1. U.S. Official Says China's Banks at Risk From Iran Deals
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Iran is increasingly looking for access to global financial markets to fund its nuclear programme, a top U.S. Treasury official said on Wednesday, urging Chinese regulators and banks to be prepared to block transactions and impede Iran's efforts.
David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said Beijing took seriously its responsibilities to uphold U.N. Security Council resolutions on Iran, but reminded Chinese banks to implement tougher safeguards.
"China has strictly implemented the provisions of the Security Council resolution that require specific steps, but it has not taken any steps that are similar to what some of these other jurisdictions have done to deal with the risk of Chinese financial institutions engaging in financial transactions with Iranian financial institutions," Cohen said.
Tehran's refusal to halt enrichment has provoked four rounds of U.N. sanctions on the world's No. 5 oil exporting state and tighter U.S. and European Union restrictions.
Iran has insisted countries recognise its right to enrich uranium, which it says it wants to fuel power plants. The Western states say enriched uranium could be used to make a bomb, and the demand is an unacceptable precondition for talks.
Cohen was speaking to reporters in Beijing, where he has been meetings with Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Finance officials.
The Beijing leg of Cohen's trip followed a visit to Hong Kong, where he sought to impress upon international banks, including the big four state-owned Chinese banks, the need to protect themselves from Iranian shell companies seeking to finance the country's nuclear programme.
The U.S. Treasury has said a provision embedded in 2010 U.N. sanctions on Iran calls on member states to cut off bank services to any Iranian institution if they could contribute to the development of Iran's nuclear programme.
Cohen said such transactions could "entangle the Chinese bank in transactions that would be terribly damaging to their reputation and contrary to the international effort to impede the Iranian nuclear program and to put pressure on Iran to bring it back to the negotiating table".
In Hong Kong, where he emphasized the need to prevent shipping companies and exporters from doing business with Iran's national carrier, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, Cohen said he got a "very positive reception".
"The government authorities there are as motivated to ensure that illicit actors don't abuse the system there as anyone," he said.
Part of his message to bankers was a recap of the impact of 2010 U.S. legislation -- the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act (CISADA) -- that tries to dissuade foreign financial institutions from doing business with sanctioned Iranian firms by threatening to cut them off from the U.S. market.
"I think the teeth are quite sharp," Cohen said, adding that Chinese financial firms were "as much in jeopardy as a bank anywhere else of being the subject of a CISADA action".
But Cohen said there is "no disagreement whatsoever between the U.S. and the Chinese" that Iran's nuclear programme is out of compliance with the non-proliferation treaty and a series of Security Council resolutions.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that Beijing has always implemented Security Council resolutions conscientiously, but also had a right to trade with Iran, China's third-largest oil supplier.
"China's normal business relations with Iran do not violate any Security Council resolutions nor undermine the interests of other countries in the international community," he said.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/09/28/china-us-iran-idUKL3E7KS1M720110928
1. N-Liability Issue Working Against India, Says WNA
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The Nuclear Liability Act is impeding India’s full integration into the international nuclear community, a pertinent world body said today.
The legislation, ratified last month after prolonged debates over some of its contentious clauses, needs to be in conformity with global standards, according to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), that promotes nuclear power and supports the many companies that comprise the global nuclear industry.
The liability issue is what is working against India in the matter, claimed WNA director-general, John Ritch. “I regret that. Except India, everywhere else in the world, the civil liability for nuclear accidents are channelled solely to the operator, thus ensuring speedy resolution of any liability claim,” he told Business Standard. “If a supplier is potentially liable, it could take years to resolve compensation claims. The only beneficiaries would be the lawyers,” added Ritch, who was in city to participate in India nuclear summit.
He reiterated that the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Act impedes India’s full integration into the international community. “I have fought for many years in the US government and, later, as the US ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Association for India’s integration into the international community.” The 2001-founded non-profit organisation seeks to promote the peaceful worldwide use of nuclear power as a sustainable energy resource for the coming centuries.
Ritch said India and China would be major players in nuclear capacity addition even after the Fukushima accident in March 11 this year. Except Germany, almost all countries, including India and China, are actively pursing nuclear capacity addition. New Delhi plans to increase nuclear capacity to 63,000 Mw by 2032, while Beijing is adding 60,000 Mw by 2030. “In the case of Japan, once the political confusion is over, it may state its policy on nuclear programme,” he added.
Ritch said safety had been “quite a strong feature” of the nuclear sector before the March 11 Fukushima accident and subsequently as well.
Fukushima has shown that nuclear leaders must face the stark reality that the future of nuclear energy would precariously rest on fragile foundations, as long as the public continued to perceive that nuclear power holds the potential for extreme risk to human well-being, he added. “We now face the challenging task of explaining that even worst-case nuclear events are not only extremely low in probability but also increasingly small in consequence as nuclear technology continues to advance. This is true and we must learn to present it believably.”
According to Ritch, the London-based WNA would work as an international umbrella organisation. It can provide reliable resource material, but others must adapt and apply it in diverse social, cultural and educational settings to various nuclear nations and companies.
They can, in turn, implement a programme in order to increase the dissemination of information and remove the mystery about the nuclear power. Ritch strongly defended the need for nuclear power. Except Chernobyl, he noted, there were no fatalities reported globally.
“We have believed and asserted that our industry had met the challenge of safety through technological advance and responsible professional management. We’ve pointed to a global nuclear safety culture that now draws on over 15,000 reactor after years of practical experience. There are more accidents and deaths taken place in mining, coal and natural gas-based projects, but they receive less attention in the media,” he added.
Available at: http://business-standard.com/india/news/n-liability-issue-working-against-india-says-wna/451270/
2. EDF Underestimated Radioactivity in Deadly Waste-Site Explosion
Tara Patel, Bloomberg
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Electricite de France SA, Europe’s biggest power producer, underestimated radioactivity levels in a furnace that exploded at a waste-processing site this month, killing one and injuring four, the nuclear watchdog said.
EDF has been told to explain how it gave incorrect data, Autorite de Surete Nucleaire said in a statement, adding that the immediate environment and population were unaffected by the events. The watchdog had previously sought safety improvements at the facility, while allowing it to continue to operate.
The regulator gave the incident a rating of level 1 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale. In contrast, the Fukushima Dai-Ichi and Chernobyl events were rated level 7.
French authorities are still investigating the Sept. 12 accident at EDF’s Centraco plant in southern France. One of the injured workers, none of whom were contaminated with radiation, remains in hospital, according to the nuclear watchdog.
Some 4 metric tons of metal with 30 million becquerels of radioactivity was in the melting furnace of the plant at the time of the accident, it said. The operator had initially said the level of radioactivity was 63,000 becquerels.
“It was a serious industrial accident,” the authority said, adding that it has given approval for furnaces at the site to be restarted after closing them following the accident.
Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-09-29/edf-underestimated-radioactivity-in-deadly-waste-site-explosion.html
3. India Better Prepared for Nuclear Crisis: Watchdog
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India has improved procedures to deal with a nuclear emergency in the wake of the Fukushima crisis in Japan, the country's atomic energy watchdog said Thursday, after criticism of its preparedness.
"After Fukushima, we have drawn lessons on all aspects of reactor safety and one positive development is the integrated disaster management plan," the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board chairman S.S. Bajaj said.
Earlier this year, Bajaj's predecessor at the AERB, A. Gopalkrishnan, criticised India's readiness to deal with emergencies of any kind and said that plans to tackle major nuclear incidents were largely a paper exercise.
Drills were infrequent "half-hearted efforts which amount more to a sham", he said after an massive earthquake and tsunami struck the Japanese Fukushima plant in March, forcing a re-think on nuclear power around the world.
A survey of nearly 10,000 Indians at the time also suggested that 77 percent of people had concerns about atomic safety while 69 percent believed the authorities could not handle a nuclear disaster on the scale of that in Japan.
Bajaj told AFP on the sidelines of a nuclear energy summit in the financial hub Mumbai that India's nuclear emergency plan "was not that positive" in the past but added: "These weaknesses have been plugged."
M.C. Abani, a nuclear specialist at the National Disaster Management Authority, said that six emergency exercises had been conducted at Indian nuclear power plants since March and procedures strengthened.
"NDMA has raised 10 battalions of National Disaster Response Force. Each battalion has 1,150 soldiers and officers. They are trained in handling nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological incidents," he said.
Medical professionals working in and around existing and proposed nuclear power plants were also being trained in how to deal with the aftermath of a nuclear incident, he added.
India is increasingly looking to nuclear power to meet the demands of its fast-growing economy and burgeoning population as well as to provide energy security.
The South Asian country currently has 20 nuclear power plants, generating some 4,780 megawatts of power. Seven other reactors with a capacity of 5,300 megawatts are under construction.
The government aims to increase nuclear output to 63,000 MW by 2032.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g9iNpvRCiVRPEd8WqajKmP5GyCSA?docId=CNG.f582da93057f0e3389e6e0e5a288c42d.481
4. Rules for Nuclear Liability Law Likely in Next Parliament Session
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The much-awaited rules for implementation of the Nuclear Liability law which could pave way for expansion of the atomic power sector by procuring equipment from foreign suppliers are likely to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament.
Giving this information on Thursday, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee said the rules will have to be notified by the ministries concerned before being presented to Parliament.
Parliament had passed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill in August last year, paving the way for nuclear commerce with the world after prolonged wrangling between the government and the opposition.
“We expect the rules to be tabled before Parliament in the next session,” Mr. Banerjee told reporters on the sidelines of India Nuclear Summit.
The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Law allows the operator of a nuclear plant to seek damages from the supplier in case of a nuclear incident due to supply of equipment with latent and patent defects or sub-standard services. However, the law has not gone down well with global suppliers.
On popular resistance to the proposed 9,900 MW Jaitapur nuclear project over security concerns in the aftermath of Fukushima incident, he said a re-evaluation of safety norms was being conducted by the nuclear authority of France and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
“Once the French authorities send their report, the AERB will analyse it before submitting it to the government,” he said.
Mr. Banerjee said the process of re-evaluation was likely to be completed by December. “Without having a complete safety analysis it is not possible for us to push the project for government consideration.”
Ruling out a Fukushima-like nuclear disaster in India, Mr. Banerjee said the reactors here had a passive cooling system, unlike those in the stricken Japanese plant, and added that additional safety features were being installed in them.
Available at: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2497395.ece
1. Nuke Advocacy Stand-ins Took in Seven Events: Probe
The Japan Times
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An independent committee set up by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry submitted a final report Friday concluding that the government asked utility officials to attend state-hosted symposiums on nuclear power on seven occassions in a bid to talk up official atomic power goals.
The committee, headed by Takashi Oizumi, a former head of the Osaka High Public Prosecutor's Office, said officials of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which is under the nuclear power-promoting METI, and the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy were involved in the apparent surreptitious talk-ups. The report lashed out at their poor governance and NISA's failure to play a neutral role as a nuclear watchdog.
The committee claimed the fixes were based on the officials' individual judgment, denying any organizational involvement.
"Nuclear power policies cannot be promoted without (the acceptance of) local residents and the general public. But NISA and ANRE have very low awareness of the importance of public relations as well as the need for fairness and transparency," the report said.
Later in the day, NISA chief Hiroyuki Fukano said: "I have to say that the organizational management was problematic. The understanding of what this organization is about was not shared among officials."
The report said NISA, the government's nuclear watchdog, and ANRE, which promotes atomic power, asked utilities to send their workers to the seminars on nuclear power and pose neutral or supportive questions.
METI Minister Yukio Edano released a statement saying the ministry will swiftly draft measures to prevent further false representations and reprimand those involved.
The report said NISA and ANRE officials apparently were more bent on making the symposiums seem successful by drawing crowds instead of serving the purpose of communicating with the public to deepen understanding of and field opinions about nuclear power.
Of 41 probed cases, government involvement was confirmed on seven occasions — the symposiums on the use of plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for the Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture in 2005, the Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture in 2006, the Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka Prefecture in 2007 and the Tomari plant in 2008, as well as three explanatory sessions looking into the quake resistance of the Onagawa plant in Miyagi Prefecture in 2006.
Available at: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20111001a7.html
Japan is easing evacuation advisories around the tsunami-devastated Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant to reassure tens of thousands of residents who fled that it's safe to return home.
A 12-mile (20-kilometer) no-go zone will remain in place around the plant, which was badly damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left nearly 21,000 people dead or missing across Japan's northeast coast and triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.
But Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Friday that advisories for areas 12-19 miles (20-30 kilometers) away would be formally lifted.
Officials said that the plant had been restored to a relatively stable condition and that radiation levels were low enough to warrant the lifting of the advisories, which affected 59,000 people.
Available at: http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2011/09/30/general-as-japan-nuclear-crisis_8709362.html
All 143 nuclear reactors in 14 European Union countries that were subjected to "stress tests" are considered free from grave safety risks, according to interim reports disclosed by Friday.
A stress test is a new, more stringent type of reactor resilience inspection to determine safety risks.
The nuclear power plant operators of the 14 nations have submitted the interim reports to the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, via the respective countries' nuclear regulatory organizations.
If no major changes to the interim reports are made in the final reports scheduled to be worked out in June, no reactor is likely to be shut down and decommissioned, according to experts.
Some civic bodies, however, are skeptical, saying the tests are woefully inadequate in making nuclear safety assessments.
The EU countries embarked on the stress tests in June in the wake of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The tests are designed to gauge whether the reactors are capable of withstanding natural disasters or other threats, including terrorist attacks. The tests exceed the standards set by individual governments.
The French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), the nuclear safety watchdog of France, which has 58 reactors, the largest number among EU nations, said it had reached the conclusion that none of the country's 150 nuclear facilities, including nuclear power plants under construction and nuclear research laboratories, need to undergo emergency safety measures.
British regulators believe that additional safety arrangements are needed for some of its nuclear power plants, such as enhancing measures against flooding and strengthening cooling systems. They said, however, that no reactor appeared to be immediately vulnerable to safety problems.
In the Czech Republic, where old-fashioned reactors designed during the days of the former Soviet Union are still in operation, regulators said none of its reactors required any urgent safety measures.
The interim reports presented by other countries also said their reactors had sufficient resilience to withstand flooding and other natural disasters.
Dutch nuclear regulators, however, described the interim report by the country's nuclear facility operator inadequate, and are reportedly planning to call for new stress tests.
The European Commission is scheduled to explain the interim reports at a summit meeting in December of EU member nations.
Mutual verification procedures will then be carried out among EU nations, with the participation of officials from the commission and third-party experts, before submission of the final reports, commission officials said.
2. Belarus, Russia to Finalize Deal on Nuclear Power Plant Construction
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The Russian Federation’s ambassador to Belarus Alekhandr Surikov told reporters in the Belarusian capital Minsk that a draft Belarusian-Russian interstate agreement on the construction of a new 2,400 megawatt nuclear power plant for Belarus will be ready in October.
The NPP will be built by Russia’s Atomstroieksport, a subsidiary of the Russian Federation’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom and will contain two reactors, with the power plant's first generating unit expected to go online in 2017 and the second the following year, Minsk’s Belapan news agency reported.
Belarus has had a fraught relationship with Soviet-era nuclear power. The April 1986 Chernobyl accident occurred near the Ukraine/Belarus border, initially killing 4,000 safety workers and reportedly causing in the intervening 25 years more than 200,000 deaths from radiation, many of them in Belarus.
Energy-poor Belarus however, now sees nuclear energy as a way to deal with the country’s chronic energy shortages. As for refurbishing aging Soviet-era nuclear reactors, Rosatom chief executive Sergei Kirienko has announced plans to prolong the operating life of all Soviet-era nuclear reactors in the post-Soviet space to 45 years, fifteen years beyond their original design estimates.
Available at: http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/Belarus-Russia-to-Finalize-Deal-on-Nuclear-Power-Plant-Construction.html
3. Bulgaria Delays Decision on Nuke Plant by 6 Months
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Bulgaria has delayed a decision on whether or not to build a new nuclear power plant by six months to the end of March next year, state power utility NEK said on Friday.
The Balkan country needs time to decide on the economic viability and the financing of the 2,000 megawatt nuclear project at the Danube River town of Belene as well to analyse the results of Europe's stress tests on nuclear plants, NEK said.
The Bulgarian utility has signed an agreement with the contractor for the plant, Russian state-run Atomstroyexport, to extend the deadline for reaching a final deal, NEK said.
In July, Atomstroyexport took Bulgaria to an arbitration court, seeking 58 million euros ($77.8 million) over delayed payments for its work on the two nuclear reactors at Belene.
Bulgaria has threatened to file a counterclaim against the Russian firm in an escalation of tensions over the delayed project.
The nuclear disaster in Japan this year led to increased pressure on Bulgaria from environmentalists and lobby groups to abandon the project, which they say will be built near an earthquake-prone area and will be too expensive.
Bulgaria contracted Atomstroyexport in 2006, but the project has stalled over price disputes with Moscow and funding problems. Russia has said construction will cost 6.3 billion euros, while Sofia says it should not exceed 5 billion.
In 2010, Moscow proposed extending a loan to keep the project rolling, but Sofia rejected the offer, saying it would focus on finding a western strategic investor.
The Bulgarian government's allies in Brussels and Washington have warned the project would deepen Bulgaria's energy dependence on Russia, which controls its only oil refinery and provides almost 100 percent of its natural gas.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/30/bulgaria-nuclear-idUSL5E7KU2OI20110930
The Department of Energy continues to expand its efforts encouraging nuclear development and research in the Czech Republic and Poland.
On Thursday, DOE announced it will join the Rez Nuclear Research Institute in the Czech Republic and other educational institutions to collaborate on a range of research programs.
One initiative will transfer reactor coolant salt from Oak Ridge National Laboratory to the Rez institute for experiments in its critical test facility. Another, involving Texas A & M University and several Czech universities, aims to improve reactor core analysis, while other partnerships address fuel and safety research.
Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman was quoted in the release as saying “The U.S. is committed to working closely with the Czech Republic to advance our shared energy goals and to support the development of safe and secure nuclear energy resources ... These projects will strengthen cooperation between our universities and national laboratories, help to inspire the next generation of nuclear engineers and scientists and advance nuclear energy technologies that can lead to economic growth and job creation in both our countries.”
On Wednesday, Poneman also encouraged Poland to diversify its power generation and reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels. The U.S. is helping Poland with plans to build its first nuclear plant, scheduled to go online in the early 2020s.
Available at: http://nuclearstreet.com/nuclear_power_industry_news/b/nuclear_power_news/archive/2011/09/30/doe-promotes-nuclear-power-in-eastern-europe-093001.aspx
5. France Interested in Building New Nuclear Power Plant in Armenia
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French companies are interested in participating in the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Armenia, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said.
Armenia plans to build a new power plant with a capacity of approximately 1,000 MW. The project could cost about $5 billion. The Armenian parliament abolished the state monopoly for ownership of new nuclear power units in 2006 in order to attract foreign capital for the project.
"A group of French experts will be sent to Armenia to discuss cooperation in energy, road construction and transport," Fillon said.
The two sides also discussed issues of cooperation with France in the field of road construction, including the North-South transport corridor.
The Armenian government approved an investment program last year to build the North-South transport corridor, with an estimated cost of $1.5 billion, for which Armenia signed a $500 million loan agreement with the Asian Development Bank.
The North-South transport corridor will enable Armenia to mitigate the effects of the blockade imposed by Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Available at: http://en.ria.ru/world/20110929/167240014.html
6. South Korean Consortium Investing in Romanian Nuclear Project
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South Korea’s nuclear industries are to build Romania’s Cernavoda reactors 3 and 4.
According to the office of Romania’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Business Environment, Ion Ariton, “The representatives of the (Korea Nuclear) consortium voiced again their firm decision to participate in the project through the purchase of shares in the project company EnergoNuclear SA and through investments in building Cernavoda reactors 3 and 4. Minister Ion Ariton thanked the Korean guests for their promptness in responding the invitation to return to Romania to continue discussions and voiced hope that the Korean side would become part of the Romanian project,” Bucharest’s Agerpres news agency reported.
Cernavoda’s nuclear power plant currently houses two CANDU reactors which currently provide about 18% of Romania's electrical energy output.
The facility has had a number of problems, most recently earlier this month when Romania restarted the Cernavoda reactor on the river Danube after shutting it down on 16 September for maintenance.
Available at: http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/South-Korean-Consortium-Investing-in-Romanian-Nuclear-Project.html
The Cabinet yesterday approved an amendment to the Nuclear Damage Compensation Act that imposes on nuclear power operators heavier compensation liability in the event of natural disasters such as an earthquake or a typhoon.
Under the amendment, the maximum amount of compensation for losses caused by a nuclear accident was increased from NT$4.2 billion (US$138 million) to NT$15 billion and the allowed period for compensation claims was extended from 10 to 30 years.
The amendment came after the Atomic Energy Council reviewed the act, which had not been amended since it was first enacted in 1997, in the wake of the nuclear accident at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, which was damaged by a tsunami triggered by an earthquake on March 11.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin said the amendment fell short of her expectations as she had suggested further lifting the ceiling on compensation liability.
“In the case of the [Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant], Tokyo Electric Power Co prepared ￥2 trillion [US$26 billion] for its compensation liabilities, but it was estimated by the government that it needed to pay at least ￥7 trillion,” Tien said.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet yesterday also approved an amendment to the Labor Safety and Health Act that extends the scope of protection from NT$6.7 million to NT$10.67 million by including those not previously covered by the act — self-employed persons, voluntary workers and apprentices.
Under the amendment, the maximum fine for petrochemical industry and factories in which chemicals are stocked in cases of explosions was increased from NT$300,000 to NT$30 million, an article dubbed the “sixth naphtha cracking plant clause.”
The sixth naphtha cracking plant in Mailiao Township, Yunlin County, owned by Formosa Plastics Group, came under fire for its poor safety record after it experienced seven major or minor fires this year alone.
Fu Huan-jan, chief of the Department of Labor Safety and Health, said increasing the penalty was aimed at high-risk manufacturers who need to improve their safety management systems.
The amendment also requires high-risk manufacturers to conduct risk assessments of working conditions on a regular basis, Fu said.
Should the amendment pass the legislature, the Council of Labor Affairs would establish an examination system under which it can deny permission for the import of machines, equipment, appliances or chemicals that do not meet with its safety standards, Fu said.
Available at: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2011/09/30/2003514570
2. Argentina Inaugurates Third Nuclear Power Plant
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President Cristina Kirchner inaugurated Argentina's third nuclear power plant in a move she says helps diversify her country's energy sources.
The German-designed Atucha II plant is expected to be fully operational in six to eight months after engineers run a series of tests.
Construction on the plant began in the early 1980s, but worked soon stopped and did not resume until 2006, when then-president Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007), the current leader's late husband, ordered the plant to be completed.
"We are diversifying our energy grid," Kirchner on Wednesday told a crowd of hundreds of workers as she opened the plant.
Argentina currently relies heavily on natural gas and oil for its energy, much of which is imported.
Once fully operational, Antucha II will supply some 700 megawatts of energy to the power grid, enough for the needs of some four million people. Argentina has just over 40 million people.
Argentina's other nuclear plants are Atucha I (335 megawatts) and the Embalse plant (600 megawatts). Once the new plant is online 10 percent of Argentina's electrical needs will be provided by nuclear power.
Plans are on the drawing board for an Atucha III nuclear plant as well as an overhaul of the Embalse plant to add 30 years to its operational life, said Planning Minister Julio de Vido.
Atucha II is located on the banks of the Parana river in the town of Zarate, in Buenos Aires province, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of the capital. It was built at a cost of more than 2.4 billion dollars.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jzjvdaAOzvVBce9vvxlTKnpGhEZw?docId=CNG.d2b3a8ccf23254b4d5ac2261f83673f7.371
Government spending on Britain's nuclear weapons programme is defying the swingeing budget cuts being experienced across Whitehall.
As the Ministry of Defence cuts frontline positions in the military, a previously confidential report reveals that the taxpayer is committed to paying almost £750m for the construction of a new enriched-uranium facility at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire.
The 32-page MoD report, Defence Equipment & Support … UK Enriched Uranium (EU) Capability Investment Appraisal, spells out the taxpayer's commitment to funding Project Pegasus, which will replace the enriched-uranium facility built at the site in the 1950s.
The report, marked "Secret UK Eyes Only", was published in heavily redacted form earlier this year following freedom of information requests. The Information Commissioner recently ruled that the redaction, hiding the full £747m investment cost of the project, should now be made public.
The huge sum, signed off with little parliamentary scrutiny, has raised questions over the accountability of AWE to the taxpayer and the MoD's priorities. Last week, after announcing that 1,100 naval positions would but cut, the defence secretary Liam Fox attacked how the previous government had run the MoD, allowing "a department of that size to operate without controls on its spending". However, while all armed forces are suffering cuts, the UK's nuclear weapons programme is benefiting from significant increases in spending, even before the government makes a decision on replacing Trident, the ballistic nuclear missile system.
The investment in AWE will benefit AWE Management, the private-sector consortium that has a 25-year non-revokable contract to run the base and comprises US operators Lockheed Martin and Jacobs and the UK's Serco.
The money being spent on Project Pegasus is in addition to the £500m allocated for Project Mensa at nearby AWE Burghfield that will improve its warhead assembly facilities. But there are concerns about how the money is being spent. The MoD's annual report recently revealed that the government has written off £120m spent on Project Hydrus, a plan to build a new hydrodynamics research facility at AWE Aldermaston. The project received planning permission in September 2010 but was cancelled shortly afterwards when the UK and France signed a joint treaty to construct a shared research facility.
The accounts also revealed that the MoD has written off a further £16m following cancellation of a project to construct a "Systems Engineering Facility". Total expenditure at AWE between 2008 and 2011 is about £2.6bn.
The MoD believes the reinvestment programme at AWE is vital to maintain the safety and effectiveness of the current Trident warhead stockpile without recourse to nuclear testing, in compliance with the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.
But the costs associated with the various construction projects give an insight into the scale of the "behind the scenes" spending that will be needed to replace Trident.
The initial business case for Trident, published by the government earlier this year, gave a price for replacing the submarines of £25bn. But this does not include the costs of paying for the missiles, warheads, infrastructure or decommissioning costs. Neither does it include the continuing year-on-year costs of operating the system. Greenpeace estimates a "cradle-to-grave" operating cost for the Trident replacement project of £97bn. MoD spending on "big ticket" items came in for criticism last week by the respected defence thinktank, Rusi. It warned that there continues to be a risk the MoD's budget plans could be "blown off course" if the cost of major programmes increases more sharply than planned.
"The costs of major projects remain a major source of potential instability, with particular concerns over the looming costs of Trident renewal," the report's author, Professor Malcolm Chalmers, claimed. "Pressures to bear down on unit costs will continue to be difficult to reconcile with a diminishing number of front-line capabilities, each of which involves significant overhead expenditure."
Peter Burt of the Nuclear Information Service said the huge sums being spent on secretive projects at AWE bases should be a concern to the taxpayer: "The inescapable conclusion is that the Atomic Weapons Establishment has not been delivering value for money to taxpayers in years past."
But an MoD spokeswoman defended the investment at AWE: "This funding, which includes Project Pegasus, was announced six years ago and will ensure we maintain our commitment to providing our vital nuclear deterrent. It is necessary to invest in the facilities at AWE, which will provide assurance that the existing Trident warhead stockpile is reliable and safe."
Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/oct/02/ministry-of-defence-nuclear-spending-project-pegasus?newsfeed=true
2. Russia to Build Laser Nuclear Explosion Simulation Installation
Oleg Nekhai and Yelizaveta Isakova
The Voice of Russia
(for personal use only)
Russia’s state-run “Rosatom” corporation is developing a laser installation to simulate nuclear explosions in the town of Sarov in the Nizhniy Novgorod region. This will be more powerful than a similar complex at the Livermore National Laboratory in the U.S., says head of the “Rosatom” Sergei Kirienko.
Sarov was specially chosen as the location for the installation. Some time ago, it was a highly secret city and was not marked even on any geographical map and was known as “Arzamas-16” where the nuclear and hydrogen bombs were developed. Russia’s federal nuclear centre is located there. The security of nuclear weapons is an urgent issue for all nuclear powers.
Meanwhile, the reliability and safety of nuclear arsenals, which have several thousands of warheads, worry the international community. Consequently, the state of these warheads has to be strictly controlled without carrying out nuclear tests. Moreover, even the underground nuclear tests cause irreparable damage to the environment and are health hazardous. Long ago, Russia assessed these risks and has been urging other countries to join the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. On the eve, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and Ambassador Tibor Toth, executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization discussed the issue at their meeting. According to the Russian diplomat, one of the key points in fulfilling the treaty - the development of facilities of the International Nuclear-Test Monitoring System – has already been certified 70 percent.
The new installation in Sarov will pave the way for completely banning underground nuclear tests. Physical simulation of explosions is one of the methods that establish control over nuclear warheads, says director of the Nuclear Safety Institute, Leonid Bolshov.
No nuclear tests have been carried out in the world for a long time. All the nuclear powers are conducting experiments to maintain their nuclear weapons in a state of ability to act and to upgrade them. For one, the U.S. has persistently implemented a programme of simulating physical processes during a nuclear explosion.
The Livermore National Laboratory has been installing powerful lasers with neodymium glass, which emit extremely powerful light. When laser beams converge and concentrate on a microbead for a few billionths of a second, the pressure and temperature conditions in it will make it possible to re-create conditions under which thermonuclear fusion takes place. Similar experiments were carried out in the Soviet Union. Russia has revived this work, and this is an important task, says the expert.
Russia has started building a similar installation but more powerful than that in the U.S. This will pave the way for the Russian scientists to maintain the country’s defence capacity and discover new laws in physics. The simulation will help to study the physics of explosion in detail. The installation will be commissioned in 2017.
Available at: http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/09/30/57370758.html
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