1. Russia Agrees to Build Bangladesh’s First Nuclear Power Plant
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Russia’s state-owned nuclear holding company Rosatom Corp. agreed to build an atomic power plant in Bangladesh, the South Asian nation’s science minister said.
Yeafesh Osman, Bangladesh’s state minister for science and information and communication technology and Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Rosatom, signed the agreement in Dhaka today, Osman told reporters.
Bangladesh, where more than half of the 166 million population don’t have access to electricity, plans to spend $10 billion over a decade to increase power capacity and attract investments from abroad. The government said on Sept. 11 it will ask international companies to submit bids to build seven power plants with a combined capacity of 1,455 megawatts.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-02/russia-agrees-to-build-bangladesh-s-first-nuclear-power-plant.html
2. AP Exclusive: UN Examines Syria-Pakistan Nuke Tie
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Satellite images have provided U.N. investigators with fresh evidence that the Syrian government once worked with A.Q. Khan, the world's most prolific nuclear weapons merchant.
The images reveal that a complex in northwest Syria appears to match Khan's designs for a uranium enrichment plant that were sold to Moammar Gahafi's government in Libya, officials told The Associated Press.
The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency also has obtained correspondence between Khan and a Syrian government official, Muhidin Issa, who proposed scientific cooperation and a visit to Khan's laboratories following Pakistan's successful nuclear test in 1998.
Investigators don't believe Syria was ever close to building a nuclear bomb and there is no evidence it still has a secret program. The complex, in the city of Al-Hasakah, now appears to be used as a cotton-spinning plant.
But the unlikely coincidence in design suggests Syria may have been pursuing two routes to an atomic bomb: uranium as well as plutonium. IAEA investigators had already said they believe that a Syrian site bombed by Israeli warplanes in 2007 was a plutonium production reactor.
Details of the Syria-Khan connection were provided to the AP by a senior diplomat with knowledge of IAEA investigations and a former U.N. investigator. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The Syrian government did not respond to a request for comment. The regime has repeatedly denied pursuing nuclear weapons but also has stymied an investigation into the site bombed by Israel. It has not responded to an IAEA request to visit the Al-Hasakah complex, the officials said.
IAEA officials contacted Tuesday also declined to comment. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that Syria should cooperate with the IAEA.
"We remain concerned about whether Syria is meeting its obligations to the IAEA," she said. "Their clandestine nuclear program remains an issue of grave concern."
The IAEA's examination of Syria's programs has slowed as world powers focus on a popular uprising in the country and the government's violent crackdown. If the facility in Al-Hasakah was indeed intended for uranium production, those plans appear to have been abandoned and the path to plutonium ended with the Israeli bombing.
But Mark Hibbs, an analyst at the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who has spoken to IAEA officials about the Al-Hasakah complex, said it is important to learn more details about the buildings.
"What is at stake here is the nuclear history of that facility," Hibbs said. "People want to know 'what did they intend to do there?' and Syria has provided no information."
Syria has reasons to seek a nuclear weapon. It shares a border with its longtime enemy Israel, a country believed to have a sizable nuclear arsenal.
"A nuclear weapon would give Syria at least a kind of parity with Israel and some status within the region," said Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
For years, there has been speculation about ties between Khan and the Syrian government.
Though he later recanted, Khan had publicly confessed to selling nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya, but he has never spoken of Syria. Investigators have suspected that he had other clients he had not revealed.
The former investigator said Syria acknowledged to the IAEA that Khan made at least one trip to Syria to deliver scientific lectures, as The Los Angeles Times reported in 2004.
The former official said he has seen letters from Issa, then a deputy minister of education in Syria, written on official letterhead shortly after Pakistan's 1998 nuclear test congratulating Pakistan for Khan's achievement. In subsequent correspondence, Issa suggested cooperation with Khan and requested a visit by Syrian officials to Khan's laboratory, the former official said.
Issa, who later served as the dean of the faculty of sciences at Arab International University, could not be reached for comment.
In a 2007 interview with an Austrian newspaper, Syrian President Bashar Assad acknowledged having received a letter that appeared to have been from Khan, but said his government had not responded and did not meet Khan.
IAEA investigators homed in on the Al-Hasakah facility after an intensive analysis of satellite imagery in the Middle East, sparked by a search for an additional Kahn client. They identified the site, the largest industrial complex in Al-Hasakah, after a 2006 report in a Kuwaiti newspaper claimed Syria had a secret nuclear program in the city.
Satellite imagery of the Al-Hasakah complex revealed striking similarities to plans for a uranium enrichment facility that were seized during a Swiss investigation related to Khan. The Swiss were looking into the Tinner family — Urs Tinner, his brother Marco and their father, Friedrich — who are suspected of playing a crucial role in Khan's smuggling network.
Another set of the same plans was turned over to the IAEA after Libya abandoned its nuclear program. Libya told the IAEA it had ordered 10,000 gas centrifuges from Khan, most of which it intended for a facility that was to be built according to the plans. Centrifuges are used to enrich uranium in the weapons-making process.
The investigator said the layout of the Al-Hasakah facility matches the plans used in Libya almost exactly, with a large building surrounded by three smaller workshops in the same configurations. Investigators were struck that even the parking lots had similarities, with a covered area to shield cars from the sun.
But the investigator said he had seen no evidence that centrifuges were ever installed there. The Hasakah Spinning Co. has a website that shows photos of manufacturing equipment inside the facility and brags about its prices.
The IAEA asked to visit the site more than two years ago. But it has not pressed the issue, focusing its efforts on the bombed site.
Nor has the agency ever cited the Al-Hasakah facility in its reports. Three other sites have been mentioned, but they are believed to have been related to the bombed reactor, not the Al-Hasakah plant.
IAEA inspectors were allowed to visit the bombed reactor site once, but have not been allowed back for nearly three years. They issued a strongly worded assessment in May that said the targeted site was in fact a nearly built nuclear reactor. The agency's board subsequently referred the issue to the U.N. Security Council, effectively dismissing Syrian denials as untrue.
Syrian officials again refused new inspections after talks with the IAEA in Damascus last week, diplomats told the AP. The officials said they would provide new evidence that the bombed site was non-nuclear. Agency officials remain skeptical because Syria did not describe the new information or say when it would be provided.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5j0bcc4Xb89OXZMTWDmFScN1GBTXQ?docId=0c57160d8775447ea1f6e2ff0d4110f1
Czech power group CEZ (CEZPsp.PR) set on Monday the deadline for bids to expand its Temelin nuclear power plant for July 2, 2012, the next step in the country's largest-ever procurement deal.
CEZ expects to choose a supplier by the end of 2013 for a deal worth hundreds of billions of crowns, or some $10 billion, to more than double the size of its two-block nuclear power plant, located around 50 km from Austria's border.
With 2,000 megawatts of capacity, Temelin is already a major electricity unit for the central European state of 10.5 million.
The Czech government is firmly pro-nuclear despite growing opposition in neighbouring Austria and Germany, which import Czech power.
CEZ Chief Executive Daniel Benes, who took over at CEZ last month and has made Temelin's completion a key task for himself, said Temelin's third unit should be completed in 2023, and a fourth 18 months later.
Toshiba Corp unit Westinghouse, an alliance of Russia's Atomstroyexport and Czech company Skoda JS, and France's Areva , are bidding for the deal.
On Monday, CEZ handed over documentation, including some 6,000 pages weighing around 70 kg, to bidders.
Nuclear power in general faces tougher scrutiny now, and since the Fukushima disaster in Japan in March, Germany has put in places plans to scale down nuclear use.
But going against that, the Czech government has started drawing up plans that puts nuclear as a key part of the country's future energy strategy.
Temelin was a topic at last week's meeting of Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas' meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.
A CEZ official said this month the country can look to the European Union to defend its nuclear expansion plans.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/31/cez-temelin-tender-idUSL5E7LV2MP20111031
4. Japan, Vietnam Agree To Move Forward With Nuclear Export Deal
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Japan's prime minister and his Vietnamese counterpart agreed Monday to go ahead with a plan to export Japanese nuclear technology to the Southeast Asian nation, despite Japan's own freeze on restarting suspended reactors over safety concerns.
"We will go forth with the construction of nuclear power reactors' with Japan's aid, Nguyen Tan Dung said at a joint press conference after their talks.
As part of their energy and resources cooperation, the two sides also agreed to cooperate on the development of rare earth material in Vietnam, beginning with their first joint development project in Dong Pao, Lai Chau province.
Vietnam plans to purchase two Japanese nuclear reactors for a plant in southeast Ninh Thuan province to start operations in 2021. Vietnam decided on the purchase last October, but the deal's future was thrown into doubt after the accident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The accident raised safety concerns that have kept nuclear plants in Japan idle following scheduled maintenance.
Monday's agreement is seen as an indication Japan will resume efforts to export nuclear technology. Japan currently has its sights on countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Lithuania, Kazakhstan and India.
Vietnam's formal endorsement of Japanese nuclear technology came days after Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and his Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna agreed to move ahead with talks toward a civilian nuclear power agreement Saturday. The agreement was a precondition to enable Tokyo to export nuclear power plant technology to the South Asian giant.
Vietnam decided on its purchase last October with strong encouragement from then Prime Minister Naoto Kan. But before leaving office in August, Kan became a leading anti-nuclear advocate, pushing for the scrapping nuclear energy in Japan, casting doubts on Japan's aims to export nuclear technology.
Current Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has called for Japan to "minimize dependency" on nuclear energy.
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan had promoted nuclear technology exports as a pillar of its economic growth strategy. But the March 11 earthquake and ensuing accident at the Fukushima plant led to a suspension of negotiations toward accords on the transfer of nuclear energy technology and related materials for peaceful use.
The Japanese government now says the Fukushima nuclear crisis and its aftermath leave the country with invaluable experience to help improve nuclear safety in the rest of the world. But nearly eight months since the accident, the government has yet to come up with a comprehensive clean-up plan, exacerbating anxiety and mistrust among its citizens.
On Saturday, Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, who is also in charge of overseeing the nuclear crisis, said the government will build a containment facility in Fukushima in the next three years to store rubble from the stricken plant for about 30 years while it finds a permanent disposal site.
Contaminated soil and rubble in the areas surrounding the Fukushima reactors have been piled up and abandoned while the government struggles to find a long-term containment area. Local governments and residents have voiced concerns about leakage of radioactive material as the mountains of rubble await removal.
Meanwhile, the government has yet to announce when the areas surrounding the plant will become habitable. In September, the industry minister resigned amid a public backlash to comments in which he referred to areas in the evacuation zone as a "dead cities."
Available at: http://www.foxbusiness.com/industries/2011/10/31/japan-vietnam-agree-to-move-forward-with-nuclear-export-deal/
The stunning revelations that the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization (JNES) under the jurisdiction of the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) prepared inspection procedures for nuclear facilities after copying everything off draft inspection procedures worked out by a nuclear fuel company have called into question the country's atomic safety regulations.
Sloppy inspection procedures worked out by the government-affiliated body were revealed at a time when Japan is struggling to ensure nuclear safety in the wake of the outbreak of a crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant and is trying to step up measures to check the safety of nuclear power plants. In line with strict inspections carried out in the United States, Japan needs to vastly improve its procedures to inspect nuclear power plants.
Yoshihiro Nishiwaki, a visiting professor at the graduate school of the University of Tokyo, was stunned by the revelations and said, "Inspections are carried out by the government itself, and therefore they should make painstaking efforts to determine the content of inspections on their own." While working for the then-Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), he was assigned to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from September 1991 to June 1993. He spent about six months inspecting nuclear reactors in Atlanta, Georgia. There he realized differences between the two countries in terms of methods and ideas of inspecting nuclear reactors.
NRC inspectors decide on when and what they plan to inspect on their own and conduct inspections without advance notice in principle. Connecting their own computers with the local area network (LAN) at a nuclear facility, they even check e-mails exchanged between facility workers and subcontractors. If necessary, they bring in inspection equipment to check to see if devices at the facility have deteriorated. That's because nuclear plant operators could present only self-serving documents. "I was impressed with the attitudes taken by inspectors to check master inspection procedures on their own and try to uncover problems and illegal practices at nuclear facilities," Nishiwaki said.
Before compiling inspection reports, inspectors hold heated debate with plant operators on key points. In most cases, arguments presented by inspectors are accepted, but the details of such debate are released to the public and inspection reports are written in plain words.
In Japan, on the other hand, plant operators carry out inspections first and then inspectors check to see if the examinations are sound by using almost the same techniques as those used by the plant operators. Therefore, JNES says, "there is no problem even if we prepare inspection procedures in accordance with the draft steps prepared by the plant operator." The timing of inspections is notified to plant operators in advance, and on the first day of inspections, hordes of workers from power companies and plant makers come out and greet the inspectors.
Since 2003, Japanese inspectors have been conducting "snap" inspections. But they only inspect areas they had not notified of in advance during the inspection period.
In the United States, there are strict rules governing inspectors' dealings with plant operators. Inspectors are not allowed to eat with plant operators even if they pay for their own bill. In Japan, however, it is not rare for inspectors to eat together with operators at the facility prior to inspections even though they pay for their own meals.
While working for MITI, Nishiwaki observed trouble in which some devices were not operating properly during inspections of a nuclear power plant. "When we asked them to show us maintenance records, a worker said to us, 'We will have them operational for sure. Please have sushi or something with our executives until then.' But I turned that down." Nishiwaki added, "The idea that inspectors simply check what operators have inspected leads to the creation of an atmosphere that 'it is sufficient just to have documents sorted out and ready and maintain equipment properly just during their visit."
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20111102p2a00m0na015000c.html
2. Tepco Detects Signs of Nuclear Fission at Fukushima, Raising Risk of Leaks
Tsuyoshi Inajima and Yuji Okada
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Tokyo Electric Power Co. detected signs of nuclear fission at its crippled Fukushima atomic power plant, raising the risk of increased radiation emissions. No increase in radiation was found at the site and the situation is under control, officials said.
The company, known as Tepco, began spraying boric acid on the No. 2 reactor at 2:48 a.m. Japan time to prevent accidental chain reactions, according to an e-mailed statement today.
The detection of xenon, which is associated with nuclear fission, was confirmed today by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the country’s atomic regulator said.
“Given the signs, it’s certain that fission is occurring,” Junichi Matsumoto, a general manager at Tepco who regularly talks to the media, told reporters in Tokyo today. There’s been no large-scale or sustained criticality and no increase in radiation, he said.
Fission taking place in the reactor can lead to increases in radiation emissions and raises concerns about further leaks after another radioactive hot spot was discovered in Tokyo on Oct. 29. It’s possible there are similar reactions occurring in the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, the other cores damaged at the station, Matsumoto said.
“Melted fuel in the No. 2 reactor may have undergone a sustained process of nuclear fission or re-criticality,” Tetsuo Ito, the head of Kinki University’s Atomic Energy Research Institute, said by phone. “The nuclear fission should be containable by injecting boron into the reactor to absorb neutrons.”
Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano delivered a warning to Hiroyuki Fukano, the head of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, because the information on the discovery of xenon wasn’t passed to the prime minister’s office in a timely manner, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters today.
Shares of Tepco declined 2.6 percent to close at 302 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
They’ve fallen 86 percent since the disaster. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average was down 2.2 percent.
Eight months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, causing a loss of cooling and the meltdowns of three reactors, Tepco is trying to prevent further leakage of radiation that has spread across the world.
The incident, the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, was responsible for the biggest discharge of radioactive material into the ocean in history, according to a study from a French nuclear safety institute.
“We are evaluating whether there are many reactions or not or whether its stopped,” Matsumoto said. The incident won’t affect its schedule of bringing the plant under control by the end of this year, Matsumoto said.
Yasuhiro Sonoda, a member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, on Oct. 31 drank a glass of filtered water from the Fukushima plant to demonstrate the situation is being brought under control.
Sonoda denied reporters’ claims it was a publicity stunt. “I drank it because there shouldn’t be any concerns about the water,” he said. “I didn’t intend to say it’s completely safe by drinking it.”
No significant changes in temperatures and pressures of the reactor and radiation levels at the site have been detected, said Hiroyuki Usami, a spokesman for Tepco.
The temperature of the bottom of the No. 2 reactor pressure vessel was 76 degrees Celsius (167 Fahrenheit) at 5 a.m. today, compared with 77.4 degrees a day earlier and 77.5 degrees two days ago, according to Tepco’s data. Radiation levels taken near the west gate of the plant have been stable at about 11 microsieverts per hour for the past few days, the data shows.
Should fissioning have occurred the injection of boron will have stopped it, said Tadashi Narabayashi, a former reactor safety researcher at Toshiba Corp. (6502) and now a nuclear engineering professor at Hokkaido University.
Fissioning involves the splitting of atoms, which, in the case of certain uranium isotopes, can lead to an uncontrolled reaction and emittance of radiation.
Tepco and the government have said they are on track to bring the damaged reactors into a safe state known as cold shutdown by the end of the year.
Nuclear fission would be taking place in a “very restricted part” of the reactor, said Koganeya.
The regulator believes fuel accumulated at the bottom of the pressure vessel and containment vessel is unlikely to start melting again, he said.
Fukushima sustained major damage at four of its six reactor buildings at the Dai-Ichi plant, including the three core meltdowns and possible damage to a spent fuel pool.
The radioactive cesium that flowed into the sea from the plant was 20 times the amount estimated by Tepco, according to the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety, which is funded by the French government.
The oceanic study estimates 27,000 terabecquerels of radioactive cesium 137 leaked into the sea from the plant. The Fukushima station may have emitted more than twice the amount of radiation than estimated by the Japanese government at the height of the Fukushima accident, according to another study by the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal. Tepco has declined to comment on both studies.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-02/tepco-detects-nuclear-fission-at-fukushima-dai-ichi-station-1-.html
3. PM Noda Looks Set to Back Down From Pursuit of Less Reliance of Nuclear Power
The Mainichi Daily News
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Speculation is growing that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has backed down from his position for Japan to seek to rely less on nuclear power.
In their summit talks on Oct. 31, Noda told Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung that Japan will continue to export nuclear reactors. In an earlier interview with The Financial Times, Noda expressed hope that a certain number of nuclear reactors, which have been stopped for regular maintenance work, can be reactivated.
Following the accident at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, the government suspended its talks with other countries over exports of nuclear power complexes.
However, the Cabinet decided in August to resume talks with Vietnam for fear that confidence will be lost in Japan in the international market unless it allows a contract for a project that a Japanese company has already won from the country to go ahead. The final round of talks with Vietnam was actually resumed in September.
Still, Prime Minister Noda remains prudent in giving the green light to future exports of nuclear reactors and technology. "The exports to Vietnam will not lead to fresh talks with other countries on nuclear power accords or exports of nuclear reactors," he said.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano also said the government will "take some more time" before deciding whether to permit fresh exports of nuclear power complexes and technology.
However, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba and his Indian counterpart Shri S. M. Krishna agreed on Oct. 29 that the two governments will press forward with talks on a bilateral nuclear power agreement, which is indispensable for Japan's exports of nuclear reactors and technology to India. The move could be interpreted as an indication that Tokyo is considering fresh exports of nuclear power despite the prime minister's cautious approach.
The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-led government had initially promoted exports of nuclear power complexes. In its new growth strategy released in June 2010, the administration called for exports of various forms of infrastructure including nuclear reactors in packages. It then signed a nuclear power accord with Jordan in September last year, with South Korea in December and with Vietnam in January. Four such agreements, including one that the Liberal Democratic Party-led previous administration had signed with Russia, have been submitted to the Diet for approval.
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20111101p2a00m0na017000c.html
1. Anti-Nuke Activists Agree to Talks With State Government
The Times of India
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The anti-Kudankulam protesters have expressed their desire to come to the dialogue table, albeit with conditions.
On Tuesday, the protesters agreed to send two representatives as members of a panel to be set up by the state government. The state government panel is likely to hold talks with the 15-member expert committee constituted by the Centre to resolve the crisis in the coastal village of Kudankulam that houses the multi-crore Russian aided 2x1000 MW nuclear power plant in Tirunelveli district.
"We met the district collector and gave the names of M P Jesuraj and M Pushparayan as our representatives in the panel," S P Udayakumar, who spearheads the anti-Kudankulam agitation told reporters in Tirunelveli. However, the agitators were not told about the composition, strength or role of the state government panel.
The activists said that they were summoned by the Tirunelveli district collector R Selvaraj on Tuesday and were told about the state government panel asking them to give the names of two representatives.
"But the district administration officials did not spell out the terms of reference of the state government panel. Hence, we laid down certain conditions. First and foremost, we want the work in the plant to be halted as per the resolution passed in the Tamil Nadu cabinet. A white paper should also be issued on the status of the plant at present," said M Pushparayan.
Besides, the activists have also demanded that the NPCIL officials should stop spreading canards about the protesters to discredit them. "Police cases registered against the protesters should be withdrawn. Also, none except the protestors at Idinthakarai should be included in the panel to represent the villagers," Pushparayan demanded.
Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/Anti-nuke-activists-agree-to-talks-with-state-government/articleshow/10574569.cms
2. Sole Dutch Nuclear Plant Safe, But Improvements Needed
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The Netherlands' sole nuclear power plant, one of the oldest in Europe, passed a stress test conducted at the request of the European Union following the Fukushima disaster in Japan earlier this year, the Dutch ministry said on Wednesday.
The March disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear facility in March prompted the EU to mandate stress tests for the region's plants. Final results will be presented to the European Council in June 2012.
"The initial results give absolutely no reason to question the safety of the Borssele plant," Maxime Verhagen, the economic affairs minister, said in a statement.
The test results showed, however, that safety can still be improved at the site, the statement added
The ministry said plant operator EPZ intended to take corrective actions to improve safety, such as conducting a review of operational procedures and investing in extra water pumps.
In a report released on Wednesday, EPZ said that a number of safety procedures, such as developing guidelines in case of extensive damage to the Borssele plant, needed to be drawn up.
Implementation of training would, among other things, ensure that the actions taken to ensure water supply in the event of a power shortage are performed in a timely manner.
The 485 megawatt Borssele plant was built in 1973 in the south-west of the Netherlands, the most densely populated state in the EU, with an expected lifespan of 40 years. German utility RWE owns a 30 percent stake, and Dutch public utility Delta holds 70 percent.
But in 2006 the government decided to extend its lifespan by 20 years to 2033.
The Kernfysische Dienst (KFD), the independent regulator of nuclear installations in the Netherlands, will carry out further checks on the results of the stress test.
Minister Verhagen will present the final results to the Dutch Parliament and the European Commission at the end of December.
The Dutch government wants to push ahead with plans to build a second reactor at Borssele.
Delta has teamed up with French utility EDF to explore the development of the project and has offered RWE a 20 percent stake in the new plant.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/02/dutch-nuclear-idUSL5E7M21S020111102
3. EDF Says Its British Nuclear Reactors Pass EU Tests
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EDF Energy's fleet of nuclear reactors in Britain has passed stress tests ordered by the European Union following Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in March, it said in a submission to British authorities.
The clean bill of health for its UK reactors follows a pan-European safety assessment process mandated by EU authorities on the bloc's 143 reactors.
"The assessment has proved that we are very robust under the most extreme scenarios, even those far beyond what could ever be plausible in the UK - and confirmed that the plants would operate safely as they are designed to do," Chief Executive Officer Vincent de Rivaz said on Tuesday.
EDF said it has submitted thousands of pages of documents to the UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation as part of the EU stress testing program.
The UK government asked the country's biggest nuclear power producer to test reactors' capacity to resist flooding, earthquakes, power outages, failure of the cooling systems, and operation management of accidents.
Rivaz said fallout from the Fukushima disaster has led to improved planning for worst-case scenarios, including the establishment of emergency command centers.
The company said safety tests also applied to its proposed new reactor design for Hinkley Point C in Somerset, also deemed safe.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/11/01/us-nuclearess-tests-edf-idUKTRE7A02GH20111101
4. Rosatom to Spend $585 mln to Upgrade Nuclear Plants Security
The Voice of Russia
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Russia’s state Atomic Energy Corporation, Rosatom, is going to alloctae $585.9 million to upgrade security at all existing nuclear power plants in view of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Rosatom`s deputy chief Alexander Lokshin said during a nuclear forum in Kaliningrad.
He added that a 2-year program aims to upgrade security at 32 reactors located at 10 nuclear plants.
New nuclear plants currently built in Russia already have a new generation security system.
Starting from 1986, Rosatom has spent at least $3.25 billion on upgrading nuclear facilities.
Available at: http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/11/01/59707748.html
1. India Plans 'Safer' Nuclear Plant Powered by Thorium
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India has announced plans for a prototype nuclear power plant that uses an innovative "safer" fuel.
Officials are currently selecting a site for the reactor, which would be the first of its kind, using thorium for the bulk of its fuel instead of uranium – the fuel for conventional reactors.
They plan to have the plant up and running by the end of the decade.
The development of workable and large-scale thorium reactors has for decades been a dream for nuclear engineers, while for environmentalists it has become a major hope as an alternative to fossil fuels. Proponents say the fuel has considerable advantages over uranium. Thorium is more abundant and exploiting it does not involve release of large quantities of carbon dioxide, making it less dangerous for the climate than fossil fuels like coal and oil.
In a rare interview, Ratan Kumar Sinha, the director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai, told the Guardian that his team is finalising the site for construction of the new large-scale experimental reactor, while at the same time conducting "confirmatory tests" on the design.
"The basic physics and engineering of the thorium-fuelled Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) are in place, and the design is ready," said Sinha.
Once the six-month search for a site is completed – probably next to an existing nuclear power plant – it will take another 18 months to obtain regulatory and environmental impact clearances before building work on the site can begin.
"Construction of the AHWR will begin after that, and it would take another six years for the reactor to become operational," Sinha added, meaning that if all goes to plan, the reactor could be operational by the end of the decade. The reactor is designed to generate 300MW of electricity – about a quarter of the output of a typical new nuclear plant in the west.
Sinha added that India was in talks with other countries over the export of conventional nuclear plants. He said India was looking for buyers for its 220MW and 540MW Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs). Kazakhastan and the Gulf states are known to have expressed an interest, while one source said that negotiations are most advanced with Vietnam, although Sinha refused to confirm this.
"Many countries with small power grids of up to 5,000 MW are looking for 300MW reactors," he said. "Our reactors are smaller, cheaper, and very price competitive."
Producing a workable thorium reactor would be a massive breakthrough in energy generation.
Using thorium – a naturally occurring moderately radioactive element named after the Norse god of thunder – as a source of atomic power is not new technology. Promising early research was carried out in the US in the 1950s and 60s and then abandoned in favour of using uranium.
The pro-thorium lobby maintains this was at least partly because national nuclear power programmes in the US and elsewhere were developed with a military purpose in mind: namely access to a source of plutonium for nuclear weapons. Unlike uranium, thorium-fuelled reactors do not result in a proliferation of weapons-grade plutonium. Also, under certain circumstances, the waste from thorium reactors is less dangerous and remains radioactive for hundreds rather than thousands of years.
That is a considerable plus for governments now worried about how to deal with nuclear waste and concerned about the possibility of rogue governments or terrorists getting their hands on plutonium. Also, with the world's supply of uranium rapidly depleting, attention has refocused on thorium, which is three to four times more abundant and 200 times more energy dense..
"Given India's abundant supply of thorium it makes sense for her to develop thorium reactors," said Labour peer Baroness Worthington who is patron of the Weinberg Foundation, which promotes thorium-fuelled nuclear power.
She added: "However, many of the advantages of thorium fuel are best realised with totally new reactor designs such as the molten salt reactor developed Alvin Weinberg in the 60s. I hope India will also commit to exploring this option."
India has the world's largest thorium deposits and with a world hungry for low-carbon energy, it has its eyes on a potentially lucrative export market for the technology. For more than three decades, India's nuclear research programme had been subject to international sanctions since its controversial 1974 nuclear tests. But after losing its pariah status three years ago as a result of the Indo-US nuclear deal, India is keen to export indigenous nuclear technology developed in research centres such as the BARC.
There are still restrictions though. One problem is the "trigger fuel" the reactor needs to initiate operation. In the original design, this is a small quantity of plutonium. Instead the new reactor's trigger will be low-enriched uranium (LEU) – which India is permitted to import under the 2008 Indo-US deal.
"The AHWR will eventually have design flexibility, using as fuel either plutonium-thorium or LEU-thorium combinations," said Sinha. "The LEU-thorium version will make the AHWR very much marketable abroad, as it would generate very little plutonium ... making it suitable for countries with high proliferation resistance."
The LEU-thorium design is currently at pilot stage. For the first time last year, the BARC tested the thorium-plutonium combination at its critical facility in Mumbai, but is still some way from doing the same for the thorium-LEU combination.
Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/01/india-thorium-nuclear-plant
2. UAE Mulls Financing Structure for $20bn Nuclear Plan
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The UAE aims to decide on the financing structure for its $20bn nuclear program and reach a purchase agreement for uranium next year as it proceeds with its atomic-power plan.
Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp, the government-owned company developing the country’s first nuclear plants, will submit a post-Fukushima report by the end of this year to the country’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, said Fahad al-Qahtani, an ENEC spokesman.
The federal authority is also reviewing ENEC’s construction license application that was submitted at the end of 2010, which will take about 18 months.
“We expect to have the review completed around July 2012, and that will be when we look forward to get permission to start the construction of units one and two,” al-Qahtani told reporters in Abu Dhabi today.
Available at: http://www.arabianbusiness.com/uae-mulls-financingucture-for-20bn-nuclear-plan-428217.html
1. Nuclear Summit to Send 'Firm Message' to N. Korea: Seoul
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korea will use next year's world nuclear security summit in Seoul to increase diplomatic pressure on North Korea to abandon its atomic arsenal, a key organizer said Wednesday.
The Nuclear Security Summit will be held in Seoul on March 26 and 27, attended by top leaders from about 50 countries, including the United States, Russia, China, Japan, Britain and France. It will be the second of its kind after the inaugural meeting in the U.S. last year.
"By bringing world leaders to Seoul, the 2012 nuclear security summit will send out a specific and firm message on pursuing the denuclearization of North Korea," Ambassador Kim Bong-hyun, the top South Korean negotiator to the upcoming summit, told an academic forum in Seoul.
North Korea's nuclear programs are not on the agenda but the issue can be discussed on the sidelines of the forum, South Korean officials said.
A flurry of diplomatic efforts has been underway since July to reopen the six-nation talks on ending the North's nuclear weapons programs. The six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, have been dormant since April 2009, when the North quit the negotiating table then conducted its second nuclear test a month later.
Seoul and Washington said Pyongyang must first take concrete steps to show its sincerity before reconvening the talks, such as a monitored shutdown of its uranium enrichment plant.
Pyongyang insists, however, that the talks should be resumed without any preconditions. South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan has said the North's nuclear issue can be discussed bilaterally or multilaterally outside the forum, because all member countries of the six-party denuclearization talks except North Korea will be attending the Seoul summit.
Seoul has invited Pyongyang to the summit on condition it agrees to give up its nuclear ambitions, but the communist regime is unlikely to attend, according to Seoul officials.
Kim, the chief Seoul negotiator, said the proposal to invite North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to the summit is a "proactive political initiative to urge North Korea to denuclearize and step toward a more prosperous future by opening its door to the international community."
One of the key topics at the summit will be how to protect vulnerable radioactive materials worldwide that terrorists could use to make crude nuclear bombs, Kim said.
"We plan to address the issue of securing radioactive sources more comprehensively," he said. "Although the destructive impact of radiological terrorism using 'dirty bombs' is much weaker than that of nuclear terrorism, appropriate management in safely securing radioactive sources is vital given the high probability and the enormous psychological aftermaths of radiological terrorism."
Other key topics to be discussed in Seoul will include "practical and concrete" ways to prevent the threat of nuclear terrorism and to ensure the safety of atomic energy.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2011/11/02/64/0301000000AEN20111102002800315F.HTML
2. Seoul Seeks More Nuclear Talks With Pyongyang: Official
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korea is seeking to hold a third round of bilateral talks with North Korea as regional powers increase efforts to revive the stalled six-nation talks on ending the North's nuclear ambition, a senior official at Seoul's foreign ministry said Monday.
However, North Korea should do more to show it is serious about giving up its nuclear weapons programs when the fresh round of inter-Korean dialogue takes place, the official said on the condition of anonymity.
Pyongyang and Washington concluded a second round of talks in Geneva last week to explore the possibility of resuming the six-party talks. After the Geneva contact, both sides reported some progress, but U.S. officials said there had been no breakthrough.
The Geneva talks followed up a first round in New York in late July and two rounds of inter-Korean dialogue aimed at reconvening the broader talks, which also include China, Russia and Japan.
"After the Geneva talks, there is the need to hold more dialogue with North Korea," the official said, adding no date has been set for a third round of talks.
"Some progress was made in the Geneva meeting, but there is still much more work to do," he said. "It is clear to us that North Korea must take more specific and sincere steps when the third round of talks happens."
Asked what specific progress had been made during the Geneva talks, the official replied, "One achievement is that both sides broadened each side's understanding about pending issues."
South Korea is also pushing to hold a trilateral meeting with foreign ministers from the U.S. and Japan next month to reaffirm their joint strategy on North Korea on the sidelines of either an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Russia or an East Asia Summit in Indonesia, the official said.
If the meeting comes about, it would be the second trilateral meeting since July, when the countries met on the sidelines of a regional security forum in Indonesia.
The six-party talks have been stalled since April 2009 when the North left the negotiating table and then conducted its second nuclear test a month later.
North Korea has since repeatedly called for an early resumption of the six-party talks without any preconditions.
Seoul and Washington have demanded Pyongyang take a series of "pre-steps" before the resumption of the six-party talks. Among other preconditions, Seoul and Washington have insisted that Pyongyang suspend its uranium enrichment program and allow international inspectors to verify the suspension ahead of the aid-for-disarmament talks.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2011/10/31/46/0301000000AEN20111031004200315F.HTML
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