Nuclear Energy


RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has urged Iran to avoid escalation in its standoff with the West over its nuclear program and called for a solution that would allow Tehran to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes.

King Abdullah’s remarks, published on Thursday, come a week after Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said Iran’s Gulf neighbors were willing to set up a body to provide it with enriched uranium.

“The world fears that Iran’s nuclear program will lead to developing nuclear weapons. Iran has announced its nuclear program is intended for peaceful use,” the king said in an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine, carried by the official Saudi news agency SPA.

“If this is the case, then we don’t see any justification for escalation, confrontation and challenge, which only makes issues more complicated.”

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries share U.S. concerns that Iran’s nuclear energy program is a cover for developing nuclear weapons. Iran insists its plans are peaceful.

Gulf states have announced plans to begin their own nuclear energy program, raising concern over an arms race in the world’s top oil exporting region.

Full article here.  In a nutshell, the Saudis are hoping that hostilities won’t break out between Iran and the U.S. because it will likely interfere with the legitimate plans of governments within the Gulf States region to build nuclear energy plants to help them meet growing electricity demand there.

Algeria, Jordan, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are all gearing up for atomic power.  If nations in the largest oil-producing region of the world are placing their bets on nuclear energy, it does give one pause, doesn’t it?  But they’re just following the course of certain other developed nations … China and Japan are already well on their way to becoming more reliant on nuclear energy; France is producing 80 percent of its electrical needs with it; Belgium, 70 percent; and even Lithuania, 90 percent.

And the U.S.?  Still stuck in the mud, we’re afraid.

The United States will Thursday order sanctions against the Iranian military, media reports said a day after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice singled out Iran as the biggest threat to US security.Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson are to designate Iran’s elite Quds force as a supporter of terrorism and its Revolutionary Guards as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction, triggering economic sanctions, the Washington Post and New York Times reported.

The sanctions allow efforts to financially isolate Iran’s military and press hundreds of foreign companies doing business with it to back out or risk US sanctions, the newspapers reported.

These will be the broadest sanctions imposed on Iran since the country’s Islamic revolution in 1979 and comes as the international community is embroiled in a mounting standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

Full article here. The announcement comes after this weekend’s surprising news that Ali Larijani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, had been removed from his post by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Larijani’s removal was jarring, in part, because it seemed to signal that hard-liners in the Iranian government were asserting their control over the nuclear issue; Larijani is widely seen as a moderate who desired constructive dialogue with the United States.

Javier Solana, Secretary-General of the European Union, suggests that the hard-liners might nevertheless be having a hard time taking control of the nuclear issue:

Iran’s former top nuclear negotiator, replaced this weekend in a surprise announcement in Tehran, nevertheless maintained his authority and leadership in talks with the EU in Rome, the European Union foreign policy chief was quoted as saying Thursday.

The EU’s Javier Solana met with Ali Larijani, the former negotiator, and his successor, Saeed Jalili, for a session in Rome Tuesday. The three met again briefly on Wednesday.

“Here I found the same Larijani I had met before, and he had the role of chief negotiator,” Solana was quoted as saying in an interview with Rome daily La Repubblica.

“I have to say that the meeting was chiefly with Larijani, who clearly was the group leader and maintained his authority and the leadership in the negotiations,” added Solana.

During a news conference, too, Larijani took the lead in fielding questions from reporters.

Full article here.

MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Iran must be encouraged to make its nuclear program fully transparent, but also underscored there is no proof it is pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

”We are sharing our partners’ concern about making all Iranian programs transparent,” Putin said at a news conference after talks with visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy. ”We agreed yesterday, and Mr. President confirmed it, that Iran is making certain steps toward international community to achieve that.”

Putin is to make his first visit to Iran early next week for a summit of Caspian Sea nations.

Sarkozy said Putin’s trip to Tehran could encourage Iran to be more cooperative. ”After the trip, there could be a will to cooperate — that is essential,” he said.

Russia has opposed the U.S.-push for tougher sanctions against Iran and called for more checks and inspections of Iranian facilities by an international nuclear watchdog.

”We have worked cooperatively with our partners at the United Nations Security Council, and we intend to continue such cooperative work in the future,” Putin said.

But he said with no ”objective data” showing Iran is developing nuclear weapons, ”we proceed from an assumption that Iran has no such plans.”

Full article here (login required). The cozier these two nations get, the more I wonder …

Oil hit an all-time high of $80.36 last week, and OPEC surprised some observers by cautiously raising oil production by 500,000 bpd — subject, says Iran’s oil minister Gholam Hossein Nozari, to a clawback if the rise in production leads to lower prices.

Meanwhile, Iran is dealing with its own energy crisis:

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that petrol rationing in Iran will only lead to a 10% reduction in demand at best and not the 30% decrease that the Iranian government is hoping for, reported Gulf News. Iran has to import large amounts of petrol to meet local demand as it lacks the refining capacity to produce sufficient quantities itself. Petrol imports cost Iran around $5bn last year.

Jordan wants to alleviate oil consumption by bringing on line its first nuclear power station within ten years:

Jordanian Nuclear Energy Authority DG Zyad Al Qada said the kingdom is considering its power requirements post 2015 but electricity generation via other fuels will still provide 75% of the country’s needs. Meanwhile, Al Qada revealed uranium has been found in six locations in Jordan.

And even Qatar is looking into alternative energy:

Qatar Fuel may consider offering liquefied petroleum gas as an alternative vehicle fuel to the public, reported The Peninsula. Woqod, the sole distributor of LPG in Qatar, has teamed up with Mowasalat to launch the first LPG-fuelled taxi in Qatar. Mark Vidler, Marketing Manager of Woqod, said the company would consider offering LPG, also called Autogas, as an alternative fuel to the public if the experiment with Mowasalat is deemed a success.

Via AMEInfo.  And still we’re burning oil like there’s no tomorrow.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said enriched uranium is ready for transportation from Russia to its nuclear power plant at Bushehr, according to the AP citing Iranian state television. The announcement follows talks between Mottaki and Russia’s Sergei Kiriyenko, the Head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, in Moscow regarding delays in completing the $1bn joint Iranian-Russian plant. Russia has blamed a lack of payments by Iran for the delays.

Via AMEInfo.

Russia could consider helping Saudi Arabia with its possible atomic energy programme, President Vladimir Putin told local businessmen, Reuters reported. Saudi Arabia and other GCC member states said in December they had ordered a study on a possible joint civil atomic programme. Russia has previously helped Iran set up a nuclear power plant.

Via AMEInfo.

Jordan’s King Abdullah has said he would like his country to develop a nuclear energy programme according to an interview with an Israeli newspaper cited by the AP. Abdullah has previously sought a nuclear free Middle east but he now feels the situation has changed. The US is believed to be supportive but Israeli analysts do not feel the kingdom has the resources to develop the programme.

Via AMEInfo.

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