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Nuclear News - 10/31/2011
PGS Nuclear News, October 31, 2011
Compiled By: Michael Kennedy

A.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. Retiring Reactors to Take 30 Years, The Daily Yomiuri (10/30/2011)
    2. Diplomats: Syria Nuke Probe Stalled, George Jahn, Associated Press (10/29/2011)
    3. Top Nuclear Officials Meet Kudankulam Expert Panel, Indo-Asian News Service (10/29/2011)
    4. Japan's Kansai Elec First to Submit Reactor Test Result, Risa Maeda, Reuters (10/28/2011)
B.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Kazakhstan Interested in Nuclear Fuel Exports to Vietnam, Trend News (10/31/2011)
    2. Japan, India Agree to Move Talks Forward on Civilian Nuclear Pact, The Mainichi Daily News (10/30/2011)
    3. Japan Atomic Power Started Feasibility Study for Nuclear Construction in Vietnam, The Denki Shimbun (10/28/2011)
    4. EDF Delays Construction of 4 Nuclear Reactors in UK, Inti Landauro, Fox Business (10/28/2011)
    5. Bulgaria Unaware of Russia's Plans for Costlier Penalty Over Belene, Sofia News Agency (10/27/2011)
C.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Belgium Agrees Conditional Nuclear Exit Plans, Robert-Jan Bartunek, Reuters (10/31/2011)
    2. 4th Nuclear Power Plant Should Start in 2017 at Latest: Official, Lin Shu-yuan and Lilian Wu, Focus Taiwan News Channel (10/31/2011)
D.  North Korea
    1. S. Korean Nuclear Envoy to Visit China, Xinhua News Agency (10/30/2011)
    2. Russia Optimistic About Recent U.S.-North, Inter-Korean Talks: Top Nuke Envoy, Yonhap News Agency (10/29/2011)
E.  Nuclear Modernization
    1. Nuclear Powers Plan Weapons Spending Spree, Report Finds, Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian (10/30/2011)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. Japan's Leaders Must Face Country's 'Latent' Possession of Nuclear Weapons, The Mainichi Daily News (10/28/2011)
    2. In Defense of the Triad, The Weekly Standard (10/28/2011)
    3. Temelín Nuclear Plant Bidder Areva: ‘We Don’t Do Geopolitics’, Czech Position (10/27/2011)
    4. India’s Decision to Stop Nuclear Program May Trigger Problems, RIA Novosti (10/27/2011)

A.  Nuclear Safety & Security

Retiring Reactors to Take 30 Years
The Daily Yomiuri
(for personal use only)

A government panel has concluded it will likely take more than 30 years to decommission four troubled reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The conclusion is contained in a draft report, finalized Friday, on the decommissioning that a subpanel of experts studying mid- and long-term measures for the crisis at the plant.

The subpanel was set up by the Atomic Energy Commission of the Cabinet Office. The draft report says decommissioning of the Nos. 1 to 4 reactors will be completed in 2041 or later.

The report says the reactors' containment vessels will be repaired, and water will be injected as part of efforts to contain radioactive substances. It says removal of melted nuclear fuel rods will begin by the end of 2021.

The report will be made official by year-end, according to government officials.

It is the first time a government entity has presented a road map on the decommissioning of the reactors.

It took 10 years to complete the removal of the nuclear fuel after the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, and the decommissioning work continues today.

The decommissioning cost in the U.S. accident is reported to be about 140 billion yen.

In the case of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, a third-party committee estimated the cost will be about 1.15 trillion yen, using the U.S. accident as a reference. But the cost may increase further, experts say.

The government and TEPCO aim to complete a two-step process of controlling the crisis by year-end. Step 2 calls for bringing the nuclear crisis under control by stabilizing all the reactors at low temperatures, a process known as cold shutdown.

The draft says the decommissioning work will fully start after Step 2 is completed, and removal of spent nuclear fuel rods in temporary storage pools of the Nos. 1 to 4 reactors will begin within three years.

Then, parts of nuclear fuel that melted through the pressure vessels of the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors into the containment vessels, which cover the pressure vessels, will be removed.

For that purpose, the containment vessels will be repaired and filled with water to keep the fuel submerged.

As it normally takes 20 to 30 years to decommission a nuclear reactor, the report does not specify when the work will be completed, saying only it will likely take more than 30 years.

However, it is still unclear to what extent the nuclear fuel at the Fukushima plant has melted.

Because care must be taken to protect workers from exposure to radiation, the removal of the nuclear fuel may take longer than expected, experts say.

The draft report says, "It [the decommissioning] presents unprecedented challenges." Some of the challenges it cites include the development of techniques to conduct work by remote control and techniques to remove the melted nuclear fuel.

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Diplomats: Syria Nuke Probe Stalled
George Jahn
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Syrian officials have turned down a renewed request from U.N. nuclear inspectors to visit suspected secret nuclear sites during talks in Damascus described by diplomats Friday as failing to advance a probe of the Arab nation's hidden atomic program.

Meetings between Syrian and International Atomic Energy officials Monday and Tuesday had been highly anticipated after Damascus pledged to end more than three years of stonewalling IAEA inspectors. Since 2008 the agency has been stymied in attempts to seek more information over what the agency says was a clandestine nuclear program centered around a nearly completed reactor.

The offer for cooperation came after the IAEA's 35-nation board reported Damascus to the U.N. Security Council in June on the basis of an agency assessment that a facility destroyed by Israeli war planes in 2007 was a nuclear reactor meant to produce plutonium when

Damascus says the target was a non-nuclear military building but has refused to allow IAEA officials to return to the site after an initial visit that produced samples with traces of uranium and other nuclear footprints.

It has also turned down agency requests to visit three other sites that the IAEA suspects are linked to what it describes as the destroyed reactor.

Officials at the IAEA have refused to comment on the trip, saying details will only be released to the board next month by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano. But diplomats from two IAEA member nations — who spoke to The Associated press on condition of anonymity because their information was privileged — said Friday that the trip had essentially been a failure.

Led by deputy IAEA Director General Herman Nackaerts, the U.N. delegation had asked for a return visit to the destroyed desert site at Dair Alzour, as well as access to the three other facilities that the agency suspects are connected to that site, said one of the diplomats.

They were turned down by the Syrians, who told them that they would present new evidence that the Dair Alzour site was non-nuclear, making any further on site inspections anywhere unnecessary, said one of the diplomats.

He said that the Syrian response was considered disappointing by the agency delegation because it was vague on what new information would be produced and contained no time line, indicating that the offer was nothing more but an attempt by Damascus to buy more time.

The U.N. Security Council met in closed session on July 14 to discuss the IAEA assessment that Syria had hidden a nuclear program and some Western ambassadors said afterward that the agency's report has raised concerns the country violated its nonproliferation obligations.

Pressure on Syria over its apparently secret nuclear activities has been compounded by international criticism sparked by President Bashar Assad's brutal repression of pro-democracy protesters. Syrian security forces opened fire Friday on protesters and hunted them down in house-to-house raids, killing about 30 people in the deadliest day in weeks in the country's 7-month-old uprising, activists said.

The IAEA resolution that reported Syria to the Security Council on June 9 expressed "serious concern" over "Syria's lack of cooperation with the IAEA Director General's repeated requests for access to additional information and locations as well as Syria's refusal to engage substantively with the Agency on the nature of the Dair Alzour site."

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Top Nuclear Officials Meet Kudankulam Expert Panel
Indo-Asian News Service
(for personal use only)

Top officials of the Indian nuclear establishment on Saturday met the expert committee the central government has set up to allay fears of people living in and around Tamil Nadu's Kudankulam where a mega atomic power plant is on the verge of being commissioned. "The 15 members of the expert committee are located in different places. We decided to convene a meeting in Chennai Saturday to chalk out the way ahead," SK Jain, chairman and managing director of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), told IANS in Chennai.

However, the meeting with the state government officials did not come off Saturday as it was sought at a short notice, he said.

"We knew that there will not be a meeting with the state government officials even when we left Mumbai," Jain said.

The central government Oct 20 set up the expert committee of 15 members drawn from various fields to interact with officials of Tamil Nadu government, people's representatives and activists of Tirunelveli district, who have been opposing the Kudankulam Nuclear Power
Project (KNPP) on safety-related issues.

India's nuclear power plant operator NPCIL is building two 1,000 MW reactors with Russian technology and equipment in Kudankulam, around 650 km from Chennai. The first unit is expected to go on stream in December. The project cost is estimated around Rs 13,000 crore.
Villagers, who greeted the NPCIL officials with welcome arches and garlands only years ago when they arrived to set up the plant, are now protesting the plant erection, claiming they fear of their lives and safety in case of any nuclear accidents and the long-term impact it would have on the population.

Officials of KNPP were not able to go their office since Oct 13 when the protestors resorted to a plant blockade, stalling the project work and bringing down the employee morale.

The protest had put the project clock back by at least six months, NPCIL officials told IANS.
They stressed work has to go on at the plant.

Speaking to reporters here on his arrival, Srikumar Banerjee, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission said: "Minimum maintenance activity should be carried out at the plant for its health and its future."

Citing the completion of the "hot run" -- a trial run of the reactor with dummy fuel, Banerjee said coolant water should not be allowed to stagnate.

Underscoring what Banjerjee said, an NPCIL official told IANS that once the hot run has been completed, the reactor systems have to be run continuously.

"If that is not done, then the entire parameters and safety measures have to checked all over again. The systems cannot be stopped and restarted. Decommissioning a reactor is different as one need not bother about the damages the systems would undergo after the plant is stopped," said the official, who spoke demanding anonymity.

On Sep 22, the Tamil Nadu government passed a resolution urging the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the central government to halt work at Kudankulam till the people's fears are allayed.

According to NPCIL officials despite the resolution, the Tamil Nadu government is keen on knowing the project progress as it would ease to a major extent the state's power crunch.
NPCIL officials told IANS that the state government had written to the company to take necessary measures to increase the power generation at the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) located at Kalpakkam.

Meanwhile, the relay protest fast by the people against KNPP at Idinthakarai near Kudankulam continued for the 12th day Saturday.

"Around 500 people are there at the fast venue. People from Amalinagar and Alanthalai in Tuticorin district are on fast today (Saturday)," M. Pushparayan, convener of Coastal People's Federation, told IANS.

He said power supply at the venue has been cut since Friday night owing to rains and the activists are now managing the show with generators.

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Japan's Kansai Elec First to Submit Reactor Test Result
Risa Maeda
(for personal use only)

Japan's Kansai Electric Power Co became the first utility to submit the result of a first-stage stress test on one of its nuclear reactors, the initial step in rebuilding public faith in atomic energy.

No reactors taken offline for routine maintenance have been restarted since a massive earthquake and tsunami in March triggered reactor meltdowns and the world's worst radioactive material leakage in 25 years at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi station in the northeast.

Japan's government, urged by industry, would like to get some reactors running again to support the ailing economy and minimise the risk of a power crunch this winter. It is reviewing its energy policy, including the role of nuclear power and guidelines on its safety.

Several other nuclear operators are also preparing to report on stress tests, with Shikoku Electric Power Co , another highly nuclear reliant utility in the west, seen among the next candidates to do so.

Kansai Electric, the country's second-biggest utility, this morning submitted to the trade ministry's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) the results of stress tests on the No.3 reactor at its Ohi plant in Fukui prefecture.

The Osaka-based utility, which serves the flagship factories of big electronics firms including Panasonic Corp and Sharp Corp , has said meeting winter power demand would be tough without the restart of the 1,180 megawatt unit.

But submission of the report is only the beginning of a long process before reactors can actually restart.

Trade Minister Yukio Edano said on Friday it would take several months before Kansai can restart the unit.

The stress tests evaluate each reactor's resilience against four severe events -- earthquake, tsunami, station blackout and loss of water for cooling -- and a reactor operator's management of multiple steps to protect reactors.

If there is any doubt on the basis of a reactor's safety assumptions, such as estimated standard earthquake ground motion, that should be discussed before giving approval to its stress test, said Tomoya Ichimura, director of NISA's safety regulatory standard division.

The checks by NISA on each utility's assessments on a reactor would be followed by approval by the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, an independent entity which monitors relevant agencies including NISA.

NISA will take into account test results for EU rectors, which are undergoing similar stress tests, with results due this month. It also plans to seek advice on the regulation process from the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency.

Approval would then be needed from the prime minister and relevant ministers, as well as local governments.

"It is impossible to gauge mathematically the level of confidence (over the reactor restart) by local communities and our people. We, politicians, are responsible to make the judgement," Edano said.

How to ensure safety for the first reactor to restart in the post-Fukushima era is being carefully watched at home and from abroad.

"Greenpeace is extremely concerned that this government is going to push through the restart of reactors without having learned the key lessons from what really went wrong in terms of organisation and crisis management during the Fukushima crisis," the international environmental group said in a statement after Kansai's stress test submission.

An investigation is under way by government-appointed experts into the causes of the Fukushima incident, but it could take years to complete.

Setsuko Kuroda, a woman from Koriyama city in Fukushima prefecture and one of dozens of those who protested against atomic power in front of the trade ministry on Friday, said restarting reactors while the Fukushima crisis continues is out of the question.

"Why are they even saying this when the situation (at Fukushima) is still under such condition? Is the economy more important or are lives more important?" she questioned.

Only 10 of Japan's 54 commercial reactors are currently online, as the Fukushima crisis and subsequent scandals have left communities reluctant to allow restarts.

Then Prime Minister Naoto Kan in July introduced the stress tests as preconditions before idled reactors restart.

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B.  Nuclear Cooperation

Kazakhstan Interested in Nuclear Fuel Exports to Vietnam
Trend News
(for personal use only)

Kazakhstan is interested in long-term supplies of nuclear fuel to Vietnam and in participation in constructing nuclear power plants in this country, the press service of Kazakh president said on Monday.

"Kazakhstan is ready to cooperate with Vietnamese partners in the modernization of the industrial complex and in oil and gas industry," the report said. "Astana is interested in long-term supplies of nuclear fuel to Vietnam and in participation in constructing nuclear power plants."

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev is in Vietnam on the first official visit.

The countries signed agreements on double taxation avoiding, cooperation in the field of civil aviation, tourism, education and mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial matters were signed as a result of negotiation in presence of Nazarbayev and the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Truong Tan Shang.

The possibility of opening direct flights between the biggest economic and financial centers of two states - Almaty and Ho Chi Minh were also discussed during the meeting.

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Japan, India Agree to Move Talks Forward on Civilian Nuclear Pact
The Mainichi Daily News
(for personal use only)

Japan and India agreed Saturday to move forward bilateral talks to conclude a civilian nuclear power pact and to continue promoting cooperation in the development of rare earth minerals.

The agreements were reached during a meeting between Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna in Tokyo, according to officials.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda stressed his government's desire to strike a nuclear cooperation pact with India at an early date during a later meeting with Krishna, while conveying his intention to visit the South Asian country by the end of this year, they said.

"We hope to contribute to safety measures and consider cooperation with India over nuclear power after looking into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident," Noda was quoted as telling the Indian foreign minister.

Arrangements are under way for the Japanese leader to visit India possibly Dec. 28, the officials said.

Japan's bilateral negotiations with India and four other countries toward concluding accords on the transfer of atomic energy technology and related material for peaceful use have been suspended following the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant triggered by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March.

While the agreement with India to restart the talks indicates Japan's intention to resume promoting its international nuclear power business, it may draw criticism as the move comes at a time when the Fukushima crisis has yet to be resolved, observers say.

At a joint press conference following their talks, Gemba sought to include an explanation in the anticipated accord with India to say that cooperation will be halted when India conducts nuclear testing.

"We hope for understanding on Japan's efforts toward nuclear disarmament as the only country to have suffered atomic bombing," Gemba said.

In September, Prime Minister Noda said in a speech at the United Nations in New York that Japan will raise the safety of its nuclear power generation "to the highest level in the world" and that it will continue to export its atomic energy technology and expertise.

On rare earth minerals, which are needed for electronics and auto parts, the two foreign ministers reaffirmed the agreement reached in October last year between then Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to "explore the possibility" of cooperation in developing rare earths.

On the economic front, they agreed to promote trade and investment between their countries based on a bilateral free trade agreement, which came into force in August, and to cooperate in India's plan to build a freight railway linking Delhi and Mumbai.

They also concurred on cooperation toward securing the safety of sea lanes in the Indian Ocean, while Krishna proposed that the Indian navy and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force conduct joint exercises, the officials said.

At the outset of their meeting, Gemba stressed the need for the two countries to enhance bilateral cooperation as strategic partners in various fields, including economics and security.

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EDF Delays Construction of 4 Nuclear Reactors in UK
Inti Landauro
Fox Business
(for personal use only)

French power company Electricite de France SA, or EDF, (EDF.FR), Friday decided to delay the construction of four planned nuclear reactors in the U.K., a company spokeswoman said, confirming a report from Les Echos newspaper.

EDF is taking time to evaluate the consequences of delays at a reactor under construction in Flamanville, northern France and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, the spokeswoman said.

EDF will release a new calendar for the project during the fall, she said.
Les Echos said the company is evaluating whether conditions for the EUR20 billion investment are met in the U.K.

EDF was planning to start building the first of the planned nuclear rectors in 2013, the
newspaper said.

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Japan Atomic Power Started Feasibility Study for Nuclear Construction in Vietnam
The Denki Shimbun
(for personal use only)

Japan Atomic Power Company has started a feasibility study for the construction of Vietnam's second nuclear power station contracted with Vietnam Electricity Holding Company (EVN). It will prepare and submit a report to EVN by March 2013.

At the planned construction site in the province of Ninh Thuan in the southern part of Vietnam, Japan Atomic Power will conduct field surveys until March next year on the presence or absence of active faults, submarine topography, tidal currents, water temperature and other subjects. In parallel, the company will prepare component arrangement plans for both the advanced boiling water reactor and advanced pressurized water reactor, which are two types of light water reactors to be proposed by the Japanese side.

EVN will develop a plan for the second nuclear power station based on the report from Japan Atomic Power and submit it to Vietnam's national assembly for approval. EVN is expected to select a reactor type and plant vendor after the approval. Although Vietnam initially planned to start the operation of the second nuclear power station in 2021, it moved up the schedule a year to 2020 in the country's 7th electricity plan publicized in July this year.

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Bulgaria Unaware of Russia's Plans for Costlier Penalty Over Belene
Sofia News Agency
(for personal use only)

Bulgaria has not been officially notified of Russia's plans to more than double its EUR 58 M claim against Bulgarian state utility NEK, which it filed at an arbitration court in Paris in July.

"Talking rubbish about a project is one of the many ways, in which you can make it collapse. I have always said that the relations between two companies, which implement a complicated project should be based on hard work and the use of official channels for carrying out the project," Energy Minister Traicho Traikov told reporters on Thursday.

"In this case we have not been officially notified of such a decision. When this happens, I will leave the issue in the hands of the lawyers," he added.

The minister's statement came after Russia's nuclear company has warned it may double its EUR 58 M claim against Bulgarian state utility NEK, which it filed in July over delayed payments on Belene nuclear project.

"NEK already owes us more than EUR 130 M for activities on two nuclear reactors that Atomstroyexport has completed, but we are yet to decide whether to increase the claim in court," the Russian company president Alexander Glukhov announced at the forum Atomex Europe 2011 in Prague.

Bulgaria's state-run power grid operator tabled at the beginning of October a lawsuit in Geneva against Russia's state nuclear company Atomstroyexport over delayed payments for purchases of old equipment for the plant, worth about EUR 300 M.

The government in Sofia however was quick to point out that this is not a counter-claim to Moscow's lawsuit at the arbitration court in Paris.

"The action was described as a "counter claim" just because the two sums in question are similar," a statement by the Economy and Energy Ministry said.

Meanwhile the two countries agreed to extend the negotiations over Belene nuclear project amidst continuing haggling over its price and feasibility.

Their contract for the construction of two 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactors at Belene has been extended by the end of March 2012

The new, fourteenth, annex between the two sides will allow them to take into account the results from the stress tests and the expected developments on the electricity market.

Bulgaria and Russia are unable to agree on the major bone of contention - the price for the construction of the 2000-MW Belene NPP.

Russia says the project construction price should be EUR 6.3 B. The Borisov government wants to set the price at as little as EUR 5 B.

After it was first started in the 1980s, the construction of Bulgaria's second nuclear power plant at Belene on the Danube was stopped in the early 1990s over lack of money and environmental protests.

After selecting the Russian company Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom, to build a two 1000-MW reactors at Belene and signing a deal for the construction, allegedly for the price of EUR 3.997 B, with the Russians during Putin's visit to Sofia in January 2008, in September 2008, former Prime Minister Stanishev gave a formal restart of the building of Belene. At the end of 2008, German energy giant RWE was selected as a strategic foreign investor for the plant.

The Belene NPP was de facto frozen in the fall of 2009 when the previously selected strategic investor, the German company RWE, which was supposed to provide EUR 2 B in exchange for a 49% stake, pulled out.

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C.  Nuclear Energy

4th Nuclear Power Plant Should Start in 2017 at Latest: Official
Lin Shu-yuan and Lilian Wu
Focus Taiwan News Channel
(for personal use only)

The commercial operation of the country's fourth nuclear power plant is undergoing fine-tuning but should not begin any later than 2017, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang said Monday.

President Ma Ying-jeou is scheduled to soon unveil his administration's new energy policy, in which a reduction in Taiwan's reliance on nuclear power is expected to be the focus.

It is certain that the service periods of the three nuclear power plants already operating will not be extended, but whether the No.1 plant will be decommissioned earlier than planned will hinge on the commercial operation of the fourth plant and the stability of electricity supplies from Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower), which operates the nuclear plants.

Taipower Chairman Chen Kui-min said that due to the Fukishima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan in the wake of the tsunami triggered by the massive March 11 earthquake,
Taiwan's fourth plant has had some additional improvement work incorporated, such as an emergency diesel generator facility.

Elaborating on the date of the start of the new plant's commercial operation, Chen said that "the exact date should be announced early next year."

He said the repeated delays in the plant's opening has made the cost of the facility balloon. It has been estimated that the cost increases by NT$5 billion (US$167.11 million) for every year of delay.

Chen said the scheduled service period of the three existing plants is 40 years. The two units at the first nuclear power plant are scheduled to be decommissioned in 2018 and 2019, respectively, with the two units at the No. 2 plant closing in 2021 and 2023 and the two at the No. 3 plant shutting in 2024 and 2025.

He stressed the fourth plant will only start commercial operation after fuel filling and test runs, and only after safety approval has been granted by the Atomic Energy Council and international nuclear safety organizations.

Asked if the decommissioning of the three plants will push up electricity rates, Chen declined to comment, saying that the Ministry of Economic Affairs has not yet officially notified Taipower that it will not be allowed to extend their service periods.

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Belgium Agrees Conditional Nuclear Exit Plans
Robert-Jan Bartunek
(for personal use only)

Belgium's political parties have reached a conditional agreement to shut down the country's two remaining nuclear power stations, owned by GDF-Suez unit Electrabel, a government spokeswoman said on Monday.

The plan for a shut-down of the three oldest reactors by 2015 and a complete exit by 2025 is conditional on finding enough energy from alternative sources to prevent any shortages.

"If it turns out we won't face shortages and prices would not skyrocket we intend to stick to the nuclear exit law of 2003," a spokeswoman for Belgium's energy and climate ministry said.
Belgium, which has seven nuclear reactors at two plants, had passed a law in 2003 outlining the planned shutdowns.

Sunday's decision to affirm the law knocked GDF Suez lower on Monday.

The shareprice fell as much as 4.5 percent in early trading, making it the worst performer on the STOXX 600 Europe Utilities Index , which traded 0.8 percent lower at 1030 CET (0930 GMT).

Belgium is in the throes of agreeing a new government. It has long considered the prospect of a complete exit from nuclear.

Public hostility has grown since Japan's nuclear catastrophe earlier this year, which prompted Europe's biggest economy Germany to announce it would phase out all its atomic plants by

Atomic generation is carbon free and Germany's plans have raised concerns that more polluting fossil fuels will be used to ensure there is enough baseload power. Renewable energy can be intermittent, meaning coal and gas have to be used as back-up.

Belgium's two nuclear sites are operated by Electrabel. Rival SPE, in which EDF owns a 63.5 percent stake, has drawing rights on some 7 percent of capacity. EDF itself has the right to about 8 percent.

Electrabel said on Monday it did not want to comment on the nuclear exit as it had so far not received an official confirmation. GDF Suez and EDF also gave no comment.

In 2009, Belgium decided to keep its oldest nuclear reactors running for 10 years longer than planned in 2003 but this change never came into force as the government that decide the measure lost power.

Belgium will now negotiate with investors to see how it can find new capacity to replace the 5860 MW that will be lost if the two nuclear sites at Doel and Tihange are shut.

"The government will actively look for new investors and sites that are still unused to see what can be done," the spokeswoman said.

The political parties also discussed how much more they would tax Electrabel, which already agreed in 2009 to pay between 215 million and 245 million euros per year in the period 2010-2014, for operating the nuclear power plants.

Belgian business daily L'Echo wrote earlier this month that Elio Di Rupo, the French-speaking Socialist party chief leading coalition talks, wanted to charge the nuclear power industry, dominated by Electrabel, 1 billion euros per year.

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D.  North Korea

S. Korean Nuclear Envoy to Visit China
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

South Korea's top nuclear negotiator is scheduled to visit China next week to discuss resuming a multilateral forum aimed at dismantling the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s nuclear program, the foreign ministry here said Sunday.

During his two-day visit starting Tuesday, Lim Sung-nam will meet with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei to share their view on the outcome of the recent denuclearization talks between the DPRK and the United States, according to the ministry.

Pyongyang and Washington held the second round of talks last week in Geneva over resuming the six-party nuclear disarmament talks, stalled since 2008. Washington officials described the rare meeting as "positive," but no substantial progress has been reported.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang's First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan arrived in Beijing on Sunday in a separate visit that is expected to involve a meeting with Wu, according to Yonhap News Agency.

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Russia Optimistic About Recent U.S.-North, Inter-Korean Talks: Top Nuke Envoy
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

Russia is optimistic about North Korea's recent talks with the South and the United States over its nuclear weapons programs, Seoul's top nuclear envoy said Saturday.

Returning from his three-day visit to Russia, Lim Sung-nam said, "Russia is viewing the two rounds of South-North and North-U.S. talks positively," in a phone interview with Yonhap News Agency.

Lim left for Russia earlier this week as part of policy coordination efforts with member nations of six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons after being named Seoul's chief negotiator at the disarmament talks last month.

"(I will) further increase joint efforts with Russia to solve North Korean issues on the basis of strategic partnerships," the special representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs said.

His comments came after the North held talks with two of six-party meeting members, with a view to pave the way for reopening the multilateral disarmament dialogue. The broader talks, involving two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, have been at a standstill since April 2009 when the North quit the negotiating table, then conducted its second nuclear test a month later.

The two Koreas held two rounds of talks in July and September aimed at persuading the North to take concrete steps toward denuclearization before the multilateral forum can resume. Two rounds of similar Washington-Pyongyang talks took place in July in New York and in Geneva earlier this month.

Lim's Russian visit included meetings with his Russian counterpart, Alexei Borodavkin, and other senior officials, according to the foreign ministry.

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E.  Nuclear Modernization

Nuclear Powers Plan Weapons Spending Spree, Report Finds
Richard Norton-Taylor
The Guardian
(for personal use only)

The world's nuclear powers are planning to spend hundreds of billions of pounds modernising and upgrading weapons warheads and delivery systems over the next decade, according to an authoritative report published on Monday.

Despite government budget pressures and international rhetoric about disarmament, evidence points to a new and dangerous "era of nuclear weapons", the report for the British American Security Information Council (Basic) warns. It says the US will spend $700bn (£434bn) on the nuclear weapons industry over the next decade, while Russia will spend at least $70bn on delivery systems alone. Other countries including China, India, Israel, France and Pakistan are expected to devote formidable sums on tactical and strategic missile systems.

For several countries, including Russia, Pakistan, Israel and France, nuclear weapons are being assigned roles that go well beyond deterrence, says the report. In Russia and Pakistan, it warns, nuclear weapons are assigned "war-fighting roles in military planning".

The report is the first in a series of papers for the Trident Commission, an independent cross-party initiative set up by Basic. Its leading members include former Conservative defence secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former Liberal Democrat leader and defence spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell and former Labour defence secretary Lord Browne.

There is a strong case, they say, for a fundamental review of UK nuclear weapons policy. The Conservatives in Britain's coalition government say they want to maintain a Trident-based nuclear weapons system. However, they have agreed to a "value for money" audit into a Trident replacement as four new nuclear missiles submarines are alone estimated to cost £25bn at the latest official estimate. The Lib Dems want to look at other options. The paper, by security analyst Ian Kearns, is entitled Beyond the United Kingdom: Trends in the Other Nuclear Armed States.

Pakistan and India, it warns, appear to be seeking smaller, lighter nuclear warheads so they have a greater range or can be deployed over shorter distances for tactical or "nonategic" roles. "In the case of Israel, the size of its nuclear-tipped cruise missile enabled submarine fleet is being increased and the country seems to be on course, on the back of its satellite launch rocket programme, for future development of an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM)," the report notes.

A common justification for the new nuclear weapons programmes is perceived vulnerability in the face of nuclear and conventional force development elsewhere. For example, Russia has expressed concern over the US missile defence and Conventional Prompt Global Strike programmes. China has expressed similar concerns about the US as well as India, while India's programmes are driven by fear of China and Pakistan.

Pakistan justifies its nuclear weapons programme by referring to India's conventional force superiority, the report observes.

In a country-by-country analysis, the report says:

• The US is planning to spend $700bn on nuclear weapons over the next decade. A further $92bn will be spent on new nuclear warheads and the US also plans to build 12 nuclear ballistic missile submarines, air-launched nuclear cruise missiles and bombs.

• Russia plans to spend $70bn on improving its strategic nuclear triad (land, sea and air delivery systems) by 2020. It is introducing mobile ICBMs with multiple warheads, and a new generation of nuclear weapons submarines to carry cruise as well as ballistic missiles. There are reports that Russia is also planning a nuclear-capable short-range missile for 10 army brigades over the next decade.

• China is rapidly building up its medium and long-range "road mobile" missile arsenal equipped with multiple warheads. Up to five submarines are under construction capable of launching 36-60 sea-launched ballistic missiles, which could provide a continuous at-sea capability.

• France has just completed deployment of four new submarines equipped with longer-range missiles with a "more robust warhead". It is also modernising its nuclear bomber fleet.

• Pakistan is extending the range of its Shaheen II missiles, developing nuclear cruise missiles, improving its nuclear weapons design as well as smaller, lighter, warheads. It is also building new plutonium production reactors.

• India is developing new versions of its Agni land-based missiles sufficient to target the whole of Pakistan and large parts of China, including Beijing. It has developed a nuclear ship-launched cruise missile and plans to build five submarines carrying ballistic nuclear missiles.

• Israel is extending its Jericho III missile's range, and is developing an ICBM capability, expanding its nuclear-tipped cruise missile enabled submarine fleet.

• North Korea unveiled a new Musudan missile in 2010 with a range of up to 2,500 miles and capable of reaching targets in Japan. It successfully tested the Taepodong-2 with a possible range of more than 6,000 miles sufficient to hit half the US mainland. However, the report, says, "it is unclear whether North Korea has yet developed the capability to manufacture nuclear warheads small enough to sit on top of these missiles".

Iran's nuclear aspirations are not covered by the report.

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