on Tuesday.
Plans for the nuclear research reactor have come under criticism in recent months, with parliamentarians accusing the commission of "overpaying" for the project and former JAEC employees calling into question the site's proximity to major population centres.
The JAEC, in response, has pointed out that $70 million of the $130 million reactor is being supported by a soft loan and stressed that the reactor safety zone falls within International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines.
The Jordan Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Kingdom's atomic energy watchdog, is in the process of licensing the reactor, which the JAEC expects to be online by 2016.
The commission has given priority to training Jordanian engineering students in order to have a skilled workforce in place ahead of the construction of the country's first nuclear power plant, which is expected to come online by 2020.
Jordan's nuclear programme calls for the construction of up to four 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors to wean the country off energy imports within the next two decades.
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