1. N. Korea, U.S. to Hold More Nuclear Talks This Month: Diplomat
Yonhap News Agency
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North Korea and the United States will hold a second bilateral meeting to discuss the stalled six-nation talks on the North's nuclear weapons programs, a senior Seoul diplomat said Monday.
The exact date for the meeting has not been set, but the two sides will meet sometime after this week's planned summit in Washington between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President Barack Obama, the diplomat said on the condition of anonymity.
North Korean and U.S. officials met in New York in late July to gauge the possibility of resuming the six-party talks, which also involve South Korea, China, Russia and Japan. Last month, chief nuclear envoys from the two Koreas met for the second time to discuss terms for resuming the multilateral forum, but no tangible progress was reported.
"The second round of talks between the U.S. and North Korea will be held by the end of this month, at the latest," the diplomat said, adding the planned meeting might take place "in a third country."
Last week in Seoul, Kurt Campbell, assistant U.S. secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told reporters that Lee and Obama will this week discuss an "appropriate way forward" with their current approach on dealing with North Korea.
South Korea's chief nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam returned home on Monday from a three-day trip to Washington, where he coordinated the allies' joint stance on the six-party talks.
The six-party talks, aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programs in exchange for economic and political aid, have been dormant since Pyongyang left them in April 2009. The North then conducted its second nuclear test a month later.
Seoul and Washington have insisted that Pyongyang halt all nuclear activities, including its uranium enrichment program, and allow U.N. inspectors to monitor the suspension as preconditions to reopening the six-party talks. North Korea, however, is pushing to resume the forum without any conditions attached.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2011/10/10/90/0301000000AEN20111010003000315F.HTML
Four cabinet ministers have won the European Solar Prize for their role in Switzerland’s decision to abandon nuclear power.
President and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, Environment Minister Doris Leuthard and Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf will be presented with the prize by industry foundation the Swiss Solar Agency in Berlin in December. Swiss Solar Agency director Gallus Cadonau said the decision to abandon the use of nuclear power was “extraordinary on a European level” and sent a clear signal that energy policies had reached a turning point.
The European Solar Prize was first awarded in 1994, following a decision by the European Parliament to actively encourage the development of renewable energies.
The establishment of the prize followed the example of the Swiss Solar Prizes which were set up in 1991 to encourage energy efficiency, the development of renewable energies and climate protection.
Available at: http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/Cabinet_ministers_lauded_for_nuclear_decision.html?cid=31311888
2. France Still Sees Nuclear Appetite Post-Fukushima
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France still plans to build a 60th nuclear reactor at home despite delays and is eyeing a raft of possible deals for atomic power plants in Europe and emerging countries, French Energy Minister Eric Besson told Reuters on Monday.
The radiation leaks at Japan's quake-hit Fukushima power plant in March have not ended interest in nuclear power, and France hopes to cash in on decades of atomic experience to sell its technology in countries such as India, China, Britain, Poland, South Africa, Turkey and Brazil, he said.
"When looking at the outlook for nuclear power, the diagnosis needs to be qualified," Besson said. "Two years ago we were talking about a nuclear renaissance and now we are talking about a nuclear winter. The reality is in between."
"Some countries have decided to stop their nuclear programs but this is far from being the case everywhere. The list of countries restarting their programs, or considering it, is long," he said after visiting a reactor French group Areva is building in Finland.
India and China, two booming economies faced with surging demand for power from industrial groups and expanding cities, are the biggest and ripest markets France is coveting, followed by Britain and Saudi Arabia, Besson said, adding, however, that decisions in the nuclear sector often took a long time.
"These are very slow processes," Besson said. "Now you also have countries which have the financial means to accelerate the decision making process. For instance, if Saudi Arabia confirmed its interest, one can imagine that financial negotiations would be easier than in other countries."
He said France may have an advantage with its strategy of only selling new-generation nuclear reactors, which meet the international safety standards raised in the wake of Fukushima.
State-controlled reactor maker Areva currently has four reactors under construction: one in Finland, one in France and two in China. All four are so-called EPR reactors.
EPRs are built with a double containment building, a compartment isolating the molten core, six back-up diesel generators and four back-up cooling systems, which Areva says would have resisted Fukushima.
But the design that makes them so tough is causing engineering headaches, and the projects in Finland and France are beset by delays and soaring costs.
Besson said these were teething problems, which he compared with those encountered by the Airbus A380 during the superjumbo aircraft's construction.
"Remember how Airbus was criticized, how people said this plane cost a fortune and would never fly," he said. "Look at the commercial success it has now."
Besson also said France still intended to build a second EPR at home, the country's 60th nuclear plant, and said the Penly project had not been buried despite delays in the investment decision.
French nuclear power operator EDF said last week that delays in putting together legal documentation had forced it to postpone a public enquiry that is compulsory before a construction decision is taken.
The fact that EDF gave no new date for the enquiry and that a presidential election will take place next spring have fueled speculation that Penly had been postponed indefinitely.
"I am convinced Penly will go ahead," Besson said, blaming delays on the safety tests EDF was ordered to carry out on its nuclear power plants in the wake of Fukushima.
"This means the public enquiry will be made in 2012 instead of late 2011. Now should we launch an enquiry during a period of presidential elections, I don't think so. So this will probably be after the election."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/10/us-france-energy-besson-idUSTRE79942220111010
Surrounded by corn fields, bicycle routes and a nature reserve, the eight huge cooling towers of the Dukovany nuclear power plant have dominated the Czech countryside near the Austrian border for almost three decades.
Against the odds, the government has worked to keep it that way for many years to come. Defying growing global skepticism over the use of atomic energy, it is planning to dramatically increase the country's nuclear power production -- a move that would give the country a place among Europe's most nuclear-dependent nations.
The Czech plan reflects a sharp division over nuclear use among European nations, and relations with neighboring countries that have decided to go nuclear free could be seriously harmed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government decided to phase out nuclear energy by 2022 following the March meltdown at Japan's Fukushima plant, and Switzerland has followed suit. Austria abandoned nuclear energy after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster and strictly opposes the Czech nuclear program.
Other former Soviet bloc nations, now in the EU, are following the Czechs' lead on nuclear power -- reflecting diverging economic needs between east and west.
Slovakia is currently building more nuclear facilities. And Poland has engaged in talks with French, U.S. and Japanese firms about know-how and technology for its first nuclear installation to be completed by 2030.
The Czechs argue nuclear energy is needed because it is a clean and cost efficient source. They currently rely on six nuclear reactors -- four 440-megawatt reactors in Dukovany and two 1,000-megawatt reactors at another plant in Temelin located an hour's drive north of the Austrian border -- for 33 percent of their total electricity. The government hopes to at least double that output.
"We consider increasing electricity production in nuclear plants from some 30 percent to about 60 percent by 2050," Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Tomas Huner told the Associated Press.
"We have been mining uranium and there's no doubt nuclear energy is irreplaceable for us in the long term," said Huner, whose ministry has to present the new energy overhaul for the next 50 years to the government by year's end.
A trio of big players -- U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co., a subsidiary of Japan's Toshiba Corp., France's state-owned nuclear engineering giant Areva SA and a consortium led by Russia's Atomstroyexport -- are already bidding to win a lucrative multibillion tender to build two more reactors at the Temelin plant. The reactors are expected to be operational in the middle of the next decade.
The plant has been heavily protested by Austrian environmentalists who demand it be closed because of security concerns. Czech authorities insist both plants are safe and will have no problems passing so-called nuclear reactor stress tests currently being conducted across Europe after the Japanese disaster.
Opened a year before the Chernobyl disaster, Dukovany's life was expected to expire in some 30 years. Germany is closing plants of the same age -- but the Czechs refuse to do that despite international pressure.
The nation's biggest electricity source last year has already undergone a 26 billion koruna ($1.4 billion) overhaul aimed at increasing its output and improving control systems, as the plant gets ready to ask the nuclear authority for a license extension of at least 10 more years, plant spokesman Petr Spilka said.
At least one new 550-megawatt reactor is to be built at the Dukovany site and more places have been identified for new plants, Huner said.
Huner said a completely new 2,000-megawatt plant in the northeastern part of the country could be operational by 2060.
Unlike the Austrian and German publics, the Czechs support nuclear energy -- though they may not be happy to have a plant in their backyard.
Local environmentalists called the government plan "bizarre," saying it would lead to the creation of an unpredictable energy sector.
"Such a heavy reliance on one dominant source of energy could be problematic," said Martin Sedlak, an energy expert for the Friends of the Earth Czech Republic. "The investments into nuclear energy are economically too demanding and unpredictable."
They are not alone.
Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger has vowed to use any legal and political means to stop the Czechs, and his Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich said his country considered the Czech plan "the wrong one" in the wake of Japan's nuclear disaster.
"It can't be that someone expands nuclear energy after Chernobyl and especially Fukushima," Berlakovich told APTN. "Austria is interested in good neighborly relations with the Czech Republic. But in the interest of our people's security we will also reserve all political and legal steps."
The Czechs remain determined to go ahead.
"We consider that what happened in Fukushima did not, by any means, put into question the arguments for nuclear energy," President Vaclav Klaus said at the U.N. last month. "These arguments are strong, economically rational and convincing. Nuclear power is a stable, legitimate, and in some countries, irreplaceable source of energy today."
Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9Q80QT80.htm
4. Jordan: 'Kingdom's Nuclear Quest Faces Major Obstacles'
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Jordan has the potential to become a model nuclear state in the region, but faces several hurdles in its pursuit of atomic energy, a recently released international study revealed.
The Brookings Institution's "Models for Aspirant Civil Nuclear Energy Nations in the Middle East" report, released last month, profiled Jordan among several emerging nuclear states in the region, indicating that the national nuclear programme holds much promise but faces several obstacles.
The study attributes the rise of Arab nuclear programmes to a host of potential factors, including rising electricity demand, desalinisation needs, and in the case of oil-rich Gulf states, the opportunity cost of consuming domestic energy resources.
Whatever the main driver behind the increased interest in atomic energy, the report predicted that the Arab Spring will have a direct impact on these countries' nuclear ambitions.
"With all the turmoil in the region there is a growing perception that money needs to be diverted from these programmes to support pressing social issues," said Charles Ebinger, director of Brookings' Energy Security Initiative and an author of the report.
While increased civic activity on the Arab street may slow national nuclear programmes, another by-product of the Arab Spring - higher oil prices - may aid them, according to the study.
The report lauded Jordan's nuclear programme for its transparency, advanced legislation and close cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Despite the promise, how energy officials in Amman approach several key challenges in the next few months and years will determine whether the Kingdom will realise its nuclear ambitions, it said.
The report concludes that the Kingdom faces two major challenges in its nuclear drive, namely shortages of both expertise and funds.
Despite the presence of uranium reserves - estimated at over 100,000 tonnes - the country lacks the finances of Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE to bear up-front capital costs without placing stress on the state budget.
According to the report, Jordan's best option would be a turnkey project, under which a major vendor would assume all up-front costs and sell the plant to the government upon completion of construction.
The study noted that Jordan is relying on an unusual approach, a public-private partnership model, with the Kingdom bringing in a strategic partner to help defray up-front capital costs.
Due to increased competition among vendors brought on by shrinking demand for nuclear reactors in the post-Fukushima climate, Jordan will likely be able to secure a favourable public-private partnership financing structure for its first nuclear reactor, it concluded.
Unlike Egypt and Turkey, whose nuclear programmes stretch back decades, and Gulf states, which can afford to import expertise from abroad, Jordan also faces a gap in human resources, the report revealed.
Commending Amman's response to human resources demands, the report noted that the Kingdom is developing a national training centre at the Jordan University of Science and Technology and highlighted Jordan's potential to become a regional training centre in the nuclear field.
It raised doubt, however, whether Jordan will have the necessary manpower in place ahead of the construction of the first nuclear reactor.
In addition to finances and expertise, the report raised smaller, more practical concerns regarding the feasibility of the Kingdom's nuclear drive.
With the construction of a 1,000 megawatt (MW) reactor, nearly one-sixth of the Kingdom's electricity supply will come from one source, well above the international limit of 10 per cent and leaving the national grid susceptible to collapse should the plant go offline.
"Unless Jordan plans to link with a broader Gulf grid, it simply makes no sense to build a 1,000MW reactor for internal use," Ebinger said.
The report also raises concern over the independence of the Jordan Nuclear Regulatory Commission (JNRC), the Kingdom's national safety watchdog, noting that members of Jordan Atomic Energy Commission and other governmental institutions serve on the JNRC board, setting the stage for potential conflicts of interest.
"Best international practices say you should never have a high-level energy official sit on any regulatory body," the study's author pointed out.
The national nuclear programme envisions the first reactor coming online by 2019, 12 years after the programme's inception and well short of the minimum 15-year time line suggested by the IAEA for emerging nuclear states, placing undue pressure on the JNRC to create and enforce safety standards in pace with rapid developments.
With the shortest reactor construction time offered on the market placed at a little over 10 years, the report refers to the Kingdom's 2019 timeline as "overly ambitious".
"The reality is you are probably already looking at 2021 for the first reactor to be online," Ebinger said.
The study also notes the emergence of local protests against the nuclear programme, indicating that the rise in regional civic activity inspired by the Arab Spring has highlighted the need for energy officials in Amman to improve outreach to the general public.
"There has been a little too cavalier attitude that this is a government decision and that the public needs to be informed and not consulted," said Ebinger. "I think we would argue forcibly: You cannot have enough public consultation for these programmes."
In nearly all Arab states covered by the study, outstanding questions remain over the nuclear fuel cycle.
Regional nuclear programmes have paid little attention to spent fuel, the study claimed, with most states yet to identify solutions for the transport and storage of nuclear waste.
Even countries further along in their programme such as the UAE have yet to navigate the sensitive politics and economics behind uranium enrichment.
"If you have facilities for enrichment, no matter how transparent, you become a de facto nuclear state. In a politically sensitive region like the Middle East, the question of nuclear fuel becomes a very sensitive issue," Ebinger noted.
The report detailed the regional stance on nuclear fuel, particularly in the wake of the so-called 123 agreement between the UAE and the US under which Abu Dhabi renounced its rights to uranium enrichment and reprocessing.
The Brookings Institution publication noted a growing resistance among aspiring nuclear states who do not want their fuel supplies held hostage to international diplomacy and perceive a growing "double standard" in the US approach towards Arab states and Israel.
Despite multiple states in the region pursuing or exploring nuclear programmes, the so-called Arab nuclear boom predicted by industry experts and governments alike is unlikely to materialise, the report concluded.
Due to economic considerations, several states will likely suspend their programmes, with Kuwait the latest country to shelve its nuclear ambitions, leaving only a handful of Arab nuclear states as of the start of the next decade.
For the states that do choose to commit to their nuclear ambitions, the Energy Security Initiative suggested regional cooperation to sustain their drive.
"Rather than each state facing these challenges alone, it makes much more sense for Arab states to work together to have a collective effort," Ebinger said.
Available at: http://www.zawya.com/story.cfm/sidZAWYA20111007081706/Jordans_nuclear_quest_faces_major_obstacles
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimates that by 2030 the number of nuclear plants will increase by 350 because many countries want a stable and secure source of energy.
"Every country wants energy security because it is an essential need. This is why many nations, including those in Asean, want to keep nuclear power as an option," IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano said at a press conference held at the Foreign Ministry yesterday. Amano is in Thailand to meet high-level government officials to promote the benefits of nuclear technology.
IAEA estimates that in the next two decades, up to 190 to 350 new power plants will be constructed. There are about 432 nuclear power plants so far.
He said the IAEA would not intervene in a country's decision on whether or not to build a nuclear power plant, but it will provide technical assistance if a country does opt for nuclear power.
"IAEA will also help them make the plant as safe and secure as possible," he said, adding that a safety assessment would be done before the construction plan goes ahead.
Amano said that after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan earlier this year, some countries had dropped their plans to build a nuclear power plant, some had suspended their plan, but some had decided to go ahead.
Thailand has put its mega-project of building nuclear power plants in five provinces on hold, though Vietnam has decided to go ahead and is building a nuclear plant just 200 kilometres from the Thai border.
Dr Chaiwat Torsakulkaew, secretary-general of the Office of Atoms for Peace, said his agency has drafted a regulation on nuclear safety, which was currently being studied by the Council of State.
Amano said he did not have any particular concerns about the safety of nuclear power plants built in Vietnam or Thailand, though he advised that each country should have a regulatory body and domestic laws to ensure safety. Keeping the projects transparent and building an understanding among people about the safety of nuclear power plants is also important.
"Nuclear power is not a simple matter of right or wrong. The IAEA must realise the situation of each country and learn what local people think," he said. "The situation in each country is different and there is not one unique concern."
Amano said that IAEA experts were currently in Fukushima helping Japanese authorities eliminate environmental contamination, adding that the situation was now stable.
Available at: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/new/national/IAEA-expects-350-new-plants-by-2030-30166948.html
6. Noda Dismisses Speculation of Turning Back in Favor of Nuclear Power
The Mainichi Daily News
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Following criticism from opposition parties, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is striving to sweep away speculation that he has turned back in favor of nuclear power.
In an Oct. 5 meeting of the House of Representatives special committee on recovery from the quake and tsunami, Noda rejected the suggestion that he was aspiring to export nuclear power overseas, stating, "We're not going to rush forward and form new agreements (with other countries) or engage in marketing efforts."
His comments came after he indicated in a United Nations high-level meeting on nuclear safety and security in New York on Sept. 22 that Japan would continue to sell nuclear power plants to other countries. In the U.N. meeting he stated "Japan is determined to raise the safety of nuclear power generation to the highest level in the world," and "Japan stands ready to respond to the interest of countries seeking to use nuclear power generation."
Opposition parties responded by saying that his stance on eliminating reliance on nuclear power had wavered.
Replying to the criticism, Noda told a news conference on Sept. 30, "What I said (at the U.N. meeting) has been taken as if I were giving exports the green light, but I've said nothing of the sort."
In a related development, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano told the lower house special committee on quake and tsunami recovery on Oct. 5, "Deals in which negotiations are already underway involve issues of trust, so we will go ahead with them." He indicated that the government had not departed from its statement approved by the Cabinet in August that the nation would proceed with nuclear power deals that were already underway.
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20111006p2a00m0na014000c.html
The disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan in March, which was caused by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami, raised the question of the safety of nuclear power plants worldwide. In response, the operators of nuclear plants within the European Union were required to undertake comprehensive risk and safety assessments under the supervision of their national regulatory authorities. In Slovakia, these are being done by Slovenské Elektrárne (SE), the operator of nuclear power plants in Jaslovské Bohunice and Mochovce, under the supervision of Slovakia’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ÚJD). In mid-September, the authority delivered to the European Commission its interim national report on stress tests of the country’s nuclear power plants. The deadline for submitting the closing national report is December 31.
The power plants subject to the tests are the two units of the Jaslovské Bohunice V2 nuclear power plant and the two operating units at the Mochovce nuclear power plant, plus the two further units in Mochovce which are currently under construction. All the nuclear power plants in Slovakia have so far passed all the tests, a result which came as no surprise to the ÚJD. “The stress tests have not identified any deficiencies requiring immediate remedial measures or a shutdown of operating nuclear power plants,” the ÚJD wrote in its press statement. “The response of the tested power plants to the stress tests corresponds with the required safety level.”
Peter Uhrík, chief executive of the ÚJD, said on September 14, when the interim report was sent to Brussels, that his organisation is convinced that the nuclear power stations in Slovakia are robust enough, but that the tests had shown space for improvement and that authority did not therefore consider them to have been useless or worthless.
“These tests have shown that it is necessary to test some non-standard routes and have highlighted what a nuclear power station needs to have in place in order to be supplied with electricity, because one of the worst possible events for a nuclear power station is when it loses its power supply, a situation known as a station blackout.”
After the Fukushima disaster, in which a major earthquake and subsequent tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling to three reactors leading to a nuclear accident, the European Council on March 24 and 25 declared that “the safety of all EU nuclear plants should be reviewed, on the basis of a comprehensive and transparent risk assessment", which it dubbed ‘stress tests’.
The European Nuclear Safety Regulatory Group (ENSREG) and the European Commission defined stress tests as a targeted re-assessment of the safety margins of nuclear power plants in the light of the events which occurred at Fukushima: extreme natural events challenging plant safety functions and leading to a severe accident.
Uhrík specified that stress tests do not focus on the safety of nuclear power plants per se but on the plants’ safety margins, or how far a nuclear power station is able to cope with an event beyond its original design parameters.
“The objective of the stress tests is to determine which level of severity of an external hazard the nuclear power plant can withstand without severe damage to nuclear fuel (in the reactor core or in the spent fuel) or without significant releases of radioactive materials into the environment,” the interim report wrote. “Previous studies did not have this as an objective, since normally the plant structures, systems and components were designed to cope with the loads caused by external hazards within the plant design basis covering all events with non-negligible frequency of occurrence.”
This also means that in the stress tests the nuclear power plants are assessed regarding the margins they have to cope with in connection with extremely unlikely hazards not originally considered in their design.
Under the stress tests extraordinary external events such as earthquakes, floods and other events that could lead to potential loss of multiple plant safety functions are tested and analysed. A combination of such events is also considered, including a power supply interruption, long-term interruption of (cooling) water supply as well as a loss of power supply caused by extreme climate conditions, according to the nuclear authority.
Uhrík explained that the stress tests also verified the functionality of systems that are not routinely tested, and said the equipment was tested in a configuration that was not considered in the plants’ original design. The tests, for example, looked at how water could be supplied to the spent fuel pond by natural flow, i.e. by relying on gravity instead of circulation pumps; supplying steam generators with water from fire-fighting trucks located tens of metres from the main block was also tested.
While some tests were carried out physically, others could be done only ‘on paper’ as it is impossible to test for a real earthquake or a flood beyond the original design. These are tested analytically by calculations and estimations.
One of the principal objectives of the assessment is to indicate opportunities to increase the robustness of the plant to withstand conditions arising from extreme natural events.
“We expect, however, that all our nuclear power plants will continue to implement further future improvements,” said Marta Žiaková, chair of the ÚJD, adding that each accident at a nuclear facility is closely monitored by national nuclear authorities. The results are scrutinised in depth to see what happened and what lessons can be learned to prevent a similar occurrence.
The stress tests started on June 1 and the ÚJD’s interim report described the approach used and current status of the facilities in meeting the stress tests. The deadline for SE to complete the stress tests and deliver its final report is October 31. Afterwards, the ÚJD will draw up the closing national report and deliver it to the European Commission by December 31. In order to enhance the credibility and accountability of the process, the national report should be subject to a peer review process.
Uhrík stressed that the reports should not be used to compile a safety ranking of nuclear power stations, but only to show the robustness of the nuclear power stations’ designs and their safety margins.
“[The process] has shown that safety margins are more than sufficient in the case of both nuclear power stations [in Slovakia],” Uhrík said.
According to Uhrík, the tests have shown that the type of nuclear power station used in Slovakia comes out of the tests relatively well because of its design. Slovakia uses pressurised water reactors – unlike Fukushima, where boiling water reactors were installed – with a small output, which means that the active zone and the amount of fuel are small. By contrast, the amount of coolant in the primary as well as the secondary circuits is huge.
“This means that the safety margins and inherent safety of the nuclear power stations are big from the very beginning,” said Uhrík. ”What was a weak point of the power stations – or what was considered to be a weak point – at the beginning was their control systems, which have already been replaced completely in both nuclear power stations.”
Available at: http://spectator.sme.sk/articles/view/44143/24/nuclear_plant_stress_tests_continue.html
2. International Nuclear Inspectors Arrive in Fukushima
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Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency have arrived in Fukushima city to observe efforts to decontaminate the area following the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The 12-member team arrived as Japan announced the launch of long-term checks for thyroid abnormalities in local children.
The screenings will target 360,000 children who were aged up to 18 on 11 March, when a tsunami overwhelmed the plant, knocking out power to cooling systems and triggering meltdowns in three of its six reactors.
The IAEA inspectors will visit the facility, operated by Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), as well as farms and schools where decontamination efforts are under way.
After the agency's first visit to the stricken plant in June, it criticised Tepco for failing to prepare for a large tsunami, but praised its post-disaster response.
The inspectors will give a preliminary report to the Japanese government at the end of next week and present more detailed findings next month.
The plant released large quantities of radioactive material over a wide area, including locations well outside the 20km (12-mile) evacuation zone imposed in the early days of the crisis.
About 100,000 people in and around the evacuation zone were forced to leave their homes; some have no idea when, or if, they will be able to return.
Health experts are particularly concerned about the possible health effects on children of long-term exposure to low levels of radiation in affected areas such as Minamisoma and Fukushima city, which has a population of almost 300,000.
The government recently lifted an advisory warning for people living in five locations between 20 and 30km from the plant to evacuate should the situation at the plant worsen, but thousands still refuse to return.
Health authorities refused to release the results of the first tests, conducted on 100 children at Fukushima Medical University.
The children will continue to be tested every two years until they reach 20, and every five years thereafter. Those found to have suffered damage to their thyroids will undergo more detailed examinations.
Children and adolescents are more at risk because their thyroids absorb radioactive iodine and other harmful substances more easily than those of adults.
Sunday's examinees included a seven-year-old boy whose parents took him out of Fukushima after the accident.
"My son hasn't shown any symptoms, but I'm worried about what might happen in four or five years from now," his mother, Kikue Komatsu, told Kyodo News. "I'm with Fukushima in spirit, but there is no way we can return while radiation levels are still high."
Last week, a Japanese charity and hospital reported that they had found thyroid irregularities in 10 out of 130 children evacuated from Fukushima prefecture.
Representatives from the Japan Chernobyl Foundation and Shinshu University hospital said they could not make a direct link between the accident and the findings, but called for children to undergo lifelong medical observations.
Health authorities in the former Soviet Union identified about 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer among people who were adolescents or children at the time of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Towns outside the evacuation zone have sprayed streets with water and removed topsoil from school playgrounds in an attempt to make their communities safe.
But cleaning up the towns and villages closest to Fukushima Daiichi could take decades, the government admitted recently. Older residents in those communities accept they may be dead by the time their old homes are safe to live in.
Decontaminating areas outside the exclusion zone could take until March 2014, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said, citing government officials.
Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/09/iaea-fukushima-inspectors-arrive
1. US Puts Onus on India for Implementation of Nuclear Deal
The Economic Times
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Putting the onus on India, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today said the US has made clear the steps New Delhi needs to take "to allow us to move forward" on implementation of bilateral civil nuclear deal.
"We remain fully committed to expanding the civil nuclear cooperation with India and have made clear the steps that India needs to take to allow us to move forward," she told PTI when asked if India's nuclear liability bill was an irritant in the bilateral relations.
Without directly responding to the question, Clinton mentioned two specific steps India needs to take -- ratify the Convention of Supplementary Compensation (CSC) for nuclear damages and engage with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure that the liability regime conforms with the international norms.
India's liability regime has been a bone of contention between it and many of its nuclear partners, including the US, which have expressed reservations about some aspects of the domestic law that they fear will impose huge penalty on foreign suppliers in case of nuclear accidents.
However, Indian officials have maintained that the law was in accordance with international standards but India was ready to allay any apprehension in this regard.
The officials also maintain that New Delhi was well on its way to ratify the CSC by this year end.
Clinton emphasised Washington's commitment on the issue by citing the recent Nuclear Safety Energy Summit in Mumbai, "where you saw a host of top-tier American companies working to expand our private engagement and investment in the civil nuclear sector."
Available at: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-10-09/news/30260193_1_liability-regime-nuclear-liability-bill-supplementary-compensation
Bulgaria filed a 61 million euro ($81 million) claim against Rosatom in a dispute over the construction of a nuclear plant on the Danube.
State-owned National Electricity Co. applied to an arbitration court in Geneva to claw back the sum from Rosatom for unpaid purchases of old equipment, the utility said Thursday.
In July, Rosatom unit Atomstroiexport said it had filed a 58 million euro claim against Bulgaria in the International Court of Arbitration in Paris for delayed construction payments.
Atomstroiexport was hired in 2005 to build the plant for an initial cost estimate of 4 billion euros. The project stalled because of a lack of funds and a dispute over new costs caused by the delay. Last month, the two companies agreed to extend an accord to March next year on the building of the proposed 2,000-megawatt plant.
Available at: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/business/article/bulgaria-sues-rosatom/444980.html
3. France, Armenia Study Nuclear Power Cooperation
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France, the world's most nuclear-reliant country, is studying the potential for cooperation with Armenia on nuclear power, even though Russia is to supply the former Soviet republic with its next reactor.
France, which operates 58 nuclear reactors that provide 75 percent of its electricity needs, did not bid in a tender to build Armenia's next reactor.
Armenia, which has one reactor in operation that covers 40 percent of its electricity needs, agreed in 2007 to close its ageing Metsamor plant after years of pressure from the United States and Europe, which consider it unsafe.
The reactor will not be decommissioned, however, until the country has built another to avoid an energy supply crisis.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a news conference on concluding a state visit in Armenia that a French mission would be sent to Yerevan to determine how to give the country access to nuclear power, taking into account its big needs in energy.
French Energy Minister Eric Besson, who accompanied Sarkozy, said the Armenian authorities had told Paris they would like to cooperate with France, even though Russia's Rosatom will supply the country with its next reactor.
The nuclear cooperation would focus on safety, Besson said, pointing that Armenia's operating reactor was built in a seismic zone.
"They need one or several reactors of medium-sized power capacity. There is no need for a next-generation reactor such as (Areva's ) EPR or the equivalent," Besson told journalists. Armenia, Croatia, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and Belarus all agreed in June to reassess their existing and planned nuclear power plants using stress tests developed by the European Union.
French nuclear energy equipment firms could be part of a possible contract.
A devastating earthquake in 1988 forced Armenia to halt two reactors, but one of them was restarted in 1995 due to a severe energy crisis.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/07/france-armenia-nuclear-idUSL5E7L714S20111007
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