Saturday, March 22, 2008

France Cuts Back Nuclear Arsenal

CHERBOURG, France (AP) -- President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a modest cut Friday in France's nuclear arsenal, to fewer than 300 warheads, and urged China and the United States to commit to no more weapons tests

In his first major speech as president on France's nuclear "strike force," Sarkozy said atomic weapons would remain a vital component of its defenses to deter potential attackers.

"It is the nation's life insurance policy," he said.

Sarkozy said that while France faces no foreseeable danger of invasion, other threats exist. He singled out Iran's expansion and improvement of its long-range missile forces amid what he called "grave suspicions" about whether the Iranians are trying to develop atomic weapons.

"The security of Europe is at stake," he said.

Sarkozy did not say how many warheads France currently has, and the Defense Ministry said that information is a state secret. The Federation of American Scientists, which tracks nuclear arsenals around the globe, said in a status report for 2008 that France had 348 warheads.

More than half of France's nuclear weapons are believed to aboard submarines, with the rest on warplanes.

Sarkozy said France would cut reduce its airborne force of atomic weapons by a third. "After this reduction, our arsenal will include less than 300 nuclear warheads," he said.

Speaking to workers finishing a new nuclear submarine, The Terrible, Sarkozy followed his announcement of weapons cuts with appeals for other nations to scale back their nuclear facilities.

He appealed to China and the United States to ratify a nuclear test ban treaty that they signed in 1996. "It's time to ratify," he said.

Sarkozy also called for negotiations on treaties to ban short- and intermediate-range nuclear-armed missiles and bar the manufacture of fissile material for new atomic weapons.

Since Sarkozy is France's first leader born after World War II, his underlining of the need for nuclear weapons, despite budget difficulties, was significant in reaffirming the defense policy would continue despite the generational shift in political leadership.

Donning his commander-in-chief cap also was part of an effort by Sarkozy to appear more presidential. Following a divorce in office, a subsequent quick marriage to a former model and outbursts of temper, Sarkozy has faced criticism his behavior is unbecoming for a head of state.

The Terrible is the fourth vessel in France's new generation of nuclear-powered submarines that carry underwater-launched missiles with atomic warheads. Quieter than predecessors, The Terrible is scheduled to enter service in 2010 and be armed with the new M51 missile with multiple warheads and a longer range.

France's airborne nuclear weapons are carried by three air force squadrons using the Mirage 2000N and a navy flotilla of upgraded Super Etendard jets. All four forces are set to get new, high-tech Rafale jets.

Bruno Tertrais, an expert on nuclear deterrence, said Sarkozy's nuclear policy was largely a continuation of his predecessor in the presidency, Jacques Chirac, but Chirac was not so open about the number of warheads in the French arsenal.

"Chirac did not believe that transparency was worthwhile or interesting," said Tertrais, a senior research fellow at the Foundation for Strategic Research think tank. "There is more continuity than change, but the level of transparency now is something new."


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008

Analysis: Russia Must Use Nuclear Deterrent

12 March 2008

MOSCOW, March 12 (RIA Novosti) - Russia must reserve the right to use nuclear weapons to protect Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) members in case of an imminent threat, a Russian political analyst said on Wednesday.

The CSTO is a post-Soviet security group comprising Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

"It is necessary to extend part of Russia's nuclear doctrine, which covers the use of tactical nuclear weapons, to all members of the CSTO treaty as a deterrence guarantee," said Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Moscow-based Academy of Geopolitical Sciences.

He said the existing treaty was too vague about the assistance, including military, which each CSTO country must provide to an ally in case of a clear and imminent threat of military aggression.

"Article 4 of the treaty must be revised and contain a concrete definition of such assistance, clearly described in military-strategic terms," Ivashov said during a round-table meeting in Moscow.

The Treaty on Collective Security was signed in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on 15 May 1992. The CSTO was established on 18 September 2003 in accordance with a decision of the heads of member states on transforming the treaty into an international regional organization.

Article 4 of the current treaty stipulates that: "If an act of aggression is committed against any of the member states, all other member states will render it necessary assistance, including military, and provide support with the means at their disposal by exercising the right to collective defense in line with Article 51 of the UN Charter".

The Russian leadership has already reaffirmed its commitment to building and maintaining a strong nuclear deterrent, while strongly criticizing the proposed deployment of the U.S. missile shield in Central Europe, and further eastward expansion of NATO.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Czech nuclear institute sends waste to Russia

Prague, Dec 10 (CTK) - The Nuclear Research Institute in Rez near Prague has disposed of most of the nuclear material it has amassed over its 50-year existence, Czech State Authority for Nuclear Safety (SUJB) chairwoman Dana Drabova told CTK Monday.

A haul of spent nuclear fuel from the research reactors whose disposal was ordered by the SUJB and sponsored by the former Czech National Property Fund (FNM) has reached Russia, Drabova said.

The spent fuel is to be processed in Russia.

The haul left Rez on December 1 and reached Russia on Saturday, Drabova said, adding that this was part of the effort to lower the risk of misuse of nuclear materials for terrorist purposes and a part of the programme with a view to returning the fuel from Czech research reactors to Russia.

"This is a trilateral initiative of the USA, Russia and the International Agency for Atomic Energy (IAAE)," the SUJB said in its press release.

The U.S. embassy in Prague said Rez has returned 80 kilos of highly enriched uranium fuel. The embassy welcomed the transport.

U.S. ambassador Richard Graber said it was an example of international cooperation aimed to lower the risk of nuclear terrorism. The transport is in accordance with the Russian-U.S. joint statement from 1995 on cooperation in nuclear safety.

Apart from the Czech Republic, countries such as Bulgaria, Germany, Latvia, Libya, Poland and Vietnam have returned enriched uranium to Russia, too.

A week ago, the strictly watched radioactive material was loaded at the railway station in Mesice near Prague.

The haul was reloaded from lorries to a freight train.

The relevant authorities have declined to elaborate on the special event.

"It was a train transporting over 100 tonnes," SUJB deputy chairman Petr Krs told CTK Monday.

Thanks to special containers, the whole haul could be transported by a single train, he added.

"There was the aim of minimising the risk," Krs said.

Both the route and schedule of the strictly controlled haul were kept secret, he added.

The haul has reached a specialised organisation operated by the Russian government, Krs said.

"The organisation amasses this type of nuclear material. In fact, this is no waste, but tremendously valuable raw material," Krs said.

"It is most likely to be reused in the future," Krs said.

Monday, December 10, 2007

National Intelligence Team: Iran Stopped Nuclear Weapons Program in 2003

Monday , December 03, 2007

Iran halted its nuclear weapons development program in the fall of 2003 under international pressure, but is continuing to enrich uranium and could be capable of developing a weapon as early as late 2009, the U.S. intelligence community has concluded.

The "high confidence" conclusion was revealed in a declassified portion of a national intelligence estimate released Monday.

The new intelligence estimate "confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. It tells us that we have made progress in trying to ensure that this does not happen. But the intelligence also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem," National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said in a written statement.

The findings are a change from two years ago, when U.S. intelligence agencies believed Iran was determined to develop a nuclear capability and was continuing its weapons development program.

"Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005," states the unclassified summary of the secret report. "Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously."

Officials said the findings show diplomacy is effective in containing Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"This is good news in that the U.S. policy coupled with the policies and actions of those who have been our partners appear to have had some success. Iran seems to have been pressured," one official said. "Given that good news we don't want to relax. We want to keep those pressures up."

Despite the new conclusions, the report makes clear that intelligence gaps mean a judgment can't be made on whether Tehran is willing to continue the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely or has set specific deadlines or criteria to prompt the continuation of the program.

It also concludes that Iran's decision to halt the program is likely based on a cost-benefit approach, influenced by international pressure, "rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs."

"In our judgment, only an Iranian political decision to abandon a nuclear weapons objective would plausibly keep Iran from eventually producing nuclear weapons — and such a decision is inherently reversible," the report states.

Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Donald M. Kerr said officials decided to release the unclassified conclusions because "the intelligence community is on the record publicly with numerous statements based on our 2005 assessment on Iran. Since our understanding of Iran's capabilities has changed, we felt it was important to release this information to ensure that an accurate presentation is available."

The unclassified portion of the NIE being made public is nine pages in length, five of which explain methodology. The key judgments conclude with "high confidence" that:

— Until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons;

— In fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program;

— The halt lasted at least several years;

— Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do reverse course;

— The halt, and Tehran's announcement that it has suspended its declared uranium enrichment program and signed additional safeguards relating to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty are "primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran's previously undeclared nuclear work"; and

— Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015.

The judgments find with "moderate-to-high confidence" that:

— Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon;

— Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons; and

— Iran has not obtained enough weapons-usable fissile material to develop nuclear weapons, though the NIE assesses with low confidence the importation at all of some material. The report does not rule out that Iran "has acquired from abroad — or will acquire in the future — a nuclear weapon or enough fissile material for a weapon."

The judgments also find with "moderate confidence" that:

— Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but the NIE notes that its intentions to develop weapons is unknown;

— The earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon is late 2009, but that is very unlikely;

— More likely is that it would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon sometime between 2010 and 2015;

— Iran probably would use covert facilities rather than its declared nuclear sites in its effort to produce highly enriched uranium for a weapon.

The report concludes that Iran resumed its declared centrifuge enrichment activities in January 2006 despite the continued halt in the nuclear weapons program, and made significant progress in 2007 installing centrifuges at Natanz, its chief nuclear plant.

In those efforts, Iranian agencies are still working on creating the technology that could be used for producing nuclear weapons, if it turned toward that activity.

"Since fall 2003, Iran has been conducting research and development projects with commercial and conventional military applications — some of which would also be of limited use for nuclear weapons," the report states.,2933,314708,00.html


National Intelligence Estimate: Iran: Nuclear Intentions and

Friday, December 7, 2007

Three Busted for Selling Weapon-Grade Uranium

European authorities have seized about 1 pound of weapon-grade uranium that two Hungarians and one Ukrainian allegedly attempted to sell for $1 million, the Associated Press reported today (see GSN, Oct. 29).

Investigators are continuing to search for the intended recipient of the powdered uranium, which Slovakian First Police Vice President Michal Kopcik said could have been used in a radiological “dirty bomb.”
Authorities determined the uranium recovered in unlabeled containers to contain 98.6 percent uranium 235. Uranium containing a minimum of 85 percent uranium 235 is considered weapon grade.

“It was possible to use it in various ways for terrorist attacks,” Kopcik said.
“According to initial findings, the material originated in the former Soviet republics,” he added.
Investigators believe the suspects planned to complete the sale between Monday and Wednesday this week, but police detained the three when the transfer was not completed as expected, Kopcik said.

Three people were detained last month in the Czech Republic for allegedly attempting to sell fake radiological material, but it remains unclear whether they were involved in the botched uranium deal (Janicek/Kole, Associated Press I/Google News, Nov. 29).
Two of the suspects were arrested in eastern Slovakia and the third suspect was detained in Hungary, Slovak police spokesman Martin Korch said yesterday.

Korch said the arrests followed months of investigation by police from the two nations, but declined to discuss details of the case, such as the intended recipient of the radioactive material.
Slovakia’s border with Ukraine has been seen as a possible entryway into the European Union of WMD materials. Governments have spent millions of dollars on security upgrades in the area over the past several years

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jordan's Nuclear Program

Yes, We Do Have a Nuclear Program',1518,518131,00.html

Jordanian King Abdullah II, 45, discusses this week's election in his desert state, war and peace in the Middle East and Amman's desire to establish a civilian atomic energy program.

King Abdullah II: "The price of oil is a major economic hurdle in Jordan."

King Abdullah II: "The price of oil is a major economic hurdle in Jordan."

SPIEGEL: Your Majesty, this week Jordan is going to the polls to vote for a new parliament. What executive powers is this new assembly going to have?

Abdullah: We're hoping that this parliament will create a new political landscape. We need fewer, more broad-ranging parties -- ideally two, three or four representing the left- and right-wings and the political center.

SPIEGEL: Will enough Jordanians actually go to the polls?

Abdullah: We've been talking a lot to the youth. I am concerned with getting young people more involved in the decision-making process of this country.

SPIEGEL: There are fears that the election results may be manipulated. The Islamists are even considering boycotting the elections.


Abdullah: We experienced that in the municipal elections, when leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in foreign countries pressured Islamists in Jordan not to take part in the election to prevent them getting the necessary quorum. My instructions to the government were to make sure the elections were transparent. The Muslim Brotherhood have a good chance, and I hope they're going to be good sports about it. Ultimately, it is my responsibility to make sure that the elections are clean and everything works out well.

SPIEGEL: Democracy is always associated with a risk that those who are enemies of democracy can be elected. What is the lesson to be learned from Hamas' victory in the Palestinian territories? Is stability more important to you than democracy?

Abdullah: I think the success of democracy is not really police security; it's the presence of a broad middle class. The stronger the middle class of a people is, the less you have to worry about one group coming in and exploiting the democratic process for its own ends. Our economic and social reforms are trying to strengthen the development of the middle class.

SPIEGEL: And what is the situation of the middle class in Jordan?

Abdullah: The middle class today in Jordan is shaky -- that has to do with the situation in the Middle East and the current price of oil. That is something we have to work on, and parliament will have to address that over the next four years. Parliamentarians must be active in improving education, health and social security -- that's what's important. I think the future of the Middle East lies in the hands of a strong, responsible middle class. And we have to admit that this political class is not really there yet.

SPIEGEL: How far have you come with your economic reforms? Where do you hope to find the investors to bring your country forward?

Graphic: The Shiite Crescent

Graphic: The Shiite Crescent

Abdullah: The economy has improved dramatically since 1999. We need to harness that growth to fight unemployment and poverty -- and do a lot more for education than has been the case until now. We put every extra dinar we have into the education system. Many Jordanians are working in the Gulf states. We'd like them to come back and find jobs in Jordan. That's why I went to Germany last week to solicit investment. We aim to realize major infrastructure projects: alternative energy sources, water supply. Jordan may be a small country, but we are also a gateway to the Arab world.

SPIEGEL: Jordan and Egypt are the only Arab states to have concluded a peace treaty with Israel. Has this treaty paid off for you economically?

Abdullah: Peace with Israel is a strategic imperative for Jordan. As far as the direct impact on the Jordanian economy, our initial expecations have not been fulfilled. However, I am nevertheless convinced that our trade relations will profit once there is true peace in the region.

SPIEGEL: In the past 30 years the population of Jordan has almost doubled. And it is still growing rapidly -- primarily because of the continuing influx of refugees.

Abdullah: This has always been our lot, and we just have to live with it. The critical problem is the issue of water. Our reserves will soon be exhausted and we must take concrete measures in the next couple of years to solve the problem. We are planning major projects. I think there is a role for German companies to help us with that. I'm talking about the groundwater reservoir on the Gulf of Aqaba, the Red and Dead Sea Canal (more...) and desalinization projects.

A car bomb attack in Baghdad: "I'm afraid these attacks will continue in the future."

A car bomb attack in Baghdad: "I'm afraid these attacks will continue in the future."

SPIEGEL: About 750,000 Iraqi refugees are currently residing in Jordan (more...). What is going to happen to them?

Abdullah: The overwhelming majority want to return to Iraq. In Jordan we are a bit sensitive about this issue, simply due to our history...

SPIEGEL: ... because in the years following the Israeli-Arab war of 1948 you took in millions of Palestinians, whose descendants now make up the majority of the Jordanian population.

Abdullah: We do not want to be a dumping ground for refugees. At the same time, we have a humanitarian obligation; we can't really close the borders and turn back people who are in need. It's very difficult to strike the right balance.

SPIEGEL: What is your perspective on the Iraqi situation now? Is the worst over?

Abdullah: There are good and bad days. It's going to take a long time. Iraq will be dependent on the efforts of the international community for years to come. But if you look at the three most volatile issues in the Middle East -- the Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi issues -- I tend to put Iraq in third place. The Israeli-Palestinian situation creates many more problems, followed by what's going on in Lebanon.

SPIEGEL: At the moment the number of suicide attacks in Iraq seems to be declining.

Abdullah: I'm afraid these attacks will continue in the future. What has changed is the attitude of the Sunnis in Iraq towards al-Qaida. They are fed up with al-Qaida, so now al-Qaida is not just dealing with US forces, it has to deal with the local population -- at least in the province of Anbar. That is an improvement.

SPIEGEL: The Palestinian refugee drama is one of the main reasons behind the political crisis in the Middle East. Will the refugees coming from Iraq create similar crises?

Abdullah: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is different in that it affects two different peoples. Ultimately, in the case of Iraq all the people involved are Iraqis -- Shiites and Sunnis, Kurds and Arabs. Iraq is an established nation and most Iraqis want to keep their country together.

SPIEGEL: You sound more much optimistic than you did a year ago (more...).

Mideast negotiating partners -- Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem: "Do we really want to allow the Middle East to be engulfed by violance for another ten or 15 years?"
Getty Images

Mideast negotiating partners -- Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem: "Do we really want to allow the Middle East to be engulfed by violance for another ten or 15 years?"

Abdullah: Again, I believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a more serious problem. If we don't make decisive progress in the next six or seven months, we won't be in a position to achieve anything for at least the next four or five years. We do need American involvement to solve this issue, and, whether we like it or not, it will be at least two years before the next American president is in a position to re-tackle this problem. We must, therefore, use the coming months as our last opportunity. Or do we really want to allow the Middle East to be engulfed by violence for another 10 or 15 years?

SPIEGEL: The next big conference on the Middle East will take place in the US city of Annapolis in two weeks. What do you expect?

Abdullah: We are concerned about how little we know about the details of this conference. All the information is very general. If it's still so vague at the start of the conference, I fear we'll be in for some surprises in Annapolis. It's high time we knew more about the concrete agenda.

SPIEGEL: Is Israel reluctant to agree to a concrete agenda?

Abdullah: What I hear from Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, is positive. I'm not so sure about those around him. Olmert and President Mahmud Abbas have a good relationship and they both see where this needs to go. I just hope the negotiating teams come up with strategies that enable us to make progress in Annapolis.

SPIEGEL: What surprises are you concerned about? A return to the so-called "Jordanian solution" -- a federation of Jordan and the West Bank?

Graphic: The Middle East's atomic ambitions

Graphic: The Middle East's atomic ambitions

Abdullah: The Jordanian solution is not a solution, absolutely not. It will not be accepted by Arab world or by the Palestinians. It would be an outrage. Israel would embarrass itself with such a suggestion and be put in a very difficult position.

SPIEGEL: For some time now, many Arab countries have been talking about their desire to start a nuclear program. Why has that happened all of a sudden?

Abdullah: Take a look at the price of oil. This is not anything new. Countries such as Jordan have been talking to the West about the use of nuclear energy for two, three years. The price of oil is a major economic hurdle in Jordan, so I think we need to move quickly. Of course, all of this must be transparent and in agreement with the relevant international organizations. I hope that none of the countries in the Middle East are planning anything but the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy.

SPIEGEL: Iran, too?

Abdullah: Not the Arab countries, in any case. Iran, I believe, does have aspirations to develop nuclear weapons. The Iranians themselves are saying that. But we have to avoid any ambiguity. After all, Jordan already has one neighbor with nuclear capabilities.

SPIEGEL: Israel, which has not officially admitted that it has nuclear weapons.

Abdullah: I think we need to have transparency from all the countries in the region. For the safety of all of us.

SPIEGEL: Do you have a concrete schedule for your nuclear program?

Abdullah: We're fortunate to be sitting on 3 percent of the world's uranium reserves, and we have very high quality uranium here in Jordan. That makes nuclear energy all the more interesting for us. So, yes, we do have a nuclear program, and we'll probably do it through the private sector.

SPIEGEL: Even years ago, you warned about the strengthening Shiite nations and the emergence of a "Shiite Crescent." Has history proven you to be correct?

Abdullah: Our major concern was that one country was using Shiite Islam, in other words, religion, as a political tool. Today we have countries that we regard either as moderate or extreme. The moderate countries are Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf states. On the other side you have Iran, Syria and, to a certain extent, Hamas in Gaza und Hezbollah in Lebanon. I hope that the peace process and the dividends it brings will help us to relieve such tensions.

SPIEGEL: Your Majesty, we thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Martin Doerry, Gerhard Spörl and Bernhard Zand.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Czech counter-intelligence accomplishments appear at Radio Praha

BIS, the Czech counterintelligence service, seems to use state radio to brag about its accomplishments and help push foreign policy from time to time. For example, I came across a recent story: Czech intelligence: Half of Russia’s diplomats in the Czech Republic are spies, about how the Russians are abusing their privileges in the republic by stacking their diplomatic, journalistic, and commercial establishments with intelligence officers. That led me to last year's article (below) about how BIS had thwarted DPRK efforts to acquire nuclear technology from Czech sources.

Don't forget foreign sources when searching for information about your topic. The BBC and Reuters aren't the only informative foreign news services, for example. And the Russian and Chinese foreign ministries are particularly content rich, if biased.

[13 November 2006] By Linda Mastalir, Radio Praha

Over the weekend, BIS, the Czech intelligence agency, made a surprising announcement: North Korean agents have made three known attempts to purchase component parts for their nuclear program from Czech sources within the past year.

Such successes are not always reported, but BIS has revealed that during 2005 it detected and stopped three attempts by North Korean agents to purchase special equipment intended to enhance North Korea's nuclear arms program. In each case, employees of North Korean companies visiting the Czech Republic expressed interest in specialized dual-use machines and their spare parts.

Experts say that North Korea desires the special equipment for production of both conventional and nuclear weapons, as well as their launchers. The technology in question would enable North Korea to produce a much smaller nuclear weapon than its current technology allows. The compatible launchers could then send the smaller nuclear warheads much farther abroad.

BIS spokesman Jan Subrt says that in 2005 the Czech secret service managed to stop three export deals destined for North Korea. When the first attempt to buy and export the equipment failed, North Korea reportedly tried to make the purchase via a third, unnamed country. According to the counter-intelligence agency, North Korea has shown a consistent interest in the Czech Republic as a source country for the equipment.
Despite protests over a series of missile tests it conducted in July, North Korea conducted an underground test of a nuclear weapon on October 9. The move led to a United Nations Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea, and strict inspection of cargo headed into and out of the country. The technology at the centre of the latest revelations has been on the Czech Republic's export-ban list since 2003.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pennsylvania Nuke News Notes has an interesting article on the "Nuclear Renaissance" and how to invest in the industry at the various points along the fuel cycle. It suggests that Americans have renewed interest in nuclear energy, after several scares thirty years ago -- the film China Syndrome, Three-Mile Island (near Harrisburg, PA), and Chernobyl in the Soviet Ukraine. All of the same talking points, interestingly enough, are covered in an article released at about the same time in The Mankato Free Press.

Speaking of Three Mile Island, one of its reactors showed a possible decrease in pressure during a maintenance outage, so the owner, Exelon Corp, had to file an unusual activity report with the NRC. A news report says that Exelon decided it was an erroneous reading of the gauges, not a problem with the reactor. Such events are often reported in the press.

Under the category Not In My Backyard, or maybe better, If You Don't Build It, They Won't Come, The Patriot News is happy with its 1998 suggestion that Pennsylvania hold out for other states to take our nuclear waste. They opposed a search for nuclear storage facilities within Pennsylvania and feel vindicated that their sit tight posture is paying off -- the high grade materials can stay temporarily onsite at nuclear power plants (that's not in Pennsylvania, really) and the low grade stuff is losing its home at Barnwell but can probably be sent to a facility in Utah or a new one being considered in Texas. The article suggests that nuclear waste is on the decline, but they've not read the advocacy articles above, evidently.

Curtiss-Wright Corp's Electro-mechanical Division has received a $440k grant from Penn Dept of Community and Economic Development towards building a USD 62 million plant in Cheswick, Pa. The plant will manufacture 16 nuclear reactor coolant pumps under a contract with Westinghouse. Cheswick is in Allegheny County.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Iran Hands IAEA Nuclear Blueprints

By GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press Writer Tues. Nov 13, 4:21 PM ET

VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- Iran has met a key demand of the U.N. nuclear agency, handing over long-sought blueprints showing how to mold uranium metal into the shape of warheads, diplomats said Tuesday.

Iran's decision to release the documents, which were seen by U.N. inspectors two years ago, was seen as a concession designed to head off the threat of new U.N. sanctions.

But the diplomats said Tehran has failed to meet other requests made by the International Atomic Energy Agency in its attempts to end nearly two decades of nuclear secrecy on the part of Iran.

The diplomats spoke to The Associated Press as IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei put the finishing touches on his latest report to his agency's 35-nation board of governors for consideration next week. While ElBaradei is expected to say that Iran has improved its cooperation with his agency's probe, the findings are unlikely to deter the United States, France and Britain from pushing for a third set of U.N. sanctions.

The agency has been seeking possession of the blueprints since 2005, when it stumbled upon them among a batch of other documents during its examination of suspect Iranian nuclear activities. While agency inspectors had been allowed to examine them in the country, Tehran had up to now refused to let the IAEA have a copy for closer perusal.

Diplomats accredited to the agency, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were divulging confidential information, said the drawings were hand-carried by Mohammad Saeedi, deputy director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization and handed over last week in Vienna to Oli Heinonen, an ElBaradei deputy in charge of the Iran investigations.

Iran maintains it was given the papers without asking for them during its black market purchases of nuclear equipment decades ago that now serve as the backbone of its program to enrich uranium - a process that can generate both power or create the fissile core of nuclear warheads. Iran's refusal to suspend enrichment has been the main trigger for both existing U.N. sanctions and the threat of new ones.

Both the IAEA and other experts have categorized the instructions outlined in the blueprints as having no value outside of a nuclear weapons program.

While ElBaradei's report is likely to mention the Iranian concession on the drawings and other progress made in clearing up ambiguities in Iran's nuclear activities, it was unclear whether it would also detail examples of what the diplomats said were continued Iranian stonewalling.

Senior IAEA officials were refused interviews with at least two top Iranian nuclear officials suspected of possible involvement in a weapons program, they said. One was the leader of a physics laboratory at Lavizan, outside Tehran, which was razed before the agency had a chance to investigate activities there. The other was in charge of developing Iran's centrifuges, used to enrich uranium.