Nuclear part of a complete energy mix

Getting serious about climate change means shifting positions on the role of nuclear power.

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IAEA Chief Calls on Iran to Explain Traces of Nuclear Material ‘Found in Places They Shouldn’t Be’


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Tehran formally scrapped its voluntary adherence to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Additional Protocol on Monday after the expiration of a deadline set by Iran’s parliament for other parties to the Iran nuclear deal to meet their obligations. The protocol had allowed the IAEA to carry out snap checks of Iran’s nuclear facilities.

IAEA director-general Rafael Grossi has called on Iran to explain traces of nuclear material including uranium which he said to had been found at suspected undeclared nuclear facilities.


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Iran strikes deal with UN nuclear watchdog as Tehran prepares to cut inspections

The UN nuclear watchdog said on Sunday it had struck a deal with Iran to cushion the blow of steps Tehran plans to take this week that include ending snap inspections, with both sides agreeing to keep “necessary” monitoring for up to three months.The announcement by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi, made at Vienna airport after a weekend trip to Iran, confirmed that Tehran would go ahead with its plan to slash cooperation with the agency on Tuesday.Iran has been gradually…

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Biden ready to resume nuclear deal talks with Iran: State Department

Washington: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told European allies on Thursday that President Joe Biden’s administration was prepared to talk to Iran about both countries returning to a 2015 deal that aims to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon.

The Trump administration quit the pact in 2018.

In August last year former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had triggered a 30-day process at the Security Council that led to the return of UN sanctions on Iran and stopped a conventional arms embargo on Tehran from expiring on October 18.

The Trump administration argued it had triggered the return of sanctions – known as “snapback” – because a UN resolution that enshrined the 2015 nuclear pact still named the United States as a participant


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Iran warns over nuclear commitments

Iran will further scale back its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal if other parties to the pact fail to fulfill their obligations, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman says.

“We have no option but to respect the law. It does not mean ending all inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said, referring to an Iranian law that obliges the government to harden its nuclear stance.

On February 21, the law obliges the government to end the sweeping inspection powers given to the UN nuclear watchdog under the 2015 deal and limiting inspections to declared nuclear sites only.

US President Joe Biden’s administration is weighing a wide array of ideas on how to revive the Iranian nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers, which was abandoned by former US President Donald Trump in 2018. Trump reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran.

In response, Tehran has breached the deal’s key limits, enriching uranium to 20 per cent – above a 3.67 per cent cap but below the 90 per cent needed for weapons – expanding its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, and using advanced centrifuges for enrichment.

When asked about Iran’s intelligence minister’s comments last week that persistent Western pressure could push Tehran to fight back like a “cornered cat” and seek nuclear weapons, Khatibzadeh said that “Iran has not sought and will never seek nuclear weapons”.

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Iran won’t return to nuclear commitments until US lifts sanctions, Khamenei says – POLITICO

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the United States must lift all sanctions against the country if it wants it to halt Tehran’s nuclear expansion.

Writing on Twitter on Sunday, he claimed that Iran “abided by all its commitments” under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In contrast, he said, the U.S., the United Kingdom, France and Germany — four of the original parties to the pact along with Russia and China — breached theirs.

“If they want Iran to return to its commitments, the United States must lift all sanctions first,” he added.

The U.S. withdrew from the deal under former President Donald Trump and reinstated crippling sanctions on Iran, which responded by breaching the terms of the JCPOA step by step. The new Biden administration has signaled it could rejoin the accord if Tehran returns to compliance with the pact.

Khamenei’s comments came after U.S. media outlets reported on Saturday that Joe Biden was looking for a way to reengage with Iran without lifting key sanctions.

On Saturday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also called on Washington to return to the deal quickly as an Iranian parliamentary bill will force Tehran to take a tougher stance on nuclear matters if U.S. sanctions are not eased by February 21.

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Government, Qantas bring nuclear medicine to Perth

Government research organisation ANSTO, Qantas and Perth Children’s Hospital have synced their operations to bring a dose of Iodine 123 from Japan to the hospital today.

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Nuclear weapons, some enabled from Pine Gap, on wrong side of law


As of Friday, 22 January 2021, Australia will be on the wrong side of international law. This is the day the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons comes into force, having attained last October the threshold ratification by 50 member states of the United Nations.

Honduras was the 50th on 25 October, 2020; the 51st, Benin, followed on 11 December. The very first was The Vatican (Holy See) in September 2017.

A total of 86 countries have signed the treaty, the first step towards ratification. Australia isn’t one of them. Indeed, under the present government Australia has stood in the way of the development of the ban treaty and of debate in the Australian parliament about it.

This puts our country in conflict with its obligation – under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which it is a party – to pursue negotiations on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament.

If it were pursuing such measures,  Australia’s “greatest contribution”, argues the Nobel laureate ICAN – the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons – would be to renounce any role for nuclear weapons in the defence of the country and to join the ban treaty.

Under the treaty, Australia would have to desist from helping the United States with the possible use of its nuclear weapons, which is where the  issue becomes particularly relevant to Central Australia.

As Professor Richard Tanter has explained previously in the Alice Springs News, the American military base we host at Pine Gap has a critical role in US nuclear command, control and intelligence. This is specific to a discrete facility at the base, the Relay Ground Station (RGS) in the western compound.

He argues that an Australian Government, to become compliant with the ban treaty, could require the closure of the RGS without impacting the rest of the base, and that this is technically and strategically achievable without throwing the alliance into crisis.

The Relay Ground Station at Pine Gap. Far from closing, it is currently being expanded. Google Earth image, ©2020 Maxar Technologies, July 2020.

There is no hint of interest in going down this path from the present Australian Government. However, this might change with a future Labor government, the Labor Party having committed to sign and ratify the treaty. Indeed, Labor leader Anthony Albanese – who has described nuclear weapons as “the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created” – will speak at one the national events celebrating the treaty coming into force.

On the impact that ratifying the treaty could have on the alliance with the US he told the party’s national conference in 2018:

“I am a very strong supporter of our friends and our alliance with the United States, it goes beyond a relation between individuals. The fact is that we can disagree with our friends in the short term, while maintaining those relations.

“When other treaties such as landmines first came up, the United States and many other countries that ended up supporting it today were hostile to the idea.”

The present government, however, refuses to give serious consideration to the ban treaty – dispensing with it in just one paragraph on the Department of Foreign Affairs website, a paragraph “riddled with misrepresentations”, according to ICAN, which has published a succinct document to answer each, titled For the record.

This refusal puts us out of step with other allies and friends in the region: most of our Pacific neighbours have ratified the treaty, including Aotearoa-New Zealand.

Our immediate large neighbours to the north, Indonesia and The Philippines, have signed the treaty. Some south Asian states, like Bangladesh and Malaysia, have ratified it. 

No country with a nuclear arsenal has signed, nor have most NATO members, nor many of their military allies; on the contrary, they mostly boycotted the negotiations, which left the field largely to the countries of the Global South, typically excluded from playing a role in nuclear policy discussions.

Of the non-aligned EU member states, Austria and Ireland have ratified the treaty. Indeed, Austria has taken a leading role in negotiations and will host the first meeting of the “states parties” to the treaty within the year. Non-states parties could attend as observers.

One of the obligations the treaty places on its states parties is to seek universality, meaning that they must work to get states that are not party to the treaty to sign on and ratify.

Australia could thus come under increasing pressure at international and regional fora.

Meanwhile the treaty has popular support, says Gem Romuld, Australian director of ICAN, citing an IPSOS poll which asked whether Australia should sign and ratify the treaty: 71% answered yes (20% were unsure, 9% said no).

She says dozens of unions, religious, medical, humanitarian and environmental organisations have joined the movement to push for Australian ratification of the treaty, including the Australian Medical Association, Australian Red Cross and Australian Council of Trade Unions.

Some 88 federal parliamentarians have pledged to work for Australia to join the ban and some local governments are getting involved. In Hobart, for instance, the Lord Mayor will host a reception to celebrate the entry into force of the treaty.

In Alice Springs the Peace Action Think Tank (ASPATT) will host a film night this Saturday to raise awareness and mobilise support for Australia to ratify the treaty, while celebrating the historic occasion.

The 1989 film Fat Man and Little Boy, starring Paul Newman in a story about the Manhattan Project – the secret endeavour during World War 11 to develop the first nuclear weapons – will screen at the Alice Springs Cinema, 6pm ($15 at the door, cash only). It will follow a short film featuring Karina Lester (pictured, photo supplied). She is a Yankuntjatjara/Pitjantjatjara second generation survivor of the nuclear tests at Maralinga, which devastated her Country and were believed to have blinded her father, Yami Lester OAM. 

Says ASPATT’s convenor Jonathan Pilbrow: “Unfortunately, the threat of nuclear weapons does not belong to a bygone era, but remains a present and real threat of our times.

“The most powerful way to honour the victims and survivors of nuclear weapons is to progress the elimination of these abhorrent weapons.

“It will be a step towards addressing some of the wrongs of the past, and ensuring Australia doesn’t legitimise the use of nuclear weapons in any circumstances.”


Images, at top: Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, photos by George R. Caron, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. Below: Aftermath of the bomb in Hiroshima, August 1945, photo by National Fire Service photographers, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. For an unforgettable account of what it was like to live through the bombing and into its aftermath, see Hiroshima by John Hersey, Penguin Classics, first published in the New Yorker in August 1946. 

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Treaty banning nuclear weapons hailed as it takes effect without signatures from major powers

An international treaty banning nuclear weapons took effect on Friday, but the milestone is marred by the lack of signatures from the world’s major nuclear powers.

Despite the missing participants, the occasion was marked by praise from the United Nations and even Pope Francis. 

“The Treaty is an important step towards the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and a strong demonstration of support for multilateral approaches to nuclear disarmament,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement. 

He praised “the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty in more than two decades,” and called on “all States to work together to realise this ambition to advance common security and collective safety”. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

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The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons seeks to prohibit the use, development, production, testing, stationing, stockpiling and threat of nuclear weapons. 

Pope Francis heralded the treaty’s enactment during his general audience on Wednesday.

“This is the first legally binding international instrument explicitly prohibiting these weapons, whose indiscriminate use would impact a huge number of people in a short time and would cause long-lasting damage to the environment,” the pope said. 

“I strongly encourage all States and all people to work decisively toward promoting conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons, contributing to the advancement of peace and multilateral cooperation which humanity greatly needs today.”

January 20, 2021 : Pope Francis during the weekly general audience with the crib in Apostolic Palace, at the Vatican EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS...

Pope Francis during the weekly general audience with the crib in Apostolic Palace, at the Vatican on 21 January, 2021.

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The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Mauer, echoed those sentiments. 

“Today is a victory for our common humanity. Let us seize the moment – and take the Treaty all the way to its goal: a world without nuclear weapons,” he said in a statement.

By late October, 50 countries had ratified the treaty – originally adopted by 122 countries in the UN General Assembly in 2017 – allowing it to take effect on Friday, or 90 days from the 50th signature. 

Anti-nuclear activists still hope that the treaty will be more than symbolic, even without the buy-in of the world’s greatest nuclear powers, by stigmatising nuclear programs and challenging the mentality of the status quo. 

There are a total of nine nuclear-armed nations, with the United States and Russia holding 90 per cent of such weapons. The others are China, France, Britain, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. 

Most nuclear powers insist their arms exist merely as deterrents and those that have refused to sign this treaty say they remain committed to the earlier nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

The Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons was drafted through an initiative by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), an NGO that won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts. 

Japan, the only country to have ever been targeted by a nuclear weapon, has for the moment also refused to sign the treaty, saying its effectiveness is dubious without the participation of the world’s nuclear powers. 

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Kim Jong-un Vows to Boost North Korea’s Nuclear Capability as Leverage With Biden

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, vowed to advance his country’s nuclear capabilities, declaring that it will build land- and submarine-launched solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as making its nuclear missiles smaller, lighter and more precise, the North’s state media reported on Saturday.

Mr. Kim’s declaration comes as President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. prepares to take office, succeeding President Trump. Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump met three times, but their meetings failed to produce a breakthrough​ in either ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program or lifting devastating sanctions the United Nations has imposed on the country for its weapons activities.

But despite his pledge to advance his country’s arsenal, Mr. Kim, speaking to the congress of his ruling Workers’ Party, said he did “not rule out diplomacy.” He said his effort to strengthen his country’s weapons capability was designed to gain leverage in dealing with Washington and its allies in order to “drive diplomacy in the right direction and guarantee its success” in achieving “peace” on the Korean Peninsula.

He said he would adjust his policy according to that of the incoming Biden administration, “responding to force with force, and to good will with good will.”

“Our external political activities must focus on controlling and subjugating the United States, our archenemy and the biggest stumbling block to the development of our revolution,” Mr. Kim said. “No matter who takes power in the United States, its true nature and its policy toward our country will never change.”

Mr. Kim’s comments, carried by the North’s Korean Central News Agency early Saturday, marked his first official reaction to the election of Mr. Biden to replace Mr. Trump.

Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump started their relationship with a blistering exchange of personal insults and threats, including Mr. Trump’s warning of “fire and fury.” Then they made a dramatic switch to diplomacy, meeting in Singapore in 2018 in the first-ever summit meeting between the two nations. Mr. Trump later said he “fell in love” with the North Korean dictator, who​ once called him a “mentally deranged U.S. ​dotard.”

During his report to the party congress, Mr. Kim laid out plans for making his nuclear weapons “small and light,” as well as continuing to build “super-large nuclear warheads,” the North Korean news agency said.

He also ordered his country to improve the precision of its intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as to develop long-range solid-fuel ballistic missiles to be launched from land and submarines. And he instructed his military to build a nuclear-powered submarine.

Solid-fuel and submarine-launched missiles are considered harder to detect for pre-emptive strikes, and North Korea has conducted numerous tests in recent years in an attempt to convert many of its shorter-range missiles from liquid to solid fuel.

It remains unclear how fast North Korea can achieve the ambitious weapons-development goals Mr. Kim has set.

When North Korea test-launched the Hwasong-15 in late 2017, it claimed the missile could reach any part of the continental United States carrying a nuclear warhead. Although North Korea flight-tested three intercontinental ballistic missiles​, all in 2017, it has yet to demonstrate whether it has the technology needed to protect a nuclear warhead during atmospheric re-entry and deliver the weapon to its target.

The party congress, the biggest political event in North Korea, ​was being closely watched by outside analysts for clues to how Mr. Kim may calibrate his policy toward Washington under the Biden administration.

Since his diplomacy with Mr. Trump collapsed, Mr. Kim has refrained from resuming nuclear or long-range missile tests. He appeared to wait out the November election in the United States, deciding not to provoke Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly touted his special “personal relationship” with the North Korean dictator.

But the display of a new​ and larger​ I.C.B.M. ​during a nighttime military parade in Pyongyang in October also was designed to demonstrate the North’s growing military threat and press whoever won the United States election to make concessions to North Korea, analysts said.

​Mr. Kim convened this week’s party congress amid mounting challenges at home.

When North Korea held its last party congress, in 2016, it was the first such gathering in 36 years and was Mr. Kim’s major coming-out event as leader. There, he adopted his ambitious five-year goals, promising to build a “great socialist country” by 2020 that would have both a nuclear arsenal and a growing economy.

Things have not transpired as Mr. Kim had hoped.

Since taking over his country following the 2011 death of his father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il, Mr. Kim has accelerated his country’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.

But the United Nations Security Council responded by imposing devastating sanctions, which caused its exports to plummet.

In his New Year’s message 12 months ago, Mr. Kim sounded defiant, saying his country would slog through the sanctions and build a “self-reliant” economy, even if that meant that his long-suffering people would have to “tighten our belts” again.

Soon afterward, however, North Korea was hit by the pandemic, which forced the country to close borders with China, its primary trading partner. Then came extensive flood damage.

When Mr. Kim opened the party congress on Tuesday, he conceded that his efforts to rebuild the country’s moribund economy had failed.

“Our five-year economic development plan has fallen greatly short of its goals in almost all sectors,” Mr. Kim said, as the country struggled with “a series of the worst of worst unprecedented crises.”

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