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    U.S. retains right for nuclear tests if necessary - official

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    The United States reserves the right to conduct nuclear tests in the future, but hopes it will not be necessary, a U.S. government official said Wednesday.

    MOSCOW, March 14 (RIA Novosti) - The United States reserves the right to conduct nuclear tests in the future, but hopes it will not be necessary, a U.S. government official said Wednesday.

    U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Clay Sell is currently on a visit to Russia to participate in the work of the U.S.-Russia Energy Working Group and to discuss key energy cooperation issues between the two countries.

    Sell said at a meeting in the Carnegie Center in Moscow that the U.S. will retain its right to test its nuclear weapons, although it hopes such testing will never be necessary.

    The U.S. is part to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that prohibits any nuclear weapon test explosion in any environment, but has not yet ratified the document.

    Drafted at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, and adopted by the U.N. General Assembly September 10, 1996, the treaty was opened for signature September 24, 1996 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

    To date, 177 States have signed the CTBT and 138 States have ratified it. To enter into force, however, the CTBT must be signed and ratified by the 44 states listed in Annex 2 to the treaty.

    Thirty-four of those states have ratified the treaty, including three nuclear weapons states - France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom. The 10 remaining states are China, Colombia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States of America.

    The U.S. official said that the United States is interested in reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world, but that while such weapons exist, the country needs to maintain and upgrade its stockpiles.

    He also addressed the importance of U.S. - Russia nuclear non-proliferation cooperation through the Bratislava Nuclear Security Initiative and Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.

    Under the 2005 Bratislava Nuclear Security Cooperation Initiative, the United States and Russia agreed to expand bilateral efforts to improve nuclear security by completing security upgrades by the end of 2008, stepping up work on repatriating highly-enriched uranium fuel from research reactors in third countries and converting these reactors to use low-enriched uranium fuel, and cooperating on nuclear emergency response.

    The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), announced by United States Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman February 6, 2006, is a program to form an international partnership to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and use new proliferation-resistant technologies to recover more energy and reduce waste.

    The Deputy Energy Secretary said the United States shares Russia's approach to the problem of funding the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, but will support the project only if the Russian nuclear fuel shipped to the NPP is used exclusively for peaceful purposes and spent fuel is returned to Russia.

    However, Sell reiterated that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons by using modern technologies, which allow spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants to be reprocessed into weapon-grade plutonium.

    The Deputy Secretary's visit to Moscow is the first stop on a trip that will also take him to Ukraine and Georgia, where he will discuss global energy security and nuclear non-proliferation with senior officials.

    Sell also said that Russia's Minister of Industry and Energy Viktor Khristenko will visit the United States in May to discuss G8 global energy principles in advancing energy security and continuing efforts to ensure strict adherence to the non-proliferation regime.

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