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Nuclear News - 12/1/2011
PGS Nuclear News, December 1, 2011
Compiled By: Michael Kennedy

A.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. Study Shows Deeper Meltdown at Japan Nuke Reactor, Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press (11/30/2011)
    2. Nations Urged to Press for WMD-Free Mideast, Global Security Newswire (11/30/2011)
    3. S. Korean President Hopes Nuclear Summit to Be "Milestone" in Deterring Nuclear Terrorism, Xinhua News Agency (11/29/2011)
    4. Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Operator 'Ignored Tsunami Warning', Justin McCurry, The Guardian (11/29/2011)
    5. Russia Again Switches Venues for Floating Nuclear Power Plant Builds, Charles Digges, Bellona Foundation (11/28/2011)
B.  Nuclear Energy
    1. No Sign of Major Burma Nuclear Drive: US, Agence France-Presse (11/30/2011)
    2. "Rosatom" Aims High, Oleg Nekhai, The Voice of Russia (11/30/2011)
    3. Saudi Plans First Tender For Nuclear Plant by 2012-End, Bloomberg (11/28/2011)
    4. Govt. Approves 200KW Nuclear Power Plant Construction, The Jakarta Post (11/28/2011)
C.  Iran
    1. A Second Iranian Nuclear Facility has Exploded, As Diplomatic Tensions Rise Between the West and Tehran, Sheera Frenkel, The Times  (11/30/2011)
    2. Iran Official: Blast Near Nuclear Site Caused By Military Mishap, Yossi Melman, Haaretz (11/28/2011)
D.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. IAEA Stands Ready to Send Inspectors Back to N. Korea: Deputy Chief, Lee Haye-ah, Yonhap News Agency (11/29/2011)
    2. Areva Awaits Gov’t Nod on Liability Rules to Ink Jaitapur Deal, The Hindu (11/29/2011)
E.  North Korea
    1. North Korea Claims Progress in Uranium Enrichment, Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press (11/30/2011)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. Iran Nuclear Programme: Why Sanctions Are Faltering, BBC News (11/30/2011)
    2. Nuclear Money Pit, The American Conservative (11/29/2011)
    3. The Nuclear Bombs to Nowhere, Foreign Policy (11/29/2011)

A.  Nuclear Safety & Security

Nations Urged to Press for WMD-Free Mideast
Global Security Newswire
(for personal use only)

Global powers must act decisively to prevent nuclear weapons from proliferating across the Middle East, diplomatic officials and issue specialists said on Tuesday at a forum in Amman, Jordan (see GSN, Nov. 22).

The three-day event was intended to help prepare the way for a planned 2012 meeting on creating a regional ban on nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction, the Jordan Times reported. Such nuclear weapon-free zones have been established to date in five other regions.

Arab nations believe that policies incorporating mutual nuclear deterrence offer only "false security," Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein of Jordan said in remarks delivered by Jordan Atomic Energy Commission chief Khaled Toukan.

“By following the example of the five zones that have already voluntarily banned nuclear weapons, governments and policy-makers in the Middle East can help realize the secure and safe future that our people are entitled to,” he said in the address.

Toukan later added: “The ongoing presence of nuclear weapons in Israel and Iran in the future may trigger other states to move towards the militarization of their nuclear programs" (see related GSN stories, today).

“That it is why it is very important that we continue to move forward to establishing a regional zone and convince Israel and Iran of the benefits of the transparent peaceful use of nuclear energy,” the official said.

Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia endorsed the creation of such an area in the Middle East, and he voiced support for potential “rewards" and "sanctions" systems to encourage participation by governments.

'Untold and possibly dramatic consequences" could result from state reactions to Israeli and Iranian atomic policies, he said, adding the two regional powers have undermined past nonproliferation initiatives.

“The best way towards peace in our region is for all nations -- but most importantly Iran and Israel -- to support the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

Recent political unrest in the region has provided new momentum for the anti-WMD effort, according to independent specialists.

“Previous experiences have shown that politically liberalized states are more likely to sign nuclear arms control treaties, and the regional atmosphere may be a positive step to finally realize the goal of a WMD-free Middle East,” University of Trento expert Paolo Foradori said.

A significant number of analysts believe the planned 2012 meeting is "the last chance" to prevent a significant spread of nuclear-weapons capabilities through the region, Partnership for Global Security head Kenneth Luongo said. Political turbulence in the area might result in a one-year postponement of the conference, he said, noting the decision to convene the event in Finland was reached over several years.

“We hope to take steps soon, and eliminate any doubts before we head into what will be a historic opportunity,” he said.

Analysts at this week's meeting were set to consider the potential creation of atomic fuel production capabilities to serve the Middle East. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have accelerated their pursuit of weapon-relevant civilian atomic programs, in part as a response to Iran and Israel, experts said.

Separately, specialists at the event were expected to discuss possible means of monitoring the implementation of bans on chemical and biological weapons

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Study Shows Deeper Meltdown at Japan Nuke Reactor
Mari Yamaguchi
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Radioactive debris from melted fuel rods may have seeped deeper into the floor of a Japan's tsunami-hit nuclear reactor than previously thought, to within a foot from breaching the crucial steel barrier, a new simulation showed Wednesday.

The findings will not change the ongoing efforts to stabilize the reactors more than eight months after the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was disabled, but they harshly depict the meltdowns that occurred and conditions within the reactors, which will be off-limits for years.

The plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said its latest simulation showed fuel at the No. 1 reactor may have eroded part of the primary containment vessel's thick concrete floor. The vessel is a beaker-shaped steel container, set into the floor. A concrete foundation below that is the last manmade barrier before earth.

The fuel came within a foot of the container's steel bottom in the worst-case scenario but has been somewhat cooled, TEPCO's nuclear safety official Yoshihiro Oyama said at a government workshop. He said the No. 1 reactor had more extensive damage to its fuel rods because it lost cooling capacity before the other two, leaving the rods dry and overheated for hours before water was pumped in.

The nuclear crisis following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami caused massive radiation leaks and the relocation of some 100,000 people.

Another simulation on the structure released Wednesday by the government-funded Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization, or JNES, said the erosion could be deeper and the possibility of structural damage to the reactor's foundation needs to be studied.

JNES official Masanori Naito said fuel rods became shapeless as they collapsed to the bottom of the pressure vessel while continuing melting, then deteriorated further into drops as water pumping resumed, with fuel drops spattering and smashed against the concrete as they fell, Naito said.

TEPCO and government officials are aiming to achieve "cold shutdown" by the end of the year — a first step toward creating a stable enough environment for work to proceed on removing the reactors' nuclear fuel and closing the plant altogether.

A preliminary government report released this month said it will take 30 years or more to safely decommission Fukushima Dai-ichi.

Wednesday's simulation results show what had happened early in the crisis and do not mean a recent deterioration of the reactor. Oyama said, however, the results are based on currently available data only and may not match the actual conditions inside the reactors, which cannot be opened for years.

Some experts have raised questions about achieving the "cold shutdown," which means bringing the temperature of the pressure vessel containing healthy fuel rods to way below the benchmark 100 Celsius (212 Fahrenheit). They say the fuel is no longer there and measuring the temperature of empty cores is meaningless, while nobody knows where and how hot the melted fuel really is now.

Kiyoharu Abe, a nuclear expert at JNES, said it's too early to make a conclusion and more simulations based on latest available data should be conducted to get accurate estimates.

"I don't think the simulation today was wrong, but we should look at this from various viewpoints rather than making a conclusion from one simulation," Abe said. "It's just the beginning of a long process."

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Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Operator 'Ignored Tsunami Warning'
Justin McCurry
The Guardian
(for personal use only)

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant ignored warnings that the complex was at risk of damage from a tsunami of the size that hit north-east Japan in March, and dismissed the need for better protection against seawater flooding, according to reports.

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) officials rejected "unrealistic" estimates made in a 2008 internal report that the plant could be threatened by a tsunami of up to 10.2 metres, Kyodo news agency said.

The tsunami that crippled backup power supplies at the plant on the afternoon of 11 March, leading to the meltdown of three reactors, was more than 14 metres high.

Evidence that the utility was unprepared for the tsunami, despite previous warnings, came as the firm announced that the manager of the Fukushima plant, Masao Yoshida, was being treated for an unspecified illness and would leave his post on Thursday.

The company refused to disclose the nature of Yoshida's illness, but said it was not related to his exposure to radiation during the nine months since the crisis began. "On doctors' advice, I have no choice but to be hospitalised for treatment," Yoshida, 56, reportedly said in a message to staff. "It breaks my heart to have to bid farewell in this way to all of the people with whom I have worked since the disaster."

Yoshida, who led the department overseeing the plant's management when the 2008 report was submitted, has been credited with preventing a more serious accident in March.

In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, he approved the continued injection of seawater into one of the damaged reactors, despite being told to abandon the measure by Tepco officials. He was later reprimanded, but won praise from experts who said he had helped cool overheating fuel rods and prevent a worse disaster.

Yoshida had not spoken publicly about the accident until earlier this month, when he told reporters that the situation at Fukushima Daiichi had improved considerably and that the reactors would be brought to a safe state, known as cold shutdown, by the end of the year.

But he added: "Several times during the first week of the crisis, I thought I was going to die."

The accident was triggered when seawater flooded power supply lines, disabling cooling systems and triggering a meltdown in three of Fukushima Daiichi's six reactors.

The 40-year-old plant was built on the assumption that the biggest tsunami that could be
expected on the Fukushima coast would be 5.7 metres high. Even at that height, the 2008 report said, water levels onsite could exceed 15 metres.

Kyodo quoted Tepco sources as saying the plant might have been better prepared for the disaster had it taken the report seriously.

Greenpeace, meanwhile, called on Japan not to restart nuclear reactors taken offline for stress tests and maintenance checks until it improves its disaster-response plans. It said simulation maps of potential accidents being used to devise emergency response efforts did not take into account accidents of the severity of the Fukushima disaster.

Greenpeace said Japanese government officials had conceded that the Speedi simulations were inadequate, as they are confined to low-level releases of radiation over a six-mile radius.

Contamination from the Fukushima accident has spread over a much wider area.

The emergency response effort was "slow, chaotic and insufficient, and it appears that the government has learned nothing from it", said Junichi Sato, executive director of Greenpeace Japan. "These maps show that there is a strong risk of reactor restarts being pushed through without a proper, science-based assessment on the real risks being conducted, and without proper precautions being taken to protect the communities around the plants."

More than 80% of Japan's nuclear reactors will lie idle once Kansai Electric Power suspends operation of a reactor for inspection at a plant in western Japan on Friday. The move will leave all but 10 of the country's 54 reactors out of service.

The danger contamination poses to food supplies was underlined this week when officials in Fukushima confirmed that 9kg of a batch of contaminated rice had been sold to consumers this month. The discovery came soon after they banned shipments of another batch of rice containing excessive levels of radioactive caesium.

The rice, grown at three farms in the town of Date, contained up to 1,050 becquerels of caesium per kg, compared with the government-set upper limit of 500 becquerels. In response, the government imposed a ban on Tuesday on rice shipments from the area, while local officials said they were trying to trace the consumers.

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S. Korean President Hopes Nuclear Summit to Be "Milestone" in Deterring Nuclear Terrorism
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Tuesday he hopes the international nuclear summit he hosts next year will be a milestone in efforts to stifle the rise of nuclear terrorism.

Preventing terrorist from acquiring nuclear weapons is as important as banning nuclear development of individual countries, Lee added during a luncheon meeting with a group of policymakers and scholars brought together to advise him on nuclear security ahead of the Seoul Nuclear Summit.

Lee asked six members of the 15-member Eminent Persons Group to come up with policy proposals and actively promote the conference, slated for March 26-27 in Seoul, according to his office Cheong Wa Dae.

The group includes former Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Singapore's Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Shinichi Kitaoka, a Tokyo University professor.

The advisors are to adopt a joint statement containing their proposals for the event, including persuading participating countries to make specific pledges on nuclear security and drawing up concrete action plans, Cheong Wa Dae said.

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Russia Again Switches Venues for Floating Nuclear Power Plant Builds
Charles Digges
Bellona Foundation
(for personal use only)

In yet another change of venue for the building of Russia’s floating nuclear power plants, Rosenergoatom and St. Petersburg’s giant Kirov Factory have signed a memorandum of cooperation regarding the construction the plants, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.

The new agreement represents the third time Rosenergoatom – the nuclear power plant operating wing of Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear state corporation – has switched venues for the building of its floating nuclear power plants to new companies. The switches have not been without controversy.

The signing of the agreement between the Kirov Factory’s general manager George Semenenko and Sergei Zavyalov, Rosenergoatom’s head of directorate for construction of floating nuclear power plants took place on November 24, Interfax reported.

Under the new agreement between Rosenergoatom and the Kirov Factory – famous for
building T-34 tanks during World War II – seven floating nuclear power plants will be constructed at the factory under a state agreement, Zavyalov told Interfax.

The Kirov Factory and Rosenergoatom reached a preliminary agreement during discussions that stated that production facilities and port infrastructure would be set up at the Kirov Factory site during 2012 in order that that it be ready to take orders by 2013.

Investment costs for this are expected to total about RUB 350 million ($11 million), World Nuclear News, the news website of the London-based World Nuclear Association, reported.

The new plants are expected by 2020, said Zavyalov, with a second one – after the embattled Akademik Lomonosov floating nuclear power plant is finished – coming as early as 2012.

The Akademik Lomonsov – which is intended to supply nuclear power in Russia’s tsunami-prone far east Kamchatka Peninsula – became entangled in a lawsuit against its builder, the Baltiisky Shipyard, when, in August, the International Industrial Bank, which owned a 90 percent share in the shipyard, collapsed.

The Akademik Lomononosov was then the subject of dispute between Rosenergoatom and the bank’s creditors as the ship was impounded to ensure payment of the debt. The International Industrial Bank further claimed it had not received all payments for the vessel from Baltiisky Shipyard.

Rosenergoatom insisted that the Akademik Lomonosov was the nuclear company’s property, and not the shipyard’s, and convinced the Court of Arbitration of St. Petersburg to take temporary possession of the ship in mid-August. As a result, the Lomomsov’s launch date has been pushed back by as many as 20 months, said Zavyalov.

Zavyalov told Interfax that the financing for the Akademik Lomonosov project had now been restored, and revealed that the cost of building the floating nuclear power plant was 16 billion rubles ($525 million) in 2010 units, but that costs were expected to fall in future units.

He revealed that the cost of building Akademik Lomonosov was approximately RUB 16 billion ($525 million) in 2010 amounts, but costs were expected to fall for subsequent units.

The Kirov factory will now be the third company Rosatom has tapped to help it envision its floating nuclear plant projects – something environmentalists have decried as extremely dangerous.

In each instance that building of floating nuclear power plants has been moved, shady finances or looming bankruptcy for the builder has been a factor.

Prior to the mishaps with the Baltiisky Shipyard, the first contractor for the Akademik Lomonosov was the Sevmash Shipyard in the far northern town of Severodvinsk.

The shipyard was commissioned in 2006 by Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko to build seven floating nuclear power plants – the number of vessels that Kiriyenko himself has stated is the number required to make floating nuclear power plants profitable. Even that, however is questionable: The expected international crowd-crush for floating nuclear power plants has not materialized.

In 2008, Rosatom took the building of the Akademik Lomonsov out of Sevmash’s hands, alleging that the shipbuilding yard was diverting money meant for the floating nuclear plant to military projects and saying that Sevmash was falling far behind schedule. Baliisky Shipyard was then contracted to finish the building of the Akademik Lomonosov.

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B.  Nuclear Energy

"Rosatom" Aims High
Oleg Nekhai
The Voice of Russia
(for personal use only)

The Russian Corporation, “Rosatom”, plans to handle one fifth of the global market of the construction of nuclear power stations in the next few years. Presently, “Rosatom” accounts for the building of 29 units in the world.

The IAEA estimates that 350 nuclear stations are currently being constructed in the world, despite the fact that the serious accident at the Japanese Fukushima nuclear plant forced a number of countries to re-examine the future of nuclear energy, while others have completely put off plans of developing nuclear energy. Experts say that the hazards inherent in nuclear energy will not weaken the nuclear plant building competition in the world. What’s more, new strong competitors like South Korea will join in the rivalry, to make the competition fiercer, says Andrei Gagarinsky, an expert at the Kurchatovsky Institute.

"The leaders in the field are France, the U.S, Japan and Russia, and now South Korea, which has not built any nuclear power stations, but is planning to join the market. It has its own designs, which are based on the American experience," Andrei Gagarinsky said.

Russia is presently building 12 nuclear units in foreign countries and has signed contracts on 7 others. Therefore, the country can take on one fifth of the global nuclear station construction quite easily. It boasts of a high turn out of a new generation nuclear station, the so-called AES-2006, whose design is being used in the construction of Chinese and Indian nuclear plants, points out Andrei Gagarinsky.

“The AES 2006 is a highly modified design, and next year, Russia will have new generation upgraded nuclear reactors."

The serial project of AES-2006 conforms fully with, and even exceeds the security demands of the EU, as well as the IAEA.

In recent times, experts have spoken about an escalation of the fight on the markets of former socialist countries, which Americans would like to penetrate. But America will not be able to squeeze Russia out of those markets in the foreseeable future, Gagarinsky believes.

“Russia is winning for now. Americans have been edged out of the Czech Republic, and the same fate awaits the U.S in Bulgaria."

If the plants in Temelin, in the Czech Republic, and in Mokhovtse in Slovakia can be completed by Russian specialists, the two countries could become exporters of energy to Germany, which plans to phase out nuclear power generating plants.

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No Sign of Major Burma Nuclear Drive: US
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

The United States sees no sign of a major nuclear weapons program in Burma and hopes that the new regime will boost cooperation with the UN atomic watchdog, a US official said.

"We've looked at this fairly carefully and we do not see signs of a substantial effort at this time" on nuclear arms, the official told reporters accompanying Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a landmark visit.

While Clinton will raise concerns about links to North Korea, the State Department official downplayed accounts by defectors that Burma has worked with Pyongyang to develop an advanced nuclear weapons system.

He said that the "primary" US concern was missile technology. In May, a US Navy destroyer intercepted a North Korean cargo ship in the South China Sea suspected of carrying missile parts to Burma.

Burma has "talked to us seriously about potential steps associated with the IAEA and other actions they are contemplating with respect to North Korea," the official added, referring to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said this could include signing an additional protocol granting the IAEA greater inspection authority.

The United States will seek assurances of "a determination on the part of the government to discontinue activities that we believe are antithetical to the maintenance of peace and stability," he said.

In late 2010 the UN atomic watchdog asked Burma to be allowed to visit a number of suspect nuclear sites and facilities.

Clinton arrived in Burma on Wednesday to test the waters of nascent reforms in the long-isolated nation, which this year nominally ended decades of military rule and launched dialogue with the opposition and ethnic minorities.

Senator Richard Lugar, the top member of the rival Republican Party on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has urged Clinton to put a top priority on assessing ties between North Korea and Burma.

A UN report released in November 2010 said North Korea was supplying banned nuclear and ballistic equipment to Burma, along with Iran and Syria.

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Govt. Approves 200KW Nuclear Power Plant Construction
The Jakarta Post
(for personal use only)

Indonesia government has approved the construction of a 200 kilowatt nuclear power plant to meet the rising energy demand.

“I have approved the nuclear power plant construction,” State Enterprise Minister (BUMN) Dahlan Iskan said on Monday as quoted by Antara news agency.

Dahlan said the nuclear power plant in Indonesia had stirred up a lot of controversy, but it could proceed, citing that the latest radiation leak at Japanese nuclear plant Fukushima had not claimed any lives.

“I have met many Japanese people, so I immediately agreed once a businessman asked permission to build a [nuclear] power plant,” he said.

He added that the government also had approved the 2 MW nuclear power plant construction next phase.

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Saudi Plans First Tender For Nuclear Plant by 2012-End
(for personal use only)

Saudi Arabia, which plans to build 16 nuclear reactors by 2030, will begin the tendering process to construct the first station by the end of next year, according to the King Abdullah Center of Atomic and Renewable Energy.

The site of the reactor will be announced by March, Saleh Al Shubaili, a spokesman, said in response to e-mailed questions on Monday.

“The bidding will be of a gradual pace rather than one award,” Al Shubaili said, referring to the construction of all the proposed reactors.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are investing in nuclear power to help meet rising domestic demand for electricity.

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C.  Iran

A Second Iranian Nuclear Facility has Exploded, As Diplomatic Tensions Rise Between the West and Tehran
Sheera Frenkel
The Times
(for personal use only)

An Iranian nuclear facility has been hit by a huge explosion, the second such blast in a month, prompting speculation that Tehran's military and atomic sites are under attack.

Satellite imagery seen by The Times confirmed that a blast that rocked the city of Isfahan on Monday struck the uranium enrichment facility there, despite denials by Tehran.

The images clearly showed billowing smoke and destruction, negating Iranian claims yesterday that no such explosion had taken place. Israeli intelligence officials told The Times that there was "no doubt" that the blast struck the nuclear facilities at Isfahan and that it was "no accident".

The explosion at Iran's third-largest city came as satellite images emerged of the damage caused by one at a military base outside Tehran two weeks ago that killed about 30 members of the Revolutionary Guard, including General Hassan Moghaddam, the head of the Iranian missile defence program.

Iran claimed that the Tehran explosion occurred during testing on a new weapons system designed to strike at Israel. But several Israeli officials have confirmed that the blast was intentional and part of an effort to target Iran's nuclear weapons program.

On Monday, Isfahan residents reported a blast that shook tower blocks in the city at about 2.40pm and seeing a cloud of smoke rising over the nuclear facility on the edge of the city.

"This caused damage to the facilities in Isfahan, particularly to the elements we believe were involved in storage of raw materials," said one military intelligence source.

He would not confirm or deny Israel's involvement in the blast, instead saying that there were "many different parties looking to sabotage, stop or coerce Iran into stopping its nuclear weapons program".

Iran went into frantic denial yesterday as news of the explosion at Isfahan emerged. Alireza Zaker-Isfahani, the city's governor, claimed that the blast had been caused by a military exercise in the area but state-owned agencies in Tehran soon removed this story and issued a government denial that any explosion had taken place at all.

On Monday, Dan Meridor. the Israeli Intelligence Minister, said: "There are countries who impose economic sanctions and there are countries who act in other ways in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat."

Major-General Giora Eiland, Israel's former director of national security, told Israel's army radio that the Isfahan blast was no accident. "There aren't many coincidences, and when there are so many events there is probably some sort of guiding hand, though perhaps it's the hand of God," he said.

A former Israeli intelligence official cited at least two other explosions that have "successfully neutralised" Iranian bases associated with the Shahab-3, the medium-range missile that could be adapted to carry a nuclear warhead. "This is something everyone in the West wanted to see happen," he added.

Iran has repeatedly denied the existence of a nuclear weapons program, and strongly condemned the International Atomic Energy Agency's report last month that accused Iran of trying to build a nuclear weapon.

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Iran Official: Blast Near Nuclear Site Caused By Military Mishap
Yossi Melman
(for personal use only)

A mysterious blast reported to have been heard in the western Iranian city of Isfahan on Monday was caused by an accident during a nearby military drill, an Iranian official said.

Reports of the explosion garnered much attention earlier Monday, as a result of the fact that Isfahan is also home to one of Iran's key nuclear sites, a uranium conversion plant operational since 2004.

Speaking to an Iranian news website, the government of Isfahan said that the explosion occurred as a result of a military drill, denying reports that the blast was somehow related to the nearby nuclear facility.

"There is no such thing, the blast was entirely from the military maneuver," the Iranian official said.

According to initial reports earlier Monday, frightened residents called the fire department after the blast, forcing the city authorities to admit there had been an explosion.

Speaking with Fars news agency, Isfahan’s deputy mayor confirmed the reports and said the authorities are investigating the matter. However, after the incident was reported in Israel, the report was taken off the Fars website.

It seems that city authorities and the Iranian government were embarrassed by the reports of a blasts, releasing contradictory versions of the alleged events. One example is a statement given by the same deputy mayor to the Mehr news agency, saying he had no reports of an explosion.

Another confirmation came from the head of the city's judiciary, who said an explosion-like sound was heard. Meanwhile, the Mehr news agency reported there has been a blast at a petrol station near the city. Another report pointed to a training accident.

The reported incident occurred about two weeks after Gen. Hasan Tehrani Moghaddam was killed together with 20 other Guard members Nov. 12 at a military site outside Bidganeh village, 40 kilometers southwest of Tehran.

The Revolutionary Guard said the accidental explosion occurred while military personnel were transporting munitions.

It first went into operation in 2004, taking uranium from mines and producing uranium fluoride gas, which then feeds the centrifuges that enrich the uranium.

Since 2004, thousands of kilograms of uranium flouride gas were stockpiled at Isfahan and subsequently sent to the enrichment plant in Natanz.

Commenting on the report of an explosion in Isfahan, U.S. State Department Spokesman Mark Toner said: "We don't have any information at this time other than what we've seen in the press as well. But certainly we're looking into it."

"As you know, we're somewhat limited in our ability to glean information on the ground there, but we're certainly looking into it," Toner added.

Earlier Monday, a top Israeli security official said that the recent explosion that rocked an Iranian missile base near Tehran could delay or stop further Iranian surface-to-surface missile development.

The official added, however that the Iranian nuclear program was continuing to gain ground, despite considerable international pressure and attempts to destabilize the Iranian regime.

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D.  Nuclear Cooperation

Areva Awaits Gov’t Nod on Liability Rules to Ink Jaitapur Deal
The Hindu
(for personal use only)

Even as the Government is working overtime to calm the simmering public dissent against the proposed 10,000 MW nuclear plant at Jaitapur, the French authorities, which have offered 2 X 1,750 MW reactors in the first phase, is awaiting the Indian parliamentary nod for the liability rules to read the fine print, before inking the contract.

Dr. Bernard Bigot, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, France, said it is important that there is a clear legal framework in the country where one expects to build their reactors. “We understand that the liability is on the shoulders of the operators. It is also clear that the operators can take recourse to suppliers. We cannot comment till your Parliament passes it.”

Dr. Bigot said post-Fukushima, stress tests were performed on 58 reactors in France, which supply about 63,000 billion units and account for 80 per cent of the electricity produced in the country.

On November 10, the committee after analysing the complementary evaluation of all the plants said Areva's EPR (European pressurised reactor) has been built with the experience of previous reactors and is well suited to face extreme conditions. There was no single change in the design or key parts and fulfilled their expectations. The final report is expected in January and would be fully shared with the Indian authorities.

As of now, four EPR reactors are under construction, one each in Finland and France, besides two in China. The French nuclear reactor manufacturer Areva, in which the French Government is majority shareholder, has offered the EPR reactors to India.

Dr. Bigot said basically the core of the EPR reactor is the same as the other reactors operating in France. Reactor safety centred round two issues – design and operation and process. The nuclear regulators of France, the UK and Finland, who raised questions on common control of the process – numerical and analytical – were now satisfied that the EPR conforms to the highest safety norms in terms of process control.

Asked on the prolonged delay in the Finnish project, where the project cost had doubled and both the buyer and contractor had gone in for arbitration, he said it should be understood that it was a turnkey project. Areva's Finnish project has suffered 100 per cent cost over-run of €2.7 billion and the timeline of 2005-09 being extended to 2013. The original cost was pegged at €3 billion.

Dr. Bigot said nuclear power plants involve over 20,000 different pieces of contract between buyer and suppliers. It was initially expected that any piece would be validated or rejected in two months, but it took over 11 months. This is besides the technical aspects. The doubling of cost includes provision of dispute. As of now, lawyers from both sides were speaking to each other and an interim decision was expected in January.

Dr. Bigot said nuclear reactors require large investments and should last long. It takes 10 years for construction, 50-60 years of operation and 30-40 years for de-commissioning and the supplier has to guarantee the best.

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IAEA Stands Ready to Send Inspectors Back to N. Korea: Deputy Chief
Lee Haye-ah
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

The United Nations' nuclear watchdog is always on standby to send its inspectors back to North Korea, despite the continued defiance of the communist country, the agency's deputy chief said.

Pyongyang expelled International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitors in early 2009 in the wake of U.N. Security Council sanctions for a missile test. Months later, it carried out its second nuclear test, following the first explosion in 2006, drawing harsher U.N. sanctions.

"We keep a team prepared to go back into North Korea if we get an opportunity to do so," Herman Nackaerts, deputy director general of the IAEA, said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Monday.

"We have a team ready that can go at any time there. We sent them recently on training courses again so that they are well prepared to go there when the time comes," he said.

The top IAEA investigator is in Seoul on a six-day visit to tour South Korea's nuclear power plants and meet with government officials here. His visit comes two weeks after Lim Sung-nam, Seoul's chief nuclear envoy, met with IAEA officials in Vienna, and the two sides agreed to work closely toward ending North Korea's nuclear weapons development, officials said.

In Vienna, Lim also met with Glyn Davies, the new U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, as part of efforts to coordinate a possible resumption of the stalled six-party talks on the North's denuclearization. The forum, also involving China, Japan and Russia, has been in limbo since Pyongyang quit in April 2009 over the U.N. sanctions.

Nackaerts said that he discussed with Lim some "technical possibilities" in terms of North Korea's nuclear facilities, but declined to comment on the possible reopening of the six-nation talks, saying the IAEA is not a member of the forum.

The U.N. agency was involved in freezing and disabling North Korea's nuclear programs when the multilateral negotiations were still under way. If the talks resume, the IAEA is likely to have a role to play, according to officials.

Seoul and Washington are pressuring Pyongyang to demonstrate its seriousness about denuclearization before the resumption of the six-party talks, by halting its uranium enrichment program and reinstating IAEA inspectors at its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang.

North Korea claims its nuclear programs are for peaceful energy purposes and insists on an unconditional reopening of the forum, which offers it political and economic aid in return for denuclearization.

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E.  North Korea

North Korea Claims Progress in Uranium Enrichment
Hyung-Jin Kim
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

North Korea said Wednesday it is making rapid progress on work to enrich uranium and build a light-water nuclear power plant, increasing worries that the country is developing another way to make atomic weapons.

Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry said construction of an experimental light-water reactor and low enriched uranium are "progressing apace." The statement added that North Korea has a sovereign right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and that "neither concession nor compromise should be allowed."

The statement by an unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman was carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Concerns about North Korea's atomic capability took on renewed urgency in November 2010 when the country disclosed a uranium enrichment facility that could give it a second route to manufacture nuclear weapons, in addition to its existing plutonium-based program.

North Korea has been building a light-water reactor at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex since last year. Such a reactor is ostensibly for civilian energy purposes, but it would give the North a reason to enrich uranium. At low levels, uranium can be used in power reactors, but at higher levels it can be used in nuclear bombs.

Earlier this month, North Korean state media said "the day is near at hand" when the reactor will come into operation. Washington worries about reported progress on the reactor construction, saying it would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking to reporters Wednesday at an international aid forum in the South Korean port city of Busan, didn't address the North's statement on uranium. She called the U.S.-South Korean alliance strong and mentioned the recent one-year anniversary of North Korea's artillery attack on a front-line South Korean island that killed four people.

"Let me reaffirm that the United States stands with our ally, and we look to North Korea to take concrete steps that promote peace and stability and denuclearization," Clinton said.

Five countries, including the United States, have been in on-again, off-again talks with North Korea to provide Pyongyang with aid in exchange for disarmament. North Korea pulled out of the nuclear disarmament talks in early 2009 to protest international condemnation of its prohibited long-range rocket test.

In recent months, North Korea has repeatedly expressed its willingness to return to the talks, and tensions between the Koreas have eased. Diplomats from the Koreas and the United States have had separate nuclear talks, and cultural and religious visits by South Koreans to the North have resumed.

South Korean and U.S. officials, however, have demanded the North halt its uranium-enrichment program, freeze nuclear and missile tests and allow international nuclear inspectors back into the country before resuming negotiations.

China, North Korea's main ally and benefactor, did not respond directly to Pyongyang's latest claims but appealed for an early resumption of the nuclear disarmament talks.

"Under the current circumstances, we hope all the relevant parties will make joint efforts to resume the six-party talks as soon as possible," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in response to a question at a daily media briefing Wednesday. "All the relevant issues of concern can be discussed within the framework of the six-party talks."

The North Korean statement accused the United States and its allies of "groundlessly" taking issue with the North's peaceful nuclear activities. They are "deliberately laying a stumbling block in the way of settling the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula through dialogue and negotiations," the statement said.

Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at Seoul's Dongguk University, said the North's statement appeared aimed at applying pressure on Washington and the international community to rejoin the nuclear disarmament talks quickly. "North Korea is expected to step up its rhetoric," he said.

Also on Wednesday, Seoul's Unification Ministry said a South Korean official who recently traveled to the North to help monitor the distribution of flour by a civic group confirmed that the aid has reached North Korean children. Some international donors have been wary of providing aid out of concern it could be diverted to the military and top government officials.

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F.  Links of Interest

Iran Nuclear Programme: Why Sanctions Are Faltering
BBC News
(for personal use only)

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Nuclear Money Pit
The American Conservative
(for personal use only)

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The Nuclear Bombs to Nowhere
Foreign Policy
(for personal use only)

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