Friday, January 13, 2006

Eastern Asia:

North Korea And Iran Justify Their Rogue Status
12 January 2006

AP (VIENNA) - Both hostile to the United States (U.S.), North Korea and Iran are again demonstrating another shared characteristic - disquieting resistance to years of carrot-and-stick diplomacy meant to reduce their status as nuclear threats. More than two years of talks based on North Korea's stated willingness to come to terms have not eliminated nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula any more than repeated diplomatic rounds with the Iranians have convinced them to scrap uranium enrichment, a pathway both to atomic fuel and the fissile core of warheads. The U.S. has consistently asked for concrete steps to indicate that Pyongyang is making good on its commitments to scrap existing nuclear arms and give up enrichment and reprocessing programs. The U.S. has not shied away from imposing sanctions related to alleged counterfeiting and other wrongdoing - moves that have led to the current deadlock.

Source Reliability: 8.0

Russia/Former USSR:

Russia Hardens Tone Toward Iran
12 January 2006

IRANMANIA.COM (LONDON) - Russian officials hardened their rhetoric, criticising Iran's decision to resume sensitive nuclear research but analysts said the comments did not signal a major change in Moscow's position on the Iran nuclear standoff, said AFP. Iran's decision to resume nuclear research "personally disappoints me and gives some cause for alarm," Russian news agencies quoted Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov. The powerful Russian minister declined to speculate on whether the growing confrontation over Iran's nuclear program would lead to action by the UN Security Council, but said things were not moving in a positive direction for anyone. "As a permanent UN Security Council member, Russia reserves the right to act according to the situation. But whatever the case may be, the situation is not developing in the most favorable way." The Russian foreign ministry earlier said it was "deeply disappointed" by Iran's decision and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called Tehran's move a "cause for concern". That was in sharp contrast to earlier announcements that have supported Iran's right to a civilian atomic energy programme. But Russian analysts said the apparent escalation in official rhetoric on Iran did not signal any major policy shift from Russia, which has argued against referring Tehran to the UN Security Council over the country's controversial nuclear program.

Source Reliability: 8.0

Comment: Thus far, Russia has been reluctant to criticize Iran or threaten to take the country to the United Nations Security Council. This article suggests a shift from that stance, but wisely points out that such rhetoric may only be for show.

Middle East:

Iran Threatens To Block Inspection
13 January 2006

CNN (ATLANTA) - Iran will stop working with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), if the U.S. and Europeans refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Friday. The move reflects a law passed by Iran last year requiring the government to stop cooperation if the U.S. and EU3 (Germany, France and Britain) refer Iran to the council.This would mean, among other things, the end of random inspections by the IAEA.On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice backed the EU3 in saying Iran should be sent to the council over its refusal to halt its nuclear activity.The decision to take the dispute to the next level marks the end of more than two years of diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to abandon what many nations fear is a nuclear weapons program. However, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says Iran still has interest in serious negotiations.Iran broke U.N. seals on its nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz this week. It insists its nuclear program has peaceful aims, and it has the right to restart its facilities in accordance with international law.The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal reported that during the call, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Rice that Russia would abstain, rather than vote against, efforts to move the issue from the IAEA to the Security Council.China, which imports significant amounts of Iranian oil, said it hoped Tehran would return to talks on the dispute and urged all parties to exercise restraint. "We hope Iran can do more to promote mutual confidence between itself and the EU3, and return to negotiations," Reuters quoted a spokesman for China's foreign ministry, Kong Quan, as saying.This is the second time Iran removed IAEA seals. In August, researchers unsealed equipment at Iran's Isfahan plant and resumed uranium conversion activities there. Uranium conversion is a first step toward uranium enrichment, which could lead to the manufacture of nuclear weapons.Despite the threat of UN referral, Iran vowed to press ahead. "Unfortunately, a group of bullies allows itself to deprive nations of their legal and natural rights," AP quoted President Ahmadinejad as saying. "I tell those superpowers that, with strength and prudence, Iran will pave the way to achieving peaceful nuclear energy," he said. "The Iranian nation is not frightened by the powers and their noise."

Source Reliability: 8.5

India/Pakistan:

India To Begin Separation Of Military And Civilian Nuclear Facilities
10 January 2006

UPI (NEW DELHI) – India and the United States signed the Indo-US nuclear agreement on July 18, 2005, when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Washington. Under the agreement, India said it will separate its civilian and nuclear facilities to enable the Bush administration to push the deal through the U.S. Congress. Presently, Indian officials are working overtime to complete the separation of the country's 15 operational nuclear reactors and other similar facilities before U.S. President George W. Bush's scheduled visit in March 2006. A foreign ministry official stated, “the civilian nuclear energy deal was vital and would go a long way toward meeting India's energy requirements”. Top government sources say the Indian leadership wants to clinch a deal during Bush's visit to India in March 2006.

Source Reliability: 7.0

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Africa:

SA Firm Awarded $500K Nuclear Contract
11 January 2006

ENGINEERING NEWS (GARDEN VIEW, SA ) – The South African firm Spescom has announced that - in cooperation with the United States Department of Energy – NuStart Energy Development selected its US-based subsidiary Spescom Software to support its efforts in licensing the next generation of nuclear reactors. The initial contract, valued at about $500 000, will provide a system to support NuStart in preparing its license application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Source Reliability: 8.0

Eastern Europe/Balkans:

Ukraine Names U.S. Company As Builder Of Spent-Fuel Storage Facility
09 January 2006

ENGINEERING NEWS RECORD (NEW JERSEY) - In late December 2005, Holtec International, Marlton, N.J., signed a $150-million contract with Energoatom to build Ukraine’s first central storage facility for spent nuclear fuel produced by that country’s nuclear power plants by 2008. The facility will be located in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, an egg-shaped area of about 30 sq km contaminated by the 1986 explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear powerplant. Ukraine now ships the spent fuel from its reactors at the South Ukraine, Rovno and Khmelnytsky plants over long distances for storage in Russia at a cost of more than $100 million per year.

Source Reliabilty: 8.0

Comment: In 2002, the Ukrainian News Service reported that Ukraine’s Organized Crime Bureau in the Rivne Ministry of Internal Affairs accused officials of the state-run nuclear monopoly Energoatom of misappropriation of funds, falsification of documents, and criminal negligence. On 26 December 2005, U.S. Ambassador John E. Herbst commented that Holtec’s contract is an important milestone regarding U.S. cooperation with the Ukrainian commercial nuclear energy sector. The ambassador stressed his confidence in Holtec’s ability to complete the project on time and that the facility will be safe and efficient. Holtec International is a world leader in the field of storing and transporting spent nuclear fuel.

Eastern Europe/Balkans:

Skoda JS Submits Nuclear Plant Bid In Bulgaria
06 January 2006

CTK (PLZEN, West Bohemia) - Skoda JS (Czech Republic), a subsidiary of Scoda Holdings, will submit a detailed bid for the construction of (2) 1,000 MW units for the Belene Nuclear Power Plant in Bulgaria on 01 February 2006. Russian foreign trade company Atomstrojexport will also submit a bid. The general contractor for the project will be decided by the end of this year.

Source Reliability: 8.0

Comment: Skoda JS is a member of the OMZ Group (Uralmash-Izhora Group), one of the largest Russian heavy industry enterprises. OMZ has operations in Russia, the Czech Republic and offices in India and China. Atomstrojexport was the general contractor for the building of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant in Iran in 2004.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Latin America:

Venezuelan Police Find Stolen Radioactive Cesium-137
09 January 2006

REUTERS (VENEZUELA)—Venezuelan police recovered stolen equipment containing radioactive Cesium-137 in the eastern Venezuelan state of Anzaotegui (Pictured). The Venezuelan Energy Ministry dispatched to collect the unit. No contamination was apparent, and officials made no arrests. Thieves stole the device, used in oil prospecting, in December 2005 in the same state. The Cesium-137’s disappearance followed the December 2005 arrests of three police officers connected to the theft of a truck carrying radioactive Iridium-192, also used in the oil industry. Two other Iridium-192 capsules disappeared in March 2005 in two separate incidents. Both were recovered – one in Lake Maracaibo, the other in western Venezuela.

Source Reliability: 7.0

Comment: The Iridium-192 capsule stolen aboard a truck on Tuesday December 19, 2005, was recovered in the Venezuelan city of Yaritagua in Yaracuy State. Radioactive Cesium-137 and Iridium-192 are viable options for use in a “dirty bomb” via exposure to a populace through a food chain or water table.