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Nuclear News - 12/15/2011
PGS Nuclear News, December 15, 2011
Compiled By: Michael Kennedy

A.  Iran
    1. Iran to Move Enrichment Operations If Needed: Report, Parisa Hafezi, Reuters (12/14/2011)
    2. Seven Killed in Explosion at Iranian Steel Mill Linked With Nuclear Program, Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz (12/13/2011)
B.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. China May Approve Nuclear Projects After Revising Safety Rules, Guo Aibing, Business Week (12/14/2011)
    2. IAEA Urges UAE to Conclude Nuclear Waste Policy, Stanley Carvalho, Reuters (12/14/2011)
    3. Switzerland May Free Nuclear Smugglers, Narayan Lakshman, The Hindu (12/14/2011)
    4. Nuke Summit to Discuss Everyday Radioactivity, Kim Yoon-Mi, The Korea Herald (12/13/2011)
    5. Panel to Finalise Report on Kudankulam N-Plant, Indo-Asian News Service (12/13/2011)
    6. French Nuclear Group to Monitor Health at Niger Uranium Mine, Monica Mark, The Guardian (12/12/2011)
C.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Britain Gives Interim OK for French, US Nuclear Plant Plans, Agence France-Presse (12/14/2011)
    2. French Nuclear Vendor Areva Aims for Financial Turnaround By 2016, Ann MacLachlan, Platts (12/13/2011)
    3. Putin Attends Nuclear Reactor Launch, Gary Peach, Associated Press (12/12/2011)
D.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. US Supports Taiwan’s Participation in IAEA, Rachel Chan, Taiwan Today (12/14/2011)
    2. IAEA Project to Monitor Radioactive Substances in Pacific Ocean Region, RTT News (12/13/2011)
    3. Bahamas Tests Nuclear Readiness Response, The Bahamas Weekly (12/12/2011)
E.  North Korea
    1. N.Korea, US May Hold New Talks This Month: Report, Agence France-Presse (12/13/2011)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. Nuclear Energy at a Crossroads, Oil Price (12/13/2011)
    2. Did Iran Blast Target Steel Needed for Nuke Program?, Ynet News (12/12/2011)

A.  Iran

Iran to Move Enrichment Operations If Needed: Report
Parisa Hafezi
(for personal use only)

Iran will move its uranium enrichment plants to safer sites if necessary, a Revolutionary Guards commander was quoted on Wednesday as saying, following speculation that Tehran's enemies could attack the facilities.

The Iranian media report did not give details, but Iran has carried out preparations to shift higher-grade enrichment to an underground facility near the holy city of Qom, offering the sensitive work better protection against any military attacks.

Controversy over Iran's uranium enrichment program has resulted in Western powers imposing increasingly tight economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Israel and the United States say they have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to persuade Tehran to suspend its activities.

"If conditions require, we will move our uranium enrichment centers to safer places," the semi-official Mehr News Agency quoted Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali as saying.

Western powers suspect Iran is trying to acquire the ability to produce nuclear weapons. Iran denies this, saying it is enriching uranium only for peaceful purposes such as power generation and medical use.

Israel, widely believed to have the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East, says a nuclear-armed Iran would threaten its existence.

A November report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, suggested that Iran pursued the science needed to make an atomic bomb at least until 2003 and that secret research may be continuing.

Iran started refining uranium last year to 20 percent purity, a level which takes it closer to the 90 percent level needed for bombs. Iran says the material will fuel a medical research reactor.

Adding to Western concern about its aims, Iran said in June it would move this higher-grade enrichment to the Fordow facility - tucked inside a mountain on a former military base - from its main enrichment plant near the central city of Natanz.

Last month's IAEA report said Iran had installed centrifuge machines to enrich uranium at Fordow and that nuclear material had been moved there, indications that enrichment may soon get under way at the site.

Iran says its response to any military action will be "painful."

"If the Americans and Israelis could attack our nuclear facilities and inflict a blow on it, they would have surely done it," said Jalali, head of Iran's Civil Defense Organization.

A hardline lawmaker, Parviz Sarvari, said on Monday that OPEC member Iran planned to carry out military maneuvers near the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, where about 30 percent of the world's crude oil exports pass through.

But Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman dismissed the lawmaker's remarks, saying it was Sarvari's personal view and did not represent Iran's official view.

However, Iranian officials have warned in the past about the closure of the strategically important Strait as a possible retaliatory measure if the nuclear facilities were attacked.

Concerns about Iran's disputed nuclear work and threats to major shipping lanes drove up oil prices by more than $2 a barrel on Tuesday to post its biggest gain since late November, in sharp contrast to a fall in most other financial markets.

Brent crude slipped towards $109 on Wednesday.

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Seven Killed in Explosion at Iranian Steel Mill Linked With Nuclear Program
Anshel Pfeffer
(for personal use only)

At least seven people were killed Sunday night in an explosion at a steel mill in the Iranian city of Yazd. Foreign nationals, possibly North Korean nuclear arms experts, are believed to be among the dead.

The explosion follows two blasts that occurred in Iran in recent weeks at sites linked to Tehran's nuclear program.

The Ghadir steelworks was opened by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad some six months ago, and the factory's link to Tehran's nuclear development program remains unclear. According to reports in recent months, however, the Iranians are struggling to produce steel of the grade required for the construction of centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium. Some of the reports note that the new factory includes a closed military zone used for the production of an unknown material.

The cause of Sunday night's explosion remains unknown, with Iranian reports initially putting it down to water getting into the facility. Subsequent reports said the blast was caused by munitions that had accidentally found their way into steel that was being recycled in the plant.

There is no evidence linking the three blasts, and no one has claimed responsibility for the explosions, but if the three incidents are indeed connected, the choice of targets indicates a clear attempt to strike at the various links of the Iranian nuclear program chain - the production of raw materials, uranium-enrichment operations, and the development of launch capabilities for missiles with nuclear warheads.

The explosions in the past few months join a series of assassination attempts on Iranian nuclear scientists over the past two years. Tehran has accused Israel and the United States of being behind these attempts.

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B.  Nuclear Safety & Security

China May Approve Nuclear Projects After Revising Safety Rules
Guo Aibing
Business Week
(for personal use only)

China, the world’s biggest energy user, may resume approving new nuclear projects after the cabinet endorses draft safety rules prepared by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, an industry association official said.

“Technically, all conditions would be met after the State Council approves this new safety regulation,” Zhao Chengkun, vice president of the China Nuclear Energy Association, said yesterday by telephone from Beijing. “I think it’s good news for China’s nuclear industry.”

China suspended new nuclear projects after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant and prompted a global review of atomic energy plants. The State Council said approvals would be withheld until existing projects and those under construction are inspected and a stricter safety regime is in place.

The environmental protection ministry said in a statement on its website Dec. 12 that the new nuclear power safety regulation is ready and a draft would be submitted to the State Council after minor adjustments. The regulation outlines rules and goals for nuclear safety by 2020, the ministry said.

Zhao, whose association served as a consulting body in framing the legislation, said many of the new safety rules are tougher than earlier versions. Details of the regulation won’t be published until the State Council approves the law.

“The central government has its own pace to process the matter,” said Steven Lau, first deputy general manager of Daya Bay Nuclear Power Operations and Management Co. “The new safety standards will be in place for decades to come, so it’s worth taking a longer time to figure everything out.”

Daya Bay Nuclear Power operates six reactors in Guangdong’s Daya Bay and hopes to get approval to add two more reactors, Lau said.

“We’re not in a position to lead or push,” said Liu Kaixin, Shenzhen-based spokesman at China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, the nation’s second-largest reactor operator. “We’re implementing whatever policy is being directed to us.”

Pan Jianming, Beijing-based spokesman at China National Nuclear Corp., the country’s largest atomic plant operator, didn’t answer two calls to his office.

The National Energy Administration is drafting a separate nuclear power development plan, which will set goals for atomic capacity by 2020, Zhao said. New project approvals are unlikely to be delayed until the targets are decided, he said.

“It’s a 10-year plan,” Zhao said. “If more capacity is approved in the first few years, we can hold back a bit in the later years. I don’t think there is a need for everyone to hold on for that guideline to be completed first.”

China, which started operating its first commercial nuclear plant in 1994, is building at least 27 reactors and has 50 more planned, according to the association.

The country aims to install 70 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by the end of the decade, the National Energy Administration said last year. Li Yongjiang, another vice president at the association, told
Bloomberg in October that the goal may be scaled back to between 60 gigawatts and 70 gigawatts.

China will limit the number of reactors to be built on the coast, the State Oceanic Administration said on April 7. The country, constructing more reactors than any other nation, has at least 14 atomic units in operation, according to data from the World Nuclear Association.

China’s National Nuclear Safety Administration, a department of the environmental protection ministry, will increase the strength of its staff, including inspectors, to more than 1,000 from about 300. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has almost 4,000 people overseeing 104 reactors, according to its website.

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IAEA Urges UAE to Conclude Nuclear Waste Policy
Stanley Carvalho
(for personal use only)

The U.N. nuclear watchdog urged the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday to quickly draw up a plan for radioactive waste management as the major oil exporter prepares to build four nuclear reactors.

The UAE sits across the Gulf from Iran which is at odds with Western powers over its own nuclear programme. The IAEA suggested in November that Iran atomic activities had military dimensions. Iran insists its programe is for peaceful purposes.

"The UAE should conclude and implement a national policy and strategy for radioactive waste management as soon as possible," the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The UAE government should also clarify roles and responsibilities of emergency response organisations as soon as possible," the statement said.

An international team of nuclear safety experts assembled by the IAEA completed a 10-day review of the UAE's regulatory framework for nuclear safety and radiation protection.

The experts are expected to submit a final report to the UAE's Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) in about three months.

"The team was impressed by the speed with which the UAE developed its regulatory framework and established a new regulatory body," Carl-Magnus Larsson, the head of the experts team, said.

The UAE, an OPEC member, awarded a $20 billion contract to a South Korean led consortium to build the four nuclear reactors that will produce 5,600 MW of energy. The first nuclear plant will be ready in 2017.

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Switzerland May Free Nuclear Smugglers
Narayan Lakshman
The Hindu
(for personal use only)

In an unexpected turn of events Swiss authorities announced a decision to enter into a plea bargain with the notorious Tinner family members, who have been in jail over nuclear smuggling charges in the illicit network of disgraced Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

The Tinners, Friedrich and his two sons Urs and Marco, were also accused of being informants for the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency and one of the father-sons team was actually said to have been a CIA contractor.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland this week noted that it had formally filed charges against the Tinnners under the War Material Act, an indictment based on their alleged aiding of “the illegal nuclear weapons programme of an unknown state through various activities.”

However the Swiss authority also sought to close the case against the Tinners after the courts found verdicts of guilt “in relation to offences under the WMA and against one of the sons for forgery of documents.” The prosecutors said that the proceedings in respect of other offences had already been dropped and the court was “requested to accept a plea bargain between the parties covering sentences, the allocation of costs, the forfeiture of assets and other matters.”

One Washington think-tank that has closely tracked the case, the Institute for Science and International Security, said that the Tinners were expected to plead guilty in an agreement “that will likely include no further jail time.”

ISIS however said that it applauded the Swiss authorities’ announcement as it left in place “a precedent that proliferators will be prosecuted for their crimes by governments.” For years, the ongoing, unresolved case against the Tinners has exposed sensitive government activities and created a constitutional crisis in Switzerland, ISIS analysts said.

The case against the Tinners gained momentum last December after a Swiss Magistrate recommended bringing charges against them notwithstanding a “seven-year effort by the Central Intelligence Agency” to keep their own relationship with the Tinners secret.

According to media reports unnamed officials in the George W. Bush administration, which helped bust the Khan smuggling ring, also acknowledged that the Tinners secretly served as double agents for the CIA. In their latter capacity, the New York Times reported last year, the Tinners gave the U.S. spy agency information about Khan’s activities and helped the agency “introduce flaws into the equipment” sold by Khan to other countries.

In pushing forward charges Swiss Magistrate Andreas Müller in December 2010 had attacked his government for having “massively interfered in the wheels of justice by destroying almost all the evidence.” Less attention was however given to allegations of CIA break-ins in Switzerland, and an “unexplained decision by the agency not to seize electronic copies of a number of nuclear bomb designs found on the computers of the Tinner family.”

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Nuke Summit to Discuss Everyday Radioactivity
Kim Yoon-Mi
The Korea Herald
(for personal use only)

The upcoming 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit’s agenda will include how to ensure the safety and security of radioactive materials widely used in people’s daily lives, a government official said Tuesday.

Korea will host the summit on March 26-27 as a continuation from the first nuclear security summit in April 2010, led by U.S. President Barack Obama, to prevent nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists.

“Terrorism using nuclear materials such as highly enriched uranium and plutonium would have a massive impact, but the probability is low. While terrorism using radioactive materials, widely used in hospitals, would have a smaller impact but the probability is high,” a foreign ministry official said.

“Korea, as a host, persuaded participating countries to discuss the issue of radioactive materials at the
upcoming nuclear security summit.”

Fifty-one leaders ― 47 heads of state and the heads of the U.N., IAEA, EU and Interpol ― are expected to attend the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit.

Another new item on the agenda will be how to create “synergy effects between nuclear security and nuclear power safety in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

As for the possibility of North Korean officials’ participation in the Seoul summit, the ministry official said he could not forecast it.

President Lee Myung-bak repeatedly has said he welcomes Pyongyang to join the summit in March if it shows the international community its sincerity about giving up its nuclear ambitions.

South Korea’s hosting of the nuclear security summit, inviting 47 national leaders, will positively impact the security of the Korean Peninsula, the ministry official said.

In November, Seoul formed an eminent persons’ group to give advice on Lee’s hosting of the nuclear security summit. The 15-member group includes India’s former President Abdul Kalam, Singapore’s
Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, former Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and former South Korean Foreign Minister Han Seung-soo.

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Panel to Finalise Report on Kudankulam N-Plant
Indo-Asian News Service
(for personal use only)

Members of the central government appointed expert committee to allay the fears of villagers agitating against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) are meeting at Kanyakumari on Tuesday and Wednesday to finalise their report, said an official. “Except for two members, all others will be here tomorrow (Wednesday) to discuss the issues threadbare and come out with a report. On Dec 15, we will make a presentation to the state panel and also provide them a written report,” AE Muthunayagam, convenor of the 15-member expert panel on the KNPP, told IANS by phone from Kanyakumari.

India's nuclear power plant operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is building two 1,000 MW atomic power reactors at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district.

Villagers fear for their lives and safety in case of any nuclear accident.

Their agitation has put a stop to the project work, delaying the commissioning of the first unit slated for this month and increasing the project cost from the budgeted Rs.13,171 crore.

The central and state governments have formed two panels on the issue. The state panel has representatives of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) that spearheads the protest against the project.

As per plans, the multi-disciplinary central panel would meet the state panel and explain the safety features and other aspects of the KNPP. The state panel will, in turn, allay the fears of the people.

At the Thursday meeting, the central panel will expound on the checks and balances that exist in the Indian nuclear establishment; the roles of different organisations; safety features of the KNPP; how nuclear reactor accidents that occurred elsewhere in the world may not happen at Kudankulam; the ecological impact of the reactors; radiation around the nuclear power plants and its impact on humans and other aspects, explained Muthunayagam.

Even as a meeting is slated for Dec 15 with the central panel, PMANE’s coordinator S.P. Udayakumar in a statement urged Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa to pass a resolution in the state assembly to scrap the KNPP.

Meanwhile, officials of KNPP are baffled at the attitude of the district administration over their inspection of the plant site and the vehicles coming into the plant.

“The protestors and officials board all our vehicles to check the number of people going inside the plant. Officials of district administration also come to the plant and insist on personal inspection of all the facilities to see whether any construction activity is going on,” said an official of KNPP.

He said the district officials say they have been asked by the Tirunelveli district collector to carry out the inspection but do not produce any written instructions.

“Though the nuclear power stations are high security installations, in order to avoid any confrontation with the state government we are cooperating with the demands of the district officials. However, we are sending our reports to our higher officials,” he said.

When contacted for his response, Tirunelveli District Collector R.Selvaraj said he is busy to comment on Kudankulam issue.

According to a NPCIL official, around 80 people are sent inside the first unit to carry out the essential maintenance work.

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French Nuclear Group to Monitor Health at Niger Uranium Mine
Monica Mark
The Guardian
(for personal use only)

For more than 40 years, inhabitants in two remote outposts in Niger have watched their health and environment deteriorate. The dust-enveloped towns lie on the outskirts of uranium mines clawed into the vast Sahara desert, one of which is the world's largest underground pit.

Last week, residents cautiously welcomed the news that French nuclear group Areva will begin monitoring the health of thousands of workers at its uranium plants next year, bowing to years of campaigning from advocacy groups.

The company, which is controlled by the French government, will carry out medical examinations on residents and its 1,600 employees in Niger, which ranked second bottom of 187 countries in the 2011 UN development index. "If cases of illness attributable to occupational factors are identified, the cost of the corresponding healthcare would be borne by Areva in the same way as for French medical coverage," said the company, which recorded first half profits of 351m euros (around $467m) in 2011.

Companies from France, the former colonial power, have had a monopoly on operations in Niger's uranium-rich northern belt since mining began in the 1960s. Today, Areva ships around 3,000 tons of uranium from Niger to France, where two-thirds of electricity is generated from nuclear power. But the pits in the arid Agadez region, operated in conjunction with the Nigerien government, have fuelled criticism from local and international rights groups, who say mining practices have endangered the health of some 80,000 people living in Arlit and Akokan.

"There are no roads here, it's just dust everywhere and this dust is radioactive. It's apocalyptic. It's a reality that has to be seen to be believed," said Mahamal Azawa, an Arlit-based activist. "This is a small step in the right direction, but why has it taken all these years of people dying, people being ill, for this scheme to come about?"

Deaths from respiratory infections occur at almost twice the national average in Arlit, according to Greenpeace. In a 2010 report, the organisation found water wells in Akokan contaminated with radiation levels up to 500 times higher than normal, and radioactive scrap metal for sale at local markets. Meanwhile, mining activity has drained almost 300bn litres of water from aquifers, key water sources in the desert.

Areva denies a link between its mining activities and health problems among locals, straining a complicated relationship with impoverished communities who see mining as a rare employment prospect. The new health scheme is modelled on one launched in Gabon last year after 1,000 Areva workers fell ill there.

Meanwhile, the group has scrapped or delayed a number of proposed uranium enrichment plants following decreased demand in the wake of the Fukushima accident in March. The fallout has also contributed to nuclear companies tightening safety. Areva plans to unroll similar health-monitoring clinics across all its mines, which span Asia, Europe and North America.

Still, for some miners it is too little, too late. One former worker, who quit after 10 years working more than 200 metres deep in Arlit's tunnel, said he wouldn't return even with the scheme. "The water is polluted, the air polluted, you don't have to have a medical degree to see that. As soon as you get to Arlit, the sensation of illness starts; your body feels heavier and more tired each day."

Others voiced suspicion at the plan, showing the extent of tensions between the poor, traditionally nomadic locals and foreign workers who live in purpose-built complexes. "We notice the foreign engineers here only drink bottled water, they don't touch tap water like the rest of us. So why tell us the [tap] water is fine?" said one mine worker, who refused to give his name for fear of losing his job.

Niger's government has also faced criticism from advocacy groups. The country is the world's third largest uranium producer, but 60% of its population lives in extreme poverty. Northern Tuareg tribesmen have waged a low-level insurgency for decades, saying the government doesn't share the proceeds of the country's mineral wealth. In 2008, they briefly kidnapped four French workers in Arlit. A government spokesperson declined to comment.

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C.  Nuclear Energy

Britain Gives Interim OK for French, US Nuclear Plant Plans
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

British authorities gave interim approval on Wednesday for designs for two nuclear reactors proposed for construction by French firms EDF and Areva, and by US firm Westinghouse.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency said they were were "satisfied with how the designers of both EDF and Areva?s UK EPR and Westinghouse?s AP1000 reactors plan to resolve a number of remaining issues.

"Neither reactor can be built in the UK until these issues are resolved."

The firms had to detail their plans for conforming with strengthened security measures adopted by Britain in October after the Fukushima disaster in Japan but a statement did not specify the measures
to be taken.

Kevin Allars of the Office for Nuclear Regulation said: "We have reached an important milestone."

"This interim acceptance confirms that all the plans on how the industry will resolve the outstanding issues are in place. This includes how they will address matters raised in the chief nuclear inspector?s report, published in October, on lessons learnt for the UK from Fukushima."

He added: "It is for the designers now to satisfy us that they have resolved these issues. We will not allow industry to build the reactors until they have done so."

EDF wants to build two reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerst, southwest England. The first reactor would enter service in late 2018 or early 2019 and the second in 2020 according to the firm's plan.

Britain has 10 nuclear power stations with 19 reactors, producing nearly a fifth of the country's electricity.

Unlike Germany and Italy which decided to abandon nuclear power after Fukushima, the government of Prime Minister David Cameron is pushing ahead with it while adopting tighter safeguards in light of the Japanese nuclear crisis.

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French Nuclear Vendor Areva Aims for Financial Turnaround By 2016
Ann MacLachlan
(for personal use only)

French nuclear vendor Areva has put eight large investment projects on hold, plans payroll reductions in Germany and France, will cut operating expenses by Eur1 billion by 2015 and will dispose of more than Eur1.2 billion in nonategic assets over the next two years in an effort to reverse a trend of financial losses and allow it to fund capital spending with in-house cash by 2014, it said Tuesday.

But Areva CEO Luc Oursel said the group, which is 87% French state-owned, continues to believe in the future of nuclear power. Areva, he said, aims to sell 10 units of its flagship EPR reactor design over the next five years and capture 35% of the "accessible" world market for post-Fukushima nuclear installation safety work, which it estimates at Eur3.5 billion.

The changes are part of a sweeping strategic plan, dubbed Action 2016, to bring the group back to profitability within five years that was presented to reporters and analysts at the group's Paris headquarters, which is on the list of properties that may be sold.

Oursel and CFO Philippe Aubouin said Areva aims for 3% to 6% annual growth in sales in its nuclear business in 2012 and 2013, accelerating to 5% to 8% annual growth in 2015 and 2016 as "large projects resume" worldwide, especially in Asia.

Aubouin declined to state a goal for profitability over the plan's period, reiterating the company's goal of reaching break-even on free operating cash flow by 2013 and exceeding Eur1 billion/year starting in 2015 compared to a negative Eur1.5 billion this year.

The executives said Areva will complete "priority" investments in uranium mining projects at Cigar Lake in Canada and Imouraren in Niger. It also will complete the Comurhex II uranium conversion project and the Georges Besse II uranium enrichment project in France, as well as design certification for a 1,000-MW-class nuclear reactor, Atmea1, which Oursel said could eventually be marketed in a joint venture with Chinese partners.

Including about Eur2 billion in spending on safety, security and maintenance, in which Areva will make no cuts, Areva's capex over the period from 2012 through 2016 will total about Eur7.7 billion, they said.

That includes about Eur300 million in its renewables business over the same period, with a focus on two strategic product lines in wind and solar power.

The company said it will put "on hold" three African uranium mining projects of UraMin, the junior uranium company Areva bought for the equivalent of Eur1.8 billion in 2007 and which Aubouin said is now valued at Eur426 million.

Also on hold are planned capacity extensions at GB II, Comurhex II, the Melox plutonium fuel plant at Marcoule and the La Hague spent nuclear fuel reprocessing and waste conditioning complex in Normandy, as well as the Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility in Idaho.

But Oursel did not exclude the possibility that the Eagle Rock project, which has been licensed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, been accepted for a US government loan guarantee and booked orders covering 70% of its nominal capacity, could proceed under new partnerships, including with its US rival, USEC.

He did not confirm the sale of Areva's 26% interest in strategic minerals producer Eramet, despite reports that France's sovereign investment fund FSI will buy the stake. He said Areva aims to finalize the planned disposals over 2012-2013 but will wait until conditions are satisfactory rather than making quick sales.

The officials confirmed the announcement yesterday of an operating loss of between Eur1.4 billion and Eur1.6 billion in 2011, reflecting in large part an impairment of Eur1.46 billion for the UraMin properties at Trekkopje in Namibia, Bakouma in Central African Republic and Ryst Kuil in South Africa and provisions against potential losses in other nuclear businesses and asset depreciations totaling Eur900 million.

Sales in 2011 are expected to be down 2% from 2010, at Eur8.9 billion, and EBITDA at Eur890 million, including a Eur648 million penalty payment received from Siemens related to a dispute over Siemens' exit from the firms' former joint venture, Areva NP.

He said Areva will concentrate on developing its presence in Asia, where 60% of the growth for new nuclear capacity between now and 2030 will take place.

Areva now projects installed world nuclear generating capacity of 583 GW in 2030, versus 659 GW in its pre-Fukushima projection of 2010.

Oursel confirmed the elimination of 1,200 to 1,500 jobs in Germany at both Areva and its subcontractors, without more details. Areva employs directly about 5,700 people in Germany, 5,000 of them in the nuclear business and the rest in renewables.

He said the job cuts were a direct result of the "sudden" decision by the German government in May to shut eight nuclear power units immediately and the rest of the 17 units by 2022.

The potential for job cuts in Areva's home market have raised controversy in the runup to the spring national elections. Oursel rejected a claim by labor union CGT that the Areva plan would lead to the loss of 1,200 jobs in France next year by "non-replacement" of employees who retire or leave the company. Oursel said that number "does not correspond to any number that Areva has mentioned" but that he could not predict how many posts would be eliminated in France.

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Putin Attends Nuclear Reactor Launch
Gary Peach
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attended the launch of a new nuclear power reactor Monday, calling it part of a "renaissance" of atomic energy.

The new 1,000 megawatt reactor is the fourth unit at the Kalininskaya nuclear power plant in Udomlya, some 300 kilometers (about 180 miles) north of Moscow. Construction began before the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991 and was restarted in 2007.

"Nuclear energy is on the rise. There's a rebirth, a renaissance, of the nuclear sphere taking place right now," said Putin, who was making his first public appearance after massive protests against election fraud on Saturday that challenged his rule. He avoided any mention of the rallies.

Putin, who served as president in 2000-2008 and is running to reclaim presidency in next March's election, has approved an ambitious plan to expand the nation's nuclear energy industry over the next 20 years.

Speaking alongside Putin, Sergei Kiriyenko, the chief of the state-controlled Rosatom nuclear power corporation, said that by 2030 it wants to build 38 reactors in Russia and 28 abroad, mainly in Europe and Asia.

In recent years, Russia has overcome a public backlash against nuclear power that followed the April 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in then-Soviet Ukraine, and the government has strongly supported efforts to revive the nuclear sector.

Nuclear power currently accounts for 17 percent of Russia's overall energy output, and the country's leadership hopes to increase this to up to 25 percent over the next two decades.

Putin has described the plan as an opportunity to develop the high-tech industries, easing the country's heavy reliance on oil and natural gas exports.

Earlier this year Atomstroiexport, a Rosatom subsidiary, launched Iran's first nuclear reactor in Bushehr, and is expected to start new reactors in India next year.

Russian officials have insisted that the deal with Iran is in line with international agreements and will oblige Tehran to ship all the spent fuel from the plant back to Russia for reprocessing to avoid a possibility of it being used in a covert weapons program.

Still, many in the West have seen the Bushehr plant's launch as an unfortunate signal to Tehran as U.S. and its allies strive to raise pressure on Iran to force it to abandon its uranium enrichment program.

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D.  Nuclear Cooperation

US Supports Taiwan’s Participation in IAEA
Rachel Chan
Taiwan Today
(for personal use only)

The United States backs Taiwan’s bid to participate in the International Atomic Energy Agency so the country can join global efforts and contribute to nuclear safety and security issues, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel B. Poneman said Dec. 13.

“The United States has long been a supporter of Taiwan's participation in international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, including its participation in technical meetings on nuclear safety and security,” he said.

Poneman, the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan in over a decade, made the remarks in a speech at National Taiwan University on how Taipei and Washington can strengthen nuclear energy cooperation and join forces to deal with the energy challenges of the future.

In his speech, Poneman stressed that Taiwan and the U.S. enjoy a strong scientific and technological relationship, with the two sides having conducted a broad range of collaborative projects over the past 17 years.

He cited as an example the more than 160 joint research and development projects conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration, with funding averaging over US$500,000 each year.

Poneman said nuclear safety is a prominent issue worldwide, especially following Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi crisis in March. He praised efforts made by Taiwan after the incident to bolster nuclear safety, including comprehensive inspections of the country’s three operational facilities and the signing of an agreement with mainland China to increase information sharing.

Regarding energy issues, Poneman pointed out that Taiwan and the U.S. face a number of shared energy and climate challenges, as both countries depend heavily on energy imports, and are seeking ways to diversify energy resources, develop clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

If Taiwan and the U.S. take steps now to meet these challenges, they will be well-positioned to capitalize on the tremendous economic opportunities in energy in the years and decades ahead, according to Poneman.

“By working individually, cooperatively, and through multilateral fora like the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation-or APEC-we can help to usher in this clean energy future for our economies.”

In a question-and-answer session, Poneman declined to comment on whether Taiwan should gradually decommission its existing nuclear power plants and stop constructing more nuclear facilities after the completion of its fourth one, saying that this is something entirely for the Taiwanese people to decide.

He said, however, that it is the view of the U.S. government and academics that nuclear power plays an important role in reducing carbon emissions and increasing use of clean energy sources.

Poneman, who was scheduled to leave Taiwan Dec. 14, met with ROC President Ma Ying-jeou, other senior government officials and local U.S. and Taiwanese business leaders during his three-day visit to the country.

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IAEA Project to Monitor Radioactive Substances in Pacific Ocean Region
RTT News
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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is implementing a Technical Cooperation (TC) Project for countries throughout the Pacific Ocean region to monitor radioactive substances in the marine environment in the wake of the release of radioactive particles into the Pacific from the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.

Twenty-one IAEA Member-States and three non-member States are participating in the project, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said.

The first project meeting was held in Australia in August followed by a workshop on quality management in data handling and analytical procedures, conducted at the IAEA environment laboratories in Monaco last month.

Considerable volumes of radioactive contaminated water entered and polluted the Pacific Ocean following the March 11 Nuclear accident. It raised concern among countries in the Pacific region that radiation releases may reach and damage coastal zones with possible consequences for communities and economies.

The IAEA TC project will enhance national capacities, which in turn will improve the exchange of data gathered from the ocean measurements, and the information about the potential impact of these radioisotopes and risks to marine biota, as well as to humans through marine food consumption.

"It is expected that the enormous dilution capacity of the Pacific Ocean will lead to low residual concentrations of radionuclides in ocean waters such that any significant contamination of marine food in coastal waters outside of Japan will not occur," said Hartmut Nies, head of IAEA's radiometrics laboratory and technical officer for the project. "So far, only Cs-134 and Cs-137 were detected far offshore from the Japanese coast in the prevailing Kuroshio Ocean current at levels of less concern," he added.

The regional project will optimize and coordinate the application of the available skills and resources in the region and generate data that is reliable and exchangeable and comparable by improved quality assurance systems among participating Member-States. It will also enhance countries' monitoring capacities for radioactivity in coastal waters in the case of accidental releases of radioactive substances in the future.

The majority of countries participating in the project are collaborating under the Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology for Asia and the Pacific Region (RCA). RCA countries participating in the project are Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Bahamas Tests Nuclear Readiness Response
The Bahamas Weekly
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The Government of The Bahamas in collaboration with the United States Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration conducted a full scale exercise in Grand Bahama to equip the Freeport Container Port with mobile radiation detection equipment to scan containerized cargo for nuclear or radiological materials.

The exercise was conducted in two phases on December 6 - 7, 2011. The first phase focused on communications, notification procedures and the arrival of the Department of Energy Emergency Response Team (ERT), while the second phase focused on the deployment of the ERT to the Freeport Container Port to identify, remove and package the detected radiological materials.

The overall objective of the exercise was to enhance protocols in reference to hazardous materials being detected, packed and disposed of in The Bahamas.

Officials of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA from New Providence travelled to Freeport to provided support to the GDBCC in its Emergency Operations Centre.

NEMA's Operations Officer Force Chief Luke Bethel assisted in the coordination of communication flow between container port emergency operations centre and the Grand Bahama Disaster Consultative Committee (GBDCC) EOC.

The GBDCC was partially activated on Tuesday for the communication phase of the exercise, during which the City of Freeport Administrator Stephanie Rahming, was informed by the Container Port of the detection of radiological material at the Container Port.

The administrator then conducted a “Call Out” to key agencies alerting them about the event. Then on Wednesday, a full scale exercise was conducted and a general debriefing was held with all players.

On December 8 in New Providence, the US Department of Energy Mega Port initiative team conducted a Country Out brief with officials of the National Emergency Management Agency and its support team, to share information on challenges and possible solutions should the country be faced with a radioactive event.

Present at the Country Outbrief at NEMA in the Churchill Building were: Craig Powell, Assistant Secretary, Legal Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Hermis Edwards, Assistant Controller, Bahamas Customs; and Timothy Munroe, Deputy Chief Health Officer, Department of Environmental Health. The team from the US Department of Energy included: Dean Katzenberg, Christine Brent, Travis Bertram and Nate Russo.

The conclusion was that the exercise proved that The Bahamas is in a better position to respond, should there be a discovery of nuclear or radiological materials.

The response protocol has been in place since 2007, when it was officially approved by The Bahamas Government. A table top exercise was held in Freeport on July 26-27, 2011 by The Bahamas and the United States governments, to ensure that all parties understand their roles and responsibilities, and are prepared to respond to a detection of concern.

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E.  North Korea

N.Korea, US May Hold New Talks This Month: Report
Agence France-Presse
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North Korea and the United States may hold new talks this month on ways to restart stalled six-nation discussions on the North's nuclear disarmament, a South Korean report said Tuesday.

Nuclear envoys from Washington and Pyongyang met in New York in July and in Geneva in October, but reported no breakthrough. South Korea's Yonhap news agency said that a third meeting could take place this month.

During recent contact, the two sides apparently narrowed differences on pending issues, including the North's denuclearisation steps and Washington's possible resumption of food aid to Pyongyang,
Yonhap said.

"Depending on the situation, a possibility of holding a third round of meetings between North Korea and the US before the year's end can not be ruled out," a diplomatic source was quoted as saying.

Glyn Davies, the US special representative on North Korea policy, said in Seoul last week that he had no interest in "talks for talks' sake".

"I hope at some point, in the not too distant future, we will have an opportunity to get back to the table with them. But quite frankly we are not interested in talks for talks' sake," he said.

The North quit the six-party forum, which involves the United States, China, the two Koreas, Japan and
Russia, in April 2009, a month before staging its second nuclear test.

The North wants the forum to resume without preconditions and says its uranium enrichment programme -- first disclosed to visiting US experts one year ago -- can be discussed at the talks.

The United States however says the North must first show "seriousness of purpose" toward denuclearisation by shutting down the programme.

The North said earlier this month that it is making rapid progress in enriching uranium and building a new reactor.

It says the enrichment is aimed at producing electricity but critics fear the project could give the North a second way to make weapons in addition to its existing plutonium-based bombs.

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F.  Links of Interest

Nuclear Energy at a Crossroads
Oil Price
(for personal use only)

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Did Iran Blast Target Steel Needed for Nuke Program?
Ynet News
(for personal use only),7340,L-4160626,00.html

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