Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

Major Energy and Environmental News and Commentary affecting the Nuclear Industry.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Kingdom may enrich uranium for nuclear plants

Saudi Arabia wants to avoid nuclear outsourcing
Kingdom may enrich uranium for nuclear plants

Saudi Arabia will seek to be involved in all the aspects of nuclear-power generation for civilian use, according to David Cox, an executive of Poyry, the management consultancy contracted to draft the kingdom's nuclear strategy. Uranium mining and enrichment may take place in Saudi Arabia, "but outsourcing will happen initially," Cox said. Arab News (Saudi Arabia)/Reuters

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Assessing North Korea's uranium enrichment capabilities By Hui Zhang

Assessing North Korea's uranium enrichment capabilities
By Hui Zhang
| 18 June 2009
Article Highlights

* Last weekend, Pyongyang threatened to begin enriching uranium in an effort to expand its nuclear weapons program.
* While much is known about North Korea's plutonium production program, far less is understood about what enrichment capabilities Pyongyang currently possesses.
* That said, all of the publicly known evidence seems to indicate that North Korea currently has a very limited capacity for enrichment.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Russian missile deal unaffected by Iran sanctions: Lavrov

Russian missile deal unaffected by Iran sanctions: Lavrov

UN sanctions will not hurt Russia's S-300 missile supplies to Iran nor the states' nuclear cooperation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday after claims the deal would be frozen.

Defiant Iran could downgrade ties with UN atomic watchdog

Defiant Iran could downgrade ties with UN atomic watchdog

Russia, China seek new Iran nuclear talks
Paris (AFP) June 10, 2010 - Russia and China sought to cool frayed tempers Thursday following a UN Security Council resolution imposing fresh sanctions on Iran, saying they still wanted talks to end the nuclear standoff. Both were forced to act after Iran slammed the fourth round of sanctions passed by the Security Council on Wednesday. But Russia also froze a contract to send S-300 missiles to Iran, officials were quoted as saying. Russia and China both have traditionally close ties to Iran, have in the past refused tougher sanctions and stand to lose a lot of business in any backlash against their votes this time.

"It is clear that the sanctions will not settle the problem of Iran's nuclear programme by themself," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement. "Our efforts aim to give impetus to a political and diplomatic settlement of the issue." The ministry added that the resolution did not impose "stifling or paralysing" sanctions on Iran and ruled out the use of force. Russia also warned against unilateral sanctions by other countries. "For us any such attempts to go beyond the Security Council are unacceptable," it said. The UN vote slapping new military and financial sanctions on Iran is the fourth attempt since 2006 to rein in Tehran's suspect nuclear programme.

The US-drafted resolution was adopted by 12 votes in the 15-member Security Council, with Lebanon abstaining and Brazil and Turkey voting against. Russia and China, both permanent members of the council who can veto any resolution, supportered the measure. China said dialogue was needed to end international fears that Iran is seeking a nuclear bomb. "China always holds it is the right way to address the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue, negotiation and other diplomatic means to seek a solution that satisfies the concerns of all parties," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in remarks carried by state news agency Xinhua. China and Russia only backed the sanctions after months of bargaining in which they watered down the original US draft to protect their substantial energy and economic interests in Iran.

Iran's atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi, who oversees Iran's nuclear programme, lashed out at China. "China is gradually losing its respectable position in the Islamic world and by the time it wakes up, it will be too late," Salehi told ISNA news agency. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is expected in China on Friday to visit the World Expo, said: "These resolutions are not worth a dime for the Iranian nation." He has threatened to suspend negotiations with six major powers if the sanctions were imposed. Speaking in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, he said he had told world powers "that the resolutions you issue are like a used hanky which should be thrown in the dust bin."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said there was still room for a diplomatic solution and that Turkey's vote against the sanctions was a matter of honour. "If we had not said 'no' it would have been self-denial... It would have been a lack of self-respect," Erdogan said at a Turkey-Arab forum in Istanbul. "We insist that all problems must be resolved at the negotiating table. Nothing is achieved with weapons or through embargoes and isolation. Together with Brazil, we will keep up our efforts for a negotiated solution," he said. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said there would be a great cost for the countries that imposed the sanctions. Describing the move as a "Pyrrhic victory," a success that comes with a massive burden to the victors, Lula told reporters that the move "weakened the UN Security Council."

Tehran (AFP) June 10, 2010
A defiant Iran threatened on Thursday to downgrade ties with the UN atomic energy watchdog in response to new UN sanctions targeting its controversial nuclear programme of uranium enrichment.

Diplomats said Tehran was wavering between confrontation or opting for talks after being abandoned by allies Moscow and Beijing, which voted for Wednesday's UN Security Council sanctions resolution.

An official warned that Iran could reduce its ties with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Myanmar nukes would destabilize region: US

Myanmar nukes would destabilize region: US
Washington (AFP) June 10, 2010
Myanmar risks destabilizing Southeast Asia through its pursuit of weapons, although it is not yet clear whether the military regime is developing a nuclear program, a US official said Thursday. A senior army defector, in a recent documentary broadcast on Al Jazeera television, said the junta has been seeking nuclear weapons and developing a secret net

Fearing Iran, Arab stand on Israel shifts

Fearing Iran, Arab stand on Israel shifts

Beirut, Lebanon (UPI) Jun 14, 2010
Saudi Arabia has denied a report it was prepared to allow Israeli warplanes to use its airspace to attack Iran's major nuclear installations. But the report by The Sunday Times of London isn't as far-fetched as it might appear. Amid growing alarm caused by Iran's alleged quest for nuclear weapons and fears of a new war between Israel and the Lebanese movement Hezbollah, Iran's ma ... more

US wants China to clarify Pakistan atomic reactor deal
Washington (AFP) April 29, 2010
The United States said Tuesday it had sought clarification from China on the sale of two civilian nuclear reactors to Pakistan, saying the deal must be approved by the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

China puts down marker in nuclear power race By Stephen Blank

China puts down marker in nuclear power race
By Stephen Blank

China's decision to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan comes amid a global expansion of trade in nuclear technology, with South Korea at the forefront. Beijing is ensuring it can compete with such rivals while recognizing geopolitical realities, even if that crosses the lines drawn by the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. - Stephen Blank

Huge nuclear tax on the cards in Germany from World Nuclear News by Jeremy Gordon

Huge nuclear tax on the cards in Germany
from World Nuclear News by Jeremy Gordon

Biblis (Areva)The German Ministry of Finance has envisaged an additional €2.3 billion ($2.8 billion) per year 'windfall tax' on nuclear operators as part of the 2011 Federal Budget and its financial plan up to 2014.

Nuclear key to Japan's energy future from World Nuclear News by Jeremy Gordon

Nuclear key to Japan's energy future
from World Nuclear News by Jeremy Gordon

A draft plan for Japanese power supplies to 2030 sees nuclear power expand with at least 14 new reactors on top of today's fleet of 55. Prepared by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Basic Energy Plan to 2030 sets out milestones for the energy mix. In 2020 the total proportion of non carbon emitting generation should be 50%, rising to 70% in 2030 compared to today's 34%. The country will also aim to bring the utilization rate of its nuclear fleet to top global levels of 90% and the proportion of domestically sourced fuel (which includes nuclear fuel) to the OECD average of 70%.

No Nukes, No Empire from Dissident Voice by Robert Jensen

No Nukes, No Empire
from Dissident Voice by Robert Jensen

If we are serious about the abolition of nuclear weapons, we have to place the abolition of the U.S. empire at the center of our politics.

That means working toward a world free of nuclear weapons demands we not only critique the reactionary wing of the U.S. power structure, the Bushes and Cheneys and Rumsfelds — call them the reckless hawks. A serious commitment to a future free of nuclear weapons demands critique of moderate wing, the Obamas and Bidens and Clintons — call them the reasonable hawks. The former group is psychotic, while the latter is merely cynical. After eight years of reckless reactionary psychotics, it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security by reasonable moderate cynics. But we should remember that a hawk is a hawk.

The next step is asking whose interests are advanced by the hawks. Even though in the post-World War II era the hawks have sometimes differed on strategy and tactics, they have defended the same economic system: a predatory corporate capitalism. Let’s call those folks the vultures. Different groupings of hawks might be associated with different groupings of vultures, giving the appearance of serious political conflict within the elite, but what they have in common is much more important than their differences. The political empire of the contemporary United States serves the corporate empires that dominate not only the domestic but the global economy, and it all depends on U.S. military power, of which the nuclear arsenal is one component.

George W. Bush was the smirking frat-boy face of the U.S. empire. Barack Obama is the smiling smart-guy face of the U.S. empire. Whoever is at the helm, the U.S. political/economic/military empire remains in place, shaky at the moment, but still the single greatest threat to justice and peace on the planet. Any serious project to rid the world of the particular threat of nuclear weapons has to come to terms with the more general threat of the empire.

We shouldn’t expect our leaders, Republican or Democrat, to agree with that assessment, of course. And they don’t. Here’s a paragraph from the Obama administration’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review:

The conditions that would ultimately permit the United States and others to give up their nuclear weapons without risking greater international instability and insecurity are very demanding. Among those conditions are success in halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, much greater transparency into the programs and capabilities of key countries of concern, verification methods and technologies capable of detecting violations of disarmament obligations, enforcement measures strong and credible enough to deter such violations, and ultimately the resolution of regional disputes that can motivate rival states to acquire and maintain nuclear weapons. Clearly, such conditions do not exist today.

Nowhere on the list is a recognition of a more crucial fact: nuclear abolition depends on the death of the American empire.

The reason that is not on the list is because nuclear weapons are a key component of U.S. empire-building. That is as true today as it was when Harry S Truman dropped the first nuclear weapon to end World War II and begin the Cold War. Although tonight we want to focus on the present, it’s useful to return to that moment to remind ourselves of the harsh reality of empires.

Though the culture can’t come to terms with this history, the consensus of historians is that the U.S. decision to drop atomic weapons on Japan had little to do with ending WWII and everything to do with sending a message to the Soviet Union. The barbaric act that ended the barbarism of WWII opened up a new chapter in the tragedy of empire, leading to more barbarism in the U.S. assault on the developing world over the past six decades.

Even though it was clear that after WWII the United States could have lived relatively secure in the world with its considerable wealth and extensive resources, the greed that drives empire demanded that U.S. policy-makers pursue a policy not of peace but of domination, as seen in this conclusion of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff in 1947: “To seek less than preponderant power would be to opt for defeat. Preponderant power must be the object of U.S. policy.”1 Preponderant power means: We run the world. We dictate the terms of the global economy. Others find a place in that structure or they risk annihilation. No challenge from another system or another state is acceptable.

In service of this quest, elites created the mythology of the Cold War -that we were defending ourselves against a Soviet empire bent on destroying us – which was grafted easily onto the deeper U.S. mythology about a shining city upon the hill and Manifest Destiny, about the divine right of the United States to dominate. As a result, much of the U.S. public is easily convinced of the righteousness of the U.S. imperial project and persuaded to believe the lie that we maintain nuclear weapons only as a deterrent. The reality should blunt the self-congratulatory instinct: U.S. nuclear weapons were created to project power, not protect people.

In his book Empire and the Bomb, Joseph Gerson lists 39 incidences of “nuclear blackmail,” of which 33 were made by U.S. officials.2 That helps explain the subtitle of his book, “How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World.”

Not surprisingly, Obama has said he does not envision abolition in the foreseeable future. In his famous Prague speech in April 2009, he said:

So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. I’m not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly — perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, “Yes, we can.”

Yes, the world can change — if the dominant military power in the world, the United States, can change. If the United States could give up the quest to consume a disproportionate share of the world’s resources and disavow its reliance on securing that unjust distribution of wealth through the largest and most destructive military in the history of the world, things could change.

That’s why most U.S. elites are interested in non-proliferation, not abolition. The goal of abolition will remain safely out of reach, on the horizon, just beyond our ability to accomplish in the near future — while the United States continues to imagine a future in which the rest of the world accepts U.S. domination. Since countries threatened by the empire won’t accept non-proliferation unless there is a meaningful commitment to abolition and a scaling back of imperial designs, the U.S. policy will fail. That’s because it’s designed to fail. U.S. policy is designed to keep a hold on power and wealth, and the people running the country believe nuclear weapons are useful in that quest.

That’s why the Nuclear Posture Review of the Obama administration is not all that different from the Bush administration’s, as Zia Mian (an analyst at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security) pointed out at a gathering of activists preceding the May 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. That’s why Obama’s policy includes a commitment to nuclear weapons, conventional missile defense, and modernization of the nuclear complex. That’s why Obama is increasing expenditures on nuclear weapons, now over $50 billion a year, for modernization.

Our task is to make sure we aren’t conned by politicians, either those who push the fear button or pull on our hope strings. When we take up questions of military strategy and weapons, our task is to understand the underlying political and economic systems, name the pathologies of those systems, identify the key institutions in those systems, withhold our support from those institutions when possible, create alternative institutions when possible, and tell the truth. We may support cynical politicians and inadequate policy initiatives at times, but in offering such support we should continue to tell the truth.

This commitment to telling the truth about our leaders, Republican and Democrat alike, also means telling the truth about ourselves. I have argued that any call for the elimination of nuclear weapons that does not come with an equally vociferous call for the elimination of the U.S. empire is empty rhetoric, and that a call for the end of an empire also must come with a deep critique of our economic system.

I want to end by taking the argument one step further: Such critiques ring hollow if we don’t engage in critical self-reflection about how many of us in the United States have grown comfortable in these systems. We decry injustice but spend little time talking about how our own material comfort is made possible by that injustice. A serious commitment to the end of nuclear weapons, the end of empire, the end of a predatory corporate capitalist system demands that we also commit to changing the way we live.

We cannot wake up tomorrow and extract ourselves from all these systems. There are no rituals of purification available to cleanse us. But we can look in the mirror, honestly, and start the hard work of reconfiguring the world.
# A version of this essay was delivered to the “Think outside the Bomb” event in Austin, TX, on June 14, 2010.

1. Quoted in Melvyn Leffler, A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War (Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press, 1992), p. 18-19.
2. Joseph Gerson, Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World (London: Pluto Press, 2007), p. 37-38.

Japan, Jordan to allow reactor sales from Areva, MHI

apan, Jordan to allow reactor sales from Areva, MHI
Japan and Jordan have agreed on a draft agreement that would allow Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to sell nuclear reactors. A draft treaty is awaiting ratification by the Japanese Parliament, according to Jordan's Atomic Energy Commission. France-based Atmea, a joint venture between Areva and MHI, is in discussions to build a nuclear plant in Jordan that would be completed in 2019. Bloomberg Businessweek

China - Pakistan Nuclear Cooperation Is Raising Red Flags from War News Updates by Bookyards

China - Pakistan Nuclear Cooperation Is Raising Red Flags
from War News Updates by Bookyards
Washington Objects To China-Pakistan Nuclear Deal -- Washington Post

The Obama administration has decided to object to a lucrative deal in which a state-owned Chinese companies would supply Pakistan with two nuclear reactors, U.S. officials said.

The deal is expected to be discussed next week at a meeting in New Zealand of the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which monitors such transactions. Experts had said it appears to be a violation of international guidelines forbidding nuclear exports to countries that have not signed onto the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or do not have international safeguards on reactors. Pakistan has not signed the treaty.

Read more ....

Update #1: China on verge of signing nuke deal with Pakistan: Expert -- Times Of India

Update #2: Asia looks to nuclear power for energy: China intends to build nuclear reactors in Pakistan, presenting a conundrum for the Obama administration -- Vancouver Sun/Canwest

Bookyards Comment: Even with Pakistan's rotten history when it comes to nuclear proliferation .... the Chinese have made the decision to ignore the consequences and proceed in this nuclear deal. Like the Russian decision to supply nuclear reactors to Iran, this decision by China to supply nuclear reactors to Pakistan will only heighten tensions in the region, and will cause a reciprocal backlash from countries (like India) who will perceive this as an attempt by Pakistan to further enhance it's own nuclear weapon's program.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ling Ao II reactor in China passes critical performance tests

Ling Ao II reactor in China passes critical performance tests
The first reactor of the Ling Ao II nuclear power plant in China has passed an important milestone in its path to full commercial operation in October. China Guangdong Nuclear Power announced that the reactor had cleared performance tests of its reactor core, instrumentation and monitoring systems. World Nuclear News

South Korea is confident of securing Turkish nuclear deal

South Korea is confident of securing Turkish nuclear deal
South Korea is ramping up its campaign to secure a contract with the Turkish government for two nuclear plants to be built in the city of Sinop, according to Choi Kyung-hwan, Korea's minister of knowledge economy. "I expect that we will get substantive results by the end of this year," Choi said. The Korea Times

Russia, Iran to create joint venture for Bushehr: official

Russia, Iran to create joint venture for Bushehr: official

S.E. Asia eyes nuclear energy to meet power demand

S.E. Asia eyes nuclear energy to meet power demand

Japan's Toshiba buys stake in US uranium firm USEC

Japan's Toshiba buys stake in US uranium firm USEC
Tokyo (AFP) May 25, 2010
Electronics giant Toshiba said Tuesday it would buy a 100-million-dollar stake in US nuclear fuel producer USEC as the Japenese firm seeks a greater presence in the growing market for nuclear power plants. The electronics maker, which also builds industrial components and nuclear power plants, will invest in United States Enrichment Corporation along with US-based Babcock & Wilcox Investment ... more

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Obama Must Be Careful in Nuke Efforts - Peter Brookes, China Post

Obama Must Be Careful in Nuke Efforts - Peter Brookes, China Post

Oil Spill May Spur Action on Energy, Probably Not on Climate

Oil Spill May Spur Action on Energy, Probably Not on Climate