Posted Jan. 23, 2015 @ 8:00 pm
Kimberley J. Schisler
Posted Jan. 23, 2015 @ 8:00 pm
The move, announced Saturday by the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, comes after US lawmakers said they were planning legislation that could place new sanctions on Iran.
The negotiations between Iran and the permanent members of the UN Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany, face a June 30 deadline for a final deal.
But with two deadlines already missed last year both sides have admitted big differences remain on the hard detail of what a comprehensive agreement would look like.
Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, committee spokesperson in Tehran, told the ISNA news agency that draft legislation was underway.
“The parliament’s nuclear committee is working on the technical issues and details of this draft,” he added.
A key stumbling block in any final deal is thought to be the amount of uranium Iran would be allowed to enrich and the number and type of centrifuges Tehran can retain.
Under an interim deal, Iran’s stock of fissile material has been diluted from 20% enriched uranium to five per cent in exchange for limited sanctions relief.
Tehran insists its nuclear programme is for domestic energy production and that more modern centrifuges are necessary to make fuel for a fleet of power reactors that it is yet to build.
With the talks seemingly deadlocked, the new Republican-controlled US Congress is considering fresh legislation that could level new sanctions on Iran if talks fail.
US President Barack Obama has said he will veto any move to adopt new sanctions but a White House spokesperson said Friday the “likelihood of success” in the nuclear talks is “at best 50/50.”
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, leader of Tehran’s nuclear negotiators, has warned that his president, Hassan Rouhani, unlike Obama, does not have veto powers over parliament.
Zarif, speaking to political and business leaders in Davos Friday, added: “Now is the time for the international community to stand firm against (the threat of new sanctions) that will unravel an extremely important achievement.”
The Private Office Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr
His Eminence Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr met, on Monday, with the commission tasked to apply the items written by His Eminence to defend the Great Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) who was sent by Allah Almighty to the justice and the rejection of injustice for everybody.
One of the many monuments dedicated to Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud — more commonly known as King Abdullah of Saudia Arabia, whose 10-year reign over the Middle Eastern oil giant ended with his death on Friday — is the independent renewable and nuclear energy organization founded under his name.
The King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, or Ka-Care, was established by royal decree in 2010, with the nominal aim of “[B]uilding a sustainable future for Saudi Arabia by developing a substantial alternative energy capacity fully supported by world-class local industries.”
It was a tactical move. King Abdullah was well-known for working to keep oil prices high enough to sustain lucrative revenues for the world’s second largest oil producer, but low enough to keep international customers thirsty for petroleum. But he also knew that the oil treadmill could quickly prove unsustainable for the kingdom, which has a booming population and rapidly increasing electricity needs — particularly for energy-intensive technologies like water desalination, on which Saudi Arabia greatly depends.
The stakes were made abundantly clear in a sobering 2011 report from Chatham House, the London-based international affairs think tank. That analysis was stark in its conclusions: “Saudi Arabia’s energy consumption pattern is unsustainable,” the authors declared. “The country currently consumes over one-quarter of its total oil production – some 2.8 million barrels a day. This means that on a ‘business as usual’ trajectory it would become a net oil importer in 2038.
London’s Chatham House warned in 2011 that Saudi Arabia could become a net importer of oil in just a couple of decades. (Chart: Chatham House)
“No one is suggesting this is the most likely outcome,” the report added, “but the possibility does signal the urgency of the need for change.”
In 2012, Ka-Care seemed to respond to the challenge, laying out plans to build some 41 gigawatts of solar power ahead of that 2038 time frame. It also suggested it would develop more than 20 gigwatts worth of geothermal and wind power, and it established plans to construct 16 nuclear power plants with 17 gigawatts of capacity over the next 20 years, according to the World Nuclear Association, a trade group.
At the moment, Saudi Arabia’s electricity is produced almost exclusively by burning oil and natural gas.
The nuclear end of things had been progressing steadily, with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Toshiba/Westinghouse penning deals in 2013 with Exelon Nuclear Partners, the nuclear arm of Exelon Generation, to seek out construction agreements with Ka-Care, which was to begin soliciting bids in 2014.
Those plans began to drag last year, however, and with the steady decline in oil prices seeming to sap any sense of urgency in the kingdom’s power markets, official delays seemed inevitable. The first signs came to fruition on Monday, just days before King Abdullah’s passing, when the president of Ka-Care announced revisions in the timeframe for its ambitious upgrades.
“The plan started by looking at 20 years down the road, with the year 2032 as the major milestone for long-term planning,” Hashim Yamani, president of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, was quoted as saying at an energy conference in Abu Dhabi. “Recently, however, we have revised the outlook together with our stakeholders to focus on 2040 as the major milestone for long-term energy planning in Saudi Arabia.”
Among other things, the delays put the brakes on a much-anticipated, $109 billion solar plant that was slated to produce nearly one-third of the nation’s electricity by 2032. The move prompted market consultancy IHS to downgrade its outlook for near-term photovoltaic installations in the country, though it added that “in the long-term, the argument to reduce oil consumption remains valid, for which IHS expects Saudi to deploy the bulk of new [photovoltaic] capacity in the period from 2020 to 2040.”
Still, it remains to be seen how the country’s energy diversification plan will proceed with the passing of its key booster. As it stands, Saudi Arabia’s population has exploded over the last 50 years, growing from just 4 million in 1960 to nearly 30 million today. The nation ranks among the world’s highest per-capita energy consumers, just behind the United States.
Tom Zeller Jr. has written on energy and environment for The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, HuffPost and Bloomberg View. You can follow him on Twitter @tomzellerjr.
The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947. It has changed 18 times since then, ranging from two minutes to midnight in 1953 to 17 minutes before midnight in 1991.
The clock has been at five minutes to midnight since 2012 and the last time it was three minutes to midnight was in 1983, during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.
“Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity,” Benedict said.
The scientists called on people to demand action from their leaders to curb fossil fuel pollution and to stop developing ever more modern nuclear weapons that are endangering the planet.
“We are not saying it is too late to take action, but the window for action is closing rapidly. The world needs to be awakened from its lethargy and start making changes,” Benedict said.
Such actions should cap greenhouse gas emissions at levels sufficient to keep average global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, the group said.
“Efforts at reducing global emissions of heat-trapping gases have so far been entirely insufficient,” said Richard Somerville, a member of the Science and Security Board, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and a distinguished professor emeritus and research professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego.
“Unless much greater emissions reductions occur very soon, the countries of the world will have emitted enough carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by the end of this century to profoundly transform the Earth’s climate,” he said, noting that 2014 was the hottest on record and that the tipping point of ice loss in west Antarctica has been reached, meaning the melt is now unstoppable.
The climate changes that human are driving “will harm millions of people and will threaten many key ecological systems on which civilization relies,” he said.
Benedict said that the world has about 16,300 nuclear weapons, which she described as “far too many.”
While the United States and Russia have far fewer weapons today than they did during the Cold War, the disarmament process has “ground to a halt,” said Sharon Squassoni, member, Science and Security Board, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and director of the Proliferation Prevention Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Meanwhile, the United States has invested big money in modernizing its nuclear weapons systems, with some US$355 billion planned for the next decade, and Russia is also upgrading its nuclear weapons, Squassoni said.
The United Kingdom has halved its nuclear arsenal stockpile since 2010 but continues to support its nuclear submarine program.
France is also building a next generation air-to-ground nuclear missile, while China is developing a new class of ballistic missile submarines, she said.
India has plans to expand its nuclear submarine fleet and Pakistan has started a third plutonium reactor and is developing a new short-range nuclear missile.
“Israel reportedly is also modernizing some of its undeclared nuclear forces and North Korea as we all know continues its nuclear program without any of the restraints previously applied under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” Squassoni told reporters.
She said that any post-nuclear optimism that arose at the end of Cold War “has essentially evaporated.”