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Nuclear News - 10/20/2011
PGS Nuclear News, October 20, 2011
Compiled By: Michael Kennedy

A.  North Korea
    1. US Announces Replacement of Envoy on N. Korea, The Korea Times (10/20/2011)
    2. N. Korea Operating Second Uranium Enrichment Facility: Lawmaker, Kim Eun-jung, Yonhap News Agency (10/19/2011)
B.  Japan
    1. PM Hints at Approval for Some Nuclear Reactors Under Construction, The Mainichi Daily News (10/18/2011)
    2. Tokyo Electric Submits Three-Year Plan for Keeping Fukushima Plant Stable, Yuji Okada, Bloomberg (10/18/2011)
    3. Fukushima Reactors May Be Shut Down Ahead of Schedule, Matt Smith, CNN (10/18/2011)
    4. Criteria for 'Cold Shutdown' of Fukushima Nuclear Plant Remain Vague and Ambiguous, The Mainichi Daily News (10/18/2011)
C.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. Indian N-Plants Step Up Safety Measures, Rajeev Deshpande, The Times of India (10/19/2011)
    2. All Nuclear Plants in the Country Pass Stress Tests: AEC, IBN Live (10/17/2011)
    3. Hit by a $1 Billion Liability Verdict in Japan, Hitachi Negotiates New Reactor Deal With Lithuania, Andrei Ozharovsky, Bellona Foundation (10/17/2011)
D.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Malaysia Nuclear Plant Plan on Hold, New Straits Times (10/18/2011)
    2. Indonesia's First Nuclear Power Plant Delayed, Joao Peixe, Oil Price (10/18/2011)
    3. SocGen Sees 2-Year Delay for New UK Nuclear Plant, Reuters (10/18/2011)
    4. EDF on Trial in French Greenpeace Spying Case, Heather Smith, Bloomberg (10/16/2011)
E.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Japan Asks Turkey to Proceed With Talks on Nuclear Plant Deal, The Mainichi Daily News (10/19/2011)
    2. China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group Interested in Building Cernavoda Reactors, Business Review (10/19/2011)
    3. India Hopes It Can Import Uranium From South Africa, Arvind Padmanabhan, Indo-Asian News Service (10/18/2011)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. Seoul’s Nuclear Temptation, Khaleej Times (10/19/2011)
    2. Nuclear (Triad) Warfare, Time (10/18/2011)
    3. Obama's Push to Quell a Nuclear North Korea, The Christian Science Monitor (10/18/2011)
    4. The Banality of Death by Nuclear Power, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (10/13/2011)

A.  North Korea

US Announces Replacement of Envoy on N. Korea
The Korea Times
(for personal use only)

The United States announced Wednesday that Stephen Bosworth will quit his part-time job as Washington's top envoy on Pyongyang as the two sides plan to hold another round of high-level talks next week in Geneva.

After two and a half years of service, Bosworth will be replaced by Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, who will work on a full-time basis, according to the State Department.

It emphasized that the replacement does not mean a major shift in the U.S. policy on North Korea.

"It's important to stress this is a change in personnel, not a change in policy," department spokesman Mark Toner said at a press briefing. "And our goal is to ensure a smooth transition and to reinforce the continuity in U.S. policy toward North Korea."

Bosworth will attend the two-day Geneva meetings with the North from Monday along with his successor, Davies, he added.

"Ambassador Bosworth is going to lead the delegation to the meetings in Geneva as well as introduce Ambassador Davies to the DPRK delegation," to be headed by Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, Toner said. North Korea's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

He said the upcoming talks mark a "continuation of the exploratory meetings to determine if North Korea is prepared to fulfill its commitments under the 2005 joint statement of the six-party talks."

Bosworth and Kim had talks in New York in late July, in which the U.S. laid out a set of initial steps North Korea should take for the resumption of the six-way talks, which also involve South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

The measures reportedly include the return of IAEA inspectors to the North's main nuclear facilities, a halt to the reclusive communist nation's uranium enrichment program and a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests.

A senior South Korean official said the Geneva talks are intended to listen to Pyongyang's response to the demands.

He expressed skepticism that the six-way talks will resume anytime soon despite the meetings between Washington and Pyongyang.

On Bosworth's departure, the official said he seems to have made the decision for personal reasons.

Bosworth serves as dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Boston.

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N. Korea Operating Second Uranium Enrichment Facility: Lawmaker
Kim Eun-jung
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

North Korea has a second uranium enrichment facility in operation on the country's west coast, in addition to its known facility at the main Yongbyon nuclear complex, a lawmaker claimed Wednesday.

The underground facility in Dongchang county has been in operation since it was built between 2001 and 2006, Rep. Park Sun-young of the minor Liberty Forward Party said, citing a North Korean military official she claimed was in charge of security at the construction site.

"North Korea has already been developing nuclear weapons using enriched uranium since 2007, switching from its plutonium production program. But the (South Korean) government has not been aware of this fact," Park said in a release submitted at a parliamentary interpellation session.

Uranium, when highly enriched, can become weapons grade, which would provide the North Korean regime with a second way of building atomic bombs in addition to using plutonium.

Park claimed it was after the new plant began operation that the North invited New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to Pyongyang last year and expressed its willingness to put the Yongbyon complex under international monitoring.

North Korea expelled IAEA monitors in early 2009 after the U.N. Security Council condemned a rocket launch it made that was considered a long-range missile test.

"The Yongbyon facility has been almost emptied in preparation for international monitoring," Park said. "South Korea and the U.S. have continuously been fooled by North Korea."

Officials said it is difficult to verify Park's claims.

The claims came amid a flurry of diplomacy to resume six-party talks, aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programs. The talks have been dormant since the last session in late 2008.

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B.  Japan

Criteria for 'Cold Shutdown' of Fukushima Nuclear Plant Remain Vague and Ambiguous
The Mainichi Daily News
(for personal use only)

The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) unveiled a revised roadmap to contain the crippled nuclear reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant on Oct. 17, clearly stipulating that they would aim for a stable condition called a "cold shutdown" of the reactors by the end of this year, but the criteria used to thrash out the work schedule are vague and ambiguous.

It is still not clear whether they can judge that they have achieved a cold shutdown only by checking the temperatures of the bottoms of reactor pressure vessels. On the assessment of the amounts of radioactive substances being released from the nuclear reactors, the government and TEPCO, the operator of the troubled Fukushima nuclear complex, must come up with more detailed data
than "provisional figures" in order to say definitely that they have "achieved" a cold shutdown.

Furthermore, the government and TEPCO failed to show any direction on the timing of lifting of evacuation advisories -- the final goal of the nuclear disaster response roadmap, let alone prospects for measures that should be taken after a cold shutdown is achieved.

According to the government's statements to the Diet, the definition of a cold shutdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant consists of 1) the temperatures of the bottoms of the reactor pressure vessels being held down below 100 degrees Celsius, 2) radioactive substances from the reactors being managed and controlled, and 3) stable maintenance of "circular cooling systems" designed to recycle radioactive water from the reactors as coolant.

The temperatures of the bottoms of the No. 1, 2 and 3 reactors, which suffered core meltdowns, have stayed below 100 degrees Celsius since Oct. 1, and these conditions served as the reason to decide to bring forward the target deadline to achieve a cold shutdown. But melted fuels are believed to have dropped to the floors of containment vessels from the pressure vessels, and therefore it is difficult to assess the conditions inside reactor cores by measuring the temperatures of the bottoms of the pressure vessels alone.

According to the work schedule to stabilize the nuclear reactors released by TEPCO on Oct. 17, the temperature of the melted fuel that was dropped to the containment vessels is estimated to be about 150 degrees Celsius.

TEPCO official Junichi Matsumoto said, "There is no problem because the melted fuel is sufficiently cooled down by water injection from above." But Hiroshi Yamagata, an official of the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), only said, "We will discuss its validity from now on."

According to the revised roadmap, the amounts of radioactive substances being released from the nuclear reactors are 40 million becquerels per hour at the No. 1 reactor, 10 million becquerels per hour at the No. 2 reactor, and 40 million becquerels per hour at the No. 3 reactor. The combined total amount of radioactive substances being released from the reactors stands at about 100 million bacquerels per hour, about one eight-millionth of what was measured on March 15, four days after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis.

But on the amount of radioactive substances being released from the No. 3 reactor, which has yet to be fully measured, NISA said, "It is nothing but a provisional figure." They plan to measure the amount of radioactive substances again by the end of this year and see if the annual dose of radiation at the outer premises of the nuclear plant is held down below the legally acceptable level of less than one millisievert per year.

On the lifting of evacuation advisories, Cabinet Office Parliamentary Secretary Yasuhiro Sonoda said, "Depending on progress in the work schedule, I believe it will be discussed little by little." But he stopped short of giving a specific timeframe for such discussions.

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Fukushima Reactors May Be Shut Down Ahead of Schedule
Matt Smith
(for personal use only)

Engineers may be able to complete the shutdown of damaged reactors at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant ahead of schedule, the plant's owner reported Monday.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company's plan for winding down the crisis caused by the historic March 11 earthquake and tsunami had called for completing the shutdown process by January. But in a six-month update to its April "road map," the utility said the reactors could reach their "cold shutdown" points by the end of the year.

Temperatures in the three reactors where meltdowns occurred in the wake of the disaster have already been brought down below 100 degrees Celsius (212 F), but the company has to maintain those conditions for some time before declaring the reactors in cold shutdown, Tokyo Electric spokesman Yoshikazu Nagai said.

"We have to keep this situation continuously. We have to see if it is stable or not," Nagai said.

In addition, decontamination systems have sharply cut down the amount of radioactive water that had been piling up in the reactors' turbine plants while workers pumped hundreds of tons of fresh water into the damaged reactors every day. Nagai said 128,000 tons of contaminated water has been treated, leaving about 43,000 tons remaining -- well above the 100,000 tons estimated to have collected earlier this year. The treated water is now being recirculated through the reactors to keep them cool, he said.

And Tokyo Electric has cut ongoing radioactive emissions from the plant to about half of their recent levels, or about 6% of what a typical resident of an industrialized country receives in a year. The number is about one eight-millionth of the amount released in the days following the tsunami, which swamped the plant on the Pacific coast of northern Japan and triggered meltdowns in three of the plant's four operating reactors.

But experts have said it will take years -- perhaps decades -- to fully clean up the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Hydrogen explosions blew apart the No. 1 and No. 3 reactor housings, while another hydrogen blast is suspected to have damaged the No. 2 reactor and fires believed caused by heat from the No. 4 spent fuel pool damaged that unit's reactor building.

Plant workers have nearly completed a new reactor housing to cover the damaged No. 1 reactor building, while they are still trying to clear away rubble surrounding units 3 and 4 before starting construction on similar structures, Nagai said. Workers have re-entered all four reactor buildings since the spring, but parts of the buildings remain inaccessible because of high radiation levels and debris, he said.

The plume of radioactive particles that spewed from Fukushima Daiichi displaced about 80,000 people who lived within a 20-kilometer (12.5-mile) radius of the plant, as well as residents of one village as far as 40 kilometers to the northwest. The government has yet to determine when those evacuated can return to their homes, but lifted evacuation standby notices for other nearby towns in late September.

A Friday report by an International Atomic Energy Agency team that recently visited Japan praised the country's efforts to decontaminate the area, but urged Japanese authorities "to avoid over-conservatism" in the effort. Japan's main strategy has been to scrape off the top 5 centimeters (2 inches) of topsoil
from contaminated areas -- a plan the IAEA found could produce "huge amounts of residual materials" --but it is conducting a variety of tests in different areas, the report concluded.

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PM Hints at Approval for Some Nuclear Reactors Under Construction
The Mainichi Daily News
(for personal use only)

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has suggested that he will give the green light to operations of some nuclear reactors under construction.

"The construction of some nuclear power plants has progressed to a great extent. I'll make a final decision on each of them while considering the opinions of the local communities," Noda said in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun and other media organizations at his office on Oct. 17.

He apparently made the remarks while keeping in mind the No. 3 reactor at the Shimane Nuclear Power Plant, 90 percent of whose construction work has been finished.

Noda had told a news conference when he took office that it would be difficult to install new nuclear reactors.

The prime minister for the first time pointed to the possibility that a housing complex for government workers, which had been under construction in the Saitama Prefecture city of Asaka, will be cancelled altogether. "We'll leave a final decision, including whether to scrap the project, to the discretion of a Finance Ministry study panel deliberating on it."

The government has decided to freeze the construction of the apartment complex for the next five years.

Prime Minister Noda also emphasized that Japan will benefit from participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. "The Asia-Pacific region will definitely be the driving force behind economic growth from now on. Pursuing a close economic alliance will bring benefits to Japan."

He said he will decide on the timing of joining in TPP negotiations at an early date.

However, he pointed to the need to clearly explain Japan's plan to participate in the TPP accord to agricultural bodies, medical associations and other skeptical industries. "There are some industrial sectors that are worried about it."

Noda stopped short of clarifying the timing of making a decision on the sticky issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture while maintaining that he respects the bilateral agreement to relocate it to the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture. "I can't say when, but will draw a conclusion as early as possible."

The prime minister said he cannot comply with the largest opposition Liberal Democratic Party's demand that the period of redemption of special bonds that the government will issue to cover disaster recovery efforts be largely extended.

"If we agreed to extend it to 60 years, it'd be equal to construction bonds. It's impossible to comply," he said, adding that he will consider how far the government can compromise with the opposition request.

He also reiterated that he cannot accept any unofficial interviews with the media while walking around the Prime Minister's Office.

"My basic position is I don't comply. However, it's important to provide an explanation to the public through news conferences and official interviews, which I'd like to do," he said.

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Tokyo Electric Submits Three-Year Plan for Keeping Fukushima Plant Stable
Yuji Okada
(for personal use only)

Tokyo Electric Power Co. submitted a blueprint to regulators laying out steps to keep the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant stable for three years, a condition for declaring the immediate crisis is over.

The plan was filed late yesterday to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, the company knowns as Tepco said in a statement. The Facility Management Plan outlines how Tepco will maintain stable cooling of the reactors and spent-fuel pools of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, which has six units, four of which were damaged in the March 11 earthquake and

“We received the document today and will have a hearing with experts on the plan in Fukushima on Oct. 22,” Yoshinori Moriyama, deputy director-general at NISA, told reporters yesterday. “We don’t know when the evaluation of the plan will be completed.”

Tepco and NISA said yesterday they’re on track to bring the reactors at the Fukushima station north of Tokyo into a state known as cold shutdown by the end of the year. Once the plant is stabilized, the government may allow the return of some of the 160,000 people in the area who were forced to flee radiation.

Temperatures of the three reactor vessels holding melted fuel roads fell to below 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit) early last month, one of the two conditions for achieving cold shutdown. NISA instructed Tepco to draw up the management plan on Oct. 3.

The amount of radiation being released by the plant is estimated at 100 million becquerels an hour, about 8 million times less than at the height of the crisis and half the amount of a month ago, Tepco said yesterday in a monthly review of its so-called road map for containing the disaster.

That amount of radiation translates into exposure of 0.2 millisieverts a year at the boundary of the Fukushima site, below the government’s target of 1 millisievert. It excludes radioactive materials deposited around the country at the height of the crisis when explosions tore the station apart.

“The target has been met, but the readings are provisional and we need to ensure the situation has stabilized,” Yasuhiro Sonoda, the parliamentary secretary of Japan’s Cabinet Office, said at the press conference yesterday.

One millisievert a year is the internationally recommended maximum for the general public excluding background radiation and exposure received from x-rays and other medical procedures.

The management plan also covers operations of decontamination units and storage tanks holding millions of metric tons of contaminated water.

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C.  Nuclear Safety & Security

Indian N-Plants Step Up Safety Measures
Rajeev Deshpande
The Times of India
(for personal use only)

In its post-Fukushima review of nuclear safety, India has ramped up safeguards at its atomic power plants with three layers of power back ups, water pipes drawn from off-site locations, elevated water towers and options for injecting nitrogen to prevent explosions.

With public concern over nuclear power spiking after the Japanese disaster and protests threatening flagship projects in Kudankulam and Jaitapur, the government had to move swiftly to beef up plant security. Sources claimed the safety protocols were among the safest worldwide.

At the Fukushima plant, overheating of the reactor core after the March 11 tsunami knocked out power sources triggered fears of a meltdown. All Indian plants will have diesel generators and battery back up to supplement a nuclear plant's regular power supply in an emergency shutdown.

Keeping in mind that the Japanese tsunami also damaged alternate power sources, back up at plants vulnerable to such damage will be protected from effects of flooding and tidal waves.

They will be located at higher points and protection against extreme weather events will be reinforced.

Official sources said the measures were implemented at most nuclear plants after a study by four expert groups following a review ordered by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Some deficiencies were noted and were addressed and soon all installations will have rigorous multi-level systems aimed at making safety mechanisms as failsafe as possible.

Actions prescribed by the expert committees also include the stress tests that Department of Atomic Energy secretary Srikumar Banerjee said have been conducted successfully. India's nuclear installations have passed the structural tests aimed at assessing their capacity to withstand massive seismic shocks.

In case of an accident or a natural disaster necessitating the activation of emergency measures, the cooling of the core is top priority and drawing lessons from the Fukushima scenario where gusts of radioactive steam escaped into the atmosphere for days, India's plants are now supplied by alternate water sources that will not be vulnerable to disruption.

Not depending on on-site water sources alone, water pipelines from remote locations will supplement and provide fall-back apparatus. The water towers at plants are being raised to ensure that they are not incapacitated by the fury of floods or tidal waves. India's vulnerability to tsunami-like events is assessed to be relatively low.

The government hopes that the safety plan will address the "safety debate" and once the Tamil Nadu local election is over, it will allow the economic benefits of the Kudankulam project to become more apparent. It is believed that the opposition of local political parties and church groups is highly opportunistic. The religious groups seem to fear that better economic opportunities may somehow lessen their influence.

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All Nuclear Plants in the Country Pass Stress Tests: AEC
IBN Live
(for personal use only)

In a reinforcement of nuclear safety in India, all the atomic power plants have "passed" the stress tests ordered by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident.

"Indian reactors have passed the stress tests ordered after Fukushima," Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman Srikumar Banerjee told a group of reporters here today.

The stress tests, which are a combination of simulated quake events on the design of a nuclear plant, were ordered by Singh to address issues of safety of the country's atomic plants in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident in March.

Seeking to allay apprehensions on the Kudankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu, he said the Indo-Russian joint venture was the safest unit of its type built anywhere in the world.

"Kudankulam plant will be a showpiece for Russian nuclear industry themselves. There is not a single VVER-type nuclear reactor which has such an array of safety features," Banerjee said.

However, he admitted that the nuclear establishment did goof up in reaching out to the locals at Kudankulam which was one of the factors responsible for the current agitation.

"I can definitely admit that there were gaps in public awareness. At the same time, I would like to say that the whole event (agitation) is not just because of the gap," Banerjee said.

He said there were some "strong opportunists" that were taking advantage of the situation.

"There are some opportunists who have taken advantage of the situation. The strong anti-nuclear lobby got its big strength because of the Fukushima event," Banerjee said.

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Hit by a $1 Billion Liability Verdict in Japan, Hitachi Negotiates New Reactor Deal With Lithuania
Andrei Ozharovsky
Bellona Foundation
(for personal use only)

A court in Tokyo has ruled Japan’s Hitachi liable for over $1 billion in damages resulting from an accident, and subsequent loss of profit, at Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant’s (NPP) Hitachi-made ABWR reactor. Boiling reactors, to which the ABWR series belongs, have earned their share of infamy with Chernobyl’s explosion and the disaster at Fukushima– but they have also proven challenging both in operation and repairs. Still, Hitachi continues to promote ABWRs for export construction, including in Lithuania, where it hopes to build a new station to replace the shut-down Ignalina Andrei Ozharovsky,

On October 6, 2011, the District Court of Tokyo issued a verdict that wrapped up a three-year-long litigation over the protracted repairs and resulting outage following an accident at Reactor Unit 5 of Japan’s Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, in Omaezaki city, Shizuoka Prefecture.

The court ruled the Japanese electronics and heavy industry giant Hitachi, which manufactured the turbine used at the plant, liable for paying Hamaoka’s operator entity, Chubu Electric Power Company, JPY 90 billion (or $1.17 billion) in compensation for the loss of profit that resulted from the downtime.
Because of problems with the Hitachi-made steam turbine, the reactor at Hamaoka remained in repairs for nearly eight months, since June 2006 to February 2007. The operator company brought a lawsuit in 2008 and the Tokyo District Court has now ruled in its favour.

Even though the steam turbine has been repaired, the plant will likely be completely decommissioned.

Last May, according to a story by the BBC, Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked Chubu to halt operations at the plant for fears of a repeat disaster of the Fukushima scenario. Extreme efforts to bring under control the nuclear and radiation catastrophe at Fukushima – which last March had been hit by the dual force of an earthquake and an estimated 15-metre tsunami wave, knocking that plant’s power supply and leading to multiple meltdowns and massive releases of radiation – had still been in progress at the time, and are ongoing now.

Hamaoka, located 200 kilometres southwest of Tokyo, is, too, in a seismic-prone area. According to an article by Bloomberg from last May, Kan “[cited] a government study that showed an 87-percent likelihood of a magnitude-8 quake striking the area within 30 years.” Chubu Electric agreed to shut Hamaoka’s reactors down.

In Russia, equipment failures at nuclear power plants are not so infrequent and also lead to losses incurred to the operator company. The Russian Federal Service for Ecological, Industrial, and Atomic Supervision, or Rostekhnadzor, says the many disturbances or violations it registers in its yearly reports as occurrences disrupting the operation of Russian NPPs are the result of “such underlying causes as mismanagement, flaws in maintenance organisation, manufacturing defects, and design defects.”

Each time a reactor undergoes unplanned repairs owing to an electrical or other equipment failure that results in an emergency shutdown, the nuclear power plant necessarily undersupplies electric power to consumers. Still, lawsuits such as the one heard in Tokyo are unlikely to happen in Russia since the entire industry – from the equipment suppliers to the NPP construction companies to the operator company – remains within the corporate umbrella of the State Nuclear Corporation Rosatom, with all potential disputes settled internally. Because the state is the corporation’s shareholder, all financial losses and costs incurred by emergency repairs are covered with funds provided from the federal budget.

Reactor Unit 5 at Hamaoka was commissioned in January 2005 and was the only one running a reactor of the ABWR type, which stands for Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, a Generation III boiling water reactor (BWR). The other four units at the plant operated BWRs.

The design, certified in 1997 by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, was developed by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, an alliance between General Electric and Hitachi. The plant is designed to produce electricity from a turbine generator unit using steam generated in the reactor, says a design description on the International Atomic Energy Agency website.

The accident at Unit 5 happened just eighteen months after the reactor launch. Reports say that in June 2006, turbulence occurred in the stream of radioactive steam flowing from the reactor into the turbine. That, combined with a high-velocity backflow of steam, caused strong vibrations in the turbine.

Of the 840 turbine blades, 622 were damaged as a result. Cracks appeared both in the blades and where they were joined to the turbine rotor. The accident also caused one of the blades to lose a fragment, which led to even more extensive damage.

The single 1,380-megawatt turbine used at the unit proved challenging to repair both on account of the scope of the damage incurred and because of the peculiarities of the ABWR design.

The ABWR is a single-loop reactor. Water is taken to a boil in the reactor vessel and the generated steam flows into the turbine to spin its blades and produce electric power. This approach – which replaced a two-loop system with a steam generator – was opted for in order to simplify the design and cut on operation costs.

In practical experience, however, boiling reactors proved difficult to repair. In a two-loop design, radioactive substances do not reach the turbine and it remains uncontaminated, so should it need repairs, no additional challenge is there to complicate the works.

However, nuclear power plants that use boiling reactors such as the Soviet-designed RBMK series (of which the RBMK-1000 model was used at Ukraine’s Chernobyl, and three Russian nuclear power plants continue to operate the same design) and the US-Japanese BWRs and ABWRs have to contend with turbines that get contaminated with radionuclides in the course of operation.

Special precaution is thus called for when repairing the turbine following a malfunction. Furthermore, the repair itself cannot be started immediately after an accident as a waiting period is needed until radioactivity levels, caused by the short-lived radionuclides in the steam, subside sufficiently to ensure safety.

Boiling reactors have not exactly shown a stellar record. It was a graphite-moderated boiling reactor, of the RBMK-1000 model, that exploded in Chernobyl in 1986.

And at Fukushima, even though it was the fatal loss of cooling at the plant, caused by the natural disaster, that was to propel the accident to catastrophic levels, the General Electric Mark I boiling-water reactors were not completely without blame either: The reactors shut down duly when the earthquake hit, but, said several engineers involved with the design of the Mark I model in interviews following the disaster, the reactors’ containment vessels were too small to insure against dramatic build-ups of hydrogen, which led to explosions at Units 1, 2, and 3 at the plant and subsequent damage to the reactor vessels.

Hydrogen venting systems on the reactors also failed, and had to be opened manually, causing critical delays that led up to the hydrogen pressure explosions.

Three engineers with GE who had reviewed the Mark I design in 1975 resigned over these flaws when the company insisted on bringing the reactor to market.

Reactors of the ABWR series have been online since 1996, but their reliability record is not the most reassuring. At some, over 50 percent of overall operation time is spent in outage, repairs, or maintenance. That necessarily affects the bottom line.

For example, in the entire period that Unit 5 was in operation at Hamaoka, it was only producing electricity 46.7 percent of the time.

At Shika, a nuclear power plant in the town of Shika, Ishikawa, where a Hitachi-made ABWR has been in operation at Unit 2 since being commissioned in March 2006, that figure is 47.1 percent.
Hitachi continues its efforts to export the ABWRs, a brainchild of the 1990s, abroad.

One market it has been viewing for export reactor construction is the former Soviet republic of Lithuania, where the old, USSR-built Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Visaginas was shut down to comply with the European Union’s membership requirements.

But ever since closing down the old station, which operated two Soviet RBMK-1500 models, Vilnius has been searching for an investor to replace the defunct capacity with a new plant.

Throughout 2009, Lithuania was seen pursuing negotiations over the new nuclear power plant project in Visaginas, with Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius indicating in June that year that a new nuclear reactor serving all three Baltic states – Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia – as well as Poland, could be completed by 2018.

In May 2009, AFP reported that Canada was pitching a CANDU reactor to Lithuania. By then Lithuania’s government had already talked with such reactor manufacturers as the French Areva, Spanish Endesa, General Electric-Hitachi and Westinghouse from the US, the British Nukem, and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

With many factors complicating Lithuania’s new nuclear push – such as, for one, the rival efforts from Belarus, which is bent on building a nuclear power plant in its Ostrovets, close to the Lithuanian border, or from Russia’s Rosatom, with its own project in the Russian westernmost enclave of Kaliningrad, also on the border with Lithuania – the search for an investor and construction partner has not been easy.

But recently, Lithuania announced it found one in Hitachi.

Having apparently hitched his political future to the nuclear wagon, Premier Kubilius now seems willing to give the reins to a reactor construction project to a company that is now grappling with a $1 billion liability payment for a faulty turbine in Japan.

Media reports cite Kubilius as saying that concession agreements on the construction of the new NPP in Visaginas could be reached before the end of the year.

Hitachi is understandably interested in pushing a reactor on a less than favourable post-Fukushima market. New contracts are hard to come by, and previously signed deals are under threat of being called off by the increasingly reluctant customers. As an example, the deal for an ABWR reactor pitched for the South Texas Project in the US fell through in March 2011.

There are also rumours that some of the equipment Hitachi has already manufactured to deploy at that site will now be sent to Lithuania.

Meanwhile, the public may not be all too happy about the prospects of Hitachi coming to Lithuania with a new reactor. Ecological organisations continue to protest both the new project in Visaginas and those pushed for by Russia and Belarus.

Fearing that the three new stations will ensnare the region into a dangerous nuclear noose, environmentalists are collecting signatures calling for a nuclear-free status, and a parliamentary commission in Vilnius has also been gathered to look into the issue of whether the decision to build a new plant in Lithuania has sufficient merit to proceed with the plans.

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D.  Nuclear Energy

Indonesia's First Nuclear Power Plant Delayed
Joao Peixe
Oil Price
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Indonesia’s National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan) head Hudi Hastowo told journalists about the country’s nuclear energy efforts, stating, "The use of nuclear (energy) in Indonesia will not be for war weaponry, but for human peace and prosperity."

As for Indonesia’s nuclear power plant development plan Hudi noted that the 11 March Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan had impacted government plans to construct the country’s first nuclear power plant in Tanjung Ular Muntok Cape region, West Bangka, stating, "After the major earthquake in Japan that hit Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant caused some radioactive leakage, the plan is now delayed whereas it was previously accepted by the public," Jakarta’s government-owned Antara news agency reported.

Experts noted that the proposed Tanjung Ular Muntok nuclear power plant is situated in a seismically active region and that a repeat of the December 2004 tsunami that devastated the country could cause a catastrophic disaster. Currently Indonesia’s main power source is coal.

Indonesia currently has three nuclear research reactors – Kartini, Siwabessy and the Triga Mark II nuclear research facility.

If Indonesia does decide to develop a nuclear power industry, it has two uranium mines, Remaja-Hitam and Rirang-Tanah Merah in western Kalimantan and Borneo.

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Malaysia Nuclear Plant Plan on Hold
New Straits Times
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The government has yet to make a final decision on the proposal to build a nuclear power plant in the country, said Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui.

He told the house during question time that various studies need to be carried out to look into the ability and readiness of the country to manage a nuclear plant.

"My ministry invited several consultants in July to get advice on implementing public education and awareness programmes. But based on the government's advice, the programme was not carried out," he said in reply to a question from Charles Santiago (DAP-Klang).

Chin said the ministry had suggested that such programmes be carried out early and continually to find out if Malaysians wanted nuclear power.

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SocGen Sees 2-Year Delay for New UK Nuclear Plant
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Britain's first new-generation nuclear power plant is likely to come online in around 2020 at the earliest, two years later than the initial start-up date, after construction risks and costs have risen, French bank Societe Generale said on Tuesday.

EDF Energy , owned by French power giant EDF, plans to build Britain's next nuclear plant at a site in Somerset, but has admitted its schedule to start the plant in 2018 has slipped, without giving a new date.

"One of the reasons for these expected delays is the increased degree of security required for construction and during operations (...) All of these will translate in higher risks and costs, and have jeopardized nuclear competitiveness," analysts at the French bank said in a research note.

New nuclear power plants will help supply the British power market in the next decade, but between then and 2016 the market faces a capacity shortage as old thermal plants shut and the start-up of new low-carbon capacity, such as coal plants fitted with carbon-capture technology, will be sluggish, the bank said.

Analysts expect baseload power prices for delivery in 2014 to rise 13 percent above current year-ahead levels to 63.50 pounds per megawatt-hour because supply margins are forecast to start tightening as old plant closures will surpass new build capacity.

"The UK may face more of a deficit from 2016, because of the long lead times to build new clean generation (namely, planned nuclear and/or coal CCS) and the likely retirement of a sizeable part of the thermal fleet due to the combined effect of plant age, market dynamics, and regulation," SocGen analysts wrote.

Muted power demand growth will help level out the impact of a tighter supply balance as consumption is forecast to rise at an average rate of 0.7 percent per year until 2015 under normal weather conditions, the bank said.

In next two years Britain's power market is well supplied.

This winter, it is expected to rely less on power imports from neighbouring markets as the German nuclear shutdown will draw higher imports from markets such as France and the Netherlands, which also export to Britain.

"Even in this case, however, the over capacity in the system is such that we do not expect this to translate into any major structural impact," the bank said.

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EDF on Trial in French Greenpeace Spying Case
Heather Smith
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Electricite de France SA and two former security officials go on trial over “cloak-and-dagger” charges that the company hired a hacker and private investigator to spy on Greenpeace International’s French operations.

EDF, Europe’s biggest power producer, sought the men’s help to monitor activists in 2006 as Greenpeace challenged plans in the U.K. to expand nuclear operations. EDF and the other men are charged by prosecutors with receiving information gained from hacking at the trial, which is scheduled to start today in Nanterre, near Paris.

EDF and the environmental group Greenpeace have fought for years over France’s power production, more than three-quarters of which is nuclear. Safety has become a greater issue in France in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima atomic disaster. Opposition politicians are urging the government to reconsider rules for nuclear stress tests carried out before next year’s presidential elections.

“Nuclear technology provokes this sort of cloak-and-dagger behavior,” said Pascal Husting, executive director of Greenpeace France.

EDF said during the investigation that it was the victim of overzealous efforts to find out what Greenpeace was doing and the company was unaware anyone would hack into the computer of Greenpeace’s director.

EDF referred calls on the trial to its lawyer, Alexis Gublin, who declined to comment ahead of the trial. The company faces fines of as much as 375,000 euros ($520,000).

Husting said that Greenpeace’s goal in the trial is “to prove nuclear technology and democracy don’t go together.”

EDF’s image outside France as “worthy of the confidence of political and economic decision-makers” doesn’t correspond with its “use of ex-secret service agents” for its French security operations, he said.

The controversy will have little effect outside France, said Per Lekander, an analyst with UBS AG in London.

The spying scandal “is a highly French situation,” Lekander said. Greenpeace’s criticisms are unlikely to “have any impact” on EDF’s image outside France.

Greenpeace, which has victim status to request damages at the trial, is seeking 8.3 million euros from EDF and the two officials. Both men have been transferred internally away from security work since the investigation began. Greenpeace will also ask for 168,000 euros from the outside investigator EDF hired for the surveillance, the value of the contract, Husting said.
Agence France-Presse said Oct. 13 Gublin may pose a constitutional challenge to the trial, claiming the law was being applied retroactively. Gublin declined to comment on the report. Should the court refer the challenge for constitutional review, it could postpone the trial for several months.

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E.  Nuclear Cooperation

China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group Interested in Building Cernavoda Reactors
Business Review
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China Guangdong Power Group and Nuclearelectrica have signed today the confidentiality agreement that will grant the Chinese company access to the documentation regarding the building of reactors 3 and 4 at Cernavoda nuclear plant, according to an official press statement issued by the Romanian Ministry of Economy today.

Prior to signing the document, the Romanian minister of Economy, Ion Ariton, and the vice-president of China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group met to discuss the project status of the Cernavoda 3 and 4 reactors.

China Nuclear Power Engineering Company, member of China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, was founded in 2004, being one of the most important Chinese companies in the domain of nuclear energy. The company was involved in various nuclear plant projects in China: Dayawan, LingAo II Honyahne, Yangjiang, Ningde and Taishan.

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Japan Asks Turkey to Proceed With Talks on Nuclear Plant Deal
The Mainichi Daily News
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Japan asked Turkey on Tuesday to continue with talks on a nuclear power plant deal in the latter country, while confirming with the United States plans to strengthen technical cooperation on nuclear power between the two countries.

The move came during talks between Japan's industry and trade minister, Yukio Edano, and his counterparts from Turkey and the United States in Paris on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the International Energy Agency.

The latest overtures signal Tokyo's willingness to pursue the export of nuclear power technology, as a way to shore up Japan's fragile economy, while seeking to reduce its nuclear dependence domestically in the aftermath of its worst nuclear disaster in March.

Since last December, Ankara has given two Japanese companies -- Toshiba Corp. and Tokyo Electric Power Co. -- priority rights to negotiate a deal to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey.

But following the devastating accident at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power signaled in July its intention to withdraw from the talks. The focus is thus on whether Turkey would continue with the talks.

At the meeting on Tuesday, Edano asked Turkey's energy minister, Taner Yildiz, to move the talks forward. "I would like you to continue (to positively) evaluate Japan's technology, according to Japanese officials," he said.

Yildiz indicated that he would consider the matter in a forward-looking manner, the officials said.

During another meeting, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu pressed Edano to explain Tokyo's stance on its atomic energy policy in the wake of the nuclear disaster.

Edano told his U.S. counterpart that Japan intends to make use of its technology and knowledge of nuclear power in the international arena, while reducing its dependence on nuclear power plants for electricity generation at home.

To do so, the government will further promote Japan-U.S. cooperation, the economy, trade and industry minister was quoted by officials as saying at the meeting.

At a separate meeting, Edano reached a basic agreement with Guenther Oettinger, the European Union's energy commissioner, to hold a ministerial dialogue on energy between the two sides next spring.

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India Hopes It Can Import Uranium From South Africa
Arvind Padmanabhan
Indo-Asian News Service
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India hopes it can import uranium from South Africa by impressing upon Pretoria to favourably change its regime towards New Delhi, notwithstanding the implications of what is called the Treaty of Pelindaba.

Speaking to journalists on the margins of the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Summit, India's envoy here Virendra Gupta said while South Africa has uranium deposits, India has now started talks on importing the fuel.

'It appears to us that there will need to be an exception,' Gupta said, referring to the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty that prohibits signatories from entering into nuclear commerce with any nation that has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

'But it will not be difficult. We have civil nuclear agreements with several countries. I don't see any reason why we can't do it here,' Gupta said referring to such bilateral pacts with about a dozen regimes.

He was speaking soon after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh concluded his engagements with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and South African President Jacob Zuma both at the summit level and his subsequent bilateral meetings.

Significantly, the joint declaration signed by the three leaders appeared to acknowledge India as a responsible state on nuclear matters, despite its reluctance to officially join the non-proliferation regime.

'The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the goal of the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons within a specified timeframe, in a comprehensive, universal, non-discriminatory, verifiable and irreversible manner,' the declaration said.

'Brazil and South Africa welcomed India's engagement with, and interest in, participation in the relevant international multilateral export control regimes and utilization of their guidelines.'

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F.  Links of Interest

Seoul’s Nuclear Temptation
Khaleej Times
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Nuclear (Triad) Warfare
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Obama's Push to Quell a Nuclear North Korea
The Christian Science Monitor
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The Banality of Death by Nuclear Power
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
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DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of Partnership for Global Security. Partnership for Global Security takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.

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