1. AP Exclusive: Document Shows Chinese-Russian Push UN Nuke Agency to Ease Up on Iran
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Russia and China are urging the chief U.N nuclear inspector to scrap or delay U.S.-backed plans to reveal intelligence on Iran’s alleged nuclear arms experiments, in a bluntly worded confidential document obtained Monday by The Associated Press.
The diplomatic note to International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano points to an East-West rift among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council over how to deal with concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities.
The United States, Britain and France want Amano to share what his agency knows or suspects about Iran’s alleged weapons experiments with the IAEA’s 35-nation board at its meeting next month. But Russia’s and China’s opposition likely will delay Western hopes of having the board report Tehran to the Security Council for the second time for its nuclear defiance, a referral that could open Iran to more sanctions.
In the note, Moscow and Beijing warn Amano against “groundless haste” and urge him to “act cautiously,” adding that “such kind of report will only drive the Iranians into a corner making them less cooperative.”
An international official familiar with the matter said Amano plans to go ahead nonetheless, arguing that it is his duty to inform the decision-making board of evidence pointing to such experiments.
Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France and Germany are formally unified in trying to persuade Iran to meet concerns over its nuclear program. But a diplomat briefed on the matter said he was told that the Russians and Chinese went to Amano without consulting the other nations.
The diplomat suggested that the fractures within the group may hinder any new attempt to engage Iran in talks over its nuclear program. He, like others who consented to talk about privileged issues, asked for anonymity.
A cell phone message left with Iran’s chief IAEA representative was not immediately returned.
Asked about the Chinese-Russian note, chief U.S. delegate Glyn Davies said Washington supports “IAEA’s efforts to address questions about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.”
“The burden remains on Iran to answer the IAEA’s questions, which it has thus far refused to do,” he said in an e-mail.
Iran is under four sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions for not mothballing a program that can make both nuclear fuel or fissile warhead material. It has rapidly expanded such activities since they were discovered in 2002, and concerns have grown as the country has refused to let the IAEA probe growing intelligence-based allegations that it is working on a nuclear warhead and other aspects of a weapons program.
Tehran insists, however, it is only interested in nuclear power, not weapons. It says the intelligence is fabricated by the United States and its allies.
In its efforts to blunt pressure, Iran has found economic and strategic allies in both China and Russia. Since the IAEA asked for Security Council involvement five years ago, these two nations have supported U.N. and other sanctions only reluctantly and on condition they be watered down.
In contrast, Washington, London and Paris continue to seek tougher U.N. sanctions, and their determination to ramp up pressure on Tehran has only increased in the wake of an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington revealed earlier this month.
Both Moscow and Beijing have reacted with caution to those allegations and continue to oppose toughening pressure on Iran over its nuclear activities. That is a stance that contrasts with the Western view — and which was clearly enunciated in their diplomatic note to Amano.
In an allusion to Washington, London and Paris, they warned that “certain members of the IAEA Board of Governors will most probably use (such) a separate report ... as a pretext” to again report Iran to the Security Council.
“This is a straight way forward to a new UNSC resolution on sanctions against Iran,” said the note. The two nations, it said, “are definitely seriously concerned about such a development.”
For months, the U.S. and its allies had been contemplating pushing for renewed IAEA referral of Iran to the Security Council using a strongly worded Amano report as a springboard — a strategy that a second diplomat said now seemed unlikely considering strong Russian and Chinese disapproval.
The diplomat, who is from an IAEA member nation, said that the West now may try to garner support for an IAEA resolution that gives Iran until March to cooperate with U.N. agency attempts to probe the arms allegations.
Missing that deadline on the part of Tehran could trigger renewed referral to the Security Council, he said.
The diplomat said the evidence making a case for fears about secret nuclear weapons experiments will be backed up by documentation reflecting “cross-checks” of intelligence provided by various nations. He and the other diplomat both said that Iran will be given a copy of the summary and asked to respond before it is presented to the IAEA board.
In his previous report to the board in September, Amano said his agency is “increasingly concerned” about a stream of intelligence suggesting that Iran continues to work secretly on developing a nuclear payload for a missile and other components of a nuclear weapons program.
The restricted report obtained by the AP said “many member states” are providing evidence for that assessment, describing the information it is receiving as credible, “extensive and comprehensive.”
Tehran denies secretly experimenting with a nuclear weapons program and has blocked a four-year attempt by the IAEA to follow up on intelligence that it secretly designed blueprints linked to a nuclear payload on a missile, experimented with exploding a nuclear charge, and conducted work on other components of a weapons program.
In a 2007 estimate, the U.S. intelligence community said that while Iran had worked on a weapons program such activities appeared to have ceased in 2003. But diplomats say a later intelligence summary avoided such specifics, and recent IAEA reports on the topic have expressed growing unease that such activities may be continuing — although in a less concerted fashion.
Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/ap-exclusive-document-shows-chinese-russians-pushing-un-nuke-agency-to-ease-up-on-iran/2011/10/24/gIQAcO9dCM_story.html
2. U.N. Report Seen Worsening Fear Over Iran Nuclear Plans
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The U.N. nuclear watchdog is expected to publish intelligence soon pointing to military dimensions to Iran's nuclear activities but stopping short of saying explicitly that Tehran is trying to build atom bombs, Western diplomats say.
Russian and Chinese reluctance may frustrate any Western bid to seize on next month's report by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to press for expanded United Nations sanctions on Iran, a major oil producer.
Moscow and Beijing signaled concern last week that the timing of the IAEA document could damage any chances for diplomacy to resolve the nuclear row.
In contrast, Western envoys believe the report -- which they portray as incriminating for Iran -- will pile further pressure on the country to curb its sensitive nuclear work and address international concerns about its aims.
"We are in favor of a strong report," one Western official said. "The IAEA has a lot of information that would allow the agency to come to clear findings on the issue of possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear program.
The different views indicate divisions among the six major powers involved in the search for a diplomatic solution to the long-running dispute over Iran's nuclear program -- the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia.
Western powers believe Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran denies this, saying it is enriching uranium only to power reactors for electricity generation.
Western diplomats say Russia and China may be unwilling to back any move at a mid-November meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation governing board to refer Iran once again to the U.N. Security Council, based on the agency's report.
"The follow-up to the next (IAEA) report is going to be critical, but it doesn't necessarily need to involve a new U.N. Security Council resolution," said analyst Peter Crail of the Washington-based Arms Control Association.
"If the details in the report do point to work on developing a nuclear warhead, the board members should adopt a resolution that at the very least condemns such activities and calls for Iran to cooperate with the IAEA investigation."
Russia, which has commercial and other links with Iran, has proposed a step-by-step effort to defuse the nuclear standoff, but Western diplomats have given the plan a cool response. European Union leaders warned Iran Sunday it would face tougher sanctions if it failed to respond to concerns about its nuclear activities.
Two days earlier EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton -- who handles contacts with Iran for the six powers -- told Tehran that talks could resume soon if it was ready to "engage seriously in meaningful discussions."
IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said last month he would soon set out in greater detail the reasons for his growing concern that Iran may be working to develop nuclear weapons. Western diplomats believe he will publish significant amounts of information on this in his next quarterly report on Iran's nuclear program, due in early November.
They say it is likely to include intelligence about work which can have both military and civilian uses, and work which would make little sense for activities not related to weapons development. It may also give names, locations and dates.
"Iranian experts have conducted experiments with neutron sources and highly explosive detonators that would only make sense for military applications," former IAEA deputy director general Olli Heinonen told Der Spiegel magazine.
For several years the IAEA has been investigating Western intelligence reports indicating that Iran has joined together efforts to process uranium, test high explosives and revamp a ballistic missile cone to accommodate a nuclear warhead.
The IAEA has said in previous reports that the data it has obtained about such issues is extensive and comprehensive, and also "broadly consistent and credible."
The IAEA has "received countless pieces of information on Iran's nuclear activities from governments and other sources," one Western envoy in the Austrian capital said.
Iran has routinely dismissed the accusations as baseless and forged, insisting its nuclear program is aimed at producing electricity so that it can sell gas and oil abroad.
But its history of concealing sensitive nuclear activity and its refusal to suspend work that can also yield atomic bombs have drawn four rounds of U.N. sanctions, as well as separate sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union.
The United States has called on Amano to make his "best assessment" of whether there have been military dimensions to Iran's nuclear work and whether that may still be the case.
But several diplomats said he is unlikely to come to a conclusion regarding Iran as clear-cut as the one about Syria in a report in May, when he said a facility bombed by Israel in 2007 was "very likely" to have been a secret nuclear reactor.
Iran's nuclear activities are spread out geographically and any military work would take place in secrecy beyond the reach of U.N. inspectors.
"To come to a Syria-type conclusion ... is going to be difficult," said one nuclear expert who declined to be named.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/24/us-nuclear-iran-iaea-idUSTRE79N3NW20111024
1. Construction of New Reactor for Armenian NPP Remains Rosatom Priority
Arka News Agency
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Nikolay Spassky, a deputy chief executive director of Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom, said today in Yerevan that construction of a new reactor for Armenian nuclear power plant is one of priority international projects of Rosatom.
Mr. Spassky was quoted by Novosti-Armenia news agency as saying that he was involved in the preparation of an intergovernmental agreement on the construction of a new reactor for the Armenian NPP, which was signed last year during Russian president Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Armenia.
"From the official point of view this project has the highest status being made as an intergovernmental agreement," said Spassky, adding that he could not comment on media stories in Russia about its attitude to the project, but could voice the official position of Russia and Rosatom corporation which he represents.
"I repeat that we are not just ready to help Armenia build a new reactor, we want to participate in it. We are ready to participate in the financing of the project and are willing to participate further in the future operation of the new reactor," said Spassky.
Spassky said also the specific parameters of the project remain at the discretion of the Armenian side. According to him, like any other project the construction of nuclear power unit is very difficult, requiring strict adjustments. Spassky said that the sides have moved forward substantially one year after the signing of the intergovernmental agreement.
In turn, Armenian deputy minister of energy and natural resources, Areg Galstyan, said the work is being carried out in accordance with Armenia’s law and international conventions and in accordance with a schedule.
The Armenian Metsamor nuclear power plant is located some 30 kilometers west of Yerevan. It was built in the 1970s but was closed following a devastating earthquake in 1988. One of its two VVER 440-V230 light-water reactors was reactivated in 1995. Armenian authorities said they will build a new nuclear power plant to replace the aging facility. The new plant is supposed to operate at twice the capacity of the Soviet-constructed facility. Metsamor currently generates some 40 percent of Armenia's electricity.
But the government has yet to attract funding for the project that was estimated by a U.S.-funded feasibility study to cost at as much as $5 billion. Under a 2003 agreement Armenian nuclear power plant's financial flows are managed by Russian Inter RAO UES, owned by Russian state-run Rosatom corporation. The agreement expires in 2013. In 2010 Russia and Armenia signed an agreement on cooperation in nuclear energy sphere whereby Russia committed to assume 20% of all expenses. The Armenian government will cover another 20% and the remaining part is supposed to come from investors.
Available at: http://www.arka.am/eng/energy/2011/10/26/28681.html
2. Rosatom Promises Up to Kč 120 Billion to Czech Firms if Awarded Nuclear Tender
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The head of Russian state nuclear enterprise Rosatom, Sergei Kirienko, put the onus on the positive in Prague on Monday as it positions itself to build two new reactors at Czech nuclear plant Temelín. If the tender is decided primarily according to technological and economic criteria then the consortium headed by Rosatom has the best credentials to win, said the former Russian prime minister, but if its on geopolitical grounds, then it will lose.
With the Czech state-controlled power company ČEZ due to issue the documentation for the tender to build a third and fourth reactor block at the Temelín plant in South Bohemia at the end of October, the three entities which have registered to bid for the contract — Areva of France, the US firm Westinghouse, and the MIR 1200 consortium comprising Atomstroyexport, and nuclear engineering firms Gidropress of Russian and JS Škoda of the Czech Republic — are stepping up public relations campaigns in the Czech Republic to support their bids. Kirienko’s visit to Prague is in itself a strong signal of the importance the Russian government is placing on the Temelín tender.
Gidropress and Atomstroyexport are both controlled by Rosatom, while JS Škoda is owned by the Russian machine engineering firm OMZ, which in turn is controlled by Gazprom Bank of Russian state-controlled gas giant Gazprom. Rosatom insists the MIR 1200 is a Russian-Czech consortium.
At an informal meeting with journalists in Prague on Monday, Sergei Kirienko said he will sign agreements of cooperation with 12 Kirienko was keen to stress that there are opportunities for cooperation with the Russian nuclear sector for some 300 Czech firms Czech companies during his visit to the Czech Republic on which he is accompanied by his deputy, Kirill Komarov. He revealed the largest agreement will be signed with machine engineering firm Vítkovice Holding, though he declined to divulge any details.
Spokeswoman for Vítkovice Holding, Eva Kijonková told Czech Position later on Monday that the she had no news to share about an agreement with Rosatom or its subsidiaries. Kirienko was keen to stress that there are opportunities for cooperation with the Russian nuclear sector for all of the 300 or so Czech companies which are due to attend the Atomex conference in Prague on October 25 and 26, which he and Komarov will address on Tuesday.
During their two-day visit to the Czech Republic, Kirienko and Komarov are also meeting with Czech Minister of Industry and Trade, Martin Kocourek (Civic Democrats – ODS), on Monday, and Prime Minister, Petr Nečas (ODS) on Tuesday.
The value of the contract to build two new reactor blocks at the Temelín power plant is estimated at a minimum of Kč 200 billion.
Czech PM Nečas is also likely to be courted about Temelín when he begins an official visit to the US on Wednesday this week with the and the tender expected to be at the top of the agenda at his planned meeting with US President Barak Obama. When asked how Russia could respond to such high caliber political lobbying, Kirienko said that if geopolitical allegiances are to be the deciding factor in selecting the tender winner, the Russian-led MIR 1200 consortium will lose. “There’s no doubt about that: the US is a more Kirienko claims the security credentials of Gidropress’ new third generation VVER 1200 reactor are superior important geopolitical partner for the Czech Republic.”
The head of the Russian nuclear sector said, however, that in negotiations with Czech representatives, including the Czech government’s special envoy for the Temelín tender, Václav Bartuška, he had “no feeling of bias” nor that anything had already been agreed in relation to the massive nuclear contract.
Kirienko put the onus on the safety, technology and jobs the Russian-led consortia could offer the Czechs. “However, we believe we can win on the pragmatic level,” he said listing key factors he believes where the MIR 1200 offer will have the advantage. He claims the security credentials of Gidropress’ new third generation VVER 1200 (Water-Water Energetic Reactor) are superior to Westinghouse’s AP1000, not least because US’ Nuclear Regulatory Commission has yet to approve the construction and operation of the reactor on US soil, whereas the first VVER 1200 — being built at the Leningradskaya II plant near Saint Petersburg — is scheduled to go online in Russia in 2014.
Further on the safety issue, Gidopress claims the new VVER 1200 can withstand the impact of a plane weighing up to 400 tons and the reactor fully complies with the tightened safety recommendations drafted by the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) in response to the accident at the Fukushima plant in Japan.
A central, if not pivotal, argument the Russian-led consortium will present in their bid is a high degree of localization of the project. Kirienko said up to 70 percent of the work on the Temelín expansion would go to Czech firms, compared to a maximum of 30 percent which he says Areva or Westinghouse could offer. Kirienko said Monday that up to 70 percent of the work on the Temelín expansion would go to Czech firms, compared to a maximum of 30 percent which he says Areva or Westinghouse could offer: “Why only 30 percent? It’s not because they are greedy and wouldn’t want to outsource more. …It’s because they simply can’t; there’s not the local know-how.” Czech companies as a result could win around Kč 100- 120 billion in orders, he added.
Kirienko also said he was confident that Czech industry could play a crucial role in support of the Russian-led bid because, he claims, they will see that they would draw huge benefits.
The experience of Russian and Czech cooperation on the oldest Czech nuclear plant, Dukovany, and later on the first two blocks of the Temelín plant resulted in a highly valuable Czech – Russian knowledge transfer and cooperation in the nuclear energy sphere which would require probably at least a decade to achieve with a new nuclear partner, Kirienko added.
When asked by Czech Position about the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade government’s draft energy strategy for the next 50 years leaked to the press in the summer — which among others proposes expanding uranium mining and establishing a full nuclear cycle including uranium enrichment and disposal in deep repositories — Kirienko said the strategy is “altogether reasonable” and said the state enterprise had already proposed potential cooperation to ČEZ and the Czech government in the areas of uranium enrichment and disposal. It would make economic sense for the Russian nuclear sector to build an enrichment facility in the Central European region if and when there are 10 or more VVER-type reactors in operation in the CEE region, he said.
Kirienko added that as a result of his enterprise's acquisition program he expects Rosatom to consolidate the largest uranium reserves in the world by 2015 and consequently become the global leader in uranium enrichment.
Available at: http://www.ceskapozice.cz/en/news/politics-policy/rosatom-promises-kc-120-billion-czech-firms-if-awarded-nuclear-tender
3. Vietnam to Stick With Plan to Introduce Japanese Nuclear Technology: Deputy PM
The Mainichi Daily News
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Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told the Mainichi on Oct. 25 that Vietnam is set to form an agreement with the Japanese government over the construction of nuclear power facilities in Vietnam's Ninh Thuan province using Japanese technology -- effectively giving the project the go-ahead.
The deputy prime minister revealed the plans during an interview in Hanoi with Atsushi Narita, general managing editor of The Mainichi Newspapers' Editorial Division. However, the unpredictable situation amid the ongoing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, which has resulted in widespread radiation contamination, has created resistance in Japan to resuming exports of nuclear power.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is set to visit Japan on Oct. 30, and conclude an agreement with Japan at that time. When former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan visited Vietnam in October last year, he confirmed that Vietnam would partner with Japan in the construction of two reactors. After the outbreak of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant, Vietnam maintained that it would apply Japanese technology in the project, but there had been no formal agreement between the governments of the two countries.
During negotiations, Vietnam presented six conditions to the Japanese government, including the introduction of safety-verified, cutting-edge technology, and provisions pertaining to the disposal of nuclear waste. Japan has consecutively met these conditions.
The final outstanding issue was low-interest loans to the Vietnamese government that would provide capital for construction. Both countries are believed to have reached an agreement on this, meaning that all of the hurdles for construction have been cleared.
In his interview with the Mainichi, Phuc said that Japan and Vietnam had formed a "strategic partnership." He said that Fukushima was an unexpected accident, but stressed that there had been no change in the relationship between the two countries in terms of nuclear-power cooperation.
Phuc was appointed deputy prime minister in August this year after having served as minister and chairman of the Government Office of Vietnam, and is in the head position among Vietnam's four deputy prime ministers. He responded to the interview at the request of a Mainichi group visiting Vietnam, headed by Mainichi Newspapers President Yutaka Asahina.
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20111026p2a00m0na017000c.html
4. China-IAEA Deal On Safe Construction of Nuke Power Plants
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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has signed a practical arrangement deal with China on cooperation in the field of safe nuclear power plant construction in that country.
Signing of the deal between IAEA and China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA) was the highlight of IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano's four-day official visit to the Communist State.
The arrangement provides for stronger collaboration with the U.N. nuclear watchdog and China's International Construction Training Center (ICTC) to ensure the safe construction of new nuclear power plants.
China has an active nuclear power program with 15 nuclear plants in operation, and 27 new ones under construction. Currently, nuclear energy accounts for 1.82 percent of China's total electricity generation.
Amano held bilateral meetings with top Chinese energy officials, including CAEA Chairman Chen Quif, China's Nuclear Engineering Group Company President Mu Zhanying, China National Nuclear Corporation President Sun Qin, and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation Chairman He Yu.
He visited key nuclear facilities in China. The IAEA chief also attended inauguration of the ICTC in Beijing, and delivered a keynote address at the Biennial General Meeting of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) in Shenzhen, IAEA said in a statement.
Available at: http://www.rttnews.com/Content/GeneralNews.aspx?Id=1741235&SM=1
5. India, Japan to Hold Strategic Dialogue; Nuclear Energy in Focus
The Economic Times
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India and Japan will hold their fifth strategic dialogue from Friday during which the two sides will review and discuss ways to strengthen cooperation in key areas, including civil nuclear field, trade and security.
During the two-day dialogue, to be led by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba, the two sides will also discuss agenda for visit of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda here in December.
"They will review all aspects of the bilateral strategic and global partnership and discuss regional and international issues of mutual interest," the Ministry of External Affairs said here today.
India and Japan have held three rounds of talks on the civil nuclear cooperation deal, which seems to have suffered a setback due to Fukushima nuclear disaster after the earthquake in Japan.
Significantly, Japan has exempted India from the cuts it has implemented in its overseas aid programmes following the tsunami and the nuclear disaster at Fukushima
Given that the dialogue comes just days after increased Chinese assertiveness in South China Sea and barely weeks before the East Asia Summit next month that will focus on evolving an inclusive regional architecture in which both countries have high stakes, the two leaders are expected to discuss issues relating to them.
Available at: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-10-25/news/30320296_1_strategic-dialogue-fukushima-nuclear-energy
1. U.S. Upbeat After North Korea Talks But No Breakthroughs
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The United States is optimistic about an eventual return to six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program but there were no breakthroughs during two days of meetings with North Korean negotiators, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.
Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, special representative for North Korea policy, said differences had been narrowed but did not reveal specifics of the talks with the senior North Korean negotiators.
The discussions had "touched on all issues," including humanitarian aid, but he declined to say whether North Korea's contested uranium enrichment program had been the focus.
"It has been a very useful meeting," Bosworth told reporters outside the U.S. diplomatic mission in Geneva.
"The tone was positive and generally constructive," he added.
"I am confident that with continued effort on both sides we can reach a reasonable basis of departure for formal negotiations for a return to the six-party process."
Washington and Pyongyang had a long history marked by "many differences," not all of which can be overcome quickly, he said.
"We narrowed differences on several points and explored our differences on other points. We came to the conclusion that we will need more time and more discussion to reach agreement," Bosworth said.
In the cautious world of U.S.-North Korean diplomacy, the comments were relatively upbeat.
But U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington, "while there's been some narrowing of differences, we haven't had any breakthroughs here and significant issues do remain."
The two sides held bilateral talks in New York in late July, the first since six-party talks over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program collapsed in 2009. The wider talks include South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.
The United States and South Korea insist that the North immediately halt its uranium enrichment work, which it unveiled last year, as a precursor to restarting regional talks that offer economic aid in return for denuclearization by Pyongyang.
U.S. and North Korean officials would consult with their respective capitals and stay in touch via the New York diplomatic mission of the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), according to Bosworth.
There was no specific timetable for the next round of talks, a U.S. official told Reuters.
The talks on Tuesday were delayed at the request of North Korea, the U.S. diplomatic mission said earlier in a brief statement that declined to elaborate.
The morning session was canceled but the two delegations had a joint lunch at the DPRK mission followed by one-hour talks.
Bosworth was accompanied by Glyn Davies, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency who has been named his successor, in the Geneva talks with North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il told Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang that a moribund 2005 deal should be the basis for new talks about Pyongyang's nuclear activity, Chinese state media said on Tuesday, leaving unanswered a key question on uranium enrichment, a possible pathway to atom bombs.
In his meeting with Li, Kim repeated that North Korea was willing to revive six-party talks that it abandoned after the United Nations imposed new sanctions for a long-range North Korean missile test. The following month, Pyongyang conducted a second nuclear test.
"Kim said the DPRK hopes the six-party talks should be restarted as soon as possible," said the Xinhua news agency report on Tuesday of the meeting between Kim and Li in North Korea on Monday night.
The North's uranium enrichment program, which opens a second route to developing an atom bomb along with its plutonium program, is not specifically referred to in the 2005 pact.
The North says that it is enriching uranium only for power generation and argues that the 2005 agreement respects its right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/25/us-korea-north-us-idUSTRE79O5HU20111025
1. China Environment Minister Says Nuclear Safety Risks Climbing
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China is facing increasing safety risks from its nuclear power plants as existing facilities age and a large number of new reactors go into operation, the country's environmental minister said in comments published on Wednesday.
"The safety standards of China's early-phase nuclear facilities are relatively low, operation times are long, some facilities are obsolete and the safety risks are increasing," said Zhou Shengxian in a speech published on the website of China's parliament, the National People's Congress (www.npc.gov.cn).
Zhou told legislators that the scale and pace of nuclear construction had accelerated, a larger range of technologies had been introduced, and potential sources of radiation had become more widespread, making it harder to monitor safety.
China has 13 nuclear reactors in operation and another 28 under construction, but it has suspended all new project approvals in the wake of the tsunami in northeast Japan, which left the Fukushima Daiichi reactor on the brink of meltdown.
After the suspension, Beijing launched a nationwide inspection of all nuclear sites, including reactors already operating and those under construction, and is drawing up comprehensive new industry guidelines.
The government originally planned to increase capacity to more than 80 gigawatts by 2020, up from 10.9 gigawatts at the end of last year, but disquiet about safety in the wake of Fukushima disaster has forced it to revise its plans.
Experts have expressed concern about the use of old second-generation reactor designs, a lack of qualified safety and operational staff, and construction of nuclear plants in earthquake and flood-prone regions in the country's interior.
Zhou said the country was steadily improving its nuclear safety monitoring system and its ability to decommission and control pollution at aging nuclear facilities.
The government had already built 31 sites for radioactive waste storage and had gradually brought "high-risk" radioactive sources under control, but large amounts of material were still in urgent need of treatment and disposal, he said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/26/us-china-nuclear-environment-idUSTRE79P29R20111026
Newly disclosed manuals for workers at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant highlight the utility's lack of preparedness for an emergency, a major factor leading to the meltdowns after the March 11 quake-tsunami, a review by The Japan Times showed Tuesday.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency disclosed the 170-page manuals for operators at the No. 1 reactor unit of the Fukushima plant, the first of the three reactors to melt down. Instructions in the manuals were all based on the assumption that two backup direct current batteries at reactor 1 would keep working throughout any emergency. In fact, the batteries were knocked out by water when the monster tsunami struck and crippled the Fukushima plant.
The manuals also failed to instruct workers to open by hand critical valves normally powered by electricity to vent steam and thus reduce pressure in the containment vessel. The DC batteries were supposed to supply power to operate those valves.
The containment vessel is the last line of defense to prevent radioactive materials from escaping the reactors. Tepco tried to open the valves to keep the vessel from breaking apart on March 11 and 12. Pressure also needed to be reduced to allow coolant water to be injected to prevent a meltdown of the reactor core.
But it took hours for Tepco workers, who apparently had no training in how to open the valves manually, to vent the steam and relieve the pressure, and many experts say the delay may be a key factor that led to the meltdown at unit 1.
Asked at a news conference Monday if the conditions assumed in the manuals were unrealistic, Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto responded, "It may be an open question. "(But) we don't believe that we failed to do something that should have been done" to prevent the crisis from escalating, Matsumoto said.
The existence of the manuals has been the focus of media attention for weeks. Tepco initially disclosed copies to the Diet with entries blacked out to, the company said, protect sensitive information involving the intellectual property of Tepco and nuclear power plant makers.
Tepco also argued that disclosing all the information in the manuals would reveal critical information possibly useful to terrorists and raise serious concerns about the security of reactors.
But at the end of last month NISA ordered Tepco to submit unexpurgated manuals. A NISA official said Monday they found nothing in them that presented a serious security concern.
The March 11 tsunami disrupted the outside power supply to the plant, and knocked out the emergency diesel generators, shutting down the critical cooling system for the reactor cores at units 1, 2 and 3. The DC batteries at unit 1 that were supposed to supply electricity to valves and instrument gauges were knocked out.
A future nuclear accident may raise the cost of power generation by between ¥0.1 and ¥1 per kwh, a government research panel commissioned amid the Fukushima No. 1 power plant crisis said Tuesday, although members of the body said the figures were both unrealistic and way too low.
It is the first time the country has calculated some of the costs that could stem from a nuclear accident. The figure equates to a rise of between ¥120 and ¥1,200 in average household electricity bills annually.
But the panel head, Tatsujiro Suzuki, acknowledged there is "quite a lot of uncertainty" on the estimate depending on the projection of the amount of damage any future atomic accident might cause.
The figure was presented as a midpoint of government estimates ranging from ¥0.0046 per kwh and ¥1.2 per kwh, calculated on the assumption that a severe accident like the one in Fukushima occurs once between 500 years and 100,000 years.
Based on the Fukushima crisis, the panel's secretariat estimated the damage cost of a nuclear plant accident will reach almost ¥3.9 trillion, which includes compensation payments for the people and businesses affected and the decommissioning of reactors, but not decontamination.
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20111025x1.html
3. Chile’s Nuclear Reactor Near a Fault Line, Study Finds
The Santiago Times
(for personal use only)
When an 8.8-magnitude earthquake shook Chile’s central coast on Feb. 27, 2010 -- the sixth-largest earthquake ever recorded -- the La Reina nuclear reactor responded properly to the earthquake, going into automatic shutdown mode. The reactor sustained no damage, according to the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission (Cchen).
Yet local communities have expressed fear that they may not be so fortunate in the future. Growing concern from the local population fueled an investigation into the dangers of an earthquake in the area, and the now-completed first stage of the study sought to determine how close the fault line ran to the reactor, and its potential danger.
The La Reina nuclear reactor was built in 1969, before the San Ramón fault line was known to exist. The reactor is small, using only 50 kilograms of uranium. In comparison, Japan’s Fukushima reactor that was damaged by an 9.0-magnitude quake in March, uses 75,000 kilograms of uranium.
Despite its small size, however, the reactor would never have been built in modern times, as the International Atomic Energy Association does not allow the building of nuclear reactors near fault lines or in such densely populated areas.
Several Santiago boroughs have voiced their unease over the nuclear reactor, including Las Condes, La Reina and Peñalolén, all of which are built over the fault line and would be the most affected by a meltdown.
The San Ramón fault line runs for 19 miles, north to south, passing under these neighborhoods as well as seven other boroughs, all of which are densely populated. An earthquake created by this fault, which remains active, could register between 6.9 and 7.4 on the Richter Scale, according to the Universidad de Chile. It is one of Chile’s five most active fault lines.
Community leaders in Peñalolén invited Jaime Salas, the executive director of Cchen, to speak with residents of their borough about the reactor in June. His aim was to quell fears about the reactor, illustrating its relatively small size.
In a past international collaboration, a team from the Universidad de Chile and the Paris-based Institute of Global Physics conducted a 10-year study to trace the route of the San Ramón fault line. In the newly released study, the Cchen used many of the same researchers to conduct the inquiry into where the fault line runs in relation to the reactor.
Gabriel Vargas, a geologist with Universidad de Chile, told La Tercera, “we need to know whether there is new information and if we need to take additional safety measures or check whether it was considered in the design criteria in 1969, and whether the ones that have been revised over time, are adequate.”
A study released in January by Cchen found that the La Reina reactor is located on a rock formation known as an alluvial fan, which would magnify the effects of an earthquake.
“Earthquakes might have seismic accelerations in this sector that are similar or even slightly higher than those that were taken on the coast of Pichilemu during the earthquake in Maule in 2010 because it is closer to the source,” Gabriel Vargas, said. “In that sense it is worth considering the question of whether the design is dependable or not in this event.”
The report released by the Universidad de Chile found that the engineering and building materials used in the 1969 construction of the reactor were ahead of their time, going above what was required by using high-density concrete.
Felipe Leyton, professor of engineering at Universidad Diego Portales, praised the construction of the reactor, telling La Tercera, “This is a monster of construction.”
The real problems that would arise from an earthquake along the San Ramón fault, according to Leyton, would be the damage that is done to surrounding buildings.
“The events surrounding the earthquake could cause the whole system to fail to connect to the reactor, and also the technicians wont be able to get there because the streets are destroyed,” Leyton said. “The reactor is on a tiny street, surrounded by houses which undoubtedly will suffer a great impact by the earthquake.”
The Cchen is beginning the second stage of their study where they will place seismographs around La Reina.
Available at: http://www.santiagotimes.cl/chile/environment/22745-chiles-nuclear-reactor-near-a-fault-line-study-finds
Germany made a "big mistake" that will cost the country hundreds of millions of euros by giving up nuclear power, said Sergei Kiriyenko, chief executive of Rosatom.
"We regret the German government's decision," he said in Prague on Monday. "It's a big mistake, especially for Germany."
Rosatom is seeking subcontractors to replace Siemens, which scrapped plans to return to the industry after the German decision in the wake of this year's meltdown in Fukushima, Japan.
The Russian company is deepening ties with Alstom and Rolls-Royce Holdings, and courting Czech companies such as Skoda and Vitkovice Machinery Group, Kiriyenko said.
It plans to build 30 reactors in Russia and about the same abroad by 2030, he said. That will be possible only if Rosatom builds long-term strategic partnerships, said Kiriyenko, in Prague to meet Prime Minister Petr Necas and attend a suppliers' forum.
Rosatom unit Atomstroiexport is competing with Areva and Westinghouse Electric to build two reactors at CEZ's Temelin power station in the Czech Republic. Kiriyenko, who met yesterday with CEZ chief executive Daniel Benes, said the Russians would create as many as 25,000 Czech jobs if they win the contract.
"Should the Temelin tender be decided on purely geopolitical considerations, we don't stand a chance because the U.S. is a more important partner for the Czechs now," he said. "But I think pragmatism will be the main criterion."
The contract, which state-controlled CEZ plans to award in 2013, will probably include an option for at least one more reactor at the Dukovany power plant. Rosatom is ready to help CEZ co-finance the Dukovany facilities if needed, Kiriyenko said, adding that the government has not sought any assistance.
Available at: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/business/article/kiriyenko-says-germany-made-big-mistake/446276.html
2. Uranium Deals Prove Most Lucrative as Nuclear Demand Increases: Real M&A
(for personal use only)
Uranium takeovers are offering investors the biggest potential payoffs, less than a year after the partial meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.
Hathor Exploration Ltd. (HAT), the owner of a uranium deposit in northern Saskatchewan, yesterday traded 8.4 percent above a bid from Rio Tinto Group that topped an offer from Cameco Corp. (CCO) That signals investors are now betting Hathor will extract the biggest price hike of any pending North American deal greater than $500 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Kalahari Minerals Plc (KAH), which resumed talks with China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group after a takeover was derailed by Japan’s disaster, would now hand shareholders a higher return than the pre-Fukushima agreement, even with a 5 percent lower offer.
Hathor has become the target of a bidding war, while talks to buy Kalahari, which owns a 43 percent stake in the developer of what will be the world’s third-largest uranium mine, have reignited as energy demand surges in developing nations. China, India and Russia are still constructing or planning to build at least 125 nuclear reactors combined in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that caused radiation leaks in Japan.
“The Chinese and other emerging economies are going to need uranium to power their nuclear reactors,” Rob Chang, an analyst for Versant Partners Inc. in Toronto, said in a telephone interview. “When you start seeing consolidation, it’s usually a sign of the bottom. Buyers, they’re trying to snap these assets up on the cheap. Investors would be well served.” Kelsea Murray, a spokeswoman for Vancouver-based Hathor, didn’t respond to phone calls and e-mails seeking comment. Tony Shaffer, a spokesman for London-based Rio Tinto, declined to comment.
Hathor slipped 0.2 percent to C$4.49 in Toronto today, while Cameco fell 0.2 percent to C$20.88. Rio Tinto retreated 2.1 percent to 3,302.5 pence in London.
Cameco, the world’s biggest uranium producer, took its takeover offer for Hathor directly to shareholders after the companies couldn’t agree on a price. The proposal would give Hathor’s shareholders C$3.75 a share in cash, valuing the uranium explorer at C$520 million ($530 million), according to the Aug. 26 statement.
After investors pushed the stock as much as 12 percent above Cameco’s offer, Rio Tinto, the world’s second-largest mining company, trumped the proposal last week. Rio Tinto’s bid valued Hathor at C$4.15 a share in cash, or C$578 million, according to the Oct. 19 statement.
“Investors thought that another offer would come and it did,” John Kinsey, a Toronto-based fund manager for Caldwell Securities Ltd., which oversees about C$1 billion in assets, said in a phone interview. “Rio had a look at it and said, ‘well, if Cameco wants it, maybe we should have a look at it.’”
While Hathor’s board unanimously recommended investors accept Rio Tinto’s offer, the stock closed yesterday at C$4.50 a share, 8.4 percent higher than the agreed price, signaling investors are still betting on a higher bid.
After the agreement with Rio Tinto was disclosed, Cameco said it was reviewing the announcement and would update shareholders “when appropriate” regarding its offer. Murray Lyons, a spokesman for Cameco, today declined to comment beyond the Oct. 19 statement.
The companies are vying for control of Hathor’s Roughrider uranium deposit in Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin even after the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl 25 years ago. Still, Hathor yesterday traded further above Rio Tinto’s offer than any other pending, agreed-upon deal greater than $500 million in North America, the data show.
The magnitude-9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 knocked out power and disabled back-up generators at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, leading to explosions and radiation leaks as cooling water boiled away.
While Japan was hit by rolling blackouts, then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan called for the nation to end its reliance on atomic energy and imposed the first mandatory power savings since the 1970s. Nuclear energy provided about 30 percent of Japan’s electricity before the crisis. Kalahari of London received a takeover bid for 290 pence a share, or 698.2 million pounds ($1.1 billion), from Guangdong Nuclear, China’s second-largest reactor builder, only days before the disaster. The proposal was 17 percent higher than Kalahari’s 20-day trading average when it was announced.
A purchase of Kalahari would give Guangdong Nuclear a 43 percent stake in Extract Resources Ltd. (EXT), which is developing the Husab uranium project in Namibia. The deposit is expected to produce 15 million pounds of uranium annually, which would make it the third-largest uranium mine in the world, according to Versant Partners’ Chang.
The Chinese “have recognized that nuclear power is a very important part of their energy strategy going forward,” Chang said. “Their plan is to just get direct interest in actual mines. Looking at the assets of Extract itself, it’s a fantastic asset and one of the best ones being developed.”
After the nuclear crisis slashed the value of Kalahari’s stake in Extract, Guangdong Nuclear tried to reduce its bid to 270 pence a share in May. The deal was called off after the U.K. Takeover Panel barred the company from lowering the price.
On Oct. 10, Kalahari said that discussions with the state- backed nuclear fuel producer had resumed and that there can be “no certainty as to the terms of any offer.”
“A company like Guangdong Nuclear isn’t looking at uranium over this year or next year or the near future,” Edward Sterck, a London-based analyst for BMO Capital Markets, said in a phone interview. “They’re looking at securing uranium for decades to come.”
Kalahari is likely to seek a price similar to the 290 pence a share originally offered, while Guangdong Nuclear may push for something lower, Sterck said. Representatives for Kalahari didn’t respond to a phone message or e-mail outside normal business hours. Guangdong Nuclear representatives couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Even if Guangdong Nuclear were to offer 5.2 percent less, or 275 pence a share, it would give shareholders a return of 17.5 percent to Kalahari’s 20-day trading average of 234 pence a share before today, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That would still top the 17.3 percent premium in the original bid.
Kalahari fell 1.7 percent to 237 pence today in London.
Japan’s nuclear crisis caused uranium to plunge 27 percent in three days to $49.99 per pound of U3O8, its tradable form. While prices extended their decline to as low as $48.75 on Aug. 30, they recovered 6.2 percent to $51.76 through yesterday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The Global X Uranium ETF (URA) tumbled 61 percent after the earthquake through Oct. 3 before rebounding 30 percent as of yesterday, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s left the median company in the exchange-traded fund valued at 1.04 times net assets, down from 2.68 times on March 11, the data show.
A softening of Japan’s stance toward nuclear power may help bolster uranium prices. Yoshihiko Noda, who replaced Kan as the nation’s prime minister in August, said in a policy statement that the country will “guarantee the stable supply of power by utilizing nuclear plants after confirming their safety.”
“Most forecasts would suggest that even though we had a pretty severe event like Fukushima, there’s still growth expected in nuclear power going forward,” said BMO Capital’s Sterck. “The main growth drivers pre-Fukushima being China, Russia, very Southeast Asian countries and possibly India --they really haven’t changed.”
China, the world’s biggest energy user, has 27 nuclear reactors under construction and 51 more planned, according to the World Nuclear Association’s website. India has six under construction and 17 planned, while Russia is already building 10 with 14 more in the pipeline. Of the 350 additional reactors that have been proposed worldwide, China accounts for 34 percent.
“Longer term there’s going to be demand” for nuclear power, Caldwell’s Kinsey said. “It’s not a matter of if, but when.”
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-25/uranium-deals-prove-most-lucrative-on-nuclear-demand-real-m-a.html
US uranium conversion company ConverDyn and enrichment company Urenco USA have jointly announced the formation of a new partnership aiming to provide services to help manage stocks of depleted uranium.
The two companies say they have created the Competitive American Tails Upgrade Partnership (CATUP) to be able to respond to potential interest from the US Department of Energy (DoE) in upgrading and managing stocks of depleted uranium.
The enrichment process increases the proportion of fissile uranium-235 in uranium used for the manufacture of nuclear fuel but creates a byproduct of material depleted in uranium-235, known as tails. This material can be used in applications such as blending down ex-military high-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel use or blending with plutonium to make mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, or for uses exploiting its very high density, but in practice, most is currently kept in storage at enrichment plants around the world.
According to the CATUP partners, DoE may be interested in pursuing a long term "commercial upgrade" program as part of its uranium inventory management policy following on from a successful 2005 pilot program, in which over 8000 tonnes of depleted uranium was treated. The partnership intends to be ready to offer its services.
CATUP's plan is to use the two companies' existing US conversion and enrichment facilities, in combination with its inventories of natural uranium concentrates, to recover usable material from DoE's depleted uranium while reducing the volume of depleted uranium that will ultimately need to be disposed of. The companies say they are prepared to start work immediately.
The partnership envisages converting natural uranium concentrates into uranium hexafluoride (UF6) at ConverDyn's Metropolis works in Illinois, and then exchanging them for depleted uranium from DoE. CATUP will then sample, clean and repackage DoE's depleted uranium for upgrading at Urenco USA's centrifuge enrichment plant in New Mexico. The approach would help to protect US mining interests from "unpredictable and excessive DoE inventory sales," as well as creating local jobs and stimulating capital investment in nuclear fuel cycle infrastructure, the partners say.
DoE's gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment operations gave rise to nearly 700,000 metric tonnes of depleted uranium tails over more than fifty years of operation. In December 2010 the DoE awarded Babcock & Wilcox Conversion Services a five-year $428 million contract to deconvert the depleted UF6 tails into more chemically stable uranium oxide. Meanwhile International Isotopes (INIS) has plans to build and operate a 6500 tonnes per year deconversion plant and fluorine extraction facility in New Mexico, 50 km from Urenco USA's enrichment plant for which it has in place a five-year agreement to provide toll deconversion for tails from 2014.
ConverDyn is a partnership between affiliates of Honeywell and General Atomics and is the exclusive agent for conversion sales from the Metropolis plant, which is owned and operated by Honeywell International.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/C-Heads_up_on_new_tails_partnership-2410117.html
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