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Weapons proliferation and other risks in USA’s marketing of nuclear technology to China

Buy-US-nukesUS nuclear deal with China raises proliferation concerns, Guardian  12 May 15 
Critics of Obama agreement are worried about Beijing’s growing naval power “……..
The deal would allow Beijing to buy more US-designed reactors and pursue a facility or the technology to reprocess plutonium from spent fuel. China would also be able to buy reactor coolant technology that experts say could be adapted to make its submarines quieter and harder to detect.

The formal notice’s unheralded release on 21 April reflected the administration’s anxiety that it might alarm members of Congress and nonproliferation experts who fear China’s growing naval power – and the possibility of nuclear technology falling into the hands of third parties with nefarious intentions.

Now, however, Congress is turning its attention to the agreement. The Senate foreign relations committee was set to hear from five Obama officials in a closed-door meeting on Monday to weigh the commercial, political and security implications of extending the accord. The private session permitted discussion of a classified addendum from the director of national intelligence analysing China’s nuclear export control system and what Obama’s notification called its “interactions with other countries of proliferation concern”.

The White House’s willingness to push ahead with the nuclear accord with Beijing illustrates the evolving relationship between the world’s two largest powers, which, while eyeing each other with mutual suspicion and competitiveness, also view each other as vital economic and strategic global partners. The Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade group, argues that the agreement will clear the way for US companies to sell dozens of nuclear reactors to China, the biggest nuclear power market in the world……..

The US has bilateral 123 agreements with 22 countries, plus Taiwan, for the peaceful use of nuclear power. Some countries that do not have such agreements, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Malaysia, have expressed interest in clearing obstacles to building nuclear reactors…………..

In December 2006, Westinghouse Electric — majority-owned by Toshiba — signed an agreement to sell its AP1000 reactors to China. Four are under construction, six more are planned, and the company hopes to sell 30 others, according to an April report from the Congressional Research Service.

When it comes to nuclear weapons proliferation, China is in a different category from other 123 agreement nations. It first tested a nuclear weapon in 1964 and now has an arsenal of about 250 nuclear warheads. So US concerns have focused more on whether China has transferred technology to other countries.

“Concerns persist about Chinese willingness as well as ability to detect and prevent illicit transfers,” the CRS report said. “Missile proliferation from Chinese entities is a continuing concern.” The US wants China to refrain from selling missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons, a payload of 499kg, as far as 305km. A State Department compliance report in 2014 said that Chinese entities continued to supply missile programmes in “countries of concern”.

China has a pilot plant engaged in reprocessing in Jiu Quan, a remote desert town in Gansu province. Satellite photos show that it is next to a former military reprocessing plant, according to Frank von Hippel, a Princeton University physics professor who specialises in nuclear arms control. There is not even any fencing between the sites, he says. “That’s been one of the hang-ups of the (reprocessing) deal” that China has been trying to negotiate with France for several years, von Hippel said.

Sokolski said the agreement proposed by Obama lacks a requirement for explicit, case-by-case US permission for a reprocessing project using American technology or material from US reactors. It gives consent in advance. And he fears that over the 30-year life of the new 123 agreement, China might want to compete with Russian and US arsenals and make more bombs, for which plutonium is the optimal material…………http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/may/12/us-china-nuclear-deal-proliferation-concerns

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May 13, 2015 - Posted by | marketing, USA

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